Chapter 27:


Be Yourself, Ayane-chan!

As a punch of mine was about to connect, Rie-sensei came in to bring me back to reality. Not wanting to cause a conflict, I sat down.

“Damn, you’re really into Ayane-chan, aren’t you,” were the words Satou whispered to my ear before the club advisor spoke.

At center stage, Rie grabbed a mic to make her presence known, ready to lay out all of the information we needed.

“We are finalizing auditions today, along with the cast list. If you wish to audition, today is your last chance.”

With her announcement quickly over then, I knew what I needed to say. Wrapping my arm around Ayane’s shoulder, I spoke to her.

“This is your chance, Ayane-chan. Don’t listen to what Satou-kun has to say. You’ll blow this out of the park.”

“Thank you.”

What a sight to behold it was; the warmth and sincerity of her smile. It couldn’t last for long, though, as she had to notify our advisor of her changed mind.

It wasn’t until seeing this that Satou gained the ‘has a brain’ skill point that you’re supposed to unlock at birth.

“She seems more dedicated than I would’ve thought.”

“She is.”

“How did you manipulate her into this?”

“You’re misunderstanding it. I just guided her to where she already wanted to go.”

Satou scratched his head.

“How the hell are you so good with women?”

“It’s because I view them as if they’re anyone else.”

“Women aren’t like men though.”

By this point, I could hear Satou’s toes restlessly tapping the ground as the argument grew more intense. I tried to ignore it, though, as I kept on going.

“Whether they are or aren’t isn’t something I’m smart enough to make an opinion on. I merely treat everyone the same.”

The tapping stopped.

“I don’t get that. Why do you think like that?”

“It’s because I don’t see the point in overthinking this stuff. I think people should be able to do what they want.”

“I mean, I agree with you on that. What are you trying to claim me as?”

“Nothing. I was just stating my opinion.”

“God, you’re annoying.”

That was what he said as he stood up, ready for his turn to be cast.

Now alone, stuck with my own thoughts, I reflected on my conversation with Satou, with both of my hands covering my face as I hunched over. If it wasn’t obvious enough already, I was super embarrassed. After calling Aka a simp, I couldn’t believe how I’d acted earlier.

To make things worse, Ayane saw how I looked when she came back from her audition. She didn’t even speak to me. I noticed why that was the case, though, when I finally looked at her. She stood tall, but while looking down, tightly gripping her skirt. With the red on her face, I could tell her anxiety. I thought I’d done everything I had out of love for her, but given how long it took me to notice her, I finally realized something.

I was selfish. But even then, I just droned on about my own problems instead of being helpful. But how could I even be helpful when my confidence had been so thoroughly crushed? I didn’t want to just stand there, though. I needed to do something. Holding her hand, I finally said something.

“Ayane-chan, it’ll be okay.”

“You don’t understand. I didn’t do as well as I could’ve.”

Holding back her tears, I knew what I needed to say.

“Ayane-chan. If you aren’t cast, that’s not your fault. That just means they have objectively terrible taste.”

While normally, a statement like this would leave her in shambles, she instead laughed. Now, instead of crying tears of sadness, she instead cried out of relief that someone had such a comical level of faith in her.

It was by this point, too, that Satou had returned from his audition and the cast list was complete.

“Do you want to check it?” I asked Ayane.

“Su… sure.”

With a response that was that hesitant, I could tell that I may not have showered her with enough praise.

Regardless, I walked to the cast list with Ayane’s hand touching mine. With my eyes now locked on it, I didn’t feel an ounce of surprise when I saw Satou in the leading role. That much was obvious, alongside the fact that Mio would be co-starring. Given how we’re playing a romance too, I found myself chuckling at the sight of her being forced to kiss that sack of- I should’ve backpedaled that. I’m no longer an asshole, after all. I wish.

In this fit of overthinking though, my attention turned toward Ayane. She covered her face, but only up to her nose. With just her eyes, I didn’t know what emotion to read out of her, so I looked back at the cast list. Ayane, along with myself, were cast in the next biggest roles. I knew Ayane was overjoyed by this, but I didn’t know how to feel. I still had the will to speak, however, so I did.

“I didn’t audition. How did I get such an important part?”

Rie came in from behind us to hug us.

“Because you and Ayane are so cute together that I had to cast you as her love interest.”

Oh yeah, I forgot this was a love polygon. Apparently, it’s about a group of four people who end up falling in love with their wingmen. I swear I remembered that plot from an anime. Maybe it was an adaptation.

Regardless, Rie’s reaction to this certainly came as a shock, if my glare toward the ground didn’t make that obvious. Actually, that was just me being pissed off, wasn’t it? That was ignoring the big picture, though. There was one massive elephant in the room left untouched.

“You know I can’t act, right?”

She squeezed us tighter.

“We’ll just make you learn to act and sing. If you’re really there to support your girlfriend, then surely you’ll try to fit into the role.”

I sighed as she said the one thing that would convince me.

“Fine then, take it.”

Walking back to my seat, I crouched down with my head at my knees, until Ayane walked closely to me and held my hands in an attempt to comfort me.

“I’m sorry you didn’t expect that.”

“It’s not your fault,” I mumbled.

“But it is.”

Ayane took a deep breath before continuing.

“When I told Rie-sensei how I was motivated to get the part, she got really into how romantic our date was. Apparently, she thinks having a real relationship in the play would improve it.”

I put my posture back up.

“In that case, I can’t stay sad about it. Let’s practice every day at the karaoke bar. Let’s show them the performance of a lifetime.”

My thunder was instantly blown out, though, once Satou butted in.

“You’ll certainly need that practice given how she didn’t cast either of you based on your ability.”

“Wow, that was the worst way to phrase it.”

“I was just being honest. It’s not like I don’t want you two to succeed. By the end of the day, making a good play is the number one priority of the club. I wish you two luck out there, Yuuki-kun, Ayane-chan.”

Fittingly, he let out his hand to me, so I had to respond.

“Thanks, Satou-kun. I won’t disappoint you, or anyone else in the club.”

We shook on it, with me now taking my attention out of the club room. With the club now over, it was time for me to see what Satoshi would have in store for me. This may have been a far cry from what I thought I wanted, but even through the anxiety of the unknown, I smiled as I made it to the school's roof, seemingly ready for anything that could come my way.


Finally opening the door, I heard Satoshi’s voice.

“Thanks for coming here, Yuuki-kun.”

The wind blew with his words, guiding me toward where he loitered on the school's rooftop. Hands in pockets, he stood at the edge of the roof, far away from the entrance, facing away from me, staring at the ground dozens of feet above him. Without the gate, he could fall in an instant. With a growing pain in my chest, I slowly edged toward him, finally realizing the stakes at hand. I had to question him.

“Satoshi-kun, why did you call me up here?”

“I’m shocked you haven’t caught on.”

“About what?”

“It’s about Ayane-chan, dammit.”

I couldn’t discern his body language from the angle I was at, but the tone in his voice grew more passionate.

“What about her?”

“Your cluelessness just pisses me off.”

“What are you talking about!?”

As I moved closer to him, he turned to face my direction.

“I love Ayane-chan! I always have!”

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