Silver Cross and Draculea:Volume03 Chapter3
Chapter 3 - Summer Training Camp
A bus was currently driving along a highway along the shore.
This public bus route normally had few passengers and was running on a very infrequent schedule, on the verge of being scrapped. However, the back row of the bus was exceptionally lively today.
An androgynous youth was accompanied by four outstanding beauties—no, more accurately, there were five.
"You sure about the destination? Is your memory accurate?"
"Yes, the place I met him was definitely the beach ahead."
Had there been any other passengers nearby, surely they would have have felt surprised by Hisui's conversation—or rather, his apparent mutterings to himself.
Sitting on the end of the back row seats, Hisui was currently speaking to the empty window seat beside him.
The vacant space there was just enough for one person to sit.
The content of the conversation seemed shallow and meaningless, but that was not the case for Hisui and the others.
Naturally, the one sitting in the empty seat was Touko.
Apart from Hisui's entourage, no one could see her. Making use of Hisui and friends' holiday, Touko was leading them to the beach near Seidou City.
According to her, the members of the Occult Research Club she participated in before—those girls—had first met the vampire here.
Why did Hisui's whole group come? Tracing the cause would require an explanation starting with club president Rushella's "interrogation."
The vampire who had appeared ten years ago, Touko's death, the mystery of the coffin—In order to clarify all this, the first thing they did was to question Touko herself in detail.
Hence, Rushella decided to begin an investigation. In her own words, the "interrogation" commenced immediately.
Then for some reason, Hisui was ordered to take notes with his back towards the girls.
"Hey, the composition of this scene is very strange. I'm sure you're being influenced by those police detective movies. Besides, doesn't Kariya have a computer, so what I'm doing is completely unnecessary? Can't I join the observing team?"
"You're being noisy so shut up! This 'interrogation' is absolutely essential! So hurry and call that Touko whatever... For thorough questioning. If there's a need, order some 'takeout food.' This girl here can prepare snacks for tea!"
Rushella pointed to Kirika as she spoke.
As a side note, Kirika and Mei were standing on the sidelines, observing from a safe distance.
"Hey, what kind of rubbish are you talking about? The interrogation you described sounds so Shouwa era from the last century... And even if you order katsu-don takeout, Touko-san can't..."
She can't eat it because she's a ghost... Feeling that such a statement would be inappropriate, Hisui swallowed his words.
But Touko herself smiled with shining eyes.
"Well, even if I can't eat it, but if you bring it up to me, there's a kind of... satisfying feeling. Probably what's called getting full just by watching? Back when I was alive, I never understood how offerings presented to gods at shrines worked, but now that I'm dead, I seem to get it. When the dead receive offerings from loved ones visiting their graves, they must be very happy, I suppose?"
Seeing her bright smile, Hisui gave up on ridiculing Rushella.
His impression of ghosts was also completely overturned.
"Then there's the vampire who bit you. Where did you run into him?"
The way the interrogation was going nowhere was probably making Eruru impatient, so she posed her own question.
Touko became serious and returned to the main topic.
"The first time... It was night time at a beach. We lied to others and called it a group study session... But ran out there for a gathering. Although there was no clear purpose... Because all our parents were quite strict, perhaps we just wanted to rebel and go on an adventure. That probably explains our enthusiasm with the occult. Then... We met him. His appearance... I can't remember clearly anymore. But he should have been quite handsome. Everyone approached him as if mesmerized......."
"Your group was probably under the mystic eyes' control. Since you are a ghost, vagueness in memory cannot be helped. If ghosts kept their sanity and remembered with clarity their memories from when they were alive, things would not be so troublesome. Not to mention, there is the mystic eyes' effect as well. So... What happened next?"
"...He taught us many things, such as about magic, about supernatural creatures, all sorts... Back then, I only thought that he happened to be familiar with this subject, but thinking about it now, it must've been because he's a vampire. Occult phenomena, he could cause them at will... Everyone was enamored with him. Then one by one, they went missing..."
Touko's recollections prompted Hisui to recall something from a few days ago.
The students who used to be core members of the Occult Research Club all had unknown whereabouts. Gone missing, transferred to a different school, dropped out—Although the cases were not all confirmed, if Touko's story was true, very likely, they had all been bitten without exception.
"For a vampire living in the modern world, adhering to ancient rituals is quite hard, which requires feeding on victims one at a time between intervals of several days. The risks of discovery are quite high and if he does not want to keep descendents, killing them off produces corpses. And hiding corpses takes effort. However, the higher ranking a vampire, the more obstinately they adhere to these rituals. He probably relied on the mystic eyes' mental control to make the girls gradually withdraw from society. It must have taken him quite a lot of troublesome arrangements."
Based on her investigation of the club's core members, combined with her own existing knowledge, Eruru offered her deductions regarding the vampire.
Touko nodded in agreement.
"I believe... It should be like that. Before I knew it, among all the people who met him at the beach, I was the only one left. Not that I'm narcissistic... But I think he liked me best. That's why he saved me for last... When he was about to suck my blood, this was what he said."
The classroom was filled with a heavy, somber atmosphere.
Asking a dead person about her experiences during her last moments—Was there anything more insensitive and cruel than that?
Everyone present understood the fear suffered by those who had been bitten by vampires.
Moreover, this was a powerless girl of their own age group.
Even Eruru was at a loss for words.
In order to seek the truth, Hisui spoke up to shoulder the responsibility.
"Then... What was it like when you were bitten? In other words, the circumstances of your death, Touko-san. Could you also tell us about how you sealed the vampire into the coffin?"
Everyone turned to look at Hisui.
They had all been hesitating over whether to speak out, but someone needed to ask the first question. Hisui stepped forward to take on the role.
After a brief moment of silence, Touko continued.
"......He invited me. He asked if I wanted to visit the beach. He had a boat prepared and asked if I wanted to go for a boat ride..."
"A vampire date on a boat huh? Inviting you even though he clearly fears water, he must be either an utterly ignorant fool or quite a high level vampire. Then you accepted, Touko-san?"
"I was not being controlled by him. Of course, I was probably influenced to some extent... My companions were gone, I smelled something fishy going on. Probably out of a sense of self-preservation, I was able to resist. Later on, I found out he was a vampire, so I...!"
"You deliberately accepted the invitation, hoping to avenge your friends... Yes?"
In order to seek vengeance for her friends, the brave girl challenged the vampire—However, reality was harsh and unforgiving.
"I made many preparations, such as plain wooden stakes and a cross. However, he snatched them away and threw them into the sea... Then he sucked my blood. My consciousness became hazy, and gradually... could not resist. However, even so... I summoned my last remaining strength and pounced at him! Then he......"
Touko hugged herself tightly.
The image of the vampire, carved into her eyes just before she died.
The mocking laughter, viewing humans with disdain.
His handsome face was filled with derisive mirth as he stared at her.
"He was completely nonchalant. As I crashed towards him, he took the opportunity to hide into his coffin. That coffin was on the boat from the start. He had sipped some wine beforehand, so he may have been a little drunk... But I believe he entered the coffin intentionally. He was mocking me: You wanted this result, so I fulfilled your wish...! But I couldn't care anymore, so I ran over and closed the lid shut. I wrapped chains all over it, then—"
"You pushed it into the sea... Right?"
Hisui described the ending, but Touko shook her head.
"No... Then my memory stops there. My view became completely dark and I can't remember anymore. Probably... I died right then. Before I could push him into the sea, I breathed my last breath... Probably. By the time I came back to my senses, ten years had passed and you appeared right before me."
After a brief sigh, Hisui gathered his thoughts and tried to deduce the truth from Touko's account.
However, there was still too little information in their grasp.
"Touko-san died... But the coffin fell into the sea. Then the vampire was locked inside? No, the coffin was empty... Where did he escape to? As a vampire, there should be no problem... But the coffin was not damaged... The chains were also intact... What on earth happened?"
Hisui stared into space and spoke slowly.
Eruru also crossed her arms and leaned back to contemplate.
Seeing them both stumped, Mei, who had been observing quietly, raised her hand with a hesitating expression.
"Excuse me... It might be a little rude of me to say this, but can Touko-san's testimony... really be trusted?"
" " "......" " "
Seeing everyone turn their gaze to her, Mei avoided eye contact.
She must have expected this result.
But she felt compelled to bring it up.
She did not take this villainous role willingly, but it was a question that everyone must surely be thinking.
"It's not like I think Touko-san is making everything up. But those affected by the mystic eyes cannot act under their own will, and especially now that she became a ghost, her memories from her days alive are even more uncertain, right? I think we can't take it as truth completely, right?"
"...You have a point. It's true, I don't remember the details, and now that you bring it up, I also......"
Touko lost confidence.
Her intangible, or rather, transparent body became even more transparent, almost as if she were about to disappear outright.
Rushella broke the impasse with a single statement.
"Irrelevant and trivial details. Since I said we are investigating this, I am not going back on my word!"
Hisui want to say something but Rushella held out her index finger to stop him.
"Besides, if we don't believe what this Touko person says, there's nowhere to start. Supposing she is lying completely. The vampire is destroyed or perhaps escaped to a very far place, or there is no vampire to begin with... Let's just assume that for now. But given that's the case, then there's no problem, right?"
Rushella's last question was directed towards Eruru.
Sitting on the side, Eruru was surprised by Rushella's opinion, but she still nodded.
"Indeed. Although it would be regrettable if the search ended up fruitless, it would be best if there is no vampire that is threatening people. If we are the only ones investigating, then there is no issue of wasting taxpayers' money..."
"See, am I right? If it doesn't exist, it doesn't exist. If it exists, then countermeasures must be taken. No matter what, we must find the truth. Then you'll be able to... 'pass on,' right?"
Rushella stared at Touko, who nodded lightly in turn.
Hisui noticed slight tears in the corners of her eyes.
"Well then, the 'interrogation' is over. Let's cut the chitchat, what are we going to do next?"
"Probably... Gather information. We also need to verify how trustworthy her testimony is as well as collect detailed information on the vampire. Furthermore, in order to help her memory return to a more accurate state, we could try visiting scenes with strong connections to her......"
"Very well, first we'll go... to that beach where she first met the vampire! No objections!!"
Normally, this would just end up as one of Rushella's conceited proclamations that no one heeded.
But on that day, everyone smiled and nodded in agreement.
And currently, Hisui and company were at the beach.
Getting off the bus, walking a short distance, they arrived at a vast beach.
This place used to be small-scale seaside resort, but now it was quite deserted without any visitors.
A well-equipped swimming facility was built here simply because transportation was convenient. But even on a hot and sunny day like today, when one would really enjoy a good dip, there were no people here.
They were met with the pleasant surprise of having a beach all to themselves. But naturally, Hisui's group had come here for a different purpose.
Clearly, that was not their purpose.
However, before his eyes—
"Hey, isn't this weird? Why are you all in swimsuits!?"
By Hisui's side, the beauties made a glamorous entrance, standing side by side.
As a side note, Rushella had made a special trip to buy a swimsuit, dragging Hisui off to the mall to accompany her.
"Oh dear, isn't this Hi-kun's fault, come to think of it? He has so many great choices in us already, yet he's still obsessed with gravure idols."
Saying that, Mei leaned over.
Given her voluptuous figure and smooth tender skin, one could not possibly associate her with the original and ugly Frankenstein's monster.
Her black swimsuit was a micro bikini, covering her extremely ample bosom and posterior areas.
The critical points were barely concealed but she showed no intention to hide them, even exuding a "come hither and look" kind of aura.
"No no, like I said, it was Touko-san's misunderstanding! It just happened that the manga I was reading had a gravure idol on the color page, okay? I wasn't looking at the idol, I just wanted to check if there were color pages for manga series when I flipped to that part!"
Hisui fled from the onslaught of Mei's gigantic breasts as he recalled the conversation from the club classroom.
Since the club's members were basically all girls, Touko became great friends with them quite quickly.
This was not the problem.
Their topics of conversation, however—
"Hey, what's Hi-kun like when he's alone at home?"
"I've heard that he cohabits with Draculea-san... Could you let me know the actual details?"
Mei and Kirika probed into Hisui's private life with great curiosity.
Since Touko was in the same age group, she happily engaged in these conversations and made the most of her stalker gifts, providing sensational news to them again and again.
"Let's see... He stays cooped up in his room, reading magazines with gravure idols on the cover! With giant breasts!"
"Oh~~ I knew it, he still... likes those?"
"Anyway, you already belong to that category......"
"Mumumu, he clearly has me already!"
...Somehow, even Rushella joined the fray.
With rather strange motivations.
"I absolutely refuse to lose. I will stand triumphant over those women who only know how to expose their backs and cleavage, so that he lays his eyes on no one but me!"
"...Indeed, now that summer holidays are approaching, I must seduce him with my swimsuit."
"I was thinking of getting a new set. Ah, i-it's not like I'm doing this just to show Kujou-kun......"
Something was rumbling underfoot, unbeknownst to Hisui.
Then this day arrived.
"...Hey, this is really weird. Am I wrong? Why am I forced to dress the same like you girls!?"
Hisui was full of complaints.
He had been forced to change into swimming trunks.
Since he did not have any casual swimwear, he was forced to buy a pair of red swimming trunks during the shopping trip. To be honest, he did not want this color at all, but unfortunately, it was bought at Rushella's strong recommendation.
"Wouldn't it be nice... to spend time like this on occasion? Furthermore, Touko-san isn't going to recall her whole past by staying confined at home."
"Yeah... I guess......"
Kirika leaned over as she spoke, causing Hisui to reflexively enter a state of alert.
She was wearing a monokini style, one-piece swimsuit in violet.
Although it was less revealing than Mei's bikini, Kirika's back was fully exposed. The side cut-outs in the fabric traced out wide curves, further emphasizing the lines of her narrow waist, producing a different sexiness compared to Mei's.
Combined with her attribute of seniority, Kirika's act of leaning over... Felt rather irresistible.
"Why are you escaping?"
"Uh, I'm not escaping...... Eh, Touko-san?"
Hearing Touko's question, Hisui turned around... to find her behind him.
She was apparently able to control her attire mentally. Hence, she had changed into swimwear to suit the background.
Hers was the school mandated type.
A navy blue school swimsuit.
Furthermore, there was strip of white cloth bearing the name "Touko" on her chest.
"Touko-san, umm, even if you don't imitate them with such tricks, you're already very attractive, you know? You're slender and trim, you have a gentle and graceful temperament, your bust is also... on Senpai's level."
Hisui looked out into the distance as he spoke, a hint of loneliness in his voice.
Why would things be like this?
"Hey, wait a minute, stop looking at me with pitying eyes!"
"Uh, but look, this isn't a swimming lesson at school..."
"I can only wear this type of swimsuit! Because my family was too strict, they wouldn't allow any other type..."
Touko explained with resentment, wringing her hands.
Despite being under the scorching sun, Hisui felt the air temperature drop suddenly. Hopefully, it was only his imagination.
There was a terrifying feeling.
"Hey, stop it, Touko-san... Don't use your cursing skills!"
"Very well, if I focus my imagination, I'm sure can put on a swimsuit of my liking... Yes, one like Sudou-san's...!"
"Umm, sorry, we can't have that. You two's attractiveness will cause war to break out, we really can't have that!"
"That's right, if everyone continues to reveal more, Hi-Kun will surely be forced to bend forward to hide his condition❤"
Saying that, Mei grabbed Hisui's arm and pressed his hand against her bosom.
In actual fact, Hisui was already on the verge of bending forwards. However, he ignored his senses through willpower.
"As if anyone would... Hey, could you let go of my arm?"
"Asking me to let go... Why don't I simply hug so tightly your arm breaks off❤"
"Scary! Coming from you, it totally doesn't sound like a joke! You're perfectly capable of that!"
"Oh dear, I've always been serious, haven't I?"
"If you don't want that to happen, then play with me properly. Okay, here's a ball so let's play beach volleyball? Whoever fails to return the serve has to participate in a punishment game, okay?"
Mei walked over to one side, picked up the ball and got ready to begin.
Without either a net or boundaries, playing with such simple rules turned out to be even more fun.
"...Jeez, don't you go all out with your strength, okay?"
Then the two began to play beach volleyball.
Over in a corner, a certain figure was glaring at them with resentment.
Earlier, Hisui had setup a parasol on the beach and laid out a mat for her. After that, all she could do was sit helplessly in the shadow.
This girl would definitely turn into ash if she were struck by the scorching sunlight of this day.
Namely, this vampire.
Or rather... Rushella.
"Sob sob sob~~ To think I bought this to wear for this occasion..."
Rushella had dragged Hisui off on a special shopping trip to buy this bikini.
Having been tipped off beforehand, Rushella had chosen an especially small swimsuit so as to compete with Mei.
In particular, the flimsy fabric of her top was truly incapable of fulfilling the responsibility of hiding the bountiful fruit of her bosom.
Because Hisui mentioned he did not like excessively fancy colors, Rushella had chosen a light colored swimsuit to be on the safe side... However, she forgot she could not stand exposure to sunlight.
Watching her rival seeking ruin on her own, Mei took care to throw bragging glances of victory while playing beach volleyball, causing Rushella even more displeasure.
"Traitor. To think he would play so happily with that fake..."
Rushella pouted and glared at Hisui resentfully.
But Hisui was fully engaged in the beach volleyball game and completely oblivious.
Just as tears came to Rushella's eyes, Kirika came over to the parasol's shade with a shrug.
"Seriously... What are you doing? If you're a vampire, pay more attention to the sunlight, okay?"
"You're being noisy, shut up......"
There was no spirit in her voice.
Dejectedly, Rushella was tracing circles with her finger on the mat.
"...Okay, stay still and don't move."
Kirika sighed and taking out a white ointment, applied to to Rushella's body.
"S-Stop it right now, what are you doing!? What is this!?"
"A light-blocking agent. Vampires should all know it, right? An ointment for blocking sunlight. The modern ones are now made using science, but it originated from witches like me, invented at the request of vampires. If you apply it to your skin, it will block sunlight at least for the duration of this beach visit. Don't worry, it's harmless to the skin."
Kirika explained as she applied the sunscreen thoroughly over Rushella's body.
Rushella remained silent until she finally steeled herself to speak.
"Uh, u-umm...... Thank y... Ouch..."
Probably because she never uttered thanks, Rushella bit her own tongue by accident.
Kirika suppressed the urge to laugh and continued with her task.
"If you want to thank someone, thank Kujou-kun. He must have considered your skincare when he asked me to make preparations."
Rushella was taken by surprise. Kirika continued and took out an atomizer to spray something in her hair.
"Hey, what are you doing!? Don't go spraying messed up stuff!"
"This is also a type of light-blocking agent. Hair is also considered a part of skin and must be carefully protected. Otherwise, it will turn to dust under sunlight as well."
"Like I said, the one you should thank is Kujou-kun. Your prided hair was also part of his request. I only considered the skin originally but would have forgotten about hair if he had not reminded me."
Rushella did not know what to say any longer.
Silently, she watched Hisui happily playing beach volleyball.
"Okay, it's done. Why don't you go join in?"
Rushella stood at the boundary of shadow and sunlight.
She had never walked under sunlight without a parasol.
Fear gripped her heart to some extent.
If Kirika had any malevolent intentions, she would be scorched by the sunlight the moment she took the first step.
However—She did not falter.
This time she did not bite her tongue.
Blushing red, Rushella rushed out from the parasol's shade.
Experiencing direct sunlight for the first time, it felt hotter than usual under a parasol.
Nevertheless, it felt quite comfortable.
"Okay, Hisui, hurry and let me join in too!"
She rushed over with great enthusiasm... But the volleyball game had ended already.
Mei was currently lying forwards on a mat over the sand.
With her top untied.
Beside Mei was Hisui, reluctantly applying suntan lotion on her body.
"W-What are you two doing!?"
"Uh, I lost and had to accept the punishment game. She made me put lotion on her."
"Yes yes. This erotic play is totally consensual."
"Don't call it erotic play!"
"The loser has no right to complain. Hurry and apply it properly."
Mei pulled Hisui's hand to her underarm.
This was a bewitching garden revealed by the untied swimsuit.
Namely, the exposed sideboob.
Boing, Hisui's fingertip touched something.
"Ahh mmm, Hi-kun, don't go poking me..."
"Stop making such lewd sounds! I-I didn't touch anything... Nothing at all......!"
"...I already withdrew my hand, but why is your finger still there?"
Rushella released angry growls from her throat as she took up her fists to pummel Hisui.
"Wah, wait, it really hurts! Stop it!"
"Hey hey, what are you doing......"
Saying that, Mei got up.
Naturally, she was topless.
Hisui reflexively averted his gaze... Impossible, he was treated to a full view.
The heavy fruit was topped with tender colors where smaller, exquisite and lovely fruit protruded.
Mei made no effort to hide. Instead, she puffed out her chest and allowed others to admire the sight.
Meanwhile, Rushella was smashing the back of Hisui's head as hard as she could.
This resulted in the seductive images' forced deletion from the hard drive of Hisui's mind, with a bonus special effect of seeing stars.
"You traitor!! Having an affair right here!!"
"N-No... This is an accident... You're the one who......!!"
Before he could explain himself, Rushella's combo attack landed.
Sitting on Hisui's body, she kept hammering him.
"What are you doing...?"
"Ah, Senpai, you came at the right time! Hurry and stop this girl..."
"Right right... Could you help me put on some sunscreen too?"
Saying that, Kirika turned her exposed back towards Hisui.
This caused the strength of Rushella's blows to rise directly.
"S-Senpai... Please don't add fuel to the fire......!"
"You're being noisy so shut up! I'm going to beat your body up so much that you won't have affairs ever again!!"
Just as the snow-white sand of the beach and Hisui's pale skin were both dyed scarlet, Eruru distanced herself from the inane disputes and quietly stood by herself by the sea shore.
She was wearing a one-piece swimsuit that had a flounced skirt and decorative patterns. It suited her petite figure very well. However, she had no intention of swimming at all.
She simply gazed quietly at the seawater arriving with the waves as they broke over her feet regularly.
Her body shuddered slightly as if she were enduring something.
Like Rushella, she feared seawater.
As the offspring of a vampire and a human—a dhampir, she had inherited the weaknesses of vampires.
They feared flowing "living water."
This applied to natural sources of water especially, even more so for seawater which contained evil-purifying salt. Entering these bodies of water would mean instant drowning.
Although this weakness was less severe than for full vampires, dhampirs were essentially nonswimmers.
If one had to list exceptions, only a brief swim in a shallow warm water pool for elementary school kids would be possible.
Eruru knew this property of her body better than anyone else.
But currently standing on the water's edge... She did not want to accept her cursed body.
She wanted to overcome the weakness as much as possible.
Starting with confronting seawater.
Adjusting her breathing, she calmed her mind and relaxed her body—
"...How long are you going to stand there for?"
Touko asked by her ear.
Her words were accompanied by light exhalation.
A ghost's breath felt like a gust of cold air, invading Eruru's ear in the middle of her nervous state.
The chill racing down her spine caused Eruru to shudder and she lost balance.
Before she could resolve herself, her petite body had already fallen into the sea.
Then came a sudden wave.
Unable to make a sound, Eruru was engulfed by the seawater.
For a normal person, this would be nothing but an exciting experience in the waves. But to her, it was an impact akin to a tsunami.
"W-What should I do... Hey, someone hurry and help!!"
Hisui and company heard Touko's cries for help.
Apart from Rushella who feared seawater, the rest all rushed over.
Fortunately, Eruru was rescued ashore before she could suffer excessive contact with seawater.
Lying on the beach, her lips purple, her body kept shaking.
"...Hey, isn't it bad for her to be like this? It looks like... She stopped breathing!?"
Hearing Mei's comment, Hisui realized what emergency measures needed to be taken immediately.
"In a time like this, shouldn't we start with CPR!? Umm......"
Who was going to do it... Hisui glanced at the people present.
Rushella and Mei—No. Their excessive strength could end up doing more harm than good, perhaps even stopping the heart directly.
Kirika—No. She was calm and composed, but she did not seem to know how to perform CPR.
Touko—Out of the question. Because she cannot make physical contact at all.
"Looks like I'll have to do it..."
Hisui himself only remembered the approximate method. He tried to recall what he had learned from the PE textbook.
Putting one hand over the other, he positioned them on the center of Eruru's chest.
Then without hesitation, he pressed on the sternum—
"Where are you touching!?"
As soon as Hisui's hand made contact with that soft sensation, Eruru woke up.
Immediately, she got up and punched Hisui flying.
"What the heck! This is an emergency... I had no choice......"
Before Hisui could finish, Eruru collapsed again.
This was hardly unexpected. She had suffered shock and flew into a furor as soon as she woke up.
"Why did she stop breathing again! Jeez......!"
...Hence, Hisui began to perform chest compressions again.
"Hey where are you touching!?"
Eruru sat up and punched him again.
And collapsed again.
This repeated many times until Eruru finally woke up completely.
Adjusting her breathing, she laughed in self-mockery and turned her face away.
"...Go on and laugh at me. You want to laugh, right!? Drowning in such shallow water, go ahead and laugh if you want to, everyone!?"
"...I'm not going to laugh. Hey, you really hurt me with those punches. How many times are you going to punch before you calm down..."
After suffering a beating from Rushella just earlier, Hisui was quite heavily injured currently.
But Eruru's psychological trauma must be much worse.
"Kariya-san... cannot swim? And to a very extreme degree as well... Perhaps better called a phobia?"
Kirika asked with curiosity. Touko also seemed equally puzzled.
Rushella already saw through Eruru's identity long ago, while Mei probably knew even though she never brought it up. The other two had no idea completely.
"Everyone has... something they are not good at. Come, dry yourself first. The sun is setting so put on your clothes."
"No need... to pity me. Just tell everyone about my condition, I do not care......"
Drying her hair, Eruru whispered to Hisui soft enough that only he could hear.
But Hisui dismissed the issue gently.
"If you think you're causing trouble for everyone, tell them yourself. Otherwise, stop making a fuss about your heritage all the time."
Hisui took his gaze off Eruru who had lowered her head and turned to Touko.
"So... Touko-san, have you remembered anything?"
"No. The location is right for sure, but otherwise..."
"...Then we should try our luck elsewhere. Or how about we ask around in the neighborhood?"
"It is getting late, let me take over from here. I have already booked an inn for myself."
"But you can't investigate if I don't come along, right?"
Hearing Eruru's suggestion, Touko pointed to herself.
Indeed, there was little to investigate if she were not present, however... She was currently haunting Hisui.
"Then Hisui-kun should come along. We'll continue the investigation with the three of us."
Touko suggested innocently.
But this proposal caused the three other girls' beautiful eyebrows to shoot up.
"...I cannot go back while leaving my servant without supervision. Besides, I'm the club president. I will supervise you guys until the investigation is complete!"
"Eruru-chan is going to have a tough time babysitting you guys, let me help?"
"U-Underclassmen wandering about outside at night... Unacceptable! As the one in charge, I must accompany along. Th-This is simply as an upperclassman, and as the student council vice-president, just so you know!?"
The three girls picked their respective reasons for tagging along.
Watching the three of them, Hisui, who originally planned to go home, had no choice but sigh towards the sky.
"...So we're staying here for the night?"
After that, the group decided to check in at the nearby inn.
Thanks to Eruru, the choice of inn was decided immediately. Without mincing words, this inn was more like a guesthouse. Also, due to this sudden influx of guests, all the girls had to stay in the same room.
The only boy—Hisui took the other room. But due to the suddenness of their arrival, the inn had to tidy and prepare the room first. Hisui had no choice but to visit the girls' room first.
After dinner, the members of the group went to take a bath one after another.
As it so happened, Rushella was the last one to take her bath. Finding Hisui and Mei dressed in yukatas as soon as she returned to the room, her face was instantly shrouded with displeasure.
"What are you two doing!?"
Mei was sitting on a cushion while Hisui was sitting behind her.
He was holding a comb and a hairdryer in his hands.
"Doing is 'doing,' eh?"
"Stop it with the dirty jokes! As you can see for yourself, I'm blow drying her hair. Because this hairdryer is kind of weak, it should go faster if I help her do it."
While busy telling Mei off and explaining to Rushella, Hisui's hands continued to be occupied with blow drying Mei's hair.
Watching him use the hairdryer and comb skillfully in tandem, Rushella could not find any signs of indecent intentions.
Although not completely satisfied, Rushella sat down beside them.
"To think you would let a man move his hands through your hair so easily. Didn't you know that a woman's hair is her life? If I were you, I'd never permit it."
"Indeed, touching hair requires overcoming more resistance... I have heard of that saying. However, this implies the intimacy of my relationship with Hi-kun..."
"Go on and delude yourself. I'm just a volunteer here. Could you not move randomly?"
"Fine fine. However, Hi-kun's skills are really good. It dries so quickly and feels so comfortable too......"
Mei did not retort and leaned back towards Hisui, relaxing her body and enjoying the experience.
Indeed, from an observer's point of view, Hisui's slender fingers combed the hair, tugging at it lightly at times, spreading it out on other occasions, quickly drying it. And from time to time, he would also confer head and shoulder massages.
"Wow, this feels really pleasurable......"
"Oh really? I'm just doing it out of habit. I was even worrying what I'd do if you suddenly screamed sexual harassment. It's already a habit of mine."
"Seriously, you could even open up a beauty parlor... By the way, how did you get so good at drying hair? It might be a bit rude of me to say this, but Hi-kun, you're not really that particular about your own hair, right?"
Watching Mei's look of ecstasy, the others heard her question and leaned in to listen in interest.
Hisui simply answered emotionlessly with indifference.
"Because I often did this for my foster parent. She asked me to comb her hair, blow dry it and help her take care of it......"
This answer told Rushella exactly whose hair Hisui used to take care of, or rather, was supposed to be taking care of.
The vampire who raised him—Miraluka.
Mei also seemed to understand Hisui's unexpectedly complicated background. Enjoying the warm wind, she asked a question that sliced straight to the heart of the matter.
"It's that vampire, huh... Although I really shouldn't be saying this, couldn't she do her own hair?"
"I said the same thing to her many times... But she doesn't have a reflection in mirror, after all..."
This prompted everyone present to recall the characteristics of vampires.
Mirrors, glass, water surfaces—Every reflective object failed to produce images of a vampire.
In other words, cosmetics and hair care were quite challenging.
"I see, that really does need other's help... Ah, but she can't go to a beauty parlor, since she won't have a reflection in the mirror."
"Yeah... Although there is mind control using the mystic eyes, it'd still require reserving the entire place. Also, if the amount of hypnosis is not controlled carefully, it could end up disastrous. So she did it herself. And ended up with such long hair. This was probably the reason why she didn't use makeup much. Okay, it's done."
Hisui finished his task and turned off the hairdryer.
Blown dry meticulously, Mei's hair seemed as though it was a professional hairstylist's masterpiece, glistening with gentle luster.
She was apparently no joking when she called it pleasurable. Lying on the floor while the comfort of the bath still lingered on her body, her face seemed as though she was in paradise.
"S-So, Kujou-kun...... Could you help me... do it as well?"
Awkwardly, Kirika raised her hand and asked.
Although her hair was not as long as Mei's, it was still quite wet because she had returned from the bath not too long ago.
"Uh, sure... But Senpai, I get the feeling that you probably won't like having boys do this sort of thing. Are you really okay with it?"
"Hmm, well, umm...... It's not like I'd allow anyone to do it..."
Kirika blushed but Hisui did not discern her intentions.
Touching hair was in a certain sense more challenging than touching skin—Mei had said something like that earlier.
"By the way, I sometimes wonder if you have a maid to do this at home, starting with drying your body."
"What is with that wondering!? Since my parents are often away from home, yes, I do have a servant to help around the house. But I still take care of my personal life myself! I don't allow anyone to enter my room..."
"Oh wow, they really do exist. High-class ladies through and through."
"...This is irrelevant anyway. So... You are unwilling?"
Fidgeting with her fingers, Kirika looked up and pleaded to Hisui.
For someone who did not know the vice-president's true face, seeing her drop her usual stern demeanor must be quite a shocking sight.
"No, I'm fine with it as long as you are, Senpai."
"Well then, thanks......"
Kirika turned around and entrusted her hair to Hisui.
Hisui began to work quietly, causing Rushella, whose mood was poor to begin with, to display further displeasure on her face, grumbling with her pouting lips.
"Hmph, why is everyone so unprincipled? To take a woman's life so lightly..."
She muttered for quite a while but neither Hisui nor Kirika heard her.
Blushing, Kirika chatted with Hisui about her hair.
"...My hair has split ends, right? Would it... be troublesome for you?"
"Oh not at all. I think your hair is very pretty."
"...R-Really? P-Please go harder when massaging me... Please massage longer..."
"Yeah, the student council's work must be quite tiring~~"
Hisui answered as he rubbed Kirika's shoulders with his slender fingers.
Right beside them, Rushella was gnashing her teeth with murderous intent on her face. However, the two did not notice.
"How nice, I'd like one too......"
Let alone a massage, Touko was unable to take a bath in the first place. She murmured in admiration. At this moment, Kirika's hair had also finished drying and another customer laid herself down in ecstatic paradise. Mei was still sleeping where she had lain earlier.
"Hmph... Watching your embarrassed expression, you must be doing this just for the chance to feel up girls, right!?"
"I've been desperately suppressing those feelings, okay!"
"...However, your skills seem quite good...... Well, umm... If you really want to, no matter what... I could allow you to do my hair too?"
Rushella asked in a testing manner as she showed off her beautiful hair.
However, Hisui shook his head in annoyance.
"Sigh, forget it. I haven't done this for a long time and even did two in a row. My hands are tired. This takes so much energy. Besides, isn't your hair dry already?"
As soon as he finished, Hisui's face was greeted by Rushella's punch.
"Ouch, what the heck......"
Rushella grumbled softly.
Unlike her usual outbursts of emotion, her quiet tone of loneliness made Hisui at a loss.
Without saying a word, Rushella left the room.
She most likely left the inn... But instead of dashing out madly through the door, she simply walked normally.
Inside the quiet room, the sound of Rushella's footfall outside sounded especially loud.
"What's wrong with her brain again...... Don't you all agree?"
Hisui sought agreement from the girls.
But no one looked at him.
"Eh... What's with this atmosphere?"
"It was totally your fault just now, Hi-kun."
"I can't deny Sudou-san and my role in this, but you are the one at fault, Kujou-kun."
"Hisui-kun, you'd better go apologize."
Not only Mei and Kirika, but even Touko were remarking with deep feeling. Despite being a ghost from the same age, perhaps because having spent a decade sleeping under the sea, she sounded especially mature in tone.
"Eh... What's the situation now?"
Besieged from all directions again, Hisui looked over to his last source of hope—Eruru.
Because she was the first to enter the bath, added to the fact of her short hairstyle, Eruru's hair had dried long ago and she simply watched quietly all this time. Now, she scolded as though she were glaring at trash:
"Hurry up and die."
"You can't be serious... Right?"
"Sorry, please do not look at me. Your gaze causes my value to drop as a human."
"What are you treating me as......?"
Hisui was dealt a heavy blow. He turned and looked at the trio on the side.
Without prior communication, they all pointed at the door simultaneously.
In order words, "Hurry up and go."
"...This is the end result? Honestly, I really want to sleep......"
"Sleep all you want. I'll simply grant you eternal slumber using my strength."
"Be careful that I don't curse you with nightmares."
"...Isn't it said that when traveling, one could encounter sleep paralysis, spellbound by haunted beds?"
Faced with the smiling faces of the artificial human, the witch and the ghost, the helpless boy had no choice but to resign to his fate.
"...I'll be right back."
" " "Take care." " "
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