Speaking of prep schools that are meant to prepare students for University exams, schools that follow the traditional method of a large number of students sitting in a classroom to take lessons from a teacher are becoming scarce.
This is because almost every high school student goes on to take university exams these days, and the examination methods are getting more intensive, to differentiate between students with even one point differences.
Yasuo attends a prep school called Tokorozawa School, advertised as a “thousand year academy”. Each classroom is divided into booths, and each booth is equipped with a computer and a headset, similar to an internet cafe. Students can reserve a period of time in the available timeslots and use a booth. Along with having video tutorial courses, the booths also allow students to revise topics and do self-study.
The tutorial courses can be selected based on factors such as the University the student wants to join, or their level of understanding. After viewing the video tutorials for the allotted period of time, the student will have to take a test to measure their progress. Such a method of teaching is becoming more commonplace.
If there is something a student does not understand in the tutorials or their self-study, or they need a clarification, they can ask for guidance from their class leader or a university student who is appointed as the tutor in charge of their education.
Yasuo thought that he could focus on his studies, or rather his life as a third-year high school student, by concentrating on the video tutorial that played on his screen. However, those hopes were mercilessly dashed by the English reading comprehension tutorial that he had selected.
The theme of the lesson was to read a short story, but the story was about the only daughter of a soldier who fought in the Vietnam War, looking for one of her father’s old comrade-in-arms. The plot was so similar to the current situation of the Kenzaki family, that he was unable to focus on reading it. The daughter pleaded to the old man who was the protagonist of the story to rescue her father from some predicament, but the protagonist had circumstances that prevented him from immediately rushing to the aid of his old friend.
After reading this much, Yasuo’s mind rejected reading until the end of the story. Even though he knew that this was a part of the course syllabus, he was afraid to see what would happen at the end of the story, when he considered what would happen if the actions of the old man in the story overlapped with the actions of his father.
Unfortunately, today was the day when he had to clear a test to move on to the next course, and of course he wasn’t able to properly answer a single question.
“You’re usually not like this, is there something that is bothering you?”
Due to that, Kobayashi Yuusuke, who was a third-year student at Waseta University and the tutor in charge of Yasuo, was worried about him.
Of course, there was something he was worried about. However, that was not something that could be resolved with the help of a tutor from his prep school.
Yasuo came out from the prep school looking crestfallen, and started to walk back home with a frown on his face. Eventually, he was able to see the lights of his house. The lights in the living room and the kitchen were lit, but he couldn’t tell if Diana was still there or not.
“Does she intend to stay here until Dad agrees to go with her?”
Yasuo had fainted last night and hadn’t been aware that Diana had stayed over, but the phrase “Unexpectedly living together with a beautiful girl from another world” floated through his mind.
“Something that stupid can’t possibly happen.”
Thinking about it realistically, that was not possible.
Staying over for one or two nights was understandable, but he hadn’t considered the possibility that Diana might continue to live in their house.
Putting aside his personal opinions, it was a simple matter of the size of the Kenzaki family house. Even his mother’s room, where Diana appeared to have slept last night, was full of items that had accumulated over their long stay in that house, and it must have been very difficult to prepare a futon in that cramped room.
Besides, if he considered whether he wanted to live in the same house as her, the answer was a definite no.
Diana was definitely a beauty. However, even if you didn’t consider the stuff about her being from a different world and so forth, she was still someone he didn’t know anything about.
If he told the whole story to his close friends Aoto, Igarashi, and Hino, they would probably say something like this:
“Not only is your nagging father leaving, but you also get to live in the same house as a beautiful girl, what more could you possibly want?”
If Diana was someone from a more realistic place, and she didn’t fill his father’s head with such nonsense, maybe Yasuo would have thought the same thing as well. However, in Yasuo’s opinion, Diana was an intruder who had come to destroy the peace of his family. He had heard that dubious religious cults sometimes used beautiful women to lure in young men, and this situation felt pretty close to that.
“Haa… I’m home.”
However, he didn’t have the option of not going home. He opened the front door of his house with a heavy heart, and that’s when he heard it.
Somebody was singing. It was a tremulous voice, but was definitely the voice of a girl singing from her heart.
However, the lyrics of the song that he heard were definitely not Japanese. Which meant that the person who was singing was…
When he quietly opened the door to the living room, he saw Diana, who was facing away from him and singing while in a praying posture in front of a gently steaming cup of black tea. By the way, the clothes she was wearing were his mother’s, just like in the morning.
Listening more closely, he realized that her voice was not tremulous, she was just singing a melody with a slow rhythm while trying to keep her voice down.
However, it is unexpectedly difficult to sing the higher ranges of a song with a slow rhythm in a low, steady voice without using vibrato, unless you are used to singing it.
Yasuo was taken in by her beautiful singing voice, and he unintentionally let his voice slip out.
“Is that a hymn?”
“Yes… Ah! W-welcome back!”
Diana must have heard his voice, so she suddenly stopped singing and turned around.
Due to that, her knee hit the cup of tea and the contents went flying everywhere.
“Ouch, that’s hot!”
“H-Hey, be more careful.”
Seeing the apparently hot tea spilling on Diana’s leg, even Yasuo panicked.
“Hey, are you okay? Here, use this!”
Yasuo rushed into the kitchen without even putting his bag down, and threw a dish cloth to Diana after running it under water and lightly squeezing the water out.
“Umm… Did you h-hear, hear that-”
“Did you get burned anywhere? Use that to wipe it off, first!”
“Did you hear that!? Did you!? Umm, I’ve heard that you shouldn’t get devices like this wet, wait, did you really hear me just now!?”
Diana seemed to be very confused, and was moving around in confusion with a red face while holding the TV remote that had been splashed with some tea as if it was a very important object.
“It won’t break so easily. More importantly, your leg! Most of the tea spilled on your leg! Did you get burned…”
“Ah! Umm, I didn’t get burned, but I got Madoka’s clothes dirty, I’m very sorry!”
Diana started to take off her pants while still red-faced and holding onto the remote, so it was Yasuo’s turn to be embarrassed and become confused.
“Hey, stop! Don’t take them off here!!”
“B-But, tea stains are hard to remove so i need to wash it right away!”
“Go to the washroom!”
“But, but I can’t intrude while Madoka is in the middle of her bath!”
“Mom is in the bath!? It’s okay, the bath is separated from the rest of the washroom, so you can go in!”
“Ah, you’re right! Sorry, I showed such a shameful side of me in front of you, Yasuo!”
“Like I said, don’t take your clothes off here! Go to the washroom!”
“Ahh, I was in the middle of my prayer…! And I made such a mess in front of Yasuo…!”
Yasuo felt relieved to see that Diana headed to the washroom after the end of their heated conversation. He realized that he was still holding his bag, and set it down. He then put the cup that Diana had knocked flying in the sink, rinsed the dish cloth, and finished cleaning up the spilt tea. He then heard Diana’s voice that sounded apologetic.
“Ahh, Yasuo, I’m very sorry, but…”
She was sticking her hand through the slightly opened door to the living room, and was pointing at the door to his mother’s room that was on the other side of the living room.
“Umm, Madoka gave me some pyjamas to wear at night, but…”
What did she expect him to do? He nodded as if he understood, but then realized that he was not thinking straight after getting caught up in this kind of ordinary trouble.
“Umm, could you… go get it… for me…”
“Eh? Ahh! I understand, wait a moment. Sorry, I honestly didn’t realize!”
After thinking about it for a second, Yasuo realized that he had been lacking consideration. If she had washed the pants that she had been wearing, then she obviously could not just walk past Yasuo in that state.
Yasuo dashed into his mother’s room and grabbed the pyjamas that had been folded carefully to ensure that they didn’t crease. As a boy of high school age, he felt regret for a second that Diana had regained her composure, but shook off that feeling and threw the pyjamas at the opposite door while trying not to get them too crumpled.
As soon as he threw them, he realized that he could have just handed them to her without looking, but decided not to dwell on that too much.
“T-thank you very much.”
Before long, Diana appeared before Yasuo wearing his mother’s pyjamas, and stood there while fidgeting and looking at him with upturned eyes.
“Umm… about that, well…”
“No, that one was my fault. I really didn’t have any other intentions, honest.”
Yasuo started to apologize to Diana before she could complete her sentence, but it only sounded like he was making excuses, and couldn’t stop himself from speaking.
A girl wearing only her underwear had been just on the other side of a wall.
Yasuo’s heart was completely shaken by that thought, and as his heart rate skyrocketed, his face also became red.
Diana’s face was even redder than Yasuo’s, but she strongly shook her head to the sides.
“N-No! I-I’m not talking about that….”
“Eh? Then what is it? Oh, you’re talking about that.”
Yasuo finally remembered what happened before this latest event, and took a deep breath to forcefully calm down, even though he was still shaken. He then spoke in a slightly fast pace:
“Sorry, I heard you. B-But if you’re going to sing in the living room, obviously someone will hear it.”
Although that sentence sounded like an excuse as well, the words seemed to have a strong impact on Diana, as her face turned even redder.
“I-I’m sorry for making a racket… Umm, that was kind of an etiquette that is followed by people in Resteria in recent times, and it’s something I have become accustomed to doing no matter what…”
Was it that shameful for her to be seen while she was singing?
“The song… is etiquette?”
When he just asked the question that occurred to him, Diana panicked even more.
“Umm, I have always been hopeless at singing, and the Church Priest would always scold me saying that I wasn’t putting my heart into the prayers, I actually have no power at all!”
He had no idea what Diana meant by ‘power’ of the song, but Diana’s excuses didn’t stop there.
“That’s why I don’t think you’ll believe me when I say this, but the song I was singing earlier was… right, it was what you call a ‘prayer’ in this world! It’s like the Namu Amida Butsu!”
It seemed that Diana was still panicking as she was waving her arms about and crossing them in front of her face several times.
Yasuo let out a snort of laughter because of her sudden use of the phrase “Namu Amida Butsu”, but that allowed him to regain his composure before Diana.
“Namu Amida Butsu is not a prayer, it’s a sutra. Well, I guess the two aren’t really that different.”
“Okyou? Umm, let’s see, ‘okyou’… does that mean a big fish?”
Speaking of halibut, Yasuo had seen on TV before that there was a certain large fish that was used in making sushi, and also went well with curry. He was surprised that the knowledge of the fish came back to him so quickly even though he had only seen it once before on TV, and was also surprised that Diana knew about the fish but not about sutras.
“Ah, well, it’s normal for Christians to pray at home at night, and there are hymns that are sung before going to bed. If it’s that sort of thing, I can understand.”
Diana blinked at Yasuo’s unexpected words.
Even though Yasuo didn’t realize it, this was the first time he said something positive to Diana.
“I still don’t believe that stuff about you coming from a different world, but your singing… well, I think it’s pretty good.”
“Really? That’s the first time anyone has said that to me.”
Diana timidly asked him to confirm, but she was slightly smiling from joy at being praised.
It would have been fine if he had left it like this, but Yasuo suddenly got embarrassed at having praised her honestly, so he added some unnecessary words.
“It felt like you were used to singing that particular song. Since you said it’s become a habit, I guess I can understand that. The melody felt a little dark, though.”
“Ahh, about that, the song is actually a requiem that is sung before going to sleep.”
Diana hurriedly replied to his comment. She seemed desperate to extend the time spent talking to Yasuo even by a second.
“A requiem? Before going to sleep?”
He felt like that could hardly be classified as a cheerful habit.
“Yes. There are several hymns that are meant for singing before going to bed, but I… no, all Magitech soldiers probably sing this song instead.”
Yasuo was about to ask the reason behind doing that, but he stopped himself after hearing the word ‘Magitech soldier’. It was a danger signal that she was about to start talking about that other world stuff again. Even if that was not the case, he felt that he had been talking to her a little too much.
Maybe letting his guard down due to the incident with the tea was a bad idea. Yasuo also felt ashamed at pretentiously commenting about her singing.
“Well then, I’m going to my room.”
After saying that, Yasuo turned away from Diana and started to leave the room, while silently telling himself that he hadn’t put down his guard against her.
At that time, Diana called out to him.
“Thank you very much. That was the first time anyone other than my parents complimented my singing, so… well…”
Yasuo didn’t really know what he was ‘okay’ with, but when he turned around to look at Diana, she was slightly blushing for an altogether different reason, and he thought that she looked cute in spite of himself, and his tone became brusque.
“Yasuo, do you know a lot about singing?”
“Not really, I just sang a bit, for my club in school.”
Never mind his technique and the number of years he had been singing, he didn’t know much about music and singing in a scholastic sense. He tried to escape by saying those words, but Diana’s sparkling eyes didn’t let him.
“That’s fantastic! I never had any formal training in singing, so I’m a bit jealous.”
“It’s not that big a deal… Umm, I should really go-”
“Ah, sorry, I held you back from leaving. Thank you very much, and good night!”
She ran away looking like a criminal who was afraid of the stares of passers-by.
Yasuo felt that he had just been a little more interested in singing than everyone else in middle-school.
Although his close friend, the vice-president of the Theatre Club, had praised him, he considered that as little more than lip service, meant to encourage him because of his circumstances. More than anything, he felt hesitant to say that he had singing experience compared to Diana who sang everyday as part of her normal routine, and felt ashamed for being presumptuous enough to evaluate her singing in spite of having only a few years of experience.
He had been rejecting Diana all the way while he was returning home from prep school, but that feeling had completely vanished. Yasuo was filled with an immense sense of shame, and escaped into his own room.
He threw himself on his bed, and struck the wall in frustration. In return, Nodoka struck the wall from the other side, which was in her room.
Neither Aoto nor Diana had any ill intent when they spoke to him. However, the result was that Yasuo felt as if someone had rubbed salt into the wound that was just beginning to heal.
He knew that he was living a half-hearted high school life. However, no matter what was said, the Choral Club would not be reinstated, and Diana was still present downstairs.
He felt like closing his eyes and escaping into the world of dreams, and wiping away everything that had happened today. He closed his eyes thinking that it was okay even if that wound didn’t heal, he just wanted enough time to pass again so that he could forget about it.
Once he graduated from high school, his environment would drastically change.
High school was a place where you only spent three years, after all. Instead of struggling pointlessly and hurting yourself more, it was far better to brace yourself against the dull pain and endure it, and then start anew in a new environment.
However, even with his eyes closed, he was still able to see Diana’s face, full of happiness when he praised her singing, and his cheeks grew hot again. As he tried to rid himself of that vision of Diana, he remembered the appearance of his father’s Holy Sword.
“Aaarrrrghhhhhh! What the hell has been happening during these last two days!?”
The things that he had tried to avoid facing until now all came back at once, and as if to collect that debt, they attacked him from an unexpected direction. Just how long was he supposed to endure this situation?
Nodoka protested through the wall against his impulsive shout, and Yasuo reflexively apologized.
However, that got Yasuo wondering as to what exactly Nodoka thought about the whole thing. Diana’s beauty caused him to unintentionally put his guard down around her, but that wouldn’t work on Nodoka. She must have a reason for not getting emotional and living her life as normal, even after listening to that absurd story and finding out about Diana.
Yasuo stood up thinking that the siblings who were being tossed around by their parents’ behaviour should work together to overcome this situation. At that moment:
“Umm, Yasuo, do you have a moment?”
Diana’s knock and her voice reached his ears through the door, and Yasuo fell back as if stunned by her voice.
“Ah, we can just talk like this. I just wanted to inform you regarding the plans for tomorrow.”
He didn’t know how Diana interpreted the sounds coming from his room, but she continued to talk while sounding slightly panicked.
“I have come to see that Hideo is very important to all of you, and it’s unreasonable of us to want to take him away from you with such short notice. I’m sure both you and Nodoka can only see me as a nuisance, who has come to destroy your peaceful family life.”
After saying that, Yasuo realized that he had called Diana a nuisance to her face (even though they were separated by a door) but that was realizing after the fact.
Diana didn’t seem to mind, and continued talking in the same tone.
“Of course, I don’t intend on giving up on summoning Hideo back, but I don’t want to do that even if it means sowing discord in his family. And hence…”
And then, she said something that Yasuo didn’t expect.
“I’ll return to Ante Lande tomorrow. Thank you for looking after me these past two days.”
At that moment, both Yasuo and Nodoka opened the doors to their rooms, and looked at Diana in a questioning manner.
“Diana-san, you’re going back?”
Diana gave a small nod to Nodoka who looked surprised.
“I plan to leave tomorrow morning, at the same time both of you leave the house.”
Although it wasn’t like she had given up entirely, Yasuo and Nodoka didn’t expect her to leave so easily, so they looked at each other with a complicated expression on their faces.
“However, there is something you should know. I came here on a mission for the Resteria Kingdom. That’s why, regardless of the circumstances, returning empty-handed will mean that I failed in the mission given to me by the king.”
“Does that mean you will be punished because you were not able to succeed?”
At Nodoka’s words, Diana gave a small laugh and shook her head.
“My evaluation at the workplace might fall a little, but that’s trivial compared to the crisis that threatens the world. However, the problem is regarding what comes next.”
“Yes. I was given the mission of summoning Hideo because my mother and your parents are old friends. However, I’m still a novice who has only been a Magitech soldier for two years. There are plenty of people who think that I’m not suitable to escort the Hero of Salvation, and that I was given an important mission because of my parents’ influence.”
“Ugh. Looks like there are people like that no matter where you go.”
For some reason, Nodoka was nodding as if she was convinced.
“I plan to report that ‘Hideo has a family who are dear to him, and he is not willing to abandon them to come to Ante Lande.’ However, I might possibly be removed from the mission of summoning Hideo altogether. In that case…”
“Your replacement might not be someone so willing to listen to our circumstances, is that what you’re trying to say?”
Judging from what Diana had said so far, that was the only logical conclusion.
Diana nodded as if to confirm Yasuo’s prediction.
“That’s right. The two of you might still find it hard to believe, but Ante Lande really exists, and the state of affairs there is rapidly deteriorating. At this rate, it wouldn’t be strange if there was a bigger panic than what occurred thirty years ago during the chaos caused by Demon King Kaul. Since it’s a big matter like summoning Hideo, the Hero, I don’t think they’ll send just anyone over. However, I still thought that you should keep this in mind.”
“I still can’t get used to hearing him called ‘Hideo, the Hero’, but can you really go back so easily?”
“Yes. Just returning to Ante Lande is easy for me.”
Although he was still not decided on accepting Diana’s story about where she was from, at this moment, Yasuo had an epiphany regarding the phrase “another world” which he had heard in his early childhood.
“In that case, can’t you do something like this? N-not that I believe anything about this other world and stuff, but…”
After adding on those unnecessary words, he continued.
“Can Dad go over to to that place – was it called Ante Lande?- to work when he has some time to spare, and come back here by bedtime?”
“Ah, that sounds kinda okay.”
Diana was wide-eyed with surprise, and Nodoka clapped loudly.
“Moving between worlds, isn’t that something like doing a warp using magic? If you just send him like that wherever he needs to go, wouldn’t that be nice? Woah, that means Dad can avoid taking a crowded train to work, Onii-chan, you have some good ideas once in awhile.”
Thinking of avoiding the commuting rush using magic that links different worlds, that’s a pretty small-minded way of looking at such a grand mechanism.
However, Nodoka’s example was still fairly close to what Yasuo was trying to say.
“Ahh, so that’s what you meant. I’m sorry, we can’t really do that.”
However, Diana rejected their idea after thinking about it a little.
“I’m not sure what kind of phenomenon ‘warp’ is, but it takes a lot of time to move between worlds. The time it took me to come to Japan from Resteria using the Gate Tower which is a magical construct designed for crossing vast distances, would be around two hours in your terms.”
“Sure, two hours seems like a lot of time, but I think Dad is probably used to travelling for that long, you know? Even today, he left on a trip to Osaka, that actually takes a little more time.”
“No, that’s not the only problem.”
Diana hurried to stop Yasuo, who was making an optimistic proposal.
“It takes a massive amount of energy for a person to travel between worlds.”
“You mean it requires some powerful magic?”
Diana made a bitter expression at Nodoka’s question.
“It’s okay to think of it that way. At any rate, it is very difficult to maintain the energy levels required to keep the Gate Tower running.”
Yasuo and Nodoka blinked at the sudden use of the realistic term.
“Operating the Gate Tower and transporting a mass equivalent to that of an average adult male requires roughly three percent of the annual budget of the Resteria Kingdom.”
“T-Three percent of the annual budget of a Kingdom!?”
“Of course, it’s not like all that money evaporates the instant the Gate Tower is activated, but it takes a lot of preparation to get it running, and it’s not something that I have the authority to use at will… Sorry for saying something that destroys your hopes.”
“So, does that mean you blew six percent of your country’s annual budget to come here and go back, even though you weren’t able to achieve your mission, Diana-san?”
“The Gate Tower works on the principle of ‘making a round trip’, so it takes three percent to come and go back. Besides, there are slight differences in the procedure for making the round trip depending on whether you start on that side or this side, and there will also be differences depending on how much mass you want to transport, so the required funds will change depending on those factors. It’s just that, since we’re using tax money collected from the citizens, we can’t just use it as we wish.”
If, as Diana said, it took three percent of their annual budget to travel between worlds, would she really just be forgiven with just a slight lowering of her evaluation at work if she failed in her mission?
Even though Yasuo understood that it didn’t concern him, he couldn’t avoid being worried. It wasn’t like Diana read his mind, but she still laughed and shook her head.
“It’s okay. Since we’re summoning the legendary Hero, we already planned to make multiple round trips. Besides, we’re currently in a state of emergency. Since Hideo has the achievement of leading the world thirty years ago, if required we can also supplement our funds by taking out a high interest loan for war purposes.”
So she’s basically saying that they can use his past achievements as collateral to take a loan from other countries, thereby gathering the required funds. It felt quite strange to hear a person from a fantasy world use phrases like “national budget” and “wartime debt”.
However, that resonated far more strongly with Yasuo than his father’s Holy Sword or his mother’s magic, and lent a sense of reality to Diana’s words.
He had heard that recent MMOs operated their imaginary world in a very close fashion to running a real country, but what Diana wanted was not a Hero’s avatar, but the Hero himself.
“Well, it’s not that I really believe in stuff like other worlds and magic yet…”
Diana no longer wavered after hearing him tediously repeat that he didn’t believe in it so many times.
“What exactly is going on? You said something about a Demon King called Kaul in Ante Lande, right? What exactly do you mean by the shadow of the old Demon King?”
“Ah, yes. During the war thirty years ago when Hideo and Madoka created their legend, a large number of people had been killed by the ‘Grotesque Demons’ who differed from humans in the kind of environment they lived in, and everything else.”
That was really easy to understand, but she seemed to be implying that something was different this time.
“However, this time, it’s literally a ‘shadow’. Some of them are minions of the Demon King and the rest of them are something else, but there have been reports of appearances all around the world……”
It was just after Diana had told them this much.
A thunderous roar rang out from downstairs, and Yasuo and Nodoka cowered down at the same time.
However, Diana moved quickly.
She jumped down the stairs in one leap, landed lightly in the corridor of the lower floor ad confirmed the direction the sound had come from.
There, she saw the front door of the Kenzaki house that had been crushed and sent flying, lying on the floor.
“They’ve… come this far in pursuit? And without even using a Gate Tower!?”
Diana gritted her teeth and glared at the silhouette of the interloper that flickered in that location.
There was a flickering shadow that looked like a flame, standing over there.
It looked like a mass of coal that had been placed in a furnace, and gave the impression of heavy, pitch black flame. It collected itself just outside the doorway, and then:
“Ooo… Hideoooo… Hero…. Hideoooo”
A dark knight, cloaked in darkness and possessing ominous red eyes, stood up from there looking like it was born from darkness and was soaking up the shadows.
Diana looked straight back at it without fearing those burning red eyes, and slowly braced herself.
The young girl, who was clad in Madoka’s pyjamas, had green eyes that shone as if they were illuminated by sunshine.
“I will definitely protect Hideo’s family!”
In the next instant, the shadow knight, and the pyjama-clad, green-eyed girl clashed at the doorstep in a flash.