The news of Yukinoshita’s inauguration as the vice-chairman of the planning committee was a few days after Sagami’s visit to the Service Club.
Before the commencement of the regular meeting of the day, Sagami ecstatically made the announcement.
With the advisor Atsugi’s initial approval as well as Meguri-senpai’s acknowledgement of Yukinoshita, the revelation saw primarily positive reactions.
It was an anticipated and timely entrance.
The section in charge of the “assistant historians” to which I belonged would be losing a member, but it was a responsibility that didn’t have very much work in the first place. It was judged that this transition wouldn’t lead to any critical problems. So, can I just not come anymore…? The thought crossed my mind for an instant, but it was due to this section of sinecures that I was able to avoid participating in in my class. One mustn’t call it a luxury.
Immediately upon her inauguration, Yukinoshita dove right into the work.
After compiling a new schedule and making it known to the committee, she had all the sections submit daily reports of their progress and checked them over.
Work had progressed forward without delay.
On the east side where public advertising was stressing over where to place their posters, they were instructed after calculating the flow of traffic from a map, while on the west side where volunteer management was having trouble amassing volunteering organizations, local award were established and handed out.
A grunt like me hadn’t the slightest idea of the inner workings of the executives, but I did know for sure that Yukinoshita was putting impressive effort into the work.
Either way, Sagami Minami may have been the chairman officially by name, but it wasn’t difficult to imagine Yukinoshita was actually handling most of the responsibility.
The situation was moving forward favorably.
In the meantime, the numerously held regular meeting had been approaching.
As scheduled, it was four in the afternoon.
Sagami took a fleeting look at the members gathered in the conference room and started with an opening. “Now then, we’ll begin the regular meeting.”
Everyone gave their “best regards” and bowed.
Starting first were the progress reports from every section.
“Okay, public advertising, you’re up first.”
The head of the section stood up, ready to report their current state of progress.
“We’ve completed 70% of our posting schedule, and as for the posters, we’re about halfway done.”
“Really? Sounds like we’re on track.” Sagami nodded her in satisfaction.
But following her words, as if usurping their warmth away, was a cold voice.
“No. It’s a little late.” The interior of the room grew rustled noisily to the unexpected voice. But regardless, the owner of the voice, Yukinoshita Yukino, paid it to no mind or bothered with it, and as if reproaching them, she continued her words. “The Cultural Festival is in three weeks. If we take into consideration that our visitors need time to adjust their schedules, there will be problems if we haven’t already completed all of that. Have you finished negotiating for the locations of the posters as well as uploads to the homepage?”
“Please hurry. Putting aside the working individuals, middle school students looking to test here and their guardians tend to frequently check the homepage.”
“Y-Yes.” Pressured by her, the head of advertising sank into his seat.
Silence hung over the conference. Sagami, sitting next to her, didn’t look like she comprehended what had just happened now either. Her mouth agape, she stared at Yukinoshita.
“Sagami-san, please continue.” Yukinoshita urged her on and the meeting finally resumed.
“Ah, okay. Then, volunteer management, please.”
“…Yes. At the present, there are ten volunteer organizations.” The head of the volunteers reported with reservation.
Sagami, feeling awkward as well, nodded. “They increased, huh? I wonder if it’s because of the local awards. Next is…”
“Are those only within the school? Have you confirmed with those locally? Please investigate the records from last year and try contacting them. As long we’re adopting the position of connecting with the local community, we have to avoid seeing a decline in participating organizations. Also, have you finished allocating the stage timeslots? How about the coordination regarding the expectations on the number of visitors and the backstage staff? Please compile everything in a timetable and submit it.”
The moment the situation tried to move along, a severe questioning was dished out. By no means would things be allowed to advance half-heartedly.
In that matter, from beginning to end, the meeting proceeded on, going to the health division and the finance accountants. As that happened, Yukinoshita reviewed over the particulars and handed out directions.
“Next, assistant historians.”
When I realized, Yukinoshita had started handling the proceedings of the meeting.
“There’s nothing in particular.” The head of the historians answered with brevity. In actuality, us assistant historians would see the highest amount of work on the day of the Cultural Festival, so at this stage, there was seldom work to do.
It was something that the chairwoman Sagami had understood, and after looking around the room, she attempted to end the meeting. “Okay, for today, we should stop here…”
“Historians, please make sure to submit a time schedule of the day of the event as well as equipment requests. As for video recording, there’s a limit to the equipment, so if the volunteer organizations plan to film as well, please take into consideration that there will be possibilities of time conflicts, so please discuss it over with them until the equipment is received.”
Yukinoshita instructed him without reservation despite him being a third year. The atmosphere turned sensitive thanks to that.
But that should’ve been the last of it. The progress reports from every section were given. Everyone sighed with relief, but the vice-chairman didn’t try to bring it to an end just yet.
“Furthermore… Is it fine if the student council handles the invited guests?”
“Uh huh, it sure is.” Still focused, Meguri-senpai immediately answered.
“In that case, we’ll leave that in your hands. If you can update the list of last year’s guests, then that would be helpful. As for the reception of the general visitor, that would be the health division’s job… Please hand them a list of the invited guests beforehand.”
“Okay, roger that.” Meguri-senpai nodded cheerfully. She then slipped out her impressions. “Gosh, you’re so amazing Yukinoshita-san… You really are Haru-san’s little sister.”
“…No, it wasn’t that much.” Yukinoshita showed humility to Meguri-senpai’s voice of esteem.
It certainly was true. Yukinoshita’s ability was remarkable. I really thought she was something else. But this way of doings things was somehow doubtful.
Following the regular reports, identifying problematic points and the examinations of their solutions, there was a consensus on the schedule from here on. On the whole, there was nothing else that needed to be discussed today.
Everyone perceived that the meeting would end and the atmosphere grew lax. A number of people stretched and groaned.
Realizing that she had taken the role of advancing the meeting, Yukinoshita directed her gaze to Sagami.
“Ah, right. Um, we’ll be counting on you all tomorrow as well. Good work.”
After giving her closing remarks, the members of the planning committee left their seats mumbling “good work, good work”.
I’m beat, totally tired, long day, that was pretty amazing though, totally, feels like I’m actually workin’ for once.
Those voices could be heard all over.
Everyone gave praise to Yukinoshita’s prudence.
She had been so overpowering, yet striking that the gossipy individuals were going as far as wondering who the actual chairwoman was.
Even an individual from the student council had raised her name as a potential candidate in the next election.
Indeed, that was Yukinoshita Yukino.
But without a doubt, amongst them all, the one who had it the hardest was Sagami.
Their circumstances should’ve been the same.
But another student in the same year suddenly took control of the meeting.
The other fell behind while the other tried to make up for that gap.
Had Yukinoshita displayed her capacity on her own, then it would’ve been a different story.
But, Sagami and Yukinoshita. A juxtaposition of their impressions had made evident the distinctive gap between them. It was obvious to anyone’s eyes. To praise Yukinoshita was to spite Sagami.
As Yukinoshita opted to remain behind and continue working, Sagami in her group of three left the room as if they were running away from the scene.
Now planning committee’s course of action had been made clear, our work would presumably become more optimized. Yukinoshita’s workmanship deserved commendation.
But, could it be that Yukinoshita had noticed?
That she wasn’t able to save anyone, nor anything.
× × ×
It was after school, an overnight since Yukinoshita went on an incredible rampage, scratch that, Yukinoshita became exceedingly active in the regular meeting, in the class of 2-F, where Ebina Hina was becoming exceedingly active, I mean, Ebina Hina was going on an incredible rampage.
“Wrooong! When you’re pulling the businessman’s necktie, you need act more seductive! What do you think the ‘suit for something’ is, huh!?
What kind of suit was that…?
Subjected to Ebina-san’s zealous guidance, the group of boys was shedding tears.
But, not all the boys were as pitiful as they were.
Amongst them was one individual who was given warm hospitality.
“Um, isn’t this enough already…?” said Hayama, his voice bewildered from having been surrounded by girls.
“Not yet, not yet!”
“The real thing starts now!”
The surrounding girls thwarted him with enthusiasm.
Apparently, the cast members were in the middle of a make-up session. Targeting the live performance, they were doing repetitive trial and error. Sagami was also in that group as well… Well, there was still some time left before the planning committee anyway.
And, Totsuka, with three girls applying his make-up to his hair, was completely petrified.
“Totsuka-kun, your skin is soooo nice.”
“Yeah, it’d be a waste not to pretty you up with some make-up.”
“U-Um… It’s just practice, so I don’t think we’ll need the make-up.” Totsuka declined very reservedly, but his cuteness backfired on him.
“Applying make-up needs practice too!”
Instead, he lit the motivational flames of the girls even more. Totsuka’s body shrunk even more to their declaration.
“O-Okay… I-I guess so. Practice is important, right.”
Watching Totsuka look so dejected made him look just a little pitiful, but the thought of him becoming even cuter kept my desire to stop them at bay, a weakness of my heart.
In any case, the disparity of treatment between the make-up groups was quite terrible.
I mean, in Tobe and Oooka’s direction, the girls had finished them up in just about five minutes. As for the class officer, he was applying most of the make-up by himself because no one had come to help him. On top of that, maybe because he was skilled at it, the way he appeared to be so used to it gave me the creeps too…
But I wasn’t the only one watching over the make-up session.
Miura was looking in Hayama’s group’s direction and opened her mouth, looking like she had something in mind. “Soooo, what are we gonna do about the pictures? Don’t we, like, need posters?”
Hearing that mutter, Ebina-san went up to her and energetically shot her a thumbs-up. “Yumiko, that’s good! Right! If we’re going to generate the most buzz for a musical about studs, then we have got to upload a picture of the characters. In which case, we’ll need to publicize the gritty bitty details of the cast too. For the LittleMusical, we only want the original work to carry us to a certain point and let the rest be handled by the power of the cast!”
What’s with that LittleMusical abbreviation? Then again, what industry are you from?
With Miura and Ebina-san’s conversation as a trigger, the class discussion transitioned to the next.
“What about the costumes? Maybe rented ones?”
“Those’ll be dirty though.”
The girls groaned, and like before, Ebina-san went up to them. “No, no, the little prince at the very least should have a solid visual image, so existing costumes can’t be used. Rentals should be okay for the others though.”
“Is that a big deal? It’s not like there’s a lot of people that have seen it…”
“Are you looking down on original purists!? Do you want to get destroyed online!?” Ebina-san fumed and flamboyantly stated. This time, a voice came from another direction.
“Mmm, if we’re renting out costumes, we just might be pushing it. We’d be just barely scraping by with our budget. I’d honestly prefer if we could use the rest of the money for other things, maybe…”
As Yuigahama scratched her head with her ballpen, she pressed away on her calculator and proceeded to write something down on her notes. You’re kind of acting like a housewife, you know.
“Can we not make them?” said the Queen, listening and then pointing it out.
Her citizens then began giving it some consideration.
“Can anyone sew?”
“I’ve only ever done it in class, so.”
Haa, they sure have a good balance of concerns, huh? I stood at the window side, impressed, and I spotted a blue ponytail incessantly entering and leaving my field of vision.
It was Kawagoe. Probably. Kawashima had been darting glances in the direction of the girl conversation, showing a look of interest since earlier. Color me a little surprised. I didn’t take Shimazaki for someone who’d be interested in stuff like that.
Finding it somewhat strange, I decided to probe further into Okazaki’s conduct, and it looked like the words “make”, “clothing”, and “sewing” were catching her attention.
As I thought about how out of character it was for Okazaki, I called out to her. “Hey, if you want to do it, you should say so.”
“W-What the heck are you saying!? As if I’d want to!” Kawasaki bolted out of her chair to my busybody voice… Jackpot, huh? So the right answer was Kawasaki. Okay, maybe Okazaki might have been way off.
While it was fine that I got it right, she’d probably just refuse regardless of what I’d say. In which case, the backdoor was the way to go.
“Waaah! Hey!” Kawasaki tugged at my sleeve, petitioning me to stop. I think she should stop reacting like that, because it’s oddly stimulating for my sadistic side.
“What is it?” Yuigahama came over and placed her red pen on her ear. Are you an old man at a horse race?
“Kawasaki said she wants to give it a try.”
“H-Huuuh!? W-What in the world are you saying!? Because I can’t make something like that. Anything that fancy is impossible! I mean, I haven’t made any clothes yet before… Um, so I’ll just get in the way…”
So you’ve made things besides clothes?
Yuigahama stared at Kawasaki as she was contemplating something. Kawasaki uncomfortably twisted her well-proportioned slender body and shrank. Yuigahama’s gaze stopped at a single point.
“Hey, did you make that scrunchie yourself?” asked Yuigahama, and Kawasaki nodded. “Can I see it real fast?”
As soon as she finished saying that, she extended her hand to Kawasaki’s hair. Her long bundled hair expanded.
Yuigahama, with the scrunchie in her hand, let out a voice in admiration. The curled scrunchie in her palm reminded me of underwear somehow, so it made my heart skip just a little.
“Hina. Come over here.”
“Okaaay.” Ebina-san came over after being called. She examined the scrunchie in interest.
“This is, handmade… But, I also made one with a machine too.” said Kawasaki, and she took out another scrunchie from the pocket of her blazer. This looked like underwear too.
“Hoh, hoh… the sewing’s very neat, and the color is cute… You can make them by hand and also use a sewing machine… Great! Kawasaki-san, I’ve decided on you! We’re counting on you for the costumes~”
“Eh, wai— you can’t just…” Kawasaki tied her hair back together and showed an uneasy and reluctant expression, having been asked in incredible nonchalant fashion.
Going “now, now”, Yuigahama soothed it over. “It’s not like Hina decided on the spot. Kawasaki-san, you fix up your blazer and blouse and stuff, right? I think she’s asking you because she knows all that.”
…That’s Yuigahama for you. She’s got quite the eye when it came to observing people.
“Ah, okay, eh?” Kawasaki replied half-heartedly, with an absentminded, but also dumbfounded expression. She was probably feeling surprised and happy that something that trivial was understood by them.
“Indeed! With the limited resources that we have, we have to figure out a way to use them as effectively as we can, and we also happen to have the technology. That’s why I want to entrust it you. Don’t worry! If something happens, I’ll take responsibility!” said Ebina-san, tapping her chest telling her to leave it all to her.
She really was a problem since she surprisingly had it together considering it’s her. Since she normally kept this wisdom of hers under wraps, it almost made me want to doubt whether this character of hers wasn’t just an act.
“If that’s the case, then, I guess I can do it…”
Ebina-san grabbed ahold of Kawasaki, who was flushed red, by the shoulders.
“Uh huh, looking forward to it. Oh and also, we’re going to patch up the clothes for the ‘narrator’. We’re going to make it somewhat shabby. We’ll make it have some smears, ones that won’t disappear.”
In her rotten “gufufu” laugh, not a shred of that wisdom was left. On second thought, I don’t get this person at all…
After confirming that the matters regarding the costumes got around, finally, there were no more actual things to do. Everyone went on to occupy themselves in their respective jobs.
I, too, had the sacrificial responsibility that no one wanted to do of being in the planning committee.
I went on my way to fulfill that duty.
Looking to leave the classroom, Yuigahama noticed my movement. She looked around the room and called to Sagami. “Sagamin, what about the committee?”
“Eh? Oh, sure, it should be okay.”
“…Ah, see, like I can’t really help out much so I’d just end getting in the way, see?”
“That’s not true. You’ll help out a lot. But it’s a lot of work so it’d be better to share the burden, I think.”
“It’s okay, it’s okay. Yukinoshita-san’s soooo reliable~ Besides, I have to write the application for our class’s exhibition, see~”
As I listened to that conversation from behind my back, I slowly closed the door.
Right after exiting the classroom, I bumped into Hayama.
“Heading to the committee?” Hayama was scrubbing cleansing paper for his make-up. He must’ve come from the bathroom after removing them.
“I see, do you mind if I go with you?”
“…?” I asked with just my expression alone, “Why? What the hell are you saying? I mean sure you can go there, but we don’t need to go together, right? Then again, you don’t need to go, seriously. Whatever, spit out a reason, eh?”
Hayama smiled. “Application for a volunteer organization. I’m just going to pick up some documents.”
“Ah, so that’s how it is.”
A rather typical reason for Hayama. He was well-aware that he was a conspicuous individual. This Cultural Festival sought an individual like that as well. So that’s why he was taking the effort to respond to that.
I didn’t ask anything further, as was the case for Hayama, and we left the classroom. I felt some kind of passionate stare stabbing at my back, but I was probably mistaken. Right? Ebina-san?
× × ×
We exited the classroom and headed towards the conference room. Though there was no daily meeting, there was some work for the assistant historians, very unfortunate.
Another unfortunate thing was that it was just Hayama and me.
We didn’t exchange any words in particular.
He had probably perceived my “don’t talk to me aura” and followed along with that. I looked at him with a passing glance, but he didn’t seem too bothered or worried at all. Just normal. He was humming to himself, not particularly too concerned of my well-being.
He was incredibly carefree.
As for me, I didn’t have that luxury.
When I became conscious that it was just me and Hayama, the memories of the summer camp at the Chiba Village flashed through my mind.
Those cold words which he uttered that night, in that obfuscated room. The very thought that those kinds of emotions existed within Hayato Hayama sent shivers down my spine. It wasn’t that Hayama was frightening.
It’s the fact that even that Hayama held those kinds of emotions while living his life that was dreadful.
A guy that was perfect, did things well, and an all-around great guy in anyone’s eyes, that Hayama.
Speechless from beginning to end, we turned the corner of the hallway.
Once we made it up to the conference room, there were numerous people at the entrance peeking into the room. Was there some kind of incident? Even though the incident wasn’t supposed to be happening at the conference room, but at the scene.1
“Did something happen?” asked Hayama, nonchalantly.
The girl turned around irritably, but realizing that it was Hayama who asked, she anxiously let out an “um…” as she attempted to explain the situation. Wait a second. What’s with the blushing, huh?
The girl began speaking in embarrassment, but this looked like it was going to longer than it needed to. If I was going to listen to her, I might as well save time and check out the scene for myself. When I placed my hand on the door, the surrounding watchers paved way for me.
Regret filled me instantly after opening the door. You should definitely emulate the conduct of the masses.
Ripples of tension swept throughout the conference room.
A few people moved to the corner and began forming a gallery.
At the center of the room were three people.
And lastly, Yukinoshita Haruno.
Yukinoshita and Haruno-san stood face to face, three steps away, in their relative positions. Meguri-senpai was behind Haruno-san in a fluster.
“Nee-san, why did you come here?” asked Yukinoshita, using both a severe and questioning tone.
“Oh c’mon, I came here since there was a notice about volunteer groups being accepted. As an OG of the orchestra club too.”
OG… I thought she was talking about Super Robot2 at first, but that probably wasn’t it. Maybe she was referring to Australian meat3, but of course, that wasn’t it either. I think it meant old girl? Hey, stop bad mouthing Hiratsuka-sensei!
Meguri-senpai forced herself between the two. “I-I’m sorry, I was the one who called her. We kind of met by chance in the city, and so, since it had been so long, we decided to talk for a bit, and it crossed my mind how we were kind of lacking volunteer organizations, so…”
Meeting Yukinoshita Haruno, of all people, on a coincidence was absurd. It was because she could make me think that way was what made her frightening.
“Yukinoshita-san, I’m sure you don’t know since you weren’t enrolled yet, but Haru-san during her third year was in the volunteer band. She was really amazing! So I just thought I could invite her…” said Meguri-senpai, looking at Yukinoshita in modesty, asking her, “How does that sound?”
“I’m aware of that… I was there and saw it. But…” Yukinoshita dropped her eyes to the floor, strongly clenching her teeth. She didn’t meet with Meguri-senpai’s anxious gaze. As a result, a short silence hung over them.
Haruno-san smiled with a look of embarrassment and came in. “Ahaha, Meguri. That’s not it. That was just for fun. But my plan’s to do it more seriously this year. I’m just wondering if I could get a place to practice sometime on campus… That’s okay, right? Yukino-chan. I mean you’re short on volunteers, after all~” Trying to give one last push, Haruno-san grabbed Yukinoshita’s shoulders. “I just want to give what I can to my cute little sister, Yukino-chan, see~”
“Don’t joke around… In the first place, nee-san, you’re,” Yukinoshita flicked her hands away, took a step away, and glared at her.
“Me? I’m what?” Haruno-san took Yukinoshita’s gaze head on without looking away. That displayed smile looked so sweet, yet just looking at it made my knees want to give way.
“…Like that, again…” Yukinoshita frustratingly chewed her lips and averted her eyes. The gazed she averted then crashed with mine.
“…!” She softly turned away from me as well. She was probably gazing at the same floor.
“Oh? It’s Hikigaya-kun! Hyahallo!” Noticing me, Haruno-san gave me a greeting that was indefinitely enthusiastic. What’s with that greeting, were you from Century’s End4?
“Haruno-san…” Hayama, who had entered late, stood next to me.
“Hi, Hayato.” Haruno-san lightly lifted her hand.
Hayama gave a slight nod in response. “What’s up?”
“I was just thinking I’d volunteer for the orchestra club. Like how it’d be interesting if we gathered all the OBs and OGs and stuff. Sounds like fun, right?”
“You’re doing whatever you think up like that again…” Hayama said in resignation.
I had known they were acquaintances, but there was something uncomfortable about it. It may have been because of their tone.
Casual, huh…? I looked at both Hayama and Haruno-san.
Haruno-san made a wry grin when she noticed that. “Mm? Aah, Hayato’s like a little brother to me. We’ve known each other since a long time ago. You can be casual with me too, Hikigaya-kun, you know? In that case, should I call you Hachiman? Hachiman?”
“Ahaha.” I rejected her notion with a parched laugh. I implore you to never do that. Only my parents and Totsuka are allowed to call me by Hachiman.
After feeling satisfied from her momentary mischief, Haruno returned her gaze to Yukinoshita. “Hey, Yukino-chan, I can come, right?”
“Just do whatever you want… I’m not the one with the right to decide anyway.”
“Huh? Really? I thought for sure you were the chairwoman. You didn’t get recommended by everyone?”
As a matter of fact, she did, and the reason being because she was Yukinoshita Haruno’s little sister.
Haruno-san chuckled and smiled, as if she had seen through everything. Yukinoshita was looking away.
“So who’s the chairman? Meguri… or not since she’s a third year. Hikigaya-kun?”
It wasn’t a particularly funny joke if she was trying to tell one. I answered only by shrugging my shoulders.
With the continuing unusual tension, the door of the conference room flung open without reservation.
“Soooorry, I kinda showed up to class and ended up late!” Rushing into the class with not a hint of shyness was Sagami Minami.
Well, there wasn’t a meeting today, and at the present moment, we were pushing up the schedule of the work. I could understand why had loosened up.
“Haru-san, this girl’s the chairman.” Meguri-senpai said.
Haruno-san’s gaze was locked onto Sagami with curiousity.
Those eyes again. Those demonic eyes that chillingly evaluated your worth
“…Ah, I’m Sagami Minami.” Sagami’s voice waned, pressured by the glint in Haruno-san’s eyes.
“Hmmm…” Haruno-san didn’t look the least interest, yet she let out a small breath and took a step closer. “The Cultural Festival planning committee chairman is late? On top of that, you showed up to class instead? Uh huuuh…”
That tone of hers was terrifying. Her oppressive voice that sounded like it was wrung from the depths of her body caused Sagami’s entire being to shrink. Her energetic conduct earlier made her appear more vicious with the sudden transition to a frigid expression. Not only was there a disparity of intimidation between Haruno-san and Yukinoshita, she also wore her dark emotions on her face without suppressing them.
She exhibited this truth in her attitude, where she’d stay docile up to a given point so she could interact with you amicably, but the moment she decided to strike back, she would strangle you mercilessly.
“Ah, um…” said Sagami, desperately looking for an excuse.
Then, Haruno-san broke into a smile. “Yeah, a chairman has got to be that way, right!? As someone who can enjoy the Cultural Festival to its fullest, that’s absolutely perfect for a chairman! Sounds good to me! Um, Somethinggami-chan I think? Amagami? Oh, whatever. Chairwoman-chan works.”
“T-Thank you very much…” Haruno’s abrupt alteration of her lips upwards caused Sagami to be confused, all the while vitalizing her.
This very well may have been the first affirmation for Sagami since her arrival here.
As Sagami’s cheeks turned red from joy, Haruno-san continued. “Anyway, I have something I want to ask you, chairwoman-chan. Like, I really want to participate in a volunteer organization. So. I talked it over with Yukino-chan, but she’s a little bit reluctant about it. It’s because she’s not too fond of me…”
She showed her meek side and sniffed. I couldn’t get the urge to criticize her because of how cunning, yet adorable her outlandish attitude was.
“Eh…” Sagami sent a look towards Yukinoshita.
Yukinoshita’s discouraged expression didn’t crumble. Nor did she meet anyone’s gaze.
“…I don’t see why not. We’re short on volunteer organizations anyway, and if an OG student participates, then we can appeal with the, um, connecting with the local community? Or whatever.”
Those sounded like secondhand words that were uttered by a certain individual, but Sagami informed Haruno-san as if they were her own.
“Kyaaa, thank you!” Haruno-san factitiously embraced Sagami in snappy fashion. But she quickly released her, and muttered with distant eyes. “Yep, yep, it really is wonderful being able to come back to your Alma mater after graduation. I better tell my friends, they’ll be toootally jealous!”
“Is that how it works?”
“Uh huh, that’s how it is for me. I really do get this urge to come and visit sometimes…”
Haruno-san’s words caused Sagami to contemplate for an instant.
Only Hayama and Yukinoshita were letting out brief sighs, as if conceding.
Ignorant to that, Sagami clapped her hands together. “…Oh I see. Ah, how about you call those friends of yours to show up too?”
“Oh, good idea! Do you mind if I call them now?”
The moment she had finished saying that, Haruno-san buoyantly began calling her friends in one hand.
Yukinoshita, looking flustered, tried to stop Sagami. “Wait, Sagami-san.”
But Sagami nonchalantly said with a lackadaisical face, “What’s the problem? We’re short on volunteer organizations anyway. We’ve also cleared the issue with connecting with the local community, right?”
Sagami had a triumphant grimace, but had she realized? That Yukinoshita Haruno was the one who strung her along for the majority of that proposal.
“Besides, I don’t know what’s up with you and your older sister, but that and this are two different things, right?”
Just observing Yukinoshita and Haruno’s interaction was more than enough for anyone to realize they weren’t getting along. Pinpointing that, Sagami’s proclamation caused Yukinoshita to stammer.
Sagami smiled victoriously, finally being able to stand above Yukinoshita for the first time.
“So it turned out like this after all…” Hayama briefly muttered. I wordlessly looked at Hayama, my interest piqued from his tone that sounded like he knew how everything was going to play out. My intention was to get an explanation from him, but Hayama didn’t touch upon it at all, as if on purpose. “Okay, I’m going to grab the documents and go back.”
Hayama left the conference room just like that.
Now, the only remaining abnormality in the planning committee was Yukinoshita Haruno.
After Haruno-san ended her phone call, she took a set of written applications and proceeded to talk with Meguri-senpai, Sagami, and her friends.
She wasn’t much of a hindrance, but as someone who caught people’s eyes, the committee members were distracted. Her conduct naturally garnered everyone’s attention.
Only Yukinoshita didn’t look that way out of stubbornness.
Sagami and her friends grew animated over something. Curious, I looked over there, and Sagami was elatedly chatting with her friends and Meguri-senpai was slightly nodding her head. Then, there was Yukinoshita Haruno who had glanced over here and stood up.
Haruno-san walked in my direction and deliberately took a seat next to me.
“Are you making sure to work, young man?”
“…Yes, for the most part.”
“I’m a teeny bit surprised. Hikigaya-kun, your big sis totally thought you weren’t the type of boy to do these kinds of things.”
“Haa, that’s what I thought too.”
“Uh huuh… Instigated by Shizuka-chan perhaps?” Haruno-san nodded, grasping the situation. Though, there was another individual that we should’ve directed that surprise for being present in this committee.
“If there’s anything unexpected, then wouldn’t that apply to your little sister?”
“Really? I thought she would do it.” I tilted my head not grasping the meaning of her words. Looking into my face, Haruno-san added, “I mean, I bet it was too hard for her to stay in the club, and not to mention, I, her older sister, was the chairwoman back then. Those are enough as reasons for her to do it.”
Her tone was tinged with ridicule and I reflected on the meaning of her words little by little. I was certainly hesitant to call that current mood in the club to be anything but good. Beyond that, to Yukinoshita, just what kind of existence was Haruno-san to her, I felt I could understand that just a little.
“Though, it didn’t look like the former turned out so well, huh?” Haruno-san added, chuckling as if she was looking at something charming.
This sisterly relationship was more complicated watching from a third person view.
There were times when brothers, or sisters, were compared to each other. Occasionally, their relative merits would be under scrutiny as well. I, myself, had a little sister. Whether it was because of the distinction between a brother and a sister or that we had compensated for each other’s faults as we were raised, the thought of being compared never really crossed my mind.
But, in the case of the Yukinoshita sisters, they closely resembled twins.
The exceedingly, excellent older sister.
And the equivalently talented, but to this day had yet to win, excellent little sister.
If at least one of them had been unintelligent, there wouldn’t be such an uncooperative feed between the two. Though, one or the other may have ended up being twisted instead.
Yukinoshita was still locked in her struggle against the illusion of her older sister who seemed beatable but wasn’t. She could’ve just made it easier for herself now had she just ran away from the remaining result that was Haruno-san. Her pride, her strong conviction, wouldn’t allow that to happen.
If she understood that much, saw through that much, might there been something Haruno-san sought to do? A more, different way of getting involved with her little sister.
“Um… what are you thinking?” I honestly asked.
What made Haruno-san dreadful was, above everything else, not understanding what she could be thinking about. It may be odd coming from me, but for someone like me, who had been living to this day observing people, in a bad way, even I was having trouble wrapping my head around her.
“Will you believe me if I say something?”
I wouldn’t. I already had a fixated image of Yukinoshita Haruno. Even if she had some profound reason or majestic ideal, I wouldn’t take it at face value.
It looked like she understood what my silence meant.
“I guess that’s not something to ask then, hm?”
Her voice was freezing. Even if she tried to hide it or play it off, I think this was probably the actual coldness of Yukinoshita Haruno.
Since then, Haruno-san stayed quiet.
Haruno-san had a bright image associated with her, but when she stayed like that, she really resembled Yukinoshita.
When she became quiet, the surrounding noise started to get louder.
Because of that, everyone’s conversations reached my ears quite well. Sagami and her friends in particular were getting excited, giggling and saying things.
And riding along the energy, Sagami spoke in a much louder voice. “Everyone, do you have a second?”
The boisterous conference room hushed at once.
Upon looking, Sagami was standing and looking throughout the room. She lightly coughed to prepare herself and nervously started speaking.
“Um, I have just a little tiny thing in mind, but… about how the planning committee should have fun and stuff. I mean, if we can’t enjoy it ourselves, then there’s no way we can get people to, or something…”
That was something I heard just moments ago…
“And to enjoy the Cultural Festival to its fullest, I think class is important too. Our schedule’s proceeding along nicely so we can drop our pace. How does that sound?”
Everyone took some time and gave thought to Sagami’s suggestion. Our state of progress wasn’t bad. Thanks to Yukinoshita clearing problematic points on one end, we were going at a satisfactory pace.
But Yukinoshita raised an objection to that suggestion. “Sagami-san, you’re a little mistaken. We need to keep at this pace so there’s a buffer…”
An energetic, outspoken voice blocked her. “Oooh, you say some great stuff. When I was doing it, everyone was trying their best for their classes too~”
Yukinoshita sent a threatening glance to Haruno-san’s voice, reminiscent of her times back then. Sagami went further with that attitude.
“See, there’s a precedent too. Besides… back then, it was super amazing, right?”
Though she was asked, Yukinoshita didn’t answer. Taking that as confirmation, Sagami went even farther.
“We really should try to inherit the good parts, you knooow? Learning from your ancestors or so they say? You should think more about others without putting your personal feelings in it.”
Meguri-senpai watched that exchange with a complicated face.
On the other hand, the other committee members looked at each other and clapped convincingly to Sagami’s suggestion. It looked like it was approved.
As a result, Sagami gave the call of dismissal.
If everyone was going to follow that, Yukinoshita wouldn’t be able to stop it by herself. Sagami smiled in satisfaction while Yukinoshita returned to her work with a cold expression.
As for Sagami, did she probably think she had done some work befitting of a planning committee chairman?
“You really do say some good stuff~ Right, Hikigaya-kun?” Sitting next to me, Haruno-san talked to me.
Did she have something else in mind for this too? Though, it probably wasn’t a good idea to be suspecting that.
This person really was a bit hard to deal with.
× × ×
The transformation immediately came into effect.
During the few days since Yukinoshita Haruno’s appearance in the conference room, sporadic absentees from the meeting began to appear. This was the apparent result following Sagami’s declaration that diffused amongst the planning committee members.
That being said, people were late thirty minutes to the meeting and the absentees were people who gave notice beforehand. There wasn’t much of an impact otherwise.
While the workload had increased individually, it was just a matter of rotating shifts and taking breaks.
But with the addition of more volunteer organizations, and accordingly, the increase in cooperating locations towards public advertising, and budget related recalculations, the workload was increasingly becoming heavier, and a polarization of the amount of work was starting to show.
For the health division and the assistant historians whose work were mostly concentrated on the day of the Cultural Festival, increasing absentees wasn’t a problem.
But in regards to the volunteers, advertising, and the accountants, there was an obvious lack of personnel.
Compensating for those areas was where the executives came into play.
The ones pitching in efforts were the student council members and Yukinoshita.
Yukinoshita’s intervention may have been a large asset to the workforce, but the workload that began to pile stubbornly retained its density.
My job as the assistant historian was also seeing an increase in assistant-related work as well. How odd… I was pretty sure this wasn’t supposed to be all that much work…
“Umm… do you have a second?” The head of the group talked to me.
“Do you have a second” had a never-unending ring to it. My alert was going off.
But times like these were where I had prepared the appropriate correspondences to avoid getting more work passed on to me. As follows, these are “the four strategies to reduce the amount of work when someone tries to offload some on to you”.
“Um, can I leave this to you?”
[Number 1]: “Ignore them until they say your name strategy”.
My shoulders were getting tapped. Tch, a failure, huh?
“Ah, who, me? Fuheh.”
“I want to ask you if you could do this.”
[Number 2]: “If you get asked to do something, wear an unpleasant face strategy”.
But the head had a rather resilient heart, and returned an indignant expression. “…Thanks.”
Because the other party had an even more unpleasant face than I did, I ended up losing that tug of war. Damn it, this wasn’t any good either! Fine, let’s try the next strategy.
[Number 3]: “Sigh the entire time you’re working strategy”! With this, I’d be so annoying they wouldn’t even want to give me any more work the next time, and instead deal the trump card, “if you’re not motivated, then you can just go home”.
In practice, when I had a part time job, I was actually sent home at some point for that reason. It’s in my records.
But the leader didn’t mind it one bit. If anything, he talked to me after lifting up his glasses. “Finished?”
You can’t expect me to finish this that fast… I wouldn’t be working under you at all if I was that excellent…
It was time for me to use my final strategy.
[Number 4]: “Ostentatiously pound away on the keyboard until they want you to go home because you’re so annoying… strategy”.
Several PCs were loaned to the planning committee from the student council for a period of time. As such, handwritten work became a level more efficient, and so would the conspicuousness of my displeased key touches.
Tap tap tap. Putaaaaaap (enter key).
How’s that? If I was showing this much of a desire not to work, then you definitely wouldn’t want to give me any more, right…?
“Good work, I’ll be going home first. You can leave when you’re done too. If there’s anything you don’t get, ask the executives.”
“Mph, hssh.” (Translation: Ah, roger that, good work to you too.)
Fufu, looks like I wonderfully avoided getting more work pushed onto me… Now I had the least to do!
I looked triumphantly at the piled work on top of the desk— er… hogeeeeeeeeeeeee5!?
He totally gave me more work!
Heck, I only ended up giving him a bad impression of me, just some punk that had a bad attitude. Also, his “you can leave when you’re done too” actually meant “you better not go home until you’re done”, didn’t it!? Nooooo!
Company employees truly had it tough. This had gone beyond what I had imagined…
What’s more, the title of “assistant” seemed to be getting misunderstood in a variety of ways and unnecessary jobs were starting to come around to me.
“Um… you’re the assistant historian, right? Can I ask you to do this too?”
“Haa, but this is…”
“The Cultural Festival is where everyone does it! That’s what work is all about! We have to help each other out!”
This person was being absurdly insistent.
Hey, copying posters was definitely not a part of my job… Besides, in what way were you helping me, anyway…?
But a request from an upperclassman wasn’t something I could refuse. The instinct of the sleeping Japanese residing within me, never had I cursed this system of seniority so much in my life.
There were also other people of the same upper status lifting their tea cups high in the air.
Why, do I have to…? Look, could you be thinking that just because the person you’re dealing with was under you that you could say whatever you wanted to? You probably forgot, but underlings were humans too, you know?
Hey, hey, at this rate, I was going to become a splendid company employee. “Nareru! CM (career man)”.6
Crap… I should’ve taken leave a lot earlier.
It was times like these where diligent people drew the short end of the stick. The work had already densely piled in front of me, and it wasn’t an amount you could finish in a day or two.
Unintentionally, I let out a sigh.
Approximately at the same timing, another deep, deep sigh could be heard.
When I looked, Yukinoshita was pressing against her brow, her eyes closed. Was she having a headache?
The apparent cause for that was in Yukinoshita’s field of vision.
The instigator, sitting nearby, spinning her pen while happily chatting with Meguri-senpai, was likely Yukinoshita Haruno.
Haruno-san was frequently coming to school for practice or something of the sort with the volunteer organization consisting of OBs and OGs she’d be participating in. In the meantime, she also showed up to the planning committees, comfortably fitting right in.
“Hikigaya-kun, tea for me too~”
“Um, an assistant’s job doesn’t include that, I think…” I ended my sentence weakly, lacking the confidence in what I had said. Add to that the sadness I felt from my corporate slave constitution as I poured tea while saying that. As the cups filled from the teapot, Yukinoshita quietly set her ballpen down.
That composure of hers had an incredible intensity to it.
“Nee-san, if you’re going to be a bother, go home.”
But that was perceived by everyone but Haruno-san. Haruno-san didn’t budget from Yukinoshita’s words in the least, like the joker would with the ace.
“You don’t have to be so coldhearted. C’mon, I’ll help out.”
“That’s fine, hurry up and go home.”
But, while sipping from her tea cup, Haruno-san didn’t take Yukinoshita’s words seriously and grabbed the nearest printout.
“Let’s see, I’ll give you a hand as thanks for the tea.”
“Ah, wait, don’t just—“
Faster than Yukinoshita could stop her, Haruno-san began working, tapping away on a calculator in one hand. After filling the printout with red marks indicating she had finished everything, she tossed it over.
“The balances aren’t matching here.”
“…I was planning to check them over afterwards.” Yukinoshita sullenly narrowed her eyes but took her words earnestly.
“Haru-san, you’re the same as always, huh?” Meguri-senpai watched the two Yukinoshita sisters with a smile, giving off a comfy air.
Because of that comfy effect, even I was starting to feel comfy.
“Well, this isn’t much. I’m used to it too. Why don’t we finish up the others thing too, hm?” said Haruno, and she grabbed the nearby documents and began processing them.
This time, Yukinoshita didn’t try to stop her.
It’s just, with sucked in lips, she continued her work indifferently.