Hidan no Aria:Volume4 Chapter3
 3rd Ammo: Summer Festival
In the end, Aria didn't return after that.
Two days. Three days. It had been close to a week, and she still hadn't returned. This was the longest period of time she had ever left home.
At this rate, she might never come back--I couldn't help but think that, in my heart.
Aria still attended the normal classes, but she was radiating an atmosphere that said "Don't you dare talk to me." I've been brave enough to ignore that atmosphere several times, trying to talk to her about our security detail at the casino...but, she always ran away.
As the days passed like this, the school entered the weeks approaching final exams, and I had no opportunity to find Aria and speak to her...
Time flew by, and the summer vacation started.
Emergency missions are an integral part of the holiday, so Butei High's summer holiday starts a bit earlier, on July 7.
And on that day, the 7th.
Because it was such an easy day to remember, it came to me immediately after I had gotten up. Muto had used my cellphone without permission, to write a message to Aria, saying this.
'Dear Aria. As practice for being casino security, why don't we go to the Tanabata Festival together? 7:00 of the 7th, I'll be waiting for you in front of the panda at Ueno station. Wear a cute yukata, OK?'
Reading this mail may give me a strong urge to take out my gun and commit suicide...
But, Aria read this mail, right?
Aria hadn't replied at the time, and after the fight about Kana, she had never mentioned it either.
Does that mean that she might not have seen it?
Chances are she's never used messages before.
So, why did I come to Ueno station?
In front of the crowds of people in yukata, I forced myself back to reality, and hurriedly put the cellphone that I had been idly staring at back into my pocket.
Right now it's the 7th of July, 7 o'clock--minus 5 minutes.
Actually, I had arrived here 30 minutes in advance, lingering inside the bookshop, reading books.
I...I'm not thinking about Aria...
I'm just getting ready to go to the Ueno Hikawa Shrine for the Tanabata festival.
Just because there's a high chance for crime during these incidents, so as a Butei, I have to face it voluntarily, strictly controlling the chance of crime...Ah, I'm such an idiot.
If that were truly the case, why am I walking around the panda?
Ah, that...that's just coincidence.
I'm just looking as I pass by.
I'm not especially looking for Aria. It's just that there's a crowd gathering over there, so I should go and investigate. That's how it is.
Dipping my head, looking at my watch while striding out of the ticket office, I...stood in front of the at least 3-meter tall model panda.
...She's not here.
Looking around...of course, she isn't here.
Well, that's to be expected.
I didn't know whether she saw the message in the first place, and she got so angry over the incident over Kana as well.
Anyways, I had confirmed that she wouldn't be here anyways.
So this pans out exactly as I predicted. That's how it is.
My shoulders drooped, and I sighed, facing the glass box embedded into the panda.
Around me...were couples who had arranged to meet here, all wearing yukata. Ah...really, it's painful to wait. Alone by myself, wearing a bulletproof uniform, in this kind of place...
But, well, I'll just stay vigilant for a little while longer.
She might just be late.
Ah...Hmph, I'm just staying alert around here. Who knows whether something might come up.
As I was about to buy something to drink, looking towards the vending machine--
Something pink hurriedly concealed itself behind the other side of the panda.
It looks really familiar.
Anyways...I can't be wrong.
That...Isn't that one of Aria's twin-tails?
That body that looked like Aria--No, Aria, was hiding behind the backside of the panda.
However, she was only hiding her head, not knowing that her tails were sticking out.
In the whole of Ueno, only you could have tails that color.
I called out, and the tail moved a little, with a Pa!
I was noticed! How!?
It gave off that kind of feeling.
Hey, trying to stay unnoticed with something as obvious as that would be really difficult, right?
...Is she imitating a cat? No way.
She seems to be trying to get me to think, "Looks like the movement over there was just a cat."
What...what kind of stupid hiding technique is that? And really, your imitation is completely off... "Your voice is way too obvious. Doing that is like announcing that you're Aria."
I said, moving to the back of the panda. Wearing a yukata, Aria...
Clack! She stood up, her wooden slippers hitting the ground.
She raised her beautiful, slender eyebrows at me ferociously, baring her canines.
Hey, I got here on time.
Thinking this, I waved my watch in front of her face...
"Ah...Hmph, if you're going to call me out on an appointment, then you should be early by 30 minutes! I'll make a hole in you if you make me wait! Making me wait 30 minutes means you deserve some holes! I'll make them until you're a volcano!"
You...you were here 30 minutes ago?
Then, if you were waiting, why did you need to hide when you saw me?
I wanted to say that, but I couldn't get the words out.
Because Aria, wearing a yukata, was really...
Aah, damn it.
--way too cute.
What kind of feeling is this?
It's different from the feeling I get when I'm entering Hysteria Mode. It feels like I've had something taken away from me, making me feel light.
The theme of Aria's clothing was pink and red, wearing a yukata with a goldfish pattern. It fit her small stature really well. Too well, in fact.
It's unbelievable that she managed to find such a fitting yukata, marveling at that in my heart, I felt a smile rise up, inexplicably.
"Wh-what is it. Why're you staring at me like that. You're such a pervert."
I'm not sure what she misconstrued the wonder on my face as, but Aria's cheeks reddened, and she smoothed over her obi and chest with an agitated movement. It looks like not talking to me for a while has left her feeling nervous.
"...That idiotic message, did you see it?"
I asked her, scratching the back of my head, and Aria stopped for a moment,
"Ye-yeah, I came because it said that this would be practice for our casino security detail. I didn't even think about going to the festival with you, not even a little bit."
...Was there really a need to say that, then?
Aria--waved her hands around, raising the tip of her nose.
"Once I accept a commission, I'll definitely fulfill it. Even if it's for a stupid reason like fulfilling your credit demerit, I won't change my conviction. This is 100%, purely for the sake of completing the security mission."
...you picked an amazingly cute yukata just for the sake of completing a security mission?
Anyways...it looks like the message is getting more, and more, unexplainable.
Aria insisted that she came for the sake of being 'security'. That's a good thing for a Butei, leaving me unable to reject that premise by saying, "that message was a prank by Muto." I can only go with the flow, now.
Well, that incident...it isn't surprising that things turned out this way.
And I, who had been tearing my hair out over that message for the past weeks, am really damn stupid.
"...Then, let's go. To be security."
"...Yeah. Let's go and be security. Just security. Security."
Aria, repeating the word 'security' three times--seemed to have the words "I want to go to the festival" written on her back, and the noise from her wooden slippers started up again, as she followed the crowd.
Ah...that back. A gun was stuck into her obi. It's just like Aria to do something like that.
Following the JR national highway, next to Ueno station, we reached a boulevard with stalls set up on both sides.
We may have had a huge fight over Kana, but Aria and I are companions in battle who have gone through many life-threatening situations before. Thanks to our experiences together, even if a gap had opened between us...we continued to walk together, with a "let's set aside what happened before," atmosphere.
Aria, seemingly having never seen a Japanese festival before, was immediately drawn in by the extravagantly decorated booths, and the happy clamor of the crowd.
We strode through the gaps in the crowd...and Aria suddenly stopped in front of one of the booths.
This one was selling cotton candy.
Aria's gaze fixed upon the Oji-san, who was rolling the sugar strands, which really were like cotton, onto a pair of disposable chopsticks.
Her double-fold eyelids blinking several times, still staring at the cotton candy, Aria asked,
"Kinji, what is that?"
"That...is cotton candy. It says so right over there."
"Candy...so, you can eat it?"
Aria looked up at me from below, her face filled with surprise.
"It's for kids to eat, you know?"
I whispered into her ear, and Aria's face suddenly reddened--
"I-I-I...I didn't say I wanted to eat it!"
Something like drool was appearing in the corners of her mouth as she bared her teeth at me.
That...isn't it too fast to have your mouth watering already?
However, having spent so much time with Aria before, I understood...when this girl goes into this mode, it means "I really want to eat it."
If I don't let her eat it now, she'll be unhappy, and the chance of an M1911 finding its way into her hands will increase by a lot.
"Looks like there's nothing I can do...could I have one stick of cotton candy, please?"
With no other options left, I entered the plastic curtains of the booth.
Whoosh! Aria followed with inhuman speed.
But the tiny Aria was only slightly taller than the counter, and only her head was sticking above it.
"Oji-san! Can I choose a flavor?"
Hearing Aria's question, the oji-san answered,
"Of course you can!"
Oh, you can choose.
"Is there a peach bun flavor?"
As if there would.
Next to me, who was stunned, Aria's eyes were glowing in anticipation as she watched the cotton candy being born.
Spin, spin, spin...
"Here. Your girlfriend is really cute, so I'll give you a bonus."
The oji-san handed over the slightly bigger peach bun flavored (!?) cotton candy over to me.
"...Sh-she isn't my girlfriend."
Said I, answering him.
Aria accepted the cotton candy from my hands,
"Kinji! Where should I start eating!?"
Her eyes sparkling with delight, she skipped around, continuously tugging at my sleeve.
Geez, you're still a kid. Really.
After that, takoyaki, candied apples, chocolate bananas...etc., everything that came into Aria's sights was immediately devoured. Worrying about her status as a Butei, I couldn't help but ask, "Aren't you worried about your weight?"
"In the previous physical examination, I was lighter than Riko, who's about the same height as me, so there's no problem."
Aria answered, displeased with my question.
But hey, isn't that weight difference created by the difference in chest size?
But now that I think about it, Aria-sama has eaten her fill, and she's in a pretty good mood, but the goldfish at the goldfish catching stall seemed to sense Aria's ferocious nature, and they swam away with great speed, leaving Aria with an empty net. Opposed to her, I had caught quite a few, piquing the princess' interest. And as for target practice, well, if we had gone, it would be too unfair...so we passed it by.
"No matter the country--when the festivals come around, everybody is so excited. It's very easy for crimes to appear at times like these. Make sure you remain vigilant."
Facing Aria, who said these sorts of things once in a while, I couldn't help but think that "You're the one that's most excited, right?", but I didn't dare say it out loud.
Afterward...noticing the Tanabata bamboo sticks, Aria asked me, with a puzzled look on her face, what it was, and when I had just answered that you were supposed to write down your wishes and hang them up...
The happy voices of the crowd rang out.
Looking around, I saw a gigantic Mikoshi heading towards us from Aria's direction.
In its wake, the people followed, streaming towards us, just like rivulets of water.
Straining her back with an "Uuunn," Aria tried to take a look at the Mikoshi, but she was jostled around by the rushing crowd--
"Eh, ah, huh?"
Only leaving those words behind, her tiny body was swallowed up by the crowd.
This isn't good.
If we're caught up in the flow of people, we'll be separated.
"Aria, over here."
I called out, reaching my hand over to where I had heard that seiyuu-like voice.
A tiny hand grasped hold of mine, through the gaps in the crowd.
Making my way through the chaotic mob, and finally reaching something like a clearing, I--
extracted Aria from within the crowd.
Shi. Aria, leaving the crowd with difficulty, followed the Mikoshi with her eyes, her other hand wiping away the cold sweat that had broken out on her forehead.
"Fi-finally. The thing that came out...what was it?"
"That's called a Mikoshi. I'm glad that we weren't separated. Otherwise, I'd be forced to broadcast a notice for a missing child."
Following Aria's gaze, I looked at the majestic Mikoshi as well.
And for the minute that we had made our way through the street, which we were looking down at now...
Was my hand, and another hand.
My hand and Aria's hand.
Aria's hand and my hand.
Aren't we tightly holding each others hands right now!?
The greatest tension that had risen ever since I met Aria four months ago, seeped between us.
Aria, looked at me, then looked at our hands, locked together, then looked back at me, and her face, like a stove, which happened to be out of season right now, reddened until it started radiating heat.
Wanting to let go of my hand--Aria, seeming to think that, appeared to have a system error in her brain...and, squeeze. Squeeze. Squeeze. She continued to add force.
Squeeze. Squeeze. Squeeze.
Squeeze. Squeeze. Squeeze--!
M-my hand! It's going to break! Is this the hand strength granted by her limit break?!
Finally, tearing her hand away from mine, Aria...
Raised her arm in front of her body, making an expression that seemed to convey that she was ordering the demon in her hand to "Stay down...!" Her fingers were frozen in a claw-like position.
I didn't understand why she would call me that, but that hand--Whoosh!
--smashed into me.
Oh my Father in heaven, hallowed be your name... lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil..
Aria, who seemed to have enough of the large crowds, and I, with a left black eye, avoiding the couples that had come to visit, went around to the back of the main hall, which was empty...and we sat down on what appeared to be a wooden railing.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
In the sky, which had already turned pitch black...fireworks, like flowers of light coming into bloom, exploded.
This seemed to be the first time seeing Japanese fireworks for Aria, and she continued to look up at the brilliant night sky.
Aria...is a girl that really matches with summer. She may not know how to swim, but I think that...ah.
--The fireworks stopped, and once again, the sky twinkled with the light of the stars.
At the back of the main hall is a vast forest, and the quiet sounds of birds and insects reached our ears.
It really is summer.
... ... ...
"You know," "Um,"
Both of us seemed to have something to say, and our eyes met.
"Ah, what is it? You go first."
"No, you should go first."
We continued to back and forth like this...after we had listened to the buzzing of the insects for a while...
"About Kana...How do I say this...I'm sorry."
Aria apologized to me, embarrassed.
"I lost to Kana. It may have taken some time, but I realized it. You weren't wrong. The world has Butei more powerful than me, and now--I feel that battling with her let me learn a lot. And, also, I already vaguely understood..."
Aria...dipped her head, extremely embarrassed.
"--She, wasn't your past lover, right?"
Saying this, Aria's face looked like she had realized this using her sharp intuition.
I fell silent. As if searching my soul, Aria...turned her gaze towards me.
"But, she isn't a stranger to you. Between you two, there seems to be an even stronger bond."
She may not even be able to imagine that Kana is my 'Nii-san', but...
Aria truly is the great-grandchild of the world's greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes.
That sharp insight could be said to have exposed the relationship between Nii-san and me.
"About that, I'm going to cut to the chase...after this...are you going to be Kana's partner?"
It's a shame that you treat me like a dog most of the time.
"...I won't. That isn't the relationship between Kana and I--and our abilities are too far apart, anyways."
Hearing my straight-out denial, Aria, fyuu...
Looked as if these words had put her heart to rest.
It looks like the matter with Kana is what worries Aria the most.
"However, Kana--for you, is a dangerous existence. I don't know why, but you've already become her target. You need to be careful."
"Also...I'm going to take this opportunity to repeat this. Before, you said that I wanted to cut all ties with you...but I, didn't even want to be a Butei, originally."
Now that I think about it, entering Butei High--
Was 100% of my own free will.
For the sake of fulfilling my duty as the inheritor of Hysteria Mode, I was determined, as a descendant of Tohyama, to be an 'ally of justice'...
That's why I wanted to become something like that. I probably just thought that it was something that I should do, and I went with the flow.
But...after Nii-san disappeared last year, I decided to leave my life as a Butei behind.
And this month, I met Kana--Nii-san again, but all it did was reinforce my desire to quit being a Butei.
Originally not even willing to hurt a fly, Nii-san...said something like "killing", and a fellow Butei like Aria as well...
I don't understand why Nii-san would say something like this. But, the most obvious reason is that, he is a Butei. Only this--is absolute.
"So April next year, I'm going to leave Butei High. No matter what you say."
But, at least I myself--for the sake of not becoming like Nii-san, can give up on being a Butei.
And I can become a normal person, living a normal life.
That is the right path. Definitely.
"Um...I know. But...even though I know, I..."
My face relaxed a bit, looking towards the mouth that emitted that seiyuu-like voice, which said that she understood, yet she seemed more lost than ever.
I made one other oath.
--For a little longer, in just that short amount of time...I will be your strength--
You are fighting, using that tiny body of yours to face your cruel fate, always fighting.
Not, like me...running away.
"Just that...Butei Law article 8, I will definitely keep it."
Well, I'll make sure of it now.
"「Your mission must be resolved completely」. Before April of next year, I am still a Butei...and before that, I cannot go against any articles of Butei Law. And also, as a person, I cannot go against my own word. So until we completely resolve the matter with I-U, I will always remain by your side."
Don't make such an excited sound.
"Also, even though it was against my will...With you, I've already defeated Riko, Jeanne, and Vlad, these three members of I-U. Naturally, you're not only the one that I-U has their sights on, I have been targeted as well. We will fight until one side has been completely destroyed. Aa~hh. I've been sucked into something so troublesome. It makes my head hurt."
Like that, partially on purpose...I stated my reasons, as if I was trying to convince myself.
Aria...dipped her head.
And afterwards, *spin*
Her back towards me...
She suddenly blew her nose.
Thinking that it was impossible for her to have caught a cold like this, I turned my head.
...I didn't know why, but Aria walked a few steps, and then she spun around. Her twin-tails drew a graceful arc in the air, but her back was still facing me.
...Really, she's amazingly good at making others angry.
I climbed onto the veranda, approaching Aria's face. Shi.
Shii. Aria swiveled like a chess-piece, not showing me her face.
Shii. I chased her, *spin*, but Aria continued to turn.
"What kind of reaction is this?"
I grasped her hand and turned her towards me.
Aria, looked up at me helplessly...
...against all expectation, she was crying.
...Out of joy, she was crying.
Those eyes, streaming tears down her face like a sparkling, silver stream, were sparkling.
"I will always remain by your side." How could these simple words of mine...make you happy enough to cry.
'I'm sorry' is what I wanted to say, but no, apologizing would be weird...while I stayed silent, at a loss of what to do.
Aria's mouth emitted a noise that sounded like her mouth had been stuck together by konnyaku.
...What is it now?
I looked at Aria, who had her mouth twisted into a 「へ」 shape...
Aria suddenly jumped off the veranda.
Hey, what's wrong...
You're getting more and more weird, you know? Has your 'feelings' server been overloaded?
As I was thinking this, Aria accidentally trod on the hem of her yukata, Thud!
And with a movement that outclassed any comedy routines, she fell flat on her face.
And just like a caught goldfish, she started going into spasms on the floor.
"A-ahaha! Wa-wait! No, NONO! U-U-U-Uwa!"
Her entire body curled up, she started to open the neckline of her yukata!
"Wa-wait! What the hell are you doing! I have no idea what is happening!"
"Ki-Ki-Ki-Ki-Kin-Kin-Kinji, think of something! I-I think something got inside my clothes!"
"Hey, are you alright!?"
She looked extremely uncomfortable inside the yukata, so with a *whoosh* I grabbed hold of the obi on her back, thinking of loosening it for her.
A beetle that looked like a scarab flew out of the yukata...Tap.
And it landed on a tree, not far from here.
So she was tickled by a bug who got into her yukata.
Is that it? What was I worrying for...I was really shocked for a second.
Along with the completely loosened yukata, she fell onto the veranda.
My face twitching, I looked at the second thing to be victorious over Aria, after Kana, the Almighty-Scarab.
Hmm...? For some reason, that looks a little different from a scarab. I've never seen a bug like that before.
But it looks kind of familiar...
As if avoiding my gaze, it flew into the dense forest with a buzzing noise.
"...That, what kind of perverted bug is that...climbing around in these weird kinds of places...!"
I didn't know when, but Aria had fixed her yukata with inhuman speed, and she stood back up, gripping her guns.
Hey...Are you going to use that high-caliber pistol to shoot an insect?
My face still twitching, I picked up the things that had been scattered from out of Aria's yukata. There was an extremely small makeup box that looked like it had been ordered from abroad, and some lotion. This...is makeup? There's mascara as well. Hey, why are you so dedicated to bringing these things?
Thinking about this, holding these objects in my hand, I...suddenly halted.
Fallen out of Aria's yukata, open on the floor, inside...I could see a photo of a boy, slightly sticking out.
A boy--a photo of someone other than me.
"Tohyama-kun, you might have a rival in love you know?"
I don't know why...I really have no idea why, but Shiranui's words echoed in my mind.
No...so what? This has nothing to do with me.
Even Aria, once she lays down her guns, is just a high-school girl in a co-ed school. Even if she's bad at things that have to do with romance...having one or two crushes isn't abnormal at all. Actually, that would be considered normal.
Aria said, and she bent down, picking the Butei Handbook off the floor, putting it back into her flat chest.
That expression...makes me feel a little panicked.
"...That should be it. Check if I missed anything."
I put the makeup that dropped onto the ground back into Aria's purse, and I handed it back over.
She took it in hand, and looked at me closely.
Afterward, those camellia eyes turned their gaze back to the Butei Handbook.
What. I never said anything about that photo.
"...Why are you unhappy all of a sudden."
"You saw the photo, right?"
--Your intuition is too good, Aria.
Because she had completely hit the mark, I couldn't find a fitting excuse.
"I don't care about that either."
"Care...what's that supposed to mean. You're putting on that kind of face...I don't want you to misunderstand anything."
-slid onto the edge of the veranda, just like a child, and with a *Pa! Pa!* she patted the ground beside her.
She's telling me to sit down, right?
...Guess there's nothing else I can do.
I...sat next to Aria.
"Normally, people would put photos of their parents, or their siblings."
Saying that, Aria showed me the photo inside her handbook--As I thought, it's a boy.
"He is both the smartest, and the strongest person in the world. An amazingly perfect person. And--"
This boy, wearing these ancient clothes, with a collected air about him...
He doesn't look similar at all, but for some reason, I felt that in some places...he looked like Aria.
"--he's somebody that's no longer on this Earth."
That photo was old enough that I believed Aria's words without a second thought.
And, it's a black and white photograph. And even those shades of gray aren't as clear anymore.
This is...I've seen him before.
He may be younger in this photo than the ones inside the Inquesta textbook, but I could still recognize him as the strongest detective in the world--
"Sherlock Holmes the first. My great-grandfather."
"...You respect him a lot, don't you."
"With all my heart. This is a photo that father gave me. Not only do I always keep it with me, but is a pillar of my soul, my most precious treasure...I've never shown this to anybody else."
"Didn't you just show it to me?"
Hearing my small joke, Aria softly, solemnly, and proudly, closed the book.
Afterward, she descended from the veranda...and, her cheeks slightly red, turned around.
"--Kinji is the only one I've ever shown this to."
Returning home, I ushered Aria, who was following me from behind, inside.
Aria hadn't returned here in a long time...It's natural...but I felt a little awkward.
Shirayuki wasn't here either, it was only the two of us.
Trying to act as if I was completely ignorant of that fact, I opened the package that had arrived just as I had left the house to go meet Aria.
"...What is this?"
Using a knife to cut open the box, I saw that...the inside was filled with clothes and accessories.
The sender is TCA. The casino managers of the casino in Odaiba.
From the attached note, these are for the mission that I took to fulfill my credit demerit--clothes necessary for the security detail at the casino.
"What is this?"
Aria approached me, and read the note.
"These are things to be used for the security duty at the casino. This note says 'For the sake of not disturbing the customers' experience at the casino, please dress up as casino staff while carrying out your security duty.'"
"So that's what it is. I can understand this. This is pretty common when guarding a place of entertainment."
"Yeah. Customers only have time to play once in a while, they probably wouldn't be able to fully enjoy themselves if they saw Butei wandering around."
If the size of one's clothing doesn't match, then one's movements are heavily impaired. Because of this, an iron-clad rule for Butei is, in the event that you receive clothes for a security exercise, then you have to try them on before the actual operation.
Because of this, Aria and I, who didn't really have anything to do anyways, decided to try on the clothes.
From the explanation, my role is..."young IT CEO". What on Earth is that?
I may have been a little vehement, but it's impossible for someone like me, who suffers from a supreme lack of motivation, to be a CEO.
But, since these are my client's instructions, all I can do is follow them.
With that...I wore a suit that looked like it belonged to a nouveau riche gambler. Oh, I have to wear cologne as well? This...really doesn't fit me at all.
But at least, these clothes are made out of bulletproof fibers. I know that. Aria's clothes should be as well.
Hearing Aria's voice, irregular, coming from the bedroom, I turned my head.
"What is it? Aria, is there a problem?"
I opened the door to the bedroom.
Aria, noticing my reflection in the full-body mirror--jumped with a start, pa!
Her ears were standing up.
Spinning around, her two fists raised, adopting a stance like that of a brown bear roaring, Aria--looked at her body, which was wearing something that looked like a black swimsuit, panicked, and she gave up on attacking me.
"D-d-d-d-di-didn't I tell you to knock before you opened the door! Don't look!"
Her back facing me, she curled up, trying to cover her body with her hands.
Shaking from embarrassment, her bunny tail was just like a ball of fur. But I understood that...Aria is...
wearing a Bunny Girl uniform.
Now that I think about it...they do exist in casinos. Bunny girls, that is.
"Get out of here! Pervert! Pervert Kinji! Kanji you parvert!"
Kanji you parvert...? Aah. She was trying to say "Kinji you pervert!" but bit her tongue.
That Aria. Every time she makes up insults that are hard to say like that, this happens.
But, Aria as a bunny girl is...
Amazingly, amazingly cute.
The situation may seem like it, but there's no danger of me going into Hysteria Mode. Bunny girl suits are supposed to be worn by well-endowed women after all.
Wearing this with a kindergarten-like body, it doesn't fit her. It doesn't fit her at all. Of course it doesn't match. But these kinds of thoughts are probably still safe. I just need to think of it as a costume.
"Ah, not m-my back! If you dare to look I'll make a hole in you! I'm going to make a hole in you!"
Hearing her words, I noticed that on the back of Aria's bunny suit was a V-shaped opening, showing her soft, creamy white skin for all to see.
Shii, Shii. On the back that Aria's hands were desperately trying to cover, on the left side...
There was a scar left by a bullet.
I understand that you're both nobility and a girl, and as such, you feel embarrassed.
But a Butei with no scars at all, doesn't exist.
So don't be embarrassed. That's like a badge of honor.
"Hey. It doesn't matter what you have on your back, you know."
Remembering that Aria had also gone into this state when wearing a maid uniform, I couldn't help but be surprised. This girl, Aria, will get amazingly embarrassed once she dresses up.
As a Butei, shouldn't you fix that?
"It's just a piece of clothing, tolerate it. Well, I'm the one that's making you help, so I shouldn't say anything, but Butei are required to wear different types of clothing throughout different operations. Alright. So that we don't look weird during the job, let's just stay like this for while, so we get used to it."
Aria, having been taught a lesson about being a Butei by me, moaned, extremely unhappy, while straightening her back, tears in her eyes.
Afterward, *spin*. Her twin-tails and rabbit ears twirled around, facing me.
This weird feeling is...what is it? Right now, Aria is...
I stroked my chin, using the observation skills that I had picked up during my time in Inquesta.
Oh, I get it.
Her chest is a lot bigger than normal.
Was there some stuffing inside the clothes?
But anyways, to begin with, bunny girls are supposed to have big chests.
If Aria, who had an unfortunate chest, were to wear this, the gigantic void between her chest and the uniform is...well...extremely pitiful.
Thud!--ria, you've finally shown your true colors. I'm going down to the Tokyo District Prosecutor's office to lay charges.
After hearing me say one syllable, Aria seemed to have guessed what I was going go say, and she executed a vicious kick, sending my body flying into a 「く」 character--No, a 「つ」 character.
"Chest pads are in fashion! Chest pads are for those who are well-dressed! Chest! Pads! Are guiltless!" Accompanying every "!" came a foot hurtling towards my head. Aria didn't even let me explain myself, leaving me unable to do anything but scramble backwards--Thud!
Aria's high heels smashed into the ground next to my head, leaving her legs spread right over my head.
The core of my body--suddenly turned red hot.
-am going into Hysteria Mode...? No, it's too late, I'm changing already!
Wh-what is this, Kinji!?
Earlier, I thought that there wouldn't be a problem too.
I nearly got stepped on by Aria, and it was just a coincidence that her legs were across my face. I'm going to change with that? That's so weird!
Which means, this is bad.
This is the bedroom.
If I actually become that gigolo-like Hysteria Mode in here.
It'll be exactly like how I was locked into that Ambulace room by Shirayuki last month--
It's going to become an unsalvageable situation!
"--Kin-chan! What's wrong!"
Right, that's how Shirayuki was at that time...umm...
Bang! Throwing open the door with both hands was--
Dressed in her normal Miko garments, seeming to have come a long way with a huge burden...
Surname: Hotogi. First name: Shirayuki--
Hotogi Shirayuki herself.
Those pitch black eyes, widened with fear that I was in some kind of danger--
saw bunny girl Aria, stepping on my forehead with her high-heels while crossing her arms.
Rustle, rustle, rustle! She advanced ferociously.
"Kanzaki H. Aria...! U, uu, ufufufufufufufu..."
Her eyes, normally calm and composed, seemed to be blasting out lasers, filled with an immeasurable fury.
Afterward, Shirayuki bowed her head as if saying "I'm very sorry," the shadow cast by her fringe obscuring her eyes.
The Hotogi armed Miko seemed to have released her limit break, an indescribable killing intent flowing out of her, saturating the room.
If I had a weak heart, I'd definitely have died from fear by this point.
"--Kin-chan, I'm back."
Shirayuki, who loves to apologize, apologized to me in advance.
What is it. What are you apologizing for?
"...During my Hotogi divination, I divined that Kin-chan had some 'rabbit difficulty', so once I finished my work I rushed back. And, thinking that something like this would happen...I brought 'that'.
I, even with all the strict training that Aria had given me, felt my heart stop.
"No-no-not that, Shirayuki! I-I've said this before, you can't use that!"
Faster than my cry of terror by a moment--Clatter!
From within Shirayuki's hakama, the sound of some heavy, iron object hitting the floor rang out.
"That's why I apologized to you!"
Shouting that, Shirayuki raised the object, and like a spring, click click click!
She assembled it with the speed of lightning.
Held it, setting it up.
Leaving Aria and I speechless--
was an M60 HMG.
It was an American weapon, made for war, a HMG weighing tens of kilograms!
Having this in Japan is obviously a crime. It's a weapon of mass destruction that cannot be brought under the attention of the police.
Shirayuki lifted it with just her right hand, her left hand reaching into her white clothes, pulling out an ammo belt and attaching it to the gun.
Hey, hey, are you Rambo!?
"You--Fox Spirit! Daring to wear these lewd clothes, pla-playing these kinds of lewd games with Kin-chan-sama--I sentence you to 10000 deaths!! 10000 deaths! TEN THOUSAND DEATHS!!! WHICH MEANS, YOU SHOULD DIE TEN THOUSAND TIMES!"
"Wh-wh-wh-what is this girl! She's always going crazy like this!"
Aria, understanding the massive difference in firepower with just once glance, didn't draw her guns, but backed up against the wall.
Shirayuki's eyes seemed to be saying--DIE!--, springing wide open, and she aimed in this direction.
Shirayuki, Shirayuki! Me! Me, Me! I'm in front of your barrel too!
"Die, Kanzaki H. Aria! This is divine retribution! Divine retribution! Aha, ahahahahahahaha!"
NATO bullets, the barrage of hellfire that the M60 spit out, reduced the room to shreds.
Aria, just like a ninja, escaped to the ceiling of the room, and the Shirayuki in berserk mode was laughing hysterically, turning the barrel of the gun, reducing the ceiling to a honeycomb, I--
In the midst of the flying splinters and debris, fearing for my life, I jumped out of the window of the bedroom--Click!
I used up another of my nine lives, falling onto the metal safety net, embedding my shape into it.
...How on earth can I...
living in this place, have a normal life.
Hey, Shirayuki. Seeing a rabbit stepping on me, what kind of game did you think we were playing...
I haven't understood this yet, but it seems that your divinations are a violation of human privacy.
Within Hysteria Mode, there lies something else, called "Meza Hysteria". It's just something I called it though. Arousal isn't something like a light switch, something that you can turn on and off at will, rather, it's something that comes on slowly.
If something like that happens while I'm changing, because my Hysteria Mode is still too shallow, it will stop at "Meza Hysteria"--and just for a short while, my abilities will increase by a little.
And in this mode, while escaping from the M60's barrage, jumping out towards the bay, I noticed something strange.
An abnormality that needs investigation.
The reason I say this, is that, when I crashed through the window, I noticed that one of the pitch black windows in the 2nd female dormitory flashed with reflected light.
From my experience...that should be some sort of binoculars, or telescope, that flashed.
It's probably just something that I imagined, but if there really is somebody observing us, things would get more difficult. If a teacher starts an investigation about the M60, and I get punished or put into jail for breaking the law, then it would be really troublesome.
So, I walked across the safety net, returning to the front of the boy's dormitory...
Then I hurried over to the 2nd girl's dormitory.
If I had a choice, I definitely wouldn't do it, disturbing this kind of place at night.
But quickly confirming information that might be detrimental to you is the basics of being a Butei.
The room where binoculars flashed--on the top floor of the girl's dormitory--should be here...
In the corridor, I frowned, standing in front of the suspected room.
...There's no name tag.
I don't know whose room it is.
When I pressed the doorbell, nobody came out either.
Is it an empty room? Or could it be that only one person stays here?
I'm really useless...out of my Meza Hysteria already, I had no idea how to react.
While I stood there, helplessly scratching my head, suddenly--
Tap! Tap Tap!
Something, whom I hadn't heard at all, touched my waist from behind.
Turning around, all I saw was a gigantic white dog--
No, it's a wolf, biting the leopon strap that's hanging out of my pocket.
Th-this silver wolf.
I've seen it before.
I remember, it's the one who infiltrated Butei High last month, the one we finally caught after chasing it all around.
The one I caught with the genius of Snipe--Reki!
"Haimaki, stop it. That's something that belongs to Kinji-san."
Suddenly hearing Reki's voice, I looked up.
In front of my eyes, wearing Butei High's summer uniform, Reki, her face emotionless as usual, was talking to the wolf.
Not only does Reki, shouldering her sniper rifle, make zero sound while moving, I couldn't even sense her breathing--without me noticing, she had suddenly appeared behind my back.
Having been reprimanded by Reki's monotone voice, the silver wolf--released the leopon, and it sat down.
It looked at Reki, exactly like an obedient child, but to me...it seemed to be full of hostility.
Hey, what is that attitude supposed to mean?
Reki still hadn't taken off her headphones, which she had been wearing all day long. And her face, as pretty as a CG, was still impassive.
She probably had just come back from buying something. In her hand was a bag from a convenience store.
Why don't you say something. You're exactly like a doll this way.
"About that. I have something that I need to talk to you about."
Unable to bear the silence any longer, I said that, and Reki...used her keycard to open her door.
And afterward--so, this was her room after all--bringing her wolf, she entered, wordlessly.
"Ah, um. It's fine if I tell you this at the door..."
Not wanting to enter a girl's room, I said that, but Reki had already entered the dark room.
She's exactly like back then...still an enigma to everybody else.
If the door is closed, I won't even be able to say my piece.
So, helplessly, I really had no other choice, I entered Reki's room.
There was only one bare lightbulb inside--
A completely empty room that would shock anyone who came in.
There's no bed, there's no cabinets, there's no TV, there's no computer. There's no carpet or even tatami on the floor. The walls and floor are just flat. clear cement. All that's here is a feeding bowl for the wolf, set in one corner...
(This room...how is this...)
It's summer, but this room has an inexplicable ability to make people feel cold.
Reki was standing in the kitchen, devoid of refrigerator or cabinets, taking an energy bar out of the bag.
By the wall, there were also several empty boxes of energy bars, all of them the same brand.
Is that all you eat? I can't believe you can survive like this...
My mind full of shock, I suddenly noticed that there was another room adjoining this one.
Turning on the light, I could see that inside was a table, and set on it were black tools that looked like anvils.
These...are tools to maintain guns, right?
And, they're set down extremely neatly.
It may be that all Butei take care of their own gun--but that only includes basic maintenance. And for those jobs which requires complete dismantlement and modification, they'll leave it for the professionals. And Butei High's Amdo is the one that accepts these jobs, fixing them for credits, and a price.
But, from this work room, Reki appears to have been completely involved in maintaining her gun. There's even a balance for weighing gunpowder, it looks like even her bullets are made herself.
As expected of the robot Reki. If she does something, she completely immerses herself in it.
Everything was too ordered, and it made me feel like I had stepped into Reki's personal world--so, I felt that this isn't some place that I could linger for a long period of time.
...Let's finish this quickly, and I'll head back.
"Just now, you were using a scope to watch my room, right?"
...She admitted it so brazenly.
"That's called peeping. I don't know what you saw, but forget it all. Understand?"
Reki, who didn't even say one word of apology, stood with her back against the wall. Thud.
Holding the SVD sniper rifle like a stick...she lowered herself down.
"--Is that all you wanted?"
Seeing her skirt, without her knowledge, flip up, revealing her thigh, I looked away.
Reki, are you concealing your inner soul or are you just unguarded...I don't understand you at all.
"Ah...Yes. I'm going back."
"The light in the room over there, please switch it off as well, Kinji-san. Haimaki, come."
Click. Reki sat there, using the barrel of her sniper rifle to flip the switch, plunging the room into darkness.
And walking to her side, the wolf...seemingly called Haimaki...sat down obediently, closing its eyes.
"...Why are you switching off the light."
"I'm going to sleep."
"Sleep? In that position?"
I asked in surprise.
Reki, exactly like a robot, closed her eyes, took off her headphones, and nodded.
"Could it be that...you always sleep like this?"
Snipers need discipline. I've heard that they need to be able to tolerate any kind of environment, waiting for their target to enter their sights. But this...it's already far exceeded mere discipline.
She's a warrior who always watches enemies, whether walking or sitting.
"Kinji-san. Could I ask something? I heard that you accepted a commission as a security guard at the casino."
"...Is there something?"
"I want to participate as well."
"It's not that you don't have enough credits, right?"
Reki's short hair rustled, as she shook her head.
"Then, Why?" I asked.
"--I can feel the wind. A hot, dry, inexpressible...evil wind..."
Echoing inside this completely empty room, Reki's transparent voice--
Made me feel as if she had predicted that something bad was going to happen, and I was at a loss of what to say.
Leaving Reki's room and returning to the boy's dormitory, click...I opened the door, and the room that lay before me was...huh?
It's all cleaned up?
I thought that this was an illusion that my heart was showing me, wanting to escape from reality, but it wasn't a mirage. If you'd like to know why, it's because, on the balcony, the M60 that Shirayuki was firing just now was lying there, cooling. And also, to prevent others from noticing, they even covered it with a motorcycle protector.
The walls and ceiling had within a hour, been beautifully repaired, and even the bunk beds had been replaced, somehow. Any signs of the mad barrage from just now had...disappeared without a trace.
That armed Miko. Her skills in this area are beyond frightening.
Having been designated by Shirayuki as an extreme danger, (not that she isn't,) Aria was gone. She might be wearing that, but I'm afraid that she might not return for the whole night.
"--It's OK. Leave Tokyo to Onee-chan."
From the bathroom came Shirayuki's voice.
...It looks like she's talking with her sisters in Hotogi right now. It's pretty obvious from that stern tone of voice.
Shirayuki may look weak, but she's the eldest of 7 sisters.
"--The enemy is a Kojyuu user from abroad. You have to do your best to protect the Hotogi. Then, that should be all...Yeah. Good night."
Hearing Shirayuki finish her call from the bathroom--
Behind her, I asked her a question.
"...How are your sisters doing?"
Shirayuki, seemingly scared by me, who had appeared out of nowhere, she jumped 30 centimeters off the chair she was sitting on.
I really wanted to ask, how on Earth do you do that Shirayuki hop?
Thinking that in my heart, I picked up the cellphone that Shirayuki had dropped on the floor.
The wallpaper of the white cellphone...I don't know how she took it, but it appears to be a portrait of me...I'll just pretend I never saw it, and forget about it.
"Kin-chan, um, uh, the room...I'm sorry...I'm sorry, I-I-I"
Seeing her clasp her cellphone to her breast, kneeling on the floor, continually apologizing, I couldn't help but sigh.
"Whatever. Everything's fixed, anyways."
I've already given up on her.
"Right, what is 'enemy' supposed to mean? Could it be that the Hotogi shrine is fighting some divine war?"
"Um...That...It's kind of embarrassing to say this...About that, recently, the Irokaneayame appears to have been stolen by somebody."
"Ayame...? Ah, that sword that you always bring around with you. You left it at Hotogi?"
Now that I think about it, she didn't take out her sword and start hacking things to pieces, as usual.
"It's been taken away from me. Because I broke several of the Hotogi's restrictions..."
Shirayuki's face, still had makeup on it this late for whatever reason, and it was twisted into a smile. Now though, it was showing a thoughtful expression.
From a small pouch, she took out several things and placed them on the shelf of the bathroom.
Pulling out her cosmetics, Shirayuki *clank*. And like she was playing ice-hockey, she threw Aria's imported cosmetics on the ground. That's horrible.
"Kin-chan, about that."
Saying that, taking out some Japanese paper and pen from the depths of the pouch, Shirayuki...appeared to be drawing something.
"In the Hotogi, we've noticed an evil insect. It's infiltrated in. It looks like this."
I dipped my head, looking at Shirayuki's drawing.
Shirayuki's drawing was of a scarab-like bug...
Ah. Hey. Shirayuki.
Your art skills...are...really amazing.
Being able to illustrate depth and shadow with a pen, it looks just like a monochrome photo.
I really wish that Jeanne, whose skills are like that of a kindergartner, could go and learn from the same place that you did.
"This bug, I think--It's a familiar."
"Umm...What's that? Saying SSR-specific jargon so matter-of-factly, I don't understand it at all."
"Ah, right. In Japan, it would be known as a Shikigami."
"...I understand even less, now. Uh, this looks like a scarab to me."
"Yeah. This is a gold bug. It's also known as a dung beetle."
...Which is a scarab.
"Kin-chan, recently...have you seen this kind of bug around you?"
Using her completed drawing to cover the bottom part of her face, she raised it up for me to see.
Looking at this...I started to remember.
"...I've seen it. The night I went to Tanabata with Aria."
Shirayuki's gaze, above the Japanese paper, suddenly became as ferocious and intimidating as a knife edge--I quickly followed up...
"Th-that thing ran into Aria's yukata, I just helped her get it out."
In my panic, I think I said something that I really shouldn't have...thinking this, looking at Shirayuki, I--
Noticed that those long-eyelashed eyes weren't angry, but filled with an extremely solemn expression.
"Kin-chan, during the summer holidays...you accepted a job as security at the casino, along with Aria, right?"
"Ah, that's right."
...This girl, she really knows every move that I make.
Well, it's there for all to see on the Butei High bulletin board after all, any student can see it.
"--I'm joining too,"
said Shirayuki, filled with determination, folding the picture of the bug and keeping it.
Shouldn't it be "Can I join too?"? Why is it "I'm joining too"?
This is a resolve that I've rarely seen in Shirayuki.
"..Why? You don't need credits."
"Ah..yeah. But, um, don't you need four people?...you haven't gathered enough yet, right? Th-this is for your credits, Kin-chan. He, he, oh!"
Seeming as if she was hiding something...Shirayuki closed her fist and raised it in the air.
Really, this honor student. Once you start talking about grades and credits, she's full of energy.
However, it's true that I didn't have enough people. Muto and Shiranui are still working, and also, the notice on the emergency missions board did say that "Girls are preferred."
"Then...Shirayuki, you can be support and communications. This may be called security, but we're basically acting as bodyguards for the entire casino. Also, you're not really suited to being a front."
Weirdly enough, each one asked to join in on this mission...but with this, four people are gathered. The prerequisites of this job have been fulfilled.
However, we have Aria who shoots before she thinks. Robot Reki, who is always thinking about God knows what. Armed Miko Shirayuki. Also, I, an E rank Butei. Is this our 4-man squadron?
This time...I have a bad feeling about the future again.
 Translator's Notes and References
- Namusan is a derivative of Namusanpou, the three treasures of Buddhism, except that this particular permutation of it is like saying "Oh my Buddha!" However, for the non-Buddhist audiences, I changed it to the Lord's prayer.
- Bug ability user.