The temperature kept rising as the day went on, but that didn’t stop the guests from having fun. In fact, many were playing in the pool and enjoying the baths… it was truly a sight to see.
Now, on the other hand, we from the manufacturing branch had more work to do. We didn’t even take a lunch break.
“Yo, more Cola, Chigusa,” said Urushibara. He skillfully cut up the fruits into a bunch of tiny pieces and immediately slid the pieces onto a plate. “Table 24 for this, GO! Pick up the PACE!” he added with a thunderous roar.
We put the cola and fruit plate onto the tray and hurried onto the poolside. It had been a few hours since we’ve been at it like this, and it looked like we still got a few more hours to go.
Eventually, the sun went down, and evening soon approached. Despite that, the events were by no means over. I took a look at the sun, and confirmed the time with my cellphone.
“Urushibara, it’s about time for stage two!” I shouted out.
Urushibara took off his sommelier apron and cracked his neck a few times. “Ah, is it that time already? I need to get ready,” he muttered to himself. He then went back and quickly switched to some hip-hop styled clothes. He hung some weird jewelry around his neck and turned his cap sideways.
“All set to go DJ,” he said as he grabbed a turntable. “You let Asagao know, okay?”
He stuck out his fingers in different directions as he posed to hype himself up. YO! Check it OUT! Once he was sufficiently pumped up, he dashed to the event booth.
Incredible… Looked like he really was going to DJ, huh? Maybe his official title would be a fruit DJ? He really could do everything, this guy… I’m sure his songs would be about as fast as the speed in which he cut his fruits. Damn, I need to stop with the compliments…
I kept gazing on until Urushibara disappeared from my sight, and then I headed towards Asagao’s tent. I said tent, but it was more like a roof that just kept out the sun. It was pretty plain, but it did provide shade, and felt very open. Honestly, it was quite a nice area to be in. Anyways, I quickly headed there to cool off, since I did work throughout the day under the blazing sun. Man, I really just wanted a break…
As I got near the tent, I began to hear a voice.
“It’s sweet! So sweet! Asagao, this is so sweet! Wooow!”
That voice… it had to be Renge’s. Thanks to her voice, I was able to find Asagao’s tent relatively easily. Apparently, it was third from the front.
I entered, and immediately I caught sight of a bunch of melons hanging off of a tree. There were some with light green skin that kind of looked a bit jaggedly on the outside. There were also some that had light orange skin, but unlike the other kind, their skin looked very smooth to the touch. However, both kinds were very round and plump, and the fruits themselves looked very soft. I was so intrigued by the fruits that I just stood there for a few moments.
“Kasumi! Good work!” I heard, and instantly I snapped back to reality. I looked in front and saw Renge carrying around some melons.
She was in a bikini, so her pale skin could be seen very clearly. The top part of her bikini was decorated with lovely ruffles, and the bottom was wrapped around with even cuter ribbons.
I became mesmerized just looking at her— I couldn’t help but stare. She noticed me staring at her, however, and embarrassingly tried to cover up her breasts with the melons she was holding. I don’t think that works, Renge…
“Kasumi, what you up to? You ditching?” snapped Asagao. She was besides Renge, and they were both separating the melons by quality. She was in her swim suit, like Renge… something she must have changed into after the meeting earlier. Her swimsuit had a light-blue strap that looped up around her neck. Her look in general somehow reminded me of a budding flower, and the sweat on her skin was like the morning condensation on that flower. It was a very modest outfit, but she was undoubtedly beautiful in it. Her smooth skin complimented her smooth forehead well, and both shined brightly under the light.
Sitting with her legs crossed, she peeked at me uncomfortably as I continued to look at her. “… Stop staring at me… idiot…” she said, disgusted. She then took a watermelon slice and gulped it down. Perhaps she too wanted to cover up her body a bit with the fruit…
“Nah, I’m on break,” I said. “But the party’s about to start…”
She said that just as some clamoring could be heard outside. I instinctively turned around and was instantly blinded by someone’s blonde hair. I had to continue squinting as the hair kept reflecting the sunlight directly into my eyes. Looking at the person closely, I could tell it was none other than the subhead herself, Natsume Megu. She walked up to us quickly and without hesitation, almost as if she was the queen of the poolside.
Her toned body was emphasized even more by the black tankini she was wearing. So much, in fact, that it drew the attention of all the people by the poolside. With that, alongside her long legs and mesmerizing thighs, her allure grew more and more with each step she took.
“Natsume! How’s it going!” shouted Renge.
“Pretty good, pretty good. I’m just stopping by, saying hi… since you did invite me to this,” said Natsume with a smile, turning to Asagao. “Yo, Asagao, this is pretty awesome! Even my peeps are so impressed! They’ve never seen such a thing before.”
“Hehehe, that’s what I thought. You can’t find this even in Tokyo or Kanagawa! Only Chiba! Only in Chiba can you find this!” Asagao turned to me. “Kasumi, get Natsume a beach chair, please.”
Perhaps pleased with the fact that Natsume had complimented her, Asagao puffed her chest out triumphantly. Don’t let your guard down, Asagao… You too, Renge…
Renge cheerfully made a drink for Natsume while I took out a spare beach chair and placed it next to her. She promptly lied down on it and stretched out her arms and legs. Honestly, it was… pleasant to look at, but I knew it’d be bad if she caught me staring at her like this. I had already been caught earlier…
“Thanks, Kasumi,” she said, giving me a slight smile. “Can you get one more for me?”
“Sure,” I said as I reached for the spare beach chair.
“One more? For whom?” I thought, just as Asuha appeared in front of me. She wore a two piece swimsuit as well, and both the top and bottom were decorated with ruffles. The whole outfit worked well with her slim belly, and her reddish-brown hair looked beautiful against her pure, white skin. There was no denying it— she looked beautiful.
Asuha seemed very curious about the fruits as she kept looking around them restlessly. Every so often, she would go “wow…” and be amazed. It’d been a while since I’ve seen her act this way, so I was actually kind of happy. This was one of the few moments when she acted her age, after all.
I handed the beach chair to her. “Here.”
“O-Oh… thanks,” she said as she set it up and sat down.
“If you would like any, feel free to take it,” said Renge as she offered up some melons and watermelons.
“Thanks…” she whispered hesitantly. She popped only the watermelon slices into her mouth and laid face down onto the beach chair. She must had been at the age when people hated melons, seeing as she didn’t take any…
With that done, the girls quietly chilled around on the beach chairs. Seconds turned to minutes, and minutes soon turned to hours. Before long, it was nighttime, and cold breezes started to blow by the poolside.
However, the area was by no means quieting down. Chatting voices could be heard far off into the distance, and even the leaves on the palm trees were brought to life by the wind as they rustled incessantly. The seagulls cried out in the open sky above, and the waves crashed relentlessly against the shore below. Everything sounded so natural… The more I focused on the sounds, the more they just seemed to fade away.
But suddenly, a loud roar violently shook the land. Rhythmic bass sounds came after, so low that I could feel my heart shaking. I didn’t know when I had heard them before, but these beats sounded vaguely familiar to me. I looked towards the noises and saw that a light show had started, and soon everyone gathered around and began to dance.
YO!! Are you READY?!?! Needles are about to be dropped on some disks and foreheads! Got it?? Today is TEN needles, so look forward to that!! Okay?!? Hit it, everyone, let’s dance!! HERE WE GO!!
I could tell immediately that the voice belonged to the Fruit DJ himself, Urushibara. He sure was in high spirits… Some music started to flow as he did some quick stabs with the disc. Natsume and Asuha had completely blank faces as they stared at the scene, and even I was a little speechless myself.
Asagao got up from the beach chair and turned to Renge. “It’s started, huh? Let’s go, Renge.”
“Okay! Natsume, if you ever feel like it, come! Right now it’s kind of like a rave party, you know? Something like that…”
“Oh?” said Natsume as she got up and headed to party. Renge cheerfully hummed as she quickly made another drink and chased after her. Asuha was ready to go as well— she too got up from the beach chair.
“I’m gonna go too,” she said.
Asagao stopped her. “You wait right here,” she said, going back to her beach chair.
“Huh? Yo, Asagao did you want anything?”
“I’m your senior, you know… can you say things more respectfully? Maybe add the senpai?”
“Alright, Forehead-senpai, what do you want?”
“F-Forehead? …” Asagao paused. “Fine, just call me Asagao! Screw it!”
It seemed Asagao decided that anything was better than being called a forehead. Sorry about my sister once again, Asagao. This wasn’t a choice people should have to make.
Asuha looked annoyed. “Why do I have to be here? Just when I thought it looked interesting…”
“I needed to talk to you without Natsume here,” replied Asagao. Her demeanor changed drastically, and her face turned so serious that it was almost frightening. She looked at Asuha straight in the eyes and continued. “About the elections… I need to make it known that you, one of the candidates for the next subhead, are with me, starting from right now…”
“Huh? What?” Asuha stared back blankly. “Umm, Asagao… What are you talking about?”
I had a blank stare as well. What was she on about?
Asagao took a deep breath. “Asuha, I’m planning to join the election for the next head,” she started to explain. “That’s why I want your help. But at this rate, Natsume is going to be the next head for sure. If you are with me, the military branch can be divided amongst itself, giving me a better chance to win.”
Asuha was a bit speechless, but she managed to squeeze out some words, “Ummm…. Saying that all of a sudden… Uhh….” She looked bewildered and uncertain, something even I didn’t see very often. She started nervously playing with her own hair and was unable to speak any more.
Asagao took one look at her and turned to me. “Kasumi, help me out here. Say something…”
“Sorry, Asagao, but I can’t help you here. She certainly won’t listen to me, and I can’t convince her to do anything.”
“Yup, yup,” nodded Asuha. She looked at me, and I looked back at her. We stared at each other for a few moments and then just smiled solemnly together.
But, Asagao did not crack a smile. She rubbed her fingers against her chin, deep in thought.
Finally, she spoke. “Well, the other day, during the battle… Asuha… you took Kasumi’s opinion over Natsume’s orders, right? Even though Natsume’s orders were supposed to be absolute?”
Ah, so that’s what it was about. During that battle, it really did look like Asuha was doing things based on what I said. So, I could see why she would think that, but that was completely wrong.
“Kasumi is also helping me out with this,” she continued, gripping Asuha’s hand passionately, her eyes filled with determination. “Please, Asuha. I need your help. You could be the next head one day, but I’m going to make this world better right now…”
I see, so that’s what you wanted all along. If it was leaked that Asuha, the military’s ace to-be and one of the candidates for future heads, was in secret talks with Asagao, then people might start to doubt Natsume. Even if Asuha didn’t confirm such rumors, it would breed suspicion and doubt within the military branch. Of course, even if Asuha did agree to help, there was no need for her to go that far.
Asuha looked troubled, and she just sighed deeply. “Sorry, Asagao,” she said as she freed her hand from Asagao’s. “It seems I really don’t have any interest in heads and elections and stuff like that.”
“It seems, huh?” Asagao was at a loss for words, and the atmosphere quickly turned silent. However, a very low noise could suddenly be heard from far away. It started soft, but gradually grew louder and louder.
“Kasumi!!!! Drinks! DRINKS!!”
Renge was running full speed at us. She looked very flustered as she tried to get our attention.
“Also, do you have any tissues or anything? I spilled the juice!” she continued shouting. Her head was dripping wet… How did you even manage to do that? Did she spill the drink like last time?
“Renge… you really are so…” smiled Asagao, who was dumfounded just by looking at her. But her face quickly tensed up as she looked further out a bit.
“N-Natsume…” she said grimly.
Surprised, I turned to look as well. In turn, Natsume did a quick smile and shrugged her shoulders.
“Asagao. Sorry about that, I couldn’t help but listen in on your conversation.”
Renge jumped back. “Natsume?!?? W-What are you doing here??”
“Well, Renge you suddenly just disappeared, and Asuha didn’t look like she was coming too…” said Natsume. She spoke lightheartedly, but her smile disappeared as she turned to Asagao. Her voice deepened, and her eyes narrowed. “… Asagao, what you just said… You serious about that?”
I knew this look well— it was the look she showed in front of the punks in the military. It was the look she had in combat, a look where even her eyes showed a killing intent.
Asagao stared back, but her lips were trembling. “I’m s-serious! I-I’m going to become the next head!”
“Don’t fuck with me. Nobody’s going to listen to you,” said Natsume in a calm, almost whisper-like, voice. Despite that, her powerful words rang deep within our hearts.
She paused, but soon continued her rant. “You still don’t get it? We are always fighting, you know. This world has always been fighting. That’s why the strong will always be on the top. So, someone like you… who’s not even part of the military, will never get recognized as a leader. Even if you ever somehow manage to be the leader, you’ll be crushed by our brute strength alone. I doubt you’ll last long.”
“But… I-If… If I stop the supplies…”
“Even if they starve, they’ll just fight back stronger. You think you can go against that? I know I can. That’s why I can and will protect everyone. The military branch isn’t just for show, you know.”
Asagao couldn’t help but just stay silent. She was trapped—she couldn’t even move. All she managed to do was to just bite her lip in frustration, a frustration certainly shared by many people not from the military branch. Natsume’s words, even the military’s, were absolute. No matter how much Asagao tried to distance herself from her, Natsume would not stop.
“The military branch is that kind of organization. Everyone thinks that way, so they’ll only accept someone that can carry their spirit and lead them. But you… you aren’t that. With you, you’ll get no one to follow you.”
In the minds of the city residents, the military branch brought about overwhelming power and immeasurable results. They were accustomed to the fact that all the previous heads had been from the military, so the thought of going against Natsume would have never crossed their minds. Asagao was probably the only one in the entire city who didn’t think this way.
“If you still are serious,” Natsume continued, glaring at Asagao, “then I have no choice but to go all out too. The moment you take this lightly… you’re done. I’m going to crush you.”
Natsume finished speaking and continued to glare at Asagao. They looked like they were sworn enemies who were destined to kill each other for eternity. Asagao, still at a loss for words, simply nodded. That went unacknowledged as Natsume turned to Asuha at the same time.
“I’m going, Asuha,” she said with a quick shout.
Asuha glanced at me worryingly.
“It’s fine, Asuha,” I said reassuringly. “I think you should go… I’m okay here.”
“O-Okay…” whispered Asuha as she prepared to follow Natsume out. She noisily put on her flip-flops in the sand.
Hearing this, Asagao desperately looked at me. “P-Please… Kasumi. You also do something about Asuha…”
“Sorry, I really can’t… I’m not going to hold her back. I want her to do what she wants…”
I thought saying that was a little harsh, but that was one thing I strongly believed in.
Asuha kicked the sand a little and turned back to Asagao. “You know… it’s not that I hate you… but seeing you do that kind of thing pisses me off a little bit.”
“That kind of thing?”
“The way you use people like that. We aren’t your pawns, so please don’t think of us that way,” said Asuha. Her voice sounded bored as always, and she looked sleepy. But as she left, she stomped the ground angrily, more so than usual.
“O-Oh…” Asagao looked down at the ground depressingly. She wiped her forehead and took a deep breath. “Sorry… I didn’t consider your feelings at all…”
“No, no. I’m sorry I couldn’t back you up like you hoped. That makes us even, right?” I said reassuringly. I tried to be as cheerful as ever, but Asagao wouldn’t even look up at me.
She looked like she wanted to say something, but she only took a deep breath. Her shoulders trembled as she tried to hold everything in.
“I’m sorry, Asagao,” said Renge as she gently touched Asagao’s trembling shoulders. “I messed up, and it’s all my fault…”
“It’s okay. This was bound to happen sooner or later. Maybe if we had some more time… but what’s done is done. Don’t worry too much about it, Renge.”
Asagao grabbed Renge’s hand and slowly raised her head. As she did, I could see her moist eyes and shaky lips as she forced out an awkward smile.
“I’m going to go back first and think about how to handle this,” she continued. “You two can leave today too, and just let Urushibara handle the rest of the night. Tomorrow, once everything’s cleaned up, come back, okay?”
She slowly walked out of the tent, but stopped just as she passed me.
I’m sorry… I’m really sorry, Kasumi.