space oddity - hanabby - ジョジョの奇妙な冒険 | JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken (2024)

Chapter 1: i. smells like teen spirit

Chapter Text

CHAPTER ONE—

OVER BORED AND SELF ASSURED

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The humming of a cheap plastic plug-in fan could be heard as a bird chirps outside your window, eager to start the bright and sunny day. While its life would be filled with ease like eating worms or collecting sticks, yours would be filled with lying around and dreading whatever would happen next. You stare dully at the cream-colored ceiling of your so called 'bedroom', fingers drumming on your exposed midriff as your shirt had slid up whilst you were sleeping. The futon feels flat against your back. It and your Circadian Rhythm's failure to adjust to the new time zone prevented you from getting any real sleep last night. Your mom says she'll get you a real bed soon, so this will have to do for now.

The room you're staying in is littered with items from your home, some laid plainly out on a desk and dresser or still hidden away inside boxes. Your baseball bat is propped up right next to a standing mirror, with a few shoes underneath it. CDs and cassettes are stuffed inside the desk drawers, your mom’s Walkman and headphones sprawled out over your ‘assignments’, which were really just scratched-up papers for you to practice Japanese on.

Moving to a new country is no easy feat after all.

Especially considering, without your knowledge, your mother had begun to date some man in Morioh. Some dumb town in dumb Japan hidden away in the depths of Asia. As much as it infuriated you, you suppose you had to have seen it coming. Around five years ago back when you still lived at home, she had taken down pictures of your father. You had only been seven years old when he disappeared and turned into a Missing Person case, but the pain was still fresh.

You were furious. Screaming at her that she no longer loved him and you were the only one who seemed to care that he was gone. She had opened her mouth to scold you for raising your voice, but you had run into your room and slammed the door shut before you could. You went to bed crying and hungry, watching as a small goldfish fluttered around in his bowl.

Maybe that was when she began dating him.

Kawajiri Yuuto.

Your body shivers with disgust at the thought of his name.

You didn’t even know he existed until a month ago and that he was the sole reason you had to leave your hometown to move to Japan. You had begged your mom to reconsider, even appealing to her work friends to try and see if she would change her mind. It was all for naught, as she would blush and describe to you how nice he was, and how easily he could easily take care of you both.

He destroyed your life.

He ripped you away from your friends, who you had the hardest time saying goodbye to. You spent the rest of your month partying-which was really just sleepovers watching Clerks and other cheesy movies like The Titanic or going to visit your favorite places.

You savored the taste of mint chocolate chip on your tongue during the hot days at your favorite ice cream shop, going out to the field after just so you could lie down and stare up at the stars as you tried to recall the various names with music blasting in your ears.

When you left, you left with tears, gifts, and hugs that promised to maybe see each other again someday.

And when that man welcomed you in the Japanese airport, you sent a venomous glare that dared him to do anything other than briefly greet you with an introduction. Suffice to say he was in over his head, and you had promised yourself that you would make his life a living hell for seducing your mom and ruining your life.

Before you could simmer in your hate session just a few minutes longer, a small weight plunging itself into your stomach makes you instinctively groan. Tiny paws knead themselves into your skin, blue eyes staring at you with innocence.

You frown at her cute face.

Celine, your Ragdoll cat, had adjusted surprisingly easily to the move, much to your annoyance. She would ignore the way you hissed ‘traitor’ under your breath when she took treats from Kawajiri, being all affectionate-like before coming back to your room and acting like she had done nothing wrong.

But she was forgiven because she was your baby, and you were one step away from accusing Kawajiri of seducing your cat to like him as well. Thankfully your mom had agreed to let you bring her, knowing that you not only would’ve thrown a fit if she hadn't but would’ve resented her for as long as you lived in Japan.

A gentle knock on the bedroom’s mahogany door interrupts your thoughts. It's your mom, no doubt. You knew Kawajiri didn't have the guts to do it himself.

"It’s time for breakfast, honey! I made your favorite!”

You can’t help but huff, shooing Celine off of your stomach. Wiping cat hairs off your shorts and t-shirt, you open the door to see your mom’s beaming face. As much as you hated to admit it, she truly did seem happier living with Kawajiri. Her skin glowed healthily and smile lines that weren’t even there before began to appear. It seemed that you were the only one suffering in this situation.

“Come downstairs, Yuuto made some rice if you’re interested.”

She closed the door behind you, leaving you just standing there with your hair tangled, clothes covered in cat hair, and incredibly annoyed.

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Kawajiri is already sitting at the table when you come down, sipping on his coffee and reading the daily newspaper. He's a pretty average man, with an athletic build often covered by plain average clothes and an average height. The only thing of notice is his spiky slicked-back black hair and dark eyes, but even that is a stretch. He's average in every sense of the word, making you question how your mom fell for him through letters and pictures alone.

He works at some college nearby as a professor, with his specialty being in engineering. You had thought he would be the sole breadwinner when you arrived, but much to your surprise, your mom had gotten a job at a grocery store in less than three days. Somehow, without your knowledge, she had even learned Japanese and was efficient enough to get a job. You're officially ashamed of your lack of bilingual skills. If you ever needed to remember a word for an object or sentence, you’d either have to point or describe the item in question before you could receive it because they thought it would help you ‘be more expressive’. It was humiliating and made tension more than anything.

Pulling back a chair, the wood is cold against your thighs as the heat from your breakfast warms your face. It's French toast drizzled in just a bit of syrup and slathered in peanut butter. It wasn’t hard to make. Just whisk eggs with cinnamon and coat the bastard before cooking it. No matter where you went, you would thankfully be able to have it.

“Good morning!” Kawajiri greets, a smile on his face as he sips his coffee.

“Good morning,” you repeat, lacking the same kind of enthusiasm as you cut your French toast into bites, stuffing it into your mouth before washing it all down with cold milk.

“Sleep well?” He asks. Kawajiri was apparently a diligent learner, so diligent that he took the time to learn English and Romanian for some reason. And being multilingual certainly has its perks. One being you didn’t have to converse with him in broken Japanese. As much as you hated it, his language skills are kind of impressive.

You shrug, licking syrup off your lips as you fork in another bite. “‘s fine,” you mumble.

“Dear, don’t talk with your mouth full," your mother scolds nearby. She had been standing at the stove, stirring noodles in some type of broth. No doubt your lunch for today.

Swallowing, you say again, “I slept fine.”

“That's good. I’m glad to hear you’re adjusting properly.”

You roll your eyes at his reply. Like he actually cared.

He takes a few more sips of his coffee before standing up and pushing in his chair.

“They’re calling for all the professors to come in early for a meeting, I’ll be back at my usual time though.”

He pecked your mom on the cheek. While she just hummed and blushed, you gag with disgust.

”Alright, dear. Don’t forget to close the gate on your way out," she reminded him.

He quickly rinsed out his cup, setting it out to dry before grabbing his suitcase. “Of course, have a good day you two!”

Not like you would be doing much anyway. While both of them get to work, you got to lounge around and take apart boxes. Yaaaaay. The school you're attending did start today but noting your deficiency in Japanese, the Principal guy had allowed you a few days off to see if you could improve before then, for your sake. Thanks a lot, Principal guy.

”I’ll be taking a few extra shifts tonight, sweetie,” Your mom pecked your cheek, changing into her regular shoes as the sink water ran to fill the metal pot before it was swiftly cut off for the pot to soak.

“Lunch is already in the fridge, Yuuto will be making dinner tonight. Don’t get into any trouble while I’m gone!” She joked.

”I won’t...” You mumbled, waving at her as she walked out the door.

You exhale through your nose as you shovel in the rest of your French toast. The cinnamon and sweet taste on your tongue, Celine, and your music have been your sole comforts since you’ve been here. If you weren’t locked in your room trying and failing to learn Japanese, you would be lying on the grass in Kawajiri’s backyard, eyes scanning over each constellation in search of comfort. Always around two in the morning, you’d resign to your bed.

The stars are just too different from the ones at home, you would think miserably.

Swallowing the last piece of bread, you push in your chair before going to the sink to rinse off your plate. Once the sticky syrup had been washed away, you used a small brush to wipe off any other residing residue on the plate and fork before setting it out to dry.

Your legs move lazily as you make your way up the stairs leading to your room. Kawajiri’s house was two stories if you considered an attic a room, and had an okay garden in the back. The attic had a small window that you could open to see the trees and flowers of the backyard, the walls painted a fresh cream white as he had tried hard to make it look as normal as possible. The dressers, desk, and even the futon weren’t even yours, as he had apparently just had them in storage. You have no furniture from your house back home.

You missed your old room. The one painted a glittery silver that had begun to chip, with green stars badly tapped to the ceiling and Christmas lights hung around even though your mom always nagged you to take them down. Even if it wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing to look at, it was yours. It was your room, your safe place. You miss it more than anything.

Pushing the door open, you pass by the dozens of knick-knacks in desperate need of a home scattered around the floor. When a sharp pain from a stubbed foot shocks you, you can’t help but let out a hiss as you jump back, scaring Celine as she darts to your futon. Trying not to trip, you steady yourself as you fan your fingers like it would ease the burn in your toe.

You glance at the object who had caused you such misery. It was a fishbowl. Specifically, your goldfish’s old fishbowl. Cardboard and broken radio pieces were tapped onto the sides, imitating a sort of futuristic look to act like an astronaut helmet while a small patch on the inside was coated with fluff for your delicate head. Grabbing the helmet and turning it on its side, you see your small badly written initials, along with a poorly copied version of your dad’s, even though he wasn’t around when you made it.

Your dad loved space, probably even more than life itself. He would always hold you in his lap as he pointed at a map full of constellations, naming every single one and telling you the wonders that they contained. He even got you a telescope, one that he would take out every night so you could see the planets together. He was an accountant though, nowhere close towards being an astronaut ready to explore the outside wonders, but that didn't stop him from telling you all he knew about the things he adored.

He was even a fan of older music. It ranged from Rush to Grateful Dead and even Pink Floyd, but his all-time favorite would've had to of been David Bowie, as he would listen to his songs in his old truck as he drove you to school on repeat. The most distinct song he loved that you could remember was Space Oddity. His old cassette tape of it was hidden somewhere away in the desk inside the bedroom, you being too scared to even touch it if it broke. He used to even have a vinyl of it at one point.

One night you watched as he danced with your mom, hips slowly swaying without care as you were supposed to be in bed. He always liked to dance to that song. He would always notice you hiding in the corner, quick to swaddle you up in your blanket and ask what you had been doing up so late. You never gave him an answer.

Space Oddity was his favorite song, and eventually, it became yours too. When he had gotten you a goldfish for your fifth birthday, the first thing you named it was ‘Major Tom’. His wife was a small snail that would eat all the algae that you missed after a weekly clean. You regret keeping him in such a small bowl, but at that age, you hadn’t really known any better.

He was a good fish.

Setting aside the helmet to somewhere you wouldn’t stub your toe, Celine watches from the futon as you take off your nightclothes, pulling on socks and shoes and the school skirt. You struggle to tug on a sweater and get the items you needed at the same time. You hadn’t done any of your laundry since you had gotten here, living off wrinkly clothes that would never see the light of the outside world. You would, unfortunately, need to wash them sometime today or tomorrow.

A familiar jacket sleeve peaks its way out of one of the moving boxes, catching your eye. Tearing open the cardboard, you can finally see the item of clothing in its entirety. It was a mix of a large jean jacket and some kind of grey fabric, NASA and rip-off space patches poorly sewn on. It was your dad's. Your mom was in the process of throwing out all of his old clothing before you moved, and you were lucky to have grabbed some of the things he used to wear. His old flannels and the jacket are the most memorable. You debate wearing it out, but after gently rolling your thumb over one of the patches, you decide against it and leave it in the box.

Staring in the mirror, you can’t help but sigh as Celine rubs herself against your legs happily. Your sleep schedule hadn’t fully adjusted to the change, and the bags under your eyes were a testament to that. Picking up your darling cat, she dangles in the air as you set her in the living room, where all her toys stayed.

Change jingles in your pocket as you put on your headphones, ignoring Celine’s sad cries to be let outside as you shut the door behind you. Pressing play, familiar music floods your ears as you pass by nicely kept bushes and flowers, leaving the house area as you step onto the sidewalk. Since it was 08:11, you passed by multiple teens your age and kids younger than you in school uniforms as they travel to the bus stop or to a friend's house. None of them were that remarkable to remember.

It only took you a few minutes to reach what you were looking for. A convenience store. Stepping inside, you roamed around the isles, searching for a tasty snack. You can feel yourself drool as your eyes landed on the boxes of tasty snacks. Grabbing a bag of pretzel sticks and pocky, you make your way to the cashier. There was already one old lady in front of you who was being rung up, allowing you to recite your mantra of ‘yes’s' and ‘thank you’s’.

With a wave of her hand at the cashier, the old lady in front of you grabbed her plastic bag and left. Stepping in her place and bringing your headphones down, you handed the two stick snacks to the clerk. She smiled at you and asked something you couldn’t understand. But you did recognize the word ‘all’.

“Yes,” you nodded.

She continued to smile thoughtfully as she ran up your things. You looked up at the cost. 290 yen. Fumbling in your pocket, you grabbed a 500 yen coin and dropped it in her laid-out palm.

As you waited for her to finish the transaction, you peered outside. Students wearing the same outfit as yours continued walking past, chatting happily or glumly since they had to go back to school once more. One girl who caught your attention had long flowing dark hair and glowing skin as her school uniform swayed in the wind. She was the very definition of beautiful. She didn’t even bother glancing your way as you stared, but then again, who would? People probably didn’t want to acknowledge a girl who looked like she hadn’t gotten any amount of sleep since last Friday. Which was fair.

The cashier lady handed you back some yen and said another thing you didn’t recognize.

“Thank you,” you bowed your head, grabbed the plastic bag, and left.

Grabbing the pretzel box, you flicked it open, popping a stick inside your mouth as you put your headphones back on. The walk back was uneventful, the best thing you saw were two birds fighting over some worm one of them had found. Morioh really was a boring town, you thought with a sigh. Grabbing your keys from your pocket, you bumped the gate open with your hips. You shoved the key inside the locked front door, easily opening it.

”Celineeee," you called. “I’m home!”

You waited for her to hop into your arms as she usually did, but there was a strange lack of energetic cat paws running up to greet you. Laying your snacks on the table, you called her again. “I’m back sweetie!” Again, no reply. Scoffing, you grabbed her favorite toy. A plush rat with a squeaker inside. You squeaked the toy. No familiar bundle of fur came running up to greet you. At this point, you were getting antsy. Had she somehow gotten out while you were gone? Maybe a robber came and she tried to defend herself, but ended up getting killed in the process?

You slapped your forehead. Let’s be rational, she could’ve been somewhere outside. Your mother probably forgot to close the back door again. Before you could go out to check, a knock on the door interrupts your thoughts. You blink, looking at the door from your spot. Another knock causes you to scramble up. Turning the door handle and opening it, you were met with a face full of fur.

Celine stared up at you with her wide blue eyes, her tail swaying innocently from side to side. As much as you wanted to rejoice at the sight of her, she was in the hands of a stranger. You tilted your head up to look at whoever recovered your cat. It was a boy, probably your age as you barely recognized the heavily modified school uniform.

He had his top held open by two golden emblems, revealing his yellow undershirt. He was freakishly tall and had a pompadour that was straight up from one of the movies your friends would show you. He had a smile on his face and said something that you, again, couldn’t understand.

”I'm sorry, could you repeat that?”

He blinks, clearly not expecting the question. He repeats himself like you asked, much slower compared to the first time he spoke.

“I asked if this was your cat. Y’see, my mom found it in our backyard and—“ He began to ramble, and that’s when you completely stopped understanding whatever he was saying.

“Yes, it is my cat. Thank you.”

You gently took the purring feline in question away from the strange boy, who immediately cozied herself into your arms. He pouted at your actions, as if a bit sad to see the darling animal go.

”I’m Higashikata Josuke, it’s nice to meet you!” He reached his hand to shake yours, faltering once he remembered your hands were full with a cat. He put his back to his side as he waited for you to introduce yourself. Already knowing what to do, you give him a half-assed bow, Celine tipping over with you as you went down.

“My name is Depeche (Y/N), nice to meet you.” Your mother took on Kawajiri’s last name as soon as you came over, but you didn’t even entertain the thought of doing the same. She didn’t try to force or convince you, thank god.

“You go to ???? too right? I’d recognize ???? anywhere.” You were pretty sure he was talking about the High School you would both be attending, you never did get the name of it.

Not even getting a chance to reply, he continued. “Why don’t we walk together? You’re a ???? right? I can show you around.”

Ugh. You’d bet your own snacks that he just called you a foreigner. Not that you mind though, it's true.

“I’m not going.” Your blunt words don't seem to phase him.

“??? on the first day, huh? You got guts, ???!” There was that word again. And it didn’t take a genius to figure it out that he thought you were skipping.

Ugh, too many words to deal with, it's giving you a headache. Did he ever shut up? Normally you would be fine with conversing with someone your age. Normally. But you can't understand half of the words he was saying. If you were going to make it in school, you’re really gonna have to start upping your Japanese.

”Thanks for my cat,” you said, hoping this would slowly get him to leave so you could start eating your snacks and laze around. He doesn’t mention your horrible speech skills, for better or for worse.

He waves you off. “No problem!”

You glance at the clock that hung nearby. 08:32. School started in like what, twenty minutes? That wasn’t even considering he had to walk all the way there. You wondered if he could make it.

”It’s 8:32. It’s almost time for school. You should go,” you advise.

His face blanches at hearing the time.

The boy lets out a frantic yelp, quick to turn tails and run to the gate so he could get ready for school. He came back not a second later, petting Celine and shooting you a cheesy grin, before finally leaving. You watch as he runs back home, not even stopping as the tail of his unique student uniform disappears behind his home door. You shut the door behind you, and begin to make your way up to your room.

Stroking your darling cat, you can’t help but admit to yourself that while bizarre, he was certainly a cute neighbor. She hops out of your arms as soon as you enter the bedroom, padding around as she watches you grab the fishbowl helmet. You walk into the backyard, shutting the door as the cat follows out. Putting on your headphones, you gently place the helmet over your head and allow the fabric inside to cushion your head as you lie on your back, putting another pretzel stick inside your mouth and chewing.

As Celine curls up on your chest and you stare up at the yellow morning sky with passing clouds, you think that maybe living in Japan wouldn’t be so bad.

Chapter 2: ii. rather be dead

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWO—

ID RATHER BE DEAD

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When your mother cheekily knocks on your bedroom door, informing you of the ‘cute young boy’ asking for you, you automatically knew it was Josuke. He talked rapidly as you stood in front of the doorway, Kawajiri translating as quickly as he could into your ear as he talked to you. He wanted to show you around the area. Okay, cool. Before you could give him an answer, your mom shoves you out, saying it would be good for you to get some fresh air while talking to someone your age.

That led to now, as you lethargically conversed with Josuke as he walked you around the neighborhood. The sun was nearly set, painting everything in purple and yellow as you would sometimes stumble over messed-up sidewalk paths where the grass would creep out from underneath the pavement. There was a park, a garden, that convenience store from earlier, and a few other things that Josuke hadn’t shown you yet. Apparently, all the cool stores and shops were in the center of Morioh, and he promised to show you when you both had time.

“Are you going to go to school tomorrow or are you ???? again?”

“I don’t have to.”

He stares at you plainly.

“Tomorrow,” you quickly add on, hoping he would understand as your cheeks nearly flushed at your limited vocabulary.

One and a half weeks was not enough time to sufficiently learn an entire extremely confusing language. Much to your relief, Josuke doesn’t seem to mind. He had even offered to help you learn whenever you both had time, which you totally accepted and nearly cried out when he offered rejected. When you call him by his last name, he quickly waves you off, asking you to call him by his first. You told him to call you by your first name as well, still not used to foreign customs.

Josuke took that as a sign that you were eager to be friends with him, so he acted a bit friendlier than he usually did.

”Man, you sure are lucky, it’s ‘cause you’re a foreigner, right?” He brought his hands behind his head, resting them on his neck as you talked.

”Right. Still not, uh,” you pause, wracking your mind for the right words. “Used to everything.”

“Well, in case you were wondering, nothing interesting happened today. Except for some ???? situation at Sunmart, that’s another ???? store by the way.” Josuke informed. Was he talking about another convenience store? Sunmart seemed like a name for a convenience store, but you still couldn’t make a lick of sense of what the other word was.

“Really?” You hum, kicking some poor rocks that chipped off into the street beside you.

”Really!”

You spent another good twenty minutes walking around and talking to Josuke. He had been raving about some new game he wanted to play on his Nintendo 64 before his mom called him to come in so they could celebrate with his ‘jiji'. He dropped you off at your house first, promising he’d see you first thing in the morning. You couldn’t help but wave goodbye as he walked away.

”Have fun?” Your mom teases from the couch. She had been watching the news, while you could hear Kawajiri cooking dinner in the kitchen.

You ignore her, promptly picking up Celine and dragging her back to your room.

-

You don't see Josuke at all the next day. When he hadn’t shown up that morning, you assumed he just didn’t want to be late for school.

He didn’t show up that afternoon, either.

Maybe it was because he was the first friendly person (your age) that you've encountered that caused you to become so attached to him after talking like, two times.

Seeing as you had no one to watch excitedly talk and ramble, you finally did your laundry and organized the entire bedroom too, setting up knick-knacks and hanging or folding non-wrinkled clothes. You had set out your old telescope, which stood next to your mirror and baseball bat, ready to be pulled out at any moment for you to set up and peer out of. Polaroids are pinned to the walls, you smiling in summer shorts and dresses with your friends as you laughed. Pictures of you and your dad stayed in badly painted frames on your dresser.

You even found some of your old Nintendo 64 games that you had forgotten to give away after your mom had sold the console before you moved. You decide that you would give them to Josuke the next time you see him. But seriously though, how’d you forget to give these away?

Forced to wake up just a bit earlier the next morning, you have to deal with Kawajiri lecturing you about Japanese schools and how they worked as your mother affectionately did your hair, holding everything together with small clips. You still couldn’t decide if you would take them out once you left or not, so you let her do as she pleases. Kawajiri had also made you practice your bowing, your introduction, and included some defense moves ‘in case your Senpai tries to do something funky’. So now you could successfully kick someone's knees in.

Not long after, you changed into the school uniform that Kawajiri had picked up the week before. It was a dark blue sailor 'f*cku' that had a white ribbon running under the sailor-styled collar. You may or may not have replaced the original purple ribbon with one of yours, but hey, it wasn’t like anyone would care, because apparently, they were pretty lax on clothing much to your relief.

Kawajiri got you some blue school shoes that apparently ‘all the girls wore’ as well (which you thought was pretty redundant since they changed shoes as soon as they got there apparently), and you finished the look with your white ankle warmers and after a few minutes of debating, your father’s old jacket. If you held it up to your nose, you could sniff up his old cologne and the smell of your old home.

Apparently, to get to school, you would have to walk most of the way as both your mom and Kawajiri sheepishly admitted that they had forgotten to get you a bus pass when they had the time, but promised they’d get you one next week. So walking would have to do for now. Your mom handed you a small map of Morioh, the high school you would be attending and Kawajiri’s house marked in big red ink with a small line winding throughout the streets connecting them. After pulling on your school bag and sliding the map into your pocket, you were officially on your way to school.

-

Everything that could go wrong went wrong. There was some construction going on the road you were supposed to travel down, forcing you to go around which made your walk nearly fifteen minutes longer. You almost lost your new shoe in the mud when some kids knocked into you as they ran off laughing. The lunch your mother had lovingly made that consisted of your favorite food had been smashed open in your bag when someone pushed into you, and you lost your schedule. You thankfully remembered you had Class 1-B, but any other information the paper held was long forgotten.

After finding another first-year who didn’t mind your poor vocab skills, you officially made it to class with oh boy, five minutes to spare. The bathroom was right along the corner, allowing you to wipe off most of the mud that had begun to harden on your new shoe. You ignored the snickers of the girls who did their makeup as you walked out with a semi-wet shoe, but no longer muddy.

There were already some students in the classroom, and you prayed to any God listening that there was no official seating chart because you picked the desk that was in the farthest corner and just sat down. Your mom didn’t allow you to bring the Walkman to school on the first day in order for you to socialize, so doodling in your notebook would have to suffice for now.

Koichi was having a pleasant morning so far, being able to get to school early so he could read his favorite book. It immediately turned south though when he noticed a foreign-looking girl sitting in his spot. He didn’t recognize you, and he had already gotten somewhat familiar with his classmates. That meant you must’ve been new. You don’t even seem to notice his presence, as you were staring intently at the notebook in front of you, and Koichi was sure if looks could kill, that book would already be in Hell.

Both your stare and mysterious spirit alone made Koichi nervous. Even your posture and modified clothing made him think you were some time of delinquent, but he mentally kicked himself after thinking that. Josuke had proven him wrong about his attitude, and he was sure you would too.

Koichi approached nervously, not quite knowing how he was going to ask you for his spot yet. “U-Uhm…”

You looked away from your notebook, the murderous stare was still on your face. After noticing it was just another first year, you relaxed. He was pretty short, with combed-back silver hair and a dark green uniform. It was plain compared to Josuke’s, you noted.

“What do you need?”

The way he shivered and shook didn’t miss your eyes. Did you do something to scare him?

“N-nothing, but, ah, you’re sitting in my spot,” the boy explained, fiddling with his fingers.

Your eyes widened, and he looked like he was sure he was about to get smacked. The sound of a chair scooting back brought him away from his worries. You had already grabbed your book and bag, standing out of the seat. “I’m sorry,” You bowed your head. “I didn’t know.”

He was immediately flustered, waving you off as he rambled. “N-No, no! It’s okay! You’re new right? I can show you where you’re sitting if you don’t know!”

You stood up with weary brows and a small frown, bowing slightly as if the bow of your head wasn’t enough for your mistake. “Please.”

“My name’s Hirose Koichi, but you can call me Koichi!”

“My name is Depeche (Y/N). Call me (Y/N),” you say. You don’t try to replicate his introduction, as you would most likely mess it up without even trying.

“You’re ????, right? I can help you around school ???? if you want," Koichi offers.

You think back to Kawajiri’s poor explanations of Japanese High School life when he was younger. You doubt half the things he rambled on about still even happened now and probably would need Koichi’s help. Letting out a soft sigh, you bow your head in defeat. “Yes, please.”

It was clear for Koichi to decipher that you had no clue as to what was going on, but was quick to inform you of certain customs and practices. He made sure to absolutely stress the part of being respectful to your Senpai's, even if they were assholes.

When you make the offhand comment complaining about how confusing the addresses in Japan worked, Koichi was shocked to find that you were neighbors with Josuke. He hadn’t seen him at all yesterday or today, and he assumed he was skipping again to mourn, not that he’d blame him.

The rest of the week went by without a hitch. Koichi was by your side every step of the way and was even kind enough to offer you some of the food that his mom had prepared for him once he had found out that yours had been destroyed. Despite not knowing him for too long, he was already becoming a pretty reliable guy.

Not to say your other classmates weren’t, they were just as accepting, but definitely put off by your deficient speaking skills, not that you’d blame them.

Koichi would often stay after school in the library, staying there from thirty minutes to an hour. When you questioned him about it, he would wave you off, citing that it was just for a personal project of his. Nonetheless, you would stay later as well to chat with him and to practice your Japanese after making sure he didn’t mind your presence. He would always walk you home afterward.

As you walked home avidly conversing with Koichi, you didn’t fail to notice the burning stares that would follow after your forms as you both strode past the badly kept house that stood tall in front of Kawajiri’s. If you glanced up into one of the many boarded-up windows, you swear you would see gleaming eyes or the brief sway of a blond braid. Maybe you’d ask Koichi about it sometime.

Chapter 3: iii. creep

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THREE—

COULDNT LOOK YOU IN THE EYE

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

Your shoes made a repetitive clicking sound as you walked on the sidewalk, careful to avoid running children or the occasional stray pet that would pass you by. You still hadn't gotten a Bus Pass, forcing you to walk the long way.

Maybe I should find a leash for Celine so she can get some fresh air, you think. She’s been outside a few times to lie around with me, but she’s not exactly getting enough exercise.

The ringing of a bicycle bell interrupts your thoughts, along with the call of your name.

“(Y/N)! (Y/N)!”

You halt your movements to look behind you, surprised to meet the face of a soon-to-be sweaty Koichi as he peddled as fast as he could up the hill you had been traveling on. He huffed as he slowed down, hopping off his bike so he could quickly walk to your form.

“Good morning!”

“Good morning,” you repeat, glancing down at the green bike that seemed just slightly too big for the smaller boy.

“Cool...thing,” you compliment, too tired to think of the right word.

Koichi wipes the small beads of sweat that were beginning to form on his brow, panting. “Oh, thanks! My mom got it for me since I ???? got into ????.”

Ignoring the words you didn’t know, you supposed it would be cheaper than just buying bus fares and would be great for exercise. Nice thinking, Koichi’s mom.

“So, how’ve you been? Your Japanese get any better?”

You wish you knew enough to say, “Koichi, it’s been one day, how would my Japanese get any better?” But that would be rude, and Koichi was a pretty nice fella. It wouldn't do you any good.

“I’m fine. Japanese isn’t,” you respond.

Koichi walks by your side to the High School, both of you talking about miscellaneous things that happened. Apparently, Koichi’s dog, Police, tracked in mud and dirt that morning, forcing him to stay back to clean it.

“Bummer,” you had said in English.

It doesn't take long to get to school after that. One-sidedly conversing with Koichi wasn't the most exciting, but it beat having to walk alone. After locking up his bike to make sure no one would steal it, you begin to walk to class 1-B.

“Do you need more of my lunch today?” Koichi offers. "My mom made me some extra on accident."

You shake your head, showing him the pristine metal lunch box from your bag that thankfully, hadn’t been smashed and ruined. “No, thanks.”

The door leading to the inside of the classroom is slid open, and much to your and Koichi’s shock, Josuke sat slumped in his seat, trying to steady a pencil on his lips as he waited for class to start.

“Josuke!”

He jolts at Koichi’s call, the pencil clattering to the floor. The taller boy leisurely turned in his seat to greet the other, his hand raising to wave but faltering once he spots you standing next to him.

“Hey, Koichi— Oh, (Y/N)! I didn't think you were in ???? class."

You didn't know what to do with yourself. Opting to stand there awkwardly next to Koichi, you fumble with the tips of your father's jacket as you avert your eyes from his. "Well, I am."

"Wow, what's happened since I've been gone? We could have a new emperor and I still wouldn't know," he chuckled, leaning to rest his chin in his palm.

You open your mouth to ask where he had gone off to, but a quick nudge from Koichi and a frantic shake of his head tell you not to. He knew you were going to ask. That meant he must've been thinking the same thing. Why didn't he want you to ask?

"Good morning, students."

"Good morning!"

You find yourself being shoved to your desk by Koichi before you can even speak.

The morning is average. Mathematics I and Science I only required a little bit of help regarding translations. You nearly died in Japanese Language I and Health. Before you knew it it was lunchtime and everyone was moving their tables together in small groups. You, Koichi, and Josuke group up together.

Your lunch is a chicken and rice soup nuked to extinction so it would be lukewarm by lunchtime. You nibbled on it and a piece of bread as Josuke and Koichi conversed, talking about everything other than what he had been doing the past few days.

Physical Education is fun. You get to run around, stretch, and play soccer with the girls in your class while the boys did laps. The clothes, however, are not so fun. You and the other girls are forced to wear ridiculously short swimsuit-like spandex shorts that went to your waist, which were apparently called 'bloomers', and a white top with the shirt and sleeve collars a navy blue.

It felt ridiculous to wear. None of the other girls seem to be as quite as embarrassed as you are in the attire, seeing it more as a drag and a chore to wear. You don't miss their complaints and gossip of how some schools in Tokyo had begun to get rid of it apparently. You pray that it hit Morioh soon.

After an hour or so of that, they took you out for Home Economics. The three girls you were grouped up with seemed nice, but that was because you could barely understand what they were saying and only paid attention when they gave you directions to add a certain ingredient or to mix something in. In the end, you had made some kind of curry, not as good as the teachers, but still definitely good. You give yourself your daily pat on the back.

Finally, it was the end of the day. The cleaning period was finished just a few minutes ago, and students were beginning to file out of the school. You admired them for keeping their school so clean, knowing that the kids in your hometown would throw a fit if they had to do something like that.

“Are you going to stay back too?” Josuke asked, his head in his hands as he and Koichi watched you pack your things into your small bag. It was only your small group and a few stragglers left in the room. Pulling the bag over your shoulders and slightly wincing at the heaviness, you shake your head. “No, mom wants me to go to some book place.”

“Oh, do you mean a ????”

You stared at the boys with a deadpan-like look.

“What?”

Taking a pencil, you and Koichi both watch as Josuke writes out a few kanji, spelling ‘図書館’. You briefly recognized the symbol for ‘book’.

“Word of the day for ya.” He takes his pencil as points at each individual pronunciation. “A place for books is called a Toshoukan.”

Is this really what my life has become? Having people explain things to me like I’m a child?

You watch as Josuke and Koichi tried to help you with the word, sometimes commenting to one another that they needed to visit it sometime. You wanna groan so baaaad. Kawajiri estimated it would take about three months for you to become an intermediate, but everything was difficult and it was giving you a headache. You hate this. You hate everything and you’re tired.

You wanna leave, but if you did you’d look rude, especially since you can’t even accurately articulate your frustrations on why you would need to. Damn these reasonable social constraints.

You stand there until Josuke’s finished with a, “Ya dig?”

They look at you expectedly.

“I dig. Goodbye.”

You leave before they can say another word. Your trip to the library is uneventful. You check out books meant for five-year-olds, ignoring gossiping lips and snide eyes. And even the walk home after that is uneventful.

You plop right onto your futon. It's become more of a mess of covers and blankets that you had brought over rather than a bed. You grab one of the books you had checked out and begin reading, scoffing as you would read and repeat the words aloud.

A loud feminine scream echoes through the air, almost unheard through the loud music of your Walkman. Celine had scrambled off your chest at the sound, hissing as she shivered underneath your mirror. The book is set down to the side as you make your way down the stairs. You open your mouth to ask what had happened or who had made the sound, but you arrive at an empty couch and a pot of noodles close to boiling over.

You run over to the stove, hissing when the boiling water hits your hands as you turned off the gas. Blowing somewhat cool air on your skin, you congregate to the door, pausing when you see that it was open. You could hear people frantically murmuring to one another, one lady even sobbing. Slowly, you peek your head outside. Your mom and Kawajiri are standing in front of the gate, mouths and eyes wide as your mom rose a tentative finger to point at something out of your line of vision.

What were they looking at? You could barely make out what anyone was saying as you stepped outside, music still blasting in your ears as your eyes trailed to what they seemed to be so shocked about.

You nearly drop your Walkman.

Tangled up in the wires of the electrical post was a teen just a few years older than you. The exposed skin is burned nearly to the bone, his modified school uniform tattered to reveal boils underneath. When your eyes naturally gravitate to his face, you can feel yourself gag with shock and disgust. His long blond hair had begun to smoke, burning all the way from the ends to his head. Like his burnt skin, you expected his eyes to be a darkened black or closed shut. Much to your horror, the sockets were exposed, some type of liquid running down his forehead as it dripped to the pavement below—

“Honey! You need to be inside right now!” Your mom ushers you inside before you can get another good luck. You could hear the call of an ambulance approaching, someone still crying outside softly. And for once, you don’t argue with her. As soon as you were at the stairs leading to the attic, she rushes back outside, seemingly to watch the situation unfold.

Your feet pound on the stairs as you rush to the bedroom, pushing the door open as you open your windows. The trees from Kawajiri’s backyard perfectly cover the electrical lines, preventing you from seeing the body. What it didn’t stop you from seeing were the horrified and distraught neighbors that stood around as the Emergency Services seemed to debate what to do, calling in what you assumed would be the Police or Fire Department.

You turn your head to look at what you could see, faltering at the sight of three figures standing on the roof of that worn-down building that stood a couple blocks away Kawajiri’s house. They, like you and the other neighbors, seem interested in what was tangled up in the electrical wires. They soon turn away, disappearing into what you assumed was a skylight. You don't miss one of the figure's oddly short stature, or the others out of date pompadour.

Your windows shut with a click, and the latch flicked on to keep it locked tight.

The spaghetti you had for dinner was close to mush as you chewed into it, way past its Al Dente requirement. The homemade meat sauce sort of made up for the lack of conversation while you ate, seeing as Kawajiri nor your mom addressed what had happened outside. You don’t find yourself asking.

There’s a knock on the front door the next morning.

Kawajiri had left early again for some ‘professor meeting’, not that you cared, and your mom was still getting ready for the day in her room. It was up to you to answer the door. You had already finished eating breakfast, but that didn’t mean you wanted to. But you, unfortunately, have to. With a sigh you chug down the rest of your milk, setting it off to the side as you push in your chair. Not caring that you had yet to wear ‘proper’ clothes or brush your ratty hair, you open the door.

It revealed a slightly nervous-stricken Josuke, who was rubbing the back of his neck. You quirk an eyebrow, opening your mouth to ask him what was wrong, but a large hand is shoved in your face.

“Nijimura Okuyasu, nice to meetcha!”

You glance up to meet eyes with the hand’s owner. It was a boy about as tall as Josuke, with dark hair pulled into a short pompadour, the sides combed back. Did everyone just wear pompadours in Japan? Or were you missing something? Two lines seemed to carve symmetrically down his face, allowing your eyes to scan his modified uniform that was covered in money symbols, kanji, and English.

“Depeche (Y/N),” you say lamely, trying not to show your shocked reaction when he energetically grabs your hand and furiously shakes it.

”He just ???? to go to our school, and he was wanting to know if you wanted to walk with us," Josuke explains, scratching the back of his neck. He did seem to feel genuinely bad about introducing such a boisterous person, which you appreciate.

”Okay,” you say absentmindedly. “I’m not ready—“

Okuyasu practically barged past your form, heading all the way to the living room at the sound of the Japanese news on the T.V. that your mother had left on. “That’s alright! Me and Josuke can just wait while you get ????.”

Context told you that the new word was ‘finished’ or something of the sort.

Huffing, you let in an apologetic Josuke, whose face practically screamed ‘I’m so sorry, please don’t revoke my cat visitations’. As he slipped off his shoes, you made sure to attempt to communicate that you would be in your room getting ready and that Celine was somewhere around if he wanted to try and find her.

Okuyasu had already made himself comfortable in the living room, feet propped up on the mahogany coffee table as Josuke watched your form disappear walking up the stairs. ”Don’t act as if you own the place,” he scolded, swatting at the teen’s feet.

”Yeah, yeah,” Okuyasu said haphazardly, flicking through the channels with a click of the T.V. remote.

“You didn’t tell me you had such a cute girl for a neighbor! And a foreigner too, you sly dog,” he teases.

Josuke rolls his eyes as he grabs one of the nearby toys, squeaking it before waiting for Celine to come hurling herself at him. “Don’t make it sound like we’re dating, moron. She has the vocab of a three-year-old so don’t try and do anything weird.”

Okuyasu let out an offended gasp at the notion. “Why I’d never— kitty!”

Celine shoots the teen a passive look as she rubs herself against Josuke’s pant leg, officially coating it in cat hair.

Oblivious to the fact she was ignoring him, Okuasyu drops to the floor to pet her. "A cute neighbor and she has a cat? Josuke, you must be in heaven!”

“Dude, stop talking like a weirdo. She’s going to hear you acting all weird and you’re gonna be like ‘Oi Josuke! How come your cute neighbor never wants to talk to me?’ when we walk to the bus.”

Celine swats away at the other boy when he tries to scratch underneath her chin, letting out frustrated meows when he would pat her back too roughly. Before Josuke could call him out to try and be more gentle before she would scratch him, a voice calls out, catching both the boy’s attention.

“Don’t be hard. Need to pet her softer,” you instructed from the staircase.

Both boys stare at you as you approach them, adjusting the bag on your shoulders. Taking it that they were shocked by your bad language skills, you give them an annoyed glare.

“Sorry, sorry!” Okuyasu gives you a small wave as he leans back up, patting the cat's back considerably more gently than he had before which she seems to appreciate before bending up.

“So, you ??? to go?” He asks.

“Yes. I don’t have a,” you pause to think of the word.

You’d still have to walk all the way to the high school, and you doubted they would want to join. What was it called again? “Bus pass. Yeah, that.”

“Bus passes are just for student use since they’re so cheap, you can buy one-time fares until you can get one you know,” Josuke explains, watching as you process each word individually, slowly forming a sentence before you shoot him an amazed look.

“I… didn’t know,” you admit, glancing away just as quickly as you had looked at him. Josuke reaches into his uniform pocket, feeling the yen coins jingle around at the brush of his fingers. He would always keep some with him just in case, as Tomoko often worried too much about what would happen if anything happened and he didn’t have money.

“Do you have some money?” He asked.

You promptly pat your own empty pockets, thinking back to all those boxes of pocky and other snacks that you purchased with what little change you had managed to get. Kawajiri never had any spare coins around, always kept under lock and key inside a jar in his and your mom’s room. And she was still getting ready, you doubt that she would want to hear about how your spending bit you in the ass and how you’d like to mooch off of her even though it was her fault you didn’t have a bus pass in the first place—

“No,” you say, grimacing and already imagining your soon-to-be sore legs. You were never that good at walking long ways.

“I’ll pay for you until you can get one on Monday or something,” Josuke offers.

“Huh?” Both of you and Okuyasu gape at Josuke’s charitable suggestion with open mouths, not expecting him to suggest such a thing. “Seriously dude?”

“What do you mean ‘seriously?’, it's only 200 yen,” Josuke rationalized, with Okuyasu nodding understandingly. Josuke pats you on the back to break you out of your thoughts, seeing as you were going to try and calculate that into a currency you could understand.

“Don’t think about it too hard. You two good to go?”

Okuyasu grabbed his bag off the ground, making sure to pat Celine one more time. “Yup! What about you, (Y/N)?”

You shot him a thumbs up, readjusting your own bag as you grabbed your cat to set her aside.

The walk to the bus stop is boring, but you make sure to pay extra attention to where the two boys took you as they chatted with one another, way too fast for you to decipher and understand but not that you mind There were a few shops surrounding the bus stop, ranging from small cafes to boutiques selling a variety of clothing. You make a mental note to stop by some of them when you have time.

Okuyasu is surprisingly friendly for a guy you just met. He's quick to ask about where you came from and what you liked, watching as you stuttered to try and form coherent sentences. He would chime in helpfully when you forgot a word, trying desperately to try and describe it. Apparently, he was the one who lived in that old dark purple and brown house that you would walk past with Koichi on your way to your house.

Images of the burnt-to-a-crisp dead body with melted eyes streaming down his face and the three recognizable figures descending into that same tall standing house flashed through your mind. Was that Okuyasu? You knew for a fact that the other two were definitely Koichi and Josuke. You had questions, certainly. But when you board the bus and see the two boys energetically converse with one another, you decide to keep them to yourself. At least for now.

Chapter 4: iv. happy

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FOUR—

HEAVEN SENT

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

❝And let me get this straight, everybody moves? Like, the teachers just stay in their rooms, and then all the students walk to their next class?”

“Pretty much,” you reply absentmindedly, not focusing too much on what the taller teen was saying.

To your right walks Okuyasu, who had been avidly conversing with you. You had been reminiscing about your old life, particularly about how you missed your old sleeping schedule that was enabled by your high school. If you timed it right, you could sneak in a five-minute nap between each class inside of the janitor closet that had a broken knob.

You were slowly getting used to the Japanese schedule but often found yourself taking naps whenever you found the time. Taking so many naps wasn’t helping you out in the long run, but they always feel pretty refreshing at the time.

For example. You had just gotten off the bus, and despite it being a ten-minute drive, you found it suitable to doze off on your school bag. Had Josuke not woken you up, you would’ve been at the mercy of the bus driver and taken wherever his schedule demanded.

Speaking of Josuke, he walked on your left and would occasionally chime in to reprimand Okuyasu when he said something especially silly. But for the most part, he was pretty quiet, instead allowing your and Okuyasu’s talk of American schools to take up the conversation.

“But wouldn’t that clog up the halls? And who cleans up the classrooms after? That sounds like a nightmare that would easily be solved by having the students stay in their room while it's the teachers that move around!”

Okuyasu held his hands out like a square, moving them from side to side to illustrate his point better. He stuck his suitcase underneath his arm but with the way his arms moved so frequently it was beginning to slip. Luckily for him, Josuke took notice and knocked it back up into its spot before it could fall.

“I wish there was some big principal you could complain to,” you lament. The word you were looking for was ‘federal’, but you didn’t hate yourself that much to try and figure out how to translate that.

But then, Okuyasu suddenly stops right as the three of you were about to pass by a hill-like structure, stairs leading down to a nearby road. It was nicely paved, with a small sidewalk in between the differentiating roads. It held a bench and dark green trees that provided a welcomed shade during the humid heat.

“Hey, Josuke, (Y/N),” he says. “Isn’t that Koichi standing over there?”

Okuyasu doesn’t have to point, seeing as Koichi was the only thing standing in the middle of the road.

“Yeah, that’s definitely Koichi,” Josuke comments. “That kid hangs out with shady-looking characters all the time.”

Doesn’t that include us, you wanna ask, but you’re too busy analyzing the situation to quip.

Koichi stood in the road, facing off a man whose back was facing you. He had a giant American flag placed randomly on the back of his shirt, clear as day despite the distance between the two of you. His height was similar to Koichi’s, but he still managed to loom over the younger boy threateningly. Koichi’s shoulders were shrunken and he was leaning back, allowing for the man to easily take up more space than usual.

“But he looks like he’s having fun,” Okuyasu notes, nearly giving you whiplash.

“Doesn’t look fun at all,” you interject, trying to figure out your next move. “Looks like a mean person.”

The word you’re looking for is ‘bully’. You’ve seen plenty of them back home. Not that you’ve experienced it personally, but there wasn’t a day when some poor kid was ganged up behind the school and roughed up for no particular reason just because the bigger teens decided they could. From a glance, this is what seemed to be happening to Koichi.

Koichi had been a real pal to you. He helped you with Japanese, was always willing to share his lunch with you without being prompted, and was an overall decent friend to make when moving to a new place. There’s no way you were going to let him be potentially bullied. At best, this will all be some funny misunderstanding.

Right as you’re about to take a step down the stairs, a hand on your shoulder stops you. You turn your head.

It was Josuke, but he wasn’t actually looking at you. Rather, he was staring down at Koichi and the man, as if he had just witnessed something apprehensive.

“On second thought…” he tuts.

Okuyasu then reacted similarly, an oddly profound aura settling around him. You’re used to him always saying silly things without realizing it or asking silly questions, so to have him become so grave within seconds sort of put you on edge.

“Hey, Josuke, I think I have a reason to be down there right now,” he commented.

“Same. How about you go down there? I’ll follow.”

Okuyasu didn’t need to be told twice. He gently grazed past you with a smile saying ‘see ya!’ before he ventured down the rest of the stairs.

“As for you, why don’t you head on to school?”

Josuke’s hand left your shoulder, and you would be remiss to not admit that you kind of enjoyed it when he—agh, no! Focus.

“Koichi needs help,” you convey in a worried tone, your finger pointing to illustrate that you want to back him up. What kind of friend would you be if you didn’t?

“I know, I know,” but Josuke’s already patting your back to get you walking to school. Your feet unconsciously move in order to not accidentally trip on Josuke’s shoes.

“Don’t worry your ??? little head over it. We’ll be back before the bell rings.”

He said a new word. With no time for you to try and piece together what it was, Josuke already has you thinking about something else as you slowly walk to school. He doesn’t move until you’re far down the road. Turning away, he lets out a sigh as he watches Okuyasu descend the stairs. More importantly, he stares at that man interacting with Koichi.

The moment something bright red appeared in the middle of Koichi’s chest, both he and Okuyasu knew that the man below was a stand user. That meant he was another part of the Morioh puzzle leading to the man who killed Okuyasu’s brother. Not wanting his non-Stand-having friend to get involved, Josuke decided it would be best to send you on your way and not address it rather than explain.

“Good grief,” he couldn’t help but yawn before slowly descending the stairs in pursuit of his friend.

The sound of shoes clicking on a concrete sidewalk slowly comes to a halt. Instead, they begin to sidestep timidly. While it was clear Josuke and Okuyasu didn’t want you to get involved, at the very least you wanted to watch over them and make sure no one got seriously hurt in what was seeming to be a potentially dangerous altercation. If anything happened, you would come barreling out with your fists raised, like some kind of rabid bear.

Dropping to your knees, your hands stick themselves into the brush of a neatly trimmed bush, allowing you to part the leaves and peer down at the street below.

Koichi had been knocked onto his back whilst you were walking, the man leering over him aggressively. In his hands appeared to be a couple of yen bills. Both of them were staring in shock at the two teenage boys who had come down to confront them—that being Josuke and Okuyasu.

You watch as they interact. Okuyasu appears to grab at Koichi’s uniform as if something was attached, and the short man yells and walks around the street. He appeared to be heading towards that beaten-up bag in the middle of the road, a puddle of blood surrounding it. Hard to miss, really.

And then Okuyasu punches him.

The man wobbles like a cartoon character, dramatically following to the ground as he comically cries out in pain.

You’re honestly not sure what’s even happening. But it looks like Josuke and Okuyasu had it covered, based on the way Josuke was approaching the man.

Sighing, you quietly retreat and make your way back to the road that would take you to the high school.

At the very least, you discovered Okuyasu can knock a clean punch. Better not get on his mean side, you think.

As you get closer to the school, posters began to appear on the cement wall that you found yourself walking beside. You couldn’t help but gaze and read each one you passed. The poster's quality ranged from homely to top 'graphic design is my passion'.

“Theater club, debate club, yearbook club…”

Your mom had been nagging you as of late to join some type of after-school activity. It would improve your language skills and introduce you to kids your age, she claimed. You had participated in plenty of sports back home, so it’s not like you were some novice who was embarrassed at trying something new out.

Rather, you disliked the idea of talking to new people. Had Koichi, Josuke, and Okuyasu not taken to you, you doubt you would have been friends with them.

Suddenly, a bright yellow symbol captures your attention.

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

Tennis Club Competition.

Compete with the club and win a ¥6,000 prize.

After school club from 1545 to 1700 every day except Friday.

All skill levels are welcome.

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

You won’t lie.

You only took notice of the poster because of the large yellow yen symbol. You don’t have to pat your dry skirt pockets to take a hint that you’re broke, and that there aren’t any yen coins lying around at home. You used them to buy pocky, after all.

If you wanted some easy cash without getting a job while also fulfilling your mom's desire of putting yourself out there, this tennis club didn’t look half bad.

Food for thought, you think about the tennis club for the rest of the day.

The day itself is average. You excelled in Home Economics and Physical Education but left much to be desired in the way of Mathematics I, Science I, and Japanese Language I. Not that you were expecting yourself to be a god at it or anything, but it was slightly disheartening to see your grades in those certain subjects be below an eighty.

The school day eventually came to an end and students were released for cleaning or for after-school activities.

“You’re not sticking around to clean?” Josuke asks. He was leaning against a window with a broom in hand. He and you were assigned to have cleaning duty today, but you weren’t planning on staying long.

“Koichi will,” you say, slipping your bag over your shoulder.

“I offered since she said she wanted to check out that sports club earlier,” Koichi explains. He was collecting trash from around the classroom, tossing it inside a plastic bag. As for Okuyasu, he was off collecting a cleaning solution from the chemical room or whatever it's called. It wasn’t his turn to clean, but he offered to help anyway.

“Oh, right,” Josuke snaps his fingers like he suddenly remembers.

You had mentioned it briefly to Koichi during Physical Education when everyone was stretching, and being the kind friend he is, he offered to take your cleaning shift for the day. Josuke likely overheard.

“Do you want us to wait for you?” Josuke asks.

You wave him off, approaching the classroom door. “It ends at 1700, you don’t have to.”

“If you say so…”

Josuke and Koichi wave goodbye as you shut the classroom door behind you. The school halls were empty, save for the occasional student who was left to mop and sweep the floors or wipe the windows. You found out from Koichi during PE that the Tennis Club used the gym for their meetups by setting up a net in the middle of the court. There used to be an actual tennis court but that got torn down for a baseball field. Shame you didn’t see a poster for the baseball club or else you would totally have chosen that instead. Oh well.

The walk to the gym is short. It's primarily used for clubs, PE only being moved inside when the weather got too extreme, which wasn’t often.

Even when standing outside the metal doors, you can make out the sounds of a tennis racket coming into contact with a ball, ricocheting against a wooden floor. This is for sure where the Tennis Club is.

Inhaling, you make sure to mentally practice how you’re going to introduce yourself.

My name is Depeche (Y/N), I’m a new transfer student, I would like to—

“Oof!”

Your school bag nearly slides off of your shoulder.

Someone just bumped into you.

“Don’t stand in the middle of the ???, are you going in or not?”

Some punk had totally just rudely knocked into you for no reason. Your head darts to stare at the assailant head-on with annoyance and ask him what his problem was.

It's a student, obviously, only a couple of inches taller than you. He has straight dark hair that stops just above his shoulders. As for his uniform, it's like Okuyasu’s and Josuke’s in the fact it had been modified with one too many belts on his chest. It reminds you of a straight jacket.

“Did you hear me or are you ????” He reiterates.

You don’t need a clear-cut definition to know whatever word he called you was not a good one. It leaves you bristling in your school uniform, crossing your arms defensively as you begin to ask what he shoved up his ass that morning in your native language. But as soon as the first foreign word leaves your mouth, a voice suddenly calls out.

“Hazamada!”

Both of you freeze.

“What did we say about treating students nicely?”

The gym doors had suddenly opened to reveal another student, a disappointed look strewn on his sweaty face. He wore something similar to the PE clothes that the students were given, except the shorts and shirts were both white with navy detailing, giving it a tennis-like vibe for sure. His brown hair was pushed back with a stretchy white band, but it allowed for some stray hairs to frame his face.

As soon as his grey eyes meet yours, he perks up.

“Oh, are you here to check out the Tennis Club?” The student asked. Despite ‘Hazamada’s’ annoyance, you nod your head.

“Then come on in! We were just getting warmed up, so that gives me some time to explain everything and answer whatever questions you may have.”

He held open the door, ushering you inside. You don’t miss Hazamada’s deathly glare from outside of the gym as it closes behind you.

The student introduced himself as Hinode, a third year, and the president of the club. The two of you talked about your experience with tennis and what the club did on an average day. The club was geared toward helping people improve and have fun rather than try and compete in any big league competitions, but Hinode said they participate in some whenever everyone feels up to it.

As the two of you spoke, the sound of a bouncy ball being hit back and forth cluttered the gym area, along with other students conversing with one another.

“How about I introduce you to everyone? We’re pretty small compared to most clubs so it should only take a second,” Hinode offers.

“I’d appreciate it very much,” you say. Hinode waves over the first person who stops to catch her breath and drink some water. Lucky for you, it was actually the vice president, Minami. She wore thick glasses with the ends attached to a pair of straps so as to not fall off.

“A new student interested in joining?” she gasps, not letting you say a word. “It’s so nice to meet you!”

Minami, like Hinode, is very welcoming toward you. Neither were very pushy and understood when you said you were only coming to check the club out and weren’t fully intending on joining. But that was a little bit of a white lie, you were very interested in the competition and getting that cash prize. You didn't want to appear greedy, however.

Hinode went around the gym in a circle, introducing you to the members. It seemed to be primarily male-dominated, with only a few girls like you and Minami. But everyone had their own unique personality and relationship with other members of the club. It seemed like tennis was for the extroverts because everyone was okay with talking for however long you would allow. Good for you, seeing as you nodded while they chattered away.

After being introduced to the last girl, Hinode has the two of you stand off to the side of the court.

“Is this everyone?” you ask, the brown-haired boy wincing at the question.

“Well, the last person we would officially introduce you to would be…”

Hinode stares off towards the end of the court, where a certain dark-haired individual was in the midst of restringing his racket. His hair was stringy, with only a headband similar to what Hinode wore keeping it at bay.

“Hazamada,” you guess.

The president sighs beside you, wringing his neck nervously. “Yup, that’s the one. I get it if you don’t want to really introduce yourself after that little tiff outside.”

Hazamada kept to himself, if it wasn’t evident in his standoffish attitude, it showed in the way he deliberately set himself apart from his peers. While everyone else kept themselves in small circles, still talking to one another, you don’t believe you’ve seen him talk to anyone else this entire time since Hinode began introducing you to everyone.

“You said he’s the last one…doesn’t that mean you have an odd number of people?”

Hinode nods upon hearing your observation, shifting his weight like he was uncomfortable discussing the topic.

“Unfortunately. Since tennis is typically a one-on-one sport, sometimes people get left without a partner, but we try and switch out often or play doubles that way everyone gets a chance.”

You don’t need context clues to realize Hazamada was the one getting left out more often than not. Not that you could blame anyone, you doubt you would wanna play with someone who called you stupid. Except, you kind of do.

“Would it be alright if I played a few games with you all? I apologize in advance, I’m rusty…”

Hinode’s eyes gleamed at your request. It was like he had been waiting for you to proposition before he could ask the question himself, and risk looking overeager.

“That’s more than alright! We have a bunch of stray rackets lying around. But are you sure you want to compete in your school uniform? You can always go change into your PE clothes if you want.”

The idea of wearing those ridiculous shorts is an automatic no. School uniform is fine, you insist, but Hinode looks reluctant.

“So who would you like to be your partner?” Hinode asks, trying to keep your attention. He already knows who you’re glancing at. “If you want someone easy to go up against, I’d recommend Chibana—”

“I want Hazamada to be my partner.”

That shut everyone up. In fact, you could have sworn that you heard someone's face get smashed in with a tennis ball.

Hinode looks away from you nervously as if trying to find a good excuse as to why you shouldn’t.

“I’d say Hazamada’s more of a—” he begins but is quickly cut off.

“More of a what?”

Bounce.

Bounce.

Bounce.

Hazamada bounced a tennis ball on the ground, catching it swiftly before throwing it right back down again. In his other hand was a racket. Without giving you a second to think he tossed the racket, forcing you to grab at it before it could hit the ground.

“If she wants to go against me, let her.”

“...If you’re both fine with it,” Hinode relents with a sigh after a few seconds. “Go on over to where you wanna play, I’m gonna take her to the lockers so she has somewhere to put her stuff.”

The look on Hazamada’s face tells you he wasn’t going to say anything nice, but he ends up doing as Hinode says anyway. You watch as he walks away, despite Hinode doing his best to quickly see you to the girls changing room in the back of the gym.

“Lockers are in there, feel free to pick whichever one is free,” Hinode offers. “But, ah…”

Right as you’re about to enter, the president stops you with a tug on your school shirt.

“Make sure you’re being careful when playing with Hazamada.”

You blink, surprised.

“Does he cheat?”

Hinode shook his head quickly.

“Not at all. He’s honest in that sense, but he gets kind of… ???.”

That word doesn’t sound good. Based on the confusion on your face from trying to gather context clues, Hinode elaborated.

“You’ll see what I mean soon. Now go ahead and put your stuff up, I’m going to help set up the match.”

You nod absentmindedly, watching as Hinode runs off to go where Hazamada had been standing. You nearly catch his still glare. It seems like that's all his eyes knew to do. Shrugging it off, you enter the changing room and grab the first empty locker you see, unloading your school bag inside.

When you step out, the match is ready to begin. Hazamada stands on one side of the net, you on the other. He had already been ready to go when you chose him to be your partner, meanwhile, you still needed to warm up. Hinode’s voice calls out as you loosen up your arms and legs through a series of stretches.

“Which one of you would like to be the server?”

“I will,” Hazamada interjects. “Seeing as I already have the ball.”

A dumb way to decide who serves but hey, you’re not judging.

“???! The first player to get to three points wins. If it ends in a ???, the first player to score another point wins it all. Hazamada, you’re up.”

Bounce.

Bounce.

Bounce.

The ball dribbled up and down as Hazamada stared at you. Tired of waiting, he finally throws it into the air.

Whack!

His racket made the ball soar.

Lunging forward, you use an underhanded swing to propel it back toward Hazamada’s side of the court. He reciprocates with an overhead hit. It's a game of back and forth, you doing your best to hit the ball out of bounds while Hazamada attempted to use his minimal height advantage against you.

Whack!

Whack!

Whack!

“Love fifteen!”

You scored your first point.

You hear cheers of your name on your side of the court. Much to your amazement and embarrassment, members of the tennis club were rallying for you, but not Hazamada. It’s like they wanted this guy to be the outcast or something.

“Tch, don’t focus on them, I’m your opponent here,” Hazamada hisses, pulling your attention back toward him.

“Of course!” you agree breathily, trying to control your diaphragm.

The ball floats in the air only for a few seconds before it's struck and thrown to your side of the court.

The game continues until the two of you are neck and neck. 30 all, as Hideno shouted out. The last and final point would decide the result of the game. It would be the final time Hazamada would serve.

The ball is tossed into the air for the final time. It was easy to return. Almost too easy. Before you can think twice, the tennis ball is in his court. Hazamada had to dart to the back of his baseline in order to hit it, but he hit the ball nonetheless. No matter what angle you try to hit it at, there’s no way you would get to it and time. You had been at the very front of the court, nearly at the net. And Hazamada sent it soaring past you.

The ball curved around the post and landed on the back of your baseline.

You lost.

“40-30. That’s game.”

You totally hadn’t realized it at the time while playing, but sweat had started to accumulate on your body, and your breathing was out of control. Despite this, a couple of hands patted your shoulder as if you had just won First Place in the Olympics.

“Great job, Depeche! That ??? before your second point was just,” Minami looked like she was about to cry, and wiped away a faux tear. “So good.”

Hideno was right beside her, an interested smile on his face. “I know you said you were only looking, but everyone in the tennis club would love to have you around. But, we totally respect your decision if this isn’t what you’re looking for.”

Your eyes gleam thinking of that sweet cash prize. But you had to play it cool. Just be cool…

“Actually, I would love to join.”

As you talked to the two presidents, Hazamada stood off to the side, hydrating. No one had come over to him to congratulate his win. No, of course, they had to fawn over the new girl. Typical. He was used to this treatment already, so no surprise there. As he began to pack away his racket and other gear, he sensed a figure behind him. It was you, no shocker.

“Hey,” was all you offered. You had your bag slung around your shoulders, and your chest breathed in and out heavily, still trying to catch your breath after the game.

“That was a good game. Thank you for playing me.”

You stick out your hand.

"Wanna play again tomorrow?"

Hazamada’s dark eyes glanced from your face to your hand, and although hesitant, raised his own so he could—

“You finished yet, (Y/N)?” A familiar voice calls.

You and Hazamada turn in surprise. It was Josuke, towel and water bottle in hand. The boy tossed it into the air, you easily catching it as Josuke approached the two of you. You never really felt small compared to Josuke, but having Hazamada beside you, and him being similar in height, really elevated the differences.

“I said you didn’t have to wait,” you grumble, but appreciatively taking the fabric so you could pat your face dry. And oh man, that water... so crisp. You would willingly drown yourself in it.

As your hand drifted away from his, Hazamada’s fingers flexed awkwardly in the air, quickly dropping as he watched the two students in front of him interact. He took note of Josuke, and in particular that hairdo. Something about him was familiar…

“I know, but I figured you didn’t want to walk home ???. Now let's go, Okuyasu and Koichi are waiting on us.”

If it wasn’t because of how hot you already felt, you would’ve sworn that your cheeks reddened with embarrassment. You really didn’t want them to end up waiting on you.

“You should have come in so I would finish faster.”

“Nah, it’s nothing, it’s cool,” Josuke waves you off. His body turns towards the gym exit. “You ready to go?”

“Mhm.”

You look back at the dark-haired student one more time.

“Bye, Hazamada.”

You wave goodbye, but he doesn’t bother to return it. Shrugging, you continue to walk out of the gym, Josuke by your side. Hazamada could only bite his thumb as he watched the two of you leave, brows furrowed and eyes strained with jealousy. He’ll admit that your new presence had him assuming you were another one of those stuck-up girls who only joined to watch the guys play and not put in any work. Minami was the exception to that rule, but as for the rest, there was no hope.

Additionally, he noted that you put up a good fight for someone who admittedly didn’t play tennis much. He’ll have to see how well you’ll do tomorrow. With the help of a certain something, he was already thinking of ways to get to know you better.

Chapter 5: v. closer than friends

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FIVE—

TO LOVE SO TENDER

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

It’s another day in Morioh. A little rainy compared to most days, but another day nonetheless. Thus, you plan on maintaining your usual routine. Walk with Josuke and Okuyasu, enjoy whatever’s being taught today, have lunch with your friends, do more school stuff, and end the day by eating a bowl of ice cream.

But today there’s been a slight alteration to that plan.

You don’t have lunch with your usual friend group and actually spend the afternoon being productive by attempting to study Japanese or do homework. Rather, you have lunch with Hazamada and practice tennis with him after school.

You’re not that spontaneous to go ahead and change your routine once you have just gotten used to it, but after Hazamada went out of his way to, well…

“Isn’t that a third-year?

“What’s he doing here?”

Students were mumbling under their breath at the appearance of the dark-haired student at the classroom door. And slung over his shoulder was one of those lunch boxes that you saw mothers frequently send with their sons.

“Is Depeche here?” he asks, but his eyes barely bother to try and scan the room to find you.

You raise your hand, standing up from your desk.

“Hazamada, do you need something?”

He doesn’t enter the room to try and talk to you privately.

“Have lunch with me,” is all he said. It was blunt, even for you.

“Uhm, okay?” you say, gathering your things. It isn't too much, just your lunch box and a thermos. Lunch had just commenced and you were about to move desks with the rest of your friend group, but it appeared you had to switch it up a little today.

“Bye, guys.”

Koichi and Okuyasu were the only ones to wave back as you waved them goodbye. For some reason or another, Josuke was staring intensely at Hazamada, as if trying to remember something.

“A please would be nice,” you tell the older boy, stepping up to face him.

Hazamada rolls his eyes.

“I’m not saying please,” he retorts, and yet the two of you walk out of the classroom side by side anyway.

Hazamada chooses to sit on a bench at the back of the schoolhouse, right where trees swayed and flowers bloomed. It was admittedly refreshing to experience such simplistic things, so you weren’t complaining.

“Do you need something?” You make sure to ask your question after chewing and swallowing the rest of your peanut butter and jelly sandwich since he loved making faces whenever you asked a question in the midst of eating.

“No,” he surprisingly says You were expecting him to want something after your little tennis duel yesterday. You don’t know what, of course, but still, you expected something!

“I overheard you say you were rusty yesterday before our match so I was going to offer you help in raising your skill level, but since you’re so nosey…”

The way he says ‘skill level’ reminds you of a video game. The way he said it too, there’s no way he doesn't like playing those RPG games.

“It’s not nosey to want to know why you wanted to have lunch with me,” you retort, in the midst of snacking on some baby carrots. He makes a grossed-out face in response.

“Do you want help or not?”

“Fine, yes, I would like help,” you finally say.

After that, the two of you quietly snack on whatever you brought for lunch. When you glance over at his lunch box, you make out rice balls, scrambled eggs, and a salad. On the other hand, you got a sandwich, some vegetables, and a cookie that your mom had baked last night. Cultural differences, man, you think, tossing another carrot into your mouth.

“Hey…”

Hazamada was so quiet you barely heard him until you saw him move. He had taken something out from his bag, and while its contents were unknown, you could make out that it was a book of some kind.

“I know you’re a foreigner and all, but have you ever read Pink Dark Boy?”

“No—“

Hazamada’s face looked positively flabbergasted. It’s quiet for a few seconds before he goes completely off the rails and speaks faster than the speed of light.

“You need to! I swear, it's the best piece of ??? ever written! Even better than The Great Gatsby or The Tale of Genji!”

“Tale of who—?”

“Never mind that. Here, you can borrow my first issue, but you need to bring it back tomorrow so you can tell me what you think.”

The cover of Pink Dark Boy was shoved in your face. A young man’s face was on the cover as multiple paint brushes stained his blank skin and clothes. His hat and bow tie were checkered with the colors accenting the rest of his pale outfit. As for his eyes, they were hidden under the shadows of his hat, but you could make out his cat-like pupils and the dark lines that ran from his eyelid to the bottom of his jaw.

“What’s it about?” you ask, taking the book gingerly. You turn it around and nearly open it to try and read it like you were used to, but stop as you realize your mistake, and open it from the opposite but right end.

“The story follows a prodigy detective as he tries to unravel the murder of his parents. A new issue just came out and it revealed that— agh! The twist is so good, I can’t spoil you.”

Hazamada talked with sheer enthusiasm as your hands flipped through the pages, eyes memorizing every detail that had been jotted down. You can’t lie, while the art style was not something you’re used to, the artist had some real skill. Every picture reminded you of a photograph with expert composition techniques added layer upon layer to create the most jaw-dropping panel on each page.

While not your thing, you were coming around to the idea of reading it, except for one thing…

“This looks… hard,” you begin. “Advanced? Yes, advanced.”

You still haven’t even surpassed the first-grader reading section at the library. You’re scraping by in Japanese Literature I because the teacher pities you. This book is meant for the average Japanese teen, and thus, you do not have the reading skills capable of completing this book.

“No problem, I’ll read it to you.”

You blanch at Hazamada’s offer. “No way!”

Hazamada doesn't seem to care, more focused on trying to devise a way to get you to read it. “Why not? You’re interested in the plot, right?”

“Well, yeah, but… It’s embarrassing.”

He looks unimpressed by your answer.

“I won’t if you really don’t want me to. How about I read the first couple of pages and then you can tell me if you’re still into it.”

“Okay, but only the first three pages,” you compromise.

“Deal.”

And with that said, Hazamada cracks open the manga and begins to read it aloud. It's undoubtedly slow at first.

“It was a day like any else in my ??? town. I had just finished my work in A city and planned to visit my parents for the ???. What I would find inside of their ??? home would change the ??? of my life for good…”

Eventually, as the pages continued on, you found your interest piqued more and more as the protagonist encountered a multitude of problems, right off the bat of discovering the murder of his parents and other citizens in his town.

You had become so entranced that you almost missed the start of your 4th period. Hazamada caught it in the nick of time, nearly choking on his spit when he saw how late it had gotten. He, like you, had been caught up in the story. As a result, the two of you went your separate ways and ran like hell to get back to your classrooms on time.

Right as the bell rang and the teacher began, you were seated in your assigned chair breathing heavier than humanly possible. But hey, you made it!

After a full day of school, the boys accompanied you to the gym.

“I didn’t realize there was a tennis club here,” Okuyasu comments on the way there. “Hey, do you think I’d be good at it?”

“Only if your hand-eye ??? gets better,” Josuke replied.

The two of them were more in the back as you talked to Koichi, mostly about what he had planned for the night. Apparently, it was homework, homework, and more homework for him. You sympathize with his plight.

You waved goodbye to them when you finally arrived and turned to open the gym door, only to find it already open and your hand grabbing at air.

“Do you want to be my partner?”

Hazamada is standing stiffly in the doorway. It was his sudden appearance that scared you more than anything.

“G-geez, let me come in first,” you wheeze, waving him away.

Hazamada doesn’t apologize for startling you and instead stares at you with wide eyes while waiting for your answer. Do you seriously have to spell it out for him?

Wincing, you fan him away so you can step inside. “Ugh, yes, I’ll be your partner."

“Cool,” he says. “Go get ready and I’ll start setting up our court.”

You mimic his talking with your hand, which boringly yaps as he walks away. He ignores it, of course.

The locker room looks the same as it did yesterday. You open the first available locker which was also the same as yesterday. It seems the girls had assigned themselves their own lockers, so it looks like locker no. 19 will be yours from now on.

Once you leave you hear someone call your name.

“Oh, (Y/N)!” A boy with brown hair comes jogging up to you. It's the club’s president, Hinode.

“I meant to talk to you before you left yesterday. As you can see everyone in the club has their own tennis gear and uniform. We have a lot of ??? so you don’t have to go out and buy anything. I can show you to our supply closet so you can pick out some things before you start playing.”

“I’d appreciate it,” you tell him, and he gives you a big smile. He reminds you of a Labrador.

The closet entrance opens to reveal a dark, cramped space. Shelves line the walls, with a rack of tennis rackets in the back.

“You can use your PE shoes if you don’t have an extra pair of ??? shoes at home,” Hinode says. “But the girls’ uniforms will be on the left. They’re all washed so you can wear them today if you want.”

Why not, you think to yourself. A glance behind you shows Hazamada is still setting up the net. You’ll easily have time to change and be done by the time he finishes.

“Thanks, Hinode.”

“Any time! Let me know if you need anything else.”

With a polite wave goodbye, Hinode leaves you, appearing to be playing against the vice-president.

Turning to your left, you search through the abundance of athletic clothes to find something that might fit you. They all had the same color palette and pattern as the rest of the club members, so it was more about styling than anything, but even that was limited. As you soon found out when you first began living here, the people really cared about uniformity. It would be admirable had you not always been impacted by it. You quite prefer wearing bright green and purple athletic clothes over dull white and red, thank you.

But it would have to suffice.

Hazamada had finally finished setting up the net by the time you changed and came back onto the court.

“Ready?” he asked.

You were too busy making sure your racquet was up to your standards to look at him but mumbled an agreement. The strings were tight and the handle, while slightly dusty, had plenty of grip.

“Alright, let’s start,” Hazamada said. “You serve.”

He tossed a green ball in your direction, which you had to slightly leap to catch. With that, the two of you entered opposite ends of the court. Ball in hand, you toss it into the air and raise your racquet, hitting the sweet spot and sending a streak of green across the gym.

“So what do you think of the first volume of Pink Dark Boy?” Hazamada asked in between servings.

“I like the new character who was introduced—” you perform an overhead swing in order to get to the ball in time. The ball slams itself back into Hazamada’s court.

“Tokei? Me too, especially his design!” The ball flings itself from the sweet spot of his racquet back to you.

The tennis game continued to be a mixture of the two of you chatting about Pink Dark Boy and actually playing. When you took the occasional break it would be to hydrate and read the next couple of pages of the manga, before going right back to whacking tennis balls and discussing what the two of you thought of it.

“You really need to work on your form,” Hazamada says at some point. You’re both lounging in the bleachers and sipping on water in an attempt to cool down. The tennis game had finished, and Hazamada won. It was a repeat of yesterday’s game, essentially.

“Is it bad?” You ask, wiping your forehead.

You had begun to sweat due to the intensity of the game and how sweltering hot the gym had become. There are fans built into the building but the metal blades circled so slowly that you think they’re more for decoration and ambient lighting.

“Not bad,” Hazamada clarified. He sat next to you, Pink Dark Boy in hand. “You just need to fix a few things.”

He opens his mouth to begin reading where you had left off, but a shadow soon blocks off the manga. It was an oddly shaped shadow, and you instantly recognized who it belonged to.

“Is that Pink Dark Boy?” Josuke asks. His large pompadour was the shadow covering up the inked paper panels. “I hear it’s super popular right now.”

“Hey, Josuke,” you greet, and he gives you a big grin. “Here for me?”

“You know it. What kind of guy would I be if I didn’t offer to walk his friend home after a long day?”

Hazamada watched the interaction between you wearily. His fingers dug into the paper of his book, but he had to internally remind himself to cool down in order to not wrinkle or crease the pages.

“I’ll grab my bag. You stay here,” you instruct Josuke, getting up from the bleachers and heading toward the locker room.

Both he and Hazamada watch as you walk away before glancing at whatever would make sense. In this case, it would be the Pink Dark Boy manga in Hazamada’s hands.

“So you’re a third year, right? I guess I should be calling you ‘senpai’ ‘cause I never got your name,” Josuke starts, trying to have it be a Segway into Hazamada introducing himself.

Instead, Hazamada just stares at him. It was silently clear that Hazamada felt some sort of animosity towards Josuke, but the pompadour-haired teen couldn’t figure out what for. He was mostly trying to get to know him since it seemed like Hazamada was becoming your first friend outside of his, Okuyasu’s, and Koichi’s sphere. But oh well, can’t win them all.

You came back not long after, backpack hooked around your shoulders. Pieces of your school uniform stuck out of its flaps since you didn’t care to fold it neatly and pretty much pummeled it in. But you’re ready to go so that’s all that matters.

“Bye, Hazamada. I’ll see you tomorrow,” you say, waving goodbye to the dark-haired teen. His chin was in his hand, propped on his knee, but his other hand returned to display. When Josuke raises his hand to do the same, Hazamada quickly drops his own.

“Geez,” you hear Josuke mumble under his breath. He held the door open for the two of you, a nice refreshing breeze wafted through the area. It was nice to finally be out of that sweltering gym.

“Something wrong?” You ask as Josuke catches up to walk beside you.

You wouldn’t have to enter the school to leave as the back area wasn’t fenced in, so following a trail, the two of you emerged in front of a road. You could either walk home or catch the bus, but you opt to let Josuke decide that, seeing as you didn’t have a preference for when it was after school.

“It’s nothing,” Josuke sighed, looking away. “I was just thinking about how late I’ll be once I drop you off, I think I might miss dinner.”

You stare at Josuke, deadpan. “You’re the one who decided to wait on me. I didn’t ask you to.”

“I didn’t mean it, I’m kidding!” He refutes, rubbing his neck. “It’s not gonna take us that long to get home. At least, I think…”

“If it is, you can always eat at mine,” you offer. You doubt your mom or stepfather would mind, judging by how much they liked him

Josuke waves you off, the two of you briefly stopping at an intersection and looking both ways before crossing. “It’s cool, it’s cool, I already told my mom I might be a bit later than usual. Although, eating some Western food does sound nice…”

“We can have dinner together some other time.”

Josuke nods happily at that. “Right!”

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

Josuke comes to pick you up the next morning like usual. He was a bit late, he’ll admit, having stayed up playing games on his Nintendo 64. But he came before it would be considered too late to start walking to school.

His knuckles rapped on the wooden door of a yellow and white house. It swung open to reveal a (h/c)-haired woman dressed in what could be described as business casual. It was his school friend, but rather, your mom. Usually, you were the one to open it for him since you were always ready by then.

“Has (Y/N) left for school yet? I know I’m kinda late, but…”

There’s something silly in Josuke’s heart that makes him wish you stayed so all four of you could walk together, Okuyasu and Koichi included, but it was quickly shattered upon seeing your mother's worried look.

“Up yet? Josuke-kun, you picked her up twenty minutes ago…”

Hm. That doesn’t sound right. But Josuke took it in stride, rubbing his neck apologetically.

“I did? I think I might’ve gotten all mixed up on the way to school… Sorry to bother you Depeche-san!”

Your mom waved the darling boy goodbye with a fond smile, and Josuke briefly mirrored it before turning his gaze to stare at the rocky trail leading him back to the sidewalk. Someone who was not him had picked you up and your mother was none the wiser. It was no doubt the work of a Stand user.

He spots Okuyasu and Koichi’s figures in the distance upon a hill. They had been waiting for Josuke to come with you in tow, but he quickly explained the situation. Both agreed it wasn’t too early in the morning to start a Stand hunt. With that said, as they walked to school and discussed who could have been involved, they ran into Kobayashi. And he had a picture of a very familiar teen.

A boy with shoulder-length dark hair, glancing away from the camera.

Josuke knew instantly that the one who had tricked you was Hazamada.

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

The sky is a vibrant orange and blue, the early morning bringing in a cool breeze with a hint of humidity. There weren’t very many students out at the moment as it was a little too early for the average person, and the only people out were the early birds.

You’re definitely not one yourself, and yet you still find yourself out so early anyway. Josuke had come to grab you earlier than usual. If he hadn't you would have slept into your usual time.

You kick a small pebble across the sidewalk, asking, “how come Okuyasu isn’t walking with us?”

Josuke waves you off with a lax smile. “You know how he is. I think he slept in or something.”

You’re about to ask why the two of you couldn’t go and wake him up so he wasn’t late, but Josuke quickly interrupted you. His arm juts out and nearly hits your chest, only to point at a small alleyway. Its bricked sides are covered in overgrown fauna and is lit with only natural lighting. It would be aesthetically pleasing if not so weirdly pointed out.

“Why don’t we take that shortcut? I hear it’s supposed to help us get to school faster.”

You analyze the alleyway further as Josuke talks. You’ve never heard of a shortcut by where Josuke and you lived. In fact, it was a pretty clear cut to get to school, albeit an angled one. But then again, you haven’t lived here for the last sixteen years like Josuke has. If he says it's a shortcut, it's a shortcut. He isn’t the type to lead you astray, after all.

“Sure,” you agree, and Josuke motions with a jut of his school bag that you should go first.

Wouldn’t it make more sense for Josuke to be in the front, you think to yourself, but still allow yourself to be nudged into the alley. It was short, at least compared to a city alleyway, but it was a good minute walk to get to the end. And a straight walk too, it seems.

You’re in the middle of the alleyway when something happens.

“Hey, (Y/N).”

You turn around to see what Josuke needed, only to have your back roughly shoved against the bricked wall. The sudden motion instinctively makes you drop your school bag in shock as Josuke hovers over you, the height difference too drastic for you to enjoy. Has he always been this tall?

His palm is pressed against your left shoulder blade, gently digging it into the moss-covered wall. As for his leg, it was in between your legs, his pants grazing against your knees. The pins on his shirt are ridiculously shiny right now, and they’re the only thing you can focus on. They reflect your stunned, wide-eyed expression. Because truth be told, you don’t understand what's happening.

“What are you doing?” you ask as if it's not obvious.

Josuke tilts his head, and his eyes are averting yours like he doesn’t want to witness what he’s doing. “What does it look like?”

What do you say to that? You’re really not sure how to respond at the moment. The scene is bordering on humorous if it were out of context. What would compel him to act like this? If Josuke noticed how stiff you had become, he didn’t show it. Rather, it looks like he got tired of the silence, as he shifts to have both hands on your waist. You push yourself into the wall as a nonverbal cue that you really aren’t into whatever he thinks he’s doing.

“I’ll say it plain and simple for you to understand.”

He leans in. His hair is nearly pressed up against yours, and it feels hard. A testimony to how much hair spray and gel he packed into it. Or maybe it was something else?

“I like you.”

Your eyes narrow at his words.

“And you like me too, right?” He asks. But when you’ve finally collected your bearings and open your mouth to talk, he puts two fingers in front of your mouth.

“It’s okay, doll-face, you don’t need to say anything. I’ll take care of everything, cool?”

What kind of ridiculous nickname is that, you joke to yourself. You like to say that this whole thing is funny, but truth be told, your limbs are uncharacteristically shaky. But how to get out of this?

There's no way Josuke would act like this, you think. I don't know who this guy thinks he is, but he's not fooling me.

Both hands are resting on your hips now and his leg is steadily rising, quickly caught by your clenching thighs. Your fingers dig into his coat sleeves, yanking him closer to your level. The sudden change catches fake-Josuke off guard, and his limbs fumble a bit as he allows you to practically bend him down.

“Josuke, are you okay?”

He blinks and stammers, flustered. “W-whaddya mean? I’m perfectly fine.”

A yelp echoes in the alleyway as you tug him close, and his nose nearly touches yours. The noise had come from fake-Josuke, of course, and he tried to lean away to avoid your gaze. But despite still being pinned to the wall, you were the one who had control of the situation now.

You're looking rather intently at his face, and whenever his eye met yours, they would dart away. Something rather odd is poking out of his forehead. It had been hidden underneath the shadows of his pompadour, and now being so close to him, you could finally see it.

A small screw is centered right between his eyebrows, and you’re tempted to try and touch it to see how it would feel. Cold, like metal, or warm, like skin.

“I don’t think so…” you tut. He shivers when your thumb grazes his forehead, stopping right at the screw. It’s cold.

Before he could think, a painful kick is aimed right at his abdomen, knocking him away. He tumbled onto the ground, his back hitting the mossy wall. He looked more surprised than hurt. His eyes widened as his head craned to stare up at you.

Hand on hip, your leg was raised in a kicking fashion that indicated you would punt him if he tried to get back up. As for your bag, you slung it over your shoulder, elbow jutting out that you weren’t afraid to slam it into him as well.

“Come talk to me when you feel like yourself again.”

With that said, you walk out of the alleyway and look both ways before crossing the street. You soon left his line of sight. Before he could gaze at the spot where he last saw you any longer, an angered shout interrupted his silent thinking.

“What did you do that for!? You almost had her!”

Surface’s hands shot up to catch the school bag that had been thrown in his direction. It belonged to Hazamada, who walked to his stand with a bitter expression on his face.

“I think I misunderstood the part where sexually harassing her as one of her guy friends would make her interested in you,” his stand trailed off as Hazamada attempted to drag the thing down to his level. Unlike when he had been roughhoused by you, the stand stood firmly in place, still staring at the end of the alleyway.

“It’s just the start!” Hazamada hissed, fingers contorting unnaturally like he wanted to strangle his own stand. “She’s supposed to look down at school, and when I talk to her about what’s been bothering her, she’ll tell me and start to see me as a trustworthy friend. And eventually, she’ll think of me as a potential boyfriend! That’s the plan, alright?”

Surface didn’t need to ask why exactly Hazamada wanted you to date him in the first place. The boy had tried to have his stand imitate you, and when initiated certain ‘things’, you turned him down. If he wanted to even get close to a girl like that without her screaming to the whole school about what a freak he is, he would have to try and be normal for a change.

“It’s fine,” Hazamada assures him, but his red face indicates it's less than fine. “We still have time during school to confront her. But you’re going to have to find a time when she isn’t near those friends of hers.”

“Yeah, yeah…” his stand turns away and stares out into the Morioh sky. It's now a sky of orange and yellow, with purple clouds drifting listlessly. Before he could poke fun at Hazamada’s plan, the shorter boy was already huffing it back to school. With a shrug, Surface reluctantly followed.

Unbeknownst to the two of them, a schoolgirl hid behind nearby shrubs and bushes. Knees bent, you watched as the two boys walked towards the high school. You had taken a gamble in assuming that Fake-Josuke would attempt to follow you, and it looks like that paid off.

If either of them were to find you in the bushes, you would easily start clamoring and swinging fists left and right. But truth be told, judging by the way your heart is erratically beating, you’re kind of scared. You don’t understand who Fake-Josuke is, and what Hazamada was doing, but it’s giving you bad vibes left and right.

However, when you recount what happened out loud, it sounded completely insane. Some guy who looks exactly like Josuke harassed you and was in cahoots with Hazamada so he could try and ‘date’ you… anyone who heard that would think you needed to be locked away in a mental institution.

No logical solution came to you as you walked to school, chewing on your nails. Sometimes your feet would pivot to try and turn yourself around to go back home. You could only take a few steps before turning around and continuing on to school.

You’re normally fine with confronting people. You did it all the time back home if someone tried to talk about you behind your back. It often ended in some sort of scramble, but nothing you couldn’t handle because you knew them. But for Hazamada and Fake-Josuke, you don’t know what either of them are capable of.

“He shouldn’t try anything as long as I’m with the guys,” you tell yourself. “But I can’t be with them all day, and what happens when I go home? Surely, he won’t try to break in…”

The thought turned your flesh and blood ice cold and made your face twist into a glower. No matter how hard you tried to get yourself to relax on the walk to school, the expression persisted on your face. It didn’t look like you were scared, more like majorly pissed, but that was farthest from the truth.

You arrive at school, shove your shoes in your locker, speed to the classroom, and finally sit yourself down. There aren't too many students in the room yet, so it could give you a second to think to yourself. But before you can, a familiar figure strolled into the classroom. A jelly roll pompadour, yellow tank top underneath a modified purple school uniform…

Obviously, it’s Josuke.

Both of you were staring at each other, eyes wide in anticipation to see what the other would do. To your shock, he damn near tripped over all the desks in his way trying to get to you. He planted a firm hand on your desk while the other was raised in a balled-up fist.

“(Y/N)! Are you okay?”

Quick, act natural!

You give him an unconvincing smile and lean on your desk. How do you usually act again?

“Uhm, yes, why?”

Okuyasu and Koichi are behind him, somewhat cooling your fried nerves. Koichi looks stricken with worry, while Okuyasu had the same expression as Josuke. Concerned, for sure, but looked like he wanted to punch something.

“I think it would be better if we went somewhere more ??? to talk…” Koichi’s muttered, eyes darting to stare at the class of students staring at the four of you quizzically.

With that said, you all found a small cleaning closet to talk in. It was small but had enough room for everyone to feel like they had their own space. Okuyasu stands to your left, Koichi in front of you, and Josuke to your right.

“(Y/N), did something weird happen this morning?” Koichi gently asked.

Your mind immediately flashes to your experience with Fake-Josuke in that mossy alleyway.

“No,” you lie. “Josuke picked me up from my house and we walked to school.”

“Was anything off about him? I-I mean, me?” Josuke stutters.

You’re drilling a hole into his forehead, staring at that small point between his eyebrows. The shadows of his pompadour are covering his forehead again, but you can make out smooth skin. That still doesn’t stop you from poking the spot between his eyebrows with your finger. Warm.

The three of them all look confused at your answer, but their concern about the situation and how Josuke was acting implies they knew something weird happened.

“I’ll tell, but only if you all promise that you won’t say I’m weird.”

“Pinky promise!” Okuyasu swore, holding his finger up in the air. Koichi and Josuke nodded in agreement.

“Well, it was a normal morning at first,” you begin, trailing off.

You describe how ‘Josuke’ came to pick you up for school and how the two of you winded up in an alleyway. When you get to the part where he pushed you up against a wall and claimed he liked you, Josuke nearly choked on his spit and apologized profusely.

“And after Hazamada confronted him they left for school, and I guess they didn’t notice me hiding near the alleyway, so I heard everything they said.”

None of them responded to your story right away, as if trying to soak in all the facts as to what had happened. The silence made you antsy.

“I’m not weird now, right?”

“Of course not! I was going to ask if you were okay,” Koichi claimed, and you knew he was telling the truth. His face always looks so earnest. You doubt he could lie without alerting everyone that it was a lie.

“That must have been scary for you,” he empathized. But that’s a level of closeness you are not going to share with him.

You wave him off with your hand, sticking the other one in your pocket. “It’s fine. No big deal.”

“Do you know what class Hazamada is in?” Josuke asks you, and you, unfortunately, recall that you’ve never been to his classroom. But he’s been to yours.

You give Josuke an apologetic look. “Somewhere on the first floor. I don’t know which class exactly…”

“Cool, cool,” Josuke mumbles to himself, hand on his chin. It only takes a few seconds of brainstorming for him to devise a plan as to what to do.

“Here’s what I’m thinking. Koichi and I can go confront Hazamada and figure out what his deal is, and Okuyasu can stay with (Y/N) in case he tries to mess with her again.”

A sound plan, but you still haven’t figured out what the deal with Fake-Josuke is. So it wasn’t Josuke, that’s for sure. Some guy dressed up like him? But he sounded so much like him, and his clothes were the exact same.

When you bring this up, all of the boys look hesitant to provide an explanation for the imposter, if there even was one.

“We‘ll try to figure that out when we confront Hazamada,” Josuke assures you. “But let’s get back to class. Koichi and I will go find him when our class goes on break.”

You nod slowly as Koichi goes to open the door, and everyone slowly shuffles out. You’re about to leave when someone grabs your wrist. Josuke, held onto it very loosely and looked like he would rather be anywhere else. His cheeks were pink and his eyes averted yours at times.

“I just wanted to stay, sorry, I guess. That you had to go through that,” he stammered, scratching his cheek. “I know that ‘guy’ looked like me, so I wanna know if we’re still cool.”

“Of course we’re cool,” you sputter, almost stunned. “It wasn’t you, so why are you apologizing?”

Josuke brought his hand away from your wrist nervously, deciding it would be better to cross his arms as he attempted to explain himself. “W-well I don’t know! I just thought it would be weird if someone who looked like me tried to do that to ya.”

The unspoken part that Josuke neglected to say is “I don’t want you to see me differently because of that”.

You purse your lips and give him a stiff pat on the shoulder. “If I say it’s cool, it’s cool! You’re still my… friend.”

It felt awkward calling him that, but it looked like that was all Josuke needed to hear before all that worry left his body.

“Man, that’s great! Seriously, I was really worried for a second there,” He said, following you as you walked out of the supply closet. You can only wave your hand in response.

For the rest of the day, you don’t see much of Koichi and Josuke. It was around lunchtime when they disappeared, but Okuyasu kept you company. You got to learn a lot about what kind of food he liked, what movies he was planning on watching, etcetera etcetera. His main concern seemed to be why no girl was too interested in him, which you didn’t know.

Okuyasu and you walk home together, with him dropping you off at Kawajiri’s place before he leaves for his home. Josuke doesn’t stop to say hi or talk about how it went with Hazamada, as you assume his absence was caused by them confronting one another.

The next day, Josuke comes to pick you up for school like usual. With him is a picture of a badly beaten teen stuck inside a hospital bad. Hazamada. So bruised, you could barely recognize him.

“Geez,” you can’t help but wince. “What happened?”

“Turns out he was doing more than just harassing you,” Josuke explained, sticking the photo inside of his school bag. “But that’s confidential! Can’t be telling the world my secrets, ya dig?”

“I dig,” you reply.

So rationally, you should probably hate Hazamada. And you do have some pretty intense feelings that would involve you beating him up with a tennis racquet, but after seeing that photo of him, you felt kind of… sorry, for him. You think, you’re not too sure about how you’re feeling. You’re still confused as to why he was so interested in dating you to the point where he got some guy to dress up as your friend and try to sexually harass you.

Josuke could easily read that perturbed expression on your face. Too much of an open book, your mom would tease.

“I have his room number at the Morioh Hospital if you want to go visit him sometime after school,” he offers. The two of you leave Kawajiri’s yard and close the gate. Okuyasu had been leaning on the fence encompassing the grass, chucking pebbles at the pond nearby.

You nod, still trying to unravel your own feelings. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

The three of you walk to school, thankfully with no imposters in sight.

Chapter 6: vi. intergalactic

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SIX—

PLANETARY

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

Tic. Toc. Tic. Toc.

A swinging pendulum clock ticks in the background as you sit around and wait. Butt planted in a sofa, your legs rest on the top of the cushions while your head bumps against its wooden exoskeleton. You’re sitting upside down on the sofa to put it simply, waiting for a familiar hand to knock on your door.

It doesn’t come.

You glance at the clock, eyes straining to read from upside down.

7:34.

Tic. Toc. Tic. Toc.

You’ll have to leave in order to get to school on time since it looks like he isn’t coming. Again.

Trying not to sigh, you roll over and try to maneuver yourself right side up without falling and planting your face on the ground.

Celine’s paws make tiny sounds as you walk around the living room, grabbing what you need.

Backpack, check. Headphones and cassette players, check. Lunch that your mom lovingly prepared for you, check. Some change you’ve managed to scrounge up for this afternoon, check.

Smooching your cat's head goodbye, you shut the wooden door behind you. Goodbye boring nature sounds, hello Madonna. Holistic humming filled your ears, followed by a soft and gentle voice. You can practically sing Like a Prayer while getting waterboarded, it’s one of your top favorite songs of hers.

You haven’t been listening to music as much since you’ve been walking with Josuke and Okuyasu and they both liked to talk your ears off. But, after the incident concerning a certain someone, they began to slightly distance themselves. Hence the return of music.

You’re a good communicator, you like to think, so you had no problem going up to them and asking straight on what was wrong, but they always managed to squirm and find some way to get out of it. Koichi was nice about it but essentially the same. They were avoiding you.

It’s no big deal, you assure yourself. You can’t force people to be your friends.

But after the convenient timing of revealing what had happened in that alleyway, you couldn’t help but feel like maybe that had something to do with it. Girls getting sexually harassed was something that occasionally happened back home, and people’s reactions to it were less than favorable every time. Even worse, if something truly bad did happen, more often than not, they would blame her.

You never thought something like that would happen to you. But lo and behold, it looks like the boys didn’t seem to like the idea of associating with someone who was terrorized by such things.

Thinking about it makes you ball your fists and purse your lips.

You are going to corner those three down and you WILL get a clear answer as to why they seem to have been putting distance between you and them. If they don’t want to be friends anymore, that’s fine. But you will be getting a straightforward answer from them.

In the midst of your mental annoyance, you nearly pass by a quick mart.

Can’t miss that, you think, twirling on your toes so you could walk right back up to it. Today’s the day you go visit Hazamada. For like the third time. Your first visit had Josuke and Koichi accompany you. There wasn’t much to be said, no matter what you asked, Hazamada refused to answer, choosing to stare at the ceiling inside. You really can’t seem to figure out what he’s thinking.

Both Josuke and Koichi didn’t prefer to stay too long, especially if he wasn’t going to talk, so you’ve been visiting by yourself in hopes their lack of presence would make him feel comfortable enough to talk to you. No luck as of yet.

You walk past multiple isles containing packets and packages of goodies, stopping when you arrive at the cracker section. You grab a few boxes of pocky for yourself and scan the isles for what Hazamada may like. So far, you know he doesn’t like any gummy candy or anything sweet, maybe he would prefer something spicy?

You spot a bag of chips that reminded you of French fries. They were small pretzel-like sticks coated in orange and yellow dust, with a red chili pepper mascot breathing fire as he popped some of the snacks in on the packaging.

Total score, you smirk, patting yourself on the back for your discovery. He’ll definitely like this one.

Still smiling, it quickly drops once you see the long line of people standing around, waiting to pay for the items. The cashier looked like they were doing their best, standard stuff really, but their speed isn’t as urgent as you would like. You check the time on a nearby clock. 7:42. You’re not going to have time to wait in line.

Reluctantly stepping away, you go to put up the snacks. You’ll have to leave earlier tomorrow so you could have time to grab some. That or buy Hazamada something from the vending machine down the hall from his room, but that thing is practically empty.

Internally groaning to yourself, you pass by another student who had been perusing the store isles. She has long, black braids that were frizilly wrapped into a bun. It reminded you of a flower of some kind but couldn’t recall the name. She seemed deep in thought, staring deeply at the boxes of pocky. If she knew that she was about to be late for school, she didn’t care.

“Ah, excuse me,” you mumble, placing back the boxes of snacks you had picked up. She briefly glances at you as your arm retreats back to your body, and you awkwardly stumble away.

Embarrassing, you mutter to yourself.

You only make it a few steps outside before a feminine voice stops you.

“Hey, wait!”

The sound of shoes stumbling to catch up to you greet your ears as you turn around, a body almost flinging itself at you.

“Woah!” Your hands instinctively go out to catch whoever had been trying to catch you, and you catch them by the shoulders. It’s the school girl from inside the quick mart, you noticed.

Before you could ask if she’s okay, boxes of pocky and bags of chips are shoved into your face.

“You wanted these, right?” she asks as you stumble to grab them before she dropped them. The abundance she brought to you is… a lot, to put it simply.

“Y-yes, but–“

“Why didn’t you buy them then?” Her wide, brown and red eyes peer at you inquisitively.

“Well, it’s almost time for school, and the line is long, and I may not have enough money…” you mumble the last part to yourself, but her ears still caught it.

“These should be enough for you then, right?”

She refers to the bags with a pointed finger and you scramble to count how many there are. About nine, you think.

“Ah, I guess? Did you buy these? How did you get through the line?”

She ignores your question, choosing to thrust out her hand instead.

“I’m Kutsuki Kanna, what’s your name?”

“Depeche (Y/N),” you say, shakily grabbing her hand as you struggled to hold all of the snacks.

You hear her mumble something to herself.

“You go to Budo-Ga High School, right?” she suddenly asks, to which you nod. “Okay, see you later.”

She promptly stalks off.

“Wait, so I can keep these!?” you shout in shock, and you’re sure she could hear you but she doesn’t even bother to turn around. By the time you’ve stuffed all of the snacks into your bag, she’s gone, with no chance of you catching up to her.

“Oh, geez,” you mumble, feeling how heavy your bag had become. The amount of pocky is definitely appetizing, but the girls' lack of answer as to how she had bought them all with that long line is suspicious. As long as they were bought with legitimate means, you tell yourself, nearly dragging your bag to school.

In class, you’re largely occupied by work from your teachers. You participated in some kind of science lab, struggled in literature, and studied Japanese art techniques. You much preferred the end of the day, you think, staring at your textbook. You were mostly analyzing the black and white photo of a painting of bamboo on a mountain top. Your tired eyes can only scan the strokes of old Japanese before you can tap out.

“Oh, it’s 11:39…” you heard your teacher mutter to herself. “Time for lunch everyone! Make sure to ??? and ??? before physical education this afternoon.”

At her words, tables began to screech as groups moved to sit with one another, while others stood up and begin to gather their things so they can sit elsewhere. You turn your head expectedly to the group of three boys, who were grabbing their lunches from their bags.

“Going somewhere?” You ask Koichi. Not to demean him, but he was often easier to ‘crack’ when it came to telling you things.

“To the rooftop, wanna come?” He offers, and you nearly smile at the invitation had Okuyasu and Josuke not cut in.

The latter looks at you apologetically. “Now may not be a good time.”

“You should eat with those people from your tennis club thing!” Says the former.

“Sure,” you agree, not intending to do that at all. You smile and wave as they walk out, appearing very understanding of the situation but in reality you’re anything but.

“I’m going to corner them after school today, I swear,” you grumble to yourself, taking out whatever your mom had prepared for you today. Eating would calm you down, at least for now.

“Corner who?”

You bang your thighs on the bottom of your desk.

Cursing to yourself your face sinks into your hands.

“Kutsuki?” You guess, peering out from between your fingers. You can spot her deep green uniform.

“Yep, that’s me,” she hummed, almost jittery with the way her body twitched and shivered. “And Kanna is f-fine, you know.”

“Do you need something?”

Kanna shakes her head at your question, rising and falling as her heels left the ground. Eyes wandering down, you see a small box in her hands. It’s wooden and wrapped with what you thought at first was a cut-up piece from a blanket.

“I was wondering if we could eat lunch together.”

You don’t have to crane your neck to look behind you and remind yourself of your lack of friends.

“I don’t see why not,” you say.

She smiles fitfully and shakes her hands. “Let’s go! I know this really nice place behind the school.”

One of her arms entwined itself with yours, and the two of you walked side by side as Kanna led you to wherever she wanted to eat. For a stranger, she is strangely touchy with you. You’re used to that behavior from back home, but you quickly learned people in Japan preferred to stay in their bubble.

Not long after Kanna invited you out, you find yourself standing in front of a garden. Large cherry blossoms encircled the grounds with tall bushes planted in between each gap. The only way to see in would be the entrance, a wooden arbor with vines weaving in and out of its frame. The area belonged to the Gardening Club, no doubt.

“Are we allowed to be here?” You ask as Kanna drags you through the arbor. Your fingers graze the green plants, which sway in the wind once your touch leaves.

“Mhm! It’s all open grounds during the school day. I like to eat lunch here because it smells so nice.”

You have to admit, there is a slightly floral scent in the air, accompanied by natural earthy and warm scents.

Kanna shows you to a bench that overlooks a pond. Although small, you can spot a few fish lazily swimming inside of it.

“I like feeding them whatever I don’t eat from my lunch,” Kanna explains, her arm leaving yours. “That black one with a big head is my favorite fish.”

She bends down, arm stretching out to point at a dark fish alone in one of the rare corners of the pond. It rests on a rock, and the only way to indicate it’s alive is when its gills occasionally flared and its fins waved. Had she not pointed it out, you would completely have glossed over it.

“Cool,” you tell her, turning to sit yourself down on the bench. Kanna quickly follows.

The two do you eat lunch together. Sometimes Kanna gives you some of her packaged meal, and you give her something home-cooked.

“Is this from that one quick mart?” You eventually ask, swallowing some kind of egg sandwich.

Kanna was tearing apart the chicken salad your mom made for you like she hadn’t eaten in days. At this point, you’re eating her lunch and she’s eating yours.

“Mhm. I have it like, every day!”

You break apart a rice ball in hopes to find some kind of meat filling, but it’s empty. “Your mom doesn’t make you anything?”

Kanna shakes her head. She has crumbs on her mouth from inhaling the chocolate chip cookies, grumbling when you wipe them off with a napkin. You physically look the same age as her, but something about her personality reminded you of someone younger.

“No, not really,” Kanna says. “She isn’t around that much.”

Busy working, you assume. Ever since your own mother started working at that mini grocery store, you’ve been seeing her less and less. It’s not like you’re not used to her being around, she had her own job back home, but her hours were odd. Early in the morning or late at night, she probably got the less than favorable shifts since she’s so new.

Or maybe you’re projecting and Kanna’s mom is some deadbeat. Oh well.

The two of you munch on your food until it’s time to go back to class. You don’t see her again until after school and you’re finished with your daily tennis game. Since Hazamada is currently recovering you were playing against some of the other club members who were happy to play with you for a chance.

“Good job, (Y/N)-chan!”

You see her excitedly bouncing all the way across the gym floor, standing in front of the open metal doors.

“Already replacing Hazamada?” One of the club members teased. It’s no secret that Hazamada’s in the hospital, for one reason or another. The rumor mill works in all countries, it seems.

“How did you know I’m in the tennis club?” You ask when she approaches, patting your sweaty skin dry.

Kanna smiled, her canines unusually sharp. “I didn’t.”

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

The two of you walk to the hospital together, no unusually short boys or pompadour-having teens in sight. Upon hearing where you were going, she seemed excited to join, no matter how many times you insisted she didn’t have to go.

“Do you live around me?” You ask. “I can drop you off after I’m done here.”

“No, I live a bit away from here, but I can take your street to get back,” Kanna explains. She stood atop the cement sidewalk, balancing on the raised edge as you walked beside her.

“Hey, (Y/N),” she suddenly says.

You turn to look at her. She isn’t directly looking at you, staring at the next space where she would place her foot.

“Do you think we could be friends? Maybe even…”

She trails off, and the moment she does her head starts to tilt like she’s going to look at you. Embarrassed to be almost caught staring, you turn your head the other way and hook your hands behind your neck.

“I don’t see why not,” you tell her. Are you over eager to make friends that aren’t Koichi, Okuyasu, Josuke, and a boy stuck in a hospital? Definitely not.

As you glance away, Kanna smiles to herself, clenching the fabric that laid over her thrumming heart.

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

You walk by yourself the next morning, kicking rocks, watching other teens, essentially doing the usual. You weren’t able to corner any of the guys yesterday as they left as soon as the bell rang, giving you no chance to ask them privately. You even visited Josuke’s house this morning and met his mother.

She’s a woman of average height if not a bit taller thanks to the heels she’s wearing. Her dark hair stops just above her shoulders, kept back with a patterned headband. Her eyebrows, most noticeably, are very sharp.

“Huh, a girl?” She had voiced out loud, before taking note of your unusually colored hair. Not that your hair is unusual, but your general appearance screamed foreigner.

“Oh! You must be Kawajiri’s ???-daughter, it’s nice to meet you!”

She stuck out her hand, warmly shaking your own when you obliged to hand it out. You stuck your lip out upon hearing the word daughter on instinct but do your best to drop whatever face you were making.

“I’m Higashikata Tomoko, but feel free to call me Tomoko, ‘kay?”

She mirrored Josuke’s relaxed attitude, leaning against the wooden outline of her door with an easy-going smile. Truly, like mother like son when it comes to appearances.

“Will do, Tomoko. Say, is Josuke home?”

She blinks at your question, looking upwards as her hand rises to rest on her chin.

“Josuke? I think he left a bit early today to go to school,” she mumbled, just loud enough for you to hear. “I was still making his breakfast when he left, didn’t even tell me goodbye!”

The woman pouted at that but didn’t stay that way for long. In fact, her face brightened upon remembering something.

“Say, are you in the same class as him?” She asks.

You nod.

You swear a gust of wind nearly knocked you back as Tomoko quickly dashed back into her home, shouting at you to stay where you are. You do, of course, but you were very confused while doing it.

She returned shortly after, face flushed as she practically ran to grab whatever she needed. In her hands is a plastic box wrapped in a checkered cloth.

“He was in such a hurry he forgot to grab his lunch,” Tomoko explained, trying to catch her breath. “Could you bring it to him if it’s not too much trouble? I normally would but I have an extra class to teach during his usual lunchtime.”

You can almost recall Josuke telling you she was a middle-school teacher at some point. Shaking your head, you focus on the situation.

This is the best-case scenario, you tell yourself. I can offer Josuke his food and corner him to ask what the heck is his and everyone else’s deal!

“Yeah, I can do that,” you tell her, gently receiving the lunch box and storing it in your school bag.

“Great! Thank you so much. And here’s something as thanks.”

From out behind her back is a small plastic container full of yellow, oval-shaped rolls.

“I made it for Josuke originally since he’s the only one who likes him, but why don’t you give them a try? It would be a shame for them to go to waste,” Tomoko said, handing you the container. “If you don’t like them, just give them to my kid and tell him he shouldn’t run off next time.”

With that said, you leave, Tomoko waving goodbye.

When you’re a good distance away, you open the box to see what it held. It reminded you of a weirdly shaped omelette with bacon and cheese in the center. Holding it like some kind of weird chip, you pop one in.

You’re chewing and chewing and when you’re done you eat another.

And another.

And another.

Before you know it you’re back in school and all of the oval-y egg omelet things are gone. You stare at the empty container with embarrassment, nervously scratching your neck. You didn’t think you had been so hungry. Geez.

“Hey, (Y/N)!” A voice suddenly says. You bump your knees on the underside of your desk, again.

“Hey, Kanna,” you greet, rubbing your now red legs.

Whilst she beams at your verbal acknowledgment, you can help but quietly converse with yourself. She always pops up at the weirdest times, you think.

“Did you leave home early?” She asks unconcernedly, picking at her nails.

“I guess,” you admit. “Why?”

Kanna averts her eyes, staring off into space abashedly as she twisted and pulled on her fingers. “I wanted to walk to school with you but your mom said you already left.”

“We can walk together tomorrow if you want,” you offer, her eyes brightening at your words. “But why don’t you go to class? The bells are about to ring.”

“Oh, you’re totally right! Thanks, (Y/N)-chan!”

Not even bothering to look at the nearby clock Kanna dashed outside of the classroom. As one set of shoes left, three more entered. In descending order it went from Josuke, Okuyasu, and Koichi. They were seemingly talking about miscellaneous things, and to avoid trying to listen and decipher whatever it may be, you grab some old homework from your bag and begin to doodle on the back.

“Good morning, everyone!”

“Good morning, teacher!”

Nothing interesting happens in the morning. Kanna likes to pop in nearly every break, and while you don’t mind her appearance so much since you are very much in need of friends that aren’t guys, it’s grating to have a brief moment of respite from having to think about anything and then going back to having to translate Japanese.

It’s finally lunch, the moment you’ve been waiting for.

“Hey, (Y/N), can we talk about something?”

It’s Koichi who initiates the conversation first, Okuyasu and Josuke behind him.

“It’s super important!” Okuyasu stresses, balling up his fists.

“What do you want to talk about?” you ask, a bit too gleeful to see if they were going to address what you were hoping for.

“Well, Koichi’s been having this problem…” Josuke starts.

Crack.

“... and we’ve been trying to deal with it ourselves but because you’re a gal you might know how to deal with this better than us…”

Crack.

“So basically, Koichi wants to let this girl he’s not interested in her. Is there anything he can do to like, ??? her?”

Crack.

They have got to be joking. You can’t take this any longer.

“You finally talk to me after four days of radio silence... and you want to talk about girls!?”

The three of them could only watch, wide-eyed, as you talked and cursed in some kind of language they couldn’t understand. What they did understand was you digging through your school bag and tossing Josuke a box full of now jumbled-up food. He scrambled to catch it as you stormed passed them.

Bang!

All three boys couldn’t help but stare at the slammed shut door, still trying to figure out what they had done wrong.

Your shoes angrily clicked and clacked against the vinyl floor as you stomped to find somewhere to eat—anywhere, really, just someplace where you could be alone. Still not knowing the school very well, you opted to sit where you and Hazamada would eat lunch at. It’s not as private as Kanna’s garden spot, as a few students did pass you by as you furiously chomped your food as if it had murdered your mother.

“Stupid boys,” you grumbled, breaking a carrot and tossing both halves into your mouth. “Stupid, stupid…!”

“Stupid what?”

You jump, instinctively swallowing before you’re ready to and grimacing upon the feeling of large chunks of carrots forcibly sliding down your throat. Kanna watches as you cough into your hand, going to drink water while your eyes burned and you pretend like you hadn’t nearly choked on half-chewed vegetables.

“J-Jesus, Kanna!” You gasp. “You can’t keep doing that!”

She blinks her eyes innocently like she truly didn’t know what she had done. “Doing what?”

“Making me afraid!” You retort, waving your hands. You’re never able to think of the word ‘scared’ when spitting out sentences to try and prove a point.

You sigh and brush your hair out of your face, pinning it back.

“Greet me normally, okay?” You request, and Kanna has a brief look of wonder as she tries to imagine what a greeting normally looks like.

“Okay,” Kanna agrees, keen eyes watching as she swung her feet back and forth.

“But speaking of, I need to talk to you about something.”

She peered over at you upon hearing those words. That didn’t sound good.

“You seem really cool, and I like hanging out with you,” you start.

“You’re really cool too!” Kanna jumps, both feet on the bench now. Her hands rest on the railing, holding her from falling forward.

“But I need some time to myself,” you explain, trying to find the right words in your head. It’s not that you aren’t a social butterfly, but again, these are bizarre circ*mstances. New country, new language, new people… you’re still adjusting, okay?

Your praise of Kanna went through one ear and out the other, but your comment of wanting some alone time seemed to be the only thing Kanna could hear. It echoed and echoed in her head like a church bell ominously chiming when no one has not yet rung it.

“I like hanging out with you!” You clarify, watching as her gleeful grin turned into a solemn frown. “I just want time to think about… things.”

“Things?” Kanna repeats.

You nod awkwardly, shoving food into your mouth like it would choke you and would let you escape the conversation through death. There’s a stiff silence for a couple of seconds before Kanna speaks up.

“Uhm, sorry if I came on too hard,” Kanna apologizes. Her legs were tucked closer to her chest, and she wrapped her arms around them as she fiddled with the edges of her skirt.

“I don’t have a lot of friends so I get really ??? when people talk to me.”

Your heart broke a little upon hearing that. You kind of assumed based on the way she only seemed to talk to you but you weren’t going to say anything outright.

“It’s okay,” you assure her. “I do like hanging out with you, I really do. And we should hang out sometime after school, alright?”

She smiles at the sound of that and opens her mouth to respond, only to be interrupted by a far deeper voice.

“(Y/N), you ‘round here?” A voice calls.

What is up with Josuke interrupting people, you think to yourself, standing so you could peek around the wall.

“(Y/N)… can we talk?” Says another.

You spotted three boys wandering around the school area, apparently in search of you. You won’t lie, the sight does make your cheeks and chest warm. Yes, recognition!

“Who’s that?” Kanna asked. She positioned herself underneath you, hands grasping at the bricked wall. Her tone does not seem pleased.

“That’s Koichi, Okuyasu, and Josuke,” you explain, pointing them out one by one. “They’re the first people I became friends with.”

“First?” Kanna repeats, almost hesitant.

“Yeah, I kinda threw food at one of them because they’ve been… not talking to me? Yes, not talking,” you try to explain.

You’re not sure when Kanna ducked from under you and turned away. You’re not sure when she grabbed a weapon and decided it would be a good idea to use it against you.

“I think I should go talk to them…”

One foot steps from out behind the wall, stiffening at the feeling of something pressed against your spine. You blink.

“Don’t move.”

Kanna’s voice is cold, almost as cold as your blood when you realize what she’s pointing into your back. It’s cold and circular shaped, and with the way you heard her fiddling with the metal mold, you’re sure in your assumption that what she has pressed against you isn’t some toy.

You have a gun pressed to your back, plain and simple.

Oh my god. Ohhh my god. Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygodohmy—

“Get behind the wall,” she hisses, her eyes flickering over to glare at the boys. If you tried to run or if they got too close, she would pull the trigger with no moment's notice.

You mutely follow her directions, taking a few steps back. You’re trying to think back to those dumb seminars your elementary school teachers would show to you when encountering a violent person. Oh god, they were always so cheesy and boring and you never fully listened because dad said he wouldn’t let anything happen to you—!

Zap!

Josuke’s ears twitched at the unusual sound that echoed across the school area. It sounded grainy and unnatural, reminiscent of an old space-themed arcade game. But to hear at school, it felt so out of place.

“What was that?” Koichi asked. He had been about to journey over to the gym to see if you were inside, walking back upon hearing the noise.

“No idea,” Okuyasu muttered, his tan hand raised to point at a wall edge nearby. The back of the school. “But it came from over there.”

An ominous feeling grew as the group of teens edged towards the wall. None of them were sure what to expect. Yukako, spying on them? A stand user? Or maybe it was just…

A student, eating lunch on a bench with a game boy in hand. The familiar tune of Tetris whistled out from the small speakers as her thumbs flicked between the buttons, occasionally popping in a carrot.

“Not (Y/N),” Okuyasu grumbled, tearing himself away to continue looking while Koichi and Josuke stayed behind.

“Hey,” the pompadour teen spoke up. “Have you seen a foreign girl around here anywhere?”

A brief moment of wonder crossed the girl's face, her hand raising to touch her chin. She suddenly threw her hands back to her game with a wide grin.

“No! But I’ll keep a look out for you, ‘kay?”

“Thanks,” Koichi sighs, not looking too deep into the matter. Josuke couldn’t help but stick around as he turned, staring at the scene with bewilderment. Particularly, he was looking at her game boy. Pixelated characters and backgrounds flashed across the green screen, flickering in and out.

“Something wrong?”

The girl's voice broke through his concentration. She blinks her wide, maroon eyes as he struggled to voice his concerns.

“No, sorry,” Josuke said, waving her off. “Ya see, I heard this really weird sound earlier…”

Her eyes twinkled with recognition.

“It must’ve come from my game,” the girl offers, showing him the pixelated screen. It boots and beeps and plays all kinds of zany sounds, but none of it matched what Josuke heard.

He shook his head with a sigh. “That’s not it.”

Glancing back to his posse, it looked like they were rounding up to call it quits. It was nearing the end of lunch. You would surely come back to class, so they could talk to you then.

“Thanks anyway, have a good day!” Josuke waved goodbye to her, jogging to catch up to the other teens in order to discuss what to do next.

As Kanna watched him leave, she couldn’t help but bite into a chocolate chip cookie with a satisfying chomp.

Dusting off her skirt, Kanna hopped off the bench and grabbed a nearby bag that had been laying off to the side. Feeling the outline of a small figure in one of the bag's pockets, she smiles to herself.

“We’re going to have so much fun,” Kanna hummed, hooking the strap around her shoulder. As her shoes clicked away, a slight breeze came through the area. The only indication of your presence had been left on that bench, half-eaten carrots and an American lunch box left empty and alone.

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

Tic. Toc. Tic. Toc.

Babump. Bapump. Bapump.

Your body feels like it got thrown at a road roller and the machine went to town. There’s no other way to describe just how badly your body aches, your joints cracking even with the smallest bit of movement. Not to mention how stuffy and sweltering you feel. Like you got covered in mud and tossed into a furnace.

“Ugh…”

An uncomfortably fake sound greets your ears as you roll over, arms stretched out to try and grab onto something to drag yourself up. Your fingers dig into some kind of fabric encompassing your body. It’s definitely not your school uniform, maybe some kind of scratchy dress?

You can barely see as you wobbly hang onto a nearby wooden pole. Your legs were shivering, now realizing that the shoes you wore are not the kind you would wear. Ever.

Black blocky heels with ribbons messily tied around your legs. But these gaudy shoes are the least of your concerns, seeing as you seem to be in bizarro world.

The only light illuminating the space comes from a cut out window, with no trimming or rails where a window might be. It’s as if someone had cut it with an Exacto knife and called it good.

You poke your head out of the window, your body a bit too big to fit anything but your head out, and what you see makes your heart plummet into the bowels of your stomach.

An even bigger room lies dormant right outside of wherever you’re stuck. A bed as tall as a mountain was shoved off into the corner of the room, a thick and dusty rug in between you and it like the sea. Even stranger was the opulent items scattered across the room. An opulent grandfather clock, a priceless ceramic tea set off to the side and most odd of all, a collection of miniature boats and cars that reminded you of Californian opulence.

Squeezing your head back into the room, you stumble back to look around the room you had been placed in. Decorated with paper walls and a fabric floor, the furniture inside seemed cheaply made, with too many imperfections to count. The bed you had been lying in is stiff to the touch, with no creaking sound a normal bed would make if you tried to push it around. In fact, it seemed way too late for an object of its size.

Seizing the bed by its ends, you easily lift it up, all the way over your head until your fingers bumped into the ceiling. Speaking of, you begin to analyze it as well as you slowly set down the bed. The ceiling is too close to the ground, and anyone taller than you would be banging their head on it.

It reminded you of your old dolls and miniature houses where your toys were too big to fit inside the small wooden residence, but you didn’t care and you would shove them in any way.

“Is this… a dollhouse?” you say a loud, eyes wide as your body swivels to try and take it all in.

The last thing you remembered was Kanna threatening you with a gun but anything after that was blank. Did she put you in here? But how? How did she have the money and time to even create a large teenage girl's bedroom and a poorly made life-sized doll house to match?

You find yourself wandering back to the bed, reluctantly lying back on the cold sheets. Your plastic-like dress poofs out, even as you try to smooth it down. This whole scenario is jumbling with your head and you’re not even sure what’s happening anymore.

“This has to be a dream,” you mumble to yourself, squeezing your eyes shut and stilling your feet so they don’t click together and you start to wish yourself back home. “I’ll just wake up and I’ll find out I fell asleep during lunch. I just fell asleep during lunch…”

In the midst of your mantra, a door creaks open.

You jump to your feet.

Large booms echo across the room, its wooden walls quaking as something heavy approaches. When you dash to the window to see what could be causing the sound, your jaw drops in disbelief.

It was Kanna.

Humongous, taller than a skyscraper in your eyes, but Kanna nonetheless.

“Ah…” you couldn’t help but gasp as she skipped across the room, throwing herself to her bed. She had a plate in her hand and a stuffed animal in the other, a very ragged and torn up cat plush.

“Say ‘ah’!” she exclaimed, setting the plush on one side of her bed and lifting something from her plate. It’s an unusually large pizza slice, the grease dripping off the cheese and sliding onto the sheets below .

“Huh?” Kanna stared at the grease stains with confusion before something clicked in her brain. “Oops!”

She reached under her school uniform and took out a gun. The sight immediately made you freeze up, but upon closer inspection, you felt like a total idiot. It’s a childrens toy. A gun, sure, but a plastic one that reminded you of a space laser game. But she aimed the gun at those runny stains, and fired.

Zap!

The stains were gone in an instant.

You couldn’t help but let out an audible gasp upon seeing the marks disappear. It was like magic. But reacting was the wrong thing to do, seeing as it alerted her to your presence. Her head shot to your location, and upon seeing your head poking out of the small room, she grinned.

“(Y/N)!”

“Oh nononono—”

You duck back into the room, trying to find a place to hide. But there’s only paper, paper, and more paper. Even the small bed sheets weren’t enough to conceal your body, but that’s not going to stop you from trying!

The doll house front swings open as Kanna eagerly tries to find you, spotting you in an instant thanks to how out of place you looked. A hand drags you from the bed, the sheet falling to the ground as you struggle to get out of her grip.

“(Y/N)(Y/N)(Y/N)(Y/N)-chan I can’t believe you’re finally awake!” Kanna squealed, both hands now squeezing your whole torso. She clutched you to her chest like you were one of her toys, way too rough for your liking.

“Ack—careful!” you wheeze, arms attempting to push yourself away from her. “H-how the hell is this going on? Why are you so big?”

“More like why are you so small?” Kanna teased, finally putting some space between you and your chest, but still having a very strong grip on your body. No matter how much you struggled and kicked, Kanna is basically a giant compared to you. No way you’re getting out of her hands any time soon.

“It’s nothing special,” she hinted, an odd-looking glint in her eyes as she leaned back on one arm. But she quickly leaned forward, chin in hand as a very familiar toy rested around her finger. It had been that small gun she had been messing around with earlier.

“Buuuut I basically think I’m Japan’s next superhero.”

She had an excited look on her face like she wanted you to praise her for having something so important.

It’s so hard to believe but you’re basically going to believe anything the world has to throw at you right now. Maybe this is the after life. Like, this could be purgatory because you didn’t accept Kawajiri as your stepfather fast enough?

Your face drops into your hands as you try to contemplate where the hell your life, or, after-life, is going.

“And-and you can be too!” Kanna stammered, like seeing your dejection made her worried. “You can have cool powers like me!”

She set you back down into the doll house roughly, into a new room too. You stumbled into what looked like a kitchen, with a dining room table and everything as she showed off what she had. It looked like the tip of an arrowhead, pointy and sharp, but entirely cut off from the rest of its body. It wouldn’t look big at all if you were Kanna’s size, but with your current stature, it’s as big as your eye.

“What is that?” You draw back into the farthest corner of your small room, trying to edge yourself to a position where you could try and run away. However, running away is not going to do you any good, not with these tiny legs. But you can’t just stand around to see what would happen. Purgatory or not, you don’t want your after-life to feel like hell!

“A couple of weeks ago, some strange man shot an arrow into me,” Kanna recalled. She angled the arrow tip back and forth and around, whichever would catch the streams of light from her lamp.

She continued.

“It went in too deep so a bit of it got kind of ‘stuck’ in me. I don’t think he knew when he pulled it out, but it gave me a really bad infection before it popped out.”

You’re not following. Kanna sees your deadpan stare and hurries to explain herself, picking you up in the process. She sets you on her legs like you would a kitten, one hand still holding onto you in case you would try to run away.

“But now you’re here so I can give these cool powers to you too! That way we can be even closer friends, like sisters!”

“Ka-Kanna, I know I said I wanted to be friends but I didn’t mean like this,” you stammered to explain. “Are you sure you even want to use that thing on me? I mean, what if something goes wrong or-or I get sick and get an infection too?!”

You don’t even know what you're saying at this point. Anything for her to reconsider pointing anything dangerous in your direction. But it doesn’t matter, her fingers are tightening around your neck and body. No matter how you scratched, clawed, and kicked, she didn’t care. She seemed to be aiming right for your chest.

“It’s fine! Anything that happens, I can take care of you! You don’t need anyone else but me, not your family, your friends, or those dumb boys who keep bothering you! We’ll be just like sisters.”

“Oh my ggodddd!”

She finally paused at your screaming. Your voice is ragged and your eyes are bloodshot from how stressed the f*ck out you are right now.

“I don’t want to be your sister, you crazy bitch! Let me the hell go!”

Your teeth go for the nearest finger.

Chomp!

Canines digging into flesh, you expect Kanna to squeal and drop or throw you to the side, and you brace your body for anything. To your shock, Kanna does nothing of the sort. Having squeezed your eyes shut, they slowly open to witness the darkened expression on the girl's face. Her red pupils stare you down, too wide for your liking. You lift your teeth from her skin.

“I, I didn’t mean it,” you explained, nervous sweat accumulating on your face. There’s spittle coming from your mouth and dribbling down her finger from where you had bit her. It mixed with light traces of blood. Her grip on you is beginning to tighten.

In a surprising turn of events, she flips you over, your stomach now squishing against her palm. You don’t get a second of respite as you feel the cold zipper that pressed against your back slowly going down.

“I didn’t mean that, really! We can be sisters, I promise! I take back what I said!”

Your fists slam into Kanna’s hand, but there’s nothing you can do.

“Please, please don’t do this,” you sobbed. You don’t even know what ‘this’ is. Tears have barely begun to accumulate from your eyes but your chest is already beginning to tighten and constrict. You can’t breathe.

“It’s okay, (Y/N)-chan.”

Kanna’s voice is sweet, and for a brief moment, you turn your head.

She’s holding the arrow tip in the air, aiming to where she would plunge it into your body. The lamp from across her room silhouettes her dark body like a renaissance painting of Christ. But the darkened expression showing her glinting eyes is the opposite of anything you would want to see from the Lord.

“I know you’re scared, but this is all for your own good,” she explained, her hand steadying. “How can we even truly be sisters if we don’t truly understand one another? And you can’t fully understand me unless you have the same powers.”

She pauses to hear what you have to say.

“You know what I mean, right?”

“No,” you choke.

“Oh,” she mumbled. And you start to think that maybe you’ve gotten through to her. But her eyes and hand are still focusing on your back. “Well, you will soon.”

Her hand plunges down. You’re sure a clap of thunder erupted from the sky and shook the house, a loud ringing in your ears as metal pierces skin and soul. Divine lightning strikes your body, holy fire burning your nerves, flesh, and brain.

The last thing you feel is Kanna’s warm cheek pressed to your cold back, her voice murmuring sweet nothings as you drifted off into painful sleep.

Chapter 7: vii. sabotage

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SEVEN—

MAKE NO MISTAKES AND SWITCH UP MY CHANNEL

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

You don’t know what time it is when you finally wake up. Anything and everything seems to pass by in a flurry of flashing lights, with you not quite able to pin down what exactly happened after your encounter with Kanna. Whatever did happen, it ended with you feeling hot and weak underneath a stapled toy blanket.

Your body is wracked with shivers, sweat gathering on any piece of clothed skin. You want to become a fleshless skeleton if it meant no more hurting but all you could do is squirm and gasp underneath the hot sheets. Eventually, you manage to crawl out.

Standing on wobbly plastic heels, you find yourself to be back inside the doll house. It’s shut, like last time, with no obvious escape in sight. Your knees ache as you stumble over to a window, peering out from behind an edge.

Kanna lays passed out on her bed, ceramic dolls and plastic toys surrounding her unresponsive form. Her room is lit thanks to a dreamy pastel lamp in the corner, illuminating the space. Junk is haphazardly placed around like she wanted everything to look nice but failed in recognizing hierarchy. A lot of it looked too pricey for her to afford and need. Paintings of ponds and frogs hung from her walls, the frame covered in bright stickers. You swear you saw creepy-looking dolls hidden behind clutter, their dead eyes piercing your soul. You can’t help but shiver.

I have to be as logical as possible right now, you think with a sigh, attention turning to glance back and forth between the closed bedroom door and shut paneled window.

You wish you could say this is all a dream and that you'll be waking up any second now but that didn’t explain the intense stinging sensation you felt ebbing in your back. The scratchiness of the dress, your sore limbs, the wood underneath your fingers… It all felt too real to be a dream. But everything felt too scientifically impossible to be real at the same time.

All the same, whether dream or real life, you don’t want to stick around here any longer.

But who could help you in your time of need? Kanna would obviously refuse, you’re half sure she wants to keep you as one of her dolls so she’s ruled out. Your house would be too far of a walk, that and you don’t know how to get back. You’ve never visited Kanna’s house and doubt you would be able to recognize where you’re at due to that and your now small stature.

The image of three boys arose in your mind before it was quickly dashed.

There’s no way they’d help me, you think with a huff. I’m sure they would think this is all some prank by me to get back at them or something.

That leaves your mother and Kawajiri. Although you didn’t want to get them involved in what seems like a supernatural event, you don’t know what else to do. You don’t exactly want to stay Barbie-sized the rest of your life. But how to contact them…

As you thought, a stroke of genius struck you.

A pay phone! They’re placed all around town, and the chances of you coming across one is too high for you to ignore. Although you’re not exactly sure how you’d access one, it’s your only plan at the moment and the best one you have at the moment.

First things first, get out of this damn house.

The windows of the dollhouse are barely big enough for you to squeeze through, your waist embarrassingly caught between the small wooden panels.

It’s because of this damn dress, you assure yourself, shaking your fist. When you’re back to normal you’ll start taking those VHS workout tapes your mom is so fond of seriously.

After a few seconds of sucking in your stomach and your hands pushing against the wooden exterior, you finally pop out and tumble onto the carpet.

Patting the dust and crumbs off of you, you take a look around. Kanna is to your right and her bedroom door is to your left. It’s a no-brainer in which direction you speed towards. But your journey couldn’t start off easy, no no. In fact, the door is closed, and you’re too big to crawl under it but too short to open it.

Thankfully there’s a dresser right next to it. An at least two stories high dresser, but a dresser nonetheless. Some of the drawers are over-stuffed with clothes and toys, leaving them to be poking out. It, combined with the metal knobs drilled into its front, could provide you with just what you need to get on top.

Bending your knees and prepping your hands with dust to combat the sweat, you make your first leap. You manage to grab onto the very top of the first drawer. Legs kicking in the air, you manage to pull yourself up and plop yourself onto poorly folded clothes. A babump! babump! echoes in your chest as you stare up at the darkened ceiling, counting how many drawers you would need to climb.

Five more to go.

As you stretch, your joints make a popping sound while you mentally and physically prepare for the next drawer.

You’re not sure how long it took to climb the damn thing, but in the end, your hair is frizzy, you’re sweaty to all hell, and you’ve ditched those damn plastic shoes in the abyss. But you’ve made it and realized you need to start working out more.

No time to cry about spilled milk, it’s time to move on to your next course of action.

My body weight should be enough to turn the door knob if I were to jump on it, you think to yourself. But if I miss or there isn’t enough momentum, it won’t turn and I’ll end up dropping to the floor.

Meaning…

You would have to climb the drawer all over again.

Willing yourself not to think about that you pace around the top of the drawer, chin in your hands.

It’s a risk I’ll have to take, you decide.

Anything is better than being stuck here! Even if that meant you’d go to heaven a little early.

You doubt missing your jump would actually kill you but your brain is a little scrambled right now and you are not thinking straight.

Okay, let’s do this!

You pump yourself up by punching the air and silently screaming all of your rage. It’s time for you to face the door knob.

You stand tall on top of the drawer, glaring down at the piece of circular brass. If it were a person, it would definitely be sweating thanks to your gaze. As if on second thought you turn away, dress sashaying in the stale air. Only for you to turn around and leap right off the drawer.

“Oof!”

The doorknob knocks all of the breath out of your chest and you scramble to grab a hold of its sides. Your arms manage to wrap around the whole thing awkwardly, but you’re not complaining, at least you haven’t fallen off!

Like a cat on a beach ball, you stay on top for a moment, only to feel yourself slowly slipping off the side.

“S-sh*t!”

You curse, attempting to wrap your legs around the damn thing, but your landing position didn’t allow for your knees to bend the way you wanted them to. You’re slipping. You’re slipping oh god you’re slipping—

Click.

You drop from the door knob.

The sound of your body hitting the ground is not louder than even a soft thump. Your brain feels like a scrambled deviled egg more than ever and your body is beginning to really hurt, but you’re alive, and the door is open!

Slowly rising from the dirty carpet, you use your weak strength to swing open the door just a crack to slip through its edge, only to be met with a long hallway.

In reality, it's pretty short, average even, but again, your height made it longer than what it would actually be. There's another bedroom adjacent to Kanna’s with the door closed shut with no drawer in sight for you to reach it. Suffice to say you won’t be entering there any time soon.

Walking to the door-shaped entryway, you see the rest of Kanna’s home. You can see the front door, the kitchen, and the living room all from your spot. A rather small house, you note.

You check out the front door. While there are shelves and wooden furniture propped up nearby, you spot a deadbolt nearby. No way you’re leaving through there.

Stumbling past the living room, you catch the sight of another person, accompanied by the drowning out sound of a static tv set pushed into the corner of the room. Someone was leaning back into a faux-leather chair, their snores louder than the tv set. Bottles and cans littered the ground underneath their hand, a tin half drunk loosely held in their grip.

The room stunk of alcohol. You’re familiar with the scent, having attended one too many house parties than your mother would like back home, but you never actually got mixed up with it. Good thing, too, because addiction runs in the family, mom declared. In your eyes only people who drank it were repressed individuals who didn’t know how to cope.

And it appears that Kanna’s guardian is one of them.

Turning away, you catch sight of another doorway, moonlight illuminating the dark space. Cabinets and drawers lined the walls, an oven in sight: the kitchen, no doubt.

You scamper across the carpet, tiny feet scurrying you to the kitchen.

You’re not sure what you’ll find. Elevation? A getaway? It’s anyone's guess at this point. You just want a way out.

Everything is made out of some kind of cheap plastic, it reminds you of a mobile home. The only organic object you could see is the wooden frame of the window, which allows the moonlight to shine into the small room. If you pause for a moment and really tune in to your senses, you could feel the cold breeze of night air blow past you, smell the earthy and damp scent of the outside world, and spy the cracks in the glass panes.

The window would be your escape.

Compared to Kanna’s room, the kitchen is much easier to traverse. Trash and objects are placed around more haphazardly, stools near sinks, brooms near cupboards, easily a mouse-sized girl’s dream.

Crawling on top of the stool, your arms reach out to try and grab at the edge of the plastic top, only to realize there’s still a considerable distance between you and the counter. You’re running on pure strategic adrenaline at this point and your head darts to see what could take you to the top.

Some of the nearby drawers were open, similar to Kanna’s room, at some point shut but eventually opened due to how much junk was crammed into them. There’s enough room for you to swing open a cupboard and steady yourself on top of it, hands pressed against the plastic furniture for balance. Eventually, you wind up on top of the drawer and are able to climb up to the counter.

Wind shuffles and huffs outside of Kanna’s house as you stare outside of the window, carrying with it a light rain. It formed tear drops on the glass panes, slowly sliding down and down until it merged with another droplet and raced to the end. Beyond the rain is the early rise of dawn, a watercolor mix of purple, yellow, and blue to welcome the new day.

You would dare describe it as pretty.

The sun illuminated much of the street, allowing your eyes to scan it up and down. At the very end of the street, you spot what you need. A pay phone! But a pay phone needs money. Your chances of finding money in Kanna’s home are more likely than you trying to find spare change out there. Maybe they’ll have a change drawer?

You manage to pull open a few cupboards and drawers, but no luck with finding anything that could be used as currency. You do discover that Kanna’s kitchen is full of snacks. You haven’t seen a single vegetable or healthy meal anywhere. Her fridge may be a different story, but your hopes are not high.

You do manage to find some kind of vanilla wafer snack in the shape of a blue fish. It’s not an ideal meal but you make sure to eat some of it and break pieces apart to take with you in case you get hungry later.

It’s no wonder she’s buying all her meals at the convenience store if this is what her kitchen looks like, you think to yourself, wiping large blue crumbs off your face and hands.

It’s only in the very last drawer do you find the change you need. The 10 yen coin is about as big as your chest, reminding you of a large plate more than anything. But it’s all you need to get the pay phone to work!

Now to escape Kanna’s house.

With some string and a torn-up napkin, you wrap everything up and secure it to your back. The jump from the window is bigger than the jump from her dresser, but thankfully you won’t be trying to get back into her home any time soon. Dead plants line the sides of her house, seemingly once taken care of but now left to rot. When you drop an old fork into the decaying greenery, the growth appears to be somewhat bouncy, or at the very least cushioning.

With a leap of faith, you drop out of the window.

Your body skids in the greenery, shooting out into the grass. Spitting out dirt, you rise from where you landed, looking back at Kanna’s house.

You flip your middle finger.

See you later, hopefully never.

You traverse over to the sidewalk, condensation sticking to your body and wetting your dress and hair.

The first thing you’re doing when you’re back to normal is taking a shower, you lament.

The journey to the pay phone takes what feels like half an hour. The sun has risen considerably but was still hidden behind dark rain clouds. But cars began to pass by, and women jogging strollers and businessmen with briefcases occasionally began to stroll past you. Every time someone appeared in the corner of your eye, you would leap to the grass and brush and conceal yourself until they left.

The later it gets the more people are going to start waking up and getting around, you think, I have to hurry up and call Kawajiri’s house!

Finally, you arrive at the pay phone.

Some slouching teen had used it while you were approaching and left the corded phone hanging down. Usually, it would annoy you, but you doubt you could make it up to the pay phone any other away if he hadn’t.

Crawling up the cord is the easiest thing you’ve done thus far. You may not be athletic, but scaling those braided ropes that attach to a gym ceiling back at home was always your forte.

Your hands shake as you unwrap the napkin and shove the yen coin into its slot.

“Zero, three, zero, seven…” you recount the phone number aloud as you press the metal buttons, which click with every tap.

The phone begins to ring.

Quickly scaling down the corded line, your feet jump onto the concrete sidewalk. A dialing sound plays and plays, loud enough for you to hear without putting your ear up to the receiver.

Someone picks up.

“Hello, this is the Kawajiri Household! Dexandra speaking.”

It’s your mother.

“Mom! Can you hear me?”

You shout into the transmitter. You can only imagine what she looks like right now. Hair messy from waking up, but still so peppy and already getting into her work clothes so she could start the day early.

“(Y/N)? Is that you?”

Her voice is so loud compared to yours. It’s gigantic, booming. It nearly hurts your ears.

“Yes! It is! Listen I know this sounds really weird but—”

She interrupts you.

“Hello? I’m sorry, I can’t hear what you’re saying.”

Your mouth opens wide, inhaling the biggest gulp of air that you could, ready to scream that—

You hear a sigh.

Click!

The line goes dead.

Your mom hung up.

Your only good chance of contacting someone you could trust, gone.

“Ugh!”

You quell the desire to punt and kick at the plastic phone, knowing full well you’d hurt yourself if you did. Why couldn’t she hear you? You thought you were being loud enough. Kanna could hear you easily whenever you were talking to her, was her hearing just super good or something? You don’t understand…

A rattling sound fills the air. It’s not from a car, but it fills you with dread all the same. Rushing to a nearby bush, you conceal yourself in the shrubbery, far enough away so that whoever was near wouldn’t be able to see you.

Ring ring!

It’s a bicycle. And riding it is a student from Budo-ga Oka, your school. He wears the exact same uniform as all the other students, and he passes you by unknowingly, going up the street. His hair was light, and you would daresay it looked almost silver.

It isn’t Koichi, too tall to be him, but it's enough for you to be reminded of the three boys you often attached yourself to.

You bite your lip, sinking to your knees.

Could the boys really be your only way of turning back to normal? What if they don’t believe you? What if…?

You’re biting your nails at the idea of finding them in this state. That student gives you an idea of what direction the school is in, and you’d have to get there all on foot. You’re still not entirely used to this area, especially now with how different everything looked.

But you’re out of options.

Your lip trembles.

I’ll just have to put my faith in them, you decide.

With newfound resilience, you step out of the shrubbery and begin to walk up the street, following where you had seen the student go. More and more people are beginning to wake up, and as you travel deeper into the metropolitan area, the more you'll encounter.

A quick glance at a bus map reveals you to be in the outer Northeastern prefect of Morioh, closer to the school than you thought. But the urban areas were full of people and other dangerous things like cars and bikes. The best way to hide would be through shrubbery and greens, but the urban area was mostly barren with the occasional tree and bush. However, the outer edges of Morioh had plenty of nature, which your mom had encouraged you to explore, but you never did. Now, in your current state, it would be even more confusing to traverse. Unless you wanted to be road kill, it’s what you would have to take.

You scamper under bushes and have to patiently wait whenever the occasional mom and child would walk passed you, in a game that reminded you of leapfrog. Water droplets from last night’s rain drench you when you walk underneath metal pipes, and bugs too big for your liking tend to scamper out in front of you at the worst of times.

If anyone were to ask how you reacted to seeing giant mice rummaging through left-out trash inside an alleyway, you would declare them to be no big deal, and would confidently walk past them to get to where you needed to be. But now, your answer consists of a lot more screaming and a lot more running. Something about their beady eyes and sharp claws…

It’s like James and the Giant Peach but it was made by Tim Burton on steroids, you decide. Maybe Burton experienced something like this too and that’s why he made that movie.

You wish he were around to tell you how to get out of this predicament.

There is a nature trail in Morioh that begins in Kotodai park that ends at Yohei swamp. A couple of blocks away from Yohei is Budo-ga Oka. It’s your only sure way to advance towards the high school without being spotted, and at the very least having more hiding options available to you.

You’re willfully ignoring the idea of giant birds and snakes being present because it’s the only thing keeping you going right now.

Spring leaves and flowery trees litter the sky above you. The moody clouds had begun to dissipate, allowing golden rays to shine down from above, but they still clung around threateningly.

You crawl over tree roots and jagged rocks. Whatever trail you’re following has been well paved by human trampling, but things that were normally taken care of by shoes became ten times more annoying. Dirt has stained your skin a dark color to the point you can’t even make out your nails.

It’s midday by the time you emerge from the forest. All of your food is gone, the only way you would be able to get more is to make the daring trek up to Budo-ga Oka. The trail had led to a deep marshy pond, leading you to continue further on to climb up a hill, which had been paved with a road. Most people are at work or school now, and those who are out are still because of lunch. They wouldn’t be going out any time soon.

Your small feet scuttle across the black tar roads, trying not to hiss at the feeling of hot asphalt. Despite the cloudy day, the heat of car tires was enough to keep the ground warm. Hidden underneath some brush at the stopping area in the middle of the street, you spot the tall pale and green structures of the school. There aren’t any students wandering around the halls aimlessly as far as you can see.

It must be around 4th period, you think to yourself.

The fourth period is physical education time, and whenever it rains the night before, the school prefers to have students do activities together in the gym, which is in the back of the school. There should be enough flora for you to hide, and people would be more focused on the games and activities rather than someone sneaking in. Your only problem would be getting Josuke’s, Koichi’s, or Okuyasu’s attention without alerting anyone else.

I’ll just have to get inside and hide underneath the bleachers, whenever the boys are by themselves I can try and get to them!

With the plan decided, you cross once again over the hot road and scamper into a ravine-like area. The opposite side of the slope curved into a hill that could let you get onto equal footing with the school and have a direct line of sight with the gym. It’s much easier to traverse around the school while everyone’s in class, you don’t see a single student or faculty member while trekking to the gym.

The gym technically has three ways to get in.

There’s the front, which you and the general student population take, the side which is primarily used by custodians due to there being a cement path that was easy to roll cleaning supplies on, and the back, which is an emergency exit that no one uses. No alarm is even built into it, and you’re sure it was built as an extra and only dubbed as an emergency exit later on for whatever reason. Your door for today would be the back entrance.

When people use the gym, all the doors tended to be propped up with bricks or heavy bags of sand in order to keep air circulating. The back door is included in this seeing as its right next to the bleachers, and what better way to cool off people resting after an intense game than to have the afternoon air sweeping in?

Sneakers skid on vinyl and dodgeballs thumped into bodies. It's an all out war inside the gym with teams of students split into two. You’re not envious of the teens who got a plastic ball hurled at their face, what a good day to miss.

Peaking out from behind the door, you spy the dozen of student bodies running inside the gym, dodgeballs flung at whoever was closest. Some hung back against the foam-covered wall while others waited in a neat line to be tapped back into the game. It looks like the students were split up at random because you can spy Koichi and Okuyasu on one team and Josuke on the other.

To your surprise, Okuyasu is actually quite adept at playing dodgeball. You’d figure he would trip over his shoes and fall before being bombarded with plastic balls, unable to avoid them, but he’s lithe in a way that would let him dodge anything honing in on him, typically catching the ball in the process.

As for Koichi, it looks like he had been delegated as the support role, catching all of the thrown dodgeballs and tossing them to those in need. If he had a good opening he would wind his arm back and fling it across the gym, occasionally hitting someone, sometimes not.

Josuke's so far away that you can't exactly see him. You would occasionally see glimpses of a familiar pompadour, but the bleachers and tall students all accumulated to where you can’t exactly see everything as much as you would prefer.

“It doesn’t look like either of them are going to get out anytime soon,” you whisper to yourself, watching as Okuyasu and Koichi played.

Maybe the best course of action is to wait underneath the bleachers and wait for the first boy to be tapped out. Depending on how close they’re standing you could probably even hit their ankle with a loose screw or tug on their shoe to get their attention on to you.

No one is paying attention to any of the open doors as you quietly edge yourself in, grimacing when your feet hit the dirty gym floor. With no time to think about how much you wanted to die, you scurry underneath the bleachers which are, unsurprisingly, even more dirty. Your skin is begging to detach from your body and leave your skeleton to deal with the turn of events. However, you will yourself to step further and further underneath the bleachers and do your best not to look down.

Scores of light beams shone through the cracks and edges of the metal bleachers. While you were drenched in darkness, you were still able to see everyone quite clearly, and as you approached the other side of the gym, you finally spotted Josuke.

Like Okuyasu, he too is on the front lines, dishing and catching dodgeballs like it's nothing. He doesn’t look like he’s about to be hit anytime soon either, so it would be a waiting game of seeing who got hit first. But fourth period would have to end eventually, and if you don’t manage to catch their attention before then… you shudder at the idea of having to enter the school or wait for them to leave once the day ends.

As the game goes on, you shoot a silent prayer to whatever deity is watching overhead that something happens. You don’t care what, just get someone out!

It’s as if the heavens parted at your request. The outstretched hand of God with a bright red dodgeball ready to impart heavenly judgment. It rolls off the tips of His fingers and falls into the realm of Man and into Koichi’s hands. He throws it to Okuyasu.

“Let’s see how good you really are at dodging!” The taller teen cackled, his arm winding back.

Josuke had a look of confidence on his face.

“Bring it!”

The dodgeball shoots across the gym floor. Okuyasu had thrown it underhandedly, a straight line forming into a curve that would no doubt come into contact with Josuke’s pompadour. But right as it neared, a pink and blue hand appeared. It happened so fast that your eyes barely comprehended what you were seeing

“No cheating, Josuke!” you heard Okuyasu shout, the teen in question grimacing. The hand disappeared.

“Ugh!”

A loud smack echoed in the gym as the dodgeball came into contact with Josuke’s face. A mix of boos and hollers echoed across the gym as Josuke joined the line of people who now had to wait to be tapped back in as the dodgeball war raged on. As thankful as you are that someone was out of the game, you couldn’t help but wonder what that flickering shadow was.

With no time to think about it you scamper over to the other side of the gym. You can spot Josuke’s annoyed face, his cheeks slightly red, and you can’t tell if it's because he’s embarrassed or if the dodgeball had done that much damage.

“Psst!”

You don’t immediately catch his attention. He’s busy watching the game with a grumpy demeanor, arms crossed and everything.

“Josuke!”

His ears perk up. Josuke turns his head from side to side to see if it was someone on his team trying to catch his attention, but they too were focused on the game. The voice who called for him sounded… familiar.

It was then that a look of realization struck his face.

“(Y/N)?” he mutters out loud, unsure if he had actually heard you.

You let out a small sigh of sweet relief. Finally!

“Yes! Now get behind the bleachers.”

He looks hesitant at first as if trying to determine if this was some odd prank, but he left the line nonetheless and entered the back of the bleachers. He has to duck underneath the metal seats, squinting as he peered out into the darkness.

“(Y/N)? Where are you?”

His foot nearly knocks into you, but you manage to scramble away in the knick of time.

“Look down!”

He does as he’s told.

“O-Oh, cr—!”

You pat his calf like one would pet an anxious dog who just found out the real reason its owners acted so happy about going to the park.

“Not so loud!” you try and shush, it’s enough for him to quiet down at least, but he still isn’t over the fact about your current height.

“What the? Why are you so small?”

Josuke bends down like he’s talking to a child but that still isn’t enough to curb the massive height difference.

“Some girl shrunk me—“

You reach out your arms and Josuke, understanding the gesture, awkwardly picks you up so you could sit on the palm of his hand. Steadying yourself on your knees, you point a shaky finger at his chest.

“—And I need you to go fight her for me so I can turn big again.”

Josuke looks unusually worried. Maybe you should’ve thrown a please in there, somewhere.

“Ah, geez…”

He is taking this unusually well, you think suspiciously. A little too well.

If you saw a doll-sized person you would be convinced you were talking to a fairy or a hallucination. And while unnerved, Josuke looked like he had at least some semblance of what was going on. Maybe he’s just very good at staying calm under weird conditions, you try and think.

“What is it?” You ask, suspicious.

Josuke breaks down immediately upon hearing your question.

“I’m sorry the guys and I have been ignoring you this last week!”

You balk. He flat-out admitted it. The thing you wanted to hear but at the totally wrong time!

“What does that have to do with anything!?”

You rock his hand back and forth to emphasize your point, only to nearly fall off in the process. Before you could think Josuke’s other hand scoops you up as he babbles and blabbers about stuff that doesn’t even make sense. Standing? Joy-Tyro’s? And something that sounded like it came from a Pink Floyd album?

Your brain can’t handle his rapid chattering. You can only stare, face squished with cringe as you watched him go on and on, not even noticing how confused you look.

“Ya dig?” he finally asks.

“Uh, yes, I dig,” you say. You do not dig. You’ll ask him to repeat whatever he said later.

Josuke takes a big gulp of relief, sliding onto the floor. If he cares about how dusty it is, he doesn’t show it. He genuinely looks relieved, still holding your body firmly in his hands like he were to drop you again. The warmth from his body reminds you of a hug that one may receive from a parent, very comforting. You would melt into it if you were not careful.

“I’m so glad I could be honest,” he sighs. “I’m way too used to everyone having a Stand nowadays.”

Everyone?

Your ears perk up at that. You wonder if other people had powers similar to Kanna. Did Josuke have a power like that?

“But who did this to you again? Some, some crazy chick?” He clarifies, lifting his dangling head to look at you.

“Yes, the girl I had lunch with,” you say, hands grasping your hair into twin tails. “The one with the braids.”

“Geez, not kewl. I guess everybody in Morioh’s a Stand ??? nowadays!” Josuke groans, finally standing up.

You nod along like you know what he’s talking about.

“Is she here at school?” he asks, approaching the bleachers. The light shining through illuminated glimpses of his hair, skin, and clothes. Maybe because of your current predicament, you’re starting to see things from a new perspective.

He has very pretty blue eyes, you think to yourself.

But now those very pretty eyes are being directed at you, inquisitively.

You had taken a little too long to answer his question.

You stammer, hoping he hadn’t caught you staring.

“No! She’s uh, at…” you think back to where you last saw her, at her house, only to realize something embarrassing.

It’s the fourth period. She could have totally left home and be anywhere in Morioh by now, or even the country if she was bold enough! And without her to turn you back…

You would be stuck like this. Permanently.

Josuke watches as you devolve into a hysterical mess right in his hand into a language that he couldn’t place.

“We have to find her as soon as possible! I don’t want to be this small ???! I still have so much ??? and I don’t want ??? ??? doing it ??? wearing Barbie ???!”

You’re grabbing at his hand like it could somehow help your situation. It doesn’t.

His attempts at comforting are ignored. “You won’t be stuck like that, we just have to find out—”

He quickly learns its best for you to just vent your frustrations and tire yourself out until you’re out of breath and can’t speak any longer.

“Feeling better?”

“I’m—huff!—very hungry but—puff!—other than that I'm good,” you heave, practically spitting at this point. Dehydration and hunger are really starting to get to you.

“I have a beef sandwich from lunch you can eat while we find this chick. Where’s the last time you saw her?”

“At her house,” you admit, flushed. Goodness, that sandwich sounds amazing right about now. “But it took me forever to get here, so I don’t know if she’ll even be there now. And I don’t know if she’s at school or somewhere else.”

“The only way for us to know is to ???.”

You don’t like the way he said that. On one hand, it’s very sure, on the other, he has an equally sure look on his face that you don’t know how to interpret. Daring, maybe?

Before you can ask him to elaborate, he begins walking through the bleachers to the other side of the gym.

“Okuyasu! Koichi!”

Josuke’s voice was loud enough to reverberate across the gym floor and over to where the boys stood. They couldn’t see him until he emerged from behind the bleachers with a look that said they needed to talk.

You hear two loud smacks shortly after, followed by out roar. Calls of cheating echo in the gym as Josuke leads the two boys into the back of the gym. Neither Okuyasu nor Koichi questioned him on why he wanted them to get out of the game, and you’re honestly quite impressed about the high levels of nonverbal communication going on.

“We don’t have much time, so I need to explain this quickly.”

An air of seriousness grew despite the chaos of the ball game happening in the background upon hearing Josuke's words. And then he shows your almost comedic form to Okuyasu and Koichi.

“(Y/N) got into a fight with a female Stand ??? so now we need to go and find her but we don’t have any idea where she is right now and I need you guys to search the school while we search her house.”

Josuke had to take a quick breath as the two boys loomed over you, unsure of what to say.

“Anyone have any questions?”

“Man, we’ll have so much to talk about when you’re you-sized again!” Okuyasu exclaimed. “I’d love it if I was small like you for a day!”

“And I’d love it if I was big like you,” you say wryly, but he doesn’t really catch your annoyed tone.

Koichi has the most sincere, sympathetic look on his face. At the end of the day, you were each other's first official school friend, before all of this weird ‘Stand’ stuff and crazy-powered girls.

“I’m really sorry this happened to you, but just know we’ll do our absolute best to track her down so you can return to normal.”

Oh, Koichi, you can’t help but think tenderly. What a reliable guy.

“It’s the girl we saw yesterday during lunch, the one with the braids,” Josuke elaborated. “She’s in the same grade as us.”

“I don’t think I’ve seen her at all before this,” Koichi recalls his hand on his chin. “We’ll start searching though.”

“What about (Y/N)? She’s ??? small so she could definitely get easily hurt like this,” Okuyasu pointed out, while the other two nodded.

“Well, someone needs to keep an eye on her.”

You’re too busy thinking about what to do. No matter what, you want to be with whoever finds Kanna first. Turning back to normal is your main goal. If Okuyasu and Koichi haven’t seen her all day, even now as all the classes play inside of the gym, she most likely isn’t here. You’d have to take a chance and see if she’s still at her house.

“I can stick with Josuke,” you offer, to which they could see no issue with that.

With that said, everyone split up. It’s easy to sneak past the huddled-up teachers, who stuck to themselves and occasionally made sure the students weren’t acting too outlandish.

“Jotaro explained to me this one time that Stand ??? are attracted to each other,” Josuke explains to you.

He had taken you inside of the boy’s changing room, and now you sat on a bench, patiently waiting for something in particular. Not a moment later, bread and some type of meat is shoved into your face. You’ve never thrown yourself at food faster in your life.

“So we’re bound to find her eventually!”

With a small girl in his hand and a half-eaten sandwich in the other, Josuke discreetly leaves the locker room and gym. You had explained in the midst of your eating about your trek to get to the school area.

“If there’s a chance she’s out there looking for you, she may try and take a similar route as you,” Josuke exclaimed.

He strides around the school, sliding down the grassy hill that you had climbed up earlier. Cars fly passed you on the street, and people walk on the sidewalk left and right. Once he had an opportunity, Josuke quickly jogged across the street, coming to the entrance of the forest.

You’re too busy stuffing your face with bread and sliced ham, occasionally tapping Josuke’s hand to give you more, to properly answer him. You’re sure you’re gorging yourself at this point, but this is a food high that you do not want to come down from.

Dirt and dried leaves rustle as Josuke walks underneath the growing trees, the sun glittering between the green.

“Is there anything else you wanna know?” He asks at one point. “About Stands I mean.”

Sure, you think to yourself, like what the hell is it?

“It’s basically superpowers, right? Like Superman?” you guess, to which Josuke nods enthusiastically.

“Yes, exactly like Superman! Except, they can do a lot more than that. Some can repair things, or like, swipe away space, and one does this really cool that that's like an egg—”

As Josuke explained everything to you, you nod along, munching away at your food. But as Josuke walked through the forest, another sound joined the buzzing flies and crinkling leaves.

“—N)!”

That voice.

“(Y/N)-chan!”

There’s an ache in your back. You can’t help but lean over in pain, dropping whatever bits of food you had in your hands.

“Are you under here?”

Josuke recognizes her within an instant. “It’s—”

“—Kanna!” you groan, placing a hand over your mouth.

The girl stands in the middle of the trail, clueless about your presence. She was bent down, her hands holding up a large slate of rock that had been merged with the dirt ground. Her eyes darted around, catching sight of bugs, ants, and dried greens, but no small person anywhere. After what felt like too long, she looks up.

Red eyes lock with yours

“(Y/N)-chan!” she gasps. “I’ve been looking all over for you!”

Despite her enthusiasm to see you, she doesn’t rush over, as if sensing some kind of negative energy from Josuke.

“I can’t say the same,” you utter, feeling particularly horrible at the moment. Are you going to hurl?

“She doesn’t seem hostile at the moment,” Josuke mumbles, low enough for only you to hear. “Is it possible to talk her down and see if she’d be willing to turn you back to normal?”

You weakly nod. But didn’t she turn you this way because of her weird gun powers? Would she use it again to turn Josuke small too? You’re not really sure.

“Hey, listen, I’m kinda against fighting girls so I’m just gonna ask nicely,” Josuke began.

Him finally speaking sparked Kanna’s attention, as she lifts her eyes from gazing at you to look at him. Whatever enthusiasm she had for you left her body, her stare that of a corpse.

“Could you reverse whatever you’ve done to my friend here?”

Josuke holds you out in case she would mistake anything else for the friend he’s referring to. She looks from him back to you, and then back to him.

“No.”

“N-no?” Josuke coughs, rubbing the back of his neck. “Well, there’s a first for anything.”

“Crazy Diamond!”

A large figure suddenly appears, making you jolt at the rush of air that had enough force to blow your hair back.

“Beastie Boy!”

Your eyes widen at the sight in front of you. A man, you think, stood in front of you and Josuke. His skin is a bright pink, hidden underneath blueish metal plates that protected his muscles. Oddest of all are the metal tubes running along his back and connecting to his neck.

You could just barely make out Kanna’s figure from behind the strange man. She stood with her body looking away, her shoulders facing you. It reminded you of a cowboy stance. In her hand gleamed a shiny piece of metal, bright neon lines running up and down its sides. It looked like a piece of science fiction, a pistol straight from outer space.

“Wh-what the…” you can’t help but stammer, unsure of what the hell is going on. Where did this random dude come from, could he even take on a bullet wound?!

“So that’s what you used to shrink (Y/N),” Josuke gathered with a smirk. “What, you gonna shrink me too?”

“I only shrink cute things,” Kanna retorts. Red eyes glance at him, uncaring. “And you’re not cute.”

Before either of you could react, a small object is tossed into the air. The blue and pink man braces, but falters as all three of you react to what had been thrown. A simple pebble, now coming back to Earth.

A laugh irrupts from Josuke. “You really think that’s gonna—”

Zap!

Darkness looms over you. The pebble had doubled, no, tripled times a million in size. A boulder with enough mass to do some serious damage now falls from the sky, air whistling.

“Crazy Diamond!”

Dust and debris explode in your face, your hands darting to cover your eyes. Chunks of rock were carved out of the boulder, shooting into the grass around.

Zap!

By the time your eyes clear, another mountain of rock appears. More soot and other fine particles fill the air. The amount makes your eyes sting and burn and judging by the way Josuke is hissing, it’s affecting him too. His grip on you ebbs from ridiculously tight to loose, his hands instinctively wanting to protect his eyes.

“Got ya’,” simpers a voice.

Before either you or Josuke can react, you’re snatched away, now in a particular someone’s grip. She dashes away into the forest.

“Let me go!”

You kick and squirm, but Kanna holds onto you with both fists. Josuke’s shouting something—you can’t exactly bother to translate while you're being tugged and jumbled around. Her shoes slide on the slick forest ground, the sound of panting filling the air. One of her hands briefly leaves you for a moment, a gun holding it the next. She squeezes an eye shut and aims for a tree, at a limb that dangled from above.

“Josuke, watch out!” you warn, but it’s too late.

Zap!

You watch with your own eyes as a beam of bright green light shoots from Kanna’s gun, hitting the tree limb. At first, it simply falls, but that’s not enough to impede Josuke’s warpath. Instead, it cracks and groans as it expands midair. What was once the size of a desk is now the size of a truck.

A heavy boom echoes across the forest, birds crying at the sound. You hear Josuke yelp, followed by a loud thump. Sighing, you do your best to analyze your situation. Kanna’s grip on you is deathly, and being thrown and tossed around is doing nothing to your already sickly mood. You don’t have enough strength in you to bite, it looks like it’d be all up to talking now.

“Why are you doing this?” you demand, bracing yourself in her hand.

Kanna leaps out of the forest, nearly into traffic. Horns blare as her knees scrape onto the concrete. Her breath is ragged as she barrels into whatever area she could run in, deciding on a small strip of pavement in front of stores and shops.

“Those stupid boys were just gonna hurt you some more!” she panted.

The sound of a certain boy graced both of your ears, and she squealed, turning into a damp alleyway. Red shoes splash into dirty water, wetting anything in its vicinity. She takes out the gun again.

Zap!

Trash litters the ground as Kanna punts over a bin, aiming at anything in sight. Half-eaten apples, mushy cardboard boxes, anything was game if it meant interrupting Josuke. They grow and pulse in size, a wave of odor filling the already tight space. You gag at the smell.

“I couldn’t let that happen to you, I won’t let that happen to you!”

Kanna bursts out from the alley and onto the pavement, her sneakers leaving skid marks at the rate she was running. You bobbed up and down in her hand, clutching her fingers akin to a floating device in choppy waters. It doesn’t do much to help whatever starting to brew in your stomach.

“I know how boys are. I know how the other kids at our school are!” Kanna exclaimed. “They’re just being nice because they feel sorry for you, and once they’ve had a good laugh, they’ll just start ignoring you. And once they get tired of that, they’ll start bullying you!”

“But—” you try and explain, but Kanna is rambling at this point. You can’t even make a dent in her words.

“You don’t have to worry about that if you’re with me! If you stay, we can go back home, and I can be the true friend that you deserve, the true sister you deserve!”

You’re not even sure what to say to her at this point. All you can do is stare at her hands with an emotion you can't really place.

“Oh, Kanna…”

She runs as best as she can in her predicament, her knees occasionally buckling underneath her weight. You’re not sure if the stress from the situation is what's bringing her down or what. She doesn’t take you back to her house, instead trailing off into what you suspect would be the least desirable part of town. Soon, she stands in front of a wood and glass door, a sign pinned to the top saying ‘closed’.

She enters without a second thought.

Whatever this building used to be, it’s incredibly worn down now. The windows have been boarded up, seats and stools covered in plastic blankets, and broken tabletops laying around aimlessly. Kanna takes no note of the things around her, instead choosing to go behind a nearby bar area, and right before she enters a kitchen, takes a stark turn right and heads up a compact set of stairs. You spot stars and moons painted on a wooden board before light blinds your eyes.

Wind whooshes past your ears, the scent of nature tickling your nose. Your eyes slowly adjust.

Kanna stands on a rooftop terrace, barred with metal railings and overgrown plants. Pools of ratty pillows and blankets cover the floor. In one spot metal poles are stuck through the ground, a tarp connected to each one. Most impressive of all are the plants in every nook and cranny. You can almost recognize some of them. There are some hydrangeas sitting in a puddle of water, and overgrown bamboo in another. A small tree sits in a terracotta pot in the middle of it all, quite pitiful in comparison to all the things that grew around it.

Kanna stumbles over to the shade and practically throws herself at a particularly large futon. You can only groan with discomfort, the nauseating sensation that began earlier now almost too much for you to bear. It was eating that sandwich, wasn’t it? Should not have eaten so much…

She holds you close to her chest. No matter how much she tries to breathe in through her nose and exhale through her mouth she can’t seem to do it. She ends up sputtering at the last moment, ruining the whole process. You don’t feel like you are in the best of moods either.

“Kanna, you have to let me go,” you plead.

There’s enough wiggle room in her grip for you to twist your body around to face her. Sweat glistened on her face, sliding down her cheeks and nose.

“I’m sorry if you’ve ever been treated poorly,” you continue. “But these guys aren’t like that.”

“How do you know?” she hiccups, an unintelligible look in her eyes. You think she may actually be crying.

“You said they weren’t talking to you after something happened,” she repeats, making you think back to your conversation yesterday.

Suddenly, her gaze hardens. “Let me guess, something that made them think you’re a weirdo?”

You had worried about that incessantly before this moment, before Josuke and Kanna took you on some wild chase, before you were even made small in the first place. But now you knew that your friends wouldn’t abandon you over such trivial things.

“I know they aren’t like that,” you stress. “And if you got to know them, I think you would too.”

Kanna’s grip slowly begins to loosen, enough for you to wiggle out. You don’t try to scamper off, instead opting to sit on her chest, and cup her cheek.

“Kanna,” you say. Her eyes flutter to meet yours.

“If you’re still up for it, I think we could be friends.”

She chokes up. “Really?”

“Really, really.”

All in all, you think Kanna is just some traumatized girl who stewed in her own craziness for a little too long. Although you would never go to the lengths she did in order to gain a friend, you understood where she was coming from. Not having any friends could make people do some strange things. Who knows, if you hadn’t met Koichi first, maybe Kanna would have been your first friend here.

“I finally caught up to ya!”

Both of you jump at the sound of a certain someone's voice. As if on instinct, Kanna sat up and reached up her skirt, with you tumbling off into some pillows. What she pulled out is that shiny metal gun that she had used prior.

Josuke pulls himself up from that tight space that led from the stairs to the terrace. He’s understandably heaving, Kanna having given him a run for his money despite her poor shape, and sweat is practically dripping from him thanks to the workout. But behind him is an opaque figure, his body almost shining.

It’s that blue and pink guy from earlier, you realize.

“Wait, Josuke! We're good now—!” you try to explain, but Kanna’s hands almost can’t stay still on her weapon.

Even worse, her index finger is right by the trigger. Her trigger safety is one of the worst you’ve seen.

Zap!

“W-woah!”

Josuke falls over, the shot missing him by a wide margin. Kanna’s nervous demeanor allowed her to aim in his general direction, but her jumpiness is what made her accidentally hit the tiny terracotta tree instead. The ground rumbles with the sensation that reminds you of an earthquake, roots stabbing into the cement ground and intertwining with the plaster and metal below. Before long, a ginormous tree stood planted on top of the deserted shop, covering the area with luscious shade.

I’m actually surprised the shop isn’t caving in on itself, you think to yourself, impressed more than anything with the foundation this place apparently had.

Oh, right! De-escalation time!

Stumbling away from the pillows, you dash across the terrace and narrowly avoid the curling roots.

“Josuke! It’s all good now! We’re cool!” you shout.

Josuke is propped up on his back, seemingly having been knocked over by the sudden spurt in growth from the tree. His eyes are trained on the swirl of leaves and tree limbs, which are curled in physically soothing patterns. You move to stand beside him, carefully stepping over all the sharp and jagged edges lining the floor.

“Oh, that’s good, that’s cool…” Josuke repeats, before falling onto his back and slapping his hands on his eyes.

“So did I miss everything? Like all the talking down stuff?” he asks, before eyeing you. “Unless you guys… fought?”

“No fighting,” you clarify. “I think she needed a friend.”

Josuke nods understandingly, before glancing away.

“So are you gonna be turning back to normal sometime soon, or…”

You blink. Good point.

Josuke stands and with your permission, carries you back over to Kanna.

“Some guy shot me with an arrow a while ago,” the girl explains.

Josuke stands by her side as she fiddles with her gun, flipping a switch on the side. The two of them had begun to talk about ‘Stand’ stuff after some slight probing from Josuke. Not understanding a lick of it, you decided it's best to stick in your lane. Meanwhile, you rock back and forth on the balls of your heel, patiently waiting for whatever Kanna needed to do to turn you back.

“And I got this gift soon after,” she continues, aiming at you from down the barrel of her gun. “It's awesome for stealing snacks from the quick mart.”

So those snacks weren’t obtained legally, you think with a moot face. Darn it.

“Was it a guy with blond hair?” Josuke asks.

Kanna shoots him an odd look.

“What? No.”

She recenters her left eye, finding you within her sight.

“It was purple.”

Zap!

A bright green laser streaks out of the gun, hitting you right in the stomach. The moment it did, dizzying lights and colors danced across your vision and you couldn’t help but kneel over to try and grasp something. You’re going to hurl.

You feel someone touch your shoulder and arm but you’re having none of it. Once your vision clears you dart over to the nearest railing and lean over. There’s no point in trying to stop it now.

“Are you—?”

Something warm rests on your back. And then it's like the dam burst.

Torn bits of a ham sandwich and vanilla wafers mixed with stomach acid drop onto the pavement below. A horrible aftertaste covered your tongue and you couldn’t help but try to spit it out. Knowing that you had basically wretched up everything you’ve eaten over the last ten hours, you wrap your arms around your head and try to reel in your breathing to be as quiet as possible.

Why did I have to puke in front of Josuke…?

That’s the only miserable thought running in your head right now.

You can hear Kanna and Josuke arguing about something in the background. It is not adding to your positive experience. Something about her powers, something about you, something about you and arrows?

Forget it, you’re tapped out for the day.

Hands help coax you to the floor, a warm presence settling by your side. You can’t see who you’re sitting beside. It’s not Kanna. The person is far too big to be her. That only leaves Josuke.

But when your eyes crack open to ask what the heck they’re talking about, you see Josuke standing in front of a nervous Kanna, who appeared to be desperately trying to explain something to him. But if he was there, then who are you leaning on?

Your head turns.

A pink face hidden underneath a silver helmet with the most piercing eyes you’ve ever seen looks back at you. Your eyes shine with recognition.

This dude is insanely comfortable, you can’t help but tiredly think, choosing to instead lean into him even more.

When he glances back to make sure you weren’t planning on upchucking on yourself, Josuke couldn’t help the shocked look on his face as he watched his Stand practically coddle you.

“Wait, (Y/N).”

Josuke catches your attention, and you wearily open your eyes to look at him.

“Can you see him?” he asks. “My Stand?”

“Stand?” you repeat, before looking back at the guy who sat next to you, then turning to stare inquisitively at Josuke. “What, this guy?”

It’s one thing to explain a Stand to a terrified Japanese kid, but it's another to explain it to an energy-deprived Foreigner who probably has no concept of time at the moment.

Kanna and Josuke talk more as you slowly fall asleep in the corner.

“Who did you get that arrow from?” Josuke reiterates, his tone now bordering on annoyance.

“I told you I don’t know!” Kanna whines. “I was walking home one day and some guy shot an arrow into my foot. His aim was so bad he played it off as him practicing for hunting so I gave the arrow back to him. I guess some of it broke off in my shoe and I decided to keep it once I got my Beastie Boy.”

“Fine,” Josuke relents with a sigh, trying to mentally remember everything that she was saying. On a scale of one through ten, how pleased would Jotaro be later tonight when Josuke catches him up to speed?

Is -100 on the scale?

“And you struck (Y/N) with it at your home?” He clarifies, trying not to think too much about it.

Kanna nods enthusiastically, but upon seeing his pointed look, it slows, embarrassed. “Well, yeah, ‘cause I thought it would make us inseparable…”

Josuke takes a brief glance at the nearly asleep girl who had fallen asleep on his Stand, who watched over her like a curious animal.

“But she hasn’t shown any hints of being a Stand user other than being able to see other Stands,” he notes, before rubbing his face with irritation. Just another thing to add to the Jotaro list.

“Listen, Kanna—” he starts, but the girl gives him a heated look.

“Kutsuki—”

“Yeah, I’m not calling you that. Listen. I’m going to take our friend here home so she can rest and get some energy back in her. There’s a man who knows a lot more about this kinda thing compared to me and I think you should go give him a talk about what you know.”

He leaves her with a name and a hotel number written on a sticky note. Kanna talking to Jotaro is more of a ‘you are going to talk to him’ thing rather than a ‘think about it and get back to me!’ kind of thing. But Josuke needed to get a girl back home before anything more bizarre happened.

Crazy Diamond watches as Josuke awkwardly stands in front of the passed-out girl, trying to decipher what the best way to carry a sleeping person would be.

Having noticed the visible shadow hanging over you instead of the bright sun, you slowly open up a single eye.

“We leavin’?” you ask, to which he nods, a flush on his cheeks as he steps back to let you stand.

Propped up on the bar, you attempt to stand with your own two legs, but once you’re fully upright, you nearly fall onto your knees.

“Careful!” Josuke chastizes, catching your arm. He wraps an arm around your waist in order to have you lean on him, but due to the drastic size difference, it feels like you’re being stretched on one of those medieval torturing racks. Maybe it’s the combination of your poor appetite, being shrunk and then resized, and getting pierced with a dirty arrow that’s making you feel so sickly.

So many options to pick from, you think enthusiastically, a slight grimace on your lips.

Josuke is quick to take note. In a split-second decision, he practically flings himself to the ground, steadying himself on his bent knees. He mumbles something you can’t hear.

“What?” you repeat, blinking. You could really go to sleep right about now.

Josuke glances at you from underneath his pompadour and brow, a moody huff leaving his lips. “I said, I can carry you on my back. If you want me to…”

He said that last part so quietly you’re not really sure you heard it. But if you could pick between passing out on a random roof or in your bed, you’ll be picking the latter. You gently place your arms over his shoulders, waiting for him to reach back and hook your legs around his waist. He almost hesitates, but you soon feel his hands touching your bare thighs.

I kinda forgot I was wearing a dress for a while, you lazily think.

Saying goodbye to Kanna, Josuke makes his way down the stairs and into the old shop. The sun makes your eyes squint as he steps outside, adjusting you on his back, and deciding which direction he wanted to carry you off. He decides to go left.

You sort of melt on his back. Your arms loop themselves around his neck, and you’ve found an excellent place to rest your head near the crook of his neck.

“So who is that guy anyway?” you mumble, staring at your reflection in the passing store windows.

“Guy?” Josuke repeats. “You mean my Stand?”

“Sure,” you say, not really knowing the difference.

For a brief moment, he appears in front of you. Blue energy surrounds him, his lower half fading away to where he only exists from the torso up. He has a very strict look on his face. You’re not sure why. You reach out a hang, nearing his face. You briefly poke the cool metal of his helmet. And after that he disappears, leaving you to stare at your reflection once more.

“I call him Crazy Diamond.”

“‘Cause he’s so crazy?”

Josuke cracks a chuckle at your suggestion.

“Nah, close guess though.”

The two of you travel in silence after that.

You’re not sure how long the walk back takes. Eventually, you arrive at Kawajiri’s home and Josuke has to set you down.

You should carry me more often, you can’t help but think to yourself.

It’s still early in the afternoon, neither your mom nor Kawajiri will be home at this hour. You find the door key hidden underneath the door mat. You let yourself in, and as Josuke is about to say his goodbyes and tell you to rest up, you cut him off.

“Josuke,” you say, catching his attention.

He stops and waits for you to say whatever needed to be said.

“We should have dinner tomorrow.”

And without even giving him an opportunity to respond, you shut the door in his face.

The dress is the first to go. It’s flung somewhere in the hall as you approach the guest bathroom. A quick rinse isn’t enough to fully get rid of the grime that streaked itself across your arms and legs, but it’s enough for now. You meander upstairs and pull on the closest shirt and shorts, falling to your bed. The sheets have never felt so good, your pillows so soft—

Ope, wait a second, that’s just Celine.

She bats her paws in your face but you’re too tired to do anything but lift your head and allow her to scurry off. When you fall asleep you dream of pink men with blue armor, all the while unaware as the television on your dresser flickered on and off.

It started with the news channel, sunny showers are expected for the next week. Then it flashed to a children’s cartoon, animated characters with large eyes and smiles dancing across the screen. The screen then elapses into darkness, seemingly having turned itself off. Only for smaller black and white boxes to light up the space. In the middle of it all sits a lily with a single caged egg resting against its style.

Finally, the television shuts off with a soft crackle.

Chapter 8: viii. shine on you crazy diamond

Chapter Text

CHAPTER EIGHT—

OF CHILDHOOD AND STARDOM

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

The morning after, you feel surprisingly refreshed. Almost twelve hours of deep, impenetrable sleep that not even your mom nor Kawajiri could wake you from. It was an okay sleep, not the best you’ve had in your lifetime, but definitely up there. You take a long shower and scrub your body to hell and back, making sure not even one spot would be covered in yesterday’s dirt.

A knock sounds at the door as you wipe away all the dirt on your breakfast dishes. Today you have a nice peanut butter pancake drizzled in syrup. What you find at the door are two students, a boy with a pompadour, and a girl with newly bleached hair.

“Oh, your hair,” you note, touching your own wet locks.

“Yeah!” Kanna exclaims, a bashful blush on her cheeks. “Do you like it?”

Josuke coughs beside her. His arm bumps into her back.

“Oh, right!”

She pulls a backpack onto the floor and zips it open to reveal a set of freshly washed clothes. Specifically, your uniform that she had taken at some point when she dressed you into that doll dress. You struggle not to think about how she had you switch clothes.

“Washed it and dried it for you,” Kanna explains, twiddling with her fingers as she watched you pull everything out.

Everything resting on your arm, you thank her. “Would you like to come in?”

“Yes!” Kanna barrels past you, sticking her nose into every nook and cranny she could get fit into.

You hear a loud yip not soon after. She had found Celine.

“I’ll make sure she won’t break anything,” Josuke assures you. “We’ll wait for you to go change.”

With that said, you head upstairs to your room and change into your school uniform. True to his word, Josuke manages to make sure Kanna doesn’t knock anything over and was even able to coax her to sit on the couch with him and watch some children’s cartoon on the television.

“Ready to go?” Josuke asks when you stand in front of them, freshly changed and back hooked around your shoulders. You give him a nod, not being able to help the relieved smile on your face.

Man, you really lucked out, huh?

“Yay! Then let's go!”

Kanna takes your hand in hers and rushes you out of the house, Josuke in tow. She, unfortunately, has to wait like a sullen puppy when you stop her to lock the door behind you, before giving the go-ahead to continue your walk to school.

On the way to school, you pick up Okuyasu and Koichi. The sidewalks couldn’t hold all of you, so you and Josuke were relegated to the front with the other two boys and Kanna in the back. You could hear Okuyasu and Kanna chattering away about something you could only imagine while wasted to the high heavens, Koichi occasionally chiming in to rectify slight misunderstandings.

“Excited for tonight?” you ask Josuke.

You don’t have to worry about keeping your voice down low, seeing as everyone else was excitedly talking away behind you.

“You bet! My mom was wondering if your mom wanted her to prepare something to send over with me, like a casserole,” he elaborated.

Having known your mother for the last sixteen years, you know she would be flattered at the offer, but had enough of that Southern American hospitality to refuse and would rather send Josuke home with leftovers instead. You reject his offer in her stead.

“We’re going to have spaghetti with meatballs and garlic bread,” you tell him.

“Italian, right? Speaking of, there’s this new Italian restaurant that just opened up. Okuyasu and I were thinking about going…”

School goes off without a hitch. You’re lucky to have not missed anything of real importance, but Koichi was kind enough to go over certain chapters and homework that you needed to catch up on. Okuyasu would chime in with what he would believe was right, only for both Josuke and Koichi to tell him no, Albert Einstein was not the creator of the Pythagorean Theorem, and correct him on whatever other misconceptions he had.

For lunch, your mom packed you a ham and cheese sandwich. Kanna ends up eating it anyway after giving you some kind of cold noodle stew she had snagged from the quick-mart. When you ask her if she had bought it with her own money, she looks away nervously.

After school, you pay a visit to Hazamada. Two sullen school students sit outside as you and he read Pink Dark Boy, bored to death as they try to find ways to entertain themselves. The reading mainly consists of you trying to read the manga out loud while Hazamada corrects you on your grammar mistakes. He still doesn’t explain why he was so pushy with that fake-Josuke guy, no matter how much you pry.

When you eventually finish the first volume of Pink Dark Boy, he looks nervous. There’s nothing else to talk about between the two of you. He won’t divulge why he was so strange, or really talk about school, so what else could you possibly bring up?

For a boy who pushes everyone away so much, he sure does dislike it when they eventually start to leave him alone.

No worries though.

“I checked out Volume 2 from the library,” you tell him. You show him the pink and green cover of the next book, including the laminated library sticker on its spine.

Hazamada’s face is jutted out to the side and his dark hair is covering his face. If you try and peak from underneath, you can see his lips trembling and pulled back in a pout. You like to think he appreciates the gesture.

Now for the next and final stop...

“Mom, I’m home!” you drawl, slipping off your shoes absentmindedly.

Kanna’s eyes zero in on that lazy cat sprawled on top of a coffee table, speeding past you so she could coo over the animal and entice her with fluffy toys.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

Your mother and Josuke begin to talk as she assures him that all he needed to do was relax after a hard day of school, while Kawajiri helped Kanna by showing her how to get Celine interested in a toy wand.

The tiredness from the day before still hasn’t gone away, and you can’t help but fully lean into the old couch Kawajiri had placed inside the living room. It’s not comfortable at all you insist, no matter how many times Josuke asks why you seem so sleepy when laying on it. One moment you’re lazily gazing at Kanna playing with Celine, the next your eyes are fluttering closed.

Just for a couple of minutes, you assure yourself. There’s no way I could fall asleep like this. I’m still in my school clothes.

Dexy, your mother, couldn’t help but keep praising Josuke for how helpful he had been. He had offered to set up the table for everyone, helped make the garlic bread, and saved the meatballs from getting burnt in the oven. It appeared to her that he was just a helpful, lovely boy whose mother clearly raised him right. If Okuyasu or Koichi were there, they would notice how nervous he was acting. Neurotic even. What for? Even he couldn’t explain why.

“Could you go tell them that everything’s ready? I just need to plate this garlic bread…”

He nearly jumps out of his slippers upon hearing your mom’s voice from behind him. Metal cutlery moving against ceramic dishes could be heard as she set aside portions of pasta and sauce on each plate. The entire house is warm and smells of a blend combing European and American herbs, it made Josuke feel cozy inside just by being near the atmosphere.

“Of course,” Josuke assured her and left to the living room.

“Dinners ready!” He announces, much to Kanna and Kawajiri’s happiness. Kanna bounces from her spot on the ground, Celine is almost spooked from the sudden movement before her tiny head is smushed underneath a large hand as Kawajiri follows the school girl. All that was left was you.

Josuke wasn’t surprised, not in the least, that you had fallen asleep on the couch. All the events from yesterday must have taken a lot out of you, and to go to school right after? Even he would start to feel sluggish.

No big deal, Josuke tells himself. Just nudge her shoulder and she’ll wake up.

His hand hovers right over your shoulder. If you can tell he’s standing over you, you don’t show it. Your arms are propped up on the arms of the couch, legs curled up underneath you. He feels weird staring at you, especially as he hears the two adults and girl excitedly chattering in the kitchen, ready to eat. But at the same time, he can’t bring himself to wake you. He doesn’t know why.

“Oh? Is something the matter?” Your mom asks.

Josuke had returned to the dining table with no school jacket, and most importantly, you were not with him.

“No everything’s fine she just seemed,” Josuke felt awkward and almost paused, seeing as everyone’s eyes were on him. “Really sleepy…”

Your mom tuts, but anyone can tell she did it with pure love. “That girl… I’ll save her plate so she can eat it when she wakes up.”

It’s well over an hour by the time you do eventually awake, covered in a surprisingly warm school jacket that smells like a combo of soft detergent and cedar. Josuke can only awkwardly scratch his neck when you return it to him.

The sun has now started to go down, casting the sky in green and blue hues. Your mother was kind enough to reheat your food, but only after pinching your cheek and telling you not to go and disappear for an entire day, or else you’d have to reheat your own meals.

“So,” you pause to stuff your face with buttery bread, slathered in minced and melted garlic. “What’s that thing called again? The guy?”

“Crazy Diamond?” Josuke surmises.

The two of you are sitting outside on Kawajiri’s porch. You sat in a wicker chair while Josuke took the odd wooden swing your mom had brought with her from back home. Kanna lays fast asleep in a ratty old bean bag from Kawajiri’s younger years, having eaten herself into a food coma. Speaking of food, your dinner sat on top of a chair side table, complete with sparkling water and a cookie from the other night.

“Yeah, that guy,” you confirm.

Josuke can’t help but let out a soft sigh, having already explained it to you once before, but you don’t seem to have remembered due to your delirious state.

“This guy I know, Jotaro, calls them ‘Stands’,” Josuke explains. Almost in a flash of shining light, the Stand appeared. He looks as curious of you as you are of it. Or is it him? You’re not sure. Josuke continues to elaborate as you hold up the cookie to Crazy Diamond, which he doesn’t seem sure about eating.

“You’re gonna have to meet with him soon by the way since you got pierced by that arrow,” Josuke says.

Kanna had already met with Jotaro and relinquished the small, broken piece that she had, but he wasn’t able to get much information out of her that was any more useful than what she told Josuke.

“Because arrows give you Stands, right?” you clarify, offering Crazy Diamond a piece of your garlic bread. He doesn’t want that, either.

“Well, just that particular one, yeah.”

You stop with your antics and look at him expectantly.

“Does that mean I have one too?”

“In theory, yeah but you should’ve shown some semblance of it by now,” Josuke sighs, thinking back to Okuyasu’s house and the confrontation between him, Koichi, and Keicho.

Koichi’s had appeared in the form of an egg, but as he developed, it slowly hatched and evolved into a new type of Stand, also known as Echoes. But even as Kanna antagonized you, you showed no real sign of possessing a Stand of your own, besides being able to see Crazy Diamond and other similar Stands.

“That’s why I want to you come with me to meet Jotaro,” he elaborated. “Because he has way more experience with that kinda thing compared to me.”

“Oh, okay,” you relent.

You’ve given up on trying to entice Crazy Diamond with food and opted to instead mess with him personally. You feel his hands, as soft as you imagine a cloud to be. You look at his eyes, analyzing each imperfection and dot of color within the iris. You still can’t believe what you’re seeing is real, and it’s still confusing as all hell. How could Josuke interact with a being and not go crazy about how cool this is? This thing is like an actual Angel on Earth, and you’re not even a religious type. You would be fine if you ended up having no Stand at all, you’re lucky enough to even be able to witness Crazy Diamond alone.

Josuke watched as you played with his Stand, who was somewhat emboldened himself by your frequent prodding. He played with your hair, stretched out your cheeks, and messed with your eyebrows to induce silly faces.

Yeah, it’s probably for the best that he left out the whole ‘Stands are a reflection of your soul’ speel that Jotaro tried to unload on him one time. He wouldn’t have been able to explain himself otherwise.

Chapter 9: ix. cum on feel the noize

Chapter Text

CHAPTER NINE—

A MEAN GO-GETTER

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

A yellow note is passed to your desk.

You stare at it with disdain.

“Morioh ??? Hotel after school?” the note asks.

Underneath it is a small star, effortlessly scribbled with a purple gel pen. You already know who it belongs to.

Recently, Josuke has been attempting to coax you to meet someone who he referred to as ‘Mr. Jotaro’, who also happened to be his father’s daughter’s son. This means he had a nephew somehow older than him, but he was anything but juvenile based on how Josuke described him. Trustworthy, mature, and no-nonsense. And very well-versed in all of this Stand business according to your teenage friend.

“He was so tall!” Kanna described to you.

Josuke and her had gone to the hotel to meet with him and talk about official stand stuff, something you didn’t need to worry about according to both of them. She recounted her experience the next day as the two of you cleaned your classroom. Despite belonging to a different class altogether, she enjoyed spending most of her time by your side. No matter how you tried to coax her to converse with Okuyasu or Koichi, and while she did a few times, more often than not she preferred to talk to you above all else.

“Dark hair, serious, broody, he reminds me of a ??? boy.”

“A ‘what’ boy?” You repeat, a confused look on your face.

“You better not let him hear you call him that, I don’t think he takes name-calling too kindly,” Josuke retorts.

He had been wiping down the desks as you dusted the chalkboard, listening in as Kanna described what had happened the other afternoon. Kanna pouts at Josuke’s interruption, while you remain confused. What kind of boy is he?

You dislike serious personalities. You’re not sure why, but you’ve never done well with people telling you what to do, or acting like certain behaviors were above them.

In all seriousness, you think you may just be intimidated.

In your defense, it’s hard not to be! Nearly everyone in your small friend group has met this Jotaro guy, and every single one of them has described him as some synonym stemming from disinterested, serious, and menacing.

Those descriptions came from Koichi, Okuyasu, and Kanna respectively.

As for Josuke, he seemed pretty neutral regarding the man, and you couldn’t quite figure out how he saw him, especially with their weird family lineage.

Either way, you’ve been putting off this meeting with Mr. Jotaro for a little while now. And it looks like he was starting to get impatient, based on how fervently Josuke began to pester you to come with him to the hotel.

And that brings you back to the note on your desk.

You internally sigh to yourself and bite your tongue, trying not to think of all the horrible ways the meeting could go. Maybe it would be easier to go and meet the dang guy instead of putting it off through excuses of tennis clubs or visiting injured boys in hospitals.

You scribble a reply, and after a few seconds of thinking to yourself, you sign off with a doodle of a pair of ears and a curved mouth. You’re not exactly artistic, but you hope he would recognize it to be an attempted drawing of a cat.

“And what might this be?”

Your heart jumps into your throat.

A presence you dread, a presence you loathe and despise… is standing behind you.

Mr. Ozawa, your Japanese Literature teacher, peers from behind your back. And in front of you is a pencil and paper, and printed upon it in big, dark letters is the word ‘TEST’. Followed by, in smaller print, ‘no cheating of any kind’.

Before your fingers can quiver toward the note that had seemingly appeared on your desk, nimble hands snatch it right up.

“Sharing notes with a certain delinquent, hm?”

Your hand goes to slap your face, not capable of controlling your own eyes, lest they happen to roll back into your skull with annoyance. Seriously, it happens every time this man speaks. Yes, it was on you for letting it get to this point and even going as far as to reply to it, but seriously, everything this man does grates on your nerves!

“Planning to meet at ??? Hotel? How about the two of you reconvene… in the principal’s office!”

Principal’s office… Principal’s office…

The word reverberates in your head as you sullenly wait in the reception area, doing your best not to listen in as some older man details what had happened to your mom in the room behind you. Josuke sits flumped in a cushioned chair beside you, seemingly not caring at all about what was occurring, and instead waiting for your answer with expectant eyes.

Flustered, you finally spit out a coherent sentence. “Fine, yes, I’ll go meet Mr. Jotaro!”

“Great!”

And that’s how you find yourself in front of this weird hotel about to meet some weird man to talk about weird ghosts.

The architecture of the hotel is warming, with wood panel walls and a dark roof reminiscent of a Tudor house from back home. But you feel anything but warm. Instead, you’re stricken with some type of discomfort in your stomach that you can’t exactly name and there’s a permanent frown on your face that sticks no matter how hard you try to distract yourself.

“He’s really not that scary,” Josuke tried to tell you, but you’re having none of it. “Honest!”

Mr. Jotaro would be taking you and Josuke out for a brief dining at a cafe inside Morioh’s inner-city area. But you wouldn’t be arriving there by bus or walking, oh no, apparently you would get there by limousine! A limousine! You can’t stress this enough.

The heat of the automobile hits the back of your legs uncomfortably. Josuke and you briefly greeted the man inside of the limo, who wore a hat with a strange symbol on it and some words you were able to make out in English.

Speedwagon.

Why was that name so familiar?

Before you can think about it anymore, you finally hear that dreaded revolving door move. Footsteps echo as leather shoes tread upon carpeted gravel.

“Josuke,” calls a voice.

The boy in question leaves your side, and you can’t decide whether it's better to follow him or remain where you are. You opt to awkwardly follow behind him.

“Jotaro-san!”

The two of them exchange pleasantries as you recite to yourself to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Wait, how are you supposed to introduce yourself to him again? Do you bow, similar to when introducing yourself to an important and higher-class person? Or are you going to shake his hand? Josuke mentioned that he lives in the U.S., so which one would he prefer?

Green eyes then look at you.

Think, damn it, think!

“It’s nice to meet your acquaintance—”

The two of you speak in unison as a hand is stretched out while a head is bent down.

Jotaro’s straight hand bumps right against the middle of your forehead.

You’re staring at the ground. You’re staring at the three pairs of shoes standing on top of the asphalt ground. Your pitch-black loafers next to Josuke’s lavender and Jotaro’s lilac pair look so out of place. So plain.

You can only think of one thing as you stare at those shoes.

f*ck.

Jotaro slowly rescinds his hand as you wind back up, unsure of what to do.

“I am… so sorry.”

He does a shake of his head, choosing instead to coolly slip his hands into the pockets of his long, white coat. “Don’t be. Josuke informed me that you’re from the U.S., so I thought you’d prefer something more familiar.”

Maybe he was also having the same worries about how to introduce himself, which slightly soothes your now bruised ego.

He and Josuke start talking about stuff you’re sure you should be trying to translate and understand, but it’s like something in your brain went poof and you can now no longer understand the Japanese language. You are too embarrassed to.

Eventually, all three of you get in the limousine, and off you go. You’ve managed to regain some of your mental capability by the time you’ve departed from the hotel, but it now seems that Josuke’s been talking about what happened at school, rather than something of real importance. You opt to tune out instead, only bothering to translate when certain words caught your ear.

The cafe Jotaro brought the two of you to is some small, French-themed shop with snacks and treats of no real substance. He says to order whatever, and while Josuke gladly takes him up on his offer, you feel bad ordering anything more than water to occasionally sip on.

“Now that we’re alone, let us finally get to the point of our meeting,” Jotaro says.

You and Josuke look up from the paper napkin that he had been absentmindedly doodling on with a pen, while you occasionally recommended what to draw.

“According to Josuke after an encounter with a girl named Kanna Kutsuki, you were struck with a Stand Arrow,” the older man recalls. His eyes glance toward you.

“Does this sound about right?”

You nod, voice lost in your throat.

Jotaro leans back in his chair, the shadow from his white hat covering his eyes. Everything this man did seemed aloof, just as how your friends described him. And yet, you couldn’t help but describe him as… cool?

“And yet you’ve still not been able to conjure a Stand of your own.”

His hand goes up to reach his chin, briefly glancing up at the sky before his eyes fall directly onto you.

“Say I was an enemy,” he starts.

Before you can blink, an apparition appears right beside you.

The metal chair screeches against the ground as you nearly fling yourself out of your seat, yelping. Before you can really think about your knee-jerk reaction and how poorly thought out it was, a pair of hands grab onto your shoulders and prevent you from crashing onto the asphalt gravel below. It allows you to stare bewildered at what appeared.

A blue and purple man had suddenly materialized, with hair that reminded you of underwater currents and muscles that conveyed the apparition could do some serious damage. It quickly disappears after meeting your eyes and realizing you had acknowledged it, leaving empty air in its wake.

“Jotaro-san! I already told you she can see them,” Josuke stresses, positioning you back in your chair.

“I’m aware,” Jotaro said, raising his cup of coffee to his lips and taking a small swig. “But the ??? goal of a Stand is to ??? its user, and it can appear when the user is under great ??? or fear of attack.”

Oh geez, that is a lot of new words. You’ve gotten relatively used to hearing common words that arise in normal conversation, especially ones related to school and everything that entails, but now all this ‘Stand’ stuff is thrusting you into a new dictionary of words you haven’t heard before.

“This is quite an ??? case, as all beings shot by a Stand Arrow have awoken a Stand of their own not long after, if not immediately,” he elaborates, his coffee cup clinking as he set it down on its ceramic coaster.

“Stand or no Stand, you have still entered a whole new world filled with ??? and ???, and you need to be aware of the kind of ??? things that lurk in Morioh.”

Right. You assume those words are similar to ‘dangerous’ or something of that sort.

Then, Jotaro goes off on some sort of tangent, one you were not ready for.

“I and many others for the Speedwagon ??? have been searching for the arrow that caused a recent ??? of Stands in the Morioh area. This arrow has been around for ??? and can cause ??? chaos if left in the wrong hands, and we have reason to believe the new owner of this arrow is—”

You nod occasionally, really trying to look engaged in Jotaro’s speaking with the offhanded mumble of agreement or amazement. Like you knew what he was saying. But in reality, you haven’t a clue. At some point, it was total brain overload, and you can’t exactly translate everything he’s saying at the rate he’s saying it.

You’re a pretty easy book to read. Eventually, a crease between your brows unconsciously appears and you nearly begin to squint your eyes in concentration, like that’ll help you translate. Jotaro, as observant as ever, realizes what you were silently going through.

“Forgive me if I’m going too fast,” he suddenly apologizes, but you shake your head insistently.

“No, not at all! Please keep going,” you insist. He isn't buying it.

Before you can repeat yourself and ask him to continue, he says something that particularly blesses your ears.

“Would it be better if we spoke English then?”

Oh god. It’s like sweet, sweet music. How long has it been since you’ve spoken English with another person that isn’t your mom or Kawajiri? While the occasional student and friend can introduce themselves in English and make small conversation, they always preferred to speak in Japanese. Not that you could blame them, you’d rather everyone speak in English, it would make everything a lot easier. You’re sure they felt the same concerning you.

“Ye-yes! If that’s alright with you,” you accept.

And in front of Josuke’s very eyes, a conversation that he’s heard over and over again was transformed into something he couldn’t even comprehend. Familiar words came out of Jotaro’s mouth, and if he was given a few seconds to examine them and make sense, he’s sure he could figure out what he was saying. But by the time he had already translated, you would say something in return, followed by a response from Jotaro.

Then he would have to start it all over again.

Now that he’s thought about it, he hasn’t seen you talk this energetically… ever! Even on your best days, you kept your replies short and sweet. This was like, a completely different side. And he can’t help but sullenly admit that he was now in your shoes, excluded from conversations he couldn’t understand. Was this how you felt oftentimes? He had to say, it kind of sucked.

The two of you talked eagerly as you expressed relief with being able to finally fluently converse with someone, able to truly display your proficiency in your first language. Jotaro was fully accommodating and more than willing to answer whatever questions you had, no matter how trivial they would be for someone of his stature and experience.

Even after your questions about Stands had been satiated, you couldn’t help but keep talking. What was Jotaro doing in the U.S.? What made him want to do marine biology? All polite conversation and you may be overstepping your boundaries with these questions, but it’s nice to talk to someone and not have to agonizingly calculate what they may say next and what you should say, and how to say it in response.

Josuke had been quietly nibbling on a croissant filled with some chocolate filling, occasionally tearing off a piece and offering it to you. You could tell he didn’t understand what was happening in your conversation with Jotaro but still felt somewhat gleeful that you were no longer the odd one out. Sorry, Josuke.

At some point, a waitress checks up on the three of you and Jotaro takes out a leather wallet to pay for the snacks you all had accumulated. As he takes out a deep blue card, you spy the shaped picture of a young girl hidden behind a plastic barrier inside the inner layers of his wallet. A young girl, no older than eight years old, was seen smiling alongside a blonde-haired woman. The girl's hair was curled into two buns and held in place by bright pink butterfly pins, the definition of childhood innocence.

“Is that your daughter?” you ask, not able to help but point at his wallet as the waitress left to charge his card.

He briefly glances at the photo and allows both you and Josuke to take a small glimpse of it before he closes the wallet entirely. “It is. Her name is Jolyne.”

Jolyne, you think to yourself. Somewhat of an old-fashioned name, when you think about it.

“I… know it’s dangerous here at the moment because of that Stand User running around recklessly, but I was thinking of bringing her here to see the beach once everything is taken care of,” Jotaro admits.

You recognize a tender look in his eye, the look of a father who truly cared for his daughter.

“I think she’d like that,” you tell him.

Jolyne sure is lucky to have a father who cares about her so much, you think haphazardly, not dwelling too much on the fact before asking another question about the countries Jotaro has visited.

As the two of you talked about more miscellaneous things, Josuke’s eyes strayed away from the table. For the past couple of minutes, the hairs on his neck would stand and prickle. Almost as if, someone was staring at him. But whenever he would subtly turn his head and do a quick search of the area, he found no one of interest.

A few moms talk to one another as they stroll with their children, a salaryman on break, and teens hanging out after school.

But then, bright blond hair catches his eye.

He goes to wave, thinking it to be Kanna, only to stop once he got a full profile of the person. Like Kanna, this person had dyed their hair a bright yellow color, but the roots were beginning to grow out. And their uniform was undoubtedly that of Budo-ga Oka, deep red with a shine that reminded him of a leather jacket. But the moment he got a glimpse of the person, they disappeared behind a wall.

“Hey, Mr. Jotaro, why don’t we take a walk along the shops?” Josuke suddenly offers, interrupting your and Jotaro’s conversation.

“I don’t see why not,” the man agrees, and the two of them then rise to push in their chairs.

“You’re gonna love it,” Josuke tells you in Japanese. “A lot of girls from school like hanging out here. And it has my favorite ??? game!”

You haven’t been around much of Morioh’s inner-city areas. Both you and Josuke live somewhat in the outskirts of Morioh, surrounded by neighborhoods and other urban buildings, so you haven’t exactly been out to explore. Your mom encouraged you to go check it out when you first moved here, but not having anyone to go with or being able to understand Japanese, it would be easier for you to stay home. Maybe now would be a good opportunity to do so since you had Josuke and Jotaro with you.

“What do they sell?” you ask, your friend walking by your side.

Josuke scratches his neck, trying to think of a comprehensive list. “Clothes, food, school stuff, things like that.”

“I need to get a raincoat, would they have something like that?”

You were blessed with moving to Japan during its rainy plum season. And your hometown was rarely if ever given showers. It was pretty barren, so you’ve never needed a rain jacket or something similar, but it has rained more times than you can count in the last couple of weeks, and the flimsy umbrella that your mom bought you from a convenience store was doing you no favors.

“Definitely, I can show you some of my favorite stores that I like to go to.”

As the two high school students talked, Jotaro lagged somewhat behind, giving them a bit of privacy and needed space. Josuke’s suggestion to go out on a walk had been sudden and out of place. In truth, the reason for today’s meeting was not just to introduce you to the dangers of Morioh, but to also lay bait.

During their talks with that one student, Hazamada, he revealed that he was not the only Stand user inside Budo-ga Oka High School. When asked to elaborate, he couldn’t but knew for a fact that he had seen some weird happenings. And after further interviews with Kanna and Okuyasu, these new Stand users were not the result of their use with a bow.

Okuyasu had kept some track of who was shot, recounting individuals based on the descriptions from his brother, and Kanna had only shot you. Meaning that the new wielder of the Arrow was continuing to mess around with it for whatever reason. And Jotaro suspected the wielder wasn’t too happy with what he had been doing around Morioh.

Today’s outing was a gamble to see if the wielder would be as bold to target Jotaro or Josuke, and it seems at least one pawn was set in motion based on the way Josuke was now interacting. But he wasn’t acting urgent at all, so the mysterious enemy of today isn’t as dangerous as Jotaro thought, or at least hasn’t overreached to cause a lot of trouble.

Josuke shows you and Jotaro to a department store whose name you couldn’t make out thanks to its stylized kanji. And just as he said, Josuke shows you to a small seasonal section that had all sorts of rainy-day gear, from raincoats and umbrellas to a small summer area with swimsuits and flip-flops.

In his words: “Go nuts.”

So you do. You check out their options, picking and choosing based on colors, prints, and materials used as Jotaro and Josuke hang near the entrance of the department store. Both of them had sensed the feeling of being stared at and followed, but neither could see who the culprit was or if there even was a culprit.

Both of them were so sure that this mysterious person would go after one of them that they did not stop to consider who the real target would be.

Eventually, you find something that you like. A dark plastic jacket with purple lines racing across its sleeves and sides. Plain enough to pair with most of your clothes and still somewhat stylish and cute. While you’re not someone to focus on looks above all else, it didn’t hurt to have nice-looking clothes.

“Find whatcha need?” Josuke asks, and you open your paper bag to show off what you had bought with your mom’s money.

Which you had obtained through legal means! She had given you some money a bit ago to specifically buy some things that you needed but you haven’t been able to use it on anything that wasn’t some type of biscuit snack from a convenience store.

Your friend whistles. “Nice find!”

“It’s getting late,” Jotaro says, and both you and Josuke glance back at him.

Above you all was the darkening sky, which had slowly been filling with grey clouds, ready to burst open with showers of water. It’s a good thing you bought this raincoat.

“How about I take you both back home?”

He had been standing a bit away from the entrance of the convenience store to not bother the occasional passerby, a lit cigarette in hand. Your nose shrivels uncomfortably at the smell as he puts it out in a nearby dish stand.

“I’d appreciate it!” Josuke exclaims, and you nod along in agreement.

The walk alone would be killer on your feet, and the buses would be extremely busy due to the time. It would be easier all around to have Jotaro escort you in his limo, which you still can’t believe he has, what would he need one for?

The limo is parked not too far away, its driver sitting nearby as he reads the daily paper. Upon seeing Jotaro’s tall figure he tucked the newspaper under his arm and started up the car as all three of you went back into the limo.

Nothing of importance is said on the drive home, which is relatively short. You thank Jotaro for talking to you and sharing what little information he did have on the situation and promised to keep a look out if you ever saw anything. Despite not having a Stand of your own, you didn’t want to underuse your new ability to see other people's Stands. Who knew when it would come in handy?

The limo stops by your house first. You say goodbye to Jotaro and tell Josuke you’ll be seeing him tomorrow morning. As you leave, neither of them move until they see you enter through the garden gate of the front yard and grab a key from underneath the doormat and let yourself in. The wooden door shuts behind you.

Josuke lets out a dramatic sigh as if not being able to address the elephant in the limo was somehow restricting his breathing. “Geez, so suffocating!”

Jotaro doesn’t reply to the boys whining, instead choosing to look at the Kawajiri Household. All lights inside the home were turned off with no hints that someone was inside.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t help with the mystery of your friend,” he tells the younger boy, who awkwardly coughs and waves his hand. “But this is truly one of the first times a case like this has happened, so do your best to keep an eye on her and make sure she’s alright.”

“No need to apologize!” Josuke assures. “Who knows, maybe it's for the best that she hasn’t gotten a Stand. No need to drag more people into this mess.”

Jotaro nods as the boy talks, a crease so small developing amid his brows. Now able to talk freely, a conversation of Stands, murderers, and Arrow wielders flowed from between the two. Recounting, and piecing together new information are just some of the things Josuke would do with Jotaro every other week or so depending on what he encountered. But seemingly, this week has been relatively peaceful.

Unbeknownst to them, anything but peace was occurring inside the Kawajiri house.

Rain pitter-patters against the windows of your new home. All of the rooms are dark, save for the one lamp you had turned on inside of the living room. On a coffee table is a small note from your mother, who said she and Kawajiri would be attending some type of conference dinner at his school. Your dinner for tonight; leftover turkey, mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables, was already in the fridge.

“Celine?” you call, expecting to hear the familiar sounds of your darling cat coming from your room to greet you.

But for some reason, no such thing happens. You quirk a brow, slowly turning on lights as you make your way throughout the house. She’s not hiding in the bathroom like she usually does when it begins to rain, nor in your room. Sighing, you make your way back down the stairs to the hallway connecting the back door of the house to the living room and connection. It’s possible she got stuck underneath your mom and Kawajiri’s bed. She’s been gaining a lot of weight recently and doesn’t fit under things like she used to.

Maybe it’s time to put her on a diet, you think to yourself. As you approach your mom’s room, further down in the hallway, you look at your reflection in the glass door that could be slid open to gain access to the backyard. The sky had darkened considerably, to the point you could barely make out anything in the dim lighting. Rumbles of thunder and brief flashes of lightning greet your ears and a particularly loud clap! Illuminates the backyard.

In the middle of the backyard, propped next to a tree, is a bike. It was similar to Koichi’s, a bike meant for a student to ride to school, not for an educator or a spry woman like your mom. This bike didn’t belong to anyone in the household, so what was it doing in your backyard?

Something soft brushes up against your leg and you hear a familiar meow.

“Geez, Celine, you had me scared to death…” you sigh, doing your best not to chide her.

She’s your pride and joy so you could never rag on her too hard. You reach down to pat and soothe her silky fur, but something makes you pause. It’s much longer than usual, and somewhat coarse and crunchy, like hair that had been slicked back with gel.

And then, a hand grabs your ankle, and you finally see who you had been petting. A boy with long, blond hair and the most piercing blue eyes stares up at you, a wicked smile on his face. And in his other hand was a megaphone, and when his thumb pressed down a button, Celine’s familiar meow came from the device.

“Gotcha,” he grinned, his teeth gleaming in the nearby lamp lighting.

And Jotaro and Josuke sat outside in the limo, none the wiser to what was happening inside that dimly lit house.

Chapter 10: x. mental health

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TEN—

I GOT THE BOYS TO MAKE THE NOISE

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

Self-defense has never truly been on your mind as you grew up in rural, Midwestern towns. Teachers and moms would warn about things like stranger danger, drugs, and alcohol. You know, the usual. Those old VHS videos they’d have the class watch on an old, grey blocky television that would sit on top of a black trolley would consist of how to say no to peer pressure and what to do if you saw anyone dare touch their parent’s cigarette box.

But where were the PSAs about home invasions? About self-defense? Because as it currently stands, you have no knowledge about how to react except for screaming your goddamn head off and throwing whatever you could get your hands on.

“W-wait, just hold on a second!”

A stereotypical Japanese painting with black strokes is swung near the boy’s head, who narrowly dodges and jumps back away from you. No matter how hard you try to think coherently and form intelligible sentences in Japanese, you just can’t do it. So now you’re making demands of him in English and he can’t make a single word of what you’re saying. But what he can understand is you threatening to beat his head over with whatever object you can grab.

“Look, calm down! All I wanted to do was ask you some questions,” he tries to placate, but you’re in no mood.

“Who the f*ck are you? Where the hell is my cat!?”

The painting is flung to the ground as he side steps away, aiming that big megaphone right at you. Now that it’s right in your face, you can see it more clearly. It’s no normal megaphone, at least on the outside. Its rim is thick and reminded you of a pair of lips, with sharp teeth lining its inside for good measure. Even creepier, the inside, from what you could gather, has an almost fleshy-like texture.

And he rose it to his mouth, the megaphone’s lips mimicking whatever he spoke into its receiver.

“Quiet Riot.”

A deep reverb shakes your body as waves of teal energy emit from the megaphone, echoing into your core like a deep bass.

When you open your mouth to ask just what the hell that thing is, you’re shocked to find you couldn’t speak… at all. Your hand shoots to your neck, your lips mouth the words and your throat vibrates but no sound comes out.

“Well? Amazed, right?”

He takes a step towards you, his megaphone now aimed at the ceiling.

“This is the exact ability of my Stand, Quiet Riot,” the unnamed intruder explains. “It lets me steal the voice of anyone I direct it to. And only I can give it back!”

Your eyes stare into his, brows furrowed.

“So if you’re not careful, I may just be the ??? owner of your voice. Forever.”

Now that you’re thinking a bit more clearly, you finally are able to look him up and down. He wears the familiar Budo-Ga Oka school uniform, with a red sheen and buckles crossing over his chest and arms. As for his hair, it's… dear lord, he’s as bad as Josuke. Instead of aiming for that distinct 50’s jelly roll, he opted to only go back one decade, back into—you shudder just thinking about it—the 80’s.

In fact, he looks just like the guy that your mom loved listening to every Christmas time. She’d always put it in your CD player and have the two of you dance to the music in the living room as she made dinner in the kitchen. What was his name again? Judge Michael? George Micah?

“You must be thinking to yourself…” he continues on, without regard for whatever you were actually thinking.

He chooses to instead raise that microphone to his mouth. But when he speaks, not only do you hear his voice, but you hear… yours? Like a recording of your voice saying something in real-time, slightly lighter than how you sound when saying something yourself.

Despite your confusion, he continues. “‘What does this ???, ??? stranger want with me? Why’d he have to go and steal my voice?’”

You struggle to recall all of that information that Josuke and Jotaro had dumped onto you. This student had something called a Stand, which he used to steal your voice, along with Celine’s. And as far as you know, only he can give it back to you. You had gotten hit with that arrow fragment, and theoretically, you should have a Stand too.

But you don’t.

And this guy is much bigger than you. Chances are, he could take you down if he wanted. As much as you want to kick, hit, and punch at him until he waved a white megaphone and gave you your voice back, you’ll have to comply and see what he wants.

You had been in such deep thought that your eyes glazed over, no longer paying attention. And it’s pretty obvious when someone does that, seeing as the next thing you know, that guy is shoving his face into yours without warning.

“Hey, ya listening?”

A loud clap rings through the house.

It had been the only noise in its silent interior, aside from the intruder’s yapping, which had promptly ended the moment he entered your personal space and you instinctively raised your hand and slapped him in the face.

He skips back, hand on his cheek as his face smushes together in a grimace.

“Ow, geez! Fine, fine. I’ll cut to the chase.”

You stare at him unconvinced until he shoves his free hand into his pocket and looks away like a kid who just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

“So all your ??? little head needs to know is that some guy hired me to get information from you.”

He then chooses to refocus his attention on you.

“Those guys that you went on a date with. I need to know exactly what they told you.”

You stare at him, dumbfounded.

He went through the trouble of following you around when you were out with Josuke and Jotaro, sneaking into your house, scaring your cat and doing lord knows what with her, and freaking you out of your mind, all to ask about what you had been talking about at the cafe?

In all honesty, you would maybe be slightly willing to divulge that information if he had come up to you in school and asked politely, and showed you his Stand as proof. Even then, you would’ve taken him straight to Josuke, seeing as he had much more information than you and would be more knowledgeable about what would be safe to share and what wasn’t. Heck, he probably could’ve talked to Josuke alone in the first place!

But the fact that he didn’t, that he went through all of that trouble just to get you alone, told you that this intruder is bad news, and you do not want to be sharing what little you know with him.

“You know, like specifics! Like, do they have any leads on who they think has the Stand arrow, who they’re suspecting, what they know,” he lists out, counting it all on one hand with each finger shooting up for every question raised.

Holy crap this guy is stupid, you can’t help but think to yourself. And if he’s stupid, that means I can potentially get the upper hand, at least for a little while.

As you are now, you’re in no place to be fighting off people clearly stronger than you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t call on someone to help you out during times like these.

So far, you haven’t heard the limo drive away from your house. You can’t see outside due to the blinds covering the windows, but it’s a gamble you’ll take if it means you have someone stronger to back you up. And if they’re not there, then you can potentially run to Josuke’s house since he lives right next door.

The only thing you can do now is give this guy the slip.

“Well?” the intruder asks.

You raise an eyebrow and frown, pointing at the megaphone in his hand.

How am I supposed to talk with no voice, you silently communicate.

You see the light bulb go off in his head and he plants a curled fist in his other hand upon coming to his realization. “Oh, right! Duh.”

He raises the megaphone in your direction, fiddling with buttons you couldn’t see. “Alright, I’m gonna give you your voice back, but I’m going to set it at a limit to where you can’t go over a shout and call for help. Maybe setting three?”

Without your input, he chooses whatever measurement he wants, and aims.

“Quiet Riot.”

That deep reverb that you had felt before returns, and your hand shoots to your throat. What should you say?

“Testing, testing.”

A three on his scale is no louder than a whisper. A five must be someone’s normal talking voice, whereas a ten would be screaming. With a three, you could talk as much as you want, but anyone outside of your house wouldn’t be any wiser.

“Right! Now, say what you have to say.”

He motions to you with the megaphone, but all you do is cross your arms and turn your head away defiantly.

“No.”

The intruder sputters. “N-no? Whattya mean no?”

You quirk an eyebrow and squint your eyes.

“Not until you show me Celine.”

With your current position, you wouldn’t be able to reach the front door because of his frame blocking you into the end of the hallway. If he wanted to prove that Celine was fine, he would have to move and either instruct you to stay where you are or to follow him to where he had her. Either way, it’s a small chance to get to the door, but one you would have to take.

“Celine? Wh-what, that stupid cat?”

He’s digging himself a deeper grave, as shown by your deepening frown.

The intruder throws his hands into the hair, almost as vexed as you. Which he has no right to be, the gall of this man. “Fine, fine! Ugh. Women nowadays, geez…”

Before he takes a step to start his search, he turns right back to you and begins to fiddle with the settings of his Stand once more.

“Stay here, I’m gonna go get that stupid cat. Oh, and for good measure…”

He aims the megaphone at you once more and says that familiar phrase that you’re already tired of hearing. As the reverb passes, you try to speak once more, only for nothing to come out. A handicap. So even if you did manage to leave, with no voice, you wouldn’t be able to communicate with anyone that you saw. Not only that, if you did run away, there’s the risk that he would purposefully avoid you just to not give it back.

To run away or not run away, that is the question.

But agh, all of this thinking is too much. You’ve never had to think this much when you were back home!

But thankfully enough for you, the intruder is leaving, and you see his figure move to the living room, ducking under couches and chairs and making funny sounds in hopes that it would attract Celine. Knowing her, she may have ended up under one of those places, but the moment he left, she would’ve dashed into the bathroom or into your room. Not that he would know, but it would give you more time.

“Ugh, where is that damn cat?” you hear him muttering, and would love to pipe up to tell him it would maybe help to turn on the lights, but you really can’t.

He’s in the dining room now, which is connected to the kitchen, looking under the table to see if he could spot her. His back is to you now, and with the walls, it's easier than ever to sneak right past him.

Step. Step. Step.

One foot in front of the other. You avoid thrusting your foot too harshly onto the rug-covered ground, doing your best to muffle the sound with slow walking. Any loud sound would just set him off and do lord knows what, so it's best to avoid that altogether until you reached the door.

Step. Step. Step.

You’re past the stairs leading to your room. Ahead, to your right, is the dining room. You can still hear him walking around on the wooden floor, perhaps going to check the kitchen. You slow down by the entrance, in case he was looking out into the living room, and quickly peek to see where he is.

He’s in the kitchen, as you predicted. And he even has his back to you! Perfect timing.

So you step out into the open. All it takes is one more, and then you’re home free.

But as you take another, there’s a knock at the door.

The intruder swivels around. His eyes catch yours.

You dash to the front door, slipping on the rug as it scrunches up thanks to the friction of your shoes. You can feel his presence behind you, but it doesn’t matter. The door is right in front of you, the knob low enough for you to reach and pull as hard as you can. All you need to do is—!

Just as your hand grasps the metal, an arm is wrapped around your throat and you're pulled back into the intruder’s chest. He uses his arm to squeeze your face and neck, effectively blocking your path for oxygen.

And with that, all hell breaks loose.

Fingers are jabbed into eyes, teeth lunging to grab onto school uniforms, and feet kicking at whatever was close by.

But it’s no use, as no matter how much you thrash and cause a ruckus, the intruder shows no hint of letting you go.

Unaware of what was happening behind the door, the person knocks again, and the intruder fumbles with his megaphone.

“J-just a second!” he says, your voice coming out the other end.

“Uhm... (Y/N)?” you hear a familiar voice call on the other side, tears almost swelling in your eyes.

Josuke!

“You left your raincoat inside the limo so I came to give it to you,” he explains, oblivious to the sight behind the door. “But, are you feeling alright? You don’t sound well.”

“Oh, oh I’m fine!” the intruder coughs, struggling to both contain you as well as control the megaphone. “I think I’m coming down with something, and I don’t want to get you sick so you can just leave it outside!”

“Really? If you insist, but it just rained so everything's all wet and dirty… You sure you don’t want me to come in real quick to hand it off to you?”

Much to your horror, Josuke sounds genuinely convinced by the intruder’s impression of you.

“I’m sure!” The intruder says, all smiles.

While it is worrying that Josuke can’t tell that it isn’t you, you would definitely be in his position and would instead be wondering what the heck is going on before choosing whether or not to push some boundaries.

You need to get his attention and you need to get it fast. The door didn’t work, maybe it’s time to try the window approach and just… jump out of it? Surely that would get anyone's attention! But how to get out of this guy's hold?

A spark runs through your brain and bright lights flash on and off.

You could always kick that one place.

The place… The place your mother told you to aim for anything was to ever go wrong. Your dad used to joke about only going there as a last resort and to never go there if you were roughhousing with your guy friends, and because of your relative safety, you’ve never thought about doing so.

Until now, that is.

Bracing your upper body and gripping his body for support, you lift your upper legs up and left gravity do the rest, naturally swinging your feet back until they came into contact with what you had hoped.

“Ack—!”

Your body drops to the floor with no warning, knees skidding on the rug floor.

“Are you okay?” your friend frets on the other side of the door. “I can go grab some pain ??? from my house if you don’t have any.”

You and the intruder briefly lock eyes, and before he can say a word to Josuke, you dart into the darkness of the house, the last he sees being the heels of your slip-on shoes. He curses under his breath, briefly hearing the thumping of weight rushing up the steps of the stairs, before turning to quickly address the teen on the other side of the door.

“Allgood!SayI’msupertiredsojustleavethejacketoutsideseeyoutomorrowokaythanksbye!”

The door is promptly slammed after that, Josuke staring at it, dumbfounded. And in his hands is the purple raincoat, still folded neatly in the plastic sack the sales attendant had set it in upon your purchase.

You had been acting weird, to say the least. That, coupled with your unwillingness to accept your brand-new item, made his stomach feel uncomfortable, to say the least. But if you didn’t want to see him, he should accept that right? Even if he was deeply concerned?

He debates knocking on the door some more or just forcing it open with the help of Crazy Diamond. Better to ask for forgiveness over permission, right?

Just to be sure, he asks Jotaro, who was still sitting inside the limo, for clarification. The look of disappointment he received made him decide not to ask for much advice from him in the future.

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

Upstairs, things aren’t going too well for you. The loud thumping of you running up the stairs undoubtedly alerted the intruder to where you were planning on going next, and seeing as it led straight to your bedroom, there was no other way to try and juke him and see if he would become confused. Your only saving grace is the lock on your door and the multiple items you have stacked against it.

Dresser, television, radio. There really isn’t much you could put between you, the door, and the intruder that could really prevent him from entering. Worst of all, adrenaline has really started pumping through your body and your hands begin to unconsciously twitch and shiver with anticipation, heart thrumming with each bang on your bedroom door.

“Don’t do anything stupid now!” you can hear him shouting. “I really don’t want to use my Stand against you!”

You’d rather not wait and see what damage he could do, but with the way your fingers are struggling to unhook all the latches of your bedroom window, you debate just throwing your fish bowl into it just so you could have a form of escape.

Finally, your hands corporate, and you lift the window, which jankily slides up due to natural wear and age.

“I warned you…”

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE—

A piercing technologic scream so high and so close nearly makes you crumple to your knees and slam your hands over your ears. Like a gunshot that would not stop ringing with as much intensity as it had when the powder ignited and exploded inside the cartridge. And following that came the banging of doors being barged open and the destruction of furniture, wood, and plastic flying into your room. Plumes of dust shoot out into the room in turn, going up your nose and into your lungs before you even had a chance to stop it.

Boom!

The sounds of penetrating wails are replaced by the natural rumbles of thunder outside, rain slowly pouring down from the dark and heavy clouds and into your room, coating your clothed back.

Clap!

A flash of lightning illuminates your room, showing you the figure of the intruder as he stood amongst the wrecking of your furniture. The destruction of your room. Photos of your friends and family that you had painstakingly clipped onto twine strings now lay sullied on the floor. Your cassette player smashed into pieces. Homework now sullied and flung under the influence of the rain and wind.

The worst and minuscule of all, the fish bowl you had created in partial honor of your dad, laid broken, with painted cardboard and sharp glass edges coating the ground.

To see all of the effort you’ve put into this room after being ripped and torn away from your home fills your chest with a deep, aching, and fiery pain that you’ve never experienced before. You’ve tried so hard to accept everything that’s been thrown at you. You’ve been trying to learn Japanese, hiragana, katakana, and the local customs, all while coping with being ripped away from your old friends and old way of life.

You spot a ball of shivering white fur hidden in the back corners of your bedroom. Celine. Frightened, more so than you because at least you could understand the concepts of Stands and what’s going on right now.

What gives this guy the right to destroy what you’ve worked so hard for? What gives him the right to intrude upon your room and ruin its sanctity of it for you and your pet cat? It has been your safe haven away from all the confusing stuff outside.

And he ruined it like it was just a means to an end.

You just want to dig your nails into whatever God or rule that invented Stands and ask what the hell was wrong with them because if they hadn’t, you wouldn’t be in this bizarre mess! Having to deal with girls turning you into dolls or guys invading your house and destroying your only safe haven, lord forbid you live a normal, teenage life!

Another clap of lightning illuminates your room. The intruder takes another step towards you.

You’re tired of people treating you and the things around you like they didn’t matter. You’re tired of Stands, potentially crazy people that could harm you and your friends, and people thinking they could take advantage of you just because you weren’t as strong.

Your hand comes to wrap itself around the bandaged grip of a familiar piece of metal. Smooth and hollow.

Jotaro says that Stands can emerge in dangerous situations, right?

You rise from the floor, baseball bat in hand.

Boom…

Well, is this dangerous enough!?

Clap!

“Woah!”

The moment you dash and enter the intruder’s personal space, any open area is game. Arms, head, you try not to aim for anything below the waist. His arms shoot up to defend his stomach and chest, giving you ample time to wind back your arm, check him, and pummel your fist right into his cheek.

It’s an all-out brawl as his feet swipe under yours, your body tumbling to the floor as the intruder scrambles to get away, only to once again be dragged back down as your hands clench the long belts running down his arms and yank him down.

Wails and screams erupt from the megaphone, right in your face as the two of you struggle to gain the upper hand. Right as he goes to change the settings you get right over his waist and aim for the jaw. The sudden impact knocks his Stand out of his hands and he can only weakly try to defend himself as you continue to pull back your arms and slug your fists into his general area. You don’t care what you hit at this point, as long as it's something.

With each pummel, lights in the house flash and blink uncontrollably.

There’s something warm running from your ears and down your neck, an irreversible squeal ringing in your ears despite Quiet Riot not being active. Bruises are starting to develop on your knees and knuckles, bright red liquid flying with every blow to the head. You’re not sure if it's yours or his. You can’t breathe anymore. Your own body is starting to restrict the amount of air you can get into your lungs, only able to get in one quick breath before uncomfortably wheezing out the rest.

Just one more—!

The lights become glaringly bright, your television rapidly flipping through channels and undecipherable noise replacing the high-pitched hum in your ears. And before you can sock the intruder one last time, you hear the pounding of feet on the creaky wood leading up to your isolated bedroom.

You meet Josuke’s eyes. And the moment his eyes fall on your beaten and bloodied form, all lights in the house die once more, and there’s nothing left to illuminate your bedroom but the occasional flicker of lightning.

You don’t have any mirrors in your room. It’s not like you have an aversion to them or anything, but you rarely willingly seek them out. You’d end up critiquing and noticing every minor flaw or imperfection on your body if you did. Despite not knowing how you looked, based on the way you currently feel, you probably look like absolute sh*t.

“(Y/N)!” The next thing you know, Josuke’s by your side. Even if you can’t exactly make out everything due to the dark, you recognize his mere presence. “sh*t.. are you okay?”

With Josuke beside you, you can now make out that large shadow that had been stalking him from behind, with metal accessories gleaming in the little light available in the room. None other than Jotaro Kujo. The moment he scans your body you feel a flush overtake your face and a deep shame emerges.

Despite feeling too embarrassed to even speak, you open up your mouth and try to explain that you’re fine, only for nothing to come out. Before you can try to explain the situation, a small burst of light appears inside your cramped bedroom, coming from the small, lit lighter held by Jotaro. In his other hand is what you recognize as the intruder's Stand, Quiet Riot.

You immediately rise up to do your best to describe the Stand despite your limited ability, only for your knees to buckle and nearly fall back onto the floor. Before you can, a pair of hands catch you by the waist, helping you back up and onto your feet.

“W-woah, hold on a second! You need to take it easy,” Josuke tries to tell you, but you’re pretty much trying to mime to Jotaro what exactly the Stand did.

You point to your throat and make a line with your hand before lowering it, accompanying it with the turn on your hand as to show the general idea of ‘sound decreasing’ before pointing at Quiet Riot. You mime your hand turning to the right and the hand representing sound rises back up.

Jotaro watches your demonstration intently, and once you’re done, he cranks the knob back a couple of dials and aims it in your direction.

“Restore.”

For the final time tonight, you experience that deep reverb that overtakes your entire body. Done with the item, Jotaro tosses the Stand aside, skidding on the floor.

“Want to explain what happened?” Jotaro asks.

And for the first time since they’ve entered the room, all three of you turn to stare down at the bloodied, passed-out body that lay at your bedroom floor. The intruder, hair matted and moused, face badly bruised, was none the wiser.

You simplify what had all occurred, from the moment you stepped in til the final scene of you knocking him over and pummeling him into tomorrow. Josuke in particular visually perked up upon you mentioning the man who had hired the intruder to scope out what you knew, while Jotaro only blinked in acknowledgment.

“I suppose this is that man’s way of becoming more bold,” Jotaro acknowledges aloud, staring at the teen before turning to address you. “Please forgive me for allowing this to happen.”

“No no, it’s okay,” you try to wave off. “You didn’t know he was here.”

“I had a suspicion that we were being watched during our outing,” he revealed, much to your surprise. “And wrongly assumed that he would ??? Josuke or I. And for that, I apologize.”

It feels odd to have this grown man say sorry to you, so you just mumble about it being fine.

“I’m going to go call for an ambulance to come pick him up,” Jotaro explains to you and Josuke. “When he awakens at the hospital the Speedwagon Foundation and I will interrogate him to see if we can find out more about his point of contact. I assume you two will be alright until I come back?”

Josuke shoots the older Joestar a thumbs up, who takes it as his sign to leave.

The moment Jotaro turns to leave and walk down the stairs, Josuke starts to herd you away from all the broken furniture to the only clean area of your room, which is still slightly wet thanks to your open window. You can’t even bother to try and close it. You just really want to stop existing right now.

“I know it's kinda messy but let's go sit you over here…”

So you collapse onto your bed, staring up at the ceiling whereas Josuke stares down at you worriedly.

“Need a second?”

You quietly nod and close your eyes.

All you can hear is the pitter-patter of rain, your own breathing, the ringing in your ear, and the sounds of creaking wood as Josuke messes around with your room.

Plastic cracks and molds back together as he fixes broken radios, cassette tapes, and wooden frames, doing his best to organize it all on your drawer while trying to make your room look as presentable as possible. Having not ever been in your room pre-attack, Josuke is largely left to his own imagination as to what your room looks like. The window is shut and Josuke briefly leaves your raincoat hanging on the back of your door.

At one point, as he was moving the intruder aside, he notices the clump of shivering fur in the corner of your room. His hands go to gently scoop the frightened cat into his arms, who reaches out to be brought to his chest. Celine covers his school uniform in white and grey fur, which would normally annoy the image-conscious Josuke, but finds himself not minding too much. He had a lint roller at home anyway.

“Here ya go…”

Josuke lifts Celine up and away before gently setting her on your bed. Recognizing her owner, Celine goes to curl up by your side, doing her best to wiggle underneath your tired hand.

By the time he’s done restoring all of the broken items in your room, an ambulance for the intruder had arrived to take him away to the hospital. Josuke moved him from the bedroom to the living room downstairs in order to not disturb you, while Jotaro explained the story of the boy invading your home in what appeared to be a burglary to the paramedics, before assuring that he and the Speedwagon Foundation would investigate once they reached the hospital and the intruder was cleared for visitors.

Your bed dips in weight as Josuke awkwardly sits on the far end, twiddling with his fingers. The house is dead quiet except for your and his breathing.

“You awake?” he asks.

You’re silent for a few minutes before letting out an affirmative mumble, and he lets out a small sigh of relief.

“Are you injured?”

Another mumble.

“Want me to take care of it?”

A few beats pass before you give one final answer, slowly leaning up from your bed. Celine leaves her spot from your side, choosing to instead stretch out across your lap as you gently massage behind her ears.

Josuke awkwardly moves to be right next to you, and you see a familiar pink and blue dazzling arm beside his own.

“Where at?”

You show him the scrapes and bruising on your legs, which aren’t much compared to the rest of you, but it was a place to start at the very least. Cool hands cover your knees, the throbbing ache that had been present slowly disappearing as skin is mended and healed. Next are your hands, which don’t quite leave Celine as she would whine and cry, so palms cover your bloodied knuckles, and it too slowly fades away.

“Uh, there’s also a lot of blood coming from your ears,” Josuke points out, and even he is trying not to grimace. You wonder if he has a weak stomach for that sort of thing. Before you’re given time to ask, hands are placed over your ears and the insistent ringing slowly dissipates.

After doing you a quick lookover, Josuke leans back, satisfied. “All right! That looks like everything. Is there anything else you want me to look at?”

Despite how sluggish and tired your brain feels, your body feels like the best it has ever been. Like having just stepped out of the shower having previously just ran or exercised that morning, and now ready to face what comes ahead. But your mind is a whole nother story because no matter how awesome your body feels, your brain feels like there’s something wrong.

“No,” you wearily admit, and Josuke smiles, happy to have been of help after what you had gone through, but easily notices the distant look on your face.

“Is everything alright?”

You bite your lip.

You haven’t really told anyone about all of the thoughts that have been running around inside of your head. Not Koichi, not Kanna, and certainly not your mom or Kawajiri. You’ve just been stuck marinating in all of your negative opinions, about how hard it is to leave and adjust to a new country, and having to make new friends, and while the intruder took the brunt of the physical manifestation of these feelings, you still felt full of emotional baggage.

You doubt you're ready to tell anyone you know of this, however. Even Josuke, despite him outwardly showing that it would be okay. Maybe someday you could talk about it, but with how things are now, it feels too heavy to drop on any of your current friends.

“Do you wanna have dinner at my house?”

You look at him with worry, as if your voice was still lost thanks to that Stands power. Josuke gathers that you’re hesitant and immediately tries to convince you.

“I’m sure it would be cool. My mom really likes you so if your mom says yes I’m sure it’ll be fine!”

“My mom is at a, uh…” you struggle to recall the word. “Con-france. Yeah, confrance.”

He stares at you, briefly blinking. You elaborate.

“So she won’t be home tonight.”

Josuke doesn’t have it in him to correct you, instead holding back a genuine smile. “Even better! I think my mom is gonna make some chicken katsu, would you wanna have that?"

Chicken katsu… like that fried chicken stuff? You’ve seen other students at school eating stuff like that, and you admit, you’ve always wondered what it would be like.

“That sounds good,” you admit, and Josuke opens his mouth to continue but you quickly interrupt him

“If it’s not too much, could we invite Okuyasu?”

You’re not sure why, but the idea of seeing Okuyasu really comforted you. More friends, the better. But it’s not like you were going to whine if he couldn’t.

“Sure. I’ll ask my mom and then I’ll head over to his house to see what he wants to do. How about you get ready and meet me downstairs and I can call my mom and ask.”

Once he gets your nod of approval Josuke makes his way downstairs, slowly checking all of the lights to see if they were still off or if the power had returned. Thankfully, the power was restored and you could see the lights flicker on and the phone begin to dial as he called his mom next door.

You look down at Celine, who stares up at you with her darling, blue eyes. Kissing her cute little head, you lay her down on your bed before quickly changing into a pair of ‘relaxed but still trying to look put together’ clothes. She weaves in and out between your feet as you quietly walk downstairs, catching as Josuke ended the conversation with his mom. Upon seeing you making your way down, his eyes brighten.

“Good news! Katsu is still on and she said we could get Okuyasu and bring Celine!”

“Is it okay if she comes?” you ask, slightly hesitant even if he got his mom's explicit permission. You’ve accepted that not everyone is a cat person, and always did your best to keep people who didn’t prefer Celine away from her so as to not cause trouble.

“I said it was, didn’t I?” Josuke retorts, although you still feel skeptical.

Your worries are briefly subsided when Celine comes wandering into the living room and Josuke scoops her up into his arms. It’s true that both he and Okuyasu were quite fond of her, so hopefully Tomoko is too. From what you’ve seen, she seems like a very kind woman. Maybe you should stop being such a worry-wart.

In the midst of your conflicting thoughts, Josuke grabs your attention by bringing Celine up by holding her under her front legs, using his own hands to make her ‘paw’ at you.

“Three-in-one deal. I’m a pretty good negotiator, don’tcha think?” he brags with a cheeky grin, and you’re inclined to agree, grasping at Celine’s soft paws and giving them a little rub.

With that done, you give Jotaro Kujo one final goodbye as the intruder is loaded up into the ambulance. He seems conscious based on the way he slurred and mumbled, but you doubt it would make any sense.

I never did get his name, you think blasely.

“Apologies again for what happened tonight,” Jotaro says. All three of you stand right outside the gate of your house, nearby lamps and bright red ambulance lights illuminating your figures.

“It’s okay,” you try to reassure because there really isn’t much else to do. “Hopefully it won’t happen again.”

Jotaro is a man of few words, and whatever he’s really thinking, only he knows. But he still allows himself to divulge what he believes would be comforting to hear in your situation.

“I never considered the idea that the man we’re after would turn to others for aid but not to worry. I plan on taking care of this with the full extent of support that I can get from the Speedwagon Foundation.”

Oh okay cool, you think to yourself. Just what is the Speedwagon Foundation anyway? Seriously…

With the intruder now strapped onto a plastic board, the paramedics inform Jotaro of his condition before loading the ambulance and sputtering off into the night. With nothing else to say, it’s time for the older man to take his leave. He bows his head, the rim of his hat covering the upper half of his face.

“Josuke.”

His eyes turn to briefly meet yours.

“Y/N.”

And with the flutter of his long, white coat, he disappears into the limousine that you and Josuke had ridden in what seems like hours ago, following after the direction of the ambulance.

With that done, there’s nothing left but for you and Josuke to awkwardly stand out on the sidewalk before making a non-verbal agreement to start walking toward his house.

“Want to come with me to grab Okuyasu or want to head to my place?” Josuke asks you.

“Your house if it’s okay,” you tell him, and he doesn’t seem to mind.

He shows you to the front door of his home, going so far as to show you the key—which is hidden under a pot of freshly planted hydrangeas—and let you in. The house smells warm and of prepped food, one that reminded you of fried chicken from back home.

Josuke’s voice rings out in the clearly not empty home. “Hey, mom it’s me! I’m dropping off (Y/N) so I can go grab Okuyasu.”

His mom's reply follows immediately after.

“Got it! I’ll just be in the ??? making chicken fried cutlet. Try not to take too long because I’m almost done!”

Josuke lets out an audible ‘yes!’ upon hearing that, much to your confusion.

“She makes the best katsu,” he explains, before showing you where to take off your shoes.

Celine jumps from your arms, choosing to explore the new house as Josuke briefly waved goodbye to you, before walking out and closing the door behind him. Leaving you all alone in his home. Upon sliding off your shoes, you get a good look at the living room you find yourself in. Further out is what appears to be a dining room, and beside it is what appears to be the kitchen, based on the tiled walls and floor.

Inside of the living room is a couch, some dressers filled with books, and a large television set with what looks like a Nintendo 64 hooked up with two controllers lying neatly off to the side. As you look around, you spy Celine resting in the corner of the living room, having been unsuccessful to find an open bedroom to scurry into and make a mess of. You give her some scratches underneath her chin and offer her a toy mouse, which she promptly attacks and kicks at excitedly.

With Celine entertained, you enter the dining room and spy frames of people hung up on the wall. Some you recognize as Tomoko with an unfamiliar couple, other times with friends, or with Josuke throughout varying stages of his life. Amusingly of all, you catch a photo of Josuke in what appears to be early elementary, with his hair combed back with gel into what one would describe as a ‘baby jelly roll’.

You snicker into your hand.

Just as you’re about to enter the kitchen, you stop by the tiniest photo out of all of them. The frame is minimalist, quite a bit wider than the photo itself in order to take up some space. It shows a young Tomoko, her hair a bit longer and messier with clothes that reminded you of what your mom used to wear. And beside her is an aged man, who you have to admit was…

You shake your head and try to dispel any and all thoughts, cheeks flushed. Way too old for you.

To get your mind off of older guys, you enter the kitchen to find Tomoko moving around hectically. But it was controlled chaos. The moment she finished using a utensil she would move it to the sink for a brief wash before going back to a pan of sizzling oil and chicken cutlets.

“Higashikata?” you call, grabbing her attention.

“Oh, (Y/N)! It’s nice to see you,” Tomoko greets, briefly stopping her busy walking to give you a quick smile before continuing to perfect her dinner.

With that, she lets out an amused snort. “And please, Tomoko is fine! Higashikata makes me feel so old.”

“Okay,” you acknowledge, watching as she pours some type of rustic brown liquid into tiny saucers. “Uhm. Do you need help?”

Tomoko has to think about it for a second, briefly stopping her pacing. “Hm… Would you be up for setting the table?”

“Of course!” you agree, and she shows you where the utensils and napkins are along with the ceramic plates she would need for the katsu and some type of unnamed salad that sat off to the side.

By the time Josuke and Okuyasu get home there’s no time to play with Celine (who was still entertained by her toy mouse) because dinner has already been plated.

“If you wait too long the chickens going to get cold,” Tomoko chides, but that's all she needs to say before the boys practically rush in.

“Shoes! Shoes at the door!”

They are forcibly kicked from the dining room but it only takes seconds for them to wrestle off their loafers and leave them at the front door before coming right back to the dinner table. Tonight, Tomoko served chicken katsu with a side of tonkatsu sauce and shredded salad. The chicken itself is juicy in the middle, with the fried bread crumbs coating it accentuating the two contrasting textures. As for the tonkatsu sauce, it’s somewhat smokey and reminds you of steak sauce. The salad is just salad, not much to comment on.

Tomoko is genuinely interested in how you’ve been doing in Morioh, along with hearing about your difficulties trying to adjust.

“I actually used to go ??? for school a little bit when I was younger,” she shares, context clues leaving you to guess that the mystery word was similar to ‘out of the country’. “So I definitely get feeling out of place!”

As you’ve surmised from your few encounters, along with Josuke’s general attitude, Tomoko really is a kind woman.

“Where’d you say you’re from again? It’s uhm, uhm…” Okuyasu takes a second to think about the states. “Louise… Louisiana?”

“Not really,” you say, not able to stop yourself from smiling. “I’m more…”

You realize you don’t know the words for directions in Japanese and have to settle for “yeah I guess I live around there” despite really not. Maybe you’ll clarify when your fluency is a bit better. That or you can point it out on a map tomorrow.

Dinner is devoured quickly with no leftovers remaining on the plates, having been practically licked clean. Tomoko has already taken care of a majority of the dishes by smartly cleaning as she went along, so she tasks Josuke and Okuyasu to wash and dry the minimal dishes left while you chill in the living room.

“Thank you for having us, Tomoko.”

Her face flushes a tad bit at the sign of your and Okuyasu’s verbal appreciation.

“Of course, it’s my pleasure!”

Despite her insistence on calling her Tomoko, Josuke didn’t seem to like it when Okuyasu used her first name over her last name. Funnily enough, he acted nonchalant when you did it, so you’re not sure what the big deal is exactly.

“Feel free to hang out around here for a bit. I’ll be upstairs if anyone needs anything!”

You and Okuyasu wave her goodbye as she goes up the stairs, presumably to her bedroom, while Josuke fiddles around with his Nintendo 64, trying to find the extra pair of controllers that he swore he had.

“Man just give it up! We’re gonna have to take turns playing,” Okuyasu huffs, falling back onto the couch.

“I just had it!” Josuke swears, clearly agitated.

But in the end, there is no third pair of controllers. You doubt Josuke would make up such a thing, and based on the way he became frustrated by not being able to find them no matter where he searched in his house, you were inclined to believe him.

So the three of you settle with playing Mario Kart 64. You tend to pick Mario while Josuke goes for Yoshi. As for Okuyasu, he likes picking randomly. Truly a man with no preferences despite Josuke telling him that some characters are clearly better than others.

Finally, it’s down to you and Okuyasu, neck and neck. The last game of the night with the victor is to be decided based on the results of the tournament. You and Okuyasu both have a combined score of 18+ points and with this 4th Round, the winner would be decided. You’re not really much of a racing kind of person, you much prefer Legend of Zelda and Super Mario 64 over Mario Kart. Okuyasu seems to be the exact opposite, taking the game as seriously as ever.

You’re perfectly fine with not winning in all honesty, but to Okuyasu, it's clear that this game meant life or death for his ego.

The final round would take place inside a large mansion, big gray blocks with angry-looking faces slamming down on the race track and pools of lava threatening to devour your character whole.

Side by side, you and Okuyasu compete on the track, collecting bright rainbow blocks and throwing out whatever shell or mushroom it gave you. But it was no use, for Okuyasu was stuck with Donkey Kong, and his heavy racing style was no match for Mario.

The screen fades to black before slowly brightening as the familiar Princess Peach Castle comes into view, three tiny cars sputtering up to the entrance on top of white beams. Third Place belonged to Toad, Second Place belonged to Donkey Kong, and last but not least, First Place belonged to Mario. A fish spits out a golden trophy, bright-colored confetti running down the screen.

Finally, a tiny Italian voice calls out “congratulations!” as the screen darkens to reveal the familiar plumber, who shoots you a big 3D grin.

“Damn it, I was so close!” Okuyasu cries.

“You’ll win next time,” you try to comfort but Okuyasu gains no solace from it.

“Stop with the yapping, you win all the time,” Josuke prods from the couch. In his hands is some fashion magazine, having been reading it whilst you and Okuyasu duked it out. Out of the corner of his eye, he catches the sight of a clock on the wall.

“It’s getting pretty late,” he notices. “Time to call it quits for tonight.”

“Yeah yeah I know,” Okuyasu sighs, powering off the console. “But damn it now I’m all worked up!”

“You’ll cool off on the way home,” Josuke assures him, patting him on the back as all three of you work to get your shoes on. Before you do, you rush to the corner to grab Celine, who had fallen asleep with the toy mouse in her mouth.

“Ready to go?” Josuke asks, and you nod.

With the front door shut behind you, you and Josuke wave Okuyasu goodbye with promises to see each other tomorrow morning to walk to school. Being the gentleman that he is, Josuke offers to walk you home.

“It’s… it’s not far,” you try to say, but he waves you off.

“My mom would get mad if I didn’t,” he mutters. “Don’t look now but—”

You wildly look around until you spot Tomoko on the second floor, peering down from her window behind a set of large curtains. The moment she knows that you know she's watching, she gives you a big smile and a wave before Josuke starts shooing you away.

“C’mon! C’mon! We’re leaving,” he huffs, not stopping until his mom was out of sight.

“Your mom reminds me of my mom,” you tell him.

Josuke looks at you incredulously. “For real? No way, your mom is like, ten times cooler than my mom.”

Your mom is a lot of things, cool is not one of them.

“What makes you think that?” you ask.

“She’s always super nice, and uh,” he struggles to think of anything else. “Cool because she never nags me!”

You stare at him. Unbelievable. But you suppose you’re doing the same thing with his mom, so you drop it. Instead, you choose to look at the sky, noticing that the rainy clouds from this afternoon were slowly starting to dissipate.

The sun had already fallen onto the other side of the earth, leaving orange streaks to remember it by as dark blues and purples began to take the stage. Due to the light pollution of Morioh, you can barely make out any of the stars, much to your disappointment.

“Does it ever get clearer?” you ask Josuke, who looks to you with confusion. “Er, the stars, do they get brighter?”

“The stars?” Josuke repeats, having to think about it for a second before choosing to also stare at the sky above. “Hmm… not really—”

You’re about to sigh and curse whatever God you could think of, but Josuke continues.

“—but my grandpa used to take me to this mountain nearby for camping, and the stars…” he lets out an awed sigh. “Man, they were real pretty.”

Josuke’s grandpa, you repeat to yourself. He died recently, didn’t he? That’s why he missed school the day after I met him.

“That sounds nice,” you tell him.

“Yeah, it was,” he agrees. “I’ll have to go again this summer.”

The walk back to your house really isn’t that long. Before you know it, you’re back home with the lights still off.

Mom and Kawajiri must still be at the conference. Geez, how long is it supposed to last?

“Thanks for having me for dinner,” you say, and Josuke awkwardly coughs into his hand.

“Well I technically had you over for dinner but I get what you’re saying.”

Ah, yeah you did just imply that he ate you like a cannibal. Poor language skills strike again!

“Anyway it’s no big deal, I figured you’d need something to help cheer you up after that whole…” he throws his hands up comedically. “After that whole thing.”

You really did, bowing your head in appreciation.

“Thanks again,” you tell him, offering him a sleepy Celine before briefly bending down to grab the key under your front door. Unlocking it, you take the now slightly-awake cat and let her in.

You’re about to tell him that you’ll see him tomorrow but his face makes you freeze.

He holds up a finger, going to his pockets. “Oh! Before I forget…”

In his hands is a small notebook with large rings and lined paper. He gives it to you, which you hold awkwardly as he tries to explain what it is.

“It’s a journal, obviously,” he coughs, rubbing the back of his neck. “My mom has a bunch because she likes ??? and writing down stuff that's happened in her life. And I figured maybe you’d want one so you can talk about stuff that you can’t really explain…? Yeah, that sounds right.”

“Oh, uhm, thanks,” you stammer, not sure what else to say.

Josuke shrugs, his shoulders stiff and his face awkward. “It’s no big deal. I figured it would be like, a good ???, or something.”

Josuke is a lot more perceptive than I thought, you think to yourself, tracing the lines of the notebook. Or maybe I’m just really obvious with my emotions.

“I’ll go see you tomorrow, ‘kay?”

Josuke starts to sidestep back to the front gate, his hands shoved into his pockets.

“‘Kay,” you repeat, waving him goodbye.

Not knowing what else to do, you quickly go back inside to turn on all of the lights inside. That intruder's bike is still outside in the back, you notice. Should you tell Josuke and have him deal with it or even try to give it back in person? Nerve-wracking… Better to think about it tomorrow.

When you’re done making sure there aren’t any other teenage intruders hiding in your house, you take a shower and get ready for bed. Your room is still slightly disorganized, despite Josuke doing his best to fix everything, so it’ll also have to be another thing for you to deal with tomorrow.

Finally in bed with Celine by your side, you stare at the popcorn ceiling, tracing shapes and designs on fur before smoothing it all out for a fresh canvas. You tap on her noggin until she fluffs up her fur and swats your hand away, choosing to curl up on the corner of your bed to cool off. With your only source of entertainment now gone, your eyes wander around the room, only stopping when it landed on the notebook Josuke had given you. It sat on top of your bedside table, as you were unsure where to put it.

“Journaling, huh,” you mutter to yourself, pulling the bundle of paper into your lap.

Glancing around your dirty room, you spot a cup of pens and get up from your bed. Turning on a plastic light and old fan, you settle back into bed, back to the wall, and open up the notebook. But what to write about? Dozens of potential ideas come to mind, but you’re too indecisive to just pick one.

Biting your lip, you’re forced to anyway.

Maybe about your first days in Japan? Yeah, that sounds like a good start.

The door at the front of the house is slowly unlocked as Kawajiri and Dexandra enter the silent house. They knew that the lights were on when they pulled up in the old car that Kawajiri used to drive back and forth to his work, but they couldn’t believe that all of the lights were turned on. The electricity bill would definitely be a bit higher than usual.

“That girl,” your mom sighs, pulling off the woven cardigan she had worn over best blouse that she only wore for special occasions. “She forgot to turn off the lights!”

“Oh it’s alright, Dex,” Kawajiri assures, bringing her in to plant a kiss on the top of her head, which would no doubt make you start to gag if you were present. “It’s probably only been a couple of hours. Why don’t you check on her to make sure she’s okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, I will,” Dexandra sighs, the two adults splitting away. She managed to turn off the living room and hallway lights before she reached the stairs, her hand trailing on the wall as she took slow steps upward. Finally, she stands at the door to your room, her knuckle rapping against it.

“You up, Y/N?” she calls out, but to no answer. “I’m coming in…”

The knob squeakily turns and the door is pushed out, revealing to Dexandra her daughter’s messy room. While she usually doesn’t enter that much, even she recognized that something had happened. Maybe you decided to redo your room? Who knows.

Speaking of her daughter, she spots her unconscious form leaning into the corner created by her bed's headboard and the wall beside her. She can’t help but smile as she steps in, her heels clicking on the wooden floor. Grabbing a blanket that was laid over a nearby chair, Dexandra throws it over the bed and wraps it around her daughter.

Stepping back to admire her handiwork, she then moves back in to adjust a bit more.

“This probably isn’t good for your back,” she hums to no one in particular, gently scooting you forward until she could get a pillow underneath your head.

Just as she’s about to step back one last time, she spots something that had been sitting in your lap. A journal, and a pencil that had slipped out of your hands.

That’s new, she thinks to herself. I’ve never known her to be into journaling…

Taking the journal and pencil, she sets them on top of your dresser nearby, almost hesitating in the process. You never once had a diary growing up, insisting it was too girly and you’d tell anything that you really needed to share to Celine or Major Tom, and Dexandra couldn’t help but admit she was intrigued by what you could possibly be writing in there. But she holds back, grimacing. She can’t ruin your trust in her!

So she sadly turns off the light illuminating your room and steps back out onto the staircase, closing the door behind her.

Had she read it, it would be an unimaginative retelling of everything that has happened during your stay in Morioh. The only actual opinion you held regarding anything would be found on the last page, tiredly scrawled as sleep overtook you.

Even if things get really weird, I think I’m going to like it here.

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

The next morning is like usual. You wake up and put on your uniform, eat some breakfast, wish your family and cat goodbye, and go outside to meet up with Josuke and Okuyasu to walk to school. After the bus ride, your small group is accompanied by Kanna. Eventually, you meet Koichi at the school since he prefers to ride his bike to school.

First period is fine, just fine seeing as its Mathematics 1. You only struggle a little bit in this class seeing as language isn’t a big barrier, rather it's just your knowledge and comprehension of mathematical equations. Same with Science 1.

By the time lunch comes around, you’re fully assured that today is a normal day despite the events of yesterday. That is, until someone slams open the door of your homeroom, gaining everyone's attention in under two seconds flat.

“Depeche (Y/N)!”

You pause your eating, irritated. You’re a simple person. You like to eat food, hang out with friends, you know, the usual. What you certainly don’t like are random boys shouting your name and bringing everyone’s attention to you. Especially when those boys are nearly wrapped head to toe in bandages and nearly look like a walking mummy.

But then you see that head of combed-over hair, and you quickly remember who it is. The intruder from yesterday.

Only you and Josuke have the knowledge of what happened, and he quickly stood in case something were to happen, while you quickly sank into your seat. Maybe he’ll just go away?

“Who’s this guy?” Okuyasu mutters, and you want to die.

The intruder does not decide to leave, as Josuke standing up is all it takes for him to realize that this was the right classroom and decide to strut on over.

“What do you want?”

Whatever this guy’s name is, he isn’t deterred by Josuke’s obviously aggressive tone, instead choosing to look over the small circle of desks, only stopping when he notices you in the back trying your best to hide under your desk.

“Depeche (Y/N)!” he repeats. “My name is Sakai Roy, and I just wanted to tell you… I am—”

Before you can even respond, something is slammed on top of your desk. A plastic holder, and inside, a scribbled-on cassette tape with words in Japanese and English. Extremely messy, the one thing you for sure make out is the number of hearts doodled in red ink. No way…is this!?

“Totally reformed!”

Chapter 11: xi. kome kome war

Chapter Text

CHAPTER ELEVEN—

PLEASE OPEN YOUR MINDS

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

You like to think you look okay. Sure, you’ve never had a boyfriend before, but it’s only because you never really ‘clicked’ with the boys in your hometown. You’ve known them all since you were all in diapers, they were more of your brothers than like, a boy you could look at romantically. Not to say that people didn’t date around, they definitely did. There was not a lot to choose from, but that has never been your scene.

Or maybe that’s your excuse for having never been confessed to.

Well, there was that one time, but the kid moved out of town literally the day after, so that doesn’t count!

You’ve imagined what that would look like. What kind of guy would you fall for? Would he be kind, sensitive, or more masculine and brash? What would his confession look like?

You’ve never imagined your first confession to belong to some America-obsessed nerd who's attracted to girls who punch him.

“You can’t be serious…”

You hear Josuke sucking in the air between his teeth as you stare at the scribbled cassette tape, unsure of what to do. Do you thank him? Throw it away? What’s the confession culture over here like?

“Super serious!” Roy exclaims, before reaching into his pocket. “Here, I even brought my own ??? ???.”

He starts to reach over to grab the cassette from off of your desk, but your hands shoot out to snatch the cassette tape and hold it close to you. It's so quiet inside of the classroom ever since Roy made his big appearance, you could nearly hear everyone's bated breath. Not only that, but everyone is… staring… at you. And you do not like being in the spotlight.

“Let’s talk outside,” you offer, scooting out of your chair and stepping aside.

All of the members of your group give you bewildered stares as you quietly walk to the closest door leading into the classroom.

“Wait, does that mean you accept?” you hear Roy ask, but you don’t answer, instead choosing to slide open the thin door and walk through into the hallway where no one from the classroom could see you.

“Does that mean you accept!?” he shouts, practically at nothing now.

In the end, you stand outside in the hallway alone with Roy. Somewhat. He stands to your left, cassette player in hand, as if ready for you to pass it over for him to play for you. As for your right, that belongs to Josuke, who had tagged behind Roy the moment he tried to follow you out.

“I wouldn’t try to be around him for too long,” Josuke warns you, like you’re not already privy to that information. “He’s way too dangerous.”

The tension between the two boys is stifling, seeing as they were both giving one another heated, disapproving glares.

“Am not!” Roy tries to defend. “I’m as harmless as a fly. List one thing that I’ve done that could be considered ‘dangerous’.”

You give him an unconvinced look.

“You broke into my house…”

Roy laughs your comment off, but even you can see the amalgamating nervous sweat on his neck.

“Pft! Only because I was paid to,” he smirks, before whispering the next part under his breath. “Plus my Stand isn’t even that strong so it’s not like I could’ve actually done anything…”

But he didn’t whisper it quietly enough, as both you and Josuke clearly heard his comment.

“Like that makes it any better!” Josuke barks, an aggravated grimace on his face with each spoken breath from Roy.

“I’m serious! I wouldn’t have messed with you otherwise,” Roy tries to assure, but neither of you looks like you’re about to believe it. “Look, it started like this…”

The story is one that he, allegedly, already shared with Jotaro, who gave him the all-clear to be released from the hospital this morning. According to Roy, he was just your average run-of-the-mill teenager. Sure, he may like imported American goods a bit too much, but doesn’t every teen have an interest like that? Whether it be comics, T.V. shows, or video games, he’s not that unusual, really.

Something he particularly enjoyed were those old superhero comics. Except he didn’t like superheroes. Oh no, he liked the ‘anti-heroes’.

(You’re not even really listening to his backstory at this point as he tries to explain what an ‘anti-hero’ is to Josuke and you. Maybe if you looked more engaged he would hurry up?)

Something something he started taking odd jobs from a bunch of students, no matter how dirty the work happened to be. That included bullying people for lunch money or getting into ruff-housing matches to get some guy's girl to swoon for whatever guy paid to kick his ass.

“I don’t really see how that matters,” Josuke interrupts, seemingly as bored with this guy's life story as you.

“It’ll matter in a second,” Roy hisses, before continuing on with the story.

Basically, some guy heard of his ability to take on whatever job, no matter the content.

“But I don’t murder!” Roy interrupts. “Or like, you know, do any naughty stuff to girls. Just really unconventional jobs.”

And he looks at you, eyes wide as if to take in every reaction, but you only give him the satisfaction of witnessing your overly bored and nonchalant expression. He isn’t winning you over at this rate, he glumly notes.

He continues with his head a bit bowed, hands shoved in his pockets as one of his feet toed at the ground. “Anyway, this guy paid me to follow you and your friend around while you hung out with that old guy. Afterward, he wanted me to find out whatever you guys had talked about.”

“So you decided to break into my house?” you ask, and he visually cringes.

“Well… yeah!” he admits. “You’re always hanging out with your guy friends or that crazy chick. The only way I could get you alone is at your house.”

He described it like one would do when visiting an old friend rather than a complete stranger who had no knowledge of his existence. Dear lord. Your earlier assumption of him was spot on. There is not an ounce of intelligence in his body.

But there’s no point in berating him now. If Jotaro deemed him safe to be let out of the hospital, it meant he was no longer a threat. Then you remember the cassette tape in your hands, and you feel the cold plastic. What was he talking about again? Being good now or something?

“So what’s this about you being reformed?” you as, trying to jog your memory and his.

A flashlight clicks in his brain as you remind him what he was originally here for. “Oh, right!”

“Well, that Jotaro guy gave me a stern talking to and how I shouldn’t go into people’s houses and all that. And I kept thinking to myself… Wow, I love a girl who can pack a punch and defend herself! Super impressive. After he was finished talking about everything, I asked him what kinda guy you’d like…”

He continues talking, oblivious to the mixed expression on your face. To go through all of this effort of making a custom cassette tape just for you (which can take hours, mind you!) all because he liked that you knew how to defend yourself?

You’re not sure whether to be flattered or freaked out.

“... and he said you didn’t seem easily impressed with guys who break into houses or beat people up for money. So I’ve decided to put that all behind me to become a guy who you’d like!”

He looks at you expectedly, like a dog would look at its owner after successfully completing a new trick. Unfortunately, this dog brought in dirt after digging multiple holes in the backyard, so you’re not exactly impressed.

You could just say you’re not interested. You could cry and keep going on about how he violated your home and that you never wanted to see him again.

But in all honesty, you’re really not sure what to say.

“Thanks, I guess,” you stammer, hoping he would leave it at just that and you could go back to eating lunch and never see him again. Seriously, that half-eaten tuna melt sandwich is calling your name.

“So do you accept?” he asks, right as you’re about to shimmy your way out of the circle made by him and Josuke.

You pause, mid-step. “Accept what?”

“My confession!”

You stare at him. His eyes are a piercing blue that you haven’t quite seen during your time here in Japan, they remind you of the eyes back home. And his dirty blond hair, nearing brown, is similar. Despite it being fashioned in somewhat of an old style, you’ll admit it did make his face look nice. His personality and attitude needed work though, that’s for sure.

Could you accept this guy being your boyfriend?

“I’ll think about it.”

Josuke blanches upon hearing that.

“You can’t be serious!” he tries to get you to understand. You’ve done this ‘forgiveness’ thing with everyone who has tried to mess with you. Hazamada, Kanna, and now Roy. But maybe you should draw the line at, he doesn’t know, home invaders?

“Oh, thank you so much!”

Roy takes your hands in his and while he looks ecstatic as ever, Josuke does not look happy.

“It’ll be fine,” you try to say, but your new… acquaintance? School mate? Friend? Er, Roy, quickly interrupts.

“It’ll be more than fine!” He assures, a large weight falls around your neck as he brings you and Josuke in close.

“If you ever want something from me, seriously, just say the word! I know I’m reformed now but I still have a lot of connections. Especially now that I have that ‘Stand’ power thanks to whats-his-name.”

You thought Josuke would be revolted by this gesture. And while his eyebrow did twitch in annoyance at the act, that quickly got shoved aside once he heard Roy say something that he particularly liked.

“Just say the word, huh?” he repeats, and he has a sneaky smile that you’ve seldom seen before.

“For real, man. Whatever you want.”

But then Roy sidetracks and he briefly glances at you. “Well, whatever you want I should say!”

You and Josuke briefly look at one another, and he coughs into his hand, ducking under Roy’s arm and standing up straight.

“Listen, Roy, how about my friend and I talk for a second and then we can discuss matters further. How about that?”

A confused look appears on Roy’s face but it’s not like he’s about to say no and get into some altercation.

“Works for me! I’ll just be in here palling around. See ya in a sec’!”

He gives you an energetic wave, and you return it with a little wave of your own as he opens the classroom door and struts right in.

Clack!

The door is now shut but you can still hear Okuyasu’s loud voice as he openly questions Roy, Kanna occasionally chiming in as Koichi tried to calm them down.

“Y/N…”

A pair of hands move to rest on your shoulders, and your head moves to look back at Josuke, figuring him to be concerned, annoyed, or any sort of that combination. But rather, he looks quite excited.

“Okay, I know he broke into your house, but this is seriously a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!”

You nearly choke on your spit, and he pats your back as you cough up a lung but he continues to talk about how good it would be to have a dude waiting on your beck and call.

“You - ack!- just said - cough! - not to accept!” you accuse, pointing a finger at him as you tried to control your hacking.

Josuke waves you off like that wasn’t him just five minutes ago. “Yeah, but that was before I knew he was gonna do stuff for you to make up for the whole breaking-in thing!”

With your coughing now under wraps, you look back up to Josuke, who was once again putting on his best pleading face and had his hands wrapped together.

“Please, just for a little while?” he asks, before straightening back up and crossing his arms over his chest as a smug look appears on his face. “Then we can tell him to go kick rocks.”

If you tune in, you can still hear Okuasyu, Kanna’s, and Roy’s jumbled voices. Now they’re talking about something related to wrestling. Well, they don’t sound too hostile now, and even Josuke was open to hanging around the guy, even if he was only around to please you.

At first, you were the one who wanted to hear him out with everyone else ready to kick him out as soon as something happened, and now everyone seems to be cool with him. How strange…

“Yeah, I guess,” you sigh, and Josuke lets out a small ‘yes!’.

When the two of you reenter the classroom, you find that Roy had grabbed a spare table and chair and scooted it in between you and Kanna.

“We’re gonna need more space,” you haplessly realize out loud. Seriously, it’s like another classroom is starting to grow in the back of your home room.

But you and Josuke take a seat as the three teens quiet down, seemingly in wait to see what the two of you would say.

“Sakai Roy…” Josuke starts, and the boy looks nervous. “You may stay…but under one condition.”

Roy was ready to start talking on the spot as to why he should be allowed to stay, stopping once he heard Josuke’s approval.

“Oh? What kind of condition?” he asks.

“You have to do anything that Y/N asks you.”

“I was gonna do that already, but okay!”

And that’s how Sakai Roy became your friend group's official fetch boy.

“Y/N, can you ask Roy to get us a milk from the cafeteria.”

“Y/N-chan, can Roy get me an extra pudding cup from the dessert line?”

“Y/N, tell Roy to cover my cleaning duties this afternoon, I need to visit this arcade’s grand opening!”

And you ask. It’s not like you’re holding him at gunpoint. He can stand up and tell you no and walk out of the classroom and you wouldn’t care either way. But he doesn’t, instead choosing to smile, walk off, and return with whatever Josuke, Kanna, or Okuyasu had asked for.

“Makes me feel bad for him…” you’d whisper to Koichi, as the two of you would watch as the three other teenagers would relentlessly ask him to do something for them. But he’d never refuse, no matter how odd the job seemed.

“I mean, it’s not like we’re making him,” Koichi tries to rationalize, but both of you still visually grimace when someone asks something of him.

Sighing, you grab your cassette player and plug in the small pair of gangling headphones that belonged to your mom, reaching into your jacket pocket to pull out the cassette tape that had been slammed on top of your desk just a couple of days prior.

You flip it to the other side, reading off the list of hastily written words of songs that you could remember being played all the time back home in the U.S. You’re sure some hits were bound to be big in Japan too, despite the language difference, but so far when you’ve turned on the radio, it's mostly been local stuff. But you’ve never really been into pop music, mostly preferring new wave or artistic rock thanks to the influence of your mom and dad. Suffice to say, Roy’s playlist left a bit to be desired.

You revealed your thoughts to Josuke and Okuyasu on the walk home the other day, the day Roy tried to confess.

“I’ve never heard American music before, can I try and listen?” Okuyasu asks, and you loan him your cassette player and tap the worn-out play button. Familiar music plays as the three of you walk silently.

“Can’t believe he went through all of that just for you to not like it,” Josuke whistles, and you give him a hapless shrug.

“What would you want in a custom tape anyway?” he asks, and you have to think about it.

You already have cassette tapes with your favorite songs and albums, there really isn’t much else you would want.

You shrug again. “Surprise me.”

The next morning, in your hands, lies a custom-made cassette tape. While not the one Roy had made you, it was similar in a lot of ways. A mix of English and Japanese was written on it, and rather than red hearts, it had gold symbols meticulously inked onto white canvas paper neatly clipped to fit into the inside of the cassette tape case.

“There’s a bunch of Prince songs on it since that’s all I really have,” Josuke tells you. “And some Jimi Hendrix. My mom also let me borrow some of her old cassettes so there's Terao Akira and Kome Kome Club on it as well.”

All artists you haven’t heard of or only had a vague recollection of. Some boys at school liked Prince, but you haven’t really listened to him, or Jimi Hendrix despite his similar popularity.

“You can listen to it on the way to school,” Josuke offers, and so you do. Okuyasu and Josuke talk during the walk home as you play each individual song, giving you time to process the ones you liked and didn’t.

To your surprise, you like eight of the ten songs that Josuke had picked out. And now, even a couple of days later, you’re still playing the cassette tape. Of course you still can’t fully understand some of the Japanese songs he picked, aside from one which had surprisingly simple words and even mentioned Rocky Horror’s Picture Show for whatever reason.

If either Roy or Josuke asked which cassette you preferred you’d spin it as ‘both too good to choose’. And then when they stopped pestering you, it would be Josuke’s who you slid into your Walkman and quietly listened to when you studied or lazed around.

But neither of them needed to know that.

Chapter 12: xii. once in a lifetime

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWELVE—

WELL, HOW DID I GET HERE?

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

It’s a normal after-school day.

You’re walking home with Okuyasu and Josuke, both having offered to accompany you after your tennis practice. The back of your shirt is slightly damp with sweat after only an hour or so of work. You’ve been staying a bit later than usual to see if Hazamada would rear his head around there, but so far no luck. He was recently released from the hospital according to Josuke (who got this information from Jotaro), but you’ve yet to see him at school. You may just have to corner him one of these days.

Okuyasu is once again complaining about his dating life as you and Josuke try to console him.

“I just don’t get it!” he openly sighs, talking a bit faster than you would prefer. “How come Koichi gets a cute ??? and I don’t? Not to say he doesn’t deserve one but I think I could be a good ??? too!”

“A cute ‘what’?” you repeat.

“Oh you know, like a uh, uhm,” Okuyasu struggles to think of the word or synonym to describe it.

“A girl friend,” Josuke pipes in, stressing both of the words separately so you could understand. “Girlfriend.”

Would be a lot easier to learn Japanese if they followed grammar rules similar to English, you groan, understatement of the freaking century.

Wait—

“Koichi has a girl friend!” you gasped, but Josuke just tsks at you.

“Girlfriend,” he emphasizes, but proper nouns are not what you care about right now!

“When did Koichi get a girlfriend?” you sputter, but Josuke and Okuyasu both act like it'a no big deal.

“It was that thing we needed your help with, remember?” Josuke tries to remind you.

Okuyasu nods, shooting you a finger gun like you’d remember what they were talking about. “Yeah! With getting that girl to stay away from him.”

“Huh? No, wha…”

Too much to handle. When did this happen? Just a couple weeks ago, right? And you walked out on them because you were pissed that they had been ignoring you. Well, it looks like whatever plan they decided on didn’t work out well in the end.

“That’s when we were gone that one day after the whole Kanna situation,” Josuke mentions, but dear god you’re having trouble remembering that too.

“Anyway, be careful around his girl, ‘kay? Think she has a couple of—” Josuke points his index finger ant his head and twirls it around. “—Missing, if you catch my drift. Ya dig?”

“I dig,” you mutter, squeezing your eyes shut and praying that they didn’t notice that all of these events just passed you by and that you couldn’t remember a single thing.

Okuyasu is dropped off first and you’re not far off.

The first thing you notice when you and Josuke approach Kawajiri’s house is the new car parked in the driveway. Kawajiri and your mom both share a dark grey Toyota, but this new car is a bright cherry red that you don’t recognize.

“Wow, did you pass a driver’s exam or something?” Josuke whistled. “My mom said she won’t even let me drive til I get accepted into college!”

“I don’t think so,” you say, staring at it with wonder. “Maybe Kawajiri has someone over or something?”

Josuke nods along before the two of you wave each other goodbye.

Standing in front of the door, you hear the sounds of people talking. You immediately recognize a voice that belongs to your mother near the door, Kawajiri’s voice somewhere else in the house entirely. Maybe in the kitchen?

There are two voices within your house that you don’t recognize.

Swiping the key out from under the door mat, you insert it into the lock and turn, trying to open the door as normally as possible.

“Oh, you’re home!” Says your mom.

She had been sitting in the living room on a chair opposite to the door, quickly getting up to go greet you. She shows you to the living room, and you spot a woman about her age sitting on the couch. Her hair is a lovely auburn, twisting back into a ponytail. She wears a light purple sweater that exposes a bit of her collar bone with a patterned skirt, definitely not a style you associate with older women.

“This is Kawajiri Shinobu,” your mom introduces, the woman standing to greet you with a light handshake.

“Kawajiri…?” you repeat, and Shinobu nods with a somewhat strained smile

“Yes, yes I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. No, we’re not actually related to Yuuto.”

Yuuto. That’s your step-dad’s first name, isn’t it? You’ve been calling him Kawajiri all this time because you’re too bitter to actually address him so personally like your mom. But at this rate, you’re going to have to with this new lady in the mix…

Wait, did she say ‘we’?

“Welcome home!” You hear Kawajiri greet from the kitchen, and you turn to witness the face of the most cold man you have ever seen.

A pale man with slicked black hair stands in the small area connecting the kitchen and living room. He’s easily taller than everyone in the room, save for Yuuto, with a stare to look down on everyone to boot.

“This is my old schoolmate, Kawajiri Kosaku!” Kawajiri, or, Yuuto, introduces, and the man approaches you to shake your hand.

“It’s nice to meet you,” you stammer, and he nods in kind. Not much of a talker, eh?

When you look at Kosaku and Yuuto side by side, they almost look like… brothers? Yuuto is a bit tanner with a more youthful and slim face, while Kosaku has higher cheekbones with cheeks that are a bit hollowed out. There were enough differences for anyone taking the time to tell they were just similar looking men, but at first glance, they really did look related. And that last name isn't helping at all.

“Shinobu and Kosaku are here with their boy Hayato,” your mom goes on to say, only stopping when she realized that boy she was talking about wasn’t anywhere on the first floor.

“Oh! Where did he go?” she wonders, but Shinobu just shakes her head, her smile a bit rueful.

“I’m sure he’s just in the backyard playing with that cat of yours. But we brought him because we were wondering if you would be interested in babysitting him some days after school? Yuuto mentioned to us that you were interested in finding a small job to support yourself, and we have some pocket change to spare.”

You nearly gawk but manage to keep a relatively straight expression. Babysitting?

“Plus, you still need some help with your Japanese,” Yuuto expresses. “And what better way to learn than with someone who has similar language skills!”

That’s probably both a little demeaning to me and this mystery boy, you grimace inwardly.

“Like I said, you’ll get paid of course,” Shinobu expresses. “We were looking for a babysitter anyway to look after him on the days I’ll be at my local woman’s club and can’t be home after he comes home from school.”

You’ve never babysat before, hopefully your mom has informed them of that. It’s not like you’re completely unaware of how to handle kids, your friends often had younger siblings that you would interact with when over at your friend house. And babysitting is just like that. Except there’s no immediate adults around. And you’re fully responsible if anything happens to the kid…

Thinking about it makes you squirm.

“How about you go meet him first?” Yuuto offers. “Like Shinobu said, I’m sure he’s just off in the backyard or something.”

“Sure,” you nod along, eager to get skitter away from this stifling conversation while the adults continued talking.

Outside, the orange sky has begun to dim into a dark blue, with cream colored clouds breaking apart and drifting away from one another. Trees sway in the breeze, and the chirping of evening insects can be heard. Everything that should be here is here, except for the boy.

He wasn’t in the living room or kitchen, you think to yourself, walking back inside. Where else could he be?

Your eyes go to glance at the stairs leading to your room, and you grimace.

You can hear the voice of your mom and Shinobu inside of the kitchen. It seems that Yuuto and Kosaku retreated to the master bedroom, so fat chance the kid was in there. Bedroom it’ll have to be.

Sighing, you walk up the creaky stairs, your hands trailing on the side of the wall. The door is cracked open a bit, and you spot the still figure of a child who couldn’t be older than eleven. He’s leaning down, and you can barely make out the movement of his hands. At his feet, of course, is Celine, whose belly is currently being petted and rubbed.

When they said babysitting I expected a seven year old or something, you think to yourself. This kid can stay home alone no problem!

The sound of a creaking door catches his attention, and he quickly jumps up and away from the cat.

Now that you can get a better look at him, he looks like the perfect amalgamation of his mom and dad. His mom’s auburn hair, his dad’s stare. He has such a serious look for such a young kid. In his hands is some type of mechanical rectangle, with a pair of headphones spiraling off and connecting to his ears.

“Uhm, hey,” you start. “I’m—”

And before you can introduce yourself, he barrels past you, his tiny feet pounding on the stairs as he rounds the corner in the direction of the back door and Yuuto and your mom’s room.

You stare after him in befuddlement, only stopping when feeling something soft brush up against your ankle.

“What a strange boy,” you murmur, brushing Celine’s fur back into one uniform layer.

Standing back up, you tiptoe back downstairs, turning briefly to see your mom and Shinobu inside of the kitchen. Shinobu had a white apron tied around her waist while your mom decided to freestyle it, not caring if sauce or vegetable juice got onto her shirt. They’re clearly making something for dinner, but you can’t tell what.

Turning the other way, you stare down the hallway that leads back outside. To your right is the master bedroom, where you can hear the quiet murmurs of someone clearly not an eleven year old boy. To your left, you spot a slightly open door. You’ve never opened it before, instead choosing to assume that it was a normal closet of some sort, but as you open it, you could not have been more wrong.

Connected to the door is a layer of stairs leading down into what appears to be a basem*nt. A bare light bulb illuminates the deepest level, not doing the gray cement walls any aesthetical favors. The basem*nt stairs are even worse than yours, with no carpet on top and only bare wood that wasn’t even stained. Nails could be seen hammered into the sides and top, one day a future accident for anyone who would catch their pant leg on the top of it.

Now at the bottom of the stairs, you can see the entire basem*nt. It’s easily half as big as the whole house, stretching vertically in one direction. There are boxes full of miscellaneous objects, books piled high on wooden crates that are no doubt from Yuuto’s days as a teacher. Off to the side are some boxes that you can recognize belonging to your mom.

And all the way in the corner, on top of some rickety crates, is the boy. His head is pressed to the wall, and you finally make out what he had been holding onto back up in your room. A small mechanical object, and connected to it are some earphones. Music, maybe? But before you get the chance to pipe up, he catches sight of you standing awkwardly near the stairs.

Before either of you can react, his little legs wobble on top of the shaky crates, and in a rush to stabilize himself, the crates end up completely slipping out from under him.

The boy, Hayato, squeezes his eye shut and braces himself to feel the cold cement ground below, only to feel something so soft he’d never think for it to be on the ground. His eyes flutter open, stunned to see himself in the arms of some teenage girl. He looks at you, and you look at him.

“You’re not hurt are you?”

You quickly stand, bringing up Hayato with you. He takes his hands away from yours, going to grab at the mechanical walkie-talkie plugged into his set of headphones. It isn’t broken, thankfully, and that’s all he really cared about.

The two of you stand awkwardly, and having been rebuffed during your introduction, you don’t know what else to say.

“What are you listening to? A cassette?” you guess, and his expression turns bitter.

“It’s a ???,” he reluctantly shares after a few seconds of your staring. Not like it matters, you don’t even know what he said.

“A ???,” he repeats. But you’re still not getting it.

He chooses to roll his eyes, going back over to the crates that had been knocked over and setting them back up. With that done, he crawls on top and inches himself close to the cement wall, intent on listening to his… Whatever that is.

But his earbuds are of such poor quality that you can easily hear what was being listened to, despite it realistically not being that loud. Or, at least you think whats coming from it. It sounds like Yuuto’s voice. And as far as you’re aware, he’s still in his room. Just how could this kid be listening to him?

Approaching the cement wall, you glance over at him before realizing the sounds of Yuuto’s voice had become louder. Much louder, like it was directly over you. You must be directly underneath his and your mom’s room. You can hear him pacing around worriedly above, his voice so quiet you could barely make it out, especially now that he was talking much faster than how he talked in front of you.

Does he slow his words down on purpose to make sure I understand? Wow.

Your cheeks burn, but you quickly wave that away.

But now it’s Kosaku’s turn to talk, and he speaks much slower than Yuuto in comparison. Despite this, the layers of cement, wood, and carpet forces you to strain your ears and really lean in. You’re not expecting anything heavy to be discussed, it’s just a friend coming over for dinner and stuff, what could there be to talk about?

“I…. feeling… Dealing with… problems… marriage…”

A lot, apparently.

With whatever Kosaku wanted to say, it was sufficient enough to Hayato, who crawled off of the crates with a neither grim nor unsatisfied expression on his face. Before you can ask why he was seemingly spying on his dad, he scurries off and up the stairs and into the hallway above. You can hear the clattering of plates, interfering with your ability to listen to Yuuto and Kosaku’s discussion, whatever it was about.

Staring at the cement wall for just a moment, you choose to follow Hayato, back up into the hallway and into the kitchen.

If you had stayed just a few more minutes, Kosaku would have allowed Yuuto to briefly vent about his latest frustrations with his own life.

Yuuto sat atop of his neatly made bed, a woven blanket covering the top. He’s bent over over, a slight frown on his face as Kosaku leaned against the windowsill.

“I guess I just don’t understand what I’m doing wrong,” he frets. “I’ve tried being cool with her and giving her space but she still hasn’t warmed up to me. Dexy says I just need to give it time but… I’m worried, you know? Every husband should have a good relationship with their wife’s kid.”

The topic of children had come up while their wives began to prepare dinner, and while Dexandra and Shinobu had nothing but praise to sing about their kids, Yuuto and Kosaku were the exact opposite. Kosaku had shared his struggles to get Hayato to respect him as a father figure, mentioning how he appeared to be the only person in the boys life who was actively avoided.

Yuuto could relate. He never imagined becoming a step-father to a teenage girl, but his love for Dexandra encouraged him to try and be the best he could be. He couldn’t be overbearing, but he couldn’t be too off-putting either. It was a hard balance, one that didn’t seem to be improving at all.

“Maybe we should go on a fishing trip or something,” Yuuto suggests, oblivious to his friends slightly perplexed look.

“Women don’t like that sort of thing,” Kosaku stated. Then, he bit his lip.

Before Yuuto could ask if his friend had anything else on his mind, the man fished out a card from his wallet, holding it out to him.

It’s a business card in bright pink and dazzling hot orange patterns. He doesn't recognize the business at all, but manages to notice that the store is in the main area of Morioh inside the shopping district.

“Cinderella?” Yuuto repeats, flipping the card onto the back to read the list of services on the back.

“I got it recommended to me by one of my younger co-workers,” Kosaku shared, shoving his hands into his pockets. “They do all sorts of face stuff. Maybe you can take her out for one of those spa days?”

Kosaku neglected to mention just why it was recommended to him and why he even bothered to hold onto it, but Yuuto didn’t bring it up.

“Well gee, I really appreciate it,” Yuuto thanked, sliding it into his own wallet.

Kosaku instead chose to avoid the other mans gaze, coughing into his fist as he glanced at the ground. “Don’t mention it.”

Before either could talk about anything else, the call of Dexandra rang through the house, signaling that dinner was ready. A nice, heavy aroma had started to flood the rooms, courtesy of the ventilation system. The two men could only guess as to what their wives made as they exited the bedroom, joining the rest of the household at the dining room table.

Plated at the table is a bowl of steaming white rice, and beside it is a large portion of vegetables sitting in a brown slurry of sauce. Portions of chicken cutlets sat on top of ceramic bowls with sides of chopped onions and scallions. The chicken had been cooking when you got home, and everything else didn’t take long to prepare seeing as the vegetables were pre-cut and only needed to be steamed.

Everyone takes a seat besides Yuuto and your mom, who helps serve dinner. After that, all that’s left is quiet eating besides the occasional small talk between Shinobu and your mom. You’re busy smooshing your cut up potatoes when someone calls your name, and you look up from your bowl of mixed food.

“I’m sorry?”

It appears that someone asked you a question, based on the way all the adults, save for Kosaku, were staring at you.

“I asked if you got to know Hayato a bit better while we were making dinner,” Shinobu repeats, not seeming to mind your brief mental absence.

“Oh, yeah—” you sneak a glance at Hayato, who stared at you with his head slightly bowed. “Definitely! Got to know him really well.”

You’ll just leave out the part where he was spying on his dad, that doesn’t sound like it would really help the conversation.

“So would you be interested in watching him after school? It’s only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, those are the days when Kosaku and I won’t be home til a bit later,” she elaborates, occasionally picking at her food. “His school isn’t too far away from yours, I think it’s only a couple streets down in fact, so you can just pick him up once school releases you!”

The Tennis Club meets up every afternoon, but surely it’d be okay to miss a couple days out of the week right? Plus, it’s a chance to make some cash. You don’t have to pat your dry pockets to know you are nearly in debt at the moment. Plus, this kid is old enough to take care of himself, you would basically be paid to do nothing!

“I’d love to help if you’re interested,” you offer, and Shinobu ultimately agrees.

You’d be paid around 600 yen for your trouble, which can buy you about five boxes of pretzel sticks from the mini-mart down the road, so you’re satisfied.

“Oh! How about you walk Hayato to school tomorrow morning?” your mom suddenly suggests, before turning to address Shinobu and Kosaku. “You guys live right off of Araya street, right? It’s only a couple of streets away from the bus station.”

“That doesn’t sound bad,” Shinobu agrees, not even bothering to glance at Kosaku, much to your intrigue. “It’ll get you a bit familiar with the route to Hayato’s school!”

Both women turn to see what you think, both similar in attitude, you realize.

“I don’t see why not,” you awkwardly agree, trying to spoon in another mouthful of rice and sauce.

“Alright! It’s settled. I’ll leave some more information with your mom so you can have all the details for tomorrow.”

And that’s how you end up standing with this eleven year old kid outside of Morioh Station as the two of you wait for the bus. Adults and students walk around the metro area, some waiting for the same bus as you. It's a bit crowded, more than usual, due to the abundance of morning rain, and you finally have justification for your new rain jacket!

You feel very vindicated right now.

“Isn’t he old enough to walk on his own?” Josuke asks, peering over your shoulder to glance down at the little guy.

“Yeah, he has that children’s hat and everything!” Okuyasu points out.

But you don’t really care about all of that, and neither do the boys when you show them the yen bills in your hand. They change their tune pretty quickly and end up pestering you for Shinobu and Kosaku’s address to see if they were in need of any more babysitters.

As the two of them talked about starting up a kid-sitting business in order to make some money, you can’t help but glance down at Hayato. He had been silent the whole time you’ve been around, not bothering to elaborate on whatever question you try to ask. Not that you mind, it’s just a bit humorous that Yuuto initially wanted you to watch him so you could improve your Japanese.

Oh well, at least you’re getting paid.

Thinking about that, you take out a box of pizza sticks from your bag, tearing open the cardboard and plastic wrapping to pop in a few of the miniature snacks. It's the spicy kind, which neither Okuyasu nor Josuke really preferred, so they left you alone.

"What's that?" a small voice speaks up.

You look down at the small boy beside you. He's supposed to be around eleven, but he looks much younger than that. Strangely thin, short to boot. Not to the point where he looked malnourished, but definitely like a late bloomer.

"Just some pizza sticks," you reply, briefly checking the name on the box. "Pretz, I think."

The name is in bright red and yellow letters, surprisingly in English. For some reason you've seen this happen a few times, with Japanese-made products having English names or words on the packaging. Same can't be said for back home, you've never seen anything Japanese until coming here.

Hayato doesn't bother speaking after that, and so you chew down on your stick as quietly as possible.

"Do you want one or something?"

His head shoots up in surprise, like he wasn't expecting the offer. But you had titled the small cardboard box in his direction, a couple of the spice covered biscuit stick hanging out of it.

"Sure, I guess..."

He takes one.

He takes another.

And before you know it, between the two of you, the box is devoured in under five minutes. His hand reaches up to grab another stick, only to feel sticky and flavorful dust coating his fingers instead.

"All gone," you shrug, briefly walking away to presumably throw the empty snack box away.

With you out of sight, Hayato couldn't help but stare at his hands. Covered in orange and beige bread crumbs, he debates wiping them on his shorts, but the sight of a napkin entering his field of vision stops him.

"For your hands," you share, like he didn't know, but he doesn't mention it.

Instead, he lets out a small noise before taking it from you, discovering it to be wet in the process. You must've visited a nearby water fountain, lightly wetting it to really make sure there wouldn't be any leftover pizza dust.

"Uhm, thanks," he says, quickly wiping off his hands.

It's not long after that does the bus arrive, the four of you loading on. The three teenagers talk between themselves as Hayato glances out the window, occasional seeing the outlines of their reflections in the glass. Two pompadours in differing sizes often jutted out.

What an old hairstyle, he thinks to himself, but doesn't care to dwell on it any further.

After a quick bus ride, you step off to walk Hayato to school. Despite encouraging them to go straight to school, both Josuke and Okuyasu preferred to follow along, even if it cut into their time.

Like Shinobu said, Hayato's school isn't far at all from yours, so picking him up when school lets out wouldn't be a problem at all. You wish him a good day and say that you'll see him tomorrow. And as you leave, Hayato can't help but watch as the three teenagers walk down the sidewalk down to Budo-Ga Oka.

What bizarre teens, he thinks, before heading off into the open school.

Chapter 13: xiii. just

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THIRTEEN—

HOW TO GET TO PUREST HELL

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

It is no secret that Josuke Higashikata is extremely popular with girls. Ask any stray schoolgirl leaving Budo-Go Oka and they’ll be quick to list off the traits they found so endearing about him, most of which have to do with his attractiveness. But most girls are aware of his preference to be rather left alone. Most of them, that is.

“And what’s her name again?”

It’s late in the afternoon, nearing the end of club activities for the day. Golden orange light spreads out across the classroom desks, bathing a small group of girls in its light. They all hovered around the front of a podium, with one sole girl standing behind it.

“Depeche (Y/N),” reiterates a girl.

Light gleams off her glasses, and she brushes back strands of hair behind her ear. Haruka, the student council historian, took her information gathering very seriously. If she were to find out any of her records to be wrong, it’s best to steer clear of her way.

“Take a look at this!”

Another piece of paper slides over to the top of the podium, showing a printed map of Morioh dotted with a red line that led to Budo-Go Oka. Natsuho, the wavy-haired secretary, had diligently tracked and followed the mysterious new girl who had begun to walk with the renowned Josuke and lesser-known Okuyasu. As of that afternoon, Natsuho was aware of every before and after school activity, when she’d walk with Josuke, when she’d walk with some kid, and when she was by herself.

“She’ll be walking alone tomorrow since Josuke and his guy friend got picked to help out Mr. Koga to prepare for Sports Day,” Natsuho explains. Her eyes lift to address the president, a young girl with long silky hair.

Misa tilts her head, choosing to instead glance at a girl who hadn’t spoken for the entirety of the meeting.

“Is something on your mind, Sanae?”

Sanae was the only one who didn’t offer up information or any piece of advice on the new foreign girl. Her job didn’t require direct contact with her, at least for now. So what was there to say?

“It’s nothing,” she says with a shake of her head, and Misa believes her.

The Student Body President gives her a hapless sigh and a smile that could only be described as patronizing. “As per usual.”

She claps her hands, gaining everyone’s attention. “It’s been decided!”

“Tomorrow morning we shall come into contact with this Depeche (Y/N) and order her to cease all contact with Higashikata Josuke right then and there!”

The student council pats themselves on their back for a job well done and packs their things, having done nothing of actual value for the student body.

Meanwhile, off somewhere in Morioh…

“Achoo!”

You sneeze into your sleeve, nearly tripping on uneven pavement. You were walking home with your friends after another day of tennis. The tournament with a cash prize is just a couple of weeks away so you’ve been doing your best to get ready. Hazamada still hasn’t come back to tennis, but maybe he’ll be convinced too once he hears of the cash prize.

“Allergies acting up?” Assumes Okuyasu, but you shake your head, trying not to stare at the snot collected on your sleeve with disgust.

“I don’t think so,” you mutter, grateful as Josuke passes you a handkerchief. You didn’t realize boys in Japan carry that sort of thing around.

“Maybe someone’s talking about you,” Josuke offers.

“But who could possibly be talking about me?” you wonder, but both boys shrug.

The two had actually joined you in playing tennis today instead of just waiting outside. Because tomorrow is Sports Day, Josuke and Okuyau wanted to try their hand and see how well they were doing physically, despite your warning that their tennis prowess has no real indication of how well they’re going to do tomorrow. They didn’t listen and spent most of the afternoon goofing off while you tried to play seriously with the club’s vice president.

Okuyasu is dropped off first and you follow not long after.

“Remember,” Josuke warns. “I won’t be here to get you for school tomorrow so you better not forget and end up being late.”

You wave him off, grabbing a key from under Yuuto’s welcome mat. “I got it, I got it. Just worry about yourself and make sure to wake up on time.”

Josuke’s more likely to turn off his alarm and sleep in than you were to even think about showing up late to school, but it’s not like he needed to know that.

The two of you part ways. For dinner, you have leftover fried chicken with creamy pasta prepared by none other than Yuuto Kawajiri. The sauce is enough to nearly put you into a coma right then and there but you’re forced to shower before being able to pass on your bed.

You’re sleepy when you get out of bed and force yourself to eat stale cereal—you had left the plastic bag unrolled for a bit too long—before getting ready for school.

You’re sleepy when your mom kisses your forehead and releases you out into the world, awkwardly stumbling in the direction of the high school.

Yeah, you are in no shape to participate in Sports Day today.

Okay, Sports ‘Day’ is a bit of a lie. It’s actually a two-day long event, with preliminary events happening today in the afternoon and the final events occurring tomorrow in the afternoon as well. But chances are if you don’t do well today you’re not gonna make it into the finals, which is basically a battle royale from what you’ve heard.

As you’re still thinking about it, you nearly run into a girl who was walking in your lane. You know, your lane where you stick to the right-hand side of the sidewalk while the other person stays in theirs. But for some reason, this girl, who you recognized to be wearing the same school uniform as you, decided to get a little too close to your lane.

You mumble out an ‘excuse me’ and move away, but before you can react, she practically tosses herself to the ground.

“Hey, did you just knock into her?” shouts an accusing voice.

You look up ahead to see a small group of high school girls. They’re all roughly the same age as you, you think, with different characteristics such as hair length and accessories. The girl who had called out to you had short hair and black glasses, her arms crossed and legs spread in what reminded you of a power pose. Behind her are two other girls, one who looked like she would rather be anywhere else, and another that you couldn’t quite make out as she stood far behind the other two girls.

“I don’t think so,” you reply truthfully. “She looked like she tripped.”

But the glasses girl doesn’t accept this, her bob fwipping as she shakes her head. “No no, I saw you! You clearly bumped into her before she could move out of your way.”

Before she could move out of my way?

You scoff, trying not to say anything equally accusatory. “Look, I don’t know what you say but—”

“Are you alright, Natsuho?” A melodic voice rings out.

The owner steps out from behind the apathetic girl and the girl with glasses. A slender teen with hair that looked very well-groomed and looked after, and you could tell that the same amount of time and effort was applied to her face as well. She takes tiny steps to tend to the fallen girl by your side, who hadn’t even bothered to help herself up.

Glancing at Natsuho’s knees you can tell that they’re scraped from the fall, but she was the one to drop to the floor like that. And for what?

The elegant girl whose name you hadn’t caught looks up at you, her lips pulled back in a pout. “I’m not sure what she could’ve done to make you target her like that, but the least you could do is apologize.”

You’re groaning inside your head. The one day you don’t walk with Josuke and Okuyasu and this is what you run into, just your luck. You don’t really want to apologize to them, but honestly, this is the first time you’ve seen them, maybe if you just quickly apologize and leave you’ll never see them again! Good plan, awesome even.

“Sure. I’m sorry,” you apologize, and before Natsuho could accept or reject it you’re scurrying off to hopefully never have another interaction with these girls ever again, but a hand on your shoulder stops you. Before you can react, it shoves you against the cement wall.

You were walking at a sort of odd part of Morioh. It’s somewhat of a park-like area with a natural forest to your right and a road to your left. The road had been placed in the middle of a hill, so cement walls were built to keep the dirt from falling into the road, sort of like a dam. Moss and vines were beginning to grow on it, but the harshness from the shove was enough to scratch your shoulders.

The one responsible is that glasses girl, oddly enough.

You’re squinting at this ‘gang’ of girls as they come to surround you. The girl with glasses steps back as the elegant one takes her place.

“My name is Tsunoda Misa, President of the Student ???. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she introduces.

“Likewise.”

“I’m sure you’re not very well acquainted with school life around these parts, but it has recently come to our attention that you’ve been hanging around a certain Jojo as of late—”

Jojo… Who is that? What a weird name.

“—and we’ve decided to let you know that it will not be tolerated! If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stop seeing him. ???.”

Jojo. Hm… None of your friends had a name that really matched that, except for Josuke but he only had one ‘jo’ in his name. Could this be a case of mistaken identity or something? Maybe they got the wrong girl.

“I think you got things mixed up,” you start, but Misa is absolutely steadfast in her decision.

“I assure you we don’t,” she promises. “Haruka, pictures please.”

The glasses girl, Haruka, steps forward to show you a photo of you walking home from school… alongside Josuke, Okuyasu, and Koichi.

“You’re new here so I’ll let you off with a warning,” Misa continues. “But you better not interact with my Jojo ever again, understand?”

You’re still not sure who she’s referring to, but you don’t like the tone of her voice. Or this whole situation for a matter of fact! Who is she to decide who can interact with who? Total nonsense.

Accepting your silence a defeat, Misa smiles to herself, and with a jut of her head, she begins to leave.

“No, I don’t understand.”

Your voice is loud and clear. There are no running cars near, only the sounds of the breeze and swaying trees. Misa looks back at you, having pushed yourself away from the wall.

“No?” Misa repeats, the word foreign on her tongue. “What do you mean, no?”

“‘No’ as in ‘I’m not going to stop hanging out with Jojo’. You’re not his mom,” you drawl, still finding this whole thing preposterous.

And ever so slightly, you see Misa’s lip twitch. It’s so small and her face has already been trained and sculpted to look as neutral as possible, but you can spy the wrinkle of annoyance at her brows and the twitch of anger at her mouth.

“Haruka,” she orders. “Maybe you could help our new transfer student understand our point of view.”

Haruka steps forward, her arms crossed. “Of course!”

You’re not the tonest person out there, you’ll admit. Your only physical activity is walking to and from school and playing tennis after school. Besides that, you’re a total couch potato. Your scuffle with Roy has really been the only time you've ever fought someone, and you had been high on intense emotions and adrenaline. Now you're full of sugary cereal and wariness.

Which is why Haruka lowkey kicked your ass.

Natsuho is behind you, her arms hooked under yours to force them up and leave your lower body defenseless. Haruka had closed in before you could even realize what was happening, hands and feet shooting out to punch your stomach or jaw. She nearly trips as she swings another fist at your cheek, allowing you to jut your legs out and enclose them around Haruka’s waist and bringing her in close. Natsuho, carrying all of your weight, tumbles down at the sudden sensation of another girl getting added to her carrying, leading all three of you to tumble onto the pavement.

The sputter of a car engine passes by and you inhale dark, stinking gas. It’s enough of a brief distraction for Haruka to hover over your waist and hurl another fist in your direction while Natsuho scampers off.

A sharp pain spreads across the back of your head as it pounds against the cement ground, and that’s all it takes for you to chill the hell out and see if that would be enough for them to see it as a truce.

Luckily enough for you, Haruka’s weight is lifted from your waist, but before you can pull yourself up, a hand yanks you up by the bow of your uniform. Misa’s long hair traps you, it feels soft against your face as you stare into Misa’s own pointed features.

“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay away from my Jojo.”

And then she smiles at you, dropping your bow and leaving you to fall back onto the ground, skidding the undersides of your arms.

By the time you’ve picked yourself up and collected your thoughts, the gang of girls is already walking away. The only one who even bothers to look back in your direction is the taller girl who looked like she didn’t even care to be here. And unless your eyes were mistaken you swore she almost looked… guilty?

If you saw yourself in the mirror right now, you’d look guilty too.

As Josuke said, you do end up being late to school. Just by ten minutes, but it’s late enough for the teacher to call you out as you discreetly try to enter the classroom.

“How nice of you to join us, Miss Depeche,” he calls out monotonously. “I hope those extra minutes helped you finish those math questions I assigned last night.”

“You bet,” you reply, hurrying to your desk.

Josuke and Okuyasu finished helping Mr. Koga way before school started, and Josuke couldn’t help but smile gleefully at the fact that he had been proven right. He turn his head, ready to quietly tease as the teacher continued to drone about mathematical equations, but stopped at the sight of you.

Your hair is completely ratted, as if some sort of small animal had tried to crawl into it and made a nest. Not only that, but dirt was smudged on your uniform, bits of blood were beginning to dry on your arms, and blotches of red appeared on your face as if you had taken a beating.

Josuke coughs into his fist and raises his hand, trying to catch the attention of the teacher, who completely ignores him.

“As you can see, by substituting ‘a’ with ‘2’, we can simplify the expression which will give us—”

Josuke coughs some more.

“Once you do that you’ll have to solve for the plus-minus, which in this case would lead us to a—”

“Ahem!”

The teacher finally stops, no longer able to tolerate the disruptive coughing. “Yes, Mr. Hagashikata?”

The student in question points to the girl sitting beside him, who had clearly seen better days.

“Could I…?”

“Oh geez. Yes, take her to the nurse's office! And hurry it up so we can get to grading last night’s questions.”

Without a minute to spare, Josuke ushers you into the hallway.

“What the heck happened? I’m gone for one morning and you get into a fight while I’m away?”

His hand is holding onto yours as he rushes to the nearest hallway closest, pushing you inside so he could shut the door as fast as possible. As soon as the door clicked behind him, that big, friendly guy you’ve come to recognize materialized out of thin air.

“It wasn’t my fault, honest,” you try to assure, a soft feeling enveloping your cheeks as you feel any pounding pain ebbing away.

“What the heck happened?”

You relay the whole scenario back to him. Some girl faking being shoved to the ground, you basically getting ganged up on, and the weirdest part of all…

“They told me to stay away from some person named ‘Jojo’.”

Josuke spits out the nonexistent drink he had been drinking. “For real!?”

“For real,” you repeat, not paying it much mind as you play with Crazy Diamond’s hands, trying to get him to play some weird form of paddy cake. The injuries you got were extraordinarily easy to heal, it only took him a second or two to get the job done, so now you were just entertaining yourself.

“(Y/N), you do know that I’m ‘Jojo’, right?”

You stop your attempt at paddy cake and stare at Josuke, eyes wide.

“You don’t look like a Jojo if I’m being honest.”

He sighs, struggling to explain it to someone who probably didn’t even care for Japanese grammar rules and mishaps. “Sometimes you can read my first name as ‘Jojo’ because of the—anyway it doesn’t matter! What did you say their names were again?”

All you got were their first names but it was enough for Josuke to recognize them immediately.

“Oh, them,” he says distastefully, and you can fully understand why.

“Ah, them,” you repeat. “Who is ‘them’?”

“They’re Student ??? girls who ??? our grade or whatever,” Josuke huffs, leaning against the back of the closet door. His tall eyebrows are furrowed together with agitation, clearly having dealt with them before.

“Just some fangirls who have way too much time on their hands. Listen, I can go talk to them during lunch or after school or something so they don’t bother you anymore.”

Wow, fangirls? You didn’t realize Josuke was this popular. You thought that was a thing that only happened in cheesy teenage romcoms from like a decade ago.

“It’s all good,” you assure, with a big thumbs up for added effect. “I’ve dealt with mean girls before.”

Okay, a bit of a lie but you really don’t want Jouke to worry. And it’s not like you’re saying that to show Josuke you’re brave or something. Although you’ve never personally dealt with a bully before, how hard could it really be? If you just told them that they didn’t have to be so jealous and should quit their parasocial relationship, you’re sure they would come to see your point of view. If that doesn’t work, maybe you could ask Roy to deal with them instead. Hopefully, he doesn’t have any reservations about beating up girls.

Josuke gives you an analyzing look as if you would crack under the pressure and then kindly ask for his assistance, but upon seeing your resilience, he backs off with a sigh.

“If you say so, but seriously if you feel like you need help dealing with them just tell me. Got it?”

“Got it.”

“Now, are you hurt anywhere else?”

Josuke gives you a mock look over, grimacing when he catches a glimpse of your hair.

“At the very least you need to take care of that ???. Do you have a brush on you?”

You never expected to have your hair get so knotted at school, so that is a resounding no.

“That’s fine, I have one with me but you should always have one with you just in case! Now turn around real quick.”

You do as he says, Crazy Diamond fading away as you now face the back of the closet. The feeling of a brush combing through your hair is enough to make you more drowsy than you had been this morning. It’s some fine-toothed comb, no doubt for Josuke to keep each individual hair in its place to make up his pompadour. Not exactly the type of comb for your hair, but you’d allow it just this once.

Your hair feels almost soft in his hands, Josuke realizes. Despite all the tangles and knots, with a simple brush of his hand, they completely disappear. Based on the state of your hair, he thought it would be a lot worse.

After just a few minutes of breaking up the knots, Josuke takes a step back to admire his handiwork. Of course, it would look a lot better once you went home and were able to employ your own hair care techniques, but his work wasn’t half bad.

“All done,” Josuke announces, and you can hear the pride in his voice.

“Thank you for helping me out so much,” you say, running your own fingers through your hair to see the extent of the damage from this morning’s beatdown.

Josuke waves you off, going to open the closet door. “It’s no problem. I know I’d want someone to help me if my hair was like that.”

The two of you depart from the cleaning closet, unaware of how it looked to anyone curiously watching. What else could a boy and girl be doing inside a closet in the middle of class? Certainly nothing good! At least, that’s what the Student Council’s Historian thinks. With a camera in her hand, the girl leaves to report back to her leader.

Misa would be delighted to see this, Haruka thought to herself, unaware that she too was being watched by an unseen dog who lazily wagged its tail and who couldn’t be bothered to intervene in any way. Instead, she chooses to yawn and lean back against a wall, waiting until she would eventually be retrieved.

That afternoon, it’s your turn to help clean up after the brief Sports Day. As you thought, you don’t really win any of the sports, whether that be in the running category, the tug of war, the ball toss, or the cavalry battle. It’s not like you were hoping to, so it rolls off your back. Unsurprisingly, Josuke and Okuyasu do manage to make it into tomorrow’s finals, so you, Koichi, and Kanna will have to cheer for them while Roy waits for whatever command you wished to give him.

Because your class was chosen to help in the set up and clean up of Sports Day, you had volunteered to collect the rope used in the tug-of-war games and to store them inside the gym.

Straw rubs uncomfortably against your arm as you pile the long noodles into a plastic bucket. It’s small enough for you to grab the edges and hoist it up, following a small string of students leaving the field as they collected whatever item they needed to bring back to the gym. After that, you’ll have to change out of your gym uniform and into your regular school clothes before you get to leave for the day.

As you collect your bag from your classroom and head to the nearest bathroom to change, you pass by a large window that was almost hidden behind a girl’s figure.

Your walk hesitates.

It’s that girl from this morning that was with the student council, the one who had a ‘don’t care’ sort of attitude. You’re sure she could just be hanging around the school if that’s what she liked to do, but after everything that has happened in this brief day, you can’t help but be wary at the sight of her. You’re about to continue your walk, but her voice makes you stop right in your tracks.

“Tomorrow,” she says.

You’re already a couple of steps away from her, and your backs are undoubtedly facing one another.

“I’m sorry?”

Her head turns, sunlight caressing her cheeks as a warm amber light enveloped her skin and hair.

“Tomorrow morning,” she repeats. “Natsuho is going to corner you with a golf club.”

A golf club! Isn’t this going too far? But despite the bewildered expression on your face, she still manages to not care.

“Why are you telling me that?” you ask. “You’re in the Student ??? too, right?”

You repeat the word that Josuke used to describe whatever organization she was a part of, and based on her unchanging face, you must’ve been right.

She still doesn’t turn to face you.

“Just make sure to bring something, or else you really will have no chance to beat her.”

With that, she slides off from the window sill, her long skirt flowing to the ground in elegant waves as she turned away to walk down the hallway. She doesn’t turn to look back at you once.

Chapter 14: xiv. no ordinary love

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FOURTEEN—

ALL THAT I'VE GOT TO GIVE

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

Ring, ring, ring!

Ring, ring, ring!

The cord twirls around your fingers as you nervously fiddle with it, pulling it back and forth from the rotary phone mounted to the living room wall.

“Hello?”

In Morioh, two people are being called. One with cheaply bleached hair, while the other ‘supposedly’ boasts a natural dirty blond.

The girl perks up from her cross-legged position on the floor. In one hand, she holds a camcorder; in the other, a sheet of torn notebook paper, bearing scribbles and drawings only she understood. She had been in the midst of plotting and planning scenes for her new ‘movie’ when the old phone in her kitchen began to ring.

Normally, such an interruption would have frustrated her, but the sound of it made her giddy. There’s only one person in the whole world who has her home telephone number.

Filled with excitement, Kanna abandons her script and camcorder, happily skipping to the kitchen.

On the other side of Morioh, a young man sat on his bed, his fingers deftly manipulating a cassette recorder. Surrounding him were CD albums, cassette tapes, and an assortment of wires connected to various electronic components essential for the process. A familiar song filled the room, its hard guitar riffs resonating in the small space. Capturing it all was the cassette recorder, positioned alongside his CD player.

Creating homemade cassette tapes was a meticulous craft that Roy took great, great pride in. However, this particular tape was different.

A piece of paper lay in his lap, and coclored pencils were delicately etching out the design he had planned for it. His hair was secured with a plastic headband, appearing tousled and unruly after a long day – not that he minded, but it got annoyed always trying to push it back while he was working. Occasionally, his glasses threatened to slip down his nose as he leaned forward, always adjusted just in time to prevent them from falling.

The song is reaching its climax, with electric guitar, drums, and vocals fusing into a synthesized harmony that transported Roy back to the very moment he first heard it years ago. However, his reverie was abruptly shattered by the jarring scream of the phone from upstairs.

Ring, ring, ring!

Ring, ring, ring!

“Nonono–”

Roy rushed to pause the cassette recorder, but the damage is already done. The rings had pierced the tape with their loud intrusion. He would have to re-record over the entire section.

With a frustrated groan, he tugs at his face, his vexation evident. Reaching over, he stopped the CD player and reluctantly rose from his bed. His footsteps resonated as he departed from his basem*nt-like bedroom and went up to the hallway. There, he blindly reached out to the wall and grasped at it until his hand found the cool plastic of the mounted phone.

Once he hears who the caller is, his previously sour mood will be sure to improve.

Ring, ring, ring!

Ring, ring–

He picks up the phone.

“I need your help.”

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

“Thank you for your help…”

You can’t help the look of self-defeat that washes over your face as the crushing weight of reality settles in. A group of girls from some club really are determined to target you simply because of your association with…some guy. The whole situation feels like a scene from a cliche 80s movie. You secretly hope you could be played by Molly Ringwald, at the very least.

All the cool and attractive female protagonists get played by Molly Ringwald.

Thankfully, Kanna and Roy don’t appear upset about having to assist you. In fact, they look more like…the opposite.

Kanna audibly cracks her knuckles, her warm skin already displaying a few visible bruises. You’d rather not dwell on how she got the. Meanwhile, Roy casually walks beside you with a hockey stick. It’s wrapped with bandages and covered in stickers from foreign bands that even you didn’t even recognize. They had garish fonts that stretched at odd angles, making them almost illegible.

To be frank, it doesn’t look like it would be a practical weapon for a fight.

Roy notices your concerned gaze, eyes clearly fixated on the sports equipment, and he flashes you a grin. He angles the stick to reveal the end of it, where the bandages stop just short of the blade, and you catch a glimpse of dried red stains on the wood.

Okay, going to ignore that, you think to yourself, quickly looking away.

Kanna and Roy were at your sides, flanking you as you walked. The sidewalk wasn’t designed to accommodate so many students simultaneously, and their school uniforms occasionally brushed against you. You doubt either of them mind.

“I’m gonna give that ??? a piece of my mind if she even comes near you!” Kanna declared, her fists jutting out before retracting, mimicking a boxer she had seen on TV a long time ago.

“What’s this girl's deal anyway?” Roy asked, peering down at you.

“It’s a long story…”

More like a stupid one. This entire thing is stupid, so it’s simpler to explain it as a group of girls causing you trouble rather than delving into the details. Regardless, Kanna and Roy were eager to assist.

You’re not even sure where this ‘Natsuho’ is supposed to corner you. In school? Or during your walk? You didn’t want to burden anyone by having them keep an eye on you to prevent a random attack, but the anticipation is gnawing at you.

So the three of you walked to school, waiting for something to happen.

To your surprise, nothing occurred on the way to school. It’s only when you reached your locker that you realized the extent of the damage Natsuho had attempted to inflict upon you.

A small puddle of water seeps out from the thin slits on the bottom of your locker, rippling as you initially stepped into it.

The metal hasp keeping your locker closed had been crudely bent, as if someone had taken a bat to it multiple times. There were deep indents, and upon closer examination, you realize the damage couldn’t have been caused by a bat. No, the indent was more akin to what a golf club might inflict.

A creak echos in the hall as you swing your locker door open, revealing the ruined remnants of everything you had left inside it the day before. Your school shoes, books, gym clothes, and homework, all ruined.

Water had been thrown into your locker at least a couple of times once the perpetrator gained access (and it doesn’t take a genius to guess that Natsuho is behind it). It had soaked into your books and homework, leaving behind soggy, water-logged pages that would tear apart with the gentlest touch.

Your clothes were equally drenched, with the added measure of being stretched at the seams, as if someone wanted to tear the garments apart but lacked the strength to do so.

And your poor, poor shoes. They had been purchased by Kawajiri to help you fit in on your first day of school as a new foreign student. The buckles had been ripped off, the leather now beaten and lumpy.

“Holy crap! (Y/N)!”

Kanna shakes your shoulders as if you weren’t seeing what she’s seeing. “Your locker! That ???, I’m gonna–”

You chose to touch her hands, attempting to calm her down before she launched into a tirade and got herself into a tizzy.

“It’s okay.”

Both Kanna and Roy gape at you. However, instead of calming her down, your response seems to agitate her even more.

“No, it’s not okay! I’ll kill her! I’ll make sure she doesn’t even have arms to play golf with! ??? ??? ???—”

At this point, you can’t even understand her.

Roy turns back to you, wearing a somewhat surprised expression.

“For real? Like, you’re seriously not pissed?”

“Why would I be?” you ask.

You’re about to elaborate when you spot a familiar pompadour out of the corner of your eye. Right on time.

“I can ask Josuke to fix it.”

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

Josuke lets out a long whistle as he surveys the damage.

“Man, whoever did this must’ve had a real ??? against you.”

You repeat the word slowly after him, trying to think of an English equivalent.

“It means someone really dislikes you,” he clarified.

Ill will, maybe? No…Resentment? A grudge? Something along those lines, yeah.

Josuke and you are the only ones standing at the lockers now. Kanna and Roy had both headed off to their homerooms, although it took some reassurance on your part to convince them that you’d be fine. Okuyasu and Koichi had been just as shocked by the state of your locker but didn’t put up as much of a fight compared to Kanna and Roy, knowing that Josuke would have everything covered anyway.

“So, who did this anyway? Any ideas?”

You hand one of your saggy books to Josuke, and with a gentle touch of Crazy Diamond’s hand, it is restored. You’re kneeling on the ground with some rags, trying to clean up the spill inside your locker while occasionally passing items to Josuke to fix. Josuke had suggested that he could handle the cleanup as well, but since he’s already repairing all your belongings, you felt that cleaning up some water was the least you could do.

“Some girl from the Student…Group,” you began, but then cringe. Wrong word.

“Council?” Josuke guessed, and you nod.

You don’t need to elaborate further because Josuke was already grimacing and muttering under his breath.

“I’m sorry, I shoulda warned you,” he says, sucking on his teeth. “I thought they would’ve stopped this by now.”

“By now?” you repeat. Oh, this is going to be good. Drama time.

“Yeah,” Josuke nods, gingerly taking your shoes as you handed them to him. “They did the same thing in middle school. I had like, no female friends ‘cause they would run ‘em all off. I talked to them a couple of times, and I thought they’d grown out of it, but I guess not.”

It’s quiet for a few minutes, aside from the sound of you mopping away at the watery locker. Then, Josuke asks, “Do you want me to talk to them?”

“I can handle it,” you immediately reply. “Can’t we report this to someone?”

“Well, there’s always the school counselor.”

Wow, a word that sounds like its English counterpart. You haven’t heard one of those in a while.

“We have one of those?” you ask.

“Yeah, it’s run by Mr. Onoda.”

Josuke is rearranging your stuff now as you clean out the final crevices of your locker.

“You can probably catch him in his office during lunch,” he offers helpfully. “I can take you if you want.”

Wow, this is going to be resolved so easily!

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

“Do you have any proof?”

You sit in that awkward plastic chair, trying to process what Onoda had just asked you. “I’m sorry?”

His swivel chair creaks as he leans back, as if discreetly rolling his eyes, before he looked back to the papers he was pretending to grade. Occasionally, the fan on his desk rotates, either blowing his pencil-thin hair back or sending a blast of cold air your way that leaves you shivering.

Josuke is casually standing outside Onoda’s office, doing who knows what, as you now had to shamefully admit that you didn’t have any evidence. The bruises from their attack? Healed by Josuke. Your ruined locker? Also repaired by Josuke.

“I said, do you have any proof?” Onoda repeats. He finally ceased scribbling with his pen to focus on you. “It’s a significant accusation to ??? that the Student Council is responsible for all of this. If you don’t have any proof, I’m afraid there’s not much I can do.”

His chair squeaks as the man leans back, stretching his arms. “Are you sure it wasn’t just some miscommunication or some sorta culture barrier? I mean, a ??? like you might not fully grasp our culture just yet. Have you tried talking to them?”

“No, not yet–”

“See, that’s what you need to do. Try having a conversation and see if you can resolve this issue on your own before making such serious ???, yeah?”

You promptly get kicked out of his office. Apparently, he had ‘work he needed to tend to’. You’re half sure he was just working on a Sudoku puzzle.

Josuke immediately walks up to you, not appearing particularly hopeful. “Well? How’d it go?”

You simply give him a thumbs-up.

After school, the Student Council convenes once more, but now, there is another amidst their ranks. A young woman, with long, flowing dark hair. Her skin is pale, with the only hint of color on her cheeks. Despite her apparent beauty, her eyes were dark, filled with nothing but pure hate

A photograph lay in front of her. Black and white, a little blurry, obviously taken in haste by whoever had shot it. It depicted a short boy with grey hair walking his bike alongside a girl. They appeared to be too close for comfort, at least according to how the council was trying to portray it.

The girl's eyes narrow.

“It would be such a shame if your new relationship were to be torn apart by a homewrecker like her,” the president sympathizes. “If you’d like, I could provide you with her classroom information for end-of-day cleanups so you two can ‘talk it out’.”

Yukako struggles to not crumble the photograph with her fist or her own hair.

“That would be greatly appreciated,” she finally says.

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

The next day, you find a warning in your locker. The handwriting, despite the contents of the letter, is actually really aesthetically pleasing. It mentions something about the ‘crazy girl’ who wanted to ‘talk to you about her boyfriend’. There’s no signature at the bottom, but you knew it was from the Student Council’s guard dog.

Huh, you wonder who the ‘crazy girl’ is. You don’t recall interacting with any guys who had a girlfriend. Most of your interactions are limited to Koichi, Josuke, Okuyasu, and Roy, and none of them were in relationships as far as you knew. It would be quite a feat if they were.

Shrugging, you carry on with your day as usual, relieved that the Student Council hasn’t done anything drastic.

That same afternoon, students stream out of the school building. Some stayed behind to assist with cleanup, while others attended their club meetings. As much as you would love to head to tennis, you and Koichi had been assigned the same day. Koichi often offered to take your shifts if they conflicted with tennis meet-ups, but there’s no way you’re going to leave him by himself to do all the work.

Regardless, this just means you’ll have to be super fast at cleaning!

Koichi went to dispose of the trash, and you began to return cleaning supplies to the classroom. You pulled on some yellow, rubbery gloves to shield your hands from any harsh chemicals as you worked.

The windows were left open, allowing golden sunlight to flood the classroom while the wind rustles the trees outside. For such a mundane scene, it feels pretty relaxing to you, all things considered. You’re so absorbed in the serenity of it all that you fail to notice the approaching footsteps.

“Done with trash already? That was fast–”

You turn, expecting to greet Koichi with another pair of gloves, so the two of you can start cleaning the desks. However, to your surprise, it wasn’t Koichi but a girl.

Your eyes widen as you instantly recognize her.

It’s her! The pretty girl from that convenience store you went to when you first arrived in Morioh, the one with the really nice hair!

But before you can gape and marvel, she cuts you off.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?”

Her voice is cold and firm, like a barrier of ice.

You awkwardly hold out the yellow gloves and a bottle filled with some type of chemical you couldn’t pronounce. “... Cleaning?”

And before you can react, something shoots out, wrapping around your wrist and yanking you to the ground. The spray bottle clatters on the wood floor, rolling until it hits the girl’s shoe. As you lift yourself up, you’re about to ask what her problem is until you see what had dragged you down. Wrapped around your wrist is some sort of black cord, and you trace it back up to see what it was connected to.

Connected to your wrist is a long stretch of hair, stretched and curling like tendrils of smoke. Looking up, you see that all of her hair is like that, coiled and moving with a dark energy that could only belong to a Stand user.

“Don’t play stupid with me, Depeche!” She hisses, and another tendril shoots out, gripping your other wrist. It’s achingly tight, undoubtedly off circulation. She doesn’t loosen up at your cry, only increasing the pressure when you try to scramble away.

“I saw you and my Koichi-kun walking together. I know you want him for yourself!”

“We’re just friends,” you argue, attempting to grasp at the hair twisting dangerously around your arteries. “Friends walk with each other all the time!”

“You harlot! I’m not going to listen to your lies any longer!”

With a pointed finger, she sends out a haired serpent to twist around your neck, clamping down and squeezing it for all the air it was worth. You instinctively yelp, your hands darting to try to pull it away, but the lack of circulation is finally getting to you. Your hands feel fuzzy and numb, unable to do anything but scratch Yukako’s hair as she stares down with those cold, piercing eyes, wide open like she’s watching some enrapturing movie.

You’re not sure if it’s just your waning consciousness or the school’s poor electrical system deciding to fail, but the lights inside the classroom begin to flicker with sudden intensity, rapidly turning off and off at mismatched tempos as the girl’s hold only tightened around your neck. You try to calm your breathing, but it’s just coming out in short, panicked segments that puts your heart into overdrive, and– great, now you’re for real panicking.

“Just what do you think you’re doing!?”

KABOOM!

You and Yukako are separated in an instant.

You’re physically flung back against the window panes, sliding to the floor and crumbling as you try to reign in your haggard breathing. As you try to, your vision blinks in and out, but you can vaguely make out the figure of who had caused that… explosion?

It was none other than Koichi, and that’s when you remembered the conversation you had with Josuke just days ago.

That crazy girl is… Koichi’s girlfriend!?

She’s busy crying about something, Koichi’s trying to calm her down, and you feel like you’re going to puke. You settle for lying on the floor and praying that she hadn’t damaged your windpipes too badly. Oh god, never mind, you’re going to hurl.

Koichi and Yukako are too busy talking through their emotional issues to notice you dragging yourself up to the open window, puking up whatever remained from your lunch onto the pavement below, and passing out on the floor.

When you eventually wake up thanks to Josuke’s awesome healing powers, you make the executive decision to go home for the day alongside Okuyasu, while Josuke and Koichi hang back to presumably talk to Koichi’s girlfriend. It was all kind of a blur; you know things happened, but after that whole ‘getting choked by some girl’s hair’ deal, you sorta mentally clocked out for the day.

“You have like, the worst luck ever, man!”

Okuyasu pats your back roughly, almost causing you to trip over some pavement. Despite his words, you know it was no random occurrence that you and she crossed paths, especially if she was this upset, even though the two of you had never talked beforehand.

“Yeah, just my luck,” you scoff.

»»──── ☮︎ ────««

This continued for the next week, although thankfully nothing topped Yukako’s almost-murder attempt (which she apologized for, promising not to assume things like that and vowing to work on her anger issues for the sake of her and Koichi’s relationship. All you could do was give her a thumbs up because how else are you supposed to freaking react).

Every time something happened, you would receive a warning from the Council’s guard dog, Sanae. It would be as direct as her cornering you after gym class while you were changing and warning you to keep an eye on your lunch or her leaving a note in your locker. Much to the Council’s disappointment, Josuke always caught on, whether you informed him or not. It was no trouble to revert the damage done to whatever they had gotten their hands on, but you still felt bad having him do it.

Another letter falls out of your locker one afternoon as you go to change out of your school shoes.

“Hoshikawa Misa is a real honorable type. If you challenge her to something and offer to give that boy up, there’s no way she won’t accept. Maybe a game of tennis, perhaps?”

So you finally decide to confront the Student Council, one-on-one.

The next day, you left early for school. None of your friends flanked you this time, and you didn’t even bring your bat with you in case things got ugly. But it was finally time to confront this head-on before they ended up accidentally killing you or poisoning your lunch or something. At this point, you have no idea what to expect from these girls.

The door to the Student Council meeting room slowly opens. The four girls’ heads turn automatically at the sound, freezing once they see you standing in the frame.

“Well?” a voice rings out. “Ready to stop bothering Jojo?”

The two most zealous girls, Natsuho and Haruka, whip their heads to stare at their president to see what she could possibly say about your sudden appearance. Sanae gives you a look out of the corner of her eye, but you can see the edge of her lip twitching into a smile.

Misa, meanwhile, has a haughty expression with her chin raised just a little to give her an air of superiority. Her eyes rake up and down your figure, as if to see if you would do something, but you stay still.

“No,” you tell her, struggling not to roll your eyes at that nickname. “I’ve come to put an end to this stupidness.”

You approach the podium centered in the middle of the room, staring her down.

“You and me. Tennis match. If I lose, I’ll stop hanging out with Josuke. If I win, you stop bothering me.”

“What makes you think I’d even agree to a tennis match?” Misa scoffs.

You actually did your research this time, pulling out printed clippings of an old tennis competition held through grade school and middle school and tossing them onto the podium. It featured Misa, a bit younger, with a bit more baby fat on her cheeks, and seemingly a lot happier as she held up a shiny trophy, tennis racquet in hand.

It was all thanks to Sanae’s note and Roy’s help, plus some digging at the local library to find archived newspapers from the past decade, that helped you obtain these. Apparently, Misa used to be quite the local tennis champion when she was younger, though you had no clue why she stopped.

“I heard you used to be pretty good at it. Wanna see if you still got it?”

Misa doesn’t reply right away. She’s staring at the old pictures of herself, almost grimacing.

“Well?”

You finally got her attention. She shakes her head, scoffing.

“Here and now?” She taunts. “Or do you want to do it this afternoon so you can spend some more time with Jojo before you have to say goodbye forever?”

You take a few seconds to mull it over before finally glancing at her.

“This afternoon,” you decide. The edges of her lips begin to rise in a smile as if she was the one who had won in this interaction, but you cut her off.

“I want ‘Jojo’ to be there so he can see the look on your face when I kick your ??? ???.”

The door to the classroom slides to a close, leaving the student council confused as to whatever you just said in English.

space oddity - hanabby - ジョジョの奇妙な冒険 | JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken (2024)

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