Chapter 16:

動的 Dynamic

Head Games with Hyouka

Hyouka roused from sleep much later than she usually did, somewhat disoriented.

Perhaps it was due to the dream she had just experienced- a confusing scenario where her grandmother’s house was inexplicably filled with dogs.

Great Danes. Terriers. Chihuahuas. Even mixed breeds.

No matter what room she entered, there was always a canine in sight. They barked happily at the sight of her, tails wagging and tongues poking out.

It was utterly ridiculous.

She had managed to slip outside without any of them following her, quickly shutting the front door and breathing a sigh of relief.

But then she saw Yuji sitting there on the porch, wearing a collar.

“Wanna go for a walk?”

That’s when she finally woke up.

Hyouka bolted upright in bed, her eyebrows knitted together in horror.


Blinking as she tried to process the events of that cursed dream, she reached for her phone to check the time.

1:22 PM

The girl rubbed her temples and sighed, before noticing that a message had popped up on her screen.

It was unfortunately from Yuji.

[You up yet?] He had asked.


[Okay, meet me at the mall before 2]

Her eyes narrowed at this.

[We’re gonna hang out and get something to eat] Yuji added.

Hyouka sighed, sitting there for a long moment, before crawling out of bed to shower.

She'd be lying if she said she wasn't curious, but she kept her fingers crossed.

Just in case.


“I can’t believe you.” Hyouka sourly remarked, looking around. “It’s very convenient that you "forgot" to tell me who else was coming.”

“God, you’re so dramatic.” Yuji rolled his eyes as they walked. “Get over it. If you’re not gonna make plans with anyone, I’ll drag you to mine.”

“Why did you even want to bring me? We both know that your friends and I don’t get along very well.”

Yuji scowled.

“How else am I supposed to get you guys to put up with each other?”

“I wouldn’t hold my breath.” Hyouka replied.

“Gimme a break already! We’re getting food- that’s all! Can’t you try?!”

“Fine.” She huffed, readjusting the strap of her purse. “In that case, since you invited me out, are you paying?”

“Sure thing, princess.” He sarcastically replied. “I’m just made of mon-”


The two looked around for the person who had interrupted their banter, and it didn't take long to find her. Sitting outside the food court was none other than Natsumi Maizono, who waved, jumping up from her bench to meet them halfway.

“Hi! I didn’t know you were coming too!”

“Surprise~” Yuji drawled, smirking down Hyouka.

She bit her lip, mustering up the strength to greet the other girl.

“Hello, Natsumin.”

A flash of color flew at her, and before she could even blink, she was crushed into a hug. The smell of peaches and cream filled her nose, her face pressed against her shoulder.

“Kyaa! That was so cuteeee!” Natsumi squealed, beaming down at the girl.

Hyouka went rigid in her arms, cheeks going pink at the remark.

“Oh, and I love your dress!” She pulled back. “Blue looks good on ya!”

“...Thank you.” Hyouka self-consciously smoothed it out- one she had bought during a prior mall trip. “You look nice too...”

“Aw, thanks!” The girl laughed, striking a pose.

“Nice seeing ya again, Morikawa.” Ryuhei had gotten up from the bench as well, grinning as he wrapped an arm around his girlfriend’s waist.

“Ryu!” Yuji greeted him

“Hey Yu! How’ve ya been?” He turned towards the dark-haired boy, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “Ready to eat until you drop?”

“Hell yeah! I’ve been working up an appetite all day!”

“Good- let’s make the most of that all-you-can-eat lunch special!”

“Yeah!” The two cheered in unison, bumping fists.

“They certainly are excited.” Hyouka mused, glancing up at Natsumi.

“Well, it’s not every day we get to go out for yakiniku!” She giggled, placing her hands over Ryuhei's. “This place is pretty cheap, but the meat is super good!” She nodded at the restaurant behind them.

“Then I suppose it’s good that I came after all.”

“Mhm! Now we’re just waiting on Sho-chan and Hisashi-kun to meet us!”

“Of course they’re late.”

“What’d you say?!”

Whirling around, Hyouka found herself face-to-face with the duo, sneering as they stalked over.

“I’ll have ya know that it’s his fault!” Moriyama jabbed a finger in Ueno’s direction. “He took forever getting ready!”

“Don’t put this on me! You were too busy gaming twenty minutes after I told you I was done.” He argued.

“Hey! That’s-!”

“Bickering like children, I see.”

“Shut up.”

“Who even invited you?!”

"He did.” She crossed her arms over her chest, peering back at Yuji.

“Shoulda seen that coming!” Moriyama huffed.

“Yeah, what’d you go and do that for, Tanihara?” Ueno jeered.

“Huh?” He glanced back, having been mid-conversation with Ryuhei.

“Why’d you bring her along?”

“Why not?” Yuji shrugged.

“She’s already killing the vibe.” Moriyama complained. “It hasn’t even been five minutes!”

“Be quiet.” Hyouka huffed back, glaring up at them. “Or do you want to end up with a chopstick in your eye?”

The boy stuck his tongue out at her, its silver piercing glinting.

“Guys, drop it!” Ryuhei interrupted, grabbing the door handle. “It’s meat time! We gotta get grilling!”

"Meat! Meat! Meat!" The group of boys chanted, clambering into the restaurant. Hyouka and Natsumi followed them, stopping in front of the reception desk.

“Hello! Welcome to Hori’s Barbeque! How many of you will be joining us today?”

“Just the six of us!”

“Will you be participating in any special courses?”

“The 90-minute all-you-can-eat yakiniku!”

“Alright then!” The attendant flashed them a grin, scooping up an armful of menus. “Follow me!”

She led them through the restaurant, towards a booth with a round mesh grill in the center. As the group sat down, she gave them their menus, giving them a few minutes to flip through their options.

“What are ya thinkin’ about eating first?” Natsumi peeked over her shoulder.

“I like beef tongue and misuji.”

“Ooh, that sounds good!”

After placing their orders, the attendant leaned over to light the grill.

"It’ll be just a few minutes!”

With that, she left them to their own devices.

"Do you dare me to stick my hand in the grill?” Yuji smirked at Ryuhei, his hand slightly outstretched.

"Are you an idiot, mongrel?” Hyouka interrupted, sending him a disapproving look.

"I wasn't actually gonna do it! Jeez!” He reluctantly recoiled.

"Buzzkill.” Ueno scoffed.

Hyouka rolled her eyes at this, smoothing out the skirt of her dress as she glanced around the restaurant, which had simple furniture in neutral colors, most tables being filled by customers, and a traditional style mural decorated the back wall.

“God, it’s getting hot in here.” Ryuhei pushed his dyed hair out of his face, slumping back in his chair.

“Maybe winter would’ve been a better time of year to go to this kinda restaurant.” Natsumi smiled sheepishly.

The room seemed to get hotter and hotter as the grill heated up, until the attendant finally returned, setting down their drink glasses and checking the grill’s temperature.

“Sorry for the wait! Here’s your meal!”

She began passing the plates of raw meat around the table, along with sides of vegetables and tiny bowls of dipping sauces. Altogether, at least 20 dishes cluttered the table.

“We suggest you mind the order you cook the meat in. Beef tongue, offal, skirt meat, and then short ribs is recommended- it’s best not to contaminate the flavors with the other parts.” The attendant then bowed. “Please enjoy your meal! Let me know if you need anything!”

“Thank you very much.”

With that, she walked away, allowing them to finally start cooking.

“Alright, let’s get grilling!” Ryuhei straightened up in his seat, grabbing a pair of metal tongs. “Tongue first, right?”

“That’s what she said~” Ueno said under his breath, smirking. Yuji snorted.

Grinning, Ryuhei began to lay the meat atop the heated metal, which promptly burst into flames and blasted them with a wave of hot air.

“Woah!” The group jumped back, startled by the wall of fire that disappeared as quickly as it appeared.

“Are you okay, Tachibana?!” Moriyama gawked at him.

“Everything’s fine- I think that’s normal!” Ryuhei assured them. “But my eyebrows didn’t get burnt off, right?” He grinned.

“Nah, you’re good.”

“Be more careful, Ryu-chan!” Natsumi warned.

"Yeah, sure. Don’t sweat it!” He waved his hand, turning back to the slowly sizzling meat. "How long are you supposed to cook this for?”


“About five minutes per side.” Hyouka answered. “Beef tongue is quite thick.”

“Seriously?! I’m starving!” Yuji groaned, putting his head down.

“You can always eat this in the meantime.” She held out a leaf of lettuce.

The boy made a face, leaning away.

“I’m not a damn rabbit!”

“Then be patient.” She put it down.

“Man, I wish they gave us drink menus.” Ueno complained. “Yakiniku and booze go hand-in-hand.”

“A cold beer would be nice.” Moriyama sighed. “Remember when Tanihara’s dad almost caught us stealing his?”

“Obviously.” He smirked. “It was hilarious.”

“Not for me!” Yuji interrupted. “I thought he was ready to kick my ass!”

“You looked like you were gonna shit your pants, Yu!” Ryuhei laughed. “The look on your face was priceless!”

“Did you take a picture, Moriyama?” asked Ueno.


“Damn, I wish...” He huffed. “I’ll be prepared next time.”

“There’s not gonna be a next time, because we’re not gonna almost get caught again!” Yuji insisted. “You guys were being way too loud!”

“When was this?” Hyouka inquired.

“Monday, right?” Ryuhei tried to remember.

“Yeah, it was.”

“Aww, why didn’t you invite me?” asked Natsumi. “I would’ve loved to watch you guys get wasted! Sounds like free entertainment!”

“Count your blessings. You would’ve had to babysit them.” Hyouka deadpanned.

“Have you ever done that?” The blonde girl turned to her.

She shook her head.

“And I don’t intend to.”

Moriyama cleared his throat.

“If you bring your single friends along, then maybe we can make that happen.” He side-eyed Natsumi.

“Nice.” Ueno fist-bumped him.

“Alright, alright!” The girl laughed. “Hyouka-chan, you sure ya don’t wanna come?”

“I think I’ll pass.” She rested her chin on her hand. “You can probably flip the meat now, by the way.”

“Huh? Oh right!” Ryuhei jumped, using his tongs to turn the pieces of meat over, revealing a crispy brown underside.

“Mmm, that smells so good!” Moriyama leaned closer, inhaling deeply.

“I can’t believe summer’s almost over.” Ryuhei mused, making sure everything had been flipped. “We’ve only got two weeks left.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me.” Ueno rested his cheek against his hand.

“It feels like we haven’t even done anything yet...” Yuji complained. “They should give us more time off!”

“Seriously.” Ryuhei sat back down. “Like, we haven’t even taken a trip out of the city or gone to a concert or anything! We’ve gotta do something!”

“What would we even do?” yawned Ueno, slumping back in his seat.

“I mean, the beach sounds pretty good about now.”

“Yeah, ‘cuz it’s hot as balls in here.” Moriyama huffed, tugging at his shirt collar.

“The beach?” Hyouka looked at Ryuhei.

“Yeah, there’s one in Utsumi!”

“Oh, I think it’s less than an hour away- that could work out!” Natsumi piped up. “It might get kinda crowded during the day, though.”

“That’s no big deal.” Moriyama shrugged. “We should still be able to mess around, and we can probably stay around til it’s dark. We’ll be fine.”

“What do you think, Hyouka-chan?” Natsumi smiled, her face suddenly lighting up. “Ooh! Wait! Do you have a swimsuit?”

“Well, no, but-”

“Really?!” She gasped. “Perfect- let's shop after we eat!”

“Wait, when are we even going on this trip?”

“Uhhh...” Ryuhei hesitated, wracking his brain. “When are you guys free?”

“I'm not doing anything all week.” Yuji scrolled through his phone.

“Same.” Moriyama echoed.

“I can do whenever.” said Ueno.

“Every day except Tuesday.” Natsumi replied. “I’m seeing a movie with some friends.”

Hyouka hesitated before answering, considering her schedule. Other than dance lessons with Grandmother, she had no prior commitments.

But was this really something she wanted to participate in?

Well, she could always cancel last minute.

“I suppose I’m available as well.” She sighed softly.

“Okay, awesome! How ‘bout Sunday?” Ryuhei suggested.

“That works.”

“Oh, I think this meat’s finally done!” He announced, checking a piece. Sure enough, it looked evenly cooked, and smelled heavenly.

"Fucking finally!” Moriyama jolted straight up, looking ready to eat off the grill.

“Here ya go. Can’t let my poor friends starve!” Ryuhei scooped up the meat with his tongs, beginning to distribute it amongst the table.

“Over here, Ryu!” Yuji called out, elbowing him.

Hyouka smiled faintly, holding out her own plate and waiting to receive a serving.

“Thank you for this meal.”


After a 90-minute feast on all the yakiniku one could ask for, the group left the restaurant with full stomachs and tight waistlines, trudging through the mall.

“God, I’m stuffed...” Yuji mumbled, hands shoved into his pockets.

“Are you gonna puke?” Ryuhei cautiously placed a hand on his shoulder, as if preparing to leap out of his line of fire.

“Dude, I swear you ate more than me for once!” Moriyama groaned, clutching his stomach.

“Amateurs.” Ueno peered down at them mockingly, not even looking the slightest bit uncomfortable.

“Shut up! You’re huge and probably have a stomach the size of a cow!”

“And three of them, too.” Ryuhei chuckled.

“Where is that store you were talking about, Natsumin?” Hyouka asked, glancing around the plaza as they walked. “Have we passed it already?”

“No, it’s just towards the opposite side of where we came!” She insisted, suddenly pointing. “Look! Right there!”

Hyouka followed her gaze, eyes landing on the swimsuit store.

The storefront of Yamada’s Beach Boutique was vibrant and airy, its bright yellow sign decorated with painted waves and hibiscus flowers. Large posters promoting their end-of-summer sales plastered the windows, and amongst the other beach furniture, an inflatable dolphin lay in a striped lounge chair.

Upon entering the shop, they passed bins of beach balls and other summertime toys. Racks and racks of swimsuits lined the walls, in varying sizes, styles, and colors; with mannequins idly posing and modeling the most popular options.

Hyouka glanced around warily, feeling out of place in such an establishment. It had been a long time since she had last looked at swimwear, and had previously left feeling quite discouraged.

“Oh good, they haven’t been totally cleared out yet!” Natsumi sighed in relief, tugging her along. “Let’s get shopping!”

“I don’t exactly know-” She protested.

“Wait, I found the perfect one for Morikawa!” Ueno called.

Hyouka glanced over her shoulder, curious.

The tall boy held up a small, bright fuschia swimsuit in a size better suited for a toddler than a teenage girl. With a colorful fairy character decorating the front, it was completed by a frilly skirt.

“You’re pretty tiny, so it won’t be too big for you, right?!” He burst out laughing, Moriyama repeatedly smacking his shoulder as he snickered along.

“Very funny.” Hyouka seethed, spinning on her heel and dragging Natsumi down an aisle of snorkeling gear. “They’re so stupid...” She muttered under her breath.

“I’m sorry about them, Hyouka-chan.” The blonde girl offered a sympathetic smile.

“It’s fine.” She sighed, letting go of her hand. “It’s not as if I really have a clue about swimsuits in the first place.”

“Eh? What do you mean?”

“I never wear them in general, much less at the beach.” She bit her lip. “I...can’t swim...”

Natsumi's eyes widened slightly, but she quickly recovered.

“Hey, no biggie! You don’t have to submerge yourself to enjoy the ocean! We can stay close to the shore!”

Hyouka hesitated.

“...I’ll get burned if I’m that exposed to the sun, too.” She pulled a wetsuit off a rack, holding the stretchy black garment up to her body. “I’ll probably have to wear one of these to be safe.”

“But you’ll definitely overheat if you go out in that!” Natsumi frowned. “Is sunscreen not enough to protect you?”

“Not entirely.” She shook her head, putting the wetsuit back. “I need to avoid as much sun exposure as possible- I might even have to wait until it’s darker to walk around freely.”

“I’m sorry that you have to worry about this sorta thing...” The girl said softly. “But if it wasn’t an issue, what kinda swimsuit do you think you’d wanna wear?”

Hyouka thought for a moment, before shrugging.

“I don’t really know- something cute that doesn’t look juvenile.”

“Alright, I think we can find you something!” Natsumi offered a smile, leading the way through the store. “Let’s see...”

The pair left the aisle, heading toward the girls’ swimwear section.

“I think we should put you in a deeper color,” Natsumi mused, surveying a wall display. "It'll look good with your coloring. What do you think of this?” She held up a mauve one-piece with ruching.

Hyouka paused to evaluate it, before shaking her head.

“I don’t really like that style.”

“Okay then! We can keep looking.” Natsumi put it back. “Hmm...” She pointed to a royal blue bikini. “That one?”

“It looks a little small...”

“Is it?” She reached up to check the tag. “I thought this was your size.”

“No, I meant coverage-wise.” Pink crept to her cheeks as she averted her gaze. “The bottoms don’t look like they leave anything to the imagination...”

“Oh gotcha- never mind then!” The blonde girl stepped back, moving on to look at a different display.

A few moments later, she glanced back at Hyouka, who was leafing through a rack of mix-and-match swimsuit pieces.

“Whatcha looking at over there?”

“I just wanted to see what they had.” She recoiled. “Let’s look somewhere else.”

“But you looked like you found something cute!”

“Well...” Hyouka reluctantly reached for a black top with a teal grid pattern. “They only had a medium left...and the matching bottoms are missing.”

“Aww! That sucks!”

The albino girl shrugged, hanging it back on the metal bar.

“We could always ask if they have more in the back.” Natsumi suggested, but Hyouka simply shook her head, walking deeper into the department. She felt almost mocked by the languidly posed, stark white mannequins- unlike her, they were quite literally made for this attire.

“That’s alright. I don’t think I’d actually like wearing something like that- you would’ve looked better in it anyways.”

“Hyouka-chan, we’ll find you something- don't worry!” The blonde tried to encourage her. “There’s plenty of options here! Let’s keep looking.”

Shaking her head, she sat down on a vinyl bench.

“I want to take a break. You should shop for yourself now- I know that something caught your eye when you were looking.”

“Well, if you say so...” Frowning slightly, Natsumi walked away. Hyouka watched as she began browsing the selection with significantly more luck. Whenever the girl held a vibrantly colored or patterned swimsuit up to herself, it was sure to look striking against her sunkissed skin. The various styles and cuts seemed to be more flattering when she tried them on, too.

Well, Natsumi was better suited for that sort of thing anyway.

Opening her purse, Hyouka slipped her phone out and checking her notifications. She had a new message from Yuji, which she opened.

It was a photo of him and Ryuhei, taken in front of a mirror. The two boys were wearing several pairs of sunglasses each, as well as a few hats between them.

How childish.

The corners of her lips twitched upwards just slightly as she typed out a response.

[You might need to get a few more pairs. Sun protection is very serious.]

[Yeah, of course. You’re the expert.] Yuji texted back.

A moment later, he responded again.

Attached to the new message was another photo. This time, he was holding a pair of black cat-eye sunglasses.

[Found these on the clearance rack and thought they might be your style. Want them?]

Hyouka was surprised that he had thought to ask, heart fluttering uncharacteristically,

[Yes please.] She simply responded.

“Hey, Hyouka-chan!” Natsumi called from within a dressing room, her head peeking out from behind the bright blue curtain.

“Yes?” She quickly turned off her phone, looking up at the girl. “What is it? Did you find one you like?”

“Well, yeah, but this is a little too small!” A yellow bikini top dangled from her hand. “Can ya grab me a larger one from over there?” She pointed to the rack.

“Sure.” She hopped off the bench, rummaging through the swimsuits until she found one of a more suitable size, taking it to Natsumi. “Here.”

“Thanks.” Natsumi’s tan arm slipped back between the gap of the curtain, taking the hanger. A moment later, she emerged wearing it. “What do ya think?”

Hyouka tilted her head as she looked her over, trying to be objective.

“’s cute, but the color is a little close to your skin tone.” She said carefully. “I think something brighter would look better.”

“Hmm...” Natsumi hummed, studying her reflection in the full-length mirror.

Hyouka prayed she wouldn’t take it personally, biting her lip.

“Yeah, you’re right- I was leaning more towards this other one anyway!” The girl held up a different swimsuit- it was white, with teal, pink, and orange flowers.

“Oh, that suits you perfectly.”

“Right?! It’s super cute!” Natsumi giggled, going back into the dressing room to change. “And the tag says it doesn’t get sheer when it’s wet, which is even better!”

“That’s great.” Hyouka smiled lightly.

“And I think I found two that you might like!”

Her eyes widened at this.


“Yeah, I’ll show you in a sec!” There was the rustling of fabric, and soon, Natsumi pulled back the curtain. “Follow me!”

She led the albino girl across the department, stopping in front of a rotating rack.

“Here’s the first one!” Natsumi pulled out a dark pink bikini with a subtle polka dot pattern. A bow adorned each hip, as well as the sternum.

“That’s really cute...” Hyouka mused, looking it over. “I like the dots.”

“I know right? But lemme show you the other one too!” Rustling through the swimsuits, she retrieved the second one. “Here!”

It was a cherry red bikini, with a ruffle around the waist and the top band. It had a simple plaid pattern and a dark ribbon bow in the center of the chest, matching the straps.

“Oh, I really like that one too...” She bit her lip, eyes flickering between the two options.

“Do you wanna get both?”

“I don’t go swimming enough to justify buying more than one.”

“I wouldn’t mind pay-”

Hyouka shook her head.

“I appreciate the offer, thank you, but that’s alright. I don’t need both.”

“Are you sure? I promise I don’t mind!”

“I’m sure, Natsumin.” She offered the girl a small smile.

It was silent for a few minutes as Hyouka evaluated her options, eyes narrowed as she glanced between them.

“Hey, why don’t we get the guys’ opinions?” Natsumi suggested. “It might be good to hear their perspective.”

“As if they’ll say anything helpful.” She scoffed. “I doubt they’d take this seriously.”

“It doesn’t hurt to ask- I won’t let them say anything mean, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

She sighed softly.

“Fine. Let’s go.” Hyouka began to walk away.

As they returned to where they had last seen the boys, they were greeted by a rather crude sight. Moriyama posed with one of the mannequins, hands firmly cupping its chest and thigh as Ueno took a photo for him. Yuji and Ryuhei were laughing, seated next to each other on the bench.

“Oh!” Natsumi gasped, startled.

“Ahem.” Hyouka cleared her throat, scowling lightly.

Moriyama leaped away from the plastic woman, looking as if he had just been caught with his pants down. Ueno shoved his phone into his pocket, eyes shifty.

“What do you guys think?” Natsumi held up the two hangers, displaying each swimsuit fully.

“Wait, for you or her?” Moriyama questioned.

“For Hyouka-chan!” She replied cheerfully. Hyouka stood behind her, avoiding all potential eye contact.

“They look the same to me.” Ueno said plainly.

“What? They’re totally different!” Natsumi gave him an incredulous look.

“They’re both red bikinis.”

“Their styles are nothing alike!” She argued. “And this one’s pink!”

“It’s okay, Natsumi-chan.” Ryuhei reassured her. “Ueno doesn’t pay much attention to women’s fashion.”

“Why would I? It’s not like I’m gonna wear it.” He retorted. “Whatever, I don’t have an opinion either way.”

“I like all the bows on that one.” Ryuhei pointed. “Makes it cuter.”

“Really? I think they’re kinda tacky.” Moriyama disagreed.

“Tacky?” Natsumi frowned. “But they’re cute and girly...”

“Well, she’s got the ribbon things in her hair, so it should be okay.” Ueno mused.

“The frills on the other one are sorta pointless too. All that extra fabric and for what?” The shorter boy crossed his arms.

“It’d look pretty plain without them though!” Ryuhei countered.

“And? It’s better than being too flashy!” He pointed to the swimsuit of the mannequin he had been posing with. “This looks way better!”

“That’s boring! It’s just some purple triangles strung together!”

“You mean classic!” Moriyama wrapped his arm around its waist. “When a woman wears a swimsuit like this, there’s nothing to distract you from her sexiness!”

“Since when do you know anything about women?”

“I know plenty of things!”

“You guys are getting off topic!” Natsumi whined, but it seemed the pair were too invested in their argument. Sighing, she called out to the boy who had yet to say a word. “Hey, Yuji-kun!”

“...Sup?” He barely spared a glance in their direction as he sat facing the wall.

“What swimsuit do you think suits Hyouka-chan better?”

“I dunno. They’re both okay.”

“You didn’t even look!”

“I don’t need to!” His shoulders tensed.

Hyouka stared at his back with uncertain eyes, self-consciously smoothing out her hair.

“What’s the matter with you, Tanihara?” Ueno squinted down at him. “Are you actually embarrassed?”

“No!” Yuji spun around, glaring back as red dusted his cheeks.

“They’re just swimsuits- it’s not like I’m asking you to pick out panties for her.” Natsumi tried to reassure him.

“What the hell is wrong with you?!” He jumped to his feet, his blush intensifying. “Don’t say that!”

“Jeez, you’re acting like such a virgin. Chill out, Tanihara!” Moriyama scoffed.

“Shut up! You have no room to talk!”

“More than you!”

“Anyways!” Natsumi interrupted. “Just decide! Which one do you like best?” She held each swimsuit up to Hyouka’s body for comparison, who stood there in a similar state of embarrassment.

Yuji’s clenched his jaw, quickly pressing a hand to the side of his face, glaring at his shoes.

“Th-The dark one...” He finally mumbled.

Natsumi seemed satisfied by his answer.

“Alright, thanks~” With that, she tugged a very stiff Hyouka away from them, leading her back the way they came. “Let’s go try them on!”

“Do you think I should?” She looked up at her.

“Well, you wanna make sure everything fits okay! Nothing’s more uncomfortable than a swimsuit that doesn’t fit!”

“I suppose you’re right.”

“Personally though, I agree with Yuji-kun.” Natsumi smiled down at her. “I think the dark red one will look amazing on you!”

“Really?” Hyouka averted her eyes. “I wasn’t sure if I should go on this trip in the first place. I’ve never gone out like this before...”

“Trust me, you’ll look great!” She beamed. “We’re gonna have so much fun splashing around and eating popsicles and all that! Maybe we can even ride a boat! This is gonna be the highlight of our vacation!”

“I hope so.”

“Yeah, so c’mon- let’s get summer really started!”

Slinging an arm over her shoulder, Natsumi began to steer the smaller girl back towards the changing rooms, a sunny smile on her face.

As the Hyouka drew the curtain shut and began to undress, she felt a little more hopeful towards the idea of the beach trip.

Perhaps this summer would be better than all those boring, lonely ones before.

She could only hope so.

A/N- I apologize for the extended hiatus. This chapter has been severely delayed due to both writer's block and other occurences in my life. Now though, I hope to return to a more regular update schedule. The first three chapters have been heavily revised, and I will continue to modify them to match the quality of more recent chapters. Thank you for being patient with me.