Chapter 4: A Date Between an Assassin and his Target.
In the middle of his room, Shino laid down everything he had gathered on Maihime. The room itself was a bit dreary when he just moved in, but now it had turned quite lively. Speaking of which, the room wasn’t decorated with furniture or anything like that. Instead, it consisted of mainly photos of Maihime and various items taken from her bag of dreams.
“Shino, are you there?” said Hotaru, opening the door. She took a look inside his room and couldn’t help but blurt out, “W-Woah!!!”
Shino turned his attention away from the materials on the ground. “Ah, Hotaru,” he said.
“Hey… what is this?”
“What is what? The pictures? The stuff I collected? My video and or audio recording devices?” Or do you mean my documentation here?” he said.
“Just… everything,” replied Hotaru. “Why did you think I was referring to just one of these things?” She carefully stepped around all the stuff lying on the floor as she walked to where he was. Once she was there, she took another good look around, her lips slowly forming into a dry smile.
“Yeah…” she continued. “If I was her I’d just about scream and run out by now…”
Shino nodded. “Of course, this is, after all, the power of information. If I found out that my enemy had been collecting this much intel on me when I hadn’t done the same, I’d scream too at my own foolishness. Running out and rethinking my plans would indeed be the wisest move.”
“Err… That’s not what I meant,” said Hotaru. She pouted. “Actually, forget about it. More importantly, why did you make that request?”
“You know… Umm… the date with Maihime.”
“Ah,” said Shino. He looked back at Hotaru. “This is just another angle of attack. I essentially gathered everything I could from the outside, but now this gives me a good chance to talk to her without anyone interfering.
“Ah, so that was it.” Hotaru breathed a sigh of relief. “But wait, what do you want to talk about?”
“There’s one thing I’m still not sure about.”
“And that is?”
“You know, I’ve investigated Maihime Tenkawa to the best of my ability. Everything, including her hobbies, preferences, physical characteristics, day to day schedules… I may even know more about her than her own self.”
He looked troubled, but continued with a sigh. “I know that much about her, yet I still couldn’t find a reason why she should be killed. That’s the thing that’s been bothering me…” he said, rubbing his chin. “The more I looked into her, the more I came to realize that she’s a good person. Well, the order from the Bureau itself is enough reason to kill her, but still…”
“Shino.” Glaring at him intimidatingly, Hotaru sternly interrupted him.
Shino raised his brow. He had never seen Hotaru like this before… her eyes were borderline frightening.
“You can’t be thinking of going against the Bureau, are you?” snapped Hotaru. “You can’t do that… We must kill Maihime Tenkawa.” Her words may have been inspiring, but her tone was cold and unwavering.
Shino looked at Hotaru a bit suspiciously. Though in the end, he nodded, saying, “You don’t have to tell me that— I know the Bureau’s orders are absolute. I’m not going to let that one thing stop me from carrying this out, since I’ve been committed to this from the beginning.”
He narrowed his eyes and continued. “She may be a genius, a monster, and a symbol of hope for humanity, but… I’ll kill her,” he said, clenching his fist. “I have no intention of going against our orders… I just wanted to know why. Depending on the situation, this Sunday may be the perfect opportunity to settle this once and for all. Make sure you secure our escape route.”
After Shino said that, some color finally returned to Hotaru’s face, and she was once again the Hotaru that Shino had always known. “Alright… good,” she said. “Sorry about that just now…”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Shino.
Hearing that, she responded with a cute smile.
A ghastly shriek echoed loudly throughout the student council room. It was Zakuro— she was doing her strange screams while furiously twisting her panda plush to death.
“W-Will she be alright?” said Aoi.
“Zaku…” said Kurisu. “Can you quieten up a bit?”
The two were enjoying their afternoon tea, but they sighed as Zakuro continued to ruin the mood.
“C’mon, Gin… you say something too.” Kurisu looked to Ginko in the corner of the room.
Unfortunately, Ginko was not herself as well. She was a shell of her former self, even looking like a mummy that had been left in the sun to rot. With her face looking anemic and her lips cracking, she probably hadn’t taken care of herself in a while. In fact, she looked so dehydrated that she seemed more like a dead tree than an actual human.
Aoi and Kurisu both looked at her and sighed again.
“You two, I can understand why you’re depressed after losing that Ranked Battle,” said Aoi, “but our real goal isn’t to win some mock battles… It’s to protect the country from <Unknowns>.”
Hearing that, Zakuro took her twisted up panda and shoved it against the wall. Her screams were slowly becoming intelligible until she finally spoke to Aoi using actual words, “…. But but date it’s a date A DATE with our goddess Hime-sama and this random nobody a date you hear?!?!?”
“Yes… I hear you loud and clear.”
“And also after that Hime-sama stayed in her room for so long it’s been twenty five hours fifty nine minutes and two seconds since I’ve last seen her oh my god noooooooooooooooooo I can’t live like this wow now it’s been twenty SIX hours I can’t take this anymore!!”
Zakuro coughed painfully, with Ginko immediately doing the same. Her lifeless body slumped against the wall as she too tried to make out some words. “… I … too … have … not …” she said with a raspy voice. “taken in … any Himenium …”
“W-What’s Himenium?” said Aoi nervously, despite knowing that Zakuro and Ginko were in no condition to answer.
Instead, it was Kurisu who answered. “You don’t know?” she said, raising a finger. “It’s what she gets when she looks at or touches Hime-sama. From that alone she could get a huge high to the point of euphoria, but it is unfortunately quite addicting for her.”
“So it’s pretty much a drug… But wait, didn’t Sajihara have one of Tenkawa’s socks? If she has that, then maybe…”
“Nah,” interrupted Ginko. “I could only… smell… Hime-sama’s sock so many times… before I can’t get her scent… from it anymore.”
Aoi didn’t say anymore. She wanted to ask, “How are you sniffing the sock for it to get to that point?” but refrained from doing so. Not only was she too nice and modest to say it, her instincts told her that something bad would happen if she did.
In that instant, Maihime thundered down the hallway. “Hey, everyone!” she said.
The moment both Zakuro and Ginko heard her, they rushed over as fast as they could.
“Hime-sama Hime-sama Hime-sama Hime-sama please look at me,” said Zakuro, unable to control her withdrawal symptoms. She pulled out her camera and started snapping Maihime’s photos from every angle imaginable.
Ginko had even worse withdrawal symptoms. She couldn’t speak due to a mix of being severely dehydrated and wanting to concentrate on smelling Maihime completely. She buried her face into Maihime’s armpits and slowly started to sniff around her body. Surprisingly, she moved around in such a way that she didn’t block Zakuro’s camera angle. Similarly, Zakuro made sure not to take too much time so she wouldn’t block Ginko for too long.
The two seemed to be of the same soul, both mutually helping each other succeed. It was certainly a sight to see.
“W-What’s up with you two…” said Maihime, flustered from their strange actions.
It took a while, but the two finally seemed to calm down. Zakuro’s body stopped shaking, and Ginko started to look healthier after getting her fair share of Himenium. In fact, the two were back to their normal selves.
“Thanks so much,” said Zakuro.
Ginko nodded. “Yeah… I was in a dark place just now…”
“Oh…” Maihime was a bit puzzled, but soon she seemed to remember something. “Ah! I got something to ask you guys about…”
“Sure, what is it?” replied Aoi.
Maihime hesitated for a bit. Soon enough, however, she stomped her foot down with resolve and continued on. “F-For a… date, what should I do?” she asked with her face red from embarrassment.
The Four Divine Pillars froze completely, being silent as the grave.
“T-This is the first time I’m doing such a thing…” Maihime rattled on, “I tried to look things up, but I just don’t get it…” She awkwardly looked away from the four.
Seeing her in that timid form sent the four into the twilight zone. They stood there dazed, just staring at her for a few seconds, until they slapped their own faces with both hands and returned back to reality.
“Y-Y-Y-You can’t be serious Hime-sama you are actually going to go?” said Zakuro.
“Huh?” she replied, “Yeah…”
“You can’t!” snapped Ginko. “Isn’t that just something Shino decided for himself without asking you? Plus, determining your ‘reward’ after the fight just isn’t fair! If you don’t want to, just refuse!”
Maihime slumped her shoulders. “But… a promise is a promise… and also,” she paused. “It’s not like… I don’t want to…”
“WHAT??” Upon hearing that, both Zakuro and Ginko were taken aback, almost as if her words sucked the life out of them. In front of the two was a cute and lovable young lady, but neither of them was on her mind. Right now, she was thinking of someone else.
As a result, the two felt a mix of despair and agitation, causing their minds to break and go out of control.
“S-So, what should I do…?” Maihime asked again.
Aoi giggled lightheartedly. “It’s fine, don’t worry too much about it. I’m sure he’ll take the lead, and⸺ ”
Before Aoi could finish, Ginko rushed to her and covered her mouth to prevent her from saying any more. At the same time, Kurisu motioned a ‘time out!’ to Maihime and walked to the other side of the room. Zakuro and Ginko soon followed, with Ginko dragging Aoi behind her. Even though she tried to cry out, nothing but muffled screams could be heard.
“What do you think, everyone?” whispered Kurisu.
“Is that even a question this shouldn’t be happening at all…” replied Zakuro.
Ginko nodded. “Exactly! I did think that Shino had feelings for Hime-sama, but I didn’t think he would make a move so soon!”
Kurisu finally released her grip on Aoi’s mouth, causing Aoi to cough once. “Umm… Is there a problem?” she asked innocently.
Hearing this, the three (or rather, Kurisu, Ginko, and Zakuro’s panda), immediately glared at her alarmingly. Their gazes were so frightening that Aoi gulped in fear, shrinking back a bit.
“Anyways,” interrupted Ginko. “These are perilous times. We will stop him at all costs. Okay?”
Zakuro nodded her panda in agreement. “No complaints with me we will make Hime-sama give up on him.”
“Umm,” said Kurisu. In contrast to the two, she looked less confident. “Can we even bring this sort of thing up to her? I mean, just look at her…”
“Oh…” said the two simultaneously as they froze up. They nervously turned towards Maihime. Seeing this, her face lit up and she waved at them.
The three tensed up and quickly returned to their huddle.
“I-It’s impossible,” said Ginko. “I can’t bring myself to stop her…”
“Yes it’s impossible definitely not possible if we stop her and that makes her sad I’ll have no choice but to hang myself or throw myself off a cliff.”
Aoi seemed like she wanted to say something, but she remembered the last time she tried butting in and ultimately decided to remain silent.
“But even so, at this rate we’ll be sending her out without a plan, and we can’t do that for sure,” said Ginko. “She’s Kanagawa’s most loved leader, an angel who happened to descend on humanity. We can’t let some random nobody taint her.”
Kurisu nodded, but her face turned red. “Agreed. But… doesn’t that kind of get you excited?” she said, laughing nervously.
“Uhh… No it doesn’t… Even I’m not that messed up,” said Ginko, looking disgusted.
Zakuro was the same. “That’s a disgusting fetish you have you NTR loving pervert please don’t get close to me I don’t want all your NTR germs.”
“You two are the last people I want to hear that from!” pouted Kurisu. She puffed up her cheeks. “Hear me out, though… I don’t like the fact that Shino’s gonna hog her for one day, but how rare is it to see Hime-sama on a date? Actually, we’ve never seen her go on a date have we?”
Ginko’s eyes widened. “No indeed…”
“I really would want to see that,” said Zakuro.
“Right? Besides, it’s not like we can stop her anyway,” said Kurisu. “So that leaves us with our last option— we have to make the most out of this opportunity!”
The three stared at each other in silence for a few moments before someone nodded. Aoi was watching them nervously off to the side, but they didn’t pay any attention to her at all. Instead, they all walked back to Maihime, giggling uncontrollably.
“Actually, Hime-sama, that sounds so fun!”
“But of course, we understand your worries.”
“Please leave it to us to make the perfect date plan for you so don’t worry about anything!”
Ginko, Kurisu, and Zakuro respectively said their assurances. Hearing that, Maihime looked relieved and thanked them with a smile.
Sunday rolled around, and this time Shino was standing in the middle of a plaza while surveying his surroundings. The plaza was right in the middle of downtown Kanagawa, and the area he was in served as a rest area for the shoppers. In the middle was a fountain whose water glittered brightly in the sun.
The place was a popular date spot even for downtown standards. Shino would spot some student couples walking by every so often. Since it was Sunday, there were probably more of them than usual. In any case, practically all the students who walked by him stared him down. Well, he did ask Maihime out on a date the other day in front of everyone, so it’s no surprise that he would be the center of attention.
He sighed as he glanced at the clock at the edge of the plaza. It was 10:55, almost time for their designated meetup time.
Just then, a small figure came strutting up from the other side of the plaza. There was no mistake about it— it was Maihime. Her hair was neatly tied into two ponytails, and for some reason she was carrying a rather large bag.
Her movements were rather awkward, probably due to the fact that she noticed Shino looking at her as she walked up to him, making her quite nervous. Once she was face to face with him, she did a stiff, almost robot-like, bow.
“T-Thanks for… inviting me out… t-today,” she muttered. “I-I don’t do this often… so please help… me out… today!”
“What?” Shino was puzzled.
Maihime straightened back up. “Y-You know, I… don’t have experience with this kind of stuff,” she said, smiling nervously. “I did get a lot of advice, but as expected I’m still so nervous…”
“Huh?” You walk all the time around town don’t you?”
“Yeah, that’s true,” she said while twitching nervously. “I-It’s that… you know… a date is different than… you know, just going out normally… from what I’ve heard…”
It seemed that using the word “date” was the wrong move. Shino just used it in his request since it was pretty close to what he wanted, but now Maihime was all flustered and probably had the wrong idea about everything.
That being said, it was pretty lucky for him that she actually came out to meet him. He did force her to accept his request, and pissing off the Four Divine Pillars probably didn’t help out too much either. He was completely ready for the possibility that she would not show up.
But now, things were going great. He finally had the perfect opportunity to gather more information. Furthermore, if it was possible, he would complete the mission today. His lips trembled at the thought of killing her.
“Tenkawa, for now just calm down a bit so you can talk normally—”
“SHINO!” interrupted Maihime. She pulled out a little notepad out of her pocket and read the pages intently before looking back up. “There are plenty of places I want to go! That alright with you?!?!?” she shouted enthusiastically, her eyes suddenly filled with energy.
“Huh? Sure, I don’t mind…” For a moment, he was overwhelmed by Maihime’s sudden outburst.
Maihime smiled joyfully. “Okay then! Let’s go, let’s go!!!!” she shouted, skipping down the street.
Shino frowned. As expected, Maihime was as pure and as innocent as could be. No matter how much he observed her, she didn’t seem to be the type of girl who deserved to die.
“….” He shook his head. He knew he must not be fooled by her actions and words. The very fact that she got him to question himself like that was proof that she was indeed a very frightening girl.
However, as he walked past the many shops that littered the sidewalk, he suddenly felt something weird. For some reason, Maihime was looking around restlessly, slowly creeping her hand up to him. Oddly enough, once he glanced down at her hand, she trembled, quickly drew it back, and tried to play it cool with a whistle. She would try the same stunt just moments later… It was very suspicious indeed.
“What are you doing?” said Shino, after the cycle repeated itself numerous times. He eyed her suspiciously.
Maihime’s body trembled even harder. “Umm…” she said with an awkward look on her face. “I’ve read somewhere that in a date you have to hold hands… so I thought to do just that… but doing it feels so embarrassing!”
“It’s no big deal, it’s not like we decided on that. There’s no reason to forcefully hold hands.”
“A-Ah, you’re right,” she said, laughing nervously and scratching her face. Now dejected, she continued to limp down the street. Every so often, she would silently turn around and stare at Shino, but Shino would stare right back. She continued to do this… again, and again, and again.
Tsk. Shino sighed. He’s had enough, so he reluctantly grabbed onto her hand. “Let’s go,” he said. “Where to?”
“Huh? Oh… Yeah! Over here!” said Maihime. Her mood changed in an instant, almost as if she forgot she was depressed just now. Now holding Shino’s hand, she once again started skipping down the street. Eventually, the two arrived at a store that featured some clothes from the display window. There were even a few mannequins modeling different outfits as well. From the looks of it, it was definitely a clothing store.
In general, the only clothes that the students needed were their school uniforms. Despite that, there were many who enjoyed wearing different outfits during the weekends. They were students, after all, and they wanted some variety in their life. As a result, the number of applications to start a clothing store was by far the most out of all the other types. This made the clothing space very competitive, so those who didn’t see much business were forced to close down quickly.
“Clothing, huh?” said Shino.
“Yup! You know, my wardrobe is lacking… so I thought that maybe today you can help me pick out some new ones!”
Shino raised his eyebrows. “Why me?” he asked.
Maihime didn’t hear him. She pulled on his hand and led him into the store.
“Welcome…” said the shopkeeper. His eyes widened as he saw her. “Woah, Hime-sama!” He sounded enthusiastic, but once he saw that she was holding Shino’s hand, he sighed deeply.
It would be a lie to say that Shino wasn’t bothered by that reaction, despite knowing that there’s really not a whole lot he could do about it. He mentally cursed the shopkeeper for the lack of professionalism and looked away.
Maihime walked up alone to the shopkeeper. She proudly pulled out a card and flashed it to him. The card itself was something introduced to the city a few years earlier to help with purchases. Oh, and it was black colored.
“With this, please pick out a few date clothes for me!”
“Got it! On it right away!” said the shopkeeper, bowing deeply. He disappeared into the supply room to where all the other employees were and made quite the commotion. Soon, the employees scattered around trying to find the right outfits.
“What do you think, Shino?” said Maihime. “Am I doing this right?”
Shino stayed emotionless. “Doing what right?’” he asked.
Before Maihime could respond, the employees all gathered around her and brought the clothes.
“Hime-sama!” said one of them.
“How about this one?” asked another. He pulled out a bunch of colorful outfits for her to try.
Maihime looked at them in awe. “Woah… you sure got a lot, huh?” she said. “Hey, Shino, what should I try on?”
“Any, honestly. Just try whatever you want.”
“Okay…” she pouted and sighed. She then turned to the shopkeeper and asked, “Which one do you recommend?”
“Hmm… If it’s for a date… how about this one?”
“Ah, okay! That looks great… I’ll try it!” She took the clothes and headed towards the changing room.
However, Shino pulled her back from the shoulder before she could leave. “Wait a second,” he said. He pointed at the clothes she was holding. “Are you planning to wear that?”
The outfit exposed the shoulder, back, and stomach quite brazenly, so much that it was pretty much a swimsuit in terms of skin exposure.
“This? Yeah, I mean, it was recommended to me…” she replied.
“Yeah! This is perfect for dates!”
“It’s great for late bloomers!”
“Go and fight in that as well!”
The employees all fist pumped the air in excitement. Shino got pretty annoyed seeing that. He snatched the outfit from Maihime’s hands and went to pick out a more suitable outfit for her.
“… A girl your age shouldn’t be showing your skin,” he said, handing her another outfit while scowling at the employees. “Here, try this one.”
Maihime looked a bit flabbergasted as she took the outfit, but she quickly broke out into a big smile. “Sure!” she shouted before disappearing into the changing room.
Once she was done changing a few minutes later, she opened the curtains. “How… is it? Does it suit me?” She blushed.
Shino was surprised with how she looked. He picked the outfit randomly, without knowing the latest fashion trends or her preferred style, yet the color and overall look actually fitted her perfectly. The white colors went so well with her pale skin and light hair that she looked like a real princess.
Shino froze… he didn’t know what to say. It was easy to answer her question directly, but he wondered if that was really what she was asking for. Why did she want to come all the way here just to try on some clothes? More importantly, why did she take off her uniform? Shino pondered that for a bit until he thought of a possibility.
The Kanagawa uniforms were pretty much made for the battlefield. They were completely bulletproof and able to absorb blows to a certain extent, giving the maximum possible protection for the students. The fact that she was willing to take that off meant that she didn’t consider Shino an enemy…
No. Shino played his own devil’s advocate. Of course, that was a possibility. However, if that was the case, then there was another possibility…
Indeed, Maihime could have somehow figured out Shino’s true intentions and was now probing him around for more information. She purposely made herself seem vulnerable, so Shino would be forced to reveal his hand. He thought that if he could read Maihime’s mind right now, she would be thinking something along the lines of,
I took off my uniform, and I’m now wearing this defenseless outfit that YOU chose for me. Now… you gotta do what you gotta do right? Isn’t this the perfect time to kill me?
Shino took another look at Maihime. Once again, he saw her red face and her timid expressions, but this time he knew what was up. However, he purposefully gulped anyway as to not give himself away.
It was imperative that she didn’t sense anything unusual, because that in itself would be a huge red flag for her. The fact that she was probing around meant that she suspected him, but didn’t have enough proof to be sure of it. So, Shino gathered his thoughts and spoke.
“Ah, it fits you perfectly,” he said with attitude, almost as if he was saying,
Hmmph! How about that for an answer? Your move now!
Despite that, Maihime’s face got even more red. “I-I see…” she said, scratching the back of her head. She then headed to a nearby employee and said, “Then I’ll take this please. Can I wear it out? And also, do you have any shoes that go well with this?”
The employee was still mesmerized by Maihime’s outfit, but quickly snapped of it. “Yes! Of course!”
She paid for the clothes while the employee removed the price tag. She then stuffed her uniform and overcoat into the large bag she was holding.
“Sorry for making you wait,” she said after returning back to Shino’s side. “Well then, let’s move on to the next stop, Shino.”
Shino hesitated… Just what was she up to this time? This false sense of peace he was feeling was giving him the shivers. Could it be that she really took off her uniform without an ulterior motive? No, it couldn’t be… He couldn’t let down his guard one bit. After all, it was probably all just a bait. If that was the case, then his best plan of action right now was to—
“Shino?” Maihime interrupted his thoughts.
“Ah… It’s nothing. Alright,” he said, nodding. “Let’s go.”
He started to walk out with her. Unlike last time where he grabbed her hand, this time she grabbed onto his first. It was so unexpected that he instinctively used his other hand to grab his katana. Despite that, she didn’t seem to mind, but Shino knew that she was really thinking,
Well well well… you’re this scared already?