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The Fox Trap

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Yae’s nearly out the door when the girl she left in bed rolls over and sleepily calls out her name. “Yae?”

Yae waits until the girl goes back to snoring, slipping on her shoes quietly as she sneaks out of the dorm room. Judging on how the sun shines through the window, she figures that it is around late morning as she heads down the hall with more than a few girls eyeing her and smirking. A couple even greet her and reach out to touch her without thinking. Yae merely greets them back with a sultry smile while subtly redirecting their hands away from her body.

A quick trip down the stairs, and Yae is out in the sunlight, blinking in the warm spring air. She strolls forward, running her fingers through her hair. She ruffles the edges out before smoothing it back, catching a few gazes as she does. Smiling, Yae winks here and there, continuing on to the cafe near her dorm to grab some coffee to make up for her…late night study session.

The cafe has some cute round tables sitting outside, surrounded by a wrought iron lattice fence that offsets the modern, wooden interior. A cozy place that Yae has taken lots of dates to, and a decent place for coffee to boot.

The line is mercifully short this time, and Yae leaves shortly with an iced coffee in hand, spotting someone familiar near the open gates. Recognizing her as Makoto from her lit class, she walks over to say hi, stopping when she gets close enough to realize that there’s two of her.

Makoto turns first, beautiful as always with a smile on her face. Her twin follows suit, eyes flicking up to meet Yae’s and—

Yae’s breath is knocked away.

The woman is identical in features to Makoto, but there’s something about her inquisitive glances, the slight furrow between her brows that makes her look like a mix between slightly stern and confused that is adorable.

Makoto is laughing, head thrown back, while the other girl is reserved, smiling softly while her eyes scan around them as if constantly looking for danger. The way she holds her body slightly forward reminds Yae of someone ready to spring into a fight at a moment’s notice.

Yae immediately notes two things about the Makoto clone: she’s someone who is hard to get to know. She’s a challenge. And Yae has definitely seen her before.

Yae is already wondering how to bring up the night in question when Makoto spots her and waves. Returning the gesture, she approaches them, glancing over to the unknown girl who scans Yae curiously. “Makoto, nice day to see you.”

“Same to you.” Makoto glances her up and down. She sniffs, scenting something in the air before stepping protectively in front of her companion. Perhaps, Yae should have taken a shower before she left. “I assume you haven’t worked on the essay that was assigned yesterday. Had a fun night?”

“The usual.” Yae shrugs. She turns to the girl beside them. “And this is clearly your twin. Would you mind introducing us?”

Makoto takes her sister’s arm. “Yae, this is Ei. Ei, this is Yae, resident playgirl and serial heartbreaker on campus. You stay far, far away from her.”

Yae scoffs, “Oh, Makoto is kidding. She—“ She sneaks a glance at Ei whose amused smile makes butterflies explode in her chest. “She’s such a jokester. Definitely don’t mind her.”

Ei glances between the two. “How do you know each other?”

“Classmates,” Yae and Makoto answer at the same time.

Makoto elaborates, “We also see each other at some of the same club functions. She also hits on anything pretty with a pulse.”

“And can hold a conversation. I do have standards, Makoto.” Yae clears her throat when she realizes what she’s said. “Anyway, Ei, we’ve met before, haven’t we?”

Ei’s browns crease slightly. “I don’t believe so.”

“Perhaps, I’ve mistaken you for your triplet then, but…” Yae slowly sweeps her gaze up the other girl, appreciating the black tights and loose, long-sleeved shirt combo before meeting her stare. Before her brain can stop herself from saying the next line to a woman who’s a twin, her mouth says, “I would remember someone as beautiful as you.”

Makoto pulls Ei aside. “We’ll be going now.”

Yae waves with just her fingertips. “See you in class, Makoto.” She turns a sly smile onto Ei. “And see you—“

Makoto rapidly drags her sister away.

Yae watches them go before slumping against a post with a sigh. A second later, she sniffs herself and straightens up, striding to her place as fast as possible. She really needs a shower.

The next day, she idles away waiting for lit class by doodling in the margins of her notebook. Quickly growing bored, she watches the rest of the students file in through the door.

Yae spots Makoto sitting at the front as always, wearing her glasses—

She does a double take before scooping up her books and heading to the empty seat beside the startled dark-haired student. “Hi, Ei. Pleasure to see you again.”

Ei blinks. “You can tell the difference?”

“Of course, you’re clearly the prettier twin,” Yae teases, and she’s rewarded with a playful eyeroll. “Plus, Makoto doesn’t usually wear glasses.”

“Ah, you caught me. She’s sick today and did not want the professor to take marks off for an absence.”

“Hmmm…can’t she email him instead?”

“I don’t know.” Ei glances over to the stern, humourless man entering the room. “He looks like a no-excuses kind of guy.”

“True. Well, then…guess I’ll be enjoying the hour with you.” Yae’s hand brushes against Ei’s carefully under the table, testing to see the response.

Ei’s brows furrow, but her gaze is glued on her notebook, pens of different colours stationed nearby in a neat line. She doesn’t mention the contact, which only intrigues Yae more.

During the lecture, Yae ends up watching her seat mate more than the professor, noting how meticulously Ei organizes her notes by section, colour, and using a variety of dashes and bullet points for subsections. Everything is clear and easy to follow, and Yae could see why Makoto would value her sister’s note taking skills.

Heck, Yae would pay for those kinds of notes in her classes, and she asks Ei if she’s looking for work when class ends. Ei just laughs. “I’m not lacking money. I do this to help out Makoto.”

“Well, then, would you teach me to write notes like you do?” Yae peeks up playfully from underneath her bangs, aware that she often looks adorable from this angle.

“I’m often busy with my own coursework.” Ei’s brows furrow, and Yae just wants to smooth away the crease between them. “I don’t—” She brightens. “You could come with me as I work on my projects, and I can teach you on my breaks.”

“That sounds great.” Yae has no idea what she studies. Maybe business like her sister?

Ei stands, gathering her books. “I should probably head over there right now and…” She looks at Yae, hesitant.

Yae’s words come in a rush. “Come to lunch with me.” She surprises herself with how straightforward she’s being. She’s usually more smooth. “I know a great place nearby.”

Ei smiles, and Yae’s heartbeat does a backflip. “I would love to.”

The lunch place is a smaller food court area that is tucked down into the lower floor via some concrete stairs. The inside has wall to wall windows where it can and a variety of vendors displayed opposite the doors. They enter through the main sliding doors with Yae guiding them towards her favourite spot.

“And this is—“ Yae stops when Ei starts heading toward the gelato shop at the back. “Really?”

“There is no shame in indulging once…a day.” Ei quickly slides into line and orders a mix of two flavours with a cherry on top. Yae shakes her head and leaves to grab a chicken salad from the nearby shop before returning to find Ei seated at a table close to a wall.

“Don’t like to be in the middle of a crowd?” Yae teases while Ei drops her eyes. “I was just kidding.”

Ei shakes her head. “I can get…strange if there’s too much noise. Stressed, I mean.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Just…I prefer being in silence with my thoughts more than in a place with constant noise going on.”

“That‘s not unusual,” Yae comments gently. “A lot of people are like that.”

Her companion frowns, opening her mouth to elaborate when a voice calls from beside them. “Ei, is that you? Who are you with—not the fox skank!”

Yae narrows her eyes in annoyance and turns to see a tall, stern woman with a dark bob cut glaring at her. “If you’re the type to use names, it’s actually Yae Miko.”

Ei muses for a few seconds. “Miko. I like that name. It’s very pretty, and it suits you.”

Yae and the other woman look at her. Yae manages to cover up the flush crawling up her neck while the bobcut-woman shakes her head rapidly. “You cannot be serious. Don’t you know who she is?”

“Excuse me, but I don’t even know who you are.” Yae rests her chin in the palm of her hand, trying to hide her irritation.

“Kujou Sara. A club mate of Ei’s.” Before Yae could ask which one, Sara’s eyes narrow at Yae before turning back to Ei. “Whatever you do, do not let this girl near your pants. She will try everything to get in them and then ditch you the moment she gets bored. That is my warning to you.”

Sara turns and strides away while Ei looks at Yae with a confused expression. “Why do you need to run off with my pants? If you want them, I can let you borrow them.”

Yae smiles and steals the cherry from Ei’s sundae. “You take things literally, don’t you?” She ties the stem into a knot using her teeth and presents it on her tongue.

Ei claps, looking mildly impressed, and Yae sighs, plucking the knot from her mouth. She begins digging into her salad. “How have you avoided jokes about this when you’re hanging out with people?”

“Ah…I don’t have many friends.” Ei averts her eyes. “I guess my interests are a bit too rigid for them.”

Yae studies her. “Is that the only cause?”

Ei doesn’t answer.

When silence begins to build between them, Yae gently prods, “What do you like? Is it related to your major?”

Ei nods. “Robotics engineering and computer science.”

And she looks like a knockout? “Tell me more.”

Thinking for a bit, Ei breaks out into a smile. “Why don’t I show you?”

After finishing their meals, Ei walks Yae over to a red brick building a ten minute walk away from the cafeteria. From the outside, it looks as nondescript as any of the other buildings around it, but a golden plaque near the doors announces it as a robotics laboratory.

Inside, the walls are bright white with dark gray trim and lots of tinted windows that give a viewpoint into the room—showing off either a workspace or small lecture hall of some sort. Ei leads them down to the elevator and gets them on the second floor. She shows Yae into the nearest lab, tapping a key pass onto a reader by the door. “You need access from the department to get through.”

On the left side of the door is a wall plastered with awards won by students from the department and who have long since graduated. “Proud of your accomplishments, I see.”

“The department is, at least.” Ei continues through to show Yae through a space that looks like an open office workspace with cubicles, monitors, standing desks, and a massive area with a green carpet and a whole bunch of contraptions that Yae is curious about. It looks like they’re the only ones here.

“We were working on bipedal locomotion for a while before we realized that the robots could only go backwards and forwards. Hence, that thing came about.” Ei gestures toward what looks like a robotic spider as she strides towards what looks like her desk. She snatches a bundle of small cookies off of a gray filing cabinet that appears to be a snack station. “We have a habit of eating as we’re working. There’s usually donuts here too,” she says almost apologetically as she places the bundle on a desk that looks to be hers.

“I don’t mind. I don’t usually eat those.” Yae reaches out to take one, and Ei growls, something crackling in her eyes like a warning flash before lighting strikes. She looks like danger and darkness dancing inside a storm. She looks like the woman from the club that night.

And all this over a cookie.

Ei drops the expression, looking away. She seems to be wrestling with herself before pushing the bundle over to Yae as an offering. “Sorry. I just get possessive with things I like.” Her eyes flick over Yae, who wonders if that has a double meaning. “Know the feeling?”

“Don’t I?” Yae leans over the cabinet, and Ei glances away. “Am I making you uncomfortable?”

Ei laughs, startled. “No, I’m just not good at…” She waves between the two of them.

Being picked up by women?

Yae waits for Ei to continue, but the other girl only seems to get more flustered. She changes the topic instead. “I hear a lot of girls are told in STEM fields that they can’t do what they’re studying. Does that happen to you?”

“Yes, but I make it a point to not listen to idiots.” Ei shrugs, having calmed down somewhat. “Besides, my family works in this kind of industry. It would be strange not to have rudimentary knowledge about what we do.”

Yae nods along. Gliding her fingers over the textbooks on Ei’s desk, she notes that quite a few of them deal with advanced robotics. “You have quite an interest in artificial intelligence.”

Ei nods rapidly. “We’re making rapid gains in our understanding of how to make smarter programs. In a decade or so, we may be able to replace some common tasks that formerly required human judgment and free up their intellect for further advancement in other areas.”

She shakes her head. “This is all just speculation and ideas I generate to prepare for working in my parents’ company. Makoto is the one lined up to take over once Mom and Dad retire, hence all the courses in business management and leadership. I would rather work in the R&D department.”

“Creating robots?” Yae eyes a strange contraption that looks like a platform made out of black plastic on wheels.

“And tinkering with AI software as well. With the way technology is advancing, we could be building very self-aware programs that could mimic people in certain areas. There is already an app that shows a greater aptitude for correctly diagnosing heart disease than live doctors since it doesn’t confuse itself with the criteria for other possible conditions.”

“What next then?” Yae hums, noticing how excited Ei is becoming and remarking to herself that it is very cute. “Androids? Cyborgs?”

“Ah! Did you know cyborgs already exist? There’s a guy in Fontaine who had an antenna installed on top of his head to sense the different vibrations of colours since he was borned colourblind. Some wealthy individuals already have had chips installed in their palms to use as a shortcut for credit card purchases, door openers, and—“ Ei stops suddenly. “I’m boring you, aren’t I?”

Yae frowns. “Why would you be?”

“People told me before that I tend to go too long about a subject when I’m really interested in it.” Ei rubs the back of her neck. “If I am—“

“I’ll let you know, all right?” Yae places a finger on Ei’s lips to silence her protest. “I’m a big girl, and I can speak up for myself. Now, can you tell me more about what you’re working on?”

Ei lights up.

Truthfully, Yae got lost somewhere in the explanation regarding the moral conundrums with the three laws of robotics, but she figures it is worth to see how much Ei glows when she’s passionate about a project, how animated she gets with her gestures and movements, the beautiful smile across her face that graces her face like sunlight on a spring day. Yae would sit through an entire lecture on the dangers of cybernetics if Ei would wear it the entire time.

“Ah, it’s nearly time to head out.” Ei checks her watch, frowning. “I’m sorry I kept you so long.”

“I’m not.” Yae stands, brushing some invisible specks from her skirt. “You could keep me as long as you want.” She’s not trying, but the tone comes out as flirtatious and deeply suggestive. Damn habits.

It flies over Ei’s head. “Oh no, that’s unnecessary. I’m sure you have your own schedule to attend to. However…” She suddenly looks shy, and Yae has an urge to eat her up. “Would you like to come back sometime?”

“Of course. Be warned though that you might have to explain some things to me again.” Yae shrugs. “I’m just a simple-minded marketing student after all.”

Ei stares. “You’re smart, Yae. You kept up with me without much confusion. A lot of people don’t.” She shakes her head. “I would pity anyone who underestimated you. You would devour him before he even understood what was happening.”

“You know…it’s not only men that I eat.” Yae winks slowly.

Ei frowns. “I didn’t mean that in a literal sense.”

“Neither did I,” Yae sighs, getting the sense that innuendos are not her best choice of tools with her. “So, same time next week?”

When Ei hesitates, Yae carefully places her hand on top of hers on the tabletop between them. She watches Ei’s mouth open slightly before she shakes her head. Yae leans in a bit more, and she swears she can see her pupils dilating the closer she gets.

Then, the fire alarm rings.

Jerking back, Ei slaps her hands over her ears as Yae does the same, cursing the timing. “It must be Yoimiya from the pyrotechnics department again!” Ei shouts, leading them out the fire door, down the stairs, and outside of the building. They watch a fire truck quickly roll up, the firefighters rushing in, only to escort out a guiltily-grinning girl with blonde hair.

Ei closes her eyes. “Yeah, it’s just Yoimiya.” She pinches the bridge of her nose, looking like she has a headache. “I’m just going to go home now. See you, Yae.”

She turns and slips through the crowd without another word. Yae immediately tries to go after her only for another alarm to go off, and the students shuffle forward to watch a white-haired boy jump out a window, landing in the bushes in a daze.

“I swear it wasn’t me!” He jumps up, brushing himself off before darting around the security guards reaching out. “Ha ha! You’ll never catch Itto the Great—“ Yelping, he goes down as one guard tackles him, and the rest dogpile on top.

Yae shakes her head and scans the crowd for signs of Ei, ignoring the scuffle behind her. When she spots none, she scowls and heads back to her dorm room herself, feeling her own temples start to throb.

She makes up halfway up the stairs to her floor when she wants to scream. She forgot to ask Ei for her number.

Yae doesn’t even try to be subtle as she storms into her room and throws herself on the bed on her side. Her roommate doesn’t react as she continues to read at her desk. “A girl said you were a terrible lay?”

Yae rolls over. “Oh, Gendou. If you were curious about finding that out…”

Gendou Ringo shrugs, indifferent as ever. “Thanks, but no thanks. I’m not joining your wall of shame.”

“Oh, how will my heart go on with this rejection?” Yae dramatically places a hand over her eyes before lapsing into silence.

Gendou glances over before returning her gaze to her reading. “Fine, what’s on your mind?”

“I’m interested in someone, but she’s quite a challenge,” Yae sighs. “I’m just confused. No matter how many signals I give off, this girl doesn’t seem to pick them up.”

Her roommate turns a page in her book. “I dunno, Yae. Have you considered that maybe she’s straight?”

“Even if she was, I wouldn’t have a problem convincing her to give me a try.”

“Oh my gods, your ego.” Gendou rubs her forehead. “Then, maybe she’s not interested.”

“Again, that’s not usually an issue for me.”

Her roommate throws her hands up before rising and heading to the door. “I’m going to the library so I can get something done. There’s a mirror in the bathroom if you need to make out with yourself.” She nearly closes the door before she turns back. “Oh, right. One of the frat houses is having a party in a couple of nights. Message from your friend What’s-Her-Face.”

While Yae is fairly certain that her roommate wasn’t listening to the messenger introduce herself, she is glad she got the gist of it. She thinks of inviting Ei, but she doesn’t have her number and Makoto seems to be missing from lit class the next time they have it. Ei hasn’t been seen at her workstation either, according to her classmates from the center.

Both the twins are away for some reason, and Yae had to hunt down that Kujou Sara person while she was at some type of Inazuman Archery club practice to get a shred of info. Their parents had taken the girls to an important conference for a few days, and they should return shortly afterwards.

Yae feels strangely put out and doesn’t respond to the offers on her phone from people who would like a chance to take her mind off of things. She ends up reminiscing about what happened a while ago that has her wondering if she met Ei before.

Yae had been at a downtown club close to midnight, bored and having left her nervous date, who got quite drunk. So much so that Yae called a taxi and sent her home when the girl could barely walk on her own without toppling over.

She then went back into the club to dance a little, mood somewhat soured. The lights were strobing, the music rattling in her bones. A man with too much to drink had danced close and aggressively to her, a single-minded gaze glued to her body. Yae felt her lips lift in a snarl, but she tamped down the urge quickly, thinking of a way to escape his grasp when a pair of distinctly feminine hands grabbed her around the waist from behind.

She had stiffened before a woman whispered into her ear, “Just follow my lead,” before continuing the dance, body to body. The man had stopped, eyes widening at whatever expression the woman behind Yae was giving him. He quickly turned and dived into the crowd, swallowed up by the mob of bodies and club lights.

The woman had released her, and Yae turned, a ‘thank you’ on her tongue when she saw who it was. The words died in her mouth.

It was Makoto from her lit class. A flushed and clearly wavering Makoto. A handsy, suddenly very physically intimate Makoto, who normally stayed wise to all of Yae’s flirtations. But tonight, her eyes were raking Yae’s form, and Yae’s instincts rose to the forefront before reason shut them down. Her hero needed to sit somewhere to sober up. That was the least she can do for a fellow student that she somewhat respects. Still…

Who could blame Yae for wanting a single dance with the gorgeous, albeit drunk-off-her-ass, Makoto?

She spun her partner around. “One dance, and then I’m getting you some water.”

Makoto opened her eyes slowly—something in them catching Yae’s breath and making her belly turn molten—and grins, eye teeth looking long. That was an expression the social butterfly would never make. This wasn’t Makoto.

Yae stuttered to a stop even as the Makoto lookalike pressed up close to her in the crush of the crowd, hands running down Yae’s hips and clearly liking what she was feeling. Yae had reached out to grab her hands when not-Makoto grinded their hips together deliberately, and something in Yae’s brain short-circuited. Makoto Number 2 laughed, canines nearly glinting in the club lights before whipping around and disappearing into the crowd while Yae struggled to get her brain to reboot.

When it finally got back on, she chased the phantom across the club, but the doppelgänger was gone. When Yae saw Makoto in class the next day, the club president was cheerful, kind as ever, and clearly not hungover. She didn’t even bat an eye as Yae smiled and brushed her fingers on her own when she passed her chair. Makoto merely rolled her eyes and withdrew her hand.

For a month, Yae had no idea what happened that night. When she brings up seeing her at the club the other night, Makoto looks genuinely confused, leaving Yae wondering if her drink was spiked with hallucinogens. The moment she saw Makoto with her twin, she had her answer.

That was Ei she saw. And she has yet to thank her.

The thought of the girl she had only met a couple of times dogs her for the next while. Even when she is climbing the stairs to the frat party a couple of days later, she is still thinking of her.

Yae ascends the stairs and notices that some girls are shotgunning beer cans near the porch. The door isn’t locked, and there’s people jumping up and down to the music in the rooms. The fraternity members at least had the foresight to remove the furniture to prevent injuries and damages from people bumping into them.

She wanders past the crowds of people to the fridge in the kitchen where bottles of colourful liquor and beer sit from shelf to shelf. A man with a baseball cap worn backwards hands her an unopened beer, grinning and flushed, as she nods to him in thanks before he goes back to handing out more to the others around him.

Yae scans the room, feeling oddly bored and restless. Usually, she’d find a few girls she’d like to talk to by this point. Now, the desire to do so has evaporated like a puddle on a hot day.

“Yae!” A blonde woman barrels into her. I missed you this week.” When Yae frowns, the girl elaborates. “We spent the night together last Saturday night.” She pouts, nearly dropping the glass in her hand. “I thought you would call.”

“Sorry, I’ve just been buried under some schoolwork. You know how it is.” Yae can’t seem to stop her eyes from wandering, looking for a flash of long dark hair.

“This is a big party, huh?” The girl keeps trying to get her attention, frowning when Yae is looking around. “Even some club presidents are here.”

“That’s great.” Yae absentmindedly brushes off a hand crawling on her hip from god-knows-where. “Which clubs?”

The girl furrows her brows. “Uh…the Fencing Club, the Events Club, the Face Drama Club, the Inazuman Medieval Weaponry club…”

Inazuman Medieval Weaponry Club? How oddly specific and geeky. What kind of person would—

Yae seizes. She thought she saw Makoto on the staircase, laughing. If Makoto is here, then maybe Ei is—

“What’s my name?”

Yae pauses, heartbeat jumping. “I’m sorry?”

“My name.” The blonde frowns. “You do recall it, right?”

Ah, right. The last girl Yae slept with and whose calls she has been ignoring all week. “Darling, how could I ever forget you?”

“That’s not an answer.” The girl scowls. “You haven’t been looking at me. You don’t even remember my name. Well—“ Her hand clenches around her drink. “I’ll definitely make sure I leave a better impression then!”

She steps forward, and Yae ducks, guided by instinct, as the girl hurls her drink over Yae’s shoulder, hitting the oni-boy behind her.

Itto screams, grabbing his face, “It burns! It must have beans inside!”

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” The girl rushes forth to try and wipe the drink off with a nearby cloth while Yae slips away out the back door. The crowd erupts in a cacophony of shouts and hoots, which immediately quiet when Yae closes the door behind her.

The backyard has a porch, a garden with a fountain, and a gazebo. There are a few couples giggling to themselves and sneaking off into the bushes, but other than that, it’s quiet.

Yae turns her head, sighing, and looks for a seat. And there is Ei, sitting by herself on a wooden bench in the backyard porch.

Ei glances over, looking stunned before smiling. “Hi.”

“Hi back,” Yae murmurs, leaving her drink on the railing.” She wanders over, sitting besides Ei who shuffles down a bit.

Yae looks her over. “You look nice.”

“I should. Makoto keeps dressing me. She’s only four minutes older,” Ei mutters. She unbuttons the top notches of her dress, showing off the outline of her collarbone. She doesn’t notice Yae staring at the patch of skin. “This really isn’t my thing, and the weather’s not looking good either. Those look like rain clouds above us.”

Ei sips from her drink and makes a face.

Yae shakes her head, feeling punch-drunk without having sipped a drop of alcohol. “Why are you here then?”

Ei mumbles, “I hate parties, but Makoto likes to go to one once in a while. I snuck away when she wasn’t looking. I hate the noise.” She rocks herself, nursing a paper cup full of blue liquid that Yae pulls away and dumps into the bushes to Ei’s protests.

“If you don’t want to drink, you don’t need to.” Yae’s tone is firm, nearly stern. “If you don’t want to go to parties, you don’t have to either. Why do you force yourself?”

“I feel bad.” Ei’s eyes drop to the side. “Makoto could never go to parties when we were younger because I felt too scared and anxious to attend, even though she really wanted to. I figured I could repay her by going to a few.”

Yae sighs, “I think she would just feel guilty if she knew how miserable you’re making yourself so she can have fun. And besides, if you need someone to be with you at a place that’s not a frat house, I’d be happy to do so.”

Ei looks over. She breaks into a smile so beautiful, it scrambles Yae’s thoughts. “Would you?”

Yae blinks, trying to get some composure back. She get up, taking Ei’s hand and leading her to the stone bench by the garden. “That was you at the club last month, wasn’t it? At the Crimson Moth?”

“Yeah, I was there.” Ei stops, frowning. “Were you? Did I say something weird?” When Yae raises an eyebrow, she adds, “Makoto says I don’t act like myself when I’m drunk, and I had a lot that night. I’m sorry if I did something.”

“Ah.” Yae keeps her face away, voice carefully neutral. “So, you don’t remember.”

“What did I do?” Ei scrubs at her face. “Should I apologize?”

“No, not at all. I enjoyed it.” Yae looks back, smiling flirtatiously. When Ei continues to look anxious, she sighs and stops them in front of the fountain. “I meant it.”

“Good. I wouldn’t want you to…” Ei seems to look at Yae for a while before a red tint appears on her cheeks. “I asked about you around campus when I got back from my conference. What people said about you and what you were like in person was…very different.”

Yae’s heart sinks to her shoes. “And what did you hear?”

“Well…” Ei meets her eyes. “I wanted to hear it from you first.”

“Let me guess…” Yae doesn’t look at her. “They talked about how I seduce and trick people to get what I want?”

Ei points out. “You haven’t tried to seduce me.”

Yae barely suppresses a scoff. That’s because Ei doesn’t notice. “If you were to listen to them, you shouldn’t get too close to me. I might eat you alive.” She goes quiet for a bit. “And I wouldn’t blame you if you stayed away.”

Pensive, Ei looks up into the clouds above them, looking heavy and purple. “People say that I’m selfish, I only think of things from my perspective, that I don’t seem to consider others at all. I can’t deny that my actions in the past have hurt people, but many don’t bother to get to know me at all. To understand and walk a mile alongside me before they judge.” She lifts her eyes. “You did. Even if your initial interest was sexual in nature. That in itself merits some consideration.”

Yae stiffens, feeling heat crawl up her neck. “You knew.”

Laughing, Ei shakes her head. “Even if I did not pick it up myself, Makoto was more than willing to warn me about your intentions. Repeatedly.”

“If she was so adamantly against you knowing me, why didn’t you listen?”

Ei hums. “Something about you seemed genuine, even if you’re not aware of it yourself.”

Yae blinks before laughing. “Oh, Ei. You know that I live in facades.” She reaches out and trails her fingers along Ei’s jawline. “No one really knows the real me.”

“I do,” Ei says bluntly. “You care about being friends.”

Before Yae can respond, a massive crack erupts from the sky above before a downpour crashes down on the girls, sending both of them to their feet as they bolt to the nearby gazebo, shrieking in surprise. They scramble underneath the roof, watching the rain thunder down around them for a minute before it turns into a light shower, a drizzle, before disappearing altogether. The moon comes out from the clouds and lights the garden in a gentle silver glow. The whole thing lasts less than two minutes. This goddamn weather.

Yae looks at a mirror nailed onto a pillar and notes that she looks like a drowned rat with her hair plastered to her skull. When she turns to Ei, she sees the other girl’s lips twitching. She can’t help but snap. “What?”

Ei laughs, wrapping one arm around Yae and pulling her close. She reaches out and runs her hand through Yae’s hair, catching her by surprise. No one has touched Yae like this for years—simply affectionately and without any expectations of something else. An odd warmth fills Yae’s chest, and she thinks that if she had a tail, it would be waving happily right now.

“You have such beautiful hair.” Ei hums as she gently combs her fingers through pink strands before she jerks her hand back. “I’m sorry. I didn’t—“

Yae seizes her self-composure, smirking. “If you wanted to touch me, all you had to do was ask.”

Ei pauses. “Was it inappropriate to do that without asking?”

Sighing, Yae shakes her head. She forgets that innuendos and hints fly over Ei’s head. Murmuring, she leans against Ei’s shoulder, enjoying the warmth and solidness of her body while Ei looks confused.

After a few minutes, Ei breaks the silence. “You’re beautiful. I said that before, didn’t I?” When Yae straightens up to look at her, Ei hunches her shoulders, looking embarrassed. “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I blurted that out, but it’s true.”

“Well, you’re not the first one to tell me that…but I appreciate it all the same.” Especially coming from her. “You’re quite the fox yourself.”

Ei’s brows furrow. “I know enough to realize you don’t mean that literally so thank you?”

“You’re welcome,” Yae laughs, brushing aside her sopping bangs. She pauses before reaching forth to do the same to Ei, carefully sweeping her soaked strands from her face.

Ei blinks in surprise before gazing up at her, eyes the pretty colour of a storm about to break out.

Yae takes a breath before leaning in.

“Yae Miko, you get away from my sister!”

Yae snaps back, glancing over to see Makoto stomping toward them. She sighs, crying internally. “Just keeping her company out here.”

“How altruistic of you. Thanks, I can take over.” Makoto pulls a protesting Ei to her feet. “Are you drunk? Oh my gosh, Ei. You are.”

She shoots a glare at Yae while Ei protests. “Leave her alone. Miko stopped me from drinking more.”

Yae’s heartbeat stutters at the sound of her first name coming from Ei. Makoto narrows her eyes instead. “Since when were you two on a first-name basis? C’mon, I’m taking you home.”

Makoto marches them away while Ei glances over her shoulder and waves to Yae who returns the gesture. When both of them disappear around the house, she has a moment to reflect on everything up to now.

Maybe her reputation is finally biting her in the ass.

The weekend passes, and Yae finds herself at the student union building at noon—a massive hub that took seven years to build and contains four floors of conference rooms, a demonstration area on the first floor, a rock-climbing wall, a daycare, and a massive rooftop garden on the top floor.

Yae wanders around the second floor, looking for a place to eat lunch, when someone shouting from the center of the main floor catches her attention. She peers over the railing to see the Inazuman Medieval Weaponry setting up a round between two people to show off fighting techniques from centuries ago.

Scoffing, Yae wonders what kind of nerd would willingly—oh, there’s Ei!

Standing at one end of a makeshift circle is Ei with her hair tied back in an elegant ponytail, holding a pole arm while chatting happily with Makoto. Across from her is a boy with the same kind of weapon, a wooden replica with a flimsy, aluminum blade that snaps prettily in the wind but does little else.

Yae doesn’t even have time to call out before Ei is stepping forth to meet the boy in a demonstration match. Both of them bow to each other before gripping their weapons and getting into the sparring round.

Ei strikes first—straight to the neck—which her opponent blocks with the butt of his own weapon before going for the throat himself. Ei spins, dodging the attack and dropping to mimic slicing into his calf and hamstring in less than a second, her speed and grace making her opponent furrow his brows and frown.

They go through several more rounds of this choreography before the boy does something dirty and yank Ei around by the hair, smacking her face with the flat of his blade.

The audience gasps. Yae wants to go down and tear that kid a new one. Makoto steps forward, looking fearful. It’s only due to Yae’s observational skills that she notices Makoto watching Ei and not the idiot who hit her.

And this is completely justified.

Ei whips her head back with lightning speed and a glint in her eye. She grabs the boy’s throat, surprising him while kicking his feet out from under him. She twists her hip and throws her opponent across the ring, grinning so widely that her canines seem to stick out—a warrior allowed to fight fully at last. Her smile is so excited that it looks feral, and Yae falls in love all over again.

The crowd breaks out into whoops and cheers as the rest of the club break up the fight. Yae nearly flies down the stairs to greet Ei only to be blocked at the bottom by Ei’s lookalike. When Makoto turns and notices her, Yae merely says, “We need to talk. About your sister.”

Makoto stares, gaze glancing over to Ei before she jerks in her head in the direction of outside. “I agree. They can handle this.”

Yae trails after her. Makoto strides forward quickly, leading Yae to an isolated garden full of roses before spinning around with her hands on her hips. “What did you do to Ei?”

Yae eyes her. “I had a conversation.”

“She won’t stop asking about you, and Sara saw you two eating together. Look, who you screw with on your time is one thing, but when it comes to my family members, that crosses a line.”

Her shoulders tense. “I’ve seen girls linger outside the doorway of our classes, hoping to talk to you after you’ve gotten bored of them. I’ve had to comfort friends and acquaintances whose hearts you’ve broken. You have no obligations to them when you’ve been clear about what you want, but why even do that to them in the first place? You play with people, Yae, and you don’t show an ounce of regret. You understand why I’m so protective, right?”

“I do,” Yae says quietly. “I’m sorry you had to deal with my messes.”

“This isn’t about me. You know, if you weren’t such a ho-bag, maybe I would have given you a shot or maybe be open about this whole thing with Ei.”

“…I’m sorry I’m such a ho-bag.”

“I have no idea why I said that.” Makoto shakes her head. “Just leave my baby sister alone.”

“She said that you’re only four minutes apart.”

“And?” Makoto snaps.

“She can make her own decisions,” Yae says softly. “She has to if she is going to be the next head of your company’s R&D division. For what it’s worth, coming from me, I think she’s amazing. I’m surprised more people haven’t shown interest in her. Is that your doing?”

Makoto glances down and bites her lip. “I was just afraid she’ll get hurt.”

“She’s hurt even more by being alone.” Yae’s tone is mild, though she can’t help the pang in her chest, like a hand squeezing her heart. “I don’t blame you if you were scared that I would play with her. As you said, I am a serial heartbreaker.”

“Yeah, but you….you’re not all bad. Around her, you tend to—” Makoto gives her a strange look. “Oh, you haven’t noticed.”

“Notice what?”

“The way you look at my sister. It’s not the way you normally look at girls. That’s why I’m—” She looks away. “But you are right that she needs to learn to make her own decisions, and maybe I’ve been hovering more than I should.”

Makoto chews on her lip in thought before sighing and holding out her hand. “Your phone.”

“Confiscation as a punishment? That’s a bit extreme for all of the girls you’ve had to comfort.”

Makoto rolls her eyes. “Do you want my sister’s number or not?”

Yae perks. She nearly throws her phone at the other girl in her haste to hand it over. Makoto seems to take forever, or maybe it’s the nervousness building in Yae’s stomach like a storm of flutters. Or the thought of being able to hear Ei’s voice at night and talk to her about anything and everything. Or it could even be the feeling of—

“I will hunt you down if you hurt her.” Makoto hands back the device. “Don’t make me regret this.”

Yae is already grinning, staring down at the new contact on her screen. “You won’t.”

Chapter Text

It’s only because Ei invites her that Yae shows up to lunch with any of Ei’s friends.

After Yae contacts her and explains who she was and how she got her number, Ei quickly took to happily messaging Yae constantly with rapid machine-gun texts and random emojis. A couple of days later, she asks Yae to come join her, Makoto, and a friend from her club for a meal.

The moment Yae arrives at the pavilion and sees Kujou Sara glaring at her from her seat between Makoto and Ei, Yae feels that things might not go well.

She notices the bobcut-woman tensing up and scowling at her as Sara stirs her plate of noodles. “So, Yae…fuck anyone on your way here?”

Yae smiles. “Just your mother.”

It takes both Ei and Makoto to hold Sara back from leaping across the table. Sara snarls as they force her back into her seat, “I have no idea why you thought it’d be a good idea to have this cretin around, Makoto.”

“Because she is Ei’s…friend—“ Makoto gives Yae a look. “—and I thought it would be good to get to know her more.”

Ei frowns. “I didn’t realize you two disliked each other so much.”

“I don’t have a problem.” Yae shrugs. “I can’t say the same for her.”

“I do not have a personal issue with her. I do have one with her habit of sleeping with my friends and leaving them hanging.” Sara grits her teeth. “How do we know you won’t do more of the same? It’s not like you have the most convincing history that lets us believe otherwise.”

Yae bristles, about to snap when she feels a hand slip onto her leg, and she glances over to see Ei looking concerned. She immediately relaxes and takes a breath, shifting into the persona she uses for speaking with professors. “I understand your concern, and I know it’ll be a long road to rebuild that trust. Please judge me on what I do now, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive what I’ve done before.”

Everyone is speechless.

Sara raises an eyebrow, looking between Ei and Yae. She rubs her temples, muttering, “Oh my gods. This is worse. Go back to how you were before.”

Yae sighs, rolling her eyes. “Make up your mind.”

Makoto smooths things over by changing the subject to upcoming midterms while shooting Sara and Yae a look. Once they finish lunch, Makoto immediately drags Sara away the moment the girl turns to Yae and opens her mouth, leaving the other pair alone.

They start heading down the courtyard, and Ei peers at Yae curiously after a few seconds. “I assume you didn’t really stop to persuade Sara’s mother into having physical intimacy with you, but why did you say that to her?”

“She threw the first stone, and I fired back,” Yae says lightly, nearly skipping down the concrete steps. “Don’t you think I have the right to defend myself?”

“Hmm…yes, but I don’t think you needed to upset Sara too.”

“But what about my feelings, Ei?” Yae closes in close once Ei reaches the bottom step. “Shouldn’t they count too? Or are you going to help soothe them afterwards?”

Ei’s eyes dart to the side. “I…think you would be fine?” She looks confused.

Yae chuckles, low in her throat. “I might need your tender ministrations for my bruised ego.”

“How would I—oh, you don’t mean literally.” Ei’s eyebrows furrow. “Interesting.”

Yae hums with satisfaction, watching a puzzled Ei tease out her words. “So, have any other plans this afternoon?”

“Oh, I wanted to invite you out.” Ei brightens. “Do you want to go to the Museum of Anthropology with me, Miko?” She takes her hand, intertwining their fingers and short-circuiting Yae’s brain.

No. “Yes.”

“Great!” Ei leads her along, and Yae follows, cursing out her weakness for the warmth of Ei’s touch.

The entrance to the museum is an inconspicuous brown shack that leads them through a tunnel to an area on the other side of the hill. The ticket seller is a girl that Yae must have met a while ago because she flirts with her the entire time they pay for their tickets. “Discount for students in science-related majors. Major discount for…specialists in other fields.” She winks. “Like you showed me a couple of months ago.”

Yae is about to hurry things along when Ei hands over a handful of Mora. “I’ll pay for both of us.”

The girl’s smile instantly drops into a scowl as she looks at Ei and takes the money. “Oh, I see. Lucky you, Yae. You found a sugar mama. Maybe that’s why you never called me back.”

Ei turns to give her an inquisitive look, and Yae quickly ushers her down through the entry doors and into the Great Hall, snatching the tickets on the way. A smiling usher takes the tickets and hands them the stubs while introducing them to the Great Hall.

Ei waits until the young man leaves them to turn to Yae. “Did you know her? Why did she expect you to call her back?”

“I suppose she was jealous that I was lucky enough to have someone like you cover me.” Yae winks, gathering her composure. “The bigger question is how can you afford to be so generous?”

Ei’s brows furrow, and Yae knows she managed to deflect the question. “Came from a successful family, I guess.” She shrugs. “Come on, I think I saw some wooden carvings.”

The Great Hall is massive, an open-area exhibit with nearly fifty feet tall glass walls and large poles made from maple wood. On display are a variety of sculptures, textiles, feast dishes, carved figures, and old farming tools from along Inazuma’s coasts, mostly from the last couple of centuries.

Ei is ecstatic as she reads through each description on the display post, examining the exhibits from several angles like she is trying to understand how they are put together.

Yae, on the other hand, is so bored, she thinks she’s memorized the back of her skull from how often she rolls her eyes. The only thing that draws her attention is the way Ei tugs her along, pulling her forward by her hand or wrists, and playing with Yae’s fingers absentmindedly as she studies the different items. Maybe even the pretty way Ei’s eyes seem to shine in the sunlight, the long lashes on her cheeks that remind Yae of dark fans. The nearly effortless way Ei moves like elegance poured into a human body.

…maybe Yae has it bad.

Going to the next display, Ei peers closely at the utensil displayed in the glass case. “Look at how people worked with the technology they had back then. This is a really intricately carved bone fork.”

Yae crosses her arms, tone flat. “Yes. The bone fork is wonderful.”

“Hmm…it must have predated Enkanomiya times since the material used is so primitive.” Ei glances up, catching Yae’s expression. “What’s wrong?”

Yae sighs, “This isn’t really my thing.”

“Makoto said that you’re pretty engaged in your literature class.”

“I like stories of people—individuals. Not whole societies and cultures from ages ago.” Yae waves her hand around to indicate the area. “The culture, for me, sets the context of the personal struggles of the person.”

“I see.” Ei really looks like she doesn’t. “I’ll take that into account for next time.”

“Already planning another date for us?” Yae teases while hoping Ei means it.

“Of course. I enjoy spending time with you, and you’re straightforward about what you want. Most people who try to befriend me are often after my parents’ money.” Ei’s eyes scan the glass exhibit.

“Is your family wealthy or something?“

Ei turns around. “You mean you don’t even know who Makoto and I are?”

“…I’ve had my eye on other priorities since enrolling.” Yae frowns. “You said your family’s company was in robotics?”

“Shogun, Inc. We’re a privately held company, so we don’t show up on the news very often. I’m not that surprised that you don’t know.” Ei musses up her hair in thought, and Yae just wants to smooth it out. “Well, I guess it will make Makoto feel better. She seems to be worrying that you want something from me. She’ll be relieved that it is just sexual relations rather than money.”

“…can you not mention that so casually?” Yae clears her throat. “While we’re on that matter—“ Her heartbeat pounds in her throat. “—what do you think of the idea? Not just-the-jumping-into-bed part, but the whole…”

Yae trails over, words failing her as she realizes she has never asked about this before with anyone. Ei peers at her, waiting until a long silence hangs over them.

Ei prods her. “The whole…?”

“You and I.” Shit, why is she suddenly so awkward? She’s supposed to be amazing at charming girls.

“Oh! We’re pretty good together, I think.” Ei glances over to the next exhibit as Yae is still trying to find the words she needs to ask if she meant platonically or romantically. “Look, there’s a mortuary pole.”

She drags Yae over with the latter tripping over her tongue whenever Ei holds her hand.

Yae fumes over her sudden verbal ineptitude in her dorm room when she returns. “Why am I such a failure?” She complains loudly to her roommate.

Gendou raises an eyebrow. “Ooh, this is going to be a long list.”

“Shut up. I was talking about what happened today.” Yae rubs her face. “I was out with a girl.”

“Shocker.” Gendou continues packing her bag for class. “Guess it didn’t work out the way you wanted. Where did you take her to get her all hot and bothered?”

Yae’s voice is muffled by her pillow after she falls face-down on her bed. “The Museum of Anthropology.”

Her roommate pauses. “You took a potential lay there? Wow, you are losing your touch.” Gendou goes back to her textbook. “Why don’t you just become a shrine maiden and accept your vow of chastity already?”

Yae hurls her pillow at Gendou who ducks without looking. Gendou continues on as if she wasn’t just nearly assaulted by it. “You know what your problem is, Yae? You have no shame for the things you’ve done. I bet you don’t even feel bad for dumping people.”

“That’s not true. I felt somewhat bad for ending a five year relationship.”

Gendou looks mildly surprised. “If that’s true, then I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Don’t be.” Yae shrugs. “It wasn’t mine.”

“You are terrible. Terrible!” Her roommate drops her book. “I look forward to when your new toy figures out how much of a tramp you are and dumps you for her own sanity.”

Yae scoffs, “She wouldn’t.”

…would she?

The question lingers in the back of her mind for next while before fading away as time goes by, and Yae and Ei continue to see each other.

Yae lets Ei drag her to horrifically boring exhibits and lectures that has the other girl excited. She mostly allows this because Ei likes to play with Yae’s fingers while absorbed in whatever she’s learning.

Ei buys Yae a signed original copy of Yuurakusai’s Chronicles of the Six Kitsune after she had mentioned that it had been one of her aunt’s favourite books to read and that Yae had loved spending time with her while going over the contents. Yae presses the present against her chest when Ei gives it to her, smelling the scent of worn leather covers and feeling warmth blossom throughout her chest at the quiet smile on Ei’s face.

Yae keeps Ei company as she works through her projects in the robotics laboratory, even as Yae gets awkwardly hit on by Ei’s classmates who have the social skills of a brick wall.

Ei laughs a lot when she’s with Yae, pulling her into spontaneous hugs and touching her affectionately and genuinely in ways that makes Yae draw closer. Like surprise cuddles and a time when Ei let Yae press a kiss on her cheek. When asked why since she doesn’t seem to be a touchy person, Ei merely tilted her head and said it was because it made Yae happy.

As the weeks progress, Yae’s phone blows up with messages from her previous hook-ups, and she barely notices until she stops one day to see that she has over two hundred unread messages. How much of a ho-bag was she before?

The next morning, Gendou dumps several bouquets of flowers and a potted cactus on Yae’s bed. While she is still sleeping in it. “Yo, your booty calls are starting to leave stuff at the door. Stop getting me involved, jackass.”

Yae grumbles and raises herself up onto her elbow. She stares at the bundle of gifts on her sheets, the cactus nestled against her hip that looks less like a heart and more like a pair of misshapen testicles. This is beginning to be an issue.

She spends the morning messaging her former hook-ups, yawning and nursing a cup of coffee as she turns down, blocks, or deletes dozens of contacts. When she thinks she finally gets through to enough people, she reaches out to Ei, who texts her that she’s at her Medieval Weapons Club thing. Yae perks up and heads out immediately to the student union building to meet up.

Only to be confronted by the security guard who interrupts her just as she’s about to reach the room where Ei is. “Can I help you?”

“I don’t know. Maybe you can help me?” She peers up through dark eyelashes. “The rumour around campus is that you’ve got quite the tongue for some…stress-release sessions.”

Yae squints at the girl. She doesn’t look familiar. “Do I know you?”

The guard winks. “Not yet, but I’ve heard of you.”

Sighing, Yae takes a step back. “Look, that’s flattering, but I’m already taken.”

“For the night?” The girl frowns. “Or is it for a longer hook-up, like a week?”

The door opens, and Makoto pokes her head out. “Is something the matter?”

The guard turns. “We were just having a discussion. She’s causing a public disturbance of the heart.”

Makoto snorts. She glances between Yae and the guard. “I don’t really see what you’re describing, but I am glad to see our newest member arrive.”

“Really?” The guard looks skeptical. “What does she even know about your club?”

“That it’s Inazuman Medieval Weaponry,” Yae supplies.

“Yes, and she’s excited to learn more about the bells used by mikos in old rituals. Not really our area of expertise, but we’re happy to help however we can.” Makoto steps forward and links her arm with Yae’s, welcoming her through the club door. “I’ll take it from here.”

After closing it in the pouting guard’s face, Makoto raises an eyebrow at Yae. “Ex-girlfriend?”

“Not really.” Yae ruffles her hair. “Thanks for the rescue.”

“That sounds like Yae.” Ei pokes her head out of the doorway on the far side of the room. “You made it!”

Immediately, Yae perks. “Of course.” She ignores Makoto’s other eyebrow rising to join the other one. “I just arrived.”

Makoto glances between them. “She was just mentioning how she wanted to learn about the kagura suzu bells used in kagura dances.”

“No, I did not—“

Ei lights up. “Oh, I can teach you! I just read about them.”

“—not know that about you. I’d be happy to sit down and talk about it.” Yae glares sidelong at Makoto who has an amused smile. “Right now without your sister.”

Ei is happy to oblige.

Yae leaves with far too much knowledge about dancings and shrines and metaphorically channeling the presence of your god into your performance, but it is all worthwhile to see Ei so excited to share what she knows.

However, Yae is starting to notice the amount of wayward looks she’s getting from girls who seem familiar, the sighs, the aggressive confrontations, and the building amount of presents of gifts left at the door of her dorm from women asking Yae to see them again.

It gets so bad that Yae finds Sara fending off girls looking for her at the club doors one evening. “She’s not here, and even if she was, this area is only for legitimate club members only.”

When the girls have scattered and Yae approaches, Sara stiffens and narrows her eyes. “I have no idea what Makoto and Ei see in you. All you bring are headaches and horny girls.”

“I didn’t ask them to come, but I’m sorry they’re being bothersome.”

Sara sighs, running a hand down her face. “You have no shame, Yae, for anything you’ve done. That’s why I think this whole thing with Ei is a terrible idea. She’ll end up like every other girl you’ve been with. At least she’ll have more dignity than someone waiting outside a club and hoping for a one-night fling.”

Yae bristles. “I’m not interested in Ei just because of sex.”

Sara scoffs, “With your reputation, who would believe you?”

Bitch has a point.

“By the way, here’s the ‘love cactus’ one of them left you.” Sara shoves a potted plant into Yae’s arms with inappropriately shaped leaves. “Tell your exes to leave us—and particularly Ei—alone.”

“They’re not my—“

Ei ventures out the door, smiling when she sees Yae. Her expression shifts into puzzlement when she spots the cactus in Yae’s arms. “Why is that plant shaped like a part of the male genitals?”

“…someone clearly had too much fun breeding this.” Yae walks in, dumping the cactus on the desk in the main room and leaving it for adoption. “Are you done, Ei? Would you like to go for a walk with me?”

Ei thinks it over. “How about a run around the campus inste—“

“No.”

“Then, I accept the walk.”

It is a lovely evening with night chasing the dusk into the nearby ocean in a mix of blue, pink, and orange on the horizon. They casually head around the paved streets, chatting about anything and everything with Yae stealing more than a few glances at her companion and Ei makes suggestions about where to go, like the beach at the bottom of the hill.

Yae flat out refuses to take the 300 step climb down a steep wooden staircase, even if the beach is an exceptionally good place to look at stars at this time. Ei frowns and leads Yae to a nearby cafe instead, opened 24/7 and offering all types of caffeinated beverages and sugary pastries for sleep-deprived students. They take a seat at the far back, a plate of danishes and strudels stacked together by Ei’s side.

Yae eyes the pastries incredulously. “How are you not fat?”

“I train everyday.” Ei shrugs. “Truthfully, I have no idea. Do you want one?”

“I’ll just take a bite out of yours.” Yae leans forth as Ei offers the danish in her hand, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear and nipping the bread. The crust is wonderfully flaky and warm, and Yae stares when she sees Ei take a bite from the same spot that she did. It is almost like a kiss, which makes Yae realize how far she’s fallen in terms of her game if that little thing makes her heart beat faster. Or maybe it’s Ei.

Her companion notices her looking and smiles, tiny crumbs still clinging to the corner of her mouth before she slowly licks them away. Yae’s hands clench, and she leans forward.

It’s definitely Ei.

“I’ve never been in your dorm room,” Yae blurts, wondering why she starts off with that.

Ei looks surprised. “Did you want to? I can invite you the next time Makoto’s out.”

“You share a place with your twin?” Yae teases. “My, you two really are joined at the hip.”

Ei rolls her eyes. “She offered to give me space if I ever find someone else I would like to room with, and well…” She looks at Yae with so much affection in her eyes that Yae feels warmth starting to fill her chest until it’s nearly bursting. “…maybe I might take her up on that next year.”

“About us.” Yae clears her throat, voice suddenly going gravelly. “I was wondering where we stood in terms of—“

A voice calls out. “You! You’re here.”

Yae feels a vein throb in her temple as both she and Ei turn to see the blonde girl who threw a drink in Itto’s face that one time. That was pretty funny.

The girl jams her hands on her hips, huffing. “Haven’t seen you in a while, Yae. The bars are starting to wonder where you are.”

Yae shrugs. “I found something more interesting than them.”

The blonde glances at Ei before scowling. “I’ll bet.” She shakes her head. “Anyway, I’m sorry I tried to throw a drink in your face…somewhat.”

She huffs, “In case you cared—” Yae didn’t. “—I’m dating someone else now. That Itto guy. Much better catch than you.”

Yae snorts. “In your dreams.”

The girl glances at Ei. “You better watch yourself with her. Otherwise, she’ll use you and dump you like me. Good luck.” She turns and leaves from the cafe with Yae gritting her teeth at the interruption and Ei furrowing her brows in thought.

“I’m so sick of these girls coming up to us, like they can’t see that we’re…together.” Yae quickly glances at Ei who is starting to frown. “It’s rude.”

“Yes, it is, but there seems to be a pattern.” Ei hesitates. “All of these people who keep telling us how unreliable you are…” She shakes her head. “Just be careful. It could give someone you genuinely want to date a bad impression.”

Yae stares, stomach starting to churn. “What do you mean?”

“Just that I think a girl who is worth your time might not want to do so if there are so many rumours about you out there.” Ei meets her eyes. “Especially if they’re true.”

Yae barges into her own dorm an hour later, annoying Gendou who scowls at her from her desk. “This better not be a girl problem.”

Yae shakes her head and starts pacing. “My reputation. It’s…the girl I was with said—“

“Dude, what did I just say?”

“Gendou, this is serious!” Yae snaps. “I really want to be left alone to focus on this one person, and everything I did seems to haunt me. What do I do to make it stop?”

“I dunno. Maybe take down your wall of shame?” Gendou gestures to the spread of notes and pictures attached to the space above Yae’s bed for all of her…dalliances. For the memories. “It’d be one step to proving to yourself and others that you meant what you said.”

Yae scoffs before pausing. “Fine, not like I have a lot of options. No one takes me seriously because of how casually I slept around.”

Gendou’s tone is flat. “Oh, no. If it isn’t your mortal enemy: the consequences of your own choices.”

Yae hiss, “Shut up. Are you going to help or not?”

“Fine, if only because somewhere, beneath all that skank, is a decent person.”

Gendou’s version of helping is putting up a sign on their dorm door that says, “If you are leaving something for Yae, she’s sorry she slept with you. Please go away.” Yae immediately snatches it away when she returns from her morning classes.

“Is this your idea of helping?” Yae crumples up the sheet and hucks it at her roommate’s head.

Gendou scowls as she rubs her forehead from the impact. “You get what you pay for.”

Still, it seems to work somewhat with far fewer women going out of their way to flirt with Yae when she’s alone or with Ei. Still, Ei seems to be looking away from her more often when they’re together, and Yae’s heart sinks as even her touches decrease. She asks her to talk privately somewhere, and Ei agrees.

She invites Yae to her room the next day.

Yae shows up ten minutes early and knocks. Ei opens the door and invites her into a dorm room that looks like Yae’s but with more books on robotic engineering and various tools on one of the desks. She doesn’t know what she was expecting.

Ei sits on her bed, crossing one leg over the other, and Yae’s mouth goes dry. “Makoto’s meeting with some friends, so she’ll be out for a bit.” She tilts her head, loose shirt starting to slip off of her shoulder. “So, what did you want to talk about?”

“I was worried about us…not just as friends but—“ Yae takes a breath and takes a seat by Ei. “You seem distant more these days. Was it something I did?”

“No. Just…you have a lot of people asking after you.”

Yae’s stomach churns. “I don’t see them anymore since I met you.” When she sees Ei glance sidelong at her, she adds, “Please believe me.”

“I don’t have any position to tell you how to run your life.” Ei runs her fingers through her hair. “Still, your ex-girlfriends have been—“

“I never had one.” Yae elaborates quietly, “An ex-girlfriend, I mean. I haven’t found anyone I wanted like that before….until now.”

“Oh.” Ei looks confused. “That’s good to know, but I’m not sure how that’s relevant to the conversation.”

“…you’re not leaving me because of all the women in my past?”

“Leave you? I invited you here.” Ei’s brows furrow. “No, I meant just having those girls around give me a headache, and I was getting pretty annoyed at their interruptions too. You should do something about them. Hire someone as security or something.”

Yae’s breath releases in her chest. “Right. I’ll get on that.” She clears her throat. “What about the dating thing?”

“What about it?” Ei frowns. “Actually, what did you mean by ‘until now’?”

Yae’s heartbeat starts pounding in her chest, her throat, her ears. “Well, I—that is. I-I thought it was clear…from us dating that I—“

“…could you repeat that?”

“…because we’ve been dating—“

“One more time.”

“WE’VE BEEN DATING—“

“W-we were?” Ei’s eyes widen. “How long?”

“For two months now.” Yae pauses. “We had our first date at the museum.”

“Wait, I need to think about this.” Ei bends over, head in her hands. “I had a girlfriend? For months?” She begins hyperventilating. “Oh my gods, why didn’t you tell me?”

“…I thought it was obvious.” Yae sits down beside her, reaching out to rub soothing circles on Ei’s back. She feels Ei stiffen beneath her touch. “Do you…not want one?” She swallows. “Or do you not want me?”

“No!” Ei bolts upright. “I mean yes! I mean—“ She runs her hands over her face. “I just…didn’t realize we were—“ She coughs, turning red and rubbing her nape. “I didn’t know you wanted to date me. Get me in bed, yes, but to actually be in a relationship…”

Yae’s heart sinks like a stone. “You don’t think I’m girlfriend material.”

Ei blinks before shaking her head. “I thought you wanted to be friends.”

“…I treated you to lunches and dinners.”

“Friends do that!”

“I brought you flowers and gifts.”

“Friends do that!”

“I let you cuddle me, and I kissed you on the cheek.”

Ei looks uneasy. “Fontaine friends do that.” She takes a breath. “Oh my gods, we were dating.”

“…do you need another minute?”

“No, no. I got it out now.” Ei straightens up. “Okay, I did not realize you were my girlfriend this whole time. If we were to date officially, what does that entail?”

Yae shrugs. “Just keep doing what we’re doing.”

Ei looks at her. “That’s it?”

“Well…maybe a few other things, but we can work through them as we go along.”

“I…might need to take it slow.”

Yae pauses. If they go any slower, they might start going backwards. Still, it's worth it to be with Ei. “Okay.”

“And I’ll need you to deal with all these girls that keep popping up.”

“Already working on that.”

“Okay.” Ei hesitates before meeting Yae’s eyes. “And maybe I need you to kiss me.”

Yae pauses. “I’m confused. What happened to taking it slow?”

“I don’t know what I’m doing!” Ei throws her hands up. “I found out that I apparently had a girlfriend for two months.”

“Hey, we don’t have to do anything you’re not ready to do. I don’t know if you even like girls.” Yae squeezes her shoulder. “I could even leave if you want.”

“No, I don’t want that. And…I like you. I think that's enough. Just stay with me as I process the idea?”

Yae reaches down to squeeze Ei’s hands, and her heart flips when Ei returns the gesture. “I can do that.”

Makoto comes back while Yae is still over, lounging on the bed with Yae’s head on Ei’s shoulder as she reads. Eying them, Makoto comments, “Getting domesticated, Yae?”

“You shut your face.”

Ei frowns. “Yae.”

“…I’m sorry, Makoto.”

Makoto looks like she’s holding back a laugh. “Well, I’m glad you guys worked out whatever you needed. I just came back to grab something.”

Makoto leaves shortly after digging through her desk, making a whipped motion to Yae before she does. When Ei is not looking, Yae gives her the finger, and Makoto snorts as she slips out of the dorm.

Yae cuddles further into Ei who absentmindedly combs her fingers through Yae’s hair. “I could get used to this.”

She feels Ei smiling against her skin as Ei presses a kiss onto Yae’s temple. “So could I.”

Yae turns to face her. “Do you still want that kiss?”

Ei goes red. “Oh, I—“ She swallows. “Y-yeah, I wouldn’t mind.”

Smiling, Yae leans in and presses her mouth to Ei’s, who suddenly goes stiff and seems to forget how to breathe. It’s like kissing a wooden board, but it’s not the worst one Yae’s ever had.

When she pulls back, Ei is gaping, flushed. Yae smirks and pats her cheek. “We’ll work on that.”

Chapter Text

Ei finds the whole idea of herself dating bizarre.

First of all, it was her first relationship. Second of all, it’s with Yae, whom she genuinely did like as a person. Third of all, they were girlfriends all along???

Fourthly, how do you kiss someone?

None of the research Ei is doing has been helping one bit, though she did find quite a few interesting books about attachment theory in the library. She saves those for later.

Nor does she seem to get much help when she asks for it. Makoto waves her off, saying she’ll figure it out. Sara bluntly tells her that this is likely a bad idea.

…and that’s about it.

Ei even asks her classmates what they think of dating as they work in the lab together.

“What I think is that I need to serenade your hot friend tonight if you can give me her number.” One guy wriggles his eyebrows. “Baby, I am going to knock her socks off.”

“I would appreciate it if you didn’t,” Ei doesn’t look up as she tightens a bolt on her robot, “given that we are dating.”

Her classmate scoffs, “Yeah, right. How could you be with someone that hot?” He strikes a pose, skinny biceps on display. “She needs a man like me.”

Ei snorts quietly. “I don’t think you have what she’s interested in.”

Her other classmate whoops as the guy slinks away. “Damn, Ei. That was brutal.”

Ei frowns. All she did was tell the truth. “We probably should just focus on our work.”

Her classmate shrugs. “Suit yourself. If it were me, I’d brag to high heavens.”

Ei guesses she can do that. She’s still wrapping her head around the idea that she’s been dating Miko for a while, and no one told her this whole time, much less guide her through the much needed reevaluation of herself.

Yae has been very nice and dogged since meeting Ei—working hard to show up at wherever Ei’s at and make time for her, which is greatly appreciated. She’s exceptionally beautiful, which Ei picked up if the double takes people frequently threw her way as they walked through the campus isn’t a giveaway. She’s also very good at getting women’s attention based on the amount of girls coming up to her and asking for her number despite the pretty scowl that pops across her face nowadays. Yet, despite Sara’s and Makoto’s warnings, Ei doesn’t find Yae acting too inappropriately around her.

Or maybe she’s missing the cues.

For the most part, Ei finds Miko harmless. Yae enjoys curling up on Ei’s bed, head in her lap, snoozing as Ei runs her fingers through Yae’s hair absentmindedly. Or holding hands when they’re going on walks. Or crinkling her nose in laughter whenever Ei takes something too literally yet again.

Yae just simply enjoys being around her, which is strange to Ei but not unwelcome. She hopes that Miko could help her figure out the finer aspects of social interaction that she still occasionally misses.

Like figuring out why Sara is still scowling at them during lunch despite weeks of Ei dating Miko now.

Sara glares at Miko every now and then during their most recent lunch break while Yae ignores her and plays with Ei’s hair, running her fingers through dark strands repeatedly. Ei catches her giving Sara smirks that only seems to make the other girl clench her fists, and Ei has to elbow Yae to calm down whatever she’s doing to Sara.

Yae sighs when Ei does that for the third time, sitting back and discreetly rubbing her side. “I see someone from a class of mine that I’m doing a group project with. I’m just going to pop over and say something.” Her hand drifts around Ei’s waist, landing on the small of her back. “I’ll be right back.”

She presses a kiss against Ei’s cheek before she heads off to speak with her classmate, trailing her fingers along Ei’s shoulder as she leaves.

Once she’s gone, Sara lets out a long exhale. “Control your animal, Ei.” She groans, “What did you do anyway? That girl really can’t keep her hands off of you.”

Ei pauses, spoon halfway to her mouth from her ice cream cup. “She can’t?”

“No, not literally. Just—“ Sara crosses her arms. “This is so weird. Yae doesn’t have girlfriends. You don’t have girlfriends.” She throws her hands up. “I didn’t even know you liked women!”

Ei didn’t either. “Why does that matter?”

“Because if I had known, I’d—“ Sara turns red and shakes her head. “No matter.”

Yae’s voice sounds out from behind her as she slips one arm around Ei’s shoulder, hugging her across the chest. “Perhaps, poor Kujou is sad to find out so late for her own…personal reasons.” Turning her head, she whispers against Ei’s ear, “I really can’t leave you alone for a second, can I?”

Sara goes redder. Strange. “Ridiculous. You really are just a handful of trouble.” She stands. “As much as I can tolerate seeing you fawn over Ei, I really need to go to class.”

Ei waves goodbye as Sara disappears down the boulevard, and Yae hums at Ei’s side. “I think your friend has some tension of her own she needs to let off.”

She turns. “What do you mean?”

Yae taps Ei’s nose. “She needs a date to get off our backs, and I have just the person in mind.”

Two hours later, Yae comes to Ei’s dorm, pouting. “She shut me out of her room.”

Ei glances up. “Who?”

“Sangonomiya Kokomi. She’s president of the Watatsumi Island History Club. Blond girl. Looks like a fish.” Yae flops on Ei’s bed, puffing hair away from her face. “Thought she would have the patience to deal with Kujou.”

Ei blinks. “I could ask her. She’s in one of my electives.”

Yae sits up. “Which one?”

“Animal Management.” When Yae stares blankly, Ei adds, “I’m fond of animals.”

“Even your electives are nerdy.” Yae rolls her eyes before glancing at her and smiling. She crawls slowly towards Ei, head tilted, hair scattered in her eyes, and Ei suddenly finds herself feeling hot and uncomfortable. “Well…” Yae’s voice goes low, raspy. “Good thing you have me to help you have fun.”

There’s a knock on the door, and Makoto’s voice calls out. “I’m coming in. Please cover yourself, or put your clothes back on.”

She walks through, raising her eyebrows in surprise at a scowling Yae and a flustered Ei. “…maybe I should have come back later.”

“No, no. You’re good.” Ei stands, running her hand through her hair. “I was just about to go to class.”

Yae pouts. “But I just returned.”

“You could come visit in an hour or so. We should be outside near the Agricultural Building by the farm. I’ll text you the exact location later.”

Yae’s brows furrow, but Ei grabs her bag and heads out the door before she could hear her response.

She gets to her class on time, which consists of a short lecture before the students are let loose on their care projects in the makeshift barn outside. Ei finds Kokomi in the back and heads over to work beside her in amiable silence for a while.

Kokomi giggles as the crow in her arms settles down. “These guys have excellent memories. They will recall if you’re kind to them.”

As Kokomi deposits the healing bird back into its cage, Ei turns to her, seeing that class is about to end. “I was wondering if you were looking for a date. If so, I would love to meet up and offer an option.”

Kokomi nearly bangs her head on the metal gate as she rises. “W-what?” She whips around, eyeing her. “Why are you asking?”

“You seem like a very kind person, and I know…” Ei trails off, wondering how to best formulate her next words when Kokomi blurts out a ‘yes.’

Surprised but pleased at how easy it is to find a date for Sara, Ei hands over her phone to get her number. “I’ll call you soon to explain the details.”

Kokomi nods, face flushed for some reason, as she punches in her number and hurries past Ei, hands clapping her own cheeks.

Odd, but maybe Sara will enjoy that.

Ei turns her attention back to the animals, circling around to find her own project. Close to the back is a small fenced enclosure with a makeshift house consisting of a log, some rocks, and a lot of leaves scattered around. She whistles as she takes a tray of meat with her in the enclosure, not expecting to get a response back. She places the tray near a small hole located near the fallen log and steps back, surprised when a small furry head pops its head out of the hole.

The fox kit lumbers out, currently smaller than a cat but adorably clumsy as it waddles its way to the food—an orphaned baby found washed out of its den by a concerned driver near the highway. Ei’s professor is hoping to introduce it later to a slightly older kit at a wildlife reserve to socialize it but thought that it could give his students some hands-on experience to take care of it in the meanwhile. Ei just thinks it is one of the most adorable things she has seen. She even gave it a name.

Ei smiles once the fox eats its full. She holds out a toy to the kit who snatches it off of her hand and trotting some distance away. Once it stops, the fox begins whipping its head around, smashing the toy into the fence.

“Bad fox! Bad!” Ei picks up a spray bottle and uses it. The kit drops the object and darts back into the den. Sighing, she picks up the battered toy. “You’re as bad as your namesake.”

Yae’s voice floats over to her. “Oh? And what did you name it?”

Ei turns to see Yae leaning over the fence, smiling. The kit pokes its head out of the den, curious as it stumbles out and approaches Yae. “So, this is the charmer who has been stealing your attention away from me.”

Ei smiles, gesturing to the fox. “Meet little Yae.”

“Little—I see.” Yae eyes the fox. The kit hisses at her. She hisses back.

Ei frowns. “What are you doing?”

“Establishing dominance.”

“I don’t think that’s how it works.”

“Maybe not for foxes but for girls in certain situations…” Yae eyes her, a corner of her mouth slowly curling up. “Well, that’s a talk for later.”

Ei nods, not really getting what she is implying but too focused on her task to ask. Yae merely watches her as she finishes cleaning up the enclosure before closing the fence and taking off her gloves. When she notices Yae’s surprisingly fond expression, she clears her throat, heartbeat doing backflips in her chest. “What are you thinking about?”

Yae peeks up at her through her bangs. “Let me take you out on a date. A real one. Not this whole-hanging-out-at-the-library thing.”

Ei frowns. But she loved those dates. “Okay. Whereabouts?”

“My little secret for tonight.” Yae places a finger on Ei’s lips, eyes gleaming. “Just get yourself ready by 7.”

They part soon after that with both of them running to their next respective lectures. When Ei is done all of hers, she returns to her room to shower and change, looking up what she should wear on a date. She’s still thoroughly confused by the time Makoto comes back.

According to the Internet, she should not wear too tight of a clothing but also not too loose. Also, not orange or brown. Also, not thigh-high boots, which she doesn’t have but finds it odd that it is specifically mentioned. Maybe a silk chiffon ruffle shirt or a cropped wrap top? What the heck are those?

At some point, Ei gives up, deciding to head out early and wait for Yae at their meeting place.

Makoto does a double-take as her sister passes by her desk. She pinches her nose and sighs. “Ei, you cannot go out and meet your girlfriend on a date in sweatpants.”

Ei pauses, halfway out the door. “Why not?”

Her sister hauls her back in. “The short answer is that Yae will kill you. Let me help you out so that I don’t end up an only child.”

Half an hour later, Ei is in a pair of dark tights and Makoto’s coat, wearing dark eyeliner and red eyeshadow, standing at the entrance to a small “village” nearby. Why does she need red eyeshadow? Is this fashionable? Gods, she hates being fashionable.

A few minutes later, Yae arrives, pausing and glancing over her. Twice. “You look…good.” She bites her lip and makes a noise in the back of her throat. Ei has no idea what it means.

“Come with me.” Yae’s voice sounds huskier than usual as she swivels around and walks ahead. “It’s not far.”

They pass beneath a wooden entrance inspired by a torii gate onto a stone path. The village is mostly a location with trendy shops, restaurants, and apartments that are usually far out of the average student’s budget. Still, it is a lovely place to be in the evening, considering how newly built everything is and how safe the neighborhood feels.

Yae leads them to a restaurant with tinted windows and a black theme, holding the door for Ei as she walks through. She’s pleasantly surprised to see the place is an izakaya but with a modern twist of dim lighting and tables and chairs in lieu of tatami mats. They’re seated fairly quickly in a private room where the music isn’t so loud, and Yae orders them a variety of dishes to start.

Ei doesn’t order alcohol. When Yae sees that, neither does she, though she ruefully glances at the sake menu before she hands it back to the waiter. “You know, izakayas are known for drinking.”

“Yes, but like you said when we first met, I shouldn’t be doing so if I don’t want to.” Ei shrugs. “And I have been known to occasionally listen to good advice.”

“I’m glad.” Yae smiles behind her glass of water. “I get the sense that you’re pig-headed enough to continue on with an action even if there are better ways to go about it.”

Well…Ei can’t refute that.

The date goes well with Ei trying everything they ordered and Yae avoiding the pickled options with a vehemence. By the time they finish, Ei notices the row of single women at the bar eyeing Yae when they pass by. She isn’t sure what the proper protocol is for these situations so she stays quiet until Yae prompts her after they leave the restaurant.

Yae scowls at her answer. The expression quickly slips off her face, and she grabs onto Ei’s arm, wrapping herself around it. “Well, I would know what I would do in your shoes. If it were me, I’d make a show about defending my woman.”

“Defending…?” If Ei threw the women first without serious provocation, wouldn’t it just be assault?

“Y’know,” Yae turns to face Ei, cupping her face gently, “I’d make sure that everyone around knows you’re mine.” She leans in, voice low and raspy, pupils blown wide.

Ei thinks over her words and comes to a conclusion. “You’re the possessive type.”

“Mmm…” Yae strokes her cheek, coming closer. “Can you blame me?”

Ei puts her hands on Yae’s waist since she has no idea where else to put them. “For what?”

“Wanting someone like you to be all mine.” Yae suddenly steals a kiss from Ei—short and sweet but enough to send tingles like electricity crackling down her spine. “And now…people will know.”

She turns around, smirking, as she grabs Ei’s hand. “Come. I found a spot that you’ll really enjoy.”

They walk down to the pier, hanging lamps lighting up the wooden walkway as they pass by other couples. The water beyond them stretches into a quiet darkness with a scattershot of stars above, and Ei appreciates the silence. Yae intertwines their fingers closer together but leaves Ei to her thoughts as they stroll around the area before heading back to Ei’s dorm.

Yae glances at the door behind Ei before shaking her head and leaning in for a goodnight kiss. “Don’t invite me in. You’re not ready for that yet.”

Before Ei could ask for an elaboration, Yae turns and leaves without another word. Furrowing her brows, Ei enters her dorm, only to be jumped by Makoto asking a barrage of questions about the date once she enters.

When Ei answers them, Makoto only looks incredulous.

“Yae was a perfect date? Yae?” Makoto’s eyebrows rise so high, they threaten to disappear into her hairline. “Really?”

“Yes, she took me out to dinner, walked me around the pier, and took me home.” Ei hugs her pillow, brows furrowing. “Based on what I looked up, that seems to be close enough to a good date.”

Makoto touches her arm. “Are you sure it was her you went out with?” When Ei gives her a look, she backs off, raising her hands in a placating manner. “Sorry, but that girl has mischief written all over her. You can forgive me for being skeptical. I guess she’s in way deeper than I thought,” she mumbles as she sits down on her sister’s bed. “So, what do you want to do now?”

“Should I…say something? Or send her a thank-you card?”

“I think a text would be fine.” Makoto cups her chin in thought. “How about you take her on a date in return? She seems to be the quid quo pro type.”

Ei tugs the pillow closer. “But where should I take her?”

“Any place that you think both you and her will have fun.” Makoto shrugs. “The most important thing is the experience you two share.”

A day later, Yae squints at the makeshift banner hanging upon a doorway to a gym. “Battle Bots Arena?”

Ei nods as she pulls her robot along on a dolley. “I want to see how Kunikuzushi does at its current stage.”

“Why that name?”

“You don’t agree?” Ei muses. “I suppose I could also call it Scaramouche, as that was my alternative name.”

“…the first one is better.” Yae gazes around as they enter a large room with bleachers along the walls and a makeshift barricade in the centre. “Isn’t this illegal or not allowed on campus grounds?”

Ei nods. “Technically, this is a safety hazard and a violation of the code of conduct that we try to uphold for robots…but it is also highly entertaining and a good way to test my engineering skills. I’m the first one up for the night.”

Yae nods like she understands. “Well, good luck then.”

Ei removes a black bot in the shape of a V with metal discs like miniature circular saw blades at its front. She places it on the floor and activates a remote control, testing out its pivoting and speed before the fight. Her opponent does the same as the announcer pumps up the crowd filling in the bleachers from seat to seat.

She glances around at the audience repeatedly chanting, “Fight! Fight! Fight!” and wonders how watching two robot combatants got so popular.

The referee gestures for both her and her opponent to get into position, and Ei moves Kunikuzushi to the opposite end of the makeshift barrier. She takes a break as she focuses on the battle ahead, the improved strategies she’s come up upon seeing her opponent.

Yae steps beside Ei as the clock counts down to the fight. “What do you want me to do?”

“Just watch.”

The buzzer goes off, and everything starts. The bots zoom right at each other and bounce right off, wheels skidding and crowd roaring at the aggressive showing.

Ei’s brows furrow as she nimbly adjusts Kunikuzushi’s direction, aptly getting him back into her control and bolting towards the opponent once again.

The robots bang into one another, sparks flying in sprays of orange as Kunikuzushi’s spinning discs grind into the opponent. The opposing robot has two strange hooks that it tries to use to slam on her robot, which Ei deftly dodges. She hits it again and again even as it tries to get around Kunikuzushi.

The hooks come down like fangs snatching onto prey, but Ei retreats in time, zipping out of range just enough to avoid being caught before managing to flip it over when a corner catches onto a spinning wheel. Her opponent goes spinning, whirling as it manages to get itself back on its wheel, but an odd whir comes from it. It seems unable to move, and Ei cuts off her attack halfway through, transitioning that momentum into a victory spin instead as the referee counts down to zero.

The crowd roars as the referee gestures to her as the victor, and she goes over to shake the hands of her disappointed but smiling opponents—a pair of grandparents by the looks of it. Once she is done, she packs Kunikuzushi back into his box before heading over to a quieter corner of the gym with Yae following behind.

As the second match sets up, Yae congratulates her. “So, that was…something. I wasn’t sure what the hooks were for on the other guy.”

Ei nods. “That robot is known for doing suplexes on its opponents.”

“…someone built a bot to suplex other bots…”

“Yes, it’s fascinating to watch, but that specialization comes at a disadvantage when it is unable to flip top-heavy robots like mine.” Ei muses. “Battles like this are of constant adaptation and improvisation. Your move set is already determined by your practice, but how you use your techniques is—“

She pauses, hit by a sudden realization. “This was not a good date idea.”

Yae laughs, “No, but I forgive you because you’re cute.” She gently claps Ei’s cheek. “Plus, you’ll make it up to me, won’t you?”

Ei nods rapidly, completely mortified at her blunder. She’ll have to do something like help Yae with her set-Sara-up idea to erase her error from their minds.

The next day, she contacts Kokomi, sending her a time and date to meet up and discuss a proposition. Kokomi agrees to sit down with her at the cafe that serves sugary pastries later that evening, and Ei sends a smiley face in response. Makoto has been telling her to use more emojis anyway.

She’s swamped with lectures and labs for the day and barely manages to text Yae where she’s going and with whom before she’s going out to meet Kokomi.

Kokomi makes it there before she does and snags them a table by the windows. She stands up to greet Ei and turns pink for some reason. “I was surprised to have you ask me out. You didn’t seem the type to…”

“To…?”

“Nothing.” Kokomi sits down and clears her throat. “Do you want something to drink?”

They grab their orders and sit there awkwardly for a moment before Kokomi asks her about her classes. Ei happily answers about her lessons and how they’re going before asking Kokomi in turn. Makoto reminds her often to work on her small talk, so Ei figures this is as good of a time as any.

About fifteen minutes in, Kokomi sighs and sits back in her seat. “You’re beautiful, Ei, and I’m flattered…but I’m not sure I’m your type.”

Ei pauses. “What?

“Your type of woman.” Kokomi gives her a strange look. “Is this…not a date?”

Ei pauses, wondering where she got that idea. She supposes that the way she asked in combination to taking Kokomi to a cafe in an attempt to sway her might be seen as such. That would also explain the hand-holding.

“I think there has been a misunderstanding,” Ei says, withdrawing her hand.

“I believe so.” Kokomi sighs and crosses her arms. “That’s a shame. You are quite cute.”

“Ah, that’s—I meant to ask you out for a friend of mine. I apologize for the miscommunication.” Ei rubs her nape, feeling a flush down her face. “What do you mean by my type anyway?”

“From what I hear, you like them…slightly naughty.” Kokomi looks uncomfortable. “It’s just a rumour I heard floating around.”

Ei has rumours about her? “That I like…?”

“Bad girls. Play girls. That you’re something else in the bedroom if you managed to seduce Yae Miko.” Kokomi flushes slightly before straightening up. “Just ignore them. It’s just petty gossip spread by petty people. I know you’re not the type to date girls like her anyway.”

“But I am dating Miko.”

“O-oh.” Kokomi falters. “My condolences.”

“She’s not bad. She’s just—“ Ei muses. “—not what you would expect based on her reputation. She can be very kind, loyal, ferocious when she wants to be—“

She looks up at a flash of movement through the cafe’s windows and sees Yae storming her way to the entrance, looking murderous. Speaking of which…

Yae is not subtle when she’s mad. She bursts through the door and stomps over, nearly shoving a barista aside on her way over.

When she reaches them, Yae glares at Ei whose greeting dies in her throat at Miko’s expression. Yae bares her teeth. “Why are you on a date with another woman?”

She’s not…is she? No, wait. She totally is. “Miko—”

“Funny, I didn’t take you to be such a womanizer.” Yae crosses her arms. “The irony is not lost on me.”

Kokomi pipes up, “Sorry, there was just a misunderstanding.” She holds out her hand. “I’m…”

Her words fail as Yae turns her gaze onto her, and whatever expression she has on has Kokomi trembling. Yae steps forward.

Ei stands, shielding her companion. “Wait, you can’t kill her! Sara is still single.”

“She can find someone else,” Yae snarls before noticing everyone staring at them and calming down. “Regardless, I would prefer it if you could end things here, and we can go for a walk to talk things over.”

Ei looks over to a terrified Kokomi. “I’ll see you in class?”

Kokomi nods rapidly, grabbing her bag and darting past Yae. Ei only hopes that she would be settled enough to speak with her later.

Yae grabs her arm and drags her from the shop, bringing her down a quiet side street while she seethes, trying to take deep breaths to calm herself down. “I suppose this is my fault for not clearly saying that I wanted us to be exclusive.”

“No, it’s mine.” Ei swallows. “I’m just an idiot.”

“You’re not, but you do some clearly stupid things.” Yae turns. “What’s going on?”

Ei rubs her nape. “I’m trying to be a good girlfriend.”

“And going on a date with another woman is…?”

“…not part of that plan. Sorry, I came off wrong to Kokomi.” Ei hangs her head. “I have no idea what I’m doing. I have never done this dating thing before, and it’s confusing.”

“I can see why when your mind is all on libraries and battle bots.” Yae sighs, “You don’t have to fret about all that. We’re kind of in this together, so just ask me if you’re unsure. Okay?”

When Ei nods, Yae leans in, kissing her until Ei moves away. Ei continues, “Yes, but I should have known better. It wasn’t right for me to—“

“Stop.” Yae rubs her temples. “I’ve been trying to seduce you this whole time.”

Ei starts. “You were? What do I do?”

“Just be yourself.”

So, she’ll freeze. Got it.

“Not like that,” Yae sighs, taking Ei’s hands and bringing them up to her own cheek. “Don’t overthink things and come up with a thousand different ways you could have done something. Don’t look up ways to be different from who you are. Just be you—sweet, kind, nerdy. That’s enough for me.”

Ei parses through her words. She frowns. “I’m not a nerd.”

“Stop. Trying. So. Hard. You. Idiot.”

“I thought you said—”

“Look, I like you. You like me. We’ll figure out this dating stuff together. Now, take me back to your place and cuddle me as an apology.”

Okay. Simple enough.

Ei does so and ends up sitting on her bed, reading through one of her books on attachment theory as Yae curls up, laying her head on Ei’s lap and sighing in satisfaction. “Are you sure this is—”

“Yes. Stop overthinking. Just listen to me, and our relationship will be fine.”

Wow. If someone only told her how simple dating was.

Chapter Text

Yae is still determined to introduce Kokomi to Sara for whatever reason, and Ei tags along because she wants to support her girlfriend.

Makoto suggested meeting together as a group to make introductions less awkward before Yae and Ei subtly leave to give Kokomi and Sara time to themselves.

It is not less awkward.

Sara glares at Yae. Yae glowers at Kokomi. Kokomi keeps her gaze straight on Ei and desperately tries to avoid looking to either side of her. Ei fiddles with her drink straw, wishing she thought of bringing Makoto along if only so someone would break the ice.

Sara taps her fingers on the table. “Why are we all here?”

“Why, I thought we could start over and get to building new relationships with one another.” Yae claps her hands together, smiling. Neither Sara nor Kokomi look like they believe her. “Okay, fine. Sara, this is Kokomi. She’s Ei’s…classmate, right?”

Yae shoots Kokomi a sharp look, and Kokomi rapidly nods. “Right. Kokomi, this is Sara, Ei’s club mate. We thought you two would hit it off.”

Kokomi frowns before darting a nervous glance to Yae. “What would we even have in common?”

Ei looks pensive. “Wanting to date me, I guess. You could even connect with Yae about that.”

“Archons, Ei!” Yae hisses and grabs her girlfriend’s wrist. “Okay, we’re leaving. Have fun.”

She drags Ei away as Sara and Kokomi awkwardly fidget in front of each other. When they’re out of earshot, Yae whips around to Ei. “Okay. One: not the right thing to say to make things easier, and two: you are mine and no one else’s. Or have you forgotten, Ei?”

“I was trying to…establish common ground?” Ei rubs her nape, muttering. “Makoto makes it look so easy.”

Yae touches her cheek, fingers trailing to cup her chin. “What do I need to do to remind you that I’m the one you’re seeing?”

Ei blinks. “But I already know that.”

“Not like that,” Yae murmurs, leaning in. “I’ll show you.”

Only to back away when someone coughs behind them.

“Sorry to interrupt. My name’s Gorou. I think my friend Kokomi said she was meeting up with some people.” He shuffles his feet. “She showed me your pictures just in case.”

Just in case what?

Yae scowls and jabs in the general direction of the pair. Gorou does a double-take. “Oh, no. You.”

“Yes, me. Scram.”

He scampers off, hurriedly thanking them.

Ei waits for him to be out of earshot before she asks, “Did you know him?”

“He’s a club mate of mine and a former group mate for a project.” Yae crosses her arms, scowling. “Well, the mood’s ruined.”

Ei nods, not sure what to say. “Do you want to grab lunch then?”

Sighing, Yae links their elbows and leads them towards the nearest cafe. “Your treat.”

They try again the next day. The second date for Sara and Kokomi goes much better at the same cafe.

Sara rubs her temples, eyes closed. “Why are you two still here?”

Yae airily waves her hand. “We just want to make sure your second encounter goes smoothly.”

Ei thinks it is going fine with the acquainted pair glancing shyly at one another.

How wonderfully romantic. Just Sara and Kokomi…and her friend Gorou.

Gorou stares suspiciously at Sara. “A friend of Yae requires tactical consideration. I just want to make sure Kokomi will be fine.”

Sara grits her teeth. “Yae and I are not friends.”

“Oh.” Gorou relaxes before standing up. “Then, you two will probably be okay.”

“Ouch.” Yae looks at Ei and points to the group. “Defend my honour.”

Sara snorts. “Hard to defend something you squandered.”

“Are we throwing shade now?” Yae turns. “Why, the other day when I saw your mother—“

“We are leaving now.” Ei pulls her away, dragging her out of the cafe. “Can you please stop mentioning Sara’s mother? For the record, she is a very nice woman—“

“I just said that to get on her nerves.” Yae shrugs. “I’m sure she is.”

Ei sighs. Yae couldn’t cross the street without aggravating Sara. She needs something to distract herself from the temptation. “Maybe you need to work off some excess energy.”

Yae immediately perks, voice going low. “Why? What are you offering?”

She pushes Ei into a nearby copse of trees, pressing her up against a massive trunk and coming so close that Ei could feel Yae’s breath on her lips. “I’m all ears.”

Ei clears her throat, dropping her gaze and putting her hands reflexively on Yae’s hips, who takes it as permission to move closer. “Uh…I was thinking more of a run—“

“I have a better idea.”

“But the endorphins released from cardiovascular activity are—“

“Shhh…not nerd-talk time.” Yae kisses her, moaning at the contact.

Ei feels a flush roar through her body. She wonders if she’s gotten better at kissing as Yae presses closer, hair falling into her eyes as she sweeps it away. Her breathing runs ragged, and when she pulls back for air, her gaze is half-lidded. It’s almost too much to bear looking at her.

Yae kisses along her jaw and nips her earlobe, sliding a hand down Ei’s stomach. And it keeps going.

Ei breaks the kiss and pushes her hand away. “Miko! We’re in public!”

Yae grins, eye teeth visible. “And?”

“Not here.” Ei steps away. She wishes she had something to calm Miko down. Maybe a spray of shame like she uses on little Yae.

“Where then?” Yae smooths back her hair, looking slightly flushed, pupils wide. “Your place?”

“Sure.” Ei notes Yae’s pupils’ dilating further. “Not like that.”

They end up spending the time lying on Ei’s bed and chatting comfortably about anything that comes to mind. Her workout time arrives, and Ei begins to pack, leaving Yae behind in the room.

Ei picks up her duffel bag and is nearly out the door when she pauses at the threshold. She looks over at Yae reading a light novel on the bed when an idea comes to mind. “Do you want to come to the gym—“

“No.”

“You should one day.” Ei frowns. “I’ve never even seen you do a squat.”

“And you never will if I can keep it that way.” Yae turns a page. “Bye, Ei.”

Frowning, Ei heads out for a quick walk over to the nearby facility. Once inside and making her way to the ladies’ locker room, she goes over how Yae easily dodges her attempt to move and burn off excess energy, despite exercise being the best solution.

Shaking her head, she huffs, grabbing her water bottle before throwing her bag in a locker and heading to the open space to stretch and warm-up. Once she’s done a few minutes of dynamic stretching and a quick circuit of bodyweight exercises, she makes her way over to the weights section.

There’s some guy doing a 300+ lb bench press that Ei ignores as she passes by until she hears the clank of the bars hitting the rests. “Hey, I know you! You’re my girl’s ex’s girl.”

Ei doesn’t follow, and the slight pause gives the person time to catch up with her.

“I’m Arataki Itto! I owe your chick a thank you for setting things up. Well, maybe not the drink in the face, but it all worked out.”

Ei is even more confused. “I really should—“ She gestures vaguely in the direction of the squat racks.

“Working on the gains, huh? I totally get it. With a squeeze like that, you gotta stay in shape.” Itto poses, flexing his bicep. “Hey, you need a spotter?”

She admits that Itto is helpful when trying to beat her personal best, but he keeps hanging around her afterwards, chattering away despite her obvious irritation. He even follows her onto the treadmill, despite him wheezing and dying about ten minutes into her two mile run.

As they’re leaving the gym, Itto stops her, grinning. “Hey, buddy, since we’re lifting bros now and your girl helped me get mine, I’m going to help you learn how to please her. If you get what I’m saying.” He winks.

Ei does not. When did they become brothers? “What are you talking about?”

“Oh, man. Are you saying you don’t notice? That girl is so thirsty, she’d drain out the Dark Sea. I’ve been hearing girls all over lament on how hungover she is over you.”

When he sees her baffled expression, he takes a breath. “Guess I gotta make it clearer? She wants to ride your train to pound town. Wait, does that apply to chicks? Okay, okay. She wants to take you out to a taco feast. She wants to bump doughnuts. She wants to visit your clam exhibit if you know what I mean.” Itto crosses his arms, grinning. “Man, I’m in the flow. I should become a writer. Coming up with this stuff is easy.”

“I’m leaving now.”

“I get you. Gotta get home to your fox, huh?” Itto wraps his arm around her shoulder. “Hey, don’t worry. I’ll help you get your girl to jump your bones. You lift, right? First thing we got to do is hit the bench press, cause chicks dig the chesticles.”

Ei spends the better part of the week dodging Itto’s attempts to go weightlifting together, but he always seems able to catch her at the gym.

When she complains about it to her sister, Makoto merely points out that it’s because she goes at the same time on the same days. It’s easy to find her when she’s so predictable.

“He’s hardly stalking you when you two work out at the same time,” Makoto states.

“But I really don’t see the purpose of him continually trying to talk with me. He even brought me a miniature pie one time, saying his girlfriend made some and he wanted to give me one.” Ei’s brows furrow. “Perhaps, it’s an attempt to sabotage my workout results?”

Makoto snorts and covers her mouth with her hand, trying hard not to laugh. “I’m just glad you’re making more friends.”

Ei is not. She liked being alone, save for having Makoto and Miko around. And she still hasn’t figured out what to do with Yae’s pent-up energy. How can she help so that her girlfriend doesn’t get into so much mischief?

Maybe following some of Itto’s suggestions might help. How could it hurt?

Ei waits until she meets up with Yae for coffee on one of their aligned breaks to bring up the topic.

Yae is talking about this boring professor here and about this guy in the front who is playing browser games when he should be paying attention and this girl beside her who looks like she was in the middle of a break-up mid-class based on her tears. Ei decides to throw out her idea when Yae takes a moment to sip her iced tea.

Ei pauses. “I would like to take you to a taco feast.”

Yae spits her drink out over the table. She coughs, while Ei is immediately grabbing some tissues to mop up the mess. “…did you say what I thought you said?”

“Yes, someone might have mentioned a couple of things you wanted to me, and I thought it would be good for you to release some stress.” She meets Yae’s gaze. “I was thinking tonight.”

She’s not sure why Yae looks so baffled when Ei later takes her to a plaza some distance away.

Ei examines the banner welcoming them to the taco truck festival. “I hear the carne asada is pretty good here.”

Yae stares at the circle of trucks around them, mouth opening and closing as if lost for words. She finally says, “This wasn’t quite what I was expecting.”

Ei grabs her wrist. “Come on. This one sells pollo.”

When Yae doesn’t respond as enthusiastically as Ei would have hoped, she moves onto phase two.

The next evening, Yae looks around at the bright lights and attractions. “I didn’t take you as a carnival person.”

“It’s usually more Makoto who enjoys coming here. I do like going on the rides.” Ei points at a 160-foot tower with ride compartments on either end. “That swings people so fast, you can experience similar G forces to fighter pilots. We can go on it—“

“Nope.” Yae smoothly steers her away. “How about we enjoy other stuff instead?”

Ei nods. “I have just the thing in mind.”

She goes to a vendor and buys them both a bag of freshly fried mini-donuts.

Ei hands Miko her own bag before taking out a donut and bumping it against Yae’s. “I hope that this is what you wanted.”

Yae, once again, seems lost for words.

Deeply concerned, Ei follows Itto’s third suggestion and takes Yae to the aquarium for their next date.

They stand awkwardly in front of a giant clam exhibit while Yae looks like she’s still trying to wrap her brain around something.

Ei clears her throat. “I hear women like clams.” She leans down to read the information on the plaque below. “Look at this! The interior meat can weigh up to 500 pounds.”

Yae closes her eyes. “Ei, what are you doing?”

“…helping you…release energy?”

She scrubs her face, exasperated. “And how would this do so?”

Ei did not think that far. “So, you’re not a fan of the giant clam and its meat?”

Yae’s face twitches. She looks like she can’t decide whether to laugh or get angry or cry. “Look, I need to go to my last lecture. Whichever idiot is giving you advice now, just tell them to mind their own business.”

She kisses Ei’s cheek and heads off, leaving Ei to furrow her brows in front of the mollusc exhibit by herself.

Later that evening when Makoto comes back with takeout for dinner, she sits Ei down for a talk.

“Listen, Ei, I didn’t want to have this discussion with you, but outside forces have forced my hand.” Makoto jabs her chopsticks at her over her box of stir-fried noodles. “What are you doing? I had Yae come up to me the other day, complaining that with the way things are going, she’s going to have cobwebs in her yaya for years.”

“Her what?“

“Not important.” Makoto waves it off. “She says you’ve been acting weird.”

Ei hunches her shoulders. “I was trying to get Yae to calm down. She seems stressed about something.”

“Maybe she hasn’t had enough time to relax. Why don’t you go and find out what Yae’s hobbies are? It might help to do them together.”

That sounds like a reasonable enough idea. The next day, Ei goes down to Yae’s dorm to investigate. Yae isn’t there, but her roommate lets her in.

Gendou closes the door. “Rule number 1: don’t fuck on my bed. That’s it. If you should break it, so help me Gods—“

“I’m not here to do that!” Ei’s face goes red. “I just want to know more about Miko.”

“You have a phone. Use it.”

“No, about what she does in her free time and what she enjoys.”

“Probably doing you.” Gendou shrugs before stopping to peer closer. “She is doing you, right?”

“Why are people so obsessed with that?” Ei glances around the room, noting the pictures plastered above Yae’s beds. “What are these?”

“Sickening, isn’t it?” Gendou wrinkles her nose. “I don’t mind that she took down all of her previous pictures, but the fact that she replaced them all with shots of you guys makes me gag from the sweetness.” She shoots her a look. “You’re the one that gave her that gigantic fox plushie that she sleeps with, right?”

Ah, right. Ei won that for Yae when they were at the carnival, and Yae had carried it everywhere. She even insisted on taking it on the carousel with them. Ei had to pay for an additional ticket since it took up a whole seat.

“It isn’t that big.” Ei studies the toy sitting on Yae’s covers. “It’s only the size of a large child.”

Gendou squints. “You’re…kind of special, aren’t you?”

Ei’s attention gets caught on a newsletter on Yae’s desk. She recognizes it as the university’s newspaper that most people ignore, though it has been gaining traction in readership lately. “What is this?”

“Yae is involved with the campus’s newsletter.” Gendou goes back to studying and waves her off. “Why don’t you go to their club office and ask?”

Ei does just that, heading down to the basement level of the student union building and navigating around the maze of corridors and rooms. She finds it after asking the security guard for directions, and she finds a door with a simple sign identifying it as the newsletter and journalism club.

She knocks on the door. When it opens, she is surprised to see a familiar figure. “Gorou?”

“Ah, you’re one of Kokomi’s dates, right? Or were.” He welcomes her in, gesturing to an expanse of desks with scribbled sheets on them. “I’m the only one here right now. Trying to figure out what to write for my weekly column.”

“Where does Yae sit?”

“Wherever there is space. These desks are communal, and she usually comes in at night so I never see her.” He scowls, crossing his arms. “And I hope I never do after she—“

The door clicks open behind them, and both of them turn to see Yae popping her head in. “Ah, there you are. My idiot roommate told me she sent you here.” She nods to Gorou. “I’ll just be taking my girlfriend now and leaving you to write in peace.” She grabs Ei’s hand, leading her out. “Good luck with your writing. It’ll be hard to match the numbers of your last…smash hit.”

Gorou sputters, turning red, as Yae closes the door on him. Ei raises an eyebrow. “What is that about?”

“We had some disagreements about how to proceed with a group project assigned to us a while back. I used the newsletter to successfully establish my point.” Yae plucks something from a nearby holder and shows her a slim magazine. “It very nearly did not get published until I pushed it through.”

Ei looks down onto the cover of a very endowed woman who looks familiar. She squints. “I didn’t know Gorou had a sister.”

Yae smiles. “I was demonstrating that sexual appeal sells, even if it’s not the conventional kind. Marketing is about appealing to people’s desires and what they actually want rather than what they say they do.”

“It seems to suit you.” Ei frowns. “But you never told me about this side of yourself before.”

Yae studies her quietly. “I didn’t think it’d be of much interest to you.”

She’s probably right, but something about the answer bothers Ei.

She returns to her dorm, pondering the day’s events aloud to her sister. “How did I not know that she was in this club?”

Makoto doesn’t look up from her textbook. “Maybe because you’re too busy taking her to Battle Bots fights.”

“I stopped after the first time.” Ei runs her hand through her hair. “I just don’t get what’s on her mind.”

Makoto snorts. “She’s as transparent as a window.” She sits back, looking over. “You might be thinking too hard about this. Why don’t you go for a walk or head to the gym to clear your head?”

Ei shrugs, figuring it is as good of a suggestion as any. She grabs her workout gear and makes her way there, thinking about Yae the whole way there.

Yae is…mostly not like the rumours she’s heard. She’s sweet and attentive and couldn’t keep out of trouble if her life depended on it. Aside from exasperating Ei for the sake of seeing her funny expressions, Yae is mostly a pleasure to be around.

Sometimes, though, Ei catches Yae gazing at her in a certain way that makes her wonder, like when Yae is hanging out in Ei’s room and thinks she’s not being watched. The way Yae looks over while resting on her folded arms—like she wants nothing more than to be near Ei. Like she would wait forever for her if only she could receive Ei’s affection. It’s not what someone would expect based on her reputation, but Ei suspected that there was more to her the moment she met her.

But Ei still needs to figure out how to get Yae to stop irritating everyone else.

She’s so lost in thought that she goes through the motions of warming up before heading to the weights and spotting Gorou. He’s trotting towards the treadmills just as Itto comes lumbering up to her. She sprints to Kokomi’s friend while calling out his name.

Gorou spins around, surprised. “Oh, Ei. What is it?”

“I have a favour to ask of you.”

“For w—“

“Hey, best buddy!” Itto slaps her on the back, nearly sending her forward. “You working the shoulders today? Ladies do love a thick neck.” He spots Gorou. “Who is this?”

Ei introduces them. “Itto, meet Gorou. He writes in the university’s newspaper column and needs more material. Gorou, this is Itto. He wants to write a book.”

She turns around and leaves them there as they look after her, confused. “Now, figure out how to help one another.” And leave her alone.

Judging by the fact that Itto doesn’t come back, it must have worked. Ei sighs and goes back to her workout in peace.

Until she spots them the next day working together on an outside table near her favourite coffee shop. “What are you two doing?”

Itto grins. “Hey! Gorou is helping me write a bestseller called, ‘How to Be Your Best Self and Get That Chick Who Wants to Nail You.’ Inspiration from your situation, of course.”

Ei already regrets introducing them.

“I’m rooting for you, really. Yae is hot. I mean that in a respectful way.”

Gorou hesitates. “I have a different opinion, but I hope it goes well for you.”

“I think it will be fine.” Ei glances sidelong before going in to grab her usual affogato with vanilla gelato. She hears a howl outside from where the guys were sitting as she waits for her order, and she chooses to ignore it.

Itto spots her immediately when she tries to leave discreetly. “Dude, you’ll never believe it! My girl just dumped me on the phone! The book’s gotta be on hold!” He bawls. “Why did she break up with me? Was it my calves? Those are the hardest to put muscle on!” He throws himself on Gorou who pats his back awkwardly.

“I’m sure it has more to do with her than you.” Gorou desperately looks at Ei who shakes her head and backs away. “I guess…you could tell me how you feel?”

“Oh, man. I really liked this girl, dude. I mean, not like Miss Hina who’s hot like nothing else, but—“

Ei creeps away. By the time she makes it to the front of her dorm, she receives a message from Sara that thanks her for introducing her to Kokomi and that they would be going out for more dates in the future. Ei smiles even as another text pops up that specifically instructs her to not tell Yae.

“Reading something amusing?”

Ei halts, glancing up to see Yae leaning against the wall close to the front doors. She pushes herself up and walks over, kissing Ei softly before pulling away. “Where have you been lately?”

“With a guy I met at the gym. And Gorou.”

“Really?” Yae pouts. “You’ve been spending so much of your time with your boytoys that I was starting to feel left out.”

Ei’s brows furrow. “They have been preoccupying my time due to—oh, you’re jealous.”

Yae merely crosses her arms. “Is it wrong for me to want to be near you all the time? You are my girlfriend after all.” She comes closer, voice softening. “Is something the matter?”

Ei glances down. “I’m sorry you were so disappointed with those earlier dates. I was trying to spend more time with you to help you relax. I didn’t mean to bore you.”

Yae raises an eyebrow. “I thought we had fun. The fish tacos you got were great.”

“What about the carnival?”

“You won me that stupid giant fox.” Yae glances away briefly. “That was nice.”

“And the clam exhibit?”

Yae has a funny expression that Ei can’t decipher. “Yes…that.” She takes a breath. “Well, everything leading up to that was great. We got to see the otters and the seals.”

Yae takes her hand. “Ei, you’re a great date already so you can stop listening to whoever is currently giving you advice. For the love of the Archons, please.”

“All right.”

“Seriously, Ei.”

“Okay, I promise.” She holds her hands up. “I’ll run date ideas by you first.”

Yae smiles. “Good girl.” She kisses Ei’s cheek and slowly walks past, making eye contact over her shoulder the whole time. “I’m glad we had this talk. I look forward to when we can do more.” She winks, and Ei is flabbergasted as she watches Miko stroll away, still as mischievous as always.

Ei heads up to her room, shaking her head as she opens the door and spots Makoto on her own bed, texting someone. “I give up. Miko is incorrigible. She could get into trouble by just standing at a corner.” She plops herself into her chair. “I guess I’ll never understand how I can help her calm down.”

Makoto sighs and puts down her phone. “I shouldn’t be telling you this, but I’m starting to feel sorry for her. Yae has a lot of pent-up energy from sexual frustration. She’s probably more used to releasing it quite often. That’s…partially why she’s acting out. The other part is that she’s just a jerk.”

“Oh.” Ei sits back, digesting this information and ignoring the rest. “Then, why didn’t she say so?”

Makoto shakes her head. She grabs her backpack and hands Ei a book. “I never wanted to give you this book, but I thought you might need it.”

Ei takes it, studying the cover of a papaya cut in half and titled, “The Noble Art of Seducing Your Woman. Foreword by famous author Chang the Ninth.”

“Thanks. I’ll give it a read.”

Chapter Text

Ei seems strangely detached lately, and Yae isn’t sure why.

They’re studying in Yae’s dorm on the bed while Gendou is at work. Yae has been playing with Ei’s hair like usual, but something feels off. Maybe it’s the way that Ei averts her eyes more than normal or how she leaves a gap between their bodies. Or maybe it’s the way she keeps fluttering her eyelashes occasionally like she has something stuck in them.

Yae touches Ei’s wrist. “Is something in your eye?”

Ei shakes her head, pulling away. “No! No, just focused on my end of term projects.” She shrugs. “You know how it is with schoolwork.”

“Okay…do you want to go for a walk after your last class?”

“No, I’m…busy.” Ei tries what looks like a hair flip but ends up smacking herself in the face. “Maybe some other time.”

Yae stares at her in disbelief. Whenever it comes to exercise, Ei would agree to a session faster than a rat on cocaine. If Yae didn’t know better, she’d say that Ei was playing hard to get. But why would she? She was already hard enough to get unintentionally. “Something is going on.”

“Uh…no, not at all.” Ei averts her gaze. She clears her throat. “I’m just trying to focus on biocybernetics.” She ducks her head. “Maybe you should concentrate on your schoolwork too.”

She shifts away.

Ei is acting so strangely that Yae wonders if something Makoto said is messing with her.

She approaches their shared dorm when she knows Ei is in class. Makoto looks surprised when she opens the door, but she lets her in. “Ei’s not here, but you know that.” She raises an eyebrow. “Here to see me then?”

Yae crosses her arms and taps her fingers against her biceps. “You live with her. Any idea why your sister is acting weird...er?”

“What does that have to do with me?”

“Well, either you said something to her that has her acting funny. Or…” Yae steps close, eyes narrowing. “You’ve traded places with her, and you’re screwing with me.”

“I mean, Ei and I are identical twins.” Makoto looks unfazed. She places a hand on her hip. “How do you know we never switched places when you were with her?”

Yae scoffs. She’s never been on a date with Makoto.

…has she?

Makoto laughs, “I’m joking.”

“Just as well. I could tell you two apart from the moment I saw you together.”

Makoto’s smile softens, which Yae does not expect. “I’ll bet.”

Yae narrows her eyes. “What does that mean?”

“Just an observation.” She shrugs. “In any case, you’re turning out better for Ei than I thought.”

“So, what now? Do I have the family’s approval?” Yae teases while her heartbeat picks up speed.

“Well, you’d have to convince our parents that you’re a viable prospective daughter-in-law if you want a chance of them possibly considering accepting you.” Makoto casually examines her nails. “But I’m sure it’s nothing you can’t handle.”

Yae’s brain screeches to a halt. “Daughter-in-law? We haven’t even jumped into bed yet.”

“And you never will if you keep bringing it up around me.” Makoto scowls. “How hard is it to not talk about wanting to sleep with someone’s sister?”

“At the rate that Ei’s going, I’m not sure we will. She seems to be playing hard to get for some reason.”

“I’m…I’m sure it’s just a phase.” Makoto looks oddly guilty. She shoves Yae out of the room before she could ask more about it, muttering that she needs to focus on her essays.

Yae has confirmed that Makoto is somehow involved but not to what extent. She will have to keep digging.

Ei also starts wearing more revealing clothing like cropped tops that show off her abs or bicycle shorts. It makes sense for the upcoming season but also makes Yae drop whatever book she’s reading when she sees her.

She seems to be bending over in front of Yae more often, which has Yae struggling to keep her gaze on anything that isn’t Ei’s ass out of respect. She sometimes succeeds.

It gets ridiculous at an Inazuman Medieval Weaponry Club meeting where Yae swears Ei is trying to seduce her.

The meeting is boring Yae so much that she thinks her eyes might be rolled permanently to the back of her skull. Someone brings fruit and leaves it on the centre table with the members grabbing some.

Ei picks up a cherry, sitting to the side while Makoto is doing a presentation about the club’s goals and projected progress into the next year. She spots Yae looking at her and furrows her brow for a moment before a resolute expression comes onto her face.

Ei pops a cherry stem in her mouth, making eye contact the entire time. Half a minute later, the stem comes out on her tongue, tied into a perfect knot. She slowly winks at Yae who feels her sex drive accelerate so fast, it probably broke the sound barrier.

Yae collapses on the desk with a grunt, hoping to hide her reddening face and sudden intense arousal. Very intense. So much so that Yae wonders if one could die from the female equivalent of being cockblocked. She would welcome it at this point.

Sara’s voice floats over her. “What’s your problem? Tired?”

“Of your company, yes.”

“I don’t even know why I bother,” Sara mutters. She sighs, and Yae really wishes she would go away. “Ei is acting weird.”

“I agree.” Now, leave.

“I’m not sure what’s gotten into her.”

Leave.

“I hate to ask you of all people, but you must have noticed something.”

LEAVE.

“Perhaps, it could be—“

“Kujou, what part of me not responding says I want to talk further?” Yae growls, lifting her head.

“The part where I find peace from the respite of not hearing you talk.” Sara frowns as she looks over her. “Are you okay?”

“Great.” Yae pushes herself up, gritting her teeth. “Fine.” Her lady boner practically has a heartbeat of its own. She looks over to where Ei is sitting, head tilted and smiling at whatever Makoto is saying to her. Yae feels instinct starting to take over as she grips the sides of the desk, something commanding her to yank Ei from the room and ravish her behind the building as hard and fast as possible. She could probably cover Ei’s mouth with her hand so her moans—

Yae blinks, shaking her head. What is she thinking of? It’s likely Ei’s first time and behind the student union building is not where she would want to spend it.

Standing, Yae sighs, “Tell Ei I’ll be going home.”

She makes her way out, missing the frown Ei sends her way as she tries to avoid walking funny as much as she could. Once she’s out of sight, she rushes back to her dorm, grateful that Gendou is out at work, and…relieves herself. Repeatedly.

She misses two calls and a flurry of texts from Ei as a result, checking her phone after a much-needed shower. She returns the call, stating that she’s fine and just needed to …destress. Ei still sounds concerned and conflicted but lets it go.

They chat a bit more before they both go to bed. She’s woken up the next morning by her roommate who decides to shake her shoulder like it owes her money for some reason.

Gendou points out the window. “Why is your girlfriend having a car wash outside the building?”

She’s what?

Yae flies down the stairs, still in her pajamas, bursting out the doors in time to see Ei reach for a particularly hard spot on top of a sedan. “What are you doing?”

Ei pauses and drops her brush into a bucket of water. She glances over Yae’s tiny shorts and tank top, and for a second there, Yae swears Ei blushes. “Hey, didn’t realize you were here.”

“At my dorm?” Yae hisses. “You stop whatever mischief you’re doing and—“ She notices that Ei’s white t-shirt is soaked, and she’s barely wearing anything underneath. Yae’s tongue gets tied faster than two snakes mating in a basket.

“And what?” Ei slicks back her hair, soaked from all the water flying everywhere. She seems to saunter towards Yae, hip swing noticeable in her shorts. “What would you like me to do?”

Ei reaches Yae and trails a finger down her chest. Yae stares dumbly at it before looking up to meet her gaze while Ei leans in. And pauses, looking like she’s not sure what to do next.

Itto hollers behind the car, “Gorou, done another one faster than you! This is so much better than moping!”

The spell breaks, and Ei turns away to shout instructions at the guys while Yae shakes her head, punch-drunk.

Ei turns back. “We’re having a fundraiser. For …uh…Itto’s book. He decided to work harder after his break up.”

Break up? “…Itto is writing a book. What about?”

“Some self-improvement thing.” Ei smiles, a tilt to the corner of her mouth that has Yae going crazy. Was that there before? “See you soon, Miko.”

She goes back to helping Itto and Gorou wash more cars. When did Ei and the idiot duo become friends?

Running her hand through her hair in frustration, Yae watches Gorou struggle to reach the top of a minivan before shivering and remembering that she’s in her sleep wear. She runs upstairs and redresses before darting back down. They’re still washing cars and seem to be genuinely collecting money in a jar as donations, which Yae finds baffling. Ei has money. Why doesn’t Itto just ask?

Shaking her head, Yae goes to get ready for class. She still has lots of studying to do, and this is taking up too much of her time. If this bizarre behaviour keeps continuing, Yae will have to put her foot down right after finding out what the heck is going on. But there are times when Ei is just being Ei, which confuses her even more.

The next week rolls in, and both Yae and Ei are furiously beating their brains with course material for their final exams. Ei is too preoccupied going over everything she learned in the last semester for the seventeenth time to try anything funny with Yae, and the most they do with each other is sit in the same room while cramming as much as they could.

Once Yae’s last exam is over, she heads over to Ei’s dorm where her girlfriend is relaxing on her bed, reading one of Yae’s recommended light novels. Ei taps the spot next to her, and Yae sighs as she curls up next to Ei, grateful that Makoto is out so that she doesn’t see this.

Ei hums and wraps an arm around Yae who buries her face into her shoulder. For good reason.

Somehow, being around her ridiculously good-looking and kind girlfriend has gotten Yae more…excited than she anticipated. That, and Ei smells amazing—light and pleasant like the lingering fragrance of sakura petals. Something builds in her body at Ei’s proximity alone, which Yae recognizes and strives to put out right away.

She thinks hard about unsexy thoughts like Kujou Sara nagging her, Itto in a bikini, Ei fighting opponents at Battle Bots.

All her efforts are in vain when she feels the press of a kiss on her head. “You look so cute, Miko.”

Her restraint snaps.

Yae sits up and crawls over Ei’s lap, pulling away her book as she presses into her, kissing her. Ei leans back, hands sliding over Yae’s shoulders. She tilts her head to give Yae more access, and Yae rushes in to take as much as she could devour, palms gliding up the insides of Ei’s thighs without thinking.

Ei moans, an unexpected sound that sends Yae leaping backwards, a jolt heading southwards in her belly. Blinking, Ei gives her a confused look. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No, you—“ Yae shakes her head, heaving slightly. “Just startled me.”

“But you—“ Ei pauses, coming to a realization. “Oh, do you want sex?”

She stands, pulling off her top while Yae nearly falls off the bed, scrambling to yank it back down.

“What are you doing?” Yae hisses, feeling her ears go so hot, they might as well set fire to her hair.

“Getting undressed?” Ei looks nonplussed. “The book suggested this to start a sexual encounter, but it isn’t always needed.”

“I know it—that’s not what I meant!” Yae scrambles upright. “Why are you being so casual about this? What book?”

“Uh…nothing.” Ei averts her eyes, reaching up to pull her shirt down. “I just thought I could help you blow off some steam.”

“You’re not a one-night stand, Ei. Also, what book?”

Ei doesn’t say anything, but she glances at her backpack on the edge of the bed. Yae immediately reaches for it, and Ei swats her hand away.

This means war.

Makoto walks in ten minutes later while the two of them are still wrestling for the book in the bag, though it looks like something else.

“Archons, put a sock on the doorknob or something!” Makoto stumbles back, hand over her eyes.

“Wait, it’s not what it looks like!” Ei scrambles up, releasing Yae from her triangle choke while the latter is clawing into Ei’s thigh. “We were just arguing over—“ Ei glances meaningfully at her bag while Yae rubs her sore shoulder. “I mean, we were not doing anything sexual. I didn’t even choke Miko out properly.”

Makoto glances at Yae. “I see. Maybe you two should take some space for yourselves.”

“Not until Ei gives me this book she keeps talking about. She’s caught up in strange situations again, and I want to find out what idiotic thing you’ve been listening to this time.” Yae holds out her hand expectantly. “Let me see it.”

Ei looks conflicted before her expression strengthens. “No.”

Yae blinks. Ei never keeps secrets from her. It hurts more than she expects.

“Fine.” She grits her teeth. “Then, I’ll be going. I hope you understand what you got yourself into.”

She stalks off while Ei calls for her to come back, but she doesn’t follow her. Yae assumes Makoto stopped her. Just as well. Yae needs time to scheme.

The next evening, Yae surprises Ei with a date to a Mondstadt-based burlesque show that has Ei turn red all over from her nose to the back of her neck. She tries to sneak a hand into Ei’s bag that Ei guards harder than Sara unintentionally does her own virginity. Instead, her girlfriend clutches the backpack to her chest the whole night as if trying to hide the flush on her face. Yae almost throws a fit when one of the dancers offers to give Ei a private show later.

Ei competes with Yae the day after with a horseback ride through the beach at sunset. Like, come on. How is Yae supposed to dislike riding Sumerian horses through the tide?

After that, Yae pulls some strings and gets a singing telegram and a mountain of chocolate delivered by Sayu who distracts Ei enough for Yae to sneak over to her bag only to realize that Ei has moved the book. Damn!

Ei ups the ante by picking her up on a date with a hot air balloon and roses.

The fuck is Yae supposed to compete with a hot air balloon?

Once Yae gets off the extremely nice and romantic trip over Ritou and Narukami Island, she declares a truce while Ei just looks confused. Afterwards, she storms into her room and throws herself on her bed while Gendou ignores her yet again. She sighs loudly and aggressively, rolling onto her back. Gendou still doesn’t pay attention.

She hurls a pillow instead, and it bounces off of her roommate’s head, causing her to swear. “What’s your problem? Not getting laid fast enough?”

“I wish that was it.” Yae relays the situation, and Gendou looks at her incredulously.

“You are upset because your girlfriend wants to sleep with you. And you’re competing to see who can seduce the other first.” Gendou rubs her face. “Am I hearing this right?”

Yae throws her hands up. “I just want her to try.”

“She is trying—trying to sleep with you!”

“No, I mean…I want it to mean something to her.”

Gendou gives her a look like she’s an idiot. “It would. It means she’s getting laid.”

“I just don’t want to be used for sex!”

Gendou stops what she’s doing. “Yae—“

“I know what that sounds like coming from me!” Yae flops on her bed. “Why is my head so messed up about this?”

“I don’t think it’s your head this time,” her roommate sighs. “I usually try not to get involved in your shenanigans, but I think you need to do some serious thinking.”

What else could it be other than Yae’s muddled thoughts? “This must be a curse.”

“No, no. I think it goes by a different name. What was it now?” Gendou pretends to think hard for a moment. “Oh, right. Karma.”

“I have a legitimate problem this time.”

“Oh, no. You’re sexually attracted to your hot girlfriend. Whatever will you do?”

“Shut up, Gendou.”

Yae isn’t so sure that it is something as simple as sex. Whenever Yae closes her eyes at night, Ei is in her dreams, even when she had just spoken with her an hour ago. At this point, she’s probably so far in, she’d never reach the bottom.

Not that she’ll ever tell Gendou that.

“Seriously, I don’t know what your problem is. First, you wanted to bang her, and now you’re upset she wants to bang you. Either that, or you’re mad that you’re having trouble controlling your horndog state around her.” Her roommate scoffs, “Just punch yourself in your lady boner so you can focus on your girlfriend. It’s not that hard.”

“Cause you have so much experience?” Yae scowls.

“Unlike you, I have better things to do than spreading my legs so wide, I’m hitting Celestia.”

“Screw you.”

“Pft, you tried.”

“Not really.” Yae sighs, “Why go out for hamburgers when you have steak at home?”

Gendou glowers. “I’m so glad that I’m not going to see your face soon.”

Summer term finally arrives in a week, and Gendou is allowed to go home.

“Finally,” Gendou mutters as she packs her bags the next day. “I’m so sick of your shit.”

Yae waves with just her fingertips. “See you next semester, roomie.”

Gendou gives her the finger without turning around. She grabs the last of her bags and exits, mumbling about Yae’s shit all the while. At the door, she pauses, gruffly adding, “Have a good summer,” before she slams it shut.

When Yae is alone, she sighs and looks up at the ceiling.

Both the twins and Yae have decided to stay on campus for a summer semester—Yae because she wants to finish post-secondary faster while the twins hope to ease the course load on their upcoming terms. She’s happy that she gets to see Ei on campus throughout the next months but conflicted at the same time.

Things have been awkward and stifled with Ei who keeps glancing over at Yae like she’s dying to talk while Yae has grown rigid over the fact that Ei refuses to share about this book that she’s clearly taking ideas from.

Yae doesn’t know how to articulate what she’s feeling so she stews about it, a ball of resentment that even has Makoto shying away until Ei gives in one day while they’re hanging out alone in her room.

“Here.” Ei hands over a glossy blue book that has some dumb title about seducing women. “I’ve been reading this. I…I thought it would help me relate to you more.”

“How?” Yae squints at the book cover. “Wait, I know the author.”

“You know Kitsune Saiguu?”

“…she’s my aunt.”

“Oh.” Ei squirms. “She gives good advice.”

Yae knows. She used it on girls before. “Give me that.”

She grabs the book from Ei’s hands and flips it open, skimming the pages. “Play hard to get, hint with innuendos, dress to get their attention. Worst case scenario: confuse and conquer. Grand romantic gestures win everything.” Yup, Yae has done it all.

She sighs and places the book aside. “Why didn’t you just talk to me? Why even use these tips?”

“...because they work.”

Yae squints at her. “That is not the point.”

Ei sighs and sits down on her bed. “I didn’t realize you were sexually frustrated because we weren’t physically intimate. Makoto had to spell it out for me, and even then, I didn’t know how to help you relax about approaching me.”

Not talking about the intimate parts of their relationship with her sister would help. “Why not ask me?” Yae sits down next to her. “I would have been happy to answer you.”

“Is ‘because I’m an idiot’ a sufficient reason?” Ei sighs, running a hand through her hair. “It just felt easier to try out what the book suggested than to talk about something that I can’t even articulate. The tips were impersonal and easy, though I had to practice on Kokomi because she gives the best feedback.”

Why does Ei keep giving Yae reasons to kill Kokomi?

“And…” Ei glances away. “I thought you were uncomfortable talking about it to me because it would have been my first time.”

…she’s not wrong.

“I mean…” Yae swallows, mouth dry. “...do you want to have sex with me?”

Ei frowns. “Never really thought about it.”

“I see.” Yae stands, turning to hide her disappointment and sinking heart. “I guess it isn’t a desire of yours—”

Ei grabs her wrist. “It’s not that. It’s just that I didn’t want to be intimate with anyone else before, but I would be willing to give you a try.”

“Don’t force yours—”

“I’m not.” Ei straightens up, looking resolute. “I want to share myself with you.”

Yae makes a noise in her throat. She presses right up to Ei, nose skimming her cheek as she whispers into her ear, “Right now?”

Ei goes bright red. “That’s fine.” She reaches out for her phone. “Let me just text Makoto to find somewhere else to sleep for the night.”

Yae waits for all of the ten seconds Ei takes to message her sister before pushing her down into the bed, demanding kisses as Ei responds just as powerfully, hands gripping Yae’s hair. Ei lets out pleased sighs that cranks Yae’s libido higher until it hurts. The way Ei pulls at her shirt indicates she feels the same.

Yae fumbles with the top button of Ei’s jeans, breathing rapidly. “Please, I’ve been waiting for it all this time.”

Ei makes a very cute sound, helping Yae with undoing her pants and slipping them off. Once her pants and underwear are on the floor, Yae slips her hand down Ei’s belly, far enough that Ei lets out a soft “Oh” and arches beautifully at her touch. Ei’s eyes flutter shut, and there’s a look of bliss on her face that makes Yae’s heartbeat vibrate throughout her body.

Another moan, and Ei’s grasping the bedsheets hard. Yae listens to her ragged breathing, the way her body pushes against her as if yearning for more contact, and Yae knows she has never been as turned on as much as she is now.

“Wait.” Ei’s hand goes down to stop her, even as her fingers shake. “I wanted to touch you first.”

Yae’s brain short-circuits, and she nods, taking a moment to peel off her own clothing as Ei sits up, placing kisses on every bit of skin that’s revealed. Ei pushes Yae on her back, and Yae is so excited that she might come if Ei so much as breathes on her.

She doesn’t quite do that.

Ei’s fingers slip between Yae’s legs and send jolts up her spine, causing her to arch off the bed and roll over, gasping. When Yae realizes what’s happened, she considers dying of embarrassment.

“Did you—” Ei’s voice sounds uncertain. “Do people usually orgasm that quickly?”

“…don’t you dare say anything.” Yae covers her face. If anyone hears about this, her reputation would be ruined. She’d have to wear a paper bag over her head in public. “I just need a moment.”

Ei pulls her hands away, kissing her softly. “I don’t think there’s any shame in it.” She tucks a lock of hair behind Yae’s ear, humming lightly. “In fact, I’d like to do it again.”

Yae looks up at Ei smiling gently and realizes with every bone in her body that this is the woman she’s going to be with for the rest of her life.

As her answer, Yae pulls Ei back down.

Morning rolls around, and Yae wakes first, feeling Ei’s breath on her cheek and taking her time tracing the lines of Ei’s face. She marvels at the beauty and simplicity of it all.

It’s different with Ei than anyone else. Yae doesn’t try to sneak out the next morning nor does she want to. She wants to stay in bed with Ei and watch her wake up, pretty eyelashes fluttering in her sleep. She wants to come back to Ei tonight and the next night. She even wants to go to more of those stupid Battle Bot fights if only she could be near Ei and support her. Just being close makes Yae happy beyond belief.

Yae brushes the messy strands from Ei’s face, some of Makoto’s earlier words coming back to her. She had never considered marrying anyone, but with Ei, she might make an exception. But that’s a conversation further down the line.

Ei makes a sleepy noise, slowly opening her eyes and reminding Yae of the pretty colour of the sky before a storm. She smiles. “Morning.”

Yae leans over and kisses her in greeting, moving closer to intertwine herself more. “How was it?” She feels a surprising anxiety in her chest, unfamiliar and new. “Did you enjoy it?”

Ei blinks, brain taking a while to come on from power down mode. “Yes, it was good. I don’t have anything to compare it to, but—” She pauses. “Oh, you want reassurance and emotional validation. Yes, I loved spending the night with you like that. You were great.”

She scoots over, nuzzling into Yae’s neck and sending Yae’s heartbeat soaring. “I think Makoto would like to come back though and get her clothes—”

“Shh…let me just enjoy this moment without you mentioning your sister.”

Ei nods in understanding and cuddles further into Yae.

An hour later, they rise and get ready for the day. After they shower and air out the room, Makoto comes back, eyeing Ei’s bed with its newly replaced sheets. “Glad you guys got that out of your system.”

Ei gives her a look, and Makoto meets it. A conversation happens between them in the twitches of their face and the briefest expressions that pass by so fast that Yae can’t follow. “I see. Yae, maybe Ei can meet you for lunch later. I just have a few things to ask her.”

Yae glances at Ei who squeezes her hand. “Sure. I’ll see you in a bit.”

She heads back to her dorm to get a change of clothes and to text her aunt to pull her damn book off her shelves. Her aunt fires back with a flat, “No,” and a “Why the fuck haven’t you visited in a while? Booty call too big?” Hissing, Yae responds that she’ll explain later before pausing and adding that she might bring someone to show her.

Her aunt responds with a flurry of shocked and happy emojis, and Yae regrets ever showing her how to use them. She receives a message from Ei about where to meet for lunch as well as a head’s up that Sara and her new girlfriend will join them.

New girlfriend? Yae stifles a smirk, reserving it for when she’s face-to-face with Sara next. She has an idea of who it is.

At noon, Yae heads down to the coffee shop where she first met Ei, spotting Sara and Kokomi already sitting at a table on the patio outside. She smiles and slips into a seat across from them, startling the pair. “Well, don’t you two look cozy? And to think, one of you threw such a fit when introduced to the idea of a blind date.”

Sara clears her throat, cheeks reddening. “Yes, well…thank you. For doing that. That is the only time I hope I ever have to say that to you, Supergirl.”

Yae pauses, looking at Kokomi covering her mouth with her hand and Sara’s careful expression. She gets suspicious. “Why are you calling me that?”

“Cause according to Ei,” Sara’s face is deadpan, “you come faster than a speeding bullet.”

Ei told everyone.

Yae will kill her.

“Oh, it’s not like Ei mass-texted everyone.” Kokomi waves off Yae’s murderous look. “Ei told Makoto, and Makoto told Sara, and then Sara told me—”

Yae will still kill Ei. And now Makoto. It’s a nice day for a double homicide.

Sara squints at the distance. “Here they come now.”

Yae whips around, seeing the twins chatting with each other as they approach. Ei spots her glaring first, raising her hand in greeting before her smile falters. Makoto glances between Ei and Yae, gesturing for her sister to run.

Yae rises, and Ei’s already turning around, positioning herself for a full-out sprint. When Makoto sees Yae barrelling towards both of them, she decides to bolt too.

The twins split, running in different directions as Yae focuses on Ei while promising to deal with Makoto later. Ei is a freakishly in-shape runner, and Yae has to take a break about a few minutes in, bending over to catch her breath.

Ei jogs back, looking concerned. “Do you want to sit down?”

“No,” Yae heaves. “Want to…kill you.”

“Okay….would you settle for a cuddle as a compromise?”

Yae considers her proposal and nods, lungs still feeling like they’re on fire. Cuddle first. Kill second. Murder Makoto after. “Sounds great. Just please stop telling people about our sex life.”

“Understood. Sorry.” Ei cautiously steps forward, taking her hand. “Follow me then.”

And Yae does, homicidal urges fading at Ei’s touch. “You owe me lunch. For the rest of our lives together.”

Ei doesn’t turn around. “I’m fine with that.”

And just when Yae thought she couldn’t fall more in love.