It is currently August 16th, early in the morning at 8 o’clock.
I was standing in front of her house in Unabara Cho Town. Today is the fateful day. The day when the demon tribe will attack… First of all, I will make a move by immediately adding Kataumi Aoi, the additional member, to the initial team.
Kataumi Aoi will transfer to our school in November. After the divorce of the Hihara family, Hihara Karen changed her name to Karen Akai. By including her in the team at this point, I can significantly strengthen their forces and develop their “bonds” and “resonance” from an early stage.
“Sorry to keep you waiting.”
The door of her house opened, and she came out. She was wearing a casual outfit, a hoodie. She likes comfortable clothes and doesn’t really care about fashion. The same goes for Hihara Karen, but Gindou Kohaku tried to encourage them to be more fashionable, and they even went shopping together as a group of four… That was fun…
“No, I haven’t been waiting at all. But I’m sorry for making you come so early in the morning.”
“It’s alright. I was interested in Mina No Iro too.”
“It’s nice to hear you say that. Shall we head there right away?”
I suggested showing her around Mina No Iro as a return for her guidance in Unabara Cho Town last time. I also mentioned introducing her to some of my friends. However, that’s not the real reason. I can’t let my guard down… I’m a bit nervous.
We headed to Mina no Iro together early in the morning. I cover all the expenses, like train tickets. That’s just common courtesy, right? I’m a guy… Besides, I should be much older mentally than her, right?
First, we take a bus, then transfer to a shinkansen (bullet train), and finally, we use trains and buses again. While riding the bus, she takes out a cool bag.
“Have you had breakfast?”
“No, I haven’t eaten yet.”
“…I made onigiri. Want to have some?”
“Is that okay?”
“Sure. I made konbu (seaweed), salmon, and karaage (fried chicken) onigiri. Which one would you like?”
“Here you go… hmm, this one.”
She takes out an onigiri from the cool bag and hands it to me. Kuuu, I’m so happy to have Kataumi Aoi’s onigiri… I take a bite right away. The combination of karaage and rice is excellent. If there’s mayonnaise, it can’t be bad.
“It’s delicious! Thank you.”
“Do you… like karaage?”
“Yes, it’s one of my favorite foods.”
She listened to my words without changing her expression. I was engrossed in eating the onigiri. I quickly finished the first one.
“…There are more, though.”
“That’s your breakfast, right, Senpai?”
“I like konbu, and I’m on a diet, so one is enough for me. So you can have the salmon onigiri too.”
She handed me the onigiri, wrapped in a wrap. With her encouragement, I decided to accept it and eat.
“Are you really sure it’s okay? You must be hungry.”
“It’s fine. I only need the kombu onigiri. So, here you go.”
“Then, I’ll gladly accept it. Thank you.”
As we ate, we engaged in casual conversation. We took the bullet train and various trains and buses, finally arriving at Mina no iro Town. It was already past 11 in the morning, and we began exploring the town while being conscious of the time.
I introduced a café, and we decided to have lunch there.
“I often come to this café”
“What’s delicious here?”
“They have Napoli gratin and a large parfait.”
“I might be interested in trying them.”
“Shall we have lunch here then? I’ll treat you.”
“But… you’ve already covered my transportation expenses, and during the festival, you treated me too. So, this time, let me…”
“No, please let me pay for it. It’s not a big deal.”
“I insist, let me treat you to lunch.”
We entered the café, where we had been several times before, and the cheerful waitress greeted us. However, she seemed surprised to see a different girl with me this time, but she quickly regained her smile and led us to our seats.
“Are you a regular here?”
“Who did you come with last time?”
“W-with dependable Senpais and a friend…”
“Is that so”
“Y-yes. Ah, here is the menu”
She handed me the menu. Come to think of it, she’s my senior, so should I call her “Kataumi-senpai” instead of “Kataumi-san”?
Well, I don’t need to worry about that now…
“I’ll go with Napoli gratin”
“Then, for me…”
As I was looking at the menu, trying to decide what to order, the door of the café opened, and the bell-like sound indicated the entrance of another customer.
“Oh, you’ve come again for the parfait.”
“Ah, is that so… no, but right now… welcome…”
I could hear a voice that sounded familiar. It was a cute, silvery voice… The waitress seemed a bit awkward and hurried away…
“Oh, Izayoi-kun! You’ve…. come….again……”
“She is the one …… who was on TV with you.……”
I knew it was going to happen, but here is Gindou Kohaku. I was planning to introduce her to Kataumi Aoi later this afternoon and spend time together with all of them. I sent a message to Gindou Kohaku, Hihara Karen, and Kikawa Moegi, asking them to keep this afternoon free. The plan was to introduce Kataumi Aoi as a friend and spend time together, getting along with everyone.
I was somewhat prepared for this to happen sooner or later, but it was …… awkward.
No matter how prepared I was for this situation, it still feels uncomfortable.
I could sense her feelings, and yet, I’m showing up with another girl… I’m such an idiot.
But for now, I have to see this through.
“Oh, she’s just a friend. She helped me out in Unabara Cho Town before, so I’m showing her around as a way to thank her.”
“I see… a friend… showing her around… I understand… Oh, and the friend you wanted to introduce us to is also her, right?”
“I see, I…. see…”
She placed her hand on her heart, closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and then opened her eyes again. Afterward, she anxiously asked us:
“I-If it’s alright, could I join you for the town tour? We were planning to spend time together in the afternoon, but I also want to show you some places I’d like you to visit in this town.”
“That’s fine with me.”
“Yes, please do.”
“In that case, can I sit next to you, Izayoi-kun?”
She sat next to me, facing Kataumi Aoi. Kohaku had a dark smile, and Kataumi Aoi had an expression that didn’t show anything in particular.
“Let me introduce myself first. My name is Gindou Kohaku. I go to the same school as Izayoi-kun, and we’re in the same class. We’re good friends. I’m sixteen years old, nice to meet you.”
“I’m Kataumi Aoi. I’m seventeen this year, nice to meet you.”
“Ah, you’re older… I see, you’re just friends with Izayoi-kun, right? Nothing more than that?”
“?? Ah yeah, I think we’re just friends.”
“I see… I hope you’re not lying or using any ambiguous words.”
“What are you reading into? As I said, we’re just friends, nothing more and nothing less…”
“I see. Phew, I feel relieved now.”
Her mood becomes gentler as she converses with Kataumi Aoi and takes a breath. She puts down her hand on her heart ……
Then she asks for a parfait. We eat an early lunch and start the rest of the tour.
The time is 12:00 noon. The demons are coming at 3:00 PM. Near an outlet mall that can be seen in the distance, a large black hole appears, and from there, a “monster” emerges and goes on a rampage. The fairies try to stop it, but they can’t. Then, by chance, the three of us who were there are entrusted with magical equipment, and we overwhelm the monster.
However, I decided to make it four of us right away to crush the monster with a significant difference in power, ensuring a safety margin.
As I walk, I ponder the upcoming events. Gindou Kohaku recommends a place, apparently a bookstore with a wide selection. Well, there aren’t many noteworthy places in this town, so I guess it makes sense. I’ve been to this bookstore before with Hihara Karen. It’s much larger than a regular bookstore, offering a wide range of books.
“This is the bookstore I frequent visit… There are lots of books here… I thought this would be a place worth visiting…”
“Books in a bookstore are a given… Well, it’s indeed big, but is this the place we must visit in this town?”
She answers awkwardly, mumbling something quietly.
“…Because I couldn’t help it. I haven’t been in this town for long… I just made up a recommendation so that we wouldn’t be alone together…”
Kataumi Aoi doesn’t seem to hear her, but I have normal hearing and catch her words.
…My heart… hurts…
“Shall we take a look, then?”
“Sure, go ahead.”
Since it’s her recommendation, she goes inside. While browsing through some reference books…
“W-What is it?”
“T-That woman is really just a friend, right? Not that I’m doubting you, but I just wanted to confirm…”
“Yes, she’s a friend who helped me before.”
“R-Really, that’s a relief. Sorry… I must have been a bother, asking that several times…”
“No, um, it’s not a bother. It’s more like… I feel apologetic for… uh, well, it’s nothing…”
“No, it’s entirely my fault…”
“No, no, it’s more like… I should be the one to apologize…”
“Thank you for saying that.”
“Y-Yeah, you’re welcome…”
For some reason, it feels like we’re in a pink space, just the two of us. But there’s something important coming up, and I need to brace myself…
It’s 12:30 now… We’re supposed to meet at 1:00 and spend time together as five… and then the battle with the demons… If only I had the power of the “Black Knight,” I could completely annihilate the demons and ensure peace…
“Huh? It’s not just Izayoi here.”
“Kohaku-chan is also here. It’s quite a coincidence.”
This time, I hear the voices of Hihara Karen and Kikawa Moegi from behind. It seems the two of them were also at the bookstore.
The time is 12 PM. The demons are coming at 3 PM. From here, a black vortex appears near the outlet mall, and a “monster” emerges from it, causing havoc. The fairies try to stop it… but they can’t. That’s when the three of them, who happened to be there, are entrusted with magical armor to overpower the monster.
However, I will change the plan and immediately overwhelm them with the four of them, taking advantage of a significant difference in power while ensuring a safety margin…
As I walk along the road, I ponder the upcoming events. Gindou Kohaku suggests a place she recommends, a bookstore where all kinds of books are available. Well, this town doesn’t have many scenic spots or anything. It’s just a regular bookstore, but it’s larger than usual, with a wide selection of books.
“This is my favorite bookstore… There are lots of books… I thought it would be a place worth visiting in this town…”
“Having books in a bookstore is pretty normal… Well, it’s definitely big, but is this a must-visit place in the town?”
She answers awkwardly, muttering something under her breath.
“…Well, it can’t be helped, right? I haven’t been in this town for long… I just made up a recommendation because I didn’t want to be alone with you…”
Kataumi Aoi seems unaware, but I can hear it clearly since I don’t have hearing problems.
…It hurts my heart…
“Since we’re here, can I take a look around?”
“Sure, please go ahead.”
She goes inside, saying it’s a great recommendation. While I’m browsing through reference books…
“W-What is it?”
“T-That woman… Is she really just a friend? I don’t doubt it, but I mean… Just to make sure…”
“Yes, she’s a friend who helped me.”
“I- I see. That’s good to hear. S-Sorry… for causing trouble repeatedly…”
“No, it’s not trouble at all. I’m the one who should apologize… I mean, it’s more like…”
“No, it’s entirely my fault…”
“No, no, I’m the one… So please don’t worry about it.”
“Yes, um, thank you.”
Somehow, it feels like we’re in a pink space together, but there are important things ahead. I need to brace myself…
It’s already 12:30 PM… We’re supposed to meet at 1 PM and spend time together as a group… Then, the battle with the demons… If only I had the power of the “Black Knight,” I could completely annihilate the demons and ensure peace…
“Huh? It’s not Izayoi.”
“Kohaku-chan is here too. It’s such a coincidence.”
Now I hear the voices of Hihara Karen and Kikawa Moegi from behind. It seems the two of them also came to the bookstore.
“Did both of you come too?”
“I was planning to buy some light novels and manga’s new releases. Also, I thought of getting some reference books to study and teach Izayoi before we meet up.”
“I’ve been interested in light novels and manga lately, so I was just wandering around the bookstore before the meeting time. Then I ran into Karen-chan, and we came here together. It’s interesting that we all gathered before the designated time… Oh? The girl over there, could she be…?”
During the conversation between Gindou Kohaku and the others, Kikawa Moegi noticed Kataumi Aoi. And following her, Hihara Karen also noticed.
“Ah! The girl we saw at the festival, right?! So, that means she’s the person you wanted to introduce?”
“Yes, that’s right…”
“Karen-senpai, it’s okay. She’s just a friend of Izayoi-kun, neither more nor less.”
Hihara Karen looked at Kataumi Aoi while Gindou Kohaku glanced briefly and explained with a bit of reservation.
“Yeah, I told her too. Just a friend, nothing more.”
“I see. Sorry for making a fuss then.”
Apologetically, Kataumi Aoi replied. They could sense that they were still hesitant about getting closer to each other. However…
“Hey! What’s your name!? I’m Kikawa Moegi! Nice to meet you!”
Kikawa Moegi, being extremely friendly, firmly extended her hand. This kind of friendly atmosphere from Kikawa Moegi was reassuring.
When Kataumi Aoi transferred, Kikawa Moegi was the first one to approach her. If it’s her, they could easily become friends. The other two would also become friends eventually.
They didn’t mind Kataumi Aoi’s complex about her eyes. They wouldn’t show it on their faces, but Kataumi Aoi must be surprised.
“I’m Kataumi Aoi… Nice to meet you.”
“I’m Hihara Karen… Nice to meet you.”
“…Nice to meet you.”
They were all gathered now —– the mid-game members. It was a reckless move to gather four people right from the start, but it should be fine. They are still hesitant about each other, but it’s a good start.
“Are these the friends you were talking about introducing?”
“Yes, they are. Don’t you feel like you can all get along really well?”
Somehow, she seemed to have taken a liking to the three of them. Alright, the plan to create a circle of four from the beginning has been achieved.
“I’m actually showing the town to Kataumi-san. Would you like to come along too?”
“I usually stay at home, so I can’t recommend or introduce much, but…”
“It’s totally okay.”
“Alright, we’ve got five people going together now!! We’ll head to the hill where you can see a recommended view! Aoi-chan!”
“You’re really energetic, aren’t you, Moegi…”
With Kataumi Aoi and Kikawa Moegi leading, the rest of us followed. I need to stay vigilant and keep an appropriate distance to ensure our safety. There’s still time before the demons arrive.
As we walk, someone tugs on my sleeve. I turn around to find it’s Hihara Karen.
“Hey, Aoi-san is really just a friend of yours, right?”
“! Y-Yes, that’s right.”
“I see. That’s good to know… Uhm, I might be out of line asking this since I’m not your girlfriend or anything, but… I can’t help but be curious about it… I’m sorry.”
“No, please don’t apologize! It’s more like… my fault or something, so please don’t mind it.”
Damn it. I need to focus; I’m getting distracted again. But… I’m such a scumbag, aren’t I? It’s the second time today.
“Yeah…well… I’m getting a little embarrassed. I’ll go over to where Moegi and the others are for now.”
Her face turned slightly red, and she went towards the front where the other two were.
I need to concentrate now. But someone tugs on my sleeve again.
“Izayoi-kun… You had a bit of a creepy smile there… I mean, I know it’s weird for me to say that, but it’s not very funny.”
“Sure, Karen-senpai is cute and all, but…”
She pouts a bit, looking like a squirrel, and places her hand on her chest.
“Well, that’s fine…… right now …… I need to sort out my feelings a little bit, so I’m going to go join the seniors too.”
For a moment, her atmosphere changed, and she moved away from me to join the others in the front…
How should I respond to feelings of goodwill… I need to put that on hold for now… I wonder how much more of a scumbag I can be… I’m just a total scumbag.
But I don’t want to disturb this harmony when I see the four of them happily walking together…
Calm down. The only thing to think about now is the demon tribe that will attack us later on.
I shift my focus back to the sky.