School Arc – Chapter 22
It was the first early afternoon of the break after peace had returned to the school.
On the way back to the dorm, I observed the gentle sunlight that was filtering through the slowly swaying trees, in a daze.
Even though I said peace had returned, I can’t very well say that anything and everything returned instantly to the way it was. It seemed several people, including me, had gone home after getting caught up in the riots inside the school that followed right after Art’s injury. Thus, most had yet to return to school. Even if you try placing the blame on the families, it was only natural to keep their children at home out of worry.
Since they can’t afford to resume classes in this situation, the school decided to take measures by temporary closing the school starting from tomorrow. In the meantime, the school head and the teachers would probably be going around, visiting the royal capital and the students’ guardians to explain.
Even though I made a round trip back home, this and that were completely different situations. This time, we were certain to invite Lily to the house, so Shade and Lily will be going home with me, whereas Wolf will be meeting with us mid-way. My birthday was exactly the second day of the holiday, so we’ve arranged to have a private party among us. It looks like it’s going to be a very enjoyable break, so I’m already very excited.
My heart was naturally bouncing when I thought of the holidays.
I could feel the refreshing breeze and the gentle sunlight that was filtered by the trees on my skin.
While resigning myself to the coming peace, I inadvertently thought about the 『actual game』.
（The game’s time axis should be almost nearing its end）
What bore fruit from the path the heroine, Lily, pursued, was the route for the hidden chara– for Gift. Given that Lily didn’t choose Gift in the end, she never reached the true ending. In other words, she approached an end that could probably be considered a “bad ending”.
Although it’s called a bad ending, it was the happiest ending for me, given that no one was killed in this timeline.
Of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the credits will roll, so I don’t know what will clearly happen. The possibility that Lily will open another route and fall in love with someone else after this wasn’t entirely zero.
But, I think the game events, as far as what I know, should no longer happen, at least. If she falls in love based on developments I know, it wouldn’t be consistent, unless whatever event has already happened. I was sure of that now.
It was this noon when Lily came to give me 『certain information』 .
We were having a meal together out in the open, not caring about what anyone thought, ever since I took a ‘so what’ attitude on this. Wolf and Shade typically sit with us too, but it seems they’ve been busy since this morning.
Right now, the male dormitory was in the middle of a large-scale event called spring cleaning.
Performed only once a year in the female dormitory, room checks were done 4-5 times a year in the male dormitory, simply because of the occasional disturbances due to the dirty rooms that happen. I hear that the problem with the dirty rooms that gave rise to quarrels coincided with the recent disturbance of Gift’s 『curse』, so now that everything has returned to normal, it seems it was an opportunity to make at least the students who were presently at school clean together. Even the male students will become desperate when they’re told that the holidays will be put off if they don’t finish cleaning.
In any case, after we exchange smiles that said「boys will be boys」and finished our lunch, Lily confided to me in secret.
「Lycoris, to tell you the truth, it seems I can use other magic aside from healing」
I thought that was splendid news, but Lily nodded with a slightly complicated look.
「There are still a lot of students who are scared of how strong my magical abilities are, so even the teachers told me to lie low for now...」
That was probably a wise decision. The school had given the explanation that someone else was the culprit for the recent affairs, but in spite of this, there were still those among the students who were frightened of Lily. There was likely no rationale for this sort of thing. We can only make them gradually understand through time.
「But, I’ll definitely use it to protect someone — to protect the people I cherish. If I continue to do so, I’m sure there will be more people who’ll accept me, and my powers」
Moved by that incredibly brave decision, I pulled her into a tight embrace.
Well, I felt touched at that time, so it didn’t even occur to me.
Or perhaps I should say, there was a big problem.
I’m sure that Lily was a genius in magic. She ended up making rapid progress and awakened something like offensive magic in a day. It would be different if that were all, but how far her magic potential will reach was still unknown.
When a yandere appears wielding a knife, it looks like the heroine will have a weapon with a far greater fire power, so to speak.
Or, if the yandere plays dirty, it looks like the heroine will end up easily seeing through the scheme to abduct and confine her.
It’s like the makings of a peerless heroine.
(The yandere game is defeated... But then, what does that mean for the game — or rather, for this world?)
Even though it was extremely alarming at how slowly I remembered things concerning Gift, now that the game’s time seems to be ending, I think I have probably recalled almost everything about the game.
I considered other things on top of that. About this world. About the game. And, about the connection between this world and the game.
Since this world had a lot in common with the game, I thought that this world equaled the game world. If that’s the case, why did this world have parts that were different from the game? A bug? If so, was my existence a massive bug? ...it’s not a very pleasant theory to think about.
Or, suppose a theory that this wasn’t the game itself but, say, a world created with the game as a model?
But, if it had been『created』, shouldn’t there be a『creator』? And, was there a consciousness to that creator? If there was, what does it think about this world deviating slightly from the essence of the game?
（And if that’s the case, did I overturn the fate set out for me by that creator?）
That was a very exaggerated and slightly scary theory to think about.
But, since I plan on living every moment as best as I can, I don’t have any regrets.
Well, in any case, there was no evidence for these theories. It’s my loss if I only worry about theories. But still...
It was at that moment when I was about to step into an endless reverie.
A suspicious figure crossed the tip of my vision.
Walking with a large package that seemed to be of great importance, was a lanky young boy — Oria.
I can’t see Ru Xiang’s dignified figure standing near him. As that exotic nobleman’s guard and attendant in school, it was unusual to see Oria walking by himself. Intently holding onto the package wrapped in cloth, he seemed to be scanning his surroundings somewhat nervously.
It was suspicious that he was ignoring the paved brick road to walk under the shade of the trees, like he was hiding something. I would’ve thought he was skipping town had I not known that the male dormitory was conducting spring cleaning.
Even if that wasn’t the case, I felt a sense of distrust towards him. And with the reason being what it was, I couldn’t discuss it with anyone.
That is,『because he didn’t exist in the game for some reason』, would be nonsense to anyone else.
Apart from that, Oria was a character worthy of favor. Even though he appeared a little timid to the younger people with a higher social status than him, he wasn’t a bootlicker. Above all, he took the responsibility of being Ru Xiang’s guard seriously.
Although he doesn’t seem like a pretty dependable older man with his lanky build and mild-mannered demeanor, he attracted a certain popularity with women who preferred the gentle kind.
Actually, his gentle features were wasted by the moderately long, reddish-brown bangs that gave off a terribly gloomy impression.
I pulled myself together and tried to greet him with the friendliest smile I could muster.
But, when my greeting alone was met with a strangled reply, my smile turned stiff.
「D-Dorm Head Lycoris! I-I’m sorry. I ended up being surprised...」
Oria apologized in a panic and was about to depart hastily with a “well then”. Correcting his tight hold of the carefully covered package, he then twisted his body as if to keep it from my sight.
I think preventing him from leaving was only natural.
Oria came to a stop with a pale expression that seemed as if he’d received the death sentence or something and, in the end, replied:
「I’m... not... doing anything suspicious...」
His remark was as good as a confession. When he’s been acting suspiciously thus far, was there anyone who wouldn’t be suspicious?
「What is that package? Is it yours? Or, could it be Ru Xiang’s?」
The moment I mentioned Ru Xiang’s name, Oria’s shoulders gave a sudden jolt. This person was supposed to be twelve years older than me, but can he really last in society with him being this easy to read?
‘Now then’, I thought, folding my arms.
It would be a different matter if it was Wolf, the dorm head of the male dormitory, but I don’t have the authority to inspect Ru Xiang’s package. Still, it didn’t sit well with me to just let it pass. Which was why, I tried putting him off balance.
「That package looks heavy. I can give you a hand if you want」
「N-n-n-nonsense! I was charged to carry this alone, after all!」
「Oh my. When you say it like that, it kind of makes me curious about the contents 」
Every one of Oria’s reaction was loud.
「I wonder what’s inside?」
「T-t-t-that is... I’m afraid I can’t say! I-it’s just trash!」
「But, there’s a place to throw trash away in the male dormitory, isn’t there? I take it it’s something you have to throw away yourself?」
Oria was previously walking to the waste-collection point where the school’s garbage was consolidated. The times when students purposely go there to throw away trash was when it was maybe bulky, or when it was trash they didn’t want anyone knowing about.
「This is, you see... huge trash, after all」
「Is that so?」
I scrutinized the『trash』 wrapped in pitch-black cloth.
It was bumpy and protruding strangely under the cloth. I know that whatever it was, was oddly-shaped and solid to some extent. It was wrapped under layer upon layer of cloth, such that I couldn’t discern the object inside.
「From the shape of it, I’m sure it’s not a kind of book...」
「Please don’t try to dig into it any furrtherrr」
Oria said it in a pretty miserable voice, then hastily pulled off his own jacket, turned his back on me, and crouched down. He spread his own jacket on top of the lawn and started to wrap the package with it.
It was just so desperate that I felt I had to stop, since even I felt like I was somehow bullying the weak.
It was at that moment when I took my eyes off of him.
Something fell fromOria’s back and out into the open.
What I picked up almost reflexively seemed to be a black leather notebook.
The size was as big as a paperback book in modern day Japan.(1) However, it was thick enough that you could even block a sword with it. It seems the contents had been steadily filled in, I could feel the thickness, the more the leaves of the paper bent, bit by bit.
It’s been used for a long time, but I could see it was used with great care.
「Oria, this fell...」
Screaming as if a Doppler effect oscillating, Oria even abandoned the good manners he sort of preserved before then and tried to snatch the notebook from my hands.
I instinctively avoided it. It’s not like I was planning not to return it to him. It was just that I was surprised and my reflexes were on the better side.
Before I could ask him to calm down a little, Oria planted his knees on the ground.
Although he probably didn’t intend to do that, that appearance, where he curled his body as if to cling to my feet, was no doubt a『dogeza』.
「Y-you’re being scary, so please stop」
「W-what are you apologizing for?」
「I didn’t mean anything bad! It was a passing fancy...」
I wasn’t getting through to him.
「O-Oria, you were about to end up throwing an important package away, weren’t you?」
Ru Xiang’s package was left on the lawn wrapped in Oria’s jacket. I half-begged him to get up, but Oria gave a mis-match reply. 𝒾𝐧𝘯𝑟e𝒂𝗱. 𝒸o𝙢
「I-I’ll hand this over! So please give it back to me without reading what’s inside」
Oria tore off the package from his own jacket in one stroke, and pleaded with me while making sure to hold the bundle of black cloth reverently with both hands.
（What a fast change of heart...）
So, in other words, he didn’t want his own secret(?) exposed, even at the expense of his master’s secret(?)?
Though I was bewildered, I was curious about what’s inside the package for now. After exchanging the notebook with the package, I unraveled the tightly fixed knot around the cloth.
And then, I cautiously opened the large, thick cloth, that looked almost like a dark curtain.
My breath hitched the moment my eyes met with a white lump that inadvertently made an appearance from there.
It was as if the bright sunlight was receding only around me.
As if the freezing breath of midwinter was blowing only at me.
That was how I felt at that moment.
The thing that appeared from inside the cloth...
Was a slender, white『arm』that appeared to be a child’s.
(1) 17×11 cm book
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