Chapter 22: Yuuna the All-Seeing; or, Why Do HER Powers Work?
It was a perfectly calm Monday morning, with no explosions, psychic powers causing problems I wasn't used to, or little sisters trying to seduce me more than usual. In fact, from waking up to walking out the door, things went incredibly smoothly; I didn't have to deal with a psychic precog dream, my little sister didn't even try to open my door when I was trying to get changed into my school uniform, and no wannabe psychics tried to attack me on my way to school.
Sugu, instead, happily chatted about her class while we were walking. Premiere was fitting in well, it sounded like. They'd had a group project recently and Sugu, Premiere, Shino, and Yuuki had all worked together. "...and Premiere was in charge of putting together the presentation," Sugu said, and giggled. "Shino and I forgot to look at it earlier, so we were really surprised when one of the slides was Premiere's drawing of our project."
Oh yeah? Was it a good drawing?
"It was totally awful," Sugu admitted like she was sharing a devastating secret. "But Premiere acted so excited about seeing her drawing up as part of the project that Shino and I couldn't just skip past it. Yuuki nearly lost it laughing but Aiko stopped her in time. ...Does she really always do that weird thing? You know, the one where she says what she's feeling and then keeps talking?"
Yeah, that's... Premiere does that.
Sugu sighed. "I'll talk to her about it," she said. "I think she's convinced that's how people are supposed to talk, for some reason." Yeah, for some reason that began with Saori and ended with her weird delusions.
If you can do that, that'd be great, Sugu.
'Now I'm going to try my best!' Sugu clenched her fists in front of her chest when she thought I wasn't looking. 'If I do a good job and get Premiere to stop talking like that, then he'll praise me and pat my head a whole lot, and maybe even give me a hug!'
If it got Premiere to stop being a headache, then I'd definitely consider it. Plus, it would make Sugu's day and maybe even distract her from complaining about not getting to see me constantly.
I'll leave her in your capable hands, Sugu.
My little sister preened happily (if subtly, since she didn't want me to see her being so pleased) at the compliment.
'Yay! It's my favorite part of the day~, where I get to see Darling for the first time since we said goodbye the night before!' "Hello, everyone~."
"Hi, Yuuna," Sugu said with a big smile. "Good morning."
Yuuna returned the smile. "Morning, honey. Did you sleep well?"
"I slept great! Thanks for asking."
Honestly, this was one of my favorite parts of the day too. B-Because Sugu had a girl crush on Yuuna just like Keiko did, and that meant that she would always be distracted and not constantly think about me, that's all. Either way, it was nice listening to Yuuna hum a song she was practicing, since I could focus on that and not be overwhelmed by the thoughts of all the people we were passing on our way to school.
As I said goodbye to Sugu at the entrance to her school, Yuuna dug something out of her pocket. "Here you go, honey," she said, and handed a fruit-flavored lozenge to Sugu.
"Thank you! Bye, see you later!" Sugu waved goodbye. 'I wish I could make Kazuto stay with me all day... Maybe if I can convince him to go down a grade and come back to middle school with me! That'd be amazing... But then people would think he's dumb, and that's not true since my big brother is the smartest person I know and everyone should think that. What a dilemma!' The internal conflict of my little sister is truly great, indeed. If it were a sidequest, the difficulty would definitely be set to five stars.
"Hmm, do you want one too, Darling~?" Yuuna clasped her hands behind her back and leaned forward to peer at me. I looked away, not meeting her eyes; I didn't want one of my psychic powers to activate and hurt Yuuna by accident. "Okay then, open up and say ahhh~!"
I'm not doing that, Yuuna.
"Such a party pooper," she teased me with a giggle. She still pressed the lozenge into my hand and twirled around with a happy smile. "Better hurry to class, right?"
You're in a great mood today. What's going on?
"I've just been getting along with my classmates really well recently," Yuuna said.
Before she could actually explain (seriously, that told me nothing!) a girl bounced up to us. I didn't recognize her, so she had to be a grade or two above me. "Miss Shigemura!" she exclaimed. "Thank you so so much! I did what you said and painted my nails blue, and it worked out just like you promised!"
"Ah! I'm so happy for you, honey! You two have fun together, okay?"
The girl nodded with a huge smile and ran off to where another girl was waiting. The two of them exchanged shy smiles before they clasped hands and ran off.
Yuuna, was that...?
"Hee hee! I'm glad it worked out between those two. She was telling me all about how she wanted to confess but was worried she'd ruin things with her very best friend. Silly, isn't it?" ...I'm not encouraging this, Yuuna. I know what you want from me. After a sly look at me, the lovely idol giggled and continued, "Anyway, I told her what her lucky color was, and encouraged her to confess when she was wearing something that color."
Her lucky color?
"Mm hmm! It's just a silly test from one of those magazines I read," Yuuna admitted, "but it worked out, didn't it?"
So she's thanking you for... that?
Yuuna smiled. "Oh, don't be like that, Darling."
"Miss Shigemura!" Another girl ran up. "Thank you so much. I did what you said, and it worked out really well! I studied the perfect things for the pop quiz yesterday!" Before Yuuna could do more than congratulate her, the girl ran off again.
I looked at Yuuna again, and she smiled. "Oh, she said she wasn't sure what to study, so I guessed at what would be the right things. I guess I got lucky!"
"Yuuna," another girl said as she walked next to us for a few steps, "you were right! I talked with my boyfriend and we went out on a great date, and he gave me one of the flowers you were talking about!"
I really, really, really didn't want to know anything about this. Still, Yuuna is smiling so much and her eyes are practically sparkling. Even without reading her thoughts, I'd know she wanted to talk about it.
Seriously, you're popular all of a sudden. What's going on?
Yuuna waved to the latest girl as she ran off, then looked at me. "I'm not really sure," she said. "All I've been doing is those personality and fortune-telling quizzes. But everyone keeps saying that I'm always right and it's really been helping them with their studies and their love life. Ooh! Do you want to try one, Darling? Hang on a second, I'll find one right away."
She's just totally going to ignore me even if I say no, isn't she...? Sure enough, Yuuna was scrolling through something I couldn't see with her Augma, and then turned back to me. "Alright, Darling! Close your eyes and think of... flowers." Flowers? "Don't ask questions, just do it!" Fine, fine.
I closed my eyes. Flowers, huh? Like... a bouquet of flowers? Something like that? The wrapped bundle of fifteen flowers looked like it was nearly too much, but each flower was unique and beautiful in its own way.
"Did you picture it?" I opened my eyes and Yuuna smiled. "Okay, then... let's see, the number of flowers... is the number of true loves you'll have in your life!"
No! It's not like that! I don't want - It's not like I - That's not - They're not - I'm - I'm not going to be a main character!
"Well?" Yuuna giggled. "How many did you picture, Darling~? When I tried it out, I only had one, you know." She laughed again. "Love fortunes like that are my favorite."
...I'm not telling.
"What? You can't do that, Darling, that's not fair!" Yuuna puffed her cheeks out, but I refused to let myself be swayed by her cute appearance. "Muuuu!"
"Don't bully Yuuna, Kazuto," a voice scolded me, and I turned to see Asuna and Rika walking up to us. The beautiful long-haired Princess of the school smiled at me. "What is he saying now, Yuuna?"
Yuuna giggled. "He's refusing to tell me what he got with the love fortune test I tried out," she said.
Rika smiled. "Eh, he's a boy, you know how they get," she said. Hey! "I kinda wanna try it out myself. What do you think, Asuna?"
"It sounds fun," Asuna agreed.
"Okay! First off, close your eyes," Yuuna said, and then repeated what she'd told me.
'Flowers? The first thing that comes to mind is the vase Mother likes to put on the table when we have guests. I think she usually puts five flowers in it.'
'Two flowers seems cool, I guess.'
Both Asuna and Rika pictured their flowers, and both girls blushed when Yuuna explained what they meant. "I-I'm not like that, Kazuto!" Asuna protested. Why are you telling me? This is great! She'll forget about me sooner or later and it'll be fine. 'But if one is Kazuto, who could the other four be?'
Rika just laughed and grinned. "That was really cool, Yuuna. Got any others?"
"Not love fortunes, but I have a few other quizzes like your lucky color!"
Asuna smiled and followed behind Rika and Yuuna as they talked happily on the way into class. "Nya hah hah! Interestin', isn't it?" I didn't jump at Kana's abrupt voice, because I heard her coming a mile away. 'Pfeh. One 'a these days I'm gonna startle Kazu-boy.' "From what I've heard from my sources, Yuuna's gettin' pretty good at that whole fortune-tellin' thing. 'Parently, a lotta her predictions're comin' true."
"Yeah, I'm thinkin' 'a writin' an article 'bout it. Whatcha think? Plenty 'a thirsty guys willin' ta snap up anythin' 'bout our Princess, so I'm sure it'd sell well. Not as well as Big Sis Kana's three sizes, but oh well~. I'd sell 'em ta you, Kazu-boy, interested?" Kana grinned and held up her fingers. "Only ten million col."
Absolutely not. Even if Yuuna and Asuna wouldn't somehow know, you would know.
"Aww, ya don't gotta frown at me like that. A gal's gotta make a livin'~. Anyway, quick interview pop quiz!" She pulled a pen and notebook out of somewhere and posed to write down whatever my answer to her question was. "Since yer a psychic, ya got precog powers? Do Yuuna's powers count as precog, an' are ya jealous of her success rate?"
Why don't you use your ninja training to spy on her?
"Nya hah hah! Not a ninja, yer not a psychic, I know the drill."
Kana grinned at me. "One 'a these days yer gonna slip up, Kazu-boy. I know that sandwich was yer doin'." Are you still focused on that?! "Oh well. A-chan, Yuuna, wait fer me! I wanna know my love fortune too!" She scurried off towards the other girls. That Rat was never going to give up, was she?
I got to class and sat down in my seat. Strea and Kotone weren't here yet, but Nijika was already sitting at her desk working on homework. 'Ah! Kazuto's here, yay! Yuuna was right, fourteen really is my lucky number today!' Another prediction. Great... How will this start making my life difficult?
I reached to get my pencil out of my bag so I could get ready for class, but it slipped from my hands. Gahh, of course...! It rolled behind me and I reached for it -
"Eep!" Nijika squeaked. I blinked and looked at my hand. Instead of my pencil, Nijika's soft and slender hand was nestled in my grip comfortably, like it had belonged there the entire time. She must have been reaching for my pencil at the same time, and this had happened by accident. ...Wow... Her nail polish was really well-done today, and the color was very pretty. "K-Kazuto?"
'Kazuto turned and, without letting go of her hand, smiled at Nijika. "I couldn't help but notice your amazing, soft hands," he said. "And the thing that truly caught my eye was this lovely red color. It matches your hair in SAO, doesn't it?"
"W-Well, Yuuna said my lucky color was red, so when she was painting her nails I borrowed some polish..." Nijika couldn't believe her luck. This was amazing! Such a small thing had initiated their conversation - and he still hadn't let go of her hand!
"I can't imagine ever letting go of you," Kazuto told her. "Your amazing manicure has charmed my heart, and I want you to be my girlfriend!" He smiled, and the light from the morning sun beamed down, illuminating his charming smile; and a pair of birds flew through the open windows to circle both him and Nijika, gently laying a crown of flowers on the maid girl's head.
Nijika gasped, her eyes shining with unshed tears. "Yes! Yes, I'll be your girlfriend," she breathed.'
I very carefully let go of her hand and picked up my pencil. That girl is romance-crazy... Seriously, every time I remembered that her original plan to make me not spread the secret of her strength was 'make Kazuto fall for me', I want to yell at Nanairo for not curbing her big sister's weirdness. These delusions were out of control!
Fortunately, I was saved by Strea appearing in a flash of light. "Hiya, everyone! Strea's here~!" Nijika turned to talk to her with a large smile, and her thoughts turned away from totally ridiculous fantasies of me and her to whatever she was talking to Strea about. Though... I couldn't deny it, her nails really did look nice. The color was really flattering. And Yuuna was the one to tell her about it?
A little fairy flew over to me. Yui hovered in midair and yawned, stretching adorably as if she'd just woken up from a long nap. "Mmmmmm! Good morning, Papa! And Strea, and Nijika. I hope you all slept well."
Good morning, Yui. Though... what's with the stretching?
"Oh! I'm attempting to put some of my research into practice," she said. "According to the data, you and the other girls yawn when you first log in or wake up for lengths of time varying from one second to ten seconds. With an average of eight seconds for you, Papa. So, I'm attempting to emulate your boot-up sequence in case that will help me implement studies!" Please keep the weird trivia to yourself, Yui.
'She's adorable!' Nijika thought, barely holding back a squeal.
Yui laid a small hand on her cheek and smiled. "The teacher should be arriving soon for class. Have a good day, everyone."
"Kazuto." I jumped in my seat as a hand clamped down on my shoulder. Kotone stood over me, glaring down at me. 'Oh... He's cute when he looks up at me with those wide eyes.' "You know Shigemura, right?"
"Take me to her. I need to have words with her."
'Oh no! Is she going to try to threaten Yuuna or something? She's already got Kazuto under her thumb!' Nijika thought. 'If only he'd ask me to save him... I'd take my headband off in a heartbeat if it's for Kazuto!' Nijika, please don't overreact to this situation. Kotone is a nice girl!
Let's go, then.
"Bye, have fun with your friend, Kazuto!" Strea called out and waved happily as Kotone led me away.
Kotone stopped right outside the door to Yuuna's classroom. "Go get her." 'I need to be on good terms with Kazuto's friends, or they'll fight it when he eventually gets the courage to confess to me. This will be a good start.'
Yeah, yeah, I'm going.
"Darling!" Yuuna looked up as soon as I poked my head through the door to her classroom. "This is the first time you're visiting me here, isn't it! Ooh, I'm so happy!"
'That guy's the one Yuuna eats lunch with, right?'
'No way, he's way too cute! That's not fair.'
'Tch. He's not even part of the Yuuna fan club like me, and he gets to spend time with her...'
'Kinda girly, but I guess I can see what Yuuna likes about him... She talks about him enough.'
'I wish everyone would focus on studying instead of the latest teen drama...'
"Is there something special? Do you need something?"
Someone wanted to talk to you. Do you mind?
Yuuna smiled. "Coming, Darling~." 'You know, I think this is the first time you've asked me for help. I'm flattered, Darling~.' "So, who wanted to..."
Kotone folded her arms as Yuuna stopped and stared at her. "Shigemura," she said. "I need my fortune told."
"Hmmm? Oh, I know you," Yuuna said. "You're that Takemiya girl, right? Why do you want your fortune? Is it so you can know what gang to beat up next? I can tell you right now, honey, blood is not a good color on you." Yuuna... "Besides! I have nothing to say to someone bullying my Darling."
Yuuna, that's enough.
"...Then I'll leave," Kotone said. 'I'd hoped she would have ignored the rumors... But if she's already made up her mind, there's nothing I can do.'
Kotone turned to leave. I looked at Yuuna, and she folded her arms. 'I'm just standing up for you, Darling!' I did my best to mimic the Look Asuna could give me and Rika. '...Asuna does it better than that, Darling. Keep trying. But... Ohhh, fine. You twisted my arm.' She looked off to the side and tapped at the air. Her tongue poked out of her mouth for a second, and then she nodded. "There. Sent her a message."
Thank you, Yuuna. What about?
"I tried to do one of the tests of what kind of pet matches your personality, and she should try getting a cat," Yuuna said. "And... I know you like her for some reason, but I still don't. I've heard all about how she treats you, and the things she does outside of school."
Really, it's not that bad...
Yuuna looked at me, then giggled. "If you're sticking up for her, Darling, then I'll try to be nicer. I bet you figured out something about her with your special techniques, right?"
Shh! Don't say something like that! Kana might be listening...
"Whoopsie! Sorry, Darling. Anyway, the bell's about to ring, so you'd better get going."
'Secret Ninja technique: Appearing Chameleon!' "Hiya Kazu-boy," Kana said with a smug smile that slowly shifted to a moue of irritation when I didn't flinch. "Dang, I thought I'd managed ta scare ya that time." She almost had, but I'd heard her coming at the last second. "Ya sure ya don't have psychic powers ta hear me comin'?"
I just have good intuition. What do you want, Kana?
"Aaaaanyway, scarin' ya wasn't my only reason fer sayin' hi." 'Getting to see Kazu-boy is always a treat! Mmm, maybe I can convince him to do that one cosplay quest with me where it'll be just us two...' "Wanted ta let ya know somethin'. Yer gal's startin' ta get herself in trouble. Plenty 'a rumors're floatin' around."
...Who are you talking about, Kana?
"Hmmm, Kazu-boy's flirtin' with so many gals he doesn't know who I'm talkin' about," Kana murmured as she scribbled notes down into her notebook." 'Nya hah hah! He must be usin' his psychic powers to collect a harem of cute girls somehow!'
Please don't make up weird stories! And take this seriously!
"Don't worry, I won't publish anythin' without gettin' proof," Kana promised me and snapped her notebook shut. "This isn't SAO, where I'd sell all kinds 'a juicy info 'bout ya." Somehow, that wasn't as soothing as she meant it to be. Or didn't mean it to be. "So, ya know how Yuuna's gettin' a rep fer doin' her personality tests an' things like that?"
...Great, what's going on now?
Kana grinned at me as my shoulders slumped. "Don't shoot the messenger, Kazu-boy," she snickered. "Ya lose points wit' yer cute Big Sis Kana when yer all gloomy like that." Stop teasing me and get on with it, Kana. "Nyeheheh. Alrighty then. Turns out, yesterday she started predictin' gals an' their boys would break up. Then, it happened. Not 'cause 'a anythin' she did, this was all stuff that was months in th' making. Cheatin' on 'em, frosty couples jus' called it quits... things like that. But it's happened enough times that people're start ta talk an' blame Yuuna fer it."
That's definitely not the case!
"Hey, hey, remember what I said 'bout not shootin' the messenger," Kana reminded me. I let out the breath I'd sucked in. "That's better," she said. "I'm not any happier 'bout it than you are, but ya know how rumors are."
Yeah... I know. I'll go see how Yuuna's doing, then.
When I got to her class, I could tell. In two words? Not well. Oh, I'm sure that anyone else looking at my best friend wouldn't notice the little signs; after all, her hair was still braided, her manicure was fine, and she looked as pretty as she always did. But I could tell - her hair may have been in its usual style, but it wasn't brushed as nicely like it normally was, and her manicure was chipped and cracked in a few places. It looked like she hadn't repainted her nails for a few days. I could also see the hint of the dark circles under her eyes that she'd hidden nearly perfectly using the makeup skills her idol career had taught her.
Also, I could read her thoughts: 'Ohhh, why is this happening? I'm just predicting things, it's not my fault...' That made it pretty easy to tell that she was very upset about all of this.
Yuuna, are you okay?
"Mmm... It's fine, Darling..." Yuuna smiled at me as I sat down in the chair in front of her. "Nothing you need to worry about."
Don't say something like that. You're my precious friend, Yuuna.
She smiled and giggled lightly as I reached out to pat her head. "You say that to all the girls, Darling," she said with a smile. "I've heard what Kana has been writing down. According to her, you're a regular Don Quixote."
...Don Juan, Yuuna.
"So you admit it, then~." Was I played by my best friend? I think that's what just happened! "You're sweet, Darling." 'Though I'd rather curl up on your lap and let you pat my head there.' That's definitely not happening in school!
Wanna talk about what happened?
Yuuna pouted when I pulled my hand back but I could hear the thoughts of a few of her classmates approaching. It was rare for her to be alone in the classroom. "Anyway," she said, then hesitated as a few girls walked in. They looked at Yuuna, then very deliberately turned away and continued their conversation. Naturally I'd heard their thoughts, and it was all catty remarks about the Princess who goes around breaking up happy couples just to be right.
Don't let it get to you, okay?
Yuuna gratefully squeezed the hand I'd extended to her. "I'm no stranger to whispers like that," she said. "Nijika and I are in the idol industry, Darling. It's not all glitter and dancing, you know." Unfortunately, thanks to my abilities, I definitely knew. "Anyway, like I was saying..."
"Um, excuse me? Miss Shigemura?"
Yuuna looked up at the shy girl who had spoken up. "Oh, hi, honey! Hmm, I recognize you..." Her natural abilities with names and faces had only been enhanced by the memory training she'd received as an idol. After all, each of her fans was important (even if her Darling was the most important) and remembering their names and faces after meeting them once made them happy (even if her Darling was the one she wanted to make the happiest). "Right, right! You're Hiyori, right? From the Flower Arrangement Club."
"Y-Yes, that's me!"
Yuuna smiled. "Have a seat, honey." The fluffy-haired girl jerked towards the seat next to Yuuna, then nearly fell into it instead as her foot slipped. Yuuna just kept smiling, since it would embarrass the poor cutie if she pointed out her accident. "How can I help you?"
Hiyori fidgeted with her hair. "Well, actually, it's... Can you tell my future?"
Yuuna kept her smile. Internally, she winced. Ohh, hopefully this would be a good one! Please be a good one... "Sure thing! What did you want to know?"
"M-My future in general? For tomorrow?"
"Sure thing. Let me just... When's your birthday? Okay, answer all these questions for me..." The Augma made it really easy for her to send the little quizzes she found to the boys and girls that wanted her help.
"Thank you, honey. Just give me a second..." Yuuna looked up the result that Hiyori's answer got her, and only her idol training kept the smile on her face. Ohhh, she couldn't tell the nice girl THAT! That'd be awful! "Okay, so you'll definitely have an unforgettable encounter later today," she said. "Try going for a walk after school."
"I definitely will! Thank you so much!" Smiling so happily, Hiyori bounced out of the room. Yuuna sighed unhappily as the girl disappeared.
Ohhh, how was she supposed to make THAT work better? If nothing changed, that poor girl would just get in trouble! 'Unforgettable encounter'... That was such a sneaky way to say that Hiyori was going to run into a bunch of mean guys!
I tilted my head as Yuuna finished explaining everything. Ugh, why did things always have to be difficult?!
"So, you get it now." Yuuna sighed and laid her head on her arms, nestling it on her desk. "Darling, help me..." I would do anything for Yuuna without question, but... how was I supposed to help? Headpats could only temporarily make things better.
How can I help, Yuuna?
"I don't knoooow," Yuuna complained. "If only she had a guardian angel, floating around and following her to save her when bad things would happen!" Guardian angels?
Yui appeared in a flash of light and ran through her usual boot-up sequence of a yawn and stretch before she settled down on my shoulder. "Good morning, Papa. Good morning, Yuuna."
"Morning, sweetie," Yuuna said. "Did you hear us talking?"
"Mm hmm! Guardian angels are very popular in my research." Yui gestured, and a pair of beautiful girls appeared; one with blonde hair and one with long navy hair that was... magenta on the inside? Huh? "If Papa were to do such an act, that would definitely help him engage in a fun school life!"
Yuuna looked up at me, her eyes sparkling. "Hmm, a guardian angel..."
I'm not wearing that dress.
Yuuna waved away my protest when I pointed to the goth-loli dress the blue-haired angel was wearing. "Not that, not that. You can... turn invisible, right?" She dropped her voice to a whisper. "So, you can follow Hiyori around and make sure she's not in any danger! No problem!"
There's a lot of problems with that. Especially since using my powers is such a pain!
"Right, I forgot..." Yuuna sighed, then smiled at me. "Don't worry about it, Darling. I'll take responsibility for it." I grumbled under my breath, then sighed and scratched my cheek.
Oh, fine. I'll help you out.
"Hooray! I knew you were my best, best friend for a reason!"
Ack! Quit hugging me, quit hugging me, people are staring!
"Hmm hmm hmmm~! I wonder when I'll have my unforgettable encounter!" I sighed as the girl I was following repeated that same thought out loud again.
The school day had, fortunately, ended without any major problems. More than Asuna despairing about Rika trying to join five different clubs at once and seeking refuge in Kana's hug. The Rat had, of course, given me an incredibly smug smirk and held up a peace sign with one hand while stroking the beautiful girl's hair with the other. That... that Rat!
Once we were out of class, Yuuna pointed out Hiyori to me and I waved goodbye to my brown-haired friend before I went off to start following the fluffy-haired girl. I wasn't stalking her! Definitely not. I was just... following her, without letting her know that I was there. In a definitely not creepy way.
I could already picture Kana's article headline: 'Local playboy not satisfied with the Princesses, chases after innocent member of Flower Arrangement Club'. I'd never get my peaceful and quiet life like that...
Well, that was why I was following Hiyori while transformed. Yuuna had suggested I followed her while invisible but naturally my psychic powers were useless in that case. It was really a pain to turn invisible, since I had to focus and not be interrupted for a full minute. And then, my invisibility only worked for ten minutes, or until someone touched me. With how crowded the sidewalks were after school? With people walking around and perfectly able to bump into me? It would be impossible to actually stay invisible for any length of time.
So, I was dressed up as Himiko again. Being able to transform into anyone meant that this way, I definitely wouldn't be caught following Hiyori. It was the best disguise I could think of, okay? Don't judge. All I was wearing was the girl's version of the school uniform, not anything fancy or special. It had almost been two hours and still, nothing at all had happened to Hiyori. Was this going to be the first time Yuuna was wrong?
Hiyori finally got bored of wandering down the street and doing some window shopping (which was a good thing, because despite my current appearance if she went into an underwear shop there was no way I could follow her) and started strolling through the nearby park. It really was a nice day out, but c'mooooon! Don't make me walk around too much longer, there were a lot of cool mobs on the SAO floor we just opened up last night.
'Fwaah, it's a nice day out...' This girl was kinda spacy, wasn't she? Well, I guess it just added to her charm. 'I wonder when Gwen is going to get here. She goes to an all-girls school, so I bet they go later than usual. Oh, I know! I'll get some tea for us while I wait.' Later than usual? It had already been an hour since school got out! Don't be ridiculous! Following her around was a total waste of -
...I should really learn to watch what I was thinking. That was like directly taunting the author into making my life difficult! I jumped up from where I had been sitting on a bunch and hurried over to where I could hear the confrontation going down.
'That's a pretty good-looking girl. The Boss won't mind, right?'
'Damn it, this suit cost a fortune! The tea will definitely stain it, and then I'll have a crappy brown spot on the shirt. This idiot girl!'
'Uwaaah, someone, help meeeee! I'm scaaaared!'
I could see what was going on as I hurried through the park. Two big men were looming over the fluffy-haired blonde girl as she shivered and shook in their shadow. It looked almost like two wolves bullying a poor little bunny rabbit, except one of the wolves had a brown tea stain dripping the nice coat. Not that I knew much about fashion. The closest thing I knew about fashion was whatever Sugu was learning when she was reading a magazine. Anyway! I'm clearly just trying to not think about what this was going to do to my status as MC.
"...know how much this costs?" the man in the stained suit demanded.
"N-No?" Hiyori whimpered.
"How are you going to pay my bro back?" his friend asked. "He's gotta go get this thing dry-cleaned, and that costs money! And he was about to go to a meeting with his boss, and what if he misses out on that promotion, huuuuuh?!" He leaned closer to Hiyori and the girl squeaked. Probably something to do with his angry glare.
Stained Coat folded his arm. 'Boss told us no targeting girls, and I don't wanna get on the Dragon's bad side if I don't listen to her, so...' "If you don't got the money to pay me now," he growled, "then you gotta pay me back plus interest later."
"Whoa! Bro, you're so smart!"
"B-But I don't have the money..."
"So steal it!" Angry Glare sneered. "You got a mom and dad that can afford it, don't ya? I recognize that uniform. You go to that fancy school."
Hey! Leave her alone!
I stood directly in front of the girl, shoving myself between her and the two men. With my arm outstretched, there was no way they would get to her without going through me. Naturally, I was back in my male form. They were willing to be mean to a girl like Hiyori, so my cute female form would just make them try even harder. Plus, with how they were focused on that 'Boss' of theirs, and how they recognized the girl's uniform of my school...
It was a long shot but even if my guess wasn't right, I could always beat them up with my psychic strength. Then I'd just have to erase the memories of these thugs and Hiyori, and it'd be like this whole thing never happened. Any changes to being an MC would be erased! That would be perfect!
"Huh? Who are you, kid?" Angry Glare looked me up and down. 'What a scrawny kid. Is he this girl's boyfriend or something?' "Getting in our way like that... You gotta death wish?"
'This is the best time! I've gotta grab Lux and get out of here!'
"Wait... Hold up a sec," Stained Coat said. "Doesn't he look familiar...?"
"What do you mean, bro? He's just some kid that..." 'Wait, that uniform...' "...Oh crap."
'Crap, he IS the one the Boss told us to leave alone!' "S-Sorry, bro," Stained Coat said. They'd tucked their tails between their legs really quickly. "Didn't know she was with you! We'll take care of it ourselves!"
"Y-Yeah," Angry Glare (or maybe now Nervous Smile?) said. His eyes darted between me and his friend. 'Shit, the Boss will be super pissed if we don't run now!' "I know a great laundry place, we'll take it there, heheh. Their motto is 'Stains gone or your money back' I think." Wow, that's a really bad motto... "W-We gotta go now, though!" Both of them turned and hurried away.
Either way, I was pretty sure that they were part of the gang that Kotone ran. If only because I'm pretty sure she ran all of the gangs in town, one, and two... The author was definitely lazy enough to use this kind of plot device. It was a shame I had to turn back to my real appearance and run the risk of someone recognizing me doing a main character-like action, but I just had to erase Hiyori's memory and then...
My heart sank as I turned. Even before I saw it with my eyes, I knew - Hiyori wasn't behind me anymore. I wasn't sure when she'd disappeared, but a quick search with my telepathy told me she definitely wasn't in the park at all! I tried to expand my range just enough to find her -
'Ow! Those two guys ran into me! And it crushed the eggs... Man, I just can't catch a break!' 'Stupid job, making me throw all these packages around...' 'Wheeee! Last one there's a rotten egg!' 'Oh wow, this last pic turned out super cute, I'll get tons of likes if I post it!' 'Say ahhh!'
I sighed. Great. There were way too many people around. And it wasn't like with Asuna or my other girls, where I could track them specifically. I didn't know Hiyori's mental voice well enough. So, that means...
That means she saw me, and I couldn't erase her memory! Nooooooo!
I really, really, really didn't want to go to school. I even considered calling off sick, but...
*Knock knock knock*
'Ah! Kazuto is really late coming out of his room. And if he's not answering the knocks... Oh no! Maybe he's sick! My Kazuto senses aren't tingling, but I haven't seen my big brother sick for a long long time. They might not be calibrated carefully enough. What if he's really sick and can't answer? I need to be able to take care of him, so I'll just have to break down the door.' Do not break down my door, Sugu.
So, yeah, I couldn't exactly get away with calling off sick. My little sister wouldn't buy it, and if she did she'd insist on staying home and taking care of me. That would be disastrous, so... I was walking to school like it was my doom.
Maybe I was just over-exaggerating and things would be totally fine. Yeah, that was definitely the case and - no, I'm not running away from reality. That's ridiculous, why would you say that?
I dropped off Sugu and waved hello to Premiere and Shino, then walked to the high school. I was ready for it. No matter what was waiting for me, I was going to handle it without breaking down. I'd just take it in stride without flinching, because I knew it was going to happen. Like when I crossed the entry to the gate, and...
Okay, nothing's happening, and now I look dumb for freaking out so much earlier. I really made the right choice not letting Sugu try to take care of me. Whew.
Yuuna was waiting for me at the entrance to my classroom, so I didn't even have to go looking for her. "Darling!" she exclaimed. "How did it go, yesterday? I got here so early because I was worried..."
Can I at least sit down?
"Eheheh... Whoops. Sorry, Darling. Let's go inside." I couldn't stay mad at her, not when she smiled like that.
Once I got myself settled in my seat, Yuuna sat down on my desk and stared at me cutely, waiting patiently for the answer. When I didn't answer right away, she just smoothed out her skirt and started swinging her legs. 'I can stay here all morning, Darling. I won't even stop when it's time for class, you know~?' Yuuna...! Fine, fine.
It didn't take long for me to tell her what happened, even though she pouted when I told her how I'd followed Hiyori without getting caught. "Awww, I missed seeing Himiko? Darliiiiing! You should have let me know." I didn't flinch in the face of her complaint. "Oh well... There will be more chances, after all~! But I'm glad that everything is okay. I was so worried when I got the result."
"Kyaa!" Yuuna shrieked and nearly tumbled off my desk. It was a good thing I caught her by the waist before she could fall and hurt herself. "Oh my gosh... Honey! Don't do that!"
"Oh... I'm sorry," Aiko said as she floated halfway through the wall to my classroom. I glanced at her and she floated all the way in. Huh, she looked good in the school uniform. "Sometimes I forget that I scare..." She trailed off and blinked a few times. "Wait, you can see me?"
"Eh? Ehhhh!? Darling! Why is a short-haired Yuuki flying around?! Did you do something?" Yuuna pointed back and forth between me and Aiko. Wait... I know she's talked to Yuuki before, but she's freaking out about Aiko?
Is this the first time you've seen Aiko, Yuuna?
"Wh-wh-what is going on? Who is this?" Yuuna turned to me. "Darling, explain! Do you have another girl?"
I don't know why you can suddenly see her, but this is Aiko. Yuuki's twin sister, and guardian spirit.
"Oh! Well then, it's very nice to meet you, honey. Sorry, you caught me off-guard," Yuuna said with a nice smile as she switched gears with an idol's grace.
Aiko bowed in midair, which was interesting to watch since she was hovering sideways. "Nice to meet you," she said. "Thank you for being friends with my sister. She talks about you a lot after playing SAO."
"Well, it's a lot of fun playing with her," Yuuna said. "She's always so cheerful!"
Aiko, do you have any idea why Yuuna can see you now?
The ghost girl hummed in thought, casually turning upside down. "Hmmm... Well, I came over here because I've been sensing a whole lot of precognition happening all of a sudden. Did you suddenly awaken to powers or something? Except for Kazuto and Suguha, everyone with powers we've ever met can see me."
Yuuna tapped her cheek with a manicured nail. "Precognition... You told me about that, Darling, right? Where you have a fancy psychic dream and - omigosh, omigosh, omigosh!" Her eyes lit up and she whirled to stare at me. "Darling, do you think it's me?! I've been doing the fortune-telling a lot recently!"
...Seriously? She suddenly awoke to her powers just in time for me to have to deal with it? How convenient for the story!
"Ohhhhh, this is amazing! I have to go test something really quickly, Darling, I'll talk to you at lunch!"
Aiko looked at Yuuna's back in surprise. "Is she... always this excitable?"
Sometimes. Usually, she's more focused on cheering everyone up.
"Huh. Well, I'd better get back to Yuu. She might have gotten in trouble in the few minutes I was away from her..." What a devoted big sister.
'Okay, here we go! A love fortune with me and Kazuto! Birth dates... blood types... favorite food...' Wha- Yuuna, what are you doing? Yuuna stop... 'And direction his bed faces... Hmm, I remember that the sun doesn't shine into his room, so the window isn't west or east, and - right, right!'
What kind of convoluted internet test needs this much information!?
'Alright, here we go! Please be a good result please be a g- Darling!? You're not reading my thoughts, right? Out! Out out out! A maiden has to have her privacy at times like this!' A little late for that, Yuuna. And it's not like I can stop reading your thoughts.
Believe me, if my psychic powers could stop being useless, that would be great.
'What? The site crashed? Okay, fine. Ugh. Onto the next one.' N-Next one? Yuuna, how many of those do you have?
'Darn it, this one crashed too!' 'Stupid thing just closed on me.' 'I didn't even get to fill this one out before the Augma lost connection... I'll talk to Nanairo about it.' 'Aww! Even the paper one ripped before I could finish. But that's okay, because it's not a no! And that's what matters!'
The answer, apparently, was WAY TOO MANY.
The entire day, something felt off. It felt like people were staring at me a lot more than they usually did, even while Yuuna clung to my arm every minute she could. But, since it was Yuuna, I just wrote it off as people staring at one of the Princesses being unusually clingy (even for Yuuna) and getting jealous. I could hear the jealousy in their thoughts really clearly - even a lot of the girls.
Once classes were over, I headed out of my class with just a quick goodbye to Strea, Yui, and Nijika. Yuuna would probably just follow me home anyway, but I could save myself some MC points if I didn't walk home with a pretty girl. When I stepped out of the building into the main yard, a lot of the conversations suddenly died out. If I didn't have my powers, I wouldn't know exactly what had just happened. But, since I did...
'Wait, is that him?'
'I've heard he saved a group of girls from like, ten thugs all by himself.'
'Whoa, really? Talk about a man's man!'
'He's so pretty... Like a fairytale prince!'
"Nya hah hah! Hiya, Kazu-boy~." 'My favorite boy to tease~!' "Or maybe I should call ya 'Prince' now?"
MRRRRRR. How did it spread this quickly?!
Kana grinned at me. It was the smuggest grin I'd ever seen, even beating out the one from a few days ago. "So," she purred, "my whisker's twitchin', an' I've heard ya might have some interestin' stories ta tell 'bout yesterday~." Oh. That's how. I'm not sure why I didn't consider that in the first place...
You should tell me how this happened first.
"Hmmm. Well, sure," Kana said. "Ya wouldn't happen to know a gal named... Hiyori? I think Hiyori Kashiwazaka?" She double-checked her notes. "Yep, that's 'er name. Member 'a the Flower Arrangement club, an' yer official unrecognized fan club?"
All I did was stop two guys from bothering her!
"Nya hah hah! An' thankies fer confirmin' that rumor for me." Kana snickered and scribbled down a few lines. Grrrr! One of these days, I'll get out of a conversation with this Rat without either giving away info for free or owing her money. "Well, turns out ya left quite th' impression on our gal, an' she went ahead an' spread th' news about how wonderful ya are. How 'come ya never rescued me, Kazu-boy~?" Sigh...
The next time you need me, I'll be there, Kana. Count on it.
"Ghk!" Heh. She blushed. 'A direct attack from Kazu-boy is powerful!' "H-Hey, ya shouldn't play with yer Big Sis's feelin's like that, heh... A-Ahem. Movin' on! Hiyori spread th' news an' there ya go, one new Prince 'a the school."
I tried so hard, and no matter what I do, I can't escape iiiiiit!
Yay, Yuuna has powers! Congratulations! Even if she can't see the future she absolutely wants, with her abilities I'm sure she'll be able to find a Happy End.
It's also time for Lux to appear again and cause problems for Kirito's peaceful life. Now that he's (gasp) popular, how can he avoid attention now? For those wondering why she set up the fan club so quickly... Well, she's a lot like that in Girls Ops so she just works fast, what can I say? Remember, it's officially an unrecognized fan club (as opposed to Asuna and Yuuna's fan clubs, which actually ARE officially recognized, don't ask how they got the school's approval) so it's okay.
Also this chapter has Himiko in it so it's a good chapter.
Many thanks to everyone that favorited, followed, or reviewed.