Volume 8 Chapter 28 Shirogane Aqua, everyone in Class 1A at Otomezaki High School
Edited by: Kanaa-senpai
After returning from Stars, there was something that had been on my mind for a while.
”Kurogami-san, Washimiya-san, can I talk to you for a moment?”
”Y-yes, of course, what’s on your mind?”
”I’m all ears, Shirogane-kun.”
It was lunchtime, the usual time when I would eat with Toa, Shintaro, Kanon, or sometimes with Pegonia-san. But today, I had informed them all beforehand and now stood before Kurogami-san and Washimiya-san, who were having their meal on the school cafeteria terrace.
”I wanted to ask the two of you something. I’ve noticed that Kurumi-san hasn’t been coming to school recently. I’m in the same Home Economics club as Kurumi-san, and she’s also my classmate. I’ve been worried. I thought maybe you two might know what’s going on…”
Kurumi-san had confessed to me before even Kanon or Miyuki-san did. Looking back, I realized that I had treated her with a lack of sincerity. It might sound like an excuse, but back then, I wasn’t really looking to get close to anyone, and my life had been quite busy with work and even a summer break. Naturally, I had missed the right timing with Kurumi-san.
However, after my discussions with Kanon and Miyuki-san, and with newfound determination, I had wanted to properly face her and confess. But ever since I returned to school, Kurumi-san had not shown up even for a single day.
”Kokona-san is currently… in the hospital.”
Hospital? Admission? I was shocked and left speechless by Washimiya-san’s words. Kurumi-san had seemed healthy before I left for Stars, so what could have happened to her during my absence? Was it an accident or an illness? I wanted to visit her, even if it was possible.
”I’m sorry. It might be difficult to talk about, but is it an illness or an accident? If it’s possible to visit her, I want to go. Is that okay?”
Washimiya-san and Kurogami-san exchanged glances before looking back at me. They chose their words carefully, revealing a heavy truth that left me speechless. Kurumi-san had been struggling with a significant internal issue since childhood. She had now decided to undergo a transplant surgery to resolve it.
”Please, if you could. Shirogane-sama, would you consider visiting Kokona-san before her surgery, just once?”
”I also request the same. Shirogane-kun, she asked us not to inform her, but I hope you can say something to her through the door.”
Kurumi-san’s surgery was scheduled for October 30th, the same day as the school’s Culture Festival open day. While they had told them that medical advancements made the transplant almost certain to succeed, nothing in life was ever 100% certain. That much, I understood painfully well, having lost my life in a sudden accident in my previous life.
”Alright, if it’s okay with both of you, I’ll visit the hospital with you today after school.”
”Yes, I don’t mind at all. Thank you for considering my selfish request.”
”I’m fine with it too. Thanks, Shirogane-kun.”
After afternoon classes, I stopped Kanon, Toa, Shintaro, and, by chance, Pegonia-san. I explained to them only that Kurumi-san was hospitalized and that I was going to visit her today. They all expressed their desire to come along, but I thought that a large group descending upon the hospital might not be the best idea.
So, I consulted with Kurogami-san and Washimiya-san once more about just the three of us—myself, Kanon, and Pegonia-san—visiting Kurumi-san.
They agreed, but they cautioned that we might not be able to see her in person; it depended on how Kurumi-san felt when we arrived. They accepted this, but there was still one concern weighing on my minds.
When I shared the news about Kurumi-san with everyone earlier, I noticed that Kanon seemed slightly shaken. I had assumed that Kanon, being a recent transfer student, wouldn’t know Kurumi-san.
But maybe she did? Kanon was the first to ask if she could come along with me, so perhaps there was some acquaintance between them that I wasn’t aware of.
”Everyone, this way, desu~wa.”
As we arrived at the hospital, there was a brief commotion in the lobby. I was quite popular on terrestrial TV shows, even appearing on prime-time and Sunday morning programs. Moreover, my marriage to Kanon meant that many people, including fans, knew about me.
To ensure that we didn’t cause any inconvenience to others, I gestured with my index finger to my lips, indicating they should keep quiet.
Everyone seemed to understand this gesture, and the commotion quickly settled down. Though the receptionists at the front desk didn’t need to whisper; they could carry on with their regular duties.
”That’s Kurumi-san’s room, desu~wa.”
Washimiya-san pointed towards a room, and just as she did, a woman in a white coat emerged from Kurumi-san’s hospital room. When she saw me, she came to a complete halt.
”Um, let me introduce everyone. This is Dr. Maria Lowry McClain, who serves as Kurumi-san’s attending physician. Maria-sensei, I apologize for this sudden gathering. These are Kokona-san’s classmates, desu~wa.”
Dr. Maria was a specialist in surgery, despite being in her early thirties from States. She had come to this country through a special exchange program between nations to expand her surgical expertise.
In my previous world, foreign doctors couldn’t perform surgeries in Japan without obtaining a Japanese medical license, but it seemed like the rules were different in this world. Here, there was active international cooperation and exchange in research and medical fields.
They worked together on common challenges, such as solving food and energy problems through technological advancements.
”Don’t worry; I will make sure her surgery is 100% successful. I swear by our God…”
Was she a deeply religious person? Maria-sensei kept her gaze fixed on me while making a slight bow and then left. She hadn’t blinked once during the interaction. Was there something about me that was bothering her?
Maybe my face was signaling illness or something. Kanon had told me recently not to overexert myself, so I should be more careful.
”Kokona-san, we’ve come to visit.”
”Kokona-chan, we’re here.”
Kurogami-san and Washimiya-san entered the hospital room first. We waited in the corridor, trying to gauge the situation inside, but there was no reaction from Kurumi-san.
After a while, when Kurogami-san and Washimiya-san came out of the room, they shook their heads with solemn expressions.
”No use, desu~wa. She doesn’t want to see us right now.”
”I’m sorry. We thought bringing her friends would help, but it seems we were mistaken.”
It was understandable since we had suddenly barged in. Still, since we were here, I wanted to at least try to say something through the door. But just as I was about to suggest it, Kanon stepped forward with a determined expression.
”Wait a moment; I’ll try talking to her.”
”Huh? Kanon-san, please wait.”
Kanon walked confidently toward the room and placed her hand on the doorknob. When Washimiya-san and Kurogami-san rushed to stop her, Pegonia-san smoothly slid between them.
”It’s alright. If Miss says she’ll do it, then we can trust her to handle it. Please leave everything to Miss.”
Pegonia-san, in an unusual display of seriousness, expressed absolute trust in Kanon. I understood her intentions, so I patted Washimiya-san and Kurogami-san on the shoulders.
”I’m asking too. Please, trust Kanon and leave it to her.”
The two of them exchanged glances and nodded slightly. After Kanon entered the room, we waited in the hallway. It wasn’t long before we heard a familiar voice from behind the door.
Kurumi-san’s voice sounded weaker than I could have ever imagined from her usual self.
”Thank you for coming today. But… I’m sorry. I can’t let Aqua-kun see me like this.”
Kurumi-san’s voice was trembling. I couldn’t fully grasp her emotions, not having experienced the suffering of illness myself.
However, I could sense that Kurumi-san’s heart was filled with anxiety and on the verge of breaking.
”Kurumi-san, thank you for talking to us. I know you must be feeling very anxious and in pain right now, but that’s all the more reason to think about things that will make you happy after the surgery. And, is there anything I can do for you, Kurumi-san? If there’s anything I can do, please let me know.”
I waited quietly for Kurumi-san’s response. I focused all my attention on her, making sure not to miss even the faintest of her words.
”Kurumi-san, be honest… it’s okay.”
I faintly heard Kanon’s voice. It seemed like Kanon was talking to Kurumi-san. After a while, Kurumi-san whispered so softly it was almost inaudible.
”I want you to say it’s going to be okay… Look at me properly and say it’s okay… No, I can’t.”
Hearing Kurumi-san’s voice, which seemed on the verge of tears, I found myself reaching for the doorknob without realizing it.
”Kurumi-san, I’m going to open the door.”
I slowly opened the door.
”Ah! Ah… No, don’t look.”
I was surprised when I saw Kurumi-san’s face. I had heard that makeup could make a big difference in someone’s appearance, but without makeup, Kurumi-san had a charming and natural look with freckles.
However, what surprised me even more was realizing that Kurumi-san was the same person who had collapsed on the street when I was working at the café.
”Kurumi-san, you’re the one from that time…”
”I’m sorry. I kept it a secret, but I lack confidence in myself…”
Kurumi-san’s shoulders trembled, and tears streamed down her face. Kanon, who was beside her, gently hugged her and patted her back.
”That’s why, someday, I wanted to thank Aqua-kun for that time, I wanted to change. So, I tried my best, dieted, learned how to do makeup, all in the hope of appearing somewhat better…”
In a low, hesitant voice, Kurumi-san began to share her story, looking apologetic and burdened with guilt.
”When we met at school again, I recognized you right away, and I was so happy. Aqua-kun is different from other boys, always kind to everyone. That’s why I had this dream that maybe if I worked hard, something could change. But… the more I liked you, the harder it became to tell you. Because… I didn’t want you to know about that time, about my current, about this ugly me…!”
I reached out and touched her cheeks. Then, I spoke directly to her.
”That’s not true. Kurumi-san looked lovely when she had makeup on, but even the way you are now is just as beautiful. Above all, I think it takes tremendous courage to open up like this. So instead of bowing your head, I want you to be proud of the effort you’ve put in. Let’s praise the hardworking you. Okay? So let’s save those beautiful tears for moments when you’re happy and joyful.”
I didn’t want Kurumi-san to cry for any other reason. It’s natural for a girl to want to look better and hide her insecurities.
Besides, Akio-san used to say, “Make girls cry only in bed.” I still didn’t fully understand the meaning, but I remembered it because it sounded cool. Someday, I wanted to be a guy like that. That’s why I didn’t want girls to cry for any other reason.
”And… even though Kurumi-san was hiding behind makeup, I actually like freckles on girls. They’re cute and make you look healthy, very charming, don’t you think?”
”Huh… uh… um…”
Kurumi-san’s face turned bright red as she stared at me, frozen in place. I suddenly thought, perhaps in this world, other boys had teased her about her freckles, just as she seemed to hide her face now. With that in mind, I added another word.
”So don’t worry about what other guys might have said.”
While some people might not like freckles, there are also people who find them charming. I speak only from the heart, so it’s a fact that I like freckles.
Good, it seemed like her complexion was slightly better than when I first saw her.
On the other hand, Kanon, who was beside me, inexplicably had a bright red face. What’s wrong? Are you okay?
Washimiya-san and Kurogami-san, who had rushed over, hugged Kurumi-san tightly.
I see, it’s moments like this. For Kurumi-san, these two must be like what Shintaro and I are to each other.
”Talking here might disturb others, so should we go inside the room?”
We entered the room following Kurogami-san’s suggestion. By the way, Kanon, who had been frozen earlier, was now being forcefully pushed by Pegonia-san. It seemed different from before, and was Kanon’s treatment rougher? Or was it just my imagination?
”Thank you for coming today, Aqua-kun, Kanon-san, and Pegonia-san.”
After discussing some matters in the hospital room for a while, Washimiya-san and Kurogami-san decided to stay a little longer. However, the three of us, Kanon, Pegonia-san, and I, would leave first. As we were leaving, Kurumi-san waved to us with a smile, but that smile seemed painful, and her already petite figure looked even smaller.
Is there anything I can do for her?
No, to be honest, there might be nothing I can do. Even so, if I could just temporarily relieve her anxiety…
As I was pondering this, my phone rang as we left the hospital. The caller’s name was Nekoyama Toa.
”Yeah, Shintaro’s with me. How did the visit go?”
I struggled to come up with a response. At that moment, Kanon gently squeezed my hand.
Do what you think is right.
I felt like Kanon was telling me that. Thank you, Kanon. Thanks to you, I’ve made up my mind.
”There’s something I want to talk to you two about.”
”Just a moment.”
Toa switched to speakerphone mode so Shintaro could join the conversation.
”I’m sorry for not having much time, but I need your cooperation for something…”
”Of course, leave it to us.”
Since they readily agreed to help without any need for further explanation, I double-checked.
”Hey, you two, do you really not want to know what you’re getting into? I might be asking something incredibly difficult.”
”It’s fine. You’re probably thinking of doing something cool, right? Besides, handling difficult tasks is nothing new for us.”
”Absolutely, Toa’s right. Why do you think we joined Beryl in the first place?”
Shintaro paused for a moment, then started speaking a little shyly.
”It’s because we resonated with what Shirogane Aqua is trying to do. We all wanted to see the future you’re aiming for. So if there’s something we can help with, please involve us. Because, well… aren’t we friends?”
”Yeah, yeah, Shintaro’s absolutely right. So… today, tomorrow, and from now on, even if we become old geezers, show us the coolest Shirogane Aqua. Well, I guess it’s okay to show me your uncool side in front of me too!”
You guys… you guys are really the best! Their words warmed my heart.
”Got it. Shintaro, Toa, I… I have something I want to do for Kurumi-san. It might be for my own satisfaction, but I need your help for it. So lend me your strength!”
”Yeah! Leave the support to us, Aqua. We’ll make it happen, no matter how little time we have!”
”Yeah, Toa and I will take Aqua’s dreams and wishes and help you reach them. So, leave it all to us!”
My grip on the smartphone tightened.
”Wait a minute! I don’t know what you’re planning, but don’t keep secrets from me! If there’s something I can help with, let me!”
I was surprised by Ayana suddenly joining the conversation.
”If there’s anything I can do to help, I’ll do my best.”
I wondered what was going on, but I realized that they had both been in the classroom preparing for the cultural festival, so they must have been talking there. Well, it wasn’t surprising that they could hear our conversation since we were on speakerphone.
”Shirogane-kun, if you’re trying to do something for Kurumi-san, let us help too.”
”That’s right. We girls get along better with Kokona-chan than the boys, you know.”
”We might not be very reliable, but when we decide to do something, we go all out!”
”Yeah, yeah, we’re also Kokona-chan’s classmates.”
”We might not be able to do much, but if there’s something we can help with, we’ll give it our all!”
”Calm, calm, let’s leave it to us as if we’re all in the same mud boat!”
”Isn’t that dangerous? It might sink! That’s bad luck!”
”Alright, alright, you two, that’s enough of that now!”
”Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to sink in a mud boat with Aqua-kun…”
”Hey! Don’t take the conversation in a weird direction!”
The energetic voices of our classmates filled the room. Maybe what I was trying to do was just a selfish act, driven by self-satisfaction.
However, even so, so many of my classmates were willing to help without asking questions. I believed it was because they, like me, wanted to do something for Kurumi-san, who seemed on the verge of being crushed by her anxiety.
”Thank you, everyone. I promise. I’ll convey all of your feelings to Kurumi-san, without leaving anything out… So, please lend me your strength. To support our classmates whose hearts are about to be overwhelmed by anxiety!”
A few days later, we reached the night before the surgery, which was also the day of the pre-festival evening. During the pre-festival evening, we participated in various activities to simulate the actual festival.
In the morning, we joined a cosplay host cafe in our class, and in the afternoon, Shintaro and I attended a tea ceremony event at the tea ceremony club, while Toa participated in a theater performance with another group.
As the day progressed, all the students gathered in the gymnasium at around 6 PM.
”That concludes the pre-festival evening. Let’s all do our best for the main cultural festival tomorrow!”
President Natsuki declared in front of all the students.
”But before that, we have a surprise present for everyone who worked hard today.”
At the president’s words, not only the students from other grades and classes who were unaware of the surprise but also most teachers, except for Sugita-sensei, who was our homeroom teacher, were taken aback.
I made an eye contact with President Natsuki, who had turned around on stage. Originally, I had thought about finding a way to reserve the gymnasium at some point in time.
Unfortunately, there was no available time slot, so I had consulted with President Natsuki about what I wanted to do.
’Alright. In that case, let’s figure out a way to free up some time for you to use the stage!’
I hadn’t expected it to happen at this timing, but President Natsuki had kept our promise. Sugita-sensei, our homeroom teacher, had also said, “It’s fine, do whatever you need to do,” regarding what I was planning, and even now, there were people helping me behind the scenes with what I was trying to do.
”So, thank you, everyone. Let’s go.”
I looked over everyone’s faces from backstage.
”I-I-I-I might not be very reliable, but leave the back to me!”
”Y-Yeah, even though I’m nervous about my first time on stage, I’ll do my best.”
”A-a-a-a-alright! I have to prepare myself mentally! If I don’t do it here, I won’t be a real woman!”
”I-I-I-I-It’s okay, okay, i-i-it’s okay!”
Even if I’m not very dependable, leave it to us!”
”Well, well, for now, leave it to them as if we’re all on a sinking ship!”
”Isn’t that a big ship? A dinghy would sink! That’s bad luck!”
”Yes, yes, you two, stop that now!”
Toa and Shintaro are probably fine since they’re used to it, but it seems like some people are still nervous.
So, I deliberately turned towards the stage, showing my back to everyone. In response, Toa and Shintaro silently lined up next to me.
Toa, who was on my right as usual, gave a sly smile, while Shintaro on the opposite side raised his glasses coolly, or rather, hiding his intense emotions. You guys are too cool.
”Everyone, I think many of us are nervous for our first time on stage. But… all of you brought us to this stage. So, don’t think about unnecessary things and just trust us! We’ll show you from the front row that there’s no time to look away from Shirogane Aqua’s stage!!”
That’s right, even if it’s just putting on a brave front. Stand tall, Shirogane Aqua. Face forward with confidence! You started this as idol Shirogane Aqua and as a classmate, so keep up the act until the end!
”First-year Class A, here we go!”
The voices of our classmates, filled with spirited determination, echoed from behind. Alright, here we go. From this point on, it’s our time, the time of our first-year Class A.
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Edited by Kanaa-senpai.
Thanks for reading.