A Good Friend
[Sequel to Cracked Gem]
Ruby hadn’t come to school today, and Hanamaru was concerned.
What Dia had told her seemed really bad, so now Hanamaru was waiting for school to be over so she could go see her.
However that was not the only thing bothering Hanamaru right now. Yoshiko was acting strange. Stranger than usual. Suspicious, almost.
Thinking back, she had been a little strange all day. Hanamaru had just written that off as fairly standard for Yoshiko though. She always had weird stuff on her mind. But ever since Dia stopped by, Yoshiko had gotten even stranger.
Quite suspicious. She knew Yoshiko pretty well, after all. Hamamaru had a suspicion she might know something about Ruby that she for some reason withheld from Dia. And from Hanamaru.
Had Ruby ran into Yoshiko yesterday when she had gone off on her own? Had Yoshiko said something to her? Then why wouldn’t she tell us about it? The gods help her if Yoshiko had anything to do with why Ruby is hurt…
Hanamaru wondered why Ruby had gone off in the first place. She had asked at the time, but Ruby wouldn’t say. I can’t tell you yet, she had said. Yet…
Maybe Ruby would be willing to tell her now. But if it was something that she absolutely refused to share with Dia, then maybe Hanamaru wouldn’t have any more luck either. Ruby and Hanamaru were best friends, but Ruby adored her sister.
She still wanted to go see her, of course. Hopefully cheer her up a little, or at least keep her company for a while.
But before that, should she try talking to Yoshiko? If Hanamaru’s suspicions were correct, then Yoshiko had already withheld something. Perhaps she won’t be willing to give that up, but Hanamaru thought it worth trying.
When lunch break started, she turned towards Yoshiko’s desk.
“Hey, Yoshiko-chan,” she said as casually as she could, and Yoshiko visibly jumped. Definitely suspicious.
“Z-Zuramaru?” Yoshiko replied as she slowly turned to look at Hanamaru. Yeah, she hadn’t attempted to correct anyone with ‘it’s Yohane’ today. Very suspicious.
“Are you sure you don’t know anything about Ruby-chan?” she asked. “Maybe you saw her yesterday, zura?” The mortified look on Yoshiko’s face was so suspicious. Hanamaru was certain of it now.
“W-what are you- w-why would I have-“Yoshiko stuttered forth. “I d-didn’t see her at all yesterday!” Yoshiko wasn’t a very good liar.
“Then why are you panicking, zura?” Hanamaru asked very pointedly while she narrowed her eyes. Yoshiko was looking really pale.
“I-I’m n-not…” Yoshiko said, backing away in her chair. “F-fallen angels never p-panic!” She suddenly shouted, and before Hanamaru could react, Yoshiko had grabbed her bag and things and ran off. She didn’t return for the rest of the day.
Very, very suspicious.
Ruby was curled up and staring at the wall, wishing her aching heart would just stop. There was a knock at the door, and it opened slightly.
“Ruby-chan?” It was Hanamaru’s voice. “Can I come in, zura?” Ruby thought it over. She wasn’t really in the mood for company, but she was also tired of being alone.
“Mhm…” was all she said. She could hear the door open enough for Hanamaru to step inside, then close again. There was something comforting about hearing Hanamaru’s footsteps approaching.
“Is it okay if I sit down, zura?” Hanamaru asked when she was by the bed. Ruby turned around and looked up at Hanamaru’s gentle form. She nodded, and Hanamaru smiled at her as she sat on the bed.
Maybe she should have fallen in love with Hanamaru instead. Ruby could feel a sting in her heart as she thought that. Even she knew that wasn’t how it worked.
“How are you doing?” Hanamaru asked with a gentleness that made Ruby want to cry again. She didn’t think she had any more tears in her, though.
Ruby wriggled herself closer to Hanamaru, and her friend clearly picked up on what Ruby wanted. She helped Ruby move so she could rest her head in Hanamaru’s lap. They would often do this when Ruby was really sad or upset. There weren’t many things that comforted her more.
Hanamaru was a really good friend. Better than Ruby felt she currently deserved. Stupid Ruby. Such a child.
“Not good,” Ruby muttered when she was settled in. Hanamaru started stroking Ruby’s hair.
“Do you want to talk about what happened, zura?” she asked. Ruby shook her head as best she could. “Okay,” was all Hanamaru said. They settled into a comfortable silence.
Ruby was feeling calmer having Hanamaru there, especially with how her hair was being stroked. It didn’t take long before she drifted off, more tired than she was aware.
She didn’t know how long she was out, but when she woke up again Hanamaru was still there. There was also a tray of food and drinks. Probably brought by Dia. Ruby turned her head to see that Hanamaru was nibbling on a pastry while leaning back a little. Maybe she didn’t want any crumbs to land on Ruby.
Ruby slowly pushed herself up into a sitting position. She was feeling a little better now. That was the best she had slept since… since… she felt her heart ache again.
“Did you sleep well, zura?” Hanamaru asked, and Ruby nodded.
“Thank you,” Ruby said quietly.
“You should eat something,” Hanamaru said. “And have something to drink. Dia already poured a mug for you.” Ruby looked at Hanamaru, and seeing her kind smile made Ruby choke a little. Did she really deserve this?
She turned her attention to the tray. There were snacks there, but also some proper food. Ruby realised she was very hungry, and grabbed the bowl of rice. It was cold by now, but still good. She could have probably eaten anything right now.
“We’re all really worried about you, zura,” Hanamaru said when Ruby was through most of it. “Me, Dia…” There was a pause. “Yoshiko-chan…” Ruby flinched and nearly spat out her mouthful. She forced herself to swallow it, and broke into a coughing fit. Hanamaru patted her on the back until it passed.
Ruby grabbed her mug and gulped down the cold matcha. Hanamaru mercifully didn’t say anything more until she was done. Ruby put the mug down, and stared down into her lap.
“Ruby-chan…” Hanamaru said softly. “I tried talking to Yoshiko-chan today, but she panicked and ran away, zura.” Ruby felt like her wounds were opening again.
“You ran into her yesterday, didn’t you, zura? She did something, didn’t she?” Hanamaru spoke in a gentle and patient tone, but Ruby could tell her resolve was firm.
“… yes,” Ruby replied. She could feel it all about to spill out of her. “S-she d-didn’t believe m-me, Ha-Hanamaru-chan. She di-didn’t b-believe me.” She could feel Hanamaru embracing her, so Ruby turned to bury her face in Hanamaru’s shoulder. She still had tears left in her after all.
“I-I t-told her I-I lo-loved h-her,” Ruby blubbered. “B-but sh-she did… d-didn’t beli-lieve me. She tho-thought I-I w-was joke… joking. S-she la-laughed!” Ruby clung tightly to Hanamaru, sobbing.
“I h-hate her…” was the last thing she managed to say, but it was entirely without conviction. Despite it all, she couldn’t hate Yoshiko. Hanamaru squeezed her, and it wasn’t long before Ruby exhausted herself to the point of falling asleep again.
[Sequel: Fallen Angel Hunt]