Actions

Work Header

use your words

Work Text:

In their first year it is just them. Yuyuko is so easily entranced it feels more like a joke than what it is. But it’s the four of them—then the five of them. It’s Tamao growing into a leader and losing in the process; it’s Fumi healing into the side of an old wound; it’s Ichie pushing beyond the shadows of her doubts. It’s Rui, learning to become her own stage girl. Her own dream and her own aspiration. And it’s Yuyuko—nothing much to report. 

In the next year there are four new people, who help fill the holes in Tamao’s dreams and the holes in the department as the third years (third years) get ready for post-graduate plans. One first year is immediately taken under Ichie’s wing (to Fumi’s complaints and chagrin). Another splits her time between the Performance Association and the Gardening Club (with an exceptional amount of leniency when she has to leave early or arrive late because of Gardening Club duties—Yuyuko imagines Tamao spoke to Fumi about it early on). A second year who has no interest in acting but in carpentry, and is happy to learn about lighting and sound and set design and help fill in their gaps and has taken to calling her and Yuyuko the “back-stage heroes'' of the group (“my parents wouldn’t have let me switch departments,” she explains to Yuyuko one day. “But they’re fine with a club, so long as my grades don’t slip any more. Honestly I think they’re happy I joined one at all. They think I’m some kind of no-good delinquent—or something.” Yuyuko notices the black eye she’s picked up since the day before, but doesn’t comment on it). The fourth, most exceptionally, is a first year who just finished middle school at Siegfeld, a fan of the former Frau Jade—and former classmate of her successor—who vowed to follow her and learn from her, wherever she went. Yuyuko entertains herself by watching Fumi pretend to be disaffected at the compliments and awe.

They make it through another year. There is another Performance Festival. Graduation is bittersweet and the four newcomers don’t quite understand why. Rui cries and takes turns hugging the upperclassmen for far too long (and Tamao for far too longer). Fumi and Yuyuko stiffly pretend they’re both so confused as to why everyone’s so emotional (and they’re so above it, obviously). Tamao beams at Yuyuko, tells her how proud she is of her and how much she’s grown since they first met, and Ichie’s pulls Yuyuko into a bear-hug, tucking her head into the crook of her neck and promising Yuyuko they could stay like this—that Ichie would in fact demand they stay like this, refuse to let the hug end—until Yuyuko was sure she wasn’t going to keep crying. To help her save face. Rui takes over as head of the Performance Association.

In their final year there are more new students in the club, and Yuyuko and Rui split time between preparing to graduate and leading the group. Preparing the current second-years for their eventual leadership positions. Fumi’s little acolyte is trying to fill her shoes, and Ichie’s young apprentice tries to fill those same shoes with jello before she can. But the acolyte likes to play along with the jokes a bit more, and the apprentice isn’t always keen on pranking, and takes rehearsals a bit more seriously than Ichie ever did. Yuyuko remembers, and reminds herself, and worries about reminding Rui, that they aren’t looking for replacements, to fill shoes, to find people to slot into absences. Growth is a change. They, The Association, the future Department, will evolve alongside everything else. 

They graduate amongst tearful farewells and the first solid reunion of the department (Tamao and Fumi could rarely find the same time to meet. Fumi could rarely find time to meet at all, between University and an internship at a family friend’s company). They have a meal at Kappo Tomoye, everyone currently in The Performance Association slowly filtering out over time, until it’s just the five of them left. The original Performance Association—the last Performance Department. Every Performance Association since has been existent in Yuyuko’s head; part of the ever-shifting landscape of their group. A system that changes over time. But in a way, it will always also just be these five. They are a fragment forever stored in her brain, just the five of them, a memory crystalized in time. Regardless of what came before. Regardless of what comes next. She’ll hold onto this feeling, no matter what comes next. 

“We’re all going to see each other even less now,” Rui laments, placing her head on the table and groaning.

“That just means the times we do see each other will be even more special,” Tamao says. Rui says nothing, continuing to rest her head on the table.

“It didn’t help,” Ichie says.

“Oh dear.” 

“It is true it’ll be more difficult for us to see each other as much,” Fumi says. “I had to struggle to get today off as is.”

“Why are you so busy anyway?” Ichie asks. “You’re a first year student.”

Fumi waves a hand dismissively. “Business.” Like that explains anything.

“Still. Things must be serious, if even the dulcet tones of Tamao’s assurance aren’t enough to sway young Rui’s heart,” Ichie says.

“What the fuck?” Yuyuko asks, entirely unmeaning.

“I’ve become literati.”

“You can’t say you’ve become literati,” Fumi sighs.

“Oh? Then how did I just do just that.”

“Are you worried you’re going to be that busy with auditions?” Yuyuko asks.

“It’s hard! At least before it was just against you guys.”

“And now you’re facing real talent?” Yuyuko teases.

“And now I might not get a part at all,” Rui says, turns her head enough to glare at Yuyuko next to her.

“Don’t put yourself down,” Fumi says. “You’re good, you just have to show them that.” 

“True!” Ichie agrees. “You’ve got one of those ‘winning personalities’ too.” 

Rui glances across at the two of them. Sighs. “I know, it’s just-”

“It’s understandable to be nervous,” Tamao says. “Just don’t let it get the better of you.”

“Right.” It’s funny how easy they seem to slot back into their roles as underclassmen. Hadn’t Rui given that exact speech to a first year who was nervous during their first auditions in the beginning of the year? Isn’t this information she already knows? Already imparts? “You’re going home before university starts, right?”

“Yeah. I haven’t seen Momoko in forever, the poor old geezer.” 

“It’ll be weird not to see you every day.” They’ve been together since starting at Rinmeikan.

We’ll still talk,” Yuyuko says. “And I’ll see you when I’m back for University. We’ll make time.” 

Rui hums. “Still.”

“You’re still a giant baby,” Yuyuko teases.

“Yeah,” she admits.

They haven’t spoken on Yuyuko’s feelings since their first year. Since Yuyuko’s confession. Yuyuko’s heart has proven to be the only thing more steadfast than her sleep schedule, than her love of rakugo. It feels more like a joke than what it is.


They talk, sort of. In spite of her concerns, Rui nails her troupe audition with an almost uncanny capacity. 

It’ll be a leading role eventually, after I go through their mandatory backstage period,” Rui explains over the call. “Um, but I have to cut my hair short first.

“Wha-”

BUTCH LESBIAN RUI AKIKAZE? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?

Ichie, shut up!

Uh, it would be, it’s an all-female troupe so they said I would be good for the, um, the male roles, so.” 

Oh my god! Rest In Peace to anybody who was still looking for a girlfriend! It’s all over now! They’ll all want Rui.” 

Yuyuko flips the pen in her hand, listening closely, with her chin resting on the palm of her other hand. It’s just a voice call, but she can imagine the embarrassed way Rui laughs off Ichie’s compliments, the way Fumi’s annoyed expression melts to pride as she listens to Rui explain the onboarding process for the troupe (a month of pure backstage work, and then two months of mixed backstage and ensemble parts as needed, before she can start taking on more substantial roles). Tamao’s small smile throughout the whole thing. 

Momoko’s asleep on Yuyuko’s bed, occasionally letting out short little huffs as he dreams. Her parents have gotten a new pet since Yuyuko was last home, a cat, which has found that the most comfortable position to be is with the front paws on one of Yuyuko’s shoulders and the back paws on the other, so that she’s has to hunch her head forward to avoid the cat’s body. Although he’s nowhere to be found now, probably making a fool of himself in the kitchen for nobody.

What do you think, Yukko?” Rui’s voice comes through her headphones.

“About what?”

Me cutting my hair.

Yuyuko hums. “I have to reiterate Ichie-san’s statement: let's all enjoy our final moments of thinking of other girls before Rui cuts her hair. We’re done for.” Rui makes a strangled noise of frustration. 


Talking gets less, less, and less, and they’re only sending cursory messages in group chats, responses to Ichie’s memes and replies to questions from the third years (third years) about how to do something or handle some such problem (or memes. Responses still to memes). 

University is a mixed bag. Studying literature is a lot of reading, and Yuyuko kind of regrets the choice of going at all, but conversations with her parents and conversations with Junna and conversations with her own subconscious have convinced her it’s a good intermediary step. Rakugo is not a racing art; she has time. Expanding her literary experience wouldn’t be a horrible step in the process.

There is so much reading. She’s spending every waking minute making sure she keeps up with what has essentially become a 150 page per day requirement between classes. Which wouldn’t be half so bad if half of them weren’t dense academic writing (she’s excited to inform the inventor of postmodernism that she has used kunai before and she’s not afraid to use them again).

Still, too much reading is too much reading. She’s drifting off to sleep all the time, all the where. 

“Oh this is a picture.” Yuyuko scrunches up her eyes. Familiar voice, book covering her face. Sleeping on what is definitely grass. “A young college student, hard at the task of expanding her mind until, great tragedy, the Sandman wins out, the inevitability of all our need for sleep taking control over the desire to stay awake. The only indication of her lofty pursuits is the open book that once graced her hands—now her face—a copy of, huh, Introduction To German Cuisine.”

Yuyuko pulls the book off her face, blinking at the sun blearily. “Elective course. We eat German food every class.”

“Very fun.”

“Hello, Tsuruhime-san.” 

“Tanaka-chan. What precipice of fate we find ourselves on, that I find you here.”

“How’d you know it was me?” Yachiyo thumbs vaguely at the spot on herself where a jacket would be. Ah. The red hoodie. “What are you doing here?”

“Trying to get in a bit of the ambiance of a Japanese University before I go. I’m also accompanying a friend, but chose to wander. And here I stumble across you! A model student, the best our great education system has to offer.” 

[“Your participation is bad,” Yuyuko’s professor says, during their check-in. “Your attendance could be better, but your essays always have valuable insights. I’d like you to be able to share those during class.” 

Yuyuko scratches at the back of her hand with the other hand, focusing on it wholeheartedly like it’s the only thing in the room. “Right,” she says.

“Poor participation will negatively affect your grade in the class. No matter how good your essays are.”

“I’ll try.”]

“Weird coincidence.”

“Coincidence, perhaps.”

“Hm?”

“Do you have plans tomorrow?”

“Besides schoolwork? No, not really.” The dining hall stays open until 4am tomorrow, so she had mostly planned to stay in there all night, shifting between eating and reading and writing a paper for a class (and maybe a little nap. It’s irrelevant now). 

“Would you like to attend a play?” Yuyuko raises an eyebrow. “There’s a local troupe putting on a performance of Much Ado About Nothing. Real groundbreaking stuff.”

“What’s groundbreaking about staging Shakespeare, exactly.”

Yachiyo taps her chin thoughtfully. “Well, you’re not Fumi-san,” she decides, finally. “Your friend’s going to be in it.” Yuyuko blinks. “Rui.”

“Wha?”

“Shiori and I have tickets.”

“Why do you have an extra ticket?”

“We don’t. We have exactly the right number of tickets.” Yuyuko stares at Yachiyo, who smiles back, face betraying nothing. “Do you want to go or not?”

She sighs. “Yeah. I’ll go.”

“Excellent! I’ll text you the details. Don’t worry about it, I already have your phone number.” Yuyuko has long since learned not to question how Yachiyo gets what she has. 

“Is Kuro-san enjoying the French lessons?”

“I think she’s going to make an attempt on my life as soon as I touch down in France.”


They’re sat somewhere in the middle of the theater, for the show. Fumi lets a little surprise show on her face when Yuyuko shows up with Yachiyo before the show, but they exchange sheepish pleasantries before heading in. Yuyuko is sat on the end, with Yachiyo on her other side, and Fumi slotted between Yachiyo and Shiori.

Yuyuko watches the play, attempting to come off like it’s a vague, casual interest (Yachiyo can probably see through it beside her, but she has to maintain the attempt—has to maintain her dignity).

Fumi swears quietly nearly early on in the first scene, and there’s a rustle like she tries to stand up. Yuyuko glances over to see Yachiyo and Shiori each with a hand gripping one of Fumi’s wrists, holding her in place. She decides it’s not her business.

The actress who plays Benedick is vaguely familiar, but Yuyuko can’t place her. She’s seen a lot of plays over the years, and she’s sure it could be any number of actresses she’s seen once or twice. It nudges at the back of her brain that it’s more significant than that, but there are more pressing matters than a random actress.

Rui is playing Claudio, and when she first comes on stage it occurs to Yuyuko she never heard the conclusion of Rui’s hair cutting adventure. She’d never actually known if she cut it or not. She has. It looks good. She performs expertly. Her lines are good, the emotions carry. Yuyuko wonders if she has to be comforted down from anxiety before the performance. If she still has a moment where she stands backstage, takes a deep breath, and everything else seems to wash away, and it’s just Rui, and her character, and the stage. Who comforts her before now? Does she need it?

Yuyuko has not seen Rui in months. Has struggled through casual conversations about how she’s doing in group chats. Her chest wells out feelings she has ignored for years. How simple is she? How easy and naive. 

Those who have had their hearts stolen by the stage girl Rui Akikaze.

How pathetic.


“So what did you think?” Shiori asks as the four wait for people to shuffle out of the theater. 

“It was,” Fumi clears her throat. “It was good. Rui did a really good job, don’t you think, Yuyuko?” She turns to her. Yuyuko feels like she’s embroiled in something she doesn’t quite understand.

“And what about everyone else?” Shiori asks, before Yuyuko can even respond. “How was everyone else?”

Fumi glares at her, then at Yachiyo. Definitely something she doesn’t understand. 

“What do you want me to say?”

“You’ve never been one for such diplomatic speech, Fumi-san,” Yachiyo says. 

“How was Beatrice?”

“She was fine.” Shiori just hums in response. “What do you want from me? Akira was bad. She gave Beatrice’s actress nothing to work off of. Their lines felt wooden and it’s like she wasn’t even trying.”

Ah. Akira was the one playing Benedick. The reason the actress seemed so familiar. 

“And why is that?”

“Did she talk to you?” Fumi asks Shiori, aghast. “I swear if she talked to you I’m going to-”

“Akira-san didn’t talk to either of us about it,” Yachiyo says. “It’s just a matter of being even marginally less dense than you both to figure everything out.” 

“You-”

“Forgive the discourtesy of my interruption,” Akira says, standing at the end of their row, arms crossed over her chest. She’s taken off the wig she was wearing for Benedick (her hair isn’t quite short enough), but otherwise still dressed in costume. “I did not realize what sort of cowardice trash they let into the hallowed halls of the theater these days.” 

“Did you plan this?” Fumi asks, glaring at Akira. 

“Of course not. I’d like nothing to do with you.”

“Lying piece of shit.” 

“A lie is still an answer, no matter the dishonesty. But we have no choice in the matter now, after all the effort Shiori and Yachiyo have put into this.”

“Seriously?”

A hand on Yuyuko’s shoulder jolts her away from the conversation, turning to face the other side of the row. 

“You’re here?” Rui says, jolting her hand back at Yuyuko’s sudden movement. 

“Hi.”

“Did, um, Fumi-san invite you?”

“Tsuruhime-san. On behalf of, Shiori? Maybe?”

“Oh! Cool. Uh, I hope it was good.” Rui stares at her for a moment. “Are you busy right now?”

“Sort of just finished my only plans for the day.”

“Do you want to walk together?” Yuyuko hasn’t seen Rui since they graduated. She isn’t sure what to say. 

“Yeah. If you don’t have something better to do.”


They leave Fumi behind with whatever she’s up to. Yuyuko is silently apologetic, but she’s not actually going to say anything. Lest she incur Fumi’s wrath (or Shiori’s, or anybody’s). Her curiosity isn’t worth getting embroiled in it.

“So you liked it?” Rui asks again. They’re walking, vaguely in the direction of Yuyuko’s dorm. It would be easiest for her to take a bus back, but it’s a nice day, and it’s not too late, and she can talk for longer if they walk.

“It was really well done,” Yuyuko says. “I’m not as well-versed on Shakespeare, but it was enjoyable to watch.” Rui mumbles a bashful thanks. “I didn’t realize you and Yukishiro-san were in the same troupe.”

“Oh, we aren’t. She’s sort of floating between troupes while she’s still in university.” 

“Is that why they didn’t make her cut her hair?”

“I could have just cut mine that short and worn a wig, but I wanted to commit to it. At least at first. See how I liked it.”

“How do you like it?” 

Rui touches at her hair uncertainly. “I’m not sure.”

Yuyuko stops, so Rui stops with her, and watches silently as Yuyuko pushes herself onto her tiptoes, reaching a hand up and using it to push through Rui’s hair until she bends herself down slightly to make it easier for her.

“It suits you,” Yuyuko says quietly. “Short hair always feels different.” Softer, perhaps. She’s never really touched Rui’s hair before, though. 

“I’m still not used to it, to be honest. I’d only got it cut a few weeks before the production.”

“You use too much shampoo?” Yuyuko teases, grinning.

“I finally get what they mean about a coin-sized amount.”

Her smile falters. “Why didn’t you invite me?”

“I didn’t invite anyone,” Rui says, and pushes herself back up to her full height. Yuyuko’s hand falls to her side. 

“It was your first performance as a lead.” 

“My first performance,” Rui corrects quietly. “I was afraid I’d mess up.” 

“You invited Fumi-senpai.” 

“Akira invited Shiori-san. I think she invited Fumi-san.”

“Are you two close?”

“Uh, somewhat.” 

Yuyuko ignores the lead feeling in her chest as she asks. It is a casual question, one she’s asking without worrying overly much about it. “Did you ask Tamao-senpai?” 

“Did I- no. Ichie-san neither.” Ah. So nobody. Then. “Yukko-”

“Good thing it was me Tsuruhime-san ran into then, right? You’d probably be a wreck if it had been Tamao-senpai.”

“That’s-“

“I wish you’d asked me to go,” Yuyuko blurts out. 

“I didn’t want you to see a bad performance from me.”

“I’ve already seen your worst performance,” Yuyuko says. 

“That’s not true. I could barely stand on stage in middle school.” 

“You’re only going up from where we were in high school. I’m sure of that.” 

“I didn’t mean to make you feel like I didn’t care about you.”

“What are you saying?” Yuyuko laughs, even though she’s hit the nail on the head. “I just think it’s uncool to not invite the president of the Rui Akikaze fan club to your performances. I won’t let anybody else take my spot.”

“You can’t be the leader of my fan club,” Rui says.

“I’m offended. I’m being kicked off the role?”

“I don’t think I’m allowed to be friends with you if you are,” Rui says, bumping her shoulder against Yuyuko’s. They resume walking. 

“There’s no rule against it,” Yuyuko grumbles. “And I can’t believe you're admitting you’re going to acquire a fan club.” 

“Well, I sort of, maybe was warned about it happening,” Rui says, scratching the side of her face. “And I had something of one in high school, so I guess it wouldn’t be that surprising.” 

“Yeah but they were all lame. They wanted you to join their clubs. That’s not a good fan club. Those are just leeches.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Rui says with a laugh. “And Yukko.”

“Hm?”

“I’ll invite you to the next one. Promise.”


Yuyuko hears scolding in her head when she pulls all-nighters, like the ghosts of school years' past come back to haunt her, but it’s not her fault that the best resource for a 20th century American lit class (a diversity requirement by the literature department, that they take two “Western lit” courses and a “world lit” course) is halfway across the world right now, and it’s easier (and more respectful) for her to stay up late than to ask Junna do the same. 

And then, of course, she’s already awake, so it’s easier to just use her fresh mind to get the work done, rather than wait and wait and have the information become fuzzy and muddled in her head. She’s making the logical choices, and she won’t listen to you if you point out that it’s definitely not true. 

Tamao’s light scolding and Ichie’s loud pranks to wake her up and Rui slowly pulling her up and getting her to bed and Fumi, the few times Fumi would be in the dorms, god was that the worst of it. She’d still shudder at the memory of trying to refill her water bottle in the middle of night to find Fumi in the common room couch, stirred up from sleep by the sound of Yuyuko moving, somehow immediately jumping into lecture mode.

The people who took Tamao and Ichie’s spots in their dorm were not Performance Association members, but other random students. They never really talked much. They found Yuyuko plain and Rui awkward. They found each other entirely untenable. 

Yuyuko drifts off in the middle of annotating a collection of notes about the American Great Depression social climate, thinking about bygone days; about Tamao preparing Yuyuko a bit extra for breakfast the days after she’d get caught staying up so late; about Ichie’s morning pranks deftly avoiding her, as a silent thanks for her hard work; about Fumi’s small smile after reading over the script rewrite she’d been slaving over, making Yuyuko promise she’d make sure to get enough rest for her hard work (“and not during class,” Fumi would say, and Yuyuko would grin at her, because they both knew it would be during class). 

“Get up.” Fumi kicks her desk chair, jolting Yuyuko awake.

“Who’re you?”

“Get up. 

“How are you here?” Fumi is standing over her, arms crossed, already dressed and ready for the day. Fumi doesn’t even live in the student dorms. Why is she here?

“You leave your door unlocked. Now get up. I have class soon and I need to get coffee.” 

“That’s not good for you,” Yuyuko says, pushing herself up.

“Yes, well unlike you I actually have to look presentable for class. Can’t just show up in a hoodie every day.” 

“Go to bed earlier.”

“I got home late last night.” 

“Why are you here?”

“I don’t know. Rui texted me to make sure you got up. Now get up.” Yuyuko rubs her eyes.

“I don’t have class for three hours.”

“Too bad.” She follows Fumi to get a cup of coffee, then to her first class, then falls asleep under a tree in a park until the alarm on her phone wakes her up. 


“Why didn’t you tell me you were going to the same university?” Fumi asks. They’re eating lunch together. Yuyuko isn’t sure if it’s a politeness thing or not. They’ve just started doing it on days it lines up, and she decides that’s that. 

She shrugs. “It never came up.”

“You could have brought it up.”

“Well.”

“Did you not want to see me? You can just say no to eating together. I have other things I could be doing.”

“Do you not want to see me?

“That’s not what I’m saying,” Fumi says with a sigh. 

“I don’t know. It just felt like, I don’t know.”

“Yeah well me either.”

“If I told you we went to school together, and we hung out all the time, then isn’t it just the same as it was in high school?” Fumi frowns. “I don’t want to stagnate after high school. I don’t want to be the same person, in the same place, that I was back then.”

“Do I stagnate you?”

“I walked home with Rui after the show. The Much Ado performance.”

“Luckier than me.”

“She lives in an apartment,” Yuyuko says. “On her own. And she’s managed her anxiety and when I saw her on stage I realized she’s only getting better and better as a stage girl and I’m not even—I’m not even part of it.”

“Yuyuko-”

“Junjun-san is in New York studying and Tsuruhime-san went to France and you and Ichie-san and Tamao-senpai are following your dreams and Shiori’s tall and I’m just- I’m exactly where I was.”

“Following our dreams is a bit-”

“Just a lazy nobody living in a dorm and barely making it through my classes and life.” Yuyuko can’t stand the look of pity on Fumi’s face, but she has to make herself more pitiful anyway. Divinely compulsed. “Have Tamao and Rui seen each other?”

Fumi sighs. “Tamao hasn’t mentioned anything like that.”

“Well, they ought to. It’d at least be funny to watch Tamao chase after Rui for once.”


Phone calls and phone alarms do not jolt Yuyuko awake. It is a curse, because this leads to her sleeping through two, three, five phone alarms, and oversleeping for class because there’s no roommate to bother her awake. She’s been slowly increasing the number of alarms, hoping one snags her awake and the others keep her from sleeping.

It’s why it takes until the second call attempt for Rui to get to her at 1pm on a weekend. She’s catching up on sleep. She has no obligations.

Are you okay?

“I was sleeping,” Yuyuko grumbles, pushing herself up.

Oh, right. Right. Sorry.

“‘s alright. What’s up?”

Nothing! It’s not a huge deal. I can call you back.

“I’m already awake now. Why do you seem so worried?”

Ah, it’s just, it’s fine if you have other plans and you can’t come I won’t be upset, but you told me to invite you so I want to make sure that I do but now I think it’ll come off presumptuous to ask you to-

“Rui,” Yuyuko drawls. “It’s fine. Just ask.”

My troupe has a show coming up. I’m not the lead or anything, but if you want to go it’s, um, soon. But there’s no obligation! I know you’re busy with class and life and you probably have better things to do but-

“Rui.”

Huh?

“Text me the dates. I’ll make sure I’m free.”

You don’t have to! If you have other things-

“Rui. I don’t want to do anything else.”


Yuyuko goes by Rui’s apartment to visit. It’s weird for Rui to be living alone in an apartment while Yuyuko’s just barely pushing through at the dorms. They are growing into different lives, and the space between them grows larger and larger. Yuyuko’s growth is stagnant. They’ve lived in the dorms before. There is nothing new. She won’t be able to keep up with Rui, becoming an adult against the backdrop of life while Yuyuko meanders through. Stuck in a stasis between childhood and whatever comes next. 

Rui grins at her silently as she pulls the door open. “Sorry,” she says apologetically as Yuyuko takes her shoes off at the door. “We had just planned to get lunch, so I thought we’d have parted ways by now, but…”

“Is it a bad time?”

“No! Not at all, it’s just,” Rui gestures into the apartment. Yuyuko looks in, where Akira is standing in the middle of the room, arms crossed over her chest, frowning. 

“Tanaka,” she greets.

“Yukishiro-san.”

“If this is another of Shiori’s schemes,” Akira warns, directed at Rui.

“No! Yukko and I had been planning to hang out. I’m not involved in, uh, any of Shiori-san’s ideas.” 

“Me either,” Yuyuko says, moving further into the room and flopping down on the couch in front of Akira. Rui stands somewhere between the couch and Akira, awkwardly (even in her own apartment, even still), until Yuyuko pushes her upper body up enough off of the couch, patting the spot where it once was. When Rui finally takes the seat her head returns, resting on Rui’s lap. “But please explain everything, I never knew Shiorin to be so devious.”

“No. You’re too close to everything.” Yuyuko frowns. “You attend the same university as Fumi. You’re close.”

“Oh sure, you know how close me and Fumi are. What is Fumi always saying to me? ‘Allow me to be vulnerable for a moment, Yuyuko.’” Yuyuko leaves out the questions on the idle curiosity of it always being Fumi with her. Eccentric to a fault, the former Frau Platin.

Akira falters. “Has she not told you anything?”

“Fumi considers ‘what she ate for dinner last night’ to be a deeply guarded personal matter. Hell if I understand what’s going on but I can almost guarantee she has no desire to share with anybody.”

“Still,” Rui says. “You do see each other semi-regularly.”

Yuyuko hums. “We have lunch together, sometimes.” Rui frowns at her. “At least three times a week. Also I go over to her apartment once a week so she can make me not-dorm food.”

“I see.”

“If she’s talked to anybody about it, it would be Tamao-san,” Rui says. “I think she was the only person Fumi was really open with.”

“I’m confused though, didn’t the two of you talk after the show?”

Akira clears her throat. “After I finished expressing my feelings on the matter, that was the end of it.” 

“She didn’t let Fumi-san say anything in response,” Rui clarifies.

“She has a habit of smoothing over issues easily,” Akira says. “She’s easy to forgive.”

“I think that’s subject to personal opinion. And if you don’t want to forgive her, aren’t you too hung up about it?”

“It’s not so simple as all that.”

“Fumi-san messed up,” Rui says. “So she wants her to take the first step.”

Yuyuko hums. “It’s the principle of the thing, then.” 


“I always thought Rui was the one keeping your dorm clean,” Ichie says, stepping into Yuyuko’s dorm. She attends a different university across the city, but demanded they meet briefly (actually looking to steal an annotated book from Yuyuko, something to make her life easier for lesson planning for a class). “In high school.”

“Being messy actually makes being lazy more difficult.”

“Oh?”

“If you have to hop around stuff to get to bed, it’s more effort.”

“The logic is flawless.”

“Obviously,” Yuyuko says, grabbing the book from the top of her pile and handing it to Ichie, who bows obligingly, dramatically.

“I still can’t believe you kept it from all of us that you and Fumi attend the same university,” Ichie laughs. “Gremlin.”

Yuyuko shrugs. “Nobody ever asked where I was attending, and I am Rinmeikan’s Best Secret Keeper.”

“So it would seem,” Ichie says. “But the secret’s out now! You can expect requests for updates on Fumi’s state from a certain someone.” Yuyuko laughs. “Do you two see each other a lot?”

“Fumi? I guess.”

“Is she doing okay?”

“Yeah. Why? Did she block you for rickrolling again?”

“No! I’ve been laying low to avoid that. It’s just, y’know. She’s unhappy. She’s evasive. If you try and be a good friend she tries to bite your head off.”

Yuyuko hums. She has to find the right response here. Asking directly will result in Ichie shutting up—she’s a good friend, and she doesn’t want to reveal Fumi’s secrets without due understanding—but this is news to her. 

“Well, you know how she is.”

“I get she doesn’t have a choice, but that doesn’t mean she can’t confide in us, y’know? She’s not even talking to Tamao about it—not that Tamao would tell me anybody else’s secrets, mind you. But she said Fumi was deflecting the same way with her now, too.”

“She goes back to bad habits when she’s struggling.”

“Wise words. Well! I’m not here to be a gossip, just to steal my friends’ brains to make myself seem more intelligent by comparison.”

“I’m honored you chose my brain to steal from.”

“And I’m honored you gifted me parts of your brain to steal.”


“So what’s going on with you and Yukishiro-san?” Yuyuko asks, sitting in Fumi’s apartment and trying to pretend she cares about Percy Bysshe Shelley. Fumi chokes on the sip of tea she was drinking.

“What?”

“What’s going on between the two of you. I met her recently at Rui’s place, but she wouldn’t tell me because the two of us are ‘too close’ or something. So now you have to tell me.”

“There’s nothing to tell.”

“So you’re saying,” Yuyuko says, closing her book. “That Rui and Yukishiro-san get an early lunch and she’s still at Rui’s apartment talking about you when I get there for dinner, and she called you ‘cowardice trash’ at the Much Ado performance, for absolutely no reason. Just fun Akira Yukishiro hobbies?”

Fumi glares at Yuyuko. “And if I do?”

“I have to invent a time machine to go back to my high school self and tell her to stop looking up to you.”

“You never looked up to me.” Fumi’s glare falters under Yuyuko’s stare. “There’s nothing,” she says again, turning back to the mug of tea she’s holding. “There’s nothing anymore, even if there was something.” 

“Clearly not nothing to Yukishiro-san.”

“Akira and I don’t have a future together.” 

“You really need to break this down into simpler terms for me.”

“I had to fight my parents tooth and nail to go to school here.”

“Parents Against Business Majors? Finally, a cause to get behind.”

“It’s only because the business program is so well known that I was allowed to,” Fumi sighs. “I was supposed to move back home after graduating. There’s a business school near my house, and I’d start an apprenticeship with my father.”

“So you’re taking over the family business?” 

“I told them I would. Years ago. I could try and get out of it now, but if I did,” she trails off.

“They’d start pressuring Shiori, who’s about to graduate high school.”

“Yeah.”

“And I can go out on a limb and say that Yukishiro-san knows nothing, and this somehow factors into whyever the hell she’s mad at you?”

“It’s none of her business.”

“I suppose that’s true, if you don’t care about her, and she doesn’t care about you.”

“Don’t try to talk me into a corner.”

Yuyuko hums. “I’m just saying. Ichie-san asked how you were, also. She’s worried about you.”

“Busybody.”

“She cares about you.”

“Worse.” Yuyuko doesn’t tell Fumi she cares about her as well. She won’t take it right, and for once the idea of Fumi getting annoyed with her is less inspiring than the idea of Fumi maybe actually trusting her.


Yuyuko flips her phone over in her hands, sitting on the first floor of the library, playing over the conversation in her head. 

“The university is giving me enough stipend for a research assistant,” her advisor explains to her. “Normally we choose from graduate level students, but I know you’re a very capable student and I wanted to offer the possibility up to you. I don’t know if theater is very much something you’re interested in, however.” Yuyuko desperately tries to reassure her advisor that theater is certainly one of her interests, that she was part of a Performance Association and loved traditional Japanese performing arts but of course that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t also take interest in other forms of performing arts. 

“Of course, there’s a caveat,” the professor explains. “You would spend a year of study in Dublin. Either the upcoming year or the one after that, usually.” 


Yukko?”

“Is it too late for you?”

Is it early for you?

“It’s midnight, and let me do as I please on weekends. You have to listen to this guy. ‘Why did I yield? Why did I not sustain those torments?’ He was- I mean this man deserved to die so badly. Percy Shelley I’m coming for your ass.”

What are you talking about?

“It was a closet play, it wasn’t even supposed to be performed. And- And! Get this. So this guy marries Mary Shelley right? He was still married when he did. He lied to her that they were like absolutely going to get divorced, but they weren’t actually that set in stone about it, so then-”

Yukko?

“What? Do you already know this? Do you want to hear about Claire Clairmont? I’m going insane. What the hell were these people doing?”

Can I come over?”

“Uh, my dorm’s kind of,” Yuyuko glances around. It looks fine. It’s clean. She did laundry during the day. “Uh, yeah. Do you need directions?”


Rui sits on the edge of Yuyuko’s bed, still blinking blearily, even though she walked (ran, possibly, based on how quickly she got there), to Yuyuko’s dorm, then followed her up to her room.

“You can keep talking about Percival,” Rui says.

“Percy.”

Rui nods. “It was hard to hear you over the phone.”

“It’s- I kind of lost my train of thought. He was a freak.”

“His wife wrote Frankenstein?”

“Yeah. She also wrote a lot of other cool stuff. Really was one of the pioneers of science fiction in the west, like a hundred years before modern science fiction even started to take shape. It’s really cool actually how you can break down the- it’s like the foundational ideals are-”

“I like you.”

“Huh?”

“I like you.”

“Well- good. I mean, we’ve known each other long enough, it’d be weird if you hated me the whole time.”

“Romantically, Yukko.”

“That’s- uh.”

“Akira talks about regretting telling Fumi-san she likes her, but I think she just regrets waiting so long. I don’t want to feel like I missed my opportunity.”

“Yukishiro-san likes Fumi?”

“Did she not tell you?”

“No. Why would you think she told me? Fumi is a brick.”

“She called me and asked for Akira’s phone number.”

“Oh.”

“We’re, um, we’re getting off-track of, y’know.”

“I’m moving to Dublin.”

“What?”

“I- that’s wrong. For a year. I’m moving for a year. To Dublin.”

“Oh.”

“I’m doing research under my advisor. On Theater in the west. We have a sister school in Dublin and they have some leading experts in English and Irish playwrights.”

“Are you rejecting me?”

“No! No. I’m just, I’m giving you a chance to reconsider.”

Rui nods. “I still like you, even if you’re going to be Irish.”

“I don’t think spending a year in Ireland makes you Irish.”

“I can’t say for certain. I don’t know any Irish people.”

“That’s probably for the best. They like horrible beer, I’ve been told.” By her advisor, repeatedly, as if this is the most important thing she ought to keep in mind in preparation for a year abroad.

“I just don’t want you to- I mean it’s only for the year but I’ll be gone for all of it. You shouldn’t feel like I’m holding you back.”

“Isn’t you traveling halfway across the world more leaving me behind than holding me back?”

“It’s more like me catching up.”

Rui frowns. “I don’t think you’ve needed to catch up to me. I feel like, I finally feel like, maybe I’m in a place to stand beside you confidently. Like I’ve been working at it for so long, and finally I’m there.”

“I think maybe we’ve been looking at this the wrong way,” Yuyuko says, pushing herself out of her desk chair, standing in front of Rui. Even sitting, Rui is nearly the same height as her. Granted, the frame they gave her at the dorm sits so far off the ground. “We’ll have to spend a year long distance, though.”

“Of course! I’m not- I would never- I don’t want you to give up something like that just for me. I mean, that’s amazing! And really exciting. And I’m really happy for you.”

“Are you sure you’re willing to?”

“I don’t know if it’ll work,” Rui answers honestly. “But I don’t want- I don’t want to say we didn’t try. I want to make it work, whatever it takes.”

“There’s only no future if we’ve exhausted every possible future between us?”

Rui nods. “I want to try.”

Yuyuko smiles. “Me too.”

“Plus,” Rui says, scratching the side of her face sheepishly. “With your sleep schedule, accounting for the time difference, won’t you just be up at regular hours for me? I feel like it would be easier to keep in touch than it would be if you were just back home.”


Fumi has a printer at her apartment and she lets Yuyuko use it for free (excepting that sometimes she has to buy paper to refill it, but paper is cheaper than printing overall, and it’s a small price to pay) and that is, if you’re asking, entirely the reason Yuyuko seems to spend so much time there and no other. Ignore how many of her professors accept online assignments and how little printing she actually has to do, as she gets more and more used to just using PDFs or library copies when she doesn’t feel like buying a textbook for class, or needs one for research for her professor.

“Are you ever going to tell me what happened between you and Yukishiro-san yet or do I have to live in suspense forever?” Lying on Fumi’s couch and reading on a laptop still isn’t the most fun, though, but she makes due by bothering Fumi on the floor in front of her.

“Make Rui tell you,” Fumi says, trying to ignore Yuyuko and focus on the book in front of her. “Or Akira.”

“Come on, Fumi. I have no interest in becoming besties with Yukishiro-san, and Rui’s not going to tell me because she thinks it isn’t her place. She respects your privacy.”

“Why don’t you? And when did you drop the honorifics?”

“A while ago. I’m surprised you didn’t notice. I won’t respect you again until you tell me what happened.”

“You won’t respect me if I do,” Fumi remarks.

“Is it really so bad?” Fumi says nothing. “Rui mentioned something about Yukishiro-san confessing to you. Even if you rejected her, I don’t think it would be so bad.”

“I didn’t reject her.”

“Oh,” Yuyuko says. “I know you guys have always had a fighting sort of relationship, but I think this is a step too far.” Fumi doesn’t say anything. “You know it’s okay to tell someone, right? You’re not less independent if you lean on people from time to time.”

“That’s not-”

“Plus, I’m the best secret-keeper to share with. Nobody knows any of my secrets. Here’s one for you: Rui and I are dating.”

“What?” Fumi whips her head around to stare at Yuyuko.

“You’re the first person to know. Maybe second. Yukishiro-san might have beaten you.” Yuyuko shrugs. “Here’s another: I had a bit of a crush on you in high school.”

“You what?”

“Don’t be weird about it. It wasn’t like- it wasn’t Rui’s undying love for Tamao or nothing, but.”

“What the fuck?”

“What? You were an upperclassman, you were talented, you gave Ichie her—granted occasionally undeserved—comeuppance for her pranks, and you were the first person to really push Rui or I to be better.”

“You had an awful way of showing it.”

“I wasn’t going to become someone else just to make you like me,” Yuyuko said with a snort. “I wanted you to see me for who I was in my own way. But, y’know, I wanted you to at least respect the person you saw, even if I didn’t do work the way you wanted at the times you wanted.” Fumi stares at Yuyuko and there’s a small, overly worried, part of her brain that wonders if she’s replaying all their interactions, with the now disgusting knowledge of Yuyuko’s own feelings. “But those are my secrets, and I’m telling you because I trust you, and I’m willing to trust you with them.” Then, as an afterthought. “I haven’t even told Rui I had a crush on you.”

Fumi faces back forward, facing away from Yuyuko. “Don’t move,” she says.

“Huh?”

“And don’t speak.” Yuyuko nods, belatedly realizing Fumi can’t see it. She taps her knuckle lightly against Fumi’s neck, hoping she gets the gesture. “Shiori and I went to graduation. Siegfeld’s. Shiori invited me, because Akira and Michiru were, I mean, we were friends, once. I wanted to see them graduate. I don’t know what we were at the time, but I wanted to see them graduate. It was maybe a bit cruel, too, because I was supposed to be there. On that stage. I should have graduated with them, even if I was happy where I ended up.” Fumi takes a slow breath. “I met with Akira after the ceremony. Shiori got lost somewhere with Yachiyo and Mei Fan and I don’t know where Michiru went and I said congrats and I thought that’d be it. But then she asked to talk to me, and she told me she had liked me—that the reason she thinks she’d been so upset that I left Siegfeld wasn’t just because I was an Edel, but because she liked me, or hoped there was something more between us than a rivalry.” Fumi goes silent, and Yuyuko almost speaks, but worries that will break it, that Fumi will clam up again, so she rests her knuckle against the back of Fumi’s neck, hopes it’s enough to convey comfort.

“I kissed her,” Fumi says. “It wasn’t that I rejected her. But I was still dealing with where I’d go to school, and fighting with my parents on it, and I sort of-” Fumi goes silent.

“You sort of what?” Yuyuko asks, pushing herself so she’s sitting up.

“I blocked her number and ghosted her.”

“That’s not a ‘sort of’ thing.”

“I’m a piece of shit.”

“Yeah, I can’t really argue about that,” Yuyuko says. “You’re a jackass.”

“I know.”

“It’s not the first time you’ve ghosted her, though,” Yuyuko says, knocking her closed fist on Fumi’s shoulder. “I mean. This is kind of your thing, isn’t it?” 

Fumi turns to face Yuyuko again, glaring at her. “I have to move back home when I graduate, and Akira will want to stay here to pursue acting. If she hates me now, it’s just easier.”

“That’s the lamest quitter talk I’ve ever heard from you.”

“I don’t want a pep talk.”

“Fine, but if you need one, I’ve got one ready. I’ll work on it so it’s perfect for when you need it,” Yuyuko says, lying back down. “I don’t think she hates you.”

“She should.”

“She should indeed. But it seems there’s something deeply wrong with the both of you.”


Yuyuko glances around Rui’s apartment while she makes them drinks—tea for herself and hot chocolate for Yuyuko, who refuses to acquire a taste for coffee or tea in her earliest year of adulthood—or forever, so if she can help it.

She’s glanced around Rui’s apartment plenty of times since she first visited it, but she lets herself do so with more reckless abandon now. If Rui doesn’t like her at her most nosy and curious, then damn them both to hell anyway! (reckless bravado)

It’s a small studio apartment and there’s a bookshelf mostly occupied by a small stack of play scripts, alongside a book about managing personal finances (a favorite “post high school graduation” gift from parents and parental-type figures), and a photo album Yuyuko recognizes because of her matching copy sitting in her room back home (she didn’t want to risk it getting damaged in her dorm), a gift from the underclassmen when they graduated. Rui’s kendo sword is leaning against the wall, next to it a fake western style sword she probably took home from the troupe. There’s a bicycle leaning against the adjacent wall. 

Yuyuko glances away from the bookshelf to the kitchen, where Rui is standing over the stovetop, frowning down at what she’s doing. A small breakfast bar jutting out from the half wall obscures her view. Yuyuko wanders over, resting her arms on the less messy spots of the breakfast bar.

“You know I would have been fine with the packet stuff you pour hot water on,” Yuyuko says.

Rui glances up at her. “I want to try and make something better.”

“I appreciate the gesture,” Yuyuko grins. She glances down at the mess covering the breakfast bar; mostly mailers and loose pieces of paper, things that could probably be mass recycled with no problem. There’s a bottle of pills that catches her eye. She shouldn’t say anything, and she won’t, unless Rui wants to say anything on her own.

“Anxiety meds,” Rui says. Yuyuko blinks, looking at Rui with wide eyes. “The medication. It’s a new anti-anxiety med we’re trying.”

“Oh. I didn’t know you, I mean- huh.”

“I started seeing a therapist last year,” Rui says.

“I remember that.”

“We’re trying medication, in addition to the therapy.”

“Does it help?”

“I think we have to wait a bit longer to see for certain, but I think a bit, at least.” 

“You- huh. That makes sense, I guess.”

Rui looks up from the stove. “What makes sense?”

“I don’t know. I just kind of thought you, like, stopped having anxiety altogether, for some reason. This scans more.”

“I don’t think- I don’t think that happens. Much. At all. Like, without a specific reason.”

“Like therapy and medication.”

“Yeah. I mean, I still have anxiety, I just, also have better coping strategies now.”

“Yeah. That’s good. Congrats on being medicated. That’s definitely the wrong thing to say.”

“Probably,” Rui says, shaking her head and turning the heat off on the stove. “Has, uh, Fumi talked to you?” Rui asks, pouring the contents of the saucepan (what is possibly the thickest hot chocolate Yuyuko’s ever seen—the sort of rich, chocolate-y type it seems impossible to make at home) into a mug.

“She told me about what happened between her and Yukishiro-san, but I texted you about that already.”

“Okay. They’re fighting again,” she says, sliding the mug over to Yuyuko, who takes it gratefully, warming her hands with it. It’s not overly cold yet, still in the less painful parts of the late fall, but warmth is nice to Yuyuko, nonetheless. “Actively.”

“About?”

“I have no idea. But it’s all the time,” Rui says, moving to get another mug from the cabinet and pour herself a cup of tea.

“Tsuruhime-san said that’s just kinda how they are.” She takes a careful sip. 

“No, it’s definitely not like that.”

“The bad kind?” Rui nods. “This, maybe, isn’t our business. We don’t have to be involved. We can just un-involve ourselves and not worry about it.”

“Yukko.”

“No, listen. I can just ghost Fumi. She can’t complain about it, and she’s a business major. How often do I see her anyway? You lodge a fake complaint with the troupe so they don’t hire Yukishiro-san anymore and we’re home free.”

“I think we’re already too involved.”

“Dammit. This is what I get for being a good friend,” Yuyuko sighs, leaning back. “We shouldn’t try and mediate though. Right?”

“I think you mediate between them if you want to die,” Rui says. “But we should keep an eye on them, probably.”

“That’s so much effort,” Yuyuko grumbles. “But fine, fine. Because Fumi’ll probably shoot herself in her own foot if nobody’s out to keep an eye on her. Or say something that makes Yukishiro-san shoot her in the foot instead.”

“I wish you weren’t right about that.”


Getting together her visa information will be more effort than Yuyuko cares to put in, listening to the advisor at the international student office explain everything to her roughly. She still has time, another semester, before she has to actually start submitting paperwork, but it’s better to schedule appointments and look for documents as soon as possible. She’s taking an intensive English course over the semester break at a community center, and a British Literature In Translation course in the following semester to help prepare. 

It’s exhausting. Moreso, it turns out, is updating friends on her plans, both old and not so old. Especially in a way that feels organic and non-gloaty and also with a signature amount of disaffect she’s so known for. She considers messaging Yachiyo her plans, but decides against it (true to her own expectation, with no prompting, Yachiyo sends an explanation of the easiest ways to get from Dublin to Paris and a demand that she visit and be visited and the communal Visit Experience occurs all around). 

“Ireland,” Fumi says, as Yuyuko opens her dorm to Fumi resting one of her arms against the doorframe, typing on her phone. She glances up before returning the gaze to her phone.

“Hello.”

“Awful country.”

“Have you been?”

“My father took me once on a business trip when I was a kid.”

“What exactly does your family’s factory manufacture?”

“Prescription painkillers,” Fumi says, and Yuyuko is so taken aback by the statement, which she can parse for neither joke nor seriousness, that she doesn’t respond. Fumi finishes her message, sliding her phone into her pocket.

“Closing a deal there?” Yuyuko asks, recovering.

“Cancelling a tutoring session.”

“You get tutored?”

“I tutor. It looks good on a resume.”

“Okay, nepotism baby.”

Fumi rolls her eyes. “When do you leave?”

“Next year?” 

She scowls. “I figured. Well, I was sent to retrieve you for a going away party.”

“I told Ichie-san it wasn’t anytime soon.”

“How weird of it to have slipped her mind. Come on.”

“Do we have to go?”

“I’m not making an enemy of Ichie right now. She’s stopped pranking for once.”

“Right, right,” Yuyuko says, and slips her shoes on, and follows.


“We’re going to miss you, so, so much,” Ichie says. They’re in Kappo Tomoye again, sitting at a circular table. The first time since graduation, all the five of them. Yuyuko hasn’t seen Tamao since then—she goes to school in Kyoto and it’s hard for her to make the trip so often. Ichie stands up in her seat, holding a glass of orange juice up in a toast (she refuses to drink anything but orange juice here, for some reason)

“We already said you planned this prematurely, why are you still giving a speech?” Fumi asks, pulling Ichie back down into her seat. 

“Oh no! Did I? Sorry. We can plan for two weeks from now, then, for the big throwaway bash.” Rui laughs beside Yuyuko, at the obviousness of Ichie’s ploy exposed.

“Still, it’s very exciting news to hear,” Tamao says, sitting on Ichie’s other side. “Even if the celebration is a bit premature.”

“More than a bit,” Yuyuko says. Fumi grumbles her agreement beside her.

“What exactly is the connection between rakugo and Ireland, pray tell,” Ichie asks.

“Oh, uh, there is none. I’m doing research for a professor.”

“It’s a long way for a student job,” Fumi comments.

“I’m thinking of, maybe, trying to become a playwright. Or a writer in general, I guess.” 

“You’re giving up rakugo?” Ichie gasps.

“How dare you, Ichie-san,” Yuyuko gasps. “Rakugo is my lifeblood, I would never!”

“But you’re looking at other avenues,” Tamao comments.

“Something like that. I’m exploring.”

“You always wrote well for us in school,” Tamao says.

“I did my best,” Yuyuko deflects. “If I work hard I might be able to write something good.”

“Yukko writes really well already,” Rui speaks up, from Yuyuko’s other side. “If she goes for it, she’ll be the best playwright in the world.”

“Ah, that’s,” Yuyuko tries to deflect.

“The best of all time. Shakespeare who?”

“Junna-chan is flying over from the US right now to kick your ass for suggesting that,” Ichie says with a laugh. 

“I could take her.”

“Huhhhhh, nobody ever threatens to fight my friends and mentors for me,” Ichie says, turning to Tamao. “Tamao! Beat Fumi up for me!”

“Oh dear,” Tamao says.

“Ichie, stop making a fool of yourself.”

“Fine. I’ll beat you up for Tamao, then.”

“How dashing.”

“Stop making a fool of yourself.”

“You think you could take me in a fight? Business student? You’ll cry if I get your stupid little business suit dirty.”

“I could take you in a fight easily.” 

“Is that a challenge? Are you challenging me? I have orange juice right here! It’ll stain. You’ll go home crying to your parents, huh?”

“Ichie, isn’t that enough?” Tamao interjects. 

“Bring it on, you annoying little-”

“Be careful who you insult Shakespeare to,” Yuyuko says, cutting away from the conversation, leaning closer to Rui. “Some people will actually fight you over it.”

Rui leans back in her seat. “I meant what I said.”

“That’s embarrassing. And wrong.”

“Not embarrassing. And definitely not wrong.”