Volume 8 Chapter 38 Kirika Kotono, My Heart Remains Hidden Behind Overcast Sky
Edited by: Kanaa-senpai
In the fairytale world of Pink Roses, the story of Elise, a noble young lady, has become one of the most beloved works worldwide.
While it’s a classic in the world of musicals, it also has many passionate fans. I’m one of them, and I was eagerly looking forward to today’s cultural festival.
Especially since I joined Beryl, I tend to view events not just as a viewer but also from the perspective of the company’s operations, especially the upcoming Halloween Event.
However, this time, it’s purely a school cultural festival, not work.
Of course, except for Aqua-san and his friends, the others are not professionals, and naturally, the quality might not be as high as that of the pros. Nevertheless, because I’m not directly involved, I can look forward to it with the same excitement as when I was just a fan.
Moreover, I can’t help but have expectations about what Aqua-san will do. I’ve learned as part of the operations team that Aqua-san’s influence on those around him is immeasurable. As a performer, he’s not a solitary genius type like Kuga Reira or Yukishiro Mikuni, but rather someone who, despite his crazy remarks, draws out the best from those around him, harmonizes, and, above all, embodies the work without sullying it, much like Kohina Yukari-san’s possession type.
It’s because of these qualities that I, and perhaps everyone here today, have such high expectations for Aqua-san.
If it’s Shirogane Aqua, I can’t help but wonder if he’ll do something even at a school cultural festival. He has a way of making us believe that.
”Wow… this seat is amazing!”
I agree with Morikawa-san. The seats assigned to us are undoubtedly first-class, to the point where people could call them the best position. Right in the center, fifth row from the front, we can fully concentrate on the stage from here.
”Hehe, feel free to praise me more for winning these seats through the lottery!”
”As expected of you, Miss. Your luck has been great since childhood.”
”Pegonia, that doesn’t really sound like praise, does it?”
”Hehe, did I get caught?”
”Hehe, so you didn’t praise me after all!”
Pfft, Kanon-san’s face, which appeared to be angry, actually looked somewhat pleased. It seems that she and Pegonia-san have grown closer since before, and I’m relieved to see that they’ve built a good relationship with each other.
”Alright, alright, everyone, let’s not disturb the people behind us.”
As Mary-sama says. Let’s sit down quickly. After taking my seat, I eavesdrop on the conversations around me just a little bit.
”I’m looking forward to the play.”
”Yeah, me too.”
”If it’s a play based on Pink Roses, is Aqua-sama still going to be Astel-sama?”
”If Aqua-sama plays Astel-sama, he might make the Stars’ girls even more obsessed than Yuujin-sama.”
”The program says that Washimiya Lisa-san is playing the role of Astel-sama.”
”Yeah, too bad, but he’s still going to be in the play, right?”
”It seems so. It said Shirogane Aqua and Nekoyama Toa would be surprise guests.”
”No way, I heard them say outside earlier that the girl playing Elise got injured, so there will be a cast change.”
”But Morikawa is totally fangirling right in front of me.”
”Oh, really, it’s a private matter.”
Morikawa-san, you shouldn’t glare at the people behind us. However, it seems there was a last-minute casting change. Since I haven’t received any notifications, it doesn’t seem to involve Aqua-san or Toa-chan, but I’m a little concerned.
As I’m pondering this, along with the sound of the buzzer announcing the opening, the lights in the audience gradually dimmed.
There seemed to have been some trouble, but it looks like the show is starting. The buzzing excitement from earlier vanished as if it were a lie, and the entire venue was wrapped in a tense silence as the lights dimmed that I could hear the sound of gasping for breath.
”Elise! Where are you, Elise!”
The first to appear is Elise’s mother, Matilda. Following her, the maids come onstage, using the entire stage to search for Elise, but they can’t find her.
”Goodness, where could that child have gone?”
Matilda places her hand on her cheek, showing a worried expression. That’s when it happens. A woman in riding attire appears on the opposite side of the stage.
”What’s going on, dear mother?”
The protagonist, Elise, makes her entrance. While she plays the role of a noble, she has a strong sense of justice and is proactive. Many in the audience nodded in agreement with her dignified presence.
However, playing Elise from the point where she falls in love is challenging. Balancing her transformation into an increasingly adorable character with her appearance and matching her dignified atmosphere is a difficult task.
Often, casting someone who typically plays male roles leads to a lackluster second half. On the other hand, if they cast someone too cute from the start, it’s challenging to maintain the dignified feel, and it becomes subtly awkward.
”It’s nothing, really. We were supposed to go order a dress for the ball today, remember? Honestly, it seems like you forgot. Come on, hurry up and change!”
”Oh… right. I’m sorry, Mother. I’ll change right away.”
In these types of productions, mothers often criticize their daughters for behaving unbecomingly of a noble.
However, Matilda’s character is a bit different. Even this time, she scolds Elise for forgetting her promise and enjoying horseback riding but doesn’t seem to berate her for being too tomboyish.
”Ah… the ball, huh? How boring.”
Elise, opening her closet, sighs softly when she sees herself in the nearby mirror. Elise isn’t particularly enthusiastic about the uninteresting ball.
Nevertheless, she changes into her dress, and Elise, her mother, and two others head to the shop they’re aiming for. That’s when an incident occurs.
A woman who had her jewelry snatched cries out. Elise, who is quick to react to the voice, is the first to respond.
”Mother, I’ll go!”
”Elise! That child, really! Someone, please go after her!”
Elise, jumping out of the carriage, lifts up the skirt of her riding dress with both hands and chases after the thief. Her light-footed steps reveal her exceptional athleticism.
Elise corners the thief to a dead end. The thief, cornered at the wall, draws a sword hanging from their waist in response. Elise extends her hand towards her own waist in a countermove.
Elise’s face shows surprise, and rightfully so—today, she’s not carrying any weapons.
If it were me playing Elise, I’d probably use my hand to strike the thief’s wrist, knocking the weapon away, and then transition into a grappling move, using pure physicality to incapacitate the opponent before they could use the weapon.
Elise finds herself in a tight spot, and the thief advances menacingly. With each step, Elise retreats, matching the thief’s movements.
”It seems like you’re in trouble.”
A male voice resonates throughout the stage. Ah… there’s no mistaking that voice. Everyone in the audience momentarily displays surprised expressions upon hearing Aqua-san’s voice, but it’s quickly replaced by smiles.
”Do you need help, young lady?”
Aqua-san steps onto the stage. His appearance nearly caused screams from the audience, but everyone managed to hold back, covering their mouths with their hands.
I was amazed by the blonde wig and the blue contact lenses, but what really surprised me was that the costume seemed a bit smaller in size. As a result, it clung to Aqua-san’s masculine physique, emphasizing it even more. It was somewhat erotic and too sinful.
Is it really okay to look at this so closely? It’s just way too cool. Even for me, who works with Aqua-san, I’ve become accustomed to it to some extent, but this ideal prince image still makes my face feel hot.
”Awawawa, is Aqua a real prince…”
”Please, Miss, stay composed.”
Pegonia-san supports Kanon-san, who almost fell backward with her chair. Nice catch. It hasn’t even been a month since they became a couple, but I can’t see any signs of improvement in Kanon-san.
Hasn’t it gotten worse instead? Even though we’re colleagues on the Verification Team and friends, I’m really worried…
”I’m sure everyone endured that just now.”
”Aa-sama as Astel is going to stir things up again.”
”Being able to see it live makes me happy, but I can’t make any noise here.”
”Hang in there, me…”
”While we’re happy about the casting change, it’s way too stressful.”
”Darn, I want to post on the bulletin board.”
I’ve been thinking this since the cosplay host cafe, but aren’t there a lot of people posting on the bulletin board?
I don’t know if that’s the reason, but the way everyone endured that scene just now impressed me.
In any case, Kanon-san, being the least resistant among us, is in a pretty dire situation!
Even the audience, who managed to endure that previous scene, can’t help but let out some sounds when they witness Aqua-san’s live physical prowess.
The audience naturally reacts with excitement to the splendid action scene where Astel flips his cape to help Elise. I never knew that a boy’s action scene could be so cool until Aqua-san’s appearance.
Being able to witness this live is likely a once-in-a-lifetime event. Mary-sama, who was watching next to Kanon-san, was also delighted, clasping her hands together in joy.
”Thank you for saving me.”
Elise tightly grips her skirt and gives Astel, who helped her, a slightly regretful look.
Hmm, in this scene, Elise is probably thinking, “If only I had a weapon,” but she realizes it’s her fault for neglecting to check and impulsively rushing out. Seeing Elise like this, Astel kindly smiles at her.
”Because you chased after them so quickly, I was able to notice. Without your courage and kindness, I wouldn’t have been able to catch the thief.”
Ahhhh! That’s right. That’s exactly it! This is what Astel is like! Astel not only recognizes Elise’s self-reflection but also that he’s feeling frustrated.
Most women who read this scene probably close the book once and comment, “Is there really a guy like this?”
But there’s absolutely no discomfort because Aqua-san is playing this role!
Astel slowly approaches Elise and gently takes her hand. Then, as if placing the pendant that the thief had onto her palm, he layers his other hand over it.
Everyone’s eyes widen as they watch this scene. In many musicals I’ve seen before, Astel typically drops the pendant onto Elise’s outstretched hands. Is this Aqua-san’s interpretation?
Since the original work doesn’t specify how the pendant should be returned, this is a showcase for the script and the actor’s adlib.
”As expected of Aa-sama, he surpasses all previous Astels.”
”It hasn’t even been 5 minutes since it started, and he’s already updating the best Astel I know in real-time.”
”Well, I updated my ideal Astel from before he even appeared based on his voice.”
”Hang in there, hang in there…”
”Darn, I want to post on the bulletin board.”
After receiving the pendant, Elise shows a slightly surprised expression and then looks away from Astel in embarrassment. Ah… this Elise is cute.
Perhaps the scene from earlier was an adlib by Aqua-san. Judging by the reaction of the actress playing Elise, it didn’t seem planned.
Moreover, the way that adlib instantly brought out the cuteness in Elise, it’s truly Aqua-san’s skill.
”Ugh! If only I had a weapon, I wouldn’t have fallen behind that guy!”
Upon returning to the mansion, Elise dives onto her bed, burying her face in her pillow and kicking her legs in frustration. Hmm, she held back earlier, but she’s still upset.
Above all, Elise, who doesn’t understand the concept of love, probably thinks that she lost by averting her gaze after receiving the pendant.
I assume the actress is still carried away by the previous Aqua scene. If that’s the case and it’s calculated to this extent, Aqua-san is approaching the realm of Kohina Yukari-san.
Those who have noticed might be feeling a chill down their spine, just like me. After all, the Aqua-san we’re watching in the 9 PM drama, as well as in Heaven’s Sword, is far ahead of him right now.
Elise, who got off the bed, leans her head against the wall by the window and gazes at the moon with a melancholic expression. The first encounter between the protagonist Elise and Astel was flawless like never before.
Afterward, there are several more scenes with Elise.
She outwardly expresses her frustration about the previous incident, but she descends into the town, searching for Astel, and every time, she resolves troubles that arise among the citizens.
This leads to the formation of a connection between the anti-royalist faction and Elise.
This can be considered the unfortunate turning point for this story. Those who already know the future development were watching this with indescribable expressions. Some have even realized the future development and were shedding tears already.
And Kanon-san was the one who thought it was too early. Really, here, please use my handkerchief. I had the foresight to bring two. Yes, wipe your nose. Geez, you’re quite a handful.
”Oh my, Elise, it suits you so well.”
Elise’s mother, Matilda, is delighted as she watches her well-dressed daughter.
After this, Elise will be attending a ball, but many of the spectators, including me, felt a slight sense of unease upon seeing Elise in her dress.
The actress playing Elise is beautiful, but her impression leans more toward being dignified than cute.
Right after the encounter with Astel, she still seemed cute, possibly thanks to Aqua-san’s magic. However, since some time has passed since then, this is probably the actress’s true state as Elise.
”Still, a ball is so boring…”
Elise, who came out to the balcony alone, takes off the high-heeled shoes she doesn’t usually wear and rests her tired feet.
That’s when Astel appears. He looks like a prince but with a military touch mixed into his white Napoleon jacket, and it suits him way too well, making everyone almost scream.
”Oops, sorry, did I interrupt something? Young lady, may I take a short break here as well?”
Elise is surprised upon hearing Astel’s voice. Well, considering how she was searching for him so desperately earlier, she probably didn’t expect to meet him in a place like this.
Elise remains leaning against the balcony and doesn’t turn around to face Astel.
Astel also leans against the wall near the entrance, making sure not to look at the barefoot young lady’s face. Ahh, no, no, no, Aqua-san. Even though you’re not talking to each other, those heated gazes are cheating.
The actress playing Elise probably noticed those intense looks because she’s showing a shy expression.
”This is what Aa-sama is like…”
”Even without making eye contact, he can make any girl blush with just his gaze.”
”If Aqua-sama looks at Hagetoru, even that she would momentarily turn into a girl.”
”With Aqua-sama, any heroine becomes cute.”
”I don’t need to post anymore. I need to check what’s happening on the bulletin board…”
Are you all okay? Is anyone becoming addicted to the bulletin board?
As I refocus my attention on the stage, Astel, who had been leaning against the wall, takes one step forward and then another.
In this scene, originally, Astel was only supposed to throw a heated glance at Elise’s attractive back and then leave without saying a word. That’s why it’s often directed as a quick exit. However, according to the original author, Kumano-sensei, she has expressed regret many times over that she couldn’t portray this scene more effectively.
”Even on a night with a full moon like this, it hides behind the clouds, just like you.”
I endured it, I really did! But this was truly intense, as screams seemed to echo from all corners of the venue.
I look to my side, and Kanon-san seems to have reached her limit, emitting steam from the top of her head, overheating.
On the opposite side, Morikawa-san was holding her crotch, looking embarrassed. She didn’t actually wet herself, did she? As for Mary-sama, she blushed and frolicked like a girl with Pegonia-san. Pegonia-san… your master is dying right there.
But for now, let’s focus on Astel and Elise.
Astel stands right behind Elise and gently scoops up a small section of her beautiful long hair.
It seems like the actress playing Elise is conveying her excitement.
Astel then simply drops the hair from his hand and leaves without saying a word.
This probably signifies that he regrets not being able to see her true face, the part hidden by the back of her hair. This interpretation is entirely new. I mean, isn’t this something boys wouldn’t normally do?
”Unstoppable. Uncontrollable. Shirogane Aqua.”
”Could it be that we’re finally getting an official interpretation at this point?”
”I shouldn’t have come to watch just a simple school festival theater performance. I underestimated Aa-kun.”
”I want to see what Sensei posted on Twitter.”
”Bulletin board, bulletin board, bulletin board…”
Elise becomes strongly aware of Astel due to this incident. Astel, on the other hand, shows signs of concern for her, even though she’s an aristocrat and was wearing unfamiliar high-heeled shoes, causing her to show her bare feet.
Well, there’s no helping it. Prince-type guys are extremely weak to interesting girls. In fact, Aqua-san himself married Kanon-san, who is quite interesting.
”Did you know, at that time…”
The two coincidentally meet again in the city. Astel reveals that he is the prince of this country, and they begin dating, nurturing their love.
Everyone thought the story was heading toward a happy ending. However, Pink Rose isn’t like that.
”Elise, why did you…”
The story is finally heading toward its climax. The country where they both live is suffering under the tyrannical rule of the king, with incidents like pickpocketing happening in the city.
Despite this, Astel, together with some compassionate nobles, is working behind the scenes to steer the country in a better direction. Nevertheless, the flames of rebellion continue to smolder among the suffering masses, who can no longer endure the waves of poverty.
Elise, who had been doing good deeds while concealing her identity, becomes a symbol of the rebellion, leading to a confrontation.
It’s at this moment that Astel’s sword accidentally hits the mask Elise was wearing, causing it to fall to the ground.
”I’m sorry, Astel… But I have no other choice.”
As the stage lights dim, a spotlight shines on Matilda, who appears from backstage.
Behind Matilda, who is bound with ropes, is Uranus, the leader of the rebel organization.
Uranus realizes Elise’s true identity and threatens her by holding Matilda, her mother, hostage.
”To save your mother, you must fight against this country.”
Everyone had a bewildered expression upon hearing Uranus’s voice, but I immediately recognized the voice’s source.
This voice belongs to Toa-chan. It’s a lower, more masculine voice than usual, so it’s understandable that no one recognized it.
After all, Uranus has wrapped their head in a cloth, making it impossible to identify them based on appearance alone.
The spotlight that had illuminated the two fades, plunging the stage into darkness once more.
When the lights return to the entire venue, the figures of Uranus and Matilda from the flashback scene are nowhere to be found.
Elise, who is once again confronting Astel, knocks away Astel’s sword, causing him to flinch upon realizing that he’s fighting Elise. However, in the next moment, many soldiers rush in.
”Your Highness Astel, we have successfully suppressed the resistance. Since the leader, Uranus stabbed His Majesty the King, you are now the king of this country. Please give us your orders.”
Upon hearing the soldiers’ words, Astel turns his gaze toward Elise. Elise, who has become a symbol of the resistance, has her true identity exposed in broad daylight.
Even if she was coerced, the fact remains that she went against the country. As a prince, no, as the king, Astel understands better than anyone here that he cannot save her.
”Astel… Congratulations. I believe that you can make this country better.”
”Elise, just a bit longer, just a bit longer… why, why is this happening…!”
Separated by iron bars, Astel and Elise engage in conversation.
This is their final meeting before Elise, whose execution has been decided, faces her fate. It’s the last scene that colors their story. After this, there is only one scene left—Astel embracing Elise’s lifeless body.
”Astel, I’m glad I got to meet you.”
Astel reaches his hand through the gap in the iron bars and pulls Elise’s body close.
Elise gazes back at Astel with teary eyes.
The spotlight doesn’t go out even though this is the end.
”I was happy to have met you…”
Is this the same line that Astel says to Elise in the epilogue!?
In the next moment, Astel’s face slowly approaches Elise’s.
Wait, wait a minute! I-if they get any closer, they might… oh! The moment their lips are about to meet, the lights go out.
Unfortunately, due to the iron bars in between, even those of us who were watching from the front can’t tell if their lips actually touched.
We’re all too shocked to even utter a word. It’s as if, when pushed to the limit, humans can’t even react anymore. We’ve all been thoroughly convinced by Aqua-san.
”So… I’ll carry this happiness with me and live the rest of my life.”
Astel’s determination to remain single and childless, to ensure that there will never be such a tragedy again, and to put an end to absolute monarchy, is brought into the epilogue. The spotlight shines on Astel as he holds Elise’s lifeless body.
However, when Astel lifts up the body, everyone in the audience becomes frozen.
Someone in the same hair and dress as Elise, but her face is Toa-chan, was there! So, where did Elise go?
The spotlight falls to the edge of the stage, where someone stands wearing a soot-covered cloak.
The person places a hand on the hood of the cloak and reveals their true face to us. It’s Elise! Elise is alive!
”Astel… I’ve been waiting all this time.”
Ah, I see, that’s how it is…!
In the original story, Astel ends the absolute monarchy, becomes an ordinary citizen, and embarks on a journey after this.
They will surely meet again someday. And then… oh, I can’t see anything because of my tears. All that could be heard was thunderous applause enveloping the entire venue.
”Hey… hey… the author wrote this work over 30 years ago.”
”To bring a new interpretation at this point, and everything that everyone was waiting for is packed here.”
”It’s cheating to bring two people to a happy ending after going through such a long history.”
”I don’t know who came up with this, but they’ve clearly read the original work carefully and faithfully reproduced the parts that were written, while showing us what happens next. It’s too unfair.”
”I’m sorry, but beyond this, I think the only option left is for Aqua-sama to do it all over again himself.”
”Today, Aqua-sama won, and we lost. That’s fine. Please let us continue to lose forever!!”
”Well, this is already a victory for everyone involved in creating this work.”
”Honestly, it’s not on the level of a school festival play. I could really feel they put their all into it.”
”Aqua-sama is amazing, isn’t he? He’s definitely stepping on Kohina Yukari-senpai’s territory, no doubt?”
”I get it. Elise was incredibly cute. She had that maidenly face, and even though she’s usually dignified, the gap when Aqua-sama is involved and she turns into a girl is irresistible.”
”I don’t know who the actress for Elise is, but she was really good.”
”Ugh, ugh, I’m really glad I came today.”
”The bulletin board is on fire…”
Ah, I really should have brought an extra handkerchief. I lend mine to Morikawa-san, whose face is now all sticky with tears and snot.
I’ve run out of handkerchiefs, but I manage with the tissues I had.
”Everyone, thank you so much for coming to see our performance today!”
In the end, all the backstage staff and cast members come out and line up, bowing their heads toward the audience.
”Thank you for saving Elise and Astel!”
”It was so much fun!”
”You all were amazing!”
”Thank you, Aqua!”
I wave my hand vigorously along with everyone who’s waving theirs back. Truly, I think it was great to have come here today.
At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I never imagined the actress playing Elise would be this good. From her actions in the action scenes, I thought she mostly played male roles, but she splendidly portrayed the heroine.
Of course, Aqua-san may have skillfully guided and brought out her charm, but it must have taken a lot of courage for her to play a heroine when she usually plays male roles.
At the end of the play, when she showed that radiant smile, something pierced my heart.
’Nee-san, I can’t imagine it, but you’re not giving up just because of the age difference, right?’
I remember the words Morikawa-san, Emily-san, and Kanon-san said to me that night.
Is it okay for someone like me to fall in love with Aqua-sama? After seeing the performance by the actress playing Elise just now, I felt like they were telling me not to give up before even trying.
That smile of hers must have come from summoning the courage to take that step and give her all. If… if I also summon the courage to take that step and convey my hidden feelings to Aqua-san, even if it ends in failure, could I also have a smile like that?
I don’t know. I don’t know, but doubts about whether everything is fine the way it is now started to grow in my heart.
Wait…? Come to think of it, where is Mary-sama? If I notice, Emily-san is also missing… I have a bad feeling about this, but for today, I’ll pretend not to know. Because for just today, I want to bask in this afterglow.
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Edited by Kanaa-senpai.
Thanks for reading.