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i don't usually date mascots (but you're the exception)

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“Riko, don’t look, but! I think Uchicchi’s got the hots for you.”

The absurdity of the sentence causes her to nearly spit out the drink she’s sipping onto Mari, whose gaze is focused across Riko’s shoulder and the aforementioned mascot that, according to her friend, has the “hots” for her. Riko isn't sure how Mari even came to such a conclusion, because - as far as she’s aware - neither of them could even see the person inside the suit. (It would seriously scar children to see some stranger residing inside their favorite mascot, after all.)

“Mari-san,” she says instead, choosing to ignore whatever nonsense Mari has decided to start this time, “what are we doing here? I swear, when you said going to Uchiura was a ‘must’ for winter break, I hope you didn’t mean I was going to stare at marine animals for the entire trip.” Honestly, this is the second aquarium they visited this week alone; how many aquariums does a quaint town need?

Mari seems affronted by her disdain for their trip plans. “And what’s so bad about staring at dolphins all day? You needed to get out of Tokyo’s sickeningly city air, and enjoy the countryside!”

“According to you! I was doing just fine staying at home for the holidays!” Really, she bought new doujin to read over the break, and Mari just had to come and shove a train ticket on her hand and practically make a racket in her dorm room until she agreed. The older girl can be extremely bothersome if one gives her reason to be.

And now Riko’s outdoors, in the winter cold, allegedly being goggled at by some furry mascot.

“You say this now, but when you get Uchicchi’s phone number, you’re going to think otherwise.”

“Can you stop that? You don’t even know if what you’re saying is true. And,” she holds her hand up to stop Mari from interrupting her, as the blonde already has her mouth opened, “even if they were, I’m not interested in getting a stranger’s phone number.” Tell a girl you want a relationship once in your mildly inebriated state, and suddenly she’s trying to set you up with everyone who breathes. (She should be grateful that Mari cares about her enough to go the extra mile, but after the fifteenth “I think they like you!” that’s led to her embarrassing herself in front of strangers, Riko’s gratitude has greatly diminished.)

Mari looks at her with a pout forming on her lips, before a glimmer of mischief sparkles on her eyes and, to Riko’s utter mortification, she starts waving her arm wildly. “Yoohoo! Uchicchi! Please come over here!”

So much for not looking. Riko looks over her shoulder, finally, and watches as the mascot waddles over to them, one hand holding an abundance of balloons. It’s a cute mascot, sure, but Riko has no idea what Mari intends on doing, so she feels like panicking and also very much like she wants to hurt Mari. The mascot finally reaches them, and offers Riko a balloon.

She’s halfway through her refusal when Mari loudly clears her throat, and starts sweetly, “hey, Uchicchi. What do you think of my friend?” To make a point, she gestures at Riko from head to toe, not holding back at all. Curse you, Mari Ohara.

The mascot themself seems a little startled by this sudden interaction, their free hand reaching to scratch the back of their (furry) head. “Uh…” a voice inside the suit says articulately, before they glance around the area. She doesn’t know what the mascot is looking for, but then they say, “here,” and hand her all of the balloons.

Is this some sort of offering? Is this their response? In her confusion, Riko reflexively accepts the balloons, receiving a “thank you” before the mascot puts their hands on their head, and off it goes -

- revealing a pretty girl with short, ashen brown hair, slightly drenched in sweat (even in winter, mascot costumes must be hot, she thinks, but doesn’t find the look disgusting) and flushed. Riko can feel a similar shade of red dawning on her own features as she realized that Mari asked a pretty girl if she liked her.

“She’s, um...nice to look at…” Headless Uchicchi turns even more red, and she’s laughing shyly.

“Is that why you were practically gaping at her while we were walking by?” Mari, ever the blunt one, prods without a single ounce of shame, and Riko wants to scream - in happiness? embarrassment? she’s feeling something - when the mascot-wearing pretty girl looks like a deer caught in the headlights.

O-oh?

“M-Mari-san…!”

“If you didn’t want to get caught, you shouldn’t have been so obvious, You-chan.”

“Wait, you two know each other?” Riko can’t hide the mild betrayal in her tone as she realizes that Mari knew who Uchicchi was all along, and has chosen to keep this a secret from her. Mari - shameless - looks the least bit apologetic.

“Um, yes? This is a small town, Riko, you’re bound to be friends with everyone if you live here for more than a year.” The blonde looks so proud of herself, before making a point of looking at her watch and gasping exaggeratedly. “Oh, would you look at the time! I have to go on my date - I’ll leave you two alone. Riko, I won’t be expecting you back at the hotel tonight.”

Before Riko can actually shriek out her name, Mari has fled and left her alone with the pretty girl Mari called “You-chan”. She wants to die. She wants a hole to open up beneath her and swallow her whole, but that’d be rude to You-chan, so she decides to rectify the damage Mari has done. “I’m so sorry...Mari-san doesn’t understand what minding her own business means.”

To her relief, the girl in front of her just laughs and waves it off - she still looks flushed, but her features feel more relaxed. “It’s fine. I’ve known Mari-san since high school, so I’ve witnessed firsthand how bold she can be. Oh! sorry, I’m being rude! I’m You, You Watanabe.” She offers a furry hand in a shake, which Riko accepts.

“Pleasure to meet you, Watanabe-san. I’m Riko Sakurauchi.”

“Hey, you’re the city slicker!”

“Excuse me?”

You appears embarrassed by her outburst, and quickly backtracks, “sorry. Mari-san always talked about how she wanted us to meet this city girl. And asked if we had any single friends.”

Even people in the Shizuoka prefecture, Mari-san!?

Her desire to die only intensifies upon learning this, and Riko’s halfway through her “study overseas and never see Mari Ohara again” plan when You clears her throat. “Uh...I meant what I said earlier. You’re...cute.” Her blush reaches to her ears, and Riko can feel her own ears turn hot.

“You don’t look so bad yourself,” is Riko’s reply, and she’s impressed at herself for not stuttering at all. The brunette smiles brightly at that, her lopsided grin absolutely infectious, and Riko’s own lips tug upward in response. She can’t believe she’s saying this, but… “When does your shift end?”

You looks mildly apologetic. “In a couple of hours - just in time for dinner. If you can wait a little bit, maybe we can...grab something to eat? I’ll take you to a local restaurant that serves some mean mackerel dishes.”

Riko bites her lip in feigned contemplation, though she already knows her answer. “Hmm...only if you give me your phone number.”

 

-

 

When Mari calls her later that evening, Riko’s not surprised to hear the laughter implicit in her tone. “So…? How’s my little lily faring? ” The nickname causes her brow to twitch in mild irritation, but she’s heard it enough times to barely tolerate it.

“I’m fine, but I can’t believe you set me up like that - again! This is the last time I’m ever listening to you. I don’t care how loudly you bang my door, I’m not going to open it for you anymore.”

Aw, don’t be such a sourpuss! She was pretty, wasn’t she? ” Riko hears ruffling, and wonders if Mari just went back to their hotel room when Mari continues, “and, above all else, You-chan is a sweet girl. I know for a fact that she’ll treat you right. She has the Mari Ohara seal of approval!

Riko sighs, but she can’t fight the grin that’s making its way into her face. “Who says I wanted your seal of approval?”

Hey -

She ends the call before Mari gets riled up, sighing as she puts her phone on the blanket she’s sitting on. You takes this moment to flop beside her, careful not to let her sandy feet touch the blanket, and her eyes are trained on the orange hues as the sun sets. “Well, what’d I tell you? The view’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

Not for the first time, Riko smiles (giddily, like she has a secret she can’t wait to tell) and turns her gaze on the unsuspecting girl beside her, at the way the soft lighting hits her face, her eyes twinkling with life and contentment.

“Yes, the view is absolutely beautiful.”