*Excerpt from a Saekano oneshot. I’m not very satisfied with how I’m depicting the characters, so I keep putting this one on the backburner…
The featured image is one of the original illustrations by the artist for the series, Kurehito Misaki.
“So without further ado, I’d like to take this time to thank you all for coming tonight.”
It was that time of the evening when the sun had just finished melting away into the shadows of a slightly chilly night. Currently, the four members of blessing software were seated in a private reservation at a yakiniku restaurant.
On one end, the popular light novel author who wrote under the penname Kasumi Utako, Kasumigaoka Utaha.
Seated next to her, the popular doujinshi artist drawing under the pseudonym Kashiwagi Eri, Sawamura Spencer Eriri.
And at the head of the table, the founder of this doujin circle and the one who had just started his speech, Aki Tomoya.
“I was wondering what was so urgent that you insisted on having me clear my schedule for tonight, but to think that it was to eat yakiniku…”
“I’m sorry, Utaha-senpai. I know that it must’ve been difficult for you to find the time with your work and all, especially when it was so short-notice…”
“Oh no. It was just a pleasant surprise, that’s all.”
“But yakiniku, huh…? Don’t you think that you’re being a little cocky, Tomoya? We’ve only gotten one route finished in the game and you’re already blowing our budget on something like this.”
“As rare as it is for Sawamura-san to say something reasonable, I agree that this is rather reckless even as a gesture. Have you properly accounted for this in our remaining funds, Rinri-kun?”
“There’s nothing to worry about on that end. The expenses for tonight are completely separated from the game’s budget. I requested for extra hours at my work to prepare for it.”
Eriri perked up at this sudden declaration of generosity.
“Are you an idiot? Why did you push yourself so much for something like this? If it was something you really wanted to do, you could’ve asked us to chip in—”
“There’s no way I could’ve done that, Eriri.”
Anticipating Eriri’s retort, Tomoya continued on with a serious expression.
“Because what’s happening tonight isn’t for the game we’ve been working on. It’s for all the hardships you guys have put up with and all the effort you guys have given over the years.”
The two girls fell into silence at this embarrassing line of dialogue. Tomoya cleared his throat, feeling a bit bashful about getting this out now. But it was something he couldn’t turn away from. Because it wasn’t just empty flattery or encouraging commentary; it was something that they deserved.
“Back when we were still in high school, I selfishly dragged you guys into the making of our circle, blessing software. Since then, we’ve sweated tears and blood, working hard to finish and release our games. Looking back at it all, I can’t help but feel like I would never have gotten this far if you guys hadn’t been there to pull me forward.”
“Although, we did have a lot of personal issues interfering—”
Eriri jumped as Tomoya’s eyes met hers. She averted her gaze with a flustered expression, much to Utaha’s amusement.
“And unnecessary distractions—”
Her face impassive, the only indication that Utaha had heard those words was the constant turning of her head as Tomoya leaned left and right in front of her.
“Through it all, you guys never withdrew your trust in me. It’s true that there was a lot of complaining and underhanded comments going around, but in the end, you guys were just doing that to encourage me, weren’t you?”
The two girls continued to thoroughly avoid Tomoya’s eyes.
“Let’s say just say it was…” said Tomoya, his glasses overcome by a blank shine. But then he cleared his throat and smiled at the members of his circle. “Really…thank you. For staying with me all the way here. For believing in me and showing me this godly route that I have no regrets in entering. I couldn’t have done it without you guys.”
“T-That goes without saying…idiot,” said Eriri, struggling to control the happiness leaking onto her face.
“Honestly, Rinri-kun…you speak as if you did more than just gather a team of talented people and strong-armed them into doing your dirty work,” said Utaha severely, although her soft smile indicated her true feelings.
“…T-That’s…I’m very sorry.”
“Hm? Ah, but it wasn’t as if I was saying that you did anything wrong.”
Tomoya wondered just how many times he would fall for traps like this before he smartened up.
“…Anyways. Today is my treat! So eat as much as you want! The more, the better! Actually, I was hoping Michiru would’ve made it today too, but it looks like she had something going on with her band. As for Kato—”
“Excuse me. Could I have an order of loin to start with—”
Three heads turned instantly to the girl that had calmly started her order.
“Ah…sorry. Aki-kun, did you have more to say?”
“Megumi…when did you get here?”
“Huh? What do you mean? I came in with everyone when we met at the entrance.”
A stretching silence followed after this casual remark.
Tomoya reached for the menu and began browsing through it.
“Well then…I guess I’ll have the—”
“Wagyu short rib, A5 grade please.”
“Berkshire black pork jowl for me.”
“Ah, can I change my order? I’d like the short rib as well.”
“Et tu, Kato…? Can’t you guys show a little restraint!? It’s true that I’m treating, but money doesn’t grow on trees!”
“Don’t worry, Tomoya. I believe in you.”
“Yes. We should take careful consideration to ensure that Rinri-kun doesn’t have any regrets with the selection tonight.”
“Thanks, Aki-kun. I’ll make sure to eat lots.”
“…Kato. You’ll get fat.”
“Wah, that was low. It’s just for today, so it should be fine…”
“Damn it…is this how you treat the founder of our circle…!?”
“Well, I guess it’s almost as bad as forgetting about your main heroine when she’s sitting right next to you.”
As the night wore on, so too did Aki Tomoya’s future as a consumer otaku dwindle away, evaporating into the scent of rich, meaty smoke.