Extra Episode – II

Tomo
“Hmm, I dunno, it’s a little different from what I imagined…”
Io
“Wait, what? Are you telling me even you’re susceptible to the new recruit blues?”
Setsuna
“Did something happen at the office?”
Tomo
“How do I put it? It feels like they’re taking me lightly, maybe, like I’m not really sure whether they think I’m necessary…”
Io
“Oh, wow. I feel like I’m looking at myself from a year ago.”
Setsuna
“Well, you tend to feel a lot of gaps at the very beginning. But since you’re just in your first month, you can still focus on learning by observation, right?”
Io
“Eh, well… The training period does tend to be longer, the bigger the company. Where Tomo is, it could go on for about a year, I feel like.”
Setsuna
“This is your study period. If you work hard at it, you’ll probably start seeing more and more. …Although, I’m not sure how much weight that has, coming from people who are in their second years like us.”
Tomo
“No, no, it’s nothing that abstract. There’s something more concrete that I’m unhappy with, right in front of me.”
Io
“What do you mean?”
Tomo
“I mean the mixer that just happened, for example. I went there thinking I might be able to build some connections, but everyone there was just assistant-level.”
Setsuna
“…Huh?”
Io
“…Hey…”
Tomo
“It was a huge letdown. Anyway, cheap drinks like that always end in splitting the check. I mean, who would go on for a second round after something like that? You get me?”
Setsuna
“I’m not sure I do…”
Io
“That is… so petty, oh my god…”
Tomo
“It’s not petty! Connections are everything in this industry. I have to wonder whether they really see us as valuable assets…”
Setsuna
“Ah. Ahaha…”
Io
“I appreciate that you’re thinking about the future, but that’s just so mundane that I don’t even know what I’m supposed to say…”
Tomo
“Hey, I resent that! Isn’t today supposed to be about encouraging me, anyway? Your treat, of course.”
Io
“Whoa, what? You’ve got the highest salary out of all of us. We’re counting on your paycheck today.”
Tomo
“Hang on! My first paycheck wasn’t anything that impressive!”
Setsuna
“It’s fine. We can let Tomo start picking it up later on.”
Io
“Right. You should outstrip us easily within a year.”
Setsuna
“Before long, you’ll go freelance and earn loads of money.”
Tomo
“Well, I know that’s the standard procedure, but it’s a hard road. I expect you two to comfort me when some senior broadcaster gets jealous and starts bullying me.”
Io
“Exactly. Just keep up that ego and you’ll be fine. Now, to Tomo Yanagihara-san. May she grow even more aggressive in her initiative…”
Setsuna
“Cheers!”
Tomo
“Cheers! …But, I am still poor right now, so I need you to treat me today.”
Io
“…Tsk. It didn’t work.”
Setsuna
“Yes, yes, we know. We’ll handle it today. In exchange, you’d better buy a present for your parents with that first paycheck.”
Tomo
“What? Why would I do that? I’m not an Ogiso.”
Setsuna
“Hang on, what’s with that attitude? Sit, Tomo! Right there!”
Tomo
“I’ve been sitting here the whole time.”
Setsuna
“Seiza! Sit on your heels! Don’t you know who allowed you to live your life this far, without any wants or inconveniences?”
Tomo
“Ack… Help me, Mizusawa-san—“
Io
“Excuse me! I’d like a shochu on the rocks, please!”

Spring came, and the beginning of our second year gradually became the routine of our second year.

Compared with last year, our positions had changed just a little, we had become just a little more reliable, and our roster had decreased just a little.

……

Takeya
“Wait, what?!”
Takeya
“Dammit, that’s my nineteenth loss in a row… Haruki, show a little mercy, will you?!”
Haruki
“You clearly aren’t made for fighting games, Takeya. Have you ever even played one before?”
Takeya
“You’re just too good. Here I was, so graciously intending to go easy on you, and you trampled all over my favor.”
Haruki
“You don’t have to force yourself to keep playing me, you know…”
Takeya
“Look, just pick a different character. I’m gonna be Chizuru-san this time!”
Haruki
“Takeya…”
Takeya
“Please, Haruki. At least give me that much of a handicap. Okay?”
Haruki
“…”
Takeya
“Here I… urk… what the…”
Haruki
“…”
Takeya
“Wh… Hey, hang on, stop—“
Haruki
“…”
Takeya
“…Is talking while you’re gaming a novice thing?”
Haruki
“I mean, you are a novice.”
Takeya
“You were a novice, too, until just recently. How the hell have you mastered all those fancy combos?!”
Haruki
“Good question. I was never able to do anything like this in any other game, so I wonder…”
Takeya
“…I’ll bet the girls are having a blast right about now, huh.”
Haruki
“…Maybe.”
Takeya
“Well, we guys can have an even bigger blast! All right, time for round 21!”
Haruki
“…You’re awfully… tenacious.”
Takeya
“And ridiculously good-looking, on top of it. I guess what they say about God not giving with both hands is just superstition!”
Tomo
“Hey, what about this place?”
Io
“Atara Hot Springs… In Izu, huh?”

Two hours later, the girls’ gathering had more or less reached its climax, and with our heads and stomachs full of food and alcohol, we were starting to get a little worn out on conversation.

The travel agency catalogue that Tomo suddenly set out on the table brought our energy back instantly.

Setsuna
“Hm, maybe so. The travel time wouldn’t be too bad for Izu.”
Io
“I’m pretty sure the hot springs part caught your attention more than the Izu part, Setsuna.”
Setsuna
“…What’s wrong with that?”
Tomo
“Nothing, nothing’s wrong! Hot springs are great. They’re comfortable, you can just relax and feel like an old lady… It’s the best!”
Io
“Come to think of it, that would be the first time we’ve taken a trip with this lineup since college. Though we’ve got something extra mixed in this time…”
Tomo
“Yeah, this is gonna be so much fun! A reunion of successive Miss Houjou winners. Though we’ve got someone who didn’t even get a nomination mixed in…”
Io
“I didn’t have the slightest interest in that!”
Tomo
“Neither did Setsuna, right? And yet she got picked three years in a row. Why is that, I wonder?”
Setsuna
“Now, now, you two. All right, let’s call it Atara Hot Springs! And no men allowed, whatsoever.”
Tomo
“No computers or cell phones!”
Io
“We’ll flee this chaotic world, drink all the sake we can, and sleep all we want!”
Setsuna
“Even if there’s a beach right in front of us, we’ll swim in the hot springs!”
Io
“Oh, no, let’s not…”
Tomo
“You can’t go swimming in a bath.”
Setsuna
“Aww…”

……

Tomo
“Oh, but, Setsuna… Will that be all right for you? I mean…”
Setsuna
“If it’s just one night, it’s fine. I can make time. If I absolutely have to, I’ll go to Takeya-kun, like I did today. Sorry, Io…”
Io
“Not sure why you’re bringing me into this.”
Setsuna
“Don’t say that. This is exactly why you two are still…”
Io
“Setsuna… It’s fine if you want to accept Haruki, or forgive him for everything, but you don’t have to pick up his lecturing habit, too.”
Setsuna
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Tomo
“But, you’re sure, right? We don’t want to have to turn around when we’re halfway there.”
Setsuna
“Yes, I’ll get someone to take over for me. …I realized, recently…”
Tomo
“Realized what?”
Setsuna
“That if I don’t enjoy life fully, genuinely, I’ll never be able to make him smile.”
Io
“Setsuna…”
Setsuna
“And, if I don’t enjoy myself, then Haruki-kun will get even more concerned about me.”
Io
“God. That particular little difficulty is juuuust like it always was.”
Setsuna
“So, you two don’t have to worry. Feel free to keep inviting me to things!”
Tomo
“You sure?”
Setsuna
“Yes. Not just for him, but for me, too… I think it would be best for everyone.”
Tomo
“Fair enough. Where are we if we can’t build some fun into our lives? And you’d both get drained if you were just constantly together.”
Setsuna
“…Yeah, I guess.”

No…

I really was all right with that. I was all right with being together forever.

But, he…

Setsuna
“I’m not going to sacrifice anything, okay? I want everyone to be happy. So I’ll throw myself into my work, and I won’t skimp out on having fun, either.”
Io
“You never used to let yourself have that much fun.”
Tomo
“Yeah, you may still be an indoors-type, but it used to be you’d never go anywhere like a hot spring unless Kitahara-kun came along.”
Setsuna
“Hey, don’t make fun of me… I’m being serious right now.”
Io
“Sorry, sorry. So, you were saying?”
Setsuna
“I was saying, of course I won’t stop loving Haruki-kun. I think that’s what I need to do so that I can keep going with him.”
Tomo
“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say when you’re getting all earnest about your boyfriend…”
Setsuna
“Sorry… But, you have to let me get amorous sometimes.”

After all, no matter how much I might struggle and flounder, I could never beat her.

And as I couldn’t beat her, I couldn’t use the same methods that she did. All I could do was apply myself fully to what I was capable of.

…No, all I could do was carry through, without applying myself.

Tomo
“Okay, Setsuna… Say, if you get another invitation, do you think you want to keep doing shows?”
Setsuna
“Yeah, maybe so. If I get the chance, I’d like to do another one.”
Tomo
“Wh-Whoa, really?! You won’t quit singing, will you?”
Setsuna
“No, never. You know I love singing.”
Tomo
“S-Setsuna…”

Right. I would never stop. Because I was greedy.

Setsuna
“Well, on that note, we should finish up here and go do some karaoke next! What do you think?”
Tomo
“…Ah…”
Io
“…I think we’ll have to pass…”

Because, unlike her, I couldn’t throw away everything that wasn’t him…

……

Takeya
“Here… rgh… rrrrgh… All right, this time!”
Haruki
“…”
Takeya
“Heeee-yahaaaa! Finally connected!”
Haruki
“…Hey, Takeya.”
Takeya
“Hey, don’t talk to me when I’m winning. Or is that some kinda strategy to make me mess up?”
Haruki
“What do you think I should do?”
Takeya
“…”
Haruki
“My life from here on out, work, Setsuna… What should I do about any of it?”
Takeya
“Wow, you’re finally asking me what to do? I’ve been waiting seven years to hear you say that.”
Haruki
“Takeya…”
Takeya
“From the day we met, you’ve been telling me what to do. You would lecture me until I understood, however many hours or days it took.”
Haruki
“I’m such an idiot. I never realized how stupid I was.”
Haruki
“I always want results from other people immediately, but all I wound up doing was slipping by without deciding a thing. As a result, I hurt Setsuna, Kazusa, everyone…”
Takeya
“But you did make a decision. Even if you thought you were just slipping by.”
Haruki
“Takeya…”
Takeya
“That’s why you’re here. You had other paths to choose from, but you’re here in the same old place.”
Haruki
“But, if it was the wrong choice, then it doesn’t mean anything.”
Haruki
“What value is there in it if I betrayed Setsuna, and abandoned Kazusa…?”
Takeya
“…”
Haruki
“But I still can’t tear myself away from Setsuna. I’m just piling up wrong after wrong. That’s not something that can be forgiven.”
Takeya
“You’re saying that if you mess up even once, you can never be forgiven again? I really don’t think that’s true.”
Haruki
“But it wasn’t just once… It was over and over and over…!”
Takeya
“Humans have the hardest time seeing themselves out of anyone. That’s why you make mistakes, but you can see everyone else’s mistakes easily.”
Takeya
“So, everything you’ve ever told me has been right. …More right than my own judgments, at least.”
Haruki
“That’s why I need you to tell me now… What am I supposed to do…?”
Takeya
“You’ve gotta decide that for yourself, though. Don’t ask me.”
Haruki
“…”
Takeya
“…Just to be clear, I’m not talking about right now. This is a decision for a bit further along the line.”
Haruki
“How far along…? When…?”
Takeya
“Hmm… When you can trust that your decision is the result of all your hesitating and worrying, maybe?”
Haruki
“…When I can trust it because I hesitated over it? That sounds a little weird.”
Takeya
“Yeah, I guess so.”
Haruki
“…”
Takeya
“Hey, Haruki.”
Haruki
“Hm?”
Takeya
“If that time ever does come… When you’re ready to start hesitating, start worrying, and decide something… talk to me first.”
Haruki
“Takeya…”
Takeya
“Whatever you decide, I won’t complain… Yeah, right. I’ll tell you what to do, just like you used to tell me.”
Haruki
“…Please.”
Takeya
“Yeah, count on me.”
Haruki
“Sorry, Takeya. Seriously, I’m sorry…”
Takeya
“Save that line for once you’re back to your old self, and give it to the person who really needs it.”
Haruki
“…”
Takeya
“And once you’re done with that redemption, come to me next. No worries. I’ll do you so many favors you won’t be able to pay me back in this lifetime.”
Io
“Phew! Thank god we managed to catch the last train.”
Tomo
“Ugh, my voice is all hoarse. I hope it comes back by Monday…”
Io
“It’s your fault for taking Setsuna on. If you’d just let her do her thing, we’d have finished in two hours.”
Tomo
“But that’s boring! I have to show off the results of my voice training somehow.”
Io
“You didn’t forget why we got together today, did you?”
Tomo
“It was in honor of my finally joining adult society, right?”
Io
“…”
Tomo
“C’mon. With all of us out together, Setsuna was able to blow off some steam.”
Io
“I sure hope so. Setsuna did look like she was enjoying herself a decent bit.”
Tomo
“I think you just worry too much, Mizusawa-san. You could send a little bit of that attention Iizuka-san’s way, and it wouldn’t hurt…”
Io
“Don’t bother trying to take this in any nonsense directions. I’m not gonna go along.”
Tomo
“Tsk!”
Io
“Hmph.”
Tomo
“…”
Io
“…”
Tomo
“…”
Io
“Hey.”
Tomo
“Hmmm?”
Io
“Are you still opposed?”
Tomo
“You have to ask?”
Io
“You really hate Haruki that much?”
Tomo
“I don’t hate him. I just can’t forgive him for what he did.”
Io
“…”
Tomo
“Changing his mind all around, brooding, breaking down all he wants… I can’t come up with any way of forgiving that.”
Io
“I’m… not sure I’d say he ‘changed his mind’…”
Tomo
“Even if we take the personal feelings out of it, I think Kitahara-san is just holding Setsuna back right now.”
Io
“…”
Tomo
“Of course, if I said that to Setsuna, she’d snap at me again, so I’m just grumbling to you…”
Io
“You could consider my mental state a little, too.”
Tomo
“Where does that put you, then, Mizusawa-san? Can you still forgive Kitahara-san, after what he did?”
Io
“No, I can’t… but I don’t want to break off our friendship, either.”
Tomo
“…”
Io
“He’s an even older friend to me than Setsuna. I know that he always lives honestly and seriously.”
Tomo
“That doesn’t mean…”
Io
“And, I understand Touma-san’s feelings a bit. …Granted, they were waaaay stronger than I imagined…”
Tomo
“The strength of those feelings was her biggest mistake, I think.”
Io
“More than anything, Setsuna doesn’t want to punish the two of them.”
Tomo
“…”
Io
“I think you’re good as you are, though. You should keep staying on Setsuna’s side.”
Tomo
“I guess Setsuna would be pretty stuck without me there.”
Io
“And I know Takeya’s always gonna be on Haruki’s side. See? Perfect balance.”
Tomo
“What about you, Mizusawa-san?”
Io
“Keeping that question on hold.”
Tomo
“Dilly-dally shilly-shally.”
Io
“Well, I don’t know yet. Whether Setsuna is really running herself into the ground or not…”
Tomo
“She’s obviously running herself into the ground.”
Io
“…Maybe. But whether she’s forcing herself to her limit, or whether she’s still got some space…”
Tomo
“No, I’m saying…”
Io
“Even if she’s at her limit, I have to keep thinking about it a bit. Then it’s a matter of forcing her to leave him, or letting her stay with him like she wants.”
Tomo
“…”
Io
“I don’t know. I have my own thoughts on the matter, but I’m not confident in them yet.”
Tomo
“God, you’re just useless at making up your mind whenever it comes to stuff between guys and girls!”
Io
“I’m not interested in hearing that from—“
Io
“Shoot, sorry.”
Io
“Hey. Yeah… Yeah, we just finished up, too.”
Io
“Gotcha… Yeah, everything’s solid for today, then. Nice work.”
Io
“Yep. So… Huh? Right now?”
Io
“…Fine. At the stationfront, then.”
Io
“Sorry. Something’s come up, so I’m gonna head back.”
Tomo
“A date?”
Io
“No, we’re just gonna go eat.”
Tomo
“You did plenty of eating and drinking earlier…”
Io
“All that singing got me hungry again.”
Tomo
“You know you’re gonna miss the last train?”
Io
“All I have to do is kill a little time before the first one gets moving.”
Tomo
“You don’t consider that a date?”
Io
“Not remotely. See ya.”
Tomo
“Ah…”
Tomo
“…”
Tomo
“Urgh, what is wrong with those two! Why are they like this!”


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