Chapter One

Yaya fiddled with the ends of her hair as she sat on the bed. The new term was to begin the following Monday. From where she sat, Yaya could see Hikari’s neat, pale blue suitcases underneath her bed, but the girl herself was absent. Yaya had half-smiled at that, for she had little doubt as to where the other young woman was – she only hoped Hikari intended to return before supper.

In moving in, Yaya had had to do very little. Her sheets had remained on the bed during break, and she had likewise neglected to bring home her uniforms. She had carried but one suitcase into the room, albeit a large one, and from here she had extracted undergarments, pajamas, toiletries, and a few non-uniform items of clothing, all of which were then unceremoniously dropped into a few of the drawers in her bureau. A small bad, separate from the suitcase, contained a few personal items.

But with everything put away, Yaya found herself with little to do. The students of St. Miator were to move in the following day, and many of her classmates were not scheduled to arrive until later in the evening. As for St. le Rim… well, she didn’t know any of them terribly well, and she suspected that their loose rules did not require their girls to be on campus until the last possible minute.

So she flopped backwards on her bed, stared at the ceiling, and waited for Hikari to return.

As she lay, her thoughts began to bubble, and those she had suppressed so well fought valiantly to return to the surface once more. Hikari – her unbidden thoughts always regarded the girl, even after she had let her walk away to the Etoile ceremony with Amane. And Hikari was no longer the little flower she’d once been – at the very least, Yaya was excruciatingly aware of that. She had skipped the ceremony exactly for that.

The time after the Etoile ceremony had passed very quickly, and under the weight of exams Yaya didn’t have time to think about anything not relating to the Pythagorean Theorem, the Warring States Period, or the fine language of Spain. She had parted company with Hikari amiably enough, but had pointedly ignored all phone calls and happy postcards since. Separation seemed to be the best antidote of all.

But now she was back in the room, could see Hikari’s uniform set out on her chair, and could even smell the girl’s presence in the air itself. It had been easy to forget Hikari with hundreds of miles between them, but this bed separation of mere feet unkindly suggested her attempted delusions were about to end.

Yaya stood up with a loud sigh, and crossed to the window, which she then threw open to the outside atmosphere; at the very least, it would clear her head a bit. Even from the high window, the garden smells of spring floated up to her. She closed her eyes and leaned on the sill, breathing in deeply. It was a gorgeous late spring afternoon.

From her window, Yaya could see the solid buildings of St. Miator, dark in the afternoon sunshine. She laughed slightly as she considered how close Miator was to the dorm, and pictured Nagisa expressing relief over this fact. Nagisa would have been extremely ill-suited to Spica, all things considered. Although, Yaya thought with a smirk, being in the school of brides also seemed to have been an error on someone’s part…

There was a knock at the door now, and Yaya stepped back from the window. She swiveled on her heel, and called out, “Come in!”

The door was cautiously eased open, and a pink-haired girl stuck her head in.

“Oh, Tsubomi – you can come in, but Hikari isn’t here, I think she’s off doing Etoile business.”

Tsubomi stepped into her room and tossed her head. “I wasn’t looking for Hikari.” She said, somewhat sharply.

Yaya smirked, “Well, I suppose that’s good – I doubt the good prince Amane would be terribly happy if you tried to steal away the princess.”

At this the other girl ducked her head slightly, blushing and looking indignant, “I would never do such a thing!”

Yaya shrugged, falling back onto her bed once again, “It doesn’t really matter, since Hikari wouldn’t want to part company with her dear Amane anyway.” She paused, “Aren’t you going to come in more? You can sit down if you want.”

Tsubomi scowled, and closed the door behind herself, before she settled into Yaya’s desk chair. She looked over the room, taking in the differences between either side. On the floor, Yaya’s suitcase lay partially open.

“How was your break?”

“Oh, it was alright – there wasn’t much to do, no one lives near me. Chiyo did come visit once, although she didn’t seem to have much fun – I think she was afraid of my dog.”

“My god, that girl is timid.”

“And what about you, Yaya?”

“We-ell…” There was a pause here, “Well… really nothing, I suppose. I did my homework, I saw a few relatives, slept a lot…”

“You didn’t see Hikari at all?” Tsubomi was, for once, unguardedly incredulous.

Yaya avoided her gaze, an uncomfortable silence slowly forming. She searched vainly for words, “Well, I… you know, we do live pretty far apart, and break isn’t that long… I think she was fairly busy… and, well, you know, you always mean to see your friends, but then you don’t get to…”

Tsubomi looked skeptical, but remained silent.

“And, besides, how come you did not visit Hikari at all?”

The blush was back furiously, and she sputtered, “Well, I was busy, too! I had a lot of homework – I think they gave us way more than you had to do when you were a first year!”

Yaya’s face creased into laughter, and Tsubomi looked even more frustrated than she had previously. She whirled around, and stormed out of the room, “And I was going to ask you to go down to dinner with me! I hope you get stuck going alone!”

Yaya watched the girl, somewhat bemused. The door was slammed in her wake, making the window panes shudder slightly from the force. Alone in the room, Yaya absentmindedly sorted the books on her desk, her back to Hikari’s side of the room. She frowned down at the books – surely this wasn’t the Literature textbook they were using this year? She could’ve sworn it was the same from the prior trimester…

She sat down at the desk, having finished with the books, and doodled slightly on a fresh notebook page. Bubbles took form on the paper, and she wondered if the broken washing machine in the Spica laundry-room had been repaired during the break. It had broken down immediately following the Etoile election, belching forth suds whenever anyone dared pour in detergent – and Sister Catherine, while certainly more modern than the sisters of Miator, had been extremely upset at the mess created by giggling first-years with altogether too much time on their hands.

The page was slowly filling when the doorknob jiggled slightly, and a soft voice came, “Oh, it’s unlocked.” Even before the door swung ajar, Yaya was on her feet. Hikari stared from the doorframe, Amane poised in discomfort at the sight of Yaya.

“Oh, Yaya! Did you just get here?”

“Uh, just a little while ago. I unpacked already, though…”

Hikari came into the room, brightly smiling, although the young woman behind her walked in more stilted fashion. It was very clear to Yaya that she was not entirely welcome at the moment.

Yet, Hikari, in general fashion, seemed to be blissfully unaware of the slight hostility being beamed in her room-mate’s direction. She continued to smile, “I haven’t seen you in so long, Yaya – I wish you’d told me when you were getting here.”

Hikari had changed a bit in their weeks spent apart, that much was clear. Her voice was still soft, and there was still the air of shyness about her, but there was also an undercurrent of confidence to her which had simply not existed previously. Amane was, admittedly, good for her. Even after being room-mates for so long, Yaya had no been able to elicit the change in Hikari that Amane had managed to cause in a few short months.

“Well,” Yaya began, forcing a smile, “I wasn’t too sure when I was getting here.”

“I’m glad you’re here now, Yaya – would you like to come down to dinner with us?”

“Oh, well, I had kind of already promised Tsubomi I’d go down with her… she came by earlier, and I told her I’d meet her by the staircase. Maybe we can meet up later?”

“Oh! That’d be nice.”

“Well, I’ll see you later, then, Hikari.”

She waved to her as she left the room, key wrapped firmly around her hand. The door shut softly behind her, and for a moment she stood there, eyes blank. But then there was a sigh, and as the voices in the room behind her became audible, she moved down the corridor.

She sincerely hoped Tsubomi’s anger would prove short-lived.

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