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Part 1: The Ordinary Company President
Life and games are rather similar. For example, a heated battle with a formidable enemy can produce a reward once you’ve passed that difficult problem. There’s a lot to learn, and they have their upsides. In reality, I’m not really good with games, but with some effort, anyone can achieve results.
Hence, once the [5th Floor Alliance] passed danger, and the ‘invitation from the company president’ came in, I couldn’t help but hope for employment this time.
It was evening, and the heated play of the nationwide high school division theatre fiesta had ended.
At the party, with the [5th Floor Alliance] and the theatre club present, I told everyone that I had business with the company president and excused myself. I made my way to my destination with small steps.
Though Iroha complained like she always would, I really couldn’t help it. Rather than some adolescent event, the invitation from the company president—our employment at Honey Plays takes priority. As I experienced the feeling of a father prioritising work over his family, I kept walking.
—And then, I arrived.
The place I’d arrived at seemed to be for dinner, but it was once again a store that looked reserved for the upper class.
“There should be a reservation from Honey Plays Works, Tsukinomori—”
“Very well. Your appointment is already waiting, so let me guide you to your seat.”
Guided by the female proprietress, we walked through the Japanese-styled interior of the shop, decorated with lanterns and Japanese garden motives.
“Thank you very much.”
Opening the sliding door, I gave the proprietress a slight bow, and went inside.
“Hey there, Akiteru-kun. Sorry for suddenly calling you over like this.”
Just as I expected, Mr. Nice Middle was sitting there.
Sitting there with his high-class suit, giving off the impression that he could spare the money, the middle-aged man was waving at me. My uncle, as well as Mashiro’s father, and my most important connection.
The one managing the entertainment business Honey Plays Works, one of Japan’s leading companies.
Showing grateful behaviour, I sat down facing President Tsukinomori.
“No, there’s a lot of freedom to be had in a high school student’s life—what might be the business today?”
“Well, I’ve been wondering how things have been going with Mashiro recently.”
“H… H-H-H-How… In what way?”
—Get a grip, you idiot!
Struck from the president’s surprise attack, I could only give a suspicious response.
You agree with me, right? The thing with Mashiro was cleared up, as well as the problem with the theatre club, so I thought I could calm down now—but then he throws such a question at me? Anyone would panic. Even I.
“Are you working it out as fake lovers? You’re not going out for real, are you?”
“O-Of course not. Do I look like the kind of guy who aims for love in his life?”
“Your personality might not, but if it came down to it, even if it’s you, you might act according to your sexual urges. You’re not giving in even when Mashiro approaches you, right?”
“What?! Are you saying that Mashiro isn’t a charming girl?!”
“Ahhh, this father-daughter pair is way too annoying!!!”
If you ask, then how about I tell you everything! How Mashiro fell for me and confessed to me, which, after a lot of twists and turns, ended with me taking her to a high class restaurant, and although I had planned on making her give up on me, it feels like she’s going at it even harder now—Nah, I can’t tell him about that. I can’t see my future being a positive one of I told him.
Alrighto. Calm down, me. Relax, wine, and dine.
“…Anyway, it’s working out as it should. Mashiro managed to make a friend, and she looks like she’s enjoying herself.”
“Figures. I’m staying in touch with her via phone and messaging, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen her this happy. I’m glad that she transferred schools… I’m thankful to you, Akiteru-kun.”
“No need. I didn’t do much.”
“Fufu. No need for modesty. It’s your personality and the work of the [5th Floor Alliance]. The reasons for me to back you are growing day by day. Makes it easier for me to move… I even saw what was going on at the nationwide high school division theatre fiesta.”
“…You knew about it?”
I don’t remember telling him about it, since I thought that it would be unnecessary to report things with no relation to making games.
“I heard from Mashiro. To think that you’d take part in the actual play, you never fail to surprise me.”
“The person who was supposed to play that role encountered some trouble, so I jumped in. It wasn’t that big of a deal.”
“Just being able to fill a vacancy like that is a big deal in my eyes, but… Well even if I say so, you wouldn’t listen. Though I do think that being able to take compliments is a valuable trait.”
“One doesn’t need to make such room for compliments.”
“I got a picture from Mashiro, but you looked like quite the ikemen, you know? Wanna have a look?”
“I’d rather not. Forcing me to take a look at my own face would be torture.”
I politely rejected the hand of the grinning President Tsukinomori.
Also, Mashiro? What are you taking pictures for? You’d better have had your sound turned off, or you would’ve been a bother to the people around you. I’ll have to ask her about that later.
“…So the reason you called me here today is to tease me about that?” I asked, not hiding my irritation.
As I did, President Tsukinomori flashed a grin.
“Of course not—I want to introduce someone to you.”
“Yes. You see, I really value your work as a producer—no, as a manager very much. I think that you could really do well in the future.”
“Of course, I’m not asking you to just jump into working. It all depends on your choices and hard work from now on. However, if you were to get in contact with some of the big-shots, and get a broader view from above, you’ll definitely do well in our field.”
“…I’m thankful to hear that. And, the person I’m supposed to be meeting is…?”
“The company president of the Tenchidou corporation—Do you know him?”
I couldn’t hold back my doubts.
The main office of Tenchidou is located in Kyoto, and it’s one of the most famous gaming companies in the entire world. Boasting a great selection of games for both young and old, they can praise themselves for their massive user base, their immense social media presence, and possessing countless IPs all over the world. In short, they’re a strong conqueror.
In the west, it’s Tenchidou, in the east, Honey Plays. Together, they’re the two great gaming giants that rule over Japan.
“I’ve heard of him. Although they missed out on the surge of popularity for mobile gaming and ultimately fell behind Honey Plays for a term, after the new company president’s efforts, they got back on track.”
The mysterious manager, who refuses to appear in interviews, never showing his identity to the outside world. Acting as the brain of a capable consulting group overseas, there’s an urban legend that this company president doesn’t actually exist in reality, and others of him being the hero of Silicon Valley with the commercial success of the smartphone.
And so on. And, today, this person—
“—This person is going to be coming here today?”
“Indeed. Look, seems like they just got here.”
Footsteps slowly approached the door. If a big-shot on the level of President Tsukinomori were to join us, there’s no way I wouldn’t get nervous. They’re not like Oji-san. I can’t play the family bond card here if something happens.
I cannot allow myself any mistakes with that person—
“I’m sorry for making you wait like this~ How shameful of me to arrive late on our first meeting—Ara?”
Having never expected that individual to appear before me, I was at a loss for words. They seemed to be too, as their eyes opened wide, staring blankly at my face.
“This is the Tenchidou company president, President Amachi Otoha, and this is my nephew Ooboshi Akiteru-kun… Uh, what happened, you two?”
“Ara~ Ara ara ara~ I wonder?”
“Hmm? President Amachi, don’t tell me… No, let’s not touch on that. No matter how much he resembles me as a fine looking man, a married woman can’t just eat up a high school student, you know?”
What are you talking about, you shitty bastard? No, you’re wrong. You’re totally wrong about this. Why? Why is that person here—
“Hey, President Tsukinomori, no sexual harassment, okay~?”
She pointed at him, like a babysitter scolding a naighty child. She had the looks of a goddess, you could say. Long, beautiful, bright golden-yellow hair, neatly weaved, bundled together like the tail of a horse, lying on her chest. She wore a loose knit on the outside, with a long skirt stretching down from her waist. With the fashion of a married woman on her day off, she certainly didn’t look like the person holding the ability to guide a famous enterprise.
No, of course she wouldn’t look like that to me. After all, this person is—
“What a surprise. To think that the person President Tsukinomori wanted to introduce me to would turn out to be the boy living next door.”
“Well, I’m just as surprised—Kohinata-san.”
The Tenchidou company president, Amachi Otoha. The person I was introduced to turned out to be the person who I’d meet from time to time while walking down the hallway of the flat—Ozu’s and Iroha’s mother.
“To think that the two of you would already be acquainted with each other. Coincidences like these really exist, huh?”
“Fufu, how right you are.”
Save for our initial meeting, the dinner went on without any complications. Picking up a thin slice of Hida beef from the plate with their chopsticks, President Tsukinomori and President Amachi were acting as if nothing out of the ordinary was going on, while I could feel cold sweat in my palms.
How could I enjoy myself here? Iroha had just been standing on the stage, ready to risk revealing her identity. With that timing, meeting her here, of all places. I can’t think of this as a coincidence. Maybe she had already seen through everything…
With those thoughts in mind, even the high class meat tasted like nothing more than oil.
“Your chopsticks aren’t moving, Akiteru-kun. Come on, don’t hold back and eat to your heart’s content. Men have to be the aggressive, meat-eating type.”
“Ah, yes, then I will…”
“My nephew still isn’t quite accustomed to the tastes of us adults. Please excuse him for that, President Amachi.”
“Ufufu, he’s so fresh and cute~ How about I feed you~?”
“I-I’d like to pass on that…”
Stop treating me like a kid—I swallowed my words, and politely declined.
What is this incarnation of tolerance… Oh yeah, Iroha told me that she’s bad with being treated like a child because of her mother… I see, I can totally see that happen.
“You don’t have to mind it so much, you know~ My Ozuma and Iroha always seem to be in your care after all, so I’d like to pay you back~”
“Ugh… Uhm… Please put it in here.”
Holding back my urge to bite into the meat she was pushing at me, I held out a small bowl.
“What a shame~” She puffed out her lips, and placed the meat in the bowl.
“But, to think that such a cuuuute boy was actually the representative of the [5th Floor Alliance]. There’s still tons of things I don’t know in this world, it seems~”
“…! So you know…about the [5th Floor Alliance]…”
“I don’t think that there’s anyone who doesn’t. That’s just how famous you are in the industry~”
—Seriously. Not good. A fatal miscalculation.
Hating the show biz, hating the entertainment industry, hiding any sort of amusement from Ozu and Iroha—
That same mother is the leader of this industry? What’s up with that? I can’t laugh at a joke like that. We thought she wouldn’t find out about the [5th Floor Alliance] if we focused on making our games available as smartphone games.
Even so, it’s all boiled down to this.
…No, wait a second. This is clearly weird. I’ve never heard about this from Ozu or Iroha. Did they hide it from me on purpose? Nah, I can’t imagine that. What would they gain from that?
“That’s the first time I’ve heard about this. Also, Amachi Otoha, certainly isn’t Kohinata Otoha.”
“I’m working under my maiden name. In the first place, I got famous with this name. If I changed it to my new family name, everyone would have to remember that, and that’s way too inefficient~”
“I see… That does make sense.”
“It’s no surprise that you wouldn’t know. I’ve never once told Ozuma or Iroha about my job as a company president.”
“Yep~ I don’t like talking about this boring job with my family, so~ And although the main office is over in Kyoto, I have no intention of moving over there~”
With a loose mouth, there was a certain level of willpower packed in there.
“At home, I’m acting like a ‘normal mother’~ I don’t appear on the media, and since my children don’t know my maiden name, they won’t find out about me no matter how much they research~”
President Amachi’s eyes were filled with serious emotion. I didn’t know where that emotion came from. But, those eyes once again reminded me that I can’t reveal anything about Iroha’s talent to her.
Hence, I picked up on another phrase she’d just used.
“A boring job, you say?”
“Yes. Merely investing into systematic contents of the market, for an estimated amount of revenue. That’s how it continues for all eternity, hence it’s boring.”
“President Amachi is as clever as ever… Well, this is exactly why you managed to get that sloppy company back on track like that. With methods that short-sighted veterans in the industry wouldn’t think of, you succeeded in reforming the company.”
“Fufu, though as a result, a lot of creators ended up hating me~”
—Ahh, I see how it is. It really is Ozu’s and Iroha’s mother.
Seeing the President Amachi’s softly-smiling face, I reassured myself. She’s a person hated by everyone in the show biz and entertainment industry. Hence, as someone involved in that, she doesn’t hold the slightest bit of grief over being hated by those gifted people.
There’s no love.
“She’s putting immense focus on efficiency as a manager. Perfect for you, Akiteru-kun. I thought that if you listened to her, you’d grow immensely.”
There’s probably no ill-intent to be found in President Tsukinomori’s actions. He probably arranged all of this in hopes that I would grow into a respectable person, one that he could take under his wing. Hence, a dinner together with the leaders of the east and west. A chance that anyone hoping to get into the business world would be dreaming of, no doubt. And the person who created that chance was President Tsukinomori, so I only have words of gratitude for him. However—
“I don’t think we match. Me and Kohinata-san—President Amachi have different values.”
“I love the staff of the [5th Floor Alliance]. I think of the stories they create as interesting, from the bottom of my heart. If I only wanted to earn money, I would have chosen another business, not making games.”
President Amachi’s eyes narrowed like a cat’s, as if she was looking at my insides—
“You really love your staff very much. This lady here would love to meet them someday.”
—It felt like I was being glared at by Medusa herself. A cold feeling of pressure, as if she had perfect hold over my heart. I don’t know how much she believed me, but, those eyes. They had a faint radiance of doubt in them.
With cold sweat on my forehead, my heart started beating faster and faster.
What should I do? Reveal Iroha’s and Ozu’s secret, and declare all-out war? No, it’s too early for that. Hide all the preparations beneath the surface, and strike her down the moment she doesn’t have any means of counterattacking. That’s the plan to free Iroha, as well as Ozu, from Medusa’s binding spell.
If I don’t do something here, everything we’ve done until now would have been for nothing. I have to be careful.
As my mind heated up, working at max speed—
Rumble rumble rumble
“—Ohh my, my mistake. It’s boiled over, isn’t it? The flame was a bit too strong it seems, what a blunder.”
Looking at the bowl about to boil over, President Tsukinomori hurriedly cooled down the flame.
“Ah, ouch! Ahh, look at this, President Amachi, my fingers are bright red.”
“Ara ara, what are you doing? How about cooling them down with some ice?”
“Very well. If President Amachi would put ice in her mouth, and slowly, sloooowly started sucking on my fingers, I might be healed in the nick of time.”
“Is that so~ Since you’re looking so energetic, how about adding some more heat~”
“Ahhhhhhh?! Don’t push the hot teacup on my already burning fingers—Ahhh, ugh…! I can’t get enough of President Amachi’s hardcore sadism…!!!”
Watching that ridiculously idiotic exchange between these so-called adults, I let out a relieved sigh.
The flame really wasn’t that hot just now, at least not hot enough to make the pot boil over.
—President Tsukinomori probably sensed the tense atmosphere and decided to play it off in a funny way. He’s normally nothing more than an idiot, but at times like this, he shows his talents as a real president, and I’m thankful for that.
Fuu, fuu, as he kept on blowing on his red fingers he suddenly took out his smartphone.
“Well~ He might seem a bit plain and cheeky at times, but he’s the real deal. Look.”
“Ara? This is—”
“A picture that my lovable daughter took of him. Apparently he jumped into the theatre club at his school as a stand-in, since one of the actors couldn’t make it in time. He’s not just good at operating a small group of developers, but he’s also got quite the acting talent, it seems. Don’t you think that my nephew is a good catch?”
President Amachi narrowed her eyes.
—This is bad!!
He’s probably aiming to cool down the tense atmosphere with that, not knowing what fatal consequences it could have for the [5th Floor Alliance]. I can’t let her see that picture…!
It’s probably the same picture he wanted to show me just now. Hence, it probably shows Iroha on stage as the heroine, together with me. If she were to see that—
President Amachi continued to gaze at the picture in silence, while her expressions continued to change.
Shit, nothing more I can do. Then, time to prepare theoretical artillery. I simulated the possible following conversation patterns in my head at high speed. Excuses. Turn-around. Persuasion. Various methods to how to get out of this situation. I was racking my head at high speed, to find that one, perfect method.
And, President Amachi—
“Myyyyyyyyyyyy, what is this picture?! It’s so cute I could die~~~~!!!”
Hugging the smartphone to her body, she started squirming around.
Seeing a reaction I had never anticipated, all my thoughts came to a sudden halt. No, seriously, what is that person talking about?
“T-That much? I’m glad that you’re praising my nephew so much, but I think that you’re exaggerating a bit here.”
“What are you talking abouuut~ Of course I would~ The cute one is the photographer, after all~”
“Photographer… you mean my daughter Mashiro?”
“Of course~ Don’t tell me, you didn’t realize?”
With those words, President Amachi showed me the picture.
Shown on there was—Only me, standing on the stage. Iroha or any of the other actors were nowhere to be found.
“There must’ve been other actors, but she only focused on Akiteru-kun, you know! She must’ve been aiming for the perfect angle to make him look the coolest as well~ I can totally feel her LOVE for Akiteru-kun just from this one picture~”
“…I-Is that so.”
I loosened my tensed shoulders. Really, that was anticlimactic.
I totally expected her to have found out!
“Who was the one who took the picture? President Tsukinomori’s daughter? Really, you got a good catch there, Akiteru-kuuuun~”
“N-No, there’s nothing going on between me and Mashiro.”
“And now you’re even panickedly denying it~ Your face is getting red, you know~ How c-u-t-e you are~”
She poked at my cheek with her finger.
—Shut up already. What kind of deja vu is this?
“Akiteru-kun… Would you mind explaining yourself?”
“Again, there’s nothing to explain! Stop emitting that dark aura!”
“No, you won’t deceive me! To think you’d be living a flowery adolescent romcom with Mashiro… Something like that… I’m so. friggin. jealous!!!”
“Fufufu~ Isn’t that fine, President Tsukinomori~ Just let them enjoy their youth~”
President Amachi said so as she tapped President Tsukinomori on the shoulder, who was grinding his teeth.
“A blooming love, a blooming youth~ I’m supporting your love with Mashiro-chan, Akiteru-kun~” President Amachi threw me a grin.
“Ahhh… Yes. It’s really not like that, but, uhm, thank you very much.”
I really can’t tell if she’s a good or bad person after all.
—But, that’s not important.
Letting out a relieved sigh that Iroha’s secret didn’t end up being leaked to her mother, I was thereafter forced to play along with the two adults’ annoying conversation until the store closed.
Part 2: Toast and Worship
“Alright then, to celebrate the success of the theatre club today~~~!”
To Murasaki Shikibu’s highly energetic voice, everyone lifted their glasses for a toast, to celebrate the theatre club’s performance at the regionals.
A few days had passed since the regionals, and it was a Friday evening. The location was my own living room, with food and drink delivered, and Iroha’s homemade salmon carpaccio, all lined up on the table.
The people participating in the party were the members of the [5th Floor Alliance], Otoi-san, and Mashiro, as well as the theatre club members, including club president Midori. Though Makigai Namako wasn’t able to join us in person, he was participating with a phone chat. Normally he’d be here with his usual voice chat, but this time, he decided against it.
And now that I think about it, there haven’t been many chances to hear his voice as of late. Maybe he got a girlfriend and moved in with her? That would explain why his recent scenarios consist of characters with flowers in their heads.
“…Is it really fine for me to participate even though I wasn’t in the play?”
At first, Midori was hesitating a bit, and not just her.
“…I-If you say that, then Mashiro as well… So many people…she doesn’t know…”
“Don’t sweat the small stuff~ Just keep drinking! Look, your glass is already empty!”
Thanks to Iroha, who was sipping on her tomato juice, encouraging her, she’s now properly participating.
But if there was one thing that went off the rails right from the get-go…
“We managed to avoid disbandment! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! I’m free noooooooooooooooow! Bring me more scoooooootch!”
“Hey, Sumire-cha—Murasaki Shikibu-sensei, you’re going too strong from the start! Though, I’ll still pour you some!”
“Mashiro-chaaaaaan. Your cheeks are still as white as snow! Drink some more!”
“Ahhhhnn~ so cold~”
“—Who’s that drunk person?” Midori asked with a dubious expression as she pointed at Sumire, aka Murasaki Shikibu-sensei.
It’s your Onee-chan—is what I would have loved to say, but I could barely hold myself back. The thing is, instead of just the people from the [5th Floor Alliance], Otoi-san, Midori, as well as the members of the theatre club ended up joining our celebration party, but we had completely forgotten about the possibility of them figuring out Sumire’s real identity. Realizing it only as we arrived at the 5th floor, Sumire had already changed into her jersey with three opened bottles of beer next to her, so we didn’t have any other choice but to hope that they didn’t figure it out.
…Luckily, her character here greatly differs from hers at school, so neither the peeps from the theatre club nor Midori have caught on to anything.
“It’s all been about the theatre club recently, you know?! My stress level is at its max!! I haven’t had any free evenings recently to let some alcohol cleanse my throat! Ahhh~ senseless drinking is the best! Need more beer!”
“Ahh, we just ran out of beer. What should we do about this?”
“If there’s no beer left, then it’s time for wine! As well as some cheese for a snack!”
“Seems like there’s no brakes on the drunk train! Well, I’m here to help you~”
Without a single worry for her real identity being figured out, Murasaki Shikibu-sensei went ahead full-throttle. Well, the more she gets out of control, the lower the risk of anyone else finding out, I guess.
“What’s with this failure of a human being…”
“Don’t say that. She’s one of the members who supported you, after all. Namely, the one who drew the backgrounds you were able to see with Ozu’s stage equipment system, Murasaki Shikibu-sensei.”
“I-Is that so. Then, I’d better show my gratitude… But this and that are different!”
The representative of temperament, the hyper-diligent Midori probably couldn’t bear to see this. A member of the [5th Floor Alliance] who saved her beloved club was currently crossing all the moral boundaries of an adult.
“She’s drinking alcohol even though there are minors present! And she’s even hurrying Tsukinomori-san to drink some herself! That’s a total out, isn’t it?!”
“Well, that’s true, but it’s fine since nobody’s actually drinking with her…”
“I can’t believe it… to think that such an irresponsible adult would exist… If Sumire-oneechan saw this, she’d probably give her a hell of a lecture.”
What kind of shock would she receive if she found out that this irresponsible adult was actually the same person as the older sister she admired? Let’s keep that harsh reality a secret from her, I’d say.
By the way, Sumire-sensei didn’t participate because she didn’t have any interest in such frivolous affairs, or so we said. Since they can’t both be present at once, it’s quite a nice excuse, if I say so myself.
“Good thing the play worked out. I thought that it’d be fine if Aki participated in it, but your acting was even better than I had anticipated. You really are a jack-of-all-trades.”
“Stop with that, Ozu. I just happened to be lucky this time around. I had the script in front of my eyes all that time, and I learned most of the movements just by watching them enthusiastically practice.”
“Being able to do it just by watching is a pretty crazy skill in and of itself.”
Even though I’d jumped in at the last minute for the play as the hero, we still managed to make it to the next round. If the other two who had practiced all that time participated, it would’ve been even better.
“Hey, Aki~ Being too humble isn’t virtuous.”
“Exactly. Otoi-san, go and tell him.”
“Even if you say that…” I commented.
“It was your first time acting like that, and you managed to get the theatre club to the next round~ I think you can be proud of yourself, you know~? The other members think that you did a great job~ Ah, this is delish~”
Otoi-san gave a weirdly positive evaluation as she picked up a piece of dessert. Honestly, it’s weird for her to give such positive feedback.
“Well… It’s all thanks to everyone from the [5th Floor Alliance]. Really, thank you all so much.”
“““““Thank you very much!”””””
Midori and the other members of the theatre club lined up and lowered their heads.
“Also, I want to apologize to Ooboshi-kun and Kohinata-san. Because of my ineptitude, I made you two take part in our play.”
“I’m totally fine with it. I had a lot of fun standing on a big stage like that.”
“Well, I guess. It was a valuable experience for us, so don’t sweat it too much.”
It was a charitable action, and everyone did it by choice. If the theatre club had been disbanded, then Sumire would’ve been forced to become the advisor of the girls’ tennis club. She would’ve missed her deadlines more and more, and by a larger margin. We can’t have her getting even busier.
I managed to solve another problem, just as planned.
“Really, thank you so, so much. We’ll stand victorious at the prefecture competition with our own strength! This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. So we’ll enjoy it to the fullest!”
Raising her fist to the sky, the other club members followed suit and let out a motivated “Yeah!” Seeing that, we from the [5th Floor Alliance] nodded in agreement. At this state, they’ll definitely be able to achieve even greater results.
“Ah, I know! I also wanted to give my thanks to Makigai Namako-sensei who wrote the script for us…”
“Well, he’s not here right now, but he should be able to hear you.”
Opening the [5th Floor Alliance]’s LIME chat, I showed it to Midori.
[Makigai Namako]: I don’t need your thanks. It was a great play
“No, no! I can’t thank you enough! This is the first time in my life that I’ve seen such a wonderful script!”
Midori’s reaction resembled that of a fan who’d finally got to meet the author they admired. Well, he really is an author, but not one who writes pure-love stories.
[Makigai Namako]: Is that so…? It might’ve been good enough for a stage play, but there are still many things that I have to reflect upon…
A badly-written message. This was the other problem that I was talking about, and it seemed that there had been quite the positive effect.
“Thank you for coming to see us live, Makigai Namako-sensei.”
[Makigai Namako]: Y-Yeah, AKI and the others’ play was really amazing. The acting, yeah
I invited Makigai Namako-sensei over to watch the play, so he could see his own play performed live before his eyes—With that, he’d realise just how sparkly, happy-go-lucky, and unfitting for a horror game his script actually was, and go back to his old ways of writing horror.
Everyone has an extreme evaluation of their own work. Either it’s the best thing they ever produced, or it’s some piece of crap, fit to be thrown in with the trash. At times like these, it’s best to revert their view back to an objective one and let them see their work in the hands of another, severely changed.
Naturally, there would be those who would call it boring precisely because it was changed, but at the very least, Makigai Namako-sensei isn’t like that. I had received a message from him right after the play.
[Makigai Namako]: Sorry that I sent you such an embarrassing script. This clearly isn’t something you could put into ‘Black Goat’. I’ll rewrite everything
The effect was immediate and effective. With that, we managed to protect our game from that horrendous script. And that’s a big relief on my end. But it’s a shame I wasn’t able to greet him when he was already present for the play. I’m sure he’s gotta be busy as a famous, best-selling author and scenario writer, but at the least, meeting him in person would’ve been nice. Well, it’s makes him Makigai Namako-sensei.
The party continued on.
“Mashiro-paisen. You’ve been fiddling with your smartphone for a while, but what were you doing? An update on a social network? If so, please add my account!”
Mashiro, who had been holed up in the corner that whole time, received a visit from Iroha. In response, Mashiro hurriedly hugged her smartphone to her chest and tried to cover Iroha’s eyes.
“Hey, don’t peek at other people’s phones.”
“Ehhh, so boring~ That reminds me, Mashiro-senpai also came to the play, right? How was it~?”
“Oh yeah, you also came to see it. I spotted you in the audience.”
“Eh? Ah, yeah. You’re right. Well, the play was pretty good? Though the script was a bit, you know…”
As Mashiro replied with a quiet, unsure voice, Midori called out to her in surprise.
“Ehh?! Tsukinomori-san didn’t like that story?!”
“I-It was a bit too sparkly, you know. She got embarrassed just watching it…”
“That’s pretty rude to Makigai Namako-sensei, you know!”
Closed in by Midori, Mashiro turned her back to us and started typing on her smartphone. From my point of view, I could see that she was using a different smartphone case.
Did she buy a new one?
I could catch glimpses of an open LIME chat, so maybe she’s texting with someone.
[Makigai Namako]: It’s just as that Mashiro girl says. Something was wrong with me when I wrote that scenario. Please, don’t dwell too much on it…
“Eh…isn’t his character completely back to normal now?”
“Now that you say it. A while ago, he’d said that ‘Peace is number one’.”
[Makigai Namako]: AKI, if you say any more, I won’t send you any more scenarios
“I’m sorry, I’ll make them stop. Hey, you idiots, stop with that topic!”
“Ahahaha! Senpai, you’re way too desperate! Well, you would be in a big pinch if Makigai Namako-sensei ran away, I guess!”
Like that, our party carried on in a calm, enjoyable manner. I’d been really panicked at times, with the consecutive waves of chaos recently, but I’m glad we were able to go back to laughing with everyone like this.
Carrying the empty plate to the kitchen, I let out a sigh. Ozu, Mashiro, Otoi-san, and Midori were all sitting around a mahjong table, enjoying themselves.
On a side note, the time was closing in on 9 pm, and although I felt like we even pulled the super-diligent Midori to the dark side, seeing as we managed to keep her here all this time, a bit of freedom for today should be fine I guess.
I proceeded to wash the dishes with the background noise consisting of the mahjong sounds, when suddenly a presence suddenly closed in on me, like a hungry cat.
“Senpai, good work today~ Iroha-chan will help you out~”
She left the mahjong game and came here, it seemed.
“Good work. What’s going on over there?”
“Well, president Midori ended up as the sucker of the game and is starting to cry now~”
“These guys really don’t know how to hold back on a newbie… Even though I told them to teach her as they played.”
“Murasaki Shikibu-sensei decided to support her, but she left midway through. She seemed to have gotten an important call, and even had a serious face in spite of her drunkenness as she stepped out onto the balcony.”
A phone call at this hour, huh? A high school teacher must really have it hard. Well, as long as it doesn’t cause any trouble for her illustrations. Ah, speaking of which.
“Hey, Iroha. Did your mother say anything?”
“Mm? Not really? Why do you ask~?”
“I thought that maybe she found out about the theatre fiesta.”
“Senpai’s such a worrywart! It’s fine, Mama doesn’t have any interest in theatre and such.”
“If you say so.”
I recalled the face of Amachi Otoha who I’d met the other day. Seeing her reaction, I thought that she might’ve started something at home, but surprisingly, it seems as if she didn’t. I wonder if I should tell Iroha and Ozu about their mother being the Tenchidou company president? I’m a bit hesitant to, as of now.
If they found out that she was actually a big-shot in the entertainment business she hates so much, on top of the fact that I’d recently spoken with her in a business-oriented meeting, they might grow anxious. If they grow any doubts, they might even stop working. And I can’t allow that to happen.
“About the play! Senpai, I told you before, but you did a really good job as a first-timer!”
Disrupting my train of thought, Iroha called out to me as she started washing the dishes alongside me.
“When Senpai was throwing pick-up lines at me, my heart skipped a beat~”
“Stop. Every time I think about my own acting, I get the urge to roll around on my bed and writhe in agony…”
“Ehhh? But, Senpai, you say some of the phrases the hero does from time to time, you know?”
“Not having any idea about it makes you even more of a protagonist~ It’s like an ‘Eh, what’d you say?’ kinda thing.”
“I’ll send you flying out the window.”
Are you trying to tell me something?
“…So how was it? Your first experience?” Iroha questioned.
“Well, it wasn’t too bad. Though I’m not up for doing regularly, it wasn’t a bad experience.”
In response to my words, Iroha gave a few nods.
“It was also a fresh experience for me. Showing my face like that, it really felt refreshing.”
“…Really, I’m glad to hear that.”
“Yes~ To be honest, I wasn’t really panicked when we found out that president Midori wouldn’t make it in time.”
Pausing her plate-washing, Iroha looked over to me.
“I knew that Senpai would definitely be able to do something, after all,” Iroha said in a murmur.
I can’t really explain it, but… That expression of hers, filled with no annoyingness whatsoever. For a moment, it felt like my heart skipped a beat.
“…Mashiro will help you.”
Mashiro suddenly appeared between us.
“Y…Yeah, thanks, Mashiro.”
Thanks to that, I came to my senses.
It felt like I was being possessed by something very repulsive. Mashiro’s arrival really saved me.
“You’re done playing mahjong?”
“Mashiro had a girl from the theatre club hop in for her. The Yamada girl… so Iroha-chan really came over here, I see.”
Mashiro puffed out her cheeks slightly, and started washing the dishes as she rammed her shoulders against mine.
“Hmmm? So it’s a competition then~”
To my right and left, Mashiro and Iroha were now diligently washing the dishes. Though it’s really difficult, with their shoulders constantly hitting me… What is this? Mashiro…is that your way of making me fall for you, or whatever you were talking about? Did you get jealous because I was talking with Iroha…?
And Iroha is playing along with that…? No, she just loves competition, yeah.
With the three of us squashed against each other, we were working like that for a while when suddenly…
Murasaki Shikibu-sensei appeared. Having come over from the living room, staggering, she looked like a ghost from a Japanese horror movie.
“Mm? What happened, Murasaki Shikibu-sen—Sensei?!”
I somehow managed to hold on to her as she collapsed right in front of me. Though I had some detergent in my hands, I didn’t have the time to calmly put it away.
The girl’s body was shaking furiously.
“What’s wrong? If you got alcohol poisoning, I’d better call an ambulance.”
A thin voice. Knowing her, I thought that my guess would have been close, but her voice quickly diminished after that. This voice wasn’t that of a drunk Sumire.
The emotion that filled the weakened girl’s face—fear. I’ve never seen her like this. Neither as Kageishi Sumire, nor as Murasaki Shikibu-sensei. This—
“Please… I beg you…”
Unable to hold herself up, she collapsed on her feet.
This was the first time ever I’d ever seen her like this. Never had Kageishi Sumire, Murasaki Shikibu-sensei prostrated herself in such fear, pleading from the bottom of her heart.
And then, the girl spoke.
Her phrase had left a deep impression on me, and I felt as if I could hear plates crash to the ground immediately after.