The Midnight Channel
Okina City is something of a misnomer. A shopping district erected around a highly successful train station otherwise situated in the middle of nowhere, it boasts easy and fast routes through many cities. The transit service is so good that some delinquent students can skip some classes, come here for a while, and get back before school ends.
Surrounded by large multi-story strip malls as far as the eye can see, with benches and fountains along the way to offer places to relax, Okina City has a lot to offer whether you're an overseas immigrant going to Lunarvale, a carrier of the latest gossip from Sumaru, a Port Island tourist, or a simple country resident of Inaba. Okina City attracts all sorts of people from all walks of life.
Many stories and paths begin, diverge, and end here. Like a fool's choice to reach out towards the world through its many challenges and detours, perhaps you will have a story of your own to tell from here... the odds of you never setting foot here in your life are very slim, indeed.
Okina. Hotspot for students without the means to take fancy summer vacations, or otherwise travel extensively. Students like Fumiya Watanabe tend to kill a lot of time at Okina's various facilities, especially when you know how to make a small amount of money last as long as possible. In Fumiya's case, he goes wild at the arcade. Despite his affinity for 80's media, he's not too shabby at modern DDR games. Ninety percent of the skill in those comes from not being embarassed at looking like a damn fool, something Fumiya excels at.
Right now he's leaving the train station, having gotten off the most recent one from Inaba. Hands in his pockets, and a walkman playing quietly in his ears, he leans up against the wall and slyly observes the passing teenage girls from behind his sunglasses. The arcade isn't going anywhere just yet, he can kill a bit of time.
Not feeling embarassed about looking like a damn fool?
Man, it's like Yosuke and Fumiya are brothers. He's just off his, uh, summer school classes /shut up/ it's not like he isn't trying now--and..well, he doesn't want to hang around Junes to watch a billion SEES pour into the TV for no readily explicable reason. It's cool. Not like he cares that they're totally taking over again.
So, this leaves The Guy Who Knows A Bunch of Girls walking past The Guy Who Wants More Girls, Yosuke only giving Fumiya a passing glance as he walks by. Perhaps he is stoppable. Or some such. It is a possibility.
Despite his previous statements that he was going to spend a little more time in Sumaru, at least through summer vacation, Hideo couldn't bring himself to keep to the big city for another month. Certainly not when he'd found a little bakery in Okina which made the best cupcakes on his last excursion and he had a hankering for delicious baked goods this morning.
He arrived an hour or so before Fumiya and is, in fact, on his way TO the train station. In each hand is a large, unmaked bag, as one might get from a store not quite large enough to warrant getting custom ones printed, and in his mouth is a cupcake so large it could be called a muffin. He appears to have let impatience get the best of him and is trying to eat it as he walks, despite not actually having a hand free to push it into his mouth. It's a little like watching a bird scarf down a fish, except Hideo's choice of pastry isn't really meant for dropping effortlessly down one's gullet.
Some of the stores at Okina City aren't /too/ bad, and you can even score a few incredible deals if you look in the right places. More importantly, it's a change of pace from wandering around Sumaru. Summer vacation really was the worst, sometimes. Most of her friends are off on vacation, and the ones who are home are usually tied up with summer school/part-time work/what have you. And of course her dad worked late, like always.
At least being out alone somewhere different was better than being home alone.
Judging from her lack of shopping bags, Miwa hasn't actually spent any money yet today. Currently, she's passing by the train station, apparently having arrived at Okina much earlier. Her attention, for the moment, is apparently elsewhere; she doesn't notice her junior making a damn fool of himself with a cupcake.
Fumiya watches Yosuke walk by, and his lip curls into a slight frown. Doesn't he look familiar? In his mind he can visualize the events of a few days ago, where Michiru-babe sent him to pay for the meal of a couple. The other babe's name was Fumika, and as for the dude.... Fumiya can't recall the face at first. A black circle with a '?' in the center occupies the spot where the head would be. But, after a few seconds of concentrating on Yosuke's face it fades away and he remembers. It /was/ him, huh. Still, Fumiya is ready to leave well enough alone (Yosuke is not a hot babe, after all) until he remembers that Thora seemed to be awfully familiar with him. Maybe he's involed... in /that/?
"Hey bro, hang on a sec." Fumiya calls out to Yosuke, pushing himself off the side of the wall he was leaning on and striding over to him. Hopefully Yosuke won't be too put off by the sight of more neon fabric that has any right to exist at once flying towards him. "You're the dude from the other day right? The Junes guy? Hanamura?"
He barely notices Hideo's arrival out of the corner of his eye, but doesn't recognize him immediately due to his potentially lethal case of pastery-face. Miwa is also noticed, due to the virtue of being a babe, but Fumiya fights off the urge to go and immediately hit on her. For now. He makes no promises about later though.
Hanamura is involved in a thing with Thora? Oh /god/, I--
OH. That's what you mean. Right. Anyway, the Brosuke, in addition to abiding, turns around to face the neon man, pausing a moment.
"Y-..yeah. Yeah, I'm...the...Yeah. I'm Yosuke. You were that guy when I was talking with Rumika, right?" Of course, that raises the possibility he'll have to explain why he was 'dating' a girl who was about to seriously bust out a Persona because Thora was within a mile of him, but it just wouldn't be a Yosuke day unless everything went wrong. "...So, I--"
His train of thought, designed to derail the conversation away from the terrifying reality of impending information dump, is interrupted by a giant cupcake muffin.
"Damn, man, you're gonna CHOKE on that."
Fumiya may not recognize Hideo, but the boy from Sumaru certainly recognizes the boy lost in time. He'll just... pretend he didn't see him, though. That Fumiya talks so fast and in such outdated jargon that Hideo can't possibly keep up.
His escape route is cut off when Yosuke is dragged into the mix, however. "Dff hrrfh," he says around his mouthful of delicious pastry. "Hhh khhn kukhhrh khf jhhz." He opens his mouth a little wider and jerks his head forward an inch, successfully getting a little bit more pastry into his mouth. There's still a lot to go, though.
While she's not native to the area, Yukino Mayuzumi is someone who likes to travel around and visit new places. So it's no surprise that she's here in Okina, albeit dressed in her school uniform. It's almost like her trademark uniform, namely because of how she's modified it to her own 'tough' style.
The girl walks out of the subway station, her arms folded as she generally is, and looks around a little, taking in the general scenery and the people. She doesn't recognize anyone, although someone might recognize her.
Shirou grunts a bit as he gets off the train, as it may just be the one Fumiya was on... and by the looks of it he was probably /avoiding/ the '80's kid. He's a bit... preoccupied today, a troubled look on his face. If at all possible, it seems like he's stooping down ever /moreso/, grumbling a bit to himself.
Okay, stop right there. /What is that guy wearing/? Miwa's gaze has momentarily settled on Fumiya, before quickly darting away again. She's trying not to stare at him too much. It's hard not to, though; the senior's seen traffic lights less bright than his clothing. It's in looking away that she sees a rather familiar face: Aratami.
It must be fate, that they keep running into each other. Or something. She /almost/ wants to file it under 'bad luck', given the general trend of most of their encounters. But that would be unkind.
In fact, speaking of bad luck, he looks like he might be choking! Or close to it. "Aratami-kun?" She's stepped out of the general flow of pedestrian traffic, eying Hideo with definite concern. "Are you alright?"
"Yup, that's me. Fumiya Watanabe." The 80s Kid answers, because he loves saying his own name whenever he gets the chance. "Hey listen bro, I was wondering if I could ask..." He starts to say, but his train of thought is interupted by Yosuke's sudden attention to Hideo. Choke on what now?
Fumiya glances over towards the pastery-devouring guy and finally recognizes him. It's been awhile, but he's pretty sure of it. He's the guy that was there at Junes while he was putting the moves on that other babe. Since Fumiya hasn't seen him since, he guesses he's not from Inaba. But Okina is kind of a transportation hub, so it's not out of the question to see him again here. Huh.
He's about to speak up again, when he sees Shirou stepping off the platform. Wait, this could work. Both of these guys seem to know Thora really well, at least /one/ of them should have some information, right? "Hey Shibrou!" He calls out with a wave. "C'mere a sec!" No point in wasting time.
Grraahh... He's been spotted. Shirou glares a bit at Fumiya, before sighing and throwing up his hands a bit before heading on over. "Hey Watanabe-san... err, is that Hanamaru-sempai with you too?" He thinks he's one of those people that have been talking about the Midnight Channel, but who knows when it comes to interschool rumors...
"Nrr, nrr, hh fhng," Hideo says as Yosuke approaches. "Hsh jhsh hh wffh krr wrrj hrr mh mwhf." He waves his bag-laden hands at Yosuke, trying to pantomime that he's okay. The plea for him to spit out the cupcake gets a deflated expression in response from the Seven Sister student. "Brr hff gwhshhsh," he says sadly.
The sudden appearance of his new friend(?) Miwa prompts another 'I'm alright!' wave of his hands, followed by shuffling of his bags in his hands. "Khpkhhk?" he asks, holding one of them out to his upperclassman so that she can, if she so desires, take a cupcake from within. It's chocolate~
Meanwhile, Yuki continues to look at the other people, but doesn't say anything just yet. Instead, she keeps to herself for the time being. She sighs, trying to figure out where to go first.
Whew, Shirou's on his way over. Good. Now if Fumiya can sneakily bring up the subject of the TV world to see what information he can milk out of these two he'll consider this outing a great success. However, when he goes to raise it again he finds Yosuke has abandoned him to go check out the choking guy. Urk.
Fumiya clenches his fist, but tries to bury his loathing of being ignored and keeps his face sunny. He motions for Shirou to follow him and he heads off after Yosuke to check out Hideo as well. "Hey hey, is he alright?" He asks, peeking over Yosuke's shoulder. Yup, it's that guy alright. Though Miwa catches his eye for the second time and suddenly Fumiya abandons (briefly) his plan to get info out of his fellow Yasogami High students. "Hey babe. You know him too? What a coincidence. The name's Fumiya Watanabe, what brings you to Okina?"
Just a short, if awkward, diversion from his normal plan. It'll likely pass soon.
Well, if Hideo isn't going to choke, Yosuke's run out of options. He twists back around to BRIGHT NEON GUY RIGHT BEHIND HAAAAAAAA
So, Hanamura doesn't quite fall over, but he does stumble back a bit in surprised, turned around to face the brightly colored student.
"Man, how do you sneak up on a guy dressed like that? How do you *even do it*--" He says, flailing his arms around. "Anyway. What did you need from me?"
Fumiya, hitting on Miwa!? If anything's going to get Hideo choking, THAT will! The boy tries to shout, "Fhh!" when the terrible macking occurs, but only succeeds in getting some crumbs dropping down the wrong pipe when he does so and begins hacking and wheezing... with the cupcake lodged in his maw.
Meanwhile, Yuki has noticed the commotion and is getting closer, attempting to check out what's happening. It could be trouble, it could just be some youths having fun, but Yuki can be nosy at times, and attempts to check it out.
Shirou comes closer, standing with Hanamaru and Watanabe. He rubs the back of his neck, not looking exactly pleased with the whole situation. "Err... the hell do you want Fumiya? I gotta freaking headache today." Wow, /someone's/ grumpy.
When Fumiya addresses her, Miwa's gaze once again slides over his way, only to bid a hasty retreat. It's /awful/, what kind of person dresses like that? Plus... babe? Did he really just... oh dear. "Oh, ah... I'm just here to shop, Watanabe-kun." She's trying very hard to keep her expression and tone carefully mild. She can't keep her nose from wrinkling a little, though. Or look at him for very long without staring in disbelief.
As Miwa's own fashion choices might suggest, she's /very/ keenly interested looking good. Being a budding fashionista might explain her reaction, a little.
Her attention again shoots over Hideo's way as he begins to /really choke/. Her eyes widening, she asks again, "Aratami-kun? Do you need help? Are you choking?" Helplessly, she looks over Yosuke and Fumiya's respective ways. Do either of them know the Heimlich?!
Fumiya takes Miwa's disbelief at his choice of dress as adorible shyness. She's cute! And Hideo can't do much to protest with his mouth full of pastery. Time to put his classic moves on...
Crap, Shirou sounds impatient.
Sigh. It pains Fumiya to do this, it really does. But he'll just have to ignore the babes for one evening. He's been agonizing over getting some information on this for days now, he can't put it off. "Well don't let me or the choking wonder keep you from your shopping, Miwa-babe. Perhaps I'll see you around?" Fumiya says as pleasantly as he can manage before turning to face Yosuke and Shirou again.
"Sorry bros, got a little sidetracked there. Now, I just want a few minutes of your time." He pauses a moment to see their response, and to bounce ideas around in his head to figure out how exactly he's going to go about this.
"...A few minutes of my time?"
Yosuke straightens up a bit, chuckling. "...Hey, Shirou. You see this? The neon dude's got a part time job doling out surveys now." There's a chuckle from Hanamura, as he shakes his head.
"Ah, go ahead, man."
Shirou snerks a bit at Hanamura, nodding a little. "Right, right, fine, just a few minutes. It's new manga day, and if I miss my ... is that guy still choking?" He blinks a bit, rushing over to check on Hideo.
And he somehow manages to mess up Fumiya's plan once more. Bwahahah.
Hideo suffers in silence for a few moments as everyone pointedly ignores him now that he's wretching in place with a cupcake wedged in his mouth. Oooh, all of y'all are off his Christmas card list now. :|
He puts down the cupcake bags, pulls the half-eaten pastry out of his mouth and spends a few moments coughing loudly. "I'm alright, I'm alright!" the Seven Sisters student wheezes.
Finally, Yuki is too curious to stop watching. She steps towards the others and says, "Hey folks, what's going on? Anything wrong?" A sly smirk adorns the girl's face.
/Miwa-babe/? Miwa's raised a hand to cover her mouth, taken utterly aback by Fumiya's forwardness. She's heard about boys like this, but...! It's just as well he's taking his leave of her, she probably would have excused herself in a hurry, imperiled underclassman or no. Some people it just doesn't /do/ to be associated with. God, he probably has some skeevy reputation...
Rather noticeably, she moves on over, distancing herself from Fumiya and the other boys. It's just as well, they seem more interested in talking to each other anyway.
Also, Hideo is still choking.
She's about to, actually, go and thump him on the back (for once, who cares how it looks if he could be dying?) or something when he finally pulls the cupcake out of his mouth and starts wheezing. And talking. That's a good sign! ...It probably just means he's got a bit of cupcake in his lungs. "Are you sure?" She glances over at Yuki, at her approach, and smiles, a little nervously. "Oh, I think we're alright now, thank you!"
She looks back over at Hideo. He is okay, right?
Fumiya thinks over the events of the past few days. First there was that incident with the fire giant, he saw Thora's power, and that big foriegn guy get pushed into a TV by the goth chick. Thora told him that being thrown into the TV was used to murder people. Then he saw that same guy appear on TV saying a bunch of crap he didn't understand. It was probably the same 'Midnight Channel' he heard rumors of before. That's the best place to start.
Fumiya folds his arms, looking as serious as he can. "Well, y'see, I was wondering if you could tell me anything about that Midnight Channel rumor I've heard so much about? What do you know about it?" Fumiya asks, as straightforwardly as possible. Going by his outfit it's obvious the guy doesn't know much about subtlty. "I've just heard a few really weird things about it lately, y'know?"
Yosuke Hanamura has been asked about the Midnight Channel.
Judging from his facial expression, it would have pained Yosuke less to be punched in the stomach. "Ah-uh, the Midnight Channel, huh." He says, wincing a bit. "...Yeah, it's...a weird thing, huh. You know, that's kinda--" He looks around a bit. Evasive manuevers! EVASIVE MANEUVERS.
He twists to Miwa. "Hey, were you talking to me? I missed it in the sea of bright outfit." Yosuke does not always bring the subtlety, but hopefully, he's more ninja-like and smooth than Fumiya.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Hideo gasps at Yukino, Shirou and Miwa. "Just a little cupcake down the wrong pipe... you guys want one?" Still doubled over, he offers one of the bags to the assembled group. The cupcakes are all chocolate with miscellaneous colors of frosting and each larger than a cupcake has any right to be, although not quite large enough to be considered proper cakes in their own rights.
Something about television and disappearances catches Hideo's attention as whispered words drift across the wind. Now that he's got a bit of air in his lungs he leans conspiratorially towards the others. "Hey, what's going on in this thread?" he murmurs.
"Cupcake down the wrong pipe?" Yuki shakes her head and tsks. "They're tasty, I know, but you shouldn't wolf them down!" She chuckles and folds her arms.
Shirou returns since Hideo isn't /actually/ choking any more, just in time for Fumiya to lay all his cards on the table. He blinks a bit, scratching the back of his head a little. "Yeah, see... 's what I was hearing too. Like..." He starts to whisper conspiritorially, probably still loud enough for Yosuke to hear. "If you're on... you disapear, right? Well, there was Amagi-sempai, 'n even Thora...and then Kenji. It /can't/ be coincidence. No one's dumb enough to believe /that/... right?"
He's okay? Good, health class was right on that one: you can tell if someone's really choking or not by whether they can speak or breathe. "Oh, I was worried for a moment," the senior replies, before shaking her head again at the offered cupcake. "No, no, I'm all right, thank you."
Bits of the conversation, as much as those boys over there are trying to keep it down, have drifted over Miwa's way as well. Pretending to be paying attention to Hideo, she tries to surreptitiously listen in. Something about the disappearances, and there's also the mention of a 'Midnight Channel', and--
She almost jumps when Yosuke suddenly addresses her, certain for one panicked moment she'd been caught eavesdropping. Sure, sure Yosuke's smooth.
"Oh, ah..." she utters, trying to remember what she'd said to him, "Oh! I was wondering if you were a friend of Aratami-kun's."
Oh, what's this now? Shirou seems to know something about it after all? Fumiya would be pleased to hear that, if what he just said didn't totally confuse them. What? You appear on it and THEN you disappear? Fumiya wasn't checking it regularly or anything, but he doesn't recall seeing that big foriegn dude appearing before the goth chick threw him inside. Dang this is confusing!
Yosuke is very obviously trying to dodge the bullet, though, and Fumiya is having none of it. When Yosuke turns away from him, Fumiya turns with him, and even places his arm around his shoulder in a totally non-threatening manner (honest). "Yeah, it's a weird thing, bro. I've always wondered how people wind up on there to begin with. What's up with it? It's not some broadcaster prank or anything, right?"
Fumiya's grin is probably showing a few more teeth than it really needs to, but Fumiya's had enough trying to piece it together on his own, and Yosuke made the mistake of acting suspicious in the first place. But hey, as far as Fumiya knows at this point the Junes kid might actually be the /mastermind/.
Fumiya is invading Yosuke's personal space. Oh dear. He shifts a little, uncomfortably, as the guy starts talking again. "Man, how should I know? It works when the TV's off. That's kinda way out of the range of 'things they explain at Junes training', Fumiya." He chuckles a bit, shaking his head before looking back to Miwa.
"Nah, can't say I've ever seen the kid, pesronally."
"No, I don't know any of these guys, Saitou-sempai," Hideo tells Miwa. His gaze lingers on Fumiya for a moment, then he resumes spying on the Midnight Channel conversation. "So wait, the TVs here turn on when they're off? And people disappear?" He's really not good at this eavesdropping thing. Miwa may want to stop him from cutting in if she wants to hear anything useful.
Yuki stops suddenly, looking at Hideo and Fumiya. "Wait a second, I know you two." She looks at Hideo and says, "I think I saw you recently." She then turns to Fumiya and her smile disappears. "And I suppose you're still up to your womanizing ways?"
"Oh, all right. I thought you knew one another, that's all."
Oh, damn. So much for subtlety, Hideo's gone up and tried to insinuate himself into the conversation. Miwa's lips part, as she almost makes to tell him to back off, but the damage is done. Now she'll just have to hope they don't think she was listening in, as well.
Shirou just shrugs a bit, rubbing the back of his neck. "Sorry Fumiya... 's about all I know about it. I think Thora knows more, 'n 'm gonna ask her about it later... but if you think what /I/ think's true too..."
His face turns a bit grim. "Then I gotta go real fast. Great, that was a wasted train ride... talk to you guys later..." He bows out a bit, looking suddenly like a man on a mission
Fumiya frowns. Yosuke doesn't seem willing to say much more than this. Maybe it's because there's other people here. He could push him further, but he's not interested in causing a scene. Besides, if it gets back to Thora he tried to threaten a friend (acquaintence?) of hers for information on the very thing she told him to stay out of, well... He doesn't want to think about that.
Releasing Yosuke, Fumiya places his hands in his pants pockets, wondering what he should do next, when he spots Yukino. Geez, her and Aratami at once? Did the stars align or something? When she cuts right to the heart of the matter and brings up his womanizing ways, he just manages a proud smile. "I told ya before, love is a battlefield. Especially for us highschoolers."
With that, Fumiya seems to retreat at the same time as Shirou. Perhaps they're gunning for the same train. Though Fumiya quickly was up alongside him and says in a low voice, "Hey, don't tell Thora I was snooping into this, alright?"
Fumiya walks on ahead, not giving Shirou the chance to answer.
Hanamura phews a bit as he's let go. Well, that was...that was pretty close. Jeez. As Fumiya walks off, he takes a moment to look to the other people, with a bit of a pained smile.
"Look. The kid's an idiot. But I'll tell you guys what--do yourselves a favor, and don't look into the Midnight Channel crap. I know it's bad juju, and that's honestly as far--well, there were people who weren't really happy about my researching it the last time I tried. That's all I got to say on the matter."
He cracks his knuckles. He is sounding /mysterious/ tonight and he loves it.