Hidan no Aria:Volume6 Chapter3
3rd Ammo: Caravan I -Field Trip-
Amdo's educational building is made up of 1 level above ground, and 3 levels below ground, with the levels underground wider than the level on top.
'Underground'. For Academy Island, which is an artificial island, that certainly is a curious phrase.
Passing through the rigorous checks on the first floor and continuing underground...I arrived at a corridor that was filled with display cases filled with an innumerable amount of guns.
This place...this is an empty space that makes me nervous no matter when I come.
With Reki and Haimaki, who were following me, I passed through the corridor, ringing the doorbell of Workroom B201, which was adorned with a plaque which had "Hiraga Aya" written on it--
"I'm in! The door's unlocked!"
From inside, Hiraga-san's childlike voice reached my ears.
I opened the door, noticing that the inside seemed to be a temple devoted to Don Quixote, as there were things, things, and more things everywhere.
Tools of all sizes, components of guns from every era...springs, wrenches, the hundreds of screws in plastic cases, they were all mixed about, stacked until they reached the ceiling.
"Hiraga-san, it's me. Tohyama."
I shuffled sideways, taking care not to touch what had already become a forest of components, walking inside.
The workbench that was situated within the room had a DVD player and a TV, which was broadcasting a shoujo anime on it.
Beside it--*KCCCHHH!* Having been welding something, Hiraga-san twisted her head towards me.
"Oohh!? Tohyama-kun brought Reki-san with him! You guys are getting along well!"
Shunting the protective goggles upwards, Hiraga-san used those innocent eyes to look between Reki and me.
"This is...I didn't bring her, she followed me herself. Also...Is it completed?"
I looked around, asking.
"Yeah, you guys are getting along well! You two really match!"
Said Hiraga-san, pointing two fingers at Reki and me.
"No, that isn't how this is..."
"Aha! You're getting along well!!"
...Is that all you can say?
"No we're not. What I'm asking is, is the object I contracted you for completed?"
Hearing me ask again, the lightbulb above Hiraga-san's head flickered on.
"Aha! The contract is finished too! It's finished!"
Saying this, she went deeper into the tool rack...*Kcch*. Just like a squirrel entering a tree, she stuck her head and torso within.
It looks like, if she doesn't do that, she can't reach it.
"Uuu! Just a little bit more!"
Her SSS-sized uniform snagged by a nail on a shelf, Hiraga-san, only her bottom half visible, wriggled her hips, twisting them around, and those legs, as thin as an elementary school student's, were also struggling.
...It's amazing that you can remember where it is, at least.
Well, Hiraga-san is a genius girl, which even U.S. arms manufacturers scouted because of her talent after all. The structure of her brain is, most likely, slightly different from normal.
Ah, she came out.
"This may be a western blade, but it is a masterpiece that is no worse than the best of Japanese katanas. Tohyama-kun really has something good!"
Screws and springs stuck inside her hair, Hiraga-san, *Shh*
Handed over a double-edged sword which had a body which seemed to glow with a fierce light.
Ooh. It's been completely modernized.
What I had just received was the scramasax that Sherlock had used in I-U.
At the end of the battle, I borrowed this to mount the ICBM...but because of its unnatural sharpness, I had been keeping it up till now. What I had contracted Hiraga-san to construct was something fitted for me, a reinforced rubber handle as well as a hidden sheath--
I placed it in the sheath behind my back. Yeah, it's completely hidden. As expected of Hiraga-san.
"Also, I also modified this, as you requested me to. I accelerated the speed of magazine release, added a three burst-fire setting, as well as full auto!"
This time, Hiraga-san used those small hands to hand over a gun.
*Click* This heavy, large pistol is--a Desert Eagle.
It is one of the world's most powerful semi-automatic pistols, my father's legacy.
Reki glanced towards the pitch-black body.
"The only person in Amdo able to modify it to such a level is Aya! Amazing, right!?"
Said Hiraga-san, thrusting forward her flat chest, no different from Aria's, with pride.
I raised the gun, aiming it towards the wall. In the sight, Jeanne, Vlad, Patra, Sherlock--the appearances of all the superhumans that we had fought till now appeared.
...Regretfully, I'm still a Butei High student.
I-U, as a group, may have splintered, but its remnants are still on the run. So, it's practically certain that one of those ability users, just like in manga, will attack.
And, for the sake of resisting, of course I strengthen my equipment.
Following this line of thought, I found this Desert Eagle from out of my the things my father left behind.
The bullets that this Desert Eagle uses are bullets that have three times the stopping power of the 9mm parabellum ammo that my Beretta uses, a .50AE.
However, guns...aren't like in games, where once they are equipped, they increase the user's power. To put it simply, the user has to undergo training for such a thing to happen.
Especially this Desert Eagle, whose barrel and recoil are both abnormally strong.
My father, who was a strong man, nearly 2 meters in height, could use it freely, but for me, it's a gun that is too heavy, and too powerful. If I want to be able to use it without impediment, I have to undergo more practice.
And as such, I temporarily--decided only to use it when I was in Hysteria Mode.
After all, even if I have a powerful gun, it's meaningless if I can't hit the target.
I sheathed the gun, slipping it into the holster that Hiraga-san had provided--one that was strapped to one's thigh.
Beside me, Hiraga-san's round eyes were glowing with an innocent light, and she looked up at me, saying
"Mmm, Tohyama-kun is really cool like this! A black Desert Eagle really fits a dark boy like you!"
"Isn't that right, Reki-san!"
Reki nodded her head in agreement.
"Reki-san, remember to buy the components for your armor-piercing bullets. I've already prepared amazing bullet tips, made out of reinforced tungsten carbide. Thanks for the patronage♪"
Her hands put together, brought up, touching her face, Hiraga-san flashed a large, salesman-like, smile.
Apparently also one of Hiraga-san's old customers, Reki nodded.
...Selling weapons to me as well as selling weapons to Reki, it looks like, the more we fight...the richer Hiraga-san becomes. And, she herself doesn't have to fight. Arms dealing, it's such a profitable job.
Her face may be innocent, but she's a terrifying person. Hiraga-san, that is.
A few days after I started to live with Reki--The Reki humanization plan that I had prepared for the sake of the Lima Syndrome received a small opportunity.
That day, we had swimming class, but Ranbyou-sensei, whose blind date appeared to have failed again, vented the full force of her rage upon the boys of class B, destroying the swimming pool. It was hard for me to imagine a lone person destroying a swimming pool with her bare hands, but ultimately, this is only something that the Vice-Director of Assault, the monstrously strong woman, Ranbyou, could do.
Repairing the swimming pool would take some time...so the swimming class that the girls in class C were going to have was pushed back till after school.
And after school--I didn't want it to look like I was peeping, but I still observed the swimming pool--I noticed that Reki, also wearing the school swimsuit, was standing with the other girls by the edge of the pool.
(This means that I can temporarily move freely...!)
I immediately put my body into gear, burdened by one extra sword and gun--using the fish sausages as a lure, I locked Haimaki in the sports warehouse before running to the rendezvous point with the person that was going to aid me in my plan.
I arrived at a point close to the center of Academy Island--the tennis court by the second field.
*Bch. Bch. Shh.*
...Inside the fence, wearing white tennis outfits, the girls in the tennis club were sweating profusely.
Ignoring what they're like normally, in this kind of situation, they're fulfilling their time of youth, of vigor.
But, opposed to them, pressing himself into the fence, was someone, looking exactly like a prison inmate. Probably for the crime of peeping.
I looked towards one side of the court, towards where the freshmen girls were shouting, and over there--*Shh!*
Strands of hair hanging on each of her cheeks, the rest tied up with a ponytail, Jeanne delivered a sharp smash, currently in a furious match with a curly-haired member of the tennis club.
Just now, I thought that I had seen it.
That skirt, following in the wake of Jeanne's killer smash, had floated upwards.
And every time she swung her racket...
Her pure white triple-layered, frilly underskirt would, for an instant, be completely exposed.
No. I understand. That isn't underwear. It's just sportswear, it doesn't matter even if anyone sees it.
What I had thought I saw was just a mistake my brain had made, unable to tell the difference.
But...that underskirt, almost like underwear, wasn't the only problem.
Having long, graceful legs which a Japanese person would be hard pressed to have, (well, now that I think about it, she isn't Japanese,) her thighs were full, and delightfully supple. Also, they were amazingly white, almost like snow.
Every time her skirt flipped up, those were exhibited for all to see, so the stimulation of arousal was hardly normal. This is too dangerous, right?
Damn it. Why is it that the girls' tennis outfit is designed such that it appears to be showing off their lower body? To the designer: Get the hell out here! I wouldn't mind using my sword to help fix your broken mind.
...Actually, now that I think about it, doesn't it really look like I'm peeking?
I just came here to find Jeanne...
For the sake of preventing any suspicion that I would be doing such a thing, I dropped my head, and as I fought an inner battle with Hysteria Mode, which was threatening to activate...the sound of the match stopped.
I jerked my head up, only to see a freshman kouhai shouting, "Please use this towel!", running towards Jeanne, who appeared to have achieved a landslide victory.
...Jeanne, you're pretty popular, aren't you. Even if among the female students. I may not know why, but it seems that she's a beautiful person that's just as attractive to girls.
With such splendor, she was received in a manner befitting a princess.
--In the time since the Plea Bargain that allowed her to transfer from I-U to Butei High, Jeanne had already enrolled in Informa, joined the tennis club, and like now, she was living a fulfilling high school life.
And opposed to that, having been defeated by her in the underground warehouse last spring, I...am being restricted by a robot girl and a wolf.. What have I gotten myself into?
Not able to avoid spiraling into deep depression, I--
Heard Jeanne, who had finally noticed my presence.
"Jeanne, come, quickly."
I waved towards her.
Her silver hair partitioned, hanging down her back, she had changed into her uniform, striding out of the clubroom for the tennis club...
At a distance around 2 meters away, *Tap*, she stood her ground.
"Don't come any closer. Tohyama."
"In the club activities just now, I sweated a little."
Said Jeanne, shifting the racket that was slung over her back, under her shoulder.
"But, because of your haste, I did not have time to shower. As such, I only used a wet towel to wipe my body, and perfume to mask my scent."
...You're still so formal.
Also, did you say you used perfume? Even though you're still a high school student. As expected of the ojou-sama who holds the blood of nobles.
"There's no need to pay attention to that. Let's talk as we walk."
*Fyuu* A gust of wind blew past--and Jeanne's scent, a comfortable, grassy fragrance, wafted from her body.
Hey, you're not sweaty at all, are you?
Before, I had heard Nii-san...No, I should say Kana...say that just relying on perfume wasn't fully effective, and that only when perfume is mixed and melded perfectly with a woman's natural scent, will it be able to create a pleasing, moving fragrance.
And the Jeanne as of now had completely achieved this.
In Butei High, which is full of the acrid stink of gunpowder, you really are an unparalleled, fresh existence.
Jeanne frowned, a little hesitant--but she walked this way, keeping by my side.
Glancing at her, who was walking beside me, that skirt, following the school rules perfectly, was hiding a gun.
--A CZ100, huh? That's a good gun.
"The fact that Aria and you separated and that you're in a team with Reki now--has become quite big news in Inquesta."
"You're kidding me...Somebody like me isn't qualified to be a topic of discussion, right?"
"Tohyama, you yourself may not know this, but the students in Butei High, especially those in Assault, believe that you have excellent abilities in battle, and from the shadows, they respect and admire you. However, they're afraid of your reaction, so they aren't too open with their admiration. To tell the truth, after hearing about your induction exam, I looked at you in a new light."
Ha-have mercy on me.
And, up till now, whether it is a good or bad thing I'm not sure of, but I'm still looked up to by those in Assault.
"This is also written in the reports that Masters keeps. They said that, while there are some ups and downs with your status, you possess the greatest alternative power, your charisma, your leadership--you just lack integration with others, and there are some issues with your personality."
Issues with my personality, huh?
"Mmm, well...there's no need to talk about me. Rather, let's speak about Reki. What have you found out?"
I thought about what Aria had said from back then--A battle between Butei is a battle of information.
What kind of opponent the enemy is, what are his weaknesses, what does he like, what does he hate...the first side able to grasp these characteristics has an overwhelming advantage.
But, if one acts by himself, he will be noticed immediately, and as such, contracting a third party is common practice.
The person that I had contracted in April was Riko from Inquesta, and the person that I had contracted this time was Jeanne, who had taught Riko how to sift through information. After all, the teacher should be better than the student, and jokes and false information tend to appear in Riko's reports.
"Elite snipers will often try to hide information about themselves, and Reki has this tendency as well. As such, the amount of information that exists about her is extremely limited."
Well, that's what I expected.
Even living together with her, I hadn't really figured anything out about her.
"Also, her past history is a blank. The success rate of missions after entering Butei High is 100%, an impeccable record. But, she is extremely selective with her missions."
"What does that mean?"
"Presently, all I can say is, Reki only accepts a mission under three patterns."
"The first, a teacher asks her directly to do so. Under certain, rare circumstances, Masters will assign the contract to specific, excellent students...although these cannot be solved outright because of special conditions, it is possible to earn a large amount of credits, nullifying the need to take an exam. You ran into something like this during your first year, right?"
Now that she mentions it...when I was in Assault, such a thing did happen.
I thought back to that situation, and thinking of buying a can of coffee, I slotted a coin into a roadside vending machine.
"--the second, missions with an LD Score of over 900"
Shocked, my hand slammed into a button on the vending machine.
LD Score is a ranking system, assessing the difficulty of a Butei mission. I don't normally pay attention to it, but special, outside organizations will use the value as an evaluator for the compensation.
300~400 are commissions meant for student Butei, 500~700 are commissions meant for professional Butei, and that is basically how it's divided.
--But, above 900.
In even elite Butei organizations, they are missions that only the best of the best would ever dare accept.
"Ah...I was so surprised that I pushed the button for hot."
Yet, it's amazingly hot right now...So unlucky.
Grumbling, I took the black coffee out, and Jeanne, standing by my side, took it from my hands.
"...Recently, my magic hasn't been very stable. But, I can still do something like this."
*Pa*, the can of coffee that she threw back...had become cold.
Oh! The Diamond Dust Witch, Jeanne, can use her ability for something like this. How convenient.
"Reki...accepted several of those maximum difficulty sniping missions. And, speaking in light of the fact that she still has a 100% success rate, we can already determine that she is either an ability user or a sorcerer."
Despite the fact that she herself was an ability user and sorcerer, Jeanne still said those words with a look of awe.
"...You said that there were three patterns, right? What's the third?"
"It's 'Eagle Eye'."
"Eagle Eye...? Reki?"
This rather unexpected content made me tilt my head, not fully understanding.
The "Eagle Eye" in question is something that takes advantage of snipers' prodigious eyesight to observe a target from far away--a codename for a reconnaissance mission.
That mission, where both the credit and money compensation isn't high, is such that, usually, only inexperienced freshmen or trainees in Snipe accepts it...
"Tohyama. You've been observed before. At least two times before."
"...What did you say?"
"The first time, the contractor was Aria. The date was April the 2nd. She contracted Reki to be her "Eagle Eye", so she could figure out which entrance you leave Inquesta from, and lie in wait."
Ah. That past incident, where we went to Oumi to look for that kitten.
At that time, thinking of how to combat Aria, I took a mission, trying to escape outside--but Aria, lying in wait outside the Inquesta building, appeared before me.
So, that was Reki, observing me from afar, reporting to Aria?
She really sticks her head where it's unwanted.
"And in July, she accepted a mission from Masters, the content being, observe the third boy's dormitory. At that time, Masters had apparently been warned by the police, being told to observe an empty room...since it's Butei High, they have to strengthen their alertness. And, Reki accepted that mission."
I remembered that too. That was the time where Shirayuki saw Aria in a bunny girl outfit, and she went trigger happy on her M60. At that time, Reki was using the Dragunov's scope to observe my room.
"And, the 'Eagle Eye' missions that Reki accepts all fall under certain criteria. Only when it involves you, Aria, or Shirayuki, will she accept."
"Aria, Shirayuki, or me...?"
What kind of pattern is that? I don't understand at all.
But, I understand a little now...from the beginning, Reki had been paying attention to what goes on around me.
And the only person who didn't know--was me?
"The first time I investigated, I found some other pieces of information, but many of those were unconfirmed. This is all that can be reported. Alright--did you gather anything yourself?"
A few days ago, after Reki and Aria's battle...I had explained my situation under Reki's Sniper Restriction, as well as Lima Syndrome, which was my adopted plan of action, asking Jeanne for assistance...
At that time, Jeanne made one request: "As you're by Reki's side, give me a clue as to what I can investigate about her."
"What I have gathered is--sound."
"Reki always wears earphones, hearing these mysterious sounds. Yesterday, I took advantage of the time she was in the shower, and borrowed her headphones and MP3 player...copying it into a micro-SD card."
"Shower...? What kind of scene is that? That you two have."
Jeanne said, flashing a look of suspicion towards me. I'll just ignore that.
I plugged my earphones into my phone, handing one side to Jeanne.
"Listen to this, see whether you can understand it."
We stopped talking, each of us wearing one side, listening intently.
Before this, I had tried listening to the sounds...It was slightly eerie, but it really was just the sound of the wind, playing endlessly.
Because the cord was too short, our heads slowly approached each other as we listened...*Shh*. Jeanne's long, silver hair, fluttering in the midst of the wind, lightly brushed my cheek.
Uu. This feminine sensation is really hateful.
But, I'll have to tolerate it.
"--Here. It may be extremely small, but I heard a small sound. Not wind. But, I can't make it out..."
Jeanne closed her eyes, her expression firm, completely concentrated on the sound.
Waiting to see for Jeanne to comment, I looked directly at her face.
...Even so...she really is so beautiful. This girl.
Long eyelashes. A shining nose. Lips like the petals of a rose.
This cool image. Rather than a witch, she's more like an actress.
"I can't hear it. But, this is certainly a clue...Wh-what are you doing, Tohyama? Why are you looking at me?"
Widening those sapphire-like blue eyes halfway through her speech, Jeanne noticed that I was looking at her from an extremely close distance, and she pulled her head away.
"Ah, no, I was just waiting for your comments."
I said, taking off my headphones...and passed the micro-SD card with the music file on it to Jeanne, waiting for her to speak.
Her face slightly red for whatever reason, Jeanne cleared her throat before saying,
"This might be a clue. I happen to know someone to go to."
Her arms folded in front of her chest, forefinger and middle finger stuck out, she gestured towards the SD-card in between them.
While using her own ice-blue cellphone to call that person she "happened to know", Jeanne brought me to see--Connect. Next to Informa, it's where students are taught to support those in the battlefield through the use of communicative devices.
Connect, huh...I've never really come here before.
"I get along quite well with the Nakasorachi here."
Hearing this uncommon surname, I suddenly remembered something.
A Connect sophomore, although we were in the same grade, I couldn't remember what she looked like, but...I was very familiar with that voice.
The reason I say that is because, very often, she acts as the operator during Assault combat.
Butei--especially the Butei in Assault, need to be able to communicate with each other through wireless headsets.
When undergoing a large-scale operation, the people that keep the complicated messages from getting jumbled, are the operators.
The operator assumes command from Connect, accurately stating the team's status to all its members. Often, they will also report the ETA of reinforcements, the change in weather, etc., informing them of information that Butei in the middle of the combat cannot find out for themselves.
In the bus-jacking incident in April, telling us which bus was hijacked, as well as informing us of all the situational reports before the reinforcements took action--
-was the operator, Nakasorachi. Which is to say, she was one of the people working behind the scenes, absolutely critical to the resolution of that case.
Nakasorachi's operating is perfect. She is always amazingly calm, able to follow separate conversations with several Butei, all speaking with hurried, unclear voices at the same time. In spite of all that, she is able to pass on each and every piece of information accurately.
Even more worthy of praise is her elocution, her voice is just as clear, as pleasing to one's ear as that of an NHK anchor. I had never heard her wrong, not once.
(But, I remember that, although she is such an excellent Butei, she was only ranked as B.)
I had only heard her voice, so I did not know what she looked like in reality.
She's probably seen me before, through the small camera installed in every headset, but as for me, it was my first time seeing her.
I can't be wrong that she's a girl. She must be an honor student, radiating a graceful air.
Thinking of this, Jeanne, saying "Follow me", hurried me onwards--
We walked into the Connect building, which was like a telecommunications corporation.
Under Jeanne's guidance, I arrived at the audio classroom, and it appeared that, for the sake of keeping dust outside, shoes were forbidden inside.
Changing into slippers and entering the room...because school was already over, the classroom was empty.
I looked left and right, and audio equipment was neatly stacked all around me, just like a radio station.
Jeanne and I stood a while, in the middle of this classroom, full of the scent of machinery...
*Tap Tap* Several types of headphones piled up in her arms, a girl ran this way from the side...but because she was carrying too many, it didn't seem as if she could see in front of her--
Not hearing my warning in time, *Thud*
She smashed into me...*Thump* Her butt hit the floor.
*Whoosh* A pair of silver-edged glasses flew into the air--and beside me, who had reached up, grabbing it, *Gcch Gcch*
The earphones that she was carrying spilled out onto the floor, while the tangled wires wrapped around her head, her arms, as well as her feet, which were wearing red indoor shoes.
That girl's hair wasn't only long in the back, but in the front as well, nearly blocking out her eyes.
I remembered that the male protagonist in the galge that I had helped Riko buy, had this kind of hairstyle as well.
Could it be that that's what's popular nowadays?
--Because she had fallen down, she was at my feet, and her skirt, terrifyingly enough, was in a mess.
If it was a normal guy, he'd probably be feeling quite lucky. But, that isn't me. I have to avert my gaze, looking upwards, making sure that there isn't the slightest chance that I somehow looked between those thighs. After all, safety first.
"Are you alright, Nakasorachi?"
Jeanne, next to me, asked.
I couldn't help but widen my eyes, turning back towards that girl, who was still tangled because, for some reason, the wires were uncannily linked, and she couldn't get them off.
This...This is completely different from the way I imagined it.
Hearing her instructions, I really felt that she was an extremely adept person.
That girl, named Nakasorachi, extricated herself from the wires with Jeanne's help, and waving her hands in the air, she shouted "Glasses, glasses!" Almost like in a manga, like a dog chasing its own tail, she crawled around, tracing circles on the ground, feeling for her glasses. Are you alright?
...Which is to say, I can understand that she'd be wearing her uniform while crawling around like this...
Bu-but, those breasts...they're majestic. Shirayuki-ranked.
Ignoring what kind of feeling she gives off and judging solely by her appearance, she's an extremely dangerous girl.
And those eyes, sometimes hidden, sometimes appearing from beneath her fringe, were definitely those of a beautiful person.
I felt as if I couldn't bear to speak, and so, all I did was, like giving a dog a bone, hand over the glasses I had caught just now...
Nakasorachi went "Feh!", taking the glasses and standing up, unsteady...
Nn...? Frowning, she squinted at me. *Sh, shh*
Apparently not getting a clear image, she brought her face closer to mine, putting it so close that I could feel her breathing.
Is it that her eyes aren't good? Or is it that her fringe obscures her vision, making her vision hazy? Or is it both? Anyways, finally able to see my appearance, she,
*Shuffle Shuffle Shuffle! Thud!*
Backing up hurriedly, she smashed into the soundproof wall.
"Ah, waa, it's, a boy, bo-boy, n-no, I'm fine! I'm fine! Bo-bo, like, I like! That's how, I really feel!"
Waving her hands around manically, she was panicked to the point where I could not understand what she was saying.
Her face, obscured by her hair such that I could only see the bottom part, turned red. Ooh, that's a rapid-blushing technique able to match Aria's.
"Je-Jeanne, suddenly, suddenly suddenly, brought a boy with her...Awaahh."
Her back sliding down the wall...*Shh*
For some reason, the girl suddenly became alert, and she suddenly straightened her legs.
And...is that how you straighten your legs? That's an amazing X-leg. Not even Shirayuki can match that.
Afterward, putting on her glasses gingerly...
"Gl-glasses, t-th-thathan, you very much..."
She couldn't even say "Thank you very much."
Is your articulation that bad?
"Isn't this the wrong person?"
I couldn't help but turn back, asking Jeanne.
"Nakasorachi is Nakasorachi. Are you unsatisfied with my choice?"
*Zcchh* Jeanne's eyes stared directly at me...
Helplessly, once again I...looked towards that creature, who appeared to be Nakasorachi.
But once I looked at her, she immediately used the headphones in her hand to block her face.
"No, I haven't sa..."
"I-I-I-I, Jea-Jeanne-san, Jeanne-san was alone, I thought that Jeanne-san was going to come by herself, no-not, a boy, I didn't think that a boy would come, I haven't prepared my heart yet! I'm too excited! Ah, I say excited, but it isn't a happy excitement!"
*Wave Wave Wave*
As if using sign language, Nakasorachi's hands gestured wildly, without pause.
"W-Which I've only seen from the incam monitor, he's so cool, I-I didn't think he would come here, moreover, Tohyama-kun! Aah..."
Hold on...can this girl communicate properly?
"Tohyama, Nakasorachi is the same as you, and she has some issues with her personality. Please go to that wall."
*Shhh* While looking at me, Jeanne pointed at one corner of the room. Saying "The same? How are we the same at all?", I grumbled while walking to the wall...
Nakasorachi had taken a cellphone out of the pocket of her skirt, and being told something by Jeanne, *Patatatata! Patatata!* With a speed that blurred one's eyes, she entered in a cellphone number.
...Who is she calling?
Just as I had thought that, the song, "Melody of Flowers" began flowing out of my cellphone.
I picked it up.
"--Hello, nice to meet you. Saying this is a little weird, but this is the first time we have met in person. I am Nakasorachi Misaki. Sorry for just now."
Just like a radio announcer, a voice, enunciating each Japanese word with absolute precision, reached my ears.
I couldn't help but look at Nakasorachi, but Jeanne had adopted a guard-like pose, standing in front of her.
"I have the bad habit of being easily excited...so, please forgive me, I can only speak with you like this, relying on the phone--Will this be fine?"
"Eh? Ah...It's fine."
Wh-what's with this? What's with this attitude switch?
I don't really understand, but it looks like Nakasorachi has such a personality that, only when she speaks through machines, can she speak steadily. Rather, without them, she can't speak at all. I shouldn't really say this, but she's a weird person.
*Shhhh* Jeanne turned her head, saying something to Nakasorachi, who was behind her.
"--Is the procedure you would like me to help you with, the audio analysis of the music file in this micro-SD card?"
"Ah, ahh. If you're able to understand something from that sound, please tell us."
Hesitating, I responded to Nakasorachi.
"That is the sound that Reki from Snipe always listens to on her headphones. She said that she was listening to the sound of her birthplace, although...we cannot hear anything, but what sounds like wind. I know that having you try to perform an audio analysis without a video of any kind is a difficult contract--"
"--Not at all. Audio is able to convey much more than video. At least, for me, it is as if seeing a video. Also, because I am in the same normal class as Reki-san, sophomore class C--I can recall her headphones. Reki-san's headphones are...these. Sennheiser PMX990. One of its characteristics is its clarity of sound, a masterpiece which accentuates the higher pitches. Please wait a moment."
*Shh* I saw Nakasorachi, behind Jeanne, put on a pair of orange headphones--
For a while, silence.
She's probably started to listen.
I'll just wait here too, silent as well.
I mean, the person I'm speaking to has put their headphones on, after all.
"...An extremely...vast location..."
Within a few moments, I heard Nakasorachi's voice come out of my cellphone.
This is probably a report on what she managed to figure out with the audio track.
"From the echo and speed of the wind, the place of recording was an expansive field--a piece of ground at a high altitude. There are forests close by. Coniferous forests. The sound of the leaves rustling...this is, Larix Sibirica."
Just from the sound...you're able to understand to such a degree?
Now that I think about it--I had learned about this in Inquesta.
Based upon the ambient noise during a telephone conversation or some other method of communication, it is possible to deduce a specific location based upon said noises. This is the method named, sound investigation.
But, from what I could remember, one needs a computer with special software to do such a thing.
And, Nakasorachi appeared to be able to perform such an analysis with just her ears. It looks like her ears, abnormally good, make up for her eyes.
"Added to that, according to the sounds of the vegetation, this location is probably somewhere between Northern Mongolia and Siberia."
Nakasorachi's calm voice reaching my ears, I tilted my head.
"I can hear the breathing of horses. It isn't big, they aren't domesticated, but not completely wild...they're probably the descendants of Mongolia's horses, Equus przewalskii. Also, the howling of wolves...but on the contrary, these howls are quite loud, for wolves. I believe that they are a subspecies of gray wolves, tundra wolves."
As I was feeling overwhelmed by Nakasorachi's sense of hearing as well as her wealth of knowledge--I felt that I was understanding these sounds less and less.
Reki's birthplace...could it be that it's outside Japan?
I couldn't help but frown...looking at my watch.
Ah...this isn't good. Reki's swimming class is going to end soon. If I get too far from her, I might be sniped.
I snapped my cellphone shut, raising my voice, directing it towards Nakasorachi's direction.
"I'm sorry, but I'm out of time. I'll be leaving first...afterward, could you structure what you learned in an e-mail and send it to me? I'll leave that micro-SD here, for now. It's fine if you return it later."
Unable to talk without a machine, Nakasorachi--
"Re...re-re-return it...? Go-go-go-go-go-going to the boy's dormitory, it's impossible! Be-be-because, I don't have any fitting underwear!"
Immediately returning to that regretful personality, she answered with some mysterious words.
Rather, I hadn't said anything about you coming to the boy's dormitory, right?
Well, after all, this is Butei High, the gathering place of the strange. I sighed...opening the door, preparing to leave the Connect classroom...
*Shh* And at that moment, Jeanne grasped hold of my arm.
Wordlessly, she pushed me out of the classroom, and after confirming that there was nobody in the corridor...she said softly, as if whispering,
"Tohyama, be careful."
"Reki. I didn't say it earlier, because I couldn't confirm the information that I had received, but--before Reki entered Butei High--ever since she was 14, she was not only in Japan, but it seems that she was also active in Russia and China. Because, before her international Detective Armed License was ratified, she had received a Butei License, allowing her to travel to China and Russia."
"...What did she do in those foreign countries?"
"It is not recorded. It's not that nothing was done, but rather, she was doing an unrecorded job."
"'An unrecorded job'...?
"It's difficult to say, is it fine if I say it?"
"For example, 'Sweeper'."
--Well, I expected as much.
In this business, that is probably the only unrecorded job.
Even in self-defense, a Butei is forbidden to kill. At best, this applies in Japan and Western Europe--but when one talks about reality, Butei that do nothing but kill, do exist.
And, around 70% of such Butei are those that specialize in sniping.
Of course, no matter which country it is, this information is highly classified.
"--I'll pretend that I didn't hear that."
Saying this, I looked out the window.
As expected, you are not normal.
Well, from the beginning, I had had such a feeling.
"Tohyama. Since you said that you're under Reki's Sniper Restriction, this problem would be best solved early. I certainly accepted a contract to aid you, but--if you wish to make Lima Syndrome a reality, in the end, you must still build a good relationship between Reki and you."
"I was doing that, but it hasn't been going well."
"Mm, luckily--you and Reki are a boy and girl. There's a strategy."
...A boy and girl? ...A strategy?
Why is it that I don't have a good feeling about this.
"What are you saying I should do?"
"Have you brought Reki into the city? In other words, going on a date."
"Go-going on a date...? No, it wasn't a date, but there was a time where we went to Odaiba to eat ramen."
"You didn't make Reki pay, did you?"
"She didn't pay."
Hearing me say this, Jeanne said, surprised,
"Well done, Tohyama. Reki must have been happy."
"She didn't seem any different to me."
"No. She would have been happy in her heart. After all, this is something that would make anyone happy. Even if that meal cost a mere 100 yen."
More accurately, she didn't use any money.
Because, she ate the super pot ramen within 30 minutes.
"What I wanted to say was this behavior, treating Reki as a girl, treating her gently. Because of your role as a boy, this will have an effect. As long as you continue doing this, you will be able to build a good relationship with Reki. Right, I've thought of a good idea. Why don't you go to Caravan I now? Use that time where you have freedom of action."
"Freedom of action...?"
"Stay by Reki's side during the trip, doing things that girls would like."
"Things that girls would like...what's that? I'm not holding myself back, but I really am clueless when it comes to that area. Couldn't you tell me something a little more specific? You're a girl too, right?"
"That's--this method may be a little cliche, but use gifts to deepen your relationship. Once girls receive things like clothing or jewelry from boys, they'll feel that some distance has decreased, creating a happy feeling. Even girls and boys that are fighting make up with this method."
"...Then, what shop should I visit to buy such things?"
"For example, a boutique."
That's a really ancient way of saying it...
No, rather than that...
"Don't you think that Reki has no interest in things like fashion...?
"Listen well, Tohyama. There is not a girl on Earth that has no interest in clothing. This is a law of the world."
*Rustle* Facing Jeanne, who said those words with an earnest face and feeling a little suspicion appear in my heart, I...
"Then, would you be happy as well? For example, if you were to receive some clothes that you liked that I had bought for you from a boutique."
...casually put forth an example.
And...maybe it was because this was an unexpected question, but...
"Clothes that I like?"
Jeanne looked shocked for a moment...and with an attitude very unlike her, she dipped her head a little.
"--N-no. If Tohyama sees me wearing clothes like that...he'll definitely think I am strange. The fact that the clothes I like don't fit my image, I understand perfectly."
"Your taste in clothes doesn't matter, right?"
"Then, for example...just as an example--I wouldn't mind a fluttering, long skirt with patterns that a girl would like. There should be a headdress. Ah, no, that's just an example."
Since you said it's just an example, why are you leaning towards me? What is this?
"--Whatever. I'm not interested either. What's important is, you wouldn't be happy about something you should be happy about."
"I-I'd be happy about that. Originally, I'd only wear it in my room, but if it was something you bought for me, it's not that I wouldn't specially show it to only you. If you wouldn't tell anybody."
As if she really wanted to show it to me, Jeanne said that with a strange sort of tension, but...
Well, in short, she would be happy. Receiving clothes that a boy bought for her. I understand that.
If that's so for Jeanne, then...there might be a chance that Reki too is affected.
But, for me, this is an amazingly difficult task.
No less than a battle. How depressing.
Called a field trip, the journey of team formation had started.
Despite the fact that this, in reality, was not a field trip, on the schedule...the so-called, "Travel Bookmark":
"Location: Keihanshin (Assembly point - Dispersal point)
Day 1: Educational trip to tour Kyoto shrines (Tour at least three points and submit reports afterward.)
Day 2 & 3: Freedom of action (Touring the cities: Osaka, Kobe)"
Was all that was written.
There were no teachers chaperoning. If this were shown to the Ministry of Education, they would fly into a rage.
Crumpling that useless piece of paper into a ball and throwing it away, I--
-stepped onto the Kyoto platform from the Toukaidou Shinkansen, train No. 101.
On the road, I had just been sitting there dazed, but the Shinkansen really is fast. We had left Shinagawa at 7:00, and barely after 9:00 we had arrived.
...*Tap Tap. Scrape Scrape*
Reki and Haimaki followed me off the Shinkansen, stepping down onto the platform.
I couldn't help but make a pained look at Reki, who wasn't going to leave my side for any reason...
The Butei High girls, taking the same Shinkansen to come here, were all looking this way, whispering something among themselves.
And what they were saying...I could guess. Those few, while they were walking through the train, they saw Reki and I, and immediately, their faces became excited.
...Let's enter the city quickly, disappearing into the crowd.
Aahh...This is the first time I've had a field trip where I've been less able to relax.
But, the fortunate thing is, because of matters dealing with her mother's trial, Aria missed the field trip...and Shirayuki, staying at the Hotogi Kyoto Shrine, would have a hard time going onto the streets.
If they were to meet Reki here and start a battle, they'd definitely give the residents of Kyoto some trouble. The type that tends to occur with stray bullets.
"...Reki, is there somewhere you'd like to go?"
Thinking about Jeanne's suggestion, I asked Reki what she wanted, though I knew it was useless...
Reki shook her head, her hair rustling.
"There isn't really somewhere I'd like to go either. But, the first day, we have to see at least three temples or shrines, submitting a report about them. So, we're going to have to walk a lot, today. It should be fine, right?"
This time, she nodded.
Ah...The Reki as normal.
I fished the guidebook that I had bought in advance out of my bag. Now, I had to think about the routes we should take to go to whichever temple.
Just, as we were walking through the tourists and geisha, whether it was to keep me from escaping or to keep us from separating, I did not know, but she would grasp my sleeve.
And, known for my misfortune, I would always meet other students just at that moment, "Ah, they're linking their arms." "They're so lovey-dovey." It was like pouring oil on the fire of those horrible rumours.
Because of that, for the sake of not meeting anybody from Butei High...I avoided Ginkaku temple, which was a set location, and following Muto's advice, who had come here before, we went to Sanjuusangendou, where none of my classmates were. I avoided taking the bus, and instead, we took a taxi. Reki is really expensive.
I threw a glance inside from the entrance of the temple,
(Alright, there are no Butei High students.)
After I had confirmed this, I...
I went to the reception to buy tickets, and seeing the notice on the wall: "To the students on Butei High Training School's field trip, please leave your guns and swords etc., here"--I left all my weapons there.
"Reki, leave yours too."
Hearing my words, Reki, more obedient than I thought, left her Dragunov and bayonet at the reception.
It looks like she really will listen to all my orders.
Suddenly, my gaze a little suspicious, I glanced towards Reki, who was like this.
I had heard...paranoid Butei would hide extremely small folding knives or derringers. And, such people would always stay silent, so that they would not be found out.
"...Open your mouth a little and show it to me."
Hearing my order, Reki raised her head, looking at me...opening her mouth.
There's nothing, for now.
But, it really is small. Her mouth.
Her teeth were neatly arranged, and her tongue too, was like that of a child's.
Well, that's a given, since Reki is a rather small girl.
"Alright. Close it."
Once I had finished speaking, Reki's mouth shut...and like a small animal, she looked up at me.
Seeing this gaze and position, not being able to help but think back to Reki's kiss, I--
"...Then, let's start touring. Make Haimaki wait here."
Flicking my gaze at Haimaki, I entered the hall.
Sanjuusangendou, since ancient times, has been renowned as a place for testing arrows.
It is said that, the 120 meter long main hall, under the eaves, was used for an archery competition called "Arrow Traversal", and even now, it was still continuing, albeit in a different form.
--Now that I think about it, it could be said that this is a temple that has a relationship with sniping.
Walking through the corridor, which was lined with one thousand statues of Zenjuukannon, all neatly arranged in a row, I...glanced towards Reki.
The same as ever...Reki still had that perfectly expressionless face.
Even the statues of Buddha have expressions.
But, only after reaching Kyoto did I know this, statues of Buddha have different expressions.
Reki...didn't seem to have any interest in this place, she just trudged on alongside me.
For her--a mere 120 meters was a distance where she could probably shoot through the heart of a flea.
I counted the hands of Zenjuukannon, thanking God in my heart that Aria did not have this many. Rather than a Quadra, she'd be a Sendra. Thinking about that, I chuckled...
(If she were here, this trip would definitely be a lot more vigorous.)
Thinking about this, I walked through the corridor.
Although I was together with Reki, we hadn't shared any special feelings...
"...We've finished the tour."
Within a short amount of time, Reki and I had finished touring the hall.
It had just reached afternoon.
It was set down that we were to tour three temples or shrines on the first day, but we had already finished touring three.
(...What should we do...)
Under the fresh, blue, autumn sky, Reki and I arrived at something like a courtyard.
Seeing that, in the middle, there was something like a backless-bench, covered with a red cloth, I sat down...looking over Reki, I gazed upon several windmills, apparently made by the local children.
"--Kinji-san. When you were walking with me, you were thinking about another girl, were you not?"
Still looking downwards, Reki spoke those words to me.
"You were thinking about Aria, were you not?"
"...How did you know?"
"Just now, when you were walking through the corridor, your smiling face--was the same as the face when you are together with Aria."
Reki's ice-cold eyes were fixed on me.
This is a temple--thank God that weapons are prohibited here.
"Th-that is...Well, I was her partner for an entire semester, I just suddenly thought about it and laughed."
I casually made an excuse, and Reki,
"Please do not get closer to Aria."
-with some sort of terrifying air...she warned me.
I mean, it was extremely slight, but...she was giving a feeling, which seemed to convey the fact that she was angry about something.
And, this was the first time she had spoken since we arrived at Kyoto.
"Are you angry?"
No, you are angry, aren't you?
For some reason, I felt that the way you said "No," just now was a little angry.
"You're angry, right?"
Reki shook her head, her hair rustling.
But, this second denial--she did not speak. Just a gesture. It might be, that that was a sign of weakness.
In short, she was more or less angry. About the fact that, while together with her, I had thought about Aria.
Well...that was certainly my fault...
But, Reki really gets angry for the most inexplicable reasons.
If Reki and I were really engaged, then I'd be able to understand her anger. But, this was something that, according to what Reki had said, something like an arranged marriage...It was not because she liked me that she stays close to me.
Just that, Reki had received some denpa from whatever place--and she was just obeying "wind"-sama's orders.
So, Reki has no reason to get angry about the thing that happened before.
From my standpoint, she was being a little unreasonable.
...With that, I felt a little upset...
"I am not angry."
Towards me, who was like that, as if announcing it to herself--Reki once again denied it.
"Is that true?"
"I am sure that Kinji-san is aware of my nickname."
Have you heard it said yourself?
"Just like what other people say in the shadows, I--do not have the emotions of a normal person. Because, the wind does not like people's 'emotions'."
The "wind" that Reki had said...it looks like it's a firm delusion, set deep within herself.
"So, I am not angry. I do not laugh, nor do I cry."
Telling me these things in a detached manner, Reki's words made me...completely speechless.
Certainly, I had never seen Reki express her emotions.
I had always believed that that was just because of an overly strong professional consciousness as a "sniper", who seeks calmness in all things, manifesting itself in that pattern...but it seems that that was not all.
Is her emotionless appearance tied in together with her "wind" delusion? If so, this is a profound problem.
From the conversation just now--
It may have been just a little, but contrary to her words, I felt that I had caught a glimpse of Reki's feelings.
It had not been completely expressed, but the her as of right now was releasing a sense of unhappiness.
It's definitely possible. Reki's humanization, and Lima Syndrome as well.
That's what I thought. I could not help but think any other way.
(But...then, what should I do?)
The me as of right now has made her angry. Opposed to that, if I don't make her happy, there will be no hope for Lima Syndrome.
I stared directly at the side of Reki's face, who had resumed her wordless mode, her arms folded...
A red dragonfly had stopped. On Reki's head.
You, can even bugs mistake you as a statue? Please move a little.
While I was complaining in my heart, I looked at the red dragonfly, sitting on her head like a ribbon, suddenly thinking back to Jeanne's words. "That's--this method may be a little cliche, but use gifts to deepen your relationship. Once girls receive things like clothing or jewelry from boys, they'll feel that some distance has decreased, creating a happy feeling. Even girls and boys that are fighting make up with this method."
...There's no choice.
Because I have no more cards to play, I'll have to try using Jeanne's method.
In the movie I had seen on TV, "Pretty Woman", there was this kind of scene.
But...I'm not familiar with Kyoto.
I have no idea of what is sold where.
Go out to Osaka? After all, I had gone there before, together with Nii-san.
Doing something like going with a girl to buy things, it's rather impossible for me, but...
This is for the sake of Lima Syndrome.
Written on Masters' schedule was the fact that Osaka too was a city where we could go see shrines, so it's two bird with one stone.
"Let's walk to Osaka for a while. So we can shop together."
Hearing me say that, Reki looked at me with, for some reason, a little surprise, before she nodded--
As if confirming the fact I had started to understand a little, a sort of soothed feeling began to flow out of Reki.
She remained expressionless, but, if I were to use Haimaki as a comparison, it'd be a state in which his tail was wagging slightly.
What...are you happy about me saying: "We can shop together"? I don't understand girls at all.
After taking the train for around an hour, we arrived at Shinsaibashi, Osaka.
Clothing stores and accessory shops were everywhere.
Since we're going shopping for the sake of starting Lima Syndrome against Reki, then Keihanshin should be a good place.
But, exiting the subway, which was like a mole, Reki and I, wearing bulletproof uniforms...stood out amongst the crowd of teenagers, wearing very current and fashionable clothes.
"Coming here was good, but...I don't know it at all, the fashion of this city, that is."
I said it, half to myself,
"I do not know either."
After Reki said that, we stood there, at a loss of what to do.
After all, the location that Introvert and Wordless shouldn't have gone to, is here.
(But, this is also for the sake of putting Lima Syndrome into action against Reki.)
I motivated myself, setting off down the busy street.
I can't say that I'm wealthy--but it's not like I don't have any money.
During July, my bank account had received the halved reward of the casino security detail, and the compensation of the commissions I took during the summer holiday may have been small, but I still received it from Butei High.
But...the "boutique" that Jeanne had mentioned was here and there, but I had no idea of anything to do with fashion.
Buying things that would make girls, Reki included, happy...I had no idea of what those things might be.
"Reki. What kind of casual clothes do you wear?"
Not knowing, I asked her directly,
"I do not have casual clothes."
"...Are you saying that you have nothing but your uniform?"
She responded with an answer that was completely expected, and I increasingly felt the urge to drop to my knees in despair.
This is so difficult. Then, I'll directly make Reki walk and look for a store that she wants to go to. I'll just spend some time drinking coffee there or something.
No...letting Reki, who has no consciousness of the outside world, or rather, no common sense at all, walk wherever she wants to, is dangerous.
This street is full of boys radiating a feeling of nanpa, and Reki will have no idea of their ulterior motives. Even during the Casino security detail, she had trouble with the womanizing CEO.
With that in mind, I brought Reki along with me, and without any real purpose, we walked onwards.
If you let a dog walk on its own, it will hit a pole. As I thought about that, glancing at Haimaki, plodding along beside us...
This place too, has a few students from Tokyo Butei High.
Because the boys were wearing the same uniform as me, and the girls were wearing a dark-red sailor uniform, I noticed it immediately.
They too had finished their touring of the temples early, and were now touring the city...they seemed to be coming here to play. Over here, there was also an Osaka Butei High, they were moving with that as a destination. Damn it.
Not wanting to be disturbed by them again, because of Reki, I--
-thinking that whatever shop would be fine, I looked around.
Convenience store, clubhouse, a neko-design cafe...in my line of sight, next to the cafe, "Chaton B", a select shop aimed towards girls, appeared before my eyes.
Alright. I'll just go in here.
With that, I pushed forward into the store--Reki followed me, her footsteps quick.
Haimaki, wiping his paws on the mat at the entrance, followed us from there.
It looks like a very fashionable shop, but it's fine. We're two Butei, bringing a wolf too, after all.
Inside "Chaton B", there were a lot of neko designs as well...they seemed to be using a forest as an image theme, the shelves and cases were all made out of wood. The decorations were all leaves and vines too.
This ambiance...isn't so bad.
I was a little worried that we would be kicked out for bringing in a wild animal, but the female assistants, with tea-colored hair, said: "Welcome~~, oh, cuuteee~!", hugging Haimaki.
Thank God. This seems to be a store where pets are OK. What a relief.
Haimaki wagged his tail, looking up at the assistants with a face that seemed to convey the message, "I'm a good boy!".
You can really read the mood, can't you. I hope that your master over there can watch and learn.
"--I'm sorry. Could you lend me your ears for a while?"
Hearing me say this and going "Mm?", the assistants thrust their heads towards me, next to my face...
"I...am in a certain situation, and I have to buy something for that girl over there, but...she doesn't really know what kind of clothes she likes, so would it be possible for you to pick something for her?"
If one wants ice cream, he goes to an ice cream parlor. "Shirts" ,"Skirts", "Pants." I, confused and ignorant about any of these phrases that girls use, should ask the assistants, right?
Thinking this, I explained the situation to them honestly--and the onee-san smiled at me strangely.
"Situation, huh? An-san, it's that, right? Yer preparing to break through her barrier, right? I knew it from a glance. That girl's guard is pretty firm."
Uu...this person, is she something like a former Butei? I have no idea.
If one is aiming for Lima Syndrome, they have to destroy the barrier around the opponent's heart.
And, the barrier around Reki's heart was extremely strong. For the sake of breaking through it, I came here to go shopping so we can improve our relationship.
I thought that there was probably no-one undergoing Sniper Restriction from a girl, but Osaka Butei High is near here, it could be that this shop was often visited by Butei.
"--Speaking truthfully, that's how it is. I was hoping that you could help me solve this."
Forgetting my embarrassment during the journey, I said that--
"Hehe~. You're naughty~"
Said the Onee-san, nudging me with her elbow.
Eh. What did you say?
Why would you call me naughty?
"Isn't it great, young lady? This boy wants to buy something for ya~. Afterwards, give him a kiss, a'right?"
Wh-what? It looks like we've misunderstood something.
"Leave it to me! I'm a genius at choosin' clothes based on my customers' sizes. Alright, young lady, tell me ya height and weight. And, ya three sizes, hehehe."
"150 centimeters, 41 kilograms, 76 centimeters, 50 centimeters, 73 centimeters."
"Ooh, cuutee~. On a closer look~, ya have a really pretty~ face, y'know~. Almost like a diamond gem~."
Answering casually while pushing Reki's back, the onee-san brought Reki deeper into the shop.
"Why don'tcha sit down over there and have some coffee while ya wait, an-san?"
Not really knowing how things go at this store, I followed her instructions, sitting by the table, and quickly, from "Chaton Cafe", which seemed to have some sort of relationship with this place, another onee-san, wearing a brooch with a different cat-design, came, holding a menu, smiling all the while. Ku. I have to pay for the coffee as well.
Rather, when did I say I was going to shop here?
The people here really know how to run a business.
A group of girls, holding select shop "Chaton B"'s paper bags, and boys, seeming to be buying the girls their clothes, were drinking tea and coffee while talking, seeming to be waiting for a certain event.
Surrounded by these people, all speaking Osaka-ben, which my ears weren't accustomed to, I, the outsider, folded my arms, waiting...
With that, the onee-san from earlier had brought--
Reki's appearance made me spit out the coffee I was drinking with an "Ehnn!"
The reason for that was--
A kindergarten uniform...! Although it was made to be worn for adults.
"Wh-what the hell is that!"
Wiping a paper napkin around my mouth, I pushed the chair back.
Wearing a yellow kindergarten hat along with a water-blue smock and standing there wordlessly, Reki had a tag with "れき" written on it pinned to her chest.
N-no, even more than that...those legs had become horrifying. I had thought that the length of the skirt would be to scale with a normal kindergartener's skirt, but it was a shocking mini-size. It stopped 1 centimeter below the inseam.
Seeing the sheathe for her bayonet, gunchira (Seeing the area under the skirt where guns and knives are hidden. Namer: Idiot Muto), was happening even now.
Reki was, as ever, in her living mannequin mode, standing straight.
(Wh-what a lifeless kindergartener...)
Her hair was also tied back with a rubber band, and she really looked like a child that had been turned overly big with magic.
Seeing my reaction, Reki looked up and down at her own appearance a little.
I mean...there's no need to wear that kind of thing so obediently.
Some people, upon seeing this, would burst into tears out of happiness, but I have no interest in that kind of thing.
"An-san~, ya made a nice, 'Eeh!', reaction. But...why'd ya do that? I thought that she'd fit this kinda childish clothin'."
"O-of course, if it fits well, it fits well, but...don't use these kinds of clothes please...at least, something that she can walk outside in..."
I...slumped over the table, trying to plead with the onee-san, somehow.
"An-san, this ain't a joke ya know. But, somethin' for the nighttime would be nice, right? Hehehe."
For the nighttime...?
Is she planning to use it as pajamas? She'll catch a cold if she wears that kind of skirt, right?
Well...it looks like this cosplay was just a prank. Is this part of their culture too?
Looks like such things exist when you go on a trip.
Behind Reki, whose kindergarten skirt was fluttering as she was led into the changing room, I wiped my sweat off.
Ah, onee-san. Please close the curtain of the changing room.
You just left a subtle gap, making it so that only people from my angle could see it, right?
You probably think that you're doing me a favor, but it's just a complete annoyance for me. That action, that is.
That kindergarten uniform was something that made me extremely surprised--
But, it too was something that fit Reki really well, the shop assistant onee-san was really good at choosing an outfit that matches with her customer.
Afterward, calling it "Jungle girl," she made Reki wear clothes with a reindeer pattern...it fit her too. There was no incompatibility.
After that, wearing something very similar to the frilly dresses that Riko usually wears, it was a lolita costume. (Under Riko's persistent reminding, I finally remembered.) Originally, this seemed to be clothing that was meant to be worn by rather lively girls, but with Reki wearing it, she looked like an antique doll.
But, this kind of clothing would make the sleeves get caught when readying her sniper rifle, so, from the Butei standpoint, I denied it...
Lastly, the assistant said, "Next is my favorite," taking out some clothes from the corner of the shop so Reki could try them on.
Because makeup was part of the service, Reki was really sealed inside the changing room by the onee-san.
I finally realized that some cats that Chaton Cafe was taking care of were walking around, understanding why it was OK for Haimaki to enter, but I was wondering whether it was really hygienic as I waited...
Reki hadn't come out for a while.
Drinking my coffee and feeling a little bored, I went outside for a little while...
Suddenly, I thought about something. I spent some time buying little things at the outdoor stalls.
I returned to Chaton B,
"...Ahh, ya really look like a diamond gem~..."
Saying that, I heard a voice, shocked at something, from the changing rooms--
*Rustle* After the curtain had opened, a slender foot, wearing white, high-heeled sandals exited the changing room.
*Tap Tap* Once again making her appearance inside the shop, Reki...
The assistants, Chaton Cafe's customers, I...even Haimaki, everyone's gaze was drawn to her, fixated on her.
Makeup applied, her hair combed and set properly, wearing a white sleeveless one-piece, the lack of sleeves its highlight, Reki was--
That's what I thought, from the bottom of my heart.
Those exquisite features, already looking as if she was a work of art, confirmed onee-san's words. She was like a sparkling diamond.
Painstakingly polished by this process of outfitting herself and applying makeup, really, all eyes were focused on her.
One portion of the white cloth, made of what looked like fine silk, accentuated the lines of her body, which were already highlighted by the illumination of the store, making the sense of transparency that Reki already gave off even stronger.
I thought that if Aria takes the time to beautify herself, she could be on the cover of fashion magazines, and Reki...was the same.
Well, Aria would be on one of those popular magazines that everyone reads--and Reki would be on those high class fashion magazines aimed at ojou-samas. If I had to make a distinction, that would be it.
Even with that, Reki wasn't making any special expressions, but as if checking herself out, she looked into the full-body mirror, her gaze somewhat satisfied.
Well, that's...probably because she thinks it won't hinder her in battle.
"Ehh, then, is this what you want?"
Seeing that Reki and I had nothing to say, the onee-san whipped out a chocolate colored calculator.
...*Tap Tap Tap Tap*. She entered in the prices.
"One piece and sandals...as well as the inner clothing, 'ight. Here ya go."
Looking at the numbers on the calculator that had been handed to me, I...
...as if there was a gun pointed at me, I reflexively dodged away from the calculator.
Isn't this 10 times the price of the clothes sold at UNIQLO!?
I'll really use all my money and become homeless. If I pay for this.
At this kind of time, what kind of Osaka speech should I use to get a good result?
Justa prank? Didn't study? Damn it, I knew I should've learned these kinds of words from Muto, who was originally from Kobe.
As if drawing my gun, my hands trembling, my fingers reached for my wallet--at that moment.
Looking just like an ojou-sama, Reki moved her lips, delicately coated with lip gloss, making a sound.
*Whoosh* With that, Reki's gaze, which had been appraising herself, moved--I followed it.
"Popular! From 15:00 today Chaton B and Chaton Cafe's joint event
☆ Chaton Call ☆
As the winner's reward, the price of everything that is bought today at Chaton B is halved!"
That was written on a small blackboard with colored chalk.
Glancing at my watch, it was just 14:55.
Looking up at the onee-san, I saw that she had an expression which conveyed: "Ya realized it, huh?"
I see. Aiming for this event--were the boy and girl customers that were buying clothes at "Chaton B" and chatting at "Chaton Cafe".
"Reki, come. Drink some tea as well."
A little uneasy about the scent of the foundation, wafting this way in Reki's wake as she walked towards me, I, not knowing the contents, went to "Chaton Call", determined to take part.
This joint event--would be our first mission together.
These are pitiable words, but I'll have to do this for real.
Because, whether or not we become homeless, is down to this.
According to the assistant's explanation, Chaton Call was this store's unique event, a competition to see how many of the cats walking around Chaton Cafe could be called to one's table.
The time limit is one minute. If you stand up from your seat, you are disqualified, and touching the cats with your hands is forbidden too.
The prerequisite for participation is: the people involved have to be a couple, but since things had come to this, I had no choice but to sacrifice everything to win this.
I was embarrassed to the point where I wanted to die, however, we could use the fact that, for some reason, we were mistaken as lovers, meeting the prerequisites.
"Participating couple name: Kinji - Reki"...My hand, shaking uncontrollably, wrote our names on the blackboard.
Now, the money I had had been slightly decreased by the tea that Reki had drunk, and it had fallen below the price of the clothes that had been shown to us earlier.
Since things had come to this, I had to gift Reki with these clothes. Not winning, or running away with the clothes, was not an option.
Now that I think about it, didn't something like this happen at the ramen shop in Odaiba?
It seems that Reki was born under the star for putting my wallet in danger. Please make that star go supernova.
(But...calling cats and keeping them, huh...)
This was something that I hadn't even considered practicing for, a mission that was completely out of my expectations.
Honestly, we have no chance of winning.
Because, for some unknown reason, I don't get along well with animals. Ever since I was a child. What do I do?
"So, have ya made ya preparations? Alright, start!"
Despite the fact that I was so nervous, the onee-san, over at the cafe, made her announcement, the noise entering the mic amplified by the speakers.
The groups of couples inside the shop started going, "Here kitty, here kitty," making whistling noises, starting to call the cats towards them.
But, cats are extremely cautious creatures.
Just wandering around inside the shop, they weren't going to suddenly get close to people they hadn't seen before.
I gestured at a cat whose eyes I had met--but, with a purr, it looked the other away.
Damn it. The shop knew this, which is why they had this event, right? Since the cats aren't familiar with anybody, everybody will be disqualified, as written on the blackboard.
"I-I have to think of something..."
From in front of me, who was becoming agitated, Reki, sitting up straight in front of her untouched tea, which had gotten cold,
"I do not really understand, but is it fine if I gather all the cats?"
She asked, as if it had nothing to do with her.
"That's right. But, it's not easy. It seems like these cats have been trained to not respond no matter how much the customers call them."
I told her softly, and Reki went silent for moment--not even looking in the direction of the cats, *Bch*
...She closed her eyes for a long moment, and that unchanged expressionless face--
..."Nyan"...did she say...?
I didn't hear incorrectly. She definitely said it.
She had just uttered something that was capable of entering the best three of, 'words most unlikely to come out of Reki's mouth'. Overwhelmingly rare.
I mean...Having said "Nyan", was she trying to imitate a cat's purr? She doesn't sound like one at all.
With just the same monotone as ever, all she said was, "Nyan".
Before, in Ueno, the imitation that Aria had done was better. That too was amazingly horrible, but an imitation as bad as this makes me unable to even say that it's an imitation.
As my heart shattered into pieces, just about to concede defeat...
All the cats in the store raised their heads in unison.
Looking around, each one of the cats was looking at this table--rather, looking at Reki.
The clothing store's onee-san and the cafe's onee-san made sounds of disbelief.
I was sitting there, dazed, and under my table--
The cats...had gathered there without exception...!
"This is fine, right?"
By Reki's feet, who had just said that...White, black, spotted, striped.
The cats were gathered there, as if believers listening to a preacher.
Now...now that I think about it, Reki...had done something similar to this in the first semester. She had spoken to the grey wolf, which was completely hostile towards us, immediately taming it. Right now, that wolf was Haimaki.
Somehow, Reki seems to be a inexplicable girl that is able to undergo communication with animals. Although such a thing isn't possible for humans.
The "Nyan" from earlier was...
...definitely a signal to the cats, the contents being: "Come here. If you don't, horrible things will happen."
No, seeing as how obedient the cats were, it was probably a strong message, something like: "If you don't come, I will whip you into the ground. I will set Haimaki on you."
"Cha-Chaton Call--The winners are the couple, Kinji and Reki!"
Co-couple, you said?
Please, I beg of you the cafe's onee-san, don't use that kind of speakers to say that in such a loud voice.
I didn't tell you this, but this is because we're just pretending to be a couple.
"From now onwards, please continue to get along well and love each other! We'll be supporting ya!"
The onee-san from Chaton B said, "Us sisters here will work hard!", and in full view of the other customers, she brazenly gave me the cash coupon for a 50% discount.
With this, you can spread the words of what a nice atmosphere this shop has. You really have the soul of a businessman.
Rather, were you sisters?
"Alright, victory kiss! Kiss!"
The onee-san's in Chaton Cafe were saying that, as if venting their feelings.
The customers started chanting, "Kiss! Kiss!", a kiss call.
...I'm sorry. That's not happening.
"We-well, we did it, somehow."
As I reached for my wallet with a sense of relief--
Not even flashing a courteous smile in the midst of everybody's applause, Reki--*Click*, suddenly stood up.
What? I stood up, and--
Reki, from a distance I could not dodge, as if dancing, embraced me around the waist.
Reki's hand, completely unnoticeable from looking at it--was strong.
With some sort of intention, she restricted me close to herself.
Seeing Reki finally bring her lips up to my cheek, the store erupted with cheers.
And, looking as if she was kissing me to the surrounding people, Reki--voicelessly, whispered by my ear,
"Somebody is following us."
"Please do not move your gaze unnaturally. I do not know who it is, but I am afraid that it is an S-rank professional. At the start, he showed no signs of aggression, but now, he is openly radiating hostility. From outside the store--near the entrance, he is observing this place."
"Wh-when did this start...?"
"Kinji-san, did you leave the store just now?"
Just now, taking advantage of the time that Reki was sealed inside the changing room...
I went outside, buying some things from the open-air stalls.
"--I think it was from that point onwards. After I had worn these clothes and strode out of the changing room, I could feel that gaze. After we arrived at this city, I felt that somebody was following us for a moment--but after that, I thought that they had retreated."
There's somebody following us...?
Who is it? Why are they following us?
Acting calm, I returned to my seat, and as if nothing had happened, I started twirling the spoon sitting next to my coffee.
I had learned about this in Inquesta. For the sake of preventing your gaze or actions from being noticed by the enemy, you have to, like this...use something like a mirror to check your surroundings.
And on the curved surface of the spoon, I successfully caught the reflection of the entrance--
At that time, a breeze had just blown past, making that rouge skirt...
I just made out part of a twin-tail.
A pink one.
Reflexively turning back out of shock--
-standing at the entrance of the shop, looking in discreetly, Aria's gaze met mine.
Seeing Reki and I together, her expression, for some reason, looked as if the world had ended, Aria twisted around violently, running away.
At that instant, for a reason unbeknownst to even me, I immediately stood up!
Impulsively dashing out of the store.
On this boulevard, crowded with teenagers, seemingly hard to run through, I quickly caught up to Aria.
Trying to shake off my hand viciously, Aria was in a state of agitation where she couldn't even say a word.
What. Why are you so mad?
"I-it's fine for you! Because I haven't said it to you clearly! But, Reki--Reki, I definitely told! That girl, kn-knew full well! Reki! Reki--I won't forgive you! Reki, you...Reki, you!"
In an agitated state, Aria was in a mode where I could not understand a word she was saying.
Her twin tails in a tangle, she directed a constant stream of abuse at Reki, who wasn't here--
"You too--let go of me! I'm busy! Just that, before going to Kure, I came to Osaka Butei High to get some equipment that I had left here! Because, Muto Goki and Riko are waiting for me at Kure!"
Kure...Hiroshima? And, Riko and Muto? What's with that. Does it have something to do with Kanae-san's trial?
Towards me, who was just about to ask that, Aria--
*Thud!* A fist collided into the space between my eyebrows.
"As a couple with Reki!"
*Kch!* She swept me off my feet.
"I hope you're happy!"
Stepping on my face, which had been brought to the floor in an instant, she vanished into the crowd.
"Y-you...What was that!"
At that moment, Haimaki caught up with me, who had shouted that.
Is the reason that Aria left with such haste because she noticed him?
No, not only Haimaki.
Because, I had also vaguely felt--Reki, from some unknown location, was staring this way.
And, she was using the scope of her Dragunov.
Once again, Aria had been pushed away by that killing intent.
Aah. Caravan I, despite the fact that this was an activity where we're supposed to make teams...the relationship between Aria and Reki, as well as I, was getting worse and worse.
--It had already reached a point where reconciliation was impossible.
Translator's Notes and References
- Hiraga-san is saying, "デキてる (Dekiteru)", which carries the connotation of getting along well, or perhaps being lovey-dovey. This turn of phrase is rather hard to explain. At any rate, Tohyama-san is saying, "できてる (Dekiteru)", which, in this case, means, "Is it finished?" However, because they are homophones, he isn't really getting the point across.
- Jeanne says this in English. It is her catchphrase.
- Sendra is a play on Quadra, which is an Italian word. 千(Sen) is the Japanese word for one thousand.
- Introvert is Kinji, and Wordless is Reki
- Reki's name is written [レキ] as opposed to [れき], though they share the same pronunciation.
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