“Kikyouin-san will be becoming a member of this club.”
I declared energetically in the ComClub room.
As a preface to my grand plan to have Kikyouin-san make friends, I chose to have her enter the ComClub. It was something Kagurai-senpai originally requested of me, and you could say it worked out just right.
In regards to my earnest fervor, Kagurai-senpai and Kurisu-chan presented me with a light applause and gentle smiles.
Well, those two were fine. There was no problem with their attitude.
The problem was…
“… Hmph.” “…Tsk.”
Sullen, and clearly in bad moods, the remaining two. Not attempting to meet eyes, Orino-san and Kikyouin-san faced opposite directions from one another.
Why were these two on bad terms?
Yeeah. This is troublesome. The air’s growing stagnant.
“Yes. What is it, Kagoshima-senpai?”
“Say something interesting to lighten the mood.”
Kurisu-chan was shocked.
“K-K-Kagoshima-senpai… do you know the term asking the impossible?”
“And Kurisu-chan, did you know? In Japan, we have this scary, scary system known as seniority. Well, you’re a half, so you might not have heard of it.”
“Once you venture into working society, if your senpai tells you to embarrass yourself, you have no choice but to embarrass yourself. Of course, I’m kind, so I won’t say anything too harsh.”
Taking my joke seriously, “… this world is scary,” Kurisu-chan muttered as she thought to herself. She really is an honest, good girl. There’s worth found in teasing her.
“Umm, Kikyouin-senpai. What are your hobbies?”
As the result of her worries, Kurisu-chan addressed the new member with the idle talk of a marriage interview.
“Nothing in particular. Not really.”
She got cold words in return.
“K-Kikyouin-sans hobby is the occult!”
Unable to see Kurisu-chan go despondent (rather, more than half of it was my fault), I hurriedly followed through.
“She really loves ghosts and youkai. So Kurisu-chan, when it starts warming up, just get Kikyouin-san to tell you a scary story for a chill.”
With a rattle, Kurisu dexterously stepped back while still in her chair. Her complexion drained at once, as she embraced her own shoulders.
Seeing her shiver reminded me of a small animal.
“… What’s wrong, Kurisu-chan?”
“N-no, it’s nothing.”
“Don’t tell me you’re no good with ghosts?”
“W-w-w-w-w-w-what are you talking about, Kagoshima-senpai!? I’m already in my first year of high school! In magic school terms, I’m on my eighth cycle! T-there’s no way I could be scared of ghosts…”
“… Ah, Kurisu-chan, behind you.”
Crap. This is a little fun.
But Kurisu-chan was no good with ghosts, huh. She’s normally fighting fantasy monsters—in the made-up setting she chose to cosplay as. How strange.
“You’re called Kurisu?”
Resting her chin on her hands, Kikyouin-san spoke uninterestedly.
“Are you scared of ghosts?”
“Erk… I-I’m sorry.”
“No need to apologize. That’s just how they are… but if you’re no good with ghosts, you’re better off staying away from that man. He’s got another evil spirit possessing him.”
Kurisu-chan was horrified. So was I.
“What are you saying, Kikyouin-san!?”
“I’m giving advice. I purified your whole house yesterday, but I didn’t do anything about the one sticking to you. Well, since you’ve got zero spiritual energy, I doubt it’ll do any harm. Even if I leave it be, it’ll go away eventually.”
No, I don’t care about the setting she’s playing!
Say what you want, but please don’t say things that’ll get Kurisu-chan to hate me!
I timidly turned to the side. Kurisu-chan was awkwardly turning her face away.
“Ah, no, I’m not really, scared or anything. It’s just, for a while, I’d be happy if you didn’t get close to me…”
I fell into a bottomless abyss.
Unsteadily standing to my feet, I took one step towards Kurisu-chan. Kurisu-chan stood, she took one step back.
Two steps forward. Two steps back. Another. Another.
“K-Kagoshima-senpai, your desperation is scaring me…”
“Calm down. Look here, I’m not scary. It’s just me. Your kind, gentle, Kagoshima-senpai.”
“S-s-scary! Ghosts are one thing, but Kagoshima-senpai’s bloodshot eyes are scaring me!”
“Wait. Don’t be scared! Get a little closer!”
“E-eek! Stay away!”
“No sexual harassment!”
Orino-san pulled me by the collar and returned me to my senses.
Looks like I went too far. Got to reflect, reflect.
“Now then, enough of the skit. For now, let me give an introduction as club presedent.”
Measuring her timing, Kagurai-senpai cut in.
I didn’t particularly intend that as a skit or anything…
“Some here might already be aware, but let me say it again. I will fulfill all of our club activities as the ‘Computer Club’. I don’t mind if the rest of you come whenever you want, and do whatever you want. Of course, you can be ghost members if it suits you.”
Temporarily cutting her words, she closed her eyes, and lightly lowered her head.
“I do feel sorry for using all of you in order to maintain my sanctuary. I’m sorry. And thank you.”
So she was firm where she had to be. That was what was good about her. And Kagurai-senpai began distributing white paper to us. The enlistment forms. It seems she procured just enough.
By the way, just as Kagurai-senpai schemed, Orino-san and Kurisu-chan gave the okay with no extra words. As busy as they were, the free absences were possibly the largest deciding factor. An additional by the way, the vice president was me. There was no real reason to it. Kagurai-senpai said, ‘Wanna do it?’ so I said, ‘Why not’ without much consideration.
But—Kikyouin-san didn’t look like she would be moving her hand.
Eventually, she tiresomely opened her mouth.
“I have no intention of joining this club.”
She plainly declared.
“Today, that idiot just forcefully dragged me along,” glaring at me, she continued in a harsh tone. “I haven’t the slightest intention of joinin’ this incomprehensible club.”
“I see,” Kagurai-senpai nodded. She didn’t seem to be angry at having her club called incomprehensible. Well, it’s not like senpai wanted to establish a club in the first place, so I guess it was natural.
“Kikyouin, was it? I don’t think this is a bad deal for you. Even if you’ll be affiliated with this club, there are no substantial actions you’ll need to take, or activities to take part in. There will be far less restrictions than in any other club you join.”
She was considerably blunt.
… Perhaps too blunt.
In that case, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish my goal of, ‘the slightly loopy Kikyouin-san making friends’.
“Whether it’s just in name or not, I don’t want to.”
“Hmm. I see. Could you tell me what you hate about this arrangement?”
“There’s someone I want to get away from.”
She proclaimed, looking towards me. I looked behind me. There was no one there. Good grief, she’s going to say there’s some wandering ghost she can’t stand or something, isn’t she.
“I mean you!”
Her ballpoint pen hit my head.
“Why are you so surprised!? Did you think you gave me a favorable impression!?”
“Don’t happily nod!”
I mean, Kikyouin-san lied about there being ghosts, excessively busying herself around me. I thought her hatred was also a form of love.
“… Hey, Kikyouin-san,” in an unpleasant voice, Orino-san stuck in her mouth. “Could you please not throw my pens?”
“Ah, that was yours?”
“No wonder it was so tasteless.”
“… What was that? Could it be you’re picking a fight?”
The two exchanged a glare that sent sparks flying.
They really don’t get along. Is it because their first contact on the day she transferred was bad?
“D-don’t fight, you two…”
Kurisu-chan hastily spoke.
“Fate’s somehow brought us all together, so I want to get along with everyone… though I’m a little scared of ghosts… ehehe.”
A small voice, and the form of an underclassman doing her best, Orino-san and Kurisu-san made awkward faces, draining the strength from their shoulders. Did they realize they weren’t acting as mature senpais?
“Ha. Good grief. It looks like Kurisu-chan is the real adult here.”
A mechanical pencil and eraser hit me in the face.
Ow! Something got in my eye!
“Seriously, stop throwing my writing utensils!”
“Shut it! ‘n wait, you threw one that time too!”
“That’s… because Kagoshima-kun’s stuck up face pissed me off too much, it was reflex…”
“Right!? It’s his fault for being so irritating!”
“I totally get you! But that doesn’t make it right to throw my things!”
The dwindling flame was relit anew.
Kagurai-senpai looked at me with, “that one was your fault,” eyes. Kurisu-chan stared at me with a, “I’m begging you, how about we read the mood a bit,” sort of look.
… It’s kinda depressing. I didn’t have any ill intent.
“And wait, yesterday, yeah yesterday! What did you go to Kagoshima-kun’s house for!?”
“I told you over lunch break, it’s none of your business.”
“It’s totally my business! Kagoshima-kun’s parents are both overseas, so he’s living alone. It’s not right for a girl to go play on her own at that sort of boy’s house.”
“I didn’t go there because I wanted to! Who in the world would willingly venture to that idiot’s house!?”
“In that case, just don’t go!”
“I’ve got my own circumstances!”
“I don’t have to tell you!”
They noisily began to quarrel. The verbal brawl gradually heated up to where it wouldn’t be strange for a hand to fly… for some reason, I feared there would be severe casualties to the greater population if these two seriously fought.
And as I mulled over what to do…
The sound of an impact so great, I wondered if the desk would break. Their quarrel came to a stop as all eyes gathered at the head of the long table. Kagurai-senpai’s hands were still fixed in position after slamming the desk. Closing her eyes, she quietly shut her mouth.
The room returned to silence.
“Alright, let’s take a picture,”
Kagurai-senpai broke the silence with a cheery tone.
Blowing off the dubious air surrounding the room, she started probing through her bag.
“A picture… what’s this all of a sudden?”
“I thought I’d take a picture with all the club members, so I bought a camera yesterday. You see them all the time in the openings of adolescence-themed games, those photographs with all the main characters together.”
“… Dating sims again?”
Well, I got what she was talking about.
Those. At the end of the opening scene, a wind blows in that sways the curtain, letting a photograph gently fall to the floor. Like that last episode of Yu Yu Hakusho.
“Now everyone stand up. Line up in front of that wall.”
I was the first to stand, getting in front of the wall as told. Despite everything, this person really was my senpai. I can’t say whether taking a picture was the best option or not, but it was certain she had changed the stormy air.
Sensing Kagurai-senpai’s tact, Orino-san and Kurisu-chan stood from their seats as well. But.
“What’s wrong, Kikyouin. Hurry and get in line.”
“… I don’t want to.” It was a rare discouraged voice from the strong-headed girl. “I hate photographs.”
“Yeah? What’s this, is your makeup off today or something?”
“Completely wrong. It’s not that…”
“Well, don’t worry about it, don’t worry about it. It’s not like I won’t say you have to join the club just because your picture was taken. It’s just to commemorate the moment.”
Half-forcefully standing a reluctant Kikyouin-san, she lined her up with the rest of us.
“Now say cheese.”
Having already mastered its use, Kagurai-senpai set up a timer, and set the digital camera on the desk before taking her position.
Pirorirorin, it let off a cute sound.
“How did it come out…”
Picking up the digital camera, the moment she looked at the screen, Kagurai-senpai’s expression clouded over.
“What happened? Wha–” I followed on, “Eh?” came Orino-san “E-eep…” went Kurisu-chan. Peering into the screen, we each leaked something of a scream.
In short, it was a ghost photo.
One of Kagurai-senpai’s shapely legs wasn’t captured.
Orino-san’s right arm faded to nothingness.
A faint girl’s face was visible next to Kurisu-chan’s head.
… I, that’s scary! I look like a Dullahan!
And wait, isn’t the damage around me alone especially high?
“Eep…” as if she might fall from anemia, Kurisu-chan weakly swooned to the floor. “S-s-save me, mama… mama…”
I had my doubts about that line coming from a high schooler, but let’s put that aside. While it wasn’t at Kurisu-chan’s level, both Orino-san and Kagurai-senpai were ghastly pale. Likely myself as well.
“That’s why I told you…”
Kikyouin-san spoke in a small voice unsuited to her.
“When a photo’s taken of me, it always winds up like this… my spiritual energy stimulates the surrounding wandering ghosts… I’m versed in exorcism, so it doesn’t affect me, but… the surrounding people are always.”
I looked at the photo anew. Certainly, Kikyouin-san alone didn’t have anything off.
“No, but, Kikyouin-san… isn’t this just a coincidence? I’m pretty sure ghost photos can all be explained through science.”
“There’s no way ghosts exist.”
“… Yeah, just keep telling yourself that.”
She said offhandedly and stood from her seat.
“Now quit botherin’ me. I don’t need any friends.”
She said coldly, glaring at us.
Ah, there it is again.
Those eyes, again.
As if she didn’t place any hopes in us, those harsh eyes.
“Ah, oy, Kikyouin!”
Kagurai-senpai called to stop her, but ignoring the attempt, she left the classroom with swift feet. Only an unpleasant, truly unpleasant air remained. As if ghosts were dancing about the space.
Would I be better off not getting involved with Kikyouin-san anymore?
That night, I sprawled out over the living room sofa as I contemplated such things.
Perhaps having her make friends was simply my forceful positivity. She’s free to choose whether she makes friends or not. Perhaps I was just pushing my own sense of values onto her. Whether ghosts really exist, whether she really is an onmyouji. Those trivial problems didn’t really matter.
The important thing was how Kikyouin-san felt.
It looked to me like the person called Kikyouin Yuzuki had firm rules by which she lived her life. Was it really alright for me to violate them without any major resolve? Wasn’t it better to just leave her alone?
“… But, you know.”
Her eyes. Those lonely eyes had been unpleasantly burned into my brain.
“Maan, I just don’t know.”
Standing up, yeaah, I stretched out.
It seems my brain matter’s just not suited for thinking out the hard stuff.
And before I worry about someone else, I need to do something about myself. A person who’s not satisfied with themselves has no qualifications to speak on another’s behalf.
Now, how about me.
“… Seriously, a hundred thousand yen, what do I do…”
In regards to the scam, I did put a call in to the police. When I did, I was patched through to the consumer center. The kind lady there told me, “Eh? You bought a hundred thousand yen urn? Umm, no one does that in this day and age. I’d prefer if you keep those jokes in bad taste to yourself,” she got mad and I wanted to cry.
Over twenty minutes, I somehow got her to understand it wasn’t a joke, but in the end, I had far too little information on hand, and there were no measures she could take.
“… Well, what goes around, comes around, I’m sure.”
Pushing the problem into the future, for now, I must live in the moment. So in order to live this day to the fullest, meaning to satisfy this empty stomach—point being, I needed money, so I decided to search around the vending machines for spare change.
… I’m well aware of how pitiful that is, but if you want to make an omelet, you’ve got to break a few eggs. I put on my shoes and opened the front door.
When I opened it, there was Kikyouin-san.
It looked like she was just about to press the doorbell.
“Huh? What’s up?”
Just a few hours ago, we parted with such a gloomy mood, so why?
“Ah, could it be you came to apologize?”
“… Why would I have to apologize to you?”
“Umm, something like, sorry for saying so many mean things?”
“Go die in a ditch.”
She said it straight to my face.
… It’s kinda…
I’m no Kagurai-senpai, but if this was a dating sim, even if your first impression is terrible, gradually building up your affection points from there is a common development. But I get the feeling Kikyouin’s first impression of me was the high point. This nagging feeling that my parameters are on the plunge from zero into the negatives.
“I came to return this. I don’t want you thinking I made off with it.”
She said coldly, before lightly tossing something over.
After frantically catching it, I inspected it to find… the urn I bought.
“T-this is… why do you have it!?”
“I said I’d borrow it yesterday, didn’t I? You don’t remember?”
“Eh…? … Oh, now that you mention it, that sounds like…”
Yesterday evening, after Kikyouin-san purified the evil spirits—or at least ran her mouth on that sort of thing, “Let me look over the floor plans, just in case,” she said, so I led her around the house.
Well, at the time, I was full of an urge to, “have Kikyouin-san made some friends,” so I generally ignored most of what she was saying.
“Why did you take this?”
“It caught my eye. I took it home and inspected it in detail.”
It caught her eye?
It caught the eye of a real self-proclaimed onmyouji
“After inspecting it, I figured out why–”
“It’s something amazing, isn’t it!? It was made with miracle-rich soil, wasn’t it!”
I’m begging you! It can be a lie, just tell me it’s so!
“No. It was just an urn.”
Slump. My head drooped with enough force to smash it into the ground.
“’n wait, they were selling the same thing at the hundred-yen shop in front of the station.”
Another slump. I hung my head with enough force to bury it.
“By your story, some strange man tricked you into buyin’ it. Hah. How idiotic. How much did you put out? Around five thousand yen?”
“Y-yeah. Well, somewhere around that…”
I can’t say it. Even if my mouth melts off, I can’t tell her.
But something was bothering me.
“Huh? But if it’s just an urn, why did you take it back with you? Was there something strange about it?”
“… The bottom, have a look.”
She jerked up her chin, so I flipped it over. On the bottom of the urn, a star had been drawn in carbon ink.
“What’s this? A signature?”
“Sehman. The five pointed star. It’s a symbol onmyouji use to cast spells. It’s hard to see, but it was drawn inside the urn as well. The urn itself is just from the hundred yen shop, but it’s been imbued with a complicated technique. What’s more…”
Her mouth warping, she detestably continued her words.
“The pattern of this spell… belongs to the Tsuchimikado Main House.”
The main house to the Kikyouin branch family.
Going on what Kai said, they’re famous in Kyoto, a famed house earning money through divinations.
“… Good grief,” she ran a hand through her blond hair. “Why is the main house comin’ out? I don’t get it.”
“So this urn is…?”
“For argument’s sake, as long as you place it in the right quadrant, it’s made to properly exhibit an effect. In the first place, rather than doing something on its own, the spell was made to show its power with the proper placement and environment.”
“But you just left it in the entrance, right? In the case of this urn, you have to place it at the demon gate in the northeast, or it’s pointless.”
No, what I want to know isn’t a pointer in feng shui.
If someone in the famed divining Tsuchimikado House made it, then would someone buy it off me for a pretty penny?
“Hey, could you tell me about the man who came to sell this to you?”
She drew close to me, I was a little flustered.
“It happened two days ago.”
I told her everything I remembered.
The travelling monk’s face, his clothes, height, voice, apart from the amount of money he took from me, I got everything across. Once she had finished listening, “Ah, I see. That guy,” she muttered.
“You know him?”
“Pretty much. We see each other once a year at best. But when it comes to someone in their early twenties, male, tall and lean, and an onmyouji related to the Tsuchimikado House, only one guy comes to mind.”
So said Kikyouin-san.
That was the traveling monk’s… the swindler who tricked me’s name.
“Third son of the Tsuchimikado House’s direct line. It’s not like he’s got no talent as an onmyouji, but because he’s got two talented older brothers, he’s been a bit buried up. Ah, come to think of it, there was a rumor that he ran off from the house, but it looks like it was true. I never thought he would be out here acting as a con man…”
Furrowing her brow, she sounded irritated. Perhaps she was ashamed that someone she knew was working as a swindler.
“Tsuchimikado Senzou—a disgrace of an onmyouji. I’ll have to hunt him down and send him home.”
“So you mean,”
As onmyouji and spells and other ambiguous terms came out along the way, I couldn’t understand half of it, but,
“You mean, Kikyouin-san, that you’re going to chase after that Tsuchimikado-san?”
I could tell that was the most important point.
“That’s right. It’s not a bad idea to put the Tsuchimikado House in my debt.”
“In that case, I’ll help out.”
Our objectives were the same, it would be best to work together.
She made the decision without the slightest hesitation.
“An amateur doing what he shouldn’t only causes trouble.”
“But it’s dangerous if I leave a single girl to do it…”
“I’m tellin’ you, it’s far more dangerous for a single girl to do it with a deadweight draggin’ her down.”
I was denied far too plainly, it was a little depressing. Yet I got the feeling I wouldn’t even be able to beat Kikyouin-san in a bare-handed fight, so I could only keep quiet.
“I’ll properly get your money back for you. Five thousand yen, right?”
“Ah! Oh, no…”
“What, did you get it cheaper?”
“… No. It was five thousand yen, on the dot…”
Crap. To think these troubles awaited me.
I shouldn’t have put on airs and lied!
I can’t tell her, ‘it was really a hundred thousand, tehe’ at this point!
While I was holding my head in anguish, Kikyouin-san had already finished her business, quickly disappearing without so much as a goodbye.
Now that it’s come to this…