White Album 2 manga
Volume 3, chapter 5
Youko: My, this is certainly interesting.
Guitar-boy wrote this article, did he?
Youko: Well, I am her mother.
I suppose I could show her a little motherly devotion from time to time.
Chapter title: SESSION16
New Year’s Eve Alone
Message: No one is available to take your call.
Message: Please leave a message after the tone.
Takeya: Hey, it’s Takeya.
Takeya: Haruki… Are you actually away?
Takeya: Anyway, about what happened before… Let’s talk about it when you get back, okay?
Narration: This is the ninth time in two days that I’ve pretended not to be around.
Takeya: …Call me back as soon as you get this.
Narration: The first couple times, he assumed I was still with Setsuna, so the messages were pretty warm. Normal.
But after the third time, when Io called me, the weather started to turn.
The tone of her voice was slightly desperate, but the topic never once strayed from my expectations.
Narration: She saw Setsuna.
Setsuna said nothing had happened.
She was laughing. She wasn’t crying.
…Io knew it was a lie.
Ever since that call, Io and Takeya have been calling me nearly every hour, until morning.
Narration: If I were to tell them what happened, I’m sure they would yell and groan at me and tell me off, and try to find a solution, somehow…
And I might even feel better, like their intervention meant I had received my punishment.
Narration: That’s why I can’t move.
Narration: For me alone to feel better, while Setsuna is still stuck in the dark…
That can’t be allowed to happen.
FX: Rrrring rrrring
Phone: Mari Kazaoka
Haruki: Yes… This is Kitahara…
Mari: Ah, Kitahara? It’s me, Kazaoka.
Mari: …Sorry, did I catch you asleep?
Haruki: Nah, don’t… don’t worry about it. What is it?
Mari: Oh, well, it’s nothing big… I was just wondering, since I haven’t seen you at work lately.
Um, are you doing all right?
Haruki: …Yeah, I’m doing great.
Mari: You don’t sound great.
Haruki: I just got up, that’s all.
Mari: Anyway, when will you be coming back?
Haruki: Umm, I…
FX: Roll roll
Mari: Everyone wants your help. If you’ve got the time, could you come lend a hand?
Mari: Oh, but I’m not gonna be around. I’m leaving today to collect for coverage.
Haruki: At the end of the year?
Mari: Yeah, I’m going to New York and Los Angeles and a bunch of other places in the US, and then on the way back I’m going to meet up with a friend of mine in Guam for a vacation.
Haruki: I see… Well, you’ve certainly earned it.
Narration: Honest as always.
When I say, “friend,” I don’t mean a man! Every year, this friend and I take a trip with absolutely no male presence involved…
Haruki: O-oh, is that so?
Mari: …Not that there’s any point in telling you that. Forget it, okay?
Yes, of course. Have fun.
Mari: Wait, but here’s the main thing.
I’ve sent you something in the mail.
Haruki: Sent me something? What, exactly?
Mari: A ticket for Youko Touma’s New Year concert.
Narration: Just as my voice was on the point of coming back, that name spilled over and blanked out my brain again.
Mari: Pretty impressive, Kitahara.
Your first-ever article really caught the fancy of one of its main sources.
Mari: While you’re at it, why not wander backstage?
Haruki: I really appreciate it, but I…
Mari: You might be able to see her, y’know?
Mari: Kazusa Touma.
Mari: What, don’t you want to?
Mari: Because you haven’t shown up since that article went out…
Mari: Hey, Kitahara, why don’t you tell me a little bit of what’s up?
Haruki: I can’t ask for consolation, when I’m the one who did wrong… There are limits even to my presumption.
Mari: You don’t think that if you yourself felt better, you could make it up to her?
Mari: Well, if you don’t want to tell me, you don’t have to.
I’m just your part-time boss, anyway.
Narration: Faced with Mari’s mature sense of distance, I…
Haruki: Will you… listen?
Announcement: This is the final boarding call for West Virginia flight 274 to New York.
Mari: …Yes, I will. And I won’t give any advice, either.
Haruki: Thank you.
FX: Click click click
Haruki: I still love Kazusa Touma.
Narration: Then, I told Mari-san absolutely everything, unvarnished—almost shockingly so.
How I always loved Kazusa.
How, after the school festival, the one whose feelings I responded to was not Kazusa, but Setsuna.
How I betrayed Setsuna. How, even after that, we kept dragging things out with each other, this whole time. Everything we carried.
And how, on Christmas Eve…
I betrayed her once again, because of Kazusa…
and it became all too clear again that we were still dragging things along.
Narration: Mari-san just listened, silently…
and, after she had heard everything, she took a moment before beginning to speak.
Mari: I’ve been thinking about what I would do, if it were me…
Mari: But, I honestly don’t know.
Mari: I don’t know whether the choices you made were the right ones.
Mari: I can’t just say, “Wow, that’s rough…”
Mari: Or, “Even I know that much.”
Mari: So, I can’t say, “You made a mistake.”
Mari: Sorry… Looks like I’m really no use at all when it comes to things like this.
Haruki: Thank you. You’ve done more than enough.
Mari: Why? I haven’t given you anything to work with, or anything at all.
Haruki: I was… thinking that maybe I was the only one who was wrong…
Haruki: That I was the only one who didn’t understand anything.
Haruki: But, now, I know that’s not true… This doesn’t quite feel right, though. I’m the only one who’s been given any help.
Mari: Well, then…
Mari: That’s about it for the “C” phase of PDCA, don’t you think?
Narration: Plan, Do, Check, Act.
…The management cycle that was hammered thoroughly into me during my first week at this job.
Mari: Now, it’s time for you to transition to the “A” phase on your own.
Mari: I’ll bet you can do it, Kitahara.
Narration: That’s her roundabout way of saying, “Just go for it.”
Mari: All right, it’s time for me to go.
Mari: …When I get back to Japan, I’m gonna give you a mountain of work!
Mari: So… Talk to you later.
Haruki: W-wait, wait!
Haruki: Thank you… Mari-san.
Mari: That should be, “Thank you very much.”
Narration: I’m really glad to know Mari-san.
Mari: All right, then…
Mari: Oh, shoot, it took off already.
Are there any more flights to New York?
Mari: I got left behind…
Narration: December 31st. New Year’s Eve.
I finally answered one of Takeya’s messages, suggesting we go and do our New Year’s Eve shrine visit.
I think my talk with Mari-san must have helped me settle down a little.
I decided to suck it up, tell them everything face-to-face, get chewed out… and accept my judgment.
…Forget all about that concert, and settle things with Setsuna.
Io: What the hell?!
Haruki: I’m sorry…
Narration: I knew things would go like this…
Io: I’m not talking about you!
Io: Why would Setsuna say something like that, after all this time?!
Takeya: I mean, it makes sense…
Io: What makes sense? So, Haruki hasn’t forgotten about Kazusa…
and she knew that, but she still loved Haruki and wanted to be there for him… That’s what I thought, anyway…
Io: But, the instant Haruki tries to face her honestly, she smacks his hand away?
What the hell is wrong with her?!
Io: How sulky can you be?
God, she is just unbelievable…!
Narration: As Io raged on, in entirely the opposite direction from what I imagined, Takeya and I could only sit and watch.
Io: I’m going to see her right this minute! I’ll break things off with her, if it comes to that!
Takeya: Hey, no, don’t talk like that.
You know Haruki doesn’t want that.
Io: But this is clearly Setsuna’s fault!
Takeya: Don’t you think Setsuna-chan is the one suffering the most right now?
Io: Oh, of course. With all your experience, you probably know best!
Takeya: …You don’t get it?
Io: No, I don’t get it at all! Probably because I’ve never dropped someone before.
Takeya: …You wanna maybe cool down with the playing stupid, too?
Haruki: Just stop! Seriously!
Haruki: You two fighting won’t solve anything!
Haruki: Look, we’re going to the shrine, right?
Haruki: We should start heading that way.
Narration: Keeping an eye on their moods while they tried their best to keep their mouths shut…
Part of me found some small relief in that state of affairs.
Just thinking about Io and Takeya, and about Setsuna, took up all my focus…
so I didn’t have to think about Youko Touma, or Kazusa.
Io: Happy New Year, Haruki!
Takeya: Happy New Year, man. Here goes another one.
Haruki: You two… Will you please acknowledge that there are three of us here?
Narration: Even with all the necessary conditions for a cease-fire…
Narration: it seemed like the cold war that had suddenly broken out wasn’t going to abate any time soon.
Narration: What did they even come here for?
…Whose fault is it that they’re fighting?
…How am I supposed to get things back to normal?
Youko: So? What did you think of my skill?
Kazusa: …Why are you asking me that?
I hate to say it, but I don’t think I can surpass you yet.
Youko: Did the person next to you show up?
Kazusa: The one in the seat next to mine?
Youko: Yes, on your left.
Kazusa: Now that you mention it…
that seat was empty the whole time.
Kazusa: What? Did you invite someone you know?
Youko: Ah, well.
I guess he didn’t.
Kazusa: What? Who? Your first husband?
Kazusa: Your second husband? Or… my father?
Youko: …Mm, something like that.
Kazusa: Lay off. It’s not gonna happen.
Youko: Oh, you think?… Maybe so… Maaaybe…
Youko: Say, why don’t we go drinking together?
Kazusa: Right now? What…
Youko: Well, do you have something else to do? …Someone you want to see?
Youko: Kazusa, you…
Kazusa: I don’t belong in this country any more.
Kazusa: Yeah, okay. Wanna drink until dawn?
Kazusa: See you at the hotel, then.
FX: Bong bong
Kazusa: …Stupid annoying bells.
Kazusa: Same old Japan.
Kazusa: Happy New Year. Best of luck.
Kazusa: …Though, I don’t imagine I’ll ever see you again.
Caption: “Drawing characters together that would never actually get together” series: Mari-san and Izumi.
Word balloon: Thank you for buying this volume of White Album 2! We’ve finally reached the turning point, and it’s wholly thanks to all of you. I’m going to keep working until I’ve depicted the entirety of Haruki, Setsuna, and Kazusa’s relationship, all the way to the end, so please stick with me!
Fumiaki Maruto (supervising editor)
Yoten Sugiura (supervisor)
Turtle: I’m cold…