Shaman 54: Leader part.2

The Shaman can't become a Hero

Act 5: Worst Harem Party

Chapter 54: Leader part.2

“... Futaba-san is, acting strange”

Upon confirming that Momokawa Kotarou and Futaba Meiko were happily chatting at another corner of the fairy square, Souma Sakura turned to Kisaragi Ryouko and Kenzaki Asuna, breaking the ice with those words.[1]

(TN: This is a third person narration chapter with a lean towards Class Rep )

“Yeah, I think so too”

“H-hey now, Sakura, and Asuna too... What are you two saying all of a sudden”

Ryouko spoke as if denying their assertions, but truth be told, she was the one most keenly aware of the oddity that was Futaba Meiko. After all, she had seen first hand how the girl was. How she always got flustered, and became completely useless baggage during combat.

“I know I wasn’t good friends with her or anything back in school, but I’m positive that Futaba-san never had a personality where she could ruthlessly kill monsters like that”

“It’s like she’s a different person. And the way she fights... She’s practically going mad”

She would know well. Asuna has been seeing her fight up close in the vanguard. Sakura and Ryouko have also been seeing how Meiko fights from behind in their rearguard position. Using her oversized halberd, she would become a storm of raw power, doing away with Ants one after the next. It was vastly different from the more elegant methods employed by Asuna or Minami. Savage even.

“No well, she is a Berserker after all”

In reality, Futaba Meiko’s true vocation had come to light since the beginning.

That reveal was without a doubt, achieved through the powers of the Sage, Takanashi Kotori.

Eye of VeracityFor a true Sage, man or matter, all is subject to no falsehoods at but a glance[2]

|Eye of Veracity||For a true Sage, man or matter, all is subject to no falsehoods at but a glance[/tn]|

(TN: 真贋の瞳 — Shingan no Hitomi — Eye of Veracity )

It was a power Kotori attained quite recently, and it served to let her know the vocation and skills belonging to others. Like peeking at their Status screens, Minami had described, but her colleagues, being strangers to the world of gaming, wouldn’t have much appreciation for such a statement.

At present, Kotori could only see the vocation, and only part of the whole array of skills inside someone. But it is hypothesized that these holes in the information would be filled as Kotori grows as a Sage.

At any rate, the moment Futaba Meiko was seen by her Eye of Veracity, her lie had been completely exposed. Of course, their side had also kept this truth-seeing power hidden, so since both sides were equally exchanging untruths, they didn’t press the subject.

“But let’s consider the circumstances a bit. She must have changed for the need to adapt”

“Don’t you mean, she was changed, by Momokawa-kun?”

“What are you...”

Ryouko’s breath catches. Though she attempts to ask, the intelligent Ryouko couldn’t possibly not understand the insinuation. That is how terrifying the prediction Souma Sakura had just put to mouth.

“We already know his vocation is Shaman. Like we’ve seen with his Pain Return, his magic is different from the normal ones like Ryouko’s or mine. It’s very peculiar to say the least”

“And we’ve got no clue what other nasty curses he’s got hidden away”

“That’s right. For instance... Couldn’t one be, for mind control?”

“No, that...”

Is possible. You can’t deny that”

A moment of silence governs the scene.

Mind control. For him to have such a bone-chilling magic is... implausible, difficult to believe, but yet, as Asuna said, not impossible. They were in a world ruled by the supernatural existence known as magic. It wouldn’t be strange for any form of magic to exist.

“That may be so... But none of us here, as far as I know, look brainwashed”

“He likely needs to meet specific conditions. Unlike you or Minami, Futaba-san has been alone with him for much longer. He could’ve done anything to her during all that time.”

“We girls can’t let our guard down either, or else he might just go for it”

Momokawa Kotarou was in possession of a mind control curse, and he was silently preparing to bring them all under his domination... Calling this out as idiotic delusion, just wasn’t possible for Ryouko.

And that is no doubt because, she too was extremely fearful of that very same possibility.

“It’s not just her mad fighting that made me think Futaba-san was strange. The most curious thing about her, it’s that crazed obedience towards Momokawa-kun”

“You remember what happened at the fairy square right? Futaba not only didn’t blame him, she even covered for the bastard. I felt it from her, she wouldn’t bat at eye making every one of us her enemy”

“Yes, I really had to hold my breath there”

Haah, exits a pained sigh from Ryouko. As someone who had cut in to mediate, it would be great if she could share her building stress with her two friends even if a little.

“But look, isn’t Futaba-san favoring him over us, completely natural? We know for a fact that Momokawa-kun is her life-savior”

“But, you can’t just—”

“Sakura, Asuna, you haven’t had to abandon anyone yet, so I don’t think you understand. This sense of crushing guilt”

“Ryouko... I’m so sorry, I made you remember something painful”

No, the one who suffered true pain, that is, the pain of being infinitely close to death, was not her, but Futaba Meiko. Ryouko still remembers it hauntingly. That excruciated, sobbing voice echoing from behind as she walked away.

Perhaps Futaba Meiko had indeed died there, alone and helpless. Perhaps the girl they were seeing now, was someone else putting on her name. Perhaps she too was just another golem, the moving doll Kotarou had classified his Rem as, and is able to create using his curses.

However, Ryouko would not let herself descend into the spiral of suspicion like her two friends facing her.

“I personally don’t think we should act so paranoid of them. If these suspicions are wrong... We’d be making a practically irreparable mistake. It’s not something you can wave off with a simple apology”

“You’re, not wrong... I understand. But I do believe we should stay cautious. If Momokawa-kun does turn out to be the type cunning and vicious Shaman we’re imagining, the first one he’d target is the one mentally weak from guilt towards Futaba-san. That is, you”

“Yes, it might turn out just like you described... But, I’m trying my best to believe otherwise”

“Me, I can’t trust one inch of that Momokawa. He’s a bastard that had no problem throwing down Kotori remember?”

She was likely talking about the event where they were ambushed by Ants from behind. Ryouko too had seen Kotori crying, clinging desperately to Kotarou and him unremorsefully shaking her away.

And it is because Kotori was injured by that action, that Sakura had tried applying healing magic on her first. Like Asuna, seeing Kotarou apparently not concerning himself with the safeguard of a frail girl must have been absolutely loathesome for Sakura as well. Or rather, having beheld her always strong, always kind older brother from a young age, Sakura may have felt the action many degrees harder to forgive.

“About that time, we have our share of responsibility for that too. I don’t recall me or Sakura being able to come to their rescue”

“True. I admit that was our complete blunder. But If we simply listened to Momokawa-kun’s orders back there I, I just can’t...”

“We do it once, and he’d start thinking we’ll listen to his every little whim. Next time, we’re gonna have to avoid that sort of stupidity so, Sakura, Ryouko, one of you should take command.”

Asuna’s way of putting things was overflowing with distrust towards Kotarou from all possible directions. But her mention of them deciding on proper leadership was an opinion needing more attention.

“That’s fair. Yuuto-kun is gone and we’ve been leaving that subject a bit vague. We should work on fixing that”

“Em, so, who are we picking? I’m sure Ryouko being the Class Rep will be perfect for the job”

“Eh, I’m not... If it’s about fighting, isn’t Sakura the better choice?”

“All the same to me. But have a good talk about it you two”

And just as Asuna was about to leave Sakura and Ryouko to decide on the subject amongst the two of them like it was none of her business,

“— Hey there, mind if I join in on that?”


Futaba Meiko had arrived with what seemed to be an eerie grin on her face. The air around her was strange enough that Asuna instinctively brought up her guard.

With a slight glance, she confirmed that Kotarou was lying down on the grass, perhaps taking a nap. Minami and Kotori had been asleep since their meal, and so weren’t participating in their talks.

Recalling their rough battles coming here, their bodies seeking rest upon nightfall simply couldn’t be helped.

“So you were listening to us, Futaba-san”

“Something about how it’s good if we decide on a leader? I heard a bit of that”

It was lucky she hadn’t listened in on the subject matter they were on right before. As naturally it would be troublesome if the individuals concerned heard them, Sakura had chosen a distanced spot from Meiko and Kotarou before starting the discussion.

“Yes, it’s about that. We also did a bit of reflecting on the last fight”

“I see. That’s great, we’re all on the same page then”

“Then let’s hear what you got to say Futaba. Thinking to apply yourself as a candidate?“

“Not at all. I’m always fighting up front, and that’s not a good position to give orders from, no. It’s like that for you too, right Kenzaki-san?”

It seemed like Futaba Meiko had the capacity to judge what consists of leading a team.

“So you do understand. That makes things much faster. I will be completely frank on this then. Futaba-san, between me and Ryouko, who do you think should be the leader?”

Sakura, not too eager to converse, makes a weighted reply. From her tone, it is implied that she shall not allow Momokawa Kotarou to take the position. Now the question is, how will Meiko respond to that iron will?

Sakura and Asuna had an air that they could enter battle any moment. As for Ryouko, the whole affair was causing her great stomach pain.

“Just making sure, but why not Takanashi-san?”

“Sadly, Kotori isn’t up to par for this”

An instant answer from Asuna. It is perhaps their close friendship that allows her such an unreserved opinion.

Ahaha, that’s one way to put it. She’s the type that just isn’t suited for battle... Yep, totally get it, I was told that too, being sub-par and all”

Kisaragi Ryouko, as cool and collected as she were, had her face dyed in shock at the small comment Meiko added.

“Ah, sorry, I’m not mad about that or anything. It was true after all. It’s all in the past”

Having it told as such with casual movements of the hand and an impish smile that would easily string along men, Ryouko had no words.

“So, do you have your pick, Futaba-san?”

On Sakura pressing her to answer the original question, Meiko looks her in the face and answers as such,

Ufufu, I’m sad to say, but I’m thinking both you and Class Rep aren’t up to par either”

“... Mind, elaborating?“

“In my mind, both of you aren’t too different from Takanashi-san in that respect. I can’t imagine leaving my life to you”

Meiko made light chuckles, while Sakura sternly lowered her eye-brows. The expression, sparks flying between them, would be a perfect fit to describe the scene.

“Then, if I’m guessing right... You’re thinking Momokawa-kun is the best person to be the leader”

With much reluctance, Ryouko entered the fray.

“And why not? Do you people not get it still, even after that last fight?”

If Class Rep had listened to Kotarou-kun’s instructions, we would all be much happier. If she just listened to him earlier, we could’ve won with more ease.

Meiko speaks as if admonishing a child.

“True, I’ll admit that me and Ryouko weren’t the quickest thinkers during that. But come next time, don’t think that we—”

Next time? Did you just say that, Souma-san. You should know there isn’t any next time in deadly battle”

I will be careful next time. I won’t make the same mistake a 2nd time.

That moral dogma is essential for students and members of society alike. People make mistakes, reflect on them, and grow as a consequence.

But it is of no doubt that those mistakes are permitted only because those people live in the civilized society of Japan.

Their current location is inside a cruel and unforgiving dungeon. Fierce monsters make it their den, and on top of that, powerful boss monsters lay in wait... It is a miserable survival scenario with zero second chances.

“Hey, tell me I’m wrong but, you girls aren’t thinking this is some sort of game right?”

Meiko speaks further. All of you, you’ve become used to it. I have too. If you just think your enemy is a monster, you can swing your blade without second thoughts, she says.

“You’ve all come fighting for your lives here, I don’t imagine otherwise. You fought monsters where, if you lost, they’d simply eat you... but you didn’t lose. What I’m wondering is, have you even been in any real danger?”

Absolute difference in power. These girls have yet to taste it, the utter despair of having no path left to you other than death. Not only that, they hadn’t suffered any major injury to speak of.

“Complete nonsense. We fought that Cerberus right, I was practically inches to death”

“Yeah, that Cerberus was tough as nails, there’s also that big Goma I had to fight before, that was a close one too”

“But, Souma-kun came and saved you”

“Correct, nii-san would come and save us, any time and any place”

“Hmmm, so it’s fact. Then let’s say, I try killing Souma-san right no—”

Instantly, a naked blade gleams in the light.

A quick-draw in speeds surpassing the eye. Unsheathed without so much as a sound, the sword is pointed directly as Meiko’s throat.

“What’s the big hurry, Kenzaki-san? You’re soo on edge”

“Futaba... That was some hell of a bloodlust you had there”

“Bloodlust? Ahaha, that’s a good one, is it from a manga? Well, I’m sure it was just your imagination”

Don’t test me!

Just slightly, Asuna’s Blade of Cleansing presses into Meiko’s neck. A slight motion and the girls fair skin would be ruined in red by the razor-sharp blade.

It wasn’t an action on the level of a joke. But Meiko was the prime aggressor, is what Asuna, no, Sakura and Ryouko, all three of them were convinced of that.

Bloodlust. Such a thing certainly exists. At least in this magic-driven parallel world, it can be clearly felt. That applies all the more to Asuna, a Dualwielder possessing considerable perceptive abilities.

And having fought alongside her, Asuna also knows that Meiko can feel this bloodlust as well. She has seen the girl conduct herself in battle, sensing the thick bloodlust exuded by monster, much similar to herself.

“Seems like I scared you, sorry about that. But you did get my point right? Right now, Souma-kun isn’t here. If I happened to seriously attempt murdering Souma-san... Tell me, will Souma-kun come save you then too?”


“Hold that thought Sakura, and calm down... We get it, Futaba-san. You may be right that we’ve been relying on Yuuto-kun too much. For fighting as well as for mental support”

Ryouko holds back Sakura who had a face telling she was about to burst back in arguement. At the same time, sent a glance at Asuna telling to pull back her sword. Her perceptive friend recieved the message, and quietly returned her blade to its scabbard. Meiko’s neck had not one millimeter of a scratch.

“No well, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Souma-kun is strong right? I get that you’d want to rely on him.”

From their stories, it was as if he was guided by fate itself. Souma Yuuto’s timing was too good. Like when his sister was attacked by an Armor Bear, like when Asuna and Kotori were cornered by the Boss Goma. And similarly for the Cerberus fight. His timing in coming to their aid, his timing in becoming stronger in a pinch. All of it was superb. Perhaps even sheer luck was a component of Souma Yuuto’s powers.

“But if you make that your excuse and do nothing, if you don’t put every fibre of your being into survival, I can’t forgive you”

“I’m afraid I don’t follow. We have been trying to gather everyone under our wing, and together, do our best to find a way to escape this dungeon right?”

“Then what reason, could you possibly have for not accepting Kotarou-kun? Is being under him that hurtful to your pride? Because you consider him to be below you? You’re against listening to a man weaker than you that much? Or maybe, you just don’t plan on listening to any man you don’t love?”

This isn’t the place to be finicky over trivial things. It’s all about the resolve to survive, even if you have to crawl through mud. No, you don’t need resolve, just do it.

“Kotarou-kun is truly weak. But, in spite of that, he knows the way to survive. If he doesn’t know, he can imagine one. That’s not something me or Kenzaki-san who only rely on our strength can do. And the helpless and afraid me from back then, or say Takanashi-san now, can’t do it either”

Something that the Hero Souma Yuuto who, granted substantial strength and blessed by lady luck, simply can’t do. Not relying on miracles, and using every method available to him to grasp at a means of survival.

It was likely only Ryouko who thought she was implying as such. A sort of consideration on Meiko’s part for not explicitly mentioning Souma Yuuto.

“Hey, how about it, I’d really appreciate it if you listen to him just a bit. There’s no need to worry, Kotarou-kun doesn’t ask for anything impossible, and always takes care of you. See, he even took someone like me in, and—”

“Cut the crap”

Asuna cut into Meiko’s plea with precision.


“Yeah, got it Ryouko. Futaba has a point, is what you wanna say right? I got a good idea what she’s getting at”

If you do, then what’s with all this? Questions Ryouko.

“Call it emotions-based, or whatever. But I can’t, in no damn way, bring myself to trust Momokawa. Can’t imagine leaving my life to him, I’ll hand those words right back at you, Futaba”

“... I’ll ask why if you don’t mind”

Not giving an inch to Meiko’s unnaturally expressionless face, Asuna boldly makes her say known.

“There’s the incident in the square, and the time when he pushed away Kotori, those would be more than valid reasons... But I’ll give it you straight. I have no plans on ever obeying someone weaker than me”

“You mean that, as a woman?”

“Nay, as a swordsman of the Kenzaki Style!”

Laughter had not ensued following Asuna’s statement. Rather than not fitting the times, it gave the feeling of something a samurai-crazed otaku would cringe-indusingly say. In modern Japan at least, you ordinarily wouldn’t find people other than individuals of those tastes speaking like this.

But because they are so close, Souma Sakura and Kisaragi Ryouko know what truly consisted of the girl, Kenzaki Asuna. They know she wasn’t ordinary in the least. They know of her grueling life-long training under the sword, and they understand how her this stern mindset of hers has been molded as a result.

“Hmm, more good facts. That means, if I were to be stronger than you, you’d obey me without question?”

“If you win a one on one duel, I don’t care if it’s you or Momokawa, I’ll pipe up and follow”

“Yup, wonderful. This makes things very easy— A duel, let’s do that”

Suggests Futaba Meiko in light-hearted tone as if making a promise to go shopping later.

“Hold it right there! You can’t, no wait, aren’t you being insane!?”

“Don’t stop us, Ryouko. I’m perfectly sane, and also very serious”

“Oh yeah. There’s that time when Kenzaki-san decided to get engaged to Souma-kun because she lost a duel, right?”

Kenzaki Asuna makes important decisions via duel. Such precedent already exists. Everyone in their class knows this. No, the turmoil of her engagement with Souma Yuuto was already known as a great legend among all in Shiramine Academy.

“Ryouko, when Asuna gets like this, you know there’s no stopping her”

“But that’s no excuse to... This isn’t the time to start infighting...”

“I’m really sorry Class Rep. But Kenzaki-san’s saying she won’t settle on a compromise if we don’t do this. I don’t think there’s any option apart from this if we want to become true comrades”

Ryouko practically wanted to cry when the one who accepted that duel, the perpetrator herself, started consoling her. Or rather, her eyes were feeling moist already.

“Asuna, Futaba-san, you two are sure about this right?”

“Yeah, if Futaba defeats me, I’ll give in to her demands”

“If Kenzaki-san wins, I won’t bring up making Kotarou-kun the leader anymore”

Well I can’t really make you promise so we have the loser absolutely obey the winner or anything, continues Meiko, but Asuna accepts anyway.

“You’re not a swordsman or anything. So I’m fine with those conditions”

Meiko doesn’t have one clue as to what Asuna consider being a true swordsman, but their negotiations thus conclude.

“Please tell me you aren’t planning to use real weapons in this”

“The winner loses if the loser dies, that goes for both of us”

They obviously hadn’t lost all their good sense. But for Ryouko’s own peace of mind, she needed to confirm anyway.

“Then do we go empty-handed? Ah but Kenzaki-san is a Dualwielder so, uhmmm, we could you fairy walnut tree branches as wooden swordsbokutou) right?”

“I don’t mind it bare-handed, but with some form of weapon, I don’t think either of us will regret anything”

Both of them would find it annoying if the other complained she lost because she didn’t have a weapon.

“Please don’t get hurt... or not I guess. It’d be great if you keep it to a level Sakura can heal”

And that was all Ryouko could say.

Thus it came to be that Futaba Meiko and Kenzaki Asuna would duel with their convictions on the line.

[1] This is a third person narration chapter with a lean towards Class Rep
[2] 真贋の瞳 — Shingan no Hitomi — Eye of Veracity