Chapter 24:

Friendship Devil

We Are ☆ Star Club!

I had never celebrated Halloween in my life. And yet here I was, on the last night of October, out in the freezing dark, with tattered clothes, drawn-on stitches on my body and huge, black makeup around my eyes. I really looked like the living dead.

"Where are the others?," Arisu wondered next to me.

I still wasn't sure what her costume was supposed to be. She had done a lot of 'research' with PURIRIN and arrived at something with lots of glitter. It kind of looked like she simply put extra effort in her normal outfit. It was very cute, and the glitter would probably haunt me for months to come, so it was very much appropriate for the night. The wind howled through the empty street we stood on, and I couldn't stop myself from looking around me.

Why are we here?, was the next question I asked myself.

This part of the town was more on the outskirts, with many of the houses abandoned. The only living thing we could see (though it was so dark that I wasn't sure if it really was the only one) was a black crow, poking around the overflowing trashcans. I didn't feel safe here, even if Arisu by my side.

Maria, I answered myself.

Maria was the one who suggested that we should dress up on Halloween and visit a supposedly haunted house. Here we were, without Maria, or even Pudding and Erica, and the old houses around us all looked like they could be haunted. But without Maria guiding us I wouldn't enter any of them. And even if she did appear, I was still not fully convinced.

"Hey!" Maria's voice came from the dark street.

I turned towards her. She waved at us, wearing little red devil horns on her head, and as she smiled, I could even see some fangs in her mouth. A tail, ending in a small red heart, swished behind her. Speaking of the devil. Literally.

"Okay, so we're only waiting for Pudding and Erica now."

I crossed my arms and looked around me, nervously. This wasn't good. Even with Maria around, I was still not relaxing.

"Hey. It's all good."

She put a hand on my shoulder.

"This is going to be fun."

I sighed. She might be right. Maybe I was worrying again. But on the other hand, how could I not? This had to be dangerous. Who knew what lurked in the shadows... maybe a murderer, or some human-sacrificing cult, or even another alien? I looked at Arisu, who seemed a bit tense.

"Hey, are you alright?"

Maybe it was easier to worry about others than myself. Arisu nodded to answer my question, and smiled at me. So it couldn't be that bad. As long as Arisu was her usual self, nothing would be wrong. She looked at Maria, who was staring out into the darkness.

"So, there's a ghost around here?"

Maria turned towards her, and waved her hand.

"Oh, probably not. They say the house is haunted, sure, but I think it's just a rumor. You don't have to worry about that."

"Are you sure?"

Arisu furrowed her brow. Whatever it was about ghosts, she didn't like them.

"I am," Maria answered with a reassuring smile.

That relaxed her a bit, and in turn, helped me relax too. Soon, Erica and Pudding joined us. Erica was dressed in all black, and it took me a moment to distinguish her from the darkness of the night around us.


But when she spoke, I could see little fangs poking out of her mouth. So she was supposed to be a vampire, huh?

"We're here."

Pudding's costume was easy to guess. She had wrapped toilet paper all around her body, held together by pins and rubber bands. Some of the paper was hanging loose. It probably wasn't the best mummy costume, but it was really cute.

"Okay! Now that we're all here..."

Maria clapped her hands together. She certainly was the most excited out of all of us. But I felt like I got caught up in her excitement, and the others smiled at her, too. This would be fun, as long as we were together.

"Follow me."

She turned around while waving, and walked down the street. Next to me, Pudding yawned quietly. A breeze went around us, picking up dead leaves and making me shudder. The sky above us was pitch black, and the stars looked like tiny dust specks. Today, I felt much smaller than usual. No one said a word until Maria stopped in front of one of the houses.

"This is it," she whispered, as if she was telling a ghost story. " Let's see if it's really haunted."

Apparently, she saw that Arisu tensed up again, and patted her shoulder.

"Relax. Nothing is going to happen. We probably won't find anything in there."

Arisu didn't answer, but her hair tightly hugged her. She eyes the entrance door with suspicion. Maria stepped forward and opened the door with a drawn out creak. She looked at us for a second before going inside. It seemed like the house had swallowed her. A low breeze hummed where she had stood before, making the darkness seem all the more dangerous. Suddenly, she poked her head out again into the dim street light, looking disappointed.

"Why does everyone dislike spooky things so much? Not even Ken wanted to go with me on a date here."

I sighed, half relieved, half disappointed. Then, I furrowed my brow.

"Wait, weren't you upset with him because he forgot to bring flowers to your date?"

She crossed her arms, and I saw a fang poke out of her mouth.

"Of course I was! First he promises me flowers, and then completely forgets? On our second date?"

Her words got lost in the darkness behind her. She stomped away from the entrance, stirring up dust and dirt. I coughed, taking a step back. Maria didn't even notice it. But there was something about her words that made me stop.

"Wait, we weren't your first choice for tonight?"

She turned bright red.

"Urgh, it's not like that. I just..."

She was frustrated, and probably didn't know how to express what she wanted to say. Defeated, she let her arms fall down.

"Anyways, I brought some snacks."

She held up a cute basket, decorated with glittering bats and tiny pumpkins. I looked at the others.

"Uwa, maybe we should eat them somewhere else?" Pudding suggested. "Like, anywhere else than this street? I don't wanna get murdered."

Whew. At least I'm not the only one with that thought.


Wow, she's angry. I shrank away from her, not wanting to get a load of her frustration. She brushed past us, stomping down the street.

"We should follow her," Erica whispered.

We certainly didn't want to stay near this creepy house or all the other ones, so we went after our friend with extra motivation. In her costume, she looked both frustrated and adorable.

"I thought this would be fun," she muttered to herself, "I thought we would just have fun!"

I caught up to her. It was clear she wasn't mad at us, just at the circumstances.

"Hey, it's alright," I told her.


Tears were forming in the corners of her eyes, but I didn't comment on that. Instead, I smiled at her.

"Of course we want to spend time with you. It's great that you're so passionate and share that with us. It's just, uh..."

I looked at the others, but they seemed as helpless as I felt. This was more difficult than it should be.

"Maybe, in some points, we are not as passionate about this as you are? Or, at least, I'm not. But that doesn't mean I value you less as a friend. We just have our differences."

The wind tore at my clothes, and I shivered again. It was a wonder that my breath wasn't visible yet, as cold as it was.

"Also, I'm freezing."

"Really? I thought this would be fun for all of us."

She sniffled, looking at us.

"And you still dressed up? For me?"

A smile broke through her tears.

"Of course we did," Erica answered.

By now, Maria couldn't hold back her tears.

"You did this all for me?," she sobbed.

"Ah, don't-"

I rushed towards her so I could comfort her, and the others followed. We ended up in a puddle of tears and smeared makeup, hugging each other close. That way, I finally warmed up. When we stepped back, I had some glitter on my face, and a piece of toilet paper stuck to my shoulder. The others looked similarly mixed up. And we all shared a big, bright smile on our faces.

Maria dabbed her tears away with the corner of her lacy sleeve. She sniffled once more before she spoke.

"Okay, so how about we go back to my house, eat the snacks, and then we can, I don't know, tell each other ghost stories or watch a horror movie?"

"A horror movie?"

Arisu looked at Maria as if she were a ghost herself. Instantly, Maria looked apologetic.

"Ah, we don't have to. Or maybe just one that isn't scary. We can decide that later."

She looked at us all.

"I mean, if you're up for that."

For a moment, no one spoke. Then, the tension inside of me became too much.

"Poor Arisu," I laughed. "I think dressing up was enough for you, huh?"

The others, Arisu included, started to laugh as well. Only Maria remained unsure. I had to take a few deep breaths before I could speak again.

"Well, I can only speak for myself, but that sounds fantastic."

"As long as it isn't too scary," Arisu stressed.

Erica nodded.

"That's fine with me. Your snacks are always delightful, Maria. I look forward to that."

"Yup," Pudding added.

"You girls..."

Maria teared up again, running at us for another group hug. Even though the night was cold, with my friends, I stayed warm, and that fuzzy feeling stayed with me through the whole night. I smiled through the ghost stories and the movie, and even until the sun rose again, welcoming us to a new, cold but sunny day.