Chapter 12: Competition Day; or, Her Curse Can't Actually Be Real?!


September 11th, 2025

I stared at the board at the front of the room with dull resignation.

Sigh... Of course. I knew I wouldn't be able to escape from being the main character, but I'd held out some foolish shred of hope that the cliché plot development staring me in the face wouldn't happen. It was a foolish, silly hope, but I'd made the mistake of thinking that maybe, just maybe, the author would take a break and give me some time off.

You hear that, you jerk?! I blame you for all of this!

"Alright everyone," Ms. Ryoko said. "It's almost time for the annual sports festival. I know you've all been looking forward to this."

The class was already filled with excited chatter as soon as Ms. Ryoko finished her sentence. 'I can't wait to run around!' 'I hope there are cheerleaders.' 'I'm totally gonna beat her this time!' 'She won't win, I'm going to do my best!'

"Settle down please," Ms. Ryoko said. "This year we'll be trying something new. A few of your upperclassmen had an interesting idea, and the school board is interested in trying it out. So, this year, the high school and middle school's sports festivals will be combined into one huge event."

"Huh?" "That's weird..." "But I'll get to see my friends again!"

I sighed and rubbed at my head. That had Rika written all over it. In fact, there wasn't anyone else it could possibly be!

"Isn't that great, Kazuto?" Nijika asked. "You said your little sister is a year below us, right? Now you get to play with her!"

Yeah... Great.

That's definitely the word I'd use to describe having to do this whole event with Sugu more excited than anything else in the world -

'I get to be with Kazuto during this? Hooray! This is the best news I've heard!'

...Great. This is gonna be such a pain.

"I'm really excited for this," Nijika told me. "I always had to sit out of the sports days before thanks to my, um... my 'problem', but now thanks to Nanairo I'll get to participate for the first time ever! I wonder if I should run! Or maybe do a relay race? The scavenger hunt and obstacle course sound really fun too... Kazuto, what do you think?"

I think you should do whatever you want to, Nijika.

'Whatever I want to... I get it! He's telling me that I should do what I want! And if I do really, really well, I bet he'll be so impressed!' Nijika giggled. 'And then he'll run over, and I'll jump into his arms and he'll spin me around and say "Wow, Nijika, you were amazing out there!" and then I'll blush and it'll be so cute and -'

Does she ever stop? No. No she doesn't.

"Heh heh heh..." The low chuckle came from my left. I looked over to see Kotone leaning forward, staring daggers at the board. "I'm really looking forward to this."

All around her, my classmates flinched. 'Scary!' they all thought. 'Takemiya is scary!'

'I bet if I do well, Kazuto will be really impressed. If he's gonna fall for me, I have to make sure I do my best.' Kotone grinned again. The other students shivered. If only they could hear what Kotone was thinking...

Nijika poked me gently in the back. "Are you okay sitting next to her?" she whispered. "Takemiya is..."

The girl in question looked over. 'I heard my name, I wonder what they're talking about?'

"Eep!" Nijika squeaked and ducked back. 'She's really scary when she glares at me like that... I don't like her one bit!'

Everyone was a little on edge thanks to the misunderstandings about Kotone - and so everyone jumped when the door to the hallway slammed open. "I challenge you!" Saori shouted to all of us, framed by blazing sunlight that made her appear as just a shadow posing in the doorway.

What. The heck. Is she talking about.

"A challenge, eh?" Kotone rose up from her seat and stomped towards Saori. The thud of her fist hitting the door frame rattled the room, but Saori just stared up at her. Somehow... She wasn't worried about Kotone at all.

'Kuh...! This one's Fear aura is powerful, but my Sealed Eye's helping me resist the worst of the effects! She's lucky I'm not going to activate my «Black Cat's Crossing» when any number of her classmates could be servants of the Dark Generals!' You don't have any ability like that! And by now you should know that Dark Generals don't exist. "That's right!" Saori said. Then she jabbed a finger at Kotone's chest. "I challenge this class to a battle with my own!"

"Ha ha ha! That's real brave of you!" Kotone grinned. "Very well, I accept! If I turned it down, people would talk!"

'She's done iiiiiit!' half of the students in my class wailed in their thoughts. "That dumb girl..." "I can't believe she challenged a gang leader like that!" "Of course she accepted. It'd look bad if she backed down in front of someone..." "I'm worried about what's gonna happen now!"

Kotone frowned. "So what's the terms?" You accepted the challenge without even knowing what you could win or lose!? Kotone! "There's gotta be a prize, or this challenge thing is worthless." 'Is this one of those... substories Kazama told me about?'

"Hmm... Ku ku ku! In this case, I demand the temporary servitude of one of your number! Naturally..." She posed, bringing a palm up to her face and grasping her hip with her other hand so that her arm crossed her body. She peeked through the gap in her fingers. "I demand as your sacrifice, Kazuto Kirigaya!"

Why me?!

"Kazuto?" Kotone cracked her knuckles. 'Sorry, but he's into me. I'll try to let her down gently.' "There's no way you're getting him. He's mine."

The class turned to me. 'Is he her errand boy?!' 'That's so sad...' 'Noooo, he's too cute to be dragged into gang life!'

This was seriously getting out of hand!

"To the victor the spoils, then! I look forward to meeting you on the battlefield!" With another loud laugh, Saori ran away. Kotone waited a few seconds, then closed the door and walked back to her desk.

'Weird girl. The eyepatch almost reminded me of Goro, though.' "I'm really looking forward to crushing her, now," Kotone told me after she took a seat.

"A-Ahem... Now that the interruptions are out of the way, I'll go over the different events..."

'I hope there's a three-legged race!' Nijika thought happily. She hummed a little song to herself I didn't recognize but could hear in Yuuna's head from time to time these days. 'If there is, I'm definitely asking Kazuto to run with me! It'll be amazing!

'"Nijika, we have to be careful," Kazuto said. "It's really awkward, with our legs tied together."

"Hmm..." Nijika frowned. Even with her practice as an idol and dancing around on stage, that hadn't prepared her for this! "W-Well, I bet it'd be more comfortable if we were... maybe... closer?"

Kazuto looked down at their bodies, and then blushed bright red - before he shifted a little bit closer and wrapped his arm around her waist. "Th-there..." He scratched his cheek. "Is that... better, Nijika?"

"I really like this," she admitted shyly. "With your arm around me, it feels really safe, Kazuto..."

He blushed and she looked away...' What is this surprisingly wholesome scene?! It's like staring at a field of flowers!

Honestly, this whole situation is a giant pain. Whatever Saori wants, it definitely can't be as bad as having to work hard at a sports festival. I was a gamer! If this were a VR competition, I'd have no complaints at all. But trying to maintain control over my Strength stat IRL, and ignore all of those thoughts, and still try to win a race or something?

...Yeah, I'm definitely going to just take it easy and not worry about these things.

...

"I worked really hard to make sure everyone would have a lot of fun!" Rika said after she swallowed a mouthful of chicken. "I hope you all have a great time and work hard!"

"It's gonna be great, Rika," Asuna said.

"Heheh! I really hope so!" Rika clenched a fist and raised it to the sky. "My soul is burning red hot! I've put everything I had into making this the best sports festival yet, so it's gonna be a total success! You'd better not slack off, Kazuto! I'll be watching you with an eagle eye since you're my rival!"

Crap! Now I have to do my best! If I don't, Rika won't stop complaining!


September 12th, 2025

It made for a pretty intimidating sight, everybody from the high school and middle school and gathered in the gym for one huge assembly. The sea of gym uniforms hadn't stopped me from unerringly picking out my little sister from across the room - she was the one getting astonished stares from some of the first year high school boys, talking to the glasses-wearing girl, and staring at me with a huge smile on her face and waving happily until -

Okay, fine, I waved back, Sugu! It was just a small wave, she didn't need to look so smugly satisfied with herself.

"Remember," Asuna said, wrapping up her greeting speech, "today is a day for all of us to try our best and have a lot of fun! No matter who wins, I want everyone to be friends at the end of the day."

"Woooo!" Rika shouted from the crowd. "Let's go already!"

When the crowd laughed, Asuna could only shake her head and smile. "If everyone's that excited, then let's get started!"

It took some time for everyone to get out onto our track, but the yard was definitely big enough. I looked around; since everyone was wearing their gym uniforms, I could finally find Kana and figure out what class she was in! Every time I'd asked her before she'd just laughed and told me, 'Ya shouldn't ask 'bout a gal's age, Kazu-boy~,' before sauntering away. So finally, I'd figure it out -

"Nya hah hah! Looks like everyone's rarin' ta go!" I sighed when I heard the very familiar laugh echoing from the speakers. "Fer th' kiddies in th' audience, I'm Kana Izawa. As a member 'a the Journalism club, I'll be actin' as yer friendly MC an' announcer fer this event."

I sighed. So much for that plan, huh? Now that I knew where to look, I could see Kana happily slouching in her chair, dressed in her usual brown jacket and school uniform.

"Th' middle school events are gonna be first out here, while th' high school takes up the gym fer volleyball an' basketball. After lunch, we're gonna switch. First up, th' middle school first year track races! We'll need -"

I had promised Sugu I watch her, but it was going to be about an hour until her track event. I briefly wondered about just walking off to go watch the... girls play volleyball, according to Kana's latest commentary, but this was Sugu I was talking about. Any amount of time she'd get to spend with me was a gift from the gods, or whatever.

...Of course I was going to try to sneak off! What do you think I was doing, just standing around waiting to get grabbed?

"Kazuto, get over here."

Someone grabbed me! I squirmed, but Kotone had a firm grip on my gym shirt's collar and was already walking away. If I didn't want to get dragged off, I had to walk with her. Help! Help, anyone, help! ...Yuuna! I see Yuuna! She's looking this way, she'll help!

Yuuna blinked at the sight, and then smiled. 'Ah! Darling's horoscope said that he'd be led to good luck! This must be what it meant.' She waved at me. 'I've heard nasty rumors about that girl, but you can take care of yourself, right Darling?'

She can't possibly be serious!

Unfortunately for me, she definitely was. "You'd better watch me play," Kotone told me.

D-Do I get a say in this?

"No."

Well, okay then.

Kotone looked at me, then nodded once. "I'm off," she said.

Good luck...?

"Heh." Kotone smirked. "There's no way any of them can take me down. They're no threat at all."

A poor first-year girl from the high school's class 1-A walked around the corner of the hallway and caught sight of Kotone. She paled and turned on her heel before running away as fast as she could. Poor timing...

Since I'd gotten an order from Kotone, I couldn't really ignore it. So, with a heavy sigh, I trotted towards the stairs that led to the bleachers up above the gym. I could lean over the railing and see everything pretty easily. By the time I'd made my way through the crowd of guys gawking at girls in gym uniforms, the volleyball game had started up already. I watched as the ball bounced back and forth, and then -

*tweet!*

"Aww," a few guys moaned in disappointment as another mark went up against Kotone's team. They were losing pretty handily, with the score already 9 to 5.

...Go, Kotone, you can do it...

Kotone looked up at me, staring directly at me. 'He's watching, huh? Well, I'd better win this thing already! Enough holding back!' "Alright, time to get... serious," she said. When she cracked her neck and then slowly popped her knuckles one at a time, the sounds echoed through the quiet gym. One of the girls on the other side whimpered quietly.

That girl... She was pretty cool! Even if she scared everyone else half to death when doing that.

'Okay, I did all the stretches Kazama showed me. Now I'm ready to work hard!' Sigh...

...

The rest of the morning came and went (because of Kotone dragging me off to watch her volleyball match I'd missed the races Sugu and Shino were going to compete in, much to both girls' internal disappointment). I yawned and stretched, rubbing at my eyes. It was almost time for –

'This is just the worst thing ever… I can't believe it! I've never felt this much PAAAIIIIINNN before!' Eh?! I'd never encountered a more concentrated mass of depression and dark thoughts! Usually, when people were in bad moods, their thoughts would swirl around like dark rain clouds over their heads, sometimes even with little lightning bolts coming out if they were really upset. This… This was way worse that that! The girl in question was totally surrounded by clouds that were pouring down constantly, with lighting flashing every second.

…Wait, that was Keiko! What was wrong with her?

'Those… those… those melons!' Keiko's thoughts drifted towards my little sister and started playing back a memory of Sugu as she ran towards a white ribbon, chest high, and the bouncing –

Nope. Nope nope nope. I can already see where this is going and I want none of it, thank you.

"Lunch time, Kazuto!" Asuna said! "Are you listening? I've been talking to you for the last few minutes, and you haven't said anything." I blinked and looked over. Sure enough, the beautiful girl was standing beside me, a picnic basket in her hands. It was huge, and probably held enough food in them to feed a small army. Maybe there'd even be some left after Rika was done, too.

Oh, uh, sorry. Just lost in thought.

"The others are already waiting. Ah! There's Keiko. You two were the only ones left."

'Why did Shino have to make a joke about winning by a chest-length?!' Sigh…

Fortunately, Keiko's mood was distracted when Asuna came over to collect her for lunch. We went to the others and sat down in the shade of a nearby tree; all of us said thanks for the food, and then dug in.

Ah... By 'all of us', I meant the regular rooftop group and the middle school girls that Sugu was good friends with. Kotone and Saori were eating off-campus and with the computer club, respectively. What, did you think I was going to interact with more people than I absolutely had to? No way! I was keeping my MC status as tight to the chest as possible! It was bad enough that I was already surrounded by a bunch of cute girls in tight gym uniforms!

"Waaah, this is so good!" Keiko exclaimed. "I can't believe you made this, Miss Yuuki!"

"Please, Asuna is fine," Asuna reminded the young girl. "And I knew that we were having the festival today, so it was only natural I made plenty of food for everyone."

Shino swallowed a bite of food. "The lines feel so far away... I'm so full of life...! Miss Yuuki, these are amazing sandwiches."

Asuna smiled, her cheeks pink. "Thank you very much. I'm glad you like them. And really, call me Asuna." 'I wish they hadn't heard so much about me being the Princess of the school from Rika. Now they're being so stiff when they talk to me!'

Kuh... I can't tell how I'm supposed to feel about this! On one hand, more people experiencing the glory of Asuna's sandwiches is amazing! But on the other hand, that means fewer sandwiches for me...

"Hey, Kazuto!" I turned to see Sugu standing behind me, hands on her hips. "What are you eating for?! You know it's bad to eat right before we have a match! We're doing a demo, remember?"

I never remembered agreeing to a kendo match...

"Please?" 'I'm even giving him the puppy-dog eyes! He HAS to give in!' "I totally won't ask for another favor for a long time, Kazuto..."

Like I'd believe that!

Sugu pouted and puffed out her cheeks. "Well, at least I won't ask for a favor for a week! Is that good enough?" Well, it wasn't like I could just tell her to stop trying to break into my room and cuddle up next to me in my sleep, so I could only sigh and nod. "Yay! Thanks, Kazuto! You're the best big brother ever!"

I sighed again as she ran off to get things ready, and then turned back around to see the rest of the girls smiling at me.

What's so funny?

"Oh, nothing, Master," Shino said. Her smirk didn't fool me! "Nothing at all."

"She's right, we're not - wait wait waaaaaait a second, 'Master'?!" Rika started off normally and then whipped around to stare at Shino. "What the heck!?"

She just... calls me that?

"Nya hah hah!" Kana's nose twitched as she grinned. "I smell a scoop."

"Master is my partner in an MMO game we play together," Shino said. 'The fewer people that know about my eyes the better, like Master told me! So I can't tell them the real reason.' "Because he's so good at the game, I call him my Master."

"Ka-zu-to..." Asuna said sweetly.

"Are you making a cute young girl call you something lewd?!" Yuuna exclaimed. 'I thought you were better than that! But... if that's what you like...'

No! No no no, none of that!

Shino blushed. "It's not like that between me and Master," she said. "In fact, we were just reunited after many years."

"Another childhood friend!" Nijika complained.

I-I'm just gonna run off! I think Sugu's calling for me!

...Yes, I was running away. No, I don't care what you think of that! I wasn't going to just stand in front of a bunch of aggroed mobs for no reason at all!

It didn't take too long for Sugu and I to get dressed. I hadn't done kendo in a while, but I still remembered most of how to put on the equipment - and Sugu was more than happy to fuss at what I was wearing to make sure everything fit right. After that, we stood in the center of the field. Plenty of students watched us with interest as Kana explained all about how we were going to have a match. "An' don't worry, these siblings love each other too much ta really hurt each other. This's just a demo fight. An' I've got somethin' from Suguha ta read... 'Please join the kendo club if you like what you see!' Well, ya heard th' gal."

I sighed again and bowed to Sugu once Kana was done. She bowed back, and we both raised our swords. It had been a while since I got dragged into a match with her...

'Kazuto's only been playing those games, so I bet he's a little rusty!' I got the mental impression of a smirk, just before Sugu attacked. She was kind enough to have her attack play out in her mind for an instant before she actually moved, so I managed to get my sword in position before she could strike me.

The wooden blades clacked together and I enjoyed the brief 'Eh!?' of surprise from Sugu's mind before she gathered herself and backed off. We circled each other for a second, waiting for someone to give an opening. "Oooh, they look like they're havin' fun," Kana snickered. "Who's gonna attack next? Will Kazu-boy finally get punishment fer flirtin' with A-chan an' Yuuna every day?"

You're not helping, Kana!

"Yeah!" "Beat him up, girl!" "For justice against our Princesses!"

'Flirting every day...?! Kazuto should only be flirting with me! Because I love him the most!' "Hiyaa!" Sugu shouted and closed in.

The two of us traded blows back and forth, but I was always able to stay ahead of her just enough to block thanks to reading her mind. ...Hey, it's not cheating! I'm just using my abilities to win!

Oh yeah? Why don't you go fight the kendo finalist? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Despite my advantages, Sugu was still just better than me in the real world (when I was holding my full strength back, anyway) and so I couldn't do more than block and make a few attacks. We danced around each other, until eventually the loudspeakers crackled again. "Much as I'm lovin' this fight," Kana said, "we're almost out of time and so it's gonna have ta be a draw! Congrats ta both of our lovely contestants, an' I hope everyone enjoyed the show!"

Sugu and I broke apart and bowed to each other sheepishly. 'Ahh... I forgot about our time limit! I was having too much fun playing with Kazuto! It's been years since we played together!' She thought this was just playing like we were kids?! This girl!

"You were so cool back there!" Keiko gushed as soon as Sugu and I returned to the picnic. I wasn't sure who she was talking to, but her eyes were sparkling. "I wish I could do things like that! But I'm way too clumsy..."

"It's fine if you can't," Shino said as she sipped at a thermos of tea. "Not everyone is able to do things like that."

"That's easy for you to say!" Keiko protested.

I'm sure you have your own skills and talents, Ayano.

"Eheheh..." she giggled. "Oh, by the way, you can call me Keiko! Suguha is a good friend of mine, so you don't need to be so formal."

I guess I should thank you for being my sister's friend, Ayano. She can be difficult, but please keep getting along with her.

"Hey!" Sugu yelped. "What's that look for, Kazuto? I can make friends!" I raised an eyebrow at her, then at Keiko and Shino.

You're doing a great job so far.

"Don't be mean to your little sister!" Nijika protested. "Little sisters are a gift and you should cherish them!"

"Yeah!" Sugu nodded. 'I don't get what she means, but if it gets Kazuto to love me more then I agree!' "...I still can't believe you're friends with idols, Kazuto."

"Eheheheh..." Keiko giggled again. As soon as she'd seen Yuuna and Nijika, she'd begged for an autograph. The only thing she had on her was her gym shirt, so now it sported two signatures on the back.

Nijika giggled, and then stood up. "Sorry, everyone! I'd love to keep talking, but I have to go run the relay race! We're a little bit behind class 1-B, so I have to try my best."

"Huh?" Rika asked. "What's that all about?"

Kana's eyes gleamed and she was more than happy to fill all the rest of the girls in on the bet between my class and Saori's class. For that matter, where was the eyepatch-wearing girl? 'Ku ku ku! The blessing of Mercury is with me today!' Oh, she's over there, doing her best in her races. Looked like she won too, if her distinctive laugh and typical ramblings were any indication.

"Come on!" Yuuna grabbed my hand and tugged me to my feet before she started pushing through the crowd. "We have to go cheer her on, Darling!"

Fine, fine, I'm coming. You don't have to pull my arm!

Yuuna smiled at me. "And don't forget to wave! Nijika really likes you. You're all she talks about at practice! Well, you and her little sister." Great...

Thanks to Yuuna's fame and popularity in school, she just had to smile and ask nicely to get a perfect spot right at the edge of the track. We could see Nijika standing in the middle of the track, her maid headband perched right on top of her head and a blue ribbon that marked her as a member of my class tying her hair back into a ponytail. "Go for it, honey!" Yuuna called out loudly. "You can do it, Nijika!"

...Shouldn't you be cheering for your own team?

"Yeah, but Nijika's my partner, so of course I have to cheer for her too! Besides, my class's race isn't for a while. Hmm, I should go find that cute cheerleader outfit!" Yuuna ran off. I watched her go, and sighed. Seriously, she's always trying so hard...

'Ehh?! Kazuto is watching!' Nijika blushed when she saw that. I waved at her a little bit. 'What do I do, what do I do, what do I do?! I have to impress him! If I win, that'll be super amazing and I bet he'll love it! And then...

'Kazuto approached her as she smiled. A gold medal! That put their class ahead of 1-B! "Good job, Nijika..." he said, smiling at her.

"O-Oh, um... Thank you," she said. "I... I... I did it for you!" It was only after she stammered that out that she realized just how it sounded. "U-Um, I mean, I did it so that you'd be safe from that weird girl with the eyepatch..."

"For me?" Kazuto's eyes widened, and then he wrapped her in a tight hug. Nijika squeaked unintelligible words as she tried to get a word in edgewise. "Thank you so much, Nijika."

And then there would be flowers and sparkles, and maybe some bubbles -'

I winced. Nijika's delusions had gone on longer than usual, and the girl had just stood there with the baton in her hand after getting it passed to her. "Hmm, an' Nijika Karatachi of class 1-C is jus' standin' there," Kana mused from the announcer's booth. "Wonder what she's dreamin' 'bout? Judgin' by that look in her eyes, it's a prob'ly a cute boy!"

"Nijika! You'd better start running, honey!" Yuuna shouted from beside me, shaking her pompoms. She got changed fast! "You can't let us down!"

"Eheheh... EH?!" Nijika blinked rapidly. "Oh no!"

I could understand her dismay. She'd been daydreaming for a little bit, so despite the small lead her team had earned before her final leg of the race the rest of the runners were already halfway down the track to the end. There wasn't any way she could possibly -

"I'm off!"

Nijika tore off down the track, running faster than anyone had any right to be moving. She passed us in a heartbeat and Yuuna squealed as the wind played with her braid, but the idol rallied fast and shook her pompoms. "That's the way, Nijika!"

Nijika passed the ribbon to come in first place, and nearly plowed into the spectators on the side of the track when she tried desperately to stop. As she sighed in relief that she was fine (and that her maid headband was still perched on her head safely) Yuuna leapt to tackle her in a huge hug. "Congratulations, honey! I knew you could do it!"

"Kyaa! Yuuna! Careful!"

Rika jogged over to the two idols. "That was so amazing! You just went... zoom, like it was no big deal!" She raised a hand up, and Nijika carefully high-fived her. "...ouch, my hand..." Maybe not carefully enough.

...

Sigh. I knew it had to happen eventually, but I'd managed to avoid joining the competition so far.

"Wooo! Go Kazuto!" Sugu shouted.

"It hasn't even started yet, Suguha..." Keiko mumbled.

"So? I'm cheering for my big brother anyway. Or is that a problem?"

"No, there's no problem," Shino sighed. 'Aside from all the high schoolers staring at us... Then again, they might be staring at them.'

Yuuna and Rika (because of course she'd managed to convince Rika to dress up as a cheerleader too) were both going through a complicated routine, shaking their pompoms and dancing around. Naturally, with two cute girls in cheerleader uniforms, they were getting a lot of attention from the guys.

Poor Asuna was blushing up a storm, weakly shaking pompoms of her own around. I had no idea how Rika had managed to convince her... Like Rika and Yuuna, she was getting attention from the guys - and also the girls, who were all staring at her. Their thoughts were full of 'Wow, Princess Asuna is so pretty!', 'Wow, her legs go on for miles!', and 'I wish I could look that good wearing that!'. It was a little intimidating, to be honest. All those girls!

"Nya hah hah! With that many beauties cheerin' fer him, Kazu-boy's really earnin' his nickname of 'Enemy of all Men'!" What?! When did I get that nickname?! And why were all the guys around me nodding in agreement?! They're all from my class! "He'll have 'is work cut out fer him if he wants ta win this event! It's class 1-C versus class 1-A in a ball-tossing competition! Get those balls scattered around the ground into yer basket! 1-C wants ta toss 'em in th' blue basket, an' class 1-A want ta fill up th' red basket. Once every ball is in there, the game's over an' we'll count everythin' up!"

Sigh... Here we go.

"Alright, guys! Give us all a great show!" Kana cheered, just before a bright whistle blew. Immediately, everyone on the field dashed towards the nearest balls and started throwing.

Naturally, the scramble to get the balls consumed us all and the air filled with the balls. Most of them made it into the baskets, though some bounced off the rim and fell back to waiting hands at the other side. Or at least, that's how it should have worked. I tossed the last of my balls into the basket (it helped to be able to nudge them a little bit with psychokinesis) and looked back at the other class's basket. It was -

...Huh?! How is it that full already?!

"Oops," one of my classmates said while he limply tossed a ball at our basket. It didn't even make it halfway before plopping to the ground. "My bad."

What is going on?!

"Ooh, not lookin' too good fer class 1-C. Seems like some 'a th' guys aren't feelin' too motivated! Shame 'bout that, but Kazu-boy's legion 'a girls are gonna be disappointed their boy isn't winnin'!"

Grrr! Kana, I could do without the commentary!

"Nya hah hah!"

Great... My enemies are both the other class and my own teammates! If only Asuna and the others weren't dressed up as cute cheerleaders...!

'Oh no, you look like you're in trouble, Darling!' "You can do it, Darling!" Yuuna called out. "I know you can! Blue is your lucky color!"

"You'd better do your best!" Rika shouted. "You're my rival, after all!"

"My big brother won't lose," Sugu said. 'And if he does, I can cuddle with him as a way to cheer him up! This is a win-win for me!'

Man, I can't exactly let them down, can I? I'll just have to try my best to win.

*Tweeeet!*

"An' everyone stop please, thank ya very much fer playin'. Just gotta count out th' balls in each basket!"

I waited while they got the baskets down and started dumping out the balls. The red team went first, and it was way fuller than ours. Still, Yuuna said blue was my lucky color, right? So that meant that I'd win thanks to sheer luck, right?

...Why am I putting faith in what she said? I'm getting distracted!

"And th' final count is 83 ta 56. Ooh, better luck next year, class 1-C. An' good job everyone, ya did great!" Kana said.

"Awww," all my cheerleaders sighed together.

"Well, can't win them all," Asuna said. "...And now I can finally get changed out of this -"

"No way!" Yuuna immediately wrapped her arms around Asuna. "You have to go cheer on Rika, right~?"

Rika grinned and pumped a fist. "I still have another ten events to go! I'd love to have you cheer for me, Asuna!"

The beautiful girl sighed. 'I can't say no to that...' "Fine, fine..."

"Yess!" Rika threw her arms in the air. "Now I'm all fired up! Time to go!"

She raced off with the other two cheerleaders in tow, and I wondered if she realized she was still wearing the cheerleading outfit herself. Not like it was my problem, though. "It's too bad you didn't win," Nijika said. 'I have to try to cheer him up!'

"Master did his best," Shino said with a smile.

"Yeah, you were really cool!" Keiko added.

Thank you Shino, Ayano.

"You can call me Keiko!" Keiko reminded me.

Since that was the only event I'd signed up for, I was done for the day - which meant it was time to go watch Rika at work.

...

"Oh no, it's her again..." Nijika mumbled.

Seriously? I'd managed to get away from Kotone with no problem at all earlier, but now she was just standing by the edge of the track, arms folded. All the students around her had backed off and left an open ring around her. "Who is she? She looks scary," Keiko asked.

"She sits next to Kazuto in class," Nijika told her. "And she's really scary! I've heard rumors that she runs a gang!"

"You can't believe rumors," Sugu said.

Nijika shook her head. "But these rumors come from Kana! And that means they're definitely, a hundred percent true," she said. As much as I wanted to deny it, I couldn't. Kana lived her info broker life by that one all-important rule.

Well, that and 'Get paid' but that's not really relevant.

Kotone looked over and scowled. "Kazuto, get over here." I sighed when the rest of the girls with me flinched.

Guess I'll see you later?

"Y-Yeah," Nijika said. "We'll be... s-somewhere else! Come on girls, let's find somewhere to watch the event!"

"Um, okay! Bye, Kazuto!" Sugu waved. 'But I wanna watch it with Kazutooooo!'

"Stay safe, Master," Shino said.

Kotone glared at me when I stood next to her. "...I want water." 'I forgot to get something to drink earlier, and now I'm really thirsty. Hopefully he can save my spot.'

"Is she telling him to fetch water for her?" "She's already ordering him around..." "If he doesn't get her something, is she gonna beat him up?"

I wish people would stop freaking out about Kotone! She's a nice girl despite her... everything else.

"An' fer our next event, it's the second year high school gals," Kana announced. "Like every other event so far, Rika Shinozaki is th' participant fer A-chan's class! An' the rest 'a th' participants... Sorry it had ta end this way." She clapped her hands together and bowed her head. "Nice knowin' ya, but yer prob'ly not gonna beat Rika."

It would almost be insulting if it weren't perfectly accurate, and all the other girls standing at the start weren't nodding in agreement. "Hey, let's all try our best anyway!" Rika exclaimed.

Naturally, she won the race with ease.

And the next, longer race. And the one where she had to jump for the bread and eat it without using her hands, and the one where she had to squirm under the net (though privately I thought Asuna might have had an easier time with that race, so I wasn't sure why Rika had signed up for it). It was kind of amazing, in a way.

"An' now it's time fer a scavenger hunt! Gals, when it's time ta go, run up an' grab a prompt from th' table. Be quick, since th' first one back with somethin' that matches yer prompt wins!"

Rika stretched her arms out and grinned, throwing up a confident peace sign for the watchers. 'Crap... This is luck-based, so I might not be able to win this one! Gotta get lucky, gotta get lucky...!'

*Tweeet!*

"An' they're off! Looks like everyone's gettin' their challenges now! Who's got what? Bet there's somethin' easy in there!"

Rika stared at her prompt, a blue scrap of paper. 'Crap! What am I supposed to do with THIS? A boy I really admire? ...Well, screw it!' I watched with a slowly mounting dread as she ran towards me. No, no, no no no no no-!

"Kazuto, gimme your hand," Rika demanded. 'I don't get why he's with the scary girl instead of Asuna and Yuuna, but who cares! This is less embarrassing!'

Do I have to?

"Rules say I have to grab my item and bring it back. So hand, now!"

I'm not a pet...

Despite my complaints I put my hand in Rika's and the brown-haired girl stiffened immediately. "U-uh, okay, okay, that's - that's good," she said. 'Why am I so weird about this? It's just like holding hands with Asuna, that's all! Yeah! Just like that!' She turned robotically and took a single step forward, before she crashed to the ground in a heap.

Are... you okay?

"Owww..." she mumbled, rubbing her head. "I'm... fine, yeah. Just tripped, that's all." I glanced at the ground. It was perfectly flat. "Lemme just..."

She tried to stand up, but when she put her weight on her right foot it buckled and she fell forward. I was able to catch her, so she didn't hit the ground again, but the girl's internal cry of pain was only expressed as a quiet wince on Rika's face. "Sorry, sorry," she grumbled. "Dizzy. 've been running around a lot, yeah... heheh..."

Alright, this is ridiculous. Get on my back.

"Kyah!?" She squealed when I took things into my own hands. All it took was a second to kneel down, and a judicious push with telekinesis to shove her straight onto my back. Her arms wrapped around my neck automatically and then I was back on my feet, carrying her in a piggy-back. "H-Hey! Kazuto! Put me down!"

Nope. You have to go to the nurse.

"A-Are you - hey! The table's the other way!"

"And it seems like Rika's gotten herself hurt," Kana said over the loudspeakers. "Seems like she's gonna be headin' off ta th' nurse's office. Too bad fer her class! Hope ya feel better soon, girl!"

"Kazuto! Kazuto put me down you jerk!"

Not happening. Asuna would kill me if I let you keep hurting yourself.

Or maybe worse, she'd stop making sandwiches.

Rika grumbled a little bit more, but gave up trying to struggle against my grip. 'Jeez, he's strong... Kazuto hasn't even slowed down with me on his back at all!' With a sigh, she leaned forward and rested her chin on my shoulder. ...Hey, hey, hey! There are some things pressing against me! Please be more concerned about your body, Rika! I'm still a boy!

When we got there, the nurse's office was open but the nurse wasn't actually there. I sighed and knelt down near one of the beds, letting Rika scramble off of my back and onto one. Now, all I needed was a first aid kit to treat the bumps and scrapes Rika managed to pick up after a whole day of playing around...

"It's in the left cupboard, middle shelf." I looked at Rika over my shoulder and the freckled girl's cheeks colored pink. "Well, you're looking for the first aid kit, right?"

Right.

When I opened up the cupboard Rika had pointed out, the first aid kit sat right in front of me. I picked it up and carried it back to the bed, where I started dabbing at Rika's scrapes. Her knee was a little bit banged up and needed to be disinfected before I put the bandage on it -

"Oww," Rika whined. "That stings."

Oh, suck it up, rival.

"How are you so good at this anyway?" Rika grumbled. "Usually Asuna's the one fussing over me. N-Not that I'm ungrateful, but..."

Sugu tends to pick up plenty of scratches when she's super focused on her kendo matches. It only makes sense that I know how to take care of her, right?

Well, if I was going to be totally honest, that was mostly back when she and I were learning from our grandfather. She kept getting banged up when I would lose control of my strength by accident. Not that I really understood why it kept happening. So, naturally I would take care of my little sister's injuries. So, patching up Rika's skinned knee and - I dabbed at her nose with a cloth and sighed when it came away bloody. She at least had the courtesy to look sheepish about hiding her nosebleed. "Well, it would have stopped on its own," she muttered.

There wasn't much I could really do about it at this point, honestly. It would stop on its own, and the rest of her minor injuries had been bandaged up. I still used my Rejuvenation power just in case, to make sure nothing got infected.

'The silence is kinda awkward...' Rika fidgeted on the bed while I put the first aid kit back. Sorry, Miss Nurse, but it was for a good cause. Please send the bill to the student council. "Hey... Kazuto?"

I looked back at Rika. She had her knees drawn up to her chest and was idly playing with the sheets of the bed.

Yeah, what?

"I really did my best to make sure everyone had fun today," she muttered. "I worked hard and everything, too. Asuna even praised me, saying 'You're doing a good job, Rika!'" She sighed. "But out there, I can't tell at all whether or not people are having a good time."

I walked over to the windows and peered out. A few girls from Yuuna's year were running around the track. Yuuna was running too, even though she hadn't changed out of her cheerleader uniform. I wasn't surprised to see that the idol was near the front - dancing up on stage took a lot of work from her, so she was in really, really good shape.

"What do you think?" Rika asked. "Is... Did I..."

...I don't know about the others, but I'm having a good time.

I wasn't sure why Rika was so worried about this sort of thing, but it really didn't suit her. She should be laughing and facing forward, blazing brightly. It wasn't like me to act so bluntly, but if I could set her mind at ease, I'd help wherever I could.

When I slid the window up, the sound of cheers filled the air. "An' congrats ta our winner!" Kana's voice echoed through the room.

See? They're having fun too. You did a good job, Rika.

Rika stared out the window, and then fell back on the bed with a loud laugh. "Man!" she giggled after she laughed herself out. "That totally wasn't like me at all! But thanks, Kazuto. That made me feel better. I think I'm ready to go back out there and run some more!"

Yeah, yeah. Sure you are.

Not if the thoughts hurrying into the school were any indication. It looked like Rika's 'nurse' was coming right away. With a quick wave I ducked out of the room. I'd have to take the long way around - but you can't read that and tell me it's not a win-win! I have longer until I have to go be the main character again, and I get to avoid Asuna on her 'My friend got herself hurt' warpath.

Speaking of...

The door to the nurse's office slammed open again. "Rika! Are you okay?!" Asuna exclaimed. "I heard you were injured, and I rushed over as soon as I finished my events! What's wrong, where does it hurt?"

'She's such a mother hen! Grrr, there's no way she's gonna let me go back out without fussing a lot!' "I'm fine, I'm fine!" Rika said.

I ducked around a corner and the rest of their conversation faded away to a distant murmur. Unfortunately, I could still hear their thoughts, like always. 'Kazuto already looked at her injuries! He's such a good friend. And he did a great job, too! But Rika's face is really red... I should check if she has a fever...'

'Ack! Too close! Sh-She's pressing her forehead against mine!'


"Alright, great job, gather around!" Kana announced. "'Fore I sign off an' hand things over ta our esteemed Princess fer th' farewell speech, jus' wanted ta say, thankies fer lettin' me announce! It was a lotta fun!" Her eyes sparkled. "Oh, an' buy our magazine! It's real cheap, jus' a -"

"That will be all, Miss Izawa," Asuna said, her smile sweetly threatening. Kana cleared her throat nervously and handed over the mic before scurrying away. "Thank you very much. A round of applause for the Journalism Club, everyone." Once the polite clapping had died down, she smiled at the assembled students. "Now, the part that I'm sure everyone is looking forward to. The winners of the sports festival!"

Asuna had to wait for a second for the cheers to die down. I couldn't help but be excited myself. Hey, don't give me that look! I was always interested in leaderboards! Just... most of the time it was only in video games.

"In the middle school, the class in each year with the most points... First year, class 1-D! Second year, class 2-B. And the third year, and the class with the most points... Congratulations to class 3-E!"

3-E, huh? That was my little sister's class! Good job, Sugu! And Shino too, I guess.

'Oh... I was hoping we'd win...' Why did I get the feeling if I looked for her, Keiko's twintails would be drooping?

"Every class did a wonderful job." Asuna smiled. "However, class 3-E pulled ahead when the competitor was able to jump over a higher bar than any other class!"

'Way to go Shino!' Sugu thought. 'I knew she could do it! Her high jump skills were amazing!'

'Hmm... Maybe the abilities I have are useful for something after all...'

"Congratulations again," Asuna said. "Now, for the high school classes! The winners are... Class 2-B, class 3-C, and with the most points in the high school classes - and highest total of points overall, setting a new record - class 1-A!"

...Eh?

"Woooo!" Rika cheered. "Go team!"

Ehhhh?! We lost?! How!?

I mean, I know it's because the author had to somehow make the beginning of this whole thing relevant, but that didn't make sense! When I left to go take Rika to the nurse's office, we had a small lead and there was only one more race left! How could we have lost so badly?

"I can't believe how that last race ended!" one girl said to her friend as the students milled around in the yard.

"I know, right? Everyone else just fell over and that weird first year girl won."

The first girl giggled. "The look on her face was priceless!"

Weird... first year... girl... Oh no don't tell me -

"Ku ku ku! My «Black Cat's Crossing» affected everyone at just the right moment!"'…I can't believe they all really fell over… What luck!'

This. Can't. Be happening.


Ohhh, it's happening, alright. Too bad for Kazuto that he tried to stand against the story. You'd think he'd know better by now, but here we are.

Naturally this story had to have a sports festival, right? I have to mark every cliche off if I possibly can, and I hadn't gotten to this one yet. Hopefully it was the appropriate blend of 'things happening' and 'the girls happening' for the chapter to be entertaining but keep moving. Mostly it was also an excuse to have the girls dress up in their sport uniforms and then also their cheerleader outfits to cheer on Kazuto.

And I guess sure there's also some bonding between Kazuto and Rika but let's focus on the really important stuff - cute girls doing cute things, and making life difficult for Kazuto.

Many thanks to everyone that favorited, followed, or reviewed.