Chapter 6:

My Classmates are Making Zero Sense.

My Dad is an Otaku, My Mom is a Fujoshi, and I Wish I Was Dead

I've had a headache ever since yesterday, and the idiots arguing around me aren't making it any better.

"Maid cafe!" I hear Tatsurou shout. It’s nice to see he's passionate about something for once, but why did it have to be this?

All around him, the boys roar in unison. This is so stupid. First off, I've never understood the fascination with maid cafes. It just seems weird that someone would like a girl in a pretty conservative outfit treating him like a child. Second off, don't they realize that even if they get their way, they're not going to be seeing the girls in our class in maid outfits? The Shinchoushi Cultural Festival is such a big deal that they'll be too busy in the kitchen to really appreciate the costumes. If you want to ogle girls, a much better way would be to convince another class to do it and then go there during your time off.

Why does Shinchoushi do their cultural festival in early June when every other school does theirs in November? Don’t ask me. I have as much of an idea why as you do- none. Maybe we want to do our festival first so we get everyone’s money and attention before they spend it at all the other schools? Late May and early June is kind of a dull period for things going on around here. If that’s the reason, that strategy’s worked so far- we get massive crowds every year, so good for the administration, I guess.

Then again, I’m just taking a shot in the dark. Maybe that’s not even close to the reason and the real one is something really stupid.

"I agree, but we should get the BOYS to do it!" I hear Ayame respond and the girls chatter excitedly. Dear God, no. I know I have never been to a church of any sort, and I know I didn't think you were real until just a second ago (I still don't), but if you are, and you exist, please save me from this fate. I will say a hundred million rosaries every single day if I don't have to get put in a maid costume. It's already embarrassing when I come home and see my mom wearing one. Now imagine her seeing me with one on. I'll want to die. Even more than normal.

As it sits now, there are 15 boys in the class and 22 girls, so if all the girls vote for Ayame's awful idea, I'm being forced into that costume. No one is suggesting any other ideas. It's up to me, isn't it? I need to sway at least a few of the girls. Think, Haruto, think. What's an idea that will satisfy both parties? The boys want to see the girls in maid outfits, the girls want to see the boys in maid outfits. How can both of them get what they want and I can avoid having to put one on?

I raise my head up from being slumped and raise my hand. The class rep Rina Sudou sees it and looks a little surprised, but speaks up anyways. "Um, Kouga-san?  Did you have something to say?"

"I have another idea. Let's do a play. I think it's a good compromise. You all-" I turn to the boys- "want to see the girls in costumes, right?" I get a few nods back. "And you-" I now point my attention toward the girls- "want to see us in costumes, right?" The same reaction. A few murmurs. "Why don't we do both? Each side picks a few actors and they can be in whatever costume the other side wants. Heck, they can even all be maids if that's what you want to do."

All I have to do is volunteer for the backstage crew and there won't be any embarrassing costumes for me.

But I don't hear approval...instead, Tatsu goes "Lame. Come on, Haru."

From the other side of the room, Ayame scoffs, "That's the best you could come up with?"

Look, I know it's not original. I know doing a play is the first thing people think of when they think of cultural festivals. But damn it, I came up with this in the space of about 5 minutes, and I only had to because the girls' idea was such an affront to human decency that the UN would probably consider it a war crime.

The class rep giggles, making her long hair shake slightly. I can't help but notice how well her hair is styled today- unlike Ayame, who just ties her hair in a ponytail really sloppily, Sudou-san's is neat. Her fashion sense is impeccable. Even though she’s wearing the same uniform as all of us, it just looks…better on her. I don’t know how to describe it.

"Now, now, everyone. I think it's a good compromise. It wouldn't be fun if all of you were fighting during the preparation, right?"

I hear murmurs of assent throughout both sides of the class. Thank you, Sudou-san. You're an angel.

She writes each option on the board, numbered. "Alright, let's take a vote!" she calls out, and we return to our seats, scribbling down our preferred options on what we want to do. The play is number 3, and I quickly scribble that down.. I don't even need it to win just as long as it sways enough girls over from the crossdressing maid idea that it doesn't win. Come on, come on...

Each of us finishes writing and drops our piece of paper in the box at the desk in the front of the classroom. The homeroom teacher is just sitting off to the side- I swear he's been sleeping through this entire conversation. He's so old I'm wondering why he's still teaching at this point- he looks like he could die at any second. Actually, he might have. Well, that would be mentally scarring. I make a point to go ask Sudou-san to check him if he doesn't wake up.

The last of the students drops her note in the hat, and the class representative cheerfully announces the results. Each chalk stroke on the blackboard is like torture for me. One for the maid cafe, one for the crossdressing maid cafe, another for the maid cafe, another for crossdressing...come on...please vote for the play...there's one for the play...another for the maid cafe, another for the crossdressing, another for the crossdressing.

Final score: Crossdressing maid cafe 22, regular maid cafe 14, play 1. I didn't sway a single person. Even Sudou-san, after defending me, still voted to see me in a dress anyways. Aaaaaah, I knew I should have prayed to Buddha instead...My life is over...

Tatsurou's hand pops up. "Question! Can we do our own makeup and costumes?"

I don't know what you're thinking, but absolutely not. At least if the girls did it, they would make an effort to make us look presentable, but it would still be humiliating. But you're making a bad situation worse. I don't want to imagine what kind of monstrous creatures we would end up looking like if you were in charge.

"Yeah, yeah, great idea!" Ayame replies, and several of the girls nod their assent. No, please, please, please no. Don't let him do this. It's going to be a disaster, I just know it.

"No issues here," the class rep responds. "Aikawa-san, you're in charge of the costuming."

"Hell yeah!" Tatsu responds, and one of the guys behind him gives him a high five. Why are they so excited? Am I the only one with a sense of shame here?

"Shiritori-san, can I ask you to take control of the food part?"

"Leave it to me!" Ayame replies, as chipper as ever.

The class rep drones on as I lay my head down at my desk. I really don't care about anything anymore. "Decorating- Kikuno-san. Budget- Mizushima-san. Is that everyone? Oh! I forgot something. I need an assistant representative for the planning committee. That just leaves...Kouga-san. Are you alright with that?"

I suddenly perk up. If I'm busy enough with festival paperwork, maybe, just maybe, I'll end up getting spared the worst of it. I'm sorry I lacked faith in you, Sudou-san. You really are an angel after all.

"I'll do it!" I say with more energy than I've had the whole day.

"Great!" Sudou-san smiles, her dark hair bouncing up and down behind the ribbon. "Don't worry, I'll make sure that your workload is light enough so that you can participate in the cafe too!"

Why, oh why, do you have to be so understanding? That's the exact opposite of what I wanted! So now I get extra work for absolutely zero benefit.

I'm about done with any more of this festival stuff. Lucky for me, with all the voting and responsibility assigning done, the class is dismissed in short order. The bell rings and the homeroom teacher twitches. Good, at least he isn't dead. I don't want to stay any later than I have to, and club activities are off today, so I can at least avoid the karate team senpai...but as things are going now, I would rather have dealt with them.

I make sure to corner Tatsurou in the hallway outside. "What were you thinking, dude? The girls' idea was already terrible, but then you had to go and make it worse! You, doing makeup? Do you not realize how awful that's going to look?" I hiss.

"I'm actually pretty good at it..." Tatsu says hesitantly.

"B.S. you are," I reply. "You're going to make us look like that one old man who dresses in drag on TV or paint us up like pro wrestlers or something."

"Look, Haru-" Tatsurou sighs and looks down- "I may not like it either, but the girls beat us fair and square. None of us really want to do it, but we have to. So I thought we'd have some fun with it. We give it our all and make the girls happy, but we put our own twist on it and make it ours. We lighten the mood a little bit, you know?"

"Oh my gosh, Tatsu, screw what the girls want! If you don't want to do it, then say you're not going to do it! If all of us boycott this, then they'll have to pick something better for us!"

"Haruto-kun-" He suddenly looks straight into my eyes, with the sun reflecting off his dyed, shaggy mane so it looks like it's glowing, and puts a hand on my shoulder- "we have to protect the feelings of young women. That's a man's fighting spirit."

Don't you go sounding like some guy from a 70s yakuza movie, dumbass. I was stupid to expect anything reasonable from you.

"Forget it!" I slap his hand off my shoulder. "You can do whatever you want, but I'm not participating. I don't care if every girl in the school hates me."

"Haru..." He looks genuinely confused. "Why do you care so much?"

Oh, right, he doesn't know about my parents like Ayame does, but that's deliberate. I don't want him or anyone else to find out. And if they end up coming to the festival and see me doing this, he will find out, and everyone will find out and that will be the end of me. I can't tell him.

I've figured out enough to realize that Tatsurou did the diplomatic thing. He didn't want to make the girls angry, so he went along with their plan. However, he also, in offering to take charge of the costuming, made it to where us boys would be free to look as ridiculous as possible and it would turn the whole thing into a comedy routine where we're the stars of the show, not being embarrassed. That's just the way he operates. He read the room and made it where everyone gets to save face and everyone is happy...except for me. No matter how this idea turns out, if my parents show up to the festival and see me in that costume I'm toast.

"I'm going home," I huff.

As I sling my bag over my shoulder to leave, I hear a voice behind me. "Kouga-kun, can I get your help with something?" I turn to look and Sudou-san is standing right there.

"I wish, but I'm actually on the way home…" Sudou-san might be an angel come to earth but even she can’t take my mind off that horrendous idea. Crossdressing? Why were the girls so excited about it?  Why were the other boys even MORE excited about it? Has everyone else in my class gone crazy?

"That's too bad," she replies. There's genuine concern and sadness in her eyes. Is she going to cry? Please, God, no. Anything but that.  You didn't answer my prayer to save me from maid hell, but please don't let me make a girl cry.

"I was going to take our class's results to the student council, and I would like your help, since you volunteered...but if you're too busy I understand..." She turns her head away. She's right, I did volunteer to help her out with the forms. Damn it. I don’t want to stand in front of the student council and tell them that I’m going to dress up as a maid, but I want to see Sudou-san sad even less.

…So that’s what Tatsu meant about protecting the girls’ feelings.

Wait a minute. Obviously, the student council is going to take one look at this idea and reject it. There’s a line between typical entertaining cultural festival stuff and weird pervy Akiba stuff, and this definitely crosses it. They’re going to rubber-stamp it no, and I’ll be safe.

"I'll do it." I say, having steeled my resolve. I absolutely hate having to even say the idea out loud, but all I have to do is present it and they’ll reject it.

Tatsurou gives me a quizzical look, but then a slight grin and saunters off, leaving me alone with my personal goddess.

We set off down the hallways of the school. Sudou-san walks along gracefully, with her hair bobbing up and down. Even just being in her presence is calming.

She turns to me and says, "Do you notice something different about me today, Kouga-kun?"

Uhh...not at all...this is a hard doesn't seem like she's changed at all, and she doesn't need to...she radiates such a glow of perfect compassion and understanding that I get caught up in that instead of her appearance. But wait...isn't this one of those things where girls will test boys and try to see if they're paying attention and then get mad if they're not? I swallow. I've never experienced this before, and I really don't want to know what happens if I fail...aww, crap, here goes nothing...

"You got a haircut?"

She smiles. "No, it's my ribbon!"

I take a closer look...oh, right, the cute bow in her hair is red gingham. It's normally green. Her accessories blend in so well with her uniform that I guess I never paid attention to it, but how could I have missed something so obvious? Now she probably hates me.

There's no huff of annoyance or mocking laughter, though. "I wanted to try my summer ribbon out before we switch uniforms, but it seems like it's not popping out. Maybe I should go for a brighter red? Maybe yellow?"

I think any color would look good on you, Sudou-san. My sincerest apologies for my worthless self failing to notice your accessory and how well it fit you. I was ridiculously inattentive, and you didn't even get annoyed at me. Truly, your compassion is beyond the limits of mortals.

"I...uhh...think it looks fine as it is."

She smiles. "Thanks, Kouga-kun. You're really sweet."

I feel like my heart could beat out of my chest right now.

The bliss from getting a compliment from Sudou-san almost paralyzes me to the point where I can't say anything as we walk into the club building. Suddenly, she straightens up as we pass by a nondescript room and gets a sudden look of panic. "Excuse me just a second, Kouga-kun, I have to get the Computer Club's demo for our stall at the festival!" She quickly dashes into the room.

A few seconds later, I hear some loud bangs and then a high-pitched screech come from inside the room. It's a bit muffled, but it's still enough to make out the words. "HEY, YOU! KOUMOTO! YOU'VE HAD HOW MANY WEEKS TO DO THIS?! YOUR CODE STILL LOOKS LIKE SHIT!"

Another set of crashing, something muffled and then...the same yelling. "CONWAY'S GAME OF LIFE?! IN JAVASCRIPT?!?!"

More muffled protests, then some more banging. "YOU USED A MAC?!?!?!" That person is losing it. What is going on in there? I can tell it's a girl shrieking, and she makes Takeno-senpai and the Karate Club senpai look downright sedate!


That can't be Sudou-san, can it?!

The door slams open and Sudou-san comes out, looking maybe the slightest bit disheveled if you really squinted. It sounded like a war was going on in there, but she looks as graceful as a Bodhisattva. She's holding a laptop with a cable that connects to a small framework-looking thing on wheels.

My brain might as well be fried by her dignified grace, because the first thing that makes its way up from the crevices of my idiot mind and out my idiot mouth is "Are you okay?" She looks like she's just stepped out of the salon after a visit...of course she's okay, stupid!

I catch a hint of sheepishness in her voice, but her expression hasn't changed. It's still as radiant as usual. "I guess you...ahh...overheard? Sorry! We're a little behind on our schedule. We wanted to make a booth where the general public can program this little robot- Robo-chan-" she points to the crudely constructed thing on wheels- "but our graphic interface isn't quite there yet. I have to show the president the command line. That'll scare the public off right away."

"Sounds rough," I reply, still not quite knowing what to make of what I just heard. That banshee scream could in no way have been Sudou-san. It's impossible. "Wait, when you say we, do you mean..."

"Yup!" She gives the most feminine and graceful nod I've ever seen. "I'm the Computer Club's re-founder and president. The school had a treasure trove of computers and parts that no one was using, so I got a campaign going around to see who might be interested. I ended up with about 30 members, and they all said as the person who did the heavy lifting, I should lead, and I wanted a third-year to do it, but everyone insisted, so here I am."

Only Sudou-san could be a first-year and the club president of students older than her and be able to balance it with her class rep duties and be able to make the top 5 of every exam. I'm simultaneously not at all surprised and amazed.

"You didn't strike me as a computer person," I say as we walk down the hall.

"Really? I think they're interesting," Sudou-san says without breaking stride. "Distros and libraries and terminals and all of that...ever booted a computer from BIOS and gotten to see the inner workings? Programming is really fun when you get to create things, or when you debug and finally figure out what you need to fix! Doing a Git clone on your own computer and then running a bunch of programs from Python is the most rewarding thing... Ah! Am I losing you?"

"No, it's interesting!" I hastily reply. What she just said sounded like total gibberish, but it came out of the mouth of Rina Sudou so I could listen to it all day. "I have trouble figuring out my smartphone, but that stuff sounded cool!"

"If you want to, you can come try Robo-chan out on our breaks from the cafe. I'll take you," she says, positively radiating joy.

Is she asking me out? Is that a date? You don't know how bad I want to do that. Really, you have no idea how much I long to go around the festival with Sudou-san. As soon as the ridiculous maid outfit idea gets shot down, I can be free to enjoy the festival with Sudou-san to my heart’s content!

"I’d love to!" I quickly reply. And then I remember that there’s still another hurdle in my plan as soon as those words come out of my mouth. “My family will be there, though, and they’ll probably expect me to spend some time with them…” I'm sorry, Sudou-san. I'm sorry, God.  I'm sorry, Maitreya and Kannon.  Please don't sentence me to the hell of freezing for 53 quadrillion years. I have no desire for my mom and dad to even show up, but I know they will, and I know they’ll force me to hang out with them when I could be spending time with Sudou-san. "I'll try to make time though."

"Okay," she replies. She looks a little forlorn, but that's enough to wound me. "Sorry. I keep demanding too much of you when you're so busy."

No, it’s my fault. You can demand whatever you want from me, Sudou-san.

She's silent until we reach the Student Council office, and it's the most painful thirty seconds of my life. She slowly pulls the door open. "Sudou from 1-1, coming in~"

"Come on in!" I hear a voice from inside. Sitting behind the U-shaped row of tables and chairs is a girl with her blazer and tie off and the top button unbuttoned lounging back, her hair loose and tousled- the sun coming in through the window behind her makes it look reddish. Beside her is a serious-looking boy with dark hair so long it almost covers his eyes. That must be the president. I attempt to speak up. "Mr. President, we're from 1-1-"

Before I can continue, the girl cuts me off. "You mean Ms. President."


She's up to her feet now. "That's just Miki. I'm the president."

The boy beside her nods.

There's no way this girl, who was just putting her feet up on the desk, who's flagrantly breaking the school dress code, is the student council president. Never in a million years.

Before I can blink, she's hopped over the desk and is staring her big eyes in my face. I instinctively shrink back a little. She's got the look of a tiger hunting its prey. "I keep getting these disrespectful little first-years making that same mistake, not taking me seriously...maybe I should give you detention?"

I shrink back a little more. It was an honest mistake...

"Reika." A sharp voice cuts the tension and I see a girl with a medium-length bob-cut, glasses, and a blue third-year tie standing on the leftmost wall. I was so caught up dealing with this weird girl I didn't even notice her. Beside her is a smaller girl also wearing glasses, with mousy shorter hair, who has an expression on her face like she wants to shrink into the wall, with the biggest chest I've ever seen...yep, that is absolutely that girl that Ayame was harassing the other day. What was her name? Suzuki? Suzuno? Suzumura?

The intimidating girl in front of me immediately breaks away her stare and giggles. "Just kidding! Welcome to the office, Kouga from 1-1!"

I haven't yet introduced myself, and I have never met this person before in my life, and she already knows who I am? Am I popular or something?

"I didn't properly introduce myself, did I?" the strange girl says. "Reika Suzuran, your friendly neighborhood student council president! Nice to meetcha!" She sticks out her hand.

Uhh...does she not realize we’re Japanese?

"Reika, leave the first-years alone. I've been waiting here for minutes," the third-year with the glasses says coolly.

"My bad, Momo. Were ya gettin' jealous?"

"No, I'm getting annoyed at you wasting my time to go and scare those poor kids."

"Lighten up, Momo," the president (I still can't believe it) says as she walks over to the third-year. She puts her arm around the other girl's back. "Aren't we friends?"

She's reaching around the other girl's she trying to grab-

The girl named Momo slaps the president's hand away. "Regrettably."

"You're so mean, Momo." The president- Suzuran, I think she said- pouts. She's really acting a lot like Ayame, now that I think about it. And I know that name's familiar- I look at her, then at the shy first-year clinging to the wall tighter than a little kid holding onto mom's hand in a crowded store- wasn't that her name, too?

Through all of this, Sudou-san isn't perturbed. She's straight-faced as ever. What a saint.

The third-year- I think her name is Momo, it sounded like- holds out the folder to the president, and I, relieved that her attention is off me for the time being, slowly shuffle into line behind the other Suzuran. She notices me with a surprised jolt, but quickly goes back to staring at the ground.

"Our plan for the Manga Research Club's booth is to put these on display," the girl named Momo says as she passes the green paper folder to the president. "Contest entries. Individual artwork, too."

So she's in that club Ayame's in. I thought they were a bunch of weird nerds, and they probably are, but this girl looks surprisingly normal.

The president takes a sheet of stapled papers and thumbs through them. Her eyes go wide. "Oh, wow, Momo, is this yours? This is really good! You ought to go pro!"

Momo averts her gaze and I can see a faint blush. "It's nothing special. I came up with the idea in less than fifteen minutes."

"No, I mean it!" the president exclaims. "It's better than half the stuff in the magazines these days! That's my super-talented best friend in the whole wide world Momo for ya!"

Momo's obviously turning red now. "Stop it."

The president takes another stapled paper from the folder. "Ooh, this one is good, too! Mecha are super cool!"

"That's from the second-year boy duo. It's a bit rough around the edges, but they put a lot of heart into it."

She takes another paper out. "This one's got some good artwork!"

"That one belongs to Tsukiji from 3-2."

"This one has an awesome fight! It gets my blood pounding!"

"That's the second year Ikeda's."

"And this one..." She takes another stack of papers out and skims through it, slowing down with each page. "I don't get it, but I think it's good or something?"

Doesn't take a genius to figure out what she just read.

"That's Shiritori's," Momo says with a sigh. "That one had to be cut down. If the artwork improves and she nails the length, she'll make a really good one."

The president continues to flip through papers until she finally comes to the last one in the folder.  She takes out the sheet and holds it up, squinting.  "Whose is this? It doesn't look like any of the others."

"That's..." Momo hesitates. "Suzuran's.  It was her first attempt at face sketching."

The president stops for a second, looks at Momo, looks at Suzuran, then back to the other girl, then back again, then breaks out into a huge grin. "Momo, you sly dog! I can't believe you seduced my little sister!"

"That is a horrible way to put it," Momo huffs.

I look at the shy girl standing right next to me. Maybe I should have noticed the resemblance...or not. There's barely any. They look nothing alike.  I should have noticed the last name.  That was what gave it away.

"You didn't tell me you were drawing, Fuu-chan!" the president exclaims. "This is great for your first try!"  She holds it up so that everyone in the room can see her sister's "achievement".

Suzuran looks like she wants to disappear. "It's not very good..."

I hate to say it, but I agree with her. That drawing isn't outright horrible, but it's clearly the work of an amateur. It's worse than Ayame's, even. If that was me I sure wouldn't want it displayed for the world to see.

"Aww, stop being so bashful!" the president laughs. "I like it!"

"Reika!" Momo snaps. "She's not here for you to fawn all over her!"

"Oh, right. Manga Research Council is approved to display this art. Miki!"

The seated boy nods, whips out a stamp, and presses it down on a piece of paper before handing it back to Momo. She gives a bow. "Thank you very much."

"Next!" the president calls. "What do ya got for me, Fuu-chan?"

It seems painful for her to even speak, but she thrusts the paper in front of her. "Here...class 1-4...our idea is fortune telling…"

"Ooh, nice!" the president exclaims, taking the paper. "Oldie but a goodie. Miki!" She slides the paper over to him to stamp. "Only the kind of great idea I'd expect from my baby sister."

Suzuran shies away. "I...didn't come up with it..."

"Aww, that's a shame."

The girl named Momo cuts in. "If you're finished, we'll be on our way back. Those two need to go ahead."

The two head toward the door before Momo stops by me. "You are Kouga from 1-1, aren't you?" she says in a tone barely above a whisper.

"Uhh, yeah, that's me."

"I thought so. Shiritori talks about you all the time. Take good care of her for me, will you?"

"What do you mean by that?" I sputter out, but before I finish she's gone, taking the younger Suzuran with her.

Sudou-san goes next, looking radiant the whole time. She hits a few keys on the keyboard of her laptop and the little robot springs to life, going in circles on top of the desks. The president is impressed. "Wow! I want to try your booth! Miki!" She passes the boy next to him the paper and he nods and stamps it once again. This whole time we've been here, he hasn't said a word.

"Now, Kouga, whatcha got for me?" the president asks, going back to lounging with her feet up on her desk.

I hold up the paper. "Class 1-1's idea..." I can't even bring myself to say it out loud. Even though she’s going to take one look and reject it.

She stares over it for a little bit and then a smile crosses her face. That’s…not good.  That's actually really bad.  "Crossdressing, huh...that's really bold, but I bet it would be cute..." She takes a big look over me. "I think you'd look good in a dress, personally, but that's just me..."

No. No. No. No. No! NO! You LIKE it?! What kind of president are you?! Is EVERYONE at this school insane?!?!

"Approved!" the president exclaims. "Looking forward to the costumes! Miki!"

He nods and stamps it.

I can’t say a word- I think I’m going to be sick. Once again, a plan I came up with on the fly, one that relied on other people actually being sane and having some sense, has been utterly annihilated, and now I get to spend the next few weeks having to make the outfit for my own torture. If she was in any way reasonable, she'd reject our plan for being too perverted, but it seems like she's the most excited out of everyone to see it. Please, God, please don’t let my parents find out.  I have to find some way to get out of this without them knowing.  Please let my third prayer be the charm.

"Kouga...where have I seen you before? You look familiar."

The president's sharp voice momentarily snaps me out of my doom spiral.

She eyes me up a little more. "Did you live on Nakamachi Street a few years back?"

"Uhh, no, but I went there as a kid a lot..." Where's she going with this?

"Does the name Boulangerie Suzu ring a bell?"

Nice pun. Who are you, Ayame?

"Not really..."

"How about this?" She stands up and makes a heart with her hands. "I'm Bakery Idol Reika~ Here to bring you the finest pastries made with 100% love and moe~"

As soon as she does this, the memories start flooding back. There's a small bakery on the corner of the shopping street, and the bell rings as myself and the kids flood in, me and Ayame are there and Kaede is there and the rest of us are there too and the place smells like heaven and the kind man behind the counter hands us these golden, fresh-baked pastries and mine is filled with chocolate and it's the best thing that I've ever tasted. Behind the counter is a girl a little bit older than us, beaming with pride, wearing the same red uniform and white bandana as the rest of the staff...that's her.

"That was you?!" I choke out. Sudou-san gives me a confused look. At least I think that’s what that expression is.

"I knew it was!" the president cries triumphantly. "You were the cutest little kid! You'd go 'I want that one!' and all the others- Shiritori and that one girl and that other girl and that other girl and that boy that was sometimes there and sometimes not- would all nod and get the same thing! I was so jealous- I wanted to hang out with all of you sometime, but the shop came first...I'd still slip you extra treats, though...hope you realized it..."

"I kinda remember is nice to see you again, even if it's been a while. What happened to the idol career?"

"Dead. You can't get anywhere being the Bakery Idol when there are Heavy Metal Idols on national TV."

"Sorry to hear that..." She would try to get people to watch her "concerts" outside her family's shop, but most would just walk on by her. We thought she was cool, though. One time we handed out flyers with her.

"I don't want to interrupt this reminiscence between old friends, so I'm just going to go..." Sudou-san interjects.

"Hey, wait a minute. I didn't notice it at first, Rina, but when you're next to Kouga you look kinda familiar, too..."

"I think you're mistaken. Goodbye," she says, quickly shutting the door behind her. Aaaaaaaaaand it's like the lights have just been turned off. I had already gotten used to Sudou-san's brilliant presence, and getting rid of it feels like a punch to the gut...

"By the way, Kouga," the president calls as I go to leave, "the bakery's moved to the East Mall, but we're still open...come on by if you want!"

"I'll keep that in mind." Actually, I won’t. I really don’t like sweets.

Pope Evaristus
Steward McOy