Leviathan:Volume 4 Chapter 1
Chapter 1 - For that Inevitable Day in the Future
"Senpai, it's already morning, you know? Time to get up."
An adorable voice called to him, quite an excellent match for the refreshing morning.
It was the voice of Shirasaka Hazumi, the unique underclassman of Haruga Haruomi aka Hal. Her cute voice stimulated his auditory senses, rousing Hal’s consciousness gradually from slumber.
But in the end, he still wanted to say those cliched words.
"Hmm... Please, give me five more minutes..."
"Not allowed. You'll be late if you don't rise from bed and get prepared."
Even without a prior agreement, Hazumi was waking him gently as though upholding a promise.
What a perfect underaged bride. No, what she was achieving in the "childhood friend character" realm was perhaps transcendence beyond perfection... While refusing to get up, Hal was struck by a sudden impact of bliss, instantly opening his eyes.
Perhaps interacting with Hazumi had caused some kind of secretion in his brain matter.
But this was only natural—As soon as he opened his eyes, he was greeted with an innocent smiling face by his pillow that caused him to believe so.
"Fufufu. Good morning, Senpai."
"Yeah, mornin'. I'm sorry you have to go to all this trouble to wake me up."
"Of course not. Since I am your assistant, Senpai, this trivial task is more than warranted."
Lying on the bed under the thin blanket, Hal was having this morning conversation with Hazumi.
Sunlight streaming in through the window was illuminating Hal's bedroom. However, there was an even brighter light source in the room—namely, Hazumi's angelic smile.
Beaming tenderly, the girl was exhibiting purity that was even more dazzling than sunlight to Hal.
"Starting tomorrow, just go with a morning call by cellphone, okay?"
"Yes. But if time permits... May I still intrude?"
Confronted with Hazumi's polite request for indulgence, Hal replied without thinking.
The pure-minded junior student nodded happily, even though the unreliable upperclassman—Haruga Haruomi—was supposed to be the one expressing gratitude no matter how you thought about it.
Once again, Hal found his heart filled up with bliss.
If life continued with Hazumi waking him up every morning, his body might suffer from side effects of excessive happiness, perhaps even leading to an early demise just like that.
Just as Hal was indulging in his delusions, Hazumi exited the room.
She was probably expecting Hal to get dressed next. Hence, he removed his pajamas decisively and put on his school uniform while reviewing all kinds of recent events in his mind.
Almost a month had passed since Princess Yukikaze's invasion.
It was now July after final exams and the students of the Academy were waiting for the summer vacation. During this period, Haruga Haruomi regressed into an oversleeper.
Perhaps it was an aftereffect of the various commotions in June.
Sacrificing sleep to investigate clues, encountering Princess Yukikaze and the ensuing battles, establishing a new covenant with Hinokagutsuchi, defeating True Genbu-Ou and handling all kinds of aftermath business...
Now that he was finally done with all this, Hal's wake up time had been postponed greatly.
Still soundly asleep at 8 or 9am, he remained in bed in spite of the ringing alarm clock.
Overexhaustion—especially a severe case of accumulated mental fatigue—was Hal's self-diagnosis.
Speaking of Haruga Haruomi, naturally, he was not the kind of person to put in any effort towards rising early.
Instead, he had forged a document, intending to submit to the school a diagnosis report of primary hypersomnia so that he could sleep as much as he wanted.
What foiled this plan was Hazumi's comment after hearing about it.
"In that case, Senpai, let me be responsible for waking you up every morning from now on!"
And this morning was the first occasion.
After getting dressed, Hal went to the living room to meet up with Hazumi.
"Fufufufu. You won't be late to school today as long as you leave the house at this time."
"Yeah, then let's set off quickly," answered Hal to Hazumi who was likewise dressed in Kogetsu Academy's uniform.
Then he reached for the table in the living room and grabbed a silver-colored pack of energy jelly and a chocolate bar just enough to fill his stomach.
Even if one was about to be late, it would be too illogical to head off to school with a piece of toast in one's mouth to stave off hunger—
Hence, the food laid out here was what Hal had purchased in advance according to this judgment. Not only were these items good enough to handle a competitive cyclist's daily requirement of five or six thousand calories, but they could also be consumed while on the move.
However, Hal's logical breakfast choice was overruled.
"Oh Senpai, if it's okay with you, could you leave the food there?"
"Sure, but why?"
"Fufufu. It's a secret."
Now that Hazumi had displayed such a smile, Hal had no choice but to comply obediently.
He returned the food to the table then picked up his schoolbag. Then exiting the entrance of the Haruga residence, known locally as a haunted house, he set off for school.
The first part of the journey was a walk to the nearest station—Narihirabashi.
Taking the New Town Loop Line, they got off two stations later at Ryougoku.
Then walking on foot from Ryougoku Station, they would reach Kogetsu Academy. As a side note, one would need to continue three stations down the line in order to reach Monzennamachi, the closest station to Hazumi and Juujouji Orihime's homes.
The underclassman had gotten up early on purpose to visit Hal's home in the morning.
"Hmm, you're such a cute underclassman, Shirasaka."
"P-Please don't make such a weird comment so suddenly."
While conversing, the two of them went though Ryougoku Station's turnstile. Their friend was already waiting for them nearby in uniform.
A female student with a head of long and beautiful hair. This was precisely Juujouji Orihime.
Dressed in the short-sleeved summer uniform, Orihime was plenty striking even amid the crowded train station.
"Good morning, Haruga-kun. It would seem that letting Hazumi go out of her way to pick you up has been highly effective."
Orihime spoke while waving to her cousin Hazumi.
Then from a tote bag she was carrying in addition to her schoolbag, she took out a cylindrical package, roughly twenty-five centimeters in length.
The wrapping paper featured patterns emulating English newsprint.
After handing the package to Hal, Orihime used her gaze to urge him to open it.
"Don't tell me this is my breakfast?"
"Indeed it is. As agreed previously. I also prepared Hazumi's portion too."
"Fufu. Thank you, Nee-sama!"
Hal opened the package to find a submarine sandwich.
A small piece of French bread had been sliced through the middle to put in a filling of ham, bacon, cheese, lettuce, diced pimento, tomato slices, olives, etc.
In addition to Hal, Orihime handed an identical package to Hazumi and smiled.
"Since Hazumi said she was getting up early to go your house, Haruga-kun, I suggested I would prepared breakfast."
"Such care and consideration really puts me to shame."
"You have been working extremely hard recently, Haruga-kun. This bit of reward is nothing in comparison. Besides—"
Orihime winked suggestively.
"It seems that you are still preparing something, but please don't let your sleep deprivation get out of hand."
"If you continue to act with imprudence, Hazumi and I will have to impose ourselves on your hospitality. To stop you from burning the midnight oil, we will supervise you every night."
"I will commit these gratifying words to memory."
"More than committing to memory, you must put words into action properly. Sleep deprivation will reduce work efficiency instead. Didn't you say that?"
"Well, that's true..."
Unless there was a true emergency, staying up all night for days in a row was definitely more harm than good.
Speaking of which, Hal's nature was a bit lazy to begin with. Consequently, he wholeheartedly agreed with this enthusiastically helpful classmate. While chatting about this topic, the trio made their way towards Kogetsu Academy.
A peaceful morning commute.
Apart from Hal, Hazumi and Orihime, many other students were walking along the same route.
However, compared to a month earlier, student numbers were definitely lower from Hal's impression. This was not baseless speculation.
Currently, Kogetsu Academy's overall enrollment had gone down by roughly 10%.
In the twenty-first century, humans were threatened by "Dragon Strikes."
However, the initial attacks did not happen too frequently. Even if one were to use the islands of Japan as a reference area, it was only two or three Raptor attacks a year.
But recently, Kantou region had become extremely anomalous—Tokyo in particular.
Ever since early spring, dragons kept showing up frequently. Raak Al Soth, Pavel Galad, Ra Exhos, together with the large numbers of Raptors summoned by them, and even Genbu-Ou and Princess Yukikaze...
The ordinary populace was not privy to the details of the attacks.
This was due to the Japanese government imposing information control. Information regarding elite dragons, dragon kings and leviathans was generally undisclosed. This was no exception.
But conceivably, the populace would gradually start feeling wary of the excessively anomalous increase in dragon appearances.
It was at this juncture that the New Town Occupation incident happened in June. Triggered by this, people assessing whether they should move away from the Tokyo area were not in the minority, rather, one should say they were the majority.
With the advent of early July now, residents committed to moving to other regions were rapidly surfacing.
"As long as the dragon princess remains stationed at Old Tokyo, perhaps it might not be a bad idea to simply evacuate the residents of New Town and western Tokyo completely," Hal remarked while walking along a corridor in the high school division.
A student in the middle school division, Hazumi had parted ways from them earlier. Hal was walking alone with Orihime now.
"Sure enough, even more battles are coming than ever before?"
"Well, it could be the opposite too."
Hal and Orihime chatted while they arrived in front of the classroom's door.
They both belonged to Year 1 Class F. The master mage who used to be active in Europe, Asya—Anastasya Rubashvili—was also in the same class.
"Good morning, Orihime-san. Good morning to you too, Harry. You finally came to school properly today."
Another master mage was already waiting in front of the classroom.
Luna Francois Gregory.
Born in America's Oklahoma State, she was the talented lady whose control of the leviathan, Glinda the "Good Witch of the South," made her the Trans-Pacific Shootdown Ace.
The blonde girl with doll-like beauty was dressed in the school's summer uniform.
"Good morning, Luna-san. What business brings you to a first-year homeroom?"
"Having tidied up the proposal and reference materials, I merely intend to deliver them to Harry," replied Luna Francois to Orihime's question.
Transferred into Kogetsu Academy last month, she was wearing the school badge for second-years on the collar of her uniform. In fact, she was a year older than Hal and the others.
Incidentally, the two girls were simply conversing in the corridor.
But that alone was enough to gather the gazes of passing students. Like Orihime, Luna Francois was an equally striking presence too.
All things considered, she was a blonde Caucasian beauty seldom seen in Japanese high schools.
Besides, for a transfer student to arrive gracefully given the current situation, this attracted even more gossip and speculation than Orihime.
"So Harry, this is the first step to our ambition."
Luna Francois handed over a thick A4-size envelop.
Inside was a stack of printed documents. Hal expected the competent and meticulous Luna to have already sent an electronic copy to his email. He nodded deeply.
"How efficient. It's only been a week since I asked you."
"In any case, here is the first stage. Afterwards, I shall be reading the Japanese comic you lent me as a reference, Harry, while gradually advancing the plan."
"Haruga-kun, what did you lend to Luna-san?"
"I don't know if you've heard of it, but it's called The Kingdom of Ambition."
"...What is that?"
"A manga from decades ago. It's a story about two Tokyo University students who started their careers in a yakuza gang in order to realize their ambition of conquering Japan through violence. In the past, it was only after reading this manga that I figured things out—the process of how to control others and ways to grab power."
"This story shall surely serve as our bible for we are fated to discern the mechanisms of society's power hierarchy, realizing our ambition at the end of conflict to welcome a new dawn."
"...Haruga-kun and Luna-san, do you have some kind of ambition?"
"Well, it's nothing amazing if I really had to say it."
"One could consider it as something a step away from ambition, perhaps a blueprint for tomorrow or a plan for the future?"
"Summing up, you two are up to some kind of prank—Is that what you mean?"
Getting a vague sense of the truth, Orihime smiled wryly and shrugged.
Haruga Haruomi was in the first year of high school. As a member of the research organization SAURU, he had been traveling all over the world to recover Grave Goods and was responsible for forging covenants between witches and leviathans.
And now, Hal had become the only human in possession of a dragonslaying rune.
Currently, he was feeling his way around to see how he could make effective use of this new skill, to build a new career.
Orihime was lending her assistance as a friend. In addition, Hazumi and Luna Francois were also reliable helpers. With the addition of his childhood friend Asya and that lazy former dragon, Hinokagutsuchi—
All this was still not enough.
"As the first step towards realizing ambition, shouldn't I hire a few more people? At an hourly wage of 1200 yen, I suppose."
Despite the absurdity of his words, Hal's mutterings sounded quite leisurely in tone.
There were still fifteen minutes before morning homeroom.
It was currently early July with finals already over, leaving only the end-of-term ceremony and summer vacation ahead. Consequently, Year 1 Class F was filled with a lethargic atmosphere. Hal's classmates were chatting, passing manga around, playing with cellphones and even napping this early in the morning.
However, Asya was not present. Hal muttered quietly, "Maybe she's having breakfast at a fast food joint or beef bowl shop somewhere?"
"I also prepared the same breakfast for Asya-san as for you... I guess it will have to become a break time snack."
"There's also the option of secretly eating it during class."
While talking to Orihime, Hal went to sit down.
His seat was located in the last row next to the window with Juujouji Orihime seated on his right. Thinking about it now, compared to their first conversation in early spring, Hal realized that the situation had changed completely...
While reminiscing poignantly, Hal searched his schoolbag.
Then he took out two packs of cafe au lait that he had bought at a vending machine earlier.
"This is a return gift for breakfast."
"You're very welcome. Then I'll graciously accept your gift."
After accepting the cafe au lait, Orihime smiled mischievously.
Hal could not help but feel his heart pounding at the sight of her smile. Recently, although he did not know why, this rise in heart rate had been commonplace whenever he spent time with the cheerful, considerate and understanding Juujouji Orihime with her topnotch beauty and talent, outstanding figure and boundless initiative.
It was the same right now. Although this heart racing phenomenon left him completely baffled, he did not find it uncomfortable at all.
Still with his heart rate elevated, Hal took out the breakfast Orihime had prepared for him.
"Then I'm digging in."
"Yes, please enjoy... How's the taste?"
"Mmm. It's just as tasty as a normal BLT. Thanks."
"What a perfunctory comment as usual."
"Or perhaps to express my maximum gratitude for your personal cooking, how about I perform a prostration rite? I learned the formal method in Tibet before."
Hal began to recall his childhood memories.
"First put the palms together then raise them overhead. Then hit the ground as though performing a head sliding maneuver in baseball. It makes even more of an impact if the forehead strikes the ground spectacularly with bleeding."
"It's fine. You don't have to go that far."
Orihime smiled lightly while she spoke.
"I'll still prepare breakfast for you next time even without bloodshed. Although you won't end up starving, Haruga-kun, if I leave you alone, you certainly won't eat three meals normally."
"I'd rather you call it a lifestyle prioritizing efficiency... Eh?"
At this moment, Hal noticed. Several classmates nearby had pushed their chairs back in succession, stood up in a clatter and left their seats in a hurry.
The first to move was Takayama, the male student sitting in front of Hal.
The five or six classmates to get up next were also boys. Some of them walked to the blackboard while others left the classroom directly, distancing themselves from Hal and Orihime rapidly.
And for some reason, all of them kept clicking their tongue, their faces filled with anger and frustration...
"I wonder what's the matter with them?"
"Now that you mention it, I think something similar happened before. What the heck is going on?"
Orihime tilted her head in puzzlement and Hal fell silent too.
But before the answer surfaced, a certain girl burst out laughing "ahaha."
"Oh my, it's because the mood between you two was perfect—"
"Seeing the ever popular Juujouji-san getting lovey dovey with a boy next to them, of course they're going to be mad."
" "Lovey dovey?" "
The bearers of this shocking news to Hal and Orihime were two girls in the same class. One was the short-haired Mutou-san who sat in front of Orihime while the other was the twintailed Funaki-san adjacent to her.
Their full names were Mutou Natsumi and Funaki Kyouka respectively.
Due to the opportunity created by the June incident, Hal had gotten much closer to them than before.
"Really? So like before, everyone still thinks I'm going out with Juujouji."
Hal nodded with a sigh.
"It's really been too busy lately, so much I completely forgot this... The rumors still haven't fizzed out? It should be more interesting to follow gossip news on celebrities than us, right?"
"I thought it would last no more than seventy-five days. What unexpected longevity..."
"Because you two keep adding new fuel regularly."
In response to Orihime's puzzled countenance, Funaki-san offered her opinion, apparently knowledgeable of the reason. She was not only a classroom gossip enthusiast but also very informed and connected.
"Listen to what I heard—This morning, Juujouji-san proposed a plan about living at Haruga-kun's home, isn't that right?"
"Th-That isn't a plan, I was just bringing it up as a possibility!"
"In terms of scandal, there's no difference between the two—"
"Even when it was clearly just a joke?!"
Funaki-san's viewpoint brought shock to the unexpectedly careless school idol.
It looked like Juujouji Orihime had dug her own grave again. That being said, she deserved pity for the fact that a throwaway comment on the way to school had been overheard by nearby students.
Meanwhile, fellow UFO Research Club member Mutou-san spoke up and asked Hal, "Can I ask a question? But I'm directing this at Haruga-sensei, the expert in that field, rather than Haruga-kun the classmate."
"Sure, but do note that my three sizes are top secret, okay?"
"No problem. I'd use forceful measures if I wanted your three sizes. Putting that aside, this is an unfounded worry from the Mutou family's pair of slightly happy-go-lucky parents—Something about whether this Tokyo New Town is actually still livable despite the recent surge in incidents."
Originally smiling, Mutou-san gradually suppressed her expression and lowered her voice.
Indeed—The Tokyo Occupation incident had happened in June.
Back then, Mutou and Funaki had escaped the "cold sleep" curse and consequently witnessed the silver dragon Pavel Galad's "transformation" as well as the scene of Orihime and Asya summoning "serpents" as witches.
After that, Hal had partially disclosed the situation to the two girls on his own accord.
(But since the truth related to Hal's identity as a dragonslayer was a hassle, he had omitted it.)
Her inquiry was being made in consideration of Haruga Haruomi's status as an "expert" in that field.
The adjacent Orihime turned to look at Hal in interest. The talkative Funaki-san also quieted down with eyes of anticipation. Everyone was waiting for Hal's answer.
"Good question. I've mentioned it a bit before, lately several dragons have launched invasions in a contest to rule over the Tokyo area... This counts as the truth, I guess."
After thinking briefly, Hal continued, "Of course, it's possible that Tokyo might be attacked again by new dragons. However, Tokyo and its vicinity is currently the turf of someone considered quite powerful, even among the dragons. Depending on the situation, it might become more peaceful than before, actually."
Last month, Old Tokyo's "wedge" had fallen into the white dragon king's hands.
Princess Yukikaze. The bearer of the Rune of the Arrow, an adorable yet violent conqueror.
"Did you know? You can say that Dragon Strikes never happen in the New York area—the sphere of influence belonging to Red Hannibal, the representative of dragonkind."
"Hannibal... You mean the King of Dragons that appeared in July 1999!"
"That's him alright. Presumably, low-ranked dragons fear Hannibal, which is why they don't enter his territory lightly."
"Perhaps the same situation might happen in Tokyo—Is that what you mean, Haruga-kun?"
Impressive as always, the UFO Research Club's upcoming ace, one might say?
Mutou-san was able to put two and two together despite Hal's crude explanation. Orihime and Funaki-san both looked at her with impressed expressions.
"Of course, I can't promise you 100%. After all, dragons could descend from the sky no matter where on Earth you go," added Hal somewhat helplessly.
"If you look back in a few years' time—You might end up concluding it was safer to stay in Tokyo in the first place. So whether staying behind or moving away immediately, either's fine. Given the current situation, that's all I can say."
In fact, Hal had given the same explanation to Orihime not too long ago.
No sooner had Hal finished than Mutou-san nodded firmly.
"Since there's no way to reach an immediate conclusion, you might as well wait and see a bit longer huh..."
"Well, it's only my personal opinion. Depending on how the situation changes, you should make preparations to move any moment."
Hal reached into his schoolbag and took out his cellphone.
"By the way, my answer is 'okay' for what you requested of me earlier, with conditions attached. Regarding the 'serpents'—what we call leviathans in technical jargon—used to intercept unruly dragons, which you wanted to learn about in detail."
"Yes. As long as you agree, Mutou-san, I will send the file of this compilation, titled 'The Artificial Lifeform Known as the Leviathan and the Ultimate Truth of the World, an Introduction,' to your cellphone and computer."
"...How thoughtful. So what conditions do you intend to propose?"
Hearing Hal's suggestion, Mutou-san smiled malevolently.
"Haruga-san, you guys belong to an organization named SAURU, right? Are you asking me to join this secret association too? Or will you threaten me with men in black who'll abduct me if I leak this secret?"
"The exact opposite, Mutou-san. Do you want to work at my private firm?"
An hourly wage of 1200 yen for now, with additional hazard pay.
Of course, there was a nondisclosure clause whose violation would bring legal and magical retribution, but with it came the chance to fully learn so-called "world secrets." This did not rule out the possibility of aiding in future publications of knowledge obtained as a result.
With the atmosphere of a chat taking place in a classroom, Hal explained these conditions.
Since there were no boys nearby, only Orihime, Mutou-san and Funaki-san, this was a very promising recruitment.
The sudden proposal took Orihime and Mutou-san aback in surprise.
Meanwhile, the third girl present, Funaki-san, raised her hand with frightening vigor.
"Y-Yes yes! I want to apply for this job too! Hiring a high school girl for an hourly wage of 1200 yen is very generous. It's only around 800 at most for other places!"
"I happen to need a few helpers to aid in keeping details organized, so your help is very welcomed."
"H-Haruga-kun, are you really certain?"
"Don't worry, Juujouji. Since a while ago, I've intended to hire personnel to a certain extent."
Hal nodded readily at Orihime's confirmation.
Hence, the first recruitment target—Mutou-san—also raised a question.
"S-Since you're recruiting me, I suppose you also plan on inviting the other members of the UFO Research Club?"
"Yeah. The only male member apart from me is Sakuraba-senpai, right? I'd like to rope him in too. President M goes without saying, but she isn't really the employee type. I might as well put up all the capital and have her in charge of an entire shop."
Hal remarked enthusiastically in front of the three girls.
"Depending on the line of business, sales figures might turn out to be quite astounding."
"True, if she were to run a life coaching consultancy, business will definitely be booming... "
"A small tavern or bar might be a good fit... Although the president is still a minor despite appearances."
After Orihime and Mutou-san expressed agreement, the warning bell for class immediately rang.
Homeroom would start in five minutes. Orihime looked around the classroom.
"Asya-san is still not here. Is she oversleeping on Haruga-kun's behalf?"
"Oh, you guys didn't know? Lately, she's been coming to school early, looking like she's plenty busy. I saw her this morning too."
Funaki-san the gossip-lover told the two of them readily.
This was news not only to Orihime but Hal too.
"What is she doing so early in the morning at school?"
"Practice—No, I think she called it special training. It looks like she'll be late to class today, I guess?"
The unexpected description made Hal widen his eyes.
"A-Amenbo akai na aiueo! Kitsutsuki kotsu kotsu kare keya ki! Tote tote tatta to tobitatta! Namekuji noro noro naninuneno!"
This was happening an hour prior to Haruga Haruomi and Juujouji Orihime arriving at the classroom.
Today, Asya—namely, Anastasya Rubashvili—was dedicating herself to vocal exercises again. This was a basic lesson familiar to people in theater troupes and drama clubs.
Naturally, a certain person remained standing on the side with arms crossed—
"Enunciate your words more... Sigh, but let's conclude here this morning."
With an estimated bodyweight of 140kg, President M commented gravely.
She was dressed in a plain white t-shirt with a white toga like those of ancient Roman sages. This type of ancient attire could only be seen nowadays in movies about gladiators or bath houses set in that particular era.
Producing an effect akin to cosplay, President M had ample presence today too.
Inside the forest on campus, the two of them were having a one-to-one special training session.
"After calisthenics and vocal exercises, read out the script as usual. Ready to begin?"
"Affirmative... But President, why do I have to take lessons related to acting?"
Asya replied decisively but suddenly tilted her head.
"Isn't there a saying that 'women are naturals as actresses'? Even without learning acting skills deliberately, I already have the good looks to become a movie star. Aren't I plenty talented already? Ehe."
"What shameless bragging coming from someone who completely lacks the skills to make effective use of this talent."
"No way! President, aren't you the one who kept praising my acting skills during these five days of special training!?"
Asya reacted to the accusation indignantly but President M shook her head.
"That is because so far, I only selected characters and scripts to accommodate your qualities. Tarzan the King of the Jungle, Gladiator Spartacus, A Princess of Mars, and Lobo the Wolf King all fall in this category."
Asya reacted in surprise, unaware that the president had considerations on such a level.
"President, I thought you picked these extreme scripts only because you wanted to test if my acting skills could overcome barriers of gender, profession and even species!"
"Well, some of the roles were definitely more suited to you than I imagined, however..."
President M reached for the trunk case on the ground.
It opened with a click to show dozens of scripts inside. President M, whose gender and true identity were indeterminate, served simultaneously as the leader of five different cultural clubs, the UFO Research Club, the Literature Club, the Mass Media Research Club, the Science Insider Club and the Drama Club.
This pile of scripts were brought from the Drama Club's room.
Today, President M's selection was Romeo and Juliet.
"Honing your acting skills will improve your feminine charm—The plan is finally entering the second stage. Let this classic be our challenge today."
"Sir, yes sir!"
"...May I make one correction? Strictly speaking, shouldn't you be answering 'yes ma'am' at this time?"
Sir was a respectful form of addressing a man in English while ma'am was the female equivalent. To answer a female superior affirmatively, "yes ma'am" would be the proper choice, of course. However, Asya argued, "but saying it this way is easier to understand for people who aren't military enthusiasts. Besides, speaking of your gender, President, whether you're actually male or female..."
"I am the mother! Having said I'm the mother for all of you, of course I am the mother!"
While chatting, Asya also started to memorize the script. Observing quietly from the side, President M suddenly changed the subject and said, "By the way, you lot apparently survived many trials."
"Did Mutou-san tell you, President?"
"I heard a bit from her, but it is mainly my personal intuition. While I was sleeping during the camp at school last time, something big apparently happened in school."
"Hmm, actually, it was just a battle to be relished..."
Last month, a dragon king—Princess Yukikaze—attacked and targeted Haruga Haruomi.
The battlefield where the gang intercepted the white dragon king was precisely this Kogetsu Academy.
The shockwave and fiery explosion at the time had caused massive damage to much of the Sumida ward, the school included. Although unconscious at the time, President M had been right in the heart of it.
The president's frightening aspects were not limited to her shocking appearance or personality.
Apart from lucidity in thought, she also had a keen intuition like a possessed spirit medium. It was only foreseeable that she would realize the truth about Asya and the others.
But being a broad-minded person, President M was never prone to acting rashly. This fact was very reassuring.
I might as well rope the president into SAURU to have her(?) research weird techniques... While Asya was pondering this seriously, her thoughts were suddenly interrupted.
While reading the script, she suddenly noticed points of weirdness.
"This Romeo and Juliet, don't you find it strange?"
"Romeo is seventeen but Juliet is only thirteen? The two of them fell in love at first sight, betrothed themselves to each other that very night and decided to elope. After that, Juliet feigned her death, Romeo commits suicide in despair by poison and she follows him in death after waking up..."
"Nothing strange, is there? This story has been like that since four centuries ago."
"Isn't this tragedy avoidable if both of them had been slightly more careful? The circumstances leading to elopement were also very reckless. To be honest, both of them feel quite deplorable to me..."
"Such harsh criticism would be far too unromantic."
"Isn't this similar to that? Instances of fixed form beauty like how you can untie a sash automatically by having a lady-in-waiting spin around in period dramas. But once you notice details like that, it's very hard to immerse yourself in the show. Can we switch to a different script?"
"You're too much of a nitpicker," President M grumbled in a huff.
"Speaking of characters appearing in love stories, they have to be a little foolish at least—rather, I should say it's easier to move the plot if they're more simpleminded and flustered. This is what is called the principle of 'love is blind.' Isn't it quite similar to the messiness of love in the real world?"
"Oh come on, this is the first step towards my becoming an award-winning actress after all. Can't you give me a bit of preferential treatment?"
"Seriously... Then how about this one?"
President M handed over another script and Asya began to browse through it.
"Oh... The stage is set in a certain country inside a school that combines middle and high school together. The main heroine is a second-year student in the middle school division. Introvert that she is, a certain incident allowed her to start getting to know an upperclassman in the high school division. As they grew closer and closer, they began to feel an attraction for each other..."
There was a plot summary included with the beginning part, so Asya read on.
"However, a shocking truth was soon uncovered—The two of them were actually siblings separated since birth. After learning that this was a taboo romance, the brother and sister decide to sever their feelings for each other. However, the flames of love not only failed to be extinguished but the two of them finally developed a forbidden relationship—'I don't care about anything as long as I can be with Onii-chan'... Damn it!"
Asya was so emotional that she threw the script against the ground. President M frowned matter-of-factly.
"Hey you, what on earth is going on?"
"S-Sorry. This story is causing indescribable stress on my heart and soul, so I accidentally... Can I have another change of script?"
Asya used to roam battlefields as Europe's Shootdown Ace.
This powerful witch and seasoned veteran now had her mind stuck in numerous delusions.
'Haruomi-senpai, we are actually siblings.'
'From now on, can you love me as a real little sister...?'
'No, we're blood siblings, how can it turn into this kind of relationship!?'
'B-But truth be told, I also feel... towards you, Senpai—no, Onii-chan—!'
'Even if it's Onii-chan, as long as there's love, there will be no prob—'
To break out of all kinds of silly delusions, Asya shook her head violently and screamed "ngahhhhhhh!" Panting heavily, she whispered, "...H-Hazumi isn't this type of character and there's no reason for her to make a mad dash down the road of forbidden love with that idiot Haruomi. Although I know that very well, this script is still too harmful for my mental health, that's why I want another script!"
"You're surprisingly fragile on the mental side. Nothing less expected from a useless girl who is a complete novice in the ways of love."
"How about this? Just for reference, what kind of story would fit your tastes?"
"Hmm... I guess it has to be the kind of love story involving fashionable and stylish metropolitan romance, full of realism targeted for adults. I believe I'm a very good fit for this kind of story."
"Impossible. You're still dreaming even while uttering delusions with your eyes open, so please accept reality."
"H-How do you know unless we try!?"
"If you say so, then try we shall."
President M went through her trunk case again. Hence, the third script made an appearance.
"This is probably the script that fits your demands best."
"Mm-hmm... Uh, the beginning part is already concerning."
Asya pointed at where in the script she had an issue with.
"Two career women in the forties, drinking red wine at a Spanish bar—Such a lame scene appearing so suddenly..."
"Really? Two independent and self-determined women drinking wine while talking about love matters, isn't that a great scene?"
"More accurately, it seems more like they're binge drinking while complaining about their lack of luck in love. Not only that, speaking of these two women's prospective partners—"
Kazumi (age 39, single), an office worker who sees her purpose in life as paying for male company at host clubs.
Her best friend, Kyouko (age 40, single), who bought her apartment on a thirty-year loan and shares it with her sponger boyfriend who spends all his time at pachinko arcades and refuses to work.
Flipping through the pages noisily and reading on, Asya found additional points of contention.
"In addition, the third main character—Kentarou (age 35, divorced once)—is a criminal who spent every day at cabaret clubs, thus spending thirty million of his workplace's funds!? This is totally lame!"
"Fufufufu. Now here is the essence of today's lesson."
President M smiled suspiciously.
"Why don't you try acting out a character from this script, any character of your choosing. From that, you shall learn the spirit of self-sacrificing for love, even to the point of self-destruction!"
"A-And the purpose is!?"
"Although I've given you many lessons to boost your feminine charm and romance standard score... But to be honest, this education project is still twenty years from completion."
"That long!? I'll be an old lady by then!"
"That's why I tried to think in reverse. How about putting on hold your training to become an orthodox beauty, instead making your goal to become a girl with a love dependency constitution who pursues romance with reckless abandon? Something of that sort."
"Love dependency constitution!"
"Indeed. This lesson should be able to teach you what you lack most. On the battlefield of love, 'charging forward without thinking' is the most important!"
"E-Even though you already said it out personally."
"Listening alone isn't enough. Only by learning through inference, like carving this concept deeply into your soul, will it work. If your pathetic personality could be cured by listening to a few lectures, you would have become an otome game heroine with one or two handsome men captured a long time ago."
"You're extremely right..."
"Back to the subject, which character do you intend to choose? In your case, I recommend the clothing store owner, Kyouko, who supports that human scum of a sponger. Don't you feel that it suits you quite well—"
"At least recommend a teenager role!"
Asya grumbled, almost about to break into tears.
"Then Juliet! I'll take Juliet, okay? I won't call her a slightly deplorable girl anymore!"
"Be my guest. Well then, begin the script reading."
"...Oh~ Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo~!?"
"No good. Completely no good. You have totally failed to express the feelings of having fallen deeply in love. I shall let it slide for now, so continue."
"S-Swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon, that monthly changes in her circled orb, lest that thy love prove likewise variable~"
Morning in a mixed forest, the drama lesson continued today as well. By the time President M announced the end of the training session, it was already after the warning bell five minutes before homeroom was heard.
Early July had arrived.
Tokyo New Town was under occupation for almost a month.
After that, Princess Yukikaze had not made any new moves. Everyone was able to maintain peaceful lives for now.
This applied to Asya and President M, as well as Haruga Haruomi and Juujouji Orihime alike. All of them were savoring this serenity and peace without exception.
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