Hidan no Aria:Volume10 Chapter2

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2nd Ammo: Deen Conference[edit]

Late that night, I received a notification from Watson.

Her inspections had revealed no major injuries to Aria and the others.

Having been struck both by debris and the concussive blast of a grenade, and yet suffering only minor injuries, the girls' stubborn vitality was truly worthy of the name Baskerville. Despite being left at a loss for words, I nonetheless heaved a sigh of relief.

Nevertheless, erring on the side of safety, those four were to be interned at Butei hospitals for a week. Haimaki, who had been twice hit by cars, faced a similar situation.

The following day-

Without leaving me sufficient time for recovery, Jeanne contacted me, saying, "In light of the GIII and GIV incident, we're convening a gathering of Deen."

Adding to that, after school today, the Halloween celebration begins (I'd heard that because of the break at the end of October, the festival had been changed to today). Masters had directed that all students leaving campus must be appropriately dressed. Simply speaking, we were to dress up as ghouls and goblins and the like.

Even though I was hardly in the mood to play along, if one of our horrifying teachers caught me in my uniform, I'd be beaten 'til I nigh looked the part. That being the case, meeting aside, I'd find myself in the hospital if I wasn't careful.

Consequently, I'd better at least borrow a hermit's robe and hood from Amdo, dressing up as an obake before attending the meeting. [1]

The meeting place was the family restaurant Roxi, and in its shaded outdoor terrace-

Deen's members had already assembled.

Though I'd walked here without difficulty, my knee, which had been given a painful kick by GIV, continued to throb.

Because of the need to change clothing, I'd been running slightly behind schedule, but my knee had kept me from running, and I found myself unable to make our 3 o'clock meeting time, arriving just a little late at the appointed place.

"Sorry I'm late. In case you couldn't tell, it's me."

I announced myself, the sole remaining representative of Baskerville. Face nearly covered by my hood, I ordered a cup of Oolong tea before approaching the round table.

"You're late, Tohyama. Normally, you're already gloomy enough, but to go so far as to wear such drab garments..."

Jeanne d'Arc of IU's Daio Nomad turned to me, coffee cup in hand.

Under her right eye was a brilliant, snowflake-shaped sticker, on her head, a pointy black hat, and in her hand, a star-tipped wand. In short, a witch.

Hey, since she's a real witch, what's the point in dressing up as one? Why don't you try a little creativity every now and then?

"One of Tohyama, thou hast encountered some difficulty. Dost thine knee trouble thee?"

The one with even less of an imagination would be-

Bending her exposed tail into a "?", Tamamo inquired this of me. She wore a hakama, disguising herself as a fox spirit. You might also say she hadn't bothered to disguise herself at all, as she was a fox spirit to begin with. Just how relaxed can you be?

Even though she normally wears a hat to hide her ears, they're now in plain sight for all to see; is that really okay?

The only thing she's really done is to stick three black lines as whiskers on each cheek, but having done a poor job, the mere act of her turning has already resulted in the casualty of a single whisker.

On the other hand, the Liberty Mason representative Watson...

"Tohyama, the same goes for me. In case you couldn't tell, it's me."

She'd raced down a completely different path of mistaken creativity, having taken a Jack-o'-lantern -a real, hollowed-out pumpkin- for a mask, covering her head in this manner.

...Wearing something like that, isn't the pumpkin smell hard to bear?

From the neck down, she wore something like a white raincoat. This was undoubtedly a costume that would leave one clueless as to her true identity. Until she opened her mouth to speak, I had had no idea it was her.

"Oh my, everyone. What ominous appearances, though I must admit, quite cute indeed, hehe."

Hearing this light laughter, I turned to look at the laptop resting upon the tabletop.

On the screen was Meiya, apparently employing some Skype-like video functionality to take part in the meeting.

She was the envoy from the Vatican in this "Far East Warfare," and also a junior of Kana during her time as an exchange student at Rome's Butei High.

Meiya looked at the dubious-looking crowd that was us, revealing a smile as if she was a caretaker at a nursery. How utterly irritating.

Looking carefully, the window behind Meiya showed darkness, affirming the difference in time between our two locations.

"Disregarding the wait, let's begin our meeting. Yesterday, four members of the group belonging to Deen, Baskerville, including also a member of Ulus, were attacked and beaten by the supposedly 'unaffiliated' GIII and his subordinate GIV."

Jeanne skillfully began to explain the situation. She almost seemed to be the leader of the group, or perhaps a capable cabinet member.

"Yesterday, on the road home, I asked GIV for her reasons. Apparently the reason they fought in the Shinagawa River geofront was simply because they'd discovered Reki's presence. Reki included, before being ambushed, neither Aria nor any of the others had ever encountered GIII's group before. In brief, it was completely a surprise attack,"

Watson-the-human-pumpkin added,

"Even if they're lacking in numbers, this kind of sneak attack is still hard to countenance."

Jeanne's blue eyes blinked, and she shifted her legs beneath her hard tulle and satin panier.

"They seem to think nothing of contemptible, shameful tactics, an ideology where the ends justify the means."

Without appearing to recall what things she had done previously, Watson-the-pumpkin spoke thusly.

"What should we do now? GIII and GIV are currently operating separately. Should we seize this opportunity?"

As I cut to the heart of the matter-

Hmm...?

What? Everyone seems to have averted their gaze, including even Meiya on the computer screen.

What's going on with you guys?

"..."

The only response came from Tamamo, who closed both eyes, sipped her melon soda, and spoke,

"I understand thou art disturbed on behalf of thine companions, but despair not, little one. I ask thee, one of Tohyama, canst thou obtain victory?"

She opened her eyes, exposing a penetrating, inhuman perception.

"That's..."

"Now, from what Watson hast shared, those young ladies of Baskerville could do but naught against GIV. Their leader - GIII - is yet greater still. If thou still believest thou canst win, then share thine plan."

Tamamo's tail arched, pressing lightly against the back of the chair. I could only stutter.

"...Er, when it comes to specifics...I can't really think of anything on the spot..."

"One of Tohyama, stand not upon custom. In 'Warfare', no matter the time, regardless of who has challenged whom, all is permitted. Though such a tactic may be vile indeed, they have nonetheless committed no sin."

"You mean we shouldn't retaliate?! Our companions have been ambushed by despicable means!"

Though I frowned in heated emotion,

"Ambush? How was it an ambush? This is war."

Tamamo casually replied as she had before.

"What...!?"

"This thing called war is even so. It is utterly and altogether different from the spirit of fair competition in sports. Once more, war is not a mere scuffle. From times long past, reconciliation has only come after blood-soaked struggle."

Tamamo spoke, staring at me all the while, leaving me without rejoinder.

This...contemptible fox.

While looking like an elementary school student, she dares to talk back to a high school student.

"One of Tohyama, canst thou not understand this one point? Why there remains but one member left of Baskerville? This is their message to us, 'We are strong,' even going so far as to leave a messenger - GIV."

"But they're the enemy! Are you fine with letting the enemy run free?"

"Enemy? Then I ask thee, hast GIV bared enmity before thee? Didst she not cast off her armor and lay down her weapons? They have not as of yet shown true hostility towards Deen, instead giving room for negotiation. We must not, of ourselves, make ruin of this opportunity."

"That's...hmm, that's not wrong..."

"Moreover, it seems the weapon they employ is 'science,' truly a peculiar existence."

Yours is the peculiar existence!

Nearly blurting this out, I instead swallowed my reply.

"The disciples of science and us -witches and spirits- a hard battle indeed. Worse, currently Ririirokane's particles are particularly dense."

Tamamo's puffed her cheeks unhappily.

"Ririirokane...?"

I remember, it ought to be a kind of Irokane located in Reki's homeland.

Before, when the three Koko sisters of Ranban had seized control of the Shinkansen, I'd heard something like "its anger has scattered invisible particles, rendering the ability of all the ability users in the world unstable." Is this related to that?

Jeanne turned her head to look at me, whose knowledge only skimmed the surface.

"Though this might be difficult to grasp, but Ririirokane looses particles that disturb the abilities of ability users. It's similar to how metallic chaff can render radar ineffectual, except only causing complications...the range of its effect is very broad."

"How broad?"

"Sufficient to cover a third of the Earth's surface area. At the time of the cultural festival, it again intensified. Japan now falls within its realm of influence."

Jeanne had declared this a hard thing to grasp, as it most certainly was.

A phenomenon that disturbed supernatural abilities on a global scale?

Speaking from the perspective of someone without supernatural ability, the scope of this was almost beyond belief, like something from science fiction or fantasy.

In any case, thinking back on the video we saw yesterday, Shirayuki's badminton-like kidoujutsu had certainly failed her.

If a similar phenomenon presented itself before Tamamo or Jeanne, then Deen's fighting strength would decrease dramatically.

"Spoken differently, current conditions naught but troublesome. Were we to engage in battle, perchance it is we who face destruction."

"So what do you suggest we do, Tamamo?"

"We entice them."

"What?"

"First GIII, and then GIV - we shall entice them to join Deen."

"What're you...saying?"

"In 'Warfare', persuading a powerful 'neutral' or 'unaffiliated' party to join is most advantageous. This is no different from true war."

"Stop playing around! How do you plan on convincing people like that to join us?"

"The methods of persuasion are not limited to just dialogue. From time immemorial, money, power, sex, and more have been used to achieve this goal. There have even been times when those seeking these benefits have loudly proclaimed their neutrality. There is a terribly rude saying which goes, 'If you wish to catch a fox, use aburaage.' [2] If we can but discover what it is GIV desires, perchance she may yet join us in Deen."

What she likes?

As I tilted my head in thought, Watson raised her pumpkin head.

"Tohyama, regarding this, there's something we need to discuss."

"What's up?"

"Well, that GIV girl, yesterday in the car, talked over and over about how happy she was to finally meet you. To be honest, it was to the point where even I started to feel embarrassed. In other words, she seems to like you a lot."

"And your point is? You want me to sneak up on her?"

"No, no. What I mean is, to put it simply, Romeo."

"Romeo?"

I just about upturned my cup of Oolong.

This Romeo was a Butei term, referring to male seduction.

In order to deal with women difficult to overcome through direct conflict, they would instead send attractive men to get close to them...

And via seduction, get the opponent to either change sides or give up classified information.

The level of difficulty surpassed that of normal seduction, and Tokyo Butei High offered no courses in this specialization. Actually, if I remembered correctly, with the exception of Berlin and Bangkok, no Butei schools "anywhere" taught this.

It goes without saying that I haven't the least clue how to go about doing such a thing. Because of my HSS-ridden physiology, I've never so much as glanced at titillating material.

In any event, throwing this kind of thing at me, you're not that normal either, are you, Watson?

"Cut the crap, pumpkin head. Baskerville's been attacked and directly victimized by GIV. Even setting that aside, with regards to that dangerous individual-"

"Do you have any other ideas? This is all we're left with. Anyway, even if you don't look the part, in reality, you're quite proficient at tempting women, right? If we count, starting from Aria, there's Shirayuki, Riko, Reki, and who knows who else."

After Watson had finished speaking, her voice biting with sarcasm, the others...Um, about that...

Why are you all looking at me?

It's almost like you're looking at a habitual offender.

"Wow. That many, huh? You are truly Kana's brother; you seem most popular."

Hey Meiya, mind not using that awe-inspired tone of respect here?

In a plea for help, I turned to Jeanne, only to find a similar aura of complete misunderstanding in her eyes as she said, "Go get 'em."

"That's how it is. One of Tohyama, we entrust this task to thee."

"That's how...wait a moment, what do you mean 'That's how it is'! What do you want from me!"

"Go forth and befriend GIV. Care well for her, and bringest her into Deen. Peradventure, this will determine the life or death of this group. Labor most diligently!"

Tamamo sipped the last of her melon soda, and spoke these words.

Irritated beyond endurance, I gripped the table's edge, and prepared to use the technique which had been passed down by my grandfather, namely «Table Flip».

"Tohyama-san, at dusk, I- sorry, it should be late last night for you - also saw the video of GIV's attack."

Meiya's sweet, light-hearted voice interrupted my plans.

"I feel she's a very dangerous opponent to approach directly. Accordingly, we must first set about obtaining permission from the Paladins, in order to arrange for the manufacture and distribution of support supplies and the like."

"Support supplies?"

I asked the laptop that I had originally planned on flipping along with the table.

"Correct. I think even if we can't fight to win, we can at least safeguard ourselves."

"This is good, one of Tohyama."

"Good luck, Tohyama. When this is all over, make sure to report back with all the juicy details."

"Tohyama, I leave the rest to you. I need to return to care for Aria and the others."

Looking at Meiya, Tamamo, Jeanne, and Watson delivering their lines one at a time, as if in a play...

(Tch, these bastards...)

Undoubtedly, they'd all planned this before my arrival.

It seems from the start, they'd already decided to make handling GIV my responsibility. Damn it!

Ah, it really makes me wholeheartedly regret being even just a little late.

Never again will I be late. In fact, now that I think about it, wasn't the reason why I ran into Aria and had to experience such trying times because I was late and missed the bus?




After being tricked by everyone, or rather, after having the meeting proceed exactly as they had planned...

As a parting shot, I'd flipped Tamamo along with the donation box she carried on her back end-over-end, crying "What good luck, give me that back", taking back the 10 yen coin I had previously thrown in. As everyone simultaneously decried my childishness, I turned and headed for the hospital.

Aria, Shirayuki, Riko, and Reki, just how are they doing?

I gave a call to Soumiya, in charge of treating Haimaki, telling her, "This Butei dog is Reki's, so settle any questions of cost with her," to which she responded that he was no dog, but a wolf. I ignored what she said, instead continuing to ask after the condition of the four. It seems they're doing well, and are close to regaining consciousness.

(Let's set aside what we talked about at the meeting for the moment; visiting the injured comes first.)

Accordingly, I bought a few peach buns and Calorie Mates, and rode the elevator to the third floor of the A-wing where they were.

rustle...

rustle rustle...

(...?)

rustle rustle rustle...

On the hallway floor...rustle rustle...a metal tray was moving.

It's abundantly clear there's no one here, but the tray was moving nonetheless.

Under normal circumstances, this sight would frighten someone near to death-

Unfortunately, it's sad to say I've already grown accustomed to seeing such an unnatural scene. My only reaction was mild surprise, and an offhanded "So this kind of thing exists too...", before casually watching the tray.

The tray was a polished, shiny bronze, covered in etchings of thorny vines and spiders...even though it was pretty terrifying, it was likely an antique.

The objects placed upon it seemed to be a paper carton of strawberry milk, a box of Pocky, and a croissant. It's all cheap stuff! Wait a moment, this is all stuff Riko loves.

(Hmm...?)

Underneath the tray seems to be a shadow just a mite larger than the tray itself. This is definitely also out of the norm.

I finally grasped its true nature.

"Hilda?"

Hearing my question, the tray suddenly froze.

It ever so slowly turned in my direction (oh, I didn't realize that way was facing front), before returning to face its original direction, and slid helter-skelter at full speed down the hall.

Moving at a pace similar to that of a person running, it turned the corner.

Since Aria and the others were in the same direction, I followed along behind the tray.

As expected, I saw Hilda.

She'd planned on escaping down the stairs only to realize she couldn't take the stairs while hiding in the shadow of the tray. She emerged from said shadow just in time for me to arrive. From the way things look, this seemed to be the case.

She traveled down one flight of stairs, before stopping in place.

What was particularly confusing was what she did next. Hilda, wearing a nurse's outfit, with her back to the wall, flicked open an ostrich feather fan, and covered her face.

What...What to say about this?

"Hey."

I called out to her.

"..."

She pretended not to hear.

"Hey, Hilda."

"...Who, who did you ask for? Haven't you got the wrong person?"

"Like there's anyone else strange enough to carry an ostrich feather fan? Are you feeling better?"

Hearing this, bang! Hilda closed her fan.

"Oh, if it isn't Tohyama?"

She's pretending like she just noticed...

"What a coincidence, meeting here. I just came up these stairs."

What's the point in lying?

A glance was all it took to tell how flustered she was, but that didn't stop Hilda from putting on a cool expression and turning to face me, her shoes clicking against the floor.

She was wearing a pair of white, high-heeled shoes.

(Actually, why is she dressed up as a nurse? It's pretty unbelievable, not to mention what kind of nurse wears high-heels?)

As I pondered this, frowning in the direction of Hilda's feet, she had the mistaken impression that I was staring at the tray at her feet, leading to...

"What's this? How, how unexpected. To have fallen here, completely by chance. A tray, it seems?"

Her cheeks blushing, she rattled off a load of nonsense.

This girl's ability to leave someone utterly mystified is no less than that of Aria's.

(...?)

I pondered for a moment.

This Spark Witch, the vampire Hilda had fought with Aria, Riko, and I last month, and suffered injuries grievous to the point of near-death, before being sent to this hospital.

At the time, she'd nearly died from massive blood loss, but thankfully, Riko's donated blood was able to save her life.

(And now, this tray seems to be full of things that Riko likes, and moreover, for her to be delivering it so sneakily...)

Is it because this time it's Riko's turn to stay in the hospital that she's taken the opportunity to show her appreciation?

But to so vigorously protest "the one delivering this tray is absolutely not me", it seems like "thanking Riko" is quite an embarrassing thing for her?

That would be why she's dressed up as a nurse (even though her skill in disguises is pitiful), in order to allow her to move about unnoticed.

"What 'fallen here', you *brought* this here. To give to Riko."

I signified the tray, at which point Hilda realized the gig was up.

Her entire face turned red as she blushed.

Her skin color is naturally white, perhaps she's originally Caucasian? In any case, because of this, the fact that her face was now all pink stood out all the more.

"Not, not a chance!"

"Moreover, aren't these all things that Riko likes?"

"-Tohyama! Seeing as these have been discarded here, they don't belong to anyone anymore. You should pick them up."

I was only just teasing, but her frown filled me with fear.

God forbid because of this she attack me with electricity or her ball lightning.

"Alright. I'm picking it up."

Taking the tray in my hands, I prepared to hand it back to her.

Except she wasn't willing to take it from me, instead turning her face from me with great gusto.

"Just make it so that that's stuff you bought."

"Why? Can't you just bring them to her yourself? Honestly, you're so roundabout."

"Stop talking so much and do as I asked. Right now, you're the only servant I can rely on."

"At what point did I become your servant?"

"This too, give this to her as well."

From who knows where, Hilda fished out a black, garbage-looking thing which she placed on the tray.

It looked like a piece of charcoal, a thin wire running through it shaped like an S.

"What's this?"

"Roast salamander."

"Gross!"

"-This rude servant! This is a reward bestowed by Countess Dracula, just what do you take it for!"

Aria10 067.jpg

Snap! She rapped me on the head with her fan.

"That is the cure-all medicine I spent all night preparing. Give that to Riko."

"You just exposed yourself as having prepared this for Riko, you know?"

"Uuuu-!"

Seeing Hilda's eyes grow large, I couldn't help but sigh.

Unbelievable.

Aria is the same. So is Watson. Don't tell me it's a rule that aristocrats must all be this bad at expressing themselves?

"Toh-, Tohyama. Don't misunderstand. It's because- because I had no choice. In compliance with the rules of 'Warfare', as a captive noble, I have no choice in the matter. Don't get the wrong idea."

"And that's why I've been saying, if you want to apologize to Riko, just do it."

"Uhh, if the opportunity arises, we'll see."

Failing to reject the notion of her apologizing, she doesn't seem to have realized that she has again misspoken.

This girl...From Informa's perspective, she's undoubtedly an E-class.

No, actually, she should be even worse than that, perhaps even the rarely-seen F-class?

"What do you mean 'if the opportunity arises'? Who knows when that will be? Why don't I keep you company, and we'll go together?"

"No can do. I...still can't face her. To be honest, I want to go, but, right now, it's still..."

Hilda shook her head like a willful child.

Her twin drill pigtails, like Aria's, shook like a rattle drum. Due to their spring-like structure, however, shaking her head results in far more extended motion as compared to Aria. This reached the point where Hilda extended her hands to hold her hair in place.

"-Returning to the topic at hand, Baskerville was really beaten quite savagely."

Having recovered her usual stern demeanor, she changed the topic.

"It doesn't matter who the opponent is- If the team that previously defeated me loses, this disgrace reflects upon me as well. Tohyama, the ones who did this, you want to deal with them thoroughly, yes?"

What to say, this really seems to fit Hilda's style, this way of forcing things down other's throats.

"At the moment, because of the issue with Ririirokane, I'm hardly in peak condition. Notwithstanding, given some time to recover- If Riko faces any danger, contact me immediately. I will flay and skewer whoever it is."

Having finished what she had to say, she turned, and heels clicking all the way, descended the stairs.

As she exited-

From the back of her uniform, I saw two holes appear, through which a pair of tiny black wings extended. It seems the wings that Riko had severed have started growing once more.

Since today was Halloween, no one thought twice about her "costume", but I simply thought, ah, she really isn't human.

Looking carefully, around her neck she still carries the cross that Watson placed there.

A vampire that wears a cross...reality and the movies sure are different.

"From dusk until dawn- leave things to me. If it's you, and I'm in a good mood, it's not like I couldn't lend a hand."

At this double negative that Hilda threw out as she exited the stairwell back into the hall, I couldn't help but sigh.

Suddenly, from where the stairway broke line-of-sight to the hall-

(Riko...!)

I saw a forehead, arm, and thigh, covered in bandages, leaning against the wall.

She'd tied her sawed-off shotgun, the Winchester M1887, to her back with a belt.

From here, her profile was visible, her gaze directed this way.

"...Did you hear that?"

"Yes."

"Then take all of this. It's what Hilda brought for you."

I handed the tray to Riko.

She glanced at its contents: strawberry milk, Pocky, roast salamander, etc., before dusting herself off, grabbing the hem of her skirt with one hand like a bag, and filling it with the items atop the tray.

"And what do you think, Riko? It seems Hilda wants to get along with you."

"What a load of garbage. She's killed me once before, like that's something so easily forgiven."

Her mouth said one thing, her hands another. How very Riko-like.

What she said, however, is valid. Reconciliation after intensely striving against one another is not such an easy thing. This I truly understand, since my feelings regarding GIV are similar.

That said...

"Hadn't you tried to shoot me in the head before? In April, during the airplane hijacking. At that time, if I hadn't split your bullet with my knife, right now my name would be engraved on the Butei High Memorial Wall."

"Stop whining, Kinji. I only fired because I knew that Hystekin could handle anything."

Riko forcefully bit down on the straw for her milk, glaring at me all the while.

Hystekin? Oh, I see. In short, Kinji in Hysteria Mode.

Riko, who would use nicknames even for something like this, was actually eating the roasted salamander, alternating bites with gulps of her strawberry milk.

Looks like she's not the least bit skeptical of the food being poisoned.

In many ways, it seems she's quite confident in Hilda's pride as a noble.

"That girl Hilda sure is free. She's already brought stuff a few times already, but always unseen. So strange."

Riko spoke while stealing a glance in my direction.

What do you want me to say?

"Um...Well, why don't you both cool off a bit?"

"..."

"Anyway, she's basically admitted she's now a part of Deen. We are now participating in 'Warfare', which, for all intents and purposes, might as well be a real war. Even if she's that kind of person, but with that kind of power at her disposal, why not use her well? I'm not going to go so far as to demand you become the best of friends, but at the very least, please don't quarrel for no reason, ok?"

I copied what Tamamo had said to me, and after contradicting myself with my own words-

Riko turned around, back towards me, noisily finishing her strawberry milk with a slurp, before nodding her head once.

She then spun back around to face me, and full of pretense, saluted.

"Don't let it trouble you anymore, Kii-kun. Riko will now lead you to the girls' room, A-Wing, room 303!"

"Just gonna skip past what we were talking about before, huh."

"Ayaya is here too!"

"Ayaya...? Oh, Hiraga-san? What for?"

"Fufufu. It's a surprise."

A surprise...?

I've got a bad feeling about this.

When all is said and done, Riko's "surprises" have never been something I've been happy to see.




Riko pulled me, full of trepidation, towards Room 303...

"...!"

First, the silhouette of a wolf entered my peripheral vision.

Laying on the white hospital bed was the Lone Wolf girl, accompanied by a real wolf.

She wore her normal uniform, on her head a headset, but also a pair of wolf ears. Haimaki's appearance was unchanged.

In Reki's hand was a half-eaten Calorie Mate, on her face, the usual blank expression.

Aside from a few bandages on her thighs, she didn't seem to have any other external injuries. For the time being, I felt relieved.

"Uhuhuhu. No matter how many times I see it, it's still as cute as ever Rekyu! Your costume is adorable!"

Riko threw out a real tongue-twister as she grabbed Reki in a hug. [3]

There's no way Reki thought of wearing those ears on her own...

This was probably the result of Riko assisting Reki, who had likely put no thought into a costume.

"Look, look, Kii-kun. There's even a tail!"

From underneath Reki's skirt, Riko pulled out a fake wolf tail. Reki, of course, gave no reaction whatsoever, but her skirt had been lifted to the point it was almost dangerous-

"The important thing here is, that is, where'd this come from?"

I frantically turned my gaze to look at the large sniper rifle beside the bed.

If at all possible, I wanted to avoid looking at that thing- a Barrett M82.

It was a long range sniper rifle used even in the war in Iraq.

"I purchased it from Amdo's Hiraga-san."

"Why on earth would you buy such a crazy thing?"

"In order to oppose the enemy encountered yesterday,"

Reki replied in an emotionless tone.

Even so, this is a formidable sniper rifle which employs 12.7x99mm rounds, you know?

Even being grazed by a shot could kill someone; a direct hit would probably blow them to pieces.

"This is an anti-materiel rifle. Is it not forbidden by international law?" [4]

Aria10 075.jpg

(...)

She didn't bother to reply.

Nor did she nod. She simply focused her gaze on me.

...She's serious.

"Fufufu. If you read the terms carefully, it never specifies that 50 caliber rounds aren't allowed, Kii-kun."

In response to Riko, whom, harboring evil intent, squinted her double eyelids,

"That's not the main issue here. That would be Butei Law, Article 9. To be honest, Riko, that shotgun of yours is also not something a Butei should have. In a situation where you absolutely cannot kill, there's no way to fire that gun."

I spoke for a bit longer. The result-

From Riko and Reki both, pa.

They handed me a sheet of A4 sized paper each.

"What is this?"

It was a firearms permit from the Ministry of Public Security firearms inspection division.

...Unexpectedly, they have permission! And both of them!

"This is impossible. These have got to be fake!"

"Ayaya's work is without flaw. Nothing is imposssible!"

Pulling back the hospital bed curtains as she made her appearance was Amdo's Hiraga-san.

Those clothes she's wearing ought to be her Halloween costume, I believe? She wore a pumpkin-colored shirt, a black mantle, with pumpkin-shaped shorts or trousers.

Her hair was even held in place with mini-pumpkin ties. Such a cute child.

"Beginning just this month, Ayaya is willing to act as a surrogate for all firearm applications! Fuhahaha!"

...You're laughing like you won the lottery there, Hiraga-san.

My guess is...about 80 percent of that business is probably helping people obtain permission to use illegal firearms. Of course, that's where the money is.

"What perfect timing Tohyama-kun. Come! Here's the left part of 'Orochi'!"

I took the glove from her.

A few days earlier, I'd borrowed money from my grandparents in Sugamo to pay Hiraga-san with.

In short, I'd bought on credit. I still needed to find a way to pay them back as soon as possible.

"Ooh. Thank you very much."

Um, Hiraga-san. You didn't just pull this Orochi out of those pumpkin pants, did you?

"Speaking of which, Tohyama-kun, didn't you ask before about a wire anchor?"

"Yeah, that's right. Did you find one?"

I'd run into Hiraga-san a few days prior in the cafeteria, and had raised the question.

Having learned my lesson from the fight with Watson, where I'd nearly fallen to my death, I'd asked if she'd find me a safety cable that could be hidden.

"Here, this is a prototype. Though I can't make any guarantees, this is still a pretty revolutionary design!"

Again from within her pumpkin pants, Hiraga-san pulled something out. I sure hope there are pockets in there...

She'd handed me a small vinyl, ziplock bag, within which were bullets, but definitely no wires?

"They seem to be 9mm Lugers?"

"Though the speed is slow, but yep! This is an anchor wire which you fire from a gun «Anchor»!"

"A wire you fire from a gun...?"

"Exactly. As this bullet exits the muzzle, it splits into two, a pellet that resists air and another that shoots forward. As the former encounters the air, its mechanism will activate, trapping it within the gun barrel for around two seconds. At the same time, the latter flies forward, adhering to the target point with carbon particles."

Hiraga-san explained the construction of the bullet while wildly gesticulating like a small child.

"And? Why does this work as a wire anchor?"

"Between the two halves is a diphase liquid aramid fiber. When the halves separate, they create a long filament, like pulling taffy." [5]

So, in other words, firing this bullet creates a length of chemical fiber to the target point?

"There shouldn't be any problems with tensile strength, right?"

"A width of a single micron can support a weight of two tenths of a ton. Even if it become as slender as a string of pulled natto, it should be just fine. Liquid aramid fiber is a creation of Kyoto Synthetics, though the combination with the bullet is an Ayaya original, patent pending."

Patent pending...Hiraga-san really knows how to earn money.

She might just become a millionaire in the future.

"In order to grasp the timing, why don't you fire a few practice rounds? The air resistant pellet's been covered with a paint that releases light in reaction to pressure. After you've fired, just follow the blue light. Its advised range is 25 meters or less, at 50 meters, the filament risks snapping."

In the midst of Hiraga-san's explanation-

"Kin-chan...?"

"Shi, Shirayuki?"

From my side Shirayuki appeared, dressed in an angel getup - though with her navel exposed.

On her back were two mini-wings, and a matching miniskirt; from top to bottom, the only thing that wasn't "mini" was that chest of hers, which threatened to spill out of her tubetop.

Atop the white ribbon she normally wore on her head, was a golden angel's halo made of wire. Though it looked pretty foolish...

What kind of costume was this?

Like hell there are such sexy angels in Heaven. If there are, then it'd be hell anyway, at least for me.

Shirayuki adopted an embarrassed, feminine pose,

"This, this set of Halloween clothes was prepared by Riko. Um..."

Those twin peaks just about to burst out of their nylon coverings...

Were quickly covered by the gun she held in hand.

Nononono. What you need to cover first is not your chest! I take that back, cover them both up!

As I was about to blurt this out for both my and Shirayuki's sakes-

I saw that which had not been seen for some time, Shirayuki's huge M60 machine gun, and was struck dumb.

The M60 - America's favorite general purpose machine gun.

Even though it was referred to in the same vein as guns like the Uzi, but in truth, they were worlds apart. This gun was intended for use in war!

Though its design was a bit dated given its age, but usage in the Vietnam War ranged not just from infantry but even to helicopters. It's the gun which has caused the single most bloodshed in the world.

Pushing Riko, who'd shouted "Yuki-chan is a true angel!", madly snapping photos left and right, to the side,

Aria10 081.jpg

"Shirayuki, it's not me who's telling you not to use that. It's the law!"

"But Hiraga-san helped me get my permit. In any case, Irokane Ayame's been stolen..."

Covering the lower half of her face with her machine gun, her eyes seemed to repeat, "But, but..."

Up to this point, it could still be considered quite adorable. Unfortunately...

"...Furthermore, that whore..."

Her eyes, piercing, narrowed like shamshirs, making me doubt my own eyes. What, what kind of expression is this? Her voice has even lowered a full octave.

"Wh-whore? Do you mean the one who attacked you...GIV?"

"-That person is strange! As we fought, she kept saying over and over that she is the existence closest to Kin-chan! Completely incomprehensible, isn't it? Absolutely inconceivable, right? Kin-chan? AhahahaHAHAHAHAHA- Simply insanity, isn't it?!"

Shirayuki's eyes glazed over, as she gripped her machine gun and loosed a wild, mad laughter.

Just which gate is this angel guarding? The unimaginable one here is you!

"Hey, RekiHehi, ShirayukiHirafuki, RikoHiko, look, lookhook, hook. That Fedex package just now was «Pastel»."

All of a sudden, a voice, half muffled by a peach bun, drifted over...

This time, making her appearance was, of course, Aria, a pair of twin swallowtail butterfly wings springing forth from her back.

"-ehh, Kinji? What's wrong with you! If you're going to come, it's the least you can do to let us know first!"

Trading stares with me, Aria frantically straightened her clothes.

She seemed to be dressed as a fairy, not unlike Disney's Tinkerbell, though her dress was pink instead. Riko probably made the decision in order to match her hair.

It was almost like watching dress-up in a kindergarten, the look well suited the tiny Aria. Still...

(...Even though this is a hospital, she's still wearing her guns...)

From between the teeth of her sawtooth-edged skirt, her large Government pistols revealed themselves.

This kind of fighting fairy, my guess is Walt Disney wouldn't approve? Her fellow fairies would undoubtedly pelt her with sticks and stones.

On another note, this fairy girl's chest seems to be even flatter than normal. Since her dress is strapless, it seems the pushup bra she normally relies on is not an option.

(...Still, what to make of this...)

All of you, to be willing to room with Riko, you have only yourself to blame.

I'm sure Riko simply took full advantage of Halloween as an excuse to dress everyone up as dolls.

As I was ruminating on Riko being the perpetrator of these events, I noticed a cardboard box aside her shotgun on the bed... I could see at least an obake and a mahou shoujo outfit, which had been haphazardly thrown aside. It seems many different outfits had been tried on since this morning.

It seems she'd already had her fill of Halloween, at least as far as dressing up by herself goes. What a free spirit this girl was.

"You seem lively enough, Aria. I'm not going to say my concern on your behalf was wasted, since I knew beforehand that about 70 percent of the norm was more than enough."

"What are you talking about? Like you could do anything that skillful."

Pretending as if she had no ulterior motive, Aria folded her arms, hiding her chest from view.

"More importantly, Kinji. Have you received «Cocktail» yet? By the way, my set's name is «Pastel»."

"Cocktail? Pastel? What on earth are you talking about?"

Seeing my frown, Aria handed me what appeared to be a crayon box.

DALMButei Bullet magazine». We just received a care package from the Vatican. Because your 9mm Lugers are so small, producing them will require more time."

Aria spoke as she opened the box before her...

Contained within were what almost did seem to be crayons - .45 ACP bullets of every color.

Engraved below the coat of arms of the Vatican - «The Key of Saint PeterThe Keys of Heaven» - were some words in Italian that I was unable to decipher. Regardless, if they were as required by international law, I nonetheless knew what they read - DAL (Detective Armed Lethal), or Butei bullets.

The so-called Butei bullets were specialized bullets with added functionality.

Looking carefully, in addition to the bullets I'd used on the IU in the battle with Sherlock, grenade bullets, there were armor piercing and fragmentation bullets, as well as scatter shot, in addition to other lethal weaponry. Even included were the bullet types used in the battle between Reki and Koko - flash, cannon, smoke grenade, and flare - as well as other non-lethal bullets of every kind imaginable.

It seems «Pastel» referred to these sets of Butei bullets.

These must be those support supplies Meiya had mentioned earlier.

This is simply ridiculous, sending this kind of thing as a care package to a hospitalized patient. Can't you guys send snacks or fruit or those sorts of things?

"Those Italian gun makers sure know what they're doing. It really makes me want to do a study abroad at least once."

Amdo's Hiraga-san seemed enthralled by those bullets.

I just remembered, aren't Butei bullets prohibitively expensive?

To casually send these over, the Catholic Church sure isn't lacking for money, is it?

"That reminds me, all of you...loading up on ammo, applying for weapons permits, this is a hospital! Can't you just rest, like normal?"

After I chided those assembled-

"This is training camp. Always being the one attacked is no fun."

"The existence closest to Kin-chan has to be me! That kind of woman is no good, no good at all!"

"Fufufu. This kind of girls' gathering is just way too fun. Riko can hardly contain herself."

"Buteis always return an eye for a eye."

If I were to sum up Aria, Shirayuki, Riko, and Reki's arguments-

Simply put, due to having been thoroughly trounced by GIV, under the direction of Aria's aggression, Shirayuki's nonsensical wrath, Riko's desire for fun, and Reki's sense of professional duty-

The four had joined hands to seek retribution.

(...This is bad...)

For the time being, regardless of my feelings on the matter, Deen's group decision had been to bring GIII and GIV into the fold.

Unfortunately the four in front of me are just itching for a fight.

"Kinji, you help too. I've also ordered a jetpack from Hiraga-san."

"I can't take this anymore. Ugh. Aria, come over here for a bit."

In order to discuss things seriously, I grabbed the vice-captain of Baskerville, our little fairy, by her wings, and pulled her off to the side.

I closed the curtain with a clang,

"Wh, wh, what's going on here? What do you think you're doing? Everyone's here!"

Aria frantically muttered something I couldn't understand.

"Aria. I know how the defeat by GIV has all of you feeling pretty discontent. Truth be told, if it were up to me, I'd like to go after them as well. That notwithstanding, as opponents, they're just too much for us. Consequently, just now, Jeanne, and Watson, and..."

"Kinji. The fact that our enemies are strong is something I understand very well. That's why we're having this training camp!"

Saying this, Aria climbed onto the bed like a young child, and reaching her hand through a crack in the curtain, pulled a letter over.

(...Ugh...)

Just...just now, when Aria had climbed onto the bed, her bottom facing me...

From beneath the miniskirt of this wondrous fairy pose...

Pink bloomers, completely exposed.

Fortunately, since their color matched her clothes, my brain seemed to register it as just a part of the rest of her clothes. Aria's actions seemed to show she thought similarly, so I didn't experience any problems with a sudden rise in blood pressure.

Even still, how horrid. Just too cute! Even if only on the outside, this girl was just too cute.

"Look here. This is the letter from the Vatican. Although it's written in Italian, but this part reads, 'One DALM set to Tohyama Kinji under the name «Cocktail».' My guess is they must have sent them pretty soon after. You didn't happen to sell them because you didn't have any money?"

"Like...like hell!"

"Why are you looking away? Look into my eyes and repeat that!"

"Ignore that for a moment! As leader of this Baskerville team, I'm ordering you not to fight with GIII and GIV. I have no idea why it is they've decided to join this 'Far East Warfare', but at this time, they're neither Deen nor Grenada. That's why, this is the decision of Tamamo and the others- we are to convince GIII and GIV to join us in Deen."

Aria10 088.jpg

"-What kind of crap are you spewing? That girl ambushed us!"

Thump! Aria bared her canines and stomped on the ground.

Her swallowtail butterfly wings clapped as she raged. Mutiny!

"They're the enemy! It's so completely obvious! If I can't open holes in their bodies, how am I supposed to calm myself down? And then you say you even want them to join us? Fool! Moron! Just how stupid can you get, idiot Kinji!"

"Hey! Ow! Stop that! Don't always resort to violence!"

Retreating from Aria, whose wings continued to clap, as she chased me with chained hits, I fell backwards onto the bed-

"Wah!" "Yah!"

At that moment, Riko and Shirayuki's yelps of surprise came from the other side of the curtain.

I'd been thinking they'd been too quiet...

"-?"

Aria and I ran out from behind the curtains, quickly taking in the room environment.

What we found in the entrance to the room was-

"GIV...!"

That girl, standing there!

GIV wore a Butei High sailor uniform as if nothing was out of the ordinary, giving off a completely different impression from the armor/underwear combination from before.

Now she completely looks the part of a normal, female middle-school student.

"Like a moth to the flame! Get her, Yuki-chan! Rekyu!"

"Exactly right! Kin-chan, get back. Ricochets could be dangerous."

"..."

grumble grumble grumble

Riko raised her shotgun, Shirayuki, her machine gun, and Reki, her sniper rifle-

From three different directions, muzzles all turned to point at GIV.

"Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat's going on here?! If you're going to open fire, please wait until Ayaya's not in the room!"

Hiraga-san dove for dear life underneath the bed, tearfully crying out- and to be honest, I want to do the same.

GIV, on the other hand-

As if completely unaware of the guns pointing right at her, displayed a blinding smile, so much like the bloom of fresh flowers.

Towards me.

Her expression seemed so radiant as to even banish the thick aura of bloodlust which permeated the air.

In a flash, the space around her seemed to instead radiate life, carefree innocence, and purity.

A smile that stole away not only the desire to fight from the four around her, but nay, even their very souls.

GIV's demeanor, which seemed to all present to be that of an innocent young girl, led even Aria to reconsider whether or not to holster her weapons, as she took a quick step in my direction.

"I've finally found you, Onii-chan. Let's go, I'm hungry."

Grabbing my arm tightly, she forcefully leaned her weight against me.

To an outsider, we'd look like terribly close siblings, or even lovers.

"Ki, Kii-kun? What's the meaning of this...? Onii-chan...?"

"It, it, it can't be. Ki, Ki, Ki, Kin-chan's...imo....Kimouto? Imo, imouto-san?"

Though Riko and Shirayuki were utterly and thoroughly shocked, mouths agape, but without a doubt, the one who experienced the greatest shock by far was me.

"Not, not a chance! Like I have a little sister! Ever since yesterday, just saying whatever you want!"

I desperately denied her claim, which only made her grab me all the tighter, burying my arm in her chest.

(Uwah...!)

As I fell under the spell of the soft feeling enveloping my arms-

GIV flipped around in front of me-

"-!"

In order to understand what had just happened to me, I froze for a few seconds.

Just now, my lips had been touched by something soft, like the petals of a flower.

From GIV's chestnut, bob cut hair...

A sweet, caramel-like smell drifted deeply into my nostrils.

"-So that's a kiss...However, just that isn't enough,"

GIV murmured as she released my lips.

(...!)

Nya~ Aria let out an anime-ish sound.

Hiiii! Shirayuki loosed a shriek.

Uooooh! Riko panted excitedly.

Reki...'s companion, Haimaki, growled in surprise.

As these sounds mixed together-

(What...what just happened...!?)

I just about had a heart attack, and not just because of what had just happened with GIV.

Even in the face of all that had just happened, my blood pressure hadn't budged an inch. I was shocked.

What just happened...shouldn't it clearly have triggered Hysteria Mode?

In the past, whether it was Aria, Shirayuki, Riko, or Reki, the same response had happened each and every time.

But even after coming into direct contact with this girl in front of me-

I was decidedly not in Hysteria Mode.

I clearly needed to speak more with this girl, beautiful as a gemstone.

"Now I see...I'd always thought it strange, why would you help speak on behalf of your enemy?"

...SNARL...

Hearing the familiar howl of a small lioness, I timidly turned around.

"...KINJI! Are you turning on us!?"

"...Huh...?"

I confusedly glanced around as GIV continued to tightly cling to my arm.

Aria's face flushed red, her camellia irises hung wide, and her pink twin-tails trembled.

I'd originally thought Shirayuki had perished straight away, but she lay on the white hospital bed, where she'd fainted. Riko wore a bitter smile full of ill intent, and the look in Reki's eyes could freeze a man cold.

"Whether or not she's truly your sister, it doesn't change the fact that she's the Achilles heel responsible for your betrayal!"

The fairy which had quickly transformed into a crimson demon drew her gun, and took aim at me.

"Wha, what Achilles heel!"

"-Women! You, you ass! You and, and, and, that woman! Did that! And then you betrayed us!"

Aaaaaaa!

Aria screamed and shouted euphemisms I couldn't decipher, as she grew angrier and angrier.

This girl...she's already grouped GIV and I together as enemies!

"How horrible, Kii-kun! This is really too impressive. One moment you're all kissy-kissy and then the next you're angry, and then all of a sudden she's your little sister? What kind of eroge is this! Even Riko can't help but be attracted too."

Riko placed her forefingers over her head like horns, sputtering nonsense all the while, a sweat drop on her forehead.

In spite of her libertine views, for Riko to have had this sort of reaction- It seemed the act of kissing a self-proclaimed younger sister on the lips had lowered my standing in Baskerville, already at rock bottom, to being buried somewhere deep within the Earth.

This time, it doesn't matter what I say, it doesn't seem either Aria or Riko will listen to a word I say.

Having thought through to this point, I realized I needed reinforcements.

"Oi, Reki. Give me a hand, would you? These two have been so pushy-"

"I'm not too sure what's going on, but I currently have no desire to speak with Kinji-san."

Ev, even Reki...!

She finally decides to show her human side now of all times!?

(...ugh...)

Aria, Riko, Reki, and even Shirayuki - who, lying collapsed on the bed, had forced her eyes open - stared daggers at GIV (and me!), emanating a murderous aura.

I hope this is all just one big misunderstanding but-

Everyone's guns...doesn't it look like they're leaning more in my direction?

(No, no way!)

If things continue down this path...worst comes to worst, I may find myself riddled with holes. Me and GIV both.

"Just wait a second and I'll explain!"

As I screamed for dear life, I shoved GIV from behind, preparing to make my exit.

Right as we reached the door, suddenly-

GIV spun around to face the Baskerville girls.

She wore an expression which had taken a full 180 from the smile she'd shown me, just indescribably contemptuous.

"Oi, Runt. Two-Face. Fraud. Mute. I'm not sure what kind of romantic comedy you guys had going on here with Onii-chan, but..."

Carrying on with a tone not only utterly lacking in femininity, but one completely crass and masculine-

"Little sisters are best. Nothing comes between a brother and his younger sister. These sibling bonds are absolute, completely unlike any other relationship with girls."

She wielded her words like a machete, ruthlessly cutting down the competition.

...Um...What?

It seemed as if I wasn't the only one who wanted to ask that question. Aria and the other girls were similarly speechless.

"I've already looked through Onii-chan's room."

"Hey, just when did you..."

"You guys' stuff is all over the place! My sense of smell is very acute, just by the scent I can tell."

Smell...? What are you, a bloodhound?

"You guys...You've all lived in his room, haven't you! Living with girls who aren't family, this is unforgivable! Only those who share the same blood can live together, so that means you're all out! I'm going to help Onii-chan turn over a new leaf."

Having spoken her piece, "BAM!"

As if trying to break the door in half, GIV kicked the door shut.




This can't be true, right? There's no way that just happened.

There's just one thing I know for sure, the one thing that's been driving me insane. GIV. Is. Not. My. Sister!

For starters, our hair colors are different. This is a judgment method every first year Inquesta student learns: her natural hair color is clearly chestnut, as a quick glance at her eyebrows and eyelashes will reveal.

Her skin color is also slightly more pale than my own. Although at first glance her eyes seem black, but careful inspection exposes patches of blue. Finally, her bone structure is much better than mine.

(But still...Aria and those guys...)

Why is everyone so simple!?

Easily falling for GIV's mad ramblings.

What's more, this and every other time, all my protests went in one ear, and out the other.

(...That's why I've always said, women are honestly...)

This deeply-rooted frustration with women-

Accompanied by ancient grudges bubbled forth from deep within my heart.

When in junior high, because girls had discovered my HSS-plagued physique, I'd been sorely taken advantage of.

Just like back then, the second I'd return to normal and stand up for myself, they'd gang up on me.

Girls are far more likely than guys to break out into mass hysteria the second something happens. Afterwards, they'd all focus their vitriol on me. All of my past experiences were like this.

Though people would probably say this was just the difference between men and women, it didn't change the fact that I was a victim.

Adding on, all of this definitely played a role in my devoted apathy- and Butei High was no different. Girls were always talking behind my back: "Oh, he's so gloomy", "What a waste of talent", "What a womanizer", etc.

I'm always getting screwed over by women. Maybe they hate my personality.

No, I should say that it's likely the case. After all is said and done, there's more than enough evidence to attest to that.

"And? Where do you think you're going?"

As I left the hospital for the bus station to make my way home-

There was GIV, doing the exact same thing, following me as if it were the most normal thing in the world.

"Because I'm your little sister."

Saying this, she tried to lock arms with me.

"You were never my sister to begin with!"

As I roughly brushed her away, she looked at me, pain obvious in her eyes as they pled, "Why? Why act like this?"

Failing, she sneakily and tremblingly tried to hold my hand.

As I slapped her hand away with a pa!, she revealed the disgruntled expression of a child who'd failed to have her way.

"Why are you angry, Onii-chan? Cheer up. Hurray, hurray, Onii-chan!"

Her poor mood was quickly replaced by vim and vigor as she tried to raise my spirits.

She waved my sleeve, forcing herself to be strong in an effort to help me.

What on Earth is she doing?

"Look here. Just look at what you've done, asking me why I'm angry..."

"What I've done? What do you mean?"

"Not even the least bit of self-awareness, great. First you attack all of the girls from Baskerville. Then you say all that stuff that's tantamount to declaring war. This is all because of you calling yourself my little sister that they've pushed me away. Even though I'm supposed to be the team leader, now I'm all alone."

"You're not alone, Onii-chan. From now on, I'll always be there for you. At a place closer to Onii-chan than anyone. Because I'm your sister, because I'm family. That's why there's no reason to be lonely."

GIV replied, raising her adorable face to look at me.

That baby face was innocent and guileless to the point it made one doubt whether or not what had transpired between her and the other girls was just a misunderstanding.

"I never said it was because I was lonely! It's because every time Aria misunderstands something, she goes on a rampage. Because every time, for God knows what reason, Shirayuki loses control. Riko just has to join in and add fuel to the fire each and every time. And Reki, she's always got to look at things in that strange way of hers. Having to deal with all of them all at once, what do you expect me to do from now on!?"

After hearing me finish my rant-

GIV appeared utterly mortified.

"Onii-chan, give me a moment."

Saying this, her skirt fluttered as she twirled and headed straight back to the hospital.

I was struck with a sense of foreboding, so I grabbed her wrist and called for her to stop.

"What do you think you're doing going back there?"

"You're always talking about those girls. As long as they're still around, you're going to keep worrying about them. That's why I definitely need to kill them. All of them. Give me five minutes or so, and we should be good."

"Kill, kill them- What the hell are you saying!?"

I used force in an attempt to pull her back towards me-

"But but-"

GIV's large eyes brimmed with tears.

"...!"

She's not faking.

She, for some unknown reason, is really crying because of some deep-seated resentment. At Aria and the others.

"Because all you do is talk about them! If they're no longer around, then you'll finally pay attention to me!"

(...!...)

Honestly, what is wrong with this girl?!

"Onii-chan is just too magnanimous- to show compassion even to those harpies. It's because of them that I still haven't had a chance to feel Onii-chan's affection! If they were to all disappear, I alone would enjoy Onii-chan's love!"

As she sobbed, she screamed, like a little child throwing a tantrum.

I grabbed her close, brow furrowed and said,

"The important thing here is I'm. Not. Your. Brother!"

"NO! Onii-chan is Onii-chan!"

I'm at my wit's end.

There's just no way to communicate with this girl.

"That's why Onii-chan has to live with only me! Love only me! If not, I'll crush all the members of Baskerville!"

"-!"

This girl is bad news. Even compared to Aria, she's bad news. She's insane.

There's no way I can let her run wild.

"-Stop! Don't look for them anymore!"

From the beginning, I've not been a person who gets stirred up very easily-

But that notwithstanding, my face, reflected on the nearby convenience store window, could only be described as furious.

Just like when my brother used to scold me.

"..."

GIV...

Puffed her cheeks muuu, and glared at me, eyes full of tears.

"...Fine, let's compromise. Promise me one thing?"

"...What?"

"I can stay at Onii-chan's side?"

At this proposed condition, I responded-

"...Do whatever you want."

GIV, having heard my answer, wiped her eyes dry with the back of her hand and then smiled once more.

Her cuteness seemed straight out of a shoujo manga, complete with flowers blooming in the background.

"-Can you promise me one more thing?"

"Did you not say 'one thing'?"

At my response, she turned again in the direction of the hospital. Left with no other choice, I spoke,

"Fine, fine. What is it you want me to promise you?"

"Buy me some caramel candy."

...Huh?

At my puzzled expression, GIV raised her hand and pointed at the convenience store.

As the topic suddenly changed from killing people, I was floored for a brief moment.

Even so, if something this small was all it took to ensure the wellbeing of Aria and the other girls, then so be it. I brought GIV into the store with me, and purchased some caramel candies for her.

"...Here you go."

I peeled the Famimart seal off the candy, and handed them to her.

Like a small cat being fed, in a flash, she seized the candy.

Tearing open the bag, she carefully pulled out a piece, and opened the wrapping paper with a fingernail, exactly like a young child.

No, in truth, she is a young child. She has to be what, two, three years younger than me?

"Here, one for Onii-chan."

Smiling innocently, she handed me a piece.

Despite not really wanting it, I popped the candy in my mouth, and prepared to board the bus.

Because of the large number of students on board, I let go of GIV's hand, but not my sense of caution. She, however, didn't so much as glance back in the direction of the hospital. It seems because I've promised to obey her conditions, she's willing to listen to me.

(Honestly, what an enigmatic person...)

I turned to board the bus. GIV, who it seemed had never taken the bus before, timidly followed me on.




There were still quite a few passengers, so GIV and I grabbed the rail, rocking as the bus shook.

Given GIV's strange aversion to other male students, I was forced to accompany her where she stood, near the rear bus door, surrounded by female students.

And speaking of the other students...

It's readily apparent GIV is the center of attention.

Well, it's not like I can't understand. GIV is, after all, dressed in a Butei High sailor uniform.

Even though she was still a middle-school student, and thus not an actual member of Butei High, the fact that no one knew this, combined with her singular beauty, inevitably resulted in such a development.

The problem lay in her company.

I couldn't help but hear. As luck would have it, also seated on the bus were the second year girls Takane, Hayakawa, and Anesaki, the three from Connect who had always swiftly and extensively spread gossip behind my back. They whispered among themselves, "Looks like the playboy's switched girls again." "This time it's a middle-school student?" "It seems our earlier misgivings were well warranted." You guys sure are close. And what earlier misgivings?

"Hey, GIV."

I whispered to her ever so quietly. She tilted her head [?], clearly puzzled, as she lent me her ear.

"Why are you wearing the Butei High uniform? Doesn't this ruin your chances of people believing you're a transfer student?"

"All the Baskerville girls wear this, so I thought Onii-chan liked these kinds of clothes."

She laughed as she raised her head to look at me.

"Still, a transfer student. That idea's not half bad, Onii-chan. Mm. It's decided. I'll study at this school as well. Since I'm Onii-chan's little sister, I really should study up a little on Japanese culture."

And then uttered those words.

Talk about sticking your foot in your mouth. I'd shot myself in the foot this time, what transfer student.

She'll really do it. I'm not sure how she'll do it, but she's motivated if nothing else.

chitter-chatter...

(...Hmm?)

chitter-chatter chitter-chatter

There seemed to be a small commotion.

"Onii-chan?" "Did she just say 'Onii-chan'?" "There's no way Kinji's little sister would be that cute." "The situation seems to still be unclear." "But she definitely just said 'Onii-chan.'" "Is she really his sister?"

This is the worst. Those...idiots...!

Despite never registering a thing during class, and yet they seemed to have heard everything more than clearly enough just now.

"Hey, listen to me. This is, um, well, it's complicated. There's more to the story."

I was so flustered I didn't even know what I was saying anymore.

"Um, are you Tohyama-kun's little sister?"

Completely disregarding my existence, Connect's Takane went straight to the source.

"That's right. I'm his younger sister."

GIV's smile was blindingly pure.

(...She said it...!)

Whaaaaaaat!

The bus erupted into chaos.

Everyone jumped out of their seats, and swarmed us like so many bees.

"Hey, stop pushing...!"

In order to protect that slender form, I pressed my hand against the bus door, with her in between.

GIV was so surprised by my actions that she simply froze.

"Can, can I ask what's the matter? I'm just like any other little sister, after all."

Though she was still quite stunned, it didn't stop her from deliberately emphasizing the words "little sister", throwing the girls in the back of the bus into an uproar. The boys in front also made a racket, click click click, as they wildly snapped photos.

Of course this included Takane and the other two as they completed the change into full interviewing frenzy.

"How old are you?" "14. I'm two years younger than Onii-chan." "Kinji's younger sister is. So. Cute." "I think Onii-chan's pretty dashing himself." "Your skin's so white! Almost like a mix." "That's because half my DNA is of Caucasian descent." "...? And? What are your interests?" "Major League Baseball." "Favorite phrase?" "Immoral."

Anyway, GIV. Using such polite language when in public? How pretentious.

In more ways than one, she's seized the initiative.

Tohyama Kinji has a younger sister.

At this moment in time, it's become the truth.

All of this seemed to be going as planned for GIV. As she was answering questions, she subtly and repeatedly interwove "Onii-chan" and "little sister" into her responses.

"-And what's your name?"

At this point, a girl threw out this question.

"Tohyama Gefo-"

I quickly covered her mouth as she nearly blurted out her real name.

-This idiot!

Tohyama GIV is such a weird name! At least make it "GIV Tohyama". No, I take that back, the problem isn't with the order in the first place! The real problem here is that the brother's name is clearly 100% Japanese, but the younger sister's name most decidedly isn't! This just makes an already inexplicable situation even more incomprehensible!

"Tohyama-kun! Why won't you let her answer!?"

"Exactly right! Kinji, her name! What's her name?!"

"We need to write it in the school paper. Hurry up and let her speak!"

As the bus just about began to riot, I racked my non-Hysteria Mode brain like my life depended on it.

"Uh...Um...Her name is...Uh..."

I need to think of a name that fits!

The Tohyama siblings' names are 金一Kinichi and 金次Kinji, so a "金" is necessary. 金子Kinko? No, that's way too weird, like something from a hundred years ago. Think, think!, Kinji.

Looking at this from a different perspective, how about Kana, the kun'yomi reading? [6] But Kana is my older brother's name, so let's change that a little. What to change, though? Well, she's a girl, so how about adding the character for girl?

- 金女Kaname.

Not bad, at least it's a person's name now.

"Her, uh, her name is- Tohyama Kaname!"

"Ehh?"

Looking at me in surprise, I immediately hid GIV's expression from view with my hand.

"Tohyama Kaname!" "Kaname-chan!" "So cute!" "Kaname!" "Kaname!"

Calls of "Kaname!" filled the bus as it made its rounds around the campus island.

I felt their twisted stares on me.

What...what have I gotten myself into?




Fairly leaping off the bus at the next stop, I found myself at Logi's multi-story parking structure.

Looking around, I saw nary a soul in sight.

No, wait, there seems to be someone. A tall kouhai from Assault, holding a revolver, a S&W M....29, or maybe a 329 or 629, laying asleep on a bench.

She's covered in dirt. My guess is she lost a fight, and after laying down to rest for a moment, fell asleep. Her magnum revolver is out in the open, rather than holstered where it should be...truly a careless individual.

But, seeing as she's asleep, I don't think she'll be able to hear to us speak.

Having thus decided, I had GIV stand in front of me.

"Seriously, just what is it you want? After what you just did, that whole crowd-"

As I started to admonish her-

She suddenly hugged me.

-The smell of a young girl wafted over. With her sticking this closely to me, I felt the softness of her still immature breasts pressed against me.

With my senses of smell and touch under attack at the same time, I was left stunned.

"...Kaname...My name is...Kaname..."

Burying herself in my chest, her tearful voice wavered.

Unlike her tears of frustration earlier, these seemed to be tears of joy. What a strikingly emotional girl.

"Kaname...it's a name, isn't it? A person's name?"

"No kidding. It's not like you left me any choice but to pick one."

"My name...Onii-chan gave me a name. I'm so happy...so happy..."

"What, what's wrong with you now? What're you crying for?"

"Because I'm too happy."

"Happy? What for?"

"A name. A real name. I've never had one before. Onii-chan...gave me a name. This is the first time...I've ever been treated like a person. It's too much. It's just like I'd dreamed...My Onii-chan is such a kindhearted person."

"...huh?"

Just as I was about to call her GIV once more, I felt strongly... that I shouldn't use that name anymore.

I'm not sure why, but that's just how it feels.

(This sucks. Just what is going on...?)

In an effort to clear the raging emotions within, I shook my head forcefully.

Just from the sight of her tears, I'm this shaken up?

Women's tears...what the heck is up with that? Thanks to them, I've been vexed beyond reason.

No matter how many tears this girl sheds, I won't be moved.

This girl, there's no way she's my sister.

"I...I helped you choose a name only because I was left with no choice back there!"

Like Hell I have a little sister.

"You were never my sister. I-"

"-Nn, it's fine. I know Onii-chan won't acknowledge me, because...until now, I've already been rejected so many times. So yes, I know."

She looked at me, eyes brimming with tears, voice choked with sobs.

As if deeply wounded by my words just now, her eyebrows drooped sadly.

But just as before, she nevertheless laughed bravely.

As if to cry, "Say whatever you want to say, just don't hate me."

"Ah...no..."

Why? I know just how dangerous this girl is...but why?

Why can't I treat her with indifference?

Is it because she's a girl? Because she's younger than me?

I can't allow myself to do anything that would truly hurt her.

"Still...I beg you...just promise me one thing?"

"...What...?"

"Please call me 'Kaname' from now on. Don't use that serial number anymore. Even if only when we're alone, that's enough."

What to say to that?

Because of what had transpired, the name "Kaname" has already spread throughout school.

If I continued to call her "GIV", it's possible an already complicated situation would take a turn for the worse.

"...I understand."

"...!"

GIV- Kaname, just from my willingness to do this one thing-

Gave a glowing smile brimming with joy, her body trembling.

As if to directly feel that happiness, she rubbed her forehead against me.

"Onii-chan. I'm Kaname. My name is Kaname. Kaname. My name is Kaname."

Voice still choked, she continued to repeat her name over and over.

Is it really something to be that happy about? It's something I literally spent about five seconds thinking up.

If I'd known it was going to be like this, I'd have put more effort into it.

Seeing her raise her head to look at me, very much like a cat being petted, I couldn't help but feel a slight regret-

"...!"

From the hand of my kouhai, lying on the bench-

The pistol slipped off her body, and fell towards the ground.

"!"

Kaname-

Sprinting faster than humanly possible, she spun in that direction, diving with arms before her.

-Bang!

The pistol, having hit the floor, accidentally went off.

Right as I heard the sound of the gunshot-

Kaname's back suddenly crashed into my chest.

"...!"

...A bullet suddenly dropped to the floor at her feet.

"Uh...wha? Hey, are you alright!?"

Reacting to the loud and abrupt noise, my kouhai suddenly awoke.

"If I was anyone else, you'd be facing a murder charge right now, and at the very least, life in prison. Take that safety-less revolver of yours, and empty its chamber. If you leave now, I won't say a word."

Hearing GIV speak thusly,

The first year bowed her head repeatedly as if kowtowing before an empress, frantically picking up her S&W which had rolled away, and exited the scene in a hurry.

"Onii-chan, you're not hurt, are you? I'm sorry, I ran into you."

Kaname turned around, holding the chest of her sailor uniform where she'd been hit.

There's no way it doesn't hurt. Even if her uniform is made of bulletproof material, it was still a .44 magnum bullet that hit her, and it didn't just graze her either.

That kind of impact force, if unlucky, can easily break a rib or two. It could even be fatal.

"I'm the one who should be asking you that!"

"I'm alright. After all, I'm wearing these kinds of clothes. In any case, an attack by a .44 caliber is something I've experienced hundreds of times already during training."

"Training...? More importantly, how did you know it was coming? Your back was turned when the pistol went off."

"In Onii-chan's eyes, I saw the reflection of that girl's gun falling. I saw the muzzle pointed in this direction, and that the hammer would strike the ground. Furthermore, that gun looked very old and very dangerous."

From...from the reflection in my eyes? She saw all that? And in such detail.

This alone was surprising enough, but what really surprised me was something else entirely.

This girl had very clearly-

Just used her own body as a shield-

For me.

Far from trying to take credit for doing as much, she even ignored her own injuries, first worrying on my behalf.

From the depths of her heart, Kaname really wanted to protect me.

An iron resolve which willingly took sacrifice in return for my wellbeing as a more than even trade.

-Deep within my heart, my feelings towards the existence called Kaname grew increasingly more and more muddled.

Kaname.

Just who on Earth are you?


Translator's Notes and References[edit]

  1. Obake
  2. Aburaage
  3. Tongue-twister because Riko uses a portmanteau of cosplay, "コスプレ" and Rekyu "レキュ", joining on the "レ" kana.
  4. Anti-materiel rifle
  5. Aramid fiber
  6. Kun'yomi