Chapter 19:

stage of fools

Our School is Perfectly Ordinary

In the following days, Shun learns about two things.

One, his high school doesn’t even have a proper theatre club, which is disappointing because he wanted to reconnect with his roots. The stage in the gymnasium only serves as a venue for things like the opening ceremony and such, and he is bitterly disappointed to learn about that.

And the second thing he learns is that Miwa starts to act strangely from then onward.

It’s not difficult to put two and two together. Shun is expecting a confession sometime soon, something along the lines of how she, too, harbours secret supernatural powers used to fight evil. If there are two, there could be three. If there are three, it could be half the people in his class.

But he’ll give her the space and time needed to come clean—that is, if she’s ever planning on telling him anything at all. Maybe she’ll try to knock him out instead in an attempt to save herself the trouble just like a certain someone. She might not even do anything at all.

Only time will tell.

Well, he’s good at acting normal even though Miwa ignores him pointedly both at lunch and at cram school. He goes to aikido once a week for a real dose of normal, though he’s starting to realize that martial arts isn’t his actual calling.

And he waits, and he waits, until one day after lunch Miwa sneaks a folded piece of paper onto his desk.

He opens it to find that it contains a simple, handwritten note.

Meet me on the roof after class.

Miwa disappears sometime between the end of class and cleanup, and Shun’s hopes of slipping out unnoticed are dashed as soon as Kaito stands in his way.

“Where do you think you’re going?” the class president asks sternly, shoving a broom into his hands. “Until there isn’t a speck of dust remaining, you are not leaving this classroom, Takeuchi.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Class pres is uptight as usual, isn’t he?” comes Saori’s voice from behind him. Shun stops sweeping and turns around to see the white-haired exorcist with an almost mischievous smile gracing her lips.

“Oh, yeah…”

“He won’t be taken over by a demon again, if that’s what you’re thinking,” she says in a low voice. “I placed wards around his desk after what happened last time. And I haven’t sensed a high-level demon lurking in the school since.”

“That’s a relief,” Shun says. “It’s good that things aren’t too busy for you lately.”

Saori shakes her head. “On the contrary, the school is still swarming with minor demons. As the midterm stress gets to everyone, they grow, proliferate, and strengthen to unimaginable numbers.”

“Oh!” Shun says, glancing around the classroom. “You should’ve asked me to help.”

“Do not worry,” she says serenely. “I’ve been coming to school early to get rid of the infestations before they spread. Which reminds me, I’ve been seeing Hiro on the school grounds…with a broom…” Her voice falters and trails off.

Panicked, Shun’s gaze darts between the broom in his own hands and back to her, and blurts out the first thing he can think of. “Y-yeah! He comes by early to—uh, sweep. Volunteer work.”

“Ah,” Saori says. “How diligent.”

She doesn’t press the matter further, and he hopes the combination of his excuse and Hiro’s powers will keep her from thinking too hard about it.

“If you need to go somewhere, I can cover for you,” she says after a moment, reaching out her gloved hand. “Here, give me your broom.”

Saori doesn’t actually give him a choice, because her fingers close around the handle and she wrenches it roughly from his grip.

“No, you don’t have to,” he protests, but she’s already busying herself with sweeping the debris off the floor.

“I insist,” she says stoutly. “This is my…thanks. For the candy.”

“Oh,” Shun says, a little dazed. “I never got a chance to ask if you enjoyed it. Did you?”

Saori laughs, and the sound is like the high note of a flute. “No. I don’t think I like sweet things after all.”


As soon as Shun leaves the classroom, he heads up the emergency staircase that leads to the roof of the school. He’s not worried, exactly, but he isn’t sure what to expect.

Miwa has always been a breath of fresh air. She’s the only other normal person in the group, and the one who brings everyone together with her bubbly personality. She’s always been like that, ever since primary school.

Shun is well aware that every step up the stairs will take him farther away from the comfortable sense of normal with her that he’s come to appreciate. But he doesn’t mind. Above all else, Miwa is a friend. And nothing at all can change that.

He’s speaking too soon.

The red-haired girl is waiting for him with a giant scythe slung over her shoulder. The weapon is twice as long as Miwa is tall, and the curved, black blade is wickedly sharp in the afternoon sunlight.

Shun freezes mid-step. The door behind him shuts with an ominous thud.

“So you can see it.” Miwa’s voice is disappointed, not in her usual petulant way, but there’s genuine regret in her voice. “Sigh…I really wish you couldn’t.”

“Uh, see what?” Shun asks, forcing himself to meet her gaze with the blandest expression he can muster. He can’t really read her expression through the glare of her glasses, but she doesn’t look happy.

“Takeuchi,” she says, her voice very soft. “You’re a really good person, you know that?”

“W-what brought this on?”

Miwa’s grip tightens around the scythe’s shaft, and Shun flinches when she swings it toward him without a single ounce of hesitation. The metal edge hits the concrete with a resounding clang, screeching to a halt just inches from slicing open his shoe.

“Miwa, you’re scaring me,” Shun says, tripping on his own foot as he stumbles back. “I don’t know what’s going on.”

“If you stay still, it will be painless,” she says evenly. Shun scrambles out of the way, crawling on the ground on his hands and knees. Terror, confusion, and adrenaline pumps through his veins, screaming at him to get out of there.

“Listen,” he says shakily, as the shadow of Miwa’s huge scythe looms over him. “Don’t you think that maybe you’re being completely unreasonable—”

She brings the blade down, smashing it into the ground where he was just moments before he manages to roll out of the way. Shun can hear the thudding of his heartbeat echoing in his ears. There’s an iron tang of blood in his mouth from where he bit the edge of his tongue.

“Are you actually trying to kill me?” he chokes. This isn’t how it’s supposed to go. He doesn’t even know her secret. He hasn’t shown any signs of figuring it out, up until she brought out that giant black scythe she’s currently trying to maul him with.

He still doesn’t even know what she is, but whatever it is, she’s dangerous.

“Takeuchi,” Miwa says in a soft, pleading voice as she raises her oversized weapon again. “I will send you across the Sanzu River safely, so please stop resisting.”

“Without explaining yourself first?!”

“Huh? What is there to explain?”

In a blur of movement too fast for Shun’s eyes to follow, Miwa swings her blade ruthlessly toward his neck, and the last thing he remembers is her wide, sea-green eyes brimming with guilt.

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