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The Headline

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It was just a typical evening in the Starlight Dormitory of Seisho Music Academy.

Nana and Junna had both been in the kitchen contemplating what to cook for dinner later that night while the others were piled in Futaba and Kaoruko's room playing a card game. Maya and Claudine both had, of course, stayed behind at school for extra practice.

Karen surveyed her hand carefully before taking two cards and placing them face down on the medium sized pile on the floor.

"Two fives." She announced to the other four players around her.

Kaoruko did not even need to look down at her own hand to know Karen had lied. "I call bullshit, Aijou-han. I have three fives."

"Shoot!" Karen deflated as she reached in to pick up the pile of cards to add them to her hand, looking them over as she did so. "Hey, some of you guys lied!"

"I did." Futaba replied in a nonchalant tone as she took a quick sip from her juice box.

"I did too." Hikari also admitted quietly yet solemnly.

"Same." Kaoruko spoke up as she adjusted herself to try to get rid of the tingly feeling in her right foot.

"Sorry, Karen." Mahiru sheepishly apologized.

Once the brunette got her hand adjusted, the game continued around in the circle in which they were seated.

Hikari laid down the first face down card of the new pile. "One six."

And when no one bothered to call out Hikari on her possible bluff, Mahiru was next in the circle. "Three sevens."

From her spot in the floor, Futaba looked up from her hand to scan Mahiru's facial features for any kind of hint that indicated she was lying, which paused the card game for a little bit until she acquiesced.

"Alright, I will believe you this time around," The red-haired female then took her turn and placed a card down. "One eight."

"Bullshit." Hikari accused, ignoring the chiding glance Mahiru threw her way.

"Pick 'em up, Kagura." Futaba said as she picked up a piece of sour candy from the stash scattered in the floor next to their little group.

The raven-haired female said nothing as she picked the pile up and looked through them, seeing that no one had lied this time around.

And before a certain blue-haired devil could take her turn, two distinct sounds of footsteps could be heard, one set more heavy than the other, and as soon as they reached the door to the room, they stopped and were replaced with a knock so heavy that the sheer force of it caused everything in the room to rattle.

It also sent a terrifying jolt through everyone in the room, causing the girls to turn their heads to said door, save for the one out of them that was about to take her turn. The shit-eating grin that grew on the blue-haired devil's face said more about what was about to happen more than words ever could, and absolutely no one had even paid attention to it.

"Hanayagi!" A voice thundered outside. "If you don't open this door right now, I will break it down with my bare hands!"

Another voice was heard directly after, but it was much more calm. "Now that would certainly be a spectacle I would take great pleasure in seeing."

"Not now, Tendou Maya!" The first voice bickered back in reply.

Futaba sighed, shuffling her hand into a stack and placing it on the ground before running a hand down her face in exasperation. "What did you do?"

Kaoruko knew the question was directed at her, and with a simple shrug of her shoulders, she gave a response with the same grin still plastered on her face. "I only told the truth, Futaba-han."

And while this was happening, the trio of Karen, Mahiru, and Hikari were having a rushed discussion as to who would be the one to open the door.

"Mahiru, you're the strongest out of the three of us!" Karen explained. "I think it would be for the best if you opened the door!"

The female in question abruptly shook her head. "No, I'm too afraid! I think Hikari would be the better option since she's always talking about how she laughs in the face of death!"

"I would sooner walk blindfolded into a tornado after being struck by lightning." Hikari replied simply in a bored tone.

Another knock that may as well have splintered the wood of the door to pieces thundered throughout the room.

"You better start praying, Hanayagi!" The voice ultimately belonging to Saijou Claudine roared even louder. "Open this damned door now!"

"Okay! Okay! Give me a second! Jeez!" Futaba ran a hand through her hair before standing up and pointing a finger in Kaoruko's direction. "It's your funeral. I can't help you outta this one. She sounds beyond pissed."

And as the red-haired female made her way over to unlock the door, the trio of Karen, Hikari, and Mahiru braced themselves for the impending storm while Kaoruko continued to be as nonchalant as if she did not possibly trigger the apocalypse.

Once the sound of the lock clicked, Futaba had not even barely cracked the door open when a pale hand slid in and all but flung the door back against the wall, the poor hinges barely hanging on for dear life.

Thankfully, Futaba had quickly dodged out of the way before it could hit her and had barely registered catching a furious Claudine in her arms as the blonde all but barreled her way into the room.

Most assuredly she served as the only barrier between her roommate and her impending death, and it took every ounce of strength in her body to contain the angry bull that was the second of their class.

"I'm going to kill you!" Claudine threatened. "I will go get a rope and a tree from the prop room and string you up from it myself!"

The commotion had attracted the attention of both Nana and Junna, who were standing outside beside a stoic Maya just beyond the threshold.

"Whoa!" Futaba yelled, amazed by the amount of force Claudine was showing. "Get a grip, Kuroko! We can talk about this!"

"We can talk about it?" Claudine mimicked in reply as she wrenched a hand free and thrust the crumpled up newspaper she was holding in Kaoruko's direction. "The whole school is talking about it thanks to your big mouthed girlfriend over there!"

"The whole school?" Junna spoke as she and Nana glanced at each other in confusion. "What do you mean, Saijou-san?"

And despite how enraged her partner was, Maya was the exact opposite as she calmly explained the situation. "The journalism club released the most recent print of their newspaper today."

The representative of the ninety-ninth class adjusted her glasses before replying to the tall brunette. "Like they always do at least once a week? What have they done for her to cause such an uproar?"

"You have read today's issue, have you not, Hoshimi-san?" Maya inquired with a raised eyebrow. "Surely the representative of our class keeps up with the current events surrounding the school, hm?"

"Current events, my ass!" Claudine cursed as she renewed her vigor in attempt to get by Futaba once more. "More like a trashy rag for gossip!"

Nana hummed in thought before she made the decision to squeeze passed Maya and Junna, whispering her excuses as she did so, and gently pried the crumpled newspaper from Claudine's grasp, straightening it out as best as she could in an attempt to get some of the wrinkles out.

Once the print became legible enough, the tall female held it up in order to read the front page headline, and when she got a glimpse of what it said, she could not hold back the gasp that sounded from her mouth.

The response piqued Junna's interest as she crossed the threshold into the room, standing on her tiptoes as a means to see what had caused Nana to have that reaction. "What does it say?"

The tall female was too busy skimming over the article to give an immediate reply to her roommate's question. When she had finished her analysis of said article, she offered the paper to Junna so she could see for herself.

"Steamy Scandal Between Seisho Stars."

Junna recited the big bold text of the headline aloud, causing a surge of surprise only through the likes of Mahiru, Karen, and Futaba.

Hikari, meanwhile, did not react the same as the others who had not seen the article. Instead, she only spoke what had first popped into her mind at that moment.

"Called it."

And of course, Mahiru leaned in to whisper to her about how she wasn't helping the situation at the current time to which the raven-haired female only shrugged her shoulders at.

Junna took the newspaper from Nana and folded it out to where she could read the article aloud, adjusting her glasses before she did so.

"For the longest time, Tendou Maya and Saijou Claudine have held both the first and second spots in the second year class, respectively. The radiance of this dazzling duo has astounded us numerous times during their productions in the theatre department with their performances in the lead roles. Their onstage chemistry has seemingly been a focal point amongst the entire student body and has caused a great deal of speculation."

"This speculation has slowly evolved over the course of time and has caused a number of rumors to spread like wildfire as a result. Some of them even going as far as to say these two are more than just classmates and costars, and some of our sources have seemingly confirmed this to be true."

"'Anyone with eyes can see that there is something else underneath the whole classmates and partners shtick,' One source, who will remain anonymous, states. 'One should use both of those terms loosely when mentioning those two. Do you really think they spend evening to dark just practicing? All alone in a secluded room? No one else around? It is not even speculation at this point. Not when they confirmed it to me personally.'"

Junna was about to read the next paragraph when she abruptly stopped and backtracked to that last sentence, reading it over silently before shooting a disapproving look in Kaoruko's direction.

And everyone else in the room followed suit. Some had disapproving faces like Junna and the remaining few had glares but they didn't match the fury of the scowl Claudine had etched on her face.

"Wait a minute!" Kaoruko's shit eating grin had immediately fallen and was replaced with concern. "I didn't say all of that! I mean I did but not that last part!"

"Kaoruko," Futaba sighed. "Some stories just aren't yours to tell. You know that."

"Hey, don't tell me you're buying into that, Futaba-han! They approached me and asked all of these questions, and I figured I would stir the pot and add my own flair like I always do, you know? I meant it all as a joke! But not once did I say anything about any of that being true!"

"The media does have a way of twisting words to attract more attention," Maya added from where she was standing in the doorway. "It is quite possible that they misconstrued Hanayagi-san's statement for that very reason."

Claudine had long since calmed down just a bit to the point where Futaba no longer struggled to contain her and because of that, the shorter female was able to approach Junna to get a glimpse of the paper for herself.

"Don't tell me they have a picture." Her tone was laced with dread as she grabbed the paper from Junna's hands and looked for herself.

"Oh, they have a picture alright," Claudine muttered angrily, arms crossed at her chest as Maya had crossed over into the room and pulled her into a gentle one armed hug, stroking her shoulder tenderly and planting kisses in her hair.

And sure enough, there it was. Blown up in black and white print. Taken from the bushes outside the window of the room they used for practice. Claudine and Maya both were, indeed, in said photo. Having been caught in an embrace that appeared to be way more intimate than what their practice routine called for, which said a lot because some of the dances included in said routine did call for them to invade each other's personal space.

"No foolin'," Futaba replied. "They really planted someone in the bushes hoping to catch you both in the act."

"What act?" Karen spoke up in a scandalized tone, eyes wide at this news.

"The second act of My Fair Lady, Karen," Junna replied sarcastically before she turned to address the entire room. "But what I cannot fathom here is that the staff approved this. The staff did approve it, right?"

Her question was aimed at Nana, who shook her head. "Last I heard, this week's edition of the Seisho Star would be their independent project for the year. The staff has no control over this one because of that very reason."

"But if the main headline involves a scandal between two students that could ultimately cause an uproar, they would have to step in, wouldn't they? Because we all know information as sensitive as this and circumstantial as it may be will most assuredly cause a stir in the student body. It is inevitable." Junna further explained.

"Maya and Kuro do have quite the following amongst the girls here. Individually and jointly. I've even heard rumors of a secret fan club dedicated to their pairing now that I think about it." Nana added, putting a finger to her chin as she mentally logged back through her thoughts.

At the revelation of this possible "club", Hikari picked the most inopportune time to give voice to her own thoughts.

"How do you join?"

"Yeah!" Karen backed her up. "I wanna know too!"

Mahiru's face was already in her hands before the two girls had even opened their mouths. Her voice was muffled as she repeated what she had told Hikari earlier.

"You two aren't helping at all."

Maya seemed to contemplate her next words as she looked over the evidently pensive facial features of the blonde next to her. All traces of anger had left Claudine's body after she had vented to them all, and now Claudine seemed to be in deep thought.

"I think it would be wise for a retraction to be printed as soon as possible," She began calmly. "If that means we must wait until the next edition of the paper, so be it. We are still in school, but I feel as if this could quite possibly be detrimental to our careers in the long run. People may recognize us and look back on everything and come across this. Not many take too kindly to something this sensitive."

"I agree," Claudine says. "Maya and I aren't exactly comfortable with our relationship being public at this moment in time. We have talked about it a lot, and we have decided we are not ready for that yet. As she said, we are concerned about the negative effect it may have in the future. It's just a school newspaper, but people will dig up everything they can get on you once they see your face on television or on stage."

The blonde stopped to gaze tenderly at Maya, who returned said gaze with the same emotion as she brushed Claudine's bangs out of her face.

That was all Kaoruko needed to hear as she stood from where she was seated on the floor and all but snatched the Seisho Star out of Futaba's grasp, ignoring the annoyed "Hey!" that came from the shorter female's mouth.

"Hanayagi-san," Junna regarded as she watched the blue-haired devil make a beeline for the door. "Where are you going?"

"I may need your assistance, Hoshimi-han," Kaoruko replied, stopping her trek to the door to turn and address the class representative. "You being the rep of the second year class may give some leverage to make them print that retraction faster. This has went too far for my liking."

"Kaoruko," Futaba stood to attention as well. "I'm coming with you and Hoshimi, too."

"Futaba-han, this is my fault. A joke that I thought would be harmless has been blown out of proportion to the point where I don't even find it funny anymore. And the fact that Tendou-han and Kuro-han aren't comfortable with it makes it even more tasteless. I'm going to right that wrong on my own with Hoshimi-han to back me up."

Futaba smiled at the mature way in which Kaoruko was handling this situation. It was very rare for the blue-haired devil to take responsibility, but when it came to her friends, she would do anything. That was one of the many things Futaba loved and admired about her.

Junna adjusted her glasses. "We might have to argue with them over taking these copies back up but I'm afraid the damage will already be done should we succeed. I'm sure a majority of the school has already seen the headline by now. The same goes for getting a retraction. Some people may see it and some people may not when it is printed. It's all a game of chance at this point, but I will do my very best to help in any way I can."

"Well, you yourself said it was all circumstantial, right?" Futaba brought up. "If this article is based on circumstance alone, then it really has no concrete support. Wouldn't that be enough to get them to print the retraction? It's a school newspaper, not a tabloid."

"That is a very interesting point, Isurugi-san. There's no factual evidence that proves Tendou-san and Saijou-san are romantically linked. Everyone in this room knows, but no one else does as far as we know. Only one source was cited, and it obviously was the one that Hanayagi-san provided. She, herself, can verbally deny that she said this to anyone who asks, but it's up to them to decide whether or not to believe her in the end."

Nana was the next to speak after Junna finished her explanation.

"You both actually have a pretty solid argument constructed. If Maya and Kuro give you their consent, it would probably help to also tell the press how uncomfortable the article made them feel."

Kaoruko, Junna, and everyone else in the room looked to the tall brunette and the blonde, awaiting their response.

"Very well," Maya nodded. "You have my consent."

"Mine as well." Claudine replied.

"If we leave right now, we may have a chance of at least catching the president of the club," Junna surmised aloud. "We can share our concerns with her. If not, then maybe we can find her tomorrow during school."

"This paper is still kinda hot," Kaoruko observed. "So someone would still have to be there. Time to make our grand entrance, Hoshimi-han!" The blue-haired devil pulled out her fan in a dramatic flair as she moved to go out the door.

Junna moved to follow, and once she was about to cross the threshold another thought popped into her head. She turned to address the rest of the girls in the room. Maya and Claudine in particular, her hand on the doorknob as she did so.

"We don't know for sure who else has already gotten ahold of the Seisho Star, but we need to assume that a majority of the school has. Should anything happen and reporters from the journalism club or perhaps a mob of curious students show up, get Tendou-san and Saijou-san out of here as quickly as possible. We will regroup as soon as Hanayagi-san and I return."

After nods of understanding from the remaining girls in the room, Junna closed the door and kept pace with Kaoruko as they made their way down the hall and out of the dorm.

"Well," Futaba sighed, scratching the back of her head. "Maybe that won't happen."

And as soon as that sentence left the shorter female's mouth, a noise akin to a herd of stampeding animals grew louder and louder with every passing second, causing a wave of alarm to surge through the girls.

A switch flipped inside Nana, causing her to enter protective mama bear mode in an instant.

"Maya, Kuro, get away from the door." Nana commanded in a firm tone, hand moving fluidly to the lock on the door, the way in which she twisted it equally matching said tone.

Claudine wrapped a protective arm around Maya and gently backed her away from the door. Mahiru stood up from where she was seated in the floor and instantly went to the duo's side, gently pulling them further into the room away from said door.

"Don't worry about a thing," Mahiru assured both of them with a kind smile. "We won't let anything happen."

Nana had silently watched the herd of girls swiftly run down the hallway through the eye glass part of the door. Futaba had squeezed by next to her as well, ear pressed against the door just in case she needed to step in and assist with crowd control.

And after a moment, Futaba was quiet as she spoke. "Think they're gone, Banana?"

The banana loving female hummed, as she turned to look down at the girl beside her. "They're nearby. We're in the clear for now, but they could come back when they realize Maya and Kuro aren't in their rooms."

Claudine sighed, shaking her head as she did so. "Never thought I would have to worry about paparazzi and scandals at this stage of my life. Combien malheureux."

Maya ran her hands through her partner's long blonde hair as a sort of comfort.

"Hanayagi and Hoshimi will fix this for us. I have no doubts. We may have to endure a surge in popularity amongst the school for a brief amount of time, but it will pass, ma chérie. I am certain of it."

Claudine slid her arms around Maya's waist and buried her face into the crook of the tall brunette's neck, her next words muffled as as result.

"I hope you're right."

Karen and Hikari had stood from the floor themselves and kept close vigil at the window of the room, the raven-haired girl's grip on the pull string of the blinds was ready just in case things somehow got out of hand and the crazed mob tried to come through said window.

"Come," Mahiru prodded Maya and Claudine in the most feather-like way possible, ushering them to sit comfortably on the bed that belonged to Futaba. "You two must be exhausted from practice."

Claudine knew what Mahiru was trying to do, and she could not help but be grateful for it. The personal lives of her and her partner had been wrongfully infiltrated, and the fact that the entire school was in the beginning stages of complete mayhem over a rumor (a true one but that was a secret between the nine of them) had made the both of them uneasy. Mahiru was simply trying to take their minds off of it as best as she could. They had truly been blessed with a group of good friends.

"Not more so than usual," Maya replied, her hand laced with one of Claudine's. "We would have stayed longer had we not discovered we had made headlines."

Mahiru nodded in understanding. "I'm sure that was very confusing and hurtful. You two usually are in the headlines of the school paper, but this time it wasn't because of a play. It wasn't their place to ask anyone about your personal lives."

"An invasion of privacy," Hikari spoke solemnly. "But that's what newspapers and tabloids are after. If Hanayagi-san and Hoshimi-san fail, I shall set fire to every copy I can get my hands on."

It was endearing in its own little way. Claudine and Maya were grateful regardless.

"My family is supposed to send more potatoes sometime this week, Tendou-san," Mahiru says, delighting in the brief twinkle of Maya's purple irises. "We can make whatever you want, can't we, Banana?"

Nana looked toward the tall brunette and threw a smile her way. "Of course!"

Maya returned the smile and nodded eagerly. It reminded Claudine of a golden retriever puppy.

"Oh shit," Futaba cursed quietly, putting her hand on the door as a means to press her ear up harder against it. "I think they're comin' back."

Nana snapped back to attention to the eye glass of the door, peering outside carefully for any sign of movement.

"Are you serious?" Claudine glared, making the move to stand but was prevented from doing so by Maya who quietly instructed her to calm down. "They can't be knocking on all of our doors."

"I believe they are," Nana confirmed, her hold on the knob of the door resuming. "But we won't let them know we are here."

"That's code for put a sock in it, right?" Futaba looked up at the taller female.

"For now, yes," Nana nodded sagely. "Just until they realize we are not here then we should be in the clear."

And as the stampede of girls drew nearer to the room, everyone inside clammed up, fixating their gazes on certain areas of the room as they did so.

The heart rates of both Maya and Claudine spiked when multiple knocks on the door echoed throughout the room. This time, the tall brunette was the one to place her arm protectively around Claudine.

If they had to face their fans and members of the school press, then she would be the one to do so. Claudine was taking everything the hardest out of the two of them, and the last thing Maya wanted was to let them all stress the blonde even further by trying to get a statement from her.

Both Nana and Futaba had braced themselves against the door as human barricades just in case things were to spiral out of hand, but even then they did not speak.

But in a stroke of unfortunate luck, Hikari had accidentally jostled the blinds a little too much and scattered a bit of dust into the air as a result, and the sound of Karen's sneeze was so loud in the quiet room it may as well have shattered glass.

Then the sound of the knocks automatically shifted into ones that were more urgent and simultaneous, some of the girls in the journalism club outside even shouted questions through the array of noise akin to that of girls when they spot their favorite celebrity.

"Hanayagi-san, can you please elaborate any further on Tendou-san and Saijou-san's relationship?"

"Can we also get a statement from Isurugi-san? Can she also provide any input on this love affair?"

"When do you think Saijou-san and Tendou-san will be available to give their own statements?"

The red-haired female grunted. "They're like vultures! What do we do, Banana? We have to get those two out of here somehow!"

Nana's mind went into overdrive as she and the shorter female next to her continued to put all of their weight and strength against the door to prevent the mob outside from barging in.

"The window!" She cried, turning to look at the trio behind her. "Karen, Hikari! Move the furniture away from the window and open it! Mahiru! Lead Maya and Kuro away from here as far as you can get without going off campus! Futaba and I will take care of the rest!"

The trio nodded and Karen and Hikari immediately went to work in synch, grabbing the end table that had been directly in front of the window and setting it off to the side.

Once that was done, Karen jerked the blinds upward by the pull string and pulled the window upward, creating a gap big enough to where Mahiru, Maya, and Claudine could climb through.

"You're good to go!" Karen gave the three girls a thumbs up and a cheerful smile, despite the situation at hand. "Run fast and run far, Mahiru! We will help Banana and Futaba handle everything else!"

Hikari took a deep breath before she spoke in her usually stoic tone. "The time to journey forth into the MayaKuro war has come. God be with you, Mahiru. God be with us all."

"W-war?" Mahiru reiterated nervously, eyes widening like she had just caught a glimpse of a ghost even as Hikari gently prodded her toward the open window to assist Karen in making sure she made it out safely.

Once Mahiru was able to look down at the kind of landing they would have to brace themselves for, she took mental note of how the window ledge was was just a little bit higher than she initially thought.

And as she struggled to pull herself out of the window, Mahiru took this time to steel her resolve in order to take on the responsibility she had been given. She would escort Maya and Claudine to safety. She felt as if she owed it to them as they were two of her eight dearest friends. And they needed her and the others now more than ever.

Avoiding the bush just below the ledge, she made it to the ground safely and turned around to assist the duo she was given the task of protecting out of the window.

"Ladies first." Maya announced, positioning herself behind Claudine to make sure she made it out safely despite the trio of girls being there to help out as well.

"You're a lady, too, ass," Claudine fired the comment back as she climbed out onto the ledge. "I can't believe we have resorted to jumping out of a window with the last remnants of our dignity."

And as Claudine made it safely to the ground, Hikari took advantage of the moment and turned Maya around by her shoulders, serious cerulean blue eyes meeting equally serious purple ones, hands remaining on the tall brunette's shoulders as she spoke.

"Let love be your guide, Tendou-san. Godspeed."

Maya nodded once in understanding as she also placed her hands on the raven-haired female's shoulders.

"Keep the frontlines steady, lieutenant. We shall return before the dawn. Godspeed."

Claudine, who had witnessed the whole spectacle from outside beside Mahiru, rolled her eyes so far back into her head they may as well have gotten stuck.

"I knew we should have never watched that war movie the other night. Hurry up, Tendou Maya!"

Once Maya had safely landed on her own two feet outside, the last few sounds they had heard before Karen whispered them the best of luck and shut the window tight and pulled the blinds back down was a loud "MORTAL KOMBAT!" in the uncharacteristically loud voice of one Kagura Hikari and the distinct sound of something breaking.

"Why do I get the feeling we are all making this out to be something way more than what it actually is?" Claudine said as the three of them took off running down the street towards the school.

"Simply because we are," Maya replied, keeping pace with her blonde-headed partner as they followed behind Mahiru. "That is expected when we all specialize in the same department of the theatre, is it not?"

Claudine scoffed. "You can just say we are all being overdramatic about this entire thing, you know. Hey Mahiru, where are we going?"

Mahiru threw a sheepish grin over her shoulder at the duo. "I'm kind of just making this up as I go along, Kuro."

"See, ma Claudine? We have even added improvisation into the fray as well."

"Ugh."

Mahiru's mind was working overtime as she surveyed their surroundings, immediately recognizing the familiar route they took every morning.

"I know we are headed in the direction of the school. Most of the students and staff are probably gone already, so I am sure can find a good place to hide out for a while."

Maya was impressed with how well Mahiru was handling the responsibility that had just been thrown onto her at the last possible minute. She couldn't help but voice her admiration aloud.

"I am amazed by how levelheaded you are in this moment, Tsuyuzaki-san."

Mahiru threw another sheepish grin over her shoulder to the two as they continued running toward the school.

"I appreciate it, Tendou-san, but if I may be honest, I just hope what Hikari broke wasn't expensive."

And through the final rays of the evening sun, the three girls continued to run down the street, and after what felt like an eternity, the very familiar structure of Seisho Music Academy could be seen growing closer and closer.