"Are we really doing this?"

"Oh, come on, stop complaining," Mikoto said, wrinkling her nose in annoyance as she turned back around to look at the doubtful face of Sawachika Eri.

"This still feels really stupid. Tell me again why we're spending a perfectly good summer day here..." Eri grumbled even as she continued following her along the path, only to stop, bewildered, as Mikoto came to a sudden halt. "What's-" she began, but the martial artist cut her off.

"We're here already," Mikoto replied simply, gesturing toward the emerald covered riverbank with a soft smile. The setting sun added to the natural beauty of the place, a blanket of twilight.

Eri gave her a nonplussed look. "This?" she wrinkled her own nose now, gazing out over the twinkling river with a bemused look, before turning back towards her friend with an exasperated look. "It's pretty and all Mikoto, but-"

"Just wait, okay," Mikoto interrupted patiently, planting herself at the crest of the riverbank.

Eri gave her another annoyed look, but sat down next to her anyway with only some mumbled grumbling. For a moment, the two girls sat in silence, simply staring out over the twilight covered riverbank, watching the orange-crimson sky as the sun went down.

"Your dad's out of town again?"

Somehow, Eri wasn't surprised at the query, whether because of how sudden it had come or the question of how Mikoto knew it. The first was simple enough- that was Mikoto's nature. The second was also fairly simple.

Akira liked to keep informed.

"Yeah." Almost reflexively, she folded crossed her arms around her knees, drawing herself closer. Back at her house, there were the beginnings of a home-cooked meal that Nakamura was undoubtedly cleaning up. "It's fine though."

The regal tone of her voice was enough to fool anyone.

Mikoto wasn't anyone.

"Is that so," she said, voice almost a hum. "It's a shame he won't be able to try that recipe you learned at my house."

"Yeah," Eri agreed quietly, head moving down as if synchronized with the sun. "It's a shame."

Silence again. Eri welcomed and rejected it all at once.

"Ah. Here we go." The sound of cloth shuffling together as Mikoto stood up, and suddenly Eri felt a tug on her shirt sleeve. "Look."

Eri looked up.

And was suddenly blinded. Jerking back reflexively, she tumbled over herself, grass tickling her pale skin.

Mikoto laughed, even as she leaned over to offer a hand.

Embarrassed and not a little annoyed, Eri pulled herself upright, and took Mikoto's outstretched hand, pulling herself to her feet.

"Guess I should have warned you," Mikoto said, barely containing the chuckle.

Eri shot her an annoyed look, before turning back to the scene that had so startled her.

Fireflies. Dozens of them, maybe even a hundred, swarming up and filling the darkness of the night with a soft, gentle light, twirling and twinkling like magnified stars, close enough to touch.

Despite herself, Eri couldn't help but draw breath at the sight.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" Mikoto asked, smiling as she turned just enough to give the blonde a sidelong look. "I found this last year."

"Yeah," Eri said, voice still absent, still hypnotized by the wondrous display. After another moment, she seemed to shake off the firefly's spell, turning back towards Mikoto with a soft smile. "Thanks."

Mikoto grinned back, and punched Eri's shoulder (gently, with hardly any force lest she send her tumbling into the river). "Don't mention it." After a moment, the grin quirked into something a little more mischievous. "Just promise me you'll take Harima-kun here on a date sometime, 'kay?"

"EH?" Eri's face flamed and she started waving her hands frantically, panicked. "Wha-wha-wha-what are you talking about!"

Mikoto laughed loudly, still grinning.

And despite herself, there was a matching smile on Eri's face as well.