The following is a commissioned mini-interlude detailing the conversation between Shiori and Avalon just after Flick and Avalon kissed for the first time. It takes place shortly before Shiori and Columbus left for Christmas vacation.
“You like Chambers.”
Of all the possible things that Shiori had expected Avalon to say to her when the girl had tracked her down in the room that she shared with Rebecca, that definitely wasn’t one of them. Although maybe it should have been, considering how unsubtle she was pretty sure she’d ended up being.
Her mouth opened to voice… she wasn’t sure. Confusion, maybe. Or denial. But when her eyes found Avalon’s, she saw the serious expression there and the words died in her throat.
Instead, all she actually managed at first was a somewhat weak, “Um.”
Yeah, Shiori, the girl thought to herself, that’ll convince Commander Busty McNinja you don’t have the hots for her roommate. GG.
She wasn’t sure why she’d arbitrarily assigned Avalon a military rank in her own private, internal nickname for the girl. It just… fit.
For her part, the other girl waited few seconds before coughing. She actually looked… nervous? But why? What did she have to be nervous abo–
“I kissed her,” Avalon blurted then, interrupting Shiori’s thoughts. “I kissed Chambers.” For a moment after the words came out of her mouth, the girl looked surprised that she had actually said them. And that itself was kind of surprising, considering how little emotion she tended to show. Hell, even at that point she wasn’t exactly advertising how she felt. The girl was just… slightly more possible to read.
Shiori, on the other hand, was pretty sure that the emotions she felt were written plainly across her face. “I–oh. I mean, you um.”
Flick. The girl that Shiori… she… the girl that had helped her feel sane again for the first time since they arrived at this place. The girl who had convinced Shiori that she wasn’t a monster. The girl who had listened, who actually made her laugh in what had felt like forever. The girl who she… she had desperately wanted to explain her feelings for, but kept chickening out.
And now? Now it was too late.
Her mind immediately tried to flash to anger, but she forced that down. She didn’t own Flick. She hadn’t even really made it clear how she felt about the blonde girl. So all those immediate, reflexively nasty thoughts that popped into her head, well, those could just go away. Avalon didn’t do anything wrong. She didn’t.
No. No. Don’t, Shiori. Don’t do it. Don’t be upset. Don’t think it. Don’t be mad.
Her stomach hurt. Something in her chest felt twisted, and there seemed to be an ache in her lungs every time she took a breath.
Through the hard lump in her throat, Shiori slowly tried talking again. Her voice was too quiet at first, and then she overcompensated, her voice going briefly high-pitched and cracking a little bit. “I understand. I get it. Y-you don’t have to say anything. I’m not gonna–I’m not gonna ruin your… thing. I won’t–”
“Shut up for a second, Porter.” Avalon’s voice was flat. “I didn’t come to threaten you, or warn you away. And I didn’t come to brag either, if that’s what you were thinking.”
Actually, the thought that she had maybe been bragging had immediately leapt to Shiori’s mind. But it had also been tied up in the thought that the girl was trying to warn her away from Flick.
“Then–” She blinked in confusion and uncertainty. Her stomach still hurt, and it was hard to focus. “Why did you–I mean… what….”
Sighing audibly, Avalon folded her arms over her stomach and met Shiori’s gaze. “Like I said, you like Chambers. And I know how I’d feel if… if I found out that you two kissed before she knew how I… felt. If I found out from someone else, I mean.”
Huh. She wasn’t just nervous, Shiori slowly realized. There was that too, of course. But she was also… happy. It was hard to see, considering the way Avalon tended to keep her emotions buttoned up. But in this case, she was obviously a great big bundle of emotions that she was barely keeping a lid on through the thin veneer of her outward appearance.
“You came because you thought someone might have seen you guys kiss and you didn’t want me to hear… rumors about it?” she asked slowly, hugging her own stomach in a vain attempt to make it stop rolling.
“I knew how it would make me feel,” Avalon repeated quietly without looking away. “Because I felt it before.”
Before she could think better of it, Shiori blurted, “You did? Who did–”
“We’re not talking about that.” The other girl’s voice was firm as she interrupted. “We’re just–” She visibly took a breath to calm herself. “I just wanted you to hear it from me, since Chambers already left with Professor Kohaku. I…” She trailed off for a few seconds before pushing on. “Like I said, I didn’t bring it up to hurt you, Porter, or to brag. But I thought you should know.”
Slowly sitting down on her bed beside the bag that she’d been packing, Shiori found herself murmuring, “I was gonna ask her out. I just kept… putting it off. I like her, and I was afraid that…”
“That you’d ruin it by bringing it out in the open.” Avalon grunted the words, pausing briefly before moving to sit on the edge of Rebecca’s desk chair. “I know. That’s why I put it off for so long. Well, part of the reason.”
Trying to force a smile that she didn’t feel, Shiori looked to the other girl. Her rival? That’s how it should’ve been, anyway. It’s how dozens if not hundreds of TV shows had conditioned her to think of Avalon as. And yet… really, all she could think was that as unhappy as she was, she also didn’t want Avalon to be unhappy either.
I want to be with Flick, but I don’t want to take Flick away from Avalon to do it.
The other girl was already talking again. “I like Chambers. I want her to be happy. And I don’t…” She sighed slowly. “I don’t relish the idea of making you unhappy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t… feel that way about–”
“Oh, me neither,” Shiori quickly interrupted with a slight blush while her head shook rapidly. “I mean, you’re–yeah.” Gesturing up and down at the girl’s unbelievably fine figure, she coughed before forcing herself to finish. “You’re great-looking. But you’re not my type.”
“Same to you.” Avalon’s voice was dry again. “But Chambers clearly likes you.”
Despite herself and the entire confusing situation, Shiori felt herself blush. “She–I mean, that doesn’t really matter, does it? I don’t want you to be unhappy either, Avalon. And you… you made a move first. I’m not gonna try to ruin that.”
For a few seconds, Avalon didn’t say anything. She just looked at Shiori and seemed to be debating something inwardly with herself. Finally, she shifted forward in the chair and spoke up. “It doesn’t… have to be a one-or-the-other thing.”
“What…” Shiori squinted, confused. “What does that mean?”
“Heretics aren’t like Bystanders,” the other girl replied. “For a lot of reasons, obviously. But also as far as relationships go. People can date more than one person, even be serious with them. Hell, a lot of them get married to more than one person. Dating multiple people separately when everyone involved knows what’s going on, it’s nothing new.”
Okay, if she’d been blushing before, now Shiori was bright red. “Wh-what?” she stammered while her eyes widened. “How does that work?”
Avalon shrugged. “Like I said, everyone involved understands what’s going on. You can spend time with one friend and then spend other time with a different friend, right? It’s the same thing.”
“It’s really not the same thing,” Shiori pointed out a little weakly. “I… sorry, I just–I don’t know what to say about it. I mean, with most people–I mean Bystanders, that’d be… it’d probably fall apart because someone would get jealous or–or something. Also, everyone would say it was really creepy.”
“Bystanders would say that most things Heretics do are creepy,” Avalon pointed out dryly, a fact that Shiori couldn’t really argue with. “But I didn’t ask their opinion. I’m just saying, it’s not seen as anything that weird here.”
For a few moments, Shiori didn’t say anything. She just sat there on her bed, looking at the floor as she thought that through. “I don’t know how I feel about that,” she finally ventured. “But I want Flick to be happy. And… I like her. You like her. She likes… you.”
“She likes you too,” the other girl insisted. “She likes both of us. That’s why she hasn’t brought it up, because she’s afraid of hurting one of us.”
Sighing, Shiori muttered, “Boy, do I know that feeling.”
Looking up then, she shrugged. “Maybe we should just wait and see how she feels about it?”
Avalon raised an eyebrow. “You really think she’ll talk about it?”
Shiori nodded quickly. “Flick doesn’t want anyone to get hurt. Now that you kissed her–I mean–I–umm… “ She cleared her throat. “What I mean is, she’ll bring it up on her own. She’ll talk to us about it, I know she will.”
“Does that mean you’re not going to talk to her about it when you’re there at Christmas?” Avalon was clearly taking care to phrase her question diplomatically.
“No–I mean yes, that’s what it means,” Shiori quickly corrected herself. “I won’t bring it up. I won’t–I mean, I won’t use the whole… time at Christmas to steal her away or anything, if that’s what you’re worried about. I won’t poison the well, I promise. And when we get back…”
“We’ll all talk about it,” Avalon finished. “Whether she brings it up on her own or not.”
“But we give her the time to bring it up,” Shiori insisted.
They sat there for a few seconds in silence before she snuck a look at the other girl. “When you kissed her, was it–”
“We’re done here.” Avalon’s three words had barely hit the air before she was already at the door, pushing out to the hallway. Pausing there, she looked back a little stiffly. “Have a good vacation, Porter.”
“You–” The door closed, leaving Shiori alone. “–too?”
Falling back onto the bed, she stared at the ceiling for a few seconds, letting everything that had just happened wash over her. A dozen thoughts went through her mind over that time. Some were good, some were bad. But in the end, one thought suddenly took precedence over all of the others, one thought that made her sit up suddenly, eyes widening as the words blurted their way out of her mouth.
“Oh my god, we’re at a magical school and Flick just started a harem.
“This is a fucking anime.”