Chapter 4:

Chapter 4

I Accidentally Killed The Protagonist


After no small amount of effort, our protagonist Shintaro had finally breached the first great obstacle in his story: the front door to his school building. The next challenge would be encountering his friend beside the shoe lockers. But before that could happen, I had to ensure he was fully prepared for what lay ahead.

"Did you remember to pick up Shintaro's blazer?"

"Do you mean this piece of outerwear?"

He held out the blazer like someone who had just fished a drowning cat from a river. It hung there, blustering mildly in the wind.

"Yes, that one," I muttered. "Of all the pointless displays of protagonisthood that I've seen, Shintaro tossing his jacket into the air when he did has really saved us. It has his phone, student ID card and house keys inside. Without those, we would in much more trouble than we already are."

Ezu nodded along in response to each of the items I listed out.

"Did you... actually understand anything I just said?"

"Nope!"

"Great."

Ezu had already started shaking it until one of the objects tumbled out from the pocket. I dove to the ground to prevent Shintaro's phone from hitting the floor.

"Don't do that again. This is arguable the most important, and fragile, weapon in your arsenal." I motioned to swipe sweat from my brow, as if the sheer cartoonish nature of this situation were rubbing off on me.

"Weapon? Ah, so it's-"

"Tool. Tool."

Reminder to avoid metaphors.

"Hm... so it's a communicator?" Ezu wondered, taking it from my hand. He lifted one end of it to his mouth and started speaking into it. "Hello? Hello? This is Ezu. I have captured a specimen for interrogatio-"

"Stop messing around." I snatched the phone away from him again. "This is a mobile phone. You're not far off by calling it a communicator, but it has a lot more features than that. I don't want to overload you this early, so I'll bring anything else up when the time comes. For now, just keep it safe and do not break it."

I returned the phone to him and Ezu cradled the device in his palms.

"I'll explain the rest later, you're already running late for homeroom. Put the blazer on and I'll direct you to the classroom."

"Understood!" 

Ezu then eagerly slipped on the blazer, sliding his hands snugly into the sleeves. He wore it proudly and looked raring to go.

Unfortunately, it was backwards.

"...The part with the buttons goes at the front."

"Oh... I'll never understand human fashion."

Just as Ezu made his adjustments, someone approached from nearby. For some reason, the footsteps were unusually loud.

(Damn it... I almost forgot. Shintaro's friend...)

As they cleared the corner, the reason for the volume became clear. They were intentionally loud. He was stomping, bending his legs and striking the ground with his feet. Despite how much his face was being accosted by strands of hair, and his right eye masked under a medical eyepatch, he twisted his lips into an awkward smile.

"Ah... my loyal and enduring compatriot... you have come to join me again. I am grateful."

I decided the best course of action was to duck into the corner and hide, my hands covering my head.

(Right. I'm done. Get me out of here.)

("It'll be okay, Nare.")

(If you insist... this is Shigenori Oohaka. Shintaro's classmate from first year. He's rather, well, how do I put it...)

Shigenori proceeded to strike a pose, holding his hands jauntily and bending his wrists at angles I presumed impossible for humans to achieve. He squeezed a hearty laugh from his lungs, but it soon collapsed into a cough. Ezu was equally taken aback by this, his expression resembling someone struck in the face by a wet fish. And yes, I have seen that exact expression before. Not all hero work is glamorous.

Clearing his throat, Shigenori continued: "Much time has passed since our last fated meeting, so I shall be courteous and inform you of the deeply formidable happenings that have befallen the world in your absence."

Ezu was taken in by this, his eyes widening as he leaned toward Shigenori. Shigenori did the same in turn, although even he seemed a bit disturbed by the innocent glee that Ezu held on his face as they drew closer.

"Ahem, well, firstly. I have grave news to report. The capital city of Fhirdiad has been invaded by the forces of the Empire. I am afraid... all hope is lost. I could do nothing but look on in despair as my comrades fell, their blood running along the battlefield, and my tears running down my cheeks. I held her in my arms one last time as I watched them advance, and she held me close, begging that I bring an end to this senseless war and defeat the twisted emperor, lest their deaths be in vain..."

Shigenori stood there with his head hung low, clutching his shirt and balling the fabric between his clenched fingers. Meanwhile, Ezu's expression degraded with each word, and soon I even saw tears roll down his eyes, which I didn't assume possible.

"T-That's... that's a dreadful story... I am so sorry for your loss..."

I do not have the heart to tell him that everything Shigenori just told him is the plot to a game.

"But enough of my war stories," Shigenori continued. "Such sacrifices, while distressing, are inevitable in war."

With a nod, Ezu wiped a tear from his eye. I had a disturbing belief that, with what little I knew about his planet, the kind of war sacrifice Ezu had heard about was a lot more real than what Shigenori was describing.

 "My other report is that of my recent findings." Adjusting his medical eyepatch, he reached into his bag.

Can't this wait for later? I can see a teacher standing in the hallway tapping her foot. I don't want to have to deal with Ezu interacting with adults yet...

Shigenori produced a series of poorly printed photographs. "This time, the evidence is indisputable, my trusted compatriot. I shall display my findings to the occult club, and they shall finally cease their mockery and allow me to join their ranks!"

He attempted another laugh, but he could scarcely manage a wheeze. He quickly cleared his throat and moved on.

"Evidence?" Ezu asked, motioning his finger toward the scruffy pile of papers.

"Yes indeed. Have you forgotten what my mission has been ever since we first met? This, Shintaro Kiriguchi, is definitive proof."

Shigenori slammed the stack of photographs against the wall, proudly presenting them.

"Proof of the existence of aliens!"

Alright... you've got to be kidding me.

Ezu perked up at hearing this, although not in a way that seemed immediately pleased. He was about to open his mouth, but he swivelled slowly toward me, no doubt sensing my ominous aura behind him. Because I was staring daggers into his back.

(Do. Not. Say. Anything.)

"Hm? What are you looking at? Ah, yes, my findings have struck the fear of truth into you, you worry that they might be nearby. But worry not, they are no threat to us, so long as I keep my findings between us for the time being. I trust you shall not share this information with anyone else?"

Moving like a scarecrow, Ezu's head creaked up and down. Meanwhile, wondering if Shigenori really had caught onto our ruse, or the absolutely flawlessly disguised spacecraft hidden behind the school (we really need to move that before the day ends), I floated over to the picture pile, which was still pinned to the wall by Shigenori's hand, as if there were one hundred other invisible people still waiting to see them.

As I peered closer, everything became clear to me.

This guy is an idiot.

The first picture, on top of the pile and assumedly the one he was most proud of, was perhaps the blurriest image any human had ever captured of a UFO. An oblong silver disc in the sky, obscured by a cloud of pixels, and a thin, spindly green twig a short distance away.

For the record, it really is curious how cameras suddenly revert their technology by about fifty years whenever something resembling a UFO appears. Maybe aliens have invented anti-camera forcefields that specifically rewind the resolution rather than, oh I don't know, deleting the photo.

Who am I kidding, this is probably just some kid's frisbee and a bit of dirt on the camera. Regardless, I sighed in relief, knowing that we were slightly less likely to be caught than before.

I was now uncomfortably close to Shigenori, remembering that he was unable to see me. He resumed his spiel at Ezu, who was still cautious of my reaction, but I gave him a reassuring thumbs up, although his confused reaction made me realise that I might need to develop some more non-human-friendly gestures for communication. I think I got the point across though, even if just through my body language.

"I shall present my findings to the occult club after school today. Even if they turn down this evidence, as absolutely unfounded as that notion might be, I shall continue the fight. Alone as I may be in my plight, I know I can trust you to be by my side, oh Shintaro my boy. Together, we shall find unequivocal proof of aliens!"

Even Ezu was embarrassed by this situation, but he raised his fist weakly in triumph.

"Y-Yay..."

If only this poor guy knew just how close he was...

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