Chapter 2: So It Begins
"Hey! Let's do this one next!"
Kai looked over at the song Sky was pointing to on his Guitar Freaks machine. He made a face.
"AKB48? Maji?" Sky had already proceeded, heedless of the skeptical tone in Kai's voice. The smaller-sized boy sighed and turned back to his Drum Mania set, tapping the song Sky had indicated and confirming the selection.
The explosion of sound when they simultaneously sprang into the new song drew quite a few spectators. Sky's fingers flew across the buttons on the guitar controller he held, rocking it like the real thing. Next to him, Kai hit the beat with gusto, the combined electronical sounds momentarily drowning out the other ambient noises in the arcade.
As they drew towards the climax, a voice suddenly joined in their performance.
"I want you~ I need you~ I love you~"
Kai risked a quick look back to spot the singer. A grinning Oshima Yuko waved back at him, already starting to dance along to the song. Sky didn't even notice, his attention fully consumed by the notes he had to keep pace with. He was smiling though, because he was having fun. If he had heard the singing he most certainly didn't respond to it.
Yuko drew the song to a close as the boys cleared their respective stages. Sky had set a new high score. He put his initials in proudly, and no sooner had he done so he found himself suddenly cap-less with a tinkle of familiar laughter behind him.
"Hey, what the...! Oshima! Give it back!"
Sky nearly tripped on his high-top sneakers as he whirled around, dropping the guitar controller in the process. Yuko put on her prize with its stylised designs swirling in hypnotic patterns, the rest of her long hair flying free from underneath the cap as she backed away from the irate boy. She danced just out of reach of Sky's grasp, laughing all the way as she ran back to hide behind Atsuko, who was calmly eating Pocky without a change in expression, even with Sky charging towards her position. Yuko quickly ducked behind her best friend, using the taller girl as a shield.
Atsuko looked amused as Yuko and Sky started orbiting around her, her gaze eventually settling on Kai, who was just as tickled by the childish way their friends threw jibes at each other. Kai met her gaze, and they shared a mutual look of exasperation at the familiar antics. That lasted for as long as either of them could hold the gaze, which was not more than a moment, since both looked away almost immediately, and thus missed seeing the other blush.
Yuko noticed though, and the moment of noticing cost her: Sky managed to grab hold of her from behind, partially pinning her arms to her sides as he pretty much bear-hugged her to hold her down. She yelped, struggling against him.
"Acchan! Catch!" Yuko managed to wriggle one arm free - who said WWE taught you nothing? - and tossed the cap to her best friend, who caught it without blinking, a half-eaten Pocky stick still dangling out of her mouth. Sky made a little sound of outrage as he dropped Yuko - though not before she got an elbow into his solar plexus (ow).
Sky leapt a few times in frustration as Maeda kept his precious cap painfully out of reach with one arm raised high, all while still managing to snack on her Pocky despite having only one hand to work with. Why did Maeda have to be taller than him? She wasn't the kind of person you could lay a finger on either, much less roughhouse in the way he was doing with Oshima earlier. So he was stuck. And Oshima wasn't helping with her evil laughter and shouts of "good job, Acchan!".
Desperate times called for desperate measures, Sky decided. His eyes fell on the Pocky, and he blurted out without thinking.
"I'll buy you five more boxes of Pocky if you give it back to me!"
A stupid bribe, if there was such a thing. If Sky had actually been thinking clearly, he would have facepalmed already. As things were, he was already at his wit's end.
What was more surprising was that it actually had some effect. Maeda seemed to think about it, an almost playful glint shining in her usually impassive eyes. Sky could swear she was smirking (at him? or something else?). Her hand was lowering...
"Acchan, if you give it back to him, I'll..." Yuko ran over and whispered something into her ear. Atsuko narrowed her eyes at her best friend. Then without warning, she jammed the cap back on Yuko's head, a wicked grin playing on her lips as she backed away. Caught off guard, Yuko was defenseless when Sky pounced, reclaiming his cap with a triumphant flourish and crowing his victory.
"I didn't give it back to him~" Atsuko called out from a safe distance away, waving almost mockingly at her best friend. Yuko stuck her tongue out at the smug girl, pouting as Sky put on his cap again, carefully angling it to make sure it looked cool. His efforts were ruined in the next instant when Yuko whacked the bill of his cap down just for the heck of it, blinding him. That led to another minor scuffle with much cheek-pulling and name-calling.
"Those kids..." Kai shook his head, wandering over to stand by the bemused Atsuko, whose only reaction to his presence was to shift her weight to her other foot, and even that was barely noticeable if one wasn't looking. Not that Kai was looking, not really. Ok fine, he kind of was. Checking Maeda out, that is. He had never seen her outside of school, and there was something about the curls in her hair that seemed extra tempting to touch today...
Not that he dared to get anywhere close to her Highness. Kai felt depressingly short next to her. His sneakers added almost an extra inch to his height, but the girl was still taller than him. He stared down at his toes, wondering what it would take to finally hit that growth phase that had been denied him throughout puberty.
"It looks like fun though." Kai jumped a little at Atsuko's comment. He rarely heard her speak, even though he hung out a lot at Sky's class. He looked up at her. She looked like she was smiling, and it made her look oddly endearing, which was surprising given how cold she tended to be at school. The half-smile magnified when she turned her head to face him, one hand extended and offering her Pocky to him.
"Doesn't change the fact that they're both childish." Kai shrugged, taking one of the Pocky sticks and crunching into it with relish.
"Saves me from being the target of that, at least." Atsuko deadpanned, pointing with her Pocky stick at where Yuko had somehow managed to get Sky into a headlock. Kai burst out laughing, both at the ridiculousness of what was going on, and at the matter-of-fact way Atsuko had stated her case.
"Sky must be taking it easy on her. He never gets trapped that quick." Kai stared for a moment, before snorting in realization. "That sneaky bastard."
"What?" Atsuko looked over at him curiously. Kai chuckled nervously.
"Ehehehe...nothing..." He was not going to tell the girl next to him that his best friend was having way too much fun letting her best friend all but rub his face into her boobs. Kai was nothing if not loyal to his buddy. Even if the guy was a sneaky bastard.
Meanwhile, Sky had gotten free, and for some reason the spectating two could not fathom, the evenly matched pair started laughing at something or other. Atsuko was pretty sure she caught Yuko calling Sky "gaaaaaay" again, which only made Sky laugh harder as he threw one arm around the girl, the two of them jogging over to close the circle.
"Since we're all here, let's hang out together!" Sky suggested enthusiastically. Yuko nodded just as enthusiastically, the hyper duo already ready to tackle the next activity.
"Like Energizer bunnies." Kai stared after the other two, then shook his head as he absentmindedly grabbed hold of Atsuko's wrist, pulling her along. "Come on, we're falling behind."
Atsuko flushed at the contact, a genuine smile playing on her lips as she allowed herself to follow. They plowed through - or rather, Kai plowed through - the throng of people milling around one of the games, finally joining the other pair.
"Man, what the hell are they all crowded around like that for?" Kai complained. Being short, he could barely see above the shoulders of the crowd. It was Atsuko, the tallest of all four of them, who answered.
"Some guy's on the Para Para machine." She paused thoughtfully. "He's actually pretty smooth."
"Oooh?" Yuko chirped, placing her hands on Sky's shoulders as she started jumping to see, using him as a springboard. "Oh! Isn't that a kid from our school?"
"How the hell would you know that? He can't be wearing his uniform on a weekend!" Sky grumbled. Yuko grinned, tapping her earlobe.
"That kid caught my eye from among all the ickle firsties this year~ All dressed up like a punk even in is hope for the next generation." Yuko wiped an imaginary tear from her eye. "So proud..."
"Ah! You're right, I've seen those headphones before!" Kai finally caught a glimpse of the mystery boy. "He's pretty flashy for a first year, really stood out."
"Whatever. We're burning daylight here, people. Come on!" Sky grabbed hold of a mallet from the crocodile bashing game. "I bet I can do better than you!"
"We'll see about that!" Yuko grabbed the other mallet, and the game began in earnest. They even played fair...at least, until Yuko hit Sky over the head with her mallet when he wasn't looking. Not even Atsuko could resist giggling at the inpromptu mallet war that erupted there and then. Kai was less restrained and laughed like a hyena. He'd forgotten to let go of Atsuko's wrist, a fact overlooked by everyone except the girl herself. Not that she was protesting.
Kai breathed heavily to get his breath back, looking down...to see his hand where it had been all this time. Yelping, he dropped Atsuko's hand with a pitiful expression that was a combination of embarrassment and terror. To his surprise, Atsuko only shook her head and laughed, actually laughed, at him. Her teeth were very white, he noticed in a daze. He wondered what universe he had woken up in today. Surely not the usual, where girls were a menace to him normally. Here before him was a pretty girl who wasn't out to get him, even if she was laughing. Life was good.
"That hurt!" Sky complained as they returned.
"Wimp!" Yuko taunted, dodging again when Sky made a half hearted swipe at her. They pretended to glare at each other for a moment, then broke into irrepressible grins after approximately two seconds.
"Guys..." Kai shook his head, the return of the noisier pair snapping him out of his dazed state. Next to him, Maeda also returned to her usual inscrutable calm, finishing the rest of her Pocky without so much as a change in expression.
"You two should play too! Oh I know, let's race cars! Come on Acchan, show 'em your mad skillz!" Yuko egged her best friend on. Atsuko stared at her, perplexed.
"I have mad skills?"
"You don't know how she's like when she gets all competitive..." Yuko stage-whispered, making the two boys go "oooh" and eye Maeda speculatively.
Approximately two minutes later, there was a very loud and indignant "HEY!" arising from the row of racing machines.
"Maeda! That's cheating!" Sky howled as said girl sideswiped his car into the wall for the second time during a turn. Maeda didn't turn or say anything in response, but Kai, on her other side, caught her smirking as she took the pole position. Then he ended up ramming straight into the wall at a sharp turn, allowing Sky to race past him with a whoop.
"Beaten by a girl...MY LIFE IS OVER." Sky clutched the side of the racing machine and started thudding his forehead against it. Kai patted him on the back.
"At least you didn't end up dead last." The smaller of the two boys muttered. Sky perked up.
Behind the boys, Yuko high-fived the winner of the race, who had a lazy cat-like smile on her face as she got out of the seat. She sauntered behind her hyperactive squirrel of a best friend as the latter bounced over to whack them both over the back of the head.
"Losers can buy us dessert!"
"There were conditions?"
Kai wisely backed out of the impending argument. Experience had taught him that 1) you just can't win against a girl, and 2) even when you win, you still lose. The wisdom of a boy with two sisters.
Sidling back to where Maeda herself was wisely staying out of the fray, the tiny boy noticed her staring off into space...and followed her gaze to something in the distance. The boy "hmm'ed" to himself, then walked over to the UFO catcher.
Two minutes later, he was back, and Atsuko blinked when the doggy plushie she had been eyeing earlier was thrust into her hands.
"What...?" She flushed slightly, grateful suddenly for the strobe lights from the various gaming machines that hid the fact. Kai scratched at his head awkwardly, then gave a lopsided grin.
"I like dogs too." He shrugged, then went on tentatively. "If you don't like it, I can always..." He reached out to take it back, but the girl's grip on the plushie only tightened as she hugged it to herself.
"Thank you." Atsuko beamed at him, making Kai grin foolishly back, oddly proud of himself.
"Acchan! Sky is buying us all dessert!" Yuko ran over and jumped on her friend's back. She noticed the plushie and reached for it, but Atsuko yanked it out of reach and shook Yuko off her back with a practiced twist.
"That's great. Thanks, Takahashi-kun." Maeda wasn't exactly smirking at him, but there was just something in that smile that made Sky growl in frustration. Kai punched his buddy on the arm to break the scowl.
"Dude, let it go."
Sky muttered something intelligible to himself. Kai only caught a "was planning to treat everyone anyway", but that was enough. Kai chuckled. Sky just hated being forced to do anything, even if he had been planning to do it in the first place.
Meanwhile, Yuko was trying to get hold of the doggy plushie that Acchan seemed to be guarding with her life, judging from the death grip she had on it with one hand. Her other hand was quite occupied with shoving Yuko away by the face.
"I just wanna hold it for a while~ It's so cute!" Yuko whined. Atsuko's face was impassive.
"But I'm your best friend! Acchaaaaaaaaan~~~"
"Acchan is mean!"
"Ah~ So sleepy..." Oshima Yuko yawned as she slumped over her bento box. Next to her, Atsuko unpacked her multi-tiered box, laden with enough food to feed four people. Except it wasn't for four people. It was all for her.
"Then you shouldn't have stayed so long for karaoke after dinner with the boys." Atsuko said sensibly. She had left early along with Kai, halfway through the karaoke session. They did have school the next day. Yuko yawned loudly again.
"But it was fun! Even though that stupid boy kept fighting me for the mic." The stupid boy she referred to was obviously Sky, who was currently lounged comfortably in his corner, melon bread in hand as he chatted idly with Sashihara.
"Just what time did you guys leave anyway?" Atsuko had to ask. Yuko lifted her head, finally making an effort to actually start on lunch.
"Oh...somewhere past midnight? The trains stopped running, at any rate. That stupid boy sent me home by taxi...how he has that much money, I don't know."
Atsuko was about to open her mouth for a clever follow-up when the relative peace of the classroom was disrupted by an enthusiastic Kai bursting in with a much taller boy in tow.
"Oh! Riku! Finally decide to join the student council yet?" Sashihara waved in greeting, half-eaten yakisoba bread in his free hand. The hapless captive shook his head faintly, looking around in confusion as Kai pulled him down to sit opposite Sky. The incoming midget swiped one of the melon bread off Sky's table, wolfing it down even as Sky went all "hey!" with his mouth still full.
"I found our bassist." Kai said finally, after swallowing the bread. He gestured at the baffled looking newcomer, who still didn't seem to know what was going on.
Sky looked at the interloper speculatively, half of his bread still dangling out of his mouth as he chewed slowly. Without warning, he suddenly grabbed hold of the new boy's hand, spreading the fingers and rubbing his thumb over the outstretched hand in a disturbingly intimate gesture. The other boy froze, colouring in embarrassment, but was otherwise too shocked to pull away.
"There goes Gay-kun again." Yuko mocked from her seat, prompting a spray of laughter from her best friend. Atsuko snorted, hiding her chuckles - and her gaze - behind her water bottle.
"You pass." Sky proclaimed solemnly, nodding in approval before releasing his grip.
"Welcome, leader!" Kai beamed as he clapped a solid hand on their latest bandmate's shoulder.
The new 'leader' blinked slowly, then seemed to catch up to the events that had entirely preceded him. He looked in bewilderment at the grinning midgets, then with a vague frown at the snickering Sashihara. Then he remembered his manners, leaping to his feet and bowing.
"Ah. Hajimemashite. Kojima Riku desu."
Meanwhile, three seats away and utterly focused on the shortest one of the bunch, Atsuko almost missed the fact that her usually noisy best friend was suddenly very quiet. It was only when Yuko failed to make her usual "gay" remark as Sky latched onto the newcomer like a remora that Atsuko turned to see just what exactly her best friend was doing.
"He. Is. Gorgeous." Yuko gushed suddenly, though only after repeated pokings to the arm. Atsuko followed her gaze to the tallest of the trio, who was looking quite harrassed and appealing to a highly amused Sashihara to 'save him'.
Atsuko started laughing for no apparent reason, startling not a few people around her, and drawing the attention of the midget she had ironically been staring at earlier. Beside him, Sky was clinging to Riku and demanding that the taller boy "give up some of his height to those in need". The poor boy looked more than a little rattled.
The student council president rose...and walked right past them.
"Sorry Riku, no can do. Gotta head to a student council meeting. You know, the one that you keep refusing to join." With a roguish grin that stopped more than a few female hearts around the room, Sasshi waved airily and sauntered off, leaving Riku to his fate.
"...so we have to collect and submit each club's appeal forms for funding to the committee before Friday blah blah blah..."
Sashihara Reno was sure that the 'blah's were words of some importance, but his brain refused to process them anymore. Instead, he amused himself by pretending to take notes on whatever was said, cradling his cellphone in his lap with his other hand.
He certainly hadn't actually asked for the job, but somehow he was nominated and even won, thanks to the fanclub that had somehow sprung into existence around him. His only contribution to the whole election process was basically to smile and show up. The rabid fangirls did the rest.
This was very much to the irritation of his incredibly capable second-in-command, vice president Niigaki Risa, otherwise known as Gaki-san (to her chagrin). To be honest, she did most of the work involved in actually running the council, and was the de facto power executing the duties of the student council. Sasshi only showed up at meetings to prevent her from hunting him down to yell at him about responsibility and what-not. Personally, he would rather step down and let the girl take over. He had better things to do with his time.
His cellphone screen lit up, indicating a new message. He had wisely muted the sound previously. Gaki-san would rip him a new hole if there were any interruptions. He read the message discreetly, eyes widening slightly before they narrowed, flicking around the room quickly to assess the current situation.
"We also have to liase with the various clubs about the recruitment event for the first years next week. Kaichou, I will need you to...eh? Kaichou?"
There was only an empty seat where Sashihara used to be, perhaps a minute or so ago. Niigaki gaped at the conspicuously empty place, trying to process just what had happened.
"If you're looking for kaichou-sama, he left that-a-way just now!" A girl with sleepy looking eyes piped up brightly, pausing in her doodling of turtles on her notepad as she pointed to the back door.
"KAME! WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME HE LEFT?" A furious Niigaki Risa howled at her hapless-looking cousin, who tilted her head innocently to one side, raven-dark hair cascading in silky waves over her shoulder.
"But he's the president, so I thought..." 'Kame' went on guilelessly, leaving the vice president to rage impotently against "that irresponsible cad with more looks than sense".
"I wonder if Gaki-san doesn't actually like him..." She wondered aloud, sketching a crude image of a raging dinosaur (or squirrel, she would tell you if you had asked) chasing what looked like a pufferfish (or chicken, as she would insist - art had never been her strong point).
The next second saw Kamei Eri almost being choked to death by her suddenly homicidal cousin. The rest of the council ignored this. The things people get used to...
Kojima Riku: Riku from Persona, but we gave him the family name of the actress that played him in Mendol, aka Kojima Haruna. Simple, no?
Niigaki Risa: Of Morning Musume. Current leader and also the oldest in the group at the ripe old age of 23. Her nickname "Gaki-san" is a play on her surname, and puns with the fact that Gaki means brat in Japanese. You can see why she isn't pleased about being called Gaki-san in the story. XD
Kamei Eri: Formerly of Morning Musume. Airhead aho who was often the boke to Gaki-san's tsukkomi role. They are popularly known as GakiKame.
Author's Note: Took a while to update, but real life sucks.