Volume 1 Epilogue: The Visitor.
"The city's saved because of all your hard work, everyone! There's no denying that we made our country proud today… And it was certainly an honor fighting with you all! So, to celebrate, I got you all some good alcohol…"
Maihime raised a glass, and the students cheered out in response. They were all celebrating their huge victory today within a large hall in the academy. Of course, as celebratory as they were, the city was still on high alert due to them not knowing when the next attack was going to be.
The situation wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Work hard, play hard… To them, it was just another day at the office. Even the Administration Bureau didn't pay any attention them as long as they didn't do anything too crazy.
Shino took a sip after seeing Maihime do her little speech on the stage. He was drinking a fruit juice; it had a slightly sour yet refreshing taste to it. The fruit, along with many other foods, had been manufactured and shipped from Chiba. Their quality was unrivaled; it would take Kanagawa several years of development to even match it.
If Maihime's words were true, he wondered if it was really okay for them to drink alcohol, seeing that they were all still minors. The Administration Bureau had created a system that would grant them driver licenses and stuff like that, but they were especially strict on things that had a negative effect on their body like alcohol and tobacco. However, rumor has it that the alcohol was smuggled from inland and secretly brewed with the grains and fruits produced in Chiba.
"She sure is taking it easy," said Hotaru, sipping her glass next to Shino. The sight of Maihime on the stage made her frown. "Even though one of her closest allies was a spy, giving her quite the predicament earlier…"
Hotaru always spoke kindly, so it was rare to see her talking like this. Perhaps she was already drunk.
"What she thinks and what she should do are two very different things," said Shino. "I'm sure she's the one most hurt by this, but there's no need to dampen the mood or worry the students unnecessarily. As a leader, she's making the right choice."
"Sure." Hotaru narrowed her eyes. "With the way you talk about her, are we even allies?"
"Enough with the jokes. Besides— " Shino locked eyes with her before continuing. There was one thing he was itching to ask. "Hotaru, can I ask you something?"
"Hm? What is it?"
"Did you know Maihime before our mission?"
Hotaru's eyebrows twitched. "Well, I mean I knew she was the head of Kanagawa…" she said.
"That's not what I'm talking about… Did you know her personally? Perhaps you two were friends before going into the cold sleep?"
She gulped nervously before breaking out into an awkward laugh. "Huh? What are you saying, Shino? Friends? I have no idea what you're talking about… Why are you asking this all of a sudden, anyway?"
"Nevermind then," said Shino, sipping his juice once again.
"You're saying weird things, Shino," shrugged Hotaru. It was hard to tell if she knew what Shino was getting to. "In any case, there's so much food out here I might as well get some. I'll be right back."
"Okay," said Shino. He sighed once Hotaru was well out of sight. He obviously didn't actively observe her like he did with Maihime, but he got to know her pretty well after working with her for a long time. The way she acted when she answered his question was a bit unnatural… He felt like she was lying.
But why would she lie about it? Was she afraid that it might interfere with the mission if he knew about her friendship with Maihime? Even if that's the case—
"Ah, Shino, how's it going," he suddenly heard from behind.
He turned around and saw Ginko, Zakuro, and Aoi standing before him.
"Good work today," said Ginko. She raised a glass, and soon Zakuro and Aoi did the same.
Shino raised his glass as well. "I could say the same. Honestly, if you three weren't there, things would have been pretty bad. Thanks once again."
"I've raised my opinion of you a little from today but don't think that means anything."
Aoi giggled. "You're still saying that, Otonashi?"
"Yeah, so about today," said Shino. "There's still one thing I just got to ask."
"Huh? What is it…?"
"Even though it ended in failure, Kurisu Nabariya's plan was actually quite solid. She stayed close by to not only gather information, but also to set up the bombs undetected. Then, when the
Shino paused. "So there was one thing that really didn't make sense to me."
"What was it?" asked Ginko.
Zakuro chimed in as well. "Yeah what are you trying to say hurry and say it!"
"Yaegaki," said Shino as he turned to her. "When Tenkawa was kidnapped, you told us Nabariya was behind everything, but how did you know that?"
Ginko and Zakuro's eyes both widened.
"Yeah you're right now that you mention it."
Indeed, that was the only thing that didn't make sense to Shino. He even heard afterwards that Kurisu had crushed Maihime's cellphone. On top of that, there couldn't possibly have been any witnesses, and even if there were, there was no way Aoi could have known the culprit that quickly. It was too difficult to figure everything out just from eyewitness reports alone.
"Ummmm, you see…." replied Aoi. Her shoulders were shaking nervously, and her face became all sweaty. She became even more nervous as Shino, Ginko, and Zakuro's panda stared straight at her.
She sighed. "So umm… Please keep this a secret no matter what, okay?" she whispered.
"What why what's going on."
"Well, a while back I was helping Tenkawa fix up a button on her uniform," she continued. "So in the button… I, umm… I, you know…"
She didn't even have to complete her sentence for Ginko to guess what she did. "A hidden listening device, huh," said Ginko, nodding.
"Uhhh…. Y-Yeah…" Aoi blushed.
"Woah, really?" said Ginko.
"Wow that actually surprises me a little I thought you didn't have an interest in that kind of thing."
"No! It's not like that! It's not what you're thinking… It's just that I wanted to keep an eye on her just in case she ran into any trouble…"
Shino put his hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry I got the wrong impression of you," he said. He looked straight at her. "You're an excellent Divine Pillar, Aoi Yaegaki."
"Uhh, okay… Don't compliment me for that though…"
At that moment, the area around them suddenly got dark. Shino thought that someone must have dimmed the lights, but instead he noticed a shadow slowly growing bigger by his feet. On top of the stage, Maihime had used her incredible strength to jump straight towards him. Luckily, Shino caught her before she hit the ground.
Now in Shino's arms, Maihime giggled. "Thanks!" she said.
"What was that for, Tenkawa?"
Maihime ignored him and instead yelled out to the crowd. "Hey everyone! I have an announcement to make!"
Everyone in the hall all turned to her in anticipation.
"Akira Shinomiya was someone who performed spectacularly in the last battle. That's why I'm making him part of the student council!"
"Wha—" Shino's eyebrows shot up. However, before he could say anymore, the cheers of the students drowned out his voice.
"I see, that's fine," said Ginko. "A position did open up, too… Though I need to speak with him more about Hime-sama…"
"If Hime-sama says so then I will not object of course I still need to take back my stalking rights one day…"
Aoi agreed as well. "What he did in that battle alone would easily make him an excellent choice."
"Are you three serious?"
In the end, a spy had been removed from the student council, only for an assassin to take its place.
Shino went straight back to his dorm once the party was over. Once there, he looked at all the photos of Maihime around his room and sighed. In the end, he had been made a member of the student council.
It was true that he would have more opportunities to kill her once he was in the student council, being close to her and all, but at the same time, he would be put under a much bigger spotlight. His motives, or even his background, could be exposed if he were to join.
With that being said, Shino felt like he wouldn't be able to kill her even if he had the chance. He just had so many questions about the whole thing.
Why did the Administration Bureau want her dead?
Was the Hotaru she mentioned the same Hotaru that he knew?
If it was, why would Hotaru lie about it?
Thinking about all this had confused him, so Shino scratched his head and sighed once more. Yes, it was true that he was unsure about many things. However, there was one thing he was sure about— He had to observe more.
He will come to know everything through his own two eyes, and once that happens, he'll take her life. He clenched his fist with his newly found determination.
There was suddenly a knock at the door.
"Huh?" he said. Hotaru was pretty much the only one who would visit him, so it must have been her. Perfect timing, too… He wanted to confirm some things about Maihime with her.
He opened the door and called out to her. "Isn't it a bit late to— "
His body froze before he could say any more. Hotaru wasn't the one who was at the door. Instead, it was…
"Good evening, Shino."
It was Maihime. She was carrying a very large backpack for some reason.
"What are you doing…?"
Maihime scratched her head. "Umm, so that explosion earlier, right? Yeah… that actually blew up half my room," she said apologetically.
"Oh." Speaking of which, Shino did hear that the bomb came from her dorm in the A block.
"So, until it gets fixed, I don't actually have a place to stay," she continued. "So this is only temporary, but could you let me stay over for a bit?"
Shino instantly thought about the pictures of Maihime plastered on his walls, his detailed notes of her on his desk, and the telescope he had near his window that was pointed straight into her room.
With all that in mind, he didn't know how to respond to her request.
[End Volume 1]