Yumi: Part 1, Endings

Hi, all. For those interested in my status, I'll update my profile. Beyond that, have a story about two good characters. I have a lot of affection for Tsuruga, the true underdogs of the series. And most of all Yumi, an ambiguously lucky character in a setting where a select few are chosen.

This is a story about lesbians and mahjong.

What we began here has already ended. It was too short. Even so, they'll continue without me.

Yes, it's inevitable, isn't it... for us to part here.

The club room was a mess, the table littered with discarded plastic cups and platters of mostly eaten food. Honestly, they didn't have to go to the trouble. I'm a little happy, though.

"Well, we're running out of time," Kanbara said, leaning back and putting her hands behind her head. "Do you have anything to say, Yumi-chin?"

"Yes," I said, leaning forwards slightly and looking at the others. Kaori, who looked like she was about to cry. Mutsuki, who was far more calm. And I could just about catch Momo, as well, at the corner of my eye. I wonder what sort of face she was making. "Even though we didn't make the break-through we hoped for this year, we've still moved forwards immeasurably. The experience we've gained is precious, and our club's something to taken a little more seriously now, which should put you in stronger position recruiting next year. If you three build on that momentum, and find some good first-years, it's no fantasy to go to the prefectural qualifiers and win."

"It'll be tough without you two, senpai," Mutsuki said quietly.

"What are you talking about?" I said cheerfully. "You're all a lot stronger now, so there's no need for us two any more. Isn't that right, Kanbara?"

Kanbara nodded. "That's how it is. We're leaving it to you three, okay?"

"Right. Leave it to us," Kaori said, smiling wanly.

"Yes," Mutsuki said. "We'll definitely reach the national tournament next year."

I nodded. "Just remember what we've taught you and you'll be fine."

There was a moment's awkward silence after that. Honestly, I'm not very good with things like this. Somehow I can never quite say the important things.

"Well, it's been fun. We should get together over the holidays, too. Don't slack off on practise just because you're away from school, though." Kanbara stood. "Let's clean up, and then get going."

And that was that, really. Before I knew it, we'd said our good-byes, and I was walking back towards the station with Kanbara. It was over.

"How are you feeling?" Kanbara asked, glancing sidelong at me.

"Well, so-so," I said, frowning. I looked up at the sky, frowning at a dark sky. We'd really stayed out late. "It's a shame. It would be have been nice to stay and see things through. I can't say I have a real sense of closure."

"Is that about mahjong, or about people?" Kanbara asked.

"I wonder," I said quietly. "Maybe neither. It's just... an unpleasant feeling. Like nothing's really ended. Things have just stopped, that's all."

"Well, I guess we'd always feel this way," Kanbara said. "This must be how parents feel when their children grow up, or something. Those kids don't need us any more, though. That is for certain."

"Yes." I sighed. "This is probably my vanity, after all. Even though I know they'll be fine, I still want to be there, just in case. As if there are things I can do they can't."

"Don't be too hard on yourself. Don't you just want to play alongside them?" Kanbara smiled. "We're too old, though. I guess we should worry about ourselves first. You're going to be playing at university, right?"

"When I can spare the time," I said.

"Going to go pro?" Kanbara asked.

"That's a little soon for me, don't you think?" I said, frowning at her. We'd joined the high street proper by this point, though there weren't that many people around any more.

"Miyanaga Teru was younger," Kanbara said.

"Don't compare me to Miyanaga Teru," I said sourly. "I don't have the experience or the power. Honestly, I doubt if there's any merit in me ever going pro. The world's too big, and has too many people like her and her sister."

"They both knew favourable conditions though," Kanbara said. "They were strong members of strong teams, so it's natural they got to flourish and establish a reputation. Don't get intimidated. They just have a head-start."

"Head-start, you say... it's more than that. They're on a different level." I closed my eyes. "I love mahjong, but I'm someone who thinks realistically. My play can only get me so far against people like that. Maybe I should take my parents' advice, and concentrate on my studies."

"Do you really think you've gone as far as you could ever go, Yumi-chin?" Kanbara said. "It'd be a shame if that was the case, but I don't think so."

"You're right. It's not as if I'm as strong as I could ever be." I sighed. "But you know what I'm saying."

"Well, yes. Momo wouldn't like to see you like this, though."

I slid my hands in the pockets of my blazer. "Enough about me. How about you?"

"I'll play because it's fun," Kanbara said. "That's all it's ever been, for me. I'll just see where life takes me. It's not like I'm the same type as you, Yumi-chin, who always over-thinks things."

"That's rather cold," I said. "I guess I do come across like that, though."

"It's good, but maybe you'd see interesting sights if you could let yourself go a little, too," Kanbara said amicably. "What about Momo?"

"She's been playing great mahjong recently," I said. "I have a lot of expectations."

"That's not what I'm asking. She'll miss you, you know," Kanbara said.

"We'll keep in touch," I said. "And she has friends now, the others are with her. She'll be fine."

Kanbara sighed. "How about you?"

"Well, it's not like I'm happy about it," I said. "This was inevitable from the start, considering the age gap. It's just..." I broke off. "Never mind."

"It's just what?" Kanbara prompted.

"Maybe if I had my time over, I'd have been a little honest," I said. "That's all. But now it's too late, after all."

I broke off as someone bumped into me from behind, shaking me. Looking back, I caught a flash of dark hair. "I'm sorry!"

That hair, and that voice. "Momo?" I asked, trying to hide my embarrassment.

Momo slid into sight. Insofar as I'd noticed her before, it was as just another person walking up the high street. "I'm sorry, senpai."

"You gave me a fright," Kanbara said. "You should have said something, Momo."

"I tried to, but I don't think you heard me," Momo said. "And you two were very busy with your conversation... it's not as if I was eavesdropping. It's just, I have to get to the station as well."

"Your brother isn't picking you up tonight?" I said, glancing at her.

She shook her head. "I said not to bother, since I'd be staying late. I'll go back by train."

"I see. So that's what it was." I turned away, feeling awkward. Considering Momo's Momo, this kind of thing has always happened from time to time. But this was even more embarrassing than usual.

"Sorry about that," Kanbara said. "We should have seen you. But it's a long way to your house from here." She stepped in front of me, smirking. "Yumi-chin, I have one last order for you, as mahjong club president."

I gave her a suspicious look. "What is it?"

"Could you walk Momo-chan back for me? I absolutely have to be back by eight, but it's so dark I won't be comfortable unless I know someone's with her. I'd take it as a favour."

"That's not necessary!" Momo said, blushing and staring at Kanbara. "I can't ask senpai to do something like that! And I'm not a child. This is what I keep telling my brother, as well."

"It's just a president's concern," Kanbara said. "It is dark, isn't it, Yumi-chin? And she has a lot further to go than us."

"Well, that is true," I admitted, looking around. It was very dark out, after all. "And my parents won't mind, either."

"It's not like I'm in danger, either," Momo said defensively. "No one can see me..." She trailed off.

"It's fine, it's fine. I'll leave it to you, Yumi-chin. My last order, okay?" Kanbara slapped me on the shoulder as we entered the station. "I'm counting on you."

She left for my usual platform, while I followed Momo. She was dead silent, so it was pretty difficult to keep track of her, but when I know she's here I can usually manage. "She's the same as ever," I said eventually. "That kind of concern is why she was a good president, though."

"You really don't have to do this, senpai," Momo said quietly.

"Well, it's a good idea," I said, slowing slightly so she walked in front of me. I was blushing slightly again. I'm actually glad, but that's something I can't say. The same as usual, this kind of tentative and awkward connection. "I'd worry as well, otherwise."

"Thank you." Momo walked down the stairs towards the platform. "I think senpai would make a good pro."

I frowned. "Maybe so. It's hard to tell." Honestly, it's hard to say to Momo. I don't hold it against her, but she also has a special gift. Her mahjong is really hard to deal with.

"The prefectural tournament was the same, right?" she said. "But we got as far as we did because of senpai."

"Not at all. Everyone played their best," I said. I paused for a second. "Are you doing anything in spring break?"

"Not at all," Momo said firmly. "I'm not doing anything special. What about you, senpai?"

"Pretty much the same," I said. "Packing for University, but apart from that nothing to speak of."

"I see," Momo said. She settled on one of the benches on the platform, looking up at me.

I sat down next to her, placing my school-bag on my lap. This is the perfect opening. I have to say it. "Maybe we should meet up," I said. "We could practise. It'd be bad to lose our form over the break."

"That would be good," Momo said. "It sounds fun."

I sighed quietly. Always mahjong. I can't think of anything but that. Never mind. It's something, I suppose. Perhaps a start.