The sun had long since set when key animator Yasuhara Ema finished her work for the day. She had been working a bit later than usual to finish a particularly difficult cut, and she was certainly ready to go home for the night. It had been a long day, but she felt satisfied with how much she had done, and for once, Musashino Animation's schedule wasn't hectic.
As she was getting ready to leave, however, she noticed someone timidly approaching from behind. Even before Ema turned around, it was easy to tell that it was her extremely shy coworker (and student of sorts), Kunogi Ai. Kunogi had been getting better at communicating with people, but evidently, she was still hesitant to say very much.
"Ah, Kunogi-san," Ema found it a little unusual that she too was working this late, but she thought nothing of it. "What is it? Do you want me to check your keyframes again?" That was usually the reason why she approached her.
"N...no..." Kunogi shook her head, and Ema realised she didn't even have any keyframes with her. In fact, she got the feeling that she hadn't worked on any more since the last time they spoke, which was nearly two hours ago now. Could it be possible that she had been waiting for her this whole time?
"Is it... something else, then?" Ema enquired patiently. She was usually able to tell what her junior was trying to say, but trying to guess what she was thinking was something else entirely. "Whatever you need, don't be afraid to ask."
"U-um... I... It's..." The girl seemed to be a bit more nervous than usual - was it something she didn't want to say with other people around? Due to how late it was, there were much less people in the office than usual, but it wasn't as if the two were alone.
"Alright," Ema gave a small smile, able to see that Kunogi was struggling. "Let's talk about this somewhere else."
Upon seeing her look of surprise, Ema continued, lowering her voice a little:
"It's something you only want me to hear, isn't it? It looks like you’re uncomfortable with saying it here."
"Y-y...yes," Kunogi replied, glad that her mentor was always able to understand her.
"Let's go up to the roof, then," Ema suggested. "It's nice at this time of night."
A minute later, they were up on the roof of the building. It was cool outside, but not cold, and the rooftop was at just the right elevation for being there to be pleasant at any time of day. It was night time, so the sky above the rooftop was dark, but it was illuminated by the lights of the city, as well as the few stars that were visible that night - the sky’s colour was more of a dark blue than black. It created a somewhat calming atmosphere, and one could say that there was a certain beauty to the cityscape when viewed from this point.
"Okay," Ema said, certain that they would be alone up there. "There's nobody else around, so you can talk to me about anything."
With another nod, Kunogi spoke, in her usual awkward way. "I-I'm... in l-lo..." Her face wore a light blush.
"You're... in love with someone?" Ema interpreted, not expecting something like that. From what she could tell, the majority of Kunogi’s social interaction was with Ema herself.
"Y-yes..." Her blush increased, understandably so due to such a thing being difficult to tell another person.
"I'm happy for you," Ema didn't have much experience with crushes herself, not even in her childhood, but she knew how to be supportive when someone close to her did have a crush. "Is this person someone from work, or…?”
"W-work..." Kunogi responded slowly and quietly. It was noticeable how she avoided making eye contact, but she generally had difficulty with that at the best of times.
"Hmm," Ema hummed, pondering just who it could be. “Are they... a man?” She didn’t really find most of the men at Musani to be attractive, but perhaps Kunogi had different tastes to her.
“N-no...” She quickly shook her head in denial, visibly nervous to admit it. “A... w-wo...man...”
“I see,” It wasn’t entirely shocking to hear this, so it resulted in a subdued reaction. “Well, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
Hearing this made the younger girl happy, and it showed on her face as she looked up at Ema with relief. Learning that she had no problems with lesbianism brought Kunogi some degree of comfort.
“Love is love,” Ema smiled at her. “But I would like to know who it is that you’re in love with... You don’t need to tell me if you don’t want to, but-”
"I-It's...!” Kunogi cut her off with a single stuttered word before she could finish that sentence. “It’s...Y-Ya...s-su..." Anyone could tell that she was having a hard time of saying her crush’s name.
"Yasu... Who has a name beginning with Yasu... Oh," Those two syllables were enough for Ema to come to a realisation that made her face heat up. "Yasu...hara...?”
Upon hearing this conclusion, Kunogi went bright red and confirmed it with a shy nod. She’d finally confessed, but she’d done so with the least amount of words possible.
"You’re... in love with me..." Ema had somehow never considered that anyone could have those feelings for her, let alone the girl who was practically attached to her. "W-well... I'm, um, flattered that you feel that way..."
Kunogi continued avoiding eye contact, anxious about what came next. Internally, she was now beginning to worry about whether or not confessing had been the right thing to do, and what the consequences of doing so were going to be. Doubt was creeping up on her fast.
"I’m glad you told me, Kunogi-san," Ema now spoke more softly, with a certain calmness. "I can’t say that I’ve ever thought about this, but... I wouldn’t mind being with you in that way.”
"...?" That this wasn’t a rejection actually came as a surprise.
"I do like you a lot," She admitted with some awkwardness. "You’re my first junior, you always work hard, and... you’re cute, too."
"C-cu...?!" Kunogi's eyes widened, face scarlet.
"I don't think anyone would disagree," Ema told her with some confidence. "But, yes... If I’m the person who you love, then I see no reason to turn you down."
"...!" Kunogi, overcome with a mixture of joyful relief and more than a little embarrassment, suddenly hugged her tightly and buried her face in her chest. "Th-thank... you... Y-ya...suha..."
"N-now, now..." Ema was surprised at this display of affection, but she returned the hug. "There’s no need to thank me... And you can call me Ema..."
“...E-Ema...” Calling her crush - or girlfriend, now - by her given name was actually a bit easier for Kunogi than using her family name, if not mostly due to how short it was.
“There we go,” Ema held her close, then whispered something. “...Ai-chan.”
“A-ai...?!” Kunogi - Ai - spluttered. She was in no way prepared for that.
Ema simply giggled at her, lightly petting her head.
“You ever wish you had a man in your life?” Sakaki Shizuka suddenly asked, out of the blue.
“Zuka-chan, how much have you had to drink...?” Toudou Misa asked in return, eyeing her with suspicion.
The usual group of friends from high-school, which Ema was a part of, had met up again (as they often did), a few days after Ema’s rooftop conversation with Kunogi. It had been a fairly normal get-together for the most part, but somehow things had led to this.
“Only a little, Mii-chan, I swear,” The redhead insisted, but who knows how true that statement was.
“Well, it’s not a bad question,” Miyamori Aoi admitted, taking a sip of her drink. “I don’t think any of us have really thought about it, though.”
“It's true,” Imai Midori agreed with her. “Right, Ema-senpai?” She turned to the one among them who had been keeping quiet.
“Um, about that...” Ema blushed a little, and ended up drawing everyone’s attention towards her. “Not a man, but... I do have a girlfriend now.”
The chorus of “ehhhhh?!” rang out loud enough to be heard halfway across the street (had this been one of those anime the girls worked on, the camera would have panned to the sky).
Needless to say, Ema had a little bit of explaining to do after dropping that bombshell.