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Day zero: fall into an Idolasphere trying to rescue Tsubasa from monsters, team up with a spirit of sorts, face down a boss monster, find out Touma has been in this gig way longer than he's known about it, become recruited by an idol company. Day one: get yelled at by a magical girl fanatic, get tickets for a concert from Tsubasa's personal idol herself, spend too much time wandering around trying to figure out what turn his life had taken. By the time Itsuki gets home the sun is painting red and orange hues across the world, and Itsuki is tired enough to miss the note and neatly-folded bills resting under a magnet on the fridge until it's been twenty minutes and a scan of the house to confirm his mother's absence.

The note reads thus:


I guess you had a busy day! I missed you, and I'm sorry I'm not home to greet you. I got called in to cover a coworker's shift. I won't be home until late, so please don't wait up for me! I left some money for you in case you decide you want to order out. I'll see you tomorrow (hopefully)!

Lots of love!

Not unusual. Itsuki smiles at his mother's usual chickenscratch and folds the note to tuck it into his pocket, leaving the bills on the counter. He can consider food later; right now all he wants is a good cup of tea to help him come off this crazy joyride his life has become. Except as he settles the kettle on the stove, he realizes he has another problem ahead of him: he's going to have to tell his mom about his surprise idoldom eventually. He sinks numbly into his chair, trying to even consider how that conversation might go.

Hey mom, I've got something to tell you. I got picked up by Fortuna Entertainment to become an idol! I know it's pretty wild, considering I've never showed any interest in the industry before, but what can I say? I guess they saw something in me.

No. Absolutely not. He runs through so many iterations of the hypothetical reveal that his head starts to hurt, and none of them sound even remotely plausible to discuss with his mom. By the time he's finished making tea and settled back at the table, he thinks he may very well have managed to go backwards from where he stated. The calming scent of the hot tea is the only thing preventing him from spiraling further into his own madness.

Itsuki wonders if Tsubasa has told her parents yet. Given that she's already had an idol in the family, it probably won't be that big of a surprise. Maybe it wouldn't be a surprise at all. Maybe Itsuki is the last to know that she's been working toward becoming an idol all this time.

Regardless, Itsuki knows it's going to be a bumpy ride for him. He's always been more than content to play the supporting character in the life of his friends. There are few things that are less appealing to him than the idea of standing in the spotlight. He's never tried for anything higher than set designer or a coordinator position in school plays and functions; he can't even think up a reasonable excuse as to why Fortuna Entertainment would ever look at him twice.

Maybe he'll get lucky and she'll never have to know. Maiko-san seems to have set her focus on Tsubasa for the moment. But even as he's considering the idea he has to dash it against the rocks; he'd seen the look in Maiko-san's eyes when she looked at him, a dreadful gleam that was considering and calculating, and it's impossible to miss the point of her sending him along with Tsubasa to training beyond the use it would have for Mirage mastery. More than that, the idea of keeping a secret like this from his mother sours his stomach to the point of affecting his appetite.

There's a sudden emotional undercurrent, concern underlining his worry. As much as it's coming from within him, somehow it doesn't feel like it belongs to him -

You'll find a way to explain it to her, Itsuki.

Itsuki processes that it's Chrom's voice echoing in his head and thus he has no real reason to be shrieking, but unfortunately that processing also comes through as he's shrieking. And spilling hot tea on himself. A minute later sees Itsuki changed into a fresh shirt and stewing in his embarrassment as he finishes cleaning up his spill, Chrom offering him flustered apologies.

"It's okay," Itsuki reassures him, then pauses when he registers how weird it is for him to be talking out loud to someone who's not physically present. He briefly considers reciprocating the thought-talk, but thinking at Chrom seems just as strange, and he has the safety of being the only one present in the house right now. So he keeps talking, ringing the tea-soaked rag out into the sink. "I didn't know you could read my thoughts."

That's pretty concerning, actually. He chalks up a mental note to chide Touma later for not giving him and Tsubasa a Mirage crash course or something.

It's not like that, Chrom is quick to assure him. It's more... vague than that.


I don't hear your thoughts like I do plain speech. I get small snippets, fragments of sentences or ideas, brief images. What comes through most keenly are your emotions.

"My emotions...?" Itsuki considers the idea as he sets the kettle back on the stove to boil again; he mourns the waste, but at this point tea has moved from 'want' to 'need'. "Oh! Because of my Performa?"

He's not expecting Chrom to sound or feel so confused. How do you mean?

"You and Caeda said it was the creative energy of humans, right?" It feels surreal, holding a conversation with his new ghost-like battle partner in his head when he's doing something as mundane as rinsing out his favorite mug for reuse. Briefly Itsuki wonders how Touma adjusted to Cain's presence in his life, then immediately decides he was probably as bombastic about it as he is with anything else. "Mirages are drawn to the Performa of humans, and art is about harnessing creativity to inspire emotions in others. Maybe that's why emotion is what comes through clearest."

... it makes sense. But Itsuki can still feel Chrom's confusion threading under his own heartbeat. It's accompanied now by frustration, beating out a harder tempo behind Itsuki's heart. It takes a long second for him to realize why Chrom can't give him a clear answer, and by then he's already kicking himself. Chrom doesn't know much about how Mirages work despite being one; his own words.

"Well... I guess it doesn't matter much either way." It's not much of a consolation and he knows it, so Itsuki steers them back to their first topic, hurrying to turn off the faucet once he realizes he left it running. "So how'd you know what I was worrying about?"

It works. Chrom's emotions ease back into steady neutrality. Like I said, I catch fragments. I saw a woman who looks much like you, heard a stray thought about the idol company. That, along with your worry, let me piece things together.

"Huh. That's pretty perceptive."

You're not... angered?

Itsuki doesn't try to stop his smile, drying off his mug and hands before settling back at the table with a quiet creak of his chair. "Do I feel angry?" Then, when he can feel Chrom's growing uncertainty in the ensuing silence: "You were trying to support me, not invade my thoughts. I'm not gonna get mad at you for that. Besides, I can feel you too."

Surprise, a sharp note that falls as quickly as it rose. You can?

"Mm. It's... strange." It's a subconscious act, but he finds himself curling a hand against his chest, right over his heart. Lets the steady beat of his blood drum under his palm. "It's like... I feel your emotions alongside mine. But I didn't feel them before, so... I guess I only sense them if you're directly contacting me?"

Chrom hums, a low thrum in Itsuki's head that seems to reverberate through his bones. It's... nice, actually. There's so much to this that we don't know.

"We're both new to this. We'll learn together."

His voice turns warm, grateful. Thank you, Itsuki.

The shrieking of the kettle cuts off Itsuki's response. By the time the tea is steeped and poured and safely warming Itsuki's hands through the ceramic of his mug, it's become redundant; he and Chrom have settled on the same wavelength, synchronized in the simple pleasure of understanding company, and the warmth in his chest has calmed Itsuki from the hassles of the day before the tea has had a chance to touch his tongue.

He drinks it anyway. He's not going to waste anymore good tea today.