Early afternoon on a Sunday, I strolled to get out of the crowd in front of the station.
Next to me was Kagurai-senpai. I had to fulfill the promise I made the other day, to help her buy a game for her little brother, and so came the promised day. Could this possibly be a so-called date?
A date with a beautiful senpai. There’s no man in the world who wouldn’t rejoice over the situation. My tensions climbed, rising at such a rate they might propel a koi straight up the waterfall into dragoonhood. Kagurai-senpai’s clothing consisted of a white tank top, and skinny jeans, a simple pairing, but this must be what they mean when they say the simplest solution is usually the best one. Her splendid proportions made her look quite the part, and the way she was, she looked like she would end up on the front cover of a fashion magazine.
“So how old is your little brother, Kagurai-senpai?”
“Mn? I don’t have a younger brother. If you mean my older one, then–”
“Huh? Aren’t we out buying a game for your younger brother…”
“Ah, you mean him! I actually do have one. Yeah. He’s got a weak sense of presence, so I completely forgot about him.”
“You’re a terrible older sister.”
As we mixed words, our destination was a large-scale otaku culture specialty shop in front of the station. Anime, manga, light novels, games, doujinshi and the like; it was a shop compromised by the grand breadth of the culture. As long as you made the trek, you’d be able to obtain most otaku-ish merchandise out there.
Honestly, I didn’t want to take her here. But the games senpai said she wanted were a new release, a last-generation release, a mainstream one, and a minor one, her selection was splendidly varied. If we wanted to get our hands on all of them, this shop was our only bet in town.
“… Umm, games are on the third floor.”
I gazed at the floor guide near the entrance. It was a shop I didn’t usually use, so I didn’t know my way around. The first floor was the anime area, and dotted around the interior were boards featuring two-dimensional girls. The song being broadcast was also an anime song. This really isn’t the right place for a date, I regretted as I looked at Kagurai-senpai.
Her long-slit eyes gave a fierce glimmer and with movements like the wind, she had slipped into the shop’s interior.
“This is the first edition limited release version… amazing, it even comes with a figure! Aah! This is the box set! No way, you mean to tell me it comes with a novel by the original author!? Wonderful!”
She gazed spellbound at the anime DVDs lining one of the walls… so Kagurai-senpai was an otaku? That was a considerable surprise. But her attitude intrigued me. Rather than an otaku who got fired up over a beautiful girl character, she had something nobler, if I had to describe it, the air of an archeologist witnessing a mummy in its original state.
“I never thought there would be such a wonderful place this side of town… ‘tis my blunder.”
“… Kagurai-senpai, do you like this sort of thing?”
“Yeah. I’ve got a thing for classic literature, especially Heisei manuscripts.”
(TL: The Heisei era, 1989-present day)
Classics? Heisei Era?
Ignoring my questions, Kagurai-senpai started speaking as if she was reading straight out of a history textbook.
“In the prime of the Heisei era, it became popular among a generation called the otaku, Anime, figurines, light novels, manga and the like, later classified as Heisei era Literature. Commonly referred to as Otaku Culture. A movement defined by a pursuit of the romantic ideal called ‘moe’, it is a time-honored facet of Japan’s culture.”
“Everyone in my family’s a Heisei Era fanatic, you see. There were a number of literary references around the house. I particularly enjoyed the works that grappled with the psychological struggle of tsundere. Just last summer break, I wrote a research paper on the ‘Taming of the Tsun’ and even won prize money for it.”
“… Senpai, so you know what tsundere means.”
“What are you talking about? Tsundere is the very first unit you learn in ancient literature, is it not? Tsundere, yandere, kuudere. The three conjugations of dere. Yes, it is a wonderful word that expresses the inner charm of a woman.”
Her tone was that of a classic literature teacher trying to convey the greatness of The Tale of Genji.
“I always a wanted to read the original source texts, so I studied the language and words of this time like crazy. So how is it, Kagoshima? My use of words? Do you hear anything off?”
“… Me? No, I can’t hear any problems.”
“I know right? Well, classics were always my strong suit, so studying it was always a blast.”
Fufufu, she proudly laughed before.
“— Wait, nooo!”
Giving off a sense of, crap, I got carried away and said all sorts of things I shouldn’t have, Kagurai-senpai frantically shook her head.
“Ah, yeah. Well, if a person from the future ever came to this era, I’m sure that’s precisely how they around react. That’s all I’m trying to say.”
“Oh, so that’s what that was about. You’d lost me for a second there.”
Seriously, Kagurai-senpai has a good sense of humor. But that speech she gave was surprisingly interesting. A thousand years later, perhaps there’ll be a time when otaku culture is learned in classic literature classrooms. When you really boil it down, The Tale of Genji and The Pillow Book we learn about in classics are just novels. More than their contents, they’re evaluated for being products of a past era.
Kagurai-sensei filled her basket with stack upon stack of DVD and Blue Ray.
With an expression of contained ecstasy, she continued strolling the store in genuine joy. Slightly weary, I silently tagged along.
“Wait, senpai! That’s the eighteen plus restricted corner. Why are you nonchalantly trying to walk in!?”
As she infiltrated the area lined with erotic anime and games, I frantically pulled her to a halt.
She shouted at me.
“Just what do you take Japan’s time-honored cultural heritage to be!? Looking upon the fine arts with indecent eyes is the most indecent act of all!”
Hers was the resentment as if I had gravely insulted her by writing off the Birth of Venus as ‘just a nude’, or the Tale of Genji as, ‘plain erotica’.
No, it’s not like I couldn’t see where she was coming from, but…
Leaving me behind in my hesitation, senpai boldly stepped into the restricted corner. Right after, there were some rustles and the sound of running, as the men with panicked faces made their escape.
Anyone’d be surprised if such a beauty suddenly went in. I understand how you feel, my dear gents.
“… What about her little brother’s games?”
Kagurai-senpai didn’t seem to be coming out, so I aimlessly wandered the store. Looking over an anime about psychics, I thought back to Orino-san for some reason, and looking at an anime about a witch, a picture of Kurisu-chan surfaced in my head.
They dealt with themes impossible in any realistic framework, they were collections of fiction.
I started thinking back.
Back to when I still believed in Santa Claus, and the Secret Organization, and the Hero of Justice who hid his identity to protect the world, back to elementary school.
Back to when I wanted to become an ally of justice.
I think those events back at Gentle Breeze Park reshaped my personality. Back then, why did I…
An ear-piercing emergency bell dragged my consciousness back to reality.
An emergency broadcast soon resounded through the store.
‘This is a message to all customers in the buildings. A fire has just broken out on the sixth floor of this building. Please follow the staff’s instruction and evacuate in an orderly fashion.’
The announcement instantly caused a ruckus through the store. The staff hastily began guiding the customers fleeing to save themselves.
Alongside a voice filled with tension, Kagurai-senpai emerged from the restricted area… seeing her come out hoisting up a large box of erotic games in both hands, she didn’t give off an iota of tension.
“A fire broke out on an upper floor. Let’s get out of here, fast.”
“What?” Kagurai-senpai’s expression suddenly turned grim. “… It can’t be.”
“It very well did. Now we’ve got to get away.”
The two of us headed for the entrance. When we passed by a store personnel,
“What do you mean the sprinklers won’t turn on?”
“I don’t know. It looks like the problem’s with the electric control system… we have someone more knowledgeable looking into the cause, but it’s not going too well…”
“… What is going on in here.”
A cruel conversation entered our ears. Kagurai-senpai’s face further increased in severity.
“Yeah, there’s no doubt, it’s Reloader’s work.”
She took her cell phone from her bag and suddenly broke into ventriloquism.
“But I can’t see their goal in this one. Probably a buggles that leaked ‘cuz they suck at locking things up.”
“What a troublesome bunch. They could at least manage their buggles properly.”
As Kagurai-senpai continued her ventriloquism through such a heavy atmosphere, I spoke up.
“Hey, Kagurai-senpai! Now’s not the time to play around!”
“Ah, for the love of god! I know that, just shut it for a second!”
Pushing me aside, she restarted her conversation with Gakuta-kun.
I-it’s no good…
Kagurai-senpai is panicking…
She’s talking to Gakuta-kun to escape from reality.
She was surprisingly weak in a pinch. Damn. I have to do something.
“Kagurai-senpai, get a hold of yourself! At times like these, we need to cool our heads and remember the three rules of fire! ‘Don’t push’, ‘Don’t speak’, ‘Don’t talk’! … Huh? Aren’t don’t talk and don’t speak the same thing… ah, right. Just remember—”
(TL: The second one is supposed to be don’t run.)
Her scream made me go blank. And I was so close to remembering it!
“You get out first! There’s something I have to do!”
“No way! There’s no way I could leave you behind and run!”
“… Your manliness is an eyesore.”
Grimacing, Kagurai-senpai cried out, “So computers are sold in the basement,” as she checked with the floor guide and suddenly sprinted off. She sped down the escalator three steps at a time.
Naturally, I followed along. It was dangerous to leave a hysterical Kagurai-senpai to her own devices. My sense of justice spurred me on!
… And yet, I got the slight inkling I was doing something unnecessary. How peculiar.
“Why are you following me, Kagoshima!?”
“Because you’re running!”
“You’re in the way! Get out!”
“I’m not leaving. No matter how much you come to hate me, I’m going to protect you!”
“… It pisses me off I found that one a little cool.”
From the newest models to second hand, there were various PCs placed around the first basement floor. Kagurai-senpai took a sweeping look around.
“Gakuta. Find me a PC that can connect to B3 World.”
“On it———. Report’s in. There are quite a few around here. The one you’ve got the best compatibility with is that one on sale. Not that it’s any comparison with that school PC you remodeled like crazy. Your synchro rate will drop to 70 at best. Kekeke, you gonna be alright?”
“Not a problem. You can see the damages, we’re not dealing with much of an enemy here.”
She said as she stood before a PC on a special discount.
“Kagurai-senpai! I’m telling you, this is no time for ventriloquism!”
This guy really is a pain, her eyes told me. Eh? Why?
“Wooow, I’m sooo sleepy.”
Kagurai-senpai suddenly gave an intentional-looking yawn.
“Oh my, I’m super, duper sleepy. I haven’t slept for a whole week, after all.”
“Is that true!? You’re skin’s so glossy, I’d have never thought it!”
“I’m going to sleep a bit. I’ll be asleep around ten minutes. Don’t wake me up.”
“What!? You’re going to sleep in this situation!? There’s a fire going on upstairs!”
“I said I’m sleeping, and that’s what I’m going to do. Wake me and you’re dead. Also, disconnect the cell phone strapped to Gakuta from that PC and you’re dead.”
Pressured with the intimidating aura of a large bear, I could only nod. Senpai gave a satisfied nod, turning back to the computer. She connected her Gakuta-strapped phone to the terminal.
“Dive In B3 World! Code KAGURAI Access!”
She shouted before her head flopped down, and her conscious was gone in the same way I’d seen it before. I hurriedly reached out my hand to support her body.
“… Uwah, she really fell asleep.”
There should be a limit to being free-spirited.
She said she’d kill me if I woke her up, but no matter how I looked at it, waking her was definitely the best option. We were in the basement, so it was possible the flames wouldn’t reach us, but it went without saying we were better off getting out.
“Hey, Kagurai-senpai. Please get up.”
I shook her body, but it had no effect. She was deep asleep; as if her mind had been transferred to a different world entirely, she showed no reaction whatsoever.
Her faintly swaying eyelashes, and the breaths escaping her lips. Her body was completely entrusted to me.
“… If you don’t wake up, I’ll sexually harass you.”
I went silent at the point I should definitely say something.
Gulp, I swallowed down my spit.
‘Any funny moves, and you’re dead.’
A voice came from the computer speaker. It was very similar to Kagurai-senpai’s voice, but senpai was still asleep, so there was no way that could be the case. On closer inspection, a CG anime was playing on the screen.
Oh, so it was audio from the anime. Ah, that was a surprise.
It was boring to just wait for her to open her eyes, so I decided to watch the 3D-rendered anime that was coincidentally streaming.
Here and there in a pale-blue techno environment, semi-transparent pyramids and cubes floated about. Occasionally, the noise of a game bugging out would run.
A single figure soared freely around that inorganic field.
Her long hair glimmered like the milky way. On her head, round, bearish ears twitched back and forth, and on her back sprouted six diamond-shaped wings. Both her hair and proportions resembled Kagurai-senpai, But I’m sure it was just a coincidence.
In the warrior’s right hand, a futuristic sword shifted in shape to a gun and a boomerang as she took out small-fry-looking insectoid characters one after the next.
The perspective shots were terrible in the anime.
I couldn’t see a single shot of the fighting woman’s face. It was almost as if she was putting effort into making sure I couldn’t see her. The female warrior scattered small fries as she kept pressing forwards, finally arriving at what looked like a boss monster.
A giant centipede made out of stiff angular polygons. As the name implied, its limbs numbered around one hundred, and it was somewhat grotesque. There were scissor-like fangs in its mouth, and every time it moved them, my ears were filled with an unpleasant grating sound.
‘Kekeke. It’s just as I thought.’
Whenever the warrior’s bear ear’s moved, a man’s voice came in conjunction. It was quite similar to Gakuta-kun’s voice, meaning the voice Kagurai-senpai made when she was practicing ventriloquism.
‘That’s over there’s a buggles that hasn’t received ‘ny orders. It’s just randomly going on a rampage. It’s a lowly grunt with only a big body going for it. Man, it’s a shame it had to be such a boring enemy.’
‘Let’s get this over with, and fast. I want to keep damages to a minimum.’
The warrior burst off towards the centipede.
‘Lill Sordia—mode change—Category 4—Lost Cannon.’
Clink, clank, through mechanical motions, the sword in her right hand transformed into a ridiculously large cannon. It was a bizarre transformation that was clearly violating the law of conservation of mass.
Taking the cannon that looked about the size of her own body, she locked it in place on her right arm, all the while evading legs fired from the centipede, gradually closing the distance between them.
‘Energy loading—98—99 – Full Charge. Ready to fire when you are.’
Narrowly avoiding a large piercing attack of a number of sharp appendages put together, aiming for the single instant where her enemy’s posture would crumble, the warrior sprinted through space.
[THIS IS WHERE I WOULD PUT AN IMAGE… IF I HAD ONE!]
She slammed the cannon’s muzzle into the centipede’s massive forehead. At the same time, her six wings, spread out wide behind her, clad in a light I would even call sublime.
‘It’s world over.’
The moment she pulled the trigger, the entire screen was taken in a white flash.
“… Well, quite a bit’s gone into the animation budget.”
The anime ended, the screen faded to black. The reason there was no ending theme must be because this was a promotional video. As if she timed it to match with the anime’s end, Kagurai-senpai opened her eyes.
“Ah, you’re finally up. Good grief…”
“… Yeah, good morning.”
There was a slight hint of fatigue on Kagurai-senpai’s face. Because she only got some half-baked sleep, it looked like it only made her even more tired.
“Now then. Let’s hurry and get out of here.”
“No, you don’t have to be so hasty. The sprinklers are operational now, so the fire should be contained soon. I went through the footage from the security cameras, but there wasn’t anyone who couldn’t get out.”
“Yeah, yeah. How long do you plan to space out for?”
She glared at me. I wonder why. Was she not a morning person? After that, I urged Kagurai-senpai on as she took her sweet time, and we exited the store. The fire trucks and ambulances had arrived, a crowd of rubberneckers had assembled. From what I could tell based on the words flying around the crowd, there were no casualties.
Apparently an unnatural overheating of a computer on the sixth floor has become the cause of the fire. The main problem was that the sprinklers were a few minutes late to activate, or so I heard. Meaning it was an accident.
“… We never got to buy that game for your brother.”
What a spot of bad luck, I thought as I took a peek at Kagurai-senpai standing beside me.
“It’s fine. We can buy a game anytime.”
For some reason, her side profile was cheery.