Chapter 1.1 – First Smiles & Introductions

A/N: So, I've had this story in mind for years. 5 ½-ish. I finally got down to writing it, probably not the best time to do so, since I just started uni, and final exams are in a few weeks… xD Although I have a –very, very- rough idea of this story from start to finish in my mind, when it comes to writing, I. Just. Cannot. Which is part of the reason why I need to do this: to practice! (Because my writing is horrible, you've been warned! And btw, this is my first real fanfic, so…) Anyway, first chapter turned out a little too long, so I split it in two, first Shinji, then Aki. Hope you… enjoy? xD

4/6 (Mo)

Minako sat alone on a bench at Naganaki shrine. She sighed into her hands, and rubbed them up and down her bare arms and legs in an attempt to warm them, mentally scolding herself for not wearing something warmer than the skirt and short sleeve she had on.

"Well," she mumbled to herself, "it's not like I had planned to arrive this late." She was late, hours late, and she knew that someone was probably expecting her arrival to welcome her (at least that had been what the email describing the exact location of the dorm had said) though it wouldn't surprise her if they had just given up and gone to bed…). And it really hadn't been her fault… suicides at train stations are quite common in Japan (and she made sure to get an excuse paper from the station as proof…). Lowering her head, she breathed in deeply and said another small whole-hearted prayer, hoping for the person to have found peace and to not be suffering wherever they were now.

Some time afterwards, her hands were playing with the laces of her shoes, and she was trying hard to keep her eyes open. Yawning loudly, she stretched her tense arms and her back, and looked up at the sky. Only moments after she had stepped out of the station, everything had died. She counted down the seconds of the last minute of the day at the back of her mind (a habit formed after years), while quickly looking over the map for the nth time to remember the path to her new home before the lights went out. Her memory was as horrible as her nerves, even though the directions were quite simple and clear: "first, exit station through main entrance and turn right, go straight and turn left at the first street." Five minutes later, she could see the huge dorm across the street.

"Well, that was easy enough…" she said and laughed her worries away. Considering that she'd probably have to spend the next hour sitting outside on the front steps of the dorm, (wouldn't want to give anyone a scare by suddenly appearing out of nowhere) she squinted down at the map in her hands and recalled the shrine being close by, and how she had planned to pray for luck and health the following day. She shrugged. "Might as well do it now…" From where she stood, it was only a couple of streets down after all.

Ten minutes later, she was sitting at the playground, and as much as she did not want to think about it, her mind was bringing up thoughts of this town that had once been her home. She had tried to distract herself with music, books, and naps the entire day, but now she was here. It all seemed so foreign yet so familiar to her. Minako could faintly remember the days she had spent here after school with her mother who would push her on the swings, and her father, who'd help her down from the jungle gym.

In another attempt to distract her melancholic mind, she reached into her bag to retrieve a chocolate bar she had been saving to snack on. Ten minutes would soon have passed, but she had no intention of getting up just yet. Moments later, she was watching the sky while sucking on a square of chocolate and craving water when she felt her nerves go on edge. Was that…? No, it can't be…


She was sure of it now.

They were coming from the stairs leading to the shrine, across the playground, but at that hour in the dark night she knew that any noise not made by her could only mean one of two things. As quickly as she could, she stood and grabbed her bag, anxious to see who or what was coming closer. Though it was from various meters away, she could see the figure step up the last stairs, growing taller with each step. She could see now that it was a human. Slowly she released the breath she had been holding in an attempt to remain unnoticed, but almost instantly, the person seemed to look up, stopping mid-step in their walk. Minako knew that just because it wasn't one of the blob monsters didn't mean she was in the clear, but she was certain that if it were in fact a person she wouldn't be harmed. Decidedly, she walked –albeit slowly, and eyeing her surroundings to make a run for it if necessary- towards the person. It was a man, she could tell, by his height and figure.

"Are you lost?" She tried to make her voice come out sure and friendly, but even to her own ears she sounded too loud and scared. Moments passed, and there was no answer. Minako was expecting the monsters to come out and eat the man's sanity away at any moment –she was surprised it hadn't happened already-. She had seen it happen before (images came to her mind of past victims from her old town), at times right in front of her, which was why she was so sure she wouldn't be harmed. She was only a few feet away when he stepped back and replied in a low voice.

"No. Are you?" He sounded just as surprised as she felt. Thoughts and questions rushed inside Minako's mind. It made no sense to her. He should be going crazy… and yet, the coffins on the roads, the green sky, and the huge moon seemed to have no effect on him. Could it be…?

Realization dawned on her.

He was like her!

She smiled broadly and her eyes widened, sparkling with the reflection of the limited light from the sky.

The man, on the other hand, stared at her with narrowed eyes, his face in a scowl, and frowning lips, but none of this seemed to change her childish and excited expression in the slightest bit. He looked away from her face, scoffing… and trying to remember his previous thoughts.

"Do you live here?" her excitement was too obvious and he was still confused about it. "This town I mean, not exactly here here." She laughed awkwardly at her words in an attempt to ease his expression.

"Uhh," The man cleared his throat before mumbling a response. "Yeah."

She wanted to bombard him with questions; her stomach was fluttering at the idea of not being alone in the mystery surrounding the hour that had been a curse that up until then she had thought was hers and hers alone to deal with. Maybe he knew something about it that she didn't...? However, a part of her mind reminded her that she had somewhere to be, and she could feel her emotions threatening to make her cry.

"I just moved here," she explained, still so excited, "and I really should be on my way to the dorm before it gets any later, so…" Her voice trailed off. Her mind was a mess, which she knew she needed to clear, and her eyes were starting to prickle. There was someone like her, and he was standing in front of her!

"My name's Minako Arisato, by the way." She giggled a little uncomfortable at his silence. "And, you are?" He was still trying to make sense of her smiles and laughs; she should be confused and loosing it, and yet it was him who felt that way seeing how calm and happy she was as if it were the middle of the day. He cleared his throat once more before answering in his low voice,

"Shinjiro Aragaki."

"Well Aragaki-san," she cocked her head to the side and held her hand out to pass him something. His eyes were the only part of him that moved as he looked down at the thing in her hand. "I hope we can be friends." Again she laughed lightly as he only stood there not seeming to understand that she was offering him what she held. "It's only chocolate. Please, take it!"

He wanted to walk away, leaving her and her friendly smiles behind to go on his own way, but his hand seemed to have a mind of its own as it reached out and accepted the candy.

"Will you be here tomorrow? Up until now, I'd never met a person who was awake at this time, so I'm naturally a little shocked and curious about you." Again he didn't answer. "Anyway, if you can, please meet me here. I'll be waiting!" Minako tightened her grasp on the handle of her bag, stepped around him, and skipped her way to the dorm.

The next night, she sneaked out of the dorm through the fire escape minutes before the night changed, and sat at the bench in Naganaki Shrine waiting for Aragaki's arrival. The moment she heard the footsteps coming from the stairs, she ran to meet him, with that big and bright smile of hers which from day one managed to break his train of thoughts.

A/N: And? How was it? xD I had some trouble figuring out where to start the story, but settled on the beginning of the game to give chance to get to know them a little before the real stuff starts.

I'll post the next part in a few days. In the mean time, any advice? Anything you'd like to see in this future MC-Preg (no idea what the real term is) fic?