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Past is Prologue

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It is in the finest and most significantly experiential of poets, creatives, other and all such artistic types, to invoke The Muses prior to the creation of an epic. To place the fate in the hands of a higher power (gods and muses, and other mythological creatures and such and so forth). So say the medieval folks, and those of antiquity inclined to believe in that kind of gaff in particular.

Yachiyo taps her foot, sat along waiting. It's one of those gates, the insignificant ones with the middle numbers that mean nothing and the locations that don't line up anywhere particularly important. It doesn't really matter. She's not actually at the gate. She's just waiting. Tapping her foot along.

It's not so long a flight, but it always feels like it will take forever for her. It doesn't help that she gets here too early. She always does, every time she has to wait for this flight, even though she ought to not be; it's not her nature (and anyway, she's been assured multiple times she can just sleep in. She doesn't have to be the welcoming crew every time. She must be tired, it’s okay).

She can’t help but stay and wait every time anyway.

It’s about 20 minutes left for the plane to come in, some time longer for things like customs and bearings-gatherings (maybe a good stretch or so), and then the long walk back to Yachiyo’s apartment. She leans back, staring up at the arrivals screen.

Frau Jade’s been sitting in the back of the room since class has started for the past week. Everyone’s noticed it, and it’s developed into a thrum of rumors about the possible reasons why, an electric undercurrent permeating the entire class that’s ramped to max voltage when she shows up to observe one day with Frau Platin in tow. There’s only a few reasons they could both be observing, and the most significant to latch onto of course is the two at-present vacant spots in the student council that Frau Platin will have to fill at some point—soon.

The optics for choosing Edels, far as Yachiyo could tell, were entrenched in the shadows of the student council. So far removed from public view (besides the vague sense of “best,” a wholly objective and totally entirely meaningful term) as to be the victim of more...well, unsubstantiated hearsay (one such “very credible source” had told Yachiyo that the positions were passed down through long-standing family lineage which, besides Siegfeld not being that old of a school, implying that there are five big families who somehow always have some such descendent present in school was, frankly, a laughable form of worldbuilding).

But it’s the most believable reason they’d be in a first year classroom at all, observing. The Edels are currently all second years; they’d want to fill at least one, if not both, of the new positions with first years. It’s not something that concerns Yachiyo, really. She expects the remainder of her time at Siegfeld will be spent much like the preceding; mostly in the land of costume design. There wouldn’t be much place for her on stage. 

They’re running through dance foundational—everyone has to develop the same skill sets. They’re all (supposedly) in competition to be Edels, even if they aren’t all actually trying that hard, or don’t actually stand a chance of taking a spot. She sees Frau Platin say something quietly to Frau Jade through the mirror. They make eye contact. Some part of her brain tells her to look away, play the part of a shy underclassman who reveres the Edels, but she doesn’t, matching her gaze until the teacher forces it away.

Frau Platin leaves about halfway through. Yachiyo focuses on what’s ahead of her. Her goal is not standing out too much. Riding the fine line between competent and good. 

Someone grabs her arm as they’re all getting their things to leave, jerking her so they’re walking in step.

“Your name is Yachiyo?”

“It is. You’re Fumi Yumeoji.” Fumi blinks. “Edels hardly need an introduction,” she says, grins at her. “What do you need from me?”

“You were holding back during class.” 

“Huh? I was barely keeping up.” Fumi frowns at her. “Honest! Siegfeld’s a lot harder than I thought it was.”

“I’ve been watching your class all week,” Fumi says.

“Really? I hadn’t noticed.”

“You got into Siegfeld pretty handedly, but all you’ve done here is backstage work. Costume design.” 


“We’ve done our own research on you.”


“Do you have no interest in performing?” 

“Horrible stage fright. I can’t even stand being on a stage—I start clamming up so bad. It’s a wonder I’ve survived so long.” Fumi stops in the hallway, glaring at Yachiyo, and she has the sense to know she should stop too, face her. 

“Tomorrow Akira’s going to pull you out of class,” she says. "I want you to be prepared."

"Am I in trouble?" 

Fumi narrows her eyes. "Just don't hold back like you did today." 

"Why would it matter to you if I did?"

Fumi scowls, pushes past her. 

Yachiyo is appointed Frau Perle within the week.

Soon to celebrate it's semicentennial, Siegfeld Institute of Music has made a name for itself in the world of theater, turning out some of the greatest rising stars of the stage world in recent years.

With a school structure centered around an "Edel” system, five students who have exclusive rights to perform "Elysion," a three play saga by -------- written in 19--, Siegfeld is well known for its dazzling performance and rigorous course load.

Siegfeld maintains its popularity and prestige through this system, and the Edels have a strong following both in school, and on social media.

"They're the best of the best at Siegfeld," says one student, first year --------. "It would be an honor to be an Edel one day, but even if you're not it's like, wow. These guys must be amazing. You can't help but idolize them a little bit."

While all five Edels are significant, standing at the center is Frau Platin. To maintain a sense of fairness, Siegfeld only allows each student to hold the position of Frau Platin (alongside Frau Saphir) for one year. Frau Platin acts not only as the lead in Elysion each year, but also performs Student Council duties alongside the other Edels.

"It's an honor to be chosen," says --------, second year and current Frau Platin. "You have to shoulder a lot of responsibility, but that only makes it even more rewarding."

When asked about how the positions are chosen, -------- explains: "Each Frau Platin usually has their own way of doing it. Not always, but usually, there'll be one or two other Edels returning from the previous year. There aren't any rules, but it's best practice to pick underclassmen for the remaining roles, to make sure there’s a sort of sense of continued legacy."

The Edels primarily consist of a mix of first and second year students. "Third years can, but usually don’t. A lot of them are more focused on auditioning for troupes or university applications. As for middle schoolers, it's not very common. There’ve been two or three in Siegfeld's history, I think? You'd have to ask -------- (editor's note: the current Frau Saphir) about the specifics. It's not that students at Siegfeld's middle school aren't talented enough. We're the best of the best, after all! But it's more [that] we want them to grow into their performing selves without the added stress of being Edels. We represent the school, the needs and desires of the student body, and when you're still developing your craft it's unfair to add on that burden."

Siegfeld’s Edels perform one chapter of Elysion each winter, in December. This year, they will perform the Chapter of Rebirth, From Dec -- to Dec -- at Siegfeld Performance Hall. Tickets can be purchased online from or by calling the box office at ------------.

[This year’s Edels, after a rehearsal for Elysion. From left to right Fumi Yumeoji (Frau Jade, 1st year), Akira Yukishiro (Frau Perle, 1st year), -------- (Frau Platin, 2nd year), -------- (Frau Saphir, 2nd year), Michiru Otori (Frau Rubin, 1st year)]

She begins the slow process of moving back in again. She’s been kicked out of Siegfeld, pretty abruptly, so she says to her roommate as she’s packing up. The roommate has a muted sort of sympathy bordering on pity for the winding story, which she has to deftly move away from the tales of espionage she so desperately wants to push it towards (working for Seisho Academy to uncover the secrets of Siegfeld, so suddenly discovered, but in fact double-crossing Seisho themselves for Frontier. A triple spy of untapped potential). 

It’s more fun still for her to not know Yachiyo’s been appointed an Edel yet, and it gives her breathing room in the final few days of class before the official announcement is made.

So she sits now, on the floor of her new room. All of the Edels get singles, in a well-furnished suite. Unpacking her things slowly and placing them in their new homes, most of which look roughly similar to their old homes in her old room. There are a handful of other suites, comprised of regular students, but you have to apply to them. Yachiyo just lived in traditional dorms before. 

Michiru and Fumi stop by together to greet her, Michiru congratulating her on the appointment and Fumi still giving Yachiyo the same sharp look, almost as if she’s unhappy she got the role at all. Michiru explains that Akira is practicing today, even though it’s their day off, and they’re going to join her. Phone numbers have been left on a sticky note on the fridge. Call them if there’s any issues or confusion—well, call her or Fumi. Don’t touch Akira’s phone number. We’re not sure where the phone is at the moment, so it’s best we all just leave it alone. 

Then they leave, and it’s just Yachiyo unpacking her room.

Siegfeld through middle school has been, for Yachiyo, three years of careful and quiet separation from her classmates, her peers. She doesn’t have much of a need for anything beyond her imagination. Most conversations cycle around Edel idolatry (“we’re stans,” she overheard one classmate tell another. “It’s not idolatry. It’s different.” But it’s not really, in a way.) or else the possibility of one day proving yourself an Edel. They were the center of Siegfeld, and the student body responded accordingly.

Someone knocks on the door of Yachiyo’s room, a girl standing in the entrance and shifting from foot to foot, looking nervous. She left it open out of politeness, for Michiru and Fumi to talk to her, and hadn’t thought to close it.

“You’re Frau Perle?” She asks. 

“I was told to keep it under wraps, but I’m sure I can make an exception for someone as pretty as you.”

Her face reds, but she brushes past it surprisingly easily. “I’m Liu Mei Fan. I’m Frau Rubin.” Which is obvious, generally, considering it’s the Edels’ suite and it’s not like other students are allowed to just come traipsing in.

“Liu-san, huh? It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Just call me Mei Fan. I thought I should introduce myself, since we’ll be getting to know each other throughout the year. We’re also both first years, so it might be nice to be friends.”

“Have you been snooping on me?”

“Huh? No, of course not! That’s what Fumi-san and Michiru-san told me about you. I don’t know anything else.” 

“My name’s Yachiyo.”

“Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you Yachiyo-san,” Mei Fan says, beams at her. “I don’t want to take up too much of your time, just say hello.” She says, and turns to leave.

“You too,” Yachiyo says.

“Ah!” Mei Fan freezes, wheeling herself around. “To have someone like you say that I look pretty,” she says. “That really must be something special, if you think so.” She turns back again and leaves before Yachiyo can say anything else, left staring at the door frame she stood in.

Almost the first thing Yachiyo realizes about being an Edel is that it is cold and uncompromising. Akira demands a lot from them as performers. And even when rehearsal ends, there’s a sense that it doesn’t. They’re being watched for every move they make both on and off stage. It doesn’t help that Mei Fan hangs onto every word out of Akira’s mouth like it’s gospel. 

Of course, Akira’s critiques of form are never anything but precise, immediately weeding down the most minute problems in your form. It is all perfect, solid advice, but it’s equally as taxing as it is helpful to be held under such strict scrutiny.

But Yachiyo is versed in the world of make-believe. Of pretending. She stands with a resolute confidence and masters the art of taking Akira’s no-nonsense style of critique like it’s the easiest thing in the world. 

They take a break only after hours. Mei Fan is still fired up, but Yachiyo at least lets herself flop on the ground against the back wall, taking a long well deserved drink of water. 

“You’re doing well,” Michiru says, taking a seat beside Yachiyo. Akira and Mei Fan are still rehearsing together. Fumi stands on Yachiyo’s other side, taking a drink of water, but her eyes are focused on Akira. 

“It’s tough. I mean, I knew the Edels were the best of the best, but I thought if I got the job it meant I was able to handle it.” Fumi’s gaze flickers away from Akira, resting on Yachiyo for a second. But her face says enough. She thinks Yachiyo is still holding back. She worries she’ll say something, but she returns to Akira and Mei Fan, taking another sip of water. 

“Akira’s an exacting person. She won’t accept us just being the best Siegfeld already had to offer,” Michiru says. “Still. Maybe I should bring up her adding more water breaks.” 

“I wasn’t complaining,” Yachiyo says. Akira and Mei Fan have stopped, and Mei Fan is saying something to Akira, excitedly, tripping over her words in her hurry. 

Yachiyo is distractedly paying attention during a lesson—focusing on what the instructor is saying somewhat vaguely but missing the mark of the most of it—when a phrase pulls her directly back into the present. 

“You’ll be working in pairs for this assignment. I’ll let you choose them yourselves,” the instructor says. Then a few more words about the assignment, then they’re on their own, choosing partners. Mei Fan almost immediately has a group of students crowding her, all looking to be her partner. Even so early on, she was the most personable of them. They’ve got a different prestige about them as Edels—Yachiyo’s already taking more after Akira and Fumi’s removed reverence and Mei Fan after Michiru’s personable popularity.

Yachiyo scans the class, looking to see if she can easily spot any students struggling to find a partner she can ask. The shy students who have struggled to band together in the few weeks of class, but a theater school generally removes you from a lot of that. 

She can see Mei Fan, out of the corner of her eye, politely refusing the requests as best she can, embarrassed by the attention, but it’s obviously more so that she has to reject it than that she has it at all. 

Yachiyo is resigning herself to the reality of probably being stuck with one of Mei Fan’s failed suitors (in pursuit of partnership on the assignment), who will begrudge being stuck with a different Edel than the one she wanted. Yachiyo will have to leverage the fact that she (duh) knows Mei Fan to get on the student’s good side. It’ll take a while, but they’ll eventually develop some sense of camaraderie over something, and Yachiyo will have survived yet another painful group assignment.

“Sorry.” Mei Fan has extricated herself from the crowd, making her way to Yachiyo’s side. Yachiyo stops herself from frowning. Was Mei Fan going to play matchmaker for Yachiyo’s partner? She didn’t need that kind of thing. “Do you have a partner?”

“I’m looking,” Yachiyo says. 

“Did- would you want to be partners?”

Yachiyo frowns. “With you?”


“You already have,” she gestures vaguely to where Mei Fan came from, the girls now talking and partnering amongst themselves. “Plenty of options.”

“I’d like to work with you! That is, unless you don’t want to work together. That’s okay too!” Yachiyo feigns pondering the idea.

“Well, if that’s what you want, I guess we can.”

Mei Fan beams at her. “Let's do our best!”

Someone is cooking, in the Edel kitchen. That means it's her first year. Must be shortly after her initial appointment. Fumi. She bustles. Has no problems making noise. So much of it, actually, though it's not really a bother. Sounds like a whole team of noisemakers.

The head chef of a busy restaurant. High class. Italian fare. With a bar, but a classy bar, that can make obscure drinks you've never heard of and serves more wine than beers.

"What's the ETA on table twelve?" Yachiyo calls out, pushes herself through the swinging door between the kitchen and the dining area.

"Just fired it. They already looking for it?" Fumi glares at Yachiyo over the food tray.

"That's the food critic. If we don't impress him Michiru'll have our heads."

"Bastard," Fumi grumbles, talking about either or both of them.

"I have to get their drinks. Don't start bringing the food out until I'm back." Mei Fan salutes from behind the counter. She's doing triple duty bussing, food running, and tonight serving as an extra line cook. Fumi's usual second called out again, flaky bastard.

Michiru's all over the place. On a full staff she can just run expo, but tonight she's waitressing alongside Yachiyo. Akira's the solitary barkeep—bartender—bar-whatever—putting the last touches on a tray full of drinks for Yachiyo to bring to the food critic.

"She says there's not enough gin in her gin and tonic," Michiru says, approaching the bar with a sigh and placing a full glass onto the bar.

"It's entirely gin," Akira says.

"Not even slightly sparkling," Yachiyo adds, picking up the drink-full tray with ease.

Michiru shrugs. "I told her I can't comp the drinks anymore but she insisted you try again." It's her fifth one she's made for this one customer, who at first was right with how flat the tonic was, but complained and complained about the ratio after and after that, even when they'd refilled the co2 tank, even when Akira had given her a glass full of their highest quality gin.

"When you're done there I need help with table 27," Michiru says to Yachiyo.

"The party?"

"They ordered ten appetizers."

"Got it." She moves off to deliver the drinks. It's a big night for them all, and they've got to putting their best foot forward, though the always are, to make sure that—

"Wake up," Fumi kicks Yachiyo's leg lightly, the one dangling off the side of the couch. She moves her arm from over her eyes.

"I'm already awake."

"I made extra food. You hungry?"

"I could eat."

"Get up. It won't be here all day."

"You won't bring it to me?" Yachiyo asks, gives Fumi a pout that'll just absolutely make her melt in Yachiyo's hands. Fumi laughs.

"Get up," she says again. Yachiyo pulls herself up, and follows.

They get rave reviews, obviously. Akira suggests they hire someone else for the kitchen, to help Fumi out. She bristles at the implication that isn't there.

Mei Fan is someone who will grow to hate Yachiyo. It’s obvious, in their behaviors, their ways. In that Yachiyo won’t just leave it, leave her alone. Will always try and push her buttons, make her angry, or embarrassed, or flustered. It’s joking right now, sure, lighthearted at the very least, the way Mei Fan scolds her because she sees the best Yachiyo that Yachiyo can be, an exasperated fondness, but the critiques become less loving, resentment will fester in her heart, and she’ll hate Yachiyo, someday, eventually. 

It is the natural order.

Still, the pull is magnetic. She can’t help but do it. She’s drawn to Mei Fan, and she can’t leave her alone.

"Why are you here?" A voice disembodied, unmembered, absent of ownership. The air around her. Perhaps not aloud at all, simply for her in her head.

Yachiyo is lying down. Floating. Not falling. It is not unfriendly. Not unkind. But not friendly. And certainly unkind.

"Why are you here?" It repeats.

She cannot remember now. What was the role? Traitorous, princely, deferent. Who was she? Who was she now?

She cannot recall anymore.

"Who are you?" The voice repeats a third time. She is being swallowed whole.


She tries to look up. There is no up, but she tries to look.

Yachiyo wakes up in a cold sweat. A disembodied dream. The voice that no longer calls out to her. No longer demands to understand her.

This is perhaps the weirdest, worst monologue they’ve been given. Taken directly from some believed-to-be medieval British lyrical poem that later turned out to be a sham recreation created by a forgotten 19th century British poet. They’ve got a surprisingly good grasp of form, of the combination of weird medieval removal and wired medieval crudeness; a tale about a cuckolded husband seeking revenge against his serial cheater of a wife. The monologue is from a section of the poem where the wife defends her choices against the husband. 

If Yachiyo was slightly perplexed by it, Mei Fan was completely flummoxed. 

“I can’t even get into this headspace,” she tells Yachiyo. They’re studying the piece together, swapping information they find. Their individual interpretations will remain their own, but background, plot. Things that are obvious. 

“Lines fifteen to twenty talk about her feelings. Do you not get it?”

“I get what she’s saying, sure, but I guess I just don’t get it. Why didn’t she love him?”

“She did. But he didn’t love her.” Mei Fan frowns. "So, feeling so unloved, she started an affair. Till she got sick of it. Then started another. Then sick of it. Then again and again."

"I can't even imagine," Mei Fan says, shaking her head. “She doesn’t even try to make it work. She says it herself.” 

Yachiyo shrugs. "Maybe that's all love is."

"I don't think so," Mei Fan says.

"You don't?" It comes out impassive and not at all like Yachiyo cares. Because she’s impassive and she does not care at all. Even a little bit.

"Not at all," Mei Fan nods. "I could love someone forever. Even if they never loved me back."

"How could you know?"

"I just do."

"Fumi." Yachiyo's hand freezes on the doorknob to exit her room. She was just going out to refill her water bottle.

Fumi makes a noise that almost doesn't make it through the door. "Don't sneak up on me like that," she says. Yachiyo can imagine her glaring.

"I was sitting here."


"Are you going somewhere?"

"I have something I need to take care of." This is the part where Akira should ask what. Fumi deflects, gets defensive (like she ought to), and Akira keeps pushing and then they talk. And Fumi can talk about whatever it is that's bothering her and Akira can comfort her, or placate her worries, or something.

"Will you be back before curfew?"

"The school gave me permission to be out an extra hour. I'll be back then."

The silence stretches for a moment.

"Okay. Remember, you’re an Edel, even when you aren’t at Siegfeld."

"Yeah." Akira doesn't ask, Fumi doesn't say anything else. Leaves. Later, Yachiyo will realize she was heading to Rinmeikan, to drop off some forms for them. They helped her find a student apartment and clear the paperwork for it.

Now, she twists the handle to her door, finally pushing it open. The door to Mei Fan's room is already open. Yachiyo knocks on it anyway.

Mei Fan is sitting at her desk, with a book open, rubbing her temple with both elbows on the desk.

"Are you busy?"

"Yachiyo!" Mei Fan turns in her chair. "No. Kind of. I'm just struggling with an assignment. Math."

"Oh?" Yachiyo leans over Mei Fan's shoulder, skimming the page.

"I just don't get it."

"It is tough," Yachiyo muses. "I can explain it to you."

"Would you?"

"Sure. But," Yachiyo grins. "You have to do something for me in return."

"Whatever you need, I'll do my best as Frau Rubin!"

She can't help but laugh at the sincerity. "Let's go somewhere to get dinner."

Mei Fan blinks. "That's all? Of course! I just need a few minutes to find my wallet and we can go. Unless you're not hungry right now, but we need to be back before curfew."

"Now is fine."

It's cruel for Yachiyo to say it so early on already, but she has already vowed to herself already. She won't make the same mistakes the second years are. The ones Fumi and Akira seem so content to make.

Yachiyo makes fun of Mei Fan, for sitting up with her while she works on costumes, even though she starts nodding off in the middle of it, rejects Yachiyo's offers to make her a cup of coffee or a shot of espresso to help.

She's got this new contraption. Aeropress. Boiling water into an infusion chamber that then gets pushed through a filter. It's got a fun design but it's plastic, plasticky. The infusion types are easier and more forgiving, compared to percolation, and once the contraption is set up and the coffee is brewing she can usually move it to her room. More time spent working and less time watching something hiss over a stove.

Mei Fan stays up without it, yawns loudly half the time, grumble-refuses when Yachiyo tells her to just go to bed. Wants to keep her company. Wants to stay up with her.

She feels special, in a kind of Mei Fan exclusive way. The kind of way only Mei Fan is capable of, even when someone else does the exact same thing. Yachiyo has gone through careful lengths to make sure nobody knows her. Mei Fan though, who doesn’t know it, who will never take advantage of this fact even if she did, could pass that carefully curated distance in a second.

So she makes fun of her. And Mei Fan accepts it all with a smile and a bashful laugh, like she’s not being made fun of. Like she knows what Yachiyo might be saying between her words.

Akira acts like nothing happened. Nothing significant. Fumi has left Siegfeld. It is irrelevant and insignificant. She explains roughly what’s going to happen with the auditions, that they should all take serious time to observe everyone who does. She’ll be relying on all of their opinions in the coming weeks.

Mei Fan isn’t so unbothered. She cried, first and foremost, which was something Yachiyo couldn’t even imagine doing about Fumi leaving. Fumi, who wasn’t particularly nice to either of them. Who was the only person harsher on them than Akira.

Michiru gives Akira space, even though she bounces back like it was nothing. Yachiyo can see the subtle ways she does. She doesn’t have that liberty with Mei Fan, who can go so far off-track in her own head, who needs someone else to be there to bounce ideas off of, to give her perspective.

So Yachiyo has to watch Mei Fan angry pace around a practice room today, on their day off, when she really should just be reading or studying or shopping or lazing (the one she's most likely to claim she did, regardless of which she’s actually doing).

"It's, I mean, it's an honor to be chosen as an Edel. Why would she leave?"

"She has no sense of honor." Yachiyo does kind of think it's funny to watch Mei Fan spiral, even if the situation isn’t very funny.

"Yachiyo! This is serious." 

"I'm not her! I can't answer that question for you."

"I mean, she taught us. She helped us. She’s- do you think she's dying?"


"She caught some, uh, disease and only has months to live. Maybe she thought, like, it would be easier to just disappear. She was too afraid to tell us."

"I'm almost positive it's not that."

“Don’t you care?”

“It’s not that I don’t,” Yachiyo says. She liked Fumi, and maybe it’s unfair that she knew something was going on and didn’t do anything about it, but it’s not like Fumi would have afforded her that kindness—what could she have said that meant anything, anyway? Hey, sorry you’ve got whatever going on. Maybe don’t—Akira’s already got that kind of comfort down and look where it got them. Fumi was as hard on them as Akira was—was worse half the time, to be honest—but she was also willing to call Akira out when she felt she was being unfair. She embodied the ideals of Siegfeld yet made fun of them in the same breath. She was honest and dishonest in a way Yachiyo could handle easily. “I just don’t know what wondering about it will do. It’s already happened.”

“Prevent it from happening again,” Mei Fan says. Then sighs, flops down next to Yachiyo on the floor. “This sucks. It sucks! The next time I see her I’m gonna give her a piece of my mind.”

Yachiyo laughs. “Good. You do that. I’ll prepare a cold press for when she punches your lights out.”

“I could take her in a fight. Some two-bit failed Edel.”

“So mean! I thought you admired her. Do you think she didn’t deserve to be an Edel at all? Should I tell Akira she shouldn’t have let her keep the position at all this year?” 


“I’m only kidding,” Yachiyo says. “We’re so used to Siegfeld at this point, but it is difficult, don’t you think?”

“But she’d been here the year before. She’d been an Edel the year before.”

“She’s been at Siegfeld since middle school. I remember her from my first year. She already had a pretty significant following.” 

“I didn’t know.” 

“I’ll tell you a secret.” It’s not really a secret. It’s just something Mei Fan wouldn’t know from not having been here the years before. Akira probably didn’t know it either, unless Michiru filled her in. “Up until last year, everyone was certain Fumi was going to be Frau Platin.”

“Because Akira-san didn’t start until last year?”

“Yep.” Mei Fan nods, but Yachiyo doesn’t get to know how she processes that information in her head.

“I thought you’d be more upset,” she tells Yachiyo instead. “You guys always seemed close.” 

It’s not in the part for Yachiyo to care that much. “We weren’t close,” she says. “We just talked.”

"Akira still expects a lot from you," Michiru says. "From all of the Edels, obviously, but she's still got her peculiar fixation on you."

"Still?" They're reorganizing files in the student council room together.

"You were Fumi's pick, after all." Michiru hands Yachiyo a binder. "We were both kind of interested in who she would choose."

Yachiyo slows, placing the binders back on the shelf. "Did she ever tell you why she picked me?"

Michiru hums. "I don't think so. She talked to Akira about it a bit, I'm assuming, but she kept most of her thoughts about it to herself. I'm guessing she didn't tell you." Hands Yachiyo another binder, who resumes organizing them.

"She wasn't always the most forthright about things," Yachiyo says. Michiru laughs.

"No. She was never very fond of any of us in the end, was she?"

Yachiyo pauses, the smile sliding off her face. "I guess not." Her tone doesn’t match.

Yachiyo watches Mei Fan and Akira continue rehearsing during their break. Michiru is sitting on one side of her, watching as well. She’s been here before, many times, she recalls, watching Mei Fan and Akira practice during breaks. Fumi stands on her other side. You can either ignore her, or play the russian roulette of trying to make a comment, to see if she’ll either reply to it like a normal person or get annoyed with you, even if you regurgitate an opinion she has, trending to the latter. 

Except it’s not Fumi lording over her anymore, it’s Shiori sitting beside her, trying as best she can to catch her breath subtly. 

“I’m going to get more water,” Michiru says, pushing herself standing. “Do either of you want me to refill yours while I’m up?”

“Oh, no thank you,” Shiori says politely.

“All set,” Yachiyo holds up her mostly full water bottle.

“Cool,” Michiru says, picking up Akira’s water bottle on her way out. Akira, for her part, doesn’t even notice. 

“Tired?” Yachiyo asks, turning to Shiori. She still hasn’t quite figured out how to talk to her, after her appointment. She isn’t sure what to say. Your sister chose me to be an Edel, seemed to hate me the whole time, then ghosted the entire school without so much a word of explanation. What does that make us, in the scheme of mental kinship? Akira looks to both of us to fill Fumi’s shoes, and—and this is confusing—these are shoes Fumi herself clearly couldn’t fill, so what the hell are we doing, exactly? 

“I’m alright,” Shiori says. “I have to work harder to build up my stamina.” No, she couldn’t say anything like that to Shiori, who is trying so hard to extricate herself from Fumi’s shadow, trapped under it in a way Yachiyo never will be. 

“Don’t overwork yourself, though.”

“I’ll try,” she says. “Are you doing alright?”

“Peachy perfect,” she says, grins at her. “The best break is one spent watching Akira-senpai unintentionally rile Mei Fan up.” 

“Is she?”

Yachiyo nods, gestures for Shiori to watch them. “Mei Fan’s about to start tripping over her sentences the next time she gets an idea for how to try a scene differently.” 

“The house should be inside the door so you have to go the scene through to get there,” Mei Fan says next. 

“Mei Fan,” Akira replies reprovingly. “What did you just say?”

“I have no idea. Let me try one more time!”

“Oh, she really did,” Shiori says. Yachiyo grins. 

“I know Mei Fan like the back of my hand.” She holds it up for comparison, but not really. It’s really for emphasis. Shiori doesn’t know how well she does or doesn’t know the back of her hand. Maybe she’s never seen that freckle there before.

“The two of you seem really close,” she says. “It’s nice.”

It almost slips past Yachiyo’s mouth, her usual lie. They (a communal they. Anybody that might accidentally be perceived as close to her) aren’t actually close, they just talk. That’s what she said about Fumi, and felt it to be true, because Fumi didn’t say anything to her before leaving. She does like to think Mei Fan would tell if she’s struggling, maybe.

“We are,” she says.

The Edels fight to protect Elysion. 

They face Fumi again, and Shiori is too scared to call out to her, so Yachiyo does it for her. 

They fight to protect Starlight, and they watch her out of the corner of their eyes, talking to the other Rinmeikan students. Shiori looks away, and Yachiyo watches Fumi look back at her. She never looks in Yachiyo’s direction, or Michiru’s, or Mei Fan’s. 

The first time I bleached my hair, an impulse made spring 2013 after a nasty breakup with a boyfriend I thought was The One, I was a scared naive little 20-something who thought she knew what she was doing.

Big. Mistake. Dry, brittle hair that didn't stand a chance against the cool winters of Northern ------ was what awaited my future. With no one to guide me, it took months of trial and error (a LOT of error) to finally find a routine that not only stuck, but also left my hair feeling silky, natural, and beautiful.

Well, lucky for you, I've already done the steps. Here's my foolproof guide to maintaining happy, healthy colored hair.

1. Condition often, and deeply
Color-treating your hair changes its ability to absorb moisture and oils, so you really want to up your conditioning routine as much as you can. Regular conditioners work well for everyday use, but you also want to invest in a deep conditioner or leave-in treatment you use weekly or bi-weekly. Our recommendations are Here , here , or here .

2. Cut back on washing (yeah, seriously)
Studies show that most people shouldn't be washing their hair with soap daily anyway, but this is /especially/ true for color treated hair. Bleaching dries out the hair and washing it too frequently only increases this dryness by stripping your scalp of its natural oils. Whatever your current hair washing regimen is, cut it in half to start, especially surrounding any touch-ups (ideally you want to go a week between washing after you get any coloring done). Now, I’m not saying to stop showering completely (although you can read my experience going au naturale here if you’d like), but a good head massage under running water can often do the job of removing dead skin without any pesky oil removal. If you’re worried about how your hair will look, you can supplement with dry shampoo on your non-washing days.

3. Purple shampoo
Purple shampoo is a special kind of shampoo that helps tone your hair, removing brassiness and avoiding making you look like a carrot-head. Once every other week or so, replace your regular shampooing with the purple shampoo to keep your hair looking salon fresh. I’d recommend this or this for good purple shampoos.

4. Hair masks
Much like hair conditioners, hair masks are a great way to keep hair moisturized after bleaching. There’s wild variety in the best hair masks for your hair type or needs, but as a good starting place I’d recommend this . You can also make hair masks on your own from scratch, which my lovely colleague details here over on -------.

5. Repair treatments
The question of whether you can actually repair bleached hair is hotly debated, but regardless, a product designed for it does make your hair feel better, softer, and healthier. Olaplex is one of the best recognized repair products, but I also recommend this and this .

6. Post-shower routine
A lot of bleached hair recommendations for post-shower routine are pretty similar to what you should actually be doing regardless, but I’ll just reiterate them quickly here: only lightly towel dry your hair (nobody wants sopping wet hair, obvs), and let it air-dry, finger combing it only. Everyone also has their personal “best practice” recommendations for leave in hair oils for after you shower. My personal preferences are for argan oil (absolute Must Have for color treated hair), and coconut milk oil. 

7. Silk pillowcases
I get that this /seems/ like a tough sell financially, but hear me out. Sometimes things are expensive because they just work. Cotton pillowcases grab and pull on your hair too much, causing serious damage. So take it from me. Drop the cash. It’s worth it.

Everyone and their mother have recommendations for how to maintain color treated hair, but this list is a set of best practices based on years of experience maintaining beautiful color treated hair. 

Note : All recommendations made on this site are the author’s own. Due to our affiliate program, we may receive a small commission if you purchase through and of the links listed here.

A peal of laughter freezes the group in their tracks, wandering through the large forest. “Looks like all the chat about the Aegis was true!” says a voice they can’t place the location of.

“Who’re you?” Mei Fan calls out. They turn to see two cloaked figures blocking their path.

“That’s a heavy burden you have there. Sure you’re up to it, pipsqueak?” The taller of the two says. “See sense, step aside and let the big boys take charge.” Then the figures do the most foolish gestures Yachiyo’s seen in a while, holding one hand up at an 120 degree angle, the other pointing directly at them. They’re perfectly matched. Have they rehearsed this? Did they practice this? “C’mon. Yield the merchandise!”

“Huh? What? Yachiyo, do you know this guy?” Mei Fan asks, turning to look at Yachiyo. 

“Never seen her in my life,” Yachiyo says, crossing her arms and frowning.

“Bah!” The figures rip off their hoods, revealing their faces, resounding in a good old fashion dramatic gasp.

“Wait...are you…” Mei Fan says. The taller of the two smirks. “Uh.” A preemptive dramatic gasp it seems, as the two fall back dramatically, identities still yet unknown.

“You really are a bunch of rinky-dink, bogus, two-bit, no-mark Drivers, aren’t you?” Ah. The taller of the two has an eyepatch, for some reason. What a thing to have, Yachiyo muses. "Behold the mighty Akira von Yukishiro! Bringer of Chaos! Mostly known as Akira, and often addressed as... THE AKINATOR! Behold my blade! Michiru! And this is my sword, the Purple Lightning Dreamsmasher! If you want a taste, come and get it!" Michiru grins beside Akira, as the rest stare on, mortified.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me," Fumi swears under her breath. “Are these guys for real?” She asks, louder.

“We’re good.” Mei Fan tells them, and they begin marching forward again. They don’t have time for this, pushing past Akira and Michiru.

Zeke and Pandoria are, perhaps, the least fitting roles for Akira and Michiru to play (Akira, at the very least, is so utterly unlike Zeke it borders on cruelty), but it tickles Yachiyo's fancy in a way she can't quite articulate. And anyway, if assigned, Akira would certainly rise to the challenge, give the character a depth she’s entirely unsure he has.

She likes watching Mei Fan play games. She’s not much for it herself, but Mei Fan likes games with interesting (albeit often contrived) plots, and it’s good fodder for Yachiyo’s imagination. It’s fun to spend time with her, too, although Mei Fan’s only battle strategy is Hit Get HP To Zero (she knows bits and pieces of how videogames work, vaguely, from what she’s heard from classmates and what she’s heard specifically from Shizuha, so it’s fascinating to watch someone with such little strategy to their name. 

“Good?! No?!” Akira looks mortified. “W-wait…” And they dash in front of the party, stopping them in their tracks once again. “Wait! You barbarians!”

“This guy,” Fumi sighs. “I’m tired of him already.”

“Gah! You think you lowlifes can lick the three of us?”

“Three of you? I count two . Lost someone?” 

(“This guy’s a clown,” Yachiyo says to Mei Fan, watching the scene play out. 

“He’s got reasons for what he does,” Mei Fan says. 

“Doesn’t make him less of a clown.”)

“Huh? Oh, get a load of this... Our beloved mascot... Turters, reveal yourself,” Akira reaches around her jacket pocket for a moment, before freezing, looking mortified. “...Huh? Turters? Turters?! Turters, where are you, boy?” 

The characters on-screen look around for the elusive Turters. Who- ah, Shiori, probably, the girl who crouches down, picking a small turtle off the ground. “Hello, little guy!” She says, picking him up. “How are you? What are you doing, out here all alone…?”

Akira gasps as the appearance of the turtle, now in the hands of the bastard Aegis she’s been sent to capture. “Turters!” She shouts, running up and grabbing the turtle out of Shiori’s hands, glaring at her. “Handling a man’s turtle,” she growls, rushing back to show Michiru her find.

“...He could have just grabbed Shiori there. Why’d he go for his turtle instead…?” Mei Fan asks, turning to look at Yachiyo and Fumi.

“Ugh. What an idiot,” Fumi grumbles. It catches Akira’s attention again.

“Listen, whatever.” They’re back to the theatrics. “She’ll be mine soon enough!” She points to Shiori, Michiru matching her pose to...increase intensity? Maybe? She’s not sure. “Got a problem with that? Then come at me! And don’t hold back!” She grins at them. Overconfidence and cockiness. By virtue of this being a videogame, there’s no way they’ll lose. By that same virtue, she’ll either be a main villain or a recruitable character, and she sure as hell doesn’t have main villain potential.

“What! Is this guy for real?” Fumi asks.

This is where the fight begins.

Mei Fan clears her throat. “He is kind of a clown,” she says, turns to Yachiyo, who’s lying with her head in Mei Fan’s lap, watching her play. 

“Just don’t hit me with your controller again, please.” 

“Of course! I promise I’ll be careful.” She ends up smacking Yachiyo directly in the nose.

Yachiyo reads up on everyone's interests. Learns how to play chess at a (not very competent) but More competent level, looks into horses, ice skating, all manner of things. It helps her imagination, too (and more importantly, if you were to ask about it. The whole “learning about friends’ interests” thing is certainly secondary.).

The book on horses is, well, boring as hell, but it's easy to imagine Shiori telling her things. Reworking sentences so they sound like Shiori (or like a person talking to another person at all). Her imagination gets the better of her.

"I'm glad you called me," Shiori says. "She's a gentle girl, who knows where she came from."

"I'm just glad we've got someone in the village who knows anything about horses at all," Yachiyo says. "I'd be in a really tough place without you."

"It's a shame I can't keep her."

"Well, there's not too much room in the ranch, although I'd say Mahiru'd have no problem letting her take up space at the ranch if you took care of her."

"Still, I think the new farmer would get more use out of her."

"Ah, the elusive new farmer. I've yet to make the acquaintance, sadly."

"She's very nice."

"You think everyone's very nice, Shiori."

"Well I really mean it this time. You'd have met her too if you stayed at the store."

"Fashion is simply a calling that cannot be ignored, my dear Shiori." And as a more quiet addition. "I couldn't stand getting up for a 9am opening."

Shiori laughs. "I do really think you'll like her. Everyone's taken a shine to Mei Fan."

"Even Akira?"

"In her own way." They walk silently, from Yachiyo's house to the new farmer's. Along Forget-Me-Not Valley’s more than forgettable streets.

"You know," Shiori says, breaking the silence. "After Fumi left, you really helped me out, stepping up to take care of the general store while I got things together." Shiori pauses thoughtfully.

"Of course I'd help out. You had big shoes to fill. I was happy to help break them in, so to speak."

"I don't think I was the one who filled them," Shiori says. "And anyways, to me at least, it was always—"

Yachiyo flips the page, pulls her mind away from that path. Hoof cleaning. Finally, something she'd always been curious about.

She has to go home for the New Year. Mei Fan goes home too, but she doesn't have to. She wants to, gets so excited about the possibility. The rest stay. Shiori says it would be too much to go home, with how short Siegfeld’s break is, and nobody comments on Fumi having made the trip back home in the years prior, despite the identical break length.

Yachiyo braces herself, endures stuffy conversations with family members she barely knows and uncomfortable what-are-you-doings and what-will-you-be-doings and are you looking at University or straight into the workforce? A number of manner of awful conversations. They're unfriendly and unpersonable. Oh acting? That's such a unique hobby. You know I do hear that acting really helps develop public speaking skills, and can provide a strong foundation for business negotiation. Things she has mastered the art of politely pretending she is hearing.

She's experiencing another round of "you were always so good at math, weren't you" from someone she's almost positive is the cousin of her father's business colleague when her phone begins to vibrate in her pocket. She pulls it out quickly to check.

It's Mei Fan.

"Oh, I'm so sorry. I have to answer this."

"Is it really so important?" Her mother asks her with a frown.

"Yes. It's one of my classmates. If you'll excuse me." She makes her way outside quickly, dodging another stranger who clearly wants to talk to her before she's hit with the cool air of the new year, closing the door to the front of the house behind her.

"Yachiyo!" She can hear the patter of conversation in the background. She doesn't think she'd be able to understand it even if she were there (what with her lacking Chinese skills), but it's made all the worse through the compression and static and lack of focus of the phone.

"Did you miss me that much already?" She teases. She can imagine the way Mei Fan grows flustered.

"There was a lull so I thought I'd check in," Mei Fan says with a laugh, even though there doesn't sound like a lull. Someone calls to Mei Fan, and she says something Yachiyo doesn't understand away from the receiver. "So how goes it?" She asks back to Yachiyo.

"Oh, you know." She should probably have worn more layers to be standing outside. She shivers slightly. She isn't sure if she told Mei Fan she wasn't looking forward to this. "It's family."

"Next year you should come visit home with me," she says. "I'd love to show you around."

"I'd have to really work on my language skills."

"I can be your personal translator."

"No way! Plus, I'd have to learn enough to impress your family."

"Then I can be your personal tutor!" Yachiyo laughs.

"I'll count on it."

"Good." Mei Fan says. The line goes silent momentarily. "Yachiyo?"


"I do miss you. A lot. Thank you for answering."

Yachiyo will swear, up and down on her grave, that she does not smile at this. That she doesn't feel much of anything. "It's a good thing we only have a few days before going back then, isn't it?" Talking to Mei Fan warms her more than all the fire in the world. She doesn’t say it.

Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit.

They’re performing a scene from Twelfth Night as an exercise. She’s memorizing lines, alone in her room. The Fool. It’s an interesting role to play. It’s not so hard to memorize lines. Her mind wanders as she reads through it, trying to commit to memory every feeling she can imagine. It’s just for class, but it’s easier to fill the roles with Edels than classmates.

“God bless thee, lady!” Yachiyo says, beams at Shiori as she walks into the room.

“Take the fool away,” Shiori says with a sigh. She is mourning the death of her brother (her sister? Perhaps), fighting off suitors from strangers and relatives alike.

“Do you not hear, fellows? Take away the lady,” Yachiyo flourishes here for the attendants to take Shiori away.

“Go to, you're a dry fool; I'll no more of you: besides, you grow dishonest.” It’s hard to imagine a Shiori so rude to her; she’s always found time for Yachiyo’s antics. Maybe confused or bewildered, but never annoyed. Still. A role is a role. A scene simply a scene to bring to life. A story to tell.

“Two faults, madonna, that drink and good counsel will amend: for give the dry fool drink, then is the fool not dry: bid the dishonest man mend himself; if he mend, he is no longer dishonest; if he cannot, let the botcher mend him. Any thing that's mended is but patched: virtue that transgresses is but patched with sin; and sin that amends is but patched with virtue. If that this simple syllogism will serve, so; if it will not, what remedy? As there is no true cuckold but calamity, so beauty's a flower. The lady bade take away the fool; therefore, I say again, take her away.” Another flourish.

“Sir, I bade them take away you .” They banter. To prove the virtue of foolhood and who or which of them best demands and takes it. The attendants, shadows of nonexistence in the sake of it, do not do much but stand there and listen. Because they are bad at their jobs. Or they do not think. Or perhaps they are nonentities.

“Good madonna, why mournest thou?” Asks Yachiyo, when Shiori gives her leave to prove that she is, in fact, the fool.

“Good fool, for my sister’s death.” Yachiyo could sigh and curse at how Fumi’s departure seems to have seeped its way into every facet of her life. But then, in a story of Shiori, is not Fumi always a dramatis personae.

“I think her soul is in hell, madonna.”

“I know her soul is in heaven, fool.”

“The more fool, madonna, to mourn for your brother's soul being in heaven.” She grins in conclusion of her point. Pauses for the effect of it. “Take away the fool, gentlemen.” With a final flourish.

“What think you of this fool, Malvolio? doth he not mend?” But there is no Malvolio, only Shiori and Yachiyo, upon this fabricated stage, who so easily from one to another frowns at herself in disdain for her own fooling.

“Yes, and shall do till the pangs of death shake him,” Yachiyo says. “Infirmity, that decays the wise, doth ever make the better fool.”

“God send you, sir,” she grins as the fool. “A speedy infirmity, for the better increasing your folly! Sir Toby will be sworn that I am no fox; but he will not pass his word for two pence that you are no fool.”

“How say you to that, Malvolio?” Shiori asks, bemused.

“I marvel your ladyship takes delight in such a barren rascal,” Yachiyo scowls. “I saw him put down the other day with an ordinary fool that has no more brain than a stone. Look you now, he's out of his guard already; unless you laugh and minister occasion to him, he is gagged. I protest, I take these wise men, that crow so at these set kind of fools, no better than the fools' zanies.”

“Oh, you are sick of self-love, Malvolio, and taste with a distempered appetite. To be generous, guiltless and of free disposition, is to take those things for bird-bolts that you deem cannon-bullets: there is no slander in an allowed fool, though he do nothing but rail; nor no railing in a known discreet man, though he do nothing but reprove.”

“Now Mercury endue thee with leasing, for thou speakest well of fools!” Yachiyo, Fool (or Clown or whichsoever you’d like to call him), laughs. She has cauterized herself into every other role that is not filled. She enters the room as the gentlewoman to Shiori.

“Madam, there is at the gate a young gentleman much desires to speak with you.” Shiori frowns, though she was not smiling in earnest this whole time, even when she seemed to enjoy Yachiyo’s jokes. The role has to be tinged forever with sadness. She loses her brother, and the man (woman. Gender) that she loves in favor of a different substitute.

“From the Count Orsino, is it?”

“I know not, madam: 'tis a fair young man, and well attended.”

“Who of my people hold him in delay?”

“Sir Toby, madam, your kinsman.” But it will be Yachiyo yet again, as Sir Toby.

“Fetch him off, I pray you; he speaks nothing but madman: fie on him!” Yachiyo nods, rushing off hastily to get herself away from the suitor, but she stays and watches twice-over, a mix between open contempt and bemused enjoyment both. “Go you, Malvolio,” Shiori continues. “If it be a suit from the count, I am sick, or not at home; what you will, to dismiss it.” Yachiyo nods, and then contempt is gone, only silent amusement remains. “Now you see, sir, how your fooling grows old, and people dislike it.”

“Thou hast spoke for us, madonna, as if thy eldest son should be a fool; whose skull Jove cram with brains! for—here he comes—one of thy kin has a most weak pia mater.” Yachiyo wanders in again, with the swagger of one who is well and drunk. 

“By mine honour, half drunk. What is he at the gate, cousin?” Shiori asks.

“A gentleman,” Yachiyo says as Toby, grins and leans against the wall. She should still have a bottle in her hand for this scene. It simply adds, between staggering steps and slurring speech.

“A gentleman! What gentleman?”

“'Tis a gentle man here—a plague o' these pickle-herring! How now, sot!”

“Good Sir Toby!” And grins at herself as The Fool. Toby is the real fool, one might suppose, thinking about things aloud as one might.

“Cousin, cousin, how have you come so early by this lethargy?”

Yachiyo gasps, offended at the assassination of character from the mishearing of words. “Lechery! I defy lechery. There's one at the gate.”

“Ay, marry, what is he?”

“Let him be the devil, an he will, I care not: give me faith, say I. Well, it's all one.” And she leaves the door from whence she came. In character continuing to swagger in a drunken state; in the reality of the stage stopping as soon as she’s exited, moving to prepare for her next scene or make way for the set change. In real reality, not doing anything. It’s her head.

“What's a drunken man like, fool?” Shiori muses.

“Like a drowned man, a fool and a mad man: one draught above heat makes him a fool; the second mads him; and a third drowns him.”

“Go thou and seek the crowner, and let him sit o' my coz; for he's in the third degree of drink, he's drowned: go, look after him.”

“He is but mad yet, madonna.” She grins, mocks tipping her hat to Shiori, and makes to leave. “And the fool shall look to the madman.”

And exits, turning around at the turnpiece and re-entering a changed man, Malvolio in his presumptuousness and haughty behaviors.

“Madam,” she says to Shiori. “Yond young fellow swears he will speak with you. I told him you were sick; he takes on him to understand so much, and therefore comes to speak with you. I told him you were asleep; he seems to have a foreknowledge of that too, and therefore comes to speak with you. What is to be said to him, lady? he's fortified against any denial.”

“Tell him he shall not speak with me.”

“Has been told so; and he says, he'll stand at your door like a sheriff's post, and be the supporter to a bench, but he'll speak with you.” She feeds contempt into her voice. Frustration, too, at the forthright determination of the young boy who seeks to speak with her lady.

“What kind o' man is he?”

“Why, of mankind.”

Shiori restrains a sigh. “What manner of man?”

“Of very ill manner; he'll speak with you, will you or no.”

She can’t even restrain her sigh this time, for Yachiyo’s misunderstandings. “Of what personage and years is he?”

“Not yet old enough for a man, nor young enough for a boy; as a squash is before 'tis a peascod, or a cooling when 'tis almost an apple: 'tis with him in standing water, between boy and man. He is very well-favoured and he speaks very shrewishly; one would think his mother's milk were scarce out of him.”

“Let him approach: call in my gentlewoman.”

“Gentlewoman, my lady calls.” And Yachiyo in haughty contempt exits, replaced by the gentlewoman. Maria who is kind and yet creates mischief for what? For her own enjoyment, for the suffering of others? It hardly matters now. She entertains the kindness.

“Give me my veil: come, throw it o'er my face. We'll once more hear Orsino's embassy.” Yachiyo veils Shiori, with a slow tenderness that is perhaps unbefitting the character. But then, she is marked by a silent longing.

Mei Fan enters, strides in confidently. Playing a lady masquerading a man—Viola to Cesario—always back to Mei Fan again. “The honourable lady of the house, which is she?”

“Speak to me; I shall answer for her. Your will?”

“Most radiant, exquisite and unmatchable beauty.” It’s Mei Fan’s nature, to charm everyone she comes across, whether she means to or not. Even if her character is meant to be annoyed with the speakers. An effortless magnetism. “—I pray you, tell me if this be the lady of the house, for I never saw her: I would be loath to cast away my speech, for besides that it is excellently well penned, I have taken great pains to con it. Good beauties, let me sustain no scorn; I am very comptible, even to the least sinister usage.” Even in her imagination, her and Shiori break for the slightest of seconds as Mei Fan speaks.

“Whence came you, sir?” Shiori might stutter a bit here. She’s worse at getting herself under control than Yachiyo is, who has the most minute of changes that perhaps only Akira and Michiru would be able to notice she’d broken at all.

“I can say little more than I have studied, and that question's out of my part. Good gentle one, give me modest assurance if you be the lady of the house, that I may proceed in my speech.” Yachiyo says nothing. The conversation is theirs alone. She will watch Mei Fan effortlessly win others over. Who else would be cast? Would Akira be Count Orsino? That might make sense, with Mei Fan’s devotion to her. 

“Are you a comedian?”

“No, my profound heart: and yet, by the very fangs of malice I swear, I am not that I play. Are you the lady of the house?”

“If I do not usurp myself, I am.”

“Most certain, if you are she, you do usurp yourself; for what is yours to bestow is not yours to reserve. But this is from my commission: I will on with my speech in your praise, and then show you the heart of my message.”

“Come to what is important in't: I forgive you the praise.”

“Alas,” Mei Fan looks pained. Viola is desperate to have Orsino’s wish come true, even at her own expense, and if it were Mei Fan herself, it would be pain at not being taken seriously, at not being allowed to show what she has done or learned. “I took great pains to study it, and 'tis poetical.”

“It is the more like to be feigned: I pray you, keep it in. I heard you were saucy at my gates, and allowed your approach rather to wonder at you than to hear you. If you be not mad, be gone; if you have reason, be brief: 'tis not that time of moon with me to make one in so skipping a dialogue.”

“Will you hoist sail, sir?” Yachiyo cuts in here. It is the last time she speaks. “Here lies your way.”

“No, good swabber; I am to hull here a little longer. Some mollification for your giant, sweet lady. Tell me your mind: I am a messenger.”

“Sure, you have some hideous matter to deliver, when the courtesy of it is so fearful. Speak your office.” The way Shiori would learn to expertly bridge the line between annoyed and intrigued. She’d struggle at first, but slowly chip away at it until it was perfect. Play it as a barbed flirting.

“It alone concerns your ear. I bring no overture of war, no taxation of homage: I hold the olive in my hand; my words are as fun of peace as matter.”

“Yet you began rudely. What are you? what would you?”

“The rudeness that hath appeared in me have I learned from my entertainment. What I am, and what I would, are as secret as maidenhead; to your ears, divinity, to any other's, profanation.”

“Give us the place alone: we will hear this divinity.” So Yachiyo will leave again.

But then, the scene falls apart. In the end, she is playing the dead brother, not Mei Fan. And unlike Mei Fan, the brother never returns from his dead prison. She never returns to herself.

A past is a beginning. A beginning that flows, forward through the flow of time, building, growing, synthesizing, until the eventual. An end.

She feels like she's going to be sick. She feels like she's going to pass out she feels like she had not been human. Not once. Not even in her life.

She stares at the ceiling, trying to calm her heartbeat down. Taking large, even breaths. It’s 3am. She won’t sleep again tonight.

Yachiyo turns a stone over in her hands. Smooth and flat. Perfect for these things. They've met again for another picnic, the Edels, and Yachiyo and Mei Fan have stumbled upon a small pond and now taken to trying to skip stones across it.

She hears Mei Fan shout when she gets one to skip twice. She sucks at this. She flips the stone over again in her hands.

Mei Fan lopes around the trunk of the willow tree Yachiyo sits under, quietly writing away in a small notebook. “Good day,” she says, and the breeches and coat she wears look almost comical on her, yet fitting. “Is this seat taken?”

“I’d hardly call it a seat,” Yachiyo says. “And you might find some bugs and worms have already made themselves my company for the day.” 

“A party, then. I hope you’ll hardly mind my crashing it.” 

“I’ll tolerate it as a gracious host.” 

“The most gracious,” Mei Fan says, grinning. “Standing out here, I find myself recalling Whitman. Have you read him?” Mei Fan says, takes in a deep breath of air. Yachiyo hums. “Finding yourself in nature does wonders, no?”

“Certainly, though there are gnats that tend to buzz, impeding solitude.”

“Part of the commune of nature is the absence of silence. You are not observing beauty, you are partaking in an ecosystem. The noise is part of that.” 

Yachiyo looks up at Mei Fan, a small smile on her face. “It’s been quite a while.”

“Forgive me. Father is insistent I take a more active role in the business, and I’m afraid it’s come at the expense of my leisure time to see you.” 

“Is seeing me merely a passtime for you?”

“Until your parents consent to my courtship of you, I’m afraid.” 

“They’re wearing down slowly, but perhaps it will backfire and they will marry me to another to cease your correspondence.”

“Then we’ll run away together. Elope.” Mei Fan falls to one knee, taking one of Yachiyo’s hands in her own. “I will do whatever I have to in order to spend my life with you. I promise this.”

“You’d throw away your livelihood for me?”

“Willingly. Gladly. A lifetime without you is not living.”

“You have a whole life ahead of you, do you really think you wouldn’t live to regret it?”

“I got three!” Mei Fan, the real Mei Fan, who is not wearing surprisingly nice 19th century attire but rather whatever horribly conceived of collection of clothes she considers a good outfit and Yachiyo considers an affront to her poor eyes (which is why she observes her so much, to really piece together what it is about her outfits that’s so garish and unforgivable), shouts, turning and grinning at Yachiyo. 

“You’re lying. The one that falls in the water doesn’t count.”

“I gotta find more stones.” Yachiyo snaps the stone in her hand. It plops into the water. They both suck at this.

Yachiyo stands to the side, sitting on the old wooden fence and swinging her legs as she watches Mei Fan farming. Mei Fan brings the hoe down, smacking it into the ground with a baffling lack of grace. An unobstructive view of force. She drags it towards herself; upends roots and weeds in the process. Shallows a place for seeds. 

She fell out of the sky, for better belief or not, and Michiru had set her to work on an old abandoned plot of land for further notice. Until her memories came back. It’s a small town, and they all welcome her easily, but you can’t just lay about and not do work (unless you’re the local non-work-doer, but that role’s already been taken twice over, and neither Kaoruko nor Yuyuko have any intention of giving it up again). She’s been hard at work, turning it from an overgrown wasteland into something different, building life from nothing. Yachiyo is just watching her reshape land into something meaningful.

“I’m going into the mines,” Mei Fan tells her. “So I can’t keep you company.”

“I’ll manage fine.”

“Maybe you can actually get some work done,” she says. Yachiyo waves her hand noncommittally.

“I finish all my tasks.” 

“You hardly do anything when you’re supposed to, though.” 

“If I finish now or if I finish in the middle of the night, it’s no difference. Maybe there’s more to life beyond work.” 

Mei Fan rolls her eyes. “I’ll see you later.”

“Have fun.” And she pushes away without Yachiyo, into the mines, to investigate the rumor of some monster found deep within it, begin the slow journey to uncovering some dark secret hidden in the greater region that she is somehow, unknowingly now (on account of a little bonk to the head that lost her her memories), the most or only one left equipped to deal with.

Mei Fan pushes the X button by accident and the 3D model raises both arms as a light envelops it.

"No!" She groans. She's warped back to her farm.

Yachiyo can’t help but laugh. 

“I’d almost gotten to the boss fight, too,” Mei Fan laments. Yachiyo’s supposed to be reading a fashion magazine she’d picked up last week. Mei Fan had been playing Switch on the common room’s TV. 

It’s getting late—in the game, it’s only mid-afternoon in real life—but Mei Fan’s already beginning the long trek to find the mine boss. She gets so fixated on getting there before it’s too late, she almost doesn’t register Yachiyo moving her, so she’s lying on the couch now, head resting in Yachiyo’s lap. It’s funny, how fixated she gets, when she’s got something she deems important to do.

“Isn’t this uncomfortable?” She asks, glancing away for a second to look up at Yachiyo. She pushes Mei Fan’s lightly, resting one of her hands on her upper arm. Urging her to look back at the screen.

“Your head is light,” Yachiyo says. “Maybe there isn’t much up there.” 

Mei Fan’s turned back to the screen. “Love makes you lighter,” she says.

“What are you trying to say about me?” Yachiyo asks, expects Mei Fan to get flustered. 

“Your love for me makes me lighter,” she says. “I mean.”

“That’s not how that works,” Yachiyo responds, weakly, can’t think of anything else to say.

"Frau Platin." Mei Fan says quietly. "I hadn't even thought about that."

"It'll be one of the two of us, probably. I thought you'd be thinking about it more."

"I'd just never considered it. I guess being Frau Platin might be part of surpassing Akira-san." 

“Are you sure you’re ready to take me on?”

“Are you going for it?”

“You’re surprised?”

“You kind of seemed above it.”

“I knew how Siegfeld worked before attending.”

“I see. I guess I’ve got to work hard then, if I want to beat you.” Mei Fan grins at her. “Let’s both do our best!” 

"Shiori is making dinner for everyone," Akira says, stepping into Yachiyo's room. "I'm not sure why she's so eager."

"She's learning for Fumi-san's birthday, apparently."

"You'll be joining, right?"

"Yeah," Yachiyo says. She's reading an ancient history book, using it as a basis for an acting exercise. Absentmindedly flicking the bookmark a little bit.

"Is that-" Akira's over her shoulder, looking down at the bookmark. Yachiyo's finger stills.

"I found this when I was exploring my high school options," Yachiyo says. "I never remembered to get rid of it."

Akira holds out a hand, a silent request to look closely at the newspaper clipping. Yachiyo hands it to her.

"Do you want it?" She asks Akira, who’s more focused on the grainy collection of dots that make up the photo of the Edels than the actual article attached to it. "I don't really need it anymore."

"No. It's important to you."

Yachiyo laughs, fake but convincing. "It just accidentally became a bookmark and I never had time to swap it out."

Akira places it back on the desk slowly. Her gaze lingers on it for one more moment, before she looks back to Yachiyo. Yachiyo ignores her eyes. "Dinner will be at six. Be ready then."

"Mei Fan, please."

Mei Fan glares at her. "You think I don't know your reputation? I can't trust you as far as I can throw you."

“I don’t know, I think you could throw me plenty far,” Yachiyo says. "I've never done anything to you before." She's got Yachiyo's hands bound behind her back, and she carefully flicks on the power supplies to the ship. She's sitting in the copilot's chair, but she's no kind of pilot.

"Doesn't mean you won't start to, or you're not currently." She slowly slides up the lightspeed dial.

"If I promise I'm not?"

"You think I'd believe you?" She leans over Yachiyo, flicking a few more switches.

"Mei Fan." She turns to look at her, grins. Yachiyo can't say it. It doesn't fit the character, the part. That she'd never want to betray Mei Fan. That she'd never intend to. That it will kill her to, if she ever does.

"This way, it doesn't count as a betrayal, right?" Even here, Mei Fan unravels her. Whether she means to or not.

“Yachiyo!” She doesn’t want to stand on this stage. Ah. She has never wanted—no. Those are lies she tells to feel more sympathetic. A tragic hero. But she cannot fill that role. It’s already been filled.

The stage bends to her will, in the way it never has to Mei Fan. But that. Mei Fan has never demanded anything of the stage. She has given everything, given all herself so willingly. Only asks what it wants to give her. Not in return, but free of the sense of obligation. She doesn’t not demand the stage, the spotlight, even if she competes for it. Even if she tries to take it. She doesn’t let it get in the way of herself. So the stage cannot demand from her the things she tries to keep from it, in exchange for brilliance.

The stage demands from Yachiyo the things she wants to keep secret, like those before her, like those after her. It has demanded Fumi’s pride, Akira’s compassion, Shiori’s love, Michiru's dream. They all gave themselves up, to be blinded by its brilliance or crushed by its demands.

It demands her. Her humanity. Her will. Herself in entirety. It doesn’t demand anything from Mei Fan. That’s why she’ll lose. She cannot give up any part of herself to win. 

She will stand in the center of the stage. Before and Behind her are those who will learn from their mistakes, who will grow to be better before it’s too late. Yachiyo takes in heaving breaths. She has won, but Mei Fan certainly put up a fight. It wasn’t an easy victory. She wants to fall, to keel over, but it’s unbefitting the king to do that. She forces herself to stand up straight. The stage has bathed else in darkness, a solitary spotlight on her alone. She will pay her price, if she must. It will burn her. She worries it already has. Mei Fan’s jacket is in her hand.

The King stands on a godless stage.

“Position Zero.”

The Knight stands to the side at the swearing in ceremony. Tries to make herself seem as insignificant as possible. The Marquis and High Chancellor stand on either side of The King, watching the ceremony with equal amounts of gravity. 

At this point, the last thing she wants to do is stand out. Have The King notice her. If she does now, it’ll be for anything other than her abilities. To recognize her for her lineage. She shouldn’t be able to. It’s not obvious, but there’s always a chance. She wants to prove herself. She doesn’t need any of the rewards of something she didn’t choose.

Years and years in the future she will plunge her knife into the chest of The King, take the crown from her head and assume the throne. People will rejoice at the death of a tyrant; the end of a dynasty of cruelty, but she is the progeny of her forebears. She continues a long legacy. 

She must change things, but the cruelty of The King reflects in her own eyes. She must find an heir who can do what she cannot.

Right now, none of that matters. She is a knight being sworn in service to a king. Pledging her life to the causes seen fit, to the adventures deemed fair. 

The General slaps her on the shoulder after the ceremony, beams at her. “We’re going to be working together a lot,” she says. “Seems Fumi’s really taken a shine to you.”

Overlapping Histories: an Annual Interview with the Incumbent and Elect Frau Platin (initial transcription)

It's not a huge deal. We edit it down for length and clarity, send the copy we make to you so you can revise as you want, then second tweak, second revision, blah blah blah. Final copy. (Laughs) We certainly don't want to make Frau Platin look bad.

It must be hard work though. What year are you in?

First year.

We're the same age then. Thank you for your hard work.

(Laughs) Well, Yukishiro-san, we'll start with you if that's alright. I'll low-ball to start. As your tenure as Frau Platin comes to a close, how do you feel?

I only hope I have made Siegfeld proud.

You've definitely had one of the more unusual terms for a Frau Platin in recent history. Did you feel prepared to take on the demands?

No amount of preparing can match the experience of doing something. Ultimately, I think I did my best under the circumstances of my situation.

That being the Frau Jade situation.


All five of this year's Edels performed with her again at The Performance Festival—an honor for all of Siegfeld's brightest to be chosen—was that a tense situation?


We aren't the right Edels to ask for that sort of thing (laughs). The Performance Festival was fascinating though. Every school has their own approach to performing, and seeing how they meshed and melded together made it such a fascinating learning experience.

...yes. It was invigorating.

I'll bet. It was a stellar performance. And your costumes were lovely too, of course. Speaking of, you've had a lot of diversity in costumes in your performances this year. Would you mind talking a bit about that?

(laughs) Something in my wheelhouse. Forgive me for dominating the conversation, Akira-senpai.

Of course.

—end transcript—
[note: 00:01:40 time stamp to continue transcription]

Mei Fan is tidying the common room. It’s a habit she picked up from Fumi, probably, although she’s less passive aggressive about it than Fumi ever was. She and Shiori do it, mostly, scurry around the common areas, cleaning things up, when it isn’t their stuff or job to do.

She glances at Yachiyo when she enters, giving her a small smile and continuing what she’s doing, organizing a stack of magazines she’s probably going to complain about Yachiyo leaving out everywhere (Equine Quarterly isn’t even hers, but fine).

“Mei Fan.” 

“Give me a minute.”

“I,” Yachiyo watches her, back to her. “About the revue, you did really well.” Mei Fan’s hands still.

“You outclassed me,” she says. 

“You did really well,” She repeats. 

Mei Fan whirls around to face Yachiyo. “I’ll accept you lying to protect your own feelings, but if you lie to try and protect mine, I’ll never forgive you.”

The denial of her own falsehoods dies on her tongue. Mei Fan is angry with her, maybe. Probably. A real kind of anger. And saying something like that will only make things worse. She’s not tired. It’s not because she’s tired.

“I didn’t realize you could read me that easily.”

“I know you,” Mei Fan says. “It doesn’t matter if you want me to or not. I do.”

“I know.”

“Then how did I do at the revue?” Yachiyo stares at Mei Fan. Her gaze is sharp, lacking the friendly air to it that Yachiyo is so familiar with. Her passion for the stage. That’s what it reminds her of. The way she looks when she gets into a role, or training. A single-minded focus on something.

“I crushed you.”

“It was a difference in skill. No matter how hard I tried, I didn’t stand a chance.”

“Yeah.” At once, the look fades. She looks like she normally does. The same kindness to her eyes. She looks familiar to Yachiyo. She nods.

“I have a lot of work to do, then,” she says. “I knew you outmatched me when you gave it your all, but I didn’t think it’d be that bad.” She nods again. “I’ll have to work even harder from now on.”

“I am sorry you didn’t get the position,” Yachiyo says. She feels like her ears are ringing. Her heart is burning. She can’t lose this. 

Mei Fan frowns. “I’m not upset about that.”

“But Akira-senpai.”

“I’m not- I mean, I’m disappointed. But that’s normal,” she says. “That just means I gave it my all. There’s more than one way to overtake Akira-san, anyway. I was never so fixated on Frau Platin for that reason.” She shuffles some magazines, taking them in her hands. Pulls the one that doesn’t belong to Yachiyo out of the stack. “You don’t have to lie to protect my feelings.” 

“That’s not-”

“I don’t mind if it’s not the answer I want to hear.” She grins. “That’s never stopped me before.”

For the first time, Yachiyo can’t read through Mei Fan’s words, her gestures. She’s so transparent, normally, but this time she doesn’t know. She didn’t know she could be as opaque as Yachiyo herself. She wonders if she’s been misreading it this whole time.

“Your Highness,” The Knight says. The King barely lets anybody see her these days, holed up in the throne room. The High Chancellor, who has become distant. Struggling through the descent of an old friend, through picking up what The King no longer does. 

“What do you want?” The King glares at her from the throne. 

“I have a report on the uprisings in the northwest of the kingdom.” The King stares at her. “They’ve been destroyed. We shouldn’t have any problems with them going forward.”

“Good.” She shifts. “They’re fools for trying to stand against me.”

“Of course, Your Highness. With your leave,” she says, makes to bow.

“My power is absolute. This is my kingdom. This is my crown, rightfully taken. Who are they to try and claim it from me?” The Knight doesn’t explain that they don’t want the crown. It is a rebellion against taxes that steadily increased to the point of taking away what they need simply to live. Of unfair treatment and the increased military presence in the area. “I need absolute loyalty. I need no betrayals.” The King stands, approaches The Knight. They’re so close now. Her hand is on her shoulder.

“I’ve pledged my life to you, Your Highness.” But there is already a plot forming in The Knight’s head. Her King has gone mad.

“Worthless lies,” The King says. “Not even my blood grants you the right to sit on my throne.” 

Yachiyo wakes up before The King can stab her, before she can stab The Knight, panting heavily in a cold sweat, staring at the ceiling of her dorm room. Alone.

"I honestly thought the old Frau Platins just stayed away after giving up the position," Yachiyo says. Michiru and Akira are in the student council room, even though they're third years and don't need to be concerned with these things at all, Michiru leaning over Shiori's shoulder and explaining a form to her while Akira stands ramrod straight behind them, trying to look as natural as possible while failing utterly. “But you’re always here.”

Her uniform remains as pristine as it did when she was Frau Platin. Yachiyo's disappointed, she'd hoped for a bit more variety. Michiru stays conservative, but she unbuttons her jacket sometimes, occasionally dares to take it off completely. She's leaning into her retirement, but if Yachiyo were any more tired she may have walked into the room and just assumed Akira was still Frau Platin. Boring.

"They're usually more involved, at least in the transitory period," Michiru says. "But it depends on how close they were to their Edels. The Frau Platin before Akira..." She glances at Akira, who averts her gaze away.

"Hands off," Akira explains.

"Plus after Fumi left it sort of shattered that group of Edels completely."

"I have to focus on maintaining friendship in addition to leading Edels to greatness? What a weight on my poor delicate shoulders." She laments.

"Yachiyo," Akira says in a tone that implies a lecture. Yachiyo's glad the two new Edels are currently unpacking in the dorm—she doesn't think she could handle their view of her being tarnished by a lecture from Akira.

"It's alright, I'll follow your example." Akira frowns further, opens her mouth to say something. "Group activities and conversation and trying." She shuts her mouth immediately, looking away from Yachiyo as well. "Maybe I'll find a lost puppy to humanize myself with."

"Oh, I miss Belle," Shiori says, looking up from the form she was working on. "The owner said we could call and maybe come and see her again, but it never felt right to."

"Lightning in a bottle, that was," Michiru says. She and Shiori return to the form.

"Where's Mei Fan?" Akira asks. Glancing around like she just realized she was missing.

"She insisted she stay and help the new kids around. She seems super excited about getting to mentor them. She's like a puppy." Yachiyo does not say that it's cute.

"She was never that excited about me," Shiori mumbles.

"That's because she was jealous of the attention Akira-senpai was giving you."

"I didn't play favorites."

"I didn't accuse you of that, but if you insist."

"That's not fair, Akira was just happy she got to choose an Edel," Michiru says.

"We all agreed on Shiori." A beat. "And I chose Mei Fan as well."


"Did I not?"

"If I hadn't been there you would have rejected her until she gave up."

"You were just as against things."


"No. That's not fair. Explain what you meant."

"We're just lucky that people knew to say things to Mei Fan that only fired her up more, is all. You were impressed by her resolve, in the end."

Yachiyo and Michiru exchange a look while Akira processes.

"You chose Mei Fan to be an Edel."

"You let Fumi pick Yachiyo," she shrugs. "I wanted to as well."

"That was different."

"Oh? How? How was it different?"


Yachiyo glances at Shiori, who's staring at her. She knows too much now.

Mei Fan fiddles with the espresso machine. It had been a gift. Underused, besides Yachiyo, who has half a mind to get up and do it herself. But that beats the point. She stays seated.

"It must be hard?" She says. Expects Mei Fan to laugh. Say it is, but she'll overcome it—she'll overcome everything, eventually. Defeat it and move on.

"Not at all," Mei Fan says, even though she's been turning over the portafilter, tamper on top like a lid and all, trying to find a way to fit it into the machine.

"You're clearly struggling."

"No I'm not." She figures out how to put the portafilter in. Stares at the buttons. Isn't sure which starts it.

"You are."

"I'm not."

"Yes you-"

"Yachiyo." She finds a button to make espresso. It's not quite the right one, actually, but it'll do. "I like you. You aren't a burden."

Deflect. She wasn't talking about herself. She was talking about the espresso machine, pumping out a single shot of espresso into a very, very large coffee cup.

"I'm sorry."

Mei Fan grows a step closer to overcoming her. And when she finally does—

Yachiyo doesn't like that she reads through her.

All of Claudine’s beauty products are arranged carefully, in a way that can only imply a meticulous care to a daily routine. Yachiyo recognizes most of the hair products, specific shampoos for color-treated hair and deep conditioners and oils you put on after showing. Next to it the same dedicated product-focus for general skincare. Two face washes, a regular daily one and a deeper exfoliating one. Moisturizers—a morning one with sunscreen and an evening one, toner, a small container of some kind of exfoliating mask.

Yachiyo takes her attention to the broader strokes of Claudine’s room. Everything is neatly ordered. The kind of room that would make you look forward to room inspections, or unexpected visits from parental units. She’s got a collection of French paraphernalia, including an incredibly misplaced An-Idiot’s-Guide-To-French type book, likely a gift from a well-meaning but misguided suitor. 

Yachiyo herself has some Introduction To Modern Fashion book sitting somewhere. Mei Fan hates it when she calls them suitors. Insists on “admirers” or “potential friends.” 

(“But I like suitors,” Yachiyo whines. “It sounds like they’re courting me.”

“But they probably aren’t courting you! They just respect you as a stage girl.”

“Like you with Akira?”


“So, courting.”

“Mei Fan,” Akira says slowly, book still open and index finger still holding her place in it. “Have you been courting me?”

“What? No! Yachiyo was just-”

“Mei Fan,” Akira says again. Adjusts her bookmark. “An Edel should be better at courting than that.” 

“If it was courting you, you would have known! I wouldn’t have stopped until you said yes!”

“Mei Fan,” Shiori says quietly, disapprovingly.

“I mean, that’s kind of what you did,” Michiru says.

“Not in a weird way! I didn’t mean it like that!” Mei Fan prattles off her explanation, but the room has moved on. And for Yachiyo’s greatest delusion of all, she imagines Akira’s eyes containing a semblance of mirth in them, as she glances at Yachiyo before turning back to her book.)

"How rare of you to pay us a visit," Claudine says. "What do you want?"

"I can't just visit a dear friend? How mean."

"You can," Claudine says. "So leave and go visit them now."

"You wound me," Yachiyo gasps.

"Is being Frau Platin already too hard for you?"

"Were you surprised?"

"Between the three of you I'd say Shiori's the one I’d trust with it the most, but what do I know."

"Oh, I want to hear your scathing critique of Mei Fan."

"She's a bit too focused on being nice."

"She's a bit too focused on being honest, actually. She's just that nice inherently."

"She's the reason you're here, isn't she?"


"You don't have to act so surprised that you're as easy to read as everyone else." Claudine grins at her in smug satisfaction.

"Let me have just a bit of my dignity left here Kuro-san." She keeps her tone playful. "Without my intrigue, what am I?"

"That's what this is?" Yachiyo blinks. "Don't you know better than to dress the truth up like it's a lie?"

"I let my guard down around Mei Fan too much."

"You let your guard down around most anyone too much."

"That's not true."

"How come a handful of performances together makes me someone you go to about things like this?"

"Outside perspective," Yachiyo excuses weakly. She ignores what it is about this that worries her. She doesn't tell Claudine, she can't handle voicing it.

"Would it be bad?" Claudine asks. "For her to love you without having to unravel you anymore?"

"That's no good," Yachiyo frowns at the Edels. There are two new ones this year, helping to fill in the gaps created by Michiru and Akira stepping down. Growing up has a strange cadence to it. Some days she wakes up and isn't sure if she's still Frau Perle or not, if she deserves the position yet or not. Akira never seemed to have these same concerns. "You're letting your personal feelings get in the way of your performance." Mei Fan and Shiori exchange worried looks. "Do you deserve to be Edels or not?"

"Yachiyo," Mei Fan tries to cut in.

"I'm going to go deal with some student council work. The four of you continue rehearsing."

She doesn't want to be a tyrant. She knew the pressure of being Frau Platin was crushing. She'd seen Akira crushed by it, forcing the jaws from killing her by sheer power of will alone, allowing herself to lose things along the way.

She can't make the same mistakes, but she worries she already is. Elysion cycles and circles. So too must Frau Platin, no?

It's a short walk from the practice rooms to the student council room. She closes the door behind her, letting out a small sigh at being alone. She can't recall ever feeling so beat on her lonesome.

"That's one hell of a sigh." Yachiyo blinks up. Fumi is sitting in Shiori's chair, in the student council room, one of Yachiyo's old magazines in front of her.


"I'm waiting for Shiori," she says, eyes trained on the magazine.


"Congrats, by the way." She looks bored.

"Were you surprised?"

"I hadn't thought about it." Probably not at all since she left Siegfeld. And before that, her thoughts there are obvious.

"Do you-" what would the scene be? Meeting an old mentor after so many years beneath them, overtaking her, still somehow a desperate kid at heart searching for—

A dying tyrant is stabbed, feeling the ghost of an old friend over her shoulder. Yachiyo is supposed to be The Knight, the one deposing treachery, but she can't help but feel in herself a knife twisting and taking her life. Does The Dead Marquis sneer at her? Grin in defiance of her foolishness, her belief in her ability to transcend.

"Yachiyo?" Fumi is staring at her now. She hasn't said anything.

"You chose me to be an Edel."

Fumi shakes her head. "Wasn't it obvious?"

"You didn’t tell me."

"Akira asked me to pick someone, and she'd get final say."

"And then Michiru-senpai chose Mei Fan?"

"She'd never directly say something like that, but probably." Fumi sighs. "I didn't either, though. I couldn't stand the idea you were only trying because I thought you were good."

"You wouldn't have picked me if I were that kind of person, would you?" But they both know Fumi's judge of character.

She hums. "Still. Having you be the one to take it is a boost to my ego." Yachiyo wonders if she knows. What Yachiyo's done. Where she stands. The shoes she has filled and how she has tried to fill them, even when they aren't hers. Should she ask? Would Fumi answer her?

"Yachiyo?" Mei Fan pushes open the door to the student council room. "Ah, Fumi-san. We're still rehearsing."

"I told Shiori I'd wait," Fumi says, turning back to the magazine.

"How are you?" Mei Fan asks Yachiyo.

"I'm okay," Yachiyo says. She frowns, unconvinced. "Really. I just needed a minute. They did too."

"It's difficult being the upperclassman," she commiserates. "I don't know how it had always seemed so effortless." The silence hangs in the air, like they expect Fumi to add something. She flips a page in the magazine. She doesn't even care about fashion that much, and those are outdated. Gauche. Cheugy even, if that's what that word means. She thinks about how they've never reconciled, Fumi and Mei Fan. But she's like Yachiyo, like Shiori, and they've muddled together three systems of belief into their own. Fumi is as important to her as she is to Yachiyo, to Shiori even. They are descendents in a lineage that spreads to Siegfeld's founding. Maybe nobody else recognizes it.

"I think it's still best I don't come back to rehearsal for today," Yachiyo says. "So they can have space to think without worrying."

"Alright," Mei Fan says, glances at Fumi again. Nods. "I'll go back then?" It's a question rather than a statement.

Yachiyo nods. "I'm going to the dorm."

"Okay. I'll see you after?"


Mei Fan nods. "Okay." She says an awkward farewell to Fumi. They should have talked. They should have reconciled. But it feels too late now, and the wounds have cauterized and healed over and cannot be joined in a way that feels organic or real.

"You're leaving too then?" Fumi asks. She's still staring at the magazine.

“Yeah. I don’t want to get in your way.” 


“Right then. It was nice to see you, Fumi-san.” 

Fumi hums. “I know she’s bad at talking about these kinds of things, but I’m sure Akira’s proud of you, too,” she says. It’s the closest she’ll ever get to saying it, and even if part of Yachiyo wants her to openly acknowledge it, she’s not sure what she would do if she did. It would probably completely shut her down. 

But she knows what she’s saying. And she doesn’t tell her about Akira telling her she was proud of her, that she would make a fine Frau Platin. The pride reflected in her eyes that Yachiyo would be the one to take the role from her. She has become their legacy.

“Why do you keep coming back here?" Yachiyo asks. She ought to pull along Mei Fan's suitcase. Ought to be the mature and responsible and adult one of the two of them, but Mei Fan insists on it. Says it's good cause it has weight. Gives her something to do after a short flight of letting her muscles atrophy (she doesn't say this, per se, but she says it's not a problem and she doesn't mind and it's her luggage anyway but what a sweet gesture thank you Yachiyo! And if Yachiyo embellishes so she does and that's fine. Mei Fan would say it's fine, perhaps, even if she gets annoyed by it at the same time.

"I love you," Mei Fan says. In no uncertain terms. "I want to miss as little time with you as possible."

They stand at a crosswalk, along the way to Yachiyo's apartment. The one that has toothbrush holders for the both of them, a small army of Mei Fan's capsule prizes aligned in some semblance of scene (Mei Fan's design, which Yachiyo sometimes redesigns to something morbid or funny or otherwise upsetting to Mei Fan, who gasps angrily and painstakingly arranges them proper), more than half of Mei Fan's clothes.

"I know how you feel," Mei Fan says, when Yachiyo can't speak. "You don’t have to say it. You still let me keep all four Los Angeles shirts."

"Three," Yachiyo says quietly.

"Exactly. You still let me have three."

"When we first met," Mei Fan says. "You looked like you were destined to be an Edel."

"What does that mean?" Yachiyo says with a laugh. The end of her tenure as Frau Platin. She has an interview coming up to prepare for.

"You just had this look about you. So regal. I couldn’t imagine you anywhere else."

"I was sitting on the floor of my room trying to unpack a sewing machine."

Mei Fan shakes her head. "You had an energy about you." Yachiyo laughs again. "I mean it! You're radiant."

"Mei Fan," Yachiyo whines. Begging her to stop talking.

"Being an Edel with you has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I never imagined following Akira-san would lead me to you."

"We aren't even third years yet. Stop talking like these are final goodbyes."

"I'm not!" Mei Fan pushes herself up, turning to face Yachiyo properly. "It's kind of the opposite."

"Are you proposing?"


"Sorry, sorry."

"We aren't even dating yet."

"Yet?" Yachiyo asks weakly, but Mei Fan ignores it, or doesn't hear it, or doesn't get it.

"I met with the career counselor a few days ago. I guess initially I had planned to go back to China, or maybe do university abroad somewhere else. I hadn't given things too much thought beyond going to Siegfeld and supporting Akira-san." She scratches the side of jaw thoughtfully. "But now I was thinking, maybe, depending on your situation, I could go to a university here in Japan."

"What about that depends on me?" Yachiyo already knows, but she wants to tease it out of her anyway.

"Well, I'll need somewhere to live."

"You're asking me to move in together? You're skipping steps. We aren't even dating yet."

"Yachiyo!" Mei Fan glares at her. It's a familiar, lighthearted glaring.

Yachiyo lets herself fade into her mind for a moment. It's just a small scene, too Americanized—too influenced by the movies Shiori has been into recently—to be real, of her and Mei Fan standing in a less than stellar college budget apartment (the kind of thing that makes you say "well he's better than my last landlord so I can't complain. My last landlord just let our front door not work so if you tried to open it you pulled the whole thing out of the frame and it was hollow plywood and weighed barely five pounds so anyone could do it, even a strong gust of wind."), sitting on the floor of the kitchen around a bottle of wine while waiting for a frozen pizza to finish heating up in the microwave, leaning into each other and laughing and talking about nothing. Happy.

"We'll have to see where we are a year from now," Yachiyo says. "But I wouldn't be opposed."

Mei Fan knows what she means, what she's saying. She beams at her. She unravelled Yachiyo—Yachiyo let herself be unravelled. She doesn't think she minds.

Shiori is nervous. It’s the end of Yachiyo’s tenure, and she’s been appointed Frau Platin pretty handedly (unsurprisingly), but she’s nervous and frets about it and doing a good job and Yachiyo pretends these are all weird feelings that she doesn’t understand at all. Not even a little bit.

“Everyone else seemed to have such a good idea of what they were doing.”

“Mei Fan and I were flying by the seat of our pants. Akira and Michiru were too, to be honest.”

“Well it didn’t seem that way.”

“And it won’t to your Edels either. Trust me.” 

“But what if I don’t do a good job?”


“I’m not second-guessing your choice, I’m just nervous.” Shiori is part of a lineage that spans from Akira and Michiru and Fumi into Mei Fan and Yachiyo, and into the four that stayed into Shiori. Fumi has a secondary influence as well, as her sister. And it continues on, into Yachiyo’s Frau Rubin and Frau Jade, and further into the new Edels Shiori will pick. Ideas received from a forebear, turned over and remolded in their hands, and passed on yet again. Even Akira and Michiru probably received ideas from their Frau Platin, and the Frau Platin before, and so and so back to the founding of Siegfeld, the first group of Edels.

Then, the Yumeojis nearly completely rewired how Akira’s brain works, so it’s not so off to consider her a stasis point. Regardless, they carry a legacy altogether now.

“Mei Fan and I will always be around if you need any advice. You can text Michiru too, if you ever need anything. Akira, you have to wait the time it takes to send a letter and back—it’d probably just be easier to visit her in person.” She thinks for a moment. “Fumi-san as well.”

“I don’t need advice on how to leave Siegfeld.” Yachiyo barks out a laugh she hadn’t meant to.

“I meant as an upperclassman. Rinmeikan are very fond of her.”

“I suppose.”

“This isn’t the response I was expecting from you.” 

“It’s not-” Shiori frowns, trying to word her thoughts. “I still look up to Oneechan a lot, but I guess I’ve just been realizing the distance between us isn’t as big as it used to be.”

“That, my dear Shiori, is called growing up.” 

“It’s just, we’re only two years apart, right?”

“That math seems to scan.” But Shiori ignores her comment.

“And I was telling her the other day that I wanted a nice candle for my birthday maybe, because I’d like one, and she starts telling me she’d rather get me diffuser sticks because she worries about me having a candle. Worries about what? What is that? Who does she think she is? I know how to use a candle! I’ve had candles before. I have candles. Plenty of candles!”

“Candles are against dorm policy.”

“At home! Also don’t come into my dorm without permission.” Yachiyo laughs again.

Overlapping Histories: an Annual Interview with the Incumbent and Elect Frau Platin (initial transcription)

Wow. It feels like just yesterday I was interviewing you when you were still Frau Platin elect.

Time really flies these days, doesn’t it?

They always say high school passes in the blink of an eye, but I didn’t think it would feel so literal.


So I feel like I have to start with the obvious. Was Yumeoji-san a shoe-in for the position?

It’s rare to have an Edel in her third year of service. There was no favorites playing, but Shiori definitely had a leg up in terms of experience.

I don’t think Yachiyo would just let me take the position.

I can only imagine the list of people who would have my head if they found out I gave it to Shiori without making her fight for it. But, she’s obviously more than capable as a stage girl.

Certainly. She’s captured more than her fair share of hearts at Siegfeld, even with her less conventional start as an Edel. Or maybe because of it.

Ah, it’s embarrassing to talk about things like that.

 We polled for questions burning in the minds of Siegfeld students, so I’m afraid I have to ask. Was it a burden to take over the position your sister held?

Ah. I think, um, it’s difficult to take over any position. People see you as whoever had it before you, right? Or needing to meet those same expectations, regardless of who it was that held the position. I think, maybe, it was made worse because we were sisters. And we look like sisters. You could confuse us, I think, so it was harder to separate me? But everyone did in the end.

True. You did prove yourself to be a better stage girl in the end.




I think she’d agree.

She’s graduating this year, then. Do you know anything of her future plans you can share?

She’s attending university. I don’t want to share her personal life.

Of course. She certainly made for a very interesting few years here.

—end transcript—
(note: 00:01:20 to continue transcription)

“We should go on a date,” Mei Fan says, leaning into Yachiyo’s room.

“You and I?”

“Yeah. This weekend.”

“So it’s kosher when we move in together?”

Mei Fan frowns at her. “No. So we can try dating in an official sort of way.” 

“Were we dating in an unofficial sort of way?”


“Oh.” Yachiyo stares at Mei Fan for a moment, turns back to her phone. “Okay,” she says. “I’m free all weekend.” 

“Perfect.” Yachiyo can hear how happy Mei Fan is through her voice. “I’ll plan everything. Saturday. I’m excited now.” 

“I’m looking forward to it.”

“I know.”

Mei Fan shifts nervously from foot to foot. It’s graduation. Akira and Michiru have come back for the ceremony. Shiori gives a speech as Frau Platin, preparing to pass the role on herself soon. 

“Mission accomplished,” Yachiyo muses. 

“Are you nervous?”

“They can’t take it away from us at this point,” she says with a shrug. “Are you afraid to make a fool in front of Akira-san?”


“Well, not to make you more nervous or anything, but Shiori said Fumi-san’s going to be here to listen to her speech.”

“Is that for me or for you?”

Yachiyo shrugs. “It’s for both of us, I guess. You know my parents want me to enter the same business program as her?”

Mei Fan frowns. “Why?”

“They don’t know she’s in it, but they want me to enter a business program and it happens to be the one she’s in.”

“Are you going to?”

“I was against it until I heard she was going to be there. Then I thought wow . It’s been so long since I’ve gotten to watch Fumi-san scare people she’s supposed to be equals with.” Mei Fan laughs. “But it’d be a waste to deprive the world of my fashion talents.”

“It would be a waste to do something that makes you unhappy.”

“That too, I guess,” Yachiyo says, and smiles.

It’s late. She’s still like this, even into adulthood. She still sits up when Mei Fan goes to bed, perusing magazines or reading books. Watching TV or thinking.

She doesn’t need it anymore, the isolated removal of her imagination—that’s not true. There are other stages, other thoughts, other daydreams. Other sets, scripts, characters. Props and songs and costumes. Lighting and set designs, audioscaping and choreography. She has never longed to escape her imagination, even as it eluded her. It’s her oldest friend, her greatest confidant. Entertainer and coercer, truth-seeker and truth-obscurer. 

The couch dips as Mei Fan flops herself on it, leaning her head onto Yachiyo’s shoulder. She doesn’t have to look to know her eyes are closed, she’s already nodding off again.

“You didn’t have to come out here,” Yachiyo said. “You should sleep in bed. I’ll be there soon.” 

“‘s fine,” Mei Fan mumbles. “Cold.” 

Yachiyo hums. Mei Fan relaxes further, closer and closer to falling asleep at Yachiyo’s side. Yachiyo uses the hand that’s not holding the magazine on the coffee table to pat Mei Fan’s head. She’s burrowing into her shoulder. 

“I’m not gonna be able to carry you if you fall asleep here,” she says. Then quietly: “I missed you too.”

“We’ll sleep out here,” Mei Fan grumbles. “And I know. You sent very long texts about your day, every day.”

“You sent very long replies.” Yachiyo laughs. “On the couch?” 

“I don’t mind it. Lie down.” 

Yachiyo laughs. “You might not, but I do.” She pulls Mei Fan up so they’re both standing, Mei Fan still leaning into her side, not even trying to blink her eyes open. “Come on.”

“You lead,” she mumbles. 

“Don’t fall asleep while we’re standing up.” 


“Seriously. I can’t carry you if you do.”

“Walk faster.”

“So demanding,” she says with a laugh. Mei Fan grins next to her.

“Hey Yachiyo.” She doesn’t wait for Yachiyo to respond. “Love you.”

She almost bumps into the door, trying to get make sure Mei Fan doesn’t bump into it herself. “I love you too,” she says, and Mei Fan finally makes it to the bed, plopping into it and curling up immediately.

“And Yachiyo?”


“Why are my capsule toys performing a crucifixion?” 

“They’ve learned religion.”

“I hate it.”