As usual, the day had been lovely for about fifteen minutes. Manjoume awakened as he usually did, to the sounds of Kenzan trying his hardest to make Juudai wake up and get ready for class. These attempts, at various times, involved begging, bribing, pleading, threatening, cajoling, before eventually winding down to exclamations of despair. Manjoume didn't like those. What he did like was the satisfying thud that Juudai's head made on the floor every morning, as Kenzan resignedly hauled him out of bed by his feet.
Once that little performance had concluded, that was Manjoume's cue to stretch languorously and ease his way out of bed, if only to prove by contrast how very much more elegant and refined he was than his roommates. It also, he felt, made up for how, on his first morning rooming with them, he had somehow stepped on the hem of his pajamas and slipped off the bunk bed's ladder, and had landed on the floor in a contortion he had previously not realized his body would bend into. He was still trying to live that down. Unfortunately, while Juudai could barely remember what had been talked about in class the previous day, Kenzan's memory seemed to extend back into the Paleozoic, so expecting him to forget something that had happened a few months ago was completely out of the question.
Having made it safely to the floor without mishap, Manjoume set about grooming himself for a new day. Clean socks, clean boxers, same old tattered black jacket with the dust of ages ground into it - a fact that hardly mattered since his shirt and slacks were hardly in better condition. He liked them that way. It was the exact opposite of his squeaky-clean, buttoned-down brothers, with their Armani suits and Turnbull and Asser shirts and their expensive aftershave. He did wish he'd gotten some of their good hair genes. He took his turn in front of the room's single narrow mirror and combed out his hair.
"Lookin' sharp, Aniki!"
And there it was: yet another perfect morning spoiled by the appearance of a little yellow googly-eyed thing.
"Get lost, you nut!" he snapped.
"What'd you say?" asked Kenzan, shooting him a look.
"I said I've got lots of knots," Manjoume answered quickly. "You know. In my hair. Must have tossed and turned a lot last night, ha ha ha…"
The answer satisfied Kenzan, who turned his attention to more important things.
"No, no, no," he said to Juudai. "Socks go under your shoes. Aren't you awake yet?"
"Jus' five more minutes," Juudai mumbled.
"How late did you stay up last night, anyway?"
"Dunno… what time does the sun come up around here?"
Kenzan just shook his head and hauled Juudai off to breakfast.
"What was he doing up that late, anyway?" Manjoume wondered aloud.
"Talking to his cards," said Ojama Yellow informatively. "I just don't know about those cards from outer space. There's something just a little strange about them, you know? Anyway, they aren't nearly as good looking as I am!"
"Oh, puh-leez! You're even more clueless than he is!" said Manjoume.
He swatted impatiently at the Ojama, who vanished in a puff of yellow smoke. With his cheerful morning mood spoiled, he stalked off to the cafeteria. He cut to the front of the meal line, shooting venomous looks at anyone who dared to get in his way. They moved.
"What's with him?" a freshman asked his roommate.
The older, wiser student gave his companion a knowing look.
"Not a morning person," he said.
Manjoume didn't have an assigned seat. At one point, he'd had a nice one with his name on it, but he had lost it about the same time he'd lost favor in the eyes of Professor Chronos. Then he'd been given a new one, which he didn't like, as it was so close to the front of the room he would have ended up with a crick in his neck before his first class was over, and spend the rest of the day with his head permanently locked in that position. Now none of the chairs in the room had his name on it, so he simply sat wherever he felt like sitting. Today he was sitting closer to the front than usual, closer than he would have liked. Usually he kept to the middle of the room, but today his desire to avoid the Obelisk students in the back of the room outweighed his desire to avoid the gaze of his teacher. He was never quite certain where he stood with them, from day to day, and this week he would have just as soon let them forget about him for a little while.
"All right, students!" barked Chronos from the front of the room. "Today we are having a pop quiz!"
Everyone groaned. Chronos smirked.
"I knew you'd love the idea. Number two pencils only, please! Anyone who fills out a test in purple ink again gets a zero! I'm serious!"
Manjoume just sighed and fished out a pencil. He accepted the test with a minimum of fuss and settled into filling out answers. It wasn't so hard, really, just a simple review of things they had gone over in a previous unit. Anyone who had half a brain would have known what the answers were…
"Pick C! Pick C!"
Manjoume cast a glare over his shoulder, where Ojama Yellow was pointing eagerly at the test paper.
"I remember this one! It's C!"
"It is not!" hissed Manjoume under his breath.
There was a flicker of movement next to his other shoulder.
"Actually, I think it is C," said Ojama Black.
"Well, I'm the one taking this test, not you, so just buzz off!"
A faint sense of something on his head. Looking up, Manjoume could barely see Ojama Green perched there.
"Definitely C," he agreed. "Come on, aniki! We wouldn't steer you wrong!"
"For the last time…" Manjoume began, but he didn't get any further than that.
"No talking!" Chronos called. "Signore Manjoume, you will stay after class today, and we will have a long chat, until you realize why it is important not to disrupt the test-taking process with your conversation, is that clear?"
"Yes, Professor Chronos," Manjoume sighed.
He bowed his head and looked back at the question he had been working on. He was mortified to realize that he had read it wrong previously, and that the answer really was C.
There was a glorious span of time each day, a few golden hours between the time class let out and the time when homework absolutely could not be put off a moment longer, in which everyone on campus took a miniature vacation. It was a good time to socialize, get in a few pickup duels, or just take a nap in the sun. Manjoume missed out on most of it that day, since he was stuck in a conference with Professor Chronos. He was thoroughly irritated by the time he made it to the safety of the outside world.
"Aww, poor Aniki," the Ojamas crooned, as they hovered supportively around him. "Don't worry - we still love you!"
Manjoume simply ground his teeth to keep himself from screaming. The last time he'd done that before he was safely out of earshot, he'd wound up in the infirmary explaining to a nurse that no, he really didn't think counseling sessions would help.
Outside the school, it was a lovely, warm, sunny day, with just a hint of a breeze. It was the perfect day to be outside, whether you had a good reason to be there or not. Manjoume was on his way back to his room to hide under his blankets and do some quality sulking, when he became aware of a voice. He wouldn't have normally followed random voices, but this was one he recognized. He followed it to find Juudai relaxing under a comfortably secluded tree, chatting idly with something that was not-quite-not-there - a fuzzy thing with wings that was slightly transparent. Manjoume watched for a moment in silence, until the hovering spirit noticed him and cooed an alert.
"What's that, aibou?" said Juudai, sitting up a bit and looking around. "Oh, hi there! Pull up a root and have a seat!"
"Not interested," Manjoume replied. Nevertheless, he sauntered over and leaned against a tree Juudai wasn't using.
"Hard time with Professor Chronos?" asked Juudai sympathetically.
"Nothing I couldn't handle," Manjoume answered casually.
"It was the worst!" Ojama Yellow chimed in, unable to resist striking up a conversation with one of the few people who could hear him. "The teacher took the test he did and tore it all up and made him start over again, and then…"
"Nobody asked you!" Manjoume shouted. He waved his hands frantically, missed, and smacked the tree. "Ow, ow, ow! Why you rotten little…!"
"I'm just telling it like it is, Aniki!" said Ojama Yellow.
"Well, maybe I don't want you telling things! Is that so hard to understand?"
He finally managed to grab hold of the Ojama and stuff it back into its card. Juudai and Hane Kuriboh watched with identical expressions of bafflement.
"You know, you're really hard on those little guys sometimes," Juudai commented, as if this were something he'd just noticed.
"Well, they ask for it," said Manjoume sullenly. He looked at Juudai's partner. "Of all the monsters I could have ended up with, how did I get stuck with these guys? I mean, at least your monster has a couple of attack points and a special effect. It even kind of looks like you!"
"Does he really?" asked Juudai. He looked flattered.
"Well, yeah! You've got the same big eyes and the same goofy haircut," said Manjoume. "But these Ojamas…!"
"They're just like you," said Juudai. He nodded emphatically.
Manjoume looked as if he'd unexpectedly slammed into a wall.
"No they don't," he said flatly. "They are nothing like me. They're stupid, they're ugly, they talk nonstop about the most pointless things… they're just totally lame!"
"Well, maybe," said Juudai, "but other than that, they're just like you."
Manjoume shook his head. "Absolutely not. They're nothing like me."
Juudai shook his head and smiled. "Well, have it your way."
That insufferably certain look on Juudai's usually innocent face was too much for Manjoume. He took a breath and prepared to deliver a scathing tirade meant to make Juudai wish he'd never even considered saying something so stupid, when…
"Are you boys having a party up here?" called a sweet feminine voice. Manjoume's look of fury melted into a dreamy smile.
"Asuka… hi," he said. It was one of his more suave and witty lines.
"Eh, we're just talking shop," said Juudai. "Arguing over whether my Hane Kuriboh is better than his Ojamas."
"But if you want to talk about something else, we can definitely do that," Manjoume put in.
Asuka glanced at him.
"Thanks for the invitation," she said, "but I was just passing by and wondered if I heard voices. I'm going to a study group with Momoe and Junko, so I'll see you guys later. Bye."
She walked off. Manjoume watched her go.
"Did you see that?" he said proudly. "She looked right at me! I'm telling you, she's totally in love with me - she just doesn't want to admit it."
"Dude," said Juudai. "She brushed you off. For homework."
"She's playing hard to get," Manjoume insisted.
"I don't think she's good enough for you," a voice opined. Ojama Yellow had found his way out of Manjoume's pocket. "You could do a lot better. I mean, she doesn't like you half as much as weeeeee…!" His voice trailed off into a squeal as Manjoume mashed him back into the card case.
"I told you to shut up," he said. Turning to Juudai, he said, "Anyway, I… have homework to do too. That's it. I'll see you around."
He scurried off down the path, following in Asuka's wake. Juudai just smiled.
"Totally alike," he said.