Divergent Magical Yuko
Those were the first words to escape the lips of Yuko Maeda as she opened the curtains on the window of her dorm room. The shining rays of the morning sun beamed into her small, but tidy living space. Yes, it was an ordinary, beautiful sunny day.
The date was Monday, April 24th. Following her usual morning routine, Yuko got dressed, prepared all of her materials for school, and left the room. Downstairs in the lobby, students gathered, chatting amongst themselves and preparing for the day ahead. Yuko passed through towards the dining area in the back. There, members of the cooking club, along with the usual dorm staff were all preparing and serving simple breakfast foods for the other students.
“Yuko, over here!”
A familiar voice rang out among the students, and Yuko caught sight of her good friend Chisa Ando.
“Chisa! Good morning.” Yuko cheerfully replied, waving her hand.
The two friends quickly got together and lined up for breakfast. Both Japanese and Western sets were being served, although both were relatively light and simple meals.
“I’m starving, Yuko! I accidentally skipped dinner last night because I was too caught up in cramming for the test today!” Chisa cried, clinging to Yuko.
“There, there. I’m sure everything will be fine! Both your stomach and the test, haha.”
“Easy for you to say! Mr. Taniguchi is so intimidating, I’m scared to see what his tests are like!”
Yuko smiled wryly in response to Chisa’s overdramatic flailing. Before long, the two grabbed breakfast, and headed to a table. Time was ticking down, so they ate quickly.
“I’m alive again! Ahh, breakfast has been so good since we started high school…” Chisa said, wearing a satisfied expression.
“The cooking club does great work. I can’t imagine having to get up so early to make breakfast every day, on top of all the practice they have to do after school.” Yuko replied.
“Well I’ve heard from some friends that the breakfast and dinner runs are usually done in shifts. The cooking club is pretty large, so there’s a lot of wiggle room, and generally each member only has to work breakfast, lunch, or dinner once or twice a week.”
“That’s impressive. They sound pretty well-organized.”
The two girls chatted for just a bit more, before hurrying out the door to get to school. Outside, the spring breeze caused petals to dance in the air, fresh from the nearby cherry blossom trees. It was the end of April, so the blossoming pink trees would soon give way to a lush green as the season heated up. Perhaps symbolic of the way the new first-years would be settling in to their new routines at the high school section of Starlight Academy’s eastern branch.
The high school’s main building was located just down the street from said high school’s student dormitory, so the commute was relatively short, but Yuko and Chisa were still cutting it close. The two dashed into the school, swapped their outdoor shoes for their indoor shoes, and hurried on towards classroom 1-B.
“Hey, no running in the halls, you two!” a nearby teacher scolded.
“Oops, busted.” grinned Chisa.
“Jeez, I was just trying to keep up with you…” Yuko pouted at her friend.
Moments later, they both made it into the classroom just before the clock hit 8 and the bell tolls.
“Safe!” an excited Chisa exclaimed, her arms spread wide.
“Best to get to your seat then, Ms. Ando.” A gentle voice murmured from behind the two girls.
“Ah, Ms. Yamagata…!” a frozen Chisa responded, before awkwardly walking to her desk.
Yuko could only smile wryly and scratch the back of her head.
“Sorry Ms. Yamagata. We’ll try to be more timely.” Yuko apologized.
“It’s no trouble at all, dear. All I ask is you don’t make a habit of coming late.” the teacher replied with a motherly smile.
After Yuko and the rest of the class took their seats, another ordinary day of class began. As the homeroom teacher went over the morning news and outline of the day’s events, Yuko only half-listened, gazing out of the window beside her seat at the blue sky outside. As she watched the clouds pass by, she pondered about her current living situation.
Starlight Academy is a large-scale institution with the goal of taking in youths with nowhere to go, and raising them into successful adults. To achieve this goal, the academy has cut off almost all contact with the outside world, instead opting to maintain its own internal communities. Only once a student graduates are they able to enter the society of the outside world. This is the world Yuko has grown up in, and now that she’s entered high school, she only has 3 years left as a student at this academy.
“Ms. Maeda, were you listening?”
“Huh? Oh, uh… Sorry, I didn’t hear that.” Yuko bowed apologetically.
“Goodness. Please be sure to pay attention. Some of this is important.” A frowning Yamagata responded.
“As I was saying,” the teacher continued, “Remember that dorm curfews of 8PM are now being strictly enforced for the whole district. Reports of injuries caused by wild animals coming down from the mountain have been reported lately, so please be careful when you’re outside, everyone!”
The eastern district of Starlight Academy is located at the foot of a large mountain. The district has the appearance of a small town surrounded by nature. There are several parks, and even a large pond. Yuko smiles thinking about all the tranquil locales, feeling thankful that she ended up attending middle & high school here in this district.
“Teacher!” a boy on the other side of the classroom raised his hand.
“My job at the convenience store goes ‘til closing, so I don’t know if I’d be able to abide the 8PM curfew.”
“Don’t worry, the student council is already meeting with all the clubs and businesses to arrange schedules that work for the current situation. I have heard that most shops will start closing early to accommodate, but please talk to your store’s manager, and the student council, to know the full details of your situation.” Yamagata replied.
“Okay, thanks ma’am.” the boy bowed.
While each unique district of Starlight Academy has its own theme, the eastern district is focused around the self-productivity of its students. The school itself is the central hub of authority, and other clubs and businesses all work in tandem to maintain this small student-run society on-campus. Because each district of the school maintains their own approach, contact between the different districts is also limited, similarly to how contact with the outside is cut off.
After wrapping up all the morning news and answering any questions, the young teacher Mariko Yamagata began her lecture on literature, the primary subject she teaches. Due to the district’s philosophy on student self-sufficiency, there are relatively few adults living within the district. The adults in the area primarily consist of the teaching faculty, as well as various specialty workers who help various aspects of the district run smoothly.
For Yuko Maeda, this unorthodox academy is the place she calls home.
“It’s over… I’m doomed!”
While grabbing her shoes from her locker, Yuko glanced over at the gloomy doom-saying Chisa.
“I even did some extra cramming at lunch, but of course, that damn Mr. Taniguchi and his ridiculous math test… I can’t wrap my head around such huge numbers being thrown into those ridiculous equations!”
“I take it the test didn’t go so well for you…” Yuko smiled pensively.
It was now after school, and the multitude of students were either leaving the campus or heading to club rooms. Yuko and Chisa stood at their shoe lockers, reflecting on the day they had.
“There’s no way I scored well… Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll just barely pass, but…” Chisa cried, clinging to Yuko’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry, the year’s just started! It was only the first test, so I’m sure if you work hard, the next ones should be no problem!” Yuko encouraged.
“You’re right… I just gotta keep at it!” Chisa pumped her fist in the air. “Today, I’m going all out with my acting to shake off this cloud of gloom!”
“That’s the spirit!” Yuko smiled.
Chisa was a member of the theater club. Every day after school she’d be working with other students to learn and perfect the craft of acting. Not only that, the theater club was the prime place for students to be scouted by members of other clubs, such as the film club, or the school magazine.
The two friends made their way outside and parted ways at the school gates.
“I’m off to the theater. See you tomorrow!” Chisa waved.
“Yeah, see you tomorrow!” Yuko waved back, with a smile.
With that, Yuko departed for her job at a nearby café. Located a little ways away from the dorm and main school building, the café was deep in the midst of what can be called a sort of business area. A number of small shops gathered in this part of the district, all connected by the grand square in the center, noted for its elegant fountain. Maintaining such an appealing shopping square was one of the prides of the eastern district.
A small bell chimed as Yuko walked through the café’s entryway.
“Welcome! …Ah, Yuko!” a bald student with sunglasses stood behind the counter, welcoming Yuko.
“You made great time today. The first wave of customers should be here any minute, so go ahead and clock in and start prepping the tables.” The bald café manager ordered.
With that, Yuko briskly headed to the changing room in the back of the cafe. After opening her locker, Yuko began to undress, removing her school uniform and switching into the café’s uniform. Rather than the formal business-like school uniform she’d been wearing before, now she sported a trendy polo shirt, with a pleated skirt and stylish apron. After putting a small visor on her head, she looked in the nearby mirror and smiled.
After putting her stuff away, Yuko left the changing room and quickly began taking care of her duties in a timely manner. Since the café opens only 15 minutes after school ends, the first rush of customers comes pretty early in the day. Usually students who have clubs or jobs that start a bit later come by to relax after class. Others come to order refreshments to take back to their clubmates. Basically, for Yuko, the café is always busiest right when she gets on the clock.
“Boss! Sorry I’m late!”
“Hey Boss, I’m ready to go.”
Although Yuko arrived first, the other handful of employees quickly followed, and before long everyone got the shop cleaned up and ready for the crowd. In the midst of this, Yuko has already gone to the back to get started on food & drink prep, but…
“Hrrng…! It’s so… high up…!”
Given her short stature, Yuko struggled to reach the items on the higher shelves. Regardless, she still tried her best to help where she could.
As she reached up, almost grabbing the container of coffee beans, her finger slips and pushes it from the high shelf.
Flailing around, Yuko tries to grab the falling object, but trips over herself and falls backwards
Expecting to fall on her butt, Yuko was surprised when she found herself caught by someone.
“You okay there, Maeda?”
Realizing who it was upon hearing his voice, and recognizing that she lay comfortably on his chest, Yuko found her face turning beat red in embarrassment. She had found herself embraced by Tanabe Murakami, a handsome 2nd-Year upperclassman, and also the boy Yuko had found herself having a bit of a crush on lately.
“T-T-Tanabe, I mean, Murakami!! I’m so sorry for my clumsiness!” exclaimed the flustered Yuko, as she quickly jumped away from their brief embrace.
“It’s no trouble at all. Here, you were trying to grab this, right?” Tanabe smiled, offering the coffee beans, which he’d also managed to catch.
“Y-yes of course, thank you so much!” squeaked a timid Yuko, as she hesitantly took the container from him.
After an awkward moment’s silence between the two, suddenly they heard Boss’ voice come from the front of the shop.
“Okay everyone, people are already lined up outside, so we’re gonna open! Start getting the coffee going, and someone come get people seated, I’ll man the register today!”
“Y-yes sir!” The two snapped out of their own little world and replied eagerly, alongside the other employees.
“Well, I’ll head out front. Good luck today, Maeda.” said Tanabe, with a thumbs-up.
“Yes, you too!” Yuko responded.
With that, everyone got to work, and the café became as busy as ever. Yuko ran back and forth trying to keep up with everything she had to do. It was perhaps just a bit more hectic than usual.
Before long, as afternoon passed into evening, the crowds at the café slowly died down, and Yuko and the rest of the staff were able to take a bit of a breather. Outside the window, a bright orange hue spread across the sky as the sun set on the horizon. The day was winding down.
“Hey everyone, you’ve probably heard by now, but we’re going to have to close up early tonight. The new curfew means we all gotta get back to the dorms by 8.” the Boss announced to the employees.
“Another busy day comes to a close.” said Tanabe, yawning beside Yuko.
“Yeah, jumping right into work over here as soon as school lets out sure can get tiring, haha.” Yuko replied.
Soon, as the customers dwindled further, the employees started putting things away. In the midst of the cleanup, Yuko noticed Boss on the phone.
“Seriously? Asking for a delivery this late in the day, with the new curfew and all…” he muttered, glancing at the clock. “Right, right… Okay, I’ll see what I can do.”
The Boss hung up the phone and sighed.
“What’s going on, Boss?” Yuko inquired.
“Eh, the library club ordered some stuff to be sent their way. It seems some classes are going to be doing a project over there tomorrow morning and they wanted some stuff sent over so they can prepare refreshments in the morning.”
Yuko glanced at the clock, realizing it’s only 30 minutes until curfew.
“It’ll be cutting it close if we have to make the delivery tonight…”
“Yeah, exactly…” agreed the Boss, “You’ve always been pretty fast getting stuff delivered Yuko, do you think you can make it in time? I should go myself, but I gotta wrap things up here…”
Yuko thought about it for a moment.
“Sure thing, I’ll handle it, Boss! I have a friend in the library club anyway.” Yuko replied, earnestly.
“Great! I’ll get the items ready, so you go ahead and clock out. Once you make the delivery, try to get back to the dorm by curfew. If you get into any trouble, I’ll take responsibility!”
Thus, the two quickly got to work, the Boss prepared the order as quickly as he could while Yuko headed back to the dressing room to change back into her school uniform and grab her stuff. On her way out, Yuko took the box from the Boss and headed to the front. As Yuko approached the door to leave, Tanabe took notice.
“You’re making a delivery this late, Maeda?”
“Yeah! It’s a last-minute thing, so I’m gonna head straight home afterwards. Have a good night, Murakami!” Yuko smiled.
“Alright, be careful!” Tanabe waved.
With that, Yuko departed.
By the time she reached the large library building, the sun had almost completely set on the horizon, and the 8PM curfew was minutes away. As she approached, several library club members were sprinting towards the dormitory in a rush.
“As expected of such a sudden curfew... Nobody’s used to this schedule yet.” Yuko muttered as she reached the entryway.
“A-ah… Yuko…!” a timid voice echoed from within.
“So you are here after all, Yukina!” a cheerful Yuko exclaimed.
A small girl with flowing violet hair stood within the library. This was Yukina Watanabe, a close friend of Yuko’s.
“Y-yeah…” Yukina blushed.
“Ever since we started high school, I feel like I haven’t seen you around at all. It’s a shame you didn't end up in the same class as Chisa and I. But I knew you’d join the library club!” Yuko smiled, holding Yukina’s hand.
“Y-yeah, I-I’m… assistant manager… I organize… all the books.” Yukina whispered in response, smiling.
A very pretty yet introverted girl, perhaps relieved that she wasn’t forgotten by her friend. This was the image Yuko had of Yukina upon this reunion. It’d been a hectic month of getting used to their new high school routines, so being in different classes kept them both separated for a while by happenstance.
“So you… work at that… café.” Yukina took note of the box Yuko carried.
“Yeah, that’s right. I started there just the other week, but it’s been going well!” Yuko relayed while handing over the box.
“I’ll take… to the head manager.”
“Right! Since we’re apparently short on time, I’ll head off now. You all should be quick too!”
“Yes… Take care.” Yukina bowed.
Yuko waved back to her friend, before heading back the way she came.
“Phew… I’m glad she was there… I’d been meaning to get back in touch with her.” Yuko smiled while staring up at the starry sky.
As she walked along the path, a simple chime resounded throughout the area. Glancing at a nearby clock by some benches, Yuko realized that it was now 8PM. She’d officially broken curfew.
“Well, darn…” she sighed.
Honestly, Yuko always tried to follow the rules set by the school, but she felt this sudden curfew was a little ridiculous. Granted, she didn’t pay much attention to the recent reports of wild animals roaming the district, but she couldn’t imagine anything that bad could be lurking around these streets. Apparently a handful of students had been injured, but it wasn’t so big a talking point that she’d heard much gossip about it before today, when the sudden curfew caused a bit of a commotion throughout the school day.
“Hmm… I’m late anyway, so I might as well enjoy a nice walk.” Yuko said to herself, enjoying the cool night’s breeze, a perfect complement to the somewhat warm spring weather.
She’d found herself by the stairway leading down to the park surrounding the Rigel pond. Deciding it’d be more fun than walking the usual paths, she decided to take a detour through the park.
While the main roads closer to the buildings still saw several students desperately trying to race back to the dorms, strangely, the park was totally deserted.
“I guess no one else wanted to cut through here, huh. Ah well, I get the park all to myself tonight, heehee.” Yuko smirked as she strolled through the dim walkways in the park, lit only by a handful of streetlamps.
After making her way through the slightly eerie paths, hearing nothing but gusts of wind and the rustling of leaves and bushes, she eventually reached the pond. There, a breathtaking sight awaited her.
Spread out before Yuko, was the gorgeous sight of the Rigel pond reflecting the bright, starry sky and the large, round moon. Stunned by this image, Yuko couldn’t help but feel that the lake looked as if it were glowing.
“Amazing… I’ve never been to the park this late at night before. I had no idea the pond could be this beautiful.” Yuko thought aloud as she paced along the edge of the pond.
Soon, Yuko took a seat at a nearby bench and just watched the lake.
“I’ve already lived here in this district for three whole years… To think that something this beautiful was right under my nose all along.”
Of course, Yuko knew that this likely wasn’t a regular occurrence. It was merely chance that the full moon was so bright on a clear night like this, at the perfect time of night to reflect off the pond. But still, the experience moved her. She leaned back on the bench, closed her eyes and smiled.
“Living here… It really is nice.”
Yuko smiled, settling in to her relaxed posture. Before long… she dozed off just a bit. Meanwhile, just a short distance away… some bushes in the park rustled violently.
“… Wha-, huh?!”
Yuko suddenly shot awake.
“Oh gosh… Did I fall asleep? How long was I out…?”
Panicked, she glanced around the park for a clock, before spotting one a ways away. She squinted to read the time.
“It’s almost nine already… I really messed up.”
She figured being 10 to 20 minutes late wouldn’t be an issue, but arriving over an hour later than curfew will probably cause some issues.
“Sorry, Boss…” Yuko whispered, frustrated with herself.
As soon as she stood up and turned to leave, Yuko was hit by a sudden dizziness.
“H-huh…? Agh, my head…”
As she held her head, Yuko began to hear some rustling in some nearby bushes. It was loud, and very close by. Rather than simple rustling, it was more like heavy footsteps trampling through the shrubbery, tearing it apart.
Still struggling to get a grip on her headache, Yuko looked in the direction of the sound, and there she saw a large wolf-like animal stepping out from the bushes.
“Grrr…” the beast growled, thick saliva dripping from its mouth.
“No way… what kind of animal, even is this…?” Yuko trembled, backing away. “Is this what the curfew was about…?”
The blatantly aggressive beast in front of her caused Yuko to tense up in fear. If it were a normal animal, she’d probably still be cautious and move carefully, but this is something she’d never even heard of. It looked wolf-like, but its fur was very sharp, reflecting the light from the sky and pond. Its eyes were a beaming red, and looked to almost be glowing. Its claws dug into the earth beneath it, and most bizarrely of all, a purple gem was lodged deep into the animal’s forehead. Yuko struggled to process what she was seeing, due both in part to her sudden headache, as well as the surreal nature of seeing some animal with an appearance straight out of a fantasy novel.
Run… run away… I’ve got to run.
Those were the thoughts racing thought Yuko’s mind as the truth of her situation set in. The ferocious appearance of the beast wasn’t the only thing causing this deep sense of dread to boil up within Yuko, as she also subconsciously understood that the heavy pressure surrounding her whole body was likely a cause of her headache.
My head… somehow, it’s hurting because of that thing…!
As the realization dawned on Yuko, she put all her strength into her legs, and quickly tried turning around to sprint away, but…
“Graah!!” the beast bolted forward in an instant, sinking its fangs into Yuko’s right arm.
“GYAAAAAH!!” Yuko screamed as she tumbled to the ground, overcome with unbelievable anguish from the fangs piercing her flesh.
In a frenzy, Yuko started kicking over and over with her legs, eventually managing to push the beast aside, before rolling and stumbling her way to her feet and dashing away, grasping the wound on her arm as tight as she could.
Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no, it hurts, it hurts, it hurts, IT HUUURTS!!
Yuko’s mind was in chaos as she struggled to run away with all her might. The beast was undeterred, and leapt forward again, baring its sharp claws.
Noticing its movement, Yuko suddenly yanked her body to the right to avoid the claws, just barely escaping being pierced by them, as they instead shredded the back of her uniform’s jacket and her skirt. Despite the successful dodge, Yuko’s body tumbled on the ground. Unable to regain her footing, the beast quickly turned around and jumped to its prey. Yuko now remained pinned to the ground by the ravenous beast.
Yuko’s face was a mess with tears and snot, her whole body trembled in fear, and her headache was splitting.
“Don’t hurt me… I don’t want to die… Please… leave me alone…!” she cried in a hoarse voice.
But… her words didn’t reach the beast.
Just as the creature opened its gaping maw to take a bite… something in Yuko’s head clicked.
Her headache faded, her head went numb… And she lost consciousness.
Yuko quickly sat up, drenched in sweat.
As soon as she’d gained awareness again, her head began to hurt once more.
“Arrrgh…! My head…”
Yuko looked around. She was in her own bed, in her dorm room.
“Huh…? Was it… a dream?”
Confusion clouded Yuko’s mind as her head continued to pulse. After a moment, she glanced at her bedside clock.
“Oh no… I’m late… School’s starting… soon…”
Sluggish, Yuko crawled out of bed. Her mind was a mess, so she just focused on what she had to do. It was morning, and it was almost time for school. It took everything she had to just register this information in her mind. She looked down and realized she was already wearing her uniform, so she just grabbed her school bag and limped out of the dorm room.
“That damn nightmare… and this headache… I don’t even have time for breakfast…” Yuko mumbled as she limped through the dorm’s main lobby, mostly empty besides a handful of other students who were running late.
As she left the building, Yuko noticed that her head started to feel better. The cool spring breeze was refreshing, despite how muggy her clothes were after having slept in them. By the time she reached the front gates of the school, Yuko had finally regained her mental clarity.
And as she did, she finally realized just how strange her situation was. Not only that, but after looking around she noticed several other nearby students all staring her way. Some wore looks of confusion, others seemed vaguely concerned, and a handful of others were blushing, trying to look away.
“What is it…?”
Once Yuko looked down at herself more closely, she realized it.
Yuko quickly tried to cover her behind with her bag and crouched down. There were huge tears in the fabric of the back of her uniform, and the entire backside of the skirt was shredded apart. Meaning… everyone walking around her could see her panties.
“No way, no way… How did this happen?!” Yuko cried, tears of embarrassment bubbling up in her eyes.
“What is going on out here?! Class is about to start!” a cute yet bizarrely stern voice proclaimed, in a commanding tone.
“Oh, student council president!”
“Well, you see, over there, um…”
Some of the nearby students responded. The flustered Yuko looked over and saw Kanna Kawagoe, the student council president herself, standing before them all. Quickly grasping the situation, Kanna approached Yuko, still kneeling on the ground, and looked down at her.
“You, what happened?” Kanna asked, glaring daggers at Yuko.
“I-I don’t know how to explain it, Ms. President… B-but my uniform, well…” Yuko stammered out.
Silently, Kanna looked over Yuko. A moment later, she seemed to come to some understanding.
“What is your name?”
“Yuko… Yuko Maeda.”
“I see. Come with me then.” Kanna offered her a hand.
“Wh-where are we going?” Yuko replied, taking her hand and standing back up.
“To the student council room.”
“Do I have to do it right here…?”
“Do not mind me. Please just get changed.”
In the student council room, Kanna had given Yuko a fresh new uniform in her size, and had asked her to get changed. Needless to say, it’s not like it was a changing room, so Kanna had asked Yuko to get changed right there in front of her.
So embarrassing… Well, at least it’s just the two of us.
Yuko thought, having just removed her top. And thus, in no time Yuko was in a fresh uniform, as good as new.
“Excellent. Please have a seat over here now.” Kanna ordered.
“Huh? Um, okay…” Yuko complied.
While all this was going on, Yuko was trying to piece things together in her mind. After all, this morning she’d awoken in a complete daze, with a headache after some bizarre nightmare. But more than that, she was wondering what even happened last night. The last thing she remembered was taking a walk by the Rigel pond and sitting on a bench. It was hard to believe she’d sleepwalked all the way back to the dorm after that, but even so that doesn’t explain how her uniform got all torn up.
As the two girls sat across from one another, Kanna offered a cup of tea, sliding it to Yuko on the small table between them.
“I would like to ask how your uniform ended up in that state, if you please.” asked Kanna, taking a sip from her own cup.
“I-I’m afraid I really don’t remember.” Replied Yuko, her head down.
“You do not remember…?” Kanna inquired, clearly not believing her.
“It’s true! You have to believe me.” Yuko pleaded.
Pausing, Kanna grabbed a sheet from the nearby desk and began flipping through it.
“Ah yes, I thought your name looked familiar. I have you listed here as arriving back to the dormitory just after 9:30. That is well after the time of the new curfew.”
Yuko shrunk in on herself. She wasn’t expecting the curfew to be brought up. But even so, she personally has no memory of ever arriving back to the dormitory.
“Y-you see, I uh…” she stammered, trying to think of a response.
“Where were you last night?” Kanna asked directly, in an accusatory manner.
“No, see… I-I work at the café in the shopping area, right? And we had an order to make a delivery to the library, so I had to, um…” Yuko trailed off.
With an annoyed expression, Kanna stood up and walked to the desk. After flipping through a few papers, she quickly moved to the computer on the desk and began typing.
“… Yes, there was such a transaction. But it was fulfilled just before curfew. Even if you made that delivery, it should not have taken an hour and a half to return to the dormitory.” Kanna deduced.
“R-right… Um… to tell the truth, after making the delivery, I went to the Rigel pond and kind of, um… dozed off on one of the benches. That’s why I was late.” Yuko confessed, hanging her head once again. But just then…
“Th-the pond?!” Kanna gasped under her breath.
“Y-yes…?” Yuko replied, looking up in confusion.
Kanna stood by the desk, her hand on her chin, deep in thought. After several moments of awkward silence had passed, Kanna spoke up once more.
“Did you see anything strange while you were at the pond last night?”
“N-no, I don’t think so…” Yuko frowned. Truthfully, she couldn’t remember whether she did or not. Since all she remembers was going to the bench and falling asleep. The nightmare she had this morning gnawed at the back of her mind, but as with most dreams, she could no longer remember its contents clearly at all. And honestly, she wanted to get this uncomfortable interrogation over with.
“… This will do for now. I will contact you again later, Yuko Maeda.” spoke Kanna flatly, after taking another moment to think.
“Y-yes, Ms. President…”
Kanna sat down and quickly began writing on a small sheet.
“Here, please give this to your homeroom teacher, and your tardiness shall be excused.” Kanna stated as she handed the slip to Yuko.
“Right. Thank you very much.” Yuko bowed, before awkwardly leaving the room.
Left alone in the student council room, Kanna’s eyes narrowed.
“Surely, that girl must have been a witness of some kind, unless…”
The door to class 1-B opened suddenly in the middle of Mariko Yamagata’s lecture. In an instant, the attention of both her and all the students hovered toward the doorway. Taken aback, Yuko blushed.
“S-sorry I’m late… A lot happened this morning…” Yuko bowed, as she walked to the teacher and handed her the slip.
“Jeez, I’d just warned you yesterday about being tardy too, didn’t I?” the worried teacher scolded, before glancing at the sheet. “Though, oh my… I suppose this tardy won’t be counted then. Well, please take your seat and open your text book to the page written on the board, Ms. Maeda.”
“Yes, ma’am.” replied Yuko, bowing once more before heading to her seat. As she walked to her seat, she noticed Chisa giving her a worried expression.
After sitting down, Yuko soon found herself the recipient of a note passed over to her. Obviously, it was from Chisa, asking what happened. As Yuko wondered how she should explain everything to her concerned friend, she opened her bag and started to pull out her textbook, notebook, and utensils, before noticing something unfamiliar inside.
Huh? What’s this?
Yuko grabbed ahold of the foreign object in her school bag and took a look at it.
“What the…?” she gasped, under her breath.
In her palm was a glistening purple gem.
It was now midday. Not long after the bell at the high school tolled and signaled the beginning of the student’s lunch break, the student council president was away from the main building on urgent business. Instead, she was at a small building nearby that most wouldn’t pay attention to. If one were to look at the plaque outside, they’d see that this building was used for school security.
An adult man, the guard who manned this building during school hours, sat in the lobby eating a hamburger, while a certain pair had used their authority to use the main office during the break. Inside the dark room, multiple bright monitors illuminated the space. On one particular screen was a scene from a certain park.
“Found it.” a voice murmured in a somewhat flat tone.
“So, this is the girl you mentioned…” commented a lower-pitched accompanying voice.
On the screen was a security camera feed of an area on the perimeter of the Rigel pond. A lone high school girl sat sleeping on one of the benches.
“Yes, I was correct. This place where she slept is very close to the scene we inspected last night.” the higher voice noted.
“Ah, I recognize her. So you’re saying she’ll be an important witness, right? Well, since we managed to get camera footage this time, we may not even have to bother her about it.”
“True, but it is difficult to estimate how much the camera may have caught from this angle.”
The two watched the screen attentively, when suddenly…
“She has awoken!”
On the monitor, the high school girl awoke from the bench and stood up, before suddenly clenching her head.
“What is she doing…?”
“Look, in the corner of the camera!” the lower voice alerted.
Pointing at the screen, they both took notice of the creature that made its way on camera.
“The magic beast…”
As soon as it appeared, it attacked the girl. The sight that unfolded was tragic, and hard to watch. They both wore looks of pity, but then something occurred to one of them.
“Wait… this cannot be right. That girl was completely uninjured this morning!”
Kanna Kawagoe, the one with the higher of the two voices, stood up and slammed the desk, her eyes glued to the screen. Her partner glanced at her, before looking back at the screen uncomfortably.
The two watched.
The events of that night played out before them, on the small, grainy, security camera feed. They saw exactly how everything happened that night.
“No way…” Kanna muttered in disbelief.
On that screen, a lone high school girl stood, ankles sinking into the pond. It was Yuko Maeda, wearing a cold, almost murderous expression on her face. Lying in the shallow water at her feet was the muddy, bloody, beheaded corpse of the so-called magic beast. The Yuko in the video, who held the beast’s head with her clenched fist, raised it up into the air, staring at it. The camera’s video quality is poor, so it’s difficult to say for sure, but…
The two watching the video felt as though they had seen a smirk come to her face.[Chapter 1 END]
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