Actions

Work Header

The Daily Lives of the Nijigasaki School Idols

Chapter Text

Nijigasaki High School was one of the more popular schools in the area. With its futuristic main building, strategic location near a major station, and plenty of facilities for the students who attend there, its popularity rivalled even that of UTX’s. Because of that, with students walking down hallways and talking in the cafeteria, it was rarely quiet during school hours.

 

However, it was a different story once school was out. Most students preferred spending their time in the schoolyard or observing the view from the rooftop. Some clubs do prefer holding their activities indoors, such as the knitting club, but despite that, a majority of the classrooms were deserted after school was done.

 

In one of those classrooms, students would be able to find two girls sitting at the back of the room. The thin, viridian-green coloured ribbons around the collar of their uniforms signify that they're third years.

 

Both were members of the “Napping Club,” a club that despite being considered useless and having less than the minimum required number of members to form a club, didn’t actually need anything other than one of the many empty rooms to function. It needed no budget, and the club’s president usually just slept during student council club meetings without making unreasonable demands.

 

It would take more work to disband it than to just let it keep doing its thing, and that’s exactly what the student council did when they approved the club.

 

The club’s members haven’t changed since the day of its formation. One of them was Kanata Konoe, a transfer student and someone well-known throughout the school for sleeping wherever and whenever possible. If people heard about the Napping Club, the first person to come to their minds would be Kanata, no question about it.

 

The second member, however, was much less expected. Emma Verde, another transfer student who’s almost the exact opposite of Kanata. Despite being somewhat more responsible during her day-to-day life, she also has a fairly easygoing personality. Still, Emma probably wouldn’t have joined if not for Kanata inviting her.

 

Right now, one of the members is participating in the club’s main activity, deep in sleep while resting their head on the other person’s shoulder. To anyone who knew them, it made sense for Kanata to be sleeping while Emma offers her a shoulder to lean on, watching over the permanently tired girl.

 

But today, that wasn’t the case. Instead, Emma is the one who’s sleeping peacefully, a fluffy purple blanket draped over the lower half of her body, while Kanata is the one who’s awake.

 

It's understandable for Emma to be tired. The past week wasn’t kind to the members of the Nijigasaki Idol Research Club, with them having to record and promote their first single. The fact that it was a success showed that their efforts paid off, but that didn’t change the fact that everyone was drained by the end of it. Even Ai, the ball of energy that she is, was a little less genki when they saw her at their morning practice. The only one who doesn’t seem affected is Kanata, who’s used to operating on minimum energy every day whenever she’s not doing her favourite thing in the world, sleeping.

 

But right now, she’s a little glad that she’s awake for once, because now she can admire her girlfriend’s cuteness up close. The only time they’re ever this close is when Kanata’s sleeping, and she wouldn’t be able to admire Emma when she was asleep unless it was in her dreams.

 

One of the things that Emma is known for is her freckles. Emma is a little self-conscious about them, but Kanata thinks they look cute. She wouldn’t call it her charm point specifically, especially since there’s so much more about her that Kanata also likes, but it’s one of them.

 

Instead, Kanata’s favourite part of Emma is how responsible she is. Both have younger sisters, but unlike her relationship with Haruka, Emma’s sisters seem to respect her if Emma’s stories are any indication. It’s amazing how she could pay equal attention to all of them despite having eight little sisters. Even in their idol club, Emma is like everyone’s guardian, ensuring that things remain grounded despite all the interesting personalities within it.

 

When she told Haruka about it, she joked about how Kanata’s idea of an ideal girlfriend was basically someone who would take care of her. But even though that might’ve been true at the start, as she learned more about the girl sleeping next to her, she couldn’t help but fall in love more and more. She always seems to have more on her mind than she let on, something that could also be applied to Kanata herself, but Emma even more so. Maybe that was a part of having so many people who look up to her, but Emma would always carry out her duties with a smile on her face, no matter what.

 

With a sigh, she begins running her hand through Emma’s hair, liking how smooth it feels between her fingers. “You’ve got to take it easy every once in a while.” Kanata whispers.

 

“Kanata-chan...” Kanata hears Emma mumble in her sleep, nuzzling her head against Kanata’s shoulder, causing her heart to beat a little faster. She thought Emma was awake all this time, but after a few more seconds of silence, realizes that she was just sleep talking. Chuckling to herself, she continues playing with the other girl’s hair.

 

“Emma-chan... are you having a good dream? Let’s sleep together~” Kanata mumbles as she carefully gets underneath the blanket as well, cuddling up against Emma’s body. Before falling asleep, she musters enough energy to send a text to Karin.

 


 

Sleeping Beauty: karin-chan, me and emma are sleeping together

 

Sleeping Beauty: call us in a few hours to wake us up

 

Sleeping Beauty: thx

 


 

Putting her phone next to her, Kanata closes her eyes and allows sleep to overtake her. Karin would wake the two of them up in a few hours, but Kanata thought that she wouldn’t mind staying here with her until the morning if she could.

Chapter Text

Kasumi has never felt so nervous before.

 

She remembers all the other times she had that exact sentiment.

 

The time when she performed for the first time in front of her elementary class. A good kind of nervous, and the echoing applause from her friends and teachers at the end of it made her efforts feel meaningful.

 

Then there was the time she performed in front of the student council at her middle school in order to convince them that the idol club was worth keeping around. She never felt more like a fish out of water, singing and dancing her heart out as the student council president folded her arms across her chest, glaring silently along with the other members. Her heart dropped when they dropped the verdict: a sharp rejection.

 

But even that couldn’t compare to her coming into high school, and asking Ayumu if she could join her idol club. At that time, she was scared of another rejection, of being alone for her three years of high school. It was worth it, though, and because of that, she has eight people she can (begrudgingly) refer to as her friends.

 

And although she would rather die than admit it, she was much, much more nervous when she attempted to confess to both Karin and Setsuna. Dozens of different scenarios went through her head, ranging from both of them rejecting her and their friendship becoming strained, to them revealing they were already dating and couldn’t accept her feelings because of that, to her feelings being returned but neither of them being comfortable with the idea of polyamory.

 

So when they–both of them–accepted her feelings, she felt like she would’ve collapsed right there if not for Setsuna suddenly wrapping her in a tight hug, and Karin joining in only seconds later.

 

But all those times, in spite of her nervousness, she could still do something.

 

Right now, she’s so nervous that she’s paralyzed from head to toe. The stack of signature boards in her arms is shaking almost as much as her.

 

Her current cause of anxiety is the group of people in front of her right now. They are members of two different idol groups she’s previously only seen on magazines and TVs, μ's and Aqours, and yet now they’re here to do a collaboration with her school’s idol club. When Setsuna broke the news to them, Kasumi thought she was pulling their legs.

 

But this is real. Through a feat of miracle or sheer luck, their efforts were noticed by some of the top groups in Love Live history. It’s a wonder how she hasn’t passed out from shock yet from seeing so many of her idols gathered in one place. Or maybe she has, and this is all just a dream. It would be one of the best dreams she’s had in a long time.

 

“Hey, Kasumi-chan!” She feels a hand on her shoulder, and she turns around to look at the new arrival in the face. However, as she turns around, she finds herself staring at a pair of lips curled up into a mischievous smile, a smile she’s gotten used to seeing recently.

 

“K-Karin-chan, what are you doing here?” Kasumi stutters, hiding the boards behind her back. Karin stares at her, giving the shorter girl a confused smile.

 

“Because we were going to have a meeting to talk about the collaboration? Did you forget about that? I thought you would be pretty excited about it.” Karin says, shooting her a concerned look.

 

“Yes! Wait, no! No, I didn’t forget, but yes, I’m excited.” Kasumi mumbles out, sweating profusely as she feels Karin staring at her, as if she’s able to see into her soul.

 

“...is that why you’re standing here by yourself instead of having fun with the rest of them?” Karin asks.

 

“Yes?” Karin narrows her gaze at Kasumi, who’s about to keep defending herself if not for someone tugging on the boards behind her back.

 

“What are these for then?”

 

“Setsuna-chan!” Kasumi turns around to face her, glaring daggers at her other girlfriend. “Don’t just sneak up on me like that!”

 

“Sorry, sorry!” She laughs it off, and Kasumi’s expression melts into a more pleasant one; it’s hard for her to remain angry at Setsuna when she’s so cute. “I guess you’ve come prepared to ask for autographs. Just as expected!”

 

Kasumi gulps, nodding her head. Of course Setsuna would know her intentions immediately. She was almost as obsessed with idol culture as her, so she was also looking forward to this meeting. In fact, she also spots a small board in Setsuna’s hand, giving her an opportunity to change the topic of the conversation.

 

“What about you, Setsuna-chan?” Kasumi asks, her voice back to the sickly-sweet, idol voice she regularly uses. She thinks Karin just rolled her eyes, but she’ll let that slide for now. “Did you ask for any autographs?”

 

“Yeah!” Setsuna answers enthusiastically, immediately showing both her and Karin the board with four autographs of differing sizes. “I was planning on asking the others, too, but there’s not enough space here, so I just got these four for now.” She points towards the two signatures, taking up most of the space on the board’s surface. “This one is Honoka-san’s, and this one is Chika-san’s.”

 

“I didn’t know you were a fan of them,” Kasumi says. Evidently, it was the wrong thing to say, as a fire was lit within Setsuna’s eyes after hearing that statement.

 

“I am!” She says excitedly. “They’re so optimistic, and they have this ‘never give up’ aura surrounding them at all times, they’re like the ideal idol for me. I love them! Oh, but not in that way, the only people I love in that way are you two, after all.”

 

“That’s good to know.” Karin smiles, but Setsuna can sense the odd tension behind the way she said it. “Otherwise I might have to punish you.”

 

Setsuna chuckles nervously, getting ready to defend herself in case Karin makes a move. “That won’t be necessary.”

 

Kasumi, meanwhile, is occupied with staring at the board. Other than those two signatures, she sees two more, one of which she identifies easily. She points at it, her finger shaking as she stutters, “I-Is that...Nico-sama’s?”

 

“Huh?” Setsuna looks at the signature that Kasumi’s pointing at. “Oh, yep! That one’s Nico-san’s. I asked her since she reminded me of you. I also asked for Kanan-san’s signature since she kinda reminded me of Karin-chan.”

 

“She does?” Karin places her hand on her chin thoughtfully, humming to herself. “How so? I’m not exactly athletic like her, the only thing we have in common appearance-wise is our hair.”

 

“No, I’m not talking about your appearance. It’s more like...your personality,” Setsuna says.

 

“My personality, or my ‘personality’?” Karin asks, teasing Setsuna who’s starting to turn as red as her image color. “Just kidding! After all, if you liked me for that reason, that wouldn’t explain why you like Kasumi.”

 

“Hey!” Kasumi pouts at Karin’s joke. Setsuna giggles at how she’s acting, patting the other girl’s head.

 

“Kasukasu’s cute the way she is, I wouldn’t change her for the world.” Setsuna praises Kasumi. “Back to the original subject, though. Kasukasu, why haven’t you asked for anyone’s autograph yet? I thought you’d jump on the opportunity.”

 

“What? Uhm...” With the topic of the conversation being redirected to her, Kasumi feels her anxiety building up again. “I just haven’t gotten around to it. Yeah, that’s why.”

 

“Really? You were just standing there like a statue before I came in, though,” Karin chips in, much to Kasumi’s dismay.

 

“Are you nervous about talking to them?” Setsuna asks, hitting the target spot on when Kasumi’s jaw drops and she stares at Setsuna like the latter was a mind reader. “That’s fine! Being nervous is completely normal. Did you know Chika-san cried when she met Honoka-san for the first time?”

 

Kasumi pauses, surprised by Setsuna’s statement. “Really?”

 

Setsuna nods. “Yeah, really! I was pretty nervous, too, actually, hehe. But you know what? Once you start talking with them, it feels great. Everyone’s so nice, sometimes I think I’m still dreaming or something! So even though you’re nervous, it feels so rewarding once you push past it, that I think you should still go for it.”

 

“...” Kasumi purses her lips together, staring at the stack of blank boards in her hands. When she pauses to think about it, Setsuna’s words actually make sense. And it wasn’t that she didn’t agree with them, either. On the contrary, Kasumi knows very well the feeling of gratification that comes after pushing through her anxiety. As an idol, she wants to say that it is one thing she could do better than all of her friends – pushing through her own doubts in order to achieve her goal.

 

But a part of her is still nervous about talking to the people she looked up to. Setsuna seems to understand this. Kasumi sees the other girl moving behind her, putting her hands on Kasumi’s shoulders, and literally pushing her towards the others. “S-Setsuna-chan?”

 

“Just giving you a push in the right direction~” Setsuna explains in a singsong tone, while Karin watches with an amused expression. Then, once they’re close enough, she pushes Kasumi forward, leaving her to fend for herself.

 

Swallowing the nervous lump in her throat, Kasumi takes a step forward. She clears her throat, drawing the attention of the other idols. However, before she can say anything, someone interrupts her.

 

“Ohh, another one of our fans? I suppose it can’t be helped~” The one and only Nico Yazawa brandishes a pen that she looked like she had prepared beforehand, taking the top signboard and putting her signature on it. “Anything for our cute fans~”

 

“Y-you think I’m cute?” Kasumi blushes, not expecting one of her idols to compliment her.

 

“Of course!” Nico smiles at her. “You might even be as good as me one day.”

 

“Really?” Kasumi asks, before shaking her head. “I-I mean, I’ll definitely be better than Nico-sama one day!”

 

Nico raises her eyebrows at both the honorific Kasumi used and her words, a competitive flame burning in her eyes as she appraises Kasumi. “Better than me?” Kasumi nods. “...it’s not gonna be easy. Being an idol is more than just showing people their smiles...”

 

“It’s to make people smile!” Kasumi answers excitedly. “I know! You said that in your interview after winning Love Live!”

 

Nico tried her best not to look too impressed, but she does smile as she pats Kasumi’s head. “Well, if you know that, I think you might be able to make it out there.”

 

“T-thank you,” Kasumi sniffles, already on the verge of crying.

 

I’m...I’m so grateful. This is heaven!

 


 

Setsuna and Karin smile as Kasumi walks back to them, her boards filled with signatures from everyone else. “So, how do you feel?” Karin grins. “You’re not nervous anymore?”

 

“I feel great.” Kasumi sighs happily. “Thanks for giving me a push, Setsuna-chan.”

 

“It was no problem.” Setsuna giggles, watching the gleeful expression on Kasumi’s face as she looks through the stack of boards. “Was it fun talking to your favorite idol?”

 

“Talking to Nico-sama is great, but she’s not my favorite idol...” Kasumi trails off.

 

“She’s not?” Karin asks. Kasumi shakes her head, smiling gently at the two of them.

 

“After all, you two are my favorite idols,” she says, almost causing both of her girlfriends to have a heart attack from the unexpected cuteness.

 

Today truly was a blessed day for everyone involved.

Chapter Text

Setsuna is a mysterious person.

 

Other than the rumors that no one has ever seen her at school, or that she always wears her idol outfit wherever she goes, there are many things about the second-year that no one, not even the people closest to her, would know about.

 

However, if there is one thing that she wears on her sleeves, that would be her hobbies. Such things were common knowledge, something anyone with a device connected to the internet can find with a few quick taps, considering just how many interviews she’s done lately with all sorts of media outlets.

 

That’s right. Yuki Setsuna is an avid watcher of anime, spending dozens of sleepless nights every season in order to watch her favorite anime as it airs (something Karin frequently teases her about –  something about her not getting enough beauty sleep). She reads so many light novels and manga that she needs multiple bookcases in order to store them all, most of which came out of her own pocket money. And she’s used to camping outside of a music store in the middle of the night, waiting for the doors to open so she can get her hands on a group’s newest single.

 

Little did they know that didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what she does in her spare time. And there is a very good reason for that. If the ‘other way’ she likes to spend her time ever came to light, she’s not sure she would be able to show her face as a school idol ever again. She’d have to change her identity and move to another continent where people wouldn’t judge her, like Antarctica. That would be a hassle, however. So instead, she keeps a tight lid on those activities, only doing them when she’s in private, away from prying eyes.

 

But today, she finds herself sitting alone in the Idol Research Clubroom, the other members nowhere to be seen. She’s aware that Ayumu and Ai both have cleaning duty today, which would take a while, and where Ayumu is, Shizuku is sure to be close behind. Rinna is making some adjustments to her electronic board, trying to expand the number of expressions it would be able to make. Kanata probably fell asleep somewhere while Emma is desperately trying to wake her up. But she’s surprised that neither Karin nor Kasumi are here yet; maybe their classes are dragging on longer than usual?

 

She taps her index finger against the table, filling the silence with a slow, but rhythmical sound. Then, her middle finger joins in, and then her ring finger, mimicking the motion of tapping on a keyboard.

 

Setsuna pouts, staring longingly at her bag leaning against the foot of the table. Ever since she woke up, she felt an itch in her brain which only grew larger and more unbearable as the day went on. Usually, she’d save it for when she got home, out of worry that someone might see her. But right now, there’s no one else in the room, and the door is closed. She also thinks that she’d hear if someone were to come in.

 

She makes up her mind. She could do it – just a little bit, to scratch her itch, and the moment someone else comes in, she’ll wrap it up and feel a lot better with fewer things bugging her mind.

 

Smiling to herself, she unzips her bag, before pulling out a sleek, black laptop. Going through the motions of opening it and keying in her password without even looking, the screen fills with lines and lines of black text over a white background, the familiar look of a Microsoft Word document greeting her eyes.

 

She wonders how her friends would react if they knew about this part of her that she’s detached from her real-life self—a part protected by the anonymity of the internet. She doubts they would judge her too heavily, but no doubt they would be surprised.

 

After all, who would expect that Setsuna spends an unhealthy amount of her time writing fanfiction?

 

It’s not as if she’s been writing for a long time. In fact, it was only after she joined Dengeki’s novel competition that she began to enjoy writing as a hobby, even though she didn’t win that competition. And with her large knowledge of anime, manga, and school idols, it only made sense for her to write what she knows best. The supportive comments she receives on her stories make her feel warm and fluffy inside, pushing her to start a new story immediately after finishing the previous one.

 

Right now, she is in the middle of the climax of her newest story for an anime that just finished airing. The ending was well done, tying up all the loose ends while also leaving it open for a new story. And that kind of ending was the perfect breeding ground for writers like her.

 

In her story, the two main characters are in the middle of an epic VR gunfight that would end with one of them proclaiming their love for the other before shooting the other straight in the chest, tying back to the title of her story, “Shot Through the Heart”. She smiles as her fingers move deftly from one key to the other. She loves the main characters not only because of how their personalities and relationship are built, but also because of how much they remind her of Karin and Kasumi. Karin is the taller, more mature one, while Kasumi is the cute one that reminds her of a small animal. In fact, the reason she is able to think of the ending was because she’s able to imagine what the two of them would do if they were in the same scenario.

 

Soon enough, Setsuna finds herself completely immersed in the world of “SAO: Alternative,” her eyes locked on the laptop screen. She completely tunes out her surroundings, entering a sort-of zen state. However, that would prove to be her downfall, as she has forgotten about a certain someone who has a habit of sneaking up on other people without them noticing. She wouldn’t even have noticed the new occupant in the room if not for the feeling of someone’s warm breath against her neck.

 

With lightning-fast reflexes, she slams her laptop shut and holds it close to her chest, turning around to see who had just intruded on her writing time. Karin pouts, folding her arms in front of her chest while staring at Setsuna. “Aww, but I was reading that!”

 

“Karin-san! You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that!”

 

“Sorry, sorry.” Karin apologizes, smiling lightly as she puts down her bag next to Setsuna’s. “What were you doing?”

 

“Nothing,” Setsuna answers immediately, causing Karin to look at her suspiciously, waiting for her to give a proper answer. “...I was waiting for everyone else.”

 

“And what were you doing while you were waiting?”

 

“Uhm...writing?” Setsuna admits nervously, watching Karin’s reaction carefully. Right now, she’s not showing anything other than confusion and curiosity, something that makes Setsuna happy but nervous at the same time.

 

After a painfully long silence that makes Setsuna sweat more than she would if she was running a marathon, Karin finally speaks up again. “In other words, you were writing fanfiction?”

 

“No...?” Setsuna lies, but even she sounds unsure of her own statement. “This is...uhm, original?”

 

“Oh, I see.” Karin nods at Setsuna’s clarification. “So I’m guessing that’s why your characters have the same name as the main characters in another anime?”

 

“I don’t know what anime you’re talking about.”

 

“Setsuna,” Karin says flatly, “you can’t lie to me. In case you forgot, we work at Dengeki.” Oh. Right. “Even if I didn’t watch it, of course I’d know about the series that belongs to them.” Setsuna nods hesitantly. “So, you are writing fanfiction?”

 

“...yes.” Setsuna nods again, more solemnly this time. Now that she thinks about it, she should’ve written something Karin is less likely to recognize. At least she wasn’t writing about their friends or anything like that, and at least Karin’s the only one who knows about this.

 

“Setsuna writes fanfiction?” She hears a voice coming from the door ask. Turning her head so quickly that she thinks she might’ve gotten whiplash, she sees Kasumi standing there, her lips curved upwards into what Setsuna can only imagine is a mischievous smile.

 

Welp, so much for trying to keep a tight lid on her secret.

 

“Ah, Kasukasu, come here!” Karin waves her over, not noticing that Setsuna has suddenly become rigid at Kasumi’s arrival. The youngest of the trio pouts at Karin’s affectionate nickname, but it quickly turns back into a smirk as she walks into the room, placing her bag against the wall.

 

“I didn’t take you for a writer.” Kasumi stares at the laptop cradled in Setsuna’s arms, holding all of her secrets. “That’s pretty cool.”

 

“Y-you really think so?” Setsuna mumbles. She didn’t expect Kasumi to say that her hobby is cool.

 

“Yeah, totally.” Kasumi nods, showing a rare smile on her face. “I think it’s cool how you love something so much that you would write a story based on it. Plus, it totally fits your image. Don’t you think so, Karin-san?”

 

“Of course!” Karin nods approvingly as well. “But I’m kinda curious about what you write...maybe there’s some lewd stuff there you keep for yourself?”

 

“I don’t write that kind of thing!” Setsuna huffs indignantly. At that moment, the other members of the School Idol Research Club burst through the door, with Ayumu leading the charge.

 

“Sorry we’re late, you three! We got caught up in some stuff.”

 

“Don’t worry! We weren’t waiting for long. Let’s get practice started,” Karin smiles as everyone takes a seat around the table. Setsuna sighs, putting her laptop back in her bag. She feels relieved that everyone came in before Karin and Kasumi could tease her any further. At the same time, however, she didn’t expect them to be so accepting of her hobby. Maybe if she’s lucky, she could ask them for their opinions on her writing in the future.

 

Whatever happens after this, Setsuna learned a very important lesson today; never try to write fanfics at school.

Chapter Text

November arrives and, with it, winter draws ever closer. A bitter chilliness lingers in the air, piercing through clothes and skin and straight to the bone. Today, Rina wears an extra jacket on top of her school uniform, giving herself one last look in front of a mirror before picking up her bag and Rina-chan board.

 

She runs downstairs, grabbing her lunchbox from the counter before walking towards the front door. “I’m leaving for school.”

 

“Have a good day,” her mother replies from the kitchen, looking away from her cooking and turning towards her daughter with a smile. “Oh, and Rina?”

 

Rina turns on her heels, “Yes?”

 

“Happy birthday, dear!”

 

Rina nods; if she had her board on, she would’ve shown a smile, but as it stands, that was the best she could do.

 

In a good mood, Rina makes sure to put on her Rina-chan board before she walks out of the house. 

 


 

The first thing Rina hears as she walks into Nijigasaki High School is a simultaneous call of “Rina-san!” “Rina-ko!”

 

Kasumi and Shizuku wrap their arms around her and quietly say, “happy birthday.”

 

Her board changes to a smiling face. “Thank you.” Rina appreciates them keeping their voice down; she feels stressed when other people she doesn’t know join in, and she’s glad they’re not drawing attention towards them.

 

Rina walks over to her shoe locker, discovering a surprise waiting for her as soon as she opens it. Two small boxes sit on top of her indoor shoes. One is packaged with bright yellow paper, a diamond motif printed throughout. The other looks more simple, a plain blue wrapping paper with a white ribbon to top it off. 

 

She turns back to her friends. “You two didn’t have to get me anything.”

 

“Of course we did!” Kasumi grins, patting Rina on the back. “That’s what friends do, right?” Shizuku, although silent, smiles at Rina as well, reaffirming Kasumi’s statement.

 

“...I suppose so.” Rina can’t exactly claim to have a lot of experience with friendships. She had zero before entering Nijigasaki. But the warm, tight happiness in her chest feels nice, and it sounds like the friendship she was taught in school, so that’s what she’s going with.

 

She exchanges her shoes, slipping the presents into her bag before closing her locker. “Let’s go to class.”

 


 

Class passes by normally, which Rina is glad for. She hasn’t told anyone but the other members of the School Idol Association about her birthday. To her, having her birthday be celebrated by a bunch of people she’s not close to is scary.

 

Kasumi walks up to her after classes, a lunchbox in hand and Shizuku trailing behind her. “Rina-ko, let’s go to the cafeteria together.”

 

“Kasumi-san.” Shizuku leans forward, whispering something into Kasumi’s ear. The other girl looks confused, but suddenly, her eyes widen as realisation hits.

 

“I forgot!”

 

“Don’t worry, Kasumi-chan. I’m just gonna eat here.” Rina waves her off, offering a drawn smile as the two leave the classroom, heading to the cafeteria.

 

Alone in the massive classroom, Rina pulls out her lunchbox and, once she’s sure no one else is with her, she lifts her Rina-chan Board slightly, exposing her mouth. She begins to eat, taking small bites of rice and umeboshi . She’s developed a taste for pickled vegetables recently, thanks to Ai constantly offering some variation of the aforementioned to Rina.

 

“Rina-ri, happy birthday!”

 

Speak of the devil. The first-year glances up from her lunch, her eyes almost blinded by the sight of a blonde-haired girl with a smile as radiant as the sun. Her hands are tucked behind her back, hiding something just out of view.

 

“Ai-san. Thank you.”

 

Ai drags a chair over to Rina’s table, plopping down on it while making sure not to accidentally damage...whatever it is she’s holding behind her back.

 

“Ai-san, why did you ask me to meet you today?” Rina asks. She’s been wondering about it since yesterday night in the middle of their usual chats, when Ai told her that she wants to see her tomorrow as soon as possible. Obviously she knows that today is Rina’s birthday, so she assumes it’s related to that, but she doesn’t know why she has to do it alone.

 

“Do I need a reason to see my favourite kouhai ?” Ai laughs, but realising that Rina has caught on to her plan, she leans forward, occupying more of Rina’s vision. “Hey Rina-ri, can you guess what I’m holding behind my back?”

 

“A present?”

 

“Clever girl!” Ai moves her hands from her back, showing what she’s been hiding. As expected, it’s a colourfully wrapped present in the shape of a box. “But can you guess what it is?”

 

“Is it another Rina-chan board? Crayons?”

 

“Of course not! I would be a pretty bad senpai if that’s all I got you for your birthday.” Ai laughs, offering the gift to Rina. Her expression, Rina notices, is a bit different than usual. It contains a hint of hesitation and nervousness, a look Rina doesn’t think she’s ever seen coming from the blonde. “You can open it now, if you want. You don’t have to, but...” Ai looks away. It’s obvious from her reaction that she wants to see what Rina thinks of the gift.

 

Curious about what the present is to cause such a reaction, Rina carefully tears open the wrapping paper, discovering an unmarked brown box underneath. Opening it, she finds something wrapped in another layer, this time bubble wrap. Finally, after getting rid of the bubble wrap, she sees what Ai’s gift is.

 

She’s...not sure what it is. It looks like a weirdly-shaped screen strapped to a pair of black-and-white headphones with cat ears. She flips it over, trying to look for anything that could tell her what it is.

 

Sensing Rina’s confusion, Ai breaks the silence. “I call it the Rina-chan Board 2.0!” She exclaims, but even the enthusiasm can’t hide her nervousness. “Rina-ri, now that you’re an idol it’s gonna be pretty hard to dance around with the Rina-chan Board, right? Do you remember when we had that practice session with Ayumu and you almost choked?” Rina nods, embarrassed as she remembers lying on the ground with Ai looking over her while Ayumu fetches a bottle of water.

 

“Well, that’s why I ordered this for you! You can just put it on your head and the screen can act like your regular Rina-chan Board. I made sure that everything is in your size, so it definitely won’t slip off your head no matter how hard you move around! A-and I’m not that good with programming, but I’ve set up all of the Rina-chan Board expressions you’ve made into the screen, and you can even add more expressions.”

 

Ai stops, realising she’s been rambling for too long and that Rina hasn’t said anything in a really long time. “S-sorry, I got a bit carried away...do you hate it?”

 

Rina stays quiet as she stares at the gift in her hands. “...dummy Ai-san.” She mumbles. “There’s no way I can hate this. I...I love it.”

 

“Really? Woo-hoo!” Ai cheers, happy that all of her work wasn’t for nought.

 

“But,” Rina’s sudden cut-in stops Ai’s celebration in its tracks. “Is it... really okay for me to have this? It looks so expensive and- and... y-you even custom made it…! You’re already doing so much for me, I feel like I don’t deserve-”

 

Rina’s words get caught in her throat when she feels a weight on her. It takes her a few seconds to realise that Ai is hugging her.

 

“Of course you deserve it.” Ai whispers, holding Rina close to. “You deserve the best birthday in the world.” Rina doesn’t say anything, but Ai feels her small hands on her back as she returns the hug. “...I’ll help you try it on. I bet Ayumu and the others are gonna be so surprised when they see it later.”

 

“Yeah. They probably will.” Rina laughs as she imagines their shocked expressions the moment she walks into the School Idol Association room. She looks at the gift, and she imagines her lips curling up into a bright smile.

 

Rina feels like she’s the happiest girl in the world.