Boom, a bombshell dropped suddenly. Just when we thought the culture festival had ended peacefully, something like this happened.
“Ah, About Kuro…”
“Yes, I heard it.”
The two seemed so surprised that they froze, and, mistakenly thinking that they hadn’t heard, Aoi-chan tried to say it again.
“Right… Well, I want both of you to give up on Kuro.”
“Before that, Aoi-senpai, who is Kuro?”
“Kuro is Kuro. Familiarly, it’s Kuro, short for Kuroda Izayoi.”
“Isn’t that too abrupt? And even if you tell us to give up, it’s not that simple…”
“I-I don’t want to fight because I like Karen and Kohaku. Fuyumi told me… Women’s relationships are complicated, and they can turn into a daytime drama. I’ve never watched daytime dramas, but I hear they’re quite intense. I want both of you to get along well. If I were to be selfish, I’d even want you to give friendship speeches at my wedding.”
“That’s really selfish…”
“Yeah, I know.”
“If you don’t want it to get complicated, Aoi, why don’t you just step back?”
“I’d hate that even more…”
Huh? Isn’t it mealtime? It seems like there’s an awkward atmosphere here.
Aoi-chan… she’s being quite assertive, isn’t she? When I think about it, she’s subtly placed him at the edge while positioning herself right next to him… and she’s controlling the seating arrangement…
“Aah, come on, let’s eat! It’s getting cold!”
“Yeah, you’re right… And also, Aoi-senpai, please change seats.”
Is this the situation we’re in now… Well, as for him at the center of this whirlwind, he seemed unsure about what to do and could only provide some comforting words.
“Even though you did that with them… you don’t want to with me?”
A clear shadow fell over her face. It seemed that the Cinderella play’s practice had intensified the sense of despair.
“I promise it’s not like that!”
There is his nature and perhaps his own true feelings that if he sees a face of sadness, he really wants her to smile. Well, I guess it’s also the fact that he can’t lie.
“Okay then, ahh~”
He became salty all of a sudden, typical of him.
“Is it delicious?”
“I-it’s really delicious…”
“I see… but don’t get the wrong idea, I didn’t do ‘ahh’ for Kuro’s sake.”
“Is that me!?”
Out of the blue, Aoi began imitating Karen-chan’s mannerisms, leaving everyone in shock. He also seemed curious and asked her,
“Why is Aoi imitating Karen-senpai?”
“Because Kuro likes Karen. I thought that if I imitated her, maybe Kuro would start liking me too… Oh, should I call you Kuro-kun instead? It’s got a bit of a Kohaku vibe…”
“No, just calling me Kuro is fine.”
“Is that so? I want to be Kuro’s favorite, so if there’s anything you want me to do, just tell me …… ah, I’ll do my best. And I’ll even imitate Karen and Kohaku.”
Ah, they both seem surprised. He’s even blushing.
From my perspective, the two of them seemed surprised earlier, but they also appeared confident. They’ve been working diligently up to this point, with a confession in mind. I modestly thought they wouldn’t lose.
However, this girl has arrived with astonishing speed. She’s naturally oblivious to most things. The two of them have been meandering, learning from each other, occasionally going off track due to mutual restraint and their hesitant feelings. But she’s different. She’s heading straight to the top without meandering, like a one-night castle of modern times. Her speed is incredible; she’s trying to absorb the best from both of them. This speed is like a modern-day castle, incredibly fast, and since she’s oblivious, tactics like restraint don’t work.
The two of them probably think she’s strong.
“Kuro, your face isn’t red? What’s wrong?”
“N-nothing, it’s nothing.”
“Looks like a fever.”
“No, that’s not it…”
“Just in case, I’ll measure your temperature.”
She brought their foreheads together. His face turned redder and Aoi blushed slightly too. It’s a distance where one wrong move could lead to a kiss.
“T-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-that’s not how you measure it in the modern era!!!”
They panicked and pulled her arm away. Aoi, still thinking, mumbled as she was restrained by the two.
“He has a fever…”
“No, it’s your fault!”
“Forehead-to-forehead measurement is only for two-dimensional characters!”
He seemed to be rolling his eyes… Afterward, she properly measured with a thermometer. The sound of the measurement beeped, confirming it.
“No fever….. that’s good.”
I’m glad, I’m glad”
“Kuuu, Aoi-senpai giving me headpats and shoulder pats…”
At this point, she unexpectedly started patting his head. Isn’t she going a bit overboard?! It’s true that she’s doing it unconsciously, but can people become like this when they realize they’re in love? Wanting to touch, talk, and make an impression unconsciously – is that what’s particularly evident in her case?
“Nikopo and Nadepo?! Ugh, what’s that all about… I’ve been here since the beginning, you know…”
Karen-chan couldn’t hide her surprise and frustration. Her twin tails were shaking. Speaking of that, what exactly are Nikopo and Nadepo? It seems like he and Karen-chan understand, but…
“Way too calculated… It’s my, my unique charm, and I need to do something too… By the way, that forehead temperature check might have its uses somewhere…”
It seems like a three-way rivalry is starting from here.
What should I do? No, I don’t dislike this girl, Aoi. There’s nothing to dislike about her. She has no qualities that I dislike, and I’ve liked her from the start, even from my previous life. I like her intensely. Her eyes, her slender figure, and the subtle charm she exudes, I like all of it. I also like how straightforward she is.
But even though I like her, is it okay to ask for a three-way relationship? It might be an ideal situation for me, but…
“At a celebration, karaoke is a must! So, I’ll be singing!”
After we finished eating, it seemed like we were going to do karaoke. Kohaku held the microphone and played a song. She had a beautiful voice, to the point where it felt like she could be a siren. Well, I’ve never heard a siren’s voice before, though…
That’s how beautiful it is.
[I want to whisper love to you, yes♪]
She turns to me at the rustle and winks. With that heart arrow, my heart is punched out and I involuntarily hold my heart.
“Your charms are too calculated, Kohaku-chan…”
“What should we do… I was going to sing an anime song. The gap in our heroine ranking might widen…”
“I actually like anime songs!”
“In that case, I’ll sing anime songs as they are…”
Karen sang an anime song. When it comes to karaoke, it’s best to sing songs you like.
“Phew, it feels great to sing after a long time.”
“That was amazing!”
“Fufu, of course!”
She smiled happily. Even though she’s such a devoted and cute girl, I still haven’t responded to her feelings. Isn’t that the worst?
“Next is… me.”
While I was thinking about that, Aoi started to sing. Her voice was truly beautiful.
“Aoi-senpai, you have such a talent…”
Hey hey, is she some kind of professional artist? Her singing was incredibly good. Speaking of which, her vocal cords were seven-colored, right? She’s incredibly talented in singing.
Kikawa Moegi was quite skilled too. Actually, there’s no one among these beautiful girls who can’t sing. As they sang with love, their karaoke session continued. After about three rounds, they seemed a little tired and sat down on the sofa.
“Izayoi-kun, is it okay if I sit next to you?”
“Naturally, I’d like to be next to you.”
“I’ll sit down.”
Karen and Kohaku sat down next to me. Moegi sat down next to Karen with a wry smile, and Aoi…
“Is it okay if I sit on your lap, Kuro?”
She sat on my lap. She leaned her back against me. Her soft but firm body pressed against my thighs and chest, and her refreshing fragrance… I couldn’t help but feel my heart race.
She didn’t say anything, but she had a faint smile on her face.
“Mugugugugu, I don’t think it’s a good idea!”
Even though she might be naturally like this, she’s way too defenseless. Coming this close to me, it’s making my heart race uncontrollably.
With my heart in turmoil, time passed by.
[Hihara Karen PoV]
I feel like I’ve been in the background lately. Even during the cultural festival, there weren’t any exciting developments, and it feels like everything I do is a second-rate imitation. I like Izayoi too. This feeling is something I won’t lose to anyone… No, it’s embarrassing to think like this.
But it’s the truth, it’s real, it’s the absolute truth. We’re both in love. So, I thought something like the trendy sweet, lovey-dovey rom-com would start happening recently. However, it’s different in reality. It’s become a love rivalry with a rival who’s like a genius in love. Today, a new rival has appeared. She’s a natural airhead, has a pretty good figure, and her character is vivid.
To be honest, I’m fine with it becoming a harem, whether it’s a love triangle, square, pentagon, or more. He’ll surely love me, so if I stumble, he’ll lend me a hand and adjust his stride for me. If I say anything, he’ll do anything and everything he can, and even more.
If I can be with someone like that, anything is fine…
Being able to hold hands and laugh together makes me happy. Always, forever happy. I want to live those days. I love Kohaku, Aoi, and Moegi too. It wouldn’t be bad if we were all together forever.
I want him to see me more as an individual.
For that, I’ll need to whisper more love from myself, even though it’s hard with my tsundere nature.”
What do people think about while taking a bath? Well, most people probably reflect on their day. I’m one of them. I wash my entire body and then soak in the bathtub. When people get into the bath, how do they do it?
Do they dive in once and feel like a sea otter? Or perhaps they feel like the water ruler, an Undine, and create swirling water currents in the bathtub, making splashes like water droplets, floating rubber ducks like ships and pretending to be the god of the sea in a storm?
I used to enter the bath with the feeling of simply immersing myself in hell, I remember.
Then the door opens. I hear the sound of footsteps splashing on the watery floor. There’s silver hair. She’s trying to hide herself with a bath towel, but her cuteness can’t be hidden.
“Kohaku-san, why are you here!?”
“I wanted to wash your back… but it seems you’ve already finished, right?”
I used the same bathtub after she washed her entire body. Her presence increased, and the water level rose. Being close to someone with breathtaking beauty makes me nervous. I want to appear mature and composed, even though I feel like I might end up looking uncool doing this.
While I was thinking about it, she wrapped her arms around my neck. Her assets are pressing against me, and my resolve wavers. I try to comfort her. However, she clings tightly to me and speaks with an anxious voice.
“My Izayoi… You won’t abandon me, right? We’ll always be together, won’t we? You won’t go to someone else and leave me behind, right?”
“Of course not!”
“Are you sure? I’m scared. I’m so scared that you’ll choose someone else over me. I don’t want to be alone again…”
Her grip tightens as if to suppress her fear, and she doesn’t let me go.
“I will never leave you alone.”
“That’s good… Thank you for saying that. Can I stay like this for a while?”
She finally regains her composure and continues to cling to me. After a while, she speaks again.
“I heard a… voice. Again, a voice… When I tried to forcefully bring you to the bath like this, trying to get your attention away from Aoi-senpai, I suddenly heard it so clearly… ‘You might be betrayed again.'”
“…That’s impossible. I, and everyone else, will never betray you. We’ll hold your hand.”
“…You’re right. I’m sorry for doubting…”
“There’s no need to apologize! It’s my fault for not being clear… I’m indecisive…”
It’s my fault…she is absolutely right… I’ve been indecisive, not clear in my actions… and I’ve made you worry.
“I-It’s not like that! Please cheer up!” (Kohaku)
“Is that so… I’m sorry for making Kohaku-san worried…”
“No, I’m the one… Huh? It seems like we got reversed somehow? I was the one being comforted… Um, anyway, please don’t worry. I like the usual cheerful Izayoi-kun!”
“…Is that so… Then, I’ll do that!”
“But, forcing yourself to be cheerful might be tough… um, what should I do?”
“Well, I heard that laughter can make you feel better… So, I’ll just smile for now!”
“Please don’t push yourself too hard. But, I do think Izayoi-kun’s smiling face is wonderful!”
…I don’t want to continue this unstable relationship for her sake. But… I can’t come up with an answer right away. So, I have to do something to ease her burden, to show more smiles…
“By the way, Kohaku-san… um, could you hear your voice quite clearly?”
“Eh? Yes… It was coming from around my ch*st area.”
“From your ch*st, huh…”
“Want to try it?”
“If you bring your face closer here, maybe you’ll be able to hear it?”
Surprisingly, if I try this, we might be able to have a conversation. If her voice is clear enough to hear, it’s possible that another personality has already formed within her.
Magic is a mysterious power, and not all of its aspects are understood. That’s why irregularities can occur. Trauma, the darkness in a person’s heart, can be infused with their magic, forming a new spirit, a new personality.
Because of that, her magic may have been halved. A personality born from magic. This is her darkness.
Forcing it out of her had always been a concern. That’s why I had to leave it alone. But if a new personality has already formed to some extent, maybe I should talk to her inner self and ask it not to say unsettling things… No, even saying that to her darkness might be cruel…
Her trauma and darkness have solidified into a presence… Speaking to it casually might hurt her. She’s wary of others, doesn’t trust easily, but she’s also kind… I don’t want to hurt her… but… for now, I’ll just try talking to it…
“Ah, huh? I was trying to tease you, but you’re taking it quite seriously…”
“Um, can I talk to it for a moment?”
“Eeh?! You mean, you’re not going to act all shy like usual?”
“Well, it’s embarrassing, but… this isn’t the time for that.”
“W-What? You suddenly react like that, and it’s making me embarrassed too… Also, you’re staring at my ch*st too much!!”
“Sorry about that. Anyway, can I lean my ear onto it? I want to try talking to it a bit…”
“Is it okay if I do?”
“Eeeeh?! Um, well, um, okay…”
I lean in closer to her chest… and press my ear against it. It’s soft, even through the fabric. But I need to put aside any inappropriate feelings.
“Um, my name is Izayoi Kuroda. Nice to meet you.”
“Uhm, if you’re okay with it, please talk to me!”
“Ah!!! I heard something just now!!!”
“That’s probably… the sound of my heartbeat…”
“Eh? Oh, right…”
I can indeed hear her heartbeat. It seems like only the Kohaku connected to me can communicate…
“Um, I really like curry… Do you have any favorite foods?”
“Ugh… um, that tickles…”
“Sorry. Can I continue just a bit longer?”
“What are we even doing…”
I thought her food preferences would be the same as Kohaku’s, so I asked various questions, but there was no response.
“It seems like I can’t hear anything.”
“Yes, it seems so. But I should have noticed it sooner… I was making quite strange noises…”
“No, I’m sorry… Looking back, I realize I did something quite reckless.”
I want to alleviate her anxiety as much as possible, but…
“I’m here to listen to your worries 24/7!”
“Waa, you’re so reliable! I mean, thank you very much… [Darling, you’re amazing]… Huh? Uh, ‘You’re amazing,’ Izayoi-kun!”
“Could it be that right now…”
“I don’t know why, but those words just came from the bottom of my heart…”
“Let’s try that approach a bit more!!!”
“Eeh?! Um, well, that strange voice and this feeling… maybe it’s not the best idea for today…”
Afterward, I tried a bit more, but it seemed like the resident of her inner self didn’t come out again.
Talking to Izayoi-kun makes all my anxiety disappear, and I’m enveloped in a feeling of happiness. Maybe I’ve been foolish for even considering otherwise. There’s absolutely no way…
[Is that really true?]
Yes, it is.
[Even though I’ve felt this way before and been betrayed… even though there’s no proof…]
[But when it comes to Darling, I agree completely. He risked his own life to save me. No matter what others say, he stubbornly kept helping me, no, us. That’s an unwavering light. But we never know when he might leave. He won’t betray us, but there’s no proof he’ll always be by our side. Someone else could take him away. If it were me, I’d use all my feminine charms on Darling and secure proof that he can’t escape, making us happy… He’s my hope. He’s absolute. I just don’t understand why we keep things so unstable.]
[I want you to change for me. Then… he’ll be mine… Well, I know that’s impossible… I recommend using chains to secure him sooner… Well then, I’ll leave it at that for today… Goodbye…]
Her voice faded away. After that, it seemed like something had strongly taken root in my heart. I was willing to do whatever it took… but I rejected those thoughts.
[P.S. Please be careful not to overeat. Maintain the style that Darling thinks is attractive.]
I pushed away that thought as well. Afterward, her voice just stopped, and it never returned.
End of Awareness of the ocean arc