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Chapter 153 Interval, Part Two - 1


 While the mini live performance by Ibusuki Kaname was about to start, Chihiro and other Shibahou Academy members (plus Ayase) rushed into the school building.
 They ran down the corridor, which was even more deserted than usual probably because they were going to use it for the competition, to the nearest women's restroom. Chihiro, who tried to enter the men's restroom by himself, was dragged into the women's restroom without any hesitation, and Kamishiro stood guard at Lucille's instruction.
 Fortunately, all four of them are wearing their training wear underneath, which saves them the trouble of changing their underwear and so on. So, they can take off their gym clothes or jerseys and put on their costumes instead.
 
 Yotsuba was in charge of persuading the staff.
 It should be easy to get them to agree if they ask them if it is unfair to allow only one school to perform.
 
**a
「We don't have the same costumes for all of us, so I'll combine them in a "like" way. Lucille-san, please wear this one, Mishuku-san wear this one. Izumi-kun should wear this」
 
 Cheerleader, frilly idol, and maid.
 Chihiro protested that his taste was not the same as the others, but when he was told that "Chisato-chan looks most impressive in a maid costume," he had no choice but to shut up.
 And being dressed as a woman, it takes more time than the girls, so Ayase pulls him aside for a quick dressing down.
 Meanwhile, Marika silently watches the three of them.
 
「Hazuki-senpai, are you sure you don't want to do this?」
『...Yes. I'm sorry』
 
 She nods weakly.
 
『I can't sing because I can't speak. Even if I'm here, I'll just get in everyone's way』
 
 Her [Telepathy] has a distance limit depending on how close she is to the person she's talking to. She can't sing her heart out to someone she hasn't met and interacted with before today.
 There is an option of lip-synching, but it may be noticeable if it is done by an amateur, even if there is a loud background music.
 
「But if we're going to go to all this trouble, I'd like to do it with everyone」
 
 This is true not only from the perspective of the power of numbers, but also from the perspective of feelings.
 Lucille nodded in agreement with Chihiro's assertion as she finished changing quickly.
 
「Yes, I agree. I hope you'll join us so that we can enjoy ourselves」
『But』
 
 Hana speaks softly to Marika, who is still hesitating.
 
「Hazuki-senpai is cute, so just being with us will be very effective」
「Hahaha. If it's Mishuku-san's seal of approval, there'no doubt about it」
「Izumi-kun? If you mean to be sarcastic, it's not sarcastic at all, okay?」
 
 Hana chuckled.
 Marika's gaze wandered in the air when the three of them invited her, and then she looked at Ayase.
 
『...Aoi-chan』
 
 As Ayase stopped her hands from dressing Chihiro, she smiled.
 
「I'd like to see Hazuki-senpai on stage」
 
 On stage.
 That may be a word that has a special meaning for Marika. It seems so to Chihiro, knowing her connection to Kaname.
 ――I used to want to be an idol.
 Perhaps Ayase knows this, too. Perhaps more deeply than Chihiro.
 Maybe "she" knows why she gave up her dream of becoming an idol. And if Chihiro's guess is correct, it has something to do with the fact that she can no longer speak.
 Still, Ayase wants Marika to go on stage.
 
『...I understand』
 
 Ayase's words were probably the final deciding factor.
 Marika nodded her head after a few dozen seconds of silence.
 
『All I can do is lip-synch and dance. Is that okay?』
「Yes, it's fine. Thank you, Hazuki-senpai」
 
 She smiles gratefully. And then she turns her face away.
 
『And, I'm going to do this properly. Please follow my instructions on where to stand and the choreography』
「...what, you're really up for it!」
 
 Lucille blurts out happily.
 
 Once Marika has decided to join, everyone hurries to finish getting dressed. Marika was assigned an outfit similar to Hana's. Apparently, two outfits had been prepared since they were originally costumes for a two-member idol unit.
 Chihiro, who needed a wig and makeup, and Marika, who changed late, were almost ready at the same time.
 After the meeting, which took only a minute, they hurried back outside the entrance.
 
 Clap! Clap! Clap!
 
 Immediately, there was a burst of applause from dozens of people. Apparently, Kaname's mini live performance had just finished.
 
**b
「Thank you very much. Did my singing and dancing kill your hearts, everyone?」
 
 Kaname smiled and uttered a boisterous line, then looked at Chihiro and the others and narrowed her eyes.
 
「Oh? It looks like a bunch of idiots who don't know their place are trying to compete with me」
 
 Her voice drew the crowd's attention to Chihiro and the others.
 This sudden pressure made Chihiro almost choke up.
 
 It seemed like such a deliberate attempt to draw their attention to them, but the crowd must have changed their mind, knowing what Chihiro and the others were trying to do. They wanted to make the crowd compare the two live performances, to re-impose Kaname's image on their minds.
 
(But we have no choice but to do it now, right?)
(Yeah.... Then, Chisato. Please take over)
(Okay, Nii-san. I'm in charge)
 
 Chisato takes over the body. Then, Chihiro feels his body become less sensible, and he enters a special state where he observes his own actions from the sidelines.
 Ready, go.
 The four of them, signaling each other with a glance, smile and take a step forward at the same time. They go straight ahead, letting the crowd make way for them, and then go around the stage and up the stairs.
 Marika was on the right wing and Hana on the left. Lucille was in the back and Chihiro took the center vocal position.
 The idol who remained on stage tilted hier head.
 
「Did you get permission from the staff?」
「Of course. We received permission from the staff」
 
 The one who answered was Yotsuba downstage.
 She smiled and threw down the three microphones in her hands. Marika, Hana, and Lucille, who had come forward to the front of the stage, caught them firmly, though they would have cost them if they dropped them.
 And Kaname clicked her tongue to avoid getting on the microphone.
 
「If that's the case, let's see how you do...」
 
 She said, and handed her own microphone to Chisato.
 As she accepted the microphone, their gazes met for a moment, and for a moment there is a sense that she is confident of her victory.
 ――The difference between a professional and an amateur is obvious.
 But Chihiro and the others are not amateurs either. Let's show her that.
 
「The soundtrack's ready!」
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