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A Touch of Reality

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“So, have you done it yet?”

Mao’s question shatters the comfortable silence that surrounds their table at the same time her fork hits her empty plate with a loud clink . Rinka stares at her at first, rubbing her pencil while the words slowly make their way to the functioning part of her brain.

When they do, her face bursts into the same color as Tokyo Tower. Her pencil slips from her hand, rolls over the edge and disappears under the table. It would have made Lethe a very happy cat. 

“Wh-what?! Mao, i-it’s… it’s only been a few months, so — I mean, it’s not like… erm,” Rinka’s uneven, sputtering thoughts and eyes that dart from Mao’s face to the table reminds her of Naomi — once upon a time, at least. 

She doesn’t give the dramatic reaction any attention, resting her chin in her hands with a sigh instead.

“Rii-tan… I’m talking about kissing.”

Rinka’s imminent implosion ceases. Mao’s frown slowly turns into a smirk. 

“Kissing…” Rinka repeats. She gulps just as a pair of beautiful golden eyes flash in her mind, reminding her of the many nights she stared into them after a successful date, how they softened when Miharu gently stroked her cheek. She remains silent.

Mao drops her head, nearly cracking her forehead on the edge of the table. “Are you kidding me?” she asks, swallowing any further complaints with the rest of her iced tea. A groan bubbles in her throat when Rinka avoids looking at her. “Not even a cheek kiss?”

“W-we’ve had plenty of those,” Rinka mutters with a pout. She takes a moment to scoop the pencil off the floor, setting it on top of her now closed notebook. “I’ll have you know I’m the one who gives those out the most.”

Mao’s frustration vanishes. “Oh? As your Queen, I demand you spill the beans.”

Heat settles in her stomach at the realization she’s just dug her own grave. It wasn’t like she didn’t want to share anything with Mao, she just wasn’t sure if Miharu wanted to keep these things private. Maybe it was different when the person asking was one of their best friends, and Rinka trusted Mao to keep it between them.

“Miharu usually walks me home since it lets us spend more time together,” she begins, rolling the pencil on her notebook. “I’ve tried taking her home instead, but… well, you know.”

They share knowing, pained smiles. Rinka looks up and focuses on the many aged patterns on the ceiling, recalling their date from just a few days ago. 

Miharu arrived at the café nearly thirty minutes earlier than planned, leaving Rinka stunned when she walked in with a beautifully white sundress she’d never seen before. There were still a few regulars around, so she quietly took a seat at one of the tables by the window. Rinka didn’t need to take her order — they weren’t going to be there much longer anyway.

Still, she could feel heat blossoming on her cheeks when she glanced at her, noticing how glossy Miharu’s lips were under the orange sunlight. Miharu was so beautiful, she couldn’t help thinking while dropping another batch of beans into the grinder for her final order of the day.

When everything was cleaned up (which took longer than usual as she couldn’t stop glancing at the beauty waiting for her) and the sign on the door signaled the café’s closure, Rinka hurried upstairs to get ready. She threw on a nice pair of jeans and a sweatshirt with a small red cat on it, seeing as it was the only thing not in the washing machine. She wasn’t going to look anywhere near as stunning as Miharu, but it didn’t really matter what other people thought. Miharu loved her .

Miharu took her hand as soon as she made it downstairs. Rinka let out a deep breath, feeling the warmth that seeped through the soft fabric of her glove.

All they did was wander Shinjuku, taking their time as they walked by various restaurants and small arcades, occasionally walking into a store to try on an outfit they saw on display. Miharu showed interest in a few of the crane games for some anime Rinka never heard of, but didn’t stop to play any of them no matter how many times she insisted it was fine.

“It would have been nice to see what you look like when you really concentrate,” she sighed, boldly wrapping her arm around Miharu’s. 

It was getting easier to shove her embarrassment aside to show Miharu the physical affection she deserved, whether it was linking arms or touching her face with the excuse of brushing away stray hair. She loved seeing Miharu’s face glow with various shades of pink and red.

“Rinka… you’re really trying to kill me this time, aren’t you?”

“Hey. If it’s of happiness, I think we’ll both die at the same time.”

After a quiet meal at a small Italian restaurant that offered many pictures of Rinka to Miharu’s phone, the two called it a night. In the end Miharu relented and allowed Rinka to try her hand at the crane game — just once — and walked out burying her steaming face in a rather large deformed plush of the character she wanted. 

 The walk home was comfortable, if a little lonely since Miharu was busy carrying her new gift and couldn’t hold her hand. As soon as they approached Lion House, Miharu stopped, looking down at her with those soft, gorgeous eyes of hers. 

“Thank you for today,” she said quietly, as if speaking any louder would ruin the moment.

“You’re the one who made time for it. I’d apologize for taking your time away from work, but… I’m not really sorry. Are you sure you don’t wanna come in and have some coffee before you head home?”

Miharu hesitated, the word yes likely sitting on her tongue, but she shook her head. Instead, she tucked a strand of hair behind Rinka’s ear, gently tracing her jawline. “I wish I could, but I have an early shift tomorrow…”

Rinka leaned into her touch with a bit of a pout, unable to resist looking into Miharu’s eyes. She took a step forward, the words kiss her! repeating in her head ad nauseam. Miharu closed her eyes, clutching her doll closer to her chest. 

Jeez… she’s just so cute.

In the end, she placed her lips right on Miharu’s cheek, her lack of height putting them just at the corner of her mouth. That was enough to send a spark right to her stomach, hitting her hard enough to send her a few steps back in surprise. She put shaky fingers to her lips, somehow surprised that they weren’t actually on fire, while her eyes felt heavier than usual when she looked up to see Miharu’s reaction.

Miharu’s partially hidden face was so red, but so, so cute. She didn’t even have the usual teasing remark for how far Rinka needed to stand on her toes to reach her. 

She went home with a sputter of a goodbye, while Rinka could barely feel her legs as she pushed through the doors of the café…


“Yo, Rii-tan? Earth to Riiii-taaaan?”

Rinka blinks away the stars in her eyes as Mao waves her hands in front of her face. “Huh?” she blurts, finally taking in her surroundings again. Mao’s smirk is all she needs to look away in embarrassment. 

“That was a real nice face you were making,” Mao jokes, putting her study material into her bag. “It’s all I needed, really. I’m just glad you two are doing well.”

They stand at the same time so Rinka can walk her out. Mao’s support is always such a welcome boost, always there to remind Rinka that she doesn’t need to second guess herself about anything. She doesn’t prolong her goodbye either, merely waving at Rinka while walking away.

“Just make sure Saturday’s clear, got it?”

“Yeah, yeah.”

She sighs once Mao’s out of sight. Miharu had a shift tonight, and Naomi busied herself with cram school as soon as she could sign up for it, meaning she was alone for the rest of the evening. Not that it was a bad thing, but Divine Selection had practically gifted her company every day for months. It was hard to shake off the loneliness.

Their table was the only one in use for the afternoon, but Rinka still takes her time to organize and put away her supplies and wipe it down until it’s good as new again. 

“Do you happen to have room for one last customer?”

Rinka nearly spills Mao’s empty dishes all over the floor at the voice filtering through the door. She swallows a gasp, frozen in place while Miharu makes her way into the café. She even takes a moment to flip the sign, tilting her head with a small, dreamy smile.

She shakes off her initial surprise and nods. 

“Always. Let me just get this cleaned up, and we can hang in my room.”

Miharu watches her from the counter as she washes the dishes, brushing her long bangs out of her face every once in a while. The content smile on her face is all Rinka has ever wanted. That it was her who put it there always made her heart flutter.

She guides Miharu upstairs once she shuts the lights off and into her room, softly shutting the door behind her. 

“I thought you had a long shift tonight?” she asks, taking a seat next to Miharu at the edge of her bed.

Miharu nods, crossing her ankles. “I did. But at some point I started thinking ah, I’d like to see Rinka , and convinced my boss to let me leave early.” She raises her hand to cover her mouth as she laughs with a shy glint in her eyes. 

All Rinka can think about is that missed opportunity; of the faint, floral perfume that kisses her nose the closer she gets to Miharu’s shoulder. Their sleeves brush. Rinka doesn’t know what else to talk about when the only thing on her tongue is the desire to touch Miharu’s.

“Rinka,” Miharu whispers, shuffling backwards until her back rests against the wall. She spreads her arms. “Come here?”

She doesn’t need to think twice before she’s crawling over, letting herself fall into Miharu’s chest with a soft thud. Miharu’s arms wrap around her midsection while Rinka leans back, the sound of someone’s heartbeat overwhelming their ears. Miharu absent-mindedly runs her hands through her hair and Rinka can feel how hot her skin is, how shallow her breathing is. For the first time, Rinka is fully aware of the soft chest pressing against her back.

“Miharu,” she breathes, closing her eyes.


Rinka cranes her neck, taking a moment to look into her eyes again. Alan said, just before he was eliminated, that Rinka’s eyes were brighter than any jewel. He was wrong.

Miharu’s hand instinctively moves up to cradle the sides of Rinka’s face, thumb rubbing soothing patterns against her cheek. She closes her eyes, then raises her chin to press her lips against Miharu’s.

It’s a timid and shy kiss at first, but one that slowly builds into something deeper. The weight in Rinka’s stomach bursts. Her senses are overloaded by the taste of Miharu, by the feel of their hearts racing against their chests.

Their third kiss is slow and savory, with Rinka sitting on her knees, hands buried in Miharu’s inhumanly soft hair, feeling for every evidence of life in her. It hits her then, truly, that Miharu is alive. She’s alive and sitting underneath her, whispering her name over and over again. That thought alone sets her soul on fire and leads into another, much harder kiss, one that Miharu likely wasn’t expecting judging by the cute gasp against her lips.

She doesn’t know how much time has passed when they finally part, hushed breathing filling the room. It takes Miharu a few seconds longer to open her eyes, during which Rinka leans forward until their foreheads touch.

“I’ve only ever seen this in my dreams,” Miharu says, one hand gripping Rinka’s shirt tightly while the other makes an attempt at brushing her golden bangs aside. “It’s still hard to accept any of this is real…”

Her thoughts trail off, and Rinka bites her lip. It was true; they held onto memories that shouldn’t have existed, they had looked at death in the face — twice! — and turned the other way. Maybe they were already living in some new game they were unaware of, one that was waiting to rip them apart. How could they know they were really free?

She shakes her head, taking both of Miharu’s hands and squeezing them tightly. It takes her a moment to gather her thoughts, wondering how to put her feelings into words. The terror they’d seen, the barriers they had to shed just to survive…

“We’re here,” she exhales, letting Miharu’s hands go to wrap her arms around her neck, burying her face into her hair and finally realizing where the nice scent is coming from. “We’re right here.” 

Miharu shudders when Rinka comes back for another kiss, gripping the back of her shirt as tightly as she can. It’s slow and soft and everything good all at once, explaining everything she needs. She takes a moment to kiss everything: Miharu’s cheeks, her nose, her forehead, all the while her hands brush her arms and caress her burning ears. 

It’s all she needs to convince herself that this is reality, but she knows it’ll take a little longer for Miharu to accept it. 

“Why don’t you stay the night? Gran won’t mind,” she suggests when they take a moment to catch their breath. “We can go without the futon now, too.”

Miharu becomes shy again, stopping herself from saying something while she seeks Rinka’s hand. She stares at the wall for a few seconds before nodding.

“I’d love to.”

They kiss again once they settle under Rinka’s sheets, Miharu stiffening when Rinka wraps an arm around her waist and presses her forehead into her chest. She can hear Miharu’s heartbeat as it quickens and thuds harder the longer their bodies touch.

Yep, Miharu’s alive. 

“See you tomorrow?” she whispers against her collarbone, snorting when Miharu twitches. It almost feels like she knows what she’s doing as a lover. 

Miharu responds with a soft kiss to her forehead. 

“Yeah. See you tomorrow, Rinka. I love you.”