Maki’s had a soulmate for as long as she could begin making a ruckus on her first piano.
At least that’s what her parents taught her. (And every other adult for that matter, but that’s not important.)
She’d never believed in being linked with someone she’d never met before, especially one who seemed to listen to only incessant, overrated pop music. It wasn’t even all that catchy.
It’s not like she was just the slightest bit interested in this person, or clumsily ran straight to her mother as soon as she could feel the first inklings of a song she’d never heard before resonating in the back of her mind. It definitely didn’t make her feel an unfamiliar, yet comforting warmth in her chest or anything of the sort. And she’s certainly never scaled her father’s giant office chair and begged him to help her search for the name of the song.
Nope - not even once.
Despite being seven, she was resolute in her beliefs. It didn’t phase Maki when her parents warmly laughed at her skepticism.
Besides, how could anyone willingly listen to, much less stand, such distasteful music? Maki much prefered the sonorous, relaxing sound of the piano. Nothing could quite soothe her nerves like the satisfaction of a well-played piano piece, the feeling of ivory keys against her fingertips like a clear spring on a hot day.
Especially when her soulmate’s music suddenly went quiet.
“That’s messed up, nya.”
Maki polished off the last of her drink, idly stirring the ice cubes at the bottom. She shrugged nonchalantly,“It’s not like it never returned. It came back around when I turned nine.”
“It made me think about the whole soulmate business,” she continued, setting her empty cup down. ”Humans are pretty fragile. What’s the point of getting all worked up over your soulmate when they could easily die before you even meet them? On top of that, just the idea of such a convenient partner seems...well...kind of unbelievable.”
Amber eyes scrutinize her from across the table. ”Maki-chan I think you’re overreacting just a bit, nya.”
Maki frowned,“I am not overre-” “Kayo-chin! You’re here!” her friend shrieks.
Rin springs up in delight - narrowly avoiding spilling her own drink - and pounced on Hanayo. The lavender-eyed girl squeaks in surprise, but quickly returns the embrace. Rin purrs contentedly, nuzzling into her girlfriend’s neck. Maki watched the display unimpressed.
She begins again,“As I was saying, soulmates are-” “Kayo-chin, Maki-chan says she doesn’t believe in soulmates, nya!” cries a seemingly distressed Rin, interrupting the redhead yet again. Hanayo chuckles quietly, disentangling herself from the ginger. Rin drags her over to their cafe booth and continues her mournful speech.
“Maki-chan says she doesn’t believe in true love!”
“W-what? Who said anything about true love? I’m merely stating that you shouldn’t blindly put your trust in ‘fate’ or anything of the sort. Sure there are countless stories about finding your soulmate, but what about the few where it doesn’t work out?”
“See Kayo-chin! She’s a non-believer! We have to convert her immediately, nya!” Rin exclaimed. The ginger lowered her voice to a whisper,”I also think she’s reading too much angsty fanfiction, nya...”
“Does this sermon come with a pamphlet too?” Maki responds dryly, picking at her nails.
Hanayo pursed her lips, folding her hands in her lap. “I can kind of see where she’s coming from though. I think Maki-chan’s just worried about losing her soulmate again. I don’t know what I’d do with myself if you just disappeared…,”she commented shyly, mouth curving into a small worried frown. Rin cooed affectionately, snuggling into Hanayo’s side.
“I’d never leave Kayo-chin!”
Maki almost gagged at the overly sweet exchange. It was to be expected of the childhood sweethearts. They’d met each other in primary school when Hanayo had been quietly humming Rin’s song. The two had been attached at the hip ever since. She had thought the story extremely cliche.
Maybe a touch romantic, but it’s not like she’d ever admit it. (Rin was also an avid listener of EDM so their meeting was incredible in its own right.)
Clearing her throat loudly, she raised an eyebrow at them. Lightly blushing, Hanayo turned back to Maki, smiling apologetically,”Sorry, but I don’t think we’re the right people to talk to about failed pairings. I think it wouldn’t hurt to put a little faith in the universe for a bit though.”
Maki sighs heavily before moving to throw away her cup and gather up her belongings. ”Thanks, I guess,” she spared a glance at her phone,”I have to get to my anatomy class soon. See you guys tomorrow.”
“Bye Maki-chan!” called Rin, still happily draped over Hanayo. Maki waved in return without looking back and left the two lovebirds to fawn over each other.
“I still think she’s looking too much into it, nya.”
Maki made her way across the campus field, taking her usual shortcut past her favorite bench as well as studying spot. She was particularly attached to that location as the low-hanging branches of the residing oak tree offered a shady, secluded spot beneath them with leaves that filtered in a cool breeze and just the right amount of sunlight. It was also quite distanced from the stone walkway, which meant people rarely passed by.
Today’s weather had convinced Maki it was the perfect day for going outdoors, whether it was to hit the books or simply enjoy the crisp fall air. Unfortunately, she had no time to relax currently, instead settling for staring at her phone screen and scrolling through her messages as she walked, legs jostling her sling bag.
Maki paid no mind, opting to change apps and check her Twitter feed. Why anyone would come out here to pass handouts she didn't know. Either way she wasn’t interested in joining any groups or organizations at the moment.
“Hey! I’m talking to you.”
She heard the grass behind her rustling with someone’s quick footsteps. Maki began to walk faster as well.
“Oi! Slanty eyes!”
She frowned, stopping a moment before turning around in annoyance. She was faced with what appeared to be a raven haired girl about a head shorter than her. The pigtails and red ribbons gave her a bit of a childish look. Perhaps she was a highschooler?
The girl’s ruby eyes were narrowed in irritation, deep scowl in place. Maki is reminded of an angry rabbit, its nose all scrunched up. It was kind of adorable. She could do without the angry squabbling though.
The girl looked taken aback at such a curt answer. It doesn’t take her long to respond in turn.
“I’m trying to record here, so can you go around?” she asks, exasperation present in her voice. It’s only now that Maki notices the toppled over miniature tripod she brushed past earlier. She’s too prideful to give anything even vaguely resembling an apology though. Instead she retorts with something along the lines of,”Is that the only phone stand you could get that doesn’t shoot over your head?”
Maki realizes this is the wrong answer as the shorter girl only gets more infuriated.
“First you knock down my stuff and ignore me, and now you have the audacity to call me short?!”
“I’m only telling the truth so…” She threw her hands up in mock innocence.
The girl flares up, hissing under her breath,”Well, tomato head, maybe if you actually opened your eyes and looked, you wouldn’t crash into things.”
“I’m not the one who sets up whatever in the middle of an empty field!”
“Yeah, cause it’s freaking empty!”
“Well maybe you were too small to see?”
“Oh yes, very mature. Haven't heard that one before.”
Maki seethed. A teenager, lecturing her on maturity?
”High schoolers shouldn’t even be on Otonokizaka’s campus anyways!”
The girl stares at her in disbelief and the redhead interprets this lapse of silence as a victory on her part.
“I’d love to stay and argue, but I have a class to get to. You should go back to school. Don’t want your parents to know you skipped, do you?” Huffing indignantly, she turned on her heel, and checked her watch. She definitely wasn’t making it in time.
“I’m older than you!” screeches the girl at Maki’s receding back. She stands there fuming for a moment, muttering darkly, before returning to her camera and guitar case.
It's true but she shouldn't say it
“Freshmen are rude and I hate them,” Nico grumbled, crossing her arms, sinking deeper into the couch. At this point, the third year couldn’t care less about what transpired on these very cushions the night before. In addition to meeting the arrogant first year, Nico had managed to stain her favorite cardigan, forget her dorm keys, and completely flunk Professor Yamauchi’s pop quiz.
Who even gives pop quizzes in freaking college?
Long story short, she was in an extremely sour mood and her underclassman did nothing to help by ruining her video.
“That’s not nice Nicocchi~,” hummed Nozomi,”What about Hanayo?”
“Hanayo doesn’t count, she’s too pure for this world. We need more people like her.”
Nozomi chuckled,”You’re just saying that cause she freaked out when she first saw you.”
“What can I say? Nico is a world renowned singer,” she remarked smugly. She had met Hanayo mid-recording, similar to the infuriating redhead, but instead of insulting Nico’s stature she’d shrieked in breathless wonder as if she’d just met her soulmate. So maybe a little over the top, but who was Nico to complain? (Some say Nico’s already inflated ego grew three sizes that day.)
“Oh, Nicocchi, by the way~,” Nozomi smirked cryptically from behind a freshly summoned tarot card. The sable-haired girl cringed in anticipation, meeting emerald eyes.
“Nozomi, I swear-”
“Elicchi’s staying over tonight.”
Nico’s face twisted in disgust. She can’t say she didn’t expect it. That must’ve been the reason why the normally stoic, school-loving blonde was so eager for classes to end.
“No. Both of you are gross and I hate cleaning up the couch whenever she comes over. No, hell no, and no!”
“Please? And we only use the loveseat.”
Oh thank god.
“Nozomi, what the hell.” Today was the day she would finally put her foot down on the duo’s late night escapades, even if it was the last thing she did.
“We’ll keep it on my bed this time, I promise!”
“Yeah...that’s still a no. You said that last time and the time before that. I don’t want our entire room smelling like sex. Again.”
Nozomi inappropriately mimed her signature washi washi move, sporting a toothy, impish grin. ”Are you sure~?”
Nico hugged her non-existent chest as the fortune teller crept closer. Scratch what she said earlier, Nico was not dying today, especially at the hands of this terrifying boob monster. Jumping off the couch and scrambling behind a cabinet, she peeked murderously over at Nozomi.
“Whatever,” she spat venomously. Edging around a victoriously smiling Nozomi to the door, she shot the other girl another vicious glare before collecting her keys.
“Just know I hate both of you and I’m staying at Umi’s.”
“Kotori’s gonna be with her tonight!” Nozomi sounded awfully pleased with herself.
“At least they’re fucking quiet!” she growled back, already half out the doorway.
“Nicocchi, did you mean fucking quietly?”
“AUGH!” Nico slammed the door on her way out, resounding bang echoing against the walls of the empty corridor. Well...almost empty.
“Oh! Hey Nico!” Slightly startled baby blue eyes greeted her.
The shorter girl looked back up at Eli, scornful gaze boring into her. The blonde stepped back nervously.
Nico tsked, turning away in the direction of Umi’s dorm,“Your girlfriend’s in there. Don’t want to hold you two up, do I?”
“Ah, sorry...,” Eli cringed apologetically, looking a touch impatient much to Nico’s chagrin. ”I swear I’ll make it up to you sometime.”
“Yeah, sure whatever.” She waved her off and stomped her way down the hallway.
Nico honestly didn’t know why she thought her evening would get any better. Between her already crappy day and getting kicked out by her own roommate, she was now attempting to watch an overly corny romance movie that was definitely not the reason fat tears were rolling down her cheeks. It was quite an impossible feat considering Umi’s loud whimpering in the corner with Kotori attempting to coax her out and yet another pretentious string of piano pieces playing in her head.
Seriously, did her soulmate listen to anything that didn’t scream privileged, rich person? Sure some songs might’ve maybe been calming, but as a whole Nico thought classical as bland and boring. She hoped her soulmate’s personality didn’t reflect their dull taste.
Focusing back on the screen, she sees the protagonist finish up his absolutely heart wrenching confession. His love interest pulls him down for a passionate kiss in the rain when Umi emits a high pitched wail. Nico spins around, fully intending to shush her, but instead manages to dislodge the popcorn in between her legs and knock her drink from the table.
Fantastic, another outfit ruined.
Dusting the stray popcorn bits off herself, she stands and gestures toward the bathroom.
“I’m going to go clean up.”
“Okay…,” Kotori mutters absentmindedly. Her eyes don’t leave the screen except to worriedly glance at Umi who’s curled up in her lap. Umi’s knuckles were bone white as she clutched at Kotori’s skirt. Her face was turned pointedly away from the screen.
Nico spared one more glance at the two before moving towards the bathroom.
There were two things Maki loved more than herself. Those things were her grand piano, passed down from her mother, and tomatoes. Close to making that list though was her navy blue Otonokizaka pullover. One size shy of too big, just the way she liked it.
Oh, and her parents too of course. She wasn’t that conceited.
Maki’s favorite thing to do after school, post-study haze, was to either read a book in her sacred spot under the sequestered oak tree, or if it was too late, hole up in her room. Luckily the dorm she had been assigned to was, of course, one of the larger ones. That meant she could fit a baby grand piano in the same room as her loft bed.
Today, though not one of her most exciting days; that would have to go to a time earlier that year when Honoka, Rin, and Hanayo had tried to see who could eat the most of their respective meals (It was a tie.); was still worthy of a tomato, hoodie, and piano day. Everyday was a tomato, hoodie, and piano day.
So naturally after returning home and greeting her roommate, she dove straight for her freshly laundered pullover and poured herself a large bowl of cherry tomatoes. After basking in the scent of April Fresh detergent, she threw herself into piano, popping one of the delicious, glistening treats into her mouth every so often.
Not even an hour later, she had run out of tomatoes and had a strong need to use the bathroom. Pulling the drawstring of her hoodie so only the tip of her nose peeked out, she wandered out of her room. Would she resort to such childish habits normally? Probably not, but her roommate would be distracted in the main room for awhile.
“Uhh… Umi there’s a cryptid in the hallway.”
Maki had failed to be informed and account for a second guest. Hastily turning back, she wandered straight into a wall.
“Woah, are you okay?”
The voice sounded familiar, but not quite. Flailing around a bit before quickly noticing she was making a fool of herself, she pulled her hood down blushing furiously.
“Y-yeah I-,” she stammered until her violet eyes hardened at the sight before her.
Hoodies are great and you can't tell me otherwise.
“This is Maki Nishikino, my roommate,” Umi gestured to her, then to Nico,”And this is Nico Yazawa. Nico, Maki. Maki, Nico.”
Umi had regained her normally cool composure once the television had been turned off and when the movie had thoroughly been locked away. It's not that she was scared of shameless acts such as kissing in public or in places where one could be easily seen doing such things, it was more the sheer amount of secondhand embarrassment. Such copious amounts of shame caused her to automatically activate her self preservation mode and seek escape.
Kotori stepped out from behind her, hands clasped, peacekeeping smile plastered on. Umi melted internally, thankful that its full power was not directed at her, though it seemed to have no effect on the smoldering pair. “Do you two already know each other?”
“Yeah, she's the one who was stringing things on the campus grounds!” Maki huffed indignantly, twirling a strand of her hair. Was Maki being kind of - extremely - aggressive? Yes.
Did she care? Still a yes, but her pride outweighed the sinking feeling in her stomach.
Nico gritted her teeth. The nerve of that girl! “I believe it was carrot top over here who decided to crash into my stuff and ever so nicely refused to apologize!”
“Well maybe if you had asked politely I would have!”
The two began to bicker almost immediately, hurling accusations and insults at each other. With every jab both girls stepped closer and closer until they were practically nose to nose.
“At least I don't look like someone ran over my front with a cement roller!”
Nico hissed, stabbing a finger into the middle of the logo on Maki’s chest, static jumping from the fabric,”You little shi-”
Umi stepped in between them, halting the argument. She stared coldly at both of them.
“If you're going to be so loud, please do it elsewhere. Otherwise please refrain from quarreling.”
“Nico, you are our senior, please act like it,” she chastised. Nico shuffled her feet. The corner of Maki’s mouth twitched smugly. Umi caught her eye with another sharp glance, continuing her berating,”And I expect a more level head especially from you, Maki. Both of you are acting incredibly immature.” The triumphant almost smirk dropped immediately from her face. She focused her gaze on her feet.
“Maybe both of you need to calm down a bit…,” added Kotori, placing a hand on Umi’s shoulder.
Nico eyed the others for a moment, silence finally settling into the room. She sighed.
“Fine,” she yielded, uncurling her fists. ”I'm going to go outside for a bit.”
Maki watched the shorter girl slip through the door, closing it with a quiet click. She turned to find two pairs of golden eyes staring at her. The redhead faltered for a second, tucking her hands into her sweatshirt pockets. She toyed with a piece of loose lint between her fingers.
“Er...yeah, me too.”
Wheeling around, she made to go outside as well before Umi called to her. “Don’t stay out too late, Maki.”
Shaking her head at her roommate's mothering tendencies, she waved her off.
“I won’t but I’ll make sure to stay out long enough for you to have some alone time.”
She could hear a mix of Kotori's light laughter and Umi's frantic spluttering as she exited her dorm. Snorting in amusement at her foolish roommate, she strode to the public lounge overlooking the majority of the campus grounds. She supposed it was one of the perks of going to a smaller school. The view never ceased to amaze her, especially now, when the crisp autumn air changed the vibrant greens of the leaves to a rippling array of warm ochres, velvety mahoganies, and piercing vermillions.
Unfortunately she was too late to catch the sunset’s peak, its few dying rays straggling just above the horizon.
Maki observed the wandering students below, few and far between. Since there weren't many people, she decided it would be an opportune time to go for a quick stroll to her typical spot.
On her short walk, she contemplated whether or not she should've brought her phone with her, just to have something to burn time with. She did promise Umi she'd leave her alone with Kotori for a bit.
At least there was a little background noise, even if it was still some trendy pop song. Well, Maki wasn't sure if it was trendy; she hadn't heard it being played before at stores and restaurants and such. Then again, she didn't go many places. She had tests to study for and a piano to play. She might possibly consider herself a slight shut in.
Maybe even more than slight, as even Hanayo, the buzzing social media news hub and YouTube addict, told her she needed to get out more.
Speaking of YouTube, Hanayo would occasionally transform from her normally docile self to rant about whatever new YouTuber that had piqued her interest, music related ones especially. She’d noticed that Hanayo talked about such matters to her less and less to her as of lately, probably because she found another more willing participant.
Maki had just reached her sacred spot when she realized it had already been taken by the same person she was taking a break from. She knew she should have asked her father to invest in a plaque for it.
“Stop following me,” said the figure on the bench.
Nico’s eyes were closed, arms crossed. Between them was a pink iPod, white earbuds plugged in, one leading to her left ear, the other one being mindlessly spun around by its cord. Maki sneered.
“If anything, you seem to be the one so insistent on breaking into my life. Go somewhere else.”
The raven haired girl opened one eye to peek at the redhead. She made as if to get off the bench, but instead lifted her legs to fully extend across it. Her feet stopped just half a foot short of the opposing end. She raised a challenging eyebrow at the redhead.
Stomping over angrily, Maki jammed herself in between Nico and the bench’s other armrest, pushing Nico’s legs off. She drew her hood over head, glowering.
“I was the first one here, what’re you so angry about?” Nico quirked her head, still twirling the earbud. Maki hunkered down, ignoring her.
“Okay, look princess-”
“Don’t call me that.”
Nico snorted,”So you’re fine with slanty eyes and carrot top, but not princess? What’s wrong with princess? You look like someone who wouldn’t go near anything less than 500$.” She eyed the other girl’s outfit. Somehow she even made a hoodie and sweatpants look designer.
“For one thing I’m sitting next to you,” Maki bit back. Nico opened her mouth to say something, but decided against it, settling down with a light hmph. She stopped spinning the earbud, instead inserting it into her other ear. Nico came out to relax, not to start bickering again.
She shut her eyes, letting her music surround her.
They're not too aggressive, are they?