Blame Estrea for this. She forced me to write it, then forced me to post it.
---------------------Sinking Ships - Chapter 1: Hitorihoriho No More?
"Haru-chan, what is this?"
The voice asking was bright and upbeat; the question was not. Riho Sayashi stood in the middle of a messy hotel room; clothes and takeout food containers were spread throughout the room. She was holding up a small paper which, on further inspection, was a photograph of two people - two girls - taken at a purikura booth.
Stretched out on the nearby sofa, wearing a Morning Musume '14 tour shirt and a pair of grey sweatpants, was the one Riho was directing her pointed query toward. With her lanky frame and shaggy mop of hair atop her head, Haruka Kudo was often mistaken for a boy, which was something she didn't necessarily dislike. Haruka was also known amongst her colleagues in Morning Musume for having a wandering eye when it came to attractive women.
Taking a moment to brush some stray bangs aside, Haruka opened one eye and looked at Riho. Once she saw what Riho was talking about, her other eye shot open and Haruka quickly sat up. "That's-"
"Wada-san," Riho finished, referring to the beautiful leader of S/mileage. "It's you and Wada-san." Studying the picture further, Riho squinted. "You two sure do look happy," she noted. Pushing her hair behind her ear, Riho eyed the tomboy on the couch. "Is that where you went after the concert yesterday?"
Her face quickly reddening, Haruka sprung to her feet. "It-it's not like that!" Kudo's normally husky voice cracked like that of a pubescent boy; Riho usually found it cute when Haruka's voice did that, but not so much this time.
"I thought you said you and Wada-san were over after Lilium," stated Riho, her voice eerily calm. "Sure doesn't seem to be the case." She shook her head. "I can't imagine what Iikubo-san will think of this; remember how torn up she was while the musical was going on!"
"I'm allowed to have friends!" retorted Kudo, stepping toward Riho.
Riho waved the purikura around. "This looks to be a little more than friends."
"Oh, like you and Fukumura-san?"
Riho stopped and glared at Kudo. "That's...different."
"Yeah. I don't molest Wada-san in public."
As soon as the words left her mouth, Haruka knew she had screwed up. "Wait..." she began, starting to wrap her arms around Riho, hoping to defuse the situation before it spiraled out of control.
The agile ace of Morning Musume was too quick for the would-be lothario, however, and slipped away from Kudo's grasp. Riho quickly made her way to the door, slipped on her shoes and an overcoat, and left the hotel room. Deftly avoiding managers and other members alike, Riho stealthily made her way to the ground floor and, from there, out of the hotel. Outside the sun had already set, but there were still a large number of pedestrians lining the street. Stuffing her hands into her pockets, Riho did her best to disappear into the crowd of anonymous people, occasionally looking back to make sure she wasn't being followed by Haruka, who was pretty athletic (and could probably catch up to Riho quickly without much effort).
Riho eventually ducked down a series of side streets and alleyways; despite the haste in which she left the hotel, an outside observer would note that she now seemed to have a set destination in mind. After several more minutes of walking, Riho spied that which she was seeking: a sign indicating a coffee shop of no particular notoriety. Increasing her pace - and checking once more to make sure no one was following her - Riho ducked into the cafe.
Once inside, the young pop star scanned the immediate area, seemingly looking for someone in particular. Riho was about to give up when she saw the one she sought: in a corner booth sat an elegant young woman with long, flowing brown locks. Sipping a cup of tea, the young woman seemed far too refined and upper class to be seated in a mere coffee bar. Yet there she was, drinking tea all alone, emanating a quiet aura of affluence and dignity as she did so.
Smiling, Riho swiftly made her way over to the young beauty sitting all by herself. As she saw Riho approach, the young woman gave a small smile and waved.
Riho made her way to the booth and sat across from the girl, setting her bag down at her side.
"Fuku-chan!" Riho exclaimed happily, rubbing the other girl's forearms.
Mizuki Fukumura was Riho's generation mate in Morning Musume, though she was slightly older than Riho. Mizuki - Fuku-chan to her friends - came from a wealthy family, and her lack of common sense about certain things was a source of amusement to fans and Morning Musume members alike. Riho looked up to Mizuki as a senpai, and perhaps more -- she loved rubbing Mizuki's arms, for example.
"I was wondering if you were coming," Mizuki said clearly, yet shyly. One of the criticisms concering Mizuki as a pop star was that her public persona was too reserved and shy; these traits often showed themselves in her private dealings as well. "Mizuki was afraid you'd forgotten."
Riho stopped rubbing Mizuki's arm and grasped her hand. "Don't be silly!" she said, grinning. "When have I ever forgotten anything?"
The corners of Mizuki's mouth curled upward. "I can think of plenty of times you've forgotten things," she giggled, using her free hand to cover her mouth.
Waving a hand dismissively, Riho shook her head. "Only my bag. And my phone. And..." She shrugged. "Okay. But I've never forgotten to meet you!"
"So what kept you?" Mizuki asked, rather pointedly.
Riho shifted in her seat uncomfortably. "Well..." she began hesitantly. "Haruka and I...we...well, we sorta had a fight."
Mizuki raised an eyebrow. "You...you told her?" she asked, her voice rising slightly. "About us?"
Sighing, Riho avoided looking directly across the table. "Not...exactly," she confessed. "It was...something else."
"Oh." Mizuki's eyes darted away as her shoulders dropped.
"But I will!" Riho exclaimed, clasping both of Mizuki's hands in her own. "I promise!"
Before either girl could say anything further, however, Riho's phone buzzed, signaling an incoming text message. Letting go of Mizuki's hands, Riho fished around in her bag for the device. Within seconds she had it in her hand, and was checking the message in silence.
As Riho occupied herself with her phone, Mizuki spoke up. "Who is it from?" she asked, her voice hesitant.
Riho looked up from her phone. "It's from my manager-san," she explained. "About extra dance lessons."
"For you?" Mizuki asked in surprise. "You hardly need them."
Shrugging, Riho looked back down at her phone. "If I don't keep honing my skills, they'll wither. I need to stay sharp, especially so I don't mess up our routines."
"You're so diligent, Riho-chan," sighed Mizuki wistfully. She then grabbed her own phone to toy around with as Riho tended to her business.
Looking at her own phone, Riho's eyes once again scanned over the text message on the screen before her. Swallowing hard, her heart skipped a beat as she read the lines once more."Riho-chan,
I'll be back in my hotel room after 9:30. Would you care to join me? We could practise our dance moves...
Swallowing hard again, Riho's fingers trembled slightly as she replied to Ayumi Ishida's text in the affirmative.
Apologies for any misspellings/grammatical errors; it was written in a rush over two days. More to come at some point, since Essy demands it. She's a harsh mistress.