Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata Girls Side 3, the penultimate volume of Fumiaki Maruto’s currently ongoing light novel series was released on June 20. Despite being separately numbered, the Girls Side novels are integral parts of the main series, patching up the important developments concealed from Tomoya’s perspective. In order to completely enjoy the intended experience of the series, one needs to go through all of the books. You can get this light novel from here.
The awkward, pure love story of the boring girlfriends.
That girl with flat, arbitrary emotional expression no longer exists. The one who is here right now is the boring girlfriend who will never give up her main heroine seat—Megumi Katou. Picking up from Tomoya’s decision, it’s time for the girls-only galge development.
This chapter is set right after the events of chapter 12.2.
Izumi wishes Megumi a happy birthday via mail and says she’s giving her an illustration as a present. Megumi thanks her, but then asks about work. Izumi says she is just kidding and shows Megumi her current progress with the Meguri scenario. Izumi goes on praising Meguri’s cuteness as Megumi stays silent and drops her phone while her thoughts wander. Did she make the same expression as this heroine’s at “that moment”? Nope, did it seem like she make that expression, and did “he” see her in that expression at “that moment”? Izumi asks Megumi if she thinks the illustration needs a retake, to which Megumi replies with a no as she muttered, “I’m not this deep in love…” Right now, she is just a heroine who got dumped on her promised birthday date with a boy otaku (furigana: Tomoya Aki).
Iori congratulates Izumi for finishing the junior and cousin routes, although he also questions the quality for certain parts of it. Iori goes on to tell Izumi to work on the Meguri scenario next, but Izumi starts hyping it before he finishes his sentence. Izumi then asks Iori if he knew Akane collapsed, to which Iori asks where she heard that from. Izumi tells him she heard it from Megumi, who was told by Tomoya. The chapter skips to the circle meeting next Monday. The circle talks about how Tomoya is going back to Akane’s place for “scenario writing” stuff. Izumi talks about how getting Akane to help will definitely make Meguri route a godly scenario—as she believes the route has been greatly improving because of Akane’s advice. As Izumi continues putting Akane in high regard, Megumi shoots her down with sharp remarks, ranging from Akane having a large debt against their circle to her fame being unrelated to their doujin circle. Megumi went on to say that it’s better for them not to press the topic further, as it’s a private matter between Tomoya and Akane. Izumi tries to inquire Megumi about Akane’s “debt”, but Megumi shuts her down with a “smile”.
The Hashima siblings continue their conversation at home. While both of them basically agree with Megumi’s point, Iori expresses his concern over the fact that not everyone in their circle seems to be in line with it. Iori points out that a considerable damage is bound to affect both Utaha and Eriri’s career with Akane—who spearheads the development of Fields Chronicle XIII—gone, and that Tomoya will not stand down without doing anything. Iori also questions Megumi’s point of view for the matter, whether she really takes everything into consideration when dealing with someone who only looks straight ahead like Tomoya and fulfilling her role as a vice representative.
Fast forward to Tuesday’s lunch break at school, with Izumi telling Megumi about Iori’s thoughts on the matter.
“Hu, hu, huuuuum…”
“I see… I’m a failure as a vice representative…”
“Uh, no one said that much…”
“Not seeing the big picture… Unable to think through the possibilities… That’s a big deal.”
“T-that’s why I said it’s all just Onii-chan’s opinion! It’s not like I’m thinking of it that way!”
“It’s okay, it’s fine. Izumi-chan’s not in the wrong here. The true enemy lies elsewhere.”
“Please don’t call him ‘enemy’! Not to mention you’re adding the feel of a last boss there!”
“It’s a joke, Izumi-chan.”
“That’s really a joke, right? So please, I’m begging you, can you not joke around with that face and voice again for a lifetime, Megumi-san?”
Megumi holds Izumi’s trembling hands with her own and shows a gentle expression as she starts speaking in a persuading tone.
“I’ve already talked with Tomoya-kun about this.”
“O-oh, is that so?”
“Yes, he is certainly concerned with the two and what would happen to ‘Fields Chronicle’.”
“B-but then, that’s…”
“Even so, he’s already promised.”
“‘To work hard with all one’s got for our game without setting eyes on other things’, see?”
“That’s why, I’ll believe.”
“I’ll believe, in Tomoya-kun…”
“Oh, come to think of it, Onii-chan also said this.”
“Eh, what did he say?”
“If Megumi-san keeps talking about ‘believing in Tomoya-kun’, that’s the solid proof of her not really having faith in him, or so.”
“H-huh? Eh? Megumi-san?”
“You see, I’ve been thinking… Someone who keeps trying to find other people’s faults is really a horrible person, right?”
“U-uh, the person in question is my big brother, though…”
“I guess no one’s going to remain under a producer who fails to trust his own members. Ah, so that’s why he had no choice but to quit his former circle…”
Another fast forward to a few hours later in Izumi’s room. Iori tells Izumi that what’s important as a producer is not trust, but to run the organization smoothly; what a producer need is the ability to calmly spot a problem, identify the heart of that problem, and proceed favorably even if all the members hate him for it. Izumi tells Iori to say it directly to Megumi, but Iori notes how Megumi doesn’t care about his opinion. Iori continues by aknowledging himself as someone necessary for the circle to calmly deal with the trouble Tomoya may cause.
It turns out Izumi directly forwards Iori’s words to Megumi through her phone.
You’ve got a bunch of self-awareness, huh? Izumi-chan’s Onii-san.
But, that’s just your assumption.”
The conversation afterwards continues between Iori and Megumi with Izumi’s phone as somewhat of a medium.
“You’re saying it’s all just my assumption, huh…“
“If you’re talking about support, then I—no, the circle is enough already.
Izumi-chan, Hyoudou-san, and me.”
“U-uh, Onii-chan is also a memb—
Well, I knew you’re going to say that.
But, can you all remain calm when Tomoya goes up and cause something to happen?
Isn’t there a risk that you are going to be swayed by emotion and cannot make a sound decision?“
“We definitely can.”
“That’s a fast response.
It has already become emotional at this point, though.“
“It’s just a question that I doesn’t have to think about to answer.”
“You guys can save Tomoya, that’s for sure.
But can you save the circle?
Can you keep on going with the flow of creating the game?
That’s why I told you not to push her too much…”
“…….I guess this conversation is a waste.”
“Ah! I’m sorry, Megumi-san!”
“Uhm, Izumi-chan is entirely not at fault here.”
“Err, please excuse me, everything from here on out is said by Onii-chan alone, okay?”
“That’s why I said you don’t have to keep relaying each one of the messages…”
“In the end, I think you’ll end up getting carried by your emotion, though.
Crying and putting Tomoya on the spot.
I guess you are a ‘heavier’ girl than I thought.“
“That’s not true at all.
I will definitely not cry.
I will not pester him around.
Nor do I will put him on the spot.
Can you stop with these baseless assumptions of yours?”
“You’ve gotten really tenacious, huh.
Sorry if the truth hurts.“
“I have no need for your apologies or your words.
Please excuse me.”
Sorry! See you tomorrow at school!”
And so, one day later…
The time is approaching the moment of truth for Iori (Wednesday evening; furigana: chapter 12.5).
This chapter takes place after the events of chapter 12.4.
Sonoko (Utaha’s manager) visits Akane at the hospital. Akane tells Sonoko to hand her some pizza, but Sonoko reminds her that she just had dinner. Sonoko brings up the “fight” between Akane and Tomoya the other day. Akane retaliates by saying it was him who butted in and threw his opinion about her game. Sonoko tells her that Akane could have simply brushed him off if it’s not “an opinion important enough to strike a chord”.
Sonoko then touches on the subject of Tomoya’s prior consultation with Akane about his game, and it turns out Akane had already shown symptoms of her current condition right before she picked up Tomoya’s call at that time. Sonoko freaks out after knowing the fact and inquires Akane about the reason she didn’t ask for Tomoya’s help at that time. Akane simply replies that it’s because they are having a talk about making games, and it’s wrong to disrespect a scenario made by an amateur; she starts thinking that it’s not a wonder since Tomoya’s been polishing his skills under Utaha all this time, to which Sonoko mutters how Akane’s train of thought has always been a wonder to her.
Sonoko tells Akane that she hasn’t changed at all since their university days. They starts reminiscing about the time they spent together (with another one of their friend, Chitose) staying up late playing Fields Chronicle VII and leveling up all the while criticizing the game’s flaws. Akane jokes around that this topic sounds like a proper death flag as Sonoko berates her for it. They continue talking about why they are still single as Akane mentions her unreasonably high standard for a partner, and then about Utaha who is writing a new novel.
“Ah~, I’m really tired.”
“Well, lots of things happened today… It’s better for you to rest now. I’ll stay with you until you sleep.”
“I see, so you’re going to do that, huh…”
As Akane said those words with a tranquil expression, she closes her eyes.
“Then, I’ll be relying on you for the rest, O-Sono.”
“I don’t really care, but I guess there’s no helping it… I’ll work hard together with Taki-kun.”
“Rejoice, it’s been ten years since the last time I’m lowering my head in front of someone.”
“Ten years… You mean your commercial debut?”
“No, it was at my first anime adaptation’s announcement. Nothing but horrible memories remain, though.”
“Don’t make me regret this, okay?”
“I’ve got to give you a credit for that attitude of yours.”
Beneath the shadow of that decision, bitterness, regret, anxiety, and other negative emotions lurk—but even so, the last hope that remains at the bottom of the box somewhat appears to sparkle.
“Good night, Akane.”
That’s why Akane’s able to close her eyes peacefully.
Believing in someone else’s strength after all these ten years.
“Akane? Akane! Hey, Akane!”
“…O-Sono, just because our conversation just now sounds like a flag, it’s not like I’m going to die that easily, you know.”
“Y-y-yeeees, you”re right~”!
Michiru and her band practices together, but Tokino notices Michiru is not like her usual self. Michiru is currently working on a new song, but has been having difficulties. Tokino asks whether she’s having problems with the melody or the lyrics, and Michiru answers both. It turns out the song will be used as the ending theme for blessing software’s game. Tokino is surprised that Michiru intends to make an ending theme for all the routes. Michiru replies by saying the game she borrowed the other day plays different themes for its endings. Tokino freaks out after after she finds out Echika lends her game to Michiru without her permission. Echika retorts that it’s because Michiru told her she wants to borrow a galge that can make her cry. Michiru says she’s an amateur in terms of games, so she needs to play it first-hand. Echika comments on Michiru being able to complete such a long game, while Tokino reminds her that the game Michiru is making is completely different with that game.
Michiru then says that playing the game stimulates her to create the best song for their game. Michiru reveals that after she borrowed the game from Echika, she went to Tomoya’s house and played a bunch of galges, which surprises Tokino and Echika. Michiru confesses that while she’s not really sure about whether she had fun playing the games itself, she really enjoyed the music. Michiru comments how she’s impressed with how the music in games is able to complement the game’s scenes and the variety of genres. Michiru finishes by saying she has to at least create the best song ever for the main heroine, which leaves Tokino and Echika dumbfounded. Ranko comments how Michiru has finally “shedded her coating”.
The other icy tail members decide to help Michiru think about the new song, and Michiru invites them to play the unfinished Meguri route together (order of playing: Tokino, Echika, and Ranko. Michiru asks what they think of the game around 30 minutes later.
“I’m not sure what to say…”
“It’s fine. You don’t have to worry about me or Tomo, just tell me what you really think.”
“See, how should I explain this…”
“Yeah, I’m getting itchy all over my body!”
“In both good and bad ways~”
“In other words, it’s creepy after all.”
“What did you saaaay!?”
“You’re mad after all!”
“Micchi always says the most irresponsible of things~”
“I knew this is going to happen.”
“Well, it was definitely heart-pounding and gave me itches all over. The song, the scenario, and the heroine were all so cute.”
“But, I think this game strays from the kind of galge that we knew.”
“Unless the player is an otaku—no, even among otakus, only someone who really loves cute girl contents will be moved by this game.”
“…I see, thanks for the honest opinion.”
Michiru wears a frowned look, as she lends her ears to those words.
But, even so…
“But I… blessing software will still proceed in this direction.”
“Well, it’s a doujin after all.”
“It’s a work geared towards people who like cute girl contents in the first be place.”
“….Uhm, the target audience’s clear already, so it should be fine to do as one pleases.”
“No, what I want is for this song—with the way it is—to reach anyone, you know? I want to make it a song that can make a girl or an otaku cry just by listening to it.”
“Isn’t that… impossible?”
“……It won’t even reach in the first place.”
“Yeah, it probably won’t. Just from the looks, the style, and the reputation, our game will probably be overlooked.
If they overlook it, it’s fine. But if they come upon it by mistake, just be prepared… They’ll definitely, definitely, fall for the heroine.
I’ll make them cry with my song…”
“Just like you guys have said, this scenario and this song may certainly sound creepy…
But, this creepiness exists not because it stinks of otaku.
This is a creepiness that anyone can honestly and normally experience.
Because it’s something that doesn’t exist within you right now, that you are not looking for, that you don’t realize yet.
……It’s simply that.
This scenario stinks. This song is messed up. But, isn’t that what drama, movies, and stories are?
That unpleasant feeling doesn’t reek of otaku. You simply experience it because you are stepping into a different world, and you are misunderstanding it as such.
And in that world, isn’t it interesting to beat up the hearts of the people who got dragged inside this world without knowing anything? Slamming it into pieces and forcefully slipping into the depth of their hearts is fun, right?
Isn’t it the same with our live? Showing off with the guitar or singing narcissistic lyrics. For people who don’t get into what we are doing, it probably looks creepy or cringy.
…But, isn’t it our goal to get those people in and change them?
You otakus are mistaken… No, it’s the opposite. Get in even deeper. Do not take a single step back…”
“Inside this game…?”
“…Inside this messed up harem world?”
“Yes, get in! And then let’s think about what this song is lacking and what needs to be added together!”
“So it’s okay, right? Being our usual selves…”
“It’s fine for us to leave Micchy behind as usual, right…?”
“…Whatever happens, don’t come crying to us later.”
After Michiru’s passionate “creator speech”, the icy tail members make a character relationship chart to discuss the game. They discuss how messed up the relationships between the heroines are, how strange the protagonist is, and why the senpai heroine and childhood friend heroine are heavily involved in the main heroine’s scenario. They also talk about the way both the kouhai heroine and cousin heroine barely have any relevance or screentime despite “Michiru” working so hard for the game.
The girls aren’t able to come up with anything and decide to meet again after the scenario is completed. The conversation ends with them talking about how the protagonist and the main heroine will still face one more obstacle and the happy ending is still not set in stone.
A few days after that, Michiru receives a phone call from Utaha.
“I understand, then… I’ll convince Sawamura-san.”
“…Is it alright?”
“I’ll do it tonight, somehow. I’ll think of a way.”
“That’s why, from tomorrow on, it’ll be the usual…”
“No, it’ll be our team’s reformation after a year.”
This chapter starts right after Utaha agreed to cooperate with Tomoya and tells him she’ll convince Eriri to agree. It’s a Thursday night on the last week of September when Utaha talks to Eriri by phone.
“Good evening, Sawamura-san.”
“…What do you want, Utaha Kasumigaoka?”
“I’m just a bit worried about how you’re doing since then.”
“Nothing much… It wasn’t that long ago, anyway.”
“I actually want to talk to you about something, is that okay?”
“What is it? I still have some work left, so please make it short, okay?”
“That’s not really possible either… Well anyway, can we meet and talk about this?”
“Meet… Where are you right now?”
“Around 5 meters under and 30 meters away from you.”
Eriri who has been looking at the city’s landscape from her balcony finally notices a long black haired girl waving her hands in front of her house’s gate.
“Here, coffee… The sugar and milk is on the table, so just add them as you like.”
“My bad for barging in this late at night.”
“Well, this is not your first time being audacious, rude, and impudent after all.”
After letting Utaha inside her room, Eriri goes back to her desk and continue moving her pencil without minding her visitor. After all, they’ve been pulling all-nighters together in this room recently.
“So, have you come into any conclusion?”
“…Didn’t I say it hasn’t even been an hour yet?”
“But we don’t really have much time left for the mastering process. It would have been better to decide things back there.”
“Of course I couldn’t do that! It’s not that simple!”
Naturally, Eriri still has trouble sorting out her feelings. After all, she had once told these parting words to that childhood friend and ex-circle representative of hers:
“I can’t draw when I’m beside Tomoya.
Tomoya won’t force me to draw either.
If I stayed in the circle any longer, it’d be the end for both of us.”
That’s why, if she is to be protected by him again… will she still be able to draw like he way she’s been doing it up until now? Eriri still doesn’t know the answer.
“Why did it come to this, I wonder…”
“Well, it’s because Akane Kousaka collapsed.”
“Y-yes! This is all because of that woman…”
“But the ones who drove her into a corner are probably us…”
“…So what’s your point?”
“…Nothing in particular.
But, Sawamura-san… Do you think putting the blame to someone else is enough reason for us to give up here and now?”
“Isn’t this the time for us to decide what we are going to do from now on?”
“Didn’t you want to aim for the top?”
“No! My goal was to defeat Akane Kousaka!”
“Then, has that goal of yours been fulfilled now? Are you satisfied with this way of winning?”
Their conversation continues as the day changes from Thursday to Friday.
“I still haven’t decided, you know?”
“It’s just some random chat, see. We have lots of free time, so just talk to me for a bit.”
“Isn’t it better for you to sleep or go home?”
“Please don’t say that, okay?”
“There’s no helping it, then…”
“To tell you the truth, I’m going to release a new work in Fushikawa next month.”
“To think you’re able to do that in these busy times… You’re still writing Pure Love Hectopascal too, right?”
“Well, the work on this end is going to end soon anyway… Before the offer from the other side came in, I have always wanted to write another piece. Machida-san also gave me a nod.”
“That Machida-san sure likes to keep you around, huh.”
“Well, it’s a favor for her raising me up until this point too…”
Utaha gulps as she carefully chooses the words to continue the conversation.
“Besides, I’ve also come up with an interesting novel project… That’s why I decided there’s no need to waste this opportunity.”
“In other words, it’s Utako Kasumi’s all-out project, huh?”
“Well, it’s been two successes in a row, so I don’t really see this one failing either.”
“Sounds good, Utako Kasumi’s all-out project. Hand me a sample of it when it’s done, okay? Of course, with the signature attached.”
“It’s not about something that far off… Right now, can you take a look of the proposal here?”
“Eh~, no, it’s fine.”
“Don’t say that. I still have some parts that I’m not really sure of, so I want to hear your thoughts.”
“But, I want to read the 100% completed work that Utako Kasumi alone has come up with alone.”
These honest words that greatly resemble a certain someone’s lit a sorrowful smile in Utaha’s face to the point where she almost feels like crying.
“It’s fine… Even if you know the subject, you’ll still enjoy the finished product too.”
“Hee~, that’s a lot of confidence coming from you.”
“Well, it’s not that I’m confident that it will sell… But, at the very least, it won’t let the fans of Utako Kasumi’s works up until now down.”
Utaha takes out two sheets of paper from her back and, while trying her best to erase her expression and hold down her trembling hands, gives them to Eriri.
As Eriri receives the paper with glaringly obvious excitement, Utaha hands over the paper with a completely different feeling.
After all, that proposal…
Could probably destroy the friendship that she has built from over a year and strengthened since around half a year ago, in just a moment.
“This time, I’m thinking of going with a different direction instead and make it in the form of short stories.”
That proposal doesn’t really have a huge number of word count.
“And there is still only one part of the plot that has been finished.”
In those two papers, the theme, characters, and story outlines are simply written as lists.
“But, if this happens to get serialized bimonthly in Fushikawa Undead Magazine, they’ve promised to release it as tankobon as the stories accumulate.”
That’s why, as Utaha starts speaking, Eriri has probably finished reading the proposal already.
“Also, I’m making the main character a girl. It’s kind of a risk for a light novel, and maybe it’s going to come out in a different level compared to Fantastic Bunko…”
“…What is it, Sawamura-san?”
No, in fact, she stops reading somewhere along the way.
And in the midst of all the silence, trembles furiously.
“What is this…”
“That’s why I said it’s the first chapter’s plot for my new novel…”
“I’m not asking for that. You get it, don’t yoooooouuuuu~!”
That’s why, the time until she explodes is barely a moment.
And once she explodes, there is no turning back.
“Y-y-you… You’re using me as a model!?”
“What are you talking about, all of the sudden? We have been models of a story from long, long ago, haven’t we… In Rinri-kun’s scenarios, that is.”
‘I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT THAT!”
Of course, what Utaha says without a doubt makes sense.
But at the same time, it’s hard for her to accept it.
“A bit bittersweet love story.”
“The bitter conclusion of blighted love and heartbreak to come later.”
Just from those parts, what she aimed for is pretty obvious to the “person concerned”.
It’s different than a love story where a happy ending is already promised.
And also because it was written by Utako Kasumi, the love story evangelist who separated her main heroine and the protagonist in her debut work…
“Why did you show this to me? Why didn’t you hide it until you finish writing it…?”
Even so, for Eriri, because Utaha’s a writer…
That’s why, no matter what Utaha uses as a cliche, no matter who she makes as a model, she simply understands it as “a creator’s imagination running wild”.
But, to go out of her way to show it to her is not something Eriri can understand.
“To be honest, I haven’t really come up with the story outline of things that will happen from here on out…”
“You, you, don’t tell me…”
“That’s why, I want to listen to your ‘twisted past’…
I don’t care about how do you feel about him these nine years.
I don’t care about how does Tomoya feel about you these nine years too.
What I want to hear is just your own memories of that time, nine years ago.
Nine years ago… How did you, and with what kind of feelings did you abandon him…”
“KA, KASUMI, KA, KA… KASUMIGAOKA UTAHAAAAAAAAAAAAA~!”
Certainly, from within her cry at that moment…
And, from her slap at that moment, there is not a fragment of lingering affection.
In its place is simply pure hatred and violent anger.
Without a single shed of tears, all she can do is clench her teeth.
“What you did… is just like, Akane Kousaka…”
“That is… certainly an honor, Sawamura-san.”
Without paying attention to the her swelling right cheek, Utaha throws a gruesome smile towards Eriri.
Yes, that’s definitely just like the monster (Akane Kousaka) that Eriri made her out to be.
“No way, no way… After hearing it, what do you hope to accomplish!?”
Eriri’s scream that feels as though it could tear her throat apart hardly sounds like a person’s words anymore.
But that expression and voice is more than enough to convey its meaning.
“I want to aim higher, even higher… I want to score a win…”
And even then…
Even in the face of Eriri’s impact, Utaha doesn’t back down even a bit.
“I want to challenge it, something completely different than ‘Pure Love Hectopascal’ and deeper than ‘Koisuru Metronome’, an even greater mix of love and hate…”
“But, even so… Why should it be me… Why should it be me and Tomoya’s…”
“That’s because I think your twisted relationship… is the one that ‘clicks’.”
Eriri’s right hand finally slaps Utaha’s left cheek this time.
But even then…
“This is going to be a problem… If you are this angry, I won’t be able to ask you to do it.”
“I want you to draw the cover illustration for this story.”
Utaha Kasumigaoka… no, Utako Kasumi lets her right cheek get slapped one more time.
“You’re crazy… Something’s wrong with your head…”
“But, isn’t it the best timing for you two? It’s right after Fields Chronicle XIII is out, after all. In a commercial way, this is sort of a combo for the promised victory.”
“DON’T LOOK DOWN ON ME, DON’T FUCK AROUND WITH ME!”
“Yes, I have wanted to hear those curses…”
Utaha sticks out her tongue as she licks the blood near her mouth while she speaks.
And lends her left cheek for yet another slap.
“Nine years ago, I wonder, who did you recite the same words as those to?
Is it to your fellow classmates who bullied you two?
Or is it to your teacher who failed to save you two?
Or is it, rather… maybe…”
“I DIDN’T DO IT, I DIDN’T SAY IT, I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING AT ALL!”
“The moment you drove him away from you, I wonder, what kind of face did he make?
Didn’t you say the things that you are saying just now to him?”
After all, you two were elementary schoolers at that time, right? It wouldn’t be weird if he said it, right? Both of you were unadulterated, selfish children, weren’t you?”
“I SAID I DIDN’T DO IT, DIDN’T I!?”
“Wasn’t there a time when you really hated him?
Wasn’t there a time when you thought he really hated you?
Have you ever imagined how he was hurt at that time?
Have you ever imagined what kind of impact did it have on him because of that?
Can you show me how you got hurt at that time?
Can you show me how it affected you?
Please explain to me in detail until I can imagine the two’s emotions.
Please tell me all of it until I am able to describe their hearts in words.”
“STOP. MESSING. AROUND. WITH. ME.”
This is no more “chit-chat” or “persuasion”… it’s basically an interview.
A purely foolish and prideful interview without any regard to the one who’s being interviewed, done by Utako Kasumi.
It’s unstoppable now.
Now matter how one wavers, suffers, or despairs.
No matter what, Utaha is going through this road…
To proceed according to the plan that she has pondered over and over.
“Spit everything out, Sawamura-san…
After all, she has promised.
She has promised to her number one pupil and her underclassman.
To convince Eriri, and to reform the team.
In other words…
“And then… give up.”
“I DON’T FUCKING WANT TO HEAR THAT FROM YOUUUUUUUUUUU!”
To finally put an end to everything.
“…It’s about time for you to stop crying.”
30 minutes have passed and the situation barely changes, with Eriri’s crying voice resonating inside the room.
“Uuuh, uuuuuaaaa… Why, why…”
“Why are you bullying me… Why did you do something this cruel… I don’t get it, you and what you are doing…”
Eriri finally speaks up again, albeit with words that are hardly recognizable.
“Even though we finally managed to make up… Even though we are finally conected again…”
“Certainly… Your relationship as childhood friends, as a creator and a fan, or as a frail girl and a worrywart boy.”
“Even so, why, why…”
“I think the reason you (and me) didn’t end up that way with him lies behind what happened back then.”
Utaha’s inquires Eriri again with her cryptic words.
“That’s why I want to find out.”
“What will come out of it if you find out?”
“I have told you before, right? I want to turn it into a comedy between a foolish boy and girl.”
“I, I… I DIDN’T DO A SINGLE THING WRONG AT ALL!”
“That mentality of yours is certainly worth respect, an important quality for a creator, you definitely want to treasure it, and I personally like it too, but…”
“It’s a huge mistake.”
“No matter how much you try to believe that you are not guilty, he has already been put under a spell… It doesn’t matter how much your hands seem to reach him, it doesn’t matter how much you think your feelings reach him… It’s the spell of fear that he may get betrayed at one point.”
“What do you mean… by that…”
“The closer you get, the closer you want to be with him, the wound that he got from the moment his actions were not reciprocated, rather… answered in a completely opposite direction, hurts even more.”
“Enough to make you unable to get close to him ever again.”
“So, you’re saying that… it’s all my fault?”
“After all, you two were closer than anyone else nine years ago.
You could have gone and escaped to an isolated world, just like a protagonist and a heroine.
……But you didn’t.”
“You’re wrong! It was him who ran away! He should have kept it quiet until everyone forgot about it! But he always, always keep blabbering about it…”
“He was trying to show everyone the fact that you two were friends and otakus, fair and square. He was trying to protect the place where he can be together with you.”
“It should have been fine to do it sneakily without making a fuss.
What’s the point of letting everyone know about it? Did he really have to inform Sensei and everyone about my hobby? Isn’t it fine, keeping it a secret? As long the two of us get it, there shouldn’t be any problem. Staying inside a world reserved only for us, without standing out in front of everyone.”
“The reason he didn’t do that was probably for your sake.
And also for his own sake.
He wanted to show the world himself getting along with you.”
“I didn’t want everyone to recognize me.
I didn’t wish for it.
That was just him being selfish for his own satisfaction.”
“This is probably what he thought to himself, seeing that attitude of yours.
…’Is being together with me that embarrassing for you?'”
“That’s not what I meant! That guy doesn’t understand anything!”
“And you too, don’t understand anything.
That’s why both of you were broken.”
“You were 3rd graders in the elementary school at that time… For kids whose compassion hasn’t been nurtured yet, it’s hardly plausible for them to hold into thoughts like ‘we’re still friends no matter what’.”
“No, those thoughts were there.. Always, always…”
“At one point, you and Tomoya definitely hated each other.”
“That’s not true.”
“It may have been because of your surroundings. If it weren’t for their interference, you two would have probably remained more than friends… But in the end, you embraced those feelings.”
“Don’t decide it on your own…”
“That is the one and only truth.”
“I told you not to decide it on your own…”
“That’s why you two went your separate ways. Unable to admit both of you were wrong, and unable to talk through things despite the fact that both of you were wrong.”
“I wasn’t in the wrong, there is nothing for me to admit.”
“The fact that he met you when he was still an inconsiderate kid… is the reason it just wouldn’t work out.”
“You’re wrong, even with you… No, it didn’t work out with you too.”
“That’s because he met me when he was a cowardly high school student…”
“No, it’s because you keep blaming other people and because of that dark, yandere, communication-impaired personality of yours.”
“…You may have a point.”
Seemingly tired of the ensuing clash of words, Utaha shows a self-loathing smile…
“Maybe you and me… are just completely different with Katou-san.”
“What’s up with that… It’s like you’re saying it’s already predetermined for Megumi to be chosen.”
The words “give up” that Utaha said to Eriri moments before is now starting to become a reality.
“…I don’t get what you’re talking about, at all.”
“After all, Megumi is, she is… a plain, cute, ordinary girl unlike us…”
“You may be right about that.”
“That’s why, that’s why, Megumi is… different. It’s unthinkable for her to choose an abnormal, annoying otaku…”
“Indeed… I myself don’t know how Katou-san will respond.”
“But, it seems he has already prepared his resolve.”
As she utters those words, Utaha wears a sorrowful expression as she looks up to the ceiling of the Sawamura residence.
And then, with her right hand, she pats Eriri’s head lightly as if to calm a lost child.
“Why are you… saying things like that…”
“That’s because, Tomoya-kun came here…
Despite what happened last year, even though he has vowed not to run away again…
Even so, he still broke it for your and my sake.
He abandoned his circle and betrayed Katou-san.”
“But that’s… that’s the proof that he treasures both you and me…”
“That may be true.
But at the same time, he most likely thought like this.
……’If it’s Megumi Katou, she’ll manage somehow.'”
“I am… I, I am…”
“Of course, it ended up well for both of us.”
Utaha held Eriri’s shoulders tightly with her arms.
To envelop that small figure that trembles as if it is frozen.
“But, the only one that he believed would be able to make it somehow was just Katou-san.”
Even though Eriri has already heard the answer to that question before, as if it weren’t enough, her tears keep flowing down.
“Ten years, you know? It’s been ten years since I met him, you know…?”
“It’s eleven years, to be more accurate.”
“Even so, why? Why? Why?”
“I’m not sure…”
“If it’s ten years, of course there are going to be times when we hate each other, right? It’s bound to happen, right?”
“Well, of course…”
“If a single moment of hesitation can be something so fatal, then isn’t having a long history a huge disadvantage?”
“If you failed, that is.”
For a single moment of hesitation to make her reap what she sow over nine years, Eriri can only curse the world’s common sense.
But for Utaha, that egoism coming from the depths of her heart is painted so dearly.
“And if that’s true, then Megumi… who hasn’t even hanged out with him for more than a year, wouldn’t she come to hate him at one point too?”
“Well, that’s certainly possible.”
“If it does, what will happen then?”
“Of course, they may break up. In the first place, I have said this before, but I’m still not sure whether Katou-san is going to give him an OK or not.”
“That way of stealing all the good parts and letting go when one’s bored, I definitely can’t accept it…”
“…Well, it doesn’t really look like Katou-san is stealing all the good parts. In the first place, I’m not even sure why she would hang out with a good-for-nothing guy like him.”
“If you think so, then why are you, with him…”
“Isn’t that obvious……”
And then, Utaha is…
The woman who had chosen to give up all of her struggles to her common sense is…
“Because I’m a good-for-nothing, just like you.”
With her pride laid bare, is boasting what she has reaped and sowed.
“Well, it’s okay, Sawamura-san. If you still want to be close to him despite that… That wish alone will come true.”
“There is no meaning for such petty consideration.”
“……Wait are you serious? Are you seriously saying he won’t keep any distance?”
“Of course… After all, he is Eri Kashiwagi’s great fan.”
Eriri quickly retracts her own statement and unintentionally leaks a bitter smile.
“That’s why, as long as you don’t push him away, you two won’t get separated. I guarantee it.”
In those words from Utaha lies her strength, the weight she carries, and a bit of sorrow coming from her experience.
“Congratulations, Sawamura-san. You have finally turned into ‘that’ at last.
Just like me.
Into his object of worship.
Into a girl who he will never be able to look at as a girl.”
And her empathy that she can’t put into words.
It was no longer a discussion about plot or an interview…
Rather, just a pitiful curse and an unsightly howl…
But, it was a necessary ceremony for the two of them.
“Hey, Utaha Kasumigaoka…”
“What is it, Eriri Spencer Sawamura?”
“Don’t drop the honorifics.”
“So you are fine with full names.”
As the night is coming to an end and the dawn approaches, Eriri whose drowsiness is at its limit lies on the floor with her eyes 90% closed.
“Everything from tonight, treat it as if it never happened, okay?”
“As you wish.”
…To be more precise, on Utaha’s knee.
“Tomorrow… No, the next time we wake up will be in the middle of the battlefield for the master-up…”
“That’s already an inescapable reality, though.”
“Creating the game just as usual with the useless director who replaces the collapsed incompetent director…”
“Just as usual, huh.. Yeah, just as usual indeed.”
“I understand… Then, just rest for a while.”
“Hey, Kasu… Utaha.”
“…It’s not like I really mind you calling me with my full name, you know?”
“Please forgive myself from today, okay?”
“I think the one that has to bow down and say those words is me, though.”
“But, but, you are not really concerned with losing a friend, right? I don’t want to, lose a friend…”
“I guess… it feels lonely with only Megumi around.”
In the face of Eriri who doesn’t want to let go of Megumi as her best friend, that naivety and kindness…
Utaha strokes Eriri’s hair gently as she answers.
“Good night, Utaha.”
“Good night… Eriri.”
She’s clumsy, a genius, childish, and pure.
And because of that, both enviable and lovely.
For Utaha, the person called Eriri Spencer Sawamura was…
The greatest boring heroine… Nope, protagonist.
Wednesday evening on the last week of September, after school.
Megumi quickly makes her way from school in haste just like a runner aiming for the top spot in a race. Stopping at a telephone pole around 100 meters from the school, she confirms if no one’s following her and catches her breath after the sprint. Her phone reveals six unread messages, which she quickly marks as unread as her whole body and expression stiffens. Still unsure of her own feelings, Megumi puts the phone inside her pocket and waits for the crossing lights to turn green, when someone suddenly greets her… although it isn’t really the one she expected.
It is Michiru, who most likely skipped school to get there, who manages to catch Megumi.
Fast forward a few moments later, and they are in the usual loghouse-style cafe. Michiru asks Megumi why she doesn’t want to choose the seat near the window. Megumi is about to say she might get found out if she sits there before correcting herself that it was because she’s been sensitive to light since this morning. Michiru teases her saying that sounds bad if only it were true and notes how swollen Megumi’s eyes are.
Megumi questions Michiru about what she is up to, and Michiru says it’s not really a big deal and she just wants to ask her if the circle is going to have a game-making camp this weekend, to which Megumi replies with a quick no. Megumi wants to retort at first but refrains from it. Michiru asks Megumi when they are going to hold it then, but Megumi dodges the question by telling her to ask Tomoya. Michiru says Tomoya’s currently busy and she already asked him befor, to which he answered “I’ll contact you when it’s decided, so please wait for a bit”. Megumi says she has nothing to say then, and Michiru replies that’s going to be troublesome. Megumi asks why, and Michiru tells her that she wants to discuss the direction for the vocals of the BGM. Megumi is slightly startled by Michiru’s unusually positive attitude.
Michiru remarks that Megumi and Tomoya must have had a quarrel, to which Megumi retaliates by saying it wasn’t really much of a fight and she wouldn’t change her attitude just because of that.
“…Who did you hear that from?”
“It doesn’t matter who, right?”
“Is it from Tomoya-kun… I mean the traitor… I mean the circle representative?”
“It’s all the same person, so you don’t really have to keep correcting yourself, okay? You’re too tense, Katou-chan.”
“Ah, sorry, I did it without thinking…”
“You seems to be quite angry.”
“He abandoned his own circle, you know? Can you believe it?”
“But, looking at the schedule as a whole, it isn’t all that fatal, right? As long as we keep proceeding with the rest of the parts while we still have time, I think we should be able to pull through.”
“That’s not the problem… The problem is not doing the best for the circle.”
“But we are high school students. you know~ We do have tests and events at school, so isn’t it impossible to really give it our best?”
“But Tomoya-kun went and jumped in there by himself… Even though no one asked him to do it. In fact, everyone tried to stop him…”
30 minutes passes.
“Akane Kousaka or Fields Chronicle XIII are certainly big names in the eyes of the company and the industry.”
“U-uh, yes, it’s really big, isn’t it?”
“Besides, Eriri and Kasumigaoka-senpai’s hard work up until now and their future career is also a big thing.”
“Y-yes, that’s really a big deal, right…”
“But, even so, compared to that, is my game… is our game really something so small? Is it really something so meaningless…”
“A-ah… I get that, we sure are in a pinch too, huh…”
“Half a year ago, when our circle was close to disbandment… Hyoudou-san stayed, and Izumi-chan joined in too…”
“Yes, yes, it was a relief~”
“Even though he promised to work the hardest together with everyone… If this goes on, I wouldn’t be able to make it up to you two… I’m really sorry, Hyoudou-san.”
“No, you don’t really have to… Aaaaah, I’m sorry, it’s really horrible, I know! I’ll get a drink, so please wait for a while~!”
“Sorry to keep you waiting… I also brought one for Katou-chan, you’re fine with iced coffee, right?”
“Ah, yes, thanks.”
“Then, what would you yourself do?”
“Our circle representative, our scenario writer certainly escaped, alright? Tomo did run away to Sawamura-chan and Kasumigaoka-senpai’s side.”
“It’s all the same person… And that last bit is not true…”
“Facing all that, as a vice representative, what would you do?”
“Katou-chan, you are the vice representative, so right from the moment the representative leaves, you’re now the acting representative. You’re the highest person in charge, you know? You have all the rights to make a decision, you know?”
“B-but that’s… Izumi-chan’s Onii-san…”
“Are you going to obey Hashima Onii-chan’s orders? After you’ve been throwing him punches all this time, are you really giving up to him?”
“Then, it’s your call. Do we stop all the work and wait until Tomo come back? Or, do we continue the game development despite Tomo’s absence? Or…”
“There’s no way we can go on… I can’t continue making the game without Tomoya-kun around.”
“Physically? Or emotionally?”
“That’s why, uh, how could I say this…”
“If you meant physically, the answer is no. Even if Tomo isn’t around, I can still create songs. Izumi-chan can still draw too. Even you, Katou-chan, can do a lot of things.
If you meant emotionally, can I get this straight? …Stop lazing around, Katou-chan.”
“In the first place, I got involved because of Tomo and Katou-chan, right? If you run away now, you’re just as guilty as Tomo.”
“I’m different. I’m always being pulled and dragged around by Tomoya-kun.”
“No, you’re not. It was you, a non-otaku just like me, and your relentlessness that got me into this circle.”
“Did I… really work that hard?”
“Despite seeming indifferent and hardly getting in the mood, you have always managed to perfectly support everyone.
Everyone in this circle is selfish, especially our representative (Tomoya) who doesn’t listen to anyone; but if it’s your words, Katou-chan, he would honestly listen to it.
But now, just because you had a fight with Tomo, you’re bailing out? That’s even worse than Sawamura-chan and Kasumigaoka-senpai who took Tomo away.”
“To begin with, I am not even thinking of going up against those two…”
“Isn’t it why you have not been cutting corners up until now? To compete with them?”
Each one of those words hurts, enough to make Megumi feel like turning her face away—but she can’t.
“You were, a menace to me…”
“You made someone like me who can do anything without working hard, feels like having to try her best.”
Because she can’t betray Michiru’s feelings.
“That’s why, Katou-chan…”
Michiru who has been looking down below, lifts her face up and direct her gaze towards Megumi.
And then, as she hold out her hand which was under the table to Megumi…
Along with a hysterical scream, several pieces of paper fall under the table near Megumi’s feet.
“Ah, please wait a minute! You don’t have to pick that up, let me do it!”
“…What is this?”
“Ah~ No, don’t read it!”
With Michiru’s scream in vain, inside the paper that Megumi picks up is…
Megumi Katou Persuasion Scenario (3rd Draft)
20XX / 09 / XX Utaha Kasumigaoka
“Even though I told you not to read it~!”
And, when she looks at another page…
“Facing all that, as a vice representative, what would you do?”
“Katou-san, you are the vice representative, so right from the moment the representative leaves, you’re now the acting representative. You’re the highest person in charge, you know? You have all the rights to make a decision, you know?”
*) Improvise with your own expression
“Ah, err, it would be nice if you can forget everything you saw and return it to me~”
Megumi had once seen this kind of scenario.
Yes, it was a bit over a year ago, when she asked a famous novelist (Utako Kasumi) to write one.
Her objective was to uplift the emotion of her target, by performing an act according to that scenario.
Or, to put it in a bad way, to control someone as one pleases…
As Megumi hands Michiru her paper, she puts a 1000 yen bill on the table right before Michiru could say anything.
“Thank you for your time. I’m going back earlier.”
And quickly stands up.
“Ah, please don’t, I’m still not done talk…”
“Umm, you don’t really have to talk too much anymore…”
“Because if you don’t stop, I’m not even sure what kind of behavior I will take.”
Just a while after Megumi left in a flash, Michiru contacts Izumi with her phone and tells her she has failed in convincing Megumi.
“Welcome home, Megumi-san!”
Several minutes later, Izumi greets Megumi on her way home.
“Izumi-chan… Your house is not around here, right?”
“Ah, well… It’s weekend and the weather is nice, so before I realized I already got here…”
“Enough of that already.”
“So? Who called you here what did they say, Izumi-chan?”
“See, it’s a pretty long story… Michiru-senpai heard a lot of things about Tomoya-senpai from Kasumigaoka-senpai, and…”
“With the goddess of Amaterasu (Megumi Katou) losing her motivation, if this goes on, the world will be enveloped by darkness (the game won’t be completed), so the Eight Million Gods (the other members) will have to manage somehow, or so.”
“But in the end, it looks like Ame no Uzume (Michiru Hyoudou) failed to convince her…”
“Ah~, those parables are very Kasumigaoka-senpai…”
“We are worried about Megumi-san and Tomoya-senpai, you know… Not only us circle members, but also the past members, everyone.”
“It’s fine worrying about Tomoya-kun, but there is no need to worry about me.
Besides, I haven’t really changed at all… It’s not like I am getting hurt now, nor will I keep getting hurt from now on.”
“Then, even without Tomoya-senpai around, you can still continue the game development, right?”
“You should be able to work hard together with me, right?”
“What’s up with you all of the sudden, Izumi-chan? Even Hyoudou-san too.”
“What do you mean?”
“How could you forgive Tomoya-kun who abandoned the circle?”
“Err, Megumi-senpai, that’s because…”
“The answer to that, Katou-san, is because we are accepting the fact through reason instead of feelings.”
It is Iori who interjects Izumi’s response.
“Tomoya-kun will definitely come back. He will successfully conclude the matter on the other side too, and then triumph in the end… Eh?”
But, Megumi who was supposed to be standing in front of Iori is already gone.
“Izumi? Katou-san was definitely here a while ago…”
“She already went home with all she’s got! That’s why I told you not to appear!”
Right after that, Megumi heads home, eats dinner, takes a bath, returns to her room, and lies on her bed.
Unable to sleep, all she does is stare at her phone beside her pillow, just like yesterday.
Unlocking her homescreen, her notification shows the number of unread LINE messages has already reached double digits. Unable to open the messages, Megumi lays down on the other side of the bed and after a few minutes, rechecks her phone. The number of messages is about to reach three digits.
“I won’t look at it, I won’t read it, I won’t think about it.”
And for the sake of lifting up her mind, Megumi recites a spell.
“I am flat… I am an unattractive with vague emotional expressions; no one could tell when I am happy, angry, sad, or when I am enjoying myself. That is me, Megumi Katou.”
…Those are the magical words that she has worked out to calm her heart.
Well, the fact that no one really thinks of her as someone with “vague emotional expressions” anymore is not something to be touched on at the moment.
“I won’t think about it… I won’t look at it. If I look, I am going to lose. I am going to forgive him…”
But, just like caffeine or nutrition drinks, those magical words will wear off after hundreds of continuous uses…
Right now, unable to keep her mind at peace for even a minute, Megumi keeps repeating the same routine over and over again. In the first place, the notion that simply reading a LINE message can make a person suddenly forgive someone else would have made the world a place overflowing with forgiveness—but then again, those are things that should not be mentioned at this point.
As Megumi tries to fill her mind with another distraction, her phone rings yet again—signaling a new message, increasing her stress level even higher.
Or so it should have been, but this time, Megumi holds her phone and starts opening it.
…That’s because the message is not a LINE message, but an email.
From: Tomoya Aki <T-AKI@***.**>
Subject: Regarding things up until yesterday
Looking at the sender and the subject of the text, Megumi unwaveringly reads the mail.
Yes, this is a text message after all.
She doesn’t have to worry about him finding out that she has read it.
With that calculation in her mind, what lies inside that message is…
Umm, I’m kinda worried if you’re going to read this if I sent this via LINE, and since it’s not really good for my mental health, I decided to just send this through email just like we used to. Well, I’m not telling you to read it, though. It’s just that, if it’s via email, I don’t have to worry about whether it got through and I can focus on writing what I want to.
It is Tomoya’s cowardly calculation.
If you don’t want to read this, it’s fine.
……Well, you’ll probably think that if I have time to write something like this, it’s better for me to write the scenario instead; but if you feel like saying something like that, please reply….
I’m sorry to say this to you, but right now, I’m having a really great experience.
I mean, it’s that “Fields Chronicle”, you know?
You probably won’t get it, but even when we first got into this kind of stuff, Fields Chronicle was already a big title, you know?
There isn’t any hardware that can play the first generation anymore, and they even make remakes of it, you know?
“……Ah, is that so? Sounds nice, huh~”
As Tomoya’s message starts generating heat, Megumi’s way of speaking starts getting more and more dubious.
Even if this is a coincidence, even if this is a miracle, I can’t say that I’m not happy.
Right now, I am really blessed… Sorry, Megumi.
“Ah, I see~ So this is what it is like to feel gross from the bottom of one’s heart… Umm, I finally get it.”
And her retorts have started getting more and more merciless.
Eriri and Utaha-senpai quibble over stupid things and things they can’t concede on.
And then there’s me, giving useless advices and meaningless retorts.
But there is no one who stays in the corner of the room, simply existing and flatly letting things flow.
The more fun it is…
The more it pains me that you are not here with me, Megumi.
“Wow, even his narcissism is showing. I just can’t go on, no way.”
…I want to see you soon.
“Shut up… Shut up, shut up, shut up…”
On the verge of losing the tone and intonation of her flatness, Megumi keeps throwing her abuse as she rises from the bed, goes to her PC, and prints the email. Coming back from her living room, Megumi brings the printout of the email along with a red ballpoint.
“Err, ‘for someone who just betrayed other people, you look like you’re having fun, huh. I’m so jealous, to be honest’, and…”
The night has already ended, but the darkness beneath Megumi’s eyes just keeps getting darker and darker.
“And for this part, ‘I don’t care about Fields Chronicle, never played it after all…'”
And the darkness that comes from Megumi’s mouth just keeps getting more and more bitter.
“‘I really don’t want to meet you in the slightest.'”
And Megumi’s hand that paints the printout of Tomoya’s email in red screams her will to defeat the sender (Tomoya).
The image of Megumi who corrects the email as if possessed by something probably looks like a creator who has entered the zone, if one would look at it that way.
Fast forward to Saturday afternoon; Megumi calls both Michiru and Izumi. She starts by apologizing for calling them suddenly, and then for what happened yesterday. Michiru tells Megumi she doesn’t mind while Izumi says what happened last week was worse if only Megumi realized. Megumi apologizes once more while Michiru notes how merciless Izumi is.
“Oh, I already told Kasumigaoka-senpai about Katou-chan’s words just now via LINE too~”
“T-thank you, Hyoudou-sa…”
“…Oh, she already sent a reply.”
“Did she forgive me, I wonder? That Kasumigaoka-senpai.”
“Err, let’s see… ‘Seems you’ve gotten meek all of the sudden, Katou-san. Is it because you had 6 hours of sex last night?’ she said.”
“…Ignoring how rude that comment was, can I have that hotline blocked for me, Hyoudou-san?”
“I think you need to forgive her first, Katou-chan…”
Looking at Izumi going pale after seeing the sudden change of Megumi’s behavior just now as if she just recalled something, Michiru suspects that her situation is the most vulnerable today.
“Yes… It’s a bit late, but we should do it after all.”
Moving on from the apology, there is no more trace of the Megumi from yesterday as she transforms to the sub-director who is even more positive than usual.
“I already have my mother’s permission… If it’s just ‘two girls’, it’s fine to stay over at my house, she said.”
…Although the part where she skillfully excludes a certain male member (Iori) from the equation is just like her.
“But really, Katou-chan, what’s up all of the sudden?’
“Something must have happened last night after all…”
“No, nothing really happened in particular…”
Nothing more than reading a gross email which is probably the last trigger needed to reach her decision.
“I just started thinking about a lot of things… And I finally decided to stop.”
The way she completely rises from the rock-bottom, is not simply because of that one special event.
“You mean, stop thinking and mulling over a lot of things, right? Megumi-san.”
It’s because she found something to believe in the days that she has spent with circle up until now… or in other words, in the accumulation of the “regular events”.
“No, it’s a bit different…
What I decided to stop doing, is to forgive Tomoya-kun.”
…But, to simply speak of that plain conclusion is something a clumsy writer who makes light of regular events would do.
“That’s why, we’ll complete the game before Tomoya-kun comes back and make him prostrate himself in front of everyone, okay?”
“But, in order to do that, we need to work hard… After all, Tomoya-kun is doing his best in the wrong direction right now. If we don’t give it our best too, it’s just going to be an excuse.”
That’s why Megumi deliberately does the unexpected.
Putting her pride on the line, with the belief that this moege scenario will become more and more interesting.
Yes, this is a very well-made moege scenario with a little twist.
“That’s why, we have to give it our best… Let’s cut off Tomoya-kun’s retreat, okay?”
It’s not that Megumi has sworn revenge against Tomoya from the bottom of her heart… maybe… probably…
“So, with that decided, let’s not make a single day this weekend a waste, alright?”
“L-let’s do our best~”
Even though the two of them want to comment “that sounds rich, coming from someone who feels like doing nothing yesterday”, it seems there is no counterattack that can affect Megumi anymore, now that a strange switch inside her has been turned on.
The Megumi right now is probably jumbling with a lot of emotions inside her, unable to make a calm judgment.
Even so, she doesn’t believe “it’s all over now”…
Rather, she is a main heroine who believes “there is no way things are going to end here”, just like what a main protagonist would do.
The girls leave the cafe and head to a shopping mall to buy snacks, drinks, clothes and other stuffs for the sleepover. They continue discussing which house to stay in as they reach the station. Izumi insists that they should stay in her house despite Megumi’s several concerns and tells her Iori is staying at a nearby business hotel so he won’t interrupt their work.
Izumi welcomes them to her house. Megumi starts by offering what she can help from cooking, cleaning, and preparing the bath. Izumi questions the sub-director’s choice of action while Megumi tells her it has always been that way whenever they holds a game-making camp. Izumi says she needs Megumi for something and tells her not to move.
Megumi reluctantly stands still as Izumi uses her as a model for Meguri’s illustration. Megumi asks if this is really necessary and Izumi scolds her by saying it’s the most important part of the game. Izumi then tells Megumi to strike another pose and enters a similar state to Eriri in Saekano Flat’s episode 0. Megumi tells Izumi not to force herself, but Izumi quickly brushes off her concern.
Megumi tries to turn to Michiru for support, but she’s busy composing music for the Meguri route. Michiru says she’s drawing inspiration from Megumi and Izumi’s conversation for Meguri and the protagonist’s first date event (Meguri 04). Michiru notes how she usually uses Tomoya and Megumi for that scene, but she doesn’t have trouble using Izumi for it this time and dubs her “little Tomo”. Michiru completes the BGM soon after and asks the other two to listen to it. While listening to the music, Megumi recalls a certain part from the scene and awkwardly changes her expression while Izumi is still drawing.
Izumi completes her drawing after an hour, which turns out to also be for the Meguri 04 event. Megumi becomes speechless as she recalls her first date with Tomoya and wonders to herself why Meguri (and in hindsight, she herself) decided to continue hanging around the protagonist for over a year and choosing to be together with him. Unable to restrain her expression anymore, Megumi apologizes to Izumi despite her already having finished the sketch. After giving her approval for both the music and the illustration, Megumi excuses herself to wash her face.
Twenty minutes passes, and Megumi doesn’t return to the living room yet.
“……Alright, it’s done.”
“What’s that? You already finished drawing the second one?”
“Yep… That expression just now is certainly nice~♪”
“…You sure are merciless, huh?”
After returning from the bathroom, Megumi vehemently inquires Michiru and Izumi about “their reason for holding the sleepover”. Izumi apologizes to Megumi while Michiru blatantly admits what they needed was Megumi as a reference for the main heroine instead of her as a sub-director. Izumi tells her to pick her words more carefully, but she notes how Izumi’s tic of talking her way out with courtesy is what irks Megumi the most.
Michiru and Izumi continues by explaining that in order to complete the Meguri route, they need a deeper understanding of Meguri and tell Megumi to expose everything to them. Megumi claims she is not really Meguri herself, but the two say it is fine and that they only want to hear what Megumi thinks is the best interpretation of Meguri that will become popular. Megumi tries to shift the responsibility to the now-absent director, but Michiru and Izumi reminds her of her own words earlier in the cafe. Megumi concedes and says she won’t be held responsible for what kind of character Meguri will become.
“I have received both of the sketches.”
“How was it?”
“No problem on my end. Feel free to go on.”
“That’s a relief. Well, I have a lot of confidence in it anyway.”
“I guess it’s a good thing that I wasn’t there. If I was, there’s no way this expression of Meguri could come out.”
“Ah, well, yeah.”
“Do you understand, Izumi? For this whole night, do not take your eyes off her.
Her expression, her way of speaking, her behavior, steal every single one of it.
That’s definitely the Meguri that Tomoya-kun has imagined, after all.”
Getting back to the conversation after texting a “report” to her brother, Izumi is caught between Megumi and Michiru’s heated discussion on Meguri 08-2 event where the protagonist ditches Meguri on her date and runs off to another heroine (Utaha). Michiru remarks how Meguri is getting really upset despite her being a really honest and kind girl according to the plot she read. Megumi argues that while she is a honest and kind girl, this expression is necessary to make her look more humane.
Izumi agrees with Megumi’s point, adding that a heroine who is only honest and kind is fundamentally weak as a character. Michiru points out how the honest and kind part of Meguri’s character has always been her selling point. Megumi interjects, saying that is only true in the beginning; at this point, even someone like Meguri can get jealous, does unpleasant things, and acts sly. Michiru and Izumi think Meguri is acting out of character.
Michiru adds that if Meguri is really a character who cares so much about her female friends, she should be worrying about her in this situation and send him off with a smile instead. Megumi corrects her by showing her the scene where Meguri smiles after the protagonist left her, but Michiru clicks the mouse and Meguri’s expression changes to an angry one in the next scene. Michiru asks if there is really any merit in keeping the angry expression shown to the viewers even though the protagonist is not really aware of it.
Izumi asks which one Meguri cares more about, her female friend or the protagonist. Megumi answers that in this situation, it is definitely her friend. Michiru points out that if that were the case and Meguri gets mad in this scene, the viewers would think that the one Meguri really cares about is the protagonist all along. Izumi adds that this development would also make Meguri hated by the girls, and Megumi hangs her head over it. Michiru and Izumi remind Megumi that they are talking about Meguri’s character, not her.
Megumi keeps trying to convince the two that Meguri values her friend more than the protagonist, and Michiru asks her to give them a percentage. Megumi says that Meguri normally values her female friends at 90% and the protagonist at 10%. Michiru notes her usage of “normally” in describing her answer and Megumi adds that during important times, that ratio changes to around 50:50. Izumi notes that it basically means 50:50 for all the important events, and Michiru mutters how unpleasant Meguri is as a girl. Megumi gets depressed again as the two stare at her with a wicked smile.
Moving on to Meguri 13, where Meguri and the protagonist have an argument after the protagonist left her to take care of another heroine (Eriri) without consulting her beforehand. Michiru and Izumi ask Megumi if Meguri is jealous, and Megumi denies the claim saying Meguri and this heroine are best friends. Megumi tries to switch the topic to the protagonist but she fails. Michiru continues asking why Meguri gets so mad considering it was a situation that couldn’t be helped. Izumi adds that it’s very understandable for someone to be unable to think rationally when their childhood friend collapses.
Megumi says she doesn’t really have any problem with him running off, if only he consulted Meguri. Michiru asks if that means Meguri was asking for a special treatment, and Izumi notes how she doesn’t mention “it would be fine if he consulted other heroines”. Michiru says Meguri seems very naggy, only wanting the protagonist to consult her. Megumi tries to deny it, but Izumi points out how it takes a really long time before the reconciliation event to happen.
Michiru goes on to call Meguri a landmine heroine who, despite her insistence on prioritizing girls over guys, seem to be very fixated in the protagonist. Michiru keeps pushing Megumi on why Meguri doesn’t contact her best friend by herself. Meguri tries to use the poor signal in the hospital as an excuse to no avail. Izumi notes how it’s really suspicious for Meguri’s best friend to not contact her if that were the case. Michiru notes how even though Meguri keeps going on about friendship, her best friend has long since prioritized the protagonist over her. Izumi says she kind of understand the sub-heroine’s feelings, but Michiru thinks she is a horrible person. Izumi replies that it’s not a matter of good or bad and that her actions are forgivable. Michiru disagrees and says the sub-heroine is even worse than the protagonist.
The two pass the baton to Megumi and ask what she thinks about the sub-heroine. Michiru comments how Megumi has been going “the protagonist is wrong” all the time but notes how the sub-heroine is also at fault and she clearly also loves the protagonist. Megumi says that she already knew that since the very beginning. Michiru asks Megumi the real reason she gets mad if that were the case. Michiru continues by asking what Meguri would do if the protagonist told her that he actually loved the sub-heroine and whether Meguri would be able to give them her blessing.
Unable to answer, Michiru gives her three choices to pick from in 30 seconds:
1. The protagonist was at fault for not telling her the truth.
2. The best friend was at fault for stealing a march on her.
3. The protagonist was at fault for choosing the best friend.
Megumi ends up whispering the answer to Michiru and Izumi, despite the fact that they are the only ones in the room. Her answer isn’t one of the choices, but rather a ratio of those choices. Michiru and Izumi get excited over Megumi’s reply and note how aggressive she is.
Moving on to Meguri 19, which is the first kiss scene, Megumi insists that she won’t say anything about it and the other two try to convince her otherwise. Megumi notes how they haven’t been working all this time and all they do is ask her questions. Michiru and Izumi continues toying around with her by saying that’s a forbidden thing to say to creators since that’ll deter their motivation. They point out the importance of a main heroine’s kiss scene and Izumi does a slip of the tongue, saying she wonders if it’s based on experience.
Megumi urges that she still won’t say anything, and Michiru begs her to just answer in “yes” or “no”. They continue to inquire on whether Megumi did it with Tomoya, but Megumi keeps refusing to answer because she “doesn’t want her secret to be found out”. Michiru points out how that means Megumi is aware of the fact that everyone will think Megumi and Tomoya are going out regardless of her answer since it’s the normal state of affairs. Michiru adds that from Megumi’s behavior just now, Megumi believes it doesn’t matter whether they really kissed or not, since there is no way Tomoya’s going to choose any other girl.
Megumi starts to wonder how awfully perceptive Michiru is today and she starts recalling yesterday’s happenings at the cafe. Realizing something is off, Megumi finds out Michiru has been pretending as if her earphone is connected to her guitar and recognizes the microphone tucked on her T-shirt. Michiru tries to convince her she’s just listening to the latest anime songs, but Megumi forces Michiru to hand over the earphone and mic.
“Err, hello, can you hear me… Kasumigaoka-senpai?”
“This number is currently unavailable at the moment~”
Recognizing that voice, Megumi finally realizes she has been dancing under the palm of a certain author all these eight hours through. As Michiru profusely apologizes, Megumi holds all the urge to throw her complaints and speak directly to Utaha.
“……Thank you for your concern, Kasumigaoka-senpai.
Then, let us continue… the game production meeting.”
“I-is that okay?”
“Then, I want to ask everyone this time… Do you think Tomoya-kun and I are going out?”
…Instead, Megumi has chosen to have a direct confrontation with Utaha.
“About that question… If we answer it, you will tell us the right one, right?”
“You will let us check our answers, right…?”
“We are not really going out… yet.”
“W-wait, Senpai… Just tell her that yourself~!”
In the middle of that chaos, Michiru plugs off her earphone from her smartphone and puts her smartphone in the middle of everyone; from the smartphone which has been turned to loudspeaker mode, Utaha’s pressing voice echoes.
“Thanks for your very condescending answer, Katou-san…”
“…Did it really sound that condescending?”
“Well, the fact that you’re saying that to us means you believe that there is no chance for any other person… that you’re going to be the one chosen, right?”
“You’re not going to hold back, even to your buddies or your best friend, right?”
“Yes, it’s about Meguri.”
After the room goes silent for a while, Megumi starts speaking again, this time retracting her position back behind the character of the story after her powerful assertion just now.
“Meguri treasures her friends and loves her best friend.
…That is how the setting is.
She always worries about and couldn’t take her eyes off her best friend in the art club.
She aspires to be as positive as her new junior in school.
She always gets pulled along the cheerfulness of her light music club classmate.
But, her senior one year above her always sees through her in a lot of things, so she’s not really fond of her.
Even so, Kasumigaoka-senpai… This is a galge.
This is a love story between the protagonist and the heroine.
That’s why, the heroine will one day fall in love with the protagonist…
When it comes to choosing between her friends and the protagonist, she will definitely pick the protagonist.
That is the mentality of the main heroine.
…That is also how the setting is.”
“Err, in other words, Megumi-san, I mean Meguri…”
“…Won’t hand over the protagonist to anyone? Even her best friend, junior, classmate, or senior?”
Even if that reply is barely heard, akin to a sigh—the look of her eyes, her lips, her cheek, and the expression of her whole body at that moment is perfectly that of a main heroine’s.
“Will she forgive the protagonist?
No matter how many times he betrayed Meguri?
Even if he didn’t abandon the other heroines he should have left?”
“Meguri is certainly… that kind of girl.
Well, for those people who made me realize it… Nope, for those people who keep meddling in order to make me realize it… I do have a lot of things to say, though?
The character known as Meguri Kanou… doesn’t mind to be with someone who is not that handsome, or someone who doesn’t love her more deeply than anyone else.
She’s fine with someone normal.
But if it’s just a bit, she doesn’t mind if he is not really all that normal.
Even if he’s a lot of trouble, even if he’s weird, even if he can barely read the mood… As long as it’s not something unpleasant, she doesn’t mind. She’s fine with that kind of feeling.
After all, it wasn’t really unpleasant, so it can’t be helped. Even if he first came off as weird and there were frictions along the way, it wasn’t all that unpleasant in the end.
It’s all her first time, so it’s fine that way.
Maybe, one day there will be someone who is even less unpleasant than him. But, I’m not really thinking of going on an adventure and risk losing all the fun things that I have now just for that.
After all, I’m a bothersome girl.
I’ve been called bothersome a lot lately, but I myself don’t really like bothersome things.
Maybe for you, Tomoya-kun is a really special person.
But for me, he’s not special at all. He’s ordinary.
And that’s exactly why, I think… I want to be with him.
Maybe you won’t be able to accept this. Maybe you will hate me for this. But… I don’t really care about that.”
After another silence envelops the room, Megumi’s self-depreciating laughter can be heard.
“Sorry, I think… I think I did it.”
“It’s fine. It was pretty much my goal in the first place.”
“Well, I didn’t expect for it to be revealed this much, to be honest.”
“The real Meguri… is finally out.”
“Ahaha… Fu, fufu…”
Then, gradually, Megumi’s feelings start taking another direction from her smile.
To be more precise, sadness, frustration, and loneliness.
“But, even so…”
Accompanied by her nasal voice and her tears.
“Even if I have this kind of setting…
Why… Why should there be a ‘twist’ in my own route…?
Why is it that the more the main heroine suffers and gets beaten up, the more interesting people think it is…?”
After all, it has finally dawned upon her.
That at this moment, she is not in “the usual meeting place”.
And that right now, “the usual person” is not here.
Even though she, who has been by his side all this time, is here.
Why isn’t that insolent guy who’d always have her by his side as if it’s a matter of course here with his annoying presence?
“I don’t care about trials to achieve happiness.
I am not looking for happiness as extravagant as that.
For me, things like ‘making the happy ending even sweeter through overcoming a trial’ is mistaken…
As long as it’s safe and normal, I’m fine with just a little happiness.
That’s why… I didn’t need something like a ‘twist’, and yet…
Uuuh… Uuuu… Uuuuaaaaaa….”
Before anyone realized, Megumi’s weeping is no longer a weep.
Her tears flowing uncontrollably, her unsightly appearance incites expressions of bewilderment and adoration from those around her.
“Seeing you cry like this now, I don’t really feel anything in particular.”
While another person, who isn’t actually present in that place, lets off her irritated voice that is enough to convey her expression that couldn’t be seen at that moment.
“After all, one has to overcome the trial of one’s own route.”
Ignoring Michiru’s voice, Utaha’s words cut through Megumi’s whining.
“Ten years, you know? It’s been ten years since I met him, you know…?”
“Even so, why? Why? Why?”
After all, she has already seen a more intense, sorrowful wailing in its truest sense.
“As a professional, let me tell you something, Katou-san…”
It took three minutes before Utaha’s voice starts coming out again from Michiru’s smartphone.
“You just asked whether a ‘twist’ is absolutely necessary for a story or not, right?”
Discerning that Megumi has already calmed down a bit, that voice comes off a little bit gentler and more composed.
“The answer is… it’s fine either way. It’s all in the hands of the story’s god.”
But its contents remain unchangingly bitter.
“It just so happens that your story had one.
It’s probably something that has been carefully planned by a certain malicious creator.
But for us, the characters, it’s just an everyday occurrence called ‘reality’. Mulling over it or denying it will not change anything.
That’s why, it’s fine to head towards the happy ending step by step, overcoming that ‘twist’ with plain effort. That’s what everyday life is.”
Toward those words from Utaha that can be interpreted as words of encouragement or negligence, Megumi silently lends her ears.
“Even if you are capable of that—no, even if you are the only one capable of that, you keep sobbing over something like this… You’re really one annoying girl…”
“Are you telling me I’m a failure as a main heroine…?”
After all, each one of those words strikes home and makes sense, enough to irritate her.
“Being a failure is fine, Katou-chan.”
“We’ll support you with all we’ve got.”
“With Izumi-chan’s drawing and my BGM, we can cover it up just fine.”
“So it’s just a cover…”
“You can think of it as an actress’s makeup!”
“In the first place, the plain Katou-chan’s already pretty dangerous, isn’t she? A stealth landmine girl like this barely exists anywhere else, right?”
“Well, you’re right, I won’t deny it.”
“So you won’t…”
“So, what will you do? Katou-san.”
“What will I do…”
“Do you want Rinri-kun back?”
“In the first place, Tomoya-kun is blessing software’s property.”
“Hm… Say it one more time, okay?”
“That’s why I already said, Tomoya-kun is mine… Ah, I mean, err, that is…”
Her vigorous declaration which suddenly becomes weak midway… is barely qualified as a piece of evidence.
But, there is not a single person in that room who has enough courage to inquire Megumi about what she just said.
Epilogue, and the Prologue of Volume 13
“Uwaaah, it’s already dark~”
“Izumi, don’t run, okay? This slope’s pretty steep, so you won’t be able to stop.”
“I’m hungry~! Senpai, wanna grab a bite somewhere?”
“I don’t really mind, but I’ll have to refuse if it’s curry.”
“Ah~, I just want to sleep like a mud~”
This event takes place after the events of 12.9, in the end of Fields Chronicle XIII game development camp.
Leaving the Aki family residence’s entrance, Izumi quickly walks down the slope with Iori catching after her. Utaha and Michiru walk side by side right behind them, while Eriri walks up the slope to her own house on the opposite direction. And lastly, the one who waves his hands to those other members from the entrance of his house is Tomoya.
“So, how was it, Izumi?”
“…Yeah, it’s perfect!”
Iori who finally catches up with Izumi shares a smile with her, although the fact that one is a wicked glee while another is a pure smile has a lot of reasons behind it.
“Then, you’ve managed to steal it, huh? Eri Kashiwagi’s technique…”
“Yes! I stole it! I have totally understood Sawamura-senpai’s drawing method!”
“To be honest, I have been thinking of making a manual book for her drawing style. After that, I will let all of my apprentice illustrators master it, and one day I will conquer the industry with my army of Eri Kashiwagi style illustrators…”
“….It’s been a while since your sleazy talks, huh, Onii-chan.”
“Well, this is my true form after all.”
And then, Iori shows a smile similar to Akane Kousaka’s to match those words.
“Since Tomoya has his own sense of justice in that regard, he never told me about it, and he is not really an illustrator in the first place so he couldn’t really comprehend what she’s doing. That’s why I sent you after seeing the opportunity this time, Izumi.”
“And to send your own little sister for your corrupt plans, that’s a whole new low…”
“In any case, when we get home, draw everything you remember before you forget about it. What kind of skill did she show? What kind of software does she use? What kind of command does she frequently use? I’m particularly interested with that paint effect…”
“I didn’t talk about something that detailed, though? What I came to understand was only a single thing.”
“A single thing… What is that?”
“That is… ‘Eri Kashiwagi’s way of drawing doesn’t work as a reference at all.'”
“That person’s artworks are all surprisingly analog, you know? She probably made all those works that Onii-chan thought was done digitally by using a brush, you know? Right after she converted the artwork into a digital one, there’s barely any processing done, you know?”
“Hey, Izumi, don’t look down on me that much. You’re right on the fact that I can’t draw, so I’m not as well-informed as you. But, those delicate and accurate touches are impossible to be done without digital processing…”
“………Are you serious?”
“That’s why she doesn’t need to hide it from me, that Sawamura-senpai… She knew it’s not something anyone can replicate.”
“Is that… for real?”
“How to put it, it’s something on a whole new dimension. To be able to afford something like that through analog… In order to replicate something like that, there is no other way but to become her disciple…”
“But, it’s okay, Onii-chan.”
“After all, I have stolen something even more important from Eri Kashiwagi…”
“A-And that is…?”
“It’s… motivation, Onii-chan!”
“Oh, ah, I see.”
Despite the anticlimactic answer that grants him both the feelings of astonishment and relief, Iori ends up smiling wryly.
After all, it’s something that he could never give to her, no matter what kind of plan he came up with.
“Then… it’s our turn now, Izumi.”
“We, the blessing software, will definitely not break ever again… Dominating the doujin industry, we’ll one day make our way to commercial success.”
“Would Tomoya-senpai really be up for it? Uh, would Megumi-san even be willing to go along that far?”
“Hm, you certainly have a point there. ‘If one wants to take down the horse, aim for the horseman first’, huh.”
“I think it’s the other way around, Onii-chan…”
“Well done, Senpai.”
“No, I didn’t really do much this time…”
Michiru strikes a conversation with Utaha in the middle of the slope.
“What are you talking about~? You’ve been meddling a lot with us last week.”
“What… Ah, my bad, sorry for giving you a hard time because of that.”
“It’s nothing~ I couldn’t really persuade Katou-chan by myself anyway. I just thought it was the best decision to have you help for the sake of the circle, Senpai.”
Just like what Michiru has said, Utaha is the one who has been working the hardest this whole week. Solving Megumi and Tomoya’s lover’s quarrel, coordinating the best plan in accordance with both games’s schedule, and persuading Megumi to come back to Tomoya’s side.
Utaha replies by saying it’s all for her own sake. She elaborates how Tomoya is instrumental in the completion of Fields Chronicle XIII, and in order to maintain his motivation, she has to protect his circle and Megumi. Michiru notes how harsh Utaha’s methods were to accomplish that goal, from using her to picking a fight with Megumi. Utaha says it’s an equal sacrifice to make her plan succeed.
“What is it?”
“…It’s fine to cry already, you know?”
And then, in response to those painful words coming from the crude and cheerful girl that Utaha has never been fond of…
“…Sorry to say, but I haven’t given up at all.”
“That’s rich, coming from you…”
This time, Utaha turns her head and looks up to the starry night sky—a rare sight to be seen in Tokyo.
“Even if I had, there’s really no reason for me to cry.”
Utaha whispers those words around 10 seconds after she started looking at the sky.
“Maybe it’s bitter and more painful than I thought… But it’s not all bad, there were a lot of happy and fun things too.”
In response to Utaha’s feelings in that brief moment, Michiru replies in kind.
“After all, being by his side connected me with other people.
And with those people, I could see the same dream and taste the same joy.
Not to mention, I got a precious friend who’s now my ally of a lifetime.
…For someone who was called the long black haired snow woman three years ago, I guess time really flies.”
“…I will keep that a secret from Sawamura-chan.”
And in response to those feelings from Utaha that keep on piling up, Michiru taps her back as she responds.
That skinship is a bit too strong for Utaha, though.
“It’s fine, today’s my treat. Feel free to eat to your heart’s content, Senpai.”
“I don’t want to eat that much right now. I’ll get fat otherwise.”
Even so, the distance between the two doesn’t change at all.
“That’s why you need to exercise more, Senpai. Right, how about participating in our band practice next time? You can lose weight that way, you know?”
“I’ll have to refuse. I don’t want to be a big eater like you.”
“Anyway, I don’t really mind if Tomo gets himself a girlfriend, alright?”
“Just like usual, I’ll still barge into Tomo’s house, and he’ll still continue being the band’s manager… We’re family, so we’ll always be connected.”
“…Just do whatever you want.”
“Well, it’s not something you can refuse in the first place, Senpai~”
“Hey, Hyoudou-san, can you please be the excuse for me to visit his house sometimes? Having a get-together with you there, for instance.”
“For real? You’re really not giving up yet?”
Leaning her back against a tree as she sits on her lawn, Eriri stares at the starry night sky that can only be seen for a few days in Tokyo every year.
Taking out her sketchbook and pencil from her bag in a hurry, Eriri starts carving those stars on her paper in a daze.
……Even though just a moment ago, she has been thoroughly drawing.
Even though the sleepiness is supposed to consume her already.
Let alone their house, even before everyone else reached the station, Eriri had already arrived in her house.
And then, as she opens the front gate and walks a sizeable distance toward her mansion…
Halting her own step as she looks upon the sky, Eriri’s blank sketchbook is now filled with a drawing of a landscape before she even realized.
The tree that she leans on conceals a part of the sky, and from the gap the branches, the sparkle of the stars can be seen.
As if to welcome it, Eriri’s pencil captures the image of the branches, the night sky, and the stars within her sketchbook.
As she thinks about it, Eriri realizes that she has seen this scenery several times before.
After all, the branch of this tree is the one that extends to the balcony in the second floor that connects to her room.
When she was a kid, just by reaching out her hand a little, grabbing the branch and leaving her mansion is but a trivial matter.
……Or even sneaking away together.
As she slightly smiles, the speed at which Eriri moves her pencil changes, and so as her “touch”.
Subliming the scenery within the memory that she just recalled—even though she didn’t really want to—into the landscape at this moment.
The stars and the night sky are getting even more and more vibrant.
The trees and the branches are getting bigger.
And under the tree, a girl who sprains her leg and a boy who lends his back…
No, in the end, Eriri stops incorporating it in the drawing after all.
In its place, she adds shooting stars that aren’t actually present in her sight.
Even as her vision starts getting blurry, and the stars keep getting dimmer…
Eriri continues imagining that scene inside her mind as she keeps drawing—
—the shooting stars that come coursing down her cheeks…
“…Did everyone go home already?”
When everyone has already left Aki family residence, right after she finished tidying up and is getting ready to go home, Megumi turns up in front of the entrance.
Well, whether her timing is due to the meddlesome work or simply her act of stealing a march on the others, only she herself knows.
“Well then, I’ll excuse myself too…”
“I’ll walk you to the station.”
“I don’t need it.”
“I don’t care.”
And so, regardless of whether it was an inevitability or a wish well fulfilled, Megumi and Tomoya walk down the slope together with a really slow pace.
“It’s over, isn’t it~?”
“Our game is not done in the slightest, though.”
“Please just forget about it for today…”
“Even though you forgot about it more than twice already…”
Sensing an ulterior motive in Tomoya’s approach, Megumi lets out a girly response that has been leaking out recently.
“I really want to show you right now, Tomoya-kun… How much Izumi-chan and Hyoudou-san have worked really hard…”
“Iori too, right?”
“That’s dodging the subject.”
All the tears she shed, all the pain she carried, and all the embarrassment she felt up until today.
And also the happiness that washed all those bitter feelings away.
She let out all of those words, behavior, and feelings—every single one of it.
“Just to be clear, I haven’t forgiven you, you know.”
“I don’t really think I’ve been forgiven too.”
“If so, shouldn’t you show a bit more remorse?”
…Well, she wasn’t really expecting this otaku boy next to her to catch on to all that, though.
“I’m really sorry… I will do anything from now on.”
“It’s obvious that you have to do anything, we’re two months away from the deadline, after all.”
“No, really, if I don’t do anything it just won’t feel right.”
“I won’t buy into your cliche of pretending to apologize and running away later, though.”
But, precisely because she wasn’t expecting anything from him…
Megumi is able to find great joy in the truth buried inside her right now.
After all, the boy who is supposed to be a coward is now holding her hand tightly.
As he pretends to crack jokes, his flushing hand is entwined with each one of her fingers.
“Also, I’m not okay with you grinning like that while apologizing, you know.”
“Well, that’s… I’m just very happy, so please let it slide.”
“Even though I’m still angry~”
“Right, you’re already angry… Even though you didn’t get mad at me two months ago.”
“…I’m glad you came back.”
“I think I’ve learned a lesson or two from that time… Look, this time I contacted you before, right?”
“You didn’t ask for permission, though.”
“But Megumi, you said it, right? ‘Maybe what Tomoya-kun’s doing is the right thing after all…’”
“Stealing someone else’s words without consideration, you truly have no delicacy, Tomoya-kun.”
“Right, sorry, I’m in the wrong.”
As he pretends to make fun of her, he held her hand and fingers very, very tightly.
Enough to makes her feel like saying “it hurts” as she laughs and make fun of him.
…At the very least, that’s what her brain’s telling her.
“So, this time, I’m going to say it… Please hear me out.”
“Yes, this time for sure. With all your heart, okay?”
“….I swear to squeeze out all of the truth, without hiding a single thing.”
“Seems you have pushed yourself to the corner, huh.”
“Well, this time, I definitely won’t be able to get away with a single lie.”
Tied up by his behavior and the strength of his hand’s grip, Megumi’s whole body stiffens.
Maybe… No, no matter what, this time, maybe… Megumi’s train of thought starts going around in circles.
But even so, no, precisely because of that, Megumi concentrates all the heat from within her body into her head, mustering up all of her wisdom and courage.
From dozens, or even more of all the possible patterns, she tries to find the best reaction in order to “win”.
“See, I… I…”
No matter what he says, answer it flatly.
Even if she is betrayed, she can’t afford to cry.
Even if she is rewarded, she can’t afford to cry.
Even if it’s unpredictable, she can’t afford to cry at all.
But if it’s just faking amazement, it’s fine.
Smiling wryly will also become an advantage.
Adding a bit of sarcasm there would be perfect.
Even if her opponent is someone who is unable to think up proper strategies, it wouldn’t do if she is not absolutely sure that she is going to win.
There’s no way she’s going to show him her weakness.
“I.. I love you, Megumi! I love the 3D (furigana: real) you!”
“That ‘real’ part is kinda unnecessary, no?”
After all, in these past few days…
To the point where that degree of retaliation can’t even compare, Megumi keeps on holding him close in her thoughts.