The second day of the culture festival arrived, and whether or not you wanted it to be, it was the final day. Is the owner of the diary even here at the culture festival, or are they even watching us? I have no way to tell.
The best I can do is keep acting until the owner potentially comes to talk with us. With these thoughts in mind, both Aotsuki-san and I did our best…And, finally.
“…The final performance ended, huh.”
We closed the curtains, and the audience’s cheers and applause resounded. I’ve probably never felt so fulfilled in my life. It really feels like we made it. Though, if we don’t find the owner of the diary, then it was all for nothing…
“Maybe our plan to search for the diary owner was futile after all…”
Although Aotsuki-san seemed like she was feeling fulfilled as much as I did, she showed a wry smile.
“Even so, we did what we could. And, not to mention…”
“Even if we can’t dispel the curse, I still like you no matter what, Aotsuki-san.”
For a moment, Aotsuki-san’s face turned beet red. If you show me that kind of reaction, I’ll get flustered myself.
“W-Why would you say that…!”
“I mean…I did say I would be more honest towards the things I like…”
“B-But, out of the blue like that…”
Seeing her blush like that, I realized yet again how adorable she was, and it made me grin myself.
“Did you have fun?”
We’ve been busy with preparations the entire time, with a lot of trouble happening between. We didn’t even have the time to check out the other classes. Even so, now that everything was over, it felt like what we did was fulfilling enough. Aotsuki-san blinked at me in confusion a few times, only to nod with a smile. A calm and peaceful atmosphere reigned between us—
Right there, the curtains opened, and a person poked their face between them.
“I’m sorry, there is something I’d like to ask…”
So she was here. I couldn’t pay much attention to the audience because I was focusing on the stage play.
“Yes, it’s been a while.”
“Are you searching for Ga…Masuzu-san?”
“No, um…” Shizuku-san opened her mouth, slightly tense. “Can I meet the person who wrote the script for the play…?”
“That would be me…” Aotsuki-san raised one hand.
For a moment, Shizuku-san’s were filled with shock, but also another strong emotion.
“So you…know of Shell?”
“!” I felt my heart skip a beat.
Aotsuki-san pressed one hand on her chest as if to suppress the excitement and joy, and took out the notes.
“So, thes notes…”
“Yes…they are mine…”
Seriously? Coincidences like these happen in reality? I guess a miracle won’t happen with prayers alone. However, even without magic, we caused one.
“Please, could you come with us after this?”
“Shell. Witch Shell, you’re here, right. Come on out.”
Atop the hill where Shell supposedly lives, I called out her name. Neither Aotsuki-san nor Shizuku-san were with me. For the sake of the plan I came up with before, I had them wait for a bit.
“I love Shizuku-san.” And there, I lied. “I confessed to her, but because she was too shocked at being told that you hated her, she won’t believe anybody anymore. That’s why she won’t accept my feelings. Shell, it’s your fault. All because you one-sidedly pushed her away like that. If the both of you come to terms with each other, nobody will become happy.”
Shell won’t show herself in front of me. Is she even there, I wonder? It’s not that I’m not worried, but I can’t show any weakness. Even with no response coming back, I continued speaking. Shell isn’t visible to the normal person, but with magic, she should be able to show herself. If Shell still has feelings for Shizuku-san, and wants her to be happy, then she will show herself, I will have to believe in that.
“Just once is fine, won’t you please meet her?”
Still, no response. I put strength in my fist, and continued.
“She’s living her life, wounded. Is this your wish? Do you think Shizuku-san is happy like that!”
—Suddenly, it felt like a breeze blew past me. In the short moment I blinked, someone had appeared in front of me. It was a girl with a triangular hat, wearing a long robe, and beautiful blonde hair. She wasn’t exactly tall, but her cold eyes made it feel like she’s an adult.
“…So you are…Shell.”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
It’s the witch who has hid herself from Aotsuki-san and Shizuku-san for such a long time. Facing her like this, she seemed like a human, but also had this irregular atmosphere to her. It’s overwhelming.
“Do you mind coming with me?”
“The earlier the better, right? Come on.”
I didn’t give her a moment to hesitate, and led her down the hill. I was tense all the way there, but we slowly made it to the location I was aiming for.
“…Shizuku is still bothered by what I did?”
While we walked together, Shell spoke up.
“Of course. She treasured you more than anybody else, only to suddenly hear you hated her…How could she not be hurt because of such a one-sided farewell.”
“……” Shell grew silent.
With no more words, we walked on ahead. Eventually, we approached the destination, and my heart started to beat faster—Just a bit more.
“…Do you promise to make Shizuku happy?” Shell asked.
I’m not the person who will make her happy, Shell.
A voice that sounded like it had longed for this moment for years rang out. Following that, Shizuku-san tried to embrace Shell from behind—
But, that hug was evaded. The plan sadly ended up in failure, but at least their distance was much closer now. From here on out, it’s a battle to move Shell’s heart…
“Wha…what are you plotting!?” Shell was clearly taken by surprise, so Shizuku-san and I explained the truth.
Aotsuki-san appeared from the shadow of a tree as well, watching over us.
“The part of me being in love with Shizuku-san was a lie.”
“I’m sorry that we deceived you. But, I needed to meet you no matter what, Shell.” Shizuku-san looked at Shell, and continued her words with as much compassion as she managed. “Shell, even now, I—”
However, Shell averted herself from those words, from Shizuku-san’s feelings, and tried to run away.
“Don’t run away!” Momentarily, I reached for Shell’s hand.
Right after, I heard a sizzling sound, and the hand touching Shell felt like I was touching scorching hot iron instead.
—’It’s dangerous for humans to touch me.’
—’It’s forbidden to hold feelings of XXX towards humans. That’s why, unless it’s a particular exception, if a human touches a witch, their skin starts to grow hot, and burn.’
This is what it said in Shizuku-san’s diary, paired with Aotsuki-san’s memories from the past…Yeah, this definitely is dangerous. Just by touching her arm like this, my heart burns like hell. This really friggin hurts. But, I still can’t afford to let go of her arm. Of course, I want the curse on Aotsuki-san to be dispelled, no doubt. More than that though… If I let go of her now, nobody would be happy.
“I get it, I really do. Or actually, I get that you must be annoyed if I act like a know-it-all. You must be scared of hurting others, as well as being hurt. I myself was scared to receive affection from someone else. I thought it was all just a hallucination, an illusion. Because…that made it easier for me. Rather than facing the other person, I could get on without suffering any wound.”
It was basically trying to convince her. However, a lot of that was telling myself. I can already see myself agonizing over this once I’ve calmed down. But, the heat is hurting me, it’s making my head boil to the point where I can’t think straight. That’s why, saying a bit of embarrassing stuff should be fine, right? Words exist in order to convey your feelings after all.
“But, if you continue to deny Shizuku-san’s feelings, telling her to not believe you, it’ll just hurt her in the end.” I desperately tried to convey my thoughts.
However, my hands were about to burn up. My determination to not let go slowly started to waver, and my grip weakened. Suddenly, another hand appeared next to me, holding onto Shell’s wrist.
“Aotsuki-san!?” She let out painful groans, but would not let go of that wrist. “What are you doing? Doesn’t that hurt!”
“It does hurt…But, I decided to do my best. I want that curse to disappear, and I can’t just ignore this whole situation with Shizuku-san. Not to mention…letting you do all of this while just watching, how could I!” She explained herself while suppressing the pain. “Shell…If you have feelings for Shizuku-san, then you need to properly face them. You regret what you said before, right. I always tried to not be involved with other people, told myself that I wasn’t allowed to hold such warm feelings towards us, and put a lid on anything that wasn’t related to me. But, spending time with Yafune-kun, I finally understand. Everybody has important feelings…feelings that can’t and shouldn’t be ignored…!”
“Stop! I don’t want to hear that worthless smooth talking!” Shell shook her head left and right, denying Aotsuki-san’s words.
I think she’s just being thick-headed, but…I get it. She went through some painful memories. And, she was hurt. Making the face of a tragedy’s protagonist, she isn’t even trying to look around. Covering her ears, she tried to block off any noise. That’s why I opened my mouth as well.
“Shell, you were acting trying to protect yourself by using Shizuku-san as a means, right. Of course, that’s not a bad thing. I did the same thing…But.” Exactly because I understand her feelings, I guess what she’s thinking deep down. “There’s no way you could accept that, right! You still have some feelings left to tell her, don’t you!”
Not wanting to be liked, deciding to not believe in those feelings, these are just excuses in order to not get hurt in the process. It’s your true feelings but backwards. You can never avoid being hurt.
“You never showed yourself so far, but the second I brought up the argument of Shizuku-san never being happy, you appeared, right! You even asked me if I could make Shizuku-san happy! You want her to be happy! So, why can’t you be the one to make her happy!?” I started screaming at the top of my lungs.
Because of the pain, and the embarrassment, I kept sweating on and on. At the same time, Shell looked at me and Aotsuki-san. A painful and exhausted color reigned in her eyes.
“…That’s right, Shell.”
—And then, she looked at her.
“Don’t run away…Please, believe my feelings.” Shizuku-san embraced Shell from behind.
“Shizuku!? …Isn’t it hot!?”
“Nope, not at all.”
Whenever a human touches a witch, they suffer from severe burning. However, there is one exception.
“Hey, Shell. Is this enough proof of my feelings for you?”
Shell told Aotsuki-san that humans aren’t allowed to touch witches because they would turn them into tools for magic instead. That’s why, the only exception—is if the human loves the witch from the bottom of their heart. Any insolent feelings were not allowed. However, if it was true love, then skinship was allowed. Though, it was quite some bet to test this during the real deal. Even so, when I asked Shizuku-san if we would really be doing it, she showed no hesitation, and said ‘Yes’ with a beaming smile.
Without being afraid of being hurt, she embraced Shell. And, unlike me, she doesn’t suffer in the slightest. This led Shell to look at her, and us, in confusion. She must have been scared of being touched by Shizuku-san. If Shizuku-san’s feelings weren’t genuine, then it would hurt her, and Shell all the same. That’s why she decided to not test anything. But, both Shell and Shizuku-san couldn’t move on from each other.
“Shell…I like you…I…love you.”
These two must have been suffering for such a long time. But, things should be fine now. With these thoughts in mind, both me and Aotsuki-san let go of Shell’s hand.
“Shell, you said that my feelings for you must be nothing but a fake.” Midway, Shizuku-san started to tear up. “But, I’ve always loved you.” As if this reaction caused ripples, Shell broke out in tears as well. “I’ve always…always wanted to meet you again.”
She might look young, but I bet she’s been alive longer than I could even judge, living in solitude. She’s clumsy, dishonest, and a twisted witch. Her hand was quivering, hovering through the air, not knowing what to grab.
However, her arm slowly wrapped around Shizuku-san’s back. From her mouth came the words she could never say in the past—The words she always wanted to say.
“The truth is…I don’t hate you, Shizuku…I like you.” Shell tightly embraced Shizuku-san. “I…love you, Shizuku…!”
Both of them were crying, as their tears fell to the ground, looking like stars in the night sky. They were crying, but…even so, I probably have never seen people cry more in happiness like these two were.