Chapter 1: Part 5
We walked from Roppongi along the main street in the Azabu direction for around ten minutes… and arrived at a karaoke box.
“Wha-… Sera… this is a… meeting, right?”
“Yes. Vampire ninja meetings generally take place in locations like this.”
Wow, that was pretty casual. Well, I did already know that they were a pretty casual group.
I see… they were going to sing, so Saras had brought a stage outfit like that.
A large group of people dressed similarly to Sera were gathered in the reception area. Everyone was wearing an outfit that looked more suited for a fancy hotel or something. I had to go to a mixer after this, so I was wearing something rather rough… well, it can’t really be helped.
I counted that there were around sixty people here. And there were people of all kinds too, from people who looked like they were elementary schoolers to old jolly Santa lookalikes.
If they all shared one common trait, it was that there wasn’t a single ugly person amongst them. I guess vampires were all pretty-looking, weren’t they? Geez, if only the same could be true for zombies… we were undead too, you know…
We went up the stairs in groups, and were shown into a room that almost looked like a party hall.
I’ve never really been to karaoke with much more than four people, so I didn’t even know that they had these huge party rooms available…
Wait, but if there were this many people how were all of them going to sing? Why in the world did the karaoke people think it was a good idea to make a huge room like this?
“Well then, I have some people I need to say hello to… so I’ll leave you for now. And let me just warn you in advance, but if you decide to sing, I might be so disgusted listening to you that I might just chop you up like a cabbage. I apologize in advance.”
“Okay, I’ll just stay quiet in a corner then. I don’t want to be made into a crunchy vegetable after all.”
Everyone here seemed to know each other, and the people around me began to chitchat.
I was an outsider though, and I wasn’t outgoing enough to just try speaking to a stranger, so I just stood quietly in the corner. Well, nah, this was a good opportunity, and I really did want to mingle with some of these people.
But… there were only two middle-aged salarymen looking people standing next to me.
“Well, you put in tube flour and fried tofu and some sliced vegetables…”
“Sounds delicious. Much better than just eggs.”
How exactly was I supposed to butt in on a conversation about oden?! (1) That wasn’t possible! Also, I was at that age where eggs were the most delicious! I could eat an entire damn meal of just eggs and daikon! And while this agonizing monologue was still running through my head…
“Yoo, Aikawa! You came!”
Tomonori came over, waving her hands energetically. Her body was wrapped in a red dress.
Thank God. If not for her, I was going to get embroiled in a heated oden discussion…
Tomonori always came off as boyish, but when she wore a dress like that with enough open at the top to really highlight her breasts, and when she put a small flower like that in her hair, you really had no choice but to say that she was a cute girl.
“I guess clothes make the man.”
“What man?! I’m not a man!” (2)
“No, Tomonori, that’s not what I was getting at…”
“D-Don’t call me Tomonori! Here it’s Mael Strom all the way!”
“No matter where, inside my heart you’ll never be the vampire ninja Mael Strom, but just my friend Tomonori.”
“… Aikawa. Alright.”
“Why are you blushing?”
Just as Tomonori began to quiet down, a guy in a tuxedo and bowtie took the microphone and began to speak in a foppish voice.
“Alright, settle down~~. Has everyone got their drinks?”
Ah, we were going to do a toast? … Eh? This was supposed to be something like a council meeting, right? This wasn’t an end-of-the-year party, right? I stood there in the corner fidgeting nervously about this, but yeah, there was pretty little doubt in my mind at this point. This was an end-of-the-year party.
For now, I just kept my mouth shut next to Tomonori as I picked up a glass of oolong tea that was close by.
“Well then, let’s have our chief lead us in this toast!”
A round of applause echoed through the room, and the microphone was passed to the demon baron.
His hair was unkempt, his beard slovenly, and his expression was lazy. But at least he was wearing a tuxedo instead of his usual white lab coat.
He looked kinda irritated… I don’t think he was necessarily irritated about having to lead the toast, but rather just because his face usually looked like that. Geez, he really looked tired.
It seemed that the demon baron had been cursed by the Queen of Virie to always be on the brink of death. So his tired expression might have been because he honestly was pretty tired.
“Okay, here we go…”
I had no idea why, but it seemed like Tomonori was getting worked up about something.
The demon baron really didn’t seem like he had prepared a toast, so he just stood there going “uhh…” for a few seconds…
“Uhh, well, when you say ‘toast,’ it makes me think of the phrase ‘we’re toast!’ which is bad. So instead of the usual ‘cheers,’ let’s say ‘victory’! Okay… cheers!” (3)
W-W-What the hell did he want us to do? After the demon baron imitated a certain politician in his toast speech, I heard the sounds of other people going “Cheers!” beginning to spread through the room.
The sounds of glass on glass reverberated all around us, and Tomonori swished her dress.
“Let’s go, Aikawa! It’s a cheers war!”
What the hell was that? But before I could think about it, four burly-looking guys came right at me, yelling “Cheeeeeeeeerrrrss~~!!!!”
Completely overwhelmed by their attacks, I suddenly just turned tail and ran.
When I had escaped to a corner of the room, I suddenly ran into the demon baron.
“Ahh, Aikawa Ayumu-kun. You’ve come at a good time.”
“What exactly are you doing in this corner?”
“My doctor ordered me to stop doing toasts. When vampire ninjas do toasts, it’s more like a battle. I have to avoid it somehow.”
Seriously? Well, certainly, when the vampire ninjas around me clanged their glasses together so aggressively, it did seem like they were fighting each other. And their yells of “Cheers!” were like battle cries.
She looked like she was having a lot of fun. Tomonori had a smile on her face as she thrust her cola-filled glass at me.
It was at times like these when I really marveled at how full of energy Tomonori was.
“Well then, Aikawa Ayumu-kun.”
… Well, I guess if their long-lost chief suddenly began to spit out blood and then collapsed, everyone would be worried…
A bunch of guys charged at us from behind Tomonori, almost like excited bulls in a bullfight.
… Their target was… the demon baron’s glass?!
Well, of course, everyone would want to clink glasses with their mighty, long-lost chief who was finally resurrected. I could feel that desire thick in the air.
“Let’s gooooooo~~! Cheeeers!!”
Tomonori crashed her glass of cola against the glass of oolong tea I had.
Gah! What was this power?!
I was sent flying like a bowling pin. As I stumbled backwards, Tomonori thrust her glass at the demon baron.
The demon baron looked a bit panicked.
… As if I’d let that happen. I quickly insert myself between them and met Tomonori’s glass with my own.
Clang! I used just enough power so that our glasses wouldn’t shatter. The cola in Tomonori’s glass swished around, almost spilling.
“Wha-?! You repelled my glass?! My toast power is eighteen-thousand! That’s pretty amazing, Aikawa!”
What the hell is a ‘toast power’?
Beer mugs came rushing at us from behind Tomonori. I met those glasses on my left side with my own, driving them away.
“Whaaaaaaaaat?!?! Here I come!”
Cling. Clang. Cling.
Beer mugs came at me one after another. And of course, I soon couldn’t deal with all of them with just one glass.
I glanced at the demon baron, and saw that he was desperately downing his oolong tea. I see. If there wasn’t anything left in his class, then it would be pointless for other people to try and cling his glass.
“Oooo… fuu fuu… cool down…”
Why was he drinking hot oolong tea?! This idiot!! He didn’t look like he could take it either!
Dammit! That’s going to take a hell of a long time to drink dry!
“Full speed, full throttle! Starlight~! Cheers!!”
Bam. What looked like a twintailed nine-year-old clanged glasses with me, and my back crashed into the wall from the force.
Beer mugs continued to come at me from all directions.
This was hopeless. I had tried my best. The demon baron still had more than half his oolong tea left.
I couldn’t go on any longer.
Just come at me! Hit me anywhere you want! Or meh, honestly, I just didn’t care anymore… the minute I thought that, a pretty black-haired girl appeared in front of me.
“My darling. You’ve done well. Let me take over from here. No matter how many oppose me, I won’t let anybody near our chief.”
I see. The chief had told Saras about the whole spitting blood thing?
Saras was emitting an aura that stopped everyone in their tracks. But soon, a guy built like the muscular performer Brutus (4) stood in her way. He had a huge beer mug in his hand.
“Sarasvati, rumored to have a toast power of over five million… I could not ask for a more worthy opponent!”
The minute his class touched Saras’s, this one vampire ninja was sent flying across the floor. He slid cleanlly from one edge of the floor to the other.
She was an iron wall. Every single person who clanged glasses with Saras went sliding across the room, almost as if they had mistaken the floor for a skating rink.
“Uwaaaaaaaaaahh!” Even Tomonori, who was boasting about her toast power of eighteen-thousand earlier, was easily sent flying. But another vampire ninja seemed to have spied his chance and appeared suddenly from the side, thrusting his cup of green tea forwards.
Even Saras seemed to be surprised by that. She clicked her tongue.
But… she couldn’t make it in time.
The glass of green tea drew close to the demon baron…
A white dress fluttered in the wind, like many blooming lilies. Sera appeared, holding a cup of oolong tea in each hand and defending against the other vampire ninja’s toast. Their cups clanged, and the other vampire ninja flew high in the air and smacked right into the ceiling.
“Not bad at all.”
Saras gave Sera a bold smile, and got another bold smile in return.
Clang. Their two cups hit eachother. It was look watching two warriors lock swords. But then, more vampire ninjas came at them.
“Yes! No need to explain!”
Sera was there in her white dress, and Saras was there in her black one.
Those two were… quite a pretty and soothing sight to behold. (5)
As everyone gazed in awe at Saras and Sera’s iron defense, one girl raised her hand.
“You know, something annoys me about this.”
That girl seemed around my age, and her light-brown hair was done up in a fluffy perm. What kind of ninja looked like that?
But taking a closer look, I saw a group of three girly-looking girls gathered together and frowning. All of them had the same hairstyle and makeup on, and as with all the vampire ninjas were pretty cute.
“This is a party to celebrate the chief coming back, right? So why can’t we clink our glasses with his? I’m getting pretty pissed about this…”
“Yeah, seriously. Who do you think you are? Just some squad leader in the conservative faction.”
“And that ponytailed one over there, wasn’t she the one who deserted her mission? How nice of you to show up.”
Kyahaha… the three of them let out ridiculing laughs.
Because Sera had once defied an idiotic order to kill Yuu, she had fallen out with the vampire ninjas. But she had also saved the vampire ninjas from a bomb, so I thought that all had been forgiven.
Did she really have to carry out the mission to kill Chris before everything would go back to normal?
“Hey hey, don’t argue! This isn’t the place for that…”
Tomonori seemed nervous as she looked back and forth between the girls and Saras.
Saras just stood still as the three girls gave her their awfully annoying smiles, but I could see that he rright hand was shaking.
Saras… was keeping a lot back.
“This is something I asked Sarasvati to do, so she’s not at fault.”
The demon baron also chimed in on Saras’s behalf, but the three girls wouldn’t stop.
“Just because you’re a bit cute, don’t get so full of yourse-“
They just went on and on and on, when something in Saras finally erupted.
“Shut up! You damn small fry… it’s like listening to nails on a chalkboard!”
In response to Saras’s roar, one of the permed girls frowned and walked up to Saras with her glass of cola in one hand.
And then… she splashed her drink right into Saras’s face.
The black dress that Saras had gone through all that trouble to put on became soaked with cola. Seeing that, the three girls giggled happily.
“Seems like you have a death wish.”
Her voice sounded like it had risen up from the very core of her heart. Saras’s fists trembled as she launched a punch down at the permed girl’s annoying yet cute face.
But I caught her fist.
“You can’t attack them. Isn’t that why you told me you were holding this meeting in the first place? You planned everything, right? You wanted to join everyone together again, didn’t you?”
“You’re really too emotional sometimes.”
I had butt in, but the girl with the fluffy perm suddenly pucned me right in the cheek.
“This has nothing to do with you. Keep out of it!”
That seemed to finally be the last straw for Saras. Something in her came loose.
“You… just stop it right now! Is the reform faction really that great?!”
It was the signal for battle.
“Saras, calm down! Seriously, that didn’ t hurt me at all!”
A fight broke out between the reform and conservative factions, even though Saras had worked so hard to get everyone in the same room together.
Tomonori raised her voice, but nobody seemed to be listening.
“Calm down! Ugh! How did it get like this?!”
I wedged myself in between Saras and the other girl, holding them apart. Saras was clearly seething with anger, but the permed girl just had a mocking smile on her face.
“Just because you can’t beat me on the net rankings doesn’t mean you have to be so upset. How petty…”
Ah, this girl was also a net idol. Now that I recall, Orito had told me that Saras was one of the top idols who went by “Lovely Kirara” online, a name that really didn’t suit such a beautiful girl.
“Well aren’t you cocky?! Who the hell do you think you are?!”
It seemed like Saras had stepped on a sore point.
“I didn’t realize before now that your singing, performance skills, and looks were so mediocre because you had a personality problem.”
This time, it was Saras’s turn to smile mockingly.
This wasn’t going to stop, was it…? Did vampire ninjas always fight over such stupid things? While all this was happening though, the demon baron finished off his hot oolong tea and took the microphone.
“This is an order. Stop.”
That one sentence seemd to come straight from the heavens. His menacing voice made even me cower in fear.
The entire room fell into stark silence.
As expected from the chief. He could get everyone’ attention with a single word. He was usually a tired-looking guy with a disheveled hair and beard, but suddenly I felt like I could rely on this person.
Everyone’s eyes widened at the demon baron’s next words. We had thought he was angry at us, so to hear him apologize was a bit shocking. At least, I was definitely surprised.
“I’ve known all this time that you’ve all been quarreling. I really want to apologize for not stepping in while all that was happening. But there’s no reason to fight anymore, right?”
The demon baron had pretended to die and hid himself from the world. Because of that, the vampire ninjas split into two factions and began to fight with each other. He knew about all of that. He knew about all of that, but he couldn’t show himself to stop it.
I’m sure the demon baron was also in anguish over all of that. Looking into his eyes was enough to convince me of that.
He let out a single sigh and stroked his unkempt beard. The demon baron had already gone back to his usual weary expression.
“I can’t stand to watch you all fight anymore. Let’s just consider it all water under the bridge, okay? Let’s get along like the old days.”
Saras and the three girls glared at each others unhappily. And then… they walked away from each other to opposite corners of the room.
Geez. At least consider the mood and give him a bit of applause, dammit.
(1) Basically a kind of Japanese hot pot.
(2) Ok I took quite a few liberties here. The real phrase that Ayumu uses is “mago ni mo ishou” which means “even a horse can be dressed up.” Mago is also the word for “grandchild,” which confuses Tomonori and prompts her to reply “Who’s grandchild?! When did I mention that I was doing anything in my grandfather’s name?!” The latter part of her comment is a reference to the Kindaichi Case Files manga. Anyways, this is all utterly impossible to translate into English, so I localized it a bit, but here’s the footnote for the people who really care about the original.
(3) In Japanese, cheers is “kanpai,” which also is the same pronunciation as the word for “complete defeat.” This remark mimics ones made in the past by Naoto Kan, one of the more recent Prime Ministers of Japan.
(4) Japanese celebrity.
(5) He says that they are “pretty” and “cure,” which is a clear reference to the Precure series.