Chapter 1-1

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VOLUME 8

Chapter 1 – I’m Nagakura from Magical Shinsengumi Girl Okita (1)

Chapter 1: Part 1

After I met up with Tomonori, I couldn’t help worrying about that strange blonde loli girl I had just met. But ah well, she was a nice well-mannered girl, so I can probably just let her be and try to find Nene-san or Orito. And so, I timidly moved into the hall where they were selling doujinshi, but…

“A-Aikawa…”

Tomonori just kept her eyes glued to the ground, her face flush red from ear to ear.

She weakly gripped onto my down jacket with her thumb and index finger and followed behind me.

It was because most of the doujinshi being sold here were of the erotic variety.

“Wait, were you always bad when it came to this kinda stuff?”

“O-Of course! T-That’s perfectly normal, right?!”

Tomonori shut her eyes tight and tried her best not to look at any of the books. Because she had shut her eyes, her walk had also become more of a shuffle.

Didn’t she know before this that they sold a lot of 18+ books at Comic Market?

I looked all around me, but I couldn’t find Orito at all. Saying you were looking for a guy with glasses in a place like this didn’t exactly narrow it down much.

Where the hell was he?

“Should we look somewhere else maybe?” I called out to Tomonori.

“Y-Yeah, good idea! S-Something tells me he’s definitely not here!”

Seems like she really just wanted to get out of here.

I started to turn around to go back the way we came, but the crowd here was insane. It didn’t seem like we had any choice but to follow the stream of people. If we suddenly turned around, I would just end up being a bother to the people around us like earlier.

Oh, wait. This book is…

“Hey, Tomonori. Don’t you like this series?”

At one point before, when I was complaining to Tomonori after school about how bored I was, she had recommended me a soccer manga.

And a doujinshi for that manga was sitting right there.

“Eh? Ohh! That’s Tokyo Elevens, (2) isn’t it?! Wow, they even have stuff like this?! That’s really cool!”

Tomonori finally turned her gaze to an actual circle and stopped in her tracks, picking up the book.

Her eyes shone brightly like those of an excited young boy.

A bespectacled, black-haired girl was behind the counter, selling the doujinshi. She was smiling at seeing Tomonori’s rather innocent reaction to the book. It almost made me want to apologize for Tomonori acting like such a brat…

“This has to be the manga I’m most into right now.”

“Oh? Which character’s your bride then?”

The salesgirl gave us a smile and pointed at the book.

“Bride? I’m Aikawa’s bride.”

“Hm?” The girl behind the counter cocked her head to the side.

Ugh, she’s still saying that crap, isn’t she?

Right now, technically under vampire ninja law, Tomonori and I were husband and wife.

Our personal feelings had nothing to do with it; it was all because I had accidentally kissed her at one point.

At this point, Tomonori and my relationship hadn’t really left the realm of pure “friendship.”

“She’s asking you which character you like.”

“Ahh.” I tried to help a bit, and Tomonori nodded.

“Probably one of the Twelve Godly Captains, Ootomo.”

Upon hearing Tomonori’s words, the girl suddenly brought her face closer.

“I know, right?! Me too! Please take a look inside the book!”

“Fueh? O-Okay…”

The salesgirl was a raging bull of enthusiasm and Tomonori was almost bowled over as she looked inside the book and quickly shut it again.

Her face was apple red.

“How is it?”

“T-T-T-T-T-T-T-This…”

That reaction piqued my curiosity, so I also picked up a book and looked inside.

I flipped through the pages and found lots of drawings of naked guys grappling with each other.

In other words… this was a boy’s love book, or a BL book. A yaoi book, if you will.

“Make them play soccer! Tokyo Elevens is a soccer manga!”

Tomonori slapped the book back down on the sales counter with her eyes shut tight. The girl behind the counter looked a bit confused, but then…

“Hm, have you never seen BL manga before?”

“Looks like it.” I shrugged and answered, since Tomonori didn’t show any signs of being able to respond.

Tomonori was now hiding her beet-red face behind a book. The girl and I shared a chuckle.

Sometimes Tomonori definitely acted like a cute little kid. The girl was probably thinking the same thing.

“I see… well, please take a copy for free then! And enjoy yourself in our world!”

“Huh?! I-It’s fine! I don’t need something this embarrassing…”

“How about one for your boyfriend too?”

I swear I heard a popping noise coming from Tomonori as her face went even redder.

Well, of course I just had to buy a copy myself to commemorate the occasion. Tomonori got a copy for free, but she didn’t look happy in the slightest about it.

Tomonori wasn’t saying a word, perhaps out of shock.

Still walking with the line, we soon made our way out of the hall.

We couldn’t go against the stream of people, and without even knowing where we were headed we went up some stairs and outside the convention center.

The sky was clouded over. It should’ve been pretty cold this time of year, but we felt ourselves enveloped by a strange heat.

“Aikawa… do you like… stuff like this?”

When Tomonori finally talked again, it was in an uncharacteristically soft voice.

“Well, not really…”

I tried to respond, but Tomonori suddenly jumped out of line and turned around, like she had just remembered something.

“What’s wrong?” The motion was so sudden that I couldn’t stop myself from asking that.

“Someone is tailing us.”

Tomonori looked serious as she said that in a low, firm voice.

But even if she says that…

I turned around, but all I could see were people and people and more people. We were in a line moving forwards, so in a sense everyone behind us was tailing us.

“Don’t worry about it. Even if we were being followed… well, we’ll figure something out.”

Tomonori was a vampire ninja. So I tended to believe her when she claimed we were being followed. But it’s not like we could pinpoint exactly who was doing the following in an environment like this.

“But… Aika-”

Right then, a giant stream of people flooded the place Tomonori was standing.

It felt like I was on a normal train and was watching an express train pass by my outside my window.

This was bad! Tomonori was going to get carried away by the stream.

I really didn’t want to have to look for her again!

“Tomonori!” I quickly reached a hand out to her.

“Aikawaaa!” Tomonori also reached out as she was quickly getting pushed forward by the crowd.

It didn’t look like I would be able to reach her from my position in line.

I didn’t want to move out from the line, but I took a step out anyway and grabbed Tomonori by the arm.

But she seriously was about to get carried away. Lots of guys wearing black continued to push her forwards with a ferocity that made me think they had lost their minds. Did something happen? From what I could gather from a few people shouting around me, it seemed like some really important book was about to become sold out.

Ugh, I kinda wished it would just sell out already. Then all this crazy pushing might stop.

I kept my grip on Tomonori’s arm by virtue of my zombie strength and pulled hard.

I put so much force into it that her body was almost lifted into the air, but I somehow managed to extract her from the crowd of people. I pulled her into me and wrapped my arms around her, and let out a sigh of relief.

Great. Somehow I managed to keep myself from getting left alone.

I increased the strength in my arms hugging Tomonori to me, when I felt her large breasts hidden behind her winter outfit push softly into me. Ahhh, how marvelous.

“A-Aikawa… t-this position is… a bit…”

I suddenly blushed.

“S-Sorry, Tomonori! It’s not like I was trying to pull anything.”

I let go of her and began to desperately make excuses. Tomonori wrapped her arms around her own body.

“I-I know… I know, Aikawa… so don’t worry about it.”

“O-Okay…” What’s up with this atmosphere? I had to do something quickly to change the way things were going here…

My place in the line before was now completely filled by other people, and it didn’t really feel like I could get back in that line.

“Actually, where in the world is this line headed anyways? I think I’ll go take a look before we line up at the end.”

“Y-Yeah, good idea.”

Everything felt a bit awkward at this point, but I just went ahead and started walking towards the front of the line.

I soon saw that this endless line went into a building.

“Looks like the industry booths.”

Tomonori said that after taking a peak inside.

“Well, that’s not what we want at all. Nene-san isn’t working an industry booth after all.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Let’s go back then.”

“Looks like it was actually good that we got crowded out of line, huh?”

I chuckled and tried to talk to Tomonori about what had happened a few minutes ago, but Tomonori seemed like she was deep in thought about something. Maybe I should say sorry again for hugging her like that…

Those thoughts ran through my head as we went back the way we came, but when we got to the stairs, we were stopped by a staff member.

“This is a one-way walkway.”

“…… Seriously?”

We had come all this way, and now it looked like we couldn’t even go back.

And now we were stranded in the forest. A forest of people, I mean.

“Ah, I think I saw some people going downstairs from over there earlier.”

Tomonori pointed straight forwards, still seeming rather down.

It was in the exact opposite direction from how we came. This was probably also the top floor, and there probably wasn’t anything else other than the industry booths here.

I didn’t know what was on the other side of those stairs, but it sure was better than just standing here doing nothing.

And anyways, we had to at least get down from here.

So Tomonori took the lead as we went down these outdoors set of stairs.

And I soon found myself looking at a large space.

The people who had been standing in line were all wearing black, almost as if they had all colluded to bring matching outfits. But in this large space the wardrobe choices were much more varied.

Yes, this was the cosplay area.

“Fuwaahh! This is amazing!”

Tomonori’s eyes once again had that same boyish sparkle in them.

“Wow, this sure cheered you up quick.”

Tomonori was smiling from ear to ear. Yeah, this was definitely more like her.

“We vampire ninjas spend a lot of time training.”

“Yeah, of course.” They were ninjas, after all.

“During our training, all we’re allowed to wear is either chainmail or a kimono, so I think everyone ends up really wanting to wear different things.”

Hmm… there was a vampire ninja attending our high school by the name of Saras – could it be that she was there just because she wanted to wear a high school uniform? It might be possible… wow, that would be kinda strange though.

Tomonori happily skipped down the stairs. The cosplay area was also filled with people.

There were a lot of guys with cameras as well as girls in sexy outfits.

And there was also a girl I recognized… in the middle of the largest throng of guys around.

Her long, glossy black hair was tied up into a ponytail.

She was wearing a sailor’s uniform. Our school also used sailor’s uniforms as its official uniform, but this was a completely different and super cute outfit that I had never seen before.

Bunny ears sprouted from the top of her head.

I honestly was pretty surprised at seeing her like this.

“Yo, Seraphim.”

Tomonori raised a hand in greeting and approached. I just stood there in shock.

This was the vampire ninja Seraphim. I couldn’t help but lick my lips at the sight of her bouncy, voluptuous body.

She was quite tall and had long, model-like limbs, and also happened to be bumming a place to sleep off me at my house right now. She was a slender beauty, but was also filled out quite nicely in all the right places. What an amazing body.

Her eyes were jade-colored, and her features were well set. That commanding air she carried herself with was also reflected in every part of her body. She stood out from the crowd, and acted as if she had absolutely nothing she wanted to hide.

“… Ayumu. Your face looks disgusting… Granted, it always looks that way.”

Sera ignored Tomonori and glared at me, a sharp look in her eyes that came off to me as both bewitching and beautiful.

For now, I walked up to where Sera was standing.

“Well this is a surprise. To think I’d find you in a place like this.”

“… Disgusting.”

“I guess when Tomonori told me that vampire ninjas liked putting on different clothes, you’re no exception, huh? Actually, I do remember now one time when you put on some cat ears and-”

“You’re so disgustingly disgusting.”

S-She completely drowned me out! But I can’t give up! If I give up this conversation would just die in its tracks!

“What character are you cosplaying as?”

“…………”

Sera had fallen into a state of complete silence.

As I searched for what else to say, I heard a voice from behind me.

“Seraphim is cosplaying as Usamin, a popular character who attends Uesugi Academy Senior High school. It’s from the series ‘Unify ☆ Japan. ~the Student Council President is at Honnou-Ji.'” (3)

I looked back, and saw a girl with just as commanding an air as Sera. She was wearing a pink cosplay outfit under a blue and white haori with sleeves adorned with a jagged pattern and was giving me an arrogant look with her arms crossed. Her name was Sarasvati.

She was Sera’s superior officer, and also a vampire ninja. If you took Sera, let down her hair, and made her eyes a step more stern, you would basically get Saras.

That’s how much the two of them resembled each other.

Her body was slender and you couldn’t see much fat on her. If Sera looked like a model, then you could say Saras looked more like an athlete.

But either way, they both certainly belonged to the “beautiful girl” category.

“Usamin… hmm…”

Taking a closer look at Sera’s sailor-uniform-bunny-ear outfit, I noticed she was wearing an armband. The words “Representative and Advisor to the Student Council Vice President (Secretary)” were written on the armband.

I was kiiiiiiiiinda curious what the story behind this series was now, but Sera continued to ignore me and was talking with Tomonori.

“Seems like we meet again, darling. This must be fate.”

Saras looked at me with a haughty grin.

“Yeah, I guess. Must be fate.”

Her personality was a bit troublesome, so I decided to just go along with things and not pay her too much mind.

“That’s so nice… I kinda want to wear something too…”

Tomonori looked like a kid in a candy store as she stared longingly at Sera’s clothes. I wanted to see Sera’s reaction to her words, but…

“We have quite a few costumes left over. There might be something there that you would like.”

She had her back completely turned to me, so I couldn’t see what her face looked like.

But then, I got a little idea in my head, so I decided to tease her a bit.

“… Don’t tell me you’re embarrassed? To be seen in that outfit by me.”

As if I was trying to create an echo, I cupped my hands and put them to my mouth when I whispered that, making sure that she heard me.

“Wha-?!” Had I hit the bullseye? Sera’s eyes opened wide, but then she quickly regained her normal composure, probably not wanting anybody to see her reaction.

“Being seen by a disgusting creature like you, someone lower than the dirt behind my ears, would make anybody wretch!”

Hah, but I don’t recall asking if I was disgusting or not. I guess I did hit the bullseye. What a cute girl. Guhehehe.

Krschh! Agh! A leaf! A sharp leaf just flew up my nose! It pierced right into my Kiesselbach’s plexus and blood shot from my nose.

Sera had the power to turn leaves into blades. Ahh, and she also could turn words into daggers and pierce them right into my heart.

She had made a kunai shuriken from a leaf and had thrown it at me.

Okay, let’s stay far away from her then. I went to hide out by Saras.

“So, what is my darling doing here?”

“Hm? Just a bit lost. So, who are you supposed to be cosplaying as?”

“I’m Nagakura from Magical Shinsengumi Girl Okita.”

Who the hell was that?

I guess it sounded like one of those supporting role characters who were one step away from the protagonist, the kind that otaku really seemed to love.

To be honest though, that Shinsengumi outfit did really match Saras’s haughty attitude.

“Can I take a picture?!”

A guy wearing glasses and open-fingered gloves carrying a camera called out to Saras.

“Go ahead.”

Saras struck a pose and her straight, long hair fluttered in the air. It sure was pretty to see from the side. I guess vampire ninjas all were beautiful creatures on the outside. Kinda like the legends say about vampires.

Flash flash flash flash…

The guy took one spectacular photo after another.

The clicks of his camera shutter almost sounded like cheers from an adoring crowd.

Well, Saras did have a very slender, pretty face. Anybody would want a photo of that.

“Could I ask you to slouch a bit more forwards?”

“Yes.”

Hey hey hey, wasn’t that going way too far? You would be able to see her bra if she did that.

“Could you sit down for me too?!”

“Yes.”

“Hey, Saras. Isn’t your skirt a bit too short for this?”

I couldn’t help myself from voicing my objection.

Saras was wearing a frilly and cute outfit under that Shinsengumi haori. It was cute, but…

“Fufu, that sounds like something a father might say.”

Saras gave me a happy smile, and I looked away, feeling a bit embarrassed.

“Hey, you weird guy over there, you’re in the way. Shoo!”

The cameraman clicked his tongue and waved his hands at me as if he was trying to shoo a straight dog.

But then, Saras’s eyes narrowed. She grabbed the cameraman by his collar and spoke with a scary look on her face, almost as if she would snap at any moment.

“Get out of my sight. He might be a piece of shit, but he is also my darling. I will take any insult directed at him as an insult directed at myself. You should do yourself a favor and disappear from this place.”

Saras pushed the cameraman away, and he wobbled unsteadily as he backed away.

The other cameramen around the place were murmuring as Saras clapped her hands twice and spoke in high spirits.

“Well then, let us continue with the photo session!”

But maybe the other cameramen had heard Saras’s harsh words from before. None of them seemed to be very eager to take her photo anymore, and in fact they were almost cowering.

“Well, looks like I’ve done it now.”

Saras crossed her arms, a troubled look on her face. Was the photo session over, then?

At that time…

“Kirara-taaaannn~~”

A bunch of bespectacled guys wearing a Shinsengumi uniform like Saras came rushing over.

Ten… twleve? No, there were more than twelve of them.

Saras was both a vampire ninja and a high school girl, but she was also the net idol “Lovely Kirara.”

These guys were all her fans. I counted around twenty in total.

At the appearance of these other Shinsengumi members, Saras ran a hand up through her soft, black hair.

Her actions earned her a lot of rather inappropriate stares from the Shinsegumi troops.

“Well then, I suppose I shall change my costume… it might serve for a good change of mood too.”

“Change your costume? You brought more than one?”

“Yes. I am a cosplayer and an idol, after all.”

I had no idea what that was supposed to explain.

Maybe she wanted to dress more like an idol for these Shinsengumi guys.

“In that case, please take Mael Strom with you. It seems she would like to try a costume too.”

Sera was right next to me. Exactly how long had she been standing there and listening in?

“Fine with me. Would my darling like to wear something too?”

“Why do I have to wear something now?”

“Are you not always wearing something?”

“Just shut up and go.”

“Acknowledged. Please look forward to it. My, darling~~.”

Saras blew me a little kiss and waltzed off while the rest of the Shinsengumi wriggled in agony.

I watched as the Shinsengumi waited eagerly for Saras’s next costume, and then I decided to ask them a weird question.

“Hey, what does the Shinsengumi think about Saras calling me that weird name?”

One of the Shinsengumi took a step forwards, almost as if he was acting in a stage drama.

It seemed like he was the captain of this Shinsengumi squad… he was also standing at their center.

“You mean how she calls you ‘my darling’?”

Wow, I never expected how disgusting it would feel to hear a guy say ‘my darling.’

“Yeah. You guys really like her, right?”

“I-I… I don’t have a crush on Kirara-tan or anything. Rather, I love her. If Kirara-tan is happy, then I am fine with that.”

“Captain… you’ve brought me to tears!”

“And it also doesn’t seem like you intend to date her, so whenever she calls you darling or whatever, it’s so super moe moe.”

“Yes, exactly, captain!”

Man, I guess I should feel happy for Saras… she had so many people who cared about her like this…

“You must feel so blessed. To have Kirara-tan care about you like that.”

He clapped me on the shoulder.

These were just random, normal people. They weren’t zombies, or masou shoujo, or vampire ninjas, or anything like that. They were just simple idol otaku. But I thought at that moment that these people were pretty cool.

If the person you love is happy, then it’s not like you had to be her partner.

I really could empathize with that point of view.

Dating… marriage… I didn’t know much about any of that.

But all of those things were just words. You didn’t have to be someone’s boyfriend to love them.

“What a disgusting bunch.”

Sera came over, her ponytail and bunny ears waving in the air, and I felt my chest rupture. It was like she had read what was in my heart and calling it disgusting.

I also hear the Shinsengumi squad around me gulp.

But I don’t think they felt the same way as me; rather, they were just enamored by Sera’s body.

Sera did look like Saras, after all. For people who were firmly in the “I like big breasts” camp, you could do way worse than falling for a girl like Sera.

“Agh! Captain! I left my camera back there!”

“What?! Let’s hurry back!”

Seeing Sera’s bewitching form seemed to make the Shinsengumi really want to take her photo, but they didn’t have a camera. So the Saras Shinsengumi hurriedly dashed away, soon disappearing out of sight.

Everyone here was really into their hobbies, weren’t they? I must say I was pretty impressed.

“Sera, speaking of cameras, you haven’t gotten your picture taken too much today, have you?”

“I said no to anyone who asked.”

That definitely was like Sera. She wanted to wear a costume, but it wasn’t like she wanted to show herself off to anybody.

But that was probably why she felt a bit uncomfortable in a place like this.

“Sera, why exactly did you come to a place like this?”

Sera briefly touched a hand to her armband, and then crossed her arms. That just highlighted that amazing boingyness of her body, and I had to avert my gaze.

“Why… I cannot see why you would ask me this.”

“You don’t really want to draw attention to yourself, right? You’re a ninja after all.”

“Yes, that is correct.”

“Well… then I think my question was a valid one, right?”

As if there was something going on here that I was missing, Sera’s lips pursed into a thin line, and she set one of her index fingers on those lips. She seemed to be wondering whether she should tell me something or not.

Sera never lied. She wouldn’t try to deceive me. That was probably precisely why she was a bit at a loss as to whether she should tell me something.

“That’s-…”

Sera seemed to have mustered up her resolve, but just at that point Tomonori came back from changing, an embarrassed look on her face.

“Yo, Tomonori. Wow, they sure put you in quite some outfit there.”

I called out to Tomonori, and Sera shut her mouth, also turning to look in Tomonori’s direction.

“I guess I’m the one who wanted to cosplay, but…”

Tomonori was looking down at the ground as she crossed her arms in front of her and squirmed.

Tomonori’s outfit wasn’t too different in principle from what she was wearing before. She was now wearing a tank top and shorts. But… that tank top was pretty abnormally short.

I know that damaged jeans were pretty in fashion right now, but I’m pretty sure there weren’t many people wearing damaged tank tops like this. I could see her belly button completely out in the open, and to be wearing this in winter was a bit…

But also, more importantly-

S-So big! Those were really big! I know I kept on going on and on about how Tomonori secretly had huge breasts, but I had never gotten a read that they were this big! Oh, how the famous eyes of Aikawa Ayumu have failed him!

Well, it’s not like I was trying to say anything interesting here or trying to make a point… just like with Sera’s bouncy body, I guess I was honestly just surprised.

I didn’t have any interest in fine sculptures or paintings, but I would like to think that I had an appreciation of beautiful pieces of art.

And yes, I was saying that Sera’s bounciness and Tomonori’s raw bounciness both were spectacular enough to count as pieces of art.

“Aikawa… w-what do you think?”

“Quite lovely, I must say.”

“W-Why are you saying it like that?! It’s strange, right? It’s definitely strange to wear something like this in the winter, isn’t it?!”

“Well, I guess it’s pretty amazing that you don’t think it’s cold.”

“That’s… well, I’m used to this, I guess.”

Tomonori was on the track team, so she was always running around dressed like this. I suppose it’s true what they say; children are outdoors creatures.

“C-Can I take a photo?”

Right away, Tomonori got a photo request.

“Eh?” For some reason, Tomonori looked at me for help.

“Well, why not? Go ahead and show your costume to everyone.”

Tomonori looked straight again and gave a small nod.

She didn’t try to strike any kind of pose. But that didn’t stop the shutter from going off and off again and again.

Sera saw that Tomonori looked a bit uneasy, and she let out a sigh.

“Would you be okay if I stepped into the photo as well?”

The bunny-eared Sera said that to the cameraman with a smile that I would almost never be able to see on her face normally.

I could swear I saw little hearts dancing in Sera’s eyes.

This damn tsundere. She probably saw that Tomonori was struggling and so she thought it might be easier if they were getting photographed together.

Saras also had a smirk on her face as she watched this scene unfold.

“You look quite happy, my darling.”

It seemed that I probably was feeling the same as Saras right now.

“It’s pretty rare to see Sera being so kind like this.”

“Disgusting…”

I probably had a horrendously stupid grin on my face right now. That “disgusting” that Sera had just let loose was probably the filled with more contempt than I had felt at any point during the last half year.

It even surpassed that time when we went to see the Leonid meteor shower and I had collapsed right when Sera had pulled down her pants.

After Sera had spat that out, she walked towards where Tomonori and the cameraman were standing.

“Why did she even call me disgusting right now? I wasn’t even sexually harassing her this time…”

“Seraphim wanted to show her costume to darling. And she wanted darling to praise her…”

Saras muttered haltingly.

Compared to the Shinsengumi outfit that Saras had been wearing, her skirt had gotten even shorter, and her costume generally more pink, cute, and frilly. Even though the bulk of her costume was pink and cute, she also was wearing black boots, gloves, and stockings. She also had on a few skull accessories and other things that made the costume look more punky.

I had to say, this costume really did bring out her personality.

“Saras… I’m pretty sure Sera told me that she didn’t want me to see her back there.”

“That girl is honest, but not to herself. She wanted you to tell her she was cute, but my dimwitted darling just teased her.”

“Even if I call her cute, she’d just call me disgusting in return.”

“Yes. As I said, she is honest to everyone except herself.”

“You say that, but exactly what are you basing that on?”

“She was the one who said it herself. If darling was going to come over, she wanted to cosplay.”

Sera said that? She seriously said that? And had she said no to the cameramen because she was waiting for me?

“Got it. I’ll say something to her later.”

“What a kind darling you are.”

“Yeah right. By the way, Saras…”

“Hm?” Saras tried to respond with as straight a face as possible.

“What’s wrong? Did something happen?”

“My my… why are you asking that?”

Saras gave me the same proud smirk that she always had on. But she looked kinda happy for some reason.

“Hm? Well, you just looked a bit down. But seeing you smile like that makes me think it’s not a big deal.”

“As expected from my darling. How perceptive of you. The truth is…”

After a bit of silence, Saras beckoned me to join her to walk with her to a more secluded area.

I guess she didn’t want what she was about to say to be overheard. I decided to be considerate here, and silently went along with her. We checked that nobody was around to hear our conversation…

“So, what’s wrong?”

Saras took off a boot. Those long, slender legs wrapped with her black stockings were really really really really really really really really beautiful.

“Ah, I see a tear.”

Right where her big toe was supposed to be, I saw her stockings were torn.

IMG

“Yes. This tore while I was mid-route here.”

“Well that’s bad luck. You’re not going to take it off?”

“This is all part of my costume. I will make no compromises when it comes to my costume.”

“Didn’t you have a lot of costumes? Can’t you just wear another one?”

“I brought a backup pair of stockings… but they disappeared.”

“Disappeared?”

“Yes. They were stolen.”

“Stolen?! … You’re awfully calm when you say that. Did you tell anybody on staff?”

Saras shook her head.

“I have not yet. It was only a pair of stockings. It is not something worth becoming upset over.”

I see. That’s why she didn’t want this conversation to be overheard.

“But, Saras, doesn’t it annoy you just a bit?”

“The one thing annoying me is my own carelessness. To think someone entrusted with a squad of vampire ninjas could be stolen from… dammit!”

Bang. Saras slammed a fist on the wall. Her pride had been damaged. If this were Sera instead, I bet she would’ve just started complaining about how it was disgusting anybody would want to steal her stockings.

“Maybe someone put your stockings on by mistake?”

“These were stockings stored in my bag. I doubt anybody would have made that mistake.”

“Maybe you just lost them?”

“Darling, you insult me. A squad captain’s most important trait is her ability to manage things.”

“I see. Well, do you have any idea who could’ve done it?”

“Who knows. There are tens of thousands of people around us.”

That was true. There were just way too many people here. So did that mean we just had to give up and accept things as they were?

“Actually, I might have a suspect.”

I had derived one possible solution to this riddle. Indeed, I knew one person who had a high probability of being the culprit here.

“Oh?”

“Yes. The culprit is someone utterly faithful to his own desires.”

“Sounds reasonable for a criminal profile.”

“Someone who is not here in the open right now.”

“A criminal would surely want to hide his face from view.”

“Someone who knows Saras.”

“I suppose if we do not have any other promising suspects, then the probability of that is high… does such a person exist?”

“I came here with such a person, but I don’t see him anywhere right now.”

“I see… you are talking about Orito.”

Saras also reached that conclusion and smiled.

Yes. Orito would be capable of doing something like this.

Of course, it was impossible to be sure, but the more I thought about it the more I was convinced it was him.

“First, let’s brief Sera and Tomonori. And once we find Orito, we’ll tie him up immediately.”

“Agreed.” Saras’s gloomy expression from just moments ago had vanished… replaced with her normal self. Her haughty, condescending, dignified normal self.

“Ah, we can leave Mael Strom out of this.”

“Why?”

“She belongs to a different faction from myself and Seraphim.”

The vampire ninjas were separated into the conservative and reform factions.

But then the supposedly deceased vampire ninja chieftain had reappeared, and both factions had supposedly been united again, but it seemed like there was still some discord between members of the two groups.

She really didn’t need to be like that… but I guess in this case I’ll just go along with her.

“Sera!”

Raising my voice a bit, I called Sera out from the chorus of camera shutters.

… And she ignored me.

“Seraphim!”

Sera responded to Saras’s call, raising a hand to signal that the cameramen should hold on and walking over to us. Her ponytail waved. Her skirt waved. Her boingy boings waved.

Ugh, and she was still completely ignoring me.

Just one look at her walking form was enough to make anyone’s heart flutter. Even though they had been told to stop a minute before, the cameramen all continued to flash their cameras as Sera walked over.

Seeing Sera showered in the flash of so many cameras made me think I was watching a Hollywood movie star walk down the red carpet.

“So, what did you want, Saras?”

It was like I wasn’t even welcome! But undaunted, I butt in and answered Sera’s question.

“Well, so someone stole Saras’s stockings…”

“And? Do you have a suspect?”

“Just one… Orito.”

I saw Sera’s eyebrow twitch. Seems like she completely understood. As expected from Sera. I didn’t have to give her the full story before she knew what was going on.

“I see. And does Saras agree with Ayumu’s assessment of the situation?”

Sera glanced at Saras, trying to gauge her reaction.

“Will you help us find him?”

“Not interested. He’s disgusting.”

Instantaneous response.

Sera was pretty prejudiced against Orito, so I guess we couldn’t count on her for support here.

“Well, if you see him let us know. He’s probably still around here.”

“Understood. Was that all?”

“Yeah.”

“Kirara-taaan~~.”

The Saras Shinsengumi had returned, every member with a camera hanging around his neck.

Oh, hm. We could brief these guys too and cast a tight net around Orito.

“Shinsengumi. You came at a good time.”

It seemed like Saras was already on the same page as me.

“Did something happen?”

“To be honest, my stockings were stolen.”

Waves of shock ran through the Shinsengumi.

Saras explained the situation calmly, completely open about it but also not showing the inner turmoil that was more obvious back when she was talking with me about this.

“The suspect is a male with glasses and spiky hair. He is quite obnoxious and his eyes are always filled with ill intent when he looks at girls. Everyone, search for him.”

The Shinsengumi nodded at Saras’s words. It was probably hard for them to forgive someone for stealing Saras’s personal belongings.

The Shinsengumi captain raised his hand.

“I’m gonna go to the convenience store in front of the station and get you some replacement stockings.”

“OK, sounds good. Now, let’s divide up the search and start.”

Saras continued.

“I will remain here and wait for him. Sooner or later, I am sure our prime suspect will end up visiting here anyways.”

“Wait just a second…”

The Shinsengumi awaited their orders.

“What about us?”

“I will leave West Hall to you.”

Saras divvied up the work and the Shinsengumi accepted their assignments with glee. I watched this charming scene unfold in front of me with a smile before raising my hand.

“Maybe I can go take a look around the industry booths?”

“Okay, I will leave that to you then.”

“Wait just a second!”

A strong voice butt in, interrupting me and Saras as we were sharing a light chuckle.

“What’s wrong, Sera?”

The Shinsengumi were already in the process of dispersing and heading off to various areas of the convention center, but they all stopped in their tracks and turned their eyes to Sera.

“You there. What did you just say?”

Sera pointed a finger. Right at the captain of the Shinsengumi. Her jade-colored eyes narrowed into knife-like slits.

“Me? Eh? I’m going to go buy some stockings.”

The Shinsengumi captain’s eyes widened in bewilderment and surprise, but Sera’s voice just became firmer.

“Why?”

“Well, her extra pair of stockings was stolen, right? So I have to go buy a new pair for Kirara-tan.”

“But why do you think she needs a new pair of stockings?”

“Well… I mean… her stockings right now are torn at the big toe, right…?”

Yeah. I mean, none of this was too strange. Saras’s stockings were torn, so of course the Shinsengumi would be pretty worried about that.

“Ahh, yes, but I will not compromise on my costume.”

“As expected from Kirara-tan… I’m so moved!”

The Shinsengumi began to shed tears. Wait… what was the big deal? Geez.

But even in the midst of all that, Sera maintained her icy composure.

“And exactly how did you know that her stockings were torn?”

“Eh?” The Shinsengumi captain let out an audible gulp.

“You just pointed out that Saras’s stocking was torn at the big toe, correct?”

“Y-Yeah, I did.” The Shinsengumi captain’s eyes darted from side to side.

“And how exactly did you come across that piece of information?”

“That’s true. You wouldn’t be able to see her stockings had been torn unless she took off her boots. So, where exactly has Saras taken off her boots around here…?”

I understood what Sera was trying to say, and Saras continued this line of thought, a sad look in her eyes.

“The only place I took off my boots was in the changing room.”

“Why exactly were you in the girl’s changing room? Or how exactly did you see that Saras’s stocking was torn at the big toe? Did you look inside her bag?”

“….. T-That’s……”

“We’ve been talking about how Saras had lost her stockings… you wouldn’t happen to know what happened to them, would you?”

I could almost feel the air trembling around me anxiously. This overwhelming sense of Sera boingyness… erm, I mean pressure… it wasn’t something a normal person could bear.

“…. I…… I stole them.”

The Shinsengumi captain hung his head and confessed.

In the face of Sera’s intense questioning, he probably figured he wouldn’t be able to get away with a lie.

I thought for certain that upon hearing his confession, Saras would scrunch up her nose and call him disgusting, but…

“I see. Please never do that again. Next time I will show you no mercy.”

Unexpectedly, Saras seemed quite nonchalant about it.

“Okay… eh? Next time?”

Both me and the Shinsengumi didn’t really know how to react.

“Yes. I will overlook your transgressions this time, but next time..”

“Kirara-tan will forgive me, even though I committed the heinous act of stealing her personal belongings?”

The Shinsengumi captain blinked again and again, but Saras just gave him a smile.

“Yes. I believe that to love is to forgive. And I love all of you.”

“Kirara-tan…”

The Kirara Shinsengumi looked at Saras with watery eyes, their love for her renewed.

I admit, I was also a bit……… surprised.

“Sorry, everyone… I’m not qualified to be your captain.”

The Saras Shinsengumi captain knelt down and put his head to the floor. His voice quivered as he spoke, sounding filled with tears.

After a short silence, one member of the Shinsengumi squad clapped a hand on his shoulder.

“I forgive you. I… I love our captain!”

“Yes! If I saw Lovely Kirara-tan’s stockings in front of my eyes I’d sniff them too!”

The guys cried together and joined in a group hug.

Mmm… what a beautiful show of friendship.

“What a bunch of perverts. If it were me, I would’ve picked up a high-heel shoe and slammed the heel over and over into his head, but…”

Uh oh, the other girls in the area were giving us cold looks…

I heard the sound of a cell phone ring from somewhere. The ringtone was an anime song, so it wasn’t my phone.

Saras went over to her bag nearby and fished out her phone, and answered with all the authority and intimidation of a mafia boss.

“It’s me.”

Saras was the squad leader of the vampire ninjas, so this might’ve been one of her subordinate vampire ninjas.

I tried to listen in just a bit.

“…… First squadron… second squadron… all annihilated.”

“What?” Saras’s eyes widened.

Annihilated… that’s not a word that many people could listen to with a calm head.

“I am… the only one left in the suppression squad dispatched to East-A.”

“Impossible! First squad is a strong team of warriors with much history behind them. As long as there wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary, they should have been fine…”

“Wha-?! What’s that?! Gyah! … Captain! There’s an expl-”

Click… beep, beep, beep.

“What’s happening?! Respond!”

The phone call suddenly cut off. It had been a message shrouded in mystery.

Wrinkles formed in Saras’s brow as she tried to process this new information. However, it didn’t seem like she could get very far.

Saras once again brought her phone to her ear. It seemed like she had dialed out somewhere.

“It’s me. Something happened in East-A. Squads eight, nine, and thirteen should head there… yes. I do not mind. East-A is an important district. Deal with whatever is happening there. Understood?”

Saras spoke with tension in her voice.

“Everything okay? If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.”

“My shit darling, there is no need for you to worry. I’ve dispatched a new squad over.”

Five minutes passed… and then Saras received another call.

“It’s me.” Just like earlier, Saras spoke with a stern tone. And once again her eyes widened in surprise.

“That’s… impossible… squad thirteen is the strongest vampire ninja squad. Okay, understood.”

Saras hung up the phone, and I called out to her.

“So it didn’t work?”

Saras seemed to calm down upon hearing my voice. She proceeded to fish out what looked like a map from her bag.

“I might have to just go myself in this case. Darling, will you lend me your strength?”

“I see the sun poking out through the clouds, so it’s a perfect time for me to go inside. If you’ll have me, that is.”

“I had faith that you would say that.”

Saras gave me a small smile and spread the map on the floor.

The Saras Shinsengumi also seemed to get curious and filed over. We surrounded the map in a circle and looked down at it.

Saras tapped one long, beautiful finger on the map’s surface.

“Five squads were annihilated here, in East-A. We are here right now. We are quite close.

This… this was a map of the Comiket convention center! Something that was annihilating Saras’s squads was happening this close and as we spoke?!

“The squad I directly supervise was supposed to finish buying doujinshi from the wall circles, and then had twelve books to purchase with the island circles.”

“……….. Huh?”

“What’s wrong, my darling?”

“Uhh, well, it’s just that I thought we were actually in a war or something.”

“War… that would be an appropriate word. We are in a war to acquire limited edition goods! Indeed, this is precisely a war.”

“In other words, your squads were trying to buy doujinshi and some kind of trouble happened?”

“Yes. Enough trouble to annihilate five squads.”

What… what in the world had happened?

“After consolidating all our information, the squads were defeated here and here, in these two places. It seemed that our people were flattened into pancakes.”

“I see… that is in the original works section.”

I heard a voice and looked up, and saw Sera standing there.

“Sera! You know about this stuff too?”

This ponytailed beauty might be cosplaying right now, but I also thought she felt otaku were disgusting people.

“Yes. I know the basics, as collecting doujinshi is my mission.”

MIssion… huh…?

“But, this is quite strange.”

“What is?”

“According to the intel I received, the island circles, and especially the original work circles around this area, should have posed no problem.”

“Yes. However, five squads have been annihilated as of now.”

“I wonder what the problem is.”

“We won’t find anything out if we continue to stand here guessing. We will just have to go to find out.”

“Should I join you?”

“No, Sera, you stay here and watch over Tomonori.”

“Understood.”

I looked at Saras. She looked back at me. And we nodded.

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TRANSLATOR’S NOTES

(1) The Shinsengumi were a special police force in Kyoto during the mid 1800s, whose uniform used characteristic blue-and-white haori with jagged patterns near the sleeves. Nagakura was the captain of the first squad, and Okita the captain of the second. No I have no idea why this reference is supposed to be funny. I think it’s just meant to be random…

(2) Possibly a parody of Inazuma Eleven.

(3) Famous locations in premodern Japanese History. I’m not going to go into details but feel free to look it up if you want.

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