Volume 9 Chapter 32 Shirogane Aqua, The Legendary Program Begins
Edited by: Kanaa-senpai
The start of the program was sudden. While I was lounging on the sofa in Beryl’s company break room, Ako-san somehow came in with Director Hongou, who was holding a camera. I thought maybe they were shooting something since the camera was rolling, but I continued eating my chocolate snack as usual, taking a piece from the side.
”Everyone, it’s time to work.”
Ako-san said that and handed me four tickets.
”Huh? Airplane tickets…?”
Looking at the destination, it said Osaka. Eh? Osaka!?
”Well, we don’t have much time, so let’s hurry!”
Me, Shintaro, and Senpai were urged by Ako-san and got on the van prepared by the company. We went straight to Haneda, boarded the plane, and arrived at our destination in just about two hours.
”Huh? You’re joking, right?”
”Beryl has invaded Kansai!?”
”Aqua-sama, your face is small! It’s smaller than mine, a girl!”
”Is that true!? …It is!”
”It’s a festival! Hurry!”
”Is that recent CGI or something? It’s more like Hogekawa would come to Kansai!”
”Well, there’s no way there would be a fake aqua-kun. We can’t have two of them!”
”There might be some benefits, so let’s just pray for now!”
”I’ll call my neighbor, Se-chan, and tell her he’s here.”
”Toa-chan, do you want some candy?”
”Oh, hello, mom? Right now, if you come to the airport, you’ll be able to breathe the same air as Aqua-sama!”
”Mayuzumi-kun looks cool and smart in real life.”
”Yeah, that’s right. Girls from Kansai like guys who seem smart like Shintaro-kun.”
”Tenga-senpai is bigger than Randy from Tatejimars!! A boy like him is so hot…”
”Please! Aa-sama, join the Tatejimars! They haven’t won the championship in 17 years already!”
”I understand. The other day, when the scout brought a foreigner, I thought they were a player but he turned out to be an interpreter, driver, and equipment manager. As usual, our unreliable scout has been deceived by suspicious characters.”
”Maybe Morikawa should do the scouting instead. With her mysterious connections, she might bring back someone amazing from the States.”
It’s amazing… In Tokyo, people tend to talk from a distance, but here they’re just making a lot of noise. But when I waved, I felt that they were reacting excessively while still maintaining moderation, and I think this is fine.
When we got out of the airport, Ako-san handed me the keys.
These are the keys to the car, right? I thought I couldn’t drive, but Tenga-senpai took the keys from me.
”I have a driver’s license. Leave it to me.”
”Understood. So, where do you want us to go in the car?”
Ako-san presented a cue card that said “Read together with 4 people.” After confirming that we had read it, she flipped to another cue card.
[Beryl&beryl, let’s start?]
Oh! Is that the show that’s scheduled to air once a month on Fuji TV starting in November?
I heard it’s being recorded in a studio, but is this a special episode because we’re going far away?
Ako-san flips to another cue card.
[The destination is… Awaji Island!?]
Awaji Island, isn’t that the island between Honshu and Shikoku?
Even though it’s for location shooting, I’m excited to go somewhere for the first time.
Ako-san holds out the tickets in front of us again.
”From Takamatsu… Huh, Kagawa Prefecture!?”
Ako-san smiles subtly at our reaction and then flips to another cue card.
[Um, let’s see, I planned a 1-night, 2-day trip to give everyone a chance to take care of their bodies. We’ll start from Osaka Airport, stay overnight on Awaji Island, then go straight to Takamatsu… and eat my favorite udon before returning to Tokyo.]
I see, so we’re going with that kind of plan. It seems that the accommodation is already reserved, so all the activities in between are free.
”Um, yeah… so what should we do then?”
”There are a lot of people, so should we just get in the car and head towards Osaka City?”
”Yeah, that might be a good idea.”
”Heh, everyone get in the car! We’re going with my driving!!”
We all get into the car that Ako-san prepared for us.
It’s small! Or rather, it’s cramped, isn’t it?
Tenga-senpai, are you okay? You’re 190cm tall, so your head is almost touching the ceiling…
In response to the sound of knocking on the window, Ako-san points to the cue cards she’s holding.
[Um, the car is an old car called “360” from Fuji Heavy Industries. It was donated to us by the chairman of Fuji Ranko for the program. Oh, I see. Ranko-san, are you watching? Thank you very much!]
””””Thank you very much!””””
”And, the other day, thank you for treating me to Kamo Nanban soba with Grandmother Mary! Next time, let’s go eat ice cream in Harajuku with her too, as we were talking about!”
When I said that, the person sitting next to me stared at me with wide eyes.
”Oh, Aqua, are you close with Chairman Ranko?”
”Yeah, I am. Last time, we even had tempura with Kanon. Ranko-san knows a lot of delicious places, so I couldn’t help it…”
Chairman Ranko has been kind not only to me but also to my family. She said to consult with Kanon if there’s any trouble, and according to Pegonia-san, they often exchange emails.
”By the way, what are we going to do in the city?”
”For now, how about getting some food? But before that, let’s stop by the convenience store.”
As we were waiting at a traffic light, everyone looked at me and made a face like “Are you serious?” Well, yeah… I understand what they want to say. But…
”Well, you know, we don’t have a navigation system, so we need a map. And it might be a good idea to buy a tourist magazine. Moreover, my phone got confiscated…”
By the way, Tenga-senpai is in the driver’s seat, Shintaro is in the passenger seat, and I’m sitting in the back.
”But, is it okay? It might cause a commotion if we go there, right…?”
”It’s fine, isn’t it? We have a car for filming too, and everyone is more organized than I thought. I was wondering if anyone would come in a car, but it’s not like that. I don’t know if it’s okay to say that our fans have good quality, but they draw a line properly, don’t they?”
All three of them nodded at my words.
It might not be good to say our fans have good quality, but I don’t think there are any extremely radical fans among us. Actually, when I went to the supermarket with Kanon, everyone just watched from a distance, and no one came close to harm us. When I’m with Kanon, I think more people are amazed by her beauty than by me.
”And… even if something happens, I’ll protect you three, so don’t worry!”
When I made a fist and showed off, they looked at me with blank stares again.
”Yeah, Aqua has that kind of side. Well, it’s okay…oh, Tenga-senpai, there’s a convenience store over there!”
”Got it! Leave it to me!!”
Tenga-senpai slowly parked the car in the convenience store parking lot. When he backed in, it was an incredibly cool motion, but I wonder what that was all about.
”Is it okay to park here?”
”Do we need permission for filming?”
”Well then, I’ll go and ask.”
Everyone gave me a look like, “Why you of all people?” but I didn’t mind. By the way, this 360 that Chairman Ranko donated was originally a 2-door, but it has been modified into a 4-door with gull-wing doors, so it’s easy to get in and out of the back seat.
”What? It’s the real thing!?”
”Wait, why is Aqua-sama here!?”
”No way, he’s so handsome in person!”
”Aqua-kun is coming to Osaka? I need to hurry and call Setsuko-san!”
I apologized to the customers, saying, “Sorry, we’re filming right now,” and headed towards the cashier.
”Excuse me, is it okay to film here?”
”Y-yes! I think it’s fine, but I’ll call the store manager!”
The cashier, who was probably a high school student working part-time, called the store manager from the back, and I was able to obtain permission to film safely. Meanwhile, I shook hands with the customers in the store.
”Um, um… I’ve been supporting you since I saw you in the magazine. Keep up the good work.”
”Thank you! This one we’re filming now will also be broadcast in November at Fuji, so watch it.”
”I’ll definitely watch it!!”
While shaking hands with some customers, I noticed that one of them was wearing Shintaro’s acrylic keychain.
”Are you a fan of Shintaro’s?”
”Ah… I’m sorry. Is it not okay to shake hands if I’m a fan of Mayuzumi-kun?”
”No, it’s fine.”
I shook hands with that person and whispered, “Wait a minute.”
Once I got outside the convenience store, I signaled to Shintaro.
”Hey, Shintaro. You have a fan over here.”
”Aqua, you really…”
Shintaro cautiously came over here while looking around. It’s okay, I’ve secured the safety here, so please rest assured.
”Uh, oh… is it real…?”
”Nice to meet you, thank you for your support.”
”Thank you too for coming out here?”
The fan of Shintaro smiled happily. Yes, it’s good, it’s good. I move to the magazine section and casually pick up a map and a tourism magazine, and throw them into my shopping basket.
”Aqua, could you also get this for me?”
”Sure… wait, what’s this?”
Before I knew it, Toa had gotten out of the car and tossed some snacks into the basket.
”Toa… snacks are only allowed up to 300 yen!”
”But Aqua… in today’s world, you can’t buy snacks with just 300 yen…”
That’s true…if it was a candy store, maybe, but at a convenience store, 300 yen won’t get you much. I’m still short on snacks.
”By the way, what about bananas?”
”Bananas aren’t considered snacks!”
Bananas are fruits, not snacks. Kaede, for example, eats bananas as a staple food. Sometimes, she has bananas for one meal, and on some days, she has them twice.
”Oh, and Tenga-senpai said he wants coffee, black.”
”No, no, he likes it sweet, right? Senpai acts cool and drinks it black, but he actually doesn’t like the bitter taste…”
Laughter escapes from the customer who was listening to our conversation. Ah… right. Since it’s a trip, I should buy some playing cards or other things that we can enjoy at the inn.
”Ugh, when I look at A-chan and Aqua-kun while shopping, I get palpitations…”
”I see. So this is what newlyweds look like…”
”They’re already married, aren’t they?”
”Toa-chan is always clinging to Aqua-kun’s sleeve, it’s just too cute.”
”They’re completely leaning against each other, even their shoulders.”
”I-I-it’s so sweet that it makes me feel euphoric.”
”Shumi, serves you right!”
What does this ‘Shumi’ that fans mention mean? I hope they’re not weird fans… Let’s be cautious.
We throw in some tea and other necessary things and head towards the register.
”Oh, you can just take it with you, it’s fine.”
”No, no, I’ll pay normally!”
I take out my wallet and pay in cash.
If it was electronic money, I wouldn’t be able to use it if my phone was confiscated, so I’m glad I always carry cash with me.
”Thank you for the meal!”
”It’s fine, don’t worry about it.”
As I say that, I tidy up the change in my wallet.
The store manager asked me to sign at the register, so I leave my belongings and call for Tenga-senpai.
The four of us sign on the side of the register counter and take a commemorative photo with the store manager and the part-time staff.
”N-No, thank you very much!”
”We’ll come by here again when we’re in the area.”
”Yes! We look forward to your next visit!!”
We waved to the store clerks and customers and left the convenience store.
It’s been a while since the filming of Heaven’s Sword that the four of us went to a convenience store together… I feel satisfied just with that. Or rather, if this is okay, maybe I can walk around Tokyo normally too? I had such a feeling.
After leaving the convenience store, the four of us got on the highway and headed towards the center of Osaka.
”What should we do?”
”For now, let’s head towards the city center and eat takoyaki. Let’s go to Dotonbori!”
”You’ve got to be kidding… Walking around Dotonbori with four people? Really?”
Three of them, especially Toa, gave me a look of disbelief.
”I think it’s fine though. Is it a no go?”
”Well, hmm, if it’s about whether I want to go or not, I do want to go to Dotonbori… Well, whatever. I kinda feel like we can go if Aqua is there.”
”Right? It’ll be alright, just like earlier. Besides, since we came to Osaka, let’s go there. USJ, Universal States Journey!”
Three of them, especially Toa, gave me a face that went beyond disbelief, a face that gave up on everything.
”Um… Well, I guess I should just do whatever I want with Aqua.”
”Right? Then let’s go. USJ!!”
”Even if we go, don’t we need permission to film at USJ?”
”True… I’ll go ask. Tenga-senpai, stop at the next service area.”
We stopped at a service area on the way, and just like before, I took the lead and went outside.
Even though we were making a commotion as usual, I was getting used to it and casually nodded or waved back while looking for a public phone. There aren’t many public phones around, but there should be one at the service area.
”Oh… I found a public phone!”
I hurried over and opened the magazine to call the USJ information desk from the public phone. It was a good idea to buy a tourist magazine beforehand. The phone number was listed in it, which was extremely helpful.
”Hello, this is Taniguchi from the Universal States Journey customer service center. May I ask what your business is?”
”A-a boy!? And with that voice…”
Taniguchi, who answered the phone, let out a surprised voice. She seemed to have noticed my identity from my voice, so that made things easier.
”Ah, nice to meet you. I’m Shirogane Aqua, an idol working at Beryl Entertainment…”
”Yes… yes! I know who you are!!”
”Um, so right now, I’m in Osaka for a TV shoot… Earlier, I was talking to Toa, Shintaro and Tenga-senpai about wanting to go to USJ. So, I was wondering if I could bother you for a bit and do that. Oh, if it’s not possible, it’s okay…”
”Oh, um, let me just check with my boss about that.”
”Thank you. Also, I was hoping to get permission to film as well…”
”Understood! I’ll also ask my boss about that… Oh, uh, yes, understood. I’m sorry for interrupting your phone call, Shirogane-sama. I just received permission from my boss who was behind me earlier… And there’s also security measures in place, so if it’s possible in about 2 hours… that would be appreciated. Is that okay?”
”Oh, I see. Then I’ll have some takoyaki at Dotonbori before heading there.”
”Yes, we’ll be waiting for you in 2 hours. Oh, and I’m a fan! I always support you.”
I check the remaining seconds written on the public phone.
”Taniguchi-san, there’s still a little time left, is there something you want to say?”
”Ah, ah, me! My real name is Taniguchi Mamiko, but please call me Mamiko with the cool Aqua-kun, thank you!!”
”Mamiko, thanks for today. I’ll come over there later, so just wait for me quietly until then.”
And then there was a time limit. I felt like I heard a voiceless scream from the other end of the receiver when the phone was cut off.
It was a bit cheesy, and I suddenly felt embarrassed after I hung up the phone.
”Really, Aqua did a good job…”
Oh, come on, just pretend you didn’t see it.
”Mamiko definitely died there, right?”
”Confirmed Mamiko’s death!”
”Good for you, Mamiko. It’s a memory for life.”
”Are they going to USJ… Shouldn’t we keep quiet about this?”
”Yeah. Let’s just keep it in our hearts and not talk about it.”
Everyone is so kind. I raised my hand and thanked everyone.
And then I casually received some pamphlets and freebies that were being distributed at SA and returned to the car.
Once again, as we drove off, we chatted about where to eat, and discussed this and that.
”We’re getting close to the interchange near Dotonbori.”
When going to the exit with a toll booth near Dotonbori interchange, the woman in charge of clearing the money looked surprised. By the way, this car without a navigation system shouldn’t have something as convenient as ETC.
”Good job on your work, big sister! Keep it up!”
Toa leans out of the back seat and hands over a can of coffee that was bought too much at a convenience store along with the money handed over to her.
”We’ve arrived at Dotonbori!”
”It’s starting to be fun.”
We drive the car to the Teito Hotel Osaka near Dotonbori.
After considering where to park the car, we judged that this was the closest and safest place.
I think it’s okay because the Teito Hotel is managed by the Sumeragi group, and Kukuri-chan’s family is involved.
By the way, there is a similarly named hotel, Osaka Teito Hotel, on this side, so be careful not to mistake it.
”It’s Aqua-kun and the others!!”
”I feel like Dotonbori looks beautiful thanks to Aqua-kun and the others.”
”I understand. The air isn’t stagnant. That’s how it is.”
”I now understand what the Tokyo people meant when they said the air became bad while Aqua-kun was at Stars on the bulletin board.”
”Let’s breathe in a lot of air while we can. Air is free.”
”Hello, Aunt Setsuko? Right now, Aqua-kun and the gang are in Dotonbori! Look, Aunt Setsuko, you like Yuujin, right? It’s the real deal, they’re here. Huh? A dream? There’s no way I’m dreaming! If this were a dream, it would be even more ero!!”
In Dotonbori, there are too many people, so I can’t really hear what they’re saying.
Even so, everyone keeps a certain distance from us.
Kohina-senpai also said that the fans are really amazing.
We walk through the streets of Dotonbori, grateful to the fans.
Then, I had an idea and called out to everyone behind me.
”Guys, we’re going to eat takoyaki now, where would you like it?”
I researched various things in magazines, but I thought it would be best to ask local people.
Some people gave me strange looks as if to say, “What are you doing?” but I didn’t mind.
If I try to conform to this world all the time, I’ll never change, and above all, if something really seems dangerous, I wouldn’t ask about it like this. Taking small steps forward little by little is the most important thing.
”Well, then maybe we should go to a place other than Dotonbori!”
”No, no, we came all the way here. Isn’t it better to start with something normal?”
”I get it. Since we’re in a tourist spot, I want to eat on here.”
”In cases like this, it’s more about the atmosphere than the taste, right?”
”We can’t go to Namba with this large crowd… There will be an accident around Sennichimae.”
Everyone mentioned names from various places, but the name that came up the most was the shop right in front of us.
”Oh, do we need permission for filming?”
”I’ll go ask the auntie if it’s okay to take pictures!”
”Since the aunties are regulars here, leave it to us!”
Thank you for considering the progress of the program.
Although Toa and the others were timid around the powerful big sisters, I enjoyed this kind of vibe.
”Manager, is the manager here?!”
”The savior has arrived at this struggling store!”
”Who’s struggling? We still have few customers today!”
”Look, we’re struggling, right?!”
”We’ve been struggling for 50 years, ever since Grandma’s time!”
”You’re tough, aren’t you?”
”By the way, my grandma also said that place would close 50 years ago.”
”More importantly, Aqua-kun has arrived!”
”There’s only one Aqua-kun!”
”No, the other day, someone was pretending to be Aqua on the phone!”
”If that’s the case, it was probably someone from Whatever-High School who was trying to shut down Whatever-High School!”
Oh no, we definitely can’t get filming permission for this one. So, I entered the store and called out to the shop owner’s sister.
”Excuse me. I’m Shirogane Aqua, who is doing the real Shirogane Aqua, just to be sure.”
”The real deal!”
”That’s what I said when the real one arrived!”
”Well, well, it might be Matsushita-san’s CG.”
”Matsushita is gone already! It changed to some fancy name with foreign words.”
”That company is also gone and became a company with a name that I don’t understand!”
I interrupted the conversation to break the flow.
”You all seem to get along well. Are you longtime friends?”
”No? We just met today.”
Is that a lie… Sister, you said earlier that they’re a regular. Unable to resist, I started laughing while holding my stomach. Tenga-senpai was tempted and smiled, and Shintaro also chuckled.
”Oh, um, we’re actually filming on location right now. Can we film it?”
”Sure! Look, it’s takoyaki. It’ll be ready soon, so have a seat!”
The four of us wait for the takoyaki at a four-person table. The other three seem really nervous.
”What’s wrong with you three?”
”Oh, um… It’s just that we never thought a day like this would come…”
”Yeah, I understand. The filming team is accompanying us, but I never thought we could come on a trip with just four people.”
”And to be able to enter a shop in the center of the bustling streets of a tourist spot like this, I couldn’t have imagined it a while ago.”
Indeed… especially recently, I felt like everyone’s freedom has been gradually taken away.
If I think about it as a famous tax for doing this kind of work, it might be natural, but because of the distortion in this world, if I were to listen to everything others say, I would have very little freedom.
Even though Shintaro, Tenga-senpai, and Toa decided to get involved with the outside world and take on this job, I thought it seemed like things were the wrong way around.
”Sure, it’s nice that everyone is worried about us, but we’re still students, so we want to have more fun outside.”
When I said that, everyone nodded in agreement.
Everyone must be thinking the same way.
I might be called selfish, but I thought that unless we gradually change things like this, nothing will ever change. Hmm, as I was thinking about it, a savory smell approached.
”Everyone, it’s ready!”
Various menus of takoyaki lined up in front of us.
”You haven’t had lunch, right? You must be hungry. Eat whatever you like!”
”Oh, thank you very much!”
I pick up a regular sauce takoyaki.
Toa has Akashiyaki, Shintaro has Negi Ponzu, and Tenga-senpai has mochi cheese.
Ha-fu, ha-fu, it’s hot… Ah, it’s delicious, delicious!
The outside is crispy while the inside is fluffy and juicy. The dough is soaked in broth, making it even more delicious when mixed with the sauce, and the bonito flakes and Oumi seaweed enhance the aroma and flavor.
”This one’s delicious too, Aqua.”
Hmm, in that case… I open my mouth and wait.
”Huh? You want me to feed you?”
I nod my head with my mouth open.
”Okay, here it is! Aaah…”
Chomp… It’s delicious!
Unlike the sauce, the umami of the broth overwhelms my mouth. This is just broth violence.
It looks simple, but the balance of the complicated soup is well intertwined. I’m satisfied
”It’s so delicious. And only delicious that comes out of my mouth…”
I hold back my tears.
”Come on, junior, try mine too!”
Okay, okay… Huh? Tenga-senpai is doing it too?
Yeah, well, whatever. I respond to Tenga-senpai’s gesture and also open my mouth.
Oh… it’s chewy! The cheese and salt taste is good! Above all, the mochi inside is delicious!!
”Dammit, all of them are so good.”
I looked up at the sky and then turned my gaze towards Shintaro. We both understood that there was no other choice but to do this.
Oh! The negi ponzu is so refreshing!! I could eat as many as I want because it’s so light!
And we continued to eat plenty of takoyaki after that.
”They were all delicious, right? I like the mochi cheese the best. The mochi was delicious.”
”Yeah! I think the soy sauce I ate later was the most delicious.”
”I understand, senpai. I thought maybe the soy sauce was too light compared to the sauce, but in the end, this was the best.”
”I didn’t mind the negi ponzu, but I think the orthodox sauce is the best.”
Everyone chatted excitedly about takoyaki.
”Thank you for the delicious food, sister! See you again!”
”Thank you for the meal! I’m sorry for receiving the souvenirs too!”
”Thank you very much! I’ll come again someday!”
”Thank you for everything! I’ll tell my family that it was delicious too.”
”Sure thing! Come again! I’ll stick around here for the next hundred years!!”
Sister, a hundred years is impossible. I don’t even have confidence in living that long.
Anyway, we thanked the big sister of the shopkeeper and left the store.
By the way, we tried to pay, but she said she can’t take money. She said if she took it, the auntie around them would say something bad, so she refused.
”It was delicious!”
”Yeah, it was delicious!”
”Well then, shall we go to USJ soon?”
I actually wanted to do more sightseeing, but when we went outside, there was a huge crowd, so we hurried back to the hotel.
We started running again in Tenga-senpai’s car and headed to USJ.
Looking back now, it was really suspicious to call from a public phone, and I was worried if it would be okay until we got there, but Taniguchi-san had prepared everything properly.
At this point, Ako-san called out to us.
”What’s wrong, Ako-san?”
”Make this the broadcast for December, that’s the plan.”
So we thoroughly enjoyed USJ.
For those who are watching this broadcast, please look forward to the December broadcast. We apologize, and please leave a separate comment.
”USJ was fun, right?”
”Yeah, definitely. Tenga-senpai was going crazy, and Shintaro lost his glasses…”
”Yeah, it was a precious sacrifice…”
”Wait a moment. Doesn’t it seem like I’m dead?”
When we laughed, Shintaro also showed a smile.
By the way, we are all wearing disguises and riding in a car, so we are quite cheerful.
For those who are watching the live broadcast, it will feel like something has been cut out, so they might wonder what happened.
Before going to Awaji Island, we came to a park in Hyogo Prefecture.
Looking around, there are beautiful buildings and structures, so it’s hard to tell, but this is a place where a big earthquake occurred almost 30 years ago.
The four of us stood in front of a memorial monument and put our hands together.
There are still people deeply affected by this disaster, and I don’t think there’s anything I can do for them, but I can do this, to offer my prayers. And while I have sad memories, coming here and standing here, I strongly felt the strength of those who rose up from there, the greatness of humanity, and the power of bonds.
At the same time, as someone who has died once, I am overwhelmed by the regret of death, so my resolve is strengthened.
Let’s do our best. If we are alive, let’s do what we can while we’re alive.
I swear here. To make this country better, to stand up no matter how many times we suffer and struggle, and to aim for a world where everyone can laugh together.
”Shall we go…”
”Yeah, that’s right…”
Since we were feeling a little down, I patted the backs of the three of them to cheer them up.
”Everyone! The only thing we can do now is to enjoy ourselves!!”
There is sadness, but there is also joy.
For us who are just tourists, all we can do is play and have fun as much as possible.
”Oh, that’s right!”
”Yeah, let’s have fun!”
”Yes! Then let’s set off for Awaji Island!”
And so, we got in the car and set off for Awaji Island with the 360.
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Edited by Kanaa-senpai.
Thanks for reading.