High School Musical... Academy. [1/4 ←in theory 8D] 2400w; G.
The gossip mill spins long and hard. Sometimes it's ridiculous. Sometimes it's right.
Most of the time though, just like the drama it follows, it's no more and no less than neverending.
"That one! Him. Takizawa-sama has him blacklisted already. Tsubasa-kun, too."
"Th- both of them? That kid? He's just a freshman, and kind of shor—"
"No! Shh—not so loud! He might hear you."
"What kind of second year are you?"
"His glare's really, really scary!"
"And you know this how?"
"...oh my god."
"...okay, yeah. That was kind of terrifying."
The club starts with two: Machida Shingo. Akiyama Jun.
Their first (and only successful) catch is a Yaraemon. But even little fish are still fish, right? Thinking about it, pirhana aren't really so big either...
It's not that Machida and Akiyama are rude, or even that they're unlucky. (Well, maybe they're a little unlucky.) Mostly, it's just the way they look that isn't so crash hot. Akiyama's huge, lumbering form (puppy-eager), next to Machida's half-drugged gaze (near blank at best) is enough to send all but the brashest girls skittering to avoid their hallspace—and many of the guys, too.
"Hey!" Akiyama calls, and his merry voice is loud, booming in the confines. "Do you want to join our—"
"No!" (Or, "No, thanks!") is the inevitable quick reply. Sometimes there's more: "I'm already in this club (or that)," or "I'm not really into dancing." But mostly, they all just hurry out of the way.
The brave (or 'fearless'; possibly 'stupid') kid is short; his lapel marks say first year, but he's still small for a high schooler. The baggy cap on his head is bigger than he is, his hair maybe even twice again that size underneath. And he struts with pride—straight into Akiyama's broad chest down the middle of the hall.
Akiyama the half-giant blinks in surprise, looking down.
The kid glares up through catlike eyes. "Oi."
Akiyama raises an eyebrow. "'Oi'?"
A lip curls. "Move, buddy."
"That's not how you speak to a senior—"
Next instant, Akiyama finds the sole of a white school shoe planted on his chest. But he is big, and the first year is small. Nothing budges except maybe Akiyama's brows, which knit in a bloom of irritation. He swats the first year's foot aside and the kid spins to regain his balance. "What do you think you're doing?"
Machida steps forward with a casual intervention that might be more out of self-interest than Akki-interest. "Join our dance club," he instructs as if it's an offer.
(It's self-interest after all.) Akiyama's eyes widen in dismay. "Maachin—"
"You're very flexible," Machida tells the first year conversationally, ignoring Akiyama's protests. "And that recovery was smooth. Do you dance, or just fight too much?"
"Maachin, no way!"
"Dance club?" the kid snerks. "With this oaf? You've gotta be joking."
"I'm the leader and club president," Machida explains with patient grace. "In future tense." (It means he will be when they get enough people—a minimum of five—to officially form a club in the first place.)
"Maachin, please, you can't be serious—"
"Done deal," the kid tells Machida, an infuriating smile on his face as he sticks out his hand for the shaking. From the look on his face, it's entirely possible that his acceptance is for the sole purpose of pissing Akiyama off. "You can call me Yara." It doesn't seem to matter much though.
"Yay," Machida says, deadpan with his polite enthusiasm, shaking the other's hand. "Then I will call you Yara."
There is no room for Akiyama to object.
"Hey, what happened to that guy with the... face?"
"Ah. He kind of said he won't be back."
"What? Why? He was really good."
"...yeah. He kind of said we weren't."
Yonehana's the second one they reel in. (Or the first one Yara reels in, really, because effective recruiting works exponentially like that and all.)
It begins with Yara's sudden disappearance while the new dance club trio are still roaming the school and (failing at) recruiting sometime thereafter.
Machida is unfazed. "He'll find us again."
"I wish I could take that like a good thing," Akiyama mutters. Outside the sports center doors, he hunkers down with a sigh.
"He's only a first year," Machida tells him with tactless diplomacy, and holds a cutesy peace sign up by his face. "As senpai, we should be nice. And now the number of members we need is o~nly two!" The tone of his inflection doesn't match his patent lack of expression either, but Akiyama's sort of used to that quirk.
"I guess that's true," Akiyama says. And musters up a smile. "Hey, maybe we can even—"
Behind him the sports hall door slams open. Akiyama jumps up, turns quickly; Machida blinks. But no words come from either of them because, inexplicably, in the door stands their missing Yaraemon with a second freshman in tow.
The new boy snickers snidely at the trio of rabbity expressions.
Yara recovers enough to smack him over the shoulder before turning Machida's way. "Machida-san," he says, "meet Yone. Yone, Machida."
"I'm Akiyama," Akiyama adds.
"Yonehana Tsuyoshi," Yara's friend tells them with the slightest incline of his head, a lazy twinkle in his strange eyes. He's taller than Yara (but then again so is everybody), and wears the sleeves of his uniform rolled up. His arms are well-toned and tanned, his shoes oddly polished.
His hair is... mildly amazing.
Machida wonders for a moment if 'Yone' might be the son of some two-bit yakuza, but then thinks better of asking. "What can you do?" he queries instead, getting down to business. Talk is for weenies after all.
Yonehana grins, amused, and speaks with odd eloquence: "With all due respect, you make it sound like it matters."
"It does," Machida grins a lopsided lie. "Really." Yara rolls his eyes.
"If you say so," Yonehana chuckles anyway, indulgent, and leads them back into the sports hall. "So, Yaracchi. What's the dance plan today?"
"Last night's gig, but with your trademark finish," Yara says, moving up to Yonehana's shoulder with an easy smile. Sharp. "Let's blow them away. On three."
Yonehana cracks his knuckles, grinning. "Got it." And Yara counts them in.
Without music, without fanfare, the first year pair begin to move. Side by side, in near sync—Yara pops a little crisper, but not by much and it's pretty impressive. They mirror, switch, and cross with confidence in the liquid set of their shoulders, the flicks of their hands on silent notes of accent.
Machida is mildly impressed—Yonehana seems to be at least as good as Akiyama in this style of dance at least, and Yara's probably closer to Machida's own level (though not quite there, if he'd say so himself). The pair have flair, with what looks like a solid technical grounding. And so Machida is mildly impressed.
Until the acrobatics start.
Then he's amazed.
Yonehana matches Yara flip for flip, their height difference nulled as they achieve the same clearance time and again and land in tandem, barely breathless.
Yara's fiery laughter rings from the walls as he crouches a cue at the routine's end. Grinning, Yonehana goes. Turns one back handspring, two, three, and four—at speed, further and further down the hall. Eight, nine, ten, eleven—
"Twelve," Akiyama blinks in awe. "And..."
The last, the thirteenth—a clean, soaring backflip—lands solidly with ease.
"Nailed it!" Yara shouts, fierce in pride, and Yonehana fists the air on the adrenaline of flying.
Their club needs just one more.
"Ah~ he's so dreamy... so artistic. Such a free spirit."
"Yeah. He's seriously talented for a senpai. And dreamy."
"If by dreamy, you mean stoned, sure—ow. Peasant."
"You know, I don't think I've ever even seen him awake before."
"...it's just part of his image! Go away."
The club needs just one more member, and they absolutely cannot find him.
Machida's pretty sure they've asked e-ver-y-one across the school's three year levels, to absolutely no avail.
Maybe their luck is bad after all, because it's not only Akiyama half of them are scared of now, but Yara and Yonehana too. Yonehana just looks like a thug, and though that can't be helped (and he's nice enough underneath, really), his frank gaze and direct manner do nobody's cause any favours.
Conversely, Yara is... well. Yara. It takes Machida a couple of days to connect their little freshman's face to that Yara Tomoyuki's stinging reputation. Being a third year, he doesn't know exactly what went down among the lower grades on that fateful first week of school, but it's rumoured to have involved the reigning second years, Takizawa and Imai, complete with fists and black eyes. Or black eyes and balls, depending on who you ask. Machida doesn't really care enough to dig deeper (and balls kind of scare him anyway, truth be told), but the effect is the same: instant infamy.
Nobody wants anything to do with any of them, but it can't be helped.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. And desperate measures mean calling in old friends (if you can find them).
And so, Machida hunts.
'Is he even here today?' he asks himself, moseying past the staffroom window.
'Maybe,' his brain replies. But though Ohno Satoshi isn't particularly academic about the brain, he's never been the type to shirk responsibility either. (Not least because it would make his mother sad.) 'Probably, hopefully.'
'Okay,' Machida thinks back, and keeps his eyes dutifully peeled, moon-walking sideways through the courtyard.
After forty-five minutes, he takes a sudden right at the soccer field. There's a smudge of an errant shadow behind one tree at the other end of the green, which Machida believes could be Ohno's knee with a stretch of the imagination. Just a mild stretch, even. Close friends know each other like that.
But even so, on the approach, not even Machida can tell for sure if Ohno is meditating on what next to draw, or just sleeping with his eyes kind of open. "Afternoon, Satoshi," he greets. A pencil sits slack in Ohno's grasp. Machida picks it up, spinning the light wood twice between his fingers in a magical wave in front of Ohno's eyes.
". . . I was using that," Ohno says, belatedly stirring. He looks up. "Oh. Hey, Shingo," he says. And looks back down.
Machida half-smiles, seating himself to Ohno's right. He leans back against the tree with a sigh. Good day?
Ohno gives the impression of shrugging, but doesn't otherwise reply.
"Ah," Machida says. Me, too.
?, Ohno queries, turning his head slightly.
"Just one more member," Machida tells him in the quiet.
Ohno snuffles for a moment before nodding.
"...thanks, Satoshi. You'll like Yara, I think."
Machida smiles, grateful.
He knows Ohno isn't really into the whole clubs and societies thing. Knows also that he could be if he wanted—could be really famous through the whole school with his artist's eye and singing talent and dance and acting ability and comedy skill and everything else that Ohno has (that Machida doesn't). But he also knows that Ohno isn't really that interested. That Ohno likes his own pace a bit too much.
"Yeah..." Machida says, promising with his eyes that it's Just until we get one more.
For now though, just for now, their New Club Application Form finally has five names.
Five, Machida thinks, is a very nice number indeed.
2. Akiyama Jun (Vice-President)
3. Yara Tomoyuki
4. Yonehana Tsuyoshi
5. Ohno Satoshi (Adjunct Member)
Their mission statement is to dance.
Alone before going home that day, Machida submits the application with hands that shake like the slow breath he's letting out, until he balls them into fists with a quiet, "Yosh!" to the floor of the empty hallway. Since lower elementary, school life has done almost nothing for him but suck a lot; now though, he's got the faintest dare to hope, maybe, possibly, that this year might actually be good.
"Machida Archer Shingo."
"Alright. Machida-kun. As you're probably aware, your parents requested this interview—"
"They did? Why?"
"...they're worried about you."
"They are? Why?"
"...maybe you could tell me."
"I don't... know...?"
"You're in a career counselor's office, Machida."
"...have you thought about your future at all?"
"...alright, I'll take that as a no. Then let's start with the basics: what do you want to do after high school?"
"...do you want to go to university?"
"I... uh. Um... Uni... versity...?"
The club is officially formed with zero fanfare, and no apparent plan to go anywhere in particular with its talent either. Its members are cordial enough about the concept though (or lack thereof).
There aren't that many locations available for late-formed clubs to meet anyway—they're in a new spot almost every weekday, and not many of those are appropriate for dance. So sometimes they chat about deeply philosophical things instead, like baseball, over a game or two of cards.
"So," Yonehana says, "has this group got a name, or are we just a school club?" There's a distinction between the two. Subtle though it is, it does exist. "What about the Yaraemons?"
"Piss off, Yone. Full House." Yara smacks down five cards.
"Musical Academy," Ohno says, not looking up from his sketchpad.
"Okay," Machida agrees, and contemplates his next move.
"Hey, wait." Yara's face is the blankest it's ever been. "Musical what?"
"Academy, right?" Machida says.
"Maachin—" Akiyama starts, but Machida holds up a hand.
"No, no. It's decided. I won that game of janken."
Two beats of silence hold before Yara's amusement (or his brain) cracks. He doubles over in stitches.
"Why are you laughing?" Yonehana asks, smacking him on the shoulder.
Yara chuckles. Grins. "I like it." And grins wider, laughing again.
Akiyama's brow furrows. "...okay?"
"Well, it's not like I have anything better," Yonehana shrugs practically, setting his cards down. "Fold." He concedes the round to their leader not-so-elect. And grins as well.
"Okay..." Akiyama repeats. "Okay." Then pumps a fist, gathering spirit. "Musical Academy, go!" he shouts. "Yay!"
"Yay!" Machida says, throwing his arms up in a one-man Mexican wave.
A flush of hearts goes flying.