To no one’s surprise, it took forever for another update again. I’ll just stop saying anything about release rate at this point.
To no one’s surprise, I was beaten up day after day.
Last night, I was done in by an unknown man rather than The Ice Witch. And on the next day, in other words, today, I ate a slap from Shiraume even though I only made a small joke. I kept getting beaten up regardless if it was night or day.
Leaving night time aside, I was quite upset with the fact that Shiraume kept resorting to violence. But, well, our interactions ended up giving me the opportunity to increase the count of my acquaintances.
“To tell you the truth, I’m also a masochist,” a confession that did not make me happy at all to hear came from an acquaintance named Uchimoto-kun. He was a bespectacled, plump male who was strangely excited for some reason… Anyway, according to him, people saw me as “an extreme masochist who was flat out rejected and even attacked by the beauty from Class 1. And as revenge, he provoked her in order to enjoy her slaps”. That explained why the other girls had been giving me strange looks. They must think I’m a weirdo or something.
Speaking of weirdo, I thought, I wonder how Ishioka-kun is doing. During our school trip, Ishioka-kun had thrusted the thing between his legs into a vacuum cleaner and cried, “It’s sucking me~” as a joke. As what any responsible person would have done, I gently plugged in the disconnected power cord into the outlet. When he nonchalantly turned on the switch, Ishioka-kun let out an amazing scream and started rolling on the floor in pain. It should be said that the vacuum cleaner was industrial-grade with mind-blowing suction power; Ishioka-kun barely escaped turning into a weirdo girl.
Well, this was not the time to reminiscent of the good old days. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, I didn’t get a proper dinner for four days in a row. As delicious as Donbei was, I didn’t want to eat it day after day. Today, I will definitely obtain a bento.
With that small wish in our hearts, Oshiroi and I gazed at the hanging supermarket sign under a starlit sky. Our stomachs grumbled, our joints ached. Thinking about what will happen made our feet freeze.
And yet, we still moved forward… No, we had no choice but to move forward.
The first thing we did after entering the store was finding somewhere to lie in wait. We headed for the Bento Section while under scrutiny of unknown gazes. Of course, we didn’t touch any bento; we only passed by to have a rough grasp of their positions before leaving to wait for the time to strike.
Oshiroi formed a fist before her chest when she heard my question.
“’Sweat Geyser! Odor Sauna! Extra Spicy Garlic Hamburg Steak’”
Another bento with a weird name, I thought, the employee in charge of naming these is trying too hard. Maybe it’s because we’re getting close to the Olympics.
By the way, the one I was aiming for had the same kind of naming, ‘Gooey! Natto and Okra over Rice topped with Cheese Bento.’
Without a word, both our gazes happened to fall upon a sign at the Dressing Section. It read, ‘Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare Approved Health Food’ accompanied by an illustration of a person growing with all their might.
It suddenly felt awkward. I already subconsciously accepted the fact that Oshiroi is with me. And yet, when reminded of that fact, I felt self-conscious for some reason.
Bam, the door next to the Side Dish Section opened. And that employee, The Fried God, appeared with a bow.
It was that time again, the atmosphere inside the store changed. My heart started beating faster as I gulped… And then, my hands and knees started shaking. It was not out of excitement. No, it was simply out of fear.
I had already resolved myself, but my body was more honest.
As I stood there, frozen, Oshiroi grabbed onto my sleeve. She was looking up at me, her face filled with uneasiness.
“I-I’m sorry… It’s just, um, uh… too scary,” her soft voice was trembling.
We might be punched, kicked, knocked down to the floor, and come out with nothing in our hands. And even if we somehow managed to do it, it was only to buy bentos a few hundred yen cheaper.
It was too cheap of a price for the fear we were experiencing. And yet…
The Fried God started reorganizing the side dishes which caused the sound of plastic wrap rubbing against each other to reverberate throughout the store.
“You can run away then.”
We turned our confused face toward that voice. It was a girl wearing second year’s necktie, The Ice Witch.
“You won’t feel any fear if you do that, and it will also not end in tears.
However, if you act like pigs by taking a bento before it becomes half-priced, or scavenge for leftovers after we’ve finished feasting, then you won’t be able to go back even as dogs.
Go place your hand on top of a bento that’s not yet yours, or better yet, take a full-priced bento and ask The Fried God to put the half-priced sticker on it. Turning into shameless and disgusting pigs is a much easier and comfortable way of life. Just cast away your pride. It’s simple like that.”
She turned around and cast a sidelong glance at us.
The image of two anxious people reflected in her eye.
“Get lost. This cruel world is not for you.”
“…And what if I say no.”
For some reason, Oshiroi let out a small sound of admiration after hearing my words.
“I’ll crush you. This is your last warning. Get lost.”
The Ice Witch stared at Oshiroi as if to ask “You too?” Oshiroi hesitated for a moment and made a slight nod.
The Fried God took out the bundle of half-priced stickers with a rustling noise, as if to respond to that noise, the store was filled with bloodlust. And at the same moment, the Witch’s gaze intensified, it felt like countless thin needled stabbed into my skin.
Nevertheless, we stared straight back into her eyes. But then, the bloodlust we felt suddenly faded away and she let out something that seemed like a sigh.
It might had just been my imagination, but at that moment, I saw her making a faint smile which got my heart pounding for some reason.
“… Don’t lay your hand on a single bento. Just stand next to that Section without doing anything. You will find what you’ve been looking for at that place. And if your luck is good, you might still be able to stand in the end. Nobody here has the time to attack some stray dogs. Make a decision from what you will see, and if you still want to keep on living in this world, then tomorrow at 6 p.m., knock on the door of room 502 in the club rooms building.”
The Ice Witch only said those words before disappearing somewhere.
“Satou-san, it’s starting,” Oshiroi said, after noticing The Fried God had finished with the stickers.
We kept our hands to ourselves and headed for the Bento Section, the chilling atmosphere made us shudder along the way.
The store was filled with people and yet there was not a single noise. An oppressive air pushed down on everyone, accompanied by an overwhelming amount of bloodlust.
They, the hunters, jumped at the half-priced bentos one by one.
Suddenly, a monk appeared in the air before us and the Bento Section. But, just as sudden as his appearance, Monk was sent flying away by a kick driving into his side before he could make a single groan.
The source of the kick was a man with a goatee who now stood where the monk was. He then reached for the same gooey bento that I thought about going for. However, before he could touch the bento, he started falling to the ground.
When we tried to look down, the first thing to enter our eyes was a skirt fluttering just above the floor, a brown-haired girl was sweeping the Goatee’s legs.
Goatee tried to correct his posture by grabbing onto the bentos’ shelf, but unfortunately, Brunette was faster and launched a kick straight into his stomach.
The force of the kick sent Goatee into the air, but before he could fall back down naturally due to gravity, a human figure suddenly appeared in the air and forcefully returned his body to the earth as if to crush it.
That human figure was The Ice Witch. The now-standing Brunette inched her hand towards the bentos while launching a kick toward the Witch. Bam, a dull sound filled the air as the Witch stopped the blow with her fist. The two girls’ hair fluttered in the air.
“Ah,” Brunette exclaimed. Monk had recovered without anyone noticing and was now grabbing onto the girl’s hand. He then used all his strength to throw Brunette into the air.
But before he could do anything else, Monk’s defenseless abdomen was greeted by a gruesome elbow strike from the Witch. Along with Brunette, the two were sent flying to the Fresh Fish Section named “Fish Paradise.”
A scene of carnage. “Beat the weakling,” in accordance to that rule, with just a moment of carelessness, the assailant would become the victim, to be hunted by others.
In this world, there was no difference between the hunter and the hunted.
I was unable to comprehend it. My mind was not able to keep up with the battle unfolding before my very eyes. If it was a fight or two then, I would had been able to keep up, however, at this place, in this very domain, it was not a fight. It was an all-out brawl. Time and time again, I noticed that the fights from the edge of the Bento Section would influence the outcome of the fights in the center.
A certain man was struck and he counterattacked with Asura’s fury. This action put outside pressure on people who were going to grab a bento and forced them to scatter away.
Another certain man tried to keep fighting to a minimum and weave his way through the gaps between fights. Through that strategy, he managed to reach the Bento Section; however, when his hand was a few centimeters away from the front-most bento, he received a sucker-punch and collapsed onto the floor.
Many people had been knocked out and withdrew from the brawl. And yet, the number of people with a bento in their hand was, zero.
I also noticed another thing at this place, that The Ice Witch’s figure was always in the center of the brawl. It was true that with this many people, attacks coming from every direction would be the normal course of events for this place. However, people had been constantly aiming for her strike after strike.
And yet, The Ice Witch was able to block, repel and return everything… She was on another level compared to them.
While she was busy clearing out the crowd, a giant let out a war cry and rushed straight for The Ice Witch. The man who looked to be four times her weight sent out a right straight punch with all he had.
The Ice Witch had been dealing with a man who kept attacking her; without a single word, she kneed him in the solar plexus, lowered her center of gravity, and threw out a punch with her right fist to match the giant’s.
Those two completely-differently-sized fists collided head-on.
The air began to vibrate with even more force than before. No, perhaps it would be more fitting to call it a shock wave now. Just seeing it was enough to jolt and shake our bodies to the core.
Their fists were in a deadlock without a single movement.
“I hate, noisy men.”
Just as that cold and clear voice could be heard, as if someone was fiercely dragging his shoulder from behind, the giant was blown off, taking multiple people with him along his path.
The girl stood back on her slender legs. She then started fixing her hair with her left hand as if the event just now didn’t happen. Several men started to gather around her. I thought they planned to take her down together, but for some reason, they started fighting each other without batting an eye.
Why, I thought. But at the same time, I see.
It was because the gooey bento was already in her hand.
I knew that she had snatched it just before, or after attacking the giant. However, I had no idea when exactly that was.
“Then, I’ll wait for you tomorrow,” she left us with those words before quietly heading for the registers.
By the time we turned back after watching her departing figure, the only things remaining at the Bento Section were warriors collapsed on the ground. There was not a single bento in sight… It was over.
“W… What should we do?”
Once again, Oshroi was trembling while grabbing onto my sleeve with her fingertips.
“F-for now, Donbei again, I guess.”
“…I’m not talking about that…”