Chapter 19:

Interlude: Lycoris

66 Hours

Ishikawa Yoko

It was a normal, sunny day.

The new school year was in full swing, and our volleyball club was livelier than ever, with the addition of our new first-year members.

For the first time in high school, I had a bunch of underclassmen to look after.

The great Ishikawa Yoko, they said. They all called me the ace of the team, and some even admitted they looked up to me.

They looked up to… me?

That thought still felt so silly, I couldn’t really comprehend it.

“Ishikawa-senpai, you’re a genius!”

“Wow, I wish I was as talented as you…”

“Senpai, you’re awesome!”

All those things were new to me. I’ve never received praise like that before. Suddenly, everything was centered around me.

I loved volleyball… but all that praise. It was almost suffocating.

It was beginning to feel like a headache…

But, since I was the ace.., I was tasked with taking care of the newbies.

Despite us being strictly a women’s volleyball team, there were many differences between all of us. And that of course extended to the new members as well. But despite our differences, we all got along with no issue.

Among the newbies I was taking care of, one stood out from the bunch. It was a cheery, optimistic girl, with short brown hair.

Nakajima Mayu.

Despite her being new in the club, she quickly made friends with everyone. She even took it upon herself to make the more timid members open up to the whole team.

“Nakajima-san can you…?”

“Ah, of course I’ll take care of that!”

“Nakajima-san, are you still practicing?”

“Hehe, just thought I should get in some more spikes while I can.”

“Nakajima-san, Morita-san needs you for something…”



She always seemed to be in control. Ready to help anyone. She didn’t want anyone to feel left out.

Efforts like that would tire out anyone, eventually. But despite that, she never let it show.

Even if she didn’t make the team. Even if the match didn’t go as planned. Even if the other members brushed her aside, sometimes… She never stopped to question herself. She always wanted to try anyway, even if it failed.

Yet, I was the ace of the team.

I was the one everyone looked up to.

Not her.

But why? Surely she was working harder. Surely, she was a better leader.

Was it because I was a year older? Was it because I was more mature?


It was because results are everything. And I, was fundamentally a better player than her.

Ishikawa-senpai and her sharp spikes. Ishikawa-senpai and her clean serves.

And even Nakajima herself, looked up to me.


I could never understand.

But in contrast to the others, she was the only one that spoke to me so freely.

“Senpai, you’re awesome! Could you teach me that move?”

“Senpai, wanna hit up the karaoke after practice?”

Senpai this, senpai that.

When would her battery run out? When would she reach her breaking point?

All her effort, all of the time she had put in. She was still far from being the best player on the team.

She struggled and struggled, only to achieve mediocrity.

And then one day, she wasn’t selected as a starter. Another member had taken over her position. She was faster, stronger, and technically better. She was just more talented.

We were walking back together…

I didn’t know how to comfort her.

But maybe I didn’t really have to. Because she was smiling just like always.

But something felt off. It really did.

And so I decided to break the silence.

“Nakajima.” I called out to her firmly.

“Yes, Ishikawa-senpai?” She looked back at me with her usual smile.

“Doesn’t it… bother you?”

“Oh you mean the thing about Narutaki-san?” She spoke as if she had just remembered. There was no way that was the case...

“…Not really.”

She simply shrugged.

But how could that be?

“It’s okay to be upset you know.”

I searched for something to grab hold of. Something that would give me a satisfactory answer.

Maybe she didn’t care. Maybe it didn’t matter…

“There’s no reason. Narutaki-san performed better after all.”

Again, with that smile.

“But you worked your butt off for-“

“Senpai, it’s okay.”

“It’s not okay!” I find myself raising my tone, without even realizing. “How can you do that? How can you always act like nothing is fazing you?!”


“I’ve seen you work your ass off, day in day out! I’ve seen how much you want to be in the team!”

“I want to, senpai. I really do.” Her gaze was cast down. Her smile finally falling.

“Then… why?”

I wanted to know why. It was normal to be frustrated, when your efforts didn’t bear the result you were aiming for, after all.

“What will change if I’m upset?”


Her response caught me off guard. Then her calm façade was finally replaced by pain.

“What if I get angry? What if I wanna quit? What if I think it’s unfair?!”


“This is the only way, I can stay who I am. If I break down here, then how will I ever succeed?” A single tear rolled down her cheek, as she raised her voice at me for the very first time.

“If I can’t be talented like you, then I will at least try to become the best I can.”

“Nakajima, you…”

“You’re amazing senpai.” She wiped away her tears and gave me a smile.

“Huh? Me?”

“Of course you!”

“It’s just… natural, I guess. But you-“

“That’s not true. I’ve seen you practice late into the night too. Talent can only get you so far… But you’re different. You’re not just a genius.”

“How do you know that?”

“I can see it… Because I try my hardest too. Because I want to be like you…” Her eyes were shining with determination as she said that. The frustration from before was gone.

She could just leave it all behind like that. No… she used it as fuel to move forward, and try harder. She wanted things to go her way, and she couldn’t rest until they did.

Her drive was deserving of admiration. But it would eventually wear her out. Unless she had someone to rely on.

“You want to be like me, huh?”

“Of course! I mean who doesn’t!”

She persevered through the hardships, and kept going. Without wavering.



She was amazing.

“What was that?”

Though, my muttering wasn’t enough for her to hear it seemed…

“…One hell of a pain. I swear fans nowadays…” I sighed, and gave her a chop in the head, completely out of the blue.

“Ouch! Senpai!”

“Let’s stay late tomorrow, I’ll show you that cool spike I was working on.”

And with that, I started walking again, as the sun began to set on our backs.

It was just another day.

“Really?! Yes!”

And of course, she followed closely behind, skipping in her usual manner.

A day that I got closer to understanding the mystery that was Nakajima Mayu.

She wanted to be like me. But little did she know…

When I saw how Nakajima acted when we realized we were trapped here, I was honestly shocked.

Even in a crisis, she never lost track of her sense of duty. Her character and conviction. She took it upon herself to unite the group.

That was when I realized, that she was far stronger than me. My determination was for volleyball, and volleyball alone. But hers wasn’t.

She would try to and try, no matter the circumstances.

I had broken down, when I lost my boyfriend right before my eyes. But she was there for me. She helped me, get back up.

Little by little, the group was shaping up to be a warm, welcoming environment. All because of her, and her friend Hideki…

She had found that one person that kept her in check. Grounded, and always productive.

Maybe, back in club, I had tricked myself into believing I was that person for her. Or maybe I was, if only during club hours.

Soon, I had started to get attached to those silly kids in the group. They were actually fun to be around. And even that kid… Hideki, was more than met the eye at first.

But now… I was going. I had to leave. It was sudden, and I was leaving with regrets.

Just when I had started to open up to them too…

I even called out to him, in the spur of the moment, asking him for help.

I don’t know why I did that.

Maybe something deep within my heart, told me that HE would be able to save me.

But, naturally he wasn’t superhuman. He was only a kid.

My time was now up, and for better or for worse, I didn’t get to tell HER what I wanted to, for the past year.

I can’t imagine how Nakajima… How Mayu would feel…

The strong reliable Mayu. The Mayu, that always got back up no matter what. The Mayu that never let anyone’s words get to her.

This forgiving, kind girl.

And she had said she wanted to be like me?

“Mayu I—“


She wanted to be like me. But little did she know… I wanted to be like her too.

Ishikawa Yoko


Thanks for reading! I'm just gonna throw this here, to say a big thank you to Mr. IceDonut, for making this wholesome pixel-styled fanart for this story! If you wanna check it out, it will be in the showcase under the chapters section. 

Have a great weekend everyone! 


Haru Yumera