The sound of shifting gravel and dirt echoed through the trees and bushes as Kyouko and Yui made their way to the Amusement Club's house. After a long school day, a cup of Chinatsu's delicious tea was exactly what they were looking forward to. Kyouko marched happily in front while Yui followed behind, looking to be deep in thought. Ever meeting back up with each other on the way to school, things have felt somewhat off to her. Being around each other made her feel tense, as if she was expecting Kyouko to say or do something in regards to the previous day's events. Kyouko, however, acted like her usual cheerful self. It was as if nothing had happened. The girl Yui had talked to the day before was nowhere to be found.
She didn't exactly realize it, but she had been staring at Kyouko the entire walk over. "It hasn't even been a day since Kyouko's confession and she's already back to acting like her usual self while the thought of it still won't leave my head...Is she really not worried about it at all?"
Yui continued fretting all the way into the clubhouse's entranceway. Kyouko gripped the handle to the sliding door leading to the main room, forcefully flinging it open and immediately moving on to loudly announcing her and Yui's arrival.
"AKARI! CHINATSU-CHAN! WE HAVE ARRI-...Ohoho? What do we have here?"
Yui leaned over Kyouko's shoulder to see what she was talking about. "Huh? What's the matter-...Oooh. I see."
Sitting before the pair were Akari and Chinatsu, both occupying the same side of the table and mere centimeters away from each others' faces. It seemed as if the still-budding couple tried to use the short amount of alone time they had to attempt their first sincere kiss. Unfortunately for them Kyouko and Yui were fast walkers. Both of the younger girls' faces turned bright red, completely frozen in place due to sheer embarrassment. Kyouko snickered. This moment was priceless.
"Oh no no! Don't let us disturb your little moment! I wanna see what Akari looks like when she's kissing someone!"
Akari's face was as red as a tomato as she quickly turned away from Chinatsu and sat in a more formal position. Chinatsu, on the other hand, did what she does best in a situation like this; Flail and yell. "M-MOU, KYOUKO-SENPAI! DON'T YOU KNOW HOW TO KNOCK BEFORE ENTERING A ROOM?!"
Kyouko simply smirked. Moments like these were exactly why she loved being in the Amusement Club. The opportunity to poke a little fun was too much for her to resist. "We've never had to knock before now, have we? Besides, if I did knock I would have missed out on your and Akari's lovey-dovey time, hehehe-AGH!"
A strong bop to the back of the head put Kyouko's teasing to a ubrupt end, courtesy of Yui.
"Someone in your kind of position has no right to make fun of-!...Ah...I-I mean...Ugh, you know what I mean." Yui's face flushed slightly when she realized she almost spilled the beans about what she and Kyouko were dealing with. She grabbed the still-grinning Kyouko by the collar and dragged her over to the table, where they both seated themselves across from their friends. Chinatsu noticed right away that something was up, completely forgetting about being angry at Kyouko just mere moments ago.
"Position? What did you mean by that, Senpai?" She eyed Kyouko suspiciously. "Kyouko-senpai didn't do anything bad, did she?"
"Eeeh? How insulting! I would never!" Kyouko exaggerated her pout for emphasis. Yui quickly tried to think up a natural-sounding answer but couldn't exactly come up with anything on the spot, instead trying to casually defuse the question.
"It's nothing serious, Chinatsu-chan. Heh..Don't worry yourself about it, alright?" She smiled, hoping that'd be enough to quell Chinatsu's curiosity. Yui was at least thankful that Akari hadn't decided to question anything, either. The red-haired girl was still too busy being flustered and embarrassed to pay attention to what was going on.
"Like Yui said, it's no big deal. Trust us." Kyouko tried to smile the same way Yui did, but all it did was make her seem even more suspicious. Chinatsu's curious gaze kept lock onto Kyouko for a few more seconds before she decided to let it go...for now, anyway. "Well...If Yui-senpai says it's nothing, then I guess it's fine." With that, Chinatsu turned her attention to her still-paralyzed girlfriend and started shaking her gently to bring her back to her senses. While she did that, Kyouko leaned over and started whispering to Yui.
"Nice save, don'tcha think?"
"Yeah, right. You couldn't have made things seem any more obvious."
"I wasn't the one who almost let the cat out of the bag thooough."
"Hmph...It's not like something like this is easy to keep secret, you know..."
"Speaking of secrets, it looks like we weren't able to catch Ayano today were we?"
"Chitose said she was out with a cold..." Yui glanced up to the ceiling, slightly concerned about her classmate and friend.
"...I hope it's nothing too bad."
Chitose knocked lightly on Ayano's bedroom door and waited. No one answered. She did so again. Again, there was silence. Ayano's mother had told her she had been in bed all day, so she knew she was in there. She decided to speak up on her third attempt, hoping the voice of a friend would help.
"Ayano-chan? Are you awake?"
No one answered.
"Ayano-chan...Please say something..."
"...Go away." Although it was a soft response, Chitose could still hear the depression in Ayano's voice. She frowned. She knew she needed to talk to her.
"But I want to help you...Please?" Ayano refused to answer once again. As Chitose tried to think of what to do next, she glanced down at the doorknob. If she wanted to see her, she'd probably just have to enter on her own. Hopefully the door wasn't locked. She reached down and twisted the knob, sighing in relief as it turned completely. She quietly opened the door and entered Ayano's dark room. She had been in it plenty of times, but this was the first time she felt somewhat uncomfortable being there.
"My my...It's not good to stay cooped up in your room like this."
"I could care less..." Ayano refused to turn over from her position on the bed to look at her friend. Chitose took a few steps forward, wanting to approach her gently.
"Ayano-chan...You don't plan to hide away from everyone like this forever, do you? Everyone will worry about you..." Chitose took a few more steps.
"I'm sick and have to take an extended leave from school. That's my excuse."
One more step and she was standing before Ayano's bedside. "It's not good to lie, you know..."
"IT'S NOT A LIE!" Right as Chitose was about to reach out, Ayano violently sat up. Her outburst caused her friend to stumble back a step or two. She wore a mixture of pain and anger on her face. She wasn't done with her rant just yet.
"I feel horrible! It's difficult for me to sleep! My stomach's in a knot! My legs feel weak when I try getting up...and every time I try to take my mind off of things...I-I can't stop myself from crying..."
Chitose stood silent as she listened. She knew Ayano felt terrible after yesterday, but seeing her like this was almost too much for her to handle.
"See? I'm an utter mess! I can't go to school like this! I WON'T go to school like this! I...I-I can't face Toshino Kyouko ever again..." Her last remark caused Chitose to go wide-eyed and finally attempt a response.
"Heh? Y-You're just going to give up entirely?!"
"What other choice do I have?!...She loves Funami-san. I-I can't face someone I've been in love with for so long and never ended up confessing to...It would be too painful..." Ayano balled up her fist on her lap, keeping her eyes affixed to it as her expression changed from pain and anger to sadness. Chitose stood there, waiting for her friend to continue venting her negative emotions.
"You don't know how it felt, Chitose...I was always too nervous to follow through on any chance I had to get closer to her...So to finally feel confident enough to put all of my feelings down on paper and actually give it to her only to hear her confess to someone else...I-It hurts..."
Her fist tightened as teardrops fell from her face onto the back of her hand. Ayano gritted her teeth. Crying like this in front of her closest friend, looking helpless and sounding weak...She could just die right on the spot. Anything to just make the world go away. As she stared blurrily at her fist through her tears, she saw Chitose's hand gently grasp hers. She looked up at her friend, who wore a calm and almost soothing smile.
"Tomorrow's Saturday. Why don't we go out and do something fun?"
"Heh? B-But I can't! I'm...I-I'm..."
"Ayano-chan, I don't like seeing you so depressed like this...Please let me help? I want to see you smile again, even if it's just a little bit...Is that okay?"
Ayano sighed. She didn't want to keep worrying her friend like this. If it were to just put her mind at ease then going out with her at least once probably wouldn't hurt, though how responsive she'd be wasn't exactly something she could say at the moment. She looked back up at Chitose, trying her best to smile.
"Fine, you win...but don't expect any stellar results just from one day..."
"Eheh...Getting you to agree to it is good enough for me." With a gentle brush of the back of her finger Chitose brushed away a few of the stray tears still on Ayano's cheeks. She was determined to help Ayano smile again.
"For now, how about I make us some tea? I'm sure that will help things, too."
Ayano nodded sheepishly. A warm cup of tea sounded pretty pleasurable. Chitose simply smiled back as she exited the room, closing the door behind her. Before she could make her way to Ayano's kitchen, however, she was suddenly struck by slight curiosity.
"Ayano-chan's depressed because Toshino-san loves Funami-san...I wonder..."
Chitose reached up and carefully removed her glasses. She waited...and waited...and waited a bit more. Nothing. No fantasies, no delusions, no nosebleeds. The only thing Chitose saw was a slightly blurrier version of Ayano's hallway. Chitose's eyes widened in disbelief as she let out a surprised and audible yelp.
Ayano called out to her from her room. "Chitose? I-Is everything alright?"
"Eh?! O-Oh, uh...Yes! Of course, eheheh. I-I just...tripped! Nothing to worry about!"
Mentally, Chitose was panicking. This had never exactly happened to her before.
"I'm not fantasizing...I-I'm not fantasizing! I-It's probably because of what happened with Toshino-san and Ayano-chan! It must be!"
Ayano's depression and Kyouko's love of Yui. Those had to be the factors behind her missing delusions. Chitose pondered for a solution as she made her way downstairs to Ayano's kitchen. Fixing this problem wouldn't be easy. It wasn't like she could make Kyouko love Ayano instead of Yui. Not only was something like that not possible, but even if it were it wasn't exactly an option any person with a conscience would consider. The only thing she could do at the moment was try and improve Ayano's mood.
"Right now, Ayano-chan's happiness comes first...A-And if I'm lucky helping Ayano-chan will fix me, too!" Chitose clenched her fist, a shimmering gleam in her eye.
"Yes! I'll make sure Ayano-chan's the happiest she's ever been!"