"Y-Yukiho! What's wrong?" Iori yelped, startled at the sight of the frazzled girl in front of her. Yukiho collapsed in sobs in the middle of the room.
"I-I-I was just…minding my own business, I swear…! But th-then this man showed up…a-and he was holding a dog, but then…the dog got out! And it ran s-straight for me, so I ran…" Yukiho paused to sob some more. Tentatively, Iori moved to her side and awkwardly patted her back. "And then the man came after me too! And I tripped to the dog…the dog l-licked my face…and it was terrifying. And the man came over and picked up the dog, and then...then he touched me!" Yukiho broke down completely.
"He touched you…?!" Iori gasped. "Where?!"
"J-just my hand," Yukiho whimpered. "H-he was helping me up…"
Iori let out a breath of relief. "Is that all? That's not bad at all. Stop being a coward!" she ordered.
Yukiho looked at her, eyes shining. Then she sobbed even louder. "I-Iori-chan, I'm so sorry!" she wailed, burying her face in her hands.
Iori instantly regretted her harsh words. Oh, darn! What did you do, Iori? You scared her. OK…help fourteen people, get 5,000 yen. Shouldn't be too hard, right? Just say something nice… she begged herself mentally. "Hey…Yukiho, you know…i-it's OK! I'm not mad or anything…" She blinked. Yukiho sniffed and pulled her hands away from her face. Iori rubbed her back comfortingly.
"You're not?" Yukiho mumbled. "Even though…e-even though I'm a weakling?"
"You aren't that weak," Iori began thoughtfully. "…in fact, you're a very good singer and you're quite pretty too." They were the only words she could think to say.
Yukiho blushed and smiled slightly. "You think so, Iori-chan?" she squeaked.
Iori nodded and even offered Yukiho a gentle smile. "Yes, you have just been complimented by Minase Iori-sama! Be proud, Hagiwara Yukiho! Be proud!"
"I-I'm proud…!" Yukiho told herself, standing shakily. "N-no man can touch me! I-I've been complimented by I-Iori-chan!"
"Good!" Iori cheered. "Now, who's not gonna let a man scare her?"
"I meant you, you fool!" Iori sneezed.
Concerned, Yukiho asked, "Are you alright?"
"Fine!" Iori snapped. "Now answer the question!"
"R-right! I-I'm not!"
"And who's just been complimented by Iori-sama?"
"And who isn't afraid of a measly Chihuahua that can't do anything but like you and yap at you anyway?!"
"I-I'm not…!" Yukiho formed a weak-looking fist which Iori was sure she could pull apart with one hand. "Iori-chan, thank you so much! I feel…invincible! No man can touch me, and no dog can hurt me! Iori-chan thinks I'm pretty!"
Iori blushed. "W-well, I'm sure I'm not the only one! I'm just saying what's on everyone else's minds!" she huffed.
Yukiho smiled and dried her eyes. "Really, Iori-chan. Thank you. I'm still afraid and I'm still weak, but hearing you be on my side is very comforting. I'm not as scared now," she murmured.
Iori turned away and lifted her chin. "Hmph! Well, don't expect it ever again!"
"I won't, Iori-chan."
"And…I'll need you to write that down on a piece of paper and sign it!"
"I will, Iori-chan."
Yukiho walked pleasantly into a different room and returned a moment later with a piece of paper scrawled over with words. Triumphant, Iori took it.
"That was easy," she commented lightly.
"What was easy?" Yukiho asked curiously, cocking her head.
Iori jumped, startled. She hadn't realized she'd made the comment out loud. "N-nothing! Just…getting this paper from you! I thought I'd have to fight you for it, that rate you were at…"
"Oh, Iori-chan, I never could…!" Yukiho insisted. "R-really, I couldn't fight anyone!"
Iori laughed forcibly. "Don't worry about it. Now then…time to move onto my next step towards victory!"
Iori grinned down at the signed paper in her hand. One down, thirteen to go. That was actually pretty easy! This will be a breeze. And…to be honest, it felt kinda…good. Blushing slightly, Iori stuffed the paper in her dress pocket and returned to the couch to await her next "victim". She picked up her stuffed bunny, Usa-chan, and cuddled it happily while the now-happy Yukiho went to go make some tea.
And Iori had trouble forcing back the warm feeling growing inside her.