Mitou Shoukan://Blood-Sign - Volume 2 - Chapter 1
Stage 01: The Rumored Rainy Girl and Librarian-chan
’’I guess salt butter is the best after all. Just one more bite. No, let's trade bowls!’’
’’Please stop that! Are you trying to steal all the joy from my life!?’’
(Stage 01 Open 04/30 07:30)
The Rumored Rainy Girl and Librarian-chan
Voice SNS ’’Voice Friends’’.
From an invitation-only voice chat:
Hey have you heard?
You need to be careful on rainy days. It might be best to just not head out on those days. When the school chime sounds all distorted on rainy nights, it's a sign that the Rainy Girl is about to appear.
The Rainy Girl is a small girl who was killed on the way to or from school one rainy day about five or six years ago I think.
I don't recommend looking into it since it'll put you in a bad mood, but it's apparently a real incident. You can find articles on new sites if you search under the old Natsumi City name. It's true, I swear.
Now, no one knows what the Rainy Girl looks like.
It's because she's holding a battered and broken umbrella that hides her face. But the clothes underneath that are soaked red and, based on the actual incident, you probably don't want to see her face anyway.
What happens when you meet the Rainy Girl?
That I don't know.
Ah ha ha. Maybe it would be better with an obvious ending like with the Kuchisake-Onna or Hanako-san. Like if you could never escape or you'd definitely die after meeting her.
But I think that makes it all so cheap.
It's scary, but it sounds fake. And that's why people are comfortable whispering about it.
But this Rainy Girl is somehow different.
Maybe it just ’’feels’’ real. It's nothing like all the other stories. There's no sign of anyone intentionally trying to spread it around, yet it never gets forgotten. There's a weird ghastliness to it.
I don't know what happens when you meet the Rainy Girl, but there is one thing in common there.
Everyone who has met her won't say a word about it.
What could possibly have scared them that badly?
’’Yesterday's occupation of A Block's international airport ended unprecedentedly quickly when all 102 hostages were safely rescued less than fifty minutes after the ordeal began.’’
’’This has proven to the world just how skilled the police special forces have become to deal with this age of terrorism. However, it was not revealed how the elite team was sent into the airport and even the experts are split on the issue.’’
’’Toy Dream 35 is a giant amusement park city, so there are rumors even the airport has secret entrances and exits for VIPs to avoid the paparazzi. The internet is filled with speculation that those were used here.’’
’’More importantly, they may be accused of being overly equipped. All of the criminals' bodies had far too much damage for the weapons registered with the government. That said, over one hundred lives were at risk, so I doubt they will have to directly face the anger of the carefree civil groups.’’
’’Also, part of the criminal group left the airport and began a car chase over the vehicle bridges of A Block, but they all ended up crashing. There is still the question of what they were chasing after, so the police will continue investigating every-...’’
Shiroyama Kyousuke's home was not a house, an apartment, or a student dorm. It was a cruiser stopped in a harbor. He yawned as he prepared a breakfast of cereal and milk.
The news coming from the TV was filled with errors, but no one was maliciously lying to take the credit from him.
Anyone too deeply involved in the summoning ceremony industry would be forgotten as soon as they left people's field of vision. The people were simply left with the fact that the occupation had ended at some point, so they had filled in the gaps the best they could.
’’Up next is Space Captain Whitebeard's weather forecast. Captain!’’
’’Hello, this is Space Captain Whitebeard in the civilian space station Toy Dream OP-05! Here's what today's weather looks like when viewed from up in space. Toy Dream 35 has a 20% chance of rain. Even if it's only cloudy now, it would be best not to let go of that umbrella!’’
’’Toy Dream 35 is still running its Rainy Screen campaign, a special event only available on rainy days. How about a lovely show as rain and reflected light are woven together in the night? See the official website for details.’’
Unfortunately, his refrigerator had no salad inside.
He had failed to procure the necessary food after the previous day's excitement. He had no choice but to get his ’’vegetables’’ by supplementing his bowl of cereal with some dried fruit he had for emergencies.
After finishing breakfast, he stuck the bowl in the water-conserving automatic dishwasher and quickly washed off his sweat in the shower room. He changed into a red blazer instead of his usual hoodie and pants.
Everyone has probably forgotten by this point, but he was technically a high school student.
Of the pizza slice sections of the city, his high school was in R Block. The large square platform was supported by several pillars rising from the ocean. This was a lot like the international airport from the day before, but it was much smaller at only three hundred meters across.
When he entered the classroom, a few boys casually greeted him. Quite a few boys and girls had already gathered for morning homeroom. Kyousuke was not the type to be constantly late, but he did not arrive particularly early either.
There was one person he tended to speak with, so he went with the usual routine and approached a desk at the front of the classroom.
The desk belonged to Rendou Akiya, the head of the going-home club who was known for trying everything and losing interest in everything.
’’Did you see the news? Amazing, isn't it? The police did a hell of a job. I hear the Toy Dream Company is taking action too, so people are speculating there'll be an airport occupation attraction out in no time. Y'know, something like a survival game.’’
Despite the rough manner of speech, Rendou Akiya wore a girl's blazer and pleated skirt and had semi-long brown hair. ...But as the name Akiya suggests, he was a boy.
According to the student handbook, ’’All students must wear the designated uniform as they diligently work at their studies.’’
In other words, it never specified a difference in uniforms for boys and girls. ...Although it was probably just an oversight because that difference was assumed.
And Rendou Akiya only wanted to expand the realm of fashion, so he was not actually a so-called ’’trap’’. The boys who had made a mistake there and sent him a love letter had received a broken nose as a response, so it was an important point to keep in mind.
’’What's this, what's this? Are you talking about a new job opportunity?’’
Then a girl with braided hair and thin-framed glasses approached.
’’Oh, it's just you, Librarian-chan.’’
’’Learn my name already. It's going to be May soon, you son of a bitch.’’
It was the Librarian-chan who had a way of ruining everyone's image of her along with their hopes and dreams.
After replying in a low voice, she dropped her voice down to a whisper.
’’(C'mon, if they're taking applications for a part-time job, tell me. I have a weakness for that kind of thing.)’’
’’You're getting a little ahead of yourself. We're only talking about rumors of a new attraction.’’
’’(If you only look for openings after everyone's talking about it, all the positions will already be filled. You can't get the best position unless you act first. And I think that applies to just about everything.)’’
’’Anyway, I think this would be on the horror side of things, and don't you have trouble with that?’’
’’What do you mean by that?’’
This was based on the distorted version of Kyousuke and the others' actions.
But that distortion did not affect him, so he had no way of knowing how exactly it had been distorted. He just hoped they had not left any odd hints at the scene.
’’Apparently the Rainy Girl was spotted before and after the occupation.’’
But his fears had been way off base.
He doubted busty Lu Niang Lan would fall into the category of ’’girl’’.
’’Online, they're saying it might have been a harbinger of things to come like when dolphins go nuts before a disaster. I doubt the Toy Dream Company really understands Japanese horror, but if they go for it, this might turn into a haunted house.’’
’’Ah...ah ha ha. In that case, I think I'll sit this one out...’’
’’You really can't stand horror, can you? You even avert your gaze when you see things like scary fairy tales.’’
’’What's wrong with that? Those things are sick. There's nothing wrong with having your corners rounded off by the flow of time like rocks on the riverbed. I don't understand why everyone goes out of their way to make rough and inaccessible stories just because they're original.’’
Librarian-chan laughed dryly and really did take a step back.
She seemed to have a lot of trouble with that genre.
’’Isn't the Rainy Girl a ghost that appears on the way to or from school?’’
’’Yeah, but thanks to the spread of rumors online, she's apparently showing up in front of schools in Guam and New York these days. What a shame. If she only appeared inside the school, we might have been able to make a great haunted house for the cultural festival.’’
The way Rendou Akiya spoke made it obvious he did not believe the stories.
For anyone not involved in the world of the summoning ceremony, that was the normal view. Librarian-chan was overly sensitive to still be afraid of ghost stories in high school. Although just like having trouble with seeing blood, it was something some people simply could not overcome through effort alone.
’’I've heard that your class's festival attraction is factored into your student score.’’
’’And I've heard the Toy Dream Company sends out scouts to check them out like a ramen magazine's investigator. That means we can't get careless. We're talking about a global corporation here. If we gather attention in a good way, we'll be set for life, don't you-...’’
Rendou Akiya was cut off by a blaring emergency bell.
However, the students did not start running around in a panic because of the alarm. They first looked up at the speaker in confusion.
’’What a pain. Did some idiot get all worked up and hit the button?’’ muttered Rendou, but things seemed to be different.
The usual tones came from the speaker, followed by a girl, presumably from the broadcast committee, speaking.
’’We will now begin surprise emergency crime prevention training. Each class is to obey their teacher's instructions and quickly evacuate. I repeat...’’
’’Ugh. Did you hear that?’’ asked Librarian-chan in disgust. ’’It's already started raining outside, but do they want us to all gather outside and listen to the principal speak?’’
’’Since it's raining, won't they change it to the gym?’’ suggested Kyousuke.
’’It's a pain either way!’’ shouted Rendou. ’’What's this about? Was I not the only idiot who got caught up in all the talk about the airport occupation on the news? If terrorists or a gunman attacked the school, what good is it sending us all out in the halls?’’
’’Morning homeroom hasn't even started, so what are they going to do about attendance?’’
’’Oh, damn. If my absence would've been overlooked in all the confusion, I should've gone back to bed this morning.’’
But their complaints changed nothing.
The event was clearly pointless, but it was well known that mocking this kind of training could lead to a serious deduction on one's student score.
On the instructions of their homeroom teacher (a gentle type with gigantic breasts whose secret nickname was ’’The Cow’’), they walked down the hall in two lines, one for boys and one for girls. It felt like being forced to hold up a sign saying ’’Please slaughter us all. We'll be your meat shield.’’
As they descended the stairs, they ran into another class.
It was an upperclassman class.
’’Outta the way, first years. It's not about being polite, you idiots. Those are the rules.’’
’’Don't get involved. They don't look too bright, so anything you say would be a waste of time.’’
The group of boys chuckled as they passed by.
Rendou dug into his ear with his pinky.
’’Ahh, ahh. They've given up on their humanity already? I don't want to end up like that. Do they think that single year of difference makes them adults or something? They might as well be old men with plenty of ego but no actual ability. I can already tell they'll still be failures even at thirty and forty. I bet the only thing that'll change is how much hair they have left.’’
’’Yeah, but high schoolers like us might disappoint some middle schoolers if they saw us.’’
’’I'm not proud of it, but when I was in middle school, I believed I'd lose my virginity the instant I advanced to high school. I thought a kind upperclassman or female teacher would lure me into the gym supply shed at the opening ceremony.’’
’’Really? I still thought I could save at least one world back then.’’
The two boys laughed like idiots.
And no one realized that one of them had said something which may have been no laughing matter.
Then Kyousuke noticed a gentle citrus scent.
One of the upperclassmen was a girl with long black hair tied near the end with a large ribbon and with a chest large enough to give Lu Niang Lan a run for her money. She gestured him over with a hand, winked, and whispered in his ear.
It was unclear if she realized she was squishing her soft breasts with her own arm.
’’(Sorry about having you go along with this boring event first thing in morning, Shiroyama Boy. But this student assembly will use up first period, so hopefully that makes up for it.)’’
It may have been to keep their conversation private, but she was far closer than he had expected.
She was not actually touching him, but he could feel the warmth from her soft cheek.
’’Should the student council president really be saying that?’’
Kyousuke replied wearily and the upperclassman replied as a sweet smell wafted from her hair.
’’(Don't be silly. I was forced to spend all night writing up a speech for the assembly greeting. I don't like this any better than you. Although I am glad this is getting me out of my first period social studies elective.)’’
’’Really? You chose it yourself and you're still complaining?’’
’’(It's a miracle that anyone can make a world history class that boring. Why does he just write a list of dates up on the board? He doesn't understand all the romance found between the lines. And unfortunately, he's a complete lost cause as far as that's concerned.)’’
She waved goodbye and continued down the stairs.
Librarian-chan cut in then.
’’Ugh. She's just on an entirely different level from the rest of us if she thinks history is normally any fun.’’
’’Huh? But Librarian-chan, as our Librarian-chan, don't you love things like Water Margin and Shakespeare?’’
’’Learn my name already. And I only do this to establish my character. While I do like books, I don't really know that much about them. I've only ever bought two or three books and the rest I borrow from my parents' bookcase.’’
Hearing that felt like seeing an idol without makeup on.
Her student score was likely composed of magic.
Kyousuke started feeling a little blue, but Rendou Akiya made an unexpected recovery.
’’Keh, keh. But all you read are surprisingly fantastical fairy tales.’’
’’Sh-shut up!! Toy Dream 35 is a foreign-owned amusement park city, so we kind of are citizens of a fairy tale!!’’
Librarian-chan blushed, but she seemed unable to deny her love of fairy tales.
As Rendou had said, it was a surprising side to her.
’’But that wealthy president with F1 specs is nothing like us commoners with moped specs,’’ said Rendou. ’’She's the most likely candidate to be recruited by Toy Dream HQ. Her economic thesis 'Repeat Customers and the Catharsis of Repetition' was published in the British magazine 'Business &Credit' and gathered a ton of attention. She's on her way to an important position in a global corporation. Cut the string of her balloon and she'd probably fly up above the clouds. She's nothing like us.’’
Kyousuke had been exactly right about the students gathering in the gym for the surprise crime prevention training.
What good was gathering here if this had become a school of death with terrorists and gunmen wandering around? Kyousuke was used to fighting, but even the other students could tell this would become a giant execution ground.
The principal's speech was so bad that even a summoner like Alice (with) Rabbit Shiroyama Kyousuke's endurance was pushed to its limits as he tried not to fall asleep on his feet. If this was a supernatural ability to distort people's sense of time without relying on a Material, it was a high level one.
And after that lesson on how not to give a speech, the upperclassman's speech was all the more effective. It felt like being handed frigid mint ice cream after wandering on and on through the desert.
’’What matters most is to be prepared for the unexpected and the best way of doing that is repetitive practice. In other words, these are preparatory exercises to make sure your knees are not trembling uncontrollably when it actually matters. Think of it like swimming in the ocean. If a child who has never even placed his face below water is suddenly thrown into the sea, everyone knows what will happen, right? And unfortunately there is no life buoy analogue in a firefight. The only way to learn how to swim is practice. Falsely assuming you know what to do is the scariest thing of all.’’
The text itself was the formal language of a school assembly speech, but unlike the principal's bland reading, she added gestures at the important points and changed the inflection of her voice to create dramatic waves. It was the difference between ’’reading’’ and ’’performing’’ a speech.
She also gave familiar examples to deal with people's frustrations and confusion as to why they had to do this, which provided the same sense of accomplishment as solving a riddle. Instead of feeling you had simply been told the answer, you felt you alone had figured out the answer because of how smart you were.
It did not matter if you had been guided every step of the way by her explanations.
’’If she put that together overnight, she could become a playwright or a politician's secretary,’’ commented Rendou.
’’But that means working behind the scenes. Don't you think she would look more at home in the spotlight herself?’’ asked Librarian-chan in the line next to them. ’’But if there's this much of a difference, why doesn't the principal just get her to write his speech for him?’’
’’I bet it's a matter of pride. Do that and the adult will cry.’’
As Kyousuke and the others whispered to each other, a member of the broadcast committee brought the assembly to a close with a microphone in one hand.
’’That was Student Council President Benikomichi Fuuki-san. With that, the emergency crime prevention training is complete. Classes will resume as normal with second period, so please return to your classrooms in a timely fashion.’’
In other words, it was just another peaceful day.
Otherwise, they could not spend so much time on training like this.
The lunch break began.
Shiroyama Kyousuke tended to eat lunch alone.
This was simply due to the fact that his classmates would scatter as soon as the lunch break started. And as a summoner, they would forget about him as soon as he left their field of vision. They would forget any kind of promise they might have made, so any promises to eat lunch together were rendered invalid.
For that reason, he went to the cafeteria on his own, ordered some salt butter ramen, and took a seat. Then an upperclassman girl sat across from him.
It was Student Council President Benikomichi Fuuki.
’’Do you mind if I sit with you, Shiroyama Boy?’’
’’No, go ahead. ...What is that?’’
As long as they were sitting across from him, a normal person would not forget about him. And their temporarily forgotten memories would return during those times and smoothly accumulate across meetings.
The boy's puzzled question was in reference to the mysterious dish on her tray that was not registered in any of the cafeteria vending machines.
But this was not a luxurious lunch provided as a special privilege for the president.
’’It's low calorie konjac Chinese noodles. They're testing it out for the cafeteria menu.’’
’’It's not an orthodox dish, but it also doesn't go far enough with the novelty factor either.’’
’’I think it's a health food that's abandoned trying to be good as food.’’
’’Health food? But even if you make the noodles out of konjac, doesn't the sauce have a lot of fat?’’
’’I'm more worried about the taste. Describe it as fancily as you like, no one's going to order something that tastes bad. That's why you have that meaningless butter on top of your ramen.’’
’’Yeah, why does it seem so much more bourgeois just by adding a clump of butter on top?’’
’’I know what you mean. I don't like the vinegary pickles on a burger, but when you make it a fresh slice of tomato instead, it seems so much more luxurious. And yet the pickle is actually more expensive.’’
’’The lemon next to karaage.’’
’’The vanilla ice cream in an ice cream float.’’
’’The grilled rice ball you make on the edge of the grill when cooking yakiniku or barbecue.’’
’’The sugar doll on top of a cake is just the best, isn't it?’’
For some reason, Shiroyama Kyousuke and Benikomichi Fuuki exchanged a firm handshake.
It felt like they had found someone who truly understood them.
The student council president looked like her flesh and blood were made of pianos, violins, tea ceremonies, horseback riding, and conversational English, but she seemed to know the ’’proper’’ way to eat ramen. She used wooden chopsticks like normal and she slurped up the noodles like normal. ...Although the way she used one hand to brush her long hair up over her ear was pointlessly seductive.
It was rare to find someone who actually looked out of place not twirling it up like pasta.
’’Hm? Do I have something on my face?’’
’’It tastes okay, I guess. I have to admit I'm surprised how much the texture is just like ramen. I bet people will figure they might as well eat normal ramen, so I'm worried how they'll advertise this flavor.’’
’’It would be perfect if you could simply say 'the same taste with half the calories'.’’
’’Konjac noodles aren't that effective. But it's perfectly edible. Here, have a bite.’’
’’But my tongue is growing fat on salt butter, the top class ramen flavor!’’
’’That's why I'm jealous. I'm telling you to give me a bite for a bite of this.’’
They stuck their chopsticks in each other's bowls and traded noodles. For some reason, there was no romantic feeling of, ’’Kyah! Is this what they call an indirect kiss?’’ Ramen was the ultimate food of the masses, but it was not even remotely suited for romance.
As for of the rumored konjac noodles...
’’It tastes like normal ramen and you can eat it like normal. Yeah, it feels like an evolutionary dead end. I'm not sure how else they can improve this...’’
’’Right? This is the product you hate to have as a producer. And the developer hasn't done anything wrong, so you can't just abandon them. ...But damn. I guess salt butter is the best after all. Just one more bite. No, let's trade bowls! C'mon, this is your chance to have this mysterious new product all to yourself!!’’
’’Please stop that! Are you trying to steal all the joy from my life!? After eating this, those konjac noodles barely feel like eating anything! It's like chewing on a flavorless sponge!!’’
Kyousuke bent protectively over his bowl and glared at her with a fairly serious look in his eyes.
And then they overhead the conversation of an athletic-seeming group carrying their trays to an empty table.
’’It's true. A first year who stayed behind to clean up the equipment said he saw that Rainy Girl!!’’
’’Yeah, right. I bet he saw it online and decided to have some fun with it.’’
’’It's based on a story of a girl who had a grass sickle swung down on her head nineteen times, right? And by a huge man who barely had a human skeletal structure thanks to genetic tuning. The murderer scares me way more than the ghost.’’
The topic dried out the atmosphere.
After the group passed by, Benikomichi Fuuki took a sip from her cup of water.
’’There's been more and more talk of that around here lately. Based on the age of the 'ghost', the story probably started at an elementary school somewhere in Japan, but the school connection allowed it to spread to high schools like this. It's spreading all over the country and the world thanks to the internet, so the age of the Rainy Girl probably changes to match the school, just like with Hanako-san.’’
’’Do you believe it?’’
’’Why would I? ...Although hearing that would probably make my tearful and religious mother sad.’’
That may have been the standard reaction.
At least, that is, for normal people who knew nothing of the summoning ceremony and had no fear of being forgotten by someone.
And as Kyousuke thought about that...
’’Ahyhay, how hahout hoo hade hor hork hor hy haruho?’’ (Anyway, how about you trade your pork for my naruto?)
’’Ah! Why would you suggest that after shoving my roast pork in your mouth!?’’
In the world of the summoning ceremony, ghosts were said to come from a place, not an individual.
Something was needed to pass between this world and the other world.
When that grew clogged up for some reason, the soul that should have departed would be stuck there.
Ghost exterminations were one of the most basic requests.
Unless the ghost was a very powerful vengeful spirit, it was almost never necessary to fight the ghost with a Material.
In most cases, one only needed to throw an Incense Grenade and set up an Artificial Sacred Ground. The ghost was a paranormal being, so the Artificial Sacred Ground would give them a boost and allow them to wield greater power than normal.
However, they could not actually use that power.
Once the conditions were set to summon a Material, the ’’clog’’ would be forcibly removed and the ghost would vanish like the rainwater left in the drain pipe.
Did the ghosts go to heaven as the religious claimed, were they sent to the other world where all the Materials lurked, or were they simply annihilated?
The answer to that question was not yet known.
But as far as the humans in this world were concerned, the problem was solved.
That was really all they knew.
Very little was known about the phenomenon of ghosts, even by the top tier summoners who were within arm's reach of the Regulation-class, divine-class, Unexplored-class, and even the White Queen at the top.
That afternoon, the rain was gradually picking up.
It created a constant pitter-patter on the classroom windows.
There were a lot of people passing around notes or stealthily typing on their cellphones because those on sports teams were competing for training spots. On rainy days, they could only use the weight room or sprint along the hallways and stairs. And while they normally would not want to run, rainy days were an exception. It may have been the same effect as the butter on top of ramen. They were all trying to secure the hallways for their team.
Once the afternoon homeroom was over, school was finally out.
Once his classmates scattered, they would soon forget all about Kyousuke, but that did not happen immediately.
In the slight time between the end of class and the club activities, Kyousuke spoke with Librarian-chan.
’’Ugh... It's still raining. Is it going to keep pouring into the night too?’’
’’Huh? Do you have plans to go somewhere, Librarian-chan?’’
’’Could you make at least some effort to learn my name? I have a meeting with the Library Committee and then it's my shift at the library counter. If I could at least play some classical music, I might be able to nap comfortably.’’
Then why is the rain a problem? wondered Kyousuke. A rainy day would not be enough to get the library books damp.
Then Rendou Akiya popped in from the side and cut in.
’’I bet she's afraid of that Rainy Girl rumor. There's talk that the original story was actually in this city. And this season, it'll get dark before her library work is done.’’
’’N-no, it isn't that...’’
’’But your knees are shaking. If we really make this into a haunted house for the cultural festival, maybe I could get some girls to cling to me in fright. Hah hah hah!!’’
’’Well, I-I've got to get going...’’ said Librarian-chan as she walked quickly out of the classroom.
Rendou tilted his head after she left.
’’What is it?’’ asked Kyousuke.
’’I was just wondering if she always had that much trouble with ghost stories.’’
’’It's only the end of April, so don't ask me.’’
’’She went to the same middle school as me, but I don't think she used to be that easily scared...’’
Unable to answer his question, Rendou too left the classroom.
A few students remained, but Kyousuke decided to spread out his school supplies on his own desk.
Maintaining decent grades was not easy while living a double life as a student and summoner.
’’Since it's gravitational acceleration, you just use g, right? No, in this case, you don't need to multiply by 9.8. Do you remember the formula for a conical pendulum? Hint: it uses pi and a root.’’
’’C'mon, you're the one that chose physics for your science elective, right? And yet...how should I put this? It just doesn't seem like a good fit for you. It's not that you're dumb or don't have a scientific mind...it's more like you're used to the physical constants of some other world. It's really hard to correct because it's wrong and yet it all fits together.’’
Kyousuke was alone in the classroom with President Benikomichi Fuuki. She sat across from him at a fairly small desk and asked ’’What is it?’’ with a puzzled look.
He felt no need to hold back.
’’What in the world are you doing?’’
’’Taking a short break. What do you think is going on right now in the locked room known as the student council room? The answer will fill you with despair.’’
’’Then I'd rather not know.’’
’’Simply put, the Secretary and Treasurer are grabbing at each other's hair and fighting. They just can't reach an agreement on the budget. Then again, those two are in love, so it may be a form of communication for them.’’
’’Why would you warn me and then tell me anyway!? And that's personal information!!’’
The president readily ignored his protests, placed her elbow on the top of his desk, and rested her cheek in her hand.
This placed two large objects (which will not be explicitly named here) on the desk with enough force he could have sworn they made a noise.
Normal people forgot about summoners when not in their field of vision. Kyousuke could only curse the fact that he had carelessly decided to study in a noticeable place. He had been forced to play the role of a temple refuge.
’’At first they were thankful when I helped mediate things for them. But lately it feels like they just assume I'll do it, so I tried leaving them be. As expected, they looked troubled but had gone too far to back down, so they started attacking each other. Now, which one will you bet on!?’’
’’Attention, student council!! I have found your inappropriate president over here!!’’
This was getting to be a pain, so Kyousuke called out loudly and had his mouth quickly covered.
A soft, gentle, and decidedly not male hand covered the lower half of his face.
People would forget about a summoner when not looking at them, but his voice would still be perceived as ’’a voice they did not quite recognize’’. He had planned on repeating that trivial experiment, but he was stopped.
’’Now, now. There's no need to choke up just because the well behaved, academically gifted, literarily and militarily skilled, peerless in battle, invincible, and beautiful student council president is willing to help you with your studies. I will even allow you to lick my palm if you like.’’
’’Pwah. I don't want anything to do with someone whose self-aggrandizement grows more and more frightening like that. I get the feeling you're going to crush my head in her hand.’’
’’Oh, how boring.’’
The president traced her index finger along Kyousuke's lips and then returned to resting her head in her hand.
’’When you get down to it, all academics is about romance, not just history. Just think of how many scholars' lives were spent on each discovery and each formula. And things like English grammar and pi are a lot easier to remember if you learn about the drama surrounding them. Empathy is the best way to learn. I guarantee it.’’
’’Senpai, reading an assigned book to write a report on it is far more painful than reading a book you chose and bought yourself.’’
’’Hm. Unfortunately, the concept of 'forcing myself to learn' is foreign to me... If you find something you don't understand, isn't it human nature to be curious why it exists and what led its discovery or origin?’’
(If you find something you don't understand, hm?)
Kyousuke's mind briefly filled with the color white and a great evil shaped like a girl flashed through the back of his mind, but he shook his head to drive out the hallucination.
This upperclassman who knew nothing of the summoning ceremony giggled and pointed her index finger at his nose.
She kept it right on the verge of touching the tip of his nose and spoke.
’’I feel like you're looking to some far distant place.’’
’’Where did this come from?’’
’’You're aware there's something off about you, aren't you? It's not that you're broken or damaged;you're just a little off. Your heart is a lot like these silly physics equations. The way you act is weird for a normal high school boy, but it feels like it would fit perfectly in some other place.’’
’’Just to be clear, I'm not part of any club and I don't have a part-time job.’’
’’Ha ha. I see. Well, that's fine. To be honest, I'm feeling a little tired of a high school life where everything goes perfectly. So, well, you don't have to tell me now if you don't want to. But if you ever do feel like telling me, then could you tell me about the other side of your double life? It can be a UFO Research Council or the Youkai Busters or whatever else.’’
The extremely curious girl moved her face in close and actually did just barely touch her index finger to his nose.
’’There's just something pleasant about how you're 'off'. If there's a world where that's normal, then I'm sure it would fill me with some extremely pleasant stimulation.’’
’’I'll use my best judgment.’’
’’That doesn't sound promising.’’
To avoid answering, Kyousuke reached for the highlighter he used to mark things in his notes.
However, he could not find it.
He wondered if it had fallen on the floor, but it was nowhere there either.
Something was pressing down on the desk with almost audible weight. The highlighter was being engulfed by two objects that were quite difficult for a teenage boy to directly describe!
’’Hm? What's the matter? Do you need help looking for something, Shiroyama Boy?’’
’’Are you doing this on purpose!? Is this an incredibly soft version of the Mouth of Truth!?’’
Once it was time for all the students to leave, Shiroyama Kyousuke ran into Librarian-chan in the hallway.
’’Huh? Shiroyama-kun, you're not in a club, so what were you doing all this time?’’
’’The main job of a student, I guess.’’
The student council president had been dragged back to her home ground when the other executives came crying to her. Not even Kyousuke knew what had happened to her. She may have been living up to her self-proclaimed titles of peerless in battle and invincible by beating up the rampaging Secretary and Treasurer with the crane style.
Kyousuke and Librarian-chan walked down the hall while chatting.
The fluorescent lights had already been switched off, so the only illumination came from the city lights outside. The raindrops hitting the windows placed an amoeba-like filter over the outside scenery.
’’They keep talking about that Rainy Screen, but will anyone actually visit an amusement park when it keeps raining like this?’’
’’Eh, ah!? R-right, right. But things seem pretty busy at work. They say a lot of people are gathering for the novelty of it all. Although the concept itself is pretty simple. They're just using a projector to display video footage on all the raindrops while playing the sound with directional speakers.’’
Kyousuke wondered if she no longer cared about her name, but he decided it would be best not to ask.
’’Does that mean you have part-time work after your library work? That must be tough.’’
’’Tell me about it. The Rainy Screen is supposed to be for people to watch from their hotels or cars on rainy nights, and today I'm working at a delivery service for sports cars on the vehicle bridges. You know, the one that relies on their smartphone's GPS and guarantees the food will be there in thirty minutes or less. That isn't a job to do in the rain.’’
’’That sounds like a dangerous job for a girl to be doing at night.’’
’’J-just cause it's night doesn't mean there will be ghosts!! D-dyon't be so unshientific!’’
’’Not what I meant. Over the phone, you can't tell if the order is going to one man all on his own, right? And if you're delivering to a car, he can park in some deserted place and claim it's just a nice quiet spot to view the scenery.’’
’’We always head out in groups of two and we're issued mace and stun guns.’’
’’And why didn't you think of the possibility of those being taken from you and used against you? If they order from a stolen phone, the data at the store won't be enough to identify them.’’
Librarian-chan froze over at his casual criticism. She seemed to have belatedly realized just how thin of ice she had been treading on.
’’Heh. Eh heh heh. By the way, Shiroyama-kun, are you free tonight? Do you maybe have plans to coincidentally take the exact same route as me!?’’
’’No thanks! That sounds like a huge pain in the ass! I'd be out in the rain all night doing the exact same thing as you, so why would I be the only one not getting paid!?’’
’’As a bonus, you'd get to have a walking date with a girl and you wouldn't have to pay for dinner! The place I work is French, so the veal is really good!!’’
He was once more struck by the same effect as the butter on the salt butter ramen.
This was veal. Not just beef. Veal.
He had no idea if the veal would be stewed, grilled, or whatever else, but the power of the word ’’veal’’ just about took his soul away.
’’It's the exact same substance, it's the exact same substance. There's no difference in the molecular structure...mumble mumble...’’
’’But it's veal! C'mon, c'mon! Even if it's just the leftovers for the workers, you don't get to eat that often, right?’’
’’Y-you're not bad for a Librarian-chan.’’
’’That's destroying my character, so use my name. And I take it that means you agree to go with me?’’
’’I guess I can if it means veal, but are you headed there now? Or is there some time in between?’’
’’Hm? Does it matter?’’
She would forget this promise as soon as she took her eyes off of him, but he had no way of explaining that. And using a cellphone to regroup with someone who had forgotten about you was a lot more difficult than it sounded. Until he was in their field of vision again, they would never remember no matter how many times he explained it in words.
’’My shift begins at 7:30, so...oh, we're actually cutting it pretty close. We might not make it if the trains are stopped due to an accident or something. Anyway, let's start by heading to S Block. That's where the restaurant is.’’
’’I guess I'll be nice and point it out: you're using me for insurance, but I'm a guy too. Are you sure you should be bringing me into deserted areas at night?’’
’’What? You're completely safe, Shiroyama-kun. You're like someone from an educational puppet show, not someone from a Monday night drama. We could be alone in a hotel with pink wallpaper and nothing would happen.’’
The summoner decided he was not going to shed any tears.
So he responded with a serious look on his face.
’’Now, then. I think it's about time I chose not to save someone for once.’’
’’Wah!! Wait, wait, wait! If you back out now, I'll cry, I'll hate you, and I'll piss myself in fear right in front of you!!’’
Footsteps fled down the dark hallway and more footsteps pursued them.
But Kyousuke screwed up when he lost too much time changing into his leather shoes in the entrance area. Librarian-chan managed to grab the back of his blazer.
’’I can't believe you! I really can't believe you! You get me that scared and then you seriously try to run off!? If I hadn't grabbed you here, you would've run off into the rain, wouldn't you have!?’’
’’I guess I should've thrown out all common sense and left in my indoor shoes.’’
’’You monster!! How can you do that when a girl is in serious trouble!?’’
Librarian-chan sounded like she was about to erupt, but then she came to an abrupt stop.
There was a simple reason.
All of the school's announcement speakers exploded.
No, they only burst with a great cacophony far removed from the kind of noise they were meant to produce.
As a summoner, Kyousuke was relatively accustomed to bright lights and great noises during battle, but even he grimaced and covered his ears at this deafening vortex of noise. It seemed to be coming from the school's speakers, but some of the speakers may have truly been broken by the very noise they were producing.
The wall of sound continued for about ten seconds.
After that, all sound vanished.
A thought occurred to Shiroyama Kyousuke amid a silence so intense it almost hurt his hears.
(That noise... It was some out-of-tune electronic tones that lasted about ten seconds. Was it...the school chime?)
Even the sound of the falling rain sounded distant.
He also realized Librarian-chan had not said anything for a while.
She was looking at something and had entirely forgotten that Kyousuke was right next to her.
She was looking outside.
She was looking beyond the school entrance.
After spotting something there, her eyes had widened and her entire body had stiffened.
Kyousuke turned his head to look that way while an absurd rumor came to mind.
The ghost story had spread across Japan and the entire world thanks to the internet.
One had to be careful when a distorted version of the school chime played on a rainy night.
That was a sign that the Rainy Girl was going to appear.
A scratchy noise escaped Librarian-chan's lips.
Shiroyama Kyousuke saw it too.
The rain continued to pour outside the entranceway and a girl of only ten to thirteen stood there. However, he was unsure if the term ’’cute’’ applied.
First, the girl's face was hidden behind a battered umbrella.
Second, the girl's raincoat was stained red.
As a professional, Kyousuke understood. That amount of blood was far beyond a lethal amount. And based on the muddiness of the blood, it was not fresh blood that had just erupted from a wound.
Nevertheless, she stood there.
She stood in Shiroyama Kyousuke and Librarian-chan's way as if to not let them leave the school.
She was a ghost.
She was the Rainy Girl.
She had lost her life in a gruesome incident from the past and now she appeared on the way back from school for some reason.
That was how Kyousuke interpreted the situation.
But he was wrong.
A moment later, Librarian-chan moved her trembling lips to speak.
During their lunch break, President Benikomichi Fuuki had mentioned something to Shiroyama Kyousuke.
Based on the age of the ghost, the rumors of the Rainy Girl had their origins in an elementary school somewhere in Japan, and they had spread to high schools as well due to the ’’school chime’’ connection. And the stories would be customized for each school, so the Rainy Girl's age would likely change to match the high school setting.
But that was wrong.
The Rainy Girl was not a ghost fixed to a single location.
She was fixed to an individual and had thus been ’’brought to’’ this high school with that person.
(That explains why Librarian-chan was so afraid of the Rainy Girl stories. She may have already known what it was talking about...)
(Was she not thinking of it as a hallucination and illusion? Had its existence already been proven to her? ...That would mean this isn't her first time meeting the ghost.)
Unlike the foolish experts on TV, a summoner like Kyousuke did not bother proving the supernatural phenomenon occurring before his eyes. He could tell it was real.
The ghost slowly approached with the unpleasant sound of wet rubber. It was nothing more than the soles of the children's rain boots rubbing against the ground, but each additional piece of information seemed to infect his mind.
The ghost did not speak.
She may have been moving her lips behind the battered and broken umbrella, but her voice did not reach Kyousuke and Librarian-chan's ears.
Librarian-chan could not even back away.
She simply trembled in place and shook her head over and over. Her mind was doing everything it could to reject the scene before her eyes.
But that was impossible.
Nothing she did would change the horrific reality before her eyes.
The Rainy Girl would enter the school building at any moment.
Librarian-chan's lips released what may have been a word or just a sound.
Even so, it was filled with an unbelievable amount of raw emotion.
’’No... I can't go...where you are, Onee-chan. I just can't. You're already dead and I'm still alive! So...there's nothing I can do!!’’
The sound of the small rain boots stopped.
The broken umbrella spun around.
Eyes that were dyed red by something other than being bloodshot peered out through the gaps in the torn material.
A powerful stench like a crushed frog on a rainy road followed that gaze.
It was like her hostility and killer intent had been given physical form.
Librarian-chan's mind seemed unable to reach the standard idea of turning tail and running.
’’So leave...just leave!! You aren't supposed to be here, Onee-chan. You wanted to go here and we should have all been here together, but even if that chance was cruelly taken from you, you can't be here!! So...!!’’
(Her sister, hm?)
Shiroyama Kyousuke narrowed his eyes a little at that relationship.
He was reminded of the twin shrine maidens who had formed a summoner and vessel pair.
Then he thought a bit about the contents of his school bag.
Exterminating a ghost was one of the most basic jobs for a summoner. There was no need to summon a Material and fight. Just by setting up the Artificial Sacred Ground, the ghost would vanish and go ’’somewhere else’’.
But he had no vessel at the moment.
Without meeting that minimum requirement as a summoner, throwing the Incense Grenade he had hidden in his bag would not set up an Artificial Sacred Ground.
But looking at it another way, that just meant he needed a vessel.
No talent or skill was necessary. He just needed the conditions for setting up an Artificial Sacred Ground.
Shiroyama Kyousuke looked to both Librarian-chan and the Rainy Girl and then spoke quietly to draw his classmate's attention.
’’What if there was a way to erase your sister...the Rainy Girl from this place? Does she go to heaven, doe she go to hell, or is she simply annihilated? No one knows what happens to the soul, but what if there was a way to erase her from this place?’’
If Librarian-chan was telling the truth here, then the Rainy Girl was her family, no matter how much she had changed.
This would erase a human soul.
It was obliterate the last remaining traces.
Would she accept that or not?
Librarian-chan moved her trembling lips to answer the question.
As she did, she thought of this ghost who had been so utterly transformed that she would bare her fangs against her own family.
’’If there's a way to do that, then go ahead and do it...’’
She would accept it.
’’I can't...I can't bear to see this!! It may have been horribly unfair that my sister was attacked. You can hardly blame her for hating the world after that. But...but! Nothing she does can save her now!!’’
At the same time, the footsteps grew harder.
The rain boots had crossed the line from the wet outside to the dry inside.
She had taken the first clear step into the school building's entranceway.
She had stepped into their territory.
Librarian-chan viewed it that way and it broke down the final dam inside her.
’’So help me. I don't want to die and letting my sister suffer any longer won't accomplish anything. If there's a way to stop this bloody despair, then tell me! If there's a way to do it, then help meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!’’
A switch was thrown in Shiroyama Kyousuke's mind.
He used his canine tooth to make a small cut on his index finger and let a drop of blood form on the surface.
Then he recited the necessary text.
’’I bind this covenant of blood in the name of The Spirit of Fluttering 'Yellow' Gills that Rules the Heavens (s - a - so - voz - tix - ei - yw - za), one of the Three which manage and guide the summoning ceremony. You are of human flesh with a proper heart and soul, yet from this moment onward, you shall be a limited vessel that can hold all things.’’
The solid footsteps continued.
But Kyousuke paid them no heed. What mattered most here was not hiding or running. He had to complete the necessary ceremony as quickly as possible.
’’You shall be a lord of emptiness that uses the power filling you to at times bend the laws of this world.’’
Librarian-chan could not have understood what the ceremony meant.
Even so, her focus was drawn in toward the drop of blood on the index finger held out toward her.
It inspired a devilish fascination.
Even though she did not understand what it meant, it forced an understanding of what she had to do. Her small tongue poked out from between her lips and calmly licked up the drop of Kyousuke's blood.
’’So I shall prepare this vessel. I am a summoner, unable to leave the world of man, yet a symbol of haughty intellect that uses power from beyond the world of man to guide the world of man to the next age!!’’
A moment later, the wind whipped up around them.
The contract was complete.
As the gust of wind nearly shattered the entranceway's windows, Kyousuke reached into his school bag.
He pulled out an Incense Grenade.
They did not need to fight the Rainy Girl. Simply setting up the Artificial Sacred Ground would annihilate most ghosts.
Before he could pull the pin, the school's speakers produced another explosion. Kyousuke grimaced and shrank down as if lightning had struck nearby.
He had taken his eyes off of the ghost for less than a second, but when he looked back up, she was already gone.
The Rainy Girl had vanished.
Only the sound of the rain ruled the otherwise silent darkness.
Kyousuke no longer had a use for the Incense Grenade in his hand and Librarian-chan's voice reached his ears.
’’She'll be back. On the next rainy night...’’
She gave a thin, exhausted smile.
’’She'll be back to kill me.’’
Investigation Records of a Certain Pair of Twins 01
A monorail ran through the city's night.
It was past seven and more of the passengers were beginning to be office workers rather than students. The first after-work rush hour had begun and it was also raining, so there were more passengers than normal. And the air was quite damp, either due to the raindrops on the umbrellas or due to people's sweat.
The colors of one pair of twins stood out among them.
They were both long-haired shrine maidens in bright red outfits. Their faces looked similar, but one had black hair and black eyes while the other had blonde hair and blue eyes. At the same time, they lacked the unnatural appearance of dyed hair or color contacts.
Two shrine maidens sitting alongside people in suits may have looked out of place, but even Shinto officials shopped online and wore 3D goggles at the movie theater.
The two of them were looking at the same notebook-sized tablet.
’’That means this train we're on is the one in question,’’ said Renge, the one with long black hair.
She used her fingertips to zoom in on a newspaper's letters-to-the-editor section.
’’A story from Toy Dream 35's Nohara Amahiko-kun (Age 9). When people fall asleep on the last train or on a train that begins deadheading, they go missing and never return. But for some reason, the fact that people are vanishing never ends up in the news.’’
’’H-hmm. Would a nine-year-old boy, um, really know much about being on the last train?’’
’’That may be why he added 'or on a train that begins deadheading'. Just like the Kuchisake-Onna, it may be a story meant to frighten students on the way back from cram school. Like wondering what happens to the drunk man who's passed out on the train when they get off.’’
’’But if that's all it is...’’
’’Yes. Then a Freedom summoner like us wouldn't have been hired to investigate it.’’
Renge was most interested in the last part about the missing people never ending up in the news. It was quite convenient for the purposes of a rumor, but it was simply not possible. If someone vanished, someone would notice: family, friends, lovers, classmates, coworkers, etc.
’’When a summoner or vessel pass Award 100, they're rejected from people's perceptions and memories. I wonder if this monorail or the switchyard are hiding something that can only be explained with the rules of our world.’’
’’L-like, um, there's some kind of system that causes all the passengers to summon a Material without realizing it?’’
Blonde Higan nervously looked down at her feet on the wet floor.
She may have been imagining something like an axe murderer hiding under the bed.
’’The rumor has a lot of different versions and they're not all the scary kind. According to some, if you ride a train that begins deadheading, you'll meet your first love you haven't seen in forever, your long-dead pet will return to you, or you'll find a treasure you had lost. All the variations make the entire thing seem less credible, though. There are even some saying you end up in Guam.’’
’’Oh? You'll meet your first love? Eh heh heh.’’
Renge grew a little angry, but her sister did not seem to notice.
At any rate...
’’Let's put the tablet in the bag and set that up on the luggage rack to film what happens when the train begins deadheading. We need to pick up on where exactly anything strange occurs between the last station and the switchyard.’’
’’B-but summoners and vessels don't show up on cameras and sensors when an Artificial Sacred Ground is set up.’’
’’And to meet the conditions, we have to prepare a 'napping passenger'.’’
’’B-but we can't just skip straight to a human experiment, Higan. We have no idea what's going to happen.’’
’’Eh...eh heh heh. Renge, I, um, did my best to help there.’’
’’What do you mean, Higan?’’
’’Um, what do you think was in that drink I gave you earlier?’’
Higan said something incomprehensible with a smile on her face.
A moment later, Renge felt like the core of her body was shaking.
’’Hi...gan...? You didn't put a sleeping pill in my drink, did you!?’’
’’Yawn... O-of course I wouldn't go that far. I just mixed in some allergy medicine that said on the box not to mix it into your tea...mumble...’’
’’Y-you mean one of the ones full of ingredients that make you drowsy!? The ones that are the bane of long-distance drivers!?’’
Renge desperately tried to maintain her consciousness, but the rhythmic shaking of the monorail car quickly robbed her of all ability to resist. It was like trying to use a single hair to support a bowling ball on a slope, so as soon as something small snapped inside her, she could only roll down into the gentle darkness.
Meinokawa Renge was awakened by her own voice.
She was surrounded by darkness. Based on the weight and texture, she could tell the notebook-sized tablet was still sitting in her lap. The monorail car was no longer shaking and the monorail seemed to have come to a stop somewhere. All that humidity had vanished and the air felt chilly instead.
’’Where am I...? Higan? This is all your fault.’’
She complained while pressing the tablet's power switch with her index finger. The backlight immediately came on and vaguely lit up the entire car.
Before, adults in suits had nearly packed it as full as a sardine can, but none of them remained.
There was no one at all there.
And more importantly...
’’Wait a minute... Higan?’’
She was not there.
The blonde girl who looked just like Renge had vanished from the seat next to her.
Renge frantically stood up and looked around, but there was no sign of her ’’sister’’ who had been dressed so distinctively. There was no sign of anyone else either and the cold atmosphere seemed to reject all life.
’’Higan! Where are you, Higan!?’’
Renge's only light was the tablet which displayed the newspaper letters-to-the-editor section.
That elementary school boy from Toy Dream 35 had said the following:
When people fall asleep on the last train or on a train that begins deadheading, they go missing and never return. But for some reason, the fact that people are vanishing never ends up in the news.