As I mentioned in the afterword to the previous story, this extra chapter aims to make the main story more interesting.
If you don’t like that kind of thing, please skip this page.
I cannot guarantee how you will feel after reading it. Please acknowledge that.
Are you alright with that?
“Hiiragi-san, you can go now.”
“Yess. Thank you for your help.”
Right on time.
Her computer, which she hardly use, was shut down a few minutes ago, and the only things on her desk were a pencil case and a notebook, which she put away in a drawer, and she was ready to leave the office.
She used to put away even that pencil case and notebook a few minutes ago, leaving her desk empty and waiting for her time, but the same office staff, a veteran female employee, told her.
“Do you even know you’re working?”
“Regardless of how you got here, you’re doing your job and getting paid for it.”
She’d had a lot of sarcastic comments about her work, so she’d left the bare minimum of her work tools out until the last minute.
However, she had little in the way of work tools, as her work consisted of copying, faxing, checking internal mail, answering internal phone calls, and, on rare occasions, helping to prepare and distribute meeting materials.
She herself, despite her misguided intentions, had been admitted to a prestigious school and maintained good grades, so her basic specifications were not low.
At first, the people around her thought so, and tried to teach her this and that, but she had no intention of learning anything, and even after she was taught and entrusted with basic things, she would have other (mainly male) staffs do it for her. There was even a time when the relationship between the male and female staff members became awkward.
In addition, the phone calls and customer service that they had entrusted to her were not good enough at all, and after receiving some complaints from customers, the senior employees finally gave up.
Natsumi greeted them amiably and immediately left her seat. Most of the thank you for your hard work that flashed across her back came from the male staff, and a few from the female staff who were returning the favor.
That alone should have told her how alien a position she was in the company... Natsumi didn’t seem bothered by this and headed home.
(It’s not my lucky day. That misunderstood guy who confessed to me is pretty persistent.)
In order to be comfortable in the company, and because of her desire to always be pampered, she flirted with the male staff here and there, indulged and relied on them more than necessary, and sometimes even said, “I’m having a hard time, but I’ll do my best!” She’d been crying and showing off her good health.
This blatant attitude made not only the female staff, but even the married and somewhat experienced male staff frown in discomfort and keep their distance.
However, many of the young male staff members were easily fooled, and some of them sparked over Natsumi, made enemies of the female staff members, or confessed their intentions to her.
However, Natsumi had no intention of ‘looking for a future partner’ at this company.
She worked here because it was not outwardly acceptable for her to be a domestic helper at Hiiragi’s house forever after graduating from high school.
When Takayuki was arrested, the engagement relationship went back to the drawing board.
She was determined to make Sakuya fall in love with her, but even if she could become a wife in the Kiryuu family in the future, the fact that she had no working experience after graduating from high school might be a bottleneck, so she asked Hiiragi’s parents to help her get into a medium-sized company where she could make connections.
So, naturally, she softly but firmly refused the male staff members who were excited by her cute attitude and confessed their love for her, but not to the point of damaging their self-esteem.
(Speaking of which, Sakuya... I haven’t seen you at all lately, how are you?)
A unilateral restraining order from the lawyer of Saya’s house.
Since that day, Natsumi had been staking out the neighborhood around the university and monitoring the area around the Kudou house in order to attack Sakuya, and when she found him, she immediately launched a suicide mission, only to be rebuffed coldly each time.
However, it seemed that Saya had graduated from college and was no longer on guard duty, and recently she had not seen Sakuya much even when she was watching the Kudou house.
(Of course Saya’s in the way, anyway. But if I mess with Saya, that scary lawyer will come again... Hmm...)
She couldn’t give up on Sakuya, but it was also true that if she didn’t, she might waste a good time.
The reason she had been able to do whatever she wanted was because of her position as Takayuki Tachibana’s fiancée.
Now that there was no one to indulge her to the fullest, and incidentally, no one to pay her back, she began to feel a little impatient.
“... That’s right! It’s been a while since I’ve contacted those people. I’m sure they’re been waiting for me to give him attention♪”
‘The number you have dialed is no longer in use.’
“...Huh? Kazuki-kun, did you change your number?”
Natsumi had kept the contact information of the student council members who she used as a stepping stone to win Takayuki over.
They all came from good families, though not as good as Takayuki, and all had good-looking faces, though of different types.
They had only known each other until they graduated from high school, but they all looked at Takayuki with a frustrated look on their faces, as if they wanted to kidnap Natsumi.
If that was the case, they must be waiting to hear from Natsumi, who was now free.
No matter how many times she tried to call back, the only answer she got was an inorganic announcement that the phone was not in use.
Even if you changed your phone model or manufacturer, you should be able to keep your phone number, but maybe they changed their number because they wanted to change the mood.
(Oh, Kazuki-kun, you’re so careless. Sorry, you’re not my target, right?)
Natsumi forcefully drew a batten on the earnest-looking face that vaguely appeared in her mind and erased his name from the phone book.
Then, to regain her composure and call someone for the second time, she opened a name and tapped the dial button.
“Well, what the heck!? It’s strange that no one answered!”
After that, Natsumi was treated unpleasantly at every place she called, and each time she called, her frustration built up and she finally lost her temper.
Some told they were already married by a woman claiming to be their “wife” who answered the phone and explained as much, some told her to stop calling and hung up, some told her to hang up no matter how many times she called, and some turned off the phone after the first call.
In other words, they all rejected Natsumi, all of them.
(What’s wrong with you? Are you sulking because I haven’t given you any attention for a long time? Or did Takayuki’s arrest give you a bit of a fit?)
Thinking positively, Natsumi said ‘I’m home’ in a voice a few tones lower than usual, and walked through the front door of the Hiiragi house.
But she had to tilt her head back here as well.
“Huh? I know father’s at work, but where’s mother? Mother?”
She called out to her, but she didn’t respond.
Normally, her foster mother would come out to greet her, smiling and saying, ‘Oh, welcome home, Natsumi,’ but today, she couldn’t see her, no matter how long she waited.
“......What is it, Natsumi?”
“Huh, Masaru-kun. You look tired... What’s wrong? Do you want to talk about it?”
“...Ah, so let’s talk.”
“Yeah. Is the living room fine?”
Natsumi, aware of Masaru’s affection for her, dared to suggest that they meet in the living room instead of in her room.
Masaru agreed and turned on his heel, walking ahead of her with a tired gait.
There was still no sign of her mother-in-law in the living room, and Masaru offered a glass of tea to Natsumi, who sat down in place, looking around curiously.
“You haven’t sipped it yet.”
“Uwah, thank you... Yeah, it’s cold and delicious.”
For a moment, Natsumi didn’t notice that Masaru’s eyes had a glint of danger in them.
“Yeah. What is it?”
“I canceled the trip you said you’d take next month. And tell them you can’t go on that winter ski trip.”
“Hgh, why!? Why are you saying such a terrible thing!?”
The trip she had planned for next month was to go out with her girlfriends, whom Natsumi had managed to keep in touch with by buying them brand-name goods and putting them in a good mood.
Masaru had canceled it without permission.
(That’s not a joke!! That’s the one where I said I’d pay for the whole thing and they finally said yes! Do you have any idea what I’m going through?)
In order to fit in as the wife of a prominent family, she had to have a wide range of friendships.
So, making use of what she had been taught by the wife of the head of the Tachibana family, she had been able to introduce women of good family background as her friends, and she had continued her friendships while taking care of them and spending most of her allowance on them.
However, if they unilaterally canceled the trip, their pride would be so high that Natsumi’s reputation would be ruined, and it would be even harder for them to continue their relationship.
“I’m not being terrible. I’m sorry, but we don’t have enough money to keep up with your ego anymore. After Tachibana-san’s incident, father was forced to take a quiet job at the company, and his salary also dropped drastically. Mom started working part time because she had no choice, but she couldn’t keep up with paying off your credit card. Besides, you still have the money for the lawyer you hired for Tachibana-san’s case in installments. I’m still a new employee and I’m working part time...They found out about it, and fired me. So even if you just try to have fun like you always have, it’s not possible anymore.”
“Hah!? What are you saying? Don’t blame me for your own failures! In general, if you don’t have the money, why don’t you just borrow it from the head family? That’s right, Shijo is the most famous family of all.”
Even though their family was a branch family, it was still connected to the Shijo, and they might be willing to loan money to protect the honor of the family. Maybe they could even ask for help.
When Natsumi insisted on this, Masaru looked at her as if he was looking at something pitiful.
“... That’s something my dad already did. But Shijo returned with a declaration of disengagement. Well, of course, it doesn’t hurt their feelings to cut off a branch of their family. I heard that even Tachibana’s family was cut off from the Yakumo family.”
“If only... Yes, aren’t most of the sons of famous families still single? I want you to introduce me to someone like that! Don’t worry, I’ll make it work. Wouldn’t that be fine?”
As it turned out, it was a shame, but Takayuki loved Natsumi that much.
They lost touch with her because she didn’t give them enough attention, but the former student council members still fought over Natsumi for a while, and sparks flew.
Even the guys at the office now looked like they wanted to ask her out...The face of the ‘man’ occasionally peeked through.
If that was the case, then this time, Natsumi said with a sly smile.
The smile on her face fell as the second hand of the clock went round and round.
She wobbled. She was woozy.
Masaru’s figure, who was supposed to be sitting in front of her, swayed from side to side, coming closer, farther away, and blurred, and her vision gradually became darker.
“It’s finally working.”
“Hey, why do you think mom didn’t come out to pick you up today? Why do you think the entire house is so dark and closed off?”
“Hey, Natsumi. Do you have any idea what we’re going through?... I was fired from my job, and I finally came home to find my parents dead in front of me.”
‘It was suicide’, a low, self-mocking voice said, circling in her brain.
She had to say something, she had to do something, but her body would not move freely anymore.
Looking down at Natsumi, who had finally fallen to the floor, Masaru lit the lighter.
His mouth twisted as he was illuminated by the small flame.
“It’s okay.... I’m coming with you.”