Tomo is unreliable in many ways, but she did give Sakaki a lovely set of photos, which Sakaki treasures by slowly buying new photo frames and decorating her apartment with. It felt really odd, originally to move into an apartment by herself. She’s used to the hustle and bustle of her mother, of having generations of knickknacks surround her. Even her room feels sparse – it was too difficult to transport all of her toys across – just a few of her favourites.
Maya helps her feel more at home as well always being there for her, even if it makes her mother bemoan visiting. The cats of the neighbourhood always leave Sakaki alone now, her hand feels the relief, but her heart that always longed to cuddle with them mourns the lost opportunities. The animals that she has treated always seem friendlier with each visit so she holds hope for one day having her own surgery filled with adorable animals that she can help every day.
It’s awkward though meeting new people, her group from high school’s dispersed, one member, Chiyo going across the world to America. She treasures their letters and emails, but sometimes feels sad. Kaorin who sometimes hung out with their group, never writes at all, though Sakaki had felt hope that maybe they were getting closer when she asked to have a photograph together on their last day. There are times where Sakaki thinks she can see her in the backdrop, so it’s hard to forget her.
It’s been too long since she’s seen the others, maybe Tomo can organise drinks again? It’s always dangerous letting Tomo pick, but she always finds ways to motivate the others and a memorable experience.
Tomo is unreliable in many ways but she did get the photograph developed for Kaorin. Kaorin keeps it on her study desk and smiles at it every day. It feels odd, remembering the days where she could see Sakaki regularly. It feels like all the progress she made in highschool is gone – while she sometimes sees Sakaki in various sporting events – she represents her university in many of the games, it’s far to terrifying to break through the crowds and come up and say congratulations. Besides the contact details are sure to have changed now, and she’s sure that it would be too weird for Sakaki to hear from her.
Besides, it’s easier to reminisce and remember her first love of puberty than to worry, and face the reality of “what if she has been forgotten?”
Besides, first loves aren’t meant to work out. They are meant to be beautiful and admired in the distance she reassures herself, you can’t be expected to have it work out with the first person you fall in love with, you need to have a rebound to work things out of your system and then find that spectacular person to spend the rest of your life with. That’s how it really works out, if you want romance, and not staid old dependency.
Kaorin is going to try finding that rebound tonight as she goes drinking, for her first time, now that she’s just turned 20, and while she would not have minded if Sakaki had been a guy, her coolness and elegance transcends gender boundaries… Girls are cute are easier to talk with and just, it’s so much easier to feel that tingle not of outright desire, but what could be desire. Besides the guys who like Kaorin tend to be like Kimura-sensei, so Kaorin’s going to be sticking to a girls only place tonight. A place, that’s meant to be ideal, for women seeking other women or women on dates with other women.
A few hours later and Kaorin is squeaking silently as the girls squeezed past her in the narrow stairway all dressed up for clubbing and talking about love hotels. This looked like it was the place then, the place that was supposed to be, the place for girls to hook up with other girls, that she heard through rumours online, for people like her.
It's not that Kaorin wants something like that, tawdry and physical. She longs for something pure and sweet, a love that surpasses gender and is about a joining of minds in mutual admiration. But. But if she's honest with herself, she is lonely and tired of one sided love. And maybe, there is something a little appealing about soft sensual curves and wicked smiles.
This is her gateway forward, to moving on and becoming a stronger more confident person. She's going to go in there, look aloof and charming, yet approachable; she will have a drink and then go home. That's all she needs to do for tonight to be a success. She doesn’t need to risk speaking and have her stutter spoil everything.
She opens the double doors slowly, looking carefully around before she suddenly leaps back and leans heavily against the wall, eyes wide, panting slightly in surprise.
What the hell is Sakaki doing here? Looking aloofly into the distance, elegant long legs curled gracefully under the tall circular table. She looks as mysterious and cool as ever and it still makes Kaorin’s heart thump with emotions.
Does her being here, mean Kaorin stands a chance? Or worst that she had a chance with Sakaki in high school and has now lost it? Wait, what if she came in here by mistake? What if she’s here with someone else?
“Calm down Kaorin”, she tells herself. Maybe Sakaki doesn't know what this place is. Maybe she's here with friends because it has the best drinks and you’re unlikely to get hassled. Pff. What kind of a person would do that? If you look around, it’s not really subtle…
Okay, Kaorin has a new plan now. Talk with Sakaki and not freak out and tonight will be one to treasure!
Tomo has a knack of finding great places to drink and this one is fantastic, even if she does say so herself. The staffs all have their own fashionable twists to their uniform, the drinks are reasonably priced, the bartenders mix a mean margarita, food is FANTASTIC and you don’t need to worry about men like Kimura-sensei bothering you, because they’re not allowed in!
It’s an underground lesbian bar that only opens on certain periods of the month, claiming to be invite only (to prevent any accusations of discrimination) and the rest of the time they host a variety of shows and musicals on the main stage for people to pay and watch as they have an expensive meal. It’s always good for a laugh, but it’s especially fun when they open for their real function.
Yomi, a complete spoil sport, thinks Tomo’s choice is ridiculous, when she works out how the bar section is different from normal, but not enough to actually leave once she works out that her suspicions upon entering the are correct . (Her suspicions before entering, were that Tomo was gleefully planning on crashing someone’s private function – and would probably not get in, so it would be safe to take on a smug expression and direct Sakaki to a more sedate restaurant around the corner.
But that’s because Yomi can be such a downer sometimes, and needs someone like Tomo in her life to spice things up!
Really that Yomi ought to trust Tomo, a little more now, especially since they’ve both almost finished college and Tomo is going to be a very respectable police officer soon! Well, after she completes the police academy, after she graduates from her current degree.
That’s only three years away! Four tops! Totally! And she can work on her stunning college detective skills in-between and turn them into sexy, intuitive police officer skills!
Yomi, who thinks she’s so smart compared to one of the Knuckleheads, is working from an incorrect assumption though. It’s much more fun to surprise and torment her friends and add their expressions to her catalogue of their idiosyncrasies and working out their motivations so that she can understand the mysteries of humanity more, rather than some random boring stranger she doesn’t care about and won’t be able to scientifically document their discomfort. It’s simply elementary, Watson, once you know that the motivation is about maximises Tomo’s fun and that fun is proportional to how well you know the person!
Speaking of which, her shark sense is picking up an opportunity right now! Tomo is struck with an idea that she simply must confirm, if her target’s upgraded from Japanese to Hawaiian yet.
Yomi sniffs and thrusts her arms crossed beneath her breasts while talking to the bartender, aware that it makes her look more intimidating, especially as the light gleams off her glasses. She doesn’t care as she really needs a drink. That blasted idiot Tomo, dragging them into a place like this, it doesn’t look like Sakaki’s caught on, and it does work as a place for a girl’s night out. But really! There’s already been one person who’s mistaken Yomi and Tomo as a couple, which is just. No.
It’s not that Yomi wants to be seen as open on the market, or at least for this market, but it’s Tomo, that infuriating person who only excels in order to piss off others.
A startled cry in the background wakes Yomi from her grumbles. Yomi sighs as she wonders what victim Tomo’s roped into things now. Wait. Tomo’s found a victim here? It can’t be Sakaki, and Kagura’s bowed out for an early night as she has a competition tomorrow, Osaka’s currently in Hokkaido….
So who, would be here?
Kaorin shrieks slightly when someone suddenly pounces upon her, groping, yelling something about not upgrading to Hawaiian yet, too bad. But the internal shrieking notches up a once she realises who it was.
Tomo?! Oh no, not that. Not Sakaki with Tomo, Kaorin feels mortified.
Of course, all those times when Tomo hung all over the other girls, especially Sakaki, should have been a clue. Giving her a copy of that photo, was just a laugh at her expense.
She feels herself swelling in outrage at how Tomo is still just playing with her, as Tomo then casually wraps an arm around Kaorin and says super casually, “You’ve grown up a bit since high school! You should join us for drinks, Yomi will be glad to have another familiar face!” and she finds herself settling down a little, awkward and confused but willing to be lead to Sakaki.
Yomi re-joins the table with a midori and lemonade for Sakaki, a black ship for herself and the whiskey sour that Tomo wanted – she wanted to be cool like some ridiculous cop she saw on TV but doesn’t have the palate for it yet, unless it’s served in a drink that’s half sugar like this.
She recognises the new person that’s joined them from high school and raises an eyebrow at the red-faced, no doubtable from something outrageous Tomo has done, Kaorin who is looking like she would very much like to run away.
Tomo’s gleefully taking her drink now and draining it in one large chug. Honestly, drinks like that should be savoured and now Tomo’s going to come leaching of her for money as the night goes on.
Tomo surprises her though, by insisting on going to get new drinks for her and Kaorin, possibly to head off any attempts for Kaorin to go and just not come back, so that she’ll have more time to torment her.
Kaorin is trying not to look at the bright light that is Sakaki and embarrass herself further in front of the others. It’s hard enough to come to a place like this, but she doesn’t have the excuse of being brought in by a maniac that thinks it’s funny.
What if they think she’s here to meet girls? What if they judge her?! Yomi’s already raising an eyebrow and smirking at Kaorin already.
Beautiful, graceful Sakaki seems above it all though, coolly answering questions about her course and the wild animals that she subdues into obeying her.
Listening to Sakaki always makes everything better!
Sakaki’s a little hesitant; it doesn’t even look like Kaorin’s looking at her. Maybe her stories about the adorable animals that she calms down from their frightened states are boring her? It’s funny the incident with the cow, where she felt worried that the cow was going to bolt, but the farmers reassured her, that with the beer in her diet that she would stay very mellow. What about the story with the scared dog that she comforted as it trembled in her arms?
She tries to draw Kaorin into discussion, but it’s Yomi who really succeeds, bringing up the old astronomy club and if Kaorin still does anything like that.
Kaorin lights up and talks a bit about the club and how there’s this perfect spot her colleges astronomy club likes to go to in the summer off in the mountains – fireflies frequent the area and the sky view is amazing.
“That sounds really nice, I’d like to go to a place like that” she wishes out loud. It sounds so nice being able to socialise with friends and see such natural beauty.
Kaorin’s heart stops. Her dream since high school, of having Sakaki come with her to look at the stars could come true!
Now don’t blow it, she tells herself internally.
“The clubs not doing anything for a while”, she starts off casually, knowing that exams and assignments would be stopping club activities for a while. “But I was thinking about going by myself next weekend.
“Wouldyouliketocomewithmethere?” Kaorin mumbles quickly.
Wonder of wonders, Sakaki says yes!
Wonder of wonders! It works out well! Well, apart from where Kaorin realises with horror that Sakaki had sent her an email a long time ago and thought Kaorin was ignoring her.
Kaorin demands to see the number it had been sent to – more quietly, “if Sakaki is okay with that of course”, and is horrified to find that the number is wrong in Sakaki’s address book. She’s pretty sure she knows who to blame for it too, no one but Tomo would make a lame thief pun out of her phone number.
But wonder of wonders! Sakaki says yes to going out together again to look at the stars, or maybe have tea, or dinner sometime soon. Kaorin’s heart might just explode from happiness.
They meet again regularly and currently they are in a little café, Sakaki relaxing from a training session where she needed to birth a foal, her cat Maya patrolling the area outside.
Kaorin finds herself drawn into conversations about her studies – environmental science and her thoughts on pollution and the quality of fish – Kaorin thinks that it’s all very boring to normal people, but Sakaki just smiles at her excitement.
Sakaki mentions that she’s going to be playing at a university softball match tomorrow, would Kaorin like to catch dinner after?
Kaorin immediately answers that she already has a reserved spot for the game, because of course she wants to see Sakaki bring her team to magnificence and victory, and it would be her pleasure – making Sakaki blush prettily indeed.
One of the astronomy club members, a bashful boy in glasses, comes up to Kaorin asking “uh, do you like to watch the fireflies?”
“I love them!” Kaorin answers easily, thinking of the smile that came to Sakaki’s face as she reminisced about seeing the fireflies with her dad when she was little.
“I hear the Kabeyu Onsen in Oita Prefecture, Kyushu, is really good for viewing fireflies at this time of year and there is a special at the RabuRabu hotel there.” He mutters looking down before peering up and smiling brightly. Sure it’s a little forward, but Kaorin’s a difficult person to ask out.
Only to see a dust cloud left behind.
Kaorin, ponders many different ways she could ask Sakaki to hot springs.
I won these two tickets in a lottery, would you like to come with me?
My uncle unexpectedly had to go overseas and gave these to me, would you like to come?
She decides to go with truth. “I hear the fireflies there are really beautiful this time of year and I thought it might be something you would like.”
The sky is so beautiful, with the moon and stars bright against the darkness and Kaorin is amazed that she can be so happy, being able to spend it here with Sakaki. She never thought this was possible, and she stretches her hand out and names the planets and constellations that she recognises in the distance. Sakaki settles in close, making Kaorin super self-conscious as she covers the heat in her face from the contact by reciting the stories she has learned of the sky.
The fireflies look so lovely as the float close, as she turns to Sakaki, her breath catches and she reaches to brush one that had settled in her hair away. “It’s amazing being here with you.” She whispers as she brings her hand back.
Sakaki, looks hesitant, before reaching out and holding Kaorin’s hand for a moment, before blushing and looking away. “Yes it’s really nice being here with you, we should definitely have another date like this again.”
The world stops for Kaorin, and she can hear the blood rushing to her face. “You knew this was a date?”
Sakaki eyes go wide – what do you say to a question like that? You mean it is? You mean it isn’t? I value our friendship? Haven’t we been dating for a month? But we met at that place, you’ve been going to all my matches…
Tomo’s been making suggestions of seduction moves you will make, or I should make, getting consistently cruder…. And how Kaorin is going to steal her heart away … A statement Sakaki’s been finding less embarrassing and Tomo being mean, as she felt her relationship deepening.
But Kaorin makes it easy, by declaring it the best day of her life and kissing Sakaki enthusiastically.
It’s a lot easier to respond after that – and much, much clearer.
Sakaki and Kaorin smile together as they re-wallpaper the apartment with a kitty-cat design. They have a picnic planned for later just the three of them – Maya’s coming along too.
Kaorin’s trying to convince Sakaki to get a motorcycle so that they can tear through the countryside together, but Sakaki doesn’t think it’s practical. Maybe a motor-scooter since they live in Tokyo and with some of the animal emergencies it would be nice to get to places faster.
She tries to explain this to Kaorin, who’s eyes grow even larger with admiration, but Sakaki thinks that Kaorin’s the admirable one, who asked her on a date while not being sure what the other person though. Sakaki’s not sure she would have that kind of courage.
Sakaki is starting as a junior vet next month, and Kaorin’s just been hired as part of a lab where they analyse water quality and the impacts it has upon the food chain. Sakaki feels so warm to see what her life has become.