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R Amatsusangaku, House of Ragarunaraku

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Monday, April 1st, 2013.

Today was the first day of his second year of High School, yet he chose to spend it in his bed instead of waking up early and preparing accordingly. *Bzzzt* His vibrating phone revealed that it was now time for him to get up, pressing the snooze button three times in a row was the limit or else he’d miss the opening ceremony. Sigh, no time to waste. He got up out of his bed and opened the large closet directly next to it to grab a towel and a bag with his toiletries.

Kamiya Masahiro would be spending his second year just like the first one, in the Varuhara Hall. Despite the small size of his dorm room, it was large enough to fit in a bed, a closet, a desk, a small coffee table and there was still room to spare for an old CRT TV. All things considered Masahiro had nothing to complain about. Other than maybe the other inhabitants of the dorm, they could get on his nerves sometimes.

Masahiro stepped out of his room, still dressed in nothing but his boxers and tank-top and dragged himself towards the second floor’s common bathroom to brush his teeth. He stared into the reflection of his own green in mirror, as if trying to confirm that he was still as handsome as yesterday. He sure was. Spit. He glanced at his hair, wondering whether he should do something about it, but decided that for now he’d go with an out of bed look. Also made mornings a lot easier.

 

Back in his room he jumped into the black trousers, white dress shirt. He quickly configured his shiraz red, striped tie and threw on his black blazer, with a white outer edge on the lapels and pockets, that the school demanded all students wore. Another peek at his phone. Damn. He had to get his ass in gear or he’d be late for the opening ceremony. Without saying a word to check whether anyone else was still in the Varuhara Hall he sprinted towards the front door, put on his shoes and ran towards the school. Luckily school was in walking distance.

As Masahiro stepped into the gymnasium the bell rang and all the students went towards his seat. Slightly out of breath and without a clue what class he was sorted in this year Masahiro stood in between the endless rows of chairs, looking from the left to the right hoping he’d find anyone who knew what class he was in. “Masahiro-kun! Over here.†Luuuuuucky! 

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Sunday, May 31st, 2013.

 

"Otosan, do you really think it best for me to live at this Dormitory for the semester? I suppose your proposition makes sense, but truly? You feel this best?" Kaze spoke calmly while sitting across from his father, a cup of tea in front of them both. His father, a somewhat serious looking man, smiled very slightly, sipping from his cup.

 

"Kaze, it will give you a reason to meet new people, make friends. You may be in clubs and teams, but the only one you spend time with is Matsu. I want you to expand your horizons, get to know people from different places. You've had it well off for a long enough time, why not give this a chance?" His bright green eyes looked directly at his son's, whose gaze never faltered when looking back. "You can of course come home for the holidays, and if you need to see me. But I implore you, give this a shot. You won't regret it."

 

"As you wish Otosan...I'll pack my things tonight. And I'll be sent there tomorrow afternoon, I presume?" Kaze stood, his yukata swaying slightly at the gentle breeze blowing through the open room. "Or would you prefer tonight?"

 

"Kaze-chan." His father stood and walked around to his son, putting an hand on his shoulder. "You'll go tomorrow. Rest easy for tonight. You have your speech to give at the ceremony in the morning after all." His father smiled at him and gave him a loose but loving grasp before bowing to him, Kaze bowing in return.

 

"Goodnight Otosan." He watched his father leave for his room before going to his, preparing for the next day. His bags packed before too long, and looking at his phone, he sent a message to Matsu. I guess I'll be living at the Varuhara Hall this year. I'll send you the directions so you can come every once in a while if you like. I know it'll probably be a bit out of your way. With that, he slipped into his futon and removed his glasses, having his alarm set early to get to school with some time to set up. He also wanted a good parking spot. This making him laugh before he fell asleep.

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Monday, April 1st, 2013.

 

Through the herd of busy students-- all with a common goal of finding their seats-- Hideaki Tomoko attempted to distinguish herself from the crowd and call out to her friend. "Masahiro-kun! Over here." It was a challenge but Tomoko grew accustomed to her short stature. While she was not horizontally challenged her entire life, her growth halted sometime in junior high and she had a lot of compensating to do. Luckily for her, she learned pretty quickly and she soon became proud of her newfound skills.

 

Her efforts were successful as the boy took notice and almost immediately she laughed to herself. As usual it seemed as if he took as little time as he felt like in his morning routine to get ready. Not that she was much different. Her hair was very quickly brushed and loosely tied in a ponytail with her reading glasses placed around her hairline over her bangs. Unlike her other female dorm-mates of Varuhara, her time in front of the mirror took less than four or five minutes. While the others puckered there lips and carefully scribbled over their eyes, she left satisfied.

 

What she was not satisfied with was her outfit. After finally reaching her friend she spent a minute fixing her skirt and readjusting her blazer.The full-dress uniforms mandatory during the first day of the school year made doing anything uncomfortable in the hot weather that managed to find its way into the gymnasium. Even with the school air conditioner doing all it could to cool the large, overpopulated gym even the lightly dressed staff found the heat annoyingly persistent for so early in the year.

 

"Same class again this year," she commented as she tried to stealthily unfasten the top button of her jacket to let in cool air. The two were somehow stuck in the same class since around the time her growing had stop. "Are you looking forward to another year of me keeping tabs on you like always? Like how late you are? Or your hair?"

 

"My hair is fantastic, don't be stupid," he quickly barked.

 

Without another word, the short girl made her way to their assigned seats, guiding her friend by the elbow. A few teachers began instructing their sections to take their seats quickly as other staff prepared the stage and podium for the school's opening assembly to begin.

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Monday, April 1st, 2013.

 

Another fine year at High School was about to unfold. Minami Kazuhiko could feel it in his bones. As he walked through across the threshold of the school gates, dressed impeccably in the school's uniform, black trousers and a white shirt, and a black blazer with white edge detailing, and the red striped school tie, he smirked to himself. The scene before him was wonderful. He had spent the break reinventing himself. He had dyed his hair blonde, and had it cut in a short, stylish fashion with a long fringe. His light brown eyes were scanning the area. There were a few girls in skirts, freshman, and still underdeveloped, much to his chagrin. However salvation was but only another glance away. Hamada Chigusa, a girl in his year, had certainly filled out lately. She was beginning her journey into becoming a woman, to Kazu's delight. 

 

With a confident stride and a silence that masked his boyish eagerness he continued to admire the feminine treasures that his school had to offer. However he did not stop to chat. Not this year, he had bigger fish to fry. He was in his second year now, he was no longer a boy, but a man. He couldn't waste his energy on these silly girls. No, this year he had an important mission. This year he would find himself a woman. One of beauty, charm, intellect and most importantly one of experience. He grinned at the thought. Oh yes, this year was most definitely going to be the year where it all changed for Minami Kazuhiko. He had even managed to convince his parents to let him stay in the Varuhara Dormitory this year, after all he needed his independence. 

 

After a short walk he found himself in the hall with the rest of his school. The opening ceremony was about to begin so he decided to take his seat. After filing along the rows, politely squeezing past a few student he found an empty seat and sat in it. His eyes wandered around the students sitting around him. Then he noticed the boy with the messy hair sitting in front of him, and the girl next to him. Hideaki Tomoko, it seemed she still had a lot of growing to do. And Kamiya Masahiro, hardly someone he would call a friend, more of an acquaintance. However Kazu was not the sort to shy away and keep quiet, no it was clear to him that his voice was one to be heard, charming and witty as it was. He leant forward, his head poking through the space in between Tomoko and Masahiro. 

 

"Good morning, Hideaki-chan, Masahiro-kun!" He said with a bright sing-songy voice. "What a surprise it is to see you two together...not! Haha!"

Masahiro frowned. "I didn't know people still used the 'not' joke." Kazu kept smiling regardless. 

"Popular phrases come and go Masahiro-kun, that is to say...I am bringing it back!" Kazu replied eagerly, "It's important to set new trends rather than follow the ones others set for you. We're not freshman anymore, y'know? I've even started drinking that Pheremone Coffee they have down at the mall. They say it makes you more charismatic! Haha! Not that I need it, of course. This year is going to be so amazing. Don't you think?"

 

"Charismatic?" Masahiro's father had given him a book on that subject. According to his dad it helped him a lot. He failed to understand how drinking coffee could help with that, though. "If last year is any indication this year will be dull as well. School is such a drag."

"Oh poor Masa-chan,"  Tomoko quipped, rolling her eyes playfully. "Having to wake up early to learn, woe is him. If coffee is what it takes to get you up I think you should try it, even if you don't agree."

 

"As expected of Masahiro-kun!" Kazu replied with a nod. "Still you have a point. Unless something happens to make a big splash this year is going to slip through our fingertips before we will get the chance to caress its sweet, supple body with ample curves! It's so distressing" he rambled, his tone becoming mockingly frantic and depressive, "It's a tough life y'know? Having such mature tastes can come off as intimidating to the young ladies, and it could be troublesome if some of the boys consider you competition. Of course there's always the risk of being branded some kind of pervert. I think the key will be to smile, yes, if I smile then there's no way my intentions could be misunderstood. Still what if they do? Such a conundrum..." he trailed off, thinking to himself for a moment. Then he leant back into his seat, resting his arms behind his head. 

 

"Ah well I'll be around, Masahiro-kun" he assured, "So there's no need to worry. Y'know?"

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Monday, April 1st, 2013.

 

Kaze's alarm sounded on the proper time, and he awoke, slightly groggy, but awake. He rubbed his eyes and put on his glasses, getting himself set up for the morning. He had been asked during the middle of the break to perform a speech to open the year, which he graciously accepted and had been preparing for a few weeks now. He went out to the back after getting his things together, putting his bags into his trunk, knowing where he had to go after school as well. He put his keys in and started up his car, a classical station on. He enjoyed classical music after listening to Matsu playing for so long. He stopped at a small house, honking the horn a moment, watching a girl come out. Of course it was his fiancee Matsu, who slipped in the car and kissed his cheek. "Morning Kaze-kun." She said delicately, a blush on her cheeks.

 

"Morning." He gave a smile as he started the car again, driving to the school, getting there a little early, so he could get himself prepared for the speech.

 

"I'll see you after the opening ceremony then?" She tilted her head waiting for his answer

 

"Shouldn't have any problems doing so. I think we have the same class this year." He smiled at her, kissing her cheek as she did to him, walking into the building. He greeted the principal and some teachers, making his way to the side of the stage, looking at the podium, he wasn't nervous, he just hoped the speech didn't sound silly or drag on. As he waited for the ceremony to start, the principal giving his long overdrawn speech of how everyone should improve themselves like he did every year. He laughed a little at the fact that he gave the same speech basically every year.

 

"And now, a word from one of our students, Kaze Maeda." The principal walked off the stage as Kaze closed his eyes taking the first step out, before opening his eyes and walking the rest of the way out. He was prepared. He knew the speech well now.

 

"Good morning, students, faculty, and welcome back to Midugardu High School for another year of experiences we'll be able to treasure. " He paused a moment, noticing Matsu smiling in the crowd and smiling as he began to continue. "Now we all know that this school holds a lot to its name. Honorable staff, students willing to learn and show their humor and fun when needed, and a special bond that helps us all connect to one another. Whether we're friends, passing acquaintances, or complete strangers, take that extra step this year to meet new people. When we enter our classrooms, go to our dorms, enter into our clubs, find someone you've never talked with and talk to them." He paused again, looking about, hoping the people weren't finding it too cheesy and all. He technically was 'given' the speech, so he wanted to spice it up so it didn't sound like the principal's droll. "In closing! We'll do our best not only academically, but we'll make this year one great time!" He smiled a handsome smile before stepping to the side bowing to the crowd and faculty, walking off stage for the final announcement to be made, making his way to his seat towards the front.

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The first semester’s opening ceremony was identical to last year’s. Not so much in its content, but more so in the fact that both were extraordinarily dull. Some pretty boy third-years had an incredibly boring opening speech and was followed by announcement on what teacher’s retired, got hired or fired for this year. Of course none of that interested Masahiro. Ever since he was young Masahiro had clear goals set in his mind and unfortunately withering away in a scorching hot gymnasium while listening to uninteresting announcements was not one of them.

For the majority of the opening ceremony Masahiro ignored Kazuhiko’s rambling and faked an interest in the procedures best he could to avoid Tomoko scolding him once again. After having survived the ordeal all the students were instructed to head to their class for the first Homeroom of the school year before being sent back home. Masahiro was glad that today was reserved for introductions with actual classes not starting until tomorrow, but on the other hand that meant club activities would have to wait as well… Whatever. It’s not like Karate Club would disappear overnight.

After the opening ceremony Masahiro reluctantly headed towards his classroom and quietly sat through Homeroom while daydreaming about doing something he actually enjoys. It wasn’t until the end of Homeroom that he heard something he actually cared about. As he was packing his bag he overheard two girls talking.

“I heard one of the teachers is missing. No one has seen her for a week!â€
“Reaaaally?â€
“Yeah, but they’re keeping it on the DL to prevent students from getting worried. I heard it’s got something to do with the Rag House.â€
“I don’t believe you. Who is-â€

By then Masahiro had left the classroom and was no longer in earshot. Not like the rest of the conversation interested him anyway. A High School’s grapevine is the most reliable source for unfounded and untrue rumors, but the least reliable one when it came to actual information on current events. It’d be better to just ignore those two girls and forget all about it. In fact, he can’t even remember what he was trying to forget, that’s how little he cared.

When Masahiro reached the Varu Hall, as he affectionately had dubbed it, he noticed that several students were already occupying the ground floor lounge. The Varu Hall’s ground floor contained a decently sized lounge with several couches, coffee tables and even a tv, a kitchen, a small dining room and even a bar with exclusively non-alcoholic drinks. The three remaining upper floors were divided in a floor for boys, a floor for girls and a floor with a library to aid residents with their studies. Life in the Varu Hall wasn’t that bad. Especially not with Funakoshi Madoka as the dorm supervisor.

Funakoshi Madoka was a well-loved teacher. Her outgoing personality, quirky sense of humor and willingness to help everyone in need made her the number teacher in the hearts of many students, especially those of the 20 or so students residing in the Varu Hall. Even Masahiro liked her, even if it was only a fraction of the affection other students showered her with. At least it was something.

Masahiro noticed that the students in the lounge were having a heated discussion. “Yo,†he said as he joined them, curious to know what they were talking about. A few of them waved or nodded at him,  but no one talking stopped to greet him. It must’ve been really important.

“I’m serious!†One of the girls shouted. Masahiro had no clue what they were discussing, but by the tone of her voice it was obvious that she was getting tired of being taken lightly. “I saw her walking around town this morning, it looked like she was scared of something.â€
“Impossible. I heard Madoka-chan-sensei was in her hometown visiting her family.†One of the boys who greeted Masahiro with a nod apparently disagreed with her. What the hell were they talking about? Also what the hell, since when was ‘Madoka-chan-sensei’ a thing? Whoever thought of that deserved a beating.
“That’s weird.†A second boy had his arms folded in front of him. He was clearly deep in thought, processing the information he had just been presented with. “I’ve actually heard rumors that Madoka-sensei has been missing for more than a week.â€

Wait, that sounded familiar.

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"It's true! I saw her the other night," Asami claimed over the busy buzz of the restaurant. Students wanting to unwind from their largely uneventful first day of school had quickly overrun Heaven Burgers and kept the employees more than busy enough. Even Tomoko had found herself muttering Masahiro-like phrases throughout the day. What a drag. Now, however, she struggled to keep her mixed-berry smoothie from finding its way through her own nostrils with how unusually gossipy Asami was coming off as. It was only the fifth or sixth conflicting rumor Tomoko had heard, all with differing accounts of when Madoka-sensei was last seen. As much as she tried to remain more level-headed than these rumor spreaders, she couldn't help but feel concerned and shamefully intrigued herself. "I think she had some things with her but I couldn't make out what they were. But the thing that bugged me was that she walked around like she was on a murder mission."

 

"Murder mission?" Tomoko repeated.

 

"I'm not sure how else to explain it, it was too dark to see. But... uh, well." Asami stammered slightly and Tomoko could immediately tell where this was headed. "I know you don't like to hear things about it, but I think she might be involved with the Rag House. Everyone that I've heard saw her say that she was around that area down south and there's nothing else but that house there."

 

Asami was right; Tomoko didn't care to hear that at all. Born and raised in the beautiful Amatsusangaku with its breath-taking mountains and ever popular hiking trails and parks, the only thing that could ruin her love for the town was the infamous Ragarunaraku House. Despite Amatsusangaku's reputation for its neighborly and peaceful citizens, for the well over a decade a curse seemingly befell the town, turning few individuals to commit atrocious and oftentimes strange acts. The only connection anyone could make was an old, long abandoned house out in the southern border of the town that would eventually be dubbed the Ragarunaraku House and it now served as the town's devil, taking any victim that trespassed.

 

It was all ridiculous to Tomoko, yet a large majority of Amastu seemed to believe anything that was thrown at them. She just couldn't understand for the life of her why.

 

"She could be on an emergency leave to take care of some matter," she theorized.

 

"Without the knowledge of dozens of young boys who track her every move?" True, but the Rag House was not an acceptable answer. It was only an annoying myth Tomoko wished never existed.

 

After enjoying their sweet and savory smoothies, the two girls returned to the Varuhara hall. Asami returned to her room while Tomoko made her way to the lounge where she was greeted with a surprising site.

 

"Masa-kun!" She had planned to bug him in his room where she expected him to be as usual.

 

"What's up, Tomoko?"

 

"I've been hearing a lot of talk about Madoka-sensei and the Rag House," she mused. "It's all getting really ridiculous and I hate whenever Ragarunaraku is brought up."

 

"Yeah, I've been hearing the same. Say, Tomoko... do you think any of it is true?"

 

She stood quietly for a moment, looking off into nothing in particular. "No, of course not. You know I hate rumors. I wish I could prove them all wrong." But she had to admit that it all sounded suspicious and she was growing restlessly curious. "In fact, I think I will." Those words clearly meant she was up to something. Masahiro nodded sagely as he slowly started inching towards the stairs, hoping to make a run for his room. A run for safety, far away from Tomoko and her antics. The two have known each other for two long, though, and Tomoko came to from her distracting thoughts to foil him from foiling her plans. "Don't sneak away so fast, Masa-kun," she ordered so plainly. "A young girl alone so late at night in that area, would you really let me into that kind of situation?"

 

"Just this once I'll bite, but next time that won't work. You'll just have to wait till next morning."

 

"Deal! Let's watch a movie until then!"

 

"...Okay." As if he had much of a choice. When they returned to her room she put on a documentary that described the life-cycles of blackholes in the universe. Again. Every now and then she briefly brought up her plan to sneak out of the dorm later at night and, well, that was it. Other than a vague stakeout around the area Madoka-sensei, Tomoko didn't really know or care what else to do. She wasn't expecting much to come about anyways.

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Kazu was sweating. His jaw was clenched, his muscles tensing out of control. The pressure was just too much. He couldn't take it much longer. The strain, the agony. He felt that he was not long for this world. With the last of his energy he managed to cross the threshold. In mere moments his feet gave out under the weight of the pile of bags he was carrying. Suddenly all of his belongings crashed along the floor of his new dorm room. He sighed with relief, his arms hanging limp at his side. 

 

"Phew!" he gasped out loud. "3 floors up and not one person stopped to give me a hand." he whined, closing his form room door behind him. This was not the exotic and adventurous start to the term he had hoped for. Boring ceremonies, having to carry all of his stuff up way too many stairs, and then the worst news of all. Madoka-sensei was missing. He couldn't believe it. She was one of the main reasons he had pressured his parents into letting him move here. It was all part of his master plan to make her his bride. Ah yes, it was all so simple. She may have been a teacher but she was beautiful, and she was smart of course. However he could tell that she would appreciate style, so surely she'd take note of his new hairstyle. That was just the spark he needed to start the chain reaction that would lead to her falling hopelessly in love with him. However all that was out of the window for now. His love was nowhere to be found. 

 

Kazu eyed the heap of stuff that was all about his floor and shook his head. It was already getting late, he would have to deal with it tomorrow. He wasn't cut out for manual labor. He got changed out of his sweaty school clothes and went for a shower. It was already late but he still hadn't seen anybody around. Varuhara sure was quiet it seemed. He got changed into his a pair of stonewash jeans, black canvas high-tops, a black and white striped t-shirt and a black denim shirt. He spent a good ten minutes readjusting his hair in the mirror before he was finally ready. He stepped out of his dorm and wandered down the hall with his hands in his pockets. 

 

"Hello?" He called out into the hall. "Hellloooooo?"

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The day went by quickly, nothing like first day to of class introductions and such to relax into along with some club planning afterward. He had to set up a sign for Kendo sign-ups and Debate Club before leaving and he wanted them to look good. Thankfully some other club members stopped by along with Matsu for a short time and it was done before too long. "Thanks everyone. I'll see you all tomorrow." Kaze smiled, wiping some beads of sweat from his brow as Matsu leaned against the window. "You wanna go get some food? Or would you like me to drop you off at home?"

 

"Actually, I was gonna walk home with Rika-san and Shino-san. You don't mind right? They were away all break that I haven't had a chance to catch up with them." He gave him a cutesy smile and stuck her tongue out, but he nodded and smiled, getting up and walking over to her to grab his bag. "You go and get settled at the dorm tonight okay? I'll plan to come by after practice on Thursday~" She leaned up and kissed him before wandering off, leaving him to finish picking up and put the signs up which was an easy task. 

 

"Well, I doubt I'll meet anyone immediately, so I guess getting there a little late wouldn't be a big problem. Though it would be good if I had some help getting some things to my room...from what I was told I'm on the top floor at the end of the hall, the only room with the bathroom...heh, Otosan must've pulled something." He chuckled to himself and adjusted his glasses as he finally got things finished and set off to his car, putting his bag with his books and computer into the passenger seat. It wasn't far thankfully, and it actually seemed within a decent walking distance. Perhaps if Matsu wanted to walk with her friends every few days he could just leave it where the nearest packing lot was. He found a spot nice and close and grabbed his bag and one of his suitcases, leaving two suitcases and one somewhat large box left which he'd have to come back and get. He locked the door just in case and closed the trunk, walking in and noticing the dwindling amount of people in the lobby at the moment, a few watching a movie which they seemed too engrossed in to notice him. He simply made his way up the stairs, before hearing someone beckon from the third floor which he was approaching.

 

"Hellloooooo?"

 

"Oh someone is here, hey, you mind helping me a sec?" Kaze spoke out to the person calling out, hoping they might help him with the last few things to make it one trip up the stairs instead of two.

 

Kazu smriked and stepped forward, glad to finally see another face in the dorm. "Sure no sweat" he replied as he took some of the bags from Kaze. "Did you just move in as well? I only got here a few..." Kazu trailed off for a moment. "Hey! you're Maeda-san, right? You did the speech at the morning announcements!"
 
Kaze handed off his suitcase to Kazu as he made his way down the hall. "O-oh, yeah. I hope that wasn't too boring. Honestly I had to change it a little since I didn't want to bore everyone with the speech the principal wrote for me." He chuckled as he pulled out the key for the door, opening it. "Thanks. I got a few more things to bring up if you'd help me, um, I'm sorry I don't even know your name."
 
"Minami Kazuhiko" Kazu replied, "But everyone just calls me Kazu!"
 
"Ah, Kazu-kun. Nice to meet you." He smiled as he put the bag on the queen size bed. "Ugh...Otosan..." He turned his head and the tv was a fairly large flatscreen. "Ya know if you want me to meet people and be equals, you can't persuade the people running the building to give me the nicer room..." He sighed and looked to Kazu, laughing lightly. "Um, right, my car's parked outback, we can go get the stuff." He walked out the door and back to the stairs.
 
"You've got wheels?" Kazu asked excitedly. "I bet the ladies must love that! Man I wish I was old enough to drive!"
 
"Well, they do...but, I'm engaged. Sometimes it's a little annoying when they get all in my face when they ask me for rides. But, ya know, if you'd like I could teach you to drive, you look like you'll be old enough to get your permit soon." He smiled, trying to be nice. Plus, this guy seemed nice enough, though like a lot of guys he seemed preoccupied with meeting girls. "What about you? You seem like a confident guy who sends them off in droves."
 
"Ehehehehe!" Kazu laughed nervously, scratching the back of his head. "Not exactly at the moment. But this is Minami Kazuhiko's year to shine! Especially now that I've met you, senpai! Engaged to be married? Beating the girls away with sticks? It must be fate they we have arrived at this dorm tonight. You are clearly destined to be my mentor!"
 
Kaze laughed happily. Kazu seemed pretty funny, and his confidence was almost intoxicating, made him feel pretty chipper. "Well, I'm sure you know my fiancé. Matsu Takenaka?" He looked back, they had gotten to the front door and he opened it for him, going out after him. He led him to his car, a 1980 Lotus Esprit Turbo in black. Was a nice find on his part and though it needed fixing up, his father agreed on it instead of a brand new car. He hit the button that opened the trunk and spoke up again. "Either the two suitcases or the box, they both weigh about the same."
 
"Takenaka-ch-chan!?" Kazu parroted, attempting to hold back his attraction for such a beauty. "Y-yeah...I've seen her around." Kazu sighed nervously. This guy truly was a master with women. Luckily the subject was changed as the trunk opened. "Umm...I'll take the box I guess!" Kazu said, holding out his arms.
 
Kaze picked up the box and put it in his arms. It was a box of books and movies with his Kendo equipment on top. "We were arranged to be married when we were born." He chuckled, grabbing the two suitcases and closed the trunk, walking to the front door and holding it open again. "How about you, you have someone in your eye?"
 
"Well uh...keep this on the down low..." Kazu began, hesitantly confiding his master plan to Kaze. "My plan is to win the affections of a certain forbidden jewel. Our love...it'll probably be frowned upon, but I don't care. When she returns I'm going to excecute my master plan. My good looks, my boyish charm and my capacity for romance will be enough to bypass boundaries such as age. Oh you may think me crazy, senpai. I plan to initiate a whirlwind romance with a teacher at our school. In fact, she even runs this dorm...or well...before she disappeared." Kazu ended his rant a little disappointed.
 
"Madoka-sensei?" He held in laughter. A student finding a lot of attraction in a very pretty teacher wasn't something new, but his confidence in his plan to get this underway just made him smile and nod. "Well, perhaps we could..." Kaze thought a moment. It had been a long time since he wanted to do something a little reckless. "...I heard from someone in the Kendo team that they saw her at the Ragarunaraku House. Maybe we should go there? I mean, it's only proper for a man to gallently save his true love if she's in such a hellish place." He tried to be poetic to get Kazu into the idea. He remembered sneaking out of the manor to follow around ghost stories. He had even been to the Rag House before, but something strange happened to one of his friends while he was there and he ran away as quickly as he could. But, that couldn't still be the case, people disappearing when they go there, could it?
 
"Eh?" Kazu looked a little nervous at the prospect. "Isn't that place, um...haunted?"
 
"Only one way to find out, right?" He smirked, the thought of doing something adventurous making him a little excited. He never got to do such very often, and since classes didn't start til tomorrow, he didn't have to study, so it was perfect. "Why don't I change and we get some food, then we can head up. Maybe see if someone else wants to come just in case." They reached his room and he put everything down, grabbing a change of clothes and going to the bathroom he had with his room. "I'll meet you downstairs alright?"
 
"Uh...y-yeah...sure" Kazu replied nervously, giving Kaze a hesitant thumbs up. Kaze nodded closing the door and showering, changing into some new clothes and heading downstairs to catch up with Kazu.

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Masahiro had trouble thinking of the reason he ended up stuck in this room with Tomoko. Sure, it was because she wanted to watch the same dumb movie she always wanted to watch, but that wasn’t the answer he was looking for. Something somewhere in his past happened that fundamentally changed his relationship with Tomoko. He wasn’t a friend anymore, he was pretty much her lapdog for her to drag around everywhere she wanted to go. He was forced to obey her every whim and there was no point in trying to fight it because she could whine for longer than Masahiro could refuse. How did this ever happen? She probably forced this relationship on him.

It was getting dark now, time for the two of them to move before the dorm supervisor who took over Madoka-sensei’s place in her absence would most likely be a pain if they were caught. The duo quietly snuck down the stairs. Much to their surprise they saw a familiar face sitting in the lounge; Minami Kazuhiko. Before Masahiro got a chance to frown, try and walk out of the dorm and get stopped by Tomoko because she wanted to know what Kazuhiko was doing someone else came walking down the stairs. The dude who delivered the amazingly boring speech during the opening ceremony; Maeda Kaze.

Of course Tomoko wanted to know what Kazuhiko was up to, hell even if she didn’t want to it was likely that Kazuhiko would stop them and start rambling by himself anyway… Masahiro just wanted to get it all over with and go to bed. Everyone quickly discovered that they miraculously had the exact same mission: finding the missing Madoka-sensei. Masahiro’s day just got a lot better. If these two were also joining that would mean that they’d be able to solve this problem a lot faster! In theory, that is. He wasn’t sure how useful they’d actually be.

Much to his surprise at least the senpai proved to have some purpose. Masahiro didn’t know much about the dude, but he sure seemed like a rich kid… especially when you considered that he had a car. Kaze was nice enough to drive the entire gang to the Rag House, but when they arrived there it was as eerily quiet as Masahiro expected it to be.

“Well, are we going in?â€

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Posed with that question, Tomoko for once regretted her half-baked plan. Barely out the door and the party already gained two new members. Kazuhiko, a hyperavtive boy with perverted dreams floating in his excitable eyes. Kaze, on the other hand, she hardly knew anything about and she had mixed feelings about him. On one hand she could assume with his status of student council president, good grades and a rich family that he would naturally be stuck up with no time for kids like the three of them. And yet here he was voluntarily joining them on their rather dumb and silly investigation for seemingly reasons the same as them.

 

Despite the extra bodies, Tomoko still felt rather uneasy standing in front of Rag House. She began noticing her heart's beating rising gradually, her breathing becoming more shallow and her chest was getting heavier. It wasn't part of the plan to have this happen all over again.

 

"I, uh..." She took in inhaled quietly but any calm feelings left as soon as they came. "I'm gonna stay here. I don't want to go in there. I don't have any reason to."

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The girl of the group, Tomoko seemed timid to enter, which was fine, the place was creepy. Kaze simply got out of the car and went to his trunk, popping it and pulling out a handful of flashlights. "You can stay in the car if you like Tomo-chan, I'll lock the doors for you. If you need to get out, send one of us a text." Kaze got out his phone and gave his number to each of them just in case, adjusting his glasses as he put his phone back in his coat pocket. "I can take the lead if you guys want, I have no problem with it. I've actually been in here before."

 

Masahiro noticed that Tomoko was uncomfortable with the house, which made sense all things considered, but even so he didn't feel like leaving her alone by herself would be a better idea. "You guys go on ahead. I'll stay here with Tomoko. Just shout if you need help or something."

 

Taking another soft sigh, Tomoko nodded. "Thank you, senpai. I think I'll do that." She looked Masahiro a little shamefully. "Thank you too, Masa-kun."

 

"W-wait...so you guys aren't coming?" Kazu asked, trying to contain his nerves. "Okay...I guess that's just great. Greaaaat!"

 

Kaze smiled and chuckled to himself, "There's some soda and water in the glove compartment if you want a drink guys. I'll go in first alright?" He turned on his flashlight and walked forward, grabbing ahold of the doorknob and turning it. Things like this didn't really scare him, it was more realistic stuff like someone having you at gunpoint that made him afraid. For now he was calm, walking into the dark house.

 

"Well, Kazukiho-kun, what are you waiting for?" Masahiro grinned. Whereas Tomoko's fear was concerning Kazuhiko's fear was entertaining. "You won't get to save Madoka-sensei if you hang out here."

 

"Aww man..." Kazu muttered as he followed Kaze. "There better not be any Zombies..."

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As the door opened Kazu stared inside. The hallway was dark and creepy, but as he shined his torch down the hall he realised that it was just that. There was no ghosts, no monsters, and definitely no zombies. He sighed with relief. 

"Phew! Looks like it's just an old abandoned house!" Kazu said, his confidence returning. "So the rumours about this place must have been-"

 

"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagggggggggghhhhh!"

 

The scream pierced out from within the house, echoing out into the street. It was definitely a woman who had screamed. Kazu froze in a panic. What the hell was that!? he wondered. He looked around to see that even Kaze-senpai was a little spooked by that. Masahiro and Tomoko had gotten out of the car to see what the noise was about. 

"D-did you hear that!?" Kazu gasped as the group converged outside of the Rag House. "W-was that Madoka-sensei!?"

Masahiro's face tightened. "I think so, yeah. We have to go inside."

"Damn...I was afraid you'd say that, Masahiro-kun!" Kazu said with a wide expression of panic. He gulped and they slowly made their way over the threshold of the house. 

 

As they walked down the hallway Kazu was on edge. After they had all entered the door suddenly slammed shut behind them and Kazu gave a little squeak of fear. Shit! Shit! Shit! Shiiiiiit! he cursed inwardly. He tried to compose himself. This was now way for a man to act in such a situation. If he was going to swoop in and rescue Madoka-sensei, then he had to be rbave. He couldn't show weakness. He stood up straight and grinned back at his comrades, although the smile was twitching and his eyes were still wide with fear. 

"Ehehehehehehe!" He laughed nervously, "Th-that was just the wind. Nothing to be afraid of, right?" he said as he pushed on forward, lighting the way with his flashlight. He decided to turn the corner and walk into another room. 

 

The room he entered was some kind of drawing room. There were two chairs facing a fireplace. He tensed as he saw the face of a monster creeping along the floor. He shone his flashlight at it and sighed with relief. It was just a bearskin rug. He looked up at the portrait on the wall. Two people were stood in regal clothing, however their faces had been scratched out of the painting. Kazu shivered. This was way too creepy, it was almost a cliche. He aimed his torch along the mantel piece, observing the various ornaments and trinkets about the room. It was still pretty cold despite the open fire. Wait a minute...the fire was lit?

 

"Shiiiiit!" Kazu cried as he quickly waddled out of the room. He stepped out on to the hall. "Guys! Someone is in here! Guys!" he called out into the hall. However as he looked down the hallway he was struck with panic. The hallway was not the one he had came in from. It was long, stretching out further than his eye could see, with a series of doors dotted along either side of it. It went on for miles. How was that even possible? Even worse, his comrades were nowhere to be seen. "Um...guys?" he squeaked in a panic. He heard something shuffling and he turned around in a flash, aiming his flashlight like a gun in the direction of the noise, but nothing was there. "Um...Masahiro-kun? Is that you...or...zombie-kun?"

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Somehow that idiot Kazuhiko managed to disappear. Tomoko, Kaze and Masahiro were still together when Masahiro took a peek into the room Kazu entered only to find that there was no one inside. All it had was some chairs, a fireplace that hadn’t been used in ages, a painting and a bearskin rug. Where did that idiot disappear to? For a second Masahiro contemplated stepping into the very same room to get a better look, but he quickly decided against it and kept walking along the corridor. Subconsciously his pace increased; even though he wasn’t really afraid he wanted to get out of the Rag house as fast as possible. Nothing good ever happened to anyone who entered this place.

“Let’s get this over with quickly,†he said, but for some reason he didn’t hear any kind of response. When he looked to his sides he noticed that he had walked so fast that they were left behind, but when he looked back all he saw was a corridor stretching on endlessly with his two fellow adventurers nowhere in sight. I can’t have walked this fast, impossible. Masahiro turned around and took a few steps back, hoping that a clearer vision on the dark corridor would reveal where his companions were, but no matter how far he backtracked he didn’t meet anyone else.

As if suddenly being abandoned wasn’t enough Masahiro heard a weird sound echoing through the hallway, but wherever he looked there was nothing to find. Slowly the sound came closer and closer and it didn’t take long before he realized that it sounded like something was crawling over the ground. Masahiro’s sense of direction was inexplicably gone. He was unable to tell from what direction the sound approached him. He panicked and kept alternating from watching to left side of the hall to watching the right side. Then he noticed something crawling out of the darkness.

A black blob crawled towards Masahiro. Two arms and a masked head protruded from its inhuman body, but there were no legs to be found. When it noticed Masahiro it froze, as if examining the boy, and in similar fashion Masahiro felt the strength in his legs fade away as he remained unable to move. The seconds past by as the two watched each other, waiting for one of them to make a move, but Masahiro felt the saliva build up in his throat. He gulped.

Without any prior warning the shadow-y being charged at Masahiro with unexpected speed. Masahiro’s fight-or-flight instinct kicked in and he commenced dashing away. “Stay away from me!†He shouted as he sprinted away as fast as he could. Years of training in multiple forms of martial arts did not prepare him for a standoff with a monster, who knows if Masahiro’s strikes could even hurt this being, but at the very least they kept him in shape enough for him to be able to run away with his life.

The corridor stretched on endlessly and even though the creature was unrelenting in its pursuit Masahiro was fueled by his adrenaline. Multiple corners and turns later he saw that the hallway came to a dead end. Several more meters and Masahiro would be unable to continue running, he would have to fight. Fuck that. He stopped and opened a door to his left, entered and slammed the door shut behind him before leaning against it. Hoping it would keep his pursuer out. Masahiro took a moment to examine his surroundings as he caught his breath. Chairs, painting, fireplace, bearskin rug. What the hell?

Masahiro lifted himself away from the door when he heard the creature crawl away. How is that possible? This door was next to the house’s entrance and Masahiro had walked on straight ahead when he passed it. How could he be back here if he took several turns? In fact, how could this house be so large? He did not have much time to ponder this in peace, as before he knew it red ooze started dripping down the walls from the ceiling. It was too dark for him to notice properly what the red ooze was, but something in his gut told him that it was blood. When the fireplace suddenly caught fire Masahiro knew that he had to get the fuck out. He rushed back to the door and turned the knob with all his might.

But it was locked.

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"Kazuhiko! Masahiro!"

No response.

"Maeda-senpai?" Tomoko was alone. The last she remembered, Kazu wandered off without anyone noticing and Masahiro might as well have sprinted away at the pace he was trecking in front of her and Kaze. At least she knew he was capable of holding his own, completely unlike Kazu, and felt comfort in knowing that he was in front of her at least. The more they walked down the peculiar hallway the darker it got and the less calm she became. She had even lost sight of her reckless friend rushing ahead of them. "Is your flashlight dying, Senpai? It's getting harder to see."

No response. Oh no. It can't...

It was then Tomoko realized the situation she was in, whether she could understand it or not. She didn't want to think about it, even refusing to figure her way through the events that lead to this blunder. With her breaths slowly becoming gasps and her heart trying its best to escape from her chest to save itself. The only thing she could think about now was staying in the light where she could see and felt safe. It restricted her to barely twenty feet of the hallway, any further was pure darkness. Yes, it was better to stay in the light.

The light. Where was it coming from. She felt stupid. The whole time she mistakenly assumed that Kaze's light was still shining on her. She didn't at all make the connection that with Kaze gone it also meant the light. She slammed her back against the hall wall for support and her eyes darted around in a frenzy in an attempt to find the source of the light with no result. It was just light and she was noticing that it was slowly being consumed by the darkness. No, no, no no no! Her twenty feet inched backwards to nineteen, eighteen, it was enclosing her from both sides. "Oh, no. No..." If she could cry she would. She certainly wish she could but her body was too tense and was now starting to ache.

To top it all off, it looked like the delusions were starting. The darkness now appeared alive and slowly creeping towards Tomoko like a hunter to its hapless prey. The closer it came, the louder the sound of a low, unsettling growl became. A small shadow extended from the darkness across the floor only slightly quicker than its main body. She eyes widened and she could've sworn it then shaped itself into a hand and then another and reached out for her. No, no, no, this isn't real. She was more than panicking and had to do something before she downright lost it. She mustered up the strength to lift herself from the wall and at least had the composure to have the wall guide her out of the house before it was too late for her health. All she had to do was keep her hand to the wall.

Tomoko placed her hand on the wall and after a brief thought, placed her other as well for good measure. Just straight down the hall, that's all she had to do. Straight down the hall and out of the house. Out the house and to senpai's car. In senpai's car and then, eventually, home. All she had to do was go straight.

She inhaled and exhaled. Then inhaled again as deep as she could...

...


...

And exhaled. This was easier said then done. She was starting to think that it would be best if she just closed her eyes and sat against the wall until someone found her. They did say that the best way to be found was to stay still. That is, until she noticed the door handle. Her mind became overcrowded with questions. When has that been there? I could've sworn-- Her body didn't care. It wasted no time swinging the door open to rush inside! She stumbled as she slammed the door behind her and backed away only to find that she was now in utter darkness. "Not good, what have I gotten myself into-- ah!"

Tomoko twisted around in a panic! Oh. She only bumped into what felt like a chair. She extended her arms and felt another chair near-by and then a wall. No, she ran her hands down what she was now sure was a mantel. Her leg ran into something that clanged. It must be pokers and such for a fireplace. That's good. This is good. She was in a room and she was calm enough even in the pitch dark to recognize that it was just a room. Just a normal room with a couple of chairs and a-

Froom!

She quickly shielded her eyes from sudden bright light and heat. It couldn't have! Tomoko lowered her trembling hands from her face. It did. The fireplace lit itself. She stepped back in a shock, bumping into a chair again. Not only did it light itself, it was all she could see. Other than her own body and the phantom fireplace, the rest of the room was in remained pitch black. She was conflicted whether she was safer in the dark or with the only light source she now had. To her it was not even a question worth asking. She practically had no strength left but she used what was left to crawl towards the fire and sit facing the darkness. It was all the comfort she had now as she could feel herself gradually losing any and all composure.

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Kaze sighed as his friends ran off by themselves like hot-heads. At least Tomo-chan was still there with him. Kaze turned behind him to give her a reassuring smile, but she was nowhere to be seen. "Must've gone back to the car. Good, she'll probably be better off outside. I'll find the knuckle-head brigade and we'll find sensei." He continued walking along the hall, taking some twists and turns, his flashlight flickering every now and again. Noises began to echo along the hall like whispers which he took a few glances around to see where it was coming from. "Hm...maybe one of the guys trying to scare me. Not gonna work." He chuckled, the whispering getting slightly louder as a black blob with a strange blue face began slinking along the ground, following silently.

 

It was a few moments before he looked back again and saw the blob. It looked weird to say the least, but it wasn't hostile. "Reminds me of what he told me...blobs with faces...then a room with a..." Kaze paused his sentence as he walked into a room, a painting adorned the mantle and the fireplace was quiet and dark. He looked around for something to light it, the extra light would help figure out where he was and if he could find something in here that would be helpful. He found a set of matches and smiled as there was logs on the fire already. He lit one and threw it in, the fire blazing immediately. "Maybe it's gas soaked logs. They light easily and last a long enough time." He smiled as he sat in one of the chairs and watched the fire for a moment, the sound of walking coming from the distance, it sounded like high heels. "Tomo-chan didn't wear high heels...which means..." He grinned. "Sensei in here!" He shouted as he waited for her to appear, the sound of the walking getting louder as it came closer to him.

 

"S-senpai?" Tomoko's voice shook as she tried speak. She could swear she heard Kaze only a few feet in front her but she couldn't make out a thing. Just the sound of someone familiar gave her some kind of hope. "Senpai? Is that you? Where are you, where is anyone?"

 

Kaze heard Tomoko's voice in the room and looked about from the chair. "Tomo-chan? Where are you? I'm sitting in the chair to the right, see if you can sit there too." He thought to himself. Maybe the room is making some sort of illusion to only allow people to hear them until they've felt them to. If she accidentally sat in his lap, they might be able to see one another.

 

That's right, the chair. She stood up shakingly and extended her arms out again in search for the one she bumped into earlier. Here it is. But even with no sight to help, the chair seemed vacant. It was worth a shot. She sat in it and waited. It felt like just a chair. Was this just part of her going crazy. If it was then it wouldn't be so crazy to ask; her right or his? she stood up again and stumbled around in the dark on a mission. THUD! ah, she was either going crazy or this must have been the other chair but as she felt what seemed like the arm rest, she thought yet again that it was another vacant failure. She sat in it anyway but this was no vacant chair. She looked to hand and saw it wasnt an arm rest either! It was a hand! "Senpai?!" She jumped and swirled around. Sure enough there he was along with the chair as if appearing in thin air. "It is you! Either I'm freaking out or it's you! Is it you?"
 
"Seems this house is just full of illusions. It's making it so we can't see one another, but if we're in the same room, we can probably find one another." He thought a moment before sitting back down. "Maybe if we wait a moment then talk about, Masahiro and Kazu will be able to find us. Oh, by the way, did you hear the sound of high heels clacking?"
 
"You're the first thing I've heard since we were all separated. Until just a moment, I could only see myself and the mantle that lit itself."
 
"Lit itself? I did that." He looked at her. "Well, I suppose it makes sense, you couldn't see me lighting it...look, why don't you sit down and we'll wait a few moment. I bet with the fire going, whatever those shadowy goopy things were, they won't come in. And I'll bet, this house is leading us to this room, which makes me thing that sensei will also make her way here." He put his hands together, leaning against his knees inquisitively. He was trying to make the most sense out of the situation.
 
Tomoko merely did as suggested. The fireplace? Illusions? "Shadowy gloomy things"?  She couldn't make heads or tails of things and she was already exhausted

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The scratching noise happened again, but from another direction. Kazu turned on his heel, directing the torch light around the hallway. He noticed he could see his breath, it had gotten so cold. He noticed a black ooze moving away from the light, disappearing back into the darkness. He didn't know what it was, but it gave him chills. He could feel the hair on the back of his neck prickling up. There was another sound of scuttling and Kazu lost it. His legs were moving involuntarily, as he sprinted down the corridor. As he rounded the corner he stumbled and tripped, tumbling to the floor in a heap. He quickly tried to scramble to his feet, but as he got up he felt something wet in his hands. He looked down at the black liquid. It was warm. He picked up his flashlight and shone it on his hands. The liquid wasn't black, it was red. Blood. Kazu shook with fear, stuck to the spot. 

 

He was brought back to reality when he heard the approaching scuttling noise from behind him. He began running again, ignoring the blood on his hands. As he sprinted down the corridor he realised that the walls were oozing with blood. He closed his eyes tightly and ran forwards blindly. Maybe this was a dream. If he focused hard enough maybe he would wake up. He reached the end of the corridor and tried to open the door. It wouldn't budge. No! Let me in! Kazu screamed inwardly. He turned, pressing his back against the locked door, poiting the flashlight back the way he came. It was then they he saw them. 

 

There were three of them. Black ooze-like creatures that were shuffling along the floor. Appendages shaped like hands were protruding out from them, each of them holding mutiple long, sharp knives. Also he noticed that each one held a single, blue mask. The face on the mask was blank and haunting, completely devoid of emotion. He gulped, his throat dry and sore. He was shaking vigorously, sweat dripping down his face. He was terrified. He had no idea what was happening, but if this was nightmare, he was not waking up from it. The creatures advanced towards him slowly, and he slumped on to the floor, holding his hands up in front of him. His strength left him and the flashlight fell to the ground, rolling along the floor. The torchlight flickered and then disappeared, plunging him into darkness. He felt his world spinning. This was it. He was going to die. 

 

A million thoughts were running through his head. Would he really die? What were these creatures? What about the others? Would they find his body? Or worse, were they going to die too? Even Madoka-sensei...he never even had the chance to save her. Not that he felt very heroic at this moment. This was his worst fear. He was going to die. ALone. Like a coward. He was also going to die a virgin! Idiot! This is not time to be thinking about that! he scolded himself. Then, a single voice rang out in his head, a strong and confident voice that parted through the clouded thoughts and flashed before his eyes for but a brief moment. 

 

"I am thou...Thou art I...From the sea of thy soul, I come..." 

 

Kazu looked out into the darkness. He felt the creatures closing on him. Something had sparked inside of him, but he could not muster the courage to realize it. He closed his eyes, submitting to his fate. However they opened again, wide with shock almost instantly, as somewhere in the distance a gunshot was fired. 

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Nothing! No matter where she looked, how much she tried to recall nothing was the same. The lengths of the halls, the turns and dead ends, even the same insistent door. She was in a fun house out of her worst nightmare, running through it's infinitely shifting chasm. As she skidded around yet another corner, she remembered how confident and sure she was of her strategy but now it was more than obvious she severely underestimated this house. Even the makeshift gun she was "instructed" to construct proved useless gripped in her hands. She didn't know what to do with it as the body of the gun, morw importantly the firing mechanism, was greatly altered making it non-lethal.

What she couldn't remember was how she she came into this situation in the first place. It was clear she has been in the house before but the reason when and why escaped her. It was clear that she hasn't been the same since. Even she never knew she could be so stubborn, working tirelessly on her single goal; destroy the Ragarunaraku House. Day in and out, she was plagued by voices taking over her thoughts. The only thing that kept her going was the frequent voice that gave her information and instructions to solve this house problem. It was like a lingering victim's ghost wanting her help in vengeance and she was more than willing to follow through. It was the only positive she was getting.

She came to from her wandering thoughts to realize she hit a dead end. A twirl on her heels and she discovered that the hall she just passed through was also a dead end now. She was used to this. Whatever you could see changes without any notice. No matter. She only had to turn again.

The only change was that the door now occupied the dead end's wall space. The same door that only lead to the same room with the fireplace, two chairs and faux animal rug. Occasionally other doors and rooms appeared but she couls tell them apart and they didnt come as often. This door followed her everywhere, in and out of the house. What she would think is her office door, bedroom, a school closet, the only thing she could do was close the door and try again.

But what else could she do. She was stuck between a wall and a door and she's been trapped in the house for what felt like days. She had a plan for this house but in the end the house was stringing her along. This is it then, she thought as she took several slow paced steps toward the door. This was the only safehaven she had left, the only way she could accept her unfortunate fate. She tried so her.

She turned the knob and entered with her head held low and defeated. As she entered the voices had started again and while she couldn't make them out, they sounded familiar and comforting.

"xxxx!!"

That voice was particularly loud and excited. And close. As if she was actually expected anything of benefit to her, she lifted her head and was greeted by two figures standing in font of the lit fireplace. Any figure to her in this house was a threat and without a second thought she swung her gun to an aim at one of the figures. A voice called out again but this time she could understand it completely.

"No, Madoka-senei!" a female voice protested. "Don't! It's us!" Too late. She had pulled the trigger and her ears rang from the shot.

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Kaze finally saw who he thought was coming. The high heels gave way to Madoka-sensei and he smiled as he looked at her happily. "Sensei you're alright!" His smile quickly turned into pure fear, the first time in a long while he was face to face with a gun. His eyes filled with fear as he froze, closing his eyes after a moment. He...was gonna die...the house took Madoka-sensei's mind and made her a killer. He was gonna die...Matsu...I love you...

 

*BANG*

 

"I am thou...thou art I...from the sea of thine soul I awaken...I am Freyr, God of Weather, let my gales aid you."

 

Kaze opened his eyes, he wasn't hurt at all...he...actually felt invigorated. Something about facing the gun and accepting his fate...awakened something in him. With that moment while Madoka-sensei was in shock of him being alive he ran forward and forced the gun from her hand, something about it almost called to him. "Tomo-chan get back!" He looked up quickly to notice something holding onto Madoka-sensei's shoulders, it spasmed and shook horribly before enveloping her. The masked blobs he'd been seeing earlier covered her body before shrieking, the room warping. The fire flew from the fireplace and covered it in a blazing veil, whilst the animal skin rug, which looked like a bear formed into the body too, the roaring of the masked beast now echoing in the room. He covered his ears a moment before looking at the gun and taking a stand against the creature. He rose the gun to his head and stared it down before speaking softly while he bravely pulled the trigger. "Per...so...na!"

 

The moment the gun went off, instead of a bang, what sounded more like the twinkling of a bell and the breaking of glass rung through the halls, like a comforting sound to ward off the dark whispering. Floating about Kaze was a muscular bearded man riding atop a huge bronze boar, a shining sword in one hand, and a massive antler in the other. As he appeared, a wave of light filled the room, killing the darkness that once haunted it. The door to the room burst open, and the illusions were dispelled, as from a quick glance, Kaze saw his other two friends. "Guys get behind me!"

 

Masahiro had been stuck in an empty room for a few minutes, sitting hunched over against the door while waiting for someone to open it. Tomoko, Kaze or Kazuhiko, he didn’t care at all. Out of nowhere he heard the sound of shattering glass which was followed by a bright blinding light. His eyes had gotten accustomed to the darkness by now and the sudden illumination blinded Masahiro for a second. By the time his eyes adjusted he saw Kaze, Tomoko, Madoka… and some floating dude riding a boar.

 

As the door behind Kazu burst open from an unknown force, the hallway was engulfed in light, causing the shadows to flee in fear. Kazu stumbled along the floor from the blast, but looked back towards the room. He couldn't see anything from the blinding light, but it's rays were comforting. He stood up, striding towards it. Somehow, he knew it would be okay.

 

Kaze smiled, his friends would be okay...but as soon as he thought such the beast roared again and several black arms formed from it's back, rushing and grabbing a hold of Kazu, Masahiro, and Tomoko. His eyes widened as he shouted. "Get your filthy hands off of my friends, and get your body off of my damn teacher you bastard!" He looked up at Freyr and within his mind, he finally made the connection. "Freyr! Blow that beast away!" As he commanded it, the man above Kaze threw his sword out, it stayed in the air on its own and began to spin around the beast, disorienting it while he spun the antler around, a small gust of wind solidifying within the branching horned. After a moment he pointed the antler at the beast and the wind blasted from the horns, at such a speed that the flames died down, leaving Kaze open. He jumped up and grabbed the sword, on the way down, using the weight of the sword, he slashed the beast across the face, the roar of its pain echoing in the room. "LET THEM GO!"

 

It held strong, angrily swinging its claws at Kaze. Somehow...he felt safe, but a claw connected to his chest, his shirt now in tatters and several large bloody marks formed from the skin that ripped up. "GAAAAAAAAAAAH!" Kaze howled in pain as he looked to Freyr in hope, "H-help me..." Without a moment's notice, he rose the horn up and waved it at Kaze, the wounds sealing themselves. His eyes widened...I...I'm not dead. In fact, I feel amazing! "Alright you son of a bitch, let's end this!" Kaze's eyes shined with a triumphant glow as he rushed the beast, "FREYR, SUMMON YOUR WINDS!" With a combined burst of gales and a slash from the sword, the beast roared in agony before dissolving away, the room becoming normal once more and lighting itself with hundreds of candles. He rushed to his friends, putting the gun in the back of his pants. "Guys! You alright?!"

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Masahiro was sure that there was some combination or words that could describe what he just bore witness to, but he had no clue what that would be. The big boarrider, Kaze referred to him as “Freyrâ€, fought some kind of weird shadow, much akin to the one Masahiro played cat-and-mouse with… but a lot bigger. Masahiro was having some trouble getting over the shock of what he had just seen, but he snapped out of it when Kaze asked if they were alright. He quickly searched for Tomoko, who stood unharmed next to him, and let out a mental sigh of relief when she realized she was fine. “We’re good.â€

Madoka, who was lying unconscious on the ground, also appeared unharmed despite the being having wrapped her up. Masahiro picked her up from the ground and carried on his back as the group once more made an attempt to find the exit. This time it went a lot better; Masahiro couldn’t explain how, but for some reason the light that shone from Kaze’s new friend helped straighten out their senses and enabled them to find the exit once more. When the group found the exit Freyr disappeared without any explanation.

After a short drive home Masahiro put Madoka to bed in her room and the group decided to go to bed and discuss whatever happened the next day after school. Hopefully Madoka will have had enough rest by then and she’d be able to explain what all of that was. For now Masahiro would just go to bed, no point dwelling on it for now.

The next morning Masahiro woke up extra early and headed towards the train dressed in a tracksuit with his school uniform in a backpack. While still dwelling on yesterday’s events he rode the train to two stops before the school’s station and started jogging. Since today his Karate Club duties would resume he decided it would be best if he’d do some early morning jogging to keep in shape, not that he actually needed it. He understood that it was more than likely a coping mechanism to deal with the insane amounts of crazy he had undergone the night beforehand.

At school he made use of the locker rooms shower to freshen up and then change into his school uniform. The first day of school was about to start and even though he dreaded the boredom of classes for some reason he felt slightly apprehensive about learning whatever truth it was that Madoka knew about the Rag House. Masahiro entered his classroom and sat down in his assigned seat, unsure what it was he should think at the moment.

For now he’d just have to deal with Homeroom, though.

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What a night. All those crazy creatures, that weird house, the bleeding walls. Kazu was still trying to wrap his head around it. It seemed like all hope was lost, but now with the fresh light of a new day it didn't seem as scary. Especially after Maeda-senpai had summoned that amazing entity to protect them all. As expected of the one he had chosen to be his mentor. So it seemed that Maeda-senpai had some crazy super powers, no wonder he wasn't scared. And in the end they had found Madoka-sensei. Kazu's heart was all a flutter when he saw her lying there. Then Masahiro-kun had to go and ruin it by being the hero and rescuing her. He had inadvertently ruined Kazu's chance at creating a special bond with Madoka-sensei. 

 

However by the time lunch had rolled around all was forgiven. Kazu had already moved on to his next big plan to capture Madoka-sensei's heart. She was still weak from her terrible ordeal, so now it was time for Kazu to show his sensitive and caring side. Well, at least after school he would. While he was here there was no harm in scoping out the local talent. Midugardu High was home to a lot of precious beauties. Kazu walked down the corridor admiring them as they passed him by in their small cliques, giggling and gossiping as women were prone to do. He smirked softly as a couple of ganguro girls walked past. He never much liked that look, it was quite creepy. 

 

As he stepped out on to the school yard to eat lunch outside Kazu's phone rang. He pulled it from his pocket and put it to his ear. 

"Hello~" he said to the person on the other end. 

"Hey, little bro." came the voice on the other end. 
"Oh, Naoki-nii san! Nice to hear from you!" Kazu said with a grin. "What's up?"

"I'm just checking that my little brother hasn't been pulled in for harassment yet." Naoki said sarcastically. 

"Hey!" Kazu replied in protest, "I am the ultimate gentleman. Don't confuse my romantic heart for that of a pervert!"

"Yes, yes...I was only kidding." Naoki said on the other end of the line. "So listen if you're free at the weekend you should come over and visit. I just got Shadow Kamen 2: Curse of Tengu Raven, it's got a local co-op mode. You'd really enjoy it."

"Um...sure." Kazu said with a soft smile, "I can probably do that. Although maybe we could go to the old arcade sometime, y'know, for a change?"

"Um...yeah maybe another time. I'd rather we just chilled indoors this weekend." Naoki replied. 

"Oh, okay..." Kazu said with a small frown. "Listen I have to go for now. I'll text you later?"

"Sure." Naoki said, "Stay out of trouble, bye."

 

Kazu put down the phone and sighed. It was always the same with his brother. Although he was older and more mature than Kazu, they were quite different. Naoki was a bit of a recluse, he didn't like going out very much. He was always happy sitting in his room on his computer. It had been like that for years. Kazu worried about him sometimes, but he seemed happy, so perhaps he should leave him be. At any rate he had bigger fish to fry. 

After his break he would return to class, but on the way home he was going to pick up a fruit basket and some flowers for Madoka-sensei. He contemplated maybe even writing her a nice get well card. Yes, if he showed her his kindness with the written word then she would surely realise that they were meant to be. 

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After driving the group back, Kaze collapsed onto his bed, looking up at the ceiling in contemplation. He removed the gun from the back of his pants and looked at it, examining the thing from back to front. It clearly wasn't a 'real' gun, but at the same time it was unnecessarily close. But somehow he was less frightened of the thought of them now. Not that he ever wanted one, but...clearly he needed to keep a hold of this thing. On the very bottom of it, it said, *EVOKER*, and that made him tilt his head, but then he thought of what the word meant. To summon or call forth....so this will allow me to summon my Persona, Freyr...I have to keep this safe. He went over and put it in the box with his Kendo equipment. Among the things he actually had a special prized item he wouldn't part with. It had belonged to his ancestors, one of the Maeda clan spies back in the Sengoku Jidai. A finely crafted kusari-gami that he made sure was kept well, he even practiced and learned how to use it. He looked up at thought. "If I have to fight one of those things again, I can't rely on summoning Freyr all the time...maybe since he's within me...I can affect them. I'll...give it a shot if we go back there." He closed the box, the EVOKER and kusari-gami laying in tandem next to one another.

 

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

 

The school day was flying by. Classes felt easy this year and the small club meetings he had went by quickly. Su, one of his friends in the Kendo team decided to treat him to lunch today. "Dude, you look pretty good today. You sleep really well? Maybe Matsu snuck in and gave ya a snuggle?" He grinned, gently elbowing Kaze who elbowed back laughing.

 

"Of course not you deranged ape. I just...had a really easy time sleeping. Like, I had no issues with it. Sometimes I have nightmares and all, but tonight was a clear mind and it felt great." He looked up, they had parked their cars in the parking lot for the dorm and were walking to a small restaurant they frequented that was, somewhat less known than most. But it was too good to pass up.

 

"Ah I getcha. Any of those lower class kids annoying ya yet?"

 

"Actually, one of the younger guys in my dorm...Kazu, he's looking up to me as some sort of mentor for picking up women."

 

"BAHAHAHA! Pick up women, you? You've only had eyes for Matsu from when you were a kid, right?"

 

"Of course...I'm betrothed to her after all. And once she graduates next year after me, we'll actually be married. I've never needed to pick up girls since I have a perfect one as is."

 

"Yeah yeah, gloat all you want about Matsu." He grinned again, elbowing him again. They entered the restaurant and were greeted and seated, getting their food quickly. 

 

"But, I'm gonna need to get going soon." Kaze began to eat swiftly. "I have a meeting with the dorm teacher today."

 

"Madoka? What about?" He looked up, interested.

 

"Something about the rules of the dorm, since I came in late last night." He lied, easily coming up with something and making it sound convincing.

 

"Ah, well, let's hurry so you can go, I know how you like to be Mr. Right on Time." He downed his bowl of noodles in moments before getting up and paying. "See ya round man."

 

"You too!" Kaze shouted lightly as Su made his way out. He sighed and knew tonight would be...interesting. Trying to talk to Madoka-sensei about what happened in the Rag House. He made his way back to the dorms quickly and went into the designated meeting room which was quiet and seemed rather like a lounge. It was nicely set up and he decided to make some tea since no one else was back yet. Setting up the cups and the kettle, he sat and waited for everyone to show up, preparing for their interrogation, and hopefully, some questions will be answered.

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April 2nd, 2013

She thought. Maybe all of yesterday was just a dream. Maybe it was still the first of April. If that were the case, then Tomoko also dreamed that she stood up all night leaving the television and lights on. With that and her constant disbelief that anything more happened than her having a stress attack and she imagined everything else. In reality, they went to the house, she became to uncomfortable being in the shadows of the house and panicked, and the boys eventually found their mission, Madoka-sensei. All of it was, in reality, normal.

Her reflection in the mirror said something entirely different. On top of a bruised look under her eyes from the lack of sleep, her expression showed that nothing normal happened to them. It went against everything she believed in but her body wouldn't lie to her. She was still on edge and overly cautious of her surroundings. The only thing that she didn't notice was that she was late for school by about three hours. "U-uh oh," she stuttered in an attempt to sound ordinary. But on second thought, she didn't really care. After all, she hadn't slept a wink. It wouldn't be very healthy to go to school in this condition.

Tomoko searched for her phone buried in the clothes that she tossed offhandedly on the floor next to her bed and she contacted the school nurse, informing him she wouldn't be making it. After a brief lecture on how she should've called earlier, he excused her. With her phone still in her hand, she browsed through her small DVD case that sat next to the TV in the corner of the room across from her bed. Over going over the collection a few times, she settled on a documentary about deep sea life and the alien-like creatures that inhabited it. She inserted the worn out disc in the DVD player and skipped through the various trailers to the menu.

As it began playing Tomoko returned to her bed, feeling she might be able to fall asleep for once. She reached for her glasses hanging off her shirt to put them away before she crushed them while she slept, but instead lazily wore them to send a text.

"skipping school. feeling under the weather." she quickly typed with Masahiro as the recipient.

"Makes sense, we had a crazy night. I’ll check up on you when I get back. Don’t overdo it.†Tomoko pulled the covers over her and got in a comfortable position to watch the movie before she slept. As her eyes became heavier she pondered what sensei had to tell them about the events they managed to find themselves in last night.

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School was finally out, but before Masahiro could go home he had to stop by the Karate Club for today’s club activities. Masahiro was the star of the Karate club despite only having started eight years ago, but his experience with several other martial arts helped him developed as a Karateka extremely fast. Of course nothing was enough for Masahiro who dreamt of becoming the greatest martial artist in the world, not even the amount of progress he had made in such little time.

After an hour or two of club practice it was time for Masahiro to head back to the dorm and meet up with the rest of the group and discuss last night’s events with Madoka. As he stepped out of the locker room and began walking towards the school’s exit he heard a familiar voice shout. “Ma~sa~hi~ro~-senpai! Wait for me!†Rikka came running at out of the girls’ locker room and without warning performed a roundhouse kick targeting Masahiro’s head.

Masahiro was unfazed by the sudden attack and easily blocked it. “Still have a long way to go.†Masahiro turned and continued walking.
“Senpai, wanna have lunch together tomorrow?†Rikka followed Masahiro’s trail like a little sister would follow her older brother around.

“Uhh. Sure. Don’t have any plans anyway.†Masahiro and Rikka walked back to the dorms together while discussing anything that randomly popped into their heads. Mostly involving martial arts and how Rikka would one day beat up Masahiro. Once at the dorm they split up; Rikka went to her room and Masahiro went to the supervisor’s office where they were supposed to have their meeting with Madoka.

When he entered he saw Madoka and Kaze already sitting and waiting, so he sat down to join them. Immediately after that Kazuhiko entered with flowers and chocolates and nervously thrusts them in her direction like an idiot. She accepted with a nervous smile, obviously still shocked because of what happened yesterday. Tomoko was the last to join in, it was clear that she had just woken up but Masahiro didn’t want to comment on that right now.

Once everyone was gathered Madoka started talking, already aware of what their first question would be. “What you faced last night are so-called Shadows. They are creatures of another world who feed on our fears. The gun Kaze-kun took is an Evoker, a weapon used to summon a Persona.â€

"I assume, since I was able to summon Freyr that I should keep the Evoker then? I have a feeling from the fact that you were there sensei that you were perhaps attempting to search for something yourself? Do you have a Persona?" Kaze sipped a cup of tea, sliding a cup over to her.

"Y-Yes, keep it." She spoke with a trembling voice and started shaking. "I-I wasn't able to summon my Persona. I used to be able to, but yesterday I... I couldn't. If I could all of this could've been avoided. You kids wouldn't have to live through this."

"Enough of this nonsense, sensei." Kaze looked over to her. "You went in there without a backup plan that nearly cost you your life. You need to think about that before you go apologizing. I for one am glad you're alright, but we're in this situation now and there's no going back, so let's not dwell on that and get to the important point of, what is it you were doing in there to begin with. Start there."

"Yeah sensei," Tomoko interjected. "Everyone has been really worried. It was all they talked about. What were you doing?"
"H-hang on..." Kazu said nervously, "Senpai is right. We don't even know what happened. Can't we just...y'know, forget about it? We don't have to go back to that house anyway. Right?"
"I'd rather not..."

“O-Okay,†she took a sip of her tea and took a deep breath. “As I mentioned Shadows feed on our fears. The more afraid we are the stronger they get. When they find someone who is in a weakened state, whether it is due to stress, depression or whatever, they start terrorizing that person to drive him insane. This was what happened to me… the stress of fighting the Shadows by myself got the better of me and they started targeting me. When a person is targeted by Shadows a Shadow duplicate of that person is born in that house. This duplicate will grow stronger and stronger as its twin succumbs to fear. I… I had to destroy the Shadow in order to be free of their terror. That’s why I was there.â€

"And that was the creature I fought? Your inner fear?" Kaze looked to her, his eyes fixated on hers. "And from what I'm gathering, we must overcome our fear to unlock these Personas?"
Before Madoka got the chance to answer Masahiro interjected: "This sounds like a load of bullshit. Inner fears? Duplicates? Are we in some kind of JRPG? And why does this guy get a Persona? Sensei, I'm having a hard time believing all of this.†Masahiro was visibly annoyed and obvious quite skeptical about what Madoka revealed.
Then Tomoko followed: "These shadows... So the rumors were all true? The rag house really is turning everyone in our town crazy? How's this even happening, it doesn't make sense!"
"Can't we let the police handle this?" Kazu asked, "I don't know about you guys, but I was pretty happy until last night. I say we let Madoka-sensei rest up and then we get on with our lives. I have enough trouble studying for midterms without this on my shoulders."
"In the end, it can make sense if you look at it from a certain perspective. We need to be open to this view or else we'll never get the true answer. Let's not denounce this whole thing like some fairy tale, because as we've seen, it's clearly not that at all."

Madoka was overwhelmed by all the questions, she took a moment to gather her thoughts before answering. “Personas are representations of our true selves. They are hidden away deep inside us, but entering the Rag House, which is technically a different dimension, they awaken, but they will only appear if you are freed of your fears, yes. Tomoko-chan, you are correct. The source of all the weird occurrences is the Rag House.†She directed her attention at Kazuhiko. “Have you tried convincing the police that the haunted house is a gateway to a different dimension inhabited by Shadows? Give it a try and you’ll know why not. As for you, Masahiro-kun, it isn’t just Kaze-kun who has a Persona. Kaze-kun was simply the first to shed his fears.â€

Kaze sipped his tea again, listening intently. "I see. So it's highly likely that Masahiro-kun, Kazu-kun, and Tomo-chan all have Personas themselves?"
“I can guarantee that everyone who has ever entered that place has an unlocked Persona. They simply don’t have the means to summon it.â€

"Wait...Senpai." Kazu began, trying to think of how to phrase his question. "Back then...how did you know? Did something happen to tell you? How could you use a power you didn't know you had?"
Kaze turned to Kazu and thought a moment before speaking, "Well, when sensei pointed the Evoker at me, I was terrified for a moment, but...I was protecting Tomo-chan from what I could tell, so I just accepted it and when the Evoker was fired, a voice spoke in both my head and heart, and that's when I saw Freyr in my mind. So I took the Evoker from sensei and...listened to him calling me, so when I pointed the Evoker at my head and pulled the trigger, it released him. It's hard to explain, and probably harder to understand..." He paused, sipping his tea again, sighing. "But in the end, that's what happened for me."
"Really anyone could then, but why would it have to be us senpai. We're just kids."

"No...I think I get it." Kazu said hesitantly. "This is...kinda embarrasing, but, well when I lost you guys...those shadow things came after me. I didn't know where to go. I freaked out. I felt so alone. I thought I was going to die there, all on my own. Then there was this point where I heard a voice. What did it say again...I am thou...something like that?"

"So if we use it on a really big building, we'd have all these powers," Tomoko asked in a small sarcastic manner.

"People's willingness to accept their fears, Tomo-chan. We're still young and willing to accept our faults, as people grow older they become blind to their fears, and children don't understand what their fears mean. We're at that stage where...we're probably the only ones who 'could' accept our fears. Madoka-sensei, when did you first unlock your Persona?" Kaze spoke calmly. "I am thou, thou art I. Was that it Kazu-kun?
“I unlocked it around your age, 10 years ago. I have been fighting Shadows ever since.â€

"...So is that it?" Kazu asked. "We're all going to run around like super heroes now? This isn't a spring season shounen anime, it's life. We could have died. We probably will if we go back."

“I have found a solution… I simply haven’t been able to do it. I have been by myself for the past ten years, I did not dare ask anyone else to help me as it would likely ruin their lives… but it is impossible on my own. Listen. The house feeds on fear, but if they can’t force fear upon someone the house becomes weaker. The few times I managed to save someone the house grew weaker. The problem is that I can’t save everyone by myself.†Madoka, who had demonstrated a lack of life up until now, stood up. “I’m sorry to ask this of you, but you kids are our only hope. My Persona was locked away the moment I lost myself to fear, I need you kids to take over. The town needs you.â€

“Fine,†Masahiro finally said. He was getting annoyed with everyone in the room and in order for him not to start punching people he decided to leave. He’d head for the arcade until curfew or something. “Show me tomorrow night. I’ll head to the Rag House, to see if I can summon my Persona. Anyone else who wants to come is free to join.â€

"I...I can help to." Kazu said with a nod, "I'm not getting outshined by senapi and Masahiro-kun. I'll show you Madoka-sensei. I won't let you down!"

Kaze sighed a bit in relief, looking to Tomo-chan now. "You know, you don't have to. I understand that it really upset you." Kaze stepped over and smiled at her, patting her back. "But we could really use your help… With all of us out there, I have a feeling we're gonna need some support either way. And you were one of the first ones to figure out the illusion with me. I have a feeling you're a lot stronger than you're letting on, I've seen you pulling Masahiro around. You know how to keep people in check. I'd trust you with that over him at the least." He chuckled, pouring some more tea into his cup.

Tomoko crossed her arms and looked a bit frustratingly around the room, avoiding any eye contact. "I'm still tired," she sighed deeply. "I'll wake up later and decide then..." She gave everyone semi-bland look as she headed for the door. "I'll see you all later then."

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