Sorry for being inactive past months, was addicted to Shigatsu wa kimi no uso (Caught up on both Anime/Manga) nearly lost my eyesight from tears, and now addicted to Dying Light. Soon I'll die from schoolwork overload but who cares, Kao-chan FTW! PLEASE GOD! MAKE HER LIVE!!! don't make her become the 2nd Mari Hanashiro D=
Near Nishito City’s train station there was an upscale hotel known as the Nishito Imperial Hotel. On its highest floor, there was a suite.
The interior of the suite consisted of a bedroom and two living rooms combined together, making it very spacious. Within the suite, every piece of furniture was a foreign-made high class good, and the sofa was so soft that it could almost swallow up to one’s waist.
Munakata Kaiji was a manager of multiple urban and resort hotels. He had almost up to eighty percent of shares of this Imperial Hotel. In other words, he is the owner without the actual title. Due to the sudden visit of such important higher-ups, the hotel hastily prepared this room for his stay.
In the living room near the door, many people could be seen enveloped by silence.
A middle-aged man with his hair pulled back that had a mix of white hair, sitting on a one-person size sofa, was Munakata Kaiji. He was a successful business man who had single-handedly shaped his fortune, not even with the help from a secretary or a driver. He was wearing a famous brand suit, playing a glass of liquid with his hand.
Separated by a table, sitting alone on the opposite side of a three-person size sofa was Anmoto Shiika. She was classified as a Hishu level one ranked Mushitsuki by the Special Environmental Preservation Bureau for being the only Mushitsuki to ever recover from the Fallen state. She was wearing a one-piece dress that Munakata had asked the hotel to prepare, holding her head down low as if she was afraid to look up.
Around the table, there were two other people.
Sitting on a two-person size sofa, a teenage boy around the age of fifteen or sixteen --- Kandori Yoichi. He was wearing a casual outfit T-shirt paired with jeans, and was staring at Shiika with a weak smirk.
And lastly, a slender teenage girl wearing a school uniform who was leaning next to the heater with her arms forked in front of her chest --- Sugitsu Matsuri. Different from Yoichi who arrived here yesterday from another city, she was a local high school student. Her traditional Japanese-style hair and slender eyes were very unique, but her clenched lips emitted a rather sinister impression.
On the other hand, He --- Shirotani Reiji was sitting on the sofa placed at a distance, staring out the window. He crossed his arms behind his head, before letting out a long yawn. This awkward atmosphere that was going on right now didn’t bother him the slightest.
“Well… Where is ‘she’? Isn’t she the one who wanted to see (Fuyuhotaru) the most?”
Munakata’s calm words interrupted the ongoing silence, yet his gaze still remained focused on the glass.
“She said she couldn’t bring herself to face (Fuyuhotaru).”
The one who replied was Yoichi, he tilted his head curiously looking at Shiika while shrugging his shoulders as he said that.
“Even if that’s not the case, it’s impossible to gather all of the officials in such a short period of time. Wasn’t the initial gathering location much further west than this? Why did you choose to stay in such a half-ass city like this?”
“I am really sorry that this is a half-ass city huh, you’re free to GO anywhere you like you know?”
“Ah sorry sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. By the way, where is your sister?”
“I couldn’t get in touch with her, the time was too rushed after all.”
“In a few minutes, I will explain to you the reason why I have asked you all to come here. But first, let me start off with the introductions.”
Munakata’s hand waved quickly in front of Shiika:
“She is Anmoto Shiika, (Mushibane)’s new leader --- (Snowfly).”
Not just Yoichi and Matsuri were stunned dumbfounded, Shiika herself was surprised speechless, staring blankly at Munakata.
“W-What..?! Ha? Wait a sec!”
“W-What do you mean by that, Munakata-san! New leader?!”
“Shiika-kun, they are the remaining officers that (Mushibane) has left now. They represent many of our members’ opinion and perspectives, although there are some more who didn’t manage to come. And not only Mushitsuki, but ordinary people included.”
Munakata did not look at the confused trio as he continued.
“As for me, I’m one of (Mushibane)’s supporters, mainly responsible for providing financial assistance and facilities, in other words, you can think of me as a sponsor –“
The one who shouted was Yoichi. He put away the smirk he had, showing a furious expression as he tugged at Munakata’s shirt.
“We will be very troubled if you just go on without us! Indeed, we’ve received a lot of assistance from you, but there’s no reason for us to let you do as you wish. Who, and when was it decided that this brat will replace (Ladybird) and become our new leader?!”
“She’s not a brat, (Shinika). She should be in the same age as you, (Ladybird), and (Aijisupa), but older than (Harenshisu) by a year.”
“It’s not the problem of age, but rather the reasons why you would consider her becoming our new leader. Do you mind telling us those reasons first?”
Matsuri interrupted the conversation from the side. Despite being polite in formality, her tone was sharp and straightforward.
Amidst the explosive atmosphere, only Shiika was blankly staring into the space. After she finally came to her senses, she was looking back and forth between Munakata and the other two in panic.
On the side, Reiji lightly sucked his teeth.
To him, the issue of becoming the new leader or not was completely irrelevant; he had already known that it would cause an uproar. What pissed him off was the attitude of Shiika who behaved like a very ordinary teenage girl.
Within him, he questioned his friend who had long passed away.
Is she really the (Fuyuhotaru) that you’ve mentioned… Rina?
“In order for me to explain, I need to confirm the current status of (Mushibane) first. (Snowfly), this was originally intended to brief you as well, so please listen carefully.”
“Right now, (Mushibane) is an organization consisting of three hundred Mushitsuki and one hundred ordinary people. Last Christmas --- the battle at Hashiba City against the SEPB, as well as the unauthorized attack of (Vihookumosu) at Housawa Town has caused us to lose many of our members. Our numbers now are significantly reduced compared to our peak period. But none of those were the real issue.”
Munakata gazed at the glass near his hand, while continuing on to explain with a calm tone. Shiika obediently listened to him quietly, Yoichi and Matsui could not help but back down and shut their mouths on the side.
“Tachibana Rina ---“
As he spoke those words, his brow lightly bent. Yoichi and Matsuri’s expression both hardened. Shiika sorrowfully bit her lips lightly. Out of everyone, only Reiji didn’t have any change of expression, he was still upholding an indifferent expression.
“Everything happened because of the loss of (Ladybird). Perhaps since the moment we’ve lost our founder, who was also our hope, (Mushibane) had already lost its purpose. Tell you the truth, when I heard the news of her death, I’ve come to realize that everything was over. It was … our defeat.”
A solemn silence enveloped the entire suite. Yoichi lowered his head quietly, while on the other hand Matsuri was trying to hold in her tears.
“To be honest, after that I felt nothing really mattered. In the past, (Mushibane) was divided into East, West, South, and North, four different areas and was each assigned a leader directly by (Ladybird). After losing (Ladybird), these people have been doing things on their own, and it didn’t take long for us to fall apart into the state we’re in right now. However, I did not intend on stopping them, other people probably think the same.”
No one objected, which meant they all agreed with what Munakata had said.
“Shirakashi Ubuki --- Even when this SEPB member offered a deal, I was not interested in the slightest. But only one person wanted to take action, and it was him --- (Aijisupa).”
Four pairs of eyes immediately focused onto Reiji. He didn’t pay any mind to them, continue to accept their gazes with his indifferent expression.
“I’ve been wanting to ask about that guy, just who the hell he is? I’ve never seen him before.”
Upon hearing those two, Shiika turned to look at Reiji in surprise. She seemed to have accidently mistaken Reiji as one of (Mushibane)’s officials.
“He is not one of (Mushibane)’s. From what he has said, it seems like he is one of Rina’s childhood friends, and is also a Mushitsuki. When he was searching for Rina’s whereabouts, it was me who decided to come in contact with him. Which was during the time when I was intending on ignoring Shirakashi Ubuki’s deal.”
After letting out a breather, Munakata placed the glass cup onto the table.
“ --- He is very strong. In my opinion, if he were to go to SEPB, he would at least be ranked as a level three.”
Yoichi’s and Matsuri’s expressions immediately changed, what took place right after was the feeling of worth.
“You said he is Rina’s childhood friend? And also very strong? How do you expect us to believe such suspicious statements? Even if that’s the case, why didn’t he join (Mushibane) in the past then?”
Facing Yoichi’s question, Reiji pondered.
--- I’m … going to Ouka City.
Rina, who he hadn’t seen more than a year, suddenly came back to Akamaki City one day leading a group of teenage boys and girls who he had never seen before and said that to him with a smile.
--- Are you doing okay?
After Reiji asked that question, Rina only replied with a soft lonely smile.
“… I wonder… Why didn’t I join then…?”
Speaking his unanswerable-question directly out of his mind, the duo’s expression grew even more furious.
“Even if you didn’t join us, why didn’t you go save her if you’re so strong then?! Didn’t you two grow up together?!”
Matsuri pressured onward with a sharp tone.
---Hey, you see… I… probably gonna die tomorrow…
Ever since Rina went away to study at one of Ouka City’s high schools, the chance of Reiji meeting her grew even less. But even so, they would occasionally call each other and chitchat.
The time was Christmas Eve, on the other end of the phone Rina suddenly blurted out that line. Although Rina had often joked around Reiji in the past, he had never heard of her joking with such weak tone before which is why Reiji thought she was being serious.
--- That’s why, I need you to do me a favor.
--- No problem, just what do you want me to do?
Rina tried to continue in her usual tone as Reiji agreed. She was not surprised by his straightforward reply.
Because it was also the only “contract” they had between them. Reiji intended to do everything he could to fulfill her wish if one day Rina asked him for help. Rina was also aware of that.
“If that time her request was for me to go help her, I’d definitely go.”
Reiji replied absentmindedly.
If the content was assistance, she would’ve said so long time ago. But even until the end, Rina did not rely on Reiji.
“But her last request was not that.”
In the suite shrouded by silence, Reiji’s monologue rang extraordinarily loud.
“By the way, although I would stay by Anmoto Shiika’s side, I have no intention of helping her. What she would do after succeeding Rina --- that’s my only interest.”
“W-What…?! I can’t accept this! You left Rina to die, and now you’re saying you don’t have the intention of helping (Fuyuhotaru)? Munakata-san, you want him to become our ally?”
“(Aijisupa)… you’ve lent us your aid in taking back (Snowfly), I thought you would continue to support her in the future.”
“It was because they got in my way from seeing her. Now that I’ve seen her, all I care about is what she will do next. Regardless of dead or alive, I only care about the ending.”
“… You bastard..!”
Matsuri blurted out a mouthful of hatred mixed with disgust. She un-forked her arms, turning around to face Munakata.
“Munakata-san, this is enough. I’ve heard that (Fuyuhotaru) was (Ladybird)’s friend, that’s why I have no objection to protecting her. But letting her become our leader, and also allowing that bastard over there to join us, I definitely won’t agree.”
“Same here, I’m sure others would feel the same.”
Munakata looked to Yoichi and Matsuri, before glancing back at Reiji. It was an expressionless machine-like gaze that one couldn’t possibly figure out what he was thinking --- only after working together for the past few days, Reiji then noticed that Munakata would never direct his gaze at Shiika.
“Can you give me some time? Three days will be enough.”
Munakata’s tone still remained calm, it didn’t waver in the slightest.
“Before that, let’s first let (Snowfly) make her decision. Only till now did I realize the most important crux of this problem seems to be on her.”
“Huh? Munakata-san, what are you saying? Who agreed on this matter?! We (Mushibane) are the one choosing!”
“(Harenshisu), can please you take out the data and put it here?”
Munakata stared at Matsuri, she seemed to be troubled. But since Munakata once again repeated “Please”, she reluctantly raised her hand.
Out of nowhere, a tiny round insect climbed onto Matsuri’s slender fingertip. The insect flapped its wings and took flight, before landing somewhere near the entrance of the suite.
Shiika could not help but gasp.
The insect’s body continued to swell up while making sounds of its expansion, until it became a big monster that could almost block the entire entrance. One could not tell whether its shells which were glowing with a rainbow-like aura were made out of steel or hard rock. Its short stocky legs unsuited for mobility and its rubber-like mouthparts were wriggling. Foliage plants and umbrella stands were crushed by the monster, even the dresser in the corner was cracked by its pressure.
“She is (Harenshisu). Her (Mushi) is capable of fusing the solids it swallows with its body, and then regenerate the solids based on its original structure back out when needed.”
Before Munakata could finish explaining, the ground beetle-like (Mushi) spat out an object from its mouth. Matsuri unwrapped the object covered in silk fibers and took out a silver briefcase.
She then rudely placed the briefcase onto the table and opened the cover. Inside the briefcase there was a thick stack of documents about a few inches tall.
“This is the data of (Mushibane)’s Mushitsuki and its supporters. In addition, although it’s not much, but there is also confirmed intel on some of SEPB’s members. (Snowfly), (Aijisupa). I hope you can memorize this data within the next three days.”
“Although this is like a process of when you’ve succeeded, I don’t think I’ll be able to make an evaluation off from this alone, or even let our comrades accept. Nonetheless, it’s better than doing nothing.”
“I will try to convince our other comrades within the next three days. Meanwhile, I want you to carefully consider your decision on whether or not you have the will to become (Mushibane)’s new leader. After all, back at Ouka City I did not have the chance to speak to you in detail about this.”
After saying those words, Munakata stood up. The giant ground beetle returned to its tiny size as Yoichi and Matsuri planned on leaving.
“(Aijisupa), I have something to tell you, can you come out for a sec?”
Reiji breathed out a lungful of air and stood up without saying a word.
Just when Yoichi and Matsuri left the room, and Munakata and Reiji were about to leave as well ---
“Munakata-san, please wait.”
Shiika asked the other party to stay.
“— Is there anything not clear to you?”
Munakata stopped moving, yet he didn’t turn to face Shiika, he didn’t even turn around.
Shiika remained seated on the sofa, squeezing her fists on top of her knees. She slightly pinched her lips as she made up her mind to continue:
“How do you see me?... Munakata-san.”
“…I resent you.”
After a brief silence, Munakata replied with a low tone. One of his white hairs fell down onto his forehead.
“(Shinika) and (Harenshisu) said they hate (Aijisupa) for what he had done. But for me, the most resentful person is you. You certainly hold the same --- no, even more strength than Rina, yet you did nothing. The one who really left Rina to die --- was you.”
Shiika clenched her fists even tighter, her gaze wandered from wavering. But very soon, she showed a weak smile and raised her head:
“I see… Thank you, for telling me the truth…”
“But after seeing you at Ouka City, I finally understood. What Rina was thinking, and why she would be friends with you… as well as the fact that only you could save us, I understand it all now”
“However, feelings are not something that can be easily cut apart, please forgive me in that aspect.”
After saying that sentence, Munakata quickly walked to the doors.
Leaving behind the confused Shiika, Reiji followed Munakata out of the door.
After leaving the suite, they saw the other two were waiting for them in the hallway. However, Reiji suddenly grabbed Munakata’s shoulder in front of the doors.
“What is wrong?”
“You just said, you ‘understand’ right?”
Reiji subconsciously infused more strength into his hand that was grabbing the other party’s shoulder.
“Rina said so before, that woman has something that Rina and I don’t have. You know what ‘it’ is right?”
“Of course, I’ve lived many more years than you for a reason --- (Shinika) and (Harenshisu), come over here for a sec.”
Reiji’s expression distorted in displeasure. Judging from Munakata’s attitude, he could tell that Munakata didn’t want to have excess conversation with him. Munakata knew very well that this was the best method of making Reiji stay.
That’s right, Reiji still had to stay by Shiika’s side --- until he understands the meaning behind Rina’s final request, as well as fulfilling her wish.
“(Aijisupa), you said there’s someone following after us ever since Ouka City. Could you tell us what kind of person it is? This level of request shouldn’t be a problem right?”
“… It’s a woman.”
Reiji answered honestly. Although he disliked Munakata’s attitude, there was no reason for him to bite him back. Since after all he asked nicely rather than forcing him to answer, there was no reason for Reiji to reject.
“To be precise, it’s something of an appearance of a woman. When I noticed it, it immediately disappeared. In that instant I saw the figure of its long hair and slender body. Even during the period when we were waiting in Ouka City for the chaos to calm down, it was lurking around us.”
“Anything else we should be aware of?”
“I can’t guarantee it’s a human.”
“…What do you mean by that?”
“Have you ever seen any human capable of catching up to a car’s speed on highway? At least I don’t know any.”
Aside from Reiji, the trio changed their expressions.
“Hm, maybe you didn’t know because you’re not interested in Mushitsuki. If it is a Fusion type Mushitsuki, it’s possible… Nonetheless, we should immediately gather all the officials.”
“Or it is possible that this guy might be lying.”
“Impossible. He just wants to stay by (Snowfly)’s side, there’s no need for him to lie to us.”
Munakata said that line with certainty, before turning around to face Reiji.
“We will take that into account, thank you --- Oh, (Aijisupa). I’ve prepared a different room from (Snowfly) for you…”
“Perhaps to you … it might seem unnecessary.”
Upon hearing that line, Reiji then realized what Munakata was trying to imply a second later.
“You think I would lay my hand on that brat…?”
“Didn’t I tell you she’s the same age as you? Even though she doesn’t seem like it… But nonetheless, you should be careful to not make her unhappy, if you don’t want to die that is.”
For the first time ever, Munakata showed a wicked smile. Reiji replied with a displeasured expression.
“You old perv.”
“People often call me that. -- Let’s go, (Shinika), (Harenshisu)”
Even though he was probably trying to make a joke, his smile seemed to have dumbfounded Yoichi and Matsuri. Taking the duo that was at loss, Munakata walked toward the elevator on the other end of the hallway.
Can’t get too careless around him.
Reiji sucked his teeth, and returned back into the suite.
In the suite, Shiika was spacing off absentmindedly, she seemed to be thinking of something. But suddenly she came back to her senses, and gazed at the briefcase that was filled with documents in front of her.
That pitiful look on her face looked just like a kid who’s trying to come up with ideas to get rid of a plate of green peppers that they didn’t like in front of them. Reiji let out a stressful sigh.
…Is she, really that Anmoto Shiika you speak of?
Questioning his old friend who had passed away, he returned back to the sofa facing the window. Since there was nothing to do, Reiji tilted his legs and closed his eyes.
Shiika nervously spoke out to him.
“T-These papers… We… have to memorize them in three days…”
“That stuff, one hour is enough.”
Silence fell. The shocked expression of the teenage girl, even after he closed his eyes, clearly surfaced within his mind.
Near Reiji’s ears who had entered dreamland, Shiika’s “One hour… One… hour” whisper continued to ring repeatedly.
Thank you for reading~
Feel free to leave comments for any questions or feedback~