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咲く野の花と剣崎さん - Blooming wildflowers and Kenzaki-san

Chapter Text

「踊る阿呆に見る阿呆、同じ阿呆なら踊らな損々」-“We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.”

That was the phrase that had occupied Ririka’s mind so often these past few days. She wasn’t sure where she’d heard it - she had some vague memory of a festival or something like that - but it had come back to her one night as she found herself struggling for a decision.

While she wasn’t one to worry too much about what people thought of her, she knew she had a tendency to sound somewhat slow to others. With her friends, she knew it didn’t matter, and she liked to take life slowly as it was, but it didn’t exactly help her confidence going into a difficult situation.

She’d turned it over in her head several times - thoughts like ‘Should I say something?’ and ‘What would she think if I did?’ were common occurrences. It was a curse of a quiet mouth, to have a loud mind, though she thought that might be something they had in common, at least.

This was why that phrase had been such a help. It gave her an excuse, a way to tell herself it was worth it. “After all,” she mumbled to herself as the day’s ensemble practice ended; “if I’m a fool anyway…” It was strangely comforting to her in a way, giving her some strength to follow through rather than hide away, as she watched her oboe partner’s gaze following a certain flautist across the room. ’ Well, here goes nothing…’

“Hey, um, Mizo-senpai?”

The way Mizore snapped out of her little trance, eyes pointedly looking anywhere other than that gaggle of flutes was adorable, she had to admit. Once those eyes landed on Ririka, she continued.

“Um, could you maybe come with me a moment - I mean, I’d like to talk to you about something, if that’s ok?” She kicked herself for messing up now of all times, although Mizore didn’t seem to fault her for it.

“Will it be long?” The small glance back at the flute section, still giggling away, made it clear what she really meant by that.

“No, it shouldn’t be.”

~~~~~~

 

Nozomi watched the pair of oboists leave with interest. It wasn’t common to see Mizore with someone other than herself or Yuuko if she was honest, so she was glad to be adding someone else to that list. Although she was sure Mizore herself would deny it vigorously, expanding her circle of friends a little would do wonders for her - the time she’d already spent with the first year was evidence enough of that. Still, this particular case seemed curious. Curious enough to warrant excusing herself from the flute pile to follow.

Careful not to let them see her, but close enough to keep track, she watched them duck into a classroom, and slowly crept up to the doorway herself. Ear pressed to the thin wall, she strained to hear what little she could.

“... was wondering… something on the…” She could identify Ririka’s voice, but not really make sense of it.

“... sort of…”

“Eh, I don’t… to eat, or…”

“Could I…”

“... don’t think I’d mind… make you feel...”

“... good, I’ll ask…”

“Yeah…”

At the sound of movement from behind her she jumped away from the wall, all but tripping over herself as she made her way back to the music room.

As she finished packing her instrument away, she felt a soft tap on her shoulder, the warmth of the smile she saw as she turned around washing away the nerves she still felt at almost being caught eavesdropping. Though she still didn’t understand what she’d heard, Mizore’s words now brought that same smile to her own face.

“Are you free on Saturday?”

“You know I’m always free for you, Mizore.”

 ~~~~~~

 

Ririka’s current state of mind could only be described as a mess.

On the one hand, she’d done her metaphorical dance, and now she was going out with Mizore at the weekend. On the other hand -

Her phone buzzed triumphantly from her desk.

Mizo-senpai~<3: Nozomi said she can come!(‐^▽^‐)

‘Yeah. That.’

It wasn’t as if she disliked the flautist. On the contrary, she thought she seemed rather friendly, not to mention pretty. In fact, she’d entertained several interesting thoughts upon seeing her for the first time. Rather, it was that she’d hoped she might obtain an oboe exclusive, rather than the full NozoMizo™ package.

‘Still…’ some part of her mind offered; ‘You’re the one who said she could. Aren’t two better than -’

“No!” she announced, to no one in particular, planting her head firmly on her desk. “Ow.”

Saturday suddenly seemed a long way away.

Chapter Text

Saturday, not caring much what Ririka thought of it, rolled around anyway. As mid-morning became noon she found herself at the train station, dressed in something she hoped made her look cute, waiting for Nozomi and Mizore to arrive.

She wasn’t quite sure what made her leave so early - after all, they’d planned to start with lunch - and it was clear that, now she was here, sitting in the station letting her thoughts wander wasn’t much better than letting them wander at home. At the very least, it provided some distractions from one specific thought she kept having, but that was neither here nor there.

As yet another train pulled in, to her relief she saw a pair of familiar faces stepping out.

“Good morning, Riri - ah, wait,” Nozomi checked her watch; “Good afternoon, Ririka-chan!” Mizore laughed quietly.

“Kasaki-senpai, Mizo-senpai, you’ve saved me from a life of trainspotting.”

Nozomi looked at Mizore pointedly, raising an eyebrow. “‘Mizo-senpai’, huh? I feel left out.”

“Nozo-senpai?” Ririka offered, slightly red.

“Much better,” she smirked, offering a hand to her; “Now, are we going or what?”

It struck Ririka, as she was swept up in that presence, that she and Mizore must look very interesting from the outside, what with how Mizore was practically glued to Nozomi’s left arm, and she herself was pulled along by her right. If she was honest, she thought they must look a lot like a -

“Ooh, they look tasty.” Nozomi made to point, seemingly forgetting her arms were otherwise occupied, almost sending the trio tumbling across the pavement. “Oops.”

Recovering her footing somewhat, Ririka’s gaze fell upon the very same, very large ice cream sundae Nozomi had seen. “Oh, they really do.”

Mizore’s stomach growled in agreement, setting the other two laughing.

“Shall we then?”

Taking Nozomi’s hand for the second time in what felt like as many minutes, Ririka could almost forget she was a first year, and that they were third years. The difference seemed almost irrelevant as they found a table by the large windows of the parlour, feeling less like her seniors and more like her friends. They were her friends, she reassured herself as she read down the extensive list of flavours and combinations. ‘Or even, could they -’

“Ririka-chan?” Nozomi’s voice cut through that thought, as she found herself buried under her own menu. “Are you alright down there? Strike any gold?”

Ririka felt her cheeks burning as she sat back up, but she still laughed a little, which seemed to reassure her companions. “Oh, sorry, no, it’s nothing.” She couldn’t quite meet their eyes.

“Do you know what you want then?”

”Oh, um, yes.” She pointed at something random on the menu - ‘Fools Gold’, apparently - deciding that was better than raising yet more suspicion. The melodic giggling of her more reserved senpai made her fully raise her head again.

“You did strike gold then?” Mizore asked, smiling.

“Ah, um, I-I guess?” She didn’t know why she felt so nervous, given the relaxed air she felt from the other two. Perhaps some part of her wanted to behave as a good kouhai, or felt they shouldn’t be so nice to her. The irrational part, surely. Greatly interested in the table cloth once again, she almost didn’t notice Nozomi returning with their ice cream.

“One Fools Gold for the cute fool in the corner.”

“Wawawawawawaaaaaaaaaa‽” Her gaze snapped up to Nozomi, who had a large grin on her face as if she’d planned for exactly that. Even Mizore seemed to cover her mouth.

“Thought that’d snap you out of it.”

“That’s no fair Nozo-senpai…” She pouted, but any real protest died on her lips then; Ririka couldn’t fault her for such an effective plan. Still, it left her heart and mind racing at a rate that couldn’t be ignored. She was mildly aware of how red her face must be, as she lifted her spoon.

‘Fools Gold’, as it turned out, consisted of a chocolate and vanilla mix, with small round chocolate chips with a golden sugary coating within it. Nothing too extravagant, but as she took a scoop into her mouth it seemed to melt away her nerves and slow her mind as she focused on the taste - a comfortable kind of brain freeze.

“Ooh, that’s good.” Nozomi spoke the words before she could herself, digging in to her own ‘Rocky Road’. “Mizore, want to try mine?” She held out some on her spoon as an offering.

Ririka watched as Mizore slowly, but without hesitation, ate it straight from Nozomi’s spoon, fascinated by the pink twinge to her cheeks as she did so. Some part of her mind thought she should be worried, but it wasn’t until -

“And Ririka-chan?”

Logically, she should have expected this. But her thoughts were anything but logical today. As she found the very same spoon in front of her own face, they stopped working altogether. A few disjointed attempts at speech left her mouth, as she tried to recover some semblance of functionality. Unconsciously, almost reflexively, she took the spoonful she’d been offered anyway.

It was tasty. She just didn’t want to think about why.

~~~~~~

 

Ririka recovered somewhat over the course of her ice cream, its sweetness relaxing and distracting her once again. She was mildly aware of the ongoing conversation, though it was mostly Nozomi’s voice. Still, as her nerves settled - hopefully for good this time - she somehow found it a soothing sound, comfortable and familiar, despite this being only their second real interaction.

‘That’s charisma for you,’ she thought, laughing a little, which seemed to make the other two smile as well.

“What’s so funny, Ririka-chan?”

“Oh no, nothing, I was just thinking,” Ririka rambled; “I’ve not really spent that much time with you Nozo-senpai, but this is really nice.” She flushed as her mind caught up with her words, but held on to her composure.

“Aww, that’s really sweet, thanks.” Nozomi’s grin was infectious.

“What, me or the ice cream?” It came out before she could think about it, but she didn’t regret it. The three of them burst out in laughter again, a warming sound to her ears.

“Hmm, I’m not sure which one is better.” She stroked her chin in mock thought, before continuing, “What do you think, Mizore?”

Mizore seemed to pause for a moment. “I think both together is the sweetest...” she mumbled, almost hiding behind what remained of her ice cream.

Ririka absently noticed a strange expression grace Nozomi’s face at that, for the briefest of seconds, before her usual smile returned. “I think I’d have to agree.”

Suddenly, Mizore’s hiding technique seemed like a pretty good idea.

“Well, it looks like we’re done here,” Nozomi continued, eyeing the pair with interest; “If you two moles are done pretending I can’t see you, shall we go?”

“Where to then?” Ririka asked, mildly red as she stood up. “And we’re not moles.” She stuck her tongue out.

“You’re cute like moles,” she laughed. Ririka almost fell over. “It’s a nice day isn’t it? Why not just go for a walk?”

Mizore nodded in agreement, seemingly as red as Ririka felt she was herself as they walked out onto the street.

‘Damn it, Nozo-senpai,’ Ririka thought to herself as she walked; ‘Why do you have to make me -’ 

She stumbled.

“Ririka-chan? You ok?” Nozomi’s worried expression hurt to look at.

“Oh yeah, i-it’s nothing.” She flashed a smile, which seemed to reassure her.

She looked down at her own feet, noting the cracks in the pavement.

‘What’s wrong with me?’

Chapter Text

Ririka’s thumb hesitated over the send button. Somehow it didn’t feel right.

Me: I need help.

‘She’s probably busy any-’

Kanade: What’s wrong?

Kanade: I thought you were on your super special date? (^_<)〜☆

Me: Yeah, I’m hiding in the bathroom.

A pause.

Kanade: That bad huh?

Me: No, it’s good, just…

Me: Remember how Kasaki-senpai was coming too?

Kanade: Is she getting in your way?ヽ(`⌒´メ)ノ

Me: No. Well, maybe. She’s just so confident and I can’t think straight.

Kanade: Have you ever thought straight? (¬_¬ )

Me: I’m serious! It’s really weird and I don’t know what to do.

Kanade: Don’t worry about her. Get out there and work that charm like I know you can. There’s no way she can resist an adorable kouhai. ( ~*-*)~

“Ririka-chan! You all good in there?” Nozomi’s voice carried through into the bathroom.

Me: Ok ok I’m going. (*/_\)

Kanade: °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖°

“Sorry about that.” She walked back out to find Nozomi alone. “Where’s Mizo-senpai?”

“Oh, she thought we made you ill with the ice cream, so she wanted to get something to apologise. I tried to tell her she didn’t need to, but she insisted.” She gave a nervous laugh, drawing in closer to Ririka. “Honestly, she’s so hard to resist sometimes, isn’t she?”

Ririka gulped. ‘So much for ignoring her…’

They took to a nearby bench for rest, enjoying the relative quiet of this corner of town. It wasn’t anywhere special, and the view was dull if she was honest, but it was peaceful.

“I hope she doesn’t do too much, I’m really fine.” Not really aware of herself, she leaned against Nozomi for comfort, trying to distract her mind with a passing flock of birds.

“It’ll make her happy if you accept it though.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s not like I can really say no now anyway.” She laughed a little.

“Honestly, I’m glad. She’s not the most social of people, so she must really care about you to do something like that.” Ririka flushed and smiled. “Hey, what’s that look for? Don’t let this power get to your head now.” She booped on the nose and they both giggled.

Ririka felt herself getting tired, as she leaned in a little more. It was a dangerously comfortable position to be in, and she felt her self-control slowly leaving her.

“Hey, Nozo-senpai?”

“Yeah?”

“Can I tell you something?”

“Sure, go ahead.”

Ririka looked down at the floor. “Promise not to tell anyone.”

“What do you take me for?”

“Please?”

Nozomi giggled. “Fine, I promise.”

“Well, the thing is…”

Ririka took a deep breath.

“I like Mizo-senpai.”

Nozomi paused almost imperceptibly. “So do I.”

“No, as in… I like her…” Ririka covered her burning face with a hand.

“Oh.” A pause. “Yeah. So do I.” 

Ririka looked up to see Nozomi’s gaze fixed on the sky above them, a red tinge to her cheeks. As Nozomi looked back down to her, their eyes met. Her mind stopped processing anything, the world fell away, and she seemed to lose herself. All she knew were those blue pools, so close she could peer deep into them.

She wasn’t sure what happened next.

~~~~~~

 

Nozomi watched as Mizore eyed her with interest. She wasn’t surprised - the position she was in definitely warranted it - it just wasn’t a look she was used to receiving.

“Um, Nozomi…”

“Yes?”

“Why is Ririka… Sleeping on your lap?” The way she tilted her head in confusion was adorable.

“That would be the question, wouldn’t it?” Nozomi chose to ignore the heat still on her cheeks. “Either way, looks like we should probably take her home or something.”

Mizore nodded in agreement.

“But somehow, I don’t want to wake her…”

At that, Ririka stirred a little, but slept on.

“Piggy back time it is then.”

Ririka was surprisingly light; a fact for which Nozomi was thankful as they made their way back to the station.

“We must look like a really weird family, huh?”

Mizore missed a step.

“Say, which one of us is the mama?” Nozomi smirked, as she watched the interesting display on Mizore’s face.

“Can’t we both be?”

“You’re right, you’re right.”

A pause.

“I think you’d make a good mama Mizore.”

“Ah, um, thanks?”

“Hey, we’ve been over you and questioning tones.”

Their laughter filled the street, mixing with the warm orange tones of the sky above them.

“Huh? Where am I?” The voice coming from Nozomi’s back was muffled and sleepy.

“You, my dear, are aboard the one and only Kasaki Express!” Nozomi puffed her chest out a little. “We pride ourselves on our passenger comfort, so please, make yourself at home!”

Seemingly too tired to form any protest, her ‘passenger' simply snuggled into her seat a little more, making Nozomi blush for what seemed the too many-th time that day.

“We’re almost to the station now, don’t worry.” She wasn’t quite sure who she was talking to.

When they finally entered, Nozomi placed Ririka down on a nearby bench, though not without some protest. Mizore watched with amusement.

“Are you gonna be ok to get home? Want one of us to come with you?”

“I’ll be fine, geez, I’m not a child.”

“Ah, sorry, I was just, offering, you know?” A similar pink dusted both their faces.

“Yeah, thanks, ah, I’ll be fine.”

Nozomi caught Mizore’s curious look out of the corner of her eye, and cleared her throat.

“Well then, it’s been fun. Let’s do this again soon, huh?”

Ririka nodded. “Yeah, it was fun. Thanks.”

“See you later then.”

“See you, Nozo-senpai, Mizo-senpai.”

The three parted ways, boarding their own trains, and watching as the outside world seemed to move away from them as they departed. For various reasons the same thought passed through their minds.

‘What the hell just happened?’