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April 8th, 20xx
5:45 a.m.
Weather: Dark Clouds

"I feel like we're gonna get in trouble for this."

Umeko looked up from her computer, the screen reflected on her glasses. At this point, they were ready to print, but she usually went over one last read-through of the paper. She was actually surprised that anyone was questioning the paper--for once, things were actually happening. Granted, she fully believed they weren't going to be able to publish anything this gossipy, but Nakano's push for the story to be published won over the editor, and thus her story was on the front page. Personally, she had no real issue with it--if the new kid was a delinquent, then everyone deserved to know.

Shoichi, on the other hand, didn't like it. While he definitely thought that Sakaguchi deserved it and more based on the rumors, he thought it was kinda harsh to basically rat out the new kid day one. Everyone had heard what happened as Sakaguchi was basically dragged to the nurse, but he refused to tell who actually did it. If Sakaguchi himself didn't want to say who it was, then it was wrong for Nakano to tattle. Sadly, he was in the minority.

Letting out a sigh, Umeko saved the file before looking over at Shoichi. "We're bringing the troublemaker to justice. What's wrong with that?" She asked him.

"Touga wanted feel-good stories. This is the complete opposite," He replied. "Plus, if Nakano's story is true, don't you think he'll get mad and come here?"

"And?"

"He beamed Sakaguchi with a skateboard! Who's to say he won't come to do the same to us!"

Umeko rolled her eyes, double-clicking her mouse. The printer whirred to life and got to work. "Nakano put her name on it, so she'll be the one to deal with it," She said. "Besides...if he didn't want trouble, he shouldn't have done it. Did you see Sakaguchi's face?"

"Oh no, someone gave the druggie a boo-boo," Shoichi's sarcasm dripped off every word. "It's like a vigilante dealing with a criminal. Are we really going to fault the vigi for doing what everyone else wished they could?"

"We'll see what everyone thinks then. Is he a hero, or just another troublemaker?"

April 8th, 20xx
12:00 p.m.
Weather: Heavy Rain

HEADLINE: UTSUBEATDOWN! BRUTAL ASSAULT IN THE HIGHSCHOOL PARKING LOT!

While many students returned to Utsubyo High excited for the new academic year, others harbored darker intentions. At lunch yesterday, two unknown individuals, alleged to be underclassmen, came to blows in the high school parking lot. In the aftermath, the apparent aggressor and another student retreated to the old sports shed for a little R&R.

We caught up with the victim, (Who has asked to remain anonymous) and you can read his statement on page 3! Be warned, the pictures may not be suitable for the faint of heart!


While the day had started the same as yesterday, today's lunch was a little different. While the newspaper had been available bright and early, the whispers really didn't pick up until later on. At that point, the story had spread like wildfire; everyone was talking about it, for better or for worse. Copies of the newspaper were now hard to find, as people clung to the evidence just so they could show it off to one another. The news had also spread to the faculty room, for better or for worse. There had been an impromptu meeting where poor Miss Touga had gotten reamed about the circumstances. Unfortunately, she had failed as both a homeroom teacher and as a supervisor of the Newspaper Club.




Shiori had noticed the murmuring, but she was too upset with the rain to care. She could probably get away with sneaking over to the old shed, but was it worth it? She burned three cigarettes yesterday--two at lunch, and one after a particularly stressful dinner where Ichika insisted on burning everything that touched the stove. Her pack was a little too light for her liking, and she wasn't going to go to her parent's house before the weekend since her father wasn't going to buy more cigarettes until then.

As she deliberated, her eyes briefly rested on her partner-in-crime. Her supply would definitely dwindle faster if he saw her leave, and she wasn't sure if he was gonna hover over her. He didn't seem like the type, but anyone that can get anything free was sure to return. She had to scowl at the thought, though she wondered why she wouldn't just say 'no'.

She looked over at Ichika, who was absorbed in the day's paper. Right, she did see it around a lot more than usual. Before she could question it, however, Ichika let out a comically loud squeal and looked over at Shiori with a horrified look.

She quickly flashed the paper at her, pointing to a picture. "Is--Is this you, Shi-shi?!" She squeaked.

Shiori was probably never going to get used to that level of energy. She had no idea what she was talking about, either, only seeing a picture of one extremely blurred-out mess of red and white and--holy shit was that Totsuka?! She snatched the paper out of Ichika's hands and quickly poured it over. There wasn't just one picture, but two of her and Totsuka. She was blurred out, but she recognized both the scene of the crime and the shed. Speaking of which, there was a beautiful shot of the new kid reeling back with skateboard in hand. The only thing that almost made her laugh was that there was a black bar over his eyes and Sakaguchi's, but the picture of his injuries killed any sense of laughter.

The redhead grimaced, then looked over at Tostuka. "I'm borrowing this," She told Ichika, ignoring her protest as she got up from her seat.

Unfortunately, she wasn't the only one looking for Ryusei. Miss Touga returned to the classroom, looking very much like a scolded child. She noticed Shiori, striding over and stopping the girl in her tracks. "I need to see you and Totsuka," She stated, crossing her arms. "Come with me to the faculty room."








Eila couldn't help but enjoy her interaction with Ermes. He was such a curious thing, full of life and enough pluck to ensure he would survive this world. He was wise enough to know the dangers of the world, but he could be mistaken in his statement: sometimes people truly were worse than monsters. But that was a topic that had no business here, nor would it pertain to their current conversation. Instead, she focused on the young lad and his mannerisms. He clearly took some offense to what she said, despite her intentions. Ignorance was not a sin, after all, and she was aware not everyone had access to the vast amount of knowledge as she did.

At his last words, however, her smile lessened as she, too, could see her assumption was correct. Or rather, it was a close guess; the woman was a mixed breed, not quite reaching the same statures pure-blooded orcs did. No, she did, but she didn't quite look like she was pure-blooded. There was something amiss, but Eila couldn't put her finger on it. Granted, she was not a geneticist, but she knew enough. The woman assumed they were looking for the town, though she did make sure to voice that the House earned its reputation.

Eila's response was interrupted by the emergence of a weathered trio who had likely seen better days. And what characters! The small one's hat could just as easily swallow her whole, and the cloaked one looked like his protection had seen better days. The leader was the one that left her most wary, his stance one of someone practiced. Still, no harm, no foul, and it wouldn't do to cast aspersions on strangers.

Eila nodded in response to his statement, though she gave the woman her attention. "That would be our goal. We, too, are bound for the House," She explained. "Getting put to work is precisely why we are going. But don't let us keep you! Come, Ermes, let us not disturb her any longer than we already have."




Shiori scowled at Ryusei's comment, clearly displeased. She'd definitely smack him if she didn't witness him beaming another kid less than five minutes ago. Alright, fine, it looked bad, and she might've had a reputation, and she did like to break the rules, but his smartass comment was unwarranted. Mostly. Fine, he had a point, she wasn't exactly on the straight and narrow path. But she'd rather throw herself in the river than end up getting stuck in this dump for the rest of her life. Unlike other burnouts, she actually had a plan.

She stared at him as she took her last smoke in, exhaling quickly before returning his sarcasm with some of her own. "Unless you're telling me you're on the university board, I think I'll be fine," She waved his comment away, dropping her cigarette to the ground. As she ground it, she rolled her eyes. "Not like I have super-grand plans, but if I stay here, I'm pretty sure I'll end up braining myself."

She did, however, have more of a reaction to 'voyeur'. Great. She didn't have to guess who was hiding nearby, or at least which club they belonged to. "Aww, you caught the newspaper club's interest," She smirked. "Bet we'll be seeing your face on the first page."

God, were things so boring around here that someone was really willing to follow the new kid around? The thought was depressing. With that in mind, however, Shiori stretched her arms above her head, looking up at the sky. "Y'know, most cities have nice, blue skies on their first day. I bet this is an omen," She remarked, deciding to take his cue to make sure they didn't get caught out and deciding to head back inside.




Hm, Sakaguchi's response was odd. Did it actually sound rehearsed? Then again, it was something Ichika did bring up a lot. Shiori had warned her against bringing up her one and only interest; that is, enjoying her freedom and the chance to meet boys--but she wasn't sure how that would look. Of course, all she really wanted was a little experience so that when she did meet the man of her dreams, she would be better prepared. But that might look bad.

Instead, Ichika gave a girlish giggle. "Okay, maybe a little," She'd admit it. "But I can't help it! I've got my eyes on the future and marriage is a big part of that for me."

Would it be cliche if she admitted her dream was to be a bride?






Shiori quirked an eyebrow at his response. Fair, not like he had to tell her, but she was expecting something lame like having to come over 'cause a parent got transferred. Maybe it was something lame that he would be embarrassed about, like...well, it can't be bullying, this guy was twice the size of most kids. She'd hate to see whatever could intimidate that. Maybe it was something more illicit like cheating on an exam. Eh, whatever it was, it wasn't her business, and she wasn't really the type to pry.

Once he spoke of Sakaguchi, she nodded. "Mmm. Bet the twin might have something to say about that at one point or another. Assuming he squeals," She looked back towards the building. "Pretty sure the sister's in our class." Not that she knew much about her. Granted, you learn over the years from proximity just from being around for so long, but she wasn't looking to expand her horizons any time soon.

As he turned the conversation to her, Shiori leaned back and rested against the shed. "Tragically," She exhaled her smoke with a sigh. "The fact that we got transfers at all is shocking. No one who comes here wants to come here, especially with Kagoshima around the corner. It's usually the same class from start to finish with the same stories: you grow up with the same faces, you apply to college and fail, then you work at the plastic factory 'til you either pop out some kids to repeat the cycle or die. Whatever happens first."

The last inhale was bittersweet, but she enjoyed it nonetheless. "Not that I plan on staying once graduation rolls around," She scoffed.




Ryusei's hatred of the town was definitely justified, but Shiori was caught off-guard nonetheless. Her jaw dropped a touch as she stared at him for all of two seconds before she burst into laughter. It was short-lived, as most joyful things tend to be around here, but it was admittedly a breath of fresh air. She wondered if maybe he either knew the town already, or something had happened to dour his opinion of the place. Either way, she had to admit the new kid made a great impression already, violence notwithstanding.

"First day and you already hate it here? You realize we still have two years before we leave this dump," She couldn't help but point out, though she did raise her eyebrows. "Not that I blame you, the sentiment is shared around here. Gotta love the place named after depression."

As for Sakaguchi... "You might just get blacklisted from being able to buy his 'goodies' from here on out," She made air quotes around the word and then took a puff from her cigarette before continuing, "Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy."

As much as she disliked small talk, he got her curious. "Himawari Shiori. Forgot to introduce myself in all the excitement," She decided to get that out of the way first. "What, exactly, brings you to Utsubyo? Aside from the pachinko parlor and the tea shop, but even then."




Sakaguchi didn't seem satisfied with her response at all. Ichika stayed steady, though she wondered if maybe she was coming off too strong. This place had such low energy and she was much bouncier than most of the people there as it was. And then came the next thing: apparently she was boring! That much made Ichika frown, though she wasn't sure what to say to that. She knew Shiori had her thing where she'd go outside a handful of times, but she wasn't a tattletale. She wasn't about to go breaking the rules any time soon, either, though.

"As someone who hopes to become a fruitful member of society, following the rules is the most basic way to make sure your life is on the right track," She stated. "After all, if my future husband decides to run for Prime Minister, I'll have to make sure my record is squeaky clean!"








Maybe it was the amount of car accident fails or something, but Shiori found that she wasn't nearly as horrified at the sudden act of violence as she should have been. It was almost incredible--day one and this guy was determined to make enemies. Or maybe he was just that petty and didn't want anyone messing up his shoes. Or maybe this is why he was banished to the far ends of bumfuck nowhere after having a violent outburst at his old school. Not that she was one to talk as her own record showed, but she wasn't looking to get expelled day one. At minimum, she usually waited for the first week to be over before causing trouble.

To be fair, Sakaguchi deserved it, but not for the reasons most thought.

Recovering from her initial shock, Shiori let out a sigh. "Away from there, c'mon," She beckoned him to follow her, taking an exasperated puff. Hiding in her usual place would've normally been her first step, but with the clouds looming over, she'd have to keep them close to the building.

The old sports' team shed was nearby, mostly empty except for some outdated equipment that had yet to be thrown out. While she was sure it was unlocked, the trees nearby provided some good enough cover--and more importantly, was away from prying eyes.

While normally Shiori would be content to smoke in silence, she figured she may as well address...that whole thing, lest she find herself needing to study some martial arts to take down someone twice her size. "You got a vendetta against skateboards or do you just hate meeting new people?" She couldn't help but ask, raising an eyebrow.




She said she could sit! And her name was so cute! Ichika happily took up the dark-haired girl's offer, plopping down onto an empty seat and dragging it over. Ah, there was solace in companionship after all! She gently placed her lunch on the desk, opening up the bento box Shiori had made for her. Thankfully, despite her cousin's grumpiness, her cooking was actually good. She didn't make it look cute at all, but everything was cooked nicely and would likely be as appetizing as her dinners.

Before she would dig in, however, Sakaguchi asked her a weird question. Ichika slowly blinked, trying to think of what to say. Oh, was it because of Shiori? She did hear some weird things from her parents. "No, no, I don't really get into fights like Shi-shi does," She decided to clear the air as quickly as possible. "Mama just thought it'd be good to get a taste of the countryside before I go off to university. Or something like that...But I haven't done anything bad! I make sure to follow all the rules."






Shiori enjoyed her cigarette in peace, though she raised her eyebrows at the rain comment. She didn't have much to say about it, usually not being a fan of rain due to the sheer amount of times she ended up getting caught out in it. She assumed tall people wouldn't like it either, but maybe that was just a weird assumption. Her eyebrow raised at his thanks, her hand already moving to wave him off. He stopped abruptly, though she wasn't surprised to see the cause. If he wasn't busy selling his goodies, Sakaguchi was more likely to be found on a skateboard.

As new kid started stomping off--likely to break the board over Sakaguchi's head--Shiori had to bite back a grin. Clearly, the correct decision was to watch since he was twice her height and if she was being honest, watching Sakachuchi get what was coming to him would be comical. As she leaned back, however, she caught onto some hushed voices. She immediately pushed herself off the building, looking around for the source.

"What the--?" She cut herself off as she spotted a sandwich on the floor. Someone was watching? Ah shit, probably Nakano or Sayaka or--ugh, if it was Takano, that was just going to ruin her day.

She almost took off before remembering the new kid, turning after her first step and running up to him, grabbing him by the sleeve. "It's getting too crowded, come on," She said, gesturing to the fallen sandwich.




Why'd Shiori have to leave her all alone for lunchtime?!

Ichika pouted in her seat, resting her chin in her hands. Her mom did warn her that Shiori could be anti-social at times, but she figured lunch was a given. They had dinner just fine, even if it was kinda...quiet. Well, she didn't complain since she wasn't used to eating alone, and getting to watch TV while they ate was nice. But she wasn't expecting to get ditched on the first day, either!

Letting out a sigh, she reached into her bag and pulled out her lunch slowly as she looked around. People scattered pretty quickly, all things considered; some of them seemed to trip over one another to run out, others quickly started putting their desks together. There was a not-so-subtle pang of jealousy that hit her as she watched them for a little, and she started to miss her old friends. Well, most of them, she was glad to be free of the clingy Kyoko.

Her eyes trailed off and landed on one of the few that sat alone. She looked disappointed--or annoyed? Dark hair, red eyes, a scowl--but her little sidetail was cute! Before Ichika realized what she was doing, she had grabbed her lunch and stood up, practically bouncing over to the girl.

"Hiya! I'm Shimuzu Ichika--the new girl, remember?" Ichika decided to go for a friendly, cheerful greeting. "I noticed you were by yourself, too. Wanna have lunch together?"






Eila listened to the young man's talk of claws and presences and vanishments with minor amusement. He seemed unsure of what it was that he saw, and despite his distress, it relaxed her a touch. He was sincere in his concern, at least, his tone reminding her much of a few of her classmates back at the Academy. He must have been young, perhaps fifteen or sixteen summers, if at that. And yet here he was, alone! And going to the Bounty House, if she took his words at face value. She supposed the state of the world must be worse than she initially assumed if children had to take to mercenary houses for work.

He then asked her about Genesians. "What is--" Eila outright stopped in her tracks as the realization hit her, and she looked back down at the young man in complete surprise. "You aren't aware of your type of magic?" She couldn't help her incredulous tone at all. Her manners teacher would be mortified. Then again, her other teachers would be, too, seeing a Genesian display his magic so casually without understanding.

Pursing her lips for a moment, she thought to herself as she slowly resumed her walk. Aetherborn came wherever the wind blew, so to speak, so it wouldn't be so strange to hear one not entirely aware of what type they could be. In fact, this was a prime teaching moment. The Empress must have seen their paths cross for this very reason.

Nodding to herself, Eila finally gave the lad her full attention. "I have studied aether and magic for a majority of my life, you see. I am quite adept at recognizing all forms," She explained. "Genesian Aetherbon infuse their own aether into either objects or into their creations. Unless your creature has your aether infused through the corpse of an animal, I believe it to be a creation of yours."

"As for your creature...I cannot say. I believe the tracks in the road belong to wagons and a very large orc, perhaps," She guessed, though she thought of something. She walked in front of him and bent down a touch so that they were eye-to-eye. "It isn't polite to assume people are monsters, young man. Remember, Iriganis is always watching, his hammer ready to strike after he sees your sins."

Straightening up, she figured they were overdue for introductions. "Forgive my manners, I have yet to introduce myself. I am Eila Aurelios. And you are?"


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