Birthday: April 5
Horoscope Sign: Ram
Blood Type: A
Natsuki’s childhood friend.
In the Film Club.
Has talent as a director,
He’s passionate and acts cool.
The following Monday, the weather forecast displayed the symbols for sunshine relentlessly covering the entire map.
Sakuragaoka High School also suffered from the fierce heat; the classrooms without air conditioning felt like saunas.
‘No good, I can’t process any of this….’
Souta gave up on trying to make sense of the sentences before him and collapsed on his desk, which had already accumulated a considerable amount of heat.
Since they were due soon, he had planned on avidly reading his book in the club room during the lunch break, but at this rate, the pages were only going to get soaked with sweat.
Still, the reason that he’d come straight here was because this room was like a “castle” for Souta and the others.
It had been during the fall of their first year in highschool that the classroom at the end of the top floor, which was being used as a storage room at the time, had turned into the club room for the Film Club.
After being so taken by the short film that Haruki had secretly published on the internet, Souta and Yuu had started the Film Club because of how much they wanted Haruki to make the next one.
The following year, several first-years who had also seen Haruki’s short film joined as well, and they were acknowledged as an official club. All the while, Haruki’s movies continued to win awards; his movies showed rapid improvement, leading the school to give them a decent sum as their club budget.
And most recently, Haruki had mentioned that a short film compilation of his was going to be exhibited at some competition, so it was safe to say that there would be more trophies and certificates filling up the shelf in their clubroom soon.
That was just how talented Haruki was at making movies.
‘….I wonder how far my screenplays will go?’
Souta looked at the scattered papers on the desk, and asked himself the question he’d already heard so many times.
The ones that usually asked were the judges of the competition. For that reason, he knew that he had to complete this project, but no matter what, he just couldn’t finish it.
At first, he’d only wanted to watch Haruki’s movies.
In order to fulfill that wish, they’d started a club to set a stage, and they had been there simply for the sake of assisting Haruki make the movies that he envisioned.
But that had all changed during the winter of their second year, when the three of them had decided to make a movie together to commemorate their graduation.
It’d been difficult deciding on a theme that appealed to all three of them.
In the end, it had been because of Haruki’s final word of authority that they’d decided to go with Souta’s idea to do a love story.
“I’ve never filmed one before, but why not give it a shot?”
At first, Yuu, who liked big Hollywood films and comedy movies, had a hard time warming up to the idea, but he wound up agreeing once seeing Haruki’s passion.
Once they actually started working on the movie, it was Haruki and Souta whose opinions conflicted the most.
Haruki, who was a fan of independent, edgy films, hated having to rely on dialogue to tell the story. He was a firm believer of getting the viewers to empathize and relate with the characters in the movie.
On the other hand, Souta watched movies of many different genres, and of those, he loved romance movies the most. He was the type to collect the screenplays and DVDs of his favorite works.
However, he saw himself as a fan of watching movies, and didn’t have much faith in being the one to make one himself.
But as Souta argued his opinions against Haruki’s, he realized something about his own feelings.
The reason he liked romance movies so much was because they depicted “things that can’t be put into words” so well.
And the reason that he’d buy the screenplays for them was because he also wanted to try writing one.
Because of those reasons, he met with with strong opposition from Haruki when their opinions on how to do the final scene differed.
“It’d be so cheesy to use dialogue for the ending.”
“I get what you mean. But if you don’t use words to convey those important feelings, I don’t think it’ll tie up well.”
Haruki scratched his head when hearing Souta’s rebuttal.
“Like I said, it’d have more impact without actually having them say the words, ‘I like you’ or ‘I love you.’”
“That’d be one way of doing it, but I think it’d work better to have it said as dialogue for this one. Like the words that he left behind for the heroine, kind of like a goodbye letter.”
Neither of them would yield from their stances, to the point that Yuu admitted with a laugh that he’d even felt a little scared.
At the end of their long discussion, Haruki wound up accepting Souta’s suggestion.
“Maybe I just haven’t been paying enough attention to words,” he said with a carefree smile.
‘It’s that ability to gracefully accept other people’s opinions that really makes him like a director.’
Since Souta’s suggestion had been because of his true feelings, he’d gotten a bit stubborn about it towards the end.
But from beginning to end, Haruki didn’t stick with his own opinion.
Since he was motivated by the sheer want to create a good product, it was almost like he didn’t care whose idea it was that they used. That was why he didn’t try so hard to push his own opinion. If he thought a suggestion was a good one, he would honestly agree to it, and didn’t hesitate to compliment it, either.
Haruki had a clear idea of what he wanted.
As well as an unyielding confidence.
Even if he accepted other people’s opinions, there was an unchanging fundamental in his filmmaking.
‘That’s probably what I’m lacking.’
It was because of the fact that something wasn’t easily attainable that he’d gain confidence from finally making it his own. Once that happened, that would probably be the first time he’d be able to stand proudly before Akari.
They had a meeting with the Art Club after school.
They’d decided that they were going to ask Natsuki and the others to help them with the picture they’d use for their graduation movie, and this meeting was for picking who would be drawing it. Although, they had needed to go the advisers for permission first.
‘….This is my chance. It’s times like this that I need to have the ‘love is like a shark; it dies if it stops moving’ mentality.’
Remembering this quote from a movie he’d seen before, Souta invigorated himself.
It was time to put an end to simply being jealous of someone else.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
After short homeroom ended, Souta and the others immediately headed for the art preparation room, the place of their meeting.
They could have waited in the room until Matsukawa-san, the Art Club adviser, gave them her permission, but since he had feeling that’d just make him more anxious, he decided to wait out in the hallway with Yuu and Haruki.
‘….I wonder how long until we know if it’s fine or not.’
He was more restless than the others, but he endured it in silence.
Rather than a cool breeze, the open window instead let in a loud chorus of cicadas.
“Ah, a jet stream.”
Haruki, who was staring out the window, was the first to speak after they’d been waiting for several minutes.
Blocking out the sun with his hand, Souta also looked up at the bright sky.
“With the sky this blue, you can see it really clearly, huh?”
“Right? It kinda looks like a line left by a giant white brush.”
Haruki glanced beside him, as if seeking agreement, but Yuu, the person in question, didn’t seem to be all there.
Although he was also looking out the window, his mind seemed to be elsewhere, rather than on the scene that spread out before his eyes. Oblivious to Haruki and Souta’s eyes on him, he let out a melancholy sigh.
‘Come to think of it, hasn’t Natsuki also been like this since this morning…?’
The two were next-door-neighbors, and often went to each other’s houses.
He’d heard that even now that they were in high school, they always spent Saturdays at someone’s house studying or playing games, so maybe something had happened then.
‘It’s probably best if I don’t try to stick my nose where it doesn’t belong.’
Glancing over at Haruki, he returned his gaze.
When their eyes met, Haruki only gave a helpless shrug.
Souta answered with a forced smile and faced the window again.
After a while, a buzzing noise echoed through the hallway.
“Ah, it’s from Natsuki.”
Haruki and Souta turned around with a start at Yuu’s words.
As they waited with bated breaths, Yuu soon struck a victory pose.
“Alright! She said that Matsukawa-sensei gave us the OK!”
“Seriously?! That’s awesome!”
“Now we can have them draw for us without having to be all sneaky.”
Souta sighed with relief, and Haruki and Yuu also nodded with relieved faces.
Now that the Art Club adviser had given their official permission, that secured them a place to draw the pictures.
And more importantly, they didn’t need to hide what they were doing from the school.
In particular, Akari and Miou boasted a nearly perfect award record.
Although Haruki had also won awards before, since the Film Club hadn’t been around for very long, they’d imagined that it would have been more difficult to get permission to take up Akari and the others’ time with activities that wouldn’t directly affect their reputation.
‘Matsukawa-sensei sure is nice to have gotten us permission from the school in spite of that.’
He was sure that Natsuki and the others had put in a word that they’d continue with their regular Art Club activities, as well.
He straightened himself up, realizing that he’d need to brace himself now more than ever to focus on making the movie.
Haruki and Yuu seemed to feel the same way, reconfirming his feelings.
“A movie really isn’t something you can make on your own, huh,”
Yuu muttered, moved by the emotion of the moment, to which Haruki nodded in agreement to with a serious face that he rarely ever wore.
“I’m thankful to the viewers, of course, but also the people that lend a hand in the movie’s production. It’d probably be exaggerating a little to say that they’re the ones I’m filming for, but I want to repay them somehow through film.”
Haruki spoke in a calm, gentle tone, without sounding worked up.
These were unmistakably his true feelings, and it was clear that the words he spoke weren’t fake in any way.
‘I wonder how Haruki thinks….’
Next to Souta, who stood rooted to the spot as if his heart had been touched too much to move, Haruki suddenly gasped.
He seemed to have realized something, his eyebrows knitting together all of a sudden in a thoughtful expression.
Before Yuu and Souta, who were both wondering what it could be, Haruki muttered in a low voice.
“Hey, don’t you think it’s really hot today?”
The moment he finished talking, Haruki started to rummage through the bag hanging off his shoulder.
Yuu also seemed to have missed the timing to say anything in reply, and could only watch him with a blank expression.
The thing he took out was the handheld fan that he’d been bragging about during lunch. With the fact that it could be used without having to be plugged into an outlet or USB port being its selling point, Haruki wasted no time in turning it on.
'I think I know what this is. Probably his usual way of hiding his embarrassment?’
The first time he’d won an award, the only thing Haruki had said was, “Filmmaking’s just one of my hobbies.”
Despite the fact that he’d get so immersed in it that he’d forget to eat and sleep.
Haruki was the kind of guy that thought it uncool to reveal whatever was “offstage,” even outside of film, and didn’t like showing himself giving effort. In the first place, it was only the people around him that saw it as “effort,” while Haruki probably only thought of it as “what should obviously be done.”
“…That’s way too cool, seriously….”
The words that had unconsciously slipped out of Souta’s mouth had apparently been heard by the person in question.
He tilted his head in confusion at first, but soon after, he gave a shout, his eyes sparkling. He must have understood Souta’s statement in a different context, as he was now holding the fan out proudly.
“Right? I even customized it here and there. I painted it this color myself, too.”
“Huh? It wasn’t red to begin with?”
While Souta was genuinely surprised by that fact, Yuu hesitantly continued.
“Don’t tell you, you made it that color hoping it’d rotate three times faster?”
Souta had some idea about what anime he was referencing with that, but he didn’t really think that Haruki would be so cheesy.
However, Haruki answered in an almost sing-song tone,
Yuu and Souta laughed together, while Haruki retorted firmly in disagreement.
“You’re supposed to complimenting me for how much attention I pay to details, right?”
“That’s paying too much attention! Who’d even bother to paint all those small parts~”
As Yuu laughed with a broad grin, Souta and Haruki started laughing along as well.
While they stood around laughing, they heard footsteps approaching from down the hall.
Looking up, they saw Natsuki waving at them.
“Thanks for waiting!”
“Yo. Sorry to take up your time when you’re all busy preparing for the contest.”
“If you’re really sorry, then at least treat us to something to drink.”
Haruki and Natsuki spoke to each other as they usually did, but today, Akari and Miou were here as well.
If it was only Natsuki, who was their childhood friend, there was no need to be modest now, but it was different for the other two. Considering that they’d set aside their time just to meet with the Film Club, it was a given that they show their gratitude.
“Ah, that’s right. Sorry, we should have thought of that….!”
Haruki waved his hand in the air as Mochita started to head for the vending machines.
“Mochita, you’re such a nice guy. You don’t have to do whatever Natsuki says, you know.”
“You really are a nice person, Mochita. But it’s fine to just let Haruki take care of this kind of thing.”
It was just after Natsuki replied to Haruki’s jest that they heard Yuu deliberately clear his throat and then speak in a frosty tone.
Haruki, and Natsuki, too, would you two quit it for a minute? Can’t you see that you’re leaving out Hayasaka and Aida?”
At Yuu’s words, Souta saw that Miou and Akari, who had come a little later, were standing there looking a bit lost.
Along with the fact that Haruki and Natsuki were childhood friends, they got along extremely well. Miou and Akari seemed uncertain about when to jump into the conversation between them, but they also seemed just generally overwhelmed by how quickly it was moving.
‘Akarin looks so cute with that surprised face….’
Although he knew that this wasn’t the time for it, Souta’s eyes were glued on Akari.
Every slight movement she made caused his heartbeat to accelerate, and his face burn hotter.
Suddenly feeling someone’s gaze on him, he was pulled back to reality by Natsuki’s panicked voice.
“S-Sorry! I didn’t mean you two hanging.”
Natsuki unlocked the door to the preparation room, and urged Miou and Akari to go inside.
Yuu followed after them, but Haruki seemed to remember something and stopped short.
“I’m thirsty now after talking so much. Mochita, let’s go.”
Haruki turned around and looked up at Souta’s face.
He realized then that the gaze he’d felt earlier had been Haruki’s.
‘He’s probably wondering if I’m alright, with my face so red….’
Haruki and Yuu were completely aware of Souta’s feelings for Akari, to the point that there was no need to try and hide them.
This was probably his chance to take hold of this lifeline that Haruki had thrown him and recompose himself.
‘Ahhh, my voice got so high!!!’
It’d be totally obvious now that he was nervous.
Stealing a glance at Akari and the others, he saw that the three girls were standing with confused faces.
Unable to stand being there any longer, Souta ran off in escape.
“Ah, hey, wait!”
“….Well, that’s that, so we’ll just go in first.”
Hearing the sound of Haruki chasing after him, and Yuu settling the situation, he let out a sigh of relief.
But right after, tears of regret started to come forth.
‘Ahh…. I ended up needing help again….’
He knew exactly what the emotion swirling around in his chest was.
It was self-pity.
“….Ughh, I won’t lose.”
Haruki, who was now walking next to him, asked.
He wasn’t the slightest out of breath, and had the usual aloof air about him.
‘In times like these, Haruki isn’t the type to scold by saying, ‘Don’t make me have to chase after you like that.’ And just now, too. I was talking to myself, but he didn’t tease me about it….’
“Heeey, are you even listening?”
“Ah, yeah! I was just thinking that I won’t lose to myself.”
Haruki raised an eyebrow at Souta’s answer.
“Thinking about complicated things again, huh?”
“Huh? Is it really? Isn’t thinking about not losing to yourself a pretty common thing?”
“Well, it is, but it’s not something that simple, you know? Actually, I think it’s more confusing to say that happens to just anyone.”
Unable to grasp what Haruki was trying to say, Souta’s pace naturally slowed down.
Haruki also slowed down his pace beside him, and he spoke in a languid tone, as well.
“Normally, the more experience you have, the easier it is for you to figure out how to solve a problem or avoid making mistakes, right? But the fact that there’s people that keep messing up despite having so much experience is what makes it a complicated problem.”
“….Ah, I see….”
He felt like he’d just been given an important hint.
As Souta chewed over the words in his head, Haruki patted him on the shoulder.
“So that’s why you shouldn’t waste so much time just thinking it over. You should try just acting on the spot, or going with your gut, you know?”
A famous line drifted up from the back of Souta’s mind.
It matched Haruki’s style perfectly, something that Souta lacked.
“So, just don’t think?”
Haruki grinned, and patted Souta roughly on the back.
Somehow cheered up by this atmosphere, Souta patted Haruki’s back in return.
“Ow! Mochita, you don’t have to do it so hard, you know.”
“That’s my line!”
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
By the time they returned to the preparation room carrying water bottles, Yuu had finished explaining the basics to Natsuki and the others.
“That said, it’s Haruki, the director, who has the clearest vision out of all of us.”
Although Haruki grumbled, “How out-of-character!” when prompted by Yuu, he continued,
“The setting is that the heroine, who’s never been in love before, starts showing changes in her art after meeting the protagonist. We want to appeal to the viewers by using pictures to show the delicate, and subtle changes in the heroine’s feelings towards the protagonist.”
There was no hesitation in Haruki’s voice as he spoke.
Speaking without faltering, it was clear that he was the “director.”
Natsuki and the others blinked, overwhelmed, and turned to look at one another. Both Akari and Miou were completely silent as well, too stunned to make a single sound throughout Haruki’s explanation.
Sensing the tense atmosphere, Yuu looked around at the three girls.
At that moment, Haruki suddenly threw out a question.
“Say, what color do you think love is?”
‘There it is! The unhittable pitch!’
Souta couldn’t help screaming in his mind, feeling like his consciousness was fading away.
It was unclear what train of thought led him to it, but Haruki had abruptly asked that ridiculous question.
They would later learn that he’d had a specific intention when he’d asked that, but at the moment, practically everyone was at a loss with this out-of-context question.
“Huh? What color…?”
The first person to react was Natsuki, who was the most accustomed to this behavior out of the two other childhood friends.
But even Natsuki didn’t have a clear grasp on the intent behind Haruki’s question. The reply and gaze that Natsuki gave Haruki was meant for trying to search for his true intent.
However, Haruki simply stared right back at Natsuki.
‘At this rate, no one’s going to have anything to say, much less the answer….’
Natsuki, who was just as nervous as Souta was, seemed to have realized Haruki’s methods.
“….Pink, I guess?”
As Natsuki said the first color that came to mind when picturing love, Haruki gave a strong nod.
Miou, as if encouraged by that response, also spoke up hesitantly,
“Love can sometimes be bitter, or painful, so I think blues and blacks would be used, too.”
Haruki nodded with interest again, and lastly, looked at Akari.
“What do you think, Hayasaka?”
“I’d say…. gold, I guess.”
The moment Souta heard Akari’s answer, he was so shocked that he forgot to breathe.
Hearing Yuu mutter, “What?” beside him brought him back to his senses.
Looking around, he saw that Natsuki and Miou were also motionless with surprise.
Haruki was the only one whose eyes sparkled, resting his hands on the desk and leaning forward in interest.
“What makes you think that?”
“It pretty, and shiny, but it rusts when you leave it alone for too long, right? And when it shines too brightly, it can be blinding, so I think that’s similar to how love can be.”
In the first place, it was silver that rusts, not gold, and it was difficult for either to oxidize, anyway.
Souta bit down on his lip, resisting his urge to make that kind of comeback.
It would have been an insensitive comment, given the situation, but the reason that made him hold back most of all was the expression on Haruki’s face.
He looked truly happy, from the bottom of his heart.
“Oh…? I never thought I’d meet someone that thinks the same way as me.”
Those words just now had been the decisive blow.
It was certain that they would end up using Akari’s art.
Yuu must have felt the same way, but he seemed intent on going through the process in order.
“So that’s the general idea.… For the time being, would you mind showing us some of your actual works?”
‘Ahh, he said ‘for the time being.’’
Souta was quick to catch the unsteadiness in Yuu’s words.
Natsuki seemed to have noticed as well, and her expression noticeably stiffened. But instead of blaming Yuu, she responded with deliberate cheerfulness.
“We’ll bring a few different things, like oil paintings, and sketches.”
Miou and Akari nodded as well, and they disappeared into the art room next door.
‘Haruki probably doesn’t find anything unpleasant about this situation….’
Even while they were waiting for Natsuki and the others to return, Haruki’s eyes still sparkled, unable to hold back his excitement.
On the other hand, Yuu seemed to be in the same frame of mind as Souta, and held a complex expression.
‘That’s right, he’s finally realized the weight of this situation….’
From the beginning, they’d only been planning to pick someone who could draw for them, but in reality, they could only pick one person out of the three.
Since Haruki was used to assessing his own works, he was probably rather lax when it came to reviewing the works of other people.
As for Souta, if he was the one exhibiting something, it was still bearable, but he was reluctant to be part of the ones judging the works of others.
‘We asked them to do this so casually, but I hope Natsuki and the others are alright.’
While they had a lot of experience with entering contests as members of the Art Club, it was probably their first time competing against, and having their works judged right in front of each other.
Although they were doing this to help the Film Club, along with the fact that the judges were people they knew and that there wasn’t going to be a prize, there was a high chance that just the fact that only one of them would be be chosen had created an unpleasant atmosphere between them.
‘What should we do? It’d be weird if we just suddenly cancelled it right now….’
While he couldn’t think of how to fix this problem, it was hard to overlook now that he’d realized it.
Just as he’d decided to at least discuss it with Yuu and Haruki and was starting to get up from his chair, the door opened.
“Sorry for the wait. We’ll line them up on the desk, so could you make some room?”
“Got it. Let us know if you need any help.”
Having answered Natsuki instinctively by accident, Souta gulped.
But it was already too late now. As he watched Natsuki and the others speedily make preparations from the corner of his eye, all he could do now was stand off to the side with Yuu and Haruki.
It was pretty impressive seeing all their works lined up in a row on top of the wood, working desk.
‘I don’t have much artistic taste, and I don’t know anything about technique, but….’
The one that caught his eye was the vivid watercolor painting in front of him.
Since Souta always chose music classes as his elective, he rarely got to see the artwork done by Natsuki and the others. The only times he got to see them were when they won awards and were hung around the school afterwards, or when they were showcased at the Culture Festival.
‘But even so, it’s funny that you can still kind of tell who drew which ones.’
“Now presenting the first contestant, Enomoto Natsuki!”
As the air filled with tension, Natsuki energetically introduced herself.
And just as Souta had expected, she pointed out the watercolor painting in from of him as her own.
“The expressions in the characters you draw are really lively. That’s the kind of thing I like to see.”
Surprisingly, the very first one to give feedback was Haruki.
Natsuki also had her mouth agape in surprise, and wasn’t able to give any other reaction.
Finding this rather amusing, Souta continued.
“Also, the colors are really nice.”
“Yeah. The composition’s good too, so it really feels complete, you know?”
As he tried to keep his comments objective, Yuu’s face was bashful like his own.
‘He sure is easy to read… But the person he’s doing this for probably hasn’t noticed.’
Looking over at Natsuki with a wry smile, they heard a high-pitched voice ring out.
“W-Wow! You all sound like real art critics making comments like that!”
Natsuki seemed a bit stressed by how forced their compliments sounded.
I’m happy to hear them, but…!
Souta couldn’t help but burst out laughing at how her entire body seemed to be screaming those words.
Yuu and Haruki started laughing as well, and Natsuki’s face reddened.
As she stood there dumbfounded, Haruki suddenly stretched out his hand.
“It was an honest compliment, you know. It’s not often that I get the chance to give them, after all.”
Natsuki let out a yelp as he ruffled her hair a little roughly. As if that had acted as the trigger, her tone became light-hearted again, as if breaking free of sleep paralysis.
“Ehh? You should praise me more on a regular basis!”
‘Ah, she’s back to her normal self.’
Feeling half relieved, and half impressed at how well he’d lightened the mood, Souta couldn’t help laughing again. As he gradually started laughing more genuinely, it caught on to Akari and Miou as well.
It was clear that the tension that had filled the room earlier was quickly dispersing.
“….Alright, that’s enough with the flirting.”
Yuu’s low mutter fell upon the peaceful atmosphere.
Confusion rapidly filled the space between them, like a bucket of paint that had been spilled on the floor.
Natsuki didn’t seem to process the intent of his remark, and was frozen on the spot.
Haruki, the other party in question, seemed to have clearly understood Yuu’s feelings. His eyebrows were furrowed, making a face like he’d been caught in the act of something.
Met with this sudden, unpleasant silence, Akari and Miou looked on in confusion.
‘In times like these, I have to do something….’
It was obvious that the feelings that Haruki had for Natsuki were only those of a childhood friend, but there was still a slight chance that Miou would misunderstand.
If that happened, her relationship with Haruki would become complicated.
“Th-Then, next up is Aida-san.”
Souta forcefully changed the topic to do away with the unpleasant atmosphere.
He looked at Miou’s works, which were displayed next to Natsuki’s, and commented, “They’re very delicate drawings.” Yuu and Haruki followed suit, and once more, a peculiar tension filled the room.
However, the relief lasted for only a fleeting moment before the room was chilled again, this time by Haruki’s remark.
“Don’t the expressions seem kind of stiff?”
Unlike his positive comments towards Natsuki’s works earlier, Haruki’s comments on Miou’s works were harsh.
Naturally, Souta was taken aback by his unreserved statement, and even Yuu seemed surprised.
“I’d say it’s more like they look very well-defined, you know?”
“Oh, there’s landscapes, too.”
Despite the other two’s efforts to bring up the good points, Haruki had only sharp words to say.
“The technique is good and all, but… they feel more like references.”
They were frank opinions, the type of opinion that Haruki usually gave.
Souta knew that there was no resentment in those words, but to actually be the one hearing them was a different story. It was like being splashed with cold water in the dead of winter, and the words hurt most because of the fact that they didn’t have any ill intent behind them.
‘This isn’t good.’
Miou was looking down now, and Natsuki and Akari, who stood on either side of her, were looking at her in worry.
Yuu wasn’t blaming Haruki head-on either, but he was still shooting daggers at him.
‘The girls are still here, so they won’t go starting an argument, will they….?’
As he glanced uneasily between the two of them, Haruki was already looking at Akari’s pieces.
Unlike with Haruki and Miou, he stared at them silently.
The other members noticed this too, and everyone’s eyes focused in on a single painting.
‘Ah, this is the first piece that Akari won an award for!’
Souta’s heartbeat accelerated the moment he set his eyes on the oil painting laid out on the desk.
Since it had been sent to be shown at other schools and exhibitions for so long, it’d been a while since he’d seen the real thing before his eyes like this.
Just like the title, “The Cherry Blossoms of Someday,” said, cherry blossoms bloomed in full glory across the canvas.
It had been about two years ago that he’d fallen in love at first sight with the painting that, while illuminated by the bright sunlight, seemed somehow melancholy, as well.
At that time, he’d still just been part of the Going Home Club, with nothing particularly eventful in his new high school life.
He didn’t have a part-time job, or go to cram school or anything. He just went straight home after school and watched his favorite movies.
Although those mundane and repetitive days kept him from having any hardships, it was like standing in lukewarm water.
‘But that’s when I came across this painting.’
It had been right before summer vacation, one day after school in July.
After he’d gone back to the classroom to get the assignment he’d left in his desk, he had passed through the hallway in front of the art room.
The red ribbon and the words, “Congratulations on Honorable Mention,” that accompanied it, had caught his eye.
It had been commemorated during a schoolwide assembly, so he’d known that the winner had been a first-year, just like him. Recalling what it was, he’d glanced over at the canvas casually, and caught his breath with how moved he was.
‘Through her art, I fell in love with Akarin for the second time.’
The first time had been the day of the entrance ceremony.
Ever since his heart had been firmly captivated by Akari’s smile, Souta had never stopped chasing her with his eyes.
He didn’t have the courage to talk to her at all, and after the ceremony had ended, Natsuki had run up to her shouting, “Cute girl sighted!” but he’d only been able to watch her go.
And he soon learned that she wasn’t just cute.
When he’d seen the nameplate underneath the picture frame reading “Hayasaka Akari,” he’d been filled with admiration, finding her somehow similar to Haruki. Apparently, it was possible for one person to be blessed by the heavens with more than just one talent.
‘From my point of view, those two are like stars….’
Of course, they were like stars themselves, but the things they created were also like stars that shone in the heavens.
All Souta could ever do was admire them from below.
The words that Haruki muttered pulled Souta back to reality.
In the end, just as expected, it was decided that Akari would be the one to draw the pictures.
They hadn’t decided it by voting, but by the decision of the director, Haruki.
Although Akari was the one who had been nominated, she had become completely shy. Seeing her peeking out from behind Natsuki, Souta was struck by a strange obligation to protect her.
‘Aaaaah?! Akarin! Damn, she’s so cute!’
Hearing her sweet voice, Souta felt a needle inside of him sway drastically, on the verge of snapping.
That meter was probably labeled with something like “My Ideal” or “Something Important to a Person”.
‘I would’ve been more happy if it was my name she’d called, though…. No, I can’t wish for something so luxurious. I’ll settle for being able to witness this sight from up close.’
As he waited expectantly for what would come next, Akari braced herself and took a step forward.
“Could you tell me a bit more about the movie? Otherwise, I won’t fully understand the heroine’s feelings, and it might be hard to convey the right mood in the pictures.”
“Convey the right mood, huh… Yeah, these two things go hand-in-hand.”
Although he hadn’t outright said anything, it was obvious just by looking at the smile on Haruki’s face. He looked happy to have found someone that shared his point of view, and the same artistic values.
‘I guess stars are really just attracted to other stars… huh.’
It would be jumping to conclusions to consider what had sprouted between them to be the same as romantic feelings.
But it wasn’t impossible, which was what made him worry.
‘Even if that does even up happening, it’s not like I can do anything about it.’
As he let out a quiet sigh, he heard someone else sigh as well.
Souta moved only his eyes to look for who it was, so that the other members wouldn’t notice.
‘Ah, I knew it….. Aida-san’s worried, too.’
Underneath her short bangs, the image of her two “friends” was reflected in her unsteady eyes.
One was the person she had feelings for, and the other was the person that might become her rival one day. There was no proof that this would ever happen, but there was also the possibility that it might happen at a moment’s notice.
Peoples’ feelings are unpredictable; even though you know it won’t come true, you still can’t help but wish for it.
‘I wish I could just have you all for myself….’
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
The screening meeting had concluded in about an hour.
‘It felt really long, but as a same time, really short….’
For Souta, it had certainly been intense, in many ways.
‘Yuu must be tired, too.’
Although they’d settled the matter about the movie’s pictures, they still had a pile of things to do.
The club president, Yuu, had gone back to their room to start making adjustments to the scenario and schedule. In order to divide up their work schedule, he was comparing the timetable to his smartphone, trying to sort out the rough estimates that the director, Haruki, had given them.
“Then, we’ll do filming during summer vacation, and…. Ah, Natsuki sent a text.”
Haruki furrowed his brows when Yuu showed him the screen of his smartphone.
“She wants to know about the next meeting, huh? Well, we’ve already told them what we’re looking for, so I don’t think we really need to meet up again anytime soon. We can just leave the rest to Hayasaka for now.”
It sounded just like the type of reply that Haruki would give; it might sound like he was neglecting them, but he was really just trying to give them freedom with their actions.
Yuu understood his intentions as well, and gave a firm nod.
“Got it. I’ll tell Natsuki that.”
As Haruki got up from his seat after saying this, Souta said to him,
“Aida-san isn’t coming today, huh.”
There was a hint of annoyance in Haruki’s reaction.
It went without saying for Souta, who was the one who had said it, but even Yuu, who was watching from the side, went pale.
“Ah, I mean, it’s started raining outside. If Aida-san isn’t coming, I just thought it’d be a good idea if you went to meet her soon. The clouds look dark, so it’s probably going to rain harder.”
As Souta quickly came up with an explanation, Haruki’s expression relaxed.
“If she hasn’t texted me by now, she’s probably going home with Natsuki and Hayasaka today.
Haruki’s eyes looked sad as he stared at his cell phone, and Souta refrained from saying any more.
‘I’m so stupid. I can’t guess how other people are feeling….’
Haruki might not be saying anything, but he was probably still worried about what had happened during the meeting. He probably thought that he’d hurt Miou.
But, why then? Why had he said it like that?
If he thought that he’d hurt her, it wasn’t too late to go and apologize now.
He must have been thinking a lot of things, but in the end, Haruki didn’t say anything. Everyone had things that they wanted to say, but couldn’t put into words.
The cries of the cicadas changed to the sound of raindrops hitting the window until the last school bell rang.