“Well… Merry Christmas, everyone!”
After each of them spoke, in their voices of slightly varying warmth, the dry sound of glasses clinking together resounded through the room, and the routine Christmas party began.
“Wow, that looks incredible… Not too bad, celebrating Christmas with sashimi and tempura and hot pot.”
“Christmas pudding and chawanmushi are a little similar, I guess… The ingredients, I mean.”
“Chicken, too… The pot is packed.”
Supposing that having a variety of Japanese food set out in Japanese-style room in a hot springs inn, raising a toast while all dressed in yukata bearing the logo of the inn, could be considered “routine.”
“And just look out the window… It’s a real White Christmas.”
“I mean, we did pick this spot on purpose.”
‘Let’s go and see the snow,’ ‘Let’s go as soon as winter break starts,’ ‘Maybe a hot spring would be nice’… All of these came as emphatic requests from a certain someone.
“Oh, yeah, and the open-air bath was amazing! The snow just fell all the way in, since there’s no roof…”
“Yeah, and I thought I was gonna freeze to death the second I got out.”
“Sure, it was cold, but it felt great. You should have joined us, Haruki-kun!”
“I didn’t have the energy…”
After putting forth these not-especially-feminine designs, their organizer took action strangely quickly, making a reservation at an inn run by some relatives of hers, prevailing upon her parents in a way that was both appropriate and pushy, and from the application for student discounts to the creation of their itinerary, she moved the whole thing along on her own, until at last they reached the long-awaited day.
“You’re weirdly exhausted for someone who didn’t help at all.”
“You two are pretty perky…”
“We’re just differently trained. I’ve hardly had any time to sleep the past two months.”
“I’ll take the blame for November, but you brought it on yourself in December…”
In the past few days, Setsuna was really the only one who had taken any action concerning this plan.
The other two left just about everything up to her, apart from replying, ‘Hot springs…?’
“Wow, thinking back on it, this year was rough! C’mon, let’s start drinking!”
“You’re getting into year-end-party mode, Setsuna.”
“This is obviously a year-end party. Calling this a Christmas party would tick off the Westerners.”
Because the two of them knew Kazusa’s own gradual response wouldn’t amount to much.
Because they were confident in what Setsuna was doing, to a certain extent.
“Christmas party, year-end party, I don’t really care. The point is, I get to be with the people I want to be with.”
And because the two of them… no, the three of them knew.
“Yes, yes, very well, Princess Setsuna. As you wish.”
“…Yeah, okay. Merry Christmas.”
They knew that the two of them couldn’t possibly stop Setsuna from feeling that way.
“Um, well, everyone, thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedules to gather here…”
And, it was common knowledge that pleasant times like these would slip by in an instant…
But the three of them weren’t jaded enough, or willing enough to accept the inevitable, to allow these particular pleasant times to end in an instant.
“Today, um… We have so much to celebrate that I may not be able to summarize it neatly, but we do have plenty of time, after all!”
The feast laid out on the table had been depleted, and the host had removed the serving trays, which meant their real party was beginning.
Laid out on the table now were a certain staple carbonated Christmas beverage pulled out of Kazusa’s bag, and a veritable mountain of sweets pulled out of Setsuna’s bag, and their second round of toasts began.
“Hmm… Well, to start, let me say again: Merry Christmas!”
With Setsuna’s clear, bell-like voice, their three glasses clinked together like yet another bell, blessing their Christmas Eve.
“And, to our graduation. The three of us.”
“Yeah, I guess it was basically a Christmas Eve miracle for one of us…”
“Leave. Leave right now and walk back to Tokyo.”
Once again, their three glasses clinked together, though there were some impurities mixed into their voices this time.
Nevertheless, as the wording of Setsuna’s toast indicated, after the exam period and the following week of supplementary exams, it had been confirmed before Winter Break began that all three of them would graduate.
Kazusa herself had made it through to the final moment of the final day, humming nonchalantly; meanwhile, her wire-puller, Haruki, felt as though his life had been shortened by about three years, and his haggardness told on exactly how outrageous a battle it had been.
“To making it here alive today, just barely…”
“Yeah, I’m never getting in your car again.”
“Wow, are you actually planning on walking back to Tokyo? Now I’m impressed.”
Starting with her first experience driving on the freeway, then to mountain roads, snowy roads, getting lost, getting into an accident…
By the time a vehicle from the inn had pulled the snow-bound car to its destination, the composition—the driver, Kazusa, humming nonchalantly to herself, and her navigator, Haruki, in a haggard state—was precisely as it had been during the exam period.
“To Kazusa’s… making peace with her mother.”
“I wish I could have seen that historic moment of reconciliation.”
“Oh, yeah, I bet Kazusa was just sobbing.”
The call from Kazusa’s mother, Youko Touma, from whom she hadn’t heard in half a year, came right after the school festival show.
In other words, right after Kazusa had gotten a boyfriend…
Youko, famous worldwide for being a pianist of many affairs, couldn’t possibly let such an appetizing topic slip by, and after a lot of embarrassment, presumption, concealment, and phone-scrambling, a truly epic mother-daughter quarrel unfolded.
…Yes, at the age of eighteen, Kazusa finally had her first real, out-and-out fight with her mother.
When Kazusa told the two of them about this, the look of unreserved happiness on her face brought the greatest happiness to Haruki and Setsuna, and they delighted in it with no reservation.
“And, to the revival of Kazusa Touma, genius pianist.”
“All I did was enter a contest for the first time in a while… It’s not that big.”
“You yourself were bragging about how you were guaranteed to win…”
“And, and, as a prayer for Kazusa to enter music school…”
“The fact that I made to the final selection means I’ll be able to get an endorsement. Walk in the park.”
“See, like that.”
And their good fortune—Kazusa’s, and everyone’s—didn’t stop there.
Youko, who had once given up on her daughter’s talent, seemed to have been deeply impressed by Kazusa’s simple school festival performance, and had declared that she would support this comeback.
If Kazusa got good results in the New Year’s piano competition, Youko would use her influence to see to it Kazusa got her endorsement and made it into music school, offer her unstinting support for her performance life after that… Whether or not she revealed the cheat tactics that turned a NEET who could only play piano into Japan’s most promising young classical pianist…
“B-But not just for me… To you two, for making it into Houjou University.”
“Thank you, Kazusa…”
Kazusa, who was beet-red even though she wasn’t drinking sake, snatched the toasting initiative from Setsuna, and bumped her glass against the others…
“Well, I mean, we just went the route that was obvious for us…”
“Correction: to Setsuna’s acceptance into Houjou University.”
…Or acted as though she were, while avoiding Haruki’s glass splendidly.
“Umm, last of all… I’m gonna be a little bit selfish here…”
Now, as though this truly were to be the last toast, Setsuna took back the initiative, and held her glass higher than she had for any of the previous toasts.
“Our reunion on this day, of the Houjou High School Light Music Club, um…”
But, compared with the vigor with which she lifted her glass, her words themselves were slowly losing steam.
“Um, like… Next year, and the year after that…”
“We could do this again, watch the snow, enjoy the baths, talk all night…”
Her bell-like voice toned down to something faint and flimsy, but that wasn’t all—her confidence, and her gaze, fell to the table.
“I know what I’m saying right now is lame. I know it might be selfish.”
“I know I’m probably just intruding on the two of you…”
Haruki could recall having seen the expression now on Setsuna’s face, twice before.
“But, but, I… I like having it be the three of us.”
“I don’t want to lose you, Kazusa, or Haruki-kun.”
The first time was on the first day of the school festival—the day before their show.
The faint smile of a hostess—on the verge of tears, but also just a bit happy—when he went to collect her from the classroom, after she’d struggled to make her voice come out during rehearsal and lost her confidence.
“Oh, god, what am I even saying? …I’m so lame.”
And the second time…
The second time was after the festival, in Music Room #2, at dusk.
When she gently woke the dozing Haruki, and told him something important…
“But, but… I still… I…!”
“Oh my god, just stop already!”
To Setsuna, it was a sudden attack from Kazusa’s clenched fist.
“Why the hell are you waffling like this?! You were the one who told me off for exactly that kind of attitude! You were the one who gave me that push!”
But, for Kazusa, it was the final snap after holding herself back through so much.
“Listen, Setsuna, I promise… We’ll always be together, the three of us.”
The final snap of a coward, who couldn’t endure seeing her benefactor worrying and crying.
“These club reunions of ours will go on next year, and the year after that… forever. Right, Haruki?”
“I mean… What reason would I have not to be there?”
“Ugh, this is so embarrassing! Let’s just drink and forget about it already!”
But, similarly unable to stand her own display in encouraging Setsuna, Kazusa now hid her reddening face behind the sleeve of her yukata as she raised her glass.
“Now, this is the last one for real, Setsuna… so finish it up properly.”
And, with this heartening support from her dearest friend, tears finally streaming out from her red, swollen eyes, Setsuna wrung out her words in a voice like a cracked bell.
“Well… Well, then, to the three of us.”
It was four in the morning, and the lamps had been put out. The only thing illuminating the room was the bright whiteness of the snow outside the window.
They had goofed around after dinner, goofed around over mixed bathing in the open-air baths, even goofed around over who would sleep where.
“Oh… That was just because my arm was tired from holding up the glass.”
“That’s not all I meant.”
Just when it seemed everyone had fallen asleep, Setsuna began to whisper—quiet enough that Haruki couldn’t hear it in the next room, but loud enough for Kazusa, who had the futon next to hers.
“Thank you… for finally saying, ‘the three of us.’”
“I mean, it was obvious. I don’t… know how to feel, being thanked for something like that.”
Once she felt certain that Kazusa was awake… and Haruki was asleep, of course.
“I’m glad we’re friends, Kazusa.”
Because she wanted to be absolutely sure Kazusa heard this.
“I’m so glad that we’re best friends…!”
And because she didn’t want Haruki to hear, if at all possible.
“Hee, heehee… ah, ahaha…!”
“I swear to god…”
Setsuna was still dragging along her self from a few hours before.
A reckless performance, trying to show the single emotion that was happiness, and also the full scope of human emotions.
Her expressions, voice, words, and tears scattered and jumbled together, her feelings a chaos with no shape, sound, or color, piercing all the more directly because they were so chaotic, and Kazusa turned her back toward Setsuna in her futon without really thinking about it.
Because Kazusa, who until a few months ago had cut herself off from any show of emotion from anyone at all, had absolutely no idea what to do with Setsuna’s simultaneously confused and direct emotions.
Although she acted as though she were trying to avoid Setsuna, Kazusa couldn’t help but ask.
“Why am I your best friend, instead of Mizusawa or someone else?”
Because “not knowing what to do with” something wasn’t the same as hating it.
“Why did you want to get close to someone like me? I’m unsociable, I’m rude, my personality is terrible, I hate everyone… I’m just an awful person.”
“On top of that, I’m stupid, my piano playing is the only thing I have going for me, I haven’t even played the piano in ages, and if I keep going like this I’m just gonna end up a shut-in. I’m a drop-out, that’s all I am.”
“And yet, you say I’m… I’m your…”
Finally, whether because she was getting impatient with this excessive self-torture, or because she didn’t want to make Kazusa say anything more, Setsuna returned to a calm tone of voice…
“Maybe… because you’re cute.”
And nestled her body right up against Kazusa’s back.
…She had slipped into Kazusa’s futon, catching her unawares.
“H-Hey, whoa, Setsuna… have you been sneaking more booze?”
“Why would I ever do that?”
“Well, you’re pretty obviously drunk!”
A soft, warm sensation spread across Kazusa’s back.
A faint, beguiling scent, a mix of soap, hot spring water, and skin, tickled her nose.
“Heehee. You don’t have to freak out that much… I just wanted to hold you tight, and maybe kiss you.”
“Of course I’m freaking out!”
Warm breath and sweet words blew against her ear.
The hands wrapping around her reached her chest and stomach and began caressing her, violating the soft, fair skin that equaled Setsuna’s own.
“Ahh… I was just kidding around, but you’re so soft, and you smell so nice, I’m getting a little excited… Well, since it’s you, Kazusa, I could…”
“It’s not exciting for me!”
“Are you sure about being so loud…? Haruki-kun might wake up…”
“…That really is pretty cute, when you talk quietly like that.”
Suddenly, she found that the arms wrapped around her had retracted, and the two sensations pressed against her back had also been lost.
“Now we’re even, Kazusa.”
“Y’know. ‘Why the hell are you waffling like this?!’”
Instead, a fist thumped lightly against the back of her head.
“I promise, Kazusa… We’ll always be best friends.”
“Heehee. Did I surprise you?”
“I’m not sure you understand how much your own actions weaken other people.”
Now Kazusa’s voice became shrill, shaking with emotion, whether because she was trying to hide her own embarrassment, or because she was genuinely crying.
“Really? I don’t know about that…”
“Yes, it’s true! I’m a girl, and you still had my heart absolutely racing just now!”
“Heehee, really? I’m glad to know I made you feel that way…”
“That’s what I mean… Any guy or girl would fall for you, with you pressing in that close.”
“Hmm… I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration…”
Was it because her emotions shaken excessively?
Or was it because Setsuna showed her own emotions in such extremes?
“I was totally lost for how to deal with you at first. I was scared. I had my guard up.”
Kazusa carelessly put into words these dark feelings that she had meant to take to the grave.
“Because… Now, you’d better swear not to tell him this.”
“I thought I might… lose.”
“I didn’t think… I would be any match for you.”
Ever since Setsuna first addressed her by name…
Ever since she first looked into Setsuna’s eyes…
“I’m the worst kind of person.”
Kazusa realized that Setsuna’s feelings were directed the same way as her own.
“Hey, Setsuna… You really, seriously want someone like me as your…”
“That’s one of the really cute things about you, actually.”
But none of that was Kazusa’s case alone.
“The part where you try so hard to hide something that’s been obvious since the start.”
Ever since she first spoke to Kazusa…
Ever since Kazusa first stared at her with wavering eyes…
“It’s such a maidenly way of thinking… It doesn’t match your face or attitude or behavior at all. Y’know?”
Setsuna realized that Kazusa’s feelings were stronger, and more intense, than her own.
“Heehee… heeheehee… ahahaha!”
“D-Don’t laugh! Hey…”
“But, but… Kazusa, you are so… you’re just…!”
“I can’t believe you’re laughing…”
Yes, the two of them knew from the start…
That they were both interested in the same boy.
“How can you still laugh? How can you laugh this whole thing off?”
“What do you…”
“I betrayed you.”
But, before the festival, they confirmed it.
“The boy I like the most is Haruki Kitahara-kun, from class 3-E… Will that do?”
“The guy I like… most… There isn’t one.”
At that point, Kazusa dropped out of the game.
She didn’t respond to Setsuna’s declaration of war.
“Am I… really your best friend? Can I be your best friend…?”
And yet, the one by Haruki’s side now…
The one who won, without even fighting…
“Why… did you do that?”
“Um… Atonement, for sneaking a peek?”
After the festival… Two hours after the school festival concert.
In the twilit music room #2, which had served as their changing room, the two backing band members who had put everything into lifting up their singing idol confirmed their feelings for one another.
…But, in fact, this awkward love story had another story behind it.
“I’m sorry, Kazusa. I must have embarrassed you then.”
“Why the hell did you let me take him…? I know you liked him too.”
In fact, only one person communicated her feelings in the twilit music room #2, which had served as their changing room.
The shy girl who gave a waking kiss to the boy who slept as if under a spell, but then panicked and ran away.
“Well… Because I believe that our current relationship is what’s best for us.”
And so, there was one more player, who set it all on a trajectory for a tale that, as things were, had no reason to be completed.
A nosy girl, who handed the newly-awakened boy a glass slipper, and told him to find the girl it fit.
“Because I believe the relationship that allows the people I love the best to remain the ones I love the best, is the best.”
“…You keep saying that. ‘The best.’”
“Haruki-kun would probably get annoyed with me for being so repetitive.”
And now, these two actresses, with roles as different as princess and guard, were in the same futon, gazing at each other…
“Why would the two of us both be set on a guy like him…?”
“Heehee, you’re right… Two impressive young women like us!”
“And a petty official type like him…”
“Oh, no, Haruki-kun’s going to move up in life. He’ll be a full-on bureaucrat!”
“…Neither of those is especially impressive for a guy.”
“Well, whatever suits him suits him, I guess.”
Forgetting their positions, laughing together.
“Do you mind if I sleep here, like this?”
“Oh, yeah… I guess it would be warmer this way.”
“Should I go and get Haruki-kun, too, then?”
“…Don’t get carried away, Setsuna.”
“Are you telling me not to mess around? Or not to make a move on your man?”
It was a dream.
This was the dream that Setsuna had always wished for.
A dream from which she wished deeply, ardently, never to wake up.
She and her best friend, with whom she could share everything, both worried over this middle school sort of romance.
As companions who shared a dream, they swore eternal friendship.
And their happiness was sure to increase, more and more, from now on…
But, really, Setsuna knew.
She knew there was no such thing as a dream that could last forever.
She knew that, as happy as the dream was, she would have to wake up sooner or later.
Pleasant times slipped by in an instant.
…Granted, a trip with only a one-night stay was doomed to conclude within forty-eight hours as it was.
Kazusa’s high-end imported car, bearing a few more scrapes and dents than it had before the trip, stopped right at the base of the apartment building where Haruki lived.
“Man, I’m worn out.”
“I just wanna get home, take a shower, and zonk out.”
“Maybe I’ll shower, too… Though a nice big bath would be nice.”
“What are you thinking about, you perv?”
“…It’s your fault for putting the thought in my head.”
They had parted ways with Setsuna at her house, ten minutes earlier.
She kept waving until they could no longer see her from the car.
As though she were basking in the afterglow of this trip that she had enjoyed to such a foolish extent.
…Or, as though she were resisting the inevitable return from her dream—the three of them—to reality, alone.
“Well, see you later.”
And now, their curt parting words exchanged, Haruki got out of the car.
Took his travel bag out of the trunk, slowly slung it over his shoulder.
And Kazusa, after turning toward the passenger seat and giving a small wave, turned back, started the car, and set off.
The sound of the engine gradually grew distant, bringing down the curtain on their Christmas party.
“I’m going, I’m going.”
At least, that’s how it was supposed to happen…
But Haruki showed no sign of getting out of the car, so their parting was a failure from the start.
Actually, that wasn’t even the first course.
“You really don’t have to worry about me.”
“It’s not about ‘have to’…”
“I’m not holding that tightly. You can just shake me off.”
“What, and you don’t have the choice of letting go yourself?”
“Are you kidding? Why would I…”
Kazusa stopped the car at this spot a scant minute before this.
She pulled over to the side of the road, stepped on the footbrake, disengaged the clutch, shifted the gear into neutral, pulled the hand brake, removed her feet from the clutch and footbrake, and…
As soon as her right hand let go of the handbrake, she hurriedly wrapped it around Haruki’s left hand.
She’d said he could shake her off, but Haruki’s hand had remained in the pianist’s powerful grip the whole time.
Kazusa’s hand, soft, stiff, hot, sweaty, shaking slightly, continued to act in defiance of its owner’s words.
“Well, then… If you don’t want to let go…”
“If you aren’t going to let go… Come here.”
When Kazusa’s words and actions diverged, he knew which of them represented her true feelings.
Over half a year out of touch, and one month of connection, he had come to understand.
“…What, you don’t have any self will? You won’t move yourself?”
“If I did, I would shake you off. I would go home voluntarily.”
“And you’re cold, for that matter.”
“I’m not cold. I’m just…”
“I’m just a hopeless case. I want to see you acting spoiled with me, no matter how much mean I have to be for it.”
And Haruki’s bet, as low as the odds were, hit the target almost too easily.
Kazusa freed herself from the driver’s seat, and leaned over onto Haruki in the passenger seat.
She buried her face in his chest, shook it back and forth, as if to dig up his bare skin from behind his sweater, and inhaled deeply.
Like a dog who had finally been given her reward after being kept waiting for two weeks, single-mindedly taking in her master’s scent, and marking him with her own scent at the same time.
“Kazusa… You smell good.”
And so, faced with this earnest, slightly animalistic behavior, Haruki took a completely human action—or, perhaps, showed a generosity befitting an owner—and embraced her.
“…You’re gross, Haruki.”
“Well, I won’t deny that.”
…Generous enough that he could accept having his hand bitten, in an exaggerated attempt to hide embarrassment.
“Maybe I am gross when it comes to you. Maybe I’m a total obsessive creep.”
“The fact that you’re even saying that is… gross.”
“Like I said, I won’t deny it.”
“You think there’s a single girl who would be happy hearing you say something that forced?”
“No, I didn’t really mean…”
“Any girl… other than me?”
And, of course, Kazusa followed through with her habit, licking his wound after she’d bitten him, nuzzling up to him.
“I’m the only one like that… No one else.”
Her hands, which had been resting on Haruki’s shoulders, now wrapped around his neck, and she pressed her hair against his face, passing along more of her scent.
“I’m the only one who can understand how gross you are, how forced, how pathetic… even reluctantly.”
“So, I’m the only one you get to make a move on.”
And Haruki accepted this deeper contact from her, filling his lungs with the fragrance of her hair.
The soapy smell from after they had gotten out of the bath last night had vanished, but that meant Kazusa’s own faint smell stimulated his brain all the more directly, wrapping him in a pleasant, melting feeling.
Because he had always adored this smell, ever since the spring when he first met her.
“Ugh, why do you only ever spit out creepy lines?”
“I mean, you also…”
“We’re both so gross. It gives me the shivers.”
He paid no attention to any of her complaints, rubbing his cheek against hers.
“I’m getting chills.”
“Yes, seriously… I’m cold…!”
“God, you’re so needy…”
As they exchanged these irrational criticisms, their foreheads bumped together.
“I’m not needy!”
“Right, right. Well, I’m going home.”
As a finishing touch, Haruki stole Kazusa’s lips before she could get steamed up any further—by force, even though there was no reason to believe she would resist.
And Kazusa shut her eyes, supremely happy, and yielded herself to Haruki completely.
Closing her eyes, blocking her ears, letting Haruki cover her mouth…
Kazusa emptied her mind, thought of nothing, and focused her every nerve on this intimacy with her boyfriend.
Praying that she wouldn’t remember the conversation with her, from the night before…
She chased that bitterness to the back of her throat, and kept on with this moment of sweetness, tasting only with the tip of her tongue…
“Mph… Ah, hahh…”
Finally, their lips separated.
“Not cold any more, are you?”
“No… I’m still cold.”
It was clear enough that their bodies in full contact, and the sighs against their lips and cheeks, were practically burning up.
“I’m cold, Haruki…”
“Why are you…”
“I don’t know…”
And yet, Kazusa stubbornly refused to move away.
“I’m so happy. Everything is going so perfectly for me…”
Her eyes were moist now, like her lips.
“My heart should be warm…”
Her body was trembling now, like her lips.
“You’re not cold, Haruki? Not cold at all?”
“I’m… hot, actually.”
Haruki’s uncertainty made its way to Kazusa.
The more flustered Kazusa became, the less able she was to bridge the gap between their emotions.
She realized that she was the only one who wanted a “conclusion,” right here and now.
“So, you’re… hot.”
Why do I want a guy like him?
Why is a guy like him the one that I don’t want anyone else to have?
A guy like him… No one, other than me, would want a guy like him…
Kazusa’s sense of reason threw question after question at her in her head.
Cooling down the burning chill Kazusa held in her heart.
“Oh, no, Haruki-kun’s going to move up in life. He’ll be a full-on bureaucrat!”
And yet, no matter how she might struggle to remove this fluster…
Why someone like her?
Why someone like her, who anyone could fall for…?
Those honest expressions of affection, with no malice behind them…
That clear voice, earnest and yet impish…
They threw her mind hopelessly into confusion.
And so, ultimately, she hung onto Haruki with even greater force than before.
“I’m cold… The complete opposite.”
But, the longer their bodies remained on top of each other, the more Haruki felt it.
Kazusa’s childish fussing, too clumsy to even be called a lie.
What it was that Kazusa wanted.
“So, then, um…”
Up to this point, just the dependency had been enough.
Saying “two members of a trio” was enough.
But this was the divide.
“We’ll always be together, the three of us.”
In order to sacrifice herself for that oath she swore a mere day ago, she would have to turn back here…
“But, but, I… I like having it be the three of us.”
“Warm me up with your heat, will you…?”
But someone else’s words, with the same meaning, awakened Kazusa’s instincts.
Was it whispering to her, to follow her own desires?
Was it a warning, a sense of impending crisis?
Or was it both…?
“In exchange, I’ll cool you down… Haruki.”
I’m the worst, aren’t I.
And so, all too easily…
Kazusa scrapped the oath she swore with Setsuna.
Even though they had touched each other, played around with each other, a mere day prior.
But… I’m all right with being the worst.
…No, because of it.
Because she had felt Setsuna’s appeal as a girl with her whole body, she had no choice but to betray her.
Because, the more she liked Setsuna…
The more she felt that appeal…
The more she felt she wanted to be together…
The more terrified she was of the trio remaining a trio.
“Just so you know, I’m not as stubborn as you think I am.”
“The fact that you have to deny it in advance makes you stubborn…”
And, just as Kazusa hoped…
Haruki indulged every bit of his girlfriend’s selfishness.
While trying with all his might to think of a way that the trio could remain a trio, no doubt.
All mine. He isn’t going anywhere…
“I’m not going to stop, even if you say it hurts.”
“You don’t even have to say it…”
Which meant that she could leave the rest to Haruki.
All she had to do was cling to Haruki, wherever he might go…
This is okay, right, Setsuna?
You gave us your blessing, right?
So, there shouldn’t be any problem, right…?
“That hurts, Haruki…”