Shioriko sits in the student council room, hunched over a stack of paperwork while deep in thought. After all, today is Kasumi's birthday, and Shioriko doesn't have a present prepared for her.
Normally, she would never spare something so insignificant even the slightest bit of consideration, but for some reason, an odd feeling has settled on her chest.
Is it because she feels nervous? If even Lanzhu and Mia who have known her for less time brings a gift, and she's the only one who doesn't show up with a present, what would Kasumi think? Would Kasumi be angry that Shioriko doesn't seem to care about her birthday?
Is it because she feels guilty? After all, she and Kasumi have grown closer since Shioriko joined the club (and even before that, as she remembers Kasumi inviting her out with the other first-years after Shioriko joined them during their practice sessions). The thought of Kasumi being angry is one thing, but Kasumi being disappointed sends a sharp pang through her heart.
Or is it maybe because she feels... jealous? Imagining Kasumi smiling thanks to everyone's gift, with Shioriko not included in that gratitude...
Suddenly, it clicks. It's not that she's concerned about seeing Kasumi sad or angry. It's that she wants to be able to make her happy. And not just for today; if possible, Shioriko wants to make Kasumi happy for the rest of her life.
"Wow, that's kinda gay, not gonna lie."
Dragged forcefully out of her thoughts, Shioriko stares at Mia who's standing in front of her desk. "Mia-san. Was I speaking aloud?" Shioriko asks, her tone still composed.
"Yeah, I could hear you being fruity from all the way across the room. You might as well have shouted it out."
"...why are you here?"
"Changing the subject, eh?" Mia's lips turn up slightly, amused by Shioriko's attempt to distract from the topic at hand. "Lanzhu was worried because you didn't show up to our meeting. We were supposed to discuss last night's fan meeting and talk about where we could improve, remember?"
Oh right, that was today. Shioriko was so distraught about not having a gift prepared for Kasumi's birthday that it slipped her mind.
"So? Out with it. What's got your mind over in Wonderland? Since it sounds like you're stuck thinking about Kasumi."
"That's..." Shioriko takes a deep breath, thinking of how she can properly convey her problem while avoiding the glaring issue that is her feelings towards Kasumi. "Do you know her birthday is today?"
Mia snorts. "Uhhh, yeah? 'Course I do. I think everyone who's friends with her should know." Shioriko winces--she hadn't known until earlier this morning. Mia catches her reaction, eyes wide in realization. "You didn't?!"
Shioriko shakes her head. "No, Shizuku just told me earlier this morning. I don't even have a gift prepared."
"Well, even a compliment would probably be an alright gift for her," Mia says. Shioriko can't tell whether or not she's joking. "I guess if you really want, you dip from class and head to VenusFort for a bit. You can probably find some cheap jewelry or accessories. That'd work, right?"
"I can't skip classes," Shioriko replies curtly.
Mia throws her hands up in the air. "Well, then I'm out of ideas. Unless something falls out of the sky, there's no way we can get a gift ready before the party."
Without warning, the door to the student council room bursts open. "Mia! What's taking so long?"
Mia sighs, turning to face the door and making eye contact with Lanzhu. "It's Shioriko. She didn't know Kasumi's birthday was today, and she doesn't have a present ready."
"Do you have any ideas, Lanzhu?" Shioriko asks, desperate.
"Mou man tai! I know just the thing!" Lanzhu puffs up her chest proudly. "I've got her a big gift. We can just say it's from all of us!"
"But... I wouldn't feel bad if I took credit for something I didn't help with?"
"Huh? Of course you'll be helping with it. I have a big surprise planned, and you're just the person I need!" Lanzhu exclaims excitedly. Mia shoots her a sympathetic look.
This isn't going to end well, is it?
"Kasumi, happy birthday!" Lanzhu and Mia walk through the doors of the idol club room, pushing forward a trolley. On that trolley is an absurdly tall, pastel yellow cake, towering over everyone in the club and wide enough to hide a person inside of it.
"Lanzhu-senpai, thank y- guh, that's big!" Kasumi reacts with shock as she looks the cake up and down. On one hand, that's definitely not healthy, but on the other hand, she really wants to eat it.
"It's a present from all of us in R3BIRTH, for the cutest idol in Japan!"
"Awww, thank you! Where's Shioko, though?"
"Oh, she'll be a bit late," Mia mumbles, glancing nervously at the cake. "Don't worry. Why don't we blow out the candles for now?"
Unbeknownst to the others, a large cardboard tube is located in the middle of the cake, with holes on the top to allow air circulation. And inside of said tube, Shioriko is curled up, waiting for her cue.
This has to be some kind of divine punishment, Shioriko thinks. Because she forgot Kasumi's birthday, God has punished her by making her do this. But you know what? She's fine with this. If this is what it takes to make Kasumi happy, then so be it.
Outside of the cake, everyone is singing happy birthday to Kasumi, who's savoring the feeling of everyone showering her with praise and compliments. Then, being careful not to reveal the tube, Lanzhu places a candle on the top and lights it. Mia is recording this on her phone, which is good. Lanzhu wants a video of this to watch again, later.
"Alright, blow out the candles, Kasumi!" Lanzhu shouts, making sure the person inside of the cake can hear her. Kasumi leans forward, trying to blow out the candles, when suddenly-
Frosting flies everywhere as Shioriko emerges from the cake, landing on the floor, the tables, and the others' faces. The largest chunk lands on Kasumi's face and hair. Of course, Kasumi reacts the only sensible way one would when a person suddenly appears from a cake a few centimeters away from their face.
"GYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" Kasumi screams so loudly that other students on the other side of the school could probably hear her. It's only after a few seconds that her brain is able to process the face of the girl in front of her. "Shioko?!"
"Ha-happy birthday Kasumi," Shioriko says, her ears still ringing from Kasumi's voice. "Your birthday present is me."
Kasumi blinks, face still covered in frosting. Then, she bursts into a sudden fit of giggles, which is soon followed by Ai and Yu, and eventually, everyone else. Even Shioriko can't help laughing at how ridiculous the situation is.
Finally, the laughter dies down, and Kasumi gives Shioriko a heartwarming smile. "Thanks Shioko, this is the best present I could ask for." Leaning in, she gives Shioriko a peck on the cheek, turning the dark haired girl's face bright red.
Whistling, Kanata decides to tease the pair, "You two can flirt later, I want to eat some cake."
"I-I wasn't flirting! Hmph!" More chuckles go around as everyone wonders when Kasumi will finally realize her feelings. Unfortunately, that day is not today.
But for today, Shioriko is helped out of the cake, and the edible parts are cut up and shared around for everyone to eat to their heart's content. It takes two weeks before it's all gone, and everyone doesn't want to eat cake anymore.
And so, the daily lives of the Nijigasaki High School School Idol Association continues, with blooming feelings between two of their members.