We all continued our journey when we came to a fortune-telling booth. The burgundy-haired student wore an extremely suspicious outfit. From sun-colored rods sticking out of the bun in her hair to the feathery white coat and blue dress. If I found her sitting on the sidewalk I would certainly avoid her in fear she'd try to con me out of a few 100yen.
Out of curiosity, we approached to see a certain woman with a voluptuous body and long frizzy hair sitting down. With her grape-colored eyes, they shined with glee as her body shook with passion. It was no one other than…my now partner, Linda Taylor-sensei.
“So, how is my compatibility?”
The fortune-teller placed her fingers on the crystal ball in front of her. It glimmered in a fantastical way that even surprised me...but then I noticed the extension cord dangling from it, sneakingly hiding away under the table. Looking closer you could see her adjusting her foot. I take it to push a button on the floor and make this "magic" happen.
“It states here that there will be conflict along the way but if you press at it, overbearingly... the one you love will understand.”
“Oh, that’s great news then!”
With a squeal and a kick of her feet like a teenager gossiping about her crush. She abruptly turned around to see our group of girls spectating her reading. Her eyes were entranced with rosy excitement as if hearts were forming in her irises. Instead of her normal doctor coat, she sported a blue warm long-sleeved white shirt. The small blue jacket seemed to give out as it attempted to pull around her...more aggressive chest size. Not as though I was looking at that or anything!
She screamed, causing the fortune teller at the booth to shriek back into the wall behind her. The poor girl...
Mae questioned. Oh, that's right. She doesn't know that Conway-san and Taylor-sensei are stepsisters, does she? I turned to see her with her arms crossed. The shark gritted her teeth and lashed out with a single word, cutting down sensei.
“Oh, that’s no way to treat me, Sophia!”
Taylor-sensei crossed her arms and puffed her cheeks. That was rather cold of Conway-san now knowing how Taylor-sensei truly loves her...I couldn’t help but feel that icy response.
“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friends, Sophia? I already know Nakagawa-san very well.”
She giggled while winking at me, exclusively.
"Very well, huh?"
Conway interrogated as she glared at me with a seeming intent to kill. Taylor-sensei needed to stop being so suspicious else Conway-san will catch on and I'd really be eaten alive…
“You don’t need to know my friends, Linda!”
“Don’t treat me like that, Sophia…I just want to know the lovely girls around you!”
“Conchi-san, at least be nice to Taylor-sensei…”
I added in trying to appease the situation a bit. Maybe soothe the lion's icy heart...but Conway-san pointed her pointer finger at me like a weapon.
“How many times do I have to tell you to stop with that stupid name, Nakagawa-san?! Is your head full of hot air?!”
Taylor-sensei took the chance and aggressively grabbed Conchi-san’s finger. The shark bit back as she spins towards the nurse.
“Sorry for her outburst everyone. You see, Conway Sophia is my stepsister. I am Taylor Linda, the school's assistant nurse.”
Mae crosses her arms. She looked over sensei before concluding.
“Interesting. Well, it’s nice to meet you. My name is Watanabe Mae, let's get along well.”
Mae giggled as she bowed. She seemed to be enjoying their banter I would take it. Now that I thought about it...Mae seemingly is having a good time too. That melted my chest. She reminded me of the old Ma-chan I love. That's when I noticed a couple of middle schoolers were missing. So, I glanced across the hall to see Hana and Sora who seem to be engrossed in an ad on the wall. It makes sense that this discussion wouldn’t have any merit to them since they don’t know our school nurse.
“Let go of me, Linda!”
“Oh, sorry Sophia.”
She grinned as she finally let go of Conway's finger while rubbing the side of her cheeks. She does seem to be a bit of an airhead I’ll admit. But then that seems to be part of her charm in a way.
“Well, you enjoy your day everyone. Great meeting you, Watanabe. Bye-bye Madoka and Sophia give me a call later!”
All heads turn as she sways her shapely hips back and forth down the cultural festival halls. During our chat yesterday Sensei expressed that she’d like to enjoy the festival with Conway-san. But that's nothing more than a fantasy. She knows that it won't be possible for them to do so without the backlash of her family in some way. I can only imagine the true feelings she's experiencing right now...
"What about, Taylor-sensei?"
Conway-san crossed her arms and glared at me. She was picking me apart now and soon she would expose all the secrets hiding within me. So, I coward from her death stare and looked out the large window behind us.
“Whatever Nakagawa-san...Hey, kids, get over here!”
Seemingly giving up on pressuring me scoffed. Hana-chan and Sora-san trumped over at her beckoning.
“Stop calling us kids, Conway-san!”
Hana retorts, shaking her fist. Sora just laughed warily. Conway-san certainly acts like a big sister with these two I’ll be honest. Knowing she doesn't have little siblings of her own...maybe she's playing out the fantasy of being a big sister right now with these two?
That made me giggle as I turned back to the fortune-telling booth. That's when I caught those lushes crimson eyes of a certain ash-haired girl peeking from the back of the display at me. She wore a midnight blue dress over a long-sleeved comfy looking white shirt. With a cute beret secure atop her snowy head. A casual Mihara-san was a sight to behold.
Only then did I look up and realize that this booth is from the fine arts club. So this is what they’ve been setting up for all those days Mihara-san wasn't on the train. The bubbly art swayed at the top in a rainbow arc. It must have been made by Mihara-san I concluded. I couldn't get enough of the cat with the crystal ball in its hands. She really does like cats, doesn't she?
“Come, get your future told.”
The fortune-teller coursed with a wry smile. Of course, she was just a student like me in actuality. I don't think I ever met her before though. We might be the same age if I had to venture a guess. Meaning she might be a second-year student unlike me...
But I wasn't going to let her con me. The last thing I needed right now was a pseudo-wannabe prophet telling me all the wonders of my journey through life.
“Sorry, I don’t believe in that kind of stuff.”
I cleanly declined, patting myself on the back internally for being responsible.
“Nonsense. It’s only 100yen. What will it hurt?”
Hana shot in my view out of seeming nowhere.
"Onee-san, please have your fortune read!"
"Yeah, do it Onee-san!"
Sora-chan also chimed in, to my dismay.
I moaned. I seriously didn't want to have anything to do with this...
“Do it Mado-chan!”
Mae aggressively pushed me from behind causing me to have to hold onto the seat Taylor-sensei just left to keep from falling over. I wanted to spin around and punch her lights out in frustration but I calmed down before doing something I’d regret. So, feeding into peer pressure...I complied and sat down.
Hot air blew from my lips. I was being so responsible too... Everyone seemed to be watching me. I had easily turned from the mature and elegant woman to sap for this grifter to bleed for money in a matter of seconds. Even Mihara-san looked ecstatic to see all my secrets exposed to someone I didn't even know. But there was a harsh glare bleeding into my back now. I knew who that was without checking...it was Conway-san, one-hundred-percent. Yeah, she was likely suspicious about Taylor-sensei and me, that's for sure.
“May I ask for your name and birthday ma'am?”
The teller questioned.
“Aren’t you supposed to know this stuff already though?”
As a skeptic, I lowered my shoulders. The student's eyes widened as she became visibly panicked at my candor. She didn't deserve this kind of treatment so I caved and told her.
“Nakagawa Madoka, November 18th.”
“Your birthday is that close, Onee-san?!”
“I completely forgot, Mado-chan!”
Mae chimed in after with a snicker. That one made me a bit more pissed. I wanted to stand up and make good on that punch now.
I heard the ghost in the background, Mihara-san mumble that to herself. For some reason...just my birthday being exposed so far made the hair on my neck stand up. I...hate this feeling of being preyed upon like a salmon to a fisherman
“I’ll make sure to help mom and mom throw a big party that day, Onee-san!”
“Mom and mom? What the heck are you talking about, kid?”
Conway-san scratched her head for good reason...I never mentioned my family situation to her. But it seemed she lost interest a moment later when she urged the girl to continue. The crystal ball began to shine now as she closed her eyes and rubbed the sides of it.
“I see in your near future…rough adventures ahead. Ones where the heart won’t know which path to take.”
That struck a chord in me so fierce I nearly flipped backward. I caught my impulse though and clenched my skirt, preparing to stand up.
“Okay, you’re done!”
I stood up only to be pushed back down by my loving childhood friend...Watanabe Mae-chan.
“Why are you doing this to me, Mae?!”
“Because I want to know my best friend’s future!”
“You’re an idiot, Ma-chan!”
The woman coughed, clearing the childish banter between us.
“To prevent ruin, you must decide your fate and stick to it until the very end.”
She concluded by stepping off of her light button causing the ball to dim down like a flame fading in the wind. It would be more powerful if that extension cord wasn't dangling off to the side.
“You see Mado-chan! You have to avoid ruin!”
“I’m seriously going to hit you, Mae!”
"Thank you for the patronage."
The fortune-teller gracefully bowed then began drawing in more customers. So, we decided to stand to the side to allow others to take part in the experience. I don’t believe in that hocus-pocus junk. It's easy enough to see that I'm a fragile girl who might be scarce of "adventures" as she put it.
I turned to see Mihara-san approaching the group. Her neck shot down as all the eyes bled on her now.
“O-Oh! Everyone, this is Mihara Yuko-san. She’s a second-year and used to be on my basketball team in middle school.
Hana approached like a timid puppy. Her long hair swayed back and forth as she circled the ghost as if looking for the right chance to pounce on her.
“Mihara-san, this is Koda Hana-san my stepsister and her friend Hino Sora-san. This one here is Watanabe Mae-san and the rough-looking one is Conchi Sophia-san.”
“It’s Conway Sophia you shrew!”
Conway gripped my collar in a fit. Seemingly overwhelmed, Mihara-san coward back towards me before ultimately turning her gaze to one person in particular.
“You…look just like her.”
Confused, Hana-san tilted her head. To my guess, she meant her mother, Koda Mari-san. But it seems Hana never met Mihara-san when she visited me. Frantically, she turned back to the rest of the group who all had their eyes fixated on her.
“Ah…nice to meet you all…”
Mihara announced timidly.
“Oh, it’s nice to meet you!”
Mae jumped up giving her a scare. I hold her shoulder and pull her back.
Hana-san and Sora-san bowed but Conway-san kept her arms crossed. She then tugged on my jacket sleeve. Her tug was a tad forceful as I lifted my feet walking with her. Only then did I realize she wanted me alone, away from the others it seemed.
“Ah, what’s wrong Mihara-san?”
She said that but I could see her eyes ruggedly peeking back towards the now curious group of girls. Could it be that all that attention was getting to her? After a moment I looked over and everyone seemed to stop caring. Sora-san and Mae-chan were chatting, even Conway-san and Hana-chan were having a discussion. I couldn't make it out from here though.
“Ah…so you’re with your friends today?”
She went quiet for a moment. The bustle of the festival nearly drowned out her somber breathing. We stood there for a moment in this awkward silence as I waited for her to continue.
“Ah, is there time to meet later, Nakagawa-san?”
It seemed like Mihara-san wanted to find time to hang out during the festival. I thought about it. It wouldn’t be fair of me to leave her out…
“When is your shift over, Mihara-san?”
“Hm, that’s around the time when we’re supposed to go to the ghoul house attraction in the old gymnasium. You can join us there at noon, Mihara-san.”
“Oh…you like that sort of stuff, Nakagawa-san.”
“…Hehe, I’m no good with horror but my little sister wants to go, and…I have to do what an Onee-san has to do!”
For a moment I pushed out my chest but as sudden as that burst of energy came I lowered my shoulders…but then like a firework my eyes lit up.
“B-But afterward we’re going to see the STARS concert in the auditorium! You can come to watch it with us!”
She glanced over at the group again. I peeked in too only to see Conway-san bullying Hana-san with that manga. I’m going to hurt her if she makes Hana-san cry. I suddenly felt a tug on my risk again to turned to see her, the ghost possessing my sleeve. It seemed as though Mihara-san didn't like my attention being divided like that...I guess it was a bit rude of me. When I turned back she gave me a brighter smile than before.
“Ahm…can I stand with you during it? T-The STARS concert…that is.”
“…Sure thing, Mihara-san. I’ll meet up with you and we’ll enjoy it together. STARS is one of my favorite groups! Their clothing is so cute! So fashionable!”
“I-I know! I’ve watched plenty of their shows.”
“Yeah, since you showed me them.”
Then it dawned on me…I watched STARS before my accident. So, I talked with Mihara-san about them too? It felt like that world didn’t exist.
“Yeah…I've wanted to…enjoy it with you Nakagawa-san...for a while now.”
Her words were honest. So, I accepted them without question.
“Okay, we’ll meet at the haunted house display at noon then. After that, we'll head over to the auditorium for the concert.”
With that, Mihara-san nodded and rushed back into the back room. The joy on her face was one I never saw on her. How that put a grin on my face. But now that I thought about it more... I’m not sure what she was doing back there when all the action seemed to be in the front of the shop. But whatever it is sure Mihara-san is doing a good job.
Conway-san stepped over first and entered my view.
“Yeah, I asked her to meet us at the ghoul house around noon…thanks for giving me that time with her everyone.”
The shark scoffed as she crossed her tiny arms and pushed up her nose to the ceiling.
“I’ve seen Mihara-san around. She’s the kind that would run if a pen is dropped near her.”
“Eh, that’s mean Conway-san!”
Mae gripped her cheeks in a fit, causing Conchi-san to flip, horridly.
“Arrggg! Stop it you dang blueberry!”
“Hey, girls, anyone hungry yet?”
Sora-chan approached with her and Hana holding hands. It reminded me how Hana would want to walk to school with me, hand in hand. They sure are close…
“Watanabe-san is paying for everything!”
Conway declared while pushing her off.
She gloats about having money but she’s the last person to push out cash when the time comes. Is that her being cheap or does she do this to punish those who make her angry? Oh well, that didn't matter right now. The gentlemen's butler café was our next destination. With Sora-chan and Ma-chan leading the pact now, we made our way to the third-years hall.