“So let me get this straight. You want us to… imitate each other?”
“Yes!” Izumi nodded at the crowd gathered in the lounge. “Citron brought it up, actually. I think it’ll be a great exercise both in taking on personalities outside of our comfort zone and in being in tune with your fellow troupe mates.”
Tsuzuru sighed, feeling tired already. “Citron brought it up. He just thinks it’ll be funny.”
“I do! I think it will be very funny to implicate each other!”
“Impersonate. Unless someone committed a crime here I don’t know about.”
Izumi coughed, rocking on her heels. Nevermind the large amount of crimes Tsuzuru didn’t know about. “Ok, yes, he certainly meant it as a joke, but I still think we can turn it into a good exercise!”
An understandably mixed reaction followed her reassertion. About half of the company seemed interested in the idea, or at least wanted to see how it would turn out even if they didn’t take it seriously. The other half was very against the idea, probably thinking it would be embarrassing. Izumi could understand that; she was too embarrassed to participate herself.
That wasn’t going to stop her from subjecting her actors to it, though. Because it would be really funny.
Chikage seemed to have the same idea. “I’m all for it, but how will we determine if someone’s doing a good job?”
“Maybe we can keep it a secret who we’re supposed to be?” Kazunari brought a hand to his chin in thought. “Then it’d be like a guessing game!”
Azuma hummed. “So if people can properly guess who we are, we’ve passed? Sounds like fun.”
“Wouldn’t it be too simple to discern who is imitating you?”
Kazunari hummed. “Good point, Guyguy. It’d be super boring if we all just figured out who was us right away!”
“I mean, that’s an easy patch,” Itaru interjected, not looking up from his phone. “Just make it so you aren’t allowed to guess yourself.”
Sakuya slowly nodded in thought. “Good idea, Itaru!”
“Hold on, hold on!” Tsuzuru pleaded. “Are we actually doing this?”
Ignoring his friend’s protests, Kazunari was already halfway out of the lounge. “I’ll write down everyone’s names on scraps of paper, and then y’all can yoink one out of my hat!”
The resident scriptwriter turned to Izumi. “Director, you can’t be serious about this.”
Izumi shook her head. “Sorry Tsuzuru, but I’m very serious about it. Come on; it’ll be fun! And it’ll be good role study.”
Tasuku nodded, thoroughly convinced by the words “role study,” while the despair on Tsuzuru’s face only grew. “I promise you I’m never going to write a script where one of us plays the role of Homare Arisugawa. This really isn’t necessary, Director!”
Homare clutched his chest. “How rude, Tsuzuru! I assure you I would be a wonderful character in any setting.”
“You’re a character, alright,” Yuki muttered. He didn’t seem to share the same enthusiasm for the experiment that most of the Summer Troupe did.
Neither did Tenma, for that matter. “How is this supposed to help us, exactly?”
The room delved into a cacophony of chatter and comments, mainly of company members trying to convince each other to join their side on whether this was a terrible idea. Autumn seemed most apprehensive, which wasn’t surprising to her. In fact, Taichi seemed to be the only one fully on board, though Azami didn’t seem completely against it. Winter was surprisingly the most supportive; it actually looked like all six of them were for it.
Izumi was glad that there was support for it. She did have the executive decision, but it wasn’t like she was cruel enough to force the whole company into something none of them wanted to do.
“Quit yapping!” Sakyo eventually snapped, instantly silencing the room. “If we’re going to do this there are going to be rules. We’ll only impersonate each other in the dorms. If you’re interacting with someone outside of Mankai, drop the act. Also, your daily schedules are still the same. You still have to go to your own class and work.”
Itaru groaned, and Banri protested Sakyo’s sudden switch in sides.
“For longevity’s sake, you can’t guess yourself. Lastly, whoever is pretending to be Settsu is not allowed to swing at Hyodo, and whoever is pretending to be Azami is not allowed to swing at me.”
“What’re you complaining about, brat? You can’t pull your own name!”
Izumi clapped once. “I think that’s fair. You’ll pretend to be each other only as long as it doesn’t inconvenience others.”
With near perfect timing that Izumi was very grateful for, since it meant nobody could protest again, Kazunari poked his head around the corner, shaking his fedora upside-down. “Alright fam, line up and pick a name, and remember to not tell anyone who you got!”
The day ended faster than Izumi thought it would, what with the anticipation for the next, and before she knew it she was gently awoken by the sunlight of morning.
Admittedly, she was a little worried about how this would turn out. Visions of Sakuya picking fights or Azami having to act as Azuma played in the back of her mind. Worst case scenario, someone gets thoroughly insulted by their imitator’s perception of them. Actually, no, worst case scenario Misumi’s imitator gets themself hurt.
But it was still all in good fun in the end, and she knew her actors knew that. Besides, it was too late to back out now. She certainly had a lot of damage control ahead of her, but she had a feeling that whatever she was about to see would be more than worth it. And as much as it was for her own amusement, she really did think it would be a good exercise.
With that optimistic resolution in mind, she got dressed for a comfortable day in and made her way down for breakfast.
Omi was already in the kitchen as usual, and he greeted her, looking up from the fruit he was cutting into a bowl. “Morning, Director. Didn’t know if I was supposed to still make breakfast so I just went ahead and did it.”
“That was probably for the best,” she agreed. “We don’t know if the person who pulled you can cook.”
“Oof, yeah, fair point.”
Huh, interesting. Omi’s posture was more relaxed than it usually was. His speech was a little more… nonchalant? Nothing stood out as a dead giveaway yet, but she could tell he had already started to get into character.
“Well, thank you for the meal!” Izumi helped herself to a small stack of pancakes with a generous amount of maple syrup.
As she built her plate, the other members of the company who had to wake up early for work or school started to file into the kitchen.
“Good morning, everyone!” Itaru chimed, more awake than Izumi had ever heard him sound, ever, regardless of what time it was.
“Wow, I know you’re pretending to be someone else, but I’m glad you’re in a good mood today, Itaru!” Kumon exclaimed. That wasn’t too different from how he normally was, though he did sound a little softer.
The man in question beamed, though now that she looked closely she could tell that it was a little forced, and there were still circles under his eyes. “Of course!”
Masumi grumbled as he sat down, resting his face in his arms. “Shut up, it’s too early. This is too weird.”
“Are you maybe Hisoka, Masumi?” asked Kazunari, apparently the only other college student besides Omi who needed to be awake early that day. Alright, that one was scary; it sounded nothing like the usual Kazunari. Izumi was glad to see that everyone was putting effort into the details like speech and tone, and not only the obvious bits.
“No. It’s too early to pretend to be someone else. I’ll start later.”
Yuki nudged his shoulder. “Hey, come on, we’re all supposed to be doing this. Though I do agree that it’s really weird,” he trailed off, watching Azami silently pick at his pancakes.
“The chance of whoever Chigasaki pulled having a worse sleep schedule than him was essentially zero, so I made certain he went to bed earlier than usual,” Chikage offered as an explanation to their first mystery.
“Oh, that makes sense.”
“Yeah; I had to miss out on some grinding time because of it. But it’s ok! Once I go to work and become Itaru again, I’m sure I’ll be able to catch up in the ranking, and even if not I don’t mind losing this match to Banri!”
Ok, scratch Kazunari being a little scary; that was terrifying. And also very easy to get. Good job, Itaru.
It wouldn’t be fair to the others if she gave the answer away already, though, so she kept quiet. The others seemed to have the same idea–she felt like Chikage already knew who everyone was–or maybe they didn’t know yet, but she felt like this one was almost a freebie. They also never specified if guessing would be public or private, though, so she supposed that might be why.
Taichi, uncharacteristically quiet even for this hour, looked around the table. “Aren’t we missing someone?”
“Tenma,” Masumi provided without looking up.
Izumi frowned. “Did his alarm not go off?” Was that part of his act? Maybe Tenma was Hisoka? They had agreed to not let it interfere with anything outside of the dorms, though.
“Just leave him,” Yuki suggested, before he sighed. “Ugh, no, Yuki would leave him. I have to–ugh–seriously.” He stood up. “I’ll go get him.”
Nine pairs of eyes watched him leave. “Any ideas?” Muku asked.
Azami shook his head. “.....no.”
Izumi agreed. He sounded frustrated with the game, but Yuki himself didn’t seem all that thrilled the day before. And the list of people who weren’t thrilled wasn’t exactly small.
Kazunari let out a small chuckle. “I think I have an idea, but…” Izumi could see him tapping his foot under the table; he must have really been holding back his energy.
It was paying off, though, because Izumi felt like she had a good idea of who he might be. It was a tough one to imitate, probably one that only someone as perceptive as Kazunari would be able to emulate, his own troupe aside.
“Well, I might be wrong, so I’ll wait a little while,” he concluded.
Taichi nodded, a knowing smile on his face. It caught Itaru’s eye, and he looked up from his coffee. “Taichi? Do you know?”
Taichi merely shrugged, turning back to his plate. “Who knows?”
Izumi didn’t seem to be the only one stunned by the very un-Taichi-like Taichi, and the group moved into a collective silence. Omi kept his eyes on his phone, while Kazunari’s was noticeably absent from the kitchen table. Azami continued to slowly eat his pancakes, and Izumi could see Omi casting side glances at him, wanting to say something but unable to break character.
It was Muku who piped up instead. “Azami, is something wrong? You don’t have anything on your plate except for pancakes. You should at least have some fruit.”
The student in question looked up. “Hm? Oh.” He lightly poked a pancake with his fork twice. “Just this is fine. They’re fluffy.”
“Are you sure? We can find something else for you if you don’t–”
“It’s fine. I just want pancakes,” he insisted. “I was just thinking that they aren’t as sweet as regular cakes.”
“Luckily,” Izumi heard Taichi say under his breath, and while she doubted he would have said it out loud, she saw Chikage nod in approval.
Suddenly, Azami straightened up a little, his eyes sparkling the same way they did when he got a surprise burst of inspiration in the middle of doing stage makeup. “Ah.” He grabbed the maple syrup bottle and began emptying most of its contents onto his plate. Kumon visibly cringed, and while his was internal, Chikage’s cringe was palpable. Actually, she was amazed Azami was able to maintain a straight face; his food was starting to look inedible.
She understood, really. She was cringing too, but for a different reason. “H-Hey, Azami, don’t use it all! Maple syrup isn’t cheap, so Sakyo doesn’t want to buy it more than once a month.”
Speak of the devil, Izumi was alerted to Sakyo’s new presence in the lounge by the strangled noise he made as Azami continued to empty out the entire bottle.
“Ouch, busted,” Omi mumbled, glancing up briefly before tapping at his phone again. Was he texting someone? Izumi remembered him saying he had a group project due soon.
“Sakyo, help!” Kumon begged. “A little maple syrup is fine, but this is too much! At this rate he’s going to drown in it!”
Sakyo clenched his teeth together so hard that Izumi swore she could hear his molars crack. There were at least two visible veins on his forehead as well. Everyone at the table flinched, save for Azami, Chikage, and Masumi, the latter being asleep. Taichi looked like he tried to keep a straight face, but in the end he jumped the most, besides maybe Muku.
It was two of the main rules of the dorm. Don’t waste food. Don’t use what you don’t need.
He couldn’t say anything if he didn’t want to break character, but Izumi definitely saw the corner of Azami’s mouth turn up in a smirk.
Sakyo merely smiled, though, a very forced smile that came out as a grimace. “Hmm? But Sakyo isn’t here!”
Oh no. It just struck Izumi that her disciplinary backup was going to be missing the whole day.
“Oh wow, you’re cheery today, not-Sakyo!” said Itaru.
Sakyo snatched the maple syrup bottle from Azami, who gave an uninterested pout. “Yep!”
“S-Sakyo,” Izumi prompted. Maybe she could convince him to at least still help her keep an eye on things, depending on who he was. “You’re really into this, huh?”
“If I don’t take it seriously, Sakyo’ll get mad. I don’t wanna give it away right away though, so I’m gonna try to hold back at the start!” He brought the bottle to the plate that Omi couldn’t stop himself from making for him and used it to draw a bit of syrup onto his pancakes. He pursed his lips, adjusting it a bit before nodding firmly. “Perfect!”
Ok, this was a lot to handle already, and it was only breakfast, but Izumi could manage. She could do this.
Tasuku made his way downstairs, a towel around his neck from his post-jog shower. His eyes met Izumi’s, and she saw the most genuine cry for help she had ever seen reflected in them, before he took a deep breath and opened his mouth. “Mornin’, fam!”
She definitely couldn’t do this.
“Bye guys, have a good day!” Izumi called after the students, sans Tenma and Yuki, as they headed off to school.
She thought she should probably see what was holding them up, but they appeared shortly after, Yuki trailing after Tenma. It was a small detail, but he usually stalked ahead of him. Izumi was amazed that something so inconsequential could be so jarring.
“You sure you can make it without getting lost?” Yuki asked.
“I’m fine,” Tenma insisted, a bite in his tone, though he couldn’t stop his face from flushing red. “Thanks for waking me up though. I guess even you can be good for something.”
Yuki sputtered. “Wh–huh?!”
“Don’t let it get to your head, though.” Tenma slipped his shoes on and headed out the door. “Come on; I’m not waiting up for you.”
Yuki was near visibly shaking with… some emotion, and he let out the longest, most tired sigh–a kind that Izumi had only ever heard from one other person before.
Omi, ever the caretaker even when he had to pretend he wasn’t, instinctively smiled in understanding. “Don’t let it get to you. He’s just, uh. Getting really into the… the raid? GG.”
Oh my god.
Izumi certainly didn’t blame Yuki for bursting into laughter at that, because she almost did too. Looks like Omi knew plenty about Itaru as a person, but nothing about the things he said.
“I believe the term Chigasaki uses is ‘quest.’ Or perhaps ‘mission,’ depending on the setting,” Chikage offered. He was still at the kitchen table, working on some papers. Apparently he had a day off today, and had simply woken up like usual because he didn’t want to miss any of the chaos.
With the last of the children gone, and Sakyo opting to go to work very early, it seemed that things were calming down a little. Hisoka had woken up from sleeping in his room and, after eating some of the disaster sludge that Azami made of his breakfast (the poor kid took one bite and nearly gagged), was now sleeping in the lounge instead. Tzuzuru managed to nab the last of the pancakes and was now working on something on his laptop, probably their next script. Azuma had also moved downstairs, and he was washing the dishes since he had offered the night before. It was quiet, to say the least. The most out of place thing was Omi’s consistent tapping on his phone.
Eventually, Tsuzuru looked up from his work. “Hey, director. Can you come here for a second. I wanna get your opinion on this tone shift.”
Izumi readily agreed, since it was rare that Tsuzuru would let her in on the scriptwriting process at all. He hadn’t reached hell week yet, so any way she could lighten the load for him was welcome in her book. Plus, he wouldn’t really be able to participate in this exercise if his nose was buried in his laptop all day. While she was starting to consider throwing in the towel herself, she had a special interest in making sure the number one guy against doing this got involved at least a little.
Moving behind him, she read the section he highlighted over his shoulder. It looked like it was supposed to be the big reveal of the true traitor, if one character’s complete 180 in speaking style was any indication.
“It’s definitely sudden, at least without context, but I think it’s supposed to be, right?”
“More or less.”
“Then I think it’s fine! I’m sure you’ll fine tune it as you need, but I don’t see anything that needs a major overhaul. It looks good,” she praised.
Tsuzuru’s face read “oh thank god,” but his voice scoffed and said, “Well of course it does; I wrote it.”
Luckily, that was the most interesting thing that had happened in a while.
Maybe they could make it through the day without too much issue? Maybe Izumi had jumped to conclusions from how much whiplash breakfast gave her?
The residents of room 101 came downstairs together. Sakuya still greeted them as usual, just much less enthusiastically than he normally would.
Citron, on the other hand…
“Good morning! Who wants to do two million laps around town with me!”
The real Tasuku choked on his coffee.
Sakuya tugged on his sleeve, and Izumi just barely made out his whisper. “Hey, I don’t think Tasuku’s that energetic?”
“Ohhh, you are right! Sorry; I was too excited!” He cleared his throat and tried again. “Oh, morning. I’m about to go on a jog, if anyone wants to come with me.”
The intensity of the switch sent Izumi sitting on the couch in shock, and almost sent Tasuku into another coughing fit as well. Citron’s entire demeanor had changed, and, joke exercise that this was, she couldn’t help but feel a swell of pride in how good of an actor he had become.
Everyone she had seen so far was doing well, really. Forgive her for getting sentimental in the middle of this ridiculous story, but everyone was putting their all into getting their characters right. That meant that they took character study seriously, and put real effort into every role they took on, even the stupid ones.
But it also meant that they knew each other well, and noticed each other’s habits and quirks. That they had built a company where they were able to do this at all, that was what made her emotional. Everyone was doing such a good job.
She was distracted from her sappy monologue by a delighted noise of recognition from Citron. “Oh, very good job, Chikage! I would recognize the exact way he holds his pen anywhere.”
“So you noticed? I’m honored.”
Maybe too good of a job.
Sakuya spoke up again from the kitchen, where he was exchanging some words with Azuma. “I’ll go on that jog with you, Citron.”
Far too good of a job. Kazunari sounded permanently cautious, sure, but Sakuya sounded like he straight up didn’t care. Make it stop.
“Cool. Just give me a second to make my problem shake.”
Tsuzuru looked up from the script. “Ok, hold on. Hold on.”
“Oh no no no Tsuzuru, you can’t break character!”
Tsuzuru buried his face in his hands for a moment, before snapping his head back up. “Wait, I’m not the only one who does that! I can at least ask how you got that one wrong!” He yelled. Interesting. Tsuzuru never really yelled. Got loud, sure, but raising your voice and yelling were two different things.
Tasuku moved to put his mug in the sink. (Azuma mumbled something along the lines of “come on, dude, I just finished the dishes.”) “Heck yeah dude, I’ll come too. Some laps sound totes lit right now! Maybe we can even get some sick shots for the blam!”
Chikage hummed in amusement. “Did you not just return from a jog, Takato?”
“Yeah, but if I blow this popsicle stand I can stop talking like this!” Tasuku accented his point with Kazunari’s signature finger guns.
Omi nodded as if he was taking that into consideration, and Izumi was about to mercifully suggest he join them, when Chikage spoke again, brow furrowed. “I am unsure why explosions would change our current situation, though.”
Citron broke character to wrap his arms around Chikage. “Oh, you really are just like him!” He was almost moved to tears.
That was really sweet, and so was Chikage’s exasperatedly fond smile as he patted Citron’s head. For moments like those, perhaps this really would be worth it.
The real Guy came downstairs just then, a pep in his step. “Good morning! Let the day have a seizure!”
Citron was now straight up bawling, and Tsuzuru slammed his head on the table. “It’s seize the day!”
Nope, nope. Never mind.
Izumi was surprised her breaking point didn’t come sooner, but when Banri and Juza came downstairs for lunch she decided she really couldn’t do this anymore.
Banri greeted the room with a very enthusiastic, very loud “hello.” Juza, on the other hand, merely nodded at her.
“Oh, perfect timing. Help yourselves to some poggers sandwiches.”
Omi’s offer was met with Banri’s instant and complete break of character, as he clutched his stomach in laughter. “What, no, oh my god, you’re! You got! Holy shit, that’s amazing.”
Homare began rapidly whispering to himself, something that he had been doing ever since he came down to the lounge. It only took the first few instances for everyone to realize he was silently reciting poetry, since his flow of inspiration didn’t stop even if he stopped being Homare for the time being.
Banri’s laughter only got louder as he peered over Omi’s shoulder to see what game he was playing on his phone. “Dude!”
Hisoka lifted his head from where it was now resting on Homare’s lap, mumbling incoherently for a moment.
“Hisoka, dear, if you don’t speak up you won’t get your character across,” the poet scolded as he carded his hand through the other’s hair.
He grumbled a bit, before steeling his expression. “I said,” he began, before his voice rose into a full on shout. “Shut your traps and eat your food while it’s fresh! We already have to shell out for more maple syrup because of the brat; I’m not about to let the bread go stale too.”
Everybody, and by that she truly meant everybody this time, flinched. “Whoa,” Juza breathed.
Izumi felt a pressure on her chest and looked down to see that she was clutching it. “Th-That might have been scarier than the real thing. Hisoka, do you think you could help out with keeping things in order today?”
He settled back down on Homare’s lap with a gruff, “Somebody has to keep these guys in line.”
He said, but Izumi found herself doubting that he’d be of any help. Leave it to Hisoka to give his absolute all for about seven seconds.
Omi placed two plates in front of his troupe mates, and Banri slipped back into character with a still-incredibly-enthusiastic fist pump. “Awesome! You’re the best, Omi!”
“Shut up a little,” Juza grumbled. Izumi felt a surge of relief, because if Juza had gotten someone like Citron she isn’t sure she’d have been able to handle it. Screw leaving your comfort zone and expanding your horizons. Not today.
Banri continued to do everything like he was giving it his all, even eating sandwiches, and he continued to ramble on despite Hisoka’s warning not to. “So,” he said around a bite, then swallowed as Omi gave him a pointed look before continuing. “Last night was a raid night, right? But Itaru went to bed so early! And I couldn’t just game in his room while he slept because that’d be totally weird? I think it’d be weird. So I had to do it in my room instead and Hyo–Juza! Juza told me to shut up!” He whined a little. “It was totally rude!”
“I was trying to sleep,” Juza defended, an incredulous look on his face. “They could probably hear you upstairs too.”
As Banri complained that it would be the residents of 204’s problem to bring up with him and not Juza’s, Omi watched them with a smile on his face. By the looks of it, he could already tell who each of them was. While Izumi definitely had an idea of Banri, though, Juza wasn’t as clear to her.
Speaking of 204, Tsumugi was the next to finally show his face. It was a little late for him to be waking up, even if he was a late sleeper, but Izumi supposed it made sense if Banri was making as much noise as Juza suggested.
He smiled and nodded at his troupe members and Chikage, before his eyes settled on Banri. Izumi wasn’t sure what tic tipped him off to Banri’s character, or how well he was doing for there to even be something so miniscule that she didn’t see anything at all, but Tsumugi’s cheerful smile seemed to turn into something a bit more malicious.
Chikage noticed too, and he and Izumi shared a mixed look of amusement and concern.
“Juza!” Tsumugi suddenly exclaimed, lunging at him and nearly knocking him off his chair in a side hug.
“Wh-!” Juza managed to save himself from falling, though he was still taken off guard. “K–Tsumugi, what’re you…?”
“Heheh, sorry, but I had a dream last night where you were this really cool super hero, and then I saw you here and I thought, ‘wow, even the way he eats sandwiches is so cool!’” Kumon beamed. Wait, no, this was Tsumugi. His expression was so spot-on that Izumi literally forgot for a moment.
Banri smirked around his bread, a look that shifted from humor to dreadful realization as he saw the expectant look that the temporary brocon was giving him.
Azuma chuckled into his fist, though it sounded a lot more like a loud “pfft” than it usually would. Tsumugi nodded expectantly.
Through this whole ordeal, it looked like Juza decided the safest way to cope with this was to slip back into character. He started to ignore what was going on around him in favor of his phone.
Clenching his fist, perhaps to ground himself, perhaps to punish himself for what he was about to say, Banri grinned brightly and spoke through gritted teeth. “I know, right?! Juza’s so cool no matter what he does!”
Not even Omi could suppress the snort that escaped his firmly pressed lips.
Tsumugi nodded in approval. “Definitely. Juza’s way cooler than that one-length Banri. I got no sleep because of him.”
Izumi could physically see Banri’s brain turning into a blue screen of death. Ah, the power of spite. Tsumugi really was the devil when he wanted to be.
Homare hummed like he had all the answers in the world, which wasn’t unusual for him save for the gentler tone. “I’m glad everyone’s so energetic today.”
She was glad he was having fun, but Izumi’s resolve for the day was thoroughly broken when Juza raised his head, looked her straight in the eye and said, “You look so cute today. You always look so cute.”
“Come on, Azami! It’s just for the role. You can do it!” Kumon chanted, as Azami’s head hovered precariously over his lap. Azami’s face was thoroughly flushed, and Izumi understood–this was really outside of his comfort zone.
She was about to speak up and say that he didn’t need to go to extremes, when he let out what may as well have been a war cry and slammed his head on Kumon’s legs. Kumon softly cheered, and he squeezed his eyes shut.
“Now all you have to do is take a nap!”
“See, you’re already in character!”
See, see, that was cute! Izumi couldn’t handle the constant back and forth of cute and completely insufferable that this day had been.
Azami resting on his best friend? Adorable.
The ringing in her ears as Sakuya pointed at them and shouted, “Whoa, whoa! What do you think you’re doing?! You haven’t, um, mortgaged a house together yet!” right next to her? Not so much.
“Shut up.” Azami threw a cushion in Sakuya’s direction. “Don’t make fun of me.”
“O-Oh, no I didn’t mean to…!!”
Kumon laughed and pat Azami’s back in an attempt to calm him down. Actually, Kumon really hadn’t acted all that different from usual all day. There weren’t many options left, but she was very curious as to who he was supposed to be.
Evening was fast-approaching, and the dorm was getting noisier as a result. Some of the actors hadn’t returned from their days yet, but the smell of roast beef was attracting most of those home to the lounge.
(It turned out, by the way, that Omi didn’t actually have any games installed on his phone. Banri was laughing as hard as he did because he glanced over to see Omi concentrately punching random buttons on the calculator app.)
Guy was helping Omi out in the kitchen, though he still remembered to interject on occasion with Citron-esque comments. “Dinner smells very good. I am going to eat a donkey today!”
“It’s,” Yuki started, then paused as he stared at nothing for a moment. He turned to Tsuzuru. “I don’t know. What does that mean? How do you do this?”
“Intuition?” Tsuzuru shrugged and shook his head.
Yuki slumped back with a groan.
“You have the deep-seated existential despair down very well, Yuki!” Citron cheered.
“That’s because I’m feeling a deep-seated existential despair.”
Homare patted his shoulder. “You have it tough, huh? If you need a breather, we can always sneak off for a quick poem.” Ah, even pretending to be someone else, he couldn’t keep his poetry out of it forever.
“Ok, I know you meant that literally,” Yuki narrowed his eyes, “but that sounded so weird. Don’t ever mix your life with his like that again.”
“What, can’t deal with some rhymes, runt?”
Everyone present was still putting effort into their roles, with varying levels of intensity, but Tenma was definitely the most invested now. He had originally been one of the most against it, but Izumi had seen the delighted grin on his face when he read the name he pulled. Now, he took every chance he got to comment on something or other. He was doing relatively well with the deadpan delivery, but occasionally a few snickers escaped before he could stop them.
“Why are you only targeting me?!”
Tenma didn’t look up from what he was doing. “Can’t really target myself? Consider it payback.”
On the other hand, Tsumugi had completely toned himself down after Banri opted to lock himself in his room all day. He was certainly still Kumon, but he was a much more realistic Kumon than he had been that afternoon. Thinking about it, they had surprisingly similar interests and vivid imaginations. It wasn’t very surprising that Tsumugi would be able to pull him off well.
Izumi briefly considered getting Banri some apology California rolls. Even if he brought it upon himself.
The experiment was going as well as she had expected, and a little better if she was feeling generous. Those who tended to stick more to themselves understood their inner circle best, but still picked up on the general mannerisms of the other company members as well. Those in positions like Juza’s were doing about as well as they possibly could with relatively unfamiliar territory.
Speaking of which, Juza was still basically glued to her side, something the real Masumi luckily hadn’t come back to overreact to yet. She had thanked him for acting in moderation.
Others, those who were lucky (or unlucky) enough to get someone they were close to, were working wonders. Guy, Tenma, even Banri for that really short time, they were almost a perfect mirror of their targets, save for the times when they slipped up. If there was any hint that her troupes knew each other well, it was this.
And then there were those who were just so good at reading people or wearing their characters that they overstepped the aforementioned inter-troupe boundary. Kazunari, who was near-perfectly imitating the way his role would help Taichi and Muku with their homework, while Taichi kept responding in vague half-answers and “kidding!” when he got something wrong. Tsumugi as he did nothing but enthusiastically watch Omi and Guy prepare dinner. Hisoka, who was basically Sakyo 2.0 when he was awake. Misumi, who, even though he hadn’t even said anything all day besides a few quick words, was instantly recognizable by the intense yet awkward aura he gave off. Like he was hyper-aware of his own size.
Homare, having given up on dragging Yuki away to a private poetry slam, tapped the notepad on his lap vigorously. “Tsuzuru, can you come here for a moment? Come listen to your fellow literature club member’s ode.”
“Arisugawa, please, I’m so tired.” He coughed awkwardly. “B-But I mean, if you really need my help, then I guess I can at least read it.”
Tenma flushed, and Yuki couldn’t help but laugh. “Oh my god, are we a triangle?”
“Tri-!” Misumi perked up from his spot on the floor, before he shook his head like a dog drying off. “Triangle cakes. S’there any dessert tonight?”
Omi called something out, but Izumi didn’t hear it, as she was too focused on the way Azuma’s entire body posture suddenly shifted. Had he been waiting for some cue to finally get into character? He seemed to instantly seek out Misumi’s eye contact, and the two shared a moment before nodding at each other in silent agreement. It was almost like he was a sleeper agent and the code to wake him had been given.
The two both stood and rushed to the entrance to the kitchen, timing it perfectly so that they collided upon reaching it.
Ohhh goodness. Izumi thought she knew what was about to come.
“Hey, Ikaruga, move your ass,” Azuma loudly hissed. “I was here first.”
Misumi frowned. “Like hell ya were. Besides, Omi told me to take a look so back off.”
“What, so I’m not allowed to open the fridge in my own dorm? You think you own the fridge now? My new lotion is chilling in there, asshole.”
Watching two of the sweetest members of the company duke it out was certainly a bit painful, but she supposed she should be grateful that these two went to people who knew to not escalate things.
The real Juza averted his eyes from the scene.
Misumi stepped closer to Azuma, “I dare ya to say cold lotion’s more important than cold triangles again.”
Azuma didn’t flinch away, perfectly in tune with Misumi. This very well could have been a street act. “Oh, we betting now?”
The sound of a chair squeaking against the floor could be heard in the silence that had taken over the room as everyone watched the spectacle in front of them, and then suddenly a tiny mop of pink hair pushed itself between the “fight.” “H-Hey, hey, come on! The fridge is wide enough that you can both look at the same time.”
“Muku–” Kumon jolted, so used to the real squabbles that he instinctively jumped to his cousin’s rescue.
In doing so, however, his knee collided harshly with Azami’s head. Said head jerked out of his lap, chanting a string of curses and “ow”s.
Kumon shrieked. “Oh no, Azami, I’m so sorry! I’m the worst! I’m the worst lap pillow to ever exist. I’m the hardest, most uncomfortable pillow ever. I’m basically a cement brick laced with spikes that just happens to have a pillowcase on it. That’s why people have insomnia. I’m the reason people have insomnia!”
Juza, also struck by family instinct, rushed to make sure Kumon wasn’t actually spiraling.
The whole dorm dissolved into chaos with all the yelling. Azuma and Misumi went back to whatever argument they were forming, as the real Muku too got distracted with making sure Kumon was ok.
Banri finally came back down, too hungry to hide any longer, and, upon reaching the chaos, had no real choice but to start frantically calling for Omi. Which made Itaru bust a gut.
Omi’s hands were very full of piping hot roast beef, so he merely yelled back, “I’m really busy with our SSR dinner right now, Banri!”
Itaru’s laughter turned hysterical.
Somewhere in there, Hisoka mumbled “budget” in his sleep.
“That’s enough!” Sakyo–the real Sakyo–bellowed, mid-climbing through the window. Oversized green triangle-shaped sunglasses slid down the bridge of his nose.
The noise settled down again, though Izumi wasn’t sure if it was because of Sakyo’s yelling or his new bling. Banri snorted.
“We agreed that we wouldn’t let this get out of hand.” He managed to pull himself all of the way into the dorm without stumbling. “I could hear you lot three houses down. Do you want us to get noise complaints?!”
The more mild-mannered members of the company had the decency to look bashful at this revelation.
“Aww, but Frooch–I mean, Sakyo, I guess we just got a little carried away,” Kazunari protested.
“I’m calling this experiment short. We’ll debrief tomorrow after sorting out our guesses and feedback. For now, we’re never doing this again. Shut the hell up and start acting like yourselves again.”
Sakuya slammed his fist on the coffee table. “Like hell I will!”
And chaos fell upon the group once more. The Spring Troupe was rendered completely immoble by their leader’s outburst. Izumi joined Sakyo in trying to reinstate order, and some of the other more exhausted members like Tasuku did their best to help as well.
“My, my! What an incredible symphony of chaos I’ve stumbled into!” rang out over all the other noise.
Everything froze once more, all eyes turning to the front entrance.
Masumi calmly set his shoes down, before straightening up. “Why, it fills me with inspiration. I sense a poem coming on. AhehEM! A thick-mirrored… fray… an ear-splitting… bouquet… on the director and my… wedding day.” His eyes sought out Izumi. “How was that?”
Homare gave him a standing ovation.
Izumi was going to skip dinner and go straight to bed.