Part 10: Shared InterestPart 10 - Shared Interest
This update contains:
A brief flashback to the guy with a hundred stakes in him
Run away, whispered my reason.
But somehow, my body wouldn't move. It was as though my consciousness were floating somewhere outside my body.
With a slow, deliberate movement, as if she meant to show me something, Girl A reached inside her blazer. She pulled something out of her inner pocket.
A knife, or a gun, or a stun gun....?
It made me think I'd seen too many TV dramas, but the premonition of something bad coming wouldn't leave my head.
Girl A murmured. Deep in her glasses, her gaze remained unmoving. Since long before, it had been fixed solely on my eyes.
"You dropped it."
What she held out to me was my student ID book.
"I picked it up at the net cafe from earlier."
"I'm glad I caught up with you."
I took it without thinking.
When I opened it, my name and my headshot photo were inside. This student handbook was mine.
Her face, which had been stony up until just now, suddenly softened.
"I'm sorry I looked inside without asking."
"I go to the same school."
"Nice to meet you."
....She'd knocked the wind out of my sails. Could this mean that it had all been the product of my paranoia?
"Really? Th, then, if you're okay with it, would you like to go out with...."
A relationship flag! It's here! My days of living IRL have only just begun!
The light that should have turned green was still red. Girl A, who should have been right in front of my eyes, was still on the other side of the crosswalk.
Just now.... did I imagine that....?
It was as though time had stopped solely for the two of us.
Why didn't that bespectacled girl start walking? Why was she still standing in place?
She's weird. She's strange. I mustn't get involved with her.
It would be better to run.
I should run away while I still had the chance.
I groaned, failing to understand what had happened to me, as pain ran through my whole body. It took me a while to start pushing myself up.
Gritting my teeth, I tried forcing myself to stand. But my legs wouldn't support me. Nothing seemed to be broken, but....
"Um~ Are, are you.... okay?"
What was with her.... What was with this girl....
My body wouldn't move for me.
Pathetic as it was, I was petrified. I didn't know what to do.
With things having turned out like this, I regretted that I hadn't used the train to Shinsen to get home.
"....Are you hurt?"
Girl A called out to me cautiously.
Was she scheming to catch me off my guard by pretending to be concerned about me? I, I won't let you fool me. I won't get taken in by the likes of some 3-D chick!
"Wha, what's with you...."
"D, don't come after me! Wh, what do you want from me?"
She looked bewildered. I desperately derided her, while scooting back on my butt in hopes of opening even a little distance between us.
If I didn't do so, I thought maybe she'd pull a knife out of her clothes any second and come attack me.
No matter what I did, I kept wondering whether I would end up the same way.
She lowered her head, her expression wounded.
Not as if she has any business with me.... she says? Way too cryptic....
"Th, then, wh, why do you keep hanging around me?"
"Um, that's, um"
She fumbled her words. As expected, her behavior was far too suspicious....
No one had asked her to, but she suddenly started introducing herself.
"But, the truth is.... when I first saw you, something about you nagged at me...."
"And, I just...."
She "just" ended up tailing me....?
This woman, who introduced herself as Yua, gradually lowered her glance while blabbering something obscure.
She furiously bowed her head.
....Impossible. That was my honest reaction.
Looking at her like this, the girl called Yua was rather cute. I'd acknowledge that.
Which was exactly why I didn't believe her.
A 3-D girl who felt favorably toward me?
What was this, an eroge?
In my whole life up until now, no one had ever said something like that to me. That was why this sudden confession could only ring false to me.
Did she think I'd rejoice over it? Regardless of the fact that she'd been creeping around me like a stalker up until a short while ago?
I might dig a character like that in the 2-D world, but I didn't want to see it in real life. It'd send me reeling back.
And I was incredibly embarrassed. I wanted to get away from here right away.... The third dimension really is shit, to put you under the pressure of anxiety when all you're doing is talking.
"I, I'm.... not interested in the third dimension...."
"Um, ha, has, ha, ha...."
I stammered because I was attempting to say something harsh. Even so, I had to make it clear to her, or she'd keep hovering around me later. No thanks, I'd pass on that....
"It's, it's a hassle.... D, don't stick around me...."
Seeing her hunch over and fall silent, I wondered if she'd really reconsidered. No, don't let her trick you. Don't trust anything in the third dimension.
All I could trust was the second dimension. I had more faith in Seira-tan's words than in whatever this girl said.
"Do, don't f, follow me anymore.... I, I'm going home...."
Faltering, I fought to stand up. My body still hurt here and there. My shoulder in particular had trouble moving, and an intermittent dull pain kept running through it.
The pain briefly made me dizzy. I might have hit my head when I fell.
Yua hurriedly caught at my hand and supported me as I stumbled.
It was a lot of work to avoid meeting her eyes. No doubt about it, my face was turning bright red. She'd make fun of me if she saw it. So I turned my face aside and roughly shook off Yua's hand.
The inside of my head was pure white. I almost never touched females, other than my family members. I felt the pulse in my chest growing steadily faster and faster.
"I'll see you to your house. Um, since.... you were hurt because I was tagging along after you...."
"So, please, let me see you home."
I was happy at her suggestion. I wasn't used to having others be nice to me, so even though she was a 3-D girl who'd previously induced only revulsion in me, I was in serious danger of falling for her.
That was why I didn't have the courage to look at Yua face-to-face. Besides, she was a stalker, and she might be related to that demon girl, and I didn't want to die....
Anyway, I was attempting to think about a lot of things, but I couldn't think about anything, and I became more and more discombobulated.
"Um, er, where is your house?"
"Ah, Shi, Shinse...."
Oh, crap, I thought as soon as I nodded.
Why did I have to and tell her.... What was I expecting from her.... At most, this would turn out to be a delusion.
Or else, at the very, very end, I'd be thrust down from the pinnacle of happiness and fall into despair. That kind of pattern appears a lot in anime. A death flag had gone up for me.
Without my realizing it, Yua had slipped under my shoulder to help hold me up. Her soft body was practically glued to me. Her hair smelled nice.
Impossible. There was no way a 3-D girl would be this nice to someone like me.
"Can you.... walk?"
When she asked me, I made the mistake of nodding again.
"Then let's go."
Yua spoke nervously and began to slowly move forward, watching my feet.
She was doing so much for me that I could no longer refuse her or shake her off. Helpless, I had no choice but to start walking, borrowing the assistance of her delicate shoulders.
As if I could ever have a normal conversation with a girl.
Obviously, if I brought up the subject of anime or games or figures, 3-D girls would reflexively call me a creep without so much as trying to understand me.
From my perspective, there was nothing to be gained from talking with those bitches.
"I, I'm fine here, so...."
Somehow forcing myself to say just that much, I studied her reaction. Yua gave me a small nod and let me go.
I still staggered a little.
"Should I, um.... take you to your room, after all?"
Ignoring her suggestion, I headed for the building's entrance.
This ragged, twenty-two year old building called Kurenai Hall was eight stories high and housed multiple tenants.
It was grimy, and the elevator hall (not that it was large enough to be called a hall) was dark because the electricity there didn't work, and the stairs were steep, and merely three people were enough to fill up the elevator, and its speed of ascent was irritatingly slow.
The container housing on the roof formed my base.
I ended up here thanks purely to my dad's connections. Apparently he was a friend of the building's owner, and the rent was pretty cheap. The fact that it only took ten minutes to walk to school was also a plus.
In truth, I'd wanted to live in Akihabara, but my parents wouldn't let me live by myself anywhere other than here, so I gave up and settled in.
Well, just as they say, the place you live becomes your palace, and I felt fortunate that it wasn't so bad once I actually came to stay here.
There was supposed to be a tenant on the first floor, but ever since I first arrived here, the shutters had always been closed.
Next to the rented space on the first floor was a narrow entrance, which led to the elevator hall. You had to take a slight step up to get in there. The instant I raised my foot to climb it, a fierce pain ran through me, and I swayed.
Yua leapt forward to hold me up. Dammit, so she was still here....
"I'll take you up to your room. Wi, without fail."
Her declaration sounded oddly frantic.
After reaching the eighth floor via the elevator, I'd have to climb a set of steep emergency stairs, and in my current state, that seemed nigh impossible to do alone.
Yua didn't seem very strong, at least going by her outward appearance. Despite that, she did her best to support me, catching her breath as she helped me climb.
Yua was rendered speechless upon seeing the container housing. I guess from a normal person's point of view, living in an industrial container would seem downright unbelievable.
"Somehow.... I, um, really admire that."
"It's got a kind of outlaw sensibility to it. How neat."
I'd never dreamed someone would say such a thing. Was she trying to butter me up, or what? I won't be fooled. I definitely won't be fooled by one of you 3-D girls, okay?
With Yua supporting me, I opened the padlock on the door and went inside.
"It's pitch-black.... Um, where's the light switch...."
This girl.... she'd brazenly gone ahead to the middle of the room. But, well, there was also the fact that she'd lent me her shoulder on the way here....
If possible, I didn't want her to look around the room. After all, there were a ton of figures lined up on the shelves, and eroge packages were piled up on the bed, and the floor was littered with trash.
"Th, that's enough.... Le, let me go."
Having communicated that, I waited for Yua's hand to leave me. But she wouldn't release me so easily.
"The floor is really messy--no, er, I mean, I think it'll be hard to walk around like this.... It's clearly dangerous."
"Let's head for the sofa. I'll let go of you once you're there."
In the end, I did as she told me. Magazines and CDs were scattered atop the sofa, too, but Yua swiftly tidied them up while still supporting me, then helped me sit down.
She was kind to me, and so considerate.... No, don't be fooled! I won't let you fool me!
"Are you okay?"
She and I were alone in my room. Since the door was still thrown open, some faint moonlight came in, but the inside of the room remained mostly dark.
Which was why I couldn't tell what kind of expression Yua was making. Conversely, though, my being unable to see her well made her breathing sound even more sexual.
Come to think of it, this was the first time someone other than my little sister had visited my room. And she was a girl I'd only just met....
If this were a game, I'd have triggered an event flag. The sort of situation where we'd get cozy and end up kissing.
But I wasn't expecting that kind of thing. Reality was endlessly cruel. Unlike the second dimension. And this girl wasn't normal. She was a stalker.
Speaking of which, how long did Yua plan on standing there in front of me? If she'd done what she wanted, she should hurry up and leave.
Having thought that far, I pulled up short. Surely she wasn't planning on doing something horrible now that the two of us were alone--
"Um, the light switch...."
"Er, er, my computer...."
The only source of illumination in this room was the desk light set next to my PC. I started to tell her to switch it on, but I couldn't bring myself to finish.
"Ah, I see. You mean this desk lamp?"
"Eh, ye, yeah...."
Scrupulously avoiding the garbage at her feet as she walked, Yua wavered her way over to the desk and turned on the light.
In the dark, being unable to see had had the opposite effect of driving me to fantasize about all kinds of things, but now that I could see her clearly, I didn't know where to look and became even more embarrassed.
Becoming completely incapable of speech, I hurriedly hunched over.
I shivered convulsively when Yua suddenly raised her voice. Her line of sight was aimed at my figure of Seira-tan, standing next to my monitor in her usual moe pose.
"This is Seira-chan, from Burachu.... isn't it?"
"....Yo, you know.... about it?"
"Y, yes. I love Burachu. I watch it every week."
"Is, is that so...."
"You must really like Seira-chan. She's also my favorite of the heroines. Her costume is cute, too."
Her voice had grown lively. She wasn't just saying it to flatter me.
How unexpected. Could it be that Yua....
"Ah, never mind...."
So she simply liked anime.
"These are called.... figures, aren't they? May I take a closer look?"
"Ah, I'm sorry. That was too forward of me.... I ought to go home already...."
Flustered, she bowed her head to me repeatedly.
"....It, it's okay to look."
Anyway, it didn't feel so bad to have someone praise one of my wives. That was why I figured, why not be a little nicer to her?
"Really? Thank you so much."
Yua picked Seira up and studied her seriously.
"It isn't that high-quality. Her face is subtly off, for instance. And her pose is too standard to be very sexy.... but it's the only figure of her so far where the chest area is cast-offable."
"Ch, chest area...."
"Ah, by the way, I've collected all four Seira figures. On the shelf, th, there's the school uniform version, and the maid version, and the swimsuit version."
"All those different kinds.... how impressive."
"The maid version is the most expensive, but personally, the sw, swimsuit version isn't too bad, either."
"I see. I'd like to take a look at them. But it's a little dim...."
"And the colors are spot on. She'll be a candidate for MVP when it comes to this year's batch of figures."
"A, a maker. Of figures."
"Ahh, I get it."
Catching myself, I held my tongue. I'd realized that I'd said too much.
Furthermore, going off like that about bishoujo figures.... I had the feeling that I'd said some pretty dumbass stuff, like about being able to cast-off clothing, and whether or not poses were sexy....
I wanted to see what kind of face Yua was making, but I didn't have the courage to look. She'd definitely be looking down at me as if I were something dirty....
So as I desperately forced my face in some other direction, pulse racing,
Yua called out to me, and I automatically turned in her direction. Far from wearing the scorn-filled expression I had feared, she was--
"Eh.... ye, yeah.... over on that shelf...."
I was utterly confused. Because Yua was smiling, as if she were really having fun.
"Waah, amazing! You have so many!"
Her eyes sparkled even after she saw the shelf filled with figures. To think that there existed a 3-D girl who could see this kind of thing and not be repulsed.
It was a big world out there, or something along those lines.
"Ah, this must be the maid Seira-chan. Hm, hm, she gives off a different impression than in the anime, but it's super cute!"
"Fufufu. They even made her underwear accurately.... It's the first time I've seen these in person, but I like them. Maybe I should buy one, too."
"I, in that case.... you sh, should pre-order the post-awakening version. I totally recommend that one. So."
"I see. After hearing what you had to say about it, I really started wanting that post-awakening one."
"When you say post-awakening, do you mean that scene in episode 12?"
"Way to know that. Art thou perhaps quite the fanatic?"
"Miyaji took care of the direction and artwork in that scene. So it's natural for the quality to be so impressive."
"There's a godly creator out there who gets called that. His direction is seriously god-like. On @chan's live broadcast discussion board, people say 'Here's God!' when he comes up."
"You know so much about this. I haven't been paying any attention to the staff members."
"You ought to check who produced it and directed it and did the script. Especially when it comes to new series, since you can basically predict whether it'll be good or bad based on those factors alone."
"Understood. From now on, I'll look it up."
Yua faced me again as she answered, wearing a charming smile.
To think that I'd be on the receiving end of a girl's smile.... to think that such an eroge-esque conversation could exist in real life! And that I myself would be able to experience it!
3-D girls, my sister included, usually smiled at me as if they were making fun of me.
"I, I don't know if it's okay to ask this, but...."
OST: Tender hearts
Yua suddenly began fidgeting. She faced downward and didn't try to meet my eyes.
Now that she mentioned it, she'd introduced herself to me, but I hadn't reciprocated.
"Ni, Nishijou.... Takumi...."
Becoming oddly embarrassed, I ended up mumbling it.
"Nishijou Takumi-kun. What grade are you?"
"A, a junior...."
Was Yua the "caring big sister" type? She was real dangerous, luring me in like this. She had to be plotting something!
"And so, Nishijou-kun, I, um, have a favor to ask of you...."
From one Delusion Trigger, straight into another one! Positive, Negative or Neutral?