I’m Spying on the Heroine in an Otome Game World 3925 min read
Volume 3 | Chapter 10: September (Down) – Part 2
My busy two weeks have finally ended.
At the moment I’m sitting across from Kazu-nii, who’s drinking tea after dinner in my living room. This cousin of mine lives alone and comes to my home once in a while for food. My mother is in the kitchen washing dishes; my father is currently taking a bath. As for our grandfather, he went back to his home, which is next door.
“I don’t think Maria-jou’s success rate with friend dating is very high,” I said to Kazu-nii.
Maria-jou had been nonchalantly asking the capture targets out on a date. She went to the summer festival with Tsuchiya-kun, the game centre with Mizusaki-senpai, and the aquarium with Designer-kun. However, after that, I didn’t see any signs of her asking them out again, nor did I hear any rumours that she went out with them alone.
Also, it looks like she hasn’t asked Tsukishima-bishounen out on a date. On the same note, she has been turned down by Katsuragi-kun many times. There’s also Kaneshiro-senpai, but I think they haven’t gone out on a date because Maria-jou wasn’t able to run into him. She would visit the places where Kaneshiro-senpai would likely appear every day, so I could surmise she was still trying to look for him.
“How about you, Kazu-nii? Did Maria-jou ask you out?” I asked.
Kazu-nii shifted his eyes away. “She asked me out a number of times, but I immediately turned her down. There’s no issues on my end but…” Kazu-nii cut his words and signed before continuing. “I actually have an idea about how the friend dating system works. You can raise affection rates just by asking the capture targets out. The effect is higher if the date does happen though.”
“In the game, even if you ask Hibiya on a date, the heroine will get turned down almost all the time. I mean, since they are teacher and student. In exchange, Hibiya would invite the heroine out on a date in a, well, rather forceful manner…… He doesn’t bother finding out if the heroine has time and puts her in his car, saying, ‘Let’s head off somewhere.’”
“Hmm… Sounds like you, Kazu-nii.” After all, that’s what happened to me on the Fireworks Festival day.
“…….So basically no matter how many times I refuse, according to the game system, my affection rate for Aikawa rose.”
“How is it in reality? Do you feel anything?” I asked.
Kazu-nii made a bitter expression. “It’s hard to have a bad impression of someone who obviously shows their affection to you. That being said, I don’t think about wanting to see her as someone special to me…”
His words weren’t really clear. When I tilted her head in confusion, he continued with words in a hopeless resigned manner.
“……If it was a different student asking me on a date, I can easily ignore it. If they do it frequently, I would think it’s a bother. But when it comes to Aikawa asking me on a date repeatedly, I don’t find it troublesome.”
Hm-hmm…. Does this mean that sadly Kazu-nii and Maria-jou’s relationship has progressed? Kazu-nii said this has to do with the game system, but it’s hard to wrap my mind around it.
“That being said, I did realize something after hearing your report, Shiori. It’s likely that Aikawa is pausing her capture efforts for certain targets,” Kazu-nii said.
“She’s pausing her efforts with the targets that agree to her friend dates. I’m guessing she is trying to raise all the affection rates near the same amount? I’m certain the reason why she hasn’t asked Tsukishima out is because she’s trying to keep a balance with what she gained in his main event. If she asks him out without planning, she’ll progress in his route too far.”
I was puzzled with Kazu-nii’s deduction. “Why would she need to do this?” I asked.
“So that she could capture everyone at once. She must be tailoring her plans carefully so that no one has a much higher affection rate compared to the rest… I mean, at this rate, it looks like she’ll enter into Tsukishima’s personal route.”
“Then is she going to focus on Katsuragi-kun and Kaneshiro-senpai until they go on a date with her?”
“Most likely. But don’t forget what I said earlier. You could gain affection rates just by asking them out. There might be no need to actually go on a date, but I’m not certain,” Kazu-nii said, shaking his head.
I couldn’t help but mutter, “Hey, Maria-jou reincarnated into this world like you, right? And she also played the game in her past life? I wonder how much she knows about capturing everyone.”
In any case, Maria-jou is really diligent.
□ ■ □
Ever since the term started, Maria-jou frequently visited the flowerbeds by the western building. This said area is supposed to be the Kaneshiro-senpai encounter spot. It goes without saying what Maria-jou’s goal is.
Still, she did ask Kyouko-jou if there was a gardening club back in the beginning of the school year. There’s a chance Maria-jou does genuinely like plants too.
I’ve been too busy with the Cultural Festival preparations that, honestly, I really don’t have the time to be following Maria-jou like this. Yet I want to stick by her side as much as I can. After all, there’s still a capture target whose affection rate I haven’t ascertained yet.
Today’s the last Monday of September. During the breaktime after the first period, I quietly tailed Maria-jou to the western building’s flowerbeds.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Janitor,” Maria-jou greeted the janitor with a bright smile.
The young janitor was taking care of the flowers. When he heard her voice, he looked up quickly with excitement. This janitor here is the same janitor we were in the care of during the summer vacation training camp.
“Good afternoon. You come everyday without fail… Do you like flowers a lot?”
“Yes. They are very beautiful,” Maria-jou responded with another smile.
She then turned to look restlessly around the area. After that, she walked closer to the flowerbeds to exchange some words with the janitor.
“See you later!” Maria-jou eventually said and readily ran off. The young janitor watched her back disappear with a hint of reluctance in his expression.
…….I wonder if the janitor has some feelings for Maria-jou. Well, yeah, if a beautiful girl visits the flowerbeds frequently like this, a guy would misunderstand. Her real goal is to find Kaneshiro-senpai though. Maria-jou, you really are a too-charming girl.
The flowerbeds in Seika Maria Secondary Academy are separated in areas by season.
The summer flower area was quite lively but they are starting to look empty. In exchange though, the autumn area was starting to gain colour.
Unfortunately, I don’t know much about plants. The withering flowers in the summer flowerbeds were probably… garden balsam? The flowers blooming in the autumn flowerbeds were balloon flowers.
Now then, later on during lunchtime — Maria-jou visited the flowerbeds once again. Finally, we were able to spot our target. It took a full month before it happened.
Maria-jou did a small victory pose the moment she gazed across the flowerbeds and spotted Kaneshiro-senpai. After that, she approached him, pretending it was a coincidence.
……I think you should stop. That person’s personality is bad… I wanted to warn Maria-jou this. On the same note, I wanted to warn Yumi-chan who was a fan of Kaneshiro-senpai. Designer-kun has a better personality even if he has too many female friends and will make you anxious.
“Kaneshiro-sen……” Maria-jou tried to call out to him. Kaneshiro-senpai did turn around to look at her. However, he emitted a cold aura to the point she lost her words.
Kaneshiro-senpai would always smile gently and never once drop his polite attitude. He does, however, nonchalantly refuse all his fans that try to approach him. People gossip that he might hate women unlike Mizusaki-senpai.
“Did you want something, Maria-san?” Kaneshiro-senpai smiled at Maria-jou but his eyes weren’t at all.
Hiieeee! He’s in his black mode. Mizusaki-senpai, help!
“No…… I like flowers so I come to these flowerbeds often,” Maria-jou replied with a sweet smile. It’s like she isn’t even affected by Kaneshiro-senpais’ aura at all. She’s amazing. “Balloon flowers and autumn bellflowers look beautiful during this season. I always had the impression of balloon flowers blooming in fields, so they aren’t suitable for flowerbeds. But balloon flower cultivars they planted here grow shorter than the average ones, don’t they? I realized for the first time when I saw the flowerbeds here.”
Kaneshiro-senpai’s expression soften a little by Maria-jou’s words.
“You are well-acquainted with flowers… That reminds me, you were holding a book about flower meanings at the library the other time,” Kaneshiro-senpai noted.
“A-Ah, yes… I’m sorry about what happened back then. You picked up all my books in the end.”
“No, it was no trouble.”
“I like flower meanings as well,” Maria-jou added. “I wonder who first gave meaning to flowers. Every flower is wonderful in its own way yet there are flowers that hold negative meanings… It is mysterious.”
Kaneshiro-senpai looked surprised. “…I’ve never thought of that before.”
“For example, the meaning of balloon flowers are ‘unchanging love’ and ‘faithful’,” Maria-jou giggled. “Many people would buy roses when they confess, am I right? But when I learned about flower meanings, I thought balloon flowers are wonderful too. I mean, don’t you think the giver will be a very romantic person? It’s different from the ‘passionate’ of roses, and more…” Maria-jou stopped there as her cheeks dyed red from shyness. “U-Umm… is this too girly of me?”
“…….No,” Kaneshiro replied. He looked taken aback and smiled too. “Balloon flowers also mean ‘elegant’ and ‘obedient’. …I think they are different from your image.”
Maria-jou was confused before she pouted a little. “Are you saying I’m a tomboy? I mean, it’s true that… I haven’t acted very docile in front of you but…!”
“Yes, you are right. After all, I have seen how you snapped at Homare a few times,” Kaneshiro said, smiling. It was a kind smile, one that was elegant like a prince. “Bellflowers don’t suit your image as well. They aren’t blooming in this flowerbed too but… Yes, that’s right, there is a flower that suits you. I’m sure we will see it soon in this flowerbed.”
“Eh~? What kind of flower is it?” Maria-jou asked.
“Fufu, I will keep it a secret for now.”
“Ah, then can you tell me the next time we meet here at the flowerbeds?”
“…….Let’s see… Then when that flower is blooming, I will tell you then,” Kaneshiro-senpai answered.
“Thank you!” Maria-jou replied cheerfully. “See you next time,” she said in the end with a smile before leaving.
Kaneshiro-senpai was left alone. He stared down at the flowerbeds and muttered, “The flower meaning of bellflowers are ‘close to your sadness’ and ‘loving you full of sorrow’… It doesn’t suit Maria-san at all… The flowers here are more……”
Amazing! You are really amazing, Maria-jou! You managed to win over that black-bellied accountant with just that conversation! Otome games are horrifying. Otome game heroines are horrifying too.
Well then. It’s about time I head back to class.
I quietly got up from my hiding spot with the intention of leaving—
“Don’t you think so too? You, hiding over there,” Kaneshiro-senpai said sharply as he continued to look at the flowerbeds. “You can see the flowerbeds here quite well from the student council room. …Ever since summer vacation ended, a female student would frequently visit here. There would also be another female student following after her. Well, the other student council members haven’t noticed though.”
That can’t be. Someone found out I was following after Maria-jou.
But I can’t raise my voice.
“The season of garden balsam has already ended. ……What will you do now?”
Do what? What is he even asking…….!
For the time being, my only choice is to run away. I quickly escaped from the area.
□ ■ □
I left school early.
This was the first time I excused myself from school early excluding the times where I had to because I was injured.
When I reached home, I rushed right into my room. My body couldn’t stop trembling. Mother came to see me because she was worried. I said, “I’ll be resting for a bit,” and shut myself inside.
When I took out my cell phone from my school uniform’s pocket, it lit up, indicating I received a message. However, I couldn’t bring myself to check it.
What. What the hell is with that man!!
Until now, I have always seen Kaneshiro-senpai as that extra guy that came along with Mizusaki-senpai.
However, no matter how you look at it, Kaneshiro-senpai was the much more dangerous person. He would normally paste a smile on his face that looked like he wouldn’t hurt anyone or anything at all. Yet once he showed his true nature, there would be this fear because you don’t know what he would do.
His last words to me were……
“The season of garden balsam has already ended.”
What did he mean? Yes, it’s true that summer was about to end. Garden balsam will wither soon. There was nothing odd about what he said. Nevertheless, I recalled how Kaneshiro-senpai spoke about garden balsam when I encountered him last in the student council room.
He mentioned things about craving attention and rejection and stuff like that. I remember him interpreting a legend in a rather distorted way. He also said I was similar to a garden balsam. By saying the season for them has ended…… Is he saying it’s the end for me too? Did he mean I’m going to die?
Does he mean if I continue to wander around him and Mizusaki-senpai, I’ll die!?
…….I wonder how much time passed. I hid in my room, trembling, as I thought again and again about what Kaneshiro-senpai meant. The sun set before I knew it. My room became quite dark since I didn’t turn any lights on.
That was when my cell phone vibrated, telling me I received a new message. I finally lifted my head up — I had been hugging my knees as I sat on the floor.
When I turned my cell phone on, I saw I received messages from Yumi-chan.
[Are you feeling sick?]
Her words of concern lined up one after another.
I looked at these messages absentmindedly when someone knocked on my door quietly before opening it. The light from the hallway shone into my room.
I slowly turned my eyes to the door.
It felt like I was seeing a nostalgic face, making me feel relieved.
Kazu-nii entered my room silently before patting my head roughly. He stooped down to peer into my face. He looked really worried. It’s probably because I asked for an early leave without giving much of an explanation.
His hand patting my head was big and warm. I regained some of my composure and smacked his hand.
“You’ll mess my hair,” I complained, shaking my head lightly. Yet I didn’t tell him to stop for some reason.
“What’s wrong? What happened?”
I wonder where I should even start.
I decided to report my findings of the capture targets’ affection rates I have investigated since the start of the new term.
Tsuchiya-shounen, Designer-kun, Tsukishima-bishounen, Mizusaki-senpai, Katsuragi-kun, and Kaneshiro-senpai.
If I were to line up the capture targets by how much they liked Maria-jou, it’ll probably be something like this.
Tsuchiya-shounen wasn’t aware of his feelings, but I think he’s the most conscious of Maria-jou. As for Designer-kun, he and Maria-jou’s relationship hasn’t left the realm of friendship but they have deepened it enough that Designer-kun would easily accept a friend date. That being said, he gives off the feeling that he’ll agree to go on dates with other girls if they ask too.
I’m not sure if Tsukishima-bishounen and Maria-jou did go on a date in the end. Still, if we are correct with our assumption that the brotherly fight is a main event, then his route has likely progressed the furthest.
Mizusaki-senpai and Maria-jou went on an afterschool friend date, so I figure it was about this high on the list.
Maria-jou still doesn’t have enough affection points with Katsuragi-kun since he turns down her invitations.
And, lastly, Kaneshiro-senpai is……
“Kaneshiro-senpai is scary,” I said before telling Kazu-nii what happened between the two of us. I also mentioned the stone Kaneshiro-senpai carried.
“……Don’t get close to Mizusaki and Kaneshiro anymore. That’s especially if Kaneshiro gets wary of you when you speak to Mizusaki,” Kazu-nii told me with a grimace. “Those two know about how the stones affect them, don’t they? Then they won’t give them to Aikawa. As long as that happens, it doesn’t matter anymore. There’s no need to go out of your way to approach people who’ll threaten you.”
“If Aikawa heads to the western building, just leave her. You also don’t need to go to the student council room…. You can leave all the paperwork to the class representative, Shibuya,” Kazu-nii said like he was spitting out his words. He then ran his thumb against my lips.
“…You mentioned that Kaneshiro tried to kiss you?” Kazu-nii squeezed out his words. I could see silent anger burning in his eyes.
“N-No, well……. I can’t give a definite ‘yes’, umm, it’s…”
At that time, I was overwhelmed by pressure and couldn’t fight back against Kaneshiro-senpai. All I could really say was that Kaneshiro-senpai’s face was close enough that he could bite me any second……
K-Kazu-nii! Your eyes are dark enough that it’s scary, you know!?
Kazu-nii shifted his eyes away when he noticed I was slightly disturbed. Still, his thumb remained on my lips.
“Kazu-nii? Could you let…” I began.
“……Damn it. I can’t make any moves, you know,” Kazu-nii suddenly clicked his tongue and gazed up at the ceiling. He then sighed loudly before removing his thumb. “Shiori.”
“W-What is it?”
“You can stop following Aikawa around,” he told me.
“Huh?” I couldn’t help but let out a dumb voice when I heard him.
“There’s no reason for you to get hurt. In the first place, all I have to do is refuse Aikawa to solve my issues. But I was helped a lot with all you have done. There’s only three months until the end of the game… It’ll work out somehow. Thankfully, barely any of my main events have triggered.”
His tone was calm and gentle. Yet I could see that Kazu-nii was desperately holding back his anger. I have seen this same expression in the past. When was it? I tried recalling and immediately found the answer.
…Yes, that’s right. He made this same expression back then.
Kazu-nii has a tendency of overreacting when ‘family and friends get hurt’ ever since he lost his parents in a car accident in middle school. It might be bad if I anger him anymore than this.
I shifted my posture as I continued to sit on the floor. I opened my mouth and purposely spoke in a cheerful tone. “…I’ve followed Maria-jou around once again since September started. And I’m reaaally impressed by her. She’s really diligent! I mean, if she narrowed her target down to one person, she’ll capture them in no time for sure.”
“Yeah… that’s probably true,” Kazu-nii replied, tilting his head as he wondered what I was saying all of the sudden.
I patted my hand against the floor. Kazu-nii seemed to understand with this gesture and sat down beside me.
“I learned this after watching Maria-jou but heroines aren’t always popular just because they are heroines.”
“You have to approach your targets in many different ways to capture their hearts. Isn’t this the same as a normal romance? The part where you have to trigger main events or your relationship won’t progress is what makes games different though,” I continued as I stared into Kazu-nii’s eyes. “Let’s talk seriously, okay? Kazu-nii, is Maria-jou an object of romantic interest to you?”
Maria-jou is the heroine of this otome game world. There are seven capture targets. All of them hold a stone, which is the embodiment of their ‘heart’. Once Maria-jou captures her targets, she will obtain their stone. When that happens, the heart of the capture target will belong to Maria-jou for eternity.
This is merely our guess but I feel like we are on a good track.
You need a partner for a romantic relationship. Katsuragi-kun, who doesn’t seem interested at all right now, and Kaneshiro-senpai, too, will surely notice Maria-jou after their main events are triggered. Then what about Kazu-nii? Surely there’s a possibility of him falling in love with Maria-jou.
“…….So far, no,” Kazu-nii answered with a serious expression. “In the story of the game, Hibiya only saw the heroine as a student in the beginning. However, as his events progresses, he will gradually see her as someone special. The emotions he normally tends to lock up inside… Whenever he remembers his past scars, the heroine would always be there to support him. In the end, Hibiya will realize that he can’t live without her. He will realize that he loves the heroine as a woman. And—”
Kazu-nii cut his words and stared into my eyes.
“—He then prays that she would be by his side for the rest of his life,” he said before he looked the other way.
The room was dark as the lights were not turned on. The only source of light was from the hallway, which shone down on Kazu-nii’s face.
“……If I did find someone special, it won’t matter if she was my student or not. Age difference will be a minor thing after a decade passes by. Well, I will control myself for a couple of years when I think about society. Though…” Kazu-nii hesitated a bit. “…I don’t want another man stealing her away during the years I’m controlling myself. I’ll probably get in their way.” He stopped again before coughing awkwardly. “Anyways, I only see Aikawa as just a student of mine. I don’t think I’ll hold any more emotion for her either in the future. After all, I don’t really have any past scars for Aikawa to impose on.”
“…….What do you mean? You mean there’s a difference between you in reality and Teacher Hibiya in the game?” I asked.
“Yeah. Hibiya in the game has a deep wound in his heart. But the me right now doesn’t have it. Well, I only remember the story of the game from the heroine’s perspective. I don’t know what the game Hibiya didn’t elaborate. I might have forgotten things too.”
“…Wound in his heart,” I couldn’t help but mutter.
“Well, yeah, I’ve been alive for more than twenty years. I have many things I don’t want to recall like my parents’ death or the fights I had with Candle. If someone were to dig them up, I would be hurt. Still, it isn’t to the point I want someone to soothe my heart,” Kazu-nii said.
“Then there’s nothing to worry about?” I tilted my head.
Kazu-nii nodded. “That’s right. …As long as the game system doesn’t interfere with my will.”
I was jolted by Kazu-nii’s words. “The game system!”
I got up and turned on the lights. I couldn’t help but feel so embarrassed with how I curled up in the dark, trembling. It’s true that Kaneshiro-senpai was creepy but normally I wouldn’t leave school early and shut myself in my room like this. After all, it wasn’t like he pressed a knife against me. He only threatened me a little.
Niimi Shiori is a cool and calm woman with no cuteness. Yet despite that, I…
“Shiori, what’s wrong?” Kazu-nii looked up at me with confusion.
“…During the Neo Candle training camp, Maria-jou tried to probe me. She seemed to be suspicious of our relationship at that time. She asked me who the first vocalist of Candle was.”
“Huh? The first vocalist?”
“Yeah. I told her, isn’t it Masaki? And it seemed to clear her suspicions, so she didn’t ask me anymore.”
Maria-jou smiled with satisfaction when she heard my answer back then.
“I see. Aikawa was trying to check to see if you knew anything about the otome game. One of Hibiya’s events happens during the Cultural Festival. He would perform together with Neo Candle in their live… and that’s when Masaki jumps in.”
“Masaki? Why did he come to our Cultural Festival?” I questioned.
“Who knows? I’ve forgotten how it happened in the game already. However, there’s a high possibility that Masaki will come in reality. Lately, the popularity of Candle is hanging low. He’s been showing his face around me often since summer.”
“He’s been trying to see you?”
“Yeah… He keeps asking me if I could come back to them. Basically, he wants me to become their vocalist again. That or become their songwriter. I was the one who wrote the songs of Candle back in the indies age,” Kazu-nii explained.
Come to think of it, I did see Kazu-nii and Masaki arguing in a family restaurant after the Neo Candle training camp. It seems this is what their conversation was all about.
“Kazu-nii, what are you going to do with your job as a teacher if you become a vocalist?” I asked.
“I’ll have no choice but to quit. Teachers can’t have a side job… Well, there’s no way it’s happening though. I have zero interest in show business,” Kazu-nii replied.
“Really? But you’re good looking.”
“You could find guys at my level anywhere. …Actually, you think I’m good looking?” Kazu-nii looked somewhat surprised.
“Well, yeah, when I look at your face objectively. I thought you were cool since I was in kindergarten. You were too good looking that I realized I’ll be mixed up in a lot of trouble in the future.”
“That’s one unpleasant kindergartner…”
How rude. Well, I’ll admit I was a little precocious.
“Anyways, Aikawa finds out that Hibiya was the former vocalist of Candle during the Cultural Festival. On top of that, she also learns about why he left them. Hibiya’s past traumas come into light…… And, well, his main event triggers and as long as you don’t have the wrong choices, you’ll enter in his personal route,” Kazu-nii mumbled out reluctantly.
What happens after you enter his personal route? Sadly, Kazu-nii had no plans in telling me. It must be pretty embarrassing. Well, let’s put that aside.
“Kazu-nii, you won’t depend on Maria-jou just because Masaki shows up and makes your own wounds hurt, right? In the first place, you’re not traumatized. So, in other words, there’s no way your events will happen?”
“More or less,” Kazu-nii agreed.
“Isn’t it weird that there’s this difference between reality and the game? Plus, I feel like we haven’t properly understood the meaning of the ‘stones’ all the capture targets have.”
My words didn’t really strike Kazu-nii anywhere, so he tilted his head. “…We haven’t?”
“We haven’t. I mean, Kazu-nii, you didn’t know that those stones could be the capture targets’ heart in the beginning. The other capture targets did know that their stone is a little bit weird. They knew it would be troublesome if the other gender touches it and protects it. But that’s all they do. It’s your ‘heart’ — are you sure you shouldn’t be doing more to protect it? What happens when someone other than Maria-jou gets it? It wouldn’t be strange if you couldn’t be captured anymore.”
“That’s……. You do have a point.”
“Hey, what happens in the game when Maria-jou isn’t able to capture anyone?” I questioned.
“I don’t know. But I think normally you would get a bad end. Or a normal ending. In this case, the heroine will just spend the rest of her school life in an ordinary fashion.”
“I see. …But this world, at least to us, is reality. Yet why are we restricted with the assumption that the world is a game?”
That’s right. We have only thought of defensive strategies with the game system in mind.
If the requirements are not met, the event won’t be triggered. If the events aren’t triggered, you can’t capture your target properly. If you can’t progress in your capturing, Kazu-nii will be safe.
I thought that was the only way to protect ourselves. Yet—
If I were to take action, I should do it fast.
Right now Maria-jou makes moves that obey the rules of the game. If there’s a method to strike her weak spots then this is it. We have to do this before Maria-jou realizes…
“I will meet Kaneshiro-senpai tomorrow,” I declared.
“What?” Kazu-nii frowned deeply.
“This is reality, so there’s no restriction anywhere to say you have to uphold the rules of the game. We aren’t fighting alone. Capture targets can cooperate with one another.”
TL note: Kindergartener Shiori-chan is too cute and smart… Don’t you want to take her home?