Swallowing hard, Yachi Haruaki opened the cardboard box sitting on the living room table.
After a few seconds of silence, he closed it up and left it untouched. The contents were exactly as imagined. More than simply forcing his hand, this was giving him a total headache. Pressing his finger against his brow, Haruaki groaned softly:
"Seriously... Should I praise him for being fully prepared beforehand or what... I don't even need to read my horoscope, this week's unlucky item is decidedly the home delivery. Why do I keep getting sent these troublesome things?"
"Hmm... What's that about a home delivery?"
A face poked out from beneath the table. A girl with long silver hair... Or more accurately, she was one of the "troublesome home deliveries" Haruaki was thinking of right now.
This girl—Fear—had come to his home for the purpose of lifting her curse. No sooner had she arrived, various things happened over the past few days. The series of incidents had come to a close mere hours earlier. Lying down as she stared blankly at the television, Fear must have been tired and fallen asleep at some point. However—
"Y-You woke up?"
"You're poking around noisily on the side, how could I not wake up... Also just now the doorbell rang. Did someone deliver a package?"
"Uh, hmm... That..."
Seeing Haruaki act suspiciously, Fear narrowed her sleepy eyes and said:
"You've been acting strange since just now. Are you trying to hide something from me?"
"No, nothing of that sort!"
"What a fake smile... Certainly suspicious. You were also reading a letter secretly earlier, and now you have this box. What's inside? Show me!"
It must have been a delusion, but the letter in his pocket suddenly felt heavier. Haruaki had no intention of hiding it—but he did feel slightly hesitant. Was it really okay?
"Take it out!"
Fear extended her upper torso forward over the table. Her pretty eyebrows slightly raised, those beautiful eyes of hers stared straight at Haruaki, reproaching him for his secrecy. As her silky fine silver hair slid down, it naturally tickled the back of Haruaki's hand that was pressed against the box top.
"Come on, come clean with it! By this point, I forbid you to hide anything from me! By this point, I must discover your secret. Or else I won't be able to sleep tonight!"
"Hiding something eh... How should I put it, there are certain things that I need mental preparation for... Besides, it is well within my rights to keep a secret or two, Fear-san!"
Haruaki answered as if trying to defy destiny. Fear's eyes displayed wavering for an instant then she lowered her gaze and spoke softly:
"Mmm... I guess. But... This is so unfair! I have nothing hidden from you anymore, you know everything now! That's right, you've even seen that embarrassing appearance..."
Like I said, please stop using that kind of misleading description, okay? Reflexively, Haruaki was about to object but swallowed his words when he saw Fear's slightly blushing face. Both human and not human, she was a bringer of trouble who was both ignorant and willful, with a bottomless appetite for rice crackers... Nevertheless, the skin, hair, scent and breath displayed before Haruaki's eyes undoubted belonged to a real girl.
As his gaze was drawn to Fear's body, somehow the surrounding noise began to sound quite distant. The laughter from the television. Ticking away, the clock's hands sounded like they were moving at snail's pace. Outside the living room, the sound of the other housemate entering the bath could be heard from the changing area.
Those glimmering watery eyes pressed near.
Gulp—Feeling the breath before him, Haruaki swallowed a mouthful of saliva.
"So! Come on, just open that up for me to see! Be more open and upfront! Damn it, no other way, I promise you! No matter what is inside I won't be surprised. They said on television that without exception, each and every man has secretly bought an erotic product by mail order at least once!"
"What are you misunderstanding this time? Besides, stop watching those television programmes that teaches misleading information!"
Reversing the mood, Haruaki retorted against Fear who was pressing the issue forcefully... But as soon as he spoke, he lost his vigor.
(...Whatever, it's not like I can delay this indefinitely. No other way.)
Haruaki made his decision and took out from his pocket the letter with the enclosed document.
"Fine, I got it. Next, I will inform you of something important."
"Finally, you decided to come clean. Good, I will listen to you."
"First of all, you must memorize this line from now on—'I am completely unrelated to that film director.'"
Fear inclined her head in puzzlement. Haruaki handed the document over as if saying "You'll understand once you read this."
"What what... Fear 'Cubrick'...?"
"Perhaps you may object, but your name has already been decided beforehand. Honestly, Pops' naming sense is really terrible... He's probably gloating over his clever pun? But I don't think the spelling's entirely correct."
Fear seemed rather surprise and kept blinking her eyes.
"Name? As in family name? Mine?"
"Yeah. I think people are going to keep asking you about it, so the line I quoted will be your answer. Remember it carefully. As for why you need a family name... The answer is written down there."
"Uh... Authorization of the above-named student's enrollment — enrollment? Enrollment means going to school, right? Is it the school I went last time where you and Kirika go to!?"
"Uwah, stop spraying me with saliva! Anyway, that's pretty much it. Frankly speaking, I think this is a bit too soon, but the prospects of leaving you alone at home during the day are quite terrifying too. Besides, you've already made an appearance at class last time... In other words, problems are being resolved automatically one by one. Take this."
Haruaki shifted his hand from the cardboard box and made a gesture as if surrendering completely. With trepidation, Fear opened the lid to peer at the contents.
She let loose an indescribable exclamation. The box contained a school bag, textbooks, several notebooks, stationery, as well as a brand new female uniform packed in a plastic bag—In other words, a complete set of school life essentials. When Haruaki signed for the delivery just now, he confirmed that the sender was the school superintendent. Apparently, not only did he help Fear fabricate the proper paperwork, but he was also quite thoughtful in this regard.
"T-These are... All mine? Everything?"
"That's right. What's frightening is how everything is fully prepared for you. Immediately, you can come to school tomorrow. You must remember to thank the superintendent properly then."
But Fear did not seem to be paying attention to his words. Slowly, she took the uniform out of the box. Hugging it against her chest, she examined it closely.
"Fear? What's the matter?"
"What should I do... I... am so happy, so very happy."
Awkwardly turning her shoulders, she looked up at Haruaki while her arms continued to embrace the uniform cautiously. Surprise, shyness, doubt, joy, slight unease. As if unsure which expression to make, the corners of her eyes and lips were raised ambiguously.
"Hey... Does this mean I can stay in that place, just like you? This means it's okay to stay there together with you? Wearing the same uniform as everyone else, having my own family name like everyone else—like a human—this means I can stay there?"
As if trying to transmit a purely affirmative will to her, Haruaki took a deep breath and declared nonchalantly:
"Yes, that's right."
He responded with a smile. He had felt troubled over the fact that this girl unfamiliar with the human world would be going to school. Definitely, the chances of troublesome occurrences would be very high, which was why he had been agonizing up till earlier, but... For Fear to display such an expression, it really was like cheating. Faced with her expression, Haruaki could not bring himself to look worried in front of her—
Fear instantly made a cheerful and overjoyed expression—
"Hey hey, Haruaki, these clothes... Can I try them out right now?"
"Sure... But didn't you wear Konoha's uniform already last time? The design is exactly the same."
"I-I know! But I still want to try!"
If you say so, then do as you like—Haruaki nodded. Wait here for me, you're not allowed to flee—Fear frantically ran back to her room as she muttered incomprehensibly. Along the way, she even stopped, turned around and called out:
"...I guess I still have to say this to you, umm... Thank you, Haruaki."
I didn't really do anything special—Haruaki smiled wryly as he scratched his head.
Wearing the school uniform, Fear was spinning around before the full-height mirror in the living room. Never getting tired at all. Examining the front view, examining the back view. Then she turned to look at the front, then the back again. Clearly satisfied with the way she looked, she smiled from ear to ear.
"Hmm—Does having your own uniform really make you that happy...?"
Haruaki sipped tea from his cup and said.
"Of course! Ufufu. But anyway, these clothes are really easy to move in. So nice."
"Yeah, probably because the one you wore last time wasn't the right size, moving about was a little inconvenient. After all, Konoha's figure is completely different from yours—"
With a yell Fear took a giant leap onto the table, her fluttering skirt almost exposing the underside. Crossing her arms, she puffed her chest and looked down at him. Haruaki was just about to scold her for her lack of manners when he almost looked up and caught a glimpse beneath her skirt. Thus he frantically turned away.
"Y-You, what are you trying to say!? Where is the difference in size? Nothing of that sort, completely unrelated! Or perhaps you're obsessed with that body part so you're always staring at other people's chest! You shameless brat, I knew it! I'll curse you!"
"Uwah, I get the message! That's completely not what I meant! Anyway fine, it's my bad! I'm at fault, so stop standing on the table!"
"Seriously... By the way, Haruaki, why haven't you expressed an opinion? I've been waiting for you to say something all along."
"Opinion eh... Hmm—it's a uniform."
What else could he say?
He was about to respond like that but Fear's expression instantly distorted into a sight as vicious as a demon's—Getting that kind of feeling, Haruaki hastily corrected himself.
"No, umm... It's suits you very well! You look so light, it's as if I could carry you home in one arm. So small and space-saving, I guess simply stated, you give off a cute impression like a pet or a mascot, that possibility exists..."
"Hmm, I don't quite get what you're saying, but... It suits me, and it's very cute, right... Cough. Very well."
Fear relaxed her face and smiled idiotically for only an instant, but immediately went "hmph" and resumed her insufferable arrogance. Haruaki somehow got the impression she was deliberately pretending to be displeased but did not pursue the matter.
"You only have one set so it'd be troublesome if you get it dirty. Don't lose yourself in excitement, it's about time for you to take it off. Also, I wanted to remind you just now, when wearing these clothes, don't make huge movements or else—"
"That's true, getting it dirty would be troublesome. Hohoho, I'm really looking forward to tomorrow!"
She really was overjoyed. Ignoring Haruaki's reminder, Fear took a great step to jump off the table. Who knew if she stepped on spilt tea or something but she slipped—
"Wah... Hey... Be careful..."
Haruaki reflexively reached out to support Fear who had lost balance but failed to catch her. Instead, he fell over backwards and became Fear's cushion.
He already knew beforehand, but how could one put it delicately? She really was amazingly heavy. Haruaki felt as if his guts were about to be squeezed out of his body. Just as he was about to grumble, Haruaki opened his eyes to find Fear's fallen posture was riding astride his waist. With her skirt flipped up, the view of the whiteness beneath happened to be presented towards Haruaki as he lay on his back—
Fear frantically pushed down her skirt. The blushing silver-haired girl trembled as she glared at the prey she was riding as her mount.
"Wait, that's why I said 'don't make huge movements,' because the skirt is quite short, you could end up exposing... That's what I wanted to tell you... That, I was only trying to give you a helpful reminder!"
Stuttering, Haruaki explained himself stiffly. At this moment, a sound could be heard from the doorway to the living room.
A towel fell down on the tatami floor. The one standing in shock at the doorway, was undoubtedly the other housemate who was supposed to be in the bathroom—Konoha. Right out of the bath, dressed in a bathrobe, her bosom still seemed to be steaming, her hair slightly moist. Beneath those steaming glasses, her gaze carried surprise and disbelief—towards Fear in the school uniform and Haruaki whom she was straddling.
"A-Ahwawa... Hawawa... Haruaki-kun..."
At this moment, Fear silently got off Haruaki and retreated. Haruaki frantically stood up.
"Konoha, wait a second, you're misunderstanding something..."
"Ooh... Ah. While I was taking a bath, to think you deliberately made her wear a new uniform... A-And had her ride you while you gazed into each other's eyes? What on earth was going on? Haruaki-kun, what were you planning to do!?"
Greatly alarmed, Konoha grabbed Haruaki tightly by the shoulders. Then on the verge of tears with a bewildered expression, she shook him intensely.
"Is this the rumored costume play? So you turn out to have an interest in that? Uniforms are your thing? Just say so earlier and I could have helped you too! Damn it, I know! From now on, I'll wear the school uniform all the time at home, so stop doing these indecent things...!"
"Hey~~! Calm down!"
While he was being violently shaken, Haruaki cast a pleading glance at Fear. But the response he received was—
"Ho... Hoho, could it be that you already peeked while I was spinning around, but feigned ignorance and remained silent... Truly, you're a shameless brat..."
"How could that be possible—!"
Her hair draped over her face, Fear approached—for some reason, holding the Rubik's cube in hand. In any case, she could not possibly intend to actually use that; obviously, she was only showing it as a threat... Probably. But the sight of her holding the cube was frightening enough. Simply poking lightly with that spinning drill once or twice would be painful enough! —Haruaki could not stop himself from imagining such unnecessary scenarios.
"Haruaki-kun, are you listening? Haruaki-kun!"
While being shaken vigorously on one hand, Haruaki felt the approach of an astounding presence on the other—
(Sigh... Let's hope this kind of commotion won't be happening in school...)
Unable to escape the feeling that this chaos was some sort of omen for his future school life starting tomorrow, Haruaki sighed feebly to himself.
Translator's Notes and References
- A reference to the famous American director, Stanley Kubrick.
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