Fear was feeling very frustrated, agitated from the bottom of her heart.
Her elegant eyebrows, her large and striking eyes, and the corners of her little mouth were all twisted in frustration. Sitting cross-legged rather ungracefully in the living room, Fear was staring reluctantly at a piece of paper on the dining table before her.
Staring helplessly at the sheet of notes, Fear suddenly reached forward with her right hand and immediately raised her left hand with her arm against her head. Then keeping her arms outstretched like this, she began to spin them greatly. Spin spin spin spin.
After engaging in this mysterious behavior with utmost seriousness for several seconds—
Fear once again frowned and turned her gaze towards the notes on the table.
"Reach forward with the right hand and spin it while the left hand waves side to side above the head... Uumu, the description is so simple but yet my arms keep ending up doing the same motion...?"
Murmuring to herself, Fear finally groaned "uwah~" and laid down with her back against the tatami floor, apparently tired. Staring out towards the ceiling of the silent living room—
"Hmph... 'You seem quite athletic so something as trivial as dancing should be a piece of cake for you.' What complete rubbish? This is completely different from fighting!"
As Fear pouted, she recalled in her mind the stupid face of the shameless brat who was not currently present. Also, there was Cow Tits' undecipherable smile when she made irresponsible statements like "Don't worry, it'll be very simple~"
Those two were currently out shopping because they had discovered they were out of food as soon as they got home from school. Although Fear was reluctantly forced to stay home and watch the house because she lost at rock-paper-scissors, it was just as well. After all, she had already reminded them repeatedly to restock on rice crackers, plus the fact that she had a task to work on—even though it was not proceeding very smoothly at the moment.
Once again she sighed—
"A sports festival huh... How would it feel..."
She imagined the school event that was going to take place several weeks later. She was very interested in the event itself, but the problem was—as was customary, each homeroom was divided into a "dance presentation team" and an "arch building team." During the official contests, the results of the dance creation and the arch building were supposed to be added to the total points... Dancing aside, why would building arches count for points at a "sports festival"? To this date, Fear still could not understand why.
"Ahhhhh~ If only I had joined the arch building team together with Haruaki, I wouldn't be having such a tough time now... Jeez, that Kana girl didn't even give me any time to think things over..."
"Simply by being in the team, Fear-chan's cuteness is enough to be an asset! I will absolutely never let go—!" Fear recalled the dance team leader who had forcefully recruited her. The only reason Fear agreed was because she backed down in the face of Kana's vigorous fervor, not because she particularly wanted to dance. That said—
Narrowing her eyes with displeasure, Fear suddenly rose up.
"Since Cow Tits said it is 'very simple,' there's no reason why I can't dance! Just you wait and see, I will instantly master a dance of this level!"
Glaring at the sheet of notes with diagrams to demonstrate the motions, Fear once again repeated the mysterious motion that resembled MP absorption. Just as before, her right and left arms kept moving in the same manner.
At this moment—she heard a scurrying sound from behind.
This presence... Could it be... That thing? Roaming wild on its segmented legs, not content with making lairs on walls with its sticky threads but even going as far as to hang the bodies of dead moths for long periods as emergency food supplies... That one—
The one whose name began with "spi" and ended with "der," the most hated enemy in the world!
Fear could not help but shudder. Her hand trembling, she grabbed the backscratcher lying on the side (like an old man, Haruaki had been using it just earlier) and turned around instantly. Just as she thought, on the tatami—
"G-Gwah—I knew it! G-Go and die—!"
Frantically, she smashed down using the object in her hand. Although she missed, the thing suddenly disappeared out of sight, perhaps frightened away, leaving nothing behind but the broken backscratcher that had snapped into two.
"Oh no! The weapon!"
The thing had also vanished without trace. Where? Where was it? Under the table? Behind the television? Or on top of the shelves? Oh no, could that thing be plotting to pounce upon me and therefore constructing those sticky lairs somewhere between me and the wall...?
For some reason, she laughed. Very well, I will fight you to the bitter end! Indeed, this backscratcher was too small. I need a bigger, more powerful weapon to exterminate that thing completely from the face of the earth...!
Her hand trembling, she took out the Rubik's cube from her pocket. Then—
"Mechanism No.14 raking type, beast's claw form: «Cat's Paw»—Curse Calling!"
The cube emulation transformed into an object resembling an animal's paw. On the end of a long handle was a thick, sturdy component in the shape of a paw—one where five deadly hooked claws extended from the edges.
Holding the menacing torture tool, lowering herself halfway in a stance, Fear smiled with savagery and breathed heavily as she surveyed her surroundings.
"Okay, bring it on... I will smash you with this and have you drawn and quartered... Where? Where are you..."
It could not possibly have disappeared. Fear could still sense that scurrying presence. For a restless little insect, the sound was eerily loud. The loudness must be an illusion. Indeed, simply an illusion born from fear...!
Adjusting her breathing, Fear focused her attention on her hearing. Seconds—tens of seconds—minutes passed—
Turning around all of a sudden, Fear found some kind of black object moving in the corner of her view. An afterimage seemed to be rushing upwards along a column in the living room's corner. I've won! There is no place on the ceiling where you can escape to!
Holding the deadly backscratcher up high, Fear looked up vigorously.
Over there, just as she predicted, she found sticking tight to the ceiling in spite of gravity—
An expressionless young girl.
"...Oh, I've been found."
The girl murmured softly with a blank gaze. Immediately, she proceeded to scrutinize Fear as if sizing her up while she spoke:
"In any case, I'll capture you first... Mode: «Chaotic Tadamori»!"
Saying that, the hair supporting her body began to wriggle restlessly like spider legs.
Gathering all her surprise, confusion and instinctive revulsion in one breath—
Fear screamed out loud.
"The child must be moving in a most delightful manner right now... I'm starting to regret not installing a secret video camera before leaving the house. It could be used for blackmailing purposes in the future."
"But it's incredible... If she can move with such agility during combat, why can't she do it when dancing?"
"Moving her arms and legs independently in coordination with music is a first experience for her after all. The principles involved are different and require getting accustomed."
Haruaki and Konoha were on the way home, each with a shopping bag on one arm. Konoha was smiling with inexplicable happiness while she walked. Haruaki turned to face her and said:
"If that girl asks you for help, you must teach her more! As part of the arch team, I won't be able to help."
"Fufu, if she agrees to bow down and submit to me obediently, I might consider it."
Well that's truly difficult... Just as Haruaki smiled wryly as they reached the home entrance—
"...What... is that?"
"Woah! Looks very obviously suspicious!"
They were referring to a figure who had climbed the Yachi residence's enclosing walls to peek inside the house. Resting on the belly against the edge of the wall, upper torso leaning forward, the figure was postured like a towel hanging to dry on a laundry pole. Beneath the pleated skirt, two legs could be seen swaying with apparent amusement.
Exchanging a glance with Konoha, Haruaki approached.
"Oh my oh my, this scene should be titled 'Taboo Maiden Games'... But I'm reluctant to reject 'The Proper Way to Tie Up a Girl' too..."
A woman's voice, very clear and pleasant. Judging from the faintly audible mechanical sound, she seemed to be taking pictures.
"Umm... Excuse me."
"Oh my oh my, that spot even... Isn't this game crossing the line...? Ufufu."
"Hey, excuse me! The lady over there!"
Haruaki had to call her twice to finally get a response. The towel person slid down from the wall at once.
Exchanging gazes with Haruaki and Konoha, the woman smiled with extreme calm and composure.
"Oh my oh my."
"No, now is not the time to be going 'Oh my oh my,' okay... So what are you doing? This is my home."
Haruaki had never seen this woman with snow-white complexion. Her chestnut-brown hair was almost knee-length. Cordiality and beauty coexisted on her elegant facial features. Her striking characteristics included a monocle over her right eye as well as two or three watches worn on each arm. Judging from her long fluttering skirt and classy upper garments, at least she did not look like a thief.
"You are asking what I am doing... I suppose I should answer I am taking photos? There were quite a few good shots, thank you very much."
Storing the digital camera back into her shoulder bag, the woman bowed deeply.
"Oh... Uh... Taking photos... Are you a photographer?"
"Not really. It is for a certain purpose..."
The woman answered as she smiled benignly like the Virgin Mary. Konoha narrowed her eyes and said:
"Purpose? What purpose?"
"Well, summed up briefly, it is—"
Holding a finger against her cheek, she made a cute pondering gesture.
"Yes, summed up briefly—it is simply a stalker's behavior."
Haruaki and Konoha asked simultaneously. The woman laughed softly from her throat as if she found them amusing. She should be joking, right?"
"So, what is it actually—"
"For you two, it would probably be easier to understand if you asked that person over there. So please allow me to take my leave tonight—Well then, please take care, you two. We shall probably meet again very soon."
"The person over there? ...Hey, wait up!"
Maintaining the elegant smile on her face, the woman turned around and began to walk away.
The situation was increasingly baffling. Who on earth was this person? Just as Haruaki puzzled—
"Uwaaah... Ahhhhh... Ahhh? Gwahh... Stop... it... Ahhhhhhhh!"
"W-What is going on?"
Unmistakably, the sounds coming from behind the walls were the screams of Fear who had been entrusted with watching the house.
Ignoring the noise, the woman left. Haruaki's gaze followed her figure for a few seconds—
"Damn it! A whole bunch of incomprehensible things! Anyway, let's check on Fear!"
Dashing into the home with full speed, Haruaki hastily took off his shoes and rushed into the living with intense vigor as if his steps would break the floorboards of the corridor. The scene he found before him was—
"Ahhh... Ahaha... Stop... it!"
"No. This spot... How about that...?"
"Nnn... Ah... Ah... Afuu!? Ooh, hah... Guh!"
"Holding it in is bad for your health, you'll feel better if you let it all out... See, this spot is very sensitive too."
"Ah... That spot... That spot... That spot is... Ah..."
The shopping bag fell from Haruaki's hand. What on earth was going on? How did it come to this? Indeed, why—
"Ah... Ah, hee, aheefuhaheehahaha! Fuhyaha... Hey, I'll curse you!"
"Tickle tickle tickle."
—Why was Fear suddenly being tickled?
Suspended in midair, Fear was being restrained by the ankles with her legs spread apart slightly while her arms were held up behind her head. She was suffering attacks to the underarm, the flank, the navel area, the back, neck and thighs. Every time she was tickled, Fear made strange screams like "fuhyouhaha" as she squirmed her body, kicking her bent legs and struggling intensely.
More importantly, the apparatus used to suspend Fear in midair and tickle her was neither a rope nor a feather duster—everything was performed by the hair growing from a young girl's head.
Several bundles of hair were used to tie up Fear's body while other bundles groped all over Fear's body with exquisite control. From the perspective of common sense, this was undoubtedly an extraordinary phenomenon.
But for Haruaki and Konoha, this scene was all too familiar to them.
"You... What are you doing...?"
Haruaki's face twitched as he asked. Still keeping Fear restrained, the girl simply turned her head back and said:
"A suspicious person was caught and now under interrogation."
"Th-The suspicious person... That's you—!"
Fear screamed with flying saliva. I suppose this is the only time this girl could be considered a victim... Haruaki could not help but pity her. With a tired expression, Konoha sighed and spoke:
"Regrettably, this is no suspicious person but a new resident sharing our home. She only arrived recently."
"Exactly... So you ended up doing this the minute you got home? Shouldn't you be doing something else first?"
"Now that you mention it, right. Well then, even though it's a bit late—"
On close inspection, one could notice the tension in her expressionless face and blank gaze relax slightly—
The young girl raised her hand as a homecoming greeting:
"Haru, Kono-san, it's been a while. I have returned home."
Her voice carried neither weight, confidence nor emotion. An incredible sense of aloofness. Completely consistent with the way she behaved back when she lived here. Hence, Haruaki replied, smiling wryly:
"...Welcome back, Kuroe."
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