When The Cute Kunoichis Spied on Their Teacher's Secret -
Volume 1, Chapter 1
Volume 1, Chapter 1
1: A Kunoichi, Twintails, and a Lecture
The rectangular plastic package was just a little larger than the postcards that seemed so nostalgic nowadays. It was colored a reddish orange and the thick text on the front said “Happy Churn”.
Sugiyado Souha, a 17-year-old boy with a scar on his nose, was seated in one corner of a small single-room apartment. He was gesturing wildly as he desperately tried to argue his case. He wore a half-sleeve dress shirt, loose pants, and (even indoors) a long scarf around his neck, but it was all very uncomfortable after absorbing so much nervous sweat.
He was speaking to a twintail girl standing past the Happy Churn box with her hands on her slender hips. She wore a baggy long-sleeved white sweater and a miniskirt adorned with pink pleats. It was certainly a cute outfit, but if she moved any closer, he was pretty sure he would be able to see the cute underwear within that miniskirt. And do not ask how he could know it was cute without having actually seen it. You are reading too much into this. He definitely had not seen it and he double definitely had not seen the small ribbon on the front!!
“No, wait, Ouka. There is a perfectly good reason for this.”
“Your room is already so messy it’s a miracle you haven’t gotten yourself sick, so you have to stop sneaking this junk food, Sensei!!”
“Junk!? You take that back!! Happy Churn is my manly soul food!”
“Oh, the very thought of it scares me. Sugar, carbs, chemical seasonings, artificial preservatives, and artificial coloring. Snack foods are an incarnation of evil intent on destroying the world, so I will be throwing out every last crumb! Even if it will probably all be back in a few days knowing you!!”
“Not so fast! Happy Churn powder is a mystery seasoning with a secret recipe, so you have no basis for your critique, Ouka!!”
“Please don’t eat mystery substances full of who-knows-what, Sensei!!”
“Oh, no. At this rate, cute Ouka could turn into a truly monstrous woman as she ages. Any course corrections need to be made now. Strike while the iron is hot, as the saying goes. You can do it, 14 year old! You have time to fix this!!”
“You were the one that told me to watch out for sugars and fats because a kunoichi’s body is a crucial asset.”
He was simply reaping what he had sown.
Sugiyado dripped with an unpleasant sweat and turned his head like a broken fan to avoid looking her in the eye.
“I-I’m a guy, so I’m not a kunoichi?”
“Shall I carve that into your grave, Sensei? (Smile)”
“No, no, no! But if I’m being entirely serious, things are different between a retired instructor like me and someone like you who is still sent to the front lines to battle the knights and musketeers who arrive by sea and air.”
“You have every right to be angry, but that is a historical fact. I already put in the work, so let me pack on a few kilos now.”
“I…” Ouka kept her hands on her hips but also pouted her lips like a disobedient child. “I refuse to accept that you have retired. I mean, no one can defeat you, not even Bara or Hoozuki. And that includes me.”
“I am honored that a Shogunate-approved Elite Ninja thinks so highly of me.”
Ninja techniques might seem old and busted.
But the arresting techniques and martial arts adopted by the police and militaries of different countries were generally based on the ancient and traditional martial arts of that country or region. In Eastern Europe, that meant wrestling. In Western Europe, that meant mixed martial arts with an emphasis on grabbing and pinning techniques. In South America, that meant an alternate version of jujutsu. In China…well, that one goes without saying.
The modern reliance on ninjas was a sign of the times. Foreign warships and aircraft carriers were stationed uncomfortably close to the isolationist Shogunate and the mechanical knights and musketeers aboard those ships only had to be sent the go sign. Those things could not be dealt with by traditional means, so new tactics had to be built from the ground up and that required individual fighters to adjust their own tactics on the fly. While karate, judo, and kendo received more attention, the necessities of the modern age had led to a resurgence in a different but equally ancient form of martial arts.
Even if they were reliant on modern technology, their techniques were still built on a foundation of martial arts to bring about a bizarre evolution in the traditional methods. This evolution that had developed to combat cutting-edge foreign weapons was known as Strategic Martial Arts.
“But you must understand that you are only talking about direct sparring matches fought on the limited field of a training ground and with a time limit. That has no bearing on what would happen in a real battle.”
Sugiyado remained seated on the floor and winked while tapping his fist on his lower back like an old man.
“I have three bolts in my spine and springs to make up for the torn ligaments in my legs. I’m far from helpless, but my spine feels funny when I lift something weighing 5kg and it explodes with pain when I lift something weighing 10kg.”
Of course, if that was really true, his spine would explode from the inertia of high-speed movement or when he blocked an enemy’s blade, yet that did not happen.
In the end, it was a complicated mix of his old wounds and psychological symptoms.
Knowing it was only in his head made his inability to get over it all the more frustrating. Any doctor he asked would likely tell him it was not that simple, but that would not be enough to fix his stubborn pride.
“You want to know how to defeat me? It’s simple. Make constant attacks with projectiles while endlessly falling back on a wide-open field. As long as you aren’t relying on thick and heavy bulletproof equipment, that will be enough to wear me down and kill me. I can’t dodge things forever, so my focus would falter at some point.”
“That’s nonsense and you know it, Sensei. We’re Elite Ninjas ranked above the standard High, Middle, and Low hierarchy, but you’re one of the Hidden Ones ranked even higher than that. No one even knows how many of those there are!!”
“Ouka, we are not samurais or the Shogun. What is victory for a ninja?”
“What is victory for a ninja, Ouka?”
“To use every means available and follow any path available to achieve your objective no matter what. To swiftly and surely create a foothold for the rest of the army to advance without getting bogged down in matters of personal glory.”
She looked like she was silently cursing herself for being able to rattle off that definition.
Sugiyado Souha smiled bitterly at how good a student Kuhou Ouka was.
“Real battles are cruel and you don’t get to complain that something ‘isn’t fair’. If you’re carrying a bombshell, of course someone is going to poke at it. So if you carry a bombshell that could ruin the entire army’s timetable, you will be kept away from the battlefield. It is a perfectly sensible decision.”
He slowly exhaled and stood up while she bit her cute lip and said nothing in response. He was glad she was so worried about him, but this was his life and she did not have to carry these problems for him.
He placed a hand on her small head and smiled.
“Don’t let something so insignificant shake you, Ouka.”
“How is this insignificant, you dummy?”
“Even when you don’t think it’s affecting you, the enemy might sniff out the feelings lingering in your heart. You can never predict what will be the dividing line between life and death. If you don’t want to be forced into retirement by some unexpected turn of events like I was, then you need to stay strong.”
Those words were entirely meant for the girl named Ouka, but that also meant they contained no comfort at all for Sugiyado himself.
“But that’s what makes it all the more frustrating, Sensei.”
“That part is an entirely psychological issue, so you have to overcome it on your own.”
He sighed and lifted his hand from her head. The short girl looked over somewhat regretfully, but he was not the type to be drawn in by his excellent student’s sex appeal (although in her case, it was more of a protective desire). He turned his back on her and waved as he left the room.
For a while, the twintail girl clasped her hands in front of the flat chest showing through her tight sweater as she stared at the door Sugiyado Souha had left through, but then…
“Ah!? I was supposed to be lecturing him, but he somehow twisted it around into a quiet goodbye! Sensei!!”
2: The Floating City of the Shogunate and a Daimyo Procession
Your efforts are undeniable.
We have confirmed the extreme chaos on the scene at the time.
But the fact remains that your injuries prevent you from carrying an injured comrade. No matter how skilled they might be, someone who cannot protect the lives of their comrades in arms cannot be placed on the front line.
Ouka was one of the Elite Ninjas considered the strongest in active duty, so she would find him immediately if all he did was leave the apartment. He alternated travel routes in a complex pattern to eliminate any trail to follow and blended into the crowds of people.
(Really, this is like a pleasant stroll for me.)
This much exercise was not going to detonate the bombshell in his back. Theoretically, anyway. But while carrying a bombshell like that, he ended up worrying about it even when he should not have to.
He was weak.
He did not avoid admitting to himself he had a handicap. He could not rid himself of his concerns, unease, and even fears when doing something as simple as this. No matter how jokey he might seem on the surface, this was something he could not let his students learn about. He knew it was pathetic keeping secrets from those so close to him, but even instructors had their pride and dignity they wanted to protect.
He had left to escape Ouka’s lecture, which meant he did not have a set destination in mind. So how was he to kill some time? He might b a ninja, but he did not perform any flashy backflips or create clones of himself. He waited at the light for the large pedestrian scramble like anyone else would and he lost himself in thought while watching a line of vehicles cross by in front of him.
However, these were not ordinary cars or trucks.
Two large white police motorcycles took the lead, various bodyguard and escort vehicles were next, and a black luxury car bearing the large family crest of a samurai family followed that.
The police motorcycles were blasting an announcement from their speakers while driving quite slowly (which had to be difficult with motorcycles).
“A special alert is in effect. We know this is an inconvenience to you all, but please do your part to facilitate our official business.”
This was known as a Daimyo Procession.
The term Sankin Kotai was no longer even used these days, but not because the mandatory policy no longer existed. It was just that no one considered it worth arguing about any longer. Modern meetings could be held remotely with a single internet line, but the Shogunate still insisted on direct meetings on the pretext of safety. And of course, the funding for such meetings came from the annual taxes paid by the people living in the New Yokohama Domain.
There must have been some frustrations because people had stopped bowing their heads when they encountered a Daimyo Procession of late. Some young men in the area were aiming their phone cameras toward it and a small girl was eating a corndog while holding her mother’s hand, but none of the bodyguards got after them.
However, there must have been a coordination mistake this time.
The large monitor covering a department store wall was brightly and loudly spreading a wide range of information unrelated to the Daimyo Procession.
“New Yokohama Domain, the reclaimed land known as the modern Dejima, is a unique intersection point with many foreign cultures within this country’s isolationist policies, so it is also a land of many strange gourmet surprises! For example, here we have yaki udon and a pilaf sharing the same plate with a line of shumai running down the center to divide the two.”
“The age of a single OS’s monopoly has come to an end. We in the Kyushu University Computer Machinery Alliance have brought together domestic hardware with a brand new operating system that is estimated will increase the GDP by…”
“Breaking news: Several ships have been detected in the ocean off of the Pacific coast. They appear to be carrying Kingdom knights who plot to steal our data, but the unusually great number of aircraft carriers has led the Shogunate to announce…”
“Happy Churn!! X Day draws nigh! Strap your helmets on tight, everyone!!”
(The world is sounding as dangerous as ever. And what was that about everyone’s beloved Happy Churn?)
Sugiyado Souha prepared to take a mental note about the one topic he could not afford to miss out on, but then the screen switched over.
“In response to the dangerous signs at air and sea, the Tenshukaku at the center of the Shogunate is preparing a conference attended by all Daimyo with more than 500,000 koku of land as they will be the foundation of any regional defense. With the outstanding skill of the great 52nd Shogun Osaie at work…”
High officials in their formal dress were lined up in a large hall where a single tatami mat probably cost as much as a commoner’s entire house.
And in the very, very back sat a single figure.
The Daimyo Procession must have cost a fortune, but it paled in comparison to this.
Sugiyado Souha gave a look of pity toward the family crest on the luxury car, but he was still mostly thinking of Happy Churn. And then a bewitching voice reached his ears.
“Oh, dear. If it isn’t, Sensei. If you make Ouka wait too long, you will lose your chance to apologize, you know?”
A floral scent wafted over to him.
She was tall for a girl but still shorter than Sugiyado. This was a sexy girl with long red hair worn in gorgeous ringlet curls and a dress so bold a red it almost looked dyed in blood. The buns on either side of her head may have been a floral symbol. She did wear a kanzashi, but she still had a mostly Western appearance. She looked splendid enough to make an appearance at an evening party or on a theatre stage.
The fact that someone like this had blended into the background until now was all you needed to know to see her great skill.
Sugiyado whispered without moving his lips and without looking back. He kept his eyes on the opposite red light and the luxury cars of the Daimyo Procession.
When he carefully studied the reflection in the highly-polished cars, he could indeed see the beautiful kunoichi standing behind him.
“You’re getting better. I thought I had hidden my presence better than this.”
She was 18 which meant she was older than him, but he still ended up speaking like her superior.
But the red ringlet curls girl did not seem to mind.
“Only because my specialty is in disguises and deception instead of direct combat. Knowing how to disguise myself means knowing how to see through other people’s disguises.” That star of the stage giggled while crossing her arms in a way that lifted her large breasts up from below. “Plus, these techniques are all things you taught me.”
“You have already made them into your own techniques. I have nothing left to teach you there.” He relaxed his shoulders. “So where are Hoozuki and Asagao?”
“They went shopping to buy some ingredients for tonight.”
“Hm? Hold on. What are you four starting now?”
Something seemed to dawn on him after he asked that. This explained why Ouka was so upset about him eating snacks. The problem was not with the Happy Churn itself; she had been behaving like a mother refusing to let her child snack before dinner.
“Forgive her, Happy Churn. My student lashed out at you unfairly, but I know you have a big enough heart to laugh it off like an adult for my sake.”
“I’m pretty sure Ouka’s problem is that she likes you so much she’ll even get jealous over your fondness for an inanimate object.”
“But this is a problem. I was thinking of killing some time at a family restaurant or burger shop since I have nowhere to go.”
“That would only add fuel to the fire, but I won’t stop you if you are the kind of ‘expert’ who enjoys seeing a cute girl erupt at you.”
“What do you even want from me?”
“Oh? I like you a lot too, Sensei.”
She dropped a bombshell with a straight face. They were student and instructor and he wanted to complain about the kids these days, but Bara gave a mischievous smile and toyed with one of her ringlet curls using nail-polished fingertips. That was enough to squish her large breasts together from the side with her arm, so he really, really wanted to complain about the kids these days.
Kunoichis were taught to distract their opponents with their bodies, but the scent of nectar coming from Hanasawa Bara was especially strong. If she transferred in, she could probably bring down an entire prestigious girl’s school on her own.
“Now, Ouka’s ‘like’ is a much narrower kind of thing, but mine is much broader. I absolutely love the general atmosphere when you, Ouka, Hoozuki, Asagao, and I are together.”
“But…just to be clear, isn’t that atmosphere in trouble? If Ouka erupts, won’t that beloved peace of yours crumble away?”
“My, my. Who ever said the atmosphere I like is a peaceful one?”
That was the end of it.
The parade-like Daimyo Procession finally left. The pedestrian light turned green and the waiting people began to move. That girl in a bright red dress had been by his side a moment before, but now she was gone.
However, he did hear a giggling breath. Just as he realized she was still close by, he felt a soft touch on his cheek.
It was a maiden’s lips.
Only a thick floral scent reminiscent of a red rose’s petals remained in his nose.
“So if necessary, I am willing to throw in some sparks or add fuel to the fire. Just like this.”
Now she really was gone.
He shook his head side to side and then started across the pedestrian scramble a little later than the others waiting.
3: Fierce Fang
(I should probably see how my shoulder is doing while I’m at it.)
With that thought, Sugiyado Souha decided on a destination. He chose a place with very few visitors even in the shopping district. That was hardly surprising when it was a parking garage that had been waiting in vain to be demolished for quite a while.
There were no official dojos or training organizations for ninjas like there were for samurai sword fighting. Ninjas had to construct their own training grounds to train their own bodies and minds and to keep themselves honed so they would not forget what they had already learned. Of course, using private property would mean leaving your real name in the official registries and they could not exactly put out a big sign saying “Ninja Village”, so they generally borrowed other people’s land. But if they sensed anyone approaching, they had to remove every trace of their presence before they were found and then search out a new location.
A ninja’s agility was their selling point.
Unlike the samurai or warrior monks, they worked best when they were free to move without any restrictions.
In order to keep their decisions sharp when it really mattered, it did not hurt to continue training on a daily basis.
This (abandoned?) parking garage was not interesting enough to become a hangout for local delinquents and it did not have any stories creepy enough for people to visit for a test of courage, so it was perfect for his needs. He had been using it for nearly a month now.
But that was not necessarily a good thing.
(If I stay too long, I end up gathering too much stuff. I hope that doesn’t come back to bite me when I do need to withdraw.)
He had passed a thick rope through one of the old tires he had found somewhere and stacked up in here and had it hanging from one of the pipes overhead. Even without giving it a push like a pendulum, the irregular vibrations from the trains running nearby made it shake in unpredictable patterns.
(20, 30, no, I need to reach 35 for a passing grade with a straight line shot.)
He measured the distance with his steps and then faced his target from a distance.
A handgun bullet could fly a distance of around 180 meters, but opinions were still divided on the range at which it could actually hit a target or kill a fleeing opponent. Some said 30 meters and others insisted it was less than 8 meters.
During an indoor battle with lots of cover, a range of 35 meters was so-so.
He did not time the shot himself. Ninja battles were not like samurai duels, so he used the noise from outside the parking garage as a cue.
(Yes, I can use the squealing of a car’s tires for today.)
Once he had defined his terms, it was time to wait. It might come one second later, or he might have to wait an hour. It was also possible he could wait all day and never hear it at all, but he could not let that distract him. Ninjas would perform sniping and assassinations, so it was crucial that they performed all their tasks with equal proficiency at all times. If nothing happening was enough to get you down, you could never survive a life of lying next to a sniper rifle on a mission that only ended when further orders came in.
Do not let success or failure affect your state of mind, he silently told himself. It was not uncommon to only have a 2 second opportunity during a mission that lasted 96 hours. But if you could not produce your best possible performance during those 2 seconds-
Whether someone had slammed on the brakes or the gas, the squealing of tires cut off his thoughts. His arms rose seemingly all on their own and moved to his lower back. He pulled two kunai from below his half-sleeve dress shirt. He crossed his arms to throw both kunai without a moment’s delay.
Even the rustling of his clothing seemed delayed.
Unlike stick shuriken, kunai were not thrown with the vertical rotation seen in throwing axes. The broad shape of the blade itself sliced through the air like wings to provide lift and stabilize its flight. Instead of throwing them with the arm like in darts, the entire body was used as a spring to place your full body weight on the end of your hand, so it was more like throwing a solid paper airplane than throwing a blade or ball.
Sugiyado Souha’s mind was entirely focused in that moment.
A nearby train shook the tire dangling from the rope, but that did not matter. His side-throw was perfectly accurate. It felt like he was watching the kunai follow a line already drawn out in the air. Missing would have been the real shock here. The old tire was drowning in an ocean of equations that would have the average mathematician struggling in front of a whiteboard, but the two kunai flew right into it.
But that was all they did.
It appeared to have been the thick low-pressure tire for a large truck, but his kunai caught on the edge more than stab in. It was much harder than a sandbag, but this still meant the kunai were hopelessly deficient in penetrative power. They could never finish off a ninja wearing thick bulletproof equipment. In fact, the average boy in a T-shirt and shorts would walk away alive.
“What am I doing, dammit?”
As much as he claimed he wanted to live an easier life now, he could not forget the feeling of the ninja gear in his hands and he kept practicing with it day in and day out. Or rather, he feared he was continuing to grow weaker after already deteriorating quite a bit. He could not relax unless he made sure he still had what it took. And that bad habit was only getting worse.
Also, he had not moved a step.
When a frontline ninja decided they would defeat an opponent, they would do so with the very first attack. Because that was safest. Yet now he could not even take out an old tire swaying irregularly from the roof. The world had grown awfully cruel of late.
Was he referring to the three bolts in his spine? Or to the skills that he used to take for granted that were slipping from his grasp? Either way, his complaint was misguided. Who did he have but himself to blame for the decline in his skill? Also, complaints held no power on the front line. Those battles were fought based on the assumption that your name would not go down in history. Outsiders had no chance to decide what was right or wrong and the losers were left behind as nothing but corpses.
If you could not keep up, you had to step aside.
If you were even one step short, you were still too slow to survive.
That was probably why he had trained those girls. He had lost his wings and could no longer fly, but he still selfishly sought a place for himself in the great expanse of the sky.
“Goddammit,” he quietly cursed while looking away from the old tire pendulum that displayed the miserable result of his efforts.
But a moment later, there was a loud pop.
That loathsome donut-like silhouette was shredded from within and blown away.
Would anyone who saw that have realized what just happened?
Sugiyado had thrown kunai at it. They were alloy ninja gear made by sharpening one-handed gardening trowels. However, the two things that fell to the concrete floor were both shaped differently. The silver blades had a groove along the central line that opened up in parallel lines to the left and right like a U-shaped tuning fork.
These were special weapons that’s blade included a rescue device used to force open car doors and that’s grip included a nitrogen rapid-foaming agent used in airbags. It could provide a maximum pressure of approximately 15 tons. If the very tip managed to work its way into a gap in the target, it could even break the lock of a tank’s hatch and force it open.
So in an urban warfare environment where he had plenty of cover he could use to approach, this allowed him to single-handedly defeat a unit of tanks.
And ninjas never looked for fairness in their battles, so they would lure the target into the perfect environment beforehand.
It went without saying what happened when you stabbed one of those into a personal bulletproof jacket or into actual flesh and blood.
These were Sugiyado Souha’s true fangs.
These were the Fierce Fang air pressure kunai.
They did not require weight or speed to destroy a target. As long as he could throw the tip into the gaps or joints of the target’s armor, the deadly equipment would be shredded from within. That meant he needed accuracy and nothing else. That old wolf had received critical injuries to his spine and the ligaments of his legs, but this was his last resort for staying relevant that he had found after struggling and crawling through the mud for so long. Of course, these were not in general(?) use for the simple reason that they were of own his handmade design and he had not shared the plans.
He slowly walked over and reached into the shredded tires to collect the two Fierce Fangs that had their beaks open in parallel, but then he sighed.
“I am no longer worthy of the Hidden One title.”
Only bitterness colored his face.
“These are like training wheels on a bike. No, they’re like adult diapers, dammit!!”
4: Ninja Teacher
Sugiyado Souha still had a lot of time to kill.
The unexpectedly slow passage of time hinted at something quite bitter rising up within him.
He was afraid to head back to the apartment where Ouka awaited him (even though it was his apartment). Since snacks were apparently not allowed, he visited an internet café inside an ordinary multi-tenant building. Due to the aforementioned prohibition on snacks, he did not take a bite or sip of the complimentary curry and drinks.
“Call it a rebellion against capitalism.”
Despite the country’s isolationist policies, New Yokohama Domain was treated similarly to Dejima, so the internet there had access to the outside world. In that sense, these cramped spaces separated out by partitions were a luxury item. You could connect to the national internet with your phone, but one of these desktops with a static IP linked to New Yokohama Domain land provided a lot more freedom.
A glance at the browser’s home page showed the same online news headlines he had seen on the street earlier and a few eye-catching ads.
“Sword training available in vibration, water pressure, blowtorch, and other varieties.”
“If you want to be a cyber professional, look no further!”
“Unlike in the samurai families, bloodline is irrelevant in the merchant families. Seeking people interested in immediate lessons on advanced economics!!”
The internet moved at such a rapid pace the word “inundated” seemed apt. That had greatly changed how education worked. Old-fashioned schools were used to provide a foundational education and foster communication skills, but that was not enough to get by in the modern age. Even if you graduated from elementary school, middle school, high school, university, and even graduate school, you still needed an edge if you wanted to receive a job offer.
So in parallel to ordinary schooling, students would carve open a future for themselves by learning some kind of specialized skill. Some self-proclaimed expert who appeared on talk shows had named this troublesome age the Age of Dual Education and made a killing on the business book he was selling.
The true identity of that dual education was the long-distance education system that made use of the internet.
In the modern age, anyone could be a student and anyone could be a teacher. The classmate studying alongside you in the ordinary classroom could be teaching something to the girl in the seat next to you.
Depending on the initial agreement, the teacher did not even need to reveal what they looked like, so it was entirely possible a baby-faced student could be using the internet to teach a special class to an elderly teacher at their school.
These classes were classified as “practical hobby lessons”, so they did not need to be registered with the existing educational agency, no teaching license was necessary, and the nationally designated curriculum could be entirely ignored. However, that had allowed the classes to branch out along a much wider breadth of subjects. There were as many individual education courses as there were stars in the sky, so some had started saying the ability to determine which ones would be useful for your future was a kind of talent.
When a class was useful, it was incredibly useful, but when one was not, it was a complete waste of time.
Among all those was the following ad:
“Modern ninja lessons available.”
It was thanks to the modern era that such a class could be advertised so bluntly. Of course, not just anyone who responded to the ad would be given lessons. They were given a background check and an interview via video chat first.
The ad was not one of the larger ones and a red warning label said “class full” over the banner.
(They’ve been working on the front line for a while now, but I guess they’re still technically registered as my students.)
It was obvious when he checked through an external internet connection, but that explained why he did not have any new hopeful students contacting him. That robbed him of his livelihood, but would complaining to Ouka and the others really accomplish anything?
If he was lucky, they would cutely insist they could support him.
If he was less lucky, they would claim he had no choice but to return to his life as a ninja.
“What a pain. My rehabilitation costs are not cheap, but I’m stuck with some selfish girls who refuse to move out.”
Now, did the boy realize how happy he looked as he said that?
The phone sitting next to the mouse vibrated. He grabbed it before it vibrated itself right off the edge of the desk and saw a familiar name displayed on the screen.
“What is it, Hoozuki?”
“Everything is ready, so you can head back home now.”
“Again, ready for what?”
Since the classes were supposed to be held online, physically meeting each other like this could be seen as a slight ethics issue. There was no definite punishment for it, but it may have been similar to how contact between an organ donor and recipient was frowned upon.
It probably made matters worse if his students were breaking into their instructor’s home and plotting something there. He was just about ready to complain about “kids these days”.
(That room really does have thin walls, so I need to get them to restrain themselves.)
With that oddly realistic thought, he paid full price despite not touching the drinks or curry and he left the internet café.
Just as he stepped outside of the multi-tenant building, he was greeted by the loud rumbling of an engine.
Countless Calamities, a reddish off-road motorcycle, was stopped on the other side of the guardrail and a tall and slim girl sat atop it. Dirt bikes were generally made small and lightweight, but this one’s engine had clearly been forcibly swapped out. The rider was a cool beauty with a long silver ponytail and she was not wearing any sort of helmet.
Unlike the other members, Hoozuki always walked around in her ninja outfit. She wore a one-piece swimsuit held in place with various belts and she wore the baggy pants commonly seen on male ninja outfits. The motorcycle made it look something like a bizarre form of riding suit.
She rotated her hips to look his way while remaining on the motorcycle, which showed off the feline litheness of her spine and shoulder blades.
“Hoozuki, you stand out too much! You have padding inside there, so you can silence all that noise, can’t you!?”
“A silently-running motorcycle would stand out a lot more, if you ask me. Besides, you should praise my sensible restraint in not driving Ouka over to see you.”
Nantou Hoozuki gave him a thin smile. She was not the type to express her emotions much, but that was definitely a belligerent and sadistic smile.
He had a bad feeling about this.
“Um, all of that killer intent is about as obvious as handing me a business card and introducing yourself.”
“Like I said, praise my sensible restraint in not driving Ouka out here.”
The Countless Calamities off-road motorcycle suddenly lost its shape below the slender girl. A tremor of a warrior’s joy ran through her spine. Her black, gray, and orange ninja outfit seemed to symbolize pleasure signals. She was serious. Before the motorcycle could take on a different form, Sugiyado rushed into a nearby alley. The last glimpse of it he got showed her holding it at her hip like a cannon instead of like a vehicle.
“Hey!! I taught you mock battles aren’t allowed in residential districts, didn’t I!?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. We’re ninjas, so we have to be ready to work silently and swiftly no matter the time or situation, right? Yes, like performing an assassination in the middle of a national parade without batting an eye. Oh, I just can’t wait. You’re the only decent sparring partner I’ve had since becoming an Elite Ninja!”
He heard the final metallic click as the motorcycle completed its transformation into something else. A chill ran down his spine.
“And you need to isolate your target before negotiating with them, right? Wasn’t it you who taught us not to let the police or a Shogunate ninja near them?”
He just barely made it around a narrow corner before hearing a loud boom that shattered the concrete wall.
“~ ~ ~!?”
Would anyone believe that had been done by less than 50g of special steel?
It was a shuriken.
A number of types existed, but Nantou Hoozuki used one called a combination cross shuriken. It folded up like a pair of scissors, so it could be spread out to form a cross shuriken or folded up to form a stick shuriken.
However, throwing one of those by hand would not be enough to break a concrete wall.
(Is she still using those lazy names!? And this means she actually used the motor, doesn’t it!?)
He could not get a surprise attack in on a projectile-wielding enemy just by moving around horizontally. And optical clones made by scattering a transparent powder were useless in such a narrow alley. A single sweep of the weapon would cover the entire space.
Modern ninja techniques were not magic.
They were only an extension of sleight of hand. But that made them the perfect kind of trickery and technological technique to thoroughly fool the people who boasted that they only trusted their own eyes. It was said to be an ancient yet cutting-edge martial art that could continue to grow as long as technology continued to advance.
(In that case.)
Sugiyado looked all around and spotted the drain spout and external air conditioning unit attached to the filthy building wall.
They were a little too high up to use as footing, but he did not hesitate to draw a Fierce Fang air pressure kunai from his back and throw it straight up. It lodged itself between the wall and the air conditioner, the nitrogen opened it up, and it easily tore through the screws and bolts.
Then he only had to grab the falling weapon and use the lowered obstacle as footing.
He could not afford to forget the fundamentals.
He stepped on all the things sticking out from the wall to jump about 3m straight up in the blink of an eye. A moment later, Hoozuki leaned around the corner and fired. A fearsome horizontal downpour of steel flew through and blew away the trashcan and rusted bicycle that stood at about the same height he had been a moment before.
By then, he had already backflipped and gotten a look at Hoozuki’s weapon from directly above.
It was indeed Countless Calamities. However, its complex transformation had placed the two wheels against each other so they could launch the shurikens at ultra-high speed like a pitching machine. It could launch a maximum of 3600 per minute and a single shuriken weighed two or three times an anti-material bullet. To avoid the noisy sonic boom of breaking the sound barrier, she intentionally kept them at subsonic speeds. The video she had submitted for class had shown them obliterating training makiwara that were made to be almost as tough as a human torso.
That extraordinary firepower would be enough to defeat a Kingdom musketeer with brute force alone.
(But that unwieldy weight is your weakness, Hoozuki!)
The belts wrapped around her body audibly strained as she quickly tried to re-aim the wheel shuriken launcher upwards, but it was too late.
In the ninja world, life and death were determined in the blink of an eye. Sugiyado already had his Fierce Fang air pressure kunai in hand. He inserted a replacement cartridge below the grip to complete his preparations.
He descended like a lightning strike.
He landed right up against her lithe back. The kunai was inserted below her exposed armpit like it was a thermometer.
That device could pry open a tank’s hatch with 15 tons of force.
Her spider web ninja outfit could block a rifle bullet, but it would not fare so well if he activated his kunai here.
“See, you haven’t gotten rusty at all, Sensei. I’m glad I could see this.” Nantou Hoozuki remained motionless now that her opponent was behind her, but she smiled thinly. “And I’m glad Ouka didn’t get to see this. If she knew you were risking your health by using your old skills, she’d probably hunt you down and kill you.” Sugiyado said nothing in response.
And after brushing off her casual comment, he thudded his fist down on the top of her silver ponytailed head.
She dropped the large gadget held at her hip and tearfully held both hands to her head while her silly voice sapped the tension from the air.
The sensuality of combat quietly burning at that cool beauty’s core instantly dispersed.
“Don’t give me that. How many times do I have to tell you not to fire so many shurikens!? Projectiles increase the risk of leaving some evidence behind, so you need to avoid them unless absolutely necessary!! Not to mention that your combination cross shurikens are especially complicated to make, so you might as well be leaving your calling card behind!”
“Ugh, but you used your Fierce Fang.”
“A kunai was originally a digging tool. And in modern times, it’s used to break open doors, much like a crowbar. I will admit you see them thrown a lot in ninja dramas, but I keep a careful count of how many I’ve used. So, Hoozuki, tell me exactly how many you fired and where? Right now!”
Strict Sugiyado breathed a heavy sigh when his student started fidgeting.
“Enough. I get it already. I was counting for you, so let’s go collect them all.”
“You were adjusting how much each shuriken was opened so you could control the air resistance and alter their speed and course, right? Did you think I didn’t know you did that?”
“Y-you really are amazing, Sensei.”
“We aren’t diplomats with special protections provided by international treaties, so recovering and destroying evidence is a life-or-death issue. Doing what is necessary should not make you ‘amazing’,” he spat out. “And you were the one who broke that bicycle, trashcan, and other things, so disposing of them is your responsibility. …Besides, I can’t lift anything that heavy.”
5kg felt funny and 10kg made his spine explode with pain.
So if a comrade collapsed in front of him, he would be unable to carry them to safety. A selfish coward like that could not be allowed on the front line.
5: The Four Girls
Once they had finished cleaning up, they finally got moving.
“Why do we have to be so thorough? Normal people would never know what they were looking at.”
“Don’t get sloppy in training, Hoozuki. That will only lead to sloppiness in actual combat. I taught you your subconscious is always less disciplined than you think it is, didn’t I?”
The cool beauty transformed her wheel shuriken launcher back into an off-road motorcycle and tossed Sugiyado a C-shaped plastic device she had been toying with in her hand.
“Place that behind your neck and it will function like an airbag. A gyro sensor will monitor the angle of your head and protect it with a balloon bag in case of emergency. It’s single-use, but convenient.”
He flipped the device over in his hand and spun it around.
“You do love your gadgets, don’t you? I bet you like looking through electronics catalogs.”
“Of course I do. Spec tables for new products are humanity’s greatest literary achievement. Everything needed to spark the imagination is found there. Not even Shakespeare or Doyle managed to invent this.”
“Hmm, so you’re some kinda weirdo?”
“I won’t criticize your zealotry for the Church of the Happy Churn, so how about being a little more openminded, Sensei?”
What a silly thing to say. Sugiyado Souha was openminded enough to accept any person of any age or gender. For that reason, he was not about to say no to riding behind a female motorcycle rider.
He might as well have been embracing the feline litheness of her spine and shoulder blades and he placed his hands around her hips. He had to watch himself to make sure he did not end up hooking his fingers around the belts binding her body.
“Let’s not make weird noises, Hoozuki.”
“You’re acting calm, but your heartrate doesn’t lie, Sensei. But I’ll take that as a sign that you see me as a woman. I was a little worried about that, but I don’t have anyone else to ask about it. Heh heh heh.”
He cleared his throat, but she must not have meant it as criticism. She provided him the feminine softness and warmth of her back while she set Countless Calamities in motion.
They rushed through the city while the engine rumbled so deeply it almost sounded like a bass instrument.
“I heard you were out shopping with Asagao.”
“I doubt Ouka would give away the surprise, so that must have been Bara. She really has this annoying fetish for causing trouble while pretending to be an innocent bystander.”
“Call it an annoying ‘habit’, Hoozuki.”
“But anyway, I sent Asagao back to your room with the food. So this is my second time out here.”
Hoozuki made sure the others could not even hope to threaten her position as the most mobile of the four. She was a kunoichi whose transformable off-road motorcycle functioned as a means of transportation and a weapon. She could, in all seriousness, leap from rooftop to rooftop or lift up the back wheel and spin on the spot to swing it around like a roundhouse kick. If she was going tightrope walking, she would be safer roaring across on Countless Calamities than spreading her arms to balance herself on foot. That machine was becoming a part of her body.
“Can you stop your ponytail from slapping me in the face?”
“Bear with it. Not even I can make the air resistance go away.”
“Fine, but I’m afraid I’ll eat it if I’m not careful.”
“You’re into some surprisingly kinky stuff, Sensei. Ouka would probably freak if she heard. Y’know, swinging her twintails around like a den-den daiko.”
It did not take long at all to arrive at the rundown apartment despite how far from the station it was.
After arriving back in familiar territory while the roaring engine probably triggered some noise complaints, they found an extremely small girl seated out front.
Her glossy black hair was worn in a bob cut, making her look something like a symbol of Japan, but she was dressed in a white military uniform with a tight skirt. She was 11 years old. With her appearance, any police officer that spotted her would 100% mistake her for a runaway child and drag her away.
“Ahh! Ahh! Ahh!!”
Her small head popped up and she started swinging her baggy sleeves around while screaming. She sounded like someone who had spotted a ship on the horizon after a month stuck on a desert island.
“You’re mean, Hoozuki! And you too, Sensei! How could you leave me all alone in that horrific cage!?”
“All alone? What happened to Ouka and Bara?”
After Sugiyado hopped down from the off-road motorcycle’s back seat, Shizukuma Asagao stomped her long boots on the ground and practically tackled him to cling to him. She looked up at him with a tearful and confused face that was not quite angry and not quite relieved.
“I’m saying you left me all alone while those two were emitting crazy auras at each other! It was so scary! Ouka was looking forward to surprising you and Bara went ahead and spilled the beans, so they were just glaring at each other in the scariest way!!”
He had no idea what was waiting for him inside, but he could tell it was not going to be pleasant. And with Hoozuki’s roaring engine, those two would know he was back home, so running away now would be silly.
Expressionless, Hoozuki held a hand out to Countless Calamities and transformed it into something like a rectangular bag.
“Asagao, you specialize in manipulating and dealing in information, right? All you have to do is use your conversational skills to guide them back to a calmer state.”
“Ugh. If you think that’s remotely possible at this point, then take a peek in there. Unlike the rest of you, I’m purely a scout, so I can’t actually fight. It’s a miracle I survived this long here.”
Incidentally, changing shape did not change the mass, so the bag making Nantou Hoozuki’s shoulder blade crawl alluringly below her skin weighed more than 90kg. Her every step caused a strange creaking from the rundown apartment’s stairs. Again, Sugiyado felt like complaining about kids these days.
“Sensei, you’re my Onii-chan, so it’s your duty to protect me.”
“Don’t think you can use that argument to get any New Year’s money out of me.”
Shizukuma Asagao was more than half serious as she tearfully clung to the side of his hip. Since her small head was in the perfect position, his hand naturally ended up petting it while he sighed.
The four of them really were like precious gems. Sending them out into the world as proper ninjas may have been even more impressive an achievement than anything Sugiyado Souha had done during his time as an active ninja.
Now, could he think of any way to peaceably end a face-off between those Elite Ninjas?
“No, that’s just not possible. Okay, Ouka, Bara! The only solution here is for you to grow up!! I’m making adults out of you right here and now!!”
When he threw open the door and made that announcement, he did indeed see Kuhou Ouka striking an intimidating pose and Hanasawa Bara looking like she was enjoying herself.
However, the chestnut twintails girl showing off her undeveloped bodylines and the red ringlet curls girl crossing her arms to lift up her enormous chest were not fighting to the death using legitimate ninja techniques.
“You want to ‘make an adult out of me’ in this tiny, filthy room, Sensei!?” (Ouka)
“And ‘the two of you’? Does that mean it’s at least going to be a threesome!?” (Bara)
(Um, uh oh.)
He realized too late that he had phrased that last part poorly. Asagao’s warmth had silently left the side of his hip and he could hear the clanking transformation sounds of Hoozuki’s Countless Calamities.
He recalled what he had read in some textbook or another.
Q: What is needed to bring multiple opposing forces together?
A: A common enemy.
His screams were not going to convince the girls he was not in fact a pervert.
Four active-duty Elite Ninjas attacked him from four different directions at once.
6: The Hotpot Party Begins
How many times had he narrowly avoided death tonight?
But after Sugiyado Souha was left in worse shape than the exterior of the old apartment building, something was thunked down in front of him.
“Oh, a hotpot.”
“What kind of reaction is that!? See, Bara, this is what happens when you tell him in advance!!”
“I never said anything about a hotpot.”
Hoozuki had come out and told him all the ingredients, but he kept his silence like a ninja should. Some truths were better left hidden.
“Sensei, I couldn’t help but notice the sad state of your diet. This was a party-size recipe, but it can be made into a single-serving vegetable hotpot as well. You have a small pot for stewing udon in your closet, so fix this for yourself from now on. …Surely you aren’t going to claim you’re so pathetic you can’t even stew something in a pot. Right, Sensei?”
It looked like this recipe was boiled in water. She also added some chicken broth, but she apparently did not like using a powdered chemical seasoning for that.
Silver ponytail Nantou Hoozuki expressionlessly tilted her head.
“How did you manage when you were an active-duty ninja? You must have had to gather ingredients on-site and cook outdoors.”
“You’re on active duty now, so I know you know the answer. Official Shogunate spies receive such thorough logistical support that it never felt necessary. The deployment team would give me as many combat rations as I wanted.”
“Those might as well be big chunks of chemical seasoning. I’ve never been able to even finish the ones I’ve been issued.”
“And if worse comes to worst, you can always catch a snake or a rat. There are animals everywhere, from the city to the jungle. Cook it enough and most any meat is edible.”
“And what about infectious disease, Sensei!? Learning to cook like a normal person is a lot easier than showing off your superhuman skills there!!”
Meanwhile, the hotpot on the portable stove had apparently finished cooking. White steam blew from the small hole on the top, so Kuhou Ouka lifted off the thick lid while using a cloth in lieu of a potholder.
“I swear I will bring your diet up to normal human standards. Here you go, Sensei.”
“You didn’t have to do this, you know? But thanks.”
After receiving a serving in a bowl, he started with trying a sip of the clear broth. Next, he ate some of the well-cooked cabbage and chicken meatballs and enjoyed the texture between his teeth.
After swallowing, he gave his thoughts.
“It’s surprisingly normal.”
“Are you saying the home cooking a girl made especially for you is on the same level as a snake or rat crawling through the ditch!?”
“I’m saying it’s a normal amount of tasty.”
“Kh, what does that even mean based on your standards!?”
After all, he had revealed his tastes to include snakes, rats, combat rations, and Happy Churn. The sample set was too bizarre to draw any real conclusions.
“Let me see,” said curvy young Bara, cool beauty Hoozuki, and small Asagao while they used serving chopsticks or a ladle to move the hotpot’s contents into their own bowls. And after trying some…
“I see. That is very normal.” (Hanasawa Bara)
“Yes, I see what he means about it being a normal amount of tasty.” (Nantou Hoozuki)
“Normal. Very normal.” (Shizukuma Asagao)
“Stop calling it that! You’re making it sound like it should have been more surprising or something!” (Kuhou Ouka)
Skinny Ouka grew a bit tearful, but she should have been more observant. No matter what the others said, they were not slowing down in their consumption of the hotpot. They were even fighting over the serving chopsticks and ladle.
“Why are the chicken and the fish both made into a paste?”
“Ouka can’t help it. She’s a ninja teacher’s pet who wants to turn all rice into riceballs and all meat into meatballs.”
Hanasawa Bara squished her large chest between her upper arms as she held her chopsticks and bowl and her comment made still-growing Kuhou Ouka poke her index fingers together in front of her chest.
“B-but that’s what Sensei taught me to do. What’s wrong with doing what your teacher told you to do?”
“While it does take a lot of work, it helps cook the meat more evenly and helps you digest it more easily. For example, if you make meatballs out of the frogs or rats you catch, they really will taste like chicken, so-”
“D-do not talk about that right now!! You’re going to make me feel like I’m eating something else!!”
Time seemed to fly, which may have been all the proof anyone needed that Kuhou Ouka’s hotpot had been a success.
It was soon time for the finishing touch.
Youngest Asagao spoke up as part of the shopping team.
“Hoozuki and I got in a fight in the supermarket over whether to go with udon or rice soup, but we ended up settling on rice soup. If you use a package of white rice, it’s just as easy to make.”
The shocked party was red ringlet curls Hanasawa Bara. She had apparently expected to finish things off with some kind of noodles, be it ramen, udon, or champon.
“Th-this can’t be happening. While the broth doesn’t pack as much of a punch as with sukiyaki, this water mixed with chicken broth is pretty powerful, so everyone knows you follow that off with noodles that are merely coated with the broth, not rice that soaks it all up! Hoozuki, you should have fought harder. No, you should have called me up so I could come running and join the fight!!”
“Oh, Sensei. I’ll be shutting the lid and letting this cook, so it will take a bit of time.”
Ouka ignored the harsh critic who was only interested in the eating side of the equation and she shut the clay pot’s lid with a smile.
“How long will it take?” asked small-faced Shizukuma Asago while she kicked her skinny feet below the low table.
“Cooking it won’t take long at all, but you need to shut off the heat and let it sit afterwards so the rice can soak up the broth, right?”
Cool beauty Nantou Hoozuki explained that while raising her arms and stretching her back in an alluring way. A much lazier time had just set in. With nothing to do, Sugiyado reached for the remote and turned on the fairly small flat-screen TV.
“Welcome to our documentary on modern ninjas. The Shogunate uses its isolationist policies to protect our nation’s advanced technology, such as ultra-miniature processors using molecular wiring, modular nuclear reactors which can be transported by train, and printers that can mass-produce the world’s most complex and detailed currency. But behind the scenes, there is conflict with other nations, most notably the Kingdom. Today, we will be shining a spotlight on that unseen backstage.”
“Imagine if the truth about our secret units really was broadcast to everyone’s living rooms like some kind of quiz show.”
“This is necessary.” Sugiyado toyed with the remote in his hand. “When they surround a construction site with tall walls, they will intentionally make one panel transparent. Because everyone can rest easy when they can see what’s going on inside. This is the same. A perfect secret force like you see in the movies would only worry the people, even if they aren’t doing anything wrong. The CIA is the best example there. They’re the world’s largest intelligence agency, but everyone knows their name. On the other hand, no one actually knows what they’re up to. …For people like you who protect the country in ways you can’t explain to the average person, it’s crucial that you can make everyone feel like they’re in the know even though you haven’t revealed anything at all.” 𝓲𝗻𝚗𝑟𝑒𝓪𝑑. 𝘤𝚘𝚖
“Not just people like us.” Kuhou Ouka pouted her lips in a way that made her look childish. “For all of us. That includes you.”
He did not respond.
He hoped they could see his hesitation and conflict in the fact that he did not simply laugh it off and lie.
Now and in the past, he was one of the Hidden Ones who could not be ranked by the usual Low, Middle, High, and Elite system.
“Oh, shouldn’t it be done now?”
Shizukuma Asagao’s eyes widened on a small face which was further emphasized by her bob cut. Ouka sighed before deflating her puffed-out cheeks and going along with it. Sugiyado knew what a kind girl she was.
“Then I’ll drop the beaten egg in. Just a little longer.”
“I know this is sudden, but I’m feeling kind of full.”
“That does happen when you wait a while after eating.”
“This is why I told you to go with lighter noodles instead of this heavy rice soup! Urp.”
“Can you all quit complaining when you didn’t lift a finger to help cook!?”
Young Ouka lightly clenched her teeth in frustration, but the eaters would generally eat whatever was placed in front of them, even if they were complaining all the while. Taking the food away from them would only inspire more complaints, so it was best to just ignore them.
“Here, Sensei. Eat up.”
Ouka made sure to at least serve Sugiyado. While she went all out in serving him, she also had the resolute eyes of a girl who was not going to overlook a thing.
But when she handed him the bowl full of rice soup, it felt surprisingly heavy. It was like she had handed him a whole apple.
“What was that surprise directed at, Sensei? That might seem trivial, but it is actually very important.”
The twintail girl smiled, but since it was a forced smile, she must have been worried already. She may have noticed the excessive weight herself.
To escape the pressure from directly ahead, he used his chopsticks to take a bite.
“Huh? It isn’t that heavy at all. It’s perfectly edible.”
“Did you think I was making you something inedible!? I wasn’t so hopelessly flustered that I boiled up some plastic! Could you please give a thought to how your comments will affect a maiden heart, Sensei!?”
Her previous worries led her to talk awfully fast, but her face was bright. She must have been breathing a sigh of relief that he had actually accepted it. She kept switching between her “student” and “big sister” identities.
“Huff puff. Yeah, it really is edible.”
“I would still prefer udon next time, but this is good enough I suppose.”
People had a tendency to look down on people when it was their turn to be the critic, so it was best not to take the things they said too seriously.
Once they had finished off every last drop, rice soup time was over and the laziness had returned.
Sugiyado Souha really did bring his hands together in thanks.
“Thank you for the meal.”
“You’re welcome, Sensei. This is what they call human food.”
“Yeah, it’s not bad.”
“It scares me how little this seems to have affected you. To be clear, this isn’t meant to be a rare treat! You should be making sure to eat three proper meals a day!!”
“Which is why I’m so thankful.”
Red ringlet curls Hanasawa Bara’s large chest rose and fell in a sigh while she thought to herself and cooled her heated body with the breeze entering through the window.
She and cool beauty Nantou Hoozuki whispered to each other.
“(Hey, Hoozuki. Should we assume Sensei never learns his lesson because living like this gives his caretaker an excuse to visit him regularly?)”
“(I doubt he’s doing it on purpose, but I also doubt he cares if that is the result. In fact, this should be a lot more entertaining if we never point that out.)”
7: The Final Moment of Peace
He could no longer return to the front line.
But if this was what the future held for him, attempting that final mission may not been a bad idea after all. It seemed to him that it had been worthwhile. He had been saved by these students who so adored him.
He honestly wished things could stay like this forever. Or maybe he wanted to believe it was possible.
But that did not last even 72 hours.
Before dawn, a certain radio transmission was made within New Yokohama Domain.
“This is Guren. I have confirmed the first report of the incident. I will now regroup with the main unit and pursue Target Group A.”
“This is Suiren. To learn Target Group A’s behavior patterns, I would like to secure Instructor B, a former Hidden One with a strong connection to A. Do I have authorization?”
Even if an individual came to a stop, the world continued to turn.
Sugiyado Souha’s true battle was about to begin.
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