Tamao quickly grows accustomed to showing her work to Miyuki. After the initial catharsis, her darker essays have given way to lighter sketches. However, she still does not show her senpai her new poetry. Miyuki's comments are insightful, perceptive and unerring. Her literary sensitivity is so honed, that one day, over lunch, Tamao exclaims.
"Honestly, Rokujō-sama, you should try writing yourself. You're wasting your talents by writing mere commentary!"
Miyuki laughs at Tamao's outburst.
"Being a skilled editor doesn't necessarily make one a gifted writer, Tamao-san. But thank you for thinking so highly of my talents."
Tamao shakes her head, refusing to submit.
"You'll never know until you try, Rokujō-sama."
Miyuki laughs again. Around them, in the lounge, heads turn in their direction. Few people on Astraea Hill have ever seen Rokujō Miyuki laugh. Glancing at her suddenly smiling profile, it occurs to them with a shock that she is a breathtakingly beautiful woman. They begin to wonder why they have never noticed it before.
Miyuki looks with open affection at the younger woman before her. She has noticed the change in tone in Tamao's writing, and though she has never passed comment on it, is genuinely relieved to see that the other woman seems to be healing. Since that afternoon by the tree, their relationship has evolved from a simple senpai-kouhai connection to the more level bond of genuine friendship. For Miyuki, who has only ever known distance in her relationships - whether the distance of an unrequited love or the distance of an elected position - Tamao's unreserved and undemanding affection has had the effect of a gentle rain after a severe and prolonged drought.
On her part, Tamao enjoys the furtively admiring glances that her fellow students have been increasingly aiming at her senpai. It would be wonderful, she thinks, if Rokujō-sama finds out just how much she is loved and admired before she graduates. The thought of Miyuki graduating causes a hollow ache in Tamao's chest, but she lets the tremor pass without comment. She and Miyuki have gone through too much pain and have only recently begun to recover. She does not wish to endanger their fragile and newfound peace with recently tumultuous feelings. But looking at the suddenly dangerously attractive older woman, Tamao wonders how long she can keep the tumult at bay.
"I haven't seen you smile like that in a long time."
Miyuki looks up and finds Shizuma staring at her intently. The former Etoile has a strange expression on her face.
Miyuki's instinctive reaction is to offer a scathing or sarcastic response. For a long time now, she and Shizuma have baited and barbed each other with mockeries and taunts, their earlier attachment strangled by the grip of too many unattained and unattainable desires. But it had not been that way in the beginning. And with the end drawing near with their impending graduation, Miyuki no longer sees the point. More importantly, she no longer feels the need.
"Really?" Miyuki smiles at her erstwhile roommate instead. "I hadn't noticed. That I'd ever stopped smiling, I mean."
Shizuma responds with a small smile of her own. "I did. That's why I'm glad to see you smiling again."
I did. That's why I'm glad to see you smiling again. The hypocrisy of her own words does not escape Shizuma. It was only fitting that she had noticed the end of Miyuki's happiness; she had been responsible for it after all. I accused her of being a crybaby all these years...when I never gave her a reason to laugh. But today she had seen Miyuki laugh. For all that Miyuki had loved her, she had never brought Miyuki joy. But today, someone else had. And in an unknown corner of her heart, Shizuma feels jealousy...and pain.