The members of Nanamori Middle School's Amusement Club all sat around the table inside their clubroom, three of them watching as their club president was in the midst of telling a story. Akari, Chinatsu and Yui all had slight looks of concern on their faces as Kyouko continued talking about her most recent trip to Akihabara, the otaku holyland of Japan. This wasn't an uncommon thing for the club. Kyouko always tended to be the one to start up conversations or story sharing sessions that ranged from normal to downright weird. Today's story fell somewhere between the two.
"Yep! By the time I finished raiding all the shops I ended up carrying around like seven or eight shopping bags filled with Mirakurun stuff! It was awesome!"
"I'm more surprised that you had enough money on you for that much stuff..." Yui chimed in. She and the others had been spending most of the time just listening to what Kyouko had to say.
"I surprised myself! Though I kinda ended up spending the train fare I needed to get back, too. Heheh."
"Heh? B-But if Kyouko-chan spent her fare then how did she get back home...?" Akari tilted her head in confusion.
"Simple; I walked!"
"ALL THAT WAY?!"
"Yep! My legs felt like pillars of jello when I got home and I had to spend the next day in bed because of it but it was totally worth it!"
Kyouko looked extremely proud of herself about having completed such a feat. Her friends were also impressed, but for all the wrong reasons. Yui sighed heavily, pinching the bridge of her nose with her thumb and index finger. Kyouko may be her best friend, but sometimes her way of thinking tends to lead to moments of rashness.
"Let me know the next time you go to Akiba. That way I can make sure you never do anything like that again..."
"What's the big deal? Walking's good for you! Besides, now my legs feel like they're made of steel!" Kyouko got up and started to flex her legs to prove her point.
"Even steel has its limits."
Kyouko grinned regardless. To her, she was living life to the fullest. Yui obviously didn't share her opinion. Akari giggled awkwardly, a few beads of sweat rolling down her face. There had yet to be a single moment where anything Kyouko said or did didn't surprise her in some way. Chinatsu, being the least impressed of all, simply sighed deeply and shook her head.
"Jeez, senpai. I swear sometimes I just have no clue what goes through your-...Ah!" Chinatsu stopped herself as soon as she noticed the time. Yui tilted her head.
"Chinatsu-chan? What's the matter?"
"I forgot I told my sister I'd be home early today! She wanted me to help her practice for a tea ceremony she'll be a part of in a couple of days..."
Chinatsu quickly got up and made her way to where the girls all kept their bags, picking hers up and slinging it over her shoulder.
"Sorry for leaving so suddenly, but I really should go."
"Ah, Chinatsu-chan! Akari will walk you home!" Akari did exactly as Chinatsu, rushing over to grab her bag as well. Chinatsu blushed slightly.
"Heh?! Y-You don't have to trouble yourself, Akari-chan! R-Really...!"
Akari smiled and shook her head. "It's no trouble at all! Besides, Akari wants to make sure she treats you right. That's what a good girlfriend should do, after all."
Chinatsu blushed even more. Even though she and Akari had been a couple for a few weeks now she was still getting used to everything. Fantasizing about a romantic relationship was so much more different than actually being in one. Akari really did make her feel like a princess in her own special way.
"Nnn...B-But if you do this then you'll be leaving Yui-senpai and Kyouko-senpai alone here..." Yui smiled as she watched her pink-haired friend fidget a bit. Chinatsu and Akari made a surprisingly cute couple.
"Don't worry about us. If we get bored then we can just go to my place. You two go on ahead."
"B-But-...Okay. If you're sure..." Chinatsu took the chance to take Akari's hand once she had readied herself, squeezing it tightly. Akari couldn't help but blush happily. Her aura felt almost as bright as the sun itself. As the two girls made their way to the door, Yui and Kyouko waved them off from the table.
"See you both tomorrow."
"Have a safe triiip."
As they exited the room Yui and Kyouko couldn't help but eavesdrop on them just a tiny bit more. Akari sounded like she was giggling to herself.
"The way you were all flustered back there made you look really cute...China-chan."
"M-Mou, don't call me that where Kyouko-senpai can still hear!...You're the only one who can use that nickname, got it?"
"Ehe, sorry. Akari almost forgot."
Before long the last thing they heard was the door to the front of the clubhouse shutting. Yui leaned back and sighed. Watching her friends act this way was kind of sweet.
"Seeing those two interact nowadays always makes me smile." Kyouko leaned onto the table, looking a bit uninterested.
"They both kinda changed a bit, too."
"Eh? How do you mean?"
"Well Chinatsu-chan hasn't really been clinging all over you lately, has she?"
"Well now that you mention it..." Yui rubbed her right arm. Without Chinatsu constantly fused to it, it didn't feel as strained or sore as it used to. She was pretty thankful for that.
"And as for Akari it's like her presence level is slowly increasing...It's almost unnatural, if you ask me." Kyouko shuddered and gave a surprisingly concerned look. Yui sighed. She knew Kyouko was just poking fun.
"No one asked you. Let's just be happy for them, alright?"
"I am! I'm still just surprised that they hooked up with each other."
"Well it's like that old saying goes:..." Yui leaned onto the table as well and rested her cheek on her hand, gazing through the sliding doors at the small pond outside the clubroom.
"...'Love can be found in the most unlikeliest of places.'"
As Yui and Kyouko continued lazing, two of their classmates and friends were hard at work sorting stacks of handout sheets they had collected earlier in the school day. As members of Nanamori's Student Council, they made sure to work swiftly and efficiently. Chitose hummed happily to herself as she neatly completed one stack of handouts. Ayano was busy working on two stacks at once, her eyes looking sharp and focused as she made sure she didn't make a single mistake. The main table of the Student Council room was covered in paper piles already, so while Chitose took the furthest empty corner Ayano did her work at the president's desk.
"Ayano-chan, this stack is done. Which pile should I put them with?"
"Huh? Oh, just put them with the ones over here by me. Thanks, Chitose." Ayano didn't bother looking up. The school day had ended a while ago and she wanted to head home, but she also didn't want to leave any work out of fear of it piling up. She figured if she stood focused enough that everything would get done even quicker. Chitose glanced around the table as she moved her stack over to where she was told.
"My my. So much work to do at the end of the day..."
"Comes with being part of the Student Council. Can't be helped, I suppose..."
Chitose smiled in her own carefree way. "Ehehe. I guess it didn't help that writing your confession letter to Toshino-san took up your lunch period too, right?"
Ayano froze and turned a deep shade of red. Busted.
"Wha-...B-Bu-...H-How do you know about that?!"
Chitose couldn't help but giggle at her friend's sudden attitude shift. Ayano was always the easily-flustered type, especially when it came to the subject of her biggest crush.
"I came to the Student Council room during lunch to see if I could help, but when I peeked inside I saw you practicing what you wanted your letter to say instead."
Chitose thought back to earlier in the day, watching as Ayano paced back and forth as she tried to come up with the right words to express her feelings. Her eyes darting back and forth across the floor, her hands clamped together tightly as her thumbs twiddled nervously and a light blush staining her cheeks. Chitose put a finger to her cheek and tilted her head.
"If you ask me, describing Toshino-san as a 'Buckingham Beauty' sounds a lot better than a 'Bolivian Beauty'-" Before Chitose could finish she was quickly met face-first with a rather large textbook, causing her to tumble backwards. When Ayano became embarrassed, she had a bad habit of hitting Chitose with anything she had on hand. In this case her math book was more than enough to do the trick.
"N-N-N-NO ONE'S SUPPOSED TO KNOW ABOUT THAT!"
Chitose soon picked herself up and dusted herself off. Neither she nor Ayano paid any mind to the red mark the textbook left on her forehead. Her usual smile quickly returned to her face.
"Don't worry, Ayano-chan. You know you can trust me. Besides, I think this plan is probably your most straight-forward yet!...Actually, I wonder why you've never tried it before..."
"B-Because of just that!" Ayano quickly turned around to hide her crimson face. She started to play with her fingers, trying to distract herself a bit.
"It's too straight forward! I would have died of embarrassment if I gave this to her before!...But with how things have been going so far..."
"My my...Definitely a last resort if I've ever seen one."
"I-It's not like I have a choice! You know how dense Toshino Kyouko can be whenever I try to convey my feelings to her!"
"To be fair, you do give off mixed signals..." Ayano shot Chitose a dirty look. Comments like that didn't exactly help her situation. Chitose simply glanced to the side, trying to act as innocent as possible. It not like what she pointed out wasn't true.
"Besides, the letter itself is the least of my problems. I want to give it to her in private, but she's always with her friends! It makes it almost impossible!"
Both girls concentrated. Trying to catch Kyouko by herself was no easy feat. If she wasn't hanging around with the rest of the Amusement Club, she was usually always with Yui. It was surprisingly rare to see Kyouko doing anything solo. There just had to be something that would allow her and Ayano to be together without any interruptions. That's when Chitose finally thought of something.
"Cleaning duty! If you were both assigned to be on cleaning duty after class, then you'd have the perfect chance to to be alone with Toshino-san, right?...You and her...together in an empty classroom...Ah!"
Chitose swiftly reached up and removed her glasses, a determined smirk appearing on her face. Her glasses served a dual purpose; Besides helping her sight they also acted as a shield to keep her delusions from running wild. When it came to Ayano and Kyouko, however, a quick trip to fantasyland every once in a while didn't hurt. Chitose's mind quickly conjured up the scene in question, a vision of their empty classroom bathed in orange sunlight coming into focus. Kyouko was hovering over a shy-looking Ayano who was blushing lightly. She had been backed into one of the desks as Kyouko's hand gently brushed against her cheek before slowing reaching down and beginning to undo her uniform. Kyouko smiled seductively.
"M-Mou, Toshino Kyouko...You're so bold...W-What if someone comes in and sees us like this...?"
Kyouko placed her finger on Ayano's lips to silence her briefly.
"Everyone's already gone for the day, my little Ayanyan. It's just you, me and our burning, passionate love for each other." Kyouko caressed Ayano's cheek as the ponytailed girl responded with a small but cute yelp. Their faces grew close as they were about to kiss, but before Chitose knew it she had reached her limit just as their lips were about to make contact. A spurting fountain of blood erupted from her nose, forcing her head to tilt back. The delusional girl cried out in almost orgasmic-sounding joy, her eyes sparkling brightly as she slowly returned to reality.
"Kyahaaah! So romantic!"
Ayano hadn't been paying attention to her friend's little moment. Instead she had been focusing on her suggestion: Cleaning duty. Chitose had a point. If she and Kyouko were assigned cleaning duty, she'd be able to stall her with extra tasks long enough for the two of them to be left alone together. Then Kyouko'd be all hers without any distractions to get in her way.
"Cleaning duty...That's...That's perfect! Absolutely perfect! Chitose, you're a genius!"
Ayano returned her attention to Chitose, who had put her glasses back on and was just putting a stop to her nosebleed with a tissue. The light-haired girl quickly composed herself once she heard the compliment, rubbing the back of her head in embarrassment.
"E-Eheh. I'm glad to be of service." Ayano clenched her fist in determination. This was a foolproof plan. The elusive streak of Toshino Kyouko was finally nearing its end.
"I'll have her right where I want her! Then I can finally tell her everything I've always wanted to! Mmm, I'll go to the faculty office right now and see if I can get everything set up for tomorrow." With that, Ayano quickly made her way out the door and into the hall. She quickly turned to Chitose with a bright smile before dashing off. "Wish me luck!"
Chitose poked out from the door way to wave her off, smiling warmly. Seeing Ayano in a cheerful mood always made her feel warm inside.
"I'll be rooting for you, Ayano-chan."
Ayano's booming voice rang throughout the classroom, causing most of her classmates to look over to see what all the commotion was about. The end of the school day was upon them and everyone was packing up to either go home or to attend afterschool activities. Kyouko had just finished packing up her stuff when Ayano approached her.
"Just where do you think you're going, huh?!"
"Eh? Where? To the Amusement Club, like always. C'mon Ayano, you should know that by now."
"Oh no you don't! Unless you've already forgotten, you and I are on cleaning duty today and I am NOT gonna be stuck here cleaning an entire classroom all by myself!"
Kyouko pouted and flopped forward onto her desk. Everything coming out of Ayano's mouth sounded dull and she didn't want to do chores right after having to suffer through school. She wanted to go drink tea, laze around and read manga with her friends.
"But cleaning duty is so booooriiiing..." Kyouko whined. A small vein started throbbing in Ayano's forehead. For a second year middle school student, Kyouko acted a lot more like a grade schooler.
"Cleanliness sets a good example for the underclassmen, you know. Honestly, you need to learn to take responsibility once in a while!" Ayano crossed her arms in a huff to prove her point. Kyouko sighed. With Ayano currently breathing down her neck she didn't exactly have a say in the matter, though even if she did refuse she'd be leaving her friend with a ton of work. Not exactly a nice thing to do.
"Alright alright, I'll help out...S'not like I really have a choice anyway."
"Hmph. That's more like it!" While her face remained stern, inside Ayano was smiling from ear to ear. Everything was going according to plan. All she needed to do now was let a bit of time pass by and then she'll finally have her chance to tell Kyouko how much she loved-
"Hey, if you two are the only ones on cleaning duty today than I don't mind staying and helping out, too."
Ayano paled slightly. In her rush to get Kyouko she forgot one thing; Yui was also in the same class as them. She and Kyouko had been chatting while the latter was packing her bag. Ayano was so focused on her goal that she didn't even notice her. Of all the snags to get caught on this had to be one of the worst. As she continued her internal panic, Kyouko and Yui chatted normally.
"Eh? But what about Akari and Chinatsu-chan?"
"If it's the three of us working then it shouldn't take all that long. Besides, it'll give the two of them some alone time before we get there."
"F-Funami-san, you really don't have to trouble yourself here. B-Besides, it wouldn't be fair to ask you to stay all of a sudden, right?" Ayano tried her best not to sound flustered, but she still managed to stutter some. Maybe trying to assure Yui that her assistance wouldn't be needed will be enough to get her to leave. Yui, however, smiled and waved her hand dismissively.
"Don't worry, it's cool. Besides..." Yui pointed over her shoulder at Kyouko. "If I leave this one here as your only helper, chances are she'll still end up slacking off anyway."
"'This one'? Hey, you're talking about me, aren't you?!" This time it was Kyouko crossing her arms in a huff, puffing out her cheeks in a childish yet cute pout. Yui paid no mind, chuckling to herself.
"I-I see...Uh...I-In that case, thank you for your sacrifice..." As Ayano turned around to get the supplies from one of the closets in the back of the classroom, she couldn't help but clench her fist and grit her teeth. She only completed the first and easiest step of her plan and already things had gotten difficult. Her mind buzzed in annoyance as she tried to formulate a new plan.
Chitose had been peeking through the slightly cracked sliding door at the front of the class the entire time, deciding to let Ayano handle things herself this time. She sighed slightly at the situation. This was an unexpected twist for her, as well.
"My my...It seems things are going to become a bit more complicated than I thought..."
"Ngh, how am I supposed to give Toshino Kyouko my confession letter with Funami-san here!?" Ayano had been grumbling to herself ever since she started cleaning, the sounds of her wiping down the blackboard drowning most of it out. She had been trying to think of a quick way to get Yui to leave the room just long enough for her to complete her mission. While she busied herself searching for a solution, Kyouko and Yui busied themselves with their own tasks. Kyouko was quickly growing bored of sweeping up and down the rows of desks.
"Guuuh, this is taking longer than I thought!" She lazily propped herself up using the broom for support. "I bet Akari is already enjoying a cup...no, TWO cups of Chinatsu-chan's tea by now! Before me, even!"
Yui didn't bother looking up from the desk she was wiping down when she replied.
"Akari's her girlfriend now, so it's only natural anyway. Just be patient, focus on finishing your work and you'll get your tea soon, alright?"
"Fiiine..." Kyouko pouted and sighed before going back to sweeping, hoping to get away with sweeping the same spot for a bit. Before everyone went back to focusing on their work though, Ayano walked up to the two. Yui and Kyouko's conversation was enough to distract her from her planning. She looked curious.
"Are Akaza-san and Yoshikawa-san going out or something?" She tilted her head slightly, wondering if she heard right. Yui answered, once again focusing more on what she was doing than what she was saying.
"Yeah, they've been a couple for a little over two weeks now..." Yui suddenly lifted her head to look at Ayano, a slight blush of embarrassment visible on her face accompanied by a nervous chuckle. She probably should have asked Akari and Chinatsu if it was alright to tell the rest of their friends about their relationship before confirming anything...
"Uh...I-I'm guessing they didn't tell anyone like Sakurako-chan or Himawari-chan yet, right? Maybe I shouldn't have said anything, eheh."
"Ehehehe. Smooth one, Yui." Yui shot a look at Kyouko, who simply smirked slyly in return. If there's one thing Kyouko loved, it was exploiting Yui's very rare slip-ups.
"O-Oi, it just felt like it was common knowledge already." Yui scratched the back of her head. "Probably because we were the first to find out about it..."
While she was expected to maybe be a bit surprised or shocked, Ayano didn't really react at all. In fact, she was more interested in things than taken back by them. Sure, she didn't know Akari and Chinatsu as well as she did Yui and Kyouko, but she still considered them friends. Something like them hooking up was an interesting turn of events. Besides, when it came to the subject of love, any insight she could get would most likely be helpful to her.
"Huh...I didn't expect those two to have feelings for each other. I could have sworn Yoshikawa-san liked you, considering how she used to be all over you..."
"Heh. Well those days are done." Yui responded while unconsciously rubbing her arm. This was one change she quickly got used to. "And not a moment too soon...I don't think my arms would've been able to take any more abuse..." Ayano was still curious, though.
"And it's not awkward or anything when you're all together?"
"Eh? Why would it be?" This time it was Kyouko's turn to answer as she walked over to join the conversation. "We're all friends, after all. S'not like something like love is going to break us apart or anything." She finished her point with a happy grin.
Ayano thought about that for a moment. It did make sense. Yui, Kyouko and Akari had been been friends since childhood, from what she had been told, and Chinatsu had already become another close friend of theirs, too. It's not surprising that something like dating wouldn't be enough to loosen a tightly-knit group like theirs.
"Huh...I suppose that's a good point to make. Even for you, Toshino Kyouko." Ayano couldn't help but smile. Kyouko may act like an overly-excitable dope sometimes, but she was still a good person at heart.
"Ah, that's the last desk done. Hey, I'm gonna go empty out the water real quick, alright?"
Yui's words suddenly snapped Ayano's mind back to her current goal. Did she say she was...leaving? As in leaving the room? Ayano couldn't believe her luck! This was exactly what she wanted to happen, but she wasn't quite out of the woods just yet. Still, this meant she could continue her plan. She nodded enthusiastically, trying to contain her excitement. Her moment was finally at hand.
"O-Of course! Please, take all the time you need!"
Yui nodded back and exited the room, finally setting the scene. While Kyouko emptied out her dustpan and put everything back in the supply closet, Ayano hurried over to her desk. She stuck her hand inside, a confident look on her face as she reached for her letter...and grasped air. She moved her hand a bit to the right, thinking maybe she may have brushed it to the side by accident...Nothing. She moved to the left, assuming maybe pulling out one of her textbooks may have misplaced it...Still nothing. Ayano froze, her searching becoming more frantic by the second as this dream of hers suddenly turned to a nightmare quicker than a bolt of lightning. "W-Where is it?! I could have sworn I had it inside my desk this whole time!...Unless..."
"THE STUDENT COUNCIL ROOM!" Ayano bolted up from her desk, startling Kyouko in the process.
"KYAH!...O-Oi Ayano, what was that all about?!"
"Heh?! O-Oh! Uh...Eheh!" Ayano shuddered nervously, beads of sweat trickling down her face. Cool. She had to play it cool.
"I-I forgot something back in the Student Council Room. I'll just run over really quick and get it before we leave. I-It won't take long!" Without even waiting for a response from Kyouko, she bolted out of the room and down the hall. She had forgotten that she had spent her lunch break once again trying to tidy up her message so her feelings were clear and concise, so she must have forgotten it on the table once the bell rang. Of all the places to slip up it had to be actually having the letter with her. She mentally cursed herself for leaving in such a hurry and leaving it behind. Now she could only hope that she'd be fast enough to get back with it before Yui returned.
Back in the classroom Kyouko had decided to lounge on top of one of the desks until her friends returned. She kicked her legs back and forth while staring out the window, almost as if she was occupied with her own thoughts. It didn't take long before Yui returned, her bucket and sponge now clean and dry. She glanced around the room for a second before realizing they were missing someone.
"Hey, where'd Ayano go?"
"Hmm? Oh, she said she forgot something in the Student Council room, so she went to get whatever it was."
"Ah. Well it looks like you're done cleaning too, so I guess when she gets back we can go."
Yui casually headed to the supply closet to put the bucket and sponge back where she found them as Kyouko continued to gaze out the window. After a few seconds, she decided to ask what seemed like an innocent question.
"All the talk about Akari and Chinatsu-chan got me curious...How do you think you'll fall in love?"
Yui raised an eyebrow. That seemed like a pretty random thing to ask. Then again, random questions definitely fit Kyouko's style. Paying no real mind to it, she figured she'd just answer honestly.
"Huh? That's a pretty sudden question...I dunno. I'd probably the type of girl to give a confession instead of get one from someone, to be honest."
Kyouko giggled. "Yeah, you are pretty dense when it comes to that kinda stuff."
Yui blushed. That wasn't the reaction she was expecting at all. On the other hand, an answer like that probably should have been expected.
"Oi, I don't need to hear that coming from someone like you."
"You're not denying it thooough." Kyouko retorted with a smirk.
With a huff and a flushed face, Yui turned to her desk and proceeded to pack her schoolbag with all her homework essentials. She couldn't help but fume a bit. Was she really that easy to read when it came to love? Thinking about it made her feel just as embarrassed as she was annoyed.
What could she want now? Leave it to someone like Kyouko to not know when she may have ruined someone's mood.
"What is it now, Kyouko..."
"...I love you."
Yui dropped her last book into her bag. Speechlessness was the only word to describe how she felt right now. Was Kyouko joking? She had used the "I love you" excuse to try to get out of things or to get help with homework before, but this time felt different. She sounded almost...sincere. She turned around. Surely Kyouko was wearing a silly grin right now, proud of herself for pulling off another successful prank. Yui and Kyouko's eyes met. She could see a small blush on her cheeks and a warm smile took residence on her face. Nothing about her said "Haha! Gotcha!"
She was serious.
Neither girl realized that right outside of the classroom stood Ayano. She was frozen in place, skin as pale as a ghost and a look of almost pure fear on her face. She had heard everything. Her right hand was gripping the door's handle tightly, her left clutching her precious confession letter. She was shuddering. This nightmare had just become real.