After the Festival ~Setsuna’s Thirty Minutes~ II

“…Huh?”

The room was perfectly shrouded in darkness. Through the still-open window, she could hear a faint noise from the schoolyard.

The general attendees had set off for home, and all that remained were likely students who were busily making preparations for the final day of the high school festival.

But Setsuna didn’t turn her attention to that outside state of affairs, instead continuing to gaze at the peaceful sleeping face before her.

          This is fine.

          Kazusa and Haruki-kun can keep getting closer.

          They can become boyfriend and girlfriend, step by step.

…Just focusing on the whereabouts of her own feelings.

          It’ll be fine, if it’s these two.

          Haruki-kun promised me.

          He said he would never shut me out.

Desperately searching for common ground between the three of them…

For her own ground.

          Maybe Touma-san doesn’t like me that much.

          Maybe she’s just trying to be friends with me because of Haruki-kun.

          But that’s fine, too.

          I know she’ll do everything he tells her.

          She might complain, but she’ll put in the effort for him. She’ll endure.

          …She’ll keep getting along with me, like she has been.

          Because she really, truly loves him.

          She loves him so much that just having him next to her kept her from being lonely.

After spending a little while longer, during which nothing moved but the clock, Setsuna finally dropped the hand she had been holding up, letting it fall to her knee.

…Chasing the reason for her hand having been there out of her head.

          I’m okay with us staying a trio.

          No, that’s actually exactly what I want.

          So… it’s okay if Touma-san dates Haruki-kun.

          He’s been looking at her this whole time, anyway.

          She has her own priorities.

          No matter how I might try to wedge myself in, that’s not a bond I can win against.

          So… So…

“Oh, come on…”

She pressed her hand against her knee, slowly rose…

But her body didn’t want to stand up, and she scolded herself with some bewilderment.

          I should go home. Just leave Haruki-kun here like this.

          And, tomorrow, I’ll greet them both with a cheerful “Good morning!”

          Haruki-kun will probably give an even friendlier “Good morning” than before.

          Because he’s etched in the memories of our performance today.

          And Kazusa will respond with an even more awkward “Y-Yeah…” than before, no doubt.

          …Because, today, she learned the feeling of his lips.

“What’s wrong with me…?”

          And I’ll look at how worried she’s acting, and laugh.

          Chuckle, and make her anxiety even worse.

          Before long, she’ll feel certain of the weirdness in the way I’m acting.

          No, maybe I should just come right out with it.

          “I saw you last night, you know.”

“This is no good…”

          Then, she’ll turn beet-red, and look down.

          Maybe, just maybe, she’ll be on the verge of tears.

          …Yes, that could be a very fun thing to aim for in the future.

          The cool, dignified Kazusa Touma, looking so embarrassed that she wants to disappear…

          Yes, that would be absolutely adorable.

“Why…?”

          To Touma-san, it might be completely unthinkable that she would be subjected to that.

          But, I mean, she brought it on herself.

          It’s only natural that I would hassle her like that.

          Because she has no guiding principles.

          She lied to me this morning.

          A big lie—saying she didn’t have anyone she liked.

“You didn’t tell me… You refused to tell me, Touma-san…!”

          She didn’t stop my falling for him.

          She didn’t accept my declaration of war…

At that moment, Setsuna finally acknowledged it.

Acknowledged that, no matter how hard she tried, she wasn’t going to be able to stand up.

Acknowledged that her voice was shaking, because she was clenching her teeth.

Acknowledged that the droplets falling to the floor in front of her were blurring her vision…

          I could never beat you if you got serious.

          But why did you have to get serious now, today of all days…?

          On such a fun, happy day?

          This is the kind of moment that you want to freeze for a lifetime. Why would you move ahead…?

“…Ah… N-No…”

Setsuna’s voice, tearful from sorrow, frustration, and anger, colored the silence of the music room.

She could imagine well enough what would happen if Haruki woke up right now—she knew, better than anyone—but she couldn’t stop this eruption of emotion, small though it was.

          It’s not fair, Touma-san.

          Why couldn’t you have confessed to him sooner?

          You should have done it back when I could still withdraw.

          I would have pouted, complained, maybe even cried a little.

          I would have troubled you and Haruki-kun, caused you all kinds of worry.

          In the end, I would have recovered on my own, embraced you both, shocking you…

          And I could have snuffed out the tiny light of love that I was feeling.

“No, no… Why… Why…!”

The reactions of her body wouldn’t follow the voice in her heart.

In fact, the more her body resisted, the more her heart came to follow her body instead.

          I’m crying…

          I’m crying because my dear friend followed through on her feelings.

          I’m crying right in front of my other dear friend.

          I’m crying, unable to feel happy for my two friends.

As a result…

          I’m terrible, aren’t I?

          I’m the worst.

All she could do was loathe herself, heart and body both.


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