Nanto Yaya signed her final autograph of the evening with a private sigh of relief. To the woman whose notebook she was signing, however, she gave nothing but a warm smile. Having fans could often be inconvenient, but she could never bear turning any of hers away. Nanto Yaya knew more intimately than most what it felt like to have one's adoration rejected.
Not that anyone would have believed it. At twenty years of age, Yaya was, in a word, stunning. She was tall and willowy, with ebony hair and hazel eyes - and a voice so sultry that her fans swore that just listening to her sing qualified as foreplay. Not that Yaya believed everything her fans said about her either. Romantic rejection had a way of permanently crippling the ego.
"I'll see you guys tomorrow then, same time."
She waved her goodbye at the four men on the stage. Only one waved back, the rest too preoccupied with packing up their instruments. Yaya threaded her way through mostly empty tables towards the bar's exit. Just as she was about to leave, a slender figure detached itself from the nearby shadows and called her name softly.
Under the bar's incandescent lights, Yaya observed three things about her visitor. The first was that she looked rather young for a jazz aficionado. The second was that she was ethereally lovely. The third was that she somehow seemed familiar. The figure smiled slightly at her before speaking.
"I didn't suppose you'd recognize me. It's been five years after all; that, and the fact that you weren't terribly fond of me when we were both still in Spica."
Yaya's mouth dropped open.
"Tsubomi-chan? Is that really you?"
Under the brighter lights of a corner café, Yaya was able to afford a much better look at a surprisingly grown-up Tsubomi. And, she had to admit, she liked what she saw.
The light pink hair had darkened to a dusty rose; the bangs had given way to shoulder-length locks. All traces of baby fat had disappeared, revealing delicate cheekbones and elfin features. But the biggest change lay in the girl's demeanor. The Tsubomi Yaya had known had been loud, obnoxious and unruly. The woman before her was practically elegant in her calm composure. And, Yaya quickly found out, apparently perceptive.
"I'm not that different from before, you know."
Yaya looked away in embarrassment; she hadn't intended for her surprise to be so obvious. In any case, Tsubomi seemed to enjoy her discomfort - that much at least, hadn't changed. She glanced back towards the younger woman.
"Like you pointed out, Tsubomi-chan, five years is a long time. Though I must say, the years have treated you very well."
This time, it was Tsubomi's turn to blush. Yaya smiled at the younger woman's reaction, then finally gave in to her curiosity.
"What brought you to the Blues Locker tonight? Were you just passing through and found me by accident...?"
"Actually, Yaya-senpai, I came just to see you perform. I found out about your gig through a flyer posted at one of the university campus boards."
Yaya looked startled.
"I've only posted flyers at my university. I don't know how they could have gotten into yours..."
Realization dawned. Yaya knew Tsubomi was two years her junior, and therefore, just a freshman in university. And, the spring term had just started. Tsubomi nodded before Yaya could ask.
"We're in the same school, Yaya-senpai. It's a bit extraordinary actually. Few graduates from Astraea Hill come here. But then again, very few Astraean graduates pursue careers in music or fine arts."
Yaya nodded. "The only other Astraean I've met in school has been Chikaru-san. She majored in Theater Arts and graduated last year. How about you, Tsubomi-chan? What major are you pursuing?"
Tsubomi's smile managed to look both proud and shy at the same time.
"Fashion Design. It was a bit of a late blooming interest, I suppose. But I discovered that designing was an excellent outlet for my...excessive energies. On paper, l could be as loud and expressive as I needed to be, and people would actually like the end result."
Yaya laughed at the younger woman's self-deprecating honesty.
"You've really grown up, Tsubomi-chan. I never thought the day would come when you'd admit to having been an obnoxious brat."
The younger woman grinned back.
"Well, I never thought the day would come when you'd admit that I'd grown up."
They smiled at each other then, chuckling at the memory of half-forgotten selves. Tsubomi drained the rest of her coffee and tilted her wrist watch towards Yaya.
"Anyway, Yaya-senpai, it's getting late and I've kept you unnecessarily. You must be tired having to perform after school like that."
Yaya shook her head, but made ready to leave anyway.
"I've gotten used to it, and performing has an adrenaline rush of its own. Besides, it was really good to see you." She emphasized the latter point by putting a hand on Tsubomi's arm.
Tsubomi blushed. "I'll be seeing you around then, Yaya-senpai."
The older woman smiled. "Of course. I'm looking forward to it already."