"C-Come on Kyouko, joking about stuff like this isn't cool, y'know?"
Kyouko's brow furrowed a bit as she frowned. If her sincere expression a moment ago didn't already convince Yui about how serious she was, her look now definitely would have. When Kyouko was serious about something, she definitely meant it and Yui knew that well. She stumbled back a bit, leaning against the desk behind her as she tried to think of something to say. Her mind was still buzzing after being dealt such a sudden bombshell of a blow.
"So...if this is all true, then how long have you l-...l-loved me?"
"How long?" Kyouko glanced upwards at the ceiling, trying to think. "Since we were kids, I guess. I mean you were always watching over me and protecting me, so it was only a matter of time until I ended up falling for you, right?"
"Since we were kids..." Yui held her forehead. It actually made some sense to her. She, Kyouko and Akari had all been together since they were small. Back then Kyouko was much different from how she was now. She was shy, timid and easily frightened, always looking up to Yui and her bravery. It was that bond that kept them together all this time.
"Why didn't you say anything until now though...?"
Kyouko became a bit more nervous. She knew her answer might sound a bit mushier than one would probably expect. "I wanted to wait until we were a bit older...Y'know, like when we reached high school. I mean...I knew we'd still be together by then, so I figured I didn't have to worry much or rush things..."
"I see..." Kyouko had a point. Chances are when they had to choose a high school to enroll in, they'd both go for the same one. They've been in the same school since their elementary days, so why would things change. Kyouko continued.
"But after seeing how things went for Akari and Chinatsu-chan...I dunno, I started wondering if I had waited long enough or not. Even thought they're a couple now, things still feel normal between the four of us. So if it worked for them...why not us, right?"
Yui stood silent, opting to just take in what Kyouko had to say. Her eyes were closed, so she didn't notice Kyouko watching her. The blonde girl looked concerned. Maybe she had sprung all this on Yui a bit too suddenly. She had thought that lightening the mood a bit beforehand would have softened everything, but it didn't seem the case. She smiled awkwardly, looking down at her feet. She was sure she had screwed things up.
"Eheh...Guess I turned things a bit weird now, didn't I?"
Yui stood up after a few more seconds. She picked up her bag and walked up to Kyouko. Her face was serious, but at the same time it had a gentle feel to it. "Kyouko..."
"We'll leave the clubroom to Akari and Chinatsu-chan today. For now, let's go to my place. We can talk more there."
"Eh? But what about Ayano?"
That's right. The sudden turn of events made Yui forget that the whole reason they were still here was to help Ayano, who still hadn't returned from her trip to the Student Council room. She couldn't have gone home, her stuff was still at her desk. What could be taking her?
"Gah, that's right. I forgot about her...Listen, we'll just tell her tomorrow that something urgent came up and we had to leave before her. I'm sure she'll understand."
"Well...alright." Kyouko nodded as she stood up, picking her bag up from the hook on the side of her desk. Yui quickly took her by the hand and quickly lead her out of the classroom's back entrance and down the hall towards the stairs. However, neither of them noticed the person still standing outside of the room's front entrance this entire time. Ayano watched as the two girls disappeared around a corner, off to Yui's apartment just as planned. She took a few small steps back before slowly making her way back to the Student Council room. Her eyes never left the floor as she stared down at her shuffling feet and the changing tiles as she continued on. She felt empty inside. Her heart had been violently shattered thanks to a conversation she was never intended to hear.
"T-This...This can't be happening..." She shook her head slightly. Her ability to comprehend had been nullified by all of this. She had been trying for what felt like forever to work up the courage to tell Kyouko everything. To see the best chance she had not only slip from her fingers but to also have the door completely shut on her in the process...it was almost too much to bear at once.
"Why?...I had it this time...I was finally going to tell Toshino Kyouko everything I've always wanted to tell her...s-so...why did this have to happen now...?"
Before long Ayano found herself inside the Student Council room once more. She walked over to the closest seat, sitting down carefully. She slowly curled her arms inward, burying her face inside. She just wanted to disappear from everything.
"This isn't fair..."
Time passed as the day went later into the evening. Chitose cheerfully walked down the long-empty Nanamori hallways. She had gone back to the classroom to check on how things were going, but was surprised to find it empty. She wanted to know if Ayano's plan worked out, but it seemed that she'd have to wait until tomorrow to find out. For now she figured she'd maybe get a bit of work done before going home herself. There were a few student files that still needed to be organized, after all. As she approached the Student Council room, she noticed something was a bit off; The door was ajar. Last she was there, which was around lunch period, she remembered closing it fully.
"That's strange...I wonder if someone went in for something. Matsumoto-san, perhaps."
Being slightly cautious, she peeked inside to make sure everything was alright. What she was met with, though, was almost enough to break her heart on the spot. Ayano laid there, fast asleep. A somewhat pained look on her face. Chitose entered the room, wanting to get a closer look.
"Ayano-chan..." Ayano's eyes looked puffy and a bit red. Looking closer, Chitose saw the remnants of tears staining her cheeks. Underneath her left hand was her letter, slightly crumpled from before. It appeared that she had gone through a lot in such a short amount of time. Chitose looked concerned. She had no idea what could have happened.
"My my..." Chitose pulled a chair up next to Ayano as silently as possible, trying not to wake her as she sat beside her. She decided that if Ayano could use anything once she woke up, it would probably be the shoulder of someone close to her to cry on. She pet her head gently, trying to comfort her as best she could for the time being.
"Everything will be alright, Ayano-chan...don't worry..."
Kyouko sat somewhat nervously at the table in Yui's apartment. She had been here plenty of times. Heck, both her and Yui considered it her second home with how much time she'd spent eating, sleeping and playing here. However, being here now felt slightly off. It felt almost as if the awkward atmosphere from back at school had followed the girls the whole way here. Yui said they'd be able to talk more here, but neither girl had said a word to each other since leaving school. Then again what could either of them say that wouldn't sound forced.
It wasn't long before Yui joined her, carrying two cups of warm tea. Tea was a soothing and calming drink, perfect for a situation like this. At least that's how Yui saw it. She carefully placed the cup in front of Kyouko before sitting down on the opposite side of the table.
More silence. Neither girl looked that the other, quietly sitting and sipping their tea. The awkwardness was no-doubt increasing by the second. Thankfully before the deafening silence became too much for either to bare, Yui spoke up.
"Hey, Kyouko?...What exactly do you like about me?"
"Hmm?" Kyouko looked up from her cup. "Well...you have all the games I can play and all the manga I can read, you always help me out with my homework...OH! And you feed me when I'm hungry!"
A comical sweatdrop appeared on the side of Yui's head. She knew on the spot that wasn't what Kyouko's real answer was. She didn't think Kyouko would still be able to joke around, given the situation. Obviously she'd been proven wrong.
"I'm serious, you know..."
"Eheh...sorry. Was just trying to make things a bit less awkward." Kyouko smiled and rubbed her head. Yui couldn't help but smile back. Something about Kyouko acting a bit more like herself made her feel a little relieved.
"We can worry about all that later. Right now, could you give me your real answer?...I-I'm actually kind of curious."
She turned the other way, scratching her cheek lightly. Asking a question like that was a bit embarrassing for her. Kyouko knew this, too. Though seeing as she was the one to confess she should have expected Yui to want to know more about it, expecially if a situation like this involved someone like her. While Yui didn't exactly show it, she did tend to be a bit self-conscious at times.
" I guess you can say I'm in the same boat Chinatsu-chan was when she was all over you. You're smart, you're mature, you're kind...and you're attractive, too..." The last part caused Yui to turn red.
"A-Attractive?!...J-Jeez, I don't think anyone other than Chinatsu-chan has told me that before..."
"What, you don't believe it?"
"Well I always thought the word to describe someone like me was...y'know...tomboyish."
Kyouko pouted. "Just cause you're kinda tomboyish doesn't mean you aren't beautiful, Yui."
Yui reddened even more. All of the romantic praise she was getting was proving to be too much for her to handle. When Chinatsu did it before she could just shake it off easily but hearing Kyouko say this kind of stuff with such a calm and sincere tone made her entire body feel warm.
"O-Oi, could you quit it with the compliments? I still don't know how to respond to them yet..."
"Hehe. It's not like I can help it now that I've told you everything." Kyouko grinned, sipping some more tea. Yui was still finding it hard to believe how lax Kyouko had been this entire time. Other than a few moments of awkward silence, she'd pretty much been acting normally ever since her confession. Realizing this didn't exactly help Yui's curiosity.
"I'm amazed at how laid back you're being considering everything that's happened, honestly..."
Kyouko tilted her head in thought for a second. "Well...it's probably because I'm so sure of my feelings. I don't doubt my love for you a bit, so why should I worry about it when I'm so certain, y'know?"
Yui watched as her best friend shrugged and continued enjoying her drink. Kyouko had definitely changed a great deal since they were young. The once fragile and timid girl she used to look out for when they were kids was now sitting before her, a confident and care-free middle schooler.
"Living care-free is Kyouko's style...but even so it's weird being the only one here feeling awkward about this still. If we were kids, she'd probably be shaking and tearing up right now just thinking about all of this...She really has matured more than I thought..."
Yui smiled again before moving over to Kyouko's side of the table, sitting close to her before reaching over and starting to gently pet her head. Kyouko was confused. It felt nice without a doubt, but it was pretty sudden.
"Heh...You may be a pain to deal with sometimes, but I guess you really have grown up in your own way, haven't you."
Kyouko blushed. She never really thought of something like that. "Eheh...I guess so..."
"Mmm...Listen Kyouko..." Yui's face grew slightly serious. "I need time to think things over. All of this is still pretty heavy on me and I'd rather not give you an answer that I'm not sure about myself...So will you be okay with waiting just a bit longer?"
Kyouko stared for a few seconds before quickly nodding. "Y-Yeah...Yeah! I mean it's not like you said no or anything, right? That means I've still got a chance!"
The grin on her face caused Yui to sigh in relief. It felt as if a good amount of the weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She could finally breathe easy for now. In fact all of this heart-to-heart talk had given her a bit of an appetite. Plus if there's one thing Kyouko was always up for, it was her cooking. She pet her head a bit more before finally standing up.
"How does lightening the mood with some omelette rice sound?"
Kyouko instantly lit up. "You had me at 'food'!"
"...I didn't say 'food', though."
"Saying 'omelette rice' counts as saying 'food', Yui-nyan." Kyouko wagged her finger to emphasise her point. Yui chuckled. Things were already feeling mostly back to normal. Still, she didn't want to keep Kyouko waiting for a final answer too long. Like it or not, the possibility of a relationship was still going to be occupying her mind for another few days at least.
The Student Council's room was buzzing with activity as three of its members were busy going through the day's printouts. This time it was Chitose who had taken a seat at the president's desk as she quietly checked through the stack of papers she had collected from her class. Sitting at the table in front of her were her two fellow members and underclassmen, Sakurako and Himawari. Both girls were going through their own printout stacks despite the fact that they were both in the same class. While it probably would have been more efficent for them to tackle their work together, that was hardly ever an available option for them. The duo was usually too busy being at each others' throats or turning even the smallest tasks into competitions fit for the fiercest of rivals. The fact that they've been friends since they were little hardly played into things when they got heated. While Himawari focused on her work, Sakurako was busy scowling and glaring at both her and her paper stack.
"Grrrr...Himawari! Why do you have more handouts than me?! You're trying to get on the president's good side, aren't you?! I can see right through your plans!"
Himawari gave an annoyed sigh. Out of the two of them, she was the one who tried the most to avoid confrontation. Still, when Sakurako decided to spark something it didn't take her long to ignite and fire back.
"First of all, Sakurako, Matsumoto-senpai isn't even here. If I wanted to impress her, I wouldn't even have the chance to right now. Second of all, it's not my fault that someone was asleep at her desk when it was time for us to collect everyone's' handouts. You only have yours because you were lucky enough to wake up before I finished going around."
"It's YOUR fault I fell asleep! Those boobs of yours jiggle around so much that their hypnotic bouncing made me doze off!" A visible vein popped up on Himawari's forehead. Every time they argued, Sakurako always used her sizable chest to make fun of her or insult her. It was getting extremely tiring and angering having to be called a "Booby Monster" almost every day.
"I swear, sometimes I wish I were flat-chested just so you would shut up..."
"I wish you were flat-chested, too! That way you'd stop offending everyone around you with your giant melons!"
"Ugh! Sakurako!" Himawari slammed her fist on the table as both girls locked themselves in a glare battle. The electricity between them was almost visible. This went on for almost a minute before Chitose swiftly intervined.
"Now now, this can be solved easily. Why not combine your handouts and then each take half of it? You'll both be on equal grounds then, right? I'm sure that's what Ayano-chan would suggest."
Himawari's gaze was the first to stop. Even though she put on a mature and level-headed demeanor, she couldn't help but huff a bit. Having to compromise with Sakurako this was wasn't exactly how she would have liked things to go, but as members of the Student Council, she had to go with it. At least to show that she was definitely council material.
"Fine then. I suppose doing it that way will help get the work done a bit quicker anyway."
"HAHA! Sakurako: One, Booby Demon: Zero!" Obviously Sakurako didn't care about how she came off if it meant a personal victory over her rival of a best friend. Chitose just smiled as Himawari shot her a nasty look.
"Hmph...Speaking of Sugiura-senpai, why didn't she come to school today? Is she ill?"
Chitose jumped slightly at being asked that question. In all fairness she probably should have expected it at some point, but at the same time she knew she'd have to lie whenever she answered. She tried to keep her smile on as best she could, trying to avoid worrying anyone.
"A-Ah, well...you could say that. I'm planning to visit her after school to make sure it's nothing to serious."
Sakurako perked up at this. "Hey hey! Why don't we all go see the vice-prez? That'll be fun!" Himawari nodded, a bit surprised that she was actually on the same side as her. "Hmm...For once I agree. I'm sure she'd appreciate the company."
Chitose tensed up a bit. a large group for company was definitely not something Ayano would like at a time like this. She instinctively interjected before quickly recomposing herself, trying not to make the her two kouhai suspicious or worried.
"N-Nonono, you don't have to-!...I-I mean...It wouldn't be ideal if the entire Student Council got sick as a result, right? Just leave it to me." Himawari was still concerned about Ayano, but Chitose did have a point. Better one person goes to represent them all than everyone risk themselves. Sakurako, however, wasn't as understanding.
"I suppose you're right...Well, at least give her our regards when you go."
"Awwww! Would getting sick really be all that bad? We could miss school which means no homework!" Himawari was utterly baffled at her way of thinking.
"You'd honestly risk your own health just so you could be excused from doing homework for a day?!"
"Of course I would! What kinda stupid question is that?!"
Chitose smiled in relief as her two friends went back to bickering with one another, but worry still clouded her mind. When she parted ways with Ayano the day before she looked nothing like she usually did. She looked empty. Almost lifeless in a way. That alone caused Chitose to feel a great deal of concern for her best friend.
"I feel bad having to lie to Furutani-san and Oomuro-san like this...but this is something only I can do..."
Ayano's room was quiet and dark. The lights were off and the blinds were closed. At first glance it would have seemed as if no one was even there to begin with, but that was until you glanced at her bed. Ayano lied there, completely covered and unmoving. She wasn't sleeping, her eyes open and staring at the wall next to her bed. In her mind, this was the closest she'd get to completely disappearing. She sighed to herself sadly. Another day or two away from everyone was sounding like a good idea...