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Generated: Jun 03, 2018 11:00 PM
Post last updated: Jun 03, 2018 9:08 PM
pride comes before
a bell in ouran with magic
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The education here might be top-notch but the curriculum isn't exactly what it was at her old school and she has catch-up to do. Mariko hunts for a place to study, wobbling a little under the weight of her backpack.

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All the libraries are crowded and full of loud chatter, but the door labeled 'Music Room 3' looks promising. 

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She'll presumably have to clear out if someone wants to use it for music, but it's quiet now. She opens the door.

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When she opens the door, six voices simultaneously call out, "Welcome!"

The room is overflowing with magic, as are the six gorgeous men standing in front of her. 

One of them steps forward and bows. 

"My lady, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

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"- hello. I see this is not actually an empty music room."

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"No, nothing so dull as that. I am Tamaki Suoh."

He gestures to the five other men.

"And these are the members of the Host Club."

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"Mariko Suwan. Sorry to intrude."

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"No! Don't apologize. Anyone as beautiful as you is welcome here."

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"You're the new scholarship student, aren't you?"

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"If there's only one, then yes. Am I gossip material?"

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"You're unusual. We so rarely have outsiders at Ouran."

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"What a mystery. Well. I was actually looking for a place to study..."

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"Of course, we wouldn't want to keep you."

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"But don't forget us, you're always welcome to return."

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"Noted." And she turns to go, and overbalances -

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And a beautiful blue vase, sitting innocently on its pedestal in the center of the room, tips over and shatters on the tile floor.

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"- oh yikes. I'm sorry."

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"That vase-" one of the twins says, stepping over to look down at the shards. 

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"-cost eight million yen," the other twin says, joining him. 

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"Even for us, that's a significant financial loss and there's unlikely to be time to replace it before the auction."

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"...so what you're saying is that you definitely have insurance. On the vase."

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"It would be extremely foolish not to."

He looks at the twins.

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"Um-"

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"Well-"

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"We forgot?" they say together. 

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He sighs. 

"Ms. Suwan, I hope we can rely on your discretion."

And the shards on the floor reassemble into the vase.

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One of the twins picks it up.

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"Why don't you put that somewhere where it won't be a tripping hazard?"

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"...lips are sealed."

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"The school's strict policy against observable magic is sporadically enforced, but they'll be keeping a closer eye on you. So I wouldn't suggest you follow my example."

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"Understood."

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"She's magical?"

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"Your father didn't create her scholarship out of a sudden burst of generosity."

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"Oh."

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"At least the railroading came with a free ride to a nice school."

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"Ouran's the best school there is."

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"So," one of the twins says, walking over to stand next to Mariko, "you learned magic on your own."

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"How did you manage that?" the other twin asks, coming up on her other side. 

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"Uh, one day I was sitting around thinking and taking notes and noticed that I had some."

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The twins exchange looks and shrug. 

"Well, I'm Hikaru Hitachiin."

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"And I'm Kaoru Hitachiin."

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"You'll definitely see us around."

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"Okay. Nice to meet you."

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"I'm Mori," one of the remaining members says. 

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"And I'm Honey!" the last member says.

He's wearing the high school uniform, but he looks like he should be in elementary school.

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"What is a host club, anyway?"

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"We exist to entertain and delight the women of Ouran and to show them the appreciate they deserve."

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"...this is a club?"

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"Just as the orchestra club puts on concerts to delight the ear, we put on shows that delight the heart. Though we have enough performers, there is always room in the audience."

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"If that's what you're into, I guess. Have fun."

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"It is not our fun that matters, but the enjoyment of our guests."

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The twins roll their eyes.

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"Well, spread fun around, then. Do you happen to know a quiet place to study? The libraries are too crowded."

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"There are several rarely used science labs in the basement."

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"Great, thanks."

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"Would you like a guide? I would be delighted to show you the way."

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"Sure, why not. Thank you."

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He will open the door for her on the way out. 

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"Thanks."

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"Are you enjoying Ouran so far? I imagine it must be very different from what you're used to."

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"It's all right. I had to point out to the scholarship folks that if they didn't pay for my uniforms they were in fact threatening me into buying expensive dresses but since we've sorted that out it's fine."

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"The uniforms are that expensive?"

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"My mom teaches kindergarten and my dad lives in Canada and the dresses are an order of magnitude more expensive than anything I'd buy on my own."

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"Do you buy," he lowers his voice, "used clothes?"

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"Not usually, but that's mostly because thrift stores are annoying to navigate."

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"Because of the bugs?"

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"I don't think they have bugs, but they only have one of everything so you can't get a different size if you like something but it's too big."

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"You could get a tailor to adjust it for you."

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"That's more trouble than I usually want to go to for a T-shirt and jeans."

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"The right pair of jeans can be just as flattering as anything else."

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"Maybe one day I will discover the miracle of individually tailored jeans, but not while I'm wearing school uniforms most of my waking hours."

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"The uniform is also very flattering on you."

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"Thank you."

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Ouran has an elevator. It is spacious and wood paneled and does not play elevator music.

 

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Convenient. She's being escorted, so she watches which floor he picks.

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The elevator has a normal set of buttons except for the topmost button. Instead of a label, there are two small lights next to it. One is lit. The other is dark.

Tamaki presses the bottom button.

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"What's up with the top button?"

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"It's the private floor. That's where you'll go for lessons in magic. You have to turn on the light to make it work."

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"Aha."

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The elevator descends to the basement. It doesn't take more than a few seconds.

It's as brightly lit and nicely decorated down here as anywhere else in the school. 

Tamaki leads her to the labs.

"I think only chemistry uses these and only for of the larger experiments they can't leave in the lab upstairs."

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"That's perfect, thank you."

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"You're welcome. If, when you finish your work, you'd like to stop by the Host Club, we'd be delighted to have you."

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"...is there anything in particular going on later or is it just you guys hanging out in a room?"

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"Our doors are opening in a few minutes and there will be many of our other lovely guests for you to meet."

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"So... party with a bunch of strangers."

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"I would love to introduce you to everyone, if you have not yet had the chance. It would be a shame if no one got to know you."

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"I guess I could put it down as 'networking'."

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He grins.

"I'll look forward to seeing you."

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"Sure, see you later. Have fun at your club."

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"I always do."

He leaves. 

The labs are empty and slightly chilly. Some of the countertops might actually be marble.

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Oooh, marble. She gets her studying in. She meditates on how great she is for a couple minutes. She heads back to the elevator and swings by the host club.

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It's much busier now. All of the host club members are surrounded by groups of girls, with the exception of Kyoya. 

He meets her at the door with a clipboard. 

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"You take attendance?"

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"It's important to know the identity and preferences of all of our guests."

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"Well, here I am. What kind of preferences?"

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"Which host would you like to see today?"

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"This is a one to one arrangement? Do you perform or something? What are you, male geisha?"

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"No one will stop you from wandering, but picking a single host lets us give you more individualized attention."

He pushes up his glasses. 

"It also helps me record accurate statistics."

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"Gotta optimize your metrics. What am I supposed to choose based on?"

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"Each of the hosts has a type. Tamaki is the classic prince charming. Mori is the strong and silent type and goes hand in hand with Honey, the adorable type. The twins are the mischievous type."

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"...I'm not sure that constitutes an answer to my question."

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"Who sounds most appealing?"

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"I'm beginning to think I have underthought the nature of this club."

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"Oh?"

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"Appealing in what capacity?"

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"An hour or two of polite flirting and pleasant conversation of course. This is Ouran High School."

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"Uh-huh. Do you not perform this noble office? You just take attendance?"

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"I do, sometimes."

He glances at a few girls huddled together at one of the tables. They've been sneaking glances at him. One of them blushes. Two of them whisper excitedly at each other. 

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"...and you, what, control the supply to make yourself more interesting?"

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"Some girls like the mysterious type."

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"You're not mysterious, you're artificially scarce."

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"To our guests, it amounts to the same thing."

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She snorts. "Enjoy your mysterious manipulations of the attention market." She goes and wanders over to the least populated section of club first.

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There's a table in the corner, where a few girls are chatting to each other softly and not paying much attention to the hosts. 

When she goes to join them their conversation will pause and they'll look up, slightly wary and slightly hostile.

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"Am I interrupting?"

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"Yes," one of the girls says emphatically. 

"Aren't you the commoner?" another one asks,  "Mariko Swan?"

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"Nicely pronounced, yes."

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The girls exchange glances.

"Isn't she?"

"Yeah."

"Sit down if you want," says the girl who knew Mariko's name. 

"We're trying to figure out what they did to the tea today."

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She sits. "They do different things to it?"

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"Make it stay warmer for longer, mostly, or make the flavors more pronounced."

"But sometimes they change the flavor entirely," another girl says. She shakes her head. "It makes it so hard to get your own if you like it."

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Mariko gets herself a cup of tea.

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There are faint traces of harmonic magic in it.

It is sweet and a little tangy and tastes of blueberry.

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"Yum."

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"I think it's the sweetness," one of the girls says. "They put in a little sugar and drew on that maybe?"

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"Is the package around somewhere to check or is that cheating?"

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"I'll ask Tamaki, unless one of you has a better guess."

Everyone shakes their heads.

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"Could have gotten the sweetness from the berry? I'd want to look at the ingredients of the tea itself though."

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One of the girls calls Tamaki over.

He smiles when he sees Mariko.

"I am so pleased you came."

He turns to the waver.

"Want to test your guess?"

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"No, she wants to see the ingredients."

She gestures at Mariko.

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"What ingredients did you taste?"

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"Blueberry, mostly."

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"It is the most powerful flavor in this mix, it easily overcomes the delicate traces of lemon and the touch of hibiscus."

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"I don't know that I'd have been able to identify the taste of hibiscus if I ate the entire flower, but lemon's noticeable now." Sip.

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"It's the touch of tartness. It hides behind the lemon, but if it was only lemon the aftertaste would be less sharp."

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"If I take up exotic tea blending I will come to you with questions."

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"If you did, I'd be delighted to be of assistance."

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One of the girls rolls her eyes.

"So what did you actually do?"

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"Harmony, on both the blueberry and a touch of sugar, so it would make it sweeter without the sweetness overpowering the taste."

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"Well, it's very nicely done."

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"Thank you. It's an honor to please someone as lovely as you."

 

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"You're welcome, of course."

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He bows again and then goes to some other girls who are trying to get his attention.

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The conversation at the table turns to how best to improve one's handwriting with magic.

One girl thinks it's best to be very painstaking with the first couple of lines and use a little harmonious magic to your writing on the rest of the page match. 

Another thinks it's best to keep a lovely sample of someone else's handwriting around.

A third comments that it really depends on how bad your natural handwriting is.

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"I like to improve my magic with handwriting more than the other way around," says Mariko.

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"Diligence?" One girl asks. "I suppose you could get some, but it doesn't seem like it'd be worth it."

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"Well, I write a lot."

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"Maybe I should try it," she says.

"You really should."

"Hey."

"Have you seen your own notes?"

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"Where'd you get your handwriting sample?" Mariko asks the one who uses one.

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"Rei Mikami. She's a senior this year. I didn't know it was possible for someone to have that good of handwriting. It's so perfect you'd think she'd printed it."

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"Is she using magic?"

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"Nah. Her family's rich cause of her grandfather. He designed some heat resistant plastic or something. They were just commoners before that."

She realizes who she's talking to.

"No offense or anything."

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"How distantly related do you have to be to all your accomplished ancestors before you're so uncommon as for it not to bear mentioning?"

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She doesn't seem quite sure what to say.

"Um, it's not that there's anything wrong with him or anything! It's just, you know, he was a commoner so it's not like he could learn magic. Rei's children might, if she marries someone who does and then she can learn too, if she wants."

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"Is that how it normally works."

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"I mean, you can't just give magic to... um... anyone? But, you figured it out on your own! That's really amazing. That probably means you deserve to have it."

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"Is there a finite supply?"

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"I mean, no, but if you just gave magic to just anyone, then how would you know you could trust them? They might tell everyone else! Or do terrible things to get power."

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"I see."

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There's a slightly awkward pause and then the girls resume chatting. 

The rest of the club seems to be a mix of very subtle uses of magic and not so subtle flirtation. 

 

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The twins are uncomfortably close and telling a story about a time they both went swimming. 

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Honey is working his way through a large cake and chattering excitedly with a group of girls.

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Mori sits next to him.

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Tamaki moves from girl to girl, giving effusive, dramatic compliments and the occasional flower. 

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Kyoya observes and takes notes and chats briefly with the guests when they approach him. 

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Mariko drifts around, watching magic more than people, and eventually drifts toward the exit.

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Kyoya nods at her as she leaves.

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"Thank you for having me," she says.

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"Anytime."

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"I assume there are hours of operation."

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"We are all mortals. Tamaki would be much less charming if he didn't sleep."

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"And presumably you have classes, although perhaps you've scheduled them so that, for unfathomable reasons, you can man the place in shifts."

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He chuckles. 

"No, I've managed to hold on to at least that much sanity."

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"Well, I'll see you around, although maybe not here."

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The next day, she'll notice two familiar faces in her art class. 

Kyoya is reading a book and pointedly ignoring Tamaki. 

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Tamaki is chattering away at him anyway. He has learned some people keep tigers as pets and badly wants one.

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The room isn't crowded. There are empty seats near Tamaki and Kyoya, but there are also plenty available in other parts of the room.

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Well, she at least sort of knows them. She plops down over there, nearer Kyoya than Tamaki.

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Kyoya looks up and gives her a polite smile. 

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"Mariko! You're in our class," Tamaki says excitedly. 

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"Yes, hello. How are you?"

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"I'm doing well. Did you know, in some parts of the world, they keep tigers as pets?"

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Kyoya sighs.

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"It's a bad idea," says Mariko.

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"Why?"

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"It's not good for the tiger, it's not good for tigers as a species, and you might get maimed if you try to actually pet your pet tiger."

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"What if it's an orphan tiger? I could donate to a tiger conservation fund."

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"I suppose it's possible that with enough money you could offset the opportunity cost of a more-or-less ethically sourced tiger. And with enough more money you could get it a nice habitat. You still might get maimed. They are not domesticated."

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"I would train it!" 

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"Training works on domesticated animals because that's one of the things we domseticate them about. Tigers are much less trainable. Have you ever even trained a dog?"

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"Badly," Kyoya says.

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"Antoinette loves me," Tamaki says, sounding hurt.

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"Antoinette is your dog?"

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"She is! She's a golden retriever. I've had her since she was a puppy."

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"What might lead an observer to think she is badly trained?"

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He crosses his arms and turns his head away.

"She likes people, that's all."

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"And frequently knocks them over."

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"Well, if you have a tiger you might die. Cannot in good conscience recommend."

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Tamaki hmphs. 

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The teacher catches everyone's attention.

They'll be using charcoal today. The teacher asks them to please try not to get it on everything.

They divide into groups based on what still life they want to sketch. There's the classic, a bowl of grapes next to a glass of wine and a silver bowl filled with apples. The teacher also has a few more unusual options, a taxidermied swan, three pairs of children's shoes, and a fast food meal. 

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Mariko goes for the swan, why not.

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Tamaki goes to sketch the grapes and starts animatedly chatting with another girl in the class.

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Kyoya also begins sketching the swan.

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Mariko is a tolerably good sketcher; not practiced but she can do the draw-what-you-see thing.

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Kyoya is accurate, if not the slightest bit artistic. The sketch he produces looks like the swan. It's not something you'd want to hang on your wall.

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"My surname means 'swan'," she comments after a silence.

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"Does it? Well, I hope this is an amazing coincidence and not some subtle statement made by our instructor."

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"It would be a little odd to go get a taxidermy swan to make a subtle statement."

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"You might be surprised at the lengths people are willing to go to here, just to make plausibly deniable insults. But, in this case, it's probably is just a dead swan."

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"Given that it's dead it might be a threatening statement if it were one."

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"You've not caused quite that much of a fuss, yet."

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"Hopefully I will not find it necessary."

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"I'm sure they'll all have mostly forgotten about you in a month."

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"Short attention spans?"

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"For some things."

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"What holds interest longer?"

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"The politics between the larger families mostly. There are grudges that have been going for more than a hundred years."

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"After that long they can't be about anything but themselves."

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"All the little acts of revenge are themselves worthy of revenge. So they may not be angry at the original slight, but they are angry about that time ten years ago when the other family bought a competing grocery store and sold at a loss just to put theirs out of business."

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"I do suppose that would be irritating. And must have annoyed unrelated grocers too."

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"I wouldn't know."

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"Congratulations on having better uses of your time than grocery drama, I suppose."

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"I can't promise it's better, but at least it doesn't involve the price of eggs."

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"I suppose the host club's absorbing, uh, somehow."

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"It's quite profitable."

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"Visitors tip?"

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"They buy merchandise and pay to go on special outings."

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"That's cute. Are there shirts? Do they say," she switches to perfect English, "'I visited the Host Club and all I got was this lousy T-shirt'?"

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He laughs.

"There aren't, but now I'm tempted to make some."

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"It'd be ironically ironic or something."

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"Or something."

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"What is the nature of the merchandise?"

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"It varies. I've sold photo books of the hosts, recordings of Tamaki playing piano, personalized love letters, the hosts' discarded personal effects, various merchandise matching our themed events, clothes designed by the twins, and recordings of Honey and Mori in karate competitions, among other things."

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"An interesting range. The twins any good at designing clothes?"

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"Their mother, Yuzuha Hitachiin, is a world-famous designer. They've inherited some of her talent."

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"Oh, nifty." Sketch sketch.

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"I don't think she quite approves of the way they use their skill though. The twins aren't the type to consider current trends or practicality or decency when making their designs."

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"Decency, huh."

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"I'm sure they'd show you pictures if you're curious."

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"Eh, not enough to go looking."

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"You'll likely see them if you ever come to the Host Club again. The twins save us quite a bit of money on costumes."

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"I suppose that would be the logical thing to do with in-house clothing designers."

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"It would be a waste to get our costumes anywhere else."

He adds a few details to his sketch.

"Are you considering joining any other after school activities? The host club doesn't seem quite to your taste."

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"It's really not. I was in English club at my last school because it would be embarrassing to pick up an accent or disfluency in my native language through lack of practice and some people were interested in talking about comparing the languages in general, but I'm not especially likely to do it again. I heard a passing reference to a magic club but it didn't sound complimentary."

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"It's not worth your time. Their recent obsession is voodoo dolls. Despite the amount of hair they've managed to steal, there's been no visible results. It's a pity they can't direct all that effort into something more productive."

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"Oh, so it's a - fictitious magic club."

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"Yes, thought not through lack of trying. If you ever see a man skulking about the school in a dark cloak, that would be their president, Nekozawa Umehito."

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"How did he come by this hobby?"

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"He's a very... observant person," Kyoya says softly.

"But he also has a flair for the dramatic and it's quite easy to come to the wrong conclusions if you don't have all the necessary information."

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"I suppose it could be."

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"He also thinks cats are evil and trying to kill him and assumes that his increased susceptibility to sunburns is a curse."

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"Uh-huh. I will not join his magic club. Is there a real magic club that isn't in the institutional literature?"

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"Besides ours? No."

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"The host club is also a magic club, not a club that incidentally uses magic?"

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"Only unofficially, but yes. We host more, selective, events where magic is the primary focus."

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"Ooh."

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"I could make sure you get an invitation?"

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"I'd like that."

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He nods and scribbles something into his ever present notebook.

"It is customary to bring to bring an example of or demonstrate a novel or interesting use of magic. If you can't, you can still attend, but you will make less of an impression."

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"Hmmm, can I have some examples?"

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"At our last event, the twins arrived wearing incredibly attention-getting clothing and used dissonance to make sure no one noticed them. One of our guests wove small weights into the lining of her dress and used dissonance to make it float slightly as she moved. At our last event, I brought wine that I artificially aged to match a rare vintage using harmony. One of our guests deliberately got extremely drunk and used dissonance to make themselves more graceful and eloquent than they could usually manage."

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"No, I used a bottle of properly aged wine I found in my father's wine cellar."

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"Ah, no. I did not pretend that I had obtained another bottle of the older vintage. The point was the improvement in flavor and the ability to make new wine as good as old."