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Arisa's VERY 'Not Bad' Love Life

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The Tsurumaki Estate was once again decorated from one end of Kororo’s family’s oversized lawn to the other. Streamers, balloons, flags with various bands names or symbol and all manner of things packed together to create a truly bustling, party-like tone. Yukina thought it was a bit much.

Her eyes scanned the colourful patterns, following the decorations that hang over her head and gently flapped in the wind, “Is all of this necessary?” Yukina sighed, “I believed we were just gathering for what would be a relatively short discussion.”

“Aw, come on, Yukina!” Kokoro called as she came skipping by, “It’s always a celebration when so many friends get the chance to get together, so we gotta decorate to match the feeling, ya know?”

“I can agree it is pleasant to see everyone all in one place again…” Yukina nodded along, “But still… I hope I don’t regret giving Roselia’s time for this experiment…”

“Minato-san,” Sayo cut in, “You still didn’t explain exactly why Roselia is to participate in this… ‘Band Swap’ event.”

“’Cause it’ll be cool and fun!” Ako cheered.

Sayo chuckled a little under her breath, “If that were her reasoning, I would have to question what happened to Minato’s mind to cause such degradation.”

“My reasoning is simple…” Yukina began, “Remember some time ago when I, along with Yamato-san, Hazawa-san, Toyama-san and Ushigome-san, performed Marina-san’s old song together? Well when Tsurumaki-san came to me with this idea of hers, I reflected on that experience, it was rather enlightening to see music from someone else’s perspective like I did that day. So I concluded if all of Roselia could use this as an opportunity to experience something similar, it is something we should not let pass us by.”

“I suppose I can understand your reasoning,” Sayo agreed. She turned to Kokoro who had begun to skip away, “Tsurumaki-san, shall we begin this event then?”

“We can real soon,” Kokoro called back, “Just gotta wait for Kasumi and Arisa to arrive, then that’ll be everyone and we can start drawing lots!”

“Well that’s all well and good, but…” Lisa’s cat-like grin crept up her face, “I bet there’s a special someone in particular you wanna be matched up with. Isn’t that right, Yukina?”

“I have no idea what you are trying to imply, Lisa” Yukina shook her head, “However, if you are simply trying to ask if there’s someone I believe would make a good match up…” Yukina pretended to think for a moment even though the answer was already in her head, “…I suppose Hazawa-san, despite the fact I have already performed with her, would be ideal.”

“Hazawa-san?” Sayo raised an eyebrow in curiosity.

“Oh… is that so?” Lisa’s eyes quickly flicked to something behind Yukina then returned to lock onto Yukina’s eyes unusually fiercely. Yukina wondering if Lisa was hiding something but didn’t have time to ask as Lisa continued to talk, “Why her exactly? If you don’t mind me asking.”

“Well for starters, she has an impeccable work ethic…” Sayo gave Yukina a sharp nod as if to confirm her statement for the others, “Couple that with the fact she is a skilled musician then I’d say she is already a worthy candidate, however I would also add that is easy to talk to and particularly good at supporting a team of people, something that could prove useful for a temporary band. Lastly when I previously discussed music with her, though she may not have my knowledge of music, her view was… intriguing… so I would also like to talk to her more. I believe she has a lot more interesting points to make then even she realizes…”

Yukina heard a quick, small squeak from behind her. Lisa had to stifle a laugh and signalled to Yukina to turn around. She was unsure what had suddenly got into Lisa, but hoped whatever was behind would give some context.

When Yukina did finally turn around she came face to face with a very shy looking and deeply blushing Hazawa Tsugumi. “H-Hello, Minato-senpai…”

“Ah, Hazawa-san, good to see you,” Yukina kept her cool, stoic demeanour though the slight red tinge on her cheeks gave away her embarrassment.

Tomoe, who appeared next to Tsugumi along with Moca, let out a big belly laugh. A smug grin was plastered on Moca’s face, “Geez, Tsugu, we just came over to say hey, not pick up girls~” This caused Tsugumi and Yukina’s blush to deepen.

“You can always do both,” Lisa teased with a wink, “Us Roselia girls must have a weakness for Afterglow babes.”

Yukina crossed her arms and huffed, sending Lisa a glare, “I don’t much care for the path this conversation is taking.”

Tomoe scratch at the back of her head, “Plus, it’s not like I got something going on with a Roselia member like Lisa and Moca…”

Sayo suddenly re-joined the conversation as if on cue, “Oh, hello you three, nice to see you all here,” While her comment was directed to all three Afterglow members, Sayo’s eyes and small smile seemed temporarily transfixed on Tomoe.

Lisa sent Moca a knowing smile, “Yep, nothing going on there…”

The girl’s conversation was cut short by a loud shout that rang out across the field, “Kasumi! Stop pulling me!”

The girls all shared a small laugh, knowing that this shout indicated the last of their friends had arrived. “Come on, Arisa, if we don’t hurry we’ll be late!”

Arisa and Kasumi had now come into view of the others, Kasumi was quickly making her way towards the ‘party’ grounds dragging Arisa behind her, “The only reason we’re late is because you were screwing around instead of getting ready. Thank god Asuka-san was there to give you a kick in the butt.”

“Took your time, Toyama-san?” Yukina glared disapprovingly when the two girls got closer.

“Hehehe, sorry,” Kasumi giggled embarrassingly, “I just kinda got so excited for this and lost track of time talking about it…”

“Oooh, looks like everyone’s here!” Kokoro could be heard close by; she began tugging on her nearby friend’s sleeve, “Misaki Misaki! We can start now!”

“Alright alright, calm down,” Misaki batted Kokoro away, “I’ll go set things up, you get everyone’s attention and start explaining the rules, ok?”

Kokoro gave a determined salute, and sprinted off to take her spot on a large, nearby stage. One of Kokoro’s suit people came up, gave Kokoro a microphone, then disappeared as quickly as they arrived. She tapped the microphone a few times, hearing the sound resonating from some nearby speakers, Kokoro was ready to address the crowd.

“Good morning everyone!” Kokoro called out to her friends, “Is everyone having a good time so far?”

Misaki groaned from behind Kokoro; she dragged five boxes across the stage, placing them atop a long table sitting at the back of the stage, “Kokoro, people have been waiting long enough, just get on with it.”

“Gotcha,” Kokoro nodded to Misaki then turned back to the crowd, “Alright, I think everyone here has some idea what we’re doing but I’ll explain it all just in case. So all bands here have agreed to meet up for what we’re calling a ‘band shuffle’ where we mix up our members and make new temporary bands to make new fun songs. It’ll be a super great bonding experience, so make sure to spend time with whoever’s in your band you don’t normally see and maybe you might learn a thing or two along the way, mkay?”

The crowd began murmuring amongst themselves about who they would like to perform with, some enthusiastically smiling to one another while others sent shy glances then quickly looked away from the ones they desired.

Kokoro continued, “To start things off, me and Misaki are gonna draw a name from each of these boxes here, and that’ll make up the bands, but remember, no more than two members from the same old bands, cause otherwise we won’t be mixed up enough.”

“Alright, Kokoro, they’re all in place,” Misaki gave Kokoro a thumbs up, “Let’s get to it.”

“Thanks, Misaki, I’ll start from this end.” Kokoro skipped over to the box on the very right and pulled out a small slip of paper, “The first band will start with… Hazawa Tsugumi!”

“M-me? I’m the first name,” Tsugumi stammered, “Um ok, whoever’s with me… I’ll try not fall too far behind!”

Yukina shook her head, “You don’t give yourself enough credit, Hazawa-san.” Tsugumi and Yukina’s eyes met, her earlier comments came rushing back to their heads and they blushed and quickly looked away.

Kokoro stepped over to the other boxes and began pulling out names, “With Tsugumi there’ll be… Maruyama Aya, Aoba Moca, Imai Lisa and… ooh it’s Kanon!”

The four girls mentioned made their way over to Tsugumi, gathering close together.

“Yay, what a fun group!” Aya cheered.

“Everyone here’s very friendly… thank goodness,” Kanon sighed in relief.

“Oh yeah, I’m gonna get a lot of cookies and make-out time out of this,” Moca licked her lips hungrily.

“Come on, Moca, don’t be silly. We write the song first, then we make-out, try not to mix that up!” Lisa rolled her eyes playfully.

Kokoro nodded approvingly, “Seem like we’ve already made one real good band, I can’t wait to see who’s next!”

Yukina was clearly annoyed by the group formation, she muttered under her breath, “Dammit,” hoping no one would hear her. Yukina snapped back to attention when she heard her name called, apparently Kokoro had started with the singer this time and pulled her name.

“…And joining Yukina will be…” Kokoro looked over the paper slips in her hands, “Seta Kaoru, Shirasagi Chisato, Yamabuki Saaya and Shirokane Rinko!”

“Wow, that’s a lot of talent I’m with… I better get serious!” Saaya harden her face with a determined look and pumped her fist.

“Wait, me and… Kaoru,” Chisato’s eyes widen, “Oh dear go-”

“AH! Truly fate has shined upon us this day that we may be joined together as one, wouldn’t you agree, my little kitten?” Kaoru wrapped her arms around a now very distressed Chisato; Rimi and Himari looked on jealously.

Rinko tugged on Yukina’s sleeve, “Um, Yukina-san, I know I wasn’t who you were hoping to be paired with but-”

Yukina cut Rinko off by placing a hand on her shoulder, “Rinko, while I admit I had some… personal interests… there is still no keyboard player I would trust more to back me then you.” The friends shared a smile as the other members of their new band joined up with them.

Kokoro began hopping up and down on stage, “This is so exciting! I wanna be next, I wanna be next!”

Misaki pulled her back over to the boxes, “That’s not how it works, Kokoro. Just keep going and we’ll get to you soon enough.”

“Sorry, I just really wanna know who I’ll be playing with!” Kokoro squealed, “Alright let’s see, next is… Ichigaya Arisa!”

“Me huh?” Arisa folded her arms, “Ok, plenty of normal people still left thankfully…”

“With her there’ll be…” Kokoro reached in to pull out the next name, Arisa would swear Kokoro was taking longer this time just to drive her crazy, “…Udagawa Ako!”

“Yay!” Ako yelled from the other side of the crowd; she sprinted over, not waiting for any more names to be pulled before finding Arisa. Ako gazed up at her with a huge grin, “It’s so cool that we actually get to play together, don’t ya think, Arisa?”

Arisa was a little apprehensive when she first heard Ako’s name called, but seeing the short girl before her, eyes shining with joy just by the fact that the two of them would be performing together, Arisa couldn’t help but smile back.

Ako’s not so bad, she might be a little excitable, but I’m used to dealing with a certain someone like that anyway. Plus Ako’s from Roselia, they’re all about technique and determination; we might actually be able to make something good if our other members are half decent.

“Yeah, ok. I’m sure it’ll be fine…” Arisa still held back on her thoughts though, not wanting to sound too enthusiastic and making sure the drummer didn’t get even more excited.

Kokoro read out the next name, “Kitazawa Hagumi!”

Hagumi immediately tackled Arisa and Ako, sending them all tumbling to the ground, “Aa-chan! Ako-chin! This is so great!” Hagumi wrapped an arm around each of them and pulled them into a tight hug. Ako readily returned it while Arisa squirmed under Hagumi’s hold.

“Kitazawa-san, get off!” Arisa yelled; finding that Hagumi had more strength in her one arm than Arisa had in her whole, Arisa decided there was no point in resisting. She quickly rapped an arm around Hagumi, giving her a small squeeze in return as Arisa felt a hot blush creeping up her embarrassed cheeks, “There you got your hug, now can you please get up?”

“Sure thing, Aa-chan!” Hagumi nuzzled against Arisa’s cheek making her even more embarrassed. Arisa could hear a few people nearby giggling at her predicament, she would make sure to get back at all of them later, “Just give me one sec and Hagumi will help you up too.”

Kokoro seeing the amusing scene rapping up decided to announce the next name, “Hikawa Hina!”

Hina rushed over before Hagumi had a chance to properly get up and flopped down on top of the girls, “This is so boppin you guys! Like, I can’t imagine a better band! Unless Sis could somehow join too, but other than that this is the best!”

Ako and Hagumi enjoyed Hina’s antics, laughing along with the new member of their pile. Arisa, on the other hand, had had enough, “Ok seriously can someone help me! One more person and I’m gonna be completely flattened.”

Sayo looked over to Tomoe with a small smile, “Tomoe-san, we should probably do something about our sisters, shouldn’t we?”

“Yeah probably,” Tomoe flung an arm around Sayo, eliciting a blush from the older girl, “You and me together? With our big sis powers combined we’ll have it cleaned up in no time!”

“Yes, you and me… together…” Sayo mumbled to herself.

“Wow you ok, Sayo-san? You’re getting all red,” Tomoe asked, suddenly more concerned for Sayo than the still calling for help Arisa pancake.

This distraction, unfortunately for Arisa, was long enough for Kokoro to check the last name. Her eyes sparkled brightly as she read it out, “Tsurumaki Kokoro? That’s me, that’s me!”

Misaki eyes widen as she realised what was going to happen next, “N-n, Kokoro, don’t! Ichigaya-san won’t survive!”

But Misaki’s plea fell on deaf ears as Kokoro ran forward and leapt off the stage, “Weeee!” She yelled as she flew through the air. Arisa let out one last scream as Kokoro came crashing down on top of the pile.

 

 

Kokoro, Hagumi, Ako and Hina had been dragged off to the side of the crowd; the four were sat down on the ground, their heads hung low in shame as Sayo and Tomoe loomed over them. Misaki had also started coming over to help tell the dummies off but Sayo insisted she continue on with the rest of the band formations without them as she didn’t anymore of the other girls’ time wasted by Hina and the other’s foolishness. Arisa came along with Tomoe and Sayo but stood a few steps off, needing some time to catch her breath.

“I really can’t believe you girls!” Tomoe barked causing the four grounded girls to flinch.

Sayo shook her head, “I know you were all excited, but that was definitely too much, and I expect better behaviour from you, Udagawa-san.”

Ako’s head shot up, “But I didn’t even-”

Tomoe and Sayo’s combined glares brought Ako to a halt; she lowered her eyes back to the ground.

Tomoe turned to Arisa, her gaze softening in concern, “Hey, you ok?”

Arisa folded her arms pensively and nodded, “Yeah, I’m ok now. Though I should probably ask Okusawa-san if it’s ok for me to swap bands…”

All four girls quickly looked up and shared a concerned glance; Ako got off the ground and tried to run to Arisa but was grabbed by Tomoe, “Where do you think you’re going?”

Ako ignored her and called out to Arisa, “Wait, Arisa, you’re not really gonna leave, are you?”

Arisa sighed, “Sorry, I just don’t think this would really work ou-”

Kokoro shot up next, “But, Arisa, it won’t be as much fun without you!”

“I-I’m sure you four will have plenty of fun on your own…” Arisa stammered, “Besides, you’ll probably have even more fun with Eve or Okusawa-san…”

Now it was Hagumi’s turn to speak up, “No no no no no!” she shook her head vigorously, “Eve-chin and Mii-kun are super cool, but Hagumi wants to be Aa-chan!”

Arisa blushed, not used to getting so much personal attention from several people at once, “I-I mean that’s nice but-”

Hina joined the others on their feet, “Come on, Arisa-chan, we need you or we won’t be nearly as boppin!”

Arisa wasn’t even sure how to respond to that, now just reduced to a blubbering mess. Suddenly the four pleading girls used their combined strength to push through Sayo and Tomoe’s hold and rushed over to Arisa. She closed her eyes and braced herself to be tackled to the ground once again, but was surprised to instead feel four pairs of hands gently grasp her own.

Arisa opened her eyes finding four pairs shining back at her; they all leaned forward, drawing close to her, “Please!?” They all begged in unison with identical pouts.

Arisa looked between each girl in front of her, she suddenly realized just how beautiful these girls were, all of their stunning features much more prevalent with them all so focused on just her, though she found herself more drawn to how saddened they all seemed.

What is with all these girls? Why do they want me with them so badly!? And… and why can’t I tear myself away. They’re crazy, they’re loud, they’re… they’re… kinda sweet and nice and maybe a little fun… maybe… dammit, this isn’t fair! I can’t possibly say no, can I!?

Sayo and Tomoe came up behind them, “Apologies, Ichigaya-san, we’ll get them off of you and you can get going.”

“Um, no it’s fine…” Arisa quickly replied.

“Are you sure?” Tomoe asked unconvinced.

“Yeah really,” Arisa reassured her, “You two get back and find out who you’re with… I’ve already got my band.”

“Yay!” Kokoro, Hagumi, Ako and Hina yelled, they surrounded Arisa in a group hug, making sure to be much more gently this time.

Tomoe and Sayo shared a look, shrugged, and went off to re-join the crowd.

Arisa crossed her arms firmly in the centre of the hug, “Ok everyone, here’s some ground rules…” the others still clung to Arisa’s waist but looked up attentively, “You can have some fun during this but you have to take it seriously. That means everyone turns up for practice on time once the song’s ready and really gives it their full attention!”

“You got it, Arisa,” Ako piped up, “I’ll act as if Yukina herself was telling me what to do… cause I guess she kinda did when she said this was an opportunity to take seriously earlier…”

“Yeah!” Hina agreed, “And don’t worry, Arisa-chan, I’ll be able to instantly learn whatever you write anyway.”

Arisa’s eyes widened, “Wait, I’m writing the song!?”

“Oh, I can take care of that, Arisa!” Kokoro called in a singsong voice, “I write all of Hello, Happy World’s songs anyway!”

“But, Kokoron, don’t you always write those with Mii-kun?” Hagumi asked.

Kokoro thought for a moment, “I guess me and Arisa could write it together then!”

“I-I guess that’d be fine…” Arisa agreed begrudgingly.

“And then afterwards, since Kokoro-chan and Misaki-chan said a big part of this was making new close friends, that means the five of us can hang out together a whole bunch!” Hina cheered.

“Yay!” The four yelled together once again.

Please don’t let this be a mistake…

Chapter Text

“There you two are!” Ran called out. “We were waiting for you.” Tomoe and Sayo joined up with the crowd, noting Misaki was no longer on stage meaning the remaining two bands had likely been made.

“Yo, Ran!” Tomoe waved, “Am I on your team or something?”

“Actually, both of you are… along with these two,” Ran gesture to Rimi and Eve who were chatting nearby.

Sayo stopped mid-walk, “Both of us… as in-”

“Hell yeah!” Tomoe yelled excited, “Sayo-san, ya hear that? We’re a band!”

“Y-yes, I heard,” Sayo looked away, feeling unable to meet Tomoe’s sparkling eyes but still showing her small, sweet smile, “I’m looking forward to this experience too…”

“Oh I know…!” Tomoe fixed Sayo with an excitable, fanged grin, “If we’re done here, we should go out! I mean like… to get lunch together or something.”

Sayo picked her gaze from the ground, just barely looking to Tomoe through her furious blush, “I-I’d like that.”

Ran cleared her throat, “Uh, you two know the three of us also exist, right?”

Eve giggled by Ran’s side, “I don’t think it’s so bad to let them enjoy their time together… though admittedly… eating lunch together does sound appealing.”

Rimi nodded, “Those two are a pretty cute couple though!”

Sayo and Tomoe’s eyes bugged out of their heads, they both turned and yelled at Rimi.

“W-we’re not a couple!”

“A-A couple? Wha?!”

Feeling as though they were only embarrassing themselves further when the others began to laugh, the two sought to change the subject.

“Mitake-san,” Sayo began, “Perhaps we really should get going. If we do find a place to sit and eat we could also discuss what type of song we will do.”

“Sure,” Ran shrugged, “Actually, I know a new place that should be good for that. I think we’ll need a reservation for tomorrow to go but I’ve heard from Himari and Lisa that this place is worth it.”

Sayo nodded in response, “Lisa usually has good taste for these types of things, I believe that will be acceptable, everyone just focus on general solo practice for tonight.”

Ran pulled out her phone, “If you and Eve wanna give me your numbers I should be able to text everyone the address tomorrow.”

After swapping phone numbers, with Tomoe and Sayo being too nervous to ask for each other’s, the girls waved goodbye to the rest of the crowd and began making their way off the estate.

A rare cheeky grin appeared on Rimi’s face, she spoke to Ran but made sure to be loud enough for the others to hear, “Hey, Ran-chan, would you say this place we’re going to is nice for couples?”

Ran caught on to what Rimi was getting at and smiled back at her, “Oh yes definitely. Lisa said it’s especially nice if you want to feed each other fries!”

Eve noticeably brightened up, “Oh that sounds wonderful!” She clasped her hands in prayer and turned to the evermore embarrassed Tomoe and Sayo, “Would you two possibly allow me to capture your adorable intimacy with a picture?”

“We’re not adorable!” Tomoe yelled.

“More importantly… we’re not intimate,” Sayo added.

Tomoe scratched at the back of her head, “O-oh yeah, that too, hehe.”

 


 

Yukina lay in her bed, her hands gently resting on chest, her breathing steady as she allowed her mind to wonder, looking for inspiration. Her eyes suddenly shot open.

This isn’t working

She sat up and let out a sigh; her knees coming up to meet her chin as she wrapped her arms around her legs. Yukina had been attempting to come up with a new song for her temporary group, but found herself cursed with writer’s block. The previous day when the groups were first formed, Yukina’s band decided on a theme for their song and Yukina had promised she’d take care of it all herself but with the theme ‘Tear Jerking Ballad’, a song about a subject so emotionally moving it would drive someone to tears, Yukina was at a loss.

There were only a couple times in Yukina’s life she could recall crying, though she knew she couldn’t use those moments here. They were personal to both her and Roselia, and while Yukina wouldn’t mind sharing her feeling on those moments through song, she felt it should be something her non-Roselia band mates could also relate to. Yukina looked back on those darker times and realized she had managed to write songs based on them then, Yukina would even argue they were some of Roselia’s best, but a thought crossed Yukina’s mind when she pondered the theme.

‘Tear Jerking’ doesn’t always have to mean sad…

A feeling overcame Yukina the more she thought on it, she wanted to make something different, something unexpected. She wanted make the song about something so nice and pleasing one couldn’t help but tear up. That is where Yukina’s problem lies.

There has never been anything in my life that made me that happy. How does one become so happy they start to cry?

Yukina heard her phone buzz, she was thankful for the distraction. It was a series of texts from Rinko.

Rinko Shirokane: Yukina-san, Saaya-san and I went to Hazawa Café earlier today, it was really nice. She was very patient with me and pleasant to talk to! I hope I can spend time with her again!

Rinko Shirokane: Oh wait, that wasn’t why I was texting…

Rinko Shirokane: While we were there Hazawa-san asked me to tell you to feel free to stop by if you’d like a good environment and coffee to write our song with.

Rinko Shirokane: I told her you prefer to be alone in your own space, but I figured I should let you know anyway.

Yukina found herself amused by how talkative Rinko could be through text, it was also nice to see Rinko opening up to more people outside of Roselia, though Yukina was surprised Rinko was already on a first name basis with the drummer. This ignited something in Yukina, she felt a new experience could be exactly what she needed, and the idea of seeing Tsugumi again made her heart beat faster.

She did invite me… it would be rude not to go…

Yukina, faster than she had ever moved in her life, sprung from her bed and ran out the door.

 


 

No matter how many times Arisa walked it’s halls, even being there just the day before, Kokoro’s house never ceased to amaze her. It was like being on another world; room after room filled with trinkets that were probably more expensive then everything Arisa owned combined, all loosely scattered around like they were junk. Arisa thought it probably would’ve been easy to hate someone who lived like this, to be driven insanely jealous by things they themselves barely cared about, but Arisa found one thing that got in the way of feeling like that. Kokoro was one of the nicest people Arisa had ever met, even if she could be annoyingly loud, Arisa knew she could never even slightly hate Kokoro.

This still didn’t stop Arisa from wondering if Kokoro truly appreciated everything she had in her life.

Maybe if Kokoro had someone in her life… someone more down to earth and real, then they’d make her see how insane this place is. It would probably be Misaki, they seem the closest…

“Here, Arisa! Welcome to…” Kokoro swung the door the pair had walked to open, revealing a colourful room filled with toys and largest, most comfortable looking bed Arisa had ever seen. “…My bedroom!”

“Geez…” Arisa’s eyes darted around the room, “I swear this one room is half the size of my entire house by itself.”

Kokoro tilted her head, “Is it really that big? I knew not everyone had one this size after my sleepover with Hello, Happy World but I thought most people did.”

“No way, Tsurumaki-san,” Arisa shook her head. “No one has one this size.”

“Guess that makes it better for sleepovers than, huh?” Kokoro shrugged. “I bet it’ll also be good to write our song!”

“Hopefully… though I’m not sure if I’ll be able to write it your usual way,” Arisa side-eyed Kokoro who was beaming back at her, “It’s kinda weird.”

“Don’t worry, Arisa,” Kokoro grabbed Arisa’s hand and began pulling her further into the room. “You’re super smart, you’ll have no trouble!”

“I-I’m not that smart,” Arisa stuttered.

“Really?” Kokoro asked in disbelief, “Kasumi tells me you’re always saying smart stuff! And don’t you get straight As in school?”

“W-well yes…” Arisa’s cheeks reddened, she didn’t even realize Kokoro payed attention to that type of thing.

“There you go, my point is proven,” Kokoro nodded, feeling satisfied. “You’re super smart; I bet we’ll make something amazing!”

Arisa gave a shy smile, “Well… I guess we might as well try.”

Kokoro pulled Arisa along to the bed, sitting her down then running off to grab something from the other side of the room. Arisa began letting herself sink into Kokoro’s bed, it was even more wonderful the Arisa had imagined; she found herself flopping back, comfortably lying with a content smile on her face. She heard rustling to her side and turned to see Kokoro staring back at her holding a couple of sketch books, a pen and some crayons.

Arisa sat back up, hoping Kokoro didn’t mind her making herself at home, knowing full well how rude it might seem. “W-what are you doing?” Was all she could ask.

“Watching you, obviously,” Kokoro said casually. “You seemed really happy so I figured I should wait until you were done.”

“But why were you staring at me?” Arisa questioned.

“Cause you’re really pretty!”

Arisa felt like her head was going to explode; she wondered how this girl could say something so nonchalantly. “L-Let’s just get on with the song already!”

“You got it, Arisa!” Kokoro passed Arisa a sketch book and the pen, she then laid on the ground ready to start scribbling.

“So uh…” Arisa flipped to the first blank page, “The way Okusawa-san described this… I listen to you sing or hum for the melody and make notes on your drawings for the lyrics?”

“Yep, that’s right!” Kokoro nodded cheerily, “You might wanna record it too! Misaki say it makes it easier.”

“Makes sense,” Arisa pulled out her phone and began recording, “Ok, let’s give it a go I guess…”

 


 

The restaurant Ran took them to surprised the others with how nice it was, it may not have been some high class restaurant, but Tomoe felt it was noticeably nicer than their usual hang outs. There was also something the girls noticed about the way this place was lit, it wasn’t exactly romantic, though there was a certain intimacy to the warm feel it made.

“Hmmm,” Sayo stared down disappointedly at her now empty basket of fries. Somehow she had managed to finish the whole thing while the others had barely started on their food. This was not an uncommon occurrence when Sayo ate out with Roselia, but she was a little embarrassed to eat so fervidly in front of people she was less familiar with, even if there were one or two she’d like to think she had grown close to. To make matters worse, Sayo still felt a little hungry, though she hoped the others wouldn’t notice.

Sayo felt a light tap on her shoulder; she turned her head to see Tomoe looking at her expectedly, “Uh hey, you want some of mine?”

Sayo shook her head, “No I couldn’t possibly impose on you like that…”

Tomoe laughed, “Nah you’re fine, really! I probably won’t finish it all myself anyway so better than wasting it, right?”

“Well, if you’re sure…” Sayo began to reach for Tomoe’s basket.

“Wait, hold on a sec,” Tomoe quickly picked up a fry and held it out just in front of Sayo’s face, “H-here you are, S-Sayo-san.”

Sayo’s eyes went from the fry to Tomoe then back to the fry.

Is she seriously suggesting that I… she wants me too…

Sayo eyes continued to travel before settling on the fry in front of her again. She slowly leaned forward, the fry drawing closer and closer. Sayo ended up leaning in more than intended as she felt more than just the fry contact her mouth. Tomoe’s fingers brushed against Sayo lips in their surprisingly intimate feeling moment.

The girls heard a sudden click accompanied by a flash, “Oh that was perfect!” Eve cheered. Sayo and Tomoe were frozen in place, suddenly realizing their actions were caught by others they forgot for a moment were there.

“Wow, I didn’t actually expect you two to feed each other!” Rimi commented.

“H-Hey! Sayo-san was hungry and she ran out of food so I just gave her some of mine, that’s all!” Tomoe shot back.

Ran smiled, “And you wouldn’t let Sayo-san grab them herself because…?”

“W-well…” Tomoe desperately looked around for a distraction; pointing out the first notable thing she saw, “Hey, is that Kaoru-senpai and Chisato-senpai?”

“Nice try, Tomoe,” Ran crossed her arms, “You’re not getting out of this so-”

Rimi gasped, “It is Kaoru-senpai! Do I look ok? My hair’s not too messy right?”

Kaoru and Chisato walked through the restaurant, they were seemingly too involved in their conversation to noticed the other girls sitting there, as the pair walked right past them and sat in a nearby booth.

“And you’re sure no one we know would be here?” Chisato asked.

Kaoru waved away her doubts, “It would be rather unlikely; this is a relatively new establishment, and I would imagine most of the kittens would be spending time with their new bandmates elsewhere. Everyone seemed quite excited for their matchups.”

“They don’t think we’re here,” Ran whispered, “Should we say something or…?”

“Speaking of…” Chisato voiced trailed off; her eyes sank to the ground, “I apologise if I seemed unenthused by us being put together, I just… didn’t want to be obvious…”

“I understand entirely,” Kaoru said comfortingly. “It was certainly hard to hold back what I really wanted to say…”

“Thank you, Kaoru,” Chisato shuffled close to Kaoru, resting her head on the taller girl’s shoulder, “You’ve been so patient with me… with this whole ‘secret’ nonsense… you must be so frustrated…”

“You need not worry, Chisato,” Kaoru wrapped an arm around Chisato’s shoulder, “I am perfectly content with-”

Chisato lifted her head and sent Kaoru a fierce gaze, “Don’t lie for me, Kaoru, you know I don’t like that.”

Kaoru looked away, seemingly a little ashamed, “Perhaps frustrated is not the right word… but it does feel… off.” Kaoru brightened up immediately and looked back to Chisato, “Though I do understand your reasoning, you’re nervous how it will affect your position as-”

“Oh that’s just an excuse,” Chisato shot back, “I’m just a coward who can’t admit she’s in love.”

Kaoru cupped Chisato’s cheek, bringing their gazes back together, “But I know you love me, isn’t that enough?”

Chisato giggled, “This coming from the girl who wanted to literally scream her love from the school rooftop after one kiss?”

Kaoru blushed a little, “Well that’s different because… I believe everyone should know what an amazing girlfriend you are!”

“Oh you know all the lines don’t you? In fact…” Chisato gazed at Kaoru with half-lidded, dreamy eyes, “I think you’ve earned a reward for making me so happy…”

Chisato leaned in, trailing her fingers along Kaoru’s chest and gave her girlfriend a soft, loving kiss, causing Kaoru’s cheeks to flare up twice as much, “T-that’s quite a reward, my love!”

“Oh no, kisses are free for you,” Chisato gaze turned sultry, “Your reward is waiting for you… at my place…”

“O-oh you mean t-that, oh m-my…” Kaoru suddenly melted into an absolute mess.

“In fact…” Chisato quickly got out of her seat; brushing her cloths to ensure she looked presentable, “Let’s go now, I’m suddenly not hungry, at least… not for anything they serve here anyway fufu…”

“C-Chisato…” Kaoru got up to stand by Chisato’s side, “What’s gotten into you today?”

Chisato wrapped her arms around Kaoru, pulling her in close, “Kaoru, listen… I love you… I love you so so much. I hate how hung up I’ve been about this, right now all I want is to be with you and show you how much I love you. I trust you won’t object?”

Kaoru smiled back to her, “Well… how could I possibly refuse my princess something her heart desires so.”

Chisato swiftly left the restaurant, Kaoru tailing close behind her like an excited puppy.

Four of the remaining girls stared at the rushing couple silently while Eve excited stared at her phone, “Hehe, I managed to get the perfect picture of their kiss. Another cute couple captured.”

“I’m happy for them, though a little sad Kaoru-senpai is no longer single…” Rimi sighed.

“Hey think of it this way, Kaoru-senpai might be your crush but she’s also your friend, and isn’t it nice to know your friend’s found someone that makes them happy?” Tomoe reasoned.

“You’re right, Tomoe-chan!” Rimi visibly brightened up again, “I bet all your fans will feel the same when they learn about you and-” Tomoe’s sharp glare sent a shiver up her spine, making her freeze midsentence, “…a-and nobody…”

 


 

Yukina calmed herself before entering the doors of Hazawa Café. A deep breath in and out; her usual stoic expression returned to her as she resolved not to make a fool of herself over something so trivial as seeing someone.

I’ll just order my coffee, exchange some pleasantries, then get on with writing my song. There is no need to do anything else here or any excuse to allow myself to get distracted.

Now inside, Yukina allowed her eyes to wonder, coming to rest on what Yukina would call the most beautiful sight in the world.

“Y-Yukina-senpai, you came!” Tsugumi excitedly approached Yukina, having to restrain herself from doing anything inappropriate to someone she still wasn’t sure would call her a friend.

Yukina’s mask already broke as a big, joyous smile took over her face, “I received your invitation, it was rather… enticing.” A feint blush appeared on both their faces as Yukina’s own statement registered, “T-that is to say, I agree this could be a suitable working environment.”

“Of course! There’s a free table right over there,” Tsugumi gesture to one near the front window. “I’ll get you a coffee, I already know exactly how you like it, extra sugar and all!”

Yukina was a little embarrassed to have her tastes somehow found out without her knowledge, but she appreciated Tsugumi’s candour. Yukina gave her a nod in acknowledgement then made her way to her seat.  She couldn’t help but stare at Tsugumi as she went about making Yukina’s coffee; she considered it quite a sight to behold, even with a mundane task such  as making coffee, Tsugumi was fiercely committed, extremely fast, and admirably efficient.

These are the practiced hands of an extraordinary barista and keyboardist, she’s simply amazing…

When Tsugumi was finished making the drink she brought it over to Yukina’s table, “Here you go, Yukina-senpai! Be careful, it might be a little hot. I hope you like it.”

“Hazawa-san, why do always underestimate yourself?”

The question came seemingly from nowhere, Tsugumi was caught completely off guard, “I… um… excuse me?”

“I find myself regularly hearing about you, sometimes it’s brought up in conversation with Sayo, Mitake-san or Lisa… and sometimes I ask about you…” Yukina was a little embarrassed by her confession but pressed on, “Whenever I do it is always said that you seem to talk yourself down, yet every time I see you you seem to be doing something even more amazing than before, not to mention the sheer amount of tasks you seem to take on. Your work here, student council, Afterglow… I can’t help but think you might do even more than Roselia…”

Tsugumi shyly waved her off, “Y-you’re giving me too much credit r-really…”

“Not at all, in fact, sometimes I worry you’re overworking yourself…” a solemn look overtook Yukina, a bad memory creeping up, “I remember a time Sayo overworked herself and collapsed. I felt I should have been annoyed at her foolish behaviour… but I couldn’t help but feel a little scared…”

“Of course you were, Sayo-san’s your friend! And you know… something like that actually did happen to me onc-”

“What!?” Yukina practically shot out of her chair, almost knocking her drink over. She crossed her arms and appeared furious, “When was this? I don’t recall hearing this! Where was I?”

“This was a long time ago, before we met… I’m much better about staying on top of things now,” Tsugumi said reassuringly.

Yukina sighed in relief, slumping back into her seat, “That’s good to hear; just remember, Hazawa-san, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed I’m more than happy to help.”

“Thank you so much…” Tsugumi hesitated, a question burning in her mind, “Um, Yukina-senpai… why are you so nice me? I mean… I know you are a nice person but… you have better things to do then spending time talking to me… it’s kind of a waste of your time…”

“Hazawa-san,” Yukina grabbed Tsugumi’s loose hand, her fierce gaze drawing Tsugumi in, “you are never a waste of my time. You are… important to me too, and you should never feel otherwise, understood?”

“Y-Yukina-senpai…” the two stood there are some time. Fingers interlocked as their hands began to cradle each other; their eyes felt unable to look away, though neither wanted to. Tsugumi started to feel more drawn in; she wanted to move closer to Yukina, very close, though she wasn’t sure what to do when she did.

They were suddenly pulled from their moment when Tsugumi’s mother called for her, “C-coming, mom! One second!” Tsugumi turned back to Yukina, giving her an apologetic look, “I guess I should get back to work… maybe we could… talk some more next time you’re in?”

Yukina nodded, “I still have much work to do on the song, so… I’ll probably stop by regularly if that’s ok with you.”

“Absolutely!” Tsugumi beamed, “I look forward to it! Stop by anytime!”

As Tsugumi returned to work, Yukina pondered their interaction and the strange tingling sensation that accompanied it.

“Oh ho, that was quite a display, Yukina-senpai~” a slow teasing voice said beside her.

Yukina jumped as she realized Moca had somehow snuck up to her, “A-Aoba-san, when did you get here?”

“Well…” Moca sat back in her chair with a smug grin, “when I first walked in I just decided to hang out by the door… but once you finished your not-quite make-out session with Tsugu I figured I’d come say ‘hey’.”

“We- we were not…” Yukina face flushed beet red, “Is there a reason you’re even here?”

“So rude, Yukina-senpai.” Moca fiend being hurt, resting a hand over her heart. “Me and Tsugu are family ya know, so you’re talkin’ to your future sister-in-law here!” Seeing Yukina getting increasingly embarrassed and annoyed was enough for Moca to feel satisfied. “If you are so curious though, me and Lisa are meeting up for a date. We start here, go through some shops, end up at her place and see where the night takes us, ya know?” Moca finished with a wink.

Yukina shook her head, “It is still strange to me that you and Lisa are dating… actually…” Yukina shuffled awkwardly in her chair unsure how to phrase her next question or wondering if it was worth the inevitable teasing to ask at all. “Aoba-san, may I ask… how do you go about… asking someone out?”

Moca’s grin only grew wider, “Looking for some lessons on love, huh? Fufu, you’ve come to the right place, Yukina-senpai.” Yukina immediately regretted her choice, “After I’m done with you, all I’ll need to do is get Rinko-san with Hii-chan and Ran with Ako, then the Afterglow-Roselia circle will be complete.”

“I have a feeling Rinko’s interests may lie elsewhere, though I can’t speak for Mitake-san and Ako…” Yukina sighed, already feeling tired with this conversation, “Will you help me or not, Aoba-san?”

“Ok ok, serious time,” Moca quickly glanced at her phone, “We only got a few minutes ‘til Lisa gets here… but I’ll tell ya what I can ‘til then…”

 


 

“Ok, I think maybe we can stop for now…” Arisa began gathering up the various notes she had made on Kokoro’s singing. Arisa had been scribbling away for a while, she wondered if it was always like this for Misaki; Kokoro had been humming and singing non-stop since they started, Arisa was surprised the girls’ voice didn’t give out. She also realized she’d been so focused on just the audio part that she barely looked at Kokoro’s drawing up to now.

Arisa picked up her phone; she checked the recording she was taking saved properly then switched over to her camera, “Hey, Tsurumaki-san,” Arisa called to grab her attention.

Kokoro had still been drawing though upon hearing her name she paused and looked up, “You want me to walk you out?”

Arisa shook her head, “No thanks, I remember the way. I just wanted to take a picture of what you drew for reference.”

“That makes sense, you’re so smart, Arisa!” Kokoro beamed.

“W-whatever,” Arisa quickly covered her burning cheeks with her phone, “Just let me see your drawing!”

“Here you go…” Kokoro laid her art out on the floor in front of them.

Arisa was a little surprised seeing the art; it was a fairly simple, colourful drawing done in crayon, that much Arisa expected, though the apparent subject matter was something Arisa didn’t think Kokoro would draw. It was of two crude stick figures; they were different shades of blonde, both brandishing big smiles that took up most of their faces, and they held each other’s hands while being surrounded by a bright pink heart.

She wants to write… a love song? Her!? Maybe she doesn’t even realize what she drew… or maybe… she knows a lot more than she lets on.

Arisa was going to simply ignore the thought; she took a picture of the drawing and prepared to leave but as she held her notes and turned to the door, she hesitated. Arisa laid the papers back down, Kokoro tilted her head looking at her curiously.

“You need something else, Arisa? I can have the suit people get you anything you need!” Kokoro offered.

“Uh no, actually… I wanted to ask you something…” Arisa slowly sat down on the end of Kokoro’s bed. “About your drawing, it’s something I didn’t really expect from you, so I wanted to ask…” Arisa had no idea why she was asking this; it wasn’t any of her business and she felt very awkward trying to bring it up but still, she asked. “Tsurumaki-san, do you… like somebody?”

“I like lots of people! But you mean the special kind of like, right?” Arisa gave a nod in response. Kokoro became surprisingly quite, she got up off of the ground at sat beside Arisa, staring down at the ground for a moment before continuing. “I’m not sure, I think I do! There is someone recently who’s made me feel funny in a really nice way but… I’ve never felt the ‘special like’ before.” Kokoro turned to Arisa, her shimmering golden eyes locking with Arisa’s curious gaze. “What’s it feel like?”

Arisa considered the question for a moment; Kokoro actually seemed to be taking this conversation seriously so Arisa wanted to too. “Honestly, I’ve never felt it either. I guess from what I’ve heard it’s like… when you see them your heart beats faster and you blush… stuff like that.”

Kokoro giggled, “You’re like that with most people though!”

“S-shut up, it’s different to that!” Arisa stuttered. “That happens just when I get embarrassed by someone doing something stupid. This is… nicer… the person you like makes you feel good… happy… being with them makes you happier than being with anyone else. Plus you want to like… k-kiss them and stuff…”

Kokoro nodded enthusiastically, “Ok, I think I get it now, this means I do special like! I definitely do! There’s lots of people that make me happy, but this person… yes, I definitely special like her!”

Arisa’s curiosity overtook her; she leaned in, “Who is it?”

Kokoro leaned closer to Arisa; there was a sudden tension between the two as they quietly stared at one another. The feeling was a little strange, but not at all unwelcome by either girl. Kokoro inched forward the last little bit that separated them, planting a small but tender kiss on Arisa’s cheek; the edge of Kokoro’s lips brushing up against Arisa’s, causing the girl to let out a small gasp.

Kokoro leaned back, she looked to Arisa with half-lidded love filled eyes. Arisa stared back, mouth agape and cheeks a more fiery red then they had ever been in her entire life.

Kokoro was about to speak when the door swung open and in walked one of Kokoro’s suit people, “Kokoro-sama, your mother is on the phone and wishes to speak with you.”

“Oh cool!” Kokoro cheered, “Tell mom I’ll be there in just one second.”

The suit person bowed, “Understood.” They turned and left the room, leaving the door open.

Kokoro gave Arisa’s hand an apologetic squeeze, “I gotta go, but I’ll see you soon, ok?” Kokoro got up and began skipping out of the room but froze as she got to the door frame. She turned back to Arisa, sending her one last brilliant smile, “Hey, Arisa, from now on… call me ‘Kokoro’, ok?” Kokoro then continued out of the room, leaving Arisa alone.

Arisa finally allowed herself to process the interaction.

She… she kissed me…

Arisa’s hand slowly drifted up, coming to the spot where Kokoro’s lips met her face.

I… I can’t believe it… Tsurumaki Kokoro kissed me! Right on the cheek!

Arisa began caressing the spot tenderly with her thumb, fondly remembering the feeling of Kokoro’s lips on her. The sensation of getting kissed but someone who all but directly admitted they had feelings for you. Arisa’s heart began thundering out of control at the thought someone could like her that way, let alone someone like Kokoro.

Why do I wish… she went for my lips…?

Chapter Text

A couple days had past since the girls’ band shuffle had started and Yukina decided it would good for the lead writers of each group to meet up and discuss their progress. In the writers’ chat group Ran suggested Hazawa Café as a possible meeting place as it was nearby and everyone knows where it is. Once Yukina immediately jumped on the idea it seemed there was no room to suggest an alternative.

Arisa hadn’t spoken to Kokoro since their kiss; she was thankful Kokoro hadn’t joined the group chat yet and decided it would be better to not tell her about the meeting to give Arisa more time to think.

The kiss was all that had been on Arisa’s mind; running her fingers along her cheek as she walked Arisa could still feel a lingering ghost of Kokoro’s lips. The soft warm sensation was completely unforgettable.

Arisa, now having arrived at Hazawa Café, tried her hardest to push the thought from her mind; settling on at least having it sit at the back allowing her to focus on something else for a moment. Inside the Café Arisa could see the others had already arrived; Ran, Yukina, Misaki and Aya all sat together at one of the tables. Apparently Sayo had also tagged along as she sat between Ran and Yukina, Arisa figured this was for the best to ensure those two didn’t get distracted by their rivalry and start a fight.

The bell rang as Arisa walked through the door, at the other end of the café Tsugumi gave her a quick wave and signalled she be with in a moment before returning to making someone’s coffee.

Misaki looked up from the girls’ conversation to see Arisa had entered, “Oh Ichigaya-san’s here, we can start now.”

Arisa walked up to the table, glancing between everyone staring back at her, “Hey, sorry if I’m late, I just… had something on my mind.”

Sayo glanced at a clock hanging up on the wall, “No need to apologise, you’re right on time, though I would recommend resolving whatever is on your mind before it distracts you further.”

“Believe me, I’ve been trying,” Arisa chuckled nervously, slipping into the last remaining empty chair.

“Would like to tell us about it?” Aya asked, “You know we’d be more than happy to help you, Arisa-chan!”

“Perhaps we can start by discussing the reason we came here?” Yukina suggested, “Once that is taken care of then you may talk about personal matters.”

“Ours’ is going ok,” Ran shrugged. “We all went out for dinner together and that actually gave me an idea what we might do.”

“Mitake-san and I have decided to write it together. She will take care of the lyrics first, then I shall join her in writing the rest,” Sayo clarified.

Aya turned to Arisa, “That reminds me, weren’t you and Kokoro-chan writing yours together?”

“She hasn’t given you too much trouble, has she?” Misaki gave Arisa an apologetic smile.

“No not really, she’s been…” The kiss suddenly flashed in Arisa’s mind, “Very… very nice…” When she realized the others were staring at her in concern Arisa shook herself out of her trance, “Uh but… yeah, we started making the song. We’re doing it the same way you usually do so I recording her voice and she drew some stuff.”

The group shared a chuckle; Yukina shook her head slightly, “Such an unusual method. Anyway regarding my own progress I-”

Tsugumi suddenly appeared at the table beside her, “Here you are, Yukina-senpai!” Tsugumi placed a cup in front of the singer, “I made it just the way you like it!”

Yukina smiled up to Tsugumi, “Thank you, Hazawa-san, I assume it will be just as well prepared as the last.” Tsugumi blushed and giggled into her hand before rushing off, presumably to do more work for the café.

Ran stared at Yukina curiously, “I… don’t recall you ordering anything, Minato-san.”

Yukina shrugged, “I didn’t, Hazawa-san was simply kind enough to bring this over without me asking.”

“Wait…” Aya glanced around the room to see where Tsugumi had run off to, “Isn’t she going to ask what the rest of us want?”

“She will most likely return in a bit,” Yukina responded calmly, “Hazawa-san is very attentive, but she is also a rather hard worker and has many duties to attend to.”

Ran glared suspiciously at Yukina, “You seem to have a very high opinion of Tsugumi…”

“Naturally, there is a lot about her to admire,” Yukina tilted her head innocently, “Do you not agree, Mitake-san?”

“H-Hey, course I do! She’s one of my best friends,” Ran blushed.

“Good, then there is no need to discuss it further,” Yukina gave herself a mental pat on the back for turning the tables on Ran before she made a fool of herself. “As I was saying, my song is still in the early stages, however I believe I’m starting to understand what I would like the song to be about.”

“What do mean ‘understand’ it? Don’t you know what you’re writing?” Ran asked.

“I felt like exploring something new for this song. It’s been a… pleasant experience so far,” Yukina took a short sip of drink and smiled.

Misaki, who had been relatively quite until now, spoke up, “Our song’s going ok. Toyama-san was going to do it but she got a little… overexcited… so I figured I’d help her to keep us on track.”

“Nice work, Misaki-chan. I on the other hand…” Aya puffed out her chest, brimming with pride, “…despite my lack of song writing experience have made excellent progress.” Aya gave the other girls a smug determined look, “I bet I’ll even be done before the rest of you, and it’ll be the cutest song by far.”

“Speed and level-of-cute are not the deciding factors. In the end the best song shall win,” Yukina gave Aya a determined look of her own, “That is why my band shall emerge victorious.”

“H-Hold on…” Misaki glanced around the table, “Is this a competition? I think Kokoro said it was more of an experience type of thing.”

“Of course it’s a competition!” Ran said a little louder than intended, “And we’re gonna win!”

“Sorry to go against you, Minato-san, but Mitake-san is right,” Sayo nodded, “It will be impossible to beat our team, to attempt so would merely be wasted effort.”

“H-Hey, how ‘bout we talk about something else?” Arisa asked. She knew it was best to end that conversation before it got heated; Sayo proved to be less helpful at calming the tension than Arisa hoped.

“Very well then,” Yukina readily agreed, “Since we have all said our piece on our progress, perhaps you would like to discuss the problem you were having before, Ichigaya-san?”

“Oh uh…” Arisa glanced around the table, all eyes were on her now, “I-It doesn’t really matter… I’m sure you’ve all got better things to do than worry about me-”

“What’s wrong?” Tsugumi asked, suddenly appearing at the table again, “Has something been troubling Arisa-chan?”

“Yes it would appear so…” Yukina quickly spoke up before Arisa had a chance to deny it. “Fortunately I was just telling her how I am here to listen to her and help with whatever the issue is.”

Yukina smirked slightly, remembering one of Moca’s tips from the other day: ‘Make sure Tsugu sees you being a good friend to someone, she’ll go absolutely gaga if show her that.’

And indeed Moca’s advice seemed to work; A huge smile burst onto Tsugumi’s face and her eyes were sparkling, “Wow, Yukina-senpai, even with everything else going on you still make time to listen to people. You’re such a good friend!” Tsugumi had somehow become so distracted by Yukina she completely forgot the conversation was actually about Arisa.

Yukina recalled the next piece of advice: ‘If Tsugu compliments you, take that compliment, double it, then find a way to send it back at her. Tsugu’s a real Tsugurific person, problem is she doesn’t see it herself; you make her see it or at least get her to see that you see her that way… again, she’ll go gaga.’

Yukina waved off Tsugumi’s compliment with a smile, “No not really, I’m only helping out a little. If anyone’s the good friend here it would be you, Hazawa-san, you’re always doing everything you can for those around you.”

Tsugumi blushed, she hid a little behind a notepad she held for writing down orders, “Y-Yukina-senpai…”

Another seemingly successful attack, now Yukina just needed the last piece of advice: ‘Tsugu’s so selfless even if she is madly in love with you she’ll never ask you out ‘cause she’ll think she shouldn’t have you all to herself. This means when you’ve charmed her a bit, you gotta ask her out, end of story. Now if you’ll excuse me, Lisa just arrived so I’mma go get her gagaing, if ya know what I mean.’

Yukina wishes she didn’t remember that last part, or at least wished she didn’t know what Moca meant, in any case, the advice was sound. Yukina looked up Tsugumi and tried to steel her nerves, “Um, Hazawa-san…”

Those perfect brown orbs stared back at her, “Y-Yes, Yukina-senpai?”

“Would you…” Yukina couldn’t take it, the panic over took her, “G-Get me a refill, please?”

“Oh of course,” Tsugumi took Yukina’s still half full piping hot cup of coffee, “I’ll be back in a minute!” Tsugumi immediately rushed off to the other side of the café.

“Tsugumi-chan!” Aya tried to call out to her but she was already too far away, “I didn’t get to place my order again…”

“Ok, what the hell is wrong with you!” Ran glared at Yukina, “Why didn’t you just ask her out!”

Yukina blinked, it took her a moment to realize what had just been yelled at her, but she still couldn’t understand it, “Excuse me?”

“Just then, your little flirt session with Tsugumi,” Ran clarified, “It’s obvious you asked Moca for advice on how to get to her, so just ask her out already!”  Ran turned her glare onto Sayo, “Same goes for you too.”

“M-Me?” Sayo stuttered.

“Yes… look…” Ran appeared apprehensive, she folded her arms looked away, “I know we’ve had disagreements and rivalries and stuff but… if you make my friends happy than it’s… fine with me.”

“Aww!” Aya clasped her hands together and had a big shining smile, “You’re so sweet, Ran!”

“W-Whatever…” Ran murmured through her blush.

Aya gasped, “Oh I just realized we got super distracted. Arisa-chan, something was troubling you?”

Arisa mentally cursed Aya from bringing it again when she thought it had finally slipped their minds.

“Well if you really have to know… I guess it kind of relates to what you guys were just talking about…” Arisa nervously looked around the table, everyone patiently staring back. “Um… how do you know if you… like somebody…?”

The table grew quiet for a moment, each member mulling the question over. Sayo was the first to speak, “Just to clarify, I assume by ‘like’ you mean… the romantic sense?”

Arisa nodded and the table grew silent again. She realized how much conversation reflected the one she had with Kokoro; her hand subconsciously drifted up to her cheek once again.

“Well, I guess it’s like they seem all sparkly to you and make your heart pound or something…” Misaki said, clearly unsure of her own answer.

“Has Kasumi really rubbed off on you that much already?” Arisa asked in disbelief. She found it rather curious when Misaki didn’t respond; instead blushing and looking away.

“Besides… it’s much more than that,” Yukina closed her eyes, contemplating her answer.

“Minato-san is right,” Sayo agreed, “Your perception of them changes completely, they occupy your mind more, to say the least. You start noticing and appreciating all the little things about them…”

“Her smile… her laugh… how excited she gets when she does something right, even though you know she’s capable of doing anything…” Yukina began listing a few things off the top of her head.

“Her flowing hair… her voice when something pumps her up… those strong arms you know could easily carry you, e-even if that would be a little embarrassing…” Sayo added.

Yukina and Sayo sighed contentedly in unison.

Ran shook her head, “Geez, you girls got it bad!”

“I-In any case…” Sayo turned back to Arisa, “Was any this helpful to you?”

“Um, I think so… a little…” Arisa scratch the back of her head, “I mean, if I’m understanding what you’re trying to convey… I might actually have feelings for her… but that’s… that’s insane!”

“If you don’t mind me asking, who is it you like?” Misaki asked.

“Well it’s…” Arisa started sweating profusely. Kokoro was Misaki’s best friend, Arisa had no idea how she’d react if Arisa suddenly confessed. “It’s a secret… at least while I’m figuring things out…”

Misaki shrugged, “Fair enough.”

“If that’s the last thing to talk about I’ll be off, think I’ll eat elsewhere,” Ran got out of her chair and stretched her arms out a bit. “So I guess next week you girls can go ahead and take care of your confessions and let us know how it goes.”

“Wait what!?” Arisa screamed.

Ran placed a comforting hand on Arisa’s shoulder, “Look, whoever it is you like, I think it’s probably worth talking to them about it at least. They might like you back, and you don’t wanna spend months with this on your mind like these two.”

Arisa nodded slowly, “Y-Yeah she… I think she does like me…”

Ran turned to the other two, “Same goes for you; it’s long enough, just say something and it’ll be ok. This order goes double for you, Sayo-san. I don’t need you distracted during our song ‘cause your thinking about our drummer’s sexy voice or muscles or however else you intend on perving on my friend.”

Ran gave the front of her jacket a stylish tug, cementing her cool demeanour and control of the conversation in stone. “Like I said, I’m off now, I expect to hear good things next time we meet up.”

Aya clapped excitedly, “Wow, Ran-chan, that was so cool!”

Ran looked away to hide her blush, “It’s whatever, I was just… speaking my mind, ya know?”

“Still though, you were so awesome!” Aya got out of her chair and ran to Ran’s side, “Would you mind if I go with you? I’d like to talk a little more!”

“I-I guess that’d be fine. Where did you want to go?”

“Anywhere I can eat,” Aya said sheepishly, rubbing her empty stomach.

Ran’s eyes lit up, “That works out well actually. I’ve got a table booked in about a half hour for this new restaurant I love. I was thinking of seeing if any of Afterglow were free, but maybe just the two of us going wouldn’t be so bad…”

“Sounds good to me!” Aya cheerfully wrapped herself around one of Ran’s arms, “Lead the way!”

Tsugumi suddenly appeared by their side once again, “Oh, Aya-san, Ran-chan, are you leaving? I was just about to take your order!”

“Seriously, Tsugumi-chan!?” Aya wailed.

Ran laughed lightly, “Never mind, Tsugumi, we’re going out to eat anyway.” Tsugumi nodded and returned to her duties elsewhere.

The other four simply stared, still slightly dumbfounded, as the pair left the café. Misaki began to chuckle, “Wow, you three just got totally served, huh? Anyway, I’m off too.”

Misaki gave a quick wave to the stunned trio and made her way outside, leaving them with much to think about. Arisa sat in silence, frowning slightly as she tried to focus her thoughts.

Can I really just… tell Kokoro I like her? I know she’s feeling something too but… could I really have a future with her? That doesn’t sound so bad… I guess…

 


 

Having said her goodbyes and taken her leave from the café; Arisa wandered the downtown district with no destination in mind. Thoughts of Kokoro still occupying her mind, Arisa kept debating every moment of their encounter and every word of advice given to her.

“Aa-chan!” A voice called out for her.

There’s only one person who calls me that…

“Hey, Kitazawa-san”, Arisa replied before coming to a stop and turning around.

Hagumi had a gleeful grin as ran up to Arisa; stopping just short of a collision having reminded herself of Arisa’s discomfort the last time Hagumi tackled her. “Hey, what’re you to?”

Arisa crossed her arms gently over her chest; she let out a small, contemplative hum. “Nothing in particular. I had some stuff on my mind so I was wandering around for a while before I head home.

Hagumi nodded enthusiastically, “That sounds nice! But uh… Hagumi thinks walking and running are always better when you’re with someone, so Hagumi better go with you.”

“Um, what?” Arisa failed to understand the logic; she certainly didn’t need anyone walking her home. “I think I’ll be ok, thanks.”

Hagumi deflated; her eyes growing big and watery, “O-Ok, Hagumi just thought it’d be nice…”

I didn’t mean to upset her… damn those puppy dog eyes, she’s worse than O-Tae!

“You know what, Kitazawa-san?” Arisa scratched the back of her head nervously, “It might actually be nice to have someone to talk to on the walk back.”

The sparkle returned to Hagumi’s eyes, “R-Really? Hagumi won’t just be bothering you?”

“No not at all,” Arisa gave Hagumi a comforting smile, “I want you to come, it’ll be… fun.”

“Yay!” Hagumi cheered. She quickly grabbed one of Arisa’s hands, “Mkay, let’s go!”

Arisa stares at their joint hands, “What are you-” She tugs her arm, attempting to shake Hagumi loose. Though Hagumi’s grip feels gently on Arisa’s hand, it still seems unbreakable, as her arm merely wiggles a bit at Arisa’s attempts. Hagumi continues to patiently stare at Arisa; her huge unwavering smile remains as she waits for Arisa to start walking.

Having dealt with this type of thing before Arisa laments her efforts will simply be wasted and decides to accept Hagumi hold on her hand. She begins to think it’s not so bad anyway and even starts to like her hand being held, though when the pair start walking Arisa suddenly becomes acutely aware of the image they might be projecting.

“Hey, Kitazawa-san?” Arisa looks over to Hagumi who had already been gazing back at her. “Don’t you ever get like… embarrassed by this kind of thing?”

“What kind of thing?” Hagumi tilted her head curiously.

“You know, like this…” Arisa raised the linked hands between them, “Holding hands.”

“Not really,” Hagumi said simply, “Why would Hagumi be? Hagumi holds hands with her parents all the time! And Kano-chan-senpai if she gets lost.”

“I guess that’s fair,” Arisa nodded along, “But… when you’re just slowly walking hand-in-hand with a girl you’re not related to or helping or something… it kinda feels like it has certain… implications, you know?”

“Oh! Hagumi thinks she understands… b-but…” Hagumi blushed shyly as looked away from Arisa, “…Hagumi thinks it’s ok, if it’s with you, Aa-chan.”

Arisa felt her heart skip a beat.

W-what the hell is that supposed to me!?

“I don’t even know how to respond to that…” Arisa mumbled.

Hagumi hummed, “Hagumi doesn’t need a response.” She gave Arisa’s hand a quick squeeze, “This is good enough for Hagumi!”

I guess if it’s making her so happy then… this isn’t that bad anyway. I guess there is something nice about holding someone’s hand.

“Aa-chan’s got really nice hands!” Hagumi suddenly piped up again, snapping Arisa from her thoughts. “They’re really slender and soft! Not like Hagumi’s…”

Hagumi looked sadly down at her free hand; flexing it slightly to emphasize the difference between it and Arisa’s.

Dammit, why do I hate seeing this girl upset so much!? My head’s probably gonna explode after I say this but… I guess it’s for her sake…

“Hey, Hagumi…” Hagumi’s head shot up; she looked at Arisa wide eyed, surprise by the casual way Arisa usually wouldn’t address her by. “Your hands are nice too, ok? They’re a little rougher sure, but I think that’s cool. It shows how hard you work to be good at bass and all those sports you play, you’re the best at our school in just about everything physical! So you know… I think your hands reflect that side of you… which I thought was pretty impressive anyway.”

“A-Aa-chan!?” Hagumi looked like she was about to cry, but judging by the huge smile creeping up her face, Arisa could tell she wasn’t upset anymore. She leaned into Arisa’s side; bringing her free hand to join her other, holding Arisa’s close. “Thank you,” she whispered.

 


 

The pair walked around for a while; switching between moments of content silence and excited chatter. They ended up taking several detours before heading to Arisa’s home, eager to spend more time together, but the point eventually came when their journey had to end.

“Well, this is me,” Arisa said looking at her house.

Hagumi seemed reluctant to let go, but she still let her hands slip away, “Hagumi had a lot fun!”

“Yeah, it was actually pretty nice…” Arisa smiled at her, “but I really should get going now. Grandma’s probably already making dinner.”

Hagumi gasped and slapped the side of her face, “You’re right, Aa-chan! Hagumi’s parents are probably making dinner too, I gotta go!” Hagumi started sprinting away, waving behind her, “Bye, Aa-chan! I hope we can hang out more!”

Arisa gave a small wave in return and went inside. When she got in and started to remove her shoes, she noticed another pair sitting there that didn’t belong to her or her grandma. Judging by the look of them the shoes probably belonged to someone around her age.

Oh god, what if it’s Kokoro? I don’t know if I’m ready to face her just yet…

Arisa walked into the kitchen, finding her grandmother preparing dinner, as she expected. “Hey, grandma, I’m home,” Arisa greeted, “Is someone else here?”

Her grandmother turned around and smiled, “Yes one of your friends popped round, they should be waiting in your room. I believe it was… Hikawa-san?”

Arisa gave her a quizzical look.

What’s Sayo-san doing here? Student council business maybe?

“Ok thanks, grandma, I’ll go check on them.”

As Arisa headed up to her room, her grandmother called to her, “Dinner should be ready soon, your friend’s free to join us if they want!”

When Arisa opened the door to her room she was met with quite the surprise.

“Arisa-chan!” Hina excitedly called out; sitting comfortably on Arisa’s bed. “I’ve been waiting for ya!”

“Wha- Hina-san, why are you here?” Arisa asked, bewildered.

Hina shrugged, “I got bored so I decided to come see you.”

“And how did you find out where I live?”

“Kasumi-chan told me!” Hina explained.

Arisa sighed, “Of course she did… well I guess you’re here now, so what do you want?”

Hina giggled, “Your tongue’s as sharp as ever, Arisa-chan!” Hina launched herself off of the bed and skipped over to Arisa. “I guess… I don’t know what I wanna do!” Arisa was about to complain until Hina suddenly leaned in towards her. Arisa leaned away but found her back quickly against her door. “What’s something we can do together alone in your room? I’m up for anything!” Hina looked at Arisa, her eyes filled with a certain expecting sparkle.

Arisa felt her heartbeat quicken; finding herself in yet another unexpectedly intimate position. “Hina-san, I-”

There was a knocking at her door, “Arisa! Are you and Hikawa-san decent?”

“G-Grandma!” Arisa yelled back. She shoved the other girl away, Hina being very amused by Arisa’s embarrassment, and opened the door. “Geez, you really think we’d be doing something crazy!?”

Arisa’s grandmother gave a comforting smile, “Whatever you and your girlfriend want to get up to is your business, I just wanted to tell you dinner’s ready.”

“S-She’s not my girlfriend!” Arisa stuttered, “That’s Ko- I mean Hag- I mean I don’t have one!”

Hina sent Arisa a curious look before turning back to her grandmother with a grin, “So, grandma, what we eating?”

Arisa’s grandmother laughed lightly, “Well, Hikawa-san, you get the chance to try grandma Ichigaya’s special curry.”

Hina’s eyes sparkled, “I love curry! And I love special things! This sounds so boppin!”

“How do I keep getting in these weird scenarios?” Arisa mumbled.

The three sat down for dinner; Arisa quietly ate her dinner while Hina and her grandmother talked all throughout the meal, much to Arisa’s annoyance.

“Me and Arisa-chan don’t actually go to school together, but she goes with my sis and she’s got nothing but good things to say about Arisa-chan!”

“Of course, my granddaughter is the best young girl around!”

Arisa sank in her chair; she wished she could escape this embarrassing praise being thrust upon her. She was allowing her mind to drift away until a strange sensation brought her back. Hina had placed her hand on Arisa’s leg. Arisa’s eyes widened as looked up to Hina, who gave a cheeky wink in return.

Arisa didn’t know what to do; her grandmother was probably still unaware of what had happened and Arisa didn’t want to call attention to it and alert her. While Arisa bounced around in her own head unsure of what to do, Hina looked up at a nearby clock.

“Oh man it’s getting late, guess I should hurry home.”

“Nonsense,” Arisa’s grandmother waved her off, “obviously you can spend the night here.”

“Really!?” Hina turned to Arisa, giving her leg a small squeeze, “You hear that, Arisa-chan? We get to have a sleepover!”

Arisa’s eyes drifted to Hina’s hand then back up to her smile, “G-great,” she mumbled nervously.

“Feel free to have a bath before you go to bed, Hikawa-san,” Arisa’s grandmother suggested.

“Ok thanks!” Hina tugged on Arisa’s arm, “Come on, let’s go!”

“W-We’re not bathing together you idiot!”

 


 

Arisa sat on her bed, having already gone for a bath, and changed into a pair of pink pyjamas. She starts shifting uncomfortably; waiting for her guest to join her.

Hina enters the room, now wearing green pyjamas similar looking to Arisa’s, and begins to stretch. “Wow, Arisa-chan, you’re PJs are super comfy! Though they got a bit more room in the front then mine.”

Arisa glared at her, “Are you calling me fat?”

“No no,” Hina shook her head, “I meant higher up!”

Arisa quickly covered her chest, “Geez, when did you become such a perv?”

Hina’s quiet for a moment, seemingly serious considering the question, until she just shrugs. “I don’t really know anything about that! The only people I ever noticed had a body I thought looked good are you and my sis!”

“H-Hina-san…” Arisa pinches the bridge of her nose, “There’s so much there I don’t even want to begin to touch on.”

“Well forget about it then!” Hina shrugged again, “Let’s just get some sleepy sleeps, huh?”

“Sure, there’s a futon on the ground just there, let me just-” Arisa was interrupted by her phone’s buzzing. She saw a message from Ako.

Ako Udagawa: Arisa! Help!

Arisa panics for moment; she quickly texts back.

Me: What’s wrong? Are you ok?

She receives a reply immediately.

Ako Udagawa: No! I still got a bunch of homework left to do for our break and I’m really struggling!

Arisa rolled her eyes; she returned back to a calmed state.

Me: That’s all!? You almost gave me a heart attack! Just get Shirokane-san to help you.

There was a short pause before a series of texts came through one after another.

Ako Udagawa: Can’t! Rin-Rin’s made plans and sis said she’s got someone coming over tomorrow so she’s busy!

Ako Udagawa: Arisa, you’re the smartest person I know! I need you!

Ako Udagawa: Please! Please! Please!

Arisa sighed.

I guess it couldn’t hurt to help her… I’ll still have time in the afternoon to work on the song.

Me: Ok, I’ll be over around midday. That ok?

Ako Udagawa: Yay! Thank you so much!

Ako Udagawa: Fufu just the daemons of old whispered in their prophecies. We shall soon become one!

Me: What’s that mean?

Ako Udagawa: Nothing! See ya tomorrow!

Arisa shook her head and placed the phone down.

“What was that about?” Hina asked.

“Oh just… made plans for tomorrow I guess.” Arisa explained.

“What? You’re busy tomorrow?” Hina slumped down; her face shifting to a sad pout. “I was hoping we could hang more. We never get to hang out…”

Great… another crazy girl I hate to see upset.

Arisa held up her hands comfortingly, “H-Hey, we’ll still be able to hang out if you really want to. It’ll just have to be another day.”

“You promise?” Hina looked at her hopefully.

Arisa made a gesture over her heart, “I promise.”

“Yay!” Hina did a small joyous hop, “Thank, Arisa-chan, you really are the boppinest!”

“Sure sure,” Arisa shifted across bed; starting to slip her legs under the covers, “Just get the lights and go to sleep.”

“You got it!” Hina flicked the light switch and began making her way across the room. She carefully stepped over the futon to get to Arisa’s bed and slipped inside.

Feeling the shifting of her bed, Arisa turned over to see Hina lying next to her, their faces only a few inches apart. “H-Hina-san, I said there’s a futon!”

“Yeah don’t worry; I was careful not to trip over it.” Hina moved a little closer; now resting her head on Arisa’s pillow.

“That’s not the point! You’re supposed to sleep there,” Arisa explained.

Hina hummed for moment then closed her eyes, “Naw, this is nicer.”

“I don’t care if it’s nicer. Don’t you think it’s weird for us to share a bed?”

Hina gave no response; she just quietly breathed with a small smile on her face.

“H-Hina-san?” Arisa shook Hina a little, she still got no response. “Great, you’re asleep, now what?”

Let’s see… if I try get out of the bed I’d have to climb over Hina… no way am I doing that! So I guess that means…

Arisa sighed and plopped her head down on her pillow. Her lips quivered as she felt a sudden rush of hot air; she realized it was coming from Hina, whose mouth had slipped open slightly in her sleep. Arisa felt her cheeks begin to warm and quickly turned to face the opposite direction.

Arisa felt Hina move; coming to rest one of her hands around Arisa’s waist.

One girl after another… what is happening to me?

 


 

Arisa glanced at her phone.

Should be right on time.

She rounded the last corner; the Udagawa family household coming into view. Arisa noticed someone standing outside the house, as she drew near the figure became clear to her, it was Sayo.

Sayo stood by the door; a finger on her chin and her eyes furrowed in concentration. She seemed hesitant to knock on the door.

Arisa came up behind her, “Uh… Sayo-san?”

Sayo sharply turned around, “I-Ichigaya-san? What are you doing here?”

“Ako texted last night saying she needed help with some homework,” Arisa shrugged.

“Hmmm, how curious,” Sayo returned to her contemplative stance, “I feel like Shirokane-san assisted her with that last week…”

Arisa crossed her arms; a curious eyebrow raised, “That’s weird, why would she ask me then? Oh well, I’m here now so…” Arisa stepped up to the door and raised her hand to knock.

Sayo tried to reach out and stop her, “W-Wait hold on-” though it was too late as Arisa already began to knock.

The door swung open barely a couple seconds later, “Sayo-san!” Tomoe called out with huge grin. She froze was she saw Arisa standing in the doorway, “… and… Arisa?”

“No need to sound so disappointed to see me,” Arisa faked being upset.

“I-I wasn’t! I was just… excited to Sayo-san…”  Tomoe nervously scratched the back of her head.

Arisa chuckled, “Yeah yeah, I know. I’m just here to see Ako.”

“Oh ok, hold on…” Tomoe turned her head to look behind her, “Hey Ako!”

Ako voice could be heard calling back “What!?”

“Arisa’s here!”

Several loud banging and shuffling noises could be heard from the other room followed by Ako running out to meet them. “Arisa, you’re here! Come on let’s get going.” Ako grabbed Arisa’s hand and started dragging her to her room.

“Uh ok, guess I’ll see later, Tomoe-san, Sayo-san!”

Tomoe let out a belly laugh, “Those two seem to be getting along, eh?” Tomoe turned back to Sayo; seeing her still quietly standing there with burning red cheeks. Tomoe cleared her throat, “So uh… you wanna come inside?”

Sayo nodded; not making eye contact with Tomoe as she entered the house.

Tomoe closed the door behind her, “So you… you said you had something to tell me?” Tomoe asked hopefully.

“Y-Yes I do…” Sayo’s said weakly. “I-It may be a bit of a shock but… it’s something important and personal and… I have to tell y-you…” Sayo’s body started to shake; her nerves getting the best of her.

“Hey hey,” Tomoe wrapped her arms around Sayo; pulling her into a hug, “It’s ok, there’s no need to be nervous around me, I’m always ready to listen to you.”

Sayo slowly raised her arms and returned the hug, “I… I know…” Sayo took a deep breath, unintentionally intaking Tomoe’s sweet, comforting scent, and slightly pulled away from Tomoe so their eyes could meet. Sayo felt she could become lost in those beautiful cerulean eyes but somehow found her words, “Tomoe-san, I… I love y-”

There was a sudden rapturous banging on the door; it swung open without waiting for someone to answer, “To~Mo~E!” Himari ran inside, “I need y-” She came to a halt seeing the two girls holding each other in front of her. “Oh um… am I interrupting?”

“I-It’s fine,” Sayo fully pulled from Tomoe; the latter reaching out for a moment before letting her arms fall to her side in defeat. “I can leave you two to talk…” She started to make her way to the door.

“W-Wait, Sayo-san,” Tomoe called out desperately, “You don’t have to go!”

“No really it’s fine, we’ll discuss this another time, Tomoe-san!” Sayo sprinted outside; she had to fight back her tears as she cursed herself for being so cowardly.

The two remaining girls stood there awkwardly; Himari began to nervously play with her hands, “T-Tomoe? You ok?”

Tomoe didn’t let Himari see her darkened face; she closed the door once again, lamenting her chance to see Sayo had been lost, and rested her head against the door.

Himari deflated, “I… I really screwed up, huh?”

Tomoe whipped round with a big grin on her face, “What? ‘Course not! We were just chatting.” Tomoe forced out an obviously fake laugh, “So what did ya need, Himari?”

Himari placed a hand on Tomoe’s shoulder, “Seriously, what happened? What were you talking about?”

The corners of Tomoe’s smile twitched, “Nothing nothing, just random stuff!” Tomoe brushed Himari’s hand off and crossed her arms with faux confidence, “So what’s up?”

Himari sighed in defeat; she knew she wouldn’t get it out of Tomoe easily and figured it best to move on to her own business for now. “Alright well, it is a bit of an emergency. Look at this!”

Himari shoved her phone in front of Tomoe, showing a line of messages from someone.

Cutie Patootie: Uehara-san, how are things going for you?

Cutie Patootie: This band swap has been surprisingly pleasant on my end

Cutie Patootie: It’s been especially nice getting close to Saaya-san, we’ve been spending a lot of time together recently

“I mean, can you believe this?!” Himari yelled.

“That you’d have someone saved as ‘Cutie Patootie’, kinda yeah.”

“To~Mo~E! You’re missing the point!” Himari puffed out her cheeks, “And ‘Cutie Patootie’ is Rinko-san obviously!”

“Oh obviously,” Tomoe chuckled, “So what’s the problem? She’s making a new friend.”

Himari rolled her eyes, “Tomoe, you’re so naïve! Pay attention to the details. ‘It’s been nice getting close to Saaya’ and ‘we’ve been spending a lot of time together. Can’t you see it? Saaya’s gonna swoop in and steal Rinko-san right before I was planning to confess!”

“I think you’re stretching a bit there… and you’ve been saying you’re ‘about to confess’ for months now! This is gonna go on as long as your thing for Kaoru-san!”

Himari placed her hands on her hips and glared up at Tomoe, “Firstly, Kaoru-senpai is still enchanting; secondly, really? Coming from you? You’ve been pining after Sayo-san for-” Himari paused, her eyes widened in shock, “Wait… was that what you were talking to Sayo-san about before…” Himari burst into tears, “Oh my god! I’m such a terrible friend! I ruined everything for you!”

“Oh, Himari…” Tomoe sighed with sad smile; even with the girl of her dreams running away, Tomoe knew she’d always have to be there to comfort a friend.

 


 

“Wow, Arisa! You’re so smart!” Ako cheered.

The two girls had been spending their time going over Ako’s homework in her room; sitting closely together at her desk. Arisa flicked through her booklet making sure to point out any mistakes and showing Ako how to work out the correct answer. Any time she did Ako made sure to relentlessly praise her, no matter how trivial, much to Arisa’s embarrassment.

“I-It’s not that big of a deal,” Arisa argued; despite a small smile steadily growing and cheeks gradually getting redder with each bit of praise.

“No really, you’re the coolest!” Ako insisted. “You helped me get all my homework done super quickly!”

“Well, you already had a fair amount of it done…” Arisa eyed Ako suspiciously, “some stuff even seemed to be erased then replaced with an intentionally wrong answer.”

“Why would someone do something like that?” Ako laughed awkwardly.

Arisa sighed, “Ako, is there maybe… another reason you wanted me to come over?” Arisa noticed a strange, unintended amount of hope in her voice. She was curious as to what she subconsciously wanted from Ako.

“Actually… there is something…” Ako began playing with her hair nervously. “Something I’ve wanted to do with you for a while…”

“O-Oh yeah?” The image of Ako kissing her flashed in Arisa’s mind; quickly followed by all the intimate interactions she had with the other girls recently. Arisa started to sweat, “What would that be?”

Ako started to lean towards Arisa; her eyes sparkling. Arisa noticed her adorable fang that stuck out anytime Ako got particularly excited. “I want us to play games together!”

“W-What?”

“Play games! It’s my second favourite thing to do besides drumming!” Ako explained. She started to get shy, looking away from Arisa, “So I… kinda… sorta… wanted to share something I liked with you…”

“That… actually sounds kinda nice,” Arisa smiled sweetly, “Well since we’re done with the homework… I guess we could play for a bit.”

“Yay!” Ako threw her arms up in joy, “I got a lot of really fun couch co-op games we can play together today and some time you should come over and I can teach NFO so we can play together all the time!”

“Wow, don’t get too ahead of yourself! I probably won’t even be any good at this stuff.”

“You’ll be awesome, Arisa!” Ako said confidently; she grabbed Arisa’s hands and gazed into her eyes, “You’re great at everything!”

The two played games for quite some time; Arisa was absolutely terrible at first, but slowly started to get better as they played, still enjoying her time with Ako either way. Eventually Arisa felt Ako lay her head on Arisa’s shoulder. She looked over to Ako and saw the girl had fallen asleep.

“Geez, Ako, falling asleep already? It’s only…” Arisa glanced at her phone; she almost screamed.

How is it already that late? Did we really play this long?

Arisa turned back to Ako and shook her gently, “Ako, wake up. I have to get going.”

Ako hardly even stirred; just continuing to lay peacefully sleeping. Arisa wouldn’t have minded, it actually felt kind of nice have Ako lean against her, but she had to get back home.

“Ok, guess I’m doing this then…” Arisa awkwardly scooped Ako up into her arms; carrying her bridal style over to her bed.

Arisa laid Ako’s body down, she paused for a moment, taking some time to look down at Ako.

She’s… really cute when she sleeps… just like Hina… actually they’re always cute…

Arisa gently caressed Ako’s cheek; Ako began smiling and leaning into her touch.

Even though Ako was asleep Arisa could hear her mutter under her breath, “Arisa…”

“Yeah… I’m here for you, Ako,” Arisa whispered back with a smile of her own.

 


 

After returning home and going through all the usual motions of night-time, Arisa lay awake in her bed. She stared up at her ceiling, a million images rushing through her head. Arisa could swear she even started to feel the girls occupying her mind surround her. Kokoro’s lips plant another kiss on her cheek, Hagumi gently grabs one of her hands, Hina playfully wraps round her waist, Ako fits her adorable cheek neatly into Arisa’s other hand. All the girls giggling and whispering lovingly into her ears.

For a moment Arisa feels utter bliss, until a thought shatters her peaceful musings.

What is going on? Who do I have feelings for? It can’t be all of them… right?

Chapter Text

The incessant ringing was first thing she heard; rousing her from an otherwise peaceful sleep. Misaki widely slapped her hand around, fishing for her phone, finally finding the little noise maker and bringing it to her ear.

Misaki was half asleep; the beautiful dream she was having still at the forefront of her mind. With a goofy satisfied grin on her face, she dreamily answered, “Hey, Kasumi~”

There was a pause before the voice on the other end responded, “Um… actually, it’s Arisa.”

“Ichigaya-san!?” Misaki quickly shot up, her sleepy eyes ripping wide open, “Uh, hey!”

“Why did you think I was Kasumi? And when did you start calling her by her first name?”

“I didn’t! I don’t! I-I-I…” Misaki felt her head ready to burst; her secret almost being revealed was something she felt ill equipped to deal with at the best of times, let alone first thing in the morning. “W-What do you want?”

“Right, well… would you be able to meet up this morning?” Arisa asked; she lowered her voice as the weight of her burdening thoughts came down on her, “It’s… important.”

“Oh… uh…” Misaki was a little frazzled by the sudden tone change, “Yeah, I should be able to. I’m meeting up with Kas- Toyama-san and the others later, but my morning’s clear.”

“Thanks, really. Hazawa Café alright?”

“Sure. Uh, Ichigaya-san, what is this about?”

There was a long silent pause; Misaki even had to check her phone to make sure Arisa hadn’t hung up. After a while Arisa finally answered, “It’s just… I’ll explain later, ok?”

Misaki wasn’t satisfied with the answer, but she could tell Arisa was very put off by whatever this problem was, so she relented, “Fine. Give me some time to get ready and I’ll you there.”

 


 

Arisa nervously shifted in seat; her leg uncontrollably bouncing up and down. After her call with Misaki, Arisa had gotten ready and quickly worked her way to Hazawa Café. Even being greeted by a friendly face and sitting in a welcoming environment couldn’t calm her nerves.

She needed advice and Okusawa Misaki was one of the most level-headed people she knew; unfortunately, Arisa’s secret also affected Misaki, and that’s what was making her so nervous.

Arisa thought she was in love with Misaki’s best friend, that alone made it difficult to ask for advice, but Arisa was also in love three other girls! One of which was also one of Misaki’s close friends. Arisa’s heart was out of control, though as much as she worried about Misaki’s reaction, she knew she needed someone and she knew it had to be Misaki.

The bell chimed as someone new entered the café; it was Misaki who, after sleepily glancing around the room, spotted Arisa and walked up to her table. “Hey, Ichigaya-san.”

“Okusawa-san…” Arisa replied a little listlessly.

Misaki took the seat opposite Arisa, “So…” She awkwardly tapped her fingers on the table, “What’s up?”

“I just… had a couple things I needed to ask you…” Arisa cupped the warm mug of tea in her hands; she had ordered it while waiting, hoping it would calm her, now she just needed it to give herself a few extra seconds to prepare.

Misaki sat back in her chair, crossing her arms over her chest to appear relaxed, “Sure, shoot.”

“Ok, so… let’s say you have this friend; you get along well, spend time together every now and then, close but you’re not like… crazy close or anything. Kinda like us!”

Misaki slowly nodded; unsure how to feel but showing she understood so far.

Arisa continued, “Now let’s say this friend has a best friend, and might not admit it but they’re actually kind of protective of this best friend cause they’re a little goofy and naïve…”

“Uh huh…” Misaki lowered her arms; feeling less relaxed as she wondered where this was going.

“And, well… now let’s say… you fall in love with the goofy best friend-”

“I’M NOT!” Misaki suddenly yelled; shooting up out of her chair and startling Arisa, as well as the few other patrons there at that time.

“Uh, not what?”

“N-Not… not…” Misaki looked around the café; seeing the couple stares she was getting, she lowered herself back down into chair, head hung low, “N-Never mind, I thought you were talking about… someone. You were saying?”

Arisa gave Misaki a sceptical look, but decided to let it go, “Right, so what I wanted to know is… do think you should tell the friend you love their best friend first or do you think it doesn’t matter?”

“Is this like… a getting approval type of thing?” Misaki asked.

“Something like that…”

“So who are you in love with?”

“I-I never said I was in love!” Arisa stuttered; her cheeks flushed red, “I’m just… speaking hypothetically!”

“Right, sure… well…” Misaki paused; giving the question some serious thought. “I understand your concern, I’m sure everyone wants their friends and girlfriend to like each other… of course I don’t have to worry about that as much given what my friends are like…” Misaki chuckled softly, “But, I think you shouldn’t let your worries get in the way of being with someone you like! And I’m sure if you treat this girl right, her best friend will approve.”

“You… really think so?”

“Yeah,” Misaki smiled sweetly, “You’re a cool person, Ichigaya-san, I’m sure it’ll be fine when you confess.”

“Thanks,” Arisa smiled back, “Same goes for you! I think you should confess too!”

“B-But I said I’m no-”

“Right right,” Arisa smirked, “You’re as obvious as me, you know!”

Misaki moaned embarrassingly; tugging her beanie over her eyes.

“So, onto the next question. This one’s a little… stranger…” Arisa took another quick sip of her tea; she hoped to ask her question without seeming suspicious this time, “Since I’ve had love of my mind recently I, uh… I came across something that got me curious. Do you think… polygamy can work?”

“Polygamy? Like, three people dating each other?”

“Um…” Arisa gently stirred her tea to look casual, “I was thinking more like five people…”

“Five!?” Misaki blurted out, “Do you know five people who are dating?

Arisa shushed her, glancing around to make sure no one was listening in, “No I don’t! It’s just a hypothetical that came up!”

“That’s kind of a specific hypothetical, but sure, whatever…” Misaki furrowed her brow in thought, “Honestly… I don’t know… I’ve only ever fallen in love with one girl…”

“So you admit you’re in love?”

“Not what we’re focusing on, Ichigaya-san!” Misaki grumbled, “Look, polygamy, maybe it can work but I think the people involved have to be absolutely sure of their feelings going in, you know? Like, you can’t love one person then just be attracted to or like someone else and drag them into it. That won’t work and everyone’ll just be sad in the end; I know I wouldn’t want to do that to people I care about… but if everyone really felt they could make it work, then maybe it could! Crazier things have happened; being a part of Hello Happy World made me very aware of this.” Misaki chuckled, “Was any of that helpful?”

“Be sure… of your feelings…” Arisa’s face sank; eyes turned downward, gazing to the ground, “But how can you be sure?”

Misaki scratched the back of her head frustratedly, “I guess that part’s the same no matter how many people you like! You just have to listen to your heart!” Misaki’s cheeks reddened, “Oh god… that’s so cheesy, heh heh.”

“My heart…” Arisa closed her eyes and placed a hand over her heart. She didn’t know why exactly she did it; she knew Misaki didn’t mean her heart would literally be talking to her, but Arisa was feeling at her wits end. All these emotions overwhelming her; she just wanted an answer, something to steer her in a direction so she didn’t have to wonder aimlessly in her mind.

Then something unexpected happened; she actually heard a voice calling to her. It was small, a little quiet and distant; Arisa couldn’t quite understand it at first, all she knew was it wasn’t someone calling out to her in the café. She wondered if it could actually be her heart.

The voice started to get closer, louder, clearer; that’s when Arisa realised it wasn’t one voice, but four.

Arisa!

Kokoro…

Aa-chan!

Hagumi…

Arisa-chan!

Hina-san…

Arisa!

Ako…

She had her answer.

“Thanks, Okusawa-san, you’ve been a big help!” Arisa stood up from her chair; rising determinedly, “I’m gonna go tell them how I feel!”

“Great! Glad to hear-” Misaki frowned, “Wait, what?”

“See ya later, Okusawa-san,” Arisa flicked one of her twintails coolly, “I’ve got some girls to see!”

“W-Wow, hold on, Ichigaya-san!” Misaki stuttered, “You did say ‘them’, right? Do you mean-? Are you-?”

As Arisa walked away she gave Misaki one last look back with a smirk, “And I’m fine with you dating Kasumi by the way, so feel free to ask her out later, she’s definitely say yes! Though if you make her cry I’ll kick your ass!” Arisa left the store; waving behind her.

Misaki stared at the door for a while after Arisa left; her mouth agape in shock. When she was able to speak again, she waved her arms widely and screamed, “What the hell just happened!?”

 


 

“I have something to discuss I need your help with,” Yukina announced seriously.

The other girls in the room turned to her; giving their full attention. Yukina had called Kaoru, Chisato, Saaya, and Rinko to meet at CiRCLE for a band meeting. She was pleased the girls had all arrived promptly but troubled by the thoughts stuck in her head.

Yukina gestured to four chairs she had placed in the centre of the room, “Have a seat.”

“I hoped for good news but you sound even more serious than usual, Yukina-chan,” Chisato noted.

Saaya giggled, placing her hands on her hips, “Can you really tell the difference?”

“Well, Rinko-chan would know more than I…” The three girls turned to look at Rinko.

“Oh! Uh…” Rinko shrank a little under the other’s gaze, “If I to try and guess… based on her tone… I’d say it’s not bad but… she might want our input on something…?”

“Very astute, Rinko,” Yukina chuckled, “You can read me like a book then?”

Rinko smiled sweetly, “That’s what… being good friends is like… I suppose…”

“Truly a magnificent sight!” Kaoru sighed dramatically, “May we all become such good friends someday…”

Yukina’s expression turned serious again, “On to what I wished to discuss…”

The girls all straightened in their chairs; like students being addressed by their teacher.

“During our first meeting, we decided the theme of our band and song would be ‘tear jerking balled’; while the idea interested me, I struggled to actually come up with meaning for it…” Yukina lamented, “I wanted to do something unique for us, something that wasn’t Roselia… I now know what the song shall be about, and while I have made good progress, I feel hearing my bandmate’s thoughts on it would be helpful.”

“Of course we’ll help!” Saaya cheerfully declared, “So what is the ‘meaning of tear jerking balled’?”

“Our song shall be about…” Yukina hesitated for a moment; the last word getting caught in her throat, “…love.”

“L-Love?” Rinko gasped in surprise.

“A most fleeting theme indeed!” Kaoru applauded.

Chisato shyly played with her hands, trying to keep a straight face, “And you think we would know any more about love then you?”

“Fufu, Rinko-senpai might be able to help you…” Saaya said slyly.

“Y-Yamabuki-san!” Rinko shushed her.

“Oh?” Yukina raised an eyebrow curiously, “Is there something I should know, Rinko?”

“N-No!” Rinko objected, “Certainly nothing… that would interfere with Roselia…”

“It’s fine, Rinko. My feelings have changed regarding such relationship recently,” Yukina smiled reassuringly, “And I’m confident in your commitment either way.”

“Really? Thank you, Yukina-san…”

Saaya jabbed Rinko lightly with her elbow; encouraging the older girl to continue but Rinko still looked unsure.

Seeing Rinko’s doubt, Yukina spoke, “Perhaps… I could start by sharing something of my own…” The other girl’s eyes widened; they leaned forward simultaneously, eager to hear what she would say next, “You see, I… may be interested in someone…”

“HUH!?” The other four all yelled; jumping out of their chairs together. They began yelling over one another.

“You like someone, Yukina-senpai!? Who?”

“Someone we know, Yukina-chan?”

“I-I’ll support you, Yukina-san!”

“If you need any advice on sweeping a maiden off her feet, I can help.”

“Enough,” Yukina said calmly; holding up a hand to hush the others, “I thank you for the interest, and the offer Kaoru-san, but I intend on expressing my feelings to Hazawa-san on my own.”

“IT’S TSUGUMI-SAN!?” They all yelled again.

Yukina sighed, “Please do not get caught in a loop, we have much to do…”

“I admire your honesty and bravery, Yukina-chan… In fact…” Chisato leaned into her girlfriend’s side; whispering, “Kaoru…”

“Are you sure?”

Chisato nodded then turned back to the others, “Kaoru and I… are dating. Have been for a while actually!”

“Good for you two!” Rinko congratulated with a warm smile, “I’m sure you must be very happy!”

“Very much so!” Chisato nodded, “Kaoru is very-”

“Yes it’s true!” Kaoru loudly declared, “My heart has been captured by the most beautiful kitten there is! I’m immeasurable happy to say I’M IN LOVE WITH SHIRASAGI CHISATO!”

Chisato lightly tugged her eccentric girlfriend’s sleeve, “Um, Kaoru?”

“YES, MY LOVE!?”

“Calm down.”

“Hehe… sorry…”

“I understand Kaoru-san’s frivolity though…” Yukina said seriously.

“Really?” Chisato eyed her curiously.

“Indeed,” Yukina nodded, “Sometimes… as embarrassing as it is… I feel a desire to make sure everyone I see knows of my feelings for Hazawa-san. Why is that?”

Saaya chuckled, “Maybe it’s a ‘marking your territory’ type of thing.”

“T-That sounds a little childish, don’t you think?”

“Oh?” Saaya smiled smugly, “And how would you feel if someone else said they were thinking of asking her out?”

“I would…” Yukina looked away shyly, “…be displeased.”

Saaya laughed harder, embarrassing Yukina further, “Well you better hurry up and confess! Tsugumi’s quite a catch, you know?”

“I am aware of Hazawa-san’s perfection, yes!” Yukina answered seriously.

Chisato giggled, “I can imagine Tsugumi-chan’s face when you tell her how you think she’s ‘perfect’.”

Yukina closed her eyes, a calm expression on her face, “Not ‘think’, I know it. The more concerning factor to consider is whether Hazawa-san would be interested in dating me.”

“Something tells me you don’t need to worry about that!” Saaya said reassuringly, “Though it is interesting to see Yukina-senpai so nervous!”

“N-Not nervous…” Yukina blushed but held her stoic expression, “Merely contemplative.”

“In either case it’s still quite an interesting development,” Chisato cooed, “To think you of all people could become so enamoured with someone you’d want to write them a love song.”

“Ah, but you see that is the power of love!” Kaoru wrapped Chisato in a gentle hug from behind, “Two souls, however peculiar or unlikely it may seem, destined to be joined together in a powerful bond uniting them across this most fleeting life!”

“Normally I’d say you’re being too dramatic, but…” Chisato reached up behind her; running her fingers through and playing with Kaoru’s hair, “I think I understand this time…”

Yukina hummed thoughtfully, studying the romantic pair, “The desire to hold one another and ability to understand each other… yes, this is what I was seeking to convey.”

“We’ll help you… convey your feelings… however we can…” Rinko offered.

“Not just mine. Much like Roselia’s songs are made of all of our passion, this song will show all of our love,” Yukina corrected, “Though, of course, that does mean…” Yukina grew a small smirk, “It’s your turn to confess, Rinko.”

The shy girl let out a small ‘eep’ noise; suddenly feeling four pairs of eyes staring predatorily at her.

 


 

Misaki walked down the alley path a little listlessly; her earlier conversation with Arisa still dominating her mind. She had been worrying about Arisa’s reaction to her feelings for some time, knowing the attachment the tsundere girl had for Misaki’s starry eyed crush, but it seemed to go over smoothly; Arisa giving not only her approval but her encouragement. Though Misaki still couldn’t help but feel nervous; a different worry occupying her head.

What if Ichigaya-san’s wrong? What if Kasumi doesn’t say yes…

A shine out of the corner of her eye caught Misaki’s attention; it was a series of star-shaped stickers placed along the wall. Misaki crouched down next to them; running her fingers gently along the wall. She remembered hearing the story of how Kasumi followed these stickers to Arisa’s house which led them to forming their strong friendship and band.

That Kasumi… she really is special… I wonder if she even realises how much she’s affected so many people just by being herself…

Misaki got up, gave her cloths a quick dust off, and continued down the path. She finally arrived at the Ichigaya residence, pushed her way through the gate, and quickly made for the basement.

Her band had been using Poppin’ Party’s usual gathering spot for their meet ups at Kasumi’s request. Misaki did think it was a bit weird to use the spot at Arisa’s house for their band considering Arisa herself wasn’t with them but since it was Kasumi’s suggestion Misaki, ruled by her gay panic, immediately agreed. Arisa also rejected the idea at first, but after a few hundred ‘but I called dibs’ and a few million ‘please’ begs from Kasumi, Arisa relented.

“Pardon the intrusion,” Misaki whispered as she entered the basement. She tiptoed her way down the steps, hoping to catch a glimpse at a particular sight she had come to love, and she wasn’t disappointed. Kasumi was the only one in the basement, she hadn’t noticed Misaki’s presence yet so she quietly read and scribbled some notes down on the several pages in front of her.

Misaki loved watching Kasumi work on her music; the gleam in her eye, the light tug of her small smile. Misaki was truly enraptured. As much as she would have wanted to, Misaki knew she couldn’t stare forever, she announced her presence with a clearing of her throat.

Kasumi looked up, the smile on her face growing wider, “Misaki-chan!” She jumped off the couch and ran across the room; pulling Misaki into a hug. “I was just thinking of you!”

“O-Oh really?” Misaki stuttered, her voice cracking a little, “I was… actually thinking of you too…”

“That’s so nice!” Kasumi giggled; she lightly tugged on Misaki’s sleeve, “Come on! Come sit with me!” She pulled the other girl along so they were sitting particularly close together on couch.

“So, um…” Misaki started nervously, “You going over the song?”

“Yeah!” Kasumi replied enthusiastically, fiddling with some of the pages, “I know we already finished it, and practice has been going great, but I just wanted to look it over and make sure it’s perfect!”

Misaki chuckled, “How diligent of you, Kasumi!” Kasumi lifted her head; silently staring at Misaki as their eyes met. Misaki felt her heartbeat quicken, “What’s up?” She asked, trying to appear calm.

Kasumi blinked a few times, as if waking from a trance she didn’t know she entered, “Oh! I was just thinking… I’m glad we’ve been able to spend time together recently!” She smiled brightly, “I really like spending time with you!”

Misaki let out an embarrassing squeak, she felt the heat rising up her face, “M-Me too!” She stuttered, “W-We should spend more time together after this! Just the two of us!”

She hadn’t meant to say all that; true, it was something she had been wanting to say for a long time, but now the words just seemed to spill out. Many nights had been spent wondering if Kasumi had any interest in her, at times they seemed more like a friend-of-a-friend type thing, but Misaki wanted so much more.

The feeling she got when she was with Kasumi was different than when she was with Kokoro or Hagumi or anybody someone might compare her to. Misaki didn’t just love the starry-eyed girl’s positive attitude, more so her ambition and her ability to not just pull but push someone towards something fantastic.

Kasumi’s reaction surprised Misaki, her smile seemed to grow twice as large and her eyes sparkled, “Yeah! Yeah! That sounds good! Where would we go?”

“Uh…” Misaki was shook, she couldn’t help but wonder if Kasumi really knew what Misaki wanted when she said ‘spend time together, just the two of them’. “Maybe… see a movie? Or dinner? I-I don’t know… I’d be up for anything really! As long as…” Misaki swallowed her nerves, she couldn’t believe she was actually saying this, “As long as I’m with you!”

“Misaki-chan…” Kasumi whispered a little breathlessly. Her smile shrank, though not in a way that showed she was displeased; instead it became gentler, sweeter, softer. Something about it felt intimate to Misaki, like she was seeing a side of Kasumi she hadn’t before, “I feel the same way…”

At some point, without Misaki realizing, the two had gotten closer. They shifted on the couch; the sides of their bodies pressed against each other. They subconsciously started to lean in, Misaki told herself not to get her hopes up, that she might be misreading the situation; still, as Kasumi drew closer and closer, she couldn’t help listening to her heart that screamed of dream come true.

“Pardon the intrusion!” Tae yelled as she came barrelling down the basement stairs; she paused seeing the two girls froze in place, barely an inch apart from one another. “Oh… am I interrupting?”

Kasumi quickly got up and stomped her foot, a rare look of frustration on her face, “O-Tae! That was such bad timing. I was gonna kiss Misaki-chan for the very first time!”

Misaki jerked in place. Did she really just come right out and say that!?

“Oh… sorry…” Tae’s eyes widen for a moment before returning to her usual, neutral look, “Should I tell the others to wait outside?”

Misaki shook her head, “Just… just get everyone in here. We should get to practice.”

Tae gave a quick nod then ran back up the steps.

“Awww…” Kasumi whined, “I thought we were gonna…” she looked to Misaki sadly, “Did you not want to?”

“O-Of course I do!” Misaki waved her arms in a panicked attempt to alleviate Kasumi’s worries. She scratched her cheek embarrassingly as her blush came back deeper than ever before, “M-Maybe we could… pick this up after practice… if you still wanted to?”

“Yay! Definitely!” Kasumi cheered, jumping up and down.

“You seem pretty pleased, Toyama-san,” Maya commented as she entered the basement, “Come up with something new for the song?”

“No,” Tae answered for her, “She was just kissing Misaki.”

“H-Hanazono-san!” Misaki protested.

“O-Oh really? Huhehe…” Maya laughed nervously, “I mean… I suspected after Okusawa-san dropped honorifics…”

Misaki slapped herself, “Oh god… was I really that obvious?”

“Oh who cares? It’s romantic!” Himari cooed, “I wish my dark haired, princess charming would come in and swoop me off my feet like Misaki-chan.”

“H-Hey! I’m not really the ‘charmer’ type; there was no feet swooping!” Misaki objected.

“I don’t know about that…” Kasumi smiled shyly, “My feet felt pretty swooped when you asked me out~”

“Really?” Misaki looked away, mumbling under her breath, “Heh… cool.”

“Gah! Everyone’s making me so jealous!” Himari whined, “First Moca hooks up with Lisa-senpai, then Tomoe and Sayo-san somehow fall for each other without realizing it themselves, then Tsugu even manages to charm Minato freaking Yukina! At this rate even Ran will get a girlfriend before me!”

Maya placed a comforting hand on the upset girl’s back, “Hey now, it’s not like having a girlfriend is all there is to life! You’re still a good bassist and friend!”

“Thanks, Maya-senpai, but…” Himari made an indignant noise part way between a squeal and moan, “I’m a hopeless romantic! I wanna be confessed to! I wanna go out on dates! I wanna dance under the pale moonlight!”

“Are you a vampire?” Tae asked curiously.

Himari huffed, “No! I’m a girl, O-Tae!”

Tae frowned, entering a state of intense concentration, wondering whether the two were mutually exclusive.

“How is it this group feels almost as crazy as Hello Happy?” Misaki mused.

“If it makes you feel better, Uehara-san, Hanazono-san and I don’t have girlfriends either!” Maya offered.

Tae snapped out of her trance, “Are you asking me out!?”

Maya blubbered and recoiled ungraciously, “W-Wha!? I was just saying we’re single!”

“This is so sudden…” Tae shook her head, “You’d need Oddie’s approval, of course…”

“I’m not asking you out!”

A sudden knocking coming from above drew Tae and Maya’s attention; the other three were too distracted to notice, Misaki by Kasumi jumping on her for a surprise embrace, and Himari was still losing herself in a series of romantic fantasies with her crush. A new voice the girls couldn’t quite decipher was talking with Arisa’s grandmother; after a few moments the stranger seemed to enter the room directly above the basement.

“P-Pardon the intrusion…” A gentle voice called out.

“Oh great!” Himari moaned, “Now I’m so lovesick I’m hearing her voice even when she’s not here!”

Maya frowned, “That didn’t sound like Kaoru-san.”

Himari rolled her eyes, “Of course I still admire Kaoru-senpai, but Rinko-senpai’s the one I really like!”

The door at the top of the basement staircase swung open; the figure who entered caused Himari’s eyes to widen as far as they could go.

“R-R-Rinko-senpai!?”

“H-Hello everyone,” Rinko shyly greeted.

“Oh hey! Himari was just talking about you!” Tae said bluntly, “She was saying how much she-!”

A swift kick to Tae’s leg caused her to fall to the ground like a tall tree chopped with an axe.

“Never mind her!” Himari grinned awkwardly, “Did you need something, Rinko-senpai?”

“Well actually…” Rinko looked between each girl in the room, including Tae who seemed content to lie on the ground, “If I’m not… interrupting your practice… could I borrow Uehara-san?”

“M-Me!?” Himari stuttered; pointing to her beet-red face.

Maya shrugged, “That’s alright, Shirokane-san. We hadn’t actually started yet anyway.”

“Thank you…” Rinko gave a short bow. She looked to Himari, their eyes meeting for a moment, before she quickly turned around and stepped outside.

Himari slapped her cheeks, “Oh g-geez! I don’t think I can’t do this!”

“Hmmm? What do ya mean Himari-chan?” Kasumi asked obliviously, “Don’t you talk with Rinko-senpai all the time?”

“Well yeah, but talking to someone as a crush is totally different from talking to them as friend!” Himari whined.

“Is it?” Kasumi tapped her chin, “I always talked to Misaki-chan the same!”

“But you’re so confidant! And cool! Plus you and Misaki are totally meant to be!” The series of comments brought smiles to Kasumi and Misaki’s faces as they enjoyed the idea of being ‘meant for each other’. Himari on the other hand just got sadder; her head downturned as she shyly played with her hands. “I’m not good at expressing how I really feel with someone I like. Even with Kaoru-senpai, who was always super open and friendly, I’d just end up saying something dumb like ‘you’re so cool!’ and I’d never get anywhere…”

“I don’t think you need to be so hard on yourself, Uehara-san,” Maya said reassuringly, “Kaoru-san knew you cared about her, and I’m sure if Kaoru-san didn’t have a crush of her own on someone else she might have answered your feelings. Shirokane-san will be the same!”

“B-But what if she likes someone else!?” Himari asked; remembering the texts Rinko sent her about Saaya.

“That might be true but… I still say it’s worth going for!” Misaki replied, “Like… Kasumi’s a total catch, there are probably dozens, no, hundreds of people that’d like to date her. She could have liked one of them, but still, I asked her out!” Misaki scratched her neck embarrassingly, “Even if it was half on accident, he he.”

“Misaki-chaaaan!” Kasumi cried as she tackled Misaki in another powerful hug.

“You know what? You’re right!” Himari placed her hands on her hips; giving the others a determined look, “Like Kaoru-senpai always says; ‘if you do nothing, you achieve nothing!’ and I want to achieve Rinko-senpai!”

“Does that mean you’re going to do her?” Tae asked; still lying flat on the ground.

“R-Really, Tae!? Don’t be so crass!” Himari objected, “Rinko-senpai is a beautiful pure lady and, speaking as one myself, beautiful pure ladies must be courted properly!” Himari struck another dynamic pose, pointing to the door, “I’m off!” She then sprinted to the door, almost tripping as she went up the stairs, and dashed outside.

“Guess Kaoru-san really can have some positive impact on her ‘little kittens’,” Misaki shook her head affectionately.

 


 

Himari stepped outside, seeing the girl she desired patiently waiting for her, she nervously walked forward, “S-So, Rinko-senpai, you wanted to speak with me?”

“A-Ah! Y-Yes… I did…” Rinko shyly tugged at her sleeve; she looked everywhere except at Himari herself, “I was… speaking with my band earlier… and we were discussing something that got me curious… so I wanted to ask you about it…”

Of all the things Rinko could have said, that was not something Himari anticipated. While it was surprising, the fact that it didn’t seem to be anything major put Himari at ease; though Himari was curious why Rinko seemed nervous.

Rinko continued, “Have, uh… have you…” she squeezed her eyes shut; tension showing on her tight lips, “Have you ever had feelings for someone?”

“AH!” Himari froze in place; her mouth hung open as the colour drained from her face. After a moment of shock she felt able to move; only enough to stumble backwards a little, “Well, uh… I have lots of feelings for lots of people, ya know? So it depends what you mean…”

“Well the discussion we had… was about Yukina-san’s recent… interest in Hazawa-san. So I suppose you could say… I’m asking about…” Rinko’s voice grew softer, to the point where Himari could barely hear it, “Romantic feelings…”

Himari was screaming ‘YES!’ loudly in her head but trying to appear calm on the outside, despite her shaky legs, she said, “I m-might have… at some point. Maybe…”

“It can be… rather confusing…” Rinko nodded agreeably.

“Why did you come to me for this, Rinko-senpai? N-Not that I mind!” Himari panicked, “I’ll always help you of course! But I just… wonder why you’d ask me instead of anyone else…”

Rinko bit her lip; she looked obviously unsure how much she could tell Himari, “Well, um… you seem like you might know… a thing or two about this. Plus you read shoujo and… OH! Didn’t you once tell me… you were interested in dating!”

Himari gaze turned downward as she recalled a horribly botched attempt at asking Rinko out, “Yeah… I said something like that…” She looked back up; trying to meet Rinko’s eyes, “Does this mean… there’s someone you l-love?” The words came out a little more hopeful than Himari had intended.

“No, I don’t think… I’ve ever been in love…”

The response cut through Himari, going straight for her heart, leaving it slashed in two, “Oh… I see…”

“B-But…” Rinko continued, “There is someone… I’ve been thinking a lot about recently… I didn’t know what to do about it… but Yukina-san thinks I should… ask them out.”

This only made Himari feel worse; she seemed to physically deflate. Himari wouldn’t fool herself into thinking she was the one on Rinko’s mind; the writing was on the wall, she knew who it was, “Saaya, right?”

“W-What? Yamabuki-san?”

Himari sighed, “You two have been getting on pretty well, huh? You need my help to figure out how to ask her out, right?”

“U-Uehara-san, I think you’re misunderstanding!” Rinko’s voice raised to a half shout in her panic.

“Hmmm?” Himari raised her head curiously, “What do ya mean?”

“I-I mean I… you…” Rinko shuffled shyly from foot to foot; she tilted her head to hide her blushing face behind her long dark hair. “Do you… have your phone on you?”

Himari blinked, caught off guard the seemingly unrelated question, “Uh, yeah.” She pulled her phone out of her pocket to emphasize her point.

“Could you… turn around…?”

Himari frowned; after being thrown through an emotional wall she wasn’t in the mood for whatever strange game this was. If it was someone other than Rinko, Himari would have told them off but between Rinko’s meek demeanour and Himari’s lingering feelings, she had to comply. Himari turned her back to Rinko and waited a moment. When Rinko said nothing Himari was about to ask what was going on suddenly her phone played a short tune; indicating she had been sent a text message.

She considered ignoring it, but since she was just standing there waiting for whatever Rinko had planned anyway, she decided to check her phone.

Cutie Patootie: Uehara-san…

Cutie Patootie: I have a lot I need to tell you…

The message came as quite a surprise to Himari, after all, the sender was about two steps away from her. Himari looked to Rinko who still had her back to Himari; standing in such a way her face was concealed from view. She looked back to her phone at the sound of another buzz.

Cutie Patootie: I know what I’m about to say should be said face-to-face, but I just can’t…

Cutie Patootie: I feel myself shaking, my body’s telling me to run away and avoid the whole situation, but I know I can’t do that. I don’t WANT to do. I want to tell you how I feel. So here goes…

Cutie Patootie: Uehara-san, I like you! (◠﹏◠✿)

The last message almost made Himari drop her phone; she fumbled with it several times in the air before she was finally able to get a stable grip. Himari reread the message, a couple of times, just to be sure she hadn’t misread it. Having confirmed what the message said, Himari spun on her heels, turning to Rinko again. She wanted to scream and fling herself at Rinko but something gave her pause; Rinko was shaking nervously, her face still buried in her phone.

This must not have been easy for Rinko to do, even through a text, and Himari knew this should be handled delicately; for Rinko. Himari couldn’t get overly excited, as much as she would squeal like the love-struck school girl she is hearing the words Rinko was texting, now was the time to take things slow and let Rinko say everything she needed to.

Cutie Patootie: That is to say… I have an interest in you!

Cutie Patootie: I don’t think that really explains it either (¬_¬)

Cutie Patootie: So I suppose I should just say it in as simple straightforward terms as I can

Cutie Patootie: Uehara-san ( 。・_・。)

Cutie Patootie: I want to…

Cutie Patootie: Take you out…

Cutie Patootie: ON

Cutie Patootie: A

Cutie Patootie: DATE!!!!

Rinko suddenly took off in a mad sprint, probably the fastest she’s ever moved, dashing through Arisa’s front gate.

Himari reached out, desperately wanting to stop Rinko, but the other girl was already too far gone. Her arm fell to her side and she let out a loud sigh; she felt so close to getting what she desired most but without given even a chance to reply, she wondered if this could still count as a confession. That was when something caught her eye; there was something sticking out from behind the front gate. Looking closer Himari realised it was actually the end of Rinko’s dress; the shy girl hadn’t completely run away, she was still here, Himari still had a chance.

Himari took her first couple steps towards Rinko but then found herself pausing. Rinko had been brave enough to be the one to confess and she had warned Himari how much her body told her to run but she still fought to stay close. Though Himari was disappointed she couldn’t actually touch Rinko, this thought still made her smile. She pulled up her phone and gave her reply.

ME: Rinko-senpai

ME: I would absolutely LOVE to go out with you!!!

She heard Rinko let out a loud ‘eep’ in surprise, followed by the hammering of her thumbs the screen.

Cutie Patootie: OK THEN! EXCELLENT! LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU’RE FREE! I’LL TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING!!!

Himari heard Rinko moving once again; this time likely actually completely leaving. She held her phone to her chest; sighing dreamily as she stared up at the clear skies.

Maybe this wasn’t exactly the confession Himari had always fantasied about; Rinko wasn’t a dashing prince riding in on a horse carrying her away as all her friends and classmates cheered. Himari knew that fantasy, fun as it was, was still just a silly fantasy. What happened today was real and for her, and Rinko, it still felt just as romantic.

 


 

The time had come, she may have been nervous, but Yukina was never one to back down from something she deemed important. It didn’t matter if there was chance of failure, rejection or humiliation; she would pursue her desires with every fibre of her being.

Her time since Roselia’s formation had been a period of immense growth for her; even more so since meeting the other bands but one thing she could not have predicted would happen, in fact she would have flat out denied it as a possibility previously, was that she would fall in love. Still, she knew what her heart wanted; it pounded just as fiercely for Tsugumi as it did when she got to perform a new song with her band. That was why once her band meeting was done she said her goodbyes, wished Rinko luck, then immediately went to Hazawa Café.

As she walked down the road, just a short distance left to Hazawa Café, she saw a familiar face ahead of her. Yukina called out, “Sayo!”

The girl spun around, recognising the voice calling her immediately, “Minato-san?” Sayo slowed her pace, allowing Yukina to catch up, “Where are you heading? Band or solo practice?”

“Band practice just finished; my solo practice shall be later…” Yukina explained, “Right now… I’m going to Hazawa Café.”

“Ah, me too. Mitake-san told we were to meet up there before going to CiRCLE for practice.”

A pensive look crossed Yukina’s face, “Mitake-san, huh? Hopefully her presence won’t make anything more awkward…”

“More awkward?” Sayo raised an eyebrow inquisitively, “For what?”

“I intend to… discuss certain things with Hazawa-san…”

“O-Oh really?” Sayo eyed widened; realising what she meant by ‘things’. “Well… I shall try to move the discussion along quickly for you then.”

“Thank you, Sayo,” Yukina gave a small, respective nod, “I must admit I am…” She looked for the most indirect way of saying she was scared, “Not 100% sure what the outcome will be…” She coughed into her hand and looked away, “Anyway, how are things for you and Udagawa-san?”

It was Sayo’s turn to look away; lightly strumming her arm with the opposite hand, “Not well… I think I may have missed my opportunity…”

“I doubt that to be true…” Yukina shook her head, “Simply speak with her again, everything will work out, I am sure of it.”

There was a short pause, the two girls remaining silent, until Sayo suddenly started laughing. Seeing that, Yukina became slightly annoyed by Sayo’s seemingly random outburst, she decided to explain, “Apologies, I just had to start laughing because… who would have thought there would come a day where the two of us would discuss our love lives instead of music… at least without someone like Imai-san to bring it up.”

“Fufu, you have a point, I suppose we’ve come quite a long wa-” Yukina paused, realising they had reached their destination. “Well then, I suppose it’s time…”

“Best of luck, Minato-san,” Sayo gave Yukina a comforting pat on the shoulder then lead the way; pushing the door open and stepping inside.

A voice called out to Sayo the moment she stepped inside; causing her to freeze in place, “Sayo-san!?” It was Tomoe.

Sayo turned around attempting to flee but the path was blocked by Yukina. Sayo gave her a pleading look but Yukina countered with a determined glare of her own and a small shake of her head; this was a battle Yukina would not let Sayo run from. Both of them were the type to face their problems and goals with the upmost resolve, whatever the consequences and fallout may be; this still didn’t make it any easier for Sayo.

She felt Tomoe’s presence behind her, steeled her nerves, and turned back around to face her crush, “H-Hello, Tomoe-san.” She mental cursed herself for stuttering, “What are you doing here?”

Tomoe was clearly nervous too and thankful for the easy subject to start with, “Me and Afterglow were just hanging out before band practice. Himari left a bit ago, Moca and Tsugu’ll go when her shift’s up, so Ran said I might as well stay since, uh… since you were coming here…”

“Ah, I see…” Sayo said, sounding a little distant, “Though… I believe we were supposed to keep interactions with our main band members to a minimum, to encourage spending time with… our new band members…” Sayo wasn’t that bothered really; she just needed any excuse to not address what was really plaguing her mind and heart.

“Right, sorry, just kinda happened…” Tomoe scratched the back of her head nervously, “Uh, Sayo-san… can we talk about… the other day?”

“Well…” Sayo stepped back; she racked her brain for any excuse it could muster. A sudden push from behind sent her falling forward, right into Tomoe, who caught her and brought Sayo in close to stabilise her.

“Oops, sorry,” Yukina said faux-apologetically, “I just needed to get past you…” she side stepped the now embracing pair and walked towards the table Ran and the others watched the scene from.

Sayo suddenly realised the position they were in and her face began to redden, “T-Thank you for the help, T-Tomoe-san… you can let go of me now…”

Tomoe pause, staring down at the girl in her arms with an unreadable expression; after a moment she tightened her hold on Sayo’s body, “No…”

“W-What?”

Tomoe furrowed her eyebrows, giving a determined stare, “I… I don’t want to…”

Sayo blinked up at the taller girl, “Tomoe-san, what are even saying?”

“I DON’T WANT TO LET YOU GO!” Tomoe yelled, “I LIKE BEING THIS CLOSE TO YOU! I LIKE HOLDING YOU AND IT’S SOMETHING I WANT TO KEEP DOING FORVER!”

“Tomoe-san…” Sayo said breathlessly. Both girls’ faces were now as red as Tomoe’s hair; Sayo let the tension leave her body and she rested her head against Tomoe’s chest. She felt like she needed to speak but was unsure what to say; she ended up just saying the first thought that came into her head, “We’re… still blocking the door… and probably disturbing the rest of the café.”

“Oh…” Tomoe looked behind her and saw several pairs of eyes staring back, “Right…” She turned her attention back to Sayo, “Guess I’ll just need to take you outside.”

“What do you- HEY!” Sayo was swiftly lifted off of her feet; Tomoe’s strong arms wrapped around her and pulling her up. “T-Tomoe-san, put me down!”

“Sure! Let’s go!” Tomoe started to walk outside, Sayo still in her arms, and she called out behind her, “Yo, Ran! Me and Sayo-san’ll see ya at CiRCLE!” She took Sayo outside and stepped over to the side of the building so they wouldn’t be seen by everyone inside.

Tomoe lowered Sayo down, letting her feet touch the ground, but kept her arms around her.

“Well, uh… now we’re alone.”

“Indeed…”

“So you can say… anything you want to say to me now…”

Sayo turned away; unable to look Tomoe in the eye, “I mean… what am I supposed to say?”

Tomoe shrugged, “You could just… say what you were going to say before.”

“I don’t think I can…” Sayo gently shook her head, “Just forget about it.”

“B-But before…” The hurt was obvious in Tomoe’s voice, “It sounded like… you were going to say… that you…”

“I-I don’t know… if I can do it again…” Sayo buried her face in Tomoe’s shirt; gripping the taller girl’s sides desperately.

Tomoe shifted her hands; one still wrapped around Sayo waist, the other stroking her long minty hair. “It’s ok, Sayo-san,” Tomoe said soothingly, “I know how hard it must be...”

“Tomoe-san…” Sayo lifted her head; her slightly reddened eyes now visible to Tomoe, “Why… are you so patient with me?”

Tomoe went quiet; she sucked in a large lung-filling breath and yelled something Sayo did not expect, “SOIYA!”

“W-What the hell!? Why did you say that?” Sayo asked flabbergasted.

“Gotta psyche myself up for it!” Cerulean eyes met mint ones in a passionate gaze; whatever embarrassing feelings the girls had began to bubble up and however wild their hearts beat the two found themselves unable to look away from each other. “Sayo-san… You’re most amazing person I know, I absolutely love being with you, a-and I wanna like… do even more with you! Be closer to you; more than anyone else! What I mean to say is…” The next set of words came blast out of Tomoe’s mouth seemingly all at once, “I LOVE YOU AND I WANT YOU TO BE MY GIRLFRIEND!”

Another silent pause between the girls; Sayo lowered her gaze and began to shake.

Tomoe’s heart sank; she wondered if she really had read it all wrong, if Sayo really didn’t feel the same way like she thought, if her confession had just driven them apart. “S-Sayo-san?” Was all Tomoe could whisper.

Sayo again lifted her head revealing tears streaming down her face and, surprising Tomoe, a wide smile, “Y-You idiot…” Sayo huffed playfully, “I’m supposed to confess first; I am older than you…”

Tomoe began to let out a large belly-laugh, “You think I’d care about that!?”

“Perhaps not…” Sayo joined Tomoe in her laughter, “But there is one thing I can do to take charge…”

“Oh?” Tomoe eyed her curiously, “And what would that be?”

“This…” Sayo lifted her hands and cupped Tomoe’s cheeks; pulling the taller in closer. At first Sayo just planted a small kiss on Tomoe, just off of her lips, but something suddenly swelled within Sayo; she wanted more. She quickly pulled Tomoe in again; this time being far more direct and passionate as Sayo tried to convey her feelings in a lovely kiss.

“W-Wow!” Tomoe exclaimed once Sayo released her, “Oh my god! That was freaking awesome!”

“I-I see.” Sayo looked away shyly, “I’m glad to hear it…”

Tomoe laughed at Sayo’s awkwardness; she took Sayo’s hand in her own and gave a small comforting squeeze, “You big dork! I love you!”

“Y-Yes, well… I feel the same, of course!”

Tomoe placed her free hand on her hip, “Come on! You gotta say it now!”

Sayo mumbled something under her breath.

“Huh!? What was that!?” Tomoe said a little louder than necessary to add to Sayo’s embarrassment, “You’re gonna have to repeat really loudly!”

Sayo grumbled, squeezing her eyes closed, “I-I said I… l-love you t-too, Tomoe-san!”

“That’s my girl!” Tomoe declared proudly; following it up with quick kiss to Sayo’s forehead. The two girls were obviously very happy but as much as Tomoe wanted to spend all day gushing over and teasing her now girlfriend, she knew and respected that Sayo still had her limits for these types of things. While she might push Sayo a little here and there in their relationship, she would also always offer a place of reprieve for the one she loved. “So, Sayo-san… how about we start making our way to CiRCLE?”

Sayo smiled; a calm washed over as she realized Tomoe really was perfect for her, “I would love to!”

“You wanna… hold hands on the way?”

Sayo scratched her cheek shyly, “I… suppose I wouldn’t mind that too much…”

 


 

“Oops, sorry,” Yukina said faux-apologetically to Sayo, “I just needed to get past you…” she side stepped the now embracing pair and walked towards the table Ran and the others watched the scene from. Yukina assumed Ran and Moca would be the only two there, with Tsugumi circling nearby, but was surprised to see Aya had also joined Afterglow in their meet up.

“Mitake-san, Aoba-san, Maruyama-san,” Yukina greeted stiffly.

“Hi, Yukina-chan!” Aya greeted cheerfully with a wave; Ran just nodded while Moca folded her arms and grinned mischievously.

A sudden yell made the four girls jump and they all turned to stare at the source; it was Tomoe who, after looking around embarrassingly, picked Sayo up and ran outside.

“Well… hopefully that’s a good sign…” Yukina muttered; she turned back to the others, “So from what I’m told Afterglow decided to meet up but… why are you here, Maruyama-san?”

Aya shrugged innocently, “I just felt like getting a nice, hot drink before practice and thought this would be the perfect place! When I saw Ran-chan and others I figured I might as well join them.”

“Did you come from a meeting at your agency?”

“Huh? No… why?”

“Oh, nothing really. You just look…” Yukina’s eyes ran along Aya; noting the dress and makeup she wore. The dress was similar to what Aya would usually wear, with pastel colours and frills, though it appeared to be relatively new; Yukina had certainly not seen her in it before. As for her makeup, Yukina was no expert and Aya usually did wear a little, but even Yukina could tell something was different; she half-suspected, judging from the look of it, that she may have gotten tips from Lisa.

Moca decided to finish Yukina’s thought, “Like she’s trying to look good for someone.”

“W-What!?” Aya stammered; blushing fiercely, “W-Why would think that?”

Ran raised an eyebrow; completely oblivious to the implication.

“Well, it is not my place to interfere…” Yukina’s gaze turned serious, “In any case, I’m really here to talk to-”

“Y-Yukina-senpai!” Called a cheerful voice behind her.

Yukina smiled, recognising the voice before she turned around, “Hazawa-san.”

Tsugumi smiled up at Yukina adorably, “You want your usual?”

Yukina shook her head, “That will not be necessary. Actually I wish to discuss something with you. Something rather important and… personal.”

“W-With me?” Tsugumi’s eyes widened. “P-Perhaps if it’s important someone else would be better? Like Lisa-senpai or Sayo-san, o-or even Ran-ch-”

Yukina lightly grabbed Tsugumi’s hand, “No, Hazawa-san, you are the one I want.”

Tsugumi’s blush deepened; she couldn’t say a word as Yukina led her to another free table.

Yukina pulled out a chair, sitting Tsugumi down in it, before taking the other chair herself. Yukina brought her hands together on the table between them; she quietly stared at Tsugumi for a moment, wondering where would be the best place to begin. Tsugumi shrank shyly under Yukina’s gaze and decided to remain silent.

It got to the point where it almost surprised Tsugumi when Yukina finally spoke, “Hazawa-san, music is the most important thing to me. It always has been.”

Tsugumi blinked; she wondered why Yukina would tell her such a thing. Everyone was wholly aware of Yukina’s passion but she failed to see why Yukina would bring it up now or talk to her about it at all. “Ok…”

Yukina furrowed her eyebrows; Tsugumi was wondering if she might have said something wrong before Yukina continued, “However I don’t think that means it should be the only thing important to me. I have come to learn that, thanks to Roselia; my friends are deeply important to me too, you see.”

Tsugumi smiled sweetly, “That’s nice to hear, Yukina-senpai. You really are a good friend!”

Yukina blushed; she tried to push aside Tsugumi’s praise, “Despite acknowledging these new priorities in my life… I sometimes feel I may never be able to give something other than music the devotion it deserves. For example… a girlfriend.”

“G-Girlfriend?” Tsugumi had to stop herself from gasping; she was rather surprised Yukina would say that, she didn’t even think Yukina gave much thought to dating.

“Indeed,” Yukina nodded, “I’ve recently become open to the idea of- no… I want to have a girlfriend. A specific person in fact, not just anyone.”

“I see…”

“I must ask you, Hazawa-san…” Yukina gazed intently at the other girl. Tsugumi noticed something new in Yukina’s eyes she hadn’t seen before; it looked almost like fear or desperation. “Do you think it’s selfish of me to ask someone to be my girlfriend? I do care about this person… deeply care! But… I feel if I keep music as the most important thing to me, as I inevitably will, she may feel dejected or insignificant and I would never want her to feel that way… what do you think?”

Tsugumi was silent, taking a moment to reel from Yukina’s speech, until she finally let out a small giggle, “Oh, Yukina-senpai, if you ask me this girl you like is very lucky to have you.”

Yukina’s eyes widened in shock, “R-Really?”

“Yes! Really!” Tsugumi reaffirmed, “Yukina-senpai… nobody’s perfect but… you really care about this person; so much so you’re more concerned about their happiness than yours! I think that’s special, and I’m sure this girl will see it! Sure they’re not always going to be the centre of your life… but they shouldn’t be! You’ve got so many amazing opportunities and such amazing talent; it would selfish of them to make you drop your dream for them! Just so long as you appreciate the time you do spend together… I think you can still have a very loving relationship!” Tsugumi blushed, realising how much she just rambled, “T-That’s what I think anyway…”

“So… you think I should ask the girl I’m falling for… to give me chance?”

“Certainly!” Tsugumi nodded confidently, “She’d be a fool to turn you down!”

“Very well then…” Yukina reached across the table and took Tsugumi’s hand, “Hazawa-san, would you like to go out with me?”

“Why, of cour-” Tsugumi stiffened; looking like she was actually frozen solid for a moment, “P-Pardon me, Yukina-senpai?”

“I asked if you would go out with me!” Yukina reiterated, “On a date, of course.”

“W-WHAT!?” Tsugumi leapt from her seat, slamming her hands down on the table, “Why would you want to date someone like me!?”

Yukina tilted her head inquisitively, “Someone like you?”

“Well, I mean… you’re just so amazing! Beautiful, talented, bold and confident. You’re destined to be someone the whole world will love! But me…” Tsugumi gestured to herself, “I’m plain, normal… boring. I’m just… Hazawa Tsugumi…”

Yukina folded her arms defiantly, “You just contradicted yourself, Hazawa-san.”

“Huh? But I just-”

Yukina rose from her seat, “How is it you are capable of seeing the best in everyone around but you can’t see how amazing you are?” She stepped around the table; drawing close to Tsugumi, “Do you think someone who’s plain would attract me? Do you think someone who’s normal would make me want to devote myself to them as I do music? Do you think I’d spend so much time thinking about someone who’s boring? You are Hazawa Tsugumi; that is what makes you amazing!”

Tsugumi could feel the tears starting to pour from her eyes; no one had spoken about her so passionately before, maybe she’d received a compliment here and there, but never anything like this. “I… I don’t know what to say…”

Yukina smirked, “Something along the lines of ‘Yes, I’ll go out with you’ would be nice.”

Tsugumi giggled; she desperately wiped away a few tears and looked into Yukina’s beautiful golden eyes, “Y-Yes, I’d love to go out with you, Yukina-senpai!”

Yukina embraced the now bawling Tsugumi; bringing her in for a tight hug and gentle caresses down her hair.

The three friends at the other table, who had been listening intently until now, all gave their own reactions to this declaration. Aya was in tears herself; needing some comforting pats from Ran who gave her own nod of approval. Moca, on the hand, rose from her chair and began clapping loudly. The other patrons of the café seemed a bit confused, having only heard a little as they tried not to eavesdrop, but quickly caught on and all started to join Moca. Soon the entire café, now including Tsugumi’s parents, were applauding the new couple.

Tsugumi buried her head into Yukina’s chest, “Oh god! Please let my shift be over…”

 


 

Arisa took in a deep breath; it wasn’t enough, she couldn’t calm herself, or the raging heart beating in her chest.

She stood in front of the tall, fancy wooden doors she had passed through many times before; though this time they seemed far more intimidating knowing what Arisa planned to do when she crossed through them. The door led to Kokoro’s practice room; at least the one she actually used in this gigantic house of hers. On the other side would be four of the most bizarre girls she knew and Arisa was going to confess to all them.

The thought made Arisa clutch her chest in panic. She was really going to do it; confess to four people. It would normally be considered a huge moment in someone life when they confessed their feelings to just one person; this was already something Arisa thought was beyond her and now she was going to have to find a way to tell four people how she felt.

And of course, it couldn’t just be four normal people I fell for, could it? Arisa lamented, Tsurumaki Kokoro… Kitazawa Hagumi… Hikawa Hina… and Udagawa Ako… Arisa smiled, thinking of those four goofballs. Well… I guess my life hasn’t been ‘normal’ since I met Kasumi, so… I guess this isn’t so bad…

Despite Arisa’s thoughts, she still had a pit in her stomach. Even if this was something she believed she wanted, something that would make her happy, she knew it wouldn’t be as simple as saying a few words and then it’s done. She was going to ask four people who seemed like they barely thought about romance if they would consider being in a possibly long-term relationship.

There were so many ways this could go horribly wrong: they might not understand her, they might reject her, they might even flat out think she’s a weirdo for even having these thoughts and feelings. Anyone else probably would, but these four? Arisa didn’t know.

And what if only some of them said ‘yes’? Would Arisa just have to move on from the ones that rejected while trying to be in a relationship with the ones who accepted her? Would only one of the girls be enough for Arisa? Or two? Or even three? Was it all four or bust?

Arisa had half a mind to sprint off in the other direction; run as far from this place as she could, but that wouldn’t solve anything. Arisa would still have these thoughts and feelings plaguing her mind. There was only one thing that would satisfy her; confronting these feelings head on! Consequences be damned.

Finding her resolve; Arisa finally pushed open the door.

All the girls had already arrived; they were animatedly chatting away, Arisa wasn’t sure exactly what about, but she could swear she heard her name being said.

Arisa cleared her throat and called out, “H-Hey, everyone!”

The four turned simultaneously; each grinning when they saw who spoke. They yelled back.

“Arisa!”

“Aa-chan!”

“Arisa!”

“Arisa-chan!”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s me,” Arisa shook her head at the girls’ excitable nature. “You don’t need to cheer every time I show up, ya know?”

“You say that but…” Hina pointed to Arisa’s face, “You’re totally smiling right now!”

Arisa didn’t realise until it was pointed out but the moment she saw the other girls a wide content smile had appeared on her face.

“It’s always nice seeing you happy, Arisa!” Ako said.

“Yeah, yeah!” Hagumi agreed, “Aa-chan’s got the nicest smiles!”

“I feel like Arisa’s been smiling a lot recently too!” Kokoro added.

“S-Shut up! No way…” Arisa stuttered; the other girls all shared a laugh at her embarrassment. Arisa shook her head slightly; trying to clear her mind as her cheeks flushed.

The girls all began to resume their excited chattering about their bands new song and how much they wanted to finish it up as soon as possible; Arisa decided the best thing to do would be to address what was on her mind as soon as she could, but before she could say anything, “Hey, you alright, Arisa?” Kokoro asked.

“Yeah, you look like Sis when something BIG is on her mind!” Hina added; the others all nodded in agreement, the concern obvious on their faces.

Arisa felt a lightness in her chest; something about the fact that the girls could immediately tell something was bothering Arisa made her feel happy. It gave her hope; like there really was something between them. “Actually girls…” Arisa began, “There… there is something I wanted to talk to you about…” she flicked between each of the girls’ faces; while Kokoro was still smiling and the others had relatively neutral expressions, it was obvious none of them really knew how to react. “It’s… it’s important…”

The four girls exchanged glances; they seemed to silently agree on something then sprang into action.

“Maybe we could talk in my room!” Kokoro suggested; she grabbed Arisa’s hand and started tugging, “You’ll be more comfy in there!”

The image of what happened last time she was in Kokoro’s room flashed in Arisa’s mind and her cheeks flushed, “T-That’s ok! It doesn’t really matter where we talk! I just need to-”

“Oh!” Hina interrupted, “Maybe some tea would be good? I can make it!”

“I’ll help, Hina-senpai!” Ako volunteered.

Arisa shook her head worryingly, “G-Girls, seriously! I just-”

“Hagumi brought some croquettes!” Hagumi waved her arms excitedly, “They always make Hagumi feel good! Plus they’re in a special baggie that keeps them warm as a hug!”

“Excellent, Hagumi!” Kokoro cheered, “This is gonna be the best important conversation ever!”

“STOP! Just-just stop!” Arisa yelled, startling the others. “I don’t need any of that! No tea or croquettes! No boppin lucky darkness yay! I just… I just want…” Arisa’s voice fell softer, quieter, but the girls could still hear; listening closely, “I just want… the four of you…”

The tenderness in Arisa’s voice threw them off; giving them all pause. After a moment they collectively gathered five chairs; they placed them so four of the chairs were sat together facing the fifth then each took one of the four chairs on the first side.

They sat in silence, patiently waiting; Arisa soon realised what they were doing and quickly took her spot in the lone chair. She looked between each of the girls; seeing them all staring back at her with warm, understanding smiles, Arisa found she gained renewed resolve and was able to calm herself down, at least a little bit.

She took a deep breath and began, “Ok so… what I have to tell you is kind of… crazy…” The others nodded, letting her continue, “I mean like… really crazy! Insane! I-It doesn’t make any sense!”

“That’s fine!” Hina said, speaking for the group, “It’s funner that way! It makes it more boppin when you figure it all out!” Hina covered her mouth, “Oh wait! You said no boppin!”

“It’s fine, Hina-san,” Arisa chuckled, “But… maybe you’re right. This is going to be really out there, but if it works out… I think it could be something really special.”

“We’ll help however we can, Arisa!” Ako offered; the others readily agreeing.

“Funny you should say that…” Arisa awkwardly fidgeted in her seat, “It… kinda directly involves you… all of you…”

“What a coincidence!” Hagumi said, “We’re all here!”

“I-It’s not really a-”

“Hagumi’s right!” Kokoro agreed, “That worked out well!”

“Sure whatever,” Arisa shrugged, “Girls, what I’m about to say… it really is going to be shock, a-and it’s going to be a lot to take in… so I need you to seriously listen to what I’m saying. If we just jump in the wrong direction because it sounds fun it could have some really big and bad consequences, ok?”

Once again the girls all collectively nodded; Arisa could only hope they truly meant it.

“O-Ok, here I go…” Arisa’s voice was shaking; she had to take a moment to breathe and steady herself. “So, I’m not really good at the whole ‘telling others how I feel’ thing, but ya know, sometimes you just have to be honest and say ‘I like this person!’ Thing is… sometimes it’s more than just ‘like’… a-and maybe it’s more than just one person…”

Arisa looked to the others; their blank expressions making it clear they had no idea what Arisa was trying to say. She balled up her fists frustratedly to the point they started whitening, “I-I mean sometimes a girl can meet someone and, well, she might not realise it at first but she thinks that this person is actually really amazing a-and has a lot of… qualities that the girl might find… attractive. Not just physically but… emotionally…”

There were some small flickers of recognition in the other girls’ eyes but they still appeared mostly clueless. Arisa couldn’t blame them of course; she was speaking so nonsensically that no one could possibly understand her. She squeezed her eyes, unable to look at the girls anymore. Her internal conflict was driving her crazy; she wanted so badly to just say what her heart was screaming but she kept holding herself back out of fear.

Just say it! You came here to do it, you know it’s what you want, just say it!

“T-This time we’ve been spending together recently, it’s… surprised me how much I enjoyed myself… a-and I’d like to think you all enjoyed it too…

Come on, Arisa! If don’t say it they won’t know!

“So I wouldn’t be opposed to us spending more time together- or rather… I’d even want to… a little bit. Uh, but maybe we could get closer o-or something… that is to say I…”

JUST SAY IT

“I LIKE YOU!” Arisa finally screamed, “Not as a friend! And not just one of you; all four of you! In the way Sayo-san and Tomoe-san like each other, or Lisa-san and Moca-chan! I want to go out together a-and be g-girlfriends and that stuff! With all four of you!”

Arisa could feel the tears pushing their way out of her tightly shut eyes; with her head tilted downward, she reached up and firmly grasped the back of her hair as her emotions overwhelmed her. “I don’t know if it’s selfish or just plain idiotic but… that’s how I feel! I like all four of you and I… I want to know if there’s some way I could actually have all of you as my girlfriends.”

The room became so quiet she could hear the drips off her large tears running down her face and falling on the floor.

“Like I said… I don’t want you to say yes because you think it sounds ‘fun’ or you think it’ll make me ‘happy’… I want you to tell me what you really want. I-If this is something you might be interested in; if you’re even interested in dating at all! These feelings have been eating me up for a while, driving me crazy, but I’m ready to say out loud that I like you four. Whether you all return my feelings… or none of you do… I just needed you to know.”

She wiped away some of the tears and let out a shaky breath; she was thankful they all let her ramble the way she did but now came the scariest moment. Arisa had laid herself out there, and now she would have to see if the girls felt the same or could even understand how she felt.

“Well, what do you girls say? Do you want to be with me and see where a relationship like this could lead or not?”