Even with judgment day come and gone, my life continued.
Having challenged his last battle with the resolve for death, Maryuin Koga, AKA Satou Ichirou AKA yours truly was still battling against the lethargy filling every last crevice of my body and soul in that unchanging space called the classroom.
I absentmindedly gazed to my left. For yet another day, Ryouko’s seat was vacant. The suspension was supposed to have ended yesterday, but she didn’t come to school. That one glance immediately withered any joy in my heart.
That morning, on my commute, people I didn’t know pointed at me. They laughed at me.
While I had resolved myself for it, it’s still rather harsh, to say the least.
I’m sure history must have had them. Just like me, those who unveiled some play so grand they could no longer look Lord Society in the face. There must have been tens of thousands, nay, hundreds of millions of rampage events. Just how did they live their lives after that, I wonder.
There must have been some trailblazer. I want to know. I want them to tell me. I’d learn that over school lessons any day.
“You seem bothered, Mens. I can tell from your aura.”
Perhaps because I was dazing out in class, I never noticed Dorisen sneaking up behind me. Unable to give any proper reply, I curled up like a fish drying in the sun.
“Mens, your teacher understands your troubles well.”
In that case, I wanted him to understand my mentality to not hold a heavy talk where everyone was listening.
“I had plenty of setbacks in my youth. But even those pains will become good memories someday.”
“… One can only hope.”
“They will, I mean,” Dorisen’s eyes opened wide. “That’s precisely why I too, can embrace the undying flame of my mission.”
“You’ve moved me, Satou. I had to lower my head to the heated cries of your concealed past. The tried and true words of a hero resurrected my sealed soul. Ten years in obscurity. Taking on the transient post of teacher, there was worth in waiting it out.”
Dorisen was acting strangely. Everyone in class turned as they realized the change.
“Everyone, listen to this. I have something to confess. The truth is, I, Dorisen… am a Radiant Soldier!”
The classroom sunk into silence. A while later, “Eh? What?” “What’s that mean?” “Was that supposed to be a joke?” I started hearing whispering.
“When we were choosing members for this class, I happily took on all the soldier syndrome sufferers from the other classes! There were a lot of them this year! It got all the other teachers in my debt, that’s two birds with one stone.”
The class was silent once more. Before long, “Haaaaaaaaaah!?” a single person furiously yelled out. Yep, that was me.
“That was your doing!?”
“I thought if it were me, I could lead a soldier just as well as any other student… well, in any case, perhaps I’d find some of my True Radiant Comrades among them.”
The nightmare, again.
“You suffer from soldier syndrome!?”
“No, because mine is real.”
“You haven’t recovered. Sensei, you’re still very sick”
“You weren’t a Radiant Comrade, but I’m happy I found a real one like you, Mens.”
“Give me a break already!”
“And me too. One Radiant Soldier right here!”
The door suddenly slid open as the intruding nurse in a lab coat cried out.
“Midori-san! No… Esmeralda!”
“Rurio-chan! Nay… Saphir!”
Dorisen and the nurse embraced and kooked… I mean smooched. While that in itself weirded me out, the part I needed to poke at wasn’t the Oshidori Fuufu joke.
“What the heck was that!?”
“We’re married, don’t you know.”
“Right, we’re all lovey-dovey.”
“Not that part! That part about radiant and stuff, what in God’s name!?”
“I’ve been hiding it, but the two of us got to know one another on a reincarnation board back in middle school… we’re war buddies from our past lives! In the battle where the Radiant Camp fought off the lord of the dark forces, Zalaam–”
It was a nightmare.
“This is an insult to your authority!” I fled all the way to the wall. “You’re a failure as a teacher! In the first place, what’s with the lack of uniformity in all those terms!? Esmeralda is emerald in Spanish, but Saphir is sapphire in French, and Zalaam only means darkness in freaking Arabic! You’re way too indulgent with your setting! If you’re going to make something, at least base it on a unified backdrop!”
“… As expected of a first-rate soldier, to know your trivia to an annoying degree, Mens. There really was no error in my judgment.”
“I’m sure Mens-chan will lead us all, Rurio-chan!”
“Stop mucking around, you can’t ask me to look after adults.”
“Fufufu, we’re not the only ones you’ve led, Mens. For they too.”
Dorisen spread out his arms. With that as the signal, around half of the students restlessly stood to their feet. Them. Riled up by a supposed-to-be-good-role-model’s delusions, they were already on the verge of explosion.
“Is that true, Satou!? No, Koga!?” “Mm, as expected of the greatest genius swordsman of the Maruin.” “If I drink the blood of the dragon tribe… my thirst will finally be quenched,” “I knew all along, Hewley, no, I should call you Koga now. I knew you reincarnated into another world and became a dark dragon swordsman.” “The will of space is shaking? Don’t tell me the stars quiver at a dragon’s might?” “I must get an eyeful of the Maryu technique not even the Oda Style Demon Lord of the Sixth Heaven’s blade cannot pierce through,” “I’ve solved it! The key to collapsing fate lost from the Akasha Fragments! It was Satou all along, no Koga! It was you!”
Their surging delusions became an unstoppable tide, crashing down on me with the force of a tsunami. A highest-level storm the likes of which I had never experienced before. I was jostled up in an instant. My heart and my boy were drowning.
“Stop! Just leave me be! I’m Satou Ichirou, not Koga!”
But they never had to ears to listen. I pushed my way through the sea of people with a crawl, tore off the zombies and escaped the game of push and shove. I flopped on the floor chin-first.
“Owww… dammit… someone!
I pleaded for help with the remaining half of class. If she would save me, even Ooshima would do.
Someone stood right before me.
A girl. From inside the skirt that hung over my head, a tepid body head, and gentle, mysterious fragrance radiated. She was standing considerably close, and if I looked up, I would reliably catch sight of undergarments. Who was it? The slender legs concealing a lively purity, for some reason, gave off a resolve as they stood gallant and imposing. Who, seriously, who?
Curiosity straddled ethics. Of course, I can’t say I didn’t have any indecent intent.
I looked up. My eyes looped up the short skirt, catching a hint of light-blue cloth as they made their way higher and higher. And at the zenith, I worshiped Kobato-san’s noble countenance.
Kobato-san was excited. Hah, hah, her breath was rough. Like a dog waiting for a treat. That was the first I was seeing such a lewd Kobato-san.
“W-what ever could it be?”
“M-me too! Do you think I have a good past life too!?”
“Gyah.” I cried out. “It’s contagious!”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if I did.”
The fact that over half the class were residents of the delusional realm. That pressure imparted an influence even residents of the phenomenal realm couldn’t ignore. Delusions beget delusions.
“A vaccine!” By this point, I was praying to the divine. “Someone get her a vaccine! It’s too late for me! But please, some wonderful real immunization that will overcome her delusion!”
“Ichirou-kun!” Itou helped me to my feet. “Can I call you Koga-kun?”
“Of course, you can’t!”
The normal students were already standing as well. Their dumbfounded faces gradually changed to more serious looks. One of them made their resolve and came over my way.
I wanted to cry out and curl into a ball. T-this familiar aura was…?
“Satou… the truth is, I,” he confessed, “I’ve got spiritual sense. There’s this beautiful girl ghost in the classroom and…”
“Satou, I’m sorry for ignoring you… the truth is, I’m a psychrometer.” Came the next.
“I can see peoples’ lifespans…” the people who were supposed to be decent,
“I might be yamanba, but I’ve actually been secretly training how to fight with wire since I was a kid… I think it’s at a level that can be used in combat…” not happening, I say.
“I was keeping quiet about it, but I’m a descendent of Himiko.” Your parents are lying to you.
All of a sudden, the folks in class began confessing. What had started as confessions to me instantly became speeches to appeal to everyone around.
“What even is this?”
There was everyone. Every soul was crying out. The technique names and secret organizations flying about, the special constitutions and missions of absolute confidentiality, the tragic pasts and turns of fate, future and past and present life and past life, the curse placed in a concealed power.
The class itself became another world. Just who was proper, who was a dream soldier, and who was just shouting out for the heck of it, the distinction was impossible. Before I knew it, everyone was sick. There was Kobato-san and Itou, and Suzuki, and Kawai and Takahashi and Yamamoto. Everyone happily waved around the memories sealed deep in their hearts as if it was the thicket to take part in the festivities.
The only calm person left apart from me had to be Ooshima. When it came to her, she simply spectated with a terribly stiff smile on her face. The powerless queen bee. I considered forgiving her at that point.
I ended up laughing. What. What’s this? Looks like everyone’s pretty cringy in their own right.
I could never have imagined it. This cringe—even if it was just a temporary flight of fancy—that I would ever be able to enjoy it. The classroom that had held class up to ten minutes ago had come crashing down as the binding came off. I couldn’t believe it. The power to believe wouldn’t actualize a delusion in a touch. But when so many people got to believing, perhaps a sense of values was infinitely malleable. For a group with a curse on it to continue functioning as a civilization, perhaps it’s possible even one’s delusions can serve as a form of individual merit. Perhaps the day would come when I learned how to use my own. And when that time came, we would grow into true soldiers. Surely.
The banquet would surely be over soon.
There was no telling when the neighboring classroom would catch wind and the teacher would rush over. But that was precisely where the value lay, for it was only as a moment’s radiance that it could remain so vivid in its strength, creepiness, and beauty. And yet, Ryouko wasn’t there. When she was the one who belonged there the most.
“At a time like this… she’s an idiot. Where did she go off to?”
I took out my phone. At the very least, I wanted to convey the voices, that atmosphere. Piety spins together history. The power to believe is the power of mystery. Bringing out the slightest show of courage was a trivial task.
After a few rings, she picked up.
“… Ryouko? Can you hear me? Where are you right now?”
‘This is The Researcher. Transferring to point in ten seconds.’
Her unchanging voice spewed an unchanging line.
Strangely enough, it didn’t irritate me. But, I jeered with a smile.
Mn? Transfer in ten seconds? I get the feeling that pattern happened before.
Faster than I could recall, the door slid open again.
Don’t tell me. Don’t tell me with this timing? No way?
I made for the door. If the one who appeared was Ryouko—I might end up believing in fate. And once that happened, I’d be swung around by it for the rest of my life. I’d be subject to my fill of shame.
Now fate, which path will you choose?
“Ichirou?” A familiar face abruptly stuck out.
“… Oh my, sis?”
The visitor who unexpectedly popped in was my sister.
“… Ah, there you are. What’s going on here? Not that I care.”
“W-what’s up? Why are you at school? What about your job?”
“… I’m working. I came to deliver something.”
My sister yanked out her parcel from behind and thrust it out before me.
It fell right into my chest. I ended up catching it in my arms. With all the parts scaled down from human size, I didn’t feel much weight, so at first, I thought it was a manakin in a school uniform. In my arms, the small head looked up at me.
Something excessively beautiful was there.
“Eh? You… huh?”
“You’re Ryouko, right?”
The lifeform cowering like a small animal was undoubtedly Ryouko. The simple fact she was wearing a uniform was a surprise, but the impression her face gave off was completely different from usual.
“Is it the hair? It looks a bit more orderly than usual.”
“… That girl,” my sister pointed at Ryouko. “Said she wanted to look proper, so I helped her out.”
“… Also, I did some all-around maintenance. I don’t know school regulations, so I didn’t use foundation or anything. Well, she’s young, and her skin’s superhuman, so she doesn’t need it.”
What do you mean superhuman? Was that a standard only women understood?
Ah, but she was radiant.
When it wasn’t like she was in the direct line of any light source, my eyes felt itchy, causing me to squint. When I wanted to look, it was hard to see. When I wanted to look, she was blinding. A radiance brought by the would. At this sensation I was feeling for the first time in my life, I was unable to put up any resistance.
“I see. Soo you can… wear normal clothes…”
Whoa! Honest to boot! A blitz of lightning raced through my medulla oblongata. This ain’t good. Not good, not at all. But amazing. Ryouko’s amazing.
I noticed her face up close seemed to have the details raised from before.
“Don’t tell me you’re wearing makeup too?”
“… She did it.”
Her gently curled eyelashes, her slightly more shapely eyebrows, her faintly colored lips.
Her striking eyes that would make me believe it if someone told me, “Boss, I chiseled those out of the finest agate” were so large, they gave her a foreign beauty to startle any who saw her, but the detailing around her eyes had skillfully compensated for that, bringing forth a more natural impression.
“… For her uniform, even the smallest one on the market was too big, so I had to custom it. Somehow managed to get it done by this morning. That’s why she was late, and I had to explain it and get her an exemption. That’s the masterpiece I poured my all into, you’d better treat it well.”
“Who else is there? Rather, how long are you going to hold her? You’re not in that sort of relationship yet, are you?”
“Dwah.”I took off both hands as if held at gunpoint. Even so, Ryouko didn’t move from her perch stuck fast to me.
“For the time being, normal clothing… was attempted… how is it?”
“Y-yeah. It fits you perfectly. You’re going to get hit on, like that.”
“Unnecessary…” Ryouko anxiously twisted her body.
“I see, so you’ve finally graduated from your delusions.”
“What do I do, Ichirou, what do I do?”
“You’ll be fine. There’s nothing strange about you. I’ll guarantee it. Let’s do our best together!”
Wrong, she shook her head.
“Then what are you so nervous about?”
Her eyes teary, Ryouko pleaded to me.
“On top of lowering all defensive values to 0, this equipment is incapable of optical concealment…”
“You’re not healed at all!”
So it’s just the looks, hey?
“Sis, do up her insides too! Lay it on down the strong side!”
“… Don’t be crazy. And wait, that’s your job…”
“That was dangerous! I was this close to letting everything be water under the bridge and respecting you.”
“I do not hate being respected.”
“I won’t. I only respect normal people.”
In no time, the ruckus died down as attention concentrated on a single point. It was confusion and shock and envy that filled all eye. That was simply the fore Ryoukos transformation carried.
As a representative of the class, Kobato-san took one step forward. Huh? What did she just call me?
“Would this alluring individual happen to be Satou Ryouko-chan?”
“So it seems.”
“Amazing… you’re like a Dollfie, Ryouko-chan! We’re friends, aren’t we?”
In an instant, Kobato-san’s soul was drawn to Ryouko.
“Way to go, Ladies.” “She transformed, that girl,” “What do you call this sorta debut?” “Mens looks tasty,” “Who’s the one who said to ignore her?” “Fufu, so the witch returns to a single young girl. Oh don’t worry, just leave the rest to me,” “A new battle is close upon us, don’t drop your guard, Kogao.” “I must report this to the Dark Prison World,” “Very well, Maryuin. Grow intoxicated with your victory. Just you wait.” “It is all as the predictions foretold. But Koga’s true worth will be assessed in times to come,”
Along with the idiots’ comments, Ooshima’s shaking voice mixed in.
“… That’s not fair.”
No doubt she heard the sound of her stronghold falling apart.
And finally, “Heeey! What is this noise! Any outbursts should prepare to face the wrath of Inomata!” the banquet was over. Desks and chairs fell over as everyone scrambled to be the first back in their seats, with everyone colliding into one another in one last burst of chaos towards frigid order.
Within that big bang, Ryouko and I held hands without either side initiating it.
Mixed in with the chaos, she softly whispered into my ear.
“Can you teach me ‘Normal’?”