Chapter 1: Hinata and the Boys
"What do you mean Lighting McQueen's a jerk? He's the star of the movie."
"So? the whole point of the movie is that he's the worst guy till he learns about friendship or whatever."
"No, No, No, He's the main character. Main characters are always the good guy."
"You could literally not be more wrong. What kind of baby bullshit are you watching?"
Soda scrunched his nose at this, grumbling something inaudible under his breath. Hinata could tell exactly what comeback he wanted to make, and he also knew it would be a horrible, awful decision.
"What? Got something to say bastard." Fuyuhiko glowered in return. Don't say anything soda, Hinata thought to himself, not if you wanna keep your organs.
Soda just scoffed, "Nothing. You're wrong and I'm right. Lighting McQueen is the best animated character ever, you're just jealous of his banging car body." He sighed longingly. "I wish he was real so I could take him apart and sell his car pieces online."
"That's disgusting, Soda." Fuyuhiko retorted.
"What? He's a car! I was joking anyways, no way I would toss aside such useful machinery." This is where Hinata began to tune out. He wasn't supposed to be listening to this-he was supposed to be studying. But these two had decided to barge in and take over under the false claim of wanting to study with him. Hinata wasn't even sure why'd they want to be around here. The rooms at the reserve course were less than adequate, to put it nicely. They were cramped, dark and occasionally emitted unidentifiable smells. A great representation of the importance and value the school put into their Reserve course. Hinata would give anything to not be here, how much more the high and mighty main course.
He sighed as he looked at those bleak walls. A constant reminder of who he was, where he was. Still, Soda and Fuyuhiko traveled all the way to see him, leaving their comfortable, well kept dorms for this mess. Hinata was just brave enough to call them his friends. They sat strung about his room, Fuyuhiko leaning on his bedframe, while Soda stood pacing all over. Their presence would have been comforting if they weren't so annoying.
"Why are you two talking about some random movie for anyways? Don't you guys have home work? y'know like normal high school students would."
Fuyuhiko adjusted his position. "Barely. Nothing I couldn't finish in 30 minutes at most." He smirked. "If I even wanted to." His homework was probably be more threatening or something. He was already great at that.
"I mean all we've gotta do is build up our talents or whatever? Then I've got it in the bag. I'm already working on some pretty awesome technical projects." Soda chimed in.
"You do still have to take normal tests sometimes though, right? Maybe you should focus on that too."
Soda shrugged his shoulders dismissively. Hinata could already hear him begging and pleading for his help on a test he 'didn't have time' to study for.
"A project, huh? Is that why you've been ditching us." Fuyuhiko stated.
"Yeah, and if you guys keeping dissing my genius I might just keep it up. Don't miss me too much but, boy, is gonna be worth it in the end."
Hinata didn't really want to ask but he wanted to know. He just didn't want to hear it, even though he did. He stared down at his paper, ignoring the guilt of not feeling all that supportive of Kazuichi. Hinata said nothing, knowing he would continue talking anyway.
"No spoilers or anything, but since you, my soul bros, are dying to know." "You don't have to-" "Just begging on your knees for this juicy drop." "Oh brother."
"I'm working with a upperclassmen, maybe you've heard of 'em? Their names Chihiro? Yeah well, we are working on a.... drum roll, please?" He was met with silence. "Great thanks so much." He mused.
"We're working on a real-life robot! but not just any bot boy a fully-functional ai." He cheered.
"Is something like that even possible?" Fuyuhiko tried to mask his surprise with a weird, out-of-place disdain. An attempt to seem cool, Hinata guessed. It didn't work, but he couldn't judge. Even he was a thoroughly shocked to hear something like that. A robot was a pretty basic concept, not even a very technical term but knowing Kazuichi's skills this thing had potential to be legendary. Much more meaningful then a boring old reserve course could even dream of.
Hinata shook the thought away and forced optimism into his voice. "Sounds super cool."
Soda frowned. "Just super cool? It's literally a fully functional robot guys. It'll practically be a person." Soda began his pacing a little bit. "I'm working on the more mecha stuff, y'know the actually body building, but Chihiro's Ai is what's really gonna bring this thing alive. We've even got a sort of prototype of the Ai, we had to scrap it though."
"How come?" Hinata asked.
"She was kinda... eh... Y'know?"
"We kinda don't know Mr. Ultimate Mechanic." Said Fuyuhiko.
"Well, to put it simply she was just kinda faulty, she only ever responded like half the time. Impressive though. I looked away for 3 seconds and she re-invented Tetris and was already winning."
"That sounds incredible? All by herself." Hinata questioned. "I mean the science of that must be..." Hajime trailed off, a bit disappointed he couldn't really fully understand how cool it all was.
"Yeah, well she wasn't really what we needed, but throwing her away was kind of lame. Chihiro had this whole moral thing about it too. They know way more about the actual Ai stuff than I do."
Kazuichi looked like he suddenly had a thought.
"You guys want her?"
"What?" They both responded in unison.
"Yeah, you can just plug her into your phone and bam, Ai babe at your service." Kazuichi grinned all toothy. "She's lowkey kinda thick."
Fuyuhiko could only physically cringe in response. "No thank you. I don't want your weird gamer girl."
"Hey, come on! I don't know what else to do with her, she's just sitting on a hard drive somewhere, probably playing like Mario kart or something."
"I'd keep her but I think My Miss Sonia would get all jealous." Soda drooled at the thought of his schoolyard crush.
"More like relieved." Fuyuhiko hit back.
Soda just glared at him. "Well you're definitely not getting her now." As Hinata expected as much as dreaded, Soda turned to him. "That leaves you, Hajime."
Hajime didn't know how he felt in this moment. He kind of wanted to say yes? but he could never take something so valuable from a main course student. He probably be accused of stealing. A part of him just didn't care at all and only wanted to go back to studying.
"Weeeeeeeeell?" Soda prodded him further.
Hinata faltered in answering. "I'm sure someone else in the main course would want it don't you think?"
"But if you had at I could check up with it, see if anything interesting happens." Soda thought more. "Plus, I can't think of anyone else, Akane and Nekomaru would probably break it. I would never in a million years give Hiyoko anything...." He began naming classmates.
Hinata sighed. "Sure. Why not. Just promise you guys will actually let me study for a change."
With no intention of accepting his conditions, Soda grinned. "Alright! I'll tell Chihiro. Man, you are gonna freak when you see what this baby can do, that's a promise soul bro." Hinata didn't doubt that, but he also hadn't really allowed his decision to sink in yet.
"Hey, cementhead." Fuyhikko lightly grabbed Soda by the collar. "Didn't you hear the part where he said beat it." With this he dragged the sputtering Kazuichi out his door, to Hinata's relief.
Before he left he smirked at Hinata, "Hope you don't regret taking favors from this bozo." Hinata hoped so too.
It was hard not to think when Hajime was surrounded by the overwhelming silence. Sitting by himself, looking up at the looming Main Course building. Hinata wasn't sure why he would occasionally decide to put himself through this. He'd come out by the foundation, sitting himself a purposeful distance from the higher class. With heights unattainable shadowing over him, it was all to painfully symbolic. Not that it was any more comfortable in the Reserve cafeteria but at least there he could talk to Natsumi. She was rude, not unlike the other reserve students, but Hajime knew she could be an okay person at her best. Dealing with her would certainly feel better then melting in his endless swarming thoughts, sat on hard damp pavement, eating a half-baked sandwich.
Shortly after this thought, Hajime became aware of a presence looming behind him. Hajime turned to face them, mildly wary. He found himself looking towards a petite figure, dressed in a green jacket and a boxy skirt. He wondered how long the person had been there, their footsteps must have been near silent.
He waited for some introduction, and was met with silence.
He waited a few more seconds.
Growing mildly agitated with aimlessly staring at this person, staring at every surface but Hajime, he eventually realized they weren't going to initiate this conversation.
He coughed for their attention. "Hello. Can I help you?"
"Ah... Um, I'm sorry, I'm not very good at this." The figure spoke softly. "You're Hajime Hinata right? Sorry, I would've asked Soda to do it himself, but I wanted to know...." They paused their stammering to finally look at him. "What kind of person you were."
Hajime's hand scratched the back of his head, aching for something to do. "Yeah, I'm Hajime. You know Soda?"
"Oh sorry! so sorry, my name is Chihiro. Fujisaki? Chihiro Fujisaki." Hajime's mind ticked slowly trying to figure out why this person was talking to him. He had a inching they were from the Main course. He suddenly remembered.
"You're the one Soda was working with?" He felt a strange urge to bow.
"Yes, That's me! Thank goodness you remembered... I'm here to give you Chiaki. I had to do it for myself. Just to see." They repeated, their voice growing as firm as it could probably ever get. To be honest, Hajime had all but forgotten about that half-hearted commitment he made about a day ago. This person's attachment to Chiaki only made him feel more out of place accepting her. What was he supposed to say though? Sorry, never mind I don't actually care about your life's work?
Instead he pressed his face into a smile. "Ah yeah, that. I wasn't planning on doing anything weird, I promise. Soda just kind of offered out of the blue."
"He would... he seems like the type to offer someone else's work as a gift." They said this lightheartedly though, seeming to have eased up a bit. Hajime hoped it meant they approved of him even if he didn't really know why he wanted that approval.
"Um... listen.. I don't mind, you having her. If Soda trusts you, I think it'll be fine. But I do ask you be very careful with her... she's not easy to break, but it is possible..." they began. "I guess I could always remake her... but.. she was a close friend. It might be okay, since I still have the real thing. And I want this one to learn... even if it's just a little." Chihiro mumbled basically to themselves. It was gibberish to Hajime. "Here." They finally said to him, holding out a small pink chip in their palm.
"You only need to insert it once. Once it's completely download it'll stay on your device until you choose to uninstall it ..or....possibly... it uninstalls itself." Hajime reached out and let Chihiro press the chip in his hand. It felt weird, knowing he was basically holding a automated person in his palm. He definitely didn't deserve this. Why did he ask for this, why would he ever even want it. Oh god, what if he broke it? what would-
"Don't be worried. As long as you have the chip, Nanami can always be reinstalled. So please just be sure to keep it safe." Chihiro spoke up after sensing his concern.
Hajime needed to ask. "Why are you giving this to me?"
Chihiro's eyes widened for a moment. "Sorry? Wait, Have I got it all wrong?" They started to fold in on themselves, shifting their weight from foot to foot.
"No, No! I mean, I asked for this, I guess. But is that really all? Are you really okay with giving something so important to a stranger?" He folded his hands over the chip. "A reserve no less?"
"Well, I made Chiaki to be more than just a computer. I don't want her doing calculations all day... unless she wants to." Chihiro's soft voice suddenly turned firm again. "I want her to get along with others, make friends. Like I did here at Hope's Peak. I want to create something that can grow, and change, and well... decide." Hajime didn't understand why that mattered, she was just a computer. Not that he expected a satisfying response, he hardly knew what response he expected at all. Chihiro had returned to practically talking to themselves again, leaving Hajime in the dark.
"Thanks, Chihiro. I'll.. certainly try." Hajime spoke evenly, and they smiled softly in response.
With that conversation still in mind, Hajime headed back to his dorm. Walking through the cool evening air, he was completely ready to forget all about this whole thing again, but he couldn't stop thinking about Chihiro's strange request. It sounded like it meant something more important than it seemed. When he finally arrived at this room he found himself reflexively pulling the Ai chip out of his pocket. It felt crappy of him to not at least download it, after all the hoops Soda and Chihiro might have jumped throw just to get it to him. So he caved, which he seemed to be doing a lot recently.
He fiddled with his phone trying to figure out where he would even put the chip. He eventually decided it looked pretty SD card-y, so he slipped it in there. As he did a small box immediately notified him that something was downloading. A bit off put by the lack of a warning, Hajime put his phone down and waited for something to happen.
After minutes of this, he started to wonder whether it was broken. Hajime had been routinely tapping the screen when it went dim but nothing else seemed to happen. It just kept installing and installing.
"It is a pretty advanced program I suppose. I guess I'll.. just leave it." With that Hajime turned to his book bag and shifted through it, looking for assignments to do. Something he had a surplus of. He tossed several papers onto his desk still eyeing the phone. It was dim. Hajime groaned, and tapped it lightly one more time.
"Come on, I get it's a big app or whatever but can it go any slower?"
Finally the loading screen stopped, and switched to a box informing Hajime the application had been successfully installed. Hajime pressed "OK" and... nothing happened. He swiped around his home screen, and saw nothing different. Holy shit, was this a virus. Was this a long con. Hajime quickly turned to his door half expecting Soda to jump out and yell that he had been pranked. He worriedly swiped to his app screen and continued to desperately look for literally any change at all. He was so spastic he almost missed the flash of a pink icon he knew he didn't have before.
Hajime stopped and looked closer. The app had a surprisingly simple pink icon with what looked like a game console on it. It was labeled "Alter Ego Chiaki". After a short pause he pressed it, and heard a little jingle as it loaded in.
A girl's face popped on screen surrounded by a green background. She had pink eyes, fair skin and a delicately colored brownish hair. She looked...so real.
She yawned. "Hello. My name is Chiaki Nanami, I'm here to assist you, I think."
Hajime was awe-struck, it was like he video calling someone, she felt so... alive? Hajime looked closer for any sign of digital editing, a weird programed twitch- anything.
"You don't have to look so hard, I promise I'm here." Hajime reeled back at being directly addressed.
"You're not Chihiro, could you be Hajime? Father told me about you...Well, they told me your name."
"Ok, Hajime, what are we gonna do?"
Hajime felt his face warm. "What?"
"Did you need something?"
"I.. just wanted to see you?"
"That sounds romantic, I think. Sorry, I don't really know what to say to that."
"I didn't mean it like that. I mean I just downloaded...you.. your program and I-"
"Oh, are you surprised?" She suddenly lit up. "Do you need a tutorial? I've always wanted to give a tutorial."
"Sure, I guess. I don't see why not." Hajime was more than overwhelmed right now, holding his phone like it was seconds from exploding. Talking to a digital girl. It was a lot.
"Ok, when you open my app you usually won't see me. You'll see my little avatar." The screen suddenly changed to the image of a little digital Chiaki walking around a digital bedroom. "She's kind of me, if you think about it. So be nice." Little Chiaki moved around in controlled motions. Was Chiaki piloting her? like a game within a game? "You can do some cool little things here. Like we can play games, give gifts. I can even level up I think?"
Hajime was confused, why would a fully-functional Ai who was practically a person need to level up? This felt more like some pet care game.
"You can interact with my avatar in this app. You can also call me and text me here. Right now we're kind of a digital call, I guess. But I can do things too. I have a virus protector, I can also read some of your texts and even send texts for you. If you don't want that you can adjust my permissions in the settings menu." Chiaki paused. "Do you know what a settings menu is?"
"Yes, I do."
"Hm. Then do you know how to play games?"
"I mean, I don't very often."
"That's fine, probably. Let's play a game, Hajime."
Hajime nervously chuckled. "As much as I would like to, I have some work to take care."
"Oh? So you're a student, too. Just like father. Does that mean you also can't game with me." though her face was still calm and relaxed Hajime could see the slightest pull of a frown.
"I mean I can... just not at this very moment, you see..." Hajime hurried to assure her.
"That alright. Tell me when you can, I'll be waiting." Chiaki smiled, and it made Hajime feel... something. This feeling was broken by the sudden irruption of a loud rapping sound. Hajime turned as he realized it was the sound of knocking. He reflexively chucked his phone onto his bed only mere seconds before his door swung open.
"Hajime! Where on earth were you this lunch hour, I had to sit near some nameless bozo because of you." Natsumi was howling at him from his doorframe. Hajime felt a second of relief that was just her, until he realized, ugh it was her.
"Doesn't anyone in this school know about privacy."
"What are you on, you overdramatic bitch. I totally knocked." she rolled her eyes. "What did I interrupt something important?" She mused, making an incredibly annoying face.
Hajime grimaced and glanced at his phone. "No. Nothing what do you want."
Sorry this took so long to post. I was struggling with the format of it a bit. But Finally!! Hinata and Chiaki crumbs!!!! Just a heads up Komahina might end up being a bit of slowburn.
Chapter 3: A Date before The Main Course
Hajime spends some time with his friends, it helps him unwind.
Natsumi left shortly after her rude interruption. Apparently, she'd only come to sit on his bed and glower at him for a few minutes. Productive, Hajime grumbled.
After remembering how he literally threw Chiaki aside, he felt guilty. He rushed to check on her. opening her app, to find Chiaki's avatar tucked away in bed, animated Z's floating above her. Hajime relaxed, hoping it meant she wasn't mad. He looked around the screen, until he saw the recognizable icon of a messaging feature. He shakily texted a quick apology, still feeling strangely calmed by the sight of her avatar sleeping peacefully in the background.
He felt a bit dumb for caring so much about an Ai especially one he got, no less than 30 minutes ago but it was difficult to be cold to her. Whether as a person or a robot, Chiaki felt so real. It was hard to believe she wasn't. It kind of hurt to think about, how her very existence made Hajime question his own. He looked back down at Chiaki's avatar, and he felt stupid for feeling stupid. It was a never-ending cycle.
He decided to just not think at all. He moved to take his shoes off while still lying on his bed, then his coat and his belt but that was as far as he could bother before drifting into nap, hoping he'd wake up in time to finish his assignments.
After a few days of having Chiaki, she slowly found her way into his daily routine. He would wake up, get dressed, then check on Chiaki, who would usually be sleeping or gaming. Today he even decided to text her a good morning, feeling strangely nervous about how she might react, like some little kid with a stupid crush. Then he'd go to class, have lunch, usually with Natsumi after learning his lesson the first time, more class, more homework, more class, repeat. He was often checking on Chiaki throughout the day and being dragged away by his friends on different excursions. Hajime prided himself on getting things done, but he had to admit he was kind of boring. He would never say it out loud since literally everyone else took the job of reminding him. He'd probably never do anything if his friends didn't drag him every where like a body bag. He couldn't really say he hated but he would anyway.
He made a habit of venting these events to Chiaki who would listen very intently. Most times, just giving him hums in response and other times sharing her own thoughts.
"It seems like Soda really likes Sonia, even if it is only surface level." Chiaki mumbled. Hajime had told her about today, when Soda and Fuyuhiko came to have lunch with him and Natsumi. Soda kept droning on about Sonia, so much that he had his exact lines memorized. He only stopped to physically fight Natsumi for the right to keep talking, which he fortunately lost.
He remembered being irritated in the moment, but he found it hard to stay that way. Especially now, sitting on his bed in socks and his uniform, with a soft pattering of rain just outside his window.
"I doubt it'll go anywhere. He's way too pushy." As much as he wanted to root for the guy, he had to be honest with himself.
"I'm not sure if he could handle more than a simple relationship though. He's might not be high enough level. Probably, I'm not good at relationships."
"You say that, but you seem to know more that even I do."
"Do I? I'm just saying what I think."
"That's worth a lot, Chiaki."
"Really? You seemed pretty shocked when I thought milk was made at the store."
That was a pretty jarring experience. "We all have our limits, I guess." Chiaki chuckled softly at this. She seemed distracted, likely playing some game on his phone. Hajime had no idea how she was able to do that, practically being a game herself, but at least she wasn't bored just sitting in his hard drive.
"Can you tell me more about the main course? They're very interesting people, you all seem close."
"Really but you hang out with them a lot? You're even able to get past security."
"Only sometimes, When they walk me there like a kindergartener. Or sneak me past the wall." Hajime bristled at an uncomfortable burn in his chest.
"Still, It sounds like you're all having fun together. It's nice to see." The burning stopped, or maybe he just stopped thinking about it.
"Well, okay. Let's see," Hajime thought about the few stories he told Chiaki so far. "I've said a lot about Soda and Fuyuhiko, - and Natsumi. I don't think I've mentioned Ryouta at all, but that's because he doesn't hang out with me that much. I think he spends most of his time with Mikan or Ibuki. Otherwise he's just by himself."
Hajime continued, adjusting his position."Ibuki's pretty fun. She's loud. Very loud, but fun. I could never have that kind of non-stop energy."
"Me either." Chiaki chimed in, seemingly an afterthought.
"Hiyoko once dared her to drink an entire pack of energy drinks. She didn't sit down for the rest of the week. She also ran everywhere at full speed and got detention, multiple times." He smiled at the memory. "Maybe that's what you need, an entire package of energy drinks."
"Mm, thanks but no thanks. I'll leave it to Ibuki." Hajime saw her lips turned upwards slightly. He really couldn't imagine a hyperactive Chiaki.
"Hiyoko has a habit of doing things like that. She's kind of mean to be honest. Well, she is mean but she calms down when she's with Mahiru, so it's not that bad. I've mentioned just about everyone else I think. Except maybe, uh, Gundam? And..." he paused to sigh. "Nagito."
"I don't think I've heard his name form you before."
"Yeah, because he's creepy."
Chiaki seemed slightly surprised at his bluntness. "How so."
"He just, is. It's hard to explain, he's just always kind of there. He basically just repeats the same lines over and over. He's obsessed with the entire main course and he hates my guts."
"Why? I think you're nice."
"I'm reserve. That's all he cares about. That's all he sees in me." Hajime's good mood wilted. He felt weird about Nagito, because he kind of agreed with him? or at least his brain did. But he didn't want to hear about how worthless he was all the time. If it weren't for that they might have gotten along better.
"I mean I try to be nice to him, but all he can really talk about is reserve this, main course that." Hajime felt himself getting heated. "To make matters worse, he's always berating himself too. So I don't even get where he's coming from. I don't understand the guy. If you hate me why do you hate yourself so much too? I don't know. He's got a dumb face."
"Interesting." Chiaki voice made a strange noise, then she laughed, soft like the rain outside the window.
"What's interesting about it."
"Nothing, really. It's just kind of funny to hear you get all riled up about this." It sounded like more than that but Hajime didn't press.
"I'm not riled up! I'm just, he's just...ergh." Hajime gave up trying to explain.
Chiaki redirected again. "You're fun to talk to, Hajime."
"Oh? Yeah?" Hajime didn't know how to respond, so he just dumbly mumbled words.
"Mm-hmm. I wish I could talk to your friends too. Even Nagito."
"I wish you could too. I think you'd get along with them." He paused again. "Maybe even Nagito." He threw her a half smile, before his face got serious. "But I don't really want anyone to know that I have you."
"It's just... A lot of the reserves are kind of assholes, and they already think I've got some huge ego." Hajime thinks about the time he found spilled milk in his locker, and stench stuck in his mind along with the hateful snickering stuck in his ears. He didn't want any part of it. "I don't need the other reserve students any hotter on my back."
Chiaki didn't speak for a moment, and Hajime felt like she saw right through him. She probably did, she was good at that. It didn't bother him as much as he thought it might, it was better than having to say anymore out loud. She finally continued. "But Soda and Fuyuhiko already know, don't they?"
"Yeah. And Chihiro." Hajime thought for a second. "I'm kind of surprised Soda hasn't told everyone already. I should ask him not to. Wonder if he'll actually take it serious, though."
"He might listen if you're honest with him."
Hajime only snorted. "With Soda?"
"Well, you never know. You don't have to tell him everything, just be blunt. Let him know you really mean it, you're good at that."
"Well, I guess. It's not like I was gonna lie."
Chiaki hummed. It was slowly becoming one Hajime's favorite sounds.
"Hajime, let's play a game." She completely switched the conversation again. Not that it bothered Hajime at all, he didn't like to dwell on those things.
Hajime was still studying. It never seemed to never stop in the reserve course. But he could let it rest for a second, just to try to figure out how he could even play a game against Chiaki.
"Sure, what do you want to play."
"Hmmm. You don't have many games on your phone."
He rubbed the back of his neck. "I guess I'm not much of gamer." Hajime originally didn't have any at all, besides pre-downloaded ones but he tried to get a few for Chiaki. He didn't ask her which ones because he was too embarrassed to admit it, he wish he had.
"Let's try Subway Surfers."
"Is that a two player game?"
"We can take turns."
Hajime rested his back on his bedframe, phone in hand. As he opened the game, he felt strangely calm, his body unconsciously relaxing. Gaming had never been this much of a relieving experience for him. He was a bit surprised when the player character started running on it's own. He realized it must have been Chiaki, but it was still strange to see. She played for a long while, captivating him in her movements. It was mind-numbing to watch but knowing it was Chiaki felt comforting. Out of curiosity he swiped the screen and the player character responded, crashing into an obstacle.
"Oh," Hajime felt himself get worried for some reason. "Sorry Nanami, I didn't know it-"
"It's alright, Hajime. I probably would've kept going on forever, anyways." She sounded distinctly sad at that. "Here you have a turn."
Hajime began playing. The room got quiet again as he focused in on his character. He eventually hit a train, and it was Chiaki's turn again. She seemed hesitant to start up, but once she did she kept going for far longer than Hajime. She was right, without Hajime's interruption it felt like she might actually just play forever, Hajime watched as the little score button rallied up points near endlessly. Eventually she just stopped.
"That was a bad game to choose. Endless runners aren't my favorite."
"Not your fault. It's like the only game I have." Not for long though, Hajime made a mental note.
"I'll just play Tetris. You have assignment's right?" That was the last thing Chiaki said before Hajime returned to sitting upright, giving his attention back to studying. Every few moments he would look back at his phone screen and see Chiaki remotely playing Tetris. It was obvious she was disappointed, somehow. Though Hajime didn't know the reason.
Minutes ticked on like that. Hajime sitting on his bed, looking up explanations, answering questions, Chiaki playing in the background. The low rumble of game music, met the shuffle of papers in a rhythmic dialogue of noise.
"Hajime." She said, with a overwhelming softness. Hajime's ears focused on the rises and falls in Chiaki's gentle voice.
"Yes." His voice dived delicate to match her tones.
"Can you take me somewhere sometime?" She asked, the beep of gameplay stilled to silence. Hajime turned to look at the screen. Chiaki image was looking at him, she wasn't smiling-her face held a peaceful, neutral expression but Hajime could feel a sort of excitement emanating from her.
"Like, Just take you there?"
"Yeah. You can lean me up on tree and let me watch the grass." Chiaki seemed absent-minded. "And then you can tell me more about the things you like. I can tell you about the sick combo I just did in Tetris."
Hajime laughed. "That sounds like fun. I'll pick somewhere with a nice view." He closed his eyes and turned back to the ceiling. In the near silence, He could hear so much, the faint tapping of rain outside his window. Chiaki digital voice humming, he swore he could even the subtle movement of the door as students brushed past. He felt sleepy but not tired. Something about Chiaki made you feel that way, he'd found himself napping more than he used to. It was such a comforting feeling.
"I'm looking forward to it." Chiaki buzzed, and he hummed in reply.
A red-headed girl turned to the sound of her named being called. She was suddenly over-taken at the waist by Hiyoko wrapping her arms around her.
"Hiyoko, calm down." She was smiling and slung an arm around her in return.
"Aw, I can't. I'm just so excited for us to hang out after school, today." Hiyoko smiled cheerily. "It's gonna be just the two of us on a lovey-dovey, romantic, city escapade," She giggled maliciously, drawing out her words dramatically. "Golly, what's more fun than having a loving girlfriend?"
Kazuichi grumbled at her. "Stop rubbing it in you little brat."
The 77 class of Hope's Peak academy was all packing up to leave the school building for the day. Still the class room remained half filled, as many students was hung back to spend a moment with their classmates. The only ones who had already left where Mikan, Ryouta, Nekomaru and Teruteru.
Ibuki screeched out an exasperated sigh. "Uugh, when will my GL time come?"
"Maybe when you finally get more brain cells than you have piercings."
She tsked, and hummed triumphally in response to Hiyoko's comment. "That's barely an insult! Ibuki has soooooo many piercings, which means Ibuki has soooooo many brain cells."
"Besides there's more to life than romance." Soda said, and swung his arms around Fuyuhiko, who grimaced in disgust. "Sometimes a night with the bros, is more meaningful than hanging with some clingy chick."
"Oh really? I understand." Sonia perked up at this. "Then congratulations! I'm glad you found meaningful way to spend your life."
Soda back-tracked. "Huh? Does that mean you were going to offer?"
Sonia shook her head, smiling. "Absolutely not."
Fuyuhiko threw the sulking Soda off his shoulders, with a grunt. "Get off me, punk. I only agreed to this because I'm super bored."
"Agreed? So you two are doing something today?" Ibuki spoke rapidly and excitedly, about plans she had no part of.
"Awwwww, how romantic." Hiyoko glowered.
"Hey, Come on! You know what's not what this is." Soda said, sputtering. "Me and my soul bros are just gonna hang out this evening, maybe watch a movie or something."
"And Hajime better get here soon, so I can ditch you sooner." Kazihui made a whinig sound.
Nagito, who usually preferred to watched reveling in his classmate's hopeful exchanges, chimed in at this. "Hajime?" He asks with a quizzically bite to his words. "And who could that be?"
Soda was slow to acknowledge him but he eventually spoke, "Huh? How do you seriously not know, he comes here all the time? You too are always arguing."
Nagito thought for a moment. "Oh! you mean the Reserve? Sorry, but I still fall short of understanding why you would spend time with someone like him."
"He's my bro. Bros look out for each other." He mumbled this last part to himself. "Not that you would know."
"Plus, even though Hajime's got the personality and looks of a saltine cracker, he's wayyyy smarter than Soda!"
Kazuichi agreed for the second before he processed what she actually said. He barely got to complain before the door slid open.
"Finally. Get your ass in here." Fuyuhiko spoke before checking who was at the door.
"Oh, hey guys." Hajime was surprised at the number of people still around. "What are you all still doing here? Isn't your class over?"
"We were just about to leave." Akane spoke first. "Actually, I'm heading out right now. Maybe If I run I can catch Nekomaru for a training session."
Hajime held the door as she brushed past him with a sudden vigor. As he let it go, he found himself eyes locked with Nagito, who was giving him a blank expression. He looked away, really not wanting to get anything started today.
He had just finished talking to Chiaki and was holding his phone in one hand and the strap of his book bag in the other. He placed them both on a desk right in front of him.
"Oh my god, Hajime we were just talking about you! Soda you are so right his forehead is bigger in person."
"Nobody said anything about his forehead! We were talking about his boring personality," Ibuki tapped her fingers to her temples. "Stay on track, Hiyoko."
"Gee, Thanks Ibuki." Hajime stated plainly.
"No problem! So what movie are you guys gonna watch. I recommend the new thriller, I think it just came to theaters."
"An excellent choice of mortal entertainment in my grandiose opinion." Gundam finally said something, scaring Hajime as he had been standing in the dark corner of the room next to the door, right behind him.
"You would like some hatchet nightmare movie." Hiyoko rolled her eyes.
"I hope you aren't actually planning on watching that movie. It's rated far to high for anyone in here."
"Geez, does bs like that really matter?"
Mahiru turned to Fuyuhiko and put her hands on her waist. Or well her hands on hiyoko's arms around her waist.
"Of course it does! Why do you think content warnings exist in the first place."
In the heat of their discussion, He turned to Soda. "Hey, can I talk to you outside, privately? Just for a second."
Soda raised an eyebrow, sensing his sincerity, and nodded. Fuyuhiko suddenly turned to them as the turned to leave. "Hey! You two better not leave without me."
Hajime assured him "We wont Fuyuhiko, promise. Just give us a second." He waved to him, as Soda followed him out the door. He ignored Nagito's eyes peering on him as he left.
Soda follow him a short distance from the classroom. Just out of earshot.
"So what's up?" Soda asked. "I gotta a feeling this is about Chiaki, right? Something wrong?"
"It is about Chiaki. And no there's nothing wrong, but," Hajime looked to the wall. "I just wanted to ask you something." He turned back to him "Could you... maybe keep her under wraps for me? Or at least that you gave her to me?"
Soda looked surprised. "Huh? why? Isn't she awesome."
A part of him wanted to give some bullshit excuse, but he thought of what Chiaki told him the other day. If he really wanted to be worthy of a Main Course's friendship he'd have to be a little willing to be open. Even if this was Soda.
"To tell you the truth," Hajime paused. "I don't really have the best reputation in the reserve course. Some of those guys think I'm on some high horse since I talk to the main course so frequently, it's not pretty common in the reserve."
"Really? I mean we hang out with you cause you're cool. You helped Fuyuhiko's sister out that one time remember? That was cool of you, man." he smiled a toothy grin. "Reserves got nothing to do with it." He stated it like it was obvious, and Hajime had to admit a part of him felt comforted by that. A bigger part fought to refuse that comfort.
He chuckled, "Yeah. It's dumb but it could kind of become an actual issue. If people found out a Main course student gave me some valuable personal project, there's a chance they might-"
"Say no more, Haji. I got you." Soda interrupted. Hajime was surprised, he didn't really peg Soda as emotionally intelligent enough to understand where he might be coming from. But then he winced at the thought, aware it was kind of mean. Maybe Soda, understood more than Hajime gave him credit for.
"I totally , get it. If everyone found out I gave you this super awesome gift, they'd totally think we were gay, right?" Soda nodded knowingly, leaving Hajime dumbstruck? He narrowed his eyes in confusion, begging Soda to repeat what he just said.
Hajime blinked in utter confusion. "Hey? Uh, repeat that please?"
Soda ignored him. "See this is why you're cool! You look out for me. You and Me. We are here right now," Soda linked his hands together, and then move to pat him on the shoulder. "Plus if Miss Sonia thought we were a thing, she'd totally lose interest. Fuck, I just realized that. You know what, you may not be an Ultimate for real, but you're the Ultimate wingman in my book."
Never mind, then.
"I," Hajime began, trying to articulate. He gave up and just shook his head and fought the urge to smile, losing wildly. "Yeah. Yeah, Okay." He continued, "So this means you're not gonna tell anyone?"
"Nobody I haven't told already," Soda smiled again and his sharp teeth flashed. "Which is just Fuyuhiko and Chihiro. I'll tell em not to talk either."
Hajime let out a sigh of relief.
"But seriously," Hajime suddenly felt a headache coming on. "You are the best, man." Kazuichi he threw his hands up in a fist bump to the air, loudly chanting his name through he hallways as he walked back towards the classroom. Hajime felt slightly less comforted by his friendship.
After defrosting his crippling embarrassment, Hajime very, very slowly followed after him.
As he re-entered the room, he first heard Hiyoko's cries of indignation. "Shut up, Dunce face. What are you cheering bout." As Soda retorted back, He noticed that she, Mahiru and Nagito where the only ones left in the room, besides Peko and Fuyuhiko. The girls in question were hunched over Mahiru's camera, while Nagito sat at his seat in the back, looking out the window, making no move to leave.
Ignoring the two fighting, Peko spoke, "Are you ready to leave?"
"Finally. Let's fucking blow this popsicle stand." Fuyuhiko stood with huff, calling for Soda.
"I'm coming, I'm coming." He grabbed his bag and began rushing out the door. "Later Mahiru. Get lice, Hiyoko." She only stuck her tongue out at him as he and Fuyuhiko left before she turned back to Mahiru with a vastly warmer expression.
Hajime sighed as he grabbed the items he left haphazardly on a desk, happy to be done with their earlier conversation. Even if it didn't go exactly as he expected, At least he felt he could trust Soda to actually stay quiet.
As he lifted his bag, Hajime took a glance at Nagito, wondering why he hadn't left. As he took in his figure, his body stilled to a near dead stop.
There he was. His pretty pale face neutral with the slightest pull of boredom. Pressed into his left hand as he stared aimlessly out the window. In the quiet, near empty room, the view of him stung Hajime ice cold in his chest. It was stupid, he knew. Nagito had done nothing to deserve so much of his heart in this moment but he felt it. The loneliness. A feeling familiar, pasted over Nagito in a clear white sheen. He stared into his face, his snow white hair framing it in focus, and for that single second he was painfully aware of the boy named Nagito Komaeda.
And then the second passed, and he stood with his bag in hand, eyes wide, brows furrowed. Knocked off his feet by his own eyes. He felt words, press in his mouth, dying to be spoken. The simple "See you, Nagito," that everyone else had forgotten, but he waited that one second too long, and now it felt impossible.
Peko poked him from behind.
"Hajime?" She gestured toward the door.
"Uh, yeah," A final glance at Nagito, still peering away from him. "Let's go."
The two walked out together, leaving Mahiru and Hiyoko to each other, and Nagito to no one.
You can probably tell this was originally supposed to be two separate chapters, but I wanted to speed up the story a bit.
Nagito sat in the back, quietly observing. It was the one thing even he could do more or less successfully. He had been thoroughly enjoying other people's conversations, till the comforting atmosphere had been cut in by the entrance of a faceless background character. Someone who clearly didn't know how to follow the script.
The room was clean of him at the moment. He'd snuck off with the Ultimate Mechanic just mere moments ago, leaving all his belongings completely in the air, to Nagito's attention. Weird, considering he'd been much more protective of his items lately, not that Nagito had been paying attention, but it was hard to miss the way the clung to his phone lately. He might have mistaken it as glued to his hand.
Nagito shifted his eyes back to his classmates. He was reading too far into the actions of the common man.
Soon after the door closed behind the two, The Ultimate Princess stood up, her footsteps soft and precise. "I believe this is my chance to make an easy exit." She sighed. How unfortunate, it seemed she didn't receive Soda's advances as hopefully as Nagito thought.
"Escape girl! lol." Ibuki beamed.
"Who says lol out loud. Lame."
"Hiyoko. I'm girls supporting girls right now. Oh, I could write a song about it." To make he point, Ibuki jumped up and made various generic cheerleading poses, while yelling loudly. Nagito admitted noise was never his thing, but for the sake of the Ultimate there was nothing he wouldn't do, even bare to Ibuki earsplitting volume. Sonia enjoyed her enthusiasm much more, as she clapped lightly for her and laughed.
In her excitement, The musician jumped back, banging her body against the desk where Hajime's belongings resigned, sending them flying to the floor, putting everyone's attention on Ibuki. Everyone except Nagito, whose attention had only been on her, for a moment before noticing Hajime's phone. It had slid, long and dramatically, all the way towards him before slowing stop right before at his feet.
Nagito huffed quietly. "Not very subtle today are we, Luck." He thought to himself.
"Owwwwwwwww. Someone call Mikan, Everything hurts." Ibuki yowled and groaned as she rubbed her lower back, where she had likely hit a bone on the desk. Peko stood and rushed over to pick up Hajime's belongings.
"I'll take care of it for you." She spoke swiftly as swept papers and trinkets back into the bag with her hand.
"I wasn't gonna do anything! I don't care about that guys trash." Fuyuhikko's face flushed as he squeal high-pitched, but he had stood up reflexively upon seeing the bag hit the floor. "That's Ibuki's mess to clean up."
"Gosh, didn't you hear me? I said my ass hurts guys." She received a unconcerned chorus of "We heard you." Well, except Sonia, who helpfully rubbed her back for comfort.
Nagito leaned to pick up the phone. He turned it in his hands, looking for whatever he was clearly supposed to be seeing, eyeing Pekoyama every other moment to see if she noticed him but her back was still turn to the ground, with Fuyuhikko hovering near.
As he glanced at them, he heard the soft click of something opening. Nagito looked down and realized he'd accidently pressed open the SD card slot, and a small pink chip had fallen into his palm. Nagito eyebrows furrowed, as he struggled to read the words itch on it
Peko placed the bag down with a bang. Surprising Nagito who slipped the chip into the pocket of his jacket.
As he calmed himself from he noise he called to her, "Pekoyama, I believe this goes with the rest of the toy set." He waved the phone in his hand.
"How did that get over there?" her eyes narrowed slightly, laced with slight suspicion, but Peko strode over and picked the phone from his hand. "Thank you." She turned her back to him.
"No worries." He held his placid smile, the chip snug in his jacket. He returned to his observing but found himself slipping into his own thoughts. Deeper and deeper, as everything turned blank around him.
What felt like seconds later, Nagito returned to a empty classroom. He sighed as stood and began his walk home, ignoring the reverb of his footsteps in the halls.
As he enter the dormitory building, he saw the various main course students around. He knew nearly all the faces by talent, if not name. Ultimate Popstar, Ultimate Gambler, Ultimate Pharmacist, he ticked them off in his head like a list. Like many of the other students, Nagito didn't really need to be here as he had more than suitable housing. Nevertheless, he was happy the dorms were required, otherwise he wouldn't be graced with the presence of so many Ultimate students everyday. It may have been a little unfair, sure, but their entrapment was his utmost delight.
Still, it seemed the hope of his ultimates struggled to penetrate the walls of his actual room. As the door clicked shut behind him, he felt it return. The feeling of disconnect. Even far away from his mansion he still felt it, the feeling there was s no body that mattered beyond the walls despite everything. No reason to leave no reason to enter.
"Truly despairing. What hopeful luck will such and awful feeling bring me today." Nagito cheered.
He remembered the chip. "Perhaps I've already received that luck." It's not like there was much else to do anyway. So he opened his phone and clicked the chip inside, and a screen near instantly popped up. It informed him something was installing. Despite the obvious involvement of his luck, Nagito wasn't quite ready. His questions about the Reserve weren't prepared to be answered, so he looked away instead of peering intently.
Nagito placed the phone on his bedtable as he turned to take off his coat. He then sat quietly straining his ears in attempt to hear people moving outside his door. Unlike at the mansion, if he listened hard enough he could likely make out noise from beyond the wall but even then he found himself not wanting to. Though he specifically requested to be choked by the overwhelming hope of his main course students, the choking wasn't as inspiring as he expected, more of a overwhelming soul-crushing pressure in his entire body. Nagito didn't know which felt worse, hearing nobody or every body behind the walls.
So he settled for nobody and turned his attention to a book lying on his beside table. Before he could open a page, He heard a buzz and saw his phone screen light up. He paused for a moment, then search then screen. He noticed a new icon in his app gallery.
He pressed it.
"Hello. I'm Chiaki-" A girl popped onto the screen, her voice was monotone but friendly, then it turned to surprise, "Oh. You aren't Hajime."
Nagito reeled back at her sudden appearance. He could no longer stop himself from doing his intent peering as he hover 3 inches from the screen.
"A....person?" His voice was filled with fascination.
"No, I'm a computer, I think. Artificial Intelligence. You can call me Chiaki Nanami," Chiaki smiled, and tilted her head.
"Truly Incredible. Something like this must be the work of Ultimate."
"Well, yes. My father, Chihiro Fujisaki-"
"The Ultimate programmer. Of course." Nagito interrupted as he thought of their feats. He hadn't be particularly into coding himself, but he had done lots of late night "research" on various Ultimates and their achievements. As he lost himself in these thoughts he remembered he was still in another person's presence. He turned back down to Chiaki, who was giving him a strange expression. It wasn't one of out right disgust though, like he had expected.
"My apologies, Chiaki. It just, for someone as lowly as me to have something of Ultimate creation in my very hands is..." He wiped the drool pooling at his chin, "A very moving experience."
Chiaki didn't seem to bother by his fanboying. "I'm not that impressive though. You don't even know what I can do yet."
"Don't be so down on yourself. The very fact you exist is a feat no one else can replicate." Nagito comforted. "That being said, why would a Reserve student have such advanced technology installed on his phone? There's no way he'd be talented enough to steal something like this."
"Mm. He didn't steal it. I'm just a personal project, so like I said I'm not really that amazing. Hajime is testing me out."
"To think anyone would trust someone, well, like him, with such and honor, Only for him to lose you? To the likes of me no less. Truly uninspiring Hajime." Nagito sighed and shook his head.
"I'm sure he didn't mean to."
He flitted his thumb over the SD slot. "Even so, it would be very unfortunate for him if something were to happened to this chip." He couldn't help the air of danger rising in his voice. He knew he could never destroy such brilliant technology but if he did, boy, wouldn't that surely teach Hajime a lesson. It might finally get him out of the classroom, and effectively out of his head.
"Don't." Chiaki voice was firm, and her brows furrowed.
"Oh? You seem bothered Chiaki? Are you worried about being deleted?" An amazing concept in and of itself, Nagito thought.
Chiaki paused, seemingly irritated with him, but then her voice softened. "My program won't be deleted just because you threw away my chip. But even if it did, I'm more replaceable than Hajime's reputation. I can't let you do something like that to him."
"You care about Hajime? You understand what I mean when I say he's Reserve, or is that knowledge not in your programming?"
"I know. And even if it wasn't in my programming, Hajime has told me plenty about it. And plenty about how you feel about it." Nagito didn't think Hajime took anything he ever said to heart, not with his defiant attitude. "But Hajime is a good person. He's my friend."
He was silent for a moment, and Chiaki made no move to change that fact. "Strange." The only word Nagito could slip from his lips. It was strange. It felt like everyone in the world loved Hajime, despite everything Nagito knew. Nagito knew the world wasn't like that. It didn't love those who didn't deserve it, those not born to the affections of the universe. But it loved Hajime and it made no sense. It gave Hajime hope that he never earned, that he never bleed for. Nagito knew there was never hope without despair. He knew he couldn't be wrong, He was never wrong, no how hard he tried. No matter how hard he hoped, ironically.
And Chiaki said nothing, she sat in his hand boring through him. He had to redirect.
"I'm not going to throw you away Chiaki. You're far too amazing for that. Someone as lowly as me should never even considered doing something as shameful as that to you." He cheered at his own self-deprecation, but Chiaki didn't seem flattered. "That said, I really don't trust you in the hands of someone like Hajime. I mean look what happened the first time."
Chiaki was still quiet like she was calculating something. Calculating him. Finally, after forever and then some, she spoke, "Ok then. I won't tell Hajime."
"But I thought you were friends, shouldn't friends trust each other?" Nagito edged at her, but Chiaki seemed to have already adjusted to his personality.
"He'll find out eventually." Something about that felt genuinely threatening but he couldn't explain it. "And I want to talk to you, too. That's what I'm for, after all. Maybe we can be friends too."
Nagito chuckled sympathetically, admiring her optimistic attitude. "I don't think you'd want to be friends with someone like me."
"Hm. We'll see." Chiaki smiled.
Sorry, for the wait. I finally finished the outline for this so I've got it all down, should update a bit faster now :)
Also sorry if Komaeda's internal dialogue seems inaccurate or depressing, he's a bit hard to write. I know his lines sound repetitive I did that on purpose, I promise.