Chapter 1

Emi Tanaka taps her pencil on her notebook as she stares off from her classroom window. Her teacher is giving a lecture about something though for all she cares, she’s not interested in listening. It is the first day of high school. This is an entirely new chapter for Emi and her close friends who she wished were around in her classroom. Thankfully, lunch break will be coming up after this and they’ll reunite just like they had in middle school. She loosens the tie on her uniform. “I can’t believe they require us to wear this.” she complains in her mind as she fumbles her legs under her desk. She’s not used to wearing tights under a skirt but then again, these dark navy blue skirts are kind of too short to just wear them without the risk of flashing one’s panties. On the other hand, Emi doubts that would be much a problem in an all girl’s school anyways. Maybe except for Chiara, a close friend of Emi. “Chiara would be a nervous wreck if that were the case.” Emi thought to her self amusingly as she grins a little. “She’s so innocent sometimes, it can be kind of cute.” After a few minutes she yawns a little as she fumbles her fluffy brown hair. Emi did not bother to straighten her hair like most of the other girls in her class. As far as Emi is concerned, it’s going to get messed up the moment she joins the school’s baseball club. At least, she hope there’s one. *Ding Dong Ding Dong* Emi eyes immediately focuses on the distant clock tower from the window. It’s distinctly Italian in architecture as is the majority of this school’s classrooms, dorms, and facilities. All of the students in the class rise up from their seats as the teacher gives out a few announcements before everyone heads out of the classroom including Emi. “Anzio’s Girl’s High School students are required to pick an elective so make sure to enroll in one before the end of the week.” Emi already knew that before class even started, for she thought she knew exactly what she was going to do for an elective. But none of that matters to her at the moment. She must reunite with her friends.

Anzio’s school cafeteria was packed with students of all grade levels. First years to third years, nobody wanted to miss out on this school’s most precious aspect: the food. Anzio Girl’s High School was well known for having some of the best cuisine in all of Japan. Sure enough, Emi was able to spot Hikari and Mai waiting in line with their trays. It was after all Mai’s suggestion that the four of them should enroll in Anzio High as it was not only close to their neighborhood but Mai was probably craving the food since she was in middle school. Despite her gluttonous aspirations, Mai is quite skinny, with bushy blonde hair. She’s a quiet girl but she’s not anxious like Chiara. Mai actually has confidence in herself and her abilities. She’s been cooking with her older sister for as long as Emi remembers and Mai insists on fine tuning her culinary skills by enrolling with Anzio. She’s also really chill and doesn’t like to speak loudly as she finds it wasteful.

Hikari on the other hand is anything but cool and collected. If something were to go seriously wrong, Hikari will fight to get her way until the very death as opposed to Chiara who would hide behind Emi. Mai often jokes about the fact that Hikari is pretty spoiled considering her wealthy upbringing and that seems to piss off Hikari quite a bit. You probably wouldn’t be able to guess they were even friends by how much they bicker and argue with each other. Usually Hikari would be the more dramatic of the two as Mai would keep her cool and laugh occasionally. She’s the smallest of the four and has her black hair in a short twin pony tail. She also tends to wear more makeup as she hopes guys might notice her and find her attractive. She’s a really good singer too. Even Mai could attest to that as much as she wouldn’t want to. But if there’s one thing that they can both agree on, it’s their love for Italian culture and food.

”Mai! Hikari! Make a spot for me will yah?” Emi calls out as she approaches the two girls waiting in line. Emi picks up a tray as she stands next to her friends.

”You know Emi, the others in line aren’t going to appreciate you cutting in front of them.” remarked Hikari as she made room for Emi to get in line. “It’s bad enough that Mai forced me to wait behind her.”

”Actually, I think it’s only fair I stand in line first.” May said with a smug attitude. “Enrolling in Anzio was my idea after all. I think I deserve to have a taste of their cuisine before any of you”.

Hikari scoffed as she then spoke to Emi directly. “We just need Chiara but I haven’t been able to see her around yet. She’s not hiding in her dorm is she?”

”I doubt it.” Emi replied. “She’s just as nervous as everyone else on their first day of class, but she’s not one to skip a class even if she was down with a cold. She’s gotta be around here somewhere.” Emi looked around until she spotted Chiara waiting in line at the very back. “Oh jeez, save my spot you two, I’m coming back.” Emi leaves her two friends behind as she walks towards Chiara. It was pretty easy to spot her from a distance. Her lush red hair and polite lonely posture was quite obvious to Emi. “She looks really adorable in her new uniform.” Emi noted to herself as she approached her. “Hey hey Chiara, what are you doing all the way back in line? Hikari and May are all ahead of you. We’ve missed you.”

Chiara gasps a little in surprised but was relieved to see it was her close friend Emi addressing her as she was dozing off a little while waiting in line. “Oh...Emi...I uh...I got out of class a little see...the teacher needed help and…”

”No worries about it, but the four of us have to stick together, you know that right? That was our plan.”

”Um….sorry...I was just...well…I didn’t know where I was going and I just followed the other students until I ended up here.”

”Hey, it’s no biggie. Come on, Hikari and May are holding our spots in line.” Chiara follows Emi as the two of them make their way up the line until they reunite with Hikari and May. A girl behind them clears her throat as Emi moves back to her spot. “Um...excuse me! But you’re cutting in line!”

Emi looks behind her and sees two very agitated girls. Third years to be exact. “The four of us were here fair and square. We’re not cutting in line.”

”Then the four of you should had met up earlier before you got in line. We’re starving here, and you freshmen dorks are getting in our way.” The other third year snarled as she was about to shove Chiara out of line. That was until Emi smacked her hand away.

”Don’t you even dare try to place a single hand on my friend here!” Emi furiously snapped. “We’re waiting in line right here and that’s final.”

”You damn freshmen! That’s no way to talk to your upper class superiors.” “Yeah. In fact, we’re going to have to discipline you for that in front of everyone before we throw you out of line.” Their voices carried through the bustling cafeteria, drawing the attention of curious onlookers. Eyes darted between the confrontation and the lunch counter, as students awaited the resolution of the brewing conflict.

”I’d like to see you try! Go ahead! I dare you!”

”You three! Cut it out already. You’re all about to be served next. There’s no point in arguing anymore.” One of the public moral officer, a second year gear with spectacles and a clean cut hime, scolded as it was clear that the girls were next to pick up their meal. It would be idiotic for any of them to get into some trouble on the first day of school. The public morals officer bows to the would be combatants farewell and heads off to patrol the cafeteria. The situation has been deescalated.

”You got off easy today freshman! We won’t go easy on you the next time you disrespect us.” The two third years walk past the girls as they go to get their lunch. Emi scoffs but then notices that Chiara is hiding behind her the entire time. “ time, let’s not cut in line again.” murmured Chiara as she slowly recovered from hiding.

”No worries Chiara. We stick together no matter what. Just like in middle school. If any trouble comes up you can reach out to Mai, Hikari or me. After all, we got you to thanks for helping us with our finals last time. We love having you around.” *Mai and Hikari look at each other and nod in agreement. “Let’s forget about grudges against third years and focus on what matters right now…..lunch!” remarked Mai. Hikari sighs but she can’t argue with that. Everyone is feeling hungry. When the girls finally reached the front of the line, they collected their trays and had an array of mouthwatering options before them. The cafeteria staff served up steaming dishes, each one a tantalizing temptation of flavors and textures. From pasta dishes to freshly baked pizzas, the offerings reflected Anzio's culinary reputation. For Mai in particular, this was everything she was looking forward to.

The four girls grab their plates and find a free table. As they took their seats, the conversation flowed, the lunchtime buzz continuing around them. The clattering of cutlery, laughter, and animated discussions blended together into a symphony of cafeteria life. “Mmm...this food is to die for.” remarked Mai as she chowed down on her meal without much hesitation.

"Mai, slow down and remember to chew properly. It's important to savor each bite." Hikari is the kind of sort to be a stickler for proper table manners.

"Hikari, not everyone is fortunate enough to be raised like a princess." replied Emi. "Besides, this food is a step up from what we had in middle school, right?"

Hikari sighed, realizing that her concern for proper etiquette might come across as uptight. "You're right, Emi. I guess I'm just a little too used to my own upbringing. But being posh or not does not excuse barbaric eating manners."

"You know, Hikari, someday I'll cook food so incredible that it'll make you forget all about those posh table manners of yours. Just you wait and see!"

”I highly doubt it Mai, but I’ll be open to your challenge. I am sure Culinary club will do you wonders now would it?”

”Are you still going to do choir like you did in middle school?”

Emi's question hung in the air as Hikari delicately placed her grape juice down on the table, her pinky extended in a graceful manner that seemed more suited to a fine glass of wine than a simple cafeteria drink. She took a moment to compose herself before responding.

"You know me, Emi. Singing has always been a passion of mine. It brings me so much joy, and being a part of the choir in middle school was one of the highlights of my life. Plus it might help me find a man worthy of my voice."

”Well...we can’t argue with that. You have a voice of an angel Hikari.”

”I am sure you’re just saying that to be sarcastic aren’t you Mai?”

”No, I really do mean it. I swear. Say Chiara. You’ve been awfully quiet. Had you….figured out an elective yet? ”

Chiara sighed softly, her brows furrowing as she stared down at her half eaten plate. “I...I am not sure. I’m worried about the elective I might choose….well...I don’t think I’d would be able to fit in as easily. The thought of joining a club and interacting with others is a little scary.”

"Chiara..." Emi began, her voice gentle and reassuring, "If it would ease your mind, I’m open to joining whatever club you have any remote interest in. You don’t have to be alone from anyone. We can even do something the two of us would never even consider doing. It would challenge ourselves...perhaps it could even be fun. But we’ll have each other no matter what."

A small but sweet smile forms on Chiara’s lips. “Emi...that means a lot to me. Thank you.”

”It’s no biggie at all. Besides, I can always get my daily exercise from my morning jogs anyways. I heard Anzio’s softball team was so-so anyways. I wouldn’t be missing out on much by not joining the team. Besides, we got all week to figure out our electives.” She pats Chiara on the shoulder. For now, how about the four of us check out the rest of Anzio and see what it has to offer? We still have two hours of free time before our afternoon classes.

Hikari and Mai joined in the excitement, their eyes gleaming with anticipation. Mai chimed in, "I heard there's a beautiful garden on the school grounds. It would be lovely to take a stroll and enjoy the scenery."

”I heard Anzio has this really nice Cathedral. A proper European one with stained glass windows and everything. I would love to hear what a choir’s reverb would be like in such a building.” Added Hikari. The four girls finished their meal and left the cafeteria as they head off to explore the campus.

After what felt like a whirlwind exploration, they found themselves nearing their dorms, content with their adventure. But just as they were about to bid farewell to their impromptu expedition, Chiara's sharp eyes caught sight of something intriguing—a building standing slightly apart from the rest, its shape reminiscent of a hangar or a warehouse.

”Hey Chiara? Did something catch your eye or something?” As Emi asked, she looked in the direction that Chiara was staring at. “ could we had missed that? Since when has that hanger been there?”

"Well, what do we have here? A hidden gem in our very own campus? How intriguing!" explained Mai.

”It’s just a warehouse Mai. You’d guys are seriously getting hyped over a warehouse? Hikari shook her head. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to check it out. It’s probably a gymnasium. I bet they have a big swimming pool there too. Do you think there will be guys swimming there too?”

”Anzio is an all girl’s school. Don’t get your hopes up. So I guess we’re all going to have a look. Right?”

”Um...Emi...I don’t know if that’s a good idea. What if we get into some serious trouble. What if the warehouse is off limits or something? What if we run into delinquents or….”

”Seriously Chiara, you need to stop being so anxious all the time. That’s no way to live your life.” remarked Hikari.

”I would had said it nowhere nearly as harsh but Hikari is right Chiara. We’ll be fine. I promise. If it turns out to be off-limits, we'll respect that and leave. We won’t get into any trouble.

As Chiara listened to Emi’s reasoning, she bit her lower lip, contemplating her words. She knew her friends had a point, and she didn't want her fears to hold them back from exploring. She never liked being the party pooper of the group and pleasing them was the only way she thought she had to do to avoid losing her friendship with them. She let out a sigh and then said “Okay. I’ll won’t stay behind.” in a soft defeated voice.

The girls head for the hanger and observe the large dual panel doors from the front. They appear to be locked but Mai considers there might be another way inside. “I bet if we check the sides, there might be a door leading inside. I’ve seen hangers like this before. Trust me.” Mai seems to have a pretty good idea of what this hanger might be used for but for everyone else, there’s a lot of intrigue to this warehouse that won’t be answered until they are inside. So much so, she’s able to hide her enthusiasm for what’s in store in this warehouse.

They made their way around the hanger, their footsteps echoing against the walls. The sides of the building revealed several smaller doors, some slightly ajar, hinting at the possibility of access to the mysterious interior. With a determined glint in her eyes, Mai reached out and grasped the handle of one of the side doors. She turned it slowly, and to their delight, the door creaked open, revealing a pathway into the unknown. "See? I told you there might be another entrance!" Mai exclaimed, her voice filled with quiet triumph. She couldn't contain her excitement, but she made a conscious effort to temper it, not wanting to spoil the surprise for her friends.

Work in Progress: To be Continued.


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