- EVERYONE GETS ALONG
ILLUSTRATION: YASUDA SUZUHITO
Mid-April of a certain year, an apartment building on Kawagoe Highway
The word chaos, pronounced "kon-ton" in Japanese, sounds somewhat like a hotpot bubbling. That's why hotpots are better enjoyed amid chaos.
- Which TV personality said that? Ryuugamine Mikado tried desperately to remember but his brain just wasn't complying.
- What exactly is going on?
Mikado felt his face twitch at the sight of the abnormal scene that surrounded him. Despite that, he put the piece of meat he held at the tips of his chopsticks into his mouth.
Meat Meat Greens Meat Greens
Meat Meat Greens Meat Greens
Tofu with sesame seeds wild greens with ponzu sauce
Meat comes with oozing white fat
What was going on in the room could be summed up in these four lines.
That was how everyone around Mikado was practically throwing themselves at the hotpot.
It was a huge dining room on the top floor of an expensive-looking apartment building on the side of Kawagoe Highway, but it was threatening to feel small thanks to all the noise and heat coming from the guests flooding the apartment.
Around the nice big table sat about ten people. Two equally-sized clay pots were sitting on their respective gas stoves specially prepared for the occasion.
The night view of Tokyo in the side window was blurred by hotpot steam. Right now Mikado's eyes were treated to nothing more than the visualization of noise and chaos.
"Um - ......"
Having swallowed the meat in his mouth, Mikado reconsidered the question of why he was here in the first place.
Several days after he became a sophomore at Raira Academy, Mikado was caught up in all sorts of trouble and consequently shed a good gallon of cold sweat. However -
- The female who had been the center of said troubles suddenly contacted him saying [We're having hotpot, come eat with us if you want], and he ended up coming over.
If we cut the narrative at that, it would have sounded like the intro to some sort of romantic suspense - but the female who had invited him over was sitting on a sofa in the neighboring room chatting with a man in a white coat.
Or looked like they were chatting, anyway.
- Though the man was talking to the woman, the woman never replied - in fact she couldn't, since she had no mouth to utter a sound to begin with.
Looking at Celty Sturluson, the headless woman, having a pleasant conversation with the man in white, Kishitani Shinra, Mikado smiled somewhat longingly.
Celty Sturluson was not human.
She was a dullahan, a Scottish or Irish fairy that knocked on the doors of the dying and warned them of their impending death.
She carried her severed head at her side and rode a carriage pulled by a Coiste-bodhar (a headless horse) to the homes of the dying. If they were thoughtless enough to open the door, she would splash upon them a bucketful of blood - and was therefore regarded as a messenger of doom like banshees in European folklore.
Some believed that dullahans were the form Nordic Valkyries took when they fell onto the Earth. Celty herself had no idea whether it was true or not, however.
Perhaps she did know.
But she certainly does not remember.
She lost the memories as to what she was when her head was stolen in her homeland. That was the reason she followed the scent of its presence all the way to Ikebukuro.
Her headless horse was transformed into a motorbike and her armor into a rider suit; for decades she wandered the streets in this city.
But she ended up getting neither her head nor her memories back.
For Celty, life was good as it was.
She had someone who loved her, and people who accepted her for what she was. She was content to be able to just spend her life the way she was with these people.
Having made up her mind, the headless woman decided to show her resolve to the world through her actions rather than her nonexistent face.
- Such was the being named Celty Sturluson.
Mikado, who came to know this “extraordinary” female by chance when he became embroiled in certain happenings a year back, was on good enough terms with her now to be invited to this hotpot party - but he was by no means a "special" one.
Around him there were many more, though it felt like they were just here because Celty and Shinra happened to know how these people could be reached.
As it turned out, however, that most of these people already knew each other at least by face - so he didn't feel as lonely as he would have expected.
Except for the fact that there was this one person -
This one old friend who wouldn't have looked out of place in the very least at this party - he was absent.
"Sorry......could I sit...next to you?"
A disappearing voice of a young girl reached his ears.
“Eh!? Ah, of course, of course! I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to sit alone here - "
Almost everybody had stood up half-way through the hotpot party. Mikado hastened to make room for the girl from his class - Sonohara Anri.
"B - But, Sonohara-san, I didn't know that you also knew Celty-san!"
Anri had told him before that she had met Celty at some point, but he was still a little surprised to see Anri at this hotpot party.
"I wasn't all that surprised to see Karisawa-san and others, but I certainly didn't expect to see Harima-san and Yagiri-kun here..."
The sight of the couple having hotpot together at the corner of the room brought the image of a certain young boy to Mikado's mind.
"......I do so wish Masaomi were here."
"......I feel the same."
Mikado shook his head hurriedly as he heard Anri reply to his murmuring.
"No no, I'm sorry! I was just saying that to myself, not to Sonohara-san! .....Um....."
Realizing that sounding all flustered did little to cover up his embarrassment, the young boy smiled forlornly in resignation.
"But.....really, I was thinking along the lines of 'if only Masaomi were here'."
Regardless of the noise that surrounded them, Mikado began to talk in a deeply emotional tone.
"I got to meet Sonohara-san and all these people here......because Masaomi invited me to Ikebukuro."
He was Mikado's childhood friend, and the one who invited him to the town named Ikebukuro in the first place.
Mikado, Masaomi and Anri formed a famous love triangle at Raira Academy. They'd become very good friends who were always seen together -
Until Masaomi disappeared from their sight after a certain incident.
More than a month had elapsed since that incident. Mikado and Anri had not been able to adjust completely. At times both of them felt like they would see Masaomi fighting with somebody over a piece of meat if they turned to look at where the hotpot was bubbling.
Of course, Masaomi was nowhere to be seen in this room.
"I am infinitely grateful to Masaomi. I don't dislike my hometown, but thanks to Masaomi, I feel like I've stepped into a new world. First off, I probably wouldn't have come to Tokyo even if I was invited had it been anyone other than Masaomi. Though it's a bit of an exaggeration to call it 'coming to Tokyo' when I just moved the little distance from Saitama......"
Mikado scratched his head in embarrassment. Anri smiled slightly as she replied:
"You really were very good friends with Kida-kun."
"It's a secret, but I cried when I heard Masaomi was transferring to Tokyo. Though there's no way I would tell Masaomi. Really, Masaomi helped me out of so much...so much......"
"Frankly, I simply admire him for his ability to take action. ......I'll tell you something that happened back when we were in elementary school."
Five years ago, summer, a town in Saitama
"MIKADO! RHINOCEROS BEETLE HUNT TIME!"
The black-haired boy shouted with a confident smiling face as he looked up at the second-story window of a certain resident house.
The boy in pajamas who showed his face from within the window, on the other hand, lowered his voice just enough for the other boy to hear so that his neighbors wouldn't be disturbed.
"I thought it was urgent because you threw pebbles at my window......Masaomi, you got any idea what time it is......!?"
"2 a.m.! The witching hour! Well done, me!"
"What have you ever done!? Wait there, I'll be downstairs in a moment......!"
The boy in pajamas - Ryuugamine Mikado - rushed downstairs dressed in what he was dressed in and opened the door with a sigh.
"So why rhinoceros beetles?"
Kida Masaomi, who was already preparing the insect net as Mikado stared at him with scornful eyes, grinned confidently and nodded.
"I ran out of things to write about for the summer diary!"
"......Then just write 'There is nothing to write about.'"
"Nobody's going to be excited reading boring entries like that!"
"Nobody's going to read it except the teacher anyway. Homework and diaries for the summer, I mean. Plus we're already seniors so it's not like we're doing the kind of diary with drawings. You don't have to make yourself come up with things if you can't."
"I want to be excited when I read my own diary a few years back."
Mikado sighed again at Masaomi's unreasonable argument and replied:
"Also, my dad and mom will be mad at me for leaving the house so late in the night."
"Eh? Aren't Mikado's parents away for the country memorial service at Aomori?"
"......Now that you mention it, they did say something of that sort yesterday......"
"Plus it's not 'in the night', it's 'in the morning' already! It's gonna be fine. Even the trees and grass sleep at the witching hour! But that doesn't mean we humans have to do the same! So! All aboard! We're bound for the Rhinoceros Beetle Land!"
Several hours later, a certain forested area of Saitama
"......You're actually doing it because rhinoceros beetles sell for pretty good money, aren't you?"
They ended up waiting till aroung 4 a.m. and setting out for the forests in the neighborhood.
Masaomi was a boy who was quick to dive into things. His ability to put his thoughts to action was, for better or worse, far above the average elementary school kid - but the mechanism behind his actions was still of the most childish kind.
That was why people close to Masaomi often got pushed around - and Mikado, who was more passive than other kids, became the favorite victim of Masaomi's adventures, ideas and make-believe games.
Which was not to say that Mikado hated it, however - rather, he harbored something close to admiration for the boy who had the ability to put his thoughts to action unlike himself.
Since he was always dragged around by Masaomi in this fashion, Mikado was gradually able to figure out the motives behind Masaomi's actions.
"Glad that you understand. This is gonna be good pocket money."
Though he never stopped sighing, Mikado still accompanied him this far.
What exactly were Masaomi's parents thinking? He'd heard that they were pretty lenient parents, but letting their son out of the house at 2 a.m. was carrying things a bit too far.
Mikado worried about such things in his mind as he moved timidly into the dark forest.
"Last night I wrapped cloths dipped in specially prepared honey around some trees in the forest. Beetles should have flocked to them in swarms by now so we'll just have to pick. Just be careful not to step on any of them."
"O - OK."
As soon as he heard this, Mikado hastened to illuminate his feet with his flashlight and walked with more care. He shuddered involuntarily at the thought of accidentally stepping on any of the beetles.
Not seeming to mind, Masaomi simply kept walking at a fast pace, till -
From the depths of the forest Masaomi was leading him towards, several spots of light were already flickering.
"S - See? Those adults are probably mad because they saw the cloths dipped in honey and stuff..."
"So late in the night?"
Though he said this, Masaomi proceeded to direct his flashlight downwards and walked carefully towards the lights. Mikado felt his legs wobble but eventually followed suit.
As they approached the lights, they saw that it was a bunch of young boys several years their senior.
"Huh? What're you after, kids?"
One of those boys seemed to notice the lights they were holding and turned to talk to them.
Judging by the insect cages they were holding, they were also after rhinoceros beetles like Masaomi. They looked like they were already past the age for beetle duels, so they were most probably doing it for profit.
Their insect cages were already filled with swarms of beetles, presumably caught from Masaomi's honey-dipped cloths.
"This is bad. These people are in middle school..."
Mikado murmured as he pulled at Masaomi's sleeve. Masaomi, however, spoke to the middle schoolers in a perfectly natural manner.
"Hey - we came to catch some beetles - "
The middle school boys turned towards their direction upon hearing Masaomi's voice.
"This place is ours. Go somewhere else."
Masaomi sighed lightly and turned around on his heels as if in resignation -
What caught him by surprise, however, was that Mikado had rushed out from behind his back and spoke to the middle school boys in a timid voice.
"B - But, those cloths and honey, they're Masaomi's - "
"Eh? What, you gonna pick on us?"
"Where's your proof that you were the one who prepared them?"
The middle school boys moved one step in their direction and flashed their lights intimidatingly at their faces.
Mikado shook even harder at their reaction - but Masaomi had already caught his hand. Masaomi shook his head at Mikado and shoved Mikado behind his back.
"None, none at - all. - we'll leave now!"
"Good, just leave."
The middle school boys laughed and waved their hands as if scaring away dogs. Mikado looked like he still had something to say, but Masaomi dragged at his hand and led him deeper into the forest.
"Listen Mikado. You can't fight if your life depended on it, so don't make them think you're picking one."
"B - But.....all those beetles......Masaomi had caught them......"
Mikado lowered his head in fury as he walked in the forest. Masaomi tapped his head and took something out from his waist porch.
"Well, it's gonna be fine. I discovered some interesting stuff in this forest last evening."
"Anyway - you're a weakling, so just avoid getting yourself into dangerous stuff."
And with that - Masaomi smiled widely and said with his face turned to Mikado:
"So! Mikado is going to wait here for now."
"Fighting and all that dangerous stuff - just leave those to me."
"Still - these are gonna sell for a shitload of money."
"Don't sell to those department stores. Won't we be able to make more money if we just sell them ourselves?"
"Stupid, it's the parents who got the money to pay. There's no way they're gonna buy directly from the likes of us. I know this guy who runs a pet shop, it'll be best to sell to him."
The middle schoolers grinned at each other as they checked out the insect cages in their hands and exchanged dialogues like these -
Until, out of the blue, something was splashed all over their bodies.
It was a sticky liquid with a sweet smell.
As they flashed their lights about trying to find out what just happened -
The figure of an elementary school kid stood there in the darkness with a wooden stick in his left hand and a plastic bottle in his right hand.
"Hello - thought I'd let you have some of the honey I got left since it's gonna be wasted otherwise anyway."
With a provocative smile on his face the elementary school kid turned and ran into the darkness.
The middle school boys looked at each other and, upon realizing what the kid had just done to them, roared in exasperation and ran after him.
"You stand still, bastard!"
"Wait till we beat you up!"
Yelling words that made them sound even more immature than the kid they were chasing, the middle schoolers kept running in the darkness -
They were getting close when the kid suddenly slowed down and, with the wooden stick in his hand, hit a certain something dangling from one of the trees with all his strength.
The middle schoolers got suspicious and directed their flashlight towards that "something"; at the exact same moment, however, the kid turned off his own flashlight.
The next second, the sound of a thousand wings came from that "something" ---------------
"W - W - WASPSSSSSS!!!"
Thousands of wasps flung themselves at the middle school boys flashing their lights around and covered in honey.
As the middle school boys wailed and ran, Masaomi made his way back to where they had gathered and raised the insect cage. After he had picked out the biggest one, he let all other beetles fly back into the depths of the forest.
Then he returned to Mikado's side as if nothing had happened; as Mikado stared at him with anxious look on his face, Masaomi simply said:
"Sorry. I was only able to catch this one - is it OK if I kept this?"
Five years later, the hotpot party
"......I wondered what had happened when I heard the middle school guys scream. Masaomi had hated to lose since he was a kid......he was the type who dared pick fights even with middle school students."
"Sounds like something Kida-kun would do."
Anri smiled timidly. Mikado grinned in embarrassment and continued to talk.
"Yeah......but if the story ended there, I don't figure I would have become such good friends with Masaomi. I don't like fights, you know..."
Five years ago
Two days had passed since the beetles incident. Mikado was walking on the street as usual when Masaomi popped out of nowhere.
"Hey, Mikado. Here, take this."
Hard candy was shoved into his hand all of a sudden. Nonplussed, Mikado could only utter a "Thank you?" which was half-intended to be a question.
Masaomi chuckled at his friend's face and spoke.
"Didn't I make you get up early two days ago? I sold that beetle for good money - thought I'd split the profit."
"So you did end up selling it......"
Mikado pocketed the candy as he muttered.
After that he chatted nonsense with Masaomi before they parted ways. He was about to go home as usual when -
On the way back, Mikado, chewing on the hard candy he just got from Masaomi, spotted some lower-class kids showing off their rhinoceros beetles and playing games with them.
The sight reminded him of that morning two days back, and he was smiling when one of the kids turned as if he sensed his presence and waved at him.
"Ah, Ryuugamine onii-chan! What are you doing?"
"Just going back home......did you catch those beetles yourselves?"
It was a casual question on his part, but one of the kids replied with an innocent grin:
"No! Kida onii-chan caught them!"
Not expecting at all to hear the name of his friend with whom he had just waved goodbye, Mikado looked more closely at the lower-class kid.
- And realized that the beetle in his hand was a whole size bigger than other kids' - exactly as big as the one Masaomi took home with him two days ago.
"Three days ago Yo-chan showed off the beetle he bought at the department store and everyone was kind of down, so Masaomi onii-chan came and said 'I'll get you even bigger ones!'"
" - He came again yesterday with this huge beetle and exchanged it for three candy drops!"
"Masaomi is a fool, he really is. He does that kind thing from time to time knowing very well that there's nothing to gain......"
"I think it's cool."
Mikado returned Anri's soft smile.
"Yeah, I feel the same. I can't decide whether I feel like Masaomi's just a fool or a really cool person."
Smiling, Mikado turned his face back towards the hotpots as if to conceal his embarrassment.
- But they were already out of meat. He shrugged and began to pick out bok choy with his chopsticks.
At that moment, Harima Mika arrived wearing an extremely cute apron and set a plateful of meat on the table.
"Rest assured, we have plenty of meat for everyone. Eat as much as you like!"
Mikado couldn't help but find Mika's upbeat smile cute.
The next second, he remembered that Anri was still sitting behind him and hastened to shake his head at himself.
- No no no. I only have feelings for Sonohara-san.
Harima Mika was Sonohara Anri's good friend.
However, it was impossible for Mikado to say for sure whether there was real friendship between the two.
Though Anri was only a female companion that was supposed to make Mika look better, Mikado found Anri more attractive. But it could also have been that he felt that way only because he heard about Mika beforehand from Anri and felt like she already had this boyfriend named Seiji.
- Well, she and Sonohara-san are totally different types.
- Maybe they complemented each other in some way.
Anri made a melancholic impression on the viewer, while Mika looked upbeat and without a worry in the world.
From a positive point of view the contrast served to accentuate their respective personalities.
Harima Mika's outgoing personality was probably more attractive to most males -
- But unfortunately......she's......a stalker.
Had he not been so informed about the other facets of her personality, Mikado might have fallen for her instead.
But Mikado had already decided that he only had feelings for Anri.
He gobbled up the bok choy to clear up the worries in his heart and turned towards Anri.
He forced more bok choy down his own throat as he tried to make conversation with Anri again.
"Speaking of which, Sonohara-san, when did you come to know Harima-san?"
He thought the transition from his childhood story with Masaomi to Anri's with Mika would be a smooth one -
But Anri's reply was less than cheerful.
"Harima-san and I......have known each other since we were little, but we weren't really close at first.....not until I was bullied......by the girls in my class in elementary school......and Harima-san helped me out of it."
"After that we often moved together. And after that...came the things I've told you about."
"Um, uh......sorry to have reminded you of those bad memories."
Anri shook her head hastily as Mikado lowered his apologetically.
"Not at all, I'm sorry. It was my bad to have said those strange things......"
Anri was trying to convince Mikado that he was not at fault.
All of a sudden, Harima Mika - the person they were talking about - leaned towards them and said in a playful tone:
"Heh, what's up? Our little couple's bickering?"
"Ha - Harima-san!"
"Really, Mikado-kun, you don't poke fun at Anri! 'Cause Anri's the type to get really wound up about that!"
"S - Sorry!"
Anri made a hasty gesture as if to negate what Mika had just said as Mikado went busy apologizing for virtually nothing. A certain memory surfaced in her mind, however, and drowned out both Mika's voice and Mikado's explanations.
It was the memory of the time they came to know each other.
Six years ago, an elementary school in Tokyo
After some splashing noise, a wet towel landed on Anri's face.
"You - I heard you got full mark on the latest test. What exactly did you do?"
Anri was cornered by several girls where the school's taps were located. Few people were around since it was late after school, and it looked unlikely that a teacher would just happen to pass by.
"Everybody knows that you cheat."
One of the girls peeled off the towel from Anri's head and threw it at her slightly bulging chest.
An unpleasant sound; with that Anri's clothes were slowly soaked.
Anri, of course, didn't realize that she was already guilty without proof in these girls' minds simply because despite her subdued looks she was getting better marks than they were.
"I didn't cheat......"
The girl who looked like the head of the group walked towards Anri and pushed her shoulder onto the wall as Anri denied the accusation in a flat tone.
"We weren't asking for your opinion."
She proceeded to turn on the water from one of the taps, covering the mouth of the tap with her hand so that the water spurted directly towards Anri's face in gushes.
"Speaking of which, you know how everybody hates you?"
"The boys all think you're disgusting."
In fact, if anything Anri was more popular among boys than the girls bullying her. But that only hurt their egos further.
For these girls, who had established some sort of "status" in the class, it was a huge insult to see that a girl looking so "below" them got better marks than they did.
Since they were elementary school kids, the anger was perhaps best characterized as the "she-just-makes-me-mad" kind.
Another girl had filled a bucket with water and was about to splash the water on the defenseless Anri when -
The next second, her hand was grabbed by someone else's and the bucket of water was splashed entirely down her own body.
Both Anri and the girls bullying her turned around at the sudden scream - the one who stood there was Mika, on her way home with her schoolbag on her shoulders, and girls that looked like Mika's friends.
Mika grabbed the bucket from the girl who was now completely soaked, twirled it on her arm and smirked.
"What's this completely uncool thing you're doing called?"
The girls turned green as Mika continued to beam at them.
"It's got nothing to do with Harima-san!"
They were obviously afraid to pit themselves against Mika, who was sort of the center of the class back then.
These girls didn't succeed in making their way into Mika's group and ended up being the "minority". They targeted Anri because she stood out too much, but having that scene witnessed by Mika's group was already too much for these girls to handle.
"Ahh - ahh. What would the teachers think if they knew about this? I guess they'll ask your moms and dads to come to school - "
The minority group of girls could only answer as Mika continued to giggle:
"D - Don't get it wrong, we were just playing games with Anri-chan......let's go."
Mika eyed the girls grinning as they ran away with funnily colored faces before turning herself towards Anri.
"Are you OK?"
"T - Thank you......"
"Here, clean up your face."
As she handed her handkerchief to Anri, who still had her head lowered, Mika began to lecture her.
"My, my, Sonohara-san, you should at least fight back. Otherwise they'll just think you're easy to meddle with."
"Sorry......but......it's alright......I got used to this sort of thing......at home......"
Although she didn't understand what Anri meant then, Mika couldn't help but begin to notice Anri. - Which was why she said:
"We're going somewhere for fun, Sonohara-san. do you want to come along?"
Anri became part of Mika's group for a number of years after that.
However, it did not feel like she was forcing her way into the group; if anything, it felt like the assertive Mika was dragging her around.
But Anri knew what it was about.
Mika probably just liked the fact that Anri's dramatically different aura and personality made Mika herself look better.
It wasn't something Anri understood as an elementary school girl. But she still felt it.
However, that was not to say that it bothered Anri -
On the contrary, she felt a vague sort of admiration for Mika, who was full of energy and could put her thoughts to action. -
Turned out it was the exact same admiration Ryuugamine Mikado harbored towards Kida Masaomi.
But things changed in the spring of their second year in middle school.
This was the voice of Harima Mika, who had just been kicked to the ground by another girl and pressed against the restroom wall.
These were the same girls in that "minority" group back in elementary school.
What was more, the girls who used to hang around with Mika could be seen standing behind their backs.
"How long are you planning to keep giving us that princess face? Argh?"
"No one wants to suck up to you now."
The change had come after a girl from the "minority" group began dating a guy from a high profile gang in their school.
As her status soared, the girl began to take revenge against Mika's group for what happened in elementary school.
Mika's old friends distanced themselves from Mika in fear of being targeted. Mika had become the isolated one.
"We brought her."
Another figure stepped into the tense atmosphere in the restroom.
It was Sonohara Anri, who had practically been dragged here by a girl in the group.
Considering that she had not the faintest interest in group conflicts between girls, it was no wonder that Anri had not a single clue what was going on.
The head of the group pointed towards Mika with her jaw as she saw the look on Anri's face.
"Oi, Sonohara - . Fill this bucket with water and splash it on her."
Anri accepted the bucket without realizing what she was doing, but she still looked around at Mika and the other girls as if seriously confused.
"Sonohara must be sick of this woman too, right? She uses you to make herself look better all the time!"
"Huh, are you not mad at her? Or would you rather be bullied too? Is that it? If so, we'll arrange for you to get soaked alongside Mika every day from now."
Those who had followed Mika around had left Mika in fear of becoming the "minority".
- Which was why they thought Anri, who had been bullied in elementary school, would cave in as well, but -
The girls stared at Anri as she gave an unexpectedly firm reply.
"What good would that be for me?"
Flatly - she simply asked, flatly.
It was not her sense of justice at work.
Neither was it sympathy or gratitude for Mika.
It was simply Anri's own question.
Only that she was asking about what benefit there would be if she joined the bullies to gang up on Mika.
Were they still in elementary school she might have had taken different actions.
But now - now she had already lost her parents because of the Slasher - and erected a "picture frame" in her mind. She had grown used to seeing herself as just "any other individual" and accepted her own abnormality that way.
"Would it mean anything if I joined people like you in bullying Harima-san?"
The girls, unaware of Anri's "ability", simply felt mocked and shoved Anri towards the door by the chest.
"You're pretty gutsy for saying that. How about we strip you and Mika naked and take some photos of you two with our cell phones?"
They had planned to strip Mika and take photos as a means to silence her in front of the teacher.
One person or two, it wouldn't make a difference - the girls had thought when they pushed Mika and Anri in -
"My, my. I don't know what to say, Anri-chan."
Mika's giggles sounded from further inside the restroom.
She was holding a mop she took from the pile of cleaning tools, making her silhouette look rather weird against the sunlit window.
"Huh? What now, you gonna fight back?"
The girls had began to retreat envisioning being attacked by a mop while still speaking in an intimidating tone -
Mika, however, began to speak regardless of the difference in their numbers.
"Kushigawa-san, you're dating Shirota-sempai, right?"
"......That's right, so if anything happens to me, Shiro-chan's not gonna let you off the hook - "
Mika ignored the girl's threat and continued: "So I guess you've already broken up with the motorcycle gang guy, Haganeda-san?"
"......!? Wait......how come you know his name......!"
Upon hearing the name of her ex-boyfriend - or rather, one of her current two boyfriends she was double-timing - the head of the group looked visibly flustered.
"Didn't you tell Shirota-sempai that he was your first boyfriend? Wouldn't it be just interesting if I told them about......you?"
"H - How - How did you know these things......"
"Oops, do you not know?"
Mika's eyes were fixed on the girls who used to follow her around in the old days.
"Do you really think that everyone had left me to join you? I only had to ask, and they just filled me in with all the 'gossip' they heard."
This surprised, more than anyone, the girls who left Mika's group. They had no recollection of having heard such gossip - in fact, it was the first time they'd even heard the name Haganeda.
But the original members of the group were already glaring at them with fearsome eyes.
"No, we, we never......"
In fact, Mika did not hear about Haganeda from the girls that betrayed her. She did the "research" on this group of girls herself since she had expected things to come to this.
It looked like she was trying to sow the seeds of suspicion and conflict within the group and turn them against each other - but actually, this thought never entered Mika's mind.
It would take only a couple of seconds.
A couple of seconds during which no one in that group was keeping their watch on Anri.
That was all the time she needed, even if she was only a girl with spindly and untrained limbs, to -
Knock out the girl in front of her with the metal part of the mop's handle.
A strange clanking noise sounded as one of the girls from the group fell to the ground bleeding from her head.
The other girls' throats were attacked by the same bold thrusts of the mop's handle.
After she had rendered the girls incapable of speech, Mika's eyes turned towards Anri as she continued to say:
"My, my, Anri-chan, you're way too cruel."
"If Anri-chan hadn't become such a good girl..."
Before Mika, the head of the group was shaking all over after her bucket had slipped from her hand, the other girls were about to cry, and Anri simply looked confused as she stared at the scene -
Mika flashed the most refreshing smile ever at Anri before raising her mop high.
"...I wouldn't have had to become a bad, bad girl to maintain our contrast, would I?☆"
(To be continued)