II. The Gathering Group

(Io observes the crowd.)
Io:                   Wow, the audience really came back…
Takeya:            What, was it empty before?
Io:                   Yeah. It was desolate for the wind ensemble this morning. The people who were there to see the drama club performance before that just deserted completely.
Takeya:            The… drama club?

(1:00)

Io:                   Well, our drama club is at a national level! On top of that, the club president this year got an award for leading actress, I’ve heard. So the place was packed first thing this morning with people who wanted to see her.
Takeya:            Ah, I see…
Io:                   This one was basically a one-woman show for her. She wound up playing the parts of four different sisters. The applause lasted until well after the curtain came down…
(she trails off.)
Takeya:            Ah…
Io:                   What’s your deal, Takeya? You’re sweating.
Takeya:            O-oh, no, nothing.
Io:                   Don’t tell me you and she…?!
Takeya:            (getting flustered) Wait! You’re wrong about this one! She’s just my classmate! We aren’t involved at all! Actually, I have no desire for any involvement with her!
Io:                   There’s a lot I could dig into there… But, considering she’s a national-level actress, someone like you could never be her boyfriend anyway.
Takeya:            She is a demon. A full-on Uzukiyama demon. Seriously, it’s like the stage today existed purely for her.
Io:                   Well, anyway, it’s lucky the Light Music Club didn’t have to go on right after such a legendary performance.

(2:00)

(the festival committee member opens the door for Setsuna and Kazusa, addressing them in a low voice.)
FC:                  Now, those of you coming from the green room, please pass by the right side of the audience seating. I’m sorry we don’t have a dedicated hallway or anything…
Setsuna:           Well, since it’s just a normal gymnasium… Thank you for leading the way. (shouts) Touma-saaan, over here!
Kazusa:            Ah—hey, don’t be so loud.
Setsuna:           (quieting down) But people are performing. You won’t be able to hear me if I don’t shout.
Kazusa:            That’s not what I mean…
Setsuna:           Hm?

(students begin clamoring.)
Male student 1: Hey. Ogiso-senpai is here.
Male student 2: Whoa… Just look at that costume!
Male student 3: Wow, she’s really gonna perform. It’s finally hitting me…!
Setsuna:           Wh-wh-what?
Female student 1: Wow, Setsuna looks great! So cute!
Female student 2: She’s going to take the stage! She’s already basically an idol, but now…!

(3:00)

FC:                   Ah, excuse me, excuse me. We’re in the middle of a show, so please don’t move around. Stay in your seats.
Setsuna:           Wh-whaaat?
Kazusa:            This is what I meant. You really need to be a little more aware of how much attention you draw, Ogiso.
Male student 4: Whoa, hey, who’s the girl next to her?
Male student 5: Dang, she looks amazing, too!
Male student 6: They’re just so perfect together… It’s almost not even funny!
Kazusa:            What…
Setsuna:           Looks like I should turn what you just said right back around on you, Touma-san.
Kazusa:            You talk as though you’re not the cause of all of this…
Female student 3: Hey, let me get a picture of you. Look over here, Setsuna! Or… might as well make it both of you! Strike a pose.
FC:                   I told you, return to your seats! Photography is prohibited!
Setsuna:           W-wait, wait.
Kazusa:            We should have come in separately. Seriously, being with you always gets me dragged into trouble.
Setsuna:           That may be true… What should we do, Touma-san?
Kazusa:            Well… in an uproar like this, there’s only one way to go.

(4:00)

Setsuna:           What’s that?
Kazusa:            Ogiso…
Setsuna:           Y-yes?
Kazusa:            Run!
(Kazusa takes off, dragging Setsuna with her.)
Setsuna:           Huh?! W-wait, Touma-san!
Kazusa:            I’m not waiting!
Setsuna:           If we run, they’ll see us!
Kazusa:            Once we’re on stage, we’ll be in plain sight.
Setsuna:           Don’t say things like that!

(audience chatter. Takahiro takes it all in excitedly.)
Takahiro:          Wow, look at all these people!
Setsuna’s mother: No kidding. Private school festivals are something else.
Takahiro:          Being able to do it on the same day, in the same place as the university… That’s huge. You could never make this happen at a city school. Man, Houjou is awesome!
Setsuna’s mother: I wonder how long you’ll be able to keep that eagerness up.
Takahiro:          (rushing off) Come on, Mom, hurry! If we don’t get our seats fast enough, they’ll all fill up!
Setsuna’s mother: Ah, slow down, Takahiro. If you don’t look where you’re going—
(Takahiro crashes straight into Youko Touma and falls down.)
Takahiro:          Gah!
Youko:              Oh, hello.
Setsuna’s mother: …You’ll run into someone.
Takahiro:          You could have said that before it happened! (he stands up.) I’m really sorry! Are you okay?

(5:00)

Youko:              No need to apologize. Being run down by a young man is a perfect welcome.
Setsuna’s mother: I’m so sorry, really. My son… Well, he can never stay calm.
Youko:              No, no, I’m perfectly all right. Are you a student here?
Takahiro:          Yep! Well, starting next year.
Setsuna’s mother: He’s already fully in that mindset.
Youko:              Is that so? Keep it up. Well, then…
Setsuna’s mother: Yes, goodbye.
(Youko walks off.)
Takahiro:          (sighs) What a cool lady.
Setsuna’s mother: She certainly was.
Takahiro:          She must be around your age, but it’s like her birth and upbringing were on a totally different level.
Setsuna’s mother: Well, Takahiro, you ate plenty at the festival today, so I’m sure you don’t need dinner. Come to think of it, I feel like I’ve seen her somewhere before…
Takahiro:          You think so, too? Actually, I get the same feeling. …Also, I apologize for that, so please don’t punish me.

(6:00)

Setsuna’s mother: I wonder… Maybe she’s the mother of one of Setsuna’s friends.
Takahiro:          No, that’s not what I mean. I think I remember seeing her on TV somewhere.
Setsuna’s mother: Oh, I don’t think so. What would somebody that famous be doing here?
Takahiro:          Well, but you’ve never even met any of Setsuna’s friends’ families, so you shouldn’t be talking, either!
Setsuna’s mother: It could be that I was catching a family resemblance, you know. Don’t talk down to your mother that way.
Takahiro:          You were talking down to me in the first place! Anyway, this is the Houjou festival. It’s not that weird that someone famous might be here.

(Tomo and two of her friends sit down, exhausted.)
Tomo’s friend:   Phew, we finally found somewhere to sit.
Tomo’s friend 2: Took us long enough to find three seats together, let alone decent ones. It’s awfully crowded here.
(Tomo seethes.)
Friend 1:           I told you, Tomo, you need to lighten up.
Friend 2:           Definitely. At this point, it’s all but guaranteed that you’re going to lose. It’s better if you just calm down, sit back, and enjoy the performance.

(7:00)

Tomo:               You know, I piled up so much work, so much hard work that I could never tell anybody about, just for the sake of this day…
Friend 1:           That’s true. Some of the underhanded stuff you pulled, you definitely couldn’t tell anyone.
Tomo:               That’s not all I mean! I went to school like I did every day, I threw myself into my dance and voice training… Well, I was so busy with that that I almost never went to band practice, but…
Friend 2:           Although, if you’d practiced, maybe your level would be…
Tomo:               All of it was for the sake of realizing my dreams for the future. Miss Houjou High, then Miss Houjou University, then steadily building up my career to become a TV announcer… Then, finally, I’d meet some handsome actor, or athlete, or businessman, and become his lovely bride.
Friend 1:           Well, that certainly is… steady…
Tomo:               Yes, that’s my A-route. In my B-route, instead of becoming a TV announcer, I debut as an idol, then step up as an artist. Eventually, I become an international actress, and follow the steep road of living for my work.
Friend 2:           You don’t find many girls nowadays who can overreach that far with their dreams.

(8:00)

Tomo:               Instead, this airheaded girl with no resolve or vision for the future… While I’ve been whittling my life away working so hard… She doesn’t deserve to stand before me!
Friend 1:           Of course, all of your work is for the sake of fulfilling your own self-interest…
Tomo:               I will turn this around. I’ll set her up to fall. I will ferret out that mistaken girl’s weak points, and I will thrust her from the peak of happiness down into the depths of despair!
Friend 2:           Oh, yes, go for it. No one is a match for your shady determination.

(Youko is accosted by the chairman of the academy.)
Chairman:         Oh, Touma-sensei! Thank you very much for coming. I work as the director here at Houjou High School…
Youko:              Ah, I’m sorry. Today is a private affair, so I would rather not be so formal…
Chairman:         I-I see. Pardon me.

(9:00)

Youko:              …is what I know I ought to say, but, to be perfectly honest, I’ve been having just a little bit of trouble finding a seat…
Chairman:         Ah, then allow me to show you to one of our visitors’ seats. This way, please.
Youko:              Thank you kindly. (they begin walking.) Money and influence really do get you everywhere.
(the chairman laughs awkwardly.)
Youko:              Now, I wonder how much longer it’ll be before my dolt of a daughter takes the stage?


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