Chie isn't sure she's heard Yukiko right when she says, let's fight; she can see Yukiko's mouth moving, can hear the words coming out but it doesn't click in her head, not until Yukiko stops walking and just stares expectantly at her.
"I'm sorry, wait, run that by me again," she says. "Did you just say you wanted to fight?"
Yukiko gives her a look and it's not just any look but her look, the kind she gets when she an inn guest makes an unreasonable request, when they're asking to change their room and it's peak season and everywhere is full.
"Well, yes," Yukiko says after a while. "Isn't that how people cement their friendships?"
Chie wonders if she should punch Yosuke for putting weird ideas into Yukiko's head, that just because he and Souji felt the need to beat the stuffing out of each other to prove they're friends didn't mean other people had to. "Has Yosuke been saying stupid things again?"
"Oh, no," Yukiko says, almost as an afterthought. "But you fight with Souji too, don't you?"
It's not the same, Chie wants to say as they make their way down to the Samegawa riverbed, because it's you.
"How about it," Yukiko prompts, propping her bag against a tree and gazing expectantly at her. "We both have issues we need to beat out of each other, don't we?"
She doesn't know how Yukiko can be so calm about this, like she's talking about her favourite topsicle flavour and not like they're really going to brawl with each other, right here, right now. Chie stares at her shoes and shuffles her feet and says something that sounds a little bit like "maybe" but really sounds like she's choking on mochi.
"It's settled, then," Yukiko says like she's telling Chie what answer she wrote for question fourteen in the exam.
"What," Chie says because she really hopes she heard Yukiko wrong, she really hopes Yukiko's in one of her weird joking moods again because-
"You and me, we're going to have a good long heart to heart. With our fists," Yukiko says matter-of-factly. "Our fists are going to do the talking."
From the way her smile catches at the corners like she's trying to keep it in, Chie wonders just how long Yukiko's been sitting on that one. She sets her bag down and arranges it neatly next to Yukiko and tries not to think about what she'll do next, while Yukiko carefully rolls up her sleeves and ties back her hair.
"What are you doing?"
"Preparing myself, of course," Yukiko says like it's the most obvious thing in the world. "You want to go, don't you?"
She won't let it rest, not until Chie pushes up her sleeves and half-unzips her jacket and says, "yeah, let's go, let's go right now."
"Don't stop until you let everything all out," Yukiko calls to her from some ten feet away. "I'm sure it'll help us feel better!"
"What if," Chie yells back, "you know, what if other people find out?"
"Y'know ... about all this? I'm pretty sure it'll be bad ... rep, or something."
"Oh." Yukiko frowns as she laces her fingers together in front of her and considers the question. She stretches, long and leisurely. "Maybe then that'll teach people like those reporters not to mess with the Amagi Inn, if the manager-in-training is found brawling in the Samegawa ... ooh, maybe they might even report something about me defending the family name ... ?"
"Please," Chie says, "don't say things like that."
For a moment, they stare at each other - and then Yukiko laughs, not one of those hyena cackles but something smaller, restrained.
"Okay," she says.
Chie's always envied Yukiko. She's always envied Yukiko because Yukiko is pretty and ladylike and popular and everything that she isn't, and she's got a future waiting for her. She envies Yukiko because Yukiko doesn't have to fill out those career adviser forms, to have uncomfortable chats with someone who doesn't understand being directionless and feeling like they're always running into a brick wall.
Her colour's always been green, because green's the colour of envy and it's so ugly, she wishes Yukiko could burn it all away.
Yukiko moves first, closes the distance between them and pushes Chie to the ground; Chie's too stunned to react, just lies there with her ears ringing. Yukiko pins her down with her knees on either side of Chie's legs and when she stares up at her, Chie wonders how long she's been thinking about this, how long both of them have carried on like everything's normal and their most embarrassing secrets weren't laid out bare for one another to see.
They fight like they've been meaning to all along. Chie comes to this realisation only when she feels Yukiko's knuckles against her jaw, when Yukiko's elbow slams against her ribs. She kicks instinctively, rolls them over and hisses when Yukiko curls her fingers and scratches a throbbing sheet of red down her back.
She wonders, too, how long they've been waiting for a sign, a signal, anything, when the bruises bloom yellow and purple along her sides and the welts stare to rise where they broke the skin.
"Ah," Yukiko says faintly, "I'm sorry."
"'s okay," Chie says, and rummages through the band-aids Yukiko keeps in her bag. She jiggles the packet, picks one out at random - it's red with pink flowers and a smiling cat face. The rest are hardly better and she settles for a green cartoony frog, then realises she doesn't know where to put it.
"D'you think they'll notice," she says when Yukiko carefully rolls down her sleeves and dampens the edge of her school scarf, dabs gingerly at the corner of Chie's mouth.
Yukiko's fingers tighten on her chin and she holds still; at a loss, Chie tacks the band-aid to her knee and tries not to stare at the frog's lopsided face. She doesn't want to stare at Yukiko either because she'll feel even more guilty, that they had to beat it out of each other instead of just talking about it.
"It'll be fine," Yukiko says confidently, even though Chie's sure they won't know how to explain her ripped stockings, the grass-stains on her knees, the bruised knuckles. "It worked out for the others, didn't it?"
Chie isn't sure what it is - the fighting, the getting over things, the explanations.
"Are we good now?" she asks, and Yukiko gazes at her from beneath lowered lashes, as though thinking about the blows they traded, the slaps and kicks and punches, the scratches to denote each time they wished they could step into someone else's skin.
"Yes," Yukiko says, and helps her up. "We're good."