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I'm Glad You're Still With Me

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Whenever Nagisa's mind happened to replay today's events—she found it was impossible not to be taken aback.

Even after seeing the winning score, with the sweat of her efforts dripping down the young athlete's body.

Even after receiving gold medals, a trophy, and taking photos, with the team's eyes all red and puffy from tears of relief and joy.

And even after celebrating their victory with a restaurant feast, where further tears were spilt, a lot of grub was munched resulting in a hefty bill, and some of the girls passed out mid-way through their meal…

Ah, we're going to nationals. We're really going…

Time and again, the thought would dawn on her. As a result, Nagisa's heart would flutter, and a smile would sprout.

Playing so much basketball had tired her out, and Nagisa didn't want to run another centimetre, she wouldn't lie about that—yet, remembering that one fact made Nagisa feel like she could run ten marathons, back-to-back!

Her inner athlete held her back, though. Attempting something that extreme should be better left for when her stomach wasn't full of noodles, meat, broth and drinks and other junk.

Maaaan…spending the rest of the day at a restaurant after a gruelling game with Coach payin' was more than enough for me to throw logic out the window…I musta had four servings. Or more?

Regardless, it was enough servings that the team had completely gone by moonrise, making it pretty late right now.

Due to some of the girls falling asleep, Nagisa held back the urge to tickle them awake out of respect for their labour, Coach and some of the third-years had to give a hand in getting them home, so that took a few people out. That still left some of the other girls, though they eventually left too.

Not Nagisa. This was her last meal before passing on to the national road—the most important meal in her seventeen years of life. She'd eat and enjoy the hell out of that food 'til her stomach burst. Not really 'burst', she would die then, more like 'to reach the maximum without getting sick'.

"Aaah~I'm stuffed! I don't think I've eaten that much in forever."

This sudden outburst, as she walked down the night-lit street, was proof of the girl's success.

If nobody was around, her musing would have fallen on death ears—and she'd trudge all the way home, with this heavy bag tied to her.

Fortunately, that wasn't the case. In this tough time, she had a comrade on her right. That special comrade, named Chinatsu Kano, let out a laugh.

"Me too…we must've had the most out of everyone. You definitely beat me, though."

No surprises by her being here. The brunette, while sitting a little ways away from her, was chowing down just as hard—Nagisa found herself watching sometimes. That girl…she could be a monster, on and off the court. It was something she'd known for a long, long while, ever since they first met—and now that seemed to extend to food.

"Can you blame me? I needed to! If I hadn't eaten, I woulda conked out easily like the others."

She simply shrugged at Chinatsu's observation, it was a no brainer. In response, her best friend gave a long hum.

"Actually, you nearly did even while you were eating...a lot. I saw."

"Huh…?!"

Oh, yeah…I remember something like that.

Yes, Nagisa survived a gruelling game against Kagohara Academy—and was pretty much ready for a nap at any moment. How couldn't she have felt her head droop and heavy eyelids flutter? She'd surprised herself at how long she'd last.

But…Chinatsu wasn't meant to see that! Nagisa's face was already turning red.

And, as if to add insult to injury…

"You'd cry sometimes, too."

Oh, yeah…I also remember something like that...

Realising that they were going to nationals gave Nagisa the strength to do the impossible. It also gave her the capacity to cry a river.

There was no alcohol involved, yet she was acting like a total weepy drunk in an office worker manga. And Chinatsu had seen it all.

How embarrassing!

"Sh-shut up! This is a really big moment, 'course I'd be emotional!"

A red-faced Nagisa exclaimed, frantically waving the memory away with her arms. Her eyes were shut tight, but the laughter of Chinatsu was perfectly heard.

It was a simple defence and a futile one—made even more futile by her pouting face.

Well, at least she's happy now, compared to before…

In any case, she wasn't putting up with this embarrassment any longer—she had to move the topic away, fast!

And she knew just how. A smirk began to rise on Nagisa's face.

"Did you see Coach? He could barely talk through the meeting! I've never seen the guy make a face like that before!"

He was a stern guy, watching their plays with a discerning eye and guiding them as a good coach should. However, after that match…he was blubbering the whole time like a baby and their assistant had to translate. Well, she couldn't blame him.

Still, part of her was trying not to burst out laughing.

Now that there were no coaches around…the two could do just that.

"Pfft, that's true!"

Chinatsu agreed, holding a hand up to her chin. It was something she did a lot when she laughed, Nagisa observed.

"You're one to talk anyway, Chinatsu, you were hugging me and crying like there was no tomorrow, I was just so kind that I chose not to tickle you!"

A callout backed up by wiggling, tickly fingers, ready to strike.

In reality, she hadn't been able to because she was also bawling her eyes out and hugging like there was no tomorrow—but forget that part, teasing her was so much fun! If Chinatsu caught her now, she'd definitely be in for it.

"Thanks...for not doing that."

Cringing, she backed away, protecting her sides just in case. She was just so cute that Nagisa simply had to give her a pass.

"Heeheehee! You're very welcome, ma'am!"

Nagisa gave a cheeky grin, returning her hands into her shorts' pockets. Well played, Chinatsu.

And so, their banter turned to silence, the sounds of shoes tapping the pavement filling the empty air. The park that would usually be filled with kids in the day, was populated only by unmoving playground items and the tall trees that cast their shadows. Occasionally, their dimly lit faces would be brightened by the overhead lights, yet their expressions carried the same stillness, smile-less but definitely not sad.

She knew she was the team's most boisterous member—however, Nagisa found this silence to be almost comforting, and didn't want to interrupt it. Today had been an emotional rollercoaster with a lot of sideways turns and loops, so a simple stroll felt like the perfect remedy.

Especially since it was with her.

Actually…that was another thing that started to surprise Nagisa.

Just a few months ago, the painful possibility of departure loomed over the basketball club like an evil spirit, making everyone feel uneasy.

Yet, in the present, Chinatsu was walking right beside her, with that issue completely behind them.

Their time together wasn't over, and this victory ensured that their time could keep going.

Another reason for Nagisa's heart to flutter, and feel her happiest yet.

She felt the sudden need to express that.

"Chinatsu, y'know...I'm—"

"Nagisa."

The sudden interruption made her turn back to the shorter girl, who'd stopped walking, offering a questioning hum. Chinatsu seemed rather awkward, as she rubbed the back of her neck.

"Um...are you going to say 'I'm glad you're still here', or something like that?"

Nagisa froze up with a 'Geh!'. Her everything was on full display today, huh?

Chinatsu looked forward gently.

"Sorry, I know...I'm just as glad as you. After all, we're finally going to nationals, and we got our revenge, and I proved Kagohara wrong."

That Kagohara had made a big mistake underestimating her, so she was glad to let that grudge go. Though, she would absolutely show them what for if they ever decided to talk smack again.

"Yeah. You sure did."

She replied with a grin.

And you looked amazing doing it.

That dunk Chinatsu had pulled against their captain was a sight Nagisa'd never forget. With that form and iconic ponytail…so damn cool.

Chinatsu speaking up again took her out of those fond memories. The two began to walk again.

"And I didn't realise 'til recently...that being here gets the team to work harder, so it's great that just staying helped like that."

Nagisa smiled, briefly putting a hand on her shoulder.

"You've always had that sorta influence on people, even though you're not the captain. I'm pretty surprised you're admitting it, you'd always pretend you hadn't done anything when people compliment you!"

It was kinda crazy to think about, in her opinion. Chinatsu at least knew she was known as a star player; and maybe that she was super popular in school; and maybe there was probably a tiny, tiny chance she knew that a lot of people were into her…yet she didn't have anything like an ego problem—never letting those positions go to her head.

Must've been a result of her hunger to keep improving.

I'm only #2 or #3 right now compared to Chinatsu, but if I was a star…good enough to be in the magazines and have all the girls crushing on me…I'd totally let it go to my head! Just a little bit…! C'mon, I'd be justified!

"Uuu…I mean…what do I say? I just…really love playing basketball, I wasn't really thinking about becoming famous or inspiring, at least after I was a kid!"

Oh dear, she was blushing, completely unsure of whether to hide her face or let it show. Nagisa clutched her tummy and chortled with laughter.

"You say 'Thank you', obviously!"

While others considered her a genius, she could be so dumb when it came to other people. It was adorable.

She started to speak again, and Nagisa continued to listen.

"The atmosphere of the gym when I'm practising shots, running around 'til we're sweating buckets, seeing my teammates every day…knowing I'm not alone when I play. Even if I left Japan, I'm sure I'd find new teammates at a new school and do all of those things again. Maybe even go to nationals there, if it's possible."

This time, Chinatsu was the one to stop, looking at her friend with utmost confidence—her brown eyes shining determinedly, and mouth curled in a smile.

"Winning wasn't the best part about staying. It was that I got to play more basketball with the team I love so much. I wouldn't do this anywhere else. This is the gladdest I'll ever be."

Her lips parted with surprise, Nagisa couldn't help it. The fact that Chinatsu was still here at least meant she wanted to play for at least another year, however, she wasn't the type to get sentimental about her experiences.

Even so, Nagisa couldn't agree more. There wasn't any other place better than the one you considered home.

"Yeah…me too. I guess it does get embarrassing, being told that stuff over and over, my bad."

She scratched her cheek timidly.

"Oh, it's okay, I'm pretty used to it."

There was no denying that staying had helped their chances of getting to nationals, and they were successful, too.

However, for Nagisa, it meant a lot more than that.

"I just meant...you've been looking a lot happier yourself."

To her own annoyance, she only managed to keep eye contact for a second as she spoke. Getting embarrassed over normal compliments like that was so not her!

"Huh?"

Understandably, Chinatsu didn't get it. Nagisa felt her heart beat faster, it was a long story, attached to feelings she didn't want to admit. Not now.

"Darn it…I didn't really wanna bring it up since we got our revenge. It was about last summer's upset…"

Her friend's face turned to a frown, and Nagisa instinctively uttered a mental apology.

It was never nice to think about it for any of the girls, and repeating that fact however many times wouldn't keep them from doing so every once in a while. The despair rooted in those memories of defeat would likely take a long time to disappear.

"I was pretty upset after since I'd screwed up some of my shots in that game, and you comforted me a lot. But, I never saw you cry."

"…"

After the horn was blown, all she could do was stare at the score in disbelief.

Nagisa had felt herself biting her lip, trying her hardest to keep the tears down…only for them to fall anyway. Time didn't do much to remedy that inadequacy and sorrow in her heart.

Somehow, Chinatsu was the only first-year who had stayed firm, especially for her. Clutching her crying form tightly, assuring Nagisa of how good a player she was as if were common knowledge, despite her mind telling her otherwise—recognising all the effort she'd put in during practice.

If you still don't agree with me, I'll practice with you and point out every little thing you did well on 'til you believe you're great! Then, next year, you'll show Kagohara who's stronger!

Chinatsu was just a valued and slightly enviable teammate to her at the time. However, after that day, it was like that girl had ended up ten times closer to her and became ten times more noticeable…and Nagisa couldn't understand why for months…

With how far the girl had gone for her teammates—anyone would think that Chinatsu was just that special, someone born for the role of a captain someday. Watching over those who needed help, not worrying about her own performance or thinking of any mistake she made, not even a totally negligible one.

No.

Her fists tightened.

That didn't mean Chinatsu wasn't hurting.

She'd seen the melancholy in Chinatsu's usually brilliant brown eyes, and it had stunned her.

"I wanted to say something...I…just…never really knew what. And then we heard you were going overseas. I got scared, thinking about you giving up on basketball and leaving us. Because you were hurting so much without saying anything."

Teams losing their members pre-maturely was a normal thing, a turn in the way of life that happened to be unfortunate. Hearing about other teams was her reference—she hadn't actually experienced it before, and considered herself incredibly lucky for that.

However, when the news came…Nagisa quickly realised how much it hurt to even think about. Especially in her heart.

Losing a dear, dear friend after they'd already been kicked down—sometimes, the girl found herself crying when she was alone.

"Nagisa…I…"

Hearing her voice, the girl turned to Chinatsu, who looked back worriedly. Unsure of what she was getting at.

Oh, oh God.

Nagisa felt herself cringing to hell. Now she really regretted bringing it up.

"Aaaaaghhh, damnit!"

"Nagi—?!"

SMACK—!

Chinatsu jolted, as Nagisa slapped her cheeks with both hands straight after. Hard enough to leave red marks. This was so not her!

"Yowww…that stings."

Of course it did…that was self-inflicted pain. And much-needed pain—because Nagisa felt a hell of a lot better now.

Taking a deep breath in…and then out, she refocused on the currently flabbergasted Chinatsu, looking straight into her eyes. A stare like she'd gotten super fired up during a match.

Before speaking, Nagisa asked herself this: What was she trying to say?

"Chinatsu, after all that...you just...changed all of a sudden!"

That was loud. It all came out in a shout, and Nagisa was perfectly aware.

So what?

"You started smiling way differently! Like you were genuinely happy playing with us again, like you enjoyed basketball again. And I'm happy that happened, really really happy, even though I dunno how it did!"

Even though Nagisa eventually regained her confidence, knowing her friend, no, an extremely precious person to her was suffering made her feel so weak. Fearing what would happen if she acted, and fearing what would happen if she didn't act.

This year, we'll make sure to get our revenge.

Chinatsu told the team this without a hint of anguish.

It was disgusting to feel relief, she'd just gotten away with not helping someone when they needed it most. Nagisa could tell herself, over and over and over…but all that regret and loathing in her heart would never compare to the bliss of the present.

Giving each other an up-top high five whenever they did something cool, letting out a triumphant yell when they won a game, hugging each other like it was the last hug they'd ever have…when their dream finally came true.

Nagisa didn't care what anyone said—with Chinatsu Kano by her side, she couldn't be any happier.

As she reflected on this, the volume and pace of her heart continually increased. And she blurted something.

"I m-mean, between the sad you and the happy you, I definitely love the happy you more, hahahaha!"

This one statement had caused her arms to move left-right-and-everywhere super frantically…and, once again, Nagisa was incredibly aware. Curse this habit.

"...Y-yeah."

Chinatsu simply responded, her cheeks flushing, probably not knowing the first thing to say in response to this stupid ramble and that stupid compliement.

That stupid compliment…

Nagisa's lips began to tremble.

Damnit-damnit-damnit, why'd I choose the word 'love'?!

"...A-anyway! I'm just happy that you're feeling better now. You were incredible today."

Thankfully, she'd gotten to the point, quit the intense arm dance, and finished with a smile. Nagisa had seen death and survived.

Just gotta calm my heart down now…, Nagisa thought, putting a hand to her chest.

"You're right. I did cry...sometimes."

"Huh?"

Her friend looked down, holding her arm. Light was cast upon them, yet Nagisa recognised the ghost of a certain melancholy in Chinatsu's expression. She didn't like it.

"I made mistakes in that game too…that I was hung up about. But I wanted to be strong for the team…because I'm the ace. I thought that'd take my mind off things."

As good as it might've been one's pride to be a star—it meant a new world of pressure. Everyone's eyes were on you, friend or foe. In the worst times, you owed it to yourself, to your teammates, and to the flow of the game, to make any chance given count.

When such an athlete managed to do that, it was a feat of pure heroism.

"I couldn't pretend forever. On a whim, I went to the gym before anyone else and just practised my shots over and over. I wouldn't even toss the same ball."

Unfortunately…the reality was that if that pressure couldn't be lifted, it would crush whatever's underneath.

A play, a dream, a person.

"I was fine at first. Then the more I scored, the more I couldn't ignore it…and I just started crying as I played. 'I'm scoring here just fine, so why couldn't I make it when it mattered?'…that's probably what I was thinking."

Pressure was a dangerous weight. Despite that, the silver lining was that this burden could be shared. After all, basketball was a sport played by more than one. Nagisa, Chinatsu, Kikuchi…everyone—they were all on this road together.

As she thought, as anyone should think—Chinatsu was only Chinatsu. A dedicated girl, a pretty girl, an observant girl, an awkward girl…who just so happened to be very good at basketball.

Nagisa knew of the hardship her friend was in, and didn't do a thing to help.

Guilt was written on her face, with her eyebrows subtly twitching as Chinatsu spilled her feelings.

"It hurt, it really did, we'd gotten our closest since junior high, and I didn't live up to my title. So I really did think about giving up."

Suddenly, Nagisa felt a hand on either shoulder, causing her to let out a whimper.

Upon turning towards the cause…she was met with the sight of a now-positive Chinatsu.

"You don't need to worry anymore. I'm okay now, Nagisa! I kept practising early since then, doing anything I could…and that time made me realise that I didn't want to stop holding the ball, and I didn't want to give up yet. I'm not alone, and I don't want this dream to happen with any other team!"

The wateriness in her eyes had blurred Chinatsu's smiling face a bit—despite that, the conviction in her eyes was obvious. There were no hidden feelings or ulterior motives—she meant every word.

In contrast, the lighter-brunette lips were stretched thin, shaking, struggling to hold in any sound.

Until…it simply became too much.

"Uuuuu…Chinatsu…!"

Unable to control the sobs, Nagisa thought she'd run out of tears to cry today, the girl bounded forward…and pulled Chinatsu into a tender hug, tightly grabbing the back of her Eimei tracksuit.

To an outsider, it looked more like Nagisa was the one who needed to be hugged. Even so, she wanted Chinatsu to know she was there.

"I'm sorry…!"

Chinatsu giggled, lifting a hand to softly stroke Nagisa's hair. A shakiness in Chinatsu's voice that she'd never shown could be heard. Nagisa felt a single drop on her shoulder.

"I'm the one who should be apologising, d-dummy. I kept everything to myself when I could've talked to someone! Still…it doesn't change the fact that you worried about me anyway."

She lifted a hand to gently stroke Nagisa's hair. Only stuttered breaths came out in response.

"'Thank you', that's what I should tell those who care about me so much, right? So, thank you for worrying about me so much, Nagisa. I couldn't be happier and prouder to have you as a partner."

If she wasn't crying right now, she'd have the biggest, most stupid, most idiotic smile in the world right now, all because of those words. However, Nagisa just sniffled, nestling her head on Chinatsu's shoulder and sinking into her comfort. It didn't matter—she didn't need a face to show how indescribably happy she was.

This moment felt like an enormous weight had been lifted off her shoulders. Maybe it was the same for Chinatsu.

The grip on her tracksuit became even tighter.

Nagisa would not let go, not in ten-thousand years.

"Damniiit, I dunno what I woulda done if y'left…"

Trembling relief and whimpers poured from her mouth, but Chinatsu continued to stroke her hair, not responding to the dampness forming where her friend's face lay. Wrapping her other hand around her back to pull Nagisa closer, she gave her all the time she needed to release everything.

Chinatsu's voice was quiet and gentle.

"Nagisa, you don't need to worry about that anymore. I'm here, and I'm glad to be. With the team...and with you."

Another whimper sounded amongst the sobs. A failed attempt at agreement that was only communicated through sound.

Even so, Chinatsu understood it perfectly, and they remained where they stood—muffled cries, sobs and utterances of relief followed by sweet reassurances and remarks playing between them for who knows how long…until her rugged breaths relaxed into a peaceful sigh.

"Now…are you feeling better?"

Letting go of Chinatsu, she rubbed off any last stray tears and snot…before her face curled up into that big, cheeky grin once more.

"Yeah, never felt better!"

The pit in her chest had cleared, for good this time.

And it's all thanks to you.

"That's the spirit! We can't have the heart of our team down in the dumps! C'mon, let's get to the bus stop, we've got to get home and rest for tomorrow!"

Chinatsu responded cheerily, wrapping an arm around her shoulder and awkwardly offering another reassuring pat.

Nagisa stared, completely taken by surprise at her action. Not because they were close again, but because…

That move is so unlike you! That's something I'd do, not you!

And they both knew it well. Not that that was bad—because the sudden sound of laughter burst forth from Nagisa as if it were the most hilarious joke she'd ever heard. Chinatsu's face burned up immediately, though it looked like she was more than ready to put up with the embarrassment for her friend to smile.

In the end, she wasn't wrong there. There was no need to be down now.

"Roger that, leader!"

"I'm not a leader, though."

At that moment, as the two girls finally restarted the journey to their eventual crossroad with revitalised joy, a single thought sounded in Nagisa's mind.

A thought her heart was all too familiar with, that made it warm and full of dance.

I love you.

After the day Chinatsu came through for her, Nagisa found it increasingly difficult to be around her—a girl who was just a valued teammate wouldn't make shyness get the better of an energetic person like Nagisa…many times over.

That being said, as the two got closer, it was always the best thing ever to be with Chinatsu, whether basketball was concerned or not. Even giving her tickles was infinitely more fun when it was with her than the rest of the team.

I m-mean, between the sad you and the happy you, I definitely love the happy you more, hahahaha!

That was super embarrassing...but…

She briefly glanced at Chinatsu.

that was kinda like a confession. I wonder if she thought anything about it.

Unlikely, in the romantic sense, anyway. Being as popular as her meant shooting down some unfortunate hearts in the process, but coming from a girl, would something that loose mean the same thing to her? Back then, she was blushing, which could've easily made it a compliment…

Aaaahhhhh…! I'm totally overthinking this!

Mentally, she'd be grabbing her head frantically.

In any case, she'd never know unless she asked, and that could become a confession in itself.

Did she want to…?

Nagisa touched the spot on her head.

I kinda miss it already.

She supposed today would be the last time they'd ever share a moment like this.

Well…guess that's okay…

We'll see each other again after a one-day break anyway. Then it'll be practice scrimmages…levelling up our individual skills…and making sure the team's spirit is as right as ever for a month. The road to playing at nationals is gonna start and it's gonna be tough!

I can't wait!

The excitement did not reach her eyes.

Soon, they arrived at the bus stop, where Chinatsu would take her leave. As expected of the time, they were the only ones around. Fate had looked upon Nagisa kindly, giving extra time to savour with her.

The area, with bright orange headlights and shining maps, lit them up brighter than before—making it very hard for Nagisa to look away from her friend at times, after they took a seat together.

A familiar silence was shared between the two who waited. Just like before, it was a silence that Nagisa didn't mind leaving to play. Even more difficult trials lay beyond the calm, but they could think about it when it came. For now, Nagisa and Chinatsu were at peace.

When the light of her upcoming bus became visible, Chinatsu stood, and Nagisa felt a twinge of disappointment. This was bound to happen, eventually.

The sight of the back of her brought up images of games. A powerful, unmatched presence, Nagisa couldn't help but be entranced.

An ace through and through, and an amazing friend that she couldn't be more proud of.

Chinatsu turned back, with a bright, beaming smile on her face. She was in a much better place now, that much was clear.

Happily looking towards the future.

"Well…I'm going now. G'night, Nagisa."

Standing up as well, Nagisa chipperly waved.

"Yeah, cya later!"

That was all, that was fine. That was all she needed to do.

That was all she needed to—

"Chinatsu...um!"

She turned back, standing on the bus' step.

"Nagisa?"

In the seconds of silence that passed, Nagisa found herself asking once more: What was she trying to say?

Taking a deep breath in…and then out, she slowly put her right fist forward between the two athletes.

"Let's win nationals, kay?"

There was no smile on her face, only eyes sparkling with a fire no different than Chinatsu. That told her everything.

Chinatsu's brief shock turned to a grin, before cheerfully bringing her own fist to bump hers.

"Yeah!"

The start of a new goal they'd do everything to fulfil had been marked.

"U-um...and…one more thing…"

Stepped closer to Chinatsu, Nagisa let her fist fall, their distance quickly decreasing.

"...huh?"

She gently placed her hands on her shoulders, continuing to move closer…and closer…before leaning in.

A spark surged inside Nagisa, when her lips made contact with their target.

She had pecked Chinatsu on the cheek…an action that ended as quickly as it began, yet made her feel so warm and weird in all the right ways.

That was the most she could ever manage, and she felt fine with that.

As Nagisa stepped back, the brunette's hair brushing against the side of her face, the recipient of Nagisa's sudden decision stared at her, wordless sounds coming from her parted lips. Confusion, shock, embarrassment—it was written all over her face.

Shit.

Doing all this was incredibly…selfish of her.

She'd just thrust her feelings upon someone on the day they'd fulfilled one of their most major goals!

Two days before they were about to get into another, and seconds before she was about to leave!

Leaving her with so many questions, and near no answers. Especially with what she had told her before.

Selfish, selfish, selfish!

This was selfish, this was so damn selfish, but…

Nagisa couldn't pretend she was about to let these feelings go.

I really wanna say it…I really wanna tell you…

Lowering her head, Nagisa tried to explain, ruffling her hair to distract her racing mind.

"That whole thing about not being interested in romance from before...I kinda lied. I'm...not really into guys like that, anyway. Sorry."

Chinatsu's confusion remained for a moment, her thin eyebrows furrowing. And then…it hit her.

Her brown eyes widened. Nagisa caught this, and her breath hitched.

"Does...does that mean you—?"

"Yeah. I do."

An immediate answer, uttered by a red-faced Nagisa.

She attempted to smile, but the lights above made the fresh, falling tears beyond obvious.

"Nagisa, I—"

Any words Chinatsu could've said then were silenced by the bus' shutting doors. As much as she hated to admit it, relief washed over the flushed and messy Nagisa. Time and again—her own actions had surprised her, and this was the absolute limit. She could do no more, she didn't want to do more, even if that was weak of her.

There was always next time, there was always a next time.

That's when they would talk. About everything.

That was the belief Nagisa chose to hold, as she watched bus drive away into the nightly distance.

I m-mean, between the sad you and the happy you, I definitely love the happy you more, hahahaha!

Remembering these words, Chinatsu, still standing where she was, touched her cheek. Her cheeks…dusted with red.

She did mean it like that.

Her heart felt a sudden warmth. Confused, her mind drifted to thoughts of their next meeting.

When they saw each other again…what would they say to each other?

Now that this had happened, what would their relationship become?