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At least you'll never be a vegetable

Even artichokes have hearts.

Chapter 17 - 二羽のカラスと二本の海老 Two Crows and Two Shrimp
Amelie
9kinds
Two crows fly across the large window behind the interviewers, and Hachigusa knowingly asks Kouta again if he worked as a host. Kouta knows from what happened to the previous interviewees that it’ll do no good to lie and tells the truth.

He explains that he failed in job searching and was in financial trouble when got scouted to be host. He answers all of their follow up questions about hosting truthfully too. They ask him if he wasn’t reluctant to prey on women, and he answers that he didn’t see it as preying on women, but as satisfying tired women. They also ask him if he’s proud of being a host, and he says he is, but he doesn’t think of it as a career and is planning on quitting as soon as he gets an offer. He adds that though hosting is an easily misunderstood job, in the sense that you have to please customers, he has experience that relates to their company, and he can use it to have a good effect on AIDA. Hachigusa leans forward incredulous at that and brings up how Kouta had participated in the first day of the internship at DDL but didn’t come to the second.

Kouta tells him that his friend went missing and when he went looking for him in Shinjuku he got caught up in a brawl and was arrested, exactly as he had told DDL. They ask him if this friend was another host and Kouta tells them that he was, though he feels like his privacy is being violated.

The interviewer tells him that it’s because he's a host that he wasn’t able to come to the second day of the interview, and asks him if he knows what happened to his group. He tells him that without Kouta, who had been the leader, they were unable to produce anything good and failed the internship with none of them getting offers even though some of them may have been talented people. He asked him if that was the kind of good effect he means.

Hashigusa speaks fast and angrily, asking him why he even applied at their company after not being hired once and failing at the internship. He tells him that they don’t even hire people who take a year off of job searching, so there’s no way he’s getting an offer. He asks him if he knows why he was accepted to the internship and made it to the final interview for AIDA, and tells him that it’s simply because they were curious why he was so persistent. He tells him that he’s done some research, and while this past year of his certainly has been interesting, he isn’t suited to their company, or probably job searching in general. He brings up how he failed at getting any job offers last year and tells him to give up and just become a host for life.

Kouta remembers the day in Shinjuku when he threw up in the streets and the inferiority he felt. The feeling of something separate from himself that appeared and moved his body when he punched the guy reappears. He’s told to sit down and he can feel his fist shaking. The figure of the demon king appears in his mind, and he feels as if he’s denouncing him. This makes him remember a quote from The Prince, and rather than sit down he whispers it out loud, “The first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful.” This makes Hachigusa raise his head and asks him if that’s from The Prince. Kouta says that if the CEO is intelligent, then everyone there must be capable. Once again, two crows fly across the window in the opposite direction from before.

Kouta says that he believes that they are all capable, and though he knows it’s rude he's going to say this anyway, that Hachigusa was right to criticism him for causing trouble for so many people. He says that in the tough world of hosts he was able to become number one in less than half a year, and to put it bluntly no one at this company would be able to do that. He says that the reason someone like him, who had no social skills, was able to come this far is because he has the 'cunning of a fox’ and the 'strength of a lion’. Though he said before that he was arrested because he was helping his host friend, it actuality wasn’t just to help him. It was because that friend used to be the number one host, and once he started to fall everyone began hating him though they couldn’t say it. Once Kouta got in a physical fight with him, his stock rose and the rumors even made it to the customers.

When Kouta had mentioned the fox and the lion Hachigusa had laughed, and he thinks that he’s lucky that he knew The Prince. In reality he hadn’t made any such calculation, but he doesn’t know how else to show off his cunningness. He says that he caused a lot of trouble by not making it to the second day of the internship, but he had hoped that the company would find it interesting that he was trying to help some one, which was why he was honest in his message to the company. That had been Mitsuko’s idea.

He says that he understands that they can’t hire him due to his failure in job searching, and says that he’s reflecting on how he caused trouble at the internship. He says that since he’s become so much more calculating than he was last year, he thinks that he can be useful to the company. Kouta feels like he has been possessed by the demon king. He repeats that he believes the interviewers to be excellent and quotes another line from The Prince, “A prince must demonstrate that he loves naturally talented individuals, and respects those mastered in an art.” and then sits down.

Though one of the interviewers comments that he’s being cheeky, he can feel the approval of the other interviewees. As soon as he leaves the conference room the demon king leaves him and he feels uneasy and chills run through his body as he remembers his behavior. After leaving AIDA he tries to call Mitsuko but she doesn’t pick up, so on the train home he messages her to tell her about the interview and heads to Shinjuku.

He looks at the guardrail that he saw the night he was drunk and met Shizuku for the first time, and the word ‘depression’ that been written there has since been painted over. He feels hungry and eventually decides to go the same soba restaurant that Shizuku took him to before and orders a double shrimp tempura soba. A man with his hat pulled down low enters, and though Kouta doesn’t recognize him at first due to the weight he’s put on, it’s Shizuku.

Shizuku notices him while putting in his order and they greet each other. After being released by the cops Shizuku had stopped coming by Tuberose much and eventually quit. While Kouta doesn’t know what happened with the negotiation with Mizutani, the rumor amongst the hosts is that Shizuku handed over everything in his bank account. When Kouta had gone to his apartment, he had already moved out. Shizuku sits down far away from him, so Kouta gets up to sit next to him.

Kouta asks him what happened and rather than answer Shizuku asks him about his suit and if he’s been job hunting and when Kouta affirms this Shizuku says that they live in two different worlds. Kouta explains that today didn’t go well so he’s here to drown his sorrows. They talk about how they’re at the same place they were a year ago, and Kouta asks Shizuku if his baby has been born. Shizuku sighs and tells him it’s been two months, and how he hasn’t met them. He comments how Kouta should know that already since he’s sleeping with Misaki, and Kouta denies this saying they only met up for Shizuku’s sake though Shizuku doesn’t believe him at first.

Kouta explains Misaki’s plan of helping Kouta surpass Shizuku so Shizuku could leave, and he comments on how Kouta really has surpassed him. Kouta tells him that if Shizuku had continued on as he had been, he never would have surpassed him. Shizuku says that he just isn’t able put his all into it anymore, and how it’s all Amu’s fault. As he’s talking he continues putting spice on his shrimp unil they’re completely red with it, and it reminds Kouta of Mizutani with his chige nabe.

Kouta asks Shizuku if he still has the will to continue, and though he notices that the spark in his eyes is missing, he wants to believe that he can. He feels that it was fate for them to meet here, and invites Shizuku to become a host again.