"In that case, I really want to start filming today!"
After school, the pollen has subsided and the weather has begun to clear. We are now in the middle of May.
The script for the film has been submitted by the class representative, and I have divided the roles into 3 teams: the cast team, the videography team and the equipment team. This way, we can start shooting the film right away.
The system of assigning one person to be in charge of each team (with Kasumi in charge of the casting team, me in charge of the videography team, and Kotono in charge of the equipment team) seems to be working well, and so far everything has gone smoothly... maybe.
"Kashiwagi, how are you going to shoot this scene?"
"You can just fix that part with a tripod and record it with your phone, so you can do it yourself."
"Okay. I'll try it first."
To be honest, I was afraid that no one would want to work with me because they had seen the chocolate banana tragedy last year, but I was surprised at how cooperative everyone was once we started.
I was ready to shoot all the scenes, but it turned out that the members of the videography team were very enthusiastic about taking part in the preparation after school. Some of them said, "I saw this on MeTube", and as he thought we could shoot it pretty well with a smartphone camera, he suggested we share the task of filming. After a month of new semesters, I finally feel like I'm in a good class.
"Kashiwagi~~. Come here..."
"Okay, I'm coming."
I was happy to have a male friend to talk to after being estranged with Kasumi for the past month.
Speaking of which, Kasumi seems to be working hard on her rather unique acting training. At first I was worried about her, but then she said, "I can't stay in Ren-kun's guard forever either. I think it's time for Miru-chan to show off her skills!". In the end, I gave the task to her, who was already experienced, and surprisingly, she was able to do it without any problems.
"Kashiwagi! One of them fainted during a demonstration of Kasumi, I'll take him to the infirmary.
...Well, even though there are still casualties from time to time.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
"It's okay, no need to apologize, Miruffy. Can't help it."
"Yes, we already know that you don't mean any harm."
"In that case, let's continue the training. I'm sure he'll recover in about 10 minutes."
What's different from last April is that the people around her have begun to understand her.
Her efforts were not in vain, she went to school diligently every day, handed in her homework and kept trying to talk to her classmates, even when I reprimanded her for her mistake.
"Thank you, everyone."
After being comforted by her classmates, Kasumi expressed a little gratitude with an emotional face and returned to her acting training.
Then, after perhaps noticing my gaze while she was thanking them, she pointed her palm at me with a happy face.
Oh no. My tear glands seemed to be having problems. I started to cry because I was touched.
Wait, what the hell am I, a guardian to her?
"Okay, I won't lose either...!"
My search for what I want to do has just started again.
This is a very important moment for me to start something new, but for now I have to focus on the shooting tasks that are already in front of me.
I just focused on the camera in front of me.
At that moment I felt as if all the sounds around me had suddenly disappeared.
I'm glad I started to feel what Kasumi has to say. Little by little, I was getting closer and closer to the real thing.
I also adjusted the lens of my camera and narrowed my eyes to fight the glare of the sunlight.
A few moments later, as the school prepared for the festival, all the students in the school began to look excited.
"Ah, it’s Ren. How are you?"
I was approached by someone in the shoebox, and I turned to answer the voice I recognized.
"Good, good. It's been a long time since we were in another class."
"Yeah, yeah, but we still chat a lot in LIME, so it doesn't feel that long."
The person who greeted me was Tadokoro. Tadokoro had interacted with me a lot, and our relationship was good, even though it had been a little awkward before due to problems with Maina.
"Yeah, that's it. I mean, you're suddenly familiar with Miruffy without me noticing. Hey, we're friends, right? Of course, you will introduce me to her, right?"
"An ulterior motive, huh?"
"Of course. Well... I'm just kidding anyway, but can you get her autograph for me next time?"
"But you said you'd rather worship her from afar."
"That's just your imagination! She is an angel when you see her in person. She really is amazing. I mean... well, I'm just jealous that I'm not in the same class as her~"
"Yeah, yeah. Whatever."
"Uwaa, you are really cold to me."
I just smiled and changed the subject.
"So, what is your class planning to do for the festival later? I happen to be a member of the festival committee this year."
"Wow. I'm surprised you decided to become a member of the festival committee after last year's chocolate banana tragedy. My class is going to have a pillow war. So, all we have to do is arrange mats and pillows, it's very simple."
"Ah, I hadn't thought of that."
Of course, that way they don't have to be busy during the holidays, and they only have to bring a mat the day before.
"What about Ren's class?"
"My class will be making and showing an original movie. We are working hard now to prepare for it."
"Seriously, you can really do anything. I remember at the end of the first year, you played music and made a jingle. You know, I still remember that cup noodle song in my heart~"
"Huh!? Forget it!!"
"Don't wanna ♡."
I'm going to beat this guy.
I bought a guitar impulsively because I was influenced by a band I liked, but writing songs was the most unsuitable thing I've ever done.
Please don't dig into someone's dark history in front of that respective person.
"Uh, wait, Ren is in class 3, right?"
"Well, I remember. Rumor has it that a lot of people don't like your class, so are you okay?"
I asked him for details, and he told me that there was a lot of talk among the other classes that "Class 3 is unfair because of Miru Kasumi", and since it was a competition, a lot of them did not want our class to participate.
"Well, our class doesn't think too much about it anyway, because we're all just festival connoisseurs who don't bother to think about this class competition, but for people who are so intent on making a haunted house or something, it will obviously make them feel frustrated, right? Especially for the seniors, because this is their last year."
"It makes sense anyway, but... Kasumi is a student of this school too, so it is not appropriate to ask her not to participate."
"No, more precisely, because Mirufy is in your class, they think that you are cheating and that you are all the ones who bear the hatred. Well, it's just the hatred of the fans, right? But after all, it is a festival committee member like you who will be the target, so be careful, okay?"
"...Okay, thank you."
For now, it is just rumors.
Still, I feel uneasy when I hear such rumors.
Besides, I know that Kasumi is very afraid of messing up, and she is worried about this.
"I hope nothing bad happens in the future..."
However, against my will, the voices of dissatisfaction from the other students gradually increased. They realized that it was unfair for my class to have a high-profile celebrity like Miru Kasumi, until finally my classmates consulted me about it.
We also decided to discuss it with the homeroom teacher, and it was decided that there was nothing to worry about because there was nothing wrong with Kasumi's participation in the festival later, even though she was a former idol, and Class 3 was obviously innocent...
However, the number of students preparing for the cultural festival, which was originally quite high, has now been drastically reduced. Maybe it was not just because of the rumors, but the rumors must have played a big role in this incident.
"So, it should have been said from the heart with a 'gyun' intonation! And don't you need to move quickly like 'zusha'?"
"Wait, wait, Mirufy, what the hell is this onomatopoeia? I don't understand it at all." [TN: Onomatopoeia is a kind of sound that describes a movement or expression]
"Eh, yeah, it's like you fell with 'gyuwa'..."
"Huh, what the hell!?"
I don't know if they will be able to understand her teachings, but my heart beats and aches a little when I see Kasumi smiling so wide today when she gives the acting instructions.
I wonder if she knows about the rumors that are currently circulating.
Of course, I haven't told her yet, and Kotono, who is Kasumi's other closest friend in the class, said that she would try to suppress her rumors as much as possible, so I will assume that the rumors really haven't reached Kasumi's ears yet.
"In that case, we'll just take pictures of the scenery outside today, so let's disperse and move on."
As I dispersed my team and tidied up my tripod, Kasumi peered out from behind me.
"You can go home first anyway, okay?"
"It's okay, I have nothing to do. Besides, I'm not sure if I should leave Ren-kun alone."
"Then I will wait here as well. I'm free."
When I turned around, I saw Kotono standing behind Kasumi in a neat posture.
"I'm sure Kotono isn't the only one who is free, right?"
"Uh, you call her by her first name? You're always together with the class representative, too..."
"Oh, I just call her by her first name because we have known each other since junior high school."
Actually, a big part of the reason is that she doesn't want to be called the class president.
"Then I will call you Kotono-chan. I mean, we're both good friends, right?"
"No, it is, umm."
"I thought we were close enough..."
"Well, in that case, we are indeed good friends already."
"Hahaha. Kotono-chan is cute too. Oh yeah, you can call me Miru too."
"Waa, I'm not cute!!! And that, um, I'm still reluctant to say..."
Kasumi and I smiled. It's not often that I get to see Kotono in a panic situation, so it's really funny.
"So, you're really going to wait here?"
"Why would I lie?"
Gosh, you two are so disciplined.
"Yeah, it's okay anyway."
"Well, I'll leave when I get bored."
Kasumi also sat on the stairs, put on a serious face and formed a clapping board with her hands.
The sun began to set.
"Alright... Let's go home!"
Somehow, I finally managed to finish the shot satisfactorily, so I started preparing to go home in a good mood.
"Thanks for coming with me, Kasumi... Oh yeah, where's Kotono?"
I looked around for Kotono, but couldn't find her.
"Kotono-chan, um, she just went to the vending machine to get some drinks, but she hasn't come back yet."
"Ah, I didn't even know she was gone."
Sorry, I've been busy with myself.
"Ren-kun, since you seem to be concentrating, she feels so bad about bothering you, so she just told me. Hah... I love Kotono-chan. She is very sweet, cute, and thoughtful. She is so kind..."
"She'll die if she hears this herself."
"Ah, no, it's okay. I'm going to catch up with her. Would you like to come with me?"
"No, no~. I'll wait for you here."
Then, as I ran to where the vending machine was, I saw Kotono talking to some students.
"... So... That's why..."
I can't hear them very well, but it seems that Kotono is struggling.
"Hey! What are you going to do with our class representative?"
When I quickly reprimanded them, some of the students who had been talking to Kotono said, "Nothing!" and quickly fled.
"What the hell was that?"
"Well, it's them, as usual."
"The rumors. They are an example of a group of people who say that we should not take advantage of Miru Kasumi's presence in our class. They say that our class is taking advantage of her and that it is unfair. Well, they are just jealous people."
Kotono said this with a straight face and took a handkerchief out of her pocket.
"...It is fans like that who tarnish the image of the idol community and make people think that all idol fans are like them. It's so bad, it's really bad. But people like them have been around for a long time... Ah, Kashiwagi-kun, who doesn't really follow the development of idols, probably won't be able to understand that."
Kotono wiped her skirt with her handkerchief as she grumbled. If you look closely, I can see that part of the skirt has stains that are quite dark in color.
I could only stand there, unable to respond to Kotono's complaints.
"That water, did they splash you?"
"It's not water, they poured pocari on me. It's the worst so far, because it's so sticky."
"Um? Since the rumors started that Mirufy will participate in the school festival, maybe? Ah, but it seems that the other girls are not treated this badly. I was targeted because I looked close to Mirufy, but yes, it was because I was a committee member in the class."
"And besides, it would be easier to vent to me compared to Kashiwagi-kun, right? That's because you have a lot of connections and your body is obviously bigger."
Kotono said while continuing to wipe her skirt.
"Let's go back soon. She will be worried later."
I smiled and made a face as if nothing had happened.
"Come on, Sensei."
"No, I can't. If she sees it, Mirufy might not be willing to participate in the festival later."
"But that doesn't mean that Kotono has to be sacrificed."
"Not only me, okay, but I never thought of myself as a victim."
Kotono pressed her index finger to her mouth and continued in a low voice.
"Oh God, really, it's okay. Please don't ever tell Mirufy about this... Kashiwagi-kun, please be careful too, okay?"
I actually felt the emotion in my heart and it was as if my blood froze at the tips of my toes.
I'm too optimistic that nothing will happen.
Anyway, I'm the one who's taking it too lightly.
"Hey, you two are taking so long."
"Ah, it was so crowded there just now."
"Just kidding. I didn't wait that long. Oh well, let's go home, okay?"
Kasumi waited, holding her schoolbag with both hands.
"Uh, but neither Ren-kun nor Kotono-chan brought anything. So what were you two doing in the vending machine earlier?"
Looking at our empty hands, Kasumi chuckled slightly.
"Huh? Ah yes, that..."
"We had a short drink competition and threw it away right away. Yes, that was it, wasn't it, Kashiwagi-kun?"
"Yes, yes. I won."
"Don't lie, I am the one who won."
Good answer, Kotono.
I tried my best to join in, and it seemed that Kasumi trusted us. Then she sulked and mumbled that she hoped to be invited as well.
"Well, you two, see you tomorrow."
Saying this, Kasumi remained motionless from her seat.
"Huh? Kasumi, are you gonna stay here?"
"I left something in the classroom."
"Yes, I'll wait here."
"No problem! I'm going to the library anyway, and it will take a while, so you can go home first."
Kotono and I looked at each other.
"Okay then, bye."
"...Hurry up and go home before it gets dark, okay?"
Kasumi's cheerful greeting drove us home, and although we left the school gate together, I soon parted ways with Kotono, whose way home was in the opposite direction to mine.
"Please be careful, okay."
"Yes, I know. Kashiwagi-kun too, okay."
"Yes. See you tomorrow."
I waved to Kotono and after making sure she turned towards the corner, I immediately circled around and headed back to the school.
The entrance to the school. Classroom. The alley. In front of the vending machine.
Upstairs, the stairs lead to the roof.
"...Why did you come back?"
"I don't know."
The Kasumi I know is not stupid enough to believe in my bad acting.
"What are you doing?"
There she curled up and pressed her fingernails hard against her own calf.
"You lied. That's not nothing."
Hiding in a place like this and hurting yourself in an invisible place is definitely not a normal action.
"I won't be able to be normal."
Kasumi said it in a restrained voice, then she scratched her pure white skin even harder.
The wound was clearly visible and it should have been very painful, but her expression didn't change at all.
Unable to bear looking at her any longer, I forcibly pulled out her arm, and Kasumi let out a breath.
"I understand. I will try not to be discovered next time."
"You shouldn't do that anymore, okay?"
I guessed, there was something distorted about Kasumi.
Something important, like her mentality or her confidence.
"...I saw it. What should I do?"
Then, as if she wanted to let it all out, she continued.
"I don't know. Kotono-chan, with Kasumi-san, she always..."
"She's very friendly. That's why I like her so much, and I thought we could really get along, but since I... Oh my God, I didn't know that all along."
Kasumi's breathing accelerated.
"N-no, it's, hyuh─no."
"Calm down, Kasumi."
"No, it's, hyuuh──, I-I am."
"Relax Kasumi, it's okay. I'll make sure it doesn't happen again in the future."
I rubbed Kasumi's back, who started to hyperventilate. [TN: Hyperventilation is a condition where the person can't catch their breath due to a panic attack, so they inhale and exhale their breath in a very fast rhythm].
"... Ah... Everyone, it's my fault."
"It's okay, really. Please calm down."
"Calm down and take a deep breath."
Somehow, I managed to calm Kasumi who had lost her strength and collapsed.
At that moment, she slowly opened her hand.
As she examined the cherry blossom mark that began to faintly appear in her hand, Kasumi's breathing gradually returned to normal.
"... Have you calmed down?"
"... A bit."
"You need a drink, right? Can you wait a moment?"
She said she didn't want to be taken to the infirmary, so I went to get her water, but she grabbed my arm.
"Ren-kun... Just stay here."
"I'll be fine."
I couldn't move after she said that.
Then a silence fell over us and I don't know how long it lasted.
"...What should I do?"
Kasumi said quietly and covered her face.
"I'm sorry, I'm really sorry..."
Visible tears accumulated to the limit of what her big eyes could bear.
Nevertheless, she opened her eyes wide and tried to hold them back.
If I told her it was okay to cry, she would probably tell me again that she didn't have the right to cry.
She would frustratingly say that it was all her fault.
"It's not Kasumi's fault."
"...No, of course it's all my fault."
"...Really, it's not Kasumi's fault."
Really, it's not Kasumi's fault."
I continued to rub Kasumi's back.
"... I won't stop here."
After taking a breath, Kasumi opened her mouth again.
"I won't stop participating at the festival later. If I stop now, I will be wasting Kotono-chan's fight. It also means that I give up, and it will be seen if I am forced to participate before then."
She opened and closed her palms several times before finally clenching them into fists.
"Please don't tell anyone about today."
"...I know how you feel. Are you okay with that, Kasumi?"
Indeed, Kotono's determination would be in vain if she knew all this.
But still, after seeing what had just happened to Kasumi, I thought it would be better to reconvene with the homeroom teacher.
However, it seems that Kasumi's resolve is firm.
"...I can't guarantee that I won't make trouble for Ren-kun again, but I will try my best not to bother you."
Then she continued to try her best to get her words out.
"I can't stand the thought of someone I love being hurt and misunderstood because of me and just leaving it at that."
It was an expression I had never seen from her before. Like there were crackling and burning stars in her eyes.
She always smiled everywhere, but when others were hurt because of her, she had an expression as if she was suffering a very deep wound.
What happened in the past that made her hyperventilate?
"...Umm. I've always wondered, what scares you? To be ruined or hurt so..."
A sharp voice suddenly came out.
Kasumi's face turned extremely pale and red.
Her expression was darker than I had ever seen before.
"I've always been grateful for your help and I like you. But... No matter how much we experience together as an alliance, you are not my family or my lover, right?"
The sharpness of her words took my breath away.
Kreek!! Kasumi's layer seemed to crack even more.
The next day, I got up earlier than usual and went to school.
Yesterday, Kasumi finally caught her breath, called a taxi, and somehow managed to get home.
I've tried to contact her several times since then, but she hasn't answered and I'm worried. But I don't know where she lives, and even if I ask her directly, she will probably be very worried about her situation and run away from home.
If that's the case, I think it would be better to go to school early and wait for Kasumi there, and if she doesn't show up, I will ask the homeroom teacher where she lives.
"Oh, good morning."
She greeted me in the hallway, so I reflexively greeted her back and hurried into the classroom.
Normally, I would chat with a friend I met in the hallway and go into the classroom at the last minute. But today───── Huh, who is she?
I turned in a panic.
Cherry-blossom hair. Pure white skin. A face like a doll.
Everything I saw of her indicated that she was Miru Kasumi, but something inside me felt that she was not the Kasumi I knew.
Kasumi gave a wry smile, nodded weakly, and looked in the opposite direction of the classroom.
If she were the usual Kasumi, she would have at least pushed me with her duffel bag from behind and smiled happily, or patted me on the shoulder and pretended to hide.
Besides, I have never seen her look so gloomy.
"...I knew it, she was really shaken up."
I can only mumble and go to the classroom.
As long as Kasumi doesn't seem to want to be touched, there's nothing I can do.
After a while, the bell rings and Kasumi returns to her seat next to me.
"Where have you been?"
"Nothing. I just went to the cafeteria to get something to drink."
"What do you think I am? I at least go to the cafeteria to buy a drink, right, that's normal."
I can't just take it with "Oh, I see".
Usually, Kasumi doesn't go shopping alone.
The reason is that even though she has been in school here for a long time, she still causes a lot of trouble for people. Therefore, it is very difficult for Kasumi to leave the classroom.
However, Kasumi didn't seem to make a fuss today.
I don't know what to say. I don't know, but something is obviously wrong here.
I decided to talk to Kotono and ask her opinion.
"Hey. Something went wrong with Kasumi today, right?"
"Yeah, I guess. I don't know how to put it. She seems to have lost her angelic aura or her halo."
"Halo, huh? I guess so. I don't know, it seems like she's become less noticeable, or more reserved, or something..."
──────She became more and more normal again.
Wherever she is, she always attracts people's attention.
She's so conspicuous, no matter who she's with.
It must be ingrained in her as an idol.
Her sweet, resonant voice, her very firm body language, the way she tilts her head, her gentle smile, her habit of saying "I like you". There is no end to describe her.
Miru Kasumi is 'Mirufy' because of her funny and playful manner, she is loved by everyone.
"Yes, it's like she's acting now."
Her voice, her words, her gestures, her smile, her attitude.
Without the elements that make up ‘Mirufy’, Kasumi is just a normal girl who is very cute.
I'm sure she tries to be as close to 'normal' as possible.
When she started to focus on something, no one was better than her.
I've known for a long time that with this incredible focus and sensitivity, she's been able to get amazing results in a very short period of time.
For the past two months, there have been many examples around her that she can imitate.
Kotono looked at me doubtfully and asked me.
"What kind of acting is it?"
"Maybe a normal girl."
From that day on, Kasumi became a 'normal girl'.
Thanks to this, she is not very noticeable, and there have been no major problems since then.
Still, the atmosphere in the classroom is so heavy.
Kasumi, who is usually cool and chatting during recess, is sitting alone in her chair playing with her cell phone.
After school, she immediately got ready and left without anyone noticing.
During pair work in class, she interacted just enough and then looked at her textbooks with a bored look on her face.
She never said "I like you" to anyone again.
She didn't smile and laughed like a blooming flower.
────── This is not the Kasumi I know.
Everyone in the class must have thought the same, even if they didn't say it.
In fact, even Maina came up to me and said, "Isn't Kasumi looking a little bad lately? Everyone is worried about her".
"...I can't guarantee that I won't make trouble for Ren-kun again, but I will try my best not to bother you."
The words Kasumi said back then came back to me.
This must be the result of her thinking to avoid causing trouble in her own way.
It's true, no one was bothered by her decision.
Perhaps because of Kasumi's behavior, the bullying by the other students to Class 3 seemed to have stopped.
If Kasumi continued to act like a normal girl, the matter of this cultural festival might be over.
"Kasumi, you know..."
The sparkle in her eyes was gone.
The mark of the cherry blossoms in the palm of her right hand began to fade.
"You didn't forget, did you, with that promise?"
I will turn Kasumi into a normal girl. In return, Kasumi will help me find something I can be obsessed with.
That's why we formed an alliance together.
"I haven't forgotten. Look, I'm already a normal girl thanks to you."
Kasumi smiled slightly when she said that.
"I'm glad to hear that."
I want to make Kasumi a 'normal girl'.
I admired her strength to smile at everyone around her without ever shedding tears, even though she was covered with scars, and I wanted to help her more.
But I don't want her to be a normal girl like this.
I don't want this kind of normality that ignores, confuses and overwrites everything that exists in Miru Kasumi.
I don't want her to be alone.
"...Hey. Are you having fun at school?"
I know this is Kasumi's way of desperately trying not to hurt anyone.
But I felt her pain, and I felt like I couldn't let her do it anymore.
"It's a lot of fun, isn't it?"
For a moment, Kasumi's smile seemed distorted.
It looked like a smile made by suppressing all her emotions and could break into a cry at any moment.
────Miru Kasumi, slowly disappeared.
If she continues to play this 'normal' role, she will break down one day.
However, this is not 'normal'.
How could she be so twisted that she even hated herself?
I can't do anything if I don't know anything.
That night. I decided to investigate Kasumi's past, even without her consent.
TL & ED: Retallia
Note from The Translator:
Hey, thanks for everyone that have follow this series ^^ I hope my translation is clear enough...
Anyway, we have passed half of the story for this volume, and I could spoil you a bit that the next 3 chapters are going to be great, so I hope I can deliver it to you all soon.