Karin slammed her fist down on the table in frustration as the UQ Holder numbers undercover at the school sat huddled around a table at the local coffee house. She pointedly glared at each person around the table to show her distaste for them.
"Nothing? Not one of you found a single shred of information on this case," Karin growled.
"It wasn't for lack of trying," Touta sighed. "You didn't find anything either..."
"It's just that with each incident we only have police and poorly detailed school records to go off of," Ikku explained. "And since not one body had ever been recovered who knows what truly happened those girls. It's all speculation at this point."
"But one thing we do know is that it wasn't Sayako," Santa muttered with a slight blush.
"True, she was a bit more... public with her murders," Kirie agreed.
Santa sighed despondently and began to swish his straw around in his frozen coffee drink as everyone continued to go on about the case. He tried to cling to the good memories with Sayako but he couldn't ignore everything she had done when she had those evil spirits clinging to her. Kuroumaru noted his downcast mood and leaned in close to whisper to her friend.
"Santa-kun... are you sure you're okay with investigating these things with us? It can't be easy."
"I'm... You're right. It's not. But I want to help... I... I need to do this."
Kuroumaru gently smiled and nodded. "Right, okay."
"Well, let's look at what we do know," Karin started. "There are six known cases of mysterious female missing persons following the same patterns in roughly the past one hundred years- even before Sayako was a student here and the only reason we were able to stumble upon these cases is because the most resent one just so happen to occur during one of Sayako's rampages..."
"In each case there was always a mysterious spike in accident reports in the school database," Santa continued. "Most minor but some much more serious. There has been three deaths during the time of the vanishings but were all ruled accidental.
The last incident happened sixteen years ago. fifteen year old Inou Hana was reported missing after failing to appear in class for three days. This all happened shortly after her roommate publicly died of a fatal allergic reaction to peanuts that were, for some unexplained reason, found mixed into her self-made bento lunch."
"Suspicious," Kirie noted. "Any chance Hana was involved?"
"It's hard to say... There is a teacher who is still on staff from when it happened. We can ask him if he remembers anything strange about that time," Karin said with a sigh. "I hate to get civilians involved with our investigation though. But he's the best lead we have so far since this is a cold case. I'll talk to him tomorrow and see what I can find out. Ikku, I want you to compare police and school reports and see if you can find any more connections with the reported accidents and the missing students. It's too coincidental to not be related. Santa, run detailed background checks on each of the missing students as well as those that were close to them. See if you can find a connector. Kirie, since two of the victims were last seen in the female dorm room we will investigate those in the morning before class. Kuroumaru, I want you to investigate the disappearances that happened in the east wing of the school and Touta I want you to look into the ones that happened on the common school grounds."
Everyone nodded in agreement with their given tasks.
"Well, I suppose that's all we can do for the day. We'll meet up here again after school with our progress," Karin finished as she grabbed her school bag and threw it over her shoulder.
"So... we're done," Kuroumaru asked as he checked the time. It was still fairly early. Hitomi and the others should have only gotten to the yakitori restaurant about fifteen minutes ago according to the time she gave him.
"There's nothing more we can do that can't wait until tomorrow. There's no indication of an impending repeat threat as of now so there's no reason we shouldn't all enjoy the rest of our evening... Though this is still a serious matter that needs to be resolved promptly."
"Yeah yeah. This is awesome," Touta said as he jumped up. "The nights still young. Kuroumaru, Santa- want to hit the arcade before it closes?"
"Sure," Santa replied. "Sounds good to me. It would help to get my mind off of things."
"Let's go then," Touta said excitedly.
"A-actually," Kuroumaru interjected before he let himself get dragged away. "If the two of you wouldn't mind I've actually been invited to hang out with some students I met today at school. So..."
"What? Kuroumaru, are you serious," Touta asked, looking slightly disappointed. Kuroumaru started to worry for a moment that he had upset him and thought that he was choosing these new acquaintances over him. Thankfully though Touta's expression soon changed to an energetic smile that Kuroumaru was more accustomed to. "That's great! Look at you. Making friends," he said as he patted Kuroumaru on the back roughly.
"I-It's not like that Touta-kun. They're just wanting to thank me for helping them out today during club time."
"What are you talking about? Hanging out after school? You guys sound like good buddies to me."
"Who are these new friends of yours Kuroumaru-kun," Ikku asked curiously with a pleasant smile.
"Oh...um. Well, there's Hitomi, Holly, Reika, Chloe, and Yuna who are our upper classmen. Doki-chan who is in some of my classes and Ayumi-chan who is a grade below."
"Girls," Ikku asked with both surprise and growing excitement. "Your new friends are a bunch of girls? Some of them are popular upperclassmen too!"
"Dang Kuroumaru. I didn't know you were such a player," Touta laughed.
"What! I am not," Kuroumaru shouted defensively. "It's not like that at all! It's just a friendly get together. Really..."
"Kuroumaru," Ikku said as he took his hands in his with a serious expression.
Kuroumaru felt his cheeks heat up and flush a little bit as Ikku gazed intensely at him.
"Wh-what is it Ikku-san?"
"... Take me with you."
Kuroumaru ripped his hands away. "No! Besides it would be rude for me to bring unexpected guests that they weren't acquainted with."
"Please, I'll do your homework for a week. A month even!"
"You're impossible. I'm leaving," Kuroumaru said as he turned on his heels and began to walk down the street.
"Have fun with your new friends buddy," Touta called out with Santa waving bye next to him.
Thankfully Kirie was there to keep Ikku from following as she pulled at his ponytail roughly and started to chide him about his shameful ways. Kuroumaru sighed as he continued onward.
The seven members of the music club sat around the grouped tables in the Yakitori restaurant together. They were still waiting on their food orders but they had since received their drinks and were chatting idly.
"Hey Reika," Ayumi said from across the table as she blew the paper off her straw in her direction. It was far off target and fluttered pathetically toward Holly instead before landing in the middle of the table. "Aw man," she hummed in disappointment.
"That was pathetic Ayumi," Reika said with a smile as she prepared her own straw in retaliation. "You're can't bunch up the paper so much before you do it. It should be like this," she said as she blew on her straw and sent the paper flying directly at Ayumi and hit her in the face who laughed happily afterwards.
"Really," Doki sighed. "You two are so immature. We're in public."
"Oh, chill out Doki. She's still young. Let her have her fun," Reika responded.
"And what's your excuse," Holly laughed.
"She reminds me of my little brother. I can't help but indulge her! She's so cute."
"Hitomi," Ayumi said excitedly as she noticed she has yet to open her own straw. "Can I have your straw, please?"
Hitomi smiled as she passed her unused straw over a silent Yuna to Ayumi who accepted it with a quick thanks.
"Okay, I'm going to try again Reika. Watch this," Ayumi said as she prepared her ammunition. She blew the paper in Reika's direction again this time sending it flying over her target's shoulder.
"Hey, that was much better. We just have to work on your aim now."
Chloe closed her compact mirror she was using to check her makeup looked and checked the time. She turned to Holly who was seated next to her and sighed.
"Hmmm, darn. It looks like Kuroumaru-kun isn't coming. You did send him the time and place, right Holly?"
"Of course I did! But he did say he had other plans tonight. He probably... just couldn't make it."
"That's unfortunate," Hitomi said with a sigh. "He seemed to be pretty cool too..."
"There he is," Yuna said quietly as she saw Kuroumaru walk through the door across the room.
"More like pretty cute," Holly laughed as she playfully nudged Hitomi with her foot under the table.
"Well... I wasn't going to say it first but..."
"He's walking this direction," Yuna continued quietly as she returned a soft wave from Kuroumaru when he caught sight of her.
"He's so feminine though," Chloe said with a faint blush. "With those looks and that hair I can hardly believe that he's a boy."
"Right," Doki agreed with a deep blush. "Even still he is super attractive... And you should see him when he plays sports. He's strong and athletic too."
"And very attractive," Holly reiterated with a nod.
"And he's so nice too. Is this what you guys call 'the whole package'," Ayumi questioned as she placed her hands over her burning cheeks.
"Umm..." Yuna muttered.
"Hello everyone," Kuroumaru said as he seemingly appeared from nowhere. Well, to everyone but Yuna. "I'm so sorry I'm late."
The group of girls all screamed out in surprise and turned to Kuroumaru who reeled back a bit from their loud outburst but was still smiling at them sweetly.
"Kuroumaru-kun! When did you get here," Hitomi questioned with a beat red blush.
She was really hoping he didn't overhear their private girl-talk. Thankfully it was loud tonight with a bunch of other students clamoring about and Kuroumaru showed no signs of hearing anything.
"I just arrived... Yuna saw me walk in."
"Yuna," Holly shouted and turned to her friend. "Why didn't you say anything?"
Yuna looked down and blushed softly. "I did... multiple times."
"Doesn't matter," Ayumi shouted happily. "Kuroumaru-senpai, sit by me."
Ayumi pushed the chair Doki was sitting in away from her and down the table. Doki let out a squeal of surprised and grasped the edge of her chair as she was suddenly repositioned. Ayumi then grabbed an unused chair from a table behind her and placed it between her and Doki, who had to move to the edge of the table with an annoyed huff. After Kuroumaru's place was set she patted the seat of the chair, inviting him to sit.
"Ah... okay," Kuroumaru said as he sat down next to Ayumi.
"We were getting worried. I'm glad you could make it," Hitomi said.
"I finished up with my friends early so I headed right over. I'm glad I could make it as well."
"You mean Touta-kun, right Kuroumaru-kun," Doki asked. "Your other friend?"
"Hmmm, yes and a few others. How did you know Doki-chan?"
"Well, he's all I've ever really seen you with so I just assumed."
"Oh," Kuroumaru laughed awkwardly. He supposed that was true. The only time he talked with the other classmates was when Touta initiated the conversations.
The waitress appeared and took Kuroumaru's drink and dinner order after providing the others with their food. They all began to eat their meals and although Kuroumaru protested they all forced him to take some of their food to tide him over until his plate arrived in the proceeding few minutes. While eating they all chatted casually about school and a difficult school project the upper classman had to do that was causing them problems. Reika quickly exclaimed that that was the last thing she wanted to talk about and shifted the conversation toward the band.
"So... How long have you guys been playing," Kuroumaru asked.
"Well, we've only started our band since the beginning of the school semester but most of us have been playing music most of our lives," Hitomi explained.
"And how did you all get together then? Have you known each other long?"
"Holly and I have. We've been best friends ever since we little bitty and lived in New York. We had the same music instructor you see and that's where we met. So a couple of years ago my mom received a promotion to here in the capitol and relocated us. She used to also go to this school when she was young as well and was excited that I would be going to her alma mater."
"And I couldn't stand the thought of Hitomi moving away and abandoning me so I convinced my parents," Holly added but was interrupted by Hitomi.
"More like threw a month long tantrum!"
"Convinced my parents with calmdignity," Holly emphasized. "To let me become a foreign exchange student here and be sponsored by Hitomi's family."
"That's really sweet," Kuroumaru said with a smile.
"And we have always tossed around the idea of starting a band," Hitomi began to explain again. "And everything just fell into place when we got here. Holly is an amazing piano player and aspiring song writer and I've always had a dream of becoming a famous singer across earth and space. I also do all my choreography for my dancing-"
"What you do is not dancing," Chloe sneered.
"No one asked you Chloe," Hitomi pouted. "It's a work in progress but it's getting there... But I digress. I also have a good ear for talent and I'm the one who recruited all these wonderful people that are here now.
First I scouted Yuna who was participating in a summer music program with a jazz ensemble. She was by far the most talented player so afterwards I grabbed her and convinced her to join up. Then there was Doki. I kind of picked her based on intuition. I saw her walking to the dorms with a guitar case one day and invited her to play with us after school. She said she wasn't that good but it turned out I was right on the nose and she blew me away. Though she says otherwise she's an amazing guitar player!"
Doki blushed at the high praise she was receiving. "I'm not really that good."
"Shut up. Yes you are. And Ayumi. Ah, my dear sweet sweet Ayumi. I found her while she was causing a ruckus during lunch time. She was using two butter knives and was just banging on everything she could get her hands on! It actually sounded pretty darn good, all considering. Even though she was so much younger I was still curious at what she could do so I sat her down in front of some drums and let her have at it. Turns out she was a natural and with a bit of direction from Holly she quickly became quite skilled for someone her age."
"And we joined up because the fashion club is super lame," Chloe interjected. "It's just a bunch of sitting around and looking at magazines for an hour. I like the idea of using my skills as a stylist at some point and when I heard Holly talking about their plans for her band to play at the upcoming festival I knew it was my chance."
"And she dragged me along," Reika added.
"And I dragged Reika along," Chloe repeated with a smile.
"You going to be playing at a festival," Kuroumaru questioned with interest.
"Yeah, I've already signed us up," Holly acknowledged. "That's why I got permission to use club time so we could get as much practice in as we could before we perform."
"Wow, you guys are amazing. And you sounded great when practicing today. I'm sure you'll all do a fantastic job."
"We still have a lot of work to do," Hitomi said. "Speaking of which. Guys we need to settle on a name. We left it blank of the form but we need to email them it soon so they can announce us on stage."
"Chunky Monkeys," Ayumi said with a shout.
"What? No! Be serious."
"What's with the animal fixation? No."
"Like, the heavy metal thorium of the periodic table," Kuroumaru asked.
"Yeah! And it was named after Thor: The god of Thunder. How cool is that?"
"That... actually is kinda cool," Hitomi agreed.
"Oh! And for our written name we can just use the periodic symbol 'Th'. with '90' written underneath it"
"Too geeky and only a few people would get it," Chloe chimed. "We're not even a heavy metal band so it doesn't make sense."
"At least Ayumi's trying Chloe. What do you have," Reika questioned.
"I've never been very clever at naming things," she admitted. "I think things like Allure or Glamour sounds good but I know it doesn't fit this band's style at all."
"How about Cashmere then? I love that fabric," Reika said. "So very very soft."
"Confectionery Delight..." Doki said quietly with a deep blush.
"So many no's," Hitomi said with a sigh. "And we're getting off track. We need a name that unifies us as a group. Not just one person's interests."
"Well, what kind of 'group' are you guys? If you can define it maybe a name will come easier that way," Kuroumaru offered.
"Well we... all love music," Hitomi said thoughtfully. "I mean, it's what brought us all together, right?"
"Which I am thankful for," Ayumi sighed. "They only other interaction I get at school is everyone yelling at me for some stupid reason or another. Apparently I'm too 'uncultured' for my classmates."
"And Hitomi and I are co-dependent on each other and are overly exclusive. At least we are now finally letting people into our group of two."
Hitomi nodded in agreement. "What about you Doki?"
"Me? Oh... I- I can never think of anything good to say."
"Self-esteem issues," Holly sighed.
"And Yumi," Hitomi asked.
Yumi said nothing as she cast her gaze away and took a drink from her straw.
"... Okay pass, and Chloe?"
"Apparently I'm seen as a stuck up bitch. Which isn't true."
Reika mouthed 'it's true' to Kuroumaru and nodded in affirmation while Chloe had her back turned away. Kuroumaru smiled a bit at what he knew was her just kidding... he presumed.
"I think I'm the only well-adjusted one here," Reika sighed as she shrugged. "I'm such an outcast," she facetiously lamented.
Kuroumaru laughed. "You're making yourselves all sound like a bunch of black sheep."
Holly's eyes lit up as she shot up from the table. "That's it!"
"What's 'it'," Doki asked.
"Black Sheep. I love it!"
Hitomi placed a finger on her chin in thought and began to sing 'Black Sheep' in different tones. "Hmmm... Yeah, it does have a nice ring to it, doesn't it? And it has that animal thing Ayumi was pushing for. Okay, let's put it to a vote. All those in favor of Black Sheep raise your hands."
"I can back that. It has the nice teenage angst fringe to it," Chloe said as she raised her hand; followed by Reika, Doki, and Yuna.
"I do like Thorium more," Ayumi said with a smile. "But Black Sheep fits us much better." She raised her hand.
"Kuroumaru-kun," Hitomi asked as she turned to him.
"We need a full vote Kuroumaru-kun."
"Oh! Uh... okay," he acknowledged and rose his hand to add his vote to the pool.
"Okay! It's settled then. We are officially Black Sheep," Hitomi said as she stood and raised her glass.
The others cheered and stood with Hitomi to raise their own glass as well. Kuroumaru felt a bit awkward as he was pulled up by Ayumi to join in with the celebration.
"Hey Kuroumaru," Holly said excitedly. "You should join our band!"
"What now," Kuroumaru questioned with a bead of sweat running down his head.
"Great idea Holly," Hitomi exclaimed. "Kuroumaru would make a great addition to Black Sheep.
"Isn't this... a girl band though?"
"We'll make an exception for you. It's not like you'd be up on stage with us or anything."
"What would I even do? I have nothing to offer you guys," Kuroumaru said with a sigh.
"Are you kidding," Holly said. "Every band needs a number one-"
"Groupie," Holly and Hitomi shouted in unison.
"What!? No way," Kuroumaru blushed and shook his head emphatically 'no'.
"We could also use your help toting around equipment and setting things up," Holly continued.
"I like that idea. I like it a lot," Ayumi agreed since it was the job she was stuck with since even though she was the smallest member she was also the strongest, but that equipment gets heavy fast.
"I see how it is. You just want me for the grunt work..."
"That's not true Kuroumaru-kun," Hitomi said reassuringly. "You've only been with us a day and you've already helped us so much. I think I speak for all of us that it feels like you're already a part of our group."
"But I'm already a part of the athletic club. I can't just up and switch," Kuroumaru muttered, hopeful that it would detour them.
"The semester is still early. Students switch clubs all the time. I can have the paper work all set up and ready to go for you tomorrow," Holly said. "What do you say?"
Kuroumaru shifted uncomfortably. He wasn't expecting this proposition and was fumbling as he was put on the spot. He didn't really hold any kind of loyalty to the athletic club to speak of it just made sense that it would be the one he would sign up with. The members were nice enough he supposed but he was already on more friendly terms with these girls that he had met today. Kuroumaru groaned as he realized that he was actually considering their offer.
"How about this. Join us until our performance at the festival is done. If you want to go back to the athletic club, which you won't, because you're going to find that rocking with us was the best decision you have ever made, you're free to do so."
"Okay okay. But this is just a trial basis until the festival," Kuroumaru clarified."No promises that I'll stay on."
"Deal," Hitomi shouted as she raised her glass again. "Another toast!"
"Here here," Chloe shouted as she lead the others with a cheer as everyone raised their glasses again in celebration to their new member.
After they were finished with dinner everyone headed their separate ways and Kuroumaru started to make his way back to his dorm room where he bet Touta and Santa were currently locked in a video game battle. Although he had his apprehensions about tonight (which were well founded considering the unexpected turn in the end) it was surprisingly fun. The girls of the newly named band Black Sheep all seemed friendly, quirky, and they welcomed into their group very enthusiastically.
Hitomi was obviously the face of the group and takes charge of the band but it seemed that Holly was the driving force behind the scenes and made sure things got done. Doki appears to be the most mature of the group and takes everything more seriously than the others. Kind of like Karin although much sweeter, Kuroumaru thought with a smile. He didn't know what to think of Yuna yet. She doesn't really talk much and just seems to be along for the ride, but maybe she's just shy? The complete opposite of Ayumi. She's a bundle of energy, like Touta when he's hyped. Scary thought. Chloe was... interesting to say the least. Sometimes she seemed really nice and other times she had a harsh straightforwardness with her words. Kuroumaru thought he liked Reika the most so far. She was nice all around and seemed easy going. She has to be to be such close friends with Chloe he supposed...
His analysis came to an end as he came to the door leading to the room that he shared with Touta and Santa. He opened the door to the room that was dimly illuminated by the TV screen that hung over the bed.
As expected Kuroumaru found Touta and Santa locked in digital battle when he arrived to his dorm room. They were playing an online battle game with other online players and Santa, as usual, had the upper hand and was currently decimating the competition. Touta seemed to be holding his own up until he noticed Kuroumaru.
"Hey, Kuroumaru," Touta said excitedly as he turned from the screen. "You're back later than expected. You must have been having fun."
"Touta-niichan," Santa shouted has he continued to be wrapped up in his game. "Enemies are flanking. Watch your six. Your six!"
"Player Touta is eliminated. Game Over," came a deep voice from the screen.
"Aww man... That was my last life," Touta whined as he dropped his controller.
"Thanks a lot newb. Now I have to take out these guys solo," Santa complained as he took out five enemies at once with a rocket launcher.
"I think you'll be fine without me," Touta replied with a smile. "So... Kuroumaru, how was it?"
"It was fun. Everyone is really nice. You'd like them. Next time I'll see about bringing you around."
"I'd like that a lot. Any friend of Kuroumaru is a friend of mine!"
"I thought you'd say something like that Touta-kun," Kuroumaru said with an affectionate smile. "You remind me of those cheesy anime protagonists that has to become friends with everyone they meet- even the villain. You're going to beat someone up someday and then win them over with a friendship speech, aren't you?"
"Nah, forcing them to sign a friendship contract works wa~ay better if I do say so myself."
Kuroumaru blinked a few times before covering his mouth and letting out a feminine giggle. "I suppose it does."
"Let's see. How would that work anyway..." Touta said as he surprised Kuroumaru and yanked him to the bed. "We will be friends!" He shouted as he dropped his elbow into Kuroumaru's side.
"Ow, T-touta-kun! What are you doing," Kuroumaru shouted in shock.
"You will like me," he said as he threw his leg over Kuroumaru to where he was straddling him and began to throw not so gentle mock punches that Kuroumaru easily blocked. "Don't try to resist my friendship!"
"No, I don't want to be friends with you! You're weird and don't wash your clothes regularly," Kuroumaru said as he landed a hit on Touta's jaw sending him flying back.
Kuroumaru rolled over and began to crawl towards Santa who was starting to look annoyed as he played his game.
"What are you idiots doing," Santa deadpanned.
"Santa-kun... help me. Touta-kun's gone crazy..."
"By the power of friendship," Touta shouted as he shot over the bed and tackled both Kuroumaru and Santa, sending his controller flying into the air.
"Agh, no," Santa yelped as he was pulled into the childish scuffle.
The three thrashed around the small bed punching and kicking each other in their violent play, all while Touta threw out cheesy friendship one liners. If it wasn't for the fact that they were immediately healing after each blow they easily would be black and blue the next morning as they gave rough housing a new meaning.