Hidan no Aria:Volume8 Chapter2

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2nd Ammo: Cosplay Cafeteria -Ristorante Mask-[edit]

Carrying Aria on my back, on the way back to Academy Island's boys' dormitory, I was wary that those of "Grenada" might make a U-turn and come attack us, but...Tamamo—

"In the end, they are nothing more than emissaries. From the beginning, I had released Shikigami into this area, and am having them watch. If the 'Kin' were to enter any part of this rectangular island, we will immediately be informed by Shikigami, so be at ease. Also, according to mine ears, they hath all crossed the ocean and skies, disappearing. Fufun."

—laughed at my unease.

As for Sister Meiya, she asked me for where I lived, saying: "I wish to do a little shopping, so please go on ahead first." and entered the convenience store.

I don't know the view of the SSR on the movement pattern of those monsters, but...because those two, who seem like specialists, had completely relaxed any form of alertness, it should probably be alright.

Rather, other than thinking that, I have nothing to base my judgements upon.

And...the next thing I had to worry about was Aria's condition.

Returning to our room, I laid Aria down upon the sofa, and—because it was enormous, It was possible to have her lie down completely flat, housed by the three-person sofa—Aria—

"...Nnn...Peach bun avalanche..."

—muttered things like that, sleep-talking, Smile, and as she slept, she smiled.

Certainly, it seemed that Aria had only lost consciousness...rather, it seemed that she was just in a deep sleep.

Her breathing while asleep also seemed to be as usual, and her pulse was also normal.

"Funfun...That there is no shrine here, what matter of house is this? Thine devotion is lacking, one of Tohyama. Funfun."

Suddenly complaining about something about my room and going 'Funfun' with her nose, Tamamo, going into the kitchen...

"Hast thou no syrup? Where is the syrup?"

While saying that, she took some pudding, which had "Riko's" written on it with magic marker, out of the fridge.

And, while muttering "Spoon, spoon, spoon", she took one of the spoon's from the kitchen, Nom Nom

Just by herself...she started eating.

What are you doing?

"Mmmmm. This too, is quite delectable. Tohyama. I give thee mine praise!"

Licking even the back of the lid of the pudding, Tamamo turned towards me with an innocent smile.

(Riko is going to get angry later...rather, why is she so friendly to me, who she's met for the first time?)

I sighed, and, PatterPatterPatter, Tamamo, scurrying this way—

"Mmmm. Thou art the current generation's Tohyama, art thou not? Thou art wondrously similar to the Tohyama that I had met at Nasuno. I could not have thought it from our first meeting. By the lanterns of midday, thou dost give off a feeling that thou art introverted, but good, good. Then, look here."

While saying something which seemed to hint that she was an acquaintance to one of my ancestors, (and while suddenly seeing through my nickname,) she turned her back to me as if to show off the backpack-like crate she was carrying.

"...?"

"Look. Today, I too hath worked quite hard. Put the offering for the Tamagushi within."

Shake, Shake, when Tamamo shook her back, Clank, Clank, because the sound of coins rang out...

I finally understood.

This is an offering box.

She was walking while carrying that sort of thing?

"Tamagushi...?"

I said, stating my confusion,

"Quickly, put it in, put it in!"

Tamamo leaned her body foward, and her tail was completely straightened.

"...!"

Swish'

At that sight, I took a step back.

...Th-this girl, isn't wearing...anything.

Because she was wearing Japanese clothing with a short inseam, and because of her tail, the hem had flipped up, and it became visible.

"He-hey! Wear something!"

"...? Not wearing sandals should be fine, should it not? We are in a house."

"No-not that, w-wear some panties! At least, make a hole for the tail to come out of in those clothes!"

"Pan...ties?"

Tamamo made a "?" symbol with her tail, Spin, and spun this way, "Art thou speaking of undergarments? If one wears such a thing with Japanese clothing, 'tis a loincloth. Do you not know of a thing such as that?" With that, she fixed the flipped skirt.

I wiped off my cold sweat, thanking God that because Tamamo had a childish appearance, I did not go into Hysteria Mode. Well, that's though this girl is probably also a kind of god.

Even so, just in case, I averted my gaze from Tamamo...

"Dost thou worry about Aria, one of Tohyama?"

"Of course."

I'm also worried about your lower body, though. Don't you ever catch colds?

"Do not linger over it. She will not become the Scarlet Blazing God immediately."

"...scarlet blazing god...?"

I frowned, and—

"...I see, do you not know of it? Well, it could not be helped. The Tohyama Samurai are dying out, after all."

Staying in the same place, Tamamo sat straight, her attitude a little careless.

"If nothing in the Tohyama family has been passed down, then I have no choice but to teach you. I am Tamamo—white-snouted golden-furred[1] heavenly fox...by your words, a monster, a demon."

She said it.

This time it's a demon, is it?

Well, ability users, witches, and vampires also exist. As of now, it isn't something to be surprised at.

"My mother too was Tamamo, my grandmother too was Tamamo—since times long past, our race has watched over the relationship between humans and Irokane, and prevented its misuse. For those multitudes of years, we established harmonies and hostilities, reaching up until now. This refers to Irokane, but in this girl's heart too...what I am about to say is not to be said to Aria...it is embedded. Also, an enormous amount of Hihiirokane, rarely seen before in history."

"Ah...ahhh. That, for once, is something that both Aria and I know."

"It is possible that Irokane and humans bond. As for those bonds, there art two types. "Method Bond"—a bond which gives the power of what thou call ability, and "Heart Bond"—a bond of emotions, in other words, were Irokane to bond too tight with a human, the human's heart will intermingle with the Irokane, and in the end, the Irokane will take it over."

Now that she mentions it,

At Hotogi's branch shrine in Kyoto, Shirayuki and Kazayuki had talked about it.

—"Irokane is a metal which communicates with human's hearts," was it?

"Taken over, by the Irokane...what will happen when that occurs?"

"She will become the Scarlet Blazing God. When she does, we kill her."

...!

"Ki-kill, hey...!"

Tamamo fixed her round eyes upon me, who had panicked.

"Do not panic. She will not become such immediately. However...if she doth become it, without hesitation, kill her. You saw her condition earlier, but it seems that that girl hath faith in thou. Well, thou canst do it, canst thou not? Even if thou does not, someone shalt. Even if it were I, 'twould be fine."

"Stop it...to kill or not to kill. That kind of thing—"

"'Tis fine even if war erupts on this planet?"

"War...?"

"Hihiirokane is a volatile Irokane which enjoys war and love. And, as for those who hath been invaded—the Scarlet Blazing Gods, a heart for war and a heart for love—those two hearts art driven into intense fervor, and the one that hath been affected becomes a Cursed God. In the past, seven centuries ago, there was a human who had become thus. That one seduced an emperor, inciting a war...and finally, she was struck down by the Hotogi Miko and Tohyama Samurai.

"...ch."

"I had said not to linger on it too much, had I not? Aria shalt not become such immediately."

"Is it being...prevented by something? Prevented from becoming like that?"

Still not understanding, I asked an amateurish question, and—

Nod, Tamamo nodded.

"So that such a tragedy would not be repeated a second time, what the Mikos of that time conceived was—"The Golden Shell."

"Ka...ra...gane?"

"A shell, 'tis a shell. Laid over the Hirokane as if plating it, a special shell, which only allows "Method Bond" to make its bonds, while "Heart Bond" is isolated. As such, a shell which was fitted for humans had been created. Because 'twas known that if the shell had its seven layers, Heart Bond would be cut off, 'twas also named as "The Seven Stars of the Golden Shell". If the shell is in existence, Method Bond is slowly bonded...if it bonds in the length of three years, Heart Bond is completely cut off."

Three years—at those words, I remembered what had taken place in EU.

Indeed, Sherlock had said that.

As for Hidan's inheritor...until their ability is awakened, there was a need for her to co-exist with the Hidan for, at the very least, a space of three years.

Probably, that meant that that was until the "Method Bond" which Tamamo had spoken of was completed.

"That one, Hilda, used a technique which extracted the Golden Shell from Aria. I did not think that she had progressed her research on Irokane to that level. At least, 'twas not skillfully done. Thanks to that, 2 of the 7 layers of the Golden Shell had been returned."

"Two layers...what will happen?"

"Slowly, this girl will be taken over by the Irokane. Eventually, she will even become the Scarlet Blazing God."

"...ch..."

"Do not panic again and again. 'Tis alright for the moment. In that time, 'twould be well were we to take back the Golden Shell from those of "Grenada" No matter what, they are our opponents in battle. If we gather and return all layers, afterward, Heart Bond will be stopped, and she will return to as she was before."

"New...that, Golden Shell, can't one be newly made?

"A multitude of diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and emeralds...if we assemble a great number of materials, and train a hundred Miko and have them work, we shalt be able to make it. However, though the Golden Shell hath been conformed to the Irokane, there is a need for a hundred years. If we try to cover it, if the remaining five layers art again created, we shalt not be able to make it in the time until the girl becomes the Scarlet Blazing God."

"Then...approximately, what is the period for which the two layers of the Golden Shell can hold it back?"

"I do not know. For there has been no-one who has attempted it. If it is merely mine opinion, then... this is but a guess, however, it should be a few years. 'Tis not something that shalt occur today or tomorrow."

"..."

A few years...huh.

What should I think of that?

If there exists only a postponement, it should probably indeed be possible.

Anyways, it seems that currently, Aria is alright...yes.

"However, Hihiirokane's 'Heart Bond' has slightly started. First, from now on, in regards to war and love, the girl shalt probably start to speak her heart without hiding anything. That is the symptom of the beginning. However, do not panic, and respond. Is that fine?"

War...and love...?

Thinking about it a little, I paused to look at the sleeping Aria...and nodded.

"Yeah. I understand."

War—In regards to fighting, Aria doesn't hide anything that's in her heart, right? Definitely, nothing will change from what has been happening up till now.

And, love—In regards to romance...this should be fine too, right?

Because, ever since the time we first met, whenever she had the chance, "I have no interest in it!" is what she would say. Aria, that is.

At the opening ceremony, "So-something like romance...is completely useless!" starting with that, and when she was fighting with Shirayuki, "Romance—th-that's a waste of time, I've never had it before, and I don't plan on ever having it either!"...Towards Reki, "Things like romance, I-I...don't care about that! Really, really, reaaa—lly, I don't care at all! REALLY, got it!?" She even went that far to deny it.

So, Aria...won't change. At all.

When I thought that, the doorbell for the room rang.

"'Tis Meiya."

As if the outside was visible, Tamamo said those words, but just in case, I walked to the door, Beretta held in one hand...when I looked outside through the peephole, indeed, it was Sister Meiya.

"...Did you buy something back?"

While using polite language to ask her, who seemed to be my senior in age, that question, I opened the door, and—

"Ahh, Tohyama-san. That is a relief. Your room was here, was it not. I, because my strength was not enough, staggered around, and got lost. Ufufufu."

—while laughing with an 'Ahahaha', Meiya entered.

Somehow...she seems completely different from when she was attacking the witch, Katze Grasse, earlier...a friendly attitude. Somehow, it makes me feel a vague fear, at the fact that it kind of resembles the split personality of a certain Miko.

Tonight, that Miko, or rather Shirayuki, had gone out to the festival at Suiten-gū.

She had said that her return would be the morning tomorrow, but..

(Before, had we had Shirayuki's assistance, things might have turned out a little different, wouldn't it...)

I casually looked into the vinyl bag that Meiya, who had not really been of assistance, had brought back, and...huh? What's that?

It was filled with a large amount of liquor.

This is a situation where she had completely bought out everything from the convenience store, right? Also, there were many several pastry buns. What?

Facing me, who was frowning, with a large smile on her face, Meiya...

"Tohyama-san. It is well that you were unhurt at that place, was it not? As expected, true to the rumours, you are a magnificent paladin."

Wearing the slippers reserved for guests, she took the vinyl bag and headed to the living room.

Somehow...besides the massive sword on her back, she radiated the air of the young wife living in an apartment building.

I too returned to the living room, and Meiya sat, straight-backed, upon the side of the sofa.

"Tamamo-san, how is Aria-san?"

While taking the liquor bottles out, she looked at Aria's condition.

"'Tis normal. However, as expected, the Golden Shell is insufficient. We art compelled to take it back from those of 'Grenada'."

"Well, well...Slurp"

Ah. She drank. Lejay Creme de Blueberry...she took the sweetly-scented wine, which appeared to be a cocktail base, straight up.

Whether it be Tamamo or this person, I wonder;when they have finished their work, do the people of 'Deen' feast?

"However, to have Tohyama do that, it seems a heavy burden. Let us do something. Meiya, attack Katze Grasse with haste. Take one back and return. She will return to Germany, will she not?"

"Yes."

Suddenly draining the strong liquor like it was water, Meiya nodded.

And, while placing the empty bottle upon the low table, she took Uguisu-bread, thought to be a chaser, and the next bottle of liquor out.

(Ah, that is...)

Bailey's Irish Cream—Medica's Ganaha-sensei had been drinking it during the lesson—giving off a scent reminiscent of sugared pastries, it was a a high calorie, strong liquor.

Meiya emptied the liquor in a full gulps, and again, she opened the bottle of bourbon—Wild Turkey, her lips pursed.

Uuu. I haven't drunk anything like liquor, just looking at it is starting to make me feel sick.

"U-um...that..."

To I, who tried to continue with 'Is bad for your body'...

Smack, Meiya stopped me with the hand that was clad in long, white gloves.

With the movement of her shaking her head, her light blond hair shined in the air as it swayed about.

"I know what it is you wish to say. It is true that a nun cannot drink liquor."

"N-no...it's not that..."

"But, there are sisters other than me that are like this. We are exceptions. One type of ability user takes away from her own body, and to disperse the ability, after battle, they have to take in a large amount of something orally, or they will die. Sugar, protein, ascorbic acid—what has to be consumed differs from person to person, but mine is alcohol. However, do not worry. Because in Italy, it is tolerated to start drinking liquor from the age of 16, and as such I have a constitution which will not get drunk. I am sorry that this sin of heavy drinking is so unsightly. Oh Lord, forgive me; Gulp Gulp...Haaaah."

Immediately after having asked for forgiveness from God, she drank again.

Well, this person...other than having breasts more gigantic than Shirayuki, her whole body is slender, no matter how much she drinks these high calorie liquors, she'll be alright. As far as I've seen, she really won't get drunk.

I've gotten used to seeing that level of unnatural phenomenon, from Aria's peach bun scourge and the super pot ramen incident with Reki. It's so sad. These days, if I become surprised at these things one by one, I would lose heart. I've already learned that.

In the room, full of the sweet scent of liqueur—

I too sighed, and sat on the sofa.

I had become worried again, and I checked Aria's temperature with my hand...It's normal...isn't it...

"Tamamo-san. I will definitely kill Katze Grasse. The peace conference at Bandire has failed, and at this rate...She will be tried by the Inquisition, and she will be excommunicated, torn into 8 pieces, and discarded into an unnamed grave without even a cross...I will, to-together with those witches, will go to hell...!"

Trembling where she sat, Meiya-san opened the bag of chasers, ripping it.

"At least, I will show you the completion of the witch hunt! The Canossa denomination too is negligible!"

...Canossa...?

I know of it because Nii-san had studied abroad for a short time at the Rome Butei High, but that is the name of the organization which is called SSR here, isn't it?

Th-this person is a high school Butei student?

If she is, the Butei Highs all over are the same, aren't they. They're full of weirdos.

"...Well, 'tis good that thou art motivated. How was it? Did Kana draw you in?"

Kana.

Towards Tamamo, who had spoken Nii-san's name, I lifted my face.

"I...do not know. Because, Senpai has changed a little from how she was before..."

"Meiya-san. You seem to know Kana—"

I interrupted the conversation, and Meiya, a bottle of Żubrówka in her hand, faced me with a smile.

"Yes. She is your Onee-sama, is she not?"

...Onee-sama...

We-well, I'll just stay silent. Gender is one kind of personal information, after all.

The fact that Nii-san will break every bone in my body if I speak freely is also rather unpleasant.

"I have to introduce myself a little bit to Kana-senpai's little brother, don't I...I am Meiya Romano. 18 years of age. My nationality is the same as my mother's, Italian, but my father is Japanese, and his name..."

On the other side of the long receipt, Meiya wrote the words "明夜",

"It can be written this way."

She showed it to me with a knowing smile.

...Just in case, "Ahh, I see. That was surprising" I made that face.

Apparently satisfied with my reaction, Meiya flashed a sunflower-like smile.

"—As an exorcist in the Vatican, I am inducted by the holy order, in the Rome Butei High I am a Kanossa fifth year—Ah, in Italy, high school is up to five years. I was not held back. Then, during those two years, I had hunted criminals together with Assault's Kana-senpai. I might say that I get along very well with her, or I might say that we are on the same wavelength...It was fun to do my job."

"Ahh..."

I let out a voice which seemed somewhat comprehending.

Indeed, this kind of calm personality would get along well with Kana.


"At that time, whenever I taught her recitations from the Bible, she was able to remember it immediately...I remember that I was very surprised by the quickness of her mind."

I see. The fact that the Nii-san from after his transfer started to occasionally recite verses from the bible is from this person's influence.

"Nii-sa...Kana has a special ability. When she is Kana, she can remember the entire contents of a book she has read once. That's kind of like cheating. It's not a trait to be surprised about."

In short, it's just being able to memorize it with the power of Hysteria Mode.

That's unfair, Nii-san. Even though you told me, "You can't abuse HSS for studying."

"Now that you mention that, Tamamo. You too started talking to Patra suddenly. Is she an acquaintance?"

I asked Tamamo, who was extracting a cream bun from Meiya's vinyl bag, and—

"Mm? Ah, ahh, Patra? Yes. I hath met her before."

Tamamo, sitting straight again, brought the bun around to her back, and while covering it with her tail, she answered.

"In the war before, I was "Grenada". At that time, I was companions with Patra's great-grandmother. The person who taught her Japanese was me. After the war, in preparation for the next war, it seems that she taught her descendants Japanese as well. Therefore, well. While she hath an accent, Patra's method of speech is akin to mine, is it not?"

Indeed...I remembered that Patra used a rather ancient mode of speech.

That was because, the great-grandmother who had taught her Japanese had in the first place learned ancient Japanese from this Tamamo.

"...The last war, you say. Isn't that a story from a time long past? Around the time of Patra's great-grandmother, whom you spoke of. How old are you exactly?"

Because of Vlad and Sherlock, I was confident that I would not be surprised even if I was told 100 years old by that childish-looking girl, but...

"I? I was born on the second year of Kennin, therefore I count 808 years old."

"What...!?"

Because of my surprise, no other words would leave my mouth.

I-Impossible.

She's been alive since the thirteenth century, the Kamakura period?

"Rather, look, one of Tohyama. Asking a goddess her age is nothing. Thine faith is insufficient!"

No matter how I looked at her, Tamamo, hitting my knee with her tiny hand, was an elementary school student...

Also, she even looked like she was in one of the lower grades.

"I-if that's so, shouldn't you dress up more like a grandma?"

While pulling my knee away, I responded, and—

"Originally, I was a giant fox. I had transformed, taking upon this appearance. When I transform into a human, I cannot change mine mass. If there was a granny that was this small, it wouldst seem suspicious, and I would not be able to be in the city, would I? Therefore, I became a young girl. Understand that much without having to ask!"

While responding with some reasons which I didn't understand even if I heard them, Tamamo continued to hit my knee with a gohei which she had procured out of somewhere. It hurts, I said!

"If you don't want to seem suspicious, then get rid of your ears and tail first."

I said the most obvious thing, when...

Was it because that wasn't possible? Tamamo's face went completely crimson—

"That is not something that thou canst understand!"

It seemed as if her sore point had been touched.

"If you're going to look like a child, I'll treat you like a child. If I, for example, use respectful language towards you outside, I'll seem suspicious. Just having a man that uses respectful language to a young girl about seven years old is something that people will report about. In the Japan of today, that is."

While pushing the gohei back, I also got a little irritated—

"Even though thou art a new one...this generation of Tohyama is impertinent! Is this fine, one of Tohyama? I have experienced 'War' countless times, and if I am to say it, a veteran! The way to fight, the way to survive, the way to steal, the way to protect, I knooooowwwwww very well. Therefore, respect thine elders more! Show me some faith!"

—saying that, she caused a clanking noise to ring out as she swung her back this way, got onto all fours, and stuck the offering box outwards.

"Add in thine apologies, and put it in! Put in your faith!"

...In the end, money? Rather, don't swing your tail and butt this way!

I thought that she was really insistent, so putting in about 100 yen should be good, but I shouldn't spoil a child.

So that I could become distant from this person, I took a ten-yen coin out of my wallet- [2]

"Alright, alright, I'm sorry, granny."

I put it in.

"Mmm. Tohyama-san, you will definitely profit."

Meiya applauded at that scene.

...It seems that without me knowing it, I've been sucked into a war between monsters, but...

When I looked at these two, apparently the few allies that I have...

My uneasiness increases. By a lot.


Afterward, Meiya said that she was taking the last bus to Narita Airport and went back, Tamamo also left these words: "The boundary field shalt immediately expand. This evening, do not leave this floating isle," and around 2:00 in the morning, she left the room.

The bags of bread had been cleaned up, but...Ah, the empty bottles of liquor were all over the table.

Well, it should be fine if I clean them up tomorrow. Today, I'm already worn out.

The actual bottles were pretty stylish after all; I'll just think of it as some interior design.

"Haaah..."

...The attitude which had intensified at the 'Bandire' had completely relaxed thanks to those two, or rather, as a result of those two.

However, I was worried about Aria, so I covered that small body with a blanket...

The electricity still on, I decided to be like Reki and held my gun, sitting down on the sofa and going to sleep.

Afterward, I did lay my cheek on it and start getting drowsy, but—

I had a dream that Aria became a vampire and went wild, and I couldn't sleep properly.

Even so, I did slip into a mildly deeply sleep, and in the morning...

Tweet, Tweet...within the cries of the swallows...

"—Idiot Kinjii!"


Smash!


"—Kuh!?"

Suddenly, my face was kicked by a foot in black knee-socks, and I woke up.

"A...Aria!?"

Had she woken up?

While rubbing my eyes, I turned towards her, and Aria—

"Ki-Ki-Kinji, you...Wh-what!? What is this!? Whatwhatwhat!? WHAT THE HELL IS THIS!"

Despite being in her uniform, she was hiding her body with a blanket, trembling.

She was shaking to an extent where it looked like she was splitting into 2~3 people.

However...within me, who saw that, I breathed a small sigh of relief.

(—She's the normal Aria...!)

I understand.

My face was kicked, and she said something, but her movements and way of talking was as the normal Aria's.

"Aria, that's great..."

While cutting off the words of I who had spoken as usual—

"Wh-Wh-Why am I alone together with you, i-it's already morning, you know! In...In a room with nobody else in it! Just the two of us! St-staying the night!"

Redden!—Yes, 0.1 seconds.

The speed of her high-speed-blushing technique was also normal.

(But...what's she getting red at?)

Shuffling backwards from me, who was frowning, Aria, on the other side of the blanket thrust outwards like a matador...

Rustle Rustle, she felt around inside her clothes.

What...is she doing...?

I thought, and when I thought it, 'Kching!', she was stretching her hands towards her guns!

"He-hey Aria! It's fine if you're not normal to that extent!"

"You...what did you do to me! Honestly, without hiding anything, lay open the situation in detail! Idiot Kinji is really an idiot! You've skipped way too many steps! A hole! 20 hole combo chain-fire!"

"He-hey, calm down! Even if you put two of your handguns together, you can only go up to a 16 chain-fire! Rather than that, what have you been saying up till just now! Yesterday, you were at Empty Island and—"

"Yesterday...Empty Island? ...? ...? I do-don't have any memory of that—"

Aria, who said that, looked at the empty bottles lined up on the low-table made out of glass and "!" widened her eyes in a perfect circle.

"Kinji...I-I don't remember anything...That, th-that trick...I've seen it in movies and dramas before...!"

Pointing at the multitude of liquor bottles, she glared at me.

What had she understood, and how had she interpreted it? She was glaring at me as if I was some massive criminal.

"He-hey, by 'trick'..."

"I didn't think that you would do things of that level, but I-I was careless...! That's a common method of a womanizer...you really did it, didn't you...? ...? Ouch—"

Splish

Apparently, Aria had noticed something wrong, and she pressed down on the scar left on her nape, bitten by Hilda.

There was mostly no bleeding, and it seemed that the wound had already clotted, but—

There, a lip-shaped scar was left, having been violently sucked by Hilda and clotted.

"No! No! No way!"

And blushing even further, she fountained steam from her head with a 'Choo Choo', and runaway locomotive Number-Aria—

Thump Thump Thump!

—ran towards the washroom in massive panic.

"—Gyaaa!"

Raising a scream which I couldn't have thought belonged to an English noble, Thump Thump Thump!

She came back.

More than any monster at the Bandire, it was a terrifying appearance.

"Wh-Wh-What did you do to me!! You Ero-Kinji!! YOU SERIOUSLY ERO-KINJIIi!"

Wh...What is it! This time!

  • Aria and I woke up in the morning, just the two of us.
  • Aria has no memory of last night. Furthermore, there are many empty liquor bottles on the table.
  • On Aria's nape, there is lip-shaped clotting.

Why do I have to be screamed at because of the three of these things combined!

"W-Wi-With this..."

Aria, who was pointing at the lip mark on her neck with a trembling finger—

"With this, today—I CAN'T GO TO SCHOOL, CAN I!! YOU SERIOUSLY STUPID KINJI——!"


Wh-why!

Why is that because of that clotting, you can't go to school!?

"—If you're going to stick something on, at least think a little bit about the consequences! You Ero-Baka-Kinji! EBK!"

Tears in her eyes, Aria, who had stamped her feet in rhythm, (and anger) to that original phrase, had a menacing look, and in response to that I was also just about to break into tears.

One question! What the hell did you think, and what should I stick on! What should I!?

Without even making it in time to stick my hand up to ask that question—this was also normal—Aria, who had used the sofa as a stepping stone and jumped, flipped her skirt—

"HOLE MISSILEEEEEEE!!"

Like a missile, she brought a two-legged drop-kick deep into my face.


Afterward—for some reason, Aria was embarrassed even looking at my face, and with that attitude she shut herself into her own room.

Even when it was time to go to school, she didn't come out.

It seemed that she seriously wished to take a break from school.

This was after what had happened yesterday, so I didn't want to leave Aria, but Tamamo had said that 'Grenada' had crossed the sea and sky—probably with ships or planes—and left this place.

And also, Shikigami....speaking by my interpretation, a net was strung out which acted both as a radar and alarm, she had also said.

Furthermore, Aria is the owner of battle ability enough to suddenly defeat the walking tank LOO; if the I who was not in Hysteria Mode was here...I'd just drag her down.

"Then, I'm going. Just in case, don't let go of your swords and guns. Make sure you've plenty of spare magazines too."

I spoke to the door of the small room which Aria had decided as her own room of her own will, and decided to go to school by myself.

From within the small room—

"...Huh...When did I shoot...Eh...?"

Aria, who was counting her bullets and speaking to herself—

Really had lost all memory of yesterday night.

I had seen this often at Assault, but when people suddenly lose consciousness, the memories of before and thereafter will be blown away.

"Also...I heard this from a certain trustworthy person, but you're being targeted by the remnants of EU, you know. Those guys have a lot of friends. The Koko sisters from a while ago are also one of them. Be especially careful, alright?"

Avoiding the matter of Irokane which I had been told to not speak about by Tamamo, I told her this just in case, and...

"That's the same as what's been happening up till now, right? Qu-Quickly go to school."

With a tone which seemed to be driving me away, she responded with her anime-like voice.


With the beginning of the day, I took the lessons of the subjects English, Chemistry, and Japanese Characters, and—

At the fourth hour, right before the combined long-homeroom of three classes started, Aria finally came to school.

Looking, a band-aid was stuck to her neck. A kitty-patterned one which Riko had brought into our room.

The remnant of the clotting had naturally become small, and it seemed that she had just passed the time until she was able to hide the clot with that.

Getting red again when she looked at me, Aria sat down on the seat next to me, when...

With amazing obviousness, she didn't look in my direction.

But, as for being angry...rather than that, it seemed that she was embarrassed.

I couldn't hear the signal of her rage-mode, the purring of a lion cub, and occasionally, she would glance this way, blush, and resume her stare forward.

I don't really understand the meaning of those movements, so for the time being, I'll ignore her—

(Then...besides all this, should I tell her about what happened last night...)

While everyone moved to the sports hall in which the long-homeroom was being carried out, I thought about that point.

It seems that Aria has no memory of last night.

Even if I suddenly explain about the unbelievable circumstances which had taken place yesterday to that kind of person...she wouldn't believe it. And it seems that Aria has randomly become vigilant against me.

With that, rather than having just me say it, it would be better to bring Jeanne and Reki into this too, and after setting down the direction to go hereafter, talk about it with everyone. It's said to form a tiger of three, after all. As for Shirayuki, Tamamo had said that: "I shalt look for an opportunity and speak with her, so nothing should be said from you, Tohyama," but that was probably also for the sake of preventing the dissemination of information towards Aria.

Also, there is another danger that talking about 'Deen' and 'Grenada' would pose to Aria.

Putting aside that she was about to win the trial, those are the people who had Aria's mother take the fall.

If I told Aria about yesterday, she'd probably say something like: to go arrest Hilda, I'll travel all the way to her base—this is just my imagination, but there's probably even something like a castle in Romania.

(Well, I understand her feelings, but...)

That was something especially dangerous.

—First of all, if a Butei's battle becomes an away-game, it's an overwhelming disadvantage.

This is something which is immediately understood even by feeling.

A direction which should corner the enemy, and conversely a place where oneself can retreat, the home-game where the location ammunition, food, and water is all known is far easier to fight in. Backup coming from Connnect, Logi, Medica will obviously dull if away.

—Next, the battle-ability of the enemy is still indeterminate.

I had heard this from an instructor who had come from the Jietai; in land-war, there exists thing called 'The Law of Treble Attackers'.

Speaking simply, to be victorious in invading an enemy's territory, one needs at least three times the battle-power. Around that much, an exhaustive amount of energy is needed to 'Invade'.

Therefore, for now, I'll just leave the warnings to Aria to the contents of what I had said this morning—

(Let's observe her condition for a while...)

Last month, I had been subjected to being the leader of Team Baskerville.

I had been informed afterward, but for every team leader, there is a required lecture called 'Tactics I', and I had earnestly attended it. Because it was rather easy to get credit from it.

As a result of it, or maybe thanks to it, I had now picked up the habit of thinking about this kind of thing.

"Brats! We're deciding the costumes for 'Ristorante Masque,' which we'll be doing at the culture festival!"

Clang!

While quieting the talking students with a warning shot towards the ceiling, Assault Instructor Ranbyou shouted.

The second-year students of A, B, and C-Class are gathered in the sports hall, but...Jeanne of B-Class was...I don't see her. It seems she's absent.

My phone didn't connect either. While avoiding being eavesdropped, she probably was chasing after 'Grenada'.

"Alright, each of the teams gather, and go on standby—*cough cough*!"

Lezzad Instructor Tsuzuri spoke, and because the people of D-Class and E-Class, and X-Class, who rarely showed themselves, weren't here, the members of the same teams started to group together just as they were.

Bloody Tsuzuri, if you're about to choke then don't smoke inside the sports hall.

With that, besides me, who was frowning, wasn't just Riko and Aria from the same A-Class, Shirayuki from B-Class and Reki from C-Class had gathered.

"..."

Because there was that incident from yesterday, I indirectly sent a look to Reki, but...

"..."

Reki was Reki. There wasn't any reaction at all.

Wearing the same headphones as always, she was zoning out.

(Well, this is the wrong place to have that kind of talk. Guess I'll do it after Jeanne comes.)

Rather, those...those headphones.

She isn't receiving any Kinji-sniping orders from Wind-sama, right?

I thought, and lifted the headphones directly off her head. When I put them on, trying to listen—

Click. Reki used the remote control attached by a cord, and Fire Starter by the Prodigy became audible, starting with a deafening instrumental which was like air-attack klaxons had started screaming in my ears.

Wh-What the hell is this? What's this supposed to mean? He-hey. Don't turn up the volume! Turn it off!

Bloody Reki. She had me hear a sound which was like a warning. Did she get mad that her headphones were taken?

Reki kept facing forward, in Aria's direction, not looking this way, so I didn't know her expression, but...

"Kin-chan, the lottery box has come around."

"Ah, thanks."

When I realized it, Shirayuki, who was keeping directly by my side, had spoken, so I came back to reality, and returned Reki's headphones to her head with a thump.

The box, brought by a helping first year, had a round hole opened on its top...It was the lottery which decided the costumes each person was to wear there—at the "Ristorante Masque", which one section of us second years were in charge of for Butei High's culture festival.

(This lottery is also me laying my life on the line, huh...)

In a normal school, Ristorante Masque would be something like a cosplay cafe, but this is the abnormal Butei High. Acting out the professions held by the worn costumes, behaviour like that is what is looked for.

Something like that I can't allow.

Looking from Butei High's point of view, this is a chance for students to appeal with their undercover investigative techniques without seeming strange, so if one doesn't do it properly, a terrifying punishment was waiting, coming from the Masters' All-Stars.

In short, this is a grave lottery which is entwined with my life.

"Then, Master, please draw one. This is the male box."

Ah. Isn't this Fuuma? She's carrying the box. I just realized, though.

You, don't call me 'master' in front of people. I'll give you hell with my scramasax.

"Also, only one redraw will be recognized. Then, may the fortunes of war guide your hand."

In response to Fuuma, who was smirking up at me for some reason, I remained silent and inserted my hand into the box. I started to fumble around the innumerable double-folded papers which were inside.

(...Well a good one come out for me...?)

Nothing as good as what I'm praying for will come out, though.

Mmm...the ones at the bottom of the box will probably be my target.

Nobody knows the method of making this lottery, but they wouldn't write the outrageous things straight off the bat.

By the way, among the huge misses, there is the thing called 'Female Clothing'.

If I draw that, I'll commit suicide by pistol right here.

It's a lot better than death by lynching at the hands of the teachers.

"What...What is it...?"

I hesitatingly opened the paper which I had pulled out...

"Shinto Priest"

No, no, no. It'd be difficult to act like this.

Ignoring Shirayuki, who had stolen a glance at my paper and ecstatically burst out with things like "Kin-chan-sama, we really are fated to come together!", I said, "I'll change," and put my hand in the box once again.

"If you are changing, then the first will be declared void. The second costume will be forced upon you."

I knew that, so the second one, which I drew with desperate resolve was—"Policeman (M.P.D. — Patrolman)"

Thank God. If it's this, I think I'll somehow be able to tide it over. I'm always there anyways, and observation is easy.

Exhaling a breath of relief, I sat down right there. With this, one thing is settled.

Looking around, there were many first years holding boxes and walking around...from everywhere in the sports hall, the voices of delight and wails could be heard from boys and girls who had drew their lots.

"Master. Jeanne-dono is absent today, but she had designated Master as the drawing-proxy in advance. Patience."

Fuuma stuck the female box out, so I also drew a lot for Jeanne.

"Waitress (At Home Cafeteria)"

...I don't know the name of the shop, but it should be fine, right?

Rather, it's whatever. At least it's a human.

"Then, next is Riko. I'm goiiing!"

With a composed gesture, Riko, with a frilly uniform, took a piece of paper out from the female box.

Good for you, huh. Dressing up is your specialty after all.

Rather, it seemed that she knew about Bandire since last month, but is it fine to talk to her about yesterday? There weren't any instructions from Tamamo, so I don't know, but...

Looking, Riko's first draw was "Thief (Manga [Cat's Eye] Style)"

Uwah. That's some drawing ability you've got there, Riko. A thief. Isn't that fitting?

Wonder what it'd be like if you became a mahjong player. [3]

Before me, who was stunned—

"Eh...There's no point in cosplaying like this!"

Flutter.

Riko threw the piece of paper behind her.

He-hey, you're going to throw that card away?

The second lot which Riko drew was "Gunman (Western Pioneer Age)"

The person herself went, "Oooh! I'll do it, I'll do it!" seemingly overjoyed, but why's there a role which ends in 'man' in the female box? One really can't get careless. In this lottery.

Shirayuki, who continued...

Had the first lot "Chinese Dress", but said "My body's curves will stick out, and it'll be really embarassing, so..." and canceled.

I imagined it...

Th-that's right. Please stop. If you were that, the curves of your large chest will clearly stick out, and furthermore because of the slit of the dress, those plump thighs with snow-white skin will be visible up until your waist.

If I'm showed that, there's the horror that I'll go into Hysteria, and the Ristorante Masque will devolve into chaos.

"That's great, if it's this, then I think I'll be able to do it..."

The second lot of Shirayuki, who spoke, was "Teacher (Arbitrarily Elementary~High School)". Yes. I'll allow that.

"..."

Having stuck her hand into the box silently, Reki drew her first lot, which was "Sorcerer".

In the midst of the entire Baskerville becoming silent, Reki...drew her second lot after looking at the first year girl Mutsu, still not saying anything.

The atmosphere was such that it felt like it was impossible to do a tsukkomi, so nobody did one.

Then, this time, "Chemical Research Lab Staff" came out.

Well...that should be fine, right? That is. She doesn't talk much, so it seems good.

"Fuuu, Haaa..."

Taking deep breaths was Aria, who was extremely bad with dressing up.

Whilst Shirayuki and Riko, who had already entered the safe zone, smirked and looked over her, Aria stuck her hand into the box with an expression which one might have when handling a live bomb...Like pulling out a fuse, Rustle...she withdrew a paper.

Aria, putting in your willpower has no effect on lotteries. Well, I can't really talk about other people.

Swallow...Her throat made a sound, and on the opened paper—

"Idol"

Was written.

"I-I-Idol...U-Um, those pretty girls who appear on Japanese TV...?"

Aria, who locked her eyes on the paper even while trembling, was about to break into tears.

'Yes, yes yes,' Shirayuki slightly stooped over and nodded, but at her mouth, there were the dimples which appeared when she was trying not to laugh.

From the side of Riko's mouth, twisted like a cat, (this was also a sign of her trying not to laugh,) a snort escaped. Ah, you drooled a little. Are you really holding yourself back so much?

This is just for example: I also imagined Aria joining AKB48...

He...Hehe...N-no. Don't laugh, me!

Still, don't laugh. I can hold it back. If I laugh, I'll be shot to death.

Rather, no matter what or how they tried to cover up, she'd be the only junior idol, right? That is, if Aria did it.

There's a gap between her and real idols.

Furthermore, in my head, the title "Aria-chan 8 years old" appeared, and it reminded about the unfortunate DVD package—

"He...Hem!"

I laughed for an instant, but followed up by covering it with a faked cough.

Was...Was I found out...? I hesitatingly stole a glance at Aria's expression, but...

Performing the rather troublesome thing of self-imagination, Aria appeared to be imagining that she had a performance where she said things like, "Is everyone having fun!?" and her face was really hot and red, as if she had gotten a fever, the type where one's face heats up like an electric heater. As a result, she didn't seem to have noticed my laugh. Thank God. This finished without my death.

Sweat...Sweat Sweat...

A large amount of sweat dripped from her forehead, just like in manga, and Aria—

Spoke with a tone that a soldier who was forced to make a bitter decision might use—

"Ch-Chan-Change...!"

She said, and readied her right hand, braced like a talon—

"Ka-Kanzaki-dono...then, the next one will be definite...!"

If it was something like a bird, then Aria's gaze could definitely kill, and Fuuma shuffled slightly back from her.

Thud!

Aria, who had stuck her hand inside the box with a force which could have broken Fuuma's arm joints, had gotten what for her second lot?

Opening in slow motion, on the paper which Aria's tiny hands were holding...

On the paper...

"Elementary School Student"

Was there.

Ele.

Elementary School Student!

This time, it really is: "Aria-chan 8 years old," isn't it?

A-Aria. You...

What kind of horrible luck is that? Never gamble in your life.

"You did it——! You did it, Aria! By a certain definition, this definitely suits you! Kyahahahahahah!"

Riko, who shouted that, was rolling around at the feet of Aria, who was restraining herself like she had been frozen solid at the moment she saw the three words, "Elementary School Student", and laughing uncontrollably 'Ahyahyahya,' she clutched her stomach.

Was it that Shirayuki had also reached her limit of tolerance? She had knelt down as if prostrating herself, and leaking a noise of laughter which could not be called a voice, she hit the floor with a thudding noise.

I, who stood there shocked at the depths of horror in which Aria's luck resided, also — unintentionally; really, unintentionally — thought about an elementary school student with sharp eyes, sucking on a lollipop and carrying a red backpack—

"Ha—"

I laughed, and at that moment, I noticed the killing intent of Aria, who seemed to have snapped.

In the middle of my brain, the high-impact song "Firestarter" once again started to stream.

Boom!

Aria stuck her hands in the two-sides of her skirt, and drew her Governments!

Th-this is bad! Didn't I say to make sure that your magazines were full this morning!?

"Nothing happened! Nothingnothingnothingnothingnothingnooooooooooooooothing! First, it's the death sentence for you!"

In response to Aria, who had stuck her pistols out, aiming at Fuuma, Riko and I leapt in from the left and right.

"Stop it, Aria, don't shoot! Ranbyou's here! We'll be included and taken care of too!"

"Aria-chan, give up! Riko will help you make the costume! Kyahahahahaha!"

"WHO THE HELL IS ARIA-CHAN! A HOLE! HOLE METEOR SHOWER! HOLE BIG BAAAANNNGGGG!"

So, this time it's a series of celestial bodies. There's a lot of them, huh. Hole series, that is.

While thinking that, I protected Fuuma, crying while scattering caltrops behind her and running away, from the barrel of Aria's gun. Even though she's like that, she's still my junior, my Amica.

Continuing to go wild even though her first target had escaped her, Aria was in vicious brat mode. You drew this yourself, so resign yourself to it. This is nothing more than a childish tantrum.

Just like Riko had said, by a certain definition, this is a really fitting role. "Elementary School Student", that is.

"DIE! DIE! DIEDIEDIEDIEEVERYONEDIE! IF EVERYONE WHO SAW THIS DIES, IT'D BE LIKE THIS NEVER HAPPENS! Gurk!"

Shirayuki put Aria, who was screaming those words, into a Nelson, Riko and I desperately pinned the guns on the left and right, Reki had run outside the sports hall at some point in time, and was now sticking half of her head out of the cover of the bulletproof door, staring this way. Reki, if you knew how things were going to go, then gives us a warning before this actually happened!

From then on, Butei High entered a shortened class for a while, and the preparations for the culture festival went on.

As for Aria...other than being forced to take a consecutive 30 german suplexes from Ranbyou up until she said "Please let me be an elementary school student,' she was not attacked by anybody.

The people from 'Deen': Jeanne, Meiya, and Tamamo didn't appear, let alone the enemy...which is to say, 'Grenada'.

The ambassadors to the Bandire who stayed by Aria's side were Reki and I.

It's ominous that I don't know anything about what those guys are doing, but besides the fact that the following days were completely safe, I...couldn't really do anything, and as a result had nothing to do. After all, safe things are by nature good things.

Furthermore, there was one more thing, relevant to my safety, for which I was thankful for...

For some reason, it seemed that Aria was in a good mood. Recently, that is.

This was a trend which I had seen since giving her a ring last month, but ever since the incident with the clot mark on her neck, the number of times she had fired at me had reduced.

Simultaneously, I also felt that the number of times that Aria had had fights with Shirayuki and Riko had decreased. As for this...rather than getting along better, it felt as if she had developed some sort of tolerance. I also felt that she was taking things from other points of view far more than she had up till now.

I had thought that the reduction of the Golden Shell had taken effect, leading up to some sort of hormone imbalance, but because this trend was something which I had seen directly after I gave her a ring for her birthday, I felt that it was unrelated.

I really...don't understand girls.


—It was part of the rules that the costumes for 'Ristorante Masque', which we had decided by drawing lots the other day, had to be prepared by oneself.

The deadline was set to be at a date quite a long while before the culture festival, but...

If the costumes weren't finished by the time of the deadline, one would be subjected to the full punishment course proffered by the celebrities of Butei,

This was truly a matter of life and death, so everyone would somehow do something to make the deadline.

Therefore, it became a tradition of sorts that everyone would gather in a classroom the night before the deadline and spend all night finishing up.

On the night that this 'meeting to finish up' took place...at nine o'clock.

In the classroom where I was, with a paper bag with a police uniform inside, 5 or 6 teams had gathered and were making conversation while finishing their costumes.

The desks had been kept to the back of the room, and each team had set up a picnic sheet, sat down, and worked.

Because there were people who were already wearing their almost-finished costumes, it had the feeling of a costume party of sorts.

There were those who had brought in small speakers, and were streaming music into the room.

Looking around, Shirayuki and Reki were in a corner, and Haimaki, whose popularity was rising due to commercials by SoftBank, was sitting there as well.

(...?)

Come to think of it...what's with this zone here by the wall, partitioned off from the rest of the room by a screen?

As I thought that and tried to have a look inside, the noise of rustling clothes and—

"Sooo, what kind of guys are you into, Hayakawa-san?"

"Hmmm, I'm...about that...probably somebody that's a bit dark..."

"Who from our class? Come on, tell us!"

—things like that could be heard from within, so I took a step back with a force that rivaled the me in Hysteria Mode.

Is this...a changing room!?

In the small gap at the foot of the screen, fallen skirts could be seen...

These...these goddamn Butei girls, they don't even know the concept of shame!

I get the fact there has to be a place where people can change from their uniforms into their costumes, but don't set up a changing room in this kinda place! It's just asking for trouble.

I can guess from the level of business around, but tensions were high, maybe because we were gathered in a classroom at night? At this kind of time, I need to be more alert of girls' gossiping than ever.

"Kinji, that isn't the best position."

Just as I was wiping away my cold sweat, Mutou, in a fireman outfit, put his arm on my shoulder.

"Over here. From this angle, if you look hard enough, the figure of the girls are thinly visible. Keep your focus. If you do this, you can delight in their silhouettes!"

Mutou whispered that into my ear as he circled around the screen.

"I-I'm not interested in that sort of thing, or rather, get to work!"

I shook myself free, and made my escape towards Team Baskerville.

But...what? Did he say silhouette?

Use your focus on something else, won't you? Like studying. You failed modern literature, didn't you?

"Um, Kin-chan. How far along are you on your uniform?"

A female teacher—Shirayuki, wearing a white blouse with a tight thigh-length dark navy skirt, said.

Aria08 099.jpg

Cleaning up the space next to her, she cleared a space for me to sit.

Her tone...and feeling, they all feel teacher-like. She's serious even when it comes to roleplaying.

She was obeying the notice from Masters which said: "While wearing the costumes used for Ristoranted Masque inside the classroom, students have to act out their role for at least one hour after entering the classroom, to practice," wasn't she?

"It's nearly done. Could you look at it after to check that there's nothing off?"

"Of course. Hehe...I'm somewhat looking forward to it. What Kin-chan looks like as a patrolman."

Shirayuki, wearing black-rimmed glasses, looked up to me and smiled...a teacher's costume really suits her.

She's had a rather adult body from the beginning after all...she really seems like a new teacher.

She's overflowing with motherly traits, so she feels more like an elementary school teacher.

(About that...if Aria and Riko came, it'd really be like an elementary school, huh.)

...After glancing at Hiraga's back (also like an elementary school student), as she sat upright in a chair with Mutou's supply-type group, Carrier GA, sewing cloth embroidered with gold-thread....I sat down.

And the police costume which I took out of the paper bag...was actually just something made nearly completed that I had bought.

Coincidentally, buying costumes was something that was frowned upon, but because it wasn't against the rules, it's done a lot. People who make their costumes from scratch like Shirayuki are rare indeed.

And the creation/retail of those clothes was handled by the girls of CVR.

They, who close in on criminal groups through so-called 'seduction', also learn how to seduce the other sex through clothing, so they can make any sort of clothing without trouble. There are students who dress as males, so they take orders for male clothing as well.

Because I really had no desire to go and directly negotiate with that squadron of beautiful girls, I ordered through a mail, just like buying it online, but...at this kind of time...Those damned girls stared at the ground as they overcharged me.

However, though it's expensive, the clothing is real. There shouldn't be a problem with this.

But, in regards to Ristorante Masque, it was written on a printout from Masters that: "It is forbidden for real things, such as stains and damages, to not be present."

If one's uniform isn't approved, one is sent to the full course, so I rubbed the new uniform, giving it a sense of being worn, and I pulled on the badge, widening the pinhole, occupying myself with the fine details.

"K-Kin-chan, what...what do you think of my teacher costume? Is there...anything strange?"

Shirayuki, who was shaving away at the edge of the attendance clipboard with a file, turned to face this way and asked me a question, so...

While trying not to look at that massive chest which stuck out—

"—It suits you. You seem like an elementary school teacher."

I answered her vaguely, looking at her out of the corner of my eye.

With that, Shirayuki smiled a love-filled smile...apparently trying to hide it, she suddenly crouched down, as if she was kowtowing.

And she was saying: "Tohyama-kun, this won't do...we're teacher and student...but, if we overcome that barrier...if it's a secret...i-it's fine, you know...?"

What kind of barrier is Hotogi-sensei overcoming all by herself? I've no idea what she means.

Or rather, when acting as a teacher, you really say 'Tohyama-kun', just like you should.

I've been saying this from the morning of our opening ceremony, but keep doing that and please stop with 'Kin-chan'.

(Well...)

I got tired of working really quickly.

I'm really bad at this kind of thing...this kind of simple work, that is.

I had gotten a bit distracted...

(Come to think of it, when it comes to being on campus at night—this is the first time since being sniper restricted by Reki.)

While continuing to work, I looked Reki's way.

"..."

Reki, who was set to play a 'Researcher', was wearing a white coat above her uniform, was sitting, and was sewing together a light-green blouse.

She was in the exact same position as she was when I entered. She hadn't moved even a millimeter.

"..."

Reki's the type of person to never get tired of simple tasks, huh. To do things that everybody doesn't like indifferently, and forever. I really wish she'd share some of that ability with me.

—I took the sleeve of her blouse, looking at her handiwork and...woah.

The stitching was accurate to the point where it looked like it was sewn by a machine.

Her personality really shows when you make her do this kind of work.

Reki's also extremely attentive when it comes to being a sniper. She's persistent in her sniper restriction, she hates firing recklessly, and she even modified her Dragunov so that she could reload unused bullets back into the magazine from the chamber.

In front of the knees that very same Reki, the perfectionist...a pair of rimless glasses was prepared, almost like she was trying to imitate reality in a very...Reki-like manner.

I took them in my hands and sat them on Reki's nose...and even then, she didn't move an inch.

Hey, have a little bit of a reaction.

So I thought to myself, when she looked up at me through the gap above the lenses of the glasses.

Aria08 103.jpg

Uu.

This is...the exhibition of the technique the glasses (girl) loving Mutou had talked about, 'looking up while letting the glasses droop down'. He'd said something like 'The destructive power of that is seriously awesome,' but only now do I understand what he meant.

What on Earth is this. I can feel the Hysteria bloodflow, even if just a little.

When combined with Reki, it becomes a dangerous object. I should take it off.

And I'll have to be alert against the glasses that Hotogi-sensei is wearing, as well as the pair that Jeanne wears occasionally.

Haaah...glasses...that was truly unexpected. This world is filled with dangerous things. Dangerous for me, that is.


As I was doing this and that, Riko, dressed as a cowboy, came and shouted "Good morning everyone!"

Why would you say 'good morning'? It's 10:00 PM right now.

So I thought, but asking Riko the meaning of her announcements is like asking a chimpanzee why it's making noise (an interesting but pointless exercise), so I decided not to. In any case it's probably some form of 1337speak or something.

It seems like Riko's already finished with her costume—

She was wearing a ten-gallon hat, and a blouse made of unbleached cloth came together in front of her chest, leaving her belly button completely exposed.

She was also wearing leather boots and a leather vest, as well as a miniskirt made of denim, with strings of leather hanging from its hem like noodles. It was really detailed work.

Rather, she had even changed her guns to antique-like revolvers, but would she be alright armed like that?

Putting aside my uneasiness, Riko was grinning and standing in front of the door to the classroom—

"C'mon, hurry up! You'll definitely be suuuuper popular! Cuteness is justice!"

—and she was pulling on someone, who was beyond the door and couldn't be seen.

"~~~~~~~~~~~~"

The legs of that person, who seemed to be shouting at a pitch higher than that of a person's hearing range, were being dragged in and...they came into view.

Accompanying red strap-shoes...were socks striped pink and white. There were even white frills attached to the upper edge of the socks.

Sectioning peoples' clothing and memorising them: 'Dress Scan', was something that had become a habit through Inquesta.

We'll definitely be accepting, so show it to us. Miss Elementary School Student.

"I-I-I knew it! I DOOOOOOOOOON'T WAAAAAAAAANT TOOOOOOOOOO!"

Aria, who was wearing a kids' size blouse with buttons on near the top of her left and right chest (this also had big frills on its lower hem,) and a skirt which was so small as to be stupid, was struggling against Riko with a force which threatened to dislocate her wrist joints.

It seemed like she wasn't wearing the push-up bra she normally had on, and it was clearly an A...no, AA-size. There, the reality of her being an elementary school student is at its pinnacle.

Aria-chan (8 years old) had finally become completely visible, and she was wearing a red satchel covered in pink. On the satchel's left side was a holder for a soprano recorder.

The detail of the design. Riko made this costume. Probably.

To guard against the possibility of any holes, I had done a week of image training of the Aria as a schoolgirl, and also practiced resisting laughter, but if I saw the squirming Aria any more, I'd burst out laughing, so—

"Aria, give up. If you don't finish making the details of your costume, then Ranbyou'll drag you around town on her bike as punishment. In those clothes. He-Hem."

At the end, the laughter which would have spelled my self-destruct leaked out, but I hid it with the 'coughing gesture' which I had mastered.

After I said those words with a straight face, smoke started coming out of the top of Aria's head like a wire had short-circuited, and even as she continued looking down...

She staggered over here like Koko — Meimei using drunken fist, and she tottered down, sitting cross-legged, next to me.

In response to Aria, who had sat right next to me...

For an instant I felt Shirayuki glare with eyes like blades, so I glanced at her, but...Shirayuki was smiling gently as always.

S-Seems like that was just a hallucination or something, because of my tired eyes. I've probably been doing too much detail work.

Rubbing my eyes and looking at Aria—a nametag with: 'Year 4 Class 2: Kanzaki Aria' written on it was stuck on the right side of her satchel. Her designation as being in 4th grade of elementary school once again hit the mark, and I once again had to fake a cough.

"Hem...Autumn's a season where the air's just starting to dry up...Almost feels like I've caught a cold."

My voice trembling with the laughter that was swelling up, I announced how it felt like I had a cold.

Aria, who was already completely red, glared up at me as if to say: "If you dare laugh, I'll blow a hole in you."

Even her cheeks were puffed out, she really is an elementary school student.

"Hey! Aria-chan! The sewing box is over here! Aria-chan!"

Aria grit her teeth and clutched at her skirt.

Clenching both her hands with all her might...she must be trying to resist her frustration.

"You...you must really want to say 'Aria-chan', but...!"

An index finger made contact with the Aria's forehead, just as she was speaking in a voice dripping with venom.

With a smile as warm as sunshine, Shirayuki-sensei poked her.

"You can't do that, Aria-chan. Elementary school students can't talk with that kind of tone."

She's talking about Masters' order, the one hour of 'acting out your costume'.

"...Uguuu...!"

Aria08 107.jpg

"Right, and then, when we're lent tools, we have to say thank you, right?"

Looking closely, the index finger that Shirayuki-san's putting between Aria's eyebrows...isn't its fingernail outstretched?

I noticed only because Aria was sliding away from me like she was trying get away, but Shirayuki's putting an enormous amount of power into her finger.

Aria, who had to act like an elementary school student because of the rules...

"...I'll remember..."

I was thinking that she had spoken with a voice which sound like it had been groaned out from the back of her throat...

The muscles in her face twitched, her face forming an expression that looked like a saber-toothed tiger was forcing a smile.

And as the smoke from the magma of the shame and rage that swirled inside her body spilled out of her mouth...

"...Y-Yes! Fank you very much! Sensei!"

She widened her camellia coloured eyes and shouted at Shirayuki.

Twitch!

The veins on Aria's forehead—did it really become that shape inside her?—stood out as a 'D'.

"...!"

To my eyes, it looked like the 'D' in 'Die'.

Could it be that somewhere on Aria's body, her veins were standing out in shapes 'I' and 'E'? And when we put them together...

G—G...God that's scary! The hell is this new system!

At this killing intent, even the fearless armed Miko-san who's picking on Aria has pulled away.

Riko the cowboy has even fallen backwards, and is crawling back.

I secretly lifted up D-mode ON — Aria's pink skirt, inconspicuously checking that there weren't any guns in the holsters by her thighs.

"A-Aria, there's no need to act. Let's just do our work. Alright?"

Remembering that Aria had once boasted about how she had bested a grizzly bear with her bare hands, I desperately tried to cool down the nuclear reactor on the edge of meltdown.

Damn it. Butei High is hell. Since this is a peaceful event, just making costumes, why does my lifespan have to be shortened like this?

And you, Reki. When did you disappear like smoke along with Haimaki. Again.

That goddamn intuition. Afterwards, Officer Tohyama's going to file a complaint and arrest you.


At around 11:00 PM, everybody had finished their own costumes...

We had decided that everyone going home would bring three desks from the back of the classroom and return them to their original place, so the scene inside the classroom gradually returned to normal.

Professor Reki, the human watch, had also said 'It is time to sleep,' and had went home. Shirayuki-sensei went home to do student council work, and Aria-chan tottered home with an unsteady gait.

(Alright...I should be just about done too.)

Somehow...it feels like though he's young, this police officer has no motivation whatsoever.

I had rented the S&W M360 which has recently been used by police from Amdo, but when I try holding it—it's light, and it's built durably. Quite a good gun. I quite like it.

Looking around while in my police uniform, only a few people were left.

And coincidentally, all of those people were girls. Ugh. It's about time for me to head off.

...But...

The activity of the culture festival—'Ristorante Masque'...the preparations for it are just about finished.

There were incidents, and it was pretty troublesome, but making preparations with everyone gathered like this...it wasn't boring.

I'm in the second year of high school, so I can only experience preparing for a culture festival in high school once more.

Thinking that, I felt myself settle into a slightly sentimental mood. (Though it isn't in my nature.)

The remnants of Baskerville were I, who was slow and bad with his work, and—Riko the Cowboy, who apparently liked the atmosphere here or something and was reading Young Gangan.

Mutou's team was only left with one person.A girl wearing a sparkling slim dress, and with limestone pasted to her phone...Ah. Is that Hiraga-san? She wasn't in her uniform, and her hair, which was normally always done up, was untied and had been pushed up, so for a moment I had no idea who that was.

I'll take this opportunity. I'd asked Hiraga-san to do something for me, and there's something I've ordered from her, so I guess I'll talk to her a bit.

"Hiraga-san."

I squatted down next to her, still in my police uniform—

"Ah, Officer Tohyama!"

Spin.

Hiraga-san turned back.

"—!?"

She had put on makeup so thick I couldn't even see her skin.

"I'm Ayaya! Thank you for stopping by!"

Thick foundation, eye shadow applied such that she looked like a panda...she was also wearing fake eyelashes, and so her eyes looked like kirins' eyes...what the hell is that?

"Are you...a ghost?"

"Officer Tohyama! This is a cover girl! You're pretty handsome, so it'll be cheap!"

Hiraga-san opened a lottery slip with 'Charisma Cover Girl' written on it with both hands, and fluttered the heavy-looking eyelashes of both her eyes. Did she think that was a wink? Another fail...

(Rather, for this girl to be a hostess...that shop's committing a crime, isn't it...)

Hiraga-san's also bad at drawing lots. In an opposite manner to Aria. She had drawn a role which fitted herself not at all. It does seem like she really likes it though.

"Waah! Ayaya's so cute!"

In response to Riko, who had for some reason dived in (literally), cover girl Ayaya...was praised.

"Ehehe. Welcome—! Crack open the champagne!!"

Don Don Don Don Don Perignon—!

Looking at Riko and Hiraga-san, who had started singing as they waved their hands around like they were cheering, I already felt like saying 'that's enough'. Hiraga-san's definitely going to receive some corporal punishment after this. Amuamidabutsu.

"Ah...by the way, Hiraga-san, thanks for your work. You really helped clear up the debris of the...tank-like thing on Empty Island."

I called out to her from the side, and Hiraga-san...

"Officer! I'm the one who should be saying thank you. That stuff we salvaged make really good materials. Was it really alright for me to take everything?"

"Yeah. It'd be pretty dangerous if that stuff was found. Well putting that aside, that thing that I had ordered..."

I looked to the water, and Hiraga-san said "Aha! I'm half done!" and pulled from a fabulous Chanel handbag—

"I finally sewed on the emblem tonight, which is why I was left here."

—one black glove.

Ooh. So it'll look like this.

I put it on my right hand, and...it fit perfectly.

As expected of Hiraga-san.

'The fabric portion is formed of TNK wire, so its structure is such that even if your hand takes an impact, the energy'll be dispersed. Until the second joint of the index and middle finger, the interior—is prepared with the superhard alloy carbonized tungsten cobalt coated with nitrated titanium. Its name is Python!"

—It may be a glove, but it's an open fingered glove.

All the fingertips are exposed, and for the pinky and ring finger, the entire finger is—the index finger and middle finger is slightly longer, going up to the second joint—bulletproof fabric also covers the glove up until the first joint. Half of the thumb is covered.

It's slightly unbalanced, but it's fine. Just like I ordered.

But, I had left the design to her, but...it's really too cool. It feels like it's futuristic, like it's from a sci-fi movie. There's a Butei High emblem on the back of the hand, and that looks like it's from an anime.

(But, well...it's fine.)

If I told her to do it again, she'd charge me extra.

And it's not something I just show people either.

This is—the open fingered glove I ordered after the battle with the Koko sisters. For the sake of protecting my fingers.

Normally, gloves that contain metal like this—'slid knuckle', is constructed for use in hand to hand combat, but in my case, it was constructed to use 'Slash'.

'Slash' is a dangerous technique that uses the index fingers and middle fingers of both hands to enclose a bullet coming my way, changing its trajectory slightly, just so that it won't hit me—

Before, I had done it with my bare hands and had learned my lesson, so I requested its design.

Well...I'd like to be spared from vicious battles where I'm forced into a position where I'm made to need to use 'slash' though. 'Grenada' and 'Deen' haven't moved at all, but far east warfare...was that it? It seems like I'm being drawn into this and that, and because of that I don't know when and who will attack.

Even the thought of being able to fight on par with those monsters with this is painful, but there's nothing for me to do but prepare in my own way. As much as I can within the limits of a normal high school student.

"Ahh, with this—it's fine. There're no problems. Just that there's no point for this if I don't have both gloves. I'll be leaving the left hand to you."

"Of course I'll make the left hand just as you ordered, but...when you get both, what'll you use it for?"

"...Trade secret."

I gave an answer that wasn't an answer to the charisma hostess-san who had asked.

In any case, even if I told her, she wouldn't believe me.

"By the way...why did you name the glove Python?"

'Officer Tohyama! Flex your hand, try opening and closing it!"

Since Hiraga-san said to, I did as she said, and...

The metal shell attached to the interior of the two fingers clicked together, making a pleasant sound.

"Look! Your fingers look like a snake opening and closing its mouth!"

I, who had been made to do something so stupid, was stupefied...

Riko had seen my Python from the side, and her eyes started to shine.

"That's soooooo cooooool! Super cool! Give it to Riko! Give it, give iiiiiiitt!"

"H-Hey! Let go of my hand! It won't fit your hand!"

'Hey, Officer Tohyama. Once you get both gloves, what can they be used for? Tell me, tell me, tell meeee."

Riko, who seemed to have taken a liking to the anime-like design of my gloves, and Hiraga-san, who was stubbornly continuing to ask, grabbed onto my sleeves from both sides.

T-This is an impossible scene.

An officer in uniform is getting entangled with a cowboy and a hostess. Even in Tarantino's films, which have a lot of absurd scenes, nothing like this ever happens. Rather, this is more like a scene from a comedy.


In the changing corner, I changed into my school uniform from the police costume...

"Kinji."

Riko, who had changed before me, called out to me from beyond the screen.

Seeing as she had called me 'Kinji' rather than "Ki-kun'...this was the 'Inner Riko'.

"What is it?"

"Are you going to make that a normal move? You're slowly leaving behind what it means to be human."

...That's just like Riko.

Just by seeing Python, she knew its use.

—She's talking about the move she saw just once at Tokyo station, 'Slash'.

"Leaving humanity behind? If you're the one telling me that, I guess it's all over for me."

I answered from the other side of the screen, and Riko chuckled—

"Riko-chan, your friend's calling for you, you know? Someone with the same sort of clothes, kind of frilly and western. It seems like they aren't from this school."

"Alriiight! Someone not from this school...?"

A classmate from outside the classroom called her name, and Riko returned to 'Surface Riko' and answered.

Just like that, Riko left the classroom...

...

Mm...?

Somehow, it seems like the girls are moving out of the classroom?

Having finished changing, I exited the changing zone—

Ah. Damn it. Fuck my life.

There was no one left in the classroom, and there were still a few desks against the back.

Those bastards. They gave up on cleaning up and went home. Are they telling me to do it?

I don't know whose it is, but someone had forgotten the amplifier they brought in here. The MP3 player's also just lying there. It's fine because it's quiet piano music, but the sound was still on too. Seriously.


There weren't any witnesses, so I thought I'd just head out too, but...

If I don't clean up, I'll be lynched tomorrow when they go on the hunt for the culprit. The girls'll just come together on this one. If that happens, my internal report'll take a hit, and my plan to transfer to a normal school will also be affected.

So, alone in the classroom in the middle of the night...I carried desks, with piano music in the background.

"Just...a little bit more."

I took a desk, and looked up—

"?"

Rustle.

At the edge of the door, a pink string...or rather, Aria's twin tails were visible.

She hid her head, but couldn't hide her tails.

The hem of the skirt of the sailor uniform she had apparently changed into was also visible.

She always tries to hide like that. Exhibiting the fine skills that belong to every S-rank Butei.

"What're you doing, Aria?"

I called out to her, and Aria started for a moment..then entered the classroom.

I thought that she had gone straight home and went to sleep, but she came back? Did she forget something?

"What am I doing? I don't really know, but...you weren't coming back."

Aria dipped her head a bit, muttering: 'Reki's sleeping and Shirayuki's doing work...I couldn't connect to Riko's phone either." Afterward, she looked up at me, almost like she was peeking.

"Then, maybe Kinji's still in the classroom...or so I thought, and you were here."

"...? I don't really get it, but you're just in time. Help me out."

"...I should be the one asking, why're you doing this all alone?"

"Why? No idea. Help me out."

Saying it twice, Aria walked over...with a small noise, she helped me take one.

Now that I think about it, something like this happened during our summer vacation. Aria appeared when I was cleaning up.

"Guess there's no helping it. The reason why I was worried was because of this."

Aria sat on the desk that she had carried, and she looked at me, still carrying the remaining desks, with relieved eyes.

It seems like she's in a good mood, but...you're just going to help me carry one desk?

Well, it's better than nothing.


The classroom returned to normal.

Looking at the clock, the date was about to change.

Finally, I went over to the amplifier that I had left, and I tried to switch off the sound—

"Isn't...that fine just as it is?"

Aria was looking at the window—and the veranda in the Year 2 Class A classroom.

"Why? If we leave it on until morning, it'll be a waste of electricity."

"That's not what I mean. Just...um. Let's take a break, is what I'm saying. You're slow."

A break? You only took one desk.

And though it's Friday, it's pretty late already. I want to go back and go to sleep, but...

If I say something against my lady's will, I'll be sentenced to death.

"...If that's what you meant, then say so."

I swallowed my complaints and pulled out someone's chair, going to sit, but—

With movements which suggested that she had just decided on something, Aria put her hand on the slide door leading to the veranda.

"The veranda. The boys were in it all day, so I hadn't gone out. I'm going."

Her back still towards me, Aria opened the door and stepped out onto the veranda.

My master had just said 'I'm going,' so that means 'Come too, slave.'

If I hang back, then the guns'll leave their holsters, so I also went out to the veranda...

I looked over at Daiba, on the other side of Tokyo Bay, lights still on and sparkling.

The observation vehicle in Bullet Town was still lit up, and it looked like thin oval lights from here.

"...It's beautiful."

"Yeah."

It's the Daiba I've always seen, but this is probably the first time I've seen it from the classroom veranda and in the middle of the night.

(Rather...)

I noticed only after coming, but this veranda has a pretty good atmosphere.

It'd be nice if I was a lone, but when with a girl...you want to take a break in this kind of romantic place? This is troubling for me, you know.

"..."

"..."

From the amplifier in the classroom, the piano music could be faintly heard—it mingled with the sounds of the surf of Tokyo Bay, and in contrast, highlighted the silence. It feels like a scene from a movie.

It even felt like only Aria and I were floating in the middle of the darkness.

Now, the feeling of it being only the two of us increased.

This...this is awkward.

Leaning on the handrail with her elbows, Aria's hands (it seems like her elbows didn't reach) went to the same handrail. I glanced in her direction, and...

Aria was glancing this way at exactly the same time, so our eyes met.

The timing the two of us took to avert our gazes was exactly the same.

Ah...what is this.

We're completely synchronized...that's a problem.

It seemed like we thought the same way, and so things were becoming increasingly awkward.

"... ..."

"... ..."

U-Um.

This is weird.

Normally, Aria loves to talk, and there'd never be such an interruption in the conversation. It's strange.

Glance...

I looked Aria's way, and again, she looked at me.

Our eyes met again, and once more, we averted our gazes simultaneously.

Ahh...what the hell is this.

This has become really troubling.

In other words, um, we both...seem to be aware of each other.

"... ... ..."

"... ... ..."

The wind direction changed, and Aria's bittersweet gardenia scent reached me.

Damn it. A topic. A topic. Isn't there anything?

I had become panicked because of the feminine scent, and I couldn't think of anything.

Can't a UFO or something fly pass?

"Ahhhhhh, um. What's that?"

Point.

Aria stretched her arms out, and pointed at the horizon.

Seeing as the way she's talking seems to be pretty forced, it seems like she was looking for a topic as well.

"Mm? Where?"

I...also spoke a little forcedly, looking at the direction Aria was pointing.

"Um, it looks like a super high tower. It's dark though."

"Ahhh...that's the Sky Tree."

"Sky Tree...?"

Tilt.

Aria looked over here with her camellia colored eyes. It seems like she doesn't know about it.

"You don't know about the Sky Tree?"

"What on Earth is that? It's weird English. I don't know it."

Aria shook her head, her twin-tails shaking as well.

"You...stop watching BBC all the time and watch the Japanese news too. Well, I may say that, but I don't really know much about it myself...but, I know that it's a radio tower. It's being built, so it's only finished up to the second observation platform."

"Oh....?"

Thinking about it, the Sky Tree...is pretty much done.

According to the news, it's now 450m high. It seems like it's about 70% finished.

When it's finished, will I...still be in Butei High?

When it's finished, Aria will...

For a while longer, the two of us stayed silent, looking at the faraway Sky Tree—finally, Aria opened her rose pink lips.

"Today...well, I don't really want to think about that elementary school student costume...but it was fun. I had fun. Doing things like that to prepare for a culture festival, it was fun."

"—Yeah. I also had fun. Well, it's finished though."

"I wonder how many times I'll have a night like that in my life?"

"In your life? A few times, right? Until now, there've been a few times."

"No. There definitely won't be that many. This was my first time."

"Your first...?"

"In the London and Rome Butei High, I was an aria. I mostly cancelled this kind of work, and even if I did it, I did it alone. Actually, I was thinking about not going and doing my work alone, but...you...were here."

"...I was?"

"H-huh? That's not it, that's...Um, Riko. I was dragged here by Riko."

"A-Ahh. Now that you mention it, that did happen. Well, whatever the case...coming here and working with everyone...wasn't it nice?"

"T-That's right. That's why I want to treasure that time...this time..."

I see.

Aria wants memories of school life, even if she's in a school like this.

Ever since she was small, she's been with adults, and was working at the London Butei division...so events like this, as a student, are fresh. She must've been happy.

"...If only this day would continue on forever. When I wake up tomorrow, it'd be this morning....Taking lessons, eating lunch, preparing for the culture festival...that would continue."

In response to Aria, who was jokingly talking about that science fiction-like scenario, I laughed softly.

"And at night, I'd return to the classroom...I'd find you, and I'd carry one desk. Afterward, the two of us would go out onto the veranda—and do this..."

Aria spoke, and looked up at me—

I reflexively turned to face her, and when I looked into her face from such a close distance...

Aria's eyes were smiling—Aah...

—How do I say this?

In any case, she was beautiful.

I'd never be able to say it, but she was beautiful.

I was enraptured by that sight, like I was being sucked in.

"..."

After coming this far...the strength of her eyes—a figure of speech like that doesn't quite fit.

An artist with skills so amazing such as to be comparable to God created a beautiful girl who belonged to an ideal world.

And she was given life, and started walking.

I...felt that way. About Aria.

(...?)

Rather...

Normally, she's cute enough as she is, but she looks even more beautiful than that tonight.

Ah. She's—it's thin, but she's wearing makeup. Damn. What was that I was saying about God?

"...Did you put on makeup? You weren't wearing any when making your costume."

I said, and Aria—

"!"

—showed off her super blushing technique.

She started a series of panicked gestures which looked like she was grabbing onto an invisible meteor shower of candy.

"T-That's—that's, that's because, tonight's a date."

"D-Date?"

"—Eh!?"

Aria's camellia colored eyes went completely round, and she stiffened.

No, no, you shouldn't be saying 'Eh!?' right? You're the one who said it. I'm the one who should be going 'Eh!?'

Anyways, this is just going out to the classroom veranda.

I've never heard of a date with a total distance of 1 meter.

"Th-that's not...what I mean by a d-date is—it's just a comparison!"

She opened her mouth wide and shouted at me, so...

"I-I got it. I understand. Don't open your mouth like that. I can see all the way inside."

I tried to calm her down.

What is it this time? She suddenly hid her mouth with both of her hands, looking this way just with her eyes.

"...What's wrong, Aria?"

"Nyothing."

"Why're you suddenly talking like a cat."

"...Don't stare so much. At my...um...next to my incisors..."

Ah. Her canines?

"What's wrong with your canines? Did they extend or something?"

"..."

Remembering the night that Aria had been bitten by a vampire, I asked seriously.

"Huh? There's no way they'd extend, right? Are you an idiot? Um...it's a complex of mine. These teeth."

"Why? They're like a cat's—and um, well...by common sense, they'd be cute, wouldn't they?"

"Cu...cu-cute? You think so? Isn't that stupid?"

"Um, that's why—I said 'by common sense'. As an extremely normal Japanese guy, it's normal to think that way."

I spoke, a little redundantly, and Aria's expression looked like she was thinking...

"In the Christian faith, that isn't so. The devils in religious paintings have this kind of teeth, so...they're made fun of as 'devil teeth'. It was gossiped about a lot in Rome Butei High."

She was saying it sadly, so...

"Then, stay in Japan forever."

I said as consolation...

Accompanying her specialty, the blushing technique, Aria also exhibited her petrification technique.

Just by being told to 'Stay in Japan forever' by me...why did she turn to stone?

Aria, who was creaking like a robot without enough oil, muttered in some English I didn't understand: "Why are you saying such proposal-like words so calmly?"

"You really...ignored all the steps...!"

Lifting the ban on showing her canines immediately, Aria glared up at me.

Really...what've you been talking about this whole time, Aria-san...

I feel like I've seen all of your human emotions at this point.

"—You know. The truth is, there's something that I wanted to say to you!"

"What is it..."

"You're a boy who's really weird with his steps."

Steps?

Had I danced in front of Aria?

"My father had said to 'be careful of boys who ignore the steps'...so after you did weird stuff to me in the PE warehouse, I was wary, but...nobles can't pass over the steps when it comes to that. We're not animals after all. T-That thing before...my neck...I mean..."

Neck...?

Ahh. The blood clot on her neck.

Now that I think about it, Aria's convinced that that was me who did that.

I don't really understand, but it seems that she's angry about that.

"I'm sorry for hurting you."

It would be weird to start talking about Hilda now, so I'll just say that.

I made an expression which said: 'I'm sorry, I won't do it again,' and...

Aria's expression grew slightly panicked.

"Ah, no. You don't have to give in like that. It seems like I was drunk, so I don't really remember...I'm not really getting worked up about it."

Please don't. It actually wasn't me.

"Also, you had the resolve to do even something like that, so...I'll forgive you for that. It's forgiven. But! You have to follow the steps properly after this!"

So, these steps have appeared again.

I don't know what's allowed or expected of me according to these 'steps', but seeing as Aria's talking in a way that's masking a more direct expression...it seems like it's a term related to 'male-female relationships'. I know that much.

Most likely...a normal guy would be able to understand the meaning behind Aria's words.

After all, it's something that Aria can talk about, though she's bad with such things.

—But, I...

Because I hate Hysteria Mode, I avoided girls entirely.

And extremely stubbornly too. I avoided them on purpose. For as long as I can remember.

That's why...I can't really understand anything to do with 'boy-girl relationships.'

Even though I'm being talked to about it, I don't understand, and I don't really understand what's interesting about the drama in romance.

So, I...

"..."

Averted my eyes, feeling a little depressed.

I'm sorry, Aria. It seems like you're talking about something earnestly, but...

I don't understand what you mean.

Even so, I feel like it would be rude to ask about and have her meticulously explain every detail about these 'steps'.

After all, I'm in the wrong for being so naive as to not be able to understand, and it feels there's some sort of desperation in Aria's actions...so...I'll just play along for now. Even if I don't understand.

"Yeah, I've got it. I'll be careful. I'll follow the steps properly. That should be fine, right?"

"Ah...y-yeah. So, um, this. I-I was happy about your feelings, but..."

Aria stuck her left hand out and let me see.

"...?"

"The ring. I'm not going to wear it yet."

Ahh.

The ring I gave her for her birthday, huh.

It's your choice whether to put it on or not.

"...Did you not like it? I'm sorry if you didn't. I don't have much sense in these things."

"N-No! Nonono!"

Aria shook her head at a speed where she looked like Ashura, with multiple heads.

And looking at me again...

"That's not it. It's just that I'm not wearing it yet. I-I'm not going to return it. I've already sent it to a Swiss bank. Carefully too."

"It's fine if you don't give it back."

I smiled wryly, and Aria blushed at my words—

"But...but that ring was skipping steps. About a hundred of them. I didn't sleep and thought about it for three days, but in the end I concluded that it's way too early for us. So...I won't wear it yet. However...um, even so...you remembered my birthday really well."

"That's...I am the leader of Baskerville. It's one of my duties to know about the members of my group."

"'Duty'...? Then, do you know the birthdays of the other members? Shirayuki's or Riko's, or maybe Reki's?"

"Ah...I don't know precisely."

I spoke honestly, and Aria's expression relaxed into one that seemed to express: 'I've won'. Won what?

And for a while after that, her eyes flickered, as if wondering whether or not to ask me something. And after...

"...Hey, then...could I ask you something else?

"That's fine. I don't really have anything to hide."

Other than Hysteria Mode.

"Um...er...Kinji. U-Until now...have you had a girlfriend?"

Huh?

Wh-what the hell?...she's continuing this hateful line of conversation.

"No."

"You're lying. After all you're pretty popular, aren't you?"

"Like hell. My nickname's 'introvert', you know? Zero. Zero girlfriends. Don't ask about something that you don't even need to ask about."

My mouth in a 'へ' shape like that of Star Wars' clone troopers, I answered, and—

Aria slipped into a shy, loose smile.

What? She's making fun of me.

"What about you?"

"Eh?"

I fired off the same question, counterattacking—

Since Aria is Aria, she frowned in a 'へ' like Darth Vader's.

"—I've been saying this since the beginning. I've not had any romances with anybody. None. I was always thinking about Mama..."

I see...it seems like I asked something bad.

"Sorry. Just responding in kind—"

"Th-That's alright. Mama's high court trial is next week, and she's definitely innocent. The prosecutor's also said that he won't appeal if she's innocent. Japan's laws are modified so that the verdict is announced on the same day, so Mama—can become free next week."

"That's right. I know that she's innocent, but it was worth it working so hard, Aria."

"Yes...so, with this...from now on, um...a little bit of that kind of thing...I know I have a little bit of space to think about s-something like that...'Could I?' or s-so I w-was thinking, and just at that point, y-you...ri...riri...ring..."

She tried once more, whispering, to return to talking about stuff like romance after talking about her mother...Aria had seemed strange to me since earlier...

"Somehow...you're different from normal. Did you eat a peach bun you dropped on the floor?"

Thinking that there might be something wrong with her body, I took the opportunity to change the topic and asked that question.

"Nobles don't do that kind of thing! I'm not you!"

Aria turned towards Daiba—

"That's not it, from now on, Kinji and I...that's...w-what...? Rather, why am I only talking about this stuff? Since before..."

"Don't ask me."

Aria...there really is something strange about her tonight.

Her nerves are probably strained from the shock of being forced to be an elementary school student.

"...Shall we go home? It's become cold."

"Y-Yeah..."

We returned to the classroom, and—Aria took hold of the back of my uniform with her miniature hands.

And before I turned around, she put her forehead against my back.

"Then...let's say that with this, we've advanced a step."

"A step..."

"Yes. It was beyond just one door, and it was only for five minutes, but this...that we had tonight—it was the first date of my life. We advanced past that step. I've decided on that."

...

Well, whatever Aria wants to think is up to her.

"Alright, I'm heading back."

'That's right'—

I'm not going to say that. After all, you're a little strange tonight.

Strange, or rather...

My intuition isn't great, but the Aria on the veranda...somehow, I felt that she was talking from the depths of her heart.

I also thought that she couldn't do it very well.

And it didn't seem like it was just because my ability to understand her was lacking.

Not being able to phrase one's thoughts well. That happens often, but...normally, at that kind of time, people won't talk much. They want to speak, but they can't. They take that kind of attitude.

But, it felt like the Aria just now was talking about her deep thoughts without being aware of it.

It didn't feel like she was lying. But...the cover that Aria used to cover her feelings—the cover that everyone uses to hide their true thoughts...it felt like that had been removed.

People that are drunk or are delirious with fever...speaking as a Butei, they are in a state where it's almost like they've been affected with a minor truth serum. Those kinds of people will accidentally spill out their true thoughts, things that they can't put into words, as incomprehensible expressions.

You can't place any weight on anything that you're told while people are in that state

Aria08 137.jpg

So—

I'll pretend that what took place on that veranda never happened.

"You must've gotten chilly. I'll make you some hot coffee when we get home."

Exiting to the hallway from the classroom with its lights off, I said those words while we walked side by side, illuminated by emergency lights—

"Yeah."

Next to me, Aria nodded once.

"...When Kanae-san's released, let's celebrate with everyone. We'll have a drink at Club Estella in Daiba. I'll order a massive cake in advance. When we've finished eating it, we'll finish off with roasted espresso lungo doppio, which'll be far more delicious than my instant coffee."

Her face, dimly lit up by the green emergency lights...looked so very happy.

That's great, Aria.

Looking at your smile, I honestly, from the bottom of my heart, think that way.

Your mother will be innocent. Your wish will be granted. That moment will finally come next week.

Really, truly...that's great.

Aria.


Translator's Notes and References[edit]

  1. A species of nine-tailed fox.
  2. The italicized words have the same pronunciations, (a pun).
  3. The luck referred to in the previous line is specifically used for mahjong. Also used for cards, (referenced five lines ahead.)