Episode 12. Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover

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Furukawa Airi was keeping the door open for Momoi Tomoki and Hanakawa Akira. The two of them had taken the afternoon off from work, bringing Airi with them, to watch Hanakawa Sakura and Yamada Kenta in their play.

Fujita Kouta, Ken's brother, hadn't been able to come because he had to manage the floor. The only full-time server, Fujiki Arata, had called in sick; something that rarely ever happened.

He had sent a camcorder with Tomo to film Ken's performance though.

"Momo-chan, welcome back! I'm so glad you're here on the last day. You'll get to see that scene you saw to death perfected."

Hayashi Niko had her short hair in a ponytail that stuck out awkwardly, while more than a few strands had found their way out of the hair tie.

"Are you really sure it's perfected?" Tomo asked jokingly and Hayashi laughed.

"I promise, the choreography is perfect. Hanakawa worked really hard after your brutal critique last time." Before Tomo had time to answer, she turned to Aki. "Akira-kun, it's been years since I last saw you!"

Aki smiled in return. "It certainly has been a while Hayashi-san. I've been busy. Like my younger sister, I need to study hard to do well. Guess the brains had to go to the oldest three."

Hayashi Niko laughed.

"Should I take that as a hint to kick her out to make sure she gets into a good school?"

"Just make her study during her breaks," Akira smiled. "Either way, it's been long since I saw any plays at a theatre so I'm excited."

"I'm glad to see Ken act again. It's been a while since the last time," Tomo said with poorly hidden excitement.

He couldn't hide that he was looking forward to seeing Ken on stage no matter how much he tried. He wasn't fond of coming, but he still came there. He loved seeing Ken on stage. He shined when he did. It was nothing like watching TV or films.

What he didn't like were the people gathering nor the memories it all brought back.

"Oh, and Saku-chan too."

Hayashi grinned. "So it's like that? That explains why he was so peculiar when he got here. Kenta was somewhat absent-minded, you see. Walked into a couple of chairs, stumbled over his feet... Things I'd expect from you if you still were with us on stage. Very unlike him."

"Is he alright? He didn't get hurt, did he?"

She grinned. "Aside from his hurt pride, there's not a single scratch on him. Well, he's just focused. He tends to perform the best when you watch him, so I guess he wants to look cool in front of you. Maybe you should watch him every time he's in a play. I'm sure you wouldn't mind, right?"

Tomo blushed. It did make him happy to know Ken tried his best, but it was also really embarrassing if he was doing it for him; even more so if Ken was nervous enough not to know where his own feet were.

He noticed Hayashi's gaze move from him. It landed on Airi.

"Eh... This is a classmate in my and Saku-chan's class, Furukawa Airi. Airi, this is the mentor for the high school troupe, Hayashi Niko. She remembers when Ken joined 12 years ago when she was in the middle school troupe."

"He wasn't very good back then; I can tell you that much. Bit his tongue when he said his line. Assuming he even remembered them. He caught on quickly, though. I don't know if he's talented or just hardworking."

"I think being hardworking is a talent, Hayashi-san," Akira pointed out.

"Maybe, maybe not. It's absolutely your sister's talent. Hard work got her where she is today, and few manage to match Kenta in presence on stage. I'd love to keep chatting, but I have work to do. After this, I need to perform too as part of the professional plays as well. So much work for just one lady." She grinned. "You know the way from here to the seats and where you're allowed to set up the recorder. And remember to make sure no one else does. You got special permission since you know the rules regarding cameras and whatnot. It did need convincing though, so don't make a scene, or else I'll get in trouble."

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