@KB: -helps you gather up your feels-
too much sadness? Well, maybe this chapter will make up for it somewhat in hilarity. Glad to have helped, as well?
@risa_ai: thank you~ I am feeling much better. :3
@rndy: -shifty eyes- are you reading my notes? Stop it!
no but really it's like you know what I'm thinking... Creepy... (or maybe my ships are just starting to show
) As for Ai being the "bad guy" here, I will specify that at least, in her mind, things were officially over between her and Risa when the younger girl went to jail. Even if she still had some feelings. Even if she still has them now. More omakes to come, I promise~
Still feeling a bit under the weather, but my muse seems to be coming back to me, so hopefully I'll get around to writing more often. This chapter feels a bit filler-ish to me, but I still like it all the same. (And besides, I guess in slice-of-life type stories there is no real filler, is there?
) Enjoy~Chapter XI: The Only Exception
Two trays settled down in front of her suddenly, jolting the young artist out of her thoughts. She recognized the girls as Natsuyaki Miyabi and Suzuki Airi, Momoko's bandmates, and bristled slightly, wondering if perhaps they'd come to seek revenge for their pint-sized friend with Koharu being absent today. All apprehension dissolved, however, when both girls sat down and simply began eating their lunches.
"We decided to sit with you," Airi started after a moment of awkward silence, noticing that Aika was staring, "Because Koharu-chan is sick today, we figured you'd be alone. And that's no good!"
When she finished she had a cheery smile on her face, and realizing that it was genuine, Aika smiled back. She wasn't one to turn down new friends after all, especially considering the reception she'd gotten after her first day. Most of the other students now thought of her as some sort of crazed delinquent after her outburst.
"Thanks... You guys aren't, uh, mad about what happened with Tsugunaga-san?"
Miyabi looked up from her food, tossing her boyish hair to the side and narrowing her eyes a bit.
"Was she asking for it?"
"Yes." Aika replied without thinking, and when her brain caught up with her mouth she kicked herself inwardly. But much to her surprise and relief, the other girl didn't seem offended at all, actually looking as though she completely expected that answer.
"Then she got what she deserved. Trust me, it's not the first time her mouth has gotten her into something, and I doubt it'll be the last." Miyabi shrugged and focused her attention back on her food, "I'm sort of glad you hit her, she needs reminders every once in a while..."
Airi choked on her drink a bit at that, though Aika couldn't tell if it was out of amusement or shock. She was starting to like these girls already.
And then it occurred to her that several people were staring in the direction of her table, expressions ranging from mild disbelief and curiosity to full on spiteful glares. She'd nearly forgotten that she was in the presence of two of the most popular girls in school. Was she supposed to be intimidated? Respectful? That definitely seemed to be the way that everyone else treated them, but the thought disgusted Aika. The Tanaka women bent to no one. They were just normal girls to her, anyway, and she resolved to treat them as such.
She couldn't help but be a bit curious, however.
"So... Buono!, is it? I've heard you guys are sort of a big deal."
"We're a really
big deal." Miyabi responded almost instantly, about to say more when she received a swat to the arm and a reproachful look from her bandmate.
"You're just as bad as Momo sometimes, you know?"
"What? It's true! I'm not dissing anyone else by saying that, I'm just stating the facts. Look- er, actually, what is your name again?"
The short-haired female was getting flustered now, embarrassed that she'd forgotten the introductions earlier. Not that Aika really cared; she already knew who the other two were, after all. But she had to admit, it was sort of amusing to watch the girl who had such a cool image struggle to maintain composure.
"You can both call me Aika."
"Fine. Aika-chan, what you don't know is that Buono! has been steadily climbing the charts lately, and our music is selling more and more every day. All of our gigs sell out within the first week, and I can't even walk to the store without being swarmed by cameras. So yes," She took another bite out of her food with some degree of finality, and Aika tried very hard not to laugh, "I'd say we're a pretty big deal."
Airi rolled her eyes.
"You're pretty ridiculous. It's not all about being popular and famous, you know..."
"I'm not saying it is," Miyabi replied, eyes sparking with a hint of annoyance, "But you can't tell me that anything I've said isn't true... Sometimes I think you actually hate being popular."
hate being popular." Airi stated firmly, "You and Momochi might enjoy having crowds of people fawning over your every move but I just want to sing."
The short-haired female snorted, a sharp smirk lining her lips as she leaned forward towards Aika and lowered her voice.
"She's just mad because the one person who's never noticed her still
doesn't even now... Ow!!!"
Miyabi had earned another slap to the arm for that comment, and Airi left them in a whirlwind of movement, dumping her entire tray into a nearby trashcan before stalking angrily away. Aika blinked awkwardly, watching the remaining singer grumble to herself as she rubbed her shoulder.
"She seemed... pretty upset... Should we follow her?"
"Nah... I'll go apologize later. She needs to cool off first. Things will be better when she stops lying to herself though..." Miyabi trailed off, still mumbling slightly. I wonder if being in a band just makes people super dramatic... Maybe this is the sort of thing Rei's been dealing with that's made her so stressed... Man... Seems like too much trouble to me...
"It's the captain of the track team."
Miyabi's sudden statement broke Aika from her musing and she looked up at the other girl, confused.
"Yajima Maimi. Captain of the track team. Have you met her?"
The artist paused, rifling through her brain for whatever she associated with that name. It certainly was familiar, and she seemed to recall passing by the girl in question with Koharu the other day, but she didn't find much special about her other than her friend obviously considered her to be a rival. Which, to Aika, was amusing.
"I know who you're talking about but I've never actually spoken to her... Do you mean that Suzuki-chan has a thing for her?"
"I think that's pretty plain to anyone who has eyes," Miyabi replied drily, "Just watch Airin anytime Yajima's in the same room. It's actually sort of hilarious, her eyes start glazing over and she even drools a bit sometimes, heh..."
The singer was snickering like it was some really stupid joke, but Aika couldn't help but smile slightly at the thought. She was not-so-secretly a romantic, and thought crushes and people in love were cute. The only person she teased about that sort of thing was Reina, and only then because her reactions were too perfect.
"What about you, Natsuyaki-chan?"
"Do you like anyone?"
Miyabi's face slowly began to heat up and her eyes shifted, focusing intently anywhere but Aika's curious gaze.
"That's... um, of course not. I'm too busy and besides, the fans don't really like us to be attached."Liar.
But Aika wasn't one to push, especially not a person she'd only just met. It wasn't as though it really concerned her much anyway.
She caught a flash of something white, and glanced down to see that Miyabi had slid two tickets towards her before beginning to gather her things together.
"I almost forgot, Koharu suggested that I give these to you since she won't be able to make it to our next concert. See you around, then."
And with that, the cool girl was gone, and Aika was left sitting alone, feeling a bit dazed. She carefully examined the tickets, shaking her head slightly before deciding to pocket them.Looks like you're not the only one who can make interesting friends, huh Rei?
She lazily moved to throw away her trash, when the bell sounded for class, flooding her with shock and dismay. Oh no... Late again...
To say that I was humiliated was a bit of an understatement. There were very few instances in my life that came close to denting my pride this much, and the fact that Junjun was enjoying every moment of it made the experience that much worse.
For whatever reason, the Chinese girl had decided on a whim that Fridays were going to be cosplay days from now on. Which meant that Linlin and I had been forced into some ridiculous and somewhat revealing costumes. Jun had dressed up as well, sporting a set of panda ears for the occasion, but her outfit at least came with pants.
I on the other hand, was stuck in a very
short skirt, a sleeveless top that exposed way too much of my stomach, knee high stockings, and matching cat paw gloves and boots. Of course, I was also stuck with fluffy ears and a tail to complete the ensemble, and Jun threatened to fire me if I didn't end every sentence to a customer with a cute little "nyan~". Linlin was given similar treatment, though she was supposed to be some kind of dog instead, and she actually seemed to like what was going on. It caused me to seriously wonder about the state of her mental health; how could one person be so goddamned cheerful?!
Surely this was some sort of revenge for the pranks I'd played on Jun as a child. I knew those were gonna come back to bite me someday...
"I've decided how I'm going to kill you," I started as I entered the kitchen for my final break of the day, eyes narrowing in on Junjun who was leaning against a table with a banana in hand. "I've read about this thing where the Greeks or someone had built an iron bull, and they stuck people inside of it, locking them in. Then they started a fire beneath it so that the people were slow-cooked to death. That's what I'm going to do to you. And I'll record the sounds of your agonized screams so can play them back to myself at night and sleep with a smile on my face."
She paused for a moment, struggling to translate what I'd told her in her head. When she finally got it, however, she laughed hard, very nearly dropping her precious banana.
"You're so twisted sometimes. But really, it's hard to take you seriously like that~ you're just too damn cute, Reina~ Oh, and you forgot to say 'nyan'."
I scowled fiercely at her, slowly lifting both of my paws.
"Nyan~" Injecting as much sarcasm into the sound as I could, I pawed at the air, before quickly turning both of them over to flash her a rude hand gesture involving my middle fingers. Said gesture only made Jun let out a loud guffaw, and she slapped her knees as she tried to regain her composure. Unamused, I turned on my heel to exit the kitchen, deciding that I'd much rather deal with the wandering eyes of customers than her teasing.
"Oi, Linko," I called to my coworker as I walked up to the register, "You go ahead and break first this time, Jun's being a pain in the ass."
"Hai~" She smiled cheerfully at me as she bounced past me, and I had to bite down on my tongue to keep from screaming. Too happy... She's too happy. Man... Well, it's only an hour left now, no big deal... Almost done.
Thankfully as well, there didn't seem to be many more customers coming in, despite the fact that mine and Lin's outfits had definitely drawn in more that day than usual. I sighed, leaning against the counter as I was offered my first moment of quiet, which meant time to dwell on what had happened the day before.
I hadn't really dealt with it yet. I mean, I'd even been in the middle of thinking about what was going on between her and Risa when she up and kissed me so suddenly. Sure, it wasn't exactly on the lips or something but... How was I supposed to take that? Had yesterday actually been a date?I mean... I do like her... She's beautiful and she's cool and she's talented... Who wouldn't like her? But...
It seemed like there was something there under the surface about Ai that I still didn't know, something powerful or dangerous and it was the part of her that made my throat go dry and made me lose all power of speech.
Of course, talking to Aika about it had done me no good. My kid sister had scolded me for being such a baby and told me that from her point of view, there was chemistry and to go for it if another opportunity came up. Though I wasn't sure that would happen either; after all, who wanted to date a weirdo who ran away from being kissed?
"Oh my god."
I jerked my head up suddenly, a sinking feeling coiling in the pit of my stomach as I realized just who was standing in front of me now at the register.Shit.
Risa and Eri were there, the former with an expression on her face that was equal parts shock, mischief, glee, and something else, and the latter taking quick snapshots of me with her camera phone. Instinctively, I lunged for the turtle over the counter, but she had seen my intent and had already slipped her phone back into her pocket with a devilish grin.
"Oh, no way, Reina-chan~ I'm keeping those forever. You look soooo cute! And kinda sexy, too~"
"Oh my god."
"Eri. You have five seconds to delete those pictures before I choke you with one of my ribbons."
"Hey, that doesn't sound like something a cute kitten would say..."
"Oh my god."
"I think you broke Gaki-san..."
Suddenly, the bassist broke out into a fit of shrieking laughter, falling to the ground and clutching at her stomach as her body convulsed with hysteria. And that was it for me, the final straw. I'd been ogled and teased and miserable all day up until that point, and while her laughter embarrassed me, I felt something inside snap. I was pissed. Beyond pissed. And my humiliation quickly morphed into white-hot fury.
I grabbed the nearest weapon, a wooden spoon, and launched myself over the counter, descending upon Risa with all the rage a tiny cat-girl could muster.
"Ow!!! Holy- Shit! Stop it! What the hell?! Eri, get her off of me!!!"
Risa had only enough time to shield her face as I assaulted her with the spoon, but I went for her hands anyway, knowing it probably hurt just as badly. She was too busy defending herself to do much else, and instead of helping, Eri simply hovered around us, taking more pictures with her phone.
"I dunno, Gaki-san, she looks like she knows how to use that thing, I'm not getting involved."
"Oh for goodness sakes- Ow!!! Tanakacchi, stop!"
I probably would have relented soon enough, given that I was already tired from working all day, and by then I think she got the point. But Risa had found an opening in my attack, managing to quickly grab both of my arms, pinning them above my head and me flat on my back. I immediately froze, reminded of just how skimpy my outfit was and instantly aware of every single place that her body brushed against my bare skin.
She seemed to quickly realize the same thing, paralyzed as well. We stayed like that until I heard the excited murmurs of the customers around us and Eri's phone made another clicking sound. That was enough to snap me out of it, and I gritted my teeth hard, hissing out my next few words.
"Let go of me."
"Right, um, sorry."
Risa rolled off of me and to her feet as if she'd touched fire, and I quickly stood as well, straightening out my costume as I tried to regain whatever shreds of dignity I had left. There weren't many. What was that... just now?
"Oh man, you guys... That was amazing~ I'm going to make this picture my new wallpaper. Priceless..." Eri murmured cheerfully, watching both of us in case either tried to make a move for her phone again. I decided it wasn't worth it, and was too distracted anyway now by the sudden awkwardness between myself and Risa to care.
"Why are you two even here...?" I questioned tiredly, padding back to my spot behind the counter, "You know I don't get off work for another hour..."
Risa remained silent, pointedly avoiding my gaze, but that didn't seem to matter much as Eri was eager enough to talk. Fine, I was more comfortable speaking to the turtle anyway.
"Well, we decided since we usually pick you up here anyway that we might as well buy something to eat for once." She stated with a grin, eyes wandering absently over the menu board on the wall behind me. "Oh, and also I brought a surprise for you."
I choked down a groan.
"I don't know... That I can handle any more surprises today."
"Oh, trust me, you'll like it." Eri replied, waving her hand in dismissal. Still, knowing the rich girl, I had a feeling it was probably a pretty big deal... "Anyway, I want cake! What about you, Gaki-san?"
"Just coffee, I guess," The bassist grunted, still refusing to look at me. I sighed, deciding to ignore it as I began to ring up the order on the register.
Jun poked her head out of the kitchen then, clicking at me to get my attention.
"Reina..." She mimed my hand motions from before, sans flipping the bird, giving me a stern look before she disappeared back behind the door.
I resisted the urge to slam my head into the counter.