「Saying that you'll attempt the Jumbo Ramen challenge is easier than actually doing it!」
Despite everything that I said this afternoon, in the end I don't really know how to go about finding these 'O-People' that Asada-san was talking about. Heck, I didn't even know what that was an abbreviation of.
All I know was that they're basically anyone with a supernatural or extraterrestrial background, since Hoshimi-san, an alien girl, was one of these O-People. In addition, a group called the Yomizu Movement of Irregular Busters, Y-MIB for short, are 'erasing evidence' of the ones within the vicinity of the school.
I know I said I was curious about what the world outside the comprehension of humans was like, but I kind of feel like I've bitten off more than I can chew here. It's very possible that Hoshimi-san was a fluke, and that other O-People won't be as kind as she was...
No! I shouldn't assume the worst like that! Assuming the worst in people are for shallow preteens and jaded kid show hosts! The world isn't as cold and hostile as people imagine! Probably.
I sunk into my chair, groaning loudly. I wish I had some sort of companion character with a O-People detector. At least then I'd have an inkling to go off of. As it is right now, I'm stumped.
When I got to school the next day, I was met with something strange. A large stage, like one used for a concert, stood to the west of the main gate. That shouldn't be there, right? The culture festival isn't going to be for another what, like, 5 months? What's going on here?
I cautiously approached the stage, when the sudden high-pitched wailing of an electric guitar caught me off-guard.
"Hey! Who's trespassing on my property?!" A disheveled-looking girl with long, frizzy jet-black hair jumped off the stage. She wore a red leather blazer and trousers over a black shirt and had a similarly jet-black electric guitar slung over her neck. "Who the heck are you?" she said to me, an annoyed scowl on her face.
"That's my line. Who are you and what's with this stage?"
She looked legitimately shocked when I said that, her facial expression saying Well, I never! She strummed her guitar, belting out another shrill note.
"People call me lots of names; Emissary of Hell, Queen of Strings, Demon of Dance... but you can call me Dante, greatest musician on this side of Hell, baby!"
One of those names sounded way less threatening than the others...
"I'm surprised you've never heard of me. Not a fan of rock, I take it?" She inched closer and stroked my chin. "Didn't think so; a goody two shoes looking beansprout like you probably can't appreciate real music."
As she twirled and spun like ballerina while playing her guitar, likely just to show off, I noticed she had a pair of small wings and a curled tail on her back.
"You're... a demon?"
"Ring-a-ding, we've got a winner here, folks! What, the nicknames not tip you off?"
"Hey, mind if ask you something?" Dante-san's twirling came to halt and she marched closer to me. "... What am I doing here exactly?"
"You're saying that you're a summoned demon?"
"Well, yeah. Why else would I be in this dump of a realm? My spirit is eternally bound to Hell, after all, so I can't just escape. Also, what's with the weird voice?"
Dante-san and I had moved to the cafeteria where we could talk more privately. I had bought drinks; coffee for her and milk tea for me.
I cleared my throat to remove all signs of Wakamoto. "Fair enough. So... what does a summoned demon do, exactly?"
"Well, I'm contractually obligated to do as the summoner wishes. Then after all is said and done, I'll automatically get poofed back to Hell," she explained, talking as if this had happened to her before. "As you can see, the job can get a little complicated. We don't get a name or face for whoever summoned us, so whenever the system conks out and doesn't teleport us to exactly where they are, like what just happened to me, we're basically screwed."
"Will something bad happen if you don't find your summoner?"
"Yeah. They'll dock my pay." She looked completely serious while saying that.
"... That's it?"
"What do you mean, that's it?! If we demons don't reach our quota for satisfied summoners by the end of the month, we won't get vacation time and'll have to spend the next year being roasted alive!"
Are you a demon or a salaryman? Why does Hell sound more like a corporation and less like Hell?
Dante-san, on the verge of crying, grabbed me by the shoulders. "Come on, help me out here! I just need to finish this one job to reach my quota! Pleeaaase!"
What happened to that confident smugness from five minutes ago?
"Ow! I was planning on helping you anyway, you don't need to beg! Can you let me go now? Your claws are digging into my skin...!"
She let go of my shoulders, punctures in my blazer where she had dug her claws in. I rubbed my shoulder. Holy crap, that hurt like a truck.
"Alright, before we get to searching some proper introductions are in order. My name's Ikumi Hikaru, member of AESOP." I held out my hand.
"I don't know what that is, but I'm Dante Vi Dio Zennon." With a smile, she gladly took my outstretched hand and shook it, her demon claws digging into my hand.
Later that day, I asked Hoshimi-san and Jin to the cafeteria. Wanting to minimize the chance of any unwanted eavesdroppers, I ushered them to sit in the open-air area, specifically at the table where nobody ever wanted to sit.
Why, you ask? Well, because it was so close to Lake Costner, named after famous actor Kevin Costner, whose proportionally exaggerated statue stood in the middle of said lake.
I explained Dante-san's situation to the both of them.
""A demon?!"" they chorused, forgetting for a moment that they were in a public space.
"Yup. Hoshimi-san, Jin, this is Dante-san."
The red-clad guitarist crept out of my shadow (an ability all demons had, apparently) and introduced herself by strumming her guitar, which somehow made a loud noise despite not being connected to an amp. She then sat down on the chair beside me without so much as a peep.
I couldn't tell if she wanted to look cool or was just awkward around new people.
"Hmm, aren't demons supposed to have red skin and big horns?" Jin asked, inexplicably unconvinced.
"Kougami-kun, you saw her come out of Ikumi-kun's shadow. I think that's proof enough."
Dante-san simply shook her head, saying, "That's just an old wives' tale. Somebody must have spread it around after seeing one of us in these fluorescent suits in the middle of the night. Also, did you know this thing is suuuper uncomfortable? I'd take it off, but I'd be fired (literally) for public indecency..."
And now that she's read the mood with these people she's become a total socialite...
"Anyway, getting back on track... Do you two know or know about anyone who understands a thing or two about demon summoning?"
Naturally, their answers were a simultaneous, ""No.""
"... In situations like these, the best course of action is to brainstorm," I said calmly, grabbing a tissue from a nearby box on the table and a pen from my blazer pocket. "Dante-san, when it comes to summoning, are the summoned demons random, or set according to the summoner's preference?"
"You can put in a request for a particular demon if you'd like, but most people just leave it up to chance."
I nodded and quickly scribbled 'User Preference' on the tissue, then wrote 'Why Dante?' beside it.
"Ikumi-kun, what are you... Oh! Dante-san, has anyone ever called for you specifically?" Hoshimi-san, realizing what I was doing, joined in with the game of 20 Questions.
"Uh, yeah? Sometimes? Usually it's because they thought my name was cool, though."
Hearing this, I wrote 'Yo, Cool Name' below 'Why Dante?'
"Hey, so, uh, what are the chances of somebody summoning you at random, Dante-san?" Even Jin has caught on!
"Well, lesser demons usually get more work, so I'd say around one trillion to one. I don't mean to brag, but I'm pretty high profile."
'Next to Impossible' then? Gotcha. In that case, summoning Dante-san must've been 'Must Have Been Deliberate'.
"Dante-san, how did you get those nickname, Demon of Dance? Queen of Strings?" I continued asking.
"Didn't I tell you? I'm the greatest musician in Eastern Hell, baby! ... I also teach a dance class on Fridays."
Somehow, I was not surprised. I wrote down 'Teaches Dance' and 'Part of a Band' on the tissue.
Looking at the notes, Hoshimi-san said with a confused tone, "By the looks of it, we're to find someone who knows a thing or two about demon summoning, knows about Dante-san specifically, and would want dance and or music lessons?"
After taking a moment to mull it over, the three of us basically reached the same conclusion. In one big chorus we shouted,
"""The Theater Club!"""
"So what's the deal with this Theater Club anyway?" As we marched to the auditorium where the Theater Club often gathered, Dante-san asked this with a puzzled look.
"Er, they're... infamous," I answered hesitantly.
"In what way?"
"Last year, they tried to perform a musical, Go Go at the Haberdashery, as I recall. The problem was that none of them could dance... or sing."
"Regardless of that fact, they decided to do it anyway. It ended up being... Um..." Hoshimi-san had continued on my explanation, but stopped halfway. "It was bad. Let's just leave it at that."
"It was like watching anorexic geese."
Thanks for the imagery, Jin.
"Yeesh... Wait, does that mean those idiots summoned a demon to teach them how to dance?!"
"""It's certainly possible."""
"Ugh, you humans never fail to amaze me."
We arrived at the auditorium. The front doors were locked, and, despite his immense strength, not even Jin was able to open it.
"I could always try the bird kick. The bird kick always works."
Dante-san leaned closer to Jin and whispered: "What's he talking about?"
"Apparently it's some killer technique he came up with. Never seen him use it, though."
"Well, whatever it may be, I don't think it would work, Ikumi-kun." Hoshimi-san had pulled up her holographic thingamajig and scanned the door. "By the looks of it, the door has been sealed from the other side by some sort of fibrous material."
Dante-san's ears twitched in interest of Hoshimi-san's observation. "Fibrous?"
"Yes, it seems to be a type of organically composed adhesive."
Hearing this, Dante-san scowled and brandished her guitar, holding it by the neck with both hands. "Black Fire! Rathmantalos!" she shouted.
In response, the jet-black guitar underwent a sudden metamorphosis; the neck warped and stretched into a double-helical stalk, while the head became a blade, curved like the crescent moon.
Okay, that was awesome.
But she wasn't done. Dante-san threw the scythe down and plunged it handle first into the dirt below. She began to chant, "O World below and Hell beyond, under credence of the watchful eye of Heaven above... Let me rip my dearest sister a new one!"
Well that was certainly unexpected.
Dante-san's previously cold blue eyes and black hair turned a vibrant crimson. An ominous red glow gathered at her feet, enveloping her in a thick blood-colored aura. Before her appeared a magic circle, 'In the name of The Cerberus, granted be thine Wish' inscribed on it.
"Dante-san, what are you doing?!" I shouted.
"This door was sealed using Lahar Thread. It's like spider silk, but many times stronger and thicker (lol). Only the full unleashed power of a demon is able to break through it."
"Hey, doesn't that mean the Theater Club summoned another demon here?!" questioned a panicking Jin.
"Yup, and unfortunately it's someone who's not too fond of you humans."
And with that last word, Dante-san pointed her scythe at the magic circle and exclaimed,
"Die for me."
A/N: (So how are you guys on cliffhangers? I'm not too fond of them, to be honest.)
(Next time on MabuSama: The conclusion... of this arc.)