After a long day of classes, most people would assume the first thing any college student would want to do is go home and get some rest. However, for Sayo, that isn’t necessarily the case. Roselia, despite graduating from high school, still continues their activities as a band. Practices are still held and the girls all spend ample time together, especially now that they’ve decided to move in together.
Upon returning home, Sayo enters only to hear very little noise. The lack of noise, while rare and often short-lived, are moments that she can usually enjoy. Ako creates enough chaos to fill the house on her own. However, the noise amplifies with the added presence of the rest of Roselia. Lacking people in the house, as quiet and peaceful as it is, feels.. wrong. Leaving her things in her room, Sayo sits down on the couch with a soft sigh. The quiet still feels unnatural.
Thankfully, the unwanted silence breaks at the sound of keys jingling and the sound of the door unlocking. Sayo turns to look in the direction of the door, watching as Rinko enters their home.
Sayo finds her own cheeks heating up at the thought of it being their home, which is ridiculous because she shouldn’t feel this flustered and it is quite literally the house that they share with the rest of their bandmates.
So why in the world does it feel like such a big deal?
“Oh! Good afternoon, Hikawa-san.”
Rinko’s soft voice abruptly pulls Sayo out of her thoughts and back into the present.
“Ah. Good afternoon, Shirokane-san.”
The awkward silence that follows as they stare makes her more nervous as the minutes pass by. Since when did she start getting so choked up around Rinko?
To be fair, she would be lying if she said that Rinko wasn’t attractive. Plus, she has a nice voice, is very kind, soft spoken, smart, and--
“Do you mind if I sit next to you?” Rinko’s eyes shift from Sayo to the seat next to her and then back again.
Composure. Sayo needs to keep her composure.
Swallowing the lump that formed in her throat, she shakes her head. “Not at all. There is no need to ask for my permission.”
The corners of Rinko’s mouth tug upward into a small smile as she sits down next to her.
Upon closer observation, Sayo notes that Rinko appears to be in a happier mood today. She can tell by the way the other girl’s hands fidget in a way that shows her excitement to use her keyboard for practice.
Now that she thinks about it, it’s probably weird of her to be able to deduce such a thing. However, Sayo would like to think that it’s because of the endless amount of time they’ve spent together as bandmates and in high school.
Logically, spending that much time around someone can make another person become acquainted with their mannerisms. And it most definitely is not because Sayo tends to look at Rinko for a bit longer than the rest. Definitely not.
Both of them eventually fall into a conversation, mostly catching up on how they were doing with schoolwork and any other thoughts that were relevant. Seeing as this is the first time Sayo and Rinko are together on their own at home, she can’t help but feel… happy?
Rinko doesn’t look at her weirdly for talking formally and laughs softly whenever she makes an attempt at a joke every once in a while. However, it doesn’t end there. When topics that Rinko finds interesting arise, her speech becomes more confident and she seems so passionate about what she speaks of.
Sayo can’t help but find this quality endearing. She would much rather hear what Rinko has to say than continue speaking. The more Sayo listens to her and sees how excited she looks, the more she feels the same oddly warm feeling in her chest.
“The other day, Ako-chan and I… were walking around. We found this nice cafe and I think you would really enjoy it there. I’ve noticed many students use it as a good place to meet up or study.”
The thought of even crossing Rinko’s mind is enough for that same warmth to intensify.
“And, U-Um. If you’re interested, we can go there... to study.” Rinko makes the effort to meet her eyes.
Sayo is unsure of when her heart started pounding but its presence was undeniable now.
“I appreciate the offer, Shirokane-san. Our schedules are similar so just let me know whenever you wish to go.”
Rinko’s eyes light up at that and Sayo has to hold back the urge to fidget with her hands and look away. For some undecipherable reason, she can still feel her heart hammering against her chest. What is going on?
“Thank you, Hikawa-san. I.. will get back to you on the details soon..”
Before the conversation could continue, the front door opened once more. This time, Lisa walks in with both Yukina and Ako behind her: the house regains its usual noise and chaos.
However, Sayo can’t help feeling a bit disappointed at the interruption even if there is no basis for it.
With Ako entering the house again, Rinko gets up from her seat next to Sayo and she can’t help the frown that forms. She already missed her presence. Wait, what?
Unable to understand the sudden realization, her frown deepens. She’s being ridiculous; Rinko was not obligated to stay by her side and she was just getting up to greet everyone else. Sayo just enjoys the other girl’s presence! It’s calming and comforting for.. yet another unexplainable reason.
She hadn’t realized how serious her expression must have looked until Lisa suddenly appeared in front of her.
“What’s with the face? Are you actually unhappy about having to practice today?”
At that, Sayo immediately shakes her head. “Of course not, Imai-san. I do not get tired of practice. I was just thinking.” ..And most definitely did not accidentally tune out the conversation that the rest of the members were having in front of her.
A pause. Why was she so worked up about this in the first place?
“It.. was nothing. Just more school work.”
“If you say so..” Lisa cocks a brow. While the suspicion on her end is clear, she leaves it at that.
Sayo is grateful for that, really. Now of all times would not be ideal to.. Unpack whatever these feelings are. And she certainly will not be doing that in front of everyone.
Thankfully, nobody seems to question her odd behavior and the five of them gather their things before heading to practice.
Entering the booth, everyone quickly gets to work on tuning their instruments and warming up.
Sayo turns to Lisa and the bassist makes her way over, well aware of their own routine of warming up together. It isn’t as if they play the same chords or anything; it’s just a habit they’ve picked up from all of their practices.
“Imai-san, have you ever considered learning other playing techniques instead of using only a pick?” She finally asks as they go through with stretches for their hands.
“I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it. But--”
“You cannot use your nails as an excuse now. You always trim them.”
Lisa opens her mouth to say something in retaliation but decides against it.
“I.. used to do fingerstyle but I, um, broke one of the strings and haven’t done it since.”
Oh? “Imai-san.. Are you, perhaps, scared of breaking the strings again?”
Lisa’s eyes widen in panic as she looks around, nervously laughing, “Of course not. That would be a stupid thing to be scared of. People break strings all the time.”
Sayo arches a brow; she is not convinced. “Then there should be no issues if I were to request that you attempt to learn the style again, correct?”
Yukina, who had chosen a good time to pay attention, nodded her head. “I think that would be a good idea. Broadening your knowledge on different styles could benefit the band.”
“Ako and Rinrin agree! You can do this, Lisa-nee!”
In all honesty, Sayo had not intended for everyone to get involved with their conversation. Looking over at Lisa, she can’t help but feel bad. The other girl genuinely looks nervous, especially with the way she starts scratching at the back of her hand.
Thankfully, Yukina seems to alleviate the situation. “I do agree with everyone else. However, if you really do not feel comfortable yet, we will not force you. The band will not suffer if you continue to play with a pick.”
Sayo nods, “Your comfort and safety is our top priority not only as an essential member of the band but also as a friend.”
That being said, Lisa looks relieved. “Thank you, everyone. I might try to do it again but I can’t make any promises! Let’s just get on with practice, yeah?”
After a long day of practicing and working on assignments, the next thing left on Sayo’s agenda was… to go to sleep. She’s quite satisfied with the way her day was spent: she got to spend time with Rinko and practice went smoothly. What more could she ask for?
Humming softly, she collects the papers on her desk and stacks them neatly in the center. For the most part, everything was organized and tidy; a cluttered workspace would hinder her progress in her work. Placing a stray pen into the cup in the corner, everything was perfect. Since she was already changed and ready for bed, Sayo finally allowed herself to breathe out a content sigh as she lay down.
The bed is soft and the same could be said for the blanket she wraps around herself as she settles in for the night. Looking towards the door, she watches the light in the hallway go out. It seems like most of the girls are going to rest too.
Sayo remembers the pleasant conversation she had with Rinko. It often feels like they don’t speak enough (she can’t remember when she suddenly wished for it to be more frequent). The image of the soft smile Rinko had on her face earlier reappears and the same warmth in her chest from before returns. Smiling looks beautiful on her.
With that thought in mind, sleep becomes too tempting and she succumbs.
. . .
Unfortunately, good things don’t always last for long.
The sound of a loud alarm blaring from someone else’s room causes Sayo to practically shoot up from her bed. Frantically looking around the room, she tries to make sense of her surroundings. Adrenaline pumping through her veins, it almost feels like there’s some sort of immediate danger and she can’t help but remain skeptical even when the alarm stops.
What time was it? Whose alarm was that and why was it so.. Loud?
Looking at the clock, it appeared to be almost three in the morning. The realization makes Sayo’s heart drop; she had only been sleeping for 4 hours.
Most people can normally lay back down and return to sleeping. However, that is not the case for Sayo. Quite used to being a light sleeper, any loud noises would wake her up. Now that she’s almost fully awake, it would be difficult to continue resting again. Rubbing the side of her face, she sighs. Judging by how close the sound was, the only possible person would be.. Rinko.
What on earth could she be doing at nearly three in the morning?!
Not getting enough rest would be both detrimental to practice and to both of their healths. For some reason, the blue haired girl finds herself opening the door to the hallway and standing right in front of Rinko’s door. From the corner of her eye, she can see the lights on downstairs. Why was everyone awake?
Shaking her head, she decides to focus on her current task and lifts her hand up to the door. But when her hand is centimeters away from the wood, Sayo hesitates. This was Rinko’s room. Does she have any right to intrude on her privacy? She’s sure that the said girl wouldn’t be upset if she came in but… what if she doesn’t want to see her?
Would this not be crossing some sort of line? What if she was bothering her? What if the alarm wasn’t from Rinko’s room?
No. Sayo can see the lights are on from the gap under the door.
She doesn’t know when she started sweating but she’s slowly become aware of how clammy her hands had gotten? Why was she so nervous?
Sayo tries to force herself to knock regardless. This shouldn’t be an issue.
Except it is.
As soon as her knuckles brush the wood, they instinctively jerk away from the door. Has she always been this nervous about talking to her? It’s just Rinko! Rinko, who always made sure to have bandages for whenever she overdid her practice, who was kind enough to teach her about NFO, and many other things. Not to mention that their pianist was unbelievably pretty.
However, when she closes her eyes, she can see her face again; she’s beautiful, Sayo knows that much. It should be a crime to look that enticing. There are no words to quite properly describe just how enticing Rinko is. Before she can stop herself, Sayo spirals into thought. Oddly enough, most of these thoughts involve the pianist one way or another. What makes this feel even more unusual is that the warm feeling has returned once again. Upon realizing this, she blinks multiple times. What is wrong with her?
The more she thought about it, the more she felt her heartbeat increase. What is happening to her?
The sound of Lisa’s voice nearly makes her jump out of her skin, backing away from the door as quickly as possible.
“Imai-san.. Don’t frighten me like that.”
“Sorry, sorry!” Lisa lets out a laugh, “I was just curious as to why you were just standing there. Is something up? You’re never up this late.”
Sayo’s eyes widen a little as she tries to fumble for a plausible excuse. “I simply thought I heard a noise outside and woke up.”
“Oh? I didn’t hear any sounds but maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.” Lisa still remains unbothered. Although, Sayo is quite sure that the girl speaking to her is in need of sleep the most.
Instead of responding verbally, she nods her head while avoiding Lisa’s eyes. Being caught standing in the hall was embarrassing enough. It was unlike her to be so flustered and if she can’t understand it, she’s sure it must look even more weird to the rest of the band. Sayo watches as Lisa’s gaze shifts from her to the door behind her and she gets the feeling that things aren’t over yet.
“Did you need something from Rinko in particular?” Lisa asks, unaware of the internal panic she had caused with one question. “I’ve noticed that you guys are talking a lot more now! Which is good, of course.”
The room instantly gets warmer. More specifically, she can feel her face getting warm. Why was she getting so flustered?
“No!” Sayo says too quickly, earning an intrigued look from Lisa. Clearing her throat, she tries to do some damage control. “I have no important business with Shirokane-san. I was only searching for the source of the disturbance.”
“Whatever you say, Sayo~. I’m gonna go downstairs for some water but you’re free to come down if you need anything.” Lisa says as she walks away.
“Of course. I will inform you if necessary.”
As soon as she was out of sight, Sayo immediately returned to her room. Trying to go back to sleep would be an effort made in vain but that didn’t mean she couldn’t lay down. After that rollercoaster of emotions, she wants to sleep now more than ever.
The next day progresses slowly: she blames it on the lack of sleep.
For some undecipherable reason, her heart rate continues to increase exponentially every time she becomes even slightly aware of Rinko’s presence. For example, when Sayo went downstairs to have breakfast, she ran into Rinko. And while it is to be expected since they do live in the same house, she still finds herself instantly becoming nervous. The nervousness was so bad to the point that Rinko herself had noticed, forcing her to rapidly come up with a terrible excuse for a cover-up.
Even during rehearsals, she finds herself taking unnecessary glances towards the keyboard when she should be focusing on perfecting her performance. There must be something wrong with her. There’s no logical explanation that makes any of this make sense!
After many hours spent mulling over the cause of her behavior around Rinko, Sayo can only conclude that something is wrong with her. Anything else after that becomes a dead end. So, naturally, the best thing to do would be to go to the kitchen and consult Lisa because really, who else would she go to? Yukina would most likely reply with something along the lines of not being the person to consult about these matters, Ako would spout more nonsense, and Rinko… she shouldn’t ask her about this.
“Am I sick? This does not make any sense at all.” Sayo says after explaining her feelings to a very shocked looking Lisa.
“Do you realize what you’re saying?”
“...That I’m sick?”
“Oh my god, I hate gay people.”
“Imai-san? Are you perhaps.. Homophobic? But you’re dating Minato-san.. And it’s pride month.”
“Oh, MY bad. I just hate USELESS gay people.”
“What? Why are you saying that like I’m--”
Lisa stares, not speaking a single word. The gears in Sayo’s head start visibly turning. She doesn’t understand why the shorter girl is looking at her like she’s waiting for her to understand someth--
. . .
Lisa nods and crosses her arms. “That’s what I thought.”
The realization hits Sayo like a truck. “Wait.. Is it possible that I..? No. That cannot be possible..”
Lisa decides to test the waters a little bit. “Have you ever felt like this around anyone else?”
After a few seconds of thought, Sayo nods. “I believe this is very similar to how I felt around Shirasagi-san?”
Lisa nearly topples out of her chair when she stands up. “Wait, wait. You mean Chisato Shirasagi? As in THE Chisato Shirasagi?”
“Yes? Is there a problem? I am already aware of her relationship with Maruyama-san and can assure you that those feelings no longer exist.”
Lisa doesn’t seem to listen to her. Instead, she pinches the bridge of her nose, as if something had dawned upon her. “Of course that’s who you had a crush on. She’s definitely someone you would like. How did I not notice this? How did you not notice this?”
“I just thought I really wanted to be her friend. Shirasagi-san is very responsible and dependable.”
Lisa tries to hold back her laughter only to snort when seeing how confused Sayo looked.
“If you told me about your crush on Chisato, you would’ve realized sooner.”
“Crush? I do not think my feelings towards Shirasagi-san could be considered a crush. I just simply wanted to spend more time together with her.”
“What about Rinko?”
“My feelings toward Shirokane-san are completely different. I just happen to find myself looking at her more often because I admire her. She is very hardworking, considerate, and fairly attractive. There are several reasons that one could list to highlight all of the good qualities she has.”
“So, you think she’s attractive?” Of course that’s the only thing Lisa takes out of everything she said.
For some reason, Sayo reddens at this, “When did I say that?”
“Aw, Sayo. You really do like her.”
As if things could not get any worse, Ako pops up from the corner of the room. “Ako never realized how useless Sayo-san was until now.”
Lisa nearly falls off of her chair for the second time today. “How long have you been standing behind that corner?”
“Ako just wanted to get chocolate milk from the kitchen but overheard you two talking. Sayo-san looks as red as the ketchup she uses for her french fries.”
It appears as though Ako hasn’t heard much and Sayo simply focuses on trying to regain her composure.
“Ako never realized that Sayo-san liked Rinrin but now that Ako thinks about it, it makes a lot of sense!”
And... all of that composure goes right out the window. Lisa, on the other hand, seems just as panicked and looks around before trying to gesture for Ako to quiet down in case Rinko herself actually heard that. “Shh.. We don’t want anyone else to hear about this.”
“Hear about what?”
The moment Sayo hears Yukina’s voice, she nearly slams her head into the kitchen counter. She really wouldn’t mind digging herself into a hole right about now.
Lisa just sighs. “I’ll explain later. Let’s all leave Sayo alone for now.”
“I just got here?” Yukina seems hesitant but backs off when she sees the glare her girlfriend sends her way. “...But it’s fine.”
Ako is the first to leave, saying something about returning to her lair of darkness. Lisa (and a slightly disappointed Yukina) leave shortly after despite the mumbling.
“Lisa, could I not have taken some food first?”
“You know how Sayo feels about crumbs in the living room.”
“Why couldn’t we get a vacuum?”
“Do we look like we have the money for that?”
“I’ll make you cookies later.”
Their conversation becomes unclear after they leave the kitchen but perhaps it’s better that way.
Sayo is grateful that her friends have the decency to let her have time to process everything. However, now that everything is slowly starting to settle in, what would this mean? If her feelings towards Rinko are romantic like the way Lisa has implied, what is she supposed to do?
Sayo doesn’t understand love, doesn’t understand what it’s supposed to feel like or what it means. The concept of finding love or soulmates never felt appealing to her; seeing so many happy couples in the hallways during high school had very little to no effect on her. Even with her supposed crush on Chisato, she isn’t quite sure if it really was just that or a very intense admiration for her.
The more Sayo thinks, the more she can feel an oncoming headache. Why are feelings so difficult to understand? Even if these feelings are more than platonic, would this not change several things for Roselia? Then again, Yukina and Lisa seem to be just fine and it has only strengthened their dynamic so why is she so worried?
Then it hits her. What if Rinko doesn’t reciprocate her feelings?
The wave of insecurity and doubt that washes over her is overwhelming, to say the least. While there is a chance that she could feel the same way, it seems impossible. Why would someone as nice as Rinko like someone like her?
Sayo doesn’t have time to mull these thoughts over because as soon as Rinko enters the room, her brain short-circuits.
“H-Hikawa-san. Is everything alright?”
Unfortunately, Sayo barely registers this question seeing as she’s too busy just staring at the poor girl.
Pretty. Shirokane Rinko is far too pretty for her brain to handle.
“Yes. I was just thinking about an assignment I have to finish later.”
Sayo should just enjoy things as they are for now.
2:45 AM. The sound of a very loud alarm clock rings from the room next to Sayo’s.
. . . Again?
To say the sound wakes her up would not cover the full extent of it. For the past week, the same noisy alarm clock from Rinko’s room would ring at exactly 2:45 AM. And for the past week, every single night, Sayo has woken up from her sleep and cannot continue sleeping after the alarm shuts off.
Hearing the sound of the alarm for the 4th time this week really does irritate the blue haired girl. After a few minutes of fruitless shifting in her bed and trying to keep her eyes closed, Sayo sits up with a sigh.
Rubbing her eyes out of frustration, Sayo mumbles to herself, “What on earth could Shirokane-san be up to at this hour?”
Unfortunately, as much as Sayo wants to get upset and be mad, she can’t be. No one can get mad Rinko, it just doesn’t seem right. At least, not to her.
Knowing that she won’t be able to sleep for the remainder of the night once again, her hands reach over for the covers to pull them off as she starts heading towards her guitar.
Seeing as she’s already awake, it wouldn’t hurt to practice a little bit. The metal strings are comforting, in some odd way. It feels a little surreal now that Sayo thinks about it, since she remembers all the pain her fingers were in when she first started playing. All of the bandages and hard work and effort she had to put in.. were worth it.
Prior to becoming a member of Roselia, Sayo can’t say she knew what it meant to be a part of a band. An adequate and functional band, that is.
The members of Roselia have pushed her to be at her best as much as possible. So, to think about how much her skills have been lacking these past few practices due to losing sleep, Sayo can’t help but feel bitter.
She shouldn’t be letting this affect her. Rinko must have her own reasons for the alarm. Sayo just.. wished she wasn’t such a light sleeper.
When the music fails to continue distracting Sayo from the fact that she definitely won’t be able to rest now, the clock on her wall reads as: 3:23AM. Placing her electric guitar back on its stand, she figures she can just go downstairs and talk to Lisa.
The fact that Lisa stays up so much and still manages to keep all of her schedules and activities in line actually surprises Sayo. How does someone function with such little sleep?
Might as well go downstairs for a snack.
As soon as Sayo heads down the stairs, the first person that greets her is Lisa.
Sayo doesn’t even want to know how Lisa knows how to talk with stars. Maybe all of Kasumi’s rambling about sparkling stars has gotten to her.
Her eyes travel to the current state of the kitchen, only to see the mess left on the counter. Several ingredients and other baking materials are splayed out and Sayo doesn’t think she should ask but, “Imai-san.. it's three in the morning. Why.. are you baking cookies?”
Lisa, who apparently was still wearing an apron, unceremoniously sits down on the corner of the counter. “I was bored.”
Sayo opens her mouth to say something but decides against it. She doesn't even question it. “What kind of cookies are they?”
“I don’t know. Just whatever was left in the kitchen. Raisins? Oatmeal? It’s a surprise! Even for me!”
Sayo is trying very hard to not judge Lisa.
“Why are you even awake, whor-” Lisa cuts herself off by clearing her throat, “Why did you say you were awake again?”
Sayo will ignore the expletive. “I couldn’t sleep.”
“Ugh. Omg, queen. Me too.”
What is Lisa saying?
“. . . Queen?”
“Oh! Haha.. I meant that in an encouraging way!”
“There’s a meaning that makes it not encouraging?”
Lisa looks like she’s about to break with the way she’s trying to fumble for an explanation. “Don’t worry about it. Anyway! Don’t tell Yukina about this.”
“Tell me what?”
As if on cue, Yukina walks into the kitchen.
Sayo covers her mouth with her hand.
Yukina doesn’t look amused and gives Lisa a particularly puzzled look before turning to speak to Sayo.
“What did Lisa do this time?”
“Minato-san.. It appears as if she’s stress baking.”
“Stress? What are you talking about, Sayo~☆? I’m not stressed!”
“But you are baking. At an ungodly hour, no less.”
Yukina seems to look back and forth between the two of them briefly. “Please just.. go to bed. We have an early start tomorrow.”
“Yukinya~☆ Can we please start later than 8:30?” If Sayo didn’t know any better, she would think that Lisa was actually whining.
Yukina looks conflicted.
“Ugh the slayage. My mind.. it amazes me.” Lisa looks more smug than she should.
Yukina and Sayo do not understand.
Lisa, well aware of how socially inept both of them can be, decides to say….. absolutely nothing! She just hops off the counter and grabs onto Yukina’s hand. “So, did you want to try the cookies?”
Sayo decides to turn around and quietly leave both of them alone. There is no way she will allow herself to intrude on their relationship and it’s not like she wants to see them become more...intimate.
With that being said, Sayo decides to, once again, hike back up the stairs. It seems like both Ako and Rinko are still awake as well, seeing as the light in the hallway and their rooms are still on.
Technically, Sayo could walk right up to Rinko’s door now and ask her why she’s been setting her alarms up at such a random yet specific time.
However, Sayo is, in Lisa’s words, a pussy.
And she means that in the sense where as soon as she reaches the door, she immediately turns around and takes a few steps to reach her own room.
Sayo can practically hear Lisa mocking her in her head (in an encouraging way, of course).
Maybe she should try to go back to sleep.
Time progresses in the same manner for the next few days: go to sleep, wake up at almost three in the morning, stay up until it’s time to practice, finish work. The process becomes an agonizing rinse and repeat. The added effect of having practice only served to slowly wear away at Sayo’s resolve due to the lack of sleep. So much so that it brings her to this very moment now.
Currently, Sayo finds herself on the verge of exhaustion on the couch, with a rather concerned Lisa sitting across from her.
“Sayo…” Lisa says, causing her to look up at the brunette with tired eyes.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
Sayo nods her head. Although, she almost regrets doing so after feeling the wave of dizziness that followed afterward. “Yes, of course. There is nothing wrong. I simply have not been able to get the proper amount of sleep these past few days.”
Lisa frowns and Sayo almost feels like she’s disappointed her mother or something of that nature. “It’s been almost two weeks though. I’m awake late at night all the time but I at least sleep at some point in the day. We’re all worried, especially Rinko.”
“Yeah,” Lisa starts playing with the ends of her hair, “Rinko kept asking me about you since she knows we talk.”
Sayo’s heart drops. How does she explain to everyone about the alarm situation? The last thing she wants is for Rinko to feel bad. For her to be worried and still unknowingly the cause of Sayo’s problems feels rather ironic. Then again, being unable to go to sleep for prolonged periods of time would, without a doubt, have a detrimental effect on practice.
She tries to get her interrogation skills in line even though her eyes are starting to hurt. “Did she mention anything about staying up?”
Lisa gives her a confused look, tilting her head to the side. “Not that I remember? Rinko hasn’t mentioned anything like that to me.”
“Did something happen?”
“Of course not. I was just curious.” Sayo knows it’s a shitty excuse and she can see the way Lisa wants to say something but decides against it.
“I’m going to try to go to sleep again. Thank you, Imai-san.” Sayo nods once and then her hands press down on the armrests of the chair for support as she gets up. However, before she can go back up the stairs, Lisa calls her name again. “Wait, Sayo!”
Turning around, she feels her eyes getting heavier.
“You can always come to me if anything is bothering you.”
“Of course. Is that all?”
Lisa blinks. “Um, yeah. That’s all. Good night, Sayo.”
She doesn’t have the energy to speak really and simply settles for a quick nod before heading back for her own room.
The moment Sayo’s back hits the bed, she practically knocks out. Or at least, that’s what it felt like until Ako started screaming from the room across her.
The sound makes her jolt awake once again, only to elicit another quiet groan. Looking at the clock, Sayo thinks she really could just slam her face into a wall. 1 hour. She had only been asleep for one hour.
“This is ridiculous.”
Under any other circumstance, she would’ve laughed a little or not minded it at all. But to think, she was so close to getting the sleep she needed.
Sayo has half the mind to get up and check on Ako but she’s too tired. Her eyes hurt and she can’t remember what it was like to get more than 4 hours of sleep every day.
The clock on her wall still mocks her. It’s already 4:45 in the morning. If she tries to sleep now, she could probably get another few hours before she has to get up again.
Laying back in her bed, Sayo closes her eyes again. She should rest.
When morning comes, Sayo feels dead. She did manage to get 3 hours of sleep but that is nowhere near enough. However, instead of complaining Sayo just shakes her head and gets ready for practice.
Coming down the stairs and going back into the kitchen, her first instinct is to make a cup of coffee, something she’d been relying on a lot these days.
Lisa still shoots her another worried look and Sayo can’t blame her. Looking at herself in the bathroom mirror earlier, it’s become clear that she looked tired.
But that doesn’t matter. Sayo opts to look away from Lisa, tries to ignore the guilt that comes with it by tapping at her coffee cup because there’s no way she can handle the look the girl is giving her.
Rinko and Ako enter the kitchen, which means that Lisa’s gaze is off of her and Sayo can let out the breath she didn’t even realize she was holding.
“RinRin!” Ako tugs on Rinko’s sleeve a little. “Did you sleep well?”
Rinko, as soft spoken as ever, seems to think of what to say before opening her mouth, “Yes, I slept well.”
Sayo quietly observes the scene in front of her, occasionally sipping from her cup. The coffee would wake her up for later, that was certain. But for now, she was trying to conserve as much energy as she could.
Rinko’s eyes meet hers and she smiles. Sayo’s heart once again does that.. thing that she still can’t quite understand.
“Good morning, Hikawa-san.” Rinko says when she approaches the fridge next to her.
“Good morning, Shirokane-san.”
Rinko opens the fridge door for the orange juice that Ako was asking for before turning to get a good look at her. “I never realized how much you liked coffee.”
Sayo’s brain melts a little when she tries to think of a response. Looking at Rinko, all she can think of is how pretty the other girl is. There’s no reason for someone to look this good so early in the morning.
The more she thinks, the more alarmed she becomes. These feelings.. she must be tired. There is no way she can be having such thoughts about one of her band members.
“I.. Yes, I’ve taken a liking to it recently.” Sayo has to suppress the urge to facepalm at her own stupidity.
“Um, I’m not that great at it but uh, if you want, I can make you some coffee sometime?” Rinko looks at her with hopeful eyes, only to quickly add in, “O-Only if you want of course! I’m not trying to force you or anything! I just know that you, Minato-san, and Imai-san drink coffee so I thought I-”
It’s clear that Rinko already started panicking and Sayo can’t help but find it endearing. However, she doesn’t want to make the other girl suffer.
At the mention of her name, Rinko stops her mumbling.
“I appreciate your offer and I’m sure the others do as well.” Sayo says, taking another sip from her cup to avoid looking at Rinko for a few moments (she keeps getting distracted) “If time allows, we can try it soon.”
Rinko smiles and god, Sayo swears it has to be one of the prettiest things she’s ever seen. “I‘ll do my best to make your coffee taste better.”
She doesn’t need to know that Sayo would drink it even if it tasted terrible.
As soon as practice is over, everyone is quick to head home. Many of them still had assignments and/or projects to focus on and even Ako wanted to start on her work.
Sayo, on the other hand, no longer feels the caffeine boost from her coffee this morning. The urge to let her eyes close and rest increases as more time passes. The fact that she even made it to the house without falling over is a miracle on its own.
“Rinrin! We should play NFO today.” Ako exclaims as they enter the house.
“Ako-chan,, we have assignments to work on..”
Ako’s yelling startles Rinko, who looks to Lisa for help. Instead of providing any actual help, all Lisa can do is laugh nervously and look at Yukina, who continues to practically drag a very exhausted Sayo inside.
On any normal occasion, Sayo would’ve scolded her for her lack of responsibility. However, the lack of sleep has reached a point where the yelling doesn’t even bother her. She just wants to go to sleep already. Thanks to both Lisa and Rinko’s efforts, they managed to convince Ako to at least finish her school work. Not that she really heard all of that to begin with.
Her lack of attention resulted in several concerned looks from all of the members, Rinko included of course. This should have become especially clear when Yukina volunteers to help her up to the bedroom for some much needed rest. But Sayo doesn’t even notice any of this, allowing herself to be dragged up the stairs to her bedroom.
When she finally regains a bit of her senses, she can see that she’s in her room now.
“Sayo.” Yukina says, looking at her with concern. “You need to rest.”
Sayo immediately shakes her head at that, only to feel instant regret at the way the room spins. She can’t sleep yet. “Can’t.. Sleep yet. I must not be remembering something”
The nagging feeling at the back of her mind continues to grow as more time passes. But what could she possibly be forgetting?
Yukina narrows her eyes at this. “Are you talking about your grades? The semester has barely started.”
Ah. That’s what she was forgetting.
“I must check my grades before I rest.”
“I don’t think that’s a good ide--” Before Yukina can even try to stop her, Sayo takes her phone out and starts to log in to her account.
The process of entering her account is clockwork and there genuinely no thoughts in her head as she logs in. All she can think about is how tired she is and how much she would like to rest.
However, the sight of her grades makes her adrenaline skyrocket. Everything seemed fine until she looked at her grade for her history class. How.. How does she have an 89.5% in the class?!
Unable to control herself, Sayo shoots up from her bed and makes a beeline to her door. Yukina appears to have unfortunately expected this but cannot stop her once she starts running.
Stumbling down the stairs, Sayo nearly trips over her own two feet. It’s a relief that she doesn’t knock down any paintings or other furniture on her way to the kitchen.
“I-Imai-san.” she pants, holding onto the kitchen counter for support. “I need a tutor.”
Lisa, clearly in the middle of baking more cookies, almost drops the tray in her hands. “What? Sayo, you are the tutor.”
“No, No. You don’t understand. I have an 89.5% in history.”
“Sayo. I have a 79% in calculus. That’s a C+.” Lisa carefully sets the tray back down on the counter to avoid any more.. accidents. “Why would you ask me for help anyway? Why couldn’t you ask, I dunno, Yukina?”
Sayo throws Lisa an incredulous look, “Did you genuinely suggest that I consult Minato-san of all people for academic improvement?”
Yukina, having followed Sayo down the stairs, chimes in from the living room, “She’s right.”
“It wouldn’t kill me to have some faith in you though.” Lisa sighs and looks like she wants to say something. However, the question would be stupid since the answer is obvious. Sayo definitely would not ask for help from both Yukina or Ako. And Lisa herself is out of the question. That leaves…
“Have you considered asking Rinko for help, Sayo?”
“Imai-san, you are an absolute genius.”
The compliment startles her, to say the least. Especially considering the fact that the other girl looks like she’s about to fall over any second now.
“I wouldn’t exactly say that but maybe sit down first before you decide to go back? I already started baking and-- God, Sayo. You seriously need to care more about your health.”
Her words fall on deaf ears. Sayo already had her back turned to leave. “No offense, Imai-san. But the only things I care about right now are my grades and Shirokane-san.”
While the information isn’t all that surprising, Lisa can’t help but cover her mouth with her hand. “Shirokane-san?”
Sayo staggered toward the exit but stopped herself to respond, making sure to place a hand on the wall for support. “Yes. I must.. request for help from Shirokane-san.”
Lisa only hums in acknowledgment; she knows it would be useless to try and stop her now. “Just make sure not to overdo it again. We can’t have you dropping dead before next practice.”
“I have not fallen yet. This is only one obstacle. I will PASS.” Sayo walks--no, she wobbles towards the stairs. “To Rinko’s room!” The exclamation sounds.. quite dramatic and Lisa doesn’t know if she should laugh or be concerned. Maybe both.
Yukina, on the other hand, pops her head into the kitchen. “Did Sayo just refer to Rinko as.. Rinko?”
“I’m pretty sure she did..”
When Sayo finally makes it to Rinko’s room, it feels like an eternity has passed (it’s been five minutes) and maybe she does want to collapse onto the floor now. But.. her grades are important and she cannot be caught slipping by the school!
Knocking on Rinko’s door three times, she tries her best to wait patiently for the other girl to open the door. That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t still use the door for support though. If Sayo were to be completely honest right now, she thinks that she may be hallucinating to a certain extent; mostly because the floor looks like it’s stretching and it’s getting harder and harder to keep her eyes open.
Maybe.. She’ll close her eyes for 5 seconds.
As soon as her eyes close, more of her weight is shifted toward the door. However, the door opens moments later, causing Sayo to essentially fall on top of a very startled Rinko.
“H-Hikawa-san??” Rinko panics, having barely caught onto her before she fell any further.
Sayo hasn’t even opened her eyes yet and has barely registered that she, quite literally, has fallen on top of Rinko. In fact, the first thought that comes to mind is that she really likes the smell of whatever shampoo Rinko has been using.
“Rinko.” The lack of sleep has finally taken a toll on Sayo and her filter seems to have disappeared completely. As a result, Rinko’s eyes widen as she stares at the almost passed-out girl in her arms. “I need to save my grades before I fall--”
“What.. are you talking about?”
“I have not fallen. I am still UP.”
Rinko does not know what to do.
“Rinko, I need your help. I cannot complete this mission without you.”
Due to the confusion and lack of formalities on the other girl’s end, Rinko was unsure of how to even refer to her. “S-Sayo..? I thought… you were talking about your grades?”
“The mission is to get an A… I will not.. be caught slipping agai…”
Rinko watches as Sayo essentially slumps over and becomes a dead weight in her arms. It is one thing to come to her and ask for help but to be so exhausted to the point that she simply passes out is rather concerning, especially given how dedicated Sayo can be.
The longer they stand at the doorway, the more Rinko can feel her arms start to give out. She doesn’t want to drop Sayo or hurt her in any way, really. So, after minutes of essentially dragging her inside her room and unceremoniously placing Sayo onto her own bed, Rinko breathes out a sigh of relief. There were a few close calls that included nearly dropping the poor girl but at least she can rest comfortably now.
Placing a blanket on top of Sayo’s sleeping figure, Rinko decides to abandon her earlier plans of playing NFO for now since Ako hadn’t finished her work yet anyway. And while she really should head downstairs to talk to one of the other band members about her current situation, she can’t help but take a few moments to look at Sayo sleeping peacefully.
It’s hard to believe that someone can look so unbelievably attractive while asleep but Hikawa Sayo seems to have made it a habit to defy expectations. Anyone with eyes should be able to see how pretty she is and that there’s even more to her than just that. She’s hardworking, smart, assertive, and many other qualities that could be listed.
What was supposed to be a few moments ended up becoming several minutes. She doesn’t intend to be creepy; staring like that must be some sort of privacy violation, right? Embarrassed by her unintentional gawking, Rinko steps back and quietly closes the door of her bedroom after exiting. Someone else might know why Sayo has been acting so strange as of late.
And of course, the first person Rinko seeks out is none other than Imai Lisa. Because, really, what doesn’t she know at this point?
Padding into the kitchen, the first thing she sees is Lisa holding onto a tray of freshly baked cookies.
“Hey, Rinko!” The slightly taller girl chirps, placing the tray down on the counter. “I just finished this second batch of cookies so when they’re done cooling, you can take some.”
“T-That’s really nice of you, Imai-san… but if you don’t mind…” Rinko can’t help the way her hands fidget, “I.. have a question..”
“Hm?” Lisa tilts her head to the side as she takes off her apron. “Is something wrong?”
“It’s.. actually not about me.. It’s about H-Hikawa-san.”
“Did something happen?”
“Um.. she just came into my room and.. asked me to tutor her? B-But she was acting strangely and fell asleep on me?”
Lisa looks like she wants to laugh. “Really now? Is she okay?”
“Well.. Yes.. I just.. Um,” Rinko isn’t sure why she’s so embarrassed to say this out loud, “I-I put her on my bed.. since I can’t carry her all the way back.”
The look Lisa has on her face is akin to the shocked cat emoji that Yukina uses every so often.
“Sorry, Sorry. I was just surprised. I knew Sayo was out of it but I didn’t think she was that out of it. She skipped a few steps there--”
“Don’t worry about it!” Lisa waves her hands dismissively. “I guess we should just be glad that Sayo’s finally taking a nap.”
Rinko nods her head in response. Talking out loud feels a bit draining at times; she’s still not used to speaking so often. The silence that fills the kitchen isn’t awkward though. For the most part, they work together to clean up without saying much. Lisa has always been mindful of how hard it is for her to talk and Rinko appreciates it more than she can ever fully express.
Once the used tools are cleaned and put in the proper cabinets and drawers, Lisa is (unsurprisingly) the first person to break the silence.
“So, you and Sayo?”
“H-Huh? What about me and Hikawa-san?” Lisa maneuvers around the counter with two glasses of water in her hands before placing one down next to Rinko, who nods in appreciation before putting the glass up to her lips.
“I just figured I should ask since both of you look like you’ve been spending more time together. It reminded me of how I was with Yukina back when we first started dating in high school.”
Rinko nearly spits out the water she was drinking.
“I-It’s.. nothing like that. I was just.. concerned about H-Hikawa-san..” She mumbles, visibly reddening at the implication of Lisa’s words.
“I know, I know. I just think you two would look cute together.”
“I-I.. u-um..” Trying to deflect and come up with a comprehensible response was already out of the question. Her face somehow heats up even more than before as her imagination begins providing her with images of what it could look like if she did, in fact, date Sayo.
Lisa, on the other hand, actually looks a bit smug after seeing the reaction. It’s almost like she knows something that Rinko doesn’t! But.. that’s probably not correct…. right? Whatever the case is, she can’t handle the look Lisa is giving her and the more she stays, the more embarrassed she feels.
“I-I’m going to go b-back to my room now. Thank you… for the water, Imai-san.”
Rinko doesn’t wait for a response and briskly heads back up the stairs to her own room. If she had waited a bit longer, she might’ve been able to catch the knowing look shared between Lisa and Yukina, who had been listening in.
As soon as she reaches her door, her hands wrap around the knob and she turns it as gently as she can. To avoid any unnecessary creaking, Rinko attempts to open the door quickly rather than slowly.
Her first instinct is to look at her bed, where Sayo was still sleeping. Nothing much seemed to have changed, save for the change in the position of the blanket.
Closing the door behind her, Rinko figures she can play a little bit of NFO now that Ako has completed her work. She’ll just have to make sure to not be too loud. Casting one last worried glance towards the sleeping figure on her bed, she breathes out a soft sigh. Lisa was right about one thing: Sayo really needs to take care of herself.
“A-Ako-chan.. Do you mind if we stop here for now? I’m a bit tired.”
“Eh?! That’s perfectly fine with me, RinRin! We have to conserve our energy for the… the battle in the darkness for the event! We shall be victorious!!”
Ako’s loud voice on any normal occasion would have been loud enough for her to hear without her headphones on. Thankfully, Rinko made the good decision of lowering her voice down. It isn’t as if she doesn’t want to hear her best friend’s voice but she.. needs to save her ears somehow.
“T-Thank you, Ako-chan.. I’ll see you later tonight..”
Even though she has fun with Ako, the fact that Sayo still hasn’t woken up still bothers her. And she wasn’t lying about being tired either. Today has been.. eventful.
Getting up from her chair, Rinko makes her way towards her bed and is about to continue her usual routine of laying down and scrolling through her phone until she realizes that she would be right next to Sayo.
Being on the floor is definitely not ideal and there wouldn’t be anywhere else to rest because her chair isn’t all that comfortable either. The ache in her shoulders from having terrible posture while gaming has never felt more inconvenient.
Looking at the bed again, technically, there is enough space for both of them. Sayo’s body is more towards the wall so.. there should be no issue so long as Rinko keeps her distance. The more time she spends standing, the more her shoulders and back hurt.
One deep breath and careful adjustment later, Rinko successfully manages to lay down on the bed without disturbing Sayo at all. In fact, she’s able to reach for her phone on her nightstand to keep herself busy while she lays there.
The first thing she does is open up one of her social media apps. Even though she doesn’t usually post that often, it’s nice to scroll through her feed and see what her other friends are up to. Plus, NFO’s account posts about its events and updates; that’s how she and Ako discovered news of the new event.
According to her feed, Moca and Ran were watching a movie with the rest of Afterglow today. The band took a pretty cute photo together in their living room. Himari and Tsugumi were posing with Tomoe taking the photo. Moca and Ran… appeared to be playfully arguing about something in the back. Rinko smiled and made sure to like the image. Seeing her friends have fun is always something to be happy about.
After about five minutes of silently scrolling, a sound could be heard from the other side of the bed as well as movement. At first, Rinko didn’t think much of it. Lots of people shift around in their sleep anyway, herself included.
However, as the noise grew along with the movement, Rinko placed her phone back down on the nightstand as she turned her head to look in Sayo’s direction. Did she wake up? Based on the way the other girl was shifting restlessly and mumbling, it actually looked like she was having a very stressful nightmare. Maybe Rinko should wake her up?
“H-Hikaw—” There was no time to complete her sentence.
Instead of responding, Sayo only moves herself closer towards her before lazily draping an arm over. To sum everything up quickly, she had tucked herself into Rinko’s side and clutched onto her like a koala.
What is happening?
Rinko has to suppress the urge to let out a shriek as her face, once again, heats up. If she moves, she risks waking up Sayo. But on the other hand, she really… really does not know what to do with herself.
With the way Sayo has positioned herself, Rinko’s right arm is trapped underneath her and the only way to move it would be to awkwardly hug her from the side or try to pull it out without waking her up. Not that she has the heart to do it anyways; the distressed look on Sayo’s face had completely vanished after she came closer.
Maybe she could ask for help from one of the other members? Her phone is still on the nightstand and within reach. Extending her left hand, Rinko tries her best to limit her movement as much as possible to avoid waking the sleeping figure next to her. However, just as her phone brushes her fingertips, she can feel Sayo somehow bury herself deeper into her side and Rinko freezes. A soft whimper escapes her lips before she can even think; it feels like her face could explode at any given moment. Hopefully Sayo can’t hear how loudly her heart is thumping against her chest.
Instead of reaching for her phone again, she retracts her hand. Typing with only her left hand would not only be inconvenient but also extremely difficult due to how flustered she felt by this entire situation. Although, as much as she wants to say she doesn’t like it, Rinko enjoys the warmth from Sayo’s presence. That on its own is enough to make her feel a tinge of guilt. Would it not seem like she’s taking advantage of this situation? It isn’t as if that was her intention to begin with and they’re friends! So.. why does she still feel embarrassed?
Bringing her free hand up, Rinko rubs the side of her face. Who wouldn’t feel a bit embarrassed at this situation after what Lisa had implied earlier in the kitchen? Dating Sayo? That.. That would be-- No. Squeezing her eyes shut, she tries to push away the plethora of thoughts barreling into her mind. They’re just friends. Nothing more, nothing less. Rinko tries to ignore the uncomfortable sting in her chest at being only that. As she slips out of consciousness, the last thought that remains with her is that some selfish part of her still hopes for more moments like this. Which, in all honesty, feels incredibly stupid; she has no right to harbor these sorts of feelings. Nobody can really choose who they love. If it was possible, perhaps things would be much easier. And maybe, that’s why Rinko finds herself longing for more than just this.
The first thing Sayo notices when she wakes up is that she feels very comfortable. Unable to open her eyes, she enjoys the warmth. Her sleep had been pleasant for the most part. She can vaguely recall some sort of nightmare but it wasn’t too bad. Honestly, this is the first time she’s had any decent rest in a while. Part of her doesn’t want to lose the warmth, the comforting smell of the laundry detergent and vanilla.
Wait, vanilla? Sayo doesn’t remember ever owning anything with a vanilla sce-- oh my god.
Immediately opening her eyes, she’s greeted with the sight of Rinko sleeping next to her. And embarrassingly enough, she also realizes the position they were in. Somehow, Sayo had wrapped one of her arms around Rinko, who was tucked neatly into her side with her head tucked into the crook of her neck. At this moment, Sayo becomes increasingly aware of how close they are. More specifically, she can feel the shorter girl’s breath on her neck. Their close proximity causes a blush to rise onto her face. Trying to untangle herself from Rinko would prove to be a hard task. Especially considering the way Sayo can feel her arm lightly on her waist.
Looking down at Rinko, she can see just how pretty she is up close. Of course, she already knew this. However, it was an entirely different matter when seeing it so close up. Sayo lets her eyes trail along her features, absolutely mesmerized. It isn’t difficult to fall for Shirokane Rinko. Not when Sayo catches the way her eyes light up during conversations she’s passionate for, or when she sees how Rinko makes the effort to practice late into the night in her room as dates for shows draw near, or when she shows how much she cares by making sure that everyone’s costumes are perfect.
It’s unfair, really. Rinko still remains unbelievably attractive no matter what she does.
When it comes to the girl in her arms, Sayo can’t properly think. Her usually composed nature crumbles at the sight of her and she finds herself struggling for the right things to say. Shirokane Rinko takes her breath away and there’s absolutely no doubt about that.
Sayo tenderly lifts her hand up to tuck a loose strand of hair behind the latter’s ear. Her finger just barely brushes the side of her face and her blush deepens. Maybe Lisa was right. Maybe she does like her in that way. The thoughts in her head cause her to jerk her hand away. This could affect the band.
Clearing her throat, she realizes she’s been staring for far too long. “S-Shirokane-san?” Sayo says quietly, not wanting to startle her. No response.
“Shirokane-san?” She calls out to her again, gently patting at her shoulder. Rinko’s face scrunches up this time, and she lets out a hum of acknowledgement. Thankfully, her eyes are still closed so she doesn’t see how flustered Sayo looks.
Blinking a few times, Rinko looks up at Sayo, only to have her eyes widen in realization. A soft squeak from the short girl can be heard as both of them try to make some room.
“H-Hikawa-san! I’m so sorry, you f-fell asleep after coming to my room. And I.. I fell asleep after finishing my work..”
“No, don’t apologize. I believe it is my fault for abruptly entering and wasting your time.”
Rinko shakes her head at this, still unable to meet her eyes “You.. were only asking for help. Y-You also looked exhausted so I.. put you on my bed. You’re.. always welcome to rest in my room but I-I’m sorry if I overstepped any boundaries..”
“It’s quite alright, Shirokane-san. I would not necessarily be opposed to this occurring again.” Sayo looks down at her hands, turning bright red for what feels like the millionth time today. “I believe your presence may have had a.. positive impact on the quality of my sleep.”
There’s a soft squeak that Sayo barely hears from Rinko’s side and she has to keep her eyes averted. Cute.
“H-Hikawa-san…” The shorter girl appears shocked and if Sayo didn’t know any better, she would say that it looks like she’s just as flustered as her. “As long as it helps.. L-Let me know when you need me..”
“Of course. I will stay in contact.” Sayo nods and stiffly attempts to get off of the bed, wobbling a bit when she gets to her feet. She’s still tired since it doesn’t seem like she’s been asleep for that long. Maybe she shouldn’t try to get up so quickly. “Thank you.”
Reaching for the door knob and twisting it open, it feels like the conversation had ended.
Despite her shock, she looks back. “Yes, Shirokane-san?”
“I.. hope you get some better rest tonight.”
“The same applies to you.” Sayo has to ignore the pang of guilt she feels in her chest. Obviously, the easiest way to confront the problem would be to directly inform Rinko. However, upsetting her is, once again, simply not allowed.
Besides, perhaps it’s possible that she will be able to sleep better tonight.
Unfortunately, Sayo has been proven wrong. Again. Falling asleep again after eating dinner was much easier than she had imagined. But she should have known better. The moment she wakes up to the alarm at 2:45 in the morning, she almost wants to cry. Of course things wouldn’t change.
Releasing a frustrated groan, Sayo reaches for the pillow behind her head only to slam it into her face to muffle her complaints. Honestly, she shouldn’t even really be upset. It technically is her fault for not saying anything to Rinko. But the lack of sleep is really starting to catch up to her. Wouldn’t prolonging this make it much messier? Then again, addressing this could have disastrous consequences as well.
Instead of making another futile attempt to sleep, Sayo forces herself to get up and go back down the stairs. Somehow, she had gotten quite accustomed to heading for the kitchen after she wakes up; at least Lisa was usually awake at this hour. However, when she arrives at the kitchen this time, instead of the usual greeting, Lisa gives her a look and it appears that she’s been anticipating her presence. It isn’t just any look either: it’s the same look she has when she knows something but is refraining from saying anything.
Sayo, despite her exhaustion, still has it in her to narrow her eyes. “Imai-san? Do you have an issue you need to discuss with me?”
“Did anything happen with you and Rinko when you went to ask for her help?”
“Of course not. We talked. That’s all.” Guilt. Technically speaking, Sayo isn’t entirely lying. Nothing major happened! Except for the fact that she engaged in very intimate activities with a girl that she may or may not have feelings for which is--
“Liar.” The accusatory tone in Lisa’s voice is playful but Sayo knows better than that.
“Are you sure nothing happened? As in absolutely nothing at all?”
“Well, we may have slept together after but nothing major.” Sayo shrugs, trying to play off being nonchalant despite the embarrassment that follows after recalling the situation.
It isn’t until Lisa quite literally almost chokes that she realizes implications of her own words.
“You and Rinko did WHAT?”
Eyes widened in panic, she rapidly shakes her head. “No, no. Imai-san, I didn’t mean it like th--”
Instead of waiting for her to finish her sentence, Lisa quickly unlocks her phone and opens her photo album before turning the screen so that she could see. To say that the image startles Sayo would be one way to put it.
On the screen is a photo of both herself and Rinko. Usually, this would not phase her but the fact that the photo was clearly from earlier today is enough to fluster her. The image displays them sleeping in Rinko’s room. Obviously, their position appears quite intimate and Sayo really thinks that she really could just disappear right about now.
“I knew something happened but damn, Sayo. I did NOT think you guys would go that far.” Now that her initial surprise was over, Lisa was back to teasing.
“I-Imai-san,” Sayo has to mentally berate herself for stuttering, “How did you acquire this?”
“I went to check on you since I figured something might have happened. I didn’t think I would see y’all doing this though.” Lisa snorts, “You really did skip a few steps. To be honest, I didn’t think you had it in you either.”
The glare Sayo attempts to send her way is anything but intimidating with how red her face is. “I had no intention of my words being interpreted as anything else other than literal.”
Lisa shakes her head, setting her phone down on the counter. “Even if that’s the case, how long are you two going to keep beating around the bush?”
“Pardon? I don’t believe I’ve done any such thing.” Sayo looks at her in confusion. Beating around the bush?
“What she means is,” Yukina suddenly chimes in from behind, “When are you two going to admit your feelings for each other?”
Since when did Yukina get in here?!
“W-What?” Sayo sputters, a nervous laugh following not too long after, “Admitting my feelings for Shirokane-san? That’s preposterous! I don’t even--”
“Don’t even try to deny it, Sayo. You two are so sweet around each other!” Lisa nods in agreement.
“Yeah, it’s sickening.” Yukina deadpans, only to earn a light smack on the arm from her girlfriend.
“Anyway,” Lisa pretends to ignore her words, “You guys should totally get together. It would be such a joint slay.”
Sayo doesn’t understand what Lisa is saying half of the time. “Joint… slay?”
“That’s what you got out of my entire-- actually, whatever. It’s not important.” Lisa pinches the bridge of her nose while using her spare hand to make a waving motion “Just confess to her whenever you’re ready. I would say the sooner the better but I feel like you’re the type of lesbian that just wants to yearn for ten thousand years before doing anything.”
And much to Sayo’s dismay, Lisa was correct. Instead of following her words, she decided to wait it out because confessing to people was simply not something she was experienced in. Hell, this whole ordeal of having romantic feelings for other people wasn’t something she knew anything about.
Which is.. Exactly why she finds herself in this predicament. Recalling the previous night’s conversation, Sayo can’t help but feel bad about the way she’s started deliberately avoiding Rinko as much as possible. The more she thinks about it, the more she wants to stay away. Not because she doesn’t like her but rather, out of fear for the consequences.
Even though she wants to believe Yukina and Lisa’s words, they don’t do much to help her nervousness around the topic. It’s highly unlikely that someone as amazing as Rinko would like her back. Besides, Sayo wouldn’t even be surprised if someone else had caught her eye. There are many other people who are much more suitable and deserving of her. So, what would make Sayo any different?
Sitting in the practice room during break, she tries to ignore the way her hands get clammy. Avoiding Rinko had its consequences. Talking to Ako during the break was already out of the question; she’s always talking to the one person she wants to avoid. As for Lisa and Yukina, she can’t bear to face them right now. Not when she’s blatantly ignored their advice.
The isolation is all too familiar: Sayo hates the way it brings her both comfort and guilt. Comfort because maybe if she stays far enough, she won’t get hurt (though, deep down, it’s clear that this wouldn’t stop it). The guilt stems from the past. This form of isolation is reminiscent of her behavior towards Roselia in the past. A desperate and futile method of trying to protect herself is what this really should be called.
Sayo meets Lisa’s eyes on accident while trying to discreetly look around the practice room and has to immediately avert her own eyes. Unfortunately, she isn’t fast enough to miss the disappointment at the lack of eye contact. And honestly? She doesn’t blame her. It had been weeks after that conversation and what has Sayo done? Nothing. Her grip around her water bottle tightens. It’s better this way.
When their practice ends, Sayo begins to prepare her things and gets ready to leave as if nothing happened. Thankfully, this hadn’t affected her playing so the performance would be spared. Sayo does note that Lisa had actually played one of their songs without her pick, remembering that conversation from a few weeks ago. It feels like ages. It sounds great and while she was planning on mentioning it as a compliment, Sayo realizes that Lisa might not want to talk to her. And even if she did, talking to Lisa means acknowledging… whatever this is and frankly, Sayo isn’t sure her own heart can take it. If she gives herself the hope that maybe Rinko actually does like her, she’ll only end up hurt in the end. Pushing everyone away isn’t always the best thing to do but it certainly feels better than potentially letting this ruin the band. Although, that doesn’t mean it hurts any less.
Brushing these thoughts away, she tries to focus on cleaning up. Lisa and Yukina were discussing something together as always and Ako and Rinko... Sayo decides to tune them out to the best of her ability. The first few minutes pass by relatively quickly and peacefully. Until they don’t.
In the middle of adjusting the strap of her guitar bag, Sayo makes eye contact with Rinko, who just turned her keyboard off. The temptation to look away increased by the minute. The longer she stares, the more she feels like she won’t be able to look away; Sayo misses her.
Rinko smiles ever so slightly at her before looking at Ako, who makes a gesture for her to talk.
“U-Um..” Everyone’s eyes are on her and if Sayo looks closely, she can see how this makes her a little nervous. “Good job.. Everyone..”
“Aw, Rinko. Yeah! Good job at practice today.” Lisa smiles as well before looking at Sayo expectantly.
“Yes, everyone did well today.” Sayo says stiffly, clearly unsure of how to respond to the situation.
The awkward silence lingers in the air for a few moments before Ako lets out a loan groan. “Sayo-san, you dumb bitch!” As soon as those words leave the youngest’s mouth, she storms off. The angry stomping slowly becomes muffled the farther she walks.
Yukina is just staring as usual and Rinko has her head in her hands.
Lisa has her hand over her mouth. That was unexpected.
Sayo can’t help but feel offended. “That was quite rude.” What in the world did she do to make Ako that angry at her?
“Was she wrong?” Yukina asks with a raised brow. “You have been, and I quote, a dumb bitch.”
“Yukina!” Lisa says, lightly nudging her with her arm.
“What? Am I wrong?”
“Well.. No. But still! Did you have to say that?”
Sayo looks at the two of them with a confused expression on her face. “Did I do something..?”
Lisa rolls her eyes and looks over at Sayo. “I dunno. What did you do?”
Before Sayo can defend herself, Rinko suddenly bolts for the door to go after Ako.
She immediately turns her head and considers running after her. The first step is taken without thinking. However, she hesitates. Should she? Instinctively, she looks back to the couple behind her, who look at her expectantly.
“Go, run after her. It’s the one thing you know you’re good at.” Lisa makes a shoo-ing motion, half-joking.
“Whatever.” Sayo rolls her eyes and then proceeds to run after her, pushing past the door.
Running through the halls, she decides to think about the morality of it all later. Her first priority is making sure that Rinko is okay. Honestly, Sayo doesn’t really understand why she feels like she needs to run after her but the urge is too tempting to ignore. Nearly missing a turn, Sayo skids to a halt before completing the turn. Upon entering the lobby, she sees Ako and Rinko still in the lounge with drinks in their hand.
“S-Shirokane-san..? I thought you left.” Sayo says, trying her best to meet the shorter girl’s eyes
Rinko lets out a soft laugh and she almost wants to curse at the way her heart rate speeds up. “Hikawa-san.. I left my stuff in the room.”
Oh. Well that’s awkward. The embarrassment is enough to make her look away while scratching at the nape of her neck. “Is that so? I apologize for making a scene.”
“N-No. It’s okay. There’s no need to apologize. You were only concerned.”
Sayo nods, briefly glancing at the water in her hands before looking back up. “You ran out quite suddenly. I hope everything is alright.”
Rinko fidgets with the label on the water bottle. “I-I just needed to get some water, that’s all.”
“That is understandable. Hydration is an important aspect of maintaining one’s health.”
Nodding once more, Rinko doesn’t say anything. The silence that follows is deafening. Sayo’s gaze flits over to Ako, who has been uncharacteristically quiet throughout the whole conversation.
“Rinrin, who are you talking to?”
“Udagawa-san?” Sayo calls out, hoping to get a response from the youngest; she wants to know what she could have done to upset her.
If she didn’t know any better, she would think that Ako was just spacing out. However, it has become painfully clear that the drummer is ignoring her.
“A-Ako-chan.. Hikawa-san is talking to you.”
Perking up at the mention of the last name, Ako looks around.
“Hina? Where’s Hina?”
. . . Hina?
Sayo visibly staggers back at that, tensing up at the mention of her sister. Ako’s words crush any form of self-confidence she’d previously held within her and suddenly, the walls around them are too big. There are too many people staring. Her words get caught in her throat and it’s all too much to deal with right now.
Hina. Of fucking course it’s Hina.
While they were on better terms now, to be blatantly ignored and unrecognized stung in a way she didn’t know was possible. All of the insecurities from those moments suddenly flood back into her brain, the pain, the suffering. She can still feel it rising up within her. She remembers how useless she felt, how meaningless everything seemed.
It’s the same pain that she’s so desperately tried to break free from. The one that screams in her mind as she stares down at her calloused hands, knowing that all she can do is hurt over and over and over again. With every passing second, she can feel herself spiraling further and further.
Even after all of this time, nothing has changed. Sayo still isn’t good enough and it hurts. It hurts so damn bad. All the time and practice she had spent to improve her performances meant absolutely nothing. Perfection and nothing less; that’s all people want. Error is unacceptable. Where did she go wrong?
She should’ve known better. This very moment only serves as a reminder that people hurt. They come into your life and establish a connection until they get bored and leave. They always do.
Sayo’s sick of watching people pick pretty flowers out of her ribs until there’s nothing left but hollow bones, sick of letting people take her heart and shatter it to pieces like porcelain. Only fools trust people so easily. Perhaps Sayo is the fool for thinking she could let her guard down.
People like Hina are always the ones who are cared for the most.
Seeing the pain in her eyes, Ako slowly realizes the weight of her question. “..Sayo-san--”
Hearing her name being called, Sayo looks away from her hands with a bitter laugh. “I was a fool. Even after all this time.. I still cannot escape the shadow of my sister.”
Ako genuinely feels bad, taking a step forward only for Sayo to take another step back.
“I’ll be taking my leave then. It has become clear that I am not needed.” The hurt in her voice is impossible to hide as she turns around and walks off to gather her things again.
Both Ako and Rinko go after her as she walks away. Ako tries to call out to Sayo but receives no response. She doesn’t want to talk anymore.
Pushing through the doors of the room to collect her things as quickly as possible, Sayo ignores the concerned looks on Yukina and Lisa’s faces. Once her guitar bag is on her back, she’s pretty much ready to go.
Unfortunately, as soon as she’s about to start walking back to the exit, the duo come in. Ako tries to run up to her and frantically sputter out some sort of apology but Sayo is having none of it. The pain is too much for her to think rationally; she just wants to be alone.
Pushing past Ako, she shakes her head. “I’m leaving. If you need a guitarist that badly, just ask Hina since you’re so hung up on her.”
And with that, Sayo leaves. Completely ignoring the confusion and chaos erupting from her sudden departure, she keeps walking and doesn’t dare to look back; she has to keep her head held high until she’s out of sight. Nobody should be able to see her so vulnerable and hurt. Passing through the lobby, the people and things seem to blur into nothing.
As soon as she’s out on the sidewalks again, the pain comes back. Putting on a brave face until she was out of sight was exhausting. There were people outside but the house wasn’t far and she didn’t care anymore. The ache in her bones was too much to bear. Taking a deep breath, she tries to force herself to numb the pain down enough to be able to reach their shared home. Things would get more complicated from here on out.
She can’t let more people in.
She can’t afford to let her guard down, not anymore.
As soon as she arrives home, Sayo immediately heads for her room. She doesn’t want to see anybody. The fact that those words came from Ako caused a different kind of pain to hit her. It felt like a heap of bricks had been placed on her shoulders.
Laying on her bed, Sayo stares at the ceiling. Those words remind her of the mistakes littered all over her skin like ink bleeding into white paper. She should’ve worked harder, should’ve fixed her relationship with Hina sooner.
She so desperately wants to ask Rinko if people can really change, wants to ask if it’s possible for her to continue to stay like this with the rest of Roselia if she isn’t worth it. Her right hand reaches out to the ceiling before falling down to her side. Hina has always been better than her. How did she ever think that things could be different.
Sayo suddenly remembers a conversation she had with Lisa all those years ago. The thought makes her release another dejected laugh. Healing takes time, Lisa had said. But she was wrong. Her healing needed more than just time and she’s nowhere near being done.
She’s tired, tired of having her heart shattered over and over again. There are only so many times she can pick up the pieces before it all feels meaningless. The tears prick her eyes and she has to bite back the urge to let out a sob. Love is for idiots.
And Sayo’s the biggest one of them all.
After Sayo left the practice room, an uncomfortable silence had filled the air. What the fuck had just happened?
Facing Ako and Rinko, Lisa hopes she can find some sort of explanation for why Sayo was so upset. It’s unlike her to lose her composure and it’s even more unlike her to allow it to affect the band. Although, with the way she was talking, Lisa has a couple guesses about what happened.
Ako helplessly looks to Rinko, who normally would comfort her. However, the look on the said girl’s face was anything but comforting.
“Rinrin… what should A--”
“Ako… how could you say that?” Her tone is unwavering and full of restrained anger. The lack of honorifics is another surprise. “You know how Sayo feels when people bring up Hina, especially in that context.”
“Ako didn’t mean to. Ako was just tired of seeing you hurt so much..” The youngest appears to shrink into herself as she mumbles. Rinko raising her voice is new and for the first time, she genuinely looks scared of her. And rightfully so, anybody with eyes could tell that she was upset.
Rinko’s fists are balled, trembling as she shakes her head. “Y-You still shouldn’t have said that. Words.. mean a lot. You, of all people, should know that.”
Not wanting things to escalate more than they already had, Yukina steps forward and clears her throat. “It is clear that there are a number of things that must be discussed. But for now, we need to gather our things and leave the room. There are other people waiting to use this space.” Nobody fights back against her words. Soon enough, everyone is packed and ready to leave.
As soon as they start walking home, Lisa can’t help but look towards both Rinko and Ako, who walk apart from each other. Remembering the pained look on Sayo’s face, she has to suppress a sigh. How did things get this bad?
It seemed like Rinko didn’t have much energy left to talk, which is understandable. Lisa had never heard her raise her voice in such a way. Ako, on the other hand, has remained quiet. Although, it’s quite clear that she feels terrible.
When they arrive home, the tense atmosphere doesn’t go away. Both Ako and Rinko leave to go to their respective rooms and Lisa just slumps onto the couch. She wants to fix this. But how can she fix this?
The last time Roselia had a fight this bad was in the very beginning when they were first starting. Sure, they’ve all had their ups and downs but nothing quite like this has happened before.
Yukina sits down next to her and takes hold of one of her hands. Leaning into her girlfriend’s side, Lisa finally releases the breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding.
“How are we going to fix this?”
The vocalist doesn’t respond right away, choosing to smooth a thumb over the back of her hand. “I’m not sure, to be frank. But this is something the three of them need to sort out.”
“I know. I just wish things didn’t have to get like this,” Lisa sighs before continuing quietly, “I wish I knew what to do.”
“Like I said, this is something the three of them need to figure out by themselves,” Yukina places both hands on top of hers, making the bassist look towards her. “You don’t have to know how to fix everything. You are only one person.”
Her girlfriend’s words are comforting and Lisa gives in to the urge to wrap her arms around her. “How do you always know what to say?”
“I learned from the best.” Yukina smiles fondly. It’s a look that Lisa finds herself falling more and more in love with.
Instead of responding, she buries herself into her side even more, allowing herself to relax. Things may not be okay right now but she knows that eventually, they will be.
They’ll be okay.
Nobody bothers Sayo after that, not that she would let them. Ever since her argument with Ako during practice, she has decided to avoid everyone, which included not going to practice with the others. If she had attended practice, she wouldn’t be able to look anyone in the eyes. The hurt hadn’t gone away yet and honestly, she doubts it will any time soon.
While classes had provided her with enough of a distraction to get through most of the day, Sayo is painfully reminded of the previous events when she spots Rinko walking out of her last class as well. The shorter girl makes eye contact with her and the guilt instantly washes over Sayo when she sees the concern in her eyes. She can see that Rinko wants to say something. Tearing her gaze away, she turns her back and starts walking.
She knows that if she doesn’t leave now, the latter will somehow convince her to talk; Shirokane Rinko has always managed to evoke a softer side from her. Sayo tries to ignore the dull ache in her chest as the distance between them increases. She’s stronger than this.
On a normal occasion, if she saw one of her bandmates after classes, she would suggest walking home together. But it’s been a week since the incident and she hasn’t seen much of her friends since then. Her phone buzzes in her back pocket with notifications most likely from Lisa. She can look at them later.
The keys in her hand jingle as she opens the front door. Stepping inside their shared home, she’s greeted with nothing but silence. Nobody’s home yet. Sayo wastes no time in hastily heading for her room. Even if she’s alone for the time being, the others would be here soon.
The door in her room locks behind her with a click and she finally releases a breath. No one should have to see her so… vulnerable. Instead of doing work, Sayo plops down on the floor, leaning her back against the bed. Work can wait.
Her gaze flickers over to her guitar next to the desk and the guilt she tried to ignore only resurfaces. Of course, she practiced on her own despite her absences from the group practices to maintain her skill but... Ako said it herself. Sayo knows it’s childish to be so uncharacteristically affected by something so unintentional but it doesn’t erase the hurt. She thought she was over this.
And Rinko… she knows now that the more she tries to run away from her feelings, the worse it will get. Nothing good comes from placing distance between the people you care about. But she’s scared. She’s scared shitless by the thought of being vulnerable and open up again, scared that maybe Rinko will reject her and only prove her right.
If Sayo admits she’s in love with her, that means she’ll have to admit that her walls have long crumbled since she met the rest of Roselia. Running won’t work anymore: she’s cornered. But there’s no way that she can say she isn’t in love with the pianist. These feelings can’t be so easily dismissed no matter how much she tries to keep everyone at bay.
She can’t deny her feelings anymore. She could lie and say she didn’t imagine what it would be like to hold her hand or go on dates or think about what it would be like to kiss her.
No matter how much she lies to herself, she can never fully escape the reality: Sayo’s in love with her.
God, she’s in love with her and she can’t even bring herself to say it to her face. Not when all she knows how to do is hurt other people.
A knock on the door pulls Sayo out of her thoughts. The others are already home. Just as she’s about to mumble some sort of rejection to practice or come out, something wet falls down onto her hand.
What? When did she start crying?
Sayo’s eyes widen at this and she’s quick to wipe her face with the sleeves of her sweater.
“Um, Sayo? I know you’re in there.” Lisa.
“Imai-san. I’m not co--”
“I know.” Lisa cuts her off before she can continue. “I just.. wanted to let you know that there’s food in the fridge if you ever get hungry.”
There’s a short silence that fills the air and with each passing second, she shrinks into herself.
“We’re heading out so… bye, Sayo.”
Sayo can picture Lisa’s worried face and it makes her feel even worse. In times like this, Lisa is still kind to her. She doesn’t deserve it.
As soon as it feels like the other members have departed from the house, she finally takes a step out of her room. The easiest way to tell that the house was empty is when the loud noises from downstairs fade away and you can hear the sound of the door opening and closing. Besides, Lisa did say there was food.
Padding down the staircase, Sayo reaches the kitchen quickly. And true to her word, there was a plate with a few sandwiches covered with plastic wrap and a sticky note with her name on to. Judging by the handwriting, this was definitely Lisa. She should make sure to thank her later.
The sandwiches are very simple but still delicious. They appear to be carefully made, consisting of chicken, lettuce, and tomatoes. Lisa’s food has never disappointed and these sandwiches are no exception. Sayo lets out a satisfied hum as she finishes the first one. With the absence of the other members, she had time to at least appreciate the food without worrying. At least, that’s what she thought.
The sound of someone clearing their throat immediately causes her to tense up. Slowly lifting her head in the direction of the entrance of the kitchen, Sayo sees Rinko looking at her and she freezes like a deer caught in headlights. Didn’t everyone leave for practice?
“Hikawa-san.. May I talk to you for a little bit while the others are still out?”
“I suppose that’s alright,” She mumbles, unable to maintain eye contact. Sayo is quick to follow up with a, “Though, I’m not sure why speaking to me would be necessary.”
Rinko makes her way to the table and carefully grips the chair across to pull it out before sitting across from her. Sayo makes sure to offer her some of the food by pushing the plate of sandwiches in her direction. The latter seems to eye the sandwiches before deciding against it. The silence between them is deafening.
In all honesty, she isn’t quite sure she can face the girl in front of her. Not when she had to witness her in such a pathetic state. Instead of initiating the conversation, Sayo keeps uncharacteristically mum. The crumbs from the food left on the table suddenly look very appealing. However, she can feel eyes drilling holes into her and she could feel Rinko looking at her expectantly, as if she was waiting for her to say something. But what was there left to say? Hell, she can’t even find the courage to keep eye contact. What more could she do at this point?
“Hikawa-san.. Don’t tell me you’ve.. given up..” Rinko finally says, pushing the plate to the side to try and get a better look at her. “It’s unlike you..”
Sayo sighs at that, curling her hand into a fist. “It isn’t as if I can change anything anymore. Not after… that.”
Rinko seems to notice this and slowly reaches a hand out to ghost over hers before placing it on top. Sayo visibly flinches at this, despite being aware of what was to come.
“I-I know that Ako said some really uncalled for things but… you can’t let it get to you. She.. didn’t mean it.. And I hate seeing you look so defeated..”
“Hikawa-san.. please look at me.” There’s a certain kind of determination in Rinko’s voice and she would feel bad if she couldn’t at least do this one thing after all the trouble she’s caused. And so, Sayo looks.
She looks and sees the same sincerity and concern she’s learned to fall in love with over the years.
“You are so much more than just your sister’s shadow.” Rinko says softly, “You.. always have been.” Both hands move to cover her shaking ones and Sayo can’t help the way her eyes begin to water.
“I’ve.. been so worried about you, Hikawa-san.”
Don’t say that. Please don’t.
“Y-You’ve always been so hardworking and determined… It’s something I admire about you.”
The pain in her chest has become too much to ignore. Why must she always disappoint the people she cares about?
Rinko’s words squeeze at her heart and it’s too much. It’s all too much again. Sayo releases a shaky breath as she tries to keep her voice steady. “All I’ve done is mess up and you.. you still think it’s your fault. Shirokane-san.. You are far too kind to me. I don’t.. I don’t deserve it.”
“H-Hikawa-san.. Of course you deserve it.” Rinko’s grip tightens, “You deserve so much more than what has already been given to you.”
“No, you deserve much more. Someone like you shouldn’t have to deal with this sort of thing. I.. care about you.” The words get lodged in her throat before she can reveal too much. “I’m sorry.”
“Then.. why did you avoid me?” Something about the desperation and hurt in Rinko’s voice makes something in Sayo snap. There’s use in trying to stop the tears from falling. Bottling up one’s emotions does more harm than it does good.
She hurt her. Sayo should’ve known better than to be so selfish. All this time, she had been thinking about herself and her own feelings. The words come rushing out of her before she can stop herself.
“Because I’m in love with you!” She suddenly blurts. The confession is sudden and unexpected, even for Sayo herself.
When she sees the way the latter’s eyes widen, she jerks away from her grip and quickly tries to stand. “I’m in love with you but it’s clear that the feelings aren’t mutual.”
Rinko’s stunned silence speaks volumes to Sayo and she has to bite back the urge to sob.
“I’m sorry, Shirokane-san. I really am.” Sayo wipes the tears on her face with the sleeves of her sweater, trying to recover from her emotional outburst. “You are free to forget about this in its entirety. I hope that our current relationship and the rest of Roselia are as unaffected as possible.”
Just when Sayo thought it couldn’t have hurt any more than it already had, Rinko practically shoots up from her seat when she tries to leave.
When she doesn’t answer and continues to try and walk off, Rinko manages to catch her wrist and tug her back.
“Sayo, please .”
She freezes at the use of her first name, slowly turning around to face the shorter girl. She’s expecting a rejection, an apology, anything that would give her some sort of closure. There’s no way that a girl like Rinko could ever like her back.
“Shirokane-san, I already know what you’re going to say. I know you do--”
The next words never make it out. Suddenly, she’s being yanked forward and a pair of soft lips are against hers. The contact is short but sweet and chaste enough to make Sayo’s brain go haywire.
“I-I’m sorry. I got ahead of myself. I shouldn’t ha--” Rinko had moved away to speak but Sayo only pulls her back in. Their lips press again and her actions bring out a surprised squeak from Rinko, who eventually closes her eyes after wrapping her arms around Sayo’s neck.
Her hands settle gently on her waist as she finds herself slowly pouring more emotion into her movements. Their kiss is pleasant and a bit shy due to a bit of hesitation but Sayo wouldn’t have it any other way. The feeling that swells in her chest is warm and comforting; she doesn’t mind getting addicted to it. Her heart pounds and for once, it doesn’t hurt.
Their foreheads still press together as they break apart for air, light blush dusting their cheeks.
“Hikawa-san..” Rinko starts again, trying to recollect her thoughts. “I’m sorry for putting you through all that when.. you didn’t need to..”
“Shirokane-san..” Sayo tries to interject, ready to refute the apology because really, she doesn’t think it’s necessary.
However, Rinko only shakes her head at this and continues speaking. “I’ve loved you for a long time now. I’m so sorry it took me this long to say it outright. I.. put you through so much and I-I’m the one who doesn’t deserve you.”
Sayo lets out a soft chuckle at that, wiping the tears that had formed in Rinko’s eyes with her thumbs. “You say that but.. You know I feel the same way. What matters now is that we have each other. And personally, I think that’s all we need.”
“You’re right…” Rinko smiles softly at that only to giggle when Sayo peppers a few kisses onto her face. “H-Hikawa-san!”
The sound is music to her ears and Sayo wishes she could listen to it over and over again. “My apologies,” She chuckles, “The temptation was irresistible.”
Rinko reaches up to cradle Sayo’s face in her hands, looking at her with a tenderness that makes her practically melt on the spot. Rinko’s hands are impossibly soft and she leans into the touch, reddening when she tiptoes to press her lips against her forehead.
“Do you want to… take another nap in my room? I.. know you’re probably still tired.” Rinko asks, flushing adorably red at her own suggestion.
Sayo grins at this. The dull ache in her chest disappeared only to be replaced by warmth. “As long as we can do that together.”
And when they finally lay down in Rinko’s bed, the pianist nestles herself into her side and tucks her face into the crook of her neck once more. Sayo stares at the sight for a moment: no label could ever fully describe the overwhelming feelings she has for the girl resting in her arms. She wouldn’t trade this moment for anything else in the world.
. . .
It was hard to tell if this would work, given how awkward it is as both Sayo and Ako sit across from each other.
Rinko looks at both of them with concern. Nothing was happening. “U-Um.. I’ll leave you two to talk things out..” Sayo watches as she walks out, leaving both the guitarist and drummer alone for the first time in about a week. Honestly, she’s still a bit embarrassed about the way she handled the argument but this conversation was long overdue.
Surprisingly, Ako is the first to speak up. “Sayo-san… Ako’s really sorry about what she said. Rinrin looked so hurt all the time and Ako got angry without thinking…”
“It’s alright, Udagawa-san. I also overreacted quite a bit… I should have taken more care to be mature and talked with you instead of running away. I’m sorry.”
Hearing her words, Ako lets out a loud cheer, “Ako thinks we can call it even now. Besides, Ako wants to talk to you about something else too.”
The youngest suddenly gets up and moves over to Sayo’s side. “If you hurt Rinrin, Ako will call upon the demons of darkness and… and.. Smite you for being a meanie!” The threat is far from intimidating but still endearing nonetheless.
“There is no need for that. I have no intentions of hurting Shirokane-san.”
Ako lets out a satisfied huff at her response. Her smile does, however, falter when she looks back at her again.
“Sayo-san.. We’re okay now, right? No more fighting?”
Sayo lets the corners of her lips curve up into a smile as she nods. “Yes, Udagawa-san. We’re okay now.”
“Yay!” Ako takes this opportunity to wrap her arms around Sayo for a big hug. The contact startles her but it isn’t unwelcome. Initially, she didn’t quite enjoy such displays of affection, simply because she felt awkward (excluding Rinko, of course). However, she supposes she can make an exception for Ako this time. It still feels a bit stiff and foreign but Sayo eventually manages to hug her back.
Hearing the commotion, the rest of the members flock to the kitchen. Both Lisa and Rinko look quite happy to see them getting along again. And while Yukina’s face appears blank, Sayo knows she’s happy too. Everyone is quick to start talking again and the kitchen buzzes with life once more.
Lisa says something about making cookies and other sweets for a celebration and the noise only amplifies. On most occasions, Sayo would help with the cooking. However, after looking from her seat, she can see that Lisa’s already at work with Ako and surprisingly, Yukina (The last time they let their leader try to cook something on her own…. She’s only really allowed to help with other people around now).
Ako and Lisa seem to share a look before teaming up to get a bit of flour onto Yukina, who simply closes her eyes when the ingredient hits her face.
“Lisa… this was your idea wasn’t it?” Yukina asks, unwilling to open her eyes.
“Ah, don’t be such a downer, Yukinya~.”
“Lisa. I can’t open my eyes.”
Lisa’s smile only widens as she moves closer to her girlfriend to wipe the flour off with her thumbs. Ako had continued playing with the flour, spouting more of her entertaining nonsense.
Sayo watches the sight of her friends with a small, but fond smile. It feels good to be back to the natural swing of things. Had it not been for Roselia, Sayo is quite sure that her life would have been much less eventful.
“H-Hikawa-san..” Sayo turns to look at Rinko, who had moved a chair over to sit next to her. “I’m.. glad you and Ako are getting along again.”
“I feel the same way. Although.. I believe it wouldn’t have happened so soon if not for you making us speak to each other again today. If I were to be completely honest, there is a possibility that I would have waited.”
Rinko blushes a little at that, “It.. was no problem, really. Again, all I wanted was to make sure the misunderstanding was sorted..”
Neither of them speak after that, keeping their gazes locked on their friends, who were still bickering in front of them. Sayo can feel Rinko’s hand next to hers. Should she…? Yes, she should.
In order to not surprise the girl next to her, Sayo slowly reaches out with her pinky finger to brush over her skin and makes sure to keep her gaze on anything but her. Unfortunately, she’s unable to stop the way her cheeks flare up at the contact. Rinko seems to notice her attempts and turns equally as red. Her heart hammers against her chest in anticipation. Although, no amount of mental preparation could prepare her for this.
Rinko’s hand suddenly grasps onto hers, interlocking their fingers. If Sayo hadn’t been listening carefully, she would have missed the soft squeak that came with the sudden action. Thankfully, she knew better than to assume she was dying.
Mustering up the courage to look over, Sayo can see how Rinko slowly does the same, smiling shyly at her once more. They had decided to take things one step at a time since neither of them were very experienced in this sort of thing.
It feels like a dream to be able to do this: to be able to sit and start becoming more openly affectionate with someone she feels so strongly for. Affection, once again, is not her strongest suit. Matters such as love cannot be as easily calculated as the math problems she solves for her classes. Some part of Sayo still thinks that maybe she doesn’t deserve it or maybe this will all end badly. However, when she sees the look in Rinko’s eyes, Sayo knows that this is more than worth it. If being with her meant that there was a chance that she would get hurt, it was worth the gamble.
Sayo has never been good at romance but for Rinko, she’s more than willing to give it her best shot.