This week is an episode full of conscious and unconscious choices, in which one of two things must be chosen—and the other rejected. The first is when Hikki buys drinks and Iroha must choose between his favorite coffee and red bean soup. Last week Iroha had gone over in her head what she wanted Hikki to take “responsibility” for her the same way he was with Yukino.
Here he does so, but only so far as apologizing for getting her caught up in everything. That said, Iroha doesn’t consider her prom duties a burden; she wants to send Hikki, Yukino, Yui and all her other senpai off properly and not have any regrets. Of course, if she doesn’t want to regret not letting Hikki know her true feelings about him—despite the possibility of rejection—she’ll have to act soon.
Komachi gives Hikki the next choice, between two seemingly identical bowls of stew/hotpot. After dinner he asks her about all the various events her school is doing to celebrate her graduation from middle school. Her mention of a friends-only class trip activates his Big Bro alarm, but like many things it’s all a part of his sister growing up
When he reveals his school is having a prom, Komachi is super-excited for him, even flashing her fang. Telling his sister that a prom is definitely happening basically seals Hikki’s fate, and he knows it: even if he has no idea if a prom will actually happen or what his plan for countering Yukino will be, the goal is in place, and he’s staking everything on that result.
Remember Yuigahama Yui? Coral hair, burnt-orange eyes, could pass as one of the Quintessential Quintuplets…and former member of the Hikki-Yukino-Yui love triangle? Well she makes a triumphant return here after not appearing last week, while Yukino is the one to sit this one out. Things start out pretty awkward, but improve when Hikki immediately asks if she’s okay over yesterday.
She lies that it is, and since he only saw a small fraction of the tears she shed, he lets it be. He then brings her up to speed. Yui assumes that he’ll be working with Yukino a lot more from this point on, meaning they’ll be seeing less of each other, so she’s shocked that things took a completely different direction, and his plan is to compete with Yukino.
Hikki doesn’t ask, but Yui declares she’d like to help him out. With no other staff or budget he can hardly refuse, so off they go to a family restaurant. There, Yui serving Hikki salad and watching him turn up his nose at a tomato like an 8-year-old, she can’t help but rest her head in her hands and gaze in pure joy.
Before eating, Hikki explains the general concept of their alternate prom plan: they’ll be proposing a prom that is even more objectionable than Yukino and Iroha’s, but still legitimate and serious enough that the PTA is forced to make a choice. He cleverly likens it to choosing between regular ice cream and “light” ice cream with half-calories.
Straddling the line between serious and undesirable will be tough, especially with no money, time, or manpower. On the last front, Hikki and Yui reach out to their friends, and while neither Saki nor Saika can help out (Saki is on team Yukino, but Hikki has her bashful blessing, while Saika is busy with tennis), they do manage to score Zaimokuza, who is his usual delightfully chuunibyou-inflicted self.
Before Hikki makes his proposal, Saika asks him what he wants, so they’re all on the same page. Saika seems heartened to see that Hikki knows exactly what he wants to get out of this: making Yukino’s prom a reality by creating a less acceptable one to give hers cover. Hikki says this while Yui holds his hand for support.
From there, Hikki and Yui head to an internet cafe, but due to the time of day, their selection of a “pairs” office suite, and the prom-themed movie Yui watches, it has the distinct aura of an illicit trip to a love hotel. As when she smiled at Hikki being picky at the restaurant, Yui savors every moment she has with Hikki here, and doesn’t their time there to end.
Because they have privacy, she even decides to be a little more assertive and pretend to fall asleep on Hikki’s shoulder. Whether he knows she’s faking or not, he covers her with a scarf and keeps his shoulder still so as not to wake her. In her head, as the tears well up again, she prays/begs anyone who will listen: give her just a little more time like this.
In a heartbreaking, poetic closing inner monologue, she promises she won’t hope for anything to happen, and that one day she’ll be able to stop the tears and along with Yukino help “bring this relationship to its proper end”, whether it ends for good or changes into something else. But mostly, for now, she just doesn’t want what she has right here and now to end.
Hikki may feel like he’s in a good place and has a way forward, and Yukino may feel the same, but lost in the middle is poor Yui, who is having the hardest time reckoning with impending change.