Date A Live - Volume 13 - Chapter 4
Chapter 4: If You Give Up, Then It's The Deadline
On the rooftop of a mansion where Nia resides, the shadows began to spread out.
From the shadows, Kurumi slowly raised herself up before coming out with a jumping move. She stretched her body lightly and slowly looked up to the sky. After that, a familiar voice resounded from the shadow that was spreading on the ground.
’’It looks like it has become a troublesome matter.’’
’’How was it?’’
After uttering those words, several girls came out at the same time from the mansion rooftop's shadows.
They're all girls with an asymmetrically fluttering hairstyle and all of them have a clock's dial as their left eye.
Of course they also have the same voice. The reason is because they're all [Kurumi]'s voice.
Kurumi's angel is <Zafkiel>. Using [The Eight's Bullet] Kurumi can create her own clones. They are all talking to Kurumi through the shadows.
Kurumi lets out a sigh and replied to them.
It's true that Kurumi had already meet with the Second Spirit she had been searching for this all time, and using Nia's angel, Kurumi already obtained the information regarding [The First Spirit].
However, Kurumi has reached a serious conclusion as a result.
Kurumi gave out a sigh and shrugged her shoulders.
’’Even if I collect enough Reiryoku to go back to 30 years ago using [The Twelfth Bullet-Yud Bet], I absolutely cannot win against [The First Spirit].’’
After Kurumi said that, Kurumi's clones suddenly became quiet.
They were all looking at Kurumi silently.
In response to them, Kurumi giggled and laughed.
’’What's with that face, us? ----Do you think I will accept it just like that? Do you think I will waste all the human lives I took this whole time just because of that?’’
After saying that, Kurumi twirled around as if she was dancing, and she kicked the ground lightly to stand at an angle.
As she looks down to the vast town, she continued to speak with a singing tone.
’’The First Spirit's power might be too powerful-----but, what about it? My angel <Zafkiel>has the power to manipulate time. In front of time, any kind of power is meaningless.’’
Kurumi looked back at those clones.
Among the information Kurumi got from Nia, the most important one wasn't [The First Spirit]'s ability, -----Rather, it was the reason and cause for its appearance.
’’It's was a very simple talk. The First Spirit didn't exist in this world until 30 years ago. In that case, I need to go to the time before the First Spirit appeared in this world, and just eliminate the cause for its appearance.’’
As Kurumi said that, she created a gun shape using her right hand's index finger and thumb. Then, *Bang!*, she shot it towards an empty space.
All clones brightened their expressions upon hearing Kurumi's words.
’’----Well, it would be a lie if I said that I'm not regretting the fact that I cannot kill that hateful Spirit with my own hands. Tough, but let's put that aside.’’
Right. The most important thing is-----------to erase the reality of that [Spirit]'s existence being born into this world.
Restore the history to how it should be, just like what Shidou did.
Kurumi lowered her eyes and gripped her fist as if she gained a new determination.
After that, she gave out a sigh.
From Nia just now, Kurumi already knew the reason of [The First Spirit]'s arrival. She thought about that in her mind and spoke to herself with an appalled voice.
’’Isaac Ray Pelham Westcott, Ellen Mira Mathers, and Elliot Woodman.’’
She called out the names of the three biggest sinners.
’’Although it's no use to say it now.......... but the next time I see you three, I will likely be unable to control my urge to kill you.’’
After saying that, Kurumi kicked the ground again as she began to disappear into the ground.
And so, Shidou and the other's battlefield had just begun.
After the story line has been decided by everyone, Shidou and the other Spirits began splitting their work between a drawing team and a special team.
Firstly, for the drawing team, Natsumi is in charge of working on the major parts of the drawing: sketching the rough outline and drafting the cover.
Although they wanted help out more to lighten Natsumi's burden, in order to keep consistency between story and drawing-style, this task had to be entrusted to Natsumi.
While Shidou and the others are free, they viewed a video that gave a simple explanation regarding the work process for a manga. They then practiced their sketches on the paper in order to have some preparation before being able to help out with the manga.
When everything is done, the time is already 2:00 a.m. of December 30th.
Although naturally everyone should go to sleep and continue working on the drawing early next morning, Natsumi kept insisting to continue the work. They decided to work overnight and take naps in turns in order to maximize their working efficiency.
When Natsumi drew the draft, she framed her illustration by using a ruler and a pen. Then, she drew the text box. Once that was done, the real work will begin. Everyone would re-draw the rough sketch of all the characters Natsumi had drawn using pencil.
’’............Uwaah! I drew over the frame!’’
’’Ku...........The jet-black tears have fallen upon the pure holy ground!?’’
’’Disturbance. The ink has already stuck under the ruler.’’
’’.............No problem. This can still be repaired.’’
Although Shidou and the others have all drawn an illustration before, they're still amateurs. So, there's no way they could draw the manuscript neatly during the beginning.
Though with enough concentration and adaptive power, they looked at the draft's open space and moved the pen more carefully. Somehow, they managed to draw the line properly on the draft..........Well midway, Kaguya and Yuzuru had switched their pen type from the Mili-pen to the Superfine Marker for inking the small parts.
And after inking was done, they erased the pencil traces diligently. Then, they changed the image into data by using a scanner and send it to assistant-team lead by Nakatsugawa.
Though it can be said that they are rushing on the work, with only a small number of people, they won't be able to finish the manga book within only 2 days.
However, that doesn't mean that Shidou and the others can suddenly increase their drawing ability. Inking Natsumi's rough sketch using a pen is more stressful than everyone had thought it would be.
Inside the large room, there is the scratching sound of a pen moving. Even though they played some CDs as background music;while working, there's almost no effect at all to the person whose heart is supposed to be heal by the music.
After some time has passed since they started working. ’’Hi, everyone! How's the work progress?’’
Suddenly, the room's door opened. It's Kotori, who brought along some bags with both of her hands. ’’.............Aah, Kotori. Well, somehow.’’
’’............Somehow, you look older even though it's just been a few hours since we last seen each other.’’
Kotori said that while sweating. She placed the bags on the table and raised her voice.
’’Refreshments. I'll put them here, please drink them while you're taking a break.’’
’’Kaka............An offering, huh? What good dedication, Kotori.’’
’’Gratitude. Thank you very much Kotori.’’
The Yamai sisters expressed their gratitude, Origami kept silence while waving her hand. At that time, ’’Uuh.........’’ such a voice can be heard. Perhaps, Natsumi was replying to Kotori's words.
Then, since Kotori already got a response from everyone, she walked towards Shidou's desk.
’’..............Shidou, can I have a moment?’’
’’Ng? What is it?’’
’’It's about Nia, so-’’
’’..........! Did something happen!?’’
When Shidou asked, Kotori nodded. Then, once again, she raised her voice to everyone.
’’Sorry, everyone. I'll be borrowing Shidou for a while. He'll work twice as faster once he gets back.’’
Shidou voiced his protest, but Kotori didn't take notice. She gripped Shidou's sleeve and pulled him forward.
Shidou, while being dragged by Kotori, was walking out of the room like a dog being lead.
After they had left the mansion, Shidou lowered his eyesight due to the dazzling sunshine.
’’Ukh...........It's already this bright? This is bad, how many hours are left?’’
’’Although manuscript is also important, but first just get into the car.’’
After saying that, Kotori pointed to a car parked in front of the mansion.
Shidou sat on the back seat as per Kotori's instruction. The car left right away, moving along the road.
Shidou looked to the stores and houses on the street outside the window as he asked Kotori.
’’Did you find out something about Nia?’’
’’Yes--------Actually, we have contacted someone who is Nia's mangaka acquaintance.’’
’’I-Is that true? Then, if we ask that person ’’
’’Yes. We might be able to find out something regarding Nia's past.’’
Kotori said that while looking at Shidou. Shidou gulped down his saliva.
After twenty minutes had passed, the car carrying Shidou and Kotori stopped right before a café.
’’--------It's here. Please get off. Reine is already talking to that person.’’
Shidou got out from the car. While a little nervous, he proceeded towards the café.
They looked around inside the café--------Then they heard someone who was calling out for Shidou while raising her hand a little.
’’I'm sorry to keep you waiting.’’
’’.............Aah, so you've arrived, Shin, Kotori.’’
Reine talked to with a similar sleepy tone. She was similar to Shidou who was currently also sleepy due to last night. Then, she introduced them to the person who sitting in front of them.
’’.........Let me introduce. She's a manga artist. Her name is Takajou Hiroki.’’
’’Ah, nice to meet you ’’
Shidou bowed to her, --------but at that point, he stopped his body's movement.
He thought that Takajou Hiroki was the name for a guy. However, in front of him, there was a woman wearing thick glasses and her age looked seemingly over twenty.
Then, he remembered something regarding another week's event. Nia herself said there's another female manga artist who used a masculine name as a pen name like her.
’’Please let me introduce myself. My name is Itsuka Shidou.’’
’’The same, my name is Kotori. Thank you very much for coming here today.’’
’’Ooh, thank you for your politeness.’’
In response to Shidou and Kotori's greeting, Takajou said that while placing her hands on the table as she bowed in return to them.
And then, she looked up to see both Shidou and Kotori.
’’............Well then, today you wanted to ask something about Honjou-sensei, right?’’
’’Ah-----Yes. That's right. Anything is fine;can you please tell us everything you know?’’
When Shidou asked that, Takajou corrected the position of her glasses and her lens started shining.
’’Although I don't mind about it...........What kind of relationship do you all have with Honjou-sensei?’’
’’No, please pardon me. But our careers are in the peak of our popularity. I won't leak out any information to any unrelated person.’’
Perhaps this conversation won't last any longer. However, Shidou could not think of any good explanation right away. He kept thinking about what to do for a moment.
And then from his side, Kotori raised up her voice.
’’------------Actually Nia-Onee-chan is our distant relative, but we couldn't contact her for several years now...........So we're wandering around asking various people about her circumstances.’’
And then, Kotori said those words very carefully. Perhaps she had already assumed this kind of circumstance beforehand? Or it's was only an ad-lib she came up on the spot? No matter which one, Kotori said that plausibly without changing her expression. Shidou had a feeling that Kotori had a nature talent as a swindler.
’’Fumu, I see.’’
Takajou groaned a little before nodding. Certainly, Takajou believed in Kotori because she just used her real name [Nia], which has never been present to public.
’’I understand your circumstances. I'm also worried about Honjou-sensei. I will cooperate with you as long as it's within my limits.’’
’’Is that true? Thank you very much...........!’’
Shidou placed his hands before him, and bended his body to once again bow to her.
However----------Takajou scratched her cheeks a little.
’’However...........I don't know how helpful I can be.’’
’’What do you mean.......?’’
’’No, actually, I haven't met with Honjou-sensei during the recent years as well. Besides..........Somehow it's looks like that Honjou-sensei also hates me.’’
’’Eh? What do you mean?’’
As Shidou asked, Takajou shook her head as she continued.
’’No...........About 8 or 9 years ago, we had met during a publisher's party and became friends..........But one day, she strangely became cold towards me and started keeping her distance........I thought, we had a good friendship as fellow manga artists, but..........It looks like my carelessness did something rude to her without my realization.’’
Upon hearing that explanation, Shidou knitted his eyebrow. Next to him, Kotori also created the same expression as if realizing something.
Perhaps what's come up in Kotori's mind was also ------the angel <Rasiel>'s existence.
Feeling that Shidou and Kotori's reactions were strange, Takajou inclined her head.
’’N-No, nothing wrong.’’
’’Fumu........Is that so? -----Anyhow, that's it. Although I can tell you what I know, I'm not sure if that will be useful or not.’’
’’Yes, please do.’’
Shidou said that while nodding, Takajou returned the reply back by shaking her head as well. Then, she continued.
Approximately 40 minutes later,
Shidou and Kotori thanked Takajou and left the café. They went back to the same car that brought them here previously. As the car moved, they stared outside to look at the outside window's scenery.
From their conversation with Takajou, Nia has a good personality which makes her always friendly and talkative towards anyone.
However, Nia doesn't like to talk about herself before she became a manga artist. Especially, when questioned about her past relationships with her friends. She always tries to smooth talk her way out of those conversations.
And even when someone like Takajou appeared, who seemed easy to get along well, she kept her distant with her in turn.
’’.............What do you think Kotori?’’
In response to Shidou, Kotori moved her lips.
’’There's no doubt that it has something to do with <Rasiel>'s existence...........If you think about it carefully, it's not strange. If you have an angel that could know everything in this world, everyone would want investigates the people around them, right?’’
’’Yes. Perhaps, that was the reason why Nia distrusted humans. ----But that's it. There's no human who could behave like a saint every day and night. Everyone will eventually at least talk bad behind someone's back. With <Rasiel>, it's only natural to feel disgusted towards human beings.’’
Kotori scratched her head.
’’............The root of the problem is surprisingly deep. When I heard that she can only love 2D characters, I thought it was only some kind of joke, but.........In short, she won't open her heart so nobody will be able to betray her, right? Isn't this..........really sad?’’
Upon hearing Kotori's words, Shidou kept silent for a while.
Perhaps what Kotori said is true. Perhaps it was because of this reason. The reason why she never talked about her past relationship with her friends....the reason why she absorbed herself into a 2D world.
However, there's only one thing that felt odd. About Nia, who suddenly acted coldly and kept her distant with Takajou...........Those thoughts remained stuck inside Shidou's mind.
Shidou replied her, as Kotori looked at him with a displeased face.
’’I understand that you are sleepy because you worked overnight, but this is important matter. You can't be spaced-out.’’
Shidou responded back with a short reply. Upon seeing Nia's rough life, he gripped his fist.
’’Anyhow, for now, let's complete the doujin. No matter what we do, we should make a place where we can talk to Nia once again and negotiate with her.’’
When Shidou said that, Kotori made a surprised expression as she nodded back to him.
The work had reached its climax on December 31st at 1:00 a.m.
Inside the work room on the first floor of Spirit's mansion, Shidou and the others were still busy using pens to ink the empty space of the manuscript.
Inside the silence, Shidou moved his body towards the desk as if he was sticking to it. Then, he inked the rough character drawn by Natsumi very carefully.
He was wearing gloves with fingertip attachments in order to not get cut off and taint the manuscript. He also stuck a cooling sheet on his forehead to prevent him from falling asleep.
Empty coffee cans and nutritional drink bottles lined up on the edge of the table.
’’................1:00 a.m..........Although we should send the data for the finishing touches.........We are almost at our time limit........You know?’’
’’Ans.........wer. Over here, only a little bit more.........’’
It's been a day since they started working. Shidou never left his seat except for food, bathroom breaks, and a momentary nap. He continued working on the drawing. It has exhausted his mind more than he expected. When he goes to the bathroom just now, looking at his face reflected on the mirror, his eyes are surrounded by splendid black circle around them, just like Reine's.
However, Shidou is not the only one who has fallen into that state. On Shidou's left side, both Kaguya and Yuzuru are in the same boat as Shidou. Their head seemed to feel dizzy as well. The only one who was still calm is Origami, but sometimes she also stopped moving every few hours as if she's run out of battery.
However, Natsumi was the one who was, without a doubt, in the most dangerous state right.
Natsumi sat on the desk in the back side of the room. She didn't take a nap even once. Her eyes looked really red, and her fingertips were trembling. However, no matter how much Shidou and the others asked her to rest, Natsumi never once stopped drawing. With that tenacity, the girl has been granted with a pro's greatness.
Looking at that girl's figure, Shidou cannot let out any complaints at all. Shidou collected all of his last willpower and placed them into his fingertips. Slowly, he started working on the last part.
’’Alright..........This is........The end, the finish............’’
Shidou said that with a shivering voice;then, he collapsed onto the desk. ----Of course, after he putting aside the manuscript.
At almost the same time, the Yamai sisters and Origami also finished their work. Similar to Shidou, both Kaguya and Yuzuru also collapsed onto their desks. However, Origami stretched her body and then stopped moving for a while.
Then, while waiting for the ink to dry, they erased the pencil traces and gave the manuscript to the assistant team.
’’Well, it'll be alright to entrust everything else to <Ratatoskr>then.’’
Not so long after that, the door of the work room opened. Kotori and the others from the other team came inside with a big cardboard box.
As Shidou replied back to Kotori and the others, he struggled to raise his tired eyes.
Anyhow, Kotori, Tohka, Yoshino, and Miku appear to have the same sleepy face as Shidou and the rest.
’’You all........That face, what happened?’’
When Shidou asked, the girls looked at each other before turning back to Shidou.
’’That's a secret, Shido.’’
’’Please.........Look forward to it.’’
’’Ufufu.........Actually, lack of sleep is beauty's most powerful enemy, but we cannot just let darling and the others do all the work~.’’
After saying that, Tohka, Yoshino and Miku laughed despite having a worn out face. Shidou inclined his head in wonder.
’’More importantly, how was your work?’’
’’Aah.........I just finish them just now. After we are done with the erasing part and scanning them, we'll send them to the assistant team. I think Kaguya, Yuzuru, and Origami have also already finished.’’
’’Is that so? Thank you, Well then----’’
After saying those words, Kotori looked around at the room's scenery.
Right. There's a girl who was still continuing to work inside the room, ----Natsumi.
Shidou piled up the papers for a few seconds and slowly got up from the chair. He walked towards Natsumi along with Kotori and the others.
Upon seeing that, both the Yamai sisters and Origami followed them as they walked towards Natsumi.
’’Natsumi...........Are you alright?’’
When Shidou talked to her, Natsumi shrugged her shoulders. The color of fatigue can be seen clearly on her face. Under her red eyes, there were dark circles around them. Looking like that, Natsumi had already reached her limits.
’’Since we already finished our work, we will take over for you. You're exhausted, right? Please go get some rest.’’
’’...............Uun, that's fine. It's only a little bit more............’’
Natsumi shook her head in response to Shidou's words and continued working. She rubbed her eyes because they seemed to be growing dizzier. She accidently covered her face with the ink stuck on her hands. Somehow, her face looked like someone who defeated at a Japanese badminton match.
’’Wait a minute..........Natsumi, didn't you not take any breaks since yesterday? Moreover, you even do the double the amount of work on both the Name and the draft........’’
’’That's right. Our game will be at the sales event. Leave the rest to us, the dark dimension of sleep is already calling out to you.’’
’’Agreement. You are overworking yourself, Natsumi.’’
’’Resting is also important work.’’
However, even though Yamai sisters and Origami were trying to talk to her together, Natsumi didn't stop her work at all.
Staring at the blank space of the manuscript, Natsumi inked them with the pen wholeheartedly.
’’..................I said.........It's fine.’’
While Shidou said that, Natsumi keeps drawing a beautiful line with trembling fingers.
’’...........Perhaps, I will be the only one who is useless during the event. This is the only thing I can do...........Is only this far............That's why, let me do this. For me to become someone this necessary is something unthinkable. Because I want to be helpful too for everyone............’’
’’............I was saved by Shidou and everyone, I was truly happy.........Because of that, this time, I wanted to save another Spirit by combining our power together. I'm, really........really......happy. That's why, there's no pain at all. It's really-really fun that I can't help it. I want to tell her soon...........So that stubborn Nia will understand about it too.’’
Natsumi smiled a little, before she slowly lifted up her hand that was gripping the pen.
’’--------That friendship is a beautiful........thing.’’
And then, Natsumi collapsed and fell off from her chair just as she finished her drawing. Thankfully, Shidou was able to catch her body with one arm.
’’Hey, Natsumi, are you alright?’’
Shidou asked with a worried tone. Natsumi replied with a soft breathing that indicated that she fell asleep.
’’...........You've work hard Natsumi.’’
After saying that, Shidou smiled at her and gently patted her head.
And then, Miku, who stood up behind him, raised her voice with a tears flowing down from her eyes.
’’Uu...........I'm being deeply moveed! To show my concern, darling, let me bring Natsumi-san to her room and lay her down on the bed.............’’
’’Shidou, bring Natsumi to her room. Don't forget to lock the door, alright?’’
As if interrupting Miku's words, Kotori said that. Miku went, ’’Aan, Kotori-san is such a meanie!’’ and twisted her body.
Kotori ignored Miku and took the finished manuscript from Natsumi's table. She stares at it before nodding a little.
After that, she showed it to everyone present.
’’This is the result of Natsumi's soul. With this, our weapon is already completed. -----Everyone, this match, we'll absolutely gain victory!’’
Upon hearing Kotori's words,
Shidou and the others tossed their fist into the air as their answer.
Finally, morning has arrived. It's already 7:30 a.m. The door to the battlefield has opened.
The circle of participants have already line up at a large convention center------Tengu Square, where Comico Colosseum's assembly was being held. As they enter the hall, they heard the sound of footsteps, as well as rolling carts from the inside the room.
Comico Colosseum was held twice a year, once during the summer and once during the winter. They displayed and sold a large number of doujin. It was scheduled to be held for only three days. This was a large event where all fans of manga and anime from the whole country gathered. Just like every other year, within those three days, it can be said that more than 50 people come as vendors.
That is the biggest event ever being held. Of course there are general participants too;however, the numbers of circle participants who display their doujin have fairly increased in terms of number. Not so long after the hall opened, the rumble of people marching vibrated inside the building.
It's been one hour since the opening. The group of circle participants was usually placed in the same spot. Shidou and the others, the circle <Ratatoskr>, finally built their booth in front of the gate after the pedestrian traffic became fewer.
’’Alright, let's go, everyone!’’
’’Umu, preparation is completed!’’
’’L-Let's do our best...........!’’
The Spirits nodded at Shidou's words.
Even though it can be said that everyone's physical condition isn't perfect yet, they have recover enough of their physical strength because they passed out asleep after finishing the manuscript.
When Shidou woke up, he found Origami clinging next to him. While Miku had seized both Yoshino and Kotori in her left and right arms. As a result, she slept with a happy-looking face. Yoshino and Kotori groaned as if they were having a nightmare. They suspected Origami and Miku for plotting together for this, but the two denied that and said that it was only their sleeping posture. However, <Ratatoskr>knew that they lied and looked at them with suspicion.
Anyhow, today is the time for the decisive battle. Shidou walked along with the Spirits to the wide lobby passage. Then, they went to the east hall to their booth's direction. Inside the hall, there was a large number of people from each circle participating. Everyone seems to be busy. As they were constructing their booth, they set up the tablecloth and lined up all the books on the tables.
’’Hee.........Although this is my first time coming here, this is amazing.’’
’’Consent. Everything here is so creative.’’
’’You're right~. This atmosphere somehow feels similar to a live TV show.’’
The Spirits looked at their surroundings out of interest, they went *Kya-Kya!* and chatted around.
Then, as she looked at a certain spot in the hall, Kotori shouted something to everyone.
’’-----She's already here, Nia.’’
After her words, everyone became nervous.
Shidou gulped down his saliva and looked at the circle's booth at the opposite direction.
Over there, was the person who Kotori just mentioned -----The figure of the Spirit, Nia.
Shidou made up his mind and walked forward.
And then, as if noticing Shidou and the others' presence, Nia tucked her face.
After saying that, she lifted up the bridge of her glasses and stood up from the chair.
’’What an unexpected meeting boy. I'd never guess that we would meet again in a place like this. Oh, I see that everyone's here too. Nice to meet you all, I guess?
Nia glanced towards the Spirits sitting in a row behind Shidou. Tohka, Origami, Kaguya, and Natsumi put on their guards. Yoshino and Yuzuru bowed a little, while Kotori folded her hands and glanced back to Nia as a finishing blow.
Only Miku placed her hand on her chin and her eyes seemed to sparkle, ’’I see, I see.......A girl with glasses and is slender but also considerably beautiful..........The type I've never seen up until now~.’’
For some reason, after she had said that, Natsumi took some distance from Miku.
’’.............Then? Why did you come? Well, it's your liberty to come to Comico, but........General participants will start coming in on 10:00 a.m., you know?’’
Nia shrugged her shoulders in response.
Kotori unfolded her hands while replying back to Nia.
’’Thank you for the advice. -------However, we're not general participants.’’
Then she slowly lifted up her right hand and pointed to the space next to Nia's. Nia followed Kotori's fingertips and created a puzzled face.
’’Fuun..............? Aah, I see.’’
Nia let out a small sigh, and then she took the hall's guide map placed on the desk.
’’I thought it was odd. According to the map, there's no booth here, but then I see it's here when I come. I thought that the management's side perhaps made a mistake, but............I see this is your doing.’’
As Shidou answered her, Nia made unpleasant expression towards Shidou and the others. However, facial expression showed that she thought that this unexpected situation was amusing.
’’.................Anyhow, you brought a lot of people.’’
’’Ara, aren't your people also quite many?’’
’’Aah, everyone is working part-time. Isn't an employment relationship good? They'll be working as much as the money you paid to them, so it's easy to understand.’’
Upon hearing Nia's words, Shidou and Kotori bite their lips a little. -------Form yesterday's conversation, Takajou's words were ringing inside their minds.
’’Then? It's alright if you participate, but what are you selling? You looked like you're empty-handed though.’’
Then, Kotori snapped her fingers.
As if responding to it, three men came out from worker's room. They rolled down a car that was fully loaded with cardboard boxes.
Looking at them carefully, they're <Fraxinus>crew members Nakatsugawa, Kawagoe and Migimoto.
’’-----We're delivering circle <Ratatoskr>'s items!’’
’’Thank you. Please pile them up in that booth.’’
After the answer, they piled up the cardboard boxes inside the circle's booth. There're ten boxes of them. That's right;it's the same number of boxes that Nia has piled up behind her booth.
’’500 volumes inside each 10 boxes.........It's the same number as yours, right, Nia?’’
’’.................Hee? You're well prepared, huh? Then, you'll sell them faster than me...........That is what you wanted to say, right? You sure thought well about it. Nevertheless, it can be said that you have a better sales perspective than me.’’
’’Thanks for the quick understanding.’’
At Nia's words, Kotori lifted up the tips of her lips.
Then, accordingly, all participants who constructed their booth around them began to whisper something.
Nia, Shidou, and the others all felt a dangerous atmosphere, but---------They're wrong. Somehow their eyes were focused towards Nakatsugawa, who was still working.
’’Hey, perhaps he...........’’
’’Aah, that man with glasses and gloves, no doubt. The representative of legendary circle <Mai Mai Kaburi>, MUNECHIKA..............!’’
’’No way! Five years ago, because of difference of opinion on [Should My Lispy Young Little Sister Call Me Onii-tan or Onii-tama?] the circle being split-up. That man who erased his existence from Comico.............!?’’
As gossip can be heard, Shidou and Kotori looked at Nakatsugawa with half-opened eyes.
’’.......................<Mai Mai Kaburi>?’’
Then, Nakatsugawa let out a sigh while giving a nihilistic smile.
’’Please stop it. That's a story in the past.’’
Shidou and Kotori exchanged their glances.............They had a feeling that if they asking more than this, it'll become a troublesome conversation. As they made eye contact, both mutually agreed to change the conversation topic.
’’More importantly Shidou.’’
Shidou walked to the back side of the circle's booth. He opened one cardboard box and took out all books inside it. Perhaps, it was because they had just been printed, but the books were still slightly warm.
Come to think of it, this was the first time he has ever seen a finished product. The illustration drawn by Natsumi was colored beautifully with a title logo printed on it. No matter how you looked at it, it doesn't looks like a book that had been created in only two days.
Shidou walked towards Nia's direction. He gazed at her, while she's stretching out her body to adjust the position of the book from her seat.
’’--------Hello, nice to meet you. I'm Itsuka Shidou from circle <Ratatoskr>.’’
Nia shrugged her shoulder at Shidou's words.
After hesitating for a few seconds, Nia took a copy of one of the books lined up in her own booth and gave it to Shidou.
’’Honjou Souji from circle <Honjou-Dou>. Nice to meet you too.’’
And then, the two of them bowed lightly as they exchange each other's book. Right. It was a custom to exchange books with the booth next to your own.
Nia made an unpleasant face.
’’.............Since I don't think I'll lose in this place, I'll accept this for now, but whether I'll read this or not is dependent on today's result.’’
’’Sure. I don't mind. Let's make today a good day for the both of us.’’
Shidou stretched out his hand to Nia. She let out a sigh and as she reached out her own hand. They shook hands for a while before separating.
’’Even though your plan looks interesting, I don't think you have any chance to win. At the very least, I'm a pro, and even with these 5000 copies, I'm already being modest about the number since this is my first event in a while. It's not easy for a new circle like you to win with a rushed work made by amateur.’’
’’Well...........I wonder about that.’’
Kotori smiled fearlessly, then---------She looked towards the Spirits behind her.
’’--------Everyone, please prepare yourselves.’’
In response to her, Tohka, Yoshino and Miku replied with a simultaneous ’’Ooh~!’’.
On the other hand, the Yamai-sisters, Origami and Natsumi, the 4 people from the drawing group did not understand what Kotori was talking about. They inclined their head in wonder as they sat in their chairs.
’’Preparation..........? What is this all about?’’
’’Question. Yuzuru and the others didn't hear anything about it.’’
’’................Somehow I have a bad feeling about this.’’
’’It's alright, it's alright. More importantly, everyone should come over here. -------Shidou, since we'll be right back, can you prepare the booth with Kawagoe and the others until then?’’
Kotori said that while pushing Natsumi's back. Shidou nodded at her even though he's still has that question in mind.
’’Alright..............Then, let's start the construction over here as well.’’
Shidou said that while seeing Kotori and the others off. The crew nodded towards him as they brought another big cardboard box from outside.
From the box, they took out some decoration goods for the booth: the poster of the books' front cover and tablecloth.
’’Uwah, it's amazing. You even created these things too?’’
’’Fufufu, well obviously. Anyhow, we're a nameless circle. At the very least, we have to stand out. It's a good thing that this place is a popular wall booth. In that case, let's create an effective wall with our hands.’’
Nakatsugawa's glasses shined brightly. Shidou made a dry smile while sweating.
Next, Shidou helped the others to stand up the poster which has the book's front cover on it............Although it's feel extremely embarrassing to have a poster that was painted with character whose appearance was similar to him, but now isn't the time for that. He swung his head and continued the construction.
As such works continued for a little while, Shidou noticed that some people began to gather around the wall booth. Soon those people began to line up in front of the circle booths. Especially Nia's circle, they had quite a number of people lining up in front of their booth.
’’Eh..........? The opening hasn't started yet? Those people are.........’’
As Shidou asked, Nakatsugawa, who was still lining up the books, answered to him.
’’Aah, they are the same as us, they're also circle participants. As long as they hold the circle's ticket, they can get into the hall before the general participants and they can line up in front of their favorite circle earlier than usual.’’
’’Eh? Is it alright?’’
’’Uhm..........It's difficult for me to say.’’
Nakatsugawa gave a vague reply while folding his hands. From his expression, its looks like he's saying ’’Though it's not good for me to say this, but I also did the same thing in the past............’’
’’Eh...........But, then that means ’’
’’Right. Finally you understand.’’
Nia, who stood up in the next booth, answered Shidou.
’’The success factor of the doujin depends on your reputation beforehand. Of course, I'm also blank too, since right now I'm an urgent participant. I didn't get printed on the catalogue, but I post a notification on my blog a while ago. There are so many participants who want to be the first one to get my book, you know?’’
After saying that, she threw a glance towards Shidou from above her glasses frame.
’’I feel sorry about it, but even if you have the same number of copies, the winner of who can sell faster has already been decided since the beginning.’’
’’Wha!? No way...........’’
’’-----------I'm not sure about that.’’
At that moment, interrupting Shidou's words, Kotori raised up her voice.
Looking at the direction of the voice, Shidou broaden his eyes in surprised.
However, that was only natural. That's because over there, the Spirits appeared with a cute bunny-girl costume wrapping their bodies.
’’Y-You all, that appearance...........’’
’’Umu! It seems we've become the salesgirls!’’
’’Yesterday............Everyone, made these.........! Although this feels a little bit embarrassing..........But I'll do my best............!’’
Both Tohka and Yoshino answered Shidou's question. Indeed, Tohka and the others who weren't part of drawing team had another job to do, and this is what they meant.
At the sudden appearance of a group beautiful girls cosplaying, all the participants surrounding them got excited.
’’What's with that circle........? Aren't those girls extremely cute?’’
’’Eh? They weren't in catalogue, right?’’
’’By the way, between those two, isn't that Izayoi Miku?’’
Moreover, when someone recognized that the idol Izayoi Miku was here, they suddenly got noisy. From here and there, the sound of *Kya~ Kya~!* and the voice of a cellphone's shutter resounded.
Although naturally that action isn't a good thing to do, Miku doesn't mind that, instead she created a pose for a girl who was holding a camera.
Looking at that, Nia placed her hand on her head in wonder.
’’Ufufu~, so you finally realize~’’
Miku puffed her chest in a prideful manner. However, Nia raised her eyebrow in a questioning manner.
’’................Sorry, I don't know you at all. Are you famous?’’
At Nia's words, Miku staggered out of shock.
’’C-Calm down, Miku. Nia has been captured by DEM until recently, so she of course she doesn't know about you as an artist.’’
’’Y-You're right~.............Thank you very much, darling.’’
’’Straighten up. It will begin soon.’’
Miku gave a little laugh and fixed her posture, Kotori patted her back very lightly, as if she was boosting her fighting spirit.
Meanwhile, the hands of time indicated that it was 10:00 a.m., the announcement rang throughout the inside of the hall.
’’-----------Starting from now, Comico Colosseum has opened.’’
At the same time, the sound of applause resounded heavily just like the sound of thunder.
Shidou and the spirits raised their eyes in shock upon seeing the intense applause. They turn their attention towards their neighbor.
However, this was only the beginning. Before the sound of applause was about to stop, from the distance....’’Gogogogogogogo...............a rumbling sound shook the ground a little.
’’T-This sound is..............’’
Shidou let out a trembling voice, ------------But then, he realized it right away.
That sound is coming from the large number of general participants, whose footsteps were running inside.
’’...............Amazing, what's that?’’
From the way they were coming in, the people rushed inside like a tidal wave. That scenery was just like soldiers who charged into the enemy's camp after the castle's gates were opened. The Spirits were dumbfounded for a while as they looked to each other in amazement.
However, they cannot just go and be astonished like that. When the general participants came in, all the circle participants lined up behind of Nia's booth began to sell her books one by one.
’’One copy of new book, please.’’
’’Yes, it's 500 Yen.’’
’’Over here, two copies please!’’
’’It's 1000 Yen.’’
With an experienced manner, Nia and her staffs serviced each guest. Nia looked at Shidou and twisted her lips as if saying, ’’Just try to see if you can win.’’
’’Ku---------We too, let's begin!’’
’’That's right. Well then everyone, let's do as we planned!’’
Following Kotori's instructions, the Spirits made a row around the booth. As if attracted to their appearances, all the participants who were going to buy other books stopped their feet in front of Shidou's booth.
Tohka called out to a boy who was looking at the front cover while passing by. The boy shrugged his shoulders as if surprised by that.
’’One copy is 500 Yen! How about it?’’
’’..........................Ah.... then one copy please.’’
Although the boy seems to be hesitating whether to buy the book or not, but he cannot beat Tohka's shining smile in front of him. After making an awkward smile, the boy stretched out the 1000 Yen bill.
’’Ooh, thank you! The change is 500 Yen!’’
After Tohka gives him the book, she waved her hand with smile on her face. The boy seemed to be embarrassed, but he looks somewhat happy as he waved his hand back a little before going.
Shidou made a dry smile upon looking at that scene.
’’Haha..........This is good too.........I guess?’’
After Shidou said that, Nakatsugawa, who was still arranging the booth, smiled.
’’Of course. Anyhow, this is sales battle. No matter what kind of good thing you draw, it's necessary to sell as many as possible. Expansion ability and propaganda ability are important factors. Honjou-sensei must understand that point as well. -------Rather, if we don't do this, I think it's impossible for a nameless circle like us to sell 5000 copies of books.’’
Sweat ran down Shidou's cheeks as he nodded. That's right, although this is field for doujin;a marketplace is still a marketplace.
A crowd started forming around circle <Ratatoskr>because of the beautiful salesgirls. The smiling faces of the Spirits have knocked-out the participants. They began to rise in their sales amount smoothly by using this foul play-method.
Though, <Honjou-dou>next to them had already sold several more books than <Ratatoskr>did even without using that technique. As more time has passed, line in front of Nia's circle grew in size.
’’Ukh..............If this continues...........!’’
The overwhelming pace was way too different. Shidou made a sullen face upon seeing Nia selling her books one by one.
And then, Kotori, who was also wearing a bunny girl cosplay, held the stick of chupa-chups and raised them upward.
’’What's with that face, Shidou? -------The match is just beginning here.’’
Shidou inclined his head upon hearing Kotori's words.
And then--------Shidou raised his eyes in surprise right away. Slowly people begun gathering in front of circle <Ratatoskr>. Furthermore, they aren't just passing by like earlier. These people were lining up to buy <Ratatoskr>books.
Shidou raised his voice in surprise, while Kotori folded her arms in proud manner.
’’Fufufu, I said it, didn't I? Kaguya, Yuzuru! Go to arrange the line at the edge of the panel!’’
’’Consent. Please leave it to us.’’
Following Kotori's instructions, the Yamai sisters rushed to the front of the circle to arrange the line.
Shidou shrugged his shoulders in response.
Inside that line, there existed so many familiar faces here and there. --------Right. They're members of the organization <Ratatoskr>.
’’.............This is, isn't this called ’’shills’’?’’
Shidou asked Kotori with a voice which seemingly cannot be heard by Nia. After that, Kotori snorted and looked at him with half eyes opened.
’’How rude. They're [friends] who are coming to our circle. Buying a doujin books created by an acquaintance is a general thing to do. I also asked everyone else to contact their friends as well.’’
’’W-Well, even if that's true, though............’’
Then, Shidou inclined his head. There's a certain spot which makes him worried regarding Kotori's words.
’’.......................Everyone else too?’’
Shidou mumbled as he got a bad feeling. A few moments later, a familiar voice can be heard.
’’Yahoo~! Tohka-chan~, we've arrived~’’
’’What's with this amazing number of people~’’
’’Reminding me of Congo's swampy land's battle~’’
After saying those words, three girls came to the front of the booth after lining up.
Looking at those figures, Shidou chocked. Anyhow, over there are Shidou's classmates;those girls are Ai, Mai, and Mii.
’’Ooh, so you three came!’’
Tohka raised up her voice in a cheerful manner. And then the three of them went *Fufu* and loosened their lips.
’’Of course. There's no way we can refuse Tohka-chan's request.’’
’’Right, right. Comico also seems to be quiet interesting too.’’
’’...........Well, ah! Captain------The dangerous man has been discovered!’’
Upon looking at Shidou's face, the three of them went into battle mode. Shidou let out a sigh as if giving up, and then answered them.
’’................Well, you three. It's been a while............’’
’’Everyone, be careful!’’
’’He's going to try to seduce girls!’’
’’He'll make you pregnant if you're careless!’’
Shidou got nervous at the riot.............As expected, he should have explained the event when he lost control of his powers during the beginning of the month. He thought about solving the misunderstanding afterwards, but he never though that they'll meet in this place.
However, it was currently the time for the sales match. As if thinking in the same way, Kotori approached the three of them in a very business-like manner.
’’One copy is 500 Yen. Would you like to buy three copies?’’
’’Eh? Ah, yes. Please.’’
’’Uwah, doesn't the front cover looks amazing? Who draw this?’’
’’Anyway this character, don't you think it resembles Itsuka-kun?’’
After saying this, the three of them bought the books and then waved their hands good-bye to Tohka. Even though those three like to create a riot, they seemed to still have some common sense at least. They decided not to create trouble by bothering the other people who were lined up behind them.
Shidou sighed in relief and went back to selling.
A few moments later, a new group of three girls, with seemingly different ages, came up to the booth.
The first was a tall woman who seems to be in her twenties, the other one is a short girl and the last one looks like a half-Japanese girl with blonde hair.
The three people walked to the booth and called out for Origami when they saw her.
’’Ah, it's her. What is it? Calling us out all of sudden.’’
Origami responded back to the tall woman. Then Shidou went ’’Ah’’ and clapped his hands. Come to think of it, that woman is from the Anti-Spirit's Team that Origami was in---------the captain of AST. Her name is Kusakabe Ryouko. Somehow just like Tohka, Origami also contacted her acquaintances. And the other two girls are seemingly members of AST as well.
’’Origami-san! It's been a while!’’
’’Ah~, did you cut your hair? You sure are decisive~’’
Origami called out their name lightly. And then the girl who was called Mikie went *Uu* and acted like she was wiping her tears.
’’Uu..........Since Origami-san retired so suddenly, my loneliness continues every day. Please come back..............’’
’’That's right~. Why did you retire so sudden~?’’
’’It can't be helped. I have my reasons;I won't be coming back to AST.’’
’’Is that so.........How disappointing----Ouch!’’
Then, Ryouko hit Mikie's head lightly.
’’..................Geez, you all, why did you have to talk about AST in this kind of place?’’
’’Ah.............! I-I'm sorry, my mistake...........’’
’’It's alright. In a place like this, such words will be buried away.’’
Origami said that with a light tone. In turn, Mikie stared at Origami with a wondering expression.
’’.............By the way Origami-san, your atmosphere has changed a little bit..........?’’
And then Origami entangled her arm with Shidou's arm.
’’Because of him.’’
’’Kyaa~! Eh, so that's the reason~?’’
Upon hearing Origami's answer, Mikie had a shocked expression while Mildred's cheeks started blushing. However, Ryouko hit Mikie and Mildred's heads with both of her hands to stop them.
’’Hey, don't be so noisy. -------Since we've already come all the way here, we'll buy some. Anyway, can I have three copies?’’
Origami took the money lightly and handed over the books. After that, Ryouko began noticing Tohka and the other Spirits with a dubious face.
’’..............Hey, Origami. Those girls, I think I've seen them before.........’’
’’You think so? But.........’’
’’Thank you very much.’’
Origami declined with a clear tone, Ryouko let out a sigh as if to show that she was giving up. Then, she takes Mike and Mildred to leave with her. While leaving, Mike went ’’I-I won't lose!’’ and pointing towards Shidou. Meanwhile, Shidou didn't know how to respond back to her.
However-------There's still something that he doesn't understand. Upon looking at the number of people who lining up in front of circle <Ratatoskr>, it's obviously not only because they using 'Shills'.
As if guessing what Shidou is thinking, Nakatsugawa, who was arranging the cardboard box, raised up his voice.
’’That's not a strange thing. It's true that our booth wasn't printed on the catalogue. However, in the other side, we are [Mysterious Circle] who suddenly appeared. Upon knowing our existence, wouldn't lots of people be interested?’’
’’T-That's true but isn't the most important thing here to make our existence known?’’
When Shidou said that, Nakatsugawa lifted up his glasses.
’’Did you forget, Shidou-kun? Our place is next to the most popular circle <Honjou-dou>.’’
Shidou raised his eyes. Probably that's the case. It's not strange that people who were coming to buy Nia's books would get interested by the mysterious booth next to Nia's circle.
’’-------Is it here? The circle that wasn't printed on the catalogue?’’
’’But, why did they suddenly become a wall booth?’’
’’Aah........Anyway isn't the appraiser, MUNECHIKA with them?’’
’’Really!? Any circle who he has his eyes on them will have their popularities rise rapidly. Any author who he recommends will also definitely get a huge successful in commerce and will be admired, that one!?’’
’’What did you said!? The champion of Moe Anime, the champion who won 7 times MUNECHIKA!?’’
’’The leader of the large group Super Galaxy, MUNECHIKA has come back!?’’
Those kinds of conversations resounded throughout the hall.
Shidou started at Nakatsugawa silently;his face appears to look a little bit troubled.
’’Right now I'm only a humble ordinary staff member.’’
He got a feeling that he shouldn't continue asking any further.
Anyhow, the match seemed to have finally begun. The long line in Shidou's booth seemingly attracted more people to come. After they had bought the books they were intending to buy, these general participants started to line up in front of both Shidou and Nia's booths from every direction.
Upon looking at the scene, Kotori, who had just received the supply books from Kawagoe, gave a loud shout.
’’Alright..............Let's keep going. There are three people in Nia's circle. Her plan is for two people to arrange the line, and the last one to manage the stock. As for us, we have 12 people in our booth including Kawagoe and the others. Based on our staff, we are far ahead in terms of the number of books we can sell at once!’’
Upon hearing Kotori's words, the Spirits began hailing to each other while they continued selling books. The number of cardboard boxes piled up in the back began to decrease one by one.
And then, circle <Ratatoskr>started catching up to the huge difference between them and <Honjou-dou>right away. The number of their leftover stock was almost the same as Nia's.
Kotori folded her arms and took a glance towards the next circle.
’’Fufun, how's that, Nia? We're catching you up. Since the number of our cashier is more than yours, we have advantage in terms of speed. Or perhaps you consider this as foul-play?’’
After saying that, Kotori distorted her lips in provocative manner. Her companion, the Spirits, also seemed to not really be interested in saying anything..........Anyhow, Nia's opinion in the beginning of the match about the possibility of their books ending up as wasted paper seemed to have backfire on herself.
However Nia, upon being provoked by Kotori, only replied back with a nonchalant tone.
’’Ng-----? No, I didn't say that. Even something which is well-drawn will also be useless if they don't get sold very well..............Well, it's true that I didn't think that you all would be able to go this far.’’
Nia clapped her hands.
’’But.........Don't you think it's still too early to feel so confident like that?’’
’’...............What did you say?’’
Upon hearing Nia's words, Kotori raised her eyebrow.
After ten minutes later, something began to change.
The line in front of <Ratatoskr>'s circle was gradually shrinking in size. Meanwhile, <Honjou-dou>'s line in the opposite direction was still continuing strong.
’’T-This is.............What happened?’’
’’Even if you asked me, weren't you just about to turn our current status just now?’’
Nia raised up her voice to reply to Kotori's dismay.
’’Cute salesgirls and a large quantity of shilling, and then various kinds of merchandise used to target your gender demographic. That's true that this method would probably be effective in attracting people, but in the very end it will end up in vain. It seems like selling those 5000 copies was impossible after all. --------Even though I just said that a good book that is well drawn will be useless if it's not getting sold;in the end, what's participants want is [An amusing book]. Although I'm a blank right now, up until now I've been coming here for several years. Unlike you newcomers who don't know what to draw, you're not thinking that those differences will be buried away in only a day?’’
Kotori replied in dismay.
However, what Nia said was true. Up until now, Shidou and the others had only relied on their secret weapon and somehow managed to catch up with <Honjou-dou>.
Meanwhile, all participants who was lining up in front of circle <Ratatoskr>have finished buying their books. There was no one coming anymore. But there were still 4 cardboard boxes remaining. In a simple calculation, there were more than 200 volumes left.
’’S-Shido...............People stopped coming.’’
’’..................W-What should we do?’’
The salesgirls Tohka and Natsumi raised up their voices in a worried tone. Shidou was desperately trying to think of something.
’’Something...........Is there nothing we can do............!? If this continues...............!’’
However, he could not think up any other effective method.
Meanwhile, the line in <Honjou-dou>continued to attract more people to buy their books without any interruption. Soon, one more of their remaining 4 boxes had become empty.
’’Kuh.............What should we do.......!?’’
In this case, Nia will finish selling the books faster. In other word-----Shidou and the others will lose the chance to seal Nia.
However, no matter how urgent it is, it wasn't a good idea to keep his thoughts floating inside his mind. He can only look at the participants passing by while placing his hands on the table.
However, a moment later.
Someone gently takes Shidou's hand, which was sinking in despair.
Then, Shidou looked at the owner of that hand, ------Miku, she was smiling.
’’Ufufu, giving up like this isn't very like darling, you know~? The match still hasn't finish yet. Rather, it's just beginning.’’
Upon hearing Miku's words, a big question popped up in Shidou's mind. -------From the way she's was speaking and her facial expressions, she was not trying to cheer Shidou's up out of nothing.
Miku nodded a little and looked at Nia.
’’Well then Nia-san, this is the match.’’
After saying that, Miku pointed her fingered to Nia.
Upon looking at that action, Nia made a puzzled face.
’’...............? Though I don't know what you're going to do, but won't it be hard to catch up with this large difference from now on?’’
’’Ufufu, I wonder about that~. ------Hey Nia-san. You seemed to be captured by DEM for a long time, but do you know about SNS~?’’
’’Aah, it's Social Networking Service, right? Of course, I know. I'm not the owner of an omniscient angel for nothing.’’
’’................But you didn't know about me, right~? Aren't you not interested at all to investigate about me~? Is that so~?’’
’’..................No, I'm sorry.’’
Miku sounded like she was going to complain to Nia, but she swung her head to clear up her thoughts.
’’Anyway! The SNS right now is a service used by more than half of the whole nation. -------Moreover, looking at the age-group of the people in this hall, don't you think there are more people included in that percentage~?’’
’’...............! Miku, don't tell me--------’’
Kotori raised her voice as if realizing something. Quickly, she took out a smart phone from her pocket and begins operating on the screen for some reason.
A few seconds afterwards, Kotori chocked.
’’H-Hey, Kotori. What happened?’’
Kotori showed the screen of the smart phone towards Shidou to answer him. Tohka, Yoshino and Origami, who were near him, also looked at the screen together.
What's shown is the page of SNS, but........There's Miku's icon was on it and there's a comment written down along it.
’’Izayoi Miku: I'm helping out my friend's circle in Comico, please come~! It's on the East A-20.5 at Circle <Ratatoskr>, I will hand over the books with my hands and --------Photographs are Ok too~!’’
Shidou raised his eyes in surprised, Miku went *Nii* smiling, then *Ton!* she poked Shidou's chest using her index finger.
’’Looking at darling and everyone working so hard, I can't just stand still without doing my best too. Because I'm also the same as Natsumi-san, I also want to be helpful for everyone.’’
At the moment Miku lowered down her glance and then *Bang!* she turned her face towards Nia.
’’That's true that we're no match with you if we use a straight method. That's why we will create another shortcut to defeat you once and for all!’’
Pointing her finger in provocative manner, she continued.
’’Then, let me show you Nia-san. The power of woman you didn't know about. And be sure to carve this inside your mind. My name------Izayoi Miku!’’
And then Miku extended her hands as if she was performing an opera.
Who would have guessed that along with that action----------At the moment, from the entrance hall, there were a large number of footsteps that started to resound;it was just like the time when the opening had started.
Miku lifted up her hand and snapped her fingers.
And then, a massive group people came into the hall and simultaneously rushed to the front of circle <Ratatoskr>.
’’Wah! Isn't that the real Miku-tan!?’’
’’Seriously, the original one!? Why in such a place..............!’’
’’Ah, I heard that you'll handover the books with your own hands, is that true...............?’’
A boy asked her nervously. Miku chocked for a moment upon seeing the figure of a man, but then she started smiling right away.
’’Yes, that's true~. Everyone, thank you very much for your support!’’
Upon hearing Miku's words, all participants raised up their voices altogether in a shouting manner until their roar could be heard by everyone inside the hall. Then, they all started lining up in front of circle <Ratatoskr>.
’’...................! Kaguya, Yuzuru! Please arrange the line! Kawagoe and the others help to supply the books and lead the participants who are going to pay!’’
Kotori, who was taken aback for a second, returned to her commander mode and began ordering everyone again.
’’Shidou, Tohka, Yoshino, Origami and me will continue being the cashier! Natsumi continue selling and hug Miku in order to prevent her physical condition from getting worn out!’’
’’Isn't my role somewhat strange!?’’
Although there's one complaint being raised up, all Spirits went back to their respective work.
Upon looking at it, Nia knitted her eyebrow a little.
’’Fuun...........So she can really do that. That girl really is a celebrity after all.’’
’’................Aah. Isn't she's amazing? She's our prideful idol.’’
’’Don't tell me, you're not going to say that this is unfair?’’
Shidou and Kotori looked at Nia while saying that, Nia shrugged her shoulders and nodded.
’’Of course. But, can you catch up from now on?’’
Nia sharpened her glance and lifted the tip of her lips. Shidou nodded to reassure her.
’’............Obviously! We'll overtake you for sure! It's also for the sake of everyone who has already supported me! And for Nia too! It's also for you sake...............’’
And then Nia laughed while selling her books and replied back to him.
’’Well thanks for that! But even if you say that, I won't give you any discount~!’’
’’No problem! Because we'll win for sure!’’
’’Ahahaha! That's right, obviously! If you really can win, then------’’
Nia who was laughing earlier suddenly stopped her sentence.
For a moment, a big question floated inside Shidou's mind------Then he realized the reason right away.
In Nia's circle booth. Over there, a woman who was wearing thick glasses had come.
Nia gave out a dumbfounded voice.
Right. She's the manga artist who Shidou and Kotori had a conversation with yesterday, Hiroki Takajou.
’’Ahaha, it's been a while Honjou-sensei. I heard that you'll be participating in the circle exhibition after a long time, so I came.’’
’’Ah, that's...........Uhm, thank you........’’
Just now, Nia's facial expression suddenly took a different appearance from earlier.
’’I'm sorry for suddenly coming. Please forgive me if I bothered you. But .........Can I ask you something?’’
Takajou looked to Nia through the lens of her glasses. Nia awkwardly averted her gaze away.
’’............Did I do something rude to you without my realization? If that's the case, then please forgive me.’’
After saying that, Takajou bended her body and bowed to Nia. After that, Nia seemed to be confused and averted her gaze away.
’’S-Such thing.........There's no such thing!’’
Nia gave out a high-pitch voice with a trembling tone.
It was quite different from Nia's usual nonchalant tone.
’’Is that so?’’
Takajou widened her eyes. However, Nia replied her with a difficult face.
The silence continued for a while. Takajou judged that it wasn't good to stop in front of Nia's booth any longer. She let out a sigh and bought one copy of the book and bowed to Nia once again.
’’Even if you hate me................I... I will still enjoy Honjou-sensei's books.’’
Nia seemed to about to say something to her, but in the very end she couldn't continue her words for some reasons. Nia could only bow back to her.
Upon looking at that scene, Shidou remembered that something feels off about the conversation he had with Takajou yesterday, but now he was sure about the reason.
’’................! Aah, boy. It seems like I showed you something embarrassing. But the match is---’’
’’You............About that person, you like her, don't you?’’
’’Huh!?’’Upon hearing Shidou's words, Nia widened her eyes in surprised.
’’W-What are you saying, boy? I don't have that kind of hobby-’’
’’No, that's not what I mean. That person........How should I put it, as a friend?’’
Right. Shidou remembered that it was the same sensation he felt yesterday.
Since Nia has the power of <Rasiel>, she became afraid of humans. That's why Nia claimed that she depends on 2D that will never betray her. The end result caused her to become a manga artist.
However, there's one thing that made her despair different from the other Spirit's despair.
As Nia tried to stay inside human society, she kept the basic ability of communication with her.
Probably, that's the reason why something that feels off.
Kotori guessed that Nia probably used <Rasiel>'s ability to investigate about Takajou and after founding out about her true character, Nia started keeping her distance from her.
However, Shidou felt differently though. If it was Nia, even if she knew the true character of her friends, she would still continue a dry relationship on the surface and just follow the flow---------And.
While thinking about that, one possibility floated inside Shidou's mind.
’’Nia, you............Perhaps, you're scared?’’
’’Huh? W-What the ’’
’’If you become close to her like that, then one day you'll become defeated by your own curiosity and use <Rasiel>---------But you didn't want to get disappointed by the friend you finally created, so you decided to take some distant, right?’’
Nia kept her silence for a moment upon hearing Shidou's words, she turn away and continued selling the books.
’’Haa, I don't understand at all what boy is saying! Ah, it's 500 Yen.’’
’’Then what's with that earlier! If it's you, generally you would still be able to interact with a person that you disliked!?-------Thank you very much!’’
Both Nia and Shidou dealt with the participants while exchange glances...........Somehow the scene has become an odd quarrel.
’’You're so noisy! Just focus on selling! ------The end of the line is over there!’’
’’I'm sorry, but I can't do that! The reason why I wanted to win is because I wanted to save you! It'll be meaningless if I leave this problem just like that! ------Yes, please take the book from over there!’’
In response to Shidou's words, Nia groaned out of irritation ’’Guuuuuuuuuuuh...........!’’.
And then because she cannot stop dealing with participants, Nia shouted as if cannot take it anymore.
’’You're right, what's so bad about being scared! I'm also wanted to have friends! But it can't be helped! Do you think someone with a super-efficient observation camera that can observe anyone all anytime time can have a friend!? ---That is 1000 Yen!’’
Nia said that with a sullen face on her.
Upon hearing that, Shidou can feel the loneliness inside Nia's heart.
Nia feared that she will lose to her own curiosity and end up investigating about her friends..........She also felt guilty over the fact that she could investigate everything about her friends as she pleased.
Having transcendental power similar to God had been the cause for her suffering. She isolated herself, since there was nobody similar to her. That is something that cannot be understood by people who don't have a Spirit's power.
However------Shidou shouted his voice in concerned tone.
’’That's.... how can you know if you don't try!’’
’’Ha! That's easier said than done! Let me ask you back Boy. If you know someone who can track you anytime no matter if you're in a toilet or taking a bath, and also be able to investigate into your past easily, do you think you can befriend them from the bottom of your heart!?’’
Nia shouted back bitterly.
However, Shidou went blank for a while, and then he burst out into laughter.
’’W-What are you laughing about!?’’
Nia asked while in a bewildered manner. Shidou let out a little sigh and brushed his hair up.
’’---------Sorry, but I've already gotten use to that kind of person! Aah.............Now I get it already. You and I are really similar! Privacy!? What's so good about it!? Or rather, you who keep worrying about those kind of stuff looks like an angel in my eyes!’’
Nia knitted her eyebrow since she doesn't understand at all what Shidou meant by that.
Upon looking at that expression, he continued speaking.
’’If you want to take a look, then just do it! If you wanted to investigate about me, then do as you like! But still! I won't hate you!’’
Shidou continued shouting, as Nia struggled to make out a reply.
A few moments later, Nia grinded her teeth out of frustration and replied back to him.
’’Huuuuuuuuuuh!? What are you even saying!? Don't you think it would be me who would come to hate you if I investigate about you?’’
The time progressed on as they kept quarreling with each other. The line of participants in front of circle <Ratatoskr>and <Honjou-dou>did not get any shorter. They still had to keep selling their books.
Though <Honjou-dou>had the advantage with the remaining stock, which was only 500 copies left. <Ratatoskr>had the advantage of the speed of their cashier, since they have more people with them.
Some people were selling the books;some people were arranging the line, and another one was getting hugged by an idol that was tired because of handing over the books. She shouted in protest as her eyes became teary.
In the middle of the enthusiasm, everyone had already accomplished their missions.
’’---------Thank you very much!’’
Shidou and Nia, who both had finally sold their last book, shouted those words simultaneously. Their voices resounded inside the hall.
Haa, Haa* Shidou was breathing heavily as he turned to look at Nia. And Nia also turned around towards Shidou at the same time.
Both parties looked extremely tired, as sweat was falling down from their foreheads despite it being the middle of winter. Nia's glasses started to fog a little.
Then, after the two of them finished arranging their breaths, their voices resonated at the same time from <Ratatoskr>and <Honjou-dou>.
’’<Ratatoskr>, sold out!’’
’’Honjou-dou>, sold out!’’
The books that two circle placed next to each other had sold out at the same time.
Upon hearing this declaration, all participants who were still lined up raised their voices in disappointment and left the place at the same time. However there's no use voicing their complaints and protests at all. There's no meaning for them to keep lining up in this place anymore. In that case, those people decided to search for other books.
Gazing at their figures, Shidou and Nia let out a large sigh while sitting back;there was the sharp sound of chair's pipe clashing.
’’..................Well, seems like it's a tie.’’
Kotori sharpened her expressions a little and turned to Nia.
Several seconds afterwards, Nia, who was lean her body on the back of the chair, looked up to the ceiling. She removed her glasses and wiped out the sweat using the sleeve of her cloth.
Then, she turned to Shidou and unfolded her arms. She searched for the doujin she exchanged earlier with Shidou. After finding it under her desk, she picked it up.
’’.............Alright, as reward for being able to go this far.... ----------I'll read this.’’
Upon hearing Nia's words, Shidou and the others from <Ratatoskr>exchanged their glances towards each other and gave out a shout of joy.
Approximately one hour after the doujin had sold out.
Shidou and the others were finished tidying up their circle's booth. All of the Spirits had also already changed their clothes, and went to the corner of the public park behind Tengu Square.
Since they are going to talk about something related to Spirits, they thought it was best to do it in a place where there's none of <Honjou-dou>'s staff were around, so they decided to leave the event earlier than usual.
By the way, Nia had her employee buy her some of the doujin that she wanted by using an outrageous amount of money. That's right, for a manga lover like Nia to not go and buy another people's doujin personally may seem strange, but seemingly she had already set up everything.
Nia explained, truthfully speaking, she wanted to buy the doujin just by herself, but she cannot entrust her booth to someone else, so she reluctantly picked up that decision.
’’-----------Well, then can I start reading it?’’
After saying that, Nia sat on the bench of the park while holding Shidou and the others' doujin on her hand.
Though the match ended up in a tie and they were able to make Nia read the book, the main problem starts from here. If Shidou, the protagonist of this book, cannot please Nia enough, then he won't be able to seal Nia's Reiryoku.
Spontaneously, Shidou and the other Spirits were also siting at the bench and were staring at Nia. Nia raised her eyes as she looked up to them.
’’..............It's hard for me to read while being stared at by everyone like this.’’
Shidou scratched his cheeks and turned away his gaze from her on purpose. The Spirits also turn away from Nia as if following Shidou's example.
Nia let out a sigh and sharply glanced at them.
’’By the way, I'll say it again;I only agreed to read this book, right? But after that is different! Don't you have any expectation, alright?’’
’’..............Aah, I understand.’’
Shidou answered with a nervous expression, and then Nia opened her shoulders a little bit and waved her hand as if asking Shidou and the others to turn away.
’’Well then, please go over there for a while. Because when you're reading a manga, you don't want to feel interrupted, and it must make you feel relief.’’
Though he doesn't understand the last part, the point is that Nia wanted to be left alone. Shidou took all the Spirits along with him to move to a place that was a little bit far from Nia.
Since she was already left alone in the bench, Nia let out a sigh.
’’.............Boy, he sure says anything as he pleases.’’
Then, recalling what happened in the hall previously, she distorted her face out of irritation.
However-----She knew exactly the reason why she felt irritated.
In fact............She had already hit the bull's-eye.
’’...............Since you already talked big, I won't forgive you if the book isn't good.’’
Nia blinked several times as if to clear out her thoughts. After correcting the position of her glasses, she glanced towards the book on her hand.
In the front cover, there's a character being printed that looks similar to Shidou. It was the same image Nia saw when she was handed the book a few hours ago. Although the line is drawn a little rough, but the artwork obviously exceeded the limit of an amateur's skill. Does that mean they hired a Pro manga artist?
’’Fuun. Well..............However, the most important part is the content.’’
Nia mumbled that and opened the front cover, and then she started reading the manga.
The drawing is...........Well, is considerably good enough for a doujin. Though the art from the page to page is different, somehow it doesn't reach the level where she could get stressed about it while continuing reading the manga.
The story begins from a boy, Itsuka Shidou who once encountered a Spirit girl.
A story about a boy who meet a girl who was always denied by humans due to having a mighty power.
After that, he meets so many other Spirits, and those Spirits opened their hearts to him due to his honest will.
A few minutes later...
Nia groaned and scratched her cheek as she finished reading the book.
The conclusion can be said---------Shidou and the others' book have far exceeded Nia's assumptions.
At least, nobody would believe that this book was created by amateurs in only 2 days.
However...........On the other hand, that's just it.
It's true that this book's quality is pretty good. However, whether Nia will be able to love this protagonist Itsuka Shidou or not is a different story.
Moreover, the page isn't enough. Since they did not have much time, they couldn't show the charm of the protagonist very well.
And more importantly, this protagonist Itsuka Shidou doesn't seem realistic at all.
In order to make Nia falls for him, of course it was only natural, but Shidou was being portrayed too much like a hero. Even if Nia falls for this character, she will feels disappointed by the gap that the real Shidou has.
’’It's unfortunate.........Boy. Although you seemed to have tried your best, but you can't make me fall for you with only this.’’
Nia let out a sigh while saying these words, and then she closed the book.
However, there's only one thing still bothering her mind. Nia then looking around, once she confirmed that nobody around, she raised her left hand to the empty space to manifest <Rasiel>.
And then, she's thinking something inside her mind as she touched the front cover of the book.
In order to figure out the scene when Shidou and the others drew this book.
Right. Although the content cannot get Nia's approval, as a manga artist she's interested in knowing the method they used to create a book with this quality in only a short amount of time.
<Rasiel>'s page started glowing. After Nia confirmed it, she touched the page gently.
At that moment------The information about this book's working process had flowed inside her mind.
’’...I see. After they decided about the story, they split task with that Natsumi girl as a main artist... but I guess this method won't be useful for me. There's no way I could get that much digital assistance. As expected from <Ratatoskr>, they sure are reckless.’’
Nia, who was satisfied by the information flowing inside her mind from <Rasiel>, knitted her eyebrow in surprise.
(I wanted to tell her soon...........So that stubborn Nia will understand about it too.
That friendship is, a beautiful........thing.)
That's, Nia heard Natsumi's voice.
Nia twisted her face with displeasure upon hearing that.
’’Yes, yes............Thanks for that. But sorry, about your valuable opinion, I---------’’
However, before Nia could finish.
The reason was simple. There had been a new text written on the page of <Rasiel>which Nia touched.
At the same time, there's new scene flowing inside Nia's mind.
That was the time when Natsumi still had her Reiryoku. Natsumi, who still harbored distrust towards humans, began to open her heart due to being touched by Shidou and everyone else's kindness.
Nia let out a dumbfounded voice.
Then, Nia could figure out vaguely about what just happened.
<Rasiel>is an omniscient angel. However, in the very end it can only give information that Nia wanted to know.
Perhaps--------Somewhere inside her heart, Nia was thinking about it.
Just what kind of experience Natsumi came through until she could say such a naïve thing which Nia can't stand to listen to.
However, it wasn't only that. There's new text that appeared again on the page of <Rasiel>, and then new information traveled to her mind again.
Origami, Miku, Kaguya, Yuzuru, Kotori, Yoshino, and then--------Tohka.
Those girls who had completely closed their hearts, they began to change after their hearts were moved by Shidou's warmth light.
Aah, that's---------The scene is no different from what Nia just read from the book even for a little bit.
Right. Inside that book, everything wasn't being dramatized at all.
The boy named Itsuka Shidou really did his best to help those girls, without even considering his own condition.
There were not only one or two problems he faced during his encounter with those Spirts. The darkness that existed inside those girls' hearts, the shadowy past, or even------the cruel, true character.
But no matter how much problems came, Shidou never gave up. Even if he seems to be almost crushed, he would stand up again.
Now, she understood.
Not a single one of his words he said to Nia back then was a lie.
There's no doubt that for those girls, he is truly a hero.
Water fell onto <Rasiel>'s page and was being illuminated by the book's light
After realize that she was crying, Nia took her hand away from <Rasiel>.
Leaving Nia alone, Shidou was waiting in the bench of the west-side in the public park. He was shaking his legs because he could not calm down at all.
’’Shidou, that's bad manners.’’
After Kotori pointed that out, Shidou stopped shaking his legs. However, looking closely, Kotori isn't the usual Kotori. She kept stirring the stick of the chupa-chups in her mouth.
Though, that's understandable.
Anyhow, Nia's judgment will not only decide whether her Reiryoku can be seal or not, but it will also decide whether they will be able to put Nia under <Ratatoskr>'s protection and safeguard her from DEM.
Then, Tohka suddenly raised her voice.
As if being snapped back into reality away by that voice, Nia can be seen walking slowly from the direction Shidou and the others gathered previously.
’’Kuku..........So you come?’’
’’Nervous. How was the result?’’
Shidou and the Spirits gulped down their saliva.
However, Shidou raised his eyebrow once Nia arrived in front of them.
Her eyes looked really red;it can be seen through her glasses lens.
’’Nia............? What happened?’’
’’................., No, nothing~.........’’
Nia answered with a light tone, and then took some time to breathe.
After she said that, Shidou couldn't ask anymore.
Moreover, there was still one more important thing bugging his mind right now.
’’Then...........How was it Nia? Our book?’’
As Shidou asked, Nia kept her silence for a while, she glanced towards the book on her hand.
And then ’’Haa’’, she shrugged her shoulders.
’’Although you did it pretty well, but as expected I can't fall for you with only this one book. Isn't your way of thinking way a bit too optimistic? I'm sorry, but I'm not that cheap of a woman.’’
Shidou bit his teeth and gripped his fist. He felt like his body was losing its power. The Spirits also showed the same facial expressions.
Nia averted her gaze as she continues speaking.
’’It's not like there's nothing good at all..........How should I put this? I can give you one more chance.’’
Shidou's looked at her with widened eyes and answered back, Nia's face went red out of embarrassment.
’’............That's what I said, I'll go on a date with you one more time. If boy really is a man, you have to do it.’’
Shidou felt the goosebumps run through his entire body. His body was re-invigorated with energy. He had the feeling of wanting to shout out while running around.
Tohka and the others were also the same. They all jumped to Shidou as if he was a striker who had just made a goal.
’’Kya~! Darling, you did it~!’’
’’Of course. That's the result of Shidou's charm.’’
’’Hahaha.............Stop it everyone............Anyway, Miku and Origami please stop it already. That's, uhm? Why does it seem that you all trying to take off my clothes while in the middle of this confusion?’’
’’Eeh~? There's no such thing~. Right~?’’
’’We didn't do that. Even if it's end up that way, that was only an accident. Not anyone's fault.’’
’’H-Hey, you two... What are you doing to Shidou!?’’
Tohka tried to stop Miku and Origami. Triggered by that, the other Spirits also begin to joining in. Shidou was in the center being pushed by everyone.
’’...................Fu, haha, ahahahaha!’’
Upon seeing that scene, Nia couldn't help but laugh.
’’How should I put this.........Right, I'm envy of you all. ----Hey, boy. Perhaps, if it's you ’’
At the moment when Nia said that.....
That [Abnormality] occurred.
Nia's chocked and her body started trembling, and then she kneeled down while holding her head.
’’Eh.............? A, A, A, Aaaaaah, aaaaaaaaaaaa-----!?’’
Her expression was filled with pain, as she began to scream loudly.
Without knowing what just happened, Shidou rushed towards Nia who was suddenly feeling pain.
A dark-colored Reiryoku began to overflow from Nia's body and started to spread on the ground. A moment later, a space quake alarm was ringing throughout the city because of the powerful Reiryoku that could detected.
’’Wha.........this is ’’
’’Nia! What happened!?’’
Shidou and the others raised their voices out of panic. Kotori suddenly pushed something on her right ear and started talking. ---------Somehow, it seems like she's communicating with control room through the intercom attached on her ear.
’’..........What did you say!? What does that mean!?’’
’’Kotori! What just happened? Nia is...........!’’
When Shidou asked, Kotori replied to him with a pale face.
’’.................Reiryoku value, category E. ---------Nia, she's going inverse.........!’’
Kotori said those words desperately.
Translation and Reference Notes
- ↑ A doujin circle (同人誌サークル), commonly shortened to just circle (サークル), is a group which creates doujins. People who are in a circle are called doujinka.