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Thread: Witch on the Holy Night

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    Witch on the Holy Night

    CHAPTER 1: AOKO’S NOT VERY GOOD DAY

    Disclaimer: I do not own Mahou Tsukai no Yoru or any of it's characters.

    1-0

    I became the shadow of that child eight winters ago.

    During a peaceful morning, the first time she felt the weight of life.

    Her house was on a mountain, with sterile earth devoid of everything.

    She couldn’t hope to have a childhood friend living nearby, and it was impractical to go to school or play outside, but it was a house that was important in her memories, even if it was a boring place with nothing to do, it held great tranquility and the water and stars were beautiful.

    However, that was only during summer.

    Winter on the mountain was very arduous, and mornings were always painful.

    Her father brought her to the train station by car, but the windows were completely frosted, and the motor had to be turned on more than ten minutes in advance for it to start.

    “Can you go start the car?”

    She usually went to start the motor while her father drank his coffee after breakfast.

    She left by the entrance hall, went around the garden while exhaling vapor, and opened the door of the old Berlin.

    As usual, she inserted the key and turned it, causing the engine to start with a loud noise.

    A shriek rang out.

    She heard a small whimper of pain that didn’t belong to a human voice.

    A few minutes later, they found a living being under the car hood when her father opened it.

    The inside was of the hood was filled with small chains entangled together and a monstrous motor.

    It wasn’t a good living space for a cat and her two kittens.

    The three cats had curled up together to warm up.

    There was nothing above the mother’s neck.

    One of the two kittens had gotten entangled in the wires and didn’t move anymore, he’d probably died instantly.

    The other had half of his nose red with blood, and breathes by sniffing like a wet dog.

    The kitten clung with all his strength to the corpse ... no, to the piece of meat that his mother had become, despite only a few minutes of life left.

    “Poor things.”

    Her father lamented.

    The cold last night had been particularly harsh.

    After her father came back in the car, the cats had snuck under the hood, attracted by the heat of the engine.

    They’d spent the night under the hood and the next morning had woken up dragged into the rotation of the belt.

    For cars from the 80s that weren’t quite airtight, that sort of thing seemed to happen often.

    “...Don’t worry, it wasn’t your fault.”

    The voice of her father came from far away.

    On the grey pelt of the kitten one could see the blood of its mother and brother, as well as that of the half of its body that had been torn apart.

    Aah, its round skull could be seen.

    The small life was covered in such stains.

    The kitten, which appeared to have gone blind, used all its strength to shakenly wrap around the corpse of its mother.

    “Wait!”

    She took the kitten in her arms and ran to the house of her grandfather inside the mountain.

    Did she shake because of remorse or was she confused by her sadness? Even now, I honestly don’t know.

    While holding back her tears, she ran toward her grandfather’s workshop.

    Her grandfather was a Magician that could do anything.

    She had never seen true magic herself, and she understood that it was only tales and fantasies, but by relying on her instinct rather than preconceived ideas, she knew that he could accomplish miracles.

    That was why she thought he might be able to save him.

    “You want me to change the fate of that kitten?”

    The magician that lived in the cave asked it uncaringly.

    She begged “I want to save him.”

    The magician granted the selfish wish of the young girl like a machine, without even saying that it didn’t bother him or that it was a grave matter that might change the world.

    In a screen, space moves by at the speed of light. It is in the warp.

    In the center of the screen, light gathers, a pure white. After that, the vision of an empty plain enters her mind from the pure red screen. The scene, colored a bright red, began to play back in reverse. In other words, time accelerated toward the past, and restored a former state. In this scene, an unknown figure stood, and plainly described three things.

    The screen is black. She only sees the interior of her grandfather’s Workshop.

    “...Aah.”

    When she regained consciousness, she held a small corpse in her arms.

    The fur had frozen.

    The heat of life had abandoned it long ago.

    The tears that she had forbidden herself from crying streamed down from her eyes.

    An immense feeling of regret filled her heart like an endless grey sky.

    “All those efforts for nothing. In the end, he returned to his initial state.”

    She couldn’t understand what had happened.

    Despite what she’d experienced in those ten minutes, the people that she’d met and what she’d done, she had returned to the starting point, unable to accept her responsibilities.

    The only thing she knew for sure was that a life destined to die couldn’t be saved, and on that day, the girl that “I” am was born by mistake.

    Aaah.

    Whatever, all that fills me nostalgia and I’m eager to see what the future has in store for me.

    It’s an eight-years-old fairy tale.

    It was the day when they met for the first time, an event impossible to unmake no matter what magic is used.

    1-1


    I’m arrogant, greedy, and only good at destruction.

    I’m certainly a bitch.

    I never learn, and never look back.

    I’m proud without reason, and if I end up lonely then so be it.

    It’s my fate to be killed by little red riding hood someday...

    It was a calm morning.

    Even though, looking out from the bed, the color of the sky was grey like a a stained picture, even though the thermometer was barely six degrees, an unprecedented record for the month of November, and even though the time for breakfast had passed long ago and she’d woken up shamefully out of hunger, the simple fact that she could sleep-in as much as she wanted made this morning wonderful for her.

    The clock’s hand long had passed eight hours in the morning.

    If this had been a normal day, the time would have brought despair and she would have been late no matter what she did. But today, exceptionally, school was closed for the anniversary of the institution.

    Thanks to that she could profit of her morning at leisure for the first time in a long while.

    I’m repeating myself, but the sky outside was a sad steel blue and seemed more evening than morning.

    Even if one wanted to paint a good picture of that morning, it couldn’t honestly be said to be an agreeable one.

    But for her, who had stayed up all night and had gone to sleep three hours prior, the weather outside wasn’t important.

    For now, her sleep was all that mattered.

    If it was just to nap in bed, it was a good morning, and the weather outside was none of her business – she quickly stopped thinking about what was on the other side of the window.

    She closed the curtains.

    She closed her eyes and without pause worked to fall back to sleep.

    “Make it so that I can have a boring dream for at least two more hours.”

    She was still very sleepy, and her happiness came immediately.

    She lost consciousness as if drowning.

    However, her modest wish was coldly rejected.

    “-“

    She heard a weak but strident sound.

    It was without a doubt the sound of the phone.

    By force of habit, the eyelids that she had just closed opened suddenly against her will.

    “You must be kidding. Why today?”

    The phone was installed in the lobby on the ground floor.

    From this room, you had to cross ten meters of corridors and a staircase to reach it.

    For someone sleepy like her, it was somewhere between very far and the ends of the universe.

    The ring of the phone sounded out insistently.

    If she ignored it, it would cease ringing sooner or later, but she wasn’t lenient enough toward herself to permit it.

    “Alice, aren’t you answering?”

    Her sadness increased; she had hoped for a reaction from her roommate, but she quickly abandoned that idea.

    Thinking back, only her school was closed, and her roommate was one of those young ladies from the academy up on the hill. She had departed for school a while ago.

    The phone’s persistence wasn’t normal.

    Before that insistence, the sound seemed louder to her.

    “Aah, dammit, my hopes for peaceful sleep..”

    She left her bed against herself, put on a thin vest and left her room.

    “’s cold.“

    She joined her hands together to relieve her fingers that were numbed by the cold.

    The heating in the manor was mediocre.

    Even more so during these cloudy mornings, in which one felt the cold of winter without needing to look at the thermometer.

    The manor was on the edge of a mountain and surrounded by a dense forest. Winter reached it much quicker than it did the town.

    In the long corridor, the mechanical sound of the phone reverberated like an echo.

    The equipment of the manor was fairly well maintained, yet it seemed empty.

    The solitude it inspired surpassed its splendor.

    With the addition of the dark morning, it wasn’t unthinkable that it would evoke the impression of being haunted.

    “Which it is, but still.”

    Either way, this place was too big for two people.

    The number of people had once surpassed thirty.

    The person on the other end of the call either had a lot of free time, or knew the situation of this place.

    She intuitively suspected that the second possibility was the truth.

    The window above her head had a mournful color.

    As if to catch the disrespectful telephone’s ring, she stepped faster.

    Even though she had a feeling that her wonderful morning would probably go up in smoke the moment she answered it.

    In any case, this was only the first case in a series of incidents.

    Please be clement toward its lack of romance.

    Statistically or by general opinion, things generally begin like this, calmly and ordinarily.

    1-2

    When she arrived at the front gate, the heavy rain had lessened.

    It was possible to see the rays of sunlight hidden high in the sky.

    At this rate, the rain might stop by the afternoon.

    “...Even that doesn’t really matter to me.”

    Unlike the color that filled the sky, her luck wasn’t pretty.

    Not only had she been awakened early in the morning when she hadn’t slept at all, but the winter rain had come.

    At this rate, this affair wouldn’t lead to anything good...

    As the premonition caused her a headache, she passed through the front gate and moved toward the building.

    She didn’t cross single student on the way.

    She didn’t see any students doing any school activity either.

    At the reception of the lobby reserved for teachers, a sign marked “On Break” was displayed.

    The school had given all students a holiday.

    Herself excepted, of course, since she’d been called in at such an hour.

    That fact irritated her more and more.

    When she opened the door to the teachers’ room, a teacher she knew well was working at his desk.

    He was unremarkable, but wore an elegant shirt and jacket and while he possessed a natural calm, his thin glasses advised prudence.

    He was a gentleman in his twenties that smoked a cigarette, which didn’t fit with his image.

    Apparently he hadn’t noticed her yet.

    She slammed the door with vigor.

    Without giving the impression of having been surprised, the teacher named Yamashiro lifted his head.

    “Oh, hello, Aozaki. You were informed of the situation?”

    “Yes. At my house, in an hour. Without prior warning.”

    Yamashiro, who had graduated from this high school, wasn’t much older than his students.

    That might have been why they appreciated him more than the other teachers.

    He knew how to hold a conversation and his voice was smooth.

    Rather than a teacher, he seemed like a colleague that you could rely on, but unfortunately for him she didn’t like him that much.

    A teacher had to stay composed.

    In the eyes of the students, he had incited admiration and hatred like an unsurpassable wall. He shouldn’t be confused, even by mistake, with a big brother who smiled in a relaxed place. That was her opinion.

    The teacher Yamashiro was the exact opposite of what she considered a teacher and naturally the tone that she took when talking with him was harsh and unfriendly.

    ...Even though she hadn’t possessed something like friendliness from the start.

    “Ah, it look like you’re not in a very good mood today either.”

    “It’s your imagination, since it’s not limited to today.”

    She answered clearly despite also realizing how horrible she must seem.

    With her bad mood at waking up and her lack of sleep, she must have had a terrifying look.

    “Really? It’s fine in that case, but don’t be too hard on yourself. To be honest there are circumstances that make it so that even we aren’t sure how to act around him.

    “Speaking of, I haven’t gotten any details about that. Sir.”

    Before her stare and piercing voice, professor Yamashiro responded with a “good” and put out his cigarette.

    “So what were you told over the phone?”

    “Only that I had to meet with a transfer student.”

    It was a nonsensical and unbelievable explanation.

    Faced with this brief reply, Yamashiro’s eyebrows rose with admiration.

    He understood that she was angry, but he was surprised that it was because she hadn’t been given any details over the phone, rather than because she’d been disturbed on a holiday.

    How harsh it was, he thought with a forced smile on his lips.

    “Sir. If it’s a joke, could I go home soon?”

    “Sorry, sorry. It’s a serious conversation, not a joke. You see, I wanted you to help me out a little.”

    “Is it really about a transfer student?”

    “Yes. There are several reasons for that, but it’s complicated. He...Ah, his name is Soujuurou, but he’s a little odd in a way. I thought it might be preferable that it be you that give him the tour of the school rather than a teacher, since you have the same age.”

    “…”

    Her expression became suspicious.

    For starters, that he would be lazy enough to give a teacher’s task to a student, but especially because she wondered what he meant by “odd”.

    She could understand if he was a problem student or someone hard to handle. But what did he mean by odd?

    ‘Odd. That’s not a term that a teacher would normally use…’

    In light of her suspicions, she changed her approach.

    It was pointless to be worried about trifles.

    This conversation itself was odd and unpleasant to begin with, and she didn’t know enough; what mattered was that if she had intended to refuse,, she would still be curled up under her sheets in bed.

    “I have a question.”

    “What is it? Oh, he’s in second year like you. He’s calm and an apt listener. Thinking about it, it could be seen as a lack of ambition on his part. It makes him easy to get along with, I suppose?” He’ll be in another class than yours, but I’m sure you’ll get al-“

    “I can ask that from, and judge the person in question. What I want to know is why me?”

    She wasn’t happy about it, but she would put her feelings aside for the moment and try to fit into the role she had been given.

    One of her qualities was that she did her best to be impartial despite being self-centered.

    She wasn’t happy about doing it, but someone like Yamashiro ended up thinking that her mentality was worthy of trust.

    …Well.

    From time to time, her force of will surpassed anything he’d imagined, but that was another story. The strategy that Yamashiro had put into effect throughout the year was to treat her like a natural catastrophe and let the storm pass by.

    “I’ll ask you one more time, Mr. Yamashiro. Why me?”

    In front of the stubborn interrogation that couldn’t be answered with yes or no, Yamashiro explained against his will.

    “Well, you see, I didn’t chose you because you’re the iron maiden of the student council, in which the teachers put their full trust, even if they avoid you like the plague; nor because you would throw yourself at the entirety of the students and teachers for the good of the school if needed.”

    “…I can’t see any reasons beside those to call me.”

    He couldn’t be trusted, she thought while observing the advisor of the student council through half-closed eyes.

    With the intensity of a seventeen years old girl, and the charm of a seventeen years old girl.

    Teacher Yamashiro received that look, which held such miraculous harmony, with a peaceful smile that seemed fascinated.

    “Really, if it was just about fulfilling my duty, I would have done it myself. Our posts as teacher or president of the student council have nothing to do with this personal choice. How to put it…I thought you would be the only person that might accept this request without getting anything in return. You’re qualified, that’s why I recommended you.”

    In a way, it was like saying: “you complain, but you’re a good person.”

    “Mister Yamashiro.”

    “Wah, how scary. Come now, don’t look at me like that. I told you, didn’t I? I don’t care, but at least smile for him. If that’s alright for you, let’s go now. We’ve been kept him waiting for quite a while after all. Also, sorry for making you walk in the rain. I’ll bring you back home in my car, of course.”
    Teacher Yamashiro elegantly rose from his seat.

    “No need”, she replied, before leaving the teacher’s room.


    He’d been waiting motionlessly for an hour now.

    Without him realizing it, it had started raining a bit.

    He distractedly listened to the sound of the raindrops.

    In a room in which the rectangular desks had been positioned for the meetings, there was a solitary shadow. Only him.

    A fair amount of time had passed since he had been brought to this room and been told to sit and wait.

    If he had been an ordinary student, he would have begun to show his annoyance or nervousness, but the young man meticulously followed what he had been told like a scarecrow in a field.

    The cold seeped into his bones.

    The temperature was that of a late November morning that showed the coming of winter.

    It was still better than outside.

    He hadn’t turned the heat, perhaps because he hadn’t heard the teacher telling him to do so, or because he’d never seen that particular kind.

    Breathing on the tip of his fingers that had gone numb, he distractedly looked around him.

    This lifeless room was apparently called a conference room.

    From the point of view of an enrolled student, it was an arrogant room, but for him it was just spacious without exaggeration.

    Since it seemed desolate, he involuntarily started imagining a desolated cavern.

    With nothing better to do, he seriously tried to imagine what kind of discussion might go on in such a cold place.

    “…hum.”

    The answer didn’t seem to come no matter how much he thought, so he turned his attention back to the sound of the rain.


    The raining sky looked a little like the one from the mountain.

    No, in truth, the similarity between the two were basically nil.

    But if the smell and the sounds were clearer, it was basically the same thing.

    Even in this other world, there were points of similarity with the mountain.

    Such small things made him happy.

    He liked the city made wet by the rain.

    He evidently felt good when the sky was clear, but on the other hand the rain clouds didn’t displease him.

    The roads drenched by the rain smelled a bit like the earth and brought to mind his birthplace even more nostalgia.

    It was only in times like those that his feeling of anxiety from coming to the city lifted a little.

    “…”

    As soon as he thought of it, a discouraged sigh escaped him.

    It was really pitiful. It had already been two days since he had moved, but as soon he wasn’t careful he started to remember the land of his birth and pitied his fate.

    The thought that he should apologize to his new life for complaining raised his spirits and he once more started to wait in good faith.

    He turned his thoughts toward the sound of the rain with slight enthusiasm.

    It seemed that waiting this long wasn’t a bother for him.

    His state of being allowed him, through deep breathes, to endure numbing cold or an hour of waiting when needed.

    Waiting three years on a rock, or continuing to fight in the manner of the 47 ronins.

    Beyond the fact that it could be a great quality, there was no doubt that it showed impressive stamina.

    At the current time, it was the particularity of this young man.


    Meanwhile, she burned with rage.

    Because along the way from the teacher’s room to the conference room, she had been given the description of the student she was going to meet.

    Apparently, that person had lived from his birth up to now on a faraway mountain where electricity hadn’t been installed.

    The fact that he hadn’t had electricity meant he didn’t even know half of the contents modern civilization.

    “What a ridiculous anachronism, forget the post-war period, he comes from before. There’s a limit to pretending to be Robinson Crusoé.”

    She had no choice but to feel that way.

    Apparently, that village in the mountain had always been an isolated hamlet.

    They only communicated by courier once a month, and only with the village at the foot of the mountain. It was light-years away from modern Japan.

    With that said the country had put in place means of communication and transportation like highways or Japan’s national railway, and it was now impossible to ignore the existence of mountain villages.

    At present, only one thing was for sure, and that was that she couldn’t imagine how someone who lived that way would think.

    “When you say he didn’t have electricity, you mean it wasn’t spread throughout the village, right? There had to be at least a public phone.”

    “Apparently, there wasn’t. It seems that the first thing that surprised him when he came here were phones. He told me with a serious face that it was convenient. I took the opportunity to tell him that after thinking about it, that was indeed the case.”

    The professor chuckled while watching her from the corner of his eyes.

    She wondered what was so amusing. Evidently the country boy’s naivety had relaxed Yamashiro.

    “Then that means there’s no place to rent either…my parents’ house is also in the mountain, so I’m not saying that not having electricity is impossible, but – that guy never went to school either?”

    “No. In fact, he didn’t even know what it was, and today is the first time he goes to school. He might have been nervous, since he didn’t really react to what I was saying. Hum, people like that are called wild, aren’t they? Like a child raised by wolves? It’s a story worth exploring!”

    “…”

    “Whoa, you’re scary, Aozaki. It was a joke, a joke. Don’t stare at me like that, please. All will be well, from the impression I got when I talked with him, he’s a calm child. How to say? Like a small animal that doesn’t understand human language.

    “That doesn’t encourage me at all. Sir.”

    While answering with a sharp tone, she tried to imagine a life without electricity, and her expression darkened even more.

    Because it was an unknown world.

    She understood why the teachers had given up.

    In truth, she also wanted to give up and go back to her comfortable bed, but her extraordinary pride stopped her.

    From the moment it was hoped that she would succeed and she’d determined that it was possible for her to succeed, the details or the difficulty of the task didn’t matter, she couldn’t give up so easily.

    She walked through a freezing corridor with the sound of the rain behind her.

    The conference room was already in sight.

    With undulating hair and a frown on her face, she walked toward the unknown with elegant steps as though preparing for a battle.

    “…Ah, Aozaki! I trust you, but I’d like to make sure of one thing. Hum, please be nice, alright? Maybe smile if possible?”

    “I’m not good at faking smiles. Besides, I think I’m already putting in effort.”

    “Oh, really? That’s good to hear. It seems there are things that even you struggle with.”

    As they reached the door of the conference room, Yamashiro threw her a warning glance to prevent her from being too rough as he set his hand on the doorknob.

    The act only increased her annoyance.

    “I know I’m not very nice, but a smile isn’t something you do consciously. Besides, it’s better to be distant for these ephemeral acquaintances.”

    She sighed at her own rudeness, but thinking about it how could she be expected to smile after having been called to school while lacking sleep on a holiday?

    Especially since it seemed more logical that the student that caused the trouble should start in primary school rather than here.

    …Even if it wasn’t strictly his fault, she had neither obligation nor responsibility to take care of the administration’s job.

    Then again, she felt like grumbling that he could have at the very least been sensible enough to come on a school day.

    ‘No, the fact is that he’s an enemy. No matter what, that guy is an enemy. It’s unfortunate but even if there are attenuating circumstances, he’s an enemy. It’s truly bad luck for the two of us. Damn, why did this have to happen at such a time?’

    Her headache, which pursued her because of her lack of sleep, increased her aggressiveness by 10%.

    No matter how innocent the person behind that door was, anyone who interrupted her sleep was an enemy.

    At the moment when her animosity reached its apex, Yamashiro opened the door of the conference room.

    …Slowly, the scene unfolded.

    Her feelings were unimportant.

    With a determined look, she entered the conference room and met that eccentric enemy.

    The situation is hard to understand from this point of view.

    Let us once more change perspective.

    And go back in time a little.

    The command to “do nothing” was for some people an invaluable luxury, and for others an unsupportable torture.

    For an energetic person like her, it was an activity that she enjoyed and at the same times something far too precious and suspect for her to accept it.

    For a passive person like him, it was something familiar but also something that bitterly made him nostalgic. At least for now, that feeling was nowhere to be seen on the one who’d been made to wait.

    He calmly stood with his back straight as he contemplated the grey sky.

    He’d been waiting for an hour, but the other person must have had their reason, and it wasn’t as if his money was being stolen.

    He gave the impression that he could wait forever as long as he could listen to the rain.

    ‘It’ll be past nine soon. I wonder what’s keeping him?’

    Despite the wait, he continued to distractedly listen to the rain while keeping track of time.

    Due to the holiday, he could hear no conversations in the building.

    The rain rhythmically knocked into the window.

    A sinister creak was emitted.

    Then the noise of shoes that noisily approached.

    ‘Whew, I thought I’d been forgotten.’

    He could hear faint footsteps, alongside the louder sound of an adult.

    As he sighed in relief, the door slid open.

    “Sorry for making you wait so long.”

    The thing he saw was a man who wore glasses and an apologetic smile.

    According to his memories, it was a teacher by the name of Yamashiro Kazuki. It was the one who had brought him here.

    “Oh, mister Satonaka isn’t here? …That’s not nice, I’d asked him to keep you company.”

    He shook his head in an even more apologetic manner.

    And behind him.

    “…”

    He held his breath in shock.

    The sound of the rain vanished from the world.

    …At that time, even if it was an illusion, he understood for the first time that it was possible to lose track of time.

    “…”

    She blinked, slightly surprised.

    The reason was unknown to her.

    As she had been told, the young man was the very picture of the naïve country boy, but she rejected that feeling, considering it as unacceptable.

    “…”

    His eyes widened a bit, slightly surprised.

    The reason was obvious to him.

    …It was just that he didn’t know how to put in words. As a result, he also remained silent.

    At that moment.

    The story wasn’t a fairy tale, and he was the only one who felt it.


    But the young man indeed felt as if he had been touched by something like destiny.

    “-And here is the president of the student council who gave up on her day of sleep and accepted the role of guide for her new associate, Aozaki Aoko.”

    The voices and the sound of rain were vague in the distance.

    That was roughly what their meeting was like.

    Be it for better or worse, it was one of those boring beginnings that acted like a spark.


    According to the student body, Aozaki Aoko was always in a bad mood.

    According to 90% of them, even Aoko didn’t have enough free time to be angry 24 hours a day.

    Her temperament was simply such that she never relaxed, and so she always looked either subtly or openly annoyed by some invisible thing.

    And so 90% of the students thought it was just like the seven unfounded ghost stories of the school, exaggerated by rumors.

    But the remaining 10% were right.

    Sometimes, Aoko showed such animosity toward inoffensive things that she suspected that she suffered from chronic headache.

    This day matched the 10%.

    It was in times like this that her anger was like a selfish child’s.

    The conference room was darkened by the rain.

    One of the school rules was that the lights had to stay off during the day to preserve electricity.

    The individual responsible was standing inside.

    The first impression that he gave off was the tranquility of wild flowers.

    While his back was straightened, it wasn’t tense; it was obvious that he was calm.

    Still, he stubbornly didn’t seem reassured.

    It could be seen through his uniform that his body was more defined than average.

    He was the image of a common teenager whose black hair was unkempt and who rarely blinked.

    If one considered under a favorable light, he looked more like a young man than a teenager.

    That calm impression showed his maturity.

    …Maybe that was the source of Aoko’s unreasonable animosity.

    There should have been a feeling of alienation, but the teenager naturally fit into the room without incongruity. In school, he was the foreign element, yet he gave the illusion that Aoko and the teacher were the guests.

    As if their usual legitimacy had been revoked. That disagreement was unexplainable.

    Aoko felt as if she was put on the defensive.

    …Unbelievable.

    Why was she incensed without any reason?

    What she didn’t understand upset her, even more so when it was herself.

    Even if it didn’t hurt her, as a perfectionist it was as unbearable as a splinter under a nail.

    « Ha, hahaha. Come now Aozaki, you should introduce yourself. »

    Hearing Yamashiro try to defuse the situation pissed her off even more.

    “Introduce myself?”

    After sending a scathing glare toward Yamashiro, she turned back toward the boy.

    From another point of view, she was staring at him.

    It wasn’t acceptable behavior but unfortunately for him, the feelings of the young girl were focused on the young boy that she was meeting for the first time.

    “Sorry for making you wait, Shizuki.”

    When his name was pronounced, the boy…Soujuurou, woke from his trance.

    His admiring stare relaxed, and he breathed in to stop the beginning of a headache.

    Believing that this action was due to stress, Yamashiro chucked and spoke to the girl at his side.

    “Let’s do the introductions. There is the transfer student, Shizuki Soujuurou. And here is the president of the student council who gave up on her day of sleep and accepted the role of guide for her new associate, Aozaki Aoko.”

    Introduced by Yamashiro, she took a step forward.

    Her stare was inescapable.

    It was a fixed glare, close to anger that seemed to evaluate him.

    On the other hand, Soujuurou was surprised to be shamelessly stared, but somehow managed to keep his cool.

    Having never experienced this kind of event, he mistakenly assumed that it wasn’t unusual in the city.

    From an outsider’s point of view, there meeting was sublime.

    On one hand the violent young girl who tried to pick a fight, and on the other the country boy who seriously observed her while wondering what was going on.

    For everyone around except for them, it looked like a battle to the death between two snakes.

    For example, to Yamashiro who stood behind Aoko.

    If it had been a comedy, he would have been shrugging powerlessly. He thought it had been a good idea to choose a model student to act as a guide, but for she was in a bad mood for some reason. Now, the atmosphere was tense.

    It was only now that that he recognized his mistake.

    It was too late, but it seemed that that high schooler, who solved all problems efficiently, could become a catastrophe that would turn the school upside down if a mistake was made while she was on the scene.

    This course of action was something of a desperation move, and the teachers that had been randomly present that day would be responsible for any scandal.

    “Ah, yes, it looks like everything will be fine; it looks like you’re getting along already. …So, it’s alright if I leave now right?”

    Chuckling uncontrollably, Yamashiro slowly stepped back toward the door.

    “I’ll be in the teacher’s room, so come and see me when you’re done. Aozaki, calm down, be calm, okay? Please, just this time, I’d like to trust in your great gentleness as the student council president!”

    They looked at each other, though to be more precise one stared at the other. Leaving them that way, Yamashiro walked away.

    There remained only a boy incarnating naivety, and a young girl with her arms crossed over her chest.

    They remained silent for a time.

    Each was wary of the opponent as if they were playing a game of chess, but Aoko realized she was the only one thinking about it.

    For now, setting aside her annoyance.

    She had no reason to feel animosity toward him to begin with. Considering this, she let out a deep sigh before turning toward Soujuurou.

    “Well, whatever. It’s not the first time Yamashiro flees from his duties. So, what’s your name?”

    Her scathing tone was a reprimand toward the boy who hadn’t spoken for himself, but he didn’t perceive her sarcasm.

    With an air showing that he would never be tempted by bad intentions, he answered while smiling without reason, showing his teeth.

    “Ah, right, Shizuki Soujuurou, I guess. And you’re miss Aozaki, right?”

    ”No need to be so polite, it’s not my style. Is it alright if I call you Shizuki? ”

    ”What do you mean?”

    ”The way to refer to you. I’m asking you if I can ignore titles. ”

    “ … ”

    “What, did I say something weird?”

    “Yes, very.”

    His answer was automatic as if it was obvious, though he muttered that it might not be the case.

    “No, it’s alright. I guess that’s how it’s done. You can call me Shizuki, and I’ll call you Aozaki, right? “

    “Right, pleased to meet you. “

    Her answer was spoken drily as she turned away.

    She wasn’t happy about it, but thoroughly doing any job she was given was one of her principles.

    “Sorry, but I don’t have any time to waste here, so we’ll do this quickly.”
    Her harsh words were ignored once more.

    “…”

    Whatever the reason, it was human nature to be even more affected by being ignored.

    Even though she was disappointed that her provocations had failed from the beginning, Aoko seriously did her job and invited him to follow into the corridor.

    The deserted corridor lacked a window and received no sunlight.

    If the conference room reminded of a natural cavern, the corridor was a prison built by humans.

    Aoko sighed, thinking it represented her current feelings well.

    “I’m asking just in case, did you understand what Yamashiro said?”

    “As far as concerns the organization of the school, I understood. But I have trouble imagining that everyone in this building has the same age.”

    “I see, good.”

    Aoko answered while massaging her temples.

    Soujuurou didn’t even seem to know what school was, only vaguely being aware that it was a place where you studied alongside many other people.

    The teachers of this school taught knowledge and thoughts to their students, the workings and creations of several subjects.

    Even so, she never imagined that she would one day have to explain the very concept of school.

    The basics were important, but this was far too fundamental.

    Aoko doubted that he could follow the classes, but Yamashiro had assured her that he would manage somehow.

    Apparently, he had barely passed the entrance exam.

    Well, she whispered that it was none of her business while walking in the corridor.

    Either way, that guy came straight from another era; she would only speak to him today. Rather, she wanted it to be limited to today. That was what she told herself.

    “Aozaki.”

    The boy calmly called out to the unnerved Aoko.

    “What?”

    “Can I ask you something?”

    “Sure, what is it?”

    “It might only be my imagination, but you seem bothered by something. Did anything happen this morning? ”

    His worried glance asked if she had eaten anything that didn’t agree with her.

    “…”

    The second hammer blow brutally fell on Aoko’s head.

    Indeed, she was blaming Soujuurou right now.

    In fact, she was angry with him.

    Rather, she blamed him for everything.

    Even in normal times, her roommate told her that her glare was too harsh for normal people, and that she should be more lenient on many points.

    Her stare currently said that if he continued to complicate her task, she would snap. Was that guy so dense that he thought it was just his imagination?
    It didn’t seem as if he thought she was an idiot.

    She couldn’t be certain, but that was her feeling.

    Aoko realized something a little late.

    That transfer student who’d only just arrived, wasn’t he like a foreign species for her?

    “Alright, I’ll tell you clearly, since you don’t seem to understand if don’t, but…it’s exactly that. It’s not your imagination. I was expressing myself by glaring, since it’s annoying to speak out loud about it.”

    The invader clapped his hands upon hearing her words.

    Soujuurou showed his appreciation with honesty.

    He didn’t know what feelings she expressed.

    He understood the words, but not their meaning.

    It was like he was missing something that should have been there from the start.

    Indeed, there was something weird about him.

    Even if it was a little late, Aoko had to agree with Yamashiro’s assessment.

    That boy was odd in a way that didn’t fit with stupidity.

    Even so, for him, this was a foreign land and setting such small things aside was the responsibility of civilized people.

    “Alright, we’ll start with your class.”

    Aoko gathered herself while saying so.

    Soujuurou stopped her while lifting a hand.
    “Just one more thing. “, In front of that obstinate calm, Aoko kept silent and encouraged him to speak while frowning due to a slight anxiety.

    “It’s just a small thing I’m wondering, but why are you annoyed? Do you come from a family whose job is to get angry?”

    “…”

    There was a long silence.

    It was far, far too late, but Aoko regretted answering the call that morning.

    That person had no ill intent.

    He was a simple, simple man. Aoko repeated this inside her heart to hold back her impulsiveness.

    “It’s not really your fault, so don’t worry about it. It’s just that between this situation and staying asleep until noon, the difference went to my head.”

    She answered indirectly before starting to walk again, completely ignoring the look she received from the impolite strange called Shizuki Soujuurou.

    1-3

    One might wonder what criteria of normality she used, but his character was perfectly ordinary. A naive and gentle person. The color of his personality was white, his genre was masculine and he gave the impression of being an airhead.

    From Soujuurou's point of view, Aozaki Aoko was someone full of energy who couldn’t stay in place.

    Still, even when moving unconsciously, she didn’t have any wasted movements. She moved and immobilized herself perfectly.

    Her finger lifted to point at something, the movements she made while passing through the corridors or classrooms, and from time to time when she turned around to make sure he wasn’t too far behind. Each of her actions drew in his gaze.

    First Aoko showed him the second year G classroom.

    He felt a stronger sense of human presence, but he still didn’t understand what was done in it.

    After listening to Aoko’s short explanation, they visited several special rooms successively: the gym, the cafeteria, the changing room and the infirmary.

    Quite a long time had elapsed by the time they left the audiovisual room, mainly because Soujuurou kept asking for explanations with each new room they visited.

    “How bothersome.”

    Soujuurou stopped with a serious expression.

    “In twenty minutes, it will be thirteen o’clock.”

    “Huh? That’s impossible, our school isn’t that big!”

    According to her memory, they had started the tour before ten in the morning, so if it was one in the afternoon that meant three hours had passed.

    A tour of the establishment shouldn’t normally take that long, but…

    “Of course, if you ask me to explain everything about every room, it’s normal that time would go by fast. Actually, it’s surprising that the sun hasn’t set yet.”

    Aoko sent an insisting glare at Soujuurou.

    She reprimanded him while knowing perfectly well that her hostility didn’t work against him.

    …Huh?

    In spite of that, Soujuurou bowed his head apologetically in a sudden change of attitude.

    So he was a normal person after all?

    The embarrassed Soujuurou was like a different person.

    Opposite to the blank expression he had up until now no matter what she said, he now invited sympathy in a manner hard to describe.

    Despite that, Aoko felt inexplicably irritated.

    “So, what’s the problem? Don’t tell me there are too many things to remember and your brain is overloaded.”

    “No, though there’s a bit of that. Independently from the school tour, it’s inconvenient that it’s almost one in the afternoon.”

    Soujuurou spoke while unconsciously averting his worried gaze.

    The conditions outside seemed to interest him, but unfortunately there were no windows in this corridor.

    “Hmm, the fact that the time bothered you means you had something planned. I see, not content to ruin other people’s days, you also planned to do whatever you pleased. It seems that despite your looks you’re a good person.

    “? Even if you compliment me, I’m not giving you anything.

    “Nobody’s complimenting you!”Aoko barked reflexively.

    “And so?”

    He returned the question with care.

    “So what?”

    “Well, what did you have planned?”

    Understanding what she meant, Soujuurou nodded calmly.

    “I’d rather keep that to myself.”

    And answered unexpectedly with a serious expression.

    She had thought that she’d started to get used to his strange behavior, but sometimes she felt as if she would faint.

    From anger, naturally. Swallowing her rage, Aoko gave her best smile.

    “Mister Shizuki?”

    Aoko step forward with vigor.

    “I’m telling you, it’s a secret.”

    Soujuurou, feeling a kind of killing intent, swiftly stepped back

    Again and again.

    Despite his retreat, Aoko inexorably approached like a magnet, wearing a smile and a throbbing temple.

    “I’ll ask you one last time, okay? Is it fun to rile me up?”

    He could swear before God that it wasn’t, but no matter how much he proclaimed his innocence, Aoko’s forced smile surely wouldn’t waver.

    “I get it, I’ll explain.”

    He raised his hands in surrender.

    Aoko immediately ceased her approach and erased her unfitting smile.

    “Well, you see, I have a part-time job around this time. But it’s forbidden around here, right?

    “Well, that’s true, but…ah, you thought it needed to be kept secret because it’s forbidden? You’re an idiot; it’s not a problem if you get an authorization.

    “I know, I got it during the exam.”

    “Hmm.”

    Unlike what Aoko had expected, he seemed to be well prepared.

    However…

    “Although, I only got one.”

    “Only one? You mean you’re doing two at once?”

    “…And then I got two more. Even with just every day spending it’s pretty hard, but I have to save to pay for school too. Don’t you think it’s a little unreasonable to be limited to one job?”

    “No, I think you’re the unreasonable one.

    Thought still a little confused, Aoko revised her opinion of Soujuurou.

    She thought that personally handling not only the cost for school but also every day spending was something worthy of respect.

    Aozaki Aoko was sufficiently unprepared for such serious situations that even her anger calmed down a bit.

    …The reason why her pursuit had stopped was because she never expected to hear the expression “part-time job” from the mouth of a boy who knew nothing about modern society.

    “In that case, there’s nothing to be done. I understand the situation, so you can go.”

    “That’s fine with you?”

    Aoko didn’t understand the question, but she did get that Soujuurou took her opinion into consideration.

    To be honest, she found it surprising.

    She’d thought that he was someone that was dense when it came to other people’s feelings.

    “It’s nothing. I’ll go home too.”

    She had no intention of stopping by the teacher’s room along the way.

    According to Yamashiro, the administrative formalities for the transfer were done, so the rest was only a matter of manners.

    “Sir, the visit is done.”

    “Well done. Good job to you too, Shizuki. So, what are your feelings after the tour?

    “It’d say it’s very much a school.”

    “Hahaha, I see, I see. From tomorrow on, do your best!”

    That kind of useless conclusion didn’t interest her.

    “Don’t worry about Yamashiro. He loves the teacher’s room so much that he’d strut back there after giving the most bothersome task to his student. He could wait there for hours. No, he HAS to wait there for hours.”

    “But what was good?”

    Aoko didn’t understand what Soujuurou meant.

    “Oh, well, I’m going. Thanks for today.”

    “It was today, and only today.”

    ‘Now get out of here’, said Aoko with a dismissive wave.

    Soujuurou appeared to appreciate that motion, and smiled happily.

    Perhaps because he always seemed lost in thought, that look was remarkably tender.

    It was so soft that she might have reflexively returned his smile.

    But of course, Aozaki Aoko didn’t react to such things.

    “Well, see you later.”

    “Huh?”

    Waving as if she was an old friend, Soujuurou went not toward the end of the corridor, but toward the nearest classroom.

    “Wai-“

    With his back turned, he went straight toward the window.

    He slowly opened the classroom window.

    The chilly wind of November and the indistinct sound of the rain became clearer.

    Aoko understood what it meant in an instant. She had no other choice but to realize it.

    “No, wait, wait wait wait wait!”

    With a desperate look, Aoko stopped Soujuurou who already had a foot on the edge of the window.

    “What are you planning to do?”

    “Well, go to work.”

    “Windows aren’t made for people to enter or leave through. Besides, do you know what floor we’re on?”

    At her exclamation, Soujuurou answered with a simple “Oh.”.

    “…Just a bit more and I was dead. It’s indeed too dangerous to jump from the first floor.”

    “What’s dangerous is your brain.”

    Despite her exhaustion, Aoko threw a scathing comment that Soujuurou fortunately didn’t hear.

    “You know, here, people don’t enter or leave through windows. I should have warned you.”

    “I know, but since I was a little pressed for time I hurried. Thanks, I’ll be careful from now on.”

    With a little hop, Soujuurou removed his foot from the edge before closing the window.

    His uniform was completely drenched by the rain.

    “I’d prefer that. But I really don’t care how you exit. I’d just rather you not do it in front of me. Besides that, are you really coming to school from tomorrow on?”

    “Right. I’m a bit anxious, but you did give me the tour of the school after all.”

    The boy wished her a good day and went through the corridor.

    This time, he’d probably go down the stairs and leave through the door like a normal person.

    “Aah, is it really going to be all right?”

    Still in shock, she recalled the back of the boy who ran off.

    She didn’t want any more contact with that save and yet he bothered her.

    Was it worry or annoyance? For now, she had no answer.

    First of all, why was she angry against that transfer student for no real reason?

    A weird day, a weird transfer student, a weird feeling.

    A part of her felt that, looking back on it, it was more amusing than annoying.

    “Meh, it doesn’t matter. Either way, that was our first and only meeting.”

    The sound of the rain echoed peacefully.

    The grey sky hid the passing of time.

    She couldn’t tell if it was dawn or dusk.

    In the building, only she and Yamashiro were still present.

    The room was slightly obscured due to the lights being off, and now that she was alone it felt a bit sinister.

    Calmly, Aoko rolled up her left hand’s sleeve.

    Her simple wristwatch indeed showed that it was almost one in the afternoon.

    “…He was right.”

    She took a glance through the window while speaking.

    Under the rain, a young man in uniform ran without an umbrella. This spectacle, which shouldn’t have been uncommon, made a strong impression on her.

    1-4

    As planned, Aoko started on her way home without passing by the teacher’s room.

    Yamashiro’s offer to give her a ride was tempting, but the thought of ruining his holiday as compensation was much more enticing.

    Walking silently, she made her way to the entrance and opened her red umbrella.

    Just as she had predicted this morning, had turned into drizzle.

    At this rate, it would probably have stopped in an hour.

    As if to take the way home at her side, the rays of the sun appeared in the faraway sky.

    “It’s not so bad.”

    She shrugged and resigned herself.

    Indeed, Aoko neither liked nor disliked the rain; in fact she hoped to be able to walk with her red umbrella open.

    At Misaki, where all the teachers hated flashy things, it could be said that the red of her umbrella was rare.

    Once upon a time there was a rumor about a ghost with a white umbrella, and in this case it seemed Aoko played the part of the ghost.

    With this illustrious umbrella open, Aoko moved toward the train station in the old neighborhood of Misaki.

    The private high school of Misaki that she frequented was, as its name stated, in that neighborhood.

    From the beginning, that old neighborhood had for the most part been made up of fields and forest, but over the past ten years a period of economical growth had drastically accelerated its modernization.

    Some people through it would be better to protect the natural environment, but when the mayor declared

    “I have nothing against keeping the neighborhood in its current state, but if we do nothing we’re condemned to immobilism.”

    That minority was smothered, and the long-term construction plan of a new town was put in motion.

    The development of the town required a considerable amount of money, and compared to the old neighborhood, the town itself took barely ten years to become a model town.

    …Although in term of modernity the nearby town of Yashirogi was more advanced, and in term of elegance the other neighborhood town, Misaki-oka, was superior.

    “…Well, it’s not like it’s surprising. No matter how much you work on it, it still started as a mountain inn town. Of course, it’d be another story if you razed the entire mountain.”

    The urbanization had only gone as far as the train station, while the hill and mountain had stayed the same as a decade ago.

    In all likelihood the old neighborhood didn’t need the protection of the citizen; a lack of funding would be enough.

    Accordingly, if people from the town center went to the old neighborhood, its rustic aspect wouldn’t surprise them. It really was an incomplete provincial town.

    In this neighborhood, Misaki High was a private school dating back to before the economic boom.

    The current building was of the second generation, as the first had been built fifty years ago higher up the mountain.

    It was far away the slope was steep, and before you got there the road became a trail.

    Misaki High had closed twenty years ago for various reasons, but a chain of supermarkets that had its social center in Misaki had made a donation for the construction of a new building.

    Thus the old building in the forest was forgotten in time, and Misaki High opened its doors as a school.

    But to tell the truth, most of Misaki High’s students didn’t live in the neighborhood.

    Because the simple and honest people who lived in the provincial town aspired at a prefectural school rather than a private one.

    All things told, Aoko herself was one of them.

    She had the modest ambition of moving to Tokyo after finishing college and to go to concerts every day while aiming for a national university.

    That dream had been spoiled by her older sister who had gotten ahead of her, and by an incomprehensible twist of fate she found herself walking with her red umbrella open on the day of the school’s anniversary.

    “Thinking back on it, it’s as if my life is nothing more than a chain of catastrophes.” She muttered to herself in the cold announcing December. “Oh well, it doesn’t matter. After all, I’m not bored.”

    She left the school besides her with those words.

    After going down a small slope she found the town full of life.

    The train station of the old neighborhood was brand new.

    The building, which had once looked like nothing more than an old abandoned factory, had become a complex structure with an enormous supermarket that stretched from East to West.

    When the supermarket had been completed, Aoko and her friends had been excited and had praised modernization! But in a few years, the building would surely be behind the times.

    She had no chores to do, so she passed by the supermarket without stopping.

    In truth, she wanted to stop at a tea shop to rest, but if she spent money for no reason, her roommate would reproach her once again, so she controlled herself-

    “…”

    She turned and blinked.

    For a second, she had thought she spotted a suspicious person in a red robe in the corner of her eyes.

    Apparently, it was just a hallucination.

    She felt a chill run down her spine like a sixth sense, but since it happened frequently she paid it no mind.

    She managed to act as though nothing had happened and went home as usual.

    Soon her chills ended, and she heard only the noise of the town.

    “Aah.”

    She sighed deeply.

    Really.

    Even if it was just her imagination, it wasn’t very pleasant.

    …Even the mosquitos in summer showed a little more…

    “…Moderation…or not.” She grumbled.

    ...There were highs and lows, prosperity and ephemerality. It was true that even if she complained, nothing would improve.

    It was disheartening, but the presence of mosquitos in summer was perfectly normal.

    “Well, it’s perfectly logical for insects to be attracted to a tasty fruit.”

    Ten years prior, Misaki was a village of fields and forests.

    Currently the development had intensified, buildings had been erected in front of the train station, the number of constructions of more than two floors had increased as well in the residential quarters, and the natural countryside was no longer visible unless you moved away from the train station.

    The only place that had retained its original aspect in the urban zone in the center of all this was Shiroinuzuka, also called the breathing room of Misaki.

    It was a long paved slope on a particularly elevated hill.

    An old residential quarter away from the train station at the center of people’s lives.

    Long ago it had been seen poorly to build habitations in the heights of Misaki, and no one lived beyond a certain altitude.

    The hill that rose far above the town center and Shiroinuzuka followed that example; no house was visible around it.

    Regardless, the asphalt road continued without cease, eventually leading into a forest before becoming a mountain path.

    The isolated automatic distributors positioned halfway along the slop were like a line indicating the border between the city and the hill.

    Even children who eagerly looked for new playgrounds knew that nothing lied beyond that point.

    No, to be more precise

    They knew that there was nothing except the haunted manor.

    Aozaki Aoko ascended the long slope.

    Before her eyes lied the landscape of the old neighborhood of Misaki.

    The proportions of the rows of houses and stores gave it the look of a model.

    If the sea had been close, it could have made for a beautiful painting, but unfortunately Misaki was a mountain town.

    The sky was still hidden, but during clear sunsets this landscape became beautiful.

    That vision alone rewarded the effort of climbing the slope, but today there wasn’t a hint of repayment.

    “Aah. And on rainy days, it’s impossible to use a bike. Honestly, they could have at least arranged for a bus that stopped twice a day.”

    It had already been two years since Aoko started using that slope to go to school, but evidently what was inconvenient remained inconvenient.

    “Eh? It’s locked?”

    …Alice wasn’t back yet.

    The heavy iron door opened as if to welcome the young girl.

    …At the summit of the hill stood a haunted manor.

    It was an old tale spread among the old neighborhood since a long time ago, and the old rumors had been revived along with the town’s modernization.

    For example, when night fell, a light turned on despite the fact that that abandoned house had been falling to ruins for years.

    Or countless crows gathered atop the hill and vanished.

    Or on foggy nights, children lost their way and mysteriously vanished.

    Or perhaps, late in the night, mysterious noise that sounded like cries echoed as far as the residential quarters…for Aoko, that last rumor was embarrassing and she wanted it to stop.

    There was also the story where, from time to time, and unbelievable luxurious car moved up the hill.

    Those kinds of tales multiplied every day.



    It was in that atmosphere that the residence, supposed to be abandoned, had come back to life years ago.

    At the center of the hill that people never approached.

    Ruins hidden by dark forest even during the day.

    Like remnants of forgotten magic spoke of in fairy tales that had spanned eras.

    It was:

    The Kuonji Manor

    The house of the witch atop the hill that everyone knew in the old neighborhood.

    It was a genuine haunted manor, in which Aozaki Aoko resided for various reasons.

    Evidently, that was a nickname.

    The Kuonji manor was a venerable occidental house brought from England after some circumstances.


    It wasn’t as big as a rom, but it was still too big for a house; there was a main building in which you could have fit three houses, and a garden surrounding it.

    On each side of the garden rose immense fences around which spiky vines peacefully spread.

    That perfection even included a secondary building that stood a little higher, isolated from the central building.

    Since the house was so sumptuous, there was no stopping the rumors.

    For the citizen of the town, the simple fact that a strange and luxurious house stood on top of the hill was worrying.

    Rumormongering and incomprehensibility were the cost of notoriety.

    Even more so, only two people lived there. They couldn’t complain even if they were called vampires.

    “…It’s not very credible for me, but Alice might make it believable.”

    She set her hand on the front door.

    Even if the double door would have been a perfect fit for a copper key, it contained no vulgar orifice like a keyhole.

    Aoko pushed the door with one hand and stepped into the house rumored to be a haunted mansion.

    1-5

    Much like the weather outside, the hall was a sad grey.

    There were no lights in the entrance, most likely because the architect hadn’t planned any to begin with.

    Thanks to the opening on the first floor, the only available lights were the sunlight and the moonlight that came in through the glass that acted as a ceiling.

    During rainy days, it was as dark as twilight, and on moonless days everything seemed petrified by the coldness of a black star.

    The living room, which acted as a lounge, was to the east of the lobby, but Aoko, who didn’t feel at ease until she changed, moved toward the stairs.

    They followed the wall and stopped at the level of the first floor’s corridor.

    To reach the attic on the second floor, it was necessary to continue to the other side of the corridor.

    However Aoko hadn’t used that room once throughout the past two years.

    To put it simply, the Kuonji manor had two wings; east and west.

    The only part that Aoko had been allowed to occupy was the east wing, but actually two rooms were more than enough for her.

    As such it was useless to use an attic that had served as storage for five years and which gave the feeling that opening the door led to a picture book.

    Aoko’s room could be found at the end of the wing’s corridor.

    The room that she had chosen wasn’t very big. This wasn’t out of humility, but rather because she wanted to avoid needless housework.

    The room contained a large bed, her favourite mahogany desk, a closet and a wardrobe where her vests were aligned, as well as two bookcases with nine shelves.

    Those were the only things she had brought with her.

    But it was more than enough to depict the life that Aozaki Aoko had led throughout sixteen years.

    As for the rest, she only had to borrow the nearby room for her personal usage.

    “Oh, right. I need to make sure that the watchtower Alice gave me isn’t broken.”

    She went to check the result of her sleepless night.

    Her working desk, on the other side of the wall, bore witness to the other life that Aozaki Aoko had been leading for less than a year.

    It was no longer the affirmation of what she had been, but rather of what she would become, an isolated world where people had no right to intrude; at least, that should have been the case.

    « Huh? It’s not just damaged, it disappeared entirely…after all, it was still a little early for a personal arrangement. Go ahead. You can laugh, robin. »

    The bird that was calmly relaxing took flight.

    The young girl’s talent was average, but she didn’t hold back in her efforts and didn’t fear failure.

    What might be perceived as optimism was Aoko’s free will.

    She changed her uniform for her normal clothes, and then went back to the ground floor.

    After moving down the stairs and opening the door to the east wing, she advanced into a dark underground-like corridor.

    Since this corridor had no windows that led outside, she’d be in total darkness if she didn’t turn on the light. Aoko pressed the switch, turning the lamps on, and opened the closest door.

    “A life without electricity…I don’t even want to imagine it.”

    The living room that Aoko had adapted according to her whim was modern style.

    Walls lined with beautiful motifs, a sumptuous couch in actual leather, and a Persian rug of the highest quality.

    The room that appeared to belong to a castle contrasted with the thirty inches television it contained.

    Like a red nose on a face, the TV did its best to try to fit in with the couch and the rest of the furniture.

    The owner of the residence hadn’t appreciated the change, but that unfitting scenery was necessary to the relaxation of the daughter of the people that Aoko was.

    When she had begun to life here, she’d gotten into an argument about it with her roommate, but they were now both convinced that it was a tool of modern civilization.

    “Ah, I can’t say anything about others. At home too we were strangely behind the times.”

    Aoko, who had cheered up for no particular reason, decided to make tea.

    In the kitchen situated behind the living room’s wall, she boiled water in a pan, transferred it to a teapot and, to complete a perfect preparation, added the tea leaves.

    “Aaah.”

    She sank deeply into the couch.

    She took a sip of tea, then a second.

    While listening to the ticking of the clock and wondering what she would do during the evening, she took a third.

    Then, tempted by the mellowness of the couch, she felt like sinking deeper.

    “…”

    Aoko blinked and rose from her seat.

    It was neither a dream nor an illusion.

    Without her noticing anything, a young girl had sat down in front of her.

    Not surprised at all, Aoko poked her cup with her fingers

    The tea that she had just heated was completely cold.

    “I was asleep?”

    Aoko asked the girl sitting on the other side of the table.

    “Yes.”

    She answered in a small voice, without giving her much notice or even granting her a look.

    --- If she hadn’t spoken, she could have been mistaken for a magnificent doll.

    Sitting on the couch, she read an old book.

    With thin limbs and a skin so white she seemed to have never seen the light of the sun.

    From her melancholic grace, it was impossible to feel human will.

    Black hair denser than Aoko’s.

    Her cold pupils peacefully moved along the pages of the book she read.

    The black clothes that she wore, which brought to mind a nun’s, were the uniform of her school for girls.

    The dark color fit her very well. So well that it wasn’t a good thing according to Aoko.

    ---Like a landscape painting.

    That lack of reality went as far as giving the impression that she had been born in that form.

    The whiteness of her curved neck was so beautiful that it manifested even Aoko, despite her being of the same gender.

    This girl was the other inhabitant of the haunted manor.

    Aoko’s roommate who had the same age, Kuonji Alice.

    “How long did I sleep?”

    “A bit more than an hour. …If you sleep here, you’ll catch a cold.”

    Alice answered, still without showing any interest; used to this attitude, Aoko didn’t pay it any attention.

    Looking at the clock on the wall, she saw that the hand had passed by the number seven.

    So she’d slept almost two hours.

    Thinking back on it, it had been a busy day. It was normal that her body, tired by her night awake, had fallen asleep.

    “You could have woken me up. The tea I just prepared is cold now!”

    “It was already cold by the time I arrived.”

    “I expected that, I’m just saying.”

    Aoko drank her cold tea in one motion.

    In the Kuonji Manor, where heating was limited, that cold was sufficient to wake up someone that was sleepy.

    “In that case, it being Fortnum & Mason or some other big brand doesn’t change much. Good evening, Alice. I guess occasional luxury is pointless without you. Today was either a bad day or divine punishment. It’s a bit early, but maybe it wouldn’t be unreasonable to visit the temple.”

    Aoko shrugged with the enthusiasm of someone who had suffered an honorable defeat after fighting with all her strength.

    “So? What happened?”

    In all likelihood they had become able to guess each other’s minds after living together for two years.

    They questioned each other, in their own respective ways.

    Aoko thoroughly reported the situation to her roommate who had questioned her without lifting her head.

    “First, I have to apologize.
    What I finished yesterday after a sleepless night turned out to be useless. It seems that it overheated and broke while I wasn’t watching. Despite the fact that I had removed and sutured two or three rotation codes so that that wouldn’t happen.” helplessly said Aoko.

    “...What do you mean?”

    “This morning, I had urgent business. The school called to tell me to go there. Once I arrived, they asked me to take care of a transfer student, and my day went up in smoke. Once I got back, it had vanished without leaving a trace. Are you angry, Alice?”

    “Not really. If I got angry every time you destroy a receptacle, I would spend my life lecturing you, you know? There are still substitutes left, so you can just start over from the beginning. That aside, aren’t you the one that’s angry?”
    Today, she seemed to be exceptionally observant.

    When Aoko seemed uncaring, it actually meant that she agitated.

    Whatever the case...

    « Yeah, that transfer student was really weird. Apparently he lived in the middle of the mountains before, and he doesn’t understanding our common sense. You know, there are people that actually give the impression that they came from another world, Alice.”

    Hearing her name, she lifted her head.

    Aoko, who hadn’t expected any sympathy from the start, accelerated her grumbling.

    “He was a guy that got on my nerve from the moment I saw him, but when I showed him the classroom, I thought I was going to snap. He thought that they were individual subjects, by which I mean one subject for each class...well, that can pass. I could have supported a joke of that level. But when I calmly and patiently explained to him what a classroom was, do you know what he asked me?

    ‘But then, Aozaki, what are the other classrooms for?’ that’s what he asked.

    A classroom is a classroom and nothing more, right? The problem is that if you neglect even the slightest detail in your explanation, he accepts it as is. Either he doesn’t know how to ask question, or he has no imagination, or he’s never developed it before. Well...at least he seems to be able to understand things once they’ve been explained, so it’s not like he’s completely stupid.”

    “It’s rare for you to complain about someone. Could it be that you’re interested in that kind of failed individual?”

    “I’m not interested in him in the slightest. On the other hand, I am a bit worried about the problems he’ll cause from tomorrow onward.”

    Yes, she worried because it would in all likelihood be her that would have to solve those problems.

    That must be it.

    Otherwise, she couldn’t see why she would worry about a student who had just transferred in and had already ruined her day.

    “Anyway, he’s a weird guy. He might get along well with you.”

    “...Indeed, ‘coming from another world’ is a good expression isn’t it.”

    But the girl indicated with a single look that they probably wouldn’t ever meet, let alone get along.

    And Aoko only showed her agreement.

    “Actually, Alice, what have you been reading all this time?”

    “The apocrypha of spiritual evolution. An imitation of the spiritual journal.”

    “Ah, Swedenborg. Isn’t it useless to read that now?”

    “If the style had been straightforward it would be boring, but this is an apocrypha. He’s praising the weak and strong points in a theatrical fashion. Like a good adventure book. For example, the secret organization that he’s opposing is called Kanto, that’s smart....That said, it was written by your grandfather.”

    “Huh, so he was even interested in those sorts of things.

    Surprisingly, he had a sense of humour. We a valuable person.”, Aoko said it with nostalgia, as if her grandfather was no longer in this world.

    “Your grandfather sent news this Summer though.”

    “Give me a break, I wanted to think he was dead.” Aoko sighed and reclined on the couch with all her weight.

    The cushion must have been old because by pressing on it Aoko ended up lying down on the couch.

    “Let’s go back to the original subject.” Alice sent a glare to the slouching Aoko.

    Her body that was spread over and sinking into the couch didn’t move, like a corps.

    As a result, Aoko had relaxed a little.

    Alice condemned her in silence.

    Thinking about it, the agitating moments of the day lost their edge bit by bit.

    ...If she ignored Alice’s silent reproach, the conversation would end there.

    They would both get up, and tomorrow the would come with today’s mistakes still uncorrected.

    However, Aozaki Aoko wasn’t the sort of person to leave things for later.

    “Alright, what is it?”, asked the still slouching Aoko to Alice.

    “It’s a bit disappointing that you didn’t succeed today.”

    “That’s why I apologized.

    School will stop being a priority once I reach total independence, you know?”

    “In that case, alright.”

    Before Alice’s inhuman voice, Aoko clenched her jaw.

    She understood the meaning of those words.

    Yes, Aoko understood what she meant all too well.

    The compromise between her role at school and her current way of life.

    It was how it could be hidden in this era, but Alice thought that this way of doing things led to her committing careless mistakes.

    In other words, what her silence meant, was...

    That Aoko had to make a choice soon.

    Today’s failure was meaningless.

    By spreading her life between this place and school, she had caused a small incident because of a slight miscalculation she had made by focusing too much on school.

    It was merely a testatement to her current naivety.

    It didn’t concern Alice.

    It was something she had to decide for herself.

    She had started the basics only a year and a half ago.

    But she had had a premonition when she had acquired her ability to judge.

    “The day when I have to make a choice will surely arrive.”

    When it did, it would be time for her conscience and morality to speak up.

    “Well”, said Aoko as she rose with energy.

    Before her there was only the beautiful, delicate face of Alice, who looked at her in silence.

    “Alright, Alice. Let’s settle this next week.

    That will be alright, right?”

    “Yes, if that’s fine with you.”

    Feeling as if she had heard the same words a few hours ago, Aoko shook her head.

    Why did she have to remember the country boy even after getting back home?

    “I’ll let you handle the preliminary arrangements, I can’t take care of them yet.”

    “For the place, is the park convenient enough?”

    “It’s a good choice. And for the other problem?

    Isn’t it more pressing?”

    “That depends on the time and the situation. I’ll let you know if there’s a change in the forest. “

    With the end of that short exchange, Alice lowered her gaze to the book lying on her knees.

    The most important conversation for both of them waas over.

    After that, the only thing left was for them to return to their usual act of two roommates that got along well despite appearances.

    Aoko grasped the remote and turned the TV on. As Alice was in the middle of reading, she attempted to go with the flow.

    “Ah.”, when suddenly Alice’s voice rose, then fell silent.

    Looking at her, she had lifted her hand near her mouth.

    She had tried to say something, but realizing that it was nonsense, had changed her mind.

    From time to time, she wasn’t able to restrain herself and, like now, gestured in that manner.

    If her memories were correct, the last time she had started with “Wh-“. Aoko turned her stare toward her charming roommate.

    “Well, what is it?”, said Aoko while lowering the sound of the television. Her eyes, filled with a strong will, shone with mockery like a cat’s.

    “...Well, it’s not much but...”

    “But?”

    Alice didn’t know if she should say it or not and shamefully turned her eyes away.

    Her expression in those times was warm, and she loved them to the point that it was unnerving.

    If her father saw her now, he would surely think that the name Alice (Pearl) fit her like a glove.

    “Today, when I got back, I saw something weird, and I thought about talking about it with someone, but...”

    “Yes?”, answered Aoko, inviting her to continue.

    “It doesn’t matter, insignificant, really.

    But I didn’t understand why he did it, no matter how I thought about it.

    Aoko, would you know why a human-sized cat would be delivering food to people’s homes as if there was nothing weird about it?”

    At first, Aoko thought that it was just one of Alice’s so-called jokes.

    No, normally, that was what you would think.

    But Alice was seriously bothered.

    It was Aoko who had assigned a zero to her sense of humor, but at this point it was too farcical to merit a zero. She would have to explain exactly what she had seen.

    “Ah, in this story, there are roughly two parts that I have trouble believing, maybe I should expose them to you one by one?”

    “It’s fine. Even I think I understand the trick.

    I’m asking the question because I don’t understand the point.

    I wonder if it’s easy to do food deliveries while wearing a cat costume adapted to you?”

    “Before even wondering about how difficult it would be, I’d inquire about the mental health of the person doing it, personally.”

    Alice nodded slightly at Aoko’s comment.

    “Well, there are all kind of people in the world. There are people like us, people like that, even people who live on a mountain in the middle of nowhere isolated from the outside world, like soldiers from the old Japan. There are really all kinds of people.

    Well, if I had been the one to cross his path, I would have gone to meet him to demand an explanation.”

    At those words, Alice turned her eyes away slightly.

    “Hum, a roaming delivery cat in the residential zone of Misaki-oka...the only thing missing was a sunset and it could have been a fairy tale.

    ...Speaking of, what are we doing about dinner?

    Since we were just talking about it, why not order food?” Aoko, who enjoyed delivery food, happily suggested it.

    In this house, chores were organized day by day, and a very approximative system had been adopted according to which the one who prepared dinner had to make enough for two.

    Since it was subject to their whims more than anything else, sometimes they would spend a week without preparing dinner, and it ended up the best according to them.

    Either they enjoyed delivery food, or they just wanted to avoid kitchen work.

    Situations like tonight weren’t rare, and the result was that the manor received special treatment from most of the restaurants in the old neighborhood of Misaki.

    It was always late at night, after eight, when the rush hour had just ended, that the delivery men learned that they had to climb up the hill. Their bad mood was thus understandable.

    “It’s not eight yet, so we’re just on time. Personally I’d like Kongetsu, it’s been a while since we’ve ordered anything from that Tsukimi Soda seller. “

    The student council president took the shopping catalogue, next to the poker cards, and searched with enthusiasm an unknown dish. Alice answered without batting an eye at that beaming Aoko.

    “I’m sorry, but I already ate.”

    At those words, Aoko froze.

    The minimum to order was two dishes; in other word, if she had no partner she couldn’t order anything.

    And people never felt like satisfying the whims of a princess that called them up for a simple plate of soba.

    It was another story, but Aoko and Alice didn’t yet know about the diabolical counter measure that had been set into motion against the top of the hill that stipulated that ‘from next year, ordering requires a minimum of three dishes’.

    “You traitor...

    So that’s why you arrived yet huh?

    I should have wondered why you came home after five, you who are in no clubs and need twenty minutes on bus and foot to go to school.”

    Unfortunately, at that time, Aoko had been distracted to the point that she hadn’t realized she’d fallen asleep.

    “Aah, you’re horrible! We had an agreement. We had to buy something for the one left alone in those cases.

    I bought you something last time I ate outside!”

    She didn’t know how serious she was, but Aoko was rather angry.

    After all, since she had woken up with an empty stomach and had left after the call from school, she hadn’t swallowed anything except tea. It was almost a miracle that her stomach wasn’t growling yet.

    Well, it was her own fault, and on top of that Aoko felt an intimidating backlash from Alice.

    “...When you say the last time, are you talking about that time?

    When you made a trip to the town centre to eat sushi then brought me back soba that, for some mysterious reason, was in a plastic bag from the supermarket?”

    A counter attack.

    “S-so what? It’s still better than nothing! “

    “Sometimes the truth must be hidden.”

    Alice’s look was freezing.

    It had definitely had been a mistake at the time to talk about the sushi around Alice who ate a supermarket’s dinner had been a mistake.

    But Aoko, who liked new things, hadn’t been able to resist her desire to analyze the marvel that was the “Kaiten Sushi” that had just opened.

    In some circumstances, being honest became a sin.

    “...Alright, I understand. Then, are we calling it even from now on?”

    Without rejecting the idea, Alice turned back to her book.

    Although it was a bit worrying that she hadn’t formally agreed.

    “No choice. After all, today is a bad day.

    I’ll calmly stay in the kitchen and work on my culinary talents.”, said Aoko to no one in particular.

    “Ah, almost forgot. Alice, where did you eat?”

    Alice’s hand that had been able to turn a page on her book stopped.

    Until now, she had talked with Aoko while reading, but deciding that she had reached the limit, she closed her book.

    Book in hand, she stood and swiftly crossed the living room.

    Reaching the door, she turned toward Aoko.

    “You want to know?”

    “Yeah, a little...”

    Aoko agreed timidly.

    Alice answered simply, as if it was nothing.

    “That cat gave me an extra meal he had.”

    And left the living room.
    Last edited by Christemo; March 1st, 2015 at 11:49 PM.

  2. #2
    No glasses, huh? Mooncake's Avatar
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    When can we expect more chapters?
    [12:37] <I3uster> if playing overwatch would save my mother from the deathbed
    [12:37] <I3uster> id probably flip a coin
    [12:38] <I3uster> to see if i play or not

    [18:23] <frantic> spinach is like a caffeine zombie

    [18:23] <frantic> in AX he would like
    [18:23] <frantic> drink 8 shots of espresso
    [18:23] <frantic> then he'd turn to me an hour later
    [18:23] <frantic> 'frantic', he'd say, his eyes wild and his lips smug
    [18:23] <frantic> 'i need coffee'

  3. #3
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    This was a big effort so you'll probably have to wait a while. Sorry!

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    Gimme ur loot ZidanReign's Avatar
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    Wow! That was unexpected.

    Putting this on my watch list
    There's nothing fucking here bruh, look elsewhere.

  5. #5
    Beats By Matthew ft. Dr. Para Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    So this is what you were working on instead of Solar Eclipse, huh? I can't say I saw you writing some Mahoyo coming, but I rather like it.

    You've got a solid grasp of the characters judging from what I've seen in Miko's videos. I'm looking forward to more!
    Supports:


    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

  6. #6
    Hmm, you got my interest piqued. Subbed.

  7. #7
    Don't @ me if your fanfic doesn't even have Shirou/Illya shipping k thnx ItsaRandomUsername's Avatar
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    This ought to tide me over until the actual patch comes out.

    I believe in the translation efforts.

    Someday...
    McJon01: We all know that the real reason Archer would lose to Rider is because the events of his own Holy Grail War left him with a particular weakness toward "older sister" types.
    My Fanfics. Read 'em. Or not.



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    Quote Originally Posted by BananaShiki View Post
    Why is this on fanfics anyway?
    What are you talking about? It's a fanfic.

  9. #9
    Preformance Pertension SeiKeo's Avatar
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    Honestly I don't know why you insist on having a line break basically every sentence.
    Quote Originally Posted by asterism42 View Post
    That time they checked out that hot guy they were just admiring his watch, yeah?


  10. #10
    Imperial Princess Satehi's Avatar
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    I don't understand the point of this.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by @Leo View Post
    Honestly I don't know why you insist on having a line break basically every sentence.
    I wanted to capture the proper style of a VN. Which involves a lot of half-sentences and line breaks. Call it a creative liberty.

  12. #12
    Preformance Pertension SeiKeo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christemo View Post
    I wanted to capture the proper style of a VN. Which involves a lot of half-sentences and line breaks. Call it a creative liberty.
    uuuughhhhhhhhhhh
    Quote Originally Posted by asterism42 View Post
    That time they checked out that hot guy they were just admiring his watch, yeah?


  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Christemo View Post
    I wanted to capture the proper style of a VN. Which involves a lot of half-sentences and line breaks. Call it a creative liberty.
    That's really ummm...Interesting I guess.

    - - - Updated - - -

    unique maybe

  14. #14
    地獄待ち Spinach's Avatar
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    This really feels like it's half-made, or more like half of it is missing. Almost like it was written with certain visuals in mind...

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    Is my descriptive abilities that poor? I guess that's something to work on for next chapter. Thanks for your feedback!

  16. #16
    In Memoriam Kelnish's Avatar
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    I don't understand spinach. Please explain further.

  17. #17
    地獄待ち Spinach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christemo View Post
    Is my descriptive abilities that poor? I guess that's something to work on for next chapter. Thanks for your feedback!
    I think you should insert hyperlinks to soundcloud/tindeck uploads of the Mahoyo OST at least. It really feels like you caught the style of the VN with this but the music would really compliment it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spinach View Post
    I think you should insert hyperlinks to soundcloud uploads of the Mahoyo OST at least. It really feels like you caught the style of the VN with this but the music would really compliment it.
    That's a great idea! Unfortunately it's nearly 5am here, so I probably won't be able to until tomorrow.

  19. #19
    地獄待ち Spinach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christemo View Post
    That's a great idea! Unfortunately it's nearly 5am here, so I probably won't be able to until tomorrow.
    While you're at it you should edit in some of the background CGs to really set the scene. Maybe even put sprites in front of the dialogue.
    Last edited by Spinach; March 2nd, 2015 at 12:06 AM.

  20. #20
    Bitchin' Arashi_Leonhart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christemo View Post
    I wanted to capture the proper style of a VN. Which involves a lot of half-sentences and line breaks. Call it a creative liberty.
    That's great in Japanese. Their idea of paragraph structure can be very different. Plus VNs have music and visuals to complement the text.

    Not as great in English without the music and visuals.

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