You can blame GBF’s guild war for the delay. I had decided to go with the names romanization I’m used to instead of what was in the illustration. This means MC’s name will be You which can potentially be confusing so I’ll use Yoh instead as an exception.
At the Karasuda High School’s dormitory that I moved into since spring this year, breakfasts were provided but not lunches and dinners. When I first moved into the dormitory, I heard that it was to reflect the school’s educational policy of: “Raising independent students,” but that ended being harsher beyond expectation.
In exchange, there was a kitchen on each floor for students to make any food they like. However, as for the people who couldn’t cook, they could make do somehow for lunches; but, to not provide dinners was just cruel. Also, while the monthly rent was rather cheap, but because of the food costs, whether you cooked your own food or bought ready-made meals, the overall cost for one person was pretty high.
I had a theory that perhaps the school and the dormitory secretly aimed to encourage fellow boarding students to communicate and cooperate with each other. However, for the ten days or so that I had been in this place, I had yet to make any friend to eat together on the dining table.
… Well then, I started thinking to myself. Let’s try calculating right here.
Breakfasts are provided so they’re out of the equation. For lunches, I can buy sweet or savory breads from the school’s store for 100 yen each. Ideally, I want three of them but let’s endure with just two. And naturally, drinks are essential so let’s go with 100 yen cartons instead of PET bottles. At this point, 300 yen is already gone for food expense.
It’s fine to eat bread for lunches but doing the same for dinners is a bit too far. And when I think from a nutritional point of view, naturally, it’s impossible for the price to not go up.
However, the assumptions so far are only for weekdays, as the amount of meals the dormitory provide for Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays is zero; in other words, it does not provide anything from morning to night. There is a solution though. If I just sleep until noon on those days like what I did during middle schools, then the cost for breakfast will be 0, the same as weekdays.
This means the food expense for one day is around 300+x, where x is the amount of yen I can use for dinner. There are four weeks in a month so the monthly food expense is 4*7(300+x), rearranging that gives me 8400+28x.
Because my monthly budget is 30,000 yen, I can put it in the equation and solve for x. The result will be the maximum amount of money I can spend on dinner which is-
However, there’s no way I would use all of that on food. Even the very basic ‘Ramen (Soy sauce, Salt, Miso)’ from a local ramen restaurant, ‘Hirochan,’ costs 650 yen for a bowl so if I remove that from the maximum amount… the amount of money I can use for other things is only 121 yen a day.
Well then, one would be curious when they hear that right, I continued to think to myself. What can you even do with 121 yen? If it’s to buy a 400 yen issue of Jump then I can save for 4 days to do it. The high school life that’s worthy to be called the height of youth, the prime time of life where if you see a hole, your first thought is to jam it in… To endure for four days just for one Jump comic during that so-called beginnings of the second half of puberty is just…
It’s sufficient evidence to write a new thesis about using the phrase ‘121 yen a day” as the pronoun for ‘despair’ in a sentence.
…With that reason, I randomly sent a letter that indirectly said “Increase my allowance ♪” to my old man yesterday; but, I already got the reply today.
It was a thin envelope. The prompt reply was in a business use manila envelope. It was truly like my earnest old man who was in active duty in the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.
Judging from the thickness, I thought to myself, there’s no way there’s money inside; but, because of how troublesome it is to reply, I can have some expectations right. The content must has to be full of parental love saying ‘Oh well, I’ll increase your monthly allowance by 10000 yen’ and then ask things like how I’m doing or whether I’m lonely living alone in the dormitory and then tell me to come home once in a while.
It’s definitely fine to have that kind of expectations. But well, it feels like only kids would have expectations for something like this. My heart was fluttering and the face of my father and mother appeared in my head as I opened the seal.
… But, for some reason what came out was the piece of report I sent. Immediately, I thought that it was returned because of something wrong with the address; however, the sender’s address on the envelope was clearly from my parents’ home.
Coincidentally, I randomly lifted the paper up and the light made it see-through. On the back of the piece of paper I wrote my report on was a brief message from my father.
“You can eat cicadas?”
… I don’t understand anymore, I started thinking to myself. This is about as confusing as Nagano Prefecture’s cabbages coming out of a box of Yubari King 1
Even though I said ‘Increase my allowance,’ why the heck would he tell me to investigate a new use for cicadas? And why is the end even in uptalk? In the first place, doesn’t he know that there are no cicadas in the spring? Isn’t it common knowledge? Is it always summer in his head?
The confused me immediately called my parents’ house. The one who answered was my mother.
“He said something about, ‘Instead of sending Yoh this amount of money, it’d be better to use it to buy a genuine MSXII Joypad 2’. What was he even thinking.
If it’s the MSXII then even our SG-1000II 3 controller can be used for it. On top of that, we even have official emulators now so machine from those days–”
— Farewell mother, I murmured those words in my chest as I hung up the phone.
I hadn’t noticed until now, but perhaps, my father and mother had become a bit old.
In order to have a satisfying high school life, I need to make my dinner cheap somehow, when I came to that conclusion, once again, I arrived at this place at this time where I didn’t get it.
7:45 p.m. A certain supermarket near the dormitory.
It was the place where I got knocked away along with my consciousness about 24 hours ago. Since I don’t have a part time job, I thought, if I could get half-priced bento at this place, my monthly purchases of Jump Square and Ultra Jump 4 that I always look forward to would no longer be at risk. While buying the manga volumes I like is a given, buying the magazines and supporting the artists through the reader surveys are also a fan’s responsibility.
However, I have classes until 5 p.m. everyday so the only days left to work part-time are Saturdays and Sundays, which are meant for reviewing and preparing for classes… however, as expected, it’s impossible. ‘Man shall not live on bread alone,’ just like what Christ said, humans can’t be satisfied with just eating meals. Having fun on Saturdays and Sundays is the proper high school life.
“Um… Satou, san?”
I could hear a timid voice, it was so soft that even a gentle breeze could had carried that voice away.
The person who unconsciously raised her voice towards me, who was looking up at the bright signboard before the daunting entrance of the super market, was Oshiroi. Because she raised her voice from about 20 meters away from the sidewalk on the side of the store, it sounded strangely distanced.
“Ah hey,” I raised my voice as she took a few seconds to run toward me while making pitter-patter sounds. During that time, there was a strange air floating between the two of us.
“Sorry… You see, um, I thought that if I waited until I got close to you before raising my voice then it would look like I’m ignoring you and that would be rude so um… I’m sorry.”
“Well, it’s really not something you should apologize for…”
Even now¸ I thought even though we only had dinner together once yesterday, I still don’t know the conversation’s pace as well as the distance I should keep when talking to her.
What should I do, when I was thinking that, I noticed a certain something. Today, Oshiroi was wearing glasses.
“Were your eyes, bad?”
“Ah, sorry,” she said as she took off her glasses in a fluster.
“I only wear them when I’m writing novels. I usually don’t wear them. But, since I’m in the Novel Club (Light Novel Research Club), I’ve been writing. And then, only when I study but… Ah, sorry, I’m rambling about random things.”
“Ah, I see, so when you said something about getting me dirty yesterday. You were talking about pen’s ink or something.”
“Ah, no, not really… um, it was cooties”
…Cooties… I started thinking, now that I think about it, during elementary school, there were people who said things like ‘they will give you cooties’ to bully others… but, somehow, it feels like I heard this before.
“Now that I think about it, Satou-san came as expected huh. Perhaps you sensed the smell of ‘men’s’ world.”
Okay, even now I still don’t – It was a pain so the rest omitted.
While I was scratching my cheek and the tip of my nose, suddenly, a cold, refreshing fragrance tickled my nostrils. And then, I noticed the woman who was passing by us; her presence was as thin as the leaves dancing in the air. The dark eyeshadow that felt of place compare to the white face and almond-shaped eyes. It was the woman who faintly smiled at me last night.
“Hmm, she felt like a witch, that person.”
Just like what Oshiroi said, “witch,” was a good word to describe the mysterious woman. She was the same as Oshiroi, even though they were both wearing a normal school uniform, they made the people looking at them shiver for some reason.
“At the scene of the half-priced bento mystery, a witch and a macho police detective… This feels exciting somehow.”
While watching the back of the witch entering the store, Oshiroi made a thumbs-up near her chest. For some reason, her inner police detective… Huh? Not just detective?
“Ah… Y-you don’t feel… it? T-that’s right, sorry, I said some weird things.”
I felt interested rather than excited. Macho police detective or whatever is not important, she certainly managed to get a bento yesterday. That means, she, that witch, if it’s her then she knows what happened yesterday, or it’s possible that she even knows more than that.
“Shall we go, we might be able to solve the mystery.”
After blinking her eyes over and over again, Oshiroi lowered her head. When she raised it again, her face was blushing as she softly said “L-let’s go” which didn’t fit the situation at all. At that moment, I felt like the police detective she mentioned.
When the two of us entered the store, we were greeted by the stiff and cold air from the perishable foods section. The nonintrusive background music from the speakers on the ceiling, the grating sound of coins from the registers. The sound of refrigerators running… everything was about the same as yesterday.
The witch was loitering in the confectionaries section near the registers. The chills I felt just earlier from her had seemed to disappeared, or rather, her entire presence itself had become thin like air.
I heard a bang. When I looked towards its direction, an employee appeared from the opened Staff Only door next to the side dish section and made a greeting.
“She has been staring at the Prisk… I mean Frisk this entire time, what’s the meaning of that?”
Is this an elementary school’s play to Oshiroi? I thought, after she said some textbook line for snooping around.
Does she want me to say something back? She kept making fleeting glance at me, but what kind of response should I even give her.
I started thinking while looking at the girl’s face, and at that moment, my ears picked up a faint rustling sound.
And then… something changed.
If I asked, “what changed?” there would be no answer. However, it seemed like Oshiroi also felt it. Just like a small animal, she started looking around her surroundings restlessly as the calmness from until now disappeared.
If I had to answer then it was, the atmosphere. It was the critical moment where you suddenly could feel it with your bare arms, something like dozing off on your bed but you suddenly felt the presence of a cockroach in the corner of the room… The kind of indescribable feeling that made you freeze up.
Did I feel this kind of atmosphere yesterday? I had no idea. Perhaps I did, perhaps I did not. But, I felt that it was because of my prior experience of the “something” that happened in this place that I was able to sense it.
What’s the cause of the complete change in atmosphere… I asked myself, the only thing I felt was that rustling noise. While looking at the employee that came out just earlier crossing out the price tag’s barcode with a permanent market and stick half-priced seals one by one, I determined that the sound was when he took out the bundle of those seals.
“Half-priced bentos, how… ah… a-as expected, it’s that huh.”
Oshiroi came here to unravel the mystery; but for me, my aim was the half-priced bentos in the first place, so it wasn’t a time to contemplate about the change in the atmosphere. The employee was already heading toward the Staff Only room.
“I’m going for a bit.”
Leaving behind Oshiroi who was thinking about something, I headed for the bento section. Beside the employee, there was two first years wearing the same school uniform at me at that place. They were each reaching towards a bento with half-priced sticker on.
Once again, I was a moment too late to reach that section… It was that moment. A loud bang noise that sounded like a door was closed. A faint compressed floral fragrance drifting in the air. The witch, who was supposed to be in the confectionaries section where she had been until now, was right next to me. She was close to the point that I could hear her breathing. But with just a sound of footstep, I could hadn’t even felt a fragment of that presence.
No, it wasn’t only that. At the bento section that had only two people until just now, a crowd of people had already formed. I had completely no idea when they appear.
I didn’t know why, however, for some reason, a dizzying sense of impatience filled my mind. Without choosing at all, my right hand reached for the closest thing to it which was something that seemed like deep-fried chicken bento. However, before my hand managed to reach the bento’s lid, I received a dull impact around my right flank. I didn’t know I was hit or not, the impact was painless and felt like I was pushed inside a train. I started to lose my balance as the body weight supported by my right feet concentrated on my left one. I then raised my stretched out right hand to try to regain balance.
“The second time will hurt.”
Like small shards of glass falling down on a hard surface, my eardrums were tickled by a woman’s voice that was as clear as cold water. The thing that was approaching my face were, the witch’s eyes.
I tried to run away from the second painless impact using the left feet that was supporting my entire body’s weight. Before I could even think, “This is bad,” my leg gave out and my body started falling.
In that moment, I used my left hand to grab onto the arm of a guy next to me and then aimed for the fried-chicken bento with my free arm. At the same time, the witch was reaching for the same fried-chicken bento with her white right hand.
Even when I was failing over face first, my two eyes didn’t let go of the bento with half-priced sticker on. “Which hand will reach it first?”, that kind of question jumped about in my skull.
However, in the next moment, that question disappeared without a trace. There was a tremendous impact on my abdomen. It was the witch’s left palm piercing me as if it was a spear. She was aiming at the bento with her right hand while using her left hand to attack me.
That attack sent me, along with the guy I was grabbing on with my left hand, flying out of the bento and side dish section. We flew past the neighboring meat section and toward the edge of the fish section.
The two of us crashed onto the hard floor. With my head in total chaos from the attack and the current situation, unable to let out a single sound, we rolled a few times on the ground.
I couldn’t breathe. My consciousness was barely intact thanks to the guy being pinned down beneath me. However, on the contrary, it was very painful in another sense. I then frantically tried to get air into my lungs.
Because I couldn’t get up, I started crawling on all fours and barely managed to glance at the bento section. Through the view distorted by tears from the pain, just like yesterday, there were only some students standing at that place. The bentos, the witch, and the crowd of people that appeared out of nowhere… just like the morning fog, everything disappeared.
“…What, what happened…”
The voice that I was barely able to squeeze out and would never reach anyone’s ear even through an eternity was further drowned out by the repeating “Osakana Tengoku 5” song.
However, as if in response the guy who was blown away together with me groaned.
“She… like I was just a dog… never change… The Ice… W-Witch.”
And then, he did a small cough and lost his consciousness just like that.
The Ice Witch. I faintly repeated that name inside my head. Because of the confusion and the pain, while trembling—.
- Yubari King (or Yuubari melon) is a top-grade melon see more at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yubari_King
- Second generation of the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SG-1000
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jump_Square and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultra_Jump
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIvkrudnaKU .To learn more: https://web-japan.org/kidsweb/archives/cool/02-01-03/osakana.html