Volume 8 Chapter 42 Shirogane Aqua, The Countdown Begin
Edited by: Kanaa-senpai
October 31st, Halloween Event day.
I was on my way to the venue in Shibuya, riding in the car prepared by the office.
’Currently, Shibuya is under restrictions, and only those with tickets are allowed to enter!’
I directed my gaze to the TV installed in the car, and Morikawa-san was reporting energetically from the scene as usual.
’It’s crowded, but it doesn’t seem like it’s impossible to walk.’
’Yes! It seems that the district authorities have pre-calculated the pedestrian flow and density, and they have limited ticket sales accordingly. So, you can relatively comfortably walk around the city.’
The camera turned, showing women dressed in Halloween cosplay walking through the streets.
Oh… I couldn’t help but be captivated by the bunny girl’s buttocks walking in front of Morikawa-san.
Both the tightly rounded small buttocks and the large buttocks were irresistibly appealing.
There were also witch girls emphasizing their cleavage and girls in sailor outfits resembling swimsuits, exposing their navels and armpits without reservation. Thank you! Thank you!! I prayed towards the TV.
I do feel sorry for Kanon, but I have my limits too. Still, I’ve endured the pain and held back for the sake of the cultural festival and the Halloween event. I’ve probably been able to control myself to this extent because Pegonia-san teases me in a friendly way.
That person is kind enough to consider my work properly.
’Inside the designated area, there are shops selling various collaboration menus and products for this Halloween event. Those areas are also bustling with people.’
’Was it challenging to collaborate with so many shops this time?’
’Yes, it was. That’s why this time, the main committee made a contract with Beryl, and from there, each shop is allowed to use collaboration photos, illustrations, and music that have been approved by the main committee.’
The photos used for these collaborations were taken by Nobu-san, but some of the illustrations I and Toa drew were also selected. Additionally, designs from Beryl’s design team and collaborations with famous illustrators and manga artists are also being featured.
’Now, here is the entrance gate to the Halloween Night Festival!’
’Wow, this is amazing, Morikawa-san!’
’Whoa! This is undeniably exciting!’
’Yes, it makes you feel excited from the entrance, doesn’t it?’
The specially created entrance gate and decorated streets, lined with shops, stalls, and large creative pieces, exuded an atmosphere like stepping into a dream world. If it weren’t for my job, I would want to go on a date with Kanon here.
’Now, do you recognize this?’
Morikawa-san pointed to a spray-painted art on a nearby wall. Oh… this is what I drew!!
Senior announcers from the studio who saw my spray-painted art were frozen. Huh? I wonder what’s wrong… I thought I made it quite easy to understand.
’This, you see… it’s a spray-paint art created by none other than Shirogane Aqua himself, representing the mystery of life! Look, everyone is taking commemorative photos here!’
’Oh… I see.’
’As expected of the artist.’
The mystery of life…? Huh? Was that the title? I just drew ghosts and a black cat, though. Maybe there was a communication error or something. Well, with so many things happening concurrently, such things can happen.
’Now, let’s hear from an artist who happened to be at the venue. I’m sorry. What do you think of this painting?’
’It’s amazing. At first glance, I was overwhelmed by the energy and intensity that this work itself possesses. And as I delved deeper into this piece, I realized a certain message.’
W-What!? I only drew a cute black cat and a ghost to make children happy. I never intended to include any message or anything like that… Hmm, I don’t get it!
’Sensei, what is that message…?’
’For example, look at this black mass. It initially gives off a spooky atmosphere, but if you look closely, you’ll notice these undulating patterns, right?’
’Yeah, I see it.’
The undulating patterns? Those are the black cat’s tail.
’These undulations are key. And do you see these faintly drawn white, hazy shapes here?’
’I see it! I see it!’
Yup, that’s the ghost.
’These faint shapes represent the faint hope left in our hearts. And the black mass is trying to engulf even that. In other words, this piece vividly depicts the world we lived in a few decades ago. And the core of this distortion, here, please focus on this part. You can see white streaks entwining with the undulations, right? This represents Beryl and Shirogane Aqua himself!’
’At first glance, it may not look like a painting that exudes the Halloween atmosphere, and, well, you could maybe squint and see a black cat and a ghost? But no, that’s not it. There’s no way it’s a painting that looks like it was done by a kindergarten kid! So, this painting carries the strong determination and message of Shirogane Aqua, who is trying to right this twisted world through Beryl Entertainment!!’
People around were clapping and cheering as they listened to this.
Well… I just drew a cute black cat and a ghost.
And that faint white streak? It was just a mistake when I was drawing the ghost, and I tried to cover it up. I’m sorry.
I could see Kurumi-san’s attending physician inexplicably bowing in front of the painting.
Yeah, I’ll just pretend I didn’t know about that. It’s probably happier that way. I didn’t hear or know anything.
And what I drew was simply a cute black cat and a ghost.
’It’s great. I wish I could have gone there myself.’
’I thought as much, so I actually bought souvenirs from the site for you guys in the studio.’
’Kaede-chan, I knew you were a kind person from the start!’
’Yes, here they are!’
Morikawa-san took out a simple sticker with text written on it. What’s this again? Let’s see… “In this country, there is Shirogane Aqua.” The sticker undeniably said that. What is this? What does it mean?
The two senior announcers in the studio wore puzzled expressions as they looked at the sticker.
’It’s a collaboration product of Shirogane Aqua and Morikawa Kaede!’
What kind of collaboration between me and Morikawa-san is this? Did they even sell this?
’I don’t need it!’
’Kaede-chan, can you come with me to the restroom behind the scenes later?’
’Huh? Huh? You guys don’t like it?’
Morikawa-san tilted her head with a perplexed expression.
Well, Morikawa-san, I think there could have been cuter goods and stuff.
For example, I designed magic cat Tama-chan and vampire Shiro hair clips that I bought matching ones for Shintaro and Tenga-senpai. I think they’re pretty useful for women too. They come in handy when you’re studying, reading scripts, or streaming, especially when your bangs get in the way.
’We don’t like it.’
’There’s no way we’d like it.’
’Huh!? But this is already a sold-out must-have popular item!’
Huh… Really!? That’s amazing. I wonder if stickers sell quite well? I have no idea where people would even put these.
’Hey, Kaede-chan, where did you buy these?’
’Well, I found them in the parking lot behind that corner alley just now. There was a very friendly foreign lady selling them!’
’Isn’t that illegal goods? You should report it to the organizing committee immediately!’
Morikawa-san is just too nice. I hope she didn’t get scammed by some weird person… Oh, the screen changed, and it said, “Please wait a moment.” Is national broadcasting okay…?
Oops, I was thinking about that when it seems like I’ve arrived at my destination.
I pull the hood of my parka low over my face and get out of the car. Some fans notice that I’ve arrived from behind the fence that’s been set up in the distance.
”Oh! Isn’t that the guy in the parka, Aqua-kun?”
”Considering the height, there’s no doubt. Mayuzumi-kun passed by earlier.”
”Aqua-kun! Do your best!”
”Thanks for yesterday! We’re cheering for you today too!”
”We love you! Marry us!”
”Thank you for being born in this world!”
”Aqua! Aqua! Aqua!”
”Aqua wins! We lose!”
”Ahhhh! So cooooool!”
”Hey, people in the back, don’t push forward too much. You can’t enter the restricted area. Once you do, the security officers will take you away! If you die, you won’t be able to see everyone from Beryl anymore!”
”I have J-cups! My ID is…”
”Hey! Don’t cut in line!”
”That person is underage, restrain yourself!”
”Use me too! You can do whatever you want with this H-cup!”
”Don’t write your ID on the uchiwa handfan!”
”Revealing phone numbers, email addresses, chat app accounts, or IDs for milking is prohibited by the organizing committee. Please control yourselves! Hey, you there! Stop that right now, or you’ll be thrown out! Get out!!”
I couldn’t hear exactly what they were saying over the enthusiastic cheers, but my ears certainly picked up the words “J-cup” and “H-cup.” Well, as a good luck prayer before the battle known as the live performance, maybe I should pay my respects to the oppai goddess… I look towards the fans and bow my head slightly with my hands together.
”Wow, are all of Beryl’s members like this? Even Toa-chan, Mayushin-kun, and Tenga-senpai, they all interact with fans!”
”Faah, I can support this forever.”
”Aqua-sama, please be a bit nicer to Tenga-senpai!”
”I came today because I couldn’t meet you at the cultural festival!”
”Do your best at the live performance!”
”I’ll keep supporting you forever!”
”Aqua-kun, interact more with Toa-chan!”
”I love you!”
”Offer your prayers to the oppai goddess! A-qu-a!”
”We’re going to have lots of fun today!”
”Aqua-kun, take care of Shin-chan!”
”Ahhhh, I can’t take it anymore. I’m already at my limit from the beginning…”
”This is my first time seeing them live, but naturally…”
”Ugh, ugh, ugh, I’m already tearing up…”
”Are you okay? Do you need a handkerchief?”
”Crying is such a waste. I understand the sentiment, but let’s smile since we’re here.”
”If you cry that much, you won’t be able to see my face, right?”
”””””That’s the Heaven’s Sword one!””””””
”They’re synchronized too much.”
I wave my hand again to the fans I can see, and then I’m surrounded by security and staff as I head into the area with the stage.
The backstage area is surrounded by a tall wall and has rooms like dressing rooms, staff rooms, and equipment storage rooms. It’s amazing that all of this was set up in just one night.
They practiced assembling it a few times outside, but it seems they disassembled it into several parts and reassembled it on-site.
Considering the enormous number of people and money involved, the pressure is immense, but more than that, I’m excited, and I want to make it a great stage.
”Good morning, everyone. Thank you for today!”
By the way, even though it’s just before evening, it’s customary in the entertainment world to greet with “Good morning” as the first greeting.
I exchange greetings with passing staff members and make my way down the backstage corridor.
When I enter the dressing room, Toa is already seated, reading the script for confirmation.
”Hey, Kirika-san, where’s my tablet?”
”Sure thing, Toa-san. It’s right here.”
I approach Toa and playfully pat both of his shoulders from behind.
”Wow, you startled me!”
”Hehe, I’m always the one getting pranked, so here’s payback!”
”Come on! I’m the only one allowed to do that. Aqua always gets targeted.”
”Geez, that’s not fair…”
Toa is as usual. Unlike the Summer Comic Market, which had fixed booth sizes in the past, I was worried if he might be nervous about the scale of this event, as it’s something he hasn’t done before.
However, it seems my concerns were unfounded. I’ve heard from his mom and his little sister Subaru that Toa used to be quite sociable until he developed the trauma that led to his school refusal. They’re glad and grateful that Toa has overcome those challenges and seems to have returned to his former self.
”Come on, Aqua, you’re the last one, so hurry up and change.”
”Alright! Kirika-san, please take care of that.”
”Yes! I’ll take care of it!”
Kirika-san may be experiencing this kind of proper event for the first time, but she doesn’t seem nervous at all.
Ako-san was a bit nervous at first, but Kirika-san has been like this from the beginning.
She’s the ideal adult, capable and professional. I aspire to be like her.
Ugh, I’m so jealous of Toa calling Kirika-san “Onee-chan” and being spoiled. If I could, I’d want to call Kirika-san “Onee-chan” and be spoiled too!
As I was about to enter the changing room, Shintaro, who had just finished changing, came out, and we almost bumped into each other.
It was a close call; we might have hit our heads against each other. We can’t afford to get injured here right before the performance. We need to be careful.
”Hey, Shintaro, how are you feeling?”
”Oh… It’s still a little while before it starts, but I’m more nervous than I thought, and I’m starting to worry if I’ll be okay.”
Indeed, Shintaro seemed to be nervous, as he had a more tense expression than usual. I looked at him and decided to give him a reassuring smile.
”Shintaro, let me tell you something. I get nervous too, you know.”
”Huh…? Uh, does Aqua get nervous too?”
”Yeah, it’s not just me. I think anyone in a similar situation would get nervous. In this job, many people are involved, and while it may seem like a dream, a lot of money is at stake. So, I believe there’s a considerable responsibility on our shoulders when we step onto the stage. Above all, in my case as an idol, I have the responsibility to entertain everyone, especially the fans, because they’re the ones who support us the most.”
In extreme terms, as long as fans are present, an idol can exist. If you can sing and dance, you can somehow manage.
However, it’s not that simple for us right now. Even realizing a live performance is impossible on an individual level, and the reality is that we need help and support from many people.
The larger the scale, the more people are on board. At first, it’s like rowing a small boat out to sea, but before you know it, it becomes a yacht, a proper cruiser, and in the end, it turns into a tanker or a luxurious cruise ship carrying many things.
”So, I won’t tell you not to be nervous. Rather, I hope you continue feeling that tension, Shintaro. It will likely become an important weapon for you. Embrace this tension together, and let’s learn to see it as a source of joy!”
”Aqua… You’re right. To think of nervousness as joy… Yeah, they often say that changing one’s perspective can help. I’ll take that advice to heart.”
Among us, Shintaro is the most thoughtful. Unlike me, who tends to speak my mind immediately, he carefully organizes his thoughts in his head before putting them into words.
This type of person often provides different angles and perspectives, which can serve as a catalyst for solving problems. It seems my suggestion this time had a positive impact, as Shintaro is now smiling. That should do it.
”Well then, see you later.”
I bid farewell to Shintaro and enter the dressing room. Inside, Tenga-senpai stands before a mirror, completely naked, striking cool poses. Yeah, I didn’t see anything. I’m pretending I didn’t see anything and trying to casually leave the scene, but senpai catches me and grabs my arm.
”Where are you going, junior?”
”Senpai… I, I just thought that if I were going to see anyone naked, it should be a girl.”
I bow down on both hands and knees.
”If you’re that eager to see a girl naked, couldn’t you just ask Shirogane? She might show you.”
”N-no, that’s too much… Also, there’s a difference between begging and getting a lucky pervert experience. If I’m going to see something, a lucky pervert experience would be better. You know, that surprised look on a girl’s face, the guilt bubbling up, there’s nothing like it.”
Let me make it clear that I’m not saying I want to peek at girls changing or engage in voyeurism.
I just want to emulate the whims of the gods that occasionally grace us with a lucky pervert experience, where we stumble upon girls naturally in everyday life.
Ah, just the other day, when I carelessly went to the area with the sink to wash my face after waking up, I encountered Kanon fresh out of the bath. Let me emphasize this important point twice: a lucky pervert experience is a reward bestowed upon us men that occurs in the course of our lives. Ah, Kanon blushing and looking embarrassed at that moment was priceless.
If it weren’t for the culture festival, I might have just carried her off like a princess and onto the bed. It’s a day off, after all. Even if it’s the day before work, we can go all night. We can go for 24 hours without a hitch.
”Lucky pervert? Embarrassment? Hmm… I don’t really understand, but that’s fine. Instead, how about the pose I came up with earlier?”
”Yeah… Well, I guess it’s okay.”
”You’re being too casual about this!”
Senpai grabs both of my shoulders and vigorously shakes me up and down. Wait, senpai, don’t get so close to me!! At least put on some clothes and maybe even some pants!
”Because senpai, imagine yourself in my position! Don’t you want to see me, Aqua, acting all cool nak*d?”
”Hmm… I don’t want to see that.”
”See! Also, when you change your pose, make sure to consult Mikiti-sensei, the choreographer.”
Satisfied, senpai changes into his outfit and heads toward Mikiti-sensei, the choreographer. Yeah, with that attitude, he should be fine. Senpai seems alright.
”Alright, I should get ready too.”
I change my clothes, get my makeup done, and have my hair styled.
I’ve incorporated this entire process as a routine for major live performances.
I don’t do my own makeup or hair styling, and I don’t choose my own outfits. That’s why the act of something other than myself joining in to complete a single entity feels similar to performing on a large stage involving many people. Once everything is ready, I head to the stage’s wings.
”You made us wait.”
Toa, Shintaro, Tenga-senpai, and I give a light touch to Ako-san and stand side by side in front of her.
”Everyone, today is finally the Halloween Night Festival. Judging by your faces, it seems like the nervousness is manageable. Well, even if something happens, all of us here will support and protect the four of you, so please rest assured. I want all of you to concentrate only on facing the fans on stage.”
Ako-san’s words were taken seriously by everyone. In the background, Morikawa-san’s voice could be heard making an announcement.
’Hello friends! Welcome to the Halloween Night Festival in Beryl Wonderland! Now, let’s all enjoy this special night together!!’
Morikawa-san’s enthusiastic voice is truly pleasant to hear. To be honest, I don’t think there’s anyone else who can bring so much energy to those around them.
This is true during talk shows, too. Morikawa-san tends to go above and beyond in serving others, making it incredibly enjoyable to be around them. In a way, Morikawa-san might be my biggest rival. To match Morikawa-san’s energy, I need to get myself pumped up.
”Perhaps there are fans here today who we can only meet in this place. This might be the only chance for some of them to see you. So, I want you to make sure to reach out to those fans too. Let them know that all of you are wonderful. I guarantee it. Atori Ako knows that you four are wonderful boys. So, today, let’s make everyone have happy dreams.”
Everyone naturally nodded in response to Ako-san’s words. Even someone as clueless as me understands how popular we’ve become at an event of this scale. People’s meetings, and especially moments like this, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences for both us and the fans.
Cheers from the stage can be heard. It seems like the countdown call has begun.
’60… 55… 50…’
Morikawa-san’s countdown call, counting every five seconds. We look at each other and naturally form a circle. Among us, Toa was the first to speak.
”During the first Summer Comic Market Beryl Fest, our skills weren’t up to par, but we’ll show that we’re different now!”
Toa practiced really hard. He didn’t slack off during streaming, and he kept going to vocal training. I remember how frustrated he was during Summer Comic Market. Toa isn’t the type to easily admit defeat, and I know the effort he put in. So, let’s go out there and show everyone the results of that effort!
”I might still have a long way to go compared to everyone else. That’s why I’ll give it my all in what I can do!”
Shintaro has been working hard on the dance, even though it’s not his strong suit. Seeing his efforts, I was reminded of the time during Heavens Sword. Shintaro practiced acting diligently, and I saw a glimpse of that dedication again. I know Shintaro has grown since then. So, I believe in him and leave my back to him, my best friend!
”Never did I imagine something like this would happen… Thank you, juniors, for bringing me this far.”
Tenga-senpai said that as if he was chewing on something. Occasionally, senpai shows a different side of himself. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the atmosphere when I first met him. I think that’s the real senpai.
’30… 25… 20…’
Everyone’s attention is on me.
”Listen up, making the fans happy also means we’re going to have fun! So tonight… no, today, we’ll enjoy it with all our might!!”
As we break the circle, Ako-san and everyone nearby exchange high-fives.
The audience calls out a countdown to the sound of Morikawa-san’s voice.
I make a fist and offer it to Ako-san.
Ako-san flashed a sweet smile and bumped her fist against mine.
Her hands are really tiny compared to my fists.
Knowing that she’s holding us with those small hands gave me even more determination.
The countdown calls grew louder.
I placed my hand on the spot where my heart is, on my chest.
I could hear the pounding of my heart, that’s right, I’m alive.
Looking at the spotlight’s glare, I was about to recall that day.
Why, why did it have to happen at this moment?
My throat felt tight, and the increasing pace of my heartbeat made my chest ache. Toa, Shintaro, Senpai, they all noticed something was off and looked at my face with surprised expressions.
The Halloween event was supposed to be enjoyable, full of anticipation. But the countdown felt like a death sentence to me.
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Edited by Kanaa-senpai.
Thanks for reading.