Even more important than the results, is the way you achieve them. That seems to be a commonly held belief.
But personally, I dislike that saying. After all, those words are used all too frequently by those who fail.
‘I failed, but I did my best, so it’s fine, right?’ People make excuses, locking away their frustrations within their hearts, and that pisses me off.
I mean, in society, it’s clear the outcome that is more important than the process. ‘I didn’t manage to do what you asked me to, but I tried my best so please evaluate that’. Do you really think that your company president would accept that?
Naturally, he wouldn’t.
I won’t say that there’s nothing to be gained from the process, but the results are crucial. No matter how hard you work, if you can’t prove said hard work, it’s all meaningless.
Hence, the most important thing in life is results, not the process of working for them.
The same could be said of the competition that the theatre club is going to participate in. They did work hard to improve themselves, yes. I had been there to see it all, but if they can’t achieve anything with said hard work, then their club will be disbanded nonetheless. The school doesn’t value their effort, but the results they are supposed to produce.
In the ongoing nationwide high school division theatre fiesta, the different prefectures were split up, and smaller district competitions were held. There, if we manage to achieve good scores, we can move on to the prefecture competitions.
The least the school wishes for the theatre club to achieve is to win this district competition, and move on to the prefecture competitions. Hence, if they can’t achieve that win, it means disbandment.
But I’m certain that it won’t boil down to that. Why, you ask?
That’s because the people that I hold in high regard, they themselves gave high evaluations to this theatre club’s play. Those who hold a hundred times more talent than me—that’s why, there’s no way that they’d drop out at a place like this.
In this world, results are everything.
That’s why the [5th Floor Alliance], and the others, decided to help the theatre club. Though we had to go through the trouble of substituting the original actress for the heroine, now that Iroha is the one to play the role, the chance that the theatre club will drop out this early is even lower.
—If no more trouble occurs, that is.
It’s finally the day, time for the real thing. In front of the public cultural hall, many high school students from different schools are standing around. Naturally, it has to hold all the theatre club members of the region, so it isn’t anything half-baked. All those sparkly, idiotic people gathered here, they’re ones who have dedicated their adolescence to acting.
Sadly, the sky was a bit clouded on this day. No rain had yet fallen, but one could hear the distant roaring of thunder, though that only seemed to be a short-lived thunderstorm with strong winds. Hence, the competition was held all according to plan. Instead of at their school, the theatre club met up at the location of the competition. Since it was about six stops from the school’s nearest train station, it was decided that it would be more efficient to meet at the location of, instead of traveling by train with such a group.
That day, I’d arrived earlier than the planned rendezvous time and helped out with the preparations. Doing one final check through Ozu’s staging equipment system, there no problems to be found. As for the necessary requisites, everything was present. That meant, this was all I could do.
“Ooboshi-kun, thank you so much!”
“No, this is no big deal. You do your best out there, okay?”
After being called out by a club member, I made my way backstage to the dressing room. There, the actors and actresses could prepare themselves. The moment I entered, Iroha looked away from the mirror and turned towards me.
“Senpai, how’s my make-up? Is it on-point? Am I cute enough that it makes you want to hug me?”
“Calm down there… Let me see.”
Refusing to play along with her joking, I went to take a closer look at her face.
Everything looks good. Rather, she looks on par with those crazy S-tier Hollywood actresses. So she transforms like this once she puts on makeup, huh? Well, I can’t say that her normal face looks any less appealing. WIth this fleeting and noble sense to her, she almost looks like a princess from a fairy tale, the heroine that I imagined out of our own script, a perfect recreation.
And a lot more impressions were floating around in my head, but…
“Well, it looks fine to me?”
What came out of my mouth were those simple words, which resulted in me getting looked at like I was some scum of the earth.
“Haaa…zero points… Really. As for the words that you would say to the girl you like when she’s got makeup on, this is the lowest of the low. This is why you’re a virgin, Senpai.”
“Even if you rate me with such a bugged system… Also, nobody said I liked you.”
“But I’m right with the virgin part. You can’t deceive my eyes, you know? Your heart’s probably beating like crazy, and your ‘Son’ is swelling up, right?”
Iroha gave a giggle as she brought up a very profound nuance with that son part.
…This girl, she’s got the nerve to go all-out on her annoyingness just because we’re alone here. Stop with the virgin teasing already. There are some people who would be really hurt by that.
“Iroha, you’re wrong about one thing.”
“Ehhh, what is it?”
“I’m not a virgin.”
“Oh, careful over there.”
Iroha’s grip on the eyeliner in her hand loosened, letting it drop to the ground. Luckily, I caught it mid-air. She had her lips shut tight, and her shoulders were shaking.
“No way… You’re lying… right?”
A fragile voice leaked out from her mouth.
“A stubborn, dense, hyper-boring, and efficiency-loving bastard like Senpai is…no way…”
“With words like those, even makeup wouldn’t help you.”
Why is she suddenly throwing insults at me left, right, and center? I said I wasn’t a virgin, but how shocked can you get, really?
“The word ‘virgin’ was originally used for nuns who protected their purity. Since I’m not a nun, I’m not a virgin.”
“Huuuuuh?! What’s with that chop-crazy logic! Really, what kind of nonsense are you trying to teach me now? This is exactly why Senpai is a virgin! Bleh! Virgin!”
“You think I’d take that as an insult? The Virgin Mary is revered by the people, so it feels more like praise.”
“Bleh, bleh! That’s exactly what a virgin would say to protect their pride! Should I try calling you virgin until it starts to sting? Virgin challenge!”
“I’ll rape you, you virgin.”
“Your boiling point is unexpectedly low—?!”
She’s already so loud this early in the morning, huh? Even though there’s the competition right around the corner, she doesn’t look nervous at all.
But there’s one thing that I need to ask.
“What is it, Virgin—Not that, Senpai?”
I really was thinking of hitting her for a second, but let’s hold back for now. This is a serious conversation, after all.
“…Are you really fine with this? Showing your face to the public?”
At first, Iroha had a good-for-nothing grin on her face, but her attitude changed a moment later.
“I’m fine with this, really.”
“Even about Ozu finding out?”
After that, I had given a rough explanation to Ozu and Sumire. The reaction from Ozu had been somewhat dull. Well, I guess they both have a lot to think about.
“Yes, I’m glad about that.”
Even so, Iroha gave me an affirmative nod.
“There would’ve been a time when I’d have had to tell him sooner or later. And also—”
With a smile, Iroha said—
“—Senpai will do something about the rest, right?”
Being faced with that full-blown trust, I couldn’t help but smile and nod.
“Leave it to me. There’s still a million things I’ll have you do for me. I’ll use you until you’re ready to drop.”
“Alrighto, there’s the black phrase! Labor standards inspector-san, over here!”
“Hah, just try and do it. You’re all complaining but still doing it, you damned workaholics.”
Throwing such declarations with no ill-intent at each other, even I had to let out a laugh.
But at that moment, it started to get noisy outside the preparation room.
“O-Oh? Did an actual labor standards inspector come?”
“As if they’d come to a place like this, idiot. There’s bound to be some trouble going on outside.”
Feeling a touch of anxiety on my skin, I stepped outside.
Right as I stepped out, the first person who came into my view was Sumire. A cool expression occupied her face, surrounded by a dark aura. Knowing her, it seemed despair was in the process of closing in on her.
“Midori…won’t make it, she said…”
“…What did you just say?”
I furrowed my eyebrows at Sumire’s unexpected announcement. There should’ve been more than enough time for her to get here. Rather, she should’ve already arrived long ago. But on the way here, she was confronted with a pregnant woman, whose baby was about to be born, so she had to call the ambulance. And so she had calculated that she’d still make it in time, but then a sudden lighting strike hit a building along the railway, making it burst into flames, which was why the train would be late. At the same time, the streets were full to the brim, making it impossible to get a taxi either. Because of that, she decided to get off and run on her way here, but she definitely won’t make it in time for the play.
—Oi oi oi, what is this chain of events? Did we anger the gods somehow?
It feels more like a fictional storm of troubles occurring one after another, but it’s actually happening in reality. Why does it feel like Midori was targeted… Such pin-point accuracy, really.
‘I’m sorry, Sumire-oneechan, I’m sorry, everyone’
What was shown on the screen of Sumire’s smartphone was that short message from Midori. Even from that short message, I could feel Midori’s despair. Even though she worked so hard, even though she finally made progress. She’s more serious than anyone, more punctual than anyone, and being late for her was impossible to even think about.
Damn. This shitty world is way too irrational.
“President Midori can’t come…? No way…”
“It’s almost time for the opening ceremony… what should we do…?”
“What should we do, you say? There’s nothing we can do now that president Midori can’t come… There isn’t anyone who knows all the hero’s lines…right?”
Iroha probably knows those lines. But, that same Iroha already has to jump in to play the role of the heroine.
Despair started spreading among the club members, filling the atmosphere even. Even among the [5th Floor Alliance], as well as the others who couldn’t do anything about it.
“The theatre club…the theatre club will… I’ll have to…the girls’ tennis club…”
Sumire’s eyes went blank, although she still maintained her cool expression, and she was muttering to herself. Shortly after, a sober light started flickering in those eyes as she continued.
“Midori-chan… She worked so hard. And now…all to waste…”
…Well, she’s her older sister. It makes sense that she’d feel like this. And, with Sumire’s familial circumstances, this might be the last time she would take part in the theatre club. If said theatre club were to be disbanded, her time there would reach its end on this very day, no doubt. Understanding that, Sumire’s heart must be in immense pain.
“…This turned into something really troublesome.”
Ozu called out to me, his expression grim.
“Yeah. I certainly didn’t anticipate that she, of all people, would be late.”
I had thought that a hyper-diligent person like her wouldn’t be late. Because of that assumption, I have no cards left to play. Something…
Ready a car and pick her up? —No, the streets are packed. That’s one of the reasons that she’s late in the first place.
What about getting her via bicycle? —Nah, that’s no good either, I left my bicycle at home.
It’s true that I could borrow one, but I can’t imagine how long it’d take to get there and back, who knows if we’d make it in time.
Otoi-san was resting her back on the wall, rolling a sweet around her mouth, looking at me.
Iroha’s gaze seemed to show she was depending on me.
What should I do? Think. Think.
There should be some people who know all the lines of the script. Maybe I could have Makigai Namako come here if I contacted him right now? He’s the one who wrote the script, so surely he must remember the lines— No, that’s not going to work. He doesn’t live so close by. He’s not even a high school student either, so having someone like him substitute for a high schooler on stage might result in disqualification nonetheless .
Then, what can we do? No, hold on.
“Sensei, I’d like to talk with Kageishi-san. Could you lend me your phone?”
“Y-Yes, of course.”
Accepting the phone from Sumire, I gave a call to Midori. The call connected immediately, and I could immediately hear sobs.
「Haa… Sniff… I’m sorry… Even though we all worked this hard… It’s all because of me…! Hicc… Waahhhh…!」
“…It’s me. You really can’t make it?”
「Ooboshi-kun… Haa… Yeah… I’m sorry… I won’t… make it…」
「Ooboshi-kun, I’m sorry… Even though you and your friends… taught us all those things…」
“It’s not your fault. Luck just wasn’t on our side today.”
「No… This is how it always ends with me. Always acting according to my feelings. That’s why I always fail. I really know, okay? Ooboshi-kun always does things as effeciently as possible… See, at the start, I was about to decline your help. Back then, I knew that getting help would definitely have been the better choice. But, I couldn’t accept it. Even that woman today… If I would’ve just prioritized my own life, instead of helping her… But, I couldn’t just act as if I didn’t see anything, just for the sake of efficiency…!」
Cursing her own inefficient actions, Midori weeped.
“You seem to have the wrong idea here.”
“You did nothing wrong. Both as a human, and in terms of your efficiency.”
「But, if I had just—」
“The efficiency I’m always talking about refers to ‘Taking the shortest path to one’s happiness’. You probably would have regretted ignoring that pregnant woman for the rest of your life, right? It’s because you’re like that, that your club members follow you. You can boast about yourself. You made the right, effecient choice.
「Ooboshi…kun… But, everyone worked so hard. Even after the official practice ended, they all practiced at home, and we gathered on holidays and weekends. Even though…even though I’m the club president… I ruined everyone’s hard work. I’m… the worst…」
In this world, effort is everything. But no matter how great their effort, it’s meaningless if they can’t show it on stage. Everything, it was all for naught.
“…Hey, do you want to make the play a success, no matter what?”
「Of course I do…」
“—Even if you can’t participate in it?”
「Even so, I want to make it a success!」
With not an ounce of hesitation, Midori delivered her answer.
「Working so hard, and not being able to stand on the stage is tough. But, having everyone else’s work go to waste because of me is a hundred times more tough and unbearable!! That’s why—」
“—I heard that, loud and clear. So, leave it to me.”
To ensure that Midori, Ozu, Sumire, and everyone else around me could hear, I spoke loudly.
“I’ll take up the role.”
The club members looked at me blankly, in confusion.
Explainable. They probably think that I have a few screws loose. But, not producing any results would mean that everything up until now had all been for naught. The one thing I hate the most is wasting one’s life away. As if I could just stand by and watch that happen!
“But, Ooboshi-kun, the lines…”
“I remember all the lines in the script.”
After all, I was the one who rewrote Makigai Namako’s scenario into an actual stage play. Though I don’t have the talent to write a scenario like that from nothing, writing some fitting lines is something even a mediocre writer like I can do.
If one were to ask about my acting talent—
“I’ve been watching your practicing every day, at close range. At times I even read along, since I didn’t have anything better to do, so I should have the basics down… That being said, I’m at a mediocre level, so don’t expect too much.”
“Ahahaha, now that you say it, we did have that option. And you perfectly fit the role of the hero.”
“Right~ I think that Aki would be able to do it, albeit at a basic level~”
“As the club advisor, I recommend him—Ooboshi Akiteru-kun that is!”
Ozu, Otoi-san, and Sumire followed up. And finally, with a grin flashing across her face, Iroha…
“If it’s Senpai, it’ll definitely be okay. The legendary, charismatic instructor Iroha-san guarantees it~”
She gave her seal of approval. Receiving the backing of the people who had supported them until then, the club members looked at each other and all nodded.
“The other club members agreed. What do you say?” I called out to Midori across the phone.
After all, the last veto should be reserved for the club president herself. She has to give the okay.
「—Please do. Please make our play a success!」
The opening ceremony ended, and as planned, the other schools proceeded to all act out their plays. Our turn was slowly approaching.
“Senpai, is the size okay?”
We had the hero’s costume made with Midori’s sizes, and it was the only one we had.
“It’s a bit tight at the shoulders and arms.”
Carefully slipping into the costume, I somehow managed to get it on, but it was a tight fit. To think that my daily muscle training would come back to bite me like this.
“Is your chest okay~?”
“It could be better. Well, it’s stretched a bit from when Midori was wearing it.”
“I wonder~ Senpai has pretty big tits for a boy.”
“At least call them muscles, will you.”
But in the end, there were no problems with the costume. The wireless microphone is also mounted perfectly. As I went through the play in my head, everything needed was in place.
Well, it’ll work out in the end.
“Still, putting on makeup can really change you~” Iroha said as she peeked into my face.
When it was decided that I’d be the stand-in for the hero, I was forced to put on makeup as well. Although I had a member of the theatre club do it, I don’t really feel any great differences.
“Seems good to me~”
“Yassu~ It might be a good idea to put it on every day.”
“I’ll hold off on that. Doing this every day would be a waste of my precious time.”
“Don’t say that~ It’s not a waste at all. Girls put on makeup every day, you know~? Well, Senpai’s skin is really clean, so you really might not need it in the end~”
While we had a pointless conversation like that, a person from the competition committee came in with a “Next one, please prepare yourselves”. Seems like it’s our turn now. The other members were all ready, with adrenaline and tension clearly visible on their faces.
Looking past the curtain, you could see countless people sitting in the audience, including the judges sitting in the very first row, arrogantly crossing their arms. Seeing that with my own eyes, I was once again reminded that the play would start at any second now.
Unconsciously, I gulped.
“Well, there’s no need for Senpai to be nervous about this.”
Then, Iroha said that as she stood next to me.
“Even if you fail, I’ll be sure to play it off for you. My cute Hero-san~”
A rather mischievous grin flashed over Iroha’s face. But thanks to that, I recovered a large portion of my calmness.
“What are you on about? It’ll be the opposite, of course. So follow my lead, my cute heroine.”
With that last little exchange, we all went into position.
And—the curtains slowly started to rise.
With the sound of a buzzer, the curtains were lifted. Mashiro was watching the scene from the corner of the audience. The insides of the theatre went dark, and the people around Mashiro went quiet. The sound of rustling leaves marked the beginning of the play, and Mashiro’s heartbeat started accelerating.
—Mashiro’s written story turned into a stage play…
A voice actress from somewhere Mashiro doesn’t know is lending her voice for the scenarios that she’s written. But this is the first time that she’s seen people act out her script like this. Not to mention that the story this time came into existence with the feelings inside Mashiro, towards Aki. This is the one work that Mashiro has the most confidence in.
He said that Iroha-chan would be taking over the heroine’s role because of certain circumstances. A while ago, she had acted like a yankee to the girls who were making fun of Mashiro, so she should be fine acting like this.
At that time, Mashiro had thought that it was really amazing, but that also brought up a question.
That level of acting, would a girl who’s never taken any acting lessons really be able to pull that off? Mashiro really couldn’t imagine it. It doesn’t seem like Iroha-chan is practicing, and neither does she seem to be in a club. Besides her being very annoying towards Aki, Mashiro barely knows anything about Iroha-chan. What does that girl normally do?
“This is a story of a chance encounter. The story of two people, being tested by a cruel destiny. Ahhh, if only those happy days would have continued.”
The voice of a reminiscing girl filled the hall.
This is… Iroha-chan’s voice, right? Amazing. If Mashiro didn’t know about it beforehand, she never would’ve guessed. It really felt like the heroine of the story was the one retelling the events.
The stage was lit up, and the background started to show the scenery of a bustling metropolis.
Oooohhh—The audience let out a surprised voice.
That makes sense. Even though it was clearly made with CG, brought up by stage equipment, it looked realistic, leaving everyone in admiration. And while Mashiro was still gazing at the background, a single girl walked onto the stage.
Mashiro couldn’t hold back her voice. Though she felt bad for being so rude, that word just leaked out.
Her body was wrapped in a pure white dress. Like a young, fragile, noble girl, not knowing about the outside world. Even though the character is the complete opposite of Iroha’s, and the heroine that should be portrayed here is more similar to Mashiro, it felt like the story had been written to be acted out by Iroha-chan.
“Shit! I’m late…!”
Another voice reverberated within the hall. This is weird. Mashiro didn’t hear about this.
…Why is Aki part of the play?
The president of the theatre club should’ve been the one to be acting as the hero. That’s what Aki told Mashiro. Maybe some trouble came up? Some trouble that forced Aki to play the role?
—Well, this might not be too bad.
Mashiro felt her cheeks starting to burn up. This scenario was written with everything hidden inside Mashiro’s chest. Hence, the hero role was modeled after Mashiro’s beloved Aki.
—Though it’s not Mashiro he’s talking with, but Iroha-chan.
The play went on fairly smoothly.
The hero and heroine crashed into each other as the worst possible first encounter in the aforementioned metropolis. But their distance continued to shrink as time passed on, and while they continued to insult each other, their bonds grew. In the end, it’s a sparkly, lovey-dovey story that would probably be liked by the average JK.
Watching the story unfold as an objective viewer, since the scenario had been slightly altered, Mashiro realized a certain thing.
—Isn’t this scenario crazy embarrassing?
Eh, what is this? Do the characters only have love in their brains? The actors are doing a good job acting it out themselves, trying to cover that up, but the script in and of itself is just crazy. Weird, Mashiro wasn’t supposed to have written that. Oh yeah… Mashiro remembers that Aki said that this was to be denied for the game… So, was it Mashiro’s fault to begin with, and not the changes?
The moment Mashiro realized that, she could feel her face burn up.
Embarrassing! Way too embarrassing! What did Mashiro make Aki read?! This is so embarrassing, it makes Mashiro want to dolphin dive onto the floor and roll around in agony!
…W-Well, let’s leave the self-reflection for later.
Mashiro calmed herself down and focus back to play. There are countless wonderful things in this play.
Especially the actors’ talent. Mashiro knew that Aki was at a basic level for almost everything, but even acting? From an objective viewpoint, there’s nothing you could complain about. He matches perfectly with Iroha-chan, as if they were holding a regular everyday conversation.
Those two are weird…
Be it the script or their good acting, everything is in perfect rhythm, even their breathing. Like they had been practicing for countless years together as partners.
“Thank you, for finding the real me. Thank you, for pulling me out of that dark cage.”
Iroha-chan’s face, the moment she spoke those words. As a girl, Mashiro immediately understood. Understood that the girl on that stage had feelings for the same boy.
Until then, Mashiro had always trusted Aki’s and Iroha-chan’s words. Thinking that it couldn’t be—
“Don’t ever look away from me. It’s because you keep watching me, that I can be myself.”
Looking straight at Aki, Iroha-chan let out that voice.
“To make sure that my heart and body don’t break apart—you have to support me, okay? —Senpai.”
—What should Mashiro do now? Iroha-chan’s acting is so good, she can’t tell.
Hey, Iroha-chan. Are those the words of the heroine? Or are these the words of Kohinata Iroha herself? Mashiro’s chest hurts.
Iroha-chan is Mashiro’s first friend after she transferred, and Aki is the person Mashiro loves so much that she can’t give up on him.
Mashiro doesn’t know Aki’s feelings. Even looking at his acting, she couldn’t tell anything. But with Iroha-chan—seeing that happy expression of hers, it’s completely obvious. Being granted an ending like this with Aki, Iroha-chan looked happy, from the bottom of her heart. Seeing the happy face of a friend, one also starts to feel happy. But reminding herself that the other person is Aki, a hazy, unpleasant feeling starts to fill Mashiro’s chest.
Which side should Mashiro take here?
The play ended, and the audience gave a standing ovation as Iroha-chan and the others from the theatre club gave a deep bow. Even so, with noise all around her, for Mashiro, it felt like the world around her had gone silent.
[OZ]: AKI’s and Iroha’s acting was amazing. To think that Iroha had this much talent
[OZ]: Otoi-san knew, right? Good on you that you managed to hide it like that
[Otoi]: You complaining?
[OZ]: Nah. I’m actually moved. AKI and Iroha must’ve been tough nuts
[Otoi] I guess~
[OZ]: I once again confirmed Iroha’s feelings for AKI during that play. Sadly, AKI himself probably didn’t realize at all
[Otoi]: Density Syndrome, maxed out
[OZ]: Maybe there’d be some development if we locked them in a room and they couldn’t leave until they kissed each other?
[OZ]: Maybe I should think of a system to actually try that~
If you want to read more chapters, please visit AllNovelBook.com to experience faster update speed. You can also log in to your account there.