(NirvFrk97): Greetings, fellow Strugglers, here we are once more. Made you guys wait a long time again, unfortunately. Sorry about that.

Lot of things happened between this span of time, eh? Well, to be fair, it was over half a year again, it'd be ridiculous to not expect anything to happen… Whelp!

Season 3 came and went, and we got to see Oregairu's conclusion. It was one hell of a journey for a lot of us who have been there since the beginning. Makes me feel sentimental.

(Itherael:) Same here. Our boy Hachiman took the biggest win in 2020, and I couldn't be more proud.

In any case, hope you all enjoy what is below, but before that, let's get to the review response. I bet most of you don't even remember what you wrote in your review, which is understandable, however, life is life, which has been hectic as hell, still, I'll write as long as my fingers allow, that is for certain.


Lawoi: (NFrk): Ah, yes, the Itherael addiction, read one of his chapters and it's over for you. Although, funny you should mention Persona…

123ABIR123: (NFrk): We honestly try, but this is the best we can do. Itherael has more than one story that he focuses on. With others that I'm trying to keep him from starting… I failed with RED already… The guy has too many plot bunnies in his head.

Abyss Trinity: (NFrk): Thanks for reading. :)

Guest(1): (NFrk): We do our best to make sure the interactions are accurate as possible.

SaphireHeart: (NFrk): New ships popping in left and right. I look forward to how they progress.

MSDeus: [Itherael]: Maybe, maybe not. They are great characters, however, who knows what the future will have in store for them.

If it was that easy for them to outplay a titan of time, they would… if there was the chance, that is.

(NFrk): The reason we don't put it in the Crossover section is because this story doesn't have a main series that is crossover-ed with it. There's just too many of them to stick it into a particular one where we could lose potential readers. And it's technically a crossover with Itherael's ANRoM, so there's that as well.

Profezia di Morte: (NFrk): Glad to see you enjoyed it.

Silverscale: (NFrk): We thank you for your kind words.

BorderLand: (NFrk): Oh man, you almost got me there with the three hour stuff… Haha, well, thanks for reading. Hopefully the actual chapter comes soon.

WwEpsilonwW: (NFrk): Nah, Yukinoshita and Yuigahama were just a matter of time. 8man was just purposefully avoiding them because he doesn't want to face their rejections. You saw how the Yuigahama confrontation went, he rejected her for being an insult to the Yuigahama he knew and knows he screwed up there. It's actually the other way around with To aru being in LiMS. LiMS takes place in Itherael's ANRoM, which is his To aru fanfic. LiMS is just further into the future compared to where ANRoM is at this point. This is in October, days before WWIII, while ANRoM is in July still. I think the Index arc is just about to start up.

the god wolf: (NFrk): Things are just getting started. God shenanigans will be later, a lot later.

RayDjok: (NFrk): You and me both, comrade.

NPwall: (NFrk): Thanks for the kind words.

Guest(2): (NFrk): As long as you're having fun, we're happy.

Freeswordsman: (NFrk): Thank you for noticing this humble co-author.

Epic Snow: (NFrk): Nothing makes me happier than seeing readers catch so many details in our chapters. It's deeply appreciated.

Vixm: (NirvFrk97): Aaaaaand, brought back down to earth… Thanks for that.

2theMoon:(NFrk): lol it happens when we make you guys wait every time.

prietar: (NFrk): His default intimidation of women beats out his attraction to them every time. He be wise man.

ArmantusCumPinnae: (NFrk): Feels good to be noticed. 8man will start to polish his abilities. Everything is instinctive right now, once he starts doing things consciously he'll improve on them.

Alciel: (NFrk): Lots of cute and epic things happening, yeah, haha.

The Reader of Souls: (NFrk): It's the highest form of compliments when we're told our characters are accurate to their canon counterparts.

Guest(3): (NFrk): Story won't end, I'll nag Itherael whenever he leaves it hanging for too long.

PhatomRPG: [Itherael]: The next arc will be good.

Risette: Questions noted!

Markus-Antonius: (NFrk): Thanks for reading, hopefully the next arc starts up soon.

Haten: [Itherael] The thing with Medaka will only be important with Kiyotaka, as she will be an ally of his. Hachiman won't be involved with Medaka or her school, I'm afraid.

Echonic: (NFrk): Oof, I'm sorry that we couldn't completely change your mind on Utaha last chapter. She's here to stay, unfortunately for you, because she's a pretty big character.

Lol no way we'll add Code Geass here. It'd be way too much for this story to have their story points. Especially when Britannia doesn't exist in this world.

I hate how accurate you are to say you'd see us next year. I do want to write more chapters for this story more often, honest!

Oh man, was the previous chapter really 4 hours worth…?

Killusion: (NFrk): Pretty much lol.

Guest(4): Yeah, FF probably had a bug with the last release. Itherael and I couldn't see any new reviews for about a week, I believe. I saw it happen with another story I read recently, except the newest chapter was taken down entirely when I was going to leave a review less than 8 hours later. So chances are it might happen again for this bonus chapter.

srosnan99: (NFrk): Phew, oh boy… I know where you're coming from with the large amount of characters but to go from not minding it to then stating your obvious issues is a bit… You know, not honest. Either you have an issue or not, can't really be in between.

Anyway, I get your worries about the large amount of characters, and trust me when I say that I actually convinced Itherael to lower the amount by a significant margin. I'm going to also be real with you, a lot of mentioned characters before and from now on are there for the cameo. We'll let you guess which is what. Like, Kazuma from Konosuba is gonna have a cameo in the future, but will have no effect on the story. Spoiler.

Like I mentioned before, this story, while having a lot of crossover elements, does not have a main series it's crossover-ed with. And with FF having a separate page for crossovers, unlike ao3, we'd lose traction by having it there. LiMS is technically a crossover with ANRoM, Itherael's To aru story, but we can't have it in the Oregairu x TAMNI crossover page because this story isn't going to regularly interact with To aru to warrant that.

Our next "chapter" is going to be a recap. That's where we'll provide aid for readers with keeping track of significant characters.

Imperial Gilgamesh: (NFrk): Haha, well 8man did also whine about being put into the life of what looks like a "better" version of himself. But he also sees what he's done to Miura and Komachi, and doesn't like it one bit. Hell, he was pissed for Utaha's sake because his previous self let her spiral into a toxic relationship with him that only harmed her, all the while being sexually engaged with Haruno at the same time. That's pretty screwed up, don't you think?

Just a Guy: (NFrk): Shame, now we have two girls that don't have given names… Tejina's keeping our proposed given name for her, and Takao will have a running gag, looks like. If anything new comes up for either of them, we'll probably write it in.

JerichoCross: (NFrk): Thanks for reading.

Arcane Valor: (NFrk): "A bit…"? A bit what!? I need answers!

Guest(5): (NFrk): Be satisfied with this smaller-than-usual portion, plzkthxbai.

Caccia Fulmini: (NFrk): Never underestimate Itherael when it comes to least expected characters.

The Epic Legion: (NFrk): So glad we can provide you good entertainment throughout the chapter. Thanks for reading.

Lady Dalila: (NFrk): lol, is Yukino first? And where do Suou and Miura stack up? Because I remember you liking their interactions with him too.

Geek: (NFrk): I'm not gonna lie, I only remembered her as the one who threatened 8man about their job back in ch. 1 or 2.

winchaaan: (NFrk): We'll try our best to keep going strong.

Blue Sanctum: (NFrk): Happy to be here to provide entertainment for our readers even if it's not done often.

The Silent Champion: (NFrk): *two-fingered salute*

NaWaTsurai: (NFrk): Mixed feelings about this. I mean, I'm glad you enjoyed other parts of the chapter, but it overshadowing Utaha's portions does sober it somewhat, haha.

I can't tell you too much about Yuigahama, but I can promise you that he'll hate himself if he ever tries to duplicate what he had with the Yuigahama he knew with this "new" one, he'll hate himself for it once he realizes what he's doing. That goes with anyone from Oregairu.

Ship wars are going to be wild soon.

AinzNamikazeD: [Itherael]: Your words are generous my friend, and I do not deserve them. Without my co-author, this story wouldn't be as good. Not to mention the amount of time I take to upload a chapter, but real life for me is a hard bone to chew so I'm afraid the time I can give it is limited. Still I'll do what I can to write and deliver more.

(NFrk): I'll be honest, I'm not sure how we're going to deal with the story when we stop going day-by-day, that's all up to Itherael. I mean, time-skips are going to happen, we can't not do it. Maybe future bonus chapters will take care of the more slice-of-life stuff when the action starts picking up? Who knows?

We have a lot of ideas when it comes to Deus Ex's creation. Itherael still refuses to tell me who it is, but I still helped him think up plenty of things for whoever it winds up being.

BentShuriken: (NFrk): So many good questions and curiosities and I can't really talk about any of them! All I can say is that I hope we meet the high expectations you have for you.

exile0021: (NFrk): You are very welcome. Thanks for reading.

Zuzu: (NFrk): It took awhile, but we're finally here. Happy that you liked it.

Guest(6): (NFrk): Alas, it is only me who is the Berserk fan, Itherael has yet to achieve enlightenment. Which is funny because he utterly loves characters that are capable of changing other characters around them. Still, nice to meet a fellow Struggler.

shiroryuu012: [Itherael]: That is correct.

thetyrant67: (NFrk): Totes right.

draculyn28: (NFrk): Salutations, reader. We thank you for reading.

Dimiel: (NFrk): lol were they really? Itherael takes care of music and pics, so he's the one that finds the most fitting ones. That's funny.

tsun: (NFrk): Here it is, the Girls' event. Itherael chose six girls to focus on. It was done on purpose for backstories and snippets of future things. This will be a regular thing every 10 chapters.

GM0127: (NFrk): I deeply thank you for saying that. I do my utter best to make 8man's narratives the best they can be, and Itherael has the occasional snippet that impresses me as well. So I'm glad you enjoyed this story to the point that felt obligated to give an extended review for the first time.

DovahkiinGod: [Itherael]: That would be more than Hachiman and I could handle, my friend.

AlernateReality: (NFrk): Relax, good sir/ma'am. We haven't forgotten characters, they're still there. We mentioned Haruno every once in a while, I believe. Take this as real life, you can't talk to ALL of your friends (if you have a lot) in a single day, some take more attention than the others. Also the Oregairu girls are pretty self-explanatory. Isshiki hates him, Yuigahama is scared of him (8man didn't help with that either), and Yukinoshita sees him as trash. 8man doesn't want to face that when they were formerly important to him, so he avoids them as much as he can.

123ABIR123: (NFrk): "We're alive! That is all!" *aggressively slams down mic*

Guest(7): [Itherael]: Only 2 of the mentioned characters will appear, so at least, look forward to that.

The Dark Imperial: (NFrk): Itherael has had this story planned out for a long time. My influence has changed a lot of things, but he has the endgame pretty much set already. Itherael wouldn't drop a story, just take his sweet ass time completing it. I'd nag him to hell and back if he tried.

Oof about Yukino though. She's still a key character, especially for 8man. She'll have the spotlight along with Yuigahama in the future.


As usual, go to my profile for the music recommendations. Search in your browser for "MakerOfSouls DA" to access my DA account for the pictures. There's a new cover just for this chapter, too. Fanfiction is having more bugs as time goes on, which is troublesome and certainly upsetting. Pics and images for profiles and story covers aren't showing now.

Anyhow, enjoy.


Logic Is My Sword

Interlude 01: Of the Women in His Life

The Goddess of Water, Aqua crossed her legs, leaning comfortably on her furnished chair, keeping her focus steady on the massive floating platform before her.

There was a lingering thought in her mind for quite awhile now, one that she was unable to wave off since Deux Ex Machina's game started. Given that the irksome assistant of the God of Time and Space was nowhere to be seen, nor could she sense her presence in the Cathedral of Causality, Aqua concluded this to be the most opportune moment to satiate her curiosity.

And so she spoke.

"Deus? Can I ask you something… regarding the game?"

The unreadable features of his skull-like head remained the same as usual, only his eyes, devoid of light, moved onto her as a sign of his attention being called.

"I do not see the trouble in doing so. However, should I find your inquiry too meddlesome, I will not respond."

Aqua pursed her lips, her eyes slightly narrowing, "I don't understand what you mean by meddlesome… but anyhow, it's just a simple question."

"Then by all means, speak."

The light blue-haired goddess folded her arms as she eyed the large being cautiously, "Why did you exactly choose a woman as your creation?"

"That is inaccurate, Aqua. I did not 'choose' a woman; I created a being that resembles one in every aspect."

Aqua nodded her head in understanding, "Ah, yes… but, you haven't really answered my question, unless you find it too meddlesome…"

Deus Ex Machina stared at her for a moment, the silence creeping out the goddess to a certain degree, when suddenly, he let out a chuckle, not really what she expected.

"You never fail to amuse me, Aqua. It is not a surprise that even Valkyrie has taken such a liking for you."

A chill ran down Aqua's spine as unpleasant memories of the tomboyish, and masochistic Goddess of Destruction invaded her mind. She shook her head with a shudder, forcing herself to focus on the matter at hand.

"A-anyway…" She started again, "So… is there any reason for your creation to resemble a human female?"

The massive god let out another chuckle, raising her sense of insecurity even further, "May I poise a question for you instead?"

Aqua blinked in uncertainty, "Eh? Erm… yes?"

"There is a question that human males have been asking themselves; both in jest, and in honest contemplation: Can they, as men, truly understand women?"

Aqua found herself perplexed for a moment, a finger of hers resting on her chin at the unexpected inquiry brought by the god of time.

"Can't they?"

Deus Ex Machina raised a hand, a yellow orb materializing over his large white hand, in which images began to appear one after the other, showing countless historical events of humanity.

"Humans seek knowledge, Aqua, more so than any other creature. Throughout the Age of Man on Earth, it has been stated by many influential figures and history itself that men are traditionally thought to have more problems in understanding women compared to understanding other men. And how could there not be, when females are raised under differing social constructs than males?"

"Is that so?" Aqua murmured. She wasn't sure she understood.

"But I believe it applies as well to other creatures outside humanity, even among those mythical and divine." Deux Ex Machina elaborated, "Only those that have ascended such as myself are now above such trivial matters."

Aqua had to agree. The gods of the divine realm that had let go of all senses of the flesh in order to ascend and become Watchers, were those who gained infinite knowledge.

Deus Ex Machina being one of them.

"Yes… you're right."

"So then Aqua, as a female goddess that still basks in the pleasures of the mind and heart, do you not have troubles in understanding the male gods of the Divine Realm?"

Despite herself being a goddess residing in the divine realm, she still could experience pretty much what humans and many other living creatures could, even pain, and of course, the death of her current body. Not that it mattered anyway, since if it came down to it, only her virtual soul would be lost.

Her true soul resided in the unreachable area of the divine realm, safely secured from harm. So as long as it existed, it mattered not if her current self were to perish, a new body and virtual soul would be created again and again, allowing Aqua and her divine kin to live forever.

She got to say though, many of the male gods around were a pain to deal with despite their divinity, showing more often than not traits that were unbecoming of their status.

"Your sudden silence speaks volumes, Aqua. I once held, in a past long gone, the same thoughts and desires, though I have completely forgotten what it all felt like," The god of time chuckled, his rather unusual tone startling Aqua slightly. "Many human civilizations have tried to understand this matter, but could never truly pinpoint anything that wasn't muddied by their society's bias. It is a surprise however just how much humanity has delved into the matter."

"I have seen countless humans, and I don't think they have succeeded anyway. I mean no offense, but most males species are just dumb. Did they even discover anything?"

Deux Ex Machina chuckled again, the floating ball of energy dispersing into small particles and moving rapidly at her. An influx of information spread through her mind as they came in contact with her.

Apparently, human specialists came to the conclusion that male humans' problems in recognizing female's emotions could be linked to difficulties in extracting the relevant information from the eye region, which remained as one of the richest sources of social information for the attribution of mental states to others.

Aqua could agree to some extent.

Other human studies indicated that social cognitive processes such as face processing and mental state attribution were developed during adolescence, in which women have been shown to mature at a faster rate.

That made sense to her… somewhat…

A group of scientists from a certain location on the planet Earth presented an insightful research, proving that female humans tended to optimize brain connections earlier than males, which became another valid reason as to why men usually failed at understanding the opposite gender, mostly during the earlier periods of growth.

Of course, sex differences in brain morphology, cognitive and affective functions have been increasingly documented over the years, scientifically creating countless theories as to why, men, experience difficulties in understandding the opposite gender's disposition by facial reading, body language and even tone of voice.

"Stop, stop!" Aqua screamed, waving her arms as the influx faded, "I-I think I get it!"

"Do you now?"

She nods her head, "Yeah… soooo, men not understanding women is also attributed to a biological difference?" With a hand under her chin, she continues, "Instead of just a psychological value, right?"

"It is not definitive, but it is a reasonable estimate for human understanding at this point of time. Shall I then assume that you are now aware of why I chose my creation to resemble a human female?"

Aqua sighs and relaxes over her chair again, "To give two socially inept males the task of understanding people… women on top of that, so they can uncover your creation…" She shoots him a devious gaze, "That's just evil."

"It is only the way of proving their worth, Aqua. As males, the competitors will have to not only break through their own barriers of social interaction, but also overcome the gap that separates men and women… for them to succeed."

Aqua, the Goddess of Water, cocked an eyebrow in response, "I guess that's one way of putting it…"

-Tsukamoto Yakumo- (Present)

"Iori… Where are you, Iori?"

This situation couldn't have come at a worse time for Yakumo. One moment she was dutifully preparing dinner and the next she was outside in the rain searching for Iori who must have been exploring before the weather worsened. He was always adventurous, in fact, this wasn't the first time he's worried her and her sister when they couldn't find him (Nee-san insists that a kappa named Sanpei rescued Iori when he was stuck in the Kemi river a few months ago). Really, she hoped that Iori's dauntless nature would have been tamed after all this time.

This time, she didn't know where to look, but neither did she want to think Iori was lost forever and give up. She could only be glad that her work with Harima-san had ended yesterday prior to the reported days of rain. (Usui-san was very helpful that evening, she should thank him properly next time she works in Maid-Latte).

'Hopefully Nee-san will be fine on her own…'

Perhaps she should have waited for her sister to return home and they could have found Iori together? After all, having Nee-san with her would allow for a far better search. But… the thought of her dear cat all alone in the rain only brought great anxiety to Yakumo. And so, she set out with her umbrella into the downpour to start her search for Iori.

'But I haven't seen Iori anywhere…'

The more her search proved fruitless, the less hope she felt in her heart. Yakumo wasn't an animal tracker, and the intensifying rain did her no favors, so she could only place her waning hopes that she would run into Iori through sheer chance.

Perhaps she should have waited for Nee-san after all…? No… If only she had made sure the house was closed to prevent Iori from running off in the first place, then none of this would have happened…

Defeated, Yakumo looked down at the ground sadly as she stopped in her tracks. There wasn't much else she could do, only pray that Iori was somewhere dry and would return once the rain stopped. She'd make Nee-san worry needlessly if she stayed out for much longer; she didn't want that.

She looked up, ready to return home when she noticed a figure further up the sidewalk she was on. She didn't think anyone else would be out here other than her because of the rain. And yet, that wasn't the oddest part…

'Could it be…? They got caught in the rain without an umbrella?'

Yes… The person in front of Yakumo, they… were without an umbrella… Concern flooded her. Were they fine? Did they need help? For a brief moment, thoughts of Iori took a backseat in favor of the sight in front of her.

However, Yakumo was a timid girl. And it was that withdrawn side of hers that kept her from calling out to that person like she knew Nee-san would have, and that same shyness would have her hesitate from moving from her spot as well. And she thought she was getting better too…

She stayed in place for a few moments, wondering what she should do before slowly working up the courage to walk up to the person in front of her.

Her steps were slow and tentative, as her fear threatened to overtake her. Maybe… maybe this person was dangerous? They hadn't moved, preferring to stare ahead at a sight that Yakumo couldn't yet see.

As she neared, she noticed that it was a girl in a uniform holding a school bag that was up ahead. She thought she could recognize it as belonging to Sobu Senior High School, one of the more elite schools in the Chiba Prefecture.

'That is… The same school Harima-san's friend goes to…'

Ah… What was she doing? She should try helping that student instead of focusing on anything else. She hurried her steps just a little more, intending to at the very least cover the other student with her umbrella.

"U-um… E-excuse me…?" Her soft voice reached out to the girl that was still staring resolutely ahead.

And at her call, the girl slightly turned to face Yakumo, her unreadable expression and deep blue eyes greeting her. Only some seconds later, did she turn completely and —to Yakumo's surprise— started walking towards her. Yakumo flinched at the action.

"Ah… Um…P-pl-" She tried to excuse herself for interrupting whatever the other girl was doing, however, the student walked past her unabated, no words spoken. Yakumo had to turn, only to see her disappearing by the corner of the down street.

She knew who that was… everyone in the district did.

Yukinoshita Yukino-san of Sobu High School. Her father was a member of the Chiba Prefectural Diet and the CEO of a major construction company. There was no one in Chiba who wouldn't recognize the members of the Yukinoshita Family, even the more reclusive youngest daughter.

"..." She stared silently after the popular girl. She worried if it was fine to have not said anything… Surely Nee-san would have been more useful here instead of her…

That still lent to the question of what the youngest heir of the Yukinoshita family was doing out in this horrible rain. Had something happened to her? Or perhaps… She saw something that took up her attention until Yakumo arrived? Yes… It must have been that…

She turned her gaze to where Yukinoshita Yukino-san had been looking. The rain made it difficult to see very far, but up ahead was a person occupying a bus stop.

"That uniform…" It was more readily familiar for Yakumo to recognize, after all, she only just came across it last Friday. And coincidentally…

'That is… Hikigaya-san…?'

It was the same boy that she met that Friday evening who was idly sitting underneath the cover. Harima-san and Usui-san's friend. He must have taken shelter once the rain started intensifying.

"Ah…!" With a small gasp, Yakumo noticed an additional presence as she neared the Hikigaya-san. There on his lap with the familiar scar was…

'…Iori!'

It was only because both parties appeared fast asleep that kept Yakumo from saying anything out loud. She didn't want to startle Iori, nor did she want to disturb Hikigaya-san.

"You're his unofficial editor, right? …I'm Hikigaya Hachiman."

Hikigaya Hachiman-san…


Go to profile, LISTEN: Link in Logic Is My Sword: Interlude 01 Section: Song 01


She was unsure what to think of him, although curious all the same. Typically, her humble amount of psychic ability was able to tell her what people thought of her if their feelings were intense enough and yet… Just like Harima-san, and Usui-san, his inner thoughts on her were silent, or at least subdued enough not to make her (even more) overly-nervous around him. She didn't think it would be good if he had no impression of her either, she thinks…

He was slightly intimidating to her, borne from his lack of reaction to her presence (something she was unwittingly unused to). He was apathetic for the most part, only showing the occasional spark of annoyance when handling Harima-san and Usui-san's eccentricities. But he was polite when speaking to her, as well as showing patience when she stumbled on her words (even giving her a way out when she was unable to give him her name the first time). Although… Usui-san had mentioned how Hikigaya-san was acting very oddly that day… Hikigaya-san did also retort that things were different for him now; she wondered what he meant by that.

However it didn't stop there with meeting Hikigaya-san…

Yakumo was already plenty confused about her situation with Harima-san… First he sought her out at school for help with his manga (he said his friends were useless with that), and once Nee-san had come and gone (she had been listening in for some reason), he told her how they were apparently in a relationship, much to her embarrassment (she still didn't know why Sawachika-senpai also said made that claim even before then). Did… it mean that they were going out? Yakumo didn't know. Harima-san wasn't a bad person, but she had no idea what it meant to "go out with someone" in the first place…

"Wouldn't you like to… Impress the girl you like by getting good grades for once?"

And somehow, as if knowing her troubles, Hikigaya-san dispelled the main crux of the confusion she felt. He spoke of a person that Harima-san liked, and if it were her, she felt Hikigaya-san wouldn't need to be vague about it in her presence. Hikigaya-san struck her as an unforgivably straightforward type. Especially because Harima-san's friends may have been told about the rumor by then.

It should have brought her relief, and yet Yakumo found herself a bit let down. It had only been a few months since she properly met Harima-san, but she thought that she could finally learn what it meant to be "going out" with someone. And with Harima-san not having intimidating thoughts about her like Hanai-senpai did (although she didn't dislike him), it would have been easier for her.

She would later figure out who the mystery person was with how Harima-san's romance manga's main characters were modeled after Nee-san and himself. With the addition of Usui-san relentlessly teasing Harima-san about it (and about the color pink for some reason), Yakumo was able to realize that it was actually Nee-san whom Harima-san liked, although seeing how horrified he was to even speak about it, she could not find it in her to ask him for a confirmation. And after realizing she was there and heard it all, Harima-san gifted her his white beret to not say anything to anyone.

That being said… Yakumo wondered why Hikigaya-san was unable to work with them yesterday like how Harima-san planned back on Friday. She could only overhear Harima-san's side of their conversation (She thought it'd be too rude to listen in the second time) yesterday, although, it was because of Hikigaya-san sending Usui-san in his stead that they were able to finish before Yakumo was late to make dinner (She was still scolded by Nee-san for staying out late) and study properly.

She flushed slightly to herself after catching herself staring at the sleeping Hikigaya-san as she was lost in her thoughts, thankful that he hadn't come to. Iori had woken up however, and tilted his head at her. Embarrassment coursed through her even if it was a feline that caught her instead. Although Yakumo made note of the sight in front of her.

'He's… comfortable with Hikigaya-san…'

Iori didn't typically take to others outside of herself ever since he left his former home at a nearby shrine and followed her, even she and Nee-san had a hard time keeping the cat's attention at times. Outside Harima-san, she's never seen the cat truly get along with a single person. So to see him at ease with Hikigaya-san (he didn't even have scratches on him) was a surprise to her, although the boy's presence was equally as surprising as well.

"Ah…" Iori's fur looks wet, but not as much as she expected it, especially compared to Hikigaya-san's uniform which was thoroughly soaked. He must have been caught in the rain as well before finding Iori. Guilt seeped into her at troubling her senpai's friend because of not keeping an eye on the scarred feline.

'Hikigaya-san isn't a bad person after all…'

After their first interaction in Maid Latte, she was told of the gossip that surrounded Hikigaya-san; how he was an infamous delinquent in Sobu High and Chiba in general, not unlike Harima-san. Yakumo could admit that they both appeared daunting, Harima-san even more so than Hikigaya-san, but they weren't bad people, she thought. Although coming to Hikigaya-san's defense, Asahina-san was adamant that he saved her life a long time ago as well…

In her eyes, Iori wouldn't be safely on his lap if the opposite were true. Idly, she wondered if he was good with animals like Harima-san was. Ah, no… That wasn't important right now…

"Stay here…" She quietly whispered to the feline, with her hand extended in a stopping gesture. It wouldn't take long to trek back home so she could repay Hikigaya-san. Hopefully he would still be asleep…

She anxiously looked between the sleeping form of the Sobu student and her cat before hurrying back home. It wouldn't take her long to gather what she needed… Nee-san had a spare umbrella that she didn't use, preparing a note of thanks and something hot to drink wouldn't take long either. Ah, she hoped that coffee would suffice; they were in need of tea when she next shopped.

The trip took less than fifteen minutes, which she was glad for (she couldn't take her bicycle this time because of items she was carrying). Returning to see that Hikigaya-san was still fast asleep, filled her with more relief. She would be able to show her gratitude properly and take Iori back home. If he were awake, she probably wouldn't know what to say out of shyness. She still wasn't very good with males, especially strangers that she only barely met.

Quietly, she set everything she brought next to Hikigaya-san, who hadn't stirred one bit. Yakumo wondered if he was like her, able to sleep whenever and wherever, and briefly worried if it was really alright to leave him there. The rain might detract the unsavory types, but he was still at the risk of getting sick. Yakumo was unsure what to do, she was concerned but also too hesitant to wake him up…

"…" Before she knew it, she was looking upon Hikigaya-san's face once more.

His relaxed expression was a first for Yakumo; when she met him the first time, he either carried a scowl or a perpetual frown on his face for most of the evening. Honestly, the only time he hadn't had either was his more subdued neutral guise when he interacted with her or some of the other staff.

Maybe it was because he finally looked free of any tension that Yakumo hesitated to wake him. She was even careful not to stir him as she lifted Iori off his lap, that cat only mewling softly and burying himself into her arm in response. She could only indecisively look upon him once more.

Now that she remembered, Yukinoshita-san was staring at him earlier, wasn't she? Did they know each other?

Not that Yakumo had to worry about that much longer…

*HOOOONK!*

She couldn't help but jump at a sudden horn blasting down the street. In panic, she widened the berth between herself and Hikigaya-san, who had begun to rouse, to prevent him from realizing how much she had been staring again.

Unconsciously, Yakumo shielded her red face with her umbrella, scandalized about her behavior this evening; it was incredibly rude. She was shaken from her inattentiveness when Hikigaya-san suddenly jolted from his relaxed posture. Panic swarmed her when the rumors about him reemerged in her mind. Nee-san always said she was too innocent at times, and even if Harima-san proved to her that he was a good person that didn't mean that it would always be the case.

"…?" So she was in for a surprise when Hikigaya-san's tension loosened once his eyes landed on her, specifically on Iori's sleeping form. He was worried for Iori the moment he noticed the feline's lack of presence? Not only that, but he noticed it almost immediately?

It didn't look like he could see her face properly, what with her umbrella being in the way and the rain still coming down. But he did gaze at her for a moment before noticing the items she left behind. It was better for her, because she had suddenly lost her voice once he awoke. This was promptly made worse when he looked back up at her.

And in a fluster, Yakumo could only give him a small bow before hurriedly turning and making her trek back home. Her quick steps leave Hikigaya-san behind. All in all, Yakumo was a shy girl. This evening proved it to her to an almost painful degree.

Her entire journey back was taken up with jittery thoughts of her rudeness.

Yakumo stood for a moment in front of her home, holding Iori closer to her as she couldn't help but to release a sigh she had been holding since she left that boy. Her eyes were lost as she mulled over what had just transpired before she finally decided to go inside.

"Ah, Yakumo!" Nee-san's voice called out to her once she entered the house, "Where were you!? Don't you see how hard it was raining!?"

"Nee-san…" She greeted her older sister, "You're more wet than I am…"

Nee-san must have forgotten her umbrella again… Not that it mattered even when she pointed it out…

"No matter!" Onee-chan Mode had activated for Nee-san, "As the older one, I reserve the right to worry more about my little sister!"

Yakumo knew she had lost this discussion and acquiesced, "I'm sorry, Nee-san…"

"That's okay! Just don't be so reckless next time! Harima-kun would be sad if something happened to you, you know!"

Embarrassment didn't pass by her as intensely this time Yakumo noticed, even if Nee-san still misunderstood, "Nee-san… That's not it…"

"It's actually you… isn't it…?"

It's what she wanted to ask, but she held her tongue. She didn't know how to properly convey that sort of question, and Harima-san didn't really seem to want that out in the open either…

Nee-san only grinned before heading off to the living room, "Ah, did you see my ultimate edition umbrella of The Three Samurais? You know I can't watch my dramas without it! I can't find it anywhere!"

Ah…

-Miura Yumiko- (Past)

"You, Miura… you're the biggest idiot of them all."

Yumiko blinked, surprised and irritated, and the worst of it all, unable to argue the claim that came from the most hated student in Sobu.

Because he was right, infuriatingly so, whether she liked it or not.

Hayato stood at her side, balling a fist in anger, and she feared he was going to attack him. Ebina and Yui only watched in stunned silence, while Tobe, Oouka and Yamato stared at the ground in disbelief and mortification.

In a matter of minutes, Hikio completely obliterated the core that formed her clique, and left nothing. Despite how much she wanted to deny it, it was all the truth.

Their clique was fake.

Yumiko averted her gaze away, feeling angry at herself for her inability to respond.

He said the truth.


Go to profile, LISTEN: Link in Logic Is My Sword: Interlude 01 Section: Song 02


Her group only existed because it was convenient, because it gave each one of them a purpose, and so they used one another for their own selfish interests.

Oouka and Yamato only sought to piggyback off the popularity of Hayato because they were too insecure to talk to girls without having to use the line "I'm a friend of Hayato's."

Tobe was just to stupid to realize that he was only let in their group because they pitied him, not to mention that he was so self-centered that whether people would care to listen to him, he would only speak of himself and nothing else.

Ebina desperately tried to keep the group together despite that she knew how uncaring they all were in reality, as they only focused on their own underlying goals. In the end, she wasn't any better as all she did was for her own sake, which was to keep her safe haven intact.

Yui was too nice, or too naive to realize she was being used by everyone in the group to keep the friendly outlook their clique supposedly gave to the rest of the school. She didn't do anything on her own, and only followed the rest like a mindless lapdog. Her lapdog actually…

Hayato was nothing but a manipulative coward… Hikio's exact words. He used his appearance to attract those he needed, and combined it with his shallow kindness to gain the trust of everyone in the school. Just like Ebina, he sought to keep the clique together, no matter if it meant manipulating people to accomplish it. All because this group offered what he needed, a way to make his school life bearable.

He used Tobe and the other two as the cover of his supposed amicability, he knew that Ebina would keep everything in place when he wasn't around. Yui of course would keep the clique in a good light to keep up the good spirits.

Yumiko didn't want to believe any of this, but upon closer consideration, she realized that it all made sense. To her shock, the fact that none of them spoke against his claims was proof enough that he wasn't far away from the truth.

And of course, when Hikio stated as it was the most obvious thing in the world that Hayato used her to prevent the female students from confessing to him struck a chord within her. It was all because he wanted to ensure that his cover as the perfect student remained intact with nothing to disturb that image.

Hayato gave her the right amount of attention just to keep her under his control.

But of course, he claimed that Yumiko was too stubborn to see the truth, too proud to accept that she was nothing more than an object to Hayato.

"Hayato… is this true?"

And he didn't respond, still glaring daggers at the boy that so easily made a dent in the existence of her clique.

"Hayato!?" She called out but all that came out of his mouth was.

"You bastard… how dare you…?"

Hikio smirked derisively, "Aren't you supposed to deny it?" He raised his head slightly as if to mock him, "Oh wait, you can't because I hit the nail on the head." His deep gaze fell into the rest. "In fact, none of you look like you can deny it. Isn't this funny?"

He wasn't wrong.

"I care for them!" Hayato growled.

"Only because they serve your purpose."

Hayato sighed and assumed a stoic expression, "I don't expect someone like you to understand. You have no right to—"

"To tell the truth?" Hikio interrupted, "Too bad for you that this country allows people to voice their opinions, and of course, facts." After pocketing his hands, he added, "Don't get me wrong. It's not like I give a shit about any of you, but someone had to put you all in your place. You all think of yourselves as better than the rest, fully ignoring how flawed you all are. It made me sick, but at least now you know how pathetic this group of yours is. No need to thank me."

Hayato grit his teeth hard and was about to move forward, most likely to attack him, but Yui got in the way, feebly pushing against his chest.

"No… don't do it…" Yui pleaded, barely holding him up.

"What? Are you mad?" Hikio mocked, glancing at Tobe, "Remember what happened last time, Tobe? You might wanna help him. It might cost you one of your ribs, or all of them."

Tobe just looked away.

"You have all of them wrapped around your fingers, Hayama," His statement seemed to make him even angrier. "But I wonder if your little fake group of friends will pull through. I'd be surprised if it did, but let's just be logical here. They won't."

He walked forward, and stood just a his side, facing the opposite direction. Hayama dropped his gaze, which made Hikio's smirk widen.


Go to profile, SEE: Link in Logic Is My Sword: Interlude 01 Section: Picture 01


"…" Yumiko just couldn't say anything.

"Heh."

His smile lingered as he was apparently satisfied. Not saying anything else, he walked past them and left the class.

None dared to speak after that.

He was right.

Yumiko cared for Yui and Ebina but that was it. She really liked Hayato but today she confirmed that her chances never existed, that she was just an asset that he could use.

It couldn't be true and yet, he didn't deny it.

She realized that her reputation as the Fire Queen prevented other girls from getting close to him… it was not just some random statement.

Hikio spoke the truth.

"Yumiko, I—" He began but she didn't want to hear his lame excuse.

"Stop," She muttered, tears already streaming down her face.

She just couldn't stop them from coming out.

"He… he's wrong, I can explain."

Could he? Why didn't he just deny it if that was the case instead of looking surprised and pissed? Why would he even be mad if Hikio was lying? Hayato had always shown to be composed, despite the circumstances but now…

"No matter what I did, how obvious and direct I was, you always ignored my advances. You know how much that hurt me?" She wiped the tears with an arm, "Couldn't you just, like, tell me from the get go that you weren't interested?"

"I'm sorry if you misunderstood."

"You're sorry?" Yumiko shook her head in disbelief, "You knew how I felt about you, and you did nothing!" She almost screamed, "It just didn't make sense that you wouldn't realize… but it's clear now. I'm sure it's because of your club mate, Yukinoshita. You like her, don't you?

His widened eyes were proof enough.

"Yumiko, it's not what you think!" He stated in surprise.

She pursed her lips, shoulders dropping, "Yeah… turns out it wasn't… I was a complete idiot."

"Yumiko, listen—"

"Don't make this worse."

She had been so blind, she had been wrong.

Yumiko spun around and left the classroom, embarrassed and angry at herself for her blindness and stupidity. How could a stranger that didn't belong to their clique figure out that much? How could the student with the worst reputation manage to uncover the secrets of the people she considered her friends?

Of all people, she never thought that it would be Hikio to let her see the truth.

She stopped mid-way in the corridor, staring at nothing in particular.

"I'm really the biggest idiot…"

o-0-O-0-o

"Hey! I'm talking to you! Can't you hear me?"

Hikio finally stopped on his tracks, turning to her with a bland expression.

Yumiko couldn't believe she had to call him for almost a block before he finally had the decency to pay her attention. She couldn't care less if he was a delinquent, but she felt the need to clear the doubts that had been hounding her since the day when her clique was terminated some weeks ago.

She only spoke to Yui and Ebina, and as of late, she started to hang out with Shiromeguri, who helped her get through her love deception. It also came as a surprise that she would run into that Kawasaki tomboy, who, to her surprise, turned out to be surprisingly cute (when she ain't being stubborn), and kind of interesting.

She even managed to 'fix' her problem with Hayato, both managing to reach an understanding of sorts. It still hurt her either way, but she realized that the only way to overcome her predicament was to force herself to treat him as a friend.

It was probably a bad idea, but his constant attempts to apologize to her had probably shaken her resolve, if only a little. He just wouldn't stop trying to explain himself, and Yumiko wanted to move on, so in the end, this had been for the best.

And now, to leave all this behind, Yumiko had only to ask one specific question to the person that turned her world upside down.

Said person was by all means a jerk.

"What?"

"Why'd you ignore me?" She growled, folding her arms, "I was, like, calling you for half a block."

"I have no reason to talk to you."

The nerve of this guy to say that to her face. Who did he think he was anyway?

"It's just, like, a quick question, Hikio. Ignoring me was, like, totally unnecessary, ya know?"

"Let's get this over with," He rolled his eyes in exasperation and Yumiko had to suppress herself from starting an argument. "What is it?"

She stared at him drily for a moment.

"Did you target us or somethin'? Or is that, like, basically what you normally do to people? I'm curious."

Yumiko had to know if there was something else he hadn't mentioned that day, and she felt the need to confirm it to prevent more unpleasant surprises.

And he took his sweet moment to respond. Seriously, this guy was exasperating to deal with.

"Huh… There actually is," He responded curtly.

'I totes knew it!'

"And? Well, what was it?" She pressed, barely managing to hold her rising curiosity.

"Hayama seemed way too comfy up on his heavenly throne," He raised his arms, his voice leaking amusement. "Someone had to bring him back down to earth. You're welcome by the way."

She averted her gaze with a scowl, "I dunno what you're talking about."

A smirk covered his —now that she noticed— deceptively handsome face. She frowned at herself, wondering what could have brought such a random thought to her mind.

Yumiko shook her head and focused again.

And without further warning, he approached her menacingly. She stepped back in surprise, fearing the worst at the suddenness, but it was to no avail. He held her by both her wrists forcefully and pushed her back to the wall at the left, pinning her down against it.

"W-what are you doing, asshole!?" She shouted angrily, trying but failing to break free from his grip. "Lemme go or I'll scream!"

He shortened the distance between her face and his, his deep gaze crashing directly into hers, and amused smirk adorning his face. Her eyes moved involuntarily to study his face, she could even feel his breathing on her face.

Her body became rigid, a drop of sweet trailing down her forehead.

Her heart began to beat fast, so fast that she felt it was going to explode.

"W-w-what are you…?

It looked like he was about to kiss her and for some reason, she didn't even try to move her face away. Yumiko couldn't explain it, but it was as if all energy left her body, the mere action of standing on her feet almost being an impossible feat.

His mouth got closer and closer… and closer…

And all of a sudden, the grip in her wrists was gone. She blinked in confusion as Hikio had let her go, and was now standing a couple of steps away. He stared for a moment before he spun around and walked away, only nodding his head as he spared her a glance over his shoulder.

His cocky expression just made Yumiko's stunned mind to work and process what just happened, a wild flush spreading across her cheeks. She massaged her aching wrists, and cursed under her breath at her questionable reaction.

"What's with that jerk…?"

-Belldandy- (Present)

"Just what is this presence?"

There was definitely something amiss, that much she could tell.

Belldandy scanned the empty storage area near the Nokogiriyama Ropeway Summit Station, the moonlight and the few lights posts stationed around barely illuminated the area where she sensed an unusual pulse coming from, thus confirming the location Heaven provided her with.

There was nobody around, everything was silent, but given there was only a rural town close by, Belldandy had expected as much. Still, whatever was this strange presence crealy proved something unnatural was here.

She couldn't remember the last time she felt this much uncertainty, noting how sinister a night street could look like. Maybe living in the human world for so long was making her notice things she couldn't before. She was never away from Heaven for more than thirty Earth minutes at a time, let alone a near week.

Belldandy honestly wished to be back in the Hikigaya residence at this very moment.

It still weighed on her that she had to leave their home under such a short notice, even if she managed to tell Hachiman-san about the scout mission she was tasked with. She definitely would have prefered to talk to him by phone, but the last thing she wanted to do was to interrupt him, given how busy he usually was.

Even messaging him proved to be quite a difficult endeavour, but she assumed that not telling him about it would have been worse than interrupting him for a moment.

It truly had bothered her, but when he replied back a moment after, even saying for her to take care, a wave of relief washed away her worry. It made her happy the more she thought about it, knowing he cared for her well-being despite the outer dry personality he usually displayed.

Or maybe she was getting ahead of herself?

Belldandy frowned, resting a hand on her chest, uncertain of what was going on with her lately. Seeing Hachiman-san on edge when he found the tortured people, and his determination on not letting her and Lala-san see the most likely horrid state they were in, truly triggered something in her.

Something she didn't understand.

She hadn't meant to meet him, as wish-granting is typically a private affair. However, Lala-san's sudden arrival had thrown a wrench into that because Hachiman-san retreated into Komachi-sama's room as Belldandy was being summoned.

His handling of the entire situation was admirable for a human. Both encountering divine and extraterrestrial beings, Belldandy wouldn't have faulted him if he had vocalized the distress she sensed within him before his composure slowly reined him in. It was that presence of mind that she didn't expect. He treated her with suspicion and questioned her motives, and he would later even have a hand in Komachi-sama's wish being altered leading Belldandy to stay on Earth for an extensive amount of time. It was remarkable how much he set things into motion.

He wasn't peerless, as his treatment of Lala-san was less than ideal until he eventually allowed her to remain. Then again, it wasn't as if he was glad that the goddess had to remain in his home either; his protests were merely subdued because of the threat of the Ultimate Power punishing him if he prevented Belldandy from granting Komachi-sama's newest wish. She could read that he only begrudgingly approved, before promptly barring her from his mind.

Hikigaya Hachiman-san was a person who was more than capable of dealing with less-than-ideal situations.

His solution when his parents arrived was something she did not approve of. Readily lying to them to keep her and Lala-san's identities secret went against the morals that Belldandy held as a goddess. And molding someone's mind to one's purpose was a cruel action, and yet, Hachiman-san did not hesitate to utilize it. However, he didn't do it out of cruelty or convenience, he had done it for their sake, feeling bitter about his choice the entire time.

From then on, she would be accepted into the family alongside Lala-san. To not come off as abusing their unwarranted generosity, Belldandy helped where she could, mostly with readying meals for everyone. She would grow close to the family, even learning of their connection to Kimishima Naomi, the woman who rejected her wish from Heaven. And she enjoyed it. There were many things she would learn as she spoke with Komachi-sama, the one her client was most hesitant about was when speaking of Hachiman-san. All she sensed was a deep trepidation Komachi-sama had for him and immense sadness when she mentioned him. She knew then that the relationship between Komachi-sama and her older brother was a damaged one.

And then, she saw him badly bruised.

She had heard what happened. He was attacked by his fellow peers in school, and even though he was able to fend them off, he still came out of it more injured than not. When Lala-san asked why he was attacked in the first place, Komachi-sama could only say that his reputation was less than ideal in his high school. Yet that same evening, he waved off concerns and refused further treatment. Not out of complete distrust, but in foresight for not raising suspicion with others outside of his family. It exemplified how careful he was with not only his words, but with decisions he makes.

But he is also the type to go back on the words he says.

He was considerate enough to Lala-san by letting her remain in his home, however he was also as willing to leave her be captured and forcibly taken back to her home planet for the sake of not inconveniencing himself if Belldandy hadn't intervened. Only for him to suddenly change his mind once more as Lala-san's situation became bleak, that change warranting him to finally get involved and almost being successful in convincing the guards to allow Lala-san to remain. He nearly gave up once Commander Zastin interceded, quite nearly pulling a 180, but again, something came upon him once he heard Lala-san's regretful words and his resolve was steeled, this time permanently. He deconstructed Lala-san's character from what little he knew of her, his effectiveness shocking both the goddess and the princess to their cores. He faced Zastin amidst all the fear that he felt, and defended Lala-san with his words alone; and because of his actions the goddess sensed a sincere longing be birthed from the Devilukean princess's heart and a deep respect from the Royal Commander for the human male.

That's when the goddess knew for sure that he was a good person. Even when he would coldy declare Lala-san's new feelings for him as superficial, Belldandy still believed he was good although it was somewhat undercut then. Even when he readily manipulated the goddess in order to oust what she knew that he didn't concerning himself and Yggdrasil, she still believed he was a good person. He holds much distrust in his heart for everyone he's interacted with, and yet he does not let it dictate his actions. He's dry, very dry, but he isn't overly cruel; his concern over Lala-san about his scathing words proved as much later in the day.

He was surrounded by good friends, which Belldandy feels reflects well on the type of person he is. He didn't shy away issues that he as a human would have no power to do anything against. He learned about his situation with Heaven, the Valkyries, even the traitorous Angels of Synapse and their abominable angeloids; Hachiman-san did not shy against the possible threats he'd be powerless to stop. Belldandy couldn't believe the type of person Hachiman-san was, there was strength in him that was hidden underneath what she saw as modesty and cynicism.

But even he has his limits, it seems…

'Oh, you're here… That's good."

Belldandy pressed a hand close to her heart. Seeing a catatonic Hachiman-san in the twilight hours of Sunday morning was a sight she didn't realize would disturb her like it had. The pain that tormented his heart was so great it felt like she was experiencing it alongside him. She didn't understand how serious the situation truly was until she finally saw his haunted face which had been hidden by the night. It was a night where both Belldandy and Lala-san saw Hachiman-san at his breaking point, and it was only out of sheer will that he hadn't completely fallen apart.

His desperation, both vocally and physically, to keep her and Lala-san as much in the dark as he possibly could was something the goddess never expected. He never expanded on what happened that night, and Belldandy didn't think he ever would. He was also fiercely adamant that the goddess keep her eyes shut, even using her promise of never lying against her. His refusal to expose her to true horror of what happened that night extended to physically barring her from hearing as well. She didn't know what could have warranted that, what sort of wound was so grievous that sound would come from healing?

When she was finally allowed to open her eyes, Belldandy could only feel horrified. Even when healed, she could see the residual blood and tears on the three victims' clothes. What had happened to them was pure torture… And the overwhelmed goddess rushed into Hachiman-san's unsuspecting arms. And he… he, who saw it all, was the one that comforted her. Even after that terrible experience, Hachiman-san was the one that made sure she was fine. It would only be once Deviluke arrived and saw that he'd been unknowingly shedding tears that both females would attempt to ease his tumultuous heart. He almost burst then, but once more held everything at bay and prioritized resolving the situation. But… he was still only human, and it would be once they returned to his home that Hachiman-san could no longer withstand his suffering.

When Lala-san revealed her memory device could potentially erase emotion, Belldandy was almost sickened by the desperate hope that burst through Hachiman-san, because there was madness that accompanied it. His body language echoed the same sentiment; the boy had fallen on his knees, covering his face as an anguished laugh escaped him… It was everything contradictory to the Hikigaya Hachiman she'd known. Like earlier when she pulled his hand away to peer at his face, she and Lala-san were once again distraught at the devastated look on Hachiman-san's face. Belldandy clenched the fist close to her chest as she felt her heart wrench. The expression he had that moment was one she never wanted to see on him ever again. A sentiment she knew was shared with the Devilukean princess.

"I… don't want to forget what I saw, but I need to detach myself from it. I… I can't move forward without doing that."

His following words accompanying that expression may have been why she ultimately allowed Lala-san to remove his emotional trauma of what he saw without delving into his memories through her device. Hachiman-san worked so hard to keep them from seeing it, how would she be able to betray him in such a way? So she let it be and went along with his wishes. Although she would learn through Lala-san of the consequence of his actions and mourned his loss for him that same morning.

How could it possibly feel to emotionally lose someone you previously thought of as a friend? That through pure accident, a person you are connected to can no longer be emotionally responded to? Belldandy promised to help Lala-san solve that horrid situation; the goddess could not grant Hachiman-san a wish in order to fix it, and Lala-san was no longer eligible for a wish either now that she was free on Earth. For the first time, the goddess felt powerless that she couldn't help someone as deserving as Hachiman-san even with all the abilities she had.

She could only feel relieved that the days that came after that night were nothing but peaceful for Hachiman-san.

"Maybe he was asking about the call from your girlfriend?"

Belldandy couldn't understand what it was, but that moment when Komachi-sama said that, something inside her… hurt…

There were no words nor any reason why that should have surprised and distracted her to such extent, but the more she thought of it, the more it kept distracting her. It was the first time she felt like this, and she wondered if it had to do with the fact that she was living on Earth.

Or maybe it was in fact connected with Hachiman-san directly…

She just couldn't understand…

However, there was something she was completely certain of.

"…but what I do know is that Hachiman-san… is the most genuine person I've ever met."

Yes. Even with his cynicism and a personality laced with dry wit, Belldandy believed Hachiman-san was a good person. And truly was a genuine person, regardless of his denials.

The goddess blinked, sensing another unusual pulse. It didn't feel at all like the particular presence that angeloids had, but she couldn't take that for granted since the sudden disturbance on Earth's magnetic field had been their doing in the past.

A visual confirmation was in order, and so Belldandy felt resolute to find the source of whatever was causing this phenomenon. There was no way she would ignore a threat that could compromise the safety of this planet.

And just thinking about the Hikigaya family made her determination grow exponentially.

She would protect their world.

Caution was inevitably needed however as she was unaware of the nature of her search. Heaven couldn't get any sort of visual feed due to the unexpected phenomenon in the area, which by all means was supernatural.

Belldandy pressed a hand over her chest, a warm light surrounded her for a moment.

"Reveal yourself, Holy Bell."

From her back, wings materialized, however, they were not her own. White and beautiful, they were extended to both sides, and between them, Belldandy's angel came to reality, her true self, so to speak.

Holy Bell shone with intensity for a moment behind her master before they flew towards the source of the abnormal phenomenon.

A small forest separating the summit station and the town came to her sight eventually, the strange sensation becoming stronger, and… unpleasant.

Belldandy stopped momentarily, realizing that it came directly from the forest and it moved from one side to the other in a random manner. And as she dashed down into the dark woods, 3 cloaked figures appeared from the sides, jumping between the trees and passing by her.

She was completely ignored by whoever those cloaked individuals were.

However, there was no time to waste in pondering who these people might be as they were heading towards the now clearly dangerous presence. Despite uncertainty settling in her body, she moved onward, tailing the shadows ahead.

The sound of leaves rustling and branches crunching echoed as she flew between the trunks, barely keeping track of the newcomers. Their speed and agility was unnatural, given that they managed to keep up ahead despite that she was flying.

Suddenly, a flash of light spread from ahead, a loud, dreadful screech reverberating throughout the woods as birds flew away from several trees, Belldandy sensing their utter fear and panic.

She stopped again, her uncertainty increasing, but her determination pushed her to continue.


Go to profile, LISTEN: Link in Logic Is My Sword: Interlude 01 Section: Song 03


Another flash of light came from ahead, followed this time by a muffled screech. Belldandy saw in the distance one of the cloaked figures cleaving some sort of shiny sword at something on the ground, which she couldn't make the form of.

She landed by the clearing where they stood, surrounding what appeared to be the body of some sort dead animal. Belldandy would have been shocked and revolted by such a heartless act if not for the foul presence that came from the corpse.

Was the source of the phenomenon that creature?

"Who are you?"

Belldandy turned to one of the cloaked figures, the one that held the sword that emitted the only source of light in the forest besides Holly Bell. Up this close, she could see it had a particular design, as if made by advanced technology, and the blade of the weapon released energy, extending its reach.

The other two also directed their attention at her, but said nothing. Belldandy mulled over the unexpected circumstances, slightly confused and wary.

"I asked you a question? Who are you?" The figure pointed the sword at her threateningly.

That voice belonged to a female, and they were humanoid from what she could see from the profile of their cloaks.

"I am Belldandy. A first class goddess, second category with an unlimited license."

The trio exchanged a glance before the sword wielder spoke again, "A goddess?" The female voice seemed to find Belldandy's response as amusing. That's what her tone implied at any rate. "There's in fact some sort of angel-like creature behind her… and her clothes…"

"Um…" The one closest to the sword-wielder began, "This version of the planet Earth may possibly share similarities with the Earth from where we came from."

The voice also belonged to a female, and strangely enough, it sounded much alike to the other one, the only difference being the kinder tone. Belldandy clearly could sense their wariness, but the sword wielder was slightly irritated.

In any case, what the second figure mentioned implied that they didn't belong to this world, and might have come from a parallel dimension.

The concept of the multiverse had always been a difficult matter to understand, even in Heaven despite the advances in technology and education. Only a select number of gods and goddesses had delved into the matter, specializing in the subject.

However, Belldandy at least knew that there were multiple universes, and each held their own infinite number of dimensions and rules. The most intriguing thing was how they managed to travel from one dimension to another.

Almighty mentioned one time that only certain individuals, no matter their race and power, could travel through the fabric of time and space, admitting that he himself was one of them. As far as she knew, there was only one other goddess that could do the same.

This all meant that these cloaked figures were special, and as far as she could tell, she couldn't sense any malice coming from them.

"So goddess… what is your business here?"

Belldandy pressed a hand on her chest, "I've been tasked to find the source of a disturbance in Earth's magnetic field. This was the location where it was detected, thus I came to investigate. I mean no harm. We just want to make sure this isn't a threat."

Her superiors suspected it was related to the Synapse and the angeloids, so it was a relief they were mistaken. However…

"Well, as you can see," The shiny sword was directed at the motionless body behind them, "It isn't anymore. We took care of it."

Belldandy gave some few steps forward, eyeing them for a moment until they backed away, allowing her to approach the corpse. She gasped, covering her mouth as Holly Bell's light allowed her to observe in detail what was before her.

It wasn't an animal but a horrid creature, it's body was covered in scales, outward bones covered in some sort of mucus connecting its limbs. The legs and arms had spikes coming from them and the chest —displaying the fatal wound made by the sword— leaked a black, viscous liquid, mostly likely blood. The head was the worst part, showing a large mouth that spread from where it's forehead should have been to the bottom, three small holes at each side of the large mouth.

Never had Belldandy seen such a hideous creature in all her life.

"What… is this?" She whispered in disbelief, turning her head away for the terrible sight.

A brief silence followed as the trio exchanged another glance, before the sword-wielder spoke, "It's a spawn of the Forbidden Realm. We tracked it here thanks to that disturbance you mentioned."

She had only heard of the Forbidden Realm a couple of times; said to be the only universe with one dimension, inhabited by evil gods and unspeakable horrors. She thought it was just a tale of old to spook young goddesses and gods in heaven.

"And you are?" The goddess asked, turning to them.

There was no response to her inquiry, only the sounds of nature that came with the cold night. Her blue deep eyes wandered between the three, hoping they could cooperate.

Seconds later, the one that had yet to speak walked past the other two, and stood before Belldandy. She could easily tell there was a difference in height, definitely taller, not to mention its shoulders were ample. She suspected it was possibly a male, but it was just a conjecture.

"We're not your enemy."

It was a firm, young male voice.

Belldandy stared at him for a moment, the glow of Holly Bell showing for a tiny moment what was hidden under his hood, only to show some sort of mask, with strange marks and a large eye in the middle. It was kind of unsettling.

"I… can believe that," Belldandy responded. "You came from another dimension, am I correct? Maybe I can help you if you explain yourselves. I'm not your enemy either."

"Our purpose is one not to be shared. Bear in mind however, that this world is in great peril." Motioning his head towards the dead creature, he continued, "An evil entity is trying to invade this world by infiltrating with these monsters. We will continue to hunt them down, but I advise for your folk to keep an eye for any other similar phenomenons."

"Hey!" The female that held the sword called out, her voice leaking disapproval, "Are you sure telling all that to this random stranger is a good idea?"

The masked man nodded, "Indeed. I can tell she's a force of good."

"I believe so too," Added the other female.

"I'll report to Heaven with this information," Belldandy bowed to them respectfully. "I truly appreciate that you shared this information despite that you had no reason to."

"There is a reason," The male voice clarified as a blue transparent crystal covered the monster's body, floating and carrying the corpse inside like a transparent container. He turned then to the female without a sword. "Do you mind?"

"Of course not," She responded and approached the floating container, raising her hands, revealing red gauntlets with a shiny green gem in each beneath the cloak. "Blazing End!"

All of the sudden, a burst of fire engulfed the content of the floating container, burning the body as the crystal contained the fiery pulse safely inside it. They observed in silence until all that was left were ashes.

The crystal changed its form, becoming a small orb to contain just the ashes in it.

"Farewell," The male of the trio said quietly, grabbing the crystal before moving back to his apparent companions.

"W-wait, please," Belldandy called out, but it was to no avail.

The male cloaked figure rested a hand on the shoulders of the other two, and before the goddess could even blink, the trio faded within a display of green light. She looked around, failing to find them in the vicinity. Even their presence was gone.

Belldandy flew high around the area, only to confirm that the cloaked figures were gone.

"This world is in peril…"

She replayed those words in her mind many times, wondering what this evil entity could be. There was no way to confirm if what they said was true outside the corpse of that horrid creature, but Belldandy sensed sincerity in his voice, the only sentiment she managed to get from her interaction with him.

Did they come from another dimension only to prevent these spawns from roaming free in this world and bringing their master with them?

No, the masked man specifically said they had a goal they couldn't share, and she wondered if that was correlated to that evil entity.

All that was certain was that Belldandy had a report to give to her superiors.

She exchanged a glance with Holly Bell, honestly uncertain of the future. However, no matter what should come to happen, Belldandy had decided she would do all within her grasp to protect this world.

Hachiman-san's world…

-Nibutani Shinka- (Past)


Go to profile, LISTEN: Link in Logic Is My Sword: Interlude 01 Section: Song 04


"I never wanted this…"

That was all that came out of Shinka's lips, her gaze dropping as she was unable to meet the cold glare of her friend… or, well, not a friend anymore.

It was her own fault, she knew well and yet… there was no going back now.

One thing had led to another, and she just couldn't bear it anymore, Shinka wanted to move on and forget everything that had to do with the boy she knew as Hikigaya Hachiman.

"You're a fucking liar," Haa-kun retorted, and she could sense the disapointment in his voice, which hurt her deeply.

She deserved it, by all means, and there was nothing left for her to do at this point. Shinka had screwed up so bad, and these were the repercussions of her jealousy.

"You can think whatever you want," She responded, refusing to look at him.

How had it come to this?

Haa-kun, as she nicknamed Hachiman, alongside Tomo-kun, and Eriri, had become her closest friends during her first year in middle school. She found in them a place where she could be free, a place where she could share her interests without being judged, without being criticized.

Sadly, most of the school didn't see her group in a good light, and despite the constant bullying she and her friends were subjected to on a daily basis, Shinka had endured it.

Being an otaku was, in the normies' eyes, a repulsive thing to be apparently.

The offensive nicknames they gave them, the rumors that spoke ill of them, the mocking letters, the insulting drawings of them on their desks, being ridiculed whenever they were at school, the constant bullying… none of it ever mattered to her… as long as she had her friends, and they all just felt the same.

They had their own world where they could just be themselves.

And eventually, Mori Summer —her alter ego— was born, alongside The Dark Knight, which was Haa-kun's. Tomo-kun and Eriri never got into creating their characters but they supported both of them with excitement.

The amount of time she put into creating a backstory and the character of Mori Summer had been so fun, she even created a blog called Mabinogion, where people with the same interests as her could seek her advice, for her knowledge.

After all, people like her existed everywhere and were pushed away into loneliness. Her blog had become a place where people could be free. Just like she was in her group.

"Love is everything."

That had been the catch phrase she created to depict what Mori Summer represented.

She loved her friends, she loved being with them, and nothing else mattered.

However, for this reason she and Haa-kun were called Chūnibyō, a term that was apparently used to describe teens with delusions of grandeur. Maybe they were right, calling them… delusional, since they assumed to be characters with hidden knowledge and special powers that couldn't exist in reality.

But she didn't hurt anybody, nor did Haa-kun.

Her group was isolated from everyone else, and yet they were still harassed for just existing.

But Shinka endured it for the sake of her beloved friends. Those months had been the happiest moments of her life despite the alienation.

And then it happened, a girl named Orimoto Kaori actually spoke to Haa-kun, she was even friendly, which didn't sit well with Shinka. It was strange since she should have been happy that for a change, he wasn't rejected, but… having to see them interact had become highly unnerving the more time it passed.

She endured it regardless.

Days later, when Shinka heard the rumors about Orimoto rejecting Haa-kun's confession, it all fell down to her. He liked that girl enough to confess despite she being just some random girl that merely spoke to him, who didn't share his interests, who didn't know the real him…

She couldn't stand it… it pissed her off.

'That should have been me!'

Shinka had just realized in that moment how she felt about him. They spent so much time together, they were very close friends and they enjoyed one another's company.

That wasn't enough in his eyes, however. She was just a friend.

And since that realization, everything had gone downhill.

She started to loathe the mere thought of school, how she was treated for being a Chūnibyō, being secluded from everyone else as if she were a weird bug to be stepped on.

Her patience had reached its limit, and she was sick of everything.

This didn't matter to her before but now, she just couldn't keep dealing with it.

It was his fault, she felt, for choosing another girl who obviously gave fuck all about him. And it all came to the point where she could no longer even look at him. Which is why she had been avoiding him, and even Tomo-kun to ensure not running into him by chance.

Shinka however, refused to explain why she did so to them, not wanting him to know the real reason for her actions.

She even spoke to Eriri about it to possibly find a solution to her rising consternation, only to discover that her best friend would attend another school next year since her parents found out about her being bullied. It was understandable and Shinka could definitely relate.

And despite how much she tried to avoid talking to Haa-kun, he intercepted her during break after she left the girls' restroom. She never thought he'd go to such lengths to confront her.

Shinka just couldn't look at him directly anymore.

"So that's it? You and Eriri are going to let all these stupid people get what they want?" He questioned harshly, "Leaving the school is like admitting they were right. Who cares if they dislike that we're otakus."

This was what he needed to believe, which Eriri suggested her to say should Shinka be confronted for avoiding him. It was a good reason to prevent him from prying into the matter any further.

"One thing was to like anime and stuff, but we went too far by creating our alter-egos. Just thinking about us acting like we had powers and even dressing like anime characters is embarrassing," An insincere smile popped up, "Ha… What were we thinking? We aren't kids."

Haa-kun's glare intensified so much that Shinka could feel it piercing through her skull. Whatever the case, it had to be said.

Shinka had to cut ties, because just seeing him was enough to hurt her more than she was willing to admit, even if it meant denying her inner-self to move on and all she loved.

"I see… Well, there's nothing else to say then."

Shinka slowly lifted her gaze, only to see on his face sporting utmost disappointment and… sadness…

And deep inside his gaze, there was something that for a moment had terrified her to the very core, if only for a second.

Her mouth involuntarily opened to speak but he turned around and walked away without saying anything else.

It hadn't been even a minute, and she already felt about to cry. Nonetheless, it had to be done for her own sake. She was a selfish girl after all.

And after that, she couldn't even come to focus for the remainder of classes for the day. She felt like an empty husk, and the mere thought of having to attend this school tomorrow was a nightmare. Maybe, just like her friend said, only by attending a new school could she start anew.

And it all became worse as she headed home alongside Eriri, coming upon the boy they no longer were friends with, with the person she hated the most, Yukinoshita Haruno.

Her pig-tailed blonde friend didn't spare any thought and continued to walk forward, but Shinka found herself staring.

She just realized it.

By pushing him away, she let him fall right into Yukinoshita's claws…


Go to profile, SEE: Link in Logic Is My Sword: Interlude 01 Section: Picture 02


'Haa-kun…'

But it was too late.

"Shinka, don't. You know you have to move on."

Her gaze lingered for some seconds before it broke away, and she finally followed after Eriri.

She felt so guilty, and Shinka cursed the fact that they ran into Haa… no, she no longer had the right to use that playful name. Anyway, they ran into Hikigaya-kun's childhood friend just some blocks away, Yukihira-kun. For the face he sported, she could tell he was already aware of the situation.

Haa… Hikigaya-kun probably called him.

"Hey," He greeted, approaching them with his usual cooking outfit. He was carrying two big bags, for what she could see, filled with dairy products.

That aside, Shinka wondered if he was mad, and she honestly hoped that it wouldn't be the case since she loved eating at his restaurant. It wasn't his place of business, but as the son of the main cook, he could still have the power to ban her from the establishment.

Either way, she would accept whatever he said.

The pig-tailed blondie at her side glanced at her before focusing on the redhead.

"Yukihira Souma, are you here to reprimand us too?"

He stood just in front of them, sporting that laidback, yet serious expression of his without saying anything in return. Instead of that, he pushed one of the bags into her arms and the other into Eriri.

"W-what are you doing, Yukihira Souma!?" Eriri sputtered out in disbelief, barely managing to get a hold of the bag.

Shinka blinked as she herself was befuddled.

He waved a hand dismissively at her, "Shut up, Sawamura. I had to carry these bags all day because of my old man. He even left me without money to get back from school, dammit."

Shinka and Eriri exchanged a glance as the boy started to move away, but he came to a stop, glancing at them over his shoulder, "What are you two waiting for? Let's go."

Shinka blinked again, "Go? Go where?"

"And why are we carrying your bags!?" Added an irritated Eriri.

With a smirk, Yukihira-kun replied, "I'm gonna feed you two." And then his face became serious, "And then I'd like to hear your take on what happened with Hachiman if you don't mind."

And there was silence for a moment.

"I don't think…" Shinka began but he was cut off.

"Trust me, Nibutani. I only mean well."

Shinka didn't honestly feel like talking to Hikigaya-kun's best friend, since his opinion would be biased and besides, he didn't have anything to do with it.

However, the weight on her shoulders, the pounding of her heart. It screamed for her to let her unspoken depression out… No, it begged her to let it out…

Speaking to Eriri hadn't been enough…

She didn't know Yukihira-kun well, but he had proven to her time and time again when they met either at his restaurant or when he came along with Hikigaya-kun that he was a nice person.

…But could she trust him?

Did he really mean well?

He never got her response, and yet, he walked forward as if she had accepted. Shinka glanced at her best friend, who only shrugged in response.

Maybe…?

After releasing a sigh, they both moved after him. Two middle school students obediently listening to an uppity primary schooler in his last year…

What a sight they must be…

Still, as she had done almost her entire life, she endured… at least one more time.

Nibutani Shinka pressed the bag of dairy products closer to herself and hoped for the best.

-Yukinoshita Haruno- (Past)

"I really enjoyed it…"

Haruno voiced her satisfaction with a sultry smile, sinking her sweaty, naked body into the mattress. She peered at the boy that was sitting at the side of the bed as he put on his pants. He had just returned from a quick shower from the bathroom.

"You said that already."

She giggled, "It's just so surprising how good you have gotten at it, Hachi-kun." Her fingers traced across his somewhat wet, still naked back, "I just had to tell you."

"You say it every time."

Haruno smiled, her eyes fixated on the scar on his left forearm… "You were really rough…"

"I didn't hear you complaining."

Oh, how cheeky~

She giggled again, and hugged him from behind, her bare chest crashing against his back. He only looked at her over his shoulder as she playfully winked at him.

Haruno just loved that even if he was being quirky, his dry expression remained.

"You heard me making a lot of noise," She said jokingly. "I really doubt you could tell if I complained while we were at it."

He flashed her a tiny smile, certainly an uncommon occurrence, "That would be your fault since you tend to pretend I'm forcing myself on you."

She couldn't deny it, and so decided to agree, "Well… some roleplay from time to time makes this spicier."

He rolled his eyes, "You only use that particular roleplay, Haruno. It's as if you're masochistic."

"Maybe…? But I never asked you to hit me or choke me," She pointed out, letting go of him and getting off the bed. "I'm taking a shower, too. I'm sweaty!" And she turned to him with a sly smirk, "…Unless you want another go…" She peeked at the nightstand with condoms on it. "We still have plenty left to use~"

The boy she knew as Hikigaya Hachiman stared at her for a moment, "Fine."

o-0-O-0-o


Go to profile, LISTEN: Link in Logic Is My Sword: Interlude 01 Section: Song 05


"Sooooo…" Haruno pulled the younger boy by his arm closer as they strolled down the Chibadori Shopping District. "When are we doing this again?"

"First, we're supposed to hide this from everyone, so why do you keep clasping my arm as if we're a couple? If she finds out…"

Haruno frowned, pressing herself further to him, "Stop worrying, Hachi-kun! I doubt we'll run into her here in the middle of the night."

"I'd rather be cautious since she's already a bit suspicious of us," He released a sigh, and stopped. "You should behave when we're out in the streets in case someone we know sees us. You know how fucking meddlesome people tend to be when it comes to us."

"Everyone knows I'm always clingy with you, Hachi-kun," She responded, pressing a finger on his nose. "Even your friends."

He cocked an eyebrow, and looked away, "I guess… anyhow, we can meet again next week."

And that, she didn't like at all, and of course, she was already prepared to voice her disagreement in the best way she knew.

"Is that so? It's Saturday, so next week could mean tomorrow…" She tilted her head, "Right?"

He released a sigh, just as she had expected, "This isn't a fucking joke, Haruno. If we fuck up, we won't see each other again."

That was not an option in her book and honestly, he had a point, so she had to relent. Oh well…

"If that's what you want… but I'm gonna miss you, Hachi-kun!" A thought crossed her mind at that very moment, "What if next time, I… let you try… something… you asked before."

He blinked in surprise, and then his eyes widened slightly in disbelief, "You don't mean…"

There was no way she'd forget his request from a couple of months ago, and while she was reluctant back then, Haruno had come to enjoy his company to a point where she would allow him to do anything he wanted.

Maybe she liked him more than she was willing to admit. It was a dangerous game, trusting someone to such an extent, but… as long as it was him…

Her smirk became sly, almost ravenous, "Yes…"

"You know I was joking, right?" He said after clearing his throat.

She bit her lip, "You were…? So you're no longer interested?"

He averted his gaze, "I didn't say that."

She giggled in amusement. This was by all means a win in her book.

"You're such a lovable pervert, Hachi-kun~"

He looked directly at her eyes, "You molded me into this, Haruno. If anything, you're the real pervert here. Aren't you just agreeing to an a—"

Haruno rested a finger on his mouth, shutting him up, "How about if we both admit we're perverts, because you like our trysts as much as I do. Don't even try to pin it on me, Hachi-kun."

"Aren't you the girl that took advantage of an eleven year old kid?"

Hmph, and she was fourteen, it's hardly a large gap between them.

His unwanted comment irritated her more than she realized because she already felt venom spreading through her teeth, ready to bite, "Oh no, Hachi-kun. That was merely a tiny bit of fun since I was sating your boyish curiosity about a woman's body. Besides, everytime we were alone, you were the one asking to touch me, don't you recall?"

His face became bland as he muttered something under his breath, which she couldn't quite catch. Her gaze lingered on his face for a moment until he felt his body relax.

"I was… a bit curious since that day, I guess…" He released a sigh and scratched the back of his head.

"And I'm not hoarding porn and hentai in my closet either~" She astutely pointed out with a coy giggle and accompanying wink.

"Fine! I get it!" He facepalmed, "Let's just drop this, alright?"

Haruno's knowing smile remained, "We're the same, Hachi-kun… Don't forget that…"

o-0-O-0-o

Haruno could never have enough. Not anymore.

She couldn't say why however, why was she so fixated on him and at the same time, so frustrated that she felt this way. He was supposed to be just an awkward little boy she could mess with… that's how it started anyway.

He had proven to be interesting the more time she spent with him, he was absolutely adorable to watch. But she didn't expect that things would turn out this way…

To think that she would need to see his face, hear his voice, breathe in his scent, to touch him and also feel his touch. She wanted it all…

Hachiman was her drug.

It merely took a single kiss not too long ago and the intoxication was instant. Whatever he wanted was what they would do and there wasn't a thing Haruno could do to stop him, not that she wanted to.

His scent alone was capable of sending her into a heavy trance, one that refused to end until she felt completely satisfied, until she had her way with him and he did just the same. It had gotten out of her control, and she cursed the fact that she gave him so much power over her.

But she knew he felt just the same, no doubt.

It didn't matter whether her family approved of it or not, she had decided their relationship needed to be official. They had been playing around for a long time now, and it had been fun, but there was no way she'd let him out her grasp. Many hussies surrounded him, and they all wanted the same she did.

The difference however was that Hachiman already belonged to her.


Go to profile, SEE: Link in Logic Is My Sword: Interlude 01 Section: Picture 03


Caution and patience were key to succeed.

'No one will stand between us, I'll make sure of that. He will be completely mine.'

Haruno was certain.

"It's only a matter of time…"

-Kasumigaoka Utaha- (Present/Past)

"You can be someone who is… genuine…"

Utaha could only stare in utter shock at the boy that made such an unexpected statement.

She couldn't bring herself to believe what came from his mouth.

It was like he wasn't the boy she knew.

Had he actually changed, regardless of his denials? Why would he at this point?

They knew one another for what felt like longer than it actually was, it seemed unlikely and yet…

It brought her hope…

When was the last time she felt like that?

It had been so long.

How did she become this weak? This… miserable…?

It all started when she met him on that eventful day.

o-0-O-0-o

(Summer of Last Year)

Today was an important day.

It was the Metronome in Love Vol. 2's release commemoration, Kasumi Utako's signing event.

Kasumi Utako was Utaha's pen name as a writer, an alias to keep her private life from merging with her, what was first a mere hobby, now a possible future way of life. It has been nothing short of a ride since she started her newfound dream alongside the help of her editor, Machida Sonoko.

However, it wasn't going exactly as planned. The sales of her first book had been roughly decent, although she received many positive reviews. It wasn't surprising considering that rookie writers apparently had it rough getting attention and becoming successful.

Utaha was realistic though, and so was her editor. They hoped that with Metronome's second release, sales would increase, but they were prepared if that wasn't the case either way. The path of a writer was through trial and failure, and not having a first successful series would be understandable. As Utaha was still young, she had the leeway to bounce back from any failure so long as her motivation did not waver.

And so the day for the release of the second volume came, announced through many magazines in an attempt to garner more readers, also encouraging the current ones to meet the mind behind Metronome in Love, as to strengthen the community Utaha was starting to create.

Utaha wasn't entirely excited about meeting her fans, but her editor insisted on doing so.

Machida knew how to do her job well, she could tell. If only she wasn't a pain in the ass all of the time. Despite that, Utaha knew her editor had to be annoyingly pushy, given that doing so had helped them reach their current status.

Since that was decided, Utaha had been anxious about meeting her followers in person, afraid of the outcome. She was afraid no one would come, or that she would get criticized in front of other people. There were many possibilities and all seemed grim.

Thankfully, many people had assisted the event organized by her publisher, Fushikawa Shoten.

And so, she had been signing book after book, receiving praise and salutations from people of all ages. The line before her didn't appear any shorter each time she glanced at it, and while she should have felt happy, something was missing.

The process of greeting fans had become somewhat redundant and draining as the event continued.

Machida, who was supervising the event, suddenly approached her, leaning closely and whispering to her ear.

"Your excitement is starting to show. Change that face would you?" She hissed.

A futile attempt by her editor really. Utaha's mood has been dropping and she didn't feel inclined to comply, even if she would come off as rude. More fans came, more praise and questions were thrown at her and she responded in the same manner.

Her attention was drawn when utter silence settled in the library for a moment. murmurs and whisper eventually breaking it. The end of line before her dispersed as two boys joined it, visible tension building up in the people around.

Utaha wondered what triggered it, exchanging a glance with Maizono, who just shrugged in response. When her eyes returned to the line, they widened in surprise as she recognized a certain boy standing in line.

It was the infamous delinquent of Sobu High School, Hachiman Hikigaya, a.k.a Shadow Fist.

Uncertainty replaced the boredom she felt as she wondered why one of the most notorious delinquents in the area would come here. Did he come to look for a fight? To intimidate someone…? Intimidate… her?

Maybe his goal was to threaten her to get money or something.

Even the staff and security looked put off by his presence, not the sign she was hoping to see. He hadn't done anything so they had no basis to remove him from the premises. Even with his reputation, they could do nothing about his presence.

Rumors about the current Shadow Fist and a past delinquent known as Lone Biker were many, the duo apparently fighting many gangs and other delinquents from schools on separate occasions and winning every time. Their infamy had become a hot topic among almost every school in Chiba.

Utaha was honestly worried now, but she felt that attempting to make a tactical retreat could trigger him, even more now that he was just two people behind in the now short line. She just noticed another boy with glasses standing behind him, apparently talking with the infamous boy without any issue.

Machida rested a hand on her shoulder to calm her down, speaking to her ear, "Don't be scared. It would be stupid if he tried anything here."

"I-I know…"

"Your face doesn't though…" She smiled, "Just speak to him normally. Maybe he just wants to get his book signed."

Utaha couldn't help wanting to giggle at the absurdity of that comment, but just sighed in the end. The only thing left to do was to deal with it, she concluded.

It only took some minutes before the infamous boy stood before the booth.

By all means he was intimidating.

He sported the Chiba uniform, but his sleeves were rolled up. His medium-short length black hair had an unexpectedly cute ahoge at the top, and while his face was rather handsome, his curt expression and fearsome eyes overshadowed it.

She glanced at him shyly before dropping her gaze.

And just then, he placed a copy of Metronome in Love on the booth.

Then came silence.

Utaha stared at it for a moment, slightly surprised at noting it was covered with contact paper to protect the cover. Without lifting her gaze, she grasped the copy and examined it, noting it was also well kept inside, with only a few pages bent on the corner. This was one of the most well-kept copies of her book she had seen today.

And it belonged to one of the most infamous students in Chiba.

Maybe even someone like him was moved by her writing.

Utaha picked the marker and slowly raised her gaze, as if to confirm that he wanted her sign for real. Finally, she met the deep gaze of the boy labeled as a delinquent. It was unexpectedly a handsome face, and despite the noticeable traits of sour mood on his face, his eyes caught her utter attention for a moment. They were deep, strong… but there was something else in the light of his gaze that Utaha couldn't identify.

Her silence triggered him to raise his head a little, and she blinked, realizing she had been staring. She of course dropped her gaze in embarrassment, pursing her lips and cursing internally.

"Aren't you going to sign it?"

Utaha blinked again, and she raised her gaze, her cheeks still burning but thankfully, it seemed that he didn't even register her staring a moment ago. His eyes were narrowed, small hints of confusion on his face.

"Oh. Y-yes… W-where do you want it?"

"What?"

She blinked again, "The autogra—?"

"Oh, right. First page is fine."

Utaha was perpexled but she just decided to get on with it and signed the book, handling it back to him. He said nothing in return and only glanced at her before turning around.

Maybe it had been the most stupid thing to do, but her mouth spoke the next words before he moved away from the line.

"Why…" He looked at her over his shoulder, "W-why do you like my book?"

The infamous Sobu student made a thoughtful expression, and then…

"It's not bad."

And he walked away, giving Utaha no chance to inquire more over his reasons. Her heart raced at her unexpected audacity, honestly surprised at herself for directly talking to a rather infamous delinquent. She was just curious about what could have drawn him to her story. It was a romance story after all, and someone that looked for fights all across Chiba wasn't exactly the type of reader to give attention to that genre.

It somehow made her feel proud that her book could apparently pique the attention of many types of people regardless of their background.

No matter where she looked, everyone was put off by his presence, and the fact that he came here to have his book signed despite the possible repercussions of just being present must mean he truly liked it… right?

The next in line approached, a boy with glasses. He started giving praise and commenting about several moments of her book, clearly overly excited. She couldn't register anything he said though, her mind wandering to the words of the infamous Shadow Fist.

'Not bad, huh…?'

o-0-O-0-o

Utaha stood there frozen in the middle of the street, indecisive of her next course of action in the face of these unexpected circumstances.

Shadow Fist —Sobu's infamous delinquent— was sitting by himself on a bench as he fiddled with his phone. Like the first time she saw him, his presence alone oozed aloofness, nobody daring to walk close by, instead circling him to avoid any possible interaction.

Utaha glanced around and bit her lip, gripping the bookbag. The choice was easy, she could imitate what others did, and circle him, however, her legs just wouldn't move.

Not to circle him at least as she found herself already nearing the bench with light steps. She felt her nerves increasing with every step, her heart bumping at the possibility of her senseless actions turning out really bad for her.

But she had to ask him why he liked that book, that's the only thing she wanted.

Utaha stopped right in front of the bench, and waited for him to notice her.

It didn't take long.

With a laidback expression, he peered at her, "What is it?"

Utaha pursed her lips, and fixed a lock of hair behind her ear. Now that she came this far, she was resolute to hear his reasons. After that, she would just forget the subject.

"C-can I ask you a question?"

The boy merely tilted his head, "Who are you again?"

Utaha frowned, disbelief painting her face, with some strokes of irritation following. There was simply no way in her mind that he could have forgotten her, much less when they met just a couple of days ago. She felt offended, not only had her pride as an author been attacked, but also as a woman.

Despite not having friends, or never having a boyfriend, Utaha knew she was a stunning woman. She had been confessed to multiple times, all of them being rejected of course since they didn't possess the qualities she looked for. There was no denial that she stole glances from both men and women inside and outside of school.

And she was Kasumi Utako, the author of the book he came to get an autograph of! How dare he forget her that easily!? Utaha was now beyond irritated the more she thought of it.

"We literally met two days ago, in the place where I signed an autograph for the copy of my book you bought! How could you possibl—"

"Oh, right," He nodded almost robotically. "What is it?"

This guy was infuriating beyond belief, and Utaha couldn't help glaring at him despite his reputation. Whether he meant it or not, he was mocking her either way.

"Seeing you don't really care, forget I said anything."

She turned around to leave, and as she did, his voice came again, "Fine by me."

Utaha narrowed her gaze and walked away.

She felt stupid and humillated, cursing under her breath the fact that she gave her time of the day to someone like him. What was she thinking anyway? Considering the opinion of someone who clearly only sought to fight other delinquents.

The copy of Metronome of Love he brought must have belonged to someone else. Why didn't she think of that possibility? Maybe she just wanted to think that her writing could move someone with such a background.

Utaha stopped in the middle of the street and released a deep sigh.

o-0-O-0-o

It was a surprise.

With the release of her second book, the sales of her series had increased exponentially after just a couple of weeks. Machida even told her that since her series had become so popular lately, they should extend the story from three volumes to five.

Her manager said however there was a particular reason for this unexpected development, but she had refused to reveal why so far.

However, with these good news also came a new problem.

Utaha never thought about extending her story. She even had the third and last volume planned, but now she would need to rewrite it and create new plots for the main characters. A lot of work it was going to be, and many more nights of little sleep were probably going to be needed.

She was excited, but also fearful of the possibility of disappointing her rising community. She needed ideas, and the only thing that she could think of was to read some other popular light novels.

And so she found herself in a store, holding six books already and choosing the last one before purchasing them. That had been her intention anyway until someone interrupted her.

It was the last person she thought she'd see again, the delinquent known as Shadow Fist.

"What are you doing?" He asked curtly.

Utaha tilted her head, more confused than intimidated. Other customers in the store were visibly alarmed, but she disregarded the implications. Her interest was focused after all on the fact that the infamous Chiba student came to speak to her directly.

She even smiled now, given the chance of paying him back for her past humiliation.

"What is it?" Her voice leaked her amusement.

He stared at her for a moment, and pocketed his hands, "What are those books for?"

The question was direct, his voice sharper than before, and Utaha would be lying if she said that she didn't feel a bit uncomfortable, but she shrugged it off.

She waved her hair and responded, "To read of course. Can't you tell?"

The boy appraoched menacingly, and she stepped back, fearing the worst and cursing inside for the stupid call of teasing such a dangerous person. What was she thinking anyway?

"Let me guess," He stared, his deep eyes focused on hers. "You need ideas for the next volume? What is it called? Writer's block?"

And that made her irritation erupt like an active volcano.

"What would you know?" She hissed, gripping the books tightly, "Don't talk to me as if you knew me."

A cocky, almost malicious smile split his face, as if he wanted to mock her.

"But I don't need to know you to tell what is going on," His tone reeked of amusement, its source eluded Utaha's understanding. "It's fucking simple if you think it through logically."

Utaha smirked, doubting someone like him could understand her line of work. She never thought of herself as superior to anybody, but under these particular circumstances, she honestly doubted someone with such a reputation could understand her situation.

"By all means, enlighten me," She brushed her hair to the side gracefully.

Despite the clear confidence she displayed, he didn't seem affected in the slightest. On the contrary, it was as if his amusement became all the more evident.

"Your first book went on sale some time ago, and I can guess the sales were not that good since rookie writers barely gain attention with their first works."

His statement was surprisingly accurate, but Utaha refused to show her surprise, and only tilted her head, feigning disinterest, "Is that so?"

His smile became cockier, "And then your second book comes out and…" He extends his arms to the sides, "The sales begin to improve dramatically. Countless forums and fan groups begin to talk about your books and before you know it, Kasumi Utako's Metronome in Love starts to become popular, even catching the attention of news outlets."

Her eyebrow twitched slightly at his almost spot-on explanation, and she barely managed to mask her rising irritation, preparing a response.

"That's a very detailed deduction. Are you perhaps part of my community to guess that much? You came to get my autograph after all," Her voice was dry. "That's cute."

Shadow Fist stood just before her, leaning his head at her menacingly, yet Utaha refused to step back. Her pride was as an author on the line.

"And now that you and your editor are tasting popularity, you're going to extend the plot of your story into more volumes," His smirk widened at her frown. "But you're scared to disappoint your increasing community, which led you to decide to get some reading material to give you ideas."

She stared at him wide-eyed, shocked at how he was able to discern her situation with such unexpected accuracy. There was simply no way for him to know that much and yet…

"T-that's not tru—"

"It is true," He cut her off, glancing at the books in her grasp before letting out a sigh. "It's not that difficult to guess when you know the right people."

"You… know people?" She chuckled insincerely, "Aren't you supposed to be delinquent that only cares about beating up other people?"

And in a matter of seconds, he grabbed her wrist forcefully, a cry of pain coming from her, every book falling to the ground, "I don't give a shit whatever you think of me, but I won't let you ruin the story you have created for such a pathetic reason."

"L-let me go, you're hurting me," She pushed him with her free hand to no avail.

His grip was strong, and she wasn't going to break out from it.

She looked around for help, and to her shock, people shied away from her gaze, clearly exposing that none of them would get involved.

They all feared him.

Utaha stopped struggling, not wanting to infuriate the dangerous boy any further. She just hoped he would let her go away, or at least buy time for someone who can help her to appear.

"Don't read that trash," He stated drily.

She blinked, just registering what he said, "That… trash?"

"Just don't," He let go of her, much to her surprise. "You're not bad, and so far, your story isn't bad, but everyone else, they're fucking trash." He ducked and picked one of the books, his expression becoming severe.

Despite she was free to run away, his latest claim triggered her curiosity, "Are you serious? Why are you saying all this now? You didn't even remember me the last time we met."

He stood straight again and threw the book away, "I was just messing with you."

"So you do care…" She bit her lip, massaging her aching wrist, "Why?"

"Your story isn't bad compared to all the trash out there," His repeated, unorthodox compliment was unexpected, Utaha staring in disbelief, "I suspected this book to be just the same, but someone I know wouldn't shut up about it, so I read it. Turns out it wasn't as bad as I imagined."

And after his statement came silence.

Utaha watched his every movement closely, confused and uncertain of what to say, what to respond. She truly hadn't expected this, and now it flashed in her mind what he said to her the day they met.

"It's not bad…"

She could understand now that this was his way of complimenting her story despite that he was barely conveying his intent. It was… oddly interesting.

Her tense shoulders were a story of the past, intrigue now covering her face, "Okay… thanks…" And as she started picking up the books, she added, "I don't really see any problem with reading other material to get some ideas though."

Utaha blinked as the boy knelt right before her, picking one of them, his eyes crashing against hers with such intensity that she felt her body paralyzing completely.

"Don't let them corrupt you, don't let them stain your work. It doesn't matter if you don't have inspiration for more, or if you never have it again, but at least let me remember you as the person that wrote a novel that wasn't a disappointment."

Her eyes widened in utter shock.

There were no words to express what she felt in that exact moment. This was the oddest compliment she had ever received, and yet, it felt so honest and meaningful… from the person she had least expected.

Utaha pursed her lips, embracing the books tightly, "I see… T-then…" She breathed deeply, dropping her gaze, "Have you read the second volume?"

"I have," Was his almost immediate response. "It's actually better than the first one."

"I-I see…"

Utaha picked up the last book, sparing him a glance before returning them to the shelves. The sound of steps caught her attention, steps that belonged to him. The nerve of that guy, attempting to leave after that claim without even saying goodbye.

It's not like she really cared, but that was just rude, and she wasn't about to put up with it anymore.

"Wait!" She called out, causing him to stop, "I'm not done talking with you."

He scratched the back of his head in apparent exasperation, "I already said my piece."

"But I haven't," Utaha retorted. "You're a pain to deal with, seriously."

"Heh, you're just as bad," He leveled her with a smirk, "What is it?"

"Don't lower me to your level," She remarked with a huff, "I don't pick fights for the heck of it like you."

He rolled his eyes, "Yeah, yeah." And then an amused smile adorned his usual brooding face, "But I have to admit that I didn't expect you to be the blunt type. Funny."

Hands on her hips, she stepped close to him with an inquisitive gaze, "Well, we both may have learned that nothing is like what it first seems."

He observed her in silence for a fleeting moment, as if reflecting.

"Whatever… Stop wasting my time, what do you want?"

Utaha glared at him, any trace of fear gone, "Rude…" And she sighed, "You haven't told me your name yet."

He stared at her for a moment, slightly disconcerted, but she was pleased to have gotten that reaction out of him.

"What are you—"

But she cut him off, "I'm Kasumigaoka Utaha. I heard you're actually younger than me, so you can address me as your senpai."

"Whatever this is, drop it," He continued to stare in disbelief, "You don't know what you're getting into."

He was correct by all means, but Utaha was willing to gamble.

She smiled, "I don't, but it may give me some ideas."

Shadow Fist became silent, his eyes examining hers closely. She should have been scared under these circumstances, but there was no fear anymore. He was a stranger, and yet, there was something about him that drew her interest.

Was it because he was different? Because he was mysterious?

Utaha didn't have the answer, but she would find it.

And after a minute of him mulling over his answer, he finally responded.

"Hikigaya… Hachiman."

o-0-O-0-o

"What are you doing?"

Utaha gazed at the boy that gained her complete trust over the last six months, her eyes widened, uncertainty covering her face. His exasperation was almost palpable as he refused to accept the manuscript she just finished that held the last volume of her series, Metronome in Love.

"I just… want you to read it…" She said, her voice soft as she pressed the folder holding the manuscript closer to her body.

It was cold, given that it was snowing. However, she couldn't help but think it was because of the stony and detached expression he levelled at her. And then, it became more severe, which meant bad news.

"We already had this conversation."

That was true, but still…

"This is the conclusion to the story you love, right?" She responded, leaning to him, "I just want to know if it's… good enough…"

He narrowed his gaze, "Good enough for who?"

She wanted it to be good, for everyone and especially for him.

"I—"

"Drop it, Kasumigaoka. I won't read it."

And as usual, he refused to address her by her given name.

Utaha felt annoyed now.

"Why?" She questioned, "You read the other manuscripts."

"Which was a mistake. You need to stop seeking my approval, Kasumigaoka," He looked away, his frown deepening. "It was bad enough that you almost screwed up volume 4 for using a book I liked as the base for it. It took you months to release since you had to rewrite it."

She pursed her lips.

"I-I know that was a mistake, but this is different…"

"Is it?" He sighed, "You should be the one to decide if it's good enough. There's no reason why my opinion should matter. Don't drag me into this."

"It matters to me!" Utaha argued, the tone of her voice rising. "The conclusion, the protagonist's decision and the future of the heroines… Your answer may affect the end, so please…"

"You disappoint me, Kasumigaoka. You seem to have forgotten what made you the author I would follow to the end. All I see is a pathetic writer, and it's my fault. I stole your confidence without realizing it."

She shook her head, "That's not true! I just wanted to hear your opinion! I… want to know how you feel…"

His mouth opened and closed after that, as if he refrained at the last moment from saying something. His head dropped slightly, eyes hidden by his bangs.

"You will hear my opinion once the book is published and I buy it just like everyone else, but I won't read it before that."

"Hachiman-kun… don't do this."

"It's the only logical thing to do," He replied, "It doesn't fall on me to dictate how it should end. That's for you to decide, Kasumigaoka. Not me, not your fans, but only you. I'll read what Kasumi Utako has decided by herself."

It was logical, but she didn't care. This was important to her, and she refused to back up.

"Hachiman-kun… this… is the last time I ask," She looked him directly in the eyes. "Will you read my last manuscript?"

"The answer is still no, and I won't change my mind."

"Why?" She pressed, her voice becoming desperate. "Do it for me."

"I won't, Kasumigaoka. I am your fan, and above everything else, your friend, which is why I won't," He fixed the scarf around his neck. "I think we should stop seeing each other until the book is published."

Her red eyes widened for a moment before dropping her gaze to the ground. Silence reigned in the park.

He was being unfair.

She needed him and yet…

He was abandoning her.

"Friend… huh?"

He looked upward, "It's getting late. I'll walk you back."

Of course he would try to abruptly end a conversation he didn't like. He always did.

Utaha spun around and only nodded her head, lacking the strength to argue further.

The walk back to the hotel room was short, but she felt exhausted. She couldn't even feel the winter winds caressing her skin and all she wanted was to bury herself in bed.

It hurt.

It hurt a lot more than she would like to admit, having the one person she trusted the most giving her his back.

He didn't understand her.

Her feelings had been ignored again and he was pushing her away.

"We're here already."

Her train of thought was interrupted by his dry voice, and she just registered that they were already by the entrance of her hotel where her family was staying.

"Thanks for seeing me off…" Utaha said, turning to him.

She still held the manuscript firmly as she forced a smile.

He nodded slowly, "I'll see you again when your last book comes out."

She felt empty.

"Yes…"

And silence reigned again.

"I… hope you're looking forward to the last volume."

That was all she could say.

"I am."

And that was all he said.

"Then… goodbye… Ronriteki-kun…"

And with that, she walked inside the hotel.

o-0-O-0-o


Go to profile, LISTEN: Link in Logic Is My Sword: Interlude 01 Section: Song 06


"I won't leave you alone again."

Ronriteki-kun said that to her earlier on, hadn't he?

Utaha had fallen to her knees, embracing herself, unable to turn back towards the boy that had thrown her world upside down. She knew well she had never been truthful to herself, much less so since she met Hikigaya Hachiman, her blessing… and curse.

No matter what she did, he would always keep her behind those invisible walls he built within himself all the time.

There was no doubt in Utaha's mind that he cared for her, but it didn't reach the lengths Utaha had hoped for.

And she accepted that, just like Takao did.

Unlike her best friend however, she couldn't move on, always clutching to the small hope of him letting his guard down, of letting her in.

He never did, but she accepted it.

She was not a Yukinoshita after all.

And then that girl, Miura, attempted to get close to him despite how much he came to despise her. She honestly disliked that self-centered girl, but she couldn't entirely agree with how harsh Hachiman was with her, even pitying her in the worst moments.

Yet she couldn't dare to speak against it, after all, Utaha couldn't risk being hated by him.

It was pathetic, but she just couldn't help it… he made her this way.

And all of a sudden, Hachiman wanted to make things 'right'.

And with Miura of all people.

He even chose that girl over her despite all the history they shared together.

It was as if he didn't care for her anymore… as if he wasn't the Hikigaya Hachiman she had come to know and… mistakenly… love…

Utaha felt betrayed, and swore to herself to not let him hurt her anymore.

And yet… yet…

He said those irresponsible words… words that shouldn't exist in his vocabulary.

He was the worst, and he made her feel just the same.

The abhorrent feeling of expectation that was supposed to be gone at this point inevitably resurfaced despite how she tried to suppress her feelings.

She couldn't fight them.

Ronriteki-kun was truly unfair to her and that wasn't going to change anytime soon.

But this time, there was something different, and it wasn't just his eyes.

He confronted her directly, giving no qualm to her and stating clearly how flawed she was for her unreasonable, and self-demeaning attachment to him. She hadn't expected it at all when he suddenly said she was beneath his standards for being this pathetic.

He had never been this harsh, however, his intention was to make her realize her faults regarding her feelings for him and her lack of self-esteem. He even went so far to say that he would have preferred she left him instead of seeing her harm herself for his sake.

Ronriteki-kun had always strived to avoid this matter, and yet tonight, he faced it head on, showing Utaha an opening that should have never existed within those invisible walls.

His guard wasn't impenetrable anymore, that much she could tell.

It felt as if he…

"Hey… you okay…?" His voice echoed in the hotel room, drawing her attention. "Oi, what's with you all of a sudden?"

This time… she felt she had a chance… genuinely.

Kasumigaoka Utaha stood tall and turned to meet the worried look of the former delinquent with the warmest gaze she could muster.

"…What is it?" He almost sputtered, apparently surprised.

But she didn't care.

Utaha had come to a decision, and no amount of logic from him would deter her anymore.

"Ronrikeki-kun," She whispered sweetly, "Will you be my editor?"


Interlude 01 END


"Show your True Self" with Kujikawa Rise 01

A long copper-colored pigtailed hair girl, with brown eyes and pale skin was sitting on a large stylish sofa located in the middle of the medium sized room. Many lights across the ceiling illuminated the room with utmost the perfection.

The girl —who had her legs crossed— sported Yasogami High's uniform, composed of a black colored sports jacket, and plaid skirt of the same color as well as matching leggings, black shoes and a yellow ascot. She waved her pigtails gracefully as she finally addressed the public on the stylish stage.

"Hello! This is Kujikawa Rise! Mostly known as Risette!" She chirps while waving an arm, "As most of you should recall, I'm a popular Idol and one of the main characters in the game Persona 4."

Applauses and whistles erupt among the public until they eventually still.

"So this is the first show! I'm so excited to see our heroines answering your questions, my lovely readers," She giggles slightly as her gaze moves to both her sides, where two long sofas were located. They were occupied by several girls, each wearing their usual clothing. "Another round of applause for our guests!"

Applauses and whistles erupt at her call as the women on the furniture wave at the readers, some of them shyly, others barely, as if annoyed for the fact of becoming the center of attention. A couple of them showed big smiles, however.

"Now, let's get to the juicy content, shall we?" Risette comments with a blink. "Our heroines for today's show are…"

Sairenji Haruna - To Love-ru

Miura Yumiko - Oregairu

Kazama Asuka - Tekken video game series

Yukinoshita Haruno - Oregairu

Nibutani Shinka - Chūnibyō Demo Koi ga Shitai!

Lala Satalin Deviluke - To Love-ru

Belldandy - Ah! Megami-sama!

Shiromeguri Meguri - Oregairu

Kasumigaoka Utaha - Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata

Suou Mikoto - School Rumble

Kotegawa Yui - To Love-ru

Tendou Karen - Gamers!

Maizono Sayaka - Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Ayuzawa Misaki - Kaichou wa Maid-sama

Tsukamoto Yakumo - School Rumble

Takao - D-Fragments

Gasai Yuno - Mirai Nikki

Takanashi Touka - Chūnibyō Demo Koi ga Shitai!

Yuuki Mikan - To Love-ru

Shidare Hotaru - Dagashi Kashi

Sakurai Aoi - Rails Wars!

Tejina - Tejina-Senpai

Risette: Now, here goes 6 questions carefully selected for the heroines! They will have to answer whether they like it or not by the way!

1.- What is your most embarrassing moment?

S. Haruna: U-um… W-well… it was this one time when I tripped over Yuuki-kun and he grabbed my… my… Hyaaaah!*covers face in embarrassment, unable to continue*

M. Yumiko: I guess it was when I was, like, eating this delicious cake and Hikio appeared out of nowhere and I… might… have choked in front of him… Seriously, embarrassing, ya know?

K. Asuka: Well, guess it was when an asshole that was messing with a girl managed to beat me up. I swear he tricked me!

Y. Haruno: Oh my, maybe acting like a dog for my master might have been it, teeheehee! *Everyone looks at her questioningly*

N. Shinka: Gah, it was of course when that brainless minion tried to spread the stupid Maginobion despite that I tried to erase its existence!

Lala S. D: It was… when I told Hachiman… that I… *most of the girls turn to her but she only sticks out her tongue playfully*

Belldandy: When I hid things for Hachiman-san…

S. Meguri: Oh, um… some time ago I forgot completely to remove my pajama pants and went to school. I was so tired I didn't even realize it until it was too late… Ehehe...

K. Utaha: It was when Ronriteki-kun saw me… naked in the hotel… *Everyone turns to her with surprised gazes and she only drops her head in embarrassment* b-by accident…

S. Mikoto: *smiles bitterly* Ah…. That might be when I found out Kouzu-senpai had a girlfriend. Dressing up just to see him so I could ask him to the firework festival… I still feel stupid just thinking about it…

K. Yui: When that pervert Yuuki tripped in front of me and saw my underwear! I swear I'm gonna get him expelled!

T. Karen: Not much that I can remember. Oh! I got a bad grade for not studying. I was soooo into this one RPG game…

M. Sayaka: Eh… I-I guess it was when I did a particular photo session… N-nothing weird!

A. Misaki: *flushes with a scowl* Anything when it has to do with that idiot Usui! T-taking pictures of me an entire day and saying it was my birthday gift! Being strangely stubborn and forceful the whole time! Invading my personal space just because I thought only having pictures of me was weird! I hate that idiot the most!

T. Yakumo: *troubled expression* I… suppose when Sawachika-senpai and later Harima-san claimed that we were dating… I didn't know that there were rumors…

Takao: It's… it's not that embarrassing but… er… it might have been when I lost a bet with Utaha and I had to call Hachiman… d… d-daddy…

G. Yuno: It was when Hachi said my food was good!

T. Touka: I put too much salt in a dish.

Y. Mikan: It was when I put salt instead of sugar in a chocolate cake I prepared for Rito's birthday. A lot of people weren't happy that day…

S. Hotaru: Huh! I know that very well! I mistook Hershey's chocolate, which is a candy that belongs to a multinational American Company, with Ex-Lax laxative! My reputation as the ultimate candy connoisseur was tainted by that one failure!

S. Aoi: Mm… I don't like to admit it, but having lost to Hikigaya. I'll make sure to show him I don't need a man at all!

Tejina S: Um… haha… I can only think when… when… *She drops her head in embarrassment* When I failed miserably at pulling a magic trick to the first person that ever cared to come to my club…

2.- What achievement are you proud of but most people would consider silly or weird?

S. Haruna: Helping Yuuki-kun take care of the flowers of the school…

M. Yumiko: *brushes her hair back* I dunno. I don't really care what others think, I totally consider every achievement I had as important.

K. Asuka: I won an eating competition!

Y. Haruno: Making Hachi-kun embarrassed of course. It's cathartic every time.

N. Shinka: Managing to leave my Chuunibyou period in the past.

Lala S. D: Creating my first teleporter device! It doesn't transport clothes though.

Belldandy: Making my first dish on Earth. I was so glad I could cook food that humans liked.

S. Meguri: Winning a prize in a lottery!

K. Utaha: Being complimented for the first time because of my writing.

S. Mikoto: Hmm… I guess winning a national martial arts tournament. Sawachika gave me a look when she heard about it.

K. Yui: Keeping my class clean. Boys are just so uncaring when it comes to it, but I… convinced them it was in their best interests to comply and help.

T. Karen: Beating my first game. I felt so proud despite finishing it on an easy difficulty.

M. Sayaka: Meeting my first fan. There were so many on the day of my debut, but having that first person saying how much they loved my concert made me happy.

A. Misaki: I guess my job at the maid cafe. If others found out, my reputation as the Student Council President would be damaged. I can't let that happen, for the girls's sake!

T. Yakumo: Eh? Perhaps trying to explain my small psychic ability would only confuse others…

Takao: Creating my first game! It was bad, but it was my own.

G. Yuno: Finding Hachi's house… *Everyone looks at her, slightly creeped out*

T. Touka: Discovering the best kitchen item, the ladle.

Y. Mikan: Learning to sew.

S. Hotaru: Guessing my first candy, of course! I know that I was destined to become a candy connoisseur when I did it since it came so naturally on me.

S. Aoi: Learning how to load a weapon.

Tejina S: My first successful magic trick.

3.- When does time pass fastest for you and when does it pass the slowest?

S. Haruna: Classes pass fast for me, but when I look at… *reddens* someone… time passes so slowly…

M. Yumiko: Fast, when I spent time with my friends. Slow, classes. They are totally, like, so boring.

K. Asuka: Training time is too little. Studying… ugh…

Y. Haruno: It's both the same for me when I'm with him.

N. Shinka: I guess that when I have fun with my friends. But recalling my… chuunibyou period… that's really depressing…

Lala S. D: When I spend time with Hachiman, and when I spend time with Hachiman!

Belldandy: Singing with Holy Bell, but spending time with the Hikigaya family, that is when I feel time passes slowly, and I'm glad it feels like this. I enjoy their company even more.

S. Meguri: Weekends pass so fast! But when I'm doing my labors as the student council president, I feel like my duties never end. Not that I mind it since I get to help more!

K. Utaha: It's when I write. Depends on my current level of motivation.

S. Mikoto: *grins* Training at the dojo or hanging out with Tenma and them! But studying is the absolute worst! But, you know, hanging out with Hikigaya felt like a long time but it was mostly fun the whole way through!

K. Yui: When I cook for me and my older brother, time flies. I have a hard time getting to sleep for some reason. It feels like hours before I pass out.

T. Karen: Playing video games, and… um… when I get confessed to and I have to reject someone…

M. Sayaka: When I sing for my fans, but when I'm sad, I sing by myself and I swear I feel time stopping…

A. Misaki: Fastest? Maybe when I study or focus on any task. I don't really think about it. Time used to feel longer when I first worked at Maid Latte because it was embarrassing in the beginning.

T. Yakumo: Enjoying tea with Sarah and Akira-san in our club ends faster than I expect… And because I didn't realize how much work is put into it, helping Harima-senpai write his manga feels like a slow process…

Takao: Hanging out with Hachiman, Souma and Utaha… I miss those times… A-anyway, when I have to wait in line to get the newest games, that's the absolute worst!

G. Yuno: When I follow Hachi… teeheehee~! But I get so bored alone at home… My parents are so boring… They don't do anything…

T. Touka: *Thinks for a moment* Cooking and dealing with my younger sister.

Y. Mikan: When I watch TV, my favorite programs end so fast. Cleaning the house since our parents always travel because of their work, now that takes time.

S. Hotaru: Enjoying candy! And when I have no candy… *Sobs*

S. Aoi: *Smirks* Beating up delinquents and training! However, when I have to write up the paperwork, geez… that takes forever!

Tejina S: When I watch magician shows on TV! I get so pumped up! But… when I try to do a trick in front of someone and it doesn't work…

4.- Who is or was your greatest rival?

S. Haruna: I don't have any…

M. Yumiko: *Scowls* That Kasumigaoka girl and the Yukinoshita hag.

K. Asuka: Heh! Miko-chin! Although that Hanai guy might be an interesting opponent. Oh, Lone Byker, I haven't forgotten about you!

Y. Haruno: *chuckles* I have no rivals.

N. Shinka: Can't really think of anyone I guess. Maybe that blondie, ugh, she's so annoying.

Lala S. D: Rival? Oh! I need to surpass Belldy! So I can get noticed by Hachiman!

Belldandy: Um… No…

S. Meguri: Not that I recall!

K. Utaha: So many, many rivals… but now, that fake blonde and that old hag that sticks to him like glue…

S. Mikoto: Asuka's a tough cookie to fight! I think we're tied in wins and losses when we go against each other.

K. Yui: *irritated* Yuuki Rito and his delinquent friend, Hikigaya Hachiman.

T. Karen: I'll beat Takao in Smash Warriors!

M. Sayaka: I suppose the other idol that keeps trying to mess with me.

A. Misaki: *fired up* Usui! I swear one day I'll get the better of that perverted alien and take back my spot as Seika's top student!

T. Yakumo: *flustered* I… don't have anybody like that…

Takao: I'll beat Karen in Smash Warriors! And Shibasaki too!

G. Yuno: *blank gaze* I have no rivals, because in due time, they won't exist.

T. Touka: No.

Y. Mikan: I don't think I have one. Why would anyone have a rival?

S. Hotaru: Huh! Well, if I have to think of someone, it would be Shikada You!

S. Aoi: Hikigaya, I swear I'll outclass you.

Tejina S: All the magicians in the world!

5.- What do you hate in guys?

S. Haruna: I… don't particularly hate… anything about guys…

M. Yumiko: I hate idiots that aren't aware of how annoying they are, but liars… they're, like, the worst!

K. Asuka: I hate perverts, but I hate crybabies that're weak and don't do anything to become stronger even more!

Y. Haruno: Pathetic, weak, spineless men that are too stupid to see beyond covers. And sadly, most men only think with their penis or are just plain boring. *Everyone exchanges glances of discomfort at her comments*

N. Shinka: *Becomes irritated* I completely hate cowards!

Lala S. D: If there is something I dislike is… when Daddy becomes overbearing! I wouldn't like that in a guy!

Belldandy: I… don't hate… *voice trails off* I-is there a reason why I should?

S. Meguri: *bitterly smiles as she clasps her hands together* I… I don't like it when guys silently burden themselves and refuse to ask for help. I really don't like it…

K. Utaha: I utterly despise indecisiveness in a guy, however, there is something that tops that. Just don't make me speak about them being dense…

S. Mikoto: Perverts are the absolute worst! Imadori can be annoying especially when it comes to that stuff! I don't know what Karen sees in him…

K. Yui: Shameless, irresponsible perverts!

T. Karen: Oh, well… I wouldn't specifically say there is something I hate in guys, but, I suppose I don't like when they insist despite me rejecting them… Makes me a bit uncomfortable…

M. Sayaka: Rude, tactless guys. Also those that only care about looks.

A. Misaki: *scowls* I used to hate all guys in general because of my father who left my family behind with a huge debt… Usui… helped with that… *flushes as she notices knowing stares* H-huh? N-no, I still hate that idiot Usui!

T. Yakumo: *timidly looks down* I don't… hate boys… But they are… intimidating to talk to… especially when I'm able to read their thoughts…

Takao: I dislike mean guys that have no consideration for women.

G. Yuno: I hate liars.

T. Touka: I despise indecisive men.

Y. Mikan: Ah, well. I dislike lazy people in general.

S. Hotaru: I'm not fond of people that are ignorant. Also, guys that dislike candy is a big no-no for me.

S. Aoi: I hate weak, and cowardly wimps that have no balls to do what is needed!

Tejina S: Ah, I-I dunno… I met several guys that made fun of my tricks, so inconsiderate guys would be it.

6.- What do you like in guys?

S. Haruna: *blushes* I-I suppose I l-like kind and thoughtful gu-p-people! Y-yeah…

M. Yumiko: Confident, strong guys… And… I guess that them being mysterious is kinda interesting… I guess…

K. Asuka: *Shrugs* Can't say I like anything in guys since they are all a bunch of idiots. But if there was something I'd respect, I suppose someone brave enough to fight me would cool. Nah, haven't really thought much about it.

Y. Haruno: Cunning, strong-willed and intelligent men that aren't afraid of showing their true selves to others.

N. Shinka: Haha, like there is something I'd like about guys! *drops her gaze and sighs* B-but I suppose that if there was someone that was willing to fight for what they believe without caring about what others think, then… I could admire that.

Lala S. D: I love a guy that can understand me and fight for me! Like Hachiman, even if he can't really fight!

Belldandy: What do you mean by that? Liking something in men specifically? I admire human men in general, just like their women. Prior to granting Komachi-sama's wish, I never interacted with human men for an extended amount of time like with her father and Hachiman-san. Given that, I do not believe I am capable of answering such a question.

*someone mutters* "No one said he had to be a human…"

S. Meguri: I like strong people that have the ability to lead others!

K. Utaha: I like guys that are direct and don't beat around the bush.

S. Mikoto: *bashfully twirls a short strand of hair* Ahaha… Well, when it came to Kouzu-senpai, I admired how earnestly he strived in things even when he didn't like them, like after I pushed him into joining our dojo. Hanai's good at that too, although he's an idiot a lot of the time. Asou and Hikigaya's great composures are pretty cool too! I'm totally jealous of them! Gahaha! What are you guys making me say!?

T. Karen: Ah? That's a bit… Ah… I suppose that I would find someone interesting if the person was good at games… and enjoyed them as much as me… I guess?

M. Sayaka: Never had much time to think about this, but probably a guy that would protect me, and that is also intelligent and bold.

A. Misaki: *flushes* W-what kind of question is that!? W-well, as long as they don't act like complete idiots, I guess they're somewhat easier to deal with…

T. Yakumo: *beet red* I-I… do not know… I've never thought about that sort of thing before… Perhaps if they like animals…?

Takao: I like energetic people, whom I can share my interests with! Oh! And caring people too!

G. Yuno: I like Hachi… *Everyone stares at her* What? He's the only guy I care about. I like everything about him!

T. Touka: Direct men that do what is needed to succeed.

Y. Mikan: Eh? What kind of question is that? I'm too young to even think about this!

S. Hotaru: Obviously, a guy that is knowledgeable about candy and loves it as much as I do is the one I'd choose! Mehehe!

S. Aoi: *Blushes* I-I d-don't care about t-that… but IF I would, I suppose I could respect a guy that is strong and fearless.

Tejina S: Ah? *Blushes heavily, drops of sweat treading down her forehead* I-I-I d-dunno! I was a-always focused on my magic tricks… s-so I don't know!

Once the last girl finishes her response, Risette speaks again, gathering the attention of the readers as she flashes a smile."Now that was interesting and informative, yeah?" She giggles slightly, "We are not done, however! There are some questions that were directed at some of the heroines, so let's see what this is about!"

The spotlight falls on the shy Tsukamoto Yakumo, and she looks around nervously.

Risette: Yakumo-chan! What are your thoughts on the boy you recently met, Hikigaya-kun? Also are you excited about your future interactions with him?

T. Yakumo: *flushes* T-that is… I don't know anything about Hikigaya-san aside from the fact that he is Harima-senpai and Usui-san's friend… I think… he might be a good person because he's their friend… But… I would like to see if he is interested in animals after being able to interact with Iori…

Risette: Okay! One more question! What do you usually do when your older sibling makes a mistake or ends up annoying you to no end?

T. Yakumo: *bashful expression immediately vanishes as her eyes narrow* Nee-san is nothing short of reliable. I do not fault her for any mistakes she makes.

Risette: Oh… oookay? Er… Didn't see this coming, hehe… S-should we go to the next heroine?

The spotlight falls on the friendly Tendou Karen, who blinks in surprise at the attention

Risette: Kare-chi, which RPG game do you like more: Mass Effect(Sci-Fi) or Elder Scrolls(Fantasy)? And why?

T. Karen: I choose the Elder Scrolls series. It's more challenging, and I prefer the in-game mechanics and gameplay honestly.

Risette: Only a gamer would answer like this, that's for sure! Now, let's go with the next heroine!

The spotlight falls on the author prodigy Kasumigaoka Utaha, and she only rolls her eyes in annoyance, obviously disliking the attention.

Risette: Kasumigaoka-san? What do you find compelling in a lead character as well as what attributes would you use to make that happen? Also, what are some of your least favorite book/comic/manga genres?

K. Utaha: A main lead with a unique background that readers could find interesting is key, and I suppose that a confident, smart and bold lead would work well with that. I dislike horror, and ecchi manga only centred in giving fan service. I'd only read a manga of those genres if the plot was good.

Risette: You heard it guys! That's the response of a great author! But let's keep the ball rolling and proceed to the next girl!

The spotlight falls on the energetic Suou Mikoto, who only blinks in surprise.

Risette: Miko-chin! What did you think of your chapter and what are your thoughts regarding Hachiman's character?

S. Mikoto: H-hey! Don't call me that!

*question registers* Huh? Thoughts about Hikigaya? Weeeeell… He's pretty interesting, I guess. At first I thought he was just some pervert stalking me in the park, but then he gave me his food once he saw I was hungry. Even after I punched him… Ehehe… * sweatdrops*

It's always weird how he is somehow around each time I mope because of my troubles… But, he never gets nosy about it unless I want to talk. So, I guess that makes him a considerate guy.

And he was really fun for the rest of Sunday too! He can be a jerk because of his smart mouth, but at least he's a fun one!

Risette: Is that so? Hehe! One more question! What kind of Martial Arts would you like to do other than the ones you already know?

S. Mikoto: I've never really thought about that… I like practicing kenpo, and it teaches both strikes and grappling on its own. Sure, I don't think my grappling can compare to a wrestler like Karen, but I don't want to join her club either. Right now, I think I'm satisfied continuing with kenpo. But, hey, maybe that could change in the future!

Risette: Ohhh! That's neat! Now, let's go to the next one!

The spotlight falls on the stoic woman known as Takanashi Touka, who doesn't react at all.

Risette: What are your thoughts on Shokugekis? Also, when will you get a chapter regarding yourself?

T. Touka: I think shokugekis are a good way to test student abilities, however, they are only applied in the Totsuki Culinary Academy which hinders their potential usage. And about that other question, I don't know.

Risette: …okay? So… let's go with the last one?

The spotlight falls on the always kind Belldandy, who blinks in confusion.

Risette: What kind of relationship will you and Hachiman have in the coming future? What kind of mythological gods/goddesses do you find intriguing and inspirational?

Belldandy: I… don't understand… I only seek Hachiman-san's well being. I would like to believe that he will consider me a friend eventually, that is all I can hope. I find inspiration in all living beings, no matter if they are divine or not. And I dare say that humans are more inspirational to me…

Silence came after that as the last question was answered.

Risette stood on her feet and winked at the readers.

"Well, that was interesting and I dare say, entertaining!" She laughs, "Well, that would be all for today! A round of applause to the girls for participating!"

The readers go wild, calling out some of their names.

"See you all in the next show! Might take a while though! Hehehe!"


(NirvFrk97): Here we are, at the end. Hope you guys liked it. Just an FYI, the questions are answered by the girls' LiMS counterparts instead of canon. Also, we had to narrow down the questions to six in total because of how many there were, plus some asked for spoilers. The questionnaire is for their personalities and current thoughts. Ah, and expect it to be more organized next time. We'll announce when we want questions so they aren't all over the place.

Pretty sure I mentioned this last chapter, but this was our first interlude chapter planned for the story, the next chapter will also be a bonus chapter except this one actually has substance. Next up is the Intro Arc's recap with character profiles, obviously the latter will only be based on what 8man knows with snippets from us to tell you where they're from. But it will also come with the next chapter so worry not.

Itherael says that every "10" chapters will follow the more important characters' side-stories. Same with the Risette questionnaires. Hey, but for the effort to be more organized, I think we'll announce when we want questions asked next time. It's tougher on Itherael to browse through every single past review for questions.

We had to break away from our normalcy with this chapter and it made it slightly more challenging. Itherael knew more characters than me so I only really wrote, like, 1.5 girls (Yakumo + Belldandy's 8man monologue) out of the 6 in total. This time I worked more as the beta reader that helped improve what Itherael had than the co-author.

It'll be another while, but we will try to make it happen sooner. That, we can promise you.

Take care of yourselves, my fellow Strugglers.