Chapter 11 – ‘This month,’

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<– side story 1

                “Are you sure it’s okay?”

                “Yes, yes, please come in!”

                “We don’t want to intrude…”

                “You’re not, I promise. I’m the one inviting you!”

                The club room sat in a separate facility away from the main school building. Occupied mostly by clubs that don’t require a specialized room or equipment to store. Pretty much anything that wasn’t a sport. And that included the club Lilly and Rea were invited to visit now after school.

                “I didn’t know you were in a club. The room… is a bit…”

                ‘Old,’ Rea. The word you’re looking for is ‘old.’

                It’s an accurate description. A few cracks along the ceiling and walls were but a small piece of evidence regarding its age. Every step produced a creak on the wooden floor. The sparse décor made the room look even larger. The only things that seem to be in regular use were the long rectangular table, metal chairs, and a bookshelf, but even the shelf has its own small private collection of dust. To be fair, there was a large extension of the room that housed what appeared to be gardening equipment. A few pots hang from the ceiling, and soil scoop shovels litter the desks in that area. But it looks like it hasn’t been touched in years.

                “Oh that? That’s from the old Botany Club, but they disbanded a long time ago. Apparently they used to take care of the flowerbed in the back of the school,” Ayase explained.

                She stepped forward to the center of the room, and does a spin while stretching out her arms.

                “Welcome to our Refuge of Recluses! Our Center of Chaos! The Headquarters of Hell! This is the Society of Occult Literature!” Ayase wore her pride in the dingy club room like a badge.

                “S.O.L.?” Lilly asked.

                “Or S.O.O.L.” Rea added.

                “It doesn’t matter,” Ayase flatly retorted. “Ah, here’s the club president now!” She pointed to someone behind Lilly and Rea, directing their attention to them.

                “H-hello,” Megumi said. Wait, Megumi is in a club. And she’s the president?

                “What a surprise, Megumi, I didn’t know you were into this kind of stuff,” Lilly said.

                “M-hmph.” Megumi walked past the three others and had her seat at the table, a window letting in orange sunlight gave her an ambient glow. There it is, Lilly thought, I thought the room was missing something. “P-please don’t mind me,” Megumi said as she took out a stationery and book. ‘Ghosts and Ghouls and Where to Find Them.’ Who would have thought?

                Rea joined Megumi at the table. “Wow, you never told me about this!” She proceeded to strike up a conversation with the shyer girl, one-sided as it is. They simultaneously pushed their glasses up with their finger. Cute.

                Lilly talked to Ayase. “You too, I never pegged you as the occult-loving type.”

                “Naturally,” said Ayase, “for me, it comes with the job description. Although, it is like knowing the answer to a riddle before it’s given to you.” There was that wink again.

                Lilly exhaled an ‘hmph’ sound and folded her arms. Don’t be so smug about it.

                The door behind them swings wider open, and then a loud knock. Everyone followed the sound.

                Their brown hair sat at shoulder length. Curves and proportions well set and in all the right places. Green eyes like jade marble. A thick mature aura exuded from them like armor. If this happened to be a time traveling Ayase from the future, everybody in the room would believe it, but in reality there’s a simpler explanation for the identity of the beauty who descended upon this lowly club room.

                “Hello, Sis,” Ayase greeted her sister.

                “Hey,” said Ayane, her tone indicating that she was here for business. “Showing your seniors your club?”

                “Mmm,” Ayase submissively nodded. Her body language folded inward. It was like Ayane flipped a switch on Ayase. Frightening for sure, to have such power over one’s little sister. Wait… if Ayase works for that organization thing, then does Ayane…

                As if she heard that thought, Ayane directed herself to Lilly. Keeping that cold glare. Lilly froze.

                “Has my sister been of any trouble to you?” Ayane asked.

                “Eh? Um, n-not at all!” Catching Lilly off guard, she stuttered her reply. Was she ever this scary?

                “I see. That’s good.” Ayane lightened up, letting her shoulders loosen. If one used a magnifying lens they may see a hint of a grin. “I just wanted to check on all of you, that’s all.” Satisfied, she left the room, but not before strictly telling Ayase to not stay out too late, despite having club activities. And also not before giving Lilly an assuring nod. Whatever that meant. And just like that, Ayane left as quickly as she entered.

                Ayase uneasily laughed, trying to brush away the odd exchange. Megumi had already lost interest and went back to what she was doing, whatever it was, and Rea continued to talk her up a storm. Lilly felt a tap on the shoulder.

                “So, what do you think of our humble little club?”

                “What? Yeah, sure.”

                “It’s quiet since it’s just me and Megumi, but that can be fun on its own too.”

                “Yeah I bet.”

                “For the next festival, we wanted to do a haunted house. It’d be a tough undertaking since it’s such a big project and we don’t have very many members.”

                “Oh, good luck then.”

                Ayase, exasperated, took it in stride.

                “You know, I was hoping you’d come to asking to join our club on your own. You’re not attuned to picking up on hints are you?”

                Huh? “Why?” Lilly said, not meaning to be rude, just simply out of curiosity.

                “The club could use a few more members. There is a vice president, but he never comes to meetings. I think it’d be good for Megumi too, since you guys are good friends. Plus, it’d be easier to keep track of you two.” It would be redundant to mention she winked again, but she did. What kind of underclassman is this?

                “Hmm, I’m not sure.” As a proud member of the Going Home Club, everyday Lilly looked forward to retreating back home after that school bell rang. Also it’s October, it’d be so late into the year to join a club now. But the idea of a literature club did seem enticing, especially since the members were all people she already knew. Anticipating her hesitation, Ayase motioned over to the bookshelf, and started advertising the different books on display with several ‘Ooos’ and ‘Aahs.’

                Ignoring her bit, Lilly called out to Rea, still at the table. “What do you think, Rea? Do you want to join this club?”

                Rea put a finger on her lip and thought it over. A bit of a wasted gesture since she came to her answer immediately. “If you do it I will! Plus Megumi’s here too!” For emphasis, she hugged Megumi like a newly won carnival prize. Megumi reacted like how Megumi would.

                “I guess that’s that,” Lilly said to Ayase, who was delighted by the results. “We’ll take advantage of your offer, please take of us.” Lilly bowed. “In the context of the club, you’re our senior, right?”

                Ayase waved her hand to dismiss that idea. “No, that’s not necessary! Moreover, I’m happy you’re going to be members! I have a feeling this will be an interesting year.” In no way could Lilly disagree with that sentiment.

                And with that, a week from the arcade incident, Lilly and Rea submit their resignation from the Going Home Club, and right away became new members of the Society of Occult Literature. A month passed since their joining. And what happened in that month was nothing short of unbelievable.

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<– side story 1

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