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Setoguchi Hina

Birthday: August 8
Horoscope Sign: Leo
Blood Type: A
 

Yuu’s younger sister. Knows about Natsuki’s feelings and seems supportive of her….?

Always cheerful and positive.


——-
 

practice 6

“Ah, I can see the moon.”

In the empty classroom after school, Natsuki stared out the window while resting her chin in her hands.

Come to think of it, she remembered her teacher in modern Japanese class telling them things like, “The harvest moon this year was wonderful,” and “After the Autumnal Equinox, the length of day and night switch.”

It had become time to change from summer to winter school uniforms as well, switching out short sleeves for long sleeves as the weather got cooler.

‘I’d joke about how I’m the only one who hasn’t changed, but it’s not something to joke about…’
 

Turning away from the window, she turned on her cell phone, which she’d left lying on the desk.

Instead of a new message, she looked at the calendar with an upcoming appointment. The results of the art contest that she’d submitted to at the end of summer vacation would be announced soon.

“I wonder if it’ll just be the same as always…”

Frowning at her own comment, Natsuki laid her head down on the desk.
 

‘My head feels like such a mess lately…’

After what had happened during summer vacation, things between Yuu and Natsuki had been awkward.

She hadn’t been crying because something was going on between her and Koyuki, but because of how aggressive Yuu had been.

Just as she thought she’d cleared up that misunderstanding, Yuu had thrown another question at her.

“Then what about Ayase hugging you? What was that all about?”

When he asked that, she traced back her memory, but couldn’t think of a proper proper. The only way to find out would probably be to ask Koyuki himself, the other party involved in this.

‘I just told the truth… Although I didn’t bring up Koyuki-kun directly, of course.’

However, Yuu hadn’t been satisfied with that kind of answer, and ever since, he’d been acting cold.

‘I couldn’t possibly confess to him while things are like this…’
 

Glancing up, her eyes fell on Yuu’s desk.

Checking that no one else was in the classroom, Natsuki slowly stood up.

“….He uses his desk to take notes, huh?”

Tracing the familiar handwriting with my finger, she let out a quiet laugh.

Although it was the exact same desk and chair as everyone else’s, there were little things here and there that defined it as Yuu’s.
 

“I guess it’s okay for just a little while…”

Pretending not to notice her heartbeat quickening, she slowly pulled out Yuu’s chair.

Promising herself that it would only be for a minute, she sat down in his seat.

“Gosh, I feel like some kind of pervert doing this…”
 

“Natsuki? What’re you doing?”
 

A voice called to her out of nowhere, and with a startled scream, Natsuki jumped up from the seat.

Standing in front of the door was, luckily enough, not the owner of the desk.

“H-Haruki? What’s up? Did you forget something? Wait, this isn’t even your class.”

“Wow, good job on delivering your own punchline.”

Haruki grinned, and gave a small salute.

Whether or not he noticed how flustered she was, the way he acted was the same as usual.
 

‘It’s okay. Maybe he didn’t notice that this is Yuu’s desk…’

“So Natsuki, what are you doing at Yuu’s desk?”

As he bluntly called her out, Natsuki’s face turned beet red.

Waving her hands around defensively, she stuttered out, “No, um, this isn’t…”
 

Haruki gave a quiet, uninterested hum, and steadily came closer.

“Well, I just came to take back something I let him borrow. Excuse me.”

Reaching inside Yuu’s desk, he pulled out a thick dictionary. It was full of sticky notes, and the worn cover showed that it had been used a lot.
 

“….An English dictionary?”

“Mm, yeah. We got an extra assignment to do.”

“Ahh! Right, Haruki, you’ve always been terrible at English, huh?”

“Shut up. I’m telling ya, I’ll be totally fluent one of these days.”

Natsuki let out a sigh at his usual joking reply.

But immediately after, Haruki asked her another direct question.
 

“And what about you? Those confession rehearsals… Still not ready for the real deal yet?”

“….W-Well…. about that….”

The very first person who had let her do a confession rehearsal had been none other than Haruki.

Even after her planned confession to Yuu had ended up as a rehearsal as well, Haruki still gave her advice numerous times afterwards while saying, “I won’t help you practice, but I’ll at least hear you out.”

He had given her valuable advice from a guy’s point of view.

‘But I can’t tell him about how bad things have been between us after what happened at the park.’

She had only told Haruki that they’d stopped doing confession rehearsals because she was busy with the contest deadline, but now that she was only waiting for the contest results to be announced, she couldn’t keep using that excuse anymore.
 

As Natsuki stood there unable to answer, Haruki shrugged helplessly.

“….Sorry to disappoint you.”

“Nah, don’t worry about it. It just means that you have your own timing, right? I’ll be rooting for you, so hurry up and confess like your life depends on it! Well, maybe I shouldn’t make that joke.”

“Haruki, that’s not funny.”

Even though she was being serious, Haruki burst out in laughter.
 

“….Just kidding. I shouldn’t be chastising others when I’m not much better.”

Haruki sat himself down on Yuu’s desk and looked up at her.

Natsu blinked, surprised to see her childhood friend smiling with self-mockery.

“Wait, I didn’t know that you had a crush on someone too!”

“Sure I do. Something wrong with that?”

As Haruki answered gruffly to hide his embarrassment, Natsuki shook her head violently.

“Of course not! I’m rooting for you too!”

“Well that was a quick response.”

Haruki pouted, but quickly returned to normal again.
 

‘I see. So Haruki has a crush, too…’

She hoped that Miou was the one he liked, but she hesitant to ask that herself.

So instead of asking who his crush was, she asked him about one more thing she was curious about.

“How come you haven’t confessed to her, then?”

“….I want to focus on finishing the movie, first.”
 

Using her childhood friend instincts, she knew that Haruki was lying.

Although, it felt more like he wasn’t telling the whole truth.

‘Guess I can’t force him to say why if he doesn’t want to.’

Just like Haruki had done earlier, Natsuki simply made a quiet humming noise of understanding.

“In that case, why not try doing a confession rehearsal?”

“….What?”

Haruki’s eyes widened, as if she’d just asked something outrageous.

Judging by his reaction, Natsuki realized he might misunderstand something, and quickly explained more clearly.
 

“I don’t mean with the girl you like, but….”

“Oh, you mean with you?”

As usual, Haruki was good at catching on, and when he helped her finish her thought, she nodded.

“Yeah! When I tried actually confessing, even if it ended up being just practice in the end, I was really nervous. And after I told him I liked him…”

Her heart started beating noisily as the memories from that time resurfaced.

Natsuki placed a hand on top of her cardigan, where her heart was, and smiled at Haruki.
 

“I’m thinking of confessing to him for real next time.”

“…Really? Good for you.”

Haruki showed a soft smile.

It was a gentle smile, as if he had someone in mind, as well.
 

‘I didn’t think he could make that kind of face before… I hope things work out for him.’

No matter who it was that he liked, Natsuki promised herself that she would support him.

Of course, she was rooting for Miou too, but this was a different matter; she just genuinely wanted Haruki’s feelings to reach, no matter who was on the receiving end.
 

Haruki, who had decided to do the confession rehearsal, started practicing quietly to himself straight away.

He mumbled to himself over and over, trying to think of the right words to confess with.

‘I guess I’ll wait out on the veranda so I don’t break his concentration.’

As Natsuki started walking to the window in the back of the room, she was called to a stop by a serious voice.
 

“Sorry to make you wait. I’m ready now, so whenever you are too.”

“Ah, okay….”

Haruki looked more nervous than she’d ever seen him before.

Watching him, Natsuki’s heart started beating noisily, as well.

‘Even though I know it’s just for practice, this is making me nervous, too…’
 

One step at a time, Haruki closed the distance between them.

Natsuki looked down unconsciously, and stared at his shoes as he came closer.

“….Hey—”

His trembling voice echoed in her eardrums.

She finally brought herself to look up, and saw that his face was a brighter red than even the sunset outside.

“You might be misunderstanding something, but that girl’s not the one I like…”

Haruki took a deep breath before continuing.

“I like you!”
 

In the next moment, they heard a loud thunk sound, and the door shook.

Startled, Natsuki and Haruki turned around, but they didn’t see anyone there.

“….Guess it was just the wind.”

“Probably.”

Her heart was beating even faster from the shock over the sudden noise.

She nervously put a hand on top of her chest, and saw that Haruki was doing the exact same thing in front of her.

Looking at each other, they both burst out laughing.
 

“Damn, I never thought confessing was so nerve-wracking.”

“Ah, come to think of it, Haruki, is this your first time confessing?”

“Yeah. I’m usually the one that’s always being confessed to.”

What? Well if you say so~”

Haruki burst out laughing at Natsuki’s comeback.

Natsuki started laughing too, and their anxiety from earlier completely disappeared.
 

‘….Haruki looks a bit different now.’

Something inside of him must have changed somehow.

I’m sure that I’ve also changed in a way, Natsuki thought to herself.

‘I have to find the courage, too…’

Clenching her fists, she made a declaration out loud.
 

“If I earn a prize in the contest, this time… I’ll confess to Yuu for real.”

Haruki raised his eyebrows at Natsuki’s determination.

He looked at her curiously, but in the end, he didn’t say anything in response.
 

Thinking back on it now, her childhood friend, who was always so quick-witted, must have seen how things would turn out after this.

For both Natsuki, and for himself.
 

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
 

The poorly-fitted door of the clubroom was thrown wide open with more force than ever before.

Startled, Yuu looked up to see Souta breathing heavily.

His face was bright red, as if he’d just sprinted all the way here.
 

“That was quick. Wait, Haruki isn’t with you?”

Ten minutes ago, Souta had gone to look for Haruki, who still hadn’t come back from going to the vending machines.

It was a pain, and a huge one at that, to go around aimlessly look for someone, so that was why Yuu hadn’t expected him to come back for a while. However, today he’d come back a lot earlier than usual.
 

“O-Okay, I have to tell you something, so stay calm, alright?”

With how panicked he looked, Yuu wanted to tell Souta, “You should calm yourself down, first,” but he simply nodded.

As Souta tried to catch his breath, he pointed at the floor with a shaking hand.

“J-Just now, in the classroom… I-I saw Haruki! C-Confessing to Natsuki…”
 

For a moment, Yuu forgot how to breathe.

His heart beat violently from the sudden lack of oxygen.

‘What the hell…?’
 

He betrayed me. No way. What is he thinking?

The words that raced through his mind were all full of anger.

However, a voice in his head immediately argued, “Isn’t Haruki free to do whatever he wants?”

Who ever said he wasn’t allowed to confess to Natsuki?

Unable to answer this question, all that remained in the end was his disappointment at himself.
 

‘As I thought, it’s impossible for me to watch over Natsuki.’

The vow he had made to Koyuki had fallen apart all too soon. There was no denying the sudden urge to want to press Haruki for answers.

‘But then, what am I supposed to do…?’
 

Finally giving into his annoyance,Yuu tore at his hair in frustration.

Brought back to reality by the pain, he clicked in tongue with pent-up anger and cursed under his breath.

“Damn it…”

“….You know, Yuu, it’s kind of like you’re a jack of all trades but master of none.”

Souta, who was breathing normally again, quietly muttered this.

Uncertain of what he meant by this statement, Yuu could only reply vaguely with “Huh?”
 

Souta shrugged his shoulders, and spoke in a somehow accusing tone.

“Getting annoyed, clicking your tongue, pulling at your hair, and then you just give up? Why not just scream out how you’re feeling? Like, ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me!’ or something. Are you that scared of showing your emotions?”

The words he spoke were the most sharp and straightforward that he’d ever heard from Souta.

A sharp pain stabbed straight at his heart. More than the frustration from earlier, the pain in this moment was what made him want to scream out loud.
 

But even still, Yuu held back the urge to do so.

He bit down on his tongue, and stared back at Souta.

“….Even if I do that, it won’t change what’s already happened.”

“Maybe you’re right, but what will happen to your feelings now that they have nowhere to go?”

“Who knows? They’ll probably just fade away eventually.”

Souta clearly wasn’t buying Yuu’s careless answer.

“They won’t fade away. They’ll just pile up in the bottom of your heart. It’s kind of sad that those feelings are being ignored by their own owner.”
 

This time, it really felt like his heart might stop beating. Pierced by Souta’s words, his breathing dwindled to a faint whisper.

“….Then, what am I supposed to do…”

When he mustered out those words, his voice shook like he was in tears, making his heart scream out again.

Unable to raise his face, Yuu slumped weakly.

‘I’m so pathetic…’
 

Not knowing what the other thought of the sight of him, he heard footsteps drawing near.

He braced himself, but Souta remained silent.

Eventually, he heard the sound of the scattered papers on the long desk being gathered up.

“If it were me, I’d write the things I was feeling right now into a script.”

“….Huh?”
 

Taken aback by words coming from an unexpected direction, Yuu looked up.

Souta laughed quietly, and then started writing on the paper with a mechanical pencil.

He seemed to writing things down as they came to mind, his hand darting across the paper in bold, quick movements. He stopped now and then to underline things, and add words here and there.
 

Staring at his work for a moment, Souta suddenly spoke up as if remembering something.

“Starting now, I’m just going to be talking to myself, so ignore me,”

He said, and without waiting for Yuu’s reply, began talking indifferently.
 

“I’m hoping to get into university by recommendation. That’s why I’ve been talking a lot with the guidance counselor, Handa-sensei…. and I heard him say that Haruki might be studying at a university in America.”
 

“What?”

Yuu said suddenly in a raspy voice.

However, Souta just continued “talking to himself” without looking up at him.
 

“Other than the one for the club, I heard that Haruki filmed another short movie on his own. Apparently, he entered it in a competition, and it did really well. He got awarded prize money… as well as a scholarship to study abroad….”
 

Souta suddenly got quiet after that, as if he’d lost the will to talk anymore.

But even then, he didn’t stop writing, and Yuu found himself just staring in admiration.
 

“….As for me, I still haven’t found anything like that to be passionate about.”

Did he mean Haruki, or Souta?

He didn’t really know at the time, but it was probably both.

He always hated himself for being nothing special, and filled himself with anxiety.
 

Whether or not he knew this, Souta spoke up immediately after.

“There you go again… Saying things like that and putting yourself down.”

“No, but it’s the truth…”

Souta’s hand stopped moving suddenly, and he looked straight at Yuu.

“It’s because of you giving me that push from behind that I can write scripts like this now.”
 

Although he said this, Yuu had no recollection of it.

Noticing his confused gaze, Souta puffed out his cheeks and asked, “You don’t remember?”

“I don’t have natural talent like Haruki does, and I’m not good at handling schedules like you do, or managing a lot of people to work together…. The most I can do is just run errands.”

Yuu’s breath caught as he listened to Souta speak as if reading off a script.

“Didn’t you say something like this this last year, too…?”

Souta’s face brightened up at that, but then drooped a moment later. He shrugged his shoulders, and sighed in exasperation.

“You’re so slow~ At this rate, you probably don’t even remember the things you say yourself.”

As Souta threw a glance at him, Yuu answered with a wry smile.

“What’re you talking about? You have talent with script writing, Mochita.”
 

Although he was only saying the same line as back then, he felt a strange warmth in his heart.

As he stared back at Souta, this time, he had a wide grin on his face.

“I’m just a perfectly normal person, with nothing special in particular. But even for someone like me, there was a speck of talent, so I’m sure that there’s something for you too, Yuu.”

“….I’ll try looking for it.”
 

Even if he couldn’t find the answer right away, he wouldn’t despair like this anymore.

And even if Haruki returned before long, he wouldn’t act disgracefully and blow up in anger.

‘Mochita was trying to help me understand it in a roundabout way…’

It was because he didn’t have the confidence in himself to keep his emotions in check, or face Haruki directly.

If he had to admit it, the inferiority complex that he’d been dealing with for so long didn’t feel like such a big deal either, strangely enough. It was probably like being afraid of a ghost that you couldn’t even see.
 

On the other hand, it was like he’d tried not to see it from the start.

Once he realized this, he could no longer look away.

‘The real reason I couldn’t confess to Natsuki is… probably…’

 

Their relationship as childhood friends that had never changed.

Their everlasting bond, would it remain unchanged from now on, as well?

It wouldn’t be long before he would have to make that decision.


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