It was a major lenny face chapter ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
“Hm hee hmm~ ha hee hoo hmm~ hmm~… oh~!”
Hanako’s squeeze on her knee quieted Misha’s humming.
“Sorry, Hacchan~. I’m just nervous.”
“I kn-know. You’re making me nervous too…”
“Ah, your hand…”
Feeling the slight tremble in Hanako’s fingers, Misha gripped them between her own to still them. Hanako hit a key on her phone to bring the screen back to life, anxiously checking for any updates even though she knew there wouldn’t be any. Lilly wasn’t the type to send little notices such as “on my way.” There hadn’t been any new messages since the one she received yesterday.
Hello Hanako. I hope this message finds you well. I will return to Yamaku tomorrow afternoon, assuming that my travel goes according to schedule. I would like to invite you and Misha to join me after class, in the tea room. I look forward to seeing you both.
It never ceased to amuse Hanako how formal her texts were, like she was writing an old-fashioned letter. The length of this one split it into two separate messages. Another tendency of Lilly’s was to play somewhat loosely with time, an inevitable consequence of her inability to glance casually at the clock like most people would. That was probably why she’d only said “after class.” Normally it wasn’t a bother but at a time like this… they’d been sitting here fifteen minutes already, and Misha was starting to hum again for the seventh time. Or was it eight?
Hanako stopped her again, this time because she heard something. The sound was faint but unmistakable—approaching shoetaps, mixed in with another tapping rhythm. Misha perked up like a cat when she picked it up. She stayed frozen when Lilly appeared in the doorway, no cheerful “Hi, Lilly-chan~!” to greet her. Fortunately there was another person beside Lilly to take care of the introductions.
“They’re here, Lilly,” Shizune said. She gave Hanako and Misha a curt smile before turning to walk away. Lilly entered the room with a soft smile of her own, navigating its space with deft familiarity.
“Shall we have some tea?” Lilly asked.
She was already getting the kettle ready anyways.
“Sure, Lilly~! Sure~!” Misha said, falling back into herself. “Uhh! How is your aunt? I hope she’s okay?”
“Yes, she was able to leave the hospital. Thank you, Misha.”
“That’s good, L-Lilly…” Hanako said. “I’m, umm… glad you’re back.”
“Me too, Hanako.”
Hanako and Misha sat in silence as Lilly busied herself making the tea. They looked around pretending to be interested in various objects, tapped on the table, or checked their phones, neither one knowing quite what to say next. In contrast to their awkwardness, Lilly hummed a tune as she went through the motions with practiced ease. Hanako wasn’t sure that she’d ever heard Lilly hum before, though she had mentioned being interested in music when she was younger. True to that claim, her tune was light and melodious, nothing like Misha’s high-strung dittering.
At last, the tea was set and Lilly sat down. She punctuated the end of her tune with a sigh.
“Thank you again for seeing me today. I know we have some… things to talk about,” Lilly said.
“L-Lilly, we… M-Misha and I, err…”
Hanako’s voice died in her throat. Misha gave a short “Waha~,” the sound entirely hollow. Lilly held up a hand to stop them before they could go any further.
“I think… that we… should remain friends,” Lilly said. “…only friends.”
Misha and Hanako sighed in unison, the tension in the air popping like a bubble.
“Ahh~, yeah, yeah~! Friends are great!” Misha agreed. “Yay, friends, yay~!”
“I th-think we feel the same way, Lilly,” Hanako said.
“I expected as much, but I thought it best to address the matter directly,” Lilly said. “Lessons learned, and such. What happened between us, Hanako, and how I felt… that will always be a part of me, but it was never my place to impose any of it on you. Nor you, Misha. You have your own life to live. My place in it shouldn’t be any different now than it was before.”
“Lilly, that’s…” Misha started.
“It sounds like you really th-thought about that, Lilly,” Hanako said. “I’m gl-glad… we tried to talk about it, or think of what to say, b-but… you really said it better than I could.”
“Or me~!” Misha said.
“I did really think about it. My trip gave me… several things to think about. Reasons to consider my future more carefully. I decided that I couldn’t allow myself to make another selfish mistake, as I did… before.”
“That’s good, Lilly, that’s good~! Micchan’s gonna be disappointed, though. Wahaha~!”
“…Micchan?” Lilly asked. “You’re not… speaking in third person, are you? Who…”
“M-Misha! There you go a-again!”
“…Miki?” Lilly deduced. “And what does she have to do with this?”
“Ahehe, we might have, uhh…”
“We, umm… asked some friends, for ad-advice? We really didn’t know what to do, Lilly. I hope that’s okay,” Hanako explained.
Lilly furrowed her brow and sipped from her tea, considering for a moment.
“No, that’s fine, as I’m sure it was in confidence. Though I don’t see how you settled on Miss Miura as the right one to ask…”
“Ahaha~! We meant to ask Emirin, but we kinda screwed up, and Miki-chan was there too. She, err… well~! We didn’t take her advice! Wahaha~!”
“I can only imagine what it was. I don’t know Miki well personally, but her reputation certainly precedes her…” Lilly said with a slight grimace. “Anyways. I suppose it’s only fair that you sought advice. I’ll confess that… I did as well.”
“Aww~, you talked to Akira, didn’t you? We should have just asked her too!”
“Yeah, I bet she kn-knew just what to do…” Hanako said, thinking it was no wonder Lilly’s course of action was so mature today.
“Actually, no. Akira was… preoccupied. She has a lot on her mind right now, as well. I didn’t think it would be wise to trouble her over it. Instead, I found myself speaking with Shizune.”
“Shicchan~? She went with you?!”
“M-Misha, she’s been in class all week!” Hanako pointed out.
“Ahaha~! Right, of course!”
“We exchanged quite a few messages over the phone. You know that we used to be much closer, before things fell apart with the Student Council. I don’t know if we’ve fully reversed that, but we did manage to resume speaking terms before I went to Scotland. I suppose I found that her ear was the most readily available. Ah, metaphorically speaking, that is,” Lilly explained.
“That’s funny, I didn’t want to tell Shicchan because I wasn’t sure if you guys were totally done fighting yet. But you did it for me anyways~!” Misha said.
“It would have been pretty s-silly if we ended up both talking to Shicchan about it,” Hanako said.
“She did have a couple things to say about you. She said that your giving nature makes it too hard for you to say no to things, Misha. And she felt that your judgment towards me was clouded by our friendship, Hanako,” Lilly said.
“L-Lilly, should you really be telling us that? Maybe Shicchan didn’t want us to hear that stuff…” Hanako said.
“Nah~, Shicchan would say it right to us if we asked her, Hacchan,” Misha said.
“She gave me explicit permission to share those opinions, in fact,” Lilly said. “I knew that she was right as soon as I spoke to her. She had several things to say that I think I needed to hear. Perhaps… in the past, I wasn’t in the right mindset to hear them, but that talk we had before I left, as well as the events of my trip… I finally realized that I had to make some changes.”
“Do you think maybe that’s why you and Shicchan were fighting, Lilly~? Because you didn’t destroy yourself yet?”
“Destroy… myself? My my, I hope I haven’t done that…” Lilly said.
“Wh-what Misha means is, it’s something R-Rin told us about… she probably gave us the best ad-advice, actually,” Hanako clarified.
“Yeah~! Ricchan is super smart! She might be almost as smart as Shicchan, even~!” Misha agreed.
“Almost as smart? Goodness, that is high praise indeed. Well, I’m afraid you’ll have to explain the concept of ‘destroying oneself’ to me. Rin’s ideas aren’t exactly the most… clear-cut,” Lilly said.
“It’s like… hmm~, maybe like a bomb! If you’re stuck in your life, and there is a big rock in the way, you have to blow it up to go past it. It hurts, but then you can go forward after you explode the wall open~!” Misha explained. “That’s why I got these! See, they’re even like little bombs! Boing, boing~!” she emphasized, tugging on the ends of her drills to bounce them.
“Erm… I suppose…” Lilly said, not sounding convinced. “I don’t think I have it in me to dye my hair blue and reshape it into makeshift grenades, I’m afraid…”
“Wahaha~! You don’t have to go as far as blue, Lilly-chan. I think red would look really good on you! Don’t lots of people have red hair in Scotland?”
“I th-think that’s Ireland, Misha…” Hanako corrected her. “It’s not really about, dyeing your h-hair, or anything like that… but Misha got the first part right. Rin said, when she had a pr-problem she didn’t think she could face, she had to sort of make a new v-version of herself. I think, with this, it was harder for me and M-Misha, because… we’re two people, so we can’t just ch-change together very easily.”
“Yeah, Hacchan~, that’s right. We talked and talked, but it felt like we couldn’t really get anywhere,” Misha said.
“Neither one of you wanted to decide for the other,” Lilly observed. “But, as I’m only myself… I suppose it was easier for me to detonate my inner bomb, so to speak, without worrying about how it might affect my non-existent partner. That makes sense. I certainly do feel like a bomb went off, in a sense…”
“Ahehe, yeah~, things got pretty weird for a minute there, huh?” Misha agreed.
“Ah, n-no—well, yes, but that’s actually not what I meant. I meant to refer to my trip. There’s… something else I wanted to tell you today.”
“Oh~? Did you meet a cute redhead in Scotland, Lilly?” Misha asked.
Hanako smacked her elbow.
“No, not yet, at least. But I suppose the odds of that happening are higher than you might think. You see… when me and Akira were there, with our parents, that was the first time… the first time we’d been together as a family since they left Japan. They made me and Akira an offer to re-unite that family. An offer to join them in Scotland… permanently,” Lilly said.
“…I decided to accept that offer, yes.”
“Ahh, L-Lilly, no! You c-can’t! Not just because… b-because of me…” Hanako said, suddenly quite upset.
“No, Hanako. This has nothing to do with… what happened. If I wanted to flee from you, I wouldn’t have returned here at all. I could have simply stayed there—my parents would have been able to arrange it. But I wanted to finish this semester. I’m back here because I can’t just leave you behind, or Yamaku as a whole. Not like that,” Lilly said.
“I guess I can’t blame you a lot, Lilly-chan, but~, I’m definitely sad. We’ll miss you for sure~,” Misha said.
“L-Lilly, what… do you really j-just need… to go?” Hanako asked, still sounding forlorn.
“I thought… I haven’t seen my parents in years, Hanako. I suppose I didn’t realize how much I’d missed them until I met them again. And it did feel like meeting them for the first time, somehow. I can see what Rin means by destroying oneself when I put it like that. I’m no longer the child that they once raised. I’m a young woman now, a different person, yet we barely had time to catch up on all that’s changed,” Lilly said.
“Ah, I… I guess I un-understand…”
When Lilly put it that way, Hanako could hardly contest her reasoning. If there were a way for her to see her parents again, she couldn’t say that she wouldn’t take it as well.
“You have to do what will make you happy, Lilly. Even though it makes us sad~. That was something that Emi-chan said… I think that was her best advice,” Misha said. “What will you do in Scotland? Work for Akira?”
“Aha, no, though I suppose I may end up working with Akira, if I follow in her footsteps. Truthfully, I haven’t decided yet. I can’t deny that I want to attend university at some point, though my parents would obviously prefer that I go to work for the company when I graduate. Whatever I decide… the important thing is that I’ll build a life for myself,” Lilly said.
“You b-built a life here, too…” Hanako said.
“Did I?” Lilly asked, the question seeming aimed at herself as much as anyone else. “Perhaps, for a time. This past year… if anything, I think I’ve spent it imposing on others or driving them away, isolating myself. Shizune told me about her own thoughts when she suspended you from the council, Misha. She said that—”
“—That we couldn’t rely on each other so much,” Misha finished for her, remembering when she’d told Lilly about that sentiment herself. “That we were moving apart, and that was why we had to be apart, so we would make our own lives.”
“I regret that I didn’t understand that sooner. I feel like… I just clung onto things, when I should have let them go. The old Student Council, my feuding with Shizune, even my friendship with you, Hanako… I thought of Shizune as so unreasonable, of myself as so sensible, yet in the end, I fear that I may have been the fool. Still, I suppose things could’ve turned out worse…”
“Yeah~. We could have been in a sandwich right now if you had listened to me!” Misha said.
“A… sandwich? Is this another Rin-ism?” Lilly asked.
“N-n-no! It’s a… M-Misha-i-ism!” Hanako said. “No s-sandwiching, Misha! We b-b-banned that word, remember?”
“Wahahaha~! Yeah~, I guess it wasn’t my greatest idea, to do a sandw—I mean! Ahaha~! Sorry, Hacchan!”
Lilly just shook her head, deciding not to try and decipher this interaction. She drank from her tea instead of commenting on it. That prompted Hanako to remember her own teacup, which still sat full on the table in front of her. It might have actually been a couple weeks since she drank tea at all, whereas she used to drink it with Lilly at least once a day. Just another thing that had changed over this past year. Even if those times were probably gone, it felt good to be back here, in this room, drinking this tea with Lilly, at least for one more day.
“You’re right, Lilly. After everything, we’re still… we’re still here t-together,” Hanako said, sipping her tea.
“Mmhmm~! Don’t worry, Lilly-chan. We’ll still drink tea with you~!” Misha said.
“Very kind of you,” Lilly said with a small laugh. “I do hope to do more than just drink tea in my last semester, though. I’ve actually thought that I would like to re-join the Student Council.”
“Wow~! I guess you and Shicchan really did make up, huh~?”
“To some extent, yes. Maybe I want to re-join it so I can repair that relationship fully. This may be the last time in our lives that we live in the same country, after all, much less attend the same school.”
“I think that’s a great idea, L-Lilly,” Hanako said. “You could still join the Newspaper Club, if you want, but I’m sure Sh-Shicchan would like to have you too.”
“Maybe you could sort of do both! That’s what I’m gonna do!” Misha said.
“Going to do?” Lilly asked.
“Well~! When I’m vice president again. It’s just about been a month… I think~! Wahaha~!”
“Ah, that’s right…” Lilly said. “…You’re going to juggle both clubs, while being vice president of one? And the Student Council, no less… well. If I re-join, perhaps I can help with some of your workload.”
“Thanks, Lilly~. I might need it! You’re the old vice president, so maybe you can show me how to be a good one!”
“I’m sure you did well as a vice president without need of my advice, Misha.”
“Maybe, Lilly, maybe~. I did get suspended! Ahaha~!”
“Whereas I merely quit over a personal dispute…”
“St-stop it, both of you. You’re both good pr-presidents…” Hanako said.
“Maybe you should be the president, Hacchan. You did better in the Newspaper Club than either of us in the Student Council! If we had a president for our club, I’d vote for you, for sure~!” Misha said.
“N-no, I think it should probably be Natsume… or N-Naomi…”
“Natsu-nyan can’t move very well, Hacchan. You’ve got to have a lot of energy if you’re going to be president! Presidents are always moving around, and doing lots of things!”
“Ahh, do I… I don’t kn-know if I have that much energy either…”
“Perhaps it’s better not to have such positions in a small club anyways. It avoids the… politics,” Lilly observed.
“I think it’s better to do politics on a game instead of for real. Like with our old cannon game~!” Misha said.
“C-cannon game?… Risk?” Hanako asked.
“Dear me, I had nearly forgotten about that game. I only played it the once… you know, I didn’t care for it at the time, but now it feels like a good memory. I suppose we all managed to have fun with it, even though I doubt anyone other than Shizune truly wanted to play,” Lilly said.
“I totally wanted to play! I just wasn’t very good, but~! Hana-chan pulled us up onto her back and carried us. Ahaha~, she’s good like that!” Misha said.
“M-maybe… I think Shicchan kind of b-beat herself, really, because she wouldn’t make any t-teams…” Hanako said.
“She is stubborn in that way. Speaking of board games, shall we play a round of chess?” Lilly asked. “It’s been quite a while.”
“It h-has! Yes, let’s play, Lilly… ah, is that okay, M-Misha?”
“Sure, sure~! Maybe if I watch you guys for a while, I can learn how to really play!” Misha said.
“Okay Misha. The first th-thing to remember, is that the pieces are called knights and bishops, not… h-horseys and p-p-pointy heads,” Hanako advised her.
“Ahh, right, right! Let me see, hmmm~!”
Misha grabbed the chess set from its resting place and opened it up, placing a bishop down in front of Hanako.
“…This is the knight, right?!” she asked hopefully.
“N-no, that’s a bishop…”
“Aww~! But he’s wearing a helmet! How does that work!”
“…You know, she has a point,” Lilly said. “Maybe we’re the ones who have been getting the pieces wrong all this time…”
“I think you’re outvoted, Hacchan. It’s a knight after all~!”
“L-Lilly! Not you too!”
Chapter 43 | Chapter 45