Campione!:Volume 5 Chapter3
Chapter 3 - Hime-Miko of the Sword
The wind roared while the raindrops splattered furiously.
Had it been the earlier half of September, the landing of a typhoon would not be out of place.
However, this storm was different. For the past few days, there have been no reports of an approaching tropical depression.
"Yes, meeting the king today, because Ena can get along well with anyone, it will go smoothly for sure. Yes, of course that side will also progress well."
Wearing her miko outfit, Seishuuin Ena stood facing the school building in a corner of the sports ground in Jounan Academy's high school section.
She was soaked by the rain because she was not using an umbrella.
The phone she was speaking into was also drenched, but since this cellphone was waterproof, power was not interrupted this time.
"Erica-san doesn't seem like she will be easy to handle, this will be exciting. However, having obstacles will be very annoying, so if that's the case, it would be best to keep it one on one...yes, thank you, your assistance at that time will be appreciated."
The Hime-Miko of the Sword. This title of Ena's was due to the partner she had just stabbed into the ground.
Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi. The sword whose blade measured 3 feet and 3.5 inches.
The blade was simple in construction without any curves—just a straight sword. The metallic luster on the blade was like sunlight descending from the heavens.
An awe-inspiring longsword said to be the weapon of royalty.
"This looks fine. It's just the right place to set up preparations. Actually Ena had been trying to decide which part of the school to use as a battlefield, and this place turns out to be nice and wide open, with the bonus that Erica-san passes by every day. Yes, let's go with this."
Finishing her call, Ena pressed her right index finger onto the blade of the Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi.
As the skin was sliced open, droplets of blood appeared.
Then Ena pressed that right index finger onto the wall of the school building in front of her.
"The many-fenced place of Izumo / Of the many clouds rising—To dwell there with my spouse / Do I build a many-fenced palace: Ah, that many-fenced palace!"
Chanting the ancient lyrics in a low voice.
She wrote upon the school wall the same words that she spoke.
This enchanted song carried the Hime-Miko's blood and the divine blade's smell of rust. Washed by the rain, the poem written on the wall in fresh blood disappeared.
That was fine. It will serve its purpose later on.
The only uncertain factor was Yuri, who had very good instincts. To prevent that from being an issue, it would be best to deliberately create encounters with her in school as much as possible.
Then even when Yuri felt the presence of the divine sword within the school, she would not be suspicious.
Ena pondered as she ran along the school walls. After she completed the same task on seven walls, the rain stopped, and the violent wind calmed down.
It was still six in the morning, and no clubs began their activities that early.
"Good. This is it for the morning. One should get a change of clothes before greeting the king."
Ena murmured to herself as she gazed at her drenched body.
Even for someone as innocent and uncouth as Ena, the idea of meeting someone in her current state — especially a boy with whom she will soon develop an intimate relationship, proved to be quite objectionable.
"This job is so troublesome, grampsy. Hopefully next time he contacts Ena for a job, he picks a more appropriate time. Always assigning troublesome tasks every time."
Grumbling to herself as she slung her partner onto her shoulder, Ena left the school.
The recent weather had been rather turbulent.
For the past few days, there were sudden gusts of wind and frequent rain.
Godou walked along the wet road as he looked up at the sky. The dark clouds of the sudden rainstorm had all been swept away.
The clear blue sky seemed much broader.
Though the calendar clearly indicated that autumn had arrived, the summer atmosphere was still heavy.
At 7:30am, Godou's usual task was not going to school but visiting Erica's home first to get her out of bed.
Walking along Hongou Street, he was nearing Erica's apartment.
Followed this street that he took daily, Godou suddenly spotted an unknown girl approaching him.
She possessed beautiful soft black hair that was long and shiny, as well as an appearance of a quintessential Yamato Nadeshiko. She was wearing a uniform from some school, and slung over her shoulder was the kind of bag usually used for bamboo swords.
"Excuse me, are you Kusanagi Godou-sama? A pleasure to meet you for the first time, my name is Seishuuin Ena."
She walked before Godou and introduced herself.
What is going on? Though he felt the girl was very strange, Godou halted his footsteps.
"Our meeting must be fate. I am the servant girl who will stay by your side. We of the Seishuuin family would like to receive your blessing and set off together along the path of domination. Please accept my loyalty."
What was with these unusual words and honorifics?
Godou was troubled, but this Seishuuin-whatever girl, who had greeted him so strangely, smiled at him.
"Just kidding. Hey, can we not use honorifics? Yuri uses them all the time, but Ena isn't very good at them. Still, Ena will continue using them unless Kusanagi-san objects."
The image of a prim and proper high-class lady instantly dissolved.
Suddenly turning into an amiable girl next door, Godou did not know how to react. In any case, it would be best to agree first.
"I don't really mind. Do you know Mariya well?"
"Yes. We are childhood friends. Since Kusanagi-san knows about them already, Ena is also a Hime-Miko."
An unexpectedly shocking introduction of the one who called herself Mariya Yuri's companion?
That was certainly what she said, and she did have an outstanding refined air of a high-class lady.
"Kusanagi-san may not know, but there are actually a few dozen of these Hime-Miko like Ena. Anyway, the other related details can be gradually explained."
Ena smiled and said.
Like a cool breeze blowing under the scorching sun, the girl gave off an unbelievably refreshing and cool feeling.
"This morning, I received news that I was recommended and invited."
"Yes, an invitation from Yuri, something like having tea with you together. Are you free after school today? You will receive the invitation card later."
The sudden suggestion greatly surprised Godou. However, if Yuri will be present then things should not go out of hand.
"Well, I'm okay with it."
"Is that so? Great, then. Let us continue with the details later, farewell."
The last words were chosen like a high-class lady, but spoken with an outgoing and friendly tone.
Godou tilted his head as he watched the newly debuted Hime-Miko walk off into the distance. The strangeness of this person left him standing there bewildered for a while.
Of course, he could not have expected the doom and chaos that was about to befall him in mere hours.
Classes had finished... it was finally the end of the school day.
After the swimming pool incident yesterday, Mariya Yuri was rather gloomy.
She never expected Godou to have that kind of interest, but then again, as a healthy male it was only natural to have those kinds of desires. However, how should she handle this?
As Yuri pondered, she finally understood the reason why she was shocked yesterday.
Having these concerns made her seem like she was trying to further the intimacy of their relationship.
Back then, Yuri frantically ran away because she could not face such thoughts and behavior. Having regained composure overnight, she now decided to call Ena to discuss things.
'Just give Godou-san a hug. You're not a woman if you can't even do something like that.'
To think she was giving orders now.
"B-But why does it have to be like this?"
'You like that person, right? Then it is the only way. If you continue to tarry, then you will be left behind and distanced by Erica-san and the rest.'
"I-It's fine, after all, Godou-san and I are just ordinary friends."
"Y-Yes, really. Thus, to have to do something shamelessly lewd like Erica-san..."
Not long into the conversation, and Yuri was already stuttering.
For some reason, she could not bring herself to speak decisively.
'I see I see. This must be part of the deep intricacies of the internal tsundere struggle described by Amakasu-san. Well, no matter what, Ena will assist you to get onboard. I have already met him today—Yuri, do you have something to do right now?'
"Yes, today's tea ceremony club activities..."
Ending the fruitless discussion, Yuri made her way towards the club building.
Lunch on the roof with Godou and the rest had been a daily activity, but she did not go today. Probably because Yuri did not know how to face Godou.
Glad that school was over, Yuri walked to the tea ceremony club.
This was located in one of the rooms of the Japanese style building constructed between the high school and the middle school sections.
This building housed the activity areas of cultural organizations such as the tea ceremony club, the flower arrangement club, the Japanese dance research club, and others, and was commonly dubbed the "Japanese block."
Today was Wednesday. The tea ceremony club met every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for activities.
Yuri took off her shoes as she walked into the tearoom—and gasped in surprise.
"Ah, Yuri, it's been a day since we last met. As promised, I came to see you."
Seishuuin Ena was sitting right there.
Sitting next to her was the club president Hanabusa-san, who seemed relieved to see Yuri.
"Mariya-san, you came just at the right time. Someone you know has been waiting for you."
Tea ceremony club president Hanabusa Akari was a second year high school student.
A senior whose staid and gracious spoken mannerisms and benevolent facial expressions always left a deep impression on people.
"She wanted to enter the tea room and struck up a conversation with me."
"After asking students from other clubs for directions, they told Ena to come here. Since Yuri will be here sooner or later, I didn't mind arriving early."
Ena spoke leisurely.
Would the school staff not notice someone running about in the school wearing a different uniform?
Yuri felt worried, but Ena smiled mischievously.
"Don't worry, it seems like I wasn't discovered."
"I see... In that case, is it really fine for Ena's own school? It seems like you have not gone for the past few days?"
Yuri asked cautiously as the thought came to her mind.
"Ah, don't worry about it. I never went much in the first place anyway. If attendance will be a problem, my family already promised to handle it with the school, so I've been continuing my training in the mountains."
Ena laughed heartily as she answered.
As expected of the Seishuuin family. Yuri sighed with admiration.
Contrasting with the Mariya family's impoverished state which persisted until the Meiji Restoration, the Seishuuin family's exalted prestige dated back to the Warring States Era and was unimaginably influential in all areas of society.
"Anyway, are you the one with the most authority in this club?"
Ena abruptly turned to Hanabusa-san's dignified face and asked.
"Ah, I guess so. I am the club president for now after all. But why?"
"Just instinct. Ena always knows who the most powerful person in a group is."
Ena gazed at the tea ceremony club president as she bowed deeply and said.
"Esteemed club president, I have a suggestion, no, a request. This tearoom, could you lend it to me for a little while? Don't worry, it won't take long."
A request accompanied by a cordial smile.
This completely unabashed request, however, felt like an irresistible command.
Ena had always been like this, doing things as she pleased. The kind-hearted Hanabusa-san had no choice but to nod under pressure.
What was she planning to do here? Yuri felt more and more anxious.
At that moment, in the classroom of the First Year Fifth Class—
Kusanagi Godou was at his own seat, anxiously staring at the letter in his hands.
A private letter written on Japanese paper.
On it were the words "Please come to the tearoom for a visit after the conclusion of today's lessons." Written using a brush in extremely beautiful calligraphy, it carried the signature of Seishuuin Ena.
Was this an invitation? ...It felt very suspicious. Godou recalled the scene that morning.
At some unknown point in time, the letter had somehow slipped into Godou's desk.
Godou wondered how she placed it. Most likely it was magic. Godou really felt like scolding her not to engage in such suspicious behavior for the sake of trivial things like this.
However, Yuri did not appear on the rooftop for lunch, probably because she was avoiding him.
It would be bad if this awkwardness continued, and Godou felt that he really needed to have a good talk to clear things up. Though the matter of this letter was unpleasant, at least it would give a good pretext.
Erica had already gone outside with the girls in the class, but there was no need to get her to come along anyway.
Godou was going to visit the tearoom alone, until he suddenly thought of another knight.
"Hey, Liliana, I have something to do alone. Why don't you go home first?"
"Something to do? What is it?"
Greeting her neighbor in the classroom, Liliana resumed her usual expression of solemnity.
"A little visit to the tea ceremony club."
"The tea ceremony club? You have something with Mariya Yuri or your sister Shizuka?"
"Uh, I was invited by Mariya's miko friend. I don't really know what's going on, but I'll just be gone for a bit."
As soon as he gave that explanation, Godou realized his mistake. If he explained it like that, then she will insist on her knight's duty and come along. He should have just made up an innocuous story.
"This smells suspicious. If she is Mariya Yuri's friend, then it is extremely unlikely for her to be a normal person. I will accompany you, for I must protect you."
"Ah, yes. Though that sounds a little too exaggerated."
"Not exaggerated at all. Of course, I need to pay attention, especially when you are lacking in crisis management awareness. ...You are always one to make others worry."
And so, accompanied by the silver-haired knight, Godou headed towards the "Japanese block."
Jounan Academy's campus was quite large, especially the forest near the boundary between the high and middle school sections. It was like a small garden and even had ponds.
As the location representing the activities of the various clubs in the cultural department, the Japanese building was also located there.
"So this is where the tea ceremony club holds its activities. It is my first time here."
"I don't come here often either. The only time I came here was when the cultural department held its club introduction fair."
The Japanese block was constructed as a long and narrow single-story building.
Godou and Liliana took off their shoes and placed them into the shoe cabinet before walking inside. Not far along the corridor was the tea room which was roughly twenty square meters in size, and there were already six occupants inside.
One was Mariya Yuri, and beside her was Seishuuin Ena, the one wearing a uniform Godou had never seen before. The other four girls sat a little distance away from them, and were all members of the tea ceremony club that Godou had never seen before.
—Uh, with one exception. That was his little sister Shizuka.
"Onii-chan? Why did you come to a place like this?"
It was quite common for cultural organizations like the tea ceremony club to have both middle and high school members in activities together.
It was probably expected for Shizuka to be surprised. However, she was not the only one surprised by the sudden intrusion, as Yuri also glanced over with doubt.
"G-Godou-san? Why are you here?"
"It's me, Ena, who called him here. Now that all the guests are present, let's start the tea party. It also seems like an uninvited guest has arrived, but welcome anyway."
Ena, the only person who was not wearing a Jounan uniform, suddenly spoke.
Hearing these exchanges, Liliana frowned unhappily. Just as Godou was about to speak, she had already bent down to sit in front of the two Hime-Miko. Surprisingly, she had taken the proper traditional Japanese sitting posture of seiza.
Unlike Erica who never changed her ways despite any amount of nagging, Liliana was more disposed to learning local traditions.
"...Please be wary of this woman, for she was following Erica and me a few days ago."
Liliana whispered softly to Godou sitting beside her.
This unexpected warning made the atmosphere tense, but Ena showed Godou a reassuring smile.
"Is that Kusanagi-san's younger sister over there? Hmm mmm, what a coincidence. How should I address her?"
"No, there is no need for that. She doesn't need to join us over here."
"No! Please let me join in."
Even faster than Godou's refusal, Shizuka furiously declared.
In a manner inconsistent with the spirit of the tea ceremony, she had rapidly approached and plopped herself down right next to Godou, and created a face-to-face situation opposite Ena and Yuri.
As things began to take an increasingly odd development, Godou opened his mouth to question.
"So this... how should I address you? You're a student from another school, right, so why are you borrowing the tea ceremony club's room?"
"Just use my name directly. I requested to use this place from the club president over there."
Ena glanced towards the club member over in the distance.
She seemed rather kind but timid, and was smiling in a slightly awkward manner.
"If you just wanted to speak with me, some other place will do."
"That would be a waste of this rare opportunity, so let me serve you some tea I personally brewed."
Ena looked back at the electric thermos and iron kettle behind her.
Not exactly the most tasteful tea implements, but it could not be helped in an amateur school club.
"Anyway, what is the nature of the relationship between Onii-chan and this person..."
Shizuka interrupted with an unhappy expression. This was rather rude towards someone from another school, especially one who was older than she was. Godou sighed at his sister's lack of manners, but it seemed like Ena did not mind.
"Yes, both I and Yuri here have something to discuss with your brother. To sum it up, it concerns the date of Ena and Yuri's marriage into the Kusanagi household."
Crash! Shizuka had fallen forward in a most exaggerated manner.
It was not just her, for even Godou was so surprised that he sat straight up.
The rest of the tea ceremony club members who had been drinking tea while leaning their ears over to the conversation also stopped all their motions in shock. Only Liliana sat back silently with a matter-of-fact expression.
"E-E-Ena! You and I marrying Godou-san, what are you talking about!"
"Hopeless. You've always been like this."
Ena admonished Yuri who was shouting with her face all red.
"Ah, Kusanagi-san, please don't mind Yuri, whose emotions were unstable yesterday. Actually, what Ena has been saying to this child was, the earlier she prepares herself to be taken by Kusanagi-san the better. So she seems to have become a little too self-conscious towards you—perhaps you have begun to tire of Yuri?"
"Nothing like that at all! But..."
"Excellent. No matter what happens, we will entrust ourselves to you. Yuri will definitely become a great wife, and Ena should also be useful to Kusanagi-san. Yes, though it feels strange for me to say this, but Kusanagi-san is truly someone who reaps what he sows, how admirable."
"Ena! Please watch your words, shame, shameless!"
"Even if it is shameless, this is important so there is no other way around it—Kusanagi-san, please have some tea."
Placing the tea powder into the utensil, she added boiling water and stirred it with the cylindrical bamboo whisk.
Ena proceeded to hand the container towards Godou. This appeared to be thin tea.
The series of motions were performed in a simple flowing manner and did not seem to adhere to any rigid conservative ritual.
This contrasted with the cautious motions of the rest of the tea ceremony club.
To use an analogy from calligraphy, it would be the difference between the regular script practiced by a clumsy novice compared to the free flowing cursive of a true master.
Accepting the tea, Godou brought the cup to his lips.
He was not clear on the details of the ceremony, but this was not the time to be hung up on them anyway. Shizuka was frowning beside him. Let's not say anything and try it for now—but wow, the flavor of this tea has been carefully fine-tuned and tastes really good.
Ena used the same motions to serve tea to the others. Though foreigners often disliked the taste of powdered tea, Liliana finished her tea in a composed manner. Then she turned her sharp gaze towards the one who served her tea.
Yuri was enjoying her tea in an elegant manner but with a worried expression on her face.
The younger sister Shizuka's displeased demeanor remained unchanged even after savoring the tea.
"Anyway, back to the topic of marrying, it should be fine even if we don't officially update the family registry right? Since marrying two people at once constitutes the crime of bigamy. But then again, it would be troublesome to explain to the children..."
Ena made another shocking statement.
This woman is a troublemaker, perhaps even more so compared to Erica.
The shocked Godou, the terrified Yuri, the calmly listening Liliana, the sister Shizuka who was glaring severely at her brother, as well as the rest of the girls of the tea ceremony club who looked somewhat awkward...
All the girls, apart from Liliana and Yuri, stared daggers at Goudou.
'Onii-chan is the worst!' 'I-Is this the so-called adult relationships!?' 'Kusanagi-san and her brother, it's really like the rumors...' 'Those rumors, could they all turn out to be true...'
Godou wanted to escape this place. Why is everyone looking at me with such eyes!?
"Yes, it's like this. I have discussed with Yuri. For tasks like making love and having kids, Yuri will come first and Ena will just be backup. Does Kusanagi-san think this is fine? Or perhaps, you like Ena better?"
"Wait wait wait, wait a minute. This conversation seems to have taken a strange drift. This is too weird!"
"Nothing like that. In fact, this is the most important point, so the question is—what type of girl do you prefer. The withdrawn type or the lively type, which do you like better?"
Ignoring his request for reprieve, Ena casually continued her questioning.
Godou began to realize he must resolve to face Ena's willfulness with deathly resistance.
"I won't answer you! I have no reason to answer such a question!"
"Fine, let's put that question aside for now. Then let's talk about what kind of special interests you have, such as hidden fetishes? I once read a magazine article that said 'problems in sex life will cause break ups in relationships, so even if the man has abnormal fetishes, you must proactively enjoy them☆' Kusanagi-san, do you have such secrets, too?"
"Don't change the subject, listen to me properly!"
Resisting this girl seemed to require a properly prepared iron will.
Godou spoke to Ena as she took out a women's magazine that was not very thick.
"No matter how you change the subject, neither Yuri nor you will form that kind of relationship with me. This is the first point that needs to be cleared up."
"You already have three consorts, what are you talking about at this point."
Having spoken, Ena began to count on her fingers.
"Ena knows everything, there is Erica, Yuri over there and Liliana. See, that's already three people... Ah, and a local wife as well."
"All of them are just my ordinary friends. Stop talking like I'm some sort of enemy of all women!"
The girls of the tea ceremony club were watching Godou as if eyeing a criminal.
Godou ignored those stares, and declared strongly to defend himself.
"Yes, because Yuri is a very shy person, but I am not like her. Don't worry. Ena will work hard to become your qualified concubines. So Kusanagi-san, you don't have to be shy."
"M-Mariya, is this actually okay with you!? Please help deny this."
Unable to reverse the situation, Godou turned to Yuri who had been silent all along.
"That I am just ordinary friends with Mariya, and not some sort of strange relationship like she said, please."
"Yes, yes. There is nothing between Godou-san and I..."
"Yuri, if you say that one more time, you cannot take that back."
Yuri's self-pronounced friend spoke quietly, but her attitude was subtly different from her previously casual demeanor.
"Then just take Ena alone. If Yuri opts out at this point, then it's fine even if I serve Kusanagi-san alone. Our relationship will be very close, and we will most likely marry and have children. And then even if Yuri regrets it, I will ignore it."
"If you choose to give up, I will not stop you at all. But in return, I won't give you a second chance. Being shy is very cute, but if you cannot be decisive then it's no good. Unforgivable. If you want something, you have to acquire it with your own hands."
"...With my own hands."
"Correct. You have to create the life you want to live, right? If Yuri has those wishes, then Ena will take on the responsibility to support you. How will you proceed? Make a decision now. How about it?"
Failing to respond to her friend's advice, Yuri lapsed into silence.
Watching the profile of that beautiful face in hesitation, Godou felt anxious. It was a long silence, very long. What could she be hesitating about!?
"...Yes, I understand."
At least she gave an answer. Yuri gazed directly at Godou's face, the first time today since yesterday.
Like that, Yuri shyly spoke in broken words.
"I... cannot completely agree with what Ena has said."
Though abashed, Yuri's eyes and words carried a strong will.
Suppressed by the strength of her spirit, Godou could not help but fall silent.
"However, I believe that the future that she described cannot be denied with complete certainty. Anyway, I have no idea what my relationship with Godou-san will be like in the future, and we have already done things that no ordinary friends should have done in the first place!"
"And, and that is to say...!?"
"Hence, I cannot declare that we are just ordinary friends! P-Perhaps it will turn out just as Ena said, but it could also end up being nothing!"
To the unexpected response, Godou went "Eh?" in surprise.
Then Yuri gazed at him with her very sorrowful but very clear pupils.
"Is it possible... not to deny it? Perhaps you and I were just a mistake of the moment..."
"Ah, no, I never felt taken advantage of, just a little shocked..."
The memories of the "ritual" performed with Yuri during that storm in June resurfaced.
Godou frantically shook his head.
At this time, his sister Shizuka was going 'Onii-chan is such a big idiot, will he finally be won over by Mariya-senpai right now!?' while the tea ceremony club president was noisily exclaiming 'M-Mariya-san is so daring~'
Then Yuri immediately escaped from Godou's presence.
She hid behind Ena's back, shivering in embarrassment.
"Now, may I have a word?"
Godou, who was in a state of shock from the unexpected events, suddenly heard a stern voice.
The blue and black knight was glaring sharply at Ena.
"What are you planning on doing? Why are you disrupting my master's peaceful life?"
"I am not aiming to disrupt, besides Kusanagi-san has been surrounded by no lack of rowdy events for some time already."
"If you put it that way, it is true after all. My apologies, I have misspoken."
Don't reach an understanding in that kind of area. However, before Godou had a chance to interject his despair, the conversation continued.
"However, if you approach Kusanagi Godou with any ulterior motives, do not expect any mercy from me. Remember that."
"Of course not. How could Ena have any ulterior motives, Number Two?"
Liliana gave off a dangerous presence as sharp as a blade, but Ena struck back with a casual tone.
"Yes. ...Since you are the second strongest in that group of people. The blonde is Number One and you are Number Two, Liliana-san. I understood after meeting you two last time."
"...Meaning that Erica is above me?"
Liliana narrowed her eyes. A knight would respond to a personal insult with a challenge for a duel. But even though the atmosphere reached such a level of tension, Ena continued to smile mischievously.
"If it is a one on one duel then you are roughly equal. But based on your influence within the group, it is clear who holds the greater power. That is what Ena thinks."
Godou could not help turning his attention once again towards the Hime-Miko who called herself Yuri's friend.
Though it was conveyed rather untactfully, she did analyze the opposing situation between the red and blue knights perfectly.
"It is not as you think, I must make this correction."
"Yes yes, but for now I'm just giving advance notice. After all, taking care of Number One was the original plan. Ena has always had the habit of eating the best things first."
Having casually exchanged instigating words with Liliana, Ena turned her sight to behind Godou.
"Ah, Erica-san, there is nothing wrong with Ena's judgment, right?"
She was looking straight ahead—to the entrance of the tearoom, where a glamorously eye-catching female student has appeared.
Blonde with a tint of red, and carrying an extremely rare sense of glamor, it was Erica Blandelli of course.
"Since I couldn't find Godou I went searching... But it looks like everyone is having fun here."
Erica elegantly greeted.
Ignoring the panic in the surrounding people, she kept to her usual style.
"A pleasure to meet you for the first time, Erica-san. My name is Seishuuin Ena, and I am Yuri's friend."
"Ah, but it seems like this is not our first meeting."
To Erica's subtle smile, Ena grinned like a prankster.
"Well, this kind of conversation is our first. Let's just leave it at that. Great, today's goal was to meet the girl who is Number One, and I was worrying I had missed my chance."
"I hope I have not failed your expectations."
"...Erica, may I be this woman's opponent?"
Liliana interrupted their conversation.
But Erica thought for a short while, then simply denied her request with a quick "no, not accepted."
"I wish to make that woman pay the price for insulting me. Do not hinder a knight's vengeance."
"I don't want to hinder you, but it can't be helped. I plan to have a political discussion with that woman. If you wish, Liliana, you can substitute for me, but I know you hate that kind of task, right?"
Erica smiled generously as she spoke.
Shizuka and the rest of the tea ceremony club were frozen with surprise, but who could blame them?
But Godou could sense the meaning behind his companion's words.
Erica wanted to interview this strange intruder in order to clarify her intentions and reach a binding agreement.
This course of action required great intellect and political acumen.
To be honest, this would have been somewhat difficult for the slightly crude Liliana. If Erica were to enter into a dialogue, would things end peacefully? Godou nodded to the [Diavolo Rosso].
"Then I leave the matter in your care, Erica. Don't make things go out of hand."
"Of course, then let Liliana stay by Godou's side?"
Liliana felt unimpressed by the orders and turned her face aside, but did not complain, presumably because she realized the difference in suitability to the task.
"I can't come along?"
"It's not necessary this time. It would be more troublesome to negotiate with that woman in your presence. Why don't you and Yuri stay here to clean up, is that fine, Yuri?"
"Yes, yes. I understand."
Erica answered Godou neatly, and then gave Yuri directions.
This was the kind of situation where Erica could exert her prided social skills.
Ena also stood up and took the bag that was leaning against the wall. This was the same bag slung over her shoulder, and seemed to be one of those long and narrow bags made of cloth used to carry a bamboo sword or the like.
With a smile at the corner of her lips, it was as if Ena specifically wanted others to know her happiness, a smile devoid of darkness.
"Have you made your decision? Then let's go outside?"
"I see. It would be troublesome to bother our friends of the tea ceremony club any longer. —Then everyone, we will take our leave first. Let us carefully enjoy what is to come next."
And then Erica left and walked outside like a noblewoman excusing herself from a party in progress.
With relaxed footsteps, Ena followed behind her.
Godou watched with worry as the Hime-Miko and the Great Knight left.
As they reached the outside of the Japanese block, Erica began to run in the woods.
Following closely behind her was the Hime-Miko named Seishuuin Ena.
The martial arts level of that woman was at no ordinary level. Erica could sense that level of power from the motions of her body.
Footsteps that were virtually silent, and moving about with an extremely stable center of gravity. Even if you hung a bell on her ankle, this woman could probably walk around without making a sound.
Amakasu Touma. The special operative of the History Compilation Committee.
That man also had similar motions and manner of walking, though to be precise, they are on two completely different levels.
"Actually, there is something I would like to apologize to Erica-san first."
Ena suddenly spoke.
"The incident several days ago? To be honest, that kind of present did give me a bit of trouble."
Erica took out the piece of metal from the pocket of her uniform.
It was the manji (卍) shaped blade fragment that attacked her on the road that night.
Erica tossed the fragment at Ena's feet, and the sharp piece of metal swiftly embedded itself into the soft ground.
"Ah, this? No no, that's not what I was referring to. I'm sure a little trinket like that would have been easily handled by Erica-san. Should I bring out something a little stronger?"
Laughing at the metal fragment, Ena's casual smile admitted that she was the culprit of that attack.
A very perfect smile that conveyed the consistency between her outward expression and inner thoughts.
"Given that the level of Japanese manufacturing techniques should be above this, amuse me."
"Oh, is that so? Then let me show you this."
The black-haired Hime-Miko took out from her pocket several pieces of paper.
Long narrow rectangular pieces of paper, covered with many different kanji of various sizes.
Due to the severity of their tattered condition, Erica could hardly make out the words and the only character she barely recognized was the one for "sword"—was this some sort of spell?
"Actually I wanted to apologize, because Erica-san wanted political negotiations, right?"
"Is there a problem?"
"Yes, a great problem. To be frank, Ena is not very good at those kinds of conversations."
Ena's curled lips expressed a fearless smile from the depths of her heart.
The five "sword" spell charms in Ena's hand were waiting to be deployed.
"Come to think of it, neither is Yuri very suited to such negotiations."
"Correct. Those issues are all managed and handled by the Committee, and have nothing to do with the Hime-Miko."
The five "sword" charms were surrounded by green flame, and Ena tossed them high into the sky towards the distance.
In an instant, the charms were consumed by the fire, but out of the fire emerged pieces of metal—in a manner reminiscent of swords being pulled out of sheaths.
"Thus, let's do something easier to understand! Like this!"
The metal pieces born from the charms, were those manji (卍) shaped blades.
Sword familiars that could fly.
As the five weapons flew towards her, Erica shrugged her shoulders as if facing a tiresome chore.
"If this is the way things turn out, I should have left it to Lily. —Father and Mother, Baphomet who boasts of victory, grant to me the power of the words of extinction!"
Most likely too disappointed, Erica did not even have the mood to draw her sword.
Though these familiars were far beneath the martial prowess of a knight, using magic to defeat them would be far more efficient.
Erica chanted the spell words and released the magical power. The technique of [Pulverization] was high level magic that could cause inorganic matter to explode and shatter into dust.
Originally, this spell was not very effective against objects protected or animated by magic, but—
"Not working eh? Looks like simply increasing the quantity won't be enough."
Watching several of her manji blades shattering at the same time, Ena muttered.
Erica skillfully employed her spells. Creation, transformation, destruction, and reinforcement were her areas of expertise. In these areas, it could be said that Erica surpassed everyone at her age. Even Liliana was far outclassed.
Erica infused temporary life into the metal fragments of the familiars she just shattered, causing them to expand, transform, and meld together. Virtual intelligence was bestowed upon them, and granted them mobility.
—Using the blade remnants as ingredients, a steel wolf was born before Erica. Though it was in the form of a wolf, the meager raw materials left visible gaps between the bone and skin in its construction.
The cries and motions of the steel wolf were like those of a live beast.
For a creation improvised on the spot, it was quite an accomplishment.
Should her beloved sword Cuore di Leone be added to strengthen the construct? With the protection of the magic sword of the lion, strength and ferocity will definitely rise to a completely different level.
"How about it? If you want to manipulate iron, let me show you the proper way right here?"
"Amazing, amazing. That kind of delicate spell is very difficult for Ena. Erica-san's moves sure are full of finesse."
Ena continued to smile.
She did not seem like she was putting up a front, and Erica decided not to underestimate her.
"Did you mention made in Japan just now? Yes, showing foreigners Japanese techniques would be a nice service. Please wait a moment."
Ena took down the bag from her shoulder and opened it, exposing the sword in the jet-black sheath. The blade alone was already one meter long.
Drawing out the sword revealed it to be a straight blade with no curve.
"Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi. Let me give an introduction. This is the one truly made in Japan, Ena's partner."
The black-haired Hime-Miko stabbed the blade of the sword into the ground.
Just this motion created wind.
Centered on the sword, calm winds gradually swirled to form a vortex.
Blown by that gust of wind, the created wolf shattered into pieces on the ground, as if shyly fleeing away from steel of a higher-grade existence.
Driven by her defensive instincts, Erica summoned Cuore di Leone.
But even for the magic sword of the lion, taking on that sword as an opponent will be difficult.
Magic sword, holy sword, spirit sword, cursed blade.
Perhaps surpassing all these, an even more threatening magical item, could it even be something like a divine artifact?
"Hmm... looks like I pulled it out too early eh?"
Ena began to speak to herself and immediately re-sheathed her sword. Why did she stop if she was skilled enough to move that massive blade as easily as if it were her own limb?
As Erica suspiciously puzzled over her behavior, Ena made an awkward smile and replied, "Too bad, it's over."
"Yuri's footsteps are approaching. That child's spirit sense will immediately notice if I draw this thing. Since she will definitely scold me for unsheathing the sword so rashly, I decided to stop right here."
"Footsteps? You can hear them?"
"Ena's ears are very good, and it's not just one person, there's a man following behind... Most likely Kusanagi-san."
Ena cupped her hand to her ear as she spoke. Erica, however, could not hear anything.
Furthermore, being able to tell people apart from their footsteps like a dog could only be described as superhuman hearing.
An unexpectedly troublesome opponent had definitely presented herself.
Erica dispelled Cuore di Leone. It would be imprudent to battle and seek victory against such an enemy without proper preparations.
"Anyway, which god did that sword come from?"
"I already said, it is the Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi, which I borrowed from grampsy. If you really want to know then try investigating it. —Anyway, see you again in the near future."
Waving her hand affectionately, Ena turned to leave.
As she watched her opponent depart, Erica was determined to start gathering intelligence immediately.
It was after Erica and Ena's figures disappeared.
The three people left behind began to gather the used tea implements in the room and take them to the sink for washing.
Yuri suddenly showed a worried expression just as Godou and Liliana started preparing the sponge and detergent for washing up.
"What is it, Mariya?"
"Ah, no. There is just something that is causing me concern. I am sorry, but I must go out for a while."
After Yuri left the sink, Godou suddenly thought of something.
"Excuse me, Liliana, but I leave the rest to you."
"Yes, sure. Kusanagi Godou, where are you going?"
Godou did not answer as he left to chase after Yuri.
Yuri had just exited the Japanese building and was about to walk into the woods. With a surprised expression, she questioned Godou who had suddenly caught up to her.
"Godou-san why have you followed!?"
"Yes, I felt that Mariya was acting a bit strange... Perhaps, you have thought of something about Erica and Seishuuin Ena?"
"Not really, but somehow I just feel something is off in the atmosphere."
The two of them made their steps towards the depths of the forest with Yuri in front and Godou following behind.
"Uh, so what kind of person is that Seishuuin Ena? She mentioned she was one of the Hime-Miko."
"That is correct. She is the heir to one of the Four Families—the house of Seishuuin. She is the top Hime-Miko protecting Musashino, and also my childhood friend."
The Four Families. A term he had never heard before.
"Seishuuin, Kuhoudzuka, Renjou, Sayanomiya—these are the four ancient families that have been using their magical powers to serve the emperors over the ages. Amongst them the Seishuuin were distinguished by battle strength and political power, while the Sayanomiya has formed the core think tank of the History Compilation Committee. ...It would take a long time to explain everything, so let us leave the rest to another time."
Yuri answered fluently, but stopped with a forced smile.
Noticing Godou was getting lost in the jargon, she decided to pause in consideration for his confusion.
"I understand better now. So over in Mariya's faction, there are all sorts of complications as well."
"Actually this was Amakasu-san's suggestion, that I should not disclose too much information to avoid confusing Godou-san too much."
"That sounds about right. In fact, I am still very confused."
The two of them conversed as they ventured into the depths of the forest and came across Erica.
"Are you fine, Erica-san?"
Yuri had located Erica using her spirit vision, and she ran towards Erica with a relieved expression.
However, Ena was nowhere to be found, did she leave first?
"You can't be worrying about me just because of that woman, is she really that dangerous a person? If it came to a fight between the two of us, I, Erica Blandelli would be at a disadvantage—is that what you predicted, Yuri?"
Erica suddenly questioned the Hime-Miko who approached her.
"Seishuuin Ena's partner, I have taken a great interest in that object. Will you allow me to ask about its details?"
To this question, Yuri lowered her head.
In other words, she could not answer even if she wanted to. Erica sighed at such a situation.
"Fine, it's okay even if you cannot answer, I just thought it was worth a shot. Don't be concerned. Same for you Godou: don't question Yuri about that girl. I think there are many things she will find difficult to answer."
Erica was speaking in a friendly manner as if worrying about a younger sister. Presumably, she was being considerate of Yuri's status as a member of the Hime-Miko organization.
It was during such a time that the [Diavolo Rosso] showed a sense of compassion unbecoming of her moniker.
Godou nodded in agreement.
"So, where did Seishuuin go?"
"We chatted for a bit, and then she bid her leave, asking me to look after Yuri, that's all."
"You two did not come into any conflict?"
"Of course not, please don't talk about me like some rabid dog. I sure don't have a problem with randomly biting people regardless of the situation."
Godou nodded at Erica's report and decided to go home.
Leaving Yuri to return to the Nanao Shrine, Godou went to the Japanese block to meet Liliana.
The silver-haired knight was naturally quite miffed, and Godou apologetically accompanied her to the school gates.
"Anyway, a lot sure happened today, I hope I can take a casual stroll back home."
As Godou complained to himself, Erica and Liliana exchanged glances and looked at him in a subtle manner as if he had said something wrong.
"Just spit it out if you want to say something. This is making me uncomfortable."
"Then I will go ahead. Kusanagi Godou, it is a shame that what you just hoped will not materialize."
"Haven't you noticed that this incident will be one of your greatest trials?"
Being talked to like that by the blue and red knights, Godou felt his fury rising.
Both of them are talking like I was some kind of idiot—but as his anger rose, Godou finally realized.
What a fool I am, how could I forget that particular individual?
Ten meters outside the school gates.
A petite girl was standing very upright against the red glow of the sunset.
She was Kusanagi Shizuka, the one dressed in the middle school uniform.
The younger sister who had heard the conversations at the tearoom just now.
Backlit by the sunset, her facial expression was not visible. Then again, there was no need to see it. After all, there was no other possibility but a face full of fury.
"Little sister Shizuka, forgive him no matter what excuses he makes, please? No matter what, one day Godou will show you the truth. ...By the way, Lily and I will be taking another route today, so we'll let you two siblings get along, no problem—"
A truly diabolical smile.
Godou felt his body weighted down by Erica's softly spoken words as she made that expression.
Translator's Notes and References
- Izumo: refer to the legend of the Japanese storm god Susanoo and the slaying of the Yamata no Orochi.
- Shubo(坪): the shubo is a size unit used for rooms or buildings in Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan equal to 400⁄121 square meters (3.3058 m2). In this case, the tearoom is six shubo in size.
- Seiza(正座): literally "proper sitting," the Japanese term for the traditional formal way of sitting in Japan, first kneeling on the floor, folding their legs underneath their thighs, while resting their bottom on the heels.
- Koseki(戸籍): the Japanese family registry. Japanese law requires all households to report births, acknowledgements of paternity, adoptions, disruptions of adoptions, deaths, marriages and divorces of Japanese citizens to their local authority.
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