"I see… You name is Hakuba, Takumi, is it?"

"Y-Yes, sir…"

Takumi was currently sitting in front of the principal of Hatsukoi Academy, watching while the middle-aged man looked over his papers. Maiko was sitting in another chair near the door, reading a magazine titled 'Sixteen'.

"You have an odd name, don't you, kid?" the principal noted. Takumi fought against the urge to scoff. It would have been rude.

"So I've been told…" he murmured a response.

"We get it, his name is weird. I'm sure he gets that a lot," Maiko called over sarcastically. "But can you please do something about his arrangements before homeroom starts, Principal Ueshima? He can't stay with me if he's only fifteen." Principal Ueshima raised a thick eyebrow at her.

"Do not sass me, Ishimura-san," he snapped. "I was just getting to the rest of his papers."

As the older man sorted through the paperwork, Takumi found that impatience made his knee bounce uncontrollably. He wasn't sure how he knew it was impatience, since it was new to him. He figured that he was able to identify with it because of the extensive reading and research Yomi used to make him do.

Yomi… He wondered how the Night Watcher was doing, all alone and nobody to talk to. Takumi knew he wouldn't be able to live like that; but then he remembered that he had not always been with Yomi. He had only been 'alive' for fifteen years. Yomi was alone for millennia upon millennia before the genborei manifested in the afterlife. With some relief, Takumi figured that his master must know plenty of ways to keep himself entertained.

"Hakuba-san."

Takumi's head jerked up. The principal was staring at him again. He sat up straight, his leg finally stopping its movement. "Y-Yes, sir?"

"You have already been assigned a guide in your own grade and class. His name is Towa Yamadamo." Maiko stared, quite open-mouthed, at the principal's revelation. Takumi didn't notice this.

"Oh, well… That's a good thing, isn't it?" he asked. "I guess we don't have to worry, if my guide is in my class… I thought this would be a lot more difficult."

"Me too," Maiko added, folding her arms tightly. "What gives! He's paired up with a kid his own class as a guide, yet he's staying with someone in a completely different age group! I don't understand this stupid educational system anymore!" Takumi moaned quietly. What was with this girl and bad-mouthing the educational system?

"Ishimura-san, cease that annoying racket coming from your mouth before I stitch it shut!" Ueshima snapped, standing up at his desk. His chair slid back against the linoleum flooring, screeching rather loudly. Maiko wisely pressed her lips together tightly, and stepped back behind Takumi's chair. Ueshima pointed to the door behind the teens. "Ishimura-san, you are dismissed. There's no reason for you to be late to your classes. Hakuba-san, you will stay a moment longer while you wait for your guide."

"Y-Yes, sir," both of the teenagers chimed. Maiko picked her book bag up from the floor, and exited the room as quickly as possible. The last thing she said before closing the door behind her was a quick 'Have a nice day' to Takumi. The disguised genborei frowned. He didn't want to be left alone with the older man so soon… He was a bit too intimidating for the ghost boy's likes.

"Hakuba-san." Takumi's attention was once again drawn to the principal in front of him, who had reclaimed his seat calmly. "If I may suggest something…?" When there was silence, Takumi realized that the man was seemingly asking for some sort of permission. He nodded, urging the man to continue. Ueshima cleared his throat. "When I was looking over your transcripts and background, I noticed that your grades, especially in the mathematics and history department, were exceptionally high for someone of your age."

"… Um… Thank… you…?" Takumi wasn't sure where this conversation was going. "What does that have to do with anything, sir?"

"First off, you were home schooled, were you not?"

"… Yes, I was." Home-schooling sounds like an accurate term… the genborei thought. He was not sure how else he would describe receiving one-on-one tutoring from an agent of the afterlife who was neither dead nor alive. The principal continued to speak.

"Students who were home schooled for their primary years as you were tend to be more reserved than others, from not having any contact with other people their age for an extended period of time. You may have succeeded in breaking the average GPA, but academics are not all this school is interested in. We're a very personable staff and community, and we like to know what we can do to make our students feel more comfortable." Ueshima leaned forward at his desk. "I've seen the way you act in my office, towards both me and your hostess, and I'm a very good judge of character. I can sense that you're a fine young man, and I feel lucky to have brought such a bright mind to this academy – Even if it was only by a transfer program. I'm sure the staff will feel the same way, once they meet you." Takumi's face became warmer at the praise. Unlike before, when he could name impatience right off the bat, he couldn't tell what kind of emotion was making him feel like he wanted to sink down in his chair and disappear. It didn't quite feel like embarrassment.

Before Takumi could thank the man again, Ueshima went on. "However, from how you act, I can also tell that you're not a very open or personable individual, am I right?" … More or less on the mark… Takumi noted. Then again, one reason I'm a little shy at the moment is because I've never actually been among people before. I would deem this an understandable reaction. And Yomi wasn't very talkative either, so conversation may not be a strongpoint of mine…

While the boy's mind ran with his thoughts, the principal nodded, taking his silence as an affirmative answer. "I figured as much, Hakuba-san. Now…" Takumi's attention snapped back once again. "Our job here is to make you feel as safe and comfortable as possible in your new environment, for as long as you're staying here; but we'd also like you to help us with that." Ueshima raised his eyebrow again. "Do us all a favor and try to make some friends, okay? Most of the people here are friendlier than they seem." Takumi almost commented on how terrible that actually sounded, when the door behind him opened again.

"Yo, Ueshima," a confident young man's voice came. "You called?" Ueshima looked past his new transfer student, to the newcomer in the doorway. He grinned.

"Ah, Towa-kun," he said. "You finally arrived." Takumi, recognizing the name as his guide's, turned in his chair to get a good look at his classmate.

Towa Yamadamo was a tall, brown-haired boy, with eyes to match. A bag was thrown across his shoulder, the strap held by his right hand. His uniform shirt, having no sleeves, showed that his body was toned and muscular, even though he himself seemed rather thin.

"Hakuba-san, this is your guide for the time being," the principal began his introduction. "And Towa-kun, meet Hatsukoi's newest transfer student. His name is Takumi Hakuba." Towa's brows creased.

"He's got a weird name, doesn't he?"

"I'm well aware," Takumi muttered loudly. This thing going on with people commenting on his name was getting a bit ridiculous. Ueshima didn't seem to notice the comment.

"Towa-kun, will you take Hakuba-san here back to your class? I believe your homeroom teacher will want to know about our newest guest." Towa merely shrugged. This was enough to suffice as a 'Yes, sir' for the principal. "Good. Then be off with you two, now."

1-1

Takumi stuck with Towa like glue while they headed to class. He didn't do so well with the stares he got from the people they passed, and when one of Towa's friends had asked who he was, the taller boy hadn't been very nice with the introduction. Maybe it was because they were strangers, but Takumi got the feeling that Towa didn't like him very much. Come to think of it, he quickly realized. Maiko-san also acted this way to me initially… Maybe Towa-san and I will become friends in the future too, then?

"Could you stop following so close behind me?"

"Huh?" Takumi looked up into Towa's dark brown eyes as he turned around, and saw the look of utter disinterest reflected in them. The genborei wisely stepped back a total of three feet, gripping his backpack's straps tightly. "S-Sorry, Towa-san. I didn't mean to cling."

"It's Yamadamo-senpai to you."

"Senpai?" Takumi blinked. "But we're in the same grade."

"Yeah, but I'm older. By a year." Begrudgingly, Towa added, "I got held back."

"… Why?" Takumi asked. "Did you fail to pass your entrance exams? Because that's completely understandable. Not everyone passes the first time they take it. It's quite common, as a matter of fact. Although I don't see why you wouldn't be able to transfer to the high school building even if you have… not quite outstanding grades. It's the same school, technically. Should you not be able to take classes there?" Towa raised an eyebrow.

"Are you calling me stupid or something?"

"Huh!" Takumi gulped, taking another step back. "N-No, I'm not! I never insinuated anything like-!"

"It's not good to make enemies your first day here, kid," Towa grunted, finally giving Takumi a view of his back again. While the grumpy teen started walking again, Takumi was reluctant to follow. What an… unpleasant person he is… he said to himself mentally. Who's trying to be whose enemy here?

1-1

Takumi entered homeroom 3-1 without many issues, until he was asked to introduce himself. As soon as he realized that at least twenty-six pairs of eyes were focused on him, he lost the ability to speak. Addressing a large amount of people by himself, he quickly learned, was also not one of his personality points.

"Your name, son," the teacher interrupted his mini panic attack. "Write your name on the board, if you don't wish to speak." Takumi let out a breath that had been clutching his chest, letting relief wash over him. So he didn't actually have to do a full intro. That was good.

"Okay," he replied quietly. Turning his back to the class, he looked for a piece of chalk to write with. Choosing the one in directly front of him, he snatched it up between his fingers and placed the tip against the chalkboard. Once he did, however, he froze. Oh, no… What are the strokes for my name again? He knew that his last name and his first name were exactly the same, but he couldn't remember how they were written. "Uhh…"

"Is there a problem, Hakuba-san?" the teacher asked. Takumi jumped.

"I- Uh- Sensei?"

"Yes?"

"Can… Can I see my transfer papers, please?" The teacher raised both of his eyebrows in surprise.

"Your papers? I suppose, but why do you need them?" Takumi felt his face get warm again, as it had in Principal Ueshima's office. This felt like a different kind of warmth, though. It seemed less… pleasurable.

"I, um… I need to see my name," the ghost boy said reluctantly. The teacher stared at him.

"Your name?"

"Y-Yes, sir… I can't remember how to spell it." At this, several snickers erupted from the class. Some were less modest than others. Takumi's cheeks went from warm to as hot as a stovetop.

"Everyone be quiet, or else you'll all be holding buckets outside the principal's office for the next hour!" The sniggering teens immediately forced down their laughter. It was an old-fashioned punishment given by an old-fashioned teacher, to be sure, but nobody wanted to risk it. The teacher sighed in exasperation, and handed his new transfer student his information. "Here you go, Hakuba-san." Takumi gripped the sheets in his left hand, while still holding the chalk in the other. Slowly and carefully, he looked between the papers and the chalkboard, trying to copy his name down accurately. When he was done, he put the chalk down and stepped to the side to show his work.

"M-My name is Takumi Hakuba… I'm a transfer student from… Spain," he explained shakily. "I-I hope I can be fiends with everyone? Err- I mean- Friends! I meant friends! Sorry. I'm still learning your language…"

"You have a weird name!" someone called out. Many other voices followed suit.

"Do you speak Spanish better than Japanese?"

"Why don't you have a uniform?"

"Pink is for girls, dude!"

"What kind of idiot doesn't even know how to write his own name?"

Immediately, the teacher slapped his yardstick against his desk. "Everyone shut up! You're all being incredibly rude to your new classmate!" Turning to Takumi, he said, "I'm terribly sorry for their behavior, Hakuba-san. They're not the brightest or most well-behaved class in the school. Forgive their ignorance." Takumi shuffled his feet nervously.

"I-It's alright, sensei…" he mumbled. "Should I sit down now?"

"That would be best. Just give me back your transfer papers, and you can sit where you like."

Takumi placed the sheets of paper on the wooden desk, and then turned to look over the classroom again. This being a nearly-full class, there weren't many open seats. He reluctantly brought his legs to move down the middle aisle. As he did, his new classmates stared at him with overtly curious eyes. His chest tightened again.

Finally, he got to a seat in the back of the row. There was no one sitting to the left of it at all, and it was the same on the right – Save for one person, that is. Sitting directly next to him on his right would be a girl with reddish-pink hair down past her shoulders. She was engrossed in whatever she was writing, at the moment.

"… … Um… Excuse me, miss?" At his call, the girl looked up. Her eyes were a clear shade of Paris green, looking like the color of grass that had lost some of its pigmentation. Takumi noted how different they looked from his own despite being in the same area of the color spectrum. Before he stared like an idiot for even longer, Takumi brought himself back down to earth. "Do you mind if I sit next to you? I don't want to be a bother, but…" The girl smiled at him.

"Not at all, Hakuba-kun," she responded. Her voice had a nice ring to it, like the wind blowing through spring chimes. Takumi didn't even pause to register how dreadfully poetic that sounded.

"I-I can?" He blinked. "I…" He bowed to his classmate, not knowing what else to do. "Thank you very much, miss!"

"… No problem?" she answered back. "But… Everyone is staring at you." Takumi stood straight up at this, and a quick glance across the room told him that the girl wasn't joking. Wholly embarrassed, he quickly planted his butt in his new seat, burying his head in his arms. Great, he thought. I try to make a good impression, and instead I get people laughing and staring at me… I'm not sure if I like this place, Yomi. As if sensing his new student's discomfort, the teacher clapped his hands twice.

"Eyes forward, everyone! I'm going to take attendance now!"

1-1

Takumi quickly learned, thanks to the roll call and a self-introduction, that the girl sitting next to him was Makii Satae. Makii was nice, to say the least. Nicer than the other students were. And apparently she was good with math, too; but that seemed to be the only subject she was good in, so far.

"I like straightforward work," she had said. "Equations and the likes are a piece of cake."

Lunch time came, and Takumi had little idea as to what he should do. Thankfully, Makii had once again let him sit near her. It seemed like she wasn't bothered by his company too much.

"You're kind of different, you know?" she said. Takumi looked up from his lunch, a bento which consisted of the oddest combination of steamed rice, nikumaki rolls, jyagatama, and watermelon.

"Different…?" he repeated slowly. "Is different… Is that a bad thing?" Makii shrugged to herself, and set her own lunch down so she could speak freely.

"I don't know," she admitted. "In one way, you're kind of a weirdo." Takumi's shoulders slumped at this. So she thought that too. Nice to know… "However, you do seem to be more intelligent than most of the people in this school – Including the high schoolers – So I guess a little weirdness is alright." Takumi had to chuckle at this. It's probably true, too. He wasn't a scholar-in-training for nothing. He'd be wholly surprised if his IQ was less than one hundred fifty.

"I appreciate the honesty," he replied. "I've never been to another… country before, so I'm still trying to get used to everything. I apologize if I seem a little out of sorts. I'm sure I'll get better with time."

"You've never been here before?" Makii looked at him, more interested now. "You're Japanese and you've never been to Japan?"

"N-No. No, I haven't." He wasn't talking about never having been to Japan, of course; but he could play along. "I've been living elsewhere ever since I can remember."

"You mean Spain?"

"Yes." He said that without any hesitation.

"I see…" Makii drummed her fingers on her desk in thought. "Do you like it back home?"

"In plain terms, España es un buen pais."

"What?"

"I said, Spain is a nice coun-"

"Hey! Hey, Makii! Makiiiii!" A hyperactive voice came from behind. Makii groaned.

"Oh, please tell me he isn't going to- Ack! Kintaro! Get down from there!" the girl screeched, looking past Takumi and straight to the window. Takumi turned around to see the source of her excitement.

It was another student, hanging upside down outside the classroom by a rope. Presumably, it was attached to either the roof or a flagpole. Either way, it was dangerous, and Takumi felt the color leave his face when he saw this.

"Wha-! What's he doing?" he exclaimed, turning back to Makii. Makii left her seat and ran to the window hurriedly.

"This idiot here is my friend Kintaro," she said grumpily. "Who just has to disturb me with his death-defying 'entrances' when he knows it worries the hell out of me!" Kintaro laughed heartily.

"But the conventional method of entering a room is not as much fun!"

"Get. Down. Before you fall and break your neck!"

"Fine, fine, you buzzkill." Kintaro grabbed the edges of the window, and let himself go from the rope. The shift in weight caused him to nearly lose his grip on the ledge, but he pulled himself up quickly enough.

"I'm only concerned, Kintaro," Makii insisted. "Like I'd enjoy watching my friend plummet to his death." Kintaro laughed again.

"Makii, you know idiots never die."

"No, they don't get sick; which is the only reason why you have a perfect attendance record."

"Quite right!" Kintaro leapt down and touched the floor, making Takumi realize the height difference between the two. Makii was much taller than her friend. This made the genborei grin in delight, as he and Makii were the same height. He finally knew someone shorter than him!

"Hakuba-kun! Don't just sit there! Come here!" At Makii's insistence, Takumi decided to comply. Pushing his chair back, he walked over to her and Kintaro, hands shyly put away in his pockets.

"Yes, Satae-san?" Makii rested her hand on his shoulder, and went back to talking to Kintaro.

"Takumi, this is Kintaro Shoma. Kintaro, this is Takumi Hakuba, our class's new transfer," she explained. "He's all the way from Europe, apparently!" Ah, she wanted me to meet her friend. Takumi rubbed behind his neck nervously. Why did it seem like meeting new people made him want to crawl up and away?

"Hmm…" Kintaro silently inspected Takumi up and down. "No piercings, no uniform, doesn't seem like a fool, has a ponytail, and wears a pink headband." With a thumbs-up, he added loudly, "I approve!" Takumi blinked like the fool Kintaro didn't take him for.

"… 'Approve'?" He turned to Makii in confusion. "Approve of what?" Before Makii could answer, Kintaro added on,

"Not to mention, he's pretty cute, too! Approved twice!" For emphasis, he made another thumbs-up sign with his other hand.

"Approved twice for what?"

"Nothing, Hakuba-kun. Drop it."

1-1

When school let out for the day, Takumi was somewhat disappointed. He had wanted more time to spend when his new friends, and maybe a little more time to get used to the classes. He had slept through a good one-third of the day, from lack of sleep the night before – Which wasn't really his fault, but it didn't matter. Twice he got away with it; the third time, he was given extra homework. Seeing as it was history homework, it wouldn't be that hard. That was one of his strong points, thanks to years of reading in Yomi's library. It shouldn't take him more than an hour to complete it, if he went at a leisurely pace.

"Takki! Over here!" Takumi heard this name, and looked around. The level of excitement in the voice – Not to mention the recognizeable pitch and tone – easily identified the source as Kintaro. Why Kintaro was calling something tacky though, the genborei didn't know. He didn't get to question it further before he found himself kissing the concrete of the school courtyard.

Takumi lifted his head from the ground, his head slowly beginning to stop spinning. His eyes went upwards, and found an upside-down Kintaro sitting on his back and peering back at him with a smile. "Found ya, Takki!"

"… Takki…?" Takumi blinked. His name wasn't Takki. True, it was a rather tacky name, but… Takumi rolled his eyes. Oh, there's a bad pun in itself.

"Kintaro! Get off of him!" Another easily recognizable voice. Takumi felt the weight of the shorter boy's body leave his back, and got to his feet as quickly as possible. Brushing off his clothing, he spotted Makii out of the corner of his eye, reprimanding Kintaro sternly. Probably for jumping him all of a sudden. Makii turned an apologetic gaze his way.

"Sorry, Hakuba-kun. Kintaro gets like this once he's out of school," she explained. Takumi stared at them incredulously. To be honest, there's not much of a difference, he mentally replied.

"Sorry for tackling you, Takki!" Kintaro apologized cheerfully, his three ahoge bobbing up and down as he bowed.

"Why do you keep calling me that?" Takumi asked.

"It's a nickname! Duh!" Kintaro grinned. "Imma' call you Takki from now on!"

"… Please don't."

"Why not?"

"It irks me."

"Please?"

"Your insistence is beginning to irk me as well." Kintaro frowned dejectedly.

"Fine… So what can I call you?" Makii folded her arms.

"Just call him by his last name, like everyone else."

"But that's so boring!"

"Umm, if you don't mind getting off this topic, I have a question…" Takumi interjected. Kintaro and Makii returned their attention to him.

"Sure, fire away!" the other boy exclaimed.

"Why on earth did you tackle me to the ground?"

"Well… Did it get your attention?"

"Yes…?"

"Then that's why!" Kintaro smiled. Takumi frowned at him.

"Oi, Takumi!"

All three middle school heads turned to the left and saw Maiko coming towards them. Takumi's face brightened a bit upon seeing her.

"Ah, Maiko-san! Good afternoon!" he greeted her. Makii raised her brows.

"You know her?" she asked. "Who is she?"

"Maiko Ishimura-san," the genborei replied. Maiko tapped Takumi on the shoulder when she was within reach.

"Takumi, I'm staying behind at school for practice, okay?" She gestured to the large duffel bag she was shouldering. "Do you think you can stay behind for another hour or two? I promise we'll head home after that."

"I suppose so," Takumi answered readily. "I have no further plans, so I don't see the issue."

"Thanks." Maiko was about to walk away, but caught the other two underclassmen staring at her. She stared right back. "You two got somethin' to say? Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Nothing, senpai," Makii answered quickly enough, averting her green gaze.

"How do you know Takki, senpai?" Kintaro questioned cluelessly. Maiko turned to her houseguest, stifling a laugh.

"Takki?"

"Please don't call me that," Takumi muttered quietly. "Kintaro-san, Maiko-san and I are acquaintances because I'm currently staying with her for my transfer."

"Really!" Kintaro's eyes bugged. "That's so weird!"

"Don't students usually stay with kids their own age, though?" Makii checked skeptically. Maiko snorted.

"Hey, I blame the damn educational system. Not my fault he got stuck with someone who's getting ready to graduate; just like it's not my fault I got stuck with a kid who turned fifteen just yesterday." Kintaro's mouth dropped open.

"Duuuuuude! You didn't tell us that your birthday was yesterday!" he screeched. Takumi inched backwards, not enjoying the piercingly loud shriek coming from the boy's mouth. It hurt his ears.

"I… I didn't think it was important…" he mused. "Why would my aging be relevant to anything?" Maiko shook her head.

"You know, I was right. You are a weird kid."

"I'm sorry, Maiko-san."

"Why do you keep apologizing?"

"Sor- I mean… Yeah." Kintaro pouted. Arms stiffly at his sides, he walked up to Takumi and got up on the tips of his toes, trying to make eye contact with him. Takumi leaned backwards, uncomfortable with the attempted close contact.

"You. Takki. Why didn't you tell me it was your birthday?" Takumi blinked helplessly.

"I-I- Like I said, I didn't think it was important enough to mention…" he stuttered. "Sharing what is private with strangers is… Well, I don't see much of a point…" Kintaro immediately stepped backwards, putting his hand to his chest as if he had just been shot.

"That hurts, Takki!" he cried. "I thought we were friends!" Takumi blinked a second time.

"Friends?" Maiko looked at him in surprise.

"Wow. Your first day at a school in a foreign country and you've already made friends? Consider me impressed, weirdo."

"… Friends?" Takumi repeated again. The word didn't seem to penetrate fully. Kintaro huffed.

"You know what? Here." The shorter boy grabbed Takumi's wrist, and began dragging him. "Ishimura-san, I will be borrowing your guest for a little while! Is that alright?" Maiko and Makii stared at him.

"Uhh… Borrowing?" Maiko repeated. "As long as he can find his way home, I don't care…" Makii grunted.

"Kintaro, I swear to God I will haul your ass back to the aquarium and force you to stay there for the next weekend if you manage to scare yet another innocent soul out of his wits." Kintaro seemed to flinch at this, but kept up his straight face.

"But I want him to come hang out with us! Please, Makii?" he pleaded. "I'll be good, I promise!" Takumi looked between his two classmates, the feeling of being stranded very apparent. Wha… What's going on here!

"I…" The genborei swallowed. "I'm afraid I don't understand what the social protocol in this type of situation is-!"

"It's simple, really!" Kintaro smiled. "You didn't tell me it was your birthday, so I'm making you hang out with me."

"B-But… I have homework-"

"Kintaro, stop trying to push him!" Makii scolded, fiercely separating her friend's hand from Takumi's wrist. The ghost boy pulled it back immediately, rubbing it gingerly. Makii whapped Kintaro upside the head. "This is why people think you're strange!"

"Noooo, there's plenty of other reasons for them to think that!" Kintaro rebutted childishly.

"… … …" Maiko sighed, fixing her duffel bag's strap. "Look, I'm just gonna head over to practice now… Takumi, you know our address, right?"

"Y-Yes, Maiko-san. Why…?"

"Then you can go on without me." Takumi's eyes widened. Surely she wasn't thinking about leaving him with these two? Makii was nice enough, but that only went so far when her seemingly only other companion was this eccentric.

"B-But Maiko-san! I don't know the area!" he protested lightly. "Knowing your address is useless unless I know how to get there!"

"That's okay!" Kintaro interrupted. He pulled at the three ahoge sticking out from his bangs. "My head is practically a GPS in itself! Tell me an address and I can get you there in the quickest way possible!" Takumi was beginning to think, with the tiniest bit of enmity, that Kintaro should learn to keep his lips sealed. The boy was starting to annoy him – A new emotion in itself, which Takumi did not take pleasure in. He felt bad about thinking such things towards someone he barely knew, but it was hard to stop himself.

"Well, there ya go!" Maiko grinned. As she began to walk away, she called over her shoulder, "Have fun with your new friends, you weirdo! If I'm home before you, I'll let mom where you are!"

"But… But…" Takumi sputtered. "But… I have homework!"

"You can do it later!" Kintaro insisted hotly. "Why are you so adamant about not spending time with me? With us?"

"Because your attitude is getting to be very vexing, and it's becoming a bother to me!" Takumi snapped. As soon as he heard himself, he slapped his hands over his mouth, green eyes widening in fright. What was going on with him? He usually kept a very level head, even when under stress. He had no right or reason to be yelling at someone who had repeatedly called him his friend; a term which the disguised ghost was still not accustomed to. Nevertheless, the question still stood – Why couldn't he keep himself together?

Kintaro frowned, and shuffled his feet. "No need to yell like that, Takki. You could've just said that at the beginning." Makii folded her arms, chuckling to herself.

"And here I thought you were a quiet one," he said. "Guess that only applies to the classroom setting? I know that story well enough." Takumi couldn't see it, but he knew his face was heating up again.

"I-I don't know what came over me… I humbly apologize for my outburst." Perhaps I am more prone to maniaphobic behavior in this body? The genborei mused. It would explain things… to a certain degree.

"You thought that was an outburst? Pffth." Makii snorted. "That was nothing. Don't worry about it."

"It just makes me want to take him with us even more," Kintaro said. "Just to show him a good time and let him loosen up."

"…" Takumi sighed. He wasn't going to win this. His social skills were far too inept to put up much of an argument, it seemed. He might as well accept punishment and be done with it. Who knows? Maybe after one day around these two, and they'd leave him alone. He doubted it, but it was worth a try. "… So where are we going, exactly?"

Kintaro squealed. Makii and Takumi covered their ears.

1-1

Yomi shook his head in chagrin as the images in the sundial came and left.

"Looks like he found out that it's exceptionally difficult to maintain a cool exterior as a living being when there are so many outside forces contributing to your tolerance level," he mused. "I do hope he learns to deal with it soon." Not wanting to put off his work any longer, Yomi turned from the sundial and silently floated back to his office.

Grin and bear it, boy. You've still got a long way to go.

1-1

1) Nikumaki and jyagatama: nikumaki are basically oven baked rice balls that are wrapped in thinned slices of marinated pork. Jyagatama are, simply put, potato salad balls.

2) That Spanish sentence? I'm not sure if that's a mainland Spanish dialect or not. I'd feel happy if someone could correct me.

3) Takki sounds similar to the way 'tacky' is pronounced in Japanese. Oh, the puns…

4) Ahoge: 'Idiot hair'. Kintaro has three of them sticking out from his forehead. See that height chart I mentioned earlier for a picture.

5) Maniaphobia: The fear of insanity.