337 – To the New Year – IV
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Chihiro leaned against the balcony of her room, looking out at the starry skies. "...Well. I guess the view was worth the trouble getting here."

It was beautiful. Definitely Anime worthy. If she didn't know better, Chihiro would have thought that she got isekai'd.

Then again, considering all the craziness she was involved in recently, it might be.

Chihiro sighed and slumped onto the balcony railing, covering her face.

It was exhausting. The car ride here, having to record a bunch of videos ahead of time to keep content going while they were out on the trip.

And all of this just because Chihiro apparently didn't 'touch grass' enough.

"Ugh. What's even the big deal with me being a bit toxic, huh? What's wrong with being a bit of an otaku?" Chihiro tilted her head and looked out at the distance.

She didn't have much to complain about. Because their work gear had crazy tech, Chihiro could still use her drawing tablet and get highspeed internet to do things if she wanted. And even though she wasn't streaming, she could still hang out with her fans on social media and post.

But it was boring for some reason.

"...Stupid Riri."

It was definitely her fault. Ever since that incident, Yuri made Chihiro feel all self-conscious about everything.

Seriously, it wasn't like she was that bad, right? Sure she poked fun at Yuri's mental health and dropped a few lewd comments every now and then, but it wasn't like she crossed the line that much.

And now that security guy took away her gun so she's without her usual protection too in an unknown place.

"Tch."

Chihiro straightened her body and then headed back into her room.

It was a typical traditional style Japanese room... Mostly. A few outlets were secretly hidden, but the furnishings were like something out of a historical drama.

Chihiro walked over to the futon and then flopped down. And when she did, she winced. "Dammit." She flipped over to stare at the ceiling and said, "I miss my bed. Who even cares about traditional Japanese culture or whatever. Japan is a shithole already anyway."

Girls getting molested all the time on the trains. High schoolers homeless on the streets while people avoided their eyes, leaving them to resort to desperate measures just to get by. Kidnappers abducting people in broad daylight...

Chihiro read all about them. Rumors bubbled on the internet about whether it was true or not, but she knew for a fact that it happened.

After all, her dad had been the one in charge of trying to stop those cases.

She had read those reports. Seen the pictures. Knew how much went reported and unresolved.

Apparently it was better these days since that big Yakuza crime boss bust. At least, the threads she watched on the darker areas of the internet were complaining about how hard it was now to get 'goods', and some of the private readits devoted to victims and survivors were cheering at having their tormentors thrown away for good.

But even so, it was still dangerous.

After all, why else would Mister John devote all those funds to hire Chihiro's dad and create an entire security company filled with world class mercenaries, soldiers, and special agents?

Chihiro didn't know much about Seigi, but she definitely recognized the other faces in Legends Security Company.

The infamous pair of elite operatives who resolved a bioweapon catastrophe in America. Another infamous pair that were said to be rivals and caused destruction wherever they were deployed by a certain renewable resources company...

And then there was Seigi Mikata. The guy with an obviously fake name that read as "Ally of Justice." Someone whose appearance was extremely distinctive, and yet someone who she couldn't find any records about even when researching on the darker areas of the web looking for hired assassins.

Which meant he had to be one of the best. A man without a name who could eliminate targets without leaving a single trace of himself.

All of that...

Chihiro let out a deep sigh and placed her arm over her forehead. "...Maybe they're right. I probably should relax."

There wasn't anything to worry about. Even if there might be bad people like that out there, and even if those sorts of things might be happening, statistically the odds were close to zero for her now.

After all, with the amount of resources John had, anyone who tried something would be crushed. And from all the rumors flowing around him being a global scale underworld boss, people probably wouldn't even try.

Then there was the fact that Shu was a super crazy martial artist and that Alphy was definitely a former assassin of some sort with the way she recently critiqued the fighting style in Boomer Band...

"Hah..." Chihiro sighed and closed her eyes. "Whatever."

Today was a mess, but they were in a famous onsen. Not only that, but their senpais were here too.

It was every yuri enthusiast's wet dream. So she should relax, take a good night's rest, and then tomorrow have some fun. Unwind a bit and maybe try acting like a 'normal' girl for once...

-----AI|IA-----

"...This was a mistake." Chihiro stared at the girls standing in front of her and then let out a deep sigh.

It was early morning. Sunday.

It was also supposed to be the dead of winter, but this place seemed to have a localized microclimate of some sort that made it spring the entire year... or something.

Because of that, Shu insisted that they all take a trip together and do some hiking in the mountain side.

After all, this was a super rare opportunity... or something.

Chihiro checked her clothes, just a plain pair of jeans and a white t-shirt paired with some sneakers, and then looked back towards her traveling companions.

The plan had been to take everyone along on a group hike. A sort of bonding fieldtrip for Prodigy and Prototype.

But Asako and Alphy were out cold after being so loveydovey all night and Suzume apparently stayed in the hot springs too long and got a mild heatstroke.

That left just Chihiro, Yuri, Shu, and Rin to go on a trip.

Rin adjusted her backpack and then gave Chihiro a bright smile. "Don't worry, Chi-chan! We'll protect you from wild animal attacks!"

Shu checked her martial arts uniform (Chihiro still wasn't sure why she was wearing that) and then tightened the black belt around her waist. After that, she gave Chihiro a thumbs up and said, "Yeah! I've beaten bears, killer wasps, tigers, and all sorts of predators with my bare hands."

Rin nodded. "Mmhm! And Onee-chan's been teaching me martial arts! Hiyah!" She threw a punch.

Chihiro thought it would be a cutesy and haphazard punch. Just a sort of morale boost to cheer her up.

And then there was an audible *crack* as Rin's fist whipped through the air.

Rin pulled her fist back and smiled. "See?"

Shu's eyes lit up and she said, "Senpai! I didn't know you could fight!"

Rin laughed and rubbed the back of her neck. "Only a little. Onee-chan and Aneue said I have some natural talent in fighting though... What do you think, Shu?"

"Definitely!" Shu nodded and said, "You look like you have a natural physique for it, Senpai! If you trained a bit more... Ooh! Should we create a World Martial Artists Tournament?"

Rin gasped and clapped her hands together. "That sounds fun!"

Chihiro watched Shu and Rin interact with a blank look on her face.

Was it because Rin had a knack for making friends? Either way, those two were getting along swimmingly.

Yuri checked the time on her phone and then slipped it back into her jeans pocket. After that, she adjusted the bag over her shoulders and smoothed the white blouse she was wearing. "It's almost seven. If we want to head out, we should probably get going."

Chihiro sighed and rubbed her face. "Is getting up this early just to get some fresh air really worth it?"

She could be sleeping right now. Hell, she could be soaking in the hotsprings by herself. Or maybe enjoying a nice sauna...

Yuri smirked and wrapped her arm around Chihiro's shoulders. "Cheer up, Chichi. At least this will be plenty of inspiration for your next drawing stream, right?"

"...What the hell's got you all chipper, Riri?" Chihiro frowned and brushed off Yuri's arm.

"Why wouldn't I be chipper?" Yuri looked towards the mountain with gleaming eyes. "I've heard that herbs and water from the mountain make for the purest ingredients. And Suzume's parents said there are some wild boars out there too, so..."

Shu gasped and said, "Are you going to cook for us out there, Riri?"

"Yep!" Yuri patted her bag and said, "Packed a full camping cooking set in here along with a set of chef knives."

Rin's eyes flashed and she said, "Can I see?"

"Not right now, Senpai. But you can help me later if we manage to catch a boar."

"You promised!"

Chihiro covered her face. "...I'm totally going to die today, aren't I?"

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