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Greetings, I'm Takaru. That is all.

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Kotori Shirohane - Warakuma Shopping District: Shirohane Flowershop | Wednesday, July 13 2015

"Kotori?" Tsubame called out, peeking her head out from the storeroom in the back of the shop. "Yes?" the girl spoken to looked back from the door that the most recent customer had just left through. "When did you say you were meeting up with your friends?" For a moment, Kotori's expression became puzzled before she shifted her gaze to the clock mounted on the wall - and paled. "Ah! I forgot!" With the summer festival now in full swing, there had been an unusually high number of customers in recent days - and with how Kotori was as nervous as ever when dealing with them, she had completely lost track of the time.

She almost immediately felt guilty when she realised that she'd have to just up and leave her mother to tend the store alone if she wanted to make it in time. But even as Kotori's eyes darted to the door from behind her glasses whilst she deliberated on what to do, she felt the green apron loosen and then get pulled up over her head. Turning around, she was greeted with her mother's wide smile - evidently more than a little bemused by her daughter's antics. "Hop along now. Don't want to keep them waiting, do you?" She said, making a shooing motion with the apron she now held to speed her along. "Ah, r-right, sorry. I mean, thank you," Kotori said as she headed up to her room to grab her things. As she did so, she failed to hear the chuckle of a knowing mother reaching to shift a clock back a few minutes.

Kotori Shirohane - Warakuma Central Shrine | Wednesday, July 13 2015

More than a little out of breath, Kotori managed to make it to the meeting place in time - in fact, she was even a little early, strangely enough. Still, that did at least give her a few moments to catch her breath. Thankfully, at least she didn't have to keep an eye out for shadow creeping around like the last time when Rui had led the latest expedition into the Mirror Realm. Less thankfully, that single stray thought sent Kotori's mind into thoughts of that strange place - and its mysteries that were stranger yet. Absent-mindedly, Kotori shifted her handbag that she had slung over the shoulder of her pale yellow blouse into a more comfortable position.

'Did the places mean something? Were they perhaps one of those strange dungeons that had appeared without fail whenever any of the investigation team had been abandoned to the Mirror Realm? No, there was always someone at the center of them, that couldn't be...' Kotori's lips made the barest of movement as if to silently articulate her thoughts. Left unchecked, her nervous habit of picking at her skirt - a careful eye might be able to pick out her favourite clothes just by the small marks she'd left at hand height - resurfaced once again. Left alone to her thought that never led anywhere, Kotori was only aware of her surrounding in passing and, as such, only noticed the others arriving when they willingly made themselves known - much to her bewilderment at being snapped out of her musings.
Kotori Shirohane - Seto: Village by the Valley | Friday, July 8 2015

Kotori had barely a moment to catch her breath as the next assault began. Rui and Ryan led this one, making full use of Ayano's predictions and striking the Shiki-Ouji with a twinned barrage of both light and dark attacks. And once more, the Shadow struggled - but ultimately, its wards failed and one of the attacks send it crumbling to the ground. This was not to be the end, however. Even as Kotori gathered her strength to use the Shiki-Ouji's momentary weakness for another bolt of lightning, Ryan was already leaping into action as Geraint went for a heartstrike.

But neither was that the end of his attack, for in the next moment, Kotori had to bring up a hand to shield her eyes from the sudden intense beam of light that erupted from the piercing laser blade of Ryan's persona. Blinking behind her glasses and between her fingers as the light faded, Kotori could see neither of the two figures standing; a swirling mass of torn paper instead remaining where Geraint had before struck his deadly blow.

Yet even tearing the Shiki-Ouji to shreds would not suffice as a light, faint at first but rapidly growing into a shining beacon, began to emanate from the blade of Geraint, who had taken to the skies in the momentary blindness that had afflicted all onlookers. And just as the intensity of the glare threatened to become painful, the persona swung its weapon downward - and immediately followed through with a mighty flap of its wings; accelerating at a pace too fast for any eyes to comprehend. He seemed to transform into a beam of light that mercilessly bore down on the tattered remnants of what had once been the Shiki-Ouji - and upon impact completely vaporised every last scrap in a radiant explosion of light and grand display of power.

With their foe so thoroughly annihilated, Kotori quickly made sure that everyone was unhurt before turning her attention to the second group who'd kept their backs clear of the swarms of smaller Shadows that the strange mirror people had transformed into - but as it turned out, they seemed to share the fate of their larger companion and began to scatter back into the shadows. Whilst everyone remained on guard for a few moments more, Kotori could soon breathe a sigh of relief as no more shadows surged forth to attack; using the welcome break to actually catch her breath as everyone gathered around.

Before long though, Kotori perked up again when she began hearing sounds - and not those of conversation between her fellow Mirror World explorers. It was a different voice - stranger, as if coming from far away and... long ago? She blinked in confusion at the thought, but it seemed the most apt way to describe the sheer otherness of the experience before she managed to recognise the words as those of a marriage vow. Despite the strangeness of the situation, a brief smile lit up on Kotori's face - only to vanish as quickly as the voices did with the sound of shattering glass.

Almost immediately, the only remaining voice took on a tone of desperation that left Kotori frozen - for she had the misfortune of having heard it before, if in a different voice. She barely even realised that the cracking glass had been very real as shards were slowly floating all around them, at times giving off brief reflections of a man unknown to her. One such reflection might show him in anger, another huddled down whilst at other times he pored over something - as his voice returned once more, speaking words stranger yet.

Kotori's thoughts were racing. Was that... the leader of the Junsei Sekai Tensei cult? Was this the reason for it? Trying to somehow bring back his wife from the dead? But that was impossible - it had to be. And what did she - or for that matter, everyone gathered around - have to do with all of this? But... resurrection? What made him think that it could be done?

Unmoving and utterly lost in thought, Kotori didn't even notice that, upon Rui's suggestion, the group began heading back to the entrace - only snapping out of things with a bewildered look upon her face when a hand was placed on her shoulders. "Huh? Wha-ah! S-sorry, ye-yes, right," she managed to say when asked if she was coming back too, hurriedly following in the footsteps of the others - but not without the occasional searching glace back at the village they were leaving behind. She was even more quiet than usual and merely gave a weak wave in goodbye when, upon returning to the warehouse that had become their base of operations, the group began splitting up as that had been more than enough Mirror World exploration for one day for everyone involved.

It was a long and uneasy time before Kotori would manage to fall asleep that night.
Kotori Shirohane - Sadaomi Beach | Saturday - Evening

Sat at the seaside restaurant table, Kotori stifled a yawn - and not for the first time that evening. As they day had carried on - and particularly once the excitement and energy of the afternoon had started to fade much like the sunlight, the tiring effects of her rather fretful sleep the night before were making themselves known once more. With the rather cozy post-dinner atmosphere in the still-warm night, it didn't take long for Kotori's mind to wander as she thought about the events of the afternoon whilst only listening to the ongoing conversations around her with half an ear. For despite the pleasant ongoings, she couldn't help but worry about her fellow two Agriculture Club members.

As such, she'd only half-heartedly participated in most of the events of the afternoon - deigning to sit out on the fishing on account of having no knowledge thereof and not being all too eager to acquire it; even if she was somewhat surprised that someone actually managed to fish up an old boot. She declined participating in the volleyball match, too - though that was unsurprising, given that she wasn't exactly the most sporty person even if she didn't end up out of breath after just a few minutes of strenuous activity.

Still, she did enjoy the watermelon that had been brought along - even if she ended up getting some of it on her jacket in the process, albeit that not being of her own fault. She didn't blame Ryan for it either though - he seemed most surprised of everyone that his swing ended up sending watermelon bits flying all across the beach and in no small part over himself, too. Not wanting to leave her summer jacket in such a state, this did force Kotori to reluctantly doff the thin yellow garment as she gave it a quick rinse under the nearby showers. On account of it being soaked through, it left her little choice but to return without wearing it - and instead, much to her self-conscious dismay, wearing only the swimsuit she'd worn beneath all this time.

Ultimately, Kotori was almost glad for it - after all, she'd probably just been mentally beating herself up if she'd actually bought a new swimsuit and furthermore even gone to the ocean and then proceeded to never actually dip as much as a single toe into the wide blue sea. Besides, she told herself that everyone else was wearing their swimwear too, so there was nothing to be embarrassed about - though telling and believing were two different things entirely.

Still, whether true or not, she couldn't help but feel like she was drawing more attention that she liked as she quickly made her way back to the towels to let her jacket dry on the nearby warm rocks in the sun. As such, Kotori soon hurried over to, for the first time ever, actually feel the ocean waves curl around her legs - and most definitely not using the opportunity to hide herself beneath the water's surface, clear though it may be and thus doing little to actually conceal the light blue and white colored pattern that rose into a multitude of blooming summery floral prints that made up the upper half of her swimsuit. And with her glasses ever firmly in place, she didn't submerge herself any lower than her neck - though that hadn't stopped her long black hair from rising up and floating behind her.

It was quite a while yet before she actually headed back out of the surprisingly warm ocean waters, as she told herself it was purely because she actually enjoyed the gentle motions of the waves and the feeling of the sand shifting beneath her feet and most definitely not because it took her that long to work up the courage to do so.

---

With her hair long-since dried - though still feeling a little funny after both only getting partially wet and also having been in the salty seawater for some time - and once more wearing her trusty summer jacket, Kotori's thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a rather unexpected sound. Blinking rapidly, her tiredness was forgotten in an instant as she locked eyes with the source - and her face grew paler yet when she confirmed for herself that someone had, in fact, just suggested a test of courage. Luckily, and to her great relief, it quickly turned out that there simply was not enough time left before the train they wanted to catch left - and as such, Kotori was unusually enthusiastic in nodding her agreement when it was decided to not conduct it after all.

After that brief shock, Megumi showed up - and once again, had managed to acquire a whole host of things from seemingly nowhere. This time, the objects in question were a few small boxes of fireworks - which were soon handed over to Rui, Ryan and a few others who began setting them up. It wasn't long before they called everyone else outside - and to the sight of neatly prepared sparklers which were soon thrust into any unoccupied hand. Kotori was no exception to this and soon found herself grasping an unlit firework. One by one, the others lit theirs and quickly the sound of spraying sparks filled the air. The flickering lights illuminated the faces of their holders, showing smiles almost all around.

But even in all the merriment, Kotori couldn't help but glance around in worry - the sun had set, yet there was still no sign of either Shizuka or Matthew. She was growing slightly restless, even though they still had more than an hour before their train left. So in thought was she that she didn't even notice someone offering to light the firework in her hand - and taking her silence as a yes. Preoccupied as she was, Kotori almost jumped at the sudden fizz coming from so close; eyes wide in surprise behind her glasses at the sparks flying off into the night and vanishing after just a heartbeat.

Her surprise softened into a more relaxed state after a mere few moments more. Watching the small motes of light break off in all directions reminded her of shooting stars, glowing brightly in a dark night's sky before vanishing forever - even if she'd never actually seen one for herself. The thought almost brought a smile to her lips as she realised how silly the comparison was - but it stuck with her nonetheless. So much so, in fact, that she tentatively wondered if someone had perhaps thought of wishing upon a sparkler before.

Shaking her head, Kotori reprimanded herself for such silliness - but that didn't stop a small voice in the back of her head being more true to herself: "I hope those two come back safely soon..." Her voice was even more quiet than usual - and thus completely drowned out by even just the single firework in her hands. Hearing the others all around her being far more joyous - and, as she noticed after looking up from her own sparkler, sporting a lot heartier smiles - Kotori sighed at herself for always being such a downer; even if she couldn't help it.

Still, having looked for so long directly at the bright sparks that were being sprayed in all directions, Kotori fruitlessly blinked a few times to try to rid herself of the bright spot in the middle of her vision that was being rather persistent about not going away - only for her to suddenly stop mid-blink when a voice spoke up from the light-blinded darkness: "I-I apologize for my absence bu-but I do feel better now, thankfully. May we join in the festivities?"

Finishing her initial blink, Kotori followed it up with a few more as she turned to face the source of the sound - and once her eyes had adjusted to the actually still-light evening instead of the glowing fireworks, managed to recognise her for who she was: Shizuka. But not only that - beside her was the other missing member in the form of Matthew. Glancing between the two, relief slowly brought a smile onto Kotori's face as she nodded. "Of course, Otonashi-san, Harvester-senpai. Welcome back," she said, this time at least loud enough to be audible.

And though she didn't realise it herself, Kotori's smile grew softer and more heartfelt when she slowly realised that the strange and subtle mood that had been plaguing the two seemed to have finally been lifted. Perhaps, Kotori thought, there was actually something to those shooting stars.
Kotori Shirohane - Sadaomi Beach | Saturday - Noon

Kotori spent most of her lunch peeking up from behind her glasses at the others whenever they took a bite from the packed lunches she had shared with them - but try as she might, she couldn't seem to find much in the way of overt distaste whenever they did so. As such, Kotori was at least a little relieved - but before long, the ever-present doubts at the back of her mind started to wonder if everything really was to everyone else's tastes or if they were simply being too polite to show otherwise. Still, seeing as no one made any comment to that effect, Kotori cautiously decided to err on the side of optimism - at least for the moment.

---

With lunchtime over and the various shared things having been returned to their respective owners, Kotori stifled a yawn - and spotted the return of the more outgoing members of the group who'd preferred to try the local cuisine. She gave them a small wave before whilst everyone seemed to be engaging in smaller groups for conversations among one another - leading Kotori to glance over to her bag and ponder whether to retrieve her book under these circumstances. However, just as she decided against it - for now - Rui spoke up; catching the attention of everyone as he so often did - and bringing up the topic of what the third-years were going to do after graduation.

As her upperclassmen began speaking about their plans - some more surprising than others - Kotori's eyes began to wander much as her mind did. Though only the third-years had been addressed, her thoughts shifted to herself and what she would say in the same situation - which lead her to realise that she well and truly did not know. Until now, she'd always just thought of graduation as some event far off in the future that might happen at some point - but never as a real and actual fact. Of course, it didn't take long for her to remember why she'd put off thinking about the future too much. The expression upon her face became a lot more sullen for a moment as she almost instinctively lifted a hand to her chest - but after a second or two, Kotori shook her head.

Putting those thoughts aside once again - and hoping that she wouldn't drag the mood down if she didn't - Kotori instead looked up to see which third-year would divulge their own plans for the future next - or whether they'd remain silent on the topic much like Kazuki had.
Kotori Shirohane - Sadaomi Beach | Saturday - Noon

Kotori wasn't really sure if she should have asked whether the others might want to join her for lunch - in fact, she was almost regretting having said anything to that effect just as soon as she was done speaking. Yet at the same time, she was glad that she had done so - after all, even if no one agreed to stay, she'd at least not be berating herself later on for not having the courage to even ask a simple question.

However, her thoughts on small victories over her own nature were interrupted rather soon - and not in the way she had quite expected when someone stepped closer. Looking up from behind her glasses, Kotori saw that it was Samuru - and as he spoke of making a joint meal with everyone, the surprise she felt became quite evidently legible upon her face as she blinked in silence when the older boy pointed over to his own bag. It took her a moment to realise that it might be rude of herself to not say anything in return, leading her to stumble for words as she quickly nodded: "Ah, y-yes, right, uhm, p-please, go ahead."

As it turned out, Samuru wasn't the only one to respon in such a fashion - Kotori almost jumped when a sudden clap resounded from beside her. Its source was a beaming Kanna whose mood had done a complete turnaround since they'd found the picture he'd been looking for. Her surprise ebbed away and made way for relief at the sight - she had harboured a slight worry that his sudden burst of happiness would only be brief and fade into reserved withdrawal. However, it seemed that he'd shaken any apprehensions off and was instead enjoying himself together with everyone else and seemed to have a smile on his lips whenever Kotori happened to glance over towards him.

Kotori's relief, in turn, was supplanted by a rather rapid reddening of her cheeks when Kanna suddenly complimented her completely out of the blue. "Eh? I-tha-uh, ah, n-n-no" was the most eloquent response she could manage in short order - and making it quite evident that she hadn't the faintest idea how to handle a compliment as her voice trailed off into unintellible mumbles.

Thankfully enough, Kotori was saved from the sudden spot of embarrassment by yet another voice speaking up. Kotori's eyes practically shot up at the chance to somehow shift the topic away from herself - only to betray her surprise yet another time when she saw that it was Rui this time who too had come to join the slowly but surely growing group lunch. "Ah, uhm, y-ye-yes, uhm, please, ah, please do" she said, her voice still quite quiet and unsure following the previous surprise.

Seeing such a large turnout coming for her own proposal did bring a small measure of happiness to Kotori - and even though the sudden colour that had flushed her face hadn't quite died down just yet, a small smile did manage to work its way to her lips as she began unpacking the extra lunches that she'd brought along. Samuru had retrieved his own food in the meantime - and was approaching Kanna once more. However, before Kotori could notice more than that, Rui spoke up once more as he asked the group at large whether anyone wanted something to drink seeing as he was going.

"Uhm, no, thank y-you," Kotori quickly said, looking around before finding the still full water bottle she'd brought along too. "I-I already have some," she added with a shake of her head - which was both true and not the sole reason; seeing as she knew she'd probably feel rather guilty for having someone else get something for her when she could do it herself.

Glancing about, Kotori noticed that Samuru had taken Kanna slightly aside - but her momentary worry about the younger boy being intimidated by the older one was quickly put to rest when she noticed that the mood didn't seem quite as stiff as before. Instead, it seemed that they were discussing the Mirror World and their involvement therein - a subject which was quite heavy in and of itself. After all, they still didn't know exactly what that other realm was or really anything about it - only that it seemed actively harmful to any trespassers. On the other hand though, it was the one thing that tied everyone in the group together - and as such was, in a roundabout fashion, the reason they were here at the beach in the first place.

Kotori pondered that thought for a moment - but realised that, ultimately, it wouldn't lead anywhere and instead just shrugged to herself; focusing her attention instead on the food before her - and trying not to criticise her own handiwork too much, even if it was a task doomed to failure from the get go.
Kotori Shirohane - Sadaomi Beach | Saturday - Morning

Returning from the backtrack with Kanna, Kotori looked noticeably more at ease - evidently, being successful in locating Kanna's missing photograph had managed to calm his half-panicked, half-depressed state. This in turn had lightened Kotori's mood, given how she really didn't know how to handle other people being so down. As such, she was quite glad to see that Kanna's first trip with the group wouldn't be soured by his loss of something precious to him. Even so, there was still some discomfort in movement - albeit this stemming mostly from having just walked across the beach underneath the steadily warming sun whilst still wearing her summer jacket, light though it may be.

As such, she was also glad to see the parasols still set up and having survived the watergun fight; the end of which Kanna and she had arrived just in time to witness and leading her to give a small wave in greeting when they were noticed. Kotori couldn't help but quickly glance over all of the participants - and feel a small measure of relief that they had all managed to avoid getting any accidental injuries if things happened to get a bit more serious than the rather goofily-coloured weapons of choice might suggest. Most importantly though, everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves - which brought a small smile upon Kotori's face even as she stepped under the parasol that kept her bag and spread-out towel safe from the sun. It wasn't much cooler - but it took the edge off just enough for any light breeze to feel quite pleasant as she sat herself down.

Kotori enjoyed the feeling with her eyes closed behind her glasses for just a moment before she opened them at the sound of voices drawing closer too. Rui was pointing out where one might be able to get something to eat for lunch - the tips coming courtesy of Kazuki, presumably. This surprised Kotori - not that Rui knew what to do, but rather how quickly the morning had already passed. A quick glance inside her bag and to her phone indeed confirmed it. It also confirmed that the small silver locket that she'd safely stowed inside was still there too - which had been much the reason she'd known how Kanna must have been feeling when he thought he'd lost his own precious possession.

Kotori briefly shook her head - rather than think on what she might do if she lost her locket, she instead rifled through the bag a moment longer before drawing forth a pair of water bottles; blinking away a spell of the same drowsiness that had accompanied her all day, given her lack of sleep the night before, as she did. She reached for the bag again - but hesitated for a moment before glancing around to the others as they all made their plans for lunch. She had made herself a small packed lunch the evening before - and in her fretting over being prepared for the trip, had even made some extra; just in case someone happened to forget either a lunch of their own or at least enough money to buy some.

As she looked around though, no one seemed particularly distressed, so her worries had evidently been for nothing - and she'd feel a little guilty if she offered to share, given that she only ever cooked meals for her mother and herself and didn't want to make anyone feel guilty for saying no. Still, what if someone wanted to stay in the shade rather than having to take a walk to get to a restaurant? Kotori argument with herself went for another round or ten before finally, and with some hesitation, she finally spoke up - little though that might mean, given that her voice was as quiet as ever.

"Uhm... i-if you'd like..." Kotori's voice trailed off when she noticed a few of the other turning in her direction, given her lack of direct addressing - but after a moment, she slid out a bundle from her bag and placed it upon her lap. "I-I, uhm, I made some, ah, extra lunches, s-so if a-anyone would like, uhm..." Try as she may, Kotori couldn't quite help but feel increasingly embarrassed as she continued speaking; the incessant way in which her fingers were unconsciously playing with the cloth covering the packed lunches making that much obvious for all to see - if the way her bespectacled eyes were nervously glancing about anywhere but her fellow beach-goers didn't tip them off already.
Kotori Shirohane - Sadaomi Beach | Saturday - Morning

Just as Kotori posed her question to Kanna, Rui too spoke up; briefly drawing her attention - and causing a quizzical expression to come over her face when she saw him standing before a veritable stash of weapons. Between their various bright colours and obvious water reserves, it quickly became clear that the pile consisted entirely of water guns - albeit in all sorts of shapes and sizes; ranging from pistols to some that looked like they weighed a hefty load even though they were made of light-weight plastic. Kotori wondered just when and where Rui had managed to gather all the aqueous arms - until a voice beside her reminded her of the fact that there was another matter that was demanding her attention.

As Samuru and Ryan picked their watery weapons of choice and ascertained allegiances for what was undoubtedly about to transpire, Kotori's eyes turned back to Kanna - and blinked in surprise when she saw that he was leaning in a little bit; his voice a lowered as he began to speak. At first, she felt a measure of sympathy for the younger boy as he stumbled over his words - but the sympathy soon turned to concern when she realised that, unlike her own lack of confidence, the reason for his stammering was all the more distressing as he explained that he had lost something very important.

Just speaking about it seemed to be making him even more miserable - his rapid blinking doing little to mask the fact that he was on the verge of crying as he revealed that the object in question was: a picture of his brother. After saying this, Kanna's wistful gaze shifted to the rest of the group, their excitement a sharp contrast to the rather sombre mood that had developed - but Kotori herself instead glanced back to her bag. At that moment, she could knew quite well what Kanna was feeling - she imagined that she would be quite the same if she lost the small silver pendant that she usually kept on her but had left in her bag when she got changed for the beach.

Kanna, meanwhile, seemed to shrink away more and more with every word he muttered; his voice shaky as he said that he had no idea where he might have lost it. Feeling a little overwhelmed at how to handle this situation, Kotori glanced between the miserable little pile that was Kanna and the by now well-armed rest of the group; almost hoping that one of them might somehow have overheared the conversation and know what to do - but between Kanna's drop in volume and the way he'd seemed to try not to draw anyone else's attention, she doubted that would either happen or do much to improve the situation at hand.

"Uhm..." Kotori started, despite not really knowing what to follow up with. What did she do when she was missing something? "If... if it's any help, uhm, I could help? Maybe..." she said - even though the confidence she inspired was likely about equal to the amount she felt in her ability to do so. Still, she thought that just saying that she didn't know what to do either wouldn't be very helpful - even if it was true. With that decided, Kotori got up from her seated position, brushing away any sand that may be clinging to her despite taking the precaution of a towel and pushing up her glasses before turning to Kanna with a confidence-inspiring smile on her lips.

At least, that's what she intended. The result looked more like a wry half-smile that conveyed a lot more of the lacking than inspiration of said confidence. A similar sentiment could be felt when she spoke up in turn: "Uhm, do y-you remember where you last saw it? Maybe w-we could... sort of... retrace your steps to there?" It sounded almost more like a question than a suggestion - but Kotori held on to the admittedly rather faint hope that it might be enough to help Kanna out of his misery. As she did so, she quickly tried to think of likely places for something to go lost - the changing rooms perhaps? She really hoped it wasn't much earlier than than, seeing as that could mean he'd lost the picture that meant so much to him on the train.

A flash of movement of bright colours out of the corner of her eyes caught Kotori's attention - and reminded her that the others were currently still setting up their water war and might be wondering why they weren't being joined by Kanna and herself. "Uhm, w-we will be right back, because, Ka-, ah, we forgot something," she said - conviction evidently not being her strong suit today as her attempt at a smile once more came up rather lackluster - but hopefully managing to let the others know what was happening without upsetting Kanna, who did not seem to want to divulge the reason for it any more than he had to.
Kotori Shirohane - Sadaomi Beach | Saturday - Morning

From where she was sitting, Kotori could see that Samuru seemed to be getting along quite fine - alternating between Kanna and Rui as he spoke with little hesitation about plans for the day and whatnot. He certainly seemed to warm up to everyone a lot quicker than she'd done back when she'd first become part of the group - which was a good thing, as she didn't wish that awkward discomfort upon anyone else. Rui, of course, took things in his stride - but the same couldn't quite be said for Kanna, Kotori noticed when the younger boy briefly flinched as she addressed anyone in earshot - which wasn't very far, considering how quiet her voice was - to offer a towel or sun-block should they need it.

Not having meant to bother anyone, Kotori quickly thought whether she should apologise - or if speaking up would just be even more annoying. It was only after a moment of inconclusive internal debate that she would glance over to Kanna - and then notice how suddenly his eyes would latch onto Samuru when the older boy quietly addressed him. Trying not to pry, Kotori was just about to look away - when Kanna, instead of answering, turned his eyes over to her. A silent moment passed - and then he turned to instead put place his head upon his closely-held knees; a rather dejected sight that made Kotori blink in confusion. With no idea what was going on, Kotori in turned glanced between Kanna and Samuru - unbeknownst to her, in much the same dilemma of not knowing what to say or do as one of the other two.

As she did so, Kotori briefly wondered about the cause for such a thing - it didn't seem like something that someone who was comfortable would be doing. Was he perhaps feeling anxious about going to someplace away from home with a bunch of people whom he didn't know very well? Or did he maybe just realise that his holiday homework was still waiting for him at home? Whatever the reason, Kotori realised that in such a mood, he'd probably not be enjoying this first outing with the whole group - which, after all, was the entire point of them coming to the beach. Thinking back to the first few times she'd been with the others - even if the occasion had been visits to the Mirror World rather than the beach - they'd always made her feel welcome, even if she'd doubted just how much she'd be able to help them in turn.

That thought finally motivated Kotori to speak up: "Uhm..." Of course, that didn't exactly translate into her knowing what to say in such a moment - but at least she didn't stay completely quiet as she thought on that. "Is... is everything okay?" she asked, a tinge of worry audbile in her voice that was as quiet as ever, as she peered through her glasses over at the wistful-looking Kanna; even as she realised that she probably wasn't doing much of a good job at cheering anyone up with just such a simple question.
Kotori Shirohane - Sadaomi Beach | Saturday - Morning

Thankfully, it turned out that Kotori hadn't disturbed Ryan - at least not too much, seeing as he stated his gratitude rather than annoyance for noting the rather hasty passing of Kazuki to him. As she turned to follow Rui, she glanced back to also see Ryan lift himself out of the sand - and then looking about to make sure that no one else would find themselves missing everyone else. Samuru and Kanna were already heading in the same direction - which still left two pairs. Kotori spotted Mako and Sato a little ways off, the two having returned from a brief icecream-laden trip unbeknownst to her. She was a little torn between not wanting to interrupt anything and not wanting to leave anyone behind and thus gave a half-hearted wave which she hoped would yet simultaneously would not catch the attention of either of the two in order to direct toward the same place everyone else was already heading.

Once that was done, Kotori glanced about in search of the final two members of the group - and soon enough spotted both Shizuka and Matt; neither too far off. Still, even at a distance Kotori could feel the odd awkwardness that had been haunting them; unknowingly slowing her steps as a small frown appeared on her face. The wave she gave the two was even less spirited than the one that had been directed at the two boys - even as she tried to hide her unhappiness at seeing her two clubmates unhappy in turn with a smile that , at a distance, would hopefully not like quite as wry as it was.

With her own worries over anyone in the group losing sight of one another thus assuaged, Kotori turned her gaze forward once more. An inaudible sigh escaped her lips even as she adjusted her glasses that were resting just a little bit out of their most comfortable resting place from the constant looking about. She'd lost count how often she tried to tell herself not to worry too much about Shizuka and Matt since having asked Rui for advice on the topic - hypothetically, of course. Lifting her head slightly so that she could peek out from beneath the brim of her sunhat, she saw him a bit further ahead - as ever leading the whole group, even if, thankfully, it was merely to a particular spot on the beach rather than the unknown depth of the Mirror World. Either way, he never seemed to run out of confidence, Kotori mused.

Any further thoughts though were quickly interrupted when she noticed that Rui was greeting someone a little up ahead - who turned out to be Megumi, standing all alone in the shade of a few rocks. She seemed a little bit miffed as she stood there with her arms crossed, seemingly muttering to herself before noticing the new arrivals. Unfortunately, Kotori was just a bit too far away to catch Megumi's words before she had already turned to greet Rui and everyone else as they arrived after him. As Kotori drew closer, she gave a quick bow in greeting to Megumi, even though they'd only been separated for a few minutes, before turning to look about the immediate vicinity.

Indeed, it was quite a nice spot - the shade provided by the rocks alleviated her worries about getting too sunburnt even in spit of her various precautions. Meanwhile, they weren't too far off from the water which was lapping at the beach in lazy waves - the ocean looked rather inviting indeed. Of course, no part of the beach was particularly secluded in this weather - and as she looked around, Kotori could see multiple other people, whether alone or in groups, having set up as well. Some had simply spread out a towel whilst other had brought or rented sunchairs and beach umbrellas. Not too far off, she could even see a small group of teenagers engaging in a game of beach volleyball on a makeshift court.

Rui's voice drew Kotori out of her inspections as he reminded those present that they could get changed if they still needed to - a sentiment which prompted Kotori to look down at herself and the light summer jacket she was wearing over her swimsuit - and that they could decide on what to do once everyone was ready. For a moment she contemplated whether she really needed to wear the pale yellow jacket - but quickly decided to keep it on for the moment, seeing as she was going to be waiting here until everyone was ready; nodding to herself briefly as she convinced herself that she'd need the jacket just in case the wind suddenly picked up or the shade was unusually cool as she slid her beach bag off of her shoulder.

Seeing as there was still a little while to wait, Kotori reached into the bag to retrieve a simple white towel and spread it out in the shade provided by the rocks before - with at least a small measure of relief - taking a seat thereupon; glad to take a moment's rest after the short walk with the bag on her shoulder. "Ah", she said as she peeked back into the bag, "Uhm, if anyone needs a spare towel... o-or some sunblock..." Her voice grew ever more quiet as she produced the items in question from the bag - and in turn drew the attention of anyone who'd actually heard her. For a moment, she remained seated on her own towel, somewhat awkwardly holding the spares in hand - before quickly stashing them away.

However, Kotori's empty hands only remained still for a few seconds before she found herself playing with the hem of her jacket whilst she glanced about from beneath the sunhat that still rested atop her head even in the shade. Knowing that she probably wouldn't be able to calm her fingers if she didn't find some sort of occupation, Kotori reached back into her beach bag - before withdrawing the book that she'd already started reading the train ride here. Looking up once more, she made sure that she wouldn't accidentally appear to be ignoring anyone approaching - before opening the book the page where she'e left off before; intent on continuing her reading - at least until everyone else had arrived and gotten themselves ready.
Kotori Shirohane - Sadaomi Beach | Saturday - Morning

As it turned out, the object of Samuru's and Kanna's little discussion - which Kotori had reluctantly stepped away from, giving politeness the edge over curiosity when it came to accidental eavesdropping - was not far away indeed. Glancing about, Kotori saw Rui stepping out from the changing room, the final one to join the others in his own beach-wear. With everyone thus accounted for, Kotori's attention turned back to the beach that stretched out before them as she peered out from beneath the rather low-held brim of her sunhat in search of the two Shoujin High students that had gone off to find a suitable spot to put down the bags. Shifting the strap slung over her shoulder, Kotori wasn't exactly opposed to no longer having to actually carry her around.

Incidentally, she soon spotted at least one of them - a sight which furrowed her brow in slight confusion when she realised that Kazuki was both going at a rather speedy pace and, judging by his breathing, had been doing so - or more - for quite a distance. As he drew closer, he only now seemed to actually spot the group strewn about the immediate vicinity of the changing rooms - and seemed a little preoccupied as he pointed to where he'd just come from, letting them know that Megumi and he had indeed found a good place before heading on with no break in his pace. The confusion on Kotori's face was not hard to read - at least, if one stood close enough to see beneath her hat - as her eyes followed Kazuki on his way onward for a few moments more. After that, she shook her head briefly and decided to simply take him by his word and assume that he was just hungry, rather than suspect some strange ongoings to have taken place.

Either way, the fact that there would be somewhere to keep their bags was not an unwelcome one - and Kotori turned to head in the direction that Kazuki had pointed; finding herself to not be the only one doing so when Rui too began walking. However, before she got more than a few steps, Kotori looked back when she realised that perhaps not everyone had actually heard the brief exchange or noticed Kazuki's return and subsequent departure. Samuru and Kanna had surely been right there, so Kotori's gaze turned to the others - but skipped over both Sato and Mako as well as Shizuka and Matt when she realised how awkward she'd feel if she walked up to them and perhaps interrupted either par's time on the beach. She still couldn't help an inaudible sigh escaping her lips when she realised that it was much the same reason that she hadn't been really been able to do anything to help the latter couple return to the more light-hearted mood that they'd been just a few weeks ago.

However, once she cleared that thought from her mind too, there was still one member of the group unaccounted for, Kotori realised. Sitting a little ways off, Ryan was evidently already enjoying the feel of the ocean lapping at his feet - but in doing so, Kotori wasn't sure if he'd heard that they were going to head on over to the spot that Megumi was occupying by herself now. Glancing back to Rui, who was going ahead already, Kotori stopped in her tracks - and then headed back, walking up to the younger boy. It was only once she got closer though that it occurred to her that she hadn't really spoken much to him before - or, as she noticed upon looking past her sunhat, seen him without anything covering the telltale discolorations of scars, faded though they may be.

Kotori's steps faltered at the sight as she brought a hand to her own chest - though she couldn't help her curiosity being piqued, the topic of scars and how one might have gotten them was not a topic she would want to be approached about. As such, she afforded him much the same courtesy - even if she felt some measure of sympathy, given that Ryan did not have the fortune of being able to hide his own scars.

"Uhm... Chideta-san?" Kotori said, her voice as quiet as ever as she quickly glanced back to make sure she didn't lose sight of the others as they went on ahead. "S-sorry to bother you, but, uhm, M-Morinaka-san just came by, so..." she said, her voice trailing off with every word, whilst keeping her eyes firmly on the ground somewhere in front of her; only hesitantly looking up to see if Ryan had even heard her - and then making a vague gesture toward where Rui and the others were heading in order to finish her sentence. She remained standing somewhat awkwardly for a moment, glancing between them and Ryan as she waited for a response - before then turning to follow the others to wherever it was that Megumi was waiting, albeit at a slight distance.
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