Chapter 1: Passing the Baton [Prologue]
"I'm going to graduate," the captain spoke, her eyes firmly locked with the redhead, "I'm turning 22, Yuko. I became a successor when I was 15. It's time for me to hand 00 to the new generation."
Yuko couldn't believe what she was hearing. Was this the same Takamina that was so afraid to graduate at one time that she panicked for days? The same Takamina who had to avoid her would-be successor's gaze for weeks, months even? "T-Takamina, you can't be serious...!"
The shorter idol shook her head, "I'm doing this, Yuko. This is my decision. I spoke to Tsubasa already... ah-!" The captain stopped in her tracks as she looked at the weeping ace before her.
The younger girl was a mess; sniffling, choking back sobs, on the verge of crumpling to the ground. "D-dammit! Takamina... I can't lose you! You have to stay, you have to! I-!"
"Yuko... I still love 00. I love all of the members, and the trainees... and... I love you, Yuko. And there's no way I'm letting that go. Like I said, I talked to Tsubasa already. I'm not leaving, not entirely. You're looking at the new assistant manager of AKB0048, Shiori Arisawa!" the green-haired girl threw a salute the way of her junior, along with a smile and a wink, in an attempt to raise her mood.
Yuko had ceased crying at this point, and after a moment even started to giggle a little, "Takamina... hehe, the trainees won't be able to take you seriously, y'know- they're gonna be taller than you!"
Takamina elbowed Yuko playfully as she laughed, then pulled her into a quick embrace, "And besides, I'm just graduating, not breaking up with you."
She stood up on her tiptoes to plant a quick peck on Yuko's lips. "The concert will be next week... and Christmas is in three weeks, right? That should be more than enough time for them to organize a succession concert."
Takamina's decision was practically the talk of the planet.
"It's the first graduation concert this whole year!"
"Ticket prices have gone through the roof!"
"Are there even seats left?!"
"Does she have a successor already? Do you think Yuihan will take over as captain?"
"Auuuugh, I'm so upset!!!"
Akibastar was teeming with gossip and chatter, all of its residents both excited and anguished over the graduation of Minami Takahashi the 5th.
"E-eh?! Takamina's graduation concert?!"
Kanata snatched the set list out of Ushiyama-sensei's hands, making sure what she was reading was correct. Surely enough, no matter how many times she looked from screen to screen, the words remained the same.
"B-but... Takamina... graduating?"
"We're all very surprised," Tsubasa mused, entering the room on her clacking heels just the same as she had for so long, "Takamina's choice is her own. We're sad to see her go... but I'm certain her successor will turn up rather quickly. After all, 00 needs its captain."
Makoto looked a little surprised as Tsubasa turned and left, "Whaa? Do you think they already have a successor for Takamina picked out...?"
"It's possible, although traditionally if no Minami Takahashi is present, captain duties would fall to Yui Yokoyama. That would be... Yuihan the 7.5th right now, yes?" Suzuko answered the nervous girl, pulling out her phone to check.
"I bet that Takamina's successor is my big sis!" Sonata grinned, latching herself to Kanata's waist.
"E-eh, Sonata?! What's gotten into you? There's no way..." Kanata stuttered out. She wasn't sure if she was trying to act modest or if she had really convinced herself she would never become a successor. After all...
'Promise to become a successor before Christmas this year; that can be your gift to me!'
"Takamina, have you been sleeping? You seem to be practicing non-stop... you should really get some rest for your concert, you don't want to be all out of energy when you need it the most."
The older idol looked up from where she sat in the desolate practice room to see the youngest successor coming toward her, carrying a plate of food.
"Acchan...? I'm fine, really, I just-"
"I noticed that you skipped dinner. I'm a little worried about you! Practice is important, but you need your health too," the pink haired girl smiled, bending down and holding out the plate to her senior, "Chef Papa made your favorite, too. Please eat this and get a good rest tonight. After all, the big day is tomorrow!"
"...Yes... thank you, Acchan."
The soon-to-be graduate took the plate from her friend, who then smiled and exited the room calling for and chasing down the Center Nova.
She ate her meal surprisingly quick; she was rather starved, considering she hadn't left the practice room since lunch ended. She smiled over her empty dishes, reminiscing on her years. It would be an unfamiliar world out there without a name... but she felt she was prepared for it.
"I'll have to get used to being called Shiori again... I don't think anyone's called me that in six years."
"Takamina, there you are!"
Swinging her head around, she happened upon the 75th generation trainee racing toward her.
The younger girl smiled, "It's late and you probably should get some rest for tomorrow, you know. I just wanted to wish you luck for the show! I made sure the trainees are all in tip-top shape too, so no one's gonna be slacking off, and I practiced twice as much as usual too!"
Takamina stood up and put her hand on Kanata's shoulder, "You're a great captain, Kanata. I'm sure your hard work will pay off soon. I'm going to head off to bed- you rest too now, Kanata. Tomorrow's a big day, after all."
She left the room, a slightly confused Kanata trailing a few seconds behind.
pbbbt this chapter (and the next like 1-2.5 chapters) have been in my phone notes for a while so the writing is old and bad but im too lazy to fix it