I wake to find myself asleep at my desk, my head resting on my forearms uncomfortably. Ah… looks like I went in front of the computer again. In addition to a sore neck and numbed arms, I can also feel a terrifically splitting headache running amok in my cranium. Looking at the empty cans of beer strewn around the surface of the table, I deduce that I probably got shitfaced last night for one reason or another.
I lean back in my chair, running my hands over my face in an attempt to chase away the drowsiness. Wonder what time it is. Can’t tell from looking ‘cuz the window’s blinds are shut. Holding up a single index finger, I press down on the spacebar of the keyboard in front of me. The computer monitor, previously displaying nothing but black of the darkest variety, jolts itself out of power save mode. …Whoa, the hell was I looking at last night? Quickly X’ing out of the questionable web pages, I turn my attention to the clock display of the taskbar. Already slept past noon.
Stifling a yawn, I hoist myself out of my chair, taking an uneasy step onto the carpeted floor. Feel a bit unsteady, but it’s no problem. Heading out of the room, I make way for the nearest bathroom. I flick the light switch on and turn on the sink, splashing my face with water. Shutting the water off, I look into the dirty mirror, decorated with spots from the bits of water that’s splashed onto it when I spit out the water while gargling, in front of me.
Pale. Messy. Bags under the eyes from sleep deprivation. Malnourished. Scruffy. I didn’t suddenly become some kind of an ultra pretty boy or the pinnacle of masculinity overnight. How disappointing. Am I forever cursed to be my dull, boring self? Well, not that I try to be anything else but…
My business in the wash finished, I mosey on over to the kitchen, pulling the door of my fridge open. Lessee… a half-eaten package of wieners, lots and lots of beer… and not much else. Pulling a sausage out of the pack, I stuff it into my mouth while also removing a can from the interior. I nudge the fridge shut with my foot, moving towards the one window in the building without any sort of curtains or blinds.
Opening the can, I take a quick swig before looking out the window. Same old scenery. Everyday’s the same. Just wake up, laugh at stupid things on the internet, get wasted, and then go to sleep. I know it’s up to me to go out and find something to do, but I’m just not feeling it. And to think I was all so gung-ho about going independent on my own those years ago. If it weren’t for my fabulously successful parents looking out for their dumb kid, I’d be a hobo in the streets by now. They probably figured I’d end up screwing myself over somehow, so they’d begged me to let them pay off the place.
… Well, not that I’m constantly wasting time. I do small work for a website, keeping in contact by e-mail. It’s not particularly gratifying, but it’s better than being fully unemployed. At least it means I don’t have to go outside.
But even in the tedious days I’m living in now, there’s a small yet bright light I look forward to each day. Lately, there’s been a certain girl hanging around outside of my home. A mysterious and exotic beauty, dressed sharply in a red plaid waistcoat and a matching skirt, and carrying that pleasantly elegant parasol in her dainty hands. The kind of woman you can identify as hailing from a refined world at first glance. I can watch her for hours from this spot at the window and never tire of her.
She’s there today, too, leaning over and stroking the petals of a flower that had managed to bloom in a crack in the concrete despite the harsh conditions of urban streets. And she’s so compassionate, too. A more tenderhearted creature could not exist. What an absolutely wonderful girl. I feel my mouth curling up into a genuinely touched smile for the first time in forever.
Having finished tending to the poor little flower, she straightens her posture gracefully. Is she preparing to leave already? What a shame. If only she would be around just a few minutes more. But as she turns to leave, she suddenly looks up towards me, and our eyes meet. Oh crap, did she notice me watching her? Gotta look nonchalant, gotta look nonchalant… I struggle not to look directly at her, but I still watch her out of the corner of my eyes. She raises a hand, and gives me a sweet little wave, melting my heart. Ah, so this is what it means to be in love.
She walks away, and I can only watch as she’s further and further out of my sight. Immediately, I feel the burden of depression once more. What’s the point of getting excited? It’s not like I’ll ever have the guts to go out and talk to her. Sighing, I take another sip of the can in my hand and prepare myself for the too-long yet too-short day to come.
Today, for once, I wake in my bed. Didn’t stop the pounding in my head, though, but not having a sore neck as soon as I’m awake is kind of nice. Kicking the unkempt blanket off of me, I groggily sit up and get off the bed. Scratching my stomach, I exit my room and head on over to the kitchen for my almost ritualistic morning booze. There was an unfamiliar smell permeating the living room, but I pay it no mind as I continue on.
“Good morning,” someone greets me.
“’Morning,” I say absentmindedly, my voice scratchy and tired.
It isn’t until I’m in the kitchen that I realize what just happened. Shocked, I quickly whirl around, and glance at the dining table. Seated there was the exotic beauty, taking a nice drink from a teacup… my teacup, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
“Stale,” she says promptly, parting the cup from her lips. “How old are your tea stocks?”
I make no attempt to answer her question, my heart beating furiously. Could it be that in an alcohol-induced stupor, I’d kidnapped her and brought her inside? But she doesn’t look panicked or anything. She’s just calmly sitting there and sipping the tea she’d apparently helped herself to.
“Am I dreaming…?” I wonder out loud.
The beauty responds by making a gesture with her forefinger and thumb, as if pinching something. I understand immediately and pinch myself on the cheek. Ow.
“Why are you here?” I ask, my voice shaking.
“Because I let myself in,” she says in a simple manner, setting the teacup down on the table.
“L-let yourself in?” I repeat. Turning from her, I hurry to the front door of my home. It’s still locked. How did she let herself in? Perplexed, I return to the living room.
As soon as I return, the woman points towards the window I always watched her from. It’s wide open. “You let yourself in through the window?”
“… But this… this is the second floor of the building.”
“I know,” she says, with no explanation as to how she managed to enter through a second story window. “I want to stay here,” she suddenly says, looking around the interior of the room.
“… You mean… live here?”
“For the time being.”
A little bit of anger starts to flare up in me. Who is she to break into someone’s home and demand to live there? “You can’t just say you want to live here.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” she says politely. “I intend to accommodate my stay here accordingly.”
“You’re going to pay?” Well, if she is, then this might be quite the lucky boon for me. I certainly wouldn’t mind renting out one of the rooms here to her. In fact, this might be a miraculous break! “Uh… well, I don’t know anything about charging rates, though…” I stutter.
“I don’t have money.”
“Huh? But you said-”
“I’ll pay with something else.”
As she finishes speaking, she slowly stands from the chair, coyly walking over to me. I feel paralyzed, unable to speak. No way, she isn’t… she isn’t offering that to me, is she? And to think, I thought she was pure! But for some reason, I can’t protest. I feel excited, despite myself. My heart races and my face glows red.
And then, as soon as I’m within range, her hand shoots out and grabs me by the front of my shirt, lifting me high into the air. What the-!? What kind of monstrous strength is this!" Those nails that I thought were exquisitely charming have suddenly morphed into vile claws, looking sharp enough to tear through flesh with the slightest touch.
”Your life,” she says in a demonic voice. ”I believe that would be an adequate sum, wouldn’t you say?”
The woman drops me roughly, and I land on my butt, now paralyzed by fear. I… I can’t argue with that, or I might get my throat torn out.
“Well now, this place looks even nicer inside than it does from the outside,” the woman says walking about and examining everything, as if taking a tour around the inside of my home. “It’s all so dirty, though. Absolutely unacceptable. And the colors are so drab. A little decoration can really spruce things up, you know.”
“So filthy. Have you never heard of housecleaning? Or hiring someone to do it for you?” the woman says as she returns from taking a look at the bathroom. She looks down at me with the same look of disdain one would give to a stray dog. “What, you’re still sitting there? Have I scared the life out of you? You’re still alive, so stand.”
She extends her hand out to me. Hesitantly, I take her hand, wary of whether she was just taking the opportunity to further humiliate me. She pulls me up, letting go immediately as soon as I’m able to stand on two feet. “Yuuka Kazami,” she says. “I suppose I should say I’ll be indebted to you for a while.”
For a moment, I can almost see the old exotic beauty I used to see. The vision of perfection reflected on her face…
“Now go clean yourself up. Your face looks as filthy as the rest of the things here.”
… and she promptly shatters the vision. And she doesn’t just shatter it. She grinds it up into little bits of dust and flushes it all down a toilet. It’s then that I realize something.
As I step into the bathroom, my mind is blank. No, wait, no it isn’t. It isn’t blank at all; far from it. Why is that woman here? Why is she demanding to stay here? How is she that strong? What was her name again, Yuuka Kazami? That’s a fairly ordinary name, right? Most of these questions don’t have answers, and I’m not sure I’d get them if I asked her directly.
Stepping up to the sink, I turn the water on to full-blast. After washing my face, I pick up a dull, dirty razor lying next to my toothbrush. Running it once under the water, I carefully begin to shave my face. No shaving cream or anything like that, I never cared much for maintaining personal appearance anyway.
Splashing my face one more time to give it a rinse, I dry myself off with a towel and step out of the bathroom, back to the living room. I see that Yuuka’s going about the place, checking every little thing. Heh, if she’s looking for a hidden stash of money somewhere, she’s going to be disappointed.
“Oh,” she pauses in front of the TV, looking towards me as I approach. “Slightly better.”
“Slightly,” she says with a sense of finality.
This woman certainly seems to think she’s always right. I wonder what she’d do to people who have the balls to openly disagree with her. Probably, she’d make them lose those balls. I wonder if I should call the police on her. Forcing her residence here on me under the threat of death has to be against the law, right? It has to be! Therefore, I have the right to call the blue boys here to arrest this woman right now.
Well, not like I’ll do it, anyway.
Maybe this is still a chance. Maybe it’ll be like on TV shows, where a brooding and reclusive male is visited by some kind of a super energetic angel-pixie girl who reforms him for the better. Maybe this Yuuka Kazami could be my angel-pixie girl.
“This looks to be a nice place, once it’s cleaned up,” she comments. “Spacey, too. Not as big as home, of course. How does a bottom-of-the-ladder insect like you get to live in a place like this?”
Hahahaha, yeah right. I need to kick myself in the ass for even thinking about that.
“My parents are rich,” I reply, looking away.
“Ah, I see,” she nods, comprehending. “In other words, you’re feeding on them like a parasite.”
“I don’t want to hear that from a would-be freeloader,” I say brusquely, before I can stop myself. Oh shit, have I done it now. She’s going to kill me!
But she simply laughs it off, not even slightly miffed. “That’s a good one,” she says, smirking. “Anyway, I’m hungry. Prepare something for me. Oh, and buy some new tea stocks. The ones you have are stale and disgusting.”
I watch her as she sits at the dining table again, staring fondly at a single flower in a dirty vase on the surface of the table. Wait, I don’t remember putting anything like that there. She must have brought it in with her. I must not have noticed from the initial shock.
Grumbling under my breath, I step into the kitchen, flicking the light switch on and immediately heading for the utility closet nearby. Opening it, I take out two cups of instant ramen. I only ever eat to survive, anyway, so these were enough for me most of the time. And if she finds them dissatisfactory, too freaking bad.
Yawning, I fill the kettle with water and set it on the stove. Offhandedly, I look towards the dining table. Now that I take a longer look at the table, I recognize that it’s the same one from outside; the flower growing out of a small crack in the concrete. She’s got a weird smile as she watches it. It’s just a stupid flower. Don’t be so enamored with it.
The water’s started to boil, so I peel back the lid on the cups and pour the hot liquid inside. Filling it up, I put away the kettle and immediately close the lids. Producing two pairs of chopsticks from a drawer, I hold each in my hands as well as the cup ramen. Approaching the table, I place one cup in front of her, setting down the chopsticks on top of it, before taking a seat of my own.
“Already done?” she seems surprised, looking at the cup of ramen in front of her as if it’s some kind of an alien object. She picks up the chopsticks and goes to remove the lid.
“Hey, it’s not done yet,” I say, stopping her. “Give it a few minutes. Even instant ramen isn’t cooked that fast.”
“Instant… ramen…?” she repeats, looking intently at the cover of the lid. What, never heard of instant ramen before? “I see. Instant ramen. Hm…”
I completely peel of the lid, dipping my chopsticks into the broth the stir the noodles inside. Yuuka watches me, apparently fascinated.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, holding the cup to my face as I slurp up the noodles.
Yuuka peels off the lid on her own cup, hesitantly stirring the noodles inside using her chopsticks. Lifting the cup to her face, she sniffs it. What are you, a dog? Still looking uncertain, she slowly begins to eat.
“Hm… well, it’s not inedible,” she says after the first taste. “But I can tell. This is cheap food, isn’t it?”
“Of course it’s cheap food. It’s instant ramen.”
“So it seems the people of today sacrifice quality of food for the sake of convenience and conserving time,” she notes. “Completely unacceptable. This can’t be called a dish.”
“Well it’s all I have,” I say, continuing to eat. “If you don’t like it, then don’t eat.”
“I never said I wouldn’t eat it,” she says quickly. “But by dinner I expect you to have something more suitable served.”
“I’m not a cook,” I retort. “I don’t know how to make anything else.”
“Then learn,” she says, as if that’s such an easy thing to do. God help me, she’s going to drive me insane by the end of the day with her demands.
Minutes and a mostly one-sided argument later, I’ve changed into a pair of jeans and sneakers as I prepare to leave the building to buy the groceries. Ugh, that woman is impossible. She’s seriously dead set on getting me to cook dinner. I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve never even made a sandwich or a rice ball in my entire life! I’m not going to suddenly be able to cook up a five-star dish, like she expects me to.
I check my wallet. Well, I’ve got a few ten-thousands left. Maybe on the way back, I can get something to-go at a restaurant or something. Would be easier than trying to cook, though somehow I get the feeling she’d throw a fit about it.
[x] Pre-cooked, but hidden among groceries that might actually be used to make it.
-[x] Spend some time in the kitchen chopping vegetables, boiling water, opening a cookbook, and generally giving the appearance of a person preparing a meal. After you're done making a mess, throw it all out, and take out the prepared dinner.
-[x] If she asks any questions during the meal about its preparation, lie casually.
[x] Your tea isn't good enough for her? Fine. Buy a large variety of cheap instant teas. That way, she can discover what she likes on her own time, without you having to boil a whole kettle each time.
Have a feeling that Yuka is critically weak to MSG.
Also, how do you get back at someone who is up front and demanding? By being as passive-aggressive as possible.
[x] Pre-cooked, but hidden among groceries that might actually be used to make it.
-[x] Spend some time in the kitchen chopping vegetables, boiling water, opening a cookbook, and generally giving the appearance of a person preparing a meal. After you're done making a mess, throw it all out, and take out the prepared dinner.
-[x] If she asks any questions during the meal about its preparation, lie casually.
[x] Your tea isn't good enough for her? Fine. Buy a large variety of cheap instant teas. That way, she can discover what she likes on her own time, without you having to boil a whole kettle each time.
For a brief moment, I seriously do consider reporting this whole thing to the police. It’s bad enough to threaten me into housing her, but she’s being so demanding while she’s at it, too. What’s wrong with instant ramen? What, too good for cheap food? And no matter how strong she is, there’s no way she’d try to fight the police off, right? No one’s that dumb.
But then I think of the consequences: What if, somehow, she evades arrest? She knows where I live, and it’s not like I have anywhere else to shack up. My parents and my sister are dozens of kilometers away and as for friends… well, uh… I have none. Not in this area, anyway. I’m not really a “people” guy.
And… call me masochistic, but I have to admit that I’m… well, interested. Ignoring the possible danger that my life is in, this is certainly going to be a far cry from the monotonous sort of life I’ve been living up until now. For some reason, I don’t want to end it so soon. If it truly gets unbearable, then I really will report her.
Now, what to do for dinner? There’s no way I can cook, but it seemed to me like she really wanted me to do it. A cunning idea slides into my mind, and a diabolical grin onto my face. Stepping out of my home, I let the metal door shut behind me with a loud bang. Walking down the grated staircase right outside, I walk through the iron gate and into the streets.
Reaching into the pocket of my jeans, I produce a pack of cigarettes, shaking a stick out of it. Taking out a cheap lighter, I light the cig and give it a puff, heading towards the shopping district in the area.
As I walk through the busy streets, a particularly showy building catches my attention; a pachinko parlor, with exaggeratedly garish neon signs. Well, a game or two wouldn’t hurt, now would it? Tossing the remains of my cigarette onto the ground, I step on it to extinguish it before heading inside.
Hours later, I exit the building, swearing under my breath. Wasted everything I had on me, damn. This just isn’t my day. Guess now I need to pay a visit to the bank before I go buying anything. What rotten luck.
Making my way to the bank, my thoughts turn once again to that Yuuka Kazami woman. I wonder what she’s doing now. Is she still watching that flower, or is she pacing around wondering when I’m going to be back. Or maybe she’s just planning to rob me of my possessions. Well, so long as she stays away from the computer, I don’t really mind, or care.
Withdrawing what little money was left in my account, I place the cash in my wallet. Gotta remember to beg mom to send some money over later.
Once that’s done, I head over to the supermarket. Pork, oil, potatoes, and a bunch of other things I happened to grab. Tonight’s meal’ll be tonkatsu. Well, not that I’ll be the one to cook it. I’ll just pretend like I am, and just give her a cooked meal to-go.
“I’m back,” I say, stepping into the room while carrying a plastic bag in each hand. Yuuka’s seated in my couch, staring at the TV. As the heavy metal door closes, she spares me a short glance.
“You sure took your time,” she says, looking back at the television.
I decide not to answer, instead immediately heading over to the kitchen. Setting down the plastic bags, I begin to take out the objects inside. Among them are a large variety of instant tea containers, which I set aside together.
“I bought some instant tea,” I say, unpacking the ingredients next.
“Instant tea? Goodness, is there an instant everything?”
Discreetly, I also take out the paper lunchbox from the bag, stuffing it into the fridge when I’m sure Yuuka isn’t looking this way. “Welcome to the 21st century,” I say dryly. “Enjoy your stay.” Seriously, what’s the deal with her? Has she been living under a rock this entire time?
Right, it shouldn’t be too hard to pretend like I’m cooking. Just gotta get out the pot and cutting board.
“What are you planning on making?”
I jump, looking behind me. Yuuka’s standing at the kitchen doorway with her arms folded, tapping her foot.
“T-tonkatsu,” I say nervously.
She raises an eyebrow. “Deep frying?” she says, sounding doubtful. “Are you serious?”
“Well then, allow me to assist you,” she says.
“That’s fine, I don’t need any help,” I say, taking a step back defensively.
“Don’t be ridiculous, you said you don’t have experience cooking, didn’t you?” she says, advancing forward.
“No, really, I’ll be fine!”
“What, you don’t think I know how to cook? Is that it?” she presses. Hey, if you know how to cook, then cook for yourself, dammit! “You’ll set fire to the kitchen if you’re not careful.”
“I’m not going to set fire to the kitchen!”
I nearly set fire to the kitchen.
To my defense, Yuuka really wasn’t much help. Still, we had some degree of success. The piece of meat on the dish in front of me looks like a tonkatsu. If you squint really hard, that is. Well, it’s similar, anyway. Only it’s a lot darker and smells burnt.
And of course, the lunchbox I’d bought at the store was still sitting inside the fridge.
Yuuka’s already sitting at the table as I set the dish in front of her, as well as a plastic knife and fork. She’s going to make fun of me. I just know it. She made me do this whole cooking thing just to rip into me.
She cuts out a part of the fried pork, spearing it with her fork. She brings it up to her mouth, and bites down. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Here it comes. I almost prepare to wince, expecting her to snap at me any moment now.
But it doesn’t come. Instead, she cuts out another piece, and eats that, too. No change in expression. No flash of anger or even a wince. Silently, she just continues to eat.
“H-how is it?” I say, my voice shaking. Maybe I’m a culinary genius after all?
“Bitter,” she replies, setting down her knife and fork for a moment. “Too crisp, too hard, too burnt.”
“Oh…” I say, slightly disappointed. I reach out to take the failed plate away, but she stops me with a glance.
“I’m still eating,” she says, surprising me. As she cuts out another piece, she continues to speak. “I did say I’d eat it all, didn’t I? It’s a waste to throw away the product of effort like this.”
“But it’s awful, isn’t it?”
“I keep my word,” she pops the piece into her mouth, eating diligently. “You should eat that tonkatsu meal you’ve bought outside as well. Aren’t you hungry?” she says after swallowing.
My eyes widen in shock. “You knew?”
“You can’t fool my nose,” she says, laughing. Again, are you a dog?
Frowning, I head over to the fridge to grab the lunchbox, returning to the table to set it on its surface as I take a seat opposite Yuuka. Feeling guilty, I begin to speak as I open the lunchbox. “Stop eating that and have some of this.”
“No. This is fine,” she says. “Pass me some of the rice, though.”
I comply, splitting the rice in half and piling it onto her plate. And then, we eat in silence.
Night soon falls, the evening having been spent just staring at the shows on TV.
“I don’t have any futon or anything for guests, you know,” I say, when Yuuka mentions that she’s going to sleep.
“That’s fine, I’ll sleep right here,” Yuuka says, nudging me off the sofa with her feet. Funny, I expected her to demand to use my bed. “That’ll do, won’t it?”
“… I guess,” I say, rubbing the back of my neck as I shut off the TV. “I’ll go out and buy a bedroll tomorrow, and then I guess you can stay in one of the spare rooms.”
“Mmm,” she moans in reply, covering her eyes with her forearm.
Shrugging, I go and grab a can of beer from the fridge before flicking the living room switch off. As I do, I hear Yuuka say in a faint voice.
“… Good night,” I return, before retreating into my room.
I wake up earlier than usual the next morning. Covering my mouth as I yawn, I walk into the living room. The fragrance of tea fills my nostril as I enter.
“Good morning,” Yuuka greets me, sitting at the table and sipping from a teacup, just like yesterday.
“Good morning,” I say as I head over to the kitchen to grab my morning can of beer. I reach into the fridge and remove a can, turning to leave the kitchen.
“Good morning, master!” another voice greets me, energetic and enthusiastic.
“’Morning,” I say, not paying attention.
“Drinking in the morning?” Yuuka asks as I take a seat at the table. “Instead of alcohol, maybe you should settle for tea instead. Want some?” she holds up a teapot next to her.
Wait, what the dick? I get the distinct feeling that something happened just now that shouldn’t have happened. What on earth could it be? Fuck, can’t think straight after waking up in the morning. Setting the can of beer on the table, I rub my temple as I head back into the kitchen. Maybe I’ll wash my face at the sink to clear my head or something.
“Suit yourself, then,” Yuuka says. “Do you want some tea, then?”
“Ah, of course!” the voice from earlier responds, and a girl wearing a maid uniform hurries out of the kitchen past me as I walk in.
…A girl wearing a maid uniform?
What the fuck, a maid?!
Wide awake now, I nearly stumble to the floor as I rush back to the dining table, where a blonde young woman wearing a peculiar maid uniform seats herself next to Yuuka, accepting a cup of tea. Adorned on top of her head is a hat with a wide brim and a red ribbon, and her hands are covered with white, delicate evening gloves.
“Is something the matter, master?” the unfamiliar girl asks, her lips curled in a somewhat devious looking smirk. “You look surprised.”
“Yuuka,” I say, ignoring the maid for a moment. “Who the hell is this?”
“A live-in maid,” she says calmly, sipping from her cup of tea. “I told you before; this place needs some cleaning up before it can be called a home. So, I hired a maid for us.”
“Like hell you did. Did you kidnap some girl at a café off of Akihabara or something?!” I step forward, slamming my hand on the table. “I mean, look at that getup!”
“What’s wrong with it? Aren’t maids supposed to wear that?”
“Not real ones. Real ones don’t wear French maid uniforms like that!”
“How misleading, then,” Yuuka says, looking surprised. “They’re called maids, and yet they don’t wear maid uniforms?”
“Ah, could it be that I’m not up to master’s standards?” the maid girl pipes up, rearranging her hat with her gloved hands. She looks hurt, as if I’d somehow personally offended her. “I understand if you’re unhappy with me…” she says with a sad, dejected voice.
“No, it’s not anything like that,” I say, frustrated. “It’s just… ridiculous. Look, I can’t afford a maid,” I turn to Yuuka. “And you said you don’t have money. We can’t afford a maid.”
“Oh, she won’t need to be paid,” Yuuka explains, and the girl next to her vigorously nods.
“I’m fine if you just let me live here,” the maid girl says, raising her hand.
I sigh, massaging the bridge of my nose before reaching for the can of beer. “Yeah, whatever,” I say. At this point, I don’t really care if Yuuka brings in fifty people. Shit, no, never mind, I do. Please don’t do that, Yuuka.
“I’m Kana Anaberal!” she stands from the table, bowing deeply. A foreigner, judging by the name. What’s she doing here? Where did Yuuka find her? Damn, so troublesome. But! It’s a man’s dream to have a maid at his command, so I welcome this addition with open arms!
I smile, nodding. “Nice to meet you, Kana.”
She lifts her head, tipping her hat over her eyes to conceal them. She returns the smile. But… somehow, it feels like it isn’t sincere. “Oh yes, I’ll enjoy watchingyouatnight.”
“I said I’ll enjoy working with you, master,” Kana says, smiling sweetly while readjusting her hat.
Why do I feel like I’ve made another mistake?
Well, there’s a whole day ahead of me. I wonder what I should do now.
[ ] Shut yourself in your room. You need some alone time.
[ ] Talk to Yuuka. You need some answers.
[ ] Is that maid really here to work?
[ ] Go out and buy what needs to be bought. Might as well get it over with now.
I’m not thinking clearly. I need a breath of fresh air.
… That sounds so odd, coming from a shut-in like me. But I just need to get away from these two for a while. Everyone feels the need to get lost in a crowd every now and then. I need some time to myself.
Checking my wallet, I figure I have enough money for what I need. Probably. Yeah, I’d really get to begging mom for money later. It’s emasculating, but what can you do. It’s what I get for blowing my monthly budget on gambling.
“I’m heading out,” I announce before heading to my room to change into my jeans. Once I’m finished, I make my way back to the front door, opening the door.
“Okay, master~!” Kana calls after me, bowing low. “I’ll work hard while you’re gone!”
“Y-yeah, sure…” I say, looking behind me. I can’t help but wonder if this is all really just some weird house robbery scheme or something. Well, like I said before, the only thing there that I really value is my computer, so I don’t give a crap if they take anything else.
The cool morning air greets me as I head outside. It’s late fall, so it’s been getting more than a little chilly early in the day. Briefly, I consider going back inside to grab a jacket, but ultimately I decide against it out of laziness. Instead, I just walk down the grated staircase, stretching out my still tired arms.
Seriously, what the hell am I doing? Things were complicated enough when that Yuuka woman was the only one, but now she’s brought in a maid? Complete with the outfit, even. Cute girl, though. But there’s something about her that bothers me. I keep feeling like I shouldn’t turn my back to her. Strange.
Producing the last cigarette from the pack I had in my pocket, I lit it with a lighter before tossing the empty pack aside. Taking a long drag on it, I gag on the taste of the smoke, and spend several seconds pounding my chest to steady my breathing as I walk down the street.
On the way to the shopping district, I pass through a local park. Since it’s still early in the morning, there aren’t a lot of people, save for morning joggers running a lap ‘round the park. Finishing the stick of cigarette, I stop by a public ashtray near a bench to extinguish it. As I do so, I notice someone lying on the bench.
A blonde woman, wearing a round hat very similar to Kana’s, with shoulder length hair ending in curls. She’s sleeping on the wooden bench, using old newspaper as blankets though shivering from the cold occasionally. My brain tells me she could mean nothing but further trouble, and I decide to hurry and get the hell out of there.
Having made it past the park without trouble, I immediately make my way to the mattress store. Well, it would be immediately, except I don’t really know where it is. So I ended up having to stop and ask for directions. And buy ask for directions, I actually meant sulk around too embarrassed to actually ask anyone for help. Hey, I’m just not a “people” person.
Wandering around the place, I stop when I hear a cat at my feet. Looking down, I see a white cat stretched out lazily on the ground with a bored look on its face. It seems so unconcerned with the world, only caring about its own relaxed pace. Ah, cat, you remind me of me. You understand me, don’t you? I reach down to give it a scratch behind the ears…
The cat swiftly dodges my hand by moving its head out of the way.
Ahahaha, that must have startled it. Well, it won’t be surprised this time, so just let me…
The cat moves out of the way again, a cold gleam reflecting off its eyes, as if openly challenging me.
What the… Stupid cat, are you challenging me?! Are you saying that I’m too much of a loser to even gain the respect of a cat?! Well take this! I reach out with both hands.
Amazingly, the cat leaps into the air before I can grab him. It flies at my face, sharp claws extended.
“Too slow!” I say with a grin, grabbing it from behind. Don’t underestimate the reflexes of a shut-in! I’ve trained myself on various fast-paced games! …Well, normally it doesn’t really help at all, but that doesn’t matter at the moment, because for now I’ve triumphed over the cat!
…What the hell am I playing around with a cat for.
I feel stupid as I look at the cat squirming in my grip. Well, I suppose I’ll just let it go, and…
“Sokrates!” I hear the call of a young girl.
Straightening myself up, and with the cat still in my hands, I look behind me. Walking towards us was a girl wearing a strange red-and-white dress and long, blonde hair. What the? Another foreigner? Didn’t expect to see so many….
“Sokrates, there you are!” she says upon seeing the cat in your hands, delighted. What, so the cat is hers? Well, I’ll just hand it back to her and… “Fueeh!” she suddenly seems alarmed, taking a step back. “Sokrates has been captured by a scary looking man!”
Suddenly, I don’t feel like giving her the cat anymore. Just what about me is scary, damn it?!
“Um… mister,” she says timidly. “Can I have that cat?”
[ ] “Yeah, of course.”
[ ] “No. This cat is mine now. Get your own.”
“Yeah, of course,” I say, quite eager to get rid of the feline. I shove the cat out to her, and she takes it into her arms, cradling it like a newborn baby while letting out a happy squeal.
“Thank you, mister,” she says with a smile. “Sokrates, you ba~d cat! I was looking for you all morning!”
The cat responds with a disinterested, drawn out meow. The strange foreigner girl giggles, snuggling the cat while it squirms in her grasp, struggling while letting out cries of discontent. Kids are quite cruel to their pets, aren’t they…? It’s no wonder it ran away…
Right… I don’t have business with this kid anymore. I’d better get back to the task at hand.
I turn away from the girl to continue my foray into the city…
“But Sokrates, what’re we gonna do?” the girl’s voice suddenly sounds distressed. “I feel soo hungry, and we might have to sleep outside today, too…”
Not my business, not my business, not my business…
“Achoo!” the girl sneezes, sniffling pitifully. “Ahhn… I wonder if I’ve caught something… it’s so cold at night…”
“Fueeeh! Thank you so much, mister!” the girl says gratefully as I set a tray down on the table in front of her. Somehow, we had ended up stopping at a local McDonald’s, where I ordered a meal for the two of us.
Have I always been such a meddlesome person? I wonder as I silently bite into a piece of French fries. Nope. Normally, I definitely wouldn’t involve myself in things like this. So why am I getting involved now? This is a question that requires deep thinking…
I become suddenly mindful of the stares the other patrons in the fast food restaurant are giving me. I try my best to ignore their looks. It must seem strange, after all, to see this girl, who can’t be older than fourteen or fifteen, hanging around with a guy in his early twenties. I’m not being seen as a cradle robber, am I? Give me a break. I’m just a guy with good intentions here!
Absentmindedly, I stick a straw in my cup, taking a sip as I watch her reach for the burger. She slowly unwraps the paper around the burger and takes a small bite of it. “It’s goo~d!” she says while chewing.
“Hey, don’t talk while you’re eating,” I say, tossing another fry in my mouth.
“Eeehhh? But aren’t you talking while you’re eating too?”
“It’s okay for me because I’m an adult.”
“That’s not faaair, I’m an adult, too,” she says, childishly puffing out her cheeks in a pout. No matter how you look at it, she’s a kid.
Ignoring her, I return to the question that’s been plaguing my mind as I continue to watch her nibble on the burger like a mouse. Maybe I’ve become the victim of an Eroge Protagonist Syndrome? Presented with such an eroge-like scenario, could it be that the inner Game Protagonist in me finally awoke, and with it came an unreasonable degree of altruism that comes with the role?!
Ahahaha, that’s another kick in the ass I owe myself.
First of all, heroines shouldn’t be so violent towards the main character, right? If this were really an eroge, it would surely be a treacherous road to the ending, filled with Bad Ends and Dead Ends along the way, with choices that would leave you feeling “What the fuck, how was I supposed to figure that out?!” when you end up getting blindsided by one of them or something like that.
Yeah, I need to stop thinking like that. It’s dumb.
“By the way, mister,” the girl speaks up, rousing me from my brief reverie. She’s finished her burger already, huh? “What was that called?”
“The thing you bought me just now,” she says. “It was very tasty!”
“A cheeseburger,” I say. “Don’t tell me you don’t know what that is…”
“Nope,” she says, shaking her head. What the… Seriously, what’s wrong with this girl and that other woman? It’s like they’re from a different world. “Cheeseburger… cheeseburger…” she says to herself. “Okay, I think I can remember it now!” she states confidently. “Next…”
“What are you called, mister?”
I introduce myself.
“…Fueeeeh… that’s such a complicated and difficult sounding name,” she says, discouraged. She says my name to herself a few times uncertainly, but she’s already messed up on the first try. “… It’s so hard…”
“Don’t mind, I don’t like my name either,” I say, waving my hand. “And what’s yours?”
“Ah! I’m Ellen! Ellen ‘Fluffy-Head’ Aureus!” she says brightly, tilting her head slightly to her side as she makes a V-sign with both hands.
…What the hell is that even supposed to mean.
Fluffy, huh? That reminds me… I still need to go and buy those futon rolls. Ahhh, but that means I’d have to seek out the mattress store on my own…
“Thank you for the meal,” Ellen bows her head slightly.
“Nah, no problem, it was just a cheap burger.”
“If there’s any way I could help, I’d be glad to…”
“Well then, can you find a store for me?” I joke.
“Eh? What kind of store?”
“Huh?” Flustered and surprised, I end up blurting out the truth. “A mattress store.”
“A mattress store…?” Ellen crosses her arms, apparently trying to think of something. “In other words, you’re looking for a store with lots of fluffy things, right?”
“Eh? I guess so…”
She smiles, and touches the tips of her fingers together. “Then, I can help!” she says joyfully, enthusiastically standing from the seat. “I’ll use one of my spells and find it!”
She skips outside, and I have no choice but to follow after her. She stops at the entrance to reunite with Sokrates the cat, who’s been calmly sitting outside the restaurant, licking its paws. “Sorry to keep you waiting, Sokrates~!” she says affectionately. Then, reaching into her pocket, she produces several French fries pieces, offering them to the cat. “Here, eat up!”
I wonder if it’s okay to feed that to a cat. I shrug as the cat lowers its head, eating out of its owner’s hand. Once Sokrates is done eating, Ellen stands back up, wiping her hand on her dress as she turns to you.
“Okaay~!” she grins, pumping a fist into the air. “I’ll do my best now!”
“A-ah, do your best,” I say, still unsure by what she meant by “spell.”
“Ei!” she cries, raising both hands into the air. And then she closes her eyes, as if focusing. After a moment of silence, she opens them again, and begins running in a direction. “It’s this way!”
“R-right,” I say, doubtful as I power walk after her.
Whoa, she actually led me to the mattress shop without getting us lost! Whatever spell she used must have worked.
“That’s amazing, what kind of trick did you use?” I say, looking at the glass display of the store.
“Ehehe,” she giggles, sheepishly rubbing the back of her head. “The fluffy, comfy magic of the beds here called out to me.”
Whatever. I bet she just knew where it was in the first place.
“Let’s go, let’s go~!” she says cheerfully, walking into the store.
… Hey, wait a minute, since when were we going in together? Ahh, well, whatever. I’ll just buy what I need to buy here and return home. Lessee, I need a roll for Yuuka, and one for Kana…
I cast a look at Ellen, marching cheerfully in front of me while holding onto her cat.
I make up my mind as I enter the store with her. She’s just too pitiful to leave alone, honestly. “Hey, wait up, Ellen,” I call as I pick up the pace, catching up to her. I blame the Eroge Protagonist Syndrome for this. I just hope I don’t end up regretting it.
“Uwaaah! Really, mister? Thank you so much!” Ellen says happily, her cat following along at her side while she’s hugging a futon roll tightly, humming cheerfully.
“It’s not that big of a deal,” I say, carrying two futon rolls under one arm myself. I lift my other hand, placing it on her head.
“Huh? What’s this hand for?” she asks, looking up at the hand on top of her head.
“Nothing, really,” I say, giving her a light pat before lowering it. “How should I say this…? It’s a natural reaction to loli moé; an unstoppable urge that cannot be impaired, no matter how hard you try!”
“Fuueeeh…” she hangs her mouth open, looking totally confused. As expected, it went completely over her head, which is good. “I don’t get it at all, but okay.”
I make my way back to my home, with Ellen following me like an obedient little dog. Walking up the stairs, I stop when the girl behind me lets out a sudden, soft cry of realization. Turning back, I decide to ask “What’s wrong?”
“Ah… I just remembered,” she says. “You shouldn’t follow strangers to their home.”
Is this girl right in the head? I reach out and deliver a flick to her forehead. With a quiet yelp, she reaches up with one hand and rubs the spot where I flicked her, silently continuing to follow me despite her realization.
“Now listen up, I’m technically not allowed to keep cats here, so don’t let it outside or anything,” I warn her before I open the heavy metal door.
Ellen nods, and we head inside, carrying the futon rolls.
“Hey, I’m back,” I announce as I step in, tossing my shoes off. Kana rushes to the entrance, giving me a deep bow.
“Welcome back, master,” she says as she straightens herself back up, her eyes widening in surprise as she looks at the girl who entered with me. “Oh! Oh my, you shouldn’t have bothered, master!”
“Huh?” I look at Ellen, who returns to me the same, dumb look I’m giving her.
Kana quickly moves past me and Ellen, stopping to place her hands on the girl’s shoulders. With a smile, she pushes her further in while speaking in a sing-song voice. “So thoughtful of you to bring us lunch, master~!”
What the hell?
“Fueeeeh!" A-am I going to be eaten!?” Ellen panics, trying to squirm out of Kana’s grasp.
“It’s just a joke,” Kana says with a laugh, letting go of her. “I do get this feeling I’ve met her before, though.”
“This is our first meeting,” Ellen says simply.
“Well, that’s fine too.”
What kind of an unfunny joke is that? I shake my head as I head inside, dropping the futon rolls on the floor. I instruct Ellen to do the same as she walks in further, taking off her shoes. Right, now, how do I explain this to Yuuka?
“And that’s why I brought her along,” I finish more or less summarizing what happened outside to Yuuka, who’s sitting at what seems to now be her usual spot at the table.
Ellen bows politely. “I’m Ellen ‘Fluffy-Head’ Aureus. Nice to meet you,” she says. Lifting up her cat, she introduces him as well. “And this is Sokrates. Say hi, Sokrates.”
“Fluffy…?” Yuuka raises an eyebrow while bringing her teacup to her lips. After taking a sip, she continues to speak in a disinterested voice. “Well, nice to meet you as well, Ellen. Sokrates.”
“No objections?” I dare to the question.
“No. Why would I have any?” she says. “It’s your home. You could bring in a fifty people and I wouldn’t complain, although I request now that you don’t. But more importantly,” she raises the cup. “This isn’t too bad for cheap tea. Well done.”
“Ah, thanks,” I say, moving towards the couch and slumping onto the seat.
Ellen, not knowing what to do next, follows me, sitting down next to myself. I reach for the TV remote control, carelessly lying around on the ground. With the press of a button, I turn on the television.
Ellen suddenly lets out an excited cry. I turn my head to look at her, and see her staring at the television screen, her gaze captivated by the moving pictures on under the glass surface.
“That’s amazing… what kind of magic is that?” I hear her muttering to herself. I decide to ignore it. This girl is very strange, after all.
“Master, the bath is ready!” Kana calls from across the room, walking out of the bathroom.
“I didn’t say I was going to take a bath,” I say, not taking my eyes off the television screen. Besides, it’s barely noon now, and a bath is usually something you take in the evening, isn’t it?
“You definitely need one, though. Goodness, how long has it been since you last took one?” Yuuka cuts in unhelpfully.
“Do I stink?” I turn to ask Ellen.
She responds by plugging her nose with her index finger and thumb. Clicking my tongue distastefully, I stand up from the couch, heading to the bathroom.
“Uwee hee hee,” Kana giggles in a needlessly mischievous and pronounced way, touching her gloved hands together as I enter the bathroom.
Shutting and locking the door behind me, I toss my clothes into a basket nearby and head to the bathtub. Scooping up some water out of the tub with a small bucket, I pour the hot water over myself, Guwagh, that’s hot! Taking a deep breath, I slowly get into the bathtub.
It takes a bit of getting used to the hot water, but soon I’m able to relax, stretching myself out in the tub. Hey, it might not be so bad having someone to take care of you. Yup, and the girls here are all cute. This really might have been a blessing in disguise.
I cup my hands and splash face, enjoying the warmth of the bath. Well, pretty soon I should get out and start washing myself. I get ready to get out of the bath when something unbelievable happens. A fine red mist suddenly appears at one end of the bathwater, spreading quickly, like someone’s poured food coloring into the tub. I stop to sniff the smell of the water. A metallic, copper-like smell. In other words, the smell of…
“Blood!?” I cry out, hurriedly climbing out of the bath. What the fuck’s with this cheap horror movie-like event!" A bloody bathtub!
[ ] Panic. Why is there blood!"
[ ] Keep calm. It must be a prank.
[X] ... draw out some of that water with your hands, and take a taste. No way that's blood.
[X] Keep calm either way. Nothing ever happens to the people in the blood bathwater, just the people who run screaming.
Drinking (dirty bathwater) blood? Hey, it'll have that coppery taste if it's real. That's how we'll know.
>>22767 [X] ... draw out some of that water with your hands, and take a taste. No way that's blood.
[X] Keep calm either way. Nothing ever happens to the people in the blood bathwater, just the people who run screaming.
[Q] ... draw out some of that water with your hands, and take a taste. No way that's blood.
[Q] Keep calm either way. Nothing ever happens to the people in the blood bathwater, just the people who run screaming.
[x] ... draw out some of that water with your hands, and take a taste. No way that's blood.
[x] Keep calm either way. Nothing ever happens to the people in the blood bathwater, just the people who run screaming.
[x] ... draw out some of that water with your hands, and take a taste. No way that's blood.
[x] Keep calm either way. Nothing ever happens to the people in the blood bathwater, just the people who run screaming.
[ ] ... draw out some of that water with your hands, and take a taste. No way that's blood.
[ ] Keep calm either way. Nothing ever happens to the people in the blood bathwater, just the people who run screaming.
... Yeah, right. Very funny, Kana. I bet you’re planning to have quite the laugh when I run out of the bathroom naked and screaming. Well guess what. I ain’t doing that. There’s no way that’s blood, and I’m going to prove it to myself right now.
Cupping my hands, I kneel by the bathtub, drawing out some of the bloody bathwater in my hands. Bringing it up to my face, I take one last sniff of it. Still smells like blood, alright. Well, here goes nothing. I take just a tiny sip of the water in my hands.
Immediately, I spit it out. Not because it tastes like blood, but because it tastes fucking awful. Holy shit, NOW I’m reminded why people don’t drink bathwater: because it makes you want to puke your guts out. Damn…
Well, it’s not blood, at least. I don’t think it is, anyway, unless what I just sampled is what blood mixed with hot water tastes like. But I’ve never had that, so I have no idea if it’s that or not. But it probably isn’t. Probably. Or maybe I’m just thinking that to keep myself from panicking.
Whatever. Let’s just not think too deeply about the bloody ba- I mean, blood-like bathwater and get to washing my dirty self. Turning on the showerhead nearby the bathtub, I wet a bath towel and grab a bar of soap. Silently, I wash myself diligently.
“Uwee hee hee…”
A malicious, female giggle echoes throughout the bathroom. Kana, no doubt. Is she in the changing room or what? I decide not to pay it any mind, washing my hair with shampoo. I rinse myself off, and turn back to the bathtub to pull the plug and drain it.
What the hell.
The water’s changed back to normal, with no trace of the red color it had. What’s going on? It was definitely red just a moment ago. Man, maybe I was just seeing things, but it’s eating up my mind here. A bath is supposed to be an opportunity to relax, but instead it’s just been a harrowing experience.
Sighing, I drain the bathtub and head into the changing room. Grabbing a towel on a rack nearby, I begin to dry myself off. Need to do the laundry later as well. I don’t know how reliable Kana is with the chores, but maybe I can get Ellen to do it for me.
Putting on my underwear and shorts, I’m still drying my hair with the towel when I look into the mirror. Well, not bad. The surface of the glass looks clean, with all the scum wiped off of it. Did Kana clean this up? Maybe she’ll be a useful maid after all.
“Uwee hee hee…”
That creepy giggle again. Speak of the devil, she must be just outside. Or at least I think it’s Kana. Come to think of it, is it even possible for her to have been behind the bloody bathtub? It suddenly changed back, after all, and there’s no way she could have snuck in and changed the bathwater without being noticed. I was right there. Maybe I’m just hearing things…
I let out another sigh as I look back to the mirror, staring at my reflection. Wish I had a fitter body, but I’m too lazy to work for it. My reflection smiles at me. Wait, what the fuck, it smiled at me?! But I’m not smiling! It goes one step further and starts waving at me with its hand. Holy shi—
Grabbing my shirt, I bolt out of the bathroom, stumbling forward and nearly crashing into the opposite wall. Goddamn, what the fuck was that?!
“Did you enjoy your bath, master?” I hear Kana’s voice to my side, taking me by surprise.
I nearly fall on my behind like a dumbass, but I manage to catch myself mid-fall, leaning on the wall for support. Kana smiles at me innocently, and then walks into the open bathroom door, flicking off the light switch.
“You mustn’t waste power like that, master,” she turns back and scolds me. “Be sure to properly turn off the lights when you’re not using the room.”
[ ] Holy shit, you need a drink. Or three.
[ ] Confront Kana.
[x] Confront Kana.
- [x] Give her an eerie smile
- [x] Thank-you Kana, I'll be sure to keep that in mind next time.
[x] Walk around and wrap your arms around her from the back while whispering in her ear
- [x] An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, two can play this game and just to warn you, I usually take just much more than an eye for an eye as payment
“Never mind the lights,” I say angrily to her, pushing myself off the wall and standing upright. “What did you do to the bathroom?”
“Hm?” she raises an eyebrow, smiling coyly. “I don’t understand what you’re asking me, master.”
“Don’t lie,” I say, my heart still beating fast from the scare I got from the mirror. “You did something to the bathwater, didn’t you?”
“But, master, all I did was prepare the bathwater,” Kana says, feigning surprise. “I really don’t understand why you’re so angry. What exactly happened in there?”
“The water turned into blood.”
“And what’s wrong with that?” she asks in a sweet voice, and it might just be my imagination, but that constant smile of hers… has suddenly become disconcerting. “Some say bathing in blood will allow you to retain your youth, don’t they?”
I take a step back, thoroughly unnerved by her words. Was that actually blood? No way…
“Just a joke,” she says with a wink, sticking her tongue out mischievously. “You’re not Elizabeth Báthory, so that probably wouldn’t work.”
Who the hell is that?
“S-so it was your work, then!” I manage to spit out.
“I didn’t admit to anything, master,” she says, obviously taking delight at my confusion. “Surely you don’t think I’d do something horrible like that, right?”
“I definitely do think it was you,” I frown.
“You wound me, master.”
She doesn’t look hurt in the least, though.
“But suppose it were true,” she continues. “You wouldn’t let such a cheap trick scare you like that, would you, master?”
“That’s not all,” I say, tapping my foot on the floor. “When I looked at it later, it changed back to normal.”
“Oh my, master,” she gives an exaggerated gasp. “I’m worried for you now. Might you be overstressed, perhaps? Or maybe… ill?”
“I wasn’t seeing things,” I say firmly. I’m pretty sure I had a good grasp on reality back there. “And not just that, either. When I looked in the mirror, the reflection started moving on its own.”
“Yahahahaha!” she finally openly laughs at me, placing a hand on her belly and pointing at me with the other. “Oh, you say some very interesting things, master! Are you sure you’re feeling alright?” she says after regaining her posture.
“Well, don’t be afraid to tell us if you feel sick,” she says sympathetically. “But think about it, master. It’s impossible for me to have been behind either of those things, am I right?”
… She’s right. I can’t conceive of any way for her to have changed the bathwater to blood or to make my reflection come to life. Did I really see that? I’m starting to doubt myself…
“Or maybe…” she lowers her voice, speaking in a flat tone. “It was a ghost haunting the house,” she says, completely serious.
“What?” I say, annoyed. “Don’t be stupid. Ghosts don’t exist.”
“You don’t believe in ghosts, master?” she asks. “Well, you never know…”
On that note, she turns to leave, humming. After a few steps she turns back around, and touches a gloved finger to her lips. “You should put your shirt on, master,” she says. “Or you’ll catch a cold.”
She doesn’t move from her spot until I put on the shirt in my hand.
“That’s good, master,” she says, smiling. “I think you’re a fun person. Such a flavorful reaction. I’ll be looking forward to spending the evenings with you.” With that said, she then turns and walks out of my sight, leaving me standing alone.
W-what does that even mean…? There’s something wrong and dangerous about that girl! For the moment, I’m going to leave her alone…
[ ] Go talk to Yuuka. You need some answers.
[ ] Go see if Ellen can do something useful, like make lunch or something.
[ ] Grab a few can of beers and shut yourself in your room.
[ ] Go make that phone call to mom.
You know, now that the scare’s wearing off, I am feeling kind of hungry. I realize that I haven’t eaten anything today aside from a few sticks of French fries at the hamburger joint earlier. I don’t usually bother eating much, but I still need to get something in my stomach, I guess.
I guess I could go boil some cup ramen for myself, but just yesterday I blew a lot of money on the groceries, and it’d be a shame to let that go to waste. Having said that, I can’t cook at all, so I’ll have to ask one of the girls to do it. I definitely can’t expect Yuuka to agree to it, and Kana scares me, so that leaves… Ellen.
No problem, Ellen seems like a good kid. She’d leap at the chance to repay me for the lunch I bought her, probably. I wonder if she knows how to cook, though? Well, I guess I’d better go ask and find out.
Heading towards the living room, I find Yuuka and Ellen sitting together on the couch, their eyes fixed on the screen of the TV like children. Kana’s nowhere to be seen, thankfully. As I continue to walk to the living room, I find my way barred by a fat, fuzzy white lump on the floor.
Damn cat, lying around like it owns the place. With my foot, I attempt to nudge it aside. I’m not stepping over the thing when it’s being so insolent.
Sokrates jumps up, scratching me on the leg. Fortunately, its claws are dull, and it doesn’t break my skin, leaving white marks instead. Why you lazy little…! I shift into a battle stance, carefully watching my cat nemesis as it prowls around, glaring at me with its stupid little eyes. I’m the owner of this house, damn it! I’m not going to take such insolence from a housecat!
…Wait, what the hell am I playing around with this cat for.
Feeling dumb again, I abandon the fight while rubbing the scratch on my leg. Sokrates goes back to its spot on the floor, curling up again to sleep. Some day in the future, I’m going to get a hound named Aristotle, and then we’ll see who’s smug.
“Hey, Ellen?” you call as you make your way further into the living room, standing just next to the dining table.
“Fueh?” Ellen’s head turns your way, and tilts a little to the side curiously.
“I’m feeling a bit hungry, so I was wondering if you knew how to make something,” I say, rubbing my belly.
“Ah,” her eyes light up, and she jumps up, clapping once, “Of course!” she says eagerly, skipping into the kitchen. “Um, where do you keep the food?” she asks, looking around.
“The pantry is over here,” I say, leading her to the small closet in the kitchen, which used to be almost completely empty until just yesterday, “Everything else should be in the fridge.”
“The fridge…?” Ellen repeats, puzzled.
“This thing,” I walk over to the fridge and pull it open.
“Fueeehh…” she gasps, sticking her head inside. “So cold… it’s like winter inside!”
Seriously. Has this girl been living under a rock this whole time? I know I’ve said it before, but it’s just so incredible that I have to say it again.
“Oka~y!” she speaks in a sing-song voice, “Then, I’ll make something really tasty, so please wait for a bit, mister! Cooking with the magic of lo~ve!”
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to it,” I say, laughing lightheartedly as I leave Ellen to the kitchen, heading towards the couch. I sit down next to Yuuka, who’s completely focused on the TV while hugging a pillow.
“Hey, Yuuka,” I begin. There’s just too many questions I have to ask her that I neglected to do yesterday, “I need to ask you a few things…”
“Oh, good timing,” Yuuka says, looking at me, “I need you to explain something for me.”
“I’ve been watching this for a while,” she says, pointing at the TV, “And it makes no sense at all. “The major conflict here is caused by a misunderstanding between two supposed best friends, and now they’re trying to kill each other. And that guy,” she points at a character on the screen, who is apparently engaged in a gunfight with someone. ”He isn’t even making any attempts to clear it up,” she says, “Why can’t they just talk it out? It seems so silly to me.”
Because if they did that, there would be no show. Hey, wait a minute. I was going to ask my questions first!
[ ] Explain to her how these shows work.
[ ] Cut the crap and get to the important things.
>“That’s good, master,” she says, smiling. “I think you’re a fun person. Such a flavorful reaction. I’ll be looking forward to spending the evenings with you.” With that said, she then turns and walks out of my sight, leaving me standing alone.
For some reason, I find this Kana strangely alluring. It might be because I can't help but picture her licking her lips as she says this. I can only hope she intends to spend the evenings with us...
“First of all, why are you complaining?” I say with a bitter tone, “If I remember correctly, you used violence to gain residence here, didn’t you?”
“That’s different,” she says carelessly, “That was threat of violence, with purpose. It’s a completely different thing. It’s sensible.” She crosses her arms, as if daring me to challenge her any further. She turns back to the TV screen, gazing intently at the movie
Who are you to judge what’s sensible or not?!
“This, on the other hand, is senseless. Reminds me of a certain person I know with a disposition for attacking immediately without knowing what’s going on,” she says.
I don’t even know who she’s talking about.
“Look, it’s just a show,” I explain. “You’re not supposed to be trying to pick up glaring flaws in the plot like that. Just don’t over-think it and enjoy the movie for what it is.”
“Oh, I didn’t say I wasn’t enjoying it,” she says without taking her eyes off the screen, “I was only wondering whether the values of all humans on this side are like that, or if the whole mess was only for the sake of entertainment, like you just said. Well, I’d admit that violence is the quickest and easiest solution to most things, though.”
“You say that like you’re not human,” I snort.
“I’m not,” she replies promptly, “I’m a youkai.”
“Hah, that’s a good one,” I say while chortling. A youkai, she says. Then I’m freaking Doraemon.
“If you don’t believe me, I’m not going to waste any effort convincing you,” Yuuka says, still glued to the television screen.
Like I’d believe something idiotic like that. First, Kana and her talk about ghosts, and now Yuuka. Maybe they really are scheming on something; not to rob me, but to drive me insane with crazy talk. Ellen may be the only ally I have in this residence.
“It’s rea~dy!” her voice comes from the kitchen. A delicious smell fills the living room as she carries a saucepan to the dining table.
I sniff the air as I stand from the couching, heading to the table and taking a seat. “Beef stew?” I say, looking into the boiling contents of the pan.
“Yes,” Ellen replies with a smile, “The meat is nice and tender, so please eat it before it gets too cold.”
“Heeey, Yuuka. It’s lunchtime,” I shout to Yuuka, “Come eat.”
“Not now,” she says with a dismissive, shooing motion, “It’s the climax.”
Well, whatever. I shrug, and turn to make my way to the kitchen to grab the bowls when—
“I have the bowls right here, master,” a voice whispers into my ear, making me jump. Gah, Kana! She’s standing right next to me, and I have no idea how she got so close without me noticing! “Looks delicious, Ellen,” she says admiringly as she sets the bowls on the table before giving the girl a pat on the head, “Good girl.”
“Ehehehe,” Ellen giggles, looking happy.
Kana then heads into the kitchen to fetch a ladle, and scoops out plenty of stew into each of the bowls. She returns to the kitchen to fetch a spoon for everyone. Well, guess last year’s Christmas gift of silverware from my sister turned out to be useful after all, though at the time I felt like she was making fun of me.
I dig into my bowl, carefully cooling it down before shoving the spoon into my mouth. Delicious. Much better than instant ramen cups. “This is really good,” I say between spoonfuls.
“Thank you!” Ellen says, looking appreciative.
Yuuka joins us not too long after, taking a seat at the table, and we manage to get through lunch in relative comfort. After we’ve finished eating, Kana takes the bowls and the saucepan to the kitchen to wash them.
“Hey, Yuuka,” I say, taking advantage of the fact that her attention isn’t being monopolized by the TV anymore. “Can I ask you a few things I didn’t get to ask earlier?”
“Hm? What is it?”
“Why do you need to stay here, anyway?”
“Isn’t that obvious? I have nowhere else to go,” she says as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world.
“You don’t have a home?”
“Of course I have a home. I just can’t get to it at the moment.”
“What, are you lost or something?”
Are they like… illegal aliens or something? They can’t get back to their home country? That’d explain Ellen and Kana… No, wait, Kazami Yuuka’s a native name, though…
“Don’t be stupid,” she snaps. “There’s just no way of getting there right now, and the same applies to her,” she jerks a thumb towards Ellen, who flinches at the sudden movement. “Believe me, if I could get home, I wouldn’t be wasting time here like this.”
“So… why my house?” I say, putting aside the reason why she can’t return for now, because I feel like that’s a whole another can of worms.
“That’s simple. It’s big, and empty,” she says,
“It’s not empty, I’m living here,” I say, feeling a little annoyed. She could stand to act a little more grateful to me, I think.
“Your presence is mostly negligible,” she doesn’t even bother to look at me while she says this, examining her nails instead.
Negligible my ass! This is my domain here! Damn it…
“Alright then, what’s the deal with that maid, then?” I say, pointing towards the kitchen.
“I don’t know,” Yuuka responds, “I just happened to find her on the streets at night. She said she wanted to live in a large, mansion-like place so I brought her here.”
“Don’t just bring people in without telling me. And on your first night here, too. Geeze…” I groan, smacking myself on the forehead.
“Fine,” she says. Lifting herself from the table, she snatches up a parasol leaning against the wall. The same one I saw her holding up each day when she passed by my house.
“Hey, where are you going?” I ask as she passes by me. Standing from the table, I follow her to the entrance of the house.
“A walk. Need a little sun,” she says, putting on her shoes. “There’s a park nearby, isn’t there?”
“Eh? Ah… yeah,” I say. The park…? I don’t know why, but I’m feeling this looming sense of dread here. Is it just my imagination, or something else?
“Wonderful.” She opens the metal door, heading outside. “If you want to accompany me, feel free. But you have to stay at least ten paces behind me at all times.”
[ ] Follow her.
[ ] Do something else
-[ ] Go make that phone call to mom.
-[ ] Grab a few can of beers and head for your room.
Bah, whatever. Let her go do what she wants, I’m not having any of it, and especially not under a weird condition like that. “Well, you go and have fun,” I say, turning to walk away from the entrance and towards the kitchen. The only response I get from her is the sound of the metal door closing shut.
Walking over to the fridge, I fling the door open and reach inside, scooping up three cans of beer in my arms. As I kick the door shut and head out of the kitchen, Kana passes by me, looking at the alcoholic beverages I’m holding.
“Drinking so early in the day, master?” she asks with a sly grin, “That’s not healthy. Not at all!”
“Whatever. I need these,” I say, walking past her towards my room. Fortunately, she doesn’t pursue me as I walk inside, dumping the cans on the table before backing up to the door and locking it. Wouldn’t want to be disturbed for a few hours, at the least.
Plopping down in my chair, I spin around aimlessly for a few seconds before reaching down to turn on the computer. As I wait for the system to boot up, I grab a can of beer and flick the tab open, taking a swig of the cold, fuzzy beer.
Right, then. Placing a hand on the mouse, I open up the folder where I keep all my eroge, navigating over to the one that currently held my interest. I’m so close to getting the ending to my favorite heroine. No stopping until I finish the scenario!
A few hours and three empty cans of beer later, I’m slumped over on the desk, clutching my head. Goddamn it. I lift myself up and slam my head on the wooden surface. I should have seen this coming. I should have fucking seen this coming a mile away! Of course the heroine dies at the end! Goddamn it.
I wipe away the tears staining my cheeks. But don’t get me wrong. These aren’t sentimental tears that were shed because the story was beautiful, or tearjerking, or heartwarmingly touching. These are tears of pure, undiluted rage.
Fucking hell, they’re always doing that! They take a good story, with genuinely funny and enjoyable fluff, and then they ruin it by killing off the character! Always in a way that makes you feel like shit and comes way out of left field in some cheap attempt to wring some tears or achieve some sort of emotional climax. Why can’t they ever have an actual happy ending for once!" I mean, what’s the point of going through a whole story when it’s just going to leave you feeling terrible!"
A bit tipsy, I stand up from the table. Stumbling over to the door, I unlock it and step outside. I need a smoke or something to calm myself. Shit. Damn it. Fuck. As I make my way to the living room, I see little Ellen stooped on the floor, playing with Sokrates’ paws.
“Elleeeeen,” I slur drunkenly, my walking uneven as I fumble my way to her.
“Fueh?” she looks up to me, straightening her posture, “What’s wrong, mister?” she asks with an innocent voice.
I embrace her in my arms, holding her close to me. “The fictional world is a cruel, cruel place,” I say with a scratchy voice.
“Um… I don’t get what you’re saying,” Ellen replies with a muffled voice, her face buried in my shirt.
Pulling away from her, I pat her on the head. “That’s okay, you’ll understand someday.”
“Fueeeh…” she says with a troubled look on her face before going back to play with her cat some more.
Heading over to the utility closet, I produce a pack of cigarettes from a string of ‘em. Tearing off the wrap and disposing of it in a trashcan nearby, I take out a lighter from my pocket and light the stick. Putting it in my mouth, I’m ready to go back to my room when…
“I’m back,” Yuuka’s voice comes from the now open door.
“Oh, hey Yuuka,” you say, blowing smoke out of your mouth as you pass by the entrance. At first, I don’t pay much attention to the door, but I do a double-take when I realize there’s someone else standing behind Yuuka. “Whoa, hey, what the-?!”
“Oooh, is this where you’re living now, Yuukarin?” the unfamiliar (…? Why do I get the feeling I’ve seen her before?) woman says, stepping forward to enter.
“Hey, I said not to come in until I say so!” Yuuka shouts, shoving the newcomer back – hard.
“Whoooaaa!?” the woman lets out a surprised shout as she stumbles backward, comically flailing her arms. And then she slips over the rail of the stairs leading to your home, falling.
“…Oops, I pushed her too hard,” Yuuka says, in a way someone might talk about forgetting to feed the dog for a day, while looking over the rail and onto the ground below.
…Holy shit. That might have killed her! I hurry over to where Yuuka’s standing, looking down. The woman’s spread-eagled on the concrete, not moving.
Damn it, Yuuka! I rush down the stairs without hesitation, nearly stumbling and falling over myself in the process. Running over to the woman’s fallen figure, I crouch down next to her, holding my cigarette in my hand as I shake her with the other.
“Hey! Hey, are you alright?!” I say with a clear sense of urgency in my voice. I can’t make out her expression because her ribbon-adorned hat’s covering her face. Whoa, hey, is that blood pooling under her head!" This is serious. I’d better go and call an ambulance, fast.
Placing my cig back in my mouth, I make to stand up and hurry back into the house, since I don’t have a cell phone. However, before I even fully stand, something grabs onto my pant leg, catching my attention. Surprised, I jerk away immediately, stepping back.
“Euuurrrrgh…” I hear an inhuman moan, spooking the hell out of me. The woman on the ground slowly rises to her feet. With her hat remaining on the ground, I can finally see her face. Her eyes are unfocused and there’s blood streaming down her forehead as she lurches forward.
Oh my god, she’s returned to life as a zombie.
“Ooooow, that really hurts!” she suddenly yelps, stopping in her tracks and rubbing the back of her head with teary eyes. “Oooh, ouch! There’s a cut on my face, too! What gives, Yuukarin!?”
“It’s your fault for not listening to me,” Yuuka says with a bored look on her face, casually strolling up next to me.
Well, she seems to be fine, I think. Probably. Maybe I should call an ambulance just in case. Wait, no. That’s too much of a hassle to deal with for a stranger. Speaking of which, who is she and why did Yuuka bring her here.
“Hey Yuuka,” I begin, keeping myself calm, “I… uh… Just before you left to go on a walk, didn’t I tell you not to pick up strange girls from the street without telling me? Because I kind of remember saying something like that.”
“So you did,” she replies simply, “That’s why I didn’t bring her inside.”
“I said that’s why I didn’t bring her inside,” she repeats coolly. She rather rudely points to the girl before continuing to explain, “She’s a servant of mine. I found her in a pitiful state outside, and she ended up following me like a little puppy. I wasn’t going to bring her in until I asked you. But it seems she couldn’t follow even the simplest of directions.”
“I was curious,” the girl says defensively, puffing up her cheeks in that immature way girls do to look cute.
“Well?” Yuuka glances at me, waiting for a reply.
What, does she want me to say, “Oh sure, I can let your friend stay too.” Come on, even I have my limits here. I need to be strong, and reject her. I will regain control of my life, even if it’s painful to do so!
“Oh, are you the person my Yuukarin is staying with?” the girl asks with a friendly smile, stepping forward. She extends her hand, as if offering a handshake. “Nice to meetcha. I’m Elly.”
“Uh, right,” I say, taking her hand and shaking it.
Immediately as our hands touch, Elly pulls me forward so that I’m slightly bent over, leaning on her. Placing her mouth at one of my ears, she whispers into it in a deep, decidedly cold voice. “Young man, let’s have a talk over there.”
Putting me in a headlock (impressive, considering the height difference between us), she pulls me away from Yuuka, rounding a corner down the street before stopping. She lets go of me, but as soon as I straighten up, she snatches the stick of cigarette still in my mouth away. She takes a long drag from it before blowing the smoke in my face.
“You know, boy,” she says, promptly dropping the cig and stamping on it to put it out, “Normally I would never tolerate someone like you living together with Yuukarin. Oh no, I’d kill you with my bare hands.”
Holy shit, Yuuka. Are all of your friends as violent as you are?
“H-hey, it wasn’t my choice,” I say, “She just up and said she was going to live there and threatened me!”
“Huuuuuh?” Elly’s look hardens, and she steps closer, prodding me on the chest hard with a finger, “What’s with that look and tone of voice that suggests you’re unhappy with the arrangement? You should feel privileged that my precious Yuuka decided to take up residence in a house unworthy of her.”
Well I’m not! I’m definitely not! Geez, what’s wrong with her!"
“Anyway,” she says, thankfully taking her finger off me, “But I’m in a biiiiit of a pinch right now, so I’ll forgive you if you agree to let me stay here.”
“Now look here…” I begin, feeling angry. Why am I letting a girl this short intimidate me, anyway? I decided to regain control of my life, didn’t I? Then I can’t let her boss me around like that. Yuuka may be freakishly strong, but there’s no way this girl’s that strong, too.
But she isn’t even listening, instead turning her back to me. “Of course,” she speaks, “if you refuse, I can just kill you and take over your home anyway. From the beginning I thought that would be the best solution, but Yuuka shot down that idea preeeetty quick. Really, she’s too generous. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind too much if I went ahead and did it, though…”
“Wha…” I step back, a little scared despite myself, “Hey, you can’t threaten me like that,” I say, gritting my teeth.
“Oh really?” she laughs, “Then allow me to present my counterargument.” She raises her hand to her chest, though since her back is facing me, I can’t tell what she’s doing. And then, in a move that would make countless physicists cry, she pulls out a wicked sickle from seemingly nowhere. Both the shaft and the blade are curved, giving it the impression that it’s coiling around her body.
“Whoa, hey!” I yelp, my back hitting the wall as I stumble away. That blade looks damn sharp! “That’s dangerous!”
“Of course it’s dangerous. That was the point,” Elly says, turning around to look at me with an evil grin.
“Okay, okay, you can stay, you can stay!” I say out of cowardice, “Look, just put that away!”
I hate myself, but I just can’t take another threat to my life only a day apart from the last one. Well, so much for regaining control of my life.
“I’m glad we’ve reached an understanding, then,” she laughs, turning back around and… apparently stowing the scythe away somewhere, because I see it disappear. How is she doing that?
“What were you two doing?” Yuuka asks when we return, one of us with a happy, content look on their face and the other one with a glum, defeated expression. No points for guessing to whom each expression belonged to.
“Oh, just bonding with a future housemate, Yuukarin,” Elly responds cheerfully, “Come on, come on, let’s head inside.”
Yuuka raises an eyebrow, but she decides not to inquire any further. The three of us ascend the staircase. I remain behind while Yuuka and Elly head on inside, leaning over the railing while resting my arms. Hope people don’t raise too many questions about that tiny splotch of blood down there.
I sigh melancholically, looking up at the cloudy blue sky. Just like that, in only two days, the number of people in my household went from the loneliest number to a crowd of five. How did that end up happening to me…? I don’t run a motel service here, but here I am, saddled with four freeloaders. Two of them are violently murderous, one just scares the crap out of me, and the last… is pretty strange in her own way.
Mom was right. I really should have just worked as an intern at dad’s place.
When I head inside, everyone’s seated at the dining table together. Looks like Kana and Ellen’re exchanging greetings with the newest member of this godforsaken house.
[ ] Join them.
[ ] Go make that phone call to mom.
Walking past them, I head over to the couch, plopping myself down on one of its comfy seats. Reaching out to a nearby cabinet with my hand, I pick up the handset, dialing the number of my mom’s cell phone.
As I wait for dear mother to answer the phone, I can’t help but look over at the dinner table, where the girls seemed to be having a pleasant chat amongst them. Not that I particularly care, but I do wonder what it is they’re talking about. Geh, maybe they’re all planning something.
“…ohh, what is it now!?”
My mom finally answers the phone in an annoyed tone of voice. Hey, come on, is that how you greet your one and only son, dearest mother?
“Hey mom, I need some money. Please send some over or I’ll end up starving,” I reply immediately. Keep everything simple and to the point. That’s one of my rules. For dealing with family members, that is. It’s hardly ever applied anywhere else, but it’s still one of my rules. Or maybe I just wanted to say that. Whatever.
“Again!?” she shrieks in frustration. Whoa, come on, mom, don’t do that. Might burst my eardrum or something. Seriously, her voice carries a pitch high enough to shatter glass.
And…oh dear, here comes the usual routine. Blah, blah, blah, my father is so ashamed of me, some potshots at my current admittedly not very respectable line of work, some crap about how my sister is so much better off than I am, bitter reminiscence of my earlier, brighter days during mandatory education when the teachers said I was a gifted child, my apparent gambling problems… Okay, mom, I get it, I’m a loser and a college dropout, but can you send me some cash so I don’t die now?
“Mom, I swear, this is the last time,” I say, having responded to her entire spiel with nothing but “yeah”s and “okay”s. Well, that’s what I said last time, too, a couple months back. But hey, I could be worse. I could be asking for money every week instead of once a half-year.
“Fine,” she finally relents, sighing into the mouthpiece, “But this is absolutely the last time, okay?”
“Yeah, I get it. Loooove you, mom,” I say.
“Oh don’t give me-”
“Heeey, what are you talking to yourself for, anyway?”
“What? Who is that!?” my mom demands.
“It’s the TV,” I hurriedly say, blocking out the transmitter with my hand as I turn my head to Elly, who’s looking at the handset I’m holding curiously. “Shut up…!” I hiss to her.
“W-what?” she steps back in surprise for a moment, before her face contorts into an outraged one. “What’s with you!" I’m just asking a question and you’re-”
“Just keep it down, please!” I plead before bringing the mouthpiece back up, rushing my words, “Okay, see you later mom!”
With a click, I hang up the phone. Uh oh. Not good. She definitely suspects something. Well, whatever. She lives like kilometers away and there’s no way she’d take time off her busy schedule to come inspect the house. So I shouldn’t have to worry too much, right?
I breathe a sigh of relief as I relax in my seat. There’s one more problem to deal with now. And the pair of eyes glaring a hole into you would belong to it. Elly stands before me, her arms crossed together and her temper flared up. Amazingly enough, however, she seems to restrain herself, and instead points to the telephone.
“What is that thing?” she asks.
Are you serious?
“It’s a telephone,” Kana saves me the trouble, walking up next to Elly. “It’s a device that allows for communication between individuals far, far away from each other.”
“How do you know about it?” she asks, apparently deeply impressed.
“My previous master had a very early model,” Kana replies with a smile, “And I like telephones. They make a delightful ringing noise. I think a telephone ring sounds very beautiful. My master didn’t seem to think the same, though. Yahaha…”
Yeah, I’m not even going to ask.
“More importantly,” I begin, standing up from the couch, “Since you’re going to be staying here, I guess you should all pick out a room.”
“I’m staying in the same room as Yuukarin, of course!” Elly says immediately, running over to Yuuka, who’s slowly approaching us.
“Rejected,” Yuuka says with a completely deadpan face and voice.
“So cruuuel,” Elly moans, slowly slumping forward onto her front like a wilting flower. Hah. Immediately, however, she seems to recover, standing up and latching onto Ellen. “Then I’m staying with Fluffy here!”
“Fueeeh,” she squirms a little in Elly’s grasp, though she makes no real effort to escape, “Um… okay, Miss Curls.”
“…Fluffy? Miss Curls? What’s that all about?” I wonder out loud.
“Geh, don’t call me that!” Elly says, cringing.
“Um, our names sound kind of similar…” Ellen begins to explain while Elly’s still clinging onto her, petting her head. Huh, I guess Elly and Ellen does sound kind of similar, doesn’t it. “So Miss Curls said we should call each other by nicknames.”
Oh, I see now. I look at the ends of Ellen’s hair. Fluffy. I then look at the ends of Elly’s hair. Curls.
“I just said don’t call me thaaaat,” Ellen says, slightly annoyed and venting her anger by giving a playful noogie to Ellen, who squeaks and timidly covers her head with her hands, “It’s enough to just refer to one person by the nickname, right?”
“Curls, would you prepare some tea for me?” Yuuka says coolly.
“Yes, of course, Yuukarin~!" Hah. "…Hey, wait, I said don’t call me that!”
Despite her complaining, Curls… er, I mean, Elly, heads into the kitchen with Kana following after her. I guess the maid doesn’t trust Elly to properly brew a pot of tea. A few minutes later, they emerge with freshly brewed tea and cups for everyone.
After that we ate dinner, which wasn’t very satisfying for me, because the meal was courtesy of Kana. Every time I brought the spoon up to my mouth, I’d hear her giggle and suddenly become very reluctant to bring it inside.
“This room looks good,” Yuuka says, looking into an empty bedroom that I never really bothered to go into. Thus, it was almost completely empty save for some furniture that came with the house, which were, until very recently, covered with layers of dust. Though Kana freaks me the hell out, I feel obligated to admire her work as a maid.
Yuuka nods in approval of the room before carrying her roll-up futon and pillow inside, dumping it on the ground. Right, time to move on to the next empty room.
“Oh wait,” I stop outside another empty bed room, realizing something important, “We only have two more futons left,” I say to the trio of girls behind me.
“Whaaaat?” Elly says loudly, looking at me like I’d just committed some heinous crime, “Sloppy preparation! You should’ve gotten one for everyone!”
“You weren’t here when I went to go buy them,” I say, frowning. Does she expect me to predict the future? “You’ll just have to sleep on the couch.”
“No. You sleep on the couch,” she says defiantly.
“Are you saying you’re going to sleep on my bed?” I say with a sly grin, “You sure you want to?”
“Oh, good point,” she says, making a grossed out face.
Hah, you may be insulting me now, but it’s still my victory if I get to keep the bed.
“That’s okay, she can use my roll,” Kana says, raising her hand, “I don’t really need it.”
“Huh?” I turn to her. “Are you sure about that?”
“You heard her!” Elly says greedily, leading Ellen into the room by her hand, each of them carrying a roll under an arm.
“Yes, I’m sure,” Kana responds with a smile, “I can just stay in your bed after all, master.”
“A joke,” she says, sticking the tip of her tongue out at me, “I’ll sleep on the couch in the living room. Don’t worry about me, master.”
“Uh… right,” I mutter lamely, flustered.
“Good night, master,” she bows.
Late at night, I’m in front of my computer, as is usual. Just browsing sites, chatting, and laughing at stupid things like always. I let out a yawn, stretching my limbs. I’m feeling this tired already? Must be the stress from today’s events… sure did wear me out.
“Uwee hee hee…”
My senses sharpen as I hear the dreaded giggle again. Is that maid up to something again? Or… was she really not responsible for the whole bathroom thing, and it’s just that I’m seeing and hearing things. Ugh, thinking about this is going to drive me crazy if I’m not already insane.
[ ] Go to sleep.
[ ] Play some games to calm yourself down.
Let’s play a game. Yeah, when things are unsettling or creepy like this, there’s nothing better than to lose oneself in the fast-paced action of a video game to shake those icky feelings off, right? Not eroges, though. I need something more… adrenaline pumping. Might scare off sleep for a while, but oh well.
Navigating through my computer’s files, I start up a game. A shooter. Grinning, I sprint, roll, and shoot my way through the enemy ranks. My fears long forgotten, I’m completely absorbed into the game, only caring about the carnage on the screen. Heh, what was I so scared of? When I’m playing a game, I can take on anything that’s thrown at m-
Crap. I curse silently as the screen grows red. Got hit by a sniper while I was charging forward. I should’ve been more careful than that. I guess I got a bit overconfident there. I wait for the game to give me the load save option…
The game screen begins to melt.
I watch in horror as the red screen begins oozing down like paint being washed off by water, leaving in its place a black background. What the hell? This isn’t part of the game! What’s going on here…?
“Isn’t it time to go to sleep?” a voice comes from my headphones, making me jump. This voice. It’s unmistakable. It’s…
“…master?” Kana’s giggle sounds into my ears.
“Kana!?” I call out, tearing my eyes off the black, blank screen of my computer monitor and looking about my darkened room. I can’t see anyone. Where is she…?
“Over here, master,” Kana’s voice comes from my headphones again, and I look back at the computer screen. There, I see Kana’s face, staring at me as though peering through a window. She smiles and waves at me. “Hello there.”
“You…” I gasp out, wheeling my chair away from the monitor. No way, this can’t be real. This can’t be. D-did she make some sort of computer virus while I was away? That has to be it! Damn it, Kana, I won’t forgive you if you screw up my computer!
“It’s not good to stay up so late, master,” she says through the headphones, “Not good at all. You might start seeing things, and they say hallucination is often a sign of insanity. You wouldn’t want to go crazy, now would you, master?”
“What are you…”
“It’s such a trouble to talk to you through those, though,” she says, pointing at the headphones I’m wearing, “Allow me to come into your room, would you, master?”
The screen then completely becomes black, with Kana nowhere to be seen or heard. For a moment, I relax. That really was just a computer prank, wasn’t it? The computer better not have been damaged, though.
And then the windows next to my bed open wide, letting the cold autumn night’s breeze in. I immediately turn towards the open windows, and I see a ghostly figure there, drifting into the room as if riding the wind.
S-she’s floating! She’s floating!" What.
“Well, master,” she says with a bit of a sadistic grin, readjusting the hat on her head, “Would you say you’re going insane?”
I stay silent, looking at her in wonder. No way. Even for a joke, this is too much. This is… just too much.
“You know, master,” she continues to speak, placing her feet on the ground and walking behind me. I’m still too shocked to move, staring off into space.
“The insane are said to have a laxer grip on reality,” she says. “They may see,” she places her hands over my eyes, “hear,” she places her hands on my ears, “or feel something that only they can perceive,” she wraps her arms around my neck, embracing me from behind.
“But you know what, master? It’s so easy to shatter the realities people perceive around them and drive them to insanity,” she whispers in to my ears, her arms tightening around my neck a little forcefully, “A light switch that flicks itself on and off… water taps that only pour out blood… voices whispering to and laughing at people as they sleep… constant phone calls without a caller.”
Kana appears before me, her figure ghostly and transparent. But… she’s still behind me! I can feel her grip on my neck this moment, even! A… a second Kana’s appeared? What’s going on, I don’t understand…
“Always and constantly,” the second Kana says, bending forward and placing her gloved hand on my face, raising my chin up to speak to me at eye-level, “They see something others can’t. They speak to someone others can’t hear. I wonder, though, does that mean they’re the insane ones? For them, the person that they are talking to is real, after all. Maybe it’s the others who are insane, for not being able to see that someone.”
She stops to giggle, stroking my face gently.
“Well, master?” the two Kanas speak in unison. My head starts to hurt. This can’t actually be happening. “You said you didn’t believe in ghosts, didn’t you?” they say in a gloating tone of voice, “But here I am. Master, I’m a ghost, and already I’ve destroyed the belief that you live in an ordinary world.”
A ghost!" That’s ridiculous… there’s no way this is real. No way at all… this has to be… this has to be…
“A nightmare,” they say, the one in front of me smiles sweetly, “And because this is a nightmare, I can do anything I want, master. Everything is acceptable. Everything is a fair game here. You, as a human, can’t cope with your reality being shook so hard. When you wake, you’ll convince yourself that all of this wasn’t real.”
The Kana behind me releases her grip. The one in front of me leans in close. So close, I can feel her breath on my face.
“But I can give you a choice, master,” she says, and she leans in even closer, speaking directly into my ear, “Do you want this to be a nightmare?”
“N, no,” I manage to stammer out, pulling back myself to get some space away from her. But this is really happening, isn’t it? As much as I’d like to pretend that this is a dream, the feeling of her cold, gloved hand on my face… and my heart pounding like crazy. It’s all too real to be a dream.
“Oh?” the Kana in front of me exclaims in mock surprise, smiling coyly, “Then, what do you want it to be?”
“…honestly? I’d like this to be a wet dream,” I end up blurting out. I know it sounds crazy, but there’s something really attractive about her when she’s like this. Oh god, do I have some sort of a fetish for nutty girls? Agh, damn it, why did I just say that anyway? Way to be smooth there. Now she’s going to think I’m a perverted creep. I feel dizzy.
“Yahahaha!” she laughs, obviously amused. I feel my face growing hot with embarrassment, “You’re so funny, master,” she puts a finger to her lips, tilting her head to her side and winking, “Or… were you being serious just now?”
I look away from her, answering her question with silence.
Kana steps away from me, still smiling. The one that was behind me walks around, standing next to the other Kana. The two of them stare at me with eerily symmetric appearance, like one of them is just a mirror-image of the other.
Finally, one of them looks away from me, casting her gaze to her double. She seizes her by the shoulders, staring into her eyes dreamily. “Kana,” the first Kana says in a deep voice, like she’s doing a bad impression of a guy, “I must have you. Be my mistress!” she says in a grand and dramatic voice.
“O-oh my, what are you saying, master?” the second Kana, the one being held, places her hands on her cheeks, acting flustered. “I can’t do that!” she says with a gasp.
“Then, I’ll have to take you by force!” the other Kana says aggressively.
“Oh master, you beast!”
…is she making fun of me?
They begin to half-heartedly wrestle, culminating in one of them pinning the other on top of my bed by her wrists. The one on top looks back at me and grins. “And then you would start doing something naughty, wouldn’t you?” she asks teasingly.
“Oh haha, very funny. Spot on impression of what I’d do to you,” I say, rolling my eyes.
“Yahaha,” they laugh together, the two of them sitting up on the bed. “Sorry to disappoint, master, but I’m not that kind of a maid.”
“Forget it,” I heave a heavy sigh. Well, it’s not like I actually expected to get anything out of that, anyway. Wait, no, there’s a bigger problem here. Namely, she really seemed to have been serious about being a ghost. And there’s two of her now. Agggh, my head’s starting to hurt again.
While I close my eyes to shake my head, I feel myself being lifted up by the arms. Alarmed, I reopen my eyes to see the two Kanas carrying me up from my chair. Before I can protest, they toss me onto the bed.
“It’s past your bedtime, master.”
“It’s unhealthy to stay up so long.”
I scramble back as the two of them climb up into the bed with me, wearing those coy grins on their faces. They surround me from both sides and place their hands on top of my torso, pinning me to the bed. Whoa, hey, what are they planning?
“Do you want me to tuck you in?”
“Or maybe I should read a story to you?”
“Should I give you a goodnight kiss?”
“Or maybe I should sleep in here with you?”
They bombard me with questions, closing in on me like predators to their downed prey. Again, I feel my face growing red, making me feel dizzy. Agh, they’re teasing me again.
“Yahaha, you’re embarrassed!”
“I haven’t been able to have this much fun in a while!”
“Then how about some special service?”
Poke. Poke poke poke.
I feel something prodding my side. Groggily, I open my eyes, exposing vulnerable retinas to the cold morning air. It stings like hell, so I close them again, shifting my body around for comfort and warmth.
“Wake up already,” a harsh female voice says in an annoyed tone of voice, and the prodding sensation returns with about three times the intensity.
Mumbling, I shift around once more to face the person who’s so rudely disturbing my rest. Ugh, can’t a guy get any sleep around here? Looking up, I see Elly looking at me with a disgruntled expression.
“Eeerrrrgh,” I mumble out something completely incoherent.
“Oh no,” Elly’s expression changes to one of glee, in contrast to what she just said, “Looks like you’ve turned into a zombie. No choice but to kill ya after all!”
It’s only then that I notice that she’s holding that scythe up, the shaft coiling around her waist. Immediately, I feel my weariness running away from me at the sight of that wicked blade, and I hurriedly sit up.
“I’m up, I’m up!” I say at once, though my voice still sounds tired and scratchy.
“Oh, good…” she says with a sad expression that’s completely at odds with her words. She really wants to kill me, doesn’t she? I need to take that scythe away from her, somehow.
“Why are you even waking me up, anyway?” I ask, bitterly rubbing my eyes. “I didn’t ask for this.”
“Yuuka told me to,” she says, not looking very happy about this either, “She says breakfast is ready and you should eat while it’s still warm.”
“This early?” I say, looking out the window. Normally, the blinds are shut, but they’re open for some reason.
“It’s not that early,” Elly says, “Everyone else is up. You’re the one still sleeping, slacker. Now, come on.”
She walks to the doorframe, waiting for me to follow after her. When she sees that I’m not moving, though, she frowns. “What are you doing? Hurry up and get over here.”
“No,” I say.
“What, got a morning stiffie or something?”
“Hurry up already,” she says, tapping her foot impatiently.
[ ] Shamelessly get up from the bed. This is your house and dammit you’re allowed to walk around however you want.
[ ] Wait until you calm down.
“Yeah yeah, alright,” I say as I toss the blanket on top of me aside, still scratching my head as I set my feet down on the ground and stand up. I ignore the tight feeling in my pants as I stretch my arms, yawning.
“Pfffft…hahahahaha!” Elly shrieks with laughter, pointing in the direction of my… uh, crotch, “You actually did have one? Oh, that is so gross!”
“Grow up,” I say without an ounce of shame in my voice, “It’s natural.”
Her laughter dies away as I begin to walk towards the doorway, looking at me with narrow eyes. “No way, you don’t actually intend to walk into the living room like that, do you?” she asks with a cold voice.
“Why not?” I say with defiance. This is my house, damn it. If I wanted to walk around stark naked, dance lonesome tango, and sing the national anthem, then I’m entitled to it. Er… not that I’ll actually do all that, of course, but just as an example.
“Because if you do, I’ll cut it off.”
Holy shit that’s such a low and unfair threat!
“Aha, it was a joke,” she says, adding an evil cackle at the end.
It doesn’t sound like a joke when it’s coming from you. I’m going to have to question your sense of humor. Or rather, I’m just going to have to ask you not to joke around with me, because it scares me.
“Do whatever you like, but you’d better not touch Yuuka.” She leaves me with those parting words, walking past the doorway and presumably towards the living room.
Like I’d try to do anything funny to Her Highness. Unless for some reason I decide it might be enjoyable to have my limbs torn out of their sockets. Well, just exaggerating, but really I’d get a severe beating that would put me in the hospital for at least a month, and that’s no fun at all.
Still rubbing my eyes, I walk out of the room and make my way towards the dining table. Along the way, I see Kana standing in the hallway with her arms folded behind her back.
“Good morning, master,” she says with a bright smile.
“’morning Kana,” I greet with a wave, my mind still rather clouded by drowsiness. Now that that damn scythe isn’t around, I feel sleepy again…
“My, you’re so energetic today,” she giggles.
It takes me a few seconds to realize what she’s talking about. And when I do, a flood of memories come rushing at me like a speeding subway train and hits me with full force. That bizarre dream I had yesterday…
Overwhelmed, I look at the maid in front of me in new light, and in a daze, I mutter, “I love you.”
“Oh master, if you say things like that, then you’re going to make me blush,” she says, smiling in that alluringly teasing way like always. “Anyway, breakfast is ready. I hope you like Western.”
Western breakfast, huh? Back with my folks, it was a bowl of rice every morning. My parents sure did spoil me, always giving me freshly cooked rice in the morning and the evening. For a moment, I feel guilt tugging at a heartstring, making me wince in pain. Just what the hell have I ever done for them? Thinking about all that makes me feel a little down so I decide to push all that to the back of my mind, continuing to walk.
I’ve already calmed down by the time I reach the living room. Sitting at the table are Yuuka, her admirer, and Ellen. I pull up a chair, pausing for a moment to look around.
“Good morning,” Yuuka greets me, the dish in front of her already clean. Just like yesterday and the day before, she’s sipping from a decorative teacup with composure, “What are you doing?” she asks as I continue to look about the room.
“Just wondering if you decided to bring in anyone else while I was asleep,” I say, taking my seat. In front of me is a dish with roast bacon and fried eggs, sunny-side up. Next to it is a napkin, with a fork resting on it. Not bad.
Yuuka scoffs, sipping from her cup, “I like to think that I can be trusted to keep my word, usually,” she says.
…Come to think of it, she did go out of her way yesterday to get my permission for Elly to stay, didn’t she? Well, it was only on a technicality, and she ended up knocking her down from a staircase, but still… that was somewhat unexpectedly thoughtful of her.
“Good morning, Ellen,” I say with a smile as I pick up my fork.
“Mphhood mphorphing,” she replies with a crispy piece of toast in her mouth.
Elly just seems to be pretending I’m not there as she eats her share of breakfast, but that suits me just fine. Wait, why isn’t Kana joining us, anyway? Isn’t she hungry, too? Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve seen her eat. I’ve seen her drink tea, but that’s about it. Even when Ellen cooked that stew for us, she gave everyone a share except for herself…
I shake my head, cutting the white of the egg with my fork. I’m putting too much thought into this. She has to eat like the rest of us. I just haven’t caught her at it. It’s no big deal.
After finishing up breakfast, I head over to the fridge to grab my usual can of beer. Who needs a liver? Not me! Oh, and the others are sitting around at the couch (except for Kana, who I haven’t seen since I woke up), watching the morning news. Geeze, they’re still all staring at it like awed children.
“…Police still have no leads on the Aoyama murder case, in which the victim was found with numerous bite marks on his body…”
I catch a few words from the dull anchorman. This murder case is pretty famous already. I heard about it on the boards a week or so ago. Some guy was found in Aoyama with chunks of his body chomped out. What kind of a crazy cannibal would do something like that? Seriously, maniacs today…
“Who knows,” Yuuka replies, “She might not even have been thrown over here, either.”
“Well, I hope she’s doing okay,” she slumps back in her seat, looking worried. Are they talking about another friend of theirs?
“As long as she avoids sunlight, she should be fine.”
“Won’t she start attacking people, though?”
“Mmm. We’d better find her before she loses control.”
It’s just better to not ask about her and her pals. Somehow, I get that feeling.
Wow, I’m heading out for the second time in a week. In a row, even. When was the last time I did something like that? Why do I have to be saddled with no option but to move under the horrible, dreadful curse of the sun and the chilly breeze of fall? It’s not fair, I tell you. Not fair at all.
I need money, though, so I need to tough it out.
Not feeling like walking much, I fish my pockets for some change. Okay, got just enough for bus fare. I take a seat in a bench at the bus stop nearest to my house, with my hands stuck deep in the pockets of my worn out jeans.
As I sit back and wait for the bus to arrive, a young, bright looking woman walks by, carrying a load of mini-pamphlets in her hands and wearing conservative clothes. She’s pretty. And normal, probably. Why are all the girls staying at my house so strange in the head? Can’t they be more… or, well, just less crazy?
“Excuse me,” the young woman stops in front of me. Crap, did she notice that I was staring at her? “Do you go to church?” she asks, and I happen to chance a glance at the pamphlets she’s holding. I can see an illustration of a cross.
Oh god, she’s one of those religious types that won’t let you go if you say “no” and will insist on talking to you about Jesus and stuff, isn’t she? Come on… I thought Christians were a minority here, but why do I keep running into people like her?
[ ] Answer her question.
[ ] Ignore her and walk to the bank instead.
“No, I don’t,” I answer her question honestly, and I don’t know anyone who does, either. I don’t think I’ve ever passed by a church around this area, either, but she has to be from somewhere close if she’s trying to get me to go… “Are you a Christian?” I ask.
“Yes,” she nods with a practiced smile. “And you can be too! It’s never too late to be accepted by Him. Talk to God, believe in Him and you shall receive…”
Wordlessly, I stand from the bench. I’m really not in the mood to listen to this. I look off to the side, and see no signs of a bus approaching any time soon. Guess I’ll just have to walk. Ignoring the girl, I begin to walk down the street.
“Eh?” She seems noticeably startled as I stroll past her. “Ah, please wait, I wasn’t done yet…” she says, striding quickly to keep up with me.
“Hail Satan,” I say in a bored voice without bothering to look behind me. That’ll probably offend her enough for her to leave me alone. I hear her footsteps stop behind me. Guess that did it.
Huh? Hearing a suppressed snort behind me, I turn and look at the girl who was following me. She’s slightly bent over forward, covering her mouth as she shakes uncontrollably. It takes me a moment to realize that she’s silently giggling into her hand like crazy.
“Uh…” I begin, raising an eyebrow at the girl, “You okay…?”
She’s heaving around so much that someone might think that she’s having a seizure or something. Finally, after what seems like minutes but was probably about thirty seconds, she seems to calm herself down, red-faced and gasping for air.
“I’m… I’m okay,” she says, wiping tears from her eyes, “I just thought that you said something really funny.”
I don’t think it was that funny, though. I take it back; this girl is pretty strange, too. Shrugging, I turn back to continue my stroll to the bank. The sooner I get this done, the better. The girl hurries to keep up with me, taking two small steps for every one of my own.
“Anyway, I won’t force you to embrace Him if you aren’t willing,” she says while walking along at my side, undaunted by my feigned ignorance of her presence, “But you should know that He is willing to accept all that turn to Him. Always.”
“Right, sure,” I reply, her words going through one ear and out the other, “Not really interested.”
“Ahah, it sure seems that way,” the young woman replies with a slightly disappointed tone to her voice, her posture seemingly wilting a little, “If you think of it that way, I won’t bother you about it, but…”
“You seem like a troubled person.”
“You have no idea,” I say with a heavy sigh. Did my face make it really obvious or what?
“I see,” she says with a genuine smile this time, “Feel like telling me about it?”
“Why would I?”
“I’ve been told I’m a good listener.”
“No, I meant why would I tell a stranger about my problems?” I say with an irritated tone, feeling slightly exasperated.
“My name is Rei,” she says unflinchingly, holding out a hand to me. Out of reflex and without thinking, I take her hand in mine, and she gives it a good shake. “There, now we’re acquaintances. Will you tell me now?”
“Huh? Uh…” I release her hand, taking a step back. “Maybe some other time… I don’t feel like talking about it…”
“I see,” she says, nodding. She takes one of the pamphlets in her hand a shoves it toward me, either forcefully or enthusiastically, I can’t tell which. As I take it in hand and begin to glance over its content, she continues to speak, “That’s the church I attend. I also do volunteer work there, so if you ever do feel like talking about it, you can come find me.”
Wait, what? I never said I was going to-
“You seem busy, so I’ll be going now,” Rei (?) smiles cheerfully, not giving me a chance to respond as she waves goodbye, hurrying off somewhere and leaving me standing there with a rather dumb look on my face.
Sheesh, what was that all about? She’s a bit of a weirdo, too. What happened to all the normal people? What is this, an invasion of the oddballs?
Folding up the pamphlet in hand, I shove it into my pocket without much regard for it.
After withdrawing the money wired to my account by my loving mother, I set home in the same manner as when I went to the bank; walking. As usual, I cut through the park to save time on the way.
As I leisurely stroll through the place, I spot Yuuka and Elly walking together from the opposite direction. Elly looks to be chatting to her animatedly, like she’s trying really hard to get some sort of reaction out of her while Yuuka’s much more relaxed, looking about with her decorated parasol in hand, blocking the sun’s rays. It doesn’t look like she’s paying any attention to Elly.
“Hey,” I greet them, raising a hand.
“Did you finish your business?” Yuuka asks promptly.
“Uh, yeah,” I say, giving the now much fatter wallet in my pocket a few taps, “Should last a while, I think.”
“Good, because we’re going to need clothes,” Elly immediately cuts in.
“Do you really need-”
“Of course we do,” she says with a frown. “We can’t wear these all the time, and we don’t know how long we’re going to have to stay here.”
…She does have a point there.
“Well, alright, I guess that’s fine, but-”
Yuuka suddenly raises a finger, silencing me. “Finally starting to make a move?” she says in a loud voice, looking to the trees behind her, “You’ve been following us for a while. I was starting to think that you weren’t going to do anything.”
“Tch!” Someone clicks their tongue, and jumps down from the cover of a nearby tree’s branches. A tall woman, dressed in a white, traditional Japanese robe and a red sleeveless haori. At her side is a sheathed katana. Her long hair is tied behind her in a ponytail.
“So you noticed me, then,” the woman spits out her words, her eyes narrowing as she stares down Yuuka.
Who is she? Some kind of a cosplay freak?
“O-of course we did!” Elly quickly speaks up. What a liar. She had a look of confusion on her face just a moment ago.
“It would have been hard not to notice. There were people staring at you as you jumped from tree to tree, you know,” Yuuka says calmly, “You should pay more attention to your surroundings even when you’re trailing someone.”
The woman grits her teeth, her hand slowly drifting over to the hilt of her sword. Wait, that thing isn’t real, is it? “You must be the ones behind the attacks that accursed fellow told me about,” she says, “Unbelievable, as if the trouble you caused in our world wasn’t enough.”
“Maybe we were,” Yuuka replies with an amused tone of voice, “What are you going to do about it? Are you picking a fight?”
“If I defeat you here, all will respect my sword,” she says, unsheathing the katana in a flash. Holy shit that sure does look real! “You!” she turns her head to me, as the sunlight gleams off the end of her blade. “Get away from them! They’re dangerous!”
I know that already! But you’re dangerous too, if that sword is real! What’s going on here? No, wait, aren’t those two in danger? Maybe I should go and call the police or really run home or... or do something. Ugh…
[ ] Run away.
[ ] Stay and watch.
[ ] Call for help.
The woman in traditional Japanese garb slashes across the air with her sword, slicing through the air and producing a high-pitched whistle. Ack, that thing looks seriously sharp. There’s no way it’s a fake replica sword! Geez, what the hell happened to gun and sword control laws?
“I’m all the way over here, you know,” Yuuka says in a taunting voice, tilting her head to the side while smiling sweetly at the woman, “You should probably come a little closer before you start swinging that toy of yours.”
The woman grunts in anger, giving her a piercing death glare. Adjusting her stance so that the tip of her sword is pointed directly towards Yuuka, she quickly rushes in. Within two seconds at the most, she closes the distance between them, bringing the sword overhead. Startled by her alarming speed, I stumble back. Her stroke is so fast that all I could see was the blur of her arm movement.
But Yuuka’s even faster. Seemingly without effort, she steps to the side, allowing the sword to cut through air instead of its intended target.
But she doesn’t strike back, and she remains still with that smile on her face as her assailant adjusts her swing before the blade hits the ground, twisting the hilt around so that the sharp edge faces Yuuka as she slashes up diagonally.
Yuuka calmly ducks while leaning to the side, the sword harmlessly slashing past her again. “Come on now, swing a little faster and you might be able to cut me,” she says encouragingly.
The woman lets out a short roar of rage, swinging her sword wildly while Yuuka easily ducks, leans, or sidesteps out of the way of each stroke without trouble. Though I’ve never seen a real fight in my life, I know this one is approaching a ridiculous level. How is Yuuka dodging those sword strokes like it’s nothing? It’s like, like something out of a movie or TV show…
“Ah, geez,” I hear Elly speaking up nearby, watching the battle with her hand on her hat and a harassed expression on her face, “Yuuka’s just playing around with her, but that gitl’s getting so seriously angry.”
P-playing around? You call that playing around!" She could get seriously hurt, or worse…
I look back at the woman’s futile attempts to harm Yuuka, who doesn’t even seem to be breaking a sweat as she continually moves about, effortlessly predicting and evading all of her strikes. She begins to pant heavily with each slash, her chest heaving up and down as she struggles to make even one more attack.
“Damn you…!” she yells, charging forward with her katana raised in the air. But before she can even bring it down, Yuuka’s already blitzed in, with one hand clenched into a fist. Seeing it coming towards her, the woman flinches and closes her eyes as the fist draws near.
But instead of carrying through with the punch, Yuuka stops her fist just short of making contact. Instead, she coils the back of her middle finger against her thumb, giving the woman a harmless flick on the forehead. Slowly, her arms fall to her side, and she hangs her head silently. Turning around with her back to Yuuka, she sheathes her sword.
“Today is my loss, but I swear I’ll kill you next time,” she says in a shaky voice.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Yuuka replies.
The woman breaks into a sprint, startling several gawkers who had been watching the spectacle as she runs past them. Soon, she’s out of sight.
“Why didn’t you just kill her, Yuuka?” Elly asks, stepping forward next to her.
“Because it’s more fun this way, isn’t it?” Yuuka responds with an eerie, almost sadistic smile, holding her parasol with both hands. “And it’d be a terrible bother if we attracted troublesome attention, wouldn’t it?”
You’ve already attracted plenty of troublesome attention, dammit! There were people in this park who witnessed all that! I can’t believe the police haven’t already arrived on the scene to apprehend that woman. Suddenly, my faith in the local law enforcement force has decreased drastically.
“What are you doing there looking like that for?” Yuuka asks as she walks up to me, still dumbfounded by all that’s just happened before me, “Come on. Let’s head back. We’ll have lunch before we set out for clothes.”
“A-ah, yeah,” I stutter, before following her back to my home.
“Since it’s weird to be going around in a large group, we should split up and stay apart,” Yuuka says at her usual spot on the table, drawing circles on the wooden surface with her finger in boredom while she’s waiting for everyone else to finish eating.
She does make a good point there.
“I’ll be with Yuukarin, of course,” Elly says, attempting to cling to Yuuka’s arm, though she’s violently shaken off immediately.
“Then, Sokrates and I will go with Mister here,” says Ellen, giving the cat on her lap a pat on the head.
“Leave the cat here, I don’t think pets are allowed in department stores,” I say, wiping my mouth after finishing my sandwich. Man, three meals a day? The concept of that has been inconceivable to me for the last few years I’ve lived alone. I usually get by with two. There’s definite pros to having someone who can cook around, I guess.
Ellen frowns, looking pretty deflated. I can’t help but place a hand on her head, giving her a comforting pat. I turn my head to Kana, who’s standing by the table. “So who are you going to go with?” I ask her.
“Eh?” Kana looks surprised, not expecting the question, “Um, that’s fine,” she says, a bit troubled, “I don’t really need anything, so…”
“Really? Don’t you need something other than that maid outfit, though? Come on, while I still have money…”
“N-no, really, it’s fine,” she says, stepping back. “Ah!” she exclaims, like a bolt of lightning hit her, “That’s it! I can’t go out looking like this, can I, master?” she says nervously, lifting her skirt up to her ankles.
…Well, she would get some pretty strange looks, I guess. But I get the feeling that there’s another reason why she doesn’t want to go outside.
“I guess not,” I reply, shrugging my shoulders. If there’s a reason why she doesn’t want to go outside, then I’m not going to pry. It’s not like I’m particularly fond of the sun and fresh air myself. “I’ll buy you a normal set of clothes while I’m there.”
“Oh my, master,” Kana giggles into her hands, a mischievous gleam reflecting off her golden eyes, “You just wanted to know my three sizes, didn’t you?”
Don’t make me sound like a pervert when I have good intentions.
“He’s a pervert, isn’t he?” Elly remarks while snickering.
“Most definitely a pervert,” replies Yuuka.
You guys suck.
“I don’t think you’re a pervert,” Ellen says with an understanding smile, “I think it’s nice that you’re thinking about her, too.”
…I’m going to cry.
“A-anyway,” I say as I clear my throat, “What kind of clothes do you want?”
“Hmm?” Kana scratches her cheek, looking a little embarrassed, “Well… I don’t really need new clothes, but I suppose anything’s fine.”
That just makes it harder for me to choose anything. Well, whatever. I guess I’ll just pick out whatever I can when I get there. By the way, it might be a bit late, but I can’t believe I have to buy clothes for people I’ve known for a day at most. Ugh, how did I end up in this mess? Why me?
After leaving the dishes for Kana to clean up, we get ready to head outside. Man, I really don’t feel like going outside again at the moment, but I guess I don’t have a choice. Let’s just get this over with so I can get back on my computer and kick back for the rest of the day.
Before heading out of the front gate, I reach into my wallet, handing a few bills over to Yuuka. “This much should be enough for clothes, right?” I ask her as she takes the money from me, shoving it into the pocket of her skirt.
“I suppose,” she says without much regard.
Oh come on, be a little surer. I’m not going to buy you designer’s fashion clothes or anything though, just what you’re going to need while you’re here.
Pocketing my wallet, I heave a sigh as I walk out of the door with the girls following closely behind. Locking the door with a key, I climb down the staircase. Ellen follows me, while Yuuka and Elly remain where they are. Once I’ve reached ground level, I take a careful look around, and after verifying that there is, in fact, no one looking, I turn back and signal them with a thumb jerked up.
The plan is, of course, for us to remain apart in a group of two, with me leading them to the department store. Personally, I think this is a hassle and really unnecessary, even if we would stand out as a group of four, but I’d rather not be contrary to those two.
I think they just don’t like to be seen near me. Fine, be that way.
Meanwhile, as we’re on our way to the department store waaaaay in the shopping district (to where, I might mention, that we’re walking to because Yuuka refused to take a bus), Ellen’s looking about, her attention captivated by seemingly anything that moves in her sight; cars, buses, other people walking around in the street. She’s got an expression on her face that one might see on a kid in a toy store.
“What’s so amazing?” I ask as I reach in my pocket for my pack of cigs, shaking out a stick while I walk.
“Everything!” she replies cheerfully, pointing at the traffic road, “What kind of magic does it take to make those metal monsters move?”
“You mean the cars?” Geez, seriously. Living under a rock, how many years, etc. “It’s the magic of science,” I say, lighting the cig and taking a drag from it, “Where were you the last two-hundred years?”
“I don’t remember,” she replies, not changing her expression at all.
Oh, so you know how to joke, huh? Very funny. I give her another pat on the head, flashing a weary smile, to which she responds with a look of confusion.
“You must be pretty old, then,” I say jokingly with the stick held between my fingers, playing along with her.
“Yup!” she says with a nod.
“You look like a kid, though.”
“I’m not a kid,” she says, hardening her expression in what I would guess to be an attempt to look older, though it has about the same effect as something small and cuddly trying to look fierce and ferocious, “I may look like this, but I’m actually very mature, you know.”
“Hey, look,” I say, pointing at a nearby ice cream vendor, “Want some ice cream?”
“Yes, please!” Ellen says eagerly.
She doesn’t seem to realize what I’ve done until after I’ve given her the ice cream cone. She nibbles off a small piece of it, enjoying the sweet taste… and then lets out a small gasp, looking at me in horror. “Fueeeh, you tricked me!” she says in a high pitched voice.
“Oh, sorry, sorry,” I laugh.
“That’s unfair,” she pouts, “…but this is really good, so I’ll forgive you.”
Out of curiosity, I look back behind me. Elly seems to be staring longingly at the ice cream vendor, but Yuuka walks right past it without sparing so much as a single glance toward it. She dejectedly follows after her. I feel sorry for her, kinda, but at the same time I find it hilarious. I wonder if that makes me a bad person. Nah.
“Well, here we are,” I say, standing in the large, open space of the clothing section of the local department store. Since it’s Saturday, the place is pretty crowded. “Go on and pick something you like. The women’s section is… well, it’s where the sign for it is.”
“Fueeehh…” Ellen gasps, looking at the sheer number of the people inside, “I feel like I might get lost in here…”
I shrug my shoulders, intending to stay at register area. Soon enough, Yuuka and Elly catch up to us, and the latter immediately hugs Ellen from behind.
“C’mon, Fluffy, let’s pick out something cute for you~!” she says, wrapping an arm around her shoulder and leading her away.
“You’re not going to buy anything for yourself?” Yuuka stays behind to say, surveying your worn, faded jeans.
[ ] No. You’re spending enough of the money for other people already, let alone yourself.
[ ] You do need some new clothes…
Yuuka turns her eyes from me and wordlessly walks off to the women’s section, following after the other two who had gone ahead already. I jam my hands into the pocket of my pants, slowly sauntering off towards the men’s section.
Once I get there, I pick out a few, plain t-shirts, no logos or anything. I was never really one to care too much about design or anything, just so long as it doesn’t look laughably ridiculous, I’ll wear it. I’m starting to get holes in the shirt I’m wearing right now, so I guess it really would be a good idea to buy some new ones.
Along with the t-shirt, I also grab a pair of light-colored denim jeans. I cannot stress how much I love a good pair of jeans. The slacks I was given as part of the school uniform back in high school days were positively nightmarish in autumn and winter, the cheap little…
Carrying the pieces of clothing on my arm, I look around at the different racks of clothing. This much’ll do for me, but there’s a certain amount of fun to be had with just looking around a shop. A few of the clothes here are bizarre. Like that rainbow beanie over there. Who’d wear something like that? On a whim, I put it on my head, and walk over to a nearby mirror. Aha, the dumb hat looks as silly as I thought it would. I twist my face, making silly expressions.
And in the reflection, I see some guy passing by, looking at me like I’m a freak. Fuck. Feeling stupid, I take the beanie off my head and toss it back where it was. What would I need a hat for, anyway? I don’t even go outside much. Come to think of it, why do Kana and Elly wear those hats all the time? That’s just strange.
I head for the registers with the clothes in hand. Looking around, I don’t see any of them. Sheesh, I even had time to goof around and they’re still not done? Women, I tell you. They’d better not be expecting me to buy tens of clothing for them!
I take my place at the end of a long, long line, which is unfortunately also the shortest of the lines, as far as I can see. What bad luck to come here when the place is packed. Then again, luck hasn’t exactly been on my side lately, eh? What with that complete sink back at the pachinko place and all…
By the time I’ve finished my purchase and paid for what I’m buying, getting it packed into a paper bag, the girls still haven’t arrived. Seriously, what are they doing? With my purchases in hand, I make my way to the women’s section of the store.
It’s pretty easy to spot Yuuka, even in a big crowd like this. I dunno how to describe it, but she has this sort of presence that stands out among other people. Well, either way, it’s convenient for me. She’s standing there, carrying a paper bag in hand. No way, did she finish her purchase before I did?
“Hey, Yuuka,” I call out as I approach her.
She turns to look at me, and I can see that she’s already wearing something new. On her top is a formfitting wool sweater, with a milky vanilla tone. I have to admit, she looks very good in a sweater like that, especially the way it accentuates her… Oh, and she’s wearing a pair of pants. Fitting choice of clothes for the season, considering that it’s been getting cold recently.
“You all done?” I ask as I walk up to her, and she turns away, crossing her arms.
“I am, but they’re not,” she says in an annoyed tone of voice, impatiently tapping her foot on the polished floor. Lifting up one delicate finger, she points one of the closed dressing rooms. Ah, so Fluffy and Curly went in together.
Finally, after a few tedious minutes, the curtain opens, and Ellen steps out shortly after. She’s wearing a thick, padded button-up coat that reaches past her knees. It’s a bit too big for her, so I can barely just see the tips of her finger sticking out of the sleeves.
“It’s so soft and warm~!” she hums happily as she skips out. With a content sigh, she closes her eyes and hugs herself, apparently enjoying the warmth and fluffiness of the coat, bless the child.
Elly follows after her, wearing a plain white blouse and a simple red dress over it. I guess she’s not really much for design, either, though I have to admit, there’s a certain appeal to simplicity as well.
“Don’t fall in love with me,” she says in a haughty voice, noticing my gaze, “It’d be disgusting.”
Too bad you can’t dress up an ugly personality.
I don’t even bother to retort, instead looking away without a word. Elly walks over to Ellen, placing her hands on both of her shoulders.
“But look, this definitely suits her, doesn’t it?” she asks me and Yuuka, apparently proud of herself.
Ellen lets out a short yelp as Elly begins to spin her around on the spot with an expression of glee.
“Spin~spin~spin~!” she laughs as she spins Ellen faster and faster, much to her dismay. H-hey, stop that already!
“Knock it off,” Yuuka says, walking up and giving Elly a pound on the head, flattening the top of her hat.
“Guh,” she grunts, letting go of the poor girl, “S-sorry…”
Dazed, Ellen stumbles forward while still spinning haphazardly, so I catch her before she can fall to the floor or anything like that. She shakes her head, and manages to clear up her dizziness enough to stand properly on her feet.
“Oooh…” she groans, clutching her head, “That wasn’t fun…”
“Seriously,” I say, shooting a glance at Elly, who responds with a guilty shift of her head.
“I-I said I was sorry,” she says, frowning.
“Well, it’s okay,” Ellen says with a smile, “So let’s go home now.” Turning around, she begins to skip toward the exit.
“Ah, wait! We haven’t payed for these yeeeet!” Elly quickly stops her.
“Eh? We haven’t?” she asks, confused. What an airheaded girl.
They return to the dressing room to change back into their clothes. While we’re waiting for them to come back out, Yuuka glances at the clothes in my hand.
“Are you sure you’re finished?” she asks.
“Huh?” I respond, raising a brow at her question. I’ve got what I need, don’t it?
“You’re not forgetting anything?”
[ ] Nope. Let’s just hurry this up.
[ ] What are you forgetting…?