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“Oooh, did you see what happened in gym class?” a high, energetic voice across the table asked in as hushed of a voice as she could manage, her question still managing to draw the gaze of all the tables around them.

Tsuneo, meanwhile, simply pushed around a piece of broccoli on his plate with his chopsticks, his chin resting in his other hand as he tried his best to ignore the crumbs flying out of his excited sister Yotsuba’s mouth.

He sighed inwardly as he tried to not get wrapped up in whatever wild conversation she and the rest of his sisters were about to have.

“You mean the teachers?” Miku, the sister to her side, asked, idly swiping away at her phone as she at her lunch, her eyes sparkling slightly with an interest that he had rarely seen her take.

The sister to Tsuneo’s left, Ichika, was already leaning forward, resting her elbows on the table as she took center stage, oblivious to, or not caring at all how far down her shirt her brother was able to see if he’d not chosen to avert his eyes.

“I can’t believe those two are actually a couple! There’ve been rumors forever, but now they’re getting all touchy-feely in public like that!”

“I know, right?!” Yotsuba squealed, before putting another piece of tonkatsu in her mouth.

“They were definitely holding hands,” Miku sagely added, to which all the girls nodded.

“I think it was a bit more than that. Did you see when she had her arm around her back?” Ichika asked, sliding back into her seat.

Despite how little he actually wanted to be a part of the conversation, Tsuneo couldn’t help but feel his ears prickle at what his sisters were gossiping about. Their school already had stern rules about displays of affection between students, but to hear that teachers were holding hands and, if Ichika could be believed, hugging, was practically scandalous.

He idly adjusted the red band around his arm, the same one that every member of the morals committee wore, wondering who he’d even talk to about such a thing, when he felt something nudge against his right elbow.

Tsuneo turned to his side, not at all surprised to see that his sister Itsuki, who had managed to stay out of the conversation so far, was looking at him pleadingly, her chopsticks practically hovering over his plate.

“Are you going to finish that shrimp?”

“N-no, go ahead,” Tsuneo responded, upset at himself for being mad that her question had pulled him away from the gossip.

Itsuki wasted no time swiping in to grab the tempura shrimp sitting next to the rest of Tsuneo’s practically untouched meal. She let out a contented squeal as she popped it into her mouth, and, having spent practically no time at all chewing, leapt into the conversation herself.

“Mmm, her hand was pretty low, right? Definitely below the waist.”

“Wow, really?!” Yotsuba asked, looking around at her sisters.

“You don’t think she was making a move for her butt, do you?” Ichika proposed.

While all the girls seriously pondered the question, Tsuneo sat there, feeling the blood rushing to his face and causing his ears to tingle.

“Must’ve been,” they all answered in unison, the eerie harmony of his sisters’ voices combined only further driving in just how out of step the only boy of the Nakano quintuplets felt.

As if on cue, Ichika cocked her head at her brother.

“You okay, Tsuneo? You’ve been pretty quiet today.”

“I’m fine,” he said, tersely. “I’m always quiet, you know that.”

“Mmm, not this quiet,” Miku said from across the table. “You’ve been slumped over your plate since we sat down.”

“And you’ve hardly eaten any of your lunch at all,” Itsuki added.

“You know you can talk to us if something’s got you down, right, Tsu?”

Tsuneo looked at Yotsuba, trying to muster up as kind and understanding of a smile he could.

He appreciated everything they were doing, he really did.

But, at the end of the day, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he didn’t belong at their table, in their house, or in their family.

“I’m okay. Honest. Just...not too hungry today, I guess.”

The sisters stared at him for a moment, leaving him feeling almost like he was being interrogated, before, finally, a shroud seemed to lift, and cheery smiles spread across their faces.

Miku said, “Well, if you say so…” before returning to her phone.

“Alright, sorry for pressing!” Ichika offered apologetically, sending a pang of guilt through Tsuneo as he realized that she’d bore the brunt of his anger over their concern.

“We’ll just have to make sure we have a nice, big dinner later so you’re not too hungry, then!” Yotsuba added, garnering an enthusiastic nod from Itsuki.

And, as if nothing had even happened, the four of them went back to chatting away, while Tsuneo, feeling like he should at least make some effort to keep up appearances, forced himself to eat some of his lunch, the meager food settling in next to the knot of guilt in his stomach.

As they gossiped away, the feeling that he was an outsider continued to grow inside of him, swirling around and agitating him far more than it usually did.

Finally, without saying a word, Tsuneo stood up from his seat, not caring at all how much noise his chair made as it scraped against the floor. He looked away as his sisters turned to him, all of their features blurring together into one identical blob as his inadequacies and anxiety surged.

“Gotta go to a meeting,” he mumbled, tugging at the band around his sleeve before hurriedly walking away, leaving behind a stunned table of sisters.

God, why does that keep happening? he shouted in his head, trying his best to not let his frustrations show as he went to throw away his practically untouched lunch.

I should know better than anybody that those four aren’t half as identical as everyone always says they are, so why does my head always have to blend them together like that?!

For as long as Tsuneo could remember, he’d always heard people talking about his sisters and how strikingly similar they all were. He’d learned at a very young age how to tell them apart, of course, but he didn’t blame anyone in the slightest for not being as familiar with their intricacies as he was, especially considering how often the four liked to pretend to be one another to get away some prank or another.

All anyone saw when they looked at them were four girls who looked practically indistinguishable. He’d heard so much about how they all had the same gorgeous red hair (though there were clearly differences in their hues), the same vibrant eyes (though the expressions within those eyes were obviously different), and the same cheery voice (again, they all clearly spoke differently).

As he grew older, he’d even had to endure various boys swaggering up to him, trying to get on his good side to get an in with one of, or all of, his four sisters. He’d had to listen to them jeering about how they all had the same perky chests, slender waists, and round butts, and that was if they were being conservative.

Tsuneo had no comments on those aspects of his sisters.

What he knew and felt the most, though, was that he was, very obviously, none of the things that his sisters were. He was the only boy of the Nakano quintuplets, he was small for his age, scrawny, and had mousy brown hair that didn’t match the hair of his mother at all. He’d never actually seen his biological father, not even in pictures, but something told him that he didn’t take after him, either. While it hurt him every time it happened, he didn’t hold any grudges against people who assumed he wasn’t related, let alone that he wasn’t born at the same time as the rest of his siblings.

Shit. Someone’s definitely going to ask me about all of this when I get home, too, Tsuneo thought, trying his best not to stomp his way out of the cafeteria, his head lost in his own feelings of inadequacy.

I feel left out enough as it is, but then they all have to sync up like that, saying the same thing at the same time… Gah, what the hell is even wrong with me? Why can’t I just fit in with my family?!

Tsuneo swore at himself in his head, while his feet carried him right into the back of a girl standing right in the middle of the doors leading to the hallway, checking her phone without a care in the world.

“Oi, watch where you’re going!”

Tsuneo didn’t even need to look up to see who he’d run into. His heart sank the moment he’d heard the voice.

Great, of course it’d be her…

The girl turned around to see who had bumped into her, her face instantly twisting into a taunting sneer as she looked down at the Nakano brother.

“Well, if it isn’t Tsuneo! You know, I’d have thought they’d have told you morals committee members to watch where the hell you’re going when you’re off walking the halls, being buzzkills.”

Mutsumi Haruba grinned down at him, her long, blonde hair spreading down to her knees and fanning out behind her, making her look even bigger than she already was. There was a glint in the eye that Tsuneo could see, one begging for him to pick up the bait she’d left, while the other eye was covered by long, spiky bangs that had combed over it.

The two of them were certainly no strangers, though none of the people who watched the situation unfolding in front of them in eager silence would ever confuse them as friends.

Though Tsuneo’d made up a meeting as an excuse to get away from lunch with sisters, he was a member of the morals committee, that much was true. And, unfortunately for him, he’d earned quite the reputation in the brief time he’d held the position.

Initially, his thinking was that getting a position as a class representative or student council member would help set him apart from his sisters, who, outside of Yotsuba often helping sports teams, never really bothered with any clubs at all. Unfortunately, his family had transferred in too late for him to get either of those positions, so he settled for what was, in his mind, the next best thing: the morals committee.

He’d been excited about the position at first, determined to make the best of it and help contribute to making the school, and his own lot in life, better than ever before. Ultimately, though, Tsuneo was little more than a walking student handbook, and his position amounted to simply ensuring that the student population followed the various obscure provisions that peppered the rules.

Overeager to please, Tsuneo had become one of the most recognizable members of the morals committee, his strict adherence to every rule, no matter how trivial, quickly garnering him the undivided contempt of his schoolmates.

And none of them had more contempt for him than Mutsumi Haruba, the biggest delinquent in the school.

“Miss Haruba,” Tsuneo replied, squaring his shoulders, “I’m sure you’re aware that students aren’t meant to have their cellphones out while walking the halls? Nor are they to stop in entryways, as it poses a fire hazard.”

“Yeah? Izzat so? Like I’m just gonna stand here burning to death if there’s a fire all of a sudden…” the delinquent spat, still challenging Tsuneo with a defiant grin.

“And anyway, I’ve told ya, the only “Miss” Haruba to attend here graduated years ago!”

“A shame you don’t take after her, then,” Tsuneo muttered under his breath.

“Eh? What’s that, runt? Losin’ your nerve already?”

“I was saying,” Tsuneo coughed, clearing his throat, “that you need to put your phone away and move out of the door, Mutsumi.”

The delinquent glared down at him, her smirk never fading.

Tsuneo, meanwhile, gritted his teeth, his eyebrows furrowing in frustration as he stared right back up at her.

“Yeah? And what if I don’t, huh? What are you gonna do about it?”

The diminutive Nakano sighed.

“As you’re aware, you’ll be written up for each infraction, which will then go on file with the dean. Should you amass enough, you’ll face disciplinary action from the staff, which could include detention, suspension, or, in severe cases, even-”

“Yeah, yeah, like I’m actually going to get expelled cause some goody-goody caught me standing in his way,” Mutsumi laughed, sliding her cellphone into her pocket and putting her hands on her hips.

“Tell me, how many times do ya think they’ve actually called me in causa all your little write-ups?”

“It’s not my place to-”

“Never. Not a single damn time. Ya know why that is?”

Tsuneo simply looked up at Mutsumi, who had started baring her teeth at him. Her sharp incisors looked like fangs as she merciless grinned down at him.

“It’s cause you moral committee dweebs don’t matter at all. You can let that little red armband get to your head all ya want, but, at the end of the day, it don’t matter one bit how many people ya write up. At least not to anyone that actually matters. I’m sure whatever pencil pusher leads you twerps has some dumb quota for ya, but they only count a little more than you do,” the delinquent explained, snickering as she held up her thumb and index fingers close together, squinting through at Tsuneo as she tried to see through the gap between them.

He stood there for a moment, everything around him seeming to slow as her words hit him like a punch to the gut.

What hurt the most, of course, was that Tsuneo didn’t think Mutsumi was wrong in the least.

He wasn’t the only one who had complained to the committee’s president, the same one who did insist upon strenuous quotas, about how the students with the most infractions seldom seemed to receive any kind of lasting, meaningful consequence. The whole committee was frustrated at this point, none of them feeling useful at all, while the president simply insisted that they needed to spot more rule breakers to truly see the fruits of their labors.

For people who had all but thrown away any chance at fitting in with the rest of the students, it wasn’t hard for them to go along with the increasingly unreasonable demands of the president, but even the most stringent members of the committee were starting to reach their breaking point, the weight of their impotence adding to their regrets and discontent.

This did, of course, include Tsuneo.

“Have you ever considered,” Tsuneo started to say, his voice shaking as an intense heat flowed into his head, leaving his cheeks as red as his sisters’ hair, “that nothing happens to you because everyone else has simply given up on you, Mutsumi?”

He finished his sentence by looking the delinquent in the eyes, mustering up every bit of resolve and meanness that he could as he wore a smirk of his own.

Mutsumi’s grin faded, and her eyebrows slanted harshly as her face flushed with anger.

“Eeeh?!” she yelled, drawing out her surprise to a challenge.

“What was that, shrimp? I musta misheard you…” Mutsumi growled, her hands balling into fists against her hips.

“I think you heard me perfectly well,” Tsuneo spat back, each word coming out of his mouth slowly and deliberately.

Just as he was sure that she was about to explode, Mutsumi clicked her tongue loudly, making a show of turning away from him.

“Pfft. Like I’m gonna let some twerp like you get me all worked up,” Mutsumi spat, clearly worked up.

“I’ve got better places to be than here, arguing with a stupid lapdog.”

The delinquent angrily pushed her hands off to the side, a thin, string bracelet slipping off of her wrist as she did, and then stormed off, hardly getting out of sight of Tsuneo before reaching into her skirt and pulling her cellphone back out.

Tsuneo stood there in silence, thanking every deity he could think of that she didn’t actually throw a punch, all while fighting back the urge to yell to her that eating on the roof was prohibited, too.

He let out a loud sigh, shook his head at his misfortune, and saw the bracelet that Mutsumi had dropped sitting on the floor in front of him.

Of course there’d be something else…

Tsuneo reached down, realizing that he, much like Mutsumi, was now standing in the doorway and blocking people, and plucked the bracelet off the ground, trying to seem as natural as he could as he walked out of the cafeteria, heading to a meeting that didn’t really exist.

As he walked the halls, killing time for lunch to be over, he looked at the bracelet, more than a little unsure of what he was going to do with it.

I can’t believe Mutsumi, of all people, was wearing something like this. It looks kinda ratty and frayed. Wonder if it’s some memento from an old friend or something like that? Nah, there’s no way she’s that sentimental. Still, string bracelets don’t exactly go with long skirts, so there has to be some reason she keeps it around…

Of course, the bad part is that I’ve got to get this back to her somehow.

Tsuneo sighed for what must have been the hundredth time that day.

I should probably leave it in her shoe locker or something like that. I’m sure I could find out which one is hers if I asked in the teachers’ office...

But I kinda want to find out why she has this, even if it does cause another fight…

He absentmindedly twirled the bracelet around his index finger, letting out a gasp as it flew off of his finger. Tsuneo awkwardly threw his arms out in front of him, barely catching it before it hit the ground, and nearly tripping himself in the process.

At the very least, he thought, slipping the bracelet onto his right hand, I should make sure nothing happens to it before it gets back to her. Mutsumi’s probably going to start looking for it when she realizes it’s gone.

Right as he was about to let his better judgement win out and turn around to check in the teachers’ office about the delinquent’s locker, the bell rattled through the hallway, the distant voices of students returning from lunch already traveling towards him.

Guess I’ll have to find out later, Tsuneo thought, before heading to his afternoon classes and forgetting entirely about small, string bracelet around his wrist until he was already halfway home.

~~~

I really wore this all afternoon, huh?

Tsuneo sighed sardonically as the elevator slowly took him up to his family’s apartment.

There’s nothing I can do about it now. Mutsumi’s definitely figured out she lost it right after fighting with me, and I’m sure she’s going to be out for blood tomorrow, even if I could manage to slip it in her shoe locker before she finds me.

His fingers snuck under the fraying bracelet that he’d been inadvertently playing with since he’d started wearing it, only adding to his frustration over forgetting he had it.

Shit.

He practically stumbled out of the elevator, already feeling like a dead man walking as he thought of Mutsumi’s rough, husky voice screaming down at him, all over some childish bracelet that she’d been careless enough to lose in the first place.

Slowly, he reached into his pocket and took out his key, trying not to think too much about the string shifting up and down on his wrist as he opened the door and stepped inside.

“Hey everyone, I’m home,” he called out, putting on his best airs to try and hide how miserable he was feeling.

To his surprise, though, none of the lights were on in the apartment, and no one called back to greet him.

He had, somehow, managed to beat all of his sisters home.

There’s really no one, huh? Yotsuba’s normally out late with sports, but none of them coming home right after school is really rare…

Did they mention something about this at lunch? Maybe they made plans to go somewhere after I left and ran into Mutsumi, Tsuneo wondered, wasting no time in heading straight for his room, his heart fluttering a little.

God, I can’t remember the last time I was here alone. It seems like there’s always someone else sticking around…

Tsuneo would never, in a million years, say that he hated his family. He loved his sisters, each and every one of them, very dearly, even if they did inadvertently contribute to his own feelings of inadequacy.

That being said, even an apartment as posh as the one their stepfather had set them up in was bound to feel cramped and confining when it housed five teenagers, and Tsuneo couldn’t help but feel elated and relieved at the brief reprieve from his family.

He sat on the edge of his bed, idly kicking his feet and staring up at the ceiling.

I should do something while they’re out. Something I wouldn’t normally be able to do with all of them around…

Tsuneo sighed and lay down on the bed, wincing a little at a slight soreness in his shoulders.

Ugh...between basketball in gym and running myself ragged trying to meet the morals committee’s new quota, I’ve been a wreck lately…

A small smile spread across his face as he got up from bed, the perfect celebratory activity dawning on him.

Well, if they’re all going to be out for a bit, I’m going to take a bath. A nice, long, proper bath. One where I don’t have to worry about four other people waiting to use it after me, or them using all the hot water before I even get in.

He was practically humming to himself with delight as he made his way down the hall to the bathroom, his body already feeling lighter.

A brief sigh of frustration slipped out as he slid the bracelet off of his wrist and put it in the basket with his clothes, not wanting to reminded of what he was in for tomorrow.

Ratty thing even made my wrist a little itchy, he groaned, scratching at his arm as he grabbed a towel and headed in, his cheery attitude returning as soon as he was able to set the water’s temperature to whatever he wanted.

He was so excited that he showered in no time, rinsing off as much of the day’s dirt and grime as he could, before heading deeper in to the tub, which was now filled to the brim with steamy, clear water.

This is gonna be the best… Maybe I’ll even use one of those bath oils those four like. I’m sure they won’t mind if I do, not for just one bath…

It didn’t take long for Tsuneo to settle on an oil that seemed perfect, one that promised to soothe and rejuvenate both body and mind. He had his doubts, of course, that it would be anywhere near that effective, but it smelled nice, and, as far as he was concerned, he’d had a hard enough run of things that he deserved a little indulgence.

He added the oil to the bath, a fragrant aroma of lavender and sandalwood filling the room, and then got in the tub, practically collapsing to the point that his chin was resting on the surface of the warm water.

“Haaah…” he sighed, blowing bubbles in the bath as he felt his muscles loosening and relaxing, alleviating some of the stress and malaise that had been with him all day.

“I’ve needed this for so long…”

Tsuneo closed his eyes and breathed deeply, a smile spreading across his face as he enjoyed the quiet, peaceful moment.

“There’s nothing better than a good bath,” he said, pulling his knees up to his chest and hugging them, while resting his cheek against his already-flushed skin.

Through the steam wafting up from the tub, he caught the slightest glimpse of silky, red hair following the movements of his head.

A loud splash echoed against the tiled walls of the bathroom as Tsuneo frantically stuck as much of his body under water as he could, his head darting around in a panic.

“W-who’s there?!” he called out, terrified that, somehow, he’d missed one of his sisters having been in the bath before him.

The room was empty, though, without a trace of anyone other than Tsuneo.

“B-but that red hair, that’s definitely...definitely…”

Tsuneo’s thoughts trailed off as his hand went up to his head. Warm water splashed against his cheeks as his fingers wrapped around hair that was far longer and far softer than he ever recalled his being.

In stunned silence, he brought the locks forward, and his eyes slowly turned to the side to see strands of fuschia hair, a mix of light red and dull purple that was completely unfamiliar to him.

“N-no way…” he murmured, practically in shock.

It’s red, but it’s not really red...kinda like how my sisters’ hair is… Everyone always says they’re redheads, but Yotsuba’s has more orange, and Ichika’s is more pink...and this...mine...is more purple?

“Wait, no, there’s no way this could be my hair,” Tsuneo insisted.

“The heat’s gotta be messing with me or something.”

He shook his head, trying to clear a haze that didn’t actually exist, and only felt his hair whip around, the ends tickling against his neck in a strange, unfamiliar way.

“It’s longer, too,” Tsuneo whispered, his face scrunching up in confusion while his hands gently bounced the ends of the hair that now came down past his chin.

It’s not just that, either…

Gingerly shaking the water off of his hand, he brought it up to his head, lacing his fingers between the strands of hair and marveling at how different it felt now.

“It’s really smooth and silky, not oily at all… And it’s so straight… No, come on, Tsuneo. There’s no way for your hair to suddenly change this much.”

Even if it does look a lot better this way…

“I-it’s gotta be some kind of trick. Like a wig? No, there’s no way it’s that… Uhm… Oh! Maybe it’s that oil!”

Scrambling for some rationale, Tsuneo reached over the side of the tub, picking up the small plastic bottle of bath oil he’d left there in case he’d wanted more. He pored over the label, scrutinizing every inch he could find, not relenting even when he found it to contain little more than essential oils and fragrances.

“It’s probably dyed or something!” he insisted, unscrewing the cap and pouring a little more out, completely convinced that the water in the tub would suddenly change to the same fuchsia hue as his hair.

Instead, the soothing smell of lavender and sandalwood only grew stronger.

I guess it isn’t so bad if my hair looks like this now, though. I at least look like I’m related to everyone else now… And it is kinda cute…

“R-right!” he cried out, shaking away the oddly calming image of him with his sisters, all of them with similar, red hair.

“I’m going to get out now and get to the bottom of this! I’m sure all I have to do is rinse this under the shower, and it’ll go back to how it was!”

In a hurry, Tsuneo pushed himself up from the tub, sending his body reeling uncomfortably as he was overcome by a sudden headrush. He flailed his arms out, trying desperately to keep his balance, but between the heat from the tub, the overwhelming aroma of the oil, and his relaxed muscles, all of his efforts were in vain.

He fell back down into the tub, sending water splashing over the side.

“Owww…” he whined, leaning forward so he could reach behind him and rub his butt.

“I must have set the temperature too high… Right, just gotta take it slow this time…”

Finding himself uncomfortably close to the edge of the tub, Tsuneo pushed himself backwards, wincing as his butt slid against the bottom, until he felt that he had enough room to comfortably try and get out again.

As he was about to pull himself up, using the sides of the tub as leverage this time, he noticed something curious, however.

“Wait, was I this far back in the tub before?”

He paused, letting his arms fall back under the water as he stretched his legs out in front of him, until his feet were resting against the edge of the tub.

“This definitely looks different… I’ve never taken up this much of the bath before…”

There’s no way...are my legs longer, now?

Tsuneo looked down at his body appraisingly, not sure what to believe anymore. The things that were happening to him simply didn’t happen. Not in real life, at least.

But there was no way it was a dream. The pain radiating from his tailbone was proof enough of that.

So, then, what was it that was happening to him?

“Th-there’s no way I’m going to find out sitting here, at the very least,” Tsuneo said, his voice shaking with uncertainty.

Bracing against the tub, he prepared to push himself out, until the distant, muffled sound of Yotsuba shouting, “Hey there, we’re home!” reached his ears, caused his hand to slip from the edge, and sent another wave onto the floor.

Shit!

Tsuneo’s mind raced at a mile a minute, trying to puzzle out any way he could leave the bathroom now without being seen with red hair and, presumably, longer legs, coming up with absolutely nothing.

Maybe...maybe this is some prank… Maybe they’ll be waiting in the hall, they’ll see me, have a little laugh, and then they’ll change things back…

He stared in front of him, his expression as blank as the tiled wall.

No. There’s no way they’d play a prank like this. This is way too elaborate for them.

As he sat there, he could tell his sisters were talking in the apartment, but he could only pick out a few words from Yotsuba, who was easily the loudest.

“I’m sure he’s in his room or something!”

“He seemed kinda down, yeah…”

“Well, we’ll let him know when dinner’s ready, then! I’m sure that’ll cheer him up!”

It wasn’t too hard to figure out what Yotsuba was responding to, though the inadvertent eavesdropping only made Tsuneo’s ears redder than the bath already had.

I guess...I guess I’ll stay here for now…

Tsuneo sighed, resolving himself to his fate, even though he was no closer to figuring out what exactly that was.

Starting to feel the heat from the bath, he raised a hand up to his head, wiping off the sweat beading on his forehead with the back of his hand.

“Phew...I’m really not used to baths like this, ahaha…” he chuckled, nervously.

His laughter trailed off, though, as he noticed the hand he’d pulled away was markedly different from the one he’d just tried to use to get out of the tub.

“N-no way, this too?” he murmured, trying to check his surprise with his fear of being found by his sisters downstairs.

He held up his right hand, looking at it as though he’d never seen a hand before, and then raised his left, his astonishment only growing at the sight of both of them having changed.

They’re really… Well, no, my hands have always been small, but these are...dainty?

Tsuneo’s brow furrowed as he tried to figure out what word he was looking for, while he flexed and wiggled his fingers.

The palms are less broad. And my fingers aren’t stubby anymore. They’re all slender all of a sudden. The proportions are completely different.

And, maybe it’s the oil, but I swear my skin’s never looked this soft…

He continued to assess his hands, finding that his nails had changed as well.

Though they’d always looked relatively well-kept, a side effect of growing up with hands-on sisters, they were clearly longer and looked especially cared for now, as though they’d been done by a professional. There was an attention to detail and a care in keeping them even and perfectly rounded that he’d never seen any of his sisters manage.

Despite himself, he couldn’t help but smile at the idea that his nails had suddenly become so remarkable compared to his sisters’.

The most noticeable change, though, was that his nails were now covered in a smooth, shiny polish, evenly coated in a neon gradient that went from a soft pink at the cuticles to a pale blue at the edges.

Wow… Yotsuba paints hers green sometimes, and the others use clear polish a lot, but I’ve never seen nails like this before… Aha...it’s kinda nice, having something this unique…

“B-but this isn’t right, is it? I mean, changing so much, and so abruptly…” Tsuneo muttered, more than a little unsure of why he was arguing against himself over something that did, despite its strangeness, feel good and bring a smile to his face.

If it makes me happy, does it really matter why it’s happening? I mean, I guess I’d have to explain it to my sisters, and then other people, but...well, the four of them will understand. And, if I have them, it doesn’t really matter if I have anyone else behind me or not.

Besides, I’m always looking for reasons to feel down. Placing myself out of reach of everyone else, and getting so stressed when I can find a place I fit in a little that I get sick. That’s all that’s happened since I joined that stupid committee, isn’t it?

I’ve been trying to find something of my own, but maybe what I really need is to embrace what I have. I have a really great family, he thought, smiling a little as he heard a particularly boisterous laugh from Yotsuba sneak into the bathroom, and something’s happening right now that, honestly, feels good.

So...why shouldn’t I be happy?

I deserve that much, don’t I?

Tsuneo sat in the tub, not realizing how fast his heart had started beating in excitement over everything he was unpacking, all while still admiring his fingernails.

“This is...this is okay...right?” he wondered out loud, whispering as though he were speaking a dark, forbidden secret.

“Yeah...yeah, it is,” he answered, his mouth setting into a firm smile.

He was suddenly confident that, at the very least, he’d earned being happy over whatever it was that was happening to him.

Right! Whatever this is, there’s no way it’s anything bad! So I should stop cowering here and acting like I’m doing something wrong by existing!

Charged with a self-righteous energy, Tsuneo sprang up from the tub, his eyes sparkling with confidence as beads of water flew off of his body. This time he was determined not to back down, no matter what happened.

“Oooh, I bet he’s in the bath right now! Ehehe, he probably thought he’d take advantage of us not being home, that scoundrel!”

He resisted the urge to shrink back down in the water as Yotsuba’s jeering reached his ears, trying not to feel like a thief that had been caught in the middle of a robbery as he took a cautious step out of the tub and onto the slick, tiled floor.

That’s fine! It’s alright if they know that I’m in here. I’m part of this family too!

But... it wouldn’t hurt to hurry and get back to my room before things change any more…

Convincing himself that it was prudence and not cowardice that motivated him, Tsuneo grabbed the towel he’d brought in with him and started drying off his body, doing his best not to care about any more outbursts from Yotsuba.

“Haah...I said it before, but my skin really does feel soft,” he sighed, contentedly.

“I wonder if this is part of whatever’s going on, too? I guess it could be the oil, though...”

His brow furrowed inquisitively as he dried his arms, certain that they seemed to have less hair on them now, but unable to tell much else due to how flushed his skin was from the heat. Even if his skin had changed more, there was no way to tell over how rosey it was at the moment.

I’m certain it’s not the oil! My skin’s definitely far smoother than it was! And, I’m sure that once I get out of here and cool down a bit, I’ll be able to see how amazing it really is!

He’d hardly noticed that he’d started puffing out his chest, and that a proud smile had spread across his face.

He did, however, notice that the towel he’d entered with seemed strangely small as he dried off.

Hmm...I suppose that’s one way to tell if my height really did change...

Tsuneo held onto the towel, and let it fall down towards the ground, trying to keep his arm as level with his chest as he could while he sized up his body.

Aha, I knew it! I’m definitely taller now! These towels used to go down past my knees, but now it doesn’t even clear my thighs!

Nodding to himself with a satisfied smirk, Tsuneo continued to rub the water off of his body, stretching the towel behind his back and rubbing to dry behind him.

I don’t seem to be any broader, at least. Holding the towel like this feels the same as always.

His smile softened a bit at that realization.

I mean, I suppose that could change, but I think there’s nothing wrong with a build like this at all. Being some broad musclehead is overrated, anyway. Like that delinquent, Mutsumi! Her shoulders were so broad, there’s no way I could have slipped past her, even if I hadn’t run into her!

A cocky edge slipped into his grin as he thought of the blonde from earlier. He found a strange, unfamiliar satisfaction in insulting her, one completely different from the usual venting he so frequently turned to when he was frustrated.

He practically wished she were there right now, certain that there were few things he wanted more than to smirk at her and call her a “gorilla,” not even entertaining the idea of any kind of retaliation on her part.

Practically entranced as he imagined the scene, he moved the towel lower, drying off his butt as he moved it back and forth.

Hmm...it feels a bit wider back here, though, he thought, realizing that he suddenly had to push his arms farther back to adequately dry his behind.

Well...I suppose it’s okay if some parts of me get bigger.

Tsuneo laughed haughtily as he pulled the towel in front of him, suddenly feeling very pleased with what was happening to him.

Content now that he was dry enough to not track water through the rest of the house, he wrapped himself up the towel, carefully tucking it into itself to cover his body.

This towel fits a lot better now, too! These were always so big on me before, but now it’s maybe even a little tight in places!

With one particular place in mind, Tsuneo tugged on the back of the towel, finding it particularly confining around butt.

The towel no unwedged, he stepped back out into the changing room, and cast a glance at the clothes he’d left in the basket.

I was going to change back into these, but now that everyone knows I’m here, I might as well throw them in to get washed, huh?

Then again, with my body changing like this...

Tsuneo looked down at his legs, noticing that, much like his fingers, his toes had become more slender as well, and were coated in the same vibrant polish as his fingernails.

His smile only widened at that, and at the thought of how the pants sitting in the clothes basket would look on him now.

Ahaha, I bet they’d only cover a little bit of my calves now! he thought, smirking.

And that’s if I could even get them over this…

Once more, Tsuneo had to unwedge the towel from his butt, and shift the top to give himself a little more room.

There, that should do for now. And for these clothes...well, it can’t hurt to wash them, anyway.

Liberated by the realization that he didn’t need to sneak around anymore, Tsuneo went to dump the clothes into the hamper, only to shoot his hand out as the garments started to tumble from the basket, his fingers wrapping around a thin string.

“That was close,” he muttered, shaking off a sock that had draped over his hand, and pulling back the bracelet he’d barely thought of saving.

“Hah, that shitty delinquent would never let me hear the end of it if something happened to her stupid, ratty bracelet while it was in the wash,” he snickered, feeling particularly antagonistic towards Mutsumi once again.

Well, why shouldn’t I? That smug jerk’s caused me nothing but trouble, after all, Tsuneo thought, slipping the bracelet back onto his wrist, and finding that he had to tighten the knot to keep it from falling off.

Hah, I’m having to adjust all kinds of things now, aren’t I? Still, I wish this towel didn’t feel so confining. I feel like I can hardly move my legs like this, he complained, doing his best to shift the towel around his body, so that the ends weren’t exposing himself anymore.

Hmph, my sisters always did say I didn’t know how to tie a towel around myself. I suppose I’ll have to figure out how they do it now, because this certainly won’t work for more than getting me back to my room.

Hoping that his body didn’t change anymore before he could slip away into the privacy of his own room, he stood at the door to the balcony, pressing his ear against the wood while he imagined the path he needed to take.

As long as I stay close to the wall, no one down in the living room should be able to see me, so that’s not a problem. I do need to make sure no one’s out on the balcony, though. Once I’m clear, it’s only three doors until I’m back in my room. Then I can figure out what’s happening, or at least ride this out until I can talk to my sisters about this.

Hrm...I wonder how much more I will change…

Dismissing the thought as unnecessary for the moment, he took a deep breath, before throwing open the door as quietly and quickly as he could.

He slipped out between the crack, and was immensely relieved to see that there was no one else upstairs with him.

Perfect! Already off to a flawless start! he celebrated, though he was starting to feel his chest tighten as he sidled across the balcony, moving as fast as the tight, confining towel allowed.

There’s Itsuki’s room...

He passed the first door, his heart beating faster and louder as he started to sweat, overwhelmed by a heat almost as intense as the steam in the bath.

This is fine! Don’t let the pressure get to you, Tsuneo!

Though he was doing his best to reassure himself, his pace had started to slow. His legs had started to feel slow and heavy, and were practically shaking as he moved down the hall.

The second door is right there, and you already know Yotsuba is downstairs! You’re halfway there!

He pressed on, even though it felt like he had butterflies floating around inside of him, bouncing off the walls of his stomach, and all of his pep talks did little to ease the tightness in his chest, which was starting to make it strangely hard to breath.

Shit, this towel’s too tight! he cursed, desperately tugging at the fold by his chest, desperate to loosen it up and relieve the tension that was strangling him.

Instead, he tugged the fold undone, and the towel threatened to tumble off him, right in front of Miku’s door.

Crap! Come on, not here! If there’s anyone in their room, it’s her!

His hand flew out as it started to slip, one at his chest, and the other level with his crotch, desperately wrapping as much of the towel around him as he slipped past the third door.

Bah, what did I do, grab the shitty towel that shrunk in the wash?! What did I do to deserve this luck?! he wondered, scurrying forward now that he was past the last room before his own, desperate to get inside as the towel around him constantly threatened to expose him to the open living room below.

Here it is!

Already celebrating, he let go of the towel at his crotch, flicked the doorknob open, and pushed his way inside, slamming his butt against the door to close it.

He stood there for a moment, catching his breath, before a smirk lit up his face.

There we go! Perfect!

Overcome with satisfaction, he let go of the towel, having no issue with letting it tumble to the ground now that he was in the privacy of his own room.

Now then, I can get a better look at what’s...going...on…?

Tsuneo’s thoughts ground to a halt as he looked down at his body, shocked at how different it had become.

W-why’s my chest so...big…?

It...it was only a minute…

Those nipples…

This is impossible.

I have such round hips…

Is that really my butt squished against the door?

Where...where did my p-penis go…?

I...I look just like...like...

His thoughts came crashing to the forefront in fragmented bursts, his mind entirely ill-equipped to process everything that had happened. It simply didn’t know where to start with the sight of the body it currently inhabited.

And Tsuneo couldn’t blame it.

Okay, come on, calm down, he tried to tell himself, all of the confidence he’d found flying out the window.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

You got stressed out from everything, that’s all. It’s been a long day, that bath was too hot, and, as big of a game as I wanted to talk, the walk to my room was horrifying. I’m going to take a moment to catch my breath and calm down, and when I open my eyes, I’m going to see the same body I’ve seen every day of my life.

Tsuneo ignored the strange feeling of loss at the end of that thought as he breathed in deeply, and then exhaled. He repeated it until he finally felt centered, and then opened his eyes again.

The first sight that greeted him were two large, full, and perky breasts, gently rising and falling with his own breathing. A couple of stray beads of water slowly traveled down their curves, and he could feel the warm water starting to cool against his puffy, pink areolae, the tips of his nipples barely visible as goosebumps started to prickle up against his flesh.

Or...not…

Stunned into silence, Tsuneo raised his hands up to his chest, gently cupping the surprisingly heavy breasts that were, undeniably, attached to his body.

How does something like this even happen? he wondered, gingerly lifting his chest, and admiring the way it filled up his hands.

I don’t think there’s any way I can explain this at all. And...they’re real, right?

He squeezed his chest, his eyes immediately going wide at the tingly sensation that coursed through his brain as his fingers sunk into the yielding, yet firm flesh.

Y-yeah, probably pretty real, then…

Tsuneo let go of his chest, suddenly worried about how much of that feeling he’d be able to handle were he to keep going, though as his gaze settled on his stiffening nipple, he couldn’t help but wonder if those puffy, pink mounds would feel even better.

R-right, that’s enough for now! he told himself, trying to shake away the distressingly perverted thoughts he was having about his own body.

I can’t even begin to guess how or why I’ve got this chest, but I should at least see what else has changed about me. Right, I need to focus…

He told himself to stay on task as he went further into his room, reiterating his message more and more as he tried to ignore the weight of his chest and sway of his hips.

Crap, even walking feels completely different all of a sudden.

It was only a few steps over to the standing mirror in the corner, but it was a struggle the whole way for Tsuneo to fend off the more inquisitive parts of his mind, the parts that wanted to know why it felt like his legs were closer together now, and why his gait was so different.

When he finally made it to the mirror, though, the answer to all those questions and more was abundantly clear.

Oh…

His mouth slowly fell open in shock as he looked at the reflection in the mirror, in absolute disbelief at the sight in front of him, and how familiar it was.

I look exactly like...no. No, not exactly. But…

Tsuneo brought a hand up to his face, his long fingers brushing against a smooth, pouty cheek, half expecting the image in the mirror to stay still, but finding himself unsurprised when it matched his movements exactly.

...I look like a Nakano. Like my sisters…

He looked up and down at his reflection, trying to find some other conclusion, but coming up completely empty-handed for why the body in front of him was that of a woman very similar to his four sisters.

There was some guesswork involved in that assumption, of course.

He obviously didn’t make it a habit to try and peek on his sisters when they weren’t dressed, so he couldn’t say for sure if everything matched exactly. But, as he ran his hands over the swelling of his breasts, down the sides of his slim waist, and over the roundness of his hips, he had to admit that the curves seemed to line up.

Of course, the biggest argument for him being right was staring him right in the face. Though his hair wasn’t a pure red, there was nothing outlandish about that. His sisters all had red hair, but there was enough variation between the four that Itsuki is the only one they’d say had a pure hue of red. Even with the purple notes, his hair was close enough that he was sure, even at distance, he’d be pegged as a Nakano with no problem.

There were also the large, bright, blue eyes that were sizing him up, gazing back at him with the depth of an extravagant sapphire. The color was a dead ringer for his sisters’, though there was a slight edge to his eyes that he’d never seen in any of his siblings, something that seemed almost challenging and defiant.

Outside of those differences, though, his face was no different from the ones he’d been surrounded by at lunch. The size of his nose, the puffiness of his cheeks, how small and diminutive his chin was. All of it lined up perfectly, even down to the bone structure.

Considering how much all of that seemed to match up, he had no reason to assume that the rest of his body hadn’t also accurately followed suit.

Wow…

A slight blush crept into his cheeks as he looked down at the rest of his body, feeling more and more like a voyeur as he realized his sisters all had the same large chests, cute nipples, and slim tummies.

Suddenly, all of the things his male classmates had told him made perfect sense now that he realized he had all the same traits.

Mmm, no wonder they were all so obsessed with those four, he snickered, lovingly hugging his hips before reaching a hand behind him to cup one of his plump buttcheeks.

I’d never realized it before, but if they all look this good, how could I ever blame someone for leering at them?

He couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear, and his eyes shining with conceit as he puffed out his chest, admiring how much it accentuated his already considerably large breasts.

A perky chest, slim waist, round hips, full butt, thick thighs… Hah, what isn’t there to love?!

Tsuneo’s smirk took on a particularly devilish edge as he reached a hand down past his stomach, gliding it over a perfectly smooth, shaven crotch, and towards the tight slit below.

And look at how cute all of this is! Ufufu, I bet those idiots would go nuts if they could see one of us doing this.

He chuckled lightly to himself as he spread his fingers, slowly drawing apart the soft flesh that was hiding away a pair of dazzlingly pink lips, the sight of which caused his cheeks to flush a bright red before he pulled his hands away.

He stared at his reflection in the mirror for a moment, trying to not focus on the warm, wet juices that clung to his fingers as he realized that he’d maybe gone a little too far for his own comfort.

“Niiino! Nino!”

Tsuneo practically fell over when he heard Yotsuba’s loud, cheery voice right outside of his door, and was suddenly overcome with the insurmountable dread that, somehow, she’d seen or knew exactly what it was he was doing on the other side of the door.

“Oooh, you’re not sleeping, are you, Nino? Hehe, sometimes I get all sleepy after a bath, too! But you need to wake up, okay! Dinner’s ready!”

He stood there, staring at the wood that separated them, completely unsure of what to do, until he finally took a moment to think about what his sister had said.

Wait a second...Nino?

He turned back towards the mirror, looked at the reflection of what was, undoubtedly, a Nakano sister, and hoped that his hunch was right.

“Okay!” he called back, startled at first by the far haughtier, far higher pitched voice that had come out his mouth.

That’s right, it’s been a little bit since I said anything, huh?

“I’ll be out in just a minute, alright?”

“Ehehe, okay! We’ll wait for you!”

Tsuneo held his breath as he heard Yotsuba sprinting away, taking the steps back down to the living room two at a time as she always did. He only let himself relax when he was certain she was gone.

Safe…

After a moment of relief, the smirk quickly returned to his face.

Well, I suppose that takes care of having to explain what happened to my sisters, then. I still may not know why this is all happening, but things certainly are working out in my favor!

Now, then...Nino, was it?

The smirk in the mirror intensified, and was soon joined by a sharp, satisfied chuckle.

I think that fits perfectly! What a wonderful name for the second Nakano sister! Nino thought, unable to shake the snarky look from her face even if she’d wanted to.

But now I need to figure out what to do about clothes. I’m certain those four wouldn’t take well to me eating in a bath towel. I wonder if I’ve even got anything that still fits…

She made her way over to her dresser first, confident that, at the very least, she’d be able to find some underwear that fit, though she was certain that a bra was completely out of the question.

As soon as she threw open the first drawer, though, she couldn’t help but burst out in victorious laughter at the sight of dozens of pairs of colorful, lacey panties, neatly folded into rows.

Well now, look at that! I seem to be lucking out all over the place, aren’t I?

Grinning from ear to ear, Nino grabbed the first pair in front of her, unfolded them, and gave them an appraising look.

Mmm, these are quite daring, aren’t they? All lacey and purple… The black accents look quite elegant, though. Oooh, and they’re sheer on the sides…

Eager to try them on, Nino slipped them on past her ankles, relishing the feeling of the soft, cool fabric as she slid them up over her thick thighs, and drew them up past her butt.

She slipped a finger under the hem to unwedge them from her cheeks, while her free hand pulled out the other drawer, which was filled with bras. Thankfully, the one that matched her panties was right at the top, though she had to admit that she wouldn’t have minded having to search through the enticing underwear to find the right one.

Nino was a little less steady with the bra, and was too preoccupied with how to put it on to focus much on how it looked. As she slung it over her shoulders and worked the hooks through the clasps, though, she it far easier to put on than she’d anticipated.

It took a moment for her to get the fit right, first making sure that her breasts were in the cups, and then adjusting the fit to give them enough room, but as soon as she was comfortable, she made her way over to the mirror, already grinning before she even saw her reflection.

There we go, perfect! Mmm, wow, and what a sexy pair! It’s almost a shame that I’m only wearing them to dinner with my sisters! Then again, it looked like every pair in the drawers was as incredible as this, so I suppose it can’t be helped! Besides, it isn’t a waste at all if they’re on me, is it?

Feeling exceedingly full of herself, Nino turned on her heel, eager to see what else she had to wear.

Hmm, I wonder if there’s something in the closet that would be good…

Sure enough, even the clothes in her closet had changed, and it was now packed with dresses, blouses, and school uniforms that were most assuredly not what she was used to wearing before.

Feeling a little overwhelmed by all the choices, she pulled out the simplest thing she could find, certain that it would still look amazing on her, just like the underwear that was currently hugging her curves.

I don’t want to keep my sisters waiting any longer than they have to, that’s all, she told herself as she slipped on a white, long sleeved-blouse.

Poor Itsuki’s probably starving by now.

The black-and-grey checkered skirt she’d grabbed was a little more unfamiliar to her, but she had no trouble getting it on and fastening it.

Cute!

She couldn’t help but smile at the sight of the outfit. The way the top of the skirt came up and stopped right under her bust really accentuated her chest, and it went down far enough to barely cover her panties, meaning it showed off a healthy amount of thigh. As good as it made her look, though, the clothes were also stylish and trendy, and also completely unlike anything she’d ever seen on any of her sisters before.

I suppose it’s strange…

I’ve been so concerned with finding a place where I belong, and, when I couldn’t, tried to focus on standing out myself, but now that I look like my sisters, I’m happy about what’s the same and what’s different about us.

I wonder if that’s what they’ve felt all along…

Nino stood in the mirror, feeling sentimental as she looked at herself and saw someone so familiar, yet so unique.

R-right, I need to get downstairs, she told herself, rubbing away the tears starting to well in the corners of her eyes.

But, first, this outfit still needs something…

Nino went back to her dresser, and pulled open a couple of drawers until she found what she was looking for.

Here we go. And they aren’t too sheer, either. These are perfect!

She sat down on the bed as she slid the long, black stockings up her legs, pulling them past her knees until they rested comfortably against her thighs, squishing into them slightly

There we go! she thought, pushing herself up off the bed.

Now, then, I guess it’s time to meet my sisters.

Smirking to herself at her joke, she made her way to the door, noticing that her strides seemed much longer and, somehow, prouder now, and threw it open, endlessly excited to see what was waiting for her downstairs.

As it goes, though, what she opened her door too wasn’t any different from what she’d seen every day since she and her sisters had moved into the apartment.

Looking down from the balcony, she could see the little living area they often hung out in, with her sisters’ personal effects strewn around the couches and coffee table, their owners clearly obvious from just how messily they sat.

Making her way towards the stairs, she could see the dining area below her, though only Yotsuba and Itsuki were visible to her.

Yotsuba wasted no time in noticing Nino had come out of her room, and flashed her a big, goofy grin as she descended.

As she pulled out her chair and sat down across from Miku, she gave her energetic sister a small, humoring smile, suddenly finding herself immensely embarrassed by how big of a deal she was making.

“Mornin’ sleepyhead!” Yotsuba giggled.

“I wasn’t sleeping,” Nino explained, picking up her chopsticks, “I’d just gotten out of the bath, that’s all.”

“Hmm...we heard you get out, and that was a bit ago,” Miku suddenly added, causing Nino’s cheeks to flush as she tried to wrap her chopsticks around her food.

“I didn’t know we were timing each other…” she said, sheepishly, finally getting a small piece of flaky fish into her mouth.

“I told you, she just got a little sleepy, that’s all!” Yotsuba said, having long since decided that to be the way of things.

“Ah, yeah, I get really sleepy after a bath, too,” Itsuki added, nodding in agreement.

“I dunno... I don’t think she looks like she was woken from a nap. Besides, she wasn’t in her room long enough for that… I bet she was doing something else,” Ichika said, her voice dropping to a low, teasing purr as she finished, punctuating her accusation with a wink in Nino’s direction.

“I don’t even know what you’re talking about!”

“I think she’s saying you were masturbating,” Miku elaborated, hardly missing a beat as she continued to eat her dinner as though nothing were out of the ordinary.

“Why on Earth would I do that if I’d just washed myself?!”

“Some people like it that way, ya know? You’re all clean, so it’s perfect for getting dirty,” Ichika chuckled.

“Oh, is that your thing?” Miku asked, her only response being a snide smirk from her sister.

“And your body would already be warmed up from the bath,” Itsuki added.

“Oooh, is that why they have showers at love hotels?” Yotsuba asked, her eyes sparkling with curiosity.

“Well, I don’t think that’s the only reason-”

“I wasn’t masturbating!” Nino yelled out, interrupting Ichika before she could explain any further.

Everyone at the table froze for a moment at her outburst, until, all at once, Nino’s sisters started grinning at her, causing her cheeks to redden even more than Itsuki’s hair.

“I was just getting dressed, that’s all,” Nino pouted, turning back to her dinner.

“Ahaha, that’s okay, Nino!” Ichika laughed.

“We were just trying to lighten the mood a little bit,” Itsuki explained, setting her chopsticks down to look at her sister.

“You’d seemed kinda down all day, so we decided maybe finding anything we could to joke about with you would help.”

“Mmmhm! That’s why I started all that gossipy talk at lunch! You’re normally super into that stuff!” Yotsuba added.

“But then that only seemed to make you more distant… To be honest, Yotsuba and I got really nervous when we saw you coming downstairs without ribbons in your hair,” Itsuki said.

Ribbons? Maybe there was something like that up there, Nino thought, vaguely recalling something she’d dismissed as a handkerchief on her desk.

“My hair was just a bit too wet, that’s all,” she lied, doing her best to sell that as a normal answer.

“It’s okay,” Miku said, placing a hand on hers.

“We saw that you got into it with that delinquent again today. She’s been giving you trouble a lot lately, hasn’t she?”

“I-it’s not really trouble,” Nino stuttered, thrown off by the idea that her sisters saw any version of what had happened that afternoon.

“We know you can hold your own, but if you ever need us, we’ve got your back, Nino. Big Sis won’t back down if you need help,” Ichika offered, wearing the same, warm smile Nino always saw her wear when she decided to pull age to try and calm someone down.

“It was fine. Nothing major at all…” Nino said, glancing at the bracelet around her wrist.

“Besides, where were you all this afternoon?”

“We thought it might be a good idea to give you a little space, maybe have the apartment to yourself for a bit, so we just took our time going home and stopped by a few places,” Itsuki explained.

“I had to stop and pick some things up for dinner,” Miku said, explaining why the food looked so questionable, even though it tasted perfectly fine.

“And I miiight have gotten distracted at a game center on the way, ehehe,” Yotsuba giggled, rubbing at the back of her head.

“And then Ichika wandered off to take a phone call,” Itsuki said, rolling her eyes, while Ichika only smiled and offered up a vague gesture by way of an apology.

“Anyway, the point is that we’re glad the bath and the time alone, however you spent it,” Itsuki said, pausing longer than Nino would have liked, “seems to have helped.”

“And all the talk about masturbation,” Nino started to ask, her voice involuntarily lowering to hushed tone when she said the word, “was to help, too?”

Though she felt endlessly embarrassed, she looked at Ichika with as much of a teasing smirk as she could muster.

“Yup!” Ichika laughed.

“I mean, doin’ it always makes me feel good, so talking about it’s gotta be worth something, right?” she asked, flashing a toothy grin at her sisters.

While the rest of them smiled, clearly amused, Nino sat there for a moment, taking it all in.

It was a lot to take in, the realization that, maybe even before everything that had happened, her sisters did take notice of her and how she felt, and tried to be considerate of that.

They’d even went of their way to give her space when talking to her didn’t work.

Even more than that, while the conversation wasn’t the least bit appropriate for the dinner table, they’d talked to her, openly and engagingly.

And she’d responded, doing her best to match them.

Nino couldn’t help join her sisters, and even one-upped them by starting to laugh.

It had been the only part of dinner to stop the Nakano’s in their tracks.

“Ahahaha, you’re such a friggin’ perv, Ichika! How’re you gonna try and talk about being the big sis after all that?!” she roared, covering her mouth as she continued to laugh.

“A big sis has to know these things,” Ichika answered, after she’d found her stride again. “Gotta teach my little sisters about the birds and the bees somehow.”

“I think that’s just the birds, if it’s by yourself,” Itsuki snorted.

“Wait, which one is supposed to be the birds and which one is the bees, again? Does it even work like that?” Yotsuba asked.

“Not at all,” Miku responded.

“Then how come that’s what everyone always says?”

Miku simply shrugged her shoulders, then took another bite of her dinner.

“Still needs some salt,” she said, reaching for the shaker on the table.

“At least,” Nino said, reaching for the pepper mill at the same time.

“It’s not that bad,” Itsuki said, having practically picked her plate clean.

“It’s not as good as your cooking, but she’s doing her part.”

Hoh? Is my cooking meant to be good?

“We really should just have you handle cooking instead of rotating all the time,” Ichika proposed.

“Oooh, we’d get a lot less fast food if you weren’t picking, then, Ichika!” Yotsuba chirped, much to her sister’s chagrin.

“I guess we could take her off dishes and garbage, then, if she cooked all the time…” Miku mumbled, trying to discreetly take the pepper mill back from Nino’s side of the table.

Nino did her best to not laugh.

“Well, we can do that if you want,” Nino said, haughtily, her ego already over-inflated from being needed by her sisters.

“Mmm, maybe I’ll start having thirds, then…” Itsuki said, practically drooling already.

“But that means that all of this is someone else’s mess to deal with,” Nino smirked, standing up from the table.

“Hey, come on! At least get it into the sink, first,” Ichika chided.

“Right, right. Sure thing, ‘Big Sis.’”

They all laughed as she put her dishes into the sink.

For the first time in as long as Nino could remember, she came back to the table when she was done, and jumped right back into the conversation with her sisters, talking and laughing with them deep into the night, until they were all too tired to carry on.

Before going to bed, the quintuplets decided, amidst a lot of teasing from Nino, that they’d simply leave the tower of dishes in the sink for tomorrow, and adjust their rotation accordingly.

~~~
“So, then I said-Oh, you’re leaving, Nino?”

“You know how it is,” Nino said, idly waving a hand at the group of friends that had been following her down the hall.

“Jeez, you and your sisters really do have lunch together every day, huh?” asked a blonde in the group.

“I’m totes jealous!” an energetic brunette piped in. “My sister and I don’t get along at all!”

“Yeah, but she’s so stuck up and bratty, always burying her nose in her books. There’s no helping people like that, ya know?” added a girl with raven-black hair.

“It’s all about finding common ground. My sisters and I aren’t as similar as we look, but we don’t let that come between us,” Nino advised, smirking at the group before waving one last time and heading over to her sisters, who were waiting at the entrance to the cafeteria for her.

“My ears were burning,” Ichika teased, her husky laughter having started the moment Nino left her friends.

“You wouldn’t have been talking about us, were you?”

“O-of course not! You simply misheard,” Nino stammered.

“That group was loud enough that the whole hallway heard,” Miku retorted.

“Yeah, they were Yotsuba-loud,” Itsuki chimed in.

“Oooh, I’m an adjective now?!” Yotsuba cried, backing up her sister’s descriptor.

Nino sighed, and tried not to smirk back when Ichika playfully nudged her with her shoulder.

“Come on, let’s get in line already! I’m starving!” Nino declared.

This time, no one had any objections.

As she waited for her sisters to order, Nino couldn’t help but think that she’d had a remarkably easy day.

While it was her first day as Nino Nakano, so far as everyone else was concerned, she’d been a student there as long as the rest of her sisters, meaning there was no need to explain anything about her situation.

There were a few things she’d had to figure out for herself, though.

A bigger one had been that, much to her relief, she was no longer a member of the morals committee. This carried the caveat that she and her sisters were subjected to far more scrutiny from the committee than they had been before, but she viewed that as a small price to pay to free herself from such a large source of stress in her life.

Besides, if they’d wanted to mess with her or her family, she was ready to talk them down, like she’d been spoken to so many times in the past. And, as she’d quickly found out, she was very good at shouting them away, and felt far less guilt about it than she would have imagined.

The biggest change, however, was that she now had a practical entourage of friends everywhere she looked. They chatted up a storm with her before class, during breaks, in the halls, and even in the bathroom. She was thrown off at first, merely bluffing her way through the conversation when they’d first approached her, but as the day wore on, she’d found herself settling into the groove easily, and was soon leading the flow in her own right, jumping from topic to topic as the rest of the girls followed along.

Some things, though, were still the same.

While the quints all sat eating their lunches and idly chatting about their days, Nino couldn’t help but notice Mutsumi over by the door, pacing back and forth while scanning the floor for something. She seemed to be getting angrier and angrier with each pass, and Nino unconsciously covered the bracelet around her wrist with her hand.

“Hmm? You okay, Nino?” Itsuki asked, slurping a worryingly large amount of noodles into her mouth.

“It’s that gorilla woman again,” Miku said, pointing with her chin to Mutsumi.

“Ooooh, that scary girl…” Yotsuba added.

“She’s not scary!” Nino huffed. “She’s just pig-headed!”

“Whether she’s a gorilla or a pig, you seem pretty off around her,” Ichika said, putting down her chopsticks.

“You sure you don’t want us to do something about her?”

“Yeah! It doesn’t matter how scary she is if it’s five-on-one!” Yotsuba cheered, rolling up an invisible sleeve as though she was getting ready for a fight.

“You’re acting like more of a delinquent than her,” Nino sighed.

“No, it’s fine. I need to talk to her about something, but then she’ll be out of my hair,” Nino said, standing up from the table.

“You don’t have to do this alone,” Miku said, grabbing onto her wrist and looking into her sisters’ eyes

Nino looked down at her, genuinely appreciative of her sister’s concern, and then shook her arm away and smirked.

“I’ll be fine,” she said, pushing a hand through her hair and sending the ribbon on that side fluttering with it.

“I’m a Nakano, after all.”

For all of her big talk, though, Nino very quickly slipped the string bracelet off of her wrist and concealed it in her hand as she made her way over to Mutsumi, who was now on her hands and knees, searching under the vending machines.

“That’s a good look for you,” Nino said, balling her hands on her hips as she glared down at the delinquent.

Mutsumi jerked her head up at the sound of Nino’s voice, banging it against the underside of the machine.

“Dammit!” she yelled out as she stood up and dusted off her overly-long skirt.

“The hell do you want, Nakano?!”

Not shrinking from her glare, Nino scoffed.

“What’s wrong, not happy to see me?”

“Never. I’ve got more important things to do than deal with you, so how ‘bout you just get movin’, Gally?”

“Gally?!”

“You heard me. You’re a gal, aintcha?”

“I’m not some spray-tanned airhead!”

“That’s a kurogal, not all gals are-gaaah, why am I wastin’ my damn time tellin’ you this? Outta my way,” Mutsumi said, glaring down at Nino.

“You sure you want me to go that bad?”

Nino smirked.

“Surer than anything in my damn life.”

“Well, it’s a good thing for you I don’t run away just because some mutt barks at me,” Nino taunted, while a vein started to pop up in the corner of the delinquent’s forehead.

“After all, if I did, you’d never find this, would you?” Nino asked, holding out the string bracelet.

Mutsumi bared her teeth at Nino, and was practically growling as she snatched the bracelet from her fingers.

“What the hell are you doin’ with this?!” she yelled, a hush falling over the cafeteria.

“I just so happened to pick it up after you stormed off like a child yesterday,” Nino explained, not letting Mutsumi get to her, even though she’d never seen her this fired up.

“And ya just held onta it this whole time, waitin’ to dangle it out in front of me?!”

“Would you have rather I put it in your locker?”

“I’d’ve kicked your ass for messin’ with my stuff!”

“Then I don’t see what your problem is. You lost it, you have it.”

“My problem,” Mutsumi said, grabbing onto Nino’s right arm, “is that you’ve been wearin’ the damn thing!”

The delinquent pointed at Nino’s wrist, which had a faint mark from where the bracelet had been.

“Only so I wouldn’t lose the stupid thing!”

“You watch your mouth!” Mutsumi warned.

“And like hell ya did! You could have just put it in a pocket or some trendy fuckin’ bag of yours if you wanted to keep it safe til ya got it ta me!”

“Why’s it matter how it got back to you?!” Nino shouted back, pulling her arm free.

“What’s a delinquent doing with such a ratty piece of shit, anyway?”

Even Mutsumi was silent at that, while her face flushed a deep red in anger.

“I told you ta watch your fuckin’ mouth!” Mutsumi said, walking right up to Nino, barely a hair’s breadth away from her as she stared her down.

“You always gotta think you’re better than everyone, dontcha, you prissy little shit?”

The two girls glared at each other, both of their hands balled into fists.

Mutsumi’s hair flared out around her, almost like it was reacting to the raw, angry aura she was emanating, making her seem even bigger and more intimidating than she already was.

Nino was no slouch either: she’d narrowed her gaze, her eyes glaring out from under her bangs like a snake’s, ready to strike. Even though she was smaller, she looked no less fierce, and her feet were planted firmly to the ground, no matter how close the delinquent got to her.

“And you always think you can just bully anyone who stands in your way, you pig-headed brute.”

“They usually have enough sense to stand down,” Mutsumi said, her mouth curling into a harsh smirk.

“Hmph. You can flex those muscles as much as you want,” Nino said, having taken notice of just how broad Mutsumi’s frame was as she towered over her, “but you’re no different than anyone else here.”

“And puffin’ out that haughty chest of yours doesn’t set you apart from anyone, either.”

Noticing Mutsumi’s gaze shifting to her chest, Nino made her best effort to thrust it out as much as she could, her breasts pressing up against Mutsumi’s abdomen.

“Oh? Like what you see?” Nino said, tauntingly.

“As if. You’re the one who’s been checkin’ out my arms this whole time,” Mutsumi retorted, having taken full notice of Nino’s wandering gaze as she found herself captivated by the muscle that knotted the delinquent’s arms.

“What gives? Realizin’ you made a mistake?”

“As if! You don’t scare me!” Nino pouted, not backing down an inch.

“Then give it a try. I’ll take you out, any day of the week.”

The two women stared at each other for a moment, seeming frozen in time, until Nino’s eyebrows lowered, and her face scrunched up in confusion.

“Huh?” she asked, indignantly.

As if a switch were flipped, Mutsumi’s expression broke, her eyes going wide, before narrowing in anger again.

“On! I said I’d take you on any day of the week! What, you got some kinda hearing issue, Gally?!” Mutsumi yelled, the red in her cheeks shifting slightly as she hastily spat out her words.

Nino smirked.

“Oh, I don’t think I’m the one with the issue here,” she teased, her grin stretching from ear to ear.

“Yeah?! Then why’s that chest of yours tryin’ ta poke a hole through me, huh?!”

Nino backed of instantly, her face as red as Mutsumi’s as she noticed that, sure enough, the tips of her nipples were standing out against her blouse, rubbing almost painfully against the cup of her bra.

“Th-that’s none of your concern! It’s simply from your body moving, that’s all!”

“Oh?” Mutsumi taunted, still managing the embarrassment of her own.

As they stared each other down, each girl’s face flushed to her ears, the conversations around them started to kick back up, the rest of the student body seeming to have decided that their fight was over.

Just as they were both about to speak again, the bell rang out overhead, and students started shuffling awkwardly past them as they made their way out of the cafeteria.

“This isn’t over, Gally!” Mutsumi huffed, turning and stomping off into the crowd, leaving Nino standing by the vending machines.

“You okay, sis?” asked a husky, familiar voice.

Nino jerked, suddenly realizing that there was a hand on her shoulder, that was soon joined by another on her opposite shoulder, and then at each of her hands.

She turned her head to see Ichika looking at her expectantly, with the rest of her sisters having fallen in around her.

“I’m perfectly fine,” Nino huffed, trying not to focus on how badly her legs were shaking.

“C-come on, we’ll be late for class if we stick around here.”

Despite her order, Nino didn’t dare storm off ahead.

Instead, she stuck with her sisters, letting them support her as they made their way into the hallway and back to class.

~~~

She was so tall…

And was she always that...broad?

Nino found herself lost in her own thoughts as she stirred the curry gently simmering on the stove in front of her.

Off behind her, she could hear her sisters gossiping away as they usually did, the textbooks in front of them going largely unused as they chatted away.

Her chest wasn’t very big, but it looked firm… I wonder what it would be like to lie against it…

She practically dropped the ladle into the pot as the door suddenly opened, and Yotsuba’s loud, booming voice filled the room.

“Hihi, everyone!”

The rest of her sisters greeted her back as Nino fumbled to not overturn their dinner onto the floor.

“Oooh,” Yotsuba hummed, digging into her bag as she made her way over to the kitchen.

Nino felt her sisters hand travel along her arm until Yotsuba’s hand was overlapping hers, matching the circular motions she made as she stirred the curry.

“I’ve got something for ya! At least, I think I do,” Yotsuba said, slipping a small, Manila envelope into Nino’s free hand.

Yotsuba continued stirring their dinner as Nino broke away from the stove, her hand tracing the edges of the envelope.

“It’s got your name on it, but whoever delivered it left it in the locker room, so I guess it could be for me, instead?”

“I don’t understand how people can’t tell the difference between the five of us,” Ichika sighed from over by the table, shaking her head.

“And to think Nino would do sports…” Miku added, unnecessarily.

Nino ignored her sister, though, and instead slipped a nail under the flap to open the envelope, finding that it was hardly sealed to begin with.

She stood there for a moment, well aware that all of her sisters’ eyes were on her as she read the small, folded letter that was inside.

“Eh?! Wh-where are you going?!” Yotsuba yelled out, almost spilling the curry as she went to chase after Nino, before realizing she was holding the ladle.

“I’m going out,” Nino responded, already slipping on her shoes.

“But what about the curry?!” Itsuki asked, standing up from the table.

“Just stir it for five more minutes, and it’ll be done. The rice is already in the cooker,” Nino explained, wasting no more time as she headed out the door.

The remaining Nakano quintuplets stared at each other for a moment, before they all nodded, having come to some silent agreement.

~~~

“You’re sure this is the place?” Yotsuba asked, peering over the oversized rims of the glasses she was wearing.

“Positive,” Miku confirmed, pulling away the spectacles from her sister by the obnoxiously large, plastic nose that was attached underneath them.

“Aww, come on, we totally need disguises for a stakeout!” she pouted.

“Not when the mustache will make you sneeze,” Ichika piped in, crouching next to her sisters behind the bush they’d set up at.

“She made an awfully big deal of heading out to just end up at the café in front of the park, though.”

“Especially after she’d gone to the trouble of making dinner,” Itsuki added.

“That’s fine! Curry always tastes better after being in the fridge, anyway,” Yotsuba said.

“Why’d she have to come here so suddenly, though?” Itsuki asked, trying not to pout too much about her delayed meal.

“Shhh,” Miku shushed, even though the park they were in was across the street from the café, and thus nowhere near within earshot of it.

“There she is.”

~~~

Nino had spotted Mutsumi long before she entered the café, though she couldn’t say whether she’d intentionally picked a table by the window for that purpose or not.

Regardless, it would have been impossible for anyone to miss the sight of the delinquent’s broad frame superimposed against the smallish tables and delicate china that the café used, and Nino made a beeline for her as soon as she went in.

“Do you come here often?” she asked, smirking as she sat down across from her.

“Wouldn’t have figured you the type.”

She couldn’t help but notice that, though Mutsumi was still in her uniform, she seemed more disheveled than she had at school, and she could distinctly pick up the distinct, strangely sweet smell of sweat on the air.

Something about it, as much as she tried not to focus on it, was endlessly exciting.

“Yeah, well, I don’t recall askin’ your opinion,” Mutsumi scoffed.

“Maybe not, but you did ask me here. Called me away from my home, right in the middle of dinner,” Nino said, affecting a hurt tone.

“Good thing this place serves food, then, huh?” Mutsumi retorted, not missing a beat as she went to take a drink of coffee.

Nino couldn’t help but notice the bracelet she’d given back to her was clinging tightly to her large wrist.

“Quite,” Nino said with a smile, keeping her answer brief as a waitress approached to take her order.

Despite the show she’d made of things, Nino kept her order light, choosing to simply get a cup of coffee and hope that her sisters left enough curry for her at home.

~~~

“Aaah, come on, sis, I can hardly see anything if you sit there! Why didn’t you sit in one of the other chairs?” Yotsuba complained from the bushes, clearly upset with the view she was getting of her sister’s back.

“It would be weird to sit on the side of someone if it’s only two people,” Miku responded, pulling away a pair of binoculars from her face.

“She’s definitely with that delinquent, but I can’t tell much else. She just looks angry, like she always does.”

“Hrm...maybe we should just go home, then? It’s not like we can hear anything they’re saying,” Itsuki proposed.

“Then we’re going to have to get close enough that we can,” Ichika said, standing up from the squat she’d been maintaining.

“W-wait, what? No, she’ll see us!” Itsuki stammered.

“Nuh-uh!” Yotsuba interjected.

“She’s got her back to us, and Mutsumi won’t see us so long as we sneak in from the side!”

“There is enough room beneath the window for us to sit,” Miku added, standing up as well.

“And we might be able to make out enough of their conversation from there. I say we go for it.”

Outnumbered, Itsuki sighed and joined her sisters as they carefully made their way across the street.

~~~

“So, then,” Nino started, taking a sip of her coffee, “why did you call me out here? Seems like an odd place to pick a fight…”

“You wouldn’ta lasted this long if that’s what I was after, Gally. ‘Sides, no one picks fights at a café.”

“Oh? And how do you know that, I wonder? Is that what you’ve been doing between school and now?”

“No, ya little priss. If you hafta know, I was at the battin’ center, lettin’ off some steam.”

“Seems to be working well for you,” Nino smirked, taking too much pleasure in the irritated scowl that spread across Mutsumi’s face.

“Look, I said I didn’t come here for a fight, so you can just stop any time now, Gally,” Mutsumi said, the red flush in her face betraying how calm she tried to sound.

Nino fidgeted in her seat, more than a little taken aback by the sudden display of sincerity, before collecting herself.

“Alright, then. I suppose I can hear you out.”

“‘Bout time,” Mutsumi said.

Nino took another drink of coffee, expecting that, at some point, the delinquent would actually say something.

Instead, she simply sat there across from her, with her brow furrowed and her mouth set in a firm line, as though she was constantly on the verge of opening it.

“I just-”

“Are you-”

Having both spoken at the same time, the girls paused for a moment, a brief look of embarrassed surprise crossing their faces, until Mutsumi’s scowl returned.

“Oi, I said I’m the one doin’ the talkin’, remember?! Or are you too used to runnin’ your mouth with your friends that you can’t even shut up fer a minute?”

“Excuse me?!” Nino snapped, hitting her palms against the table.

“You’re the one who called me out here, so if you want me to stay, you’d better get to your point. And fast.”

Nino crossed her legs at the knee and folded her arms over her chest, and could feel the blood rushing to her face both from just how irritated Mutsumi was making her, and how attractive she looked doing it.

The delinquent simply clicked her tongue.

“I’m tryin’ to, dammit! Just can’t get the words right… When I see you there, with that smug friggin’ look on your face, the words’re just gone.”

“That’s unfortunate, I can’t imagine you know very many to begin with...”

“Like you’re much better! Ain’t no secret that you’re no rocket genius in school, Gally.”

“I at least know it’s ‘rocket scientist.’”

“Gah, shaddup already! You piss me off so damn much, so why the hell’s my heart always gotta be beatin’ so damn fast around you?!” Mutsumi yelled, ruffling her hair in frustration.

Nino couldn't help but understand exactly what Mutsumi meant, as her heart started to do much the same thing.

Though she expected another outburst from the delinquent, Nino’s heart only seemed to beat louder as, instead, Mutsumi hung her head.

“Been startin’ to think maybe there’s a reason I keep gettin’ into it with ya. I mean, more than you just pissin’ me off all the time.”

Mutsumi looked up again, with a serious, almost pleading look on her face.

“Don’t get me wrong, you’re a real pain in the ass. But I ain’t been able to stop thinkin’ about how damn fiery you get every time we go at it. Ain’t no one else that even tries to step up like that. Everyone else just backs down or runs away. You, though…”

Mutsumi paused for a moment, and took a drink of her coffee.

“Ain’t forgotten about feelin’ your chest pressed against me, neither,” she added, painting Nino’s cheeks a bright red.

She involuntarily adjusted her arms, making sure they were folded over her nipples, before broaching what the delinquent had unloaded on her.

“‘Pain in the ass?!’ Well, at least that feeling’s mutual!” she spat, feeling uncomfortably defensive in light of everything Mutsumi had said.

“And if you didn’t want me being that close to you, you could have been the one to back down for a change, you know? Not that a gorilla like you would understand that…”

“I ain’t ever gonna back down from a fight,” Mutsumi retorted with a glare.

“‘Sides, ain’t no reason you couldn’ta backed away ‘fore I said somethin’. Maybe you were just too scared off, huh? Realized you were just puttin’ up a front?”

“Not a chance!” Nino yelled back, getting flustered as she thought back to the sight of Mutsumi glaring down at her and just how tall and broad she was.

“There’s just a lot of you to get distracted by, lunkhead,” she grumbled, taking a drink of her coffee.

“Yeah? Try me, Gally,” Mutsumi snarled, shooting a glare at Nino.

The harshness in her eyes, though, surely had the opposite effect of what she intended, and Nino shifted her legs, crossing one over the other knee as a warmth started fluttering in her belly.

Still, Nino couldn’t help but click her tongue.

“Well, there’s that, for starters. Everything’s always a command or a challenge with you. You can’t ever calm down and approach anyone like an actual person. You just bark out orders, acting like you own everywhere you go and everyone else is a huge inconvenience,” Nino explained, shooting a glare of her own at Mutsumi as she looked over her body.

“Maybe it’s hard to blame you. Given a body like that, I’d imagine you don’t have much of a choice, do you? The idea of you acting all reserved and demure is just…”

Nino took a drink of coffee as she shuddered.

Mutsumi sharpened her glare, and a vein started to throb on her forehead.

“So, you work with what you have. You stomp around like the big musclehead you are, blocking doorways with your broad, strong shoulders, pushing people around with those toned arms, and showing off a chest that’s more chiseled muscle than boob,” Nino explained, not even realizing that her words were unmistakably laced with a thirst she’d been denying for far too long.

“Just a big, clodding delinquent, having her way with whoever she pleases-”

“Damn, you love to hear yourself talk!” Mutsumi yelled out, more flustered than embarrassed.

“And what’s wrong with that?!” Nino shot back, her own embarrassment clear as she suddenly realized the tangent she’d gone off on.

“It’s all you ever do! I ain’t seen you once, ‘cept maybe for today when ya came over with my bracelet, where ya didn’t have some damn crowd of giggling, chattering girls ‘round ya! Hell, I can hardly believe ya managed to show up here alone without some kinda antarage!”

“‘Entourage,’” Nino corrected, bristling at the implication that her being around her sisters was some kind of problem.

“What-the-fuck-ever! Gah, you’ve always gotta have the last word, too! And you always say it so snooty, puffin’ out those soft cheeks and pushin’ out those big tits of yours, like you gotta let people know you’re hot as hell on top of being so damn right all the time! Then ya walk away, swinging that pretty little ass ‘a yers around behind ya as you flock off to your friends or whatever…”

Realizing that she, too, had ended up on a tangent, Mutsumi stopped herself.

Both girls simply stared at their drinks, neither one wanting to look at each other, or even move, as they tried to process everything that had just happened.

“So,” Nino said, breaking the ice with a cough, “you’re saying that you hound me so much because you’ve got a crush on me?”

While she’d meant her voice to sound mocking and incredulous, the amusement that was there was mixed more with hopefulness than anything else, though she couldn’t hear as much over the rapid beating of her own heart.

“And you’re always runnin’ yer mouth off cause you’ve got it bad for me, too, so we’re even, Gally!” Mutsumi said, practically pouting as she crossed her arms over her chest.

A smirk spread across her face as she noticed Nino looking at her arms, knotted with muscles, and the clear lines of her collarbone.

Nino looked away as soon as she was caught, but affected a smirk of her own when she saw Mutsumi’s gaze drift down to the swaying of her chest.

“Is that what you called me all the way here for? So you could stare at my chest?”

“No!” Mutsumi yelled, quickly turning her head.

“I called ya here cause I was hopin’ to work out what the hell ta do about how I felt. Didn’t expect you to have the hots fer me as well.”

“I don’t think-”

“Come on, Gally, don’t try to deny it. You were practically droolin’ when you were talkin’ ‘bout my shoulders earlier.”

The two sat in silence for a moment, neither wanting to budge.

“Let’s say, just for a moment, that I did have similar feelings. What then, hmm? Where does that leave us?”

“Hell if I know! I’d barely figured myself out, now I hafta deal with this, too…”

“Well, I mean, it sure sounds like you...like we both...like...each other…”

“Y-yeah, I guess we do…”

“WHAAAAT?!”

Mutsumi and Nino both bolted up from the table at the sudden outburst, Nino whipping around at the sound behind her while Mutsumi rushed to the window.

“Who the hell’s out there?!” Mutsumi yelled, peering around the glass to get a better view, spying the top of four heads, each one covered in unmistakably red hair.

The moment of surprise fading, Nino could only sigh, realizing who the voice belonged to.

“Figures…”

~~~

“Come on, what’re they saying?!” Yotsuba asked impatiently, trying her hardest to keep her voice down and completely failing.

“Shhh! I’m trying to hear, but it’s hard,” Itsuki responded, craning her neck up towards the window.

“Wouldn’t it be easier if we just went inside and got a table near them?”

“Nino would see us. She’d be looking right at us,” Miku explained, casually pushing around debris on the sidewalk with a stick she’d found as she crouched with her sisters.

“Why do I have to listen in on them, anyway…?” Itsuki groaned.

“Because you drew the short straw. Besides, your ears aren’t that bad, you have to have heard at least something, right?” Ichika asked.

“Well...I can hear when Mutsumi gets loud…”

“So, they’re arguing? Nothing new there...”

“Guess not… But...I dunno, it’s hard to hear, that can’t be it…” Itsuki complained, turning her head to try and listen with the other ear.

“What is it? What did you hear?”

“No, it’s nothing… I just thought I heard Mutsumi saying something about liking Nino?”

“Maybe I should try instead,” Miku sighed, before scooting closer to her sister to get behind the two in the café.

“No, be quiet!” Itsuki yelled in a hushed voice.

Her three other sisters all stopped, looking at their youngest sibling.

“Nino having the ‘hots’ for… No. Nono, that can’t be…”

The Nakanos were all quiet now, each sister listening as intently as they could, even if Itsuki had misheard, all desperate to hear the words from their sisters’ lips.

“-Mean-sounds like-we both...like...each-”

“WHAAAAT?!” Itsuki yelled, too surprised to soften her voice in the slightest.

Everyone froze for what seemed like an eternity, until, from the other side of the glass, they all very clearly heard Mutsumi yell, “Who the hell’s out there?!”

The four sisters crouched down as low as they could, pressing their backs against the brick wall of the café.

“Wh-what do we do?!” Yotsuba asked, her voice softer than any of them had ever heard before.

“We might be fine if we lay low here,” Ichika offered, seeming relatively undisturbed by the development.

“If she comes out, we run away. I don’t think Mutsumi really knows who we are,” Miku added.

“It’s not like Nino isn’t going to know it’s us when she sees the four of us running past the window,” Itsuki groaned.

“Better to deal with her than the delinquent,” Ichika shrugged.

“Wouldn’t be a problem if someone hadn’t screamed…”

Before Itsuki could respond to Miku’s jab, the jingle of the café bell rang out as Mutsumi threw open the door and stormed out onto the sidewalk.

“Whoever’s here, I’m gonna kick…”

Mutsumi’s threat trailed off as she looked to her right and saw the Nakano sisters crouched together.

“...huh? Why’re there four of Gally out here?”

“Run for it!” Ichika cried out, deciding to capitalize on Mutsumi’s confusion.

“No, you all can stay right there and explain yourselves!” Nino’s voice boomed, freezing her sisters in their tracks better than any of the delinquent’s threats ever could.

“Y-yo!” Yotsuba offered, laughing nervously as she raised a hand in greeting.

Nino simply glared at her, diffusing her giggling.

“Y-you know all of them, Gally? Shit, of course you do, it’s you…”

“They’re my sisters, and they’re going to tell us why they were all crouched outside of the window. Now,” Nino commanded, turning her gaze to Itsuki.

“Well? It was your voice we heard.”

“We-we were just-” Itsuki started to explain, before Ichika put a hand on her shoulder.

“She’s not the only one to blame, Nino. We all were worried about you, so we came to check in on things. After you left without a word like that, right before dinner, there’s no way we couldn’t have.”

“Oh? So you didn’t even eat? Just left to tail me?”

“We put the curry away first,” Itsuki pouted.

“Yeah! Besides, curry’s always better reheated!” Yotsuba added.

“Anyway,” Ichika continued, unperturbed, “that’s why we’re all here. We didn’t want to ruin your privacy or whatever, but when we saw who you were with…”

Ichika paused, smiling awkwardly at Mutsumi who, given the silence, she’d forgotten was part of the conversation.

“Well, we just wanted to be safe, that’s all.”

“Mmm… And you? Anything to add?” Nino asked, looking at Miku, who had been quiet the whole time.

Her sister shook her head.

“No. We were scared because you two fight a lot but...I guess things worked out…”

For as soft as her voice was, Miku’s words hit Nino and Mutsumi like a wrecking ball, sending both of them practically reeling as their cheeks flushed deeply in embarrassment.

Nino and Mutsumi shared a glance, as though each one was trying to dare the other to break the silence first, to offer up some counter to what Nino’s sister had said, but, in the end, they simply turned away from each other, both clicking their tongues as they did.

‘W-well, I guess that saves me the trouble of explaining things, then!” Nino huffed, crossing her arms over her chest.

“You two really are a thing, huh?” Itsuki asked, still in disbelief.

“Y-yeah!” Mutsumi yelled back.

“Gotta problem with it? I don’t care how many sisters Gally’s got, I’ll take ya all on if I have to!”

“Those two are moving pretty quickly,” Miku muttered.

“Nah, not at all! Just sorta came outta nowhere for us, I guess. We’ve only ever seen you two fighting,’ Ichika said, quickly butting in to drown out Miku’s comment.

“Oooh, I guess it was kinda like that thing grade schoolers do, where they tease the people they like, right?” Yotsuba asked, smiling so widely that even Mutsumi swallowed her comeback, her mouth slacking open instead.

“It was absolutely not!” Nino pouted, turning away from her sisters in embarrassment.

“Either way, any friend, or girlfriend, of Nino’s is a friend of ours,” Ichika said.

“Mutsumi right? Name’s Ichika. I’m the oldest, so you can call me ‘Big Sis’ if you want,” she offered, winking at the delinquent.

“We’re quintuplets, so she’s not that much older. I’m Miku, by the way,” the third Nakano said, raising her hand in a flat wave.

“Oh, I’m next! I’m Yo-”

The girl with the ribbon held up her hands, making a peace sign with each one.

“-tsu-”

Then, she dropped a finger from the signs.

“-ba!”

Lastly, she threw up three more fingers on each hand, then bounded forward, wrapping her arms around the delinquent with a giggle.

“H-hey!”

“Oooh, you’re super tight and toned down here!” she laughed, before Itsuki pulled her away.

“And I’m Itsuki. The youngest sister, I guess,” Itsuki said, pushing away Yotsuba, who was now trying to cling on to her.

“The one who yelled, right?” Mutsumi asked, having recovered enough to throw a smirk her way.

“That’s the one,” Nino chimed in, much to her sister’s embarrassment.

“Yeah, well...shit, I guess if we’re all doin’ it, then I’m Mutsumi. Mutsumi Haruba.”

After introducing herself, Mutsumi turned towards Nino, and stared at her expectantly.

“Eeeh?! I don’t need to introduce myself! Not to you, and especially not to my own sisters!”

Mutsumi glared at her.

Nino sighed, and looked to her sisters for some sort of succor, only to see them all smirking at her.

“Fine! Fine! I’m Nino Nakano,” Nino said, drawing out her words in a clearly irritated tone.

Even Mutsumi laughed with her sisters.

“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up! Just remember this when I cook for you tomorrow,” Nino grumbled.

“Oooh, speaking of-” Yotsuba started to say, before being interrupted by a loud growl from Itsuki’s stomach.

“Guess ya’d better make sure your family gets some dinner, huh, Gally?” Mutsumi asked, shooting a smirk at Nino.

“It’s not my fault they didn’t eat!”

“Sounds like you coulda told ‘em where you were goin’, at least.”

“We can handle ourselves,” Miku said.

“It just needs to be reheated.”

“Yeah, if you two want to stay out a little longer, you can,” Ichika offered.

Nino and Mutsumi looked at each other for a moment, before the delinquent spoke up.

“Nah. I should get home and get myself some dinner, too.”

“That’s stupid,” Nino said, drawing everyone’s attention.

“The hell did you say?!”

“I said that’s stupid, moron! We have more than enough curry at home, so why don’t you just come eat with us?” Nino elaborated.

“Huh?”

“She’s not wrong,” Miku said.

“Yeah. If you’re with her, you’re one of us, so there’s no reason you can’t have dinner with your family!” Yotsuba chimed in, laughing happily.

“But won’tchya not have enough?”

“No, we’ll be fine! Nino always makes more than enough, anyway!” Itsuki explained.

“It’s decided, then! We’re all heading home and we’re all going to have curry,” Nino proclaimed, before walking over to her sisters and urging them to follow her.

“Yeah...yeah, I guess we are,” Mutsumi muttered, smirking as she followed after the Nakanos.

“Gotta admit, Nino,” Ichika said, as the women made their way home, “it’s pretty slick of you finding a girl with a name like ‘Mutsumi.’ Maybe I’ll have to find myself a sweetie named ‘Nana.’”

“Would you just shut up for once?!” Nino yelled, stomping off ahead of the group, and doing her best to ignore the giggles of her sisters.

“Don’t really get what that’s about…” Mutsumi whispered to herself, “but I guess bein’ around this many people ain’t that bad...”

~~~

Mutsumi stood in front of the door to the Nakano’s bathroom for a moment, debating to herself just how hard she wanted to knock before her deliberations were interrupted by a hushed, irritated growl from Nino.

“What do you want, meathead?!”

“Just tryin’ to check in on ya, Gally, that’s all!” Mutsumi growled back, more than a little irritated that she missed her chance to surprise Nino.

“Yes, I’m fine. Just like I was when you checked five minutes ago!”

“Okay… It’s just…”

“What?!”

“Your sisters are gettin’ kinda antsy bout goin’ shoppin’, that’s all.”

“Just tell them that I’ll be fine! It’s only a stomach ache. Besides, I already told them that we would meet up with them for dinner later.”

“Look, if it’s too much for you, you can always just forget-”

“I said I’m fine!”

Mutsumi stood there for a moment, not sure if she should press her luck any further than she already had.

“If you insist, Gally…”

“I do! Now go and leave me alone!”

Mutsumi shrugged to herself before leaning over the balcony and calling down to Nino’s sisters, who had congregated by the doorway.

“Nah, Nino’s still takin’ a shit!” Mutsumi explained, ignoring the harsh shriek and bang on the door from behind her as she waved down to the other Nakanos.

“She said to just go on without her, and we’ll meet up with ya for dinner!”

“W-well, if you’re sure…” Itsuki called back up, the sole sister wearing a look of disgust on her face.

“Oooh, gosh, I hope she isn’t coming down with something,” Yotsuba fretted.

Miku shrugged.

“I’m sure she’ll be fine. She’s got Mutsumi looking after her, after all.”

“Yeah, and there’s no way Mutsumi would let anything happen to her,” Ichika said, smirking as she patted Yotsuba on the shoulder.

“Come on, I’m sure it’s alright. We’ll see you all at dinner, then! Reservation’s at six!”

Ushering her other sisters out, Ichika gave one more smirk to Mutsumi before waving and closing the door behind her.

“Wonder what that’s all about,” Mutsumi muttered, before heading downstairs and flopping down on the couch.

“Still, how much longer she’s gonna be? Can’t take that long ta-”

Mutsumi stopped as she heard the door to bathroom finally open, and a smile spread across her face as she heard Nino slowly making her way down the stairs.

“I thought they’d never leave,” Nino sighed.

“Yeah?” Mutsumi asked, genuinely surprised.

“What, ya that happy to spend some quality time with me, Gally?”

Nino groaned as she gently lowered herself down onto the couch next to Mutsumi.

“Don’t let it go to your head. But, yes, I am glad to be alone with you for a bit, even if it is just until we go out for dinner.”

“Gosh, Gally, I’m touched! Ya even turned down shopping to hang out with me! Never thought I’d see the day...”

“Oh? I didn’t hear you complaining about me shopping last time I went out. In fact, as far as I can remember, someone was very happy to have the stuffed rabbit I gave them. So much so that she decided to keep it here, at my apartment, instead of her own.”

“Listen, I told ya, she likes to sleep with the both of us. And she’s a bunny, not a rabbit, ya friggin’ airhead. Don’t go sayin’ stuff like that in front of her.” Mutsumi snapped back, turning away slightly from Nino and wrapping her arms around the soft, pastel yellow, stuffed bunny that was sitting on the couch next to her.

Choking back a laugh, Nino couldn’t help but smile at the sight of the tough delinquent tenderly hugging the toy she’d given her, and just how small her bunny looked contrasted against her toned arms.

“Hmm…”

“What? You got a problem, Gally?” Mutsumi asked, hugging the plushie a little tighter.

“No, it’s just… I guess I only now realized that I’ve never asked why you’re always wearing that,” Nino explained, pointing to the fraying string bracelet that had brought the two of them together.

“Eh?”

Mutsumi set the bunny down on the couch, before looking at herself in confusion.

“Oh… Ya mean my bracelet?” she asked, holding up her wrist.

“Yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you take it off, not even when we’re sleeping.”

“Well, of course not! No way I could do that!”

Mutsumi looked over at Nino again, and was a bit surprised to see the sincere, curious look she was wearing.

“I...uh...I got it from my ma...”

“Your mother? Hard to imagine some biker gang leader braiding string bracelets for her daughter,” Nino said, the taunting smile Mutsumi had grown to both love and hate returning to her face.

“What the fuck, Gally?! Where the hell’d ya get the idea that my ma was some kinda delinquent from?!” Mutsumi yelled, her face red with anger.

“I wonder what could have given me that impression…” Nino joked, her expression only softening when she realized Mutsumi wasn’t calming down.

“I’m sorry. I figured you had to get it from somewhere. I thought it might have been her.”

“Hell no! My ma could barely pedal a bike! Like hell she’d ever run with a motorcycle gang. She wasn’t that kinda girl...”

“I’m sorry…”

“Nah, look, it’s alright. You didn’t know, and I don’t talk ‘bout it much, but this bracelet is about the only thing I’ve got of hers anymore. So I get kinda defensive about it.”

“I had no idea…”

“Yeah, I know you didn’t. That’s why you need to stop beatin’ yourself up for what ya said, even if it was rude as hell, Gally,” Mutsumi said, cracking cocky smile at Nino.

“I didn’t tell ‘ya, so it’s on me.”

“Listen, if you ever need to talk about things like this...I’m here for you, okay?”

“Yeah...yeah, I know you are, Gally. It’s just...sorta hard to talk about.”

“When have you ever had a hard time running that mouth of yours?”

“Easy there, Gally,” Mutsumi chuckled.

“Stuff like this’s different. Bein’ all open about myself and all that.”

“Well, it’s not going to get any easier if you don’t start. And if you can’t manage it with me, who will you ever be able to tell?”

“Yeah...guess so…”

“So, then, tell me about her. About your mother. What was she like?”

“Oh, she was great, Gally! You’da loved her! Not cause she was a gal or anything like that. She was just real damn sweet to everyone she met,” Mutsumi explained, her eyes lighting up as she talked.

“She was always sick growin’ up and stuff, and I guess that didn’t really get much better once she had me. Ma was young, too, so a lotta people gave her shit for havin’ a kid so early. Said she was a kid herself, what business did she have gettin’ knocked up like that, and shit like that. But she’d always just smile and tell people how blessed she was ta have me.”

“And when she passed, what happened then?”

“Well, I never really knew my dad to begin with. He skipped out on Ma and me long before her tummy’d even started gettin’ round. Not that anyone else really seemed to care about that. They were all convinced that I was just as bad of a delinquent as he was, since I had his hair and all. Like I’d just taken on all of his bad traits. Hell, Ma’s family practically acted like it was all my fault…”

Mutsumi paused for a second while she reached over for the stuffed bunny and gave it a reassuring hug.

“So, I sorta got passed around by her relatives for a bit, like I was some bag of garbage none of ‘em really wanted to take out. Once I was old enough to get my own place, I jumped at the chance to get ‘em outta my life. Sorta hate the idea that I’m doin’ them any favors, but I ain’t about to put myself through their bullshit again just to spite them when it hurts me even more.”

Mutsumi let out a sigh, her shoulders relaxing as she did.

“So, yeah, that’s…that’s me, I guess. Or her? Kinda forget what it was you were even askin’ about, Gally.”

“Thank you, Mutsumi. I know that was hard for you…”

“Nah. It wasn’t actually that bad. Kinda think I’d been waitin’ to get a lot of that out for awhile. And, maybe it’s sorta shitty to say, but knowin’ you know a bit of what I went through made it pretty easy to open up.”

“Even when mom died, though, we still had each other. It sounds like you-”

“Don’t start tryin’ to compare who had it worse when their ma died, Gally. It all sucks the same, no matter what happens afterwards.”

“Yeah...I guess so…”

Nino sat there for a moment after Mutsumi was done, watching the delinquent pet the plushie in her arms, and feeling as though they’d knocked down a huge wall that neither of them had even realized was between them.

“Did you used to have a lot of stuffed animals growing up?”

“That’s none a’ your business, Gally!” Mutsumi barked, her face blushing bright red as she hastily, but carefully, set the bunny back onto the couch next to her.

“Was just curious, that’s all,” Nino asked, feigning indignance.

“After all, you have so many back in your apartment, I figured some of them must have at least come from your childhood.”

Mutsumi bristled at Nino for a moment, ready to spit another insult at her, until a smirk curled up her lips, and her eyes narrowed.

“Hey, I never did ask, Gally, how’d it go in the bathroom earlier? Ya get that thing in alright?”

Nino’s smile instantly vanished as her face went as red as her hair.

“I know you were pretty worried about gettin’ that little vibe up in your butt, and ya did take a long time in the bathroom…” Mutsumi jeered, relishing every bit of Nino’s discomfort as she awkwardly squirmed in her seat.

“I-it went fine, thank you!”

“Yeah? It wasn’t too big, was it?”

“No! I was just making sure everything was clean, that’s all!”

“And it’s definitely inside ya right now, yeah? I saw how carefully ya lowered yourself down onto the couch, so if it isn’t, you’re a helluva actress, Gally.”

“Of course I put it in!” Nino yelled, before covering her mouth in embarrassment.

“Then, I guess if I were ta do this…”

Mutsumi reached into her pocket and pulled out a small, pink, wireless remote and casually flicked her thumb against the large dial.

Next to her, Nino practically jumped out of her seat and let out a loud, surprised squeak as she felt the egg vibrator inside of her suddenly whir to life.

“Ahahaha, sorry Gally! I’ll be sure to ease ya into things when we really go for it!” Mutsumi apologized, turning the dial to the “off” setting as Nino glared at her.

Nino only sat down once Mutsumi had put the remote away.

“Jeez, do you always have to be such a meatheaded brute?”

“Ya know you love it, Gally!” Mutsumi laughed, wrapping an arm around Nino’s shoulder and pulling her in close, the redhead’s pout breaking slightly as she felt the delinquent’s large, hard body pressed against her.

“Still, I can’t believe ya got a sex toy from one a’ your sisters. You all just share everything, don'tcha?”

“Th-that’s none of your concern! Ichika just happened to be offering, and I thought it might be interesting, that’s all!”

“Ahahaha, well, ya ain’t wrong about that, Gally! Guess Big Sis’s got some pretty good taste! I mean, you like it, right?”

“Well, when someone’s not being an overbearing brute…” Nino murmured, looking down in embarrassment.

“I-I mean, it feels kind of weird up there, but...it’s not...it’s not too bad…”

“Damn, you’re cute when you get all bashful, Gally!”

Mutsumi smirked as she reached into her pocket again and rested her thumb against the dial of the remote.

“Kinda makes me want to tease ya some more, ya know?”

Nino wasn’t given a chance to respond as Mutsumi slowly turned the dial, and the vibrator in her butt stirred to life once more.

She leaned herself against Mutsumi’s body, trying to not let her feelings show, or her breathing grow too heavy, as Mutsumi played with the settings, making the vibrator tease her ass, its intensity rising and falling in a way that quickly had Nino squirming.

“Jeez!” Nino pouted, grabbing Mutsumi’s arm with both of hers and pulling her hand out of her pocket.

“Cut it out, meathead!”

“Hahaha, bit too much for ya?”

“N-no… I just…” Nino stuttered, trying to push out of her mind just how damp her panties had gotten.

“Oooh, I get it…” Mutsumi whistled, standing up from the couch.

“The remote’s not the only switch I’ve flipped, huh?”

Nino looked up at Mutsumi as she grinned down at her, her own expression warbling between one of arousal and irritation.

“Y-yeah,” she finally admitted.

“Well...we got dinner at six, but there’s plenty a’ time between now and then if you wanted to go upstairs and cut loose a little, Gally. How bout it?”

“You’re such a brute,” Nino huffed, standing up from the couch, too honest to say “no” and too proud to say “yes.”

“I am! But I know you’ve been thinkin’ about how great it’d feel to have my fingers up inside that cute lil’ pussy of yours while that vibe’s goin’ nuts, haven’t ya?”

“C-come on, already!” Nino barked, pushing past Mutsumi and starting to head up the stairs to her room.

“Still can’t be honest, huh? What am I gonna do with you, Gally?” Mutsumi muttered to herself, before heading to the stairs herself.as she made her way to the stairs and watched Nino’s butt sway and bounce with each step she took.

Unable to resist, the delinquent’s hand went to her pocket once more, her thumb settling against the dial as a devious, hungry smirk spread across her face, realizing that she was every bit as fired up and ready for what was about to come as her girlfriend was.