The hour hand of the clock crossed the twelve-mark; with that, the date advanced.
I woke up on the first Friday of April, only to be met by the still-dark sky in the wee hours of the morning. Outside, it was still wispy-dark; inside, the room was dimly lit, as the cheap curtains were unable to completely block the street and city lights outside.
To my right, about three centimeters in the air above my bed, was Misao, breathing in the slow steady rhythm of sleep. One of the few actual ghost-like powers that Misao had was her ability to freely turn invisible, which left me with few chances to see her dozing face. Occasionally though, like at this very moment, Misao let down her guard enough to reveal her defenseless sleeping form.
When Misao slept, she typically only wore a simple, white, and slightly-translucent shirt which could be considered to be little more than a piece of cloth. Whatever it was that she wore, it seemed to be her default attire or something.
Whenever Misao took a breath, the soft and artistically-drawn curves of her chest rose and fell, exposing her neck and her back at different angles. Like a baby, she slept curled up, revealing the milky-white creamy softness of her thighs. All in all, the view was intoxicatedly tantalizing.
Sufficed to say, I couldn't sleep, and the view didn't help.
In the darkness, I turned my attention to stare dully at the analog clock and its hands, which showed that it was half-past three. It was the dead of night; but for some irritatingly mysterious reason, I couldn't fall back asleep.
Out of nowhere, a screeching sound echoed down from above, startling me.
This place was old, I told myself. The creaking wood could have been caused by the humidity or by the temperature changing just the right way. I could rationalize my surroundings, but the fact that I was just not used to it still made it all a little scary. It didn't help that the sounds that echoed down sounded almost like footsteps either.
"Nn..." Misao breathed, causing me to look directly at her. She had turned just enough so that the view of her collar bone and cleavage pierced directly into my eyes. That nearly-translucent cloth served to only highlight the curvy outline of her body even more.
Is she wearing anything underneath that? I thought to myself.
I sighed. There was no way I could sleep like this. Plus, now I needed to go to use the bathroom too.
I rolled off of the futon, which was finally delivered last night, and headed out of the room and down the hallway. The room I had claimed as my own faced southeast on the second floor, but it felt more like an attic than anything else. In addition to that, if I were to talk about the problems with this room, the biggest one was that the restroom was too far away. I rubbed my eyes as I descended the treacherous decline. On my way down, I slipped and barely kept myself from falling down the stairs.
When I reached the bottom, thankfully safe and sound, I stopped and shivered. It was April, but the nights were still cold. The wintry and hoary rays of the moonlight pierced into the living room through the open door and chillingly lit the hallway.
Suddenly, an unfamiliar dark shadow sliced silently through the pale silver rays of moonlight that filtered into the living room.
"Eh?" I gasped in surprise.
But before another word could escape my mouth, I was shoved forcefully against the wall.
My voice wouldn't come; my body couldn't move. Is this kanashibari[1C 1] I thought to myself numbly in my state of drowsiness.
While in my drowsy state, I ruled out being possessed by a spirit or something similar, since I couldn't detect the presence of any at all. Although, even if I had never experienced it before, I didn't think the force of a kanashibari would be this violently strong...
Whatever it was, I couldn't breathe, and the back of my head hurt from being slammed into the wall. Even if I had my doubts, I nevertheless concluded that there wasn't any explanation other than kanashibari either.
Then again, it helped that the proof that this was kanashibari was right before my eyes: in front of me, the spirit of a young girl stood there.
It was also notable that a part of me felt that there was a little something about her aura that reminded me of Misao...
But I knew immediately that she wasn't Misao. She was someone else. Misao would have never glared at me with such terrifying eyes. Hovering brightly against the darkness, the color of each individual eye differed: jet-black and emerald-green. Had it not been due to the contrasting darkness, I would've never even noticed the difference, and wouldn't have thought it was anything out of the ordinary.
But this person definitely wasn't human; at least I had managed to grasp that idea.
Leaving the situation as it was, I couldn't help but realize that I had been meeting nothing but vengeful, yet damned pretty, ghosts. Misao was, if I had to say, a western-style teenage beauty, whereas this one in front of me was more of the traditional kind. Her nose-bridge was prim and proper[1C 2], her eyelashes were long, and she was wearing a traditional kimono. White robes and a crimson shirt; it was something one would see a miko[1C 3] wear at a shrine during hatsumoude[1C 4], so it was most definitely a miko dress. But for some reason, I was getting a sinking feeling about all of this.
Why was a ghost-miko popping up in a western-style house?
As that thought bounced in my head, my temporarily-forgotten terror suddenly began to ripple through and out of my spine.
This Meioutei was definitely an old western-style house. For all I knew, having ghosts popping out all over was commonplace. I was starting to believe I might have seen this place introduced in a magazine sometime ago. There could be a dead body buried beneath the Sakura tree. There could be a hidden underground basement where there could be monsters being raised. But no matter how one thought about it, a miko dress was still out of place here.
"Where is... the Asura Machina?"
I didn't understand what she was saying. Asuramakina? It was the first time I had ever heard those words. Was it some famous cuisine from some random country? Something like Kima curry[1C 5] or Sata andagi[1C 6]?
More startling than her question, however, was the explosive strength her arms, which I had just begun to notice.
The miko's thin fingers gripped my throat in an unbelievably tight stranglehold. Without an extraordinary effort of strength and will, I wasn't able to move my body at all. This was probably what I had mistaken for kanashibari.
Those arms... That strength...
Prickling sirens flashed painfully across the surface of my oxygen-deprived cerebral cortex.
Wait a minute. She was touching me with that arm. She was no ghost!
"Uwaaah!" the pathetic scream escaped out of my lips. In an instant, my drowsy, sleepy consciousness snapped wide awake. My assumption had been wrong. I had gotten used to the idea of meeting spirits and ghosts, but that didn't mean I couldn't meet other monsters.
For the first time, I met a vengeful spirit that was not Misao and I still couldn't believe the reality of this situation. I couldn't comprehend at all why this was happening to me. I was completely panic-stricken.
"Please hand over the extractor. Its existence is dangerous. Because it's dangerous, you mustn't hold onto it."
I completely failed to comprehend what she was saying.
Countless questions kept on rolling around in my head. What was this girl? How did she get in here? Why was she dressed like that? What was her motive...?
My vision was fading to black rapidly as my consciousness slipped toward darkness. Not enough oxygen... My remaining fragments of strength were slipping right out through my legs. "Aaah..."
After a long while, the miko finally realized that I was near collapse and loosened the grip of her left hand from around my neck and let me breathe again.
Slowly, the oppressive weakness that permeated my body gradually faded away. Instinctively, I thought to run away – to escape – from her, but my exhausted legs felt like lead and I couldn't take even a single step.
A shaky, swooning sensation began flooding through me, but fortunately the miko caught me as I swayed forward and fell face-first.
Her boobs were soft.
Although it was not noticeable from the clothes she was wearing, this girl had surprisingly large breasts, especially given her slender figure. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford the luxury of enjoying the sensation at the moment. The fact was, I had nearly suffocated to death and was barely conscious anyway. At the same time, it didn't seem like the girl realized just what state and position I had fallen into either.
"Where is the Asura Machina?" she repeated, as if oblivious to my state.
Her question barely registered and all I could focus on was the girl's body. Even though her body temperature was cooler than mine, she felt snug and warm. Needless to say, her hair also smelled pleasant. But, due to oxygen-deprivation, my head felt numb and thick. Maybe all of this was just a dream. In the middle of the night, some beautiful girl dressed like a Shinto miko suddenly shows up, and I ended up with my face in her boobs; even suffocation somehow seemed like a too-good-to-be-true situation. This was the sort of dream boys would have during puberty. If I just continued to live this dream, it certainly would have felt great. On the other hand, it might also prove to be exceptionally dangerous...
If I somehow managed to see the morning, I'd have to figure out how to wake up without disturbing Misao, since I'd have to sneak out and secretly wash my underpants.
"Tomo!" I heard Misao call out my name.
In an instant, I snapped back to life out of my stupor, similar to how one would after being smacked by the P.E. teacher for sneaking a nap during morning salutations[1C 7]. The pseudo-miko, hearing Misao's voice, loosened her grip completely and jumped back.
She wasn't going to chase me.
Misao flew straight down from the corridor ceiling and drifted further downward into sight of the pseudo-miko. The pseudo-miko froze in an expression of disbelief.
Her black and green eyes went wide in shock and surprise.
"Aaa! Body projection...?!"
"Eeh? What? Who?" It was now Misao's turn to be taken by surprise.
Until today, there was no one who had been surprised by seeing Misao. Of course, this was probably because there was no one else besides me who was able to see her. But in just the span of a few hours there were now two more that could: the black-clad woman from earlier this evening, and this girl.
Misao turned towards me with a troubled expression. But even if she looked at me with that expression, it didn't change the troubling facts of the situation.
The pseudo-miko's eyes flashed in my direction as well. Why did she look like she was about to burst into tears? It was the first time I had ever seen such a pretty girl make such a face. Regardless of what sort of monster this girl might be, I still felt a twinge of surprise run through me.
A seemingly infinitely long time passed between the three of us where none of us moved, collectively frozen in surprise.
The pseudo-mike girl recovered first, however. All of a sudden, with a “poof” sound, the pseudo-miko girl tapped the air and her body flipped backwards.
Pushing off hard against living room floor, she leapt toward the closed window. At the instant I thought she would crash through the glass, a brilliant flash of white sparked from her left hand.
She had extended her fingers and drew a glyph in mid-air, which began to give off a scarlet glow in the darkness.
In the next instant...
A flash of searing light, followed by the blast of an explosion, rippled through. Instinctively, I ducked and covered my head, overtaken by surprise.
As if in the midst of an earthquake, the foundations of the crumbling Meioutei rocked and shook. A gust of warm air blew past and fluttered the unkempt bangs of my hair. The cracked walls, loosened and damaged, shed their stucco coverings like drops of mud onto the hallway floor.
"What was that... just now?" Misao asked, her eyes wide, when the shaking finally subsided.
I shook my head and said nothing.
Through the completely-obliterated living room window, I could see the faintly visible rays of the brightening dawn sky, along with the dancing petals of the Sakura tree. The fake-miko was nowhere in sight.
My legs gave out from underneath me and I crumpled down onto the living room floor, coughing. My throat, at the spot where the girl had strangled me, was dull red. A lingering, beating heat burned my skin from where her thin fingers had touched.
It wasn't a dream.
Even now, the sweet scent of her hair and the sound of her voice were still lingering in my nose and ears.
Asura Machina. Body projection. Those words echoed in my head.
"Hey, Tomo, why were you hugging that girl just now?" Misao's voice was a quiet whisper in my head.
I guess that it really looked like we were hugging, even if there was a little bit of strangling involved too. Not that I could have said that to Misao, even if I wanted to. It's not like she would listen to me, anyway. It would just end up making Misao even angrier. And Misao would be certain to be "interested" in the "faint sensation of her breasts." Ah, Misao, why should there be a problem? You're a ghost after all...
Just how am I going to cover up for this one? I wondered to myself.
In a light and playful voice, Misao asked, "...did it feel good?" Contrary to her tone, however, I felt Misao's eyes, narrowed and humorless, bore into my back with a sulky peevish fury.
I sighed, but remained quiet.
The bike my brother had left behind for nearly two years was rusted to the point I suspected it might have been dumped into hydrochloric acid. Consequently, I left the house thirty minutes earlier than planned and even then still arrived at school late. My first taste of high school was being late on the first day of the new semester. What a way start my high school life.
The school I was to attend was named Rakurowa High School, even though it was meant to be called "La Cloa High School". "La cloa" apparently meant "one who aims for the cross" in French. But even though the name was in French, I didn't think there was any need to force the name into Kanji.[1C 8]
Anyway, Rakurowa was a mission school. It wasn't a particularly large school. Even though it was supposed to be a college-prep school, no one seemed particularly impassioned about the test-preparation guidance it provided. And despite being called a mission school, we didn't have any religion classes. Then again, the place was just a normal high school. Although, if pressed, I'd say that the church had a hand in sponsoring the school. So, even though it was a private school, the tuition was cheap. Of course, as a result, there was the occasional cross sewn on various parts of the uniform. Well, if I was ever attacked by vampires after school, at least all those crosses would probably be put to good use, right?
My grades were just barely good enough to acceptable, so preparing for the entrance exam of this school was an arduous task. If my middle school homeroom teacher ever saw my posted test results, she would have probably said, “Great job,” as tears of surprise and relief would have flooded her eyes. In truth, I was probably that dangerously close to not making it into here.
But I have to say, before I even put in all that effort, I was thinking of turning Rakurowa down simply because this place was where my brother went to.
I had accepted, without a doubt in my mind, the fact that it was impossible for me to get into the same university as my brother. Knowing that, I was more than ready to just give up; but, seeing as how Inaka was a small town, the neighbors would have probably never shut up if I dropped out after high school.
I would have seriously become known as the retarded little brother and be treated like an idiot everywhere I went in Inaka if I did. Then one day, when I would be heading off to work, a stranger would probably approach me and say something along the lines of, "Don't lose your spirit and work hard!", while sustaining myself on those chocolates on display in pinball machines. A day like that would depress the hell out of even me.
"Umm...looks like someone has a self-persecution complex... Anyway, isn't this school great? The uniforms are cute and all." Misao said as we slipped through the stern-looking steel school gate.
This morning, Misao was wearing a brand new Rakurowa's school uniform. If someone had seen the two us walking to school together, he'd probably assume we were a lovey-dovey high school couple. But of course, one of us was grouped under the “ghost” category, and so no one saw anything of the sort.
The ghost and I headed off to the school's opening ceremony. As expected, it was making me a little depressed. I knew that, in no time at all, I would be known as the kid who was possessed by ghosts. Upperclassmen would hear the rumors and underclassmen would found out because of their curiosity and I would be stuck with that label. I was used to it, but I guess – how should I say this – it sucked. And Misao didn't seem to mind if I told her that. I wish she would mind though, even if it was only a little.
Shaking those thoughts out of my head, I took a closer look at Misao's attire. Rakurowa High's girl's uniform design looked like a cross between the images of a colonial-era scholar and a vocalist in a church choir. Somehow, the retro and Goth look seemed to suit Misao just perfectly. Although, I must say I didn't think any colonial-era scholar ever had a skirt that short.
"Misao, what's with that uniform?" Like, where did you get it from? What were you planning to do with it? You're always finding the most popular cute clothes to wear; you might as well change your hair style to match. I wasn't curious enough to ask out loud, but it certainly was a little suspicious if I thought about it.
Misao, with a little proud smile, said, "It's a secret."
Well, whatever. You're a ghost, so it's fine. Despite my total indifference to these kinds of thoughts as recently as yesterday, I found myself strangely interested in all the minute details today.
Not only that. I suddenly recalled the events involving that strangely dressed girl who looked (sort of) like Misao.
The pseudo-miko had referred to Misao as a "projection body". Misao said she didn't know what she meant, but...
"Mornin' Tomo!" The tensely energetic voice of a girl invaded my ears and interrupted my thoughts. It was Ann. She had spotted me, and now purposefully ran out from the school building towards me.
"You're late, Tomo! You didn't see the class listings, right? You're in Class 7, with me." Ann said really suddenly. As we discussed our classes, it turned out that all of her elective classes were exactly the same as mine; some strings must have been pulled in the background there.
"You seem really down..." Ann gave me a disappointed look over my lack of reaction.
"I didn't get enough sleep, that's all. But at least you're energetic today."
"That's nothing out of the ordinary. But not getting enough sleep... Did something really come out, in that house of yours?" Ann asked with an extremely happy expression on her face, despite it being none of her business. But then, could it be that she was imagining - hoping - that I had been killed by that pseudo-miko girl?
After the incident, I basically didn't do anything about it. It was too ridiculously nonsensical that I hadn't even bothered telling the police about it. The only thing that suffered any real damage was one pane of window glass. Plus nothing had been stolen anyway.
"Anyway, I've got to go! My friends are waiting for me. I'll see you later in class!" Ann carried on her one-sided conversation and then once again ran back into the school.
"Isn't she cute, that Ann-chan," Misao remarked, smiling.
She certainly was cute, in the same way a small animal just works its way into one's heart was cute.
Since I still had a little time, I took a look at my surroundings. If there was one thing truly peculiar about Rakurowa, it was the randomly vast amount of area dedicated to greenery and gardens. I found it difficult to understand any reason to need all that. There were already more than enough incessant distractions from the new incoming students and their relatives. If there truthfully was a class list posted somewhere in the building and someone wanted to check it, just how would they ever make it to the entrance way with all the distractions around? With nothing else to do, I went inside and discreetly slipped out of my shoes.[1C 9] As I put on my school slippers, someone suddenly snuck up behind me and put me in a chokehold.
"Tomo!" exclaimed the person. It was Higuchi.
Higuchi, who might actually be considered handsome if he'd just keep his mouth shut, laughed with a sneer, "Rejoice! We're in the same class again."
And of course this guy also chose the same elective classes as me. Well, if we picked an elective where the two of us could just screw around, all hell would break loose.
"Saeki and Takatsuki are there too. Oh, and that Ann as well."
"Eh? Who?" I asked, since I was at a loss. Well, I already knew about being in the same class as Ann though.
I already knew her. She was the girl Higuchi was completely unsuited for, but for whose affection he still continually pursued for the past three years.
"Not her. The other one."
"Oh, Takatsuki? She's the girl from Kitachuu,[1C 12] you know. Takatsuki Kanade. She's pretty hot, too."
"How do you know someone from Kitachuu?" I asked as Higuchi curled up his lips in a cocky smirk.
"I've got my information connections."
"Oh, the photography club..."
I got it.
Outside of the occult, Higuchi had one other hobby: photography. He often boasted about becoming a professional photographer in the future. He actually had some talent and skill at photography, and would occasionally even enter various contests in photography magazines.
Uncharacteristically, however, the main subject of Higuchi's shots was usual city scenery; he did not take pictures of girls. Higuchi had apparently said no to such sort of thing. However, there were plenty of comrades in Higuchi's photography club whose very specialty was hiding in the bushes and sneaking shots of girls. Since they often borrowed and lent various camera parts to each other and Higuchi was, after all, mixing with people of that sort, he naturally got his hands on some questionable pictures also.
"Anyway, look at this. Taken for informational purposes, of course," Higuchi said as he produced a photograph from the inside of his uniform's pocket.
It was a photo of a high school girl going home after school. The background was probably a bus stop and the season was autumn. The girl in the photo was wearing Rakurowa High's uniform.
"Tomo! It's that person!" Misao cried in a high pitched voice as she glanced at the picture.
The girl in the photo had the height of a model. She had shoulder-length, suavely-cut, silky black hair, which framed her sharp and orderly facial features. It was a face I recognized instantly: it was the pure-black-clad lady with the trunk from last night. She wasn't wearing her glasses in the photo, but there was no mistaking it.
"Someone as hot as her! Man! I just knew there were going to be people that knew about her if I asked around. Looking her up and investigating was justified, am I right?" Higuchi puffed his chest proudly.
And it was something to be proud of. This was certainly an amazing piece of information. I had thought that I would never have another chance of meeting her again.
"So she was someone from our school... I wonder if she's still around...?" "Ah. She entered only last year, so she's just one grade above us. She should be a second-year right now."
"... A high school student, huh...?" Misao commented in surprise.
When we met her yesterday, she seemed far more mature. After seeing her wearing the school uniform in the photo, the fact that she now seemed like a normal high school student was ultimately mystifying.
"Her name is Kurosaki Shuri. She lives somewhere in Ayashima's direction. Other than that, however, I don't know much about her. Sorry man."
"No need to be sorry. Just getting this much information is already amazing, Higuchi," I honestly thanked him.
This was a huge piece of the puzzle. It would be far more beneficial to meet her directly and get information than waiting indefinitely for my brother to contact me. There were so many unknowns right now: the contents of that silver-colored trunk, her relationship with my brother, and finally Misao. I had a ton of questions I would want to ask her if she could really see Misao.
"When the entrance ceremony is over, let's go take a look at the second-years' classrooms. You could probably strike up a conversation with her without seeming unnatural. Besides, it's not like we're going to get many chances to get close to people that beautiful," Higuchi said with an overly serious face.
"Eh? You're coming too, Higuchi?"
"Of course! Why the hell do you think I would go so far out of my way to get this photo?"
Oh, I see. So in the end, that's what you're after, huh? I thought, but decided to simply let it go. It doesn't change the fact that Higuchi was actually of use for once.
Higuchi, who still sported that serious expression, suddenly whispered, "Later, Tomo. And watch out, man."
"Eh?" I had no idea what he was talking about.
"'Watch out?' For what?"
"I don't know." Higuchi shook his head. Snatching the photo from my hands, he continued, "I was just warned the same way by the guy who gave me that photo. Watch out. Don't delve too deep into this."
What the hell was that?
Misao and I exchanged glances, but the two of us nodded silently in agreement with Higuchi.
The Kurosaki Shuri in the photo did not say anything and simply continued to stare at us with a graceful smile on her face.
I slept through nearly all of the glorious high school entrance ceremony. I realized there had been a tough-looking female teacher glaring fiercely at me from on stage, but what could I do? I was sleepy. I didn't have the balls or the daring nerve to just drop back into sleep immediately after surviving a monster attack, so I hadn't gotten a wink of sleep after the incident before dawn.
Either it was just as I suspected, and that Misao also didn't get enough sleep as well, or perhaps the principals boring speech just happened to be at the same time, but Misao simply vanished midway to go nap. She's a friggin' ghost and yet she still somehow manages to not get enough sleep - that's certainly at least a little weird... But I was still a little jealous of her.
When the principal and then the superintendent and then the members of the PTA and then the land owners and then finally some random old guy finally finished their formal greetings, my head was completely drowning in the hazy dredge of sleepiness. Somewhere in the middle, I think some person that called himself the student council president came on stage with three people, but I think I might have been dreaming by that point.
And, as expected of a mission school, midway through the opening ceremony, a hymn started to flow through the room. It reminded me strongly of when I attended some relatives wedding while I was still in elementary school. The upperclassmen in the choir singing the hymn were a group of fairly pretty girls. Kurosaki Shuri, however, was not amongst them.
Finally, the opening ceremony ended and all the students began to move toward their respective classrooms.
Meanwhile, Higuchi said, "Let's go the restroom!" and dragged me along.
Raku High was an all-girls' school until about fifteen years ago and so the current ratio of girls to boys was about six to four - more girls than boys. But since it was an all-girls' school until recently, there were extremely few men's restrooms. As a result, there were not enough for all the boys of this school, especially since the school had approximately the normal number of students for a school of its size.
And so, as if it was the premier day of some new video-game system, there was a huge line in front of one of the rare men's restrooms. I separated myself from the line at unhurriedly waited for Higuchi to return at the agreed upon location.
Misao had yet to return at this point.
I was so tired too...
As a result of napping earlier, my neck hurt as a result of dozing in an unnatural position and my joints were crunching and squeaking with agitation. I sucked in a huge breath, yawning.
"!?" I spat out the breath I had just taken. I couldn't even blink. Walking right before me was the very thing that had startled me so much.
It was a girl. It was a girl wearing Rakurowa's uniform.
From her uniform, I could tell she was a freshman, and she was walking, separated from the other students by a slight distance.
In her immediate vicinity, the entire aura of the place was different. She wasn't flamboyant and so she didn't stand out, but if one looked closely, she was easily very pretty. But that wasn't important right now.
What was important was that I knew her.
I couldn't forget her. She was the miko-cosplay girl that had tried to strangle me to death at Meioutei. That pseudo-miko.
I couldn't confirm the colors of her eyes from this distance, but there was no mistaking that petite face and long hair.
Moreover, there were the buxom curves of her breasts pressing up against her uniform. How could anyone mistake a killer like that for anything else?
"You!" My body reacted far faster than my mind could think. I snatched at and grabbed her arm as she walked past me.
"Uwa!" she yelped. She seemed like she was ready to raise her voice in a shriek.
Her wrists were thin.
But she didn't scream.
"Hya..." A small gasp, sounding almost kitten-like, escaped her lips as she swallowed her breath.
That's not to say she wasn't completely startled. As proof, her eyes widened enough that her eyeballs could have popped out.[1C 14] In any case, the fact that I was here in this school must have been something far outside the realm of her expectations. I had her.
However, I hardened and froze as soon as I had pulled her close up to my face.
I might have grabbed her arm, but I did not think about what I would do after.
And now that it was "after," my heart was thumping furiously in my eardrums. The memory of the freakish arm strength of the girl that tried to strangle me before dawn flooded back to my mind. If her martial arts instincts were active, then grabbing her arm out of the blue like this might turn out to be very bad for my health.
With a troubled expression on my face, I looked at her straight in the eyes. "...Uh...um...please let go," she requested in a cute tone. She probably remembers my voice, I thought.
But her character and attitude seemed different from the pseudo-miko before.
"We're blocking the corridor for everyone...please let me go." She repeated in a meek voice. She was almost panicking - that much I understood. But whether it was because of our unexpected second meeting, or whether it was simply because she was suddenly accosted by some unknown male who latched onto her arm, I had absolutely no idea.
She glanced up at me with a frighten stare as she timidly curled up her shoulders as if to shrink away from me. Her expression was one of an innocent and pure high school girl being hit on and objectified by a bastard with a bad pick-up line.
I realized immediately after that, no matter how anyone looks at this, I was definitely the bad guy here.
"You, Natsume! What the heck are you doing?" some girl passing by asked angrily.
I looked at the source of the voice. It was Saeki Reiko, who had come from the same middle school as I had. That wasn't the best person to run into right now... I thought to myself. I was really bad at dealing with this girl. She was just always angry.
"Let go! Can't you see she clearly doesn't like it?" Saeki barked, glaring at me.
Crap, I thought to myself. The constantly angry Saeki was a defender of herself and girls in general; often, the spear point of her rants and rage was jabbed towards the opposite sex. And it's no coincidence that all of Higuchi's pick-up attempts toward Saeki have ended in failure; in fact, there were plenty of rumors circulating that she was actually lesbian.
"You don't understand, there was an incident..."
"Um...I wanted to ask her..."
"And you're trying to pick her up with that? I thought you weren't like that, but in the end you're just the same sort as that Higuchi."
But you don't understand!
I decided I was getting nowhere dealing with Saeki; unknowingly, I curled my shoulders, shrinking myself, as I glanced helplessly at the other girl.
"Um...you weren't the person that came to my house this morning, right? I know that sounds really weird..."
She averted her eyes from my sudden glance and shook her head vigorously.
"See, you're wrong!" Saeki declared victoriously as her eyebrows rose, "And you're the one who is making up weird crap now."
You didn't have to go that far...
I was at a loss as to what I should do next and so I had no choice but to remain silent. Somewhere around me, a small laugh prickled into my ears.
"Um..." began the girl in a timid voice under the fiercely watchful eye of the mother-hen Saeki, "How... um... how come...err... you believe I was...uh... at your home...?"[1C 15]ED Note: I tried, although I agree :P</ref>
"Umm... that's because..." I was quickly losing my confidence. Without a doubt, this girl was the pseudo-miko from this morning, but I had no way to prove this by myself. Why the hell wasn't Misao around at a time like this? I was suddenly painfully aware of the fact that a large crowd of students had gathered in the corridor and were staring at us with eyes sparkling with interest. Shifting and shuffling voices carrying rumors filled the air.
Saeki glared at me with her hands on her hips and scorn in her eyes, "You happy now? Takatsuki-san, just ignore douche-bags like this guy and let's go." Saeki said as she spun the girl around and the two of them headed off toward their classrooms.
I had no way to stop them and so could do nothing but watch them leave.
As she passed me, the girl said pitifully, "Um...I really didn't mind..." Her voice was fearful and nervous as she entered her classroom. Curious, I looked up at the sign to see which class she was in.
First-year Class 7. Same as me.
No way... I thought to myself
Was that pseudo-miko devil from before dawn seriously my high school classmate? And what was with that completely different behavior? It was as if she had some sort of alternate personality...?
I had absolutely no idea just what the hell was going on.
"Yo, Tomo!" greeted Higuchi, who had finally came out of the restroom, while I was loitering with a dark expression. "What did you just talk to Takatsuki about?"
His expression clearly demanded a clear answer and gave me no room to escape.
I returned a look of suspicion at Higuchi, "...Takatsuki?"
"Yeah. You were just talking to her. From Kitachuu. Takatsuki Kanade. I actually thought you were being incredibly daring, but it wasn't because you knew what you were doing?"
"Takatsuki Kanade..." I shook my head. The more I thought about it, the more I thought I had heard that name somewhere before. "By any chance, is her house a Shinto shrine?" [1C 16]
"Shinto shrine?" Higuchi returned a deeply mystified face. "No...I haven't heard of anything like that about her. What made you think that? Were you told to go get an exorcism?"
Yeah, regrettably. I didn't know if she'd perform an exorcism for me or not, but, in any case, at least she seemed to be able to see ghosts.
However, if she wasn't the daughter of some family from a Shinto-shrine, then why was she dressed as a miko?
So was she even a real miko?
Moreover, why was she pretending to have never met me? Or was it that, in the end, I was just confusing her for someone else.
Brooding over these doubts and questions, I walked into the classroom.
Seat assignments were apparently organized through a gender-unbiased numbering system; I, whose last name was Natsume, was appointed to a seat dead center in the classroom.
And before the "Na" in Natsume was "Ta". "Ta" as in Takatsuki Kanade.[1C 17]
You've got to be kidding me...
Saeki, who sat a few seats away, threw me an unpleased glare.
While everyone else in class moved about and chatted, Takatsuki Kanade sat quietly in her seat and waited for the homeroom teacher. Uncomfortably, I desperately slid down in my seat in an attempt to hide behind the short girl who sat in front of me.
Takatsuki Kanade didn't turn around.
"Hun...so something like that happened."
Misao came back midway through homeroom during the self-introduction phase. I related everything that happened to her and Misao then went to check out Takatsuki's face before returning. Personally, I was convinced she was, without a doubt, the pseudo-miko from before dawn, but when I pressed Misao, she responded with:
"Yeah, I dunno. She certainly looks like her, but if they're the same person or not...well, she doesn't seem to be able to see me."
Or maybe she was pretending to not see even though she could.
Misao only saw the pseudo-miko for a split second, though, and it couldn't be helped if she didn't clearly remember her face.
"Should I go surprise her?"
Surprise her...that probably involved Misao suddenly popping out right in front of Takatsuki.
"Don't. Let's not cause chaos in the classroom," I said, shaking my head lightly.
I'd rather not cause her undue trouble and then seize the chance and expose her. She was my classmate, after all. Most importantly, there was the likely possibility that she could beat me to a pulp for it later. And I didn't want to get caught up in more trouble in the first few hours of the new semester than I had already gotten myself into. And if it weren't for that, there was still the fact that Saeki was still glaring at me furiously.
"Un...I guess so." Misao mused.
It was nearly my turn to introduce myself.
As Takatsuki stood up, I saw, before my eyes, the petite and beautifully shaped form of her butt (TL Note: -_- ED Note: -____-). She wasn't even that tall, yet the position of her hips was unbelievably perfect.[1C 18] I was a little jealous.
"I'm from Kitachuu, my name is Takatsuki."
With that one sentence, she had captured everyone's attention. Of course, the boys in the class looked at her with fiery passion. If nothing else, Takatsuki was a beauty; thus I was sure there were plenty of people targeting her with lustful gazes.
Seeing her like this, I couldn't help thinking she was but an ordinary high school girl.
There was just something about her soft and feminine appearance and her timid, almost helpless, demeanor coupled with that heart-melting aura that seem to attract people; it was easy to see why folks like Saeki would be so interested in someone like her.
But, in terms of her entirety, there was seriously something a little more sinister about her. If this was all an act, it certainly was quite impressive.
However, this certainly did make asking Takatsuki about the incident before dawn difficult. Granted our seats were close together, but to actually talk to her, I'd first have to get her to turn around. But if I say or do something stupid, then that Saeki will fly over here and forcibly repeat exactly what had already happened earlier.
My head began to hurt from over-thinking about this.
Giving up, I looked up from my desk and came close to nearly screaming.
Misao had suddenly appeared right before Takatsuki as she continued her self-introduction.
Even though I told her not to...
Misao, within inches of Takatsuki, stared at her while waving her hands, laughing wildly, and then even clapping her hands together, pretending to be a cat.
Takatsuki stood there without a word. Perhaps her silence came as a result of surprise by Misao, or perhaps she was simply considering what to say next about herself. Either way, I had no way of knowing. The sight of two beautiful girls standing extremely close to each other, their faces - their lips - almost touching, made me sit at the edge of my seat with my palms sweaty and my heart racing. And then...
"I don't have any particular hobbies. I just don't like kagaku." Takatsuki said abruptly before returning to her seat.
Kagaku... as in science? No, wait. Kagaku, as in chemistry - like when oxygen and hydrogen react to form water.[1C 19] It was a pretty random statement, but I suppose announcing that one was bad at a certain subject doesn't break any rule about self-introductions.
Takatsuki had returned to her seat and Misao, alone, remained.
Misao shrugged, but was otherwise silent. In the end, she couldn't get any reaction from Takatsuki; maybe Takatsuki really couldn't see her after all.
"Next, please, Natsume-kun," called out Hashiratani, the effeminate male homeroom teacher. [1C 20]
"Aaa..." I hurriedly stood up.
Distracted by Misao's antics, I had completely forgotten I was next, right after Takatsuki. I had given no thought to what I was going to say about myself.
And in the end, my panicky and mumbling appearance utterly invited in the mocking laughter of the rest of the class; and in the process of giving what was possibly the barest of acceptable self-introductions, I still managed to stumble over my words three times.
"What's wrong? Were you just too fascinated by Takatsuki-san's backside?" The homeroom teacher, stifling a smile, teased.
You might just be joking, mister, but I'm not laughing.
The reaction of the class, however, was more varied: some laughed light-heartedly, some broiled in jealousy, and some watched me silently, as if biding their time before coming to beat me down with their buddies.
Misao made an apologetic gesture with her hands, as if saying "sorry".
And even after all that, Takatsuki still didn't turn around.
When homeroom was over, we were told we could go home. In this world, there were schools where students turned into to busy-bodies immediately after the opening ceremony; Raku High was one of these.
Since the second-years were having class as usual, we simply waited around during lunch break for the opportunity to go investigate the second-year classrooms. And most importantly, we waited to meet Kurosaki Shuri.
"Tomo, aren't you a little tired?" Higuchi asked as we went up the stairs.
"Yeah, a little," I responded. And the reason for my complete lack of energy: Takatsuki.
During that entire pointless interim known as homeroom, Takatsuki didn't turn around once; she simply sat straightly and attentively. Thus, after all my desperate attempts to get her to notice me failed, I was left with nothing but a sense of exhaustion.
Of course, I couldn't just call out for her; she was, after all, scared of me. Maybe it had something to do with the incident before dawn, or perhaps it was caused simply by what had happened in the corridors earlier, I had no idea.
However, assuming that Takatsuki and the pseudo-miko were the same person, then I would probably be the one that gets killed; so there should be no reason for her to be frightened.
Conversely, I was afraid that, in reality, there was an inner demon within Takatsuki that simply hadn't surfaced to rampage about yet. Something about her suggested that her inner self was split between Takatsuki Kanade and an untamed beast that would randomly be unleashed and storm. And for now, it was as if this beast was merely watching, biding its time.
All of this thinking made me exhausted.
And that Takatsuki wasn't even here right now.
She had dashed out of the classroom for home the moment we were dismissed, almost as if she dreaded lingering and possibly talking to me. Immediately before she raced out, she turned for a fleeting moment and our eyes met, but that might have just been my imagination.
Higuchi gave my back a few light shoves with his palm: I had just stopped in the middle of the stairs. Why the hell was this guy so happy?
"Don't worry about being hated by Takatsuki. I know how you feel, but she's just not your type. There has to be balance in the universe."
I really didn't want to hear that from Higuchi, of all people. Besides, it's not like she actually confirmed that she really hated me.
"I'm...not too good at dealing with that girl." Misao said in agreement with a jut of her chin.
How come? I asked with my eyes.
"Well, isn't she full of misunderstandings? I guess you could say she's too self-conscious, getting flustered over what other people think. Just who does she think she is? She might be a bit cute and her chest might be just a little bigger than mine, but..."
It was pretty unusual for Misao to say things like this in front of me. Certainly, her personality has been a bit tough since, well, forever, but, unless it was something really conspicuous, she normally wouldn't bad-mouth other girls. I wonder why she was doing it now. I guess maybe she was a little jealous because her boobs were rather petite in comparison.
"It's not like that!!" Misao cried and, as if in a show of protest, vanished away.[1C 21]
Well, that's fine too. In any case, seeing as how Kurosaki Shuri could probably also see Misao, having Misao there would just cause undue trouble.
Then it hit me.
What if it wasn't me who Takatsuki was scared of, but Misao...?
If Takatsuki could really see spirits, then it's not strange at all that she would want to avoid me, who was being possessed by Misao.
As for her actions, she might be able to see ghosts, but it's probably hard for her to say anything without being construed as insane or judged. So in the end, it was not that she wouldn't explain herself to me. Rather, it was because she couldn't.
I was starting to get it a little. Unsurprisingly, the two beautiful girls fighting in class was starting to make me hate school already. Or so I say, but I still didn't know what Takatsuki's relation with the pseudo-miko from before dawn was. But in any case, it'll be necessary for me to eventually speak to Takatsuki again.
It was just irritating that I couldn't come up with a way to do it.
"Hey, isn't that Natsume?" Someone called as we walked through the busy lunch-time corridor on the second years' floor. A rotund male student, whom god had apparently granted plenty of excess in waist, walked toward us.
I was slightly relieved - it was someone whose face I recognized. I don't know about Higuchi, but I was something of an introvert and a freshman on top of that; I was naturally nervous walking down the halls of upperclassmen I didn't know.
"Who's that?" Higuchi asked in a quiet voice.
I replied that he was my senior from the Track Club at my middle school
"Track?!" Higuchi asked with doubt and suspicion plastered on his face.
It was, of course, understandable that one would exclaim disbelief upon looking at such a rotund body form and imagining it doing track. But this person was a hammer thrower.[1C 23]
The fat senpai nodded in confirmation. "What's up, Natsume? You have business in the second-years' classrooms? Oh right, the Track Club is having a meeting right after. You wanna come with me and check it out? You haven't set your eyes on another club already, have you?"
"Aah...that's fine, I guess, but senpai, before that, I have something I want to ask you."
"Second-year Kurosaki Shuri, you wouldn't happen to know what class she's in, would you?"
The expression on senpai's face instantly bled away at those words - it was something I probably wouldn't forget for life.
The jolly look on his face had instantly frozen over and his faced turned to a shade of red for a split second before shifting blue. His lips, normally a healthy reddish pink, were now ashen and shook as he spoke. He was, without a doubt, scared to hell.
"Se-senpai?" I stared at his face in surprise.
Senpai stepped back two or three steps in fear, "Natsume, you... you know Kurosaki?" He asked in a quaking voice. He was increasingly beginning to look like a sumo wrestler.
"Well, pretty much," I confirmed, although technically, she's my brother's acquaintance.
But that caused senpai to half-gasp and half-scream in surprise before spinning on his heels and dashing off.
"I don't know!"
"I don't know anything. Laters! Sorry, but I'm rushing on ahead."
"Eh...um...what about the Track Club's meeting?"
Senpai stopped for but a second and spun around, looking at me pitifully. His eyes seemed to say "you're really a great guy, but..."
But other than that, he didn't actually speak a word and instead simply returned to his classroom.
"What the hell was that?" Higuchi asked tiredly as he crossed his fingers behind his head.
I shook my head but said nothing.
Soon after, we discovered where Kurosaki Shuri was.
Some girl whom Higuchi had approached sincerely informed us, "Kurosaki-san? She's in Second-year Class 4, but she's probably in the chemistry preparation room right now."
Why was she in the chemistry preparation room during lunch? She was apparently a member of the Science Club at school. Not the Chemistry Club, but the Science Club.[1C 24] Just judging by appearances, the club probably has had a lengthy history, but that still didn't explain just why the hammer-throwing senpai was scared shitless of her. But fortunately, not everyone was so terrified by Kurosaki Shuri and I suppose that was a bit of a relief for me. I already had my fill of weirdos with Takatsuki Kanade. And so we headed off to the chemistry preparation room.
Compared to the architecture of our old middle school, Raku High's buildings were all generally smaller, but more numerous. The chemistry preparation room was buried deep within the physical sciences' halls and, in any case, the whole place gave off a very strong research institution vibe. It was, however, a near-ancient building, and though it seemed usable for research, it had none of the high-tech aura typically attributed to research. If anything, instead, there was a somewhat suspicious vibe hanging in the atmosphere of the place.
The science hallway was long and narrow and adjacent to the chemistry classrooms. After traversing down the hallway for several minutes, we finally arrived at the classroom that led to the chemistry preparation room.
Inside the classroom, various medicinal products and teaching material were perched on wooden shelves against the walls, and a large lecture table sat squarely in the middle of the room. If it was just that, it would've just seemed like any other regular classroom; but it was a most strange and confounding objet d'art[1C 25] situated in the room which had caught our eye.
"Wow.. .crazy..." Higuchi, the occult manic, breathed with an impressed smile on his face.
It wasn't unreasonable for Higuchi to seem so pleased. No matter how one looked at the objet d'art, there was just no mistaking it for anything other than an altar some heretic band of fanatics would use to worship Satan. Black velvet cloth was spread over what appeared to be a tiered rack, and dozens of exotic instruments whose purpose I couldn't discern were stacked on top.
Misao, who had apparently returned, asked me over my shoulder.
I shook my head but didn't say anything.
The thing looked like it could've been anything from an elementary school student's invention to some mock-up ancient artifact souvenir one would find at the department store. It could have also been some prehistoric cogwheel or some unbalanced and poor-taste piece of artwork. I figured it was probably some sort of machine, but I had absolutely no idea what it was suppose to do. It certainly did just look like a mountain of crap, but what if it was some laboratory equipment for the Science Club?
We had eventually stopped before the preparation room and the double doors that lead inside had opened unexpected. A man wearing a tattered lab coat appeared before us, holding a cup of ramen in his hands.
He was probably somewhere in his twenties. He was a rather tall man with his eyes hidden behind his long bangs. He must have been the faculty adviser for the Science Club or something.
"...New faces, huh? Freshmen?" The man put his cup of ramen down on the table and beckoned us to enter. Then, without a word, he pointed toward two empty pipe chairs, seemingly telling us to sit.
Higuchi and I exchanged glances and then stepped into the preparation room together. Misao, meanwhile, looked all around the strange and foreign classroom with deep interest.
"I'm first-year Higuchi. This is Natsume."
"I'm Ichihara. Pleased to meet you." The man said, twisting his lips. After a moment, he scrunched his eyebrows dubiously and studied me, "...Natsume?"
"Yes. That's me..." Um...what?
The man split his chopsticks as he asked with an interested expression, "Perhaps you're Natsume Naotaka's little brother?"
I jumped in surprise.
"You know my brother?"
"More or less. He was a graduate from Raku-High, after all. He was my student too. Not very cute, but he was definitely an able bastard." Ichihara said, and then turned his attention completely towards gorging on his ramen. While eating, he returned has gaze at me and asked, as he was chewing his food, "Are you here to join the Science Club too?"
He dropped the question so suddenly that all I could do was give him a blank look.
"You also have...eh? What's wrong? What, they haven't told you anything? Naotaka founded the Science Club. Well, technically I think he revived it."
"My brother did?"
It was the first time I had heard of it. Now that I think about it, I knew absolutely nothing about what my brother did during high school.
"Umm...then, what Kurosaki-san knew about my brother was..."
"What, you're already acquainted with Kurosaki too?" Ichihara asked, without any noticeable appearance of surprise.
The conversation was finally going somewhere. Natsume Naotaka created the Science Club and Kurosaki Shuri was a member of the Science Club, too. Their ages were too far apart for the two of them to have been enrolled at Raku-High at the same time, but it wouldn't have been strange if they had met through their seniors and juniors at school. But that, by no means, meant all the mysteries had been solved, either.
"If that's the case, then it'll help out a great deal if the two of you would join the club too. In any case, that's the only thing on Kurosaki's mind; it'll be fine even if you two just watch. Yeah, when she decides to stay late into the evening by herself, I get these concerned stares from outsiders."
"Huh? Kurosaki-san is the only member of the Science Club?" Higuchi asked abruptly.
What a transparent guy, I thought to myself tiredly. Club activities with just the two of them after school... left alone in a classroom. On top of that, it would be a suspicious occult-freak with a strange piece of objet d'art. It'd certainly be an attractive circumstance for Higuchi.
"There's one more, but that person is in the hospital right now." Ichihara said, sweating beads. It was obviously not a subject he wanted to touch on.
"If you two want to join, write your names down and I'll give it to Kurosaki. She's the stand-in president right now."
Ichihara pulled out a few sheets of the club manifesto and sign-up forms from the work desk and handed them to us. He had, in red, scrawled his named in as the faculty adviser. I had a feeling we weren't going to be getting much oversight from this guy as we signed our names.
"Thank you." He extended out both hands for Higuchi and me to shake.
"Are we seriously joining the Science Club?" I muttered to Higuchi in askance.
It's not like I was perfectly fine with this arrangement. But leaving some guy like Higuchi alone with a beauty like Kurosaki was much cause of worry.
"What? It's not like there are any problems."
"That would be fine if that was the case. But what if more and more new members join the club after this?"
"We'll think about it when that time comes," Higuchi replied, clearly and obviously not thinking.
Just then, a shuffling sound crackled behind us and the aluminum doors opened.
I turned around to see a female student walk into the chemistry preparation room.
"She's here," Misao whispered.
She might have been wearing her school uniform this time, but I immediately recognized her: the jet-black-clad lady who had come to the Meioutei last night - Kurosaki Shuri.
She looked twenty last night, but now, in her school uniform, she had the appearance of a normal high school girl.
She wasn't wearing the glasses from yesterday either.
I realized Shuri was smiling at me in approval.
"You've already made your way to the Science Club! Amazing. I expected nothing less from Naotaka's little brother."
If you're going to bring up my brother's name, then it really doesn't feel like you're complimenting me. However, from her words I understood something.
Shuri was expecting me to come visit her on my own. Knowing that, she purposely had said nothing about the contents of that trunk or mentioned any information on her location or identity. She was testing me, testing to see if I could make it to her without any clues or help.
"Yes, yes. It was me! I was the one who looked up your name and investigated the Science Club!" interrupted Higuchi, who had been entirely ignored, while waving his arms wildly.
But Shuri's focus was only on me as if I was some sort of exotic animal.
"Higuchi. First-year, Class 7. Higuchi Takuma."
"Okay," Shuri whispered absent-mindedly.
I was willing to put money on the fact Higuchi's name did not even register in Shuri's memory. Shuri then smiled sweetly at the frozen-stiff Higuchi and took the club sign-up sheets from Higuchi. She put the sheets in order and pushed me in.
"I welcome you to the Science Club, Tomoharu," a pure angelic smile bloomed across Shuri face as she spoke.
Maybe it was just my imagination, but that smile somehow seemed to insinuate that my body and being would soon be in mortal danger.
Higuchi stood with his chin down in disappointment and Ichihara continued eating his cup ramen with a bitter smile on his face.
Misao remained silent. Shuri, too, was pretending she couldn't see Misao. Or perhaps she really couldn't see her right now.
"Um...please wait a minute... I'm not really here to join the Science Club..."
"You don't want to know about your brother?" Shuri interrupted me coldly.
"The trunk I gave to you yesterday. Your cute girlfriend who haunts you. If you join the Science Club and become my minion, I'll explain all these things to you in careful detail."
"Careful detail..." Higuchi mumbled but said nothing more.
I felt resigned and speechless.
What are you saying, woman? ‘If you join, I'll explain everything to you'? In other words, if I don't join, then you won't tell me, huh!
"She's threatening you, huh," Misao said seemingly with a sigh.
Threatening? Hell yeah. Certainly now, right after the opening ceremony, was the season when each and every club begins to welcome in new members, but I've never heard of a method like this to pull in new people.
Ignoring our startled looks, Shuri continued into the depth of the preparation room briskly.
She then removed from a locker a long black mantle.
Shuri swung the Halloween costume-like cape over her uniform. Honestly, it wasn't that the style didn't suit her, but just what the hell was she thinking? Must she dress like a witch during lunch time in high school? Does she actually want us to laugh about this? But the mantle gracefully hugged her silhouette and it felt almost normal to see her dressed like so.
"Um...what's with that?" Higuchi asked without even a pretense of tact.
You go, Higuchi. That's a good question.
"You guys know what the Science Club does for activities, right?" Shuri asked, with a teasing taunting sexy smile on her face.
Answering a question with another question was bad manners, and even social rules as ignorable and minor as that managed to pack a punch.
We shook our heads in unison.
Oh, actually, exactly what do we do in the Science Club? Are we observing the sky? Testing water quality? Chemistry experiments? Actually, I figured we'd probably lump all of those things together and more.
Shuri, however, shook her head as if to say we were completely wrong.
"Well, since time immemorial, science was construed to be the same as magic. Astronomy developed inexplicably with astrology, and if alchemy never existed, then chemistry would never have been born. Even math was thought to be as deeply tied to the black arts as the kabbalah was to numerology."[1C 26]
Despite my startled state, Shuri's sudden words burst into my ears.
In other words, our club activities for the Science Club consisted of researching the history of science? Then I suppose that would somewhat explain that seemingly pointless piece of objet d'tart left outside.
"We don't really care about magic."
We really didn't care.
"While modern science and magic are obviously different things, in truth, what we label as mere technology now was because of the miraculous imagination of the people of the past. But today's science is setting its sights high and advancing towards a major groundbreaking theory. And scientifically, we're quickly approaching an era where there is only one type of truth. Don't you think that's a bit strange?"
No, not really. I had no idea what this major groundbreaking theory was, and, if possible, I'd rather you not throw all these troublesome "truths" and axioms at me.[1C 27] Even if I was interested, I didn't want to know, if for nothing else than because my grades were barely good enough and if I have to memorize more stuff I'd be in a world of trouble. But, Shuri didn't seem to be the type to care about such things...
"The mother of science and magic, in reality, is split into two opposed factions."
I could see where this was going.
The whole thing with the basis of magic was one of the most common things known universally.
Two opposing forces. Yin and Yang. Existence and nonexistence. 0 and 1. Man and woman. Light and dark. White and black.
"White magic and black magic?" Higuchi whispered with his eyes half-open.
It might've been a reply out of almost natural instinct for the occult freak, but Shuri nodded at him with approval.
"That's right. And since magic gave birth to science, science too was fated to be split into white science and black science."
My head was starting to hurt from this. I suddenly looked around to find some reprieve. My eyes eventually landed on Ichihara, who was making a troubled face and sitting with his arms crossed. Don't just sit there staring and do something about this club-president-substitute to keep her from spouting off more nonsensical stupid bullshit, I thought. After all, aren't you the faculty advisor?
However, I finally understood just why Kurosaki Shuri wore a mantle.
To oppose the whole white lab-coat of the scientist, Shuri wears a black one.
And then Shuri's words forcefully cut into my thoughts.
"...Essentially, the goal of the activities of the Science Club is to further research in the black sciences. You guys get it, right?"
Even if tell her that I do... the whole concept was still disturbing.
Misao, no longer able to hold it in, giggled to herself. I pursed my lips, unable to laugh.
Our end goal was black science research.
What the hell was that?
Don't tell me she reports it the same way to the student council as well.
Well, it was something I was expecting. There, I said it. To the ghost-possessed me, this sort of stuff would be considered to be within the realm of every day norm. I guess I should laugh at that, I thought; but Shuri, who looked at me with a small smile, was absolutely serious. Nothing about her atmosphere suggested it was a joke.
Ichihara pretended to be asleep and completely devoid of any responsibility.
Higuchi was thinking this over with an incredibly serious expression on his face. In any case, Shuri's words managed to leave a deep impression on him and he seemed to be troubling over just where to draw the line between his much loved occult and this thing Shuri called black science. Everyone was being just so damned stupid.
And I was forced to come to grips with the fact that the greatest moron, the founding boss responsible for creating this moronic club, was none other than my own brother.
Before I realized it, there was only ten more minutes left of lunch break and Shuri announced she needed to return to her classroom.
However, she didn't look like she was in the mood to take off the black mantle first. Wearing that mantle during club meetings was apparently something of her policy. If I join the club, maybe she'll force me to wear one too. That would be pretty bad.
"Of course, you will join the club for me, right Tomoharu?" Shuri asked in an almost flirty voice.
I had no idea on the "of course" part. If I gave this normal consideration, I would have refused this suspicious-as-hell club even if someone piled money in front of me.
However, Shuri had a trump card – she had information.
It would be a lie if I said I didn't care about just exactly what my brother was doing in this Science-but-not-really-Science Club. And if I asked him directly, it's not likely he'd tell me. Basically, if I let this chance slip by, I would forever lose my only hope of attaining this information. Of course, I was also interested in exactly what was inside that silver-colored trunk.
And, more than anything else, I wanted to know about Misao.
Why could Shuri see Misao? If I can figure that out, then maybe I'll know the truth behind her very existence itself.
It was a dangerous adventure, but should I join anyway? Or maybe I should refuse, after all.
Was there something else I can tell her that would work?
Unable to come to a good decision, my shoulders drooped in helplessness and I weakly whispered, "Let me think about it for a little while."