I Accidentally Killed The Protagonist
The sun had set on the first day of Shintaro's journey. There was much to learn, and much was still at stake. We could not let trivial matters intrude.
Today we would begin the first of many trials, the protagonist-worthy school life that awaited Shintaro was unlike any other.
So much excitement awai- WHAT!?
"Nare... there's a small, flat flying beast in my room. It is disturbing."
I was lying awake, or at least awake now after my eyes had flung open, sleeping under Shintaro's kotatsu as he was using his bedroom and I had little other option. I had planned to rest plenty for the next day, and wrap up by addressing the audience to rouse their spirits for what was to come, but right now, Shintaro had entered the living area of his apartment and was sitting on top of the kotatsu table, calling out my name.
"A what?" I mumbled, shuffling out from under the kotatsu and struggling to lean up to talk to him. "Look, I'm sure it's nothing. I'll come and get rid of it for you."
"I-Is it an intruder? Another alien species, perhaps? A rival?" He jittered about, and I held the table still.
"No, it's probably just an insect," I groaned, rising to my feet and rubbing my eyes. The digital clock read 5 am.
I launched his door open and turned on the light. As far as I could see, there was nothing there, and I even made sure to inspect under the furniture and around his bed to put him at ease. He snuck up behind me and clutched my shoulder, leading me to swat his hands away.
"There's nothing here. Go back to bed."
"But there was, there definitely was," he insisted.
"And where was it?"
A light flickering sound reverberated from nearby, behind where I had opened the door.
"Well, it was..." he glanced around until something in front caught his eye. "Oh, there it is!"
"Huh... oh, it's just a..."
Something was on my chest, where Shintaro was now pointing. Something shiny. And black. With two long, spindly antennae...
"What should I do? Nare? Nare? Did you go back to sleep? Your body is cold, please respond. How should I deal with the intruder?"
And so, a few hours and a can of bug spray purchased from the convenience store at 7 am later, we could safely resume the story. Apologies for any inconvenience.
"This feels kinda wrong. Just, yknow, go and talk to him."
Yuuna's head was peeking around the corner of a wall in the school hallway. Another head, Tsugumi's, popped up beside her.
"Go and talk to him? Uh... I mean, I don't know about that. This is Shintaro we're talking about. What if he thinks I'm..."
"Weird?" Yuuna cut in. "After what I've seen recently, you have nothing to worry about there."
"...Alright, if doing it this way is really what you think will work then I'll give it a go. If there's one thing I'll accept it's that when I go with what you say, it usually works out."
"That's... not 100% true but thank you anyway."
"Then we'll make them work out anyway. Anything less than 100% and I'll just make up the rest with sheer goddamn willpower," roused Yuuna, who was promptly yet softly yanked back behind the wall.
"Look, here he comes," whispered Tsugumi.
Shintaro and Shigenori stroll down the hallway together, talking. Talking might be a strong word, since Shintaro was doing none of the speaking, and Shigenori's actions consisted not just of mouth movements but also a lot of arm and hand actions as well. Not to worry though, even though I'm narrating for these two, I'm keeping an eye on him. I've dealt with multiple perspectives before, no problem.
"Oh... he's with Shigenori..." sighed Tsugumi.
"Shigenori, huh..." sighed Yuuna, dejected.
Is there an echo in here?
Shigenori, somehow not sneezing a hundred or so times in reaction to everything that was going on in secret just around the corner from him, halted in the hallway and turned toward Shintaro.
"It is time," he announced
"Time?" Shintaro wondered, reaching for his phone as if to check, only to be interrupted.
"Time to present the evidence to the Occult Club, of course. Did you think that would be nothing more than an establishing moment? No, this is still of dire importance, and at the start of the year, currying favour with a club is the wisest decision. I would ask that you accompany me on this endeavour, as well, as my trusted aide."
Yuuna and Tsugumi shuffled along the wall to hear the conversation.
"The Occult Club? Is that even still running anymore?" asked Yuuna.
"I recall it had a decent turnout last year. Well, decent for a club of that nature..." replied Tsugumi.
Arriving at the door just beside them, Shigenori gestured to it with open arms. Plastered on it was a crudely taped paper sign that read 'Occult Club - Meetings on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays' in scrawled, faux-graphic handwriting, with some purple lines added with a pen as if to make it look more ominous. The actual sign, which jutted out from above the door, showed that on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, this was a teaching supply storage room, although at the end of that sign someone had stuck a small sticker of a crystal ball as well.
"Our future haven awaits," uttered Shigenori, and he tapped his schoolbag, which, upon closer inspection, showed the alien pictures from earlier peeking out from inside.
Well, this can only go well...
Shigenori stepped up and gave the door a knock. For a short while, there was no response, but after a faint rustling inside, a voice could be heard.
Shigenori waited at the door, and then cleared his throat, a thin veneer of blush creeping up his cheeks.
"Sh-Shintaro, if you please."
Shintaro walked up to the door and pushed on it, but nothing happened. He continued to do it for a bit, the wood shaking until I gave up and decided to spare him any further trouble.
(This one slides. Try moving it to the right.)
("...Humans need to reconsider this 'door' technology. I will make a note for that to be the first alteration I suggest to their society after their subjugation,") Shintaro communicated to me as the door rumbled open. Shigenori's face was, at this point, bright red, although he did his best to compose himself as the room can into view.
The room was predominantly unchanged from how you would expect a teaching supply storage room to look, with shelving against one wall, a decently large window at the back behind a desk, and various cardboard boxes stacked against the corners. This, however, was not enough to hide the alterations that had been made, such as the purple blanket strewn over the desk, the various occult posters pinned to the wall with novelty alien and ghost pins, and the main centrepiece: a series of glass trinkets suspended from the ceiling by string taking various shapes, such as a star, a moon, a lion's head, and two different wizardly-looking men, one with a beard and another with a tall, priestly hat. There were also signs that other items have previously inhabited the room, as some areas were dustier than others.
"Oh... who might you be?"
There was a girl sitting behind the blanket-draped desk, leaning the chair against the wall, her legs crossed and one foot pressed against the corner of the furniture. The deep, low beams of evening sunlight struck the back of her head, plastering a heavy silhouette where her face would be.
"U-Uh, this is... I am... Shigenori Oohaka, from class 2-B." He then turned to Shintaro, who seemed to be mimicking the way that Shigenori was nervously playing with his fingers.
"Sh...Shintaro? Also Class Two Bee."
Might need to quiz him on things like his name and class. Anyone with actual importance might be bothered by it if he doesn't remember...
The girl pivots on her seat and hops onto her feet, walking over to the two of them. When she approached, she continued going past where I expected her to stop and leaned in close, her eyes squinted and nose twitching. She began to circle around both Shintaro and Shigenori, darting her head side to side as if inspecting them. Shintaro, naturally, was tense at this moment.
("Sh-Should I be worried? This human seems especially perceptive...")
(No, you're fine. I thought so at first, too. But something about the way she's looking at you doesn't make me think she's found anything out. Especially since she's doing the same thing to Shigenori and not providing you with any special attention.)
Shigenori had averted his gaze and drawn in his shoulders, and a shiver surged along his spine when the girl sniffed his neck. She then moved back over to Shintaro and, now disturbingly within viewing range, the girl's eccentric appearance was unmistakable. She wore the typical black-and-red female sailor uniform of the school, but underneath she wore wraps all the way up her neck and a choker around that, with a crescent moon-shaped charm attached. Her most defining feature, at least from a human perspective, was her hair: dyed grape purple, cascading down her back and edged in jagged curves, even gravity incapable of keeping the errant sprigs of hair in check. Her bangs glided over her left eye, every so often shifting aside as she tilted her head.
("Those wrappings... ah... I see...")
(Don't get any ideas. I admit... I wouldn't be surprised if a girl like this was an alien, but, I think she's just eccentric.)
("So she's not disguised like me?")
(No. At least, I think not. It's probably just for aesthetic purposes.)
("Ah... wait, but isn't that impractical?")
(You're telling me. I'm from here and I have no better understanding of it. Maybe I'm just getting old.)
Appearing satisfied, the girl steps back. "You two seem safe. What brings you here?" She turns to address Shintaro.
"You look like you have something you want to tell me. It's written all over your face."
"It's... written on my face? Where? Oh no, how did it get there?" Shintaro sputtered, patting his face down with his fingers.
(Calm down, it's just a saying... weren't you just worried a second ago about giving yourself away?)
He stopped, his fingers mushed against his cheeks, staring back at the girl. She replied with a blank gaze of her own but before long she snickered.
"If it's that obvious then you better tell me. Unless there's an actual phenomenon where letters are appearing on your face. Then you came to the right place."
"Actually," Shigenori interjected, reaching for his bag. "I have something I would like to show you." He pulled the alien photos from inside and proudly placed them on the table.
"I hope this will go some way to allowing me, and my compatriot here, entry to the club."
I guess Shintaro doesn't get a say in this, huh?
"Ah, pictorial evidence, you came prepared I see," she said, perusing the photos. "Too bad they're all fake."
"Fake? F...Fake? What do you mean?" Shigenori replied in a growing exasperation, any anxiety he had starting to melt away.
"Well, admittedly I don't want to rush to dismiss any evidence, but... I don't know. It's shoddy."
"Shoddy," echoed Shigenori.
"The age of low-quality alien photography is over. If it were a ghost then I'd be a little more forgiving, but..."
"That's right. We... I actually have some sound recordings and photos in the club storage. For members only, though."
"Evidence of ghosts... oh my. That is... absolutely outrageous."
"You cannot be serious, surely. How on earth could you believe that ghosts exist? The number of holes in the idea alone, let alone the practical execution of their existence, simply could not allow it. Any evidence is nothing more than tricks of the light or glitches. The kind of phenomena visible in alien evidence is at least believable on a scientific level. Ghosts are just fairytales."
I'm. Right. Here.
"Well funnily enough I don't care what you think. Ghosts are cool," the girl responded, sticking her tongue out. "And you know what isn't cool? Shoddy pictures of aliens. If you want to join this club, then we shall consult the fates themselves to see if someone with such shoddy evidence is destined to be here."
Shigenori, despite his qualms with her a moment ago, was at least excited to see the fortune telling.
"Ah... this is the deeply personal spiritual experience I was waiting for. This must be the first step in my initiation. I wonder what elaborate and esoteric method will be the first to test me?"
"Hai, omikuji desu~"
The girl slammed an omikuji box on the table.
"We're... drawing from lots?"
"We? No, just you."
"Well, it is still fortune telling..." Shigenori lamented, reaching for the box. However, the girl pulled it away, waggling her finger at him. She then pointed at the coin slot.
"But, this isn't a shrine."
"It's still an omikuji. What, do you think fortune telling is charity?"
Defeated, Shigenori reaches into his wallet and deposits a 5 yen coin into the slot. In return, the girl pulls out a lot for him and passes it over. Shigenori then reads it aloud from the paper.
"...Future Small Blessing, Wish."
"Ah... future, huh? Future, is it? Well, then I suppose you'll have to try again another day," she waved her hand as she said this. "Ah, since you're here, how about you take one too, Shintaro?"
Shintaro looks to me for approval and I nod, and he takes a lot.
"How come he doesn't have to pay?" asks Shigenori, but the girl ignores him, waiting for the results of the fortune.
Wait, can Shintaro actually read? Oh no.
Proving my theory, Shintaro stared blankly at the piece of paper. Realising that telling him the meaning of the words here might waste time, I instead, for some reason probably inspired by a moment of worry, did my best Shintaro impression and spoke it aloud but quietly to the girl.
"Half-blessing. A person awaited."
I should consider myself lucky that this girl has only just met Shintaro today and thus has no idea how he normally sounds. Shintaro caught on and nodded along for a bit longer than necessary to drive the point home.
"Oh? Well, then maybe we have some more members on the way. And that might be..." she presses her thumbs against her temples before swinging out her arm and pointing through the still-open door, "...those two over there!"
Shintaro and Shigenori could not see them from the door, and I'm certain the girl also had no way of seeing either, but in response, there were two squeaks from outside and the scrambling of feet against the linoleum flooring of the hallway. Tsugumi and Yuuna, appearing rather guilty, wandered toward the door.
"This surely must have been preordained. Please, come in."
She's certainly changed her tune.
"Uh..." Yuuna hesitated. "This place isn't really my kinda scene..." Tsugumi nudged her from behind, already having located Shintaro in the room. Yuuna soon understood.
"B-But it is pretty sweet, I guess," she said, wandering inside and prodding at the ceiling decorations, which spun lazily in response. Tsugumi also joined her, but shuffled inside, taking gentle steps and averting Shintaro's gaze with a blush.
"I'm glad you think so. It's been the clubroom of the Occult Club ever since its founding, and what a storied history it has been."
"How long ago was that?" asked Tsugumi, no doubt to distract herself from Shintaro's presence.
"Two years ago."
"So, you're the boss around here?" questioned Yuuna.
"I'm the president, yep."
"What's your name? I've seen you around before."
"Fushigi Genmyou, from Class 2-D. And yourself?"
"Yuuna Butou. 2-B." Yuuna then leaned in toward Tsugumi and whispered something to her: "Fushigi... Genmyou? Is this chick serious? There's no way that's her real name."
"Well... it could be a coincidence. They're both valid names."
"Even then, which one is her first name and which one is her surname?"
"I think we're looking too much into this..."
"Y'know, I'd have called her Fushigi even if I didn't know her name."
"So, have you two decided?" Fushigi interrupted. Yuuna had already taken a seat on one of the other chairs and was laying her feet on the table.
"If you want to join."
"If you join, I'll let you have drinks and snacks and do whatever else. You don't even have to participate in the occult activity."
At this point, Shigenori was pretty devastated.
"That seems like a pretty decent deal to me. And that works out well for both of us, right Tsugumin?"
Tsugumi nodded, sat on the seat nearest to Shintaro and was unable to compose herself, despite the fact that right now he looked about as focused as a pondweed floating on the water's surface.
"Then it's agreed?"
"Seems like it. We might not be able to make it for every session, but if you leave the door open for us, we'll come along when we have time."
"The most I can ask for, really."
"Excuse me," said Tsugumi. "Has Shintaro's entry to the club been confirmed? I would say that is a condition of me joining as well."
"Not yet. I didn't even know he was interested. Why?"
"Well... I was... just curious. Since he was already here. I think he, well, he might be willing to contribute to the occult activities you mentioned. Having more club members that actively participate would be beneficial, correct?"
"That is true. Do you approve of that, Shintaro?"
"Y...Yes! I would like to learn more about these... aliens. Such mysterious creatures. I imagine no human could ever imagine encountering one."
Yeah no need to oversell it, Billy Mays.
"Then it's settled. All sign your names here."
She passed us a piece of paper. Yuuna and Tsugumi signed and, before I had time to intervene, Shintaro had signed as well. He hadn't told me or shown me what his native language's written form looked like, but anything could pass as Japanese if you gave the excuse of poor handwriting, which this did happen to resemble. And with that, the rather shoddy assembly of the Jinchuu High School Occult Club came to pass.