Chapter 1: Dark Night, Beguiling Innocence, and I
A warm gentle breeze drifted through Harusha Academy's campus. Filtering through verdant leaves, golden sunlight scattered amidst the trees. Golden Week was already right around the corner.
After school, an afternoon tea party...Even more supple than the young sprouting leaves, Zadou Sierra sat quietly upon a bench in the courtyard, her delicate fingers continuing to turn the pages of a collection of poetry. Her long hair fluttering softly in the wind, her eyelashes seemed to cast a shadow upon her fair face.
Her glossy lips parted revealing her pearly teeth as she began to smoothly recite lines of aged poetry.
"In the distant sky beyond the mountains, that is where people say 'happiness' lives. Ah, but I with others went searching for it only to return with our eyes filled with tears. Further still beyond the mountains, that is where people say 'happiness' lives."
Sierra, of the high school class 1-B, clearly read Ueda Bin's translation of Carl Busse's "Beyond the Mountains". Around her were a number of her adoring fangirls, some sitting upon the lawn, others taking refuge in the shade of the trees, all listening intently to her voice. Spread out upon the lawn was a delicate, high-class, and hand-quilted blanket, which held a tea set decorated with brilliant blue roses and gold gilding.
"Sierra-sama's voice has such a marvelous elegance. It can only be compared to the sound of an angel's harp."
"Thank you very much for inviting me. This has been a truly wonderful tea party. The pastries were also quite delicious..."
"I'm glad you enjoyed them, they were scones hand-made by my head maid Mary."
At the center of the group of girls, Sierra was remarkably pretty, simply unmatched. Her almost translucently fair fingers were rested gently against her rosy face, and even her shy smile radiated a sweet elegance.
"Sierra-sama, do you have a favorite poet? Heine, Rilke, or maybe even Baudelaire?"
"Hm, I wonder...Maybe Rimbaud?"
From some distance away, two boys were watching the group of girls. They were Sierra's classmates, Araki Jin and Utada Yuuya.
"Ahh~, Zadou's having a tea party! Such elegance. I wonder what sort of poet 'Rimbaud' is."
Yuuya clasped his hands to his heart, trembling all over with passion. A member of the light music club, Yuuya's short banged brown hair fit him as a flirt. As for Jin, he was quite tanned because he was an archaeology maniac who went all around for excavation digs, and he also had a conspicuously chiseled face. His school bag was slung over his shoulder and he wore a bored business-like expression as he muttered.
"He's that guy who carries a machine gun and goes around shooting recklessly, right?"
"That's 'Rambo' from the Stallone's films! There's no way a delicate girl like Zadou would ever watch that sort of thing!"
"Hm. I actually think it would be quite appropriate though..."
Because of a magic lamp that had been in his archaeologist parents' baggage, Jin had ended up summoning Sierra, who came from a line of genies. But, the dorm where Jin resided didn't allow girls, and contrary to the prim lady-like appearance she put on daily, she was boastful, selfish, and more like the Rambo who would go about causing destruction rather than the poet Rimbaud. Honestly, he was filled with reluctance at the prospect of calling on her.
Continuing to watch Sierra, Yuuya clenched his fists tightly against his chest as if he could barely contain himself.
"Okay, when I get back to the dorms, I'm going to the library to search for Rimbaud! Though the application deadline is tomorrow, but I was thinking that I might not enter if I couldn't find inspiration for a good piece, but...I'm feeling inspired!"
"Didn't I tell you already, about the light music contest, I mean. You just gotta come listen."
"I don't think so."
"So you're just going to refuse right away?"
"If I agreed to go, you'd probably ask me to throw streamers or demand an encore for you repeatedly, so I'd rather avoid the hassle."
"But if you listen to wonderful music, it'll enrich your life, you know?"
"It's annoying when you try to pawn off unsold tickets."
"Some friend you are! A little support can go a long way to making a true artist, ya know!"
Riled up, Yuuya must have been quite loud because Sierra looked up, turning to glance over in Jin's direction. However, it was a passing glance, and soon enough she returned to chatting with her friends.
(Huh. I wonder if she didn't see me...?)
Jin wondered blankly. Elbowing Jin in the stomach, Yuuya was smirking.
"Hey, did you see her glance over here? Do you think maybe she considers me cool for my music?"
If she had been looking their way, Jin didn't think it would be Yuuya she'd be looking at...but saying so would be troublesome, so Jin agreed with an over-exaggerating response.
"Yeah, I'm sure that's it. You're super cool. I, your friend, feel my heart race every day because of you."
"I get the feeling that there wasn't a single shred of sincerity in that just now, but well, whatever. Ah, do you think I should give Zadou a ticket to the light music competition? Maybe she'll even be like "This is so much better than classical music~, I want to hear more". She even went and asked you to teach her more about archaeology after all, so maybe I've got a shot."
Yuuya seemed quite anxious. Certainly, as a simple-minded skirt chaser, he's often treated like an idiot by the girls in his grade, but his place in the light music club wasn't just for show, making him quite popular with the younger girls. Yet even that Yuuya was feeling quite nervous because of Sierra.
It wasn't just Yuuya who believed Sierra to be beautiful, kind, and elegant. Just about every guy on campus felt the same. Every time Jin heard such a thing, he was moved with pity.
(If they all knew what she was really like, they'd probably be too shocked to even stand, I bet...)
The fact that Sierra was the Genie of the Lamp was a secret. Also, the fact that she was only putting on an act was also something he couldn't tell anyone else.
"When I look at Zadou, I'm simply filled with inspiration. Zadou is my goddess of art, my muse. If it was for Zadou, I could write a masterpiece!"
Yuuya clenched his fist passionately, looking all fired up. Jin was looking at him indifferently, when suddenly the cell in his pocket rang.
(I've got mail?)
Jin took out his phone. The message was from Zadou Sierra.
[Geez, commoner, what were you doing over there just now? Anyway, you a~~-bsolutely have to summon me today, you hear?! ＜(○｀ε´○)＞ *angry*]
(What the heck, what kind of emoticon is that...)
When he looked over at Sierra, she was looking his way, her cell in one hand and a sharp expression on her face. By being summoned by Jin, who was her master, Sierra could level up as the Genie of the Lamp. And, until she matured fully, her family had absolutely no source of income, so she was relatively distressed.
(Forget it, just ignore it, it's got nothing to do with me if her family can't keep living a life of luxury. Being abused by Sierra, it's been nothing but trouble.)
Seeing Sierra with her cell in her hands, one of the girls around her asked.
"Sierra-sama, is something wrong?"
"Ah, no. My servants just wanted to know what sort of black tea I wanted for tonight's high tea (tea partaken at night)..."
Sierra lied, then laughed boisterously with one hand held to her mouth.
(Yeah, she can really put on quite the friendly act...)
She could probably put on other acts as well, Jin conjectured.
Elsewhere, from even further away, there was someone else keeping an attentive eye on Sierra.
The vice-president, second-year Himuro Eriko. She had a slender figure and a refined hair-style, with her glasses adding an intellectual air. With a digital camera in hand, she was taking cover behind a tree with bated breath.
"Zadou Sierra...You might be ignoring those two in front of other people, but I know for a fact from my part-time job at the pizza parlor that you were in their room at the boys' dorm."
The student council president and head of the boys' dorm, Konoe Ukyou was secretly in love with Sierra. Ukyou was a man with a general aversion to women, but Eriko could tell with her women's intuition. And, Sierra was nothing like the quiet, docile, and neat Yamato Nadeshiko he thought she was...Eriko's intuition practically screamed.
But, when she told him as such, he didn't believe her. Without solid proof, she'd be considered a slanderer and Ukyou, as a man of justice, would inevitably come to hate her. So, by any means necessary, she had to get a picture of Sierra going into the boys' room.
"I'm going to expose you as the faker you are and open the president's eyes to the truth. My plan's all set. Ufufu...Ohohoho!"
Eriko doubled over in laughter. Her sudden outburst of laughter caught the students who were walking past off guard, and they started to stare at her. Realizing they were all looking at her, Eriko quickly came to her senses.
"Hohoho...ho, *cough cough*"
Or at least that's how she tried to play it off.
Tachibana Dorm, the boys' residence hall at Harusha Academy, closes its doors at 6 o'clock when dinner is served. After eating, the students were allowed to spend their time as they wished.
Back in his room, Yuuya laid a pile of Rimbaud's anthologies on his desk and set to work furiously writing away with a mechanical pencil.
"Your fiery gaze makes my heart go "rockin' on", you reckless soldieress of love. You're a Rimbaud girl, oh so wild..."
"What's really reckless and wild is your lyrics. Please, did you even reference any of Rimbaud's works? I'd really like to hear you summarize your research in 100 words or less, if you don't mind."
Behind him, Yuuya's roomate Jin muttered deadpanningly.
"It comes out in the next line."
"There's actually more to this?"
"Rimbaud the hot-blooded poet, born in 1854 in Charleville, France. You're Rimbaud, happy birthday baby....
"Err, well, you certainly mentioned him..."
Yuuya sat with his arms folded, holding his pencil between his nose and his upper lip as he contemplated Jin's point.
"So you must think it's too rockish rather than R&B too, then?"
"Yuuya, it might be for the best if you don't try to read too deeply into it..."
"Haa~, maybe I just don't have any talent. I'll really have to try harder."
Looking exhausted, Yuuya collapsed onto his desk. Jin gave him an encouraging slap on the back.
"Come on, don't get so down. I can't feel even the slightest hint of talent in you, so it's not gonna matter if you go all out or not, right?"
"If that was some sort of attempt at cheering me up, you really might want to work on it a bit."
"Is this contest really something that should be bothering someone like you, who usually just throws together some sort of half-baked concoction?"
"I don't get it, does your mouth run on auto-pilot or are you intentionally malicious? Even the dorm head tells me off calling it frivolous, but in a way, the light music club is more like volunteer work."
"Aren't you guys just doing it to stand out and be popular?"
"You idiot! Without us, only the donors and kids treating it as a fair would come to our cultural festivals. It's because of us that girls from other schools come, y'know."
"Ok, so you get girls to come, how exactly does that make it volunteer work?"
"Sorry. I guess for a guy who would sooner swoon at the sight of cuneiform, my argument falls pretty flat."
"I don't care how much you badmouth me, but I won't stand for you badmouthing cuneiform."
"I'm just saying, being brought closer to and having the opportunity to meet some girls from other schools, most guys would be plenty grateful. And the ones who provide that service is the light music club, myself included."
"Even if they're in close proximity, it's not like there's all that great of a chance of them getting a girlfriend."
"Mm...Well, that's true."
"And, it doesn't mean you'll be able to either. So, you don't need to burden yourself for such a thing to happen, and I don't get why you'd feel the need to stress out and try so hard either."
"Huh. Rather than that, what I don't get is you losing yourself in a pile of books full of cuneiform and digging around in the mountains."
"If you can't understand the allure of cuneiform, I feel sorry for you."
The argument between the two continued parallel. It was obvious they would never reach a point where they understood each other. Yuuya, deciding to give up, sighed.
"Well, let's just drop it. I guess no matter who it is, if someone's passionate about something, they're bound to be looked down upon by others at some point. But, I'm really trying my hardest, so I'd appreciate it if you didn't make fun of people for going all out on something."
Yuuya went back to filling in the notes with his pencil. He really seemed hurt. Jin honestly apologized.
"Sorry, really. I didn't mean to make fun of you."
"Nah, it's ok. I was just mad at myself for having such a hard time."
Yuuya laid his chin down on his hands, heaving a great sigh.
"Even though I planned on clearly standing out at the contest and attracting the attentions of the local girls' high schools...I guess our auditorium will be full of schoolkids again, shouting for encores of the Anpanman March and the like..."
Then everything went dark. He couldn't see a thing. He was stirred into a panic at the sudden change.
"Wh, what going on?!"
Jin replied calmly. Tachibana Hall was pretty run down, and there were frequent water outages. So something like a power out was practically expected.
"Geez! How am I supposed to compose in the dark? Flashlight, need a flashlight."
Moving about rashly, Yuuya groped through the desk's drawers.
"Jin, if I remember right, you have a flashlight, right? The one for cave exploring."
"H, hey...Are you thinking of rummaging through my desk?"
Taken off guard, Jin started fumbling through the darkness, trying to find Yuuya. Inside his desk was the magical lamp used to summon Sierra. In order to actually summon her, you'd need Solomon's ring, the artifact capable of sealing demons, but he'd left the two together in a box. If Yuuya happened to rub the lamp while holding the ring, Sierra would end up getting summoned.
(Even though I would be ecstatic if she had a different owner, but...she wanted to keep secret the fact that she was working as a servant, and it would be horrible if like in the case of the dorm head when he was possessed, someone who wanted to enslave her became her master...and most importantly, with a different master, her genie level would plummet to zero. Regardless, I can only imagine what that noisy girl would say if such a thing were to happen.)
"Huh, this box is awfully heavy. Could it be in here?"
Yuuya spoke in the dark. Clink, clink, came a small metallic sound. It had to be the sound of the ring and lamp colliding.
"Wait, don't touch that!
Jin yelled and as soon as he reached out his hand, he touched something smooth.
(S, shit! The box was open?!)
A multi-colored smoke and shimmering powder poured forth from the lamp's spout. Appearing at the same time dressed as a maid equipped with an apron, a headdress, and white gloves, Sierra was in full-on anger mode.
"Now see here! How many times must I tell you before you get it, I call you, and then you summon me..."
"Uwah, uyah, gyah!"
Jin continued shouting to cover up Sierra's voice.
Watching Tachibana Dorm fall into chaos at the sudden blackout from the rooftop of a nearby building, there was what looked like a young man wearing a hat with the fluorescent logo of [Namazu Electronics] consumer electronics store, a nylon shirt with the same logo, pants, and thick-skinned shoes, with coke bottle-like glasses.
When the man...or at least what seemed like a man, took off the hat, the relatively long hair that had been stuffed inside came spilling out with a nearly audible stir. Switching out the thick glasses for a more chic framed pair, all of a sudden it was apparent that this was none other than Eriko.
"Ufufuf...Before I worked at the pizza parlor, I part-timed at an electronics store. You better not underestimate a girl who puts herself through school."
Folding her arms together, Eriko laughed haughtily.
Now that her brother Keita had gotten his residence hall fees waived, Eriko was able to cut down to having only one job. She was turning the extra free time she had towards catching the cattish Sierra by the tail, having masqueraded as an electronics store employee to bring a modded energy-guzzling toaster into the dorm's kitchen.
"Just as planned, that seems to have tripped the breakers. Now the dorm head will have to go checking room by room to find out who's been using too much electricity."
Eriko added a long-range lens to her digital camera.
"And before the electronics store, I worked at a photo hut. Ufufu..."
When she peered through the viewfinder, she could just barely make out the outline of some dorm residents moving about, illuminated by the moonlight. The curtains to Jin's room, the focus of her attention, were closed.
"Alright, preparations complete. Will you be discovered by the president, or will you try to run outside and be captured by my camera? Zadou Sierra, tonight shall be the night I rip that phony mask right off your face! I'll catch that very moment on film, and then when I get home, maybe I'll watch "Rambo 2" on television! Ohohoho!"
She laughed boisterously, starting to sweat just a bit from a combination of nervousness and anticipation, then she turned back to observing the dormitory.
In Jin’s room, Yuuya asked in wonder in the darkness.
"Jin. Just now, did you hear a girl’s voice?"
Jin was frantically clinging onto his composure. Within the total darkness, he was fumblingly covering Sierra’s mouth, who was struggling violently.
"That was Sierra’s voice, right?"
"May be it was the radio sounding due to the outage. My radio-cassette player is AC-powered, you know."
"That player is strange."
"Itot itot itot"
Even with Jin restraining Sierra, she further struggled and groaned. Jin whispered softly.
"Idiot, read the situation! Do you want to be discovered?!"
Sierra stubbornly resisted. At that time, Jin was taken aback. He could not see well in the dark but the touch from his hand which was restraining Sierra’s body was of something soft. Flustered, Jin drew back his hand.
"W…where the heck was that part just now…?"
While panicking, Yuuya got hold of Jin’s back and shook.
"Hey, I heard it even now!"
"Di…did you hear something?"
"Wait, why did suddenly shout? Something is odd."
Yuuya’s hand, feeling around in the darkness, felt Sierra’s hair.
"Hmm? Was … your hair this long?"
"Hey, I heard it again!"
Before this got worse, there was no choice but to lie. Jin took a deep breath and said to Yuuya in a low voice.
"Is that so… As I thought, even you are able hear it now."
"Able to hear… it now, what do you mean?"
"You know, I normally examine this and that of archaeological things. The truth is the place, where this dormitory is erected upon, had, a long time ago, a cemetery b…"
"Stop! Enough, I won’t hear this anymore"
"Hey, behind you!"
Yuuya ran shouting with both ears covered out of the room. Immediately after that a "bam" sounded heavily. It seemed that due to fully sprinting in the darkness, he had a head-on collision somewhere.
In any case, Jin felt relieved.
"Itot Itot Itot"
Sierra was still shouting. After noticing that there was no longer a need to cover her mouth, Jin let his hand go.
"Idiot Idiot Idiot!"
"This means you have been continuously calling me an idiot all this time."
Jin immediately relaxed his tired shoulders. For now he closed the door to prevent sound from getting out.
It would be good to lock the door but there was a rule to not lock the dormitory doors.
"Despite being a commoner, you touched me, what extreme rudeness! Please cut yourself down as an apology!"
"Zadou, I sincerely advise you to study more on history and modern society. Because today’s Japan do not have things such as a class system."
"Yes, that’s why it is a must that I become a first-rate genie! Japan today does not have a noble system, and if my Zadou household loses its money, I would just be a commoner."
Sierra groaned feeling troubled. Jin scratched his face.
"Why do you cling on to being a wealthy socialite so much? During the daytime at the tea party, you were acting unreasonably refined, aren’t you tired of feigning friendliness all day long?"
"I…it is not that I was particularly acting unreasonably refined. It is that I am naturally refined, after all, I am a wealthy socialite. Speaking of something impolite, I would say it is thrusting one’s hand into another’s nostrils till his molars rattle."
"Ohh, Jouhin, Jouhin."
Jin lightly clapped his hands.
Although, he could not see Sierra’s face in the darkness, he could tell from a solid minute tremble in her voice, that she seemed annoyed.
"Just write it up, that’s your origin after all. I am going to proudly shout to myself, the dark side part is the true Zadou Sierra and the princess part is a temporary appearance of just feigning friendliness. Because the stress, from the gap between your feigning friendliness part and your real nature, is facing and spitting at me, are you going to trouble me more than necessary?"
"I am in no way feigning friendliness! N…no, surely a small part might be feigning it but… even so I treat that friendliness as something of me, putting in great effort every day. Someday, I will completely become the ultimate supreme absolutely unrivaled perfect high-class lady or better, a princess."
"A princess…. Are you a kid?"
"The princess dream is something in the heart of any girls as well, commoner! The maid cafes, made to target otaku males, seem to be crowded with female customers, who upon trying are soaked in the princess feeling. Well, because I do not have a need to go, I have not been there before though."
"Despite that, you seemed well-informed."
"In other words, it is not for any reason that I become a princess. Being a princess that very thing itself is my goal."
"Even now, being rich, when seen from a general level, you’re pretty much a princess."
"That is a commoner’s shallowness. What a princess needs is not just money."
"To the chap that said a commoner’s shallowness; my persecution complex thinks that it seems an impossible expectation to things such as the kind heart a princess needs."
"Well, to the commoner, who is contented with the status of commoner and lives daily lazily without even ambition or even self-restraint, this may be something you do not understand though."
Sierra’s remarks were confusing. However, certainly she was trying with utmost effort to go towards her objective; that was something even Jin understood very well.
Suddenly, Jin recalled getting into an argument with Yuuya a quite ago. The person himself was working seriously on that objective, no matter how worthless it was seen by a third party. Perhaps, despite Sierra being so willful, she somehow listens to what others say and gets involved; Jin thought that he might be feeling empathy somewhere in his heart to Sierra’s such utmost effort-ness.
Besides, Sierra’s current feign in front of Jin was not her bare true nature mode, it was always her feign status, if she truly became a pure kind perfect high-class lady, being proud and shouting would disappear as well. That may be something Jin would also be a little happy for.
"… Well, I may not understand. However, isn’t being a high-class lady a matter of how one looks at things. Even without money, like a blooming flower in a field, one can be pure, elegant, nice, beautiful…"