Chapter 2 - Bloody Chronicles of Demon Blade Muramasa
Not long after the third school term started, there was one ordinary winter day.
At the Yachi home's entrance, Konoha welcomed the familiar liquor shopkeeper. Ever since a long time ago, the shopkeeper would go door to door to solicit orders, basically soy sauce and sweet rice wine for cooking use, and would ask liquor shops in the neighborhood, which he was on friendly terms with, to deliver straight to customers' homes.
"Here, the usual rice wine your family ordered."
"Yes, thank you very much. The richness in flavor is definitely different when the condiments are prepared by experts~ I can understand why the Yachi family... no, why Haruaki-kun always buys from you since a long time ago."
"What a nice thing to say! But I'm sorry, Konoha-chan, I can't give you a discount even if you flatter me~ Business hasn't been good lately and I'll get scolded by my old mom back home."
"Ahaha, you picked up on it? Here you go, this is the payment."
"Hehe, thank you for your business! By the way, I almost forgot. This is the first delivery of the year, right? I should be saying happy new year!"
"Now that you mention it, that's true. Please continue to take care of us for this year as well."
Carrying the received bottle of rice wine in her arms, Konoha smiled and bowed her head in thanks. At this moment, the liquor shopkeeper seemed to recall something and scratched his head with an "oh crap~" look on his face.
"I see? Since it's the first delivery of the new year... It'd be kind of stingy if I don't give something back to a customer. Now that's something my old mom will really scold me for. But giving a discount now would be a bit odd—Why don't I simply give you something as a little extra? Konoha-chan, please wait for me, I'll go check inside the truck!"
Konoha cocked her head while the shopkeeper swiftly ran out of the front door. Konoha remained there obediently. Several minutes later, the shopkeeper ran back, holding what appeared to be a slender package in his hand.
With an inexplicably hesitant look in his eyes, the shopkeeper glanced at what he was carrying and said:
"Ah~ ...Speaking of which, Konoha-chan, Honatsu-san still hasn't returned?"
Why did he suddenly mention Honatsu? Konoha felt puzzled but still answered truthfully.
"There are no signs of him returning for the moment. He didn't contact us at all during New Year's either."
"Really? Hmm~ Although a gift of extra soy sauce would be better, I don't have any left in the truck, so this will do."
"No problem, no problem at all. It's just a freebie so please don't worry about it."
"Hmm~" The liquor shopkeeper tilted his head, troubling over something, but soon he said:
"Yeah, whatever! In principle, consider this a gift for Honatsu-san to drink after he returns! Thinking back, I was already an experienced drinker back in high school... But that's probably because I'm the son of a liquor store owner. Although it's really not too proper, young people should make little mistakes like young people and there's no need to be too harsh on them. Yeah, I guess I'll make this a gift after all. Thanks for your continued patronage this year too!"
The shopkeeper laughed heartily as though saying "Don't sweat the small stuff!" and set down the upright package in front of Konoha.
"But I'll repeat myself, this is a gift for Honatsu-san! In principle! See you next time!"
"...Eh? Oh okay, really... Thank you very much..."
The sudden developments completely baffled Konoha. With a lost expression, she saw the shopkeeper off at the entrance.
Only the mysterious gift remained on scene.
For some reason, the mysterious gift greatly resembled the bottle of cooking wine in Konoha's hands.
Several minutes later, Konoha was staring solemnly at that particular object.
"Hmm~ ...What should I do...?"
Haruaki and Fear had gone out for shopping while Kuroe was still working at the beauty parlor and had not returned. Naturally, there was no one else to discuss.
Hence, Konoha could only keep staring at the object on the living room table, a dilemma in her eyes.
That object was giving off an extremely astounding sense of presence. Konoha was almost awed by it, almost about to be overwhelmed. Had she known in advance, she would not have unwrapped the package—Konoha regretted from the bottom of her heart.
What should she do? How should she handle this type of object?
"This is a huge problem. Indeed, an extremely severe problem..."
Konoha murmured in a fully serious tone, still unable to tear her gaze away. This matter must be handled with caution. Action must be taken after careful thought. Okay, hurry up and think, what should be done first?
"First... First of all..."
At this moment, Konoha suddenly noticed a bottle in the corner of her eye. While she was sitting on the floor with her calves folded against the outside of her thighs, a bottle of cooking wine was lying by her feet. In other words, what the liquor shopkeeper had delivered just now. Indeed, when lost on how to proceed, one should always start with handling the things that were known.
Hence, Konoha used her entire willpower to shift her gaze away from the object on the table. Then holding the bottle of cooking wine, she stood up. She could feel a force pulling at her braids from behind like some kind of magnetic attraction while she walked to the kitchen and placed the cooking wine into the usual cupboard where condiments were kept. During this time, her mind was still preoccupied with how to handle the object in the living room.
"Of course... No way. Absolutely no way. It goes without saying."
Closing the cupboard, Konoha then moved to the cupboard where utensils were kept, opening the door with a clack and taking out a glass. Indeed, of course. Of course not. She continued to murmur to herself.
"Yes, there's no need to worry at all. Because it's already decided. Yes, there's no need to hesitate at all."
Then taking the glass, she opened the fridge and threw a few ice cubes into the glass with a clatter. The cool sensation transmitted through the glass to her palm, what a comfortable feeling.
This comfortable feeling was compelling her to hum a tune. Rocking her shoulders rhythmically, Konoha returned to the living room with light and lively steps.
Very~ well, the problem was decided. The struggle was over. The difficulty was gone. How nice it felt. But... What exactly was the original problem...?
Konoha tilted her head, placing the ice-filled glass on the table. After sitting down on the tatami, she reached towards the object next to the glass. Swiveling the lid on top, in other words, opening the bottle lid, she then inclined the bottle, pouring the liquid inside into the glass. The ice cubes swirled with a clang. She gulped hard. The drink looked really tasty—
"Ah! Why did I make such thorough preparations—!?"
Konoha suddenly regained her senses. What was she doing? Somehow, it felt as though her body and mind were on different channels... As one would expect, this object possessed a certain kind of magic to it that explained its intimidating sense of presence, right?
Trembling in trepidation, Konoha used her entire body's strength to put down the glass. But at the same time, the ice cubes shook left and right audibly, attacking her willpower, but she desperately resisted.
"Mmmmmm! W-What a terrifying power...!"
Mustering strength from the core of her being, she reprimanded her willpower. It would be too dangerous if she did not do so. Then Konoha looked at the object once again.
The liquor shopkeeper's gift was a bottle the same size and shape as what was used for cooking wine. However, a single glance was enough to tell that the contents were different. Several small fruits had settled on the bottom of the translucent bottle. Green, seductive fruits.
In other words, the true identity of the liquid immersing the plums was undoubtedly—
"I-Is it plum brandy...?"
Konoha gulped again. It had been so long. It really had been so long.
No no no, wait a sec—Konoha frantically shook her head. She was now a high school student, an identity that prohibited the intake of alcoholic beverages. The internal conference in her mind just now should have reached the same conclusion. Absolutely not allowed.
Despite reaching that kind of conclusion, for some reason, she could not tear her gaze away from the plum brandy poured into the glass, away from the plum brandy that she loved the most out of myriad types of alcohol, away from the plum brandy that had finally appeared before her eyes after many years, away from the plum brandy that had brought infinite gratification to her heart when she drank it for the first time, centuries prior.
Konoha quietly licked her lips and said to the air:
"But... But, it's a rare gift from the liquor shopkeeper, plus it's already poured into the glass, throwing it away... would be too much of a waste... Right?"
The bottle was unlabeled, possibly because it was brewed by the shopkeeper himself. Even if he was not the one who brewed it personally, the alcohol used as the base must have taken someone time and energy to brew and prepare. These plums actually bore fruit for the sake of spreading seeds, not for human consumption. Then now that they have been picked, they must not be wasted, probably. This counted as expressing respect towards nature.
Hmm, that would be too much of a waste—Konoha nodded alone to herself, raising her hand in elation, just as she was about to touch the glass—
"No! No no, I have to calm down a bit! Hurry and recall what happened during New Year's! It's not so long ago when the sake of the gods made me act in error and cause trouble for Haruaki-kun..."
The fresh memories turned into an angel's whispers, halting the movement of her hand. Indeed, the situation back then was too scary. Although two other people also got drunk and eventually collapsed, there was no denying that Konoha had caused Haruaki trouble. The same mistake must not be repeated.
However—The alcoholic fragrance was drifting over faintly. The aroma of plums and the beads of condensation on the glass. These were summoning the devil's whispers.
But on the other hand, after repeated considerations, perhaps...
To prevent embarrassments of that sort from happening again, perhaps she ought to help herself gradually grow accustomed to alcohol...?
Whenever people made decisive errors, they always tended to follow the same model in that very instant.
People trying to lose weight would think "I'll just eat one" and start eating cake. People trying to quit smoking would think "I'll just smoke one cig" and start smoking. People trying to study would think "I'll just read one volume" and start reading manga.
Present before Konoha was the temptation identical to the above objects.
"I-It's already poured out, right? If I simply take care of this glass..."
Indeed, it was just one glass. Afterwards, she was definitely going to place the bottle on the side obediently to wait for his return, then ask for his decision. "The liquor shopkeeper gave us this as a gift. What should we do with it?" Indeed, no helping it. She must offer her respect towards farmers, breweries, nature and the Earth. For their sake, she absolutely must not dispose of this glass of plum brandy, hence—
Konoha grabbed the glass, brought it to her lips and slowly tilted the glass.
Gulp. Ever since arriving at this home, she could only recall drinking once. After that one time, for some reason, Haruaki and Honatsu never allowed her to drink the slightest sip of plum brandy again—
The scorching yet ice-cold yet comfortable feeling slid across her throat.
Although she had no idea why those two forbade her from drinking the plum brandy she loved, Konoha decided that right now, she was just going to drink this one glass then put the rest away decisively. Hence, at least taking genuine enjoyment in this one glass should be fine. Hence, Konoha tilted the glass even further—
This was the decisive instant of Konoha's mistake and also proof of the "I'll just drink one glass" fallacy.
"Ohoh, so cold so cold... I must hurry and dive into the kotatsu. It's time for some warmth and rice crackers!"
Haruaki and Fear had returned from shopping. As soon as they opened the door, Fear hastily removed her shoes and entered the house. Then just as she was about to make a mad dash for the kotatsu—
"What's wrong, Fear?"
"No... Somehow it feels different from usual. There's a smell. What's this smell...?"
Haruaki sniffed but could not smell anything strange. Perhaps only Fear with her sharp senses could smell it.
"It's not a burnt kind of stench, right? I really hope there's no fire."
"No, not that kind of smell... Anyway, it should be clear once we have a look. It seems to be drifting out from the living room."
Following Fear's suggestion, Haruaki carried the shopping bags towards the living room. Walking through the corridor, arriving at the sliding door leading to the living room, Haruaki felt a chill down his spine for some reason. His instincts were apparently trying to convey some message to him.
What happened? As much as he had no idea why he was reacting this way, Haruaki instinctively believed that something shocking must be lying behind this sliding door. He even felt a kind of illusion that something resembling pitch-black miasma was overflowing out of the sliding door's gap in front of him. He experienced an unusual sense of heavy pressure. Was it really okay? Are you really planning to go in there? You won't regret it...? Starting from just now, his survival instincts had been warning him repeatedly.
"...? Why are you standing there spacing out? Hurry and go in."
But unlike Haruaki, Fear's defensive instincts had not kicked in. Reaching out from beside him, she simply pulled the living room's sliding door open. Next, they saw—
The image of her back while she was sitting on the veranda, facing the garden.
The instant he saw that back, Haruaki inexplicably felt goosebumps all over his body.
A despairing presence rushed into his brain, pleading that this was a dangerous place. Still ignorant of what had happened, Fear cocked her head in puzzlement and looked at her back.
"Cow Tits? What's she doing?"
Probably hearing Fear's murmuring, she finally looked back.
Face flushed red, the glasses almost having slid off her face, she looked back.
Then drinking directly from the bottle of plum brandy held in her hand, she spoke with a smile of rapture:
"Oh~ ...Haryuaki-kuun~ Welcome home... Where hast thou run off to...? I have been waiting for thee so long... Burp."
It's over. A crisis now. Everything has gone south.
Smiling stiffly in an appeasing manner to handle Konoha's dazed and smiling face, Haruaki first checked the state of the living room. A faint smell of alcohol lingered in the air. That must have been what Fear smelled. Next to the table, a glass containing ice cubes was knocked over, forming a puddle on the tatami, but this was the only detail that was different from usual. The disaster zone seemed to be less tragic than imagined.
Haruaki pulled his gaze back to the veranda where the being, who could potentially cause all sorts of disasters, was currently sitting.
That person was both Konoha and definitely not the usual Konoha at the same time.
Flushed red cheeks, glasses half fallen off. Her back was swaying, her head was swaying a little as well. One of her braids was untied but the greatest problem was her clothing.
For some reason, Konoha was only wearing a red kimono, sloppily tied at the waist with a sash. Consequently, it seemed as though dangerous objects were going to fly out immediately even if her body swayed lightly. Even disregarding that, her posture of sitting cross-legged with one knee drawn up was also quite dangerous.
"K-Konoha, why are you dressed like that...?"
"Hmm~? Because it is very hot... Western clothing is nice but I still feel that a kimono facilitateth movement—Muho. Haryuaki-kun, which dost thou prefer~?"
"Uh... No, this currently has nothing to do with my preferences, right?"
Konoha stared at him with fully flirtatious eyes. While Haruaki was at a loss for words, Fear seemed to finally understand the current situation and said:
"That's right, it has absolutely nothing to do with the shameless brat's preferences! Damn you, Cow Tits... Stop this nonsense! You must have gotten drunk again, right!?"
Then she strode her way towards Konoha who was sitting on the veranda.
"Hold on, Fear, don't do anything rash...!"
But Haruaki's warning did not make it in time. Probably intending to take the bottle, Fear reached towards Konoha without thinking. As soon as Konoha noticed, sitting where she was, she looked up with her reddened face and instantly—
Fear's body shook slightly while she growled in surprise at the same time. Haruaki also found it unbelievable. Because Konoha was no longer in front where Fear was reaching towards but had climbed onto Fear's shoulders.
What amazing speed and agility. What exactly did she do to reach that position? Haruaki missed the entire process in between and could not comprehend at all.
Konoha's feet were planted on Fear's left and right shoulders respectively. Half crouching, her knees were bent while her thighs were spread wide. Hunching her back, she examined Fear's face from above. Naturally, one hand was still holding the bottle while her other hand was raised in front of Fear's face. Two of her fingers were bent in a hook-shape, stopping just as they were about to stab into Fear's eyes.
Maintaining her monster-like posture, akin to that of a baboon assaulting a human, she narrowed her hazy eyes, faintly giving off a terrifyingly cold aura, she said:
"Due to... It seems that I have seen thee somewhere before... I shall confirm first. Answer me, little lass... Art thou, little lass... mine enemy...?"
Fear was rendered speechless, but immediately recovering from the shock, she bared her fangs and snarled:
Then she reached with both hands to grab Konoha's fingers in front of her. Using this as the point of contact, Fear launched Konoha in an over-the-shoulder throw. Nevertheless, Konoha simply twisted her body while her kimono fluttered elegantly in the air, finally landing silently on the veranda. Then she took another sip of plum brandy.
"Fuha... Ohoh~ In other words, little lass, as one would expect, thou art mine—"
"N-No, hold on, time out! I'll provide the correct answer. She's not an enemy but a friend! She's really a friend!"
The two girls glared at each other, ready to break out in a fight any moment. In order to convey the fact that he was the messenger of peace, Haruaki raised both arms and rushed between the two girls. Although it felt like stepping into a landmine zone with missiles flying back and forth overhead, Haruaki knew that things would go out of control if he did not intervene.
"Muu." Fear frowned while Konoha relaxed her tense shoulders and smiled, saying:
"Oh my... Haryuaki-kun. This little lass... is no enemy...?"
"Th-That's right, she's no enemy. She's a friend, a friend!"
"Honestly, it's the truth!"
Haruaki nodded vigorously and repeatedly while Konoha swayed her head left and right and puffed out her chest. The edge of the kimono's collar happened to get caught on a protruding tip. Only then did Haruaki came to a shocking realization that Konoha was not wearing anything on her upper torso apart from this kimono, sending him into shivers of terror. But putting that aside, Konoha was currently nodding in satisfaction, laughing joyfully:
"Yes, very well! Hahaha!"
Then she took another sip of plum brandy. Haruaki exhaled in relief.
Then Konoha sat down on the spot again, casually taking small sips of plum brandy. Fear stared at her with a frown while quietly approaching Haruaki and whispered:
"Hey, shameless brat... What's going on? Cow Tits is definitely a weird woman usually with her intelligence sucked away by the creature on her chest, but she's several times weirder today. Even if it's because she drank alcohol, she didn't act like this last time when she was drunk."
"Oh~ ...This must be your first time seeing it. What should I say? Konoha apparently loves plum brandy—Except there's a problem. For some reason, her drunken madness is especially serious when caused by drinking plum brandy. Like now."
"Like speaking in a manner similar to her past self... But that doesn't cause any actual harm. What's problematic are situations like just now when you faced off against her. She apparently becomes more true to her natural instincts, or perhaps I should say that her emotions become more direct and upfront."
"Hmph, why don't you just say directly that she becomes a simple-minded fool? Do you really think you can satisfy me with just an explanation like this...? Then how am I gonna vent my anger from getting suddenly attacked? Jeez."
"Hey Fear, I already told you to be careful. If she hears what you just said, she could very well start yelling: 'Thou darest to ridicule me—!' Then it'll turn into a troublesome situation...! You must watch your language and behavior from this point onwards—"
Haruaki's back shuddered as he looked back. No way, did she overhear what they said just now?
"Y-Yes...? Konoha, what's up...?"
"Hmm~? Hmm~ fufufu. I am simply calling, nothing more~"
Haruaki breathed a sigh of relief. No matter what, his greatest worry was direct violence. So long as that could be prevented, he was willing to endure incomprehensible situations or slight inconveniences. Indeed, apart from violent behavior, just bring it on—Although perhaps this mindset of his was proving to be counterproductive.
"By the way... Hooh~~ Verily... So hot..."
Without warning, Konoha started pulling at the collar of her kimono, flapping it to send wind towards her chest. In concert with the collar's in and out movement, her bulging bosom wobbled and shook, causing the visible area of exposed skin to become sometimes large, sometimes medium, but never small, exposing the root of the current problematic situation. Due to the angle, Haruaki was barely spared a view of the protruding tips, but that was not enough for salvation. The attacks persisted.
"Oh...? ...Ufufu, perhaps it feeleth particularly hot because my sitting posture is wrong...? There."
As soon as Haruaki noticed that Konoha was glancing sideways at him in a profound manner, in the next instant, she boldly brought one knee up and started fanning the lower hem of her clothing. The corners of her lips curled slightly as she watched Haruaki in amusement.
The kimono's hem was dancing and turning over her long legs. Feeling a kind of premonition that he was about to see into the depths between her thighs, Haruaki hastily turned his back to Konoha. Next—
"Mufufufu! Haryuaki-kun is so pure and innocent~"
Haruaki heard light giggling behind him. He was completely being toyed with.
He could feel his cheeks turning red. Staying here further was only going to subject himself to more teasing. Hence, Haruaki decided to regroup.
"R-Right, I still haven't put away the groceries yet, they need to go into the fridge. Uh... Fear, come over and help me."
"Muu~ ...Hmph! Let alone helping you, I can actually do it by myself without any problems! But damn you, shameless brat, you're definitely thinking of performing a fan's job, to create wind for Cow Tits who's feeling hot! Because you'll get to see shameless things!"
"I-I'm definitely not thinking that! O-Okay, let's go! Konoha, why don't you wait here for now!?"
Hence, the two of them finally escaped the living room. Closing the sliding door behind him, Haruaki sighed deeply. A little displeased, Fear said:
"So... What's next?"
"That's exactly the problem I'm trying to solve right now. Let's hold a strategy meeting in the kitchen first. Oh, before that, let me go to the washroom first. I've been wanting to go on our way back."
"Just go if you need to. I'll start putting things away first."
Parting ways with Fear who entered the kitchen, Haruaki made his way to the washroom.
"Sigh~ What on earth should we do now...? Say, who exactly gave the plum brandy to Konoha? She couldn't possibly have bought it herself, right?"
At this moment, Haruaki suddenly found something on the floor in the corridor. He picked it up for a look.
Looking up in puzzlement, he discovered a trail of discarded clothing that formed a straight line on the corridor ahead. An attempt to imagine Konoha's actions yielded the following approximate process: drinking a glass of plum brandy in the living room → feeling hot after getting drunk → returning to her own room while undressing → taking out the kimono.
"Seriously, she really is completely different from her usual self."
The usual Konoha liked things to be neat and tidy. If anything, she was usually the one who scolded Haruaki and Fear for lazy behavior. Now that their roles were reversed, Haruaki found the situation a little refreshing.
Unable to leave them alone, Haruaki sequentially picked up the clothing dropped in the corridor. Socks, blouse, vest, skirt, and... And? A warning signal lighted up a beat too slow in his mind. He had already just picked up the skirt but there remained other articles in the corridor. After the skirt, what else would she take off? Due to going with the flow of the repeated picking up motion, he had reached out without thinking—But what exactly was the article of clothing he was currently picking up?
Haruaki almost looked down reflexively but dispelled that impulse with great difficulty. Right now, the ideal course of action was neither to look at the object in panic nor to confirm its soft texture with his fingers, nor to check the size of the piece of fabric resembling two bowls in shape, nor to confirm the color of the other piece of fabric, triangular in shape, which he had picked up simultaneously because they were piled together.
Indeed, under such circumstances, his best course of action was to quietly stuff these things into the cardigan and other clothing without taking a single look... Just as Haruaki took a deep breath to lift the fabric he was unable to view directly—
"Hohou~ So thou art interested in mine undergarments... Haryuaki-kun?"
Konoha suddenly pounced on his back. When did she approach without making a sound?
"Drinking alone... too boring... I came to find thee but discovered... Ufufu!"
"No, you've got the wrong idea, you're really mistaken! I was just picking up the clothing you scattered all over the floor."
Since he had just picked up two pieces of underwear, top and bottom, this meant that Konoha was undoubtedly wearing neither at the moment. In other words, this proved that she really was wearing nothing but a kimono.
But currently, Konoha's heavy objects, clad in nothing more than a sheer kimino, kept exerting pressure on Haruaki's back, concentrating virtually all of his consciousness there. All it took was subtle movement from Konoha and those two soft bulges would wobble and shake slightly, shifting in angle, shape and weight from the pressure. When Haruaki moved, presumably rubbing a certain sensitive spot, Konoha moaned seductively behind his ear: "Ah mmm...!"
"Stop, don't lean your entire weight on me, I can't move...!"
"I cannot move either, unable to walk a further step~ Mushushu. Thou shouldst carry me on thy back and walk~"
"You're definitely lying! Ah, hey, it's touching, touching me! Please stay still!"
Two snow-white arms reached out for the sides of his face and slowly turned Haruaki's head, causing him to face the side. He met gazes with Konoha whose head was positioned on his shoulder.
"Hey, compared to undergarments, dost thou... have something... thou desirest even more...?"
"No... L-Like I said, I'm not doing this because I'm interested in underwear! It's because they're dropped on the floor! Uh, right, I have to take these clothes to the changing area and go to the toilet, so I'd really appreciate it if you could let go of me straight away. Konoha, please—Eh!?"
"Toilet... The lavatory? Mmfu. Well then, shall we go...?"
"W-Why are you pushing me? I can go by myself, this is my home, you know!? Say, you've already abandoned the pretext of being unable to walk!?"
Konoha was originally hanging on his back like a slime, but now she suddenly exerted force through her legs and stepped forward. At the same time, she kept Haruaki's head firmly clamped in her arms.
Naturally, Haruaki could not possibly resist Konoha in strength. Hence escape was impossible. Konoha dragged him to the washroom and even opened the door.
"Come... Shall we enter together, ufufufu? I shall assist thee... Pulling down the zipper..."
"A-Anything but that, please!"
Although he had no idea what, Haruaki was certain that something earth-shaking was definitely going to happen once they entered the washroom. Absolutely. Just as he resisted with all the strength he could muster from his entire body—
"Wha... W-W-What... What is going on here!?"
The savior—or new embers of chaos—appeared at the end of the corridor. Probably hearing the commotion, Fear had run out of the kitchen. Instantly, she figured out the situation.
"You've finally shown your true colors... Then I'll treat you to a taste of your own medicine! Immorality et cetera—!"
Taking out a Rubik's cube form her pocket, Fear transformed it into the torture wheel, raising it high above her head as she rushed at Haruaki and Konoha. Presumably forced to react, Konoha swiftly released Haruaki, turned and charged. A number of creaks sounded from the corridor's floorboards in succession. Fear threw the wheel while stepping forward. Konoha swayed left and right, evading. Fear continued to follow up with offense. Lazily lifting her free hand that was not holding the bottle of brandy, Konoha blocked Fear's attack using a karate chop—
Engaged in a contest of strength, the two girls were locked in a close-range battle, glaring viciously at each other.
"I forgot to add just now... The three words: (Death by Wheel)...!"
"Hmm~? How odd~ Haryuaki-kun mentioned that thou, little lass, art not mine enemy..."
"Hmph, but you could very well be mine...!"
"I see~ ...Then in self-defense, I must counterattack... Is that so...? Burp."
Another battle was on the verge of erupting again. Haruaki gulped hard. He must once again step up to stop them. But could he stop them? Unlike just now, this had already developed into a physical altercation.
Knowing it was futile, Haruaki still could not help but hope that he could rely on something, wishing someone could help. He was not going to be greedy. As long as this situation could be kept under control, it would be fine. Was there anyone who could stop these two girls from fighting, anyone who could reduce these two girls' intent to fight—?
Suddenly, she appeared.
"I'm~ home~ I've been working hard today too... Oh my?"
Hearing the front door opening, Haruaki turned too look.
Standing there—was of course, the petite black-haired young girl, namely, Kuroe.
She had returned home inexplicably earlier than usual, but probably due to her feelings of exhaustion or boredom, the opening hours of the beauty parlor, Dan-no-ura, changed freely on whim according to her mood.
Kuroe had apparently yet to understand the current situation, simply using her usual blank eyes to stare at the two girls who were locked in a contest of strength between a torture wheel and a karate chop. Then she tilted her head adorably in puzzlement. But just at that moment—
"Nwah... Huh? Hey, stand still, damn Cow Tits! Where are you going?"
Konoha had suddenly abandoned the stalemate, causing Fear to fall forward. Completely ignoring Fear, Konoha swayed as she walked over to Kuroe at the entrance.
"E-Eh? Umm, Kono-san, today you're looking different from usual—"
"Ufu, of course I know thy identity~ Kuroe-shan! Mufufu... Seeing thee anew... Sure enough... Extremely! Adorable! Yes!"
Smiling in a terrifying manner, Konoha moved her ten fingers, exhaling breath that reeked strongly of alcohol.
Seeing Konoha slowly approaching her, even Kuroe finally seemed to sense the nightmare's presence. Making an unmoving smile that looked like a mask, she said in a stiff voice:
"Ahahaha. Thank you—Well then, I just remembered that I still have something to do, so please excuse me."
"Huhee, thou thinkst thou canst escape from me—? Uriuri!"
Konoha hugged Kuroe tightly and began to rub their faces together forcefully, apparently forgetting Fear who was watching this scene with a stunned expression. Sure enough, when in drunken madness, Konoha was rather capricious in her emotions, making it impossible to predict her behavior.
In any case, Haruaki thanked his lucky stars that an imminent conflict was successfully evaded.
Good job, Kuroe! Haruaki mentally made a thumbs-up gesture, praising the arrival of the savior.
However, the savior was soon reaching a state of nihility akin to a kitten that had been under constant caress, collapsing limply in Konoha's arms.
"Using money to punish a person...? Hmm~ That local official's facial expression is truly evil to the extreme. Burp, must be Tokugawa's descendant, how truly displeasing..."
Konoha was in the living room watching television, muttering to herself. At the same time, she was alternating between drinking plum brandy and eating mouthfuls of food to accompany the alcohol. The snacks were prepared by Haruaki using existing ingredients that were ready on hand.
The trio of Haruaki, Fear and Kuroe were sitting at the side of the table opposite to her, suppressing their breaths. Despite making a continuous stream of grumbling comments, Konoha was completely engrossed in the television. Now was the only time to hold a strategy meeting.
"...I get it now. Kono-san always enters a drunken madness after drinking plum brandy. This is like the effect of catnip on cats and limited editions on collectors, a substance that makes her lose rationality especially easily, isn't it?"
"Exactly. By the way, Kuroe, your hair is all messed up."
"Ugh, my head still feels hot from all the rubbing Kono-san did for so long... I was beginning to think the friction was going to make fire."
Kuroe's hair moved sluggishly, fixing her hairstyle on its own. Through the slow movements of her hair, one could tell how utterly exhausted she was.
Glancing at Konoha while she was watching television, Haruaki said quietly:
"So... The problem we need to think about is simply what are we going to do next."
"Isn't that simple!? Right now, she's just a shameless bitch who's full of herself, doing whatever she wants, reeking of alcohol, a total eyesore! She must be dealt with right away! I propose a simple solution that can be captured in merely three words. Namely, force! Unconscious! Rope! ...Hoho, that's all!"
Fear was looking at Konoha with shining eyes akin to that of savage hound. Seeing that, Haruaki sighed.
"You're going to resort to force? In my view, I'm hoping that you won't execute the kind of plan that's like capturing Konoha, something a bit gentler would be better..."
"But Ficchi's plan isn't totally unworkable as a general direction. I don't really think Kono-san can be easily subdued in her current state, but I don't think she'll listen obediently even if we asked her to stop drinking. Also, look how she's taking small sips at a time so the consumption rate is kind of slow... Waiting for her to finish might be slightly challenging."
"Yeah... You have a point."
Hence, Kuroe turned her face slightly and said:
"I think your answer is very vague... Haru, are there extenuating circumstances forcing you to favor gentle solutions?"
"Damn you, shameless brat, you haven't been bribed by Cow Tits already, have you!? Oh, that reminds me, what happened to that underwear and clothing you were holding in the corridor just now...? Did she bribe you with that!?"
"Of course not, I already put the clothes in the changing area for sure!"
"Then why not!? I won't have mercy on you if you dare hide things from me!"
"Sheesh... But it's nothing so compelling as extenuating circumstances..."
Haruaki looked towards Konoha again. The story on television must be entering a climax. She was leaning forward slightly, staring at the screen intently.
"Yes, right there! Go—... Wow, the hairpin stabbed in with a goosh! A truly fitting death for a corrupt official! Kufufu, a toast to celebrate..."
Konoha slapped her thigh repeatedly then took a sip of brandy, grinning from side to side, then burped, exhaling deeply. Seeing the official go limp on screen, she laughed heartily again.
Yeah, disregarding the video content she was laughing about...
She really looked quite happy... Haruaki thought.
"How should I put this...? Recently, it's been quite rare to see Konoha laughing to her heart's content like this. If I think back carefully, it's very seldom for her to put down everything to have fun without reserve to begin with. She's always helping with house chores and going out to work part-time on occasion. She's definitely keeping her guard up all the time to watch out for suspicious characters nearby... It does seem quite tough for her in various ways, so I was wondering if she might be accumulating a lot of stress."
"Hmm, now that you mention it, that seems to be true. Kono-san isn't someone who complains or says discouraging things."
"...So what you mean is let her continue drinking in drunken stupor?"
Fear frowned and pouted, whispering in discontent.
"As much as I'd like to do that, allowing her to stay in this mode endlessly will cause too much damage to us... So I'm hoping for a compromise and resolve the situation gently. Rather than waging total war to render her unconscious and tie her up, I'd like something more natural. Since she's already like this, it can't be helped so I'm hoping to bring Konoha back to normal happily after she dissipates her stress completely, something like that at least..."
My suggestion probably has too much wishful thinking... Haruaki scratched his head. But after looking up slightly, he noticed Kuroe was making a faint wry smile with a gentle expression. On the other hand, Fear was pouting, facing another direction while muttering: "Jeez... This guy is always making such a shameless face, every single time..."
"That's so like Haru's style. In that case, I'll do as you say."
"Hmph, I can't stand this. But precisely because of that, the shameless brat is the shameless brat... N-No wait, I haven't accepted it yet! If you must have your way no matter what, it's not like I can't negotiate with you. Just give me ten... No, twenty rice crackers and it's a deal!"
"Sigh, no helping it. Although it feels like highway robbery, I'll pay you afterwards."
"Great, deal sealed. Can't be helped, we'll have to go for gentler means."
"A gentle solution huh... But that depends on what extent counts as gentle. Oh right, Haru, you knew all along that Kono-san turns into this state whenever she drinks plum brandy, right?"
"Yeah. In the past, before either of you came to this home, something similar happened once. I don't quite remember the details but Pops and I definitely suffered tragically. That's why, afterwards, we vowed from the bottom of our hearts that plum brandy is the one thing that Konoha must not touch. Not even a drop."
"Since something similar happened before, you must have learnt at least one or two useful things. Do you recall anything? Like being susceptible to pain caused by reciting prayers to her or being unable to stand the smell of garlic."
"Are you treating her as some kind of demon!?"
"By the way, how did you clean up the mess back then? Did you simply endure the whole thing or did you use some kind of special method to turn Kono-san back to normal...? This is very important."
Hearing Kuroe's question, Haruaki tilted his head, a deep furrow appearing on his brow as he concentrated. However—
"Hmm~ Actually, that's exactly what I've been thinking for a while now, but I can't recall what happened at all. How strange, it's like my memories were sealed by someone. It's really totally blank for just that one patch..."
"M-Most likely, it was a traumatic experience for Haru in his childhood. Probably a defense mechanism activated to protect his heart and soul... In that case, don't force yourself to remember it!"
While Kuroe said that, what appeared to be cold sweat dripped from her. Whatever, Haruaki decided that there was no point in focusing his attention on that matter since he might remember all of a sudden.
"So, back to the issue at hand, what exactly are we doing next? I don't want to just keep tolerating her tyranny. We must find a way to return her to normal, gently."
"Hmm. Ultimately, what should we do to make Konoha sober?"
Haruaki pondered. Sobering Konoha. The simplest and most basic method was time. No matter how utterly drunk, everyone would definitely go sober after some amount of time—But it was a totally different issue if they kept drinking continually.
In other words—
Conversely, she would definitely grow sober gradually provided she stopped drinking.
"Her drunken stupor persists because she keeps drinking nonstop... The first goal is to stop her from drinking more plum brandy. But there's still a lot of brandy left in that bottle. Since that's the case—"
"The bottle must be taken away."
Kuroe declared. The trio looked at one another and nodded.
The battle plan's direction was decided. In other words, to stop Konoha from drinking more plum brandy, they were going to take the bottle away.
"But if all we do is grab it, I think she'll immediately snatch it back. Maybe it's better if we secretly replace the plum brandy inside with water or fruit juice. In her current state, I don't think Kono-san will notice."
"Hmm, if the brandy can be replaced secretly, that'll be the best. But that requires finding an opportunity to make the switch first."
"If Cow Tits spots us during the stealing process, we might have to resort to a crash and burn approach, pouring the bottle's contents out... But we'll just have to adapt to the situation when the time comes."
"'Operation Secret Bottle Swap' sounds too direct as a name, too risky. Just in case, we should use a codename so that it doesn't matter if she overhears. In other words, this is 'Operation Beauties Preparing to Substitute Bottles Secretly', shortened as—Yes! Let's call it Operation Substitution Beauties!"
"I'm a guy, okay? Say, I don't see why you have to put in the word 'beauties' deliberately."
"Haru, don't sweat the small details~ I think this plan should be divided into four major phases. The first phase is 'preparing the substitute bottle,' the second phase is 'taking the bottle from Kono-san's hands,' the third phase is 'cautiously but boldly swapping bottles' and the final and fourth phase is 'after the supply is cut, Kono-san sobers up.'"
"Yeah. In other words, once these phases are completed in sequence, victory will naturally come into view. Then let's go. So, the specific details..."
Konoha had been keeping them in the corner of her view all this time. While they were discussing the details for Operation Substitution Beauties, Konoha suddenly turned her head to look at them. The trio instantly held their breaths.
A slanted, glaring stare. Despite laughing heartily at the corrupt official's death just now, she suddenly seemed quite displeased. Taking a sip of plum brandy, Konoha said:
"Hmm~ ...Burp. Right now, ye... were... whispering...?"
"N-No we weren't. What whispering? We were just chatting casually. That's right, just chatting casually."
"Ostracizing... me... Just the three of ye...?"
Saying that, Konoha pouted childishly. The usual Konoha would never make such a face, so it was quite a refreshing sight. But now was not the time to be enjoying this refreshing sense. Rather, it was an unprecedented crisis.
"W-We're not ostracizing you."
Konoha pouted even more forcefully, her hazy gaze penetrating the three of them in sequence, like an underworld judge trying to expose lies based on their facial expressions. Then—
"Sei~za~! Make haste! Here!"
Konoha patted the tatami next to her. Her eyes were already staring straight at him.
"Hey, why? What did we do?"
"Shush, Fear! Anyway, let's avoid angering Konoha for now. Now that we've finally decided what we're going to do, things will get very troublesome if we anger her. Hey, Kuroe too... Woah, that's fast!"
Unbelievable, instantaneous movement. Clearly next to Haruaki just a moment ago, Kuroe was now sitting formally in seiza posture at the location indicated.
"I've already decided to submit totally to the current Kono-san in non-resistance."
Konoha's displeased gaze and intimidating aura did not go away. Haruaki and Fear obediently sat down in seiza to follow Kuroe's suit. Sitting down forcefully in a cross-legged posture in front of the trio, Konoha took a sip of plum brandy and swept her sharp gaze over the group.
"Very well... So, do something... interesting... Amuse me!"
"Wait, Konoha, why are you giving this kind of order suddenly?"
"Muhmm~? I care not! Dost thou have a problem with that!? This ought to be possible if ye are not ostracizing me! Hence, ye ought to do it!"
"What unreasonable logic..."
"Ye cannot... Huh? Then sure enough, ye are ostracizing me...?"
Konoha's eyes were shimmering with the dim light of loneliness. Inexplicably, Haruaki felt a strong sense of guilt.
"Th-That's wrong, we're definitely not ostracizing you. It's just that we're wondering how to amuse you!"
"Puha~ Then allow me to decide! Hmm~"
"Letting this drunkard decide what we're going to do? That's definitely an extremely scary game...!"
Probably hearing this murmur, Konoha locked her gaze on Fear, thus deciding the first victim.
"In that case~ First, little lass, thou~"
Everyone gulped at once. Thinking up something that no one could guess, Konoha finally laughed in a commanding manner and said:
"I-I strongly refuse! What kind of demand is that? It's too shameless!"
Flushed red in the face, Fear leaned forward. However, Konoha laughed greatly while shaking her upper body.
"Hyaha, surely I jest... Well then, pour the drink. Little lass, thou shalt be responsible for pouring!"
This could very well be a great opportunity. Haruaki and Kuroe made eyes towards Fear. Since she was to pour the drink, it implied that the bottle will be handed over to Fear. Although they might not be able to execute the plan immediately, for the remainder of the operation, this was very crucial.
Fear nodded lightly. Then clenching her fists, she slowly stood up.
"We'll have no future if we don't defeat her as soon as possible. I've no choice but to step up. Haruaki, Kuroe, I'm counting on you guys for the rest...!"
Fear was making a face that matched these exaggerated words, like a stoic warrior heading off towards sacrifice for the sake of the greater good, filled with tragic determination.
"Hey, the glass is empty..."
"Muu... I know."
"Verily, thou ought to pour more gently. As one would expect, the little lass is clumsy... Haha!"
Endure, Fear, this is for the sake of our plan...! Haruaki transmitted his thoughts to Fear while she poured the brandy. Currently, Fear was still obeying Konoha quietly, but her internal stress was definitely building up from being forced to pour drinks like a servant for Konoha whom she was always antagonizing every day.
On the other hand, Kuroe was not present. Konoha was currently using the ordinary glass that was originally knocked over in the living room (probably the glass used for her first drink), asking Fear to pour her a drink. Hence, just earlier, Kuroe had rubbed her hands together and said: "I must say that this kind of cheap glass is not fit for Kono-san to use! I will go search for a classier wine glass, please wait, hehehe!" Then she fled the living room. Of course, that was merely a pretext. Right now, Kuroe should be in the process of putting phase one of the aforementioned Operation Substitution Beauties into action with utmost urgency, in other words, preparing the substitute bottle.
Kuroe had said that she was going to a nearby convenience store to buy crunchy plums and plum juice, which would take her some time to return. Hence, it was necessary to have Fear stall for time first.
As a side note, Haruaki had made several attempts to leave the living room so as to assist in the first phase of the operation, but for some reason, Konoha would exude an intense aura of displeasure every single time, leaving him no choice but to give up. As a result, all he could do was watch over Fear while pondering what "amusing" thing he could do when his turn arrived. However, Konoha kept glancing at him, smiling very happily, which meant that he was already serving as some kind of existence to accompany her consumption of alcohol.
But perhaps wanting to try other dishes to accompany her drinking from time to time, Konoha suddenly looked at Fear, staring intently.
"Little lass... Thy hair... Very pretty, isn't it? Since thou art free right now... Come come come, come a little closer... Burp. Worry not, I shan't do anything bad to thee."
"Ugh... Ughhhhh... Ughhhhhhhhhh. This is terrifying, too terrifying..."
Probably killing time, Konoha picked up Fear's silver hair and started to braid it nimbly. From an observer's standpoint, this was a heart-warming scene that would bring a smile to anyone's face, but considering the two girls' usual relationship, all one could say was this was truly a rare scene. Fear also looked like she had no idea how to react, her back simply trembled nonstop.
Soon after, Fear's hair was rendered in the same style as Konoha's, a braid on just one side. The elastic string used to tie her braid came from the tatami floor where it had been dropped earlier, in other words, the string that was originally used to tie Konoha's hair.
"Behold, the same as I now... Mmmph. Haryuaki-kun... What dost thou think?"
"I-I think it looks great. Umm... Just like sisters! Hahaha."
"Damn you, shameless brat, stop saying things that give me goosebumps! I can't believe you're such a sycophant...!"
After hearing Haruaki's response, delivered with a smile aiming to please, Fear went slightly red in the face and glared vicious at him. However, Haruaki did not consider it flattery. Rather, he was simply saying honestly what he felt.
Looking contentedly at Fear who was now sporting the same hairstyle as her, Konoha then licked her own lips for some reason.
"Hmm~ Now that I look at thee, little lass, thou art... quite adorable too..."
"Wha!? No, wait, what are you trying to do!? Cow Tits, cut it out now! Get away from me1 Don't hug me with your arms around my neck! Don't put your face against me! A-Are you trying to do to me what you did to Kuroe!? That's totally demonic, completely demoralizing—!"
"Hmm~? Thou sayst... What I did to Kuroe-shan... Thou meanst like this...?"
Konoha pressed their faces tightly togther and started grinding. Since Konoha had Fear's head firmly in her grasp, all Fear could do was keep leaning back.
Then Konoha's face slowly moved down along Fear's cheek—
"Ohoh~ How truly smooth, both smooth and tender, also full of elasticity... Almost like a steamed bun. Mmmph, looketh so delicious..."
Then she opened her mouth and bit Fear lightly on the neck.
"Eeeeeeeek!? I'm getting eaten—!"
Fear's toleration probably reached a limit finally. With a great shake of her back, she suddenly pushed Konoha's arms away with all her strength and fled in desperation.
Nonchalantly using one hand to catch the bottle of plum brandy that Fear had tossed into the air, Konoha looked in the veranda's direction where Fear had escaped, grumbling softly in discontent.
"What~ How boring..."
However, just as Konoha was about to take another sip from the bottle, someone forcefully opened the living room's sliding door.
"No~ I have already witnessed Ficchi's way of survival...! Now it's my turn to enter stage and do my best!"
Kuroe had returned. Haruaki quietly sat up and looked behind her—There it was. At a dead angle outside of Konoha's view, Kuroe's hair was currently holding a shape resembling a bottle.
(Ohoh, that's the light of our hope... As reliable as a legendary holy sword!)
Most likely noticing his gaze, Kuroe made a thumbs up sign behind her back. The first phase of the operation had been accomplished flawlessly.
Next, all would be fine once they accomplish the second phase of Operation Substitution Beauties, taking the bottle from Konoha's hand, and the third phase, cautiously but boldly swapping bottles.
Once that was done, it would leave only the fourth and final phase, sobering up now that the supply was cut. Then all would be well as they quietly waited for the happy future to arrive—
"So! Since Ficchi ran away, it's my turn to pour for you, Kono-san. See, I've found a glassy wine glass just for you. So please hand me that bottle you have there—"
"Oh... How wonderful. Be that as it may, simply having two people in a row pour brandy for me, I have tired of it. I shall accept thy wine glass with gratitude but thou shalt do something else, Kuroe-shan~..."
The operation was instantly stalled. Nevertheless, Kuroe quickly drummed up her spirits again.
"S-So, Kono-san, how about a massage? My hair massage is considered number one in the world, you'll be brought to ecstasy!"
"Oh... A massage? Experiencing a massage while having a drink, truly extravagant enjoyment... I shall be counting on thee."
Kuroe made her way around to Konoha's back. Her hair fluttered lightly and separated into many bundles, which then wrapped themselves around Konoha's body as she stretched her legs and sat down on the tatami floor. Neck. Arms. Cleavage. Thighs. Then the bundles of hair contracted in an unhurried manner, beginning to massage Konoha's muscles.
"Oho, hoho... 'Tis truly... excellent."
"Thank you for your appreciation~"
Although it seemed like a good opportunity on first glance, Kuroe did not something as reckless as trying to tie up Konoha using the hair. This was because Konoha, being a Japanese sword, countered Kuroe's hair completely. As long as Konoha had the intent, she could easily sever Kuroe's hair.
In order to look out for opportunities to act, Kuroe continued to use her hair to massage Konoha. Relaxing her entire body, Konoha entrusted herself to Kuroe's hair. The hair going past her neck was rubbing her shoulders, causing Konoha to exhale. Hair was lifting up her thigh lightly; movement in the hair passing between her cleavage caused her bosom to wobble—Haruaki frantically focused his attention on Kuroe instead of Konoha. Someone not in the know would probably mistake the sight for that of a voluptuous kimono-clad beauty in tight bondage. That was how dangerous this scene looked.
"Mmm! ...Ah ...There... Lower slightly..."
"Okay~ Leave it to me. Just relax your body."
At this moment, a new bundle of hair rose up silently from Kuroe's head. Her gaze also turned slightly sharp. The bundle of hair was slowly approaching its target—The bottle of plum brandy held in Konoha's right hand.
She's doing it? Haruaki quietly clenched his fist below the table.
The second phase, taking the bottle from Konoha's hand, was reaching an impasse, hence Kuroe had decided to skip the second phase, going for the operation's phase three directly.
Indeed, Konoha was currently a captive of pleasure at the moment. Provided Kuroe was able to to take the bottle swiftly and swap it with the substitute bottle behind her, the operation would succeed. Although evading Konoha's discovery was very difficult, it was fine so long as the bottle could be taken out of Konoha's view for an instant. Once that was done, there were many possible excuses, such as finding the bottle getting in the way of the massaging or wanting to use her hair to pour brandy.
All Haruaki could do was pray. I'm counting on you, Kuroe...!
The bundle of hair crept slowly towards the bottle. Twenty centimeters remained, ten centimeters, five centimeters—
But just at this moment, Konoha suddenly lifted the bottle to pour brandy into her glass. The hair missed.
Kuroe stopped the bundle of hair from moving as though saying "nothing weird's going on, this hair is for massaging!", smiling in a pleasing manner. Looking back, Konoha shook her head lightly.
"No... Thou continuest."
The mission resumed. The hair slowly approached but again, just before making contact, the bottle was moved. The hair froze.
"Hmm? W-What's wrong?"
Then again, the hair slowly approached, the bottle was moved, the hair froze. Konoha looked back; breaking out in cold sweat, Kuroe smiled in an effort to please... It was almost the same as a game of Red Light, Green Light.
(W-What should I do?)
Hence, Haruaki came up with a new plan, namely phase two point five, diverting Konoha's attention.
At this rate, Konoha was going to find out any time. Her attention must be diverted, even for a few seconds, so as to create an opening. To this end, what could Haruaki help—?
Haruaki instantly had an idea but it was accompanied by a number of problems. However, making sacrifices for the greater good was the most important. Right now, he had been simply sitting in one spot, serving as Konoha's accompanying snack for her alcohol drinking. Haruaki could not let Fear and Kuroe be the only ones working hard. Knowing how risky this was, he still went ahead, hoping it could provide some slight effect as cover—
Just as Haruaki resolved himself, Konoha ended up being the one to speak up.
"Hmm... Ahff... Oh, yes yes. A hair massage might be nice, but I still desire human hands... So Haryuaki-kun, come~ Give me a massage... Burp. Kuroe-shan shall continue to focus on the hair~"
Haruaki decided to help in massaging to divert Konoha's attention. As much as possible, he tried to chat with her and engage her attention. Konoha's invitation turned out to match his intentions, but the risk hidden in this act had not gone down at all.
Konoha was sitting with one leg extended straight while the other leg was slight bent and raised. Looking down at her extended leg, she said:
"Well then, start massaging here! Thou shouldst use both hands to press forcefully..."
Haruaki got up and shifted over by her leg, moving on his knees. The thighs extending out from kimono's overlapping portion were snow-white in complexion and voluptuous. Somehow, the blackness of the hair wrapped around the thighs seemed to be further emphasizing the pristine paleness.
Don't think anything, don't ponder anything, this is only phase two point five of the operation! —Haruaki reminded himself while touching Konoha's thigh with both hands, next to where Kuroe's hair was wrapped. Her thigh felt supple with great elasticity, yet so soft that it seemed to melt. Her skin was smooth and tender as though the concept of friction did not exist. Thigh. Thigh! No! Don't think! Shut down your mind! That's why I said this is too dangerous!
"Ah... Mmm... There... Press there..."
Haruaki applied pressure, causing his fingertips to sink into the supple flesh. Trembling, surrounded by warmth, his fingers bounced back from the elasticity. Konoha straightened her other leg and Haruaki shifted towards it. Bending her knees slightly, Konoha arched her back and exhaled scorching moans.
"Ah... Ah... Such pleasure, such pleasure... Harder... Haryuaki-kuun..."
Hearing these moans, Haruaki felt his inner depths almost about to explode in heat. I'm at my limit, I feel like I'm almost reaching my limit. Kuroe, you're still not done?
"Uh... Uh... Let's switch to another spot next! How about the shoulders!? Konoha?"
"Ah mmm! Hooh... Mmm... Shoulders are nice too... Then thou shalt kneel directly here."
"Umm, it's better to do it from behind if I'm massaging your shoulders..."
Inexplicably, Haruaki was coerced into massaging her shoulder, face to face. Reaching towards her shoulders, Haruaki massaged them together with Kuroe's hair. Staring past Konoha's head, he used his gaze to ask Kuroe: "Still not yet?" Kuroe answered with her eyes: "Make a little more of an opening!"
"Uh... Dear customer, is this okay?"
"Hmm... Hmm, faster... wilt be fine... Indeed, one, two... One, two. Do thy best... Do thy best... Ahhhhhh..."
Behind partially slid down glasses, Konoha's hazy eyes were staring at Haruaki. With every vibration, her face would shake rhythmically in concert with her breathing. Not only that, the collar of the kimono hanging on Konoha's shoulder was slowly beginning to loosen and shift outward, fully exposing her naked shoulder to open air—
"Hold it, pause! Your clothing!"
"Worry not, now is... the critical moment... Massage, massage more... A little... Mmm. Change the location, lower down this time..."
"Lower down...? But lower down from the shoulder is no longer the shoulder!"
Using her hand that was holding the wine glass, Konoha pushed Haruaki's arm, applying pressure to force it down. Currently massaging her shoulder from the front, his hand was gradually shifted down. Like climbing a sheer cliff, Haruaki's finger caught her collarbone. He was about to fall down soon. Then the landscape began to slope. The slope grew steeper and steeper, bringing more and more soft sensations, then it was no longer the shoulder—
Mustering all the strength in his body, Haruaki twisted his body together with his arm, causing his fingertips to escape the devil's gradients. No sooner had he breathed a sigh of relief, Haruaki lost balance from forcefully breaking free and fell over, face first. Consequently, his nose was greeted with the soft sensation of Konoha's outstretched legs. The thighs he had been massaging moments earlier was right before his eyes. Resembling shelled hard-boiled eggs, her smooth, white, pristine and tender skin occupied all of Haruaki's view. His breath bounced back against that swathe of skin. Somehow, it felt like his lips might have kissed her slightly too.
"Ufu, worry not... Thou must be tired, Haryuaki-kun...? Thou mayst... rest here for now... Mmph. Lay thyself... upon my lap..."
Konoha threw away the wine glass and used her freed hand to hold Haruaki's head securely. Her other hand was still holding the bottle. Taking a sip of brandy, Konoha shifted onto her knees to sit in seiza posture. Due to his head in her grasp, Haruaki could not escape—He had tried turning his head to resist but in vain.
Since Konoha was not wearing underwear, combined with the fact that her flimsy kimono was wide open, Haruaki did not dare to imagine what might happen if he were to look in Konoha's direction while lying on her lap. Frantically, Haruaki closed his eyes, avoiding the answer to this question by the slimmest of margins. Although he seemed to have caught sight of something, surely he had seen nothing. He saw nothing due to the shadows, definitely.
"U-Uh, Konoha-san, how much longer do I need to stay in this position...?"
"Until I feel that thou is comfortable and hast recovered thy energy completely, Haryuaki-kun..."
"I-I'm fully recharged already!"
"No, not yet... Oh, I recall now... Under such circumstances, there happeneth to be a method that could allow you to recharge completely, Haryuaki-kun..."
Haruaki turned his head even more slowly, stopping at a position where he could at least open his eyes. Opening his eyelids in trepidation, he found that his view was directly straight up at the almost overflowing bulges. He had no choice but to convince himself that this was at least better than just now. Nevertheless, he was struck by a rising sense of foreboding. Konoha was currently looking down between the two bulges at him, bearing an exceptionally seductive smile—
"Haryuaki-kun... Hast thou heard of seaweed sake...? Naturally, 'tis not alcohol brewed from seaweed, fufu, but a very fun manner of drinking alcohol..."
Although Haruaki had no idea what the term meant, he had a very bad feeling about it. His sense of foreboding also told him that it was not something he should know about.
Just as he was falling into the abyss of despair, Haruaki could sense something moving at high speed behind Konoha's head.
Konoha was bowing her head down, looking at Haruaki as though pressing him down with her gaze. In other words, the bottle was completely outside her field of view. Without missing out on this perfect, momentary opportunity, Kuroe made her hair move rapidly at once.
It was about to end. The third phase, cautiously but boldly swapping bottles—It was about to end!
Haruaki could see the future.
This was going to happen next—"What~" The bottle taken, Konoha would look back to find Kuroe with a bottle in her hand, smiling in an effort to please, saying: "Let me pour you another~" except that the bottle had been swapped already—Perfect. Thank goodness!
While Kuroe exclaimed in puzzlement, something fell to the tatami floor with a rustle.
Instantly, Haruaki discovered that his head had regained freedom. In other words, the hand that Konoha had tasked with securing his head's position was now assigned a new mission. With a feeling of despair, Haruaki sat up to confirm what had happened—
Konoha was staring in surprise at her hand in a karate chop. Then she stared at Kuroe's hair that had fallen onto the tatami floor. Then scratching her head with that hand, she nonchalantly said to Kuroe, who was frozen stiff:
"Thou shouldst be more careful~ Burp. If thou movest beyond a certain speed in my surroundings... I shall consider it an attack, thereby counterattacking automatically~"
"O-Oh~ I didn't know. B-But why?"
"Something like a habit... Because arrows used to fly frequently in the past... But why didst thou reach out with thy hair towards this bottle with such alacrity...?"
Konoha took a sip of brandy first.
Then narrowing her eyes, she continued to question:
"Mayhap—Thou intendest to take away mine alcohol...?"
She was starting to exude a faint aura of coldness that caused others to tremble. Kuroe frantically waved her hands before her chest.
"No no, of course not! That couldn't possibly happen at all! I was just trying to help you in making seaweed sake, Kono-san! Okay, let's do it now!"
(I-I can't believe you sold out your soul—!)
Kuroe threw Haruaki an apologetic glance of "sorry," but Haruaki had no idea how to respond with his eyes.
In any case, due to the tiny commotion just now, Konoha seemed to have heightened her guard. Was she going to let go of the bottle so easily again? Even if they could swap rapidly, the current Konoha was going to counterattack automatically—Too scary. Perhaps the operation needed amendments. But where? How should the phases of the plan be modified?
Just at this time, the doorbell's "dingdong" was heard at the entrance. Konoha trembled once and looked up.
"Oh, speaking of which, right... It hath arrived? Mufufu!"
Her mood suddenly improved for some reason. She also seemed to have forgotten the mysterious alcohol of seaweed sake.
"Uh, Konoha... What has arrived?"
"I was just thinking that snacks to accompany the brandy did not feel filling enough... So this is something more fulfilling for the stomach. Yes, very well, let us go pick it up together. 'Tis might be too much to carry unless everyone is mobilized... Come, follow me now. Same for the little lass over there~"
Returning at some point without Haruaki noticing, Fear was currently hiding behind a pillar, secretly peeking into the living room from the veranda. After Fear stepped into the living room in resignation, the trio looked at one another.
Although they were totally puzzled—
The commotion from Konoha's drunken madness was apparently spreading beyond the confines of the living room at last.
It was very much in Konoha's style.
But why? —Haruaki could not help but feel baffled.
Why? For what reason?
In the Yachi home's garden, which had been peaceful and quiet until today—
Why was a whole pig roast currently set up?
While the sun was about to set, the dusk air in the garden was filled with an appetizing aroma.
Dry twigs were cracking intensely. The red flames seemed especially bright against the sunset. Dressed in a red kimono, the girl was standing on the rotisserie platform, rotating the massive spit skewering the pig, giggling to herself.
"Fufufu... What an excellent aroma... It shall be done anon..."
Honestly speaking, this scene very much resembled the venue of a Witches' Sabbath. The witch was taking sips of plum brandy occasionally on whim. As a side note, a young girl who looked almost like a witch's servant was nimbly and industriously helping by collecting firewood from the forest in the back one moment, preparing a bucket of water for extinguishing the fire in the next. Perhaps Kuroe was still looking for a chance to swap bottles, but it was also possible that she was only doing her best to survive.
"Hmm... Looks she must have ordered it before we returned home."
Fear commented while watching the Witches' Sabbath in front of her. Next to her, Haruaki spoke in dejection:
"Looks like it. I'm guessing she must have made unreasonable demands to the butcher..."
"Yeah, the man who delivered the pig looked like he was about to cry."
"The same goes for the rotisserie equipment. Also, the pig was already almost done roasting to begin with. She probably decided that roasting the raw pig would take too much time... which is why Konoha asked the butcher to prepare a pig roast that only needed slight reheating, what outrageous demands. The butcher also said that he'll bring us the bill tomorrow after calculating costs... Woah, I'm really getting scared now...!"
"Hey Haruaki, I'm equally said too but I need to point out something that's gonna make you shiver in greater terror. That Cow Tits is making another call right now. No idea who, though."
Konoha was indeed holding a cellphone against her ear, probably borrowed from Kuroe, talking to someone while rotating the whole pig roast. Just as Haruaki decided he must stop her, it was already too late. Hanging up with a contented look, Konoha tossed the cellphone back to Kuroe.
"Th-This could very well be a crisis for the home budget..."
"I just hope she didn't tack on an order for a whole cow roast. We can only pray."
Fear crossed her arms, wholly displeased, then continued:
"That girl is showing no signs of sobering up at all. In the end, only phase one of Operation Substitution Beauties was completed, right? Even if a fake bottle was prepared, it's useless unless we can make the swap."
"I know that but I get the feeling that phase two, making her let go of the bottle, and phase three, actually swapping bottles, seem to be getting harder and harder... Maybe we should come up with a new plan from the ground up?"
"Jeez, things have become such a pain all because you're spoiling her too much. Whatever letting her relieve stress, you're indulging Cow Tits too much! You should scold her more strictly! Or resort to force decisively!"
"Am I spoiling her too much...? Hmm, but it's really my true feelings that I'd like her to have fun without holding back or relieve her stress on occasion. But it's also because Konoha's current state is bringing back past memories a bit... That's why I slightly missed the chance to stop her."
"...Bringing back memories huh?"
"Yeah~ When she first arrived at this home, the Konoha back then was completely different from the current Konoha you know. The way she is right now, it makes me feel like I'm looking through an old photo album."
"You've been together for so long... since a time old enough to reminisce over. Hmph..."
Haruaki did not quite catch Fear's quiet murmuring. Turning to look at her, Haruaki found Fear pouting and looking off somewhere else.
"Hmm? Don't tell me you're angry?"
"I-I'm not angry! I'm neither feeling pissed off nor comparing myself with Cow Tits, and definitely not feeling jealous of her!"
"No, you definitely seem angry right now."
"You're being noisy so shut up. I'll curse you!"
While Fear and Haruaki was having their conversation, the grating sounds of the rotating spit suddenly stopped. Konoha could be seen lifting the whole pig roast up high, inspecting how done it was roasted. Perhaps because the grade was a pass, Konoha smiled in satisfaction while holding the whole pig roast's skewer in one hand (probably a weight beyond an ordinary human's ability to lift) stabbing its front end into the ground next to the fire.
"Very well, very well, the roasting is done... Haryuaki-kun, come over here..."
Seeing her wave to him, Haruaki went up obediently. Appearances aside, the pig roast did look quite delicious with its drool-inducing aroma and the meat's dripping juices.
"Oh Kono-san, I haven't brought out the knife and plate. Please wait for me."
"Fufu, thou mayst prepare utensils but I can wait no longer. Allow me to test the taste~..."
Konoha knelt down. With a flash of her right hand's karate chop, a portion of meat was sliced almost like magic, falling on top of her fingertips. Tossing the meat into her mouth and chewing, Konoha went "Mmm!" and nodded with satisfaction.
"As expected of meat roasted by my hand, truly delectable! Good work, Kuroe-shan too... Before thou goest to bring plates, take this reward first~"
Konoha swiftly sliced another piece of meat using a barehanded chop, delivering it into Kuroe's mouth. "Muohoh, it's really too yummy~" Kuroe mumbled with her mouth full while entering the house to bring plates.
"Thou art next, Haryuaki-kun~ Ufufu, open thy mouth~"
"Thou refusest... Verily?"
"Th-Thanks for the food!"
Instantly feeling a breeze against his face that seemed to be coming from the frozen hell of Cocytus, Haruaki decided to open his mouth obediently. Konoha's fingertips touched his lips as they delivered piping-hot pork into his mouth. In fact, the meat really was very delicious.
"Huff huff... Too amazing, it's really very tasty."
"I know right~? Well then, what about the little lass...?"
Even at a time like this, Fear still bared her fangs and howled, very much in her usual style:
"I-I don't want it! At least, I definitely won't let you feed me!"
"Yes, then forget it. Even though 'tis so delectable~"
Completely unfazed, Konoha used her hand to cut and eat another slice of pork. Her laid back expression was probably angering Fear.
"Hmph! No matter how tasty, I don't wanna grow useless meat as a result! Look at those fat tits that are like mountains of illegally abandoned tires! Also that fat belly with nothing but ugly ripples on them, like polluted rivers! Also those flabby arms and legs that are like weird creatures growing from dumped chemicals!"
"Why are you talking like it's some kind of segment from the variety show 'Hunting Down Illegal Industries!'...?"
"Damn you, shameless brat, shut up! It's a very apt metaphor, these descriptions are as profound as those unforgivable crimes! Anyway, these crimes all come from her unsightly gluttony...! Hmph, that meat's aroma and juices are clearly traps akin to those of insect-eating plants!"
What are you talking about—!? The usual Konoha would have lost her temper and retorted harshly, but she was currently not her normal self. Still confident and composed, she sliced another piece of pork.
"Kuku. Better too big than too small...? Precisely because thou eatest meat not, little lass, thou art currently... in such misery."
Fear's expression froze instantly. Casting a glance at her, Konoha said:
"Ufufu, Haryuaki-kun also prefers... bigger, yes...? Here, a large piece of meat, thou needst not hold back, together we shall... Do this~"
"D-Do it like this?"
"Mmph, allow me to feed you again... Two people eating together...? Say ah~~"
Konoha was biting on one end of the large piece of meat she had just sliced off, but she did not continue to chew. Instead, she approached Haruaki directly like this—
"H-Hey, Konoha, don't tell me you're asking me to...?"
She wanted him to bite the free end of the meat? Then eat it? That was the situation here!?
For some reason, Konoha had closed her eyes. No matter what Haruaki said or did, she probably could not be stopped. That was what Haruaki felt.
But someone, apart from Haruaki...
Still possessed the means to stop her.
In the next instant, Haruaki heard a splash of water.
Opening his eyes which he had involuntarily closed, Haruaki found Konoha completely drenched, still holding the piece of pork in her mouth.
The water had come from the bucket that Kuroe had prepared to extinguish the fire. Casually tossing away the now-empty bucket that only contained droplets of water, Fear said with an expression that could not be more serious:
"Oops, my hand slipped."
"But I must say it was perfect timing. Cooling her head might make her sober. I might as well keep throwing water to replace that Operation Substitution Beauties. Just think of it as the second plan. No wait, it's probably faster if I just grab her by the neck directly and hold her head down in the bucket, right?"
"Fu... Fufufu... Little lass, how amusing thy behavior..."
Simply getting splashed by the bucket of water did not sober up Konoha, apparently. Sucking the piece of meat she was biting into her mouth like a beast, she then chewed. Her expression could not be read due to wet hair clinging to her face. Although her voice was laughing, the one thing Haruaki was absolutely sure was that she definitely did not find things funny.
"Uwah~ Oh no, I just went away for a moment only to find that things have gone totally awry...! It's hopeless now, Haru, hurry over here."
Bringing back plates, chopsticks and other utensils from the kitchen, Kuroe exclaimed in great alarm, standing frozen in one spot after witnessing the scene. Then she pulled Haruaki's arm to lead him away from the danger zone.
"What happened? Ficchi had been enduring all this time, right?"
"Yeah... Anyway, a lot happened."
Konoha lifted the bottle up high and poured brandy into her mouth again. Haruaki felt as though he could hear the gulp from her swallowing.
Then she slowly leaned forward—
"Truly what a shame that I am not wearing an ornamental hairpin! I shall have to punish thee appropriately!"
"Took the words right out of my mouth! Mechanism No.19 gouging type, spiral form: «Human-Perforator»!"
Readying her karate chop, Konoha sprinted towards Fear who was charging at the same time with the torture instrument transformed from the Rubik's cube, thus starting a violent clash. The sounds of impact between a drill and a Japanese sword could be heard. The two girls shifted positions rapidly, attacking from all sorts of angles, displacing air while dodging, throwing insults at each other, charging in for the attack once more—
This situation alone was enough to make one want to clutch their head and cry, but Konoha's current appearance was making things even worse. While dressed in just a kimono and dripping wet all over, she was like a beast, running, jumping, turning and performing flying kicks.
Holding one hand against his face, Haruaki sighed forcefully then shaking his head repeatedly, he looked back.
"Sorry Kuroe. Looks like even I can't stop them this time..."
"It goes without saying that I can't stop them either. Even if I extended my hair, I think it'll just get severed immediately."
The sounds of combat continued nonstop, clanging, crashing. There was no end to the shouting of insults. "Insolent lass, give thyself up obediently!" "You're the one who should be putting your boobs away, they've been falling out a while already!" "Excuse me, I am too big." "This is pissing me off——"
Haruaki and Kuroe could only wait for the storm to pass. They had no other choice.
There was no such thing as endless rain or a violent storm that lasted forever.
After some time, Haruaki heard a different sound compared to before.
Turning his head slowly, Haruaki looked back at the battlefield that he had avoided for a while now. The two girls had stopped moving.
Frowning, Fear was glaring at Konoha nonstop. On the other hand, Konoha was tossing her hair lightly, looking up blankly into space—Then another "atchoo." Presumably due to the high speed combat, her originally drenched body was almost dried completely, but the evaporation of water had lowered her body temperature.
"Haru, look quick...!"
Konoha tried to take a sip of brandy, probably to help warm herself. However, she immediately moved the bottle away and tilted her head in puzzlement. After shaking the bottle lightly to confirm the weight of its contents, she pouted in displeasure.
Haruaki watched the scene in disbelief.
"Th-The bottle's finished...!?"
"Thanks to Ficchi's water-splashing operation number two, Kono-san's mind and body should have cooled off a lot. In other words, using two methods at once, perhaps Operation Substitution Beauties can skip over the middle phases directly, instantly reaching phase four, sobering now that the supply is cut!"
Haruaki felt as though a great mist had suddenly lifted before his eyes, causing his tense cheeks to relax on their own and a warm feeling to spontaneously manifest in his heart. Hope, anticipation, joy, gratitude, happiness—If he had to label this warm feeling, surely it must be one of those words.
"No, to be honest, I don't really care about the process anymore. As long as the result is good!"
"Agreed. Our long battle has is finally reaching a conclusion. What an arduous path!"
While savoring the wonderful ending with his entire body, Haruaki looked into Kuroe's eyes. She was smiling radiantly with relief and liberation written all over her face. He would not be surprised if tears started streaming down from her eyes. Because most likely he was making the same expression.
However, just at this moment...
Haruaki stared wide-eyed, blinking many times repeatedly. This was because some distance behind the smiling Kuroe, he saw someone who was not supposed to be present. Why had she appeared at a time like this?
"Huff... Huff... Yachi, what happened?"
The class representative of Haruaki's homeroom—Ueno Kirika—was panting heavily, her shoulders heaving up and down, her long ponytail shaking up and down as well, looking like she had rushed all the way here nonstop.
A foreboding sense rose up in Haruaki's heart as he repeated the question. Kirika frowned while raising the plastic bag in her hand slightly and said:
"Konoha-kun called me just now, saying: 'Buy alcoholic beverages, any sort will do. As quickly as possible.' Because Konoha-kun's voice sounded different from usual, I was thinking that there was definitely some kind of trouble related to cursed tools, which was why I needed to buy alcohol to suppress a curse or something like that—"
Crack, it was as though Haruaki heard the world fracturing. Naturally, what seeped out from the cracks was the black liquid known as despair. Haruaki remembered that Konoha had been on the phone not too long ago while she was roasting the pig. So the Kirika was the person on the other end.
"Oh... Just when the brandy had run out. As expected of myself, such foresight... Well then, Kirika-shan, come join us in our merrymaking... Mufufu, let us continue drinking in the living room..."
Konoha walked up and took the plastic bag from Kirika's hand. Understanding what had happened, Kirika instantly showed alarm on her face but before she could escape, Konoha had already wrapped her arm around Kirika's shoulder. Giving her no chance to resists, Konoha forced her to walk into the living room together.
Hands on the floor, Kuroe hung her head forcefully. Haruaki wanted to do the same as well but a certain scene flashed in the depths of his mind. Buy alcoholic beverages, any sort will do. Alcohol. Alcohol apart from plum brandy.
"Hey, ye should come over too. Do not forget to bring the meat!"
Konoha turned her head lightly and casually spoke to Fear whom she had been fighting until just now. A classic show of the drunken Konoha's talents in capricious moods.
"Hey shameless brat, what do we do now? The plum brandy finally ran out! But now there's more alcohol!"
"Hmm... No, anyway, just do as Konoha says first, Fear. I think... I think I'm remembering something... What is it?"
Haruaki first extinguished the fire in the garden then brought the whole pig roast back to the living room. Along the way, he entered the kitchen to prepare large plates and other utensils to put on the living room table for everyone to use.
With a happy face, Konoha took out the alcoholic beverages from the plastic bag Kirika had brought.
"Ohoh, pure rice wine, beer, distilled spirits, isn't this sweet potato spirit...? Lovely. Oh, this must be western liquor... I remember drinking them rarely. Well then, how doth it taste—?"
What Konoha plopped onto the table was a bottle of whiskey.
This prompted a shock through Haruaki's entire body as though an electric current was flowing while his brain circuits suddenly connected.
He remembered. He remembered!
"K-Konoha... Drink it, drink that right now, anyway, drink that first! Whiskey must be super tasty, you know? As expected of Class Rep!"
"Muu? Haryuaki-kun, why art thou suddenly... But I would like to drink this sweet potato spirit first—"
"No, drink this first! A big gulp!"
In the corner of his eye, Haruaki could see Fear and Kuroe exchanging glances as though they suddenly understood something. Swiftly, they leaned in behind Haruaki and said:
"Shameless brat, what's going on here?"
"If she drinks whiskey... What happens?"
"I remember now. In her current state, Konoha has no tolerance for western liquor, to the point that she'll fall asleep after drinking a single glass...! That's also how we were saved last time, except last time, Pops was the one who was ordered to go buy alcohol."
"Ohoh~ I'd really like to say 'why didn't you say that earlier' but I'll save the complaining for later. Since it's confirmed what needs to be done, let's not wait any further... Hey Cow Tits! I too, suggest that you drink this bottle of whiskey now! I command you!"
"Uwah, Ficchi~ That's way too obvious—!"
Just as Kuroe feared, Konoha instantly frowned.
"How now? After hearing the little lass, incredibly, I feel a sense of opposition rising in my heart... Distilled spirits, I shall drink distilled spirits first~"
"Th-This bitch... Okay, I get it now. Since a single glass is all that's needed, using a bit of force should be fine! I'm going to force it down her throat! Haruaki, Kuroe, Kirika! Hurry and hold down Cow Tits!"
"L-Looks like it's boiled down to force... Here I go!"
"Don't worry, I think Haru is the only one that Kono-san will never harm! ...But I can't guarantee the same for me. Feeling worried and scared, I'm using this, Mode: «Chaotic Tadamori»!"
"I'm totally lost here, but it looks like I should be bearing part of the responsibility. I guess I must help!"
"What are ye trying to do~!? I only want... to drink to my heart's content. Those who dare obstruct me, prepare yeselves accordingly—!"
The living room was instantly plunged into chaos. Crash thud! Black, rope-like objects were flying back and forth. Restraining tools of torture were deflected by karate chops. A certain massive object wobbled softly as it pressed down on Haruaki's face, followed by a seductive moan of "mmm haa..." For some reason, someone punched Haruaki in the back of his head. Who the heck!?
The pig roast was flipped over. Liquor packaged in aluminum foil on the table went flying, spilling out, wetting Haruaki's head, instantly filling the air with the smell of alcohol. Probably due to the splashing liquor entering Fear's mouth, she went "What is... going on? My body feels so hot... Rice crackers... flying in the air...?" She began to sway unsteadily.
Haruaki felt dizzy, unsure if it was due to the alcoholic vapors or over exhaustion. The commotion still continued. Not ended yet? Haruaki had no idea what was happening. Neither did he know if they were gaining the upper hand or not. His mind began to feel dazed. Even keeping his eyes open was getting difficult.
While his consciousness was gradually growing hazy, Haruaki could only hear—
"Nuwahahaha~ Again again... Bring it on, everything you've got~..."
She really sounded very happy... Unbelievably, Haruaki concluded with a smile.
Hence, this became his final memory of the night.
Late night—The living room was shrouded in silence and darkness.
In this space that seemed as though time had stopped, movements suddenly appeared.
A figure got up abruptly, eyes still mostly shut. The figure yawned and took steps slowly. This action caused the figure's kimono to get caught on something. Because the sash was already untied, the kimono slid and fell off as a result, but the figure was not aware, still one foot in the realm of dreams. Her voluptuous body was exposed completely to the air. Slowly, she left the living room and entered the washroom. After going to the toilet, she walked to her room. Her hazy eyes swept across the room as she tilted her head in puzzlement. Nevertheless, she still pulled her futon out gruffly from the cupboard. Without laying it out neatly, simply placing the futon on the floor, she slipped under the covers naked.
Consequently, she happily drifted off to the realm of dreams again.
Naturally, she did not recall at all what had happened the first time she fell asleep.
This too, was a happy thing.
As soon as she woke up, Konoha was completely baffled by her naked state under the covers. She did not remember undressing before going to bed... Even her memories of the previous day were very vague... Whatever, probably nothing important. Although she seldom mentioned it to others, she did remove her clothing occasionally during her sleep when she felt too hot. Reluctantly leaving behind the futon and blanket's soft sensations against her skin, she got up and casually picked out some clothes to wear before walking to the living room.
But the instant she stepped into the living room, Konoha's mouth gaped wide in surprise.
"W-What happened here...!?"
The living room was totally devastated. The cupboard's door had a small hole while the paper sliding door was heavily damaged. Bottled and aluminum foil-packaged liquids had spilled onto the floor, producing stains all over the tatami. More outrageous of all—for some reason—there was an object on the table, resembling a pig roast. Furthermore, most of the pig had fallen off the large plate.
That was not the full extent of the problematic situation. Inside the chaotic living room, there were also the three figures of her three housemates. For some reason, Kirika was also present. Everyone looked like they were sleeping soundly in utter exhaustion. Fear was gripping her Rubik's cube tightly, frowning in apparent pain, even grinding her teeth. Perhaps because she had scratched her belly, one of her hands had lifted her hem above her navel. As though trying to escape from something terrifying in the outside world, Kirika was in fetal position, clutching her head like a child. On the other hand, Kuroe was sleeping with her mouth open as though her soul had left her body. Oddly enough, her hair was extended outwards in a number of bundles—as though she had fought a great battle against something. Immediately, Konoha spotted words depicted by several bundles of hair on the tatami but there were only two of them—"I surren." What on earth did this mean?
Haruaki was currently soundly asleep. Strangely enough, the kimono that should be kept in her cupboard was draped over his head, as though he were sniffing it. Furthermore, ah yes—speaking of smell, Haruaki, Fear, Kuroe, Kirika and this living room itself—there was an intense smell of alcohol.
Hence, Konoha took a deep breath, raised her eyebrows and projected her voice.
"G-Get up now, all of you—!"
"Eeek! W-What what?"
"Huh? Legend has it that those who waste rice crackers during their life will be sent down to the rice cracker hell...? A-A dream huh. Forever sandwiched between two halves of a giant rice cracker, even this kind of torture brings chills down my spine too..."
"This is the Yachi residence—Oh right, yesterday..."
"Sorry, please forgive your humble servant! Please call me your loyal servant number one... Eh?"
The quartet sat up and shuddered at the same time as they looked at the intimidating Konoha who was standing in one spot.
"K-Konoha, no way—"
"Haruaki-kun, what do you mean by 'no way'? What on earth is going on here!?"
Pointing at the living room's tragic state, Konoha questioned them. However, the quartet's reacted rather oddly. Haruaki and Kirika breathed out in relief, Fear sighed in exhaustion whereas Kuroe clapped her hands together to express gratitude towards some unknown deity.
"Thank goodness, it's the usual Konoha..."
"This is not good at all! This smell of alcohol—as reluctant as I am to believe it, Haruaki-kun, all of you were drinking together, yes!? And this delicious-looking whole pig roast served to accompany the alcoholic beverages, didn't it!? I can't believe that while I was sleeping, you...!"
"No excuses. You all reek heavily of alcohol, that is the evidence! Also... Haruaki-kun, that kimono is mine, no well, it makes me happy if you really wish to sniff it, but, umm, provided that you ask, I can lend it to you no problem, myself included. You shouldn't steal it sneakily. Act more like a man, are you listening!? Back to the subject, according to the conventions of society, we are all minors and absolutely must not imbibe alcohol. Having made the same mistake during New Year's, we ought to have learnt our lesson and act with greater prudence...!"
Konoha lectured continuously, scolding without end. In the end, she thought to herself: as expected, this family relied on her to pull herself together. Lecturing when lecturing was necessary, this was a very crucial point.
"Understood!? Also, I—"
While she was about to continue, she suddenly met gazes with Haruaki. He was currently kneeling formally in seiza, acting with initiative (such obedience made him especially adorable), looking up at her.
At the same time, he was smiling genially with a very gentle expression.
Konoha felt her cheeks grow hot all of a sudden. However, now was not the time for that.
"I-I am very angry. Please reflect carefully, Haruaki-kun. Why are you still smiling?"
Haruaki scratched his head, a gentle smile still on his face.
"Uh... Because I was thinking that sure enough, this kind of Konoha is when you're acting the most like yourself. It makes me feel relieved and a bit happy."
Kuroe and Kirika were also exchanging glances, showing faint, wry smiles as though great burdens had been lifted off their shoulders. On the other hand, Fear had turned her gaze away, sulking, which was quite commonplace actually.
"'This kind of Konoha'...?"
"No no, it's nothing. By the way, do you feel like your mood or body is more relaxed today?"
"Eh? Let me see... Now that you mention it, I do feel a refreshing breath in my chest. Oh, but the issue of a drinking party is neither here nor there!"
"That's good. Very well, continue with your lecture! We will all reflect fully. But after it's over, let me warm up the pig roast for everyone to eat together... Then I hope you'll consider this incident over, yeah!"
How baffling. Why was he suddenly acting with such manly graces?
Currently, his face carried not only kindness but the determination to accept certain things.
In other words, he was like a warrior who lived proudly with his head up high.
Simply seeing him like this, Konoha confirmed once again, how fortunate she was to have him as her owner, what happiness to be able to become his possession—These perfectly natural feelings. Her heart began to pound intensely.
Hence, there was only one thing left for her to do.
"S-Since you are reflecting, very well. No helping it, there seems to be some kind of hidden story but I shall not pursue the details. Fine, hurry and clean up. Let's have breakfast. Of course, we must make the most of poor mister pig's meat!"
Smiling as usual, Konoha mustered her acting skills to reluctantly forgive him—
As usual, she concealed the loud pulsations of happiness in her heart from him.
Naturally, at the same time, she wished from the bottom of her heart for the eventual arrival of the day when she no longer had to conceal such feelings.
Translator's Notes and References
- Seaweed sake(わかめ酒): wakame-zake is a manner of consuming alcohol from a woman's naked body. The woman closes her legs tight enough such that the triangular region between the thighs and the pubic region form a cup where the man drinks from. The name comes from the notion that the woman's pubic hair in the sake looks like soft seaweed(wakame).
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