Cyrano entered Michiko's class through the hole in the wall to find it empty, with the exception of the four other Nuances of Toast, gathered around the front row of desks.
"What happened to your clothes?" Bono asked her as she took a seat beside him.
"They're waiting out in the Jag." Cyrano replied, adjusting her hair.
"… By the way, what were you doing prancing around in your underwear a few minutes ago?" Michiko asked.
"Some lecher was watching me change clothes; I think it was that funny-looking foreign exchange student. Then he had the gall ask me about some bitch named 'Janet'!" Cyrano explained. "So I whipped out my blender and beat the shit out of him." She smiled.
"Which brings us to the subject of this emergency meeting of the Nuances of Toast." Michiko said. "Ironically… or not so ironically, maybe… Tob Bim, another of the Canadian foreign exchange students from Canada, confronted Rainbow about the very same subject in a most unfriendly manner."
"The subject being 'Janet'? Yeah I got the same thing from the guy with the ponytail, but he was surprisingly polite about it… other than the part where he tackled me." Bono mentioned.
"Same here." Amaya chimed in. "Except there wasn't any tackling in situation; just general uneasiness on my part. I caught the one that looks like a girl staring at me in the restroom while I was brushing my teeth."
"Wait… He's not a girl?" Rainbow asked.
"I know, I was shocked too."
"I knew he was boy." Cyrano bragged. "I've got mad boujen-guy/boujen-girl skills."
"More importantly, you were brushing your teeth in a public restroom?" Bono questioned.
"Yes, I accidentally ate a poppy seed bagel, thank you very much." Amaya answered.
"Let's try to veer back to the subject at hand." Michiko suggested. "I cannot imagine that it is coincidental that four-out-of-five Nuances were approached in—for the most part—hostile ways. They're no foreign exchange students! They're henchmen, sent by some higher governing force, who is probably being manipulated by an even higher governing force! I've seen this happen dozens of times on Sailor Moon! … Now we only need to figure out who's giving them orders."
"I'm gonna go out on a limb and say 'Janet'." Bono suggested.
"No, that can't be! They're looking for Janet." Michiko argued.
"Actually, Bono's hypothesis is quite valid." Super Smart Rainbow of DOOM stated. "Granted, Michiko, the idea that Janet is someone they are searching for would make the most sense because they've all been asking us what we know of her, possibly looking for information on where she is and how to find her. But you also must ask yourself, why would they ask us? As well as, why the four of us in particular?"
"… I donno." Cyrano replied after a brief moment of silence.
"Exactly!" Super Smart Rainbow of DOOM said. "If you all remember correctly, earlier today, when they first came into English Literature and Michiko asked where they were from and Tob replied 'Janet'. When she questioned this, he said instead that they were from 'Canada'. It is my theory that, in his subconscious, when he was asked where he was from, he immediately thought of the person who had sent him: Janet. Going on this, I'd have to go with Bono on saying that Janet is their leader, and quite possibly she is someone who has something against the Nuances of Toast."
"… Then who the hell's Janet… and why isn't she after Michiko?" Asked Amaya. Her question was followed by several shoulder-shrugs and "I donnos" from Cyrano, Rainbow and Bono.
"… Ohhhhhhh shiiiiiiiiit…" Michiko thought aloud, nearly inaudibly.
"What is it?" Cyrano asked.
"… I believe I know who 'Janet' is." She replied.
Michiko sighed a heavy sigh. "Alright children… I'm going to take you far back, into my painful, painful past… When I was in college—''
"That wasn't all that long ago." Amaya interrupted.
'Haha, I guess you're right Amaya." Michiko agreed. "After all, I'm only twenty-three… and I am the youngest person on staff here at Sushi-Teriyaki-Sake High School… I guess life isn't so bad after all." All antihistamines she had taken earlier that day were finally beginning to kick in.
"Heischen!" Bono exclaimed. "… You were saying, Michiko."
"Oh yes! About Janet!" She wandered back over to the subject. "When I was in college, in the United States, I got involved in some heavy shit."
"Drugs?" Rainbow asked.
"Drug-trafficking?" Bono asked.
"White-slave trade on the Black Market?" Cyrano asked.
"… No… Shows how highly you guys think of me." Said Michiko. "I got involved with a small, caddy band of Wiz-Doms (and a few Mind-Breakers)… it was a lot like the Nuances of Toast, except there was more bitchiness and backstabbing… and cameras…"
"Cameras?" Questioned Amaya.
"Yeah, we were in cahoots with the WB for a reality show about four Wiz-Dom girls and a Mind-Breaker and their daily lives… but the network wasn't feeling it, so it never aired." Michiko explained.
"… Kinky." Cyrano commented.
"Anyway, one of the bitches in my platoon was a Mind-Breaker named Janet… God she was such a whiney, little bitch!" Michiko said.
"And let me guess, you and the other Wiz-Dom girls couldn't stand her and so you tortured her, so now she's out to get the four of us for retribution?" Asked Bono.
"No! Of course not!" Cried Michiko. "… Well, actually, in a roundabout way, yes. You see, our superiors had sent us on a mission to investigate this freaky old house in Oakland; and, to make a very long and boring story short, this creepy little Mind-Breaker girl lived there with a creepy Wiz-Dom guy, and they captured Janet and held her for ransom."
"… Did you go back and get her?" Amaya asked.
"Nope: too much trouble." Michiko replied. "Instead we ran off, back to San Francisco and told our superiors she was dead… or something… It's been a while; I can't quite remember. … But yeah, after that, me and the other Wiz-Dom bitches went our separate ways and never spoke again… And I lived, considerably, happily-ever-after, until now."
"… What a happy ending." Rainbow commented, sarcastically.
There was an old house down by the bay, in a considerably not-good neighborhood that had been abandoned for years and years. At one time, an old sea-captain's widow had lived there, but that was long ago and it had since fallen into disrepair… or so everyone assumed; but recently movers had been coming and going from the place, as if someone had finally bought the old place.
On the second floor of the old house was a bedroom with a large bed with a wire frame and heavy bedspread adorned with stars and moons on in. After returning from their first day at Sushi-Teriyaki-Sake High School, the Canadian foreign exchange students gathered in a line in front of that bed, in order of rank: first Tob, then Groundsquirrel, then Al (the guy with the ponytail that stalked Bono through the library), and finally Bonaparte. They stood there in complete silence for quite a long time before the person in the bed began to stir.
"… What the fuck are you four doing here so early?" The auburn-hair woman asked groggily, as she surface from her sea of covers.
"Umm… School is over…" Tob replied meekly.
"… What?" She glanced over at her digital clock-radio. "… Oh Jesus Christ… looks like I overslept a little." The foreign exchange students said nothing; in fact they didn't even look directly at her. "Alright, how did it go? Did you find them all?"
"Yes ma'am: the four younger ones are all in the same sixth-period class, which is, ironically, taught by the older one." Tob replied.
"Excellent, we shall crush them." Janet said, yawning and running a hand through her curly, auburn locks.
"Soon?" Asked Tob.
"No." Janet replied. "I want them to… flounder… a bit… And don't harm the old one! … And possibly the European one! They are for me… the old one at least."
The day had been long and the day had been hard for Maria Von Bono, and she returned to her apartment downtown, wishing only to collapse in her bed and sleep until her brother, Bono, woke her up for dinner. She climbed the steps, walked over to her door and jostled the knob; it was locked: she was the first one home. She pulled her keys out of her briefcase, unlocked the door, and stepped inside. There, in the living-room, on the couch, sat Isshin Shiba.
"My… gawd! … Don't you ever go home! Don't you have a family or a life or something outside of my apartment!" Maria ranted, though to no avail, as Isshin was asleep sitting up, with his arms crossed and his feet propped up on the coffee table.
For a brief moment, the anger inside of her spilled over, ever-so slightly, and she threw her briefcase across the dining-room table (which was in the living-room, because the living-room, dining-room and kitchen were all sort of the same thing). It slid across the surface, and knocked various, unnamed objects off: including a certain can of Cran-Apple Juice from Concentrate.
"Oh my! What the duce!" It exclaimed.
"… Bev?" Maria asked cautiously.
"Yes, young mistress?" The can replied.
"… Are you alright?"
"Oh yes, young mistress; I was just strangely knocked from the table top by a sudden gale."
"… Do you need some help?"
"… Yes… And possibly a white-wine spritzer, if you could manage it, young mistress."
"… Are you drunk again, Bev?"
"No! That's the problem, now are you going to help me off the bloody floor or not?"
Maria walked around to the other side of the table, sifted through the rest of the debris that had been knocked off the table by the great "gale" that Bev had spoken of, until she found her and sat her up on the tabletop again.
"Now, how about that spritzer?"
"Bev, you're an alcoholic; I don't think it would be very wise of me to give you something like that."
"BWA! I'll have you know, I am not an 'alcoholic'! I am a lush!" Bev differentiated. "The very thought that I'm an alcoholic! I'm appalled, young mistress! For Christ sake my name is 'Non-Alcoholic Beverage'!"
"Fine! I'll get you a fucking white-wine spritzer! Just shut the hell up!"
Bev smiled smugly. "Thought you'd see it my way."
From behind her, Maria heard the door close. She turned around to see her youngest brother (the closest thing she would ever have to a sister): Maxim Von Bono.
"Geeze pop a Midol!" He responded to Maria's screaming, which he had heard from out in the hall.
"What are you doing home so early? The middle school doesn't let out for another hour." Maria asked him.
"My last-period teacher owed me a favor, so he let me out early."
Maria paused for a moment to process what Maxim had just said, along with what Amaya had mentioned to her earlier that day when they were talking of her older brother's sexuality.
"Oooohhhh gaawwd!" She mumbled, repulsed and shuttering violently.
"… What's you're problem?"
"… Nothing…" She thought it best not to mention it just yet; not until she had a talk with Bono.
"What's this freeloader still doing here?" Maxim asked, motioning towards the sleeping Isshin on the couch.
"Ugh, I donno; you'd have to ask Bono: they're attached at whichever body part you care to think of."
"I like young master Isshin!" Bev butted in.
"No body asked you, Drunkie." Maxim snapped.
There was a moment of awkward silence.
"… Maxim?" Maria spoke up.
"… Do you know a girl about your age named Maxine?"
Maxim said nothing at first: afraid his older sister had found out his secret. Damn that Bono! he thought. He promised he wouldn't tell anyone!
"Nope! Don't know any Maxine!"
"Oh… Okay, just wondering."
"… I'm going to my room now don't bother me 'til dinner!" Maxim spewed out rapidly and ran off to the back bedroom, slamming the door behind him.
"Yes, young mistress?"
"I need you to do me a favor."
"What is that, young mistress?"
"I need you to be my eyes and ears in this house. Do not let Maxim, Bono or that sack of crap over there on the couch out of your sight."
"What about young master Fjord?"
"I don't care what Fjord's doing. I already know what he does: he sits in his room and downloads loud, obnoxious, British punk music and animated pornography because he's a huge perv." Maria stated, walking into the kitchen area and over to the refrigerator.
"And what will you be doing while I investigate?" Asked Bev.
"Sleeping; now, have a spritzer." Maria replied, tossing an alcoholic beverage over towards her spiritual advisor. Bev squealed with delight and Maria sauntered off to her bedroom to nap.
After the emergency meeting of the Nuances of Toast, Michiko returned to her home with much on her mind; particularly why Janet, if it was the Janet she was thinking of, had come all the way from America to harass her students.
"Are you alright Michiko?" Amaya asked, as they entered the parking lot of their home at El Cheapo Apartments.
"I mean, are you particularly not alright?"
"Hmm… I suppose so."
"Because of Janet?"
Michiko sighed. "Yes… She was always a shitty Mind-Breaker; I wonder what in the name of God she's thinking of doing here." She unlocked the door and opened it up.
"Excuse me! Miss Izumi!" She heard from down the hall: it was Tomonori.
"Good afternoon, Tomonori." Michiko replied, blushing a little.
"And good afternoon, Miss Takehiko. Keeping up with your studies I assume?"
"… Yeah." Amaya lied (and to a priest, at that… Oh well, she's not a catholic).
"Good, good. Miss Izumi, I was wondering if you would like to accompany me on a walk around our fair apartment complex?"
"OMIGOD YES! I MEAN—Why certainly."
"But Michiko, we have dinner reservations." Amaya reminded.
"Quiet you!" Michiko hissed.
"Well then… shall we be going?" Asked Tomonori.
"Yes, of course." Michiko replied.
"But what about our reservations!"
"I don't know! Take one of the other nuances!" And with that, Michiko and the suave priest had disappeared down the hall.
Pissed, Amaya marched inside and slammed the door.
"UGH! Friends aren't supposed to blow off other friends for mildly attractive, quiet, debonair and benevolent priests that live just down the hall!" Amaya brooded. "… Alright, I've gotta eat and I can't go to a restaurant alone: I'll look too desperate and lonely, like that woman with all the cats that runs Bono's apartment building… Alright, so Cyrano wouldn't be able go: she's always so busy wreaking havoc on the city after school. I don't know Rainbow's number… in fact, I don't even know where she lives… That's awfully suspicious of her, to keep something like that a secret… And Bono's probably too busy doing the 'responsible adult' thing and taking care of his mini-family to go out to eat. Great! Looks like I'm fucked again! … Wait a minute… I've got it!" An ingenious idea suddenly came to her. "I'll invite Kaname Kusakabe! And he'll say yes and we'll have a lovely dinner and fall madly in love with one another and that'll show that uptight bitch Mana Kirihara what's up!"
She rushed over to the phone and knelt down to pick up a phonebook from beside it, that's when she notices something lightly fall onto the top of her head. Warily, she took it off and looked at it: it was a napkin with the words "Hey! Look behind you!" written on it in blue ink. Force of impulse forced her to turn around and look. There, staring her in the face, was a bouquet of wilting poppies.
"AAAHHH!" She shrieked and jumped back. After quickly composing herself, she got a good look at the person holding these withered flowers of DOOM: it was Bonaparte, of the creepy, Canadian foreign exchange students. "How the hell did you get in here!"
"You left the door open."
"Oh… Go home!"
"I hear you have an irrational fear of poppy seeds." He said randomly.
"How did you know—Hey! You're that creepy Canadian kid who was watching Cyrano get dressed earlier! Tell me everything you know about Janet!" Amaya retorted.
"Well, Janet is—Wait! I ask you that!"
"Your creepy, little friend—Groundrodent or whatever his name is—already asked me!"
"Oh… LOOK OVER THERE!" And, being the impulsive person that she was, Amaya did indeed "look over there"… that's when he punched her in the stomach.
"OWCH! You ugly son-of-a-bitch!" She screamed, followed by several other exclaimed profanities. Just as she was about to take a swing at him, the front door flew open: it was Tsukasa.
"What's going on in here!" He questioned, standing in the doorway. For a brief moment, doing said or did anything. Noticing this, Bonaparte took this chance to flee to the window and jump out, into the parking lot.
"Damnit!" Amaya cursed.
"… Are you okay?" Tsukasa asked.
She sighed. "Yep…" At this point she was thoroughly exhausted, too much so to put herself out to be rejected by Kaname Kusakabe. "… Tsukasa? Ya wanna go to dinner?"
Meanwhile, on El Cheapo apartment's "Nature Trail" (which was really just a thicket of trees and brush that sprouted up around the bog where all the sewage in the apartment complex flowed into), Michiko and Tomonori were having a pleasant little walk, arm-in-arm, speaking of such things as their occupations at Sushi-Teriyaki-Sake High School. Michiko recommended to Tomonori that he put in a good word for her with the principal and superintendent (as he was the darling of the high school and school system as a whole, at that). She thought that if she could get in nice with him that she might have a better chance of getting her wall fixed by winter… among other things.
"Now Michiko…" Tomonori said, his voice turning from light and happy, to heavy and grim. "… I know I've mentioned this before… But I really don't think you should be living with—"
"Yes, yes, I know…" Michiko said, sounding very wearily of the subject already. "You don't like Amaya; you've made it quite apparent through her Algebra grade (you could at least try not to play favorites)."
" 'Favorites'! I play no such game!" Tomonori retorted.
"Fine. But you shouldn't pass judgement on Amaya living with me so quickly. I mean, you live with Tsukasa… and that's a far more suspicious pairing than Amaya and myself."
"More suspicious! How do you figure!"
"Well… A full-grown man living with a young boy who he is not bound to in anyway bound to you and who has the meek look of someone who has been beaten and/or molested as a small child."
And at that Tomonori smacked her in the face.
"… What was that!" Michiko exclaimed.
"I-I'm sorry… Miss Izumi… I was completely—" Before he could finish his sentence, Michiko had punched him squarely in the nose. "Hey!" And with that, Tomonori mimicked her action.
They went back and forth like that for a few minutes—arm-in-arm—before Michiko had had enough and pushed Tomonori into the sewage pit and marched back to her apartment, hoping to catch up with Amaya before she found someone else to go to dinner with. She was disappointed when she got back and found a bright yellow post-it that read:
"Thanks for ditching me, Michiko.
I was forced to take Tsukasa to dinner.
Hope you had a nice walk.
(You can't see this, but I'm making an obscene gesture towards you).
And thus, feeling guilty, Michiko drowned her sorrows in a pint of ice cream and a bag of "Potato Crispies" (a generic brand of potato chips).
Giovanni-Kun's Authentic Italian Restaurant was an anything-but-authentic Italian restaurant run by a Japanese culinary school dropout with horrible acne named "Kip". It was literally the cheapest, most low-class restaurant in the whole city. Then why would someone need reservations? Well, there were a lot of people in the city (like Amaya, and, more-so, Michiko) who were cheap. Many of these same people were also lazy, and thus hated cooking. So where can cheap, lazy people go to be fed without paying much? Giovanni-Kun's of course.
Amaya and Tsukasa were seated and ordered their meals. Amaya ordered a massive steak, as she assumed that would be the item least likely to have poppy seeds lurking within it; she's had enough trauma with that for one day. Tsukasa, though, only ordered a small salad with no dressing. Finding this quite odd, Amaya dared to ask:
"… Is that all you're gonna eat?"
"Are you sure? It's all on Michiko's credit card and I'm pissed at her, so money is no object."
"Yeah, I'm sure… Every time I go to eat something 'unhealthy' I keep hearing this voice in my head saying 'Tsukasa… Tsukasa, don't eat that! Don't eat that, Tsukasa! You're getting fat, Tsukasa!'…"
Amaya paused to take this bit of information in.
"… Are you a schizophrenic?"
"Do you suffer from an eating disorder?"
"Maybe… That seams more likely than me being schizophrenic."
Amaya was also going to ask him about his sexual orientation and what his real relationship with Tomonori was; but before the words could pass her lips she noticed a group of five people entering the restaurant out of the corner of her eye. Upon further examination, she recognized them as the Von Bono family featuring Isshin Shiba. They were seated at a long table near her and Tsukasa; and so Amaya decided she should go say hello to her friends and try to explain what had happened earlier that day with the poppy seeds to Maria Von Bono.
"Hey look, it's Bono and his siblings. Let's go say hi." Amaya suggested to Tsukasa.
"Yeah might as well…" He replied, looking down at the half-eaten salad. "… I'm not gonna be able to finish this anyway."
The two of them stood up and walked over to the Von Bonos' table.
"Bono Von Bono!"
"AHH!" Bono yelped, turning around. "Oh, it's Amaya and the perfectly harmless Tsukasa Amou… having dinner… alone."
"Yeah, it's on Michiko. She ditched me for Tomonori, so I took Tsukasa to dinner instead, as sort of a 'thank you for saving me from a creepy Canadian foreign exchange student' thing."
"Aww, how sweet."
Bono was dressed down, out of his school uniform, wearing mostly black (which had faded into more of a dark gray). He never looked exactly like "royalty". He rarely shaved, his hair was always disheveled; he was wearing his glasses (at school that day he had had his contacts in). He was wearing blue jeans and black converse, with a black, long-sleeved shirt and another black, button-up shirt overtop of it.
"So, Bono, I figured you'd be at home, cooking and being a responsible adult." Amaya said.
"Pft! No! I can't cook to save my life." He replied. "Everyone was bitching the whole way here about how they're all so sick of cheap, Italian food; but hell if I'm gonna pay anymore for a little thing like food."
At that very moment, their friend and fellow Nuance, Secret Agent Rainbow burst into the non-smoking section (where Bono, Amaya, and company were chatting) from one of the private dining rooms, wearing a heavy fur coat (it was late spring), silk gloves, a large hat, and an overabundance of jewels. Two men, who were speaking to her in hurried Russian, followed her. She replied in Russian, as well, using melodramatic hand motions. She was crying, but Bono and Amaya knew her well enough to tell when she was faking it (which she was).
"Rainbow?" Said Amaya.
"Amaya! And Bono!" Rainbow replied. "… And Tsukasa… and the entire Von Bono clan, plus Issin… Oh my… … … I gotta go!" And with that, she took off out the door without so much as looking at her Russian friends again. They stood there, looking awkwardly at Bono and Amaya; and likewise for the two Nuances, before the Russian men excused themselves from the restaurant without a word.
"Did you catch what they were saying?" Amaya asked.
"Uhh… Rainbow said something about a cat… or a diaphragm; I donno, my Russian is pretty rusty." Bono replied. "I didn't catch anything the two guys said… Probably wasn't all that important anyway."
"… Freaks!" Maxim exclaimed. They all stared at him.
"Oh yeah; they're freaks." Bono replied.
"… You said you wouldn't tell anyone!"
An awkward silence fell over the Von Bonos' table.
"… What the hell are you guys talked about!" Fjord exclaimed. "Stuff like this happens all the time where you two—or three, usually, since Bono and Maria are so fuckin' chummy!—start talking about something act like I'm not even here and leave me wondering what the hell is going on!"
"It's not important, Fjord." Said Maria.
"Wait, Maria, you know?" Bono asked.
"What! No! Amaya told me—I mean, nothing! I know nothing!" Maria replied nervously.
"OH! Amaya knows!" Maxim exclaimed.
Bono glanced over at Amaya. "I don't know what Maria talking about; the girl's not right in the head, ya know." She said.
"This is just fucking great! Lemme guess, Isshin knows too!" Maxim shrieked.
Isshin yawned. "… What?"
"UNBELIEVABLE!" Maxim screeched. "If you all don't mind, I'm gonna go HANG myself now!" And with that, he stomped off to the bathroom.
"God, what a queen." Tsukasa remarked, making Amaya giggle. "… I'm sorry, I really don't know what's going on."
At that point, they had the entire restaurant staring at them.
"Haha, nothing to see here folks!" Bono laughed awkwardly, scratching his head.
Suddenly, a group of people entered Giovanni-kun's.
"God! What a dump!" It was the infamous Canadian foreign exchange students.
"Shut up Groundsquirrel! Janet only gave us ten bucks in this is the only place in town where we can all eat on that much." Tob replied.
"Hey look! It's that guy I tackled in the library today!" Al said, pointing across the room at Bono.
Bono and Amaya stood there, frozen. "Oh shit…" Amaya mumbled, getting the feeling of something sinking inside of her.