Before the tutorial begins chapter 14.5

Epilogue – Sakura petals falling in Cherry Blossom Town

Scene change – Kiyomi’s house, Kyoichiro’s room

Suddenly, a week after the battle with the mutants, when the cherry blossoms in Sakura Town were in full bloom, I received a message on my phone.

<-Hey! Shimizu! Let’s hang out!>: It was from Aono Haruka. We had exchanged contact information after the battle, and luckily, she had contacted me first. 

Receiving a message from a character in an anime inviting me out (and from a girl!) made me feel like I had really moved up in the world when I sent a reply.

<-Shimizu Kyoichiro: Sounds good. When’s a good time?>

<-Cute Haruka: Hmm… How about now! Let’s play!>

Jeez, so sudden! 

<-Shimizu Kyoichiro: I’m free until dinner. Where shall we meet?>

<-Cute Haruka: The entrance to the Tsukigetsu Dungeon! Let’s meet at 10:30, sounds good?>

“Got it,” I replied.

After confirming that she had read it, I closed the app for now. 

It was 8:30. I still had time for a quick bath.

——————————–

As I was washing off the sweat in the bath, a familiar Secret Boss came in.

“Going out?”

“Yes, to meet Aono Haruka,” I quickly explained the situation to Al.  

When I emphasized that she had invited me, he looked at me doubtfully, so I reluctantly showed him the messaging app. Then he doubted that the messages were fake. 

My trust in the Secret Boss was as unshakable today as it had ever been.

“But this is an opportunity, master.”

As she took some fist-sized rice balls out of her pocket, Al said, “If we are to believe your nonsense, then at least Aono Haruka has positive feelings towards you.”

“I guess…” *choke* “…Yeah, you’re right.”

“So,” Al swallowed a rice ball whole with her rose petal lips, then took another one cool, “we should recruit her to our side before she gets snatched up by one of the big factions.”

“Yes,” I nodded in agreement.

We had overcome such deadly odds to change our fate. I certainly didn’t want others to swoop in and steal our precious while we were relaxing.

“Even a no-name like me is being scouted. A genius from the prestigious Aono family would surely get endless offers,” I said.

“Indeed,” she replied.

Yes. To put it bluntly, failing to recruit Aono Haruka could be the end of the game.

According to the Danmagi setting, Aono Haruka looked up to this certain one faction and wanted to become an adventurer. That means that if a faction she admires makes an offer, she’d easily say yes…

Uh oh. I’m too late, aren’t I? Did I really screw up?

The more I thought about it, the more nervous sweat I seemed to produce. What was I going to do?

“Shimizu-kun!”

“Wah!?”

Before I knew it, Aono Haruka’s face was right in front of me, ignoring personal space. Her face was so close that I could see every beautiful, charming feature… But this wasn’t the time to think about that!

“Oh, hey, Aono Haruka. Nice weather today. Your face is very close.”

“Hello Shimizu. The cherry blossom rain is dancing so beautifully, a feast for the eyes. That’s why you ignored me, right?”

I apologized for ignoring you and took a step back. 

“Sorry, I must have been lost in thought.”

“Oh? Were you picturing me in my private clothes?”

“Uh, yeah. I think it looks good on you, this outfit.”

I looked at her outfit and gave my honest opinion.

“I think beige and dusty blue look really nice together. It’s kind of mature and soothing. And thanks to that, the off-the-shoulder ruffles don’t stand out too much. It looks nice put together.

And just my personal opinion, but I think [blue] really suits Aono Haruka. Not a cold blue that makes you feel cold, but a refreshing blue like a clear sky.

That’s the kind of blue that suits her.

“Woah, I wasn’t expecting such a direct compliment. You’re really going for it, Shimizu.”  

“A first-class Galge gentleman pays attention to such details.”

“Gal…game? Gentleman?”

“Never mind. Anyway, what shall we do first? We could have tea somewhere, or we could go wherever you want. Your choice.”

But Aono Haruka looked up to the sky with an “Ah-” and said calmly,

“Before that, do you mind if…?”

“I don’t mind, but what is it?”

“No, no, it’s nothing special. I just wanted to say thank you properly, you know?”

When I heard that, I was completely confused as to what she meant.

“I don’t remember doing anything worth thanking you for…”

“Come on, Shimizu. You saved me, didn’t you?”

Oh right, I helped Aono Haruka.

It seems like such a long time ago, but I definitely saved her.

But that was just a selfish act done with future plans in mind – more specifically, a despicable crime committed in my anger as a user dissatisfied with the canonical storyline.

Calculated and selfish.

So it wasn’t really an episode that deserved gratitude, but…

“You don’t have to be grateful. You helped me too, so let’s call it even.”

“No, you’re wrong,” Aono Haruka denied. She shook her head twice.

The cherry blossom rain fell gracefully from the great tree of [Tsukigetsu].

In the middle of this fantastical world that seemed to be plastered with the concept of beauty, the blue-haired girl said softly, “You know…”

“My family is a really stifling place. People call it genteel, but it’s really just old traditions and entanglements, and preserving them is considered justice – it’s narrow-minded.” 

She said it was very boring.

“I’m… I don’t know, kind of smart, I guess? So I could take all the expectations and pressures from those around me and meet them all…”

“Yeah,” I said.

“And so they just kept expecting more and more. Ever since I was a kid, I worked hard to do what they said. But then one day they suddenly told me, ‘There is nothing more for us to teach you.'”

Their words were not as light as the cherry blossoms dancing in the wind.

There were probably a lot of complicated feelings woven into it that even she couldn’t untangle neatly. 

So I nodded briefly, quietly accepting her feelings. This wasn’t the kind of problem that had a right answer. She needed someone to listen.

“Nothing left to teach me? There’s nothing left for a child but swordplay? I’m qualified to be your successor? What does being able to skillfully swing an iron bar have to do with the humanity I’ve nurtured…”

Her tone darkened slightly. 

She probably didn’t mean to criticize the adults.

YOU ARE READING STOLEN TRANSLATION. READ THE ORIGINAL TRANSLATION AT GADGETIZEDPANDA.COM

The essence was probably the opposite – she wished the world was broader and that adults were admirable leaders.

A comfortable ideal, where the world was so big it couldn’t be traversed and adults were cool mentors – in any world, that was just a child’s dream.

But still. Even knowing it was a dream she’d wake up from, was that a reason for adults to steal a child’s dreams?

Just because they could, just because they were strong, just because they were superior – with such selfish reasoning, they shattered the child’s dreams and aspirations, then absurdly turned around and asked her to lead them?

That kind of thing, something like that…

“It’s selfish, isn’t it?”

“Yes, I suppose it is,” the girl said with a small blink. She probably also realized that the disappointment she felt was childish. 

Or maybe it was the tax imposed on the strong.

“But you know, one day I found something I could really get into.”

She told me it was a TV special about adventurers.

“They looked so cool, I thought. Working together with companions to take down massive enemies, working hard to explore uncharted territory… The adventurers shone so brightly that they were dazzling…”

She said it must have been a revelation. 

“It was exciting. My heart was racing. I was so into it, I felt like I was born to be an adventurer. Before I knew it, I was watching videos every day, going to fan club meetings…”

It was only natural for her to want to be an adventurer herself.

“I asked Mom, filled out a bunch of paperwork, followed a bunch of annoying instructions… When I finally got here, I almost cried.”

What she looked up to were the wide open gates of Tsukigetsu Dungeon’s Great Tree.

Although there had obviously been some inspection due to the sudden appearance of mutants, Tsukigetsu Dungeon was still operating normally as a beginner’s dungeon today.

The miracle we had captured was surely here.

“I was happy, almost disappointed, but still excited. Then I got carried away and a monster suddenly appeared and grabbed me. Just when I thought, ‘Crap,’ a cool hero showed up.

And then the other miracle smiled at me.

“That was you, Shimizu.”

A warm, gentle spring breeze blew.

“You saved me, listened to my selfishness, fought with me. It was so much fun, I was so happy. Strong enemies, reliable companions to face them – what I had dreamed of was surely there”.

…..

My tongue wouldn’t move.

Her happily smiling face was too dazzling. 

“So, Shimizu. Thank you. If you hadn’t come, I probably wouldn’t be here. I think I would have gone to a dark, lonely place without ever experiencing real excitement or a racing heart.”

But for some reason my chest felt tight–

“I really thank you from the bottom of my heart for saving me, for saving me. Right now I can really say that I’m happy to be alive. That is something really, really happy.

With these words I was finished.

I looked up at the sky. The waving cherry blossoms blurred my vision.

You are happy to be alive, she says?

The you who asked your own little sister to kill you in this world, can you say that?

Isn’t that unfair?

If you say that to me, I have no choice but to be proud of myself.

Even if the future is painful, I can’t give up.

If you tell me that you’re happy to be alive, I’ll be able to get up again and again.

I was always worried.

Would it be okay for me to change the future for my own convenience?

If the future wouldn’t change at all.

And you go and just destroy those nagging feelings of mine. Honestly, seriously, I just…

“Thank you… is my line, idiot.”

I barely squeezed out the words, trying my best to put up a front.  

“Huh? Sorry, what did you just say?”

“Anyway, Aono Haru–ah, Haruka, can I call you that? It’s easier.”

“Yes, and just Kyoichiro for me. We’re the same age, no need to be formal.” 

“Then…Haruka san.”

“No need for [san] either. Take it easy, Kyoichiro.”

“….Haruka.”

“Yes, Kyoichiro?”

She smiled, revealing white teeth.

What is this feeling? My face feels hot.

I can feel my cheeks flushing.

…No, hang in there, Kyoichiro. It’ll be endless if I embarrass myself so easily.

“Actually, I wanted to, uh, propose something. Well, more of a request.”

“….Yeah?”

I swallowed hard, trying to keep the ticklish feeling in my chest at bay. 

I took a breath, feeling embarrassed as if I was about to confess, and spoke my request with conviction.  

“Please make a party with me!!”

My brain sizzled. A different nervousness than the first time I spoke to Al made my feet wobble.

“There’s none of the security of a large faction, everything starts with a clean slate. I’ll probably cause you a lot of trouble…”

Still, I made my point:

“But I promise you one thing. I’ll never let you be bored. I’ll dedicate my life to proving that this world is full of dreams and hope. So…”

Before I could get the next words out, warm hands wrapped around my right hand.

“Yes. Please take care of me.”

Haruka gently squeezed my palm between her hands. 

She smiled.

A very happy smile on the verge of tears.

“I don’t know why, but I’m really happy right now.”

So I smiled too.

“Yeah, me too.”

Under the blossoming cherry tree, we set out on the if route.

An unknown journey that no one had seen before.

There would surely be much hardship and suffering. 

But this path would surely be…


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