-14- Invitations
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Matsuri Chiya

Nothing further happened between Saiyuri and I after that incredible kiss.  Nor was there anything defined either.  What I took away from that experience and everything she said to me was that we had no reason to put up walls between each other.  Rather, she was doing her best to give me a safe place to be, and to be supportive in my growth into an adult.

Saiyuri and I had talked for a bit afterwards, and I learned that she had a few relationships over the years, though she could never truly find happiness in any of them.  She recently came out of a breakup some time before, and she was just feeling a little lonesome.  According to her, having me there was like a fresh breeze, and a little kissing between friends is perfectly harmless.

I don’t know about that to be honest.

Even though she said all of that, each time I look at her, each time she easily touches me or holds my hand, I get really excited.  To me, these emotions are the one I seek from the novels I read.  I’m the young and innocent but capable girl who’s fallen for the beautiful older woman who is in need of being spoiled and cared for.  Though, that kind of plot line is one I happen to like quite a bit!

But the reality I think is far different.  I think Saiyuri is someone who really does want to be more of a motherly influence to me while I’m away from my own mother, and she is able to let me do things like kissing her in an adult way without it being completely taboo.  Maybe I’m just delusional?  I am at that age… I’ve heard that chuunibyou can still take effect into the first year of high school.

I felt motivated again, and left her side, returning to my writing assignment which wasn’t due for another week.  I managed another few hundred words before a text came in from Mai-senpai.  It was an invitation to go to Karaoke with her, Non-chan, Sayacchi, and Suzuha.  

Even though I didn’t need to, I asked permission from Saiyuri if I could go.

“Sure, it’s fine.  Go have some fun.”

“You aren’t going to blame me this time, are you?”

“I was just teasing you.  Do you want a lift?”

“Umm…”

“Oh, don’t want to be seen with this old woman by your friends…  I understand.”

“Sacchan, it’s definitely not that!” I said, falling right into her playful trap again.

“Hehehe, I’m kidding.  You are so easy to tease and I love that panicked flustered look on your face!”  She said, moving over to me and pinching my cheeks again.  “Why are you so cute!?”

I was hugged tightly and would have preferred to stay with her and be hugged a lot more over going out.  But she was in the living room with a stack of papers.  Since she was a teacher, she often had to bring her work home with her, and like it or not, she had to grade them.

“I’ll be fine.  Mai-senpai sent me directions and it’s not too far from here.  Her friends will also be there, so I’ll be in safe company.”

“Alright, kiddo.  This is the kind of stuff you came to the big city to do, right?  Go have fun.  Keep me posted if you are out late and need to be picked up, okay?”

“Right.  Will do!”

I got changed into something a bit casual but also a tad dressy and headed out.  I didn’t need to take a train to my destination, and when I arrived, Mai and the gang were already there.

“Yo, Firecracker!  Ready to light it up?”

She was standing before me with her hand up in the air.  I gave it a high-five and she linked arms with me right after.  Flanked by the other three, we got ourselves a private room and ordered some snacks and drinks while we chatted for a bit.

“So get this, Firecracker here just had her first kiss!”

“Congrats!” Came the reply from Sayacchi and Non-chan.  Suzuha remained quiet but nodded in my direction.  We were in an L-shaped booth and I sat on the outside while Mai sat in between me and Non-chan.  Sayacchi and Suzuha sat on the other end, and Sayacchi was leaning happily against the giant girl.

They asked me for some details, but I couldn’t be forthcoming.  I only said that the person was older, and that I had initiated it.  I didn’t make mention of the second kiss that happened earlier.  We eventually got to singing and well, I can say one amazing thing.  Mai-senpai, for as beautiful and outgoing as she is… cannot carry a tune to save her life.  Oh, she knew all the words, but her execution in time with the song…

It seems the other girls were all aware of this and I could see them struggling to hold back their laughter at her.  Mai loved to sing, but she sucked.  She was so bad in fact, that she easily could make the worst performers outtakes at the audition for one of those singing idol shows on television.

But of course none of us could say that to her.

Non-chan on the other hand was way better, singing a moody theme song from a popular video game called 「Chara 5」 and I got shivers from how amazing it sounded.  Sayacchi and Suzuha went next, singing a duet from a popular girls group and it was the most I’d heard Suzuha speak since I met her.  She’s got a deep voice, and apparently that’s one of the reasons she doesn’t talk much, even around her friends.  She’s much more comfortable talking in our group chat.

I also feel like there was something between those two, but Mai-senpai wouldn’t say anything about it, so I was left speculating.  It would be a cute ship though.  Suzuha seemed to go along with anything Sayacchi wanted, and was never too far away from her.

Did perhaps Suzuha have a thing for Sayacchi?  If it was the other way around, it would only look like they were close friends.  I wondered also if it wasn’t just my yurivision hard at work drawing wild conclusions for things that just weren’t.

It became my turn, and of course being called “Fireworks” means there was a certain English song with a similar title that I had a bit of experience with.  The artist was named Perry Katy-san, and it was supposed to be one of those genki type songs.  I couldn’t match her voice, but I was good with the refrain, and belted it out as best I could when it came around.

When it ended I was given much applause.

“That was crazy good, Firecracker!”

I felt it was an undeserved compliment, but I was happy it wasn’t terrible.  So while we all took turns for the two hours we had the room rented for, we got to talking about two things.  First was about the princes, and the second was about joining clubs.

“Masakichi for life!”  Sayacchi said with great enthusiasm.

“Masakichi?” I asked, not knowing what she meant.

“Ryona Masaki.  She’s our current prince.  Voted in landslide back in first year, and I hope she stays the prince this year too.”

“What is this whole prince thing, anyway?”

“Weren’t you listening during the entrance ceremony?”

“I uh… was a bit distracted.”  All the talking was boring to me, so I didn’t pay attention like I probably should have.

“Okay, so each year has someone they nominate to be their prince.  We’re an all-girls school, but well, sometimes you wanna look at a hunky guy, right?  That’s the role of the prince.  They attend events and they even have special outfits handled by the student council.  They visit clubs and even go to games and practices for the sports teams and cheer them on.  It’s a bit of work, but not too much.  Anyway, they get to be popular as heck, and you can even get things like special photos and merchandise with them on it.  They interact with everyone, and it’s really a fun thing.”

“Hmm…”

Sayacchi opens her phone and shows me a picture of a handsome guy.  Well, it would be a handsome guy, if it was a guy.  The image I saw was of this Masakichi-san last year, supporting the baseball team by coming dressed in their uniform and looking quite dashing.

It’s even said that the teams never lose a game a prince goes to.  That’s actually pretty scary to think about.

“They also get all kinds of benefits, one of which is being able to skip out on classes sometimes.  I’m a huge fan of Masakichi-sama!”

Sayacchi was fangirling hard, and I noticed Suzuha looked a bit… sad.

The topic quickly moved on to clubs then, and Non-chan began to groan.

“What’s wrong, Non-chan?” I asked.

“Non-chan is unavoidably stuck in a club she hates.” Mai answered for her.  “She’s in a club that focuses on Japanese traditions, stuff like tea ceremony and flower arrangement.”

“Is there something bad about it?”

“…It’s so BORING!!!”  She croaked.  Non-chan was not enthusiastic about it at all.  “My mother insisted on me joining it, but I hate it.  It’s all complicated, and I’m not the kind of person who cares about that stuff anyway.”

“Non-chan has some circumstances… we feel for her.  We even tried joining too, but…” Mai began.

“…It was horrible.” Sayacchi finished.

Suzuha also quietly agreed.

“So, what about everyone else?  What clubs are you going to join?”

“I’m in the go-home club.”  Mai answered proudly.

“I’m in the Drama club with Suzu.”  Sayacchi told me.

“Oh, so you both do acting?”

“No, just me.  Suzu is a stage hand.”

“Eeeeeeh?”  It wasn’t really a surprise.  Are tall girls naturally shy and timid?  “I thought for sure Suzuha played sports, like basketball or volleyball.”

“I did, in middle school.”  She said with her low-pitch voice.

“Suzu isn’t the kind of girl who likes everyone fawning over her.  I thought she’d do pretty well as a Prince, but she just wants to take it easy.”

I get it.  Being a prince is just as socially demanding as being popular at sports.  She’s tall so she’d have an advantage if she played.  But I think the real reason is that she just wanted to be close to Sayacchi.  Again, this is a yurivision conclusion, and I have no facts to base this off of.

After a few more rounds of singing, our fun time came to an end.  It was Seven o’clock in the evening, and the sun had already gone down.  It was time to go home.  Mai-senpai and I parted with the girls who left together, leaving just us alone.

“Want me to see you off?”  Mai-san asked.  “Even if it’s safe in this part of the city, it’s not good to walk by yourself.”

“But what about you?”

“I’ll be fine.  I’ll call my guardian for a ride.  If you hurry tou can catch up with Non-chan and everyone.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.  I’ll be fine.”

“Alright Firecracker.  It was super fun hanging out with you, let’s make plans to do it again, okay?”

“Yes, let’s!”

Mai gave me a quick hug and dashed away, I wasn’t conscious of it before, but she had a sweet scent again.  I couldn’t figure out what it was though.  I’ll ask her another time.  I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone, calling Saiyuri.

“Hello, Hanapi?”

“Would… you be able to pick me up?”

“I’m on my way, send me the address.”

I sent her the map location to where I was in a text.

“Be there in ten.”

Sure enough, ten minutes later a red coupe pulled up and I hopped in.

“Did you have fun?”

“Yeah!  We talked about stuff like joining clubs and the princes and stuff.  Sayacchi likes Masakichi.”

“Oh, Ryona-san?  Yes, she was very popular last year.”

“Do you like her?”

“Well, as a prince, sure.  The two current ones are good people.”

“Do… do you know the former prince of the third years?”

Saiyuri’s face darkened.

“That one was trouble…”

Saiyuri began to tell me all about how that person misused their position to fool around and cause no end of trouble for the student council.  Mai-senpai’s Soeur Ainée was hurt by them, and I wanted to know a bit more, but Saiyuri wasn’t too forthcoming with information, only that it was good riddance when they graduated.

At home, I whipped us up a light meal, just rice and miso with some double fried karaage.  After cleaning the dishes, Saiyuri and I watched some television and after some closeness on the couch, it became late.

“Alright kiddo, I’m going to sleep.  Don’t stay up too late.”

When she stood up, I reached for her hand.

“Hanapi?”

“Could… I… um…”

Saiyuri smiled warmly at me.  She led me into her bedroom and we both climbed into her bed.  I’d admit to being nervous, but she didn’t do anything questionable.  She held me from behind and one of her legs slid between mine, keeping me nice and warm.  Her arm wrapped around me, and I was just so happy to be there.

Yeah, I wanted to kiss her a whole bunch more, too.  I didn’t want to trouble her with it, though so I just stayed quiet.  Her head nestled into the back of mine and I wished she’d just… put her lips on my neck… just for a moment.

It was a restless feeling.  Even if I wasn’t an adult yet, it’s not like I was still a clueless kid.  She wasn’t Yumi-chan who I couldn’t reach for.  She had made that clear to me already.

“Sacchan…”

“Something bothering you?”

“Um, I-if… you want to maybe… give me a good night kiss me on the neck… I wouldn’t mind it…”

I heard a small giggle coming from behind me.  I know I was a coward saying it like that, but I also didn’t want her to see my face right now.

“A good night kiss on the neck?  I don’t believe I’ve heard that one before.  Ufufu~”

“Mouuu!”   Hell yeah I was embarrassed.  But Saiyuri was a 「Reliable Adultᵀᴹ」 after all, and soon the pleasant sensation of soft kisses fell upon my nape, driving me mad.

We fell asleep peacefully after that, and I had a crazy thought on my way down.  It was crazy because it didn’t make sense at all, but I almost wished I could have Saiyuri and Mom as my mothers.  I felt bad because it meant dad would be out of the picture, but then I also felt upset because it means… well, if Saiyuri was with my mom, then we couldn’t do this at all.

When I woke up the next morning, I was a bit sweaty from Sacchan holding me close to her all night.  But I woke up feeling amazingly content.  I had avoided her when she called out that name the first time I slept in her bed.  I still had no idea who Joanna was, but at least she didn’t call it out even once last night, not that I was likely to wake up and hear it.

I checked my phone which was at a low percentage, and saw that I had a missed text from Chiya-chan.

〈NekoMatsuri〉 Sora-san, if it’s okay with you, would you like to visit my home today?

〈Hanabikimasu〉 Sure, what time would you like me to come over?

〈NekoMatsuri〉Anytime is fine.  My parents go and do stuff on Sunday, so it would just be us. 

〈Hanabikimasu〉 Alright, I’m going to make breakfast first while I charge my phone, so I’ll be over a bit after that.

〈NekoMatsuri〉 Okay, and I finished reading that webnovel.  I really liked it!

〈Hanabikimasu〉 The whole thing, already?

〈NekoMatsuri〉 Yeah.  Anyway, I’ll see you when you get here.

〈Hanabikimasu〉 Okay Chiya-chan, I’ll see you in a little while.

The conversation was short, but she basically invited me over to her house for the first time.  I was curious as to what her room would look like.  She gave off huge otaku vibes, so was it full of stuff like a wall full of manga and shelves with figurines?

I wanted to make breakfast, but first I had to figure out if I even wanted to extricate myself from Saiyuri.  I was definitely a prisoner, and happened to find the warden intoxicating.  I really couldn’t have had a better host than Saiyuri, so with a huge amount of reluctance I tried to break out and wake her up.  She slept in all of Saturday, so she should be good to wake up early today.

But first… a memory.

I opened up the camera application and took a selfie of us in this position.  It was an important memory I wanted to keep.  A picture of being held by the first woman to kiss me.  I was going to treasure it forever.  After that, I rolled over and stole a quick kiss.  Then I began to gently nudge her shoulder.

“Sacchan~  Time to wake up for breakfast~”

Much to my good luck, she is a woman loyal to at least two of the three base desires.  Sleeping and Eating.  So with the promise of food, and coffee, the warden released me from my all-too-comfortable cell, and I was free to go make us something to eat.

I alternated days on whether I would serve bread or rice for breakfast, and today was a bread day.  So it would be toast, but after suddenly recalling the large piece of honey toast that Mai-senpai had yesterday, I made something similar that mom occasionally made dad and I.  French toast with cinnamon.  There were still some sausage links in the refrigerator, and along with some eggs, it was a healthy breakfast, if not one that had some calories I’m sure she needed.  It goes without saying that I also made her coffee.  

I wonder how poor her diet was before I arrived?  I know that she often ordered take-out or had food delivered.  Not once since I arrived and started handling our meals did she fail to clean the plate.  That’s one thing mom would have probably loved about her when they were roommates.  Even dad and I had to back out on some of her experiments, but I bet Saiyuri would have eaten all of them without hesitation or complaint.

Plus, I liked cooking for Saiyuri.  I suppose in a way that’s how a bride feels about cooking for their… wife?

Ehehehe~

 With unfettered thoughts running wildly through my mind as I made breakfast, I brought the dishes out to the table and let her know it was ready.  She rolled out of bed and came lazily into the living room, taking a seat and a large sniff of the cinnamon french toast, oozing with syrup.

“How long has it been…?”

“How long has what been?”

“Ne~, Hanapi… This is Kaede’s french toast with cinnamon, isn’t it?”

“Sort of.  I don’t quite make it like mom does.”

“Kuuuuu!  Oh wow!  I haven’t had it in a decade!”

“A decade?”

“Un, your mom paid me a visit a long time ago, when you were about four or five.”

“She did?”

Saiyuri nodded.  She had already begun the systematic destruction of the breakfast plate.

“Well, my cooking isn’t quite as… exceptional as hers, but I hope it’s suitable.”

She swallowed her bite, chasing it with a sip of her coffee.

“What are you talking about?  Your cooking is amazing, Hanapi!  Besides, I’m sure you may know, but she’s a bit experimental in the kitchen at times.”

“Dad and I are only too aware…”  I answered neutrally.  Mom’s experimentation to edibility rate was a borderline fifty percent.

“It’s funny because neither one of us knew how to cook.  She’s the one who decided to learn how to save us some money when we were in college.  But she also had an eclectic taste, so… it was rough at times.  I don’t mind western food, but she would try and mix western and Japanese cooking sometimes, and it was…”

I understood only too well.  Mom’s cooking wasn’t the burnt kind, or the one where she couldn’t measure an ingredient like salt or sugar or even confused the two.  No.  Mom was the kind of person to slather wasabi and anpan on two pieces of bread as if it was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich then make us her guinea pigs without any kind of conscience or remorse to the outcome.

To this day dad and I can’t eat a sandwich without pulling apart the bread just to check.  It’s a family trauma.

But I still love mom.

“I’ll be going out in a little while, Chiya-chan invited me over to her house today.”

“Matsuri Chiya?  Your deskmate?”

“Yeah.  She lives close so I won’t need a ride.”

“That’s just as well.  I’ll do some shopping for us then while you’re out, anything you want me to buy?”

I made a list quickly on my phone and sent it to her in a text.  

“Got it.”

I took care of the dishes then changed outfits into something less dressy and more casual.  Chiya-chan strikes me as the sort to prefer super-casual.  I don’t want to make her feel like I overdressed just to visit her.

After changing, I let her know I was off to Chiya-chan’s and with excitement I followed the map to her house which wasn’t too far from the apartment or the school.  The name plate outside read 「Matsuri」 and I quickly opened the gate, and pressed the doorbell button when I reached the porch.

A few moments later, Chiya-chan appeared, she was wearing a shirt that had a giant Gundam robot on it.  At least I think it was a Gundam?  The boys back in Tono liked some show that was about building them and battling them, so it was the best guess I had.  Her usual pink cat-eared hoodie was surprisingly absent.  I suppose she had to take it off sometime…

“Hi, Chiya-chan!”

“S-sora-san! You came!”

“Of course I came, you invited me…”

Did she think I wasn’t going to come over and visit?

“P-please come inside.”

I entered her house, changing into the guest slippers and saw how nice and cozy the inside looked.  It was as spacious as expected from a house in the big city, and looked well maintained.  I wonder if Chiya-chan did the cleaning or if they perhaps hired a maid?

“Let’s go upstairs.”

Chiya seemed to be somewhere between nervous and excited as I followed her upstairs to her room.  Entering into it, I saw exactly what I expected to see.  It was full of manga, and games, and posters, and yes, plenty of figurines.  There was a long desk with three monitors, and more accessories than I could identify, as well as a big television mounted above her desk that currently had some anime playing on mute.

“Impressive.”  I said, not because I was a major fan of anything I saw in her room, but rather I was impressed that she could amass this much merchandise.

I was also able to make a determination upon seeing the current state of the room.

She had probably cleaned it in a hurry within the last couple of hours.  Books shelved backwards, her trash bin on the side of her computer desk was packed to the brim with things like crumpled bags of potato chips, and her bed was poorly made.

I’m not going to judge her though. I could tell she cared enough to make sure I wasn’t grossed out or thought poorly of her.  Even if it was a bit messy, I wouldn’t have minded.  I’m actually happy that she opened up enough to invite me over.

“Let me show you what I was working on since last night.”

She walks over to her computer, and there’s a software program open.  To the side of her keyboard there is a large drawing tablet, and a mouse that’s glowing all sorts of colors.

“I finished reading DekaChi!  I really liked the story, so I thought about the characters JadeBunny had described and well…”

She expanded an image on the screen and it looked like a professional artist had drawn exactly what I’d imagined they looked like.  No.  Better than what I imagined!

“Chiya-chan… that’s amazing!”

“Y-you think so?”

“Heck yeah!  Jade-sensei would be amazed too if she got to see it!”

“Fueh?”

DekaChi was short for Dekai Kanojo to Chiisai Koibito.  It was about a tall girl named Dekayome who had a budding relationship with a small animal type super cute girl named Chisato.  The villain in the story is Chisato’s ex, a mean-spirited girl named Runa.

It took place at an all-girl’s school sort of like the one we’re going to.  Dekayome played basketball and Chisato was in the arts and crafts club, but would often come to cheer her on at games.  The two really liked each other, but Dekayome had an inferiority complex at times, and Chisato was a bit more experienced in love, often having to take the lead.  It was pure diabetes to read.  However they hadn’t yet gotten to the stage where they could kiss.  It came close on one chapter though, and I wasn’t the only one in the comments section giving Jade crap about it. 

After all, the pure emotional connection is the reason to read Yuri in the first place, but darn it, sometimes you gotta just wow the readers by having a kiss happen!  Even if it’s one that gets stolen while they are asleep!

“This is just the latest one I’ve done…”

“Latest?”

There was a tremendous amount of details in the artwork, even though it was still just line art that hadn’t been colored in yet.

She then opened another photo, and I saw something that hurt my sensibilities.  I reached up and put my hand on her shoulder at that time.

“Chiya-chan, if that’s what I think it is… we might not be able to continue being friends.”

“FUEH!?”

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