The following day, after the end of classes. We were walking down the hallway on the 4th floor of the elective building, our goal being the ‘clubroom’ of the theatre club. Next to me were Ozu and Otoi-san. I had Sumire go ahead and tell everyone from the theatre club, while Iroha was on stand-by in a different room.
“Have the unaccomplished theatre club show results in the summer competition, I see. You’re working on something interesting again, Aki.”
“Aki is always in a hurry. Well, that’s exactly why it’s fun being with him.”
“It’s essential for the [5th Floor Alliance]. I’m sorry, but please lend me your strength.”
“Well~ You bought me a castella from Hououdou, and this seems like an interesting request~ But now that I’m in, I won’t allow any half-assed acting, alright~?”
Wearing her uniform lazily, with her bag on her shoulder, Otoi-san commented while holding the castella in one hand, still safely wrapped in its plastic packaging. Seeing her provocatively look at me as she rolled the chupadrop around her mouth, I gave a confident nod.
“Yeah, of course—We don’t need anything half-assed.”
As I answered, I opened the door of the room furthest back in the hallway.
“So you’ve come again, you heinous producer!!!”
A woman suddenly jumped at me, her voice filled with hate as she swung a blunt object in my direction.
I dodged—rather, was about to ram my fist into her face as soon as I got within her range, but I realized that the face was one I knew, so instead I made due with flicking my index finger on her forehead.
Bending backwards with a cute shriek, the female student—Kageishi Midori—landed back on her butt. Picking up the blunt object that had fallen out of her hand, I let out a sigh.
“A sponge hammer… A prop for a play?”
“Ugh… What are you doing? You evil-incarnate should let yourself get defeated.”
“That was just self-defense. Being attacked like that as soon as I opened the door, of course I’d resist.”
“Also, aren’t you a bit too strong?! Are you practicing military arts or something?”
“No, I’m just doing some self training to protect myself, topping it with a bit of Japanese martial arts in my free time. And they’re not very advanced. I should be quite average compared to people who were actually taught martial arts.”
“…You’re making it sound like it’s nothing special…”
The one thing that a person has to be careful about in their life, unforeseen accidents and unfortunate events. The people who played those games about life where random events occur will probably understand, but wasting time on any unfortunate events, or having a minus added on your status can piss you off, right? At least that’s the same for me.
That’s why I’m always walking down the street prepared, for the scenario that a car might be driving on the sidewalk about to run me over, or maybe a passerby might be possessed by an evil spirit, coming to stab me to death. And so I could always be prepared in those situations, I do the bare minimum of self-training. Well, in the end I’m just an amateur. I wouldn’t be able to hold my ground in a fight with a pro or expert.
“Still, quite the extreme action you took there. Though I did expect some sort of resistance coming from you.”
“Grrr… I-I mean, it’s totally weird! ‘Entrust the theatre club to Ooboshi-kun’ is what Onee—Kageishi-sensei said…!”
Unable to accept the current situation, Midori averted her gaze and looked through the classroom over towards Sumire, who had a cool expression her face as she folded her arms. The moment their eyes met, she gave a gallant-looking nod. At the same time, I received a LIME message.
[Murasaki Shikibu-sensei]: I couldn’t manage to convince Midori-chan! Sowwiez!
At lightning-speed, I replied with an ‘Are you even useful for anything?’ Still, even if she says that…
Looking around at the members of the club, Midori seems to be the only one who isn’t satisfied, while the other members had apparently accepted Sumire’s decision and showed no signs of rebelling. Really, the only issue at hand would be Midori, it seemed.
“Even though she always told me that she’d let us grow on our own! There’s gotta be some shady backdoor deal behind this!”
“What backdoor deal?”
“To take the reins over our theatre club, you… V-Violated her, didn’t you, you beast!!”
“Am I a bandit or something?”
“You’re a famous Hollywood producer with lots of big hits under your belt, right? You got big success as a member of society, so of course you’d have some dark plans with this! I know, okay! In mangas where the salaryman has problems with his job, he’s always using a woman to let off stress!”
“Don’t mix up manga and reality, will you?”
At first, she looks like a super serious honor-student-type, unlike Sumire, but she’s got enough manga knowledge hammered into her as well. Yeah, I can see them being sisters.
“I didn’t do anything to Sensei, you know. What worth does a weak theatre club like you even have for me? Think about it a bit more rationally.”
“That’s… Uhm…you plan to turn us into slaves…and do perverted stuff…?”
“You’re quite the pervert, aren’t you?”
“N-No I’m not! Stop with the false accusations!”
“You say that, but arriving at such a conclusion is a bit too much, don’t you think… Anyway, Kageishi-sensei judged our support to be essential for the theatre club to stand victorious at the contest. Do you not trust her decision?”
“Ugh… But… But… We always worked hard with just the few of us…”
Gritting her teeth, Midori revealed her true feelings.
“As if I could just keep quiet and hand over the reins to someone I barely know…!”
As the club president, she probably saw this similarly to the invasion of the Black Ships. Like a country that rationally understands that it has to open its borders to let in more advanced technology and culture, but can’t accept the fact emotionally.
Since I had experienced that with the [5th Floor Alliance] a bit ago, I completely understand how she feels. A new existence called Mashiro appeared, and the changing formation of relationships—
But, having passed that, I was once again reminded of my naiveté, and discovered new possibilities. Once the theatre club accepts me, they should be able to achieve the same. That’s why I’ll act like this. To persuade Kageishi Midori at full force, I’ll seize that heart of hers.
“…I know. Even I, who only saw a little of your rehearsal, completely understood the amount of effort the theatre club puts into everything.”
When I had suddenly grown more kind and accepting, Midori’s eyes opened wide. That intensity of mine just now was gone, suddenly turned into kindness and sympathy, and I acted like I could understand Midori’s feelings. With this gap, I should look even more like an understanding human than if I’d acted like this from the start.
Though it’s not to my liking to play this card, if it’s in the name of efficiency, I’ll play the role of the devil.
“But, that’s exactly why I want to help you, to lend you my strength.”
“From my point of view, the theatre club has the necessary potential. I told you that the first time didn’t I? You can only grow from here.”
Of course, I mean it in the sense that their training and skills are severely lacking, making it sound like an insult. But turning it on the flipside, like the two sides of the same coin, it could also sound like a compliment. After all, it means that they can get even better than they already are (not).
“The theatre club is a gathering of people who put legitimate effort into their work. On this chaotic 4th floor, inside this empty classroom where you practice, without any orders from your advisor, you still continue to meet up every lunch break, and practice. With that crazily diligent behavior, you deserve a good evaluation.”
Listening to my words with a serious expression, Midori wordlessly hung her head. But I wasn’t done yet.
“Good results come from multiplying ‘The amount of effort’ and ‘The direction of the effort’. You should know the four fundamental rules of mathematics, right? No matter how much effort you put into your work, if the direction is a 0, or even a minus, the results won’t be positive. Rather, it’ll be negative—
Exactly. The main problem is their direction. If they were to correct that, this bunch of effort freaks of the theatre club can—
“—Become the strongest. If you put your effort in the right places. If it’s you, you can definitely…!”
Putting as much confidence as I could in my words, I said so. Perfectly timing it with her breathing rhythm, I robbed her of any chance to interject. While she was silent, I pressed further.
“If the theatre club doesn’t show any achievements at the next contest, it’ll be disbanded. As of now, that future is inevitable.”
“…Hey! That’s not…”
Midori tried to talk back, unable to find the right words. She shouldn’t be talking back. The theatre club doesn’t have any achievements they can build upon, and the one running the club, Midori, should know that the best of them all.
“But I can change that. Take this hand and let the club survive, or pull it back and let it die. Now, choose!”
I reached out with my hand to Midori, who was still sitting on the ground. After gazing at that hand for a bit, she looked around at the other members.
With a worrisome gaze, the members gazed at Midori. Maybe having received strength from that, she turned up to glare at me.
“Don’t expect me to just hand over the club like we’re besties.”
“Yeah, I don’t plan on taking full responsibility for the club either. We’re just the support you guys need to reach heights greater than ever before.”
“Just as I said, the direction that you guys put your effort in is wrong. We came here to change that.”
Seeing Midori still grit her teeth, I decided to bring out my final ace in the hole. I really didn’t want to use this, but I don’t have any other choice right now.
“If you’re saying that you can’t trust me because you think of me as a beast that’s putting his poisonous fangs into Kageishi-sensei, then that’s just your misunderstanding.”
“S-Say all you want, I know that men like to lie about everything!”
“No, I’ll show you—Right, Ozu?”
I called out to Ozu, who had been on stand-by behind my back. Just like I had told him beforehand, Ozu gave a charming smile.
“Yeah, you’re right. After all, it seems that I’m the ‘special one’ for Aki.”
“Ehh?! Wait, so you mean—Wait, what kind of rare animal’s roar was that just now?”
“A-Apparently some naked student was running around screaming outside the school building. I’ll lecture him later.”
As Midori turned around, Sumire acted like she wasn’t the one letting out that scream as she gazed outside the window. She barely avoided having her little sister and everyone else present find out about her being a BL-loving girl.
…I’m surprised that nobody else found out yet, really.
“O-O-Ooboshi-kun. You were…ehhh…?”
“I’m Aki’s darling, Kohinata Ozuma. Nice to meet you, Kageishi-san.”
“Kohinata-kun, and Ooboshi-kun… Y-You had that kind of relationship?!”
Her face was bright red, and her lips were shaking.
Still, I wasn’t lying. For me, the ‘special one’, a friend, is Ozu as of right now. I just changed the wording a bit. If the person in question arrives at this conclusion, then it’s their head that’s rotten.
“Will you believe me now?”
“Uh, ah, uhm…”
Her face bright red, Midori was pressing her hands to her cheeks.
“I-I got it, I understand!! People are free to choose their sexual orientation, so I won’t say any more!”
She desperately pushed out her words.
With how things looked, she probably likes to act tough, but imagining the relationship that Ozu and I have in her head, her heart must be racing, throwing her into confusion. Honestly, I don’t like the idea of any weird rumors spreading, but this is the only way to satisfy Midori and to move things forward. And it’s a hundred times better than having her think that Sumire and I have any sort of sexual relationship.
“Then will you finally believe me? That Kageishi-sensei and I don’t have that sort of relationship?”
“I believe you…”
Very well. Then that’s that.
“Then please. If you can’t accept my proposal, feel free to decline, but at least hear me out first.”
Closing her eyes, Midori stayed quiet for a moment.
This club doesn’t have much talent, and not a lot of money budgeted either. Neither do they have any place to practice besides here. And the one who supported and defended this theatre club is Midori herself. Not just securing this place for them, but also dragging all the members to practice regularly, it was done by none other than her. That explains why she’s so conflicted, asking for help from someone that practically just stormed into here. She should be frustrated that things don’t work right now.
“…I understand. I will hear you out.”
Putting aside her thoughts, she nodded.
“Everyone, are you fine with this?”
“If president Midori is okay, then of course! We don’t want the club to be disbanded either!”
“…Okay, thank you.”
Confirming everyone’s opinions, Midori turned around to glare at me again, and…
“If I’m not satisfied, I’ll immediately turn you down, okay?!”
“Yeah, no problem with that.”
Grabbing my hand, Midori stood up.
So, negotiations are complete. As of right now, Midori is the one deciding on the fate of the theatre club. Since Midori gave her okay, none of the other members should have any issues either. All that’s left is to make Midori accept the improvement plan.
“Just what I’d expect. When it comes to this sort of thing, there’s no one better than Aki.”
“Yeah~ Now if only he’d stop being so dense, things would be progressing even further~”
“Yeah, you can say that again. If he wasn’t this dense, Iroha would have had it much easier.”
The two behind me were blurting out nonsense as always, so I ignored them.
“By the way, those two…are they related to this in any way?”
“Yeah, I’ll have the two of them help out as support.”
I gave a brief introduction for Ozu and Otoi-san. On one hand, a professional programmer. On the other, a sound engineer.
“Are the two of them also related to Onee—Kageishi-sensei?”
“Ahh, you can say that. She’s often talking with Ozu.”
Not as Sumire, but as Murasaki Shikibu-sensei. I wasn’t lying.
She still looked dubious.
The person in question, Sumire, just tilted her head with a calm and composed expression.
She probably doesn’t have any idea that her little sister thinks she and I have some sort of intimate relationship. There was never an incident where anything perverted happened. One hundred percent.
…Ah, well, a while ago she asked me to show her my crotch. So in a certain sense, there’s nothing coming from me, but the same couldn’t be said for her.
“…So you’re really hiding something?”
“No, nothing at all?”
Giving a hasty dodge, I moved forward with my explanation. 𝒊𝒏nr𝐞𝘢𝐝. 𝒄𝒐𝗺
“For now, let me give an explanation as to how I’d like to support the theatre club from now on. First, the problem that the theatre club is facing right now—”
After having them move away the chairs and equipment, I started writing on the blackboard.
There are four major problems that we have to deal with. The acting skill of the actors, the script, staging, and the audio. If we don’t deal with those things before the competition, we probably won’t make it far.
“Leaving aside the issue of their acting skills, I thought of countermeasures for the other three problems.”
Those countermeasures are as follows.
(1) For the script -> use Makigai Namako-sensei’s manuscript.
(2) For the props -> Have Ozu set up a simple, yet rich staging system that enables better usage of equipment. Also, have Murasaki Shikibu-sensei draw the backgrounds for said system.
(3) For the audio -> Have Otoi-san oversee.
Roughly speaking, this is it.
For the scenario, we’ll go from that crazy over-the-top science fiction to the scenario that Makigai Namako wrote for [The Night the Black Goat Screamed], but have her adjust it for a stage play.
Regarding the stage equipment and audio, we’ll have Ozu and Sumire adapt to the script, under the supervision of Otoi-san.
Since we can’t flat-out say that Sumire is actually helping with the background drawings, I explained that this person called Murasaki Shikibu-sensei, who’s living separate from us, is an art director I have connections to.
As our final goal, winning a prize during the summer acting contest. Of course, improving our current despairing situation is one thing, but we also have to make sure that we get good evaluations from the judges.
“Amazing. It sounds like a business presentation.”
“Kageishi-sensei said that he’s a remarkable producer, after all.”
Regarding my suggestions, the reactions of the members weren’t too bad. However—
“Leaving aside the stage equipment and audio, I can’t just accept a new script like that!!”
Slamming her hand on the table, Midori jumped up.
“We were just working on it, so there’s no need to use a different one!”
“I got it. I came here with the script, so can I have you take a look at it right now?”
I handed over Makigai Namako-sensei’s script that I’d printed out before I came here. Though the contents are a sugar-filled, sparkly, happy-go-lucky story, it’s still way better than that hideous scenario they used before. Just what you’d expect from a professional like him.
For a bit, Midori went through the pages with a grim expression, until her body started shaking. As she lifted up her head…
“Uuuuhh… Uuuuu… Hick… Sniff…”
She started crying.
“This is the first time… I’ve read such a moving, pure love…”
And not just her, I could also hear faint sniffling from the other members. After swelling in their emotions for a bit, they’d made up their minds.
“Please, let us do this script! No, I can’t imagine doing anything besides this!”
Midori lifted her head and begged.
I knew that it was on another level from what they had before, but to think that they’d like it so much.
Ah. Does this mean that such sparkly-cute scenarios are actually in fashion with the JK nowadays? …No clue.
Ozu and Otoi-san, who had already read through the script, were also rather calm and composed in regards to it, so I can’t imagine that I’m the weird one here. Sumire was muttering “is my little sister going to be okay…” with a grim expression, but as long as the group themselves like it, then so be it.
“…Yeah, the script was really amazing. I totally want to do this.”
But—Midori turned towards the members standing behind her.
“Yes. We are the ones responsible for the staging equipment…But suddenly changing the script like that would be a bit too tough, I’m afraid.”
Right now, most of their props were based on that crazy science fiction script. If we were to change the script now, we would have to prepare new props and equipment to fit with the new script.
“Leaving aside the small things, changing the background and so on, the bigger equipment, we don’t have enough time left, nor enough funds…”
Of course, that was something I had anticipated.
“We’ll have Ozu work on that. Ozu, about what I told you before coming, you think that’s gonna work?”
“With an augmented reality setup, we could probably reflect a three-dimensional background. With some all-nighters, it’ll take me about three days.”
“That’s how it is. We’ll do something about the larger projects ourselves, so can you handle the small stuff?”
“Of course! Leave it to us!”
Alright, another problem cleared.
Regarding the audio,
“Do you have any footage from the past plays~?”
“Yes, we should have some videos from last year.”
“Great, can you show them to me~?”
Leaving it to Otoi-san, I shouldn’t have to worry about anything.
“Now all that’s left is the actual acting.”
“Actual acting skill isn’t something that you can improve with just a few words. Do you have some secret plan?”
“Yeah, of course I do.”
Opening up my LIME, I’d received a message from Iroha, saying that we were good to go.
“I’ll have everyone who’ll be standing on the stage later take some special guidance lessons from an instructor of mine in a different room.”
“Special guidance instructor…? Someone with mediocre talent won’t be able to teach us, you know?”
“No problem. You’ll understand it the moment you meet her.”
After all, I’ve never met anyone with greater acting talent than her until now.
The location was the classroom next to the theatre club’s. In it, the windows were covered with black curtains.
Seeing that, Midori and the other two girls were visibly surprised. Just for today, Sumire got permission from the school to use this room for the theatre club. And during lunch break, we prepared everything. This might’ve been the first time that Sumire’s ‘Poisonous Queen’ role actually came in handy.
“—So you’ve come.”
Within the darkness, I could hear a single voice directed at us as we entered. Wearing a largish cap and with sunglasses on their face, they looked like a celebrity trying to avoid the paparazzi. Naturally, it was none other than Iroha.
“This is the special guidance instructor I was talking about.”
“This person? Who are they?”
“I’d like to keep their name and face secret, but I can guarantee their acting skill.”
“I’ll have you call me Instructor.”
Since any sort of contact with the show biz or similar entertainment businesses were strictly forbidden by her mother, Iroha can’t help them publicly. That’s why I had her come in that outfit.
“They seem to be a bit suspicious… Is this really going to be okay?”
“Midori-san, was it? Should you really be asking ‘Who are they’ and not ‘How good is their acting’?”
“…That’s correct. Then, why don’t you show me!”
Sparks flew between the two parties. Well, leaving this to Iroha should be no problem.
And then, Iroha’s guidance started.
“For now, I’ll have you read the script you received today and decide on who takes which role. Then we’ll start working on the first few scenes.”
As told by Iroha, Midori and the other members read through the script, deciding on their roles. Though this script doesn’t have many roles, with the main roles being that of the hero and the heroine.”
“I think that president Midori should be acting as the hero!”
“Eh, I should?”
“Yes! I can’t leave the main role to someone other than president Midori!”
“Yeah yeah, agreed!”
In the meantime, it seemed to have been decided that Midori would be acting out the role of the hero. The other roles were also decided fairly quickly. The role of the heroine was given to Yamada, a female student who didn’t have any special feature to name here.
“Alrighto! Then, let’s go through the starting scene!”
Following Iroha’s gleeful order, Midori and the others moved to their respective positions. Opening the script myself, I checked along. The beginning—the play starts with a scene where the hero bumps into the heroine as he’s on his way to school.
Naturally, a scene you never see in any development, ever. Well…after this scene, the two of them would start bonding, and the hero would pull the heroine out of her shell, a good development nonetheless.
“3, 2, 1, start!”
On par with the countdown, the acting started. Moving through the classroom, Midori opened her mouth.
“I’ll seriously be late if I don’t hurry up—!”
And, the moment Midori read out the first phrase, Iroha immediately stopped the play.
“What was that just now?! It’s just a normal running scene, right?! Why would you read that in a monotonous way while walking like a robot?! Are you making fun of me?!”
“Making fun of someone doesn’t exist in my dictionary! I think I ran totally normally!”
“I’ve never seen anyone run like that on their way to school!”
…Well, I figured it’d boil down to this.
No matter who it was watching, they’d all call Midori’s acting and movement akin to a thin-plated robot. At first, I thought that she was acting out the SF play from before.
“…I understand. For now, let’s continue.”
Reluctantly, Iroha resumed the play. The ‘running’ hero would now crash into the heroine as he turned the corner.
The lovable shriek of the heroine (Yamada-san), and the monotone scream of the hero. Though Iroha’s eyebrows were twitching, she decided to hold off for now.
“…Y-Yeah, I’m okay, but…”
“oH?HS Is-?? p┴??q ?S S?Xs”
Or so I thought, but it didn’t last long.
“What’s going on?! Why are you suddenly stopping us mid-way again?!”
“That’s my line! There’s no problem with Yamada-san, but Midori-san! Why are you suddenly talking like an alien?!”
“Since you said that I was reading too flatly, I wanted to act more like the character now, and speak more clearly!”
“Clearly?! You were speaking so fast that I couldn’t pick up on anything!”
Once again, sparks flew between Iroha and Midori, while the other club members had that sort of “Not again…” expression on their faces.
“I don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me! I was doing it just as you instructed!”
“~~~! I understand. I’ll act as the hero now, so please watch me!”
This time, Iroha decided to act out that same scene as the hero. Moving to the position where Midori was, the play started.
Slowly, Iroha started jogging through the classroom.
“I’ll seriously be late if I don’t hurry up!”
Yeah…it’s just a short scene, but you can clearly tell the difference. Not just her voice in general, but it also perfectly fits a boy of the hero’s age. And she wasn’t running like a girl, but like a boy. A short while later, the first scene was already over.
“——How was it?”
As Iroha walked over towards Midori—
Her body was shivering.
“It was a short scene, but oh-so-perfect! The way you talked, the tone of your voice, the rhythm of your breathing! Not to mention your movement! You looked like a normal male high school student on his way to school! In comparison, my act was just…!”
“It’s fine as long as you understand. Don’t drag out your phrases. Always keep in mind ‘Who’ your character is. Can we try that scene one more time?”
Midori’s hostility from before had completely vanished, and she now entrusted herself to Iroha’s guidance. Seeing this happen from the sidelines, I judged that the acting in itself shouldn’t be that big of a problem.
“I’ll seriously be late if I don’t hurry up—!”
I take that back. It looks like it’ll still take a lot of time.
After that, it was a few hours until classes ended. The guidance in various sections continued.
“You can’t just stream in the BGM at full power, do you have any sense at all~? You have to mix it in with the development, and have the BGM fade in~ Ah, also, the timing in which you let in the BGM is also messed up~”
“Y-Yes, I’m sorry!”
“You might’ve been doing that until now, but I won’t allow any half-assed work, alright~?”
“Otoi-san, what should I do here?”
The people responsible for the audio and sound design were eagerly following Otoi-san’s spartan-like guidance.
No problems on that part either, as far as things looked. Same for the stage equipment, because luckily, Makigai Namako-sensei didn’t put many props into her script. With what I left to Ozu, who went home early, I could relax.
“What is it that you want to do?”
“What is it that you want to do?! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!”
Though the acting guidance still had some problems (mainly because of Midori), I could call this good progress.
“This should be enough for today, I guess.”
With the chime announcing the end of the day, the club activities came to a halt. Otoi-san threw a “This is still far from good~” complaint at me, and Iroha’s hair was a mess, her breathing rough from all the screaming and correcting. But the expressions of the club members were gleeful. They had the motivation, that’s for sure.
“And, how was it?”
After the first day ended, I asked Midori, to which she nodded.
“…The talent of the instructor is amazing, and it was very easy to follow her instructions. The other girls seem to be satisfied as well.”
“Glad to hear that.”
“Though I hate to admit it… I really, really do… But, thanks to today’s activities, I realized how many things the theatre club is lacking, as a whole.”
“I want to properly ask you. Please, help us win a prize at the upcoming competition!”
Midori, and the club members behind her, bowed down their heads.
“Yeah, looking forward to working with you.”
And from this point onwards, the support of the [5th Floor Alliance] and others started.
One week, two weeks—
Time went by as if it were yesterday.
Of course, as always, it was practice time after school. Hoping that Iroha might be making some progress with Midori,
“Please don’t lie to your own feelings!”
“Ugyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Just tell me you’re jokiiiiiiing!!!”
Or so I heard, so it seemed like it would still take some time. But, besides that…
“How is this, Otoi-san?!”
“But don’t get too happy now~ It did get a bit better, but this still isn’t something you can show other people~”
Thanks to Otoi-san’s guidance, the quality of the audio production was making huge leaps.
“I’ve managed to get a grip on Ozu-san’s staging equipment system!”
The staging equipment was close to its finishing touches, with the augmented reality setup, or so we called it the [Stage Scenery Creator] that Ozu had developed. With several transparent monitors, we can project any backgrounds or other necessary requisites onto them. Seeing that, I once again felt great admiration for Ozu.
Coming this far, there’s not much left that I can actually help out with. The ones doing the guidance are Iroha and the others, so I can’t butt in there. The management of the schedule for the theatre club was something I left to Midori, since she had taken care of that pretty well even before our arrival. On top of that, the arrangement of the stage equipment and props is also mostly in Midori’s hands.
In the end, the only thing I could do was stand in the corner of the classroom, making sure that I wouldn’t bother anyone while watching over the situation.
“Midori-san, you’re trying to do everything perfectly from the get-go, right?”
“That’s true, but…is that not good?”
“No, it’s not. Instead of trying to do everything perfectly, you should start with focusing on the phrases, and getting used to them. If you try to do everything at once, your shoulders tense up.”
Our biggest problem is the acting, but just as I anticipated, Iroha knows how to handle it. She gave perfect advice for everyone, even Midori. Rather than an annoying Kouhai, she looked like a dependable Senpai.
Looking around the classroom, I noticed one club member let out a big sigh.
…Isn’t that the one acting as the heroine… What was her name…?
“Are you okay? …Yamanaka-san?”
“Ah… Ooboshi-san. It’s not Yamanaka, but Yamada.”
“S-Sorry, I sort of got them mixed up.”
That’s right. It was Yamada. Yamada-san. Yeah.
“You’re looking a bit pale there, how about you take a quick break?”
“No, I’m fine. I can still go on.”
“…No need to force yourself.”
But she shook her head.
“Thank you for worrying about me. But I really am fine. I’m just a bit tired.”
“I’ve always practiced ever since joining the theatre club, but…this is the first time I’ve actually felt myself making progress. That’s why I want to work a bit harder.”
Seems like there’s no swaying her.
“Alright. But take a break immediately if it gets too tough.”
With that, she returned back to practicing for her role as the heroine. Though it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, forcing her to take a break could lower her motivation, and I wanted to avoid that. But too much motivation could be toxic. Overworking oneself can bring forth fatal results, after all. Guess it’s better to report that back to Midori later.
—Well, even if some sort of trouble might come up, we should be able to handle it…
And, it happened.
There was a human figure, peeking into the room through the gap in the door. With silver-blonde hair, I understood at a glance that it was Mashiro.
Letting out a sigh, I got up and stepped out into the hallway.
“You’re coming by almost every day now… So considerate, but you could just go home without waiting for me.”
“No need. Mashiro isn’t being considerate.”
She averted her face with a cold glare. However, the sound of her voice was warm.
That day, when I wanted to turn down Mashiro’s confession, she stopped me, telling me that she’d definitely make me fall in love with her. Quite some time has passed since then. Though she still kept her cold treatment at the start, caused by her embarrassment—I’d assume, she slowly started to warm up, actively searching for contact with me at school.
And…how do I say it—
“Here, for you. Refreshments. Mashiro’s homemade tuna sandwich.”
“Y-Yeah, thank you.”
“You’re way too neglectful. Gotta pay attention to yourself as well.”
She’s starting to act more and more like a real girlfriend.
“Is this really fine? If you stick this close to me at school, people might get the wrong idea. We’re not going out, are we?”
“Are you an idiot?”
Not understanding what I meant, Mashiro tilted her head. Only to let out a small giggle a little bit later.
“We’re going out, aren’t we?—At least, here at school.”
The contract with President Tsukinomori. To get the [5th Floor Alliance] into Honey Plays, I have to play the role of the fake boyfriend with Mashiro until we graduate, to make sure that no harmful insects get near her, akin to a bodyguard. At first, it was me who was acting this out purely for the sake of my goal, but now…
Mashiro is making perfect use of the contract…!
“T-That wasn’t a joke, okay? Making Aki fall in love with Mashiro. For that, Mashiro will use every ounce of her privilege as a fake girlfriend…!”
Her voice grew weaker and weaker, and her face started to burn up.
“T-This is Mashiro’s limit… Then… Die!”
“Y-Yeah, take care when you go home.”
Thus, Mashiro ran away on the spot. Her last word probably was meant as a goodbye. Really, what a horrifying goodbye.
But, before I lost sight of her, Mashiro came to a sudden stop, and, as if she had remembered something, she ran back to me. Stretching her back a bit, she whispered into my ear.
“Mashiro is looking forward to the play.”
She really ran away this time. While seeing her off, a hazy, gloomy feeling started to fill my chest. I don’t really know my own feelings. How do I feel about her?
—What a blunder.
I thought to bring an end to all of that confession business, but a human’s feelings aren’t that simple, it seems. But I can’t allow myself to have any conflicting emotions right now. Focus on the mission right in front of me.
All of this…to lead my precious team to the place they belong to.
「Seems like I can expect some interesting attacks from Tsukinomori-san in the future. I wonder how long you’ll be able to last, Aki.」
「Why do you sound so excited…」
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