Chapter 33:

Arguably the most exciting bus ride I ever had

My childhood friend ran away from home and now I have to share a room with her?!

After leading my friend through the busy streets, we're lucky to catch the hourly bus back home without much of a delay.

Both of us are planting ourselves into the comfy seats of the air-conned bus. It doesn't take long for Koyori's head to lean against my shoulders and this time I do not mind it at all. Uttering a content hum, she quietly thanks me for spoiling her.

Had anyone told me earlier today that we'd be holding hands right now, although non-romantically as far as I'm concerned, I'd have labeled them a mad person. Yet, here I am, listening to her occasional hums as she sits nestled up to me.

Things happened so fast that my mind didn't have enough time to understand the gradual change in my emotions. I mean, I went from 'Help she's touching me' to 'Yes please touch me' within just two days. How'd that happen?

Admittedly, I haven't exactly lost all awkwardness around her, especially after THAT incident but, right now, an unexplainable urge to be close to her has taken root somewhere deep inside. Rather than trying to escape from her clutches, my mind is trying to find ways to enhance and prolong the experience further.

Carefully, I allow my head to tilt sideways until it rests on top of hers which she has buried against my shoulder. Her huge ribbon is stuffed against my cheek now but it doesn't bother me at all. Koyori hums appreciatively while snuggling up even more.

My feelings are quite a mess right now but everything in this cocktail of emotions is vastly overshadowed by the sheer excitement of this new-found stage in our relationship. Even now, as I'm relaxing next to Koyori, I can feel my heart leap across my thorax without a sign of calming down anytime soon.

I feel like the lines between the harmless closeness between us and our borderline romantic actions are blurring with each shared moment. At first, I was too scared and embarrassed to allow anything. I made Koyori upset, trying to make up for it by tolerating a few invasions past the barrier I had created around me. I began humoring her odd requests occasionally, each time allowing her hearty affection to bombard my barrier. Eventually, she tore it down. No longer protected, her feelings could reach me, and my own feelings were no longer locked up.

The unique percussion of my heart slowly begins to understand the vibrant melody Koyori is singing. Her angelic voice and her graceful dance are aligning more and more with my uncertain beats, the cacophony gradually shifting toward harmony. The band isn't quite ready to give their first concert but, I surmise, it may be just a matter of time until they're in perfect synch.

Honestly, she's a perfect idol.

I raise my head a little, only to realize in amusement that Koyori has decided to take a power nap. A soft smile plays around my lips. Admiring her adorable sleeping expression, I gently wipe a batch of blonde hair out of her face.

That's right, she can dance, act, and be cute without even trying. She’s always cheerful and has the looks of a royal princess. I wonder if she can sing as well?

I can't say that the idol industry has captured my interest yet but if you give Yori a cute outfit and let her perform on stage, then I'll be rooting from the first row. In my drawing, I already pictured her as an idol.

Suddenly, as I remember the drawing with unusual clarity, I find myself screaming 'encore encore' in a parallel world my brain made up on the spot, listening to the idol Yori-chan blasting "Yori-chan loves you too!" into the mic while she's basking in the admiration of thousands.

My eyes are glued to the revealing outfit of hers which differs starkly from my drawing. Influenced by today's events, she's wearing her swimsuit with even more frills in orange and yellow added to both her chest and bottom. Additional pieces of frilly cloth are tightly hugging her arms while striped, knee-length stockings guide my eyes toward the shiny skin on her perfect thighs.

"Guys, Yori-chan is going to throw her cute ribbon!" the girl abruptly announces. In a swift, graceful movement, she rips her treasured accessory from her head, her ponytail exploding into a wild mess of shiny, blond hair.

In ecstasy, I embrace the view. The idol in front of me suddenly wields a certain wild beauty. Surprisingly, I can't help but like the new hair style, replacing the cute angel with the aura of a rocker chick.

"Yori-chan will give you a kiss if you catch it, good luck!"

Her words aren't very rocker chick-like though. Suddenly, she spins so speedily that every ice dancer pales in comparison. After a few rotations, the ribbon shoots into the air while Yori trips over her feet. The thud of her impact on the floor is completely drowned by a chorus of ecstatic screaming.

"Oopsie!" her cute voice echoes through the concert hall as every camera tries to zoom in on her briefly exposed panties. But my eyes are high in the sky. The ribbon is rotating higher and higher in an unpredictable path, going near vertical though its trajectory would likely take it into the first few rows.

Please let it be me, please let me kiss Yori-chan!

People around me are riling up as it becomes more and more clear that the ribbon is aiming toward my position. Its erratic rotation makes its final destination pure guesswork but, for some odd reason, I can feel the god of destiny smile upon me with a divine beam. For a moment, it looks like it'll land right above my neighbor but I can't let myself get dissuaded when the most adorable idol is on the stake.

Against the odds, I jump. I feel my body go higher and higher, my puny arms reaching skyward along with hundreds of others, all attempting to capture the holy item. The ribbon changes directions one last time, the long ties suddenly tilting in my direction. My momentum is already used up though. I feel my body stagnating while others around me continue to rise.

Grab it. GRAB IT!!!

In a desperate attempt, I stretch my arms, my fingers suddenly getting hold of a tiny piece of fabric. I clench my fingers as if my very life depended on it, several bodies colliding over my head as I dive into a protective, kneeling pose. The warm sensation of the fabric against my skin could only mean one thing.

Yes, I made it, I really made it!

I feel like screaming in joy as a chorus of cries erupts around me. I'm no longer thinking rationally, the ecstasy burying all reason. Without waiting for her invitation, I elbow a few people out of the way, hopping over the barrier before sprinting toward my biggest idol.

My legs are going faster and faster. All I can think of is hugging and kissing this brilliantly sparkling girl as if showing the world that she's mine and mine alone. I'm almost there, spreading my arms like a plane. I'm about to jump into her spread-out arms when I feel my legs get entangled. Helplessly, I'm sailing not into her arms but headfirst into the concrete floor…



A throbbing pain shoots into the right side of my skull as the aftersensation of an unknown collision reverberates in my mind. Begrudgingly, I turn my head around to see Koyori rub the corresponding side of her skull as well. The grogginess of sleep is apparent in both of us as our irritated glances meet halfway.

Did our heads collide?! Wait, I was dreaming?!

Rapidly, I peek out of the window of the vehicle only to rest visibly upon the realization that we're still driving through those rice fields I hate so much.

Guess I was only out for a short time then…

Koyori still seems heavily confused but I nonverbally spend some reassurance by gently squeezing her hand which I'm still holding on to.

Dang, that felt bloody realistic. I was about to kiss her there…

Suddenly, the embarrassment hits me like a wall of concrete.

W-w-w-wait! Did I really just want to k-k-kiss her?!

I almost accidentally let go of her hand.

It's a dream, just a dream. Just a silly imagination of crazy things that could never happen, right?

I'm about to brush off the incident as ridiculous when memories of a different dream come knocking on my door.

Wait. On second thought, she confessed to me in a dream the other day. Back then I felt really happy and embarrassed too. What does that mean?

My gaze falls on an ever so slightly pouting girl.

I guess she blames me for this, huh? Well, I know just the thing.

Koyori's pout grows into a hint of a tantrum when I disconnect our hands but the girl doesn't yet know that I'm going to upgrade our connection. Recalling her passion for it, I pierce my arm under her back until it emerges on the other side, wrap around her waist and apply a slight tug to keep her seated right next to me.

"Dunno what happened there but I woke you up so you're getting an upgrade free of charge, how about it?"

My words melt into her puffed cheeks like a knife through warm butter. Koyori relaxes visibly, sighing contently before leaving a slightly sleepy reply.

"Kei-kun is still the best…"

"... and Yori-chan is the best too."

Oh, that slipped out…

I can feel the curious glances of an elderly couple rest upon us as Koyori emits frequent hums of pleasure but it no longer bothers me. Regardless, a trace of uncomfortableness remains. Maybe I'd think a little differently about this if a classmate was stalking though.


The thought reminds me of the core of my earlier confusion. I have absolutely zero idea what exact state the relationship between the two of us has reached now. I'm not dense enough to deny that something happened between us today but what exactly is it?

Let me try to understand this: At first, I felt REALLY uncomfortable around her, panicking at the slightest thing. And now I'm even alright with strangers seeing us like this?

Koyori has only been around for three days now. The difference between the things I was okay with then and the things I'm okay with now equals the difference between summer and winter. How could things change so fast?

I can definitely tell that she has been kind of yearning for these moments to happen, pushing me into situations that favored such interactions or straight up creating them.

I mean she asked for a lap pillow, wanted to sleep in my bed and all that stuff… Then the movie night shenanigans and now… this.

I hardly take notice of Koyori gradually dozing off again, her head falling against my shoulder while mine is stuck in the clouds.

But I've been too scared to do any of those because I was scared of touching her. Why though?

Admittedly, it's all a very big enigma to me. Right now I couldn't feel more comfortable. A slight smile creeps onto my face as Koyori mumbles something unintelligible in her slumber and I catch myself absentmindedly stroking her remaining cheek.

Honestly, she's too adorable.

The grin becomes edged into my expression as I continue to watch her snooze peacefully.

That's right, she is a real cutie.

Seeing her like this reminds me of the sheer amount of joy and happiness she's brought into my life. If it hadn't been for her, I'd probably be cursing at controller aimbots again or reading indecent manga right now. Instead, I'm in the company of my childhood friend and best friend for lack of competition.

And this is where it gets complicated…

My thoughts begin to linger on the most important question of the day.

Could this be… Love? 

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