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I can't run from you can I?

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“Shiori,” Akira asked, knocking on the door of the newest edel. “May I have a word with you?” She heard a yelp from the other side and took that as an invitation to come in, lest to make sure Shiori didn’t stumble in her room. 

 

Shiori wasn’t on the floor as Akira thought on a spare whim. She was on her bed, a hand tucked underneath her pillow. Akira wanted to point out her lacklustre attempt of hiding her phone was a poor one, but that could derail the conversation to something else. 

 

Akira had no idea why Shiori wanted to hide the fact she was talking with Tendou Maya of all people (for who else would it be but her?) but she will let it slide this time. There were far more pressing things to address.

 

“What is it Yukishiro san?” Shiori asked as she rose to her feet, slipping the phone from the pillow into her pocket since she was caught. Akira cleared her throat, pulling from her pocket the folded form of Shiori’s request for leaving the dorm next Tuesday evening. 

 

“Your form,” Akira explained as she handed it back to Shiori. “This is the 5th time you requested for one this month as an edel. Whilst as edels, we don’t limit these sort of things, I’m concerned since this is only your first month as an Edel.”

 

Akira held Shiori’s gaze as Shiori looked down at the rejected document. “If the Student body or the boards of the department knew there is a likelihood of rumours to spread.” Akira pointed at a very sparse box of explanation. “Especially with a reasoning as vague as that.” This close, Akira could see the surprise spark in Shiori’s eyes before the light exploded into a simmering rage as Shiori looked aside. 

 

Any lesser Frau Platin would see this as a sign of insubordination or even worse, a sign of mistrust. Akira used to be a lesser Frau Platin. She would like to think she has improved from that. Akira knew Shiori’s pain, or at least a roundabout reason why Fumi left Seigfeld. Rumours were just another obstacle for the stage. Elsewhere, it was a different story entirely. 

 

“So,” Shiori started quietly, in a mildly bitter tone that reminded Akira too much of Fumi’s displeasures, even if it was softer and delicate. “Am I not allowed to go?”

 

Akira shook her head, “I didn’t say that, but if you were to give a better explanation why you wish to go, I can assist you further.”

 

Shiori lowered the paper, trying hard not to crumble it in her hands, looking to the side. “I’m not allowed to say…”

 

Akira hummed, eyebrows drawing close together in thought. “That makes matters more concerning Shiori.”

 

“It’s for the stage though!” Shiori exclaimed, finally looking up at Akira. Akira noted her eyes, desperation shone through but also determination. “It’s not something unrelated to Seigfeld.”

 

Taking a plunge, Akira dipped her toes into Yachiyo’s conspiracy or gossip as it’s known. “Is this a meeting with Tendou san?”

 

“T-Tendou san!??”

 

Akira noted the stammer with a raised brow. It seemed that Shiori took more after Saijou san, as opposed to Fumi. Fumi was the only person Akira knew who was charming enough to convince top stars for a more casual approach. Shiori was politer than the boundaries already set. 

 

“It’s not like that Yukishiro san…” Shiori blushed, looking to the side, misreading Akira’s raised brow. Was that a hint of disappointment Akira could see? “I don’t even think she will be there.”

 

“And where is this place?” Akira focused on that instead, she shouldn’t attempt to read people. Reading people was Michiru’s job, especially when Akira already tried to do that before and failed. She bit her tongue at the memory of a certain blonde. “Come to think of it, you didn’t even put that on the form Shiori.”

 

“Ah…” Shiori’s voice wavered as she looked at the form, a sheepish smile on her face like she just caught stealing sweets. “That’s on me, I got too excited I forgot.”

 

“Shiori,” Akira sighed, “You still haven’t explained the specifics of this request.”

 

Shiori nodded, her jaw set. “Yukishiro senpai—” She paused, Akira did her the honour of staring into her eyes. She liked the fire she saw burning there, but she didn’t know how to feel when it was at her. “Do you promise not to tell a single person about this, not even to Michiru senpai?”

 

Bold. Maybe Shiori took after Fumi after all. “I will after I hear more information.”

 

“It doesn’t work like that Yukishiro senpai,” Shiori sighed, disappointed. Once upon a time, when Fumi was close before, she warned Akira of Shiori’s pouts and the weight they would leave behind. Shiori didn’t pull a pout but the look in her eyes was enough to make Akira plead guilty to a crime she didn’t commit. “I need the promise first before I tell.”

 

Akira stood her ground, narrowing her eyes. She was trying to listen to Michiru’s advice and not to go tough on Shiori but it seemed she had no choice. “And if I refuse to promise and refuse to allow you to leave?”

 

Shiori raised her chin, defiant. It didn’t remind Akira of Fumi or Saijou san— this was an act of Shiori’s makings. “Then I would leave anyway and cause a scandal.”

 

Shiori was bluffing. She had to be. But the determined look in her eyes said otherwise.

 

“And allow yourself to be reflected poorly?” 

 

Akira stood taller, staring down at Shiori. It didn’t widen any sense of distance that Akira expected it would create. She was very aware of how intimidating her glares was and usually made a conscious attempt to hold it back. Yet when in this moment, where Akira didn’t hold herself back, Shiori held the gaze, almost like an equal. 

 

“I believe the crowds will turn to my favour once they understand why I needed to leave.” Shiori was smiling, the curl of her lips was in that familiar smug grin. Well, it wasn’t familiar. Sure Akira saw it on Fumi’s face before but this was different— it had a more defined edge, a kinder but knowing smile. It reminded Akira of Michiru strangely enough. 

 

“Which is?”

 

“Something that you haven’t promised yet to tell.”

 

Akira huffed, her brows closing in once more. Shiori was never this coy and secretive— it was only yesterday it seemed she was shy and worried about making mistakes. That being said, it wasn’t something Akira could frown upon. She was glad Shiori was gaining more confidence. 

 

“You’ve grown bolder remarkably quickly Shiori as an edel,” Akira remarked, crossing her arms as she looked over Shiori. “I could only recall a year ago when Fumi first introduced us you were hiding behind her back in fear and now look at you.” 

 

Shiori blinked twice and like a switch all of that fire dimmed to the glow of a gentle candle. “Oh ummm… I uh…” Shiori mumbled, her cheeks getting red from the embarrassment. Before Akira could calm her, Shiori bowed at her, screwing her eyes shut. “Sorry for the rudeness Yukishiro senpai!” 

 

“Don’t apologize for your strengths, Shiori,” Akira said calmly, patting her head to show that she wasn’t going to be harmed. She removed the hand as Shiori lifted her head. “That defiance is what got you this role, the defiance to stand amongst the crowd and it’s rumours.” It was that defiance that made Akira pay attention to her but she wouldn’t admit that now. 

 

“Humour me this before I give you my answer to your initial plea,” Akira continued when Shiori seemed to return to normal. “Did you get this from Saijou san or Fumi?”

 

Remarkably, Shiori’s blush darkened even further. “Neither,” she said, staring up into Akira’s eyes. “I gained this from myself…” she then retreated to her familiar shy persona. “With… a little bit of help from the top stars around me.”

 

Akira nodded. “I see…” She looked towards Shiori, noting that despite most of it dying out in her self-realisation, the fire was still very much alive in Shiori’s eyes. Dim candlelight that could easily set an entire stage blaze. Her curiosity was getting ahead of her. Akira could only hope that when she would confess the crime of keeping this matter a secret to Michiru, she would forgive her with relative ease. 

 

“Very well,” Akira stated before she unrolled her crossed arms and slammed a fist over her chest. She stared once more into Shiori’s eyes, allowing the roaring candle to brand her with this promise. “I pledge as the Frau Platin to keep this incident a secret, until the day of the event has passed. That is the most I can do, I refuse to lie to Michiru any further.”

 

“That’s fine Yukishiro senpai,” Shiori beamed, her smile almost blinding as she pulled Akira to whisper into her ear. Her smile was leaking in her voice, yet the words were something that made Akira’s spine shiver. 

 

“Onee chan is going back on the stage.”