Chapter 16:

016 – Reunion Plus One

Rainbow of the Horizon—Illuminating Our Darkened Path | Our World

Ah… I hear voices. A lot of them.Bookmark here

"Alright, alright. Everything is going to be fine. This might hurt a little but please endure it. All of this is for the sake of a lot of people."Bookmark here

"AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! Stop!!!!!Bookmark here

I can't do this anymore… It hurts…! Stop…!!!!"Bookmark here

"N-No… I don't want this… Why am I still here…?! I should have just died!Bookmark here

Right…?! I should've just died!"Bookmark here

"Please… I'm scared… No… I don't wanna die…"Bookmark here

"W-Will I… just end up like… the others…?"Bookmark here

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"It's just been the first month and we already lost eighteen children."Bookmark here

"We picked the healthiest children and all, but we still ended up with this."Bookmark here

"But even so, we made some breakthrough that can compensate to the loss."Bookmark here

"Hey now… Other children are imitating the others that already left. Stop them quickly! They're trying to kill themselves!"Bookmark here

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"N-No way… 027 killed Dr. Heis…"Bookmark here

"What just happened?! Why is 027- What happened to the doctor?!"Bookmark here

"027… he killed the doctor…"Bookmark here

"This is such a waste… We can't let 027 disappear with the intellect that is far from his age."Bookmark here

"This can't be happening… Put him in an isolation chamber until he recovers!"Bookmark here

"Stop crying, kid!"Bookmark here

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"Hey, Eiji. You really don't know my name?"Bookmark here

"N-No…"Bookmark here

"That's okay. I only gave you the nickname because I don't know yours too. But I heard someone calling you with a weird name."Bookmark here

"I see…"Bookmark here

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"Hey, hey… Is 027 losing it now…?"Bookmark here

"What in the world is he writing that on the wall for?"Bookmark here

"Yeah… It's kind of scary that he's repeatedly writing it."Bookmark here

"What is even the meaning of that…Bookmark here

'RIN?'"Bookmark here

(!)Bookmark here

"*cough*Bookmark here

Hahh… Hahh… Hahh…Bookmark here

What… in the world… was that…?"Bookmark here

~ ~ ~Bookmark here

It does seem that I woke up from a nightmare. My whole body was trembling, I'm sweating cold, my throat is dry, I am out of breath, my heart is thumping hard and fast, my eyes are in tears, and my right eye changed unconsciously.Bookmark here

For some reason, I feel so terrified that I can't move a limb of my body. Then I have come to the realization that it wasn't a nightmare…Bookmark here

But memories, rather.Bookmark here

"But why…Bookmark here

Why did her name suddenly came up…?"Bookmark here

Today is the 10th of July, Tuesday.Bookmark here

~ ~ ~Bookmark here

"Good morning, Potato. Did you get a good sl-Bookmark here

Wha?! What's up all of a sudden? Gin…?"Bookmark here

With the opening of the front door came Gin as he ran towards the door and tightly embraced the ever so startled Rin, which returned the warm caress.Bookmark here

"Gin… Did something happen? What's wrong?" the girl gently asked as she felt the overflowing emotions of the man that is not yet to release the embrace.Bookmark here

"Sorry, Rin… I had a dream and remembered a lot of things… I'm scared…"Bookmark here

The thought of sorrow struck Rin on the back of her mind, but instead she carved a smile and gently strokes the back of the agonizing man.Bookmark here

"Ufufu… You're really like a child in your sleep, Gin. I'm here now, so you don't need to worry."Bookmark here

"…"Bookmark here

"Have you already eaten?"Bookmark here

"I just finished making them."Bookmark here

"Then, can you still go to school?"Bookmark here

"Yes… and I need diversion. Who knows what could happen if I'm left alone."Bookmark here

"That's true.Bookmark here

I've already eaten, so don't worry about that. I'll look out for you today so you won't feel lonely."Bookmark here

"I'm so helpless…Bookmark here

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But you really make of a good wife… Rin."Bookmark here

"Wha- Don't say that even if you're not feeling well…! I may just… think of that… seriously…"Bookmark here

"…Bookmark here

Mhmm. I really feel at ease when you're here, Rin. Thank you, as always."Bookmark here

"I won't be like this if not because of you, Gin. But anyways, you're welcome."Bookmark here

~ ~ ~Bookmark here

My anxiety lasted more than I expected. I was already in school and everything, but my mind was too preoccupied with the dream… or "flashbacks" that I had this morning.Bookmark here

If this goes on throughout the remaining days of the week, I may not be able to concentrate on our first exam tomorrow and the day after.Bookmark here

But thankfully, I got a little relieved of it when it was time for our club after classes. With everything that has happened today, I felt that I was forgetting something important. It’s a bit unusual that the members are not complete today with the absence of Yuuga and Mori in club.Bookmark here

"Yo~ Gin. It kind of feels like you weren't feeling well the whole day. You okay there?" Nagi voiced out his worries to me.Bookmark here

"Ahh… Yeah, I kind of feel a bit dead today, but I sure can handle it. Just had a dream that has been haunting me."Bookmark here

"Oh, I hope that it's nothing serious. I hope you get well."Bookmark here

"Thanks, Nagi.Bookmark here

Ah, I forgot that I'll return at work next week."Bookmark here

"Wait, the building is already finished being renovated, Gin? You haven't told me about it."Bookmark here

"I was planning to tell you earlier this morning, Rin. But you know, things happened. Sorry."Bookmark here

"Oh… That's okay."Bookmark here

"Uhh… Mind telling us about that 'work?'" G jumped in to the conversation.Bookmark here

"Hmm… I guess it's alright to tell…Bookmark here

I actually work at Giotto's, full time."Bookmark here

"Ah! Now I remember! I saw you with Ringo and Jean in a video uploaded in YouCube.Bookmark here

Wait, that was in Japan right?!"Bookmark here

"You see, G… Gin is actually the sous chef of the resto, surprising as it is. By the looks of it, you already know about the secondary branch in the North so I guess there's no need to widen the story," Jean briefly explained with a volume that is loud enough to be heard in the entire room.Bookmark here

"Man… being in an interview sure is nerve-racking, aye? And you can speak Nihongo, huh?"Bookmark here

"Who wouldn't be? And that was also the time that I discovered that I am actually half-blood Japanese."Bookmark here

"Oof… surprises are just falling down.Bookmark here

Oh, Ringo was demonstrating at that time. Does she also work there?"Bookmark here

"I did, G. But it was for me to experience what it means to work in a restaurant. And it was tough!"Bookmark here

"And Jean…"Bookmark here

"I was currently having my apprenticeship at that time and it just happened that I became a videobomber inside the kitchen.Bookmark here

Actually, Gin is my mentor."Bookmark here

"Wow, surprises never stop."Bookmark here

"And you're apprenticeship was far better that even you didn't anticipate it~" Shiro teases.Bookmark here

"Stahp."Bookmark here

And just like how the wind comes and goes, the two of us are once again walking the quiet road.Bookmark here

"Mmmm… I feel quite better now. At least a bit of load from this morning was removed from my head."Bookmark here

"Mhm. That's good to know then."Bookmark here

"Hahh… Sorry for worrying you again, Rin. Though I can't say for sure what will happen next."Bookmark here

"Yeah… we've already discussed on how you haven't actually regained all of your memories, contrary to what you believe to be."Bookmark here

"But then again, I'm still scared about not knowing how I felt in the past. I took my other memories for granted, but this one seems like it had an impact on me.Bookmark here

What's more scary is how awfully clear my dream was."Bookmark here

"But I hope that everything will be fine. You know that you have a family that you can rely on."Bookmark here

"…Bookmark here

Thank you, Rin. I'm so glad that you're my light."Bookmark here

"There you go again, Potato."Bookmark here

▪ ▪ ▪Bookmark here

I thankfully managed the exams as I got my worries out from diverting myself from things that could give me stress. I have become aware that my past as a five year old was darker than what I thought.Bookmark here

But sharing it to my family makes me very relieved and grateful. Despite my instability, people are still looking out for me.Bookmark here

It is now the 16th of July, and I am about to start working once again.Bookmark here

"Well…? It's rare to see you doing shopping, Sis."Bookmark here

"Oh. Hi, little brother."Bookmark here

On the way to the restaurant, I met with Yuna with shopping bags on her hands. It seems that she was heading home.Bookmark here

"I lost at rock paper scissors with Ringo so I'm doing the shopping for dinner.Bookmark here

What about you? Heading out for work?"Bookmark here

"Yep. Today's the reopening of Giotto's so it's my first day again."Bookmark here

"I just passed by there earlier. The building's looking quite good."Bookmark here

"Ah, that's the way to the market, yes. Of course you'll get to see it.Bookmark here

Anyways, I'll have to go otherwise Hiro will scold me. Be safe on your way back, Sis."Bookmark here

"You too, be careful.Bookmark here

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Fufu… Oh, little brother."Bookmark here

~ ~ ~Bookmark here

I had to run since I was assuming that I am getting late for work. But to my surprise, Hiro was standing in front of the restaurant.Bookmark here

"Yo~ Hiro. Am I late?"Bookmark here

"Nope. Still plenty of time."Bookmark here

"What are you doing in front the resto anyway?"Bookmark here

"Ah… I… was just… just met a friend earlier! Yeah, that!"Bookmark here

"Huhhhh… Well, I'm going to the kitchen, then."Bookmark here

"Yeah, go ahead.Bookmark here

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Phew… I almost slipped…"Bookmark here

Indeed, the whole restaurant is looking very fine to the eyes. It looks much more modern, and the quality of everything is spot on. It really adds a new life to the Giotto's that I was used to. Having a newer kitchen environment felt like it was boosting your efficiency. It has been a while since I cooked like how I do in the restaurant.Bookmark here

Really, huge props to the Exile engineers for doing this. In spite of the busier construction work at school, they still managed their time for this. They deserve a good rest.Bookmark here

I guess I'll go visit the base to make them good food when I have the time.Bookmark here

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Well, I suddenly got the "time."Bookmark here

▪ ▪ ▪Bookmark here

July 21, Saturday.Bookmark here

Akira finally set out some kind of a schedule as he apparently finished with his final job around this week. But us knowing that he does not know of good places in Ginga, we left the decision to Nagi and humbly chose to just settle with his favorite udon restaurant in the corner of the commercial district.Bookmark here

Being the one that insisted the reunion, Akira thought that he shall not be late contrasting to his former persona. Thus, he arrived a few minutes earlier than the schedule.Bookmark here

Him being the first one to arrive, he got a table ready in which it can fit eight people. Since no table for six was available, he thought that it should not be a big deal.Bookmark here

The chimes rang and the door opened with only one person entering the place. Scanning the whole place, the person can't seem to find anyone that is familiar to him.Bookmark here

"Hey, over here, Jean!" Akira whispered.Bookmark here

Hearing the call, he was conflicted as to what expression he should make as the thought that the "handsome guy" which is the main hot topic in Blue Ink is actually Akira Juushiro.Bookmark here

Still, he pondered over the thought that he needs to find someone familiar to him despite knowing the one who called out to him.Bookmark here

"Hey, that's mean! Don't ignore me!"Bookmark here

"Oi… are you seriously Akira…?!"Bookmark here

"Yep! It's been a while, Jean."Bookmark here

Amidst of everything, they shook hands and Jean sat on a seating cushion.Bookmark here

"By the way, you went here alone, Jean?"Bookmark here

"Yeah. I'm wondering why the others aren't here yet. I know it's typical for us Orions to be late since time immemorial, but it's kinda weird that they're not yet here."Bookmark here

"In most cases, they are the ones who are always early."Bookmark here

"Yeah. You're always the last."Bookmark here

"That was Bentley!"Bookmark here

"But I'm pretty sure that I followed the time."Bookmark here

"You're just in time. What I said to Gin was…"Bookmark here

▪ ▪ ▪Bookmark here

"9:30? Alright, noted.Bookmark here

Yep.Bookmark here

Yes, we're all good to go. I also don't have work every Saturday so things are very fine.Bookmark here

Okay, see 'ya."Bookmark here

*beep*Bookmark here

"What did Akira say, Gin?"Bookmark here

"9:30 this Saturday. He's good with the place, Nagi."Bookmark here

"Then there's nothing to worry, I guess. All we need to do is get ourselves prepared, ri~ght?" Nagi wryly said.Bookmark here

"Oh, and don't forget earplugs," Rin added.Bookmark here

And all of us aside from Jean threw a thumbs up in both of our hands.Bookmark here

"…?"Bookmark here

▪ ▪ ▪Bookmark here

"So the others really are late."Bookmark here

"I wonder what's up with those guys. It's almost 10."Bookmark here

"Then while waiting, care to tell how's life-Bookmark here

…in the base?" Jean whispered knowing the circumstances.Bookmark here

"Quite nice, I'd say. Living in the first few days made me realize that their lifestyle is easily very different from the surface. Seriously, you wouldn't even think that you were still on (in) Earth!"Bookmark here

"Oooh… Is that a reason as to why you Exiles don't call yourself humans?"Bookmark here

"You could say that. Hahaha.Bookmark here

Then again, they all have their stories and sometimes they are tragic. But listening to them makes you feel better when you see them all in smiles with the life they have.Bookmark here

And because of the recent oath, life has become easier and they can finally get out breathing some fresh air. But still with caution, of course."Bookmark here

"Hmm… Sounds like you're having a great time."Bookmark here

"It's very life-changing."Bookmark here

*kling*Bookmark here

"Ossu~! Sorry we're late."Bookmark here

"Is that Akira?!"Bookmark here

"What the- I don't recall knowing any ikemen guys!"Bookmark here

"That hurt, Nacchi!"Bookmark here

"It's been a while, Akira."Bookmark here

"Likewise, Ringo."Bookmark here

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"Why are the four of you late anyway?!"Bookmark here

"Uhh… some stuff happened…Bookmark here

Or rather! We planned this out."Bookmark here

"You mentioned some kind of surprise to me in a call. Stop stepping on the brakes, Gin."Bookmark here

"Oi. Would I ever surprise someone when I told him or her that there is a surprise?"Bookmark here

"Well… you have a point there. So it wasn't for me, then?"Bookmark here

"Huh? What surprise are you all talking about?"Bookmark here

Came the question from Jean, who was been sitting with a clueless face.Bookmark here

"Wait, so instead of me, it was Jean that is going to be surprised?" thought Akira .Bookmark here

"Hehehehe~! Miss, show yourself if you please."Bookmark here

"H-Hi, Jin… We-We haven't s-seen each other for a-a while, have we…?" there stood a girl with a timid smile, looking directly at Jean.Bookmark here

She is…Bookmark here

.Bookmark here

.Bookmark here

.Bookmark here

"AI?!?!?!?!?!?!?! (Extremely loud shout)" and the whole building leaped and shook.Bookmark here

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"See? That's why I reminded the earplugs."Bookmark here

"Were you saying something, Rin? I can't really hear you," I said and tilted my head near hers.Bookmark here

Rin then pointed out with the earplugs she was wearing.Bookmark here

"Ah. Good thinking, Rin."Bookmark here

"Now I'm the one that can't hear you properly."Bookmark here

"I said you're cute."Bookmark here

And then Rin lightly blushed.Bookmark here

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"I humbly apologize for making you visit first before me. Please accept my forgiveness," Jean prostrated.Bookmark here

"Woah! Dogeza?! That's some seriousness, Jean!"Bookmark here

The ruckus then caught the attention of the few customers. But the cook behind the kitchen counter is seen resisting his laughter.Bookmark here

"Actually… this is where we moved out… That's why I can't tell where we live…"Bookmark here

"I'm very sorry for being oblivious…!" Jean then slammed his head to the floor numerous times.Bookmark here

"Hahh… Before this cliche gets any worse, let's have our seats and take our orders."Bookmark here

~ ~ ~Bookmark here

Then we arranged ourselves with me and Rin facing each other, Jean and Ai-san, Nagi and Shiro with the same arrangement as us respectively, and Akira is sat on the middle on our side.Bookmark here

Jean is still on a flabbergasted state.Bookmark here

"Alright. Enough of the shenanigans.Bookmark here

First of all, Ai-san, this unbelievably good looking guy whom I still refuse to believe that's him is Akira Juushiro. Akira, you may or may not know her but this is Ai Hikari."Bookmark here

"Nice to meet you."Bookmark here

"Likewise, Juushiro-san…Bookmark here

Wait, Juushiro? Is he related to the principal, senpai?"Bookmark here

"They are father and son."Bookmark here

"Yes, I am his son. I used to study in Blue Ink until I stopped going to school after we graduated. I have a good reason as to why I quit, though.Bookmark here

And please just call me Akira. By the sound of it, you are from the North."Bookmark here

"Since you're so out of the loop, yes she is. You remember my interview, right? She actually worked for Giotto's as a part-timer."Bookmark here

"Ohh… So she's Japanese?"Bookmark here

"My family moved here to the South just this May due to some circumstances. Currently, I am studying in Blue Ink High as a fourth year."Bookmark here

Hearing that, Jean flinched.Bookmark here

"S-S-So Ai actually moved here in Orio and now she's studying at the same school…" Jean loudly muttered to himself as things finally sunk in to him.Bookmark here

Being ignored, Akira asked.Bookmark here

"Uhh… Can someone tell me why is Jean acting so hysterical?"Bookmark here

"Now that it has come to this… I think Ai-san can answer that."Bookmark here

"N-N-No…! Don't-!"Bookmark here

"U-Umm… I just wanted to surprise Jin but I didn't think that it will take a month for this to happen…Bookmark here

To put it simply… umm…"Bookmark here

Her head overloaded thus not finishing what she was saying. It does seem that those two are yet to tell about their special relationship.Bookmark here

With Akira getting to understand the situation, he came to a conclusion.Bookmark here

"Hmm… Are these two dating?"Bookmark here

"Nope. They're not," I replied with a blank smile.Bookmark here

"Oof."Bookmark here

"Urk…"Bookmark here

"Let those two explain once they've calmed down."Bookmark here

"Orders to be served!"Bookmark here

"Ah, owner! Rin and I will add 30 Laxes on our bill!"Bookmark here

"Us too, owner!" follow up coming from Shiro.Bookmark here

"Hahaha…! The usual for the regulars, then!"Bookmark here

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"Seems like you guys are quite known here."Bookmark here

"I originally introduced Gin to this place when he broke up with Ringo. But Shiro and I think of this as a second home since we always eat here," explained Nagi.Bookmark here

"Oh, right, Nagi. It was originally planned that we will be here at night. Why did you veto?"Bookmark here

"That… It's because this place almost becomes like a drinking house at night. A lot of corporate employees come drink here and complain about their bosses at the same time."Bookmark here

"Oh. The boss stuff is to be expected."Bookmark here

"Potato, don't sneak out and go drink here, alright?"Bookmark here

"Like I said, I don't drink, Rin. You know that the most.Bookmark here

Seconds, please!"Bookmark here

"Going back to the topic… What is up with you two, Jean?"Bookmark here

"Akira, geez.Bookmark here

Alright I'll tell you. I'm currently wooing Ai and getting her parents' approval. Although I've expected that it'll take me long."Bookmark here

"Ohoho… I see. Trying not to follow Gin's example, huh."Bookmark here

"Ugh…"Bookmark here

It hit pretty hard.Bookmark here

"But even with that, we're kind of in a mutual relationship, I guess."Bookmark here

"I'll explain everything to you some time, Jin."Bookmark here

"Right… I will go visit you then."Bookmark here

"By the way, what's with the stockpile of work that you said you had, Akira?"Bookmark here

"Ahh… I'm acting like my Dad's secretary now. I'll probably be in school most of the time after this."Bookmark here

"How are things in there?"Bookmark here

"About that, I'll have to return this afternoon.Bookmark here

Things are like usual, though. But I do look out for Ken when he's doing his own research. He's getting better."Bookmark here

"'I'll have to return this afternoon,' he says…"Bookmark here

Somehow I get what was behind that.Bookmark here

"I understand, Akira."Bookmark here

"I feel bad (for Ai-san), though. But to make up for it, what's until lunch is on me," Akira declared.Bookmark here

"Nice. Thanks, then."Bookmark here

We lasted for a few hours on the restaurant talking about a lot of things that has happened after the graduation and thankfully, Ai-san quickly adjusted on our idiocy.Bookmark here

I also secretly explained what was Akira’s intention to the others except for Ai-san.Bookmark here

Then the arm of the clock hits 4 in the afternoon.Bookmark here

~ ~ ~Bookmark here

"I guess it's time. I'll have to go back now."Bookmark here

"We'll be going first then, Akira. I have to take Ai home and visit her family.Bookmark here

I'll go with you next time, sorry."Bookmark here

"Nah, it's fine. That is more important than this."Bookmark here

"Thank you for this, Akira-san. I had fun," Ai bowed.Bookmark here

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"Gin, Hiroomi knows about this so he let us borrow a car in the resto. You know that you're the only one that can drive."Bookmark here

"Yep. So it'll be at Giotto's then to the base. I'll go make dinner for everybody down there. I want to thank the engineers with that."Bookmark here

"That wiiillll be a lot of work, Potato. I'll help."Bookmark here

"Thanks, Rin. It will be quite the challenge to feed two hundred people. Too bad Jean's not with us."Bookmark here

"So two hundred people live in the Exile's base?"Bookmark here

"That's a lot compared to what we saw out at the Square."Bookmark here

"Well then. Let's head out before it gets late."Bookmark here

~ ~ ~Bookmark here

"Ayy~! Akira is with Gin today!"Bookmark here

"And Ringo, huh?"Bookmark here

"Hi, there. It's been a while, guys. Rin and I will be in charge of dinner, alright?"Bookmark here

"I didn't expect the base to be this big…"Bookmark here

"Neither did I…"Bookmark here

The two newcomers with us were obviously expecting something different.Bookmark here

"Yo, Gin. How's it going?"Bookmark here

"I'm fine. But I should be asking you that, Ken."Bookmark here

"Wait, Nagi and Shiro is here too?Bookmark here

So they will be 'companions' too, huh."Bookmark here

With the events that happened, we terminated the position of 'subordinates of the underground' and simply replaced it with 'companions.' Though my dad and Rin stays with the position.Bookmark here

"Companions? Can you explain, Gin?"Bookmark here

"You two are the third and fourth individuals to ever enter the base as 'humans.' The first and second was my dad and Rin.Bookmark here

And that's out of the many decades."Bookmark here

"So Ringo is well known here?"Bookmark here

"Yep. I've been here many times-Bookmark here

Buh…!"Bookmark here

And the children tackled Rin.Bookmark here

"Ahaha… the kids are still full of energy even at this time."Bookmark here

"What a lively place…"Bookmark here

▪ ▪ ▪Bookmark here

It was once again a rowdy dinner every time I go into the base. But it is very relieving to see the others having fun.Bookmark here

It is always a nice experience having to get together with them, as they are very different from what the surface houses on it.Bookmark here

8pm.Bookmark here

"Ugh… I didn't expect to get this tired…"Bookmark here

"Sorry, Nagi, Shiro. I don't think I can still drive."Bookmark here

"If that's what you're bothered about, let someone drive them home."Bookmark here

"Oh, you have a point, Akira."Bookmark here

"Alright. I'll ask someone. You guys wait here."Bookmark here

"I think it's best to stay the night here. Is that okay, Rin? I'll call both of our parents."Bookmark here

"Sure… If it's in the base, they won't worry. Go ahead, Potato."Bookmark here

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"I'm still not used to you being called like that."Bookmark here

"I didn't ask earlier, but why let us inside this base? And knowing that we are one of the few people that saw the Exiles…"Bookmark here

"Of course, that's because we trust you two basically."Bookmark here

"…Bookmark here

Well… we're glad to hear that.Bookmark here

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"Alright, you two. The car is ready."Bookmark here

"We're going then. You guys have a good rest."Bookmark here

"Sure. Be careful on the way home."Bookmark here

"Thanks for this. We had a good time."Bookmark here

And so our lives continued on thereafter.

Chapter Message:Bookmark here

You've finished reading 016!Bookmark here

If only I have the time to draw/update the character designs! Well, I did illustrate some of the early characters of NoFutsuu way before these two stories reached HF, and I sure wish I can draw them again outside of featuring them on covers. Reality is that being an art student isn't really that fun, but pulling through. Reflection: while drawing is what I like, not all art is enjoyable.Bookmark here

Anyway I'll go watch some vtubers.Bookmark here

Thanks for reading!Bookmark here

NextBookmark here

017: Quarrels are unavoidable.Bookmark here

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