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Certified Bangers

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The question popped into Kanon's head one day after a concert, as she was helping Misaki out of her Michelle costume.

At first, she dismissed it as frivolous - nothing worth knowing. Or at least, none of her business. It was something that Misaki alone knew, and if Misaki wanted to tell her, she would. Not to mention if Kanon was the one to bring up the topic, she would feel like she was being intrusive. Did people just pry into personal matters so brazenly? Of course not. So she quickly pushed it out of her mind, with the intention of forgetting it entirely.

But the next time they practiced, it came back - picking at her brain stem, compelling her to just go forward and speak up already.

It seemed like a simple inquiry; it wouldn't take more than five words to ask, and only one to answer. Yet its brevity belied its complexity: it wasn't the sort of question that you could casually ask upfront and out of nowhere. And it also wasn't as if it were something she could discuss with the other members of HHW, either - they simply wouldn't understand. Not to mention, again - none of her business. It had absolutely no bearing on Kanon's life or well-being, and had entirely to do with her own sense of curiosity. Yet  the more she tried to placate it, the fiercer the feeling in her skull became: like a bad itch, gnawing at her cerebral cortex with every thought.

The day finally came where she couldn't take it any more - she simply had to know. With quivering hands, she approached Misaki after practice, long after Kokoro, Kaoru, and Hagumi had already left the scene.

"Hey, Kanon-san," said Misaki, packing up her DJ equipment. "What's up?"

"U-Um..." Kanon stuttered, inwardly steeling herself for the task ahead. "Th-There's something I want to ask you, Misaki-chan."

Misaki nodded. "Okay. What is it?"

Kanon took a deep breath, clenched her hands into nervous fists, and - with a ramrod spine - squeaked determinedly:

"Are... Are you a furry?"

Misaki's eyes fell upon the horizon, lightless and distant. The lines on her face suddenly seemed much more haggard and wizened. Her lips slowly curled into a smile, but there was no joy or contentedness in her expression - only resignation.

Kanon's guilt welled like a geyser inside of her. "I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean to-!"

"No, it's okay," said Misaki, her voice tinny and flat. "I...I knew this day would come." A single tear trickled down her cheek.

"Mi-Misaki-chan..."

"It was inevitable, really," said Misaki with a bitter laugh, plopping down in a nearby chair as she continued to stare blankly into space. "Nobody would put up with doing so much labor inside of a pink bear mascot without a reason, right? There had to be some sort of underlying motive."

"B-But I thought it was for Kokoro-chan and the others?"

"That's what I told myself at first too," said Misaki, shaking her head. "It was just a facade to make them happy. A willing sacrifice for their sake. And sure, I had fun doing it too. But the more I performed, and practiced... I couldn't help but wonder if there was something more. Something I couldn't put my finger on."

"Are... are you saying...?"

"I... I don't know," said Misaki, now looking at her hands as if they were unrecognizable. "I ask myself that same question every day, Kanon-san. There are times where I think I've found an answer, but then the next day my emotions shift again, like a sand castle swept away by the sea. I... I don't know what to think of myself. Am I Misaki? Am I Michelle? Who... Who do I want to be, really?"

Kanon couldn't take it anymore, she pressed herself into Misaki's limp torso, enveloping her in a warm embrace. "M-Misaki-chan, it's okay!"

The sudden hug seemed to jolt a sliver of emotion back into Misaki's face. "K-Kanon-san...?"

"W-We all question things about ourselves every now and then, b-but that's normal!" Kanon shouted. "I... there's lots of parts of me that I'm not sure about either, but I know... I know that I'll figure them out! And you should know that no matter what you discover about yourself, I'll... I'll still love you, okay?"

Misaki's smile warmed, though it retained a small bit of awkwardness. "Er... I mean, I would hope so, considering there's, uh, nothing wrong with being a furry... I think."

Kanon tousled a strand of her own hair. "Oh... right."

"Still..." said Misaki, sighing contentedly and squeezing her back. "Thanks, Kanon-san. I'm sure I'll figure things out eventually."

Kanon rested her cheek against Misaki's shoulders. "I know you will."

And for the moment, that was enough.

In the face of uncertainty, whether it was trivial or earthshaking... they knew they could confide in one another without hesitation.