Hidan no Aria:Volume9 Chapter5

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5th Ammo: Cultural Festival Day 2 -Carnaval Finale-[edit]

Leaving Tamamo and Shirayuki behind at SSR, I went back to my room--there was the scent of gardenia in the room.

Aria is in the room then.

Walking past the corridor... The curtains of the changing area to the bathroom was drawn, and the sound of a hairdryer could be heard within.

Looks like she went straight into the bathroom after coming back.

"I'm back."

As Aria staying here has become a fact, so to say....

"Ah, Kinji? Wai.. Wait, if you dare open the curtain I'll shoot you dead. I'm covered with a towel now."

... Looks like there's no need to say anything.

Who the hell wants to open it. A pandora box containing a naked girl and weapons.

But... in the past, when I came back to such situations, Aria would always start firing intimidation shots without waiting for any explanation, yet now, it's simply verbal threats only.

(Really.... Aria's attitude towards me has softened somewhat recently.)

I guess this can be considered a good thing.

"Kinji."

"What is it?"

"Today's a tiring day, so we'll just rest... what are you doing tomorrow. There's no more work for you right."

"I'm not doing anything, so I'll just swing by the cultural festival and walk around."

"Me too, I don't have any work tomorrow, before noon."

"Then you can go walk around the cultural festival as well."

"......"

.....Eh?

Why is Aria keeping quiet?

"....Why are you so quiet?"

"Ah, didn't I already mention.... I'll be free tomorrow as well until noon. I'll only have something on in the afternoon."

She repeated what she just said.

"....What should I do before noon?"

Aria intentionally asked the question out loudly, switching off the hairdryer.

Following that, there were rustling noises, probably changing clothes.

"What should I DO?"

Shit... she seems to sound a bit angry.

If I don't give some suggestions, it's likely I'm gonna get shot by her.

Even with the curtain drawn, Aria is still capable to accurately hitting her target.

"--You can walk around the places you feel like going. I heard Muto's younger sister opened a Takoyaki stall, and it's selling like hotcakes."

I cautiously offered my own opinion...

".... I say, is your ability to talk only at the elementary school level?"

Drawing the curtain open and walking out, Aria was wearing her sailor uniform and staring at me as she spoke.

"Wha.. what are you trying to say."

Aren't you at an elementary school level yourself, in terms of body height.

"Then I'll say it, aren't you going to the cultural festival tomorrow to walk around? By chance, coincidentally, accidentally, I'll be free all the way until noon... so, I can accompany you too! You're really hopeless!"

According to my interpretation of the speech patterns in Aria Language, which I have finally figured out recently--

The meaning of her words were "I order you to go with me."

Simply put, she wants company. Alright, I'll go along, since I'll be free anyway.

"Then... do me a favor, please go with me."

The way of replying is very important as well.

To Aria ojou-sama.... using the "I'm taking the initiative to ask you" type of speaking is key to survival.

I glanced at the edges of her skirt, and as expected, the guns were there, just like usual.

"Alright alright, then I'll accompany you and we can go together. I really don't know what to do with you."

Aria's voice feels significantly cheerful.

Her expression has softened as well, and the killing intent has dissipated...

Well done, my Aria Remote Control. It was done so beautifully, I couldn't help but admire myself.

"If I leave Kinji alone, you'll definitely cause trouble, and it'll be terrible if you got lost. I'll just have to be your guardian for the time being, so you should thank me quickly! Visiting the cultural festival at 9 in the morning tomorrow, ok, it's entered into my schedule."

.... I'll become lost?

(I'll see ghosts first before I get lost in my own school, and, whichever way you look at it, the guardian should be me.)

Although there's a lot of things to rebut...

But, Aria seemed pretty happy as she entered the schedule into her new pearl-white handphone.

The only thing was, her "A good chance has arrived" type of excitement made me feel somewhat uneasy.....

After all, Aria has always been using her petite body frame to endure the cruelties of fate.

Since it's rare to have a short period of time for free activity, I'll just accompany her.

This day, the other members of Baskerville didn't come to the room, so Aria and I watched television and chatted away.

.... Then, we enjoyed a very rare leisurely dinner.

After dinner, around 10pm in the evening--

The phone in the room rang.

I picked up the handset, and found that Tamamo had called.

"Tell Aria to take the call", she said over the phone.....

Hence, I called Aria over to the phone, and looking at her seriously, said,

"Aria, I have something to say first... I have something to do with this call."

".....?"

"Actually I should have told you sooner, but, regarding this matter, I'm no different from any other amateur.... I may not be able to explain this to you accurately, so, I'll let the expert do it."

"Expert?"

"It's someone with links to Shirayuki and Jeanne. It's an important matter for you, so listen to this calmly."

Done speaking, I passed the handset to her--

After saying "This is Kanzaki Aria", the conversation started.

I stood by the side and watched in silence... Although Aria looked visibly shocked several times, but she appeared calm from the beginning till the end.... The phone call ended in a very short time.

*Click*

Aria placed the handset back....

Closing her camellia eyes, she was deep in her thoughts for a while.

"Aria..."

"--Never mind, Kinji. Your assessment was correct. This matter--is definitely not in your area of expertise."

Aria shook her head lightly.

She headed towards the door.

"But I've always had this feeling. Koko, Hilda, Watson, all turning up one after another, there must be some inside story to all these."

"Where are you going?"

"I'm going to speak with Tamamo in private. We'll be meeting at the sports center where the cultural festival is held at night. Kinji... We'll talk tomorrow. About the things from now on."

"Alright."

Tamamo probably meant everything. About the Far Eastern War, Golden Shell, and the Scarlet Blazing God--

Be careful Aria.

The next morning, at 8.30am--

I arrived at the outdoor swimming pool where I met Aria yesterday.

The Masters had instructed "To prevent mingling, meeting places that comes immediate to mind are not allowed to be used.", so I decided to use this place as the meeting location...

Aria hasn't arrived yet.

The meeting time was supposed to be at 9am.

But, when we went to the festival at Ueno during the summer holidays, Aria strictly ordered me to arrive 30 minutes early, saying that she'll let me have a taste of windhole giant volcano or windhole active volcano as punishment if I made her wait.

So, bored out of my skull, I could only wait at the diving platform of the second lane.....

Under the blue autumn sky, staring blankly at the swimming pool, waiting for Aria.

Last night, Aria didn't come back....

She called back in the night, saying that after speaking with Tamamo, she's meeting Shirayuki to get specific details--furthermore, she also has some matter which she needed help from her female kōhai, so she'll be sleeping over at the girls dorm.

--She sounded the same as usual.

Even though she heard so many things, but she didn't appear to be in a state of confusion.

No, maybe it's like what she said--on some level, she felt it through her intuition.

"Kinji."

Aria appeared--much earlier than I expected.

Aria was pacing along under the autumn sunlight... She sat beside me, on the diving platform of the first lane.

.....? The sailor uniform she usually wears looks new.

"Did you iron it? Your clothes."

"Ah, yeah."

"You actually know how to iron your clothes. Didn't you almost cause a fire last time you used the iron in my room?"

".... Because I don't know how, so I asked Mamiya to help me iron the clothes."

Ah, so she asked her Battle-kōhai[1] Mamiya for help.

--Butei High has this Amica System, whereby a senior will provide guidance to a junior on a one-to-one basis.

To put it in another way, it's like a teacher-student relationship between 2 consenting parties, this relationship is called Battle-brothers between guys, and Battle-sisters among girls, putting them together, it's called the Amica System. This is a really long-winded explanation.

"--But Kinji, why are you here so early?"

"Why I'm so early... You came early as well, the cultural festival only starts at 9am."

"Ah, well... I, I asked first, so you have to answer me first."

For some reason, Aria's face started turning red....

If I answer with "It's all because you threatened me in the past", she'll definitely be unhappy.

"I just... happened to arrive early, there's no other meaning."

"Ah, I happen to be the same, there's no other meaning, really no other meaning at all. It's not because I can be alone with Kinji that I came early, so you better don't be mistaken."

Aria puffed her non-existent chest proudly as she spoke--but, isn't the front half of your reply copied from mine.

I lowered my head to look at my watch--it's 8.45am now.

There's still some time.

"By the way, you've seen it right?"

"--Are you referring to Tamamo?"

Sweeping her gaze at me, Aria asked.

"Yes, so how was it?"

"It's nothing much, or rather, after knowing so much, I felt a peace of mind."

Her twin-tails drifting with the wind--Aria definitely looked very calm.

Just like usual.

That's really impressive. I totally lost it during the Bandire.

"So what did you talk about?"

"Oh, the Far Eastern War, Baskerville joining the war, Deen and Grenada, although I have no recollection of seeing Hilda during the Bandire... but, it seems that it was because the Suggestive Arts was used on me, and also, the golden shell being taken by force... Although I only have a hazy impression, but one of them has been placed back in my left chest... so, I believed it. As of now, the Hidan in my chest has only 3 fragments of the golden shell with it.

--I've also heard, if we leave it like this, a dangerous event will occur."

"The danger you are referring to...."

"I wasn't told the details. Do you know what it is?"

I.... nodded.

".... Wanna know?"

"It's ok if you don't say, I can tell from your expression, there's still a fair bit of time, perhaps measured in years."

Aria, with her sharp intuition that even Sherlock Holmes had to admit defeat to--

Correctly guessed her symptoms.

".... You're really calm, after hearing such major news."

"Don't underestimate me, Butei are frequently on the battlefield. Afraid of being injured or dying in the line of duty, is as good as not doing your job. Don't tell me--if it were you in my situation, you'll become spineless."

Aria looked at me sharply with her gaze.

I shook my head, so, Aria stood up at the first lane of the swimming pool with her hands on her hips.

"--The targets are 4 members of Grenada. Patra, Shokatsu, Katze Grasse and Havi. But Kinji, as my mother's next trial will be the final sentencing... so there's a need to arrest Patra, the leader of EU's Ignatius. Shokatsu's organization, Ranban, has dealings with EU, and has a member from the remnants of EU."

Aria began describing the situation of each enemy.

"The woman, Katze Grasse, is EU's OB[2], she's in the Witch Company[3], which is an infamous spying and terrorist organisation. The women are all hired by Libya, Iran, North Korea for high fees. As for that girl, Havi, I'm not too sure about her.... but since she's related to Grenada, there's a need to thoroughly investigate her."

"....In other words, they're all enemies you need to defeat in the first place."

"Yes, so it doesn't matter if there's a time limit. Or should I say, I don't need that much time. Before mother's final sentencing--March next year, I will succeed."

Speaking with the usual vigor and drive, Aria suddenly--

Swung her pink ponytails, turning her head to look at me.

"Kinji, what are you going to do?"

"Shirayuki and Tamamo are allies, Reki and Ranban have their connection, you are aware of Riko's intent to fight, she doesn't want me or Kinji to be killed by other enemies, But, thinking about it carefully.... you're just dragged into this mess Kinji, there's no need for you to participate in the battle."

Being asked by Aria in all seriousness, I--

"... This is Butei Charter 8 as well."

The moment I decided to answer, I confirmed what I knew long ago about my own situation.

"The mission must be resolved completed, since I interfered with EU, I got myself implicated into the Far Eastern War. Regarding this, you reap what you sow, this is the principle of a Butei."

Even before considering this, there's the humane principle as well.

If we compare this to a fire disaster.... because we tried to put out EU's flames, the sparks created spread the fire further.

After all, the reason of putting out the fires is not enough by itself.

"Like what you said, there's no need for me to be involved... but I have already planted the seeds of hate, Jeanne has told me this as well. After all, the one who defeated Sherlock--your great grandfather--and destroyed his EU is me. Patra and the rest of the gang must be aiming for my head. Just like how Hilda came seeking revenge for Vlad, who knows when Koko's accomplices will attack me."

That's right, the fire was not put out completely--remnants of EU still remain.

They have received the fuel named as Grenada, and intend to revive the powerful flames.

From the looks of it, it's just that I haven't been attacked yet, but returning to a normal life is no longer possible.

"I'm just a normal high school student. In order to turn this into reality, these guys are obstacles, If I return to school without resolving everything, it could bring trouble to other students."

I said everything in one breath--

"Kinji...."

As if obtaining a dependable comrade, Aria displayed a joyful expression.

I'm only E-ranked, so I can't be counted as a dependable comrade.

(And, perhaps Aria found it hard to say it out....)

But I understood when Aria became involved with EU, and when Riko got into trouble.

--I can't let myself sit out for this one.

I can't leave the people fighting those freaks, super-humans and monsters on their own... and moreover, they're girls.

I must protect them, after all, I am a man.

This isn't for the sake of garnering their affections, or trying to get their gratitude, but it's out of public morals, the men must protect the women.

.... Seriously, I can only blame myself to be born in the sex with no benefits.

Just that--

"The deadline is March next year.... to resolve everything before Kanae-san's final sentencing. It'll be alright if we can do that."

"Un, yeah."

I looked seriously at Aria, she nodded her head.

"Starting from April, I'll be going to a normal school. So, the Far Eastern War--will be my retirement battle as a Butei."

Listening to my declaration.... Aria didn't nod her head.

She wanted to say something, but stopped herself and turned her head to one side.

"Aria, I've told you this when I met you..."

I hesitated, and was about to voice out my wish to transfer out from Butei High.

Aria hurriedly extended her hand to stop me.

"I understand, so please don't say anymore."

".... Do you really understand?"

I asked with some doubt. Aria hugged her arms, raised her eyebrows and answered.

"Yes, although I can't accept this. Once you encounter a situation, you'll display world-class bravery.... You obviously possess such talents, but wish to retire... this is one point I'm unable to accept. Kinji, things like talent, are like platinum cards in life, and you actually want to throw it away on your own accord--"

"No matter how good the card is, it's just a piece of useless paper when there's no need for it."

"But..."

"We've already talked till this point, do you still need me to repeat myself? It looks like my intent hasn't been properly transmitted to you."

I sat back down at the second lane of the pool, Aria, however--

Lightly dusted off her skirt, and leapt down from the diving platform of the first lane.

"Ah, what a pity, it's time."

Saying this, Aria pointed at the clock tower--it's already 9am.

"Let's not bother about this, listen carefully, I...."

"--The cultural festival has started, it's time for the activities to commence. Aren't the two of us supposed to be resting for today?"

"Yes, but...."

"We need to change our moods when resting, if we're always wound up so tightly, it's only a matter of time before the mental strain breaks us. If that happens, we won't be able to make accurate decisions."

Looks like Aria doesn't want to talk about the topic of me switching schools....

But, not talking about it doesn't mean not understanding.

"In other words, for a Butei, resting is a type of work as well. Let's not talk about those things anymore, for now we'll just relax ourselves. I need a change of mood as well, having an argument with someone you like before going for a date isn't good."

......?

Aria... did you just....

Did you just say something very weird?

I probably heard wrongly.

"Da... Date?"

I repeated Aria's words--

Maybe Aria had unconsciously spoken those words. Listening to me repeat them, her whole face turned red immediately.

"Ah, I, I... just.... said those words?"

Blushing, Aria started stammering--

And facing her, I must have been blushing as well. Bastard.

In stark contrast to the red faces, were completely blank minds.

Just before the word "date", there seems to be another word which had even more of an impact, but as Aria's slip of the tongue was too stimulating, all my memory flew out into the clouds.

But if our reaction to this problem is overly delayed, it'll make the both of us even more awkward, turning the day into a mess.

So, even though my mind was in a complete mess, I still nodded my head.

"No, never, never, never never never!"

Never never!

Baring her little fangs, Aria entered full denial mode.

Whoosh whoosh! Her hands started waving like a windmill.

"--Today is a holiday, a holiday is a holiday."

It feels like she's saying really weird stuff, but I nodded my head anyway.

"Yea.. yeah, a holiday is a holiday."

"Yes, that's it, a holiday is a holiday!"

Reaching an agreement that "a holiday is a holiday", we left the swimming pool.

That girl Aria, why did she suddenly pitch such a foul ball at me.

In my mind--appeared a scene of Aria falling down on a baseball field after failing to catch a ball, and she just happened to fall into a hole which, for some unknown reason, was on the baseball field. Unlike a vanishing baseball, the one vanishing was Aria instead.

Aria and I continued walking along....

While I was recalling what Aria said just now, her mood switched rapidly.

Walking in the Academy Island grounds, she was gradually getting excited.

It looks like Aria has never seen a Japanese school festival.

"Kinji, what's that? And what's this? What are those girls queuing in line for?"

Everything in front of her eyes generated a large amount of interest for her.

As her follower, I could only provide explanations like "This is a shop selling gun magazine clips, it's total rubbish for Butei High, but can still be sold to people from outside", "These are pirated merchandise of Rilakkuma", "It's a beauty contest for men, Shiranui is really standing out". I'm so exhausted.

And, Aria was moving randomly in all directions, all according to her whim.

"I say, do you have some direction you wanna go?"

I asked.

"Nope."

She immediately replied.

She has no objective, but she's still so happy. I wonder why this is so.

(....I'd rather participate in some activities....)

Just as I thought about it, I found a place to go.

Ambulace and Repier had organised a "Morgue of Horrors and Friends".

Butei High running a morgue, that's really bad for business. And, who are these friends you are referring to? There's just too many tsukkomi here...

(--But, from now on we do have to fight the freaks in Grenada.)

Perhaps this could be some form of mental training for people to get used to fighting monsters.

With that thought in my mind, I called out to Aria, whose reaction to the Morgue of Horrors was unusually mild and was just about to leave.

"Hey, Aria."

"..... Wha... what is it?"

"Let's go in."

I said, as I pointed at the bio-hazard signboard for the "Horror House".....

"Are.. are you stupid? Thinking of going to that kiddie place?"

Aria glared at me for a moment, and then just sat on the ground.

"Are you afraid?"

"I'm n... not... not afraid at all!"

"That's good, than let's go in."

"Ah!"

"Didn't you say you weren't scared?"

"--Of.. of course not!"

Saying this, Aria was contemplating running away at the same time. Well, it's necessary for Aria to undergo this kind of training.

After all, she's the type who had a frightened look on her face after seeing just the external appearance of the Koumeikan mansion in Yokohama.

A Butei must have good resistance when going after unusual targets, Aria, prepare yourself!

I bought 2 tickets, lifted up the black curtain and entered into the auditorium on the first floor of Repier's building......

Woah, it's pitch black. Time to switch on the pen torchlight handed out at the entrance.

Switching on the torch, I saw bloodstains all over the floor at my feet.

"Iyaa!"

.. Aria suddenly screamed.

"Don't... don't stick to me, aren't you used to seeing real blood?"

"That... that isn't purposely splashed with the intention of scaring people, stupid!"

....*Patter patter patter*

Arguing irrationally, Aria did not even look at the stretchers strewn all over the place and the damaged operating table, directly breaking into a light run and moving ahead.

"Hey Aria, you're walking too fast!"

"I don't want to waste time in this place! You walk faster as well so we can get out of this place quickly!"

It seems.... Aria intends to express anger to cover her fear.

(...On another level of meaning, I started to feel scared as well...)

As I was contemplating this--

Suddenly, Aria halted her steps.

I caught up to her and used the torch to shine ahead. I could see terror written all over her face.

"There's somebody."

"Of course there is, it's the guy in charge of scaring people."

"You walk in front."

"Alright alright."

I was just about to take a step--beep beep--an alarm sounded.

Red lights started flashing.

"Kyaaa! Waaaahh!"

Aria tried to escape towards her side, but bounced off the wall.

Why is she in such a panic.

Looking closer, I saw that there was a stretcher in front, and on top of the stretcher was a body bag.

There was something in the body bag.

".... Tha.. that bag, there's a dead person in it."

"You idiot, that's just a First Year tasked with scaring people."

"So to say, it's still alive?"

"How do you scare people if you're dead? Hey, don't whip out your gun, that will really result in a dead person."

"This is for just in case."

"Just in case of what. Give me the gun."

"Nnnnononono, what if it's really a monster?"

"How is that possible, I'm just beside you, give me the gun quickly."

"Uuuuuu...."

Aria started crying as she handed the gun to me.

Then, she hid behind me and pushed me in the direction of the body bag.

Hey hey, don't use me as a shield. And to think you're the Demon Butei who scares humans, scatters spirits, and make children cry, Aria The Quadra.

As I was thinking of that...

"Wooooo..."

As expected.

A First Year dressed up as a zombie crawled out from the body bag.

Woah, thanks for your hard work.

"Look, it's just like I said."

I laughed bitterly at Aria who was hiding behind me.

"--WAAHHHHHHH!"

Seeing the zombie from behind me, Aria was so scared her twin tails shot straight up.

Following that, bam, *sprints*!

She pushed me away, and ran off panicked.

All the while screaming....

This is totally you scaring yourself.

Aria.... Just how much do you fear the supernatural.

Come to think of it, it won't be too long before you have to fight with the real deal.

Since the past till now, horror houses all follow the same model.

To let people walk on a path for some time where nothing will happen, and once they let down their guard, the sudden use of light and sound to scare them.

Aria, who was scared time and again, repeatedly said "Wha.. what. That wasn't scary at all, hu hu hu" and "KYAAAA!!"

And like this, we passed through the first floor, and headed towards the second floor which had been decorated as a hospital.

"It.. it's ending soon right?"

"No... we've only walked one-third of it."

"So long! Think of a solution for me quickly."

"It's no use telling me."

As I comforted Aria, whose twin tails were standing vertically upwards, I walked into the classroom.

"Thi.. this won't do, this place won't do, you have to protect me properly!"

....To actually want someone to "protect" you inside a horror house.

It's really unheard of.

--Seeing the bloody palm prints on the door, Aria's camellia eyes widened into circles in fear as she hugged my elbow tightly. Then she lowered her head, and went into a total no-look mode.

(I really don't know what to do with you...)

If it's like this, won't I be like some sort of guide dog dragging Aria along.

Entering the classroom, just as the first year dressed as a zombie nurse saw us....

".....?"

The path we came from just now, in a direction which was out of the way... came some sort of sound.

I immediately halted my steps, Aria was trembling non-stop.

"What... what is it Kinji, what is it, what is it?"

"It's nothing, I seem to have heard some sound.... it's like a strange crying sound."

"Hhhhhhhoooow can you betray me as well!"

"Betray?"

"Scary things! You're not allowed to say it out!"

She's really still frightened.

"Hmm--it sounds like the crying of a child, Aria, you wait here for me."

Because it doesn't sound like a recording, so I was very concerned.

"--Wait, don't leave me alone here!"

"It can't be helped, it's possible someone is lost."

Leaving Aria behind, I returned to the corridor. Suddenly, *ka-chk*.

Seems like someone was in charge of closing the door. Aria was now locked in the hospital.

"Iyaaaaaaaaaa! Open the door! Open the door quickly! Open the door! Open up for me! Open up the door for me this instant!"

Aria was yelling out in an exaggerated anime-like voice, pounding on the door forcefully....

We should call the first years to give you training to overcome your fear.

And since you usually use "training" as an excuse to kick, beat and even ride me like a horse.

--I'll let you have a slight taste of what I'm going through.

Along the corridor, there could be, no, there really was someone who had gotten lost. It was a 6 year old girl.

"Mama, where are you?"

Hearing her talk, I went forward to make some enquiries.

She seemed to have taken the wrong path, and was separated from her mother.

This is really pitiful. As I was thinking, Aria smashed opened the hospital door with a low head-butt. She started crying and administering punches and kicks to me at the same time.

There's no helping it, I could only cut the training short, bringing Aria and the little girl out using the emergency exit.

As I was explaining the situation to the First Year who was attending to me... the mother of the little girl appeared.

She seemed to have thought that her daughter would be coming out about now as well, so she was searching for her daughter in the vicinity of Repier.

"Mama!"

The little girl flew straight into her mother's embrace. Under the urging of her mother, the little girl bowed her head at us in thanks.

"Big brother, big sister, thank you both."

"This is really a relief, don't get separated from your mother now!"

Aria squatted down, comforting the little girl with the tone of an older sister.

Looks like Aria has decided to pretend her disgraceful behavior just now has never happened.

"Un, that's right, big sister."

"What is it?"

"Big sister, you like big brother very much right."

The little girl said as she pointed at me....

Aria froze.

"Wh... what makes you say that."

"Because, to beat is to show affection, to scold is to show love."

"Ah, I... I just.... It's because Kinji is an idiot, so there is a need to carry out educational guidance..."

The little girl patted the stammering Aria on the shoulder--

"Do your best k!"

Saying this, the little girl then left.

Watching the little girl leave.... Aria's face was blushing red, her entire body petrified.

The joke made by the little kid.... seemed to caused Aria to be thinking about something. Let's not talk about that first... Anyways, her violent actions towards me should stop now.

Really well done, little girl.

Thanks to her, I no longer have to join the "Morgue of Horror and Friends", I'm really grateful.

After that, Aria started complaining "This is all your fault, you made me really hungry."

I wanted to eat something as well, so.....

We decided to visit the legendary super hot-selling Takoyaki shop, which was located around the Logi building.

"Delicious Takoyaki! C'mon take a look and try it!"

... I heard a familiar voice, which was mixed with a Kansai accent.

The source of the sound came from the "Takoyaki Queen" stall, set up near the car-park.

Passing through door curtains which was printed with strange drawings of wheels drawn to look like Takoyaki....

"Ah, Tohyama Kinji."

"You, add in a "sempai" when addressing your senior."

Muto Takaki.

Logi first year, with a name that sounds like a vehicle braking, but a fearless racing fanatic--

She was looking at me with her beautiful face that doesn't look anything like she's Muto's younger sister.

(The only similarity she has with Muto... probably the height.)

Takaki was only in the first year of high school, and she's almost 170cm tall.

As she was working on the side as a race queen, she's somewhat famous on the Suzuka Circuit and Fuji Expressway.

"Kinji, what's this?"

Aria, who can never become a race queen, poked half her head over the counter (due to her height, she could only show half of her head) to get a better look at the stall.

"It's Takoyaki."

"But the thing being cooked looks like a ball, it should be called Boruyaki[4] instead!"

"There's no such name. Don't you even know what Takoyaki is. Alright then, let me do the talking."

Muto (sis), who has an interest in making mini 4WD, said mockingly, "Don'cha know what a Takoyaki is? Really, you Tokyoites... should just be run over!"

Then, shaking her tea-coloured ponytail which was almost blonde, she moved closer.

Just a quick explanation, the Muto siblings have a speech pattern which uses "Run you over!" and such.

"Well, so how many do you wanna buy? Since ya brought a girl, ya have to be more generous."

Takaki, you... actually use such a contemptuous tone on a customer, who's also your sempai as well.

Muto that guy too, you should teach your sister properly.

Since the both of you are vehicle otakus.

"Give me 8 then."

"Ahhh--?"

Takaki furrowed her pretty brow, bending over at her waist and looked up at me.

".... 12 then."

"Ah ah--? Just be run over--!"

Saying that, she started smiling and moved her face closer.

Hey hey! Pretty girls shouldn't move their faces so close, won't this cause guys to be unable to resist?

Speaking of which, if I cannot control myself against Muto's sister--it's as good as turning the gun on myself.

"I... I understand, give me 20. Hurry up."

"Thanks for yer patronage! No wonder yer Tohyama-sempai! Yer display of generosity, I will let my big brother know!"

Making a pose from her other profession, her waist shaking slight and blowing a kiss, Takaki skillfully placed the Takoyaki into a paper box.

So this is it.... that girl Takaki has been using this method to increase her sales.

"Lovely Charm Takoyaki Stall", truly a vixen in the business world.

Speaking of which, what do I do with my predicament. I bought 20 Takoyakis, I'll be stuffed to death.

We sat on some chairs on the side to start eating, Aria had bought 2 bottles of Perrier water from somewhere else.

I have always been thinking... Why does Aria frequently consume carbonated drinks?

From what she said herself, "This is common practice in Europe when eating oily food.", but with respect to non-fruity carbonated drinks, I always felt weird.

But, although it's only 2 people eating, water is essential in order to vanquish 20 Takoyakis.

I opened a Perrier bottle and said,

"Each one gets 10, equality for boys and girls."

When I finished speaking, Aria looked at the box, and twitched her nose, sniffing at the food.

Just to add, perhaps it was a habit from Takakai's family, the Takoyaki were to be eaten as how it was made. There was no dark sauce, not even seaweed or tuna flakes.

But there were massive amounts of onions and chilli sauce.

"This isn't a problem, but what kind of food is this."

"Didn't I already say it was Takoyaki."

"WHERE. IS. THE. OCTOPUS!"

This is pissing me off....

"It's inside, and already cut."

Do you need me to explain to such a detail.

(Speaking of which... Before this, Aria doesn't even know what cotton candy is at her age.)

People who have international marriages are really something.

I skewered a Takoyaki.

"Taste it, instead of explaining, try it for yourself."

I presented it to Aria.

*Gulp*

She ate it without hesitation.

It feels like... I'm feeding a small kitten.

*Chew, chew*.....

"Ah, it's delicious..."

This is great.

If it wasn't up to her taste, I'd have to deal with the remaining 19.

Aria skewered one as well, bringing it up... *pa*--

The soft "Queen Takoyaki" slipped from the skewer, dropping back into the box.

".... I can't skewer it up."

"Stick it into the piece of octopus inside."

"Are you an idiot? I'm not an ability user, how would I know where the octopus is."

"True.... then use your intuition."

As I said that, Aria poked another one.

.... It still dropped.

......GRRRRRRRRR.......

Shit, a dangerous signal was emitting from Aria's throat.

"Ca.. calm down Aria. Use 2 sticks like a chopstick. It shouldn't be a problem if you clip it up lightly."

"Uu--like this? Ah--...ah, this is really working."

Come on... come on, Takoyaki.

Don't break. or else I'll become the punching bag again.

*sss... sssssss....*

"--It's clipped up! Look! The onions are on top as well!"

"Very good very good, nicely done....!"

You didn't break, such strength, Takoyaki!

On the surface it looked as if I was praising Aria, but actually I was praising the Takoyaki.

"Then, open your mouth!"

"?"

"Sai 'arrrrrrr'....." (Spoken in English using Japanese pronunciation)

"..........?"

"Say ah....." (Spoken in English)

As the pronunciation changed to proper English, I finally understood.

This is the English version of "Open your mouth!".

.... Speaking of which,

Why make me perform such an embarrassing action, it's not as if it's Shirayuki or Riko.

Aria was totally unconcerned with my embarrassment, sending the Takoyaki to my mouth with a super cute smile. (.... Was it because I fed her just now? If that's the case, I'm really asking for it.)

Aria09 239.jpg

After I confirmed that there was no one I know around me--

I made a decision, and ate the Takoyaki Aria was feeding me with the speed of lightning.

It's really delicious. Although it's already delicious in the first place.... But, defeated by Aria's "Open your mouth!" attack, I felt the tastiness of the Takoyaki went up by several points.

It just feels like.... Aria has been behaving strangely recently.

"Then, next is my turn."

For some unknown reason, there's now a rule of feeding one another.

Aria was behaving excitedly like a kid playing games in kindergarten, chewing on the Takoyaki I fed her.

Everytime Aria fed the Takoyaki to me, I felt so nervous that I didn't even know whether I was full or not... When I realised, the big box of Takoyaki had been finished by the both of us.

"It's really delicious, I should praise you for this."

Drinking her Perrier water, Aria took out something like a lipstick from the pocket of her skirt.

Then, she turned her back towards me and started applying it.

I looked at the cover she placed on the chair... the word 'Dior' was on it.

"What are you applying?"

"Lip gloss. I don't use lipstick, though Jeanne does."

Lip gloss?? Lipstick?

Is there a difference?

"You.... go out to buy cosmetics too?"

A pint-sized Butei armed with guns shopping in a cosmetic store?

Thinking of this scenario, I had to keep myself from laughing out.

"I don't go out to buy. A personal fashion consultant and make-up artist are hired to the company, and everything is custom-made for me."

To her, this is probably no big deal right? To say it in such a matter-of-fact way... that's really something.

I guess this is what nobility are like.

That's right..... Aria is still a girl.

So she'll be very conscious about her make-up as well.

"How much to make one?"

"Your heart won't be able to take it if I told you."

Saying that, Aria placed the cover back on the lip gloss, and put it back into her pocket.

Listening to her.... I became acutely aware of her lips, which looking closely, were shining and reflecting light.

I see, lip gloss and lipstick are indeed different things.

I became silent, and looked at Aria's lips....

"Wha... what is it? I didn't apply it on because I was expecting anything, it's because I just ate something, and the autumn winds in Japan are dryer. I didn't have any sort of strange expectations alright!"

Aria folded her arms and turned her head away as she spoke.

Then--

"To.. today is really memorable. How about you, Kinji?"

She suddenly looked at me... her face was blushing as she asked.

"Ah? Yeah, a cultural festival has to be memorable to people."

"I wasn't talking about this, I meant 'being together with me'."

..... Again with the strange way of asking questions.

But truthfully speaking, I had a great time today.

Because , when I'm with Aria, it's the same as being with my guy friends, there's no feeling of restriction.

Although there are occasional things that make my face blush or heart race, but basically she isn't like a girl. Her child-like appearance makes her look more like my younger sister (although in actual fact I don't have a younger sister), the atmosphere was very relaxing.

"--It's alright, I don't feel tired when I'm with you."

Even though there are all sorts of danger.

I'll keep this sentence to myself. Following my short and simple reply--Aria....

Ho ho....

Suddenly laughed in a shy manner.

"Me.. me too. I'm very happy, except for the haunted house. You're really not bad."

"I don't know what you're praising me for...."

"It's an evaluation for today. Yes.... since it's not often I'm in a good mood, I'll promote you as a servant, starting from now on."

Can Ojou-sama please explain to me what's the bloody difference between a slave and a servant.

But... it feels really strange, for Aria to actually praise me.

Usually I'll just be Aria's personal punching bag. Being praised by her like this, I felt uneasy instead.

"How do I say this... Recently, you've changed somewhat."

As I felt awkward, I turned my head away to the side.

Aria became silent for a while, wiping her hands on her skirt.

I glanced at her from the corner of my eye, and noticed she was holding out her little finger.

"Of course I'll change. You, made the little finger...."

"?"

"You're really weird.... You're a weird person too."

Saying that, Aria lowered her head.

I could only remain silent as well.

After a while, Aria stole a glance at me, and asked.

"Then, which me is better? For Kinji, the me before? Or the me right now?"

".... Both are good, you're still you."

After replying, I placed my hands on the back of my head--

The both of us continued to sit on the chairs in silence.

As the conversation has ended, I raised my head, looking at the clear autumn skies and feeling the autumn wind blowing on my face.....

Ding.... Dong.... Ding.... Dong....

The sound of the tolling bell came from the direction of Odabai.

It was from the church of Hotel Nikko.

Due to the direction of the wind, the sound could be heard in Academy Island.

"Oh, it's a wedding."

I said with some emphasis.

"--Pfffff."

Aria was drinking the Perrier water, and suddenly shouted "Wuuaahhhhhhh" like she choked on the water.

Following that, she replaced the cap on the Perrier bottle, and started smoothing her hair in a flustered manner.

This is what she looks like when she's unable to calm down.

"Speaking of which, Aria. what are you doing in the afternoon?"

"Ah, the afternoon? The afternoon... the afternoon I'll be going to Assault to check on the activities of the female juniors. Didn't the Masters put up a notice to say 'Sempais are to verify the activities of their juniors. If there appears to be inadequate preparation, guidance must be given.' !"

"It's good to look after others, but that's not compulsory! When I heard the notice I simply thought that it's for people who want to go, I don't really care."

"It's.. it's fine. We'll end here today. The book did say 'Too much bindings will result in displeasure'."

Aria said some strange stuff as she stood up--throwing the bottle into the trash can.

(Bindings... was it referring to me?)

Recently, didn't you still use ropes to bind me and throw me into the sea for stealing your peach buns.

And that's after shooting me.

"Then.. then bye, Kinji. See you again at the fireworks meet in the evening. If you don't turn up, be prepared to be blasted with holes."

As Aria said these terrifying words, she politely left the place like an obedient girl.

Suddenly, she seemed to recall something, and adjusted her skirt to hide the gun holsters.

This action.... it's the first time I've seen it. That girl would actually be embarrassed because her guns were showing.

Afterwards, I met up with Muto (brother), and walked around the Cultural Festival with Shiranui, who placed second in the men's beauty contest.

Last year my schedule was packed to the brim with work. Finally this year I have one day of rest...

When Muto and Shiranui went to the CVR ball, which was an activity full of girls, I took the opportunity to slack off.

I can say that up till now, today was the most perfect day I've had for all this while.

The Cultural Festival successfully came to a close at 7pm in the evening as there was no festival at night.....

--So, from now on, it's time for the terrifying "Fireworks Meet".

On the final day of the Cultural Festival, Butei High has a tradition of having each team prepare and eat their own "Butei Pot".

For this, the sports hall was opened to everyone in the evening, and members of Team Baskerville were to gather there.

At this time, everyone was to bring their own ingredients, but...

The type of ingredients brought by each member of the team was determined by whether you have drawn "Hit" or "Miss".

Following the outcome, I was responsible for "Hit". As such, I gave normal pork meat to Shirayuki, who was overall-in-charge of the pot.

To add on, Shirayuki was the other one responsible for "Hit". This reassured me greatly.

But... the ones who drawn "Miss" were Aria and Reki.

Members responsible for "Miss" were to hand over "ingredients that one does not normally put into a hotpot" to the pot IC. This is a rule for the Butei Pot.

(.....I hope it won't become a problem with those two.....)

Aria has very little knowledge on the hotpot of Japanese culture, while Reki lives a life devoid of culture.

What creative ideas the two extremists can come up with, just thinking about it gave me a headache.

Also, in teams where there are an odd number of members, there will be one person in charge of the "seasoning", and that's Riko.

I guess this can be considered fortunate. If that girl whose mind is filled with fantasies ended up in charge of "Miss" ingredients, she might even bring a can of Surströmming.

("Water tossing", "Butei Pot".... who is supposed to benefit from these crazy ideas...)

As I thought about it, I walked into the sports hall with heavy footsteps--it was already quite noisy with all the people inside.

Many of the teams have started eating from their Butei Pot, and beside some of the seated students, there were several people lying on the ground foaming at their mouth, receiving treatment from Medica students equipped with first aid boxes.

Dammit, what's the point of this activity.

"Ki-kun, over here!"

Sitting like a mermaid on a picnic cloth, Riko was beaming as she called out to me.

Very much enjoying herself from this sort of ridiculous activities, Riko was tapping on the hotpot with her chopsticks while humming a tune.

Just to mention, the hotpot being used is a "dedicated hotpot for Butei Pot".

It was a negative type of inheritance passed down from our seniors, from each generation to the next. It's basically a pot made of clay.

But, the cover of the pot was shaped like a bowler hat.

On top of the bowler-hat cover, there was a small flap that could be opened up... The design was such that even if the flap was opened, you wouldn't know what food you had taken until it's completely out of the flap.

Putting it in another way, even in a brightly lit place, it's still able to create a 'dark' hotpot, it's an artifact that emanates demonic aura.

Besides Riko--Aria was sitting cross-legged on the picnic cloth, Reki was sitting in a squat position, Haimaki was sitting on top as well, and--

"It's being cooked now, Kin-chan, thank you for the meat."

The only one sitting in seiza was the IC, Shirayuki, who was adjusting the fire of the stove.

Wearing an apron around her school uniform, Shirayuki opened up a space for me, so I sat beside her.

"Cone-------pepper-----"

Suddenly, like Doraemon whipping out a secret tool, Riko started yelling!

--She started stuffing alot of chili into the flap!

"Wah!" "Kya!" "...."

Aria and Shirayuki stared with wide eyes, while Reki looked on silently at the pot.

"You... you.... what did you add inside! This will turn it into spicy hotpot!"

Seeing that Riko was still thinking of adding more chili, I started shouting.

"But Riko loves to eat spicy stuff. Cone----pepper----!"

Riko said loudly.

And added in some more--!

The cone pepper, simply put, is a type of chili.

A single one would have made the hotpot unbearable, and she actually put in twenty pieces. Is she trying to kill us?

".... Kin-chan, the person in charge of the seasoning can put anything she wants, this is the rule. But at least we will die together."

Shirayuki said, as she took out an expensive-looking embroidered handkerchief to dab her tears.

"There's no need to follow this type of rule! Riko... if you put one more inside, I'll execute you! Aria, Reki, remove your safety catches!"

As the team leader, I will no longer tolerate further acts of violence.

We removed the safety off our weapons together.

"Hurmp, let's make it slightly sweeter then."

Saying that, Riko took out a pack from a bear-shaped bag, opened it, and poured everything into the hotpot with a whoosh!

.... Art.. artificial sweetener...!

That's the artificial sweetener which is 4 times sweeter than normal sugar.

Simply put, it's like pouring in 2 kilograms of white sugar.

(I wonder what other hellish stuff has been added into the pot when I wasn't around.)

The seasoning alone for the hotpot was already enough to make me uneasy, this is the first time in my life I encountered such a situation.

...........Buruburuburu....

The hotpot was giving off a weird smell, and emitting purple gas, this hotpot....

"Hee hee, it looks really delicious, the taste will top everything else in the world..."

Seeing Riko taking out a packet of seasoning sauce,

"Shirayuki, is it done, I think it should be cooked right?"

I hurriedly prompted Shirayuki to hurry up.

"Un, I think it's done, although I'm not really sure myself when it can be considered done...."

"Ok, then--let's hope this cultural festival will end smoothly, with no one dying..."

As the leader, I hurriedly gave the speech to begin the feast--

"Alright! Then Aria, taste it!"

"Shi... Shirayuki, the overall-in-charge should start first."

"Ehh... Then Reki, how about you give it a try?"

"Riko should be the one to start eating first."

The girls ignored my speech, and started to push the task to each other.

My existence... is really pathetic...

"Then, let's have Ki-kun go first!"

"That's right, let the leader start first!"

"Kin-chan, I'm sorry, but.. but, there's normal food inside as well, so..."

"Kinji, do your best!"

You guys....

But, as it's four against one, there's nothing I could do. After all, the girls were pretending to display their weapons accidentally.

--There's no choice.

I'll just have to suck it up and do it.

"....The sakura, falls with the wind, drifting, scattering..."

Singing a tune to bid farewell to the world, I held the thought "If I die you all won't be able to live much longer too" to comfort myself, and went first.

Holding a bowl.... with my hands trembling.... I brought up the food... *pa*!

....Pea.... Peach....

.....Peach bun....!?

Like a corpse, the peach bun surfaced.

Aria, this must be your handiwork!

Maybe you would have liked this, but the filling has already been exposed from the melted skin of the bun. Have you ever thought what the taste would be like?

"To be considerate of others before you act", do elementary school students in foreign countries not learn about this?

And... on top of the peach bun, what... what the hell is that thing?

On top there was a half-melted thing, which should have originally been some brown-coloured rectangular object.

(What.. what is this....? Is this wheat bran...?)

Transferring the thing to my bowl, I picked up my chopsticks, the apprehension in my heart greater than when I was attacking E.U.

"......" "......" "......" "......"

Including Haimaki, everyone was looking at me as I placed the "wheat bran" lookalike-thingy in my mouth....

"Guh.... Ah..."

--That girl Reki!

You actually put wafers into the pot.....!

And it's cheese flavored.

The thick cheese flavor mixed with the seafood soup, resulted in an indescribable taste.

However, by a remarkable stroke of fortune, the chili was neutralized by the artificial sweetener.

It's practically a miracle. Putting aside the food, at least no one will die from drinking the soup.

Using whatever determination I had, I finished the peach bun saturated with soup--mission accomplished.

Also, as there was an each-person-a-scoop rule, the girls started playing rock-paper-scissors to decide who's next.

The first was Aria.

"....Wah...."

She scooped up something black, a mass of black stuff.

"Reki! This is your doing isn't it?"

After an interrogation by a furious Aria sitting on top of Reki, that thing appears to be blueberries which Snipe uses for the purpose of improving their eyesight. This explains the purple gases emitting from the soup.

Aria forced the thing into her mouth unwillingly, gulping down milk from a cup in her hands to wash everything down.

"Uhhh.. May the heavens protect me, may the heavens protect me...Uhhh..."

Shirayuki started to pray. Maybe because her behavior was usually prim and proper, she scooped up a cooked egg.

As Shirayuki was shedding tears of joy, Riko, who was sitting beside her scooped up...

"Woah, Reki!"

It's flour noodle... But, artificial sweeteners had crystallized and enveloped the noodles, turning it shiny.

How did this happen.... I was very shocked. Riko said "It's delicious", and calmly ate the flour noodle. Don't you find the flour noodles strange at all, and your sense of taste as well.

After Riko, was Reki.

With the usual expressionless look on her face, she stirred the ladle up and down... *whisk!*

"....!"

Sitting beside her, I broke out into a cold sweat seeing what she had scooped up, a full ladle of chili.

"......"

Reki placed the chili into a bowl.....

Breaking apart the chopsticks--with a gleam in both her eyes--

*whisk*

*swallow, swallow*

She really ate the chili.

In a calm and collected manner as usual.

*whisk*.... swallow*, *whisk.... swallow, swallow*.

She ate all of the remaining chili as well, like she was eating fries.

"...Are.. are you alright...?"

I asked worriedly. Reki nodded her head slightly.

Her eyes were devoid of emotion, and showed no signs of distress.

(....This is too ridiculous...)


....Afterwards....

The disgusting traditional activity had ended, and all the demonic ingredients were removed from the pot, so that everyone can slowly enjoy it.

As they say, the pet follows the image of its master, Haimaki actually started to eat the ingredients happily as well.

Isn't this cruelty to animals?

--At this time, Shirayuki said,

"Well, I'll remove the foam."

Using this as an excuse to change the entire soup.....

After she used a cloth to sanitize the pot for a new lease of life, the normal hotpot can begin. I can finally feel at ease.

"Shirayuki, there should still be some food left."

"Un, the pork meat from Kin-chan.... there's still cabbage and mizuna, carrots, mushrooms, spring onions, gobō..... ah, and slices of Yonezawa beef."

"Un.... that's great."

"We can still make something decent."

Like confirming weapons and equipment, Aria and I made a thorough inspection of the food, gave out orders, and Shirayuki started cooking.

Just like that--

The members of Baskerville crowded around the hotpot once again. At this time, Riko...

"--This meat is painstakingly prepared by Riko for herself!"

*Pa!*

Palmed in the eye, the beef I had picked up was snatched away in mid-air above the pot.

"That hurts... Isn't it the same whoever prepared the meat! I haven't eaten any meat yet!"

"From now one, this is Riko's territory, Ki-kun is forbidden to enter!"

Saying that, Riko decided on her own to use stalks of spring onions to draw out a boundary.

Then, she ate the boundary as well, leaving me with no idea how to react.

Looking at Riko eating the meat with gusto, I was starting to panic. I asked Shirayuki to pass me some meat... under the watchful eyes of the everyone else, I picked up a piece....

"Arrwooo!"

"Woah?!"

This time, the ambushing party was Haimaki, who snatched the meat from the side.

You--

Normally you eat all sorts of junk, why on earth do you have to eat my Yonezawa beef today!

"Give it back!"

"Arrwooo!" . With my anxiety pushed to the breaking point, I no longer cared about what others might think of me. I tried to snatch the food back from Haimaki's mouth, but was ultimately no match for an animal, and the fight ended with me being bitten a few times.

I say, Reki, don't just sit there in a daze, help me! Aren't you the owner!

As I turned my head back for help, I saw that while I was fighting with Haimaki over food, she was--

"Japanese beef is really the best in the world!"

"....."

Aria09 263.jpg

Aria and Reki were both eating the Yonezawa beef first.

Aria, who was scared of burning her tongue, kept blowing at her food, so she was eating slower... But, what made things worse was that Reki had activated her infamous "non-stop eating" mode. Why does it have to activate now, stop... please stop.

"Kin... Kin-chan, there's still some meat!"

Shirayuki told me as she picked up a cooked piece of beef, but,

"This beef was cooked in Riko's territory! Ho ho!"

With lightning speed, Riko extended her chopsticks and snatched the beef away.

"Hey! That's so rude! I picked it for Kin-chan!"

Even though Shirayuki tried to use the pot cover as a shield to defend--

Riko used Aru=Kata with chopsticks in both hands to snatch away the meat.

"Kyaa, meat! The meat picked for Kin-chan!"

"Haha, it's really tasty! Thanks Shirayuki!"

That girl Riko....!

Finally, all the Yonezawa meat were wiped out...!

But.... the battle isn't over,,, there was still pork meat.

"You guys--this is brought by me, at least let me eat a bit."

Displaying a seriousness which I do not usually have, I drew out my DE (Desert Eagle) as a further threat.

As I have been having some money problems.... After Watson treated me to the steak that one time, I practically didn't have a good meal with any meat.

If I don't eat some now, I don't know when will be the next time I get the chance to eat meat.

Seeing how determined I was, the girls toned down a little as well--in order to combat Riko, Shirayuki used some mizuna to set up a boundary, designating that area as my rented zone to cook the pork for me.

Thanks to her assistance... I can finally eat meat. Even if it's just pork.

"This is great, Kin-chan can finally get to eat Kin-chan's meat."

"Don't put it in such a disgusting way..."

"Here, please enjoy."

I put out my bowl towards Shirayuki who was handing the meat to me....

".... Ah, it feels so warm when having hotpot."

For some reason, Shirayuki started to use her hand to fan her chest at this time.

"..........."

While receiving the meat.... Within Shirayuki's apron, at the chest area of her sailor uniform....

(Bla... Black....!)

It's exposed!

I can see your "competition" underwear.

"......!"

Feeling the excited rush of blood flow in my nose, I quickly took the meat and turned my back.

Re-adjusting my sitting position, I heard a soft dissatisfied sound of "Chey!" coming from behind me......

Just then, *thump*, *thump*, the sound of combat boots approaching from the side--

"Guh...?"

I'm actually floating in mid-air.

Like a kitten being wrung at the neck, I was lifted up.

Single-handedly lifting me who weighs 60 kilos, and sitting in the space I was forced to vacate was....

"Ran... Ranbyou... sensei."

"--The cosplay cafeteria was given pretty good evaluations by the customers. Profit margins were higher than last year, all of you have done well."

Taking my bowl by force, Ranbyou helped herself and picked up the chopsticks, eating and chatting at the same time.

(My, my meat is all gone... I didn't even manage to get a single bite.)

This is, reality.

The lion cub, raging bull, mountain cat, hawk, silver wolf, and now with the addition of a female leopard coming over to fight for food, a weak human like me stands no chance whatsoever.

Speaking of which, is Butei High an Animal Kingdom?

"--And Reki, the poster you drew for the cultural festival has been awarded first place by the public vote. There's a prize to be presented to you, so come get it from the staff room later."

...Ah?

Under the stares of everyone in Baskerville.... Reki nodded silently at Ranbyou.

"Reki... you can draw as well?"

I was thoroughly stunned.

Reki nodded her head.

"The posters collected were not enough, so all the posters from students who could draw were used. Recently I made a drawing with 'Dreams' as its theme, and it was used to make up numbers."

"Dreams....? Reki, what did you draw?"

Aria, who was rarely shocked, had widened her eyes.

"--I drew the Dream Demon from the legends of my birthplace."

Patting Reki who answered in an emotionless manner, Ranbyou spoke.

"Reki's drawing was fantastic. Take a look for yourself."

Saying that, she showed us a photo of Reki's drawing she had taken using her handphone's camera.... The girls were all stunned.

Being thrown outside the picnic mat and unable to get a first hand look at the picture, I looked over towards Ranbyou's phone....

"Whoa...."

--The phone display showed an extremely realistic drawing which looked like it was drawn by H R Giger.

Although the thing showed in the painting was a strange combination between some sort of animal and bird bones, but the drawing was certainly very well drawn.

That type of creature may not exist in reality, but it was drawn so realistically like a photograph.

"This is really awesome... you really drew this?"

Hearing my question, Reki nodded her head slightly.

....Such artistic talent.

In Baskerville--Shirayuki was skilled at ink drawing, Riko was also able to draw shōjo manga-like illustrations.

But Reki was on a completely different level.

There won't be any problems with turning into a professional artist right? With such brutal capabilities.

Constantly maintaining their guns with care, tirelessly carrying out slight adjustments, being able to remain highly focused when ambushing a target--many snipers are good at drawing.

I've heard of such rumors... But, it looks like the rumors are true, and Reki is such an example.

"......"

As if not hearing the praises from everyone, Reki herself was behaving calmly. But, her talent was really unexpected.

I say... you should just quit being a sniper and switch jobs to become an artist instead!

That's what I felt from the bottom of my heart.

And this kind of work contributes to the world as well.

--Switch your job, quickly.

(Just like myself.... who will be transferring to a normal school.)

As I thought of this, I looked at Aria and the girls surrounding Reki and heaping praises on her.

In actual fact, I....

Was planning to hand in my application to the Masters to transfer from Butei High to a normal high school.

If I want to transfer school by April next year, I'll have to hand in the application before the deadline of October 31st, which is before midnight today.

Considering the fact that I may change my mind, I had even submitted an application to extend the deadline.....

But, it looks like my decision hasn't changed.

This kind of life, will only result in death and destruction one day.

(So--there's still about half a year's time. Half a year from now, I won't be able to be like this anymore... leaving this group of people behind. By then, it'll really be....)

As I thought about all these, I looked on at my comrades who had crowded together.... In the first half of the year, I had--

Discovered a new side to everyone, just like the Reki right now.

Sometimes on the battlefield, sometimes, in everyday life like this.

And not just from the members of Baskerville.

But also from Jeanne, Watson, and myself--discovering many new things.

(Well, not counting the parts on shooting and slashing at each other. Discovering all these things... it's really nice, and it's the same for Butei High too.)

As I was not good at dealing with girls, it caused me some grief... But, having lived with eveyone for some time, I could feel that all of them were my true comrades.

Even if I'll only be staying here for half a year, but before I leave--Team Baskerville is to me,

Still a wonderful place to call my own. Here, there are comrades who can help each other out.

--So, I want to protect them.

In the remaining half a year that I'm in Butei High, I'll protect them with my all.

To protect this place I call my own, to protect the important comrades in front of me.

(After all, I am still the leader of Team Baskerville.)

As these thoughts ran through my mind, I gazed serenely at Aria, Shirayuki, Riko and Reki.


Translator's Notes and References[edit]

  1. Mamiya is a character from "Hidan no Aria Double A". She's the kohai of Aria.
  2. OB here stands for Oberkommandierender (The German version of Commander-In-Chief).
  3. Company here refers to a military company.
  4. Boru literally means ball.