Silver Cross and Draculea:Volume04 Chapter3
Chapter 3 - Doppelganger
"Why must we go to school so early in the morning!?"
"Stop making such a fuss. You're partly to blame too."
Early in the morning, Hisui and Rushella were rubbing their sleepy eyes while hurrying to school.
There was still a lot of time before class started but the two of them had left home very early and come to school.
To help Kirika.
After the incident in her room, Hisui had sent her a letter of apology by text message... But she did not reply.
He had visited the student council office to apologize in person, but Kirika turned her face away and ignored him.
Speaking of which, weren't you the one who pushed me down first... The truth accidentally slipped out of Hisui's mouth, causing Kirika to slap him with a blush, making matters worse.
Apparently, her sanity had been stolen by the scented candle and she was quite bothered by it.
Perhaps she actually had no idea about the scent's true purpose and simply wanted to spend time together, just the two of them in a room... Drinking tea.
Hisui did not have anyone whom he could discuss with for advice. Racking his brains, he still had no idea what to do. In the end, Kirika sent him a text message last night on her own.
I have something I want your help with tomorrow. Come to school at seven sharp.
Naturally, Hisui agreed readily. Hence, he arrived early at school today.
He could have let Rushella continue sleeping, but going out and leaving her behind at home would definitely get him a noisy earful after the fact. Thus he had no choice but to wake her up early to set off to school together.
"Ooh~... So sleepy... I didn't drink enough blood either..."
"Stop talking, the one who drinks from my neck nonstop the minute she opened her eyes."
"Fool, that position was no good at all! I knew it, nothing beats lying on top of you while you're sleeping, having a good long look at your sleeping face, rubbing your cheeks, then blowing into your ear, finally drinking your blood while hugging tightly!"
"What the heck did you do to me...?"
Usually, Hisui awoke to the pain of fangs sinking into his skin. Anything before that was unknown to him.
Deducing from what Rushella just said, she probably toys with him thoroughly before biting him.
"Recently, I keep dreaming of something soft pressing against my face, rubbing away, almost suffocating me. Is that because of you?"
"Hmph, is that the kind of dream you had? Speaking of which, I always feel something hard against my leg when hugging you, is this related?"
"Sorry, just forget about it. I don't want to talk about this."
"Why!? It feels like it gets bigger the more I touch it..."
"Stop talking about it... Please stop..."
Red in the face, Hisui silently went through the school gates.
The school yard was empty. Recently, club activities had entered a seasonal low and there were no students doing morning training in the sports ground.
But Hisui saw a familiar figure and walked over there.
"Eh, Class Rep...?"
Dressed in gym clothes, Reina was in a corner of the school yard.
"What are you doing here so early? Could it be that you're getting up early to practice for the relay race?"
"Yes... I'm the final leg, after all. I haven't been running lately, so I need to get back into shape as quickly as possible..."
Reina looked down without much confidence.
Being devoted to training was a good thing. And this sort of responsible mindset was very much in line with her personality—But somehow, Hisui felt that something was not right.
Since she did not belong to the track and field club, why was she so intent on the sports festival's relay race?
"Hmm, that's wonderful spirit. Why don't you learn from her!?"
"Spare me. By the way, Class Rep, you don't need to push yourself so hard. No one will blame you even if we lose. I won't let them either."
Hisui's words made Reina blush.
But she still continued to look down, like the time when she decided to be the final leg.
"Yes, but after all, I was selected... I haven't really gone running seriously ever since middle school, so I do need some last-minute practice at least."
"You've been participating normally in PE class. So it's not some kind of physical ailment, right? Could it be mental trauma?"
As soon as he spoke, Hisui realized he had misspoken.
Because Reina instantly went expressionless and bit her lip with her head bowed.
In order to relieve the heavy atmosphere, Hisui changed the subject.
"Well, if anything, a relay is everyone's responsibility. In a class like ours, no matter how hard you try, Class Rep, if this girl messes up before passing the baton to you, all your efforts could end up wasted."
"What did you say!?"
Hisui pointing the finger at her caused Rushella to scream with displeasure.
But she apparently did not understand the meaning of his words.
"...What is a 'baton'?"
She was asking seriously.
"Eh, this kind of basic question? What did you think the relay race was about?"
"Everyone running in sequence as decided!"
"Yes, that's not a wrong description, but you're definitely mistaken on one point. In a relay race, everyone is linked by the baton. You basically hold a small rod while running then pass it to the next person, this goes on repeatedly. Finally, when you pass the baton to Class Rep and she finishes running, then the race ends."
"...In other words, if I pass this parasol to her instead of the baton, that's against the rules!?"
"Yeah, that's right. I feel like you're really gonna do that, so please pay more attention. If you do something like that, there's no way I can cover for you."
Hearing Hisui's mutters, Rushella frantically threw her schoolbag to the ground.
"Grrrrr... In that case, to prevent making a mistake during the race, I must practice more! Class Rep, help me!"
"Eh, ah, okay... Passing the baton... That's a crucial part."
"Very well, let us not dally. Hisui, I have something urgent now to do!"
Like a super busy person, Rushella started to put Kirika's light-blocking agent on her body.
Then she even sprayed it on her hair to further improve the sunlight resistance.
Hisui had already told Reina that Rushella had a frail constitution that was weak towards sunlight, so Reina did not find her behavior strange.
However, just when Rushella was about to strip and change into gym clothes, Reina finally spoke up to stop her.
"W-W-Wait up, Draculea-san... Your clothes...!"
Her uniform top was already completely unbuttoned. Rushella was about to unbuckle her belt and paused in response.
The unexpected series of high-speed undressing movements took place before Hisui's eyes throughout the entire process. At this moment, Rushella and Hisui met gazes.
Naturally, her face went red instantly.
"Y-Y-Y-You jerk, what are you looking at!?"
"No, it's you who suddenly stripped..."
Just as Rushella swung her fist as usual, her skirt slid down.
"Wah, that's so bold!"
"I told you not to look——!!"
The second punch struck Hisui in the chin, flooring him face up.
The moment he fell down, a dazzling bit of white fabric seemed to have entered his view. Knowing that a third punch was unavoidable if he spoke up, Hisui chose to remain silent.
Several minutes later, Rushella was all changed by the time Hisui stood up.
"...So, you want to practice?"
"That's right, victory is in my hands!"
"...Yeah, okay, remember the rules then. So, Class Rep... I'll leave her... with you? I still have something else to do."
"Yes, okay. Then first of all... Let's begin with some warmups?"
"Okay, watch me!"
Then casting Hisui to the back of her mind, Rushella focused on morning training.
Despite the unease in his mind, Hisui still departed after some hesitation.
Previously, Rushella had insisted on sitting out of all outdoor PE classes, but now with Kirika's help, perhaps she could participate henceforth.
In any case, with Reina watching her, it should be fine.
Hisui could not help but smile while heading towards Kirika's rendezvous point.
The rendezvous point was in a corner of the school... The gym equipment storeroom.
It was a separate building from the classroom block. Apart from PE class, Hisui almost never went there.
Arms crossed, Kirika was waiting at the storeroom's entrance.
Although Hisui was a little late, the time was still much earlier than when he usually came to school.
"Where's Rushella-san? Why are you alone?"
"She's training for the relay race. There's a capable girl looking after her, so it should be fine."
"I see... Very well."
"So, what do you need me for, Senpai?"
"I need your help with confirming the equipment for the sports festival. Counting tents, hurdles and the like. These will be taken out to place during first period today, so they need to be checked as soon as possible."
"Uh... But wouldn't it have been better to check them two days in advance?"
"...There were other things to busy with. Due to the recent shock I suffered, I couldn't concentrate when working."
Saying that, Kirika glared at him. Hisui could only avert his gaze.
Continuing the subject further would be asking for trouble.
"So, let's go in..."
"Ah, this should be locked..."
Kirika took out a set of keys she had borrowed from the staff room but it turned out to be useless. Because in actual fact, the door was not locked.
"Eh, it's open?"
"Let's go in first."
Unconcerned, Hisui entered the storeroom first.
As expected, it was filled with a musty smell. Furthermore, it was dark and difficult to see the situation inside.
"I don't think there's a light here..."
"Yes. Do you know the rough layout here?"
"I do, but it'd be bad if we get locked in here."
"...Don't get any strange ideas, okay?"
Kirika walked to his side and said warily.
Did she misunderstand something about him?
Clearly, he was the one who needed to be careful around others.
What if she were to light up some weird scent and push him down?
"No, not me... It's not like I'm Sudou."
"For me... In this kind of place... I would still be reluctant... A hotel feels so immoral... Raising criticisms about upbringing... A-After that happened, my own room does not seem to be too... In the end, Kujou-kun's room would be best, I suppose...?"
Hisui seemed to be seriously misunderstood. Her thoughts were all confined in a certain direction.
Venturing deeper into the storeroom, Hisui decided to ignore the girl who was fiddling with her fingers, immersed in her delusions.
Equipment like tents should be there.
"Uh, is this it?"
In a corner of the storeroom, the metal frames for putting up tents were leaning against the wall.
Another important component, the fabric that could be said to be the tent itself, was folded and kept on a shelf next to them.
"Let's move these outside before counting them carefully?"
"Yes, since they will be put up soon, we should move them out first."
Kirika agreed. Hence, Hisui picked up a large roll of fabric.
Although it was not as heavy as the tent frame, the heavy sailcloth was still not easy to carry in his arms.
Hugging the fabric, Hisui left the room and threw it outside the storeroom.
Throwing down the sailcloth, only then did Hisui notice.
It was damaged.
The sturdy sailcloth was not supposed to rip or tear under normal conditions, but right now, it was all torn up.
"What happened... A prank!?"
Hisui spread the sailcloth out to inspect the damage.
Behind him, still in the storeroom, Kirika called out in alarm.
"...Who is there!?"
Sensing danger, Hisui returned to the storeroom to look out.
Previously, when he entered, he had not sensed anyone... Was Kirika mistaken?
Inside the dim and vast room, if anyone hid on purpose, it would be difficult to find them.
Before Kirika unlocked the door, someone had definitely visited.
Hisui could not let Kirika handle things alone, so he went inside.
At the same time, someone cried out "Kyah!" lightly.
It was Kirika.
A figure collided into her and sent her falling.
"What are you doing here!?"
Hisui hastily rushed forward and supported Kirika before she fell.
While stabilizing Kirika, Hisui reached out to grab the intruder in the storeroom.
What he touched was an arm even more slender and delicate than his.
Evidently a girl, she was also wearing the school uniform. The arm grabbed by Hisui was also holding a boxcutter, with a shred of sailcloth on the blade. Clearly the tent vandal was her.
Just as Hisui was about to subdue her, the person looked back.
Hisui was instantly stunned.
The girl's uniform was not a disguise, rather, it was perfectly natural.
She was student in this school.
And someone he recognized.
The person he had caught was Reina.
Faced with his questioning, she remained expressionless—No, a light grin was surfaced in the corner of her lips.
Unlike the gentle and moving smile she usually displayed in the classroom, it was treacherous expression of hidden malevolence.
The unexpected development made Hisui frozen on the spot.
Using this chance, Reina shook off Hisui's arm and fled.
Kirika was going to chase after her, but on second thought, knowing who the culprit was already, there was probably no need to pursue relentlessly.
"Ah, Senpai, that..."
"I am fine..."
Kirika became shy and escaped from Hisui's arms. She looked fine.
"What was with that student...?"
"You saw her face?"
"I did... I see her in regularly held class committee. She is your class' representative, right? Why was she hiding in the storeroom and even cutting up the tent?"
Hisui wanted to deny.
She was not someone who did such things. Neither was there any motive.
But he could not deny.
After all, here were two eyewitnesses. The facts were undeniable.
"Seriously... What is she thinking? Anyway, I should report to the teachers first..."
"Ah, wait a sec..."
Hisui was just about to dissuade Kirika when a familiar voice interrupted them.
"What are you two doing stuck so close together!?"
The new arrival was standing with one hand on her waist while the other hand pointed at them. Naturally, it was Rushella.
Having finished her morning training, random sweat drops still glistened on her skin. This additional layer of healthy color added to give a different charm from usual.
"In this deserted place, leaning so close together... What are you doing!?"
Normally, Kirika would have argued back harshly, but currently, her voice was almost inaudible.
Not only that, she was looking down, fidgeting with her fingers, making furtive glances at Hisui to seek his help.
"Hmph, that Mei aside, all these girls I can't be careless with. Hisui, do you just take anyone who throws herself at you!?"
"A boy of my age will always welcome girls, okay... Anyway, I've got something to ask you..."
Hisui put on a serious expression to ask about an important matter.
But the answer soon came out on its own.
"What's the matter, Draculea-san? Eh, Kujou-kun is here too... You said just now that you had something to do, did you mean making preparations here?"
Reina tilted her head adorably as she asked.
Due to the physical exertion, she was covered in sweat as well, using a towel hanging on her neck to wipe her forehead.
"You came at the right moment!"
Before Hisui could speak, Kirika had already rushed forward to interrogate Reina.
"What is the meaning of this!? Why did you do that!?"
She pointed at the shredded remains of the tent.
However, Reina seemed perplexed.
"Excuse me, Senpai, what did I do...?"
"That's right, what are you accusing her of doing!?"
Rushella stepped forward to shield Reina. Kirika clicked her tongue in annoyance and continued to question with righteous authority.
"Silence, you! Let me hear your reasons first! If the situation turns out to be serious, it must be dealt with strictly..."
"Hold on, Senpai."
Hisui went up and pulled Kirika's hand.
"What!? Didn't you see the culprit's face clearly too!?"
"Yes, I did see. By the way, Rushella, how did practice go with you two?"
Suddenly asked, Rushella did not know how to answer instantly.
But she soon puffed out her voluptuous chest and proudly answered:
"Yes, the baton passing was perfect! You should look forward to my magnificent performance in the real event!"
"That's wonderful. Then Class Rep was teaching you all this time, right?"
"How rude, I was simply accompanying her, okay!?"
Rushella remained arrogant as ever.
Hisui nodded as though figuring out something.
"Hey... What are you asking about? Shouldn't we clear up that matter with her first..."
"Senpai, you saw as well, right? The culprit dressed in uniform just now..."
"Of course... Eh, ah....!"
Only now did Kirika carefully examine Reina from head to foot.
Reina before her eyes... was wearing gym clothes.
No matter how you looked, she had been wearing these clothes and exercised for quite a while.
More importantly, Rushella served as her proof of absence.
On further thought, she was clearly doing morning training on the track far out. Coming here to hide in the storeroom before him was completely impossible.
"...What's going on?"
"I would like to know too."
Hisui and Kirika looked at each other.
Rushella and Reina watched them in bafflement.
"...Why are these two talking weirdly all this time?"
The four of them were respectively confounded.
Even when class started, they still had not solved the mystery.
"...Consequently, my Supernatural Investigations Club will be responsible for unraveling this mystery!"
After school in the empty classroom that served as their base of operations as usual, the "club president" Rushella was announcing at the lectern.
However, the remaining "members" did not share her enthusiasm and were occupied with their own thoughts.
"No, speaking of which, this is totally none of our concern, right? There are backup tents anyway, it's not like it'll affect the sports festival from being held, right?"
Mei was completely unmotivated.
She had already heard from Hisui roughly what happened during morning practice.
Since Kirika had reported to the teachers, the homeroom teacher had also mentioned during homeroom.
"That's not the issue! My classmate is under suspicions, okay!?"
"Granted that may be... But she has an alibi, right?"
Sitting on the right side, Hisui nodded.
As for spotting Reina, Hisui and Kirika had withheld that detail from the school.
Since both of them saw her, it was definitely not illusion. But Reina also had absolute unshakable proof of absence.
"Besides, what motive does Class Rep have? A model student who is devoted to morning training, why would she do something that would wreck her everyday efforts in an instant?"
Mei sought agreement from Hisui but Hisui did not nod.
The hardworking and persevering girl could not possibly have done this. He knew very well.
But he felt quite concerned about the gloom on her face when she was selected as the final leg for the relay race.
"No matter what, if this is left alone, the rare sports festival is in danger of being suspended! For the sake of letting the world witness my magnificent running form, the culprit must be apprehended!"
"Such a pain. Besides, isn't it just a prank? As long as there are enough tents, surely the sports festival won't be suspended..."
"Not necessarily. This morning, this was received in the school mailbox."
Sitting to Hisui's left, Kirika spoke gloomily.
She stood up and raised an inconspicuous sheet of A4 paper to show everyone.
Written in blood red cursive script was a concise warning.
Stop the sports festival now. Or else the school will be harmed.
Almost filling up the entire page, the words displayed heavy pressure, instilling terror in the reader.
Although anyone could have written this kind of threatening letter, due to the content, Kirika's expression was very grave.
"If all that happened was this sheet of paper, the school would have treated it as purely a prank, but combined with the tent matter... Just to be safe, the school has contacted the police as well. Currently speaking, the school will increase security to make sure the sports festival is held as planned, but if anything else happens, it could very well be suspended."
"Grrrrr! Unacceptable! The villainous culprit must be caught now and taught a lesson!"
"Probably very soon."
The unexpected voice drew everyone's attention to a corner of the classroom.
The speaker was Eruru, who had been typing away on her computer's keyboard, always distancing herself from all the noise of the other club members.
"This threatening letter is the original, right? Also, the words are written instead of typed, it is most likely the culprit's handwriting."
"Yes, I borrowed it from the staff room."
"May I borrow it for a look?"
Kirika nodded and handed the threatening letter to Eruru.
Eruru compared back and forth between the paper and her screen, tapping rapidly on her keyboard.
"What are you doing?"
Interested, Hisui stared at the screen from behind her. Rushella and the girls also followed over. Everyone gathered around Eruru.
"Simple handwriting examination. Comparing handwriting samples gathered from different people with the writing on this threatening letter, clues can be gathered to some degree. Although it is not enough to serve as evidence, that type of precise result would best require a professional, this method could still serve to guide us to a certain extent."
"Huh... Please stop playing police. Whose handwriting are you comparing with? It's not like you have every possible suspect from school, right? Or maybe you have a hunch already?"
"I am not the one who discovered the clue. It was you and Uno-senpai."
Hisui and Kirika were stunned.
At the same time, Eruru's hands also stopped.
"The comparison matches. Even for amateur eyes, it is unmistakable. This is the person who wrote this threatening letter."
Eruru pointed at the screen while she spoke.
Instead of a person's face, there were enlarged words.
The picture came from someone's handwriting sample and really looked quite similar to the cursive script on the threatening letter.
"Although the script style is different, if the same person wrote it, there will still be many similarities. The sample I gathered came from that person's normal script. If writing maliciously in cursive... It should probably look like this threatening letter's style."
"Stop holding back the answer. What's displayed on the computer is..."
"Sera-san's handwriting. I collected it from the notes she took during morning lessons. It is virtually certain that this threatening letter was written by her hand."
A grave silence followed.
Hisui and Kirika's face were stiff while Mei looked to be in disbelief. Floating on the side casually without any worries, Touko continued to display a pure and innocent yet adorably vacant expression.
Only Rushella firmly denied the analysis results.
"I already said it can't be the class representative! You must be wrong! Besides, she was training together with me all morning!?"
"I did not say that the culprit was the Sera-san who was training together was you."
"Ha!? What nonsense are you talking about!?"
Eruru did not bother with Rushella's overbearing indignation and turned towards Hisui behind her.
"Since you saw her yourself, surely you must have some ideas, right? Or did you recognize the wrong person at the time, or someone went through an elaborate disguise?"
"...Probably not. Senpai and I definitely saw Class Rep herself. And likewise, the one who practiced with Rushella was Class Rep herself too."
"Incomprehensible! What rubbish are you all talking about!?"
"Wait, Kujou-kun, could what we saw be...!"
Kirika exclaimed in surprise.
Hisui nodded and gave the answer.
"Doppelganger, I'm pretty sure of it."
This famous cryptid—No, if anything, the term "phenomenon" would be more apt. Everyone present had heard of it before.
A doppelganger was another self that was completely identical in appearance to the original person.
The same person appearing in different places at the same time.
The alibi provided by Rushella, Hisui and Kirika's eyewitness account, the threatening letter's handwriting, Reina's personality—This phenomenon was the only explanation that could resolve all the contradictory elements of the incident.
"There are several theories on the relationship between doppelgangers and the original. Normally speaking, they are not on good terms with their originals. Death upon mutual encounter, with one person representing good while the other represents evil—In any case, having two selves pop up is truly a troublesome thing."
Eruru closed her computer and shrugged.
It looked like the current matter required her participation in the investigation.
"I understand it more now. In other words, the doppelganger damaged the tent and sent the threatening letter to the school while the other one is Class Rep herself!?"
"Although it is currently unclear which one can be considered the real person... Yes, you are correct."
"Why? Why would the doppelganger do bad things!?"
"Then you will need to ask them yourself. Despite identical appearances, their minds are two separate people. So, Kariya, what now? What can we do?"
Hisui asked for a concrete solution.
But Eruru shook her head coldly.
"Even the Supernatural Investigations Section itself does not have a unified policy towards doppelgangers. In this regard, they are even more troublesome to deal with than vampires. Furthermore, there are still many mysteries related to how doppelgangers come about and the precise details in the phenomena. Theories passed down since antiquity also have numerous variations. The term 'doppelganger' is just an umbrella for a variety of similar phenomena involving 'another self.' Hence, the cases must be approached individually and handled with practicality."
"Neither this nor that, so what on earth should we do? All we can do is wait for the class rep's doppelganger to do bad things?"
Mei grumbled and voiced her opinion.
Just as no one could answer her, a laugh of mockery was heard from the classroom's backdoor.
"My, the amateurs have no choice but to surrender, right?"
Everyone looked back.
It was Rangetsu.
Leaning against the sliding door, arms crossed, she scoffed.
"I heard everything. Ultimately, that's all a half-baked club like yours is capable of. 'Supernatural Investigations Club'... That's the name, right? I can totally understand your wish to copy us, but don't you know it's very annoying if you rush about with no idea what you're doing?"
Rangetsu's words did not disguise her hostility at all.
The members of the club all decided to ignore her.
"Hmm, although it's a troublesome enemy, we can't sit back and ignore. Anyway, let's split up and catch her!"
Hearing Rushella giving orders, the other members nodded and accepted.
"That's right, perhaps we might find something useful in our search."
"I don't mind at all as long as I get to team up with Hi-kun, okay?"
"...After all, I have no wish for the sports festival to be suspended. As the student council vice-president, this is part of my duty."
"In any case, I will check the Supernatural Investigations Section's database to review past cases."
"Let me help as well~"
When Touko raised her hand to sum up, Rangetsu exploded.
Rushing violently into the classroom, she roared:
"Hey! Don't just go ignoring others so readily! Have any of you heard what I said!?"
The five of them plus a ghost distanced themselves from the glaring Rangetsu, huddling in a circle to discuss how to react.
"Hey, that wolf girl is butting in again... She said she had been listening to our discussion, but I totally didn't sense her presence. She's even more like a ghost than Touko-san."
"Don't police have jobs to do...?"
"For the sake of the police's reputation, I must clarify that she is a special exception. Please do not get biased about all the other cops who work seriously in the country."
"...By the way, aren't outsiders forbidden from entering school on principle? Isn't this illegal trespassing?"
"Should we call the police...? Touko-san, without letting her notice, could you quietly use telekinesis to dial a number?"
"Yes, I'll try!"
Listening to Kirika's instructions, Touko focused her mind to unleash paranormal powers. At this moment, Rangetsu barged her way into the middle of their circle.
"Hey what is with you all!? Also, I. AM. THE POLICE! Look, here's my police badge even!"
"Sigh, what the heck... Kariya, could you help show her the way out, she's your colleague, right?"
"Please do not compare me to her. Besides, Oogami-san, why are you here?"
Eruru asked her with clear displeasure.
Rangetsu answered, equally displeased.
"Didn't the school call the police regarding the threatening letter? After all, with so many supernatural creatures in this school, I came over just in case. Furthermore, I have something to report to you all."
"Report...? What is it?"
Rangetsu ignored Eruru's question and picked up the threatening letter from her desk.
She brought it up to her face and sniffed it, then showed an expression of certainty.
"I knew it."
"You smell something?"
"That wording of yours pissed me off. Well whatever, with this I am certain. The true identity of the doppelganger you people talked about, shall I reveal it?"
"Is it related to the confiscated items that had gone missing, what you mentioned last time?"
Hisui figured out what she was about to say and spoke up before her.
Although it was just a half-baked hunch, Rangetsu was clearly shaken in response. Hisui's stab in the dark was apparently right on target.
"H-How did you know...?"
"Oh, you came over on purpose to talk about that, so I was wondering if this time is related as well."
"What were you able to find out from the magic guild where that substance came from?"
Apparently grasping the situation vaguely, Eruru asked calmly.
Everyone else made a look that seemed to say "stop posing around and tell us honestly."
Glared at by six pairs of eyes, Rangetsu confessed reluctantly.
"...Just as you guessed. The effect of that confiscated drug is to artificially produce the doppelganger phenomenon. Without needing someone to drink it, all it takes is a sniff of the gas to take effect. Being too volatile and evaporating too easily is its drawback."
"Wait, you said it artificially produces the doppelganger phenomenon...?"
"Yes. That said, there are all sorts of strange explanations for the doppelganger phenomenon itself. For example, clones, spirit body separation, other selves from different timelines, illusions caused by brain damage. Ultimately, this doppelganger is just their theory."
"I don't need you to write a manual, okay... After breathing in that missing drug, what happens to a person?"
"Part of the person's soul leaves the body, producing the doppelganger. A so-called doppelganger is composed by the spiritual substance called ectoplasm, exhibiting both ghostly and human traits. To a certain extent, it can interfere with solid objects, yet suddenly vanish like a ghost on occasion... A typical doppelganger."
"This typical kind is truly troublesome. Then what is the personality of the produced doppelganger?"
"Normally speaking, everyone suppresses a negative personality under the surface—In other words, everyone possesses an ugly side to them. That personality is materialized and separated from the main body."
"Does that mean that the more proper someone behaves, the more evil the doppelganger...!"
With that, Reina's doppelganger's actions could be easily understood.
As expected... she really did not want to be the final leg for the relay.
But being kindhearted and strictly adherent to rules, Reina hid this at the bottom of her heart.
Then her other self, the one separated from her, acted in accordance with her true wish.
"...How long does that drug last for?"
"No particular time limit. But the main body will gradually grow weak and die. The limit is roughly a week. Once the main body is gone, the doppelganger will also disappear in the end. If you don't want a death, the doppelganger must be found as soon as possible so that they can be merged back into one. But the problem is that the clone won't behave obediently, so who knows what other trouble might arise?"
Hisui frowned deeply and looked up towards the sky.
Although not to the point of absolute evil... Reina's doppelganger's actions were already a thin line from criminal activity. Even if the Supernatural Investigations Section already grasped the truth of the matter, if the crimes came to light, the main body—Reina herself—would most likely be punished.
"The lost item still hasn't been found, right?"
"We are still devoting full effort to searching. Although the drug's quantity is small, there is probably still enough to create a number of doppelgangers. To prevent further crimes, of course we will try our best to investigate... Currently, the unresolved issue at hand is the school's incident. So like I said, you few should not interfere."
"That's not wrong... But your side's manpower is limited, right? We're still willing to help out, you know?"
"That's right! Let the Supernatural Investigations Club assist you under my command!"
Rushella stepped forward resolutely.
But Rangetsu scoffed.
"I've not fallen so low as to seek help from a vampire. Let's end the amateurish games here. Why don't you hurry home and lie in your coffin?"
"What did you say!?"
Throwing insults, Rushella and Rangetsu began a dispute.
Hisui frantically intervened to prevent a battle from erupting here.
"What are you doing!? Let me personally censure this ignorant bitch...!"
"Stop it now, none of us are adult yet. Well, although I don't know how old you actually are."
"Why are you talking like that as well!? I shall handle my own school affairs...!"
"Well said... I believe that if you're trying to search inside the school, wouldn't it be more convenient for students to do so?"
Hisui coldly looked at Rangetsu.
"W-What? A-Although I'm not familiar with the interior of the school..."
Hisui deliberately ignored the opening shown by Rangetsu and secretly winked to the other club members.
First to pick up on Hisui's gaze was Mei.
"That's so true~ Police trying to interfere in school would take a lot of work. If I were a detective, I'd recruit collaborators from within first."
"Agreed. A school is essentially a sealed, miniature society. I specifically took on the guise of a student to work more efficiently in this place... It is truly regrettable that someone else from the Supernatural Investigations Section does not understand this principle. Oh well, to each their own, though it is hard for me to agree."
Eruru shrugged as though worrying for her colleague.
"Uh, I didn't say... I'm not seeking help completely..."
Rangetsu began to compromise in a quiet voice.
Naturally, everyone heard her, but no one responded.
"Logically speaking, from the student council's position, I would like to assist even more than the Supernatural Investigations Club... But it cannot be helped. After all, I am the students' representative, helping resolve school problems is only natural. Even seeking help from the police would not be strange... Since they find us a hindrance, it cannot be helped."
Kirika expressed her stance to respect Rangetsu's intentions.
Hearing her flawless speech, Rangetsu's face began to perspire uncomfortably.
"No, umm... It's not like... there's much hindrance... Ah, isn't there something called civic responsibility, right..."
"I am a ghost so I can investigate various places without worrying about danger. But since I'm a hindrance, forget it. Originally, a ghost could be so useful..."
Touko spoke with forlornness.
Indeed, she was not afraid of dangerous tasks.
Because she was already dead.
"...No, umm... I-If you all want to help that much... It's also okay? Treat it as practical experience? What I mean is, go ahead and try? Right, everything is about experience..."
Halfway through, Rangetsu found everyone staring at her with icy cold gazes.
Cough, she cleared her throat and bowed her head deeply.
"By this point, what are you talking about?"
"How totally lame! After saying all that in the beginning."
"Aren't you embarrassed?"
"The police force's shame."
"I don't wanna be like that when I grow up."
"In her shoes, I'd die from shame. Oh well, I'm dead already, however."
With Touko summing up with black humor, Rangetsu began to scream, almost about to cry.
"What on earth, you're ganging up on me!? I'm already bowing down to you all!"
"Then show us your sincerity."
"Sincerity... What do you mean by that?"
"Stick out your hand."
Despite feeling perplexed, Rangetsu presented her palm towards Hisui.
Then a coin fell into her hand.
"...What is the meaning of this?"
"Get me a drink."
"Why are you treating me as an errand girl!?"
Rangetsu angrily threw the coin into the ground.
Her anger was hardly surprising.
"Ah, what the heck! What's wrong with asking you to buy a drink?"
"Don't treat me like a fool! Can't you buy it yourself!?"
"No, but I just think you'll be super fast."
"Well, doing the 100m dash in nine seconds is totally possible... Hey! You're still treating me like a total errand girl!"
Rangetsu howled, so infuriated her shoulders shook.
Hisui picked up the coin with impatience.
"Fine, I'll go myself. Oh, what does everyone else want? I might as well get everything along the way."
Hearing his altruistic suggestion, Rushella stepped forward.
"Hold it, Hisui. It's better if I go buy drinks for you all. As someone of high stature, it is necessary to display generosity from time to time. Allow me to serve as a role model to show you the difference between my race and those werewolves!"
Giggling, Rushella made no effort to hide the mockery in her tone of voice.
Rangetsu gnashed her teeth in response but Rushella pretended not to see.
"Wait. It's just buying drinks, don't talk like everyone owes you. Why don't I go instead? Since it's still daytime, I'm still the strongest until sunset, right? Unlike a certain skinny bones tomboy."
Mei threw Rangetsu a glance and stepped forward.
She proudly puffed out her bountiful bosom, causing Rangetsu's anger to reach new heights.
"Hold on, what is required in this situation is not strength but wealth. I have no wish to make the entire police force or even all the civil servants suffer despise due to a single miser. Allow me to treat everyone and buy the drinks."
Eruru took out a long purse that looked like it was bulging with cash and stepped forward.
She did not even look at Rangetsu.
"Wait up, no matter how much money you have, upon my pride as a senior, how could I allow an underclassman to buy drinks for me? Let me go as an elder. Oh well, although there do exist useless members of society among those who are older."
Kirika looked at Rangetsu with eyes of pity while taking a step forward.
"No no, speaking of age, I should be eldest, right? Let the big sister do this! Using my paranormal powers, I can just shake the vending machine without spending any money! Despite how I may look, at least it's better than someone who contributes nothing, wasting the world's resources, right?"
Touko pointed at Rangetsu, making a strong statement.
Finally, Rangetsu exploded, unable to tolerate anymore.
"...That's going too far!! Fine fine, I'll go buy a few cans of damn juice!!"
In the end, all six members of Hisui's group reached out towards Rangetsu in concert and spoke in perfect unison:
" " " " " "Please go." " " " " "
"Sheesh, what the heck!"
Rangetsu threw the guest indoor sandals to the ground and even stomped on them.
Her anger seemed to have blown a fuse, even she probably was no longer clear on what she was doing.
As Rangetsu rushed into the hallway, entering a startup pose like a sprinter, no, it was virtually like a beast getting ready to accelerate on all fours.
"Don't underestimate a werewolf's speed! I'll get there in the blink of an eye, bringing back the purchases faster than anyone!!"
"Oh, I'd like a mineral water."
"Gimme strawberry milk!"
"I want a soda~"
"Please get me a coffee, no milk or sugar."
"I would like some tea. Hot, not cold please."
Even the ghost who did not drink tea placed her order nonchalantly.
But Rangetsu did not notice. After hearing the orders, she sped off down the hallway like a rocket.
A whirlwind was kicked up in the surroundings, causing the girls to hastily hold down their skirts.
The rapid charge almost made one worry for the integrity of the floorboards. Finally, Rangetsu disappeared into the other side of the classroom block.
"..Well then, let us adjourn for today. Everyone, please leave before that person returns. Do not let her discover you. Now that the Supernatural Investigations Section is mobilized, that person's presence is irrelevant."
"Are you a demon?"
Hisui felt that Eruru was going a bit far, but she ignored his remark.
"This will teach her a lesson. After all, she will be back. Allow me to report to everyone the doppelganger's details once I gather information. Perhaps human wave tactics might be required, so please coordinate when the time comes, everyone."
Then the group dispersed.
Roughly one minute later, Rangetsu returned to the deserted classroom. Naturally, the newly bought drinks became the sacrifices for her to vent her anger.
"Crap, I forgot to shop..."
That night, Hisui began to worry while standing in front of his fridge.
Although he had already had dinner with Rushella, the remaining ingredients in the fridge were not enough to make lunch for tomorrow.
For Hisui himself, eating at the cafeteria or buying from the snack shop was fine, but recently, for Rushella's sake, he had been preparing lunchboxes for the two of them.
"Drinks will also be out soon... Need to buy more."
"Yes, you go!"
"Yeah, I am planning to go... What about you?"
"I'm very busy!"
Lying on the sofa in the living room, Rushella was watching a variety show intently.
Normally, when Hisui went out she would always follow along. But apparently, she was prioritizing her entertainment this time. In comparison, the television in front of her was more important.
"...Oh well, that's less of a pain for me."
"Ah, I wanna go to school early tomorrow too! The class rep agreed already! We can't be lazy with the relay race training!"
"Oh... Sure, that's fine. Then go to bed early, okay? Sleep after this show's over, got that?"
A vampire who slept and rose early without being a night owl—Definitely an endangered species, but it was probably more healthy.
Hence, Hisui changed into jeans, put on a jacket and left the house alone.
Bathed in the chilly autumn air, Hisui made his way towards a nearby twenty-four-hour supermarket.
Not wanting to spend unnecessary time on shopping, he went directly to buy the ingredients he needed for lunch tomorrow and picked up some daily necessities that had run out at home.
After buying these things and leaving the shop, he met someone unexpected.
"Oh it's you, Class Rep..."
Reina was in her school uniform, standing in front of the automatic doors.
"Did you go for cram school? It's so late already, that must be tough."
"Isn't it the same for you, Kujou-kun... You're out shopping this late?"
"The princess wants a packed lunch, so her royal wishes are difficult to oppose."
Hisui smiled wryly. The two of them naturally walked side by side.
"Ah~~ Thank you for this morning, taking the trouble to accompany that girl."
"...? Oh, don't worry, it was nothing at all."
"She's probably quite unused to teamwork events. If only she'd improve a bit."
"...It'll be fine... probably? Looks like she's getting used..."
"Hopefully. Oh Class Rep, I want to ask you something."
"Are you really okay... with the relay race?"
Although Hisui was unsure if he should mention the past, he still asked.
Perhaps he was worrying too much.
Or maybe Reina herself did not mind.
In any case, he still decided to ask her.
Due to the doppelganger's threatening letter and the tent incident, Hisui felt that the reasons stemmed from this matter, unable to be dispelled from her heart.
"No problem... It's just running at the end. Just a little bit of pressure, that's all."
Despite feeling guilty, Hisui decided to dig to the bottom of the matter.
This word made a shred of gloom flash across Reina's face.
"If you're really unwilling... Rushella would gladly swap, you know?"
"...It's fine. Reluctance cannot be considered an excuse."
"In middle school, I took part... in a relay race in the final track and field meet, as the final leg. Because my record in the club was the best prior to that... I was assigned that position."
Head bowed, Reina slowly recounted the past.
Hisui silently played the part of a loyal listener.
"But... I made a mistake when receiving the baton, dropping it. In addition, I even fell over... And ended up finishing last."
"The teammate before me kept blaming herself. But I knew clearly in my mind that it was my fault. I dropped the baton."
"This kind of problem can't be blamed on one side, right? Although as an amateur, I'm not too qualified to comment."
Even knowing that comforting words were futile, Hisui could not bring himself to do nothing.
Reina must have heard these words from others hundreds of times. She was perfectly capable of comforting herself as well.
"...Maybe. Actually, whether first place or last place, I don't really mind... After all, my love for track and field ended with middle school. My parents demanded it. They believe that track and field sports can't last a lifetime, so in order to get into a good university, the three years in high school must be spent studying hard in preparation... So it's fine. I've thrown away my sports gear already... This is actually better, I can concentrate more on studying."
"...But now that you're the final leg in a relay race, you have to stand on the track once more."
"After all, everyone has to participate... It can't be helped. This time, I won't make a mistake..."
Reina's voice grew quieter and quieter, and finally could not be heard.
Mental trauma over something trival in the past had become for her a set of heavy shackles.
Never taken part in any club activities, Hisui probably could not understand that agony, but to her it must be an unerasable wound.
"Even in high school, you can't completely bury yourself in studying and ignore everything else. Ah, but you're already working very hard in your studies, right? Still wearing your uniform so late at night, you went to cram school, right? I think there's a new one recently opened nearby?"
"If you stay up too late, you won't be able to get up tomorrow, you know? Morning basketball practice with Rushella must be tough for you too. Will you be able to get up?"
"No problem. I'm going to bed as soon as I get home."
Hisui stopped walking.
Without noticing, they had reached a deserted alley.
There were very few people out on the streets. This was only natural, born not of conscious intent.
But luck was favoring Hisui.
He did not want anyone to hear the next part of the conversation.
"So... Who the heck are you really?"
The atmosphere changed rapidly.
Reina shifted her gaze away and took a few steps back.
"What are you talking about...? I am..."
"You are Sera Reina, the class representative. Well, that's true indeed, because both of you are real, the real person. However, even though the real Class Rep might be going to cram school this late, unfortunately, there's no cram school nearby. I made it up on purpose. Also, you're training with Rushella for the relay race. So the memories are not shared after splitting into two. That's too easy to discern."
"So you suspected me already..."
Reina—her doppelganger—bowed her head and smiled.
The grin on her lips made her seem like a completely different person from usual.
The girl formed from the dark side of Reina's heart, although her appearance was identical, she was not exactly the same.
"When did you notice...?"
"Since I already know the existence of a doppelganger, how could I believe so easily without confirming which one I'm meeting? So I was skeptical from the start. As soon as I heard you talk about throwing away your sports gear, I decided to set a trap. During morning practice, Class Rep was even wearing cleats. Those couldn't have been bought just for the sake of a mere sports festival, right?"
"...I see. But I was also speaking the truth. The other me, has always been troubled by that last race. Giving up on track and field because of parents, pushed into the final leg position, all these are the truth. If you reject all this, you are also rejecting her, you know?"
"Reject? I never said anything like that."
Hisui asked in puzzlement.
He never intended to treat this person as an enemy.
He could never do that.
After all, she was the great class representative who took great care of Rushella.
"Actually, I'm not too concerned about your wish to suspend the sports festival. Although I don't want to make a big deal of things, I don't want the innocent Class Rep to take the fall either... Honestly, I'm not interested in the sports festival and I'd rather not bother with the relay. If it'll end things peacefully, I'd rather get the sports festival canceled. After all, I don't have parents coming to watch either."
For just an instant, Hisui's eyes were filled with nostalgia.
Indeed, he had no interest in showing off in something like a sports festival to begin with. There was no point to putting in that kind of effort. After all, no one was coming to watch.
"If you really are Class Rep's dark side, then this is quite apt. If you strip down a layer of skin, aren't all humans the same? However, that would be far too difficult to get along with one another, that's why everyone wears a layer of conscience, morals and rationality as outer clothing to bind themselves. Actually, it must be painful for you like this? Then hurry and go home, return to the main body. Complement each other and reach a perfect medium."
"Don't speak as though you know everything!"
"I don't know everything. That's all the more why the two of you should sit down and talk. After all, you're the same person, right?"
Hisui still acted the same as usual.
Because he was facing Reina.
Faced with this being that could be considered a monster. Seeing his attitude, the other Reina could not help but smile wryly.
"What an interesting person you are."
"People say that from time to time."
"So... This must be why you managed to attract both of me."
"I was born not only because of mental trauma. It must surely be because of you. Because you sit next to me in class but are always so happy together with Draculea-san. Because you're always acting dumb, unwilling to show your heart, always pretending not to see."
By the time he realized, Reina was up close in front of him.
The doppelganger with the exact same appearance as her.
No, she was Reina and Reina was her.
Her lips leaned in close.
Reflexively, Hisui evaded with his face.
With a mournful look, the girl asked:
"What kind of person is the real you?"
An acrid scent entered Hisui's nose.
Only then did Hisui noticed that Reina was holding a small bottle in her hand.
The lid was already open, the escaping gas invaded his body through his nostrils.
"Next time... I would like to see the real you."
Consciousness fading, Hisui was having difficulty standing.
Hisui fell over on the spot and could only watch as Reina left.
After fainting for a short while, he finally stood up and stumbled his way back home.
There was a strange feeling.
Like a hole had been opened in his chest.
But he could not understand.
The white mist slowly took on a humanoid shape, standing behind him. Hisui did not notice.
Walking in opposite directions, the two figures separated. After that, the newly born "him" went who knows where.
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