Actions

Work Header

The Hermit and The Fool

Work Text:

“I really hope it heats up soon…” Asao muttered, breathing into his gloved hands in a poor attempt to keep himself warm. The coldest days of winter were, thankfully, long behind him, but the chill in the air was just enough to cut through him and make it seem like the road ahead of him stretched on endlessly, eternally keeping him just far enough from his house to really let the cold get to him.

“But if it gets too hot, that’d be a pain in its own right, huh? Maybe we should just stop once we get into autumn, keep everything nice and cool…” He smiled, rubbing his arms for warmth. “Yeah, that’d definitely make the walk feel shorter. Well, less of a pain, anyway, ahaha…”

Asao laughed softly to himself. In truth, he doubted anything would make the walk feel less like work, but it was still a nice thought. The walk back from middle school had been easier. That was much shorter. Back then, he actually had a friend he could walk with most days, which helped far more than he cared to admit.

“Ah well, no use getting worked up. Just...just got a little bit left to go.” he sighed, looking ahead and seeing that, really, he hadn’t gotten much closer since he’d last looked at all. “It’s just, y’know, a longer walk than I expected…” Asao grumbled. It didn’t take him too long to perk up a little, though, as he eyed a familiar footpath off to his left.

“I suppose a break couldn’t hurt…” he smiled. He knew this just meant it’d take longer for him to reach the comfort of his bedroom, but he was sure the detour would be worthwhile. It always was.

Pushing aside the thought that he’d just be colder for the trip, Asao decided to go for it, turning off the road and stepping onto the small, narrow pathway towards the shrine he’d visited just about every week since he was a child.

Asao loved this shrine. He wasn’t sure, in truth, what it was that the goddess he constantly prayed to actually governed. Agriculture, maybe? It didn’t matter too much to Asao, though. Her shrine was small enough and quiet enough that it provided a constant respite whenever life just got to be just a little too much. It wasn’t that it attracted no attention, though. He’d run into other people there on a fairly regular basis. Still, nobody who actually knew him seemed to frequent it at all, and maybe a handful of people had ever said so much as a word to him during his regular trips over the years, so a few people here and there never dulled it’s appeal as an escape for Asao in the least.

More importantly than respite, however, it also served as a place where Asao could go to be himself and to unload all the troubles he faced that he just knew he couldn’t talk to anyone else about. No matter what was ailing him, he always knew that he could pray to the goddess here and tell her, in his own way, about how he was struggling and how he wished things could be different. He wasn’t sure if she, or any other deity for that matter, was really listening to him, but it wasn’t hard to feel that someone was keeping an eye on him there, letting him pour his heart out in a way nothing else really could. That was all it really took to put him just a little more at-ease.

He wasn’t quite sure, as he walked closer to the offering box, what it was he wanted to pray for this time. It didn’t take him long to get an idea though, as a tone chimed on his phone, letting him know he’d just received a message from his best friend. He knew, right then, that he’d want the wish to be about her. He put his phone on silent, knowing there’d be more messages inbound that he’d get to as soon as he was done, and approached the box.

Asao dropped in a small offering, idly wondering just how much he’d put in there over the years, clapped his hands together, and shut his eyes to pray.

Hi there, I hope you’re doing well…

He knew this wasn’t proper prayer etiquette, though he had no idea what actually was customary in these situations, so he approached it like a simple, casual conversation. Treating the goddess like an old friend, it seemed, made opening up to her the way he did a lot less intimidating. He was so shy around just about everyone else, but here, he barely felt nervous at all.

It’s been a few days, hasn’t it? I’ll admit, it’s been a little too chilly for me to stop by as much as I want to! Oh, but that’s not me asking you for warmer weather or anything! Things’ll get better soon. I’m sure.

He chuckled softly, realizing exactly how silly this all would’ve sounded to anyone else, but he was enjoying himself, so he continued.

High school’s been pretty lonely. I’ve spoken to you about it all before, but I got a text from Kasumi today. Now, actually. Just before I started this. We’ve been keeping in touch, but she’s been texting less often lately.

Asao sighed and pressed on.

That’s probably a good sign, right? She’s spoken about those friends she’s been making a lot lately and that’s gotta be great for her! Sounds like she’s got tons of people she can have fun with each day. I’m...sorta jealous, honestly. I haven’t made any friends at all. A-and it’s not because I haven’t tried! I...y’know, I have. Sorta… Plus, I...kinda miss talking with her the way we used to...

He shuffled awkwardly. Even here, the mere idea of socializing, at least at his current school, turned him into a bundle of nerves.

G-gotta get to the point! I was hoping that...well, I know I ask you for a lot, but this one’s important and...ya know, maybe it’s easy to grant, too. I wish I could get a little closer to Kasumi. To see her more often and to...to be by her side.

Asao blushed, then shyly added, ...as her best friend, I mean.

That’s...that’s all, really. I hope that, wherever you are, you’re having a good day. I’ll mostly just be in my bedroom for the rest of it, but I’ll do my best to make today good, too! So...well, goodbye for now! I’ll be back soon, I promise!

Asao dropped his hands down to his side and opened his eyes once more. As he did, a slight breeze blew through the shrine, chilling the air around him even more than usual.

“J-jeez, wind’s picking up, huh?” he asked, rubbing his arms for warmth. “That’s OK! I’ll get something to snack on at the convenience store! Something nice and warm, ahaha… Then I’ll be home in no time at all! I can lie down and relax alllll day.” He smiled, ready to repeat what had now become his daily routine as he headed back to the path home. Right before he left the shrine, he turned, gave a short bow, and hurried out.

“Ufufufufu…”

He could swear he heard a soft, sweet giggle as he headed back onto the road, but he thought nothing of it, seeing that nobody else was around, and chalked it up to a strange sound on the wind.

As he headed to the store, he pulled his phone back out of his pocket, smiling as he saw that Kasumi, his childhood friend, had sent him a small handful of texts. She always got like this when it came to texting, saying in a dozen messages what could easily be said in one, but considering how long it had been since Asao had last heard from her, it was a welcome sight.

<「guess what?!」

<「asao!!!! guess what?!」

<「you’re never gonna believe it asao! I’ve got suuuuper big news!」

<「asaoasaoasaoasaoasaooooo!!!」

Asao chuckled, reading through the increasingly frantic texts that were all sent, at most, about 10 seconds apart from each other, then tapped out a quick reply.

「What’s up?」>

He sent his reply, knowing that he’d get something back in barely a second. Somehow, she exceeded his expectations, and another message arrived before he could even put his phone back in his pocket.

<「i asked you to guess!」

Accompanying her remarkably fast response was a sticker of an anime character he didn’t recognize doubled over in laughter.

「You’ve got a suggestion for what I should grab at the convenience store before I head home?」>

<「no!」

<「i mean yes i do!!!!」

<「fried chicken! get the fried chicken!!!」

「Spicy’s your favorite, right?」>

<「yeah!!」

「Thanks, got it!」>

<「wait!!!!」

<「you didn’t make a guess!」

「Oh yeah. Hmmm… I don’t have any, sorry about that.」>

<「want me to just tell you???」

「Mmm, go for it. I’m heading into the store for a second though, so it’ll be a bit before I can respond」>

<「got it!」

Before he stuffed his phone back in his pocket, Asao briefly saw a sticker of yet another character he didn’t recognize flashing a thumbs up. Smiling at Kasumi’s constant enthusiasm, he made his time in the store as brief as possible, ordering a small box of nuggets, making sure to go for the spicy ones that Kasumi loved, while his phone constantly buzzed in his pocket, lighting up with a steady stream of new messages. Though he was in and out of the store in barely a minute, even he was surprised by just how quickly Kasumi seemed to have typed up a storm.

<「so remember what I told you the other day?!」

<「no wait you’re shopping. i should just say it again」

<「so do you remember when i said i was forming a band?」

<「no wait still shopping」

<「anyway i found 3 other members!!!! just looking for one more someone who plays keyboard!」

<「oh and somewhere to practice. that might be good too」

<「it’s exciting right?!?!?!」

This was Asao’s chance. He’d been looking for a way to spend more time with his best friend and now one had just sprung up. She’d been trying to get this band assembled for quite some time, and if he could help her make a dream of hers a reality, that would be nothing short of incredible.

“Ufufufufufu…”

“Huh? Again?” he asked, looking around and trying to see anyone who might’ve let out the giggle he’d just heard for the second time since leaving the shrine. Seeing that the road was as empty as ever, he pushed it out of his head and typed out a response to Kasumi.

「Wow, that’s great, Kasumi! You’ll be playing live shows in no time!」>

<「yeah!!!!!」

「And y’know, it’s been a while, so I’m probably pretty rusty, but I used to play piano. This’d definitely be a good opportunity to get back into all of that.」>

<「ohhhhhh wowow asao!!」

<「that means you probably know tons of people who’d wanna join right?! tell me if you find someone! i’ll reward you handsomely!!!」

Just like that, Asao’s heart sunk. He knew Kasumi got like this. He knew she struggled to see even the most obvious hints at times and that he should’ve been more direct with her about wanting to join. Now that she’d completely missed that, however, he felt far, far too shy to say what he’d really wanted to let her know.

「Mmm, yeah, I’ll let you know if I find any potential new members. You’ll all do great, I just know it.」>

<「thankyousomuch!!!!」

<「we’re giving you front row tickets to every show we play for life got that?!?!」

「Ahaha, got it! Good luck, Kasumi.」>

He sent his last text back, along with an accompanying photo of the chicken he’d just bought, seeing a cluster of stickers that all appeared to be clapping and cheering before he stuffed his phone back into his pocket and continued his walk home. Despite everything that had happened, it still felt far too long.

“Soon. I’ll tell her really soon,” he said, smiling softly as he popped a nugget into his mouth.

“Oh wow, these really are good!”

~~~

“I’m home!” he called out as he stepped out of his shoes, knowing that there was nobody else around who’d be able to greet him. His afternoons always were pretty empty, but he didn’t mind that; the silence helped him relax. His sole obligation when he got home most days pretty much just boiled down to caring for his bonsai trees. Thankfully, it looked like his grandmother had done a good job of tending to them while he’d been at school, so he was free to do nothing but sit in his room and browse the internet all day. Frankly, he couldn’t imagine anything he wanted more right now.

“Oh?” he asked, standing up and seeing a note on the small table in the entranceway. “Couldn’t just call me?” he chuckled, picking up the note and giving it a read.

Asao,

Sorry to spring this on you so suddenly, but a friend invited me out for the evening, and I won’t be back until rather late. Don’t worry about dinner, you can order something delicious and I’ll pay you back tomorrow, I promise. I hope you two have a lovely night, and we’ll see you in the morning. I Love you.

“‘You two?’ Does she think Kasumi’s spending the night here? Jeez, she hasn’t done that since middle school, you know that…” he mumbled, scrunching up the note and stuffing it into his pocket as he headed up the stairs to his bedroom.

“Ah well, no problem. Ordering a pizza or something sounds good right now, ahaha.”

Asao smiled, munching on another nugget from the still-mostly full box as he opened the door to his room. He flicked on the light switch, his heart already relieved at the mere sight of what was easily the most relaxing place in the world for him, taking a moment to just breath in the familiar scent, though this time it was mixed with the savory smell of spices from the chicken. Asao turned to close the door, ready for a pleasant evening all to himself, then turned around just as a pair of pale, slender fingers reached into the box he was holding and pulled out a nugget, his heart practically leaping through his chest.

“Oh my, two offerings in one day? I knew that helping you would be worthwhile!” exclaimed Asao’s unexpected guest.

She was a strikingly beautiful woman, her features accentuated by the stunning, formal outfit she was wearing, the flowing, kimono-esque dress reminding him of the traditional wedding ceremonies he’d often see in period dramas. It was ridiculously ostentatious, but, somehow, it worked surprisingly well for her, complimenting her tall, lithe figure and the straight, silky black princess cut she wore in a way that was nothing short of breathtaking, imbuing her every action with a sense of grace and elegance that was practically surreal.

She smiled enthusiastically as she popped the nugget between her plump, ruby-red lips, letting out a surprisingly adorable “Mmmm!” as she placed her palms on her cheeks, savoring the flavor of the chicken she’d just nabbed. Suddenly, she faced Asao directly once more, and her smile faded for just a moment.

“Wait, that was an offering, right?” she asked, her gentle, lilting voice making her every word sound that much sweeter, heightening the sense of elegance Asao was getting from her, even as she acted in a completely undignified manner.

“I-I...I guess so?” Asao responded, feeling more than little numb at the strange sight in front of him, the sheer absurdity of it all locking him in place, able to feel little more than confusion.

“Ahahaha, I knew it! You’re so generous! You’ve gotta be my nicest follower, you know that?”

“Ummm, well…”

“Oh, I can have some more?” she asked, taking a small handful of nuggets from the box without waiting for a reply. “I’m so glad! Thanks a lot, Asao!” She tossed another nugget in her mouth, grinning happily as she ate. “And wow, these are delish! I don’t get to go to convenience stores...ever, but if I’d known these were on the menu, I’d have made a point to try!”

“G-glad you like them, ah...ahahaha…” Asao laughed shyly, not quite sure what to make of his guest, looking down to see that the box that was still mostly full when he’d walked into his house that day was already running dry.

“You can have the rest, I’ve got all I need right here!” the woman grinned, holding up her handful for Asao to see. “Besides, you said we were getting pizza for dinner? I’ve never had that before, but I can’t wait!”

“Thanks…” he mumbled, taking the last couple of nuggets from the box and shyly nibbling on them. They really were just as good as both the woman in front of him and Kasumi had made them out to be. Though he knew absolutely nothing about whoever this person was, he was confident that she’d get along wonderfully with his childhood friend. “But wait a sec, how’d you know I was getting pizza? And...why exactly are you staying here for dinner? I’m sorry to be rude, but...who even are you?” he asked, as an embarrassed blush crept into his cheeks.

“Oh gosh! I’m shocked, I thought we knew each other better than that! Well, to answer your questions in order… I heard you talking about pizza while you were heading up here, I’m staying for dinner because I live here now, and...do you really not recognize me?”

Try as he might, Asao was confident he’d remember someone this striking if he’d ever seen her before. There was something vaguely familiar about her, but he was confident that he’d never actually met her.

“...I’m sorry, I don’t.”

“Awww, well, that’s OK! I guess I do look kinda different to you right now, huh? Considering you can actually see me and all. Still, you’ve gotta at least remember our conversation from earlier today, right?”

Conversation? Asao hadn’t spoken much to anyone today. There was Kasumi, but there was no way she’d changed this much in the weeks since he’d last seen her. Otherwise, the closest thing to a conversation he’d had was…

“There’s...there’s no way…” he muttered in total disbelief, looking at the woman flashing him an enthusiastic grin while he thought everything over. There’s just no way that could be possible, could it?

“The...the shrine…”

“Oh-ho! You do remember! Hihi! It’s me, Kaguya! It’s so nice to properly meet you! Yay!” she flashed two peace signs at Asao, who just stared blankly in response.

“Kaguya…?” he asked. Of course his earlier thoughts had to be wrong. There was just no way that was even the slightest bit possible. Maybe she passed by the shrine when he did or something?

“Yep, Kaguya!”

“Ahaha, I’m sorry. I think you’re getting confused. I don’t know any Kaguyas.”

“Oooh, don’t be a meanie, Asao! You said you remembered me!” she pouted, angrily stomping her foot on the floor. “Jeez, maybe you should have prayed for a better memory if you can’t even remember whose shrine you’ve been going to all this time!”

“The shrine? But that’s to...what’s the name... Ina-”

“STOP STOP STOP!” the woman cried out, frantically waving her arms in front of Asao, one fist still clenched tightly around the chicken. “Not a syllable more, mister! I can’t stand hearing that dreadfully stuffy name!”

“B-but that’s the goddess’s name…”

“As a formality, sure! But that’s just it! It’s way way waaaay too formal! ‘Kaguya’ sounds much cuter, don’t you think?”

“Are you trying to tell me that you’re...you’re…” the words caught in his throat, like his body was doing everything it could to not give voice to the ridiculous notion in his head.

“The goddess you’ve been praying to, yep yep!” she beamed, saying exactly what Asao was so hung up on with absolutely no hesitation before munching on another nugget.

“That’s...that’s not possible, though…” he muttered, too taken aback to do or say much else.

“You...you don’t believe in me, Asao?” she looked utterly heartbroken, though that didn’t stop her from popping the last of her nuggets into her mouth and doing her best to hold back the smile that formed as she savored their flavor one last time. “We’ve spoken so much, I thought we were friends…”

“I believe in you! You’re...you’re right here, so it’d be silly if I didn’t. And I believe in Ina-”

“‘Kaguya!’” she shouted, puffing out her cheeks and putting on an adorable pout.

“R-right, sorry. I guess I just...don’t believe you’re...y’know, one and the same. Goddesses don’t just...pop up in people’s bedrooms, after all.”

“Fiiiine,” she sighed, before flashing a confident grin. “I didn’t think I’d have to, but if you’re gonna make me prove it, I guess that shouldn’t be too much trouble. And you’d better agree to never use that old name once I do, got it?”

“S-sure…” Asao agreed. He had no intention of saying it around her again to begin with, but if it would put her mind at ease, there was no problem with agreeing with her.

“When you were at my shrine today, you asked me for a way to get closer to your best friend Kasumi! You were upset because you haven’t been texting each other nearly as much now that you’re in different schools.”

“H-how did you-”

“I get the feeling that question’s gonna get old really fast! To head off some ideas that are likely running through your head right now: no, you didn’t say any of that out loud. Gosh, from what I gather, you’re way too shy to ever really say what’s on your mind! You came close, though, almost asked Kasumi if you could join her band when you two were texting earlier! I was rooting for you, y’know?”

“How did-”

“I’m a goddess, silly! Of course I’m watching over my favorite little follower! Gosh, have I ever told you how cute your prayers are? Everyone else treats it like this ultra-serious thing, but you’re just treating me like an old friend! Ahhh, the way you apologized for not seeing me for a couple of days was adorable! I appreciate it, though! It’s been pretty cold and lonely there lately!”

Asao’s face turned bright red at that. There was no way anyone could’ve possibly known he did that. He’d have died from embarrassment before even entertaining the idea of telling anyone else about how he prayed, let alone what his prayers were usually about.

“Awww, I didn’t mean to getcha all worked up! I just think it’s sweet! Oh! Remember your prayer the other week, where you wished you could meet more of Kasumi’s friends and told me you’d been feeling like an outsider? I got all weepy after that one, y’know? Followed you on your way to school for the next few days, watched over you to make sure you were hanging in there! Ooh, and the one just before you started high school, where you-”

“Alright, alright! I get it!” Asao yelled, his embarrassment reaching a fever pitch. “You’re a goddess! I’m sorry I doubted you!”

“Ufufu, water under the bridge! I’ll be OK! Besides, I haven’t spoken with a human like this in...gosh, it’s been ages! Anyway, point is, I guess I don’t blame you for being a liiiiittle skeptical. I probably could’ve made things clearer to begin with.”

“I’m...not really sure anything would’ve gotten me to accept it right away, honestly,” he mumbled, a part of him still not quite coming to grips with his situation. “But...if you don’t mind me asking, why did you come by? Isn’t there, I dunno, some kind of issue with that?”

“Oh? Do you have a problem with me being here?”

“N-no, I suppose I don’t. Even if it was...surprising to see you...”

“Then it’s all OK! I’m a goddess, remember? Nobody’s going to give me hard time for this, I promise. As for why I’m here, well, isn’t that obvious?” Kaguya beamed excitedly.

“No…?”

“I’m here to answer your prayers, silly! You’ve been such a good friend all these years, so I wanna do something nice for you! I’ve seen exactly how tough things have been for you, how much you’ve been bottling up and bearing all on your own and, well, I don’t think that’s fair to you! So I’m here to help make everything better! Plus, I’ve been meaning to leave that shrine for a while now, so it’s fun for me, too!”

“B-but…” He wanted to protest, to say that wasn’t possible, but he’d come to realize that arguing with Kaguya about this was a complete waste of time.

“That is...if you meant them, of course,” she smiled softly, putting a hand on Asao’s shoulder in an attempt to reassure him a little. “All those wishes, all those hopes and dreams. If you truly meant them, I’d really like to make them all come true, if you’d let me.”

“Isn’t this all just moving, y’know, kinda fast?” he asked, sitting down on the side of his bed, still not sure if he’d really taken a breath since he’d gotten back into his room.

“Is it?” Kaguya replied, taking a seat next to Asao and laying a hand on his back. From my perspective, I’ve been way too friggin’ slow! You’ve been talking to me for years, telling me alllll kinds of private stuff you can’t say to anyone else, and I’m only getting around to really lending a hand now. We could talk about it more, if you’d like. We could weigh up everything and see if you really want my help, but I’ve been watching over you for such a long time, Asao. Maybe it’s hard to admit, but I really do think you might need the support.”

“I-I mean…” Asao wasn’t sure what to say. He’d hoped that things could get better for so, so long now. He’d stayed up countless nights just wishing he could wake up and everything would be different from the way it was now. He was finally being given the opportunity he’d dreamed of for so, so long, and he wasn’t sure he could let that slip through his fingers. Mustering up the courage to actually say he wanted it, however, was another story entirely.

“You would like it, wouldn’t you?” she asked, wearing a soft, warm smile. “You’d like it if I could make things all better, even if you can’t say it?”

Asao froze for a moment, before giving Kaguya a nod so slight that it was practically imperceptible, though for Asao, it felt like an unimaginable weight was about to be lifted from his shoulders.

“And all those prayers, they were all honest, right? You were speaking from the heart?”

“Y-yeah…”

“So then, if it’s alright with you…” She wrapped him in a gentle, loving embrace. “Why don’t I start now, hmm? You’ve suffered in silence long enough, after all.”

Too shy to return the hug, Asao simply nodded once more, a little more clearly this time.

“Ahaha, that shyness really is adorable, but why don’t I make it just a liiiittle easier for you to talk?” she said, pulling back from the hug and snapping her fingers while a huge, excitable grin spread across her face.

As if on command, a strange, almost pleasant tingling sensation spread through his throat, forcing Asao to cough a little to clear up whatever it was he was feeling, surprised by how stubborn the blockage seemed to be. As his throat gradually started to ease up, he noticed that his coughs seemed to be...lightening, getting oddly soft and gentle.

“Ugh, sorry about that. I...I…” Asao sputtered out, his eyes growing wide at the strange voice he heard coming out of his mouth.

“Ahahaha, gosh, that was even faster than I’d expected!” Kaguya laughed, looking absolutely delighted by whatever was going on.

“Why...why do I sound so funny? What’s going on?!” Asao asked, hearing the same unfamiliar voice that had just tripped him up. There was just no way that was him, right? His voice usually was, much to his dismay, fairly low and deep, carrying a roughness that he’d always been extremely bothered by. This one, however, was...cute, making even his current embarrassment sound adorably flustered and sweet. Despite how pleasant it was, the sudden shift away from the voice he’d been hearing his entire life left him more than a little too confused to appreciate it, confident that something must have been wrong. He put a hand to his neck, rubbing at whatever might have been causing this, only to find that it felt...surprisingly slender and smooth, bearing absolutely no trace of the Adam’s apple that he’d been so embarrassed by in the past. “A-and why’s my neck so...different?!” Asao cried out, shocked both by how loud he was getting, and by just how little he was bothered by that fact.

“I’m granting your wishes, dummy!” Kaguya giggled “I figured there was no better place to start with making things better than to help you out with that shy little voice of yours! Ahaha, it sounds soooo cute now, Asao! I knew it would, of course, but even I’m a little shocked by just how good of a job I’ve done!”

“Wh-what’s my voice got to do with any of that?!” he yelled, almost dismayed by just how adorable every single word he spoke now sounded.

“Oh, you don’t know?”

“Of course I don’t!” Asao yelled, rubbing at his nose, trying to clear a bit of stuffiness that had suddenly built up and forcing out a shockingly cute sneeze. “I didn’t ask for anything like this, dummy!”

“Ahahaha! ‘Dummy!’ Gosh, you’re amazing!”

“C’mon, at least try take this a little seriously, Kaguya!” he huffed, completely unaware that the glare he shot was looking less and less intimidating by the second as his eyes grew a little larger and rounder, flashing a bright, shining citrine that cleared away the usual muddiness of his irises in a single blink. His lashes changed in the same moment, thickening and taking on a delicate curve that made his every expression seem a bit softer and sweeter, no matter how angry he tried to make himself seem.

“I am! Serious things don’t have to be no fun, y’know! It wouldn’t kill either of us to have a good time with all of this,” she grinned, getting as close to Asao’s face as possible and peering over every little detail, ecstatically watching the way his cheeks puffed out ever so slightly, while his lips got just a touch fuller and infinitely more kissable. She’d have kissed him herself if she didn’t think that that’d just make him overheat at that point.

“Well then at least tell me what ‘all of this’ even is!” he yelled, realizing that the more he spoke, the more comfortable his lighter voice was starting to feel. “Why the heck do I sound different?!”

“It’s not just about how you sound, cutie!” she giggled, pointing toward a mirror on the opposite side of the room, which Asao quickly scrambled to stand in front of.

“H-how the hell…?” he asked, staring at his completely unfamiliar, and disarmingly cute reflection, clutching at locks of his hair as they lightened considerably from his usual inky black to a shiny, flowing blonde that was growing out rapidly.

“I said I was granting all of your wishes, didn’t I?”

“You did, but I didn’t wish for any of this! Just to be closer to Kasumi!”

“That was what you wished today, yeah, but I told you I’d grant ALL your wishes. And YOU said you meant them. Every. Last. One.”

“I-I still don’t think I’ve ever wished for anything like this…” Asao protested, his eyelashes fluttering slightly as he nervously looked around.

“You have! A buncha times, in fact! I think the first time was after some girl in your class had a doll you really liked and you wished you could ask your mom for one just like it. Oh, and there was that time you found out about that one manga, you know the one, where the guy gets some water on him and turns into a girl? Haha, you were at the shrine practically every day wishing you could have something happen just like that!”

“Th-that’s…”

“And there was the time you wished you could go to the high school Kasumi’s attending, even though they don’t accept boys at all. Oh, and then you started wishing you could wear cuter clothes, saying that you just didn’t feel comfortable or good in men’s clothing at all! And also the time you-”

“Sh-shut up already!” he shouted out, turning to face Kaguya and pouting angrily, unaware of how adorably puffy it made his cheeks look. “So you’re gonna...turn me into a girl? Just like that?! You weren’t gonna, I dunno, ask me about that first?!” he yelled, struggling to look Kaguya in the eyes as a blush crept into his cheeks, unaware that his eyebrows were quickly trimming themselves into thin, adorable little arcs as his hair’s growth slowed to a crawl, having crept down to the small of his back.

“Just like that! And I did ask! A couple of times, actually!” she smiled, snapping her fingers once more. Asao briefly felt an odd tugging sensation at the top of his head, before it instantly faded away, leaving his hair feeling a lot lighter than it had just a moment earlier, as if it was being held up into place. Not quite sure what exactly she’d just done, he turned back toward the mirror to see that his long, flowing hair had just tied itself into a pair of adorably fluffy, low twintails, held in place by a pair of simple, black hair ties.

“H-hey! Quit screwing around!” he cried out, not wanting to admit just how adorable he thought it all looked.

“Look, if you want, I can try and undo this now, but could you honestly tell me that’s what you want? To stay the way that’s made you feel so deeply sad and uncomfortable all the time? That’s made your whole life so much scarier than it ever needed to be?”

“I-I...well…” Asao stammered, his gaze pointed straight at the ground in embarrassment.

“Could you honestly tell me that you don’t still dream about being the girl you know you really are? You used to tell me about those dreams every single week, you know that? Used to tell me that you kept hoping you’d wake up one day and find out they weren’t dreams at all, too.”

There was something about how shy Asao looked now, the way he clutched his arm tightly and tucked his shoulders in just a little that made him look so much smaller, as if he was trying to hide himself away in plain sight. That said, that impression was greatly aided by the fact that he was, indeed, beginning to shrink down, getting a few inches shorter and significantly less broad with each second that passed, making his clothes seem almost comically large on his increasingly slight frame.

“So, sure, you wished for a lot of different things, and I promise I’m granting each and every one of them even if this seems a bit out there. The way I see it, though, and the way I’m sure you see it too, at least deep down, is that this really ties into all of it. That all those wishes came about because you’ve never been happy with the person everyone else has always told you you are.”

Asao said nothing.

“So you don’t have to hide that away anymore, got that? I’m here to make it all better, Arisa.”

She perked up at that, looking Kaguya in the eyes for the first time in a little while and biting her lip shyly.

“Ahaha, remember that name? It was one you always used to tell me you really liked! It’s pretty, too! Just like the rest of you!” she giggled. “Maybe I should take a picture, hmm?” Kaguya asked, pulling a smartphone seemingly out of thin air and pointing it straight at her.

“N-no photos! Not right nOW-” Arisa cried out, trying to run over to Kaguya and tripping over her now ridiculously loose pants, falling straight into the goddess’s arms.

“Oh wow, that was so cute, Arisa!” Kaguya grinned. “Like something straight out of a manga! Ooh, this is the part where we’re meant to kiss!”

“L-like hell, moron!” Arisa spat, picking herself up and taking a seat next to the goddess, feeling a strange tightness in her shoulders as they lost the last vestiges of their usual broadness, making her sleeves slip lower down her arms. Eager to get an idea of what she was about to look like, she lifted her sleeves, gasping excitedly as her hands seemed to shrink down in front of her, turning cuter and more petite right before her eyes, while her nails grew out into a perfect little oval shape.

“Ahaha, you like what you see?” Kaguya asked, watching Arisa’s eyes light up as she raised her sleeve even higher, revealing her pale, practically hairless arms.

“I...y’know, I guess it’s not all bad… Maybe you’re onto something w-with how you’re granting these wishes...” she stammered, too nervous to admit just how much she loved all of it.

“And the name? You still like that, too?”

“I-I mean...if I’m gonna be a girl-”

“I still say you’ve always been one!” Kaguya interrupted.

“E-even so!” Arisa yelled, her cheeks turning an even deeper red at that. “‘Asao’ just doesn’t...y’know, it doesn’t suit me like this, does it? So I guess I can go by Arisa, yeah.”

“You. Are. So. Cuuuuute!” Kaguya ecstatically cried out, hugging Arisa as tightly as possible and giggling as she felt her waist begin to pinch in beneath her clothes.

“H-hey! Get off!”

Arisa fought through her unbearably bright blush, and tried her best to wriggle free of the goddess’s remarkably enthusiastic hug, but couldn’t get her to budge an inch. It was as if she’d been caught in an unbreakable vice grip, with no hope of escape.

“Hey, Kaguya! Get offa me, moron! I...I can’t see what’s happening if you do that!” she yelled, trying her best to ignore how deeply embarrassing it felt to say all that out loud.

“Oh gosh, you wanna see too?!” Kaguya smiled, releasing Arisa instantly. “Attagirl! I knew you would! Well, go on, look as much as you want!”

Arisa just stared at her, unsure of how, if at all, she should really react to what Kaguya was suggesting.

“Oh? Did you overheat or something? Aren’t you going to take a look at everything?”

“You’re...asking me to just...take off my clothes? Right now?”

“No other way to really look at your body!” Kaguya replied with a smile.

“Like hell I’m gonna do that!” Arisa spat. “Even if I wanna look, I can’t just...s-s-strip while you watch!”

“What?! But you said you were gonna look, Arisaaaa!” she whined, looking every bit like a frustrated child despite being clearly older and bigger than Arisa in every way.

“W-who cares if I did?! I don’t usually have an audience every time I take off my clothes!”

“Please please please please! I’m doing all of this for you, the least you can do is let us both watch you change!”

“Th-that’s blackmail, moron! And sexual harassment!”

“Nuh-uh! I just really, really wanna watch this, Arisa! I’ve always wanted to see something like this really happen, and you’re giving me my first ever chance to do so! Pleeeeease! I love this stuff so much when it happens in manga and anime, but it’s always soooo short! They always just spend a couple panels on it, show a character suddenly having boobs and maybe a cute butt and then that’s it! I wanna see it happen!” she whined, ending her plea in a pout.

“Th-that’s n-not my problem, idiot!” she cried out as her blush deepened even further. Still, for as frustrated as she was, looking at how upset Kaguya clearly was, and how much she desperately seemed to want to see her body, a small part of Arisa did feel like maybe, just maybe, she could let her see a tiny, tiny bit.

“Ahhhh, fine!” Arisa yelled, picking herself up off the bed and hastily tearing off her shirt to try and get her embarrassment out of the way as quickly as possible. “Just don’t be a weird perv about it all, got that?”

“Of course! Thank you soooo much Arisa! I love you so much, Arisa!” she smiled ecstatically, hugging her tightly before quickly pulling back to see the show.

“Yeah yeah, just...let’s just watch, OK?” Arisa asked, looking down just in time to see her already smaller arms get just a little more petite, while simultaneously filling with a slight, delicate weight, making them look so much softer and sweeter than they ever had before.

“OK!” Kaguya saluted, giggling happily at the sight of Arisa’s hands getting smaller and cuter by the second, while her fingers grew out just enough to give them a slender, elegant impression that both girls absolutely adored. Despite her shyness, Arisa couldn’t quite hold back a shaky, uneven smile at how dainty they now were, and the way her nails had grown out into cute, slightly pointy arcs.

“Oh gosh! Your arms are so cute! Just the right amount of softness to make them look extra adorable! I’m doing a surprisingly good job, if I do say so myself!”

“H-hey! What’d I say about being a perv?” Arisa huffed. Though she was more than a little embarrassed by the word “soft” being used to describe any part of her, the compliments she was giving did make her feel surprisingly good...

“I’m not being a pervert at all! I’m just...admiring my hard work, ufufu!”

“Yeah, yeah…” she muttered, quickly turning her attention away from the goddess to focus on her changing body once more. “Just...don’t get carried away...” she added, her voice sounding a little distant as she grew distracted by the sight of her adorable, flat, and much to her dismay, soft-looking tummy pinching in at the sides just a little, making her already petite frame look even smaller and cuter than it already had. She did everything she could not to let her satisfaction show, knowing it’d give Kaguya more ammo to tease her with, but she so badly wanted to put a hand on it, to rub it and see if it felt as good as-

“Oh my, Arisa! I didn’t realize your tummy’d turn out quite this cute!” Kaguya cried out, putting an arm around Arisa and gently poking and rubbing at her stomach, tracing her fingers down her slimmer, softer waistline.

“I-I told you not to get carried away!” she shouted, trying to ignore just how good Kaguya’s caress felt on her supple skin. “And this is absolutely the definition of getting carried away, moron!”

“Ehehe, but you’re just soooo much fun! You wanna know what the best part of this cute little tum is?”

“Wh-what?!”

“The way this adorable, soft waist…” she moved her fingers down her sides once more, stopping once she’d hit the waistband of her ridiculously loose pants, “cuuuurves out to these lovely hips!” she cried, tugging her pants down and letting them fall straight to the floor.

“Hey! C’mon, Kaguya!” Arisa cried out.

“Oh, didn’t you want to see everything down here too?”

“I-I mean...well, y’know, it’s just…”

“Nudity’s nothing to be ashamed of, you know! I’m a goddess, so you can trust me on that one!”

“You’re also a huge pervert!”

“Guilty as charged!” she declared, Arisa’s eyes rolling at the admittance. “But still, look!” she smiled, pointing down at Arisa’s hips.

As Arisa excitedly watched her hips gently spread outward like a flower in bloom, Kaguya giggled happily and gave them a playful rub.

“Gosh, Arisa, these things are adorable! Super soft and cushy!” she smiled, poking at her hips and watching her finger sink in just a little/ “I’d say they were your most charming asset if we didn’t still have so much left to go! When I’m done, you’ll be cute all over though, trust me!”

“Eh...ehehehe…” Arisa shyly giggled, the compliments getting to her head despite Kaguya’s insistence on calling her “soft.”

“I...I guess they are kinda nice, huh?” she asked, really admiring how they curved down from her slender waistline. She was sure they’d look even more alluring when her legs filled out just a little more, but for now, she was more than happy with them.

“Ufufu! Sounds like someone’s really getting into the spirit of things, huh?”

“N-no, it’s just...it’s interesting to see, that’s all!”

Arisa was lying, of course. She loved every second of this, but for some reason she couldn’t quite explain, she just felt like she had to deny it as strongly as possible. She was definitely being a lot louder than usual too, but she just chalked that up to the excitement of the moment.

“Mmhmm! Got it! So I take it then that you’re only sooorta interested in how cute your butt’s getting, huh?” Kaguya asked, looking right at her cheeks as they grew fuller and rounder by the second.

“Y-yeah! I wanna see, but...y’know, just to know what my body’s like!” she stammered, craning her neck to try and get a look, frustrated at how difficult it was to see anything from her current angle.

“Ooh, but you know, seeing it seems pretty tough, right? Must be so frustrating! How about...” Kaguya took Arisa’s hands in her own, slowly guiding them behind her back, “I help you really find out what it’s like, hmm?” she asked as she pressed Arisa’s hands right into her butt, gently cupping her cheeks.

Arisa could swear she was about to melt from how intense the heat of her embarrassment was beginning to feel. She knew how perverted this had to be, how ridiculous she had to look, playing with her own butt while someone else watched, and yet…

She squeezed her cheeks a little more firmly, feeling wonderfully plump flesh fill the gaps between her fingers. It felt so big, so round, so perfect…

“Now that’s really soft, don’t you think?” Kaguya teased, giggling softly at how much fun Arisa was clearly having.

Arisa’s blush couldn’t get any deeper, but that snapped her right out of her haze, and she dropped her hands straight down to her sides. “Stop calling me s-soft, moron! Is that even meant to be a compliment?!”

“Of course it is, Arisa! Your body’s perfect! I’m the one shaping it, you know? Softness is a wonderful, wonderful thing! I like allll kinds of different bodies, but isn’t it nice when someone’s really huggable and adorable?”

“I-I mean…”

“Besides, it’s not just how cute and supple your figure is, though I could go on and on... It’s so much more than that! It’s how cuddly and fluffy your twintails look! How wonderful you’ll look wrapped up in a school uniform or an adorable sweater! It’s even how warm and comforting it is to be around you, Arisa!”

“You...you really are a massive pervert, huh?” Arisa asked, her tone flat and empty.

“Mhmm, and you’re a cutie!” Kaguya winked happily.

“Y-yeah, I get it…”

“A cutie who’s only getting cuter by the second! Let’s work on those legs, huh?” she asked, crouching down until she was at eye level with Arisa’s thighs.

“If you say so…” she mumbled, smiling softly at the thought.

“You’ll never guess what they’re gonna look like when I’m done, Arisa!”

“...Soft, right?”

“You’ve got it! See, doesn’t that look good already?” Kaguya asked with a smile, staring straight at her thighs as they steadily filled with a gentle, pleasant weight that rounded out into an adorably supple, squishy shape. It was almost unreal how good they felt, the way they gently smushed into each other, feeling, indeed, softer than they ever had before. Despite knowing that Kaguya would have some sort of comment, she couldn’t resist rubbing them together playfully, before she reached down and patted one with her hand, giggling at the way it ever so slightly jiggled. She just knew they’d look great getting hugged by a pair of tights. She’d always liked how that looked, and knowing that she’d be able to experience that for herself soon enough made her feel so wonderfully light and happy.

“Ahaha, that’s as good an answer as any!” Kaguya grinned. “I’ll have to give you some privacy sometime, see how much fun you have when you’re all alone!”

“Can it, you! That doesn’t sound like privacy at all!” Arisa snapped, though her annoyance with the goddess’s teasing seemed more than a little insincere now, with her smile lingering at the sight of her calves changing in turn, growing just a little fuller and softer.

“I’ll decline, thank you! There’s just so much more fun coming up! Because after these darling little feet, we get to have soooo much more fun, Arisa! ”

Both girls looked down at Arisa’s feet and smiled at how tiny and cute they now seemed. Arisa had never paid much of any mind to her feet before, but she was sure that these had to be adorable now. She idly wondered if she should paint her toenails sometime, but the thought made her so embarrassed that she tried her best to push that as far out of her mind as possible.

“Now, there isn’t a single inch of you I don’t like, but I admit, I’d been waiting for this!” Kaguya beamed. Standing back upright, she giggled at the sight of Arisa’s flat little chest, before giving it a playful little poke with her index fingers.

“H-hey! Don’t be weird about this!” Arisa yelled, feeling a pleasant warmth begin to mount beneath her chest, though she kept her gaze fixed on Kaguya.

“Weird? Ahaha, Arisa, I’m not being weird at all! Just giving your boobs a bit of a jumpstart, that’s all! See?”

Arisa looked down, her eyes instantly widening at the sight of her nipples lightening to a gentle pink and puffing up a surprising amount, while her areolae seemed to grow outwards just a touch.

“You can touch them,” Kaguya said, giving Arisa a reassuring smile and a wink. “I promise I won’t say too much this time.”

“B-but, I mean…” Arisa bit her lip, blushing as she saw her chest slowly begin to fill out into a pair of small, budding breasts.

“It’s been fun, hasn’t it? All of this, I mean.”

“W-well...yeah…”

Her breasts grew bigger still, rounding out and looking softer by the second. It was getting harder and harder to not want to at least give them a quick feel...

“Ahaha, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about! If it makes you happy, that’s wonderful!” Kaguya reassured Arisa, taking her hands in her own and gently placing them on her chest. “So have fun, Arisa!”

As they swelled ever larger, filling up more and more of her hands, Arisa shyly, gently squeezed them, feeling a pleasant, warm tingle spread through her body. “You...you just…” she smiled, looking straight at Kaguya even as she continued feeling her breasts, blushing furiously all the while. “You just wanted to watch me do this, huh?”

“Ufufufu! You know me so well, Arisa!”

“Yeah, yeah, pervert,” she added, looking back down as her breasts’ weight grew heavier and heavier, having to heft them up just a little within her grasp before their growth finally slowed to a crawl, stopping only once they’d grown to particularly impressive size. “B-but jeez, you...you made ‘em pretty big, huh?”

“Yup! Big and soft! Betcha can’t wait to put them in a bra, huh? Something nice and frilly!”

“Wh-who cares about my u-underwear, moron!”

“Me! I do!” she declared, raising her hand in the air as if it was of the utmost importance. “So let’s finish up this one last bit, hmm? Then I can pick out a bunch of cute underwear for you!”

“I...dunno about you picking it for me, but y-yeah, let’s finish this up…” she mumbled shyly, looking down between her legs and blushing deeply. “But, Kaguya?”

“Yeah?”

“Do me a favor and just...don’t comment on...on this part, OK?” she asked, taking a seat back on her bed and bracing for what was to come.

Kaguya nodded, flashed a peace sign, and sat right down next to Arisa, smiling at the way she shyly grabbed her hand for support, right as everything started up once more.

“Nnh~”

Arisa let out a shy, quiet moan as a warm, pleasant feeling suddenly rushed through her body, engulfing all of her senses for a brief moment before it all settled into what felt like a gentle hug. She fidgeted a little, wondering if she should cross her legs or not, but only really getting as far as shyly rubbing them together. It all felt so incredible, so gentle and loving and warm and tingly and a million other things that Arisa couldn’t even begin to describe. She squeezed Kaguya’s hand tighter, feeling a little throb of pleasure coming from deep within her belly, followed by another, and another. Each one was just a little faster and more intense than the last, but it never grew to be too much. Maybe she was just reassured by the goddess next to her, but she never felt even half as embarrassed as she thought she would during all of this. She knew that, as her thoughts became fuzzy and distant while those wonderful feelings grew stronger, even if Kaguya was saying anything, she wouldn’t have been able to hear it, so lost in how incredible everything was that she couldn’t spare even a fraction of her focus for anything else. Still, she fought hard to hold back further moans, her body desperate to give a voice to all those wonderful feelings, until, finally, things began to slowly but surely ebb away. Each little pulse steadily began to soften, dwindling down to a pleasant little tingle before slowly, very slowly, coming to a stop and leaving nothing but the feeling of her body being wrapped in a tender, loving embrace.

As her senses came back to her, the feeling of Kaguya’s hand in her own became ever clearer, her grip feeling warmer and gentler than ever. She wasn’t quite sure when she’d closed her eyes, but as she slowly opened them up once more, blearily adjusting to the light of the room, Kaguya’s face steadily came back into focus, her smile looking more loving and reassuring than it had all day.

“You did great, Arisa,” she said softly, gently petting the girl’s head with her free hand. “Maybe it’s particularly perverted of me to say this all now, but you really are adorable, you know that?”

“I...I just...need a second…” she smiled, her breaths somewhat heavy and labored as she flopped back on the bed without once letting go of Kaguya’s hand, staring up at the ceiling.

“So...it’s done?” she asked, once she’d managed to catch her breath.

“Mhmm. Wanna go take a look?” Kaguya asked, gesturing at the mirror on the wall.

“Y-yeah, I do.”

Arisa picked herself up off the bed, a little bit of her embarrassment returning at the realization of just how naked she still was. Taking slow, unsteady steps with Kaguya walking right alongside her, she made it over to the mirror. When she got there, she smiled softly at how, for the first time in years, she actually felt good about her own reflection.

“So, any thoughts?” Kaguya asked with a smile “It’s OK to be a liiiiittle vain, you know.”

“I feel like a goddess saying that is kinda…”

“Bah, who cares?!” Kaguya smirked. “I still wanna hear what you think!”

“I...I’m...cute, huh?” Arisa shyly asked. “I look...I dunno, I’m no good at complimenting myself, but I just...look good a-and...I dunno if I’ve ever felt that about...any part of me, really,” she blurted out, giving a shaky, uneven smile.

“Ahaha, that’s OK! You did your best, Arisa. And yeah, you do look good! Super curvy and...soft…” she trailed off, clearly deep in thought.

“Ka-Kaguya…?” she shook the goddess’s shoulder, getting no response. “A-are you OK?”

Kaguya broke out of her brief trance, her lips curling into a wry smile as she looked at Arisa once more. “Hey, Arisa…”

“Y-yeah? What’s up?”

“I’ve just had an amazing idea!”

“You have?”

“Ufufufu! I sure have! Because I’ve just figured out how to make you even cuter!” she grinned, excitedly snapping her fingers.

All at once, a wave of dizziness crashed over Arisa, the room around her seeming to shift and shake as her already unsteady legs grew even more wobbly. She was sure that, had Kaguya not wrapped an arm around her, she’d have dropped straight to the ground, though she wasn’t sure she hadn’t with how everything seemed to be towering over her. It took what felt like an eternity for that dizziness to clear, Arisa hardly realizing that the softness she felt cushioning her head was really the goddess’s chest until her senses slowly started to return to her.

“Did you...did you make your chest bigger, Kaguya?” Arisa blearily asked.

Kaguya shook her head. “Ufufu! I could, but I like mine this size! No, silly, I didn’t make my boobs any bigger! I just made you smaller!”

Arisa’s eyes shot open at that.

“Wha?!”

She quickly leapt away from Kaguya, stumbling a little as she did. She had no reason to believe Kaguya was lying, but, even so, realizing that she was now perfectly level with the goddess’s chest when she’d been the same height as her not a minute earlier caught her completely off-guard and left her head spinning, prompting Kaguya to grab her by the shoulders to keep her from falling over.

“I’ve gotta say, I didn’t think you could get any cuter, but I was so wrong, Arisa! Look,” she smiled, turning the now much-shorter girl towards the mirror once more, “you’re a perfect little shortstack!” she exclaimed, her voice laden with pride.

“A-awawa…” Arisa mumbled, completely dumbstruck by how...adorable her reflection was. She was tiny now, definitely shorter than 5 feet, at least at a glance. Despite the drop in height, however, she hadn’t lost any of her curves whatsoever, and her already large breasts looked even more prominent against her diminutive frame, while her wide, cushy hips and plump thighs looked extra huggable and soft. She couldn’t believe just how much of an impact it had on...well, everything about her appearance, and as much as she wanted to yell at Kaguya for acting so rashly, she wasn’t sure she disliked what she’d done in the least. Not that that’d stop her from yelling once she managed to steady herself, of course.

“Oh gosh! The way you’re getting all frazzled is cute, too! Ahhhh, I feel like I’m about to melt!” Kaguya’s expression was an odd mix of what appeared to be total bliss and...hunger, keeping her gaze completely transfixed on the twintailed shortstack in front of her.

“Y-y-you…”

“Me?!”

“You dumb moron!” Arisa cried out, “What the heck were you thinking?! You just...snap your fingers and make me smaller?!”

“I was thinking that it’d make you cuter and softer, and I was completely right!” she declared, putting her hands on her hips and wearing a satisfied grin. “A perfect little package of softness! Ahhhh, Arisa, I love you! Wanna date, huh? You could be a goddess too, if you’d like!”

“L-like hell!” she stammered, not wanting to admit how oddly taken she was with the idea. “C-can I at least get some clothes or something?! Maybe that’ll get you to quit perving over me for a second!”

“Oooh, yes! Of course I could! Great idea!” she beamed, then snapped her fingers. The sensations that arose were far less disorienting this time, and Arisa managed to keep her feet planted firmly where she stood as she watched her reflection. She wasn’t quite sure how she’d expected it to happen, but she was still surprised to see a strange cloud swirling around her, bringing with it what felt like a gentle, pleasant embrace. By the time the cloud dissipated and she could see her reflection in its entirety, she let out a loud, shocked shout, completely taken aback by what she was now wearing.

“W-w-what the heck is this, Kaguya?!” she barked at the goddess, gesturing at her outfit.

“It’s a school uniform!”

“I-I can see that! But why’s it look like something my mom would’ve worn?! Hell, why’s it look like it’s from an ‘80s anime?!”

“Because it’s a classic! Ahhhh, this style was so popular back when I first got into otaku culture! Sure, it’s a little dated now, but cute is cute!”

“J-just gimme something modern, please! A-and normal! Something normal!”

“Ahaha! Fine, fine. Gonna warn you, though: you’ll still look cute!”

She snapped her fingers once more, and, in an instant, Arisa’s outfit had been completely replaced, this time by an outfit that was far more familiar to her.

“Th-this is…”

She stared down at the cute, light brown, sailor-like dress—as well as, much to her delight, the sheer black tights clinging tightly to her legs—that now hugged her figure. Save for the big, red ribbon on the chest, it was a fairly nondescript uniform by most standards, but still, she’d come to know it particularly well over the last few months.

“Recognize it?”

“You...you know I do, moron! This is K-K… it’s...Kasu…”

“Kasumi’s uniform, right? From Hanasakigawa Girls’ High School?” she asked, knowing fully well how much it’d rile Arisa up.

“Why the heck am I wearing it?!”

“Oh, that one’s easy!” she smiled. “You’re a student there now!”

If Kaguya wasn’t still holding onto her, she was sure she’d have dropped straight to the ground right then and there.

“You’re...kidding, right?” she asked, the excitement in her voice clearly on display.

“Nope! You wanted to get closer to her, right? You’re her classmate now!”

“Y-you can’t just do that, Kaguya!”

“Can’t I? Where else would you have gone? You couldn’t stay in your old school; only boys go there. It was wrong for you from the start, and I think that’s only become clearer now. So I put you in the same school as your best friend! It’s perfect, right? You’ll get to spend so much more time with each other!”

“I need to sit down…” Arisa sighed, going back to the bed, with Kaguya following closely behind and plopping herself right down at her side.

“So what’s the deal?” she asked, trying to keep herself calm, “Do people just think this is who I am?”

“Yep! Everyone’ll remember you as having always been Arisa! It’s always been true, after all, so I guess I’m just helping everyone else see that, too!”

“So then-”

She was cut off, right as she started, by a loud tone chiming on her phone, letting her know that a text had arrived.

“Before you ask anything else, why don’t you check that, hmm?” Kaguya smiled. “I have a feeling it’ll make everything perfectly clear.”

“If you say so…” Arisa sighed, picking up her phone right as another tone sounded. “Kasumi…”

“Go on, check!”

“Yeah, yeah…” she grumbled, opening up the messaging app to see yet another text from her chatty best friend.

<「arisaaaaa!」

<「hey, arisa!」

<「we still on for practice tomorrow? no problem if we work in the basement again, right?」

Ignoring the bunch of stickers that suddenly started flooding in, Arisa just stared at the goddess who’d been peeking at her screen, completely dumbfounded once more.

“Y-you…”

“Surprise!” Kaguya grinned, clapping softly for Arisa.

“I’m...I’m in her band, too?”

“Mmhmm! You’re the official keyboardist of Poppin’ Party! You’ve all been practicing in your basement for a few months now!”

“H-how damn thorough is all this?!”

“Thorough enough to grant all your wishes! Want me to list ‘em off?”

“N-no!” she cried out, blushing furiously. “I get it, I get it! It’s just...jeez, it’s almost overwhelming,” she sighed, feeling Kaguya’s arm wrap around her shoulder.

“Awww, you’ll get the hang of it in no time! I know it’s a lot to take in, but this’ll all be so good for you and her, I promise! I just can’t wait to see how happy you’ll be!”

Arisa smiled softly back at her. Despite being a pervert, and a huge, almost insufferable dork at times, Kaguya really was working to help her out. As angry as she’d been, she wasn’t quite sure she’d be able to express just how much lighter she felt deep down, like all the weight she’d been carrying for so long had been lifted right off her shoulders. So, she decided to start simply.

“Thanks, Kaguya. I...know I’ve been kinda...loud, but this all means so, so much to me, y’know?”

“Awww, that’s OK!” Kaguya beamed, wrapping her up in a tight hug. “Besides, I think that grumbliness is part of what makes you sooooo cute!”

“Yeah yeah...I’m not normally like this, y’know? I’m kinda surprised by how worked up I’ve been feeling.”

“Oh, I know! That’s on me too!”

Arisa’s eyes widened at that.

“What...what do you mean?” she asked, trying and failing to sound calm.

“I mean I changed your personality a bit! Made you extra cute!”

“S-so why the heck am I so friggin’ fiery?!” Arisa scowled.

“Cause it’s cute, silly! Oh, my, don’t tell me you’re one of THOSE people that don’t understand just how adorable and lovable a good tsundere can be, are you?”

Arisa’s scowl was replaced, for a little while at least, by a completely blank stare, as she tried to comprehend what she’d just been told.

“Tsun...dere?”

“Of course! They’re the best! The way they get all grumpy and have these adorable little pouts, but then they get all lovey-dovey once they start being a little more honest with themselves! Haaah…” Kaguya said, letting out a dreamy sigh that practically bordered on lustful.

“You...made me a tsundere…?”

“Uh-huh! Well, it’s not like it was a huge change, you were already having trouble being honest with the girl you loved. I just made that a looooot cuter!”

“Kaguya…”

“Hmm?”

“Are you friggin’ kidding, Kaguya! You made me act this way, what, because of some manga character you liked?! Wanted me to be more like them?!”

“It’s not just one character! Tsunderes are a storied archetype that has endured for years, Arisa!”

“That...that isn’t even popular anymore!” Arisa huffed. “Nobody’s cared about tsunderes for years!”

“Hmph!” Kaguya crossed her arms angrily, wearing a haughty pout. “Well it’s certainly not my fault that people’s tastes have gotten worse over the years. If you ask me, tsunderes are the absolute peak of cuteness and nothing will ever change that!”

“The...the goddess I prayed to...is...just a huge dork…”

“Ufufu! Proud of it, too!” she grinned, flashing Arisa double peace signs.

“Yeah, I know you are!” Arisa grumbled, before her phone started lighting up with more messages, which she quickly checked, desperate for anything to take her away from the current conversation.

<「*sobs* my...arisa’s ignoring me...」

<「she’s become a bad girl, a rebel...」

Those messages were quickly followed up by an avalanche of crying emotes and stickers, which Arisa just sighed at.

“Kaguya?”

“Yes?”

“You know how to use a phone, right?”

“Mhmm!”

“There’s one out in the hall, and there should be the number for a pizza place on the fridge. Just...order for the both of us. Something simple for me, not too spicy. I need to respond to Kasumi about practicing tomorrow with the band I’m...apparently part of...”

“Got it!” Kaguya smiled. “Have fun!”

“You know it…” she mumbled, as the goddess left the room, leaving Arisa alone for the first time since she’d shown up.

「I’m here, I’m here!」>

“Bleh, even my messages are...grumpy.”

<「arisa’s back!!!」

<「you’re not a bad girl after all!」

「Yeah, I was just busy taking care of my bonsai. What’s up?」>

<「ehehe, cuuuute! i bet they’re looking great」

<「but practice tomorrow!!!!!」

<「still good? we can still practice in the basement at your place, right???」

「Kasumi… Has that ever not been OK?」>

Arisa had typed that out almost on autopilot, only thinking about what she’d just said the moment she sent it.

“They’ve never actually practiced there, right? But, wait, I feel like we did just yesterday?”

She sighed. “Kaguya, just how far does this go…?”

<「i’m being polite arisaaaaaa!」

「Uh-huh. But yeah, tomorrow’s still good. Got some stuff to do, so I’ll be kinda quiet for the rest of the night, OK?」>

<「yay!!」

<「no problem! see you at school tomorrow!」

Kasumi then sent a sticker of a girl waving happily, followed by another wishing her a goodnight.

「Yeah, see you then.」>

“OK!” Kaguya stepped back into the room the second Arisa had sent her own goodnight sticker back, wearing a warm, happy smile. “Pizza’ll be here in 10 minutes! Everything good with Kasumi?”

“Yeah…” Arisa said rather flatly as she flopped down on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. “Thanks for ordering, by the way.”

“No problem!”

“And, hey, I’m learning to just sorta accept everything you’ve done, and can do, and will do, but…”

“But?” Kaguya asked, laying herself down next to Arisa and hugging her tightly.

“You just live here now, right? You don’t have to go to your shrine or anything?”

“Yup! Your family thinks I’m a homestay from another country! And nope! I can still hear eeeevery prayer just fine, no matter where I am!”

“And I’m guessing the reason that they think that is the same reason why I knew all that stuff? About Kasumi’s band practicing here and you living with us, I mean.”

“Oooh, you catch on fast!”

“Yeah, OK.” Arisa said, thoroughly out of the energy to actually be surprised at this point. “But your name doesn’t sound even a little foreign, y’know that?”

“Shhh! It’s OK,” Kaguya grinned.

“And I guess that means you’re going to school with me?”

“Nope!”

“And everyone else just thinks that’s fine?”

“Yep!”

“And you couldn’t make it so that you had your own bed?”

She had a feeling she knew the answer she was about to get.

“I could, but where’s the fun in that? I wanna snuggle up with my favorite cuddly little cutie every night!”

Arisa’s hunch was right, it turned out. Despite how grumbly that should’ve made her, all she could really do in response was smile softly.

“Hey, Arisa?”

“Yeah?”

“I love you a lot, you know that?”

“I...I-I, y’know…”

“Yeah?!” Kaguya looked endlessly excited by how flustered Arisa was getting.

“Ahhh! Friggin’ pervert goddess! I l-l-lo...I love you too!” she blurted out, her face having turned a bright red once more.

“Oh gosh, thank you so much, Arisa! I promise, I’m gonna help you and Kasumi be as happy as anyone possibly could be!”

“I...I know that…” she said, biting her lip shyly.

“And when you get married and move in together, I’ll live with you both! A lovey-dovey domestic life with two cuties and a beautiful goddess! Ufufu, it sounds like something right out of a manga!”

Arisa smiled.

“Wouldn’t expect any less from you.”

“Ufufufu! We’ve only just met and we’re already so in-tune with each other, we must be soulmates or something!”

“Yeah,” Arisa said, shyly returning Kaguya’s hug. “I guess we must be.”

~~~

“Arisa! You did so great today! It’s like you’ve been extra fired up this week!” Kasumi shouted ecstatically, wrapping up Arisa in a slightly-too-tight hug.

The end of each band practice, Arisa had discovered over the week since Kaguya had shown up in her life, pretty much always went like this. The other three band members tended to leave pretty quickly, but Kasumi always stuck around a while longer, shouting about how great everything had gone, and how the band had to be just around the corner from playing to sold out crowds. Even so, she was particularly...affectionate today.

“Y-yeah?”

“Yeah! It’s amazing! You’re high-powered Arisa! The best keyboardist in the whoooole world!”

“I- well, I dunno if I’d go that far…” Arisa stammered, trying and failing to get herself out of Kasumi’s grasp.

“I would! Everyone’s gonna fall in love with how cute you are in no time! Just you wait, there’s gonna be a worldwide Arisa revolution!”

“N-no thanks…” Arisa muttered, relieved that Kasumi’s hug had finally started to let up. Playing on stage sounded fine to her, but the idea of her getting anywhere close to the kind of attention Kasumi was talking about just made her feel ill. “But really, thanks Kasumi. I wasn’t sure I’d be any good for this at all this week, so...it’s nice to hear that. Just scratch the whole ‘revolution’ thing, got that? Let this hermit live in peace.”

“Awww, but Arisaaaaaa…” Kasumi pouted, looking absolutely heartbroken. Arisa knew it was impossible, but she could swear she saw Kasumi’s distinctive, cat-ear-like buns droop as well, making her look every bit like a sad, stray kitten.

“Nope, that’s non-negotiable.”

“Can we play at the Budokan, at least?!” Kasumi asked, her boundless enthusiasm returning instantly.

“Sure, sure,” Arisa said, dismissing the idea that that could ever happen. As long as a certain goddess didn’t catch wind of that, anyway… “Get us a live show at the Budokan and I’ll definitely join you.”

“Yay! Arisa, I love you! You’re the best!” Kasumi cheered, throwing her arms around Arisa once more.

“I get it!” Arisa huffed. “Just...let go, idiot! Y-you’re all sweaty and stuff!”

“It’s fine, it’s fine! We’re both kinda sweaty! Just take a long bath after this! Ohhhhhh, do you think Aa-chan’ll bathe with me tonight?!”

“Your sister’s not a kid anymore, Kasumi… She’s starting high school next year…”

“Yeah, but that’s why I’ve gotta have as much fun with her as I can now! These moments won’t last forever, you know! But, jeez, I sorta wish they could!”

Arisa bit her tongue, knowing that if Kaguya wanted it, that wish absolutely fit within the realm of possibility.

“Buuut if Aa-chan won’t, what about you, Arisa?! I could stay here and get in the bath with you instead!”

“I-I-I’m not a friggin’ kid either! I’m the same age as you, moron!” she yelled, her face turning bright red at the mere idea of doing that with her. She knew at least some of that was on what Kaguya had made her like, but even so, this was far too much for Arisa to deal with now.

“Still…”

“N-no means no, dammit!” Arisa huffed, as the two of them walked up the basement stairs to the main hall of her family’s house.

“Awwww… Next time though, OK?!”

“The answer’s still gonna be ‘no,’ Kasumi!”

“Ehehe, well, I’ll still ask!” Kasumi laughed, slipping on her shoes and getting ready to leave. “Thanks for letting us practice here again today! We’re really getting good, huh?”

“Yeah, we really are.”

Arisa smiled. For as much of a handful as Kasumi could be, her optimism really was nothing short of incredible. It was hard not to believe that, one day, Poppin’ Party, the band she’d worked so hard to start, might just end up on a big stage playing for huge crowds of adoring fans. As scary as that all sounded, Kasumi would carry all of them through it. Arisa was certain of that.

Maybe letting her stay the night wouldn’t be so bad...

“H-h-hey, Kasumi?” Arisa put a hand on Kasumi’s shoulder, grabbing her attention right as she was about to open the door to leave.

“Mmm? What’s up?”

“I-I...y’know, I was w-wondering if, maybe…” she hadn’t even realized she was doing it, but the whole time she’d been trying to work up the nerve to ask Kasumi to stay, she’d been fidgeting like crazy, one hand twirling a twintail while the other clutched tightly at the side of her skirt.

“Ahaha, Arisa! You look soooooo sweet right now, you know that? Like an adoring housewife who’s just so in love it hurts!”

Arisa’s embarrassment grew a hundredfold in an instant.

“Sh-sh-sh-shut up, you damn moron! What the hell’s that for, huh?! Calling me an a-a-a-a-”

“Adoring housewife?”

“Yeah, that!”

“Because I think you’re cute!” Kasumi replied, wearing a perfectly innocent smile.

“Th-that’s not what I meant, Kasumi!”

“Oh? What did you mean then?”

It was as if Kasumi was determined to discover each and every shade of red that Arisa’s face could turn.

“I-it’s not important, dammit!”

“Ahahaha!” Kasumi laughed sweetly, petting her friend’s head in a baffling attempt to comfort her. “There there, Arisa. You’ll be OK.”

“D-didn’t you have to get home?”

“Oh yeah!” Kasumi gasped, as if she’d forgotten all about going back to her own house. “I should do that, huh?”

“You...probably should.”

“See you soon, Arisa! Let me know if you wanna do anything this weekend!”

“Y-yeah, I will,” she shyly replied. “Have a good night, Kasumi!” Arisa waved, as Kasumi darted off toward her house without another word. Shutting the door hastily, Arisa immediately let out a huge, tired sigh.

“Awww, you were so close that time!”

Arisa spun around to see Kaguya standing right behind her, as if she’d appeared from thin air.

“W-what the hell, Kaguya?! How long were you watching?!” Arisa asked, confident that the answer was “the whole time.”

“Well...I was in the room for the entire band practice, but I wouldn’t say I was watching the whole thing…”

Bingo. Well, sort of. Still, Arisa fully expected that she’d only say she wasn’t technically watching because she was in the middle of some game on her phone or something along those line.

“I had some manga I wanted to catch up on, after all! Still, I had to stay close and see how you were doing! You really are great on that keyboard, you know! And don’t worry, none of them saw me! Heck, you didn’t even see me!” she beamed, following closely behind Arisa as she trudged up to her bedroom. “Oh, your family’s out again, so I ordered pizza for us both!”

“Again? And why the heck did you hide yourself, huh? If everyone thinks you’re just some homestay, why won’t you let my band see you?” Arisa flopped down on her bed, letting out a relieved sigh. Ever since she’d been visited by Kaguya, she found lying down on her bed to be particularly enticing to her. She wasn’t sure if the goddess had made her lazier, or if her habits had just rubbed off on her, but she hardly minded either way. After all, the bed was really soft...

“Because it’s just easier if only your family knows about me right now! I want you to confess before anyone else sees me at all, otherwise I might hog all the attention from you! And pizza’s really amazing, Arisa! I could eat it every day! I wish more people would offer up pizza at the shrine...” Kaguya replied happily, lying down right next to Arisa and pulling out her phone, quickly opening up the rhythm game she’d been practically glued to all week. “Oooh, full stamina! And the new event starts tomorrow! I’m gonna get those new featured cuties, for sure!”

“Yeah, good luck…” Arisa mumbled, idly watching her tap away to the rhythm of a poppy song she’d heard close to a hundred times that week.

“So,” Kaguya started, “what’s up? Why didn’t you ask her to stay?”

“It was that obvious I was going for that, huh?”

“Ufufu! I just know my Arisa super well! It’s like we’ve been talking to each other for years or something!”

“Can it,” she sighed. “I just...got scared, I guess.”

“Was it the housewife thing that Kasumi said? I thought that was super cute!”

“H-hey! Th-that has nothing to do with it!”

“Ufufu! Sure it doesn’t!”

“I-it doesn’t, dammit!”

“Okaaaaaay,” Kaguya said. “Just don’t yell too much, OK? My combo got messed up!”

“W-who the hell cares about that?!” Arisa yelled.

“Excuse me! Arisa, people regularly pray to me asking for good luck on events in this game! In little over a year, it’s garnered over six million players! And that’s before you factor in the recent global launch! That brought it all the way up to-”

“I just got embarrassed, OK?!” Arisa yelled, not wanting to listen to whatever tirade Kaguya was about to go on at all. “That’s all. She just looked so c-cute and...and wonderful and I j-just kinda got scared.”

“Awww, Arisa!” Kaguya cried out, wrapping her arms around the smaller girl now that the song she’d been playing had come to a close. “Don’t worry, you’ll be brave enough to ask next time!”

“I...I really hope so…” she said, her voice muffled by the large chest her face had been forcibly pushed into.

“Oooh, I know!” Kaguya smiled. “Why don’t you invite her out this weekend? She said you should text her if she wanted to do anything! It’s a perfect chance, Arisa!”

“I-it’s not that easy!” Arisa said, grumbling at the sound of the doorbell.

“Pizza’s here, hold that thought!” Kaguya hastily responded, picking herself up and rushing out the door without a word.

“I could’ve prayed to anyone else. Any other deity…” Arisa mumbled.

“Yeah, but you’d probably end up stuck with someone really stuffy and boring, if they came down at all!” Kaguya shouted, walking back in the room with two pizza boxes in her arms.

“H-how did you...so fast…?”

“I’m a goddess!” Kaguya grinned, taking a seat at the small table in the center of the room and opening up one of the boxes, digging in excitedly. “Come eat, Arisa! It’s really great!”

With a sigh, Arisa pulled herself off the bed, taking a seat opposite Kaguya and taking a bite of her own pizza.

“So,” Kaguya spoke between bites, “what’s so complicated about asking her out this weekend?”

“W-what if she thinks I’m weird?” Arisa mumbled shyly.

“She’s already your best friend, there’s no way she would!”

“Well...y’know, I’ve never been on a d-d-date, so...what would I even do?”

“Oooh, well, in the manga I’m reading right now-”

“I’m not using manga as dating advice!”

“OK, in that case, get some food and have a picnic in the park with her! Go to an arcade, go clothes shopping! You live in a city filled with fun things to do! Gosh, you could even just let her pick!”

“A-and…” Arisa gulped, “what if I...t-tell her I…”

“Love her? That’s the point!”

“N-no, dumbass! I mean, yes, but...no! I mean what comes after that. What if she says...y’know…”

Shockingly, Kaguya put down her pizza for a second, leaned over, and gave Arisa the most reassuring hug she could possibly give. “Listen, Arisa,” she said, her voice devoid of its usual playfulness, replaced entirely by warmth. “I won’t force her to feel a certain way about you. That just...well, it wouldn’t be right at all.”

“I know, I...I don’t want that…I want to know how she sincerely feels.”

“Well then you have to ask, don’t you? Yes, it’s scary. There’s no guarantee it’ll go the way you want it to, but you have to at least try. If she says no, that’s just how it is, and we’ll have to deal with that. But surely knowing and getting that closure is better than sitting with that worry, isn’t it?”

“Maybe...yeah…” Arisa begrudgingly agreed.

“Besides, I have a good feeling that she loves you, too. She said it just before she left, didn’t she?”

“Y-yeah, but that’s different… You know that, Kaguya.”

“Mmm, I do, but still...”

She pulled back a little, smiling warmly at Arisa before holding up Arisa’s phone for her to see, the screen showing the chat between Arisa and Kasumi, though it was full of messages that Arisa definitely never sent.

「Hey, Kasumi? About this weekend, I’m kinda bored all cooped up here! Wanna do something fun tomorrow?!」>

<「reallyyyyyy??????」

「Yep! Meant to ask before you left, but you ran off kinda quick!! I got so lonely...」>

<「ahhhhhh, i’m sorry! got really excited about seeing aa-chan again」

<「she didn’t wanna bathe with me.......」

「Awww, maybe next time!」>

<「yeah next time!!! i’ll be by your house at 10!!!」

「Awesome! See you soon!」>

“Kaguya…” Arisa scowled, her face having drained of all color.

“Mmm?”

“WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!!!”

“I just gave you a little push! I swiped your phone while you weren’t looking and quickly sent her some messages! You’re meeting her tomorrow at 10!” Kaguya said, with a pleasant smile.

“I can see that! Why the hell did you do that and...and what the heck’s with these messages! They don’t sound like me at all!”

“Because I want you to confess your love! And Kasumi thinks they sound just like you!”

“Yeah, but Kasumi’s…” she took a deep breath. “Kasumi’s Kasumi…

“Mhmm! She is, and you’re going on your first date with her tomorrow! But don’t worry! Wonder Goddess Kaguya is here to help you every step of the way! I just know it’ll go great!”

Too exhausted to even think about asking what was up with the title Kaguya had given herself, Arisa simply sighed and flopped backwards onto the floor, staring up at the ceiling once more.

“It’s gonna be so much fun, Arisa! Yay! First date! First date!” Kaguya cheered, getting back to her food as she did so.

“At least you’re confident…” Arisa mumbled. She was in for a very, very long night.

~~~

“So,” Arisa grumbled, waiting on the park bench for Kasumi to show up, “why are you here again?”

“Ufufufu! Arisa, it’s your first date! Did you think I’d just stay at home and read manga?!”

“Yeah,” she replied flatly, blushing softly at a couple she saw off in the distance huddling up close together as they walked in the chilly morning weather. “I mean, you’re reading some now.”

“It’s just the last couple of chapters of this volume! It’ll barely take me 5 minutes!” she declared, puffing out her chest proudly. “Once that’s done, I’m sitting right here and watching my adorable little Arisa have the best date ever with the girl she’s so madly in love with! Plus, if anything does go wrong, I’m here to back you up!”

“Yeah, yeah. Look, I know there’s no getting rid of you today-”

“Yup! I’ll be here the whoooole time!”

“-but nobody’s gonna be able to see you, right?”

“Correct!”

“Fine,” Arisa sighed. “Just...don’t do anything that’ll make this weird, got that, Kaguya?”

“Wouldn’t dream of it! I want this to go great too!”

“Uh-huh...”

“Just save me some of those nuggets, OK?!” she asked, digging through the bag of food Arisa had picked up on the way there. “I love them so much, Arisa!”

“Yeah, yeah, there’s more than enough here for all of us. There’ll definitely be leftovers, so you’re welcome to all of that. Sound good?”

“Perfect! Thanks, cutie! But, ooh, even the chocolate?”

“E-except that! That’s...that’s a gift for Kasumi, so no touching that at all!”

“Ufufu, gotcha!” Kaguya smiled, getting back to her manga while Arisa checked the time on her phone. It was almost 11 now. Kasumi was running late.

“So, why didn’t she meet me at home again?”

“I just thought you might get a little caught up in indecision! So I texted her riiiiight as you went to bed and said we should meet here for a picnic instead! Pretty romantic, right? I looked this park up, and I heard that it’s an ultra-popular date spot!”

“I...I can see that, yeah…” Arisa looked around, a little dismayed to see couples in just about every direction. “Whatever…” she sighed, “at least we’ll blend in. I-if anything happens...nobody’ll think it’s weird.”

“Ohhhhhh?” Kaguya grinned, leaning right up against Arisa. “What sorta things do you think might happen on your lovey-dovey date, A~ri~sa~?”

“Sh-shut up, Kaguya!” she yelled, moving her fluffy pink scarf over her mouth to try and hide her blushing face. “It doesn’t matter what happens! I-I just don’t like being watched! It’s already tough enough with you right here!”

“Awww…” the goddess pouted, seemingly on the verge of tears. “You really don’t want me here, Arisa? I’ll...I’ll go if you really think I’m a problem, b-but I...I really wanna watch!” she cried out.

“N-no! I didn’t say that, dummy! You can stay! It’ll...it’ll be good for me if you’re here!” Arisa yelled, clearly worried about how much she’d just upset the goddess who’d made this date possible in the first place and backpedaling as hard as she could. “I just...I just…”

“‘Just?!’” Kaguya asked, her apparent sadness leaving her in an instance.

“I’m just nervous, OK?! So...bear with me if I have trouble today!”

“Trouble?” Arisa heard a peppy voice ask. She slowly, nervously turned her head away from the goddess, towards the voice’s owner. “Why would you have trouble today, Arisa?! Oh gosh, are you being hunted down by criminals?! Does someone have dirt on you?! Or maybe you’re sick! Oh no, hang in there Arisa!”

“K-Kasumi?!” Arisa stammered. “H-h-h-how long have you been there?!”

“Just got here! But that’s more than enough time to hear that a member of Poppin’ Party is in grave danger, and I just can’t sit idly by and-”

“I’m fine, Kasumi!” Arisa yelled, grabbing Kasumi by the wrist and pulling her down to the empty spot next to her. “I was just...just…”

“‘Just?!’” Kasumi asked, her voice heavy with concern.

“My, uhhh...my bonsai trees looked like they were struggling a little when I left the house this morning! So I’m gonna r-really work hard when I get home to make sure they grow up nice and healthy! I-it’s a challenge, but they’re special to me, so I’ve gotta do it!” Arisa blurted out, confident that her excuse went over more than well enough for Kasumi.

“Oh gosh! I hope they all hang in there!”

“Yeah, they will! They’ve got me looking after them, after all!” she huffed, desperate to change the topic as she heard Kaguya gently giggling behind her.

You’d better be laughing at your manga, Kaguya!

Arisa wasn’t sure if the goddess could hear her thoughts or not, but, still, it was worth a try if it meant she could yell at her without anyone thinking she was strange.

“Oooh, wow Arisa, you brought two whole bags! Jeez, you really think we can eat that much?!”

“Oh, uhhh...one of those is for, uhhh… L-let’s just not worry about that for now, OK? It’s just something I wanna take home after this.”

“Gotcha! Well, still looks like we’ve got more than enough today, huh?” she asked, holding up her own bag of food, so stuffed full that it looked ready to burst at any second.

“Y-yeah, guess we do…” Arisa muttered, opening up the bag of food she’d brought to share with Kasumi and laying out its contents between the two of them. “Sorry it’s nothing too fancy. Got some croquettes from Hagumi’s shop, but otherwise it’s all just from the convenience store. If I’d had a little more time to prepare, I would’ve tried-”

“Ahahaha, Arisaaaa!” Kasumi laughed, hugging the smaller girl tightly. “There’s nothing to apologize for! Other than some bread from Saaya’s bakery, all of my stuff comes from convenience stores too, see?” She grinned, letting go of Arisa and gesturing at all the food she’d brought with her. “Besides, looks like you got some really yummy food! Ahaha, I haven’t had these in way too long!” Kasumi cried out, picking out some of the spicy fried chicken from the store near Arisa’s house that she loved so much and popping a nugget into her mouth.

“Ufufufu! It’s like she knows how worked up you got about all of this before you left this morning! Gosh, no wonder you love her!” Kaguya giggled. “Just try to make sure she doesn’t take all of those, please!”

Arisa shot her a quick glare and mouthed a silent “I know!” at the goddess before getting back to Kasumi, shyly taking one of the buns Kasumi had brought from the bakery of another one of their band’s members and munching on it happily.

“So, Arisa!” Kasumi started. “Guess what?!”

“What’s up?”

“Ever heard of Circle?”

“That’s the live house you won’t shut up about, right?”

“Jeez, how mean!” Kasumi pouted, before smiling happily as she munched on a croquette. “But yeah, that’s the one! The person who works there, Marina, said we could put on a show there if we give her a demo of some of our music and she likes what she hears! Just one step closer to the Budokan!”

“That’s great!” Arisa replied, smiling happily despite how worked up she was on the inside. “But that means we’ve gotta work even harder from here on out, got that? I know it’s...tiring…” She shuddered, the idea of just how difficult it’d all be starting to set in. “But, if we do our best, we’ll be on stage in no time.”

“Oooh, my little Arisa gets so fired up when it comes to her band! Ufufu, you’re a hard worker underneath all that laziness, huh?”

Arisa ignored Kaguya as best as she could, watching Kasumi’s eyes light up happily. “Oh gosh, Arisa! I’m so happy you’re excited too! You really have been extra fired-up lately! And, yeah, we’re gonna work so hard and show the world exactly who we are!”

“Y-yeah, that’s the spirit!” Arisa said, giving a nervous, uneven smile. Having Kaguya and Kasumi together like this was really showing her just how similar the two of them were, and it was almost overwhelming, being caught in the middle of the two most unflappably energetic people she’d ever met.

“Ehehe, it’s been nice. Seeing you work so hard and go all out like this.” Kasumi smiled softly. “I know I sorta push everyone along a lot of the time, but...I’m just really happy everyone loves Popipa as much as I do. The five of us are really doing something amazing, don’t you think?”

“I…” Arisa froze for a moment, surprised by just how...serious Kasumi suddenly seemed. “Yeah, Kasumi. I do. B-but it’s not just me, y’know! Rimi, Saaya, and Tae...they’re all doing their best. Each and every day.”

“Mmm, they are! And I love them for it, but…”

“There’s a but?”

“It’s just...you seemed super withdrawn before, y’know? Gosh, everyone at school thought you were some kinda ghost, with how little you attended before! So seeing you really smile and get into something like Popipa...I guess it just makes me happy! Because you’re really important to me, and I think you deserve to always wear a smile!”

Arisa’s cheeks grew redder and redder, her embarrassment completely overriding her ability to say much of anything at that point.

“Gosh, I was really happy when you agreed to come out with me today, too! You neeeever would’ve done anything like this with me before! We’d hang out at your house sometimes, but that was it! Maybe it’s silly, but I had a lot of trouble sleeping last night! I was so nervous! I just really wanted to be sure that I could make today super fun for you!”

“K-Kasumi, you didn’t have to-”

“I did, though! I mean, you probably worked really hard to ask me to hang out, right?”

“I-I, well…” she stammered and took a deep breath. “Y-yeah, I did. I...I kept thinking about how nice it’d be if I could get closer to you again, y’know?” she asked, trying to ignore her heart pounding in her chest. “B-because I feel like I was getting really distant, until all this band stuff. Ahaha, I...I almost didn’t join at all. Figured I’d just be a pain and that I’d be no good at any of this stuff...”

“You know that’d never be true, Arisa! I love you way too much to ever eeeeeever see you as a pain!”

“Deep down, sure. You...you’re…” She sighed. “You’re too damn nice for that. My own head was in my way more than anything else. To be honest, I...I wouldn’t even be here today if I didn’t get a huge push from...from someone close to me. I was just gonna spend all weekend holed up in my room, ahahaha.”

“Oh gosh! I’ll have to thank them then! Sounds like they’ve been really good to you, huh?”

“Y-yeah, they have.” Arisa smiled. “And you’ll...you’ll get to meet them someday!”

“Ehehe, I can’t wait! If they’re that important to you, I bet I’ll get along super well with them! But y’know what I think?”

“Hmm?”

“As much of a push as they might’ve given you, you just said you’d wanted to feel comfy enough to do stuff like this with me. You wanted us to be close, right?”

“R-right…”

“So even if that friend was the one who got you to finally work up the courage you needed, it’d have all been for nothing if you didn’t work as hard as you have! You’re so much stronger, and braver, and cuter than you think, Arisa! I’m soooo glad you went through with everything and that you came here today, and I’m even happier that you’re my friend! I’ve gotta be the luckiest girl ever, right?! I’ve got the best friend in the entire world!” She smiled happily. It was, to Arisa, the happiest, warmest sight in the world.

In truth, Arisa had, on several occasions, wondered why it was Kasumi that she’d fallen so deeply in love with, even as recently as the previous night.

“She’s such a friggin’ moron sometimes, Kaguya!” Arisa yelled, sitting on her bed and staring at the texts Kaguya and Kasumi had shared, “How did she even sorta think this was me?! Ahhhh, she better not expect me to act like this tomorrow! How the heck do I have any f-feelings for this dumbass?!”

“Ufufu! Kasumi’s a good girl! There’s no way she’d expect you to be anyone but yourself!” Kaguya reassured her, putting down the game she was playing for the time being.

“You barely even know her!” Arisa yelled in a huff. “How do you know what she’d want at all?”

“Oh? I’ve heard a lot about her, you know? You’ve told me so, soooo much every time we spoke. But even if you hadn’t, well…”

“‘Well’ what? Been using your powers or whatever to snoop on her?”

“Nope! It’s just that I know you really well, Arisa! Anyone you care about has to be a good person!”

“Sh-shut up!” Arisa stammered, as her cheeks turned a bright red. “That’s...that’s sappy as hell!”

“Maybe! But it’s also how I sincerely feel, and I am nothing if not completely honest! But, if you’d like, why don’t you tell me about her?”

“B-because you said you already knew plenty about her, moron!”

“Mmm but...humor me for a sec? I just really wanna hear it straight from you!”

“Fine…” Arisa sighed, knowing that she had no chance of getting Kaguya off the topic.

“Yaaay! You’re the best, Arisa!” she cried out, hugging the smaller girl warmly. “So, go on, tell me! Did she sweep you off your feet when you were younger? Protect you from some bullies? Or maybe she declared her love for you on the first day of school in front of the whole class! Oooh, maybe you saw her play the lead in a school play and she just stole your heart right then and there!”

“Can it, dummy! It’s nothing like that! There isn’t any one moment I’d point to and go ‘yup, that’s when I...f-fell in love with her.’”

“Ahaha, I’m just teasing you, Arisa! I’ll stop interrupting, promise!”

“It’s just that...she’s always...always been so damn Kasumi! She’s just so upbeat, and energetic, and never lets anything get her down or deflate her dreams, no matter how ridiculous they can be.”

“Ooooh, classic protagonist! Always smiling in the face of everything!”

“H-hey! I thought you said you’d stop interrupting!”

“Ufufufu, don’t worry about it, Arisa!”

“Yeah yeah…” she sighed. “It’s just that I’ve always been so...not that. E-even before you made me a...ts-tsun…tsun...”

“Tsundere!”

“Yeah, that! I was always way too scared to...to really do much of anything. I gave up on just about everything, and I never really kept in touch with anyone who was ever friendly to me. I-I just...I closed myself off, that’s all. But Kasumi never treated me badly, or like anything about me was a problem at all. She...she’s just been her, greeting me with that same sunny smile every time she sees me...”

“She really is a sweetheart, huh?”

“She’s a doofus, is what she is!” Arisa yelled, before her expression softened into a warm smile. “B-but I guess that’s kinda what makes her so special to me. She’s...incredible, in a way that only she can be. Always working at her own stupidly fast pace and...and somehow getting me to go along with it. So, I guess maybe it is that dumbass smile that really sums it all up, y’know? Like, when I look at it, I just don’t have anything to worry about. Because it shows me that she’s there for me,” Arisa said, looking over to the goddess only to see her eyes brimming over with tears.

“H-hey, what’s wr-”

“Arisaaaaa!” Kaguya wrapped her up in another hug. “You’re a sweetheart too! And you and Kasumi are gonna have the best date ever!” she sobbed. “And, one day, we’ll all live together, I know it!”

“I-I got that…” Arisa gently hugged her back. “And I’m...I’m gonna do my best tomorrow. For Kasumi.”

As what few birds remained in the chilly park chirped away, Arisa turned to Kasumi, her eyes closed as that large, dumbass smile stretched across her face, the smaller girl’s words catching in her throat for just a moment.

“S-so do I, Kasumi,” she stuttered, softly, confident that what she’d said was lost to the girl in front of her, taken away by the wind, until she opened her eyes and tilted her head, a brief look of confusion quickly giving way to a shimmer in her eyes.

“Really, Arisa?!”

“Y-yeah. A big, goofy, upbeat ball of energy who’s gonna take us all the way to the Budokan one day. B-because there’s nothing that could ever even try to stop you. I just...I-I...I think you’re pretty amazing, Kasumi!”

“Ehehehe! No way! I’m not-”

“Y-you are, though! You always have been, too!” she cried out, fighting through her embarrassment harder than she ever had before. “And that’s why...why I love you, Kasumi!”

And Kasumi kept on smiling.

“Arisa! I love you too! A whole bunch!”

“N-not like you say to everyone, I mean! Like...I really l-l-l-love you! I wanna be with you every friggin’ day, a-and go on dates, and k-kiss you and all that stuff!”

Despite her embarrassment, the words came out easier than she’d expected.

“A-and if you ever get sad, I wanna be there to help you smile again, b-because I think that smile is the best thing in the whole damn world! I wanna fall asleep next to you, and wake up next to you, and do just about everything I can with you b-because you’re important to me, got that?!” she asked, picking up the other bag she’d brought along with her and holding it out for Kasumi. “A-and I wanna d-do things for you that’ll make each day feel just a little brighter for you, too! I-I know it’s dumb, but that’s why I got you these! B-because I just kept thinking about how happy you’d look when you ate them and...and...awawawawa…” she trailed off, completely losing her nerve as Kasumi wrapped her up in a big, warm hug. Behind her, she could feel Kaguya gently hugging her as well, whispering softly in her ear.

“You did so, so well, Arisa,” Kaguya smiled. “I’m so proud of you.”

“Ehehe, you were really brave just now, huh, Arisa?” Kasumi giggled sweetly, pulling back from the hug and smiling warmly at Arisa before popping another nugget into her mouth.

“I-I mean…”

“It must’ve been really hard! But I’m super flattered! It’s like a whole new side of you, just for me!”

“And me!” Kaguya piped up. Arisa couldn’t see her face right now, but she just knew she had to be wearing a particularly smug, especially irritating smile.

“But y’know something? You’re kinda silly, Arisa!”

“H-hey! I worked-”

“Super hard! Yeah! But y’know,” she picked the last nugget out of the box, clearly emptying it out, prompting a particularly shocked gasp from Kaguya, “I have been saying I love you like that! Because I’ve always felt the same way, Arisa!” She smiled, munching on the last nugget like she didn’t even begin to realize the gravity of anything they’d just said to each other. “Which is why I’m soooooo happy that you’re saying it back to me!”

“I...you...you’ve felt this way for...how long?” Arisa stammered, somehow completely taken aback despite receiving the most quintessentially Kasumi response possible.

“Always!”

“A-always?”

“Yeah! All those hugs and kisses and stuff weren’t just for show, Arisa!” she grinned, munching on another croquette.

“Y-you friggin’ moron! It’s your fault for saying it so damn much! I-I just thought you were being weirdly affectionate!”

“Ehehe, I asked if I could hop in the bath with you, Arisa!” she scratched at the back of her head, failing to understand how anything she’d done was unclear. “I wouldn’t do that with just anyone!”

“Y-you also asked your sister!”

“Yeah, but that’s different!” Kasumi said, moving onto the gyoza Arisa had brought. “Ooooh...ehehehe, Arisa, is that why you brought so much food and worked so super hard for today? You wanted this to be our first date?”

“Sh-shut up, dummy! How is that you’re gonna be so perceptive about that, but nothing else…?” Arisa grumbled, fumbling with her twintails.

“Cuuute!” Kasumi sang, wiping away the crumbs on her fingers before wrapping Arisa in another hug. “Well, if my Arisa wants a first date, then she’ll get one!”

“Hey!” Arisa cried out, taken by surprise by Kasumi’s hugs once more. Any further objections she could raise, though, were muffled by Kasumi’s face being so close to hers, her soft, pink lips glistening slightly with oil.

“F-fine then!” Arisa declared, slowly pushing her face towards Kasumi’s until, finally, she worked up the nerve to lean right in, wrapping her lips around the brunette’s and kissing her as warmly and sweetly as she possibly could, before she pulled back, her face beat red and her mouth filled with the taste of ginger and grease. “S-so there! Now it’s...official, or something. We’re d-d-d...dating!”

“Ehehe, I thought I’d made it pretty clear I was taking it seriously!” she laughed, plucking the last gyoza from the box.

“H-how much can she eat?!” Kaguya asked, with more concern in her voice than Arisa had ever heard. “Arisa, don’t let her finish everything.”

“Ahhh, Kasumi!” Arisa growled, picking up a large pork bun and holding it above her lap. “You’re so...so damn...so you!”

“Ehehehe, well, you know me!” Kasumi giggled, scratching the back of her head once more, before a serious look passed over her face. “Oooh, you’re gonna eat all that yourself?”

Arisa’s blush deepened even more as she reluctantly tore the bun open, handing half to Kasumi as she desperately tried to avoid eye contact.

“Yay! My girlfriend’s the best!” Kasumi beamed.

~~~

“Arisa…” Kaguya muttered coldly, barely a minute after Kasumi and Arisa had gone their separate ways and started heading home for the day.

“Hmm?”

“Don’t ‘hmm’ me, Arisa! You made a promise to me and you broke iiiiiit!” she wailed. Arisa was grateful, at least, that there was nobody else around to see the goddess. Not that they’d have been able to if they were, of course.

“I-I confessed to her! Didn’t you see that?! We had a whole date and everything! What, were you too busy playing some mobile game to notice?!”

“Oh, I paid perfect attention, thank you! That’s how I know that you didn’t save me any food at all!” she yelled, pointing an accusatory finger at Arisa. “You got so much yummy stuff and I didn’t get a bite of any of it! It’s not faaaaair, Arisa!” the goddess whined.

“A-are you a kid or something?! You’re that upset about...about that?!”

“Watch it! I can turn you into a grade schooler in a second, Arisa!”

“Sh-shut up! At least it’d get you to stop perving over me!”

“Hmph!” Kaguya pouted. “Fine, I guess promises just...don’t matter in our family!”

“F-family?!”

“Ohhh, now we’re not family? Is that it? I’m just some trash to you? Not even fit to be given a few spare scraps of food?” she cried out, putting on the most melodramatic voice she possibly could.

“Look…” Arisa sighed, “I really am sorry, Kaguya. I thought we’d have a bunch left over, but Kasumi...jeez, I’ve never seen her eat that much…”

Kaguya continued to pout, not even giving Arisa a response.

“S-so...I’ll pick some up for you now, OK? Whatever you want! As...as long as it’s not too expensive.”

“Ufufu! Yaaaay! You’re the best, Arisa!” Kaguya beamed, hugging Arisa with so much enthusiasm it was as if she hadn’t actually been upset at all. “I want some of those spicy karaage nuggets, and some onigiri, and some chocolates, and-”

“Not that much, moron!”

“Oh, it’s OK! I can give you some money from my offerings!”

“That’s...that’s gotta be a huge problem, right?”

“Oh! And I’ll need some store credit too! I reeeeally wanna get the newest girl they added to the mobile game I’m playing, Arisa!”

“You just...don’t even care, huh?”

“I’m gonna get her! No matter how much I need to spend!”

“Fine, fine… If you say it’s OK, I guess...” Arisa sighed, smiling softly as she headed into a nearby convenience store. No matter how frustrating Kaguya was being, the day she had was just too good, too incredibly important to her to let anything dampen her spirits.

~~~

“Kasumi’ll be here in a little bit. Could you do me a favor, Kaguya?”

“What’s up?” Kaguya asked with a smile, just barely looking away from her manga.

“Just...lay low here, OK? It’ll be Kasumi’s first time over since...since...y’know.”

“Since you two tied the knot?”

“W-we aren’t married, dammit! We’ve only been dating for a couple of days!”

“‘Yet!’ You aren’t married ‘yet!’”

“Look, it doesn’t matter when or if that happens, got that? I wanna make today really special for her, and I-I just worry it’ll be hard to stay focused if you’re there watching us.”

“Awww, but I wanna see, Arisa!” Kaguya pouted.

“I know you do! That’s why I’m gonna make this deal extra sweet for you!” Arisa declared, puffing up her chest with pride.

“Oh? Whatcha got planned? Something raunchy?! Gonna let me dress you up in any lingerie I want?!”

“N-nothing like that!”

She huffed, walking over to her close, opening it up, and pulling out a small stack of snacks that had been hidden behind a pile of her clothes.

“See this? It’s my private stash! You can take as much of it as you want if you just stay up here while Kasumi’s around.”

Kaguya raced over to the closet, excitedly checking out the stack that was, if she played her cards right, all hers.

“E-every last thing here?! I can have it all?!”

“All of it!” Arisa boasted. “But only if you agree, got that?”

“Of course!” Kaguya’s eyes lit up at that, and she quickly grabbed an armful of snacks and hauled them over to the small table in the center of the room. “Ehehe… Snacks, manga, and games! Ahhhh, it’s a perfect day, Arisa!”

“Glad to hear it!” Arisa smiled, checking a text that had just come through on her phone. “I’m gonna head down now, OK, Kaguya? Kasumi says she’s outside. I’ll come up as soon as we’re done!”

“Mhmm!” the goddess replied, through a mouthful of potato chips. “Have fun, you two!”

“Y-you too…” she stammered before stepping outside of the room and shutting the door behind her, stunned by Kaguya’s gluttony even though she’d played witness to it every single day since she’d shown up in Arisa’s life. “How the heck were you upset by Kasumi’s eating habits…?” she muttered under her breath, before hearing a loud knock at the front door.

“I got your text already, Kasumi!” Arisa cried out, rushing over to the front door and opening it up. “I’m right here! You don’t have to be so-”

“ARISA!” Kasumi barreled into her girlfriend, wrapping her up in a hug so tight that it lifted the shorter girl right off her feet. “I missed you so much, Arisaaaa! Ahhhh, you’re just as cuddly and soft as I remember!”

“I-I saw you yesterday, moron!” Arisa yelled, squirming to break free of Kasumi’s grasp to no success.

“Yeah, but it feels like foreeeeever!” Kasumi grinned, completely refusing to loosen the hug at all.

“That doesn’t mean you’ve gotta squeeze me so hard I can barely breath, Kasumi!”

“I wanna get hugged too, Arisa! I’ll let you go once we’ve hugged!”

“We’re already hugging, dammit!”

“Nuh-uh! I’m hugging you! You haven’t put your arms around me at all!” Kasumi pouted.

“F-fine!” Arisa stammered, slowly, shyly wrapping her arms around Kasumi’s back. “Can you let go now?!”

“Ahhhhh…” she sighed dreamily, before slowly breaking off the hug. “it’s like you got even softer! Ehehe, thank you, Arisa!”

“D-don’t mention it…” Arisa blushed, turning away from Kasumi.

“So, what’d you wanna do today?! I was thinking we could watch a movie in your room, or-”

“Not my room!” Arisa blurted out. “My room’s… There’s a huge mess in it right now, so let’s just relax in the basement, OK?! There’s a TV there, so we’ll be fine!”

“Awww, but I wanna see if you’ve still got all those cute plushies you used to-”

“Basement, Kasumi!” Arisa cut her off and started heading to the basement, not wanting to even let Kasumi think about going up to her room for a second longer. “We’re always in the basement for practice, anyway, so it’s just...more homey to me? Y-yeah, that’s-”

“Arisaaaa!”

Arisa spun on her feet, turning to face Kasumi with an annoyed glare.

“Kasumi! C’mon, if we go up to my room, you’re gonna have to help me clean it, and I know you won’t…” she trailed off, only now realizing that Kasumi wasn’t looking at her at all. Instead, she was facing...the top of the stairs, where her bedroom door was…

Nervously turning to see what she was staring at, Arisa was greeted with the last person she wanted to see: Kaguya, wearing a particularly needy-looking pout. Glaring at her to get back into the bedroom, Arisa’s thoughts were quickly put to bed by Kasumi piping up once more.

“Ohhhhh? Who’s she, Arisa? Is she a friend of yours?! Oh gosh, do you have a second girlfriend I don’t know about?!” she asked, somehow completely ecstatic even when confronting the idea of her girlfriend hiding another relationship behind her back. “She’s so beautiful!”

“Y-you can see her…?” Arisa asked, feeling like she was about to explode in embarrassment.

“Arisaaaaaa…” Kaguya whined, “I’ve had a change of heart: it doesn’t matter how many snacks you give me! I wanna be with you two! It’ll be boring all by myself…”

“Oh gosh! I didn’t know Arisa had company, sorry!” Kasumi apologized to Kaguya, “I’m Arisa’s girlfriend, Kasumi! It’s nice to meet you!”

“Kaguya!” Arisa yelled, as the goddess headed down to the both of them. “Why the heck can she see you?!”

“Because I said I’d let her see me as soon as you’d confessed, remember? Ufufufu! You’re sooooo cute when you get all grumpy, Arisa!”

“She is!” Kasumi agreed, apparently not even picking up on how odd what Arisa and Kaguya had just said to each other really was. “She’s always cute, but I love when she tries to cover up how she really feels! It’s adorable!”

“Ohhh! You get it too!” Kaguya smiled, excitedly taking Kasumi’s hands in her own.

“Ehehe, yeah! Arisa’s the best! But Arisaaaaa!” Kasumi whined, looking at her particularly embarrassed girlfriend. “Why didn’t you introduce me to your friend?! Is she shy or something? Oh, I promise I’m not scary!” she cried out, turning back to the goddess.

“Ufufufu! Don’t worry, I know allll about you! Plus, Arisa gets so excited whenever she talks about you!” Kaguya said with a smile. “So, come on, Arisa. Aren’t you going to let Kasumi know who I am?”

“Y-you could’ve given me some warning, Kaguya!”

“Ehehe, I made a mistake! It’s OK! Still, you’ve gotta introduce me! It’s only polite!”

Arisa sighed, knowing that she absolutely didn’t have the energy to argue any further. “Yeah, sure, whatever! Kasumi…” she sighed again, ”here’s the mess in my room. Her name’s Kaguya.”

“Ohhhh, Kaguya! It’s so nice to meet you!” Kasumi cried out happily, throwing her arms around the goddess. “So, are you dating Arisa?” she asked, returning to her earlier train of thought. “Don’t worry, I’m not angry! But does that mean we’re both gonna be sharing our time with her?! Oooh, but it’d be better if all three of us dated each other, huh? That way we could all just spend our time together! Yeah, that sounds fun!”

“You’re just...rushing into being polyamorous, huh?” Arisa asked flatly, though she was completely ignored.

“And have we met before?!” Kasumi breathlessly asked, not even giving Kaguya a moment to try and answer, though she hardly seemed bothered. “There’s something suuuuuper familiar about you! Is it the hair…? Your clothes…? Ah, I’ve got it! It’s your voice! I’ve definitely heard your voice before, Kaguya!”

“Ufufu! You’re sharp! Arisa didn’t get it at all, but you recognized me right away!”

“That’s because Arisa never really leaves her house! She barely knows anyone!”

“Hey! Kasumi!” Arisa shouted, going completely ignored once more.

“Mmm! But that’s part of what makes her so cute, isn’t it?! She’s a shy, soft little hermit who just wants to browse the net all day and gets flustered over the slightest thing!” Kaguya doted.

“Yeah! But I’m so glad she’s doing more these days! She’s been working so hard for our band!”

“Ufufu, she has! You’ll all be performing in the Budokan in no time!” Kaguya happily agreed, nodding vigorously.

“You two have completely gotten off track!” Arisa shouted, trying to shove herself back into the conversation. “Why does Kasumi know your voice, Kaguya?!” she asked, turning to the goddess.

“Oooh, yeah! Arisa’s right! Why do I know it?”

“Ufufufufu!” Kaguya laughed. “It’s only natural, isn’t it? We’ve been speaking to each other for years, after all!”

“We have?! Oh! Are you a teacher? From grade school, maybe? No, you don’t look old enough to be a teacher… Hmm, a classmate?”

“Close!” Kaguya grinned, glowing from the compliment. “I’m actually a goddess!”

Arisa sighed.

“C’mon, Kaguya. You can’t expect her to buy tha-”

“Oh wow, really?!” Kasumi asked, her eyes lighting up excitedly, “That’s so cool! No wonder you’re so beautiful! Wow, a real goddess at Arisa’s house! I can’t wait to tell Aa-chan! She’s gonna be so excited!”

“How...how the heck-” Arisa started, though she was immediately cut off.

“Ahaha, thank you!” Kaguya smiled confidently, warmly soaking up every platitude Kasumi passed her way, “But let’s keep that between the three of us, hmm? I want a quiet life! That’s why my shrine’s a little off the beaten path, after all!”

“Oooh, where is it?! Is it nearby? Can we go see it?!”

“Ufufu! It isn’t far, no, but you already know that, don’t you? You went there just after your date with Arisa, remember?”

“Oh? After my date? Hmmm...I stopped to get some more chicken from the convenience store, then I stopped to thank…” Kasumi paused, as a knowing smile began to spread across her face. “That’s you?! I could’ve sworn your name was different, but you mean that’s really you?! Oh gosh! I’ve got so much to thank you for, Miss Kaguya! You...you granted my wish! I didn’t think Arisa would ever be able to open up and you helped make it happen! Thank you soooo much!” Kasumi cried, hugging the goddess as tightly as possible.

Kaguya’s smile grew increasingly smug as she looked over at Arisa, still tightly wrapped up in Kasumi’s loving hug. “See, Arisa? Kasumi’s a good girl! She believed me right away. Ahhh, and to think you were skeptical until the last possible moment!”

“Y-you’d been talking to her...all this time…?” Arisa breathlessly asked, though she was strangely unsurprised by the sight of Kasumi all taking this in stride.

“Mmhmm!”

“And she’d wished to...to get closer to me?”

“You got it! I’m very efficient, aren’t I? That date granted both of your wishes at once!” she boasted.

“Ohhh, really?!” Kasumi asked, breaking off the hug and flashing Arisa a teasing grin. “Arisaaaaa, did you want to get closer to me? Oooh, I’m flattered!”

“Sh-shut up, moron! And Kaguya, don’t just go spreading my wishes around! That’s private, dammit!”

“Wishes?” Kasumi asked. “Does that mean she wished for something else, too?!”

“Hmm, you know, I would like some more fried chicken sometime…” Kaguya said, side-eyeing Arisa.

“Fine! If you shut up about my wishes, I’ll buy more later today!”

“My lips are sealed!” Kaguya nodded, smiling apologetically while Kasumi frowned.

“...blackmailing jerk goddess…” Arisa muttered. “Let’s...let’s go up to my room! If you two are gonna go on like this, at least do it somewhere I can get comfortable!” she yelled, heading up the stairs to her room as the other two followed closely behind.

“Oooh, but what about my wish to go to the Budokan? Have you granted that one, too?!”

“Ufufu, that would be telling!” Kaguya said with a wink.

“Awww… Well, I’m gonna make it there no matter what! Gotta show the whole world why Arisa’s so amazing!” she grinned, while the “amazing” Arisa flopped straight down onto her bed.

“That’s the spirit! I just know we’ll get along great, Kasumi!” Kaguya smiled.

“Oh gosh, yeah! I hope you’ll stick around a while! I wanna have all kinds of fun with you, Kaguya!”

‘Ufufu, you’ll certainly have the chance! I don’t plan on ever leaving my precious Arisa’s side. Or yours, for that matter! Once you get married, I’ll be living with the both of you, after all!”

“Really?!” Kasumi frantically asked. “That sounds sooo fun! The two of us living with a goddess! Ahhh, it sounds like something out of a manga!”

“Right?!” Kaguya asked, helping herself to some of Arisa’s secret candy stash that she’d left sitting on the table.

“You’re not even gonna ask about her bringing up marriage?!” Arisa asked in a huff.

“Hmm? Should I? You want to one day, right?” Kasumi asked, wearing a genuinely confused expression, like there was nothing at all strange about discussing the idea so frankly.

“I-I mean…” Arisa started to say, turning to bury her head in her pillow as a blush began to paint her cheeks. “It’s not that I don’t want to-”

Arisa’s mumbling, though, was cut short by a loud crunch, as Kasumi bit into one of the senbei Kaguya had on the table in front of them.

“Huh? Sorry, Arisa, what was that?” Kasumi asked, her mouth still full of crumbs.

The smaller girl looked up from the bed, at her friend happily chewing away on a rice cracker and the goddess sitting across from her wearing a far-too-confident grin.

“Jeez!” Arisa groaned, smushing the pillow in her hands before letting it fly towards Kasumi. “You two are are just impossible!”

“A~ri~saaaaaa!” Kasumi whined, jumping up onto the bed and hanging off of Arisa’s waist as she did her best to turn towards the wall, her arms folded across her chest as she continued to pout. “Come on, that’s no fair, Arisa! I couldn’t hear you because of the senbei!”

“And whose fault is that?!” Arisa snapped. “Besides, you said we had to meet up later because you had lunch plans, so why are swiping my senbei to begin with?!”

“It was sooo yummy, though!” Kasumi added, doing nothing to answer Arisa’s question and only fueling her irritation.

“Ufufu… I just love it when a wish works out,” Kaguya chuckled from the floor, quietly biting into a rice cracker herself until a pillow strayed into her head too.

“See, Arisa! That’s why you shouldn’t throw things around! You hit poor Kaguya!”

“I-I’m sure she deserved it for something!” Arisa pouted, casting a worried glance towards the goddess to see if she was alright.

“You know, Kasumi,” Kaguya said, her eyes gleaming with a mischief that made Arisa’s blood run cold, “Arisa’s quite ticklish on her thighs, right under her hips.”

“Ooooh…” Kasumi said, looking up at the smaller girl. “Like...here?” she asked, before lowering her hands and starting to work her fingers against Arisa’s skin.

“H-hey, K-Kasumi… Cut that out!” Arisa tried to protest, falling over onto the bed as laughter consumed her.

“No, no, a little lower, Kasumi! Like this!” Kaguya got up and demonstrated, the smaller girl squirming this way and that, Kasumi and Kaguya’s laughter mixing with hers until they were all lying on the bed, breathless.

“Y-you...you two...are a bunch of jerks…” Arisa panted, holding her stomach.

“Nuh-uh!” Kasumi protested.

“Indeed! Besides, everything we did, we did out of love!” Kaguya added.

“Real funny way of showing it…”

“Ufufu…” Kaguya laughed, trading a glance with Kasumi. “Then, would you rather we showed it this way?”

Before Arisa could stutter out a question or protest, Kasumi and Kaguya leaned in, kissing her gently on the cheeks.

“Th-th-that’s not…” Arisa stammered, her face completely red.

“Ehehe, she’s so cute when she blushes like that…”

“Isn’t she just?”

“Fine! We’ll see how you like it then!” Arisa yelled, before turning onto her side and kissing Kasumi square on the lips. She then turned over and did the same to Kaguya, the laughter in the room subsiding as the both of them started to flush the same deep red that was now spreading down Arisa’s neck.

“Wow, Arisa…” Kasumi panted. “I know I called you amazing, but I didn’t think you were that amazing…”

“She’s...a beast...a demon…” Kaguya added, trying to catch her breath in turn. “I can’t believe I’ve been helping someone so clearly more powerful than me…”

“Hey…” Arisa pouted, while the other two nestled in at her sides, hugging her tightly, “I’m not a-amazing, or anything like that. I just wanted to show you both how much I l-l-l...love you.” she added, unable to hold back a soft smile.

“Ehehe, we love you too, Arisaaaa!” Kasumi grinned, tightening her grip just a little.

“Mmhmm, a whole bunch, in fact!” Kaguya agreed, doing the same. “And if you don’t believe that you’re amazing, we’ll just have to show her exactly why she is. Right, Kasumi?”

“Definitely! We’ll shower her with love and affection until she’s got no choice but to agree!”

“Oooh, I like the way you think, Kasumi! We’ve got all of eternity to go for it, too!”

“Jeez, you two…” Arisa sighed, feeling warmer and more elated than she ever had before. “I guess, if there’s anyone who’d manage it, it’d be you dummies, huh?”

“Yep! So be prepared, Arisa! We’re going all out to show you the amazing Arisa we fell in love with!” Kasumi declared, with Kaguya vigorously nodding in agreement.

“I’d expect nothing less.” she said with a soft smile.

She was sure they’d bicker at times, that Kasumi and Kaguya would frustrate and embarrass her to no end, but as they lay on the bed, everything felt so sweet, so incredibly perfect, that she couldn’t imagine anyone else she’d want to spend every single day with.

“After all, that’s why I fell in love with you both!” she said, finally, without even the slightest hint of embarrassment, lovingly wrapped up in the warm embrace of the two people she loved more than anyone else in the world.