Chapter 1 – Hello? This is the Girl who Dances Like a Butterfly and Geniuses it Up Like a Bee. What do You Want?
Chapter 1: Part 1
Instead of going home, I had directly come to Nene-san’s run-down apartment building, Sunflower Manor.
“Hm. This is certainly a nice place. Seems fitting for a manga artist.”
Standing next to me was a beautiful, cultivated girl. Her tall body was clad in a sailor uniform as she stood there dauntingly with her legs spread wide and her hands on her hips.
Yes, Saras had come to help with Nene-san’s manga manuscript.
“Don’t do anything weird, okay?”
I gave her a gentle reminder before heading towards room 203.
Like yesterday, the doorbell didn’t work, and even if I knocked there was no answer. So I just opened the door and boldly walked inside. If things ended up like yesterday and I ended up clinging to Nene-san again, I didn’t know how many times Saras would kill me.
The inside of the room was more tidied up than the last time I had come. There hadn’t been any room to work yesterday, so I had cleaned up all the manga that was piled up on the floor. Well, to be fair, I had “cleaned up” by just shoving them all into a corner.
Nene-san was sitting in the fluffy swivel chair that was placed in front of the slanted desk.
She was leaning the weight of her entire body back into the chair, and her head was completely thrown back, making it seem like she was staring up at the ceiling.
It seemed that she was asleep. But even then, she seemed to be firmly gripping onto a pen in her right hand.
“Hyah!! Oh, hi there, Aikawa-kun. School over then?”
Nene-san wiped a bit of drool from her mouth before standing up. She immediately began to hand me the manuscript she had probably just finished.
“Hm? Um umm, and you are…”
She pointed at Saras with the hand that was still holding the pen. Boing. Her big breasts jiggled.
“She’s here to help with the manuscript.”
I didn’t know if Nene-san heard me or not. She just looked at Saras with sleepy eyes and nodded, looking like she couldn’t care less.
“Ah, okay okay. Thanks much.”
From both my meeting with her yesterday and her behavior right now, I gathered that Nene-san was a flexible person who just accepted anybody and everybody. Many people might even get angry at a stranger like Saras just randomly appearing like this, and even if she was here to help with the work, there weren’t many who would just blindly accept a total stranger invading their personal space.
“Hey, trash darling. You never told me about this.”
Saras’s eyes pierced through me like daggers. Hey, stop grabbing me by the collar… that’s starting to hurt.
“You never told me the manga artist was a girl! Another girl! Once again, even though you have me…”
Her tightly gripped fists trembled. Exactly what was Saras scowling at here? I really had no idea.
“In any case, please beta and shade these. Thanks~.”
In the time it took me to go to school, Nene-san had managed to pile up a mountain of manuscript pages. Geez… Nene-san, exactly how much manga were you planning to draw?
The minute Saras had the manuscript in her hands, her eyes widened.
“T-This artwork… Nene-sensei’s artwork?”
“Hm? Saras, you know her?”
“Yes… if this is related to Nene-sensei’s work then I would consider it an honor.”
Her anger from just a minute ago seemed to dissipate into thin air. It was replaced by an expression of pure joy as she stared at the manuscript.
“Well, let’s get to work then.”
We heaped the manuscript onto the table. My job was being the manga artist’s assistant.
A manga assistant might be called on to do the following:
Erasing the pencil lines in the rough draft (eraser duty).
Completely painting in the areas which Nene-san indicated with black ink (beta painting).
Using a special paper called “screentone” to place various patterns on clothing and other things (shading).
Using correction fluid to deal with lines that jut out too far and to draw stars on black backgrounds (whiting).
Drawing lines that radiated outwards to indicate concentration or lines to indicate speed (effect lining).
There were probably other things too, but ultimately I ended up being entrusted with beta painting and shading.
So, let’s see what Saras can do to help.
“Do you have experience with this kind of stuff?”
“Yes. But this is just way too incomplete, is it not? Do you not have to submit this by tomorrow?”
“Hey… I can hear you, you know…”
Nene-san spoke but didn’t even look up as her pen ran across the paper.
“Well, I suppose it’s because I started drawing this a week ago…”
“… Why? With this many pages, this is not something you should try to finish in a week.”
Saras spoke a bit assertively, and Nene-san stopped drawing. She swiveled her chair towards us. Her bewitching, crossed legs were now right in front of my eyes… woah.
“I met an old friend… and then suddenly the inspiration went bzzzz!!”
Nene-san gestured with a smile, at which point Saras hit the table strongly.
“I understand what you mean all too well. But… what is the meaning of this?!”
In stark contrast to Saras, Nene-san responded without a care in the world.
“You’ve been taking shortcuts on all the backgrounds! I have never seen such things in the work of the Nene-sensei that I’m familiar with! Can you really call this level of work ‘finished’?!”
“Ehh, but I was rushing, and I really wanted to draw this… okay, can you fix the backgrounds then?”
Nene-san scratched her forehead with the back of her pen as she responded at a leisurely pace.
I thought Saras would heat up at Nene-san’s insolent tone, but…
“Me? It would be an absolute honor! My darling, did you hear that?!”
I had no idea why Saras was so happy. It seemed like she did heat up, but not in the way I had expected.
“That’s really great, Saras.”
For now though, I should focus on the beta painting and the shading.
Saras set off on her task, her pen flying to and fro in her delicate fingers in practice strokes.
Scratch scratch… scratch scratch…
It was way too quiet. I couldn’t take this anymore. Let’s make some small talk at least while we work.
“Nene-san, how’s this? Not bad, right?”
Oh, she was asleep. Well, whatever. I’ll try to talk with Saras instead then.
“I thought you were just saying things, but it really does look like you’re familiar with this kind of work. Do you draw these kinds of books too?”
It was pretty rare for me to be the one to strike up a conversation with Saras.
…………….. But she ignored me. Her too?! I’m so lonely! I’m so so lonely here!
We worked in silence for probably an hour. By that time I was almost sobbing out of loneliness, Saras raised her head.
She got rid of half of ‘my darling’ to save time!
But I don’t care. Just pay attention to me! I tried not to seem too desperate here though, so I just lifted my head without answering.
Saras thrust out her work at me, clearly wanting me to take a look. It seems she had finished drawing the backgrounds on a number of pages, so she was probably taking a breather.
Umm, Saras was supposed to be good at drawing, right? Let’s see…
“Pardon my arrogance, but I do believe it is quite good.”
She nodded, and seemed to be waiting for me to praise her.
When I took a look, I saw a beautiful background drawn there. She didn’t have any reference materials, but she still managed to get so many details in. It was great.
“Amazing. I never knew you had such a talent for this.”
“Fallen in love with me, have you?”
“Hmmm? Lemme see~~.” Nene-san stood up from her chair and came over. She was awake? If you’re awake, talk to me dammit! Ugh!
Nene-san put a hand on the table and got down on her knees, picking up Saras’s part of the manuscript.
Her bountiful breasts jiggled right in front of my eyes.
Gulp. I somehow kept my drool in my mouth and swallowed.
“Well well. Pretty good, pretty good.”
Well well. Pretty bouncy, pretty bouncy. Ugh! It was like I was cursed! I couldn’t take my eyes off those breasts!
“I am honored by your praise.”
Saras looked very proud of herself. Meanwhile, I was just looking at the breasts.
“Hm? Ahaha, Aikawa-kun, giving me that dirty look. You’re such a perv.”
“Eh? No, uhh… this is… umm…”
“You damn pervling.”
That sounded nothing like ‘darling,’ you know. You can’t just slap ‘ling’ at the end of random words and call it a day, dammit.
I prepared myself for death. There was only one outcome I could expect from this. The only thing in my future was the fate of getting beaten to a pulp. Saras’s murderous mood was already filling the room to the brim.
Nene-san was the strongest person from the Underworld. I had no idea whatsoever what kind of attack she was going to launch at me.
“Well, such is life, I suppose. Guys will be guys~~.”
Eh? What was with that kind smile on her face?
“You’re not angry?”
“Eh? Ahahaha, if I got angry at this kind of thing, there’d be no end to it. Anyways, I like my boys a bit on the pervy side~.”
Nene-san laughed loudly and began smacking me on the back. If this were Sera or Saras, they’d probably be crushing my back with a foot instead…
In stark contrast to Nene-san, Saras sent me a fierce glare.
“This is clearly an act of ‘peeking.’ We may be fully clothed and in a bedroom, but if you look at the lewd expression in his eyes, then it is clear.”
If you put it like that, then I get the feeling that what I was doing was basically like peeking into a bathhouse…
“Well, I can’t say I like what he’s doing, but I don’t think it’s worth getting worked up over a small thing like this.”
Nene-san returned to her seat. Meanwhile, Saras still didn’t look fully convinced.
“I see… that’s why you’re the ‘strongest’…”
Saras shut her eyes and shook her head back and forth as if trying to shake something off.
“Hm? What do you mean?” Saras’s words struck me a bit, so I asked her about them.
“I believe that only the strong have the capacity for forgiveness. The weak do not have the same ability… before I met darling, I was an example of that.”
“Well, that’s what they call ‘being broad-minded,’ I guess.”
“Indeed. Seeing her forgive you so easily makes my own anger seem quite petty.”
“So, that means you’ll forgive me too, right?”
“I will not, darling. Stop ogling girls with those dirty eyes of yours. If you really want to look… maybe… if it’s just a bit… you can… just look at me…”
Saras flushed deep crimson from ear to ear as she said that and looked the other way. She was pretty cute when she did that, so I chuckled.
“Got it, got it. This was also why I was put through that sexual harassment trial anyways, so I’ll try to restrain myself.”
“Yes. My darling is the cutest when he is being sincere.”
Saras teased me with a grin. Seeing us smiling at each other, Nene-san covered her mouth with a hand as the corners of her mouth turned upwards.
“You call him darling, so… you two are lovers? Pretty hot, pretty hot~~.”
“Absolutely not.” I responded instantly. That was the one point I would not budge on.
“Ahh, don’t be shy~~.” But Nene-san didn’t seem to buy it.
As we talked, the front door suddenly flung open.
“Naegleriaaa, you here?”
I heard a voice that could only belong to a very cute girl.
Someone came? Ah! Was this the person who was going to help us take care of our Chris problem?
I felt my heart speed up a bit as I waited, bending my body back in an attempt to catch a glimpse at what kind of person she was.
The girl took off her shoes and came inside the room… and my eyes narrowed to small points.
It was a young girl, wearing a white Gothic Lolita outfit.
Just from a glance, you could tell she was very pretty. She was holding onto a bottle of sake in her right hand and a pipe or something in her left? Those definitely weren’t things you’d expect a normal girl to have.
There was only one person in the world that I knew who looked like this.
“Why is Chris here…?”
I looked over at Nene-san, hoping she could give me some answers.
“Ohh, there you are. I thought you were going to come yesterday.”
Nene-san beckoned Chris over.
Chris walked farther into the room while avoiding all the trash that was scattered out around the entranceway.
“Ahh, there was this show on TV yesterday and… hmm?”
Chris had been looking down the entire time so she didn’t notice us until she had walked into the middle of the room.
Seeing me and Saras, Chris looked more excited than surprised.
“It’s been a while, oniichan. I thought you had died before, but it looks like you’re still alive.”
What a thing to hear from the person who had tried to kill me.
But maybe I should count this as the meeting I had been long waiting for. I stood up and prepared to punch her, when Saras held me back.
I was already dead, so I would be fine, but Saras had almost been killed by Chris. So she probably had more reason than anybody here to be angry. But she held me back.
Maybe she wanted me to wait a bit before going for it. Either way, I put down my raised fist.
I saw Saras breath in deeply once, probably trying to contain her anger, before glaring at Nene-san.
“I would like an explanation as to why she is here.”
Her eyes were piercing. What a bold expression to have in the face of someone who had almost killed you.
“I thought you wanted to do something about Chris? So here! Talk it out and make all the problems go away~.”
“Talk it out…? This girl tried to kill us.”
“So what? You tried to kill Chris too! How is what you did different from what Chris did…?”
She tried to kill us, so we’ll try to kill her. I knew that getting trapped in this endless cycle wasn’t good. I knew that, but… I still wasn’t satisfied here.
“We’re like cats and dogs, I guess…?”
Chris said that and then plopped herself boldly down right next to me. She seemed completely defenseless there, full of openings.
“At least, we were a hundred years ago.”
They both laughed. The masou shoujo and people from the Underworld were supposed to be enemies. However, here the two “strongest” beings from each of those camps were sitting shoulder to shoulder.
“Exactly how did you two get so friendly with each other?”
“We met back when Chris had been chased into this world and was just wandering around.”
“I was pretty surprised, you know. She was a masou shoujo, but she had been turned into a pretty old guy.”
Pretty old guy… so this happened before Chris had stolen Haruna’s magical energy and was still my homeroom teacher. They had already met by then.
“Shouldn’t you two have been enemies?”
“Chris keeps her private life separate from her work! Plus, drinking sake here is just the best~~.”
Chris tipped her bottle back and took a drink straight from it.
“Well, because of my powers you can now shake off the queen’s curse when you drink, so of course you’d think that… also, did you bring the refreshments?”
“Yup yup, brought some beer. Do you two want any? Just kidding! This isn’t for kids.”
“I don’t need it!”
Nene-san took the beer from Chris and headed for the kitchen. She probably wanted to pop open a bottle immediately.
“So, oniichan. What did you want from Chris?”
She was sitting right there. This was my chance. My chance to take her down.
“Aikawa-kun. I just want to make sure you understand, but I’ve set this space up as a place for talking.”
Nene-san seemed to see right through my plan to launch an attack. But seriously, was this a person you could expect “talking” to work on?
Saras seemed to really be holding herself back, but she corrected her posture and turned towards Chris.
“If possible, we do not wish to fight. We would like to let the past be the past and come to a compromise, but what say you?”
“Compromise? What kind of compromise?”
“We want only one thing: for you to behave yourself and to stay out of the way.”
“Chris has been trying to behave…”
“If things continue like this, the Queen of Virie is going to come to this world. Do you really want that?”
Chris was drinking her sake, and Nene-san was in the kitchen chugging down a beer, but just for a moment I saw their bodies stiffen.
“Hmph. That may be a good chance for Chris.”
Chris had once challenged the Queen of Virie and lost. At that point, a curse was cast on her that robbed her of her personality and she was tossed into this world. So she probably had quite a few things she wanted to say to the queen as well.
By the way, the Demon Baron also had challenged the queen and lost, and that’s why he was spitting blood all over the place now.
But now, by stealing Haruna’s magical energy, Chris had been able to regain her original power and form.
“Also, give Haruna’s magical energy back.”
“Don’t wannaaaa~~.” She stuck her tongue out at me. Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve seen somebody do that.
“That energy belongs to Haruna. If she continues like this, she might get killed by a Megalo someday. So please.”
“Who cares? How does that benefit Chris at all? Nope nope, don’t wanna~~. Who cares if Haruna dies? Kyahaha!”
I went to launch a punch at Chris, but Saras once again stopped me.
“If you attack, then we will no longer be able to negotiate. Please hold back… darling.”
At that moment, Saras was not a high school girl, but rather, she was the leader of a group of vampire ninjas.
Yeah, I know. Even if I tried to attack her here, nothing good could come of it.
If I could beat her in the first place, I would’ve never gone to Nene-san.
But… what she had said now was utterly unacceptable.
“You know, during a negotiation you first listen to what the other person has to say before making your own proposal, right?”
“Yes, precisely. So, let us hear what you have to say.”
“Chris doesn’t want to go back to being a man. Also, she wants to live like she wants. She doesn’t want anybody to try and get in the way of that.”
Chris continued drinking her sake and sounded like she was having fun. I didn’t know whether she was being serious or whether she just was enjoying completely shutting us down.
She didn’t want to go back to being a man = she wouldn’t return Haruna’s magical energy.
She wanted to live like she wants = she wouldn’t behave.
We weren’t getting anywhere like this. Saras also had clammed up, not knowing what to say here.
“Oh oh. Also, Chris found something suuuuper interesting.”
She sure looked like she was having fun.
“What did you find?” I asked her, but…
“I won’t teeeelll~~.” Chris stuck her cute tongue out at me.
“If it’s something you found, I’m sure it’s something pretty crazy.”
Nene-san chuckled from the kitchen.
“Yeah yeah. It goes boom! and all the things come sprinkling down~~. It’s a super super fun item.”
“Boom.” “Sprinkling.” From those words, the first thing that came to mind was fireworks, but she was a masou shoujo.
“… Are you planning to make something explode?”
I gave her a serious look. But, Chris didn’t seem fazed at all, and stuck out her tongue again.
She was planning something. I had to defeat her soon.
“It really doesn’t seem like talking will do much good.”
Nene-san looked at me, seeming a bit troubled. I mean, you can give me that look, but what exactly do you expect me to do here?
At some point, I had fallen silent. After all, no matter what I said, she probably wasn’t going to take me seriously.
If only I had a way to beat her…
“Well, Chris is going back. There’s a TV drama Chris wants to watch.”
Chris had finished downing the entire bottle of sake, so she got up and started walking toward the door.
“Ahh, it’s already this late… well then, please excuse me for the night as well. I apologize for leaving in the middle, but I have some work to do.”
Saras also stood up.
“Don’t chase after her, okay?”
“Yes, I understand. I cannot hope to do anything about her with just my strength… dammit.”
This was Chris we were talking about. So even if Saras followed her, she would be found out pretty quickly. Not only that, there’s the possibility that she would be killed. Unlike zombies, vampire ninjas could actually still die.
Saras’s hair fluttered as she walked briskly for the door.
I watched her go while Nene-san came over to me and placed a cup of hot coffee down in front of me.
“Hey hey, Aikawa-kun. Do you have to beat Chris no matter what?”
I took the coffee and gave a little bow in thanks before blowing on the hot liquid.
“I don’t really know. That’s how we’ve thought about things until now. It was like that with the King of the Night too…”
I sipped my hot coffee. Ugh, bitter. It was bitter enough to make my forehead scrunch up.
“Eh? Hm? What’s that King of the Night thing you’re talking about…?”
Nene-san sat down with her knees up in her chair while still holding onto her cup of beer. She seemed really interested in this topic.
“Eh? He was a zombie like me, and he knew Yuu too. Does Nene-san also know him?”
“A zombie like you… I see. He became a king.”
Nene-san traced the rim of her cup with a finger and muttered, a solemn expression on her face.
“Well, I think that’s a title he made up for himself.”
“Ahaha… that guy always did want to become a king.”
“So, Nene-san does know him…”
“Well, we were on a team together called the Seventh Abyss. It was me, Eucliwood, the idiot who’s the current King of the Underworld, the two people who created the Megalo System, and… the King of the Night.”
Seventh? So, that means there were seven people on the team?
“Aren’t you missing one person there?”
Nene-san had been pretty cheerful up until now, but her demeanor suddenly changed. She looked lonely, and her voice held quite a lot of pain.
“He died,” she muttered.
“Eh?” I was less surprised by her words than by the emotions in Nene-san’s voice when she said them.
Impatience. Anger. Irritation. Frustration. Unease. All those negative emotions seem to be packed into her expression. But she only looked like that for a moment.
Soon, her face brightened up again, and she took a drink from her beer.
“Buhaah!! Good beer. Well, the last person… he was killed. Killed by the King of the Night. I was pretty surprised, to tell you the truth. I didn’t expect that the King of the Night would be stronger than him.”
Nene-san’s head just slumped right down! Hey! Don’t fall asleep while holding a cup! It’s gonna spill! Hey, it’s gonna spill!
I sprung up and went over to grab her cup before it fell. A second later and the carpet would’ve been bubbling with beer foam.
“We were in the middle of a conversation. Nene-san… Nene-san!”
“Hah?! I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t sleeping. Umm, so the difference between a strong and a weak acid is-”
“No no no, we were talking about the person in the Seventh Abyss who was killed by the King of the Night. Who cares about strong acids and weak acids?! Also, put your cup down first.”
Nene-san seemed to come back to her senses and placed her cup on the table in front of me. Her work desk was slanted, so she probably couldn’t put a cup on there.
“Well, to make a long story short, a team member became the King of the Underworld and the King of the Night began to sulk. Things got worse and worse… and then at a point he wanted to die. I actually heard that right from him over a drink.”
Bereft of dreams and hopes, the King of the Night tried to die. But…
“But, he was a zombie so he couldn’t.”
“Exactly! So, he just sulked more and more and things got really bad.”
“And then he decided to kill another member of the Seventh Abyss so Yuu would kill him.”
The King of the Night had always wanted Yuu to kill him ever since his time in the Underworld.
Nene-san slowly nodded, as if realizing something.
“Ah. To be honest, I never knew why that guy had decided to do what he did. I see… he wanted to provoke Eucliwood. I can believe that. Aikawa-kun, you sure have a good head on those shoulders.”
“Nah, he actually told me as much when I met him…”
“Eucliwood had a lot of respect for the member who died. He was something like a team leader. And after he died, the Seventh Abyss disbanded. Both me and Eucliwood ended up leaving the Underworld.”
A person Yuu respected was killed by the King of the Night… that’s why Yuu had taken out her scythe when she saw the King of the Night. That was also the reason why she had not wanted to kill him.
Dying is painful. She had said that while tears flowed down her cheeks.
Everything was connected to that one incident, wasn’t it?
“Well, shall we get back to work? We might not make it at this rate.”
Nene-san said that and turned back to her desk before promptly falling asleep again.