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Dance of the Princesses

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Tapping “stop” on the music player, Rise looked up with a pleased smile on her face. “Okay, that was pretty good. I think we're starting to get it coming together. Let's see if we can do one more run through like that before we take a break, okay?”

“You sure that went well?” Chie asked, catching her breath and pulling at her collar, letting out some warm air. “I felt super awkward out there.”

“Really? But you did so well!” Yukiko insisted, patting Chie on the back. “Rise and I drew so much energy from your performance, you must have been doing something right!”

“Must've been by accident. I keep telling you, I'm not much of a dancer, let alone an idol,” Chie insisted with a shy blush.

“Pfft, don't be so down on yourself.” Rise grinned. “Remember that incident with the LMB Festival and Kanamin Kitchen?”

“Th-that was different! That was solving a mystery saving the world, that sort of thing. Not... performing to actually, like, entertain an audience, sell merch.”

“Mm, I don't know, Chie,” Yukiko teased, smiling wistfully. “You danced divinely then. When we danced together for that final performance, ah, it was like I fell in love with you all over again.”

“Me too,” Rise sighed dreamily, swaying on her feet. “Between you two and Narukami-senpai, I almost fell to giddy little pieces!”

“Y-Yeah, but that was just me doing my warm up and work out routine to a beat. Dancing for real, all the choreography and costumes...”

“What's wrong with your costume, Chie?” Rise asked. “I think you look quite handsome in it.”

“It's silly, is what it is!” Unable to bear it anymore, she unclasped the cape, and pulled off the ruffled collar. While that still left her in the doublet with the poofed shoulders, and the pantaloons and tights, already she could feel an immense sense of release, warm air venting through the openings in her clothes. “Phew... And stuffy, too. How are you guys not passing out in your outfits?”

Rise and Yukiko looked between each other, and their matching princess dresses, pink and white with golden tiaras and flowers pinned around the skirts. “Well, to be fair, our dresses have a lot of opening, here,” Rise demonstrated, planting her leg on a chair, demonstrating the open area on the front of the dress, exposing her legs and her stockings. “Legs and feet retain the most heat, and that goes up the body quickly.”

“If we wore full dresses, we'd probably be as hot as you,” Yukiko agreed. “And tripping all over ourselves.” She cast her eyes aside. “If you're uncomfortable in your outfit, that's not fair, is it?”

“Nah, nah, just needs a little more breath-ability,” Chie insisted, patting Yukiko's shoulder, before she backed off. “B-But that's not the point! The point is... Why the prince and princes motif at all? And why do I gotta be a prince?”

“I thought the motif went well with the setlist,” Rise admitted. “And having a handsome prince on stage with us would make us all stick out, more. We'd blend together too much if we were all princesses.”

“Besides, have you seen these kind of shows? Female fans adore the prince idols!” Yukiko pointed out with a grin.

“Yeah, when she's not just there to make the princesses look prettier. And...and anyway, I mean, don't they also ship the prince with the princess? Aren't people gonna start thinking we're dating?”

Yukiko looked at Chie, blankly. “...But, Chie, we are dating.”

Chie winced, looking between Yukiko and Rise. “No, I mean, all of us! At once!”

Rise tilted her head, curiously. “Chie, the three of us are--”

“No, the point is, are you okay with that, Rise?” Chie sighed, and looked to Rise, genuinely concerned. “I mean, won't your reputation as an idol take another rocking if it comes out you're dating? And if your date's a girl? And if it's two of them, together?”

“Frankly, if people start shipping me with my two lovely assistants who I'm already dating behind the scenes, instead of with themselves, it's win-win,” Rise waved it off, before flashing a genuine smile. “The whole reason I came back to showbiz was to show the world the real me. That I'm Risette and Kujikawa Rise. And my relationship with two of the best girls in Japan is a pretty important part of me.”

“Yyyou know we're only your assistants for your bigger shows, right?” Yukiko pointed out. “Even if my parents have gotten things back under control, I still have to help out at the Inn, I can't go with you up and down Japan all the time.”

“We can still make that work,” Rise assured. “It's a special treat for me, and the audience.”

“Yeah...a real treat. The awkward tomboy who trips over herself unless she's doing some musical kung-fu,” Chie mumbled.

“Oh, Chie, you were just fine, now!” Rise insisted. “Seriously, are you uncomfortable with this? You're doing great, but if you're not comfortable with this, you don't have to do this. My manager and I can rework the set around just me and Yukiko.”

“...No, I'm just being a nervous baby,” Chie assured, relaxing her posture and flashing a reassuring smile. “Man, I haven't had butterflies this bad since our Junes concert. And I'm only thinking about the upcoming show. Oh! Could I just spend most of my part playing the horn, like then?”

Rise's expression lit up. “Chie, you just gave me a great idea!” Switching to her notepad app, Rise quickly began typing notes. “I gotta go to the manager with this!”

“After that one more practice you wanted,” Yukiko insisted, holding up her own phone, and readying the musical track. “You can go without the cape and collar this time, Chie.”

Rise giggled, and nodded. “Yeah, you're right, Yukiko.” Giving her a quick, thankful peck on the cheek, Rise moved to center stage. “Alright, places, girls. And a five, six, seven, eight...”