Chapter 2: Part 2
I safely made it to the end of the day, and even while I had eaten to the point of almost barfing, I still made a straight line for Nene-san’s place. I went into her room and just stood there scratching my head.
Sera and Haruna were both sprawled out on the desk while Nene-san was clutching a pen, but she was completely motionless.
The three of them were probably asleep.
Only Yuu was still awake, and she handed me a memo.
Everyone just fell asleep. Please do not wake them.
I borrowed Yuu’s ballpoint pen and wrote on the back of the memo.
So everything’s calmed down for now?
Without showing any emotion, Yuu moved her head slightly to the right and then back again. That probably meant no. That meant they were probably so tired, or maybe it was just the stress of it all, they finally snapped, and that’s why they fell asleep.
However, they didn’t seem to be sleeping very deeply since Haruna’s ahoge was moving up and down, and up and down. A more normal person like Nene-san would sleep while her head moved up and down, but Haruna’s true body might’ve been in her ahoge.
Sera was using both her hands as a pillow and was quietly sleeping.
When these girls were awake, they would always be attacking me, but when they were asleep, they really just seemed like normal, cute girls. I felt that now more than ever.
After all, it was rare to be able to see them while they were asleep. It was quite refreshing.
Yuu, you’re not going to sleep? I passed that memo to Yuu. She didn’t show me any change in her facial expression.
I already slept before those two.
“Nnn… nggh…” Haruna stretched both her arms above her in a cat-like stretch.
She took one good look at me, and then…
“Hm. Am I in hell?”
She just woke up and she’s already spewing abuse at me.
“What’s that supposed to mean?!”
“Shut up! Don’t shout right next to my ear! I just thought I saw a shabby-looking ghost, that’s all!”
Sera also raised her head in response to Haruna’s voice.
She fixed her beautiful but disheveled black hair and looked at me. She let out a sigh.
“Oh, it’s Ayumu. Disgusting.”
You know, it’d be much nicer if you said something like “welcome back” or something…
“So, how’s it going? Are things moving along?”
“Not at all. If things continue as such, it is unclear whether we can even make the deadline on the twenty-fourth.”
I see. Well, it’s not like they had much time to get things done anyway.
“Okay! Let’s change the way we do things then.”
“Yup! I’ll pass on a technique to all of you that’ll let you work at top speed, so be thankful!”
“Does something like that really exist?”
“First, we erase!”
Haruna placed the manuscript on the floor.
“Make sure your movements are all dynamic! Like this! And this!”
Haruna moved the eraser up and down in grand motions like she was in some martial arts movie.
I tried to imitate her a bit, and… oh, she’s right, this was more effective.
“Next, we’ll cut out the screen tone patterns! Leaf woman, go ahead!”
Haruna threw the tone films up into the air.
Sera changed a leaf into a sword.
“Here I go. Hiken, Tsubamegaeshi!”
With her ninja abilities, Sera cut the tone films into various shapes.
“Okay, Ayumu, you try too.”
“What Sera just did, you mean? Only a ninja can do that!”
“Well, then at least master the Mighty Hundred-fold Screentone Binding technique!”
“What’s that supposed to be? Also, applying the screentone is a delicate process, so using the word ‘mighty’ is a bit…”
“It goes like this!”
I must’ve been seeing things, because I could’ve sworn I saw Haruna turn into one of those thousand-armed Buddha.
Then, I saw the screentone that Sera had cut up being steadily pasted onto the manuscript. (1)
And it wasn’t being sloppily done either. In fact, almost half of Haruna’s motions were just light taps on the paper to correct the tone orientations and stuff like that.
That piece of manuscript didn’t look bad at all!
And so, like that, we had finished a page of the manuscript in the blink of an eye.
“Ooo, that’s pretty good~~.”
Nene-san seemed quite deeply impressed.
Yuu’s gauntleted hands blurred, and she also seemed to turn into a thousand-armed Buddha.
Bhrurrurururr… Yuu moved in an intense, energetic way that I would’ve never expected from her.
However, it was a bit different from how Haruna had moved.
“Ah, I guess we should speed things up then.”
Nene-san clapped her hands and handed Yuu some of the manuscript before standing up.
“Just toss those up. Oh, and I’ll leave the cutting to you.”
Sera and Yuu looked at each other.
Haruna threw the screentone up into the air.
“Here I go. Hiken, Tsubamegaeshi!”
The screentone was cut to pieces. At the same time, Yuu threw the manuscript up into the air.
At that point, I felt time stand still.
The screentone and manuscript pages that were dancing in the air stopped in their tracks.
Almost as if she was doing Tai Chi Chuan, Nene-san moved her hands in a big circle.
Everything only took but a moment.
But in that moment, Nene-san had finished applying the screentone to five pages of manuscript.
The seemingly frozen manuscript pages fell to the tatami. Seeing them finished, I oo’ed and clapped.
If I could just master this skill, we might even be able to make the deadline.
Nene-san couldn’t help too much with the touchup work, so in this case I had to step up.
“How did you do that? Was that Nene-san’s special ability?”
You move in a circle and stop time by releasing magical energy around you. It is a very high-level skill.
“Hmmm, I see I see. Got it got it.”
For some reason, Haruna was nodding. From the side, she just looked like a bratty girl who was pretending to be a know-it-all, so I ignored her.
“I wonder if I’d be able to do it too.”
“If you try hard, sure~~.”
Three of the Seventh Abyss could do it.
“You just have to get the hang of it.”
“Could you teach me how?”
“Ah, well, I really don’t know precisely why it works the way it does. If I did some more research and understood it anybody would probably be able to do it.”
“Well, let me try then.”
I mimicked Nene-san’s motions from a minute before.
Yup, nothing happened. Obviously.
Seeing me move like that, Haruna suddenly sprung up.
“Wrong wrong wrong. You can’t infuse magical energy into the surroundings like that at all.”
Haruna’s ahoge bounced from side to side as she took a ballpoint pen and began to scribble something on the wall.
“Hey! What the hell are you-”
Wait. Yuu grabbed my shirt.
“This is… hm, I see. So if you use that theory… hm hm.”
Nene-san didn’t get angry, but instead, she just stared intently at what Haruna was writing.
What she was writing looked like Egyptian hieroglyphics to me.
“So, here is where Endorf gets dooned, and the red cow grants him his wings.”
“Hmmm. In other words, this footwork here lets you pull particles of magical energy from the ground. So, all you have to do is…”
Nene-san took her dip pen and began to add some stuff onto the wall.
“If you do that, the Jamaican crayfish gets silenced and everything turns into champagne soup! Wrong! It’s like this!”
“Ahah! That’s it! Amazing amazing! So it’s like the pose for the Bloody Astronomical World Render move from Sakura Wars!”
“Yes! And then you get boinged at three hundred and eighty kilometers per minute, so if you apply this all to the theory of pro golf, you can let it be.”
“I see I see.”
They were completely in their own little world. Neither I, nor Sera, nor Yuu could do anything but watch in silent amazement.
“Umm, excuse me?”
It wasn’t easy to speak up in the middle of this little scene, but I squeezed out a bit of courage and raised my hand.
“Hello there. What’s up?”
“I can’t understand a word of what you two are saying, so… care to explain?”
“Ahh, so. I think Aikawa-kun should be able to use this technique now.”
It was a technique that Nene-san didn’t even understand, but Haruna was able to figure it out after just seeing it once?
That is not all. If Haruna’s theory is correct, even those without any magical energy should be able to perform this technique.
“You mean even all the random normal people out there?”
“Well, the theory behind this move is quite high-leveled, and you’ll have to move in a way that exceeds normal human capabilities. So I don’t think any random person could do it. You’ll at least have to be the type of person that can get hit by a huge truck, slam the back of your head on the top of a lamp post, and still be able to eat a plate of tonkatsu (2) without missing a beat. Hm, let’s give it a try right away.”
Nene-san took me by the hand, and I felt my heart jump a little.
My chest tightened as Nene-san, with great care, helped me through the movements of the technique.
Every nerve in my body was standing on end.
“…… Hiken, Tsubamegaeshi.”
Krchh! She impaled me! She just impaled me normally! What happened to the Tsubamegaeshi?! I feel cheated!
“What the hell was that for, Sera?!”
“There is an old saying. ‘Perverts deserve to die.'”
“That’s not an old saying! You just said that the other day!”
Sera slowly walked toward me. Crap… it didn’t seem like she had had enough of cutting me yet.
With the situation falling apart like this, I had no choice but to use the time-stopping technique I had just learned! I carefully moved in a circle, paying attention to my movements… it was a skill that required quite a lot of time to pull off.
Once again, Sera’s sword came flying at me.
I felt her leaf sword on my neck. It seemed she wasn’t planning on showing me any mercy and was going right for my throat.
But now look. Right then, Sera froze in her tracks. Not just her… Haruna and Yuu also froze.
I-I did it? That was way easier than I expected.
Only Nene-san was moving, but that was probably just because of my inexperience.
“Wow. It really does feel like time stopped…”
That’s what I thought, but then I noticed Sera glaring at me. Her eyes were still moving.
“This skill is kinda similar to the barrier techniques we masou shoujo use.”
Haruna was standing there motionless and with her arms crossed, but seemed to be speaking like she was using some kind of ventriloquism.
Now that she mentioned it, I remember Haruna had done things like erecting a barrier around her enemies and locking them in. She didn’t have any magical energy right now so she couldn’t do anything like that at the moment, but I had also had my movements completely sealed by a masou shoujo before.
“But you can’t really use this on someone much more powerful than you, and if your opponent knows how to dispel the seal it won’t work either. Although… if this theory is correct, you’ll be able to forcibly stop anybody you want to.”
To a pervy tease like Orito, an ability like this would be like hitting the jackpot. I really wanted to master it as soon as possible.
Let’s try that again. I concentrated on my circular motions, squatting down… standing up and stretching my body straight… wait, how exactly was I supposed to do all of this in the middle of a battle?
Honestly, it felt like I was using my body to enter in a special move command in a one-on-one fighting game.
“Okay, toss the manuscript over here.”
Yuu threw the manuscript up, Sera cut the tone films up, and here, it’d… stop time!
And then, the Mighty Hundred-fold Screentone Binding technique!
……………………. Yeah that didn’t work at all. Looks like I needed a lot more training.
Like that, I started pasting the screentone to the manuscript pages while practicing stopping time.
Sera seemed to be very efficient at cutting the tone up, so we ended up working together as a pair.
But ever since that first time, I never managed to get it right again, so I ended up just normally doing my work on the table.
I had the feeling that if I didn’t use that technique, then this work would never get done. I’m pretty sure everybody knew that.
Yuu was the fastest at the beta painting, while Haruna was the only one good enough to handle the backgrounds. Sera couldn’t cut the screentone and paste them at the same time, so I really did have to master this Mighty Hundred-fold Screentone Binding technique.
“We really won’t make it at this rate, will we?”
Sera muttered as she checked the shapes of the screentones.
“Okay! Looks like Haruna-chan is gonna have to get serious now!”
Haruna was spouting her mouth about something, but Sera and I both ignored her and kept talking.
“Ah, now that I think about it, Tomonori and the others at school said they would come and help out.”
That would be a great help.
Yuu seemed to be also on board with ignoring Haruna.
“Hey! Listen to me!”
Bam bam. Haruna strongly slammed her hands on the desk. The noise she was making also seemed to wake Nene-san up.
“Fuehh… ah, I wasn’t asleep at all. Umm, so if you want to know all about atomic energy punches and rubbery rifles-”
“We really don’t. Anyway, what do you want us to do?”
“Hm, it’s certainly a bit difficult to start over from the storyboard.”
“Stop ignoring me! This is what we should do!”
Haruna seeemed to think of something and snatched away the pen that Nene-san was using. She went up to a blank piece of manuscript paper.
W-What an overwhelming shout! What the hell was she planning to do?!
Scratch scratch… scratch scratch…
She was just drawing like normal!
“HIYAAAAAAHHH!! HAWAYAHHHHH!!! HAWAIIIII!!!”
There was a U.S. state somewhere in there! I swear there was!
Like that, Haruna finished one frame. Seeing the frame she drew made me feel a bit of déjà vu.
Indeed, I had seen that drawing once before.
“Haruna, don’t tell me… you can actually draw?”
Yes, there was no mistaking it. Her drawing was the same as Nene-san’s.
“No draft, going straight to pen work, and this level of workmanship… you really are a genius.”
Nene-san clapped, and Haruna gave us an equally proud and satisfied look.
“Well, I’m that kind of person, ya know. Just show anything to me once and I’ll be able to do it~~”
This damn genius, and that damn overly sweet voice of hers… she obviously wanted to be praised.
“With this, we’ll be able to work two, three times faster. Haruna, why didn’t you let us know you could do this earlier?”
“Hueh? That would’ve been boring.”
This brat, was she carefully calculating everyone’s abilities and adjusting her own so we’d always be just barely on pace?
I looked at Sera, and Sera looked back. She didn’t need to say anything.
Her eyes were telling me: “There are people in this world who grow from being scolded and those who grow from being praised. This girl is clearly in the latter category and her strength is obviously needed here so let’s not make a big deal out of this.”
Yeah, that was true. Haruna acted like a little brat, so the adult response here would be to praise her.
“This is pretty amazing. I wish I had this kind of talent…”
“Nene-san is already plenty talented.”
“Haha, oh please~~.”
Nene-san waved her hand from side to side in denial.
“Hm, I see. Haruna really is a regular Renaissance girl I guess.”
“Huh? Renee who? But yeah, I’m seriously a genius, aren’t I?!”
Haruna’s ahoge bounced from side to side. Well, she misheard the word “Renaissance” there, but… whatever.
“Yes, it seems so. Let’s waste no time and get back to work.”
Because of Haruna, we work twice as fast.
No kidding. This had been an impossible amount of work, but with Haruna’s help, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I guess I should feel sorry about calling her annoying or bratty.
Like this, we took the manuscript bits that were finished by Haruna and Nene-san, and the other three of us put the finishing touches on them. Around two hours passed as we worked in silence, but then I heard something from outside.
“I-Is it here?”
“Hey, Yuki-chan, hurry up and push the doorbell.”
“Ugh, but it’s not ringing~~…”
“Maybe we were wrong…? Then we’d be bothering someone… maybe I should call Aikawa-kun…”
Was that Tomonori and the others? They got here earlier than I had expected.
“Nene-san, looks like my classmates are here to help, so can I let them in?”
“Ah, really? That’s good to hear. Sure, let them all in.”
Hearing the confirmation I went to the door to greet my friends. Well, this was Nene-san we were talking about, so I doubt I really had to get her permission, but this was a matter of proper manners.
I opened the door and saw three people dressed in casual clothes.
Tomonori was in a striped shirt, shorts, and black stockings.
Mihara looked like she had spent way too much time getting dressed. She had on a blouse jacket that came with a thick belt and some fluffy looking fur, and… well, either way, it was way too much trouble to explain.
Hiramatsu was in a knitted one-piece.
I’ve hung out with Tomonori outside of school a few times before, but it was rare for me to see these other two girls out of uniform.
“Aikawa-kun… you’re still in your uniform.”
For some reason, Hiramatsu looked a bit disappointed when she said that.
“Is it just me, or is Aikawa ogling us?”
Mihara wrapped her arms around herself.
“Don’t worry. I’ve never ever looked at you like that.”
“So so? What should we do here?”
It was a bit pointless to just stand out here and idly chat, so I beckoned the three of them inside.
After all three of them and slipped past me and gone inside, I poked my head into the hallway.
To the right… nothing. To the left… nothing. Good. I can turn off my spiky-haired pervert alarm. Orito was just way too good at stalking people, so I had to be extra sure.
When I went back inside, I saw that the three new arrivals were standing in the entranceway.
“What’s wrong?” I called out.
“Well, uhh, it’s not like we can sit anywhere.”
Ah, right. I guess this room was now way too crowded.
“Ah, it’s Haruna-sensei. Long time no see.”
Mihara waved at Haruna. And Haruna…
“And how are you all doing, ladies?”
She was supposed to be a teacher, but here she was acting like a principal.
For some reason, ever since Haruna had taught cooking at our school, she’s been really popular amongst the students.
“Maybe we shouldn’t have come?”
Tomonori seemed a bit troubled at seeing there was no sitting room and was probably busily thinking of what to do.
And the answer to her dilemma came from… Sera.
“My my. Seems the next shift has arrived.”
“We will continue working from home. It would be unthinkable for me to keep Hellscythe-dono here in the midst of all this house dust.”
I hadn’t even thought of that idea. So in order to let Tomonori and the others work here, they would actually…
Ayumu’s house is the most relaxing. = “I love being at oniichan’s place the best!”
Yuu began to gather the parts of the manuscript they had been working on.
It seemed like she had understood what Sera was trying to say, and now was also planning to move to my house.
“Ah, it’d also be nice for me to sleep in my own bed I guess. So I’ll leave the rest to Yukinori and the others!”
Haruna stood up and waved her hand at Tomonori.
To think Haruna would also… she was also so arrogant and so tactless, but now she was willing to give her spot up for Tomonori and Hiramatsu’s sake.
She was even willing to lie so the others wouldn’t realize what she was doing… actually, in her case, Haruna might’ve been telling the truth.
“Yup, leave it to us!”
Slap! Haruna and Tomonori gave each other a quick high five.
They were both idiots who usually got along pretty well, and Tomonori was also Haruna’s disciple when it came to cooking. Their absolute confidence in each other persisted to this day and probably would never change.
“Hey, Ayumu! Time to go back!”
Haruna’s ahoge jumped back and forth and she grabbed my arm.
“Uh, I mean, I’m the one who called the three of them here, so it’s not like I can just leave them.”
“Hmph.” She didn’t sound very happy.
“Also, it feels pretty comfortable here right now.”
I said that half-jokingly, but right after that Haruna smacked me hard on the back of my head.
“Just do whatever you want! Idiot!”
Smack smack smack smack. Am I supposed to be a gong or something? Did you really need to hit me so much?
“Haruna. This little piece of garbage does have a point. It would be rude for a host to suddenly abandon his guests, and if there are so many people here, then even the Evil Overlord of All Perverts should not be able to do much.”
Haruna once again frowned.
Perhaps she finally accepted it, but her face suddenly went back to its usual arrogant expression.
“Okay, I’m going to leave you twenty pages to do here then. You better finish!”
“What do you want?”
“Huh? Can’t here you~~. Pretty sure you’ll only be able to get me to listen to that word when you’ve done everything. Don’t forget: all’s well that ends well!”
Haruna probably interpreted that to mean that if we didn’t do a good job at the finish line, then none of it was good.
Well, I agree with that notion. Results were everything right now. I would definitely get this done.
(1) Maybe it’s good to say a few words about what they’re doing. Screentone is basically a special adhesive kind of paper that has a certain pattern inked on it. You can get the “shading” patterns we’re familiar with in manga art by applying the adhesive face-down onto a manga drawing and then peeling the back layer off. That’s what they are doing.
(2) Japanese-style fried pork cutlets.