Mini After Story – Setsuna ending (Ch. 3)

Haruki
“Yes, we get it, we get it! Stop buzzing!”
Takeya & Io & Tomo
“Merry Christmas!”

Going to meet the enormous racket that suddenly assailed our apartment,
I opened the door, only to find
an even louder sound awaiting.

Haruki
“…You’re gonna wake up the neighbors, so quiet down. Get inside.”
Takeya
“Aw, you’re no fun!”
Io
“Come on, it’s Christmas!”
Tomo
“Right?”
Haruki
“Everything was fine before.
…Before a bunch of loud, inconsiderate uninvited guests showed up
while we were busy as hell trying to get ready for our move!”

I was in the middle of piling up packed boxes, right on the cusp of the move,
and this apartment was cramped enough with just two people, but now there were five…

…Well, at least there wouldn’t be any problem if our heating got cut off.

Takeya
“C’mon, what are you talking about? I called you in advance.”
Haruki
“Yes, you did… today, an hour beforehand!

When I received Takeya’s urgent raid alarm,
Setsuna and I hadn’t even returned home yet,
much less made any preparations for receiving visitors.

…But I guess that, even out of this household,
I was the only one really speaking my mind on the matter.

You see, as for the other resident…

Io
“Setsunaaaa! How have you been?”
Setsuna
“Iooo! It’s been so long!
Oh, did you cut your hair? It looks just like it used to!”

There—as expected, she was thrilled.

Tomo
“Setsuna! ♪”
Setsuna
“Oh, Tomo. You’re here, too.”
Tomo
“Ouch!”
Setsuna
“I mean, we’ve already seen each other once this month.”
Tomo
“It’s different today, though!
There’s a different kind of excitement when all your friends are together in one place!”

Well, the fact that they could snipe at each other like this,
and that they could crash in on us like this with no reserve,
was really just a testament to our lasting friendship…

I still wasn’t good with it, though. Not when we were so damn busy…

Takeya
“I mean, if we were gonna come by, today was the day.
Tomorrow is the day before your move, and last night was Christmas Eve.
…I bet you guys were all over each other last night, too, right?”
Haruki
“Don’t hassle me.
Neither of us was able to come home last night.”

Which is not to say that we weren’t all over each other.

Io
“Wow, mass media work really is tough.
Looking at Tomo, you would never get that sense, but…”
Tomo
“A swan may look graceful, but underwater, it’s paddling furiously.
…We don’t get New Year’s holidays, you know.”
Haruki
“And that is exactly why I would have preferred
that you wait for us to move to the new place and settle down before showing up!”
Takeya
“And how long will it take for you to ‘settle down’?”
Haruki
“I dunno, six months?”
Takeya
“You hate me, don’t you. You really do.”

We may have been griping at each other as usual,
but I had seen through Takeya’s
single, clever description trick.

Io
“Hey, let’s have a hot pot party!
I brought all the ingredients.”
Haruki
“Weren’t you just saying ‘Merry Christmas’?”
Tomo
“We thought something like that might happen,
so we went with chicken and vegetables.
Merry Christmas!”
Haruki
“We just packed up the pot.
It’s somewhere in that mountain of moving boxes over there…”

Takeya… Just now,
he had said “you guys, too.

Haruki
“Setsuna, this chicken is done cooking…
I’ll get you some bok choy and tofu, too.”
Setsuna
“Thank you, Haruki-kun.”
Takeya
“Oh, maybe these shimeji mushrooms are done cooking, too…”
Haruki
“I just put those in a minute ago.
Wait two minutes.
Also, those aren’t shimeji. They’re oyster mushrooms.”
Takeya
“…Well, you’re as much of a stick in the mud as ever.”
Tomo
“Honestly, the dining table is the same every time we come here!
The man of the house always has to be in control!”
Io
“And you have to deal with this face-to-face on a daily basis, Setsuna!
Doesn’t that get pretty annoying?”
Setsuna
“Nah, not really.
Having a hot pot at home is a valuable thing, right, Haruki-kun?
You can get Takahiro to serve everything up.”
Haruki
“That’s because if you left Takahiro-kun to his own devices, he would only eat meat.
You have to force him to eat vegetables somehow.
Takeya
“Letting the men rule the dinner table?
I wonder about that Ogiso family…”

Takeya
“Man, so this is our final farewell to this apartment…”
Io
“Thinking back on it, it feels… totally fine, actually. Not lonely at all.”
Takeya
“I got preached at every time I came over to hang out.”
Io
“I got yelled at just for spilling a little alcohol.”
Takeya
“Yeah, that’s right. And if I felt like I was gonna throw up from drinking too much,
he just kicked me out.
Pretty brutal host!”
Haruki
“I’m pretty sure my responses were perfectly natural.
And anyway, I always followed through afterward!
I cleaned everything up and looked after you!”
Setsuna
“…”
Io
“Wow, is that true?
I feel like every time I got home and looked in the hallway,
I found you on the floor, Takeya…”
Takeya
“Yeah! Yeah, you were definitely awful to me!
You never once took care of me, even when I was collapsed and suffering.”
Haruki
“Wasn’t that your fault for collapsing every single time?”
Io
“And anyway, something feels juuust a little weird
about you pretending to be unconscious.
You knew exactly what was happening every time I was showed you mercy, didn’t you?”
Setsuna
“…”
Takeya
“What else was I supposed to do?!
I mean, at the time—”
Io
“Hmmm? What about you, at the time?
…What about me, at the time?”
Takeya
“I mean, you… ah.”
Setsuna
“Hm? What?”
Io
“…Ah.”
Takeya
“Ah, no, sorry, we just got carried away…”
Io
“That can’t have been very interesting for you, Setsuna…”

And so the two of them chopped off their conversation just as it was building up,
and smiled guiltily at Setsuna.

Tomo
“I know it’s got nothing to do with me,
but where’s my apology?”

…Well, putting aside Yanagihara,
I knew painfully well
the reason that these two shut their mouths.

Because the subject up to this point
was a discussion from before this place became “Setsuna’s Residence.”

A discussion that happened while I was keeping Setsuna at a distance,
allowing Takeya, Io… and very few others,
to cross the threshold into the apartment.

But…

Setsuna
“No, no, tell me.”
Io
“Setsuna…”

Setsuna was smiling.

It wasn’t the sad, lonely smile she wore back then.
Nor was it the high-energy smile
that resulted from forcibly boosting her own mood.

Setsuna
“There’s something kind of frustrating to me
about how you two know things about Haruki-kun that I don’t.”
Haruki
“Setsuna…”

Because we had decided…

That we wouldn’t go searching any more like we did, mistakenly, back then.

Rather than lament past unhappiness,
we would concentrate all of our efforts on becoming happy in the future.

We decided that, the two of us.

Setsuna
“And, somewhere within that information,
there might be some hint on taking advantage of Haruki-kun’s weaknesses.”
Haruki
“Setsuna?”
Takeya
“Whoa, scary!”
Io
“Setsuna, have you grown up?
…You’ve taken an awfully bad direction.”

Wait, we did decide, didn’t we? I’m sure of it…

Setsuna
“Hey, tell me more about what Haruki-kun was like back then.
His personality must have been terrible, right?
Don’t you have some tales of iniquity for me?”
Haruki
“N-no, there aren’t…”
Tomo
“Wait, listen to my story, first,
instead of a local story like that.”
Io
“I feel like that’s only going to be fractionally exciting.”
Tomo
“No, come on, don’t say that!
I can give you all the sordid inside information on Toa Television!
Takeya
“…That might be exciting,
but is it really okay for you to talk about it?”

Haruki
“Now, I’m going to ask you a slightly complicated question,
but how are things with the two of you right now?”

We had drunk plenty of beer and sake,
and the hot pot and rice soup had all been cleared away.

Well, in the natural flow of things,
we guys and the girls had split into separate groups.

Takeya
“We’re, uh… We’re in the midst of a really intense cold war.”
Haruki
“No, look, if it were a cold war, things would be cold between you, not intense.”

At this point, the focus of the conversation
was hardly about me and Setsuna,
and more about a certain other pair, who still hadn’t reached a resolution yet…

Boasting a longer connection than ours,
these two who had been a pain since middle school—it was about them now.

Haruki
“And why is that?
I had practically started a countdown already…”
Takeya
“Oh, yeah, we’re definitely at the countdown stage.”
Haruki
“So you’ve met her parents and everything?”
Takeya
“Met them? I’ve been acquainted with her whole family,
including her grandpa and grandma, since middle school.”
Haruki
“Ever have any fights with them?
Like, ‘I won’t give my daughter to a flashy guy like you,’ or…”
Takeya
“They thanked me in tears, I’ll have you know.
Don’t underestimate my social skills.”
Haruki
“Then what the hell is going on?
Don’t tell me you cheated again…”
Takeya
“I don’t do that stuff any more.
And who are you to say something like that to me, anyway?”
Setsuna
“Huh, what? What do you mean?”
Io
“Listen…
We’re in a fight right now over which one of us will take childcare leave if we have a kid.”
Setsuna
“…Regardless,
aren’t you jumping the gun a little?”
Tomo
“Yeah, you can worry about that when you’re married!”
Io
“No, no, this is important!
Now that I’m into my third year,
I’m really starting to find my job interesting, and…”
Tomo
“It’s not just because you became a senior employee and now you have some real power?”
Setsuna
“W-well,
Io does have a strong sense of leadership, in some ways.”
Io
“No, I’m not a senior employee.
I guess it’s less about maternity leave,
and more that, after I’ve given birth, I’ll want to get back to work sooner rather than later.”
Setsuna
“Ah…”
Io
“So, I was wondering whether Takeya and I might split the childcare leave fifty-fifty,
and that’s the maximum compromise that we’ve been negotiating.”
Tomo
“Compromising? Hey, is that really compromising?”
Setsuna
“That’s tricky…
Since it seems like Takeya-kun is working pretty hard, too.”
Io
“He is…
I hate to admit this, but his earnings and position at work are both higher than mine.”
Tomo
“Then maybe you don’t need to worry about having a kid for a little while.”
Io
“…No, I don’t want to wait.”
Takeya
“See, we want a kid as soon as possible.
That’s the one thing we can agree on.”
Haruki
“…I see.”
Tomo
“Wow… Somehow,
that doesn’t fit my image of you.”
Io
“It doesn’t?
Well, maybe you’re right.”
Tomo
“And anyway, if you rush into it,
what happens if you split? I would feel sorry for the kid.”
Io
“No, that’s not even a possibility.
…If we were in the kind of relationship that was likely to end up splitting,
we wouldn’t have put ten years in to reach this point.”
Setsuna
“Io…”
Tomo
“If you can declare it that confidently,
you could have stuck to it from the start.”
Haruki
“…You sure you won’t regret it?”
Takeya
“What are you talking about? Of course we won’t regret it.”
Haruki
“No, I mean that you just told me about all your youthful indiscretions.
…If I were in your position, I would be freaking out over it tomorrow.”
Takeya
“…Of course I’m gonna do that.
You’ll be getting a message from me that says, ‘Forget everything I said yesterday.’”
Haruki
“Aha, ahaha…”

The feelings of people are all very similar.

But, from person to person, there are subtle differences,
and they are all valuable, whatever they are, whosever they are.

Our own circumstances,
and the circumstances arising near us,
would converge with time.

Before we knew it, for better or worse, it would all be sublimated into memory,
and for better or worse, it would all connect to the road to the future.

Haruki
“All right, let’s have another toast.”
Takeya
“Sounds good.”
Haruki
“To the both of you.”
Takeya
“To the both of you.”
Haruki
“Oh, shoot… What about Yanagihara?”
Takeya
“She’s fine.
Even without us blessing her,
she’ll be able to find fortune on her own, no problem.”
Haruki
“…You might be right.”
Takeya
“Yeah… Cheers!”

And so, for the purpose of blessing our yet-unknown future,
we cracked open new cans of beer and drank.


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