Notes:

If you haven't read Lies Under a Mask Chapter 02, we really recommend you to read it or you might miss a lot of things...
Second, We do a lot, and we mean A LOT of research to deliver this fic, so we will not mess around with heavy details like the real name of Suwawa; her real name is Kawakami Nao, it's on a leaked picture of her third year in high school were its written, you can find it on google.

Please enjoy! : )


Masquerade Ch 05

Yamanaka Lake its the largest of the Fuji Five Lakes; it's the third highest lake in Japan. Conversely, the lake is also the shallowest of the Fuji Five Lakes and it is the only of the Fuji Five Lakes to have a natural outflow.

Yamanaka Lake surrounds the beautiful village of Yamanakako; a village which is mostly protected by forest, extending the base of Mount Fuji, which is also visible from the village, giving the locals and travelers a wonderful view and an unforgettable sightseeing...

...all of this would mean a thing if Suwa Nanaka was actually concentrated in the "here and now" where she actually was.

Third day of training camp; Aqours schedule for today morning activity was first to have a P.E session, where Shuka came in late and feeling really low with even a mask in her mouth and nose, and then to go for a jog on Yamanaka Lake in Yamanakako village, about 5.71 km from Sound Village where they were training.

The morning was warm, the skies looked clear but the mood was terrible.

Only 8 of the girls made it; Arisa Komiya was having a stomachache from last night that it seems that it didn't ease, and after this morning events seemed to get worse, and she preferred to stay and record her mix instead of jogging around.

For the 8 girls left, they took them into a minivan and went to the lake for the activity, but this time they weren't alone, for the jog people from the staff would be joining too.

So they were there, on the sidewalk stretching before the jog; it seems that 'First years' were happy and with a lot of energy like always, but the mood between Shuka, Nanaka and Aina was a bit gloomy, too quiet and serious even for two of them.

Anchan was in her own complex situation; it seemed that her ankle was giving her some trouble so she was actually debating herself if she could do the jog or not.

So it looked like that the only who was easy about this was Rikako, but maybe she was feeling lonely without Arisa...

Nanaka was with a green knickerbockers, a tight light yellow shirt and her light grey jersey with the hood on, and of course, with a serious "Suwa face".

She kept giving glances towards Aina and Shuka: Aina seems to be doing fine, quiet, but fine, as for Shuka...

Well, she was wearing her cap almost in the middle of her face, trying to hide the fact that she was maybe angry, frustrated, or even sad... she couldn't know, Shuka was a kid and this morning events maybe were too much for her to handle.

Nanaka closed her eyes and sighed softly.

This was her fault.

Last night after talking with Arisa and realizing that she wasn't a bad person, that was she, Suwa Nanaka, the one who was making things harder for them to be coworkers, she returned to the Lodge, got inside her futon and had another emotional breakdown.

In the middle of that, somebody got inside her futon and hug her tightly; at that moment she didn't care who was it, but this morning she woke up realizing that this somebody was still hugging her and they actually slept together.

For her surprise this somebody was Shuka.

And after revealing that it was really Aina who alerted Shuka that Nanaka was feeling bad and for that reason changed futons, both came to the conclusion that none of them wanted to disappoint each other.

And they kissed.

They kissed raw and wet there in the middle of the room, inside Nanaka's futon with Shuka on top of her.
The make-out sessions could have grown to something more if Arisa Komiya hadn't stopped them with a simple angry whisper.

Nanaka and Shuka stopped the make-out session in fear.

Not 12 hours had passed since they agreed not to do stuff with the members around, and now Arisa knew.

How where they supposed to make this thing work if they were this reckless, and someone had already caught them?

It was about time for the Staff to know too, and then it would be the end for both of them.

Nanaka covered her face with both hands in shame.

She was the older in charge, the adult in this thing, and yet she let this kind of things happen.

She turned around to look to the other side; she didn't want to see Arisa's face of disapproval.

Nanaka uncovered her face to greet something even worse; Aina was sitting embracing her knees where Shuka's futon should be, her eyes were swollen, as if she had been crying, and she had a disappointed look on her face.

Aina shook her head locking gazes with Nanaka.

What was worse, disapproval or disappointment?

She just closed her eyes and covered her face again with her hands; feeling that everything was falling apart and everything was out of her control.

A complete disaster.

It was a matter of seconds that she stayed with her hands covering her face, she still could felt Shuka's weight on top of her.
What was wrong with this kid? Arisa's angry face wasn't enough to make her come back to her senses and get off of her?

Nanaka withdraws her hands off her face; she gave a small glance to Arisa who still had a prominent frown in her angry scary face.

She blinked quickly and looked up for Shuka, she was looking down at her with a troubled look while biting her lower lip; it seems that Shuka was waiting for instructions.

"Get down," said Nanaka coldly

Shuka blinked a few times trying to understand the command; a few seconds later she moved to her left letting Nanaka free from her body.

Nanaka didn't give much thought about it and used her strength left to get out of the futon.

She panicked.

And what she does when she panicked?; she runs.

She gave a serious look to Shuka, and without saying anything she moved the fastest she could towards the stairs.

She could hear a soft "Suwa-san" coming from Shuka's lips, Arisa moving in her futon and Aina doing a small sobbing.

How long had been Aina actually awake crying, and why?

She tried to rush down the stairs carefully to don't wake up the teachers and assistants; luckily, all of them were still sleeping.

She moved like a ninja towards the main door; she put on her shoes and finally rushed out of the cottage.

She was greeted by a cold breeze.

It was still too early, the sun had just raised up; she couldn't help but shiver outside, indeed her futon was just too hot and the contrast was a bit too much.

Her running took her a few steps from the cottage, she grabbed her head and closed her eyes.

Why?! Why?! Why?! Why?! ...how reckless! Dammit, and it was Arisa who saw us from all people! Just when we were starting to understand each other, now how I'm gonna face her?! And Ainya! She is gonna be so mad!

Nanaka grabbed her temples and started walking in circles in her distress.

I should have stopped Shuka! This wasn't appropriate! We talked about it! We have an agreement, both agreed it... why would she do this to me?!...

The truth was that it wasn't only Shuka's fault, she didn't stop her in the first place, and actually, she didn't want too.

She liked that sensation; having Shuka so close, horny and sexy...but this wasn't the time! Nor the place!

What was wrong with them?!

Nanaka kept the circle walking while graving her temples in a way to put her thoughts in order.

Not only Aina saw them again, but now Arisa was a witness of this "forbidden love" they were having, and maybe Arisa wasn't going to be nice like Aina to tell her to stop doing nonsenses.

Arisa was professional, was diligent; she wasn't going to accept this kind of behavior inside the group.

Dammit! She is going to scold me...

And maybe this time, not just her.

Shuka will be scolded too.

Nanaka stopped her steps giving her back to the cottage.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, still grabbing her temples.

Right now the only one who has talked seriously with Shuka about this topic was her; Aina's talk with Nanaka wasn't really a "scold", but it was a serious talk and of course, a wake-up call for her to stop doing nonsenses, and stop whatever she had with Shuka at once.

So Shuka hadn't received any crap about this, and maybe if she got something it's going to be easy on her because she is the "youngest and inexperienced".

Probably all the fault will fall upon Nanaka because she is the older one, meaning the responsible one of this "relationship".

I have to take the blame...
I have to protect Shuka from this...

"Nao-san..." Nanaka heard softly

Nanaka's heart stopped at once.

Not just because it was a beautiful voice calling her; was because that beautiful voice called her by her real name.

Again.

She tightened her lips and clenched her fits.

"Saito-san," she said coldly, and slowly started turning around towards Shuka.

Shuka was standing there, without her shoes, shivering with her thin PJs, her hair was a mess and with a sad expression; her eyes became watery as soon as she heard being called "Saito-san" by Nanaka, such formalities weren't common towards her, and also, the cold tone plus, Nanaka's angry "Suwa face".

Shuka brought her hands to her mouth.

"I introduced myself as 'Suwa Nanaka', so please, while we are working address me like that."

Nanaka's tone was cold and senseless; Shuka swallowed hard

"But...we are not working right now..."

Shuka retorted with a small voice and with fear

"Yes we are, we are in a training camp, this is work."

"I'm sorry..." said softly Shuka closing her eyes tight, still hiding behind her hands.

"I think we should stop this," said Nanaka coldly again.

Shuka opened her eyes abruptly and withdrew her hands from her mouth

"It's clear as water that we can't do thi—"

"I refuse!" Interrupted Shuka, Nanaka opened her eyes in discomfort, her kouhai was interrupting her

"Shuka." scolded Nanaka with a serious tone

"I don't want to stop it, and I believe you don't want either "

"You are not getting it!" said Nanaka with little patience, " What we did was reckless! We agreed to don't do stuff with the members around; not 12 hours had passed from that and see what happened, Komiya-san knows now!"

"So what?!" Shuka rosed her tone

Nanaka opened her eyes in disbelief

"Let her know...I don't care" continued Shuka seeing that Nanaka was astonished standing there looking at her," What is she gonna do? Tell the staff?..."

"Shuka..."

"I get that doing stuff with all the members there was reckless... my bad, but it's not reason enough for us to stop this, I want this"

Shuka stepped closer to Nanaka and grabbed her hands, she held them tight with her owns; she looked straight into Nanaka's eyes

"Suwa-san... I meant every word, from yesterday and from before on the futon, don't you want this?"

"It's not whether I want or not!"

"Then what?! Is there something else you are not telling me? Is there someone else?"

"Eh?! Someone else?" asked Nanaka with a surprise voice

"Is there?..." said softly Shuka not taking her eyes out of Nanaka's

"Shuka, this isn't about feelings..." said Nanaka more calmly and softly; Shuka opened her eyes wide, it seems that both were losing themselves again into each other eyes

"...it's about our careers..." ended softly Nanaka.

Both stayed quiet for a few seconds, or maybe minutes, in fact, they didn't care, they were in this intense gaze competition, reading each other eyes and holding each other hands.

Good Lord.
I want to kiss her again...

Nanaka tried hard to resist the imperious desire to kiss her, to continue what they left there inside that futon, but this wasn't the moment nor the time, so she kept fighting with her feelings, and it seems that Shuka was equally troubled; she kept licking her lips suggestively.

"Suwa-san, Saito-san," they heard softly, again.

Both closed their eyes in discomfort; they knew that voice quite well.

So both of them let go of each other hands and took a deep breath; Nanaka lifted her sight towards the cottage while Shuka turned around.

Arisa Komiya was standing in the porch of the cottage with her straight face, one hand in her stomach and a concerned Aina behind her.
Both of them were with their respective PJs but with a jacket and their shoes on.

"What the hell is Ainya doing here?" asked in whisper voice Shuka towards Nanaka

Nanaka blinked a few time, she wasn't wearing her contacts or her glasses so she assumed that these two figures were Arisa and Aina. She recognized Arisa's voice, her tall figure and her posture and Aina being so short it wasn't difficult to recognize.

"She was awake... and saw us...again" whispered Nanaka walking slowly towards the porch

Shuka bit her lips and followed Nanaka.

Nanaka stopped a few steps from the porch; it was a considerable distance for her to see their teammates, not clearly but better than before.

Shuka stopped by her side with a nervous face.

Nanaka kept her serious "Suwa face", if Arisa was going to scold her she needed her best mask on her.

Ok, I'm here, bring it on!

The four of them were silent. The tension grew like foam.

All of them shared glances towards each other; Aina had her eyes swollen and a sad smile on her face, Arisa had her straight face; Nanaka couldn't read that face as mad, sad or whatever, Arisa was always with that face, it was indeed scary.

Shuka was nervous, she had a weird smile but also she felt embarrassed, and was shivering; being standing there without shoes and in her thin PJs was starting to taking her toll.

Nanaka just blinked, her face was in her "Suwa mode" just waiting for someone to say something.

Arisa cleared her throat

"So I guess I'm the one doing the talking again Suwa-san?" said Arisa in a mocking tone

Nanaka twitched one eyebrow.

"You look like crap, is it your stomach feeling ok?" Retorted Nanaka in the same tone as Arisa's

Arisa twitched her lips.

Aina opened her big black eyes wide and looked at Nanaka in panic; Nanaka didn't move an inch.

If Arisa wanted to scold her, she will be ready and actually, she wasn't afraid of her anymore.

Shuka looked at Nanaka with concerned eyes.

"Actually I'm not feeling alright..."

Said finally Arisa seeing that Nanaka was not going to cooperate again.

"But that aside, would you mind to explain to me what's going on?"

"No," Nanaka said dryly and coldly

Nanaka could felt Shuka and Aina swallowing hard and the tension grew once again; this time the intense gaze competition was between Arisa's big scary eyes and Nanaka's serious ones.

"Are you serious?" Arisa was losing her patience," Are you going to deny again that you had something to do with Saito-san's not going to the Spa with us last night?"

"You what?!" Snapped Aina

Nanaka twitched her eyebrow once again and unconsciously moved forward covering Shuka behind her, sending the message to don't mess with her.

"Suwa-san...?" whispered Shuka behind her

She is my responsibility...

Nanaka didn't say anything, she just stayed quiet; Arisa rose one eyebrow while Aina opened and closed her mouth like a fish.

"Maybe you stayed behind with her doing 'dirty stuff' and that's why none of you came to the Spa"

Said Arisa in her diligent tone

I hate this woman...

"You WHAT?!" said again Aina rising her tone

"Oi! What's wrong with you?" snapped Shuka from behind Nanaka's back with some annoyance in her voice

"Suwawa what the hell?! I thought you have it clear to stop this nonsense!" Said Aina moving forward

"You knew about this?" said Arisa looking at Aina

"Yes I did," said softly Aina looking at Nanaka with her eyes watering

"How?!" snapped Shuka again, this time moving from behind Nanaka's back

"Because you two are so reckless and were making out everywhere! Control your hormones you rabbits!"

"Hey! Watch it!" said Shuka annoyed

"Stop it! Both of you" said Arisa in her diligent way

Both girls stay quiet but clearly uneasy in their spot.

Nanaka blinked a few times.

This was a difficult situation; Aina and Shuka were like a time bomb, in any second Aina could explode in jealousy while Shuka could explode in pride.

Nanaka and Arisa were the only ones who could civilize this situation.

"Suwa-san..." started Arisa again, "can we make this thing simple? You know, I actually don't care if you fucked her last night and that's why none of you came to the Spa, it's the fact you lied to me last night"

Aina made a drowned sound on Arisa's statement.

"I had to." said Nanaka in her "Suwa tone"

"Arisha what the hell are you saying?" interrupted Aina

Arisa just ignored her

"Why?" asked Arisa looking at Nanaka

"Why do you care? I didn't want to go to the Spa with everybody, end of the story"

"And Saito-san?"

"She didn't want to go without me"

"Bullshit!" snapped Aina.

Shuka was about to say something, but Nanaka grabbed her arm stopping her.

Shuka looked at her concerned, but Nanaka didn't take her eyes away from Arisa.

"I thought we made ourselves clear last night Suwa-san, I thought we were going to start trusting each other"

Nanaka blinked

She is not mad because we kissed, she is mad because I didn't tell her?...

"Why should I tell you this?, it's my private life," asked Nanaka dryly

"Well, Aina knows!"

"Because she is everywhere!" snapped Shuka annoyed

"I'm not everywhere! You two keep kissing right in front of me!" said Aina

There was so much pain in that sentence, Nanaka clinched her fist.

I'm sorry Aina...

"Oh, So this isn't the first time?" asked Arisa calmly

"The hell it is! they had been doing it for a while now" said annoyed Aina

"Suzuki-San!" scolded Nanaka

"My..." said softly Shuka looking at Nanaka

Nanaka closed her eyes taking a deep breath and then looked at Shuka

"You told her?" asked Shuka softly

"Shuka, she saw us on the first night...then she asked me... how I could deny something she saw and heard?"

Answered Nanaka softly towards Shuka; she just gave her a sad smile

"Ok..." interrupted Arisa making Nanaka and Shuka look at her again, " can we be sincere then Suwa-san?

Nanaka looked at her with her "Suwa face" not saying anything.

Aina had her serious face too, and that was weird

Suddenly Nanaka felt her left hand being grabbed by Shuka and she quickly entwined her fingers with Nanaka's

"Sincerely Komiya-san, Suwa-san and I are trying to be something together"
Said Shuka with confidence and clear voice, this statement made Nanaka look at her in awe, Aina opened her eyes and mouth wide and Arisa rose her eyebrows.

"We are a thing, and if you want explanations I can give them to you, because..." Shuka looked at Nanaka with loving eyes, "... we are in this together, so stop taking it against Suwawa, I'm here too"

Shuka finished looking at Arisa with a serious face and tightening her grip on their entwined hand.

"Shuka..." whispered Nanaka with concern

"Suwawa I told you I'm not a kid anymore, stop trying to protect me..." she whispered back

But seems that Arisa didn't see Shuka as an adult, so she ignored her too.

Arisa focused on Nanaka once again.

"Actually, I can't care less if you are fucking Saito-san right now," said Arisa in her diligent tone," what bothers me is that you do it there, while all of us were sleeping...and the fact that you couldn't trust me yesterday, but it's ok, you were protecting Saito-san too..."

"WHAT?!" snapped again Aina in total discomfort tone

"Arisha you are ok with this?!" said Aina agitated

Arisa looked at her with her big eyes and shrugged

Nanaka could felt Shuka's hand tightening again against hers; clearly, Shuka was angry at Aina.

"Calm down..." Nanaka whispered to Shuka

"I... I can't believe this!" said Aina again towards Arisa

"Why are you so against it Suzuki-San?" asked Arisa calmly

"Why?...WHY?!" She said raising her tone, then her sight traveled from Arisa to the couple

"Suwawa we already talked about this! You should keep this down and in the dark!; I can't believe you are throwing your career away because you are horny,"

"Suzuk—" tried Arisa

"Hey—" tried Shuka but was stopped by Nanaka's grip in her hand.

Nanaka didn't say anything, she just blinked.

Aina continued her rant like a machine gun.

"You should know better! This is going to cost you your position in the project! You signed a contract for God's sake! You can't date anyone and less with one of the members! And with her for all of them!"

"Suzuki-san, calm down" tried Arisa, but Aina was out of her mind

"You are going to ruin Aqours! Your characters don't have anything in common! And it's a matter of time for the two of you to be separated!"

Aina kept the rant; she started to say some painful things that Nanaka couldn't get at all, Aina was stomping her own words and ideas.

Shuka tightened her grip on her hand, now it was a bit painful for Nanaka to held Shuka in her spot

"Now I know where you got your speech from last night... " said softly Shuka looking at Nanaka with a bit of bitterness, Nanaka tried to play cool, but she felt terrible and pouted about it.

"Ok that's enough!" said Arisa rising her tone making Aina stop her rant.

Aina's cheeks were red, her breathing was quite elaborate too

Shuka let go Nanaka's hand and step a few steps forward

"If it bothers you this much, why the hell you changed futons with me?!" asked Shuka with clear anger

"What?" said softly Arisa looking at Aina

"You knew Suwawa was having a bad day and changed futons with me; you told me she would need a hug... you wanted us to be exposed!"

WUT?!

Nanaka looked astonished at Shuka; that was a huge statement. Arisa opened her mouth in awe too looking at Aina.

Aina's eyes widen while she tightens her lips. She was being consumed by anger.

Was all this a trap? Was this part of a jealousy plan to teach them a lesson?

Nanaka blinked furiously trying to move the gears of her mind.

Was Aina this twisted?!

Changing futons with Shuka, telling her to hug Nanaka while she was fragile, exposing her demure & bulletproof image to Shuka, taking advantage of Shuka's reckless and finally to be busted by no one else than Arisa Komiya.

The only Aqours member strictly enough to end whatever nonsense this two were having.

A good lesson for both of them to learn to don't mess around with the members.

But what Aina didn't consider was that actually, Arisa Komiya didn't give a damn about it.

That's fucking twisted...

Nanaka looked at Aina with sad eyes.

Aina was supposed to be her friend, she trusted her, she said she wanted to be her ally in this madness, yet again she wanted to expose her for the second time.

"Did you?" asked Arisa softly to Aina, " did you want to expose them?"

"I think they exposed themselves on their own," said Aina with bitterness

"Why you changed futons with Saito-san if you are not ok with this?"

"I care about Suwawa," said Aina with a knot in her throat, " I care more than this child"

Aina's tone was dry and serious; Arisa's eyes wide once again and faster she looked at Shuka in panic

"That's it! I'm done!" said Shuka angry moving towards the porch

"Hey Hey!" Nanaka grabbed Shuka by her right arm, but Shuka was stronger so she started to drag Nanaka with her

"I had enough! I'm not a kid to be treated like this!"

"Then you should stop acting like one!" said Aina angry too and moving towards Shuka

"Hey! stop it!" said Arisa quickly hugging Aina from behind to stop her steps

Nanaka used all her strength to stop Shuka to continue walking; she imitated Arisa and hugged Shuka from behind too

"Enough Shuka," said Nanaka while she was struggling with Shuka's body

"She said she care?! Well, I care the most! If I didn't tell you she was having a bad day you would keep fooling around with Anchan!"

"Suzuki-san stop it!" tried Arisa who was struggling with Aina's body

"Because you are a kid! You can't see anyone besides yourself! Where were you when Suwa was down or in trouble? Ah?! Where?!"

Shuka stopped her struggle and looked at Aina with sad eyes; Nanaka tightened her hug and looked at Aina with same sad eyes. Aina was hurting Shuka with her words, and as a matter of fact, she was hurting Nanaka too.

"Enough!" repeated Arisa keeping Aina's body in its place

"It's not my fault you were so horny which make you act so reckless and ended up kissing there in the middle of the room and got caught! Your foolishness will destroy this group!"

"AINA ENOUGH!" Shouted Nanaka angry.

It seems that the world stopped too.

The sun was finally over their heads, the birds were already singing, and the warm temperature was rising.

Arisa and Aina had a petrified awe look.

They were astonished looking at Nanaka, with their big eyes in shock.

Since the project started they had never heard Nanaka rise her voice and less shout with such energy and anger.

Few seconds, maybe minutes had passed before someone started talking again.

"I think it's enough of this," said Nanaka with her angry tone but she kept hugging Shuka

"Komiya-san, I'm sorry for disturbing you with our reckless behavior, you are right, it wasn't appropriate, we will not do it again"

Nanaka shook Shuka's body telling her that she needed to apologize too

"I'm sorry too Komiya-san..." said softly Shuka

Then both of them bowed.

Arisa left Aina and did a small bow to accept the apology.

Aina stayed there with a sad face

"Suzuki-San..." called Arisa

Aina was with her eyes glued to the floor; she was clenching her fists and with her lips tightened, she slowly lifted her chin, her big black eyes full of tears

"I... I...I wanted the best for her; if It had been me the one who snuggled inside the futon it would have given her trouble with Shukashuu...and because I knew what was going on between them, I thought Suwa would be happy if she was held by someone she cares... that's why I changed futons..."

Said Aina softly and with sadness.

Ainya...I care about you too...

"…I…I recommended Shuka to hug her….not to make out with her…" said Aina with discomfort

Nanaka had a knot in her throat, she couldn't deny this went too far.

She was about to say something, but the front door of the cottage opened abruptly making the four girls jump in their spot

"What the hell is going on here?!" said the Lead teacher with clear annoyance in her voice

"You guys sure are loud every moment of the day!"

Nanaka tried to act cool, but the fact that she was still hugging Shuka from behind didn't help her much.

Shuka shrugged in her spot, Aina turned around to hide her watery sad face, while Arisa had to take the lead.

"I'm not feeling good Sensei; so I came to have fresh air," said Arisa with a painful tone

"Oh, that's true?, Komiya-san maybe you should skip the jogging..." said the lead teacher concerned

"Maybe it's for the better... seems that inside this camp it's something rotten..." said Arisa giving a killer glance towards Aina, then she turned again to the lead teacher, " if you don't mind, I would like to stay and record my mix of the song while the rest is jogging..."

The Lead teacher lifted one eyebrow

"Well, I agree, I can't let you be jogging around if you are not feeling well..."
Said the Lead teacher, then she moved her sight to the other members and hummed

"...ok, whatever you were doing, stop doing it; all of you need to be ready in 30! We will have some P.E session and a quick review of the choreography before going to Yamanaka Lake so be ready!"

Nanaka and Shuka nodded, Aina was still looking to the other side nervously.

The Lead teacher turned around and entered the cottage, but before she closes the door she turned and said;

"I knew 'Kanan-san' had guts!"

And she closed the door.

Nanaka blinked furiously about it, while Shuka snorted

"Was that because of your shout?" asked Shuka sweetly

"Maybe..." said Nanaka in a monotone

"Suwawa you are still hugging me..." said Shuka softly

Nanaka rose her eyebrows in surprise; she gasped and tried to move apart but Shuka stopped her

"Don't, " She said with a coy smile, " it feels nice..."

Nanaka smiled sweetly and tightened the embrace; being taller than Shuka sure had its advantages, she snuggled in the crook of her neck.

"So, are you sure you are ok with this?" asked Aina with a serious tone towards Arisa

"They look cute, don't you think?" smiled Arisa

Arisa and Aina were still on the porch of the cottage looking down at this two lovebirds being sweet in Nanaka's embrace

"No, they don't," said Aina with bitterness but keeping her tone, " now you see how reckless they are; they exposed themselves to the lead teacher, and they didn't care..."

"Because you are not being open mind..." said Arisa with an amused tone, " Oi! You two!"
Called Arisa; Nanaka stopped her cheek rub with Shuka to look at Aina and Arisa

"Suwa-san, Saito-san, I think you have some decisions to make"

Arisa's tone was diligent as always; Aina looked at her with concern

"What Suzuki-san said it's true, and I understand...she is not far from the truth..."

"Am I?" asked amuse Aina

"Aqours is a group of eighteen girls, what we do define the other nine girls and vise versa, keep that in mind, this can affect this thing you are having, and remember that you are not alone in the group, your decisions may affect the other seven members..." Arisa made a pause to look at Aina

This decision is affecting Aina right now...

Nanaka tightened her embrace with Shuka; she answered by touching Nanaka's arms around her.

"As for me, I don't care what you two do, unless you try to do it like this morning right in front of my nose... and I believe no other member will be against it...well, everybody except Suzuki-san," Aina snorted, " she has her reasons, I understand... but I consider that her option of hiding the truth from everybody it's not the way"

"Eh!? What do you mean Arisha?" Asked Aina surprised

"You saw right now; the lead teacher already saw this two hugging so lovely..."

"Oh crap!" snapped Shuka just realizing that
Nanaka bit her lips

We are so reckless...we are so doom...

"I think is gonna be useless If they keep trying to hide this thing, at the end they will be caught anyway, and I think it's better for all the members to know about this."

"What?! What good that will make?" asked Aina with annoyance

"A sense of unity...at least all the members will know the truth, and can help this two to be...less reckless..."

"If the staff found out they will be kicked out!" said Aina

"I never said to tell the staff, I said the members...and well, Suwa-san is the key..."

"Me? Why?" asked Nanaka softly

"Why do you think the Lead teacher didn't say anything about you two being hugging so lovely gay right now...?"

The three girls remained silent; yes, it was odd for the teacher to don't say a thing about it.

"Why?" asked Shuka sweetly

"Because she is the 'hugging and caring' 'Kanan-san'; she is meant to be like that"

Everybody opened her eyes wide.

Arisa smiled smugly and proudly.

"So, you can try to hide the truth from everyone and try to live your love story in the shadows as Aina recommended...but how good has been so far? Or you open up to the members, tell the truth and live your love story at least supported by friends..."

Nanaka frowned in deep thought.

If Arisa was right, she could be this lovely with Shuka anytime she wants because of her character, Kanan was meant to be a caring and hugging person towards her friends and team members; if all the members know the truth it's going to be easy for her to be "this friendly" and she could avoid "weird looks".

If they keep trying to hide this, even if she acts like Kanan does, she will gain those "weird looks" because the members are not going to understand why Nanaka and Shuka are so close and lovely when they are not on camera or the such, and they might get caught anyway...

And seeing that Arisa actually was more affected by the fact that they were lying and hiding this thing to her than the thing itself.

Kanan's and Nanaka's gayness were so handful right now...

Thanks, Kanan...

"I can't agree with you," said Aina in her annoyed tone

But before she could explain herself, Shuka broke free from Nanaka's embrace and stepped forward

"Well, this isn't your relationship to agree with," said Shuka serious

Nanaka closed her eyes with a bitter expression

My, Shuka...

"Saito-san..." tried Arisa, but Shuka had enough

"This thing is between Suwa-san and me, WE are the ones who decide what to do, so please Suzuki-san mind your own business!"

Aina opened her eyes wide in anger once again, seems that they were trying to keep fighting; Aina took a deep breath

"I can't let Suwawa date this brat!" said Aina outraged looking at Arisa

Arisa opened her eyes wide in panic

"Are you sure you are ok with this? This is going to be a—"tried Aina

"Who are you calling a brat you Smurf!" Interrupted Shuka all annoyed once again

Aina's face was hard to described, but not as hard as Arisa's; seems that both of them were shocked about Shuka's rant.

Aina was short, it was her charm point, being short was what makes her cute... but being called smurf...was something else...

Nanaka facepalmed, it seems that both of them were little kids fighting for a toy

"You! You are a brat! You are a spoiled little brat! You don't care about her! You had never been there for her!"

"Suzuki–san for the love of God, end this already!" said Arisa now mad

She grabbed Aina from her shoulders and started dragging her towards the cottage door

Aina started mumbling some words that no one could understand while Arisa opened the cottage door and pushed Aina inside

"You are older than her, be an example and behave like an adult!" said finally Arisa closing the door.

They heard that she cursed a few times on the other side of the door, then the sound was replaced by Aqours typical noises; seems that everybody was awake getting ready for the jog.

Arisa turned around to face Shuka and Nanaka; then she opened her eyes wide and made a bitter expression.

If something defines Arisa, that would be her facial expressions.

"Oh, my, Saito-san, I'm sorry..." she said with a sad tone

Nanaka rose her eyebrows in panic and moved forward to see Shuka; she grabbed Shuka's shoulders to turn her around and face her.

Shuka had her eyes full of tears, she was pouting so hard to resist the urge of crying

"My, Shukashuu...what... Don't...don't cry..." tried Nanaka with a gentle voice, but Shuka couldn't take it and started crying

Nanaka hugged her tightly, softly rubbing her back

"It's ok sweetie...shh shh," said Nanaka with her sweet tone

While rubbing softly Shuka's back, she looked at Arisa with a sad face; Arisa had her scary face, as usual, she was looking at this with no particular interest.

They locked gazes and Arisa moved her lips clearly saying

"She is a kid".

Nanaka frowned in discomfort.

Maybe Arisa and Aina were right; Shuka might be a kid...

But it's my kid.

Suddenly Shuka sneezed, making her stop crying for a bit.

"Shuka-chan, I think you should go inside, you will catch a cold..." said Nanaka separating a bit from her

"You rushed out without even your shoes..."

Shuka nodded and started to make some little hiccups

"I'm...I'm..hic! Sowy Suwa-san...hic!..I'm sorry I hadn't been for you..hic! I'm...so helpless...hic! I'm just a child..."

"Shhhh~ stop it Shukashuu..." said softly Nanaka and tried to dry Shuka's tears away with her thumbs

"I'm...hic! Sowy..."

"Don't be... now go, get inside and get ready, or you surely will catch a cold..." said Nanaka lovely

Shuka nodded, then she dried her tears away, and started walking to the porch.

But suddenly she stopped and looked back at Nanaka

"I think...hic!...I might skip...hic!...P.E session...I don't feel like doing it…or at least…hic! I may come a bit later..." said Shuka sobbing and drying her last tears

Nanaka gave her a weak smile and nodded.

Maybe she can't stand being with Aina so soon, being mad at each other surely will affect the performance, or she caught a cold and now feels bad?

Shuka kept walking till reaching the cottage door.

"Please behave like a true adult from now on," said Arisa while Shuka was walking beside her; she stopped at her side and shared some looks.

Arisa was with her usual face while Shuka sobbed a few times in total annoyance

"And please stop fighting with Suzuki-San, don't make it worse."

Shuka didn't say a thing, Arisa was indeed scary, so Shuka just opened the door and got inside the cottage.

Thank God she isn't our leader...

Nanaka started walking towards the cottage, she needed to get ready for the jog and P.E session too.

So maybe this didn't end that bad, wasn't it?

Arisa was fine with them in this thing they were starting; Shuka got a small scold, but basically because she was still a kid. But Aina was bitter as hell.

Ok, that wasn't quite good.

"You know, for being a nonenergetic person, straightforward and lacking a 'nice body', you got something," said Arisa with a smug smile and tone

"Eh? What do you mean?" asked Nanaka in her normal tone

"What? You didn't see it or what? You have two girls fighting for you"

"I feel like there are two kids fighting for a toy..."

Arisa giggled and then she did a painful grin while grabbing her stomach

"You look terrible," said Nanaka with her monotone

"I wasn't lying about feeling bad and having a stomachache, and this little show made it worse..."

"I'm sorry" apologized Nanaka in her "Suwa tone"

"Don't be..."

Nanaka kept walking to the entrance when Arisa interrupted her pace

"Suwa-san are you sure you wanna date Saito-san?" there was a real concern in her voice

"I thought you were ok..." said Nanaka looking at her seriously

"And I'm ok...I don't care who you are sleeping with, but Suzuki-San had a point about dating other members...Suwa-san, she is a kid."

"We all are," said Nanaka dryly

"What's gonna happen if you ended up in different subunits? The distance between both of you will be unbearable...or imagine you ended up with Suzuki-San and not with Saito-san..."

Nanaka hummed, while opening the cottage's door.

Yes, she has thought about it.

And now was crystal clear that Aina was beyond bitterness and jealousy about her thing with Shuka.

Even if Shuka was a kid, she was smart enough and can figure it out that Aina had feelings for Nanaka, so yeah, if Nanaka ended up in the same subunit with Aina, Shuka will explode in anger and jealousy.

Nanaka looked at Arisa with her serious "Suwa face"

"The only thing I care about subunits right now is not being in the same unit as you."

Arisa opened her big scary eyes wide in surprise, while Nanaka closed the door behind her.

She can't be sorry about that, because it was the truth.

She knew Aina enough to know that her anger will ease in a few hours, so she doesn't care if she ended up in the same subunit as her; in fact, she gladly is willing too.

The same thing with Shuka; being in the same unit is the only thing she wanted the most.

But the only thing she was clear, is that she can't be in the same unit with Arisa, that will be the end of Kanan.

If she ended up separate from Aina and Shuka, maybe that is for the best.

Shuka has to deal with Aina being in the "third years" group anyway.

She closed her eyes, thinking that she was in a difficult position between these two.

And couldn't help to think that all of this was her fault.

But there's no much she can do right now.

The jog started a few minutes ago, and she clearly could feel the tension around them.

This time Arisa wasn't around to stop Aina if she starts yelling at Shuka again, and she can't trust in her own strength and stamina to hold Shuka right now, basically because Shuka was the fastest among them meaning she was in the front of the line with the lead teacher and the Chief of staff jogging.

Few blocks away Anchan had to stop and turned back to the minivan because her ankle did bother her more than what she thought.

So at the end only 7 of them kept jogging; Shuka seemed in her own world jogging in the front still with her cap in the middle of her face, followed by an indifferent Aina, next was Nanaka trying her best...but slow, and in the back of the line "first years" and Rikako, those were slower than Nanaka because "First years" were noisy and they kept chitchatting and making the fool of themselves while Rikako was just slow.

Nanaka tried to increase her speed in order to catch Aina, it wasn't an easy task, but not impossible, Aina wasn't that fast anyways...

"Aina...Aina..." panted Nanaka trying to catch her "...Suzuki-san..."

Said Nanaka in a final pant jogging at Aina's side

"Just go away Suwawa," said annoyed Aina grabbing her purple towel, which was around her neck

"I can't, I'm... jogging..." said Nanaka out of breath

Aina just looked at her and deadpanned, then she returned her sight to her front

"Then shut up!" said Aina in an annoyance

"Why...are...you so ...mad...?" asked Nanaka trying to don't faint while jogging

"Because you are a fool, a dork, a horny stupi— "

"I get it" cut out Nanaka

My, she is SO jealous...

"Then go away..." said Aina again, now with a bit of difficulty
"Go...and jog with your girlfriend..." Aina finished

Nanaka kept her jogging pace, she blinked a few times; Shuka was almost a block away from them

"First... she is not my...girlfriend..." Nanaka said out of breath, " second... I can't keep...with her... she...is..so...damm...fast!"

"Suwawa just...shut up,... you might faint...if you keep talking..." said Aina panting too

"Then...then...slow down a ... bit..." said Nanaka trying to slow her jog

Aina made a discomforting buff and slowed down her pace too

"Sometimes I hate you..." said Aina with bitterness, Nanaka gave her a sad smile

"I'm still wondering...why..." said Nanaka softly

"You know why! My, Suwawa you are completely out of your mind!" said Aina with annoyance

"You know you are bitter because Komiya-san didn't support you..." added Nanaka with her "Suwa tone"

Aina bit her lips and then she laughed like an old man; Nanaka couldn't help but smile too, she preferred this Aina, the one who laughs at everything and it's weird than the gloomy, quiet and bitter one.

"I should say that Arisha did surprise me... I thought she was going to scold you really hard..."
Said Aina recovering her good mood

"I was surprised too... we talked last night, she is not a bad person..."

"Oh you did... then?"

"The producer talked to her...she knows now that I'm a failure..." said Nanaka with a sad tone

"Suwawa don't say such thing..." said Aina looking sadly at Nanaka

"Yeah... well she was nice...gave me some advice and such..."

"Advice about what?"

"How to get along with 'Kanan'..." said Nanaka annoyed

"You don't sound convincing at all..." said Aina amused

"I'm having a hard time... trying to figured it out ...some similarities with her..."

"Well, besides the ponytail..."

"Exactly! There must be something else that we can relate... besides the ponytail, there should be something else that this energetic muscular love of the sea nerd has in common with me..."

Aina laughed like an old man

"My, Suwawa you can't treat her like that" Aina said still laughing

"What? It's the truth, no wonder if production made a song of 'Kanan' singing to the fishes..."

"Like a little mermaid..." said Aina amused, then she added, "Well, what did Arisha say about it?"

"To screw with what production designed, and do my own 'Kanan'..."

"Ow, well, sounded like you two had a fruitful conversation ..."

"Yeah, we understood each other..."

"And then she caught you kissing Shuka..." said Aina giggling

"Yes...she did...we are so reckless..." Nanaka kept her "Suwa tone"

"So, What are you gonna do? Tell the members?" asked Aina with a low tone

They stopped the jogging to wait for the traffic light to turn green. They kept moving in place to don't cool down.

They saw the Chief of staff, the lead teacher and Shuka slowing down and looking back at them.

Nanaka could swear that she saw Shuka cursing.

They started to hear "first years" and Rikako jogging behind them, so Nanaka kept quiet about their conversation.

When the light turned green, Aikyan was the first to speed up to catch up with Shuka, she screamed back something that they were being to slow.

So, the five members left kept jogging in their relaxed pace.

The lead teacher and the Chief of staff used this opportunity to wait for the slow part of the team and started jogging behind King, Rikako, and Aiai.

A few minutes later and Aina tried again.

"So...what are you gonna do?"

Nanaka hummed

"Well, I don't know...it's, not my decision alone to make..."

"I see...you haven't talked to Shuka since this morning...?"

"No, when? Everything had been so hectic...and everything was around coming to ...jogging! I'm tired..." said annoyed Nanaka, indeed it had been enough for her this jogging activity.

"Well I don't think you can talk to her soon..." said Aina with a sad tone

"Why?"

"She is next to record when we get back... besides, it's something you need to figure out the two of you...and here there are so many people..."

Nanaka frowned

There was something bothering her about this whole talking while jogging

"Aina..." she called softly

Aina looked at her with the corner of her eyes

"Yes...?"

"Why do you care?... why are you listening to me now but later you will be mad anyways..?...you told me you wanted to be my ally in this madness, but this morning was the opposite..."

Aina kept silence.

She couldn't say anything because Shuka and Aikyan slowed their pace and the distance between the two of them with Aina and Nanaka was no more than 50 cm.

Close enough were Rikako and Aiai, it seemed that King was lost in her slowness with the teacher and the Chief of staff.

So the rest of the jogging was in deep silence.

They returned to the sidewalk around the lake; they only made some kind of sounds when they spotted the cameraman waiting for them in the sidewalk taking some footage, and vividly they say "hi" to the camera...well, everybody except for Shuka and Nanaka...and a tired King at the end of the line, she was walking at this point anyway.

The jogging soon was over, and they returned to the minivan.

They were greeted by a gloomy Anchan and the other dance teacher; Anchan was even pouting because she wasn't able to join them in the activity, Aiai made fun of her telling her that, she being the leader should be the first one out there jogging, but Shuka made an incredible intervention telling her to shut up, all this was Aina's fault because she kept falling over Anchan's ankle because she couldn't make a simple leapfrog.

Nanaka facepalmed really hard.

Aina didn't say a thing, but the mood inside the minivan was worse than the mood of the jog.

Maybe in Aina's head the voice of Arisa telling her that she was older so she should behave better than Shuka stopped her to make a scene inside the vehicle and with all the members there.

What am I suppose to do with Shuka behaving this way…

Once they arrived at Sound Village again, they were greeted by Arisa, she indeed looked better.

But there wasn't time to take a break; Shuka ran towards the recording studio while the rest of the members ran to the dance studio, they needed to keep practicing.

"What a jewel you've got…" said Aina bitterly to Nanaka once they reached the studio

Nanaka gave her a sad smile and then she left her bottle of water on the floor.

"Thank you for not making a scene…" said Nanaka softly

"I'm not doing this for you…" said Aina taking her towel out of her neck, "I'm doing it for Aqours…and answering your earlier question; that's why I care… because I care about Aqours and all the damage you might make..."

Nanaka blinked a few times

Was Aqours that important for Aina?… for them?

Nanaka looked around the studio; Arisa was talking vividly with Rikako and Anchan, while "first years" of course were doing noise.

She sighed softly.

It supposed that Aina was worried about how Nanaka's and Shuka's relationship might affect the members and how that can destroy Aqours. In fact, the only one affected right now was her… but Nanaka understood Aina's point. She wanted to protect Aqours of a future "civil war".

She recalled Arisa speaking about her concerns about Anchan doubting about her leadership skills, and how she was worried about not fitting, and "third years" not bonding.

Well, now they have something in common and that's her gayness towards Shuka, and bitter Aina being against it.

But indeed, she was worried about Aqours too.

Anchan, of course, was worried about it too.

Not feeling like the leader she should be, to stick this bunch of kids together and make the nine of them as one. She was feeling like she wasn't up for that task.

So she was worried to left Aqours without a "captain".

But her?

Nanaka couldn't see Aqours being that important.

This was a job, like any other job.

These people are coworkers, not friends, so what's the big deal making all this fuss about?

You can fell in love with your coworkers, it happens in every job all the time, why treat Aqours like something different? something fragile…

Nanaka took her position in the choreography. It was a circle in the middle of the room.

She clearly saw the empty spot of Shuka on it, it felt wrong.

Something was missing, Shuka was missing, of course, she was out recording, but the circle didn't feel complete, and it seemed that everybody noticed that because everybody had a sad face.

Did it feel wrong when she was out as well?

"Ok, let's do this thing!" said Anchan with energy

Everybody said a loud "Yes!".

And then the practice began.

.

.

If Nanaka could decide which of the 3 days was the most productive she might choose this one.

She was really focused on training and the dance practice, maybe because today she didn't have to go out to record or making some emotional talking with anybody.

Just normal talk about dances and movements.

After lunch was Aikyan's time to record, again, the dance practice, looked a bit weird without her there.

But they pulled it off anyway.

When Aikyan came back, the dance teachers gave them some time break, it seemed that they needed to discuss some issues with the Staff.

The girls took this moment to take some fresh air, change their outfits or to review some steps of the choreography.

Nanaka being Nanaka, she just needed quiet and a bit of air.

So she went out of the studio cottage and sat on the porch, her gaze lost somewhere else in the distance.

She felt tired, just how many times they have to repeat this single choreography? And this is just one song! Nanaka thought about when the rehearsals for the event starts, or even worse; the rehearsals for their first Live.

She felt her soul leaving her body just to think about it.

Suddenly she felt a singular laughter that took her out of her thoughts; Aiai was coming out of the cottage with her singularity squeaky laughter but stopped dryly when she saw Nanaka sitting there.

Aiai being Aiai didn't think that much and sat beside her, she had her towel on her head, indeed was a funny picture; Nanaka gave her a goofy smile, Furihata Ai was certainly the mascot of the group.

"There are times like these..." Aiai said in her squeaky tone

Nanaka snorted and smiled at her; she hummed

"You know, you are quite a mystery Suwa Nanaka..." said Aiai with a normal tone

"Eh?! There's no such thing..." said Nanaka with her "Suwa tone"

"Yes you are, you are so quiet... so demure...you don't talk!"

"I talk," said Nanaka dryly

"Only if it's Shuka, Anchan or Ainya..."

"That's nonsense..."

"Are you happy here?" asked Aiai with concern

"In the camp?"

"No, no, in the project, in Aqours, this camp is just another activity of the project"

"…yes…?"

Actually, I don't know... lately being in this project and in this group is just being problematic...

Aiai broke into her squeaky laugh

"My, Suwawa you can't convince a bunch of true believers with that answer!" said Aiai with her squeaky tone again, Nanaka deadpanned her

"See? Do you laugh?"

"I laugh..." said Nanaka in her monotone

"Mentally maybe," said Aiai with giggles

"Well, I'm different..."

"Different are Arisha and Rikyako... you are just... a mystery..."

"Why are they different and I'm just weird?" said Nanaka a bit annoyed now

"I never said weird..." Aiai giggled, "Suwawa, at least Arisha is trying, she talks, she gave her opinions, at least she made funny faces; Rikyako is so clumsy that is even funny to bully her...but you?"

"Me?"

"If we bully you, you don't care, you don't seem affected by anything; Are you perfect or what?"

Nanaka opened her eyes wide like two fried eggs

PERFECT?!
Wooooooo~

"Eh?! ...what the hell?"

"Oh oh a reaction!" squeaked Aiai

"Furihata-San you are the weird now..."

"Yes I know...I'm the mascot in this group..." said Aiai with a happy grin

"And you are ok with that?" said Nanaka in her monotone again

My, it's like Ainya telling me that she was the weird Oijisan... so proud of that...

"Of course, that's my role, do you know which one is yours?"

Asked Aiai with her happy tone and a happy grin

Nanaka got into a deep thought and hummed

I'm the gay one…or the failure one...

"I think I'm not sure..."

"You are the quiet one." Aiai sentenced

Nanaka blinked a few time

Yes.
Why didn't I think about that?
So ... what benefit could it give the group, be a quiet person? Who benefits from that? … that's not a role...

"See? Silence again..." said Aiai again

Nanaka looked at her and shrugged

"How is ...'this'", said Aiai moving her finger around Nanaka, " helping you to bring 'Kanan-san' to life...? Or to fit into this group?"

Kanan again...fit into this group, why?

"Well, it can't be helped Furihata-San, I'm like this, and 'Kanan' might ended up being quieter too, but I don't get that, I'm a real person, 'Kanan' it's a fictional character..."

"I see..." said Aiai with another of her weird voices

"You see what?"

Aiai took the towel off of her head and placed it around her neck.

She looked like in deep thought. Then she took a deep breath.

"I got the feeling Suwawa, that you are doing this because it's a job... it's something you have to do, 'Kanan-san' it's another character of your list, another step in your career... and I get it.."

She made a pause to see if Nanaka had a reaction, but she guessed right, Nanaka just looked at her with attention, but with her "Suwa face".

"I think this isn't just a job... you see, for me this is more than just a huge opportunity to impulse my career, this is my first time as a Seiyuu, just like Shuka or Aina, or like the most of us, so I'm taking it really seriously, even if I'm joking and fooling around and it doesn't seem like that..." she ended giggling

Nanaka rose one eyebrow.

If someone wasn't serious in this group that was Aiai. She was the mastermind behind all the "First years" noise and stupidity.

"But what I understand is that Love Live! Is not like any other job, this project is something huge, and it jumps out of the screen, and I'm not alone doing this..."

"Yes, we are nine..." tried Nanaka to get to the point

"No, we are eighteen..."

Nanaka blinked

"I'm with 'Ruby-chan' walking this path...I know I don't look anything like her, I just have her height; she is a sweet and shy child, and I'm the weird mascot of the group, the one who everybody is imitating and mocking, the one who is making up nicknames and phrases... I can't see 'Ruby-chan' doing such things inside the characters, but I do! And I like!"

"Why do you do it then? It's not in your character..."

"Because that's how I am, and that's what I want to give to this group; I believe in Aqours and... because that Is my role within it, I like being with King and Aikyan and doing foolish things with them, it's fun, they are so fun; for me, I don't feel like I'm working at all, I'm having a good time doing what I like and want! But you don't seem to be enjoying this..."

It's not worthy unless you enjoy the ride...Aina said that...

Nanaka hummed

"Maybe you are quiet and demure, I get it, Arisha is serious, Rikako is shy, but they are trying to fit, you seem that you are in your own world..." said Aiai with a teasing tone

Nanaka looked at her feet in shame, maybe Aiai was right, maybe she was so focused in her conflicts with Kanan, her rivalry with Arisa, her feelings for Shuka and now Aina mixed in this mess, that she lost her north in this.

"Do you really believe in Aqours?" asked Nanaka

"Of course! Why do you think I mock Anchan so bad? I really think she needs to be our leader, but she is so insecure! And I believe that Aqours is not going to take shape unless Anchan assumes as the leader and you start trying to fit in, Aqours is an eighteen-member group, and right now, not all of them are running to the same goal..."

Nanaka bit her lips and frowned

Of course, Kanan is not running with her friends, because Nanaka can't run with her. She doesn't know how to portray her yet, how should act, so of course, Kanan can't run.

While Nanaka being focused in other things besides her real job, can't run with the rest of the members, because she doesn't believe in the same goal, or at least she doesn't give the same interest as them.

So there are two members of this eighteen group that aren't running at all.

And the group can't work if there are members missing...it feels wrong.

Nanaka rose her eyebrows and opened her eyes wide.

That's why when one of us is out to record it felt wrong, the group it's incomplete on a whole different level beyond the obvious.

That meant that everybody was starting to feel this as a real group.

Even the song they were recording sings about that.

Nanaka felt dizzy.

She closed her eyes and massaged her temples.

How could she not see this?

"The goal..." said Nanaka softly, "what's the goal?"

Nanaka looked at Aiai with her sad face; somehow she felt lost, without a north or a guidance anymore, where should they be running?

Aiai opened her eyes wide in disbelief

"Suwa-san, why are you here?..."

Honestly, I don't know anymore...

"To portray 'Kanan'..." said Nanaka softly and with doubt

"Ok... but why? Why 'Kanan-san'? Why Love Live!? I thought you knew the thing you signed up too..."
Said Aiai with still her serious voice.

Nanaka didn't know what was weirder; if signing up for a job that she didn't know or that Aiai was being this serious.
Maybe the second, after all, she knew she signed for this because she was desperate to change herself.

"I...kinda knew what was Love Live!, I think, we all know...we are fans of μ's…but I don't know why are all of you making such fuss about it?" ended Nanaka with more confident

"All of us...? What do you mean?" asked Aiai with a squeaky tone again

"It's like all of you were worried about Aqours, like if it's a thing of its own; it's just a name, it's just a group of a bunch of girls playing to be idols; we are Seiyuus, we are here to be the voices of the characters, the goal must be to fulfil the production expectations, do Lives, sell merch, and later be replaced by a new group of young girls who will follow what μ's and us did..."

Nanaka ended her statement with her serious and dry tone, Aiai looked at her with her eyes widen like two fried eggs.

"Wow..." said Aiai slowly

"You wanted me to talk? To give my opinion? Well...that's it!" Said Nanaka standing up and looking down at Aiai who stayed looking astonished at Nanaka

"Maybe I can't make funny faces and I can assure you I'm not clumsy; maybe I don't want to stand out in this group, Maybe I just want to do my job... and that is being just a voice"

"But you aren't just a voice..."

They heard softly behind them; Anchan was standing up on the door frame with a worried face.

"Anchan..." said Nanaka softly

"Good, the leader is here..." said Aiai with her mocking tone

Anchan moved out of the cottage and stood in front of them; Aiai stood up on the porch with her

"I'm sorry, I couldn't ignore your conversation...sorry to overhear it..." said Anchan with some shyness

"Don't worry about me" said Aiai giggling

"I know I'm not just a voice...I have to perform too..." said Nanaka tiredly

"Not just that Suwawa," said Anchan with concern," Wow... now I know why you don't want to be the leader..."

Nanaka deadpanned, they already had this conversation

"Eh? You wanted her to be the leader?" asked Aiai amused looking at Anchan

"Anchan we talked about it, I don't have the energy—"

"I know! It's not a matter of energy, even if you had it, you don't believe in us" said Anchan

"Us?" Repeated Nanaka

"Aqours... you think it's just a name..."

Isn't it?

Nanaka just blinked.

"For me, this is important, not just because of my career..." said Anchan

"Hey, don't put it like is not important for me!" said Nanaka now a bit annoyed

"But it isn't; Aqours is us, and that includes you too...so it should mean something for you too," said Anchan, Nanaka just stayed quiet.

"You know, I've been thinking deeply enough about our conversation of the other day; today in the minivan I just felt so helpless, I couldn't jog with everybody! And even if I could, Komiya-san wasn't with us! And that bothers me because we are a group, we are in this together, we should stick together, not because that's our job and that's it because we should care about each other, we are building something here..."

Nanaka blinked a few times amazed, trying to get what Anchan was saying, Aiai was equally amazed too.

Seemed that all Anchan's insecurities flew away.

"And you know, you made me realize that. ..." said Anchan with a soft voice, " you told me, that we needed a leader to push us further, that I wasn't alone because there were nine of us here...so don't give up on all of you just yet...are you giving up on us Suwawa?"

Nanaka clenched her fists. When this become so hard?
When did her troubles with Kanan become her trouble with Aqours?

"So what is our goal Anchan?" asked Nanaka with bitterness

Anchan made a face of being in deep thought.

Then she smiled at Nanaka.

"Honestly? I don't know for sure, because I don't feel us as a complete group yet...so I guess first is to become a group...?" said Anchan shyly

"First to be one, then to run as fast as we can to get out of μ's shadow..." said Aiai with her seriousness

Nanaka and Anchan looked at her with concern

Aiai just smiled at them

"What? girls, it's clear as water! once we become Aqours, like a real group, we need to run out of μ's shadow... do you really think that the fans are going to love us? That they will respect that we take μ's place? ...we will be a poor copy of them, we will be really lucky if someone shows up on our debut, actually, Suwawa told us this on the first day! And you were right!"

Nanaka opened her eyes wide; Yes, that was true, she said that, but of course, on that moment she wasn't blinded by the fact that she didn't fit Kanan, that she was having a love story with Shuka, that she needed to fit into the group and have a role within it, or that her actions will affect the characters and the members.

Seemed that everything was more clear when she started than now because she didn't know all of this, ignorance sure is bless.

"We should be a group like μ's was, they weren't just nine girls working as an idols, they were friends in a group moving forward to a common goal; we need to learn from that and move further, we can't stick in that too much or we will be the copies of μ's for sure, we will need to find our own path eventually..."
Said Aiai removing her towel out of her neck

"Wow, who have thought that the mascot of the group could give such deep speech..." teased Anchan

Aiai just laughed with her squeaky tone

"Well, sometimes someone has to..." Aiai smiled sweetly at them

Nanaka felt ashamed, in the beginning, she was the one who gave that kind of speech, now she was receiving it from Aiai, the mascot of the group. But then, recalling, Aiai was older than her, she was the more dependable of them, the one who cared about the details, about the birthdays of the girls, she has that sense of unity with the members, and not because her character demanded her to be like that, because Aiai was like that and believed in building something strong about Aqours.

She cared about Aqours too.

"So, I think we should leave this matter here..." said Aiai looking at Anchan, then she looked at Nanaka

"Suwawa, don't give up on us yet you too, be part of Aqours like a full member, not just 'Kanan-san', you are one of us too, even if you want to be the quiet one... we will love you anyways..." then she laughed

Nanaka gave her a faint smile, Anchan, on the other hand, smiled wider.

"Then, girls we should come back to the studio, the teachers were calling us..." said Anchan

Being an idol is so DAMN hard...and complicated...

I should have stayed as a simple Seiyuu...

But Nanaka didn't come back to the studio, she excused herself with Anchan and Aiai saying that she needed to go back to Lodge 202 and change her clothes. Nobody asked why anyway, she had been with the same clothes since this morning and right now they were kind of smelly and sticky with all the sweat and everything.

But mostly because she needed to digest all this information too.

She walked in a quick pace to Lodge 202; in her way she crossed path with Rikako and King, both of them had already changed their clothes.

Then a thought stoked her like lighting...

Arisa and Aikyan stayed in the dance studio, Aiai and Anchan were in the studio porch...there they go Rikako and King... meaning... Shuka and Aina are alone... in the cottage...

Nanaka opened her eyes wide, a cold sweat ran from her spine, so she didn't think twice and ran towards the cottage.

This time Arisa wasn't there to stop Aina or her to stop Shuka if they start fighting again, so she better hurried if she wanted Aqours to be a 9 member group.

She opened the door carefully, took her shoes off in a diligent way and then she tried to rush to the stairs only to stop abruptly in the middle of it.

She opened her eyes wide and shut tightly her lips.

Indeed Aina and Shuka were alone in the room, and they were talking...

Talking about her.

"….What's your deal with Suwa-san?" asked Shuka in a serious tone

"You wanna keep doing this?... She is my friend Shukashuu..." Nanaka heard Aina said in her amused tone

"I think you are not behaving like one..." said Shuka

"Eh?! Shuka I'm concerned about her, and of course about you too…and as a matter of fact, I'm concerned about Aqours" said Aina keeping her normal tone

Seemed that Shuka stayed quiet

"Shuka, have you stopped to think about the damage you can cause to Aqours?" asked Aina

Nanaka could hear some cloth movement; maybe they were changing their clothes too

"Yes, of course, I did, and actually yesterday I talked about it with Suwawa ..."

"And yet you still want to try it, and you still almost do it here! So reckless..." said Aina with an amused tone

Shuka stayed quiet again.

Shuka...

Nanaka made a bitter expression, she wanted to go upstairs, but her legs were glued to the stair.

"Suzuki-san..." said Shuka softly, " I'm sorry... about calling you a smurf, it was wrong"

Seemed that Aina was surprised about that, and she kept silence a few seconds before speak

"Did Suwawa send you to apologize?"

"What?! No... no... I haven't talked to her alone since this morning..." said Shuka with a soft tone,

"I'm an adult you know?, I don't need people telling me what to do…I thought it was the right thing to do..."

"She looks like your older sister Shuka…"

"She is nice…" said Shuka

For her tone, Nanaka could imagine that Shuka had a goofy dork smile right now.

"Eh…anyways, I know I behave like a child this morning, I said bad things to you … I didn't mean to, I'm sorry Ainya…"

Shuka's tone sounded sincere, Aina giggled

"I said terrible things to you too…I'm sorry Shukashuu…," said Aina in a cute tone

"Friends?" asked Shuka

Aina laughed like an old man

"What's this?!, of course, Shukashuu… even if you don't apologize, I'll treat you like a friend…"

"Why?…" asked Shuka confused

"I don't believe in being mad….it tires me…" said Aina with her happy tone, "…I believe in happiness, that's why I'm always happy…"

"Eh?!"

Nanaka smiled amazed; yes, Aina was always happy and doing weird things, she can't be mad for that long.

"Shukashuu, being mad at you is not used at all… we all are stuck in this thing, we need to get along… that's why I'm concerned about your thingie with Suwawa… it might affect Aqours" said Aina with her serious tone

"Yes, that's why I wanted to apologize… not the fact that I wanna date Suwa-san,"

Date…..DATE?!….she is really willing to date me….

Nanaka felt her heart pouting really fast, her cheeks becoming red, and she couldn't help but made a goofy grin on her lips.

"...but the fact about what happened this morning, the things I said to you… I'm not good being angry with people either, and I know you mean something to Suwa-san… this is hurting her too…and us being in bad terms will affect the group…remember that I jump over both of you on the main leapfrog…"Shuka giggled

Shuka….

Nanaka pursed her lips; this was incredibly ripe for Shuka's behavior. In fact, Shuka was seeing the "big picture"; no good will come out, if the members are in bad terms, especially if one of them was the easel of the other one.

"Shukashuu…." said softly Aina, " you…you are serious about her?"

"Of course," said Shuka with confidence, " Ainya, we did talk about it, she gave me the speech… we know Aqours can get compromised by our actions, trust me, is not what we want… we mean no harm to no one in this group, but….sometimes it can't be helped…"

"What …what do you mean?"

"I believe in Aqours, as a group, of course, I want the nine of us to become something better than μ's, to archive more than they did, and I trust Anchan to become a good leader to push us further, I trust in Aiai to be the dependable mascot of us, in Aikyan to be the group mood… I believe in you to be our weird Oijisan, but also I believe in Suwa's support… I need her…"

"Shuka that's selfish…"

"No, you don't get it… Ainya, whether I see us nine as a whole group and I want the best for us as a group, I can't stand being in the same room with her and don't feel things for her… it's like...something...greater than me…"

Nanaka felt her heart stopped.

"I know it doesn't make any sense!, I know it's weird! I'm choosing her instead of the group… but I want to try it…so, I get that you got mad about my selfish desire, I can't talk in behalf of Suwa-san, but, if she told me she wanted to try too, maybe she chose me instead of the group as well…"

"I don't think she had chosen anything…" said Aina in a low tone

"Eh?…"

Dammit, Aina… she knows me that well?!

"For her, there's no group yet… so I doubt she had chosen a thing…" said Aina with bitterness

"Ok… it doesn't matter anyway…" said Shuka with a better mood, " Ainya...no…Suzuki-san… can I ask your help in this?"

"What?!" snapped Aina loud

Shuka?! really? she got some nerves….

Nanaka opened her eyes wide

"She trusts you…you are her closest friend beside me, you are with her in the 'Third years' group; I'm aiming to be with her in the subunit, but while that poll isn't done yet, I need to know that someone is supporting her… it seems that I wasn't doing my job with her very well… " said Shuka with shyness. "… it seems that me being younger than her affects her, she can't rely on me the way I want…"Shuka's tone was sad

"So please Suzuki-san….bear with me, help me to be better for her…" finished Shuka

Nanaka heard some movement; maybe Shuka bowed?

Then silence.

"Shukashuu….you don't need to ask me that…" said Aina softly

"Eh?…"

"I'm gonna be with her anyways...you don't know how much she is struggling with this, how hard had been for her, so…—" but Aina couldn't finish her sentence

"You are wrong..." said Shuka slowly, "I know; why do you think I volunteered to do the main leapfrog for her? Why do you think I wanted to teach her how to leapfrog and with the dance?, Ainya I care about her more than you think, I really do..." finished Shuka with a knot in her throat.

Nanaka in surprise brought her hands towards her mouth hearing that. Shuka was always aware of her flaws.

"I see...I didn't know that...well, you know, I'll support her even if we don't get in the same subunit…as same as for you…I'll support the both of you, if that makes her happy…" said Aina with a lovely tone

Aina….

Damn! I should go and hug both of them...

Nanaka felt they started to move

"Let's go to practice shall we?" said Aina again

Nanaka opened her eyes wide and moved faster to the entrance of the cottage ignoring if they said something else.

They couldn't see her there, she had heard everything and were sneaking around someone else's conversation was rude, even if they were talking about her.

She got to the entrance and opened the bathroom door; in a quick motion, she grabbed her shoes off the entrance and almost threw herself inside the bathroom.

She felt their steps coming down from the stairs while she softly closed the door of the bathroom.

She felt they left the cottage while they continued talking in a happy mood.

Nanaka didn't even breath for the next few seconds.

What….the…..hell….oh my God!

She grabbed her temples and softly she massage it.

Everything felt out of reach, too much information for just 3 days! and worse….in less than 10 minutes.

She took a deep breath.

This is no time to be hiding here…

She grabbed her shoes once again and got out of the bathroom letting her shoes out.

Nanaka quickly ran upstairs to change her clothes; she took out her tight light yellow shirt and her green knickerbockers and quickly changed for her blue sweatpants and a yellow tight shirt.

She didn't bother to order her dirty clothes, she just rushed downstairs to grab her shoes once again and ran towards the studio cottage.

She ran the fastest she could, maybe because she was so late, or maybe because she didn't want to analyze what the hell happened there….

The only thing that mattered was that Shuka and Aina weren't mad at each other anymore…and that was good.

And that Shuka cared about Aqours too…while she, Suwa Nanaka, still couldn't…

...and that wasn't good.

She returned to the studio.

Inside there were all Aqours members practicing some of the steps.

Anchan was in the entrance with a worried expression but softened when she spotted Nanaka

Nanaka looked at Anchan with her "Suwa face"

"I was worried… you might have gone home…" said Anchan giggling, Nanaka just smiled at her

So, this is Anchan assuming her role as the leader then…

"So, I guess you made up your mind..." said Nanaka towards Anchan

"I guess I did... you were right..." said Anchan softly

Nanaka hummed

"Your words did work for me Suwa-san, so thank you very much..."
Said Anchan with a shy smile

"But, if I'm gonna lead this group, I'm gonna need everybody on it..." said Anchan giving Nanaka a sad face

"Suwa-san, you have been really important for me in these past few days; giving a deep thought about this makes me realize how should I lead, so I really want you by my side in this group, you are part of it, so please stick with us, run with us..."

Nanaka just smile at her and nodded.

She can't make such promise yet.

But she was certainly that Anchan will be a good leader for them, with or without her there.

Anchan and Nanaka joined the other members.

Nanaka couldn't help but noticed that Arisa and Shuka, were wearing a mask in their noses and mouths, it seemed that Arisa was still with her stomachache and Shuka did catch a cold because of today morning event.

Nanaka felt terrible about it, indeed she felt that it was her fault too...

The lead teacher stopped the practice and asked the girls to go and wait at the end of the room.

The Chief of staff and his assistants came in; it seemed that it was time for some news.

Yesterday news was about the popularity poll and subunits poll for the next few Dengeki G's Magazine issues. Nanaka recalled everyone going wild about the subunit poll, well, she was excited as well, because that meant another chance to be with Shuka in a subunit and don't share one with Arisa.

But it seemed that the news for today was different.

The Chief of staff stood with his back to the mirror, while the girls stood on the opposite side near the window. The lead teacher put some little papers on the floor.

The papers had numbers on it.

"4,3,2,1,0,1,2,3,4" read Aiai in a low tone

"What are these?" asked Aikyan with concern

"Positions on the stage..." said Anchan softly

"How do you know...?" asked King in a low tone

"Remember I work in theatres..." said Anchan giggling

The Chief of staff cleared his throat

"Ok girls pay attention!" He said in his singular rude tone," we are going to start the preparations for your event...right now you are almost mastering your first song choreography, the second song is almost ready to be recorded and the practice of that song it's going to start next week, also you will start recording the third and last song of the cd next week too..."

Everybody nodded.

"Now, as you can see, these numbers are stage positions... we will determine your stage setup for the events and not just the one of January alone, this will be the setup for every Aqours activity." He said looking a paper in his hand.

"Ok, of course, the center position will be Inami-san, please stand behind the 0..."

Anchan did what she was told and stood in the center behind the '0' paper.

She had a shy smile and looked nervous.

"Inami-san, you are 'Chika-chan', the leader, you will be always in the center unless production say the contrary, you will be the designated MC with the full members' activities, are we clear?" said the Chief of staff

Anchan said a loud "Yes".

"Ok...the setup will be in years groups, so in the positions '1' we will have 'Watanabe You' and 'Sakurauchi Riko', " he said, while Shuka and Rikako did a step to the front.

"Saito-san, please stood at Inami-san's left while Aida-san to her right"

They did what they were told.

"Ok, this is the setup for 'Second years'"

The three of them said a loud "Yes"

"Ok, setup for 'First years', please stand behind the number on Inami-san's right; number 4, Kobayashi Aika, number 3, Furihata Ai and number 2, Takatsuki Kanako." He said reading the paper.

They did what they were asked.

The Chief of staff, his assistants, the teachers, and production staff looked at the girls in line.

They mumbled some words between them saying that they looked good.

Everybody nodded and then he continued.

"Ok, for 'Third years'..." he made a bitter smiled

"Numbers on the left side of Inami-san's, number 2, Komiya Arisa, number 3, Suwa Nanaka and number 4, Suzuki Aina"

They stood behind the numbers, Nanaka was in the center.

Of course, Kanan is supposed to be the leader...

Nanaka looked at Shuka thru the mirror, she gave her a sad smile; Nanaka frowned trying to understand why then she got it. Her place was beside Aina.

The staff once again started to mumble something; Nanaka saw the creepy assistant and the Lead teacher moving forward to the Chief of staff, and they shared some words in a very low tone, at the end he nodded.

He cleared his voice.

"Ok, no, this doesn't look good." He said clearly
"Komiya-san, please change places with Suwa-san"

Nanaka was with her "Suwa face", she looked by the corner of her eyes at Aina, who gave her a sad face, she understood why they were changing her, the same thing with Arisa, she also gave her a sad face.

That was the production telling them that Arisa will be the leader of 'Third years', that Kanan attributes were being tossed to Dia.

Nanaka changed places, now she was behind number 2, beside Shuka.

Shuka actually greeted her with a big and wide smile, Nanaka just rose her eyebrows and smiled at her.

The creepy assistant and the Chief of staff smiled smugly while the Lead teacher crossed her arms proudly.

"Alright, now this looks better," he said in his harsh tone

"First years" and "Second years" all looked troubled about this change of formation, well, not everybody, Shuka seemed happy, but the rest all looked with weird faces.

Of course, Aina and Arisa knew exactly why this change was made so they kept their sad faces.

The official lineup was the following, from left to right; "First years", Kobayashi Aika, Furihata Ai, Takatsuki Kanako; "Second years", Aida Rikako, Inami Anju, Saito Shuka; "Third years", Suwa Nanaka, Komiya Arisa and Suzuki Aina.

"Ok, this is the official lineup on stages activities, meaning Lives, events, and Niconamas." He said, then added

"When you get separated into 'years group', like the campaign event of October, this will be the setting too, and the person in the center, meaning, Inami-san, Furihata-san, and Komiya-san, will be the MCs"

Everybody said a loud "Yes"

Well, this was going to happen anyways...the thing is, that this man is talking like this is permanent...like I lost the position for good and that's it...

Nanaka tried to hide her sadness smiling at Shuka; it can't be helped, and even if they didn't change her place with Arisa, how is she supposed to do the MC, if she doesn't have the personality and Arisa was clearly far more prepared.

How I'm gonna fit in this group if they are always reminding me that I'm a failure and that I can't do my job right...

Soon the Chief of staff with his crew left with Aiai because it was her turn to record.

On schedule, Aina and King's turn to record was for tomorrow morning because tonight they will have a group activity such as cooking the meal for all the Sunshine crew and a rehearsal of the full choreography.

So with no further issues, they continued the dance practice.

.

.

Late in the afternoon, Aiai came back from recording with even her shirt being changed.

They did practice a few times in the small dance room, but then they changed to the big one, with the number papers included.

It was time for the full rehearsal with all the members, for this special occasion every member of the Sunshine staff was there, from the ones of the recording room, the Chief of staff and his assistants, the sound producer and of course the teachers.

So they stood in the middle of the room with a full audience in front of them, there was a camera too, of course, at this point of the camp, Nanaka have forgotten the cameraman and the fact that this had been recorded for the sake of the VTR they will show in the event in January.

Before starting the girls gathered in the center of the room making the circle of the choreography.

Everybody shared gazes towards each other, they indeed felt nervous.

"It's ok..." said Anchan, " we have been practicing, training... and failed together...we can succeed together too..."

Everybody nodded

"Maybe we should do something more... Aiai a few words?" suggested Rikako

"Eh?!.." said surprised Aiai

"We should do something with...you know..." said Aikyan moving her right hand to the center of the circle, everybody agreed and got together in the center with their right arm stretched.

"Let's do 'that'" said Shuka with a big smile

"Yes 'that'!" said King

"Eh, what should we—" tried to ask Anchan

"Shout something..." said Aikyan to Anchan

"Ok..." said Anchan shyly while everybody joined their hands in the center of the circle," Yosh...Yes, this is embracing..."

Everybody giggled

"Don't be shy..." said Aikyan again

"Is everybody ready?!" shouted Anchan

"YES!" said everybody in unison

"Aqours!" called Anchan loud

"Fight~oh!" shouted the nine girls lifting their hands to the ceiling

And with that, everybody took their respective positions in the circle and started the rehearsal, this time they had to sing and dance, like the real big deal.

But, even if they missed a few notes or messed up with a few tones, or the fact that Aina still couldn't make the jump but she managed to reach the center in time for Shuka to jump over her and Nanaka; the rehearsal felt good, they had a sensation of unity; finally the group was taking shape.

.

After the "ultimate rehearsal", the lead teacher sent them to the dining room. For their surprise, the dining room was filled with cookware, ingredients, and crockery. The room was divided into "stations" for the different dishes they would need to made; the production wasn't joking when they said that they will need to cook for the whole Sunshine production. Of course, people of the staff was helping too, this was an activity for everybody to bond.

Anchan took it slowly and sat alone on one of the tables, her ankle was giving her trouble again after that strenuous practice. So Aqours leader was out of combat, in that scenario Arisa took the lead for no particular reason, just because she was diligent enough to go bossing around.

"Oh so 'Dia-sama'," said Aikyan

"Stop fooling around and let's split the tasks," said Arisa with her diligent tone, " Kobayashi-san, help Furihata-san with the gyoza,"

"Roger!" Said Aikyan moving towards Aiai

"Ok oneechan~," said Aiai with her Ruby voice

"Kanako, can you do the Takoyaki?" asked Arisa, King just shrugged and without saying anything she moved towards the "Takoyaki station"

Rikako moved to another station without Arisa sending her to nowhere in particular, maybe because she didn't want to cook at all... maybe she sucked at that so she preferred to stay out of the activity, so Arisa saw Nanaka, Shuka, and Aina beside her; she lifted her eyebrows

"My day starts with you, and ends with you," said Arisa coldly," should we stay far from the knives?"

"Don't be silly," said Nanaka with her cold tone and "Suwa face", " say, where do you need us?"

"What do you guys are good at?" asked Arisa normally

"I love cooking!" said Shuka with a lot of energy " so, I'm very confident with my skills"

"Ok, then, shall we chop some veggies?" said Arisa moving towards the "veggies station".

Nanaka looked at Aina, both shared some looks, Aina just gave her a goofy smile

"Well, you got a skillful wife, she can cook for you," said Aina with her amuse tone

"Maybe we should be far from the knives..." said Nanaka walking towards Arisa and Shuka.

"Aw, you are no fun!" said Aina walking fast behind her, Nanaka just ignored her.

Indeed Shuka had wonderful skills for cooking, or at least for chopping veggies; Arisa wasn't doing it bad too, she was skilfully chopping carrots, while Nanaka and Aina were watching them

"Aren't you going to help her?" asked Aina towards Nanaka in a whisper voice

"Mmmm... why? Seems that they have all the veggies under control..." answered Nanaka with a whisper

"Oh, could it be...that Suwawa doesn't know how to cook...?" said Aina giggling

Nanaka looked at her and deadpanned

"Of course I know how to cook..." said Nanaka looking at Arisa and Shuka once again," it's just like they seem fine on their own, don't be an ass..."

Is not that I don't know how to cook, I'm always alone... so I eat whatever I find...mmm...maybe I need to change that and be more careful with my diet...?

"Dia-sama!" They heard Arisa being called by Anchan, " what I can help with?"

Arisa stopped chopping the carrots and straightly answered,

"Make pork miso soup"

"Ok!" said Anchan moving towards another table

Nanaka's and Aina's task was to deliver the chopped veggies to the different stations for them to cook; indeed it was teamwork.

"Oi! What the hell are you doing! Watch it!" shouted Aikyan on the gyoza's station

"Oh crap!" said Aiai in her squeaky tone, " I ruined my shirt!"

Aiai started to move exaggerated in circles while Aikyan was taking the lead with the frying pan

"I thought this was easier!" shouted Aiai still with her squeaky voice

"Don't mess around with the sesame oil...you put too much on it...ohhh crap! My shirt too..."

Aiai laughed loud

"We should do this for Shuka's birthday!" said Aiai loud again

"Hey! Keep it down!" scolded Arisa from the "chopping veggies station"

"Those are too noisy aren't they?" said Anchan towards Nanaka who was delivering some ingredients to Anchan's pork miso soup

"Yes they are...here..." said Nanaka giving her the ingredients

"Oh, mushrooms?!" said Anchan with a disgusted face

"Oh, you don't like it?"

"Hate them, I can't stand them..." said Anchan pouring some ingredients on the cauldron

"Then don't use this and that's it..." said easily Nanaka and moved forward to the next station.

Nanaka was moving back towards the "chopping veggies station" to grab some more when she heard a bowl crashing and a lot of girly screaming noises; everybody looked back at Arisa and Shuka who were the ones who screamed, Aina was on the floor.

Nanaka rose her eyebrows and rushed quickly towards them

"Ainya what the hell?!" asked Arisa with anger

"Damm, this burns," said Shuka dropping her knife on the table and waving her stained shirt

"Aina are you ok?," said Nanaka giving a hand to Aina to stand up, " Shuka what happened? Are you alright?"

Aina stood up with difficulties

"I'm ok..." said Shuka with a troubled look towards Aina and Nanaka

"I'm ok too if you mind..." said Arisa in a low tone,

I don't mind...

"The hell are you doing?!" Scolded Arisa looking at Aina

"I fell, I'm sorry..." said Aina leaving what was left of the bowl on top of the table

Nanaka recognized the bowl and its contents on the floor, those were the rest of Anchan's pork miso soup.

"Why were you running with that? Did you do this on purpose?" asked Arisa kind of mad, her shirt was stained too

"Why would I want to do that on purpose? I wanted you to taste the soup!" said Aina offended

"Well Saito-san is here..." said Arisa with less anger and pointing at Shuka with her knife

"Hey! Careful!" said Shuka looking at Arisa

Nanaka looked at the three girls, of course, Arisa didn't get the memo that Shuka and Aina made peace to each other a few hours ago, well, for the record, she didn't get the memo too... because she overheard that conversation, so maybe she should look more surprised about this.

"Let's clean this," said Nanaka with her calm and sweet tone taking out some napkins to dry the floor

"We are at peace Komiya-san," said Shuka in low tone taking some napkins too

"Oh, really?" said Arisa moving some of the damaged veggies out of the table

"I'm sorry, I didn't want to throw the soup at any of you," said Aina cleaning the floor with Nanaka

"Why were you with the soup in the first place?..." said Arisa recovering her mad tone

"Oh, I wanted to sample it..." said Aina with her amused tone and with a goofy smile, like if it was the most normal thing to do

"What?!" asked Arisa with her diligent tone, stopping everything she was doing and looking down at Aina

"What, what?" asked Aina looking up towards Arisa

"Are you really going to tell me that while we are working our asses out, you were sampling the goddamn soup?! " said Arisa in a disbelieving tone

Shuka and Nanaka shared worried gazes.

"Yes," said Aina with her carefree tone

"You fool!" said Arisa mad while hitting the table with strength enough for a bottle of soy to drop and to spill its contents on top of Nanaka's shoulder and back.

The room was silent.

Nanaka blinked a few times feeling the cold liquid in her yellow shirt. Aina opened her eyes wide while bitting her lips, Shuka brought her hands towards her mouth, while Arisa opened her mouth and eyes in shock.

"Suwa-—" tried Arisa but she couldn't finish her sentence, Nanaka stood from the floor first looking at Arisa with her mad "Suwa face"

We should be where the knives were...

"Are we gonna have a food fight now?" said Nanaka with a cold tone taking the soy bottle with her right hand

"I'm in!" shouted Aiai from her station

"Me too!" Shouted Aikyan

"Oi! Calm down!" said Anchan," no food fight!"

"Suwawa, you need to change that or it will leave a stain..." said Aina standing up

"I'm sorry Suwa—" tried Arisa but she was ignored dryly by Nanaka; she left the soy bottle on top of the table and moved out of the dining room with her normal pace, caring so less if the staff could be angry or whatever with her.

Surprisingly she wasn't the only one who left, behind her Shuka, Arisa, Aiai, and Aikyan were walking towards the Lodge with her.

"So here the stained squad!" shouted Aiai with energy and with her squeaky tone, Aikyan made a sound with her, Shuka just giggled.

It seemed that the staff sent all those who stained their self to change their shirts.

"We should really have that food fight," said Aikyan with energy

"We really should do that on Shuka's birthday! What do you think Shuka?" asked Aiai

"What? No..." said Shuka with a happy grin on her face

"Suwa-san!" called Arisa moving faster trying to catch her

Nanaka opened the door of the cottage and looked back at her with her mad "Suwa face"

"What the hell do you want?" asked Nanaka

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, " said Arisa stopping at the porch

Nanaka ignored her and closed the door.

"You really pissed her," said Aiai stopping by her side

"She is scary..." said Aikyan moving forward with Shuka who didn't say a thing about it.

Nanaka entered the bathroom and looked the stain on her shirt on the mirror; it looked bad.

So she took her shirt off and started washing it. While scrubbing, she heard how everybody got inside and walked upstairs to change. She started to mentally curse Arisa in every scrub; Arisa was indeed clumsy, insecure and clearly, she wasn't used to working in groups.

Luckily for Nanaka, the soy stain did go away quickly.

But now she had another "problem", she was only with her bra on and her shirt was wet for her to put it on and go upstairs to change.

She blinked a few times, then she shrugged

Nothing to do about it, there's nothing new under the sun...

She left the bathroom, on her way upstairs she met Aikyan and Aiai going down with new shirts on and in a rush because they found some bugs and no one was good with bugs, so they rushed out of the cottage while screaming.

Nanaka wasn't good with bugs too, but she wasn't in any position to go out of the cottage shirtless.

Once she reached upstairs she found Shuka changing her stained pink shirt into a blue one while Arisa was changing her red shirt for a grey one.

Nanaka's steps didn't go unnoticed for the two girls, so both of them turned around to greet her; Shuka gave her a coy smile while Arisa a sad one.

Nanaka couldn't help to see how Shuka's cheek became wild red; Yes, Nanaka was shirtless, exposing her cute belly, her bra, and her cute small chest, Shuka's mind went wild.

Nanaka looked at Arisa's sad smile, then moved her sight to Shuka; she recalled Shuka's and Aina's conversation, no good will come if one of them was mad towards another, for the common wealth of the group, because of Aqours, they need to be at peace, no matter what.

She sighed.

"Don't worry Komiya-san, it was an accident..." said Nanaka in her "Suwa tone" walking towards her futon

"Are you ok?..." asked Arisa with concern

"Yes ... "Nanaka said softly, then she left her shirt to dry and looked at the mess on her futon, of course, on top there where her training clothes from before

There was a moment of silence; Arisa looked at Nanaka's back, then looked at Shuka, both of them shared gazes, and because Arisa wasn't a fool, she understood clearly.

Arisa cleared her throat.

"Ok...I'm sorry once again...I'll left the both of you..." she started walking towards the stairs where she stopped

"It's not my concern, but...try to don't do "dirty stuff", we will be waiting for you to have dinner..."

Shuka giggled nervously about it, while Nanaka just ignored her, she was too busy looking her "dirty shirt" from earlier; she grabbed and inspected it, it seemed that she could use it now, so, she stood up with her shirt on her hands, but before she could put it on, two strong but lovely arms rounded her belly

Nanaka stiffed in her spot.

"Shuka..." called softly

"It's been a while for us to be alone..." said Shuka shyly hiding in Nanaka's back

Nanaka hummed

This indeed felt nice; Nanaka closed her eyes enjoying Shuka's embrace

"I hope my birthday present feels nice like this..." said softly Shuka again.

Nanaka opened her eyes wide and made a smug smile, she slowly turned around dropping her shirt, and without any warnings, she grabbed Shuka's puffed cheeks and closed the distance between them

"It's gonna feel nicer..." whispered Nanaka

And they kissed.

The kiss was lovely, sweet and slow. Nanaka was really enjoying Shuka's lips, tasting it and slightly bitting them when she could feel how Shuka's playful hands where tracing her bare back till reaching the hooks of her bra, she felt Shuka's fingers trying to unhook it when Nanaka opened her eyes and separated from Shuka's lips.

"Wait Shuka..." said Nanaka a bit freaked out

"I'm...I'm sorry..." said Shuka while she brought her hands to her eyes in shame, " men, I can't control myself..."

Nanaka gave her an apologetic smile.

"It's ok sweetie..." said Nanaka turning around and grabbed her shirt again," we will have plenty of time on your birthday..."

"Really?" asked Shuka taking her hands away from her face just to catch Nanaka putting on her shirt

"Yes, so don't worry..." said Nanaka and gave Shuka a sweet smile

"Right, we can't do 'dirty things' here like Arisha said..." said Shuka biting her lips, Nanaka snorted

"I don't care what Komiya-san said if we wanted we can be doing it right now..." said Nanaka moving towards the stairs, Shuka followed her

"Re... re...Really...?" said Shuka locking gazes with Nanaka; she had a spark in her eyes, then Nanaka bit her lower lip.

Carefully Nanaka, this kid is really horny...so don't give her hopes now...

"Shuka, don't look at me like that, remember we agreed to wait...and, we promised Komiya-san to don't do stuff with the members around..."

"No one is here..." said Shuka, but Nanaka deadpanned and turned off the light

"But they are waiting for us..." said Nanaka moving downstairs; Shuka giggled and followed her.

"But, there's something I did care about what Komiya-san said," said Nanaka, " the thing about telling the members... have you thought about it?" she asked

"Hum...not enough..." said Shuka reaching down and looking Nanaka how she bent down to put on her shoes, "...maybe I want you all for myself..."

"Eh?!...The fact that we tell them it's not meaning you will need to—..." Nanaka looked back at Shuka and caught her staring," ...Are you looking my rear?"

Shuka smiled at her wide, her teeth included and walked to get her shoes too

Nanaka finished to put on her shoes and opened the cottage door

"If Komiya-san was right, telling them might help the sense of unity we need to create inside this group..." said Nanaka in her diligent tone

"I don't know, it's risky...how well do you trust these people anyway?" said Shuka putting her shoes on, " isn't this whole camp and the activities we had been doing helping to bond with each other enough? Why risk our relationship for the sake of the group?" Shuka finished putting on her shoes

"Besides," Shuka continued," what if they are not ok with this and happens that they agreed with Ainya? Do you want more bitter members telling us what or not to do? I rather prefer sticking just with you..."

Nanaka blinked a few times remembering that Shuka had chosen her instead of Aqours, so her loyalties were with their relationship more than the group

Where were hers? In Aqours? Shuka? Kanan?...herself?...

Both walked towards the dining room mostly in silence, maybe Shuka was giving a deep thought about it or waiting for Nanaka to give her an answer to all those questions.

"Do you feel that there's a sense of unity?" asked Nanaka entering the dining room; Shuka stopped her steps and looked at her with concern

"Well, I believe we have built up something...but I don't feel confident to tell them about us yet..." said Shuka shyly, Nanaka smiled sweetly at her

Thought so...
Besides, there's no 'us' yet...we aren't a couple...

The production was expecting them to come; All Aqours members were sat on one of the big tables, Anchan pointed Shuka to sit next to her, while Aiai was saving Nanaka a seat beside hers.

They poured some drinks on the glass of each member of the whole crew; the Chief of staff gave them a wonderful speech and then he tossed the words to Anchan who shyly tried to refuse to talk.

"C'mon! You are the leader!" shouted Aiai from the other side of the table

"We are counting on you!" said King

"If you don't talk we can't start eating!" said Aikyan

With that pressure, Anchan didn't have much more choices and shyly agreed, but not after she saw the cameraman getting close to her. She smiled shyly, and with a cue, she started:

"I'm really glad that everyone's hard work are finally beginning to take shape," said Anchan with a serious but shy tone," As our activities together pile up, I thought we've finally gained self-confidence about being part of this group..."

Everybody in the dining room just looked at Anchan with a smile and even nodded.

"...After all, within just two days, we worked so hard and now we are able to arrive at this level." continued Anchan," And that makes me so happy!" She said shyly while giggling.

Nanaka smiled proudly, this was her words in that conversation with Anchan on the first day when Anchan was doubting about being the leader and of her own role in the production.

Indeed, her "influence" in Anchan's confidence did make a deep impression.

"I believe that everything that we do from now own as well will form into much more, and it will grow into one good production!" continued Anchan with a goofy smile on her face

"That's it!"

She finished shyly, everybody clapped happily and shouted her words of encouragement.

Nanaka couldn't help but smiled faintly, at least Anchan was seeing them as a group; Aqours had its leader, a captain of an undone ship sailing in an unknown ocean. So now it was a matter of time for the rest of the members to start boarding this ship and join her in this adventure.

While the dinner began and the room started to fill with noise again, Nanaka sentenced that maybe they were starting to build up something, but is not complete yet for her, maybe when they accomplish something bigger than survive a training camp, is where Aqours will take shape.

.

.

.

The last night of training camp was marked with the last of their activities; watching the fireworks. That activity was scheduled after dinner and after the bath, so the girls could use their normal clothes.

They agreed to gather in the parking lot of the village, all the Sunshine crew needed to assist, of course, it was a way to put an end to the training camp.

While of course "First years" rushed out of the cottage making so much noise, Anchan with Rikako and Arisa went out more calmly, leaving the problematic trio behind.

"C'mon Osuwa!" said Shuka impatience

"You should get used to "Suwa-slowness"..." said Aina amused walking downstairs, Shuka was waiting at the front door

"I heard that!" shouted Nanaka upstairs

"What's taking you so long?" asked Shuka crossing her arms, while Aina put on her shoes

"Patience is a virtue..." said softly Nanaka walking downstairs

"I don't know if yours is a virtue or your natural state of mind..." added Aina

"I move at my own pace..." said Nanaka reaching her shoes and locking gazes with Shuka

"Oh my..." said softly Shuka looking at Nanaka,

"What?" asked Nanaka in her singsong voice while putting on her shoes

"Why are you wearing a ponytail?" asked Aina; Shuka bit her lips

"Eh?" Nanaka looked at her, "Why is this weird?"

"You look beautiful," said Shuka with a smile on her face and her cheeks becoming slightly red

Aina snorted

"You two are unbearable..." said Aina with bitterness

"Awww Ainya don't be sad, you look adorable too!" said Shuka with her bright smile

"You have a ponytail too..." said Nanaka finishing with her shoes

"Gee~ thanks..." said Aina moving outside the cottage, Shuka, and Nanaka followed too

"But seriously, why the ponytail? I get it for dance practice, but you usually do your cute girly hairstyle with your cute girly outfits..." asked Aina with a normal tone

Nanaka shared some glances with Shuka, she just smiled at her. Indeed Nanaka was with her girly dress, not the same one on the first day, this one was a blue dress with a white fluffy blouse.

"Well, because I'm 'Kanan'" Nanaka said dryly.

Shuka and Aina looked at each other with puzzled looks. Nanaka just smile faintly and kept walking.

They reached the parking lot where of course everybody was waiting for them. So with no further issues, the party started.

They lit some fireworks and started to move around with the fireworks in their hands; they even took pictures with them, of course, "First years" were fooling around and making so much noise about it.

Nanaka just moved around at her pace; this felt nice, being with everybody doing this kind of activity where you can't be judged nor can't do it wrong. But mostly because she was at peace.

Yes, she made up her mind, so now she was clear on what to do and how.

"Ok girls! Please gather on the other side" shouted the Chief of staff pointing the exact place for them to go

The girls moved towards it, of course, doing a lot of noise. They stood beside one car waiting for the staff to lit a big firework that almost looked like a bonfire. Everybody was talking or shouting at the same time; Nanaka couldn't catch all of it just how Aiai and Shuka where fooling around together...

"This reminded me of my time of youth~," said Aiai with an old man tone

"What the hell Aiai? You are not that old!" said Shuka giggling

"I am!" said Aiai puffing her cheeks

"Oh! I have puffed cheeks like that too!" said Shuka with energy, then both of them hugged and rubbed their cheeks together laughing

They are kids... well, we all are...

Nanaka smiled faintly while looking at them with the corner of her eyes, then she looked up at the main event.

The big fire lighting them up.

Yes, maybe they all were kids trying to play this "Idol game" in the adult world, but at least she wasn't alone doing it.

After this 3 days and 4 nights, she did learn a few things, not only about herself but of her fellow members too.

Maybe it was time to stop glooming around and actually take more actions about it. Arisa was right, screw what production designed, she has the chance to create a new Matsuura Kanan of her own that actually will fit her better; she has this opportunity to be loving and friendly with Shuka because her character can do it, so why not get an advantage of that?

So yeah, if Kanan is giving her this chance, why not be more friendly with her as well? If being closer to Kanan means that she will need to start using more green, go to the gym often, gain some muscles, build her nice body, use that goddam ponytail more often or even dye her hair to be closer to her, well, so be it.

Maybe she wasn't up for the task production designed in the beginning, but surely she is more than determined to fulfill whatever production designs now with the actual Kanan, and that means if production determines that Kanan should fuck every member in hugs and love, she will do it.

She will become the best Kanan she possibly could.

Nanaka felt her right arm being grabbed tightly; she snapped out of her mind and smiled softly looking to her right. Shuka was grabbing her arm while looking at the bright light coming from the fireworks, she looked happy, her smile was wide and full of love; Shuka looked back at her, they locked gazes.

I'm not alone doing this...and I don't need to be

She moved her arm letting Shuka know she should unlock her arm out of hers; this made Shuka looked sad at her, but it was quickly replaced by a surprised look, Nanaka grabbed her hand and entwining their fingers

"Suwawa, are you sure?" asked softly Shuka

Nanaka just gave her a sweet smile and nodded, then she returned her sight to the fireworks, Shuka did the same while smiling even wider.

Definitely, she will become the "caring one" of the group. That was her role within Aqours.

Maybe she wasn't looking the big picture, like Aqours as a group, because they aren't a group yet, maybe after the event in January, when they really accomplish something as a group, their first step, they will be a group, but right now, she was looking after the members without realising; she was actually taking care of them directly or indirectly, so Sakurako Kimino was right, she was a caring person and that's what she shares with Kanan.

So now realizing her role and how to portray her character, Suwa Nanaka was ready to start running with everyone else.

The big firework ended making a huge cloud of smoke; Aikyan got an advantage of that and started playing to the "little demon" while appearing from behind the smokescreen imitating Yoshiko, her character, of course, Aiai and King followed thru and started doing it too.

Shuka and Nanaka started to laugh about their silliness when Nanaka felt her left hand was being held. She looked to her left and found a shy Aina grabbing her hand too.

Both shared gazes; Aina gave her a coy smile, while Nanaka gave her a shy smile, maybe it was dark enough for Shuka to don't see what was happening on the other side, or maybe she was just too absorbed into what "First years" and now Anchan with Rikako were doing, but the fact that Nanaka's attention wasn't all into Shuka but now she was divided with Aina as well.

Nanaka tightened both grips of her hands, it didn't matter for now. She turned her sight to the front once again and closed her eyes enjoying the moment.

Their last night on the camp; they sure came in the first day as 9 girls individually chasing for μ's shadow, and right now they will leave as 9 girls aiming to be a group and determinate to go even further than μ's.

She felt happy, she felt loved, but how little she could know, that everything will get even more complicated and why not, even get worse...

This was just beginning.

-0oo0-

Notes:

So, Training camp is finally done!
Let's enjoy a bit of calm and no more drama for a bit... things will get worse...
We will start to move a bit faster now.
The legendary Subunits is the next thing to come!

Thanks so much for the Comments!
:)!