Autumn

The cultural festival had ended and the season had begun to feel like winter. The leaves on the trees were still turning red but the air had gone cold and in the morning their breath misted in front of them. But contrary to the cooling season, the relationships between Koutarou and the girls were only getting warmer.

“You’re ten years too early to beat me at this game, Theia!”

“Koutarou, you can only boast at times like this! I’ll show you who the true ruler is!”

Koutarou and Theia had tight grips on controllers and were mashing buttons, facing the TV. They had pulled an old game console out of the wardrobe and were in the middle of a race on it.

Following the play, they’d come to an understanding of each other and fought less over differences in opinion. However, when simply fighting in a game like this, things heated up. Wanting to win in competition was just what young people were like, it wasn’t because they hated their opponent. Rather, things heated up because they knew that the other would give them a challenge. For playing games, they were the perfect rivals.

“Do your best, Koutarou! Me getting more chocolate relies on you!”

“Don’t lose, Theia-chan, I don’t want my chocolate to be taken!”

Sanae and Yurika were supporting them, Sanae was cheering for Koutarou and Yurika for Theia. The two of them had bet their snacks on the outcome so the support had become more spirited.

“Your Highness, Satomi-sama, try your best!”

Ruth was supporting both of them. She understood that Theia  and Koutarou were ideal rivals. Theia was a princess, so three weren’t many people she could clash with without ulterior motives. Through various circumstances, the enmity between the two of them had completely vanished. They might be arguing now, but that was because it was fun, and they were friends. Ruth understood that and watched over them with a smile. They might speak harshly to each other, and sometimes fight physically, but Ruth knew better than anybody that that was their playing.

“I’ve made tea and snacks, come and eat when you can take a break.”

“It’s chocolate, ho-!”

“Rice crackers too, ho-!”

Contrary to Ruth, Kiriha was on neither side. However, everyone at least vaguely knew that she didn’t like needless fighting and so had a strange feeling of trust towards her. The one with the strongest trust was Koutarou, he’d heard about her first love from her and understood her well. So Koutarou began to doubt. He began to doubt whether she really was here to invade the surface.

“There was a shortcut here!!”

“That’s why I left the brakes to the last minute!!”

In the narrow image from the old games console, the blocky tyres of the cars Koutarou and Theia were controlling squealed and slipped. However, the relationships between them all weren’t squealing like the tyres, they were starting to be more like the engines, smoothly working together without getting in each other’s way.

In the end, the race went to Theia. Koutarou had the lead, and in trying to lengthen it, went too fast into a corner and went off the course, in this game, it wasn’t a game over, but it did make you lose several seconds. Theia had caught up in that time and taken the checkered flag and taken great delight in snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

“Hmph, even though you had the lead, you left slowing down too late and lost.”

“Theia, you don’t understand the romance of high speed cornering.”

“Romance is it? I guess it can’t be helped then.”

Up until now, Theia had been filled with triumph, but hearing the word romance, she nodded in understanding. Koutarou found it strange and wanted to know why.

“You left it surprisingly quickly.”

“Looking like this, I have an understanding of romance.”

“Do you?”

“If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have done the Blue Knight play, would I.”

“I guess so… here.”

Now that he knew, Koutarou offered his chocolate to Theia. If there was an honest understanding shown, losing didn’t feel that bad, so Koutarou didn’t feel much resistance to giving his chocolate to Theia.

“‘ank ‘ou.”

Without taking it from him, she started eating it. The chocolate had biscuit inside and she crunched up and down like a squirrel eating nuts.

“That’s bad manners, Theia.”

“Don’t be so up tight, I can eat the spoils of war as I wish.”

“Even so, Ruth-san has a scary expression.”

“Ahem.”

“I-I see, eating properly is better!”

Theia corrected her posture and began eating her own chocolate. Ruth was looking, so this time she made sure to eat properly.

“Why’d you give it up, Koutarou! Thanks to you, Yurika took my chocolate! And then you get your chocolate taken too…”

Sanae was dissatisfied with this result. Her plan was that Koutarou would win and have two pieces of chocolate and Sanae would get the extra that Yurika had bet and have two as well. Then she’d have Koutarou eat all four, so she could indulge in chocolate and have an amazing afternoon. However Koutarou had lost destroying her scheme so Sanae was venting her anger at him.

“You know, winning depends on your luck on the day.”

“Love towards Sanae-chan doesn’t change with time.”

“What’s that about?”

“It doesn’t matter, comfort me.”

“Sure sure, what a shame, what a shame.”

“More nobly.”

“It was an utter shame, my lady.”

“Ohohoho, very well.”

However, venting her anger didn’t take long. To Sanae, eating chocolate and playing with Koutarou were similar, and she’d returned to her good humour as they talked.

After mostly agreeing with what he said, Sanae went back to the console.

“Alright Yurika, now it’s our turn.”

“Ehhh, we’re playing?”

“Of course we are! I’m taking my chocolate back!”

“I’ll obviously lose, I don’t want to!”

Sanae was filled with motivation to play but her opponent, Yurika, held her sweets close and backed away, shaking her head.

“Koutarou, Koutarou, do something.”

“Yurika, if you do it, I’ll look over your homework.”

“I’ll do it! Compared to homework, one or two pieces of chocolate is cheap!”

In response to Koutarou’s bargaining, Yurika quickly returned to the console and the two of them started the racing game.

“… Koutarou, Yurika intends to get you to just tell her the answers.”

Kiriha had been drinking tea as she watched the progression of the conversation but now spoke to Koutarou. Rather than being shocked at what Yurika was doing, she was more interested in how Koutarou intended to respond.

“It’s fine.” Koutarou nodded, time after time, Yurika would pick the enjoyable option. So Koutarou knew that telling her he would look over her work was the same to her as telling her he’d give the answers. “For now we’ll start from getting the notebook open to do work. If she keeps on like this she might not make it to next year.”

Leaving her alone, Yurika wouldn’t do the work, that had happened over and over since spring and now she was in danger of not being able to become a second year.

He thought it might be good to leave her be and let her get what she deserved, but he somehow couldn’t just abandon her. He’d written the script with her and she’d protected Harumi from harm. So Koutarou thought he should give her some study habits.

“You’re a wise man, Koutarou.”

“If I left her alone and she failed, I wouldn’t be able to wake up, would I?”

“You’re kind, Satomi-sama.”

“That’s a good trend, just as a knight should be.”

“I don’t remember becoming a knight.”

“Ohohoho, first in form! Don’t worry about it, don’t worry about it!”

At some point, the mood in room 106 had become relaxed. In the months between spring an autumn, several big incidents had wrought changes in the hearts of the inhabitants.

Originally Koutarou just thought of refusing and eliminating the others. But now he didn’t thing that at all, and if he were to eliminate them, he’d do it from in front, fair and square. In short, he’d matured.

In room 106, the ones that watched anime were Sanae and Yurika, but there was an exception once a week. On Friday evenings, at half past five, there was an anime which two of the inhabitants were crazy about.

“Karama, it’s starting, ho-!”

“Wait, I’m coming, ho-!”

The two haniwa slid in front of the TV, and as if waiting for that moment, the anime’s title appeared on screen and its theme music began to play.

“Ho-.”

“Ho ho-.”

The haniwa had their eyes wide open and stared motionlessly at the TV, they looked forward to this every week.

The anime that they couldn’t help but love was called ‘GO Haniwamaru Yahoo!’. It centred around a cutely designed haniwa prince, and was a weekly airing story aimed at children, full of friendship, dreams and adventure. It was a title that had been popular with children for a long time and had already been broadcasting for over twenty years.

“So cool, Prince Haniwamaru is our dream, ho-.”

“He’s the best, we need to become like that too, someday, ho-.”

The protagonist Haniwamaru was an energetic and cheerful boy. He was sometimes selfish, and failed, but he never forgot his friendship and courage, and stood up and faced whatever hardships came his way. On the occasions he couldn’t avoid drawing his sword, he showed peerless strength. On screen was Karama and Korama’s ideal image of a haniwa, the two of them loved Haniwamaru.

“And Haneena-chan is cute, ho-.”

“I want a wife like her too, ho-.”

There was another character that drew them in, the story’s heroine, Haneena, a haniwa girl. She sometimes appeared as a tragic heroine after being kidnapped by the bad guys, every time she was saved by Haniwamaru. Thanks to this Haniwamaru and Haneena had a loving relationship. It was aimed at children so the relationship was refreshing. But there were many fans who liked that, and there were by no means few adults that held them up as an ideal couple.

“Hey, hey, Karama-chan, Korama-chan, what’s good about Haneena-chan? Doesn’t that Dograska have a nicer body?”

“You don’t understand Sanae-chan, Haneena-chan is really kind, ho-.”

“Dograska has a bad personality. No matter how big her chest, or how slender her hips, that personality is awful, ho-!”

“Hmm, you place a lot of importance on personality.”

“We do, ho-!”

“What’s inside is important, ho-!”

“I-I see…”

Sanae still didn’t agree with the haniwa about her, but felt awkward stopping them from watching any more, so didn’t press the matter.

Koutarou was blankly watching the three that were watching the TV. Watching the three innocent people always made him happy. It was like watching over younger siblings, for Koutarou, who was an only child, it was enjoyable.

“Satomi-san, Satomi-san, what’s the answer to this one?”

The same thing could probably be said for Yurika. But rather than innocent, she was a needy younger sister. She was currently fighting with her kanji homework, but she’d tried to get most of the answers from Koutarou. Of course, Koutarou had no intention of giving them.

“Kyaa!?”

“Look it up yourself.”

Koutarou thumped down a kanji dictionary in front of her, the sound surprised her so she jumped back without thinking, but her characteristic laziness soon had her opposing Koutarou.

“Why are you mean to me!? Tell me please!”

“No, Do it yourself, I’ll teach you how to use the dictionary though.”

“It doesn’t matter. I’ll get Sakuraba-senpai to tell me.”

When she realised he absolutely wouldn’t, she gave up on asking Koutarou and decided to go and ask Harumi the next day. Harumi was stronger in academics than Koutarou so it should be more reliable.

“Wait, Yurika.”

Koutarou caught Yurika’s arm as she started tidying away her homework.

“Why?”

“When you’re really in trouble Sakuraba-senpai and I won’t always be around you know?”

Yurika was failing, if it continued like this, she’d have to redo first year. But of course, Koutarou would become a second year and Harumi would become a third year. Then Koutarou and Yurika’s curricula would differ, and Harumi would be preparing for exams. So if Yurika were to fail once, the possibility that she would fail for a second time was extremely high.

“Are you really okay with that? Are you that bad of a person?”

“Satomi-san…”

Yurika’s eyes went wide. She was expecting to be told off like usual. But what came out of Koutarou’s mouth were trusting words.

“That’s right, at the aquarium, Satomi-san…”

She remembered back to the other day, when she’d gone out with Koutarou, Harumi and Kenji. Koutarou had said he believed her. People who would risk their lives for others weren’t like that so Koutarou believed in her now. That when it really mattered, she could do well.

“I can’t let the people that believe in me down…”

There weren’t many people that believed in Yurika, Koutarou and Harumi were probably the only ones at the moment. If they continued spoiling her, she’d lose that trust. Yurika herself understood those pessimistic thoughts. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t grown at all over these months.

“I understand, I’ll try it.”

“Good luck, if you really can’t, I’ll help.”

“… Only when I really can’t?”

“Just shut up and do it!”

“R-right!”

Anger aside, she didn’t want to actually be disliked. Yurika opened the dictionary and frantically leafed through it.

“… Alright, I’m done.”

Then, next to Koutarou, Theia was doing the same homework and placed her pencil down before holding the work out to Koutarou.

“Koutarou, sorry, but would you tell me where I went wrong?”

“Sure, let’s see…”

Theia had seriously tried at the homework and asked properly, so Koutarou had no reason to be cruel, so took the paper and checked the answers.

“Yeah, there’s a few mistakes in here, Theia.”

“I knew it.”

Theia had asked him to check because she thought there were mistakes. She wasn’t talentless by any means, but being an alien, Japanese, especially kanji wasn’t something she’d completely mastered.

“First there’s this one.”

“Which?”

Theia moved closer and looked over the paper with him. As she did so, some of her hair fell onto the paper. Koutarou followed it up and found himself looking at her face. Doing so he found Theia’s face was closer than he thought and his breath caught.

“W-what?”

Noticing Koutarou’s gaze turn to her, Theia looked at Koutarou and noticed the same, her own breath catching before she looked slightly away. The two of them were paralysed like that for several seconds.

“…Well… Ufufufu…”

But Ruth’s laugh as she watched them freed them from their paralysis. With slightly jerky movements and awkward voices they continued with looking over the work.

“W-well, first is the character for rice, there’s an extra stroke here.”

“Isn’t it the s-same as the character for food?”

“Sometimes it’s, ah, abbreviated.”

“A-ah, right, I see, I’ll remember.”

They continued awkwardly like that for a while. Ruth couldn’t find it strange, but bit down on her smile, thinking of what they could be in the future.

It took about an hour after she opened the dictionary for Yurika to finish her homework. After doing things she wasn’t used to made her head feel like it had burst. So, buried amongst her answers, she collapsed onto the table, like a puppet that had its strings cut.

“I-I’m tired…”

“Well done, Yurika, would you like some tea?”

“Please, Kiriha-san.”

Kiriha began preparing tea for an exhausted Yurika. The hand on the clock had already reached seven in the evening so once she’d finished this, Kiriha intended to go and help Ruth with dinner in the kitchen.

“Um, um, Kiriha-san.”

“What is it?”

“Why do we have homework? Isn’t it easy to cheat nowadays?”

“Fufufu, that’s true. But there are people who think it’s better to go through life the harder way, without cheating. Homework is for those people.”

“Don’t you think it’s better to take the shortest route?”

“Yurika, the next time, the shortest route for you has changed, hasn’t it?”

“I…”

For this hour, thanks to Koutarou teaching her, she’d learnt how to use a kanji dictionary. So next time, if she had an issue, she wouldn’t have to go and ask Koutarou or Harumi to understand it, so it would take less time.

“That often happens when you take the longer route and do the work yourself. It’s longer this time, but next time it might become the shorter route.”

Yurika raised her head and looked at Kiriha. She was brewing tea, and speaking as if it wasn’t anything special but it was very important to Yurika.

“And when someone’s guiding you along the shortest route, you won’t remember the correct way, in the end you’ll have to ask next time. So overall continuing to rely on people for that will be the longer route.”

“The longer route… Relying on people will be the longer route…”

Yurika understood that. Earlier Koutarou had said that, when Yurika was really in trouble, Koutarou and Harumi wouldn’t always be with her. When she was in trouble, she wouldn’t always be able to ask Koutarou and Harumi for help.

“What’s important is to choose which longer route to take.”

“Which…”

Whether to take the shortest route now, and rely on other people.

Or to make the route shorter in future and purposely take the longer route.

When and where to take the longer way, that wasn’t the only difference. And if Yurika didn’t chose, failure was before her.

“When you look at a bomb, whether you think it explode because the fuse is still long or whether you put the fire out is up to you.”

Yurika’s fuse wasn’t that long, if she was going to take the longer route, it would have to be now.

“Thank you, Kiriha-san. I’ll think about it properly.”

“That’s good. This is your life.”

“Right.”

Just a little, Yurika thought about her future. It was only slightly, but that could be called an amazing growth. She felt gratitude to Kiriha, who had given her the advice that had become this chance.

“She really is…”

While they were going over her answers, Koutarou listened to their conversation, and his doubts grew. His doubts as to whether Kiriha really was here to invade the surface.

Her words didn’t make it seem like she was. Her kindness, dislike of conflict and instantly helping when Sanae and Theia were in trouble. And now, her advice to Yurika. Leaving her be would get rid of a rival, so there was no need for her to actively help. Regardless, she had. Thus Koutarou’s doubts gradually became convictions.

Today’s dinner was deep fried food, and the smell had filled the room. Sanae was satisfied smelling it through Koutarou.

“Koutarou, this smell, it’s definitely tonkatsu!”

“It looks that way, I’m looking forward to it, Kiriha’s deep fried food is tasty.”

“Ruth’s has been good recently too.”

“I like both! What about you, Koutarou?”

“Yeah.”

Sanae shared Koutarou’s senses, so their likes were fundamentally the same. The exceptions were tomatoes and green peppers, the memories Sanae herself had of the taste overwrote the information from Koutarou. Only in this case did their tastes not align. But this was an exception in the end.

“I don’t mind as long as it’s tasty. I think I’ll take the chance to eat a lot.”

“Well, it is high calorie.”

Yurika intended to stuff herself with tonkatsu. It was a food she liked, but it was also a good source of nutrients, so she was taking the chance to eat plenty whilst she could. There were many times she had to go without lunch and malnutrition would mean being cold in the autumn and winter.

This was a time they talked about this and that.

“Koutarou, Koutarou!”

“We have a request. ho-!”

The two haniwa were rushing back and forth in front of Koutarou, and whilst jumping there, they earnestly appealed to him.

“We’ve got somewhere we want you to take us, ho-!”

“Where?”

“Sunrise Ninety, ho-! Apparently there’s a Haniwamaru exhibition there, ho-!”

“And you want to see it.”

“That’s right, we want you to take us, ho-!”

“Apparently there’s a life-size Prince Haniwamaru and Haneena-chan, ho-!”

“Can’t you just go? You can turn invisible and do in.”

“No! We’re proper fans, ho-!”

“We want to properly pay for the exhibition and goods. We’ll be regular users, ho-!”

“You really look up to him, don’t you.”

While saying that, Koutarou looked at Yurika. She was the one with the littlest awareness of copyright.

“But we can’t go on our own, it’d be an uproar, ho-!”

“So we need Anego and you! We’ll go in as your luggage, the plan is perfect ho-!”

Karama and Korama were devoted fans and wanted to go as proper customers. But real living haniwa would inevitably cause an uproar, so they’d selected Koutarou and Kiriha as dummy visitors.

“So please, ho-!”

“We’re asking you as a Japanese man, ho-!”

After finishing their explanation, the two looked up at him pleadingly. It was the first time they’d asked for something like this. That itself was proof of how much they admired Haniwamaru and Haneena.

“Well, sure. You’re always helping.”

Koutarou had been saved by the Haniwa many times. Koutarou didn’t mind repaying them like this.

“Yay! Thank you, Koutarou, ho-!”

“Anego, Koutarou said he’d come, ho-!”

“Sorry, Koutarou.”

Then, Kiriha came in, carrying a tray for dinner. As they’d guessed, it was tonkatsu.”

“This much is fine, it’s good sometimes.”

“Thank you, Koutarou.”

Kiriha smiled at him, she really treasured the haniwa and was honestly thankful for Koutarou’s words.

“Say, Koutarou, why don’t we all go?”

The one who suggested that was Shizuka, following Kiriha in, carrying the tableware. When things that took time like fried food were being cooked, Shizuka would often eat with room 106. Since the summer holiday, things had become much calmer.

“Everyone?”

“Yeah, Sunrise is near the city, right? I go shopping there sometimes. And on the way back we could go to Kisshou mountain and look at the autumn leaves.”

“I see, so that’s what it was.”

Going to town just for the Haniwamaru event was a waste, so they could go have fun at the same time, and if they were having fun, everyone should go. Shizuka’s plan was simple.

“Karama, Korama, what do you think?”

“We don’t mind ho-!”

“We want to play with everyone, ho-!”

The haniwa cheerfully agreed. The Haniwamaru exhibit wasn’t a large scale event, looking around wouldn’t take a few hours, even including the sale corner, an hour would probably be enough. The haniwa wanted to play lots, so Shizuka’s suggestion was just what they wanted.

“Alright, we can all occasionally play together.”

“I agree!”

Next to Koutarou, Sanae wholeheartedly approved.

“That’s good, Karama, Korama.”

“Let’s play a lot, ho-!”

“I’m looking forward to it, ho-!”

The two rushed around Kiriha.

“Hey, Ruth-san, near Sunrise, there’s some shops with the latest magazines.”

“Really, Shizuka-sama!? I’d really like to go!”

“By the way, Theia, Sunrise has a famous second hand game shop near it, there’s a mountain of old-“

“Show me! That’s our objective!”

“Um, um, can we invite Sakuraba-senpai too?”

“Sure! We like Harumi-chan, ho-!”

“We can’t let her see us, but we can do that, ho-!”

They had no objections to others coming to play. Everyone easily agreed to go out on their next day off.

After dinner, they began to decide what day they’d go on. Unusually, the leaders were the haniwa. They were the ones that brought this up, so naturally they were in a leadership position.

“Karama-chan, Korama-chan, Sakuraba-senpai said she could come on the phone.”

“Thank you, Yurika-chan, ho-!”

“Harumi-chan is coming too, ho-!”

“But is it alright for her to come? It’ll be bad if you’re seen, won’t it?”

“Even if Harumi-chan weren’t there, we’d have to be invisible, ho-.”

“Moving haniwa would draw attention, we don’t want to have more attention than Prince Haniwamaru, ho-!”

“I see, that’s true.”

While speaking with everyone the haniwa wrote down the plan on the back of the scattered newspapers. Who was coming, where they wanted to go and the route as well as deviations from the plan.

“I think it’s best to meet Prince Haniwamaru first, ho-!”

“We need to go to the shop while they still have stock, ho-!”

“Then we’ll do shopping next, are you looking forward to it, Ruth-san?”

“Yes, I’ll look at the magazines and prepare.”

“But Shizuka, going around all the places like that will take too long, won’t it? Aren’t we going to see the leave in the evening?”

“Hmm, that’s right…”

“Then what about this, after seeing Haniwamaru, everyone can do what they like until lunch.”

“That’s Ane-san! We’re doing that, ho-!”

“And after we all eat, we’re going to see the leaves.”

“I can go look at the baseball stuff, so I agree. After all, girls wouldn’t want to go into a baseball shop.”

“I want to go to an anime shop! Love Love Heart’s character song CD should be coming out!”

Guessing that the schedule was mostly sorted, Koutarou got up and went to the wardrobe. It was the daily routine that they’d play a game to determine control of room 106, so it was preparing for that.

“Everyone, what game are we playing tonight? It’s late so something like cards?”

Koutarou thought that cards was appropriate for today, they’d used up time sorting out going out, so playing cards, which they were all used to, would be best.

“Leave that for today! Let’s properly decide where we;re going!”

“That’s right, the second hand games are more important than the games right now!”

“Satomi-san, you’re escorting Sakuraba-senpai so don’t think about useless things, take this more seriously please!”

“Shizuka-sama, we can’t hold all of the luggage for all of this.”

“Fufufu, I think it’s fine if we have Satomi-kun carry it.”

“We’ll carry it, ho-.”

But the girls didn’t seem to be considering the game at all, their heads were full of thoughts on how to spend their day off and have fun.

“You guys…”

In response to their reaction, he stopped dumbfounded, with his eyes open wide. He found their reaction strange.

“What’s wrong, you look like you just saw a ghost.”

“Kiriha-san…”

“Is it strange, that no one is going to play?”

“Y-yeah…”

He nodded awkwardly in response. They were all gathered here because they wanted room 106. Even if it was temporarily skipping it, there was a large meaning behind it. That something had appeared that they were focussing more on than taking the room.

“It’s true, we’re abandoning what should be the most important thing to us, it’s strange. But, Koutarou, what about you? Do you think we need to play a game now?”

“…No, I think we can do it another time too.”

And more than anything, what had confused him was that he didn’t think there was a need to force a game. He only suggested a game because it was a daily habit, and daily schedules had a stronger meaning to him than most people, with him being sports-minded.

“It’s fine even if we don’t fight over the room.”

“That’s right. I… think the same.”

“Hey, Kiriha-san?

“Yes?”

“You really-“

“Koutarou, come here a second! Where do you want to go!?”

“That’s right, Koutarou, Kiriha, don’t just pretend to be unrelated, come over and join in! We can’t carry on.”

“Satomi-saan, make everyone let me go to the anime shop too!”

“He already has to carry three people’s bags.”

“Shizuka-sama, that’s a little…”

“Finally, we can meet Prince Haniwamaru, ho-.”

“We can buy Haneena goods too, ho-.”

“It looks like that’s how it it, let’s save the complicated stuff for later.”

“Indeed, let’s.”

With everyone agitated, Koutarou and Kiriha exchanged a small smile. Then Koutarou closed the wardrobe and returned to the table with Kiriha.

The cable car they were riding glided up the slope. There were many people who’d come to see the leaves, so there were many people riding the car, therefore the car shook. They were pushed back to back so it was an awkward situation.

“Thank you, Satomi-kun.”

“No worries, a club members job is to protect his leader.”

“Well… Satomi-kun…”

As they stepped down from the cable car, Harumi lowered her head to Koutarou. In the packed car he’d made sure she didn’t have too much weight put on her. Harumi’s body was weak, and they’d invited her out, so protecting her was what he thought he should do.

“Hm, this is fine.”

Theia, who was listening from nearby, ground her heal into his right foot, she wasn’t happy with Koutarou, who she planned to have serve her, just protecting Harumi.

“You bastard, are you asking for a fight?”

“There’s rave reviews and a special offer now!”

They quickly began glaring at each other and Koutarou’s attention was focussed solely on Theia. Originally, Harumi would have been upset, but after her experiences with Koutarou in the play, she’d grown more confident and Yurika was wordlessly supporting her, so couldn’t be like that.

“Do your best, Theiamillis-san!”

“See, Harumi is on my side.”

“S-Sakuraba-senpai!?”

“Fufu, I’m sorry.”

She couldn’t directly act yet, but she could support Theia and change the topic. Harumi too, had grown a lot since spring.

After the group got off the car, they kept going up the slope for a while to ride a lift up to their destination.

They had come to look at the autumn leaves, and Kisshou mountain had a well maintained trail to climb the mountain easily. And with the cable car and lift, they reached the summit quickly. Thanks to this, regardless of age, everyone could enjoy the mountain and the area had been loved by the inhabitants for quite some time.

Koutarou was bringing up the rear. In his gaze were the backs of the girls. At the front were Theia and Harumi, the two had smiles, possibly talking about the play. Following on were Shizuka and Ruth, the two were gently smiling and looking up at the leaves around them. Behind them were Kiriha and Yurika. Yurika had just slipped and fallen and Kiriha was walking behind her, looking at the lump on her head. Yurika’s face was tear streaked, but by looking at Kiriha’s face, it was obviously nothing major.

“Today was fun, ho-.”

“I’m happy, ho-.”

“It’s not over yet, we can still have fun.”

“That’s right, ho-.”

“Let’s climb to the top and watch the sunset, ho-.”

“And after we can go to the tea shop on the summit! Let’s enjoy it to the end, right, Koutarou!”

“Yeah. By the way, that tea shop is famous for its dango and konjac balls.”

“Really!?”

“I’m looking forward to it, ho-!”

“Let’s eat a lot, ho-!”

Then right at the back were Koutarou, the two haniwa and Sanae. Sanae and the haniwa couldn’t talk near Harumi so they naturally  tended to end up on the opposite side. Koutarou was walking at the back so they ended up all four of them walking together.

“So, what did you all thing of your Haniwamaru event?”

“I understand Prince Haniwamaru’s greatness, someday we’ll be like that, ho-!”

“Haneena-chan was cute, I want a wife like that, ho-!”

“By the way, I agree that Dograska is a bad person now.”

“… Good overall then.”

Koutarou nodded at their happiness and continued to watch the girls in front of them. To Koutarou, it wasn’t just the three nearest him, he could see the happiness of all six girls in front of him. Slowly enjoying their autumn day off, everyone was satisfied.

“Just what are we doing…?”

From the beginning, Koutarou should have been fighting for room 106. But now, room 106 was empty and everyone had come out to play. The girls didn’t appear as invaders at all. However you looked at it, they were normal teenage girls. Koutarou couldn’t bring up ill-will in front of that. Rather, it was the opposite, Koutarou trusted the girls. If they were to take the room, it would be fair and square. And when they were troubled they would help each other. At some point, Koutarou and the girls had completely broken from being enemies.

“Do I seriously intend to kick them out…?”

Koutarou felt happy whilst watching their smiles, and was upset when he saw their faces troubled. So even if he gathered all the points, he might not kick them out. He’d be sad they wouldn’t achieve their goals, and he wouldn’t be able to see their smiles.

“What… do I want to do about them…?”

Koutarou asked himself. He’d been asking himself this often recently. But he could never answer and he chased himself around in circles with the question.

“Kiriha-san, have you ridden a lift before?”

“I’ve only ridden the one in the tunnel, so it’s the first time I’ve ridden one with a view like this.”

“Ruth-san and Theia’s technology is too advanced, so you haven’t, right?”

“That’s not true, tourist attractions and places where the atmosphere is important use lifts.”

“Satomi-kun!”

“Koutarou, hurry up, we’re taking a picture!”

“Koutarou, everyone’s waiting.”

“I’m on my way.”

“Sure.”

“Ho-.”

“Ho ho-.”

Koutarou broke into a jog and Sanae and the haniwa followed him.

“There always like that, always waiting for me. They’re invaders but… what are we really…?

Koutarou’s worries were extremely complicated, so he would need a while longer to reach a conclusion.


←:Summer|Contents|Winter:→

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