"A backstage pass?"
Chihaya must have imagined it but she thought she saw a strange look- unhappiness? Jealousy?- come over Haruka's face for a moment. She dismissed it quickly, as her friend was just as soon smiling again, fawning over the small card Chihaya held in her hand.
"That's so cool! I can't believe Azusa-san actually gave this to you!" Haruka turned her gaze back to Chihaya, grinning. "You're so lucky, Chihaya-chan. I wish I'd been there with you."
Chihaya gave a small smile in return. "She said this was for the both of us to use. We're supposed to meet her inside."
"Really? She'll let me use it, too?"
"I told her I was meeting up with you and she immediately invited you as well."
"Wow, that's so nice of her!" Haruka clapped her hands together, looking absolutely delighted.
Chihaya nodded. It was wonderful that Haruka was so happy about this. It seemed like proper repayment for Haruka buying concert tickets for her in the first place. Plus, she'd been a little unsure of what to do if Haruka ended up not wanting to go with her, considering her promise to Azusa. If that situation had arose Chihaya had no idea whether she'd choose to stay with Haruka or keep her promise with the idol. Good thing it hadn't happened.
"So what're we standing around for? Let's go in right now! We've still got time before the concert starts," Haruka said. Then she paused and added, "We wouldn't want to keep your new friend waiting."
"That's true," Chihaya agreed. She again saw for a brief moment the strange look flash on Haruka's face, but as before it disappeared just as quickly as it arrived. She chose to ignore it for now but also decided to keep a close eye on Haruka. The last thing she wanted was for her to be upset, after all. "Let's go then."
"Go my way
Go in front
I want to become the me
That I like the most."
Bouncing up and down and waving their arms, it was clear to Yayoi that this dance was perfect for someone as energetic as the twins. And honestly, it looked pretty fun, too. To watch, at least. There was no way Yayoi could remember all those little movements essential to making the dance perfect. The song was very catchy as well, and somehow vaguely familiar. She must have heard it on the radio at some point before.
"Alright, Yayoicchi! Your turn!"
"Eh? I can't remember all that so quickly!"
Mami laughed, hopping behind Yayoi and giving her a small shove towards Ami. "No problem, no problem, just do what you can remember right now. Here, I'll do it with you. Ah! You should sing along, too!"
"But I don't know this song."
"That's okay, improvising is part of being an idol!"
Mami certainly wasn't getting the point. Yayoi let out a giggle and relented. Somehow she got the feeling that there was no winning when it came to the younger Futami. "Okay, I'll try," she said.
"Score!" Mami cheered.
She guided Yayoi to the left of Ami and in turn stood to the orange-haired girl's left. Yayoi suddenly became aware that Ami and Mami were standing not directly next to her but a little bit behind, in positions not unlike the ones Ami and Azusa usually assumed when onstage with Iori. In other words, it was as though she were the leader of her own idol unit.
"W-wait, is this really okay?"
"Why not?" Mami replied.
"When you have twins you can't have only one be the center of attention," Ami pointed out.
"Therefore you're the leader!"
Both twins smiled brightly, but that didn't get rid of the nervousness inside of Yayoi. What if she ended up completely embarrassing herself in front of Mami? Wait- in front of Mami and Ami, she corrected herself. There were three people in the room, and it was rude to forget about one of them.
As though sensing her discomfort, Mami approached her once again from behind, slinging her arms over Yayoi's shoulders and practically draping over her back. "Aw, what're you so worried about, Yayoicchi? It's just practice, you know. You can think of it as helping Ami warm up for her concert!"
"Yeah, with Azusa-oneechan missing and Iorin gone again we didn't actually have that much of a chance to rehearse," her sister backed her up.
Mami nodded. "No one's judging you. Besides, you'll do great regardless." She hugged Yayoi tightly, adding, "You believe me, right?"
Yayoi stiffened at the sudden embrace but quickly relaxed. It felt nice. Comforting, actually. Which was strange, considering she'd only known Mami for a short amount of time. In any case, she trusted her new friend. "I believe you."
"Awesome!" And all too quickly Mami had backed away, once again taking her place behind Yayoi. "Let's start, then. Three, two, one, go!"
"Do I want to know how you got here?"
"Aw, you sound disappointed to see Miki."
"Maybe I am."
"That can't be true 'cause you like Miki~"
"That is about the furthest away from the truth as you can get."
Miki smiled. Ah, Deko-chan, ever the little tsundere. A very cute tsundere at that. Feeling the need to inform Iori of this, Miki said, "You're just as cute when you're angry, you know. Hey, after the concert you wanna go get an onigiri?"
"Does it seem as though I'd have the time for that?" Iori ignored Miki's first sentence.
"So if you did have the time you'd want to?"
"I never said that!"
"It was implied," Miki winked, feeling a sense of satisfaction when a slight blush appeared on Iori's face. "Hey, your face is turning red. Does that mean Miki's right after all?"
If anything, Iori's face turned an even brighter shade of red, and she exclaimed, "No! Never in a million years! Shut up! How'd you even get in here?" She paused, apparently just now realizing something as her eyes grew wider and wider.
Miki waited patiently.
"Wait, how'd you figure out it was me?" Iori shouted.
"Miki can just tell things like this," Miki replied dismissively. "What kind of girlfriend would Miki be if Miki couldn't even see through your disguise?"
"I'm not your girlfriend!"
"Not yet, at least."
"You're so creepy."
"You still haven't answered Miki's question."
"That hurts. Hey, would you mind meeting with Miki's friends so Miki can prove it was you?"
"Aw, but then Hibiki wouldn't believe Miki..." Miki promptly lifted up her cellphone and took a picture. "Never mind. Thanks."
"What the-? Delete that! Delete that right now!"
Miki waved her phone tauntingly in front of the idol's face and stuck out her tongue, relishing at the infuriated expression Iori now wore. Was it just her or did Iori become cuter and cuter the more upset she got?
She did not expect Iori to step on her foot. Hard, too.
"That hurt, Deko-chan... Gah!"
"And don't call me that!"
"Geez... You still look cute, though."
Haruka should be happy. She knew she should. Getting a backstage pass to one of the most famous idol units in Japan was not something granted to just anyone, so the fact that Chihaya had gotten one for them to share should have made her happy enough to last for weeks.
So what was this black feeling inside of her?
Following Azusa- who was even prettier in person than on posters or TV shows- who was chatting so comfortably with Chihaya, as though she was the one who had known Chihaya for years instead of Haruka, Haruka couldn't help the ugly feeling welling up. It was completely unreasonable, she knew. Azusa was just being the friendly, kind person everyone knew her for. And Chihaya... Well, to be honest, Haruka had never seen Chihaya warm up to someone so quickly before. It'd taken months for Chihaya to even become close enough to Haruka to actually tell her personal things.
This wasn't jealousy, was it? Haruka hoped it wasn't. That would make her a terrible person, because who would be so selfish as to think that their friend was only allowed to be their friend and not anyone else's?
"I would like to introduce you to my fellow members," Azusa was saying when Haruka tuned back into their conversation. "If I'm not mistaken, our dressing room should be right over here. You don't mind, do you?"
Chihaya shook her head, answering in that quiet, polite tone of hers, "I would love to meet them. Haruka, you're a bigger fan than I am. Are you excited?"
"Y-yeah, sure," Haruka coughed a few times to make up for her stutter, and then smiled. "I can't wait! Thank you so much for this opportunity, Azusa-san."
"Not at all," Azusa smiled back. "It's the least I can do for someone who was kind enough to escort me back here."
Escort? That was sure a fancy way to put it- Haruka shook her head. She didn't want to be thinking bitter thoughts about a person she'd just met. It was incredibly mean and unfair. So what if Chihaya liked her? That just meant Azusa really was a nice person. It shouldn't matter this much to Haruka. After all, it wasn't as though Chihaya would all of a sudden forget about her and abandon her, right?
Chihaya wasn't that kind of person. She wouldn't just leave her for someone else.
"Ara, Iori-chan? You also brought a fan backstage? That's wonderful!"
Oh no. No, not right now, this was the last thing Iori needed. If Miki started blurting out all her proclamations of love for Iori, Azusa would no doubt become interested and start hounding her, and then Ami would get wind of it, and then Mami, and then everyone would just start bugging Iori about the stupid blonde that she wanted nothing to do with.
She needed to keep Miki quiet.
"That's right!" the blonde declared. "Miki is a huge fan of Deko-mmph... Iori-chan."
"Anyways," Iori said, taking her foot off of Miki's, "where were you, Azusa? We're so close to the start of the concert and you haven't even changed yet!"
"Ah, but isn't this the dressing room?"
"The dressing room is over there!" Iori pointed in the other direction, inwardly groaning at Azusa's oblivion. "Come on, I'll take you there. Miki, you might as well come along too." Who knew what kind of chaos would erupt from leaving Miki all alone in a place like this. "Just don't say anything dumb, okay?"
Azusa blinked. "Ara, Iori-chan, that's not a very nice thing to say to a fan."
"Miki doesn't mind! After all, it's just Iori-chan's way of showing her lo- oww... Miki doesn't mind!"
Iori shot a glare at Miki, trying to send her a telepathic message to shut the hell up. Miki smiled obliviously back. Iori rolled her eyes and turned away, finally coming face to face with the fans Azusa had brought along with her. Two of them? Really?
"If you'll all just follow me," Iori stated, nodding to them. She then began to walk towards the dressing room, trusting that everyone was right behind her. When she heard Azusa begin to talk to the other girls, she relaxed slightly, but quickly stiffened again when Miki caught up and started walking beside her.
"Miki gets to come? Miki knew you liked her~"
"Don't flatter yourself. It'd just be a terrible idea to leave you to your own devices."
"Haha! You make it sound like Miki's some evil genius or something."
"On the contrary, I believe you're far from it."
Miki grinned, opening her mouth to respond, when she suddenly paused, a thoughtful look coming over her. Iori frowned as she watched her out of the corner of her eye, and considered saying something sarcastic to snap her out of it. Not because she was worried or caught off guard or anything like that! Pssh. No. Of course not. She just thought that thoughtfulness looked weird on Miki's face.
"Deko-chan, this is kind of like we're flirting with each other!"
"This is exactly what I meant by 'don't say anything dumb'. And stop talking so loudly, baka! You're lucky Azusa has a one-track mind."
"Haha, you see?" Miki nodded, now looking fully set on whatever idea she had just come up with. "Deko-chan, please go out with Miki."
Iori stomped on her foot again.
"I cannot believe she actually did this to us," Hibiki growled, pacing back and forth in an obviously agitated manner.
Takane watched her, unblinking, looking a little bored. "So Miki-san had an encounter with Iori-san from Ryuugu Komachi out on the streets earlier today? And that is the reason why she is currently missing?"
"In a nutshell. She wants to prove that it was really Iori or whatever 'cause she thinks we wouldn't believe her."
Takane frowned. "That is preposterous. Do we have any reason not to believe her?"
"She sure seems to think we do," Hibiki let out a noise of frustration, running her hands through her wild hair frantically. "I mean, seriously! What does it even matter? Iori's way up there at the top and we're just part of the audience so it's not like Miki would even be able to talk to her again."
"Although if she snuck backstage there is a high possibility they could run into each other and therefore recreate conversation," her silver-haired companion pointed out.
Hibiki rolled her eyes, paused, and then abruptly spun around and pointed at Takane. "Genius. We're following her."
Takane seemed startled by the sudden finger in her face. "... We're what?"
It is so ridiculously fun to write Miki and Iori. Also, more news! Three extra anime episodes are coming out alongside Shiny Festa! Ah~ I'm so excited. But it's not coming out all the way 'till October 25th...
Well, anyway, thanks for reading :3