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“Haa, we lost, we lost.”
On their way back to the waiting room, Miluše spoke somewhat indifferently while walking at the front with her arms around behind her head.
“That was close. No, you could say that there was a hair’s breadth between us and them.”
“Aah, not only we lost, but my hair was also burnt; it really is terrible.”
The other members who followed after also spoke regretfully, but they somehow had refreshed faces. Not uselessly dragging out something for long was one of the good sides of these girls.
Even Mahulena was surprised that she had admitted defeat so decisively. They had actually fought with all their power and lost, so it could not be helped. She honestly thought so.
“──Good work, everyone.”
As if she had been waiting for the Rusalka members to arrive, the figure of Sylvia came into view just before the waiting room.
“Sylvia-san…… Why are you here?”
Though Miluše blinked as she was bewildered, Sylvia smiled, put her hands on her waist and said as if it should’ve been fairly clear.
“Isn’t it obvious? After having showed me such a match, I had some words that I wanted to tell you no matter what.”
“──It was a good match, really.”
Including Mahulena, all the girls held their breath at these words and stood stock still.
Sylvia, seeing the Rusalka members act in such a way, smiled wryly, heaved a small sigh once and then continued further.
“Well, putting things bluntly, this thing called is just a ludicrous show and I think that the system that permits it is worthless, but…… even so, I think it’s wrong to say that ‘everything happening there (in the ) is similarly foolish’. No, it may be foolish, but at least it’s definitely not worthless. There’s a meaning to it.”
Looking around at the Rusalka members, Sylvia continued with a gentle gaze.
“No matter the place, aiming for something with a strong will and with all one’s power is something splendid, and I think that it’s something worth of respect.”
When she talked up to there, Sylvia bashfully scratched her cheek as she was aware of herself being unusually talkative.
“Errr, so what I want to say is that ── you were really cool. You aren’t bad, Rusalka.”
She then lightly struck Miluše’s chest with a fist, shortly said “see you then” and left.
The Rusalka members left behind stood dumbfounded for a moment, but before long;
Without knowing who started it, the sound of weird laughter began to leak out.
“Yaah, so this means that she has finally recognized us, right?!”
The face of Miluše, who said so, relaxed from being tensed up.
“That Sylvia said that we were splendid……! That we’re worth of respect……! That we were really cool……!”
“Yes, yes. I think you could say that this is already our big win!”
As usual, these girls are truly calculating.
Even while thinking so, Mahulena could not stop her cheeks relaxing.
Well, it was no wonder. They were praised for their good fight by that Sylvia Lyyneheym. There should be no students in Queen Veil that would not think of this as an honor.
Then, there was a call on Mahulena’s portable terminal.
『Thank you for your hard work, everyone.』
Petra’s calm voice resounded from the space window in a blackout state.
“Uwah, B-Board Chairman!”
All the members straightened themselves and adopted a posture standing at attention.
They had almost unintentionally forgotten, but Rusalka was defeated in the . Although they performed perfectly as a team, it goes without saying that results were demanded as a representative of Queen Veil.
『It was a shame for the match. Well, your opponent was just that strong, so it can’t be helped.』
However, Petra, instead of reprimanding Rusalka, indifferently said as such.
“A-Aren’t you angry……?”
To Miluše, who nervously asked, Petra’s voice continued as to admonish her.
『Since you have performed to the best of your abilities, I cannot demand any more than that. The results this time are enough.』
All the girls’ faces were distorted in frustration.
In other words, it meant that it was thought that they could only advance so far with their abilities. Although it was in fact the truth, it was not too different from being humiliated after all.
『── That said, it is unlikely to be your limit for the next 』
『In three years, I will have you become able to draw out ’s ability to another level. Of course, the improvement of each member’s battle ability will be also indispensable, so consider that you will become even busier from now on.』
To these unexpected words, all the members’ faces were tightened.
That’s right. Although they had lost this time, there was still the next . At that time, they would just have to leave results that no one would be able to raise complaints against.
『……With that said, I will first have you handle works suitable to your ability one by one for now. About five performance offers have come from the -related program and news stations which will be broadcasted live tonight; so please head there immediately. 』
“Huh……? R-Right now?”
Their bodies, which were tired from the fierce battle a little while ago, screamed that they wanted to take shower as soon as possible and then fall down on their beds.
『Do you have any problem with that?』
“Ugh…… T-There’s none……”
Of course, they could say such a thing.
『Ah, there are also two offers for songs amongst those offers, so I ask you to make preparations for those, too.』
After she had dumped those severe demands on them, the space window closed.
“……Errr, um, let’s do our best, right?”
In the corridor where a heavy silence had descended, only Mahulena’s empty encouragement could be heard.
Ayato, who returned to his room after the end of the fifth round, fell down on his bed as soon as he arrived at the room.
“Good work. As expected, it looks like it’s quite tiresome for you with a 9:1 female to male ratio.”
Eishiro, who was sitting at the desk and was working on something, laughed as he teased him.
“The opponent was a team from Queen Veil, so it can’t be helped. Or rather, the tiresome part wasn’t there.”
“I know, I know, it’s just a joke. But well with this, next is the semifinal, huh. It’s going better compared to the , right?”
“Well, many things have happened since then after all.”
He did not know whether or not they could win, but he would like to devote himself to the tournament without incident this time.
He raised his body while smiling; then as he was about to change his clothes, his portable terminal notified him of a call.
“Huh? I wonder who it is…… Saya, huh.”
While wondering what business she might have even though they have parted just a moment ago, he opened the space window.
『……Ayato, could you come out for a moment?』
“Right now? As expected, today was tiring, so you too should do your best to rest right……?”
Tomorrow was the adjustment day, so there was no match. Saya would also have time to finish customizing her luxes.
He suggested as such, but Saya shook her head in the space window.
“Then, is it some urgent business?”
『I only want to talk with you a little. And also ── I want to use my “wish ticket”.』
“Eh? That’s…… Well, it can’t be helped, huh.”
Since that was taken out, he could not decline.
As Ayato scratched his head, he went down on the bed and smiled wryly.
“But, didn’t you say that you didn’t intend to use it for a little while?”
『…… I changed my mind.』
“I see. So, what kind of request will it be?”
While hoping that it was something too unreasonable, he asked so.
『Yes. My request is──』
“Is it really fine with this?”
“……Yes, thank you.”
Saya said so and received the ice cream that Ayato held out.
Trees standing in a row at the promenade, where the evening sun shone, stretched their shadows, and together with a world dyed red, created a slightly fantastic scene. While walking side by side therein, Ayato peeked into Saya’s face in profile with a sidelong glance.
『──I want you to buy me ice cream.』
The request that Saya asked Ayato to the point of using her last “wish ticket” was such a trivial and simple thing. Ayato could not read at all Saya’s intention as to what kind of thought she made that request.
“……Unexpectedly, Rusalka were interesting girls.”
Then, Saya suddenly said that.
“What is it, all of a sudden?”
“Unexpectedly, I don’t dislike people like them.”
“Hahaha, speaking of which, you said something like that before the match.”
It was something quite rare for Saya.
“When we were shut together in the underground, Miluše spoke to me. She said that if I don’t do what I want to do and that if I hold back my feelings, I’ll definitely regret one day.”
“After hearing it, I remembered that Haru-nee also told me something similar before.”
While being surprised at the fact that his big sister’s name came out unexpectedly, he urged her to continue.
“She said then that I should honestly tell my feelings to people like Ayato.”
When Saya said so, she moved in front of Ayato with a manner of walking as if hopping.
“Therefore, I also intend to do as such.”
And then when she turned to face him, she revealed a gentle smile and said.
“──Ayato, I like you.”
Unlike the previous words, they were sincere, perfectly honest, and above all, earnest words. They were words delivered with determination after overcoming a stream of hesitation and anxiety.
Even Ayato understood at least that much.
“If possible, I want to be next to Ayato forever.”
The bright red setting sun shone on her back.
In the world colored with red and dark, only Saya’s smile seemed to clearly shine.
“It’s fine. You can give me your reply anytime. Just…… I only wanted to let you know.”
When Saya said so, she turned and left with the setting sun with quick steps.
Ayato, left speechless, could do nothing but watch her leave.
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