Minako was up bright and early for school, as per her usual style.
Her hair had been properly set into its usual ponytail. The school issued uniform was crisp and with no thread out of place, straight off the hanger. She would have to thank whoever cleaned it later. To finish off the look, she had her signature headphones hanging around her neck with her trademark pins arranged in an “XXII” pattern.
She gave herself a twirl in a vanity mirror that she had discovered the night before, a red scarf draped over to the side so she could see her reflection.
It was going to be a sad day when she has to leave it behind.
Minko smiled at the image. Although her confidence came out as just below average when it came in the looks department, at least she was pleased with her appearance. In her opinion, how one dressed could affect their mood in a positive way.
One could even chase away the worst case of butterflies in their stomach.
The newly minted senior took a deep breath. “Today’s gonna be a good day,” she said to herself. “Just make sure to be nice and don’t screw up. Simple. Easy.”
A soft knock came at the door. Minako was broken from her concentration but was far from discouraged.
“Door’s open!” she called, putting the final touches of her outfit together by tying a bright, red ribbon around her neck. She was careful not to tangle it up with her MP3 and headphones that always remained in the same spot.
In the mirror's reflection, she saw Yukari let herself in. “I didn’t know you were an early bird, too!”
Minako shrugged, turning around. “Don’t wanna be late for my first day. Gotta keep up my near-perfect attendance record.”
“I guess I shouldn’t worry about you then.” Yukari chuckled and pointed to the door. “I’ll make sure Minato is up. You’re welcome to anything in the kitchen if you want something to eat.” She waved as she left. “Just don’t drink any of the muscle milk. Trust me, it doesn’t taste good.”
“Noted, see ya’ downstairs.” Minako’s door closed, leaving her alone once again. She looked back in her mirror one last time.
It all dawned on her at that moment: it was her last year of high school.
Next year, she’d be off at college and living a life of her own. Minato would have to learn to navigate the ins and outs of student life without her pushing him around. The poor boy couldn’t even hold a conversation with a girl without having prolonged bouts of awkwardness, depreciation, or just plain insulting them.
The two had their rough patches, they bickered and argued, but what siblings didn’t? Considering the life the two had shared together, they were thick as thieves when it came to most others.
Especially after all that happened, how could she part with him so soon?
After all, they’ve gone through so much. . .
The girl shook herself out of her thoughts. Her mind always did tend to wonder beyond what she should be focused on. Minako knew that the two would part ways eventually. She’ll just have to trust he’ll find his own path. He wasn’t seven anymore, he was sixteen and ready to gain some independence.
Minako gave herself a sad smile. “I guess I just have to let him go, but I have nothing to worry about.” She grabbed her school bag. “Besides, he’s cool as a cucumber. He’ll be just fine.”
It was time to spring into action. Minako practically skipped over to the door as soon as she double and triple checked she had everything. Just as she turned the knob on the door, all doubts were wiped away.
“I won’t mess up this time around.”
The train was on time this morning, much to Minato’s quiet delight. He may hide it from others, but Minako saw the tiny smirk when the audio system announced that they were running ahead of schedule.
Her nerdy brother hated being in tight spaces with strangers. He always said it was because he could taste the idiocy in the air.
Yukari pointed out prominent buildings as they came upon their route. Minako made a note to visit them after school sometime once she was settled. You never know what kind of trouble you’ll find unless you go looking for it. Maybe she’ll persuade a new friend to join her.
“And there’s the famous Pullawina Mall.” the pink-clad junior commentated, pointing to a glass-domed building in the middle of the city. “I recommend checking out Chagall, a coffee shop known for its flavored coffee and pastries. There’s also a karaoke bar and arcade if your into that stuff. I’ve only been to karaoke myself, but I’m sure the other one's fun too.”
Minato was barely paying attention to the tour up until now, pretending to listen to his music. As soon as she mentioned an arcade, he was all ears. “Did someone just say there’s an arcade?”
Yukari nodded. “At the mall, but I’ve never been to it. It’s not really something I like.”
Minato glanced over and gave her his “I think I might tolerate this place” face.
Minako smiled once she knew he was invested.
One hobby they both shared was beating carnival style games wherever they went. Arcades were no different, just fancier machines with a less than cheerful staff. Together, they could clean out all of the top tier prizes and sell them online: a perfect and legal way to make some extra cash.
All they needed was some seed money and they were set for life.
Yukari let out a tiny gasp and pointed to the horizon. “Looks like we’re almost there. Check it out.”
Both the siblings broke out of their scheming to look out the window.
Of all the high schools they had been to, of all the places they had traveled, Minako could count on one hand how many of those schools could compete for “best looking”.
This one took the cake, no questions asked. The entire campus looked more like a classy art building than a school. Glass rooftops to let in natural light, glittering white stone that hurt the eyes, and what looked to be a row of trees leading to the entrance. There was even an outdoor swimming pool and what looked to be a planetarium. To top it all off, it resided on an island that had an excellent view of the sea. You just can’t beat a school with an ocean view.
“Can this train go any faster?” Minako asked, bouncing on her toes. “I’ve got some major exploring to do!”
Minato just whistled and checked the time on his phone. “Nice school.”
“Well, this is it.” Yukari walked the two down the rows of trees towards the shoe lockers. She motioned to the entire area. “Welcome to Gekkoukan High. Hope you like it!”
Minako couldn’t help but try to take it all in with one look. “Oh, heck yeah I’m gonna like it here!” she exclaimed, almost bumping into a group of other students.
Minato grabbed her by the collar of her uniform blazer and towed Minako along. “Watch where you’re going, idiot. Do you wanna die on the first day?” he warned, letting her go once she was facing straight ahead. "Don't make me do all the thinking, for once."
Minako felt her ears burn at her mess up.
Yukari giggled at the interaction between them. “You two really are something else. I thought Minako would be the serious one, but I guess I was wrong.” she inquired. “How do you two stand each other?”
Minako picked herself back up and recomposed her dignity. “Minato isn’t much of a people’s person, so I do enough talking for the both of us.” She felt herself regain that faux confidence from before. “We both have our strengths and they just so happen to go well together. I handle foreign language and composition while he takes math and science. If either of us needs help, we can depend on each other for it.”
Yukari led them through the shoe lockers. “I wish I had an older sister like you. I’m an only child.”
“Take her, she’s free of charge.” Minato grumbled.
His sister gasped in mock horror. “You would so easily sell your sister’s love to some stranger? I feel betrayed brother dearest!” She quickly cleared the distance between them and ruffled his hair. “Traitors deserve to be punished via The Hair Destroyer!”
Minato smacked her hand away and put Yukari between them. The girl sighed at their antics before giving them their final instructions. “You guys are okay from here, right? You should go see your homeroom teachers first.” She pointed to a hallway branching off the main area. “The Faculty Office is right there to the left.”
Minako gave her a thumbs up. “We’ve got the whole spiel down to an art form at this point. You just go and get yourself settled.” She put her hands on her hips while Minato nodded in agreement. “Don’t worry about us.”
Yukari smiled and gave them a quick wave. “Well, thanks. I’ll see you guys around.” Just as she was about to leave, she paused and leaned in. “Hey. . . about last night. . . don't tell anyone what you saw, okay?”
Both of the siblings nodded.
Yukari smiled at them. “Alright, see ya around.”
The siblings immediately set on their journey to the faculty office. Minato was still trying to fix his hair from his sister’s assault. She simply hummed to herself, proud of her handiwork.
“Did you have to do that in front of her on my first day?” he complained, finally satisfied with himself. “You're really trying to make yourself look like a psych patient now.”
Minako rolled her eyes, seeing the sign hanging over the faculty office growing closer. “Is someone a little embarrassed in front of his crush? I never thought you’d go for a girl like her, all mature and composed.”
“Shut up.” he snapped under his breath. “I barely even know her.”
When they reached the office, Minako let herself in with Minato following behind. A female teacher saw them from her desk and waved them inside.
Minako noticed her peach and white outfit right out of the gate, giving her a warm presence. Her brown hair was fluffed and winged out at the sides. She reminded the eldest Arisato of Yukari when she looked hard enough.
“Are you two the new students?”
Minako returned the smile and approached her. “Indeed ma’am! We’re looking for our homeroom teacher.” She arrived at her desk and made the usual introductions. It was one of her rules: give a nice hello with a little spirit behind it. This woman probably doesn’t get many nice students during her office hours.
“My name is Minako Arisato!” she chirped. Minako then motioned to her brother who was still lingering behind her. “The shy one is Minato. He’s junior this year and I’m a senior.”
Minato gave a little wave. “Good morning ma’am, pleased to meet you.”
“Such enthusiasm and manners from both of you. You really are siblings.” she complimented. “My name Miss Toriumi and I teach composition here. Give me a moment to pull out your files and we can get you both squirt away..”
Next, shuffle to the side while she’s pulling up the files so she knows Minato exists. He always had a habit of hiding behind her when it came to talking to teachers. Although she never minded being a meat shield, Minato had to learn to get out of his shell for once.
Miss Toriumi pulled two thick files out of an organizer from her desk. She was obviously a neat person; someone that Minako could respect.
The women flipped open the top file. “Minako Arisato; Twelfth grade and class 3-D.”
Minako nodded. “I think that’s my name.” she added sarcastically.
An additional step, answer all questions with confidence and humor. There was no need to be coy with someone you’ll only know for a short time. You might as well try to bring a smile to their face.
The teacher looked impressed at her file. “My, my, you’ve both traveled quite a bit. Your grades are nothing to shake a stick at as either.”
Minato chuckled under his breath. “Wait till you see my grades.”
Minako elbowed him in the stomach. “Can it, nerd.”
Suddenly, the teacher’s face dropped. “1999. . .Ten years ago your parents-oh no. . .”
The two cut their banter at the mention of that year.
Miss Toriumi was giving them a sympathetic guise, ever sad for their situation like most were. “I’m sorry...” she set the file aside and gave them a small bow. “I’ve been so busy that I haven’t been able to read over your files. I shouldn’t have read that aloud.”
Minato shrank back, shoving his hands in his pockets and slouching. It was his default position when things got awkward.
Minako took a deep breath, throwing on her best poker face. “Don’t worry ma’am,” she said promptly. “We’re used to it at this point. Besides, everyone makes mistakes, so don’t worry yourself to death.”
The final step, don’t let them know you’re uncomfortable. There was no need to worry anyone over the past.
Miss Toriumi, cleared her throat and picked up Minato’s file. “Well, let’s continue. Minato Arisato; eleventh-grade and-oh!” She grinned at the boy who was still trying to look as small as possible. “It looks like you’re in 2-F, my homeroom."
Minato snapped out of his funk and returned to the cool-headed person he was. He gave her a polite bow. “I look forward to your class, Miss Toriumi.”
His teacher stood up, dusting imaginary muck off her smart pencil skirt. “I apologize our first meeting was a bit off-kilter, but I’m glad you both seem fine.” She picked a neat pile of supplies for the day. “If there anything you need, please don’t hesitate to ask me. My door is always open.”
Minako felt a little less wound up. She let herself relax and nodded. “Thank you, I’ll be sure to take you up on the offer if I need it.” She gave her a bow. “But you might wanna be careful with Minato, he’s a classic skirt chaser.”
Minato shot her a harsh glare. “You are just bound and determined to ruin my day.”
Miss Toriumi laughed at the two. “I will certainly keep an eye on him for you, but I don’t think I have anything to worry about. You both are so well mannered.” She motioned for Minato and Minako to follow. “Now we have to go to the welcome ceremony. I’ll walk both of you to the auditorium.”
Minako followed the two out of the office, trailing behind as they went over Minato’s schedule for the day. She simply watched on with a neutral expression on her face.
“As you begin the new school year, I'd like each of you to remember the proverb, "If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well." When applied to student life, this means...”
Minako sat quietly, doing her best to stay still during the principal’s winded welcome speech. She was unable to find a chair with the rest of her class, so she opted for an empty aisle spot towards the back of the auditorium.
Just as she suspected, the speech was horrible. The usual “another great year” and “strive for success” were all in the speech as expected, adding to the layers of intolerance she was building up.
She wondered if Minato was just as bored with this ceremony as she was. After all, they had both sat through the same speeches before. The girl couldn’t help but yawn. She did her best to stretch without disturbing her neighbor who seemed quite enraptured with the speech. To each his own, even if that meant his tastes were trash.
She could make a game out of counting repeated tropes. The only thing that really interested her was when someone in Minato’s class started talking and got caught by a teacher nearby. Everyone started whispering back and forth before being called back to attention. After that debacle, the principal slogged on.
Minako inwardly groaned and let her mind wander back to the events that transpired yesterday.
In all her years dealing with this strange experience, there was never any sound. Heck, she never thought it was even real up until yesterday. All of a sudden, there were others that could experience the same thing.
Minako closed her eyes, trying to process all the information bit by bit. Unlike her brother, she couldn’t keep her mind in one place at any given time.
Why could Minato and she see this phenomenon? What about the others they lived with? Mitsuru mentioned that the dorm was special. Could it be connected to what was going on?
Something about the dorm got under her skin. Yukari’s warning from before also seemed out of place.
“Hey. . . about last night. . . don't tell anyone what you saw, okay?”
Even Mitsuru, who promised to explain everything failed to so much as reach out since last night. Minako knew that she must be busy, but she could have given a message through Yukari.
What could possibly be so bad about what they saw?
Minako inwardly groaned. She decided that she would sleep on the issue or ask Mitsuru when she got back to the dorms.
“My name is Minako Arisato. It’s a pleasure to meet you all.” She bowed to the class as they all started to whisper to one another. Minako ignored them and waited for the teacher to quiet everyone down.
“Alright, alright. Arisato, you can take the empty desk by the window.”
Minako did as she was told and went immediately to her seat, keeping her smile on. The teacher gave the other students a dirty glare. “As for the rest of the class, be nice to the new student. You all were new at some point to this school. The only difference is that you all have been here longer. Make sure to reach out and lend a hand if she needs something.”
The class gave a well-rehearsed “yes, sir” and it was off to the races.
Rules were reviewed, expectations set, then came time to dig in their heels and start course material.
Minako paid close attention to each the lectures, taking her notes and nodding along to show she was paying attention. Occasionally, others would stare at her to see if she would do something odd, but she couldn’t understand why. It wasn’t as if she was going to break into another language while answering a question.
It would be funny though.
The end of the day came along faster than she expected. Soon, most of the students had sprinted out the door to meet up with friends or head straight home. A few stragglers remained behind to catch up and chat with their fellow classmates. No one paid her any mind.
Minako packed away her materials. It was nice to be the loner for a change. Being popular and swarmed by the whole class was always the downside of moving every twelve seconds.
Maybe tomorrow she would try to look for some clubs to entertain herself with. She could use a friend or two during her stay at the school.
Once she had everything, Minako turned to leave the room.
There was an arcade that was waiting to be legally robbed of its prizes!
Before she could even make it halfway to the stairs, she was pounced on by a group of girls who weren’t in her class. Each one was grinning wildly while squealing their words out.
“Are you the new girl who lives in the same dorm as Akihiko Sanada?!”
Minako gulped. “Um-?”
“She has to be, she came to school with Yukari Takeba! I heard about it this morning!”
“No fair, she has him all to herself!”
“Has he ever tried to make a move on you?”
“Can you invite us over to your dorm? Pretty please?”
One after another, they threw questions at her as if it were some sort of game-show. They didn’t even pause for a response. She had never met anyone named Akihiko at the dorm and she didn’t want to ask. If comic books had taught her anything, it’s that you never ask crazy fangirls what they are fangirling about. All it does is make them want to kill you and your entire family.
Never in her seventeen years had Minako been so scared for her life. She started to back away into the classroom. “I’m sorry, I have to get home early today! Can I take a rain check on this conversation?”
One of the girls stepped forward, presumably the leader of the group. “You’re not going anywhere until you answer our questions! Yukari Takeba never answers us, but we saw you walking into school with her. That could only mean that the two of you live in the same dorm. Now we have you as an info broker.” She narrowed gaze, a hawk about to attack. “We won’t ask again: do you live in the same dorm as Akihiko Sanada?”
Minako gulped and felt herself shrink. Not even the manliest of men could tame the indomitable force that is a group of fangirls. There’s just no coming between them and what they worshiped so dearly.
All one could do was pray for a savior.
Minako knew it was time to pull out the big guns. She broke into her go-to excuse that worked like a charm every time. For added effect, the senior threw on somber puppy eyes. “I have to get home or my mother will worry! She's very sick and needs my help to unpack everything from our move. Please, I can’t be late!” She clasped her hands together and willed herself to look distraught. “Takeba and I just happened to be on the same route to school so she offered to walk with me, that’s it!”
The lie didn’t sway the leader in the slightest. She simply glared at Minako with the fury of one thousand suns.
“Stop lying to us and answer the damn-!”
Minako felt someone bump into her from behind. The group of girls had cornered her so far, she was blocking up the door to her classroom. She stepped forward and turned around to apologize. “I’m sorry for blocking up the door-”
The person who ran into her quickly swapped places, standing before the mob. Minako faced the person’s back only to be met by someone tall, wearing a red vest with the standard uniform shirt. A black jacket was carried over his shoulder with a school bag underneath (and admittedly it looked pretty cool). Even his short, grey hair seemed to command attention, looking sharp and tough.
Minako couldn’t help but smile that someone would take on the fangirls for her.
“You guys aren’t picking on the new transfer are you?”
From behind the boy, she could hear the girls melt at the very voice of her rescuer. Minako remained behind him in order to preserve her safety.
“Of course not!”
“Oh. My. Gawd! He’s sooo cute today!”
“Please elope with me!”
Despite how annoying the group was, he remained relaxed. His shoulders sloped and his posture was proud. Minako wouldn’t be surprised if he was in some type of sport to maintain such an imposing frame.
The boy gave a hefty sigh and jabbed a thumb to the stairs down the hall. “Don’t you guys meet up in one of the study rooms after school? You’re gonna lose it if you don’t get moving.”
The girls gave one last group squeal before saying their goodbyes. Minako dared to peek out and watch as the crazy students skipped together down the stairs. She shuddered to think that they might still try to find her.
When the two couldn’t hear the group anymore, Minako stepped out from behind the mystery man and crossed in front of him. She giggled to herself at the thought of living another day. “Thanks for the assist!” she bowed to him, not even seeing his face. “You have no idea how scared I was. They looked like they would kill me if I didn’t answer their questions.”
The boy gave a low chuckle. “Don’t worry about it. This happens all the time.”
Minako stood straight again and examined at his face. He was all angles with hazel eyes that could captivate anyone in a second. There was a bandaid just above his right eye that definitely had a good story behind it. To make matters better, there was a subtle grin which seemed to be a cross between a smirk and a satisfied smile. It was charming even if it was directed at her apology.
All in all: he was a stud.
“Whatever the case, thanks anyway.” She rubbed the back of her neck, feeling a little sheepish now that she was faced with him. “So, I’m just gonna go ahead and guess that you’re the mythical Akihiko Sanada they were raving about, huh?”
He gave a nod. “I don’t know about mythical, but you’ve got the right guy.” The now-named Akihiko extended his free hand to her. “You’re the mysterious Minako Arisato. Mitsuru said you got to the dorm late last night, so we didn’t get a chance to meet. Seems like ya’ get into trouble easily.”
“What can I say?” she joked, accepting the handshake. “I just attract attention no matter where I go. Call me lucky, I guess.”
“I can see that. Hope it doesn’t rub off on me.” When they both exchanged gestures, Akihiko looked at his watch and before cursing under his breath. “Wish I could stay and chat, but I gotta get to practice. Can't let my team give me crap again about being late.”
Minako stepped aside and motioned to the stairs. “Don’t let me stop you. I have somewhere to be too, so go have some fun!”
“I will," he threw her a wave "See you later, troublemaker.”
With that, Minako watched as her new dorm mate jogged away towards what she assumed was the gym. She smiled and went back towards the main entrance. Though the end of her day was a bit chaotic, her plans to raid the arcade remained unchanged.
She quickly flipped open her phone and texted Minato.
Me: Wanna go 2 the arcade? I got $$$
EmoBro: Meet me @ the gates.
Mitsuru had a book balanced on her lap. Candles lit the lobby as she enjoyed the momentary peace that was bound to be broken. Between getting the new transfers situated, attending to the student council, and preparing for the school chairman to visit tomorrow, it was high time for relaxation.
Just as she thought, someone came lumbering down the stairs. At least she had finished a page without being disturbed.
Low and behold, her new guest was Akihiko. He had his brass knuckles on and a jacket slung over his shoulder. Although she could only see a belt, there was no doubt he was going to Tartarus for a short hunt.
“I’m going out for a bit,” he said as if he needed her permission.
Mitsuru refused to set her book aside. “Hm?”
A newspaper he must have stuffed in his back pockets was thrown onto the table in front of her. She peeked over her book but didn’t need to read the title on the front page to know what he was implying. Still, he huffed and stood in his usual cocky way as if she was oblivious. “Didn’t you see the newspaper? There’s lots going on.”
He was frustrated. It was written all over his face.
“I know.” Mitsuru finally set her book aside. “...I know. People who had no problems before are suddenly developing acute cases of Apathy Syndrome. I’ve seen it in the news quite often lately.” She crossed her arms over her chest and looked to the door.
For a moment, Mitsuru wondered if they would be smart enough to locate and attack their dorm.
“They say it’s due to stress, but-.”
Akihiko quickly cut her off. “Yeah right, it has to be them. Otherwise, it’s not worth my time.” He walked right past her and to the door.
“Will you be okay on your own? The chairman will be here for the next few days, but after that, I can. . .”
He paused before leaving Mitsuru to herself. Akihiko refused to turn around when he answered the question.
“Don’t worry, it’s just a little bit of practice.”
Without another word, the door shut softly behind him. Mitsuru sighed and picked up her book again. Although she tried to focus on the words in front of her, there were far more daunting things on her mind. She finally gave up and left the lobby for the fourth floor.
“This isn’t a game. . .”
April 7th, 2009
I met the last member of the dorm: Akihiko Sanada.
He was not what I expected considering his name means “bright boy.” If anything, he was imposing and tough looking. Even when he was saving me from a group of fangirls, he was mellow to the point of boredom.
Something about him seems a little off. I wonder what his story is. . .
Ah well, what can I do? I’ll just have to get along with him for now.
Hmm. . .
I was going to say something else, but I started nodding off and left a giant ink stain on the page! I should catch some z’s before I fall asleep on my desk.
Until next time,