It had been a month. Well, perhaps not a full month. 29 days. More days than there are in February, usually, but the same amount of days this year. It was a leap year, after all; once every four years, the shortest month of the year becomes a bit less short. So, was it a full month after all?
Getting wrapped up in semantics and the specifics of such a worthless question was all Toomi Yuna had to distract her from the subject that had been gnawing at her mind for those past 29 days. On September 22nd, a date now unforgettable to Yuna, the unthinkable had happened; the adorable, stoic girl that was like a younger sister to her, Komano Hina, had said four words that shook Yuna's foundation to its very core.
"Yuna-nee, I love you."
Even now, the words reverberated through Yuna's mind like they had been whispered into her ear only moments earlier. As she thought about it for what seemed like the millionth time, her heart rate quickened, her eyes began to lose focus, and her mind was unable to think about anything other than Hina's words and how to respond to them. And no matter how hard Yuna searched, she was unable to find an adequate answer.
Did she love Hina? Yes, of course, it wasn't even a question to her. But did she love Hina in the way that Hina loved her? Yuna had contemplated the subject over, and over, and over, but her mind always waned towards subjects that were just making it harder for her to find her answer; what would their parents think? Would they get kicked out? Would people make fun of her, or even worse, make fun of Hina for it? And what would she possibly do about Megumi's inane request? All of these questions and more spun through Yuna's head yet again, her mind unable to formulate a single answer, when she was suddenly snapped back to reality by a familiar voice.
"Yuna, could you explain this part to me?"
"Huh? A-Ahh... Uhh, that one is..."
Sitting next to Yuna was her blonde buxom beauty of a buddy, Ano Fuji. Right, they were studying for exams; or at least, they were supposed to be. Yuna's mind constantly drifting away was preventing her from retaining the information as well as she liked, but she was at least getting the gist of it down. Regardless, Ano must've noticed Yuna's mind wasn't entirely where it should be, and pulled her back to reality so they could both focus on what they were there for.
Ano didn't seem to fully understand the material, but Yuna gave her enough of an idea for her to be able to work through it well enough. Satisfied, Yuna was about to return to her own work, when Ano chimed up again.
"Say, Yuna. No matter how weird you get, you're always on top of cooking and studying and stuff."
Well, no surprise there. Ano had seen through her like a ghost; Yuna was acting weird, and this was Ano's straightforward way of bringing it up. Yuna half-heartedly attempted to deflect the accusation, but Ano pressed on, clearly set on getting to the root of Yuna's issue.
While Ano might seem like a bit of an airhead, she shares an admirable quality with Nena; she's quite perceptive when it comes to her friends. If something was bothering Yuna, Ano was always the first person to notice. Whenever she was deep in thought about something, no matter what it was, Ano was always the first person to help guide her through it. It was no surprise Ano had picked up on Yuna's obvious distress, and was trying to help her; but for some reason, Yuna just kept pushing her away.
Why? Why was that? Why was Yuna pushing away the one person that was always trying to help her? Yet another question that she couldn't possibly answer, joining the rapidly expanding pool of them. But Yuna decided, in that moment, now wasn't the time for thinking. Now was the time to let Ano know the truth; to let her know what had been bothering her. To let one of her most dearest friends help her.
"... Hey, Ano."
"Hm? What is it?"
"I have something I want to tell you."
"I'm guessing this isn't about exams." Ano straightened her posture, a sign of her knowledge that things were about to get a lot more serious. Their conversation continued for a small while, Yuna trying to think of how best to explain things, before Ano suddenly blurted out a question. "Is this about those ghosts up on the roof at school?"
Well, that caught Yuna by surprise. So Ano knew? About Sachi, and Megumi? About the kindred spirits on the roof? "A-Ano...? Y-You knew...? No way..." Yuna had never even stopped to consider the possibility that anybody else could see the kindred spirits, let alone somebody like Ano. Before her mind could possibly process what Ano was saying, she launched into an explanation.
Apparently, Ano had always had a bit of a sixth sense. While she couldn't perceive Sachi and Megumi on a level where she could make out their appearances or their voices, she could sense their presence very often around Yuna. And apparently, she had been quite concerned about Yuna because of it for a while; she knew something about the ghosts was causing Yuna to change.
When Yuna was actually able to fully process all of what Ano was saying, she blurted out her own explanation as well. While the ghosts had been causing her to change, they weren't actively harming her like Ano seemed to believe, and in fact, they weren't what she wanted to talk about. Upon hearing this, Ano suddenly became extremely flustered; her face went beet red, and her eyes almost seemed to be swirling, if that were even possible. She began to make blubbering noises that weren't really comprehensible, and when Yuna was about to question her about it, she suddenly began to speak up.
"U-Umm, Yuna, I-I'm like..." Ano averted her gaze from Yuna, holding her head downwards in embarrassment before she continued. "Really freaking shy. Like, whenever someone compliments me or pays attention to me a little, I go completely red like this..."
The sixth sense thing earlier may have been a pretty big shock, but this... may be even more surprising. Yuna had always considered Ano to be an outgoing and extremely sociable girl who could make friends with anybody. But she's actually the type to blush like crazy and start blubbering whenever she's even slightly embarrassed... A new side of Ano was being exposed, and Yuna wasn't entirely sure what to think. It was kind of cute, she guessed.
As she thought about this, Ano's perfect posture collapsed as she fell down on the bed, still apologizing for her previous blunder. If Yuna had to take a guess, it was Ano's way of simultaneously apologizing and making it easier for her to open up. It wasn't an entirely necessary display, but it was one Yuna appreciated; if there's anyone who knows how to lighten a mood, it's Ano. Yuna, in her own attempt to lighten things a bit, let out her own apology, and apparently relieved, Ano sat back up, her face still bright red, and straightened her posture again in a not so convincing manner. Yuna continued.
"S-so Hina... confessed to me..."
"C-Confessed. Umm, you mean, like... her love?"
Yuna explained everything while Ano's already deep embarrassment continued to deepen further. On the last day of the school festival, Hina had confessed her to love to Yuna. Yuna, unable to figure out how to respond, ran away, and had spent the last month trying to figure out her answer, but has come up empty handed every time she tries. She doesn't even know whether she loves Hina in a romantic sense in the first place; and even if she does, they're both women. How would their family react? Could they stay together, even in the face of scrutiny? Before Yuna could too deeply consider the questions yet another time, Ano had already figured out how to respond, shrugging off her embarrassment for a brief moment.
She started off by saying she would never find Yuna or Hina weird for such a thing. Of course; if anybody were to be fine with a girl-on-girl romance, it would be Ano. She then asked if Yuna disliked girl-on-girl romance herself. Of course not; she had spent the better half of a year playing yuri couple to a school-full of girls, after all. But she couldn't exactly admit that to Ano, so she gave a simpler answer. Finally, she asked the most important question; does Yuna love Hina? Of course, there was no answer for Yuna other than 'yes'. She could never stop loving Hina, no matter what happened.
Apparently satisfied with the answers, Ano explained what she believed was best. She slowly listed, one by one, all of the things Yuna had been worrying about; the things Yuna believed might cause problems for herself and Hina should they get together. And then, Ano gave a very simple solution; one that was utterly mundane, and yet, never even occurred to Yuna. Simply remove all of the problems she had been thinking about; purge them from her mind, and shrink the problem to its simplest question. Does Yuna have romantic feelings for her childhood friend Hina? If Yuna could simplify the entire problem down to that one question, Ano believed she could find her answer. And finally, Ano said, with completely certainty, that no matter what answer Yuna came up with, she would support her fully.
After all of this time, Yuna knew. Yuna knew how to find her answer for Hina. The problem Yuna had been struggling with for twenty-nine days had been solved by Ano in only a few seconds of consideration. Of course, of all the people, Ano would know; Ano, one of Yuna's best friends, somebody who had stuck around with her through all of the boring and dreary school days. Ano, the person who knew Yuna better than she knew herself, and always knew how to help her when she needed it most. Ano, who kept supporting and trying to help Yuna, even when Yuna pushed her away and rejected her assistance. Ano... a person Yuna cared very deeply for.
But... why was she thinking about this now? Yuna felt her cheeks flush ever so slightly when she realized what was going through her head. Now wasn't the time to be thinking about how amazing Ano was; it was the time to think about Hina. About how to answer the question Hina had waited all of those weeks for. It wasn't long into her thought before Ano stammered out another question.
"W-Wanna get back to studying? Hina-chan might come back soon, too! A-And..." Ano put her face into her hands, her blush now brighter than ever. "I-I can't do this anymore! If you look at me any longer, I might catch on fire for real!"
Yuna smiled at that last sentence, and she felt her cheeks flush just a bit more. This side of Ano really was cute, wasn't it? But now wasn't the time to think about that; it was the time to think about their studying. And after that... it was time to think about her answer. To finally decide, once and for all, what her feelings for Hina truly meant. Yuna knew, by tomorrow, she would finally have that answer they had both been waiting for.
October 21st. The day after Ano and Yuna's study session that became a brief heart-to-heart. The day that marked precisely 30 days since Hina confessed her true feelings. And the day that Yuna finally knew how to answer them.
It had begun like any other Sunday morning, although with the addition of Ano. After getting up, Yuna cooked the trio their breakfast. The table was relatively silent, with only Ano speaking up to make the occasional quip or statement. When they had finished, Ano apparently conveniently 'forgot' about the clean-up duties afterword, and set off back to her own house. A shame, Yuna had thought; she would've liked to spend a bit more time with her. (She kept that thought to herself, though.)
With Ano gone, it was left to Yuna and Hina to clean up the mess. For the first time in a month, Yuna had asked Hina to assist her with washing the dishes. The atmosphere had calmed down, at least for a short while; Yuna was finally able to spend time around Hina without feeling like her brain was going to explode into a hundred pieces.
Yuna had followed Ano's advice very carefully; remove all of the outlying issues. What would people think, what would our parents do, those questions don't matter in the slightest. The only question that matters is how Yuna truly feels about Hina. And after boiling everything down to that one single question, Yuna had her answer ready.
"Hey, Hina." Yuna spoke up as Hina wiped her hands. Hina's eyes perked up towards Yuna's, and Yuna realized she was finally able to make eye contact with Hina again without wanting to immediately turn her head away.
"Hm? Yeah, Yuna-nee?"
"I'm sorry for keeping you waiting all this time." Well, this was it. No backing down now.
"Mm? ...Ah..." Hina had realized what was about to happen, and tilted her head downwards, either as a show of embarrassment or bracing for something. Yuna couldn't tell which, but she continued.
"I can finally answer you, Hina. I can finally tell you..." Hina's expression became considerably more embarrassed as the reality of what was about to happen set in.
"...U-Uhh... Umm, Yuna-nee... Mmh..." After a flustered moment, Hina finally returned her gaze to Yuna's eyes, a notable blush now present on her cheeks.
"Hina, I... I love you... b-" Before Yuna could continue any farther, she was pushed back slightly by an unexpected collision; Hina's head with her chest. Suddenly, Hina's arms were wrapped tightly around her back, and her head was only a few inches away from being buried in Yuna's chest. While Yuna was still reeling in shock, Hina turned her head up towards Yuna's, her eyes closed and a smile formed on her face.
"Yuna-nee, I love you too." Hina's blush grew more intense as she opened her eyes to look at Yuna's face; however, the sight she got caused her smile to instantly dissipate. Instead of the happy, relieved expression Yuna had hoped to see, she was instead met with one that was upset. Sorrowful. Regretful, even. Yuna's eyes were pointing to the side, not meeting Hina's gaze, and Hina could've sworn she saw tears forming in the corner of her eyes.
"I-I'm sorry, Hina. I love you, but... I think your love and my love are different. I love you like a dear friend... I love you like I would love my own little sister... But... I don't think I feel the kind of love that you do."
"... O-Oh." Yuna felt Hina's grip on her back weaken, and then disappear completely when the two of them separated. An aura that emanated a feeling more stiff and suffocating than anything Yuna had ever felt in her entire life had suddenly entered the room, and neither of the two girls could bear to meet the other's gaze. After a few moments of painful silence, Yuna spoke up.
"I'm... I'm sorry, Hina. I made you wait all that time, and I ended up letting you down..."
In response, Hina shook her head. "Mm-mm. It's alright, Yuna-nee. I'm..." Hina let out a light sigh. That was a bad sign. Hina never sighed. "I'm glad you were honest." A hundred sharp, pointy arrows poked into Yuna's heart from all directions; or, at least, that's what it felt like. While Hina claimed it was alright, her sadness was clear as day in her voice simply due to how unnatural it sounded in Yuna's ears. Hina's emotional range doesn't extend much beyond stoicism or brief amounts of excitement; in fact, this may have been the first time in Yuna's life she had ever heard Hina genuinely sad... and it was all her fault.
Yuna's eyes darted around the room, although they were careful to not look over at Hina, and she looked carefully, desperately, for anything to make the situation even a little less painful for the both of them. "H-Hey, Hina..." Her eyes stopped on the kitchen counter. Sure, they had just gotten done eating, but Yuna's experience told her Hina's stomach may be related to a black hole in how boundless it is. "Do you want me to cook you something? Maybe... some onigiri?" Hina shook her head again.
"Mm-mm. I think I'm full, Yuna-nee..." Another bad sign. Hina was never full. The microscopic archers in Yuna's body drove more and more holes through her heart, and it was becoming hard to breath. Just as it felt like she was about to burst into a flood of tears, Hina turned around and walked towards the door. "I'm gonna go for a run. I'll be back later, Yuna-nee."
"O-Oh, okay. Stay safe, okay...?" The only response Yuna got was a light mm as Hina put on her shoes and waved her hand in the air slightly. By the time she walked out of the house and closed the door, tears had begun to openly flow from Yuna's eyes; fortunately, Hina never turned around to see.
When Yuna heard the click of the door shutting, she collapsed. Her wobbly legs were no longer strong enough to hold the weight of her body, and she ended up slumped against the wall, her head in her knees.
Yuna's mind was currently a jumbled mess, but one thought rang clear through; she wasn't the one who deserved to be crying right now. She wasn't the one who just had her feelings rejected. She wasn't the one who waited so long for some kind of response, only to receive the most disappointing answer possible. And she definitely wasn't the one who deserved to be curled up on the floor, wallowing in her own misery. But yet, here she was.
It wasn't as if Yuna was scared her friendship with Hina was over. Hina wasn't that kind of girl, Yuna knew that for a fact. But what she was scared of was her actions causing an irreparable hole in their relationship. The idea that the two of them would slowly drift apart, their friendship deteriorating to the point where their only interactions were Yuna cooking her meals and then sending her off on her merry way, tore at Yuna's heart until she just couldn't bear it anymore. If she had just told Hina the truth on the last day of the school festival, maybe things wouldn't have gotten to this point. But her own indecisiveness had gotten her into this mess, and she couldn't help but hate herself for it.
But it was far too late to go back now, and worse yet, Yuna knew her long rollercoaster of emotions wasn't over. Her decision of what to say to Hina wasn't one that came lightly; Ano's method was effective, but even with it, she still laid awake in bed long into the night, thinking about how she truly felt. As her worries and anxieties broke away, she realized something that even she was surprised by.
Yuna realized her heart had been stolen, not by Hina, but by another.
It had been a week. Well, technically not a week; it had only been five days, after all. But it had been a school week, right? In the working world, five days is technically a week, and school is supposed to help you prepare for the working world, so...
Here Yuna was again, arguing uselessly with herself about semantics to distract herself from reality. The growing sadness and pain within both her mind and her heart had only grown larger, and it had become even harder for her to concentrate on something for a long period of time. That awkward air that emanated from her had only grown thicker, and nobody, not the kindred spirits, not Ano, not Hina, could get a word through to her that wasn't either shrugged off or given a vague response.
She really was a pathetic person, wasn't she?
To most people, Yuna's behavior probably wouldn't seem much different to how it had been lately, and in fact, the aforementioned four seemed to be the only ones who had seen any real difference. Hina had the most obvious way of knowing, but Yuna cursed how damn perceptive the other three were; even if they weren't letting it on easily, they knew something was up, and all three of them had been bugging her about it since school started back up on Monday.
It was on this day, the 26th of October, no different than any other Friday, when the air was windy and humid and the leaves on the tree planted to commemorate Sachi's death had begun to change color, that one of them actually managed to break through.
Yuna had followed her daily routine up until that point; wake up, awkwardly make breakfast and lunch with Hina without saying a word to one another, go to school, attend class, and shrug off anything and everything Ano says to her. It was when she had gone up to the roof of the Hoshikan building that her daily routine was broken by an unexpected event.
The first surprise came when Yuna exited the stairs; Sachi was alone, a rare sight considering how much it seemed to pain Megumi to not be by her side at all times. In fact, it didn’t seem like anybody else, living or dead, was around; it was just Yuna and Sachi on the roof, quite a rare phenomenon. Sachi was staring over the guardrail, an arbitrary action being that she could just walk through the rail and float in mid-air, although Yuna guessed that the natural human instinct of not going past guard rails would remain ingrained in a ghost, even after all these years. When Yuna approached the bench, Sachi turned to greet her, a smile on her face as usual.
"Good afternoon, Yuna-san."
"Hey, Sachi-san." Yuna would've normally have returned her 'good afternoon', but she wasn't exactly in the mood for formals greetings, so 'hey' would have to suffice. "Where's Megumi at?" Yuna's curiosity got the best of her, and while she was glad to finally have a moment where Megumi wasn't giving her condescending looks, she still felt compelled to ask.
"Ah, she went to spy on Youka-san and Aki-san. I believe she said something like... 'Spying on those two is way more fun than hanging around with that mopey Yuna!' She should be back after you finish lunch." Megumi's words stung a bit, but Yuna didn't let it show. Frankly, she had become used to that vitriol of hers, but Yuna wasn't so ice cold that it didn't still hurt a little.
As Yuna began to dig into the lunch she had made, Sachi spoke up again. "Yuna-san, what's been on your mind?" Yuna sighed. Sachi had seen through her like a book, as expected.
“It’s nothing, really. I’m fine.” That was a lie, of course.
“It doesn’t seem like nothing. It’s as if…” Sachi paused, apparently trying to think about how to word this. “A weight has been lifted from your shoulders, only to be replaced with one twice as heavy. Or so, that’s what your heart is telling me.” Yuna set down her lunch on the bench. There was no escaping from Sachi and her weird ghost feelings detection stuff, was there?
“… And?” That response shocked Sachi, and she floundered for a moment, unable to come up with an on-the-spot response. “Just because you know something is wrong doesn’t mean I’m under any obligation to tell you anything.” While Yuna’s words were cold and clearly meant to divert the topic, her body betrayed her, and she hung her heard, unable to meet Sachi’s gaze after what she said.
“… You may be right, Yuna-san, but… I don’t believe that’s what you want. You should know better than anybody that keeping your feelings bottled up will only make things worse.” Sachi walked over and sat down on the bench next to Yuna (another arbitrary gesture, considering she could just float over), putting her hands in her lap and focusing her gaze on Yuna. “You’re afraid of something, aren’t you?” Yuna didn’t speak, but her body betrayed her once again, and she nodded ever so slightly. “It’s alright. Remember, Megumi and I are here for you.”
Yuna attempted to gulp down the lump in her throat, although it only ended up causing a slight bit of discomfort. It looks like Sachi wasn’t giving up. If Yuna were being honest, she would admit she knew Sachi was completely right; keeping things bottled up was only making things harder for her. She was afraid, anybody would be in her situation, but… if anybody knew how to help in a situation like this, it was Sachi. And even if she didn’t, it’s not exactly as if she could share Yuna’s secret…
Yuna took a deep breath, likely the first of many in this conversation. “Promise me you won’t tell Megumi, okay?”
“Okay. I promise.”
“Alright…” Another deep breath. This wasn’t going to be easy. “So I… I told Hina the truth. I told her how I honestly felt about her… that I love her, but…” Yuna felt the tears welling up again. Dammit. “But I can’t return her love. I can’t love Hina in the way she loves me.” Yuna raised her hands up to cover her face, if only to prevent Sachi from seeing her in such a pathetic state.
“… But that’s not all, is it?” Yuna shook her head. Of course it wasn’t that simple.
“The way I found my response to Hina… Ano told me how. Remove all the outlying problems, and focus only on my own feelings… that’s what lead me to my answer.” Yuna paused. Deep breaths, she reminded herself. “But… it led me to something else too. Something I didn’t expect.”
“What was it?”
“Well…” Yuna raised her head. She wasn’t freely sobbing as she had expected to be by this point, but her distress was clear. “You know how it feels to be in love with someone, right? Your heart rate increases just from being near them, your breath hitches when they look your way, and your mind just goes completely blank when they show you even the littlest bit of affection…” Yuna turned her head to Sachi, and she nodded. Those were feelings she and Yuna had become very familiar with at this point, after all. Yuna returned her gaze towards the horizon, staring at nothing.
“The more I thought about it, the more I realized… there’s somebody who makes me feel like that. Not Hina, but someone else. Put simply…” One last deep breath. This was it. The moment when the truth came out. “I think I’m in love.”
The roof went silent. The sounds of birds, the wind, and rustling leaves that had been ever-present beforehand had suddenly disappeared, and for a few seconds that felt more like hours to Yuna, there was nothing. When she turned to look at Sachi, to Yuna’s shock, she didn’t seem surprised in the least bit; in fact, she seemed happy.
“Yuna-san… You have no idea how good it feels to hear you be honest with yourself again.” Yuna felt a slight blush coming on from the embarrassment. The way Sachi worded that, she’d almost think that she knew how Yuna really felt the whole time, and was just waiting for her to tell Sachi herself…
“Well, yeah, I’m sure it’s great, but…” Yuna put her elbow on her lap, and rested her head in her open palm. “What am I supposed to do? The friendship I had with Hina is effectively over… and if I was honest with that person, who’s to say that wouldn’t be the end of that friendship too?”
“Yuna-san…” Sachi placed her hand on Yuna’s shoulder. A symbolic gesture more than anything else, really. “Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps you’ll never be able to quite go back to the friendship you used to have with Hina-chan. Perhaps your true feelings could drive a wedge in one of your most precious friendships… But… Think about all the girls we’ve helped. Maki-chan, Sasa-san, Kiri-san, Youka-san, they all had those pent-up feelings in their hearts, but thanks to us, their feelings came to fruition, and now… they’re happy. Don’t you want a story like theirs, Yuna-san? A story with a happy ending?”
Yuna felt a few tears roll down her cheeks. “Y-Yeah…”
“Happy endings don’t just pop up from under you, Yuna-san. You have to work for them. ‘Grab the bull by the horns’, I believe is the saying. And I believe the first step towards your happy ending… towards rekindling your friendship with Hina, towards satisfying those feelings trapped inside your heart… is by being honest with that person. And no matter what happens, myself, Megumi, Hina, every girl we’ve helped… We’re here for you. All of us.”
Yuna wiped the tears from her eyes. “… Sachi-san.”
“Hmm?” Sachi’s arm was suddenly floating in mid-air as Yuna’s body rose from its spot on the bench, Yuna gripping her half-eaten lunch.
“… Thank you. I’ll be back later, okay? I need to get cleaned up before class starts…”
The already present smile on Sachi’s face only grew larger. “Of course. I’ll be waiting, Yuna-san.” Sachi waved at Yuna as she hurried towards the stairs, keeping her head down to try to minimize the chances that anybody would see she’s been crying.
It was about ten minutes later, only a few minutes before class started, that Yuna managed to get back. Her eyes weren’t entirely back to normal, but she could only hope that nobody would notice. When she sat down, Ano suddenly turned towards her from the girl she was apparently having a conversation with, and when she saw Yuna, a shocked expression entered her face.
“Yuna! I almost thought you wouldn’t make it!” Ano threw her hands up in an exaggerated expression of surprise. Yuna had never thought about it much, but she realized she really liked it when Ano made exaggerated expressions. It was cute. (But now’s the wrong time to be thinking about that…)
“U-Uh, don’t worry, I just had some stuff I needed to do.” ‘Stuff’ being talking to a dead person, but… “Hey, Ano, can I ask a favor out of you?” Ano froze for a second before lowering her arms and smiling, answering Yuna’s prompt almost immediately after she processed it.
“Of course! As long as it has nothing to do with monkeys, alright? I’m still traumatized from last time…” Yuna almost wanted to ask, but she staved off her curiosity.
“Could you… meet me on the roof after school? There’s something I’ve got to talk to you about.”
Ano’s response came so quickly that Yuna was slightly taken aback. “Yeah, of course!” As Yuna tried to slow down her heart rate, which had suddenly spiked to the surprise of Ano’s quick response, Ano thought for a moment. A slight blush entered her face, and she leaned towards Yuna, speaking in a whisper. (It was really hard for Yuna to not do or say something suspicious when Ano was leaning this close to her.) “I-Is this about… you know…?”
“Uh, well, sort of… But you’re not forgetting anything, right? If there’s something you need to do, we can always do this another day…” Ano backed up, and Yuna let out a small sigh of relief. (She hoped Ano didn’t notice.)
“Well, maybe I am, maybe I’m not~ But if it means helping you, Ano-sama would be willing to conveniently forget anything, Yuna!” Ano’s prior embarrassment had suddenly been replaced by confidence, although her slight blush was still present, and she winked at Yuna. Suddenly, Yuna did something that seemed very un-Yuna-like; she lowered her head towards her books, her hair preventing Ano from clearly seeing her expression, and she began to get ready to take notes, not even uttering a ‘thank you’. Before Ano could question it, the teacher began to speak up, and class had begun.
Little did Ano know that that was the only way Yuna could cover her growing blush.
When the long wait for classes to be over had ended, Yuna hurriedly gathered her things and walked off towards the roof, not even bothering to say a word to Ano. How rude, Ano thought! She could at least act a bit appreciative! At the same time, however, Ano knew that whatever was bugging Yuna was clearly eating at her pretty heavily, so it wasn’t exactly as if she could blame her for being weird… but she could say thanks, at least!
Ano grabbed her own things (or at least, the things she remembered to grab), and made her way towards the roof herself. By the time she got out of the classroom, she had lost sight of Yuna. She was in a pretty big rush, huh? Probably wanted to get this over with as soon as possible. Ano couldn’t blame her much for that either.
By the time Ano had made it to the roof, Yuna was standing in the middle of it, body turned away from the stairs. Ano noted that Yuna was apparently the only one on the roof today; seems like nobody else had bothered to stick around after school ended. She couldn’t even sense the presence of the ghosts; it really was just the two of them, wasn’t it? She’d almost call it ominous!
“Hey, Yuna!” Ano called out to her as she approached, her arm waving in the air. “Slow down a bit next time, won’t ya?”
“U-Uh, yeah. Sorry.” Yuna turned her body towards Ano, and for the first time since before she had invited to Ano to the roof, returned her gaze. Ano noted something off about her expression; it was strangely dour. Almost as if Yuna was worried there wouldn’t be a next time. (Of course, as long as Ano could help it, there would be.)
“So, what’s up?” When Ano got close, she let that question loose. The closer she got, the more she noted how strange Yuna was acting; she was clutching her bag close, almost as if bracing for something, and she was blushing, even though it was kinda chilly outside. Something must have her pretty flustered, she thought.
“W-Well, um…” Yuna brought her hand up to her face, covering her mouth. “Listen, Ano… I’m just gonna cut to the chase. I… I-I… I think…” Yuna paused, letting her arm down and taking a deep breath. I think? I think what? In the brief moment before Yuna began to speak again, Ano thought about what she was about to say. I think your hair is stupid? (How rude!) I think video games aren’t actually that great? (Unthinkable!) I think Kirino is best girl? (Blasphemy!) Every single one of the infinite possibilities ran through Ano’s mind at once-
“I think I’m in love with you.”
Well, all of them, except for that one.
Ano’s entire body suddenly froze as if she had just fallen in water in an ice level in a PS2 game, and anything and everything she wanted to say in that moment got caught somewhere in her throat before it could come out her mouth. Yuna was in love? With her? Is this what they call… a yuri development?! Ano knew everything about yuri, of course! She had read every chapter of Sakura Trick, and played every Kiss for the Petals game! At this point, she was practically an expert! But… she didn’t know anything about 3D!
While Ano stood there completely frozen, her face now red as a tomato and her mind a rattled mess, Yuna began to talk. “I-It’s okay if you don’t know what to say… but I needed to be honest with you. I thought a lot about what you said, Ano-“
Yuna was suddenly caught off guard when Ano started yelling. “Yuna! Could you pinch me?!”
“H-Huh? What for…?” Ano realized that was a weird thing to say after a love confession, but she pressed on.
“I must’ve fallen asleep during class, or something! There’s no way this isn’t a dream, right?!” Even Ano didn’t really believe something that outlandish, but her mind was willing to believe anything besides what was right in front of her.
“U-Uh, no, Ano… this is real. I’m really confessing to y-“ Yuna was suddenly cut off a second time.
“O-Okay, so, maybe this is real! T-Then…” Ano closed her eyes and put a finger on her forehead, and she thought hard for any other explanation. “Aha! You’re playing hard to get with Hina, right? You want to pretend to be going out with me to make her jealous so that she’ll fight me for your love, right?! So that she can prove she really loves you!” Ano reopened her eyes, nodded her head and smirked, although her wild blush betrayed her attempt to look confident. “Very clever and devious, Yuna! But I guess all’s fair in love and war, so I’ll help you! Just be gentle with me, okay?!”
“Ano, that doesn’t make any sense. Just listen to me-“
“Okay, okay, so maybe it doesn’t! Then, uh, then maybe…” Ano snapped her fingers. “Then maybe this is a part of some hidden camera prank thing! It’s gotta be! Confessing your love to a poor girl to make her freak out… people will eat that up!” Ano threw her hands up and closed her eyes, making an exaggerated ‘you got me’ expression. “You got me good, Yuna! Just make sure to send me the video when it goes viral, alrigh-“ It was Ano’s turn to be interrupted when Yuna suddenly grabbed her arms and forced them downward. When Ano opened her eyes, she suddenly found she was face-to-face with Yuna, their bodies now much closer than they were only a few seconds prior.
“Ano. Listen to me. This isn’t a prank or anything, alright? Just let me tell you how I feel.” While Yuna was blushing, her words were determined, and after a brief moment of silence, Ano gulped down that lump in her throat and slowly nodded, indicating she was finally ready to hear Yuna out. Yuna sighed. Looks like this wasn’t gonna be easy for her. “I thought a lot about what you said. About how to get my answer for Hina. The conclusion I came to… Well, I’m sure this kind of tells you already. I’ll always cherish Hina’s friendship, but I can’t return her love. That’s what I realized.” Yuna paused for a moment, giving Ano time to comprehend what she said. Ano had known something happened between Yuna and Hina that prevented them from becoming lovebirds, but a straight-up rejection was one of the last things she expected. Yuna continued.
“But… Even after I came to that conclusion, I couldn’t stop thinking. I thought about what happened earlier, and… I thought about you. I thought about how you were always there for me, and about how you’re one of the best friends I could’ve asked for… and then, I thought about our conversation. For some reason, when I thought of your blushing face, my heart started going crazy, and I couldn’t force the image of you out of my head… and I guess that’s when it clicked.” Yuna released Ano’s hands and looked her straight in the eye. Her entire body was emanating an aura of determination. “Ano, I love you.”
Ano tried to talk, but all that came out of her mouth was unintelligible blubbering. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t been confessed to before, but… most people who confess to her are just creepy stalker guys, not people she actually likes. And… now that she thought about it, she liked Yuna a lot. Her cute, reliable, dependable friend, who was apparently also quite a lady-killer based on her recent track record. But… geez, this was all so sudden! Ano didn’t have time to think about it! No… now was the time for action, not things like thinking or talking! (Not like her brain would let her talk in her current state, anyways.)
“U-Um… It’s okay if you don’t have an answer right away. If you need time to think about it, I’ll wait as long as it takes. I just hope we can stay friends, no matter what happe-“ Yuna was suddenly cut off yet again, but this time, not by words. She was cut off by the sudden feeling of somebody’s soft lips colliding into hers. Yuna instinctively closed her eyes. The kiss was short, chaste, and completely unexpected; quite a ways away from how Yuna expected her first kiss to be. When the feeling of another girl’s lips on her own disappeared, Yuna slowly opened her eyes and found Ano standing directly in front of her, quivering, blubbering, and her face so red it looked like it might explode at any minute.
“U-U-U-Um… I-I’m really sorry, Yuna! I-It’s just, y-you were so cool just then, being honest with your feelings and everything, a-and your face was so close to mine, and…” Ano waved her hands around in all directions, both her body and her mind completely unable to settle down, but she found herself frozen in place again when she caught a glimpse of Yuna’s face and realized something. Yuna was crying. Because of her. “O-Oh man, Yuna, I’m so sorry! Just slap me! Punch me! I deserve it!” Ano closed her eyes and turned her cheek towards Yuna, preparing for the inevitable.
But what Ano got wasn’t a punch to the face or the gut; rather, what she got was the sound of Yuna laughing. She was laughing? While she was crying? Ano’s curiosity got the best of her, and reopened her eyes, turning her head towards Yuna. To her surprise, Yuna wasn’t just laughing; she was smiling.
“A-Ano…” Yuna wiped away at the tears on her face. “Sorry, I was just surprised…” She laughed again, the smile on her face growing wider. “I’m really happy, though.” Yuna reached her arms out and pulled the dethawing Ano into an embrace, wrapping her arms around her back and resting her head on her shoulder. “Ano, I love you.”
Ano’s arms fell uselessly by her side, before ultimately she chose to return Yuna’s gesture, wrapping her arms around her (girl?)friend’s back. “U-Um, Yuna… I don’t really understand love, but… My heart’s going crazy… The hair on my neck is standing up… And it feels like there are butterflies in my stomach… That’s all part of being in love, right?”
Yuna nodded. “Mm-hm.”
“Then… I don’t need to think about it. I don’t need to make you wait for my answer.” Ano tightened her grip, pulling both of them further into the hug. “Yuna… I love you.” Yuna could feel chills throughout her entire body when Ano’s words entered her ear. It was like a dream; something that was simply too good to be true. And yet, it was happening, right here, right now.
While they remained in each other’s grasp, both Ano and Yuna backed their heads up to look at each other’s faces once again, staring deeply into each other’s eyes. Their faces were both red as a beet, and they were both smiling. Yuna pulled Ano (or was it Ano pulling Yuna?) into another kiss, a significantly more romantic one. After a few seconds, they separated, and their smiles had only grown larger.
Their mutual gazes were broken when Yuna suddenly looked to the side, as if she had suddenly heard something that startled her. When Ano turned her head to see what she was looking at, she found that the two ghosts had appeared on the roof at some point, apparently infiltrating their privacy. Ano suddenly got embarrassed, unaware of how much of that display the two of them saw, and she couldn’t have been aware of the fact that what Yuna was about to ask of her was going to make her embarrassment a whole lot worse.
“H-Hey, Ano… Now that we’re… dating… there’s something I need to ask out of you…"