"LOVE LAB: EXTRA LAB"
Riko Kurahashi made her way through the halls of Fujisaki Academy. Like always, she was completely oblivious to all the hearts in the eyes of all the students around her as they watched her make her way to the Student Council room. This time though, it wasn't entirely because she was oblivious. Today, she just happened to be in a daze, her eyes hooded, blank, white circles on her face.
"Me and Maki…" she muttered, sounding horrified. "Me and Maki…"
Everyone at Fujisaki Academy knew who Natsuo Maki was. As the Student Council President, she was greatly admired and respected by all the students, and even considered a "princess". It was only a select few, like Riko, who actually knew the truth of what Natsuo was like.
Walking in on Natsuo making out with a body pillow she had drawn the image of a boy on that she could practice being lovey-dovey with had been a shocking eye-opener to what Natsuo was really like. Completely ignorant to love and even boys in general, Natsuo had taken up trying to learn the ways of romance in order to attract a boyfriend. And after some severe miscommunication, misunderstandings, and a heaping handful of lies from Riko, she had been shanghaied into joining the Student Council to help Natsuo learn how to get a boyfriend, despite having zero experience herself.
It had been a wild and crazy ride, but Riko had finally managed to admit the truth to Natsuo, and the other members of the student council, that she wasn't the Master of Love she had pretended to be. To be perfectly honest, she had been surprised she had gotten away with deceiving them for so long, but then again, most of them were pretty naïve and scatterbrained. Still, it was a relief to finally have the truth brought to light.
And now, a different truth had been brought to light, and Riko had had the misfortune of discovering it the other day. It was due to this revelation that she was currently in her dazed state, and had been ever since she discovered it.
Riko had finally made up her mind. She was going to do it, she was going to ask out Satoshi Nagino. A lot had happened between them, but she was ready for this. She still didn't remember him confessing to her years ago, and she still didn't remember turning him down, but surely he must have some feelings for her still, right?
If only she could remember his confession, but she was still drawing a complete blank. Had his confession been vague and she just hadn't realized he had been confessing? That was the only explanation she could come up with. There was no way of telling since every time she brought up the subject with him, he would get embarrassed and defensive and tell her to forget it, and usually the subject would end in an argument between them.
Well, she wasn't going to make the same mistake he made. She was going to make it clear that she wanted to go out with him, and finally break her 14 year streak of being single. As an added benefit, she would have some actual real experience she could bring back to the Student Council for their Love Labs. More experience than the Treasurer, Sayori Mizushima, who only saw her boyfriend every few months.
Upon entering the cram school, she had tracked down Satoshi, calling out to him in the hall. "Hey, Sacchan!"
He immediately whirled around, an angry vein bulging in his head. "Don't call me Sacchan!" He looked her up and down, taking note of her stance. "Why do you look so stiff and serious?"
That was one way of putting it. Riko was indeed standing up as straight as possible, her expression frozen on her face as she tried to will away the blush that kept threatening to appear across it. "I… I want to talk to you!"
He sighed. "Right now? We're gonna be late."
Her eye twitched in irritation. This was embarrassing enough; why couldn't he just cooperate? "J-Just come with me!"
She grabbed hold of him and began to drag him away, ignoring his yelps as he stumbled along after her. The other students parted to let them pass, not wanting to get caught up with whatever was going on between them.
Pushing him into an empty classroom, Riko closed the door behind them and turned to him. Satoshi gave her a confused and irritated look, not happy about having been manhandled. "What's the big idea?"
Riko took a few deep breaths, trying to control herself. "I… I said I want to talk to you!"
He sighed again and straightened out his clothes that had gotten messed up from being dragged. "Yeah, I heard. Why couldn't you have told me out there? Did you not want Masaomi to hear?"
Riko blinked. "Hmm? Yan?"
They were talking about Masaomi Ikezawa, a mutual friend of the two of them. Had he been there? She hadn't even noticed him, being so focused on her task.
"He was walking right next to me," Sataoshi replied. He let out a sigh of resignation. "Well, now that we're here, what did you want to talk about?"
Riko gulped. She tried to find her voice, but it didn't want to come out. Why wouldn't it come out? She'd had this whole conversation planned out, but it was already going wrong. She was supposed to be playing it off as cool. After all, he'd been the one with a crush on her. So coming across like she was doing him a favor was the best way to handle it, wasn't it?
"Well?" he asked when she still didn't say anything. "What did you want to tell me?"
"Um, uh, um," she muttered. First she wanted to clarify that she never intended to turn him down back whenever he had confessed, and had simply didn't recognize his confession for what it was. Then she would express that she 'wouldn't mind' going out with him. "About your… um, confession."
He instantly turned beet red, looking embarrassed. "That again? I told you to forget it! Why do you keep bringing it up? Or are you talking about the second time you turned me down?"
Feeling her own face heat up, she shook her head. "No, it's about the first… EH?! When was the second time?"
"You missed that one too!?"
Riko began wracking her brain. When had he confessed a second time? The way he said it made it sound like it had been recently. Had she not realized it again? What exactly was his idea of confessing? Was it something that could be overlooked, or was she just that dense?
"I… I…" she stuttered, trying to find the right words. This new revelation was throwing her whole strategy out off track. But if he had confessed a second time, then it meant that he did still have feelings for her.
"Then I guess it's about both times," she told him, planning to make it clear that she didn't realize he had been confessing either time. "You see, about your confessions… The reason I rejected you was because-"
"It's ok," he interrupted. "You don't need to say it. I understand now. I think everyone does."
"Ok, but, when you confessed, I… Wait, what does everyone understand?"
He sighed and rubbed the back of his head, still looking embarrassed. "The reason you rejected me. It's because of Maki."
Riko stared at him, her face blank. "…Heh?"
"Everyone in school is talking about it. That you and Maki are together. I didn't realize it, but now it makes sense."
Riko blinked, trying to register what he was saying. "Wait, me and… Maki?"
He diverted his eyes. "Well, yeah. Rumors started after the way she hugged you during her first visit here. And then there was the way you defended her, and then the way you got all protective, and how you ran off after her while leaving me behind."
"…Me and Maki?"
"I mean, it makes sense. Everyone always says that you're more like one of the guys. It also explains why you didn't even realize I confessed; it's because you were into girls, so my interest didn't even register to you. And Maki, she was scared of all the boys, so it makes sense that she was into girls."
Riko's blank look had slowly shifted to one of horror as she realized that not just Satoshi thought this about her, but everyone at cram school. "Me and Maki…"
He sighed in resignation. "It's fine though. You could have just told me you swing that way sooner, I would have understood. In fact, I probably wouldn't have been so embarrassed by your rejection if I had known."
"Me and Maki… Me and Maki…"
"Anyway, I wish the two of you all the best. Now come on, we better get to class, or else we'll get scolded."
With that, he walked past her, leaving Riko standing there in a daze, wondering how things had come to this.
"Me and Maki… Me and Maki…"
It seemed as if she had been in the same daze ever since she'd had that conversation with Satoshi the other day, and those words had seemed to be the only thing she was capable of saying.
How had everyone at cram school come to that conclusion? Friends hugged, defended each other, got protective, and went after each other when they were upset all the time. So why in her case did they suddenly think she and Natsuo were a yuri couple? Was it, as Satoshi said, because she didn't act like the other girls? Was this just a big misunderstanding due to stereotypes? Had her lie about being popular with the boys made it look like she was lying to try and remain in the closet? Did her lack of ever having a boyfriend paint her in this light?
"Me and Maki…" she found herself saying yet again. "Me and Maki…"
Why hadn't she just told Satoshi that everyone was misunderstanding? No, she knew why, she had been so shocked that everyone thought this that she hadn't been able to respond. Now this was going to bring on a whole new series of misunderstandings she had to deal with, which was only going to make getting a boyfriend that much harder.
And what was she going to tell Natsuo? Now that she was attending the same cram school as her, she was going to find out what everyone thought about the two of them. It would be best to let her know now before she found out from someone else. But how exactly did she break this news to her?
Still in a daze, she opened the door to the Student Council room, and saw something that immediately snapped her out of her daze. Natsuo was sitting on the couch, a laptop in her lap and earphones in her ears. Her head was hanging back, a shocked and horrified look on her face, her eyes white and blank, her mouth hanging open and a little ghost floating out of it.
"Ah, Maki!" Riko exclaimed, and rushed inside. Grabbing hold of the Student Council President, she shook her. "Maki, are you alright? What happened to you?"
She turned her gaze to the laptop, and her mouth dropped open. A hentai video was playing, featuring a high school girl being attacked by numerous slimy tentacles, the ends of which were shaped like the male anatomy, penetrating all of the girl's orifices.
Worry quickly gave way to anger as Riko snatched up the laptop, slammed it shut, then ran over to the window and threw it out, watching as the computer shattered apart on the ground. Rushing back over to Natsuo, she took up a paper fan and angrily whacked her over the head with it.
"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU WATCHING!?"
Natsuo let out a squeal at the impact, snapping out of her daze. "Ah, Riko! What was that for?"
"The hell do you think!?" Riko raged. "Why are you watching a hentai?"
Natsuo cocked her head to the side, looking confused. "I thought it would be good for our Love Lab testing. Since you're just as inexperienced as I am with romance, I thought we should see where the end goal is. So I decided to look up an adult movie to see how far we still have to go."
A vein twitched in Riko's head. This was it, the naïve, idiotic side of the so-called Princess of Fujisaki Academy that no one ever saw or knew about. It was amazing how Natsuo could be so brilliant but also a complete moron.
"That wasn't an adult video," she snapped. "That was a hentai! It's fake! Just a perverted fantasy for dirty old men! There is no scenario where you would ever find yourself in a situation like that!"
Of course, telling that to Natsuo may not have been enough to get it through, as the girl often seemed to mix up fantasy and reality at times. She still somehow believed that if she gave enough love to her body pillow that she drew the picture of her ideal guy on that Huggy would come to life and whisk her away like a prince on a white horse.
"So it's not going to be like that?" Natsuo asked.
"Of course not!" Riko shouted irritably.
"But how do you know? You said you have no experience."
Riko began repeatedly whacking her with the paper fan. "It's common sense, you idiot!"
Natsuo continued to squeal as the paper fan came down on her. Finally, Riko ran out of steam and collapsed on the couch opposite of her. Sometimes, she couldn't believe how naïve and ignorant Natsuo was. Did she really think a hentai was good reference material?
Realizing that the beating had stopped, Natsuo lowered her arms and straightened herself out, once again looking perfect. "So what I saw isn't real?"
"Obviously," Riko grumbled. "There are no tentacle monsters that attack girls like that."
Natsuo cocked her head to the side, looking confused. "Then why do they make videos like that?"
Riko turned red. "H-How should I know!? There's just some really pervy people out there who enjoy watching that stuff."
Natsuo suddenly looked like she was about to cry. "I don't want to end up with someone like that. If it came to that," she suddenly lunged for her body pillow, hugging it to herself tightly, "I'd rather stay with Huggy!"
Riko's eye twitched. "At the rate you're going, that might be all you ever get."
"Then I'll give him all my love!" she declared, nuzzling the drawing's face. "We'll grow up, get married, have children together, and live happily ever after!"
"He's a pillow! You can't do those things with him!" Letting out an irritated growl, Riko sat back on the couch and looked around. "Where are the others anyway?"
Natsuo looked back over at her. "Sayo and Eno will be by later. They took some of the school's budget to go buy something for our next Love Lab."
Riko eyed her suspiciously. "What is Sayo buying? It's not video game related, is it?" When she didn't get a response, she gave Natsuo a hard look. "Maki, tell me you didn't give her money to buy a video game of some kind."
Natsuo tapped her fingers together, diverting her eyes. "Well, it's a new dating game, so it should fall under the Love Lab category."
Whack! Riko brought the paper fan down over her head again. "You can't trust anything she says when it comes to money!" She sat back down. "So what about Suzu?"
"Oh, she stopped by earlier. She's not coming today. She said she has a date."
Riko nodded. "Oh, a date. Well, I guess that's a good reason to… EH!? Did you say date!? When the hell did that happen?"
Natsuo covered her mouth. "Oops, I wasn't supposed to say anything. She wanted me to keep quiet about it for now because she was feeling shy about it. She only told me because she felt like she needed to talk to someone."
Now Riko was really feeling irritated. Not because Suzune told Natsuo over her, but because the childish, clumsy, scattered-brained secretary managed to get a date before her. How exactly did that happen?
Sighing, she pushed her irritation aside, deciding to be happy for her friend instead. "Well, good for her, I guess. So, what happened? Someone think she was cute and ask her out?"
Natsuo blushed slightly. "Actually, she asked him out."
Riko did a double-take. "Eh? Suzu? Our Suzu? She asked a boy out? Are we sure we're taking about the same Suzu?"
A chuckle escaped Natsuo. "I know, right. She said she wanted to try and be brave, and she wanted to be able to help with the Love Labs more and thought it would at least be good practice."
A grin spread across Riko's face. "Well, I'll be. Who would have thought she had it in her. So, did she tell you what happened? Give me the deets. Who'd she ask out?"
Another blush splashed across Natsuo's face. "Um, your brother, Ren."
"Yes, she said she developed a crush on him after we went to your house."
Out of all the things that Riko had learned over the past few days, this was perhaps the most shocking. "But, but, but, he was so mean to her!"
Natsuo shifted about. "That's what I thought too, but Suzu says that he's much nicer than he seems. And don't boys normally tease the girls they like because they actually just want their attention?"
Fuming, Riko turned away. The boys teasing the girls they liked part may have been true, but she certainly didn't see the nicer side to her brother Suzune mentioned. "I'm actually surprised he agreed to go out with her."
"Well, Suzu said at first it seemed like he wasn't going to, but then he agreed. She said he said something about how he'd get the benefit of dating an older woman who looked younger, and that would be good in the long run."
"I'll kill him!"
"And that with how clumsy she is, there'll probably be a good chance that she'll trip and fall a lot and he'll end up seeing a bunch of panty shots."
"I'll really kill him! How could she want to go out with him after he told her that?"
"She said she thought it was just boy talk."
Riko opened her mouth to immediately object and simply condemn her brother further, but closed it again. To be honest, she had heard boys make such comments before since they had no issues having "boy talk" around her since they didn't seem to acknowledge her as a girl; that was a depressing thought. And her brother did like to try to sound big and confident. "I'm still going to kill him."
"You can't!" Natsuo exclaimed. "Then Suzu will know I told you. You have to wait for her to tell you."
A growl escaped Riko. "Fine, I'll at least wait until I hear how their date goes, but I make no promises after that." She let out a sigh. "So, since it's just the two of us, are we doing another Love Lab, or are we going to wait until Eno and Sayo get here?"
Natsuo brightened up. "Actually, there's a Love lab I thought we could try while they're away, and then we can give them the results when they get here."
Riko nodded. "Ok, so what's the lab?"
"Well, since neither of us has any experience, I figured we could practice kissing with each other."
"Kissing, huh. Yeah, I guess we could try… EH?! Did you say kissing? As in 'kissing' kissing? With each other?"
Natsuo nodded and held up a paper. "We got a request from a student who was worried about having her first kiss and wanted to know what to do. So started doing some research, and I found out that kissing is a big milestone when it comes to relationships, especially your first kiss. So I thought it would be good if we knew what we were doing. This way when we kiss a boy for the first time, we'll know what to do and be good at it. That'll make our boyfriends want to stay with us once we get them."
Riko stared, dumbfounded. "Maki, do you realize what you're saying?"
Natsuo innocently cocked her head to the side. "That's wrong? I was worried that if we were bad kissers that our boyfriends might break up with us. Isn't having experience better?"
"Well, you say that, but…"
"That's why I thought we could practice kissing with each other. This way when we have our first kiss, we'd be good at it."
Riko cut her eyes at her. "Um, Maki, you do understand what a 'first kiss' actually is, right? It's the first time you kiss, so you wouldn't be able to have had practice at it. I don't think either of us wants our first kiss to be with each other."
Natsuo's face lit up. "Don't worry, I thought of that. Look!"
She ran over to her bag and began rummaging through it. After finding what she was looking for, she hurried over to Riko and held it out. It was a roll of plastic wrap. She looked quite proud of herself for having it while Riko just looked at it in confusion.
"What's that?" she asked uncertainly.
"Plastic wrap. I figured that if we have this between us that it wouldn't count. That way we can practice kissing and get really good at it, but we wouldn't have actually kissed."
Riko was stunned by the sheer stupidity of this idea that she couldn't find the words for it. "Um, Maki, I don't think it works like that."
Stretching out the plastic wrap, Natsuo held it up. "We can still try it. Let's go."
"Maki, wait, we shouldn't- Mmmm."
Whatever she was trying to say was cut off as Natsuo pressed the plastic wrap over her face, pushing her back into the couch. It didn't just cut off Riko's speech though, it completely cut off her air supply, covering her entire face, but Natsuo didn't seem to have considered this. She was staring at Riko with a look of complete concentration and seriousness.
"Ok, Riko, let's do our best," she said with determination.
"Mmm, mmm, mmm," was all Riko managed to get out with the plastic wrap stretched tightly over her face.
Natsuo leaned in and pressed her lips to Riko's, the thin sheet of plastic wrap being the only thing separating them. Riko had walked in on Natsuo practicing kissing on Huggy, so despite having never actually kissed anyone, Natsuo apparently wasn't completely in the dark of how to kiss.
Her lips moved against Riko's. Her eyes were closed as she kissed her, but Riko's remained open, the plastic wrap distorting her vision as she stared at Natsuo in open shock. She tried to speak, but the plastic wrap was pressed tightly over her face, and only a few muffled sounds escaped her. For all intents and purposes, it sounded as if she were moaning, and the movement of her lips as she tried to speak made it seem like she was kissing Natsuo back.
Natsuo let out her own moan as she seemed to get lost in the practice. She broke the kiss to take a breath, then began kissing her again. Riko, however, wasn't granted the privilege of breathing even when the kiss was broken, not with the plastic wrap covering her face, but that didn't seem to occur to Natsuo either as she continued kissing her.
'Air!' Riko thought desperately. 'Air! I need air!'
She tried to convey this to Natsuo with more muffled noises, but Natsuo was either too caught up in the moment, or she thought that the noises Riko was making were part of the practice. For some reason, the thought of simply pushing her away didn't even occur to Riko, but then again, with as forceful as Natsuo was being, she might not have even been able to if she tried. Instead she frantically waved her arms about, hoping that Natsuo would get the message.
She didn't. Instead, she stopped just to take her own breath again before moving in once more and resuming kissing while her partner continued to be deprived of oxygen. Riko desperately moved her lips, trying to get enough of the plastic wrap into her mouth so she could bite through it, even pressing her tongue against it, but it was stretched too tightly. Even her nose was squashed to her face and completely covered. Natsuo apparently felt the movement of Riko's tongue through the plastic wrap and began to use hers in the kiss as well.
'Maki, please stop! I can't breathe!'
Then something unexpected happened. A hole tore in the plastic wrap, right over where Riko's mouth was. She had been hoping that would happen, but to her dismay, she was still denied air as Natsuo continued to kiss her. What more, they were now officially kissing, their actual lips now pressed against each other.
'It ripped!' Riko screamed mentally. 'Maki and I are actually kissing now! Doesn't she realize it?'
But it seemed she didn't. Natsuo had apparently gotten completely caught up in the moment, and was probably lost in one of her fantasies; most likely imagining she was kissing Huggy if he were a real person again.
'Maki, this is real! We're actually kissing! My first kiss! You're too! How can you not notice? And I still need air! I'm going to die like this!'
Then something even more unexpected happened. Natsuo's tongue found its way into Riko's mouth. A moan escaped Natsuo at the sensation as Riko's eyes all but bugged out of her head, pressing against the plastic wrap. Surely Natsuo must have noticed this. But no, she was too enthralled, not even realizing that a plastic wrap separating a practice kiss had become a real full on deep kiss.
Not knowing what to do, Riko tried to speak again as Natsuo's tongue explored her mouth, but her voice was now being muffled by Natsuo's actual lips, making it sound like she was moaning. Natsuo was actually moaning, a deep blush staining her cheeks as she kept her eyes closed and continued kissing her.
Not knowing what else to do, Riko attempted to push Natsuo's tongue out of her mouth with her own. The only thing this seemed to accomplish was to imitate participation as Natsuo's tongue massaged hers. Riko's attempts to use her tongue to force Natsuo's away resulted in her tongue ending up in Natsuo's mouth, and the two oral muscles continued to duel before Natsuo's found her way back into Riko's mouth again.
Riko was feeling light-headed from lack of oxygen, but Natsuo seemed completely oblivious to this, and everything else in the world for that matter. Riko's hand reached out for anything she could grab hold of, but found nothing as she reached the point of passing out.
'Air… Maki, air… If you don't stop, I'm going to…'
The door to the Student Council opened as Sayori Mizushima and Yuiko Enomoto stepped in. Right behind them were Momoka Minami and Nana Ichikawa of the Newspaper Club.
"Sorry we're late," Sayori grumbled. "Momo and Nana are here to…"
She trailed off, and all four of them froze at the sight before them. Riko sitting on the couch, pressed into it by Natsuo straddling her, holding her head in place as the two of them made out heavily, not even noticing their presence. Natsuo's back was to them, so they did not see the plastic wrap over Riko's face, but it was very obvious what the two of them were doing, even if it was only seen from behind.
Enomoto's mouth was hanging open, her eyes wide and her face beet red. Momoka and Nana also had their mouths open in shock while Sayori stared at the scene with her usual stoic expression.
"Excuse us," she said, and backed away to close the door in order to give them privacy.
"Scoop!" Nana exclaimed excitedly, quickly snapping a picture on her camera before the door closed.
Natsuo finally broke the kiss and leaned back, taking in a much needed breath of air. A blush stained her face and her eyes remained closed as she breathed heavily. "Riko… that was amazing…"
She shifted side to side, feeling giddy. If that was what practice kissing was like, she couldn't wait to try out the real thing, and without plastic wrap in the way. Just the thought of it made her face heat up even more as she thought back to the fantasy she'd been envisioning while they kissed featuring her and human Huggy. It had felt so real, it was as if their lips actually had been touching, as if their tongues had actually been massaging each others. If pretend kissing was this good, then the real thing must been so much better.
"Should we… practice some more…?" she asked bashfully, her hands cupping her heated cheeks. She received no answer, and opened her eyes, looking down at her friend. "Hmm, Riko?"
Riko was laying back on the couch, passed out, her head hanging over the back. She was blue in the face from lack of oxygen, her eyes rolled back to reveal the whites, and a little ghost was hanging out of her mouth.
"AH! RIKO! WHAT HAPPENED?!" She grabbed her unconscious friend. "It's ok, I'll give you CPR!"
And with that, she locked lips with her again.