Hidan no Aria:Volume3 Chapter2
2nd Ammo: High Butei Riko
Juvenile Act. Information regarding the crime committed by underage criminals will not be disclosed in public.
It is prohibited for Buteis to leak the information to other Buteis. Except for the victim and a limited number of judicial officials, no one can know the details of the crime.
Since the details won't be publicized in the media, they'll just ended up being reported as 'Boy A did this' or 'Girl B had done that' or something similar.
This is clearly a bad law so officials have proposed for the repealing of this law. But it was denied because the proponents argued that it was a consideration for Human Rights and what not.
That's the reason why Aria and I haven't told anyone about that hijacking incident.
Even though we disagree with the law.
So the next day, after the 'General Subject' class periods,
Riko, with her frill-customized skirt, appeared in class 2-A. The whole class reveled in joy upon Riko's return.
With an unpleasant mood, I discreetly asked one of my Inquesta classmates. According to them, Riko took part in a long-term, top-secret crime investigation in America since April. And today, she just came back.
My guess is that Riko was the one who had spread that information herself.
After all, she's a very shrewd girl.
"How are you guys doing! Did you miss Rikorin?"
She stood behind the podium as she said that. In reaction, the entire dumb class began to throng in joy around her. I should remember the order of the people who ran up to Riko. That is definitely the Class 2-A stupidity ranking. Look at those guys swaying both upwards hands and shouting,"Rikorin! Rikorin!". Maybe I should consider severing my friendship with them.
Not that I can't understand them--- they are oblivious of the fact that Riko is actually the 'Butei Killer'. Ignorance is bliss, is what they say.
Riko, if you look at the outside appearance, is a bishoujo. That frilled skirt makes a portion of the guys cry in joy. Don't ask me. I have no idea what's good about it.
"Riko-chan, welcome back!! Ah, what's that?"
"Ehehe~ I tried following the season's trend!"
Riko is carrying the red ransel on her back. On the side of the ransel is a dangling teruteruboozu. She sways it as she shows it to the class. Meh, what a sorry girl. Contrary to my knitting of brows, the girls shouted, "It's cute!!". They liked it.
This is where the problem lies.
Riko is the class mascot. In other words, she's the popular girl.
Her personality is bright. She acts stupid as well so boys and girls treat her openly.
Suppose I tried warning my classmates here saying, "Watch out for her." I, who has been nicknamed by girls as 'Gloomy', or 'Inept', or the recent one I got for some reason, 'Lady Killer', they would lend no ear to my words. Even though they had been deceived unknowingly by that fake smile of hers, they would take Riko's side.
In other words, the whole class is Riko's ally.
Clearly, Aria and I are at a disadvantage.
"*giggle* You should join us too, Ki-kun!"
Riko did a beckoning gesture. I let out a snort and looked the other way. I heard something breaking beside me. When I turned to the direction of the sound, there was Aria, trembling in anger with a pencil in one hand split in half.
Aria, I understand your feelings.
But please don't vent your anger onto your property.
You should treasure your property.
Why? Because I, your slave, am included in your property category.
School ended. Aria and I made our way back home.
"Ahh!! She really gets on my nerves! Hampf..."
"Sometime soon I'll give her the punishment she deserve. Hampf..."
"Oh, get her girl! Do it!"
"And then... hampf... hampf... I'll throw an airhole hell in her face, hampf..."
"That's one scary-sounding hell... but hey Aria, you should stop now. You'll upset your stomach."
Aria, sitting in the sofa hollered. For each 'hampf' = 1 peach bun stuffed in her mouth. She stuffed too many buns insofar as bean pastes were stuck around her mouth. That lack of etiquette is unlike that of an English noble.
I don't want to anger her and face airhole hell instead, so I gave up worrying about Aria's stomach.
Aria continued on gobbling down buns that I bought from the Matsumoto shop like there's no tomorrow.
Finally, the paper bag became empty. She crumpled it into a ball and threw it behind her.
Hey, the wastebasket is just beside you!
Of course I am not a stupid enough person to voice that out loud, so I just stuck the words in the back of my throat.
Aria folded her arms and her legs, with her expression like that of an active volcano on the verge of eruption, or an out-of-control reactor just before meltdown.
I was sitting on the L-shaped sofa the farthest distance possible away from Aria. With a feeling like I am facing a mad demon...
"So, is that fine with you? Riko wants us to be her accomplices in some sort of theft."
...I asked Aria with a sigh.
After that fight, Riko had explained the details of what we're going to do. She needed to do some investigation first, so we were asked to wait for a week or so.
"Of course not. Holmes joining hands with Lupin? That's unheard of! But right now, circumstances are circumstances."
Aria shook her head. Her long, pink twin-tail swayed casting curves.
"Riko said she'll testify for mama's trial so I think it's fine to do it if I think of it as a necessary evil. Also, isn't it written in the Bible: 'Love thine enemies'?"
And for your information, written in the Bible as well is: 'Thou shalt not steal'.
"It's fine being open-minded. But don't forget stealing is an indubitable crime. It'll stay on your record. Well, not that all Buteis are 'clean' anyway... only a minority of them. Are you saying this on top of your resolve?"
I can guarantee Aria that. Why? Because I am also one of them, for carrying an illegally customized Beretta.
"You don't need to worry about that. This can't be considered a crime."
"...And why is that?"
"Riko mentioned Vlad, right? Vlad is I-U's number 2. It is beyond law jurisdiction when it comes to matters regarding I-U. Even if we get arrested for stealing, we'll never be prosecuted."
"W-What do you mean by that?"
I pressed for further details but Aria gave no response other than folding her arms behind her head.
3 seconds passed... 5 seconds...
Silence filled the room.
I stood up and slammed both hands on the table.
"Can you explain to me now what this I-U is? I get that it is some sort of secret organization or the likes but why is it that whenever I ask for explanation, you always end up sidestepping it? Even though it is temporary, right now I am your partner. Isn't it rude to freeze me out of this?"
"...No. I can't tell you."
"You can't tell it even to a partner, huh."
"Being my partner is exactly the reason why I can't tell you."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You'll be erased if you hear it."
"...You mean, I'll be killed?"
"That's only a part of it. Your census register, residential info, bank account, student record, any kind of information connected to you and any other traces of your existence will be erased."
"I-U is an A-Class national secret in England. In Japan, it is an I-Class State Secret. If authority gained knowledge of your involvement in I-U, even just knowing about them, you will be pursued by Public Peace Zero Division or an Armed Prosecutor. You don't want that, right?"
...Public Peace Zero Division. Armed Prosecutor.
It is the most dangerous term that you can hear in Japan.
Both are ultimate jobs within the nation with members possessing a license to kill. It is the so-called 'Dark Government Official'.
Their strength is not a joke.
If I were targeted by them--- I doubt I could fight them evenly even under Hysteria Mode.
"Let's forget about that, Kinji."
When Aria saw me saying nothing, she continued on as if the previous topic didn't exist...
"What about you? What's your plan?"
Yet again she deliberately sidestepped the question about I-U.
"Hhmmmm... why did you want to help Riko that much?"
"That's... none of your business."
"Should I take it that you helped her just because she's a cute girl who cried and pleaded for help, then?"
"Where did you get that idea from? Wait, wasn't that you? And if anything can be solved with crying then there's no more need for Butei."
"Why is it then?"
The reason I lent a hand to Riko is--- to hear information regarding Nii-san.
I thought Nii-san died during the Uragaoki Sea Accident.
But that premise had been shattered because I was shown evidence of the possibility of his survival. From Riko's story.
...I want to confirm if Nii-san is alive or dead.
And if he is still alive, I want to find out the truth behind his disappearance. After all, his sudden disappearance had turned my life around. I want to meet him again, and talk to him directly.
For that reason, I had no choice but to cooperate with Riko, the only source of information that I have.
That is my current standpoint.
"Kinji? What's the matter?"
Aria knitted her brows from my sudden silence.
"Ah, nothing. As I said before, that's none of your business."
The case about Nii-san is my personal problem.
Besides, it is a problem that I sealed within me. Something that I do not want to expose to other people.
It is not something that I would want to talk about lightly. Even to a partner.
"---I know it, Kinji."
I lifted my head upon hearing Aria's riled anime-voice.
"Hmph! I know it even if you don't say anything. Riko is a cute girl so guys can't resist her right? S-She has breasts too."
Aria is about to start something weird.
"There are three things that a Butei will fall to: darkness, poison and lastly, a girl. Last night in that room, R-Riko... d-did that thing to you..."
She's glaring at me intensely. Aria suddenly started flushing.
I don't know what's happening in her imagination but her face reddened like if you put power through a nichrome wire.
She bared her fangs. She pointed her finger to me like a detective saying, "You're the culprit!" to a criminal.
"R-Riko did something weird to you and you became her slave instead. Am I right!?"
"What kind of debauched thing did she do!? Confess everything!!"
"What the hell was that?"
"A-Answer me properly! W-What did she do to you!?"
"Wait! Hold up! Why do you want to hear it that badly?"
"Eh? Ah, that's because... Ughh... Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! You pink Butei!"
You're the color pink, you know. Hair-wise. Dropping that side remark, now I am certain that Aria had been peeping at us since Riko had sat astride on me.
And out of all things, she made an outrageous misconception.
"Listen... I don't know from which part you had began watching us, but nothing happened between us. It's all a misunderstanding."
"Liar!! Y-You were lying on b-b-bed with Riko! What's the explanation for that!?"
"I was forced to go there."
"Listen, Kinji. People have these parts called 'feet'. If you don't walk your feet there, you can't reach the bed. At least you went there with your own consent, and then walked towards the bed. That part is beyond doubt, isn't it?"
"T-That's... right, but..."
"See what I'm saying? Why did you casually go into that place? My guess is that you were expecting something indecent, eh? Just because Riko has got a bit more breasts, you're getting head-over-heels already. That's the worst! Why don't you give me an excuse, if you have one?"
Well, she's right. I was lured into that room... and walked to the bed with my own consent. But that's because I didn't know the other person was actually Riko.
Back then, Riko disguised herself as Aria.
If that's the case, then I went there because it was Aria? That's one feasible argument. No, no. That's not good at all, Kinji. Try answering "I thought it was Aria, that's why I walked to the bed myself." You'll be killed for sure.
Having trouble answering, I...
"Or rather, it's me who should be mad... Why are you so riled up with that!? Even if one out of a million chance that it is true, it's got nothing to do with you!"
...countered with a special skill called 'Reverse Snapping'.
"No, it does!"
With a flustered gesture, Aria brought her clenched fists closer to her chest.
What has me getting pushed down by Riko in bed got something to do with Aria?
In response to my knitting of brow, Aria...
Like a child having a tantrum, and with closed eyes, she shouted:
"You're mine! I won't let anyone have you!!!"
My heart jumped from Aria's words.
No kidding. I thought it stopped for a few seconds.
W-What is this girl saying all of a sudden?
"...I don't know what Riko told you but..."
Aria glared me with a tearful eyes. Her face flushing red further.
"You are being deceived by Riko! I-It's written in the book that Shirayuki brought... G-Girls can't do that a-aggressive thing to the guy that they really like!"
Although stuttering from time to time, Aria did her best talking about the topic that she's not used to talking about.
What is wrong with her really?
While saying those lines, her gaze was shooting in every direction erratically, and she was also sweating mysteriously. What is happening to her?
Does she have a cold or something?
"W-What's the explanation behind that? Care to elaborate?"
"The Lupin lineage has a tendency of forming a party that were strictly chosen from exceptional people to commit thieving. That's what they were famous of! For sure Riko saying those words like 'your bodies are perfect for each other' means that... She plans to steal my slave with sexual charm, and add you to her party in the future! I will not... never! Going to let that happen!!"
Howled Aria with fangs bared.
"You're mine! (as a slave) That's why you can't serve other people, understand!?"
Ah, I see. It's all making sense now.
So that's what you mean by, "You're mine!".
I am her slave = her property = hers. Come to think of it, that's the only explanation.
Geez, I feel dumb getting excited for nothing. She's just demonstrating extreme possessiveness for things.
"A-Anyway, I'll forgive you this once... but there will be no second time, get it? Else I'll give you an airhole hell and transform you into a human lotus root!"
Human Lotus Root.
Aria coined another original phrase.
Maybe it's about time I ask the Informas to make a wiki of it.
"First of all, you're lacking in self-awareness! Basically, you're a 'Gloomy' person, but in reality you're quite a 'Lady Killer'. E-Even that time with Shirayuki... All you do is keep flirting with each other... from morning till night..."
Not satisfied with bringing up two of my nicknames, she even brought up past events as well.
This is what you call a displacement of anger, no doubt. She must be really pissed off by Riko to search for an outlet.
"Y-You even k-kissed Shirayuki! A-Although you did that to me as well..."
As I get the premonition that Aria will soon turn into a demon, I get myself off of the sofa and used the excuse of going to the restroom.
"Uuuh... The rainy season's getting cold."
I mumbled as I put on the bulletproof vest for safety.
Hmm... My ability of avoiding danger had been fostered well from two months of living together with Aria.
(Speaking of Shirayuki... Isn't she in Shimane right now?)
I, who had miserably retreated to the toilet upon a sign of danger, recalled Shirayuki as I gazed at the handcrafted doorknob cover that she fixed.
Shirayuki is still at SSR camp in Izumo or what's-its-name Shrine. She'll be back by tomorrow afternoon.
By the way, I had been planning on making Aria and Shirayuki get along with each other, so last month when her Slave number 2, Shirayuki, had gone to camp, I complained to Aria saying, "Are you sure it's okay to let her go? Don't you think it's unfair for my part?". But she just trampled my rebuke by answering, "You and Shirayuki have a different education agenda, so it's fine."
According to Aria, training Shirayuki's supernatural powers is at utmost importance, and that training isn't something that Aria is capable of doing, so she'll be entrusting the job to the professionals.
In other words, our master Aria-sama intends in solely educating me to be her slave. Ohh, I am so grateful that my eyes are in tears. How about forget training me and put that effort in training your height instead?
Like Aria, Shirayuki had been granted the approval of staying in my home as well. So she does not seem to have any objection in joining hands with Aria.
Although they originally had a cat-and-dog relationship, this particular way of keeping a certain distance from each other is how they get along with each other, with me in the center.
To put it in a simple sentence: it's a total nuisance.
(But Riko's case is entirely different from Shirayuki's, Aria...)
I folded my arms.
First of all, what triggered Aria and Shirayuki's quarrel was merely Shirayuki's unaccountable grudge for something. Moreover, despite everything, both are Buteis. Although they once had been in discord, when the fight with Jeanne d'Arc 30th a.k.a. Durandal happened, they properly united forces.
Aria and Riko are different. Firstly, the two are Butei and a criminal. Secondly, their ancestors were rivals since ancient times: the great detective Sherlock Holmes and the phantom thief Lupin. Lastly, although Riko promised to testify for Aria's mother, it was originally Riko's fault that Kanae-san was framed. You can't blame Aria if she felt enmity.
She was requested by that person herself, and to do a larceny to boot. Aria doesn't know how to tolerate things that she doesn't like. Can she really accomplish this mission until the end? It's the question of the century.
(...It's probably impossible.)
Looking at Aria's usual behavior, she doesn't show any hint of perseverance.
In short, the position that I need to take is, make sure that Aria and Riko cooperate properly, and organize them together until the end of the job.
Me? Organizing those 2 'Quadras'...?
Will I be able to do that?
But... it's not the question of being 'able' or 'unable'.
I have no choice but to do it.
Honestly, even though I stay as Aria's partner, in the end, the thing about I-U is beyond my concern.
But this time... and only this time... I can't afford to ignore it.
As long as Nii-san's information is at stake, I will do whatever it needs to obtain it.
That's why I have to do it. No matter what the risks are.
---Another life or death situation.
The following day is the midterm examination.
The exam is split into 2 parts with lunch break in the middle. The first half is the 'General Subjects' written tests that were scheduled back-to-back this morning. The second half of the exam is the sports test. It is afternoon right now and we were taking the sports test.
The test is split into 8 categories. All must be taken until the end of exam. I sank down in one corner of the 2nd school grounds, where the test is taking place.
My head hurts watching the scenery before me.
(...They're not normal...)
The students are doing a 50 meter sprint and alternating side steps. What? Yeah, I know that's normal. But allow me to finish first.
What they are doing is normal. However, the students and the teachers participating aren't.
Let's introduce the supervisors of the exam, ---the teachers. They are, under the dismal sky, blowing a whistle, or swinging shinais (a wooden stick).
First, that girl that looked like a Hong Kong mafia leader is the Assault department instructor, Ranbyou. Students call her the 'Human Bunker Buster'. Her catchphrases are "Go die!" or "Death!". Next, that Ranbyou's best friend, the one always seen with a cigarette-ish thing in the mouth during the whole class period is the Dagula's instructor, Tsuzuri. That Snipe's instructor, Nangou, is known for beating students black-and-blue for the sole reason of standing behind her. The Lezzad's instructor, Chan Wu, seemed to be present as well. You can hear her voice but her figure is nowhere to be seen.
Anyone... please do something.
I just want to live a normal school life. And spending time studying under those inhuman instructors can't be considered a normal school life. Those students running and leaping as well, they're not normal at all.
There are the CVRs, or the Civetta Reseach. They are also known as the Special Undercover Investigation Department . Only peerless bishoujos can enter this course. CVR is a department that refines their sexual charm technique. Right now, they are wearing a high-cut bloomer in order to not leave a tan mark. Just merely watching them poses a big problem to my Hysteria Mode.
There's also the gun-armed Assault and the Lezzad. Not wanting to be separated from their guns even in this place. The use of the ground is free, so you can see the SSRs as well, doing a 1500 meter run wearing cloaks like usual. Oh? That one SSR... did she hover just now before landing from a high jump?
In general, Butei High is like this. Just watching them depletes my mental energy. Butei High is the home for a dangerous bunch.
Having a second look on this place intensely recalls my initial objective of transferring to a normal high school as soon as possible.
That objective... might change soon.
The reason why I decided to quit Butei was because of Nii-san's death.
But what if Riko's story is true? That Nii-san is still alive?
...Wonder, what will I do?
Gunfire blared. I looked to the source of the sound. There, I see Aria's figure doing a 50 meter sprint. It seemed the gunshot was used for the starting signal.
She's wearing a short pants and a PE uniform with '2-A Kanzaki' written on it.
Her twin-tail will probably get in the way of running. The wind swept her untied hair as she dashes forward.
I unconsciously formed a bitter smile at that figure.
She's like a participant in a children sports event.
But.. I don't really dislike Aria doing what full-size girls do.
Her appearance outclasses that of full-size girls'. If she had the height and bust volume, it wouldn't be unusual if she were to be scouted by the CVRs. In other words, she's a peerless bishoujo.
However, after reaching the goal, witnessing Aria re-equipping her handguns that she had asked a junior to hold reminds me that she's not a normal girl after all. More like a battle girl.
I wonder what her plans are... After saving her mother, Kanae-san.
Will she continue studying as a Butei?
Or will she transfer to a normal high school? ...Probably not.
What if we were classmates within the same normal high school?
What if we encounter each other again, but this time as a normal high school boy and a girl?
As I blankly contemplated those things, an image of a girl wearing a bloomer flashed at my vision. I quickly averted my gaze to the paper I am holding. It is the result sheet for the sports exam.
Dammit. Why can't the school have a separate test for guys and girls? Seriously.
What will happen if I accidentally turn into Hysteria Mode?
As I trace my Normal Mode's unremarkable grades with my index finger...
A shadow suddenly covered the result sheet.
I raised my head. As if sticking her head to mine to take a good look at the sheet...
"Uuwah... What kind of grade was that, dumb Kinji? Even your physical ability is dumb as well?"
...Aria sarcastically remarked at my grades. She's sipping a sports drink from a plastic bottle that is usually used in road racing for re-hydrating oneself.
"Shut up. I don't want to hear that from someone repeatedly nodding their heads during Japanese and Kobun classes in struggling not to fall asleep, but suddenly blasting with energy when PE classes comes."
Aria sprawled her feet and sank down close beside me.
She must have probably sweated from that sprint. A gardenia-like aroma is emitting from her body.
I fixed my sitting. I distanced myself from her a bit.
Aria is quite indifferent when it comes to distance sensitivity.
To state it simply: It is problematic.
Even without that, first of all, boys and girls sitting close together are unthinkable.
We're not watching TV at home here, Aria.
You should learn the phrase, 'proper manner in proper place'.
"You really put some effort in running back there."
"Is that how I looked like?"
"Did you have someone you wanted to impress?"
"What kind of weed are you smoking, Kinji?"
Just now... I even asked the same question myself. I don't smoke though.
Why am I asking Aria such odd question?
Aria hugged her tiny legs, leaned her head forward and started contemplating about something.
And then she looked to my eyes.
"I guess... it will be wonderful if my partner would recognize my ability."
Aria said that.
This one makes me go, "huh?", too.
Because the old Aria would rather reply in this part, "I don't care even if no one recognizes me."
After taking the sports test...
Checking the test schedule of Inquesta department that I was enrolled in, I found out there is an optional biology quiz that students can take.
According to Mutou, who had taken the quiz earlier, the test was about materials that were not taught in the curriculum but... it was otherwise an easy test. Passing the quiz will net you 0.1 credits.
It might be inconsequential to other people but 0.1 credits is a big thing to me.
There are certain occasions that a Butei cannot attend classes because of a job request. Due to that, the condition of passing and graduating of students are decided by sufficiently fulfilling the credits needed.
When I was enrolled in Assault, I did job requests from local people and was absent in class quite a lot. That's why I was lacking a bit of credit, especially in Biology. This test was a windfall from God, and must not be passed up.
Once everything was decided, I changed to my school uniform and made for Inquesta's huge audio-visual room with an interior like that of a theater.
There weren't all that many people. During this time period, it seemed only Inquestas and Ambulaces were able to take the quiz.
But is it just me? The number of girls seemed strangely plenty. I'm not liking this.
I took a printout of the quiz and retreated myself to the very rear of the room to avoid the girls.
I am the only one in this row. Good.
Looking at the printout, it seems that we are going to watch an educational video about 'Genetics', supervised by a part-time instructor.
We will have to fill in the proper answer on the blanks. It won't be a problem as long as one is watching the video carefully.
I see. No wonder Mutou said it was easy.
"Everyone! Please go back to your seats."
A teacher clapping his hands said that.
Upon closer inspection, I see a group of girls surrounding the podium and causing a commotion where the instructor is.
It is the Ambulace part-time instructor, Sayonaki.
Now I get it. That explained the number of girls here.
I heard Sayonaki was a genius who had graduated from university abroad.
This part-time instructor, and also a genetics scholar, has an appearance of a 20 year-old guy. His face with glasses is clearly a handsome one. His slender waist goes well with his long hair. His other features are: tall height, sharp nose, and long legs.
To sum it up, he's an impeccable young man that appears in a trendy drama show.
His personality--- is gentle, like a saint. Plus, he is also very courteous. He uses Keigo with everyone. A rare type that you can find even in Butei High.
This Sayonaki, partly due to his tendency of working as part-timer, only shows up during special lecture events like this one. But whenever he does, what usually happens were girls always gather around him causing fuss.
The girls nicknamed him the 'Prince'.
To be frank, I don't agree with it. Why am I, over here, called 'Gloomy', and he over there is called 'Prince'? Even though we're the same harmless existence? Aren't you discriminating nondescript people too much?
Although I have not one bit of desire of becoming popular with the girls because of my constitution, I can't help but feel unfairness in those girls' actions.
People aren't all about appearance.
"C'mon everyone, go back to your seat. We can't start the video in this state. I won't give credit for those who remain unseated."
The girls reluctantly went back to their seats upon Sayonaki's words. They had no choice but to listen when credit is at stake.
Ha! Serves you all right.
Of course I didn't voice that out. I just laughed inside my mind. Suddenly...
Riko, who came just now, occupied the seat on my left.
Her frill-customized skirt fanned out. It draped into my left hip as if covering it.
"R-Riko... what are you doing here?"
"Riko is also an Inquesta."
"I don't mean that! I'm asking why you intentionally took a seat next to me?!"
Riko took an upturned peek in my face. As I was about to voice my reprimand, the lights went out, turning the entire room into total darkness.
The video has started.
"Genes. It carries information about parent's traits that can be inherited by the offspring. Let's talk about the physiology of it."
The narrator's voice echoed. Riko grabbed my left arm and hugged it.
Muni. A soft sensation, like a dream, pushed down against my arm--- I tilt my body, to avoid that voluptuous part.
"What are you trying to pull!?"
"Ki-kuun. Want to touch Riko?"
"W-Why do I have to do that!?"
"Because I want you to touch Riko."
"That's not answering my question! Why are you suddenly asking me such---"
"Feel Riko up to your heart's content! You are free to touch Riko anywhere. No restrictions."
From Riko, who's leaning her body towards me, emitted a vanilla-like aroma. I restrained my breathing to show my resistance.
"W-We're in the middle of taking quiz. What will you do if the teacher catches us?"
"That thrill spices up things more," she chuckled. "Riko is such a bad girl."
Riko rubbed her face on my arm.
"Stop that! Are you a kitten or something!?"
Riko curled her wrist, imitating a cat paw, and started scratching the air.
"Hug Riko, Hug Riko Ki-kuun... Hug! Hug!!!"
Riko started clinging her sock-wrapped feet on mine.
T-This isn't good.
W-What is this?
I can't quite make it out, but I have an odd feeling that I'm starting to enter Hysteria Mode.
But, it's still repressible.
There are other students and a teacher within this audio-visual room. Using that excuse, I somehow maintained my reason.
Endure. Endure it, Kinji.
I don't get why I have to face this misfortune. But nevertheless, endure!
"Ah, Ki-kun, you're holding it. Holding things in is bad for your body."
Riko slumped her upper body sideways and drooped it into my lap.
This lolita-style, modified frilled-uniform is tickling.
"Pat my head."
"No way I'll do that, baka!"
"If you don't do that, Riko will scream. And then Riko will tell the teachers you did something weird."
"W...hat... did you... say?"
I turned pale. Riko, who is in my lap turned upward to face me. As a result, it looks like I was providing a lap-pillow to Riko.
"Rawr! I'm serious. Riko will scream in 5 seconds. Four~ Three~ Two~ One~"
"Fine, fine. I'll do it!"
I grabbed Riko's head as if clutching it. My fingers buried under her waving honey-colored hair.
"Ahnn. It hurts Ki-kun. Do it more gently..."
Riko's hair was softer than I thought. It's not that glossy compared to Aria's hair. The tips of her hair were scattered about, as if done in mischief. However, that feature resembled Riko instead.
It is vexing to admit, but this girl is cute. In a general point of view though.
I continuously patted Riko's hair out of desperation. Riko narrowed her big round eyes in reaction. Her face displayed extreme euphoria.
"Nn... That's perfect. But a little bit slower."
My face had flushed seeing Riko who had transformed into a child. I continued doing my work.
Pat... Pat...Pat... Pat...
If Aria saw me doing this, she'd execute me seven times.
Afuhh. Riko let out a rapturous sigh as if she had turned into an angel.
"There was a certain party where the actress Marilyn Monroe had asked Professor Einstein: 'With my looks and your brain, don't you think our kids would be wonderful?'. In response to Marilyn's proposal-like question, Einstein answered: 'I disagree. There is a possibility that our kids might inherit your brain and my looks instead.' This joke had provided us a hint to study 'Inheritance' and 'Disinheritance' of the genes."
The narration continued, followed by the sound of pencil scratching.
Looking around, the students are all writing the answer in the printout.
This is bad.
If I don't start filling in answers now, although it is meager, I'll miss the credit for this quiz.
If that happens and I become unable to meet the credit criteria, I wouldn't be able to transfer to a normal high school, or worse, I might even repeat a year.
I flusteredly grabbed for my pencil and...
Hmm? Where's my pencil?
I know I put it down above my desk.
"*chuckle* Are you looking for your pencil? It's playing hide-and-seek~."
Riko, above my lap, whispered.
"Did you steal it!? Since when!?"
"Riko is a thief. There is nothing that she can't steal."
"Give it back!"
Riko stretched her back and projected her chests. J...Just what the hell is this girl planning?
My eyes were about to fall off after noticing something.
My pencil was jammed in between Riko's voluptuous breasts, with a volume disproportionate to her small stature.
S-She hid it between her breasts.
"Take it out Ki-kun~"
"T-Take it out? I can't do that!"
"C'mon. Hurry up, or the video will finish! The V-I-D-E-O!"
Riko devilishly smiled. She spelled the word VIDEO and clapped her hand on every letter.
The hell! I can't believe this girl.
However, I have no choice but to do it... For the credit...!
I turned my head away from Riko's white skin, almost transparent enough that you can see her veins.
With the feeling that I was about to disarm a time bomb, no, maybe even more dangerous than that, I plunged my right hand inside Riko's uniform.
Dammit. It's soft. And it's warm. What is this?
"Hhn... By the way, Riko isn't wearing a bra right now."
Stop telling unnecessary things! You're just making things worst!
Endure... Endure it Kinji!
I fumbled inside Riko's chest. Because I wasn't looking directly, I couldn't confirm where I am touching. Ah, is this it?
"A-Ahhnn. Ki-kun! T-That's...!!"
Riko seriously let out a desperate voice. I pulled out my hands in perplexity.
"Ki-kun! I didn't know you were so bold! That one just now, even Riko was shocked."
Why was she shocked? That was just the eraser's butt I touched.
"But don't worry, Ki-kun. Riko doesn't mind whatever you do to her. She doesn't mind at all. That's why, let's try harder one more time?"
"...Why? Why do I have to do my best on this...?"
"This is one way of training you to use Riko as a switch for your Hysteria Mode. In order to complete our mission, you will need to turn into Hysteria Mode at the right time."
So.. that's... what it is...
But let's drop Riko's intention for now.
The important thing right now is my credit. In other words, retrieving the pencil.
I turned my head away from Riko's chest the second time. I grit my teeth and reinserted my hands in Riko's chest.
My hands were enveloped by a marshmallow sensation from Riko's cleavage.
At that moment---
The lights turned on.
When I looked in front, towards where the screen is, the words 'The End' were displayed.
...I-It's over already...?
I gasped--- I turned towards the presence of a person.
Sayonaki was standing in our side.
I failed to notice him because my attention was on Riko.
Due to the stagecraft of the room, the other students in the front couldn't see what the people in the back are doing. However, Sayonaki can witness clearly that my hands are inserted inside Riko's uniform.
"H-Here, sensei! Riko had finished answering everything! Well then, I'll see you! Bye bye, Ki-kun!"
Riko stood up, pushed the quiz sheet towards Sayonaki, and dashed away.
Dumbfounded, I watched that Riko. Her frilled skirt fluttered as she fled.
A vein in Sayonaki's temple popped out. His glasses glittering. Then he said,
"T-Tohyama-kun. Don't you know the phrase, 'proper manner in proper place'?"
I took a combo of Sayonaki's sermon and an instant make-up quiz that will be taken on a later day together with Repier and Amdo.
After that, as I walked to the exit lobby of the Inquesta building which I thought was already devoid of students, I found Riko loitering on one corner, PSP in hands. It seems she was waiting for me.
When Riko saw me, she stored the PSP inside her skirt and hid herself in the corner's blind spot.
And then, she half-showed her face from the corner and looked at me as if asking, "Are you still mad about earlier?"
I ignored her and tried to pass through.
Riko said that and stuck out her tongue. She fisted her headtop in addition.
"...So, when will you start telling us the detailed instructions of what we need to do?"
I said petulantly and went for the exit. It's raining outside.
What a bad day. I didn't bring an umbrella.
...is what I thought. However...
Riko lifted a hand over my head, opening an umbrella.
Even her umbrella is decorated with frills. It's Riko-like in my opinion.
"Riko will lend you an umbrella. Let's do Aiaigasa!"
I thought so.
"Ki-kun. People who don't use this umbrella will not be permitted in tomorrow's 'Operation Stealing' meeting."
Guess I have no choice but to adhere. For Nii-san's lead's sake.
I gave up and entered under the umbrella's cover with Riko.
But what is with that naming sense? "Operation Stealing"? Isn't that too plain?
"Riko is so happy that she can experience Aiaigasa with Ki-kun! Rain, rain, fall away! Fall away!♪"
No rain, go away.
I sighed, thinking, what if Aria saw the two of us walking the streets shoulder-to-shoulder? It's the worst situation.
However, that thinking is naive. I have completely forgotten.
...The correct question should be: What will happen if we were seen, by a worse person than Aria?
"*chuckle*. Ki-kun, you usually distance yourself from girls, but when alone together, you're very kind. You were gentle even in bed. Oh, by the way, who are you?"
Riko's voice suddenly switched into an icy tone in that last part.
She threw the umbrella overhead, grabbed my chest, and forced me to duck.
The area where Riko's neck was a second ago...
...Japanese sword...? Its blade zipped through that area.
I immediately turned around. As I thought, that person is in there.
Shirayuki was standing there in her crimson sailor uniform.
In her right hand was an unsheathed sword, called Irokane Ayame. Her left hand is gripping a Chinese-style umbrella.
"...Step aside, Kin-chan."
I just remembered. She was supposed to be back by late afternoon from SSR camp.
She is the president of Student Council, the head of gardening club, handicraft club, girls volleyball club, has a superhuman diligence, a black-haired Yamato Nadeshiko which is a rarity nowadays, and also a Miko...
But this problematic childhood friend of mine occasionally turns into a demigod berserker for some reason.
Wait a minute! That thing just now... if Riko didn't push me down, wouldn't that have cut my head as well!?
"Who are you~? To disturb the sweet sweet time between Rikorin and Ki-kun..."
Riko questioned Shirayuki like a minx girl.
Retaliating with a wicked-wife glance, Shirayuki swung her sword, sweeping the rain.
"I am Shirayuki Hotogi of SSR Department. And what about you, who are you? Doing an aiaigasa within these sacred learning grounds, that was envi... I mean, despicable! Can't you see that Kin-chan isn't liking it? Get away from him right away! That strike just now was your warning."
You cut off people's heads for a warning!?
"Eh? Why~!? Tohyama Ki-kun and Mine Rikorin are a couple, didn't you know? So there is nothing wrong with us doing aiaigasa."
Riko pouted her cheeks. She dexterously caught the umbrella with one hand. Its frills fluttered as it swirled down.
If you look carefully, Riko's wristwatch and umbrella... are connected by a thin piano wire. That wristwatch acted as a reel to draw back the umbrella.
"Cou...ple...? Aha, Ahahaha. It's true that weird girls appear during springtime. Don't you think so, Kin-chan?"
Ahahahaha. Laughed Shirayuki with eyes wide.
Spring? It's already the rainy season. But I do agree about the 'weird girls appearing' part.
You are included in there as well, Shirayuki.
"Fu, fufufu. Mine-san. Now is a good time to retract what you said."
A cross-shaped vein on Shirayuki's temple popped up, trembled. Her eyes were shut and her lips are forming a bitter smile, probably to display composure.
"Because Kin-chan and I... had already ki-kissed each other!"
"Ffpff... Just a kiss? Riko and Ki-kun had gone up to B."
Shirayuki suddenly opened her eyes wide and screamed.
"T$&*^HD ^&dsa^* &dhfD*&^ jgfD*^!!"
"Shirayuki! Snap back to your senses! And you, Riko! Stop saying needless things!"
My words... were ignored. Like a mute hollering at a deaf.
"For a mere second lover thief, you're getting full of yourself! I won't let you have Kin-chan! Have at you!"
Shirayuki trembled, pointing both Irokane Ayame and index finger towards Riko.
"Come. I'll show you what a real thief is like."
Riko belligerently smiled, taunting Shirayuki.
T-These two are serious...!
Murderous aura filled the raining grounds, making anyone around them shiver.
Shirayuki tossed away her Chinese-style umbrella. She took an upsword stance, and then charged towards Riko.
Seeing that, Riko, thrust her umbrella to her front as if it were a shield. The umbrella concealed Riko's figure from Shirayuki's vision.
A hole appeared near Shirayuki's toes, produced by a bullet, which successfully stopped Shirayuki on her tracks from advancing.
It seems the tip of Riko's umbrella was modified to fire like a gun.
Riko rolled the umbrella in the ground. It went around behind Shirayuki. And then...
It flipped up Shirayuki's skirt.
Shirayuki tossed away the Japanese sword in surprise, then she slumped down.
The point of the Japanese sword pierced the tree on my side. Wah! That was close!
"Ohhh!! Yuki-chan is wearing black!! That's a big contradiction! For someone who has a name like Shirayuki!"
The umbrella that was lying on the ground, moved. It looked like it was following Riko. She grabbed the umbrella, then stroked it.
By the way... Who's Yuki-chan?
Ah. She meant Shirayuki.
"See you Ki-kun! I'll mail you later about tomorrow's schedule and meeting place!"
Riko threw a flying kiss, skipping as she fled.
She's good at escaping. As expected from the descendant of Phantom Thief Lupin.
Result-wise, she was able to get away scot-free from both Aria and Shirayuki.
(But what about this one...?)
I timidly turned towards Shirayuki's direction.
She's still slumping down. Her face was flushed up to her ears. She's covering it with her both hands.
"Hic... Hic... Let me die!! I, the president of student council and a student role model had disgraced myself for wearing an obscene black panty in these sacred learning grounds... hic. I am not eligible as Kin-chan's wife anymore. Weehhhhnnn!!"
Don't worry. No one is eligible anyway.
Since I was facing Shirayuki in the front and Riko had flipped up the skirt from behind, there is no way I could have seen her panties. Therefore, I have no way of confirming whether it was really black or probably a different color like white. However, it seems this incident was a great deal of shock to Shirayuki. She's so depressed that she couldn't stand up.
I couldn't possibly leave her like that under this weather so I had no choice but to carry her. Shirayuki said that she was not feeling well so she asked me to carry her to the Ambulace.
Ambulace building, 10th floor.
We entered a cramped room. It is supposed to be the infirmary room.
Huh? No one is inside?
Shirayuki had asked me to bring her here, so I thought there were Ambulaces standing by.
"...Should we hit someplace else?"
My hands were occupied because I was giving Shirayuki a piggy-back. She turned the knob with her hands instead...
Hmm? Somehow, she mysteriously used force there.
"What's the matter?", I asked.
"It won't budge. It seems we can't go out. Oh no! We're in trouble."
The way Shirayuki said that was kind of monotonous. She got off my back.
Eh!? You can stand now!?
"You can... walk now?"
"Y-Yeah. Thank you Kin-chan."
She bowed down. She bent her body at a 90-degrees angle. Afterwards, she fixed her bangs.
Looking at the door knob, it's true that it was broken. The cause was the keyhole had sort of melted.
Ouch. I touched it and it was bizarrely hot. It was only an instant so I didn't get a burn.
What the hell is this?
"Really, we're in distress. The knob can't seem to be dislodged by using a gun. Even if we try to escape through the window, the length of the cable can only get us down up to 3rd floor. It is embarrassing, but should we scream for help?"
"O-Oh yeah! I just remembered! Right now, we're the only ones in this building."
"Why is that?"
"You see, Sayonaki-sensei said he'll be having a special lecture today, so all Ambulace students went out to attend the lecture... I think."
"You think? Why didn't you recall that sooner? Haah... Can't help it."
"I-I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"
"It's fine. You don't need to apologize that much."
Hmm... How about asking one of my Amdo classmates for help? Maybe they can use a special tool to open the door up.
I took out my cellphone. As I was about to call a number...
Shirayuki swiftly pilfered my cellphone. She ran off with it beyond the curtain-screened bed.
"H-Hey Shirayuki! What are you doing!? Give it back!"
I brushed the curtain open.
Shirayuki was sitting Seiza-style on top of the bed.
She's clutching my cellphone with both hands, curling her back, posing like "As if I will ever give it back!"
But still... taking off those black strap shoes and even lining them up properly on the floor before sitting on bed, it's so Shirayuki-like.
"What's the matter?"
Shirayuki's black hair was elegantly curled down on the white bedsheet. She's looking down, her fringe covering her eyes.
"I... didn't have... a choice. I never thought Kin-chan-sama had another mistress..."
Shirayuki was talking under her breath. I couldn't quite make out what she's saying.
"...That's why I locked Kin-chan together in this room... Right now... Kin-chan is only mine..."
Did I hear a dangerous word mixed within that sentence?
"...And so I suddenly thought, I should just make a stunning fait accompli before going back to the Hotogis. A big one enough to overwhelm that second lover thief. I cannot afford to lose. Kin-chan is mine. Kin-chan is mine. Kin-chan is mine. Kin-chan is mine. Kin-chan is mine..."
"Shirayuki. What are you mumbling?"
I shook Shirayuki whose started mumbling those same words like a broken recorder.
Shirayuki flusteredly raised her head. Although a bit surprised, she properly came back to her senses.
"Can I have my cellphone back?"
I put out my palm. In response, Shirayuki hugged the cellphone on her chest with both hands, shaking her head.
"More importantly Kin-chan-sama! I have two important things that I need to talk about!"
"...I'll listen if you promise to give it back afterwards."
"Of course! Umm... Okay, the first one, Kin-chan. I have investi... I mean, read your fortune."
...It might not be a mistake to say that she had investigated me as well. She must have known my schedule today since she had waylaid us in front of the Inquesta building. Well, voicing this doubt would only prolong the talk, so I decided not to ask.
"And then... I got an unusual result..."
"My everyday life is already unusual so it's not really surprising. And what was the result?"
"The result was: 'Kin-chan will encounter a wolf, a demon, and a ghost'. And this will happen soon..."
A wolf, a demon, and a ghost?
What the heck is that? Wolves are already extinct. Demons and ghosts are fictional entities.
Okay, I will accept supernatural abilities, but that's because I have seen them with my own eyes. However, I refuse to believe such things that haven't been proven by my own eyes. My world is different from yours, Shirayuki. I have no plan on saying goodbye yet to this modern society.
Still, Shirayuki's divination is always accurate.
Let's try putting more thoughts to it. The things that come to mind are...
Riko, with a wolf ear and a tail, saying 'RAWR!'.
Aria, wearing a tiger-striped bikini, impaling me with a demon horn-like hair ornament.
Shirayuki, clad on white clothes, floating in air like a white lady that appears often in ghost stories.
...Isn't this what it means?
"I understand. I will heed that warning just in case. What's the second one?"
"...Umm... Starting tonight, I will be returning to Hotogi for a while."
"By Hotogi you mean, your parent's house?"
"Yes. Remember I broke a taboo due to the Durandal incident of late? I will head there for forgiveness. Plus there's also been a lot going on with the Hotogis lately. I think I will be gone for about a month."
"I see. Well, take your time. You can take longer than that if you want."
Yesss!! I did a victorious pose inside my mind. That means one less dangerous girl around me for a while.
But showing my joy here will just make Shirayuki sulk. Don't celebrate yet, Kinji. It's still early.
"That's all I wanted to tell you. By the way, it's getting cold in this room, Kin-chan. Ah, the heater is broken."
How did you know it was broken by just looking?
I thought and went around the bed to check it. She's right, it is broken.
"This heater... doesn't it look like it had been slashed by a sharp weapon?"
"It's cold, Kin-chan!"
"H-Hmm?? Yeah, well, it is rainy season after all."
The cold is tolerable. However, thinking that we were locked up in this room, enduring the cold would be quite stressful.
"Kin-chan! It's over if we get knocked out before help arrived, right!?"
Shirayuki unaccountably raised her voice.
She threw the blanket about her, covering her entire self. Now she looks like a turtle with the head inside the shell.
This girl... I think she's gonna start something weird again.
"Hey, Shirayuki. I don't mind you playing as turtle. But please give me back my cellphone..."
I plead to Shirayuki. She suddenly started doing something under the blanket. Rustling sounds can be heard from within.
After a few moments...
Shirayuki expelled her uniform's scarf from inside the blanket.
Butei School's girls uniform has an unusual design that you can find in this modern period because the scarf was fused with the tie. This sailor uniform was unexpectedly popular. It receives great acclaim even on the internet. However, production of it was restricted to Butei School. Its unusual crimson color stands out among other school uniforms, making differentiating Butei High from other normal high schools easy. ...Wait! No, Kinji. This isn't the proper time for that explanation!!
Why is Shirayuki taking off her scarf all of a sudden!?
Observing that with a pale face, the next one that appeared from inside... is her blouse.
"H-Hold a minute! Shirayuki! Why are you stripping!?"
"Eh? If we don't use our body to warm up each other during snow mountain crisis, we're gonna die!"
No matter how you think of it, that can't be the case here!
Aahhh!! It's her skirt this time!
"We're not on a snow mountain!"
My head was in total chaos so all I can manage to say was the natural reaction.
Suddenly, an iron chain extended from the blanket, wrapping around my waist...
It's drawing me towards Shirayuki. Dammit, this power is not ordinary. She's probably using Kidoujutsu to amplify her power.
It's pulling me in...
"So what of it!? I don't care if I can longer be a Miko! Who gives a damn about Hotogi!?"
"Same to you! What the hell are you saying!? Let go of me!"
"Kin-chan-sama! I beg you to bestow me a fait accompli before I depart this place! Please! A fait accompli. Fait accompli. Fait accompli!!"
I, who was getting pulled by Shirayuki, almost reached the blanket. Oh no! It's gonna suck me in!!
She must have been in a state of extreme excitement, Shirayuki erringly used too much force so as a result, her forehead clashed with mine instead.
She probably got struck dizzy, as the force from the iron chain wrapping around my waist was dwindling.
(Now's my chance!)
Not overlooking this opportunity, I applied the 'grounding' technique that I learned from Assault. I escaped the blanket cover, distanced myself from Shirayuki and bed, and landed on my butt.
The other end of the iron chain entangling me was sprawled near my feet. A moment later, my cellphone dropped to the ground.
I quickly stuck the cellphone inside my pocket.
But then I noticed...
...that the blanket is on top of my head.
I brushed aside the blanket in order to get a better look around the place.
"A-Ahh... Wait a minute!"
Shirayuki is pulling in the bed sheet to conceal her black undergarments.
Dazzling snow colored legs jutted out from the sheets. Its entirety almost evident.
She probably forgot to take it off, her socks are still intact.
I stood up. Not even extricating myself from the entanglement, I grabbed the end of the iron chain.
As I thought, she's beautiful. Shirayuki is definitely fit to be called a bishoujo.
(...This isn't good! I'm entering Hysteria...!)
This is dangerous. I am starting to feel the blood flow becoming like Hysteria's. At this rate...
Think. What if I Hysteria'd here with Shirayuki and she asked a weird favor from me? That's the Hysteria me, like a genie in the lamp, who cannot decline any girl's wish. It will spell irrevocable things.
"A-Ahh... Please don't stare at me that much... The lights are still on... B-But if Kin-chan-sama desires it... you can look... up to your heart's content..."
Which is it!?
I butted in a side remark inside my mind towards Shirayuki, whose face was as red as a red traffic light.
I pressed my back against the only escape route I have... the window.
"Kin-chan-sama!! Please...! The continuation..."
Shirayuki presented herself to me as if she was a fresh-served dinner that wants to be eaten. I stared at the iron chain and decided to endeavor this sink or swim escape method that I have thought up.
"A-Alright. I got it, Shirayuki. You too. Don't stare at me that much. This is also embarrassing for me."
"I-I got it...? Then that means Kin-chan-sama, you finally...!?"
"Quickly. Lower your head!"
Shirayuki obediently followed the order I gave to her. What she did was not even duck, more like throwing herself down.
Good. It's all going according to plan.
"L-Let me know once you're done taking it off!"
What do I need to take off? I think to myself.
I turned my back to Shirayuki, opened the window, and climbed through.
"---Ehh!? Kin-chan! This is the 10th floor, you know!? You can't get down with a cable!"
"I know. That's why I'm borrowing this!"
I stuck the end of the grappling hook to the window. Gripping the iron chain with my hand, I abseiled down along the walls of the building using the form that I learned from Assault. I made it down to the 3rd floor...
Hanging myself at end of the cable, I connected the cable's end to the other end of the iron chain.
Descending along the lengths of the iron chain, I finally reached the ground.
I wouldn't call it a smart method but... it somehow did the job.
"Kin-chaaaan! Let's do the continuation after I come back from Hotogi! You hear that? The continuation! It's a promise!!"
Looking up to the 10th floor window, Shirayuki is shouting those words using a megaphone in hand.
After that incident, I heard that Shirayuki departed for Hotogi Shrine in Aomori.
On my way home after that, Shirayuki was flooding my cellphone with mails.
It was scary so I didn't have the courage to count how many, but around 30.
The contents of the mail started as a spam of "I'm sorry", and then swapped midway into the 'continuation' or whatever that Shirayuki was saying back in that room. According to Shirayuki, it turned out that I agreed to do that 'continuation' when she returns.
(...Did I say anything like that...? I was desperate at that time so I can't really remember...)
That last part, she must have been looking forward a lot. The content was filled with heart marks. I'm getting a bad feeling about this.
Or rather, what should I do when she returns? I have no idea what she'll do to me but if I try to escape again, she will seriously lock me up this time.
"What are you making a crying face for, Kinji? We're going in."
I raised my head from Aria's voice.
Looking at the unfolding scenery beyond the door's small window only intensified my depression.
So this is what 'out of the frying pan, and into the fire' means.
...this is Akihabara. Also a town that Butei never frequent.
Akihabara is crowded with people all the time, so the use of firearms is out of the question. Not only that, its alleyways are convoluted that it makes chasing criminals a pain. It seemed Riko had completed the preparation for this 'Operation Stealing's meeting, and for some reason this is where the meeting will be held.
Like Aria, I also have no familiarity with this place so we got lost for a while before arriving at this shop. Aria was displaying astonishment and impression all the time being her first time here. While walking, for some reason, people had been looking at Aria and whispering remarks like: "It's a twin-tail!", "Look at that ahoge!", "No way! It's Miku!". Aria couldn't make heads or tails of what they were saying so she had a "???" face all the while. Don't worry Aria, you're not the only one.
Experiencing the same sensation that I felt back when I infiltrated a criminal's headquarters during my Assault mission, I grabbed the door handle. Aria, who had stood in tiptoe to take a look of the interior through the small window, moved beside me.
And with a nervous countenance, we nodded to each other. We both steeled our resolve.
We opened the door and...
"Welcome back, Master and Milady!"
Yes. This is what Japanese people call--- maid cafe, where Riko set up the meeting place.
The entrance to the cafe lies in a landing of a narrow stairs where escape route is unavailable ---Actually, I was suspicious that this might be one of Riko's traps that we're gonna be assaulted upon entering, but needless to say, it ended up as an unnecessary worry.
We were welcomed cordially.
I have heard the name in TV or internet but... it is my first time actually entering the place.
So they really do serve customers in maid uniforms, huh.
Still, what an awkward place. If I had the choice, I would rather go for the criminal's headquarters instead.
Kinji, you did a good job. Your bravery for entering this place is acknowledged. So, can we go home now?
"...I-It's the same greeting as in my hometown... I never expected I would hear it in Japan..."
Aria beside me is also making a difficult face. Good. She's also one of the denizens of this side of the world.
The maid ushered us to the very inner private room. Astounded at the waitress who was smiling at me in her breast-highlighted maid uniform, Aria pinched my ear and forcefully pulled me down the seat.
The interior's foundation is a mix of white and pink color. In other words, it is decorated girlishly. Oh god, nothing can be more uncomfortable.
Aria immediately folded her arms after the maid left.
"...W-What's with those breasts, I mean, that uniform!? Even though they pay their employees well, that's out of the question. If this were England then that'd be fine, but it's out of place wearing that uniform here in Japan. It's embarrassing! Even if I were that waitress, I would never wear that costume! Absolutely! Never!"
Aria spoke insulting words about the maid-cafe in motormouth fashion.
She probably couldn't calm herself down.
I see, this must be one of the reasons why Buteis never frequent this place.
"Welcome back, Riko-sama!" "Kyahhh! Long time no see!" "Riko-sama! The uniform that you designed was a big hit with the customers!"
What reached our ears (Aria was searching for split ends out of being compelled to at least do something while I was ordering nothing but water) were the maids' joyful voices.
It seems Riko had finally arrived.
Wait a minute... that girl is a VIP here!?
"I am sorry~~ but I'm gonna be late~~! I'm taking off~ Bruuuumm!!"
Riko finally showed up before us in gothic lolita dress, striped tights and a big bell on her neck.
She is thrusting her hands on both sides, imitating an airplane. Dangling on her hand is a paperbag that contains figurines and DVD games stuck together. So that's the reason you made us wait. That makes me wanna slap you, bitch.
"Hrm... Riko will take the parfait she usually orders and strawberry au lait! For my darling, a Mariage Frères' first-flush Darjeeling tea, and you can throw a peach bun to that pink-head."
Riko decided our order by herself. She was like a fish who just gained water.
I finally understand now why she set this place up as a meeting place.
Because to Riko, Akihabara is her home ground. And by bringing us there, she has taken the advantage in this discussion.
Riko, your shrewdness knows no bounds.
"...I never thought that one day I would share a table with a descendant of Lupin. The great Sherlock Holmes in heaven must be in frenzy right now."
Aria fired her sarcastic complaints at Riko as she bolted down peach buns.
While Riko, she almost half-finished with the towering giant parfait that she ordered out of fun.
...There's cream stuck on your nose by the way.
"Riko, we didn't come here for tea party. Let me ask, you are keeping your promise, no?"
After taking a couple sips of tea, I asked Riko for confirmation.
For Aria, Riko will testify for Kanae-san.
And for me, the provision of Nii-san's information.
After that battle at the all-girls dorm's rooftop, Riko made those promises. In exchange, we will help her take back her treasure and become thieves.
"Of course, darling♪"
Riko winked as she said that. She grabbed the cup of strawberry au lait with both hands, and gulped it down.
"Who are you calling darling?"
"Ki-kun, of course! Aren't we a couple?"
"I don't even remember a millisecond when we became like that!"
"Ki-kun, you're mean! You're dumping Riko after doing all those things!? As I thought, you were only after my body..."
"First of all, I haven't done anything!"
Aria pounded on the table as if like a judge shouting, "order in the court!"
...using a handgun instead of hammer.
"That's enough prattle. If you don't want a hole blasted in your face, then start explaining details of the mission to us."
Would you seriously draw your Colt even inside this civilian building? In contrast to my consternation, Riko, on my side...
"Don't fucking order me around, Holmes."
...suddenly switched to using vulgar language. She's piercing Aria with an intense sharp glare.
The Dark Riko who had displayed intimidation that can evince a fright even from Aria, took out a laptop from the paperbag.
She opened it, turned on the power, and laid it on the table.
"A mansion named 'Koumeikan', located in the outskirts of Yokohama City--- It looks like an ordinary mansion at first sight, but this one is actually an ironclad fortress."
Reverting back to Normal Riko, she pointed to the display monitor. When I took a good look at it...
The monitor was displaying all kinds of information about the building. It has a total of 4 floors. From B1 to F3. It was also showing detailed maps of every floor plus the summary of the location of countless security devices.
It doesn't end there. If you try selecting the options in the task-bar, it shows you a very surprising delineated plan like tasks needed to use these infiltration and escape routes, countermeasures against prospective problem cases, estimated time of every step, and etc.
What can I say? Riko... You're amazing.
Even a professional would take half a year to contrive a plan this detailed.
"You did all this?"
"Hmm... Around last week."
Riko, finished up the rest of parfait nonchalantly replied. In contrast, Aria opened her camellia eyes wide in astonishment.
I can't blame her for being surprised. Aria, who doesn't even know A in the ABC of strategy, ignores strategy-planning and just makes a beeline towards the problem, and solves it using brute force. That's her main method of solving cases.
"Where did you learn that strategy-making technique?"
"From Jeanne, back when we were in I-U."
The one we fought before, Jeanne d'Arc 30th, also known as Durandal.
"Ki-kun, Aria. Riko's treasure... is supposed to be kept in the basement's storage, but Riko cannot infiltrate that alone. It's a tightly sealed place, literally. However, the feat would be possible for two people with outside help."
"So that's why you want Kinji and me as a set."
Aria commented, swaying her twin-tails as she leaned back on chair.
"...So, Riko. Is Vlad residing in there? And will it be fine if we arrest him if we're discovered? I think you're already aware but Vlad is also one of you who put up a false charge against my mama."
...So that's what it is.
"Ah, no. Vlad hasn't visited that place for around a decade now. The only people in that mansion right now are the manager and the housekeeper. Although, the manager is usually out, so I couldn't get information on his or her identity..."
Riko switched the topic back so Aria merely returned a reply like, "Then, tell that to me earlier," pursing her lips in a 「へ」 shape.
...Hmm. I feel a premonition of danger.
Whenever Aria gets disappointed, she has an inclination of venting her vexation towards others.
The best action that I need to take here is to muscle my way into their conversation, and then change the topic.
"I understand. So, what do we need to steal here?"
"A cross, that was bestowed to Riko by her mother."
"Y-You---!! You really have a flair for pissing people off, eh!?"
Aria suddenly stood up and snarled, her eyebrows shooting upwards.
So it was inevitable. Still, you went ballistic faster than I expected. Are you an instant boiler or something?
"AFTER PUTTING UP A FALSE CHARGE TO MY MAMA, NOW YOU'RE ASKING ME TO RETRIEVE A KEEPSAKE OF YOUR MOTHER!?"
"H-Hey Aria, calm down. No need to react to Riko's every word."
"This is outrageous! Riko can see her mother anytime she wants! She can immediately talk to her if she just uses her cellphone! But what about me!? I can only speak to mama on the other side of lattice, and only for a small time---."
"I'm envious of you Aria."
In response to Riko, Aria...
"What makes you envious of me!?"
Aria finally aimed her gun to Riko.
However, Riko didn't draw her gun. Instead, she just sorrowfully looked down.
"Because your mama is still alive."
Aria's camellia eyes slightly widened.
"Riko--- doesn't have a mother or father anymore. They passed away when Riko was 8."
"The cross was Riko's birthday present from her mother when she turned 5."
Aria sheepishly lowered her gun after hearing Riko's story. And with eyes averted, she returned back to her seat.
Well... Aria. I understand your feelings. I know you have lots of things to say, but hold it back for now.
"The cross is Riko's most precious treasure. Almost the next important thing after her life. But..."
Riko lowered her face. Or so I thought...
"That Vlad! That guy knows all this, yet, he took it away from Riko. And then hid it under a heavy security place... Curse it..."
She continued mumbling those words, in a voice filled of hatred.
That expression expresses the magnitude of her hatred to Vlad. She hates him and hates him, but is unable to do anything besides that.
A wake of tears of vexation formed in her eyes.
...Riko, you hate him that much, huh?
"N-Now, now. Stop crying. Or your make-up will be wasted and your ugly face will become uglier."
Aria, avoiding glancing at Riko, tossed a handkerchief to her.
This must be Aria's one way of showing apology after saying those things to Riko.
"A-Anyway... In short, we just need to retrieve the cross, right?"
I said that, in attempt to return the atmosphere back to normal. Riko nodded as she use Aria's handkerchief to wipe the tears from her eyes.
"Don't cry Riko. You are a cheerful girl at all times despite anything. So smile."
Riko spoke that monologue as if to brainwash herself. Riko raised her head, and the maid-san entered just right on cue, gracefully providing ice water to everyone.
Thanks to that, it buffered the dismal atmosphere. Riko is back to her mischievous face as well.
"...Still... This map."
After snapping the laptop closed, Riko leaned her body forward to the table.
Map, huh. Since a third party (ie, maid-san) came in, she's probably pretending to talk about games or the likes.
"I initially thought of just normally infiltrating the place, but that approach is likely to fail. I didn't have information regarding the very inner chambers, and I only had a rough estimate of the location of the cross. It appears they are constantly changing the layout of traps as well. So then it dawned on me ---that we need to sneak inside and spend a while there to investigate the place more!"
"S-Spend a while inside?"
"What do you want us to do?"
Aria and I inquired. Riko, raising both hands upward, like doing a 'Hurray' gesture, declared...
"Aria and Ki-Kun! Your first mission is to disguise as maid-chan and butler-kun!"
Aria and I incredulously stared at each other.
...is that what she said...?
The two of us are twitching our face in harmony.
Aria, who had been criticizing the maid uniform earlier, pointed her slender finger, saying...
...to the smiling maid-san beside us, who was sloping her head.
Translator's Notes and References
- The way Butei's schedule was set up is, the first five class periods (or probably more, I forgot) were called the "General Subjects". The classes after that are different depending on what department the students were enrolled. General Subjects are like ordinary subjects that are taught in normal school (ie Math, English, Science etc.).
- When Japanese people refers to someone as pink, they meant that the inside of their heads are turning pink. What it means is that they are thinking about erotic things.
- Reverse Snapping, or 逆ギレ in Japanese is a term for the reaction of getting mad at the victim of the trouble, even though you are obviously at fault. Naturally it's the opposite case.
- "You are being deceived by Riko! I-It's written from the book that Shirayuki brought... G-Girls can't do that a-aggressive thing to the boy that they really like!". This line will be used as a clue for later's explanation.
- Kobun is the study of old Japanese literature.
- Aiaigasa describes a situation where a couple shares a single umbrella.
- There is the ABC step of relationship. A is kiss. B is fondling. C is sex. B's meaning varies, but A and C are pretty much the same to any version.
- Shirayuki uses the term "doroubou neko" here. It is a blatant term for someone who steals someone's lover. It literally translates to Cat Thief but the term "Thieving Cat" or "Lover Thief" is its English counterpart. The first lover thief , obviously, she's referring to Aria.
- The kanji for shirayuki's name translates to snow white.
- What Shirayuki meant here is if she lost her chastity, that means she will lose her status Miko as well. In Japan, Miko has an impression of a virgin.
- If you haven't caught on to it yet, what Shirayuki meant for "Fait Accompli" is to achieve C (sex) in the ABC step of relationship (check#10). She wants to beat Riko who had done up to B with Kinji.
- Aria has a strong resemblance to Hatsune Miku (appearance-wise: same twin-tail style, small stature and flat-chest), the Vocaloid's popular prototype model.
- What Kinji meant by "this side of world" means non-otaku people that were not influenced by anime or the similar things.