Campione!:Volume 5 Chapter5
Chapter 5 - Date Progression
Godou was spending Friday night worrying in his room.
A date. The first time in his life. And a date with the one and only Erica Blandelli.
She had said 'Since it is a rare opportunity, Godou, show me your true worth. I leave all the details of tomorrow's planning in your hands... If I find it boring then it's not acceptable.'
Girls were just so unreasonable—besides, where could he bring Erica that would satisfy her? Nothing came to mind at all!
Then the ringing of a cellphone interrupted his vexation. Seeing the caller ID on the LCD screen, Godou could not help but be surprised. It showed a very nostalgic name.
"It's been a while, Miura, how have you been?"
"Yes, well enough, how about you?"
The one who called was Godou's middle school friend, back from the days when he still played baseball.
Miura was one of the few famed fastball pitchers in Tokyo, and currently attended a high school there. Naturally, he joined the baseball club which was renowned for its strong team. They also participated in the National High School Baseball Championship this year.
"So, Kusanagi, you've already seen that, right?"
That? Godou had no idea what Miura was talking about.
"Yes, that. How should I put it, me, my first appearance."
"...Ah yes! Congratulations on entering the National High School Baseball Championship. So basically, you've stepped upon the pitcher's mound as a First Year, I didn't even realize that earlier."
Though Miura's high school had qualified for the National High School Baseball Championship, their run ended in a second round defeat. It was during the last inning, when defeat was imminent, that Miura was sent to the pitcher's mound.
"Uh, is that so? But I was certain I'd be able to play eventually, hahaha."
His mood brightening up so suddenly, what a simple man.
But when Godou had watched the live broadcast of that match, he could not think of any words of congratulations. Miura's appearance had not been able to reverse the defeat, and in the final moments...
"No, it's wonderful that you got to play, but shaking your head at the catcher's signal resulted in a two point homerun that ended the match. You probably refused his suggestion of throwing a curve ball and decided to pitch a straight, right? Actually, your judgment was..."
'Y-You're nagging too much! Since you're no longer a catcher, don't make a random guess!'
It was not a random guess. Since Godou understood Miura's habits and preferences, he could tell from observation.
Anyway, Goudou was happy to see his friend participating actively(?) in the sport.
'Anyway, let's get back on track. Our school, which was fortunate enough to enter the Championship, is now restructuring the team in preparation for challenging the Championship again next year... And today, the coach's wife is having a baby.'
"That's great news, but what does that have to do with me?"
'Listen well. Due to this, to celebrate the birth of the child, there has been an amnesty. Tomorrow, I can finally take a break from practice. A whole day! I've never had a day off ever since I joined the club!'
"Oh, that truly is amnesty."
Normally, a sports club that aimed for the National High School Baseball Championship could not possibly take a break on a Saturday.
Precisely because of that, Godou understood why Miura was so happy.
'So, let's all go out and have some fun tomorrow! I already confirmed with Rui and Nakayama. That guy Rui said he had a great idea for something to do as a group. We should let loose together because we've been apart for so long!'
"Rui and Nakayama are coming as well!?"
Godou could not help but feel shocked, for those two were also friends from middle school.
The four friends had played under the same uniform during the Tokyo selection even though they were in different teams. But just like Godou, Rui and Nakayama had since stopped playing baseball.
It felt wonderful to meet his fellow baseball friends again after so long.
Godou's shoulders slumped when his thoughts reached this point. No way! He had to go on a date with Erica tomorrow.
However, let's listen to the details of Miura's planned activities before reconsidering.
'...Something like that. I still want to find one more person, but everyone else is busy with baseball club activities and couldn't come. I guess we'll just have to find a random person to play...'
"If that's the case, I have an excellent candidate. Leave the last person to me."
Godou confirmed with Miura, and then took a deep breath.
With that, the date tomorrow would not be a problem. Erica doesn't dislike playing sports and competing with others, so she should be happy, right? Finally, everything is resolved.
—Of course, Godou did not realize that this was commonly known as digging one's grave.
On the fated Saturday, after half past eight in the morning.
At the public sports ground in the Adachi ward, in an indoor soccer field. Today was the opening of the amateur indoor soccer tournament. In such a facility—
Erica Blandelli was sighing in a most depressed manner.
"I know I was the one who let you make all the decisions, but still..."
The blonde Caucasian beauty was wearing a sporty and casual short-sleeved outfit that accentuated her graceful figure, making her stand out very much.
"After hearing we had to meet in sportswear and bring a change of clothes, I already had an ominous feeling."
That was the message Godou left with Arianna when he called that morning.
Complaining repeatedly, Erica was displaying a tone of mockery more vicious than she had ever used.
"Even if I were to take a step back, and play your soccer tournament with you, it should not be like this. It should have been impossible for this to happen. Underestimating your inability to read the mood was my mistake."
After much complaining, Erica glanced at the friends Godou had not met for so long.
The first was Miura. Pretty well-built for a high school first year. Very capable fastball pitcher.
Next was Rui. Slender build with very cute face despite being a man. Former second baseman and first hitter.
Last was Nakayama. Puffy hairstyle and strongly-built body reminiscent of a wandering warrior. Former left outfielder and strong hitter.
They too were glaring at Godou with reproachful eyes. The joy of the old friends' reunion was all but gone, as if facing off against a troublemaker—
"Clearly all I wanted was to have a date with Godou alone, but you went ahead and invited three interlopers. Virtually impossible to comprehend. Are you really unable to read the mood?! I am completely aghast!"
"To get a girlfriend before me, who entered the National Championship... And a foreigner to boot..."
Next to Erica who was scolding Godou, Miura was muttering like he had lost his mind.
"Kusanagi-san was always like this. He acted as if he didn't know how to get along with the opposite sex, but then the cutest girls would keep pestering him. This hasn't changed at all."
Rui simply shrugged knowingly.
Even Nakayama was crying a river of tears. Despite his wild appearance, he was actually a crybaby.
Finally, everyone but Godou breathed a deep sigh.
"Really, that is why I say Godou is no good. Slow, dense, and doesn't know how to catch the mood!"
Erica declared as if representing everyone else, while the other three boys nodded vigorously in agreement.
Why? Godou was completely baffled, why was everyone talking about him like that?
"Whatever, since I'm here anyway, and this is a tournament, running away doesn't suit my style. Fine, indoor soccer? You guys make sure you don't drag me down. I, Erica Blandelli, can tolerate the incompetent, but will definitely not forgive anyone who hinders me."
Erica changed her mood and declared.
This instigating tone was just like their first encounter. In a certain way, these were her true colors.
"Kusanagi, your girlfriend is so arrogant! What's going on!?"
"S-Sorry, because she's still angry at me, so excuse her mood. However, she is one to stick to her words, so please do your best... Also, she's not my girlfriend, just an ordinary friend."
Godou quickly apologized for the blonde beauty's arrogant words which displeased Miura. Watching this unfold, Rui laughed awkwardly while Nakayama continued to mutter to himself.
"I knew Kusanagi would suffer due to girls one day, it's exactly as I imagined."
"To build close relations with pretty girls, how nice..."
And so, the five high school first years have gathered.
The one who proposed entering the amateur indoor soccer tournament was Rui.
With great aptitude for sports, he not only excelled in baseball but also displayed outstanding talent in soccer and basketball. After graduating from middle school, he switched to indoor soccer.
By the way, for some unknown reason, Nakayama choose to join the fishing club in high school.
Other than Rui, everyone else was essentially a newbie. The opposing teams were mostly composed of university students and those who have entered the workforce, as well as former soccer players, so the level of competition was quite high.
Before the five participating teams started the tournament, Erica announced:
"Your jobs will be to defend and gain possession, then pass the ball to me. I will then score. Understood?"
Another delivery of grandiloquence.
Teammate Miura was very angry, Rui simply forced a smile, while Nakayama was happy for some reason.
Even though Godou insisted that teamwork was very important, Erica ignored him. Usually this would have been fatal, but with these teammates, they ended up winning repeatedly and obtaining second place.
Truly, the athletic ability of all the team members was nothing to sneeze at.
Erica required no explanation, while the remainder were all strong healthy youths and official athletes. They were all highly selected elites gathered together, and most importantly, they were young and vigorous.
As matches reached the latter half, those in the workforce who lacked regular exercise had to stop running.
And so, the tournament lasted from nine in the morning to one in the afternoon.
...In a corner of the public sports ground, Godou was merrily chatting with his old friends when his shirt collar was grabbed from behind.
"Hey, Godou, fun time is over. Do you really think you can just put me aside? What you should do next is take your beautiful lover on a date, right?"
Erica had returned at some point after going off to take a shower.
"Hey, you have to watch the situation. My friends are here, so..."
Not only was her attitude dismal, but fire also seemed to be emanating from her eyes.
Godou felt himself huddling in fear. Erica's imposing presence was currently most frightening.
"Then let us lay out everything on the table. Who is at fault from the start? You? Or me? My mood is terrible, so please give me a swift and correct answer."
"S-should be me... right?"
"Remove the 'should' and the 'right?', there is no one else but you."
Erica's words were sharp and incisive, and Godou shrank back as he realized his error.
"But you are fortunate, for I, Erica Blandelli, possess the virtue of generosity and forgiveness. As long as you show contrition, I will not hesitate to present my love as a gift to you, how's that?"
"T-Then—what should I do now—"
As he tried hard to turn his head, he found Erica glaring at him.
Godou panicked. If this was baseball—no, no matter what kind of competition, or even a battle against a god or a devil king, he will always find a way!
Unable to bear the heavy atmosphere, Rui tried to lighten the situation.
"Ok, you don't have to mind us any longer, Kusanagi. Why don't you and Erica-san go for lunch now, just the two of you!"
"Eh, how can we let Kusanagi be alone with his girlfriend! I will not allow it!"
"Nakayama, I leave Miura in your care."
"Yes, just do your part and don't mess things up."
Following Rui's directions, Nakayama immediately reached out his hands and covered Miura's mouth from behind. Unable to form words, Miura could only roar. Satisfied, the former second baseman happily said:
"Quick, leave while the coast is clear. Goodbye, Kusanagi-san."
"Ah, yes. Sorry... then let's go, Erica."
As his three old friends watched them go, Godou left the sports ground with Erica.
Finally, Godou had a chance to be alone with Erica for the first time that day.
In any case, he decided to walk towards the main streets with lots of shops.
"Godou, my love for you has never changed, but that is simply not enough to suppress the vortex of anger swirling in my heart, please take a little care in the activities from here on, okay?"
"Has what I've done really been so terrible...?"
"If you have something to say, then speak out clearly. If you want to know exactly where you have messed up, I can grade each of your actions starting from yesterday."
"Spare me. It's all my fault, okay. But please don't take out your anger on my friends."
"If this were the second or the third date, then no matter how displeased I felt, I would still treat them as guests with utmost politeness. However today is an exception and I will not tolerate it."
Angrily finishing her words, Erica shifted her gaze away from Godou.
"A first date is a rare event, and clearly a day to commemorate. You truly are dense and completely failed to understand how I feel!"
Godou surrendered. To think Erica would express her feelings with such forthright honesty.
Her face that had turned away in anger perhaps carried a bit of shyness.
"Yes, yes it's my fault. I will try to improve in the future. Please don't be angry, be happy."
"It's fine, you don't have to apologize. Actually, I expected nothing from you from the very beginning!"
Erica's tone was still very critical, and Godou tried very hard to emphasize he was reflecting on his actions. He spent over twenty minutes trying to placate her.
Her anger finally subsided, they decided to find a place to eat.
"Arianna originally said she could prepare lunchboxes for us—"
Erica mentioned the name of her live-in assistant and maid.
"But since we often eat her lunches at school, I told her not to, as it is rare enough for us to go out on a date."
"Yes, and I would feel bad asking her to make lunch on a holiday."
"Perhaps it would be better if I made something for you personally?"
To Erica's suggestion, Godou immediately shook his head.
"That thought has never crossed my mind."
It is rumored that Erica's only cooking experience was boiling water for instant noodles.
This wise, capable, and universally talented girl was in essence, an even more sheltered high-class young lady than Yuri was. Uh, probably best to just call her a princess or a queen.
To imagine Erica toiling in the kitchen with her unpolished cooking skills, perhaps such a scene might make one smile, but it definitely did not suit this girl.
Rather than watch Erica suffer doing something she was not good at, Godou preferred seeing her surrounded by glory and prestige like a princess.
"Is that so? But being described that way does not make me happy."
"Everyone is different, isn't that for the best? Anyway, what do you want to eat?"
Since they have arrived in an area with many different restaurants, Godou sought her opinion.
A Tokyo native and a Milanese, there was probably no commonality in their eating preferences, but fortunately neither of them were picky eaters, and any choice would have satisfied them both.
"Let's go to that Chinese restaurant first? A safe bet."
Right in front of their eyes, was a tiny Chinese restaurant.
Ethnic Chinese were present in every country of the world, and, of course, Italy was no exception. While staying there, the two of them had often visited Chinese restaurants.
"I don't really want to. I visited a similar shop a few days ago."
"In that case, which one should we pick..."
"Trying something Japanese occasionally would be nice, how about sushi and tempura?"
In truth, Erica's understanding of Japanese culture was nowhere advanced as her mastery of the Japanese language.
Once you realize that she has merely spent three months in this country, too much cannot be expected from her. However, her unfamiliarity with Japanese culture seemed rather odd in light of her ability to converse with others in perfect Japanese.
But to pick those two things out of everything else, Godou could only laugh awkwardly as he surveyed the surroundings.
"It's actually a bit unsuitable for high school students to be eating those types of food. I don't know where you want to go, but I'm kind of against it... However, if it's that kind of shop, I can still accept..."
Discovering a rotary sushi franchise, Godou made a suggestion but Erica refused.
"Though I have no idea how well that shop is rated, I don't want to eat there. How should I put it? The server uniform looks smelly and the shop gives an impression of zero individuality. In my opinion, wasting time in that kind of shop would be even worse than having to endure poor cuisine. Let's not go there."
Without even checking out the decor inside the shop, she had already made up her mind with a single glance from the outside.
Erica's value system was rather peculiar. Compared to fast food or family restaurants that were small and clean, but lacking in distinctive style, she preferred eating at roadside stalls or messy and dirty little shops.
Caring neither for taste, appearance nor comfort, but deciding where she went based on 'level of interest.'
The fact that she depended heavily on the slightly problematic Arianna, was probably due to the same reason. Godou was once again reminded of her unique tastes.
"Let's go there then, it is Japanese and should probably have what you like to eat."
"I see, it feels okay, but I can't tell what this shop is selling."
It was an Osaka-style okonomiyaki shop with a quiet atmosphere.
Opened since the middle of the Shouwa period in the twentieth century, the shop gave off a sense of cleanliness. Godou and Erica passed through the curtains and entered the door.
Out from the kitchen came a middle-aged woman, who led them to their seats in the hall. There were no other customers.
It goes without saying that Erica was not kneeling on the tatami, but sitting slanted.
Seeing the large iron plate unique to this kind of restaurant, Erica tilted her head incredulously.
"Using this metal plate, you fry things to eat yourself."
"Ah, it's a self-served restaurant. Then let's hurry and start."
"The fire was just lit, and the iron plate hasn't heated up yet, you can't start even if you wanted to."
The two first chatted as they waited for the food to arrive.
Their orders were the two specialties innovated by this restaurant—the assorted pancake and the pork pancake.
Of course, Godou was not some kind of optimist, and he never expected Erica to start frying the pancakes herself, so he placed the ingredients on the iron plate, adjusted the shape, then repeated frying until it was done, and finally added the condiments.
"Ah, I never knew you could cook so well, this gives me a bit of a surprise."
Erica praised Godou as she ate the assorted pancake that had been divided into several slices.
"Simply spreading out ingredients to fry can't really be considered cooking. At most, it's just imitating how others do it."
"Really? ...Then let me try."
"If you are serious, I won't stop you... But you sure you're fine?"
The results proved that Godou's worries were redundant.
Though all she did was watch from the side, Erica's frying skills were actually not bad at all.
Furthermore, she made delicious fried noodles just by following Godou's verbal instructions, and she even successfully fried the monjayaki, a supposedly difficult task for novices.
"Godou, you are truly fortunate. To this day, there has been no one else who has eaten cuisine I personally prepared... not even grandfather. You must savor this from the bottom of your heart."
"I am truly thankful for this meal you have prepared... But really, when you put your mind to it, you really can do it quite well..."
Godou marveled at Erica's talent as he used his chopsticks to pick up the food.
But then again, for such a small task as frying a pancake, one could hardly feel her earnest effort. Truly, it was very much in her style.
Just like a queen bestowing rewards upon a subject, or a princess allowing a knight to kiss her hand, Erica watched with such an expression as Godou ate.
"However, cooking once in a while feels quite nice. If you don't mind, I will do it again. Just for Godou, I will personally cook."
"Uh, sure if another chance comes along, thank you for your efforts..."
"Ah, that tone of voice doesn't sound too confident. You've already witnessed my talent just now, right?"
"I know you are very capable, but if you suddenly have the impulse to make something 'that seems very interesting' and end up creating something like Anna's cooking, then my stomach is in peril."
"The way you put it, really sounds interesting..."
"Which is exactly what I'm saying, don't go making those strange creations!"
Anna was, in other words, Arianna. In the field of cooking, she was a woman who could reach world-class levels of innovation. The two of them finished their meal with Anna as the topic of conversation.
Erica mentioned that she had something to do at Ueno, so the two of them set forth.
Due to Godou's strong protests against taking a taxi, they took the streetcar to their destination instead.
"What you meant by something to do, couldn't be shopping, right?"
"Correct, I want to buy a few articles of western clothing."
Having the experience of being dragged off by his sister to accompany her shopping, Godou began to review his options for killing boredom, but he was greatly surprised when they reached their destination.
"T-This is not a clothing store! I-It's an underwear store!?"
"Broadly speaking, this also falls under western clothing. Godou, don't be so hung up on these minor details."
Located in one of the high-class department stores in Ueno was an underwear store on the floor specializing in female fashion.
All sorts of different mini articles of clothing (cannot describe them in too much detail) laid out in rows, or swirling like a vortex into a small hill, or forming their own universe like a mandala.
Erica smiled at Godou who was just about to get up and bolt for the door.
"I need your preference as a basis for judgment. So why don't you start, tell me which style you'd like me to try?"
"Any style will do, after all there's no difference!"
"To say something like that, you are really hopeless. One day I will have you strip them off personally, isn't that right? I believe they have to be chosen with care."
Godou was silent, for her to say something so bold in such a place.
And while they were conversing, the saleslady (looks about twenty-something, and quite pretty too) must have heard!
The saleslady returned a polite smile when he stole a glance at her.
Unlike the so-called professional smile, this was the kind of smile that seemed to say 'ah, these kids are so young.'
"Anyway, why do you have to come to this kind of store, they must sell underwear near where you live?"
"You won't be able to buy imports unless you come to this part of town. Though the ones made in Japan have great quality and the designs are rather cute, they don't really match my image. What do you think of this one?"
Erica pointed at a pair of white panties sewn with plenty of lace.
A cutting applied to the nonessential portions of the fabric created a light fluttery feeling. It exuded an air of regal, extraordinarily upper class taste and achieved a fully glamorous effect.
It really did suit Erica very well... no no.
Godou forcefully shook his head and dispelled this frivolous thought.
"That piece was imported from France, truly excellent."
The saleslady from just now chose a perfect opportunity to chime in.
"If you like it, why don't you try it out?"
"I see. Then I will. So Godou, I want your opinion, accompany me to the changing room and let me listen to your thoughts."
"W-Who would agree to such a thing?"
Erica ended up trying a whole stack, and decided to buy them all.
She settled the bill by credit card and arranged for the merchandise to be delivered to her home.
Despite seeing her shop frequently, Godou still could not get used to Erica squandering money like this. Leaving the store helped lighten his mood a lot.
"Your mission has not ended. Can you go over there with me?"
Erica spoke to Godou whose mood had turned for the better.
The two of them left the department store and entered the crowd.
As expected of the Ueno area on a holiday, it was very lively.
Leaving behind the JR train station and the Ameyoko market street, Erica made her way towards nearby Yushima with Godou trailing after her.
Choosing her path without a shred of hesitation, it seemed like she has fully accustomed herself to the geography of Tokyo.
That was Erica. Even though she was not well-versed in traditional Japanese culture or the customs and habits of ordinary people, she had mastered the geography around Tokyo and all other places related to either her organization or her own personal activities.
Entering a residential neighborhood near Ueno and following an uphill slope, Godou was apparently taken to the outskirts of a cluster of shady-looking love motels.
Godou fell silent, what on earth were Erica's intentions!?
"Erica, wait a moment first. What are you planning next?"
"Hmm, what am I doing... Preparing to resolve the conflict that arose recently."
Godou felt greatly shaken.
Speaking of conflict resolution, did she mean clarifying their ambiguous relationship in a decisive manner?
—How do you truly feel about me? Today you must give a straight answer.
—This time I will not allow you to dodge the issue like usual, please show some manliness now, and demonstrate clearly with your words and attitude.
Godou feared that Erica would catch him unaware with such lines, and wracked his brain preparing responses.
Was he truly cornered this time...?
"What is it, Godou? Your face looks like you have a stomach ache, are you unwell?"
Erica noticed his odd behavior and questioned.
This woman had the attractive exterior of a devil, the strong will to materialize her wishes, the overwhelming charisma that was impossible to resist, and, in this kind of situation, an unbelievable power that exceeded normal parameters.
However, in reality she was just looking at Godou with an incredulous expression.
"You ask me why? Think about it, this place, how should I put it..."
"This place? Is there a problem with this place? However, I did notice a number of strange buildings."
"Come to think of it, the map did indicate motels here, but I don't see any reason to run such businesses in this dismal neighborhood, right? And the buildings are so unfashionable, though they are quite interesting in their own way."
Erica responded in casual tones.
Could it be that Erica... she didn't know that motels had that kind of connotation...?
That's right, she is completely unaware. Truly the young mistress of the Blandelli family! Having reached this conclusion, Godou felt as if a heavy load had been lifted off his back. Great, there was still plenty of buffer time until the ultimate situation will be reached.
"You don't look too well? If you don't mind, perhaps we could rent a room around here to take a rest?"
"No no, I'm fine. Continue onwards! Anyway, where are you going?"
Godou responded loudly, and Erica suspiciously stared at Godou as she pointed to the shrine in front of them.
"That's the place, let's enter."
Before the row of motels was a little shrine.
A quiet place completely different from the nearby Yushima Seidou or Kanda Shrine.
A plaque with the name Tamaura Shrine hung on the entrance torii.
The kannushi was not there and no one seemed to be there. After surveying the surroundings, Erica pushed open the door of the front hall with her hand. Apparently the door was not locked.
"How careless. But even if they forgot to lock the door, we can't go in so casually."
"Originally I was just planning on surveying the outside, but it turns out no one is here... No problem, after all this is a public shrine anyway."
Walking into the front hall as they spoke, they were surprised to find signs of habitation in the shrine.
This was easily concluded from the neatly arranged objects in the corner.
Sleeping bag, many magazines and manga, dried bread and fruit and other nonperishable food—these were all piled up in an organized manner, but their presence conspicuously clashed with the shrine surroundings.
Erica glanced at these items in the front hall and softly spoke in deep thought.
"Nothing that can be used as a clue... what a waste of time."
"Come on, behave, what you're doing right now is against the law."
After some nagging from Godou, the Italian-born beauty finally left the premises.
However, she immediately said:
"This place yielded nothing useful, let's hurry to the next destination."
Hastened by Erica to the next place to visit, Godou was shocked once again. It turned out to be the high school section of Jounan Academy, the school that they attended.
"I think Godou's instincts are very good."
Erica praised him as they walked in the sports ground on this holiday.
There were members of sports clubs engaged in activities on the field, but the rest of the school was very quiet.
"I think it's very bad actually... since I'm often labeled dense and slow."
Just a couple of hours ago, he had been scolded severely by this girl.
However, the other party, Erica, simply went "hmph" and made a gesture ridiculing him.
"That only applies to the way you treat women. What I referred to just now, were your instincts towards supernatural phenomenon such as magic and divinities. Basically, you have acute instincts towards danger just like a wild beast, that's true right?"
Now that she put it that way, it did feel likely to be true.
After becoming a Campione, it was as if Godou had gained a sixth sense that sometimes made him aware of things that he could not possibly know about. But why bring this ability up right now?
"Since I am expecting results from Godou's instincts, I have a question for you. My sources told me that someone has done something unusual to the school, probably some sort of spell. Do you sense any signs of tampering?"
"No, I feel nothing..."
Godou tried to survey Jounan Academy's school buildings, sports ground, and foundations, but could not sense anything.
The only feeling obtained was the sense of emptiness from the lack of students on a weekend.
"You need to be more serious. Concentrate and let your senses become clearer. If you try that, your spirit vision might even end up having a higher success rate than Lily."
"Uh, how could that be possible? I don't have any spirit vision to begin with."
Godou thought back at Liliana's abilities as both a knight and a witch.
In the battle against Perseus, he had witnessed her spirit vision, and then Mariya has also shown him the powers of spirit vision many times. He clearly did not possess it.
"Spirit vision refers to the ability to extract [Memories of the Void] from the [Boundary of Life and Immortality] in the Astral Realm. The reason why you often display extraordinary instincts could possibly be due to the Campione's sixth sense peering into the Astral Realm."
Erica's words led Godou to think back to a certain buried memory.
The [Boundary of Life and Immortality], it seemed vaguely familiar. But [Memories of the Void] and such stuff were totally incomprehensible, so Godou decided to just forget about it.
"Perhaps using that ability, you can obtain something that approaches spirit vision. Try again... Also, perhaps Yuri's example has misled you, but even for European witches, obtaining spirit vision is extremely difficult."
"Is that so? But didn't Liliana say that she had spirit vision as well?"
"That is correct, but the crux of the matter is the success rate. The chance for a witch to successfully activate spirit vision effectively is at best ten percent, but from my estimates Yuri definitely exceeds sixty percent."
"How can it differ by so much!"
"Yes, if a situation required spirit vision from witches, usually they would gather dozens of them so that the overall success rate is raised through quantity."
Godou finally got the point. Come to think of it, Liliana did explain to him during the battle against Perseus, that it was the grace of Athena that allowed her to obtain spirit vision abilities that surpassed her previous level.
Now Godou finally understood the reason why Erica has been so preoccupied with Yuri ever since the first time they met.
"Why don't you ask Mariya for help?"
"Think about why I can't do that? This has political implications."
"When you said someone... Could it be a member of that whatever Committee?"
"Wrong, this time the Committee is the side trying to hinder her, but they cannot help but acquiesce to her actions with frustration—can you understand?"
"A woman... then it's Seishuuin Ena, looks like Yuri and the rest will have lots of trouble."
Finally understanding after much explanation... hearing Godou's exclamation, Erica shrugged her shoulders.
"Lily and I can still act independently, even if we lose support from the magic associations of our home country, it won't be a huge problem... But if you look at the girls around Godou from this perspective, then Yuri's situation is the most delicate. You have to be more observant of these things."
"Yes yes, I get it."
Failing to pay attention in those areas, this was something that needed to be improved. As Godou thought, he decided to answer Erica's request.
In order to look for anything out of the ordinary, Godou ran throughout the school.
"...Uh, nothing strange was found."
"Still didn't work, seems like you're no good for anything outside of battle."
Hearing his simple report, Erica was exasperated.
Godou felt the same way. Even though his instincts were very good, they only seemed to work in the heat of battle.
During battle, in the instant when his instincts kicked in, there was always a feeling like sparks exploding.
Godou tried focusing his eyes on the school walls.
I hate this place. Such a thought flowed into his mind. Enemy, to be more precise, he could feel the presence of the enemy floating around.
"I found a bad feeling around this area, but other than that, nothing."
"This wall? Perhaps some kind of barrier was erected?"
Erica and Godou began a serious discussion in front of the wall of the school building.
However, the answer to their questions came from an unexpected direction.
"That isn't a barrier, but I won't go into the details. Ama no Murakumo and I did a little tinkering there, but not just in one location."
The two turned to look behind.
Seishuuin Ena was approaching from the opposite side of the sports ground.
Wearing her uniform despite being the weekend, with the familiar long and narrow bag slung over her shoulder.
"'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!' Have you heard of this? This is the enchanted song of Susanoo, the one I inscribed on eight different places when I infiltrated the school many days ago. I knew it would come in handy eventually."
The friendly Yamato Nadeshiko, innocent and forthcoming.
Though she looked the same as usual, Godou sensed something strange.
"I came to inspect them today. If they didn't take effect in a crisis, I would be very troubled. But why are you two here? Aren't you supposed to be on a date?"
Her tone becoming sharp, Ena turned her gaze to Erica. The girl known as the [Diavolo Rosso], answered with a polite smile.
"We are on a date right now, but we just decided to investigate Ena-san's prepared pranks on the way, that's all."
"Really, then I'm sorry. Have I disturbed you two?"
Though it sounded like a calm conversation, an unfriendly atmosphere seemed to be hanging between the two of them. Godou frowned.
"I don't know what conflict exists between the two of you, but could you two not cause any strange commotions?"
"Understood, hubby... though that's how I want to address you, it turns out to be really difficult."
Ena let down the bag from her shoulder, and opened it dexterously with one hand.
"Other than declaring myself to be Kusanagi-san's woman, I have one other goal."
"Eliminating me, most likely."
Erica spoke in a sarcastic tone. The Hime-Miko showed a "that's right" expression and smiled.
An expression not seen previously, it was a wild grin that belonged to a carnivore in the middle of a hunt.
"Kusanagi-san is a super important person, so it is no good allowing a foreign lady to hang around him all the time. That's what the people back home say. Hoho, though it's fine for me either way, but..."
The bag fell to the ground, and the sheathed sword was revealed.
"If this mission must be accomplished, there's no way around it. And hearing that the opponent is an Italian knight has gained Ena's interest. At the same time, grampsy has also felt amused by the surprise."
"Grampsy? The one who bestowed the divine sword on you?"
Erica planned to elucidate the detailed situation at that time.
"What detailed knowledge, as expected of Erica-san. Yes, grampsy can be quite a terrifying person. Let alone the Hime-Miko, even the History Compilation Committee members have to fearfully cater to his mood."
Ena drew the sword from its sheath.
The blade was infused with a sacred silvery white light, full of imperial splendor.
Godou and Erica exchanged glances in response to the emerging crisis.
(Let me handle her first while you observe for now. If you used your authority, it would probably kill her.)
(Uh, that's right... but don't go too far.)
Godou felt uneasy, but decided to leave things to Erica for now.
The special powers usurped from Verethragna's authority included monstrous strength, super speed, lightning, solar fire, and others... A multitude of powerful abilities, but none of them were suitable for dealing with a normal human.
Unless the enemy was an immortal god, Godou would not want to activate his authority.
Once Godou stepped back, Erica summoned Cuore di Leone in her hand.
The sword with the narrow blade that gave off a chilling brightness.
Watching the red and black knight enter a stance, Ena happily declared:
"Since Yuri won't be at school on the weekends, I don't need to be mindful of her. Having Kusanagi-san present is a bit troublesome, but I've already made preparations to handle him, so let's determine the victor right here!"
Having spoken, she kicked the ground once.
With wide strides, Ena made a thrust with her magnificent sword.
Jumping to the side to evade the attack, Erica countered with a thrust from Cuore di Leone. However, Ena dodged by lightly twisting her body like a bat.
Erica glared with sharp eyes while Ena stared back savagely.
In the next instant, their swords began to clash intensely.
Erica brandished the lightweight Cuore di Leone, thrusting continuously without pause.
A series of attacks like a hail of bullets.
But Ena parried all attacks by lightly waving the blade of her sword in a left-right motion.
Her sword should be far longer and heavier than the magic sword of the lion.
In spite of that, Ena displayed perfect defense and could even counterattack while she focused her attention on the blonde female knight's attacks.
Erica skillfully defended Ena's return strikes, but always in the nick of time.
Godou never expected to find a girl from Japan who could match Erica in swordsmanship!
Surprised by the unexpected revelations, Godou desperately tried to come up with a plan.
By the time his thoughts returned to the battle, both combatants' attacks had become more and more intense.
If this continued, it would likely end with one side heavily injured. How could their fight be interrupted? He did not have any weapons and cannot use his authority. Then as a man, he was down to one weapon.
"Damn it, after all I probably can't die, so let's take a gamble!"
Godou possessed the [Ram] incarnation which allowed him to revive from near death injuries, but was useless if he died instantaneously. Ignoring his rational mind, Godou told himself "I won't die as long as I'm lucky' and sprang into action.
Erica and Ena continued to exchange attacks fiercely.
Godou used his own body to block the space in between their swinging swords.
Erica and Ena put away their weapons simultaneously, and prevented a tragedy at the last instant.
If either of them had been slightly lacking in reflexes, judgment, or swordsmanship, then Godou would have been sliced apart.
"Godou, what are you doing! There are limits to stupidity!"
"I had no other way. Other than this, I couldn't think of another method to stop you two..."
To Erica who seldom lost her composure, Godou answered with his trembling body.
Regardless, he narrowly missed death and the battle was halted. In terms of results, his decision was correct.
"Y-you shouldn't be so reckless, but now I understand, it's something like that."
Ena seemed to have confirmed something. Understand? What did she understand?
"In order to make Yuri, who is slow to warm up to others, fall for you, I've always suspected that you must have great manliness somewhere. As expected, it's that cliché? 'To protect the woman I love, I can give my life' kind of deal?"
"Nothing like that. I didn't fully consider before I acted... Also, I was trying to protect you too."
Godou's denial made Seishuuin Ena go 'eh?' with doubt.
"Not only Erica, I also don't want to see Seishuuin get hurt. Anyway, to resolve conflicts with swords is not right. You should have a good discussion to find a peaceful solution."
"Really? So I have already been added to your list of 'my women?' Aw shucks, how embarrassing..."
"No way! How can anyone do nothing when they see someone about to be sliced to death!"
Watching the Hime-Miko getting a little shy, Godou protested strongly.
But she was unaffected, and continued to speak complacently.
"Looks like as long as Kusanagi-san is present, we can't fight properly. Then I will heed grampsy's advice, and use that move..."
Ena who had been holding the Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi with both hands, let go of the blade with her left and reached into her pocket.
What she took out was a cellphone.
"Oh by the way, I'm not making a phone-call, it's just a habit. In order to speak with the other world, this is necessary for the dialogue to succeed—grampsy, even though this happened earlier than planned, but please use that move."
As she spoke softly into the cellphone, Godou and Erica became suspicious, but Ena immediately threw down the phone.
The sky immediately became dark and the surroundings became dominated by darkness.
Thinking it might be cloud cover, Godou looked up and was quite shocked.
The sun in the sky was entirely darkened, and around the black circle was a white corona. It was almost like a solar eclipse!
Then strong winds began to blow.
Cold winds that seemed strong enough to blow an entire body away and cut open skin.
Within the world sealed away by darkness, Ena chanted the incantation in a loud voice.
To Godou, the spell words carried by the chant felt like they were tearing up the world, and his body was filled with vigor and battle spirit. Was it a god? Was a god coming here?
Godou stared at the wall just now.
In that corner, an enemy's presence could be felt slightly.
Massive amounts of divine power were being released, and the same energy could be felt from seven other locations within the school.
"Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi, is the divine blade used by Susanoo and Yamato Takeru... these two heroes. However, they were not only warriors who tamed their enemies by force but also highly intelligent heroes who employed deception when necessary. In other words, capricious and ever-changing gods of deceit and thievery. Especially Susanoo, he was a god who even tricked and covered up the sun itself. Even for you, Your Majesty, there is no way to escape this trap!"
Ena spoke in a solemn voice for the first time.
Erica tried to prevent the unpredictable outcome by slashing at the Hime-Miko.
However, it was too late and the land beneath Godou's feet had turned into darkness.
The original concrete became completely jet-black in color.
His body and limbs sank and disappeared into the darkness.
Godou yelled as he resisted with all his might, but even as he thrashed his arms and legs there was nothing for him to grab or kick.
The result was being swallowed by the void black space.
Godou fell into the darkness and vanished completely.
In that instant, Erica wielded Cuore di Leone and slashed at Ena with all her strength.
But it was blocked by the Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi.
As the magic sword of the lion and the divine sword pressed against each other, the two girls began to argue.
"Where did you send Godou away to!?"
"I don't know either, because the one who did it was grampsy."
Ena responded to Erica who had discarded her usual elegant composure.
Come to think of it, what the Hime-Miko just said.
The god of trickery and deceit. The ever-changing god. The god of thievery—in other words these identities are all con artists! Erica recalled the [Secret Tome of Prometheus] that could steal divine powers. Possessing the same qualities—but with a mysterious power many times greater than the grimoire, Godou was taken away!
"I think His Majesty should now be in the Netherworld, and grampsy isn't going to release him back to the real world."
"The Netherworld? Could it be the Astral Realm—the Boundary of Life and Immortality!?"
"Ah, so it is also called that? I think the Committee members would be more knowledgeable in these areas."
Erica shuddered as she watched the Hime-Miko who casually answered her questions.
One who freely employed a divine artifact that ordinary mortals were unable to use.
One who communicated with supernatural existences living in the Boundary of Life and Immortality.
"It looks like amongst the Hime-Miko, there are quite a few girls possessing extraordinary dispositions."
"Yes. Ena can hear the voice of god, and can borrow god's power slightly. If I explain it this way, I believe Erica-san can understand?"
A user of divine possession! Erica was speechless.
A miko that possessed such a disposition was even rarer than one who had spirit vision. If the Hime-Miko were able to recruit into its ranks someone with such legendary powers, they must be an unimaginably troublesome organization.
Ena seemed to have tired of answering questions and jumped away from the state of pointing their blades at each other.
"Perhaps due to being connected to grampsy, some spirits from that side have filtered over..."
Ena was muttering, and straightened her arm, pointing Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi forward.
This resulted in the sword altering its form.
From a straight sword, it slowly turned into a curved blade.
The originally sacred white light from the blade turned black, and the body of the blade appeared to be burning with black flames—a form that seemed to herald catastrophe.
"Did you know? The ones who brought the technique of forging curved blades to this country were barbarian sword-smiths seen as enemies by the government."
Ena spoke softly.
Like the dark and icy cold wind blowing across execution grounds.
"If the blade is curved, slicing power will be increased. The forging techniques of the Ezo sword-smiths were inherited by the craftsmen of Oshu, and from there actively promoted to the rest of the country... Absorbing the slaughtered barbarian power for its own use, Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi also possesses this characteristic."
Holding the jet-black divine sword, Ena's face revealed a frightening smile.
Rather than a miko serving god, it was more like the belligerent face of a ghost of the sword.
"Assimilating the rebellious barbarian power for its own use—the sword of conquest, that is Ena's partner, come let us duel!"
Erica took a deep breath.
She could feel Ena's magical power disappearing from her body.
In order to perform powerful magic or use an authority's killing move, most magi and Campiones will raise their magical power to the maximum. Erica has witnessed it many times already.
But Ena was doing the opposite. Her power and presence was approaching zero—almost as if she no longer existed.
And entering the vessel of the Hime-Miko, was a solemn divine presence.
"So which one is your grampsy, may I ask one more time?"
"Uh? What do you mean by which one?"
Erica asked the surprised Ena once again.
"You just mentioned, right? There are two gods who possess this divine sword, Susanoo and Yamato Takeru. So the grampsy you keep mentioning, which one is he?"
"It's Susanoo! But everyone calls him this unbecoming nickname, the Old One!"
The storm god of conquest who held the attribute of steel.
Protected by that kind of deity, a user of the legendary divine sword would be a formidable foe indeed. Erica anxiously looked at the spot where Godou disappeared.
The jet-black darkness continued to swirl upon the surface of the ground.
It was the deep darkness that swallowed the young Campione that she loved.
At this moment, a rash idea entered her heart, but she believed there was value in taking the challenge. What made the [Diavolo Rosso] steel her determination was that once the darkness disappeared, so will all clues to track him down.
One of Erica's tenets was to avoid, as much as possible, battles she was unlikely to win.
If she were to escape now, she will definitely regret it afterwards. Her decision was made the instant she thought that.
Erica also jumped into the darkness that swallowed Godou.
"Uh, you really did that. Very amazing! But I won't let you escape!"
What on earth is this woman? Erica was speechless.
Seeing her jump in, Ena also followed immediately.
And so, the two girls jumped into the mysterious space that captured the Campione.
Translator's Notes and References
- Rounin(浪人): rounin was a term for a masterless samurai during Japan's feudal period. According to the samurai code (bushido), a samurai was obliged to commit suicide on the loss of their lord, and was meant to suffer great shame if they chose not to honor the code. Since these former samurai could not legally take up new professions, they sought to make a living with their swords. Some worked as mercenaries or bodyguards while others turned to crime. The criminals of the Edo period gave the rounin a persisting image of thugs, cutthroats and vagrants.
- Okonomiyaki: a Japanese savory fried pancake that contains a variety of ingredients.
- Teppanyaki: a style of Japanese cuisine where food is cooked on a flat iron plate (teppan means iron plate).
- Monjayaki: a specialty of the Kantou region, it is similar to okonomiyaki except the dough is more liquid.
- Mandala: a Sanskrit word meaning "circle," refers to circular concentric diagrams with spiritual and ritual significance in both Buddhism and Hinduism.
- Kannushi(神主): the person responsible for the maintenance of a Shinto shrine as well as for leading worship.
- Kojiki(古事記): dating from the early 8th century, the "Record of Ancient Matters" is the oldest surviving chronicle in Japan and is a collection of myths concerning the origin of the four home islands of Japan. The lyrics quoted by Ena comes from Volume II of the Kojiki.
- Man'youshuu(万葉集): the "Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves" is the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry. The second half of Ena's incantation comes from poem #406 in the Man'youshuu.
- Ezo(蝦夷): the name of a native tribe in Japan that was eventually driven by the government to Hokkaido and the northern part of Honshu. Scholars are divided on whether the Ezo are the same as the Ainu.
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