We Are ☆ Star Club!
The only thing illuminated in the club room was Maria's face, the brightness on her phone turned all the way up.
"Did you hear about the rumor?"
She looked at each one of us, a big grin on her face. It seemed a bit different from her usual, cute behavior.
"Uwaaaa... the ghost? I don't believe it..." Pudding sighed.
Maria rolled her eyes in response.
"Ah, a bit more excitement, please! It's fun, I'm sure. Don't you girls want to explore the school at night?"
Erica shook her head.
"You know that we're only allowed in this room, and to move the equipment. It's dangerous in the dark."
"But, Erica, aren't you the slightest bit curious?"
"Aw, don't be like that. It sounds like fun. And we can always take our flashlights with us, right?"
While I didn't believe in ghosts, looking for them sounded both scary and exciting.
"Wait. There's a ghost in this building?"
Arisu peaked up, her hair getting restless. That was enough for Maria to grin again.
"Yes! Spooky, right? You would explore with us, right?"
Arisu seemed deep in thought.
"Well, the existence of a ghost is as likely as that of an alien, right?," Maria argued.
I looked at Arisu. Aside from her hair and fashion sense, there wasn't really anything that screamed "alien". But still, she very clearly wasn't from this world. PURIRIN on her shoulder woke up, and started to blink in the darkness.
"Do you all really want to go hunt non-existent ghosts tonight instead of going outside?" Erica sighed.
"Uwa... not really...."
Maria nodded enthusiastically, and I shrugged.
"Okay, we have two against it, one for it, one neutral... that means..."
"Wait! Arisu is still thinking."
Maria gestured at our friend, clearly lost in her thoughts.
"Well, I clearly said this was the time to decide. So, you two take the telescope, and we..."
Just then, Arisu snapped out of her thoughts, grabbing PURIRIN.
"If there is a ghost, we need to get rid of it."
With that said, she pressed a button on her alien friend-thing, and everything around us was caught in a white flash.
"W-what did you do?"
Erica's voice sounded strange, distorted. And when I opened my eyes again, I saw that it wasn't the only thing about her that was off. Erica herself looked like a static-y, pale version of herself, drenched in moonlight, her eyes weirdly hollow.
"Wait, did we die?"
Maria's shriek echoed through the room, and I realized that all of us were floating over our bodies.
"No. This way, we should be able to see the ghost," Arisu said, "And when we find it, I'll get rid of it. It's experimental technology, but I think it works."
"That sounds bad."
I looked at the others. No one seemed really happy about this.
"Um, at least we decided? We will go ghost hunting, right?"
Maria forced a smile, which seemed off in her incorporeal form. Even though she tried to stay positive, it seemed a bit inappropriate.
"You can put us back into our bodies?," Erica confirmed.
Somehow, Arisu was the only one where her ghostly form looked normal. Maybe that was because she and her hair was always floating anyways, or maybe her body was more attuned to PURIRIN's function. Whatever it was, it didn't calm me like it should.
"Good." Erica sighed. "So..."
"But only after we find this ghost."
Apparently, the rumor really troubled her. I wouldn't have guessed. I guess there's no way around it.
"Okay, we'll find the ghost, and then, everything turns back to normal."
"That's the plan."
Arisu gave me a thumbs up. I nodded at her, trying not to look at our bodies below. While they looked like we were all sleeping, knowing that it wasn't the case was terrifying. At least it seemed like we were breathing normally. Okay. No panic. Let's just get this over quickly. I mean, what will happen if someone finds our bodies? Our... bodies. No, don't think about that. Just because I look like a ghost doesn't mean I am one!
It seemed like Erica was also very motivated to get this over with.
"Where is this ghost supposed to haunt the school?"
"Um, somewhere? Ahaha."
She laughed nervously.
"To be honest, I don't really know. Toshiro and some other guys were talking about it..."
"And you were more interested in them than the rumor?"
She seemed really embarrassed.
"Why didn't you talk to the guys, then? Or is this all just a way for you to bump into them?"
"No! I wanted to see it with you girls, because you are my friends!"
She shook her head, translucent tears forming in her eyes.
"Really, I mean it."
Erica tried not to sound too disappointed. She looked down at herself, clearly trying not to freak out.
"It's not like we can do much. Let's just find that ghost. Or whatever it really is."
She looked at Arisu.
"Others can't see us, I hope?"
Arisu didn't really answer.
"Please tell me others can't see us."
"I mean, not if they have really bad eyesight, or no light source, or..."
Erica shook her head.
"I can't believe this."
She tugged at Pudding, as calm as ever.
"I'll look around with Pudding. You three stay together, got it?"
She shot Maria a stern look, and the other girl seemed to get smaller with each passing second.
"And don't let anyone see you, got it?"
Maria sounded defeated. This probably wasn't how she imagined the night would go. But how should we have known that Arisu could transform us all into ghosts? It still felt unreal. I shouldn't focus on it too much. Neither the feeling, the seeing, the... everything else.
We three floated down the hallway, Maria leading us. We were much closer to the ceiling than usual, and the school looked quite different from up here. Enough so that I was completely disoriented again. I couldn't even remember most of the school layout on normal, good days, but now, in the dark, near the ceiling, I was completely lost.
Maria apparently took Erica's order very seriously, as she stopped us dead in our tracks. A moment later I heard the noise of several people, their nervous laughter and we saw the blink of a flashlight. It seemed like this was Toshiro's group, and we were too close to bumping into them.
"We should look somewhere else."
"But what if they know where the ghost is?" Arisu tilted her head. "Maybe we should ask them."
"We most certainly should not," I mumbled.
This is bad. Not only do we have to find this ghost, but also try and not cross paths with this other, human ghost hunting group. Maria rudely interrupted my thinking by grabbing both me and Arisu, dragging us through the wall into the next classroom.
"They would have seen us," Maria hissed.
I sighed. She was right, but still...
"I do wonder where this ghost is..."
"Let's just look around for a bit, shall we?"
We floated behind Maria, who always kept a look out for both the ghost and the other group. It was surprisingly easy to get used to the floating. I wasn't sure if I liked that. What if I forgot how to walk when I was back in my body? Do ghosts feel like this? Is that why they always move so weirdly when they possess people in movies?
"Hey, are those the notes for our test tomorrow?"
I rushed towards Arisu, hunched over the teacher's desk.
Maria tried to pry Arisu away from the documents, but it wasn't like they were helpful. The handwriting was illegible, and even if I squinted, I couldn't make out the notes. And just seeing the questions wouldn't help me. Math made my head spin, even as a ghost.
"There's no ghost here, that's for sure."
Arisu sounded surprisingly serious.
"Right." Maria coughed. "The sooner we find the ghost, the sooner we can return to our bodies."
Arisu beamed at her. So we floated out of the room. It was here, in the hallway, somewhere on the ground floor, that we heard a suspicious sound. It came from the gymnasium, and a weird, white light shone through the cracks between the doors. We glanced at each other.
"It can't be the guys, right?," Maria whispered.
I shook my head and pointed upwards. They should be still two or even three floors above us. Whoever was with us down here was someone we didn't know. The ghost.
"What do we do now?"
I didn't think we would find something - or someone. Maria also looked more spooked than before.
"I don't know."
"We need to fight it."
"What? How do we fight a ghost?"
In Maria's voice was a hint of panic.
Arisu thought about her question for a moment. Then, she raised her hands.
"With our fists."
"What? We're supposed to beat a ghost up?"
This sounded weird. But, honestly, how else were we supposed to fight a ghost? We looked at each other, getting ready to confront our supernatural foe.
"On the count of three. One, two..."
Maria took a deep breath.
With bloodthirsty shrieks, we floated through the doors of the gymnasium, ready to fight. But the only other presence there was the janitor, whistling along to the tune from his headphones. His eyes were half closed, and as I stopped screaming, I wondered if he even was really awake.
"That's it?," I gasped.
We slowly retreated back into the dark. He still didn't notice us.
"I guess our 'ghost' has to be him," maria whispered, looking slightly more relaxed.
Arisu was silent for a moment, before nodding.
"It seems like it. Also, PURIRIN can't detect a ghost's presence anywhere in the school."
We looked at her in shock.
"Wait. Why didn't you check in the beginning?!"
"Sorry. But Maria said..."
She looked genuinely sorry. I nodded, floating up through the ceiling.
"Let's just get back to the others, then. I miss my body."
Thanks to our incorporeal form, we floated quickly up to our club room, where we found Erica and Pudding exactly where we left them. Erica looked up at us, tired.
"Did you find the ghost?"
"There is no ghost. Only the janitor."
Erica shook her head.
"That's fine with me. Can we get our bodies back now, please?"
"Already on it!"
Arisu was doing something with PURIRIN, and with another blinding flash of light, I suddenly felt much heavier. A good kind of heavy. Like I was... real. I blinked, still tired. It felt really good to be back in my body again.
But we didn't have much time to process this change, as the door suddenly was slammed open.
It was one of the boys, a horrified expression on his face. Behind him, his friend crouched, looking over his shoulder. Pudding waved at them, and I tried not to yawn. Finally, it was Erica who said something in the stunned silence.
"Excuse me, this is the astronomy club's meeting. What are you doing here?"
He laughed nervously.
"Wow. Uh. I didn't know that you really use your club as an excuse to nap. Awkward."
It was Maria who rolled her eyes.
"And you get scared of a bunch of half-asleep girls? Really?"
"Hey! That's not..."
Erica crossed her arms, walking over to them.
"Can you and your friends go, please?"
It really felt like she was protecting us.
"Or do I have to report you?"
Thankfully, her presence was enough for them to stumble back.
"Of course not!"
The boy let out a nervous laugh.
"Have a good night, I guess. Oh, Maria? Is that you?"
But Maria refused to answer him, or even really acknowledge his presence. The awkward silence stretched thin, before he waved and finally left with his friends.
Only then did Erica let out a sigh and turn back to Arisu.
"Let's not do that again."