Author's Note: Well, here is Ch.4. I apologise for the rather lengthy content and perhaps maybe boring fluency of this one but at least the story is starting to move along. I was also going to upload Ch.5 as well but unfortunately I stupidly wasn't planning my time management for something this long…I was planning to make Souji is tad bit nicer but I have decided to go along with the +stat choices instead.

Finally, well. I won't be uploading or writing anymore for this year. I will be going on a hiatus for my finals so I am sorry if you were expecting any of my stories for this year.

EDIT: I had to reformat this, hate the stupid loss of paragraphs after uploading.


Falling, falling.

Souji awoke with a startle, his blurry vision focusing as he rubbed his eyes and the pounding echoes in his head slowly resembled that of a small knocking accompanied by an young voice.
"Breakfast's ready!" a girl's voice sifted through the door.
He answered it without thinking. Sitting up in his sweat-soaked shirt, he stared at the white walls and empty spaces. And for a brief moment of disorientation the unfamiliarity of his abode made him feel nervous. Then he remembered where he was – in the Dojima house.

What a nightmare.


[4/12 Tuesday – Early Morning]

Brushing down the creases of his bed-slept uniform, Souji descended the stairs to find Nanako setting plates on the kitchen table with yesterday's newspaper set aside for space. Her father nowhere to be seen.
"Good morning." Nanako greeted her sleepy-eyed cousin as he took a seat. Grabbing another plate from the table, this one with a couple of eggs and few slices of toast, Nanako put it between the set wares and took her seat. She smiled enthusiastically. "Okay. Let's eat!"
Noting the lack of a fifth or sixth plate, Souji guessed Dojima had already left. Then curious, he turned to his cousin, "Did you do the cooking?"
She nodded and put a finger to her chin in thought, "I can toast bread… and cook sunny-side up eggs in the morning." she explained, and then stared at her empty plate. "Dad can't cook, so I buy dinner."

There was a familiar empty feeling in his chest. His cousin was a mirror image of him, though somewhat luckier in her years. Through his mind memories ran of his life; the days he spent alone at home, sometimes waiting at the table with his own-made meal, waiting for the knock at the door from his parents, or waiting for the inevitable ring to tell him – again he would be eating alone that night. To the points where pretending became a habit, talking to the places where his mother and father would sit telling them of his day's activities and exploits, anything to fill the household with a voice. Hers broke him out of his pensive state.

"You're starting school today, right?" she said suddenly, looking at her elder cousin with all the innocence of a child. There was a peculiar restlessness in her eyes and Souji guessed it was from having a new member in the house. "My school's on the way, so… let's go together." She suggested.

Souji nodded in affirmation. "Sure. Why not."


Breakfast concluded and they both left the house with an umbrella in hand.

From the Shopping District they made their way to the Samegawa Floodplains. Nanako carried her red randoseru as she would have to for the next six years through her schooling and was happily humming her beloved jingle. The rain made a soft tapping on their umbrellas and Souji looked through his plastic cover to the overcast skies that spanned to the horizon. It would appear that it wouldn't let up for the day with no gap of sunlight piercing through the grey veil. Nanako peeped out from her yellow before quickly retreating back under its cover to prevent getting wet, though it didn't sour her cheerful demeanour when it did.

Halfway through the plains, she stopped, "You keep going straight from here." She pointed ahead; directing Souji to the road which he saw other students wearing the same uniform – which, undoubtedly would lead him to Yasogami High. She turned around gave him a cheerful smile, "My school's this way. Bye!" and turned around to walk back the way her school was.

He watched her go off before doing the same.


Itchy. Something brushed against his nose and Nareta swatted the object but was surprised to find it bushy and soft. Perplexed, he looked up and was met with a growl and blank stare from the fox. "Oh geez, sorry…" he apologised sleepily.

Its tail had been slapping his face and it was wet from the rain. Guessing it was an unusually strange way to dry its tail, noting how the rest of its body was dry. He dryly thanked the fox for the wake-up call and rolled onto his back, the overcast skies spearing droplets onto his face while he unconcernedly raised his watch to his face. He slowly tried to decipher the time on his hand while the grogginess from the late night arrival was urging him back to rest.

Late.

When he came out into the open street however, he realised it wasn't. The entire shopping district was as empty as the night he came. Unless he was presuming wrong, then he was very, very late in that manner. Stretching his arms Nareta let out a yawn but stopped midway when movement caught his eye on the highway. There were several figures on the main road which he had almost dismissed if not for the uniform he recognised that of Yasogami High. Having no idea on how to get to the school, Nareta took his chances and quickly grabbing his bag. Made his way to the path and followed them. The fox long gone before he had even remembered to go back for an umbrella.

By the gates stood a boy. A pair of black fish-like eyes stared out toward the entrace, inspecting every passer-by who anxiously received his attention with hesitant reproach or pretence of lacking presence.

From a distance Nareta could see that from his uniform colour and chest badge; Yasogami's black gakuran with an embroided stitched 'Y' compared to the grey and yellow-green shield, that he was a student of perhaps a rival school. Aside from that the girls kept well away from him, speaking in hushed whispers as they strode on by while the boys moved by him giving him cautious and suspicious passing glances. As Nareta approached, a shiver ran up his spine and hair on his neck stood on end. He was a few meters from the boy when he suddenly regarded him.

A strange feeling of similarity settled over him, a sickening presence that dissipated when their eyes weren't toward each other. Anger welled up inside him. Something didn't sit right with him about the boy and Nareta fought down the intense desire to slam his face into the wall. As he passed him, Nareta felt his emotions returned to normality. And where anger once lay, it disappeared into nothingness.

Odd... he thought to himself. He would never react like that normally, especially to a complete stranger. Yet, there was certainly something that made him despise for some reason. Hate him and loathe him - almost innately. He dropped the thoughts and emotions from his mind and made his way into the school but not before a tiny crash could be heard from down the hill.


At the bottom of the hill, which Yasogami High presides over…
It could have been much worse, Souji supposed, staring at the boy whose hands were between his legs. At the School Zone, just in front of an intersection. Souji became witness to a tragically unfortunate though, it-was-rather-asked-for incident. Nearing the hill where Yasogami High peeked out from its summit Souji watched as a biking student navigated his way through the road.

The road was slippery and the weather wasn't exactly calm in its breeze as the boy fought against earth, wind and water with one hand on the handlebar and umbrella in the other. A small gust of wind was enough throw off the already unbalanced rider and sent him careering into a pole and sending a handlebar in-between his legs. Painful as it looked, seeing as how the other students carried on by without even a glance, Souji presumed it was a somewhat regular occurrence which had lost its comedic value. And walked on by ahead.

Leaving the injured boy alone with his broken pride.

Arriving at the school gates he stopped before going beyond them. Cherry blossoms were in full bloom in all its grandeur for the season, and he took a moment to think and appreciate the sight. They were a refreshing thing to see, a pink amongst the constant dapper of grey and damp black. And it would perhaps be his last time ever seeing the sakura blossoms here in Inaba, so he thought. Nevertheless though, enough time was spent in admiration for nature and since he had already having seen something remarkably unique in the morning, though he would admit himself as rather stupid. The day appeared to hold promise.

Meanwhile, in a class situated on the second floor of the class building.

"Talk about bad luck… The homeroom teacher here is Morooka, isn't it?" a student shakes his head.
"Yeah, it's King Moron alright. We get to enjoy his long-ass sermons every day for a whole year…" answered his friend.
"Hey you guys, I heard there's going to be a transfer student from the city in this class." said another.
"Huh? Really? A guy or a girl?" the first asked in interest.

Across from them was a brown-haired girl who listened in to the conversation in curiosity, intently.

"A transfer student from the city…" she muttered to herself then turned to the desk behind her. "Just like you, huh, Yosuke? … Huh? You look dead today. What happened?"

Her classmate's body was slumped lifelessly on the desk and answered without lifting his head. "Yeah, um… I don't wanna talk about it…"

She turned to her friend in front of her, who was also looking at 'Yosuke', and shrugged. "What's with him?"

"Who knows?" mirrored her long black-haired classmate.

For a moment, the girl paused in thought. "Oh! I know, maybe it's-"

The door slid open with crack and a man briskly strode to the front desk to address the students in the bluntest way he could muster. "Awright, shut your traps!"
There was a brief stillness in the air and tension grew to the point where the students cringed in knowing what was coming.
"I'm Kinshiro Morooka, your homeroom teacher from today forward!" Almost immediately a cry of despair went up in the class and a few clamours of palms hitting foreheads could be heard. Kinshiro straightened himself from his hunched stance and his features softened for a second to give a wry sigh. "Look, as much as I hate wasting time to teach you brats, I have to make sure you pick up your slack in society or unless you want to be some stupid prick who ends up becoming lowlife scum."

At Reception Souji was surprised to see Nareta, the boy he had met on the train the day before, at the Faculty Office looking up the class lists. Apparently he was also going to be in his class. And from what he'd learnt from looking at the diagram of the school, it wasn't much bigger or smaller than his last.

Yasogami High was split between two buildings; the Classroom Building and the Practice Building. The Classroom Building had three floors, with each floor corresponding to the school year; first years on the first floor, second years on the second, and so on. The Practice Building had two floors, and each floor housed rooms for all the different school clubs and activities.

Meandering around the school from being lost, the two asked a passing teacher, whose answer was given from an impressive miniature puppet of himself. From there, the two were directed to Class 2-2 where a loud nasally voice was heard even from the outside.

"Has classes already started?" Nareta asked in bewilderment, "Sure we are at the right place?"

Souji looked at the sign above his head. 2-2 it said. "Yep, looks like it."

Hesitant, Nareta shifted his bag to his right hand. "Should… we knock?"

"Sure."

Nareta's closed hand was raised to the door when he paused. "…"

"What?"

"You first."

The silver-haired boy lifted an eyebrow at Nareta, who pointed to the door which gave him the reply. Inside, the voice sounded like it was scolding a bunch of children. Souji rapped the door three times and slid it open; stopping short of entering the classroom when he saw the teacher standing at the desk giving what seemed to be a severe vocal enforcement of law.

"First things first! Just 'cause it's spring doesn't mean you can swoon over each other like love-struck baboons!" Souji could only just hold his impassive expression at the comment as an awkward silence rang through the class for a moment.
"I think he doesn't realise we're here…" Nareta whispered behind him.

Souji inspected the man that stood in front of him. The teacher wore a striped blue jacket with fitting pants. Somewhere between thirty and forty, he had a receding hairline which looked like he was wearing a wig judging from his hair, perfectly combed was his dark strands to his right in three quarters and the rest to his left. He was very thin man. Thin as a wire, and though young, his long back was already bowed, and he paced around with a forward thrust of his head and a general air of peering benevolence.

Kinshiro whipped his head around and impatiently gestured for the newcomers to come in before continuing his sermon. "Long as I'm around, you students are going to be pure as the driven snow."

Souji saw one of the girls reached over to her friend and tap her on the shoulder.
"Yes, Chie. I know. Very funny." She replied. Looking past her, Souji stifled a laugh when he saw the student from earlier sprawled over his desk like a corpse. His thoughts were broken when the teacher's caw brought him back.

"Now I hate wasting my time, but I'd better introduce this transfer student. Thi-" Kinshiro was taken aback when he noticed Nareta next to Souji. "Oh great, there's two of you this time." He sneered and continued his derision. "This sad sack's been thrown from the big city out to the middle of nowhere like yesterday's garbage. And he's just as much of a loser here as he was there, so you girls better not get any ideas about hitting on him!" – he cast an malignant glare at Nareta then - ''and you, I don't even care.''

Nareta muttered blankly "...I can almost taste the irony…"

Morooka ignored him, waving them off curtly. "Tell 'em your names, and make it quick, I ain't got all day."

Souji crossed his arms over his chest and regarded his new teacher with a catechizing glance. "… You calling me a loser?" It was one thing to be insulted for a mistake but to be insulted without any sort of background knowledge of a person was another case altogether. Suddenly, the class went dead silent as the teacher's face went almost volcanic red. "Hrnh… That's it, you two are on my shit list, effective immediately."

"I'm guessing that's the list of students you expect to DO rather well on exams because you're the one teaching their classes..?" Souji queried.

"No, that's the list I keep to keep little cheeky asses like you in line! Now shut up already!" He turned back to face the class then slammed a palm onto the table continuing what he had been thrice interrupted. "Now listen up! This town is miles away from your big city of perverts and assholes, in more ways than one! You better not even think of getting involved with the girls here, let alone abusing them! But what do I know… it's not like the old days. Even here, kids grow up so damn fast!" Morooka shrugged, rotating his head to face Souji and Nareta. "Every time I turn my back, you're fooling around on those damn phones, checking your life-journals and my-places…"

An audible murmur could be heard as students began to whisper while Morooka continued his rant. In Morooka, Souji found strange peculiarities in his teacher's manner that was noticeable. Whenever he spoke, his mouth would turn to something to that of a permanent sneer. And he had a way of pronouncing words so that his upper lip would curl, revealing a mouthful of tobacco-stained teeth with an extremely jutted overbite in all its awkward glory.

He was, without question, one of the ugliest human beings he had ever encountered. And not just physically ugly; there was a certain clammy weirdness about him that could not be put into words - the sort of feeling when one's hand would brush against some big, strange insect in the darkness. He looked less like a human being than like something from a long-forgotten nightmare. It was hard to guess his height while he was hunched over, but he guessed his teacher was five feet tall. He had a thin nose, which may have been a bit blocked or screwed with his pronunciation, judging from the nasal sound that buzzed with each word he spoke. Above that nose were his two eyes. In his grey eyes of bottomless depth which shot out between his long nose like a beak, from which he looked at people with an aggressive stare deliberately designed to make them feel uncomfortable. Souji saw an utmost conviction for the disorderly. Unnerving, as if staring with an almost vindictive accusation. And if one stared for long enough, it would feel as though all of his sins would spill forth. Nervous glances were exchanged as the two sentinels passed over the unfortunate souls – it was like he ruled the classroom with an iron fist. Or terror. But despite the intimidating presence of the man, there was something he just couldn't quite comprehend. Something that made Souji felt as though.

He was a complete moron.

And upon that, Souji stopped his idle analysis and turned his attention to the class. His eyes swept the rows of students in the classroom. Some were nervous; some regarded him in awe, others with dreary eyes and yawns while some just took the moment in stride. While he examined his classmates, his attention was caught halfway during the sweep, on three students in the middle row and column, all seating in close proximity next to one another. All somewhat idiosyncratic in their own way; a red coat, a yellow-striped green jumper and a pair of headphones. He guessed they had special permission from the school, especially in such a blatant violation of school uniform regulations. Surely.

Maybe schools out here are just more relaxed perhaps. Souji thought to himself, scratching at his throat before proceeding to unbutton the first button on his collar. The room was almost suffocating from the teacher's words and Souji felt himself at ease when finally the button popped loose.

A hand shot up from the middle row, and Souji recognized it being the green-jacket girl who was poking her friend earlier. "Excuse me! It is okay if the transfer student sits here?" the girl asked, pointing at the empty seat beside her.

"Huh? Yeah, sure, hear that? Your seat's over there," Morooka said in a slightly bothered tone. Souji took a step forward and felt a sharp grip on his shoulder, Morooka's voice scratched at his ears. "Just because some girl offers you a seat next to her, doesn't mean you can screw around with her. I've got my eye on you so don't try anything stupid...'' - and with that he released his grip, giving Souji a heavy shove to the back. "So hurry up and siddown already!"

The teacher then made a face at Nareta. "What'll you be doing then?"

Taking my seat like a good little boy, he thought as he meandered his way around to the back.

"Way to make a first impression…" Nareta smirked to Souji, as the two parted to their respective new seats; Nareta at the back commanding a view of the window while Souji took his seat next to the green-jacketed brown-haired girl.

She, beside Souji leaned over and whispered. "He's the worst, huh? Rotten luck for you to get stuck in this class…" she said. "Well, we'll just have to hang in there for a year."
Souji smiled appreciatively at the friendly greeting. And around him, whispers of the class were as clear as day.

"Sucks to be the transfer student, ending up in King Moron's class on the first morning here…"
"Yeah, he won't think twice about suspending if you get on his bad side, since you're already on his list like the new guys… Then again, we're all in the same boat some way or another…"

Souji kept his smile at that. It wasn't all that bad.

It was definitely proving to be an interesting day. And as King Moron took the class roll, elsewhere in the back, Nareta wondered what he could accomplish for the day. Since he took the empty seat near the windows, naturally his gaze wondered out from the yard and up to the school gates. Where he spotted movement near the school gates where a familiar figure stood against a wall staring up into the classrooms.

"You're kidding me...''


[4/12 Tuesday – After School]

For the rest of the day, Morooka had explained the school curriculum for the year, exam dates, trips and anything other of note he deemed as 'anything that'll teach [the students] some morals and responsibility. "That's all for the day." He concluded. "Normal lectures will start tomorrow."

The classroom became a flurry of livened spirit and talk as the day came to a close. Kinshiro had departed the podium and was in no hurry to leave when suddenly a bell chimed and crackling woman's voice came through on the school intercom: "Attention, all teachers. Please report immediately to the Faculty Office for a brief staff meeting. All students must return to their classrooms and are not to leave the school until further notice."

Numerous students looked to each other in interest and were replied with a shrug or a shake of the head. The teacher shrugged and repeated apathetically, "Hrnh, You heard the announcement. Don't go anywhere until you hear otherwise." The door slid shut and the classroom hissed with gossip. In the distance the wailing sirens of emergency services pierced through the urban marsh of fog that made several excited students run instantly to the window for a view that was obscured.

'Did something happen? Doesn't that sound really close?' said a excited student.
'Ugh, I can't see a damn thing. Frickin' fog…' muttered his curious friend .
'Yeah, like every time it rains lately, it gets all foggy.'
'Hey, did you hear? I hear the paparazzi's looking all over for that announcer.'
'Oh yeah. You mean Mayumi Yamano, right?'
'I heard some guys spotted her at the shopping district.'
'Well, actually I heard that…' and whispered to closed ears.
His friend's eyes widened in surprise and stole a glance over at one of his classmates. 'Are you serious!'.

Walking over to her, he spoke cautiously. 'H-Hey, Yukiko-san. Mind if I ask you something…? Is it true that announcer's staying at your family's inn?'
She turned her head away and frowned, "I can't discuss such things." And having such a curt answer, he backed off and returned to his friend at the window to discuss more rumours.

Approaching her was her friend, 'Chie', who stood beside her desk and sighed, "Sheesh, how much longer is this gonna take?"

"There's no telling." 'Yukiko' answered.

"I shoulda left before the announcement came on…" 'Chie's' head drooped for a second in thought before she looked at her friend, eyes twinkling with hidden anticipation. "By the way, didja try what I told you the other day?" Her long-haired friend tilted her head in confusion, prompting her to explain. "You know… That thing about rainy nights."

"Oh… No, not yet, Sorry."

She smiled at her friend and waved it off, "Ahh, that's okay." She leaned in closer to her friend and dropped her voice to a small whisper. "It's just, I heard a guy in the class next door yell something like, "My soulmate is Yamano, the announcer!""

Just after that, another crackle broke over the PDA system.
"There has been an incident inside the school district. Police officers have been dispatched around the School Zone. Please stay calm and contact your parents or guardians as soon as possible, and quickly leave the school grounds. Do not disturb the police officers. Head directly home. I repeat…"

There was another clamour of voices as more students were aroused to the sudden event.
'"Incident"!' cried one.
'What, something actually happened?' another said in disbelief.
'C'mon, let's go take a look!' squealed her friend enthusiastically.

Souji had listened closely to as many as the conversations he could manage and was packing his bag to leave, when the girl that sat next to him strode up to him with her friend behind her. "Hey, are you going home by yourself?" the brown-haired girl smiled. "Why don't you come with us?"

She was fit, he could tell, athletic and appeared to exercise regularly – judging from the calves and defined muscles on her legs. He noted the familiarity in her modified uniform, having a light green, high collared athletic jacket that was similar to the design of that of the sports uniform jacket, although lined with many creases and marks. In addition was three badges pinned just above the left jacket breast arranged in a triangle. Her brown hair was cropped short, lining perfectly just above her brow in a bowl cut. Her skirt was the same as every other female student, but the black 'material' that peeked out from the end of the skirt ended revealed she wore spats underneath. Other than that she was bare legged, save for a pair of rugged, or rather well-worn out pair of brown loafers.

Having being confronted by two, well, just one girl to go together with them along the way home, Souji wouldn't have minded at least knowing a few people from the school, though reluctant in making friends with them as he knew what would happen in a year's time.

"Oh, nearly forgot! I'm Chie Satonaka. You know I sit next to you, right?" the girl introduced herself.

Surprisingly, Souji forget he had spent the entire day without even knowing her acquaintance. He could have feigned ignorance of that fact for the fun of it but he thought otherwise. "I do," Souji smiled. "Thanks for the kind offer of letting me have the seat next to you, it's pleasure to meet you."

"Wow, you don't have to be so formal. Haha…" Chie rubbed the back of her head nervously and let out an embarrassed chuckle. "Well, nice to meet you too!" she enthusiastically replied. "This is Yukiko Amagi," she said, nudging with her elbow at her companion by her side.

"Oh, nice to meet you…" Her friend turned to her with a nervous glance then suddenly bowed. "I'm sorry that this is so sudden…" she apologised while avoiding Souji's silver gaze.

Compared to Chie however, her counterpart on the other hand, was almost the exact opposite. Her attire was well-maintained and seemed to have been regularly washed and covering up every bit of skin besides her face and hands. Her black hair ran down to the small of her back, from being held back by a matching red hairband on her head. It was glossy and tidy that it seemed a living black river had swept down her red sweater. Past her skirt were black pantyhose on her legs that finished with a pair of clean and polished black shoes on her feet.

Souji hastily returned her bow with his own, if only just as anxious from the curious spectacle.
"Huh, no no no no. It's nice to meet you too, I should be apologising for intruding on you like this." Souji awkwardly replied to her. Chie didn't know what to do the two were deadlocked in bows to one another. There was a sudden feeling of attention upon her and she turned around to see her classmates staring at her friends.

Quickly shaking Yukiko's arm, Chie managed to convince her to stop. "C'mon, don't apologize like that! It makes me look like I got no upbringing!" she said. "I just wanted to ask some stuff. Really, that's all." As the three were about to start off home Chie spun around and spoke to Nareta. "What about you?"
"Huh?"
"Why don't you join us as well? You're new here too, right?"

After concluding the swift introductions, the four of them began to walk only to stop when a familiar brunette had called them with a bleak expression upon his countenance.
"Uh… umm, Miss Satonaka…?" he began, fiddling with something behind his back. He presented the item with both hands to her, his head bent low. "This was really awesome. Like, the way they moved was just amazing to see… And… I'm really sorry! It was an accident! Please just have mercy until my next paycheck!" he said quickly, thrusting the DVD into Chie's hands who absentmindedly took the case. Immediately he retreated back and bolted for the door. "Well, seeya thanks!"

Chie stared at the sight for a moment. Until suddenly it dawned on her, suspicious, she vaulted over the desk. "Stop right there! What did you do to my DVD?" - And intercepted the boy with a side-kick in between his thighs. He crumbled almost instantly to knees and his hands cradled the injured spot.

There was a snapping sound as Chie opened up the DVD case, Yukiko and Souji jumped when she let out a sudden yell. "What the, I can't believe this! It is completely cracked!" she cried, holding the movie close to her chest like a child. "My 'Trial of the Dragon'…!"

"I think mine's cracked too…" the pained boy whimpered. "C-critical hit to the nads…"

"A-are you alright?" Yukiko asked with concern.

"Oh, Yukiko-san… are you worried about me?" he managed hoarsely, seemingly gathering strength from her attention. Chie put the broken 'Trial of the Dragon' into her bag before innately storming from the classroom, "He's fine Yukiko. Let's ditch him and go home."

With Yukiko hurriedly following behind her, it left Souji alone with the boy again like the morning. As much as Souji wanted to help this boy, he could not find the words to offer any sort of comfort to this awkward and strange event that happened on his first day at Yasogami High. He did not feel as though he had the courage to stand up to such a viciously violent girl and yet, he lacked the understanding to know what to say to the boy even if he had. And so, he thought, it would be best to leave him alone and follow.


Souji and Nareta waited for the two girls at the shoe lockers and continued out as a group. When the four reached the school gate, they were stopped by a stranger, the boy Nareta had saw that morning, and from the window idling around the school entrance for the whole day.
"You...'' Nareta said accusingly, he caught the unnatural anger in his tone and let out a deep breath. "What are you still doing here…?"
Souji saw his hands clench then relax, slipping them into the folds of his pockets before black linen bulges appeared from hidden curled fists.

With fish-like eyes, pale skin and ruffled hair the boy didn't appear to be much in good health. But from the way the boy tried to ignore him and approached Yukiko, Souji guessed it was just his appearance. "You're Yuki, right? Y-you want to hang out somewhere?" he asked anxiously.

'Yuki'? That's a bit personal to be calling her that…, he thought to himself. However the moment he caught sight of Chie's unfamiliarity with the boy Souji put himself on a cautious guard. His suspicions grew even more when Yukiko herself seemed confused as the boy was talking to her. "What? Wh-who are you?"

Behind them, he could hear the gathering footsteps of onlookers watch the scene unfold. "What's up with him? What school's he from?" Souji heard a student say.

"Never mind that, he's going for Yukiko-san? Man, you'd think he'd at least wait until she's alone to make his move…" his friend answered. So this has happened before…

"I bet you a can of TaP he gets knocked out." By who? Me? …or her? …Chie?, he laughed silently to himself. "No bet. Haven't you heard how difficult the Amagi Challenge is?" …Amagi Challenge? He mused.

The boy grew more agitated with each passing second as the crowd was increasing in number and Nareta saw an eye twitch, "Umm… s-so, are you coming or not?"

Yukiko managed to squeak out, "I-I'm not going…" Suddenly, the boy heatedly shouted, "…Fine!" before he ran away and shot a livid glance over his shoulder to the group. There was an awkward silence as Yukiko looked to Chie.

"W-what did he want from me?"

"What did he want?" Chie repeated in disbelief. "Obviously, he was asking you out on a date!" "Huh? Really?" the girl gasped. "You really had no clue? Sheesh…" Chie rubbed her face questionably. "But then again, that was way over the top. It was creepy how he called you 'Yuki' all of a sudden."

From the side, Souji saw the twice unlucky victim of the day unchain his bike from the stand; the wheels emitted a rusty screeching as he came towards them, a testament of the morning. The owner's way of walking, from the afternoon. "Yo, Yukiko-san turned down another lovelorn fool, huh?" he asked, grinning. "Man, you're cruel. You got me the same way last year."

Yukiko tiled her head in confusion. "I don't recall doing that."

"Whoa, you serious?" his eyes were gleamed with hope. "So then, you wanna hang out sometime?" he asked excitedly.

"I'd rather not…" Yukiko replied immediately.

There was a stifled laugh from Nareta, "Looks like this boat," he said, rubbing the bridge of his nose, "just got sunk…"

"That'll teach me to get my hopes up…" the boy shrugged.

"I see you've recovered well.'' Nareta said suddenly.

"Huh, yeah. Kinda.'' Yosuke replied, in a morose tone. To Souji, it seemed to hurt to walk. Let alone try to sit on the bike seat. "Anyway, you two better not pick on the transfer student too much," he said pushing off down the hill on his yellow bicycle.

"We're just curious, is all!" Chie shouted after him. From a distance, Souji saw the rider raise his hand as if he was waving it off.

"U-umm… I'm sorry for dragging you into this." Yukiko said apologetically to Souji. The number of footsteps were increasing now and Chie beckoned the group nervously, "C'mon, let's go. Everybody is staring." She ran off first, leaving Yukiko and Souji to regard each other for a second before following. Nareta sneezed and followed a second after.

"My father's an entrepreneur and is working overseas at the moment, and my mother… she's an actress who managed to get herself her first role in Hollywood, I think." Souji explained as the four walked along the main highway parallel to the Shopping District.

Chie smiled. "Ah, so you came here because of your parents' job. Haha, I thought it was something way more serious. Still, its kinda cool having parents with such big jobs." She looked passed her friend and gazed around the road.

"There really is nothing here, huh?" the group stopped as the short-haired girl pointed out towards the surrounding a rice field at the other side of the road. "That is what makes it nice, but there's nothing we can show to people from outside. Oh! Though, there is something from Mount Yasogami. I think our dyed clothes or pottery or something is kinda famous," she explained as she scratched her head. She glanced at Yukiko beside her and snapped her fingers as it dawned on her.

"Oh wait! There's the Amagi Inn! Yukiko's family runs it! It's the pride of Inaba!" she said with confidence. Yukiko, however, didn't seem to share her friend's faith as she muttered with some reluctance, "Huh? It's… just an old inn,"

"Oh, no way, it's been in all sorta magazines as a hidden treasure," Chie said, face brimming with assurance. "It's a great inn! It's been going for generations," – she patted her friend on the shoulder – "and Yukiko here is going to take over someday."

It was brief. But it was just enough for Souji to notice. At the mention of the inheritance, Souji observed the pulled lip and lowered eyes of Yukiko that seemed to have been filled with regret or some hidden heretic knowledge that only she saw. He turned his attention back to Chie but kept his eyes on her friend. "The inn actually attracts a lot of visitors to Inaba. It pretty much keeps this town going," Chie continued.

Yukiko tried to comment modestly, yet unconfident. "I don't think that's entirely true."

Grinning mischievously, Chie nodded her head to herself. Suddenly, she wrapped an arm around Yukiko's shoulder and made her face him. "So, tell me. You think Yukiko's cute, huh?" she prompted.

Too soon to be asking that though, but I guess she is a bit. he thought for a second, scratching absently at his cheek. Be nice. "I think so," Souji paused. "Yeah."

"I knew it!" Chie exclaimed, a fist pumped triumphantly into the air.

"Come on… don't start this again…" Yukiko whimpered.

"She's really popular at school, but she's never had a boyfriend. Kinda weird, huh?" Chie grimed as she saw the redness on Yukiko's cheeks start to flare up.

"C-come on, stop it!" Yukiko pleaded. She looked at Souji and her black eyes unsteadily met Souji's grey ones and tried to emphasize her point, "Y-you shouldn't believe that, okay? It's not true that I'm popular or that I've never had a boyfriend! Chie wha-Wait, no! What I meant to say was, I don't need a boyfriend!" she fumbled her words. "Geez… Chie!" she pouted.

Chie giggled cheerily. "Hahaha! Sorry, sorry. But this is our chance to talk to somebody from the big city, and you barely said a word. Oh! What about you Chinmo…ku-san…" Chie trailed off as a police car sped past them and had turned a corner, lights blaring. "Hey, what's that?"

A crowd had gathered at the corner with the area sealed off with police tape. A couple of housewives were out on the street seemingly discussing the incident while a small child tugged at her mother's sleeve. "So that high schooler left school early and- Hold on, dear. Mummy will be with you soon, so run inside, please? – So, as she came down this street…"

"Wow. Who could imagine THAT hanging from an antenna?" the other said in marvel.

"I wanted to see it too." The first gave disappointed sigh of agreement.

"Uh, you got here too late. The police and fire department took it down just a moment ago."

"Well, I think it's terrifying. I can't believe a dead body showed up around here…"

"Wait, what did she just say? A dead body?" Chie gasped in astonishment. Rounding the corner and ducking under the police tape, a tall man approached them after a brief inspection of the area, leather jacket slung over his left shoulder.

"Hey, what're you doing here?" Dojima asked.

"We were…just passing by." Souji answered, sensing the upset tone in his voice.

"Huh… I should have figured that'd happen." Whether it was sarcasm or implied, Souji couldn't tell as his uncle rubbed his forehead and sighed. "That damn principal. We told him not to let them through here…"

There was a nudge on his arm, "…You know this guy?" Chie whispered to Souji. Souji nodded. His uncle replied, as if hearing her question. "I'm Detective Dojima, his guardian."

"Uncle." He corrected him. You are family, are you not?

"Uhh… Well, how should I say this…" Dojima ruffled his own hair. "I hope you get along with him. But you four really ought to stop wandering around and head straight home," Dojima said sternly, with all the authoritative power he could procure to compel to the teenagers. Then he pointed a thumb over his shoulder. With a dismissive wave of his hand, he was about to return back to duty when another man brushed by him. His face pale as he vomited into the river from a parallel sidewalk, with the group turning away as he did. "Adachi! How long are you going to act like a rookie? You want to be sent back to the central office?" Dojima warned. The young detective, Adachi apologised to his superior. "I-I'm sorry… ngh…" and tensed up as another wave of nausea followed.

Dojima sighed. "Go wash your face. We're gonna go around and gather information!" he informed him and walked off. The younger detective quickly wiped his mouth and followed behind. The group watched the scene for a moment, watching as Dojima directed a few policemen and an ambulance member with their instructions.

"What do they mean, it was hanging from the antenna?" Yukiko wondered aloud.

"Hey, Yukiko, why don't we go to Junes some other time?" Chie suggested nervously.

Yukiko nodded. "Good idea."

The brunette smiled at Souji, waving. "Alright then, we're taking off. Starting tomorrow, neighbour, let's do our best!"

He agreed in thought and waved them off before the two girls left him. Having to take a detour Nareta broke off with a goodbye and headed back 'home'. Leaving Souji to trek alone back home.


[4/12 Tuesday – Evening]

Nanako sat solemnly at the hall table, watching as the TV scrolled through the advertisements during the break. "I wonder if Dad's not coming home again tonight…" she thought aloud without taking her eyes off the screen. As if to answer her question, the national news came on and was as it follows:
'Our top story this evening concerns a bizarre case in a quiet suburb.' It began. 'Around noon today, a woman was found dead near the Samegawa River in Inaba.' There was a sweep of the scene of the School Zone and a picture of the location Souji had been a few hours ago. Another shot popped up of a young woman, just above the shoulder of the anchor, thin red lips and sporting a white formal shirt and a short-cropped haircut like Chie. 'The deceased has been identified as Ms. Mayumi Yamano, a 27-year-old announcer at the local television station. The initial results of the Inaba Pole Department's investigation have revealed…"

The little girl perked up the mention of the police, "Ah! The Inaba Police Department! Th-That's where Dad works! …" she slumped back down with a downtrodden mien written across her face. Her cousin saw the concern of the only child for her father, and tried to reassure her. "It'll be alright…" he said.

"… I know. That's his job, so this stuff happens." She said, giving a wry smile that gave semblance to her father's own. And took a small sip of her cup of orange juice on the table.

'The body was found hanging from a large television antenna atop a local resident's roof. Authorities are uncertain as to why the body was found in such a state. With the cause of death also uncertain, police continue to investigate whether the death is an accident or a homicide. A thick fog common to the area has slowed their progress, and plans to fully canvass the area are delayed until tomorrow.'

Nanako hugged her knees, suddenly afraid. "They found her on the roof? That's scary…Oh, it's Junes!" the signing off chime of the news channel resonated into the voice of a cheerily, airy voice of a woman. 'At Junes, every day is Customer Appreciation Day. Come see for yourself, and get in touch with our products!'. Souji prepared himself from the inevitable result of the ear worming song as it came on. Every day's great at your Junes! He was about to cover his face with his hands and groan when he saw his younger look at him with the expectant glee of a child, and the words came unsettlingly from his throat as he sang along. The pig-tailed girl was surprised to see her cousin sing it, "You memorised it already? I'm the best one in my class!" she said proudly. Begrudgingly he thought to himself, It's only six words long…

Over and over she sang the tune and like a cloudy sky the scary story seemed to pass over her mind. And even when they both departed for bed, Souji smiled to himself - as a single chanting of a jingle continued to play about the house.


Author's note:

Oh god, I hope I never will write something as teddie-ous as this too much. I will try to improve and try to avoid having to literally having one day-one chapter. Otherwise I might end up with Mayumi-H's 'One More Chance!' word length for a few hundred chapters. I noticed after reading it a few times my writing style is quite stagnant. So I guess I'm going to have to adjust it again.

So, to this year I wish all the best to you all. I wish good fortune for the Dragons, Dogs, Sheeps, Snakes and Tigers of this year of 2012! Happy New Year and Gong Xi Fa Chai! And good writing for you other fanfic writers out there!