Celebrated Gem

[Follow-up to Fallen Gem]

Hanamaru was proud of her role in getting Ruby and Yoshiko together. She was glad the two of them had made up, and seemed to be doing well together.

It was a bit of a lapse on her part to not notice Ruby’s feelings for Yoshiko before Ruby went and confessed. Maybe she could have helped make that all… less messy. She had thought she had a better head and eye for those things than both of them put together, but to her credit Ruby had managed to slip entirely under the radar.

There was also this new sense of confidence to Ruby now. Whenever she saw Ruby and Yoshiko together, Ruby seemed to be the one in the lead. Seemed like there was finally something someone was more shy about than Ruby, and Hanamaru could tell her friend found great joy in that. It was nice seeing them together.

But it also meant both of them had less time to spend with Hanamaru. She couldn’t deny it got a little bit lonely at times. Hanamaru and Yoshiko had spent a lot of time together in elementary school. Hanamaru and Ruby had been nearly inseparable since they bonded in middle school. Now Hanamaru spent more time by herself. Which could get a little lonely.  Not because she had any problem being by herself, but… she had just gotten so used to someone being there.

Now she was putting books back on their shelves in the library by herself. Ruby had been there earlier, but excused herself. Probably to go see Yoshiko again. Hanamaru sighed. There was just one stack of books left, then she had a little time off before Aqours practice started. She could get back to the book she was reading. For some reason she seemed to have acquired an interest in romance novels. She had even suggested some to Ruby.

She got off the step ladder, but halfway back to the checkout desk, the door opened and Yoshiko stepped inside.

“Oh good, you’re here, Zuramaru,” she said, and Hanamaru smiled a little. Yoshiko didn’t seem to want to give up on that silly nickname.

“Nice to see you too, Yoshiko-chan,” Hanamaru said, and took her seat.

“It’s Yohane!” Yoshiko protested. That part hadn’t changed either. Maybe it had even gotten… worse? Maybe that’s not the right word. But it didn’t take long for Ruby to start saying ‘Yohane’, so that probably encouraged Yoshiko even further. Hanamaru wasn’t sure she could ever get used to it, though.

“Was there something you wanted, zura?” she asked with a patient smile.

“Ah, right, yes… I need to ask you something,” Yoshiko said, and grabbed a nearby chair to sit down across the desk from Hanamaru.

“Oh?” Hanamaru said, and a twinkling of mischief sparked within her. “Have you come to ask me to join you and Ruby in polyamory, zura? For shame, Yoshiko-chan.” She chuckled pleased at Yoshiko going bright red. It was a nice contrast to her hair.

“Wha- Bu- Ho-” Yoshiko seemed lost for words. Maybe Hanamaru had gone a little overboard. “H-how do you even know that word?” Yoshiko finally asked.

“I’m well-read, zura,” Hanamaru said smartly. Which was technically true, except that was from a book she had read only two days ago. “How do you know that word?”

“I… um… well… my dark wings take me around the internet a lot,” Yoshiko replied, sounding embarrassed. “It might have come up here and there…”

“The internet?” Hanamaru raised an eyebrow. She might not be any good with computers still, but she at least knew that term now. “It truly is the future, zura. Maybe you can show me some time?”

“S-stop distracting me, Zuramaru!” Yoshiko whined in a helpless tone. Hanamaru suppressed a giggle.

“I’m sorry, Yoshiko-chan,” she said.

“I told you it’s Yoha-” Yoshiko sighed. “Never mind. We’re never getting anywhere like this. I need your help.” Yoshiko sounded very serious, so Hanamaru figured it was best to stop fooling around.

“If it’s within my power, I’ll see what I can do, zura,” she said. While listening she might as well get started on checking the titles of the final books.

“As you know, it’s Ruby’s birthday soon,” Yoshiko said gravely. It was a couple of weeks out yet, but Hanamaru supposed that counted as ‘soon’. “And I don’t know what to get her. My dark powers are of no help to me here. You know her better than I do, so… so please.” That was a rare word to hear from Yoshiko. “What should I get her?” Hanamaru glanced at her.

“You could just wrap yourself in ribbons, and spring out of a cake, zura,” Hanamaru suggested jokingly. Maybe Mari was rubbing off on her. Yoshiko’s eyes went wide.

“Zu-Zuramaruuuuu, I’m being serious here!” Yoshiko didn’t sound like she appreciated the joke. Hanamaru noticed one of the books had gone past time. She hated administering late fees though, so she might let it slip.

“I’m sorry, Yoshiko-chan,” Hanamaru said, and give it some serious thought. “Well… I’m sure she wouldn’t mind another plush, zura. A nice piece of clothing or some sweets could also work, though I’m not sure your tastes would fit Ruby-chan, zura.” Yoshiko accepted that more quickly than Hanamaru expected. “Some sort of necklace, or brooch, or similar she’d probably love. Possibly even especially if it was in your style, zura.”

“You think so?” Yoshiko asked a little uncertainly.

“Ruby-chan adores your…” Hanamaru pondered how to phrase it. “Your fallen angel side, zura. You could get her something she could wear: a hairpin, necklace, bracelet, or something she could keep close, zura. Something that was very… you, zura. I have a feeling she would treasure that.” Yoshiko seemed a little encouraged at that. Hanamaru got an idea. “Even better, why don’t you make her something, zura?”

“Huh?” Yoshiko said, sounding confused.

“I know you’re good with your hands, zura. You work a lot on your own outfits, right?” Hanamaru asked, and Yoshiko nodded a little hesitantly. “So if you make a little something for her, that would probably make her the happiest, zura.” Yoshiko didn’t seem entirely certain.

“Anything I make is likely to turn out cursed,” she said, and seemed genuinely convinced of it too. Hanamaru had to giggle.

“I think that making something for Ruby-chan will probably counter-act your… hm… cursed luck, zura,” she said. Well, that’s all the titles checked properly, so she picked up the final stack of books to put them in place. She was running out of free time before practice.

“Are you making fun of me?” Yoshiko asked in a sulking tone.

“Me, zura? I thought you knew me better than that, Yoshiko-chan,” Hanamaru said cheerfully. At least none of these books required the stepladder, so this shouldn’t take long.

“I keep telling you, it’s Yohane!” Yoshiko sighed. “But… thank you.” She got up from the chair. “I think I know what to do now.” As she was leaving, she paused with one hand on the doorframe, and looked back. “Zuramaru… I probably don’t say this enough, or ever… but you’re a good friend.” Hanamaru nearly dropped the last three books.

“Zura?” She looked back towards Yoshiko with an expression of mild shock. Yoshiko started blushing.

“N-never mind! I’ll see you at practice!” Yoshiko said, and hurried off.

“You too, Yoshiko-chan,” Hanamaru said quietly and smiled to herself.

It took Yohahe a few days to plan and sketch out what she wanted to make. A small fallen angel shaped charm that Ruby could use as a phone strap. She was going to make it soft like a mini plush so it would be really hard for it to break. Zuramaru was correct that Yohane made stuff for her own outfits, but this was the first time she would make something so intricate, yet small. She hoped her fingers were up to the task.

Yohane also hoped that Zuramaru was correct about the other thing too. That making something for someone else, someone she really cared for and loved, would counter-act her bad luck and avoid the item becoming cursed. She wanted the charm to be protection from other dark forces that might take an interest in Ruby, and to keep her safe.

In that case it probably would have been better to make something Ruby could wear all the time, but this was more inconspicuous, and better suited for Ruby.

Looking at some online guides for making plushes she was able to sketch out the patterns. Some trial and error was needed considering how small it was going to be.

She lost count of how many times she poked her fingers with the needle. So she returned to the fabric store and bought herself a thimble. Or rather several thimbles, just in case. She still had no real protection against the curse herself, and would not rule out a few thimbles simply vanishing from existence.

Stuffing the charm without making it look awful was also a bit of a challenge, but not as much as sewing the skin in the first place. Even though she knew it was probably considered weird, and might not have any extra effect, she included a few strands of her hair in the stuffing. Maybe it would help make her feelings come across stronger.

After about a week she had a small dark-clad, dark-haired, dark-winged angel with a strap that could attach to Ruby’s phone. Getting the strap and wings on was the final challenge, but she thought she had done well. It didn’t really look that much like Yohane if she was being perfectly honest, but she thought it conveyed the right idea.

Her fingers were a mess though. After she started using the thimble, she somehow managed to poke her other fingers instead. Sometimes in ways that shouldn’t be possible. At least she had avoided getting any blood on the charm. She had no way of predicting what effect that would actually have.

There were also three thimbles missing, and the devil only knew where those might be. Probably no longer in this realm.

She looked at the mess of stuff she now had to clean up. There was enough material left that maybe she could make a little something for Zuramaru as well. Just to show her gratitude. Not as nice as what she had made Ruby, as it was Ruby’s birthday, and they were dating, but… she felt Zuramaru deserved something. For all her help, not just with this. For being a good friend.

It was finally the big day, and Ruby was excited. She loved birthdays. Okay, being the centre of attention was a little scary, but there was cake! And balloons! Well, she was too old for balloons. But there were presents! She had invited everyone to come over after school.

There had been a banner hanging in the club room today, and everyone had sung for her. Which was both embarrassing and nice. Dia had said that anyone who used confetti had to clean it up themselves. Everyone still popped confetti. Even Dia couldn’t resist. She had just prepared a hoover first.

Ruby had told them to not give her the presents until they came over though. She didn’t think she’d be able to resist opening them early.

Of course she was most curious about what Yohane had gotten her. Yohane hadn’t even asked what Ruby wanted, which meant that either Yohane had forgotten, or she had something planned. Ruby had subtly reminded Yohane of her upcoming birthday, and Yohane’s whole response just boiled down to ‘I know’. So she definitely had something planned. Ruby had so many butterflies in her stomach she wondered if there was any room for cake.

When it was time for the party, Ruby felt like she might just float away. With all of Aqours here, it would be her biggest celebration ever! Which was so exciting it outweighed how intimidating it also was. They were all her friends, so even with all the focus being on her, she didn’t think it would make her too nervous.

She probably could have convinced Dia to have balloons, but instead asked for party hats. In different colours for all the members, of course. Ruby wrote everyone’s names on them.

The downside was that there would be no kissing Yohane tonight. With everyone around there was no way they’d get any moments just to themselves. They had snuck away for a little bit after school though, for as long as they dared.

Before they got to actually eating the cake and everything else, there was present time!

Dia had gotten her a rare DVD of one of Ruby’s favourite idol groups besides µ’s. Ruby had wanted to go to this concert, but this was when Dia was still in her anti-idol phase. Maybe she felt guilty about it now.

Mari had wanted to get Ruby something expensive, like her own boat, but Dia had fiercely protested. As a compromise, Mari had paid for everything for the party. She still slipped Ruby 10 000 yen behind Dia’s back, and told her to spend it wisely. While pointedly glancing towards Yohane. Ruby giggled and accepted, since it was for a good cause.

Kanan had gotten Chika, You, and Riko to get together with her, and bought Ruby a large penguin plush. As an extra, You had made a captain’s hat for the penguin. She said had wanted to do a jacket too, but there hadn’t been time.

Riko also had something extra: she had done a drawing of Aqours at the beach. Ruby thought it was beautiful. She decided she was going to frame it, and hang it in her room.

Hanamaru had gotten Ruby a book. She told Ruby to be careful opening it, and Ruby quickly found out why. It was one of the books she had suggested earlier. She hid the cover so the others, especially Dia, wouldn’t see it.

And finally Yohane gave her a small present. It was soft, and Ruby looked at Yohane curiously before opening it. Inside was a small dark-winged angel. It looked a little like Yohane.

“I made it myself,” Yohane said shyly. “Y-you can strap it onto your phone.” It was true, there was a strap on it that would work for that. Ruby was at a loss for words. Yohane had made her this wonderful little thing. All sorts of emotions were bubbling up inside Ruby, and she quickly hugged Yohane. She didn’t care whether Dia thought it was appropriate or not.

“Thank you,” she whispered, and warm, happy tears trickled down her cheeks. This was the best birthday ever.

Epilogue:

It was nearly dark by the time the party was over, and Hanamaru made sure to wrap her scarf tightly. They had all helped clean up a bit before going home. At least she didn’t have that far to go to get home. It was a little worse for You and Yoshiko, since the last busses had left a while ago. So Dia and Ruby’s father had volunteered to drive them home.

“Zuramaru!” Hanamaru heard Yoshiko call out before they left. She turned as Yoshiko jogged over, and handed her a small, wrapped thing. “For your help, and… f-for everything,” Yoshiko said. Hanamaru opened it curiously, and in the light of the street-lamp saw a small, dark-coloured book with a strap on it. Made of fabric, like Ruby’s angel had been. Had Yoshiko made this too?

“Yoshiko-chan?” she looked up at Yoshiko, who was looking rather embarrassed.

“Like I said… you really helped me out, so… this is for you,” she said, scraping one of her shoes along the ground.

“It’s lovely,” Hanamaru said with a smile. “Thank you, zura.” Yoshiko looked relieved.

“A-anyway, I need to go, or they’ll leave without me. Bye,” she turned around and jogged back to the car.

Hanamaru watched her get in, and then it drove away. That was unexpected, she thought to herself. As she turned to walk home, she squeezed the little book gently against her chest.

~Wulf

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Posted on June 12, 2017, in Fiction, Storytime and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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