All right, this is just something I started to write. I have even less of a plan for this than I did for my last large story, but the idea's been bugging me for a while now so I guess it's just best to get it out of my system. I don't have the least idea where this will eventually go, but I guess I'll find that out when I get there. The ending is a total blank and it can go essentially anywhere... and hopefully in a not over-used direction. I'll set a five chapters minimum goal, but I'll see how many I can sqeeze out (hopefully at least seven). Anyway, enjoy... or don't.

Azumanga Daioh © Kiyohiko Azuma
Original Story © Berlioz II

On Thursday, May 29th, 2014, at 4.25 pm, a train leaves a train station as a little boy watches in awe.

At the same time, on the terrace of a restaurant across town, the passing traffic causes the water to ripple in one half-filled glass on the table after a dinner.

At 4.45 pm, a drunken Sawamoto Harima laments about being suddenly fired from his job and passes out on a bus stop.

A few minutes later, two young women walk down a street a few blocks away, the other silent and the other talking animatedly...

"...And then this girl comes out of nowhere, and starts yapping on about how she was going to take me down. I couldn't believe my ears," Kagura excitedly recited her recent sporting entanglement to a passive-as-ever Sakaki as they were walking around Tokyo's less busy streets. These two girls had a lot of history behind them and a lot of incidents that could have provided a complete story on their own, but what we are concerned with here centers squarely on totally different set of leggings that were to cause this particular yarn to be spun.

In the intervening seven years since graduating from high school, the two girls had both gone down their own respective paths in life. Once finally out of the university she had attended, Kagura had determinedly followed her athletic pursuits to become a fairly accomplished athlete with great promises to become a force to be reckoned with. She had already participated in many a sporting event frequented by business heavy-weights, reaped success in her field as a star runner with gusto to be one of the best, and was even proclaimed in Tokyo Sport as the most exciting new talent of the future.

Sakaki on her own hand had followed with her passion for animals and had become a veterinarian. However, due to her sensitivity of seeing animals in pain and sometimes being forced to put them to sleep (not to mention the rather snappy attitude of some of her clients), she had ultimately given up on the profession and done the second best option for her by setting up her own little pet store. The move had been enough to make her life happier than in her previous profession, and she had at the same time become quite adept at handling animals as well, so that she did not need to continuously be in pain for being bitten.

" I just told her 'Let's race'. Wiped that cocky smirk right off her face," Kagura finished and gave a boisterous laugh.

Regardless of the time their professions demanded from them nowadays, both had remained lucky enough to be able to keep the old ties of friendship alive with the rest of their clique, with Tomo, Yomi and Ayumu often hanging around with the other two when time allowed. The only one not seen around was Chiyo, who had migrated to the United States when following her future studies and therefore only kept in touch via e-mail. Regardless of this, the old high school group was still alive and healthy and just as tight-knit as ever.

Today, however, it was just Kagura and Sakaki enjoying each others company as both had to their good fortune been able to take some free time from their activities. The day had been quite an enjoyable one for them, too, as they had went to the park to admire the beauty of summer, had taken part in a small frisbee tournament with a couple of other people they chanced to meet there, had gone to a movie, ate big ice cream bowls in a little cafe they came across, and generally just laid back with no obligations to bother with the entire day.

But now, as the clock was already starting to approach five in the evening, they had decided to call it the day and were now on their way to their homes.

"Hey, Sakaki. I got a great idea. What say we race?" Kagura suddenly suggested.

"Race?" Sakaki said in her usual passive tones.

"Yeah! Trust me, it'll be great! And this time, I bet I can beat you as I've been seriously training," Kagura boasted. Regardless of dedicating her life to being a runner and was praised for it, it still bugged her immensely that to this day she had never yet been able to beat Sakaki, the one person who didn't even seem to care at all for sports in the first place. It frankly ate on her competitive side like her own personal Mount Everest she just had to conquer. But now she was prepared and today would be the day history would be made. "Come on. You're not afraid are you?"

Sakaki just sighed as she nodded in affirmation to accepting the challenge. She never really liked arguing and felt it was just easier to go with the flow. And with Kagura, that usually was the most time-saving method. She was just thankful Tomo wasn't there right now along with them.

"All right! On the count of three then. One... Two... THREE!!"

And with that the two sped off at a speedy gait, Kagura pushing herself to the limit with a ferocious look on her face, while Sakaki just limped beside her with seemingly no effort at all. The street, buildings and people flashed past the two as their efforts remained on pretty much the same level for the first few minutes. But as the girls kept on running, little by little Sakaki seemed to edge her way past Kagura, much to the shock of the athlete.

No, no, how is this possible?! I'm supposed to be the high performer here, and she still goes faster? What is she, a robot in disguise or something? Kagura mumbled in her head.

The two snapped past a corner, dodging other people walking on the sidewalk, completely immersed in their current task at hand. Little did they notice that at that very moment a smaller woman just happened to fumble out of the post office by the street while precariously carrying a large cardboard box.

When the realisation hit them that somebody was in their way, it was already too late to do anything about it as the two were moving simply too fast to stop their progress. Sakaki was the first to ram into the person in front of her followed immediately after by Kagura, causing the whole bunch of them to tumble onto the street in a heap and made the box the other woman was carrying roll a little way off to the side.

It took a while for the group to figure out exactly what was their current status, the jolt having been enough to momentarily dislodge their brains from this particular plane of existence. However, little by little they started to come back in control of their own bodies and perception. The two sporting girls slowly started to get off from the top of the petite woman crushed below them, but if they were shocked before as they realised impact was inevitable, they were perhaps even more shocked upon noticing who had ended up underneath them.

"Kaorin!?" Kagura blurted out while Sakaki was simply content to gasp.

Indeed, it was Aida Kaori, their former classmate and stalwart neurotic stargazer. Neither Sakaki or Kagura had really seen her since graduating from high school, but she hadn't changed all that much to make identification difficult.

"Ummmmhhh..." Kaori groaned as she was splayed on the sidewalk with her eyes closed.

"Hey, Kaorin... you okay?" Kagura continued her questioning with a slight hint of concern.

"Umh... I know that voice..." Kaori said lowly as she pried open one of her eyes to peer up at her assailant. "Kagura..."

Kaori was obviously not particularly pleased about being mowed down like that when she was just minding her own business, and she certainly didn't try to hide that displeasure. This was definitely something that Kagura didn't fail to notice as her brow started to sweat.

"Hehe... L-Long time no see, eh?" she said, trying to put on a flippant spin on her words, but not succeeding entirely with it, her tone of voice being tinged with a definite nervous sound in it. As mild as Kaori usually was, Kagura had not forgotten that there were times when she could turn into something very frightening indeed.

"Yeah... long time," Kaori said while gritting her teeth. "This the way you greet everybody?" she said, her temper starting to slowly boil over as she started getting up upon somewhat regaining her senses from the slam.

"I'm sorry, it was all my fault. I wasn't looking where I was going," said another voice suddenly out of nowhere... another familiar voice... another all too familiar voice for Kaori's taste. It was enough for her to forget all about being angry at the jock in her eyesight, and to cause the whole world to suddenly stop to a complete standstill around her.

No... no, no, no... it... it couldn't be. No. The gods would not be that cruel... they just wouldn't," she thought with dread as she slowly and cautiously opened her eyes fully while turning her head to face the owner of that other voice...

That soft-spoken, deep voice.

That heavenly voice.

That tempting voice.

That tormenting voice.


– O –

At 5.03 pm, a leaf flutters down in a park and lands on the lap of a little girl who squeaks happily.

Well, that's the first chapter. I'm not really sure if this'll be a particularly good story, but we'll see. Still, I'm hopeful of getting a few twists out of the norm into the basic idea here...