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Ghost Stories
Grave Importance
See Through To It


The World of Hybrids
The Stuff of Legends
The Birth of Legends [Worldbuilding]
Ideal With It
A Little Harmony
Out of My League


The World Made From A Wish
Type-Casting
The Final Front


Of Mana and Ether
Witch One?


Sisters of One Mind
An Open Book
Ever Mindful


Paths of a Fashion
Crossing Paths
Parallel Paths


Zzz... (Old, Iffy, Unsorted)
Focus
The World Was Made From A Wish
A Curious Kind of Tree





Parallel Paths

"Okay, lay it on me."

"So there's this hydra that ends up growing so many heads that they form this twisted sort of community..."

"Nah."

"Uh... Okay, there's these two families who are in the business of keeping people alive and making them die, respectively, and -"

"Nope."

"Really? Um... Something with witches."

"You'll have to be more specific."

"Actually, that's all I got," Momoko sighed. "Boy, you have some high standards, huh?"

Sakiko laughed. "Maybe I do. So what does that say about you, Momo?"

——

It had been about a month. Sakiko (last name Kimura) and Momoko (last real any other names unknown) were still getting along great, despite a slightly rough beginning to their relationship.

"You gonna eat that?", Momoko said, pointing at the rest of Sakiko's lunch.

Sakiko snapped out of her trance. "Oh, uh, yes."

She was still getting used to it all. She'd slowly been working Momoko into her life, and vice versa. They now had regular lunch and dinner dates - oh yes, dates - which fit into Momoko's usual plans with her girls.

It was taking time to work everything out. But Sakiko was still... reeling a bit at how suddenly it had happened. She was just so, so glad to have Momoko as her - could she say it? - girlfriend.

Girlfriend. Neither had yet said the word, actually. But surely they were both thinking it. Maybe one day one of them would just let it slip, and the other wouldn't even make note of it because they already -

"Whatcha thinking about?"

"Girlfriend," Sakiko blurted out.

Momoko blushed. "O-Oh."

As Sakiko looked around embarrassed, she realized how many eyes were on her. Actually, they weren't just on her, but on them.

"What are they looking at?", she grumbled, trying to push aside what just happened.

"S... same thing they always are," Momoko nervously chuckled.

"Ha, you're saying we've been getting funny looks all this time?"

"Well... yeah. It's nothing new." Momoko cleared her throat. "Guess you never noticed, huh?"

"Oh." Sakiko leaned back in her seat. "Well, I guess I might look a little young for a mom, even given how young as you look at a glance."

"You, uh... you think most people just see us as mother and daughter...?", Momoko hesitantly asked.

"Sure."

"Do you really, really think that?"

After a pause, Sakiko shrugged. What did they ever do to indicate the contrary? I mean, they hugged a lot. There'd been a quick kiss or two. Mothers do that, right?

She supposed their fashion had been overlapping a bit... and there was the, uh, spaghetti incident... and the time she was daydreaming so hard about Momoko she blurted out "girlfriend"...

And most recently, there was the time she blushed just thinking about the time they'd spent together in the past month.

Momoko sighed. "Can we just... not talk about this in public?"

"...Okay."

——

The two returned to Sakiko's apartment. They had gone to Momoko's place a few times, but Momoko greatly preferred Sakiko's, so that was that.

It wasn't a large apartment - they never were - but Sakiko rearranged it as best she could to accommodate for the new semi-resident.

As Momoko stretched, relieved to be home, Sakiko sat down and checked her phone. It turned out she'd missed a text from her friend about going to get lunch with him. Oops.

Momoko sat down beside her and looked over at the phone. "What's the deal with him now, anyway?"

Sakiko shrugged, putting the phone away without replying. "There was never any deal with him, really."

Momoko frowned. "Hey now, you don't have to ditch your friend just 'cause he doesn't approve of me, y'know?"

"No, no, he's come around to you, I think. It's just, I get the feeling he..." Sakiko stopped mid-sentence. She was back on that topic again, wasn't she.

Well, they weren't in public now.

"Um, Momo..." Sakiko played with her hands. "I probably don't need to tell you, but our relationship's gotten to be more than... more than I expected, that's for sure."

"And I'm really glad," Momoko added with a pleased sigh.

"But we need to think about, you know... where we're taking it from here, I guess."

"Yeah..." Momoko let out a less-pleased sigh. "You know me, I'm all about fashion, and part of that means showing it to the world. So it really sucks feeling like we can't be public."

Momoko stood up and spun around, the frills of her dress fluttering. "And you know, this takes some guts too. There's always gonna be somebody who sees me in lolita and just... doesn't get it."

"Yeah, like me," Sakiko laughed.

Momoko shut her eyes tight, as if it hurt just to remember. "Oh, you bet that got to me! I tried not to let it on, but man, you teasing me for who I was when I knew we were destined? Wasn't easy, Saki."

She sat back down. "Of course, that's what my girls are for. Alone, nah, we're not so gutsy. But when we're together?" She raised a fist. "We're invincible. The world still thinks we're weird, but having that little group... it helps, it really does."

Sakiko was quiet. "So then... You don't feel "invincible" with me."

"No! No, I mean, um..." Momoko wobbled in place, trying to think of the right words. "...It's complicated."

Sakiko could only reply, after about a minute of silence, "Yeah... I guess it is."

She later spoke up again. "Hey, you can make yourself dinner, right?"

"Yeah, sure! Why?"

"I'll be going out tonight," she said, taking out her phone.

"To: Ichiya Suzuki
Subject: How about dinner instead?"

——

"You know, Kimura, I feel you."

She doubted he did, but she was here for his advice anyway.

Suzuki played with his food with a reminiscent look. "We've known each other since, what, high school? Great times, great times. Except for the part at the end, I guess."

"Nobody's a big fan of cramming for exams, no. I would expect it from you least of all."

He laughed. "Yep, I failed those suckers. Felt like the end of the world at the time - not sure what I was thinking, I turned out alright. Never thought I was one for college or beyond anyway."

"And so here we are," he said, gesturing to Kimura. "Writers, both of us. More or less. And we're still together because... birds of a feather flock together, I guess?"

"For being "more of a writer," you don't sound too sure," Kimura grumbled. "What's this history lesson have to do with anything, anyway?"

"I'm just tying the topics together - another of my authorial techniques, you know," Suzuki grinned. "You come to me with this problem, and I bring it back to this whole "breaking the routine" theme we've got going on."

"Hmm?", Kimura hmm-ed, not really as interested as she tried to sound. Although she was interested in another way by how he was applying literary concepts like "themes" to real life. Because... really?

"The world set us up to be boring old workers, we became writers. Your... good friend Momoko doesn't want to go that route either, so she explores fashion. And last but not least..."

Suzuki looked around the restaurant, then whispered, "Well, that's why you fell for her, isn't it?"

"Wait, what are you insinuating?", Kimura asked, confused. "That I fell in love with her because she's... different?"

Suzuki seemed a little confused himself. "Am I wrong? Could've sworn you once told me you "appreciated her uniqueness," something like that. Plus, you know, falling for another girl in the first place -"

"Oh, shut up," Kimura growled. "You think I do anything I do just to prove a point? You want to know why I love Momoko? Because I do, end of story."

They were both silent after that. Kimura felt unbelievably awkward here, having dinner with Suzuki. And yet, of course, there were no funny looks this time.

She sighed. "I came here for advice, you know."

"I was going to get to that," Suzuki said with a hint of apology. "So you both want to make this relationship more public, right?"

"Well, we're kind of doing that already. But we know some people don't approve when they see it, and Momoko always seems less energetic out there, and..." Kimura scratched her head. "It's hard."

"From what I've seen, you can't get much closer as a couple. I mean, short of..." Suzuki squirmed in his seat

"Short of what?"

"Look, if you don't already know, I'm not saying it," he hurried to say. "Really, it's all about confidence, and..." He shrugged. "I don't know how to help you there."

"That's unhelpful," Kimura remarked, though not meaning to blame Suzuki. Certainly, it wasn't an easy problem to solve. She just thought it was worth a shot to ask him.

Suzuki felt like he'd just wasted Kimura's time, and couldn't help but feel bad about that. She was always flippant with him, but that never stopped him from wanting to help her. Alas, it didn't seem he could.

"Well... Just let it play out, I suppose is the most you can do. 'Cause you know what tends to get you out of ruts like that?"

Kimura looked up. "Hmm?"

"When something unexpected happens."

——

A few days later, as Sakiko sat in her room, something suddenly occurred to her regarding her talk with Suzuki.

"You can't get much closer as a couple, short of..."

Wait. Did he mean sex?

Mere moments later, Momoko burst into the room, out of breath. "T-Tamiko..."

Sakiko turned to the door, her face still a little red. "Huh? What did Tamiko do now?"

"She... She..." Momoko gulped. "She crossed paths."

Sakiko stared blankly. "Meaning?"

"It was a reference to that book idea you had, dummy!", Momoko pouted. "They bumped on the same intersection where we met!"

"Wait, her and who?", Sakiko asked, suddenly interested.

"Uh, I forget... Tamiko was in a real hurry, and I couldn't totally follow what she was saying." She pondered. "I think it was some common name, like Yamada, or Su -"

"SUZUKI?!"

"Yeahhh, that was it! That's a lot like how she said it, too!"

Momoko noticed the look on Sakiko's face, then added, "Well, maybe with a bit less bewilderment."

——

A few hours later, there was a knock on the door. Numerous rapid knocks, actually.

Kimura opened the door, and Suzuki quickly shut it.

"Help."

Sakiko and Momoko looked at each other and shrugged.

"You," Suzuki said, pointing to Momoko. "You're her friend, right?"

"In a way. But I'm thinking I won't be able to do what you're going to ask," Momoko yawned.

"Can't you convince her to give up on this in any way?", he begged. "She doesn't even try to blend in with her stalking, she completely stands out! I swear that makes it way worse."

"Tamiko's just as much into the legend as Momoko. And you know how that turned out," Sakiko said, putting her arm around Momoko.

"Oh," Suzuki bitterly retorted. "Oh, I see. You think she and I would make a great couple, don't you, lolita girl?"

"Please, I have a name. You should use it so things don't get confusing." She grinned and hugged Sakiko back. "And... maybe, but we'll have to see. You never know how these things will turn out, right?"

"This isn't some romantic comedy for me!", he shouted, finding a table to slam. "It's a damn horror movie!"

"She can hear you, y'know."

"I can hear you, y'know," came the voice outside the door.

"Fine by me," he said, turning to it. "You're a creep and I want nothing to do with you!"

"I'm not yet convinced of the latter," Tamiko replied.

Momoko winced. "Don't encourage him, please..."

"All right, I have a suggestion," Kimura butt in, having gotten her fill of Suzuki losing his cool. "Give her a time to meet up, and you can have some time to yourself to think things over."

"How about in a million years?"

"I was thinking closer to "sometime tomorrow.""

"Ugh," Suzuki groaned. "Hey, Tamiko! How about we talk this out tomorrow at 4?"

"You got it, Mr. Suzuki!"

"...PM."

She paused. "Oh... Y-You got it, Mr. Suzuki."

——

After Tamiko left, Suzuki sat down on the bed next to Kimura and put his face in his hands. "Why me?", he muttered.

"Once is coincidence, twice is fate for sure," Momoko insisted. "What are the odds? I already know Tamiko, and Sakiko - er, Kimura already knows you. And we know each other!"

"And remember, you two have met before, at the café," Kimura added. "Very briefly."

"That doesn't answer my question," he grumbled.

"If it's fate, then you should soon find your answer." Kimura turned to Momoko. "Though maybe we should talk about Tamiko's... habits."

"Oh yeah, that. I actually got her to tone it down a lot." She looked across to Suzuki. "But hey, you're special to her. So I can sorta understand."

"Oh, so I'm the only one she stalks." Suzuki rolled his eyes. "That makes me feel a lot better."

"Will you quit complaining already?" Kimura groaned. "At least a relationship with Tamiko is something you can..." She trailed off.

Momoko looked concernedly at Sakiko. She wasn't sure exactly what she had intended to say just then, but still patted her on the back.

"It might not work out," Momoko admitted. "And if it doesn't, I promise I'll, er... keep Tamiko away. Just give it a good shake tomorrow, okay? She'll be way more disappointed if you don't."

"Hmm... guess you've got a point," Suzuki admitted. "Just never thought much about relationships, myself. Much like Kimura, I'm sure."

Kimura chuckled. "That's quite an assumption to make simply because I've never had any romantic interest in you."

Suzuki looked physically wounded. "Don't have to be THAT harsh, Kimura."

"Just feels right, though." After all, just yesterday he had been telling her all about the virtues of "breaking routine," but now that someone else was breaking his routine...

But she didn't say that part. Since they were still friends, at least.

And this had the potential to add something else to the equation.

——

The two arrived in the park at 4, and Suzuki led Tamiko to a bench where they could sit down and talk.

Strangely, neither of them spoke the whole time. Tamiko eventually started.

"H-Hi, I'm Tamiko. I'm sorry about my, you know... forwardness earlier," she sheepishly muttered.

Suzuki was surprised at the quiet girl before him, a stark difference from yesterday. "Well, Momoko tells me you couldn't really help yourself, so."

"Yeah, she'd know. Gosh, I just can't believe you already know Momo and Saki..."

Suzuki looked confused. "Momo and Saki? ...Oh, uh, right. Not so much Momoko, but it is quite the coincidence, isn't it?"

"I believe it's fate," she softly smiled. "And you probably know all about that too, huh."

"Had a bit of a run-in with it thanks to Kimura, yes," Suzuki shrugged. "But enough about other people, right?"

The two went on to talk about themselves a little; Suzuki about his writing and so on, and Tamiko about how she got into gothic lolita.

But after that, it was just awkwardly silent.

Tamiko eventually broke the silence, albeit quietly. "You know, I'm not really feeling this."

"Thank you for saying that," Suzuki replied, not even trying to hide his relief. "I didn't see much coming out of this myself, so I'm glad you feel the same way."

"Well," Tamiko said as though in thought, "I still think something might come of this. Just not... you know, a romantic thing."

"You think fate brought us together for another reason, then?"

"Precisely," Tamiko nodded. "Mr. Suzuki, you really like Sakiko, don't you?"

"It's not mutual enough for me to know her by that name," Suzuki scoffed.

Under the pressure of Tamiko's gaze, however, he reluctantly made himself more clear. "See, maybe I used to have a little crush on her in high school, the kind of thing anybody does. But these days, I know better than that."

Tamiko nodded with her head low. "Because she's now found the girl of her dreams, I suppose..."

Suzuki swung his head sideways. "No, no, it's not even that. I mean, okay, sure, seeing those two together really seals the deal, so to speak... But I still wanna be a good friend for her. Because why can't I just be that?"

"Yes, that's what I thought you'd say," Tamiko said, bringing her hands together. "And you see, that's much the same role I want to play for Momo."

"Don't you already?" Suzuki raised an eyebrow. "And she has all those other girls being friendly with her too, doesn't she?"

"That's not quite the same, I'm afraid. Momo used to be extremely shy, even before she took up the lolita life. Our group helped her to realize her passion and give her courage."

She frowned and stared at the ground. "But that's all the girls are for her, really - partners in fashion. I question how much Momo considers any of us true friends, with whom she could talk about other matters..."

"No way," Suzuki said in disbelief. "I thought at least you two were super friendly."

"...Well, I did advise her on pursuing Saki, I suppose. And in that, she did find a true friend." Tamiko looked up at Suzuki. "Now, I just want to do whatever I can to make Momo happy."

"Which in this case," Suzuki presumed, "means working out their relationship trouble. I'm with you there, 'cause I want to see Kimura happy too."

"So fate has brought us together for this," Tamiko grinned. "Now. What do we do?"

Suzuki threw up his arms. "No clue. I don't know Kimura as well as you might think. I mean, I was beyond surprised Momoko got her to just... open up like that, after all these years I'd known her."

They mulled it over, until something occurred to Suzuki.

"...Hmm."

"Have an idea?"

"Well... When it comes down to it, I think someone needs to take the first step."

"So... Momo or Saki?"

Suzuki shook his head. "No, I mean... Maybe there's a slight chance one of them can get the ball rolling. But otherwise... they're going to need a guiding example."

"You mean like..."

"I mean like us, yes."

——

"So, how'd it go?"

Suzuki and Tamiko looked at each other, having forgotten it started as a date.

"Uh... good," Tamiko repeatedly nodded.

"We talked about more important things," Suzuki explained.

Momoko groaned. "Aw man, that totally means you didn't hit it off."

"Depends on your definition of "hitting it off," Momo. ...ko. Ahem." Suzuki looked from Momoko to Kimura and back. "We decided it would be a good idea for all four of us to talk about the matter."

"It's not your problem," Kimura retorted.

"I just said "the matter," Kimura. Clearly it must be on your mind if you already knew what I meant."

"...Still doesn't make it your problem," she sighed.

Momoko stood up. "Look, you guys, it's not a big deal. Nothing's gonna stop us from going out in public or anything. At worst, a few funny looks might..."

"...get you down a little," Kimura finished. "Except it's not as "little" as you say, is it?"

"Sakiii...", Momoko whined.

"Let's get to the point," Suzuki firmly stated. "Tamiko and I want to be your indefinite bodyguards."

Sakiko tilted her head. "Our what?"

"Much like Momo appreciates the company of others with regard to lolita, we supposed you may both find added comfort with us along," Tamiko explained.

Momoko looked at Sakiko. "Well, I'm all for Tamiko hanging out with us, I guess, but..."

"...Yeah, sorry to say, Suzuki, but I'm having trouble imagining you tagging along with us girls," Kimura admitted.

He nodded. "That's understandable."

"I mean, I like to think I'm semi-fashionable? And these two are all about it. You, meanwhile, always seem to just throw on whatever's available in the morning."

Suzuki replied without a moment's hesitation. "Right. That's why I was thinking I could wear a dress."

Kimura blinked. "Hm?"

"It's just clothing, so... not like there's anything stopping me. Tamiko tells me she has lots of spares. So if you think our entourage would be more, I dunno, consistent with me in a dress..."

Kimura was silent. Partly because she was sure she would have taken this quite differently just a month or so ago.

The other part of it was the realization that regardless of how Suzuki really felt about crossdressing - she would probably save that question for later - the fact that he was suggesting the idea himself, with all seriousness...

Well, it implied quite a bit. It meant that he really did mean to support her, and Momoko, and their relationship. That he believed there was nothing "wrong" about any of it. That he really was a good friend.

Anyway, Kimura admitted to herself, she did want to see Suzuki in one of Tamiko's dresses.

——

Tamiko whispered to Sakiko, "I didn't have any part in giving him the idea, just so you know."

"I figured you didn't," Sakiko nodded.

Tamiko thought for a moment. "...Do you mean to imply he does he have a history of crossdressing?"

"Fairly sure he doesn't, no."

"T... Then he is a greater friend than I shall ever be...", Tamiko said, almost weeping.

"Aw, no, don't be like that! You'd do the same for Momoko, right?"

"What would "the same" be, in my case?"

Sakiko had to think. "...Uh. Wearing pants?"

Tamiko froze, as if in shock, then let out an exasperated sigh. "What a world we live in."

"He looks GREAT!", Momoko shouted from the dressing room.

Suzuki emerged in a black dress, much like the one Tamiko was currerntly wearing. He was ready for a few laughs, but the way the two thoughtfully looked him over indicated no such thing.

"I think we can do better," Sakiko finally said. Momoko showed surprise, but not much of it.

"You don't think I look good in it, then."

"That's not what she said," Tamiko answered for her. "You look fine. But you have to wear a look that suits you, and I don't think my clothes are the best fit."

Suzuki shrugged. Admittedly, he was clueless in fashion, and these girls were not. When he said "it's just clothing"... well, that's really what he thought in every sense.

In retrospect, it should have been obvious that things would end up like this. He hoped he was in good hands, at least.

...Wait. What was he even saying?

"H-Hold on a second here," Suzuki stuttered, interrupting a conversation the girls were having. "Aren't we supposed to be... I mean, I thought the point of this was to..."

"Do you wanna look good or not?", Sakiko flatly asked.

The girls all stared at him, and he shrugged. "...Yes?"

"You'd better put an exclamation point on that soon or just take it back entirely," Momoko wagged her finger, "because it's not that easy. You don't think pop idols are built in a day, do you?"

"Now, Momo, idols are far more meticulously constructed than the average fashion-conscious woman," Tamiko noted. "...Though, it should be said that, you know, we only know how to do things for women."

"Very true," Sakiko nodded. "Getting Suzuki up to snuff in women's clothing could very easily extend beyond even our combined experience."

"Fortunately, I do know someone!", Momoko beamed.

Sakiko turned. "Wait, you do?"

"Yeah, didn't I ever tell you about Yoko? She used to do..." Momoko suddenly stopped to correct herself. "She... told me she has a male friend who's way into crossdressing."

"A... Ah," Sakiko slowly nodded, thinking over the implications of what she just heard.

"Yeah... well," Momoko mumbled, "that's the official story, anyway."

Suzuki looked between the two, confused.

"...What have I stumbled upon, here?"

"Real people?", Tamiko supposed.

——

Over the next few weeks, the girls worked with Yoko to find the right style for Suzuki, and also to make him more "convincing."

For a little while, Suzuki questioned why the focus had shifted onto him. But now that this had come up, it was honestly what the girls were most interested in, so it wasn't exactly deviating from the "plan"; they were banded together as a group, doing whatever they felt like doing.

Yoko provided more appropriate wigs, bras, etcetera from her stockpile than the other three would have been able to. Suzuki also moved beyond mere clothing by wearing makeup, and sometimes painting his nails.

Not everything went swimmingly, of course. Both before and after Suzuki's "look" had really been pinned down, he attracted a lot of attention, almost always of the bad kind.

In one of the more memorable incidents, a woman on the street stopped and stared at them, then asked "Excuse me, but are you all men?"

"Well, at least she said "excuse me,"" Kimura muttered sarcastically.

Most incidents weren't something that could be later laughed at, though. There always seemed to be new names people called him, and even with the girls protecting him, he was subject to some physical attacks. Luckily nothing too harmful, but many a good dress was ruined this way.

It became very apparent to the girls how much worse Suzuki was getting it. If the goal he had in mind was to suck up all the discouragement they'd otherwise receive, he seemed to be succeeding - but that's not how they wanted it to be.

Suzuki showed no signs of wanting to give it up, though, and it pained them to see him silently take such abuse.

They decided to talk it out one day at Kimura's apartment.

——

"Why don't you ever say anything back, Suzuki?", Kimura asked with clear concern.

He looked at her briefly, then sighed. "And what would I say?"

"I thought you hated it when people made dumb assumptions, and that's what they all are. You're not a "pervert," you're not an "ugly woman," you're not even identifying as female... You're just our friend."

He chuckled. "Tell me again, Kimura. Why do you love Momoko?"

"Huh?"

"You told me before."

"Oh. Uh... Because I do?", she answered, vaguely remembering their conversation from weeks ago.

"And even though we're friends, that's all you feel the need to tell me. Not that you can really come up with a more detailed answer than that, anyway."

"Yeah. And?" She wasn't seeing the relevance.

"So when people get me wrong, what should I say? I could explain how I got into this situation, but is that even important? What good would it do? I'll probably never see those people again, anyway."

"Yeah, maybe it's pointless... but I feel like you should at least try to correct them," Kimura mused. "Still, what I'm really trying to say is... after what I've seen... you really don't have to do it for me."

"Well," Suzuki sighed, "I'm not doing this "for you" anymore."

After seeing how things had progressed over the weeks - it was hard to believe he would go so far otherwise - she had a feeling he'd say that. She just didn't want to assume anything.

"So if you really weren't interested before all this, then why...?"

Momoko, who had been sitting quietly beside Sakiko, spoke up. "Oh, come on, were you even listening? He can't give you an explanation."

"And more importantly, do I have to? Kimura found out she likes girls. I found out I like dressing as one. These things just happened."

Kimura frowned a little. She knew that deep down, of course she did. But what she'd seen in the past weeks bugged her.

And while he'd done his best to hide it, it had bugged Suzuki, too. "I thought I understood how you felt, Kimura, but I was very much wrong."

"Now, come on, you've had it way worse than us now..."

"Worse or not, I'd never really experienced that sort of... sense of unwantedness from the general public. So I couldn't have possibly understood. Sorry."

Momoko saw how gloomy Sakiko and Suzuki looked and groaned. "Alright, enough! You wanna know what I've gotten out of all this?"

"Absolutely," Sakiko answered. Of course she wanted to hear anything Momo had to say.

"The average person - take any random off the street and you'll probably get one - doesn't know frick all!"

Everyone raised their hand in agreement, including Tamiko, who had been waiting outside the door.

"Such language," Tamiko whispered under her breath.

Momoko looked around at everyone and nodded. "We all know it. People have a tendency to give in to conformity, so it's not surprising that you get huge groups which don't understand the "others" who don't fit."

"And it's their numbers that usually end up defeating us. If you wanna get a new idea into people's heads, there's just too many to do it in any sorta reasonable timeframe."

"So if they won't change, the pressure's on us to be people we're not. But if we refuse to do that..." She breathed. "It's not as pointless an act of resistance as it might seem."

"Because if people like us are honest about who they are, not ashamed, don't even see the need to explain themselves, then people will start to wonder: Is there really a problem here?"

Momoko sheepishly smiled. "That's what I hope for, anyway."

Suzuki heard a high-pitched noise in the room gradually increase in volume. He soon realized it was Sakiko squealing.

Maybe there are some solid reasons why she fell in love with her, he thought.

"Are you sure you aren't interested in writing, Momoko?", Suzuki asked.

Momoko giggled. "According to Saki, my ideas aren't up to par."

Sakiko threw up her hands. "I'm out."

"You live here!", Momoko reminded her.

She smirked and patted Momo on the back. "And aren't I glad for that."

"So much so," she said, pointing to the door, "that I think the world should know it too."


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