On a forest road on the outskirts, under a single glittering street-light, there were two people.
One of them was a student of AntiMagic Academy. The other one's identity couldn't be determined because of the darkness.
"I finally got you cornered, Mephistopheles!"
The boy standing under the flashing street-light released a murderous intent towards the other one.
Probably because of the intense flashing light, the identity of the other existence standing there was unclear.
It was even unknown whether it was a man, or a woman. However, for some reason the boy had a feeling the other person was smiling.
"You can only laugh now... I'll take revenge and destroy you right now."
The boy approached the enemy while aiming his handgun.
But the figure still had a big smile. As the fluorescent lamp flashed, it moved its lips.
"——Revenge? What are you saying? Aren't we best friends, you and I."
As if the intensity of sound was messed up, the unclear voice resonated under the night sky.
Wrinkles appeared between the boy's eyebrows. Strength was applied to the boy's fingertip placed on the trigger.
He won't miss. At this distance, he will definitely pierce its heart.
The boy clenched his teeth and released the bullet.
The bullet shot by the boy flew straight, and hit the figure slightly to the left of its chest; a direct hit to the heart.
The figure staggered, and its knees folded as if it was a broken doll, it fell on its stomach after that.
After approaching it, the boy turned the corpse over with his feet.
At the same time, the face of the corpse was clearly reflected in the light from the flashing street lamp.
The boy's face was distorted with grief.
"...... Damn... it...!"
It was the corpse of a person who was this boy's best friend, with whom he went through both joys and sorrow.
"I took revenge... for you... so... sleep in peace."
Attempting to close his eyes, the boy touched his eyelids.
That's when he noticed it was a mistake. The corpse suddenly started moving and grabbed the boy's arm.
Even before the boy could react in surprise, the corpse rose up.
Right in front of the boy's eyes was the face of his best friend, causing him to pull his face away.
"WhaaATt a shAAmEEee!"
"...your heart should be destroyed!"
The corpse thrashed and waved violently making loud noises.
After a few seconds, from the left side of his chest; full of holes, came the sound of a heartbeat confirming the heart was still working.
"Did you... move your internal organs positions?!"
"The heart's on the righttt, I had to use precious instant charms, but it's good that I did. That was really dangerous."
Quickly realizing that the situation was completely reversed, the boy pressed the muzzle against his enemy's forehead.
Next moment——it was the boy who screamed.
His muffled voice resounded throughout the dark forest road.
At the same time, the corpse held the boy's arm and laid him down on the ground.
The fluorescent light's blinking became more intense, the inside of the boy's head started to lose its way.
"Hii...hiiii...n-no... no... get out... d-don't enter... my h-head... d-don't... enter it!!"
The Boy's tongue moved without permission, moving around and not allowing him to articulate.
"I beg you...! Stop it...!!"
His cheeks spasmed and he could do nothing about it, he cried while laughing.
"No——impossible——wait a moment——stopp——"
His tone of voice changed. Against the boy's will, his mouth movements, and his thinking changed.
Tears spilled out from his eyelids, as if it was the boy's soul itself.
"Help——I can't——impossible——impossible——don't erase——doing your best, is it painful?"
With words that felt like a death sentence released from his mouth, the boy cried.
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! ——Gyahaha!—— I don't want to disapeaaaaaaaaaaarrrr!——Gyahahahahaha! ——Uwaaaaaa! ——Gyahahahahahahahaha! Mother——Gyahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!"
His cries of agony were drowned out and laughter took over.
The boy's mouth distorted shaping an arc like the half-moon in the sky, and laughed.
The fluorescent light disappeared completely, and darkness took over. Although his laughter continued even in the darkness, at some point his laughter suddenly stopped.
He raised his body from the ground, and removed the sand which was stuck to his body. His behaviour looked natural, but it was different from before.
On his mouth, a smile reminiscent of a crescent moon remained.
"I wonder why humans call out for their mothers when they about to die."
He grit his teeth with disdain. His gestures were like that of a devil, as if something else resided in his body.
That's when the expression disappeared from the boy's face, and he turned towards the lush vegetation in the darkness.
In the darkness, there was a human silhouette. Dressed in pure while as if illuminating the darkness, a beautiful woman. Her foot was clearly detached from the ground, and she was suspended in the air.
"...ohh? Why are you in a place like this?"
The something that had entered the boy, called out to the woman.
She closed her eyes deeply, and moved closer to him by floating and without making a sound.
After the woman advanced forward, the leaves were blown in by the wind as if forming a carpet behind her. The fallen green leaves from the ground were blown into the air and changed into lush green leaves.
The scene made it seem as if the woman imparted life onto the dead leaves.
That appearance seemed to be full of compassion, worthy of being called a saint, it harbored incredible sanctity within.
When the woman reached 'that' she raised her face.
"Long time no see. Mephistopheles."
With a voice so clear and serene it was spine-chilling, the woman called 'it'.
The thing called Mephistopheles squinted for just a moment.
"What do the people from outside want now? If you are here to sight-see how I have my meal, I'll have you pay a fee. Mother Goose."
"Kuhihi." Mephisto laughed merrily.
The woman called Mother Goose looked at the body lying beside him. Knowing Mephisto's magic, she understood the tragedy that happened in this place, and opened her eyes wide.
Beautiful ruby-colored eyes glared at Mephisto.
"...how filthy. Even though I am a witch, I'm disgusted by you."
"Instead of judging me. Just give me the reason for your visit already."
Uncaring, Mephisto asked a question. Mother Goose immediately changed the topic.
"Both the Hero's assault and prevention of information leakage from Nikaido Mari failed."
"Yeah, I know. Who do you think I am."
"I'll be frank. This failure is not just Haunted's, but you are responsible for it as well."
Her voice was gentle, but the meaning of her words directly scolded him.
"Originally, it was arranged that you and Haunted prepare a strategy together. You were to create a disturbance, and Haunted was to assault... that's how it should have been."
"Oh, is that so."
"If you worked together it wouldn't have ended like that."
Hearing Mother Goose's voice, the vegetation that surrounded her started to move and rustle.
Mephisto understood the characteristics of Mother Goose, so when he saw the buzzing of trees, he knew she was incredibly upset.
"...there's no way I can work with that man. Although the way we fight is similar, but we ourselves are way too different. That man cannot understand my stance, and I am also disgusted by that man."
"Even so, that's not a reason to not contact headquarters and to disappear without a trace. My mission is to locate you, and to take you back to headquarters. Even if I have to use force to do that, it doesn't matter. Think of it as of punishment for abandoning your mission."
The trees rustled again, but Mephisto was still unfazed.
"Abandoned the mission?"
As the trees around were trembling, Mephisto showed a glimpse of his tongue between his lips.
"My work is ongoing without any problems."
"...what do you mean?"
"Releasing everyone from forbidden area... that's my mission, right?"
The two's line of sight met.
The fluorescent lamp came back to life silently, and started blinking. Mephisto's face was no longer visible as the shadow was dropped, and her figure was no longer visible. It was unclear now who it was.
"If you let me do as I please, I will crush Inquisition with my own two hands. Then you will be able to release witches that are trapped in there."
"I too, want to get back my body that's stored in there. Our interests are the same, and there's no reason to give up."
Hearing no pretense in these words, Mother Goose started to think.
"I'll show you... the way the one called Mephisto fights."
The witch called Mephistopheles, her existence itself was very vague.
Therefore, it was not registered as a specific risk in Inquisition's records. Just a rumor. A legend. A fairy tale. A legendary witch known to no one.
Mephisto. Not even she herself, knew her own identity.
Seelie's hospital ward was surrounded by white walls. Probably because of the acrid smell of chemicals, but Takeru didn't like this place.
Takeru walked through the white corridor while slightly nervous.
Since they were on campus, he was wearing his uniform. He held a bouquet of flowers in his hands.
"306... 306... oh."
After counting the rooms in the third hospital ward, he found his destination.
The room 306, from the time where they protected the school during the tournament attack, it was where Yoshimizu Akira's clone was hospitalized. Almost a month passed since then, but Akira didn't wake up yet.
He heard a clone's body was weaker than a normal one, but Takeru didn't know about the details.
I wonder if Kyouya will come today as well...
Just when he was about to knock on the room's door, he stopped for a moment.
According to what the Seelie at reception desk told him, Kyouya visited Akira's hospital room every day and looked at her until the day was over. When he came before Kyouya was hanging around Akira like that as well. Kyouya's belly was pierced by Haunted and he was trapped under a fallen tower after which he lost both of his legs.
Despite a heart-rending feeling embracing him, Takeru knocked on the hospital room's door.
The windows were open for ventilation, and the moment the door was opened, a pleasant breeze grazed his cheek.
A simple bed and clean sheets, curtain swayed in the wind. Nothing changed compared to when he came before.
However, Akira was not there. There was no life-supporting machines there either. There was nothing there.
Kyouya wasn't there. It had completely turned into an empty room.
I wonder if her hospital room changed? Because he heard her condition settled down as compared to before, he thought of coming to visit, but seems like his timing was bad.
That's when there was an announcement coming from a wristwatch-type device to all students.
When he pressed a button on the small LCD screen, from a small projector a stereoscopic image emerged. He brought his eyes closer in wonder, and there was,
【"It's an emergency announcement from witch-hunting festival executive committee. This is to inform you that "Witch-Hunting festival" will be held. During the first period, there will be a student meeting held. All students are to come to the gymnasium at that time."】
Takeru tilted his head puzzled.
"Witch-Hunting festival" is a festival that used to be held in old Denmark, where people burned a scarecrow that was to resemble a witch, it looked like a ghastly event. Because witches used to be rampant at that time, a sense for things that acted like evil-warding amulets was strong.
It was currently the winter solstice, since the original one was performed during the summer solstice, it meant AntiMagic Academy only borrowed the name.
Its contents could be easily described as of a normal festival that could be held anywhere.
"——Everyone, I'm sorry to call you out so suddenly! This time, the witch-hunting festival which has been abolished for a long time will be carried out this year! It's a traditional event made for students, I want everyone to be pleased with it!"
Making a refreshing declaration from the stage, was AntiMagic Academy's witch-hunting festival executive chairman, Tenmyouji Reima.
Blond hair and blue eyes, refined features. A good young man with a refreshing smile who was popular with girls.
"Of course, there is a reason for it to be resumed. Recently, this school has been targeted by witches, everyone should be aware of that fact already. The press has already pointed out Inquisition's lack of a sense of crisis. There have been calling for amendment plans for a while now, but that voice has become stronger recently. However, I do not harbor any doubts about the way this school is functioning. I think it's only thanks to the senses honed through actual fighting that people are able to become inquisitors."
Reima sincerely, albeit a bit exaggeratedly spoke to the gathered students.
"Everyone probably thinks the same. It's unbearable to have our efforts denied. That's why I thought we should restore the event now. This traditional event used to be loved by this city's residents. In other words, umm, it's going to be an event that improves our image in the world... that's shallow thinking, I know, I don't mind if you laugh."
Reima smiled a bit embarrassed causing girls to raise their voices excited.
"For example it's like in normal schools, it's not bad right. How about it, everyone? Will you cooperate?"
Supporting his refreshing declaration, the female students cheered.
The reaction of the other students was not the best. It wasn't really caused by the fact that they were jealous of girls cheering on Reima, but by the fact they thought of the school festival as of a silly sideshow.
There were no points to earn like there was during the mock battle tournament, so it was obvious they won't be motivated. In the first place, the event was abolished three years prior because there was not enough students participating. Half of the students crowded in gymnasium had bitter expressions on their faces.
"Witch-Hunting festival... that's one unpleasant sounding name."
Said Mari who was standing on Takeru's right, just beside him.
Ikaruga who was on Takeru's left suddenly looked towards Mari while munching on a mint candy.
"Essentially, it's just a festival. It's no different from a festival in a normal school."
"Is that so? If you say it's a simple school festival, then I'm a bit interested. Though, I never experienced one."
Mari said that with a somewhat excited look on her face.
Takeru looked at Mari's expression. it changed as she calmed down, then she looked at the stage again.
"Isn't it rare for the student council to organize an event? Normally, it would be something the Student Council President or Chairman would plan?"
Ikaruga wondered as she took out the mint candy from her mouth.
"The president was too busy with the case of the raid on Alchemist and pulling the Dullahans around. And the Student Council President... Kusanagi should know already, right? That one would have definitely said something like a school festival is a pain in the ass."
"...I guess. But still, to think our school had a Witch-Hunting Festival executive committee. It's the first time I've seen that guy who's on the stage."
"If I'm not wrong, he's a student who came from the school's branch school last month. They say he was student council president over there, he must be using the Witch-Hunting Festival to raise his appeal. He has a despicable face, but doesn't he do more than the student council president?"
Being told that, Takeru who knew the personality of the current student council president smiled wryly.
AntiMagic Academy's student council president, Hoshijiro Nagaru. A second year. An incredibly short girl with fiery red hair, carefree, negligent and sloppy personality. A weirdo like the three of them.
She's been always narrowing her eyes nonchalantly and since she spoke to other students hatefully, for some reason they could no longer get motivated afterwards. She might have been a good person, but even from the unreliable Takeru's point of view she seemed unreliable, he didn't know why she was elected as the student council president.
However, some people referred to her as "Little Chairman", she was an existence feared by quite a few people. Takeru didn't know much about the circumstances surrounding her.
Remembering about the student council president, Ikaruga sighed and played with her hair.
"I'm not good with her, I never know what that type of person thinks."
"What's up with that, aversion for the same type?"
Mari said that with a half-smile.
"Everyone standing at the top of this school is rotten. From what I hear, that student council president person feels unreliable but... well, if it were someone stiff it would be not interesting. If a certain humble someone were to become the student council president, the school would have become extremely formal like the Japanese army before world war II〜."
After Mari said that, Ouka who stood on her right responded with a hit on Mari's solar plexus.
*obbuu*, Mari raised a pitiful scream and crouched.
"...t-that...retort... was too tough...."
"It wasn't on purpose. Just a habit. Whenever I attack I aim for vital points."
"Didn't you clearly say "attack" now?! Don't aim for vital points! In the first place, don't attack people!"
"Shut up. I said already that it wasn't on purpose. Also, it's your fault for having a solar plexus in such a place."
"Over a million people have their solar plexus in the same place!!"
Like usual, the two started to (intensely) batter at each other, Takeru tried to appease them.
Somehow, recently he's been feeling like an animal breeder who's keeping mad dogs as well. Of course the relatively quiet Small Fry Platoon was drowned in screams from female students screaming because of Reima.
"What whaat, the only ones who are enthusiastic are first year girls? Well, I can understand your loss and gain philosophy. That's why! There are good news for those of you who want points. For this Witch-Hunting Festival there's a new idea which be a great new addition to it."
While everyone complained, Reima grinned.
Suddenly interested in the unexpected development all the students raised their faces.
Reima triumphantly pointed at the students and said in a loud voice.
"Make money! And if you donate that money to the school afterwards, you can get what you desire!"
The gymnasium reverberated with cheers from the students.
After removing the microphone from the stand Reima started to explain the new system.
A special system for Witch-Hunting Festival. Every platoon is going to host an event, during which they will be earning special currency from the visitors who come from outside. The more of the currency a platoon gathers, the more points they will get for the test platoon system.
The value of the special currency is equivalent to that of normal money. Special currency is used to prevent students from using their own money in exchange for points. And it's impossible to exchange the money other than doing it at the clearing house.
The exchange ratio is one point for a thousand of the currency. Fractions of that amount are not added to the points. In simpler terms, ten thousand was equivalent to that of an E-class Magical Heritage.
Of course, for veterans who already reached the promotion quota during the last six months, in consideration for them it was made possible to exchange the special currency for normal money.
The expenses are covered by the school. However preparation and sales are all to be done by students on their own.
"——There are no other rules! You can do anything as long as its not against the law! Enjoy yourselves! And obtain points! There will be no other event like this!"
Reima motivated the students.
Everyone was silenced, and not a single person was acting noisily now.
Just, there was an eerie fighting spirit, and their eyes were glowing like that of a leopard's at night, displaying their motivation.
So to speak, it was a very typical reaction for the students of this school. Getting points without platoon activities? Investigation and combat not necessary? No risk involved? Just making money?
———It's a godsend!
As everyone quietly readied themselves for the fight. Ikaruga shook her head and said.
"Good grief. That's refreshingly snobbish. As expected of a school system based on missions. They won't bite if there's no bait."
"But this way it's gotten more interesting〜. Also, you guys results are in last place so you can use this opportunity to earn points. I'll help you out too〜"
Mari said that and winked, but Ouka who was beside her had an unconvinced expression on her face.
"...you're useless when you cannot use magic."
"Haa? Even though I saved you before when you were fighting, you still say things like that? Also, in recognition to my assistance in taking care of the matter with Alchemist, the restriction on my usage of magic loosened, don't talk as if you didn't know that, all right?"
*ishishi* Mari moved her fist towards her mouth and laughed wickedly.
After that battle, Mari's Gleipnir was improved and she was able to use magic a little now. Even so, she wasn't able to release enough magical power to harm others and would explode immediately if she created an attack-oriented operative procedure without permission. The level of restriction was divided into five stages, and more powerful magic was allowed for every level of restriction released.
However. The ones who had the authority to release the limit were——
"Hmph, don't forget that if you try to use magic without my permission, your head will be blown off."
Just Ouka and the Chairman. Sougetsu trusted Ouka's sense of responsibility and her hate against the witches, and allowed her to release the restriction up to level two.
"Guhh... why is it you instead of Takeru...!"
"Because I won't hesitate to trigger the explosion."
"Don't make it explode!"
"I wonder just how far would the ignited fuel tank be blown away."
"Just how long are you going to use that nickname!"
Ignoring Mari's outrage, Ouka shook her head and sighed.
"Back to the topic, I don't agree with this Witch-Hunting Festival. The test platoon system is like a challenge that has to be cleared before becoming an Inquisitor. Getting points for money is counter-productive."
"Just how stiff are you. Maybe those annoyingly well-shaped breasts of yours are stone hard too?"
"Stop that mockery. You're a student of this school too, so you should drop that sloppy attitude. This is not a normal educational institution."
"I know. But for you there is no "later" right? Think of it as of a chance."
"That has nothing to do with you."
"It does! If you guys are not here——"
I'll be alone! Mari attempted to say and looked away with a blushing face.
Ikaruga glanced at her while grinning knowingly, Ouka also guessed what she meant and displayed a slightly troubled reaction.
"Anyway, rather than participating in the Witch-Hunting Festival, I think we'd better be off seriously doing some platoon activities. Kusanagi, as a captain, you think so too right?"
Wondering why there was no reaction, Ouka looked at Takeru's face.
Suddenly——a chill ran down their spines.
And then, the one who was the most motivated and excited out of all people present, was Kusanagi Takeru.
Although Ouka tried to place a hand on his shoulder, she retracted her hand in response to the heat that was emanating from him. Even Mari stared at Kusanagi in shock.
Weird. They have never seen Takeru so motivated before.
"Kusanagi Double-Edged style initiate, Kusanagi Takeru. For personal reasons, I shall participate and do my best during this festival!"
Suddenly a war council was announced, the Small Fry Platoon members all gathered in the platoon room.
After everyone sat down on a sofa, Takeru said that with his arms crossed in front of his chest.
Because of this mysterious and abrupt declaration, Mari and Ouka whispered to each other while hiding behind the others.
"Hey heyy, why did Takeru blurt out a declaration befitting a battle scene?"
"No idea... his personality changes when he gets heated up but, why now... even if he wants points, he's much more motivated than usual."
"He really has a lot of mysteries... I know he has a little sister and he's poor, that's all. In the first place, what kind of swordsmanship is the Kusanagi Double-Edged style? I have no idea why he shouts the technique names in the middle of combat."
"! I've been also thinking about that. Maybe that's what he was taught to do, or maybe to raise his fighting spirit, or..."
"Maybe he simply shouts that because he thinks it sounds cool."
"No way, if its the latter than although it's a bit weird, it's also quite cute."
While the two of them whispered to each other in secret from Takeru, Ikaruga put a mint candy in her mouth explained the mystery to the two.
"Let's put the technique name aside, the reason he's going berserk right now is money, mo-ne-y."
Both Mari and Ouka frowned.
"That's right. This guy is living alone, aside from his little sister, he's alone, and there seems to be a debt his parents left behind. He's being chased by debt collectors often, and had to flee to this school."
"I knew he was poor but... other than that, this is news to me. So he's that poor."
Ouka looked at Takeru with sympathy.
"I was poor as well so I can understand his feelings, even so, this is..."
Mari glanced at Takeru who was practically burning.
"The special currency can be converted to normal money, and he can use that money. That must've been what winded him up. Kusanagi right now is a money monger."
"You mean... Takeru is... super stingy with money?"
"He's incredibly stingy. But only when it comes to himself. Nikaido, if you are to ask him to go with you on a date, prepare to split the bill. Make sure not to have him pay for you even by mistake. If he were to treat you... imagine him make an expression as if he was to vomit blood."
Hearing the word "date", Mari blushed.
"I-I didn't even think of having Takeru treat me. I can pay for my half okay? I... umm... I'd be happy just with going on a date with him."
"You really are a shallow pettanko."
"Adding "pettanko" was unnecessary!!"
As usual, the trio was noisy but then, *donn*, Takeru hit the table with both of his hands causing them to turn towards him in amazement.
"Listen you three, this time the Witch-Hunting Festival is no joke. We need to brace ourselves and do our best. We need to properly think of a plan. As soon as the initial draft is determined, we need to make a list of goods and materials to procure. Depending on what we think of, we might have to prepare and reserve a free classroom, that's why we need to carry it out as soon as possible. The location is most important when you open a store."
"We certainly are incredibly clumsy, however, business should be out of the others' specialty as well... it's definitely an opportunity. Although I'm bad at it, I am accustomed to customer service because of a part-time job at a convenience store. I should be able to teach you what to do. Let's do it... let's take over the world!"
"K-Kusanagi is speaking like a captain...!"
"Scary...! Takeru actually sounds like a captain...!"
Everyone was taken aback.
Takeru was so motivated, it seemed very creepy.
"Gonna do it... I'm gonna do it. I'll do anything to win! I'll carry this burden... and not half, but everything, I'll carry it all! If anyone is unhappy if we win, I... I——I won't hesitate to use witch hunter form!"
"Nonono stop! Stop, don't go there! Why would you use the witch hunter form at a school festival?!"
"It's useless. He's not listening at all. And his eyes are sparkling..."
Both Mari and Ouka were in shock because of his drastic change.
However, Ikaruga saw it before, and she was familiar with Takeru who was like this. She knew that he would still turn back to normal if he's rebuked.
"Kusanagi. Before we make money, we need to get enough points to reach the quota. Or maybe you want to throw our future away for money?"
Ikaruga said it calmly, with an absent-minded expression.
Takeru was weak when facing the sense of responsibility for the other three. The heat evaporates from Takeru's body, and his eyes that glowed red also momentarily turn back to normal.
He returned to normal, and sweat appeared on his temples. Takeru had a difficult expression on his face, putting his hand on his chin. But after a few seconds he heated up again.
"Don't worry. There's 120 points remaining——in other words, we need to earn hundred and twenty thousand. In other words, we can split everything we earn above that sum equally between us!"
Berserk. He was positive in vain.
"Do you know just how hard it would be to make hundred and twenty thousand in one day〜?"
Ikaruga responded with a decent question, but Takeru responded with a fearless and evil smile.
"It's difficult but not impossible. Suginami, you've missed something important."
"During this Witch-Hunting Festival, you can ally yourself with other platoons right? If for example everyone in the group earns two hundred thousand, it's mechanism that adds to the points of all platoons that worked together. This is the opportunity we can use———there is no way I would have missed it!"
Takeru pointed at Ikaruga showing his spirit, as if he outwitted a formidable enemy.
However, there was no change in Ikaruga's expression, as if she was daydreaming, she opened her mouth slowly.
"So, which platoon do you want to partner with?"
"Of course there is permission for doing joint platoon activities. However those points are divided between platoons. And you didn't think of that plan up until now right? But even if you still want to team up. There is no one we can partner with."
"Or maybe you have some connections? Because I don't."
Takeru moved his gaze away from Ikaruga, and stared at Ouka.
Of course she shook her head, although she was popular among the girls in the class, but because she was stiff and had a bitter atmosphere around her making it hard to approach her, she didn't have any friends.
Next was Mari. She made a bitter smile and raised her hands. Of course. With a premise of being a witch, and the fact that she didn't attend school for long yet. Her acquaintances were only the platoon members.
And Takeru himself, was out of question. The girls were scared by his scary eyes that seemed like that of a murderer, and thought of him as of a weirdo who has a sword hanging on his waist. On the other hand, not only was he thought of for having a scary appearance, but people were also jealous of the fact that all his platoon members were female, and all of them had above average specs.
He had no friends, and the only ones whom he talked with; Kyouya and Akira were in hospital.
*pshoo*, Takeru's fighting spirit was quenched like fire being splashed with a bucket of water. It deflated like a balloon before disappearing.
"Sorry... somehow I... was lost in dreams... sorry..."
Takeru went to the corner of the room and curled up holding his knees.
"That's a really amazing slump. Even though he was so frantic, he's like a dried potato now."
"Ta-Takeru... it's not a bad thing that you were motivated, okay? Let's do our best like normally you know, normally."
Mari approached him timidly and rubbed Takeru's back to comfort him.
"Sorry everyone... I'm no good as a captain... the fact that I got heated up by a short-term benefit makes me disqualified as a captain... haha, I'm really an idiot..."
Both Ouka and Mari and murmured "this guy is so troublesome".
Usagi finished the examination of her injured eye, and heard a voice from the other side of platoon's room door, she didn't move. Although it usually was a noisy place, this time it felt strangely far away.
It seemed like there was no problems even if she wasn't there.
The Small Fry Platoon would work even without her.
These were the thoughts that appeared in her head.
She didn't think of things like that too often. Even among the Small Fry Platoon she was no good. During the previous battle, she thought of herself as the one pulling everyone else's legs. She, a sniper who was a decisive factor, risked everyone's lives. It's not that she felt bad. She didn't feel apologetic. But even Usagi could feel responsibility. That's why when she remembered the fear and tension she felt at the battlefield, she considered it a failure.
She thought that one day they will say "you are not needed".
The same way her own parents did.
Usagi was always afraid of that.
This was the only place she could stay at. The only place she didn't want to lose.
That's why up until now, she clung desperately trying to keep up with everyone.
...it seems... like there's no need... for me to cling to it any longer...
Usagi narrowed her eyes and raised her hand.
...what kind of expression should I have when I enter.
And what kind of face should she make, when she tells everyone about quitting school. She didn't know.
Even so, she forced herself and put a hand on the doorknob.
『"Sorry, it seems like I tripped. Oh right, Is Usagi not done yet?"』
『"It seems like her eye injury is still lingering. It's best if its cured properly. Details aside, the sniper is a cornerstone of our platoon. Saionji's eyes are also our eyes."』
Hearing her own name in the conversation among the platoon members, Usagi's movement stopped again.
At a time like this... don't say things that will make me happy.
If she's told that she's needed, she will be happy. And at the same time, she felt painful.
『"We need her for the Witch-Hunting Festival too. Did you know? That girl is unexpectedly popular with boys. No matter what we host, she'll bring in customers. Those looks of hers have a high fighting potential."』
Contrary to the deep emotions within Usagi, the flow of the conversation turned suspicious and Usagi noticed.
『"Ahh, Usagi-chan is really cute〜. Rather than a rabbit, she's more like a puppy. Somehow she has that... 'bully me' aura around her right? When her eyes become watery, it's incredibly thrilling."』
『"Ehh?! Takeru doesn't think so?! No way?!"』
『"Haa... I know there is a pervert muffler here."』
『"Stop giving me weird nicknames every time!"』
『"If it's "bully me" aura, then Nikaido has it too. It seems like you would die if you were left alone."』
『"I'll thrust that mint candy up your nose?!"』
『"...I was reminded that Usagi hates being called by her first name. But to me, that headband really looks like rabbit ears... it's really, umm, I think it's cute."』
『"Ooh. It's rare for Ootori to call something 'cute'."』
『"Mmm. Even I have minimum of sensitivity as a woman. Don't make fun of me."』
『"That's not convincing when it's said by a tasteless woman who only eats anpan〜"』
『"——What do you know about anpan!"』
『"You snap because of that?! Don't pull my mufflerr!"』
『"But now that you say it. I wonder why is she wearing that rabbit-like headband."』
『"Ufufu you really don't understand, Kusanagi. That girl actually likes being called 'Usagi-chan'. She continues to say 'don't don't', because she can't be honest. Ufufu, that girl."』
『"She's turned into a pervert completely... but really, she wants to be called 'Usagi-chan'. All right, I won't refrain from doing that any more. I'll call her Usagi-chan from now on!"』
"I won't ever allow you to call me that way, you rotten oranges——!!"
She was stupid to indulge in deep emotions, Usagi opened the doors with a great momentum as anger surged in her.
Inside, were the platoon members enjoying tea and biscuits as usual.
No one showed any surprise, and just stared at Usagi with mouths full of biscuits.
"Yo, welcome back, Usa-chan."
"You're late. Welcome back, my mistress Usa."
"?! W-welcome back, U...Usa-chan?"
At full strength, everyone called Usagi like that. She was happy, but also pissed.
"Khhhhhiiiiiiiii I told you not to call me that! Are you doing it on purpose or are you bird brains?! Did you realize that I overheard you?! Even though you know my feelings about it you laugh behind my back! Ootori, stop trying to read the mood, it's impossible for you!"
"No... I tried to read the mood but... h-how was it?"
"It's not 'how was it'!! It's fine if you don't read the mood in here!"
After she was yelled at by trembling Usagi, she said "So it's no good again..." and slumped.
Usagi's tone of voice returned to normal, and she placed a hand on her hip.
"Good grief, good grief!! This headband is a keepsake from my grandmother. Stop making fun of me."
"Well it's not like we were making fun of you. We just said that it looks good on you. Kusanagi thinks so too, right?"
Although Ikaruga suddenly passed the ball to him, Takeru immediately nodded.
"Yeah. I think it's really cute. It suits you."
Takeru stared straight at Usagi and said it with a smile.
Usagi was frozen stiff.
"Cc-c-cu... suddenly... what you... all of a..."
Feeling her cheeks turn red in no time, Usagi put her hands on them.
Why does this man always blurts out such things without any ulterior motives. Takeru was an incredibly honest person, and although she was happy about his praise, she wasn't accustomed to being praised and was incredibly embarrassed.
"Hm? Eh? I don't really have any ulterior motives. That's what I honestly think."
"Yes, thank you for the treat〜"
"Suginami, what? What treat?'
"The two of you as well, why are you glaring at me?"
""Nothing really, I'm already used to it.""
Ikaruga was grinning, Mari and Ouka sipped tea, discouraged.
Usagi couldn't hide her agitation, and peaked out from behind both of her hands.
Yeah, why does it always turn out like this.
Whenever she's here, it feels like being discouraged is foolish.
Unlike before, she didn't feel any distance at all. This place was so close.
Usagi thought again and decided not to talk about leaving the school till the very last moment.
There was still a bit more time. And if possible, she wanted to spend it having fun until that date.
It won't be much longer... but a little more, just like usual, as it is now.
Usagi thought of it as important and narrowed her eyes, and stood in front of the others as the usual Saionji Usagi.
"Ehem! Being called cute is fine. Weren't you guys having a war council for the Witch-Hunting festival? Seriously, why do you always divert the topic and it becomes a worthless chatter. Really, if I'm not here you are no good——"
——Without. Just when she was about to say that, a hand was placed on Usagi's shoulder.
"Excuse me. I'll take a moment."
When they looked behind, there was a strange female student there.
She wasn't alone, there were two other students in the back behind her.
"Did something happen?"
"...is the Captain here?"
The female student entered the platoon room and stood in front of Takeru.
"I'm sorry for being abrupt, we're the twenty-third test platoon. Sorry for being straightforward, but we want to consult with you about the Witch-Hunting Festival."
Being told that they want to consult Takeru his dropped his shoulders in wonder.
The schoolgirl looked towards him seriously, and after raising her eyebrows she said in a heavy voice.
"Won't you——form alliance with us?"
It was a surprising proposal for the Small Fry Platoon.