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Chapter 2 – Athletic Festival
A few days have passed since we decided on the events to participate in the athletic festival.
We were getting ready for the festival.
In addition to competitions and entrance/exit practice, the boys practiced for the cheer squad, and the girls practiced their cheerleading.
Even at my previous school, the boys did the cheer squad during the athletic festival, but this was the first time for me to participate properly.
However, the steeplechase, cavalry battle, and tug-of-war which I will be participating in will only require a simple explanation of the rules and confirmation of the course, and the other details will only be known at the actual event.
Instead, I was practicing the mixed-gender three-legged race with Rin.
“”One, two, one, two.””
The two of us circled the schoolyard, shoulder to shoulder.
At first, we could only walk with some degree of control, but now we were able to run quite fast.
“Whew… isn’t that nice! Yuuya’s great after all.”
“I-I don’t think so. Rin is the one who matches my breath, so it’s very easy for me to move around.”
Rin grinned when I answered that.
“But it’s bad, isn’t it? You were with a girl like me. If it were Kaede, she would have been more comfortable hugging you.”
H-hug, you say…!?
I know she’s teasing me completely, but that’s just too much for people to hear!
“Well, I know you don’t feel like you’re getting any perks with me, but bear with me, okay?”
“I-it’s not like that! But you’re very beautiful too… Um…”
I’m not used to this kind of thing so much, so I ended up saying some weird things, but in fact, when I ran shoulder to shoulder with Rin, she smelled kind of nice, and her body was so soft that it was impossible not to notice.
“That’s why, um… it still bothers me a lot, or maybe I’m just trying not to care… Sorry, that’s a weird thing to say.”
“N-no, it’s me… that, I’m sorry for saying weird things…”
As we were both feeling awkward, Rin changed the subject.
“B-by the way, the new student, Merl, is amazing, isn’t she?”
Merl was assigned to participate in the athletic festival soon after transferring to the school, and just as in the case of Yuti, she demonstrated her abilities to the fullest extent.
In my mind, Merl was a girl who made full use of her extraordinary space technologies, but she was also good at actual physical exercises.
She is not as specialized in physical exercise as Yuti, Iris-san and the others, but even so, there is no doubt that she has extraordinary physical abilities when viewed on the Earth’s level.
It was reassuring that Merl was on our team, but I could not let my guard down since Yuti was in the white group.
“Well, but isn’t it Yuuya who is the center of attention the most?”
“Besides, it looks like some TV stations will be there on the day, so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.”
“TV stations are coming?”
“Huh? You didn’t know?”
I was astonished by Rin’s words.
It was true that there had been reporters at the ball game related to Miu-san’s entertainment agency, but that was not the case this time.
“Speaking of Ousei Academy’s events, they’re so flashy every year that many viewers look forward to them.”
Is that it, or is it the feeling of watching the Olympics or a marathon? For that matter, it’s not like athletes are competing against each other… But then again, Ousei Academy has a lot of students who excel in sports, so does that make it look good on TV?
“That’s why. I have to do my best so that I won’t be a burden to Yuuya.”
Rin laughed again, and we resumed our practice once again.
“Sorry! Have you waited long?”
“No, it’s all right.”
On my day off, I was meeting Merl before the opening of the park in order to head to the amusement park that I had promised her before.
Merl was dressed in plain clothes that properly fit in on Earth, just as when I showed her around the Earth some time ago.
Merl noticed my gaze and lightly spun around on the spot.
“How do you like it? I tried on a slightly different kind of clothing than before…”
“Yeah, it looks really good on you.”
“I’m glad to hear that! So, here’s the…”
A large facility was spread out before us.
It was not only Merl’s first time visiting the largest amusement park near where we live, but it was also my first time to visit one myself, so I was very excited.
However, since it was a holiday, there were many people.
“Wow, that’s a lot of people… Are they JKs, too?”
“No, they’re not! In the first place, amusement parks are not facilities where only JKs gather, you know?”
“Is that so? …No, come to think of it, it only says that JKs go there often. Let me correct the data.”
I’m curious as to what the data is…
Regardless, when the amusement park opened, we too bought tickets and entered.
I am impressed by the scenery that unfolds there.
I had only seen the Ferris wheel from afar and the huge roller coaster. And there was a delicious or rather peculiar smell wafting through the air in the surrounding area.
Moreover, the staff greeted us with smiles, and there was an extraordinary space.
Maybe there is nothing extraordinary for me when I am experiencing other worlds and space, but still, this place just for enjoyment was very new to me.
“It’s amazing… how different and unique the place is from the air outside…”
Merl also seemed amazed at the atmosphere of the amusement park.
“…Let’s not be dumbfounded by this; let’s go on something.”
“Now that you mention it, I’d like to ride on something called a roller coaster first. It is said to be one of the most popular rides in amusement parks.”
“I see. Let’s go then.”
I’ve never ridden a roller coaster before either, so I’m pretty curious.
Moreover, I heard that there is not only one roller coaster in the amusement park but also several different types.
When we headed for the biggest of them all, there was already a long line of people waiting to get on the roller coaster.
“Wow, that’s a lot of people…”
“As I thought, the data was correct. That must be why this roller coaster is such a great attraction.”
We got in line and waited our turn.
“H-hey, that… that’s a really flashy hair color…”
“I mean, isn’t it glowing? …No, it’s normal to be glowing, right…?”
“I like that couple over there! It’s like a beautiful man and a beautiful woman.”
After all, Merl’s appearance was very prominent and attracted the attention of other visitors.
“…It seems we’re attracting some strange gazes here. Could it be that your perception manipulation was not as good as it could have been?”
“N-no, I think it’s fine! Yeah!”
“Is that so? Then that’s fine…”
Merl says that perception manipulation is not harmful to the body, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to be too careless with it, so I’m going to let it stay that way.
While we were having this exchange and asking about things at school, it was our turn.
“Yuuya-san! It’s our turn!”
We sat side by side on the double-row roller coaster, and the safety bars were lowered to secure our bodies.
All that remained was to wait for the start of the ride, and I felt a bit nervous and elated.
“It’s finally happening…”
Merl seemed a bit nervous as well, but her expression was cheerful.
And now the roller coaster begins to move.
The roller coaster we rode had very steep ups and downs and even had a part where it spun around in circles.
The coaster gradually accelerated, and when it reached its maximum speed, the coaster moved violently from side to side, up and down.
While everyone around us was shouting and enjoying themselves, Merl and I were sitting there, bewildered.
We even looked at each other unintentionally during the process.
The reason is that… we didn’t feel any thrill at all.
Normally, these types of attractions are meant to provide a variety of excitement that you would never experience in your everyday life.
However, Merl and I couldn’t feel any excitement, probably because we had already experienced rides and battles that were more thrilling than roller coasters.
We passed through the main roller coaster course with some confusion, and the roller coaster ride was over without a hitch.
With indescribable expressions on our faces, we looked at each other again as those around us happily shared their impressions.
“N-next! Let’s go to the next attraction!”
In an effort to change the mood, I quickly made the suggestion to see the next attraction, and Merl showed her agreement.
“Then… how about the haunted house? The data records indicate that this one is more of a couples’ staple than a JK staple.”
“So what’s the data about…?”
I don’t know if it’s a couple’s staple or not, but I’m new to this as well, so I’m looking forward to it.
Moving quickly to the location of the haunted house, we see a hospital-like building that looks like it might be haunted.
“Is that the haunted house? If I remember correctly, I think that shape and symbol was a hospital on this planet…”
“You’re not wrong in that assessment. What can I say? Hospitals are deeply related to life and death, aren’t they? So I think that’s why people have a strong image of it being haunted or something.”
I spoke from my own imagination, but in front of a hospital with an atmosphere, albeit a fake one, I certainly felt that I could see ghosts and other spiritual things.
Like the roller coaster, we waited in line, but it was not as crowded as the roller coaster, so our turn came relatively quickly.
“It’s going to be fun!”
The attraction itself is just following the route in the building, but what is it like?
With a sense of excitement, I stepped into the building and found myself in the reception area of a battered and decaying hospital.
The number of lights was minimal, and they were flickering on and off, perhaps to create an ambiance.
“I see… that by making it dark in this way, you can create a mood of fear…”
Merl muttered to herself, then immediately put on a subtle expression.
“…Um, I’ve known true darkness and cosmic terror, like a black hole, so darkness alone isn’t much…”
Well, from Merl’s point of view, who travels a lot in space, this level of darkness is not scary.
“W-well, this isn’t the main thing, you know! After all, the most important thing is gho──”
I was about to say that when I realized.
No, I noticed.
“…There it is.”
I think it was probably the ghost actor, but I obviously detected the presence of people on both sides of the route, etc., with my [Presence Detection] skill.
N-no, this presence is not necessarily that of the ghost actor! Maybe the couple that entered before us is still… no; it’s strange to think that they’re still staying across the route…
We went on ahead to see what the presence was for the time being──.
Merl and I stared at the ghost actors who popped up with indescribable expressions on our faces.
I mean, we wanted to be surprised, but we couldn’t be surprised…
I was not really surprised because I could even detect the presence of them popping out, if anything.
Witnessing our expressions, the actor playing the role of the ghost almost went back to his normal self for a moment, but he quickly recovered and backed away, somewhat bewildered.
“…Shall we proceed?’
After that, all we could do was give subtle looks to the crew members who tried to scare us the whole time.
Some of them were even trying to scare us with mechanical gimmicks instead of humans…
“Ah, Yuuya-san. If you go through there, you will probably hear loud noises.”
“…Wouldn’t it defeat the purpose if you told me that?”
Merl, with her space technology, saw through it all.
It is not that she is operating the device attached to her left arm, but she seems to be able to detect this much without using that device.
We continued on, and we were almost to the exit.
“U-umm… I didn’t expect such harm…”
I could never have imagined that my skills and otherworldly experiences would interfere in this way.
It was the moment when I thought that we would end up arriving at the exit… without any problems.
“Hmm? Merl, what’s wrong?”
Suddenly, Merl stopped.
When I looked at Merl, I saw that Merl, who had been so unconcerned until then, had gone completely pale.
“M-Merl! What’s wrong?”
“Oh… oh… that…”
Merl points a trembling finger at a corner of the haunted house.
Following her fingertips, I turn my gaze in the same direction and see──.
You should praise me for not raising my voice.
What a surprise… A child was standing in the direction Merl pointed.
──With his feet missing.
The fact that I didn’t notice it before shows that this child doesn’t respond to the [Presence Detection] skill for some reason.
In other words…
“I don’t believe it; I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe in such an unscientific existence…!”
Merl shook her head vigorously as if she had seen nothing.
But the next moment.
Suddenly, Merl fainted at the sound of the child’s voice coming from behind her!
I hurriedly took Merl in my arms and dashed straight to the exit!
It would be disturbing to shout so loudly, but fortunately, this is a haunted house. Even if I screamed a little, no one would think it was strange, and we succeeded in escaping.
I-I never thought that a real ghost would appear. Did it come by because of the atmosphere of the haunted house…? Whatever the case, I’m glad we were able to escape…
Merl had passed out but woke up the moment we got out of the haunted house and we were exposed to the light outside.
“Huh! T-this is…”
“It’s outside. I made it out of the haunted house without incident.”
“I-I see… Ah.”
Merl looked relieved from the bottom of her heart, and then she noticed something and blushed.
“U-um… It’s all right now, so if you could put me down…”
As I hurriedly put Merl down, an indescribable air passed between us.
So I opened my mouth to change the atmosphere.
“R-right! Let’s go to the next attraction!”
“Y-yeah, you’re right.”
However, I am not quite sure what to go to next.
After all, the roller coaster wasn’t going so well, and we were not sure if we would be able to enjoy the other attractions.
We were worried about that, but we decided to just go for the time being and got in line for the other attractions.
As a result, we could enjoy the merry-go-round and go-carts without any problem.
The coffee cups were not as exciting as the roller coaster, but Merl, who rides on a spaceship, seemed to find the go-carts refreshing, and the merry-go-round was relaxing enough to enjoy the atmosphere.
After enjoying some other mini-games, such as Struck Out and Free Throw, and getting a few prizes, we decided to have lunch.
“How’s that? This is an amusement park… are you enjoying yourself?”
When I asked her that again, Merl smiled.
“Yes, I am enjoying it. There were a few attractions that I didn’t expect…”
“I never thought I’d be this incompatible with a roller coaster, the centerpiece of amusement parks…”
No one could have predicted that, indeed.
Well, Merl and I are just too unique…
“So, what do you think? I think I enjoyed it to some extent…”
“If so… why don’t we take a ride on that thing at the end?”
She then pointed to the Ferris wheel, another symbolic attraction of the amusement park.
“Is that okay? You usually ride on a spaceship, and the height of a Ferris wheel doesn’t…”
“That may be so, but after all, I could see it from outside this amusement park. I’d like to take a ride.”
Certainly, I would like to ride on the Ferris wheel, which was visible from a distance on our way to this amusement park.
As soon as we decided on our next move, we quickly made our way to the Ferris wheel, and this time we were able to ride it easily.
We gradually ascended the Ferris wheel, feeling strangely embarrassed at the thought of being alone in such a small space.
The scenery around us became more and more distant, and we came to a position where we could look down at the roller coaster we had ridden in the first place.
Having ridden spaceships before, I had initially wondered how the Ferris wheel would be, but it was interesting to watch it slowly rise higher and higher, and I was genuinely enjoying myself.
“When I was on Merl’s spaceship, the Earth itself became distant in an instant, but it is nice to look at the scenery slowly like this.”
“Yes, you’re right.”
While I was relaxing and enjoying the scenery outside, Merl opened her mouth, looking somewhat nervous.
“Um… once again, I’m really sorry about what my fathers said to you on the planet Amel.”
“Eh? Ah, no! I don’t mind. At first, I didn’t know what to do, but now we are back, and that’s how it happened…”
In fact, it was only because Merl covered for us that we were able to come back like this.
Then Merl continues, still looking nervous.
“U-um… it’s strange, but what do you think of Planet Amel, Yuuya-san?”
“Well… I was too busy to see it properly before, but it’s still very different from Earth, and the technology is way ahead of us.”
I hope I can go sightseeing next time under calmer circumstances.
In that case, I would like to take Night and Iris-san and the others with me.
As I was thinking like that, Merl continued.
“How about living on the planet Amel?”
“Eeh? A-as expected, that’s…”
I did think it sounded like an interesting planet, but when asked if I would live there, I indeed couldn’t immediately nod my head.
Merl looked a little dejected at my response.
“T-then, um… my… l-lover… n-no, it’s too early for that… Will you become my friend?”
“Eh? T-that’s of course! A pleasure for me too.”
Why did she suddenly ask me that? As for me, I already thought we were friends…
As I was thinking this, the Ferris wheel finally reached the top.
“Wow! It’s such a nice view…”
The view of the city, which had always been so casual, seemed special, glistening in the sunlight.
I suddenly shifted my gaze to Merl, who was also stunned by the view in front of her.
It was thanks to Merl’s invitation that I was able to see such a view…
“Thank you for inviting me out today. I had a lot of fun.”
We laughed again and enjoyed the Ferris wheel to the end.