Chapter 4 - School Festival Rhapsody II
──Queen Veil Girl’s Academy Student Dormitory, Top Floor.
The room of Rusalka’s leader, Miluše was in one of its corner. It was thanks to the privileges of being Queen Veil Girl’s Academy rank #3 that she was able to set up a living room on this floor. From the perspective of Mahulena, who was Rusalka’s youngest member and was unranked, one might say that it was basically a place like heaven.
But, even though Mahulena should have, since long ago, held yearning and envy for this place, such a thing had completely disappeared already. For better or worse, that was probably related to the fact that she was selected as member of the group called Rusalka which boasted the second highest popularity in Queen Veil Girl’s Academy.
(Sylvia-san is really amazing, but that person is…)
After Mahulena lightly sighed, she knocked on that room’s door.
“Geez, you’re late, Mahulena~”
Then the door was immediately opened and Miluše, who had puffed her cheeks, welcomed Mahulena with her hands on her waist.
“I’m sorry, I had a little talk with the board chairman.”
“Hmm, then it can’t be helped. Anyways enter, enter; Everyone is already here.”
As Miluše said so nonchalantly, she invited Mahulena in the living room.
Anyway, the person called Miluše ── or rather all the members of Rusalka did not think too deeply about things. No, if speaking of thinking, then they are thinking; but the depth of their thought was only comparable to that of a kiddy pool.
Therefore, Mahulena who had a relatively good understanding ── although the person herself thought that it was to the degree of an average person ── was basically supposed to humbly listen to the message’s contents and convey it to the other members while plainly explaining it in a way easy to understand for them.
“Thank you, sorry for the intrusion…”
Just as Miluše said, Rusalka’s members had gathered.
Although Miluše’s room was quite spacious, articles were somehow scattered about in disorder and it was hard to say that the room was beautiful even as flattery. The sloppiness of living alone such as; upside down stuffed toys strewn here and there, magazines piled up haphazardly and clothes that were left untidy seemed to embody it.
Though it might look like this, the cleaning staff should be regularly tidying it up; but in most cases within three days, a disastrous scene much the same as this one occurred again.
Only the space around the table, where the members sat, was empty; but judging from the heaped-up mountain alongside the wall, they were probably things just piled up aside for the time being. Mahulena quietly sat down at the corner.
“All right, all the members have gathered!”
Miluše’s voice was indeed good as one would expect from her vocals.
“Well then today too, let’s begin the “what to do in order to oust Sylvia Lyyneheym” meeting!”
“Yay~! I was waiting for this!”
As usual it was a simple agenda, but surprisingly all the members except Mahulena were in high spirits and serious.
Moreover, this was the 73rd time they had such a meeting. If you wondered why she remembered it, that was because none other than Mahulena was assigned to keep the records of the proceedings.
Although they performed a live concert today in Sirius Dome and afterwards had a round of courtesy calls with the Integrated Enterprise Foundation’s main executives, who had come for an inspection of the school festival, it was a wonder where this stamina of theirs came from.
“Hey! Mahulena, are you properly listening?”
“Ah, y-yes. Sorry.”
As Miluše snapped her fingers, Mahulena hurriedly straightened herself.
“Today for sure, we must at all costs devise an amazing strategy which will render that Sylvia speechless!”
“Yes… I’ll do my best.”
Although she replied like that for the time being to Miluše who reinforced the meeting’s purpose while clenching her fist, Mahulena has inwardly given up thinking “no, it’s absolutely impossible…”
Of course, it wasn’t like she sold out Rusalka. They had published several world-wide hits and even when looking at the charts, it was no exaggeration to say that they had no rival other than Sylvia in the same generation.
But they did not seem to be pleased with it.
It wasn’t as if Mahulena did not think about how splendid it would be if they were to drag down Sylvia and stand on the top of the music scene, but their opponent was too much for them to handle. Sylvia Lyyneheym was a genuine outstanding talent… no, more than that, she was one which you would only see in 100 years. On the other hand although Rusalka was popular amongst the young people, the support became weak once a certain age group was exceeded.
“Well, does anyone have any ideas?!”
Miluše looked around at all the members as she said so.
“Okay! Well then first I’ll have you listen to my good idea!”
The first person who bluntly raised her hand was Tuulia, the rhythm guitarist.
“Oh, how promising, Tuulia! Then, then?”
“We should right out go with the use of force! We should force her to a duel and crush her head on!”
“…No, like I’ve said, haven’t we all already tried that many times…?”
While being fed up with it, Mahulena remonstrated Tuulia who was next to her. As expected even the other members had dejected expressions.
It was no wonder, since Tuulia had proposed a use of force like this many times before — that if they could not win with music, they should at least stand against her in a duel like the students of Asterisk should. Furthermore, because Sylvia’s fame is great and also due to the fact that she was rank #1, it would certainly be a great blow to Sylvia if Rusalka won.
But, it wasn’t as if they haven’t tried such a simple thing before.
Not only Tuulia, but all the members of Rusalka challenged Sylvia to a duel and they were completely defeated ── by the way, Mahulena was reluctant, but unable to oppose the pressure of the other members, she reluctantly challenged Sylvia and it was an instant kill.
However, Tuulia waved her small index finger with a fearless smile.
“Tsk tsk tsk… Hear me out till the end. The truth is I, who am always contemplating on anti-Sylvia Lyyneheym measures, finally found her weakness!”
“Her weakness… Seriously!?”
All the members’ gazes were concentrated all at once on Tuulia.
“Yes, I’m dead serious. Listen, she needs to sing in order to use her ability, right? Then, if we drive her into a situation where she can’t sing, she wouldn’t be able to display her ability.”
“…It indeed adds up.”
Päivi, the drummer, who usually did not change her expression, deeply nodded.
“But, but, exactly what kind of situation is Sylvie unable to sing in?”
When Monica, the bassist, tilted her head to the side, Tuulia faltered (hemmed and hawed) with a somewhat bewildered face.
It looked like she had not specifically thought about it.
“Well that’s… for example, um, like… inside the water.”
“…Do you intend to duel while swimming?”
It wasn’t as if there has never been precedent of submarine warfare in an exhibition match, but such situation was hardly possible in usual duels and official ranking battles. If while fighting on the waterside, one were to drag a battle into water, it would still be understandable; but in the first place Sylvia would probably have many ways to deal with it such as flying in the air or freezing the water’s surface. Depending on the situation, if it was Sylvia she might as well divide the waters into two like Moses.
“Ah, then how about attacking her when she catches a cold and can utter her voice?”
“…There’s no way she’d accept a duel in such a situation, right?”
“Hmm, other situations where she can’t sing… ah, like in a vacuum?”
Honestly, they were more amazed to learn that Tuulia held knowledge about the fact that sound was not transmitted in a vacuum.
“All right, next!”
As Miluše gave up, she clapped her hands and made another fresh start.
“I have one bright idea.”
Having raised her hand was Päivi.
“If Sylvia’s evaluation were to drop, ours would relatively rise. What I mean is we should just spread information disparaging her even if it’s a lie.”
“You’ve a point, but if the like of false rumor goes too far, Benetnash might move, you know? Wouldn’t that be bad?”
For Queen Veil’s Espionage Organization Benetnash which was good at manipulation of public opinion, Rusalka had also been under their care one way or another. If there was something about Sylvia who was currently Queen Veil’s symbol, those girls (of Benetnash) would definitely move.
“Like I say, we should use a method to pull up a small abuse of the degree that they won’t have to move.”
“Hohou. And how specifically?”
“We could say something like we saw Sylvia pocketing 100 yen that fell on the ground.”
“Or something like we saw Sylvia ignoring a red light.”
It looked like it would take 100 years for Sylvia’s evaluation to reverse even if they pulled it up.
“Hmm, but, but, I might have quite a good idea.”
This time, Monica raised her hand.
“Even if Benetnash moves, it’s good as long as they don’t find out that it’s us who have spread it, right? In that case, how about spreading it through anon in the pro-media club of another academy, kyahah?”
Though appearance wise, Monica was the sweetest and prettiest girl among the members of Rusalka, she also had the nastiest character.
“I see… That said, even those guys wouldn’t believe in mere misinformation so easily, right?”
“Fufufu. But, what if it’s a genuine material?”
To Monica who complacently smiled, all the members’ gazes were tinged with seriousness.
“No way… did you get a hold of such thing?”
“It isn’t concrete information, but… there’s this shadow around Sylvie recently.”
When Monica raised her thumb, Miluše’s and Tuulia’s faces instantly turned red.
“D-D-D-D-Don’t tell me that’s…!?”
“If I can get the evidence, it’ll definitely turn into a big scandal. Even Benetnash won’t be able to erase it so easily.”
Certainly if it was true, it might become the first ── and fatal scandal for Sylvia.
“B-But, is it really true?”
“Who knows? Even Monica only heard by chance the board chairman talking about something like that. Besides, I didn’t hear everything, so I don’t know more than this.”
Monica embraced a bear stuffed toy as she said so. That attitude of hers where she always continually refined her cunningness was to the extent where it would incite respect sometimes.
Miluše who was brooding over something raised her face.
“Speaking of which, she took a break during this school festival, right…?”
“Yes. Since Sylvia-san declined today’s live, we were asked to do it instead.”
“That has nothing to do with it now, right?!”
Though Mahulena just stated a fact, she was intently glared at by the other members.
“Anyway, what is important is to know what she is doing now since she took a break of three days during this event jammed with people.”
“Even you say that, we have no way to investigate privacy. We can’t possibly ask to Benetnash, either.”
“Ugh… t-that’s true, but…”
When Mahulena pointed out so, Miluše’s voice steadily got smaller; but she suddenly raised her head and lightly clapped her hands.
“Ah, that’s right! Then, we should just check it on our own!”
“Like I say, we should ourselves investigate whether or not Sylvia really has a b-boyfriend. Tomorrow is a day off for us anyway.”
Mahulena unintentionally half-rose to her feet, but the other members were already completely enthusiastic to the idea.
“That’s a good idea.”
“Interesting! I’m on!”
“Kyahah! Sounds like it’ll be fun!”
Mahulena somehow tried to remonstrate them, but they turned a deaf ear to it.
“…I think that it’ll be more constructive to invest that time to practice though…”
Unrelated to the other members who were excited, Mahulena muttered, half giving up.
School Festival, Second Day.
Ayato was going around Queen Veil Girl’s Academy’s site led by Sylvia.
“When I look at them like this, be it the school buildings or the atmosphere, the appearance is quite different depending on the academy, as expected.”
“Well, yes. Still, I think that the atmosphere here is comparatively similar to that of Seidoukan. Well, as for Garrardsworth, if speaking about orthodox school, I guess that’s the one. Conversely, Le Wolfe, World Dragon ── and Allekant, which we visited yesterday, are rather quite peculiar.”
After having briefly gone around Seidoukan yesterday, they also set their feet to Allekant Academy; but as Sylvia said, it was certainly a peculiar academy.
Seidoukan and Queen Veil were academies which still felt schools-like, but as for Allekant, everything was made for functional importance and overall the mood unique to research institutes was strong.
Perhaps due to that, it was not as crowded compared with Seidoukan and Queen Veil.
“Speaking about the state of congestion, I would say this place is the most crowded at present… oops, sorry.”
Even while saying that, her shoulder hit a person’s who was passing by.
This area was the lakeside in the outskirts of the academy, and although the view was nice, there were no food stalls in particular; and yet it was overflowing with people.
“Well, no matter what you say, this is the secret flower garden after all. It’s a rare opportunity, so isn’t it normal for a person to want to peep if they’re a man, I wonder?”
Sylvia said that as if it was other people’s affairs, but actually Queen’s Veil today was packed with many visiting men. For Ayato it was hard to think that this was a scene of a girl’s school. And what stood out the most was not the tourists from the outside, but the figures of students of other academies.
“It’s good that everyone is so honest.”
Sylvia was chuckling, but she suddenly returned to a serious look and turned a sharp gaze behind.
At the same time, Ayato noticed it, too.
“…Are we being tailed?”
“Looks like it.”
“Is it me…?”
“Hmm… it might be me.”
Someone was clearly following Ayato and Sylvia.
They thought that it might be a fan or a person related to the media who saw through Sylvia’s true identity, but taking that into consideration, they were strangely good at erasing their presence. Perhaps because they realized that Ayato and Sylvia noticed their tailing, they immediately melted into the crowd.
“There doesn’t seem to be bloodlust, but what do we do?”
Ayato had an idea as such, but it looked like it was the same for Sylvia, too.
“It was a long-awaited date, but let’s temporarily part here. Like that, we’ll also understand which of us the target is.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?”
Ayato thought that it was not a bad plan, but separating also meant their force would be divided.
However, Sylvia revealed a wry smile to such words of Ayato.
“Though I’m thankful that you’re worried about me, I may look like this, but I’m the runner up, you know?”
“…Ah, that’s right.”
Ayato also smiled wryly as he said that.
If it’s only in theory, Sylvia was the second strongest student in Asterisk.
“Besides, no matter how you look at it, I don’t think they will suddenly launch an attack in a place like this.”
“Well, that’s also true.”
Certainly judging from their presence, they could not feel a dangerous atmosphere.
“The regroup point… how to decide about it? Even if we contact each other at any time, it might be better to go out from the academy depending on the situation. Ayato-kun doesn’t know this area very well, right?”
Ayato was about to nod, but he suddenly remembered a certain shop.
“Speaking of which, I’ve been at a Café close by here before… Ah, here is it.”
As Ayato opened a small space window, he opened the data of the shop which Eishiro has told him about before.
“Oh, I also know this shop, so it’s perfect.”
As Sylvia gave a small nod as to say “with this it’s settled”, she sent the signal only with her gaze.
Just like that, they headed to the school central part with the most awful congestion and then measuring timing, they parted left and right.
Sylvia went to the right and Ayato to the left.
They accelerated their speed while being careful not to bump into people.
Queen Veil had quite a lot of greenery. Environmentally, Seidoukan also had a similar structure; but if anything, as the ground for parks was man-made, Queen Veil reproduced the groves of trees more naturally(although, since this was a city built on water, there was no doubt that it was artificial).
Ayato, who was advancing along the promenade going through that grove, abruptly stopped.
Because there were very few people in this area, if his pursuer was there, he should be able to sense their presence even if they were a little distant.
“…I wonder if I lost them.”
He surveyed the surrounding for a while, but he did not feel a particularly strange presence.
In that case, “was the aim Sylvia?” he wondered.
“Anyway, I’ll try to contact her…”
As he took out his portable terminal while talking so to himself, he just noticed one girl coming over from the front of the promenade. He squared off for a moment, but there was no particularly suspicious presence.
The relieved Ayato willingly moved aside to give way to her; the girl lightly nodded and went past him.
But when the girl suddenly stopped and looked back for some reason, she fixedly stared at Ayato’s face.
“…Um, is something the matter?”
The girl who grew long, glossy black hair wonderingly bent her head slightly to one side.
He unintentionally checked his spectacles and hairstyle, but the disguise was perfect.
“Ah, no, I’m, um…”
Although he was inwardly confused as to how he was found out, as he was searching words how to deceive her──
“It has been a long time. It’s me, Yuzuhi.”
The girl gave her name so and deeply bowed.
At that moment, something was suddenly connected in his head.
“Eeeh!? Yuzuhi-chan of the Yatsuka Dojo!?”
The black-haired girl ── Renjouji Yuzuhi sweetly smiled.
“W-Why are you here…?”
Yuzuhi was a girl who learned archery in the Yatsuka Dojo which acted as a branch family line of the Amagiri Bright Dragon Style.
Among the Amagiri Bright Dragon Styles, the Yatsuka Dojo focused on archery. The archery itself was also transmitted in Ayato’s house which was the main house, but it had long been removed from the required techniques to learn the hidden techniques; so it was necessary to go the Yatsuka Dojo when one seriously wanted to learn archery. Although Ayato has not learned it since his affinity with archery was bad, he had visited the dojo several times along with his big sister when he was young.
He got to know Yuzuhi at that time and often talked with her since they were the same age, but he ceased to go to the dojo after his big sister’s disappearance. Therefore, it has really been a while since they met each other like this.
“Oh, have you not heard from the family head? I have been student of this Queen Veil since last year.”
Yuzuhi pointed to her school badge as she said so.
“…No, sorry. It’s my first time hearing it.”
Ayato scratched his cheek while inwardly cursing his father.
“I have heard about Ayato-san’s achievements. Although belated, congratulations on your championship. In reality, I should have visited you for greetings, but I thought that it would not be good to become a hindrance…”
Although it was the same when they were children, she was quite a polite child.
“By the way, that is quite an image change. When I saw your figure in the , you were more like…”
“Ah, that’s── do you have a minute?”
As Ayato surveyed the surroundings, he went off the promenade and entered deep in the grove.
There, he took off his glasses and switched off the hair band.
“…I see. So, it was a disguise.”
Yuzuhi greatly nodded as she finally understood.
“Well, it looked like I was immediately found out by Yuzuhi-chan.”
“No, since the way of walking and the carriage were similar to that of the Amagiri Bright Dragon Style, I thought maybe… I was concerned after all; sorry for my impoliteness.”
“As usual, you’ve good eyes…”
Yuzuhi’s good eyesight and her talent in archery had been certified by Ayato’s father.
──Then, Ayato got a contact on his portable terminal.
“Oops… excuse me for a while.”
As he excused himself from Yuzuhi and opened a small space window, Sylvia’s noncommittal delicate expression was projected there.
『Ayato-kun? How is it on your side?』
“Huh? No one came chasing after me, but… did they go your way?”
『Hmm, it’s like I expected. No, I sense their presence on the way, but then there has been a slight uproar. It looks like it disappears under cover of it.』
Sylvia who said so looked quite disappointed.
“A slight uproar?”
『Well, I’ll tell about it when we join.』
Then, the space window blackout after she said that.
Though Ayato too was not fully satisfied with, it was definitely much better than being dragged into something dangerous.
“Sorry, Yuzuhi-chan. I’ve a little business. Let’s properly talk another time.”
When Ayato said so, Yuzuhi slightly shook her head.
“No, I’m also keeping a friend waiting.”
Like that, they returned to the promenade, bowed to each other and went to opposite directions.
──But, as they were parting.
“Ah, that’s right. I must tell you at least this.”
Yuzuhi who stopped turned around while saying that as she recalled something.
“I have heard the rumors, but will you also participate in the , Ayato-san?”
“Ah, yes. That’s right…”
“The truth is that I have also decided to participate.”
“If we come to fight, I hope that you will not be too hard on me.”
Yuzuhi refreshingly smiled while holding her hair to the wind shaking the grove.
Ayato also returned so after a short while with a wry smile.
“So, what kind of people are your teammates?”
Then after a little thought, Yuzuhi answered somewhat happily.
“They are very fun people.”
As that was indeed an answer that looked like Yuzuhi, Ayato unintentionally burst into laughter.
“Huh? Did I say something weird…?”
“No, sorry. It’s not that. ──Well then, let’s both do our best.”
“Yes. Then, I will excuse myself.”
“Yes, take care.”
And this time for sure, he parted with Yuzuhi and went straight through the promenade.
“…Well, if possible, I don’t want to fight her.”
He unintentionally voiced out his true thought.
He did not know how skillful Yuzuhi became now, but he at least knew that she would definitely be quite a troublesome opponent in long-range battle.
The only grace was that Yuzuhi was basically nonathletic.
If she has not overcome it, he would probably defeat her if he brought the battle in a close range one even once.
Of course, that was only if he succeeded in doing so.
“Now then… it should be here, but…”
As he passed through the grove, he came out of the road which continued to the main gate.
As expected there were many food stands around here and the pedestrian traffic was also amazing.
Then, Ayato noticed that for some reason many gazes gathered on him.
Not gazes like the one of the people chasing after Sylvia and him a while ago, but purely curious ones.
Among people coming and going, there were also those who stopped and looked at Ayato with surprised expressions. Ayato could also tell that noise was spreading like a small wave.
Before long, one girl stepped out from the crowd and held out her hand with her face bright red. Judging from the Queen Veil’s uniform that she wore, she was probably a student here.
“Y-You’re the Amagiri Ayato-san, right?! I’m a big fan of yours! C-C-C-Can you please give me a handshake?!”
Then, Ayato finally noticed that he has removed his disguise.
“Ah, no… thank you.”
But it was already late; although Ayato had a cramped face, he could not but hold her hand.
“A-Also, also, if it’s fine with you, can I get an autograph here…?!”
The girl who was holding Ayato’s hand and was buzzingly swaying it nervously took out a pen and note from her bag and hand them to Ayato.
“Ah, please write my name! Errr, Violet here…! Yes, thank you very much!”
The girl who expressed her joy on her whole face left holding the autograph preciously.
“Ooh! It’s the real !”
“U-Um, can I also get an autograph…?!”
“May I take a photo?!”
“Amazing! To think that there will be not only Rusalka, but also the …!”
It was almost at the same time after the audience which filled the surrounding so far surged towards him like an avalanche that Ayato turned around and escaped.
“…I see, it was really hard on you.”
In a table of the aforementioned Café “Macondo”, Sylvia, did not blame Ayato who was late and consoled him as such.
“I didn’t think that it’ll turn into so big an uproar…”
Although he somehow succeeded in escaping, Ayato who arrived greatly late could only earnestly apologize.
“I’ve also said it before, but Ayato-kun, I think that you should be a little aware of your popularity. The people who participate in the school festival are all fans of the . You know?”
“I’ll bear it in mind.”
Ayato carried the iced coffee to his mouth as he said so.
As he have finally settled down, he recalled the conversation of a while ago with Sylvia.
“By the way, what was the “slight uproar” you talked about a while ago?”
“Ah, well you could say that it’s connected with the conversation just now I guess…”
Then after saying up to there, Sylvia shrugged her shoulders while laughing as it was something fun.
“Fufufu, sorry, sorry… Hey, the children of Rusalka who did a live concert yesterday are here, right? It looks like they were walking around the school without even disguising themselves. Well, it looks like they were hiding, but they were found out in the end.”
“Wow… looks like it was hard on them.”
Since it also happened to Ayato, if it was the Rusalka which were real stars, it should have been a big uproar.
“It’s already been contained. Anyway, the presence of the pursuer disappeared then.”
“So that’s it…”
If there was such a fuss, the pursuer was probably too preoccupied to think of tailing then.
“Fufufu, geez when it comes to those children…”
Appearing to be laughing with herself, Sylvia’s shoulders were still shaking.
“But on that point, you’re amazing, Sylvie. You’re walking around here and there, and yet you aren’t found out at all.”
If Sylvia’s identity were to be found out, there was no doubt that this school festival would turn into a great tumult as if turning heaven and earth upside down.
“Moreover, I’m with you today… Although at this late hour, will it be all right?”
At least as far as Ayato knew, he has never heard of a scandal about Sylvia that looked like one. Of course, since there was the W&W (Warren and Warren), which is an Integrated Enterprise Foundation, on Sylvia’s back, they would probably smother what little things there were; but even so if for example another Integrated Enterprise Foundation got involved, it would be difficult to smother things.
“Hmm, certainly it might be quite shocking if the fact that I wandered around incognito in the company of a man during the school festival was to be exposed. Depending on the situation it will be bad if we don’t make a vindication interview.”
Though Sylvia spoke in a light tone, for Ayato it was not a laughing matter.