" Morning,everyone!" The door to the clubroom bursted open and a brunette skipped in cheerfully while holding a paper bag with the bottom of it being slightly translucent. A sign of oily substance.
"My, my, Honoka-chan, you're as energetic as usual." praised Nozomi while showing the said girl her motherly smile that shone like a moon.
With a nose as sensitive as a cat, Rin quickly picked up the scent of food lurking in the room before landing her yellow-green eyes on the sack the brunette was holding. "Honoka-chan, what's that you're holding nya?"
"Ahh, this..." Honoka walked to the woody table located at the center of the room and placed the paper bag onto it. Her action caught the members' attention. She then opened the sack.
"Ta-daa! Homura's today special Niji-iro(rainbow-colored) Manjuu! Now now everyone, have a bite! Have a bite! I've brought tons of them so eat up!" Honoka introduced her home-owned bakery's new product merrily.
"Wah, they look so delicious that Rin couldn't wait to taste them nya! Well then, let's dig in!" The catlike-girl immediately grabbed an orange-colored manjuu and sank her teeth into the freshly-baked confectionery.
"Uwahhh, what is this citrusy feeling?! It's so fizzy!"
"Oh, that's a lemon and orange mixed flavor." answered Honoka before taking a bite as well.
" It's weird but it's super yummy! Rin love it nya!"
Before Rin can proceed to take another colored manjuu, the door clicked open. A blue-haired girl walked in along with an ash-haired girl closing the door behind after both of them were inside.
Their entrance was welcomed by the scent of manjuu. "Honoka, did you bring over some buns again? Didn't I told you to look after your diet..." Umi 's sentence died down when she spotted the colorful manjuus with a "ほ"(read as "ho")on every each of them lying tempting on the table.
"Umi-chan good timing. Here, try our new manjuu! I know you love them so I brought tons of them. Hurry up and eat them before they get cold!" Honoka took two manjuus with one of them being red and the other purple and showed them to the archer.
"They are really good ,Umi. You ought to try them and I guarantee that you will enjoy them." commented Eli while munching a chocolate manjuu.
"No buts Umi-chan, here you go!" Honoka instantly shoved the purple manjuu just in time to stuff them into Umi's mouth before the blue-haired girl closes her mouth.
"Honoka, you-...nom...nom...hmmmm...this is...actually pretty delicious." Umi covered her mouth while chewing and her eyes curved into a satisfying smile.
Everyone in the room except for Maki chuckled at the cute yet rare scene in front of them. The tip of Umi's ear reddened when she realized her action.
"How cute, Umicchi!" Nozomi gave Umi a pet on the head and it was enough to make the archer blushed.
"Indeed it is. To be able to catch the prince of the school in such cute manners, I shall treasure this memory." said teasingly by the blonde. Umi immediately burrowed her face into her hands to hide her embarrassment.
However, the ruckus in the clubroom did not faze a certain scarlet princess whom was deeply in thought.
Nico-chan, she's not here today...Hah, of course not. If she did, things will get really awkward between us. But I wish to see her, to see her childish smile again. I miss all the little quarrel we had everyday. Maki smile bitterly at the recollection.
Meanwhile, Rin wanted seconds so she reached for the cherry pink manjuu but was then stopped by Honoka.
"Ah, I'm sorry Rin-chan but the strawberry-flavored is reserved for Nico-chan."
"By the way, where is Nico-chan and Hanayo-chan?" Kotori spoke up and looked around the room in search of her missing idolmates.
"The teacher asked Kayo-chin to help her with some works so she might be late." The orange-haired girl then scratched her head. "But for Nico-chan...Rin don't know where she is nya."
"Come to think of it, she was absent to class today. Anyone else know where Nico is?" Eli questioned. The members all shook their head in return.
Honoka then raised her hand. "Maybe she's sick?"
Umi nodded with consent. "Most probably."
Kotori rummaged her schoolbag and came out with her phone. At the same time, Umi took out hers from her pocket.
"Should I call her?"
Both of them said in unison which made the members stared at them before Nozomi started teasing them.
"My,my, talk about a perfect couple. Even the phone strap matches. Oh? What's on it? Seagull I see. As expected when the sea and the bird get together." said Nozomi with a playful wink.
The owners of the phone straps looked at their own phone before swiftly hiding them behind their back. Umi and Kotori fidgeted while avoiding eye contact with each other. A wide blush spread across their cheeks.
"Haha, I think its enough, Nozomi. Look at these two now, they're all awkward around each other." Eli couldn't stifle a giggle. " Now,now, let's get back to the topic. Yes, let's call Nico-"
Everyone stopped their action once they heard the sudden thud. They turned to the source of it and found that the door was opened. When they looked down, a figure was lying face down on the floor.
Rin's eyes widened, "KAYO-CHIN!" and immediately ran towards her best friend and helped her up.
The short-hair brunette was panting hard. With Rin's support, she stood up wobbly." T-Thank you, Rin-chan."
Hanayo's head shot up when she remembered she had something important to inform the members.
"Everyone, listen! This...this is bad...Nico-chan...Nico-chan is...she's..." Realizing that she could not continue without calming herself, she clutched her hand in front of her wildly beating heart before going on with her sentence.
"Nico-chan is kidnapped."
Silence filled the room. The members could only stare at Hanayo while trying to digest her words.
Umi was the first to recover from the shock. "H-hey Hanayo, this is not s-something you can j-joke about..." said the blue-haired girl with doubt and fear. Eli then followed suit.
"Y-yeah. There's no way she was kidnapped. Are you sure you're not just kidding?"
Seeing that the members still had their doubts, Hanayo took a few steady breath before explaining how she received the news.
"I was assigned to collect the workbooks and have it delivered to the staff's room. W-when I walked past the principal's room, Principal Minami was on the phone and it s-seems like it was from the Yazawa's residence. I couldn't help b-but to eavesdrop." Teardrops began to gather at Hanayo's canthus. "When I got closer to the door, Principal Minami suddenly sounded extremely panic and that's when...when I heard that Nico-chan...has been kidnapped. The kidnapper requested a ransom of 5 hundred thousands yen or else...we...we won't be seeing Nico-chan again. "
Just when she finished her sentence, Hanayo broke into a wretched cry and Rin instinctively wrapped her arms around the brunette while herself was crying as well.
"Ni-Nico-chan..." Kotori started to weep while clutching onto Umi's blazer. The archer herself was in no better condition after hearing the news.
"No way, she's still with us yesterday..." Nozomi could have lost her footing and fell if Eli didn't caught her in time.
Looking at her idolmates, a sudden surge of emotion flooded inside Maki. She couldn't hold it so she screamed while covering her ears.
"Arrghhh! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! If it wasn't for me, Nico-chan would not run away. If it wasn't for me, she wouldn't have cried! And if it wasn't for me, she would not be kidnapped! It was all my fault! It was all because I couldn't be honest with myself!"
Warm liquid began to wet Maki's cheek. " Because of my dishonesty, I've lost her..."
The third years encased their arms around the wailing redhead while trying to comfort her. "Maki, do not blame yourself. No one expected such thing to happen."
"Elicchi is right. We have to be strong. I'm sure Nicocchi will not give in that easily. We have to be strong, for her."
The room were now filled with tension and whimpers.
A single teardrop fell on the cherry-pink manjuu Honoka was holding.
The leader wiped her tears away with the back of her hand while clenching her teeth. "Everyone, we shouldn't be crying right now. Right at this moment, one of our family members is being held hostage. Yes, family. We are of one heart, and it will take the whole world to bring us down." Honoka closed her eyes for a few seconds before opening them again.
"Whatever it takes, we will definitely save Nico-chan." said the owner of the baby-blue orbs which were now filled with determination .
The leader's word ignited a flame in every each of them. One by one, the members stood up. Their sadness and worries were now replaced with a new form of strength and courage.
Honoka grabbed Hanayo's hand and nodded to the purple-eyed girl. Hanayo understood the signal and nodded as a response. She then turned to hold Rin's hand. Without a single word, the members formed a circle by holding each other's hand.
Seeing that the members were ready, the ginger-haired leader opened her mouth.
"μ's, Operation S.T.A.R.T!"