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Twin Love Panic

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Haneoka Girls’ Academy - Roof

Tsugumi looked out at the early morning sky, and pretended life was simpler. All alone up here, she couldn’t stumble into betraying Hina again. So long as she sat still and stared at the clouds above the horizon, everything would be fine.

She was supposed to be helping Hina in the Student Council room this morning, but it was easier not to face her right now. Tsugumi still didn’t know what she was supposed to say. Sorry, your older sister kissed me? Twice?

Was that better or worse than having Sayo show up in her fantasies, even the one time? Well, only once since Hina had asked to be her girlfriend—and Tsugumi refused to elaborate any further.

She knew, deep down, that Hina would never hold it against her. Probably not even against Sayo. Hina was far too accepting like that. Which only made things worse, since then it would be up to Tsugumi to explain why she should be upset. To convince Hina to hate her as much as she hated herself right now.

“Skipping out on your responsibilities, Vice President?” a voice behind her asked, “Himari made it sound bad, but it must be worse than I thought.”

“Tomoe-chan?”

Tsugumi tilted her head over one shoulder, but let her gaze drop back down once she caught a flash of red hair, not wanting to meet her friend’s eyes.

“Yeah, it’s bad. Really bad, Tomoe-chan.”

Tomoe sat down on the ground next to Tsugumi, staring out over the roof with her.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Tsugumi didn’t. She wanted all of it to disappear forever. To never have to think or speak of it again.

“Yeah,” Tsugumi forced herself to say, “Or at least, I think I need to.”

Tomoe placed a hand on her shoulder, but said nothing, waiting for Tsugumi to continue.

“She did it again, last night,” Tsugumi said, staring down at her hands, “It seemed like things were going so well, too. She apologized and everything, really convinced me it was all behind us. I was laughing with her—I got careless, Tomoe-chan.”

Tsugumi shut her eyes. She didn’t want to start crying again. Tomoe wouldn’t mind, but her explanation was enough of a mess already, without her voice catching on every other word.

“You aren’t responsible for Sayo-san’s actions, Tsugu,” Tomoe said, daring Tsugumi to disagree, “If she… kissed you again, that isn’t because of a mistake you made, or because you were weak. She never should have done it to begin with, and all that matters now is that she never does it again.”

Tsugumi wanted to argue, but already knew what Tomoe would say. She shouldn’t blame herself for hoping that things would go better than they had, for giving Sayo a chance to explain herself. And what an explanation it was…

“She said she loved me,” Tsugumi said, wanting someone else, anyone else, to understand the hopelessness of it all, “What am I supposed to say to that, Tomoe-chan? Two days ago I never would have believed a girl like her could feel that way about me. Why did she never tell me before?”

Tsugumi gave up on holding back her tears. She didn’t have anything left to say anyway. No answers, only a million useless questions.

“I can’t say I understand Sayo-san’s actions,” Tomoe admitted, “But what I do know is that she’s hurting you, and she’s hurting her sister. That might even be the point. Her relationship with Hina-senpai always seemed… troubled, to say the least.”

Tsugumi nodded in agreement. She remembered, each time Sayo kissed her, they had spoken of Hina kissing her just before. It fit together quite nicely, that Sayo never cared about her—not until Hina did.

Yet, it didn’t feel right. Tsugumi had been exposed to quite a bit more of Hina than was recommended, during her time as Vice President. And while Hina wasn’t the most reliable source in general, Tsugumi genuinely believed her when she talked about things improving between her and her sister. Which also lined up with what little she had heard from Sayo. Both on… that night, and on days prior.

No, if Sayo was mad at Hina—if she really wanted to hurt her—something had to have gone wrong between them. Recently. Say, the day that Hina first asked Tsugumi out.

If Sayo’s feelings were genuine—and Tsugumi couldn’t imagine being able to fake things that convincingly—then it all circled back to where it started. Hina approached Tsugumi first, but Sayo decided that this one time, she wasn’t going to accept losing to her sister. Not when it came to love.

“I won’t tell you what you should feel right now,” Tomoe said, after it became clear that Tsugumi wasn’t going to break the silence, “but it won’t help anyone to let things go on like this. It’s hurting you, it’s hurting Hina-senpai, and I’d imagine, somewhere in there, it’s hurting Sayo-san too.”

Tsugumi had to admit Tomoe had a point. Letting this continue couldn’t possibly end well. She had thought as much yesterday, she still thought as much today. But trying to stop things at the source last night had gone… poorly. And now Tsugumi was even more uncertain of taking things to Hina. That was most of the reason why she was up here on the roof, skipping out on her Student Council duties. Avoiding what she knew she had to do.

It wasn’t any one particular outcome Tsugumi was worried about. While she knew Hina better than most, that only meant Tsugumi knew she couldn’t be certain how the girl might react. That said, it was not nearly as hard to predict that things wouldn’t go well, one way or another.

Sayo was the most important person in the world to Hina. Even after becoming her girlfriend, Tsugumi wouldn’t presume otherwise. Whatever Hina’s reaction might be to the… kisses, it would cut through every layer of the girl. Whether she blamed Tsugumi or not hardly mattered, the betrayal from her sister would sting so much worse. Maybe Hina would even blame herself, for failing to notice Sayo’s own feelings for Tsugumi beforehand.

The thoughts continued to swirl inside her head, going nowhere. Tsugumi was stuck, her situation untenable. But the idea of telling Hina equally—

“Are you even listening, Tsugu-chan?” a voice asked her, possibly whoever it was that Tsugumi now realized was shaking her by the shoulders.

Tsugumi snapped out of her trance. Tomoe was gone. In her place, Hina knelt down to her level, a dash of urgency flavoring her movements.

“I’ve never seen Onee-chan like this,” Hina continued, once it was clear Tsugumi was alert once more, “She locked herself in her room as soon as she came home last night, and I could hear her crying. She refused to even speak to me, I’m worried something’s seriously wrong!”

Yes, Hina. Something was seriously wrong. Tsugumi failed to say anything.

“Anyway, it’s up to us to fix it now!” Hina announced, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. As if Tsugumi had even the faintest idea of how to fix things.

“What? How?” Tsugumi almost shouted, her earlier desperation now wrapped up in Hina’s more excited energy.

“I don’t know what’s wrong,” Hina said, though the admission didn’t shake her confidence in the slightest, “but she’s clearly upset about something, so we have to cheer her up. We haven’t done anything together, all three of us, since we became girlfriends, so I was thinking we could go out somewhere today. What do you think?”

Tsugumi nearly laughed at the absurd suggestion, held back only by how nonchalant Hina’s delivery had been. It was true, she could count on one hand the number of times she’d done anything together with both Hina and Sayo together, and never just the three of them alone. But this seemed like the worst possible time to think about starting.

Being in a room with either Sayo or Hina already felt like courting disaster in her mind, she hadn’t even entertained the idea of both at the same time. But the longer Hina’s suggestion sat in her mind, the more sense it made, at least from Hina’s perspective.

If Tsugumi wanted to keep dating Hina, she would want to get along with her family eventually—just not quite the same way Sayo kept trying to get along with her. So, of course Hina would want to spend time with both Tsugumi and Sayo, together. And while that felt like a major problem at the moment, it was one Tsugumi had to face eventually. Maybe having Hina along would even help reign Sayo in, not daring to go quite so far right in front of her sister. Maybe.

“Alright Hina-senpai,” Tsugumi said, against her better judgment, “I think I can handle that.”

Hina bounced up to her feet, pulling Tsugumi up with her, “Yes! Let’s get going Tsugu-chan!”

As Hina raced back inside the school, Tsugumi let out a tired sigh.

“Hina-senpai!” she shouted after her, “You do remember we still have class today, right?”

Tsugumi wondered if she should chase her down, just to be sure. Knowing Hina, she started running after her.


Shopping Mall

Tsugumi had been growing more and more nervous, ever since they arrived at the mall. Even before that, really. Not because of the inevitable confrontation with Sayo—she couldn’t show up until closer to the movie’s start time, a few hours from now. No, as she walked past all the same familiar stores, it was finally occurring to her that she and Hina would be spending the afternoon out together. Alone, for now.

This was totally a date, wasn’t it?

When Hina had asked her about things in the morning, it hadn’t even occurred to her that Sayo could be busy after school. That they would have to plan to meet up later in the day. She had been too sucked into Hina’s odd way of thinking, as if everything would naturally work out all on its own.

It left Tsugumi mentally unprepared for this afternoon. She hadn’t spent any time with Hina outside of school since the girl had asked her out, so this was definitely a first date. Was wandering around the mall for a few hours, waiting for her sister, really what Hina wanted in a first date?

Though, to Hina, getting to see her sister at the end of all this was a bonus, rather than an impending doom. So maybe Tsugumi was overthinking things.

“Wait, Tsugu-chan! Over there,” Hina grabbed her by the shoulder, pointing toward a small kiosk set up on the floor of the mall, selling random knick knacks, “I can’t believe they have the same ones!”

Tsugumi allowed herself to be dragged over to the display—phone straps, cases, and countless accessories with all sorts of colors and characters greeting her. Though, she couldn’t quite see what here had caught Hina’s eye.

“Look, look,” Hina insisted, holding out her phone against one of the display items, “this is the same case I got with Onee-chan! Now we all can match!”

Tsugumi couldn’t help but laugh a little. It was a bit of a strange arrangement to want to have matching phone cases with both your sister and girlfriend, but it did fit Hina well. She probably had to work hard to convince Sayo to go along with it in the first place, so there was no harm in indulging her a little.

It wasn’t as if she was particularly attached to her current phone case. Among her friends, only Himari ever made a big deal of wanting matching accessories and the like.

“Alright, let’s get it,” Tsugumi said, digging around in her bag as she checked the price.

“No! No!” Hina said, as she saw Tsugumi make for the register, “Let me buy it, it’s a present!”

Tsugumi surrendered the teal phone case to her girlfriend, well versed in the art of acquiescing to Hina’s demands. A few minutes later, with the packaging removed, she fitted it on her phone, much to Hina’s delight. She stuck her old phone case back in her bag, having no better idea what to do with it.

”We match, we match! All three of us!” Hina shouted, holding up her phone in front of Tsugumi’s, “I can’t wait until Onee-chan gets to see.”

Tsugumi nodded, despite her far more mixed emotions towards Sayo’s eventual arrival. At least with Hina here, it was far less likely the girl would try to kiss her again… she hoped.

She continued to let Hina lead them onward, as they left the kiosk behind. Hina grabbed her hand with barely a thought, clearly less embarrassed to walk around the mall like this than Tsugumi was.

As they passed by various signs and stores, Tsugumi wondered more on what a date at the mall entailed. Was it any different than if she had gone shopping with Hina a week ago? Tsugumi had read manga where couples would do things like shop for bikinis, or even underwear, but surely no high school girl would actually do something like that on a date. Though, with Hina, things like shame and common sense weren’t always the most reliable.

“So,” Hina started asking, as she turned her head back towards Tsugumi, “where are we going, Tsugu-chan?”

“Eh?” Tsugumi responded, “I thought you knew where we were going. Why would I be following you otherwise?”

“Ah ha ha,” Hina laughed, “I was just thinking about how boppin’ it was to be together like this.”

There was a glint in Hina’s eyes as she squeezed their hands together. Tsugumi had to admit, just walking around like this felt… special. She couldn’t even get too upset about Hina leading them absolutely nowhere, though luckily they seemed to have ended up not too far from the theater.

“You’re just too cute, Tsugu-chan,” Hina said, leaning in close, watching Tsugumi blush under the praise.

All at once, Tsugumi became incredibly aware of the position Hina had maneuvered the two of them into. Up against a wall, hands clasped together, almost no space at all separating the two girls. Hina wasn’t about to kiss her, in the middle of a crowded mall like this, was she?

Unfortunately, as Tsugumi had noted previously, Hina wasn’t one to worry about such things, and quickly closed the remaining distance. Once their lips met, Tsugumi found it a bit easier to stop caring as well.

Hina let her lips linger long enough for Tsugumi’s mind to empty of all other thoughts, before breaking off to pepper her cheeks with soft pecks. Tsugumi closed her eyes and took in the sensations, every inch of her face tingling in the wake of Hina’s attentions.

“I love you, Tsugu-chan, you know that right?” Hina asked, but kissed her again before Tsugumi could even think about answering. That made it harder to think, to focus on anything other than Hina’s taste, her tongue. Her hands, that were so frustratingly still against her shoulders, when they could be doing so much more.

“Hina…” Tsugumi broke the kiss, at last remembering exactly where they were, “I love you too, I really do. But, um… maybe save this sort of thing for somewhere a bit more private?”

“That’s no fun, Tsugu-chan! There’s not even anyone around right now,” Hina complained, and—miraculously—she appeared to be right, “Just a little more, please?”

Tsugumi couldn’t deny her girlfriend when she was asking so adorably, letting out a sigh. Hina squealed as she pushed Tsugumi back up against the wall, determined not to let the opportunity go to waste.

Faintly, Tsugumi heard the artificial shutter click of a smartphone camera, somewhere behind Hina.

“My, how scandalous,” a voice called out, “the guitarist of Pastel✽Palettes caught acting so improperly in public? What will the tabloids say?”

For a terrifying moment, Tsugumi’s heart dropped, before she realized she recognized the voice in question. Though, she couldn’t decide if this was a more welcome interruption than those imagined possibilities. Tsugumi stared at the green-haired girl in front of her. Both of them, in fact.

“Onee-chan!”

Tsugumi watched as her girlfriend smiled and turned around to wrap her twin sister into a hug, which Sayo reluctantly accepted. Tsugumi could sympathize with the resigned look on her face, knowing it came with the territory of dealing with Hina.

After humoring her sister for long enough, Sayo gracelessly pushed Hina away, addressing Tsugumi directly.

“Tsugumi, I—,” Sayo started, reaching for the words she wanted to say, “I shouldn’t have done that last night. It doesn’t matter that I got caught up in the moment, that I was so happy to see you. I acted without caring about how you felt… I went too far. I hurt you.”

Tsugumi paused. Sayo was saying all the right words. Just like she had last night, right before she kissed her.

Tsugumi glanced towards Hina, looking slightly nervous about the tone of the conversation, but otherwise not reacting to Sayo’s words. Had she not picked up on what Sayo was alluding to? Hina couldn’t have already known, and there was no way to interpret what Sayo was saying that didn’t sound rather grim.

“I want to trust it was all a mistake,” Tsugumi said to Sayo, still trying to pin down her own feelings, “That something like that won’t happen again. But it’s hard to believe that after what you did… I almost feel stupid for wanting to believe.”

“You aren’t stupid, Tsugu-chan!” Hina shouted, distraught over her two favorite people in the whole world being at odds with one another, “Onee-chan makes mistakes sometimes, but she hates making mistakes. If she did something that upset you, I know she would do everything she could to fix things. It’s not wrong to believe she’d regret hurting someone she cares for!”

Tsugumi let Hina’s rant wash over her, before getting caught up on those final words. Sayo cared for her. Whatever else might be going on, Tsugumi was forced to admit Sayo’s feelings were genuine. That was the entire problem, but as Hina said, maybe it didn’t have to be. If Sayo regretted hurting her like that, betraying Hina like that, then maybe those feelings would—in time—encourage her to do better.

Tsugumi felt that was a bit of a dangerous thought, that it could go wrong in so many ways. Already had gone wrong, perhaps. But it was tempting to believe. To take the path before her, where she could pretend that everything was going to work out.

“Just for today, Tsugu-chan,” Hina offered with a hand outstretched, “Let’s put all those mistakes aside, whatever they might have been. Go back to that first day, when I kissed you in the Student Council room and you were nothing but happy that we could be together. I’ll make sure Onee-chan is on her best behavior, until you decide if you can trust her like I do.”

Having no better response, Tsugumi took Hina’s hand once more.


Shopping Mall - Movie Theater

They were still a bit early for the movie, when Sayo showed up, so the three girls killed some time at the mall’s arcade.

Tsugumi hadn’t understood why Sayo had just sadly shook her head when Hina had asked her to join in on a round of Zombies of the Dead XIII, but quickly learned her role was entirely superfluous. Hina shot down every zombie before Tsugumi even noticed them pop up, it was actually a bit embarrassing. But Hina seemed to enjoy herself, and it was fun to watch, after Tsugumi put down the plastic gun and gave up entirely on trying to help.

Tsugumi had never really thought about the downsides of having an amazingly talented girlfriend, but perhaps she had never given Sayo enough credit. Having to deal with a sister like Hina, who never failed at anything…

Well, Tsugumi could better understand how that kind of thing could drive a girl to break down into tears in front of her sister’s girlfriend—and then try to kiss her. Sort of.

Hina bought both the tickets and popcorn, ignoring Tsugumi’s insistence that she could pay for herself, and the three of them made their way to seats.

“Tsugu-chan, here!” Hina said, patting the seat next to her, “You can sit between both of us!”

Tsugumi took her seat, eyeing Sayo sitting down beside her. It seemed odd that Hina wouldn’t want to have both her sister and girlfriend on either side of her. Especially with… well, surely Sayo wouldn’t try anything during the movie, with Hina sitting right there. Even if it could get pretty dark in these theaters…

As the movie finally started, Tsugumi was greeted with an opening scene depicting Earth from space. It was only then that she realized she never took the time to ask Hina what movie she had wanted to see today. The looming meeting with Sayo had been a major distraction, but unless Hina’s taste in movies significantly deviated from the rest of her personality, that was probably an oversight she would soon regret.

A flying saucer panned into view above the planet, and through the porthole, Tsugumi watched the camera zoom in on the pilot…

“…Michelle!?” Tsugumi shouted, a bit louder than was appropriate, though it was drowned out by far less questioning cheers from a half dozen kids of varying ages behind her.

Hina, of course, cheered right along with them, enraptured by the story unfolding on the screen before them. A young alien bear, stranded on Earth, learning the strange customs of the humans that called the planet home. A high-stakes game of baseball to save Michelle from a shady government agency. An invasion by an army of evil red Michelles seeking to wipe out all smiles.

All of that had taken only twenty minutes, at most. What the hell was this pacing? Who would write a script like this?

No, scratch that. Tsugumi could make a pretty good guess. The real question was why didn’t Misaki stop her before things had gone this far? Those special effects were no joke—though undoubtedly within reach for the Tsurumaki family.

As the courtroom drama came into full swing, Tsugumi found herself too exhausted to keep following along. Wasn’t this supposed to be a kid’s movie? Putting aside the rather gruesome way the army of evil Michelles had been dealt with. Tsugumi hadn’t realized that felt and stuffing flying about in every direction could look quite that graphic. Though, the kids did keep cheering straight through the end of the scene. Not that they ever stopped for more than five minutes at a time.

Daring to sneak a glance at Sayo next to her, it seemed the other girl was also completely checked out at this point. Instead, she had found her own entertainment watching Tsugumi’s increasingly irritated reactions to the next abrupt genre shift.

Tsugumi glared at her, and definitely didn’t pout at all. Sayo laughed harder, though the sound was drowned out by the applause line at the end of Michelle’s impassioned speech to the jury about the fundamental rights of all living beings and how you should always treat others how you want to be treated.

The treasonous part of Tsugumi’s brain almost wished Sayo would kiss her again, under the cover of the dark theater. Anything to distract her from the odd mix of boredom and complete sensory overload that the movie was putting her through. But Tsugumi squashed such thoughts immediately, and Sayo made no such moves. Content to sit and stare at Tsugumi, with a knowing smile, as Tsugumi stared back at her.

Blushing at the realization, Tsugumi broke eye contact, though she was sure that this too would amuse Sayo to no end. She had no idea what the runtime of the movie was, but Tsugumi desperately hoped for it to be short, to get out of this theater as soon as possible.

Kokoro was not a girl known for her restraint, unfortunately. And given that no one else at the casino had figured out that Michelle was secretly a double agent yet, it couldn’t be more than halfway through the movie. There was still way too much left unresolved. Or maybe, with luck, the ending would be as incomprehensible as the rest of the film, caring little to wrap up any of the growing pile of plot threads.

Tsugumi sighed, as the credits failed to inexplicably appear mid-scene. At least Hina was enjoying herself.