“Never thought I’d hear you of all people suggest that.”
Taiyou smiled awkwardly. Just as she herself had said, Kohaku had gone down that path quite a while ago.
“Should I have not said that?”
“No, you’re fine. It was the same with Kohaku, and it’s the same with all of you. Do what you want to.”
“I, guess you could say that.”
Taiyou reached out and smoothed out a strand of Akiha’s beautiful hair, sifting it between his fingers.
“It’s more correct to say that I realized how great it is to see all of you doing what you love.”
“Even if it inconveniences you?”
“You assume that it will.”
“Dummy, of course it might inconvenience you.”
Akiha pouted a bit.
Taiyou smiled. His fingers ran down to her earlobe, pinching into it as he spoke.
“No mistake about it, in general it’s appealing to have you all do what’s fun for you. And if that somehow inconveniences me or causes mayhem then I can look forward to trying to solve the issue. So either way I prefer you do what you feel like doing.”
“Well I’ll be. Ye changed. Back then ye were so opposed to the idea, ja.”
Kohaku said keenly, like a grandma sunbathing on the veranda.
“People grow. Or rather, I want to grow.”
“You say this like it’s nothing, but I can feel some sort of determination from you.”
Sakura said, looking straight at Taiyou.”
“Do you have some sort of reason?”
“You see, humans climbing mountains begin to see the top in more detail the more they climb. You know that saying, right?”
“…The comparison between human growth and the profound nature of the paths they tread.”
“Yeah. The same as that.”
He abruptly stopped talking, looking at everyone present.
Taiyou’s brides, the seven brides.
He looked at each of them in order, the women whom he exchanged love with.
“Every time you grow, things you originally couldn’t see become apparent. That’s how it is for me, and every time that happens I see you all for the amazing ladies you are and fall in love with you all over again. I want to see what lies beyond that. So I want to grow more and more.”
He spoke quietly.
Determination was coursing out from him. Quiet, firm determination to succeed in his goal.
The girls all gaped at him. The majority of them were blushing.
“Natsuno-kun…that’s so unfair.”
“Unfair? How so?”
“When you say something like that…I’m just a normal girl, and I don’t know what to do about that.”
“You’re not normal in the slightest, Aoba. Just recently there was that poll among the boys to vote for the most popular girl and you were at the top.”
“Are you kidding me?”
Taiyou nodded with a serious face.
“Some other ones among you were…Kotone, Suzune, Kazane, Kohaku-san, Akiha, and even a mysterious twin-tailed girl…”
“Was that last one me!?”
Youran asked, surprised. Taiyou continued.
“And you were ranked second of all the girls in the academy for the poll among the females. No way someone as popular as you could be normal.”
“Oho, great job, my dear Aoba!”
“Mine, you mean.”
“Ehhh, then how about a split end of hair.”
“Well, I guess that’s okay.”
Taiyou and Akiha had a little banter. Meanwhile, Aoba’s eyes were wide open like it was a bolt from the blue.
“But it sounds reasonable, ja. But who be the top, ja? Anyone we know?”
“Yeah, that was a surprise.”
“She was the top in the teachers. Still somehow made it third place in the students too.”
“I bet. Her appearance is just perfect.”
Taiyou and his brides continued their conversation. Aoba was still in shock.
Taiyou grinned at her.
“So if you say that you’re normal too much, everyone here might flip at you.”
“Eh, uh, uh-huh…Okay, I won’t say it anymore.”
Aoba nodded obediently.
“Darling…can I say something?”
Ruri approached him.
“What is it? Come to think of it, why have you had your katana out all this time?”
Ruri nodded quietly.
“Assassins…aiming for you. That sort of thing?”
“Why does that sound like a question? And why me?”
“Ah, that might be my fault.”
“Possibly me as well.”
The two Juunishimas said.
“I see, so I imagine they’re from Juuni Island.”
“And where are they right now, incidentally?”
He asked Ruri.
“You can’t see them from here…they’re that way.”
“You’re right. I feel a strange vibe.”
Akiha said, apparently having learned that from Ruri.
“Are they going to be a handful?”
“Not if…she can detect them too.”
“So they’re not worth my time.”
“Hey, that’s mean! You’re a meanie, Taiyou!”
“Ahhh, sorry sorry.”
“That pisses me off so I’m just going to go ahead and beat ‘em up. I’ll be right back.”
Akiha zoomed over in the aforementioned direction with big strides.
“Ruri, just in case.”
Taiyou said to Ruri, asking for a follow-up.”
“Okay…leave it to me.”
Taiyou looked around.
Right around the entrance to the shopping district, Taiyou caught a glimpse of something near a fast food shop.
“Alright, we’ll be in that joint, so meet up with us there once it’s over.”
Ruri pursed her lips.
“After school…a date with Darling.”
“It hasn’t been a date all these times?”
“Go in the shop…rank up.”
“Oh…Okay, then I’ll be waiting over there.”
Ruri’s eyes opened wide, nodding and then chasing after Akiha.
The date was far from over.