The first snows had just begun to blanket the school, when Tsubomi got the call. Beyond the occasional letter (letters she had wisely kept from Yaya), Tsubomi had not heard from Hikari at all in the last several months. But the sobs on the other side of the line were instantly recognizable. Even after having heard it countless times, the sound of Hikari in distress never failed to turn Tsubomi into a quivering mass of sympathetic mush. She nearly hated herself for it.
"It's Amane-san, Tsubomi-chan..." Tsubomi resisted the urge to tell the blonde woman that that fact was patently obvious. Only Amane ever got Hikari into this state. In between sobs, Hikari managed to tell Tsubomi that she had seen Amane kissing another woman from the National Equestrian Team.
Tsubomi listened in mild disbelief. She found it hard to believe that Amane (kind, gentle, if somewhat crashingly, boringly perfect, Amane) could be capable of infidelity. But from the story that she slowly pieced from Hikari, she could easily understand the blonde woman's insecurity. Amane's competitions often took her away for days, sometimes weeks, at a time. Hikari's university schedule didn't always make it possible for her to accompany the blue-haired rider. And then, for the last several months, since Tsubomi had left for university in another city, Hikari had had no one to boost her confidence.
"Have you tried talking to Amane-sama about it, Hikari-senpai?" Tsubomi asked gently. "It's possible that it was all a misunderstanding..."
A flurry of fresh sobs on the other side of the phone told her to abandon her current line of inquiry.
"Yaya-chan...Yaya-chan would...never have done...anything like this..." Tsubomi's heart sank at the mention of Yaya's name. The blonde woman took a few moments to quiet down, then asked Tsubomi, "Tsubomi-chan...could you please...pick me up?"
Tsubomi froze. Somewhere inside her, she could feel the urge to break out into hysterical laughter. "Hikari-senpai...you didn't...?"
"I'm at the station," the blonde answered her softly. Tsubomi closed her eyes. If there was a God, he would send a bus crashing into her scooter before she arrived at her destination.
Hikari stared wide-eyed at the screen in front of her. In it, a hypnotically stunning Yaya was singing full-throated with eyes closed into a studio mike. Tsubomi couldn't blame Hikari for her reaction. No matter how many times she'd seen it herself, the video of Yaya's unplugged sessions never failed to reduce her to jelly.
As much as Tsubomi had tried to conceal the fact of Yaya's close-by existence from Hikari, there was no way she could hide it after Hikari had arrived at her apartment. Her flat was a veritable shrine to the black-haired singer, with music sheets, recordings and videos littering the few corners that weren't covered with her own sketches.
When Hikari had found out that Tsubomi had been Yaya's close friend for the past several months, she had pestered the younger woman for details. In her excitement, the blonde had forgotten to be indignant of the fact that Tsubomi hadn't mentioned Yaya at all in her letters.
"So she's singing? Tonight?" The eagerness on Hikari's face caused a wrenching pain in Tsubomi's gut. Even as she hated herself for it, she knew what she would end up doing.
"Why don't we surprise her?" Tsubomi found herself saying. She even smiled. "I'm sure Yaya-senpai will be...floored to see you again after all these years."
Hikari nodded happily. "Oh, Tsubomi-chan, you really are the best!"
While Hikari showered and readied herself in Tsubomi's bathroom, the pink-haired woman walked over to her closet and pulled out a carefully wrapped box. She had been planning to give it to Yaya as a Christmas present, but decided that the current situation was actually the perfect opportunity. (Never mind that it was an opportunity that was despicably, appallingly cruel to her; not to mention ironic.) She called out to Hikari over the sound of rushing water.
"Hikari-senpai, I'm just going to go out for a while okay? I'll be back soon to take you to the bar."
She left the box at Yaya's dressing room, leaving the brunette specific instructions to wear the outfit at her performance later that night. If that doesn't beat that damned white horse, I don't know what will. With a fierce nod to herself, and a furious dab at her eyes, Tsubomi left the bar to fetch Hikari.
Yaya had been surprised to find the box waiting for her at the club. The note on the cover simply said, Christmas came early this year. Wear it tonight or I'll kill you. Yaya shook her head; perhaps Tsubomi had been having another of her weird moments.
When she took out the box's contents, however, she gasped in pure, surprised pleasure. There was a black tube dress of a velvety material; the skirt flared in an A-line ending at her upper thigh; the bodice was in the style of a corset, complete with lacings at the front. Then there was a sheer long-sleeved white tunic with billowing sleeves tapering into French cuffs and a turndown collar; the tunic was apparently meant to be worn underneath the tube dress. And at the very bottom of the pile was a pair of thigh-length, high-heeled black boots. The style wasn't signature Tsubomi, but it was well-designed all the same.
Looking at it, Yaya couldn't help feeling that although the ensemble covered most of her skin, it nevertheless left little to the imagination - and what little was left remained purely for titillation. Actually, Yaya realized, Tsubomi had designed the dress to perfectly match her favorite jazz repertoire, which mostly contained songs that the younger woman had variously labeled "innocent seductions" or "the-no's-that-mean-yes". Yaya shook her head with a smile. Tsubomi's growing talent never failed to amaze her.
With anticipation, she began to change into her new outfit.