Chapter 3 – A Martini for Table Eight
Chapter 3: Part 1
It was Sunday, the twenty-fourth of December. The manuscript still wasn’t done, and I was wracking my brain for ideas.
The deadline was today, but… dammit. We had tried so hard, but I guess it was just way too much work for beginners like us.
A girl with two ponytails was sitting in front of me. It was already winter break, but Hiramatsu had been coming to help every day, not even talking very much as she set off on her tasks.
“So, it’s Christmas Eve. Is Hiramatsu going to be spending the evening with someone?”
I heard no response. This was the intense power of concentration that Hiramatsu occasionally put on display. She was so immersed in her work that she couldn’t even hear anything around her. You could say this was proof that she was a truly excellent student.
“You’re pretty amazing, seriously…” I mumbled that, at which Hiramatsu finally realized I was talking and began flap her hands from side to side.
“… Eh? … What? … Sorry… I wasn’t listening…”
“Ah, I was just saying that it’s Christmas Eve, so I was wondering if you were spending the evening with someone. I mean, Hiramatsu is pretty cute, so I’m sure she would have someone to-”
Hiramatsu’s face flushed deep red and she waved her hands vigorously to interrupt me.
“No way! I’m… not… I guess I just have a Christmas party with my family… u-umm… are you doing anything, Aikawa-kun?”
“Hm? I guess we can probably have a Christmas party back home too. Haruna looked like she wanted to have a party.”
“… I see… that… seems fun.”
“Well, assuming nothing strange happens.”
Hiramatsu and I shared a smile.
“Yo, Aikawa! I’m here to hang out!”
“Hullooo~~. Hm? Tae-chan’s here too!”
Tomonori and Mihara had come over. Mihara was, as always, wearing the latest trendiest fashions, while Tomonori was in shorts. I couldn’t help but stare a bit at her thighs which were wrapped in black stockings.
If it was only those two, I wouldn’t really have much to complain about. But…
“I’m here! Hurray!” There was another guy behind them.
A guy with glasses and spiky hair. Orito.
“Why the hell is Orito here?!”
“Eh? Ah, so he is. When the hell did he show up?!”
Tomonori looked behind her with surprise in her eyes.
To think he would be able to trail them like a ninja without getting discovered… he certainly was a terrifying pervert.
“Uwah. Please don’t tell me you were tailing us.”
Mihara seemed repulsed, and she smacked Orito upside his spiky head.
“Hey, when you say ‘tailing,’ it makes me sound like the bad guy. Can’t you just say something like ‘Oh, you came with us?’ Anyway, where’s Sera-san?”
“She’s not here. So go home.”
“That’s so unfair, Aikawa! It’s Christmas Eve! And here you are with all these girls! I want to spend Christmas Eve with girls too! I won’t allow this injustice!”
This annoying guy walked further and further into the room.
Crap. If he saw Nene-san, then things would get even more annoying…
“Seriously, just go home.”
Orito’s eyes widened. If Sera was here, she probably would call him “disgusting.”
“What is it?”
“W-Who is that over there with that dynamite… no, that atomic bomb body?”
What the hell is an atomic bomb body? I saw that Orito was pointing at Nene-san, who was still asleep. More specifically, it seemed like he was pointing at her breasts.
I guess I was too late… Orito was seriously a huge perv. If my perv level was at 50 perv points and normal high schoolers were at 10 perv points, then Orito would be at 130,000,000 perv points. If I had one of those scouters from Dragonball Z here with me, it would just completely explode in Orito’s presence.
I knew that if a huge pervert like that caught site of those humongous breasts, then he was going to make the most disgusting face in the world. I honestly didn’t want to see that face, which is why I didn’t want to invite him in the first place.
Here, just look at him. Look at that disgusting face. Look at the corners of his eyes droop downwards and the rest of his eye take on that boomerang shape. Look at that upper lip of his jut out like that. Look at those disgusting lips of his, wet with drool.
“It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen that disgusting expression on his face.”
Mihara continued to look completely repulsed and sent Orito a glare.
“Orito-kun… you’re… you’re drooling a bit.”
Hiramatsu had a strained smile on her face.
“Fuaah… oh? More people? Come in, come in.”
The now awake Nene-san ran a hand roughly through her hair and waved at Orito.
“D-Did you hear that, Aikawa?! That beautiful woman over there just said she liked me-”
“She didn’t say anything!”
Mihara, Tomonori, and I all shouted at the same time. It might’ve been the first time in history when we three were in such good sync.
“Is he going to help out too?”
Boing boing. Every time Nene-san moved just a bit, those soft lobes of hers went boing boing.
“Eheh~~.” Orito still had that disgusting look on his face. But he finally shook his head back and forth, as if trying to shake that expression off, and then gave Nene-san a suave look.
“I will do whatever you need, milady! Would you like a massage?”
Orito gave her a salute.
Then he plopped himself down right next to Mihara, looking ready to work.
“Ugh, he’s so disgusting.”
Yeah. Exactly. When it came to Orito, Mihara and I were in complete agreement.
“Seriously, Aikawa is making such a disgusting face.”
“Wait, me?! You were talking about Orito, weren’t you?!”
“… Aikawa-kun… and Orito-kun… have the same look on their faces…”
H-Hiramatsu too?! Stop it! Stop looking at me with such pity in your eyes!
Well, okay, admittedly I was also staring pretty intently at Nene-san’s breasts… get a grip, Ayumu. If you keep on doing this people are going to accuse you of being a pervert again.
And all this after my name had just been cleared of those charges.
I also gave everyone a suave look before turning back to the manuscript.
“Well then, let’s do this, Aikawa-kun.”
Orito looked at the manuscript on the table, figuring out an in instant what we had been doing up until now.
And then… at that moment, I bore witness to Orito performing what could be called a divine miracle.
Orito’s hands spread out look those of the thousand-armed Goddess of Mercy. He only had two arms, but it almost looked like he was using every drawing tool at the same time.
“Haaaaaaaaaaah!! Nuuryaaaaahh!! Nuuaaahhh!! Nuouuuu!! Nuhyaaahhh!!”
Orito went to work, and he kept on adding “nu”s to his shouts to the point where he sounded like the Supreme Ruler of the Century’s End from Fist of the North Star.
His hands moved with the skill of a ramen master stretching his noodles. Pages upon pages of the manuscript flew up into the air, completely finished with shocking quality.
T-This was the Mighty Hundred-fold Screentone Binding technique! No, it wasn’t just the tone! He was doing everything in the entire process all by himself.
Whether it was how dynamic the effect lines looked, or how detailed the small things were drawn, he was doing a wonderful job.
Yes, this was what you could call the Advanced Mighty Hundred-fold Screentone Binding technique!
To think that a normal person like Orito would possess such a skill as this… I was shocked.
We spent around an hour happily working like that, but then another visitor showed up.
There were two knocks on the door before a pretty voice spoke from outside the room. “I’m coming in.”
I already knew exactly who it was just from the voice, so I immediately headed for the front door to greet her. That’s where I saw the black-haired beauty Saras.
“What’s up? Did you come to help?”
“Yes. I received these here from Seraphim.”
She was holding onto a big envelope. When I took a peek inside, I saw…
“It’s the manuscript! Did Haruna and the others already finish their part?”
“Yes, that’s what they told me. Also, I heard that today was the last day before the deadline, so I thought I might be of some help…”
I see. As expected from Haruna, she didn’t just call herself a genius masou shoujo for nothing. Sera and Yuu probably also exhausted all their strength making this happen. We shouldn’t make their efforts go to waste and really make double time over here too.
Hm? Saras looked a bit stiffer than usual.
“It’s nothing… are there already other people here?”
Saras looked a bit at a loss after hearing the sound of happy voices coming from inside the room.
I do remember Saras had once told me that even though she was comfortable being with other vampire ninjas like Tomonori, she wasn’t very good when it came to being with normal people.
Saras looked like she wanted to leave, so I grabbed her by her delicate hand.
“Just help us. If you’re here, we’ll work a hundred times faster.”
I gave her a smile and led her into the room, her hand still in mine.
“H-Hey, you! Don’t pull that hard… well, I am not averse to a bit of roughness, but… no, that’s beside the point! S-Stop getting carried away, oi!”
Saras flushed red right to the tips of her ears and kicked my behind with all her might. I ended up sliding on the tatami like a huge tuna being sent out of the Tokyo fish market. Hiramatsu stood up at the sight of me in surprise.
“A-Aikawa…… kun…? Are you…… alright?”
Mihara looked at Saras in surprise.
“She’s going to help us out too.”
“Unfortunately, there’s not much more work that can be split up…”
Nene-san looked rather apologetic.
“Umm… in that case… maybe we can let Aikawa-kun rest…?”
Nene-san seemed quite happy with Hiramatsu’s suggestion.
“Now that you mention it, Aikawa-kun has been helping us the entire time, hasn’t he? Okay, let’s let him sleep.”
Nene-san opened her closet door, and a few of the tightly packed pillows in there tumbled out. Oh right, I forgot that her closet was just pillows…
Nene-san fished a futon out from the inside of the closet and laid it out in the corner of the room.
Everyone’s eyes were on me right now. It made me feel a bit tickled.
“Come on, Aikawa! Just take a break!”
Tomonori grabbed me by the shoulders and forced me to lay down on the futon.
She also piled up a bunch of pillows, many of which had cotton that had gone a bit hard and lumpy, and pushed my head right into the pile.
Well, I honestly was fine with continuing to work, but if this would give Saras something to do it’d be like killing two birds with one stone. So I guess I’ll accept their offer.
“Okay. I’ll leave the rest to you, Hoshigawa Kirara-san.”
I rolled over to face the wall, closed my eyes, and felt the strength leave my body.
“My darling just does what he wants, doesn’t he? Fine, I suppose I will help.”
Saras sat where I had sat a few minutes ago and began to work.
However, they didn’t have much to talk about, and honestly the lively atmosphere that had filled the room a minute before had evaporated.
I wonder how much time passed like that.
I had been working excitedly for a while, so it was hard for me to go to sleep. Instead, I just lay there resting my eyes.
“Hey hey, do you think Aikawa-kun’s asleep?”
I heard Nene-san’s voice. It seemed like she couldn’t really stand this heavy atmosphere anymore.
This is probably where I should be tactful and at least pretend I was asleep.
“Maybe we should whack him one and check?”
That was Mihara sounding so amused, wasn’t it? That damn girl and her damn unnecessary ideas…
But I’m a zombie, so I wouldn’t feel any pain. So go ahead and hit me with all you’ve got. I’ll just keep on sleeping.
“Hm. Then please allow me.”
I could tell Saras had stood up by the sound of rustling clothes.
Bam! She kicked me as hard as she could on the back of my head. The kick made such an amazing sound that it was pretty clearly not your average kick. If I hadn’t been a zombie, I would’ve probably died right there.
Saras knew I couldn’t die, so she probably didn’t care about holding back.
“He… didn’t move…”
Hiramatsu sounded worried. I didn’t want them to think I was dead, so I began breathing heavily to signal that I was asleep.
“Okay, he’s probably sleeping then. No problem.”
I heard a guy’s voice spit out those irresponsible words. Once the New Year was here, I was going to punch that bastard Orito a hundred and eight times. (1)
“Well, the problem is that he might not wake up from that…”
Mihara was the type to always tack on unnecessary commentary at the end. Just like me.
“So, what exactly is everyone’s relation with Aikawa-kun? From what I can tell, you’re not just normal classmates.”
Tomonori was the first to respond to Nene-san’s question.
Was she going to say it? Or wasn’t she? But while Tomonori fumbled with her words…
“You’re his bride, right?”
Mihara butt in again.
“I am my darling’s fiancée.”
Exactly when the hell had I proposed?! I didn’t remember that at alllllll!!! Why the hell was she spitting out such bold-faced lies just because she thought I wasn’t awake?!
“Fee on… fee on what?”
Tomonori the idiot didn’t seem to understand what Saras was talking about.
“…… Fiancée, not fee on anything. Are you an idiot?”
Tomonori could possibly be the biggest idiot of this generation, but it seems Saras didn’t find this very funny.
“Tae-chan is also a prospective bride, isn’t she?”
“I’m… no… I’m just… his classmate……”
I’m sure Hiramatsu was blushing right now at Mihara’s teasing. I wanted to take a look, but I was a bit afraid to flip around in bed.
“Meanwhile, Aikawa is in love with me. It’s quite annoying.”
Orito you bastard, soon I’ll teach you what it feels like to be in hell.
“Hmmm. Seems he’s surrounded by beautiful girls on all sides then.”
Nene-san tried to sum it up. Well, that wasn’t entirely accurate though…
“… Hm. Yes, also, his relationship with those freeloaders at his house is quite suspect.”
Is that what Saras thought about my relationship with Sera?
“But, how do I put it… I don’t think Aikwaa is looking for a lover, or a bride, or a fee on whatever.”
“I told you it’s a fiancée, not a fee on whatever!”
Kch. Saras probably just karate chopped Tomonori. At least, that’s what it sounded like.
“I think Aikawa just wants to find more of a family.”
Orito said that, his tone a bit strange and lacking all its usual obnoxiousness.
“Now that I think about it, someone told me this before… they told me that Aikawa’s parents are dead.”
No they aren’t! Mihara had said that in such a somber tone too that Hiramatsu responded sadly with a “…… I see……..”
“I actually heard they were just overseas.”
Nice one, Saras. Thanks for getting things back on track. “That’s good to hear…” Hiramatsu also sounded relieved.
“Ahh, this is why Aikawa sometimes speaks in a Kansai dialect.”
Tomonori sounded quite happy, as if she had just solved one of the great mysteries of the universe.
Wait, did she think that the Kansai region was overseas? My God, somebody please teach this girl elementary school geography please.
“Ah, but… I heard somewhere that Aikawa’s dad said that he was going somewhere to meet his strongest opponent and he never came back.”
Was my dad making a living as a street fighter or something?! I’m pretty sure I’ve explained all this to Tomonori after school before too…
“They just left him alone and went overseas? He didn’t go with them?”
Nene-san asked that question and Orito responded.
“Aikawa stayed back in Japan for my sake.”
Stop spreading these awful lies! I have half a mind to get up and beat you half to death right now!
“Why the hell would he have to separate from his family just for Orito’s sake?”
Good good. Mihara was echoing my feelings perfectly.
“… You have to know something about Aikawa. He might look indifferent all the time, but he has this strange sense of justice and can’t ignore anybody who seems to be in trouble.”
For some reason, Orito was speaking in an overly manly tone right now. He continued speaking in earnest with that same gross tone.
“And then there was me. Before I met Aikawa, I was a shy person who never had any friends.”
“You don’t have many friends now either.”
Orito ignored Mihara’s retort and continued speaking, his vocal tone not changing one bit.
“During elementary school, I had the impulse to steal a recorder.”
“Don’t just talk about doing awful things like it’s nothing at all. Well, I guess I’d expect that coming from you though.”
I could imagine Mihara’s cold eyes right now even if I couldn’t see them.
“At the end of the day, the recorder’s owner realized this and raised a huge fuss about it. I was too shy and frightened to say anything, but Aikawa took the blame for it. He said he had lost it after playing with it for a bit, but also mentioned that his recorder was new and so handed it over. He covered for my crime.”
Did something like that really happen? I couldn’t remember at all.
“Aikawa-kun… does have that side to him…”
Hiramatsu seemed fairly sure of herself.
“He’s pretty unreliable, but he does pull through at the last second, so I guess in some sense he’s kinda reliable too.”
I can’t believe such an admirable thought had come from Tomonori’s mouth. Good, good. Keep on talking me up!
“He’s a huge masochist, I suppose.”
Saras sounded rather impressed. Hey hey hey! Now all the good stuff that people said about Aikawa-kun has gone to nothing!
“Well, anyway, I happily took that recorder home with me.”
“You didn’t even return it? You’re the worst!”
“Orito-kun… would do something like that… I suppose…”
“Come on, let’s just chalk this up to my own youthful indiscretion. Just give me a break on this one.”
“So, why would Aikawa-kun stay in Japan for someone like that?”
“Because Aikawa’s been in love with me since elementary school.”
Someone punch him in the face! Punch him in the face for me!
Laughter rang through the room. In the midst of that laughter…
“Orito-kun, are you sure that you’re not the one who fell in love with Aikawa-kun?”
Nene-san spoke with a hint of teasing in her voice, and Orito responded bluntly.
“Yeah, maybe. I probably fell in love with Aikawa before anybody else.”
Orito’s voice was as annoying and disgusting as always.
I felt so disgusted hearing him talk that I… decided to really fall asleep.
(1) During the new year in Japan, Buddhist temples ring their bells 108 times to symbolize the 108 human sins.