Notes and Disclaimers: This is the first in a series of six stories which are loosely connected by our collective insanity. ^_^
The characters and basic situations are the property of Konno Oyuki, Shueisha and Geneon, and the collective insanity is Yuri fandom’s, with our need to see more in the relationships of the members of the Yamayurikai than is actually there.
As always, my love and thanks go to the members of the Fanfic Revolution for their care and attention.
If you enjoy this story, it would be really nice of you to let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Truth About Yoshino
“…of the Apocalypse.” The words were followed by an explosive exhalation.
“Whah?” Yumi stared across the table at her friend, confusion written plainly upon her face.
Yoshino-san’s brows drew together in consternation. She waved the fork in her hand in a scolding manner, emphasizing the syllables as she replied. “Yu-mi-san. You’re not paying attention. I was talking about the Four Days of the Apocalypse.”
“Ah, yes.” Yumi was familiar with Yoshino-san’s complaint when she got started on this particular topic.
“Rei-chan’s Birthday, my Birthday,” Yoshino-san counted off on her fingers, while Yumi contented herself with reciting along inside her head. “Christmas and …” here the heavy sigh was repeated with extra melodrama. “Valentine’s Day.”
Yumi gazed at her friend with a look of pity. Yoshino-san might be melodramatic about it, but there was no doubt that these were difficult days for her. With an onee-sama who was world-class in cooking, knitting, sewing, athletics and nearly everything else she put her mind to, it would make anyone crazy to try to find a suitable present for a holiday. Yumi knew that it was stressful enough for her, and her onee-sama hadn’t a single skill in crafts or homemaking in her. But then, she admitted to herself, there was the issue of Onee-sama coming from one of the wealthiest families in Japan. Every time a holiday rolled around, she dreaded the process of shopping. What *does* one get a woman who not only has everything, but has things that Yumi could not even conceive of, much less afford?
“Yumi-saaaan,” Yoshino-san’s tone of misery brought Yumi back to the present concern. “What should I do?”
Yumi considered. “Well, last year for Valentine’s day, Rei-sama gave you a cake, right? And you made her chocolates. That went well, right?”
Yoshino-san made a face. “It was just store-bought chocolate that I melted.”
“But Rei-sama was happy with it.” Yumi hammered the point home. “Yoshino-san, I think you’re over thinking this. Rei-sama doesn’t care what you give her.”
The two girls lapsed into silence, each lost in their own thoughts. Yumi knew that Rei was both a cousin and an onee-sama to her friend. She wondered if that made it just that much more difficult to find a good present.
Yumi didn’t know that much about Rei-sama, but what she did know made it seem likely that Yoshino-san was, really, over thinking things. Rei-sama seemed the type who would appreciate the effort, even if the result wasn’t very good. She suspected that the problem was not with the elder sister, here, but with the younger. Yoshino-san hated to lose – hated even to come in even. Or, more properly, to be seen as possibly giving less than 100% to anything. Even when it came to giving presents, Yoshino-san would want to be seen as going all out in her efforts.
Which was exactly why they were here.
Well, sort of.
Yoshino-san was here for a “present giving strategy session” and so was Yumi, but she had a second, more pressing reason. In an attempt to become closer to the other girl, and in order to understand her, Yumi had undertaken a series of seemingly random get-togethers, which she had entitled, with her usual pathetic naming sense, “Operation Truth About Yoshino.”
That is, she and Yoshino-san were getting together every other week or so to shop, talk and do otherwise perfectly normal high school girl things, in order for Yumi to get to know her fellow member of the student council better.
Somewhere in her heart, Yumi felt guilty for not inviting Shimako-san along on these meetings, but for some reason, Yumi felt it imperative to understand Yoshino-san better than she did. Maybe because Yoshino-san was, clearly, going to be the leader of their council; perhaps because she always seemed the most impetuous of the three of them. Although Shimako-san was more impenetrable, she was less tempermental than Yoshino-san and somehow, less of a handful. In any case, Noriko-chan had Shimako-san well in hand – if they needed to move the one, they only had to influence the other.
Yumi took a sip of her tea as she contemplated the situation. Yoshino-san blew bubbles dejectedly into her cup and fiddled with the torte on her plate.
“Well,” Yumi said cheerfully, “what did Rei-sama get you for your last birthday?” Sometimes gift-giving takes on a pattern, after all. And often people give what they want to get.
Yoshino-san glared at her. “A hand-made cable knit sweater.”
“Oh! The gray one you wore last time we went shopping? That was lovely.” Yumi remembered it well – the sweater had been made from some very soft material and looked quite wonderful on Yoshino-san.
“Yes. That one.” Yoshino-san returned to blowing bubbles into her tea. Yumi tried to not grin at her affected grumpiness.
“Okay, so you can’t knit. That’s no big deal. Neither can I. I know you have good dexterity – I’ve seen you do magic tricks. Can you do anything?”
“Sure. I can pick people’s pockets.” Yoshino-san grinned sarcastically. “It’s all in the wrist.”
“You can’t,” Yumi protested.
“I can though. It’s a lot like most of the basic magic tricks –sleight of hand and the ability to fool the eye. I’ll show you sometime.”
“No, thank you.” Well, okay, she had just learned something new there. Not something she really *wanted* to know, though. “Can you do anything else?”
Yoshino-san stayed silent for so long that Yumi became nervous. What was she thinking? Yumi decided to move the conversation along.
“So, what did you give Rei-sama for her birthday?”
“My virginity.” Yoshino-san drank her tea, made a face, waved the waitress over, asked for a fresh cup of hot tea, and then turned back to her friend, who sat open-mouthed across the table.
“Are you serious?” Yumi whispered hoarsely, after she reattached her jaw.
Yoshino-san looked at her seriously. “No, don’t be silly.”
Yumi exhaled loudly with relief. “Thank goodness. For a second, I thought you…”
“It was actually just after the graduation ceremony.” Yoshino-san thanked the waitress as she placed a new cup of hot tea on the table. “When Rei-chan went up to the podium to rescue Sachiko-sama, she just looked so…” Yoshino-san shrugged as she stirred her tea. “Well, anyway. Then.”
“Yoshino-san!” Yumi’s exclamation drew her friend’s attention.
“You’re not making it up?”
“No. Why would I?” Yoshino-san’s eyes narrowed slightly, and her lips curled into a little, evil smile. “Yumi-san, don’t tell me that you hadn’t at least *thought* we had that kind of relationship. I won’t believe you.”
Yumi sputtered, not knowing what she could possibly say to that. It was true that they acted like a married couple, and hadn’t she been the one that called their arguments “lovers’ quarrels”? But that was normal for two people who practically grew up together. This….
Once again Yumi thought that she’d gotten more than she bargained for. Now she knew two things she really didn’t want to know about Yoshino-san. If she stayed here and continued this conversation, how much more would she be able to take before it became too much?
And, oh my goodness, how would she be able to face Rei-sama tomorrow? Next time she saw the two of them looking at each other, would she be able to keep her knowledge to herself or would she give it away with a look or a word?
Did Sachiko-sama know? What if she found out? Would she be appalled – or did she already know and had kept it from Yumi?
Yumi could see that Yoshino-san was watching her with interest, and she cursed her open, easily-read expressions.
“Yumi-san, Sei-sama really was right about you.” Yoshino-san smiled. “But you really don’t have to worry so much. It’s been months and months since then and you never noticed anything different, right? So it’ll just be the same. The only thing different is between Rei-chan and I.” She looked thoughtful. “And that’s not really all that different at all. Not much, anyway.”
“Does….does Onee-sama know?” Yumi leaned closer to ask, a little afraid of the answer.
“I don’t know.” Yoshino-san drank her tea contemplatively. “Rei-chan and Sachiko-sama are quite close. Maybe.”
“And that doesn’t bother you?”
Yoshino-san shrugged. “Not really. I mean, Sachiko-sama is Sachiko-sama, right?”
Yumi nodded unsurely, not certain where the other girl was going with this.
“So, if you learned something about her that was strange, would it change your opinion of her?”
“No, of course not!” Something strange…like the fact that she was engaged to a man who did not like women at all and whom she had once loved, but now loathed? No, her opinion of her beloved onee-sama would not change one bit. It hadn’t and it wouldn’t.
“So, there you go.” Yoshino-san seemed to regard the point as having been proved.
Thinking it over, Yumi had to acknowledge that it kind of was. It wasn’t like everyone didn’t know how close Yoshino-san and Rei-sama were. What, exactly, was the difference to her, really, when you thought about it?
Yumi took a deep breath and looked directly at her friend. “The problem with that gift, though, is that you really can’t give it again, can you?”
Yoshino-san’s eyes grew huge in her face. “Yumi-san…!”
The two girls began to giggle at one another, their mutual amusement fueling each other’s outburst.
“No,” Yoshino-san gasped between giggles, “I guess you can’t.” She wiped her eyes with the heel of her hand, trying to enforce a measure of control upon herself. “It’s going to be hard to top, too.”
“Sweaters and chocolate kind of pale in comparison.” Yumi’s shoulders shook slightly with laughter.
Yoshino-san looked at her friend with a complicated expression. “Yumi-san, thank you. I…” she wiped her eyes again, this time as tears of emotion filled them. “I wanted to talk about it with you, I really did, but…”
Yumi nodded, feeling heat in her own eyes. “Yoshino-san.” She reached across the table, taking one of Yoshino-san’s hands in her own. “We’re friends, right? You can tell me anything.”
Yoshino-san nodded. She opened her mouth to speak, but Yumi jumped in quickly with a nervous laugh.
“I mean, anything, but you know I mean, like, most things – nothing too, um personal…”
Yoshino-san laughed and removed her hand from Yumi’s. “I promise not to tell you anything too personal.” She smiled across the table, “Like I won’t tell you that Rei-chan really liked it when I…”
Yumi knew Yoshino-san was joking, but she put up a hand anyway and said, “Stop!” clearly.
They both laughed, at least partially out of relief that Yoshino-san hadn’t made it any further than she had in the sentence.
“That still leaves you with a problem, doesn’t it?” Yumi mused, after she’d eaten some of her chiffon cake.
“Mmm. What about Valentine’s Day?”
Both women contemplated the problem – which now seemed even more pressing. It was one thing, getting or making chocolates for someone you admired, or someone you care about. But for Yoshino-san, this would be the first year she gave chocolates to her lover.
Yumi blew out a loud exhalation. “This is a tough situation.”
“No kidding. It was bad enough last year when it was just after I had had the surgery. Rei-chan didn’t have high expectations. But it’s been a year; I’ve been in kendo all year and am in better health than I’ve ever been. She’ll at least expect an attempt at something special.”
“Hey, wait.” Yumi’s eyebrows drew together. “So, what did you give Rei-sama for her birthday?”
Yoshino gazed across the table solemnly. “You don’t want me to tell you.”
Yumi gazed back, puzzled, then drew backwards, her face coloring. “Ah.” Oh, so another one of those kinds of presents. Oh, god…a third thing she didn’t want to know. And this one was worse, because she didn’t actually know what it was, which would drive her crazy…but she really, really, didn’t want to know….
“Yoshino-san,” Yumi began carefully. “Why are you asking help about a present for Rei-sama? It seems like you’ve had good ideas on your own.”
Yoshino-san huffed. “You mean, why don’t I just cover myself with whipped cream and cherries and leave it at that?”
Yumi started to become indignant but, after a moment, she decided that that was pretty much what she had meant, so she nodded.
“Because I don’t want it to be like that. Rei-chan gives me something that took weeks, maybe months, to make and that I can use over and over, and I give her, what, one night? This could be a really hideous cycle if I let it go there. No,” she said firmly, “I want to come up with something better than that.”
True. It would be a bit like prostitution, wouldn’t it? You give me gifts, I give you me. Yumi considered the problem again. A fourth thing she’d just learned about Yoshino-san. And this one wasn’t really awful – if anything it was kind of admirable. She wanted to really give Rei-sama something that meant something to both of them.
“Can you cook?” Yumi asked suddenly.
“A little. Mostly curry, stew, you know – the usual easy stuff. I wasn’t able to do much for so long….”
Yumi nodded, as if she had come to a conclusion. “Then here’s what you’ll do. You can invite Rei-sama over for dinner on Valentine’s Day Eve. You’ll cook dinner. Then, you can make chocolates together – she can teach you, and you can make them for each other and give them to each other the next day”
“Yumi-san,” Yoshino-san’s voice was filled with awe. “That’s brilliant.”
Yumi smiled brightly.
“Another round, on me!” Yoshino-san announced, waving the waitress over for refills on their drinks. Teacups were refilled.
Yumi thought about everything she had learned about Yoshino-san today. And everything she might possibly learn if they kept going on these little get-togethers.
“Hey, Yoshino-san,” she said, after finishing her cake and drinking the last drop of tea. “Would it be okay if we invited Shimako-san along next time?’