After passing through the ‘keep out’ sign, I stepped inside of the indicated building.
The attraction under construction.
The plan was to begin operating it in the summer, so you could see equipment and construction materials inside. I walked through a dark hallway that only had the emergency light shining, and in no time I reached a dreary room that was about the size of a classroom.
A room full of darkness.
There were no windows in the room– only a small light shone between me and him…
“So—Welcome to my attraction. I was waiting for you, Jirou-kun. Even though I didn’t think you would really come.”
A black suit and a wolf mask.
The one standing there was, of course, the one on the other side of the call just now… The one who had kidnapped Kureha and Suzutsuki.
Uneasiness and impatience.
These two feelings were mixing inside my chest.
I looked around a bit. I couldn’t see Suzutsuki and Kureha.
“No need to worry. The two of them are behind that door. Aah, and the way you acted just now was cool, like a protagonist of a manga.”
The wolf was laughing.
From where was he watching? Granted, I had already presumed that he would be watching us.
“Hey, why did you do that? Even though there was the option of both of you coming.”
He said, intrigued, in a machine-like voice.
…How would I know?
Is what I wanted to ask.
I also believe that it would have been better for both of us to come, and I also believe that instead of me, Konoe should have come.
But—This is the only thing I don’t want. I can’t let Konoe face danger.
“I think it’s because you make me sick.”
I felt like a black sensation was burning into my heart.
I could not forgive this merciless asshole.
This man, who had kidnapped Kureha and Suzutsuki. This man, who had made Konoe call herself a failure…
I will never forgive him.
“I see. Well, your coming here doesn’t change the contents of the game, so be at ease.”
–You just have to win a fight against me.
‘Just that,’ the wolf laughed.
“You mean that we will have to exchange punches?”
I see. This is clearly easy to grasp. Many times easier than a mathematics question. I was so nervous thinking that the game could be something psychological.
“If you win, the two of them will go free; if you lose, I will confine you together with them, then make you three wait until the Butler-kun comes.”
If he wins, then he will pretend to wait for Konoe?
As I thought, his aim is Konoe.
He isn’t even looking at me, who is right in front of him.
But if the rules are just as he said, I also have a chance of winning.
I was born into ‘that’ family, after all. I’m not at Kureha’s level, but I also have some combat abilities, even though my mom forcefully made me learn them.
Besides, after doing that, I can’t afford to lose here.
I have the responsibility to not lose.
I will win and rescue Kureha and Suzutsuki—
“Aah—And just one more thing. I will say the most important thing now.”
The wolf pointed his finger and said.
“—Just don’t die.”
That was the starting signal.
To my surprise, the wolf reduced to zero the distance of five meters between us with one step.
His speed is… even more so, the movements of his attacks.
A black arm swung out.
A right straight.
I can’t avoid it.
The moment I thought that, a hard fist pierced my body.
I was sent flying from the blow.
Reflexively, I guarded with both my arms. Even so, my line of vision blurred.
…This is bad.
Even though I was only punched, this power is…
This is at the same level as Kureha’s elbow drop.
I don’t want to believe it, but this guy is as strong as Mom…!
“—Don’t get carried away, you damn brat!”
A deep, burly voice. For a moment, I had the feeling that I heard a voice different from the one that I heard just now, but I couldn’t afford to think about it.
A piercing body blow. With my stomach pierced, the strong pain made my breath stop. I was about to fall on my knees, but somehow managed to step up and bear it.
I can’t fall yet.
“Heh, you are tough. To think that you can receive this blow and still be able to stand.”
The same frivolous tone of voice as from the start.
I laughed as if to answer it.
“Ha, haha. That’s right. I didn’t receive such an enviable education—that would let me fall with this level of pain!”
I punched back at the wolf’s stomach while saying that.
A piercing right fist.
At that moment, I released an attack with my entire body.
A machine-like laugh.
…This has to be a lie.
He didn’t even move an inch.
Don’t tell me that it didn’t work at all.
In response, his left fist flew, and my ribs creaked.
Next, a knee kick.
A splendid combination.
A piercing shock ran through my back.
“Jirou-kun, I am sorry, but if you want to continue I will have to change the name of the game.”
The wolf said that calmly to me, who was trembling in anguish.
“The new name of the game will be ‘Biohazard’. And of course, the one who’ll fight the shitty blood-dyed zombie will be me.”
At that moment, an uppercut.
I lifted my body, before receiving his knee to my cheek.
This is bad… I am feeling weak.
My vision was distorted, as if I was wearing glasses with the wrong prescription. That attack just now made my chest shake.
I have no other option but to defend—
My body trembled from the blow. I was beaten again somewhere. My mouth only tasted of blood. My whole body was hurt, my eyes were dizzy, and I even spat blood. I lost all my power, and my knees fell to the ground.
A merciless kick to my face as I fell forward. A Serie A-level free-kick.(1) If my head were a soccer ball, it would easily rip through the goal net.
The moment I fell on my back, my stomach was immediately stomped on.
Like he was stepping countless times on a cockroach that had appeared in the kitchen…
My internal organs were leaving my mouth like gelidium jelly strips.
I will be killed.
The blood coming from my eyelids blurred my vision red.
My body is already completely wounded.
If I don’t pay attention, I will faint in no time.
If I rise again, I really will be killed.
The moment he stopped stomping on me, a dry laugh came from my mouth.
“This… This is nothing. If you compare this to our family reunions, this becomes like a picnic under the blue sky.”
With only my willpower, my lips moved and my body rose again. My face was completely covered with blood. Aah, there’s a crack in my glasses. I’ll have to buy another pair.
Like he was waiting for me to stand up, the attack started once again.
My body fell into a violent pain. He fired a barrage of attacks. A one sided assault.
I can’t even… stay up anymore…
I’m sure it’ll be easier if I lose consciousness here.
But… I can’t afford that.
“No matter how many times… I will stand up again, you scumbag!”
Biohazard? How fitting. I lifted my lips filled with blood and smiled like a real zombie.
This is not a big deal.
This is really not a big deal.
If you compare this to the normal environment that I was raised in… This is not a big deal.
“Hey. Have you ever, at some point in your life, received an elbow drop instead of a ‘good morning’?”
“Or received a vertical-drop-brain-buster from your mother just for putting aside a side dish you hate? Or in kindergarten have your Achilles tendon ripped for some unknown reason while you were playing house with your little sister?”
“Have you ever fainted with your eyes wide open and foaming at the mouth? When you wake up in the morning, are you ever in the intensive care room of a hospital for some unknown reason? Have you ever had the experience of bumping into your little sister changing her clothes and being forced into cardiac arrest?”
I guess not, I added.
There’s no way you could have. I may be the only person in the world that experiences this kind of thing in his everyday life.
Don’t look down on me.
I have been beaten—no, I have been trained for over ten years by my mother and my sister.
That’s why… this much is nothing.
I can’t afford to lose.
And besides—If I lose, I can’t protect.
Suzutsuki, Kureha, and Konoe…
If I faint here, I won’t be able to protect them.
I have to be strong enough to stand up.
“—Well, it’s about time to end this game.”
The machine-like voice said that.
In his hand was—A knife.
The blade was so sharp that someone would bleed just from touching it.
A silver-colored cutting edge was turned to me.
“I expect that if I cut your muscles out, you will be able to rest. To tell the truth, I didn’t want to go this far… But there’s no helping it.”
“First, the right hand.” Saying that, he stabbed the knife in a straight line.
I don’t have the energy to avoid anymore.
But will this end like this? If it turns out that I can only move my neck, then I will bite you. I don’t have any cavities. My teeth are completely natural.
A dull shine.
The knife approached.
This sharp blade is going to pierce through me—
“I kept you waiting, Jirou.”
A clear alto voice.
The one who stopped the knife with her small palm was smiling calmly.
The one who was standing here was, without a doubt, Konoe Subaru.
Without a doubt, the butler of Suzutsuki Kanade.
“Jirou, from now on, it’s my turn to work. That’s why you can rest.”
*ploft* A red drop fell onto the ground.
She must have cut herself while holding the blade with her palm.
But even so, Konoe stubbornly kept holding the blade.
“Hyahahaha! Good morning, Butler-kun. You’re late.”
The wolf simply let go of the knife and distanced himself.
“Aah, we don’t need any entrance fees. This is a grudge match. Between you and me. Besides, that is sadly not the only knife that I have with me.”
Exactly as he said.
The wolf took a knife of the same shape from his pocket—And took a stance.
“Nn? Is it okay for you not to tremble? The last time we met here you were trembling and crying, fearing being pierced by the knife. Just like a baby sheep cowering.”
“Aah, yeah… But…”
This time, it’s different.
Konoe threw the knife she was holding onto the ground.
Her clear pupils glared directly at the wolf.
As if she was going to pierce him.
She opened her mouth slowly, as if she were talking to herself.
And her hands… looked like they were trembling.
The trauma from the past.
Fear of blades.
I am sure that she is so scared that she wants to run away. Without a doubt, she is suffering so much that it would be easier if she fainted.
But now, she is desperately fighting with that.
Only for the sake of protecting someone important to her—
“I am—A butler.”
Saying that, she tightly clenched her trembling fingers.
“That’s why… I don’t fear that knife.”
She took a posture as she resolved herself.
This posture truly looks like a sheep.
A little sheep being attacked by a hungry wolf.
Trying to avoid the merciless fangs while trembling so much.
Normally, the sheep will be eaten and it ends.
A pathetic little sheep is killed without even the chance to raise a scream.
The law of the jungle.
The weak are killed by the strong.
This is what they call the rule of this world.
But if only once, I think it’s okay for a sheep to kill a wolf.
An upset. A junior dominating a senior. A cornered rat attacking a cat.
Whichever word is fine.
It should be fine to sometimes have a sheep that shows her fangs to the wolf.
It should be fine to have a sheep that claws on the wolf’s throat.
It should be fine to have a sheep that shatters the fangs of the wolf.
This foolish fantasy doesn’t seem so bad.
I somehow managed to retain my consciousness that was about to fade and uttered a voice.
“I will leave the rest to you.”
She only said, “Leave it to me,” in response to my entrusting words.
This was– the sign for the start of the battle.
Running like a bullet, the wolf held the knife and thrust it in Konoe’s direction.
Certainly, it was a dash with the intent of killing with that blade.
The knife shone.
A sharp knife, like a fang.
But Konoe didn’t even move to dodge.
No… It wasn’t that…
I caught my breath in surprise.
Konoe leapt over the knife that was thrust in her direction.
A body danced near the ceiling.
And surprisingly, like that she used the knife as a platform and stepped on it.
The body of Konoe’s that used the knife as a platform and jumped high was… spinning.
A lively rotation that seemed to be showing her back on purpose.
An acceleration for the sake of raising the power of the kick.
Yes, a kick.
I know that technique.
Once, my mom used that on me; I fainted in a single blow.
Her right leg stretched in a beautiful arch.
That one blow, which seemed to gouge the air, went through the mask of the wolf…!
The wolf speechlessly fell onto the ground from the force of the kick, and there was no sign of the body rising again. It looks like he lost consciousness in one blow.
That was perfect.
A rolling savate as a counter.
Hey, hey… What a girl.
To decide the battle in only one attack.
In only one attack—she tore out the throat of the wolf.
She is so cool.
This is so regrettable, but now I know the how the girls who keep screaming, “He is so calm and cool!” feel.
Surely, Konoe is so cool now that I could fall for her.
“Konoe, the two of them are behind this door…”
The moment I said that, Konoe started running.
I turned to the direction of the door while pushing my own body.
On the other side of the door.
There was a room the size of four tatami mats.(3)
I saw the figure of two people sleeping on the floor while wearing cuffs.
I ran towards my little sister who was falling asleep to the side. …I’m relieved. She isn’t hurt. Looks like they are only under the effects of some sleep medication.
Suzutsuki opened her eyes and released a void voice.
The butler was holding her master’s body tightly. Tears were flowing from those clear eyes.
“I have no excuses. Because… Because I was not paying attention, I put you and Kureha-chan in danger. I am… a failure as a butler.”
She said that with all her might in a rough voice.
Suzutsuki only gently smiled in response.
“Hmm. That is not true. Didn’t you protect me perfectly? As a master, I can’t fire such a good butler.”
A fresh tone.
With that as a trigger, Konoe started to cry.
And then she called with a gloomy voice.
The name of her own master.
“Is it okay… Is it okay for me, for such a useless butler, to be at your side?”
Suzutsuki ordered her butler while smiling.
“From now on, always stay by my side, as a butler and… as a friend as well. Serve me at my side for our whole lives. This is an order, Subaru.”
“…Yes. Understood, Ojou-sama.”
Master and Butler.
Konoe and Suzutsuki stared at each other as if to confirm their relationship
Aaah—Case settled, for the time being.
Or rather… I wonder if it is okay for me to sleep. This is pathetic, but I am already at my limit. I wonder if it’s because I am relieved, but my consciousness is…
From behind *pachi pachi* a dry sound echoed.
When I turned around, there was the wolf.
The kidnapper who was supposed to be defeated by Konoe was clapping.
“You… Intend to continue…!?”
Konoe once again put up her fists.
But—The wolf did not respond to that.
And I also can’t hear that frivolous voice that was resounding some time ago.
The kidnapper just—Calmly took off the mask.
The face was uncovered.
A fearless face and sharp eyes. A long figure with a matching black suit and a calm expression… He should be in his late twenties.
After fixing his hair that had been tousled by the mask, he calmly put on his silver-rimmed glasses.
After looking at the face of the guy, Konoe gasped.
What’s up with this reaction? Instead of meeting a kidnapper, it was more like she met an acquaintance in the middle of the city…
“This is not possible… Why…?”
Konoe moved her mouth while her eyes were black-and-white from the surprise.
The man raised his glasses a bit as if he was going to check the time.
The man raised a voice that didn’t suit his figure and hugged Konoe tightly.
He really hugged her.
What’s with this development? Who is he? Why is he hugging Konoe? This wasn’t some perfectly pitched baseball game celebration.
“Aah, he is Subaru’s father.”
Suzutsuki calmly said that.
Didn’t this Ojou-sama just say something outrageous as if it was nothing?
“Konoe Nagare. He might look really young, but this is Subaru’s father.”
“By the way, he is the butler of the actual head of the Suzutsuki family—In other words, my father’s butler.”
“So? Are you surprised?”
“No… Rather than surprised…”
Confirming the situation.
In front of my eyes was Suzutsuki grinning like she had just pulled a prank, the dumbfounded Konoe with the man who they say is her father hugging her, and Kureha, who was sleeping deeply.
Err—and… What is this?
I don’t want to believe this but…
Looks like we were caught up in some scheme.
At the moment I felt a bad sensation about the reality unfolding before my eyes, I finally reached my limit and my consciousness fell into a deep blackness.
(1) This is a reference to soccer. Serie A is a top level, Italian soccer tournament. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serie_A.
(2) A brainbuster is a professional wrestling throw in which a wrestler puts his/her opponent in a front facelock, hooks his/her pants or thigh, and lifts him/her up as if he/she was executing a vertical suplex.
(3) Japanese measurement for rooms.