Rainbow of the Horizon—Illuminating Our Darkened Path
It was too late for us to hide the evidence.
About twenty seconds have already passed since the fuss reached its climax. Minase is still holding on to the pot with a smile that was slowly becoming blank after first seeing that Rin and I are in Yuuga's room, and that tools of making manga, and the manga itself have no way to be unseen.
Minase is an otaku, and after learning a bit of her background from Rin, I can say that she's a dedicated shoujo manga reader that can overreact or fawn over it all the time, just like me and Nagi-ouji. It will be no surprise if she immediately recognizes the manga pages to be from Flower of the Unknown, even from an initial glance. With the lines connecting, perhaps the thought had already processed on her mind.
She held the pot tighter even if trembling. Her smile was then replaced by a bitter, shocked expression as somehow… her tears fell.
"M-M-Mina?! H-Hey, that was enough to make you cry?" Yuuga worryingly asked.
"…" but Minase finally began sobbing as Yuuga takes the pot.
I handed out the tissue to Yuuga whilst Minase tries to wipe her still flowing tears with the back of her wrist. It was a surprise to see someone reacted with such a saddened look in the recently realized fact.
The air was very tense, and so Rin and I silently escaped the scene without being noticed. In the hurry of giving the two an alone time, we ended up inside Yuuga's room.
"Umm… I think saying the 'alone time' might get misleading."
"Thanks for correcting your mistake, Potato."
Both of us didn't exactly know why she suddenly bawled, but one thing that we know is that Minase likes Yuuga. There is a high chance that Yuuga isn't aware of it, considering how our conversation developed back in November in the library. There is also the thing that Erika told me that they are still very close up to this point, apart from just being childhood friends.
While I was busy on the thought, we noticed that it became frighteningly silent outside, but a thud suddenly sounded.
Rin slightly opened the door of the bedroom enough to see what is going on outside. On that small gap, Minase was still standing… while we see Yuuga kowtowing in front of her.
"I'm very sorry…!"
"I should be the one apologizing for suddenly crying!"
"No! I have to do this. After all, I kept the fact that I am a mangaka a secret!"
"Ju… Just raise your head and stop doing something stupid like this! I was so happy to know that you're actually someone who makes the manga that I like that I just cried!"
"Ay, wait. She was actually happy?"
"But she was making a sad face just now," I whispered.
"Shush! You shut up, Potato!"
"So that's why you cried earlier… But still, I am really sorry. Even after knowing how much you like this type of manga, I still hid it from you after doing this for nearly three years now."
"For three years… That's amazing, you know?!" unconsciously, she abruptly took both of Yuuga's hands in amazement. Although it was not long until she vigorously released after realizing what she did.
It was weird watching Yuuga after that. The only thing missing from that innocent and curious look is a question mark floating over his head.
"Ah! I nearly forgot! I swear I saw Potato-san and Ringo as clear as the midday sun."
"'Potato-san?' Wait, you'll be blind if you look at the sun!
Anyway, where did those two actually go to?"
Just before opening the door, a quick glance was enough to observe the entirety of his bedroom. There was another bookshelf, but with five rows brimming with various manga volumes. Beside that is a beefy printer where the scanner he talked about is probably there. Anything else is normal.
Thus, I opened the door and we went out.
"We hid in your room in the spur of the moment, sorry."
"At least you should've helped me out earlier…"
"So, Yuu? I never expected to see them here. What's up?"
"I'm… currently hiring them as my assistants for this month's release. My WIP a few days prior was abysmal but I made them help me when I was nearly out of it. I'm saved."
"Waaahhhh…! I so missed that hair so much!
And Gin's hair is not 'gin' anymore!"
Rin complained, "Mina, that sounded weird just now."
I thanked Minase for not calling me "Potato-san" consistently, and for the pun.
But somehow, we ended up having lunch with these two after momentarily setting aside work from the coffee table as we won't fit on the dining table. It was originally a table for two only, but there was somehow an extra chair.
"I really should ask before it gets too late. Since when did you move here, Mina?" asked Rin while munching a chunk of potato.
Mina by the way brought beef stew. I will however mourn for my potato comrades as I am doing an act of cannibalism.
"Now that Rin asked, you didn't mention that the second time you visited. Perhaps you moved after November?
I'm surprised that you got the meat this tender, though."
She happily nodded after ignoring my positive remark, "Yup. My family discussed it after the new year and I ended up living here by myself."
A thought came to Rin's mind and thus, she explained, "Ahh… that makes sense. Even if Mina's family is living in Sector 392, their house is still far from Wisteria while this apartment is actually closer even when we're at Sector T1."
"That's pretty much it, Ringo."
"I didn't know that you're also close to Gin, Mina."
I was a little surprised with what Yuuga said, and so I asked that.
"Will you laugh if I said that I am?"
"I will get jealous, though," Rin interposed.
"I don't see the reason why I would laugh."
Minase however was starting to look fidgety on the corner of my eye.
"Anyway, Potato! Be the judge! How's Mina's cooking?"
"Hmm… The vegetables are just cooked right and the beef is a nice treat. But you should have taken the measure to treat the meat more since there is the very slightly unpleasant aftertaste from the gaminess."
"Wha- I'm being criticized."
"It's still ways better than Yuuga's, though."
"That sounds so rude since you haven't even tasted my food, but that's pretty much right… Mina is better."
"Mina, I heard from Yuuga that you always bring lunch here at this time of the week?"
"Ahahaha, that's true. There's not much of a reason for that, though. It just happened."
"She said, but it's actually reasonable," that, I felt from what Minase just said.
But then she deliberately changed the topic, "By the way, are these two your first assistants?"
Nodded Yuuga with a fork in his mouth.
"Really? You've been doing this for three years… Did something happen to you?"
"Ah, well, this month and the next are quite hectic that's why I had to do a rush job so I can free up time on my schedule. After hiring these two, I'm finally getting some sleep."
"What? Don't tell me you're not getting any sleep, Yuu?!"
"Ahhh…" he avoided looking at Minase.
"Why does this look like a mom scolding her son?"
"That's a big no, Yuu!! You should go take some rest from time to time otherwise your energy will be much less than normal!
I… I don't want you dying early because of your job!"
"Y-Yes… I'll do that from now on…"
"Nope, I can't trust that! From now on, we should eat together three meals a day so I can check up on you!"
"Yuu, I'm serious! A lot of manga authors are getting sick these days because of working through their releases, and I just can't see you taking a rest just like that, you manga-loving idiot!"
"Wow. She does her research," I thought.
"That's why I'll have to regularly check on you everyday!"
"Understood… But let's avoid any compromises if there are any."
Rin suddenly let herself in the conversation and spoke.
"Well, Potato and I sometimes alternate with who make meals in a day since I mostly go to his house."
"Hmmm… That might actually work.
And may be a good reference material…" he whispered.
"Ohh… I guess that makes sense since you and Ane Yuna moved to Gin's house temporarily."
"Eh? W-What? That happened, Gin?!"
"One way or another, it did, Yuuga."
"Then it's decided! We'll be taking turns on meals every other day starting tomorrow!"
"Like I have anything to say… Alright."
Minase is actually smooth, huh. I bet she just wants to eat together with this guy everyday using that excuse. Being worried isn't out of the question either, as how I have seen Rin worry about me.
"I just realized, Potato…"
"What is it?"
"Girls are actually scary, huh?"
"You're also a girl and like you can talk!" I blatantly started in front of Yuuga and Minase, "But Minamina-chan sure is more of a wife than Rin."
Rin nodded in agreement, "Unless Potato is dying or any of my family is seriously ill… or if I actually become a wife!"
I gave her a sounding applause.
"W-Wait… so you two aren't married yet?" with a serious face, Yuuga joked.
"We get asked with that a lot, but get real, Yuu."
"Don't call me that, Gin."
"Wait, Ringo just said 'dying?'"
"J-J-Just h-hyperbolical, Mina…! Hahahahaha…!"
Shortly after, we finished lunch.
"I'll have to go back and get the pot cleaned and take a nap afterwards. I will just be in the way if I stay.
Ringo, Gin, please watch out for him."
"Got it, Mina."
Moments after the door shut, Yuuga let out a long sigh and laid down from where he is sitting at while palming his face with both of his hands.
"Yuuga, is that from stress or regret?"
"Regret, with an S. Hahh… I did it again…" he got back up with a forlorn expression. "Why can't I be honest to myself…?"
"Yes… I'm actually aware that Mina likes me…"
Both our eyes widened in surprise. Perhaps what Rin tried to say was if maybe Yuuga likes Minase, but it turns out that Yuuga is actually not unaware of Minase's feelings.
"But I just can't seem to be honest with how I act when I'm with her. Even before I started as a mangaka, I already noticed that she has feelings for me. I've been friends with her for as long as I can remember, that's why I ended up still acting the same even with her feelings taken into consideration."
"Is something holding you back?"
"Myself. It's hard to find myself being honest about how Mina feels about me. Whenever I want to bring that up, I can't for some reason…"
"How did you actually realize her feelings anyway?"
"I know this doesn't sound serious at all… but she was acting like a heroine in a manga. But don't get me wrong! It still took me a long time to confirm it."
"I guess it's hard to underestimate a romance manga connoisseur… even I didn't realize it when I was still in Wisteria."
"You say that now, but it looks like even you are also looking at Minase, so to speak. I'll ask you this now if you don't mind.
Yuuga, do you also like her?"
He responded immediately, "That's a secret."
I sat silently with so many thoughts and discussed them with Kuro inside while Rin and Yuuga watched me do an obvious thinking pose. In a sense, I am actually talking to myself, but even with that fact, Kuro is still a complex entity that is a part of me.
Anyway, I began speaking up my fixed thought.
"I see. A secret…
So that means that your feelings with Minase are very complicated. It's like you're one more step to liking her, but you don't consider it in a romantic way. So you said it is a secret when in reality, you don't know how to answer that. But I guess you're happy with how things are?"
Hahh… it's irritating how sharp you are when it comes to this…"
"Though, don't proclaim me as some all-knowing. Besides, you shouldn't underestimate a fellow romance manga connoisseur."
Rin regretted mentioning that earlier.
"Even I didn't know that I liked Rin earlier than my mind realized, but my heart did. I also suspected her feelings before we started dating, you know.
But with the way things are, what will you do if she confessed to you?"
"Way to put me on the spot…"
"Alright, then. Will you be okay if I tell you my honest opinion about your situation?"
"I can't say that you're running away from her feelings, but it looks like you haven't accepted Minase's affection towards you even after being aware of it. Perhaps you still consider her a friend, or a childhood friend amidst everything.
So now… let me be blunt. There is a certain element in your first shoujo manga that was taken for granted because of how good of a writer you are objectively. That element is the characters understanding one another. Perhaps, it is applied to Ryohei's character, but have you actually thought about it directly?"
His head lowered after his expression transitioned to a shocked one.
"I haven't… and I never thought of trying to understand Mina…"
"Maybe that's the reason why you can't be honest with Mina. Whatever it was that you always wanted to say, you probably know to yourself that you don't know what you should say next.
But at this point, I'll keep myself quiet and let you figure out something. There might be something needed to be said… like a possible point of view of the maiden in question. Of course I can't say anything about that, but maybe Rin have something."
"Wow, way to put me on the spot too.
But I won't beat around the bush. This is probably woman's intuition that's why you two didn't notice it, but Mina was feeling a little hurt earlier."
"Women are terrifying creatures."
"Shut yer mouth for a sec, Potato."
Indeed, even I didn't notice it before Rin pointed it out. She looked so cheerful earlier that I didn't realize that it was a mask. However, I quickly got why she was hurt since I have seen Rin feel that way in a 'similar' situation. It is some sort of a complex that I have seen Rin suffer from, and cry because of it.
Rin therefore continued.
"Mina was worried about you, but I hope that you already realized it earlier when we were eating. I don't think a lot of people will react like how she did even with your circumstance. I know that she was hurt because I have already felt it—it was the feeling of not being able to do anything for someone you care for. She thinks she is useless when she realize that your health is at risk, but it was too late and she didn't manage to do something for you… and she regrets it."
"But if I may add… Women are strong in their own ways. Yuuga, as much as we have some things in common, Rin and Minase do have them too.
When they felt of being no use, they will try their best to bounce back and help us the next time. Look, she already declared that statement of you two always eating together from now on. She's already taking step towards that.
But honestly… it's hard to put a lover's perspective in your situation."
"Then Ringo… with what Gin had said, have you already made up with the time you weren't able to help him…?"
Rin smiled, "Yes, and I'm very happy that I was able to help Gin when he was dying."
"…! D-Dying…? You mean… Gin really…"
Why did I not stop Rin from saying that? Because she has her own way of thinking for herself and she has the freedom to do so.
"I wasn't there, and I wasn't able to help when Gin was suffering all by himself. There were… many times that Gin was put to many difficult spots, but from the last time it happened, I'm glad that I was able to help.
But in the end, I can't thank Gin enough. If it wasn't for him, I won't be able to do anything like that."
While in the middle of speaking, tears began to roll down her cheeks.
"Even when… I haven't met Gin… He already saved my life when we were still children. That's why… That's why I'm so happy that I was there to save his life this time…"
"Yes, Rin-chan. Everything is fine now," I attempted to calm her down while gently and continuously rubbing her head.
Yuuga looked in awe with a lot thoughts building up on his mind.
"Is this how Mina felt…? In the end, I was the one hurting her because I'm taking her feelings for granted… I wonder, will she feel happy even with those little things?"
"Say, Gin, Ringo… how does it feel to be together…?" he asked with his head still lowered and his hands tightly grasping on his knees.
"Hmm… About that, I think it's better if you talk to Hana and Fuuji after we leave."
"Is that so… I guess I still have many things to figure out.
Actually, I really won't mind if just possibly… we started a relationship even before this talk. But I'm worried because I know that my work will inevitably get in the way, and that my feelings are still very complicated."
He suddenly snickered and continued speaking, "But you got something slightly wrong, Gin."
"My definition may be very shallow… but I don't think of her as just a mere friend or childhood friend."
"Pff… Ahahahahaha…! So you actually crossed the friendship line and took a mere step to being more than just friends. Good for you, nonetheless."
"You sure are sharp as ever."
"But…! I think it's time for us to take our leave. As always, we'll be here with your call."
"Yeah, thanks a lot."
~ ~ ~
On the night of the same day, the lights have brightly illuminated the apartment room in contrast to the darkness of the night. The air conditioner is once again turned on while Yuuga sits comfortably on a cushion as he leans back on the seat of the couch.
More than half of the pages of the month's issue has been cleaned up and quality checked by himself. Thus, he set aside the manuscript for now. Present on the coffee table are roughly drawn sketches of full body character designs.
"I originally planned Flower of the Unknown to be a short 18-chapter release since it's my first take on this demographic…"
"I guess I'll go take a very short break and do another serialization. Maybe a trigger character for the male or heroine's feelings is a good idea."
Gin was practicing digital sketches, while Rin was eating dinner at that time when they simultaneously sneezed.
▪ ▪ ▪
Like how anyone would have expected, my agreement with Mina was put into action the very next day. Let's just ignore that we actually ate breakfast separately since the things that happened yesterday was so abrupt. But I have to say that I accomplished eight hours of sleep, thankfully.
It was the middle of the morning when I was making a color page for the current issue, and Mina suddenly started knocking on my door.
"Is she going to scold me…?"
Upon opening, I saw Mina standing in front of me dressed with outdoor clothes like as though she is about to go out.
"Haahh…?! What do you mean if I'm going somewhere? You do realize that I'm making meals today so of course I'm going somewhere to buy ingredients! Come on, help me do the shopping."
"Ah, huh? What?"
"I said shopping!"
~ ~ ~
This seriously passed through my mind. Of course, if you're basically doing this, there will be buying ingredients beforehand. And since we're eating together, it will be bad if we don't match preferences on food. The only problem is that I'm a little restless when I'm with her; after all that I said yesterday.
The apartment building that I'm currently looking out for in Sector T1 is so near to Sector 527, just like how close it is to Sector 392. I let Mina lead the way as to where we will be going and we somehow ended up in a market in Sector 527.
As we're about to enter the market that is still packed with people, I saw depressed, exhausted or happy faces of the majority of housewives, casual shoppers… and yakuza that looks like a househusband with a pink apron with bears? After entering, it was observable that the lines in three cashiers are still long. Though, I'm assuming that the line will be short after we finish up.
Then I saw Gin in between the line. He looked at me first, then looked at Mina, and looked at me again, and looked at her anew. For the very last time he looked at me with wide eyes.
He pulled a fawning, yet smug smile. That's so irritating.
"Ah, Potato-san! You're shopping here too? Aren't your place a bit far from here?"
"Wait, you guys didn't know? The sale just ended."
"Wha-! I didn't know there was a sale."
"Hm. You two still have a lot to learn before conquering this battlefield. It sounds a little disrespectful to say that I won against the mothers, but it was all about strategy."
The woman behind Gin praised, "Fufu. You're a vigorous young man."
In the end, I realized that enemies in the 'battlefield' are your friends once already in the cashier counter. But imagine a 19 year-old winning over several veteran housewives in that battlefield… he's a pro.
On the side note, something caught the corner of my eye.
"Gin? I think I just saw Rena from your CA class."
"Ah, yep. That's her. We met after the sale ended."
"I see. Then we're going ahead."
"Right. Happy shopping."
~ ~ ~
And here I am wondering why she bought a lot of flour… she can actually make pasta from scratch. Thus, the lunch is carbonara in her apartment.
I have to say, it was another good lunch.
"Since you're always tired once the day ends, I assume… I guess I should make something refreshing."
"Hey, think about dinner later once we're done eating our lunch."
"Ehhhh. But it's easier if I plan it in advance otherwise I'll be running like a headless chicken."
So she's really worrying about me… Even with these subtle things, I can feel that she's thinking of me while here I am being insensitive.
Is our dinner for later chicken?
"Say, why did you make the pasta from scratch?"
"I didn't think you would ask that… But it's just… I think… I want to make it special… just a bit…"
What am I even doing all this time? Am I seriously a successful writer, but failed to understand someone who cares for me? Do I even deserve to continue writing with these halfhearted thoughts?
"Ah, that's right! Yuu, since you're Yuki Amagami, then you'll also be in ManCon next month, right?"
"Yeah. That's why I was very busy before this day."
"You know, I can get you a free pass if you want to."
"Really? Really?! I can go to ManCon?!"
"If you want to, you need to help me on my booth along with my editor as my condition."
"I can be in your booth?! Waaaahhhhh~! Thank you, Yuu…! What a dream come true!" and she suddenly hugged Yuuga out of that delight.
Do I really deserve to continue writing…?
I remember now.
▪ ▪ ▪
Five months before our fourth year of high school ended…
"Hey, Yuu! Since you're a manga-loving idiot, surely you know that Yuki Amagami's fantasy manga is ending, right?"
"Don't call me that, Mina. But y-yeah, I've heard."
"Of course you have! I really hope Yuki will make my ship come true! If it doesn't happen with all of the flags, I'll definitely cry!"
"Ehhhh. Way to react on that."
"What do you mean…?! Even though the manga is fantasy-centric, Yuki is really good in the romance element! I'd say 100% that she's definitely suited for making shoujo manga! If she does make one, I definitely will still cry, but in happiness!"
"Now that she said it, maybe I'll give it a try."
That concludes 046!
Welp, releases will continue on but one brain cell forgot to publish yesterday.
Thanks for reading!
047: We are convention noobs.
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