Part 23: A Generous DonationPart 23 - A Generous Donation
The following update contains content that may be considered Not Safe For Work. All NSFW images will be behind links, but I can't do much for the words.
I heard a voice.
The voice was coming from the direction of the monitor.
...Who are you!?
Could it really be Neidhardt....? Wh, what do you mean, you're leaving me!?
You're a character I created! Are you trying to mutiny!?
"Sh, sh, shut up! H, how insolent! If you keep saying stuff like that, I'll, I'll delete you!"
Wh, what're you sa
Smiling ruefully at my delusions, I went on regarding Neidhardt, who stood in the world of Baselard, as stock-still as usual and not saying a word.
....Maybe I should make an effort not to push him quite so hard today.
As that thought ran through my head, I resumed playing.
Y, you probably don't have any idea what I'm saying, but I don't get how it happened, either....
"Bro? What're you mumbling about?"
I wanna hurry up and go home.... How many times would it take before my stupid sister finally got the fact that I didn't even need a cell phone in the first place?
When I got to school today, Nanami came all the way to my classroom to ambush me. After insulting me with, "It's so rare for you to be at school!" she ordered me to come buy a cell phone for sure this time.
Once the school day ended, I made an attempt to run away before she found me, but I'd forgotten how fast she was.
And so, our game of tag came to a swift end when she caught me and took me with her to the plaza by the train station.
Without any idea of how I felt, Nanami picked up a bunch of sample models from the display at the front of the store and grunted to herself as she looked at them.
I struggled to comprehend why Nanami was giving so much thought to the matter of buying a phone for me.
"This is a pretty cute color, huh? I think it's nice."
Naturally, because she was seeking my opinion, I answered her.
"I'm fine.... with it...."
Nevermind the fact that I'd said I was okay with it. I no longer had any idea how many times I'd told her "That's fine."
"Wanna take a break at McD's?"
McD's, you say!? You're telling me to enter that delinquent-salon fast food shop!? That itself would be hell! I shook my head fiercely.
"Got it. Then let's pick one as fast as possible. But I'm still a little torn, see."
In fact, it'd be appropriate to think of them as being part of the same series.
At any rate, it was a humongous sword. It might have been even longer than the one FES had.
Surprisingly, the girl with the sword was wearing a Suimei uniform.
From this distance, I couldn't tell what her face was like or anything, but even though she stood out so much, she watched the people walking along the road below with an air of composure.
That must've taken a hell of a lot of courage. I seriously had to give her mad props.
I wondered if that sword was a cosplay prop from some new anime or whatever. Although I'd technically taken a look at all the recently aired new anime myself. Had there been one where a sword like that showed up? Was there a show I'd forgotten to watch?
I certainly would've found it impossible to make myself carry that sword while walking around Shibuya, but it was a damn cool model. I kind of wanted one for myself.
Maybe I'd find it being sold in Akiba. Or would it be available online?
"Were you trying to escape?"
"Well, it really took me so long to pick one, but...."
"It's still awful of you to leave me behind and run away!"
For the time being, I shook my head.
"You dummy! Get overexposed to electromagnetic waves from your cell phone and ruin your kidneys and die!"
I don't get what you mean....
"I'm the idiot for trying my hardest to pick one out for you."
"We're seriously gonna get you on a plan today, okay! I'm deeeefinitely not gonna let you run away till then!"
"I, I know.... Let go...."
"If you get it, then chop to it. Come with me."
I was completely clueless as to why Nanami had gotten so angry. God, what an aggravating sister....
After spending an hour dealing with the red tape related to the phone plan, I got my hands on the phone itself and was planning to go straight home, but Nanami stopped me.
"I'll take care of all the first-time settings and stuff for you, so let's stop by McD's."
Ignoring my intentions, she grabbed me by the collar and dragged me to the closest McD's without giving me so much as the chance to protest.
"I'll get it ready so you can use it properly."
Dammit, just how much did you have to tie me down before you'd be satisfied.... And bringing me to McD's, on top of everything else....
There were a ton of people, all talking loudly. Moreover, the high percentage of delinquent types among them was downright abnormal.
In the seats not far from mine were a group of gaudy, blonde-dyed mothers and their kids. Absorbed by their blabbering, they ignored their kids--three in total, with red-streaked hair, horrid little brats who shrieked and ran around the store.
In some other seats were four high schoolers, equally sketchy-looking and laughing raucously.
Two high school girls sat across from each other, both with bleached hair and loose knee socks, having staring contests with the screens of their respective cell phones. They didn't say a word to each other.
Neighboring them was a middle-aged salaryman, probably skipping out on work, who lay slumped face-down against his table and snored.
A little further away was the even weirder sight of five elementary school runts, their knapsacks set on the floor, swinging their legs as they chattered cheerfully to one another.
A group date? You're in elementary school, and you're having a group date!?
In any case, as far as the eye could see, the place was filled with the kind of people I didn't want to have anything to do with.
Nanami sure was something else, being able to keep her presence of mind in a place like this. As for me, the sheer number of people made my head ache and my stomach turn, and it was only getting worse and worse....
More to the point, why exactly did I have to come hang out at McD's with her?
"Hey, hey, what about your ringtone? You want anything specific?"
Nanami asked me without looking up, as she toyed with my cell phone.
"A, an anime song...."
"This is what makes you such an otaku."
Y, you were the one who asked me what I wanted! It's my phone to begin with, so let me do what I want with it!
"Ah, right. How about using Oomura Karera's new single? It's really great. One of my recent faves."
"I, I veto that one...."
"Mm--, well, Oomura Karera doesn't exactly fit with you, ahaha."
On a side note, she'd ordered a fish burger combo even though it wasn't dinnertime yet. Moreover, I was the one who had to paid for it. Pretty ridiculous, given that I felt too ill to have an appetite.
For some reason, Nanami pulled her bag up on top of her knees and started fishing around inside it.
"Nn~ Oh, there it is."
What she proudly pulled out was....
"They didn't make it wrong."
"It came out last week. He's Pop-Eyed Gero-froggy."
"You didn't know~? As expected, you're behind the times."
"A new Gero-froggy gets released every Friday."
"There are already twelve kinds in total."
For real....? These things had enough merit to keep selling each week?
"The one on my cell phone is the first kind that came out, the regular Gero-froggy."
"Next came Fatso Gero-froggy, and after that was Spazzy Gero-froggy."
Nanami effortlessly recited the names of various Gero-froggies.
"The fourth was Faceless Gero-froggy. The fifth was Sparkly Gero-froggy."
"The sixth is the most popular. It's called Kitty Gero-froggy."
"Then came Ghost Gero-froggy, Sleeping Gero-froggy, Burning Gero-froggy, Zombie Gero-froggy, and Drunk Gero-froggy."
She remembered them all.... Hold on, maybe....
"Sure! There's no point if you don't collect all of them."
"Every week, there's a big line to buy them!"
F, for such a lazily made product.... Frankly, I could probably design something better.
For that matter, why had she started lecturing me on Gero-froggies out of the blue?
"Eh....? Wh, why....?"
"Cause if you attach it to your phone, the girls will look at you and think, 'Oh, way to go.'"
She said before starting to attach the strap to my cell phone. I, I really don't need it....
"Th, there's no meaning unless you get a full set, right...."
"If, if I take that, you won't have all of them anymore...."
"No need to worry. I bought two."
"D, do you buy two every time....?"
I was having serious doubts about her sense of aesthetics....
"Just this time. I got an extra one for you to use on your phone."
Having finished attaching the strap, Nanami gave a satisfied nod and put her mouth to the straw for her juice. But she soon stopped with a jerk and leaned toward me.
"It was a total afterthought."
"....D, don't want it."
Still leaning toward me, Nanami widened her eyes. With such force that it looked like she might start grabbing at me any moment now.
"You don't want it. After knowing, I went to buy it just for you!"
"Y, you said it was an afterthought...."
"Anyway, I'm not interested in these Gero-froggies.... In, in fact, they creep me out...."
"This is why you aren't popular with the girls."
Her attitude was one of claiming that the initiative here belonged solely with her. Well, I was a little frustrated about my cell phone, but it was a fact that Nanami knew more than me about what to do with it....
"If you take if off without permission, you'll have to stand in line for me every week as punishment."
"St, stand in line.... for what....?"
"Isn't it obvious? The queue to buy the latest Gero-froggy. It's the norm to have to wait two hours or so."
Why'd I have to get threatened by my little sister?
For a little while afterwards, Nanami went on fiddling with my phone without saying a word. I was grateful, if only because it made things less noisy.
"This feels kind of weird, somehow."
The next time she opened her mouth, Nanami's bad mood had vanished. For her it wasn't just a matter of sleeping on it; maybe she had the tendency to forget unpleasant and aggravating stuff in a matter of minutes.
What an easy-going personality. In a certain sense, I was envious.
"It's been a long time since just the two of us went out somewhere."
"How long, I wonder. I can't remember too well."
"All you ever do is shut yourself up in your room and watch anime and play games."
"Well, this kind of thing might be nice once in a while. It's a breath of fresh air."
"But I sure wouldn't wanna do it every day."
Come to think of it, I had the feeling that she'd told me before how the fish burgers here were her favorite food.
"....Go on, get as fat as you like, hehehe."
She looked over at me hatefully.
And after some hesitation, she gingerly pointed the partially-eaten fish burger in my direction.
"T, too late, hehehe...."
"Say stuff like that, and girls are gonna hate you. You better try to remember that, moron!"
Nanami ended up eating the entire fish burger by herself. What a glutton!
It had been a long, excruciating couple of hours.... At last I parted with Nanami and set off on the road home.
It was already full-blown autumn, and the slightly chilly night wind soothed my sick stomach and aching head.
I was always plagued by the same nausea and headache when I spent long periods of time around large crowds.
Nanami could just go hang. Which wasn't to say that I actually wanted her to die or anything.
She only thought of herself.
She didn't have the slightest idea of how much her behavior could end up hurting me.
If I could, I'd want to snap my newly bought cell phone in half and toss it into a nearby trash can right away. At any rate, it wasn't like I'd purchased it with my own money.
But if I did, neither my parents nor Nanami would learn their lesson, and it was obvious to me that they'd all say brainless stuff like, "Since it broke, let's go buy you a new one."
I should get a move on and go home.... Go home, and wallow in ESO again.
Out of these past few days, there hadn't been a single one where my stress stopped building up. I wondered if my uneventful days would ever hurry on back to me....
As usual, Grim had been stocking up on the latest news while I played ESO.
SFX: Computer Noise
Neidhardt>You are pretty late today
Grim>Whose eyes are those eyes?
For a second, I doubted my own sight.
How.... did Grim know that phrase.... In my bewilderment, my fingers trembled against the keyboard. I didn't know what kind of answer to give Grim, and it was all I could do to follow his words with my eyes.
Grim>I was following the online parties about it this whole time
Grim>Man, things've really gotten going in Shibuya
Grim>It's crazy bad this time, too, heh
Grim>All the blood got sucked out of the victim's corpse
Grim>He was collapsed in one of the bathrooms at Inokashira Station
Grim>Dude, the body is amazing!
Grim>All its skin turned green!
Grim>Lately I've started thinking the occult theories might not be off the mark
Grim>A human being couldn't pull off this kind of crime!
My head was threatening to start imagining it. I somehow managed to shake off the visions. For the time being, I'd better have a mouthful of Coke and regain my composure.
Dammit, that ass Grim definitely raised the subject that way on purpose, as if to ambush me.
Neidhardt>How do you know so much about it?
Neidhardt>It's like you've seen it in person, man
Grim>Well, something along those lines
Grim>So you're not interested, same as before?
Grim>In New Gen, I mean
Neidhardt>If it's a matter of chasing New Gen news
Neidhardt>I might as well go hunting in ESO instead
Grim>That's Neidhardt der Blitzschnelle for ya
Grim>You can pull off gaming marathons the rest of us wouldn't even dream of!
Grim>That's what leaves me in shock & awe of you!
Neidhardt>I get the sense that.... you're baiting me..
The opposite was more than possible.
Grim>Could it be that you're actually pretty uninformed?
Neidhardt>So, what is it?
Grim>What if I said it had to do with your precious Seira-tan?
Well, going by the URL, the link appeared to lead to an online auction, so it couldn't be anything so bad as to make my mental browser crash.
Getting a little excited, I opened the link.
"Supplies of Type B blood are currently inadequate"....?
It felt kind of like.... I'd seen this headline somewhere before.
Deja vu again, huh?
No, more importantly than that, where's my fappable Seira-tan pic!? Rolling the wheel of my mouse, I made the page scroll down.
And I hastily returned my gaze to my left-hand monitor and closed the browser window.
The guro image had been displayed on the monitor for less than three seconds. The amount of time I had seen it squarely with my own eyes was hardly a full second. Yet despite that--
Grim>Before the mass media reported on the incident
Grim>It showed up in an auction like any other sample pic
Grim>They were attaching a price to the victim's wretched body itself
Grim>In short, the seller is the true New Gen criminal
Grim>The seller's name is "Vampyre"
Grim>Though it's just a throwaway ID
Grim>The Net's already in an uproar
Grim>It's getting posted at all kinds of image boards
Grim>People are already making memes out of it
Grim>They're hard at work, lol
Grim>So, didja see the dying message?
Grim>In the middle of that pic
The dying.... message....
Grim>The victim wrote it on the wall with blood
Grim>So that kind of stuff really happens
Grim>Then again, the criminal might've done it himself for fun
Grim>Your screen frozen?
The dying.... message....
I'd only seen the picture for an instant. Yet despite that...
The message like a dying scream, drawn on the wall in misshapen red letters, had seared itself onto my brain....
Regardless of how I tried not to think about it, the individual letters came floating up on the backs of my eyelids one by one, calling out to me.
I was familiar with these words. I often muttered them.
A question aimed at no one. A little while ago, it had been the very first thing Grim said to me when he entered ESO.
Words that seemed utterly common... Yet you would never have the chance to use them in the course of your ordinary everyday life...
are those eyes?