After a good deal of time and experiences, the atmosphere in room 106 had calmed considerably. They were much more cooperative and less likely to argue.
“…Aah, it’s no good…”
So Koutarou’s worries weren’t just due to the invading girls, but also himself. Essentially, he was returning to being an everyday student.
“What’s wrong Koutarou, what are you sighing about?” Sanae answered Koutarou’s sigh gently. She was clinging to his back and followed his gaze to the open window, showing the summer sun illuminating the town. “Go ahead and ask me, Sanae-chan, I’ll solve all of your worries.”
“It’s not really something I need to go out of my way and talk about.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine, just go ahead and tell me.”
The other day, Sanae had been captured by ghost hunters and then saved by the residents of room 106. That brought them one step closer together and let them compromise. The biggest example would be Sanae and Koutarou, who were at the centre of that incident, Sanae now treated Koutarou as a close friend. On top of having a truce with her, being treated like a good friend meant he had no reason to be cruel to her.
“Well… Summer’s already nearly half over, right?”
“Yeah, every day’s hot and nasty, are you worried about the heat?”
“No, the days being hot like this means the treasures on the mountain will grow up nice and big.”
Theia perked up hearing the word treasures, and stared at Koutarou whilst blinking perplexedly. With the athletics festival and saving Sanae, Theia’s aggressive personality had softened greatly. Even now her personality still clashed with Koutarou’s and they argued, but she didn’t treat him like a primitive anymore but acknowledged him as a worthy rival.
“Well…” Koutarou didn’t answer immediately, after starting to speak, he looked around the room, and after confirming that a certain person wasn’t around, finally opened his mouth. “Beetles, if the summer’s hot like this, I’ll definitely be able to catch a big one… I want to go catch one…”
Koutarou sighed again and his gaze returned to the window with a hint of longing. Far in front of where he was looking, a mountain rose up, decorated with beautiful green trees. There would surely be big beetles waiting there for him.
“Well you reap what you sow, don’t you.”
“I said it wasn’t something I needed to talk about.”
Sanae puffed her cheeks out in dissatisfaction at Koutarou’s answer.
The reason Koutarou couldn’t go out and catch a beetle was because of Ruth’s hatred of them. When they went to the sea, Koutarou mistook Ruth for a tree with beetles on it whilst half-asleep and held on to her, as a result, Ruth now hated beetles.
Sanae was upset because she felt it was because of Koutarou that she couldn’t do something interesting, she wanted to play with Koutarou.
“You truly are an idiot…”
Theia sighed after listening only to be let down. She didn’t understand how Koutarou could be so excited just about insects. Theia was a girl, and an alien at that so it was hard for her to understand an Earthling boy’s feelings.
“Now, don’t say that. Satomi Koutarou wasn’t being malicious.”
Kiriha was different from Sanae and Theia and was on Koutarou’s side. From when she was young she’d been a tomboy who enjoyed insect catching, and her treasured thing was a rare hero card with a beetle as its motif. So she had an understanding of a boy’s hobbies.
“My only ally is Kiriha-san then…”
“Ane-san is kind, ho-!.”
“Koutarou, if you’re getting married, take Anego, ho-.”
“Pay attention! It’s obvious she’s just doing it to trick you!”
“I didn’t intend that at all.”
“I don’t believe you! Bleh!”
“Well, it looks like I’m hated. Fufufu.”
Even though Sanae was snapping at her, Kiriha had an easy smile.
“Neanderthal, you already have one freeloader, you don’t need any more.”
“I’m not a freeloader! I’m the loving guardian spirit, Sanae-chan!”
“That’s not it, I was talking about Yurika.”
Hearing her name, Yurika looked up for a moment but soon returned to slurping her cup noodle.
“Oh yeah, Koutarou is already looking after Yurika.”
“I’m not a freeloader, I make my own food.”
She didn’t like being treated like a freeloader, so after finishing what was in her mouth, she showed Sanae her cup noodle. That was Yurika’s tiny pride.
“But you know, Yurikaa. if you’re just going to keep eating that kind of thing, you may as well become a freeloader, right? Your body itself might start smelling of artificial flavourings.”
“Uuum… Satomi-san, I’m becoming a freeloader from now on!”
She only needed two seconds to decide and then she threw away her pride and decided to become a freeloader.”
Of course, Koutarou had no intention of allowing this, he was already unhappy with her living in the upper half of the wardrobe.
“Whhhyyy!? You don’t have to be so mean! Would you be alright with me being lost at the roadside!?”
“Get lost where you like.”
“Even though you say that, you’re still happy you live with me~~.”
“Why you… what the hell goes on in your head?”
Like this, the relationships between Koutarou and the invading girls had softened considerably since they first met. They’d gained sympathy and understanding towards each other, but still had to remember they were enemies. So they had positive and negative feelings fighting against each other. It was too soon to call each other friends, but they also didn’t want to call each other enemies. If one was troubled the others would help but they’d at some time need to defeat the others. Their emotions were complicated.
Around the mid-point of the summer holidays, Koutarou was mostly free. It being mid way through the holidays, you might think he would have homework left, but he’d actually already finished it, both to avoid worrying his father and because Harumi, his senior in the knitting society had said they’d start activities again once he’d finished. Koutarou wouldn’t lie to those two and had finished his homework in July.
He’d finished his homework and the society’s activities had resumed, but of course, it wasn’t every day. And even if there were, it wouldn’t be from morning until evening, so Koutarou had more free time than he knew what to do with. This was why he had been thinking about wanting to go insect hunting.
“Satomi-sama, the sun is strong today, so wear this hat.”
“Thank you, Ruth-san.”
Koutarou lowered his head and Ruth put a straw hat there. To avoid wasting time, Koutarou had decided to work. He was working at the same place as he had been since spring, excavating the ruins. The ruins also needed more workers in the summer so it was a good windfall.
“And there’s barely tea in this canteen. Make sure to take breaks and re-hydrate.”
“Leave it to me, Ruth. I’ll supervise and make sure he drinks.”
Sanae took the canteen that Ruth prepared and put it over her shoulder, she was also going with Koutarou to his work.
Since the kidnapping at the beach, Sanae had been with Koutarou more than before. Among the invaders, she was the only one who had given up fighting with Koutarou. She didn’t think of getting points anymore, she just kept herself from being driven out. Even now, on paper, Sanae and Koutarou were enemies, but she already admitted to herself that they weren’t. On top of their promise of a truce, now that their relationship as enemies was gone, all that was left was their relationship other than that. Sanae felt that as long as she didn’t lose the chance to meet her mother again, she wanted the days like this to continue.
“Please do, Sanae-sama.”
“How often should he drink?”
“If possible, every thirty minutes.”
“Roger that… Koutarou, you need to do what I, your work leader, say, got it?”
“I got it, I got it.”
“You’ve not got enough love.”
“I understand. Leave it to me, my lovely work leader Sanae-sama.”
Sanae was happy with his response and went around to his back and held on. Sanae carried the canteen, towel, tissues and other things and Koutarou did the actual work. Somehow this is how the roles had come to be distributed.
“Ooh, it’s nice and cool.”
Sanae being on Koutarou’s back was cooling and convenient for working under the blazing sun. Sanae was a ghost so direct contact with living beings let her take some of their heat. The shuddering feeling from ghosts was being used in place of a cooler. And Sanae was useful for making Koutarou take breaks when he got immersed in excavating.
“Koutarou, where’s your gratefulness for Sanae-chan’s chic maiden power?”
“If you make it a little cooler I’ll be really grateful.”
“Oh, that’s it, I’m truly grateful for all of your work, leader.”
“Right, if there’s anything troubling you, you can ask your leader, me, at any time.”
Seeing their interaction, Ruth closed her eyes slightly in enjoyment.
“Satomi-sama, Sanae-sama, you get on very well now, don’t you?”
“That’s not true.”
“Nihihihihi, you can’t lie, Koutarou, the proof’s right here, isn’t it?”
Sanae poked Koutarou’s cheek with her left hand and showed Koutarou the charm hanging around her neck with her right hand. Neatly embroidered on it was “Family Safety” and as long as it protected Sanae, Koutarou’s words were meaningless to her.
“He really isn’t someone who wants to fight, we just haven’t built up trust with him… so her highness will eventually…”
As Ruth watched their conversation, she hoped that someday he and Theia might become like that too. They hadn’t grown closer because Koutarou rescued Sanae, but because just before that, they’d shared their true feelings.
“Well, see you later, Ruth-san.”
“See you lateeer!”
So Ruth watched them go with a smile. Seeing their understanding in front of her eyes, even if their route was different, gave her the courage to keep going. Ruth started to think that their future wasn’t bleak.
Ruth returned to the main room and a voice called out to her, Ruth’s master, Theia.
“Ruth, you’re unusually happy, did something good happen?”
As far as Theia knew, Ruth was someone who always smiled, but she seemed happier than usual now. She found it very strange from just seeing off Koutarou and Sanae.
“No, nothing in particular. I just thought I could see Satomi-sama and Sanae-sama being real siblings and it made me happy.”
“… Sanae might not be a problem for taking over the room anymore.” Murmured Theia, looking towards the entrance. From where she was, she couldn’t see the entrance, or of course the two that had left, but she could faintly imagine them, Sanae clinging to Koutarou’s back. Like Ruth said, they were like siblings, noisily heading to work.
“Sanae was lonely and isolated waiting for her parents, but living with Koutarou pulled her out from that isolation. Possibly even waiting for her parents isn’t painful anymore.”
Kiriha added to Theia’s comment.
Sanae found living with Koutarou fun, so even if she gained the rights to the room she might not drive Koutarou out. And as long as Koutarou was there, waiting for her parents wasn’t painful, and Koutarou too might not kick her out if he gained the rights to the room. If that was the case then it didn’t matter whether Sanae succeeded at invading or not.
“I’m sure Sanae found meaning in invading itself…” Said Yurika, before carrying on slurping her noodles.
Theia’s eyes went wide at Yurika’s innocent words. They were most likely correct and hearing those words from Yurika, Theia, Ruth and Kiriha couldn’t hide their surprise.
“She’s not just a simple idiot… if so… no, that can’t be…”
For an instant, Theia considered believing what Yurika always said about her being a magical girl. But with a wry smile, she chased those thoughts from her head.
Noticing their gazes but not knowing the reason, Yurika looked around in puzzlement and after a few seconds tilting her head, went back to slurping her cup noodles.
With Sanae still riding on his back, Koutarou reached Kisshouharukaze High School. The ruins Koutarou was working at were at the top of a small mountain by the school. Whilst on his way, the sun had beat down mercilessly on his head and the hat Ruth had given him quickly proved its usefulness.
“It’s surprisingly stuffy in the hat though.”
“Is this better then?”
Sanae reached out her right hand and touched Koutarou’s hat, and because she was a ghost, her hand easily passed through the hat and rested on his head.
Sanae’s hand released a cold aura. Lowering the surrounding temperature was a plain technique of ghosts, but it was convenient for the summer heat.
“It’s not useful at all in the winter though, is it?”
“It’s really helpful now.
“Then praise me more.”
“Well done, well done.”
Koutarou stroked Sanae’s head over his shoulder and she closed her eyes in happiness. Still smiling, Sanae started playing with Koutarou’s head, tickling it gently or slightly pulling on his hair. Sanae kept playing with him, like a small child does with their father in the middle of a nap.
“…No, it’s nothing.”
Koutarou thought he would say something to Sanae, but wasn’t entirely sure what so he swallowed his words. Koutarou knew that Sanae doing this wasn’t unpleasant, but he didn’t know how to put it into words and make sure she didn’t misunderstand, so he gave up explaining it.
“The weather’s good today, isn’t it.”
Koutarou kept walking under the summer skies with Sanae on his back, and their smiles were as clear as the sky.
Koutarou was nearly at the school when a bus overtook them. The bus stopped at a bus stop in front of the school and several people got off and ran off. They were all wearing school uniforms so he guessed they were students. They were all headed towards the school, but there was one girl heading the opposite direction, down the hill road.
“Koutarou, isn’t that Harumi?”
“It is. Sakuraba-senpai!”
She was the leader of the knitting society that Koutarou belonged to, Sakuraba Harumi. She noticed Koutarou from the bus and came to greet him. When he noticed her, he ran towards her, and Sanae followed slightly behind.
“Why are you here? I thought there wasn’t a meeting today?”
“I came for the meeting for the cultural festival, I’m still the one in charge of the club after all.”
The knitting society weren’t meeting today but Harumi was here for the meeting for the cultural festival held in November.
“Try and get us a space then?”
If the knitting society could get a space then it would make recruiting members for next year easier, providing a chance to make sure their tiny society of two people wasn’t overlooked.
“Satomi-kun… you’re wearing those clothes so you’re going to work?”
“That’s right, while you’re in the cool room having a meeting, I’ll be working away under the sun.”
“Fufufu, be careful not to collapse, okay?”
Harumi smiled slightly and waved her hands at him, blowing a wind towards him. It wasn’t a great deal of wind but Harumi cute action refreshed him more than actual wind.
“I’m getting on much better with senpai too…”
In the beginning, when they were alone together Harumi was slightly nervous, but recently that nervousness had faded and gradually she started to show him bright smiles like this.
“Even if the student council room has air conditioning, you be careful too, Sakuraba-senpai.”
“Thank you, Satomi-kun, whoops, I need to go now!”
“I should go too then.”
“Work hard, Satomi-kun.:
“I will! See you next time!”
“See you next time, Satomi-kun!”
Koutarou and Harumi were both happy to see each other unexpectedly but the two of them both had work to do, so the two separated and headed towards their destinations.
“So, let’s go to work now!”
When Harumi had finally left their sight and they were alone again, Sanae returned to Koutarou’s back. Sanae had actually waited slightly away from them until Koutarou and Harumi had finished talking.
“My bad, sorry for making you fuss.”
“While Sakuraba-senpai was here you stayed back, didn’t you?”
Recently Sanae had been less reserved with Koutarou and held onto him most of the time. But there were occasions when she waited a little distance away like this. Sanae didn’t truly want to cause Koutarou trouble.
“Harumi helped us at the beach so I thought I’d stay out of the way for a while.”
“You’re thoughtful sometimes.”
Koutarou and Sanae’s argument was solved because of Harumi’s advice, Koutarou had told her this so she knew. In other words, being able to hold on to Koutarou was thanks to Harumi, so to show her thanks, when Koutarou and Harumi spoke, she’d be quiet and wait.
“You can tell I’m not an ungrateful evil spirit.”
“Then what are you?”
“You can call me Guardian Angel Sanae-chan.”
“I don’t quite get it, but it sounds strong.”
Continuing their light hearted conversation, the two of them walked along the path that went around the school. As Ruth said, the two of them did look like an older brother and his little sister.
The ruins atop the mountain by Kisshouharukaze High School were generally known as the Kisshouharukaze Ruins. The ground was being prepared for an institution related to Kisshouharukaze High School when the ruins appeared. Because of this, they were given the name of the school and came to be known as the Kisshouharukaze Ruins.
Their discovery was a great shock to the archaeological world because of all the apparently impossible artefacts that were excavated.
The objects themselves were plates and pots, nothing but commonplace items. Judging by how well they were made, the ruins should be from the Yayoi era. However, when they were scientifically dated, it was found they were made ten thousand years before. This was unbelievable, the Yayoi era was approximately two thousand years ago, but items with the same level of manufacturing skill had been found from ten thousand year old ruins. That meant a civilisation with skills eight thousand years ahead of their time had existed here. It was a huge discovery that overturned many theories that had existed until now.
It may have been a shocking discovery, but they needed hard proof. They couldn’t just re-write history without a proper excavation and investigation. So a large scale excavation of the site began to make sure of the discovery. Thanks to that, more workers were needed and when searching for part time work, Koutarou became one of them.
The work was tough but paid well because of it. One day’s work would easily earn a month’s rent for room 106. It was close to the school too, so it was an easy place to work. Thanks to this, Koutarou could live off of his earnings. Being able to live without being a burden to his father was something that Koutarou was proud of.
“Koutarou, it’s about time for a break.”
“Hmm, it’s already time?”
“Drink some tea, you’ll collapse.”
Koutarou took the canteen from Sanae and began drinking the barley tea inside it. Ruth’s skill at Japanese style cooking was increasing and her barely tea had improved too. It was just like Koutarou liked it, fairly strong.
“The tea’s good today too.”
“I prefer it a bit weaker.”
“If you don’t like it, get off.”
“No way, I want to drink too.”
“What a selfish girl.”
“Well I’m a girl… More importantly, Koutarou, the glasses-guy is coming.”
As Koutarou closed the lid on the barley tea he’d been drinking, his childhood friend, Matsudaira Kenji, appeared in the area he was working. He’d said he was going out somewhere today, so Koutarou knit his eyebrows in puzzlement.
“Yo, McKenzie, I thought you weren’t coming today?”
“I wasn’t, but well, a lot of stuff happened.”
“Don’t tell me, you broke up again?”
Koutarou knew Kenji had plans with his girlfriend, and Kenji’s personality meant that he wouldn’t stand her up and go to work. So naturally, the possibility he’d broken up rose to the surface. It was a pattern even Koutarou understood.
“That’s not the case… But nearly.”
“You never learn your lesson…”
“You’ve never even gone out, so you wouldn’t know!”
They were words that Kenji had just thought of as an excuse, but they resounded strangely to Koutarou.
“You wouldn’t understand unless you’ve gone out, huh… That might be true…”
Koutarou glanced behind him to see Sanae floating nearby, waiting for them to finish talking and following a butterfly with her eyes. It was a charming scene, Koutarou felt this because of spending time and coming here with her. Koutarou’s valuation of Sanae was very different from when they first met, and that was true to a certain extent for the other invaders too. That was definitely – albeit slightly different from what Kenji meant – something he wouldn’t have understood without going out with them.
“Talk before it gets weird.”
However, Koutarou and Kenji were exact opposites, with time, Koutarou made relationships, but with time, Kenji destroyed them, so Koutarou couldn’t properly understand his feelings.
“So how many does that make it now?”
“You’re not even past zero yet, so you can’t talk, Kou!”
Koutarou and Kenji started excavating whilst arguing. Sanae watched them for a while, but gradually became bored and decided to go and walk around the area.
“Koutarou, Koutarou, I’m going to go look around over there.”
“…Don’t go too far so you don’t get lost.”
“Okay, I’m off!”
“…Sure, be careful.”
Sanae made sure to tell Koutarou, and then went off to walk. But she didn’t notice how naturally she did it, Koutarou was the same, but that was the change that had occurred between them in the past few months.
“Kou, did you say something?”
“No, nothing. Oh, an arrowhead.”
Koutarou was working with Kenji, and Sanae was walking on her own, they were doing things separately, but the distance between their hearts wasn’t as great as the actual distance between them.
Kenji had so easily told his sob story to use it as motivation to ask Koutarou something, even if it was Kenji asking he wouldn’t easily get to the core of things with no reward.
“If we’re talking about troubling stuff, Kou.”
“…You’re strangely not troubled.”
For a moment, Kenji’s kind disposition showed.
“How do you mean?”
“To tell the truth, when you started living on your own, I thought you’d go bad again.”
Koutarou had lived with just his father. His mother had died in an accident when he was young. That had destroyed his home life, and it had taken a long time to build it back up. His childhood friend Kenji had seen that up close, so whilst he’d said various things when Koutarou started to live alone, he was actually worried about it. That was also why he’d taken every chance to tell Koutarou to get a girlfriend.
“Aah, that’s what you mean.”
Koutarou stopped working and smiled slightly.
To Koutarou, Kenji worrying about that wasn’t strange, and because it was Kenji, he didn’t find it unpleasant, he’d played a large role in fixing his life after it was destroyed.
“But… you’ve been the same as always. It made me slightly curious if everything was okay.”
Kenji said that with a wry smile, he was glad that his worries were unfounded but was still curious. He wanted to know if there was a reason. It was proof of his friendship.
“Now that you mention it…”
Now that Kenji had pointed it out to him, Koutarou noticed he hadn’t felt lonely living alone.
“Why’s it like that…?”
Koutarou found it strange. The day he’d moved in, he had indeed felt lonely, no one was waiting for him there, and his voice echoed in the empty room.
“I see, I might…”
If Koutarou went home, Kiriha would be in the kitchen preparing dinner, Ruth would be preparing tea. Theia would be engrossed in a game on the TV, Yurika would be sleeping in the wardrobe or reading manga. And Sanae would be riding on Koutarou’s back as always.
In other words, from the day after moving in, Koutarou hadn’t been alone since.
“So there is a reason?”
“It’s not quite a reason. I’m just busy everyday and if I go to school there are loads of people I get on well with at school, right? So I don’t feel lonely.”
Koutarou couldn’t directly say that though so he changed it so Kenji would understand. This was about the limit of how he could change it without it becoming a lie.
“Now that you mention it, you have been more sociable recently.”
But thankfully, Kenji accepted this answer and nodded deeply.
From Kenji’s point of view, Koutarou hadn’t just been being sociable with the boys, but with female students too. Theia and Ruth stood out, and there was the honour student Kiriha and Yurika who was nearly failing that he was sociable with, a large variety. He was also enthusiastic in the knitting society, so it looked like he did plenty at school to compensate for any loneliness at home.
“So you don’t need to worry, you should worry about your own girlfriend.”
“Is that anyway to talk to someone who worried for you!?”
“You’ve got bad habits.”
The atmosphere between them was serious for a while, but that was wiped out in an instant and the mood returned to normal.
“Then what about you Kou, there’s that many girls around you, isn’t there one you’re interested in?”
He denied it on the surface, but in Koutarou’s mind, several girls’ faces appeared.
Theia, always aggressive but also kind.
Ruth, always worrying about everyone.
Yurika, a cosplayer who didn’t think much and was irresponsible, but he couldn’t hate.
Kiriha, who he didn’t know what she was thinking, but he’d caught a glimpse of her deeper emotions.
Harumi, who was shy and kind and taught him knitting.
Shizuka, who looked after Corona House alone after inheriting it from her parents.
“Koutarou, look, look! I caught a beetle! It’s huge!”
-Sanae, always energetic and smiling innocently.
Koutarou was interested in these seven girls. They were wrapped in complicated circumstances towards each other, so it might be too early to call them friends. But even so, it was true that they had stopped Koutarou from feeling lonely. They were people who Koutarou didn’t want to look away from for lots of reasons.
Sanae was chasing backwards and forwards after a butterfly when she saw a rhinoceros beetle and went to catch it. She could see spiritual waves and fly through the air, so no beetle could escape her. After catching it, she flew back to Koutarou at full speed and full of pride.
Full of satisfaction, Sanae returned to Koutarou’s back and put her captured beetle on his hat, watching it with a bright smile.
“Well done catching one so big.”
“It’s amazing, right?”
“Yeah, The earth’s bad around here, so I didn’t think there would be any so big.”
Rhinoceros beetles lived under the ground when they were larvae and preferred a certain level of humidity and humus in the ground. When they matured they left the ground and climbed trees, living off of their sap. So in open areas like the top of this mountain, there weren’t many around, there should be more living further down so Koutarou was honestly impressed that Sanae caught a large beetle like that in this kind of unsuitable area.
“That’s me, making the impossible possible.”
“Well done, well done.”
Koutarou would have normally rubbed Sanae’s head to praise her, but his hands were covered in mud from excavating so he lightly rubbed his head against hers instead.
“Nyahahaha, that tickles.”
“You’ve done it now!”
Sanae started doing the same thing, it was only rubbing heads together, so it didn’t hurt, and if one of them wanted to stop, both would immediately. The two of them played like that for a while.
“…Kou, what are you doing?”
But to people who couldn’t see ghosts, Koutarou looked like he’d gone insane, so Kenji was worried the heat had gotten to him or something.
“N-nothing, I thought I had some mud on my head.”
“Oh, okay then, it’s hot, so watch it.”
Fortunately Kenji didn’t question it any further and returned to his own work.
Koutarou brushed off his chest in relief.
Sanae apologised, but Koutarou wasn’t bothered, the two of them were just playing.
Then, because of the two of them moving so much and making noise, the beetle on Koutarou’s hat flew off.
Sanae watched the beetle fly off in disappointment, it flapped its wings and flew once around their heads before heading straight towards the trees. Its instincts telling it where to go to get home.
“Are you sure you want to let it go?”
Koutarou found Sanae letting it go strange, she could catch up to it and stop it getting away with her spiritual powers.
“Yeah, we can’t take Rhi-chan home with us, it wouldn’t be fair to get him tangled in our circumstances.”
“You’ve grown up, Sanae.”
“I think even kids can be grown up sometimes.”
“I think you’re right.”
Koutarou and Sanae had both become more grown up recently so they knew better than to just bring others into their circumstances, it wouldn’t be fair to keep it as a pet, or keep it there for no reason.
“If you’re proud then praise me properly.”
“Good girl, good girl.”
“…Kou, seriously, are you alright?”
“I’m fine, there was an insect on my head so I was just chasing it off!”
The midsummer sun shone down on the beetle flying back to the trees, its wings flapped strongly and were full of life. It was a sight that had held beetles’ position as children’s idols for a long time thanks to both its strength and beauty.
“Yeah… Hey, Koutarou, do you think Rhi-chan has a family?”
“I think he does, I’m sure he’s got lots of brothers and sisters waiting for him in the trees.
“Right. I’m sure… he does.”
After Koutarou and Sanae watched the beetle until they couldn’t see it anymore, he returned to work, and for the rest of the day, Sanae didn’t leave his back.
When Koutarou and Sanae got to the road home, it was about six in the evening. It was the middle of summer so the sun hadn’t set and the surroundings were still bright. They headed towards Corona House as if they were pursuing the slowly setting sun.
“Koutarou, you really worked hard, right?”
“You can tell?”
“Yeah, recently I’ve been able to tell things like that about you, only when I’m holding on to you like this though.”
“That’s strange. Maybe it’s because you’ve practised or we’re not scared of each other or something…”
“I think it’s because be get on better now.”
“It’s embarrassing to admit that up front like that.”
“Because you’re a guy?”
“I’m glad you understand.”
They carried on chatting as they walked down the road and eventually could see Corona House in the distance, it was far away so they could only see the roof, but that old fashioned design was unmistakably Corona House.
The two of them heard a voice from nearby and turned around at the same time and saw Ruth running towards them with her arms full of shopping. Not far behind her were Theia and Kiriha, it looked like the three of them had gone shopping.
“You’re coming home too then?”
“Yeah, it’s already six after all.”
“Ruth, I made sure Koutarou drank the tea.”
“Thank you for you work, Sanae-sama.”
“Koutarou, you’ve got mud on your face.”
“It’s fine, you’ll get your handkerchief dirty.”
“I don’t mind, I’m doing the washing when we get home anyway.”
Now with five people, the group continued back to Corona House. The liveliness of the conversation increased with the number of people, it was especially noticeable because when it was just the two of them, Koutarou had had to keep his voice down to avoid looking suspicious.
“Koutarou, you can’t get tricked by Kiriha, I’m the only one you can believe!”
“I know, I’m fine.”
“How heartless, and after I was so loving too.”
Kiriha heaved a heartbroken sigh and looked away, before grabbing Koutarou and pressing his arm into her large chest. It was a lascivious act that would startle any man.
“W-why you, are you seriously doing this!?”
Koutarou too, lost himself to shock here, but he knew this was one of her techniques for the invasion, so he shook his head violently to shake out those thoughts.
“Satomi-sama, there’s also the chance you’ll become Her Highness’ retainer, so please restrain yourself.”
“It’s useless to just say it, he’s an idiot.”
“What was that!? I’ll remember that tonight!”
“That goes for me too!”
With Ruth’s intervention, Koutarou’s attention was drawn completely from Kiriha to Theia, making Kiriha’s psychological attack useless.
“Your Highness, Satomi-sama, calm down please, it will go as Kiriha-sama wishes if you stay like this.”
“That’s right Koutarou, if you lose it’d be bad for me because of our truce, so hang in there!”
“I’m sorry, Ruth.”
Then, thanks to Ruth and Sanae the flames between Koutarou and Theia died down. In these months, the group had started to regain their balance.
“You don’t need to be that careful, I think of you all as friends.”
“If it was necessary, you’d be fine with defeating friends.”
“Well that’s true.”
“Koutarou… You can’t really talk like that to a lovely maiden who’s holding you like this, can you?”
Her slightly adult smile had a charm that made him lose focus and drew him in, but Koutarou had a thought that put a stop to that.
“That card… and her story about her first love… I don’t think it was a lie… so what’s this for?”
On the night they all went to the beach, Kiriha had told him about her first love. He didn’t want to think of that as a lie so thought her seductive techniques were bad.
“Is she just teasing me? Or maybe… Argh, I don’t know!”
He couldn’t reach a conclusion and was utterly confused. If he asked her, she’d just smile at him and not answer. That he knew this showed that they were getting on well.
“…She’s got guts.”
“She’s a difficult opponent.”
Not knowing Koutarou’s worries, Sanae and Ruth looked harshly at her as a rival, other than Koutarou, all of the others still thought of Kiriha as just a rival.
“Even so… what’s with them…”
He’d reconciled with Sanae, talked with Kiriha about her first love, Ruth was always worrying about everyone and Yurika would no doubt be watching anime in room 106. In the beginning they were just enemies but now Koutarou couldn’t just call them enemies and a strange feeling began to blossom in his chest.
They returned to room 106 and saw Yurika’s shoes scattered in the entrance way. Koutarou let out a small sigh and picked them up, entering the room.
“That’s right! The culprit is one of these people, find out after the break!”
“Hmm, I don’t know at all…”
Yurika was glued to the TV watching a detective anime she’d recorded yesterday. She hadn’t noticed Koutarou enter the room at all and he hit her lightly on the back of the head.
“How many times do I have to tell you not to leave your shoes out like that?”
“Sa-Satomi-san, perfect timing! Who do you think the culprit is!?”
While rubbing her sore head, Yurika pointed several times at the TV, more concerned with her anime than the pain.
“You’re not even listening.”
“I am, don’t tease me and tell me! Ow!? Why won’t you tell me!?”
“…Whatever, I was stupid to expect anything different.”
Koutarou dropped his shoulders and sat next to the table. He was tired from work so he didn’t have the energy left to stay angry at Yurika.
“You can too Sanae, tell me who’s the culprit please!”
“I haven’t watched it yet, don’t be unfair, think about it yourself.”
“I don’t know, I don’t know.”
Sanae moved away from Yurika to Koutarou with a stunned face.
“She really is a troubling girl…”
“It’s because you were too soft on her, Satomi Koutarou.”
“It’s my fault!?”
“She’s a freeloader you’re providing for, isn’t she, you should at least teach her manners.”
“She’s not someone who would change just because other people said so!”
“Don’t tease me and tell me, Satomi-san!”
When she came to the room she might have been a cosplayer, but you was serious. But day by day she became less serious, less responsible and lazier. As she became used to the environment, she showed more of her true self, this destroyed any credibility she had as a magical girl, but she herself hadn’t noticed yet.
After dinner, they started playing a game as always, tonight’s game was a card game that Koutarou had brought. It was a game about adventuring inside a cave, you lined up cards with paths and explored the cave, whoever came back with the most treasure won.
“It’s my turn next. Uhm, I’ll go this way.”
Yurika flipped a path card face up, on it was a lizard baring its fangs.
“Let’s see, let’s see… ‘Whilst you are adventuring, you are attacked by a huge, fire-breathing lizard. Roll a die and add the result to your attack power, if it’s greater than seven, you win. If you win, take a treasure card, if you lose, either discard a treasure card or skip a turn.'”
There were monsters lying in wait in the cave, if you encountered one, you would roll a dice to decide if you won/
“Oooh, ooh, the sword I’m using has an attack power of four, so I only need three, it’s an easy win.”
“Wait, Yurika, I’m using this card.”
“Let’s see, let’s see… ‘You have neglected to maintain your weapon and it has rusted, minus one attack power.’ That’s just like Yurika.”
“Why are you being mean to me!?”
“Well it’s that kind of game.”
In this game, if you had disturbance cards in your hand, you could use them at various points in the game. The one Theia used was to make the roll more difficult for other players when they fought.
“Ah, I’ve got one too, here.”
“Let’s see… ‘You haven’t eaten enough and feel weak, minus one attack power.’ Nyahahahaha, that’s even more like Yurika.”
“Even you, Satomi-san!? Why is it just me!?”
“Well you’ve got the most treasure now.”
Obstructing the other players like this whilst you searched for treasure yourself was the main point of this game. If you were ahead you’d get hindered more, but if you weren’t, you wouldn’t win, choosing when to go out ahead was an extremely important tactic.
“So minus two overall, you need at least five.”
Kiriha summed up, from only needing three, she’d had two minus one cards used against her so she needed five on the die, it had suddenly got much harder.
“Uuuu, why does it…”
The others understood the rules and stopped favouring treasure acquisition around the mid-game and focussed on plotting out their hands, but Yurika didn’t think and still favoured treasure collection, entering first and drawing the others’ fire.
“Just roll the die, Yurika!”
“Uuuu…” On the verge of tears, Yurika picked up the die and appeared to pray, before rolling it across the table. “Pleeee~~aaase!”
Yurika was frantic, this die would decide her rank.
The dice rolled to the edge of the table and stopped.
“How unfortunate, Nijino Yurika.”
“Yurika’s been eaten by a huge, fire-breathing lizard.”
“Waah, I would have won if you didn’t get in the way~~.”
Unfortunately, it stopped on four, not the desperately needed five, so Yurika had to decide whether to discard a treasure card or skip a turn.
“So which will you do, Yurika?”
“…I’ll skip a turn.”
Yurika decided to skip a turn, after her long life of poverty, she hesitated to throw away treasure. But at this point, it was the wrong decision, if she discarded a treasure, then she wouldn’t be aimed at and could finish without losing a turn with careful planning in the end game. Skipping a turn would only invite more hindrances and drive her into a worse situation.
“Then, it’s my turn! Oops, before that, here you go, Yurika.”
“What is it?”
“A disturbance card, ‘Your wounds were deeper than first thought, you need an extra turn to recover, skip one more turn.'”
“H-how could youu~~~!?”
With yet another hindrance, Yurika definitely had no chance of winning.
When strategy was important, Yurika’s results weren’t good. They played the game four times, and in all of them, Yurika kept her low position. As a result, since spring when she had 180 points, Yurika’s had fallen to near 100. It seemed clear that by Autumn she’d have lost 100 points.
“Don’t be so sad, Yurika, I’m sure we’ll find a game you’re good at some day.”
“Really, Satomi-san!? What game would I be good at!? Do you think I can be saved!?”
“I-I wouldn’t say you can’t be.”
Koutarou pushed back Yurika as she came towards him crying, and wiped cold seat off of his forehead. Koutarou felt that there was little chance of her turning it around, she was already nearly a hundred points down on everyone else after all. But he felt awkward saying that to Yurika, he really couldn’t hate her.
“The Neanderthal is right, Yurika. It’s not the end yet, don’t give up. Those that fight to the very end, ready to fight until they collapse, those are the ones who win in the end.”
“Hmm, you say good things sometimes, Theia.”
“You didn’t need to add the ‘sometimes’!”
“But Theia’s right, you give up too early, Yurika.”
“You do, do you want to make Sakuraba-senpai worry again?”
“Sakuraba-senpai… R-right, I’ll try my best!”
When Yurika was unhappy, Harumi’s name would make her energetic again. Harumi was someone who held a great deal of meaning to Yurika, you could say it was a sign of being human. And it was also a reason that Koutarou couldn’t hate Yurika, Yurika respected Harumi a great deal, and was also important to Harumi, so when it came down to it, Koutarou couldn’t be too harsh to her.
Whilst Koutarou was looking at Yurika with complicated feelings, Sanae who was floating next to him raised her hand in excitement.
“Right, right, everyone!”
“Hmm, what’s up?”
“The game was interesting, so who don’t we play again, but not for points? Ruth, Karama-chan and Koroma-chan can join in too.”
“I can too?”
Ruth’s eyes went wide at Sanae’s unexpected suggestion, she’d not thought that she would play too. Sanae faced her and nodded energetically.
“Yeah, you know the rules from watching, right?”
Ruth nodded hesitantly, but didn’t know if she should join in too.
“Let’s go, ho-! We wanted to play too, ho-!”
“We know the rules too, ho-! It’s a game where you get in Yurika-chan’s way, ho-!”
“No it’s not!”
Compared to Ruth, the Haniwa were raring to go and used their short hands to start cutting the cards. The two of them looked like they were doing acrobatics.
“Yes… It’s good to sometimes.”
“Are you sure?”
“It’s the same as when we went to the beach. Instead of just fighting, sometimes you need a rest too.”
When she had won a hotel voucher in the tombola, everyone had gone to the sea in the name of a break. Theia had learnt the tolerance to allow things like that, to occasionally forget the conflict and relax.
“Then I’ll play too.”
“Right, right, that’s good!”
“Everyone’s playing, ho-!”
“Shouldn’t we invite Shizuka too?”
When everyone had decided to play, Kiriha smiled and pointed at the ceiling. Shizuka had come with them to the sea, so Kiriha thought it would be nice to play with her too.
“I’ll go invite her then!”
Without waiting for anyone else’s agreement, Sanae flew up through the ceiling, because she could go through, it was convenient for inviting her.
After confirming it did seem like Sanae was actually telling her about the game, Koutarou dropped his gaze from the ceiling where it fell on Yurika who was making a face as she was deep in thought.
“What’s wrong, Yurika?”
“Thinking about what should I do if even after there are more people, I still come in last…”
“You can’t do that, try your best.”
“But but, I think that if I lose now I won’t be able to pull it back! So maybe I shouldn’t play!”
Yurika threw herself towards him, sniffling, he used both hands and pushed her back down and soothed her.
“That again… It’s not for points, so if it’s only a little, you can ask me for help, so try your best, okay?”
“R-really!? I knew you were really a good person when we fist met!”
“That’s it, hang in there, right?”
“It’s okay, I already feel like I won.”
Koutarou was still worried about her future, especially with money, but he was happy to see her get her motivation back. She really was someone he couldn’t hate.
Sanae’s and Shizuka’s voices sounded from the door. It was only down one flight of stairs to get here from Shizuka’s apartment but it had only been a short amount of time since Sanae had gone to invite her.
“Good evening, everyone.”
“Good job, Sanae.”
“It was no problem.”
“That’s it, let’s challenge Ane-san, ho-!”
“Interesting, the student becomes the teacher, ho-!”
“Fufufu, that’s just what I want.”
“Let’s go then!”
“Wait a minute, teach me the rules!”
“I’ll aim for Shizuka-san.”
“Yurika, if you don’t think and just all out attack, then you’ll lose when the landlady isn’t here.”
“That’s not good!”
Finally the cards were dealt and the game began again. Those playing were Koutarou, the four invaders, Theia’s attendant Ruth, the landlady Shizuka and Karama and Koroma, nine in all. Originally it would have been unthinkable that they would all play together. But thanks to the days they’d spent together, they’d more or less learnt to cooperate.
“For better or worse, thanks to them, I haven’t been lonely living like this…”
Koutarou looked at the girls and remembered his conversation with Kenji at lunch. However, Koutarou wasn’t adult enough to admit his gratitude outright, so for now, he’d enjoy the card game as much as possible.