Volume 7 Chapter 9 Shirogane Aqua, Determinatio
Edited by: Kanaa-senpai
September 26th, Evening, Beryl Entertainment Headquarters Building.
”What’s wrong, Aqua? You look really pale today for some reason.”
Toa peers into my face before me.
As Toa says, I’m probably wearing a terrible expression right now.
”I don’t know what’s happened, but you’ve seemed off since this morning.”
Shintaro gazes at me with concern.
Maybe because I haven’t been able to sleep since last night, my mind isn’t functioning as I want it to.
”Both of them are right. Shirogane, you should go home and rest for the day…”
Tenga-senpai starts to rise slowly from his seat.
I grab Tenga-senpai’s arm like that.
”Wa… wait, please.”
I manage to force the words out.
The moment that news was broadcasted, I immediately called Kanon. However, the call didn’t go through. Worried, I rode my bike alone in the quiet late night. Please, just be at home… But that hope was in vain; the place Kanon had rented was already an empty shell. The message I sent right after the news broke still hasn’t even been read.
Where are you, Kanon…!
The next day… in other words, this morning, I immediately went to the student council president Natsuki’s office as soon as I got to school. It was because I wanted Natsuki to get in touch with the president of Mary’s through her connections. Fortunately, we managed to get in touch with Mary’s president quite quickly, but it seems she doesn’t know where Kanon is either, nor whether she intends to quit school.
As if mocking my confusion, the noon talk show displays footage of Kanon in Stars.
I see, she’s already in Stars, so that’s why I couldn’t get through to her… I checked the footage on the news feed online since I was in class at the time; Kanon was smiling and nodding at the reporters’ cameras. Seeing that, I’m at a loss for what to do. Was Kanon not serious about me? No, she’s not the type of girl to do something like that, that’s the one thing I know best. But, I was aware that there were differences in nationality and status between Kanon and me, so I wasn’t oblivious to the fact that there might be an impossible future for us. Not knowing what to do, I found myself in front of Beryl’s headquarters building.
I considered opening up to Ako-san about everything and seeking her advice, but Ako-san isn’t at the office; she won’t be back for a while. That’s when I found myself in the break room waiting, and everyone rushed over, saying that something was odd about my behavior at school.
Toa, Shintaro, and Tenga-senpai’s kindness makes me happy. I thought that I couldn’t keep any secrets from these guys.
”…Listen, all three of you.”
I decide to confess everything to them.
I explain that I’ve been dating Kanon, and about not being informed about her engagement or marriage plans, how she suddenly became unreachable, hasn’t been attending school, and her previously rented home was already vacant. At first, it seemed that all three of them were surprised by the news that I’m dating Kanon, but they earnestly listened to my story. Tenga-senpai, in particular, seemed to have something on his mind. He closed his eyes and quietly lent his ear to my tale.
”I see… So that’s why you came to rely on Ako-san at the headquarters… By the way, is it not really Aqua who’s engaged or married to her? Is there any chance you misheard or misunderstood?”
Toa asks and I answer with a shake of my head.
While there hasn’t been an announcement about who Kanon got engaged to or married, I’m pretty sure it’s not me. At least, we’ve only been dating for a month, and we haven’t even gone on a proper date yet. I’m not the type to casually date someone for fun, and I was intending to consider marriage someday as well. It’s just that between the two of us, there are many steps to take and hurdles to overcome before we can get there. So, I wanted to slowly nurture our love. But to end up like this…! But I don’t have time to be bewildered. If the reports are true, there’s barely a week left until Kanon’s wedding.
”Even if you try to ask her directly, if you can’t get in touch with her, and even her entourage isn’t reachable…”
Shintaro raises his glasses up with his fingertips.
”In that case, we have no choice but to ask the person directly, but for us guys to go to another country, there are procedures involved. Even if we somehow clear those and manage to get to Stars, the issue is how to meet her, considering she’s a Her Highness.”
Shintaro places his hand on his chin, lost in thought.
I’ve also done a little research; for us guys to go abroad, we need permission from our country. Unless there’s an exceptional circumstance, the review process takes time, and even if we apply, there’s no guarantee it will be approved. It’s definitely impossible within a week, and by the time we arrive at Stars, Kanon will probably already be smiling next to someone who isn’t me.
Even if I consult Ako-san, it’s probably hopeless. I had a vague inkling about this. Is there truly no option…? In the footage on the news, Kanon was smiling. If Kanon is happy, isn’t that enough? What’s most important to me is seeing Kanon smile. So, if I give up on Kanon, everything will fall into place. That’s what I’m telling myself. Tenga-senpai, who had been quietly listening until now, opens his mouth slowly.
”Shirogane… Are you really giving up so easily?”
It’s as if my pessimistic emotions are being seen through by Tenga-senpai.
I don’t want to give up… but I know there are things I can’t do anything about, and there’s a part of me that feels defeated.
”Do you remember what you told me that night? You said to me, ‘If the woman I love is smiling painfully, I would fight and take her back…’ Shirogane, I ask your heart once again. Was the Her Highness’s smile on TV really a smile from her heart, the one you know?”
Tenga-senpai’s words hit a sore spot in my heart.
Kanon on TV was definitely smiling and waving. But I know that smile isn’t her true one. That smile… that Kanon was forcing herself to smile. I know because I was with her. So, I immediately wanted to rush to her side, and I was even angrier at the people who were making her smile like that than anything else, even angrier at myself.
”Shirogane, have you forgotten the words you said to me!”
Tenga-senpai grabs me by the collar and forcibly lifts me from the couch.
Seeing this, Toa and Shintaro, the other two, look flustered with surprised expressions. Even I’m surprised; I didn’t expect kind-hearted Tenga-senpai to do something like this.
”You told me this, didn’t you? ‘If the person I love is smiling painfully, I would fight and take her back!’ So, don’t give up and put on airs. Fight and take her back, even if it means being cool! Don’t entrust the happiness of the person you love to someone else, like I did! Shirogane… for you, and you alone! I don’t want you to have any regrets like I do!!”
Tenga-senpai’s fist jabs at my chest with a light thump.
It was a gentle fist. But within it, his feelings hit my heart hard.
”I’ve… I’ve just been swept along all this time.”
Shintaro slowly speaks up.
”It’s no use giving up on something and leaving everything to others or the surroundings. But… didn’t Aqua say that to me? ‘Are you really okay with that?’… That’s why it’s my turn to ask that of Aqua this time. Aqua, are you really okay with this?”
There’s no excuse, obviously. I don’t want to give up either. The emotions I was trying to bottle up slowly leak out.
”My admired hero, Shirogane Aqua, can’t just stand by and watch one girl suffer. That’s not you, right?!”
Shintaro sticks his fist out like Tenga-senpai did and lightly taps my chest.
Their heat gathers in my body, which had been freezing cold.
”Aqua… this might be selfish of me, but I always want you to be the coolest Shirogane Aqua in front of everyone. So, don’t show us such a pitiful side.”
Toa shows a faint smile, then looks at me with a serious expression.
”I, Nekoyama Toa, want Shirogane Aqua to be happier than anyone else in the world. If Aqua can make the girls smile, I want to see you smile, Aqua. So, even though I might not be reliable, this time, it’s my turn… no, our turn to help you.”
Toa sticks his fist out, lightly tapping my chest with his smaller fist.
The warmth transmitted from the three punches to my chest heats up my heart from its core.
”Hey, Aqua, what do you want? Forget about Her Highness Kanon and the company stuff. Take all of that away and tell us, what does Aqua, just a regular Shirogane Aqua, want? Let us know.”
What do I want? It’s already decided. Giving up various things, realizing that within Shirogane Aqua, the answer was only one.
”Aqua, I’m returning the words you gave me when I took that step forward. Shirogane Aqua! Break through that thick wall and take our hands!”
At the three’s words, my throat goes dry, and my emotions overflow outward.
”I… I want to see Kanon. I want to meet her and make sure. If Kanon isn’t truly smiling, then at that time, I’ll earnestly persuade her parents. And if that doesn’t work… no, it won’t fail!! I will definitely make it happen somehow!! So please…! Take me to… take me to her, the person I love, to Kanon!”
I collapse to my knees, taking the three fists in my hands and lower my head, pressing my forehead against the back of their hands. This will inconvenience Toa and Shintaro too, not to mention Tenga-senpai. But they all told me it’s okay.
Ah… how fortunate I am. I truly felt from the bottom of my heart that I’m blessed to have these guys as friends, as comrades.
”Then, bowing your head is unnecessary, right?”
”That’s right, Aqua. There must be more you want to say, right?”
At Toa and Shintaro’s words, I raise my head. Both of them were looking at me with kind expressions.
”Heh, we have four heroes here. We’ll figure something out.”
Tenga-senpai rolls up his jacket and shows the belt around his waist.
Naturally, smiles break out from everyone. So, I decide to go along with Tenga-senpai’s words, daringly.
”My mom used to say…”
Everyone widens their eyes at my words.
I stand up slowly and gently press my fist against theirs.
”Friendship is when a friend’s heart emits a youthful fragrance.”
When our fists come together, I smile and everyone’s expressions change.
”Hehe, what was that? Are you saying those lines now?”
”Ugh… junior, you’re saying Driver’s lines here? By the way, that’s a line from episode 10.”
”It looks like things are back to normal as usual. But really, senpai, you remember even the episode numbers…”
Unlike a while ago, I felt my heart lighten just a little. Was I really that deeply troubled? My mind is gradually becoming clearer, and I can think more rationally.
For now, I plan to consult Ako-san, and then… as I’m pondering over such matters, I hear a sound of something falling from the corner of the room.
Did some of the things stacked at the corner of the room fall? While thinking about that, Kirika-san, looking incredibly apologetic, and strangely, the film club’s director, Hongo, who’s eyes are sparkling for some reason, come out from behind the folding screen.
”I-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but… everyone, um… since we suddenly came here…”
Kirika-san stammers her words. They were probably in the back of the break room. I was about to tell her that she didn’t need to worry about it, but Kirika-san speaks slowly with a determined expression.
”Um, well, so… actually, you might not believe me, but, um… Her Highness Kanon is my friend!”
Kirika-san shows me the image on her phone. There, Kanon’s phone number is indeed written. Huh… why? I never imagined that Kanon and Kirika-san knew each other, so I’m really surprised.
”So, so, please! Let me help too!! Please!! I’m sure she wouldn’t want this at all, I know that!!”
Seeing Kirika-san’s bowed head, I immediately understand that Kanon is important to her too.
I take Kirika-san’s hand.
”Of course, Kirika-san. Let’s go meet Kanon together.”
Hongo, the film club’s director, who had been watching Kirika-san and me, had her eyes shining even brighter.
”Kirika-san, this is intense!! And everyone, as expected of the Drivers I saw potential in!! You guys are really something. Hmph, you won’t disappoint my expectations. Phew~ It’s Sunday morning, huh! Nice!! Thanks to this, I might be able to write an incredibly intense climax!”
Feeling slightly overwhelmed by Hongo’s maximum excitement, I deliberately throw a question at her.
”Director Hongo, why are you here?”
”Huh? Shirogane-kun, haven’t you heard? To tell you the truth, even I, Hongou Hiroko, am joining Beryl Entertainment. Because if I’m here, I might be able to see scenes like earlier a lot. Hmph, hmph!”
I see, so Director Hongo is also joining Beryl. I really want to properly congratulate her, but considering the circumstances, I’m not sure what to say. Okay, at times like this, I should rely on my comrades, on my friends. So, I turn my gaze toward the three of them. However, all three of them avert their gazes from me. Hey! Toa was the one who said I could rely on them earlier, yet he’s the first one to look away!! While thinking about that, the dressing room door swings open forcefully.
”I’ve heard everything!”
Eeeeeeh? Ako… san? Huh!? How long has she been there?
I thought I would get scolded in a normal way. But Ako-san smiles gently at me.
”Hehe, you always manage to surprise me, Aqua-kun.”
Ako-san slowly approaches me and smooths out the wrinkles in my disheveled outer garment with her hands.
”I had thought you might start dating someone at some point, but… I never imagined it would be a princess from another country. You’re still doing things beyond what I anticipated, as usual. If it weren’t for me, I’d probably be in a panic.”
”W-Weren’t you mad?”
Ako-san looks puzzled.
”Huh? Well… because, well, idols and romance…”
”Even idols have some love affairs. Actually, being married might even make you more popular among girls, thinking they might have a chance. Either way, it’s hard for Aqua-kun to be a free agent, so I hope you can be with someone you love.”
I was expecting something to be said about idols dating, so I’m surprised by Ako-san’s words. I had many questions, but due to lack of sleep and exhaustion, my head was too confused to form proper words.
”Well, let’s put that aside. For now, leave the departure and entry permits to me. I’ll definitely manage somehow. So, Aqua-kun, be prepared to go whenever!”
”Y-Yes! Thank you so much!!”
With those words, Ako-san turns around, flips her phone open, and leaves the room, with Kirika-san hurrying after her. With too many things happening, my tension is drained, and I slump onto the sofa.
”Oh…? Even though you were just saying those things to Aqua earlier, haven’t we not been able to do anything? I feel a bit embarrassed now.”
”Nekoyama, don’t touch there! Mayuzumi, pull yourself together!”
I give a smile to the three who are starting to groan.
”That’s not true. It’s because of you three that I felt like I could go meet Kanon. So, thank you. I’ll do my best…”
I remain collapsed on the sofa. The tension must have released, as a wave of drowsiness and fatigue washes over me.
”Never mind. For now, just sleep there, Aqua. We’ll stay by your side.”
The sight of Toa in front of me blurs. I fall asleep right there on the sofa.
How much time has passed since then?
When I wake up, I realize that I wasn’t sleeping on Beryl’s sofa or even in my own bed.
Perhaps someone carried me somewhere?
”Where is this?”
I slowly get up from the bed and peer out of the window. The sunlight is dazzling, causing me to squint, but gradually, I adjust and see a vast blue sky spread out before me.
Under the blue sky, with large clouds and airplane wings stretching out, I realize that I’m inside an airplane.
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Edited by Kanaa-senpai.
Thanks for reading.