A flash of light, followed by a soft 'click.'
Afterwards, Yuri lowered her phone to take a look at the picture.
It was ridiculous. Shu was kneeling next to a boar almost as big as her, sticking her thumb. And seated on the boar's back was Rin, making a victory sign.
Off to the side, Chihiro shook her head and said, "All of you are crazy. Actually crazy."
Yuri opened the MIRAIZ app, using it to change everyone out for their avatars before posting it on Twotter. After that, she put her phone away and said, "Fresh ingredients are the best ingredients, Chichi."
"That doesn't mean we should go hunting down a giant wild boar!" Chihiro turned to point at Shu and Rin and said, "And how did you to kill that thing anyway?!"
Shu stood up and brushed her pants legs. After that, she smiled and said, "It's just a wild boar. We had tons of those back home."
Rin hopped off the boar and landed on the ground, smiling. "Yeah! Well, we didn't have a lot of these at my home. But it's just a boar, you know? They don't really have any complicated movements."
Shu nodded. "What Senpai said."
Chihiro gave the two a blank stare.
Yuri smiled and then took a look around. Even if Shu and Rin were able to take out a boar, it was still good to check if the surroundings were safe.
After a bit of walking, the group had arrived at a small clearing with a stream flowing past, some tall grass, and a few stalks of bamboo.
The perfect place for a rest after walking all that time. Although...
Yuri looked at the boar and frowned. "...This is going to be a little hard to cook." She had considered getting fresh ingredients to cook, and she had thought about cooking a boar. But she thought a boar would be a lot smaller than that.
Shu turned to look at the boar and then hummed. "You're right, Riri. This is a pretty big one. More food for us, but it'll be hard to roast this entire thing..."
"Ooh!" Rin stuck up her hand and said, "Can I butcher it then?"
Yuri blinked and then carefully said, "You... want to butcher it, Senpai?"
"Mmhm!" Rin nodded and said, "Can I? You brought some knives, right?"
"I... did. But are you sure? It's a bit messy, so-"
Rin waved her hand and said, "Don't worry about it! Just like in Creature Hunter, we gotta dismantle the monster to get the loot, right? I can do it!"
Yuri glanced at the others.
Shu gave Yuri a thumbs up.
Chihiro was desperately shaking her head and crossing her arms just off to the side and out of Rin's sight.
Yuri could understand Chihiro. After all, this was their Senpai. It would look pretty bad if they forced her to do the most work.
But on the other hand, Yuri didn't really want to deal with handling bloody meat...
After a bit of thinking, she nodded and then knelt on the ground, taking off her bag. After setting it down, she pulled out a folded cloth belt carrying her knives. "Okay, Senpai. But knives aren't toys, so-"
A blur of colors.
The next thing Yuri knew, Rin was standing there holding the entire set of knives over her head.
"Yay! I got knives!"
Rin lowered them and then expertly plucked a cleaver and carving knife from the set before dropping the others on the ground. "Let's go!"
Yuri got up and said, "W-Wait a minute, Senpai! You've got to-"
...drain the blood first.
Yuri didn't have the chance to finish talking.
In the time she stood up, Rin arrived at the boar and started swinging her knives.
But it wasn't haphazard swinging like Yuri expected. Instead...
A clean chop at the boar's neck, cleaving the head. Quick slashes around the shoulders, chops at the joints...
Rin practically flew around the boar, silver flashing as she swung her knives.
Blood sprayed, but never in the direction of the other girls.
And then in the span of a minute, the entire boar collapsed into a pile of meat, expertly butchered.
Rin landed on the ground, knives still dripping blood, and then spun around to look at Yuri. "How'd I do?"
In the corner of Yuri's eyes, she saw Chihiro take a few steps back.
Shu's eyes were sparkling in appreciation.
As for Yuri herself... She let out a strained smile and said, "You did great, Senpai."
...Yuri thought that Rin was the more normal of her three senpais. But she was starting to understand why there was such a gap between Prototype and Prodigy now.
Rin grinned and then waved her knives around. "Should I wash these for you?"
"N-No. I'll take care of it." Yuri quickly stepped forward and held out her hands.
Rin paused, holding the knives close to her as if considering it.
Yuri felt some sweat on the back of her neck.
But then Rin nodded and spun the knives around, holding them blade first while offering the handles to Yuri. "Okay... Here you go."
Yuri nodded as well, taking the knives back while ignoring how Rin's hands were casually getting covered in blood.
Off to the side, Chihiro quietly muttered, "Scary."
Rin immediately turned towards her.
Chihiro flinched and took a few steps back.
Rin smiled and stuck up her thumb. "Nice, Chi-chan! I think knives are scary cool too!"
"...Y-Yeah." Chihiro slowly nodded. "Th-that's right, Senpai."
...Let's just get cooking already.
Yuri sighed and then started grabbing the other materials to start prepping their meal.
Twine for tinder, a lighter, a pan, a cutting board, salt and pepper, metal kebab sticks...
...A whole boar was a bit much, but Yuri *did* want some more cooking experience...
A roaring fire, paired with the sounds and smells of sizzling meat.
After digging a fire pit... Well, after Shu dug a fire pit, Yuri went to work.
Seasoning the meat, roasting it, making a stew with some fresh mountain herbs and water...
"Uwa!" Shu's eyes lit up as she grabbed a kebab. "You're amazing, Riri!"
Rin took a bite out of her own kebab and nodded. "This is really good, Yuri!"
Chihiro nibbled on her kebab and muttered, "...It's not bad."
Yuri rolled her eyes and said, "Then wait for the stew, Chichi. You'll probably want something hot to warm that cold heart of yours."
Chihiro snorted and then set her kebab to the side, pulling out her phone.
Rin laughed and then looked at Shu. "Do those two always argue?"
Shu nodded. "They do! I think that's because Chi-chan is still a bit childish though."
Chihiro immediately cut in and said, "I am not childish!"
Rin laughed again before she walked over and patted Chihiro's head. "It's okay, Chi-chan. Being childish is fine. It's the best way to have fun, you know?"
"...Aren't you younger than me, Senpai?"
Rin blinked and then tilted her head. "...Oh yeah. I just turned sixteen, so... I think you're right?" She shook her head and said, "It's okay though! I've had more life experience, so if you need advice you can rely on Senpai!"
Yuri smiled and then checked on the stew. Taking a seasoned wooden spoon out from her bag, she scooped up a bit of the broth and tentatively took a sip.
When she did, Yuri had to resist the urge to recoil.
It was strong. The sharp and gamey scent from the boar stuck out from everything else. The herbs dampened it a bit, and the salt and pepper Yuri dashed in changed it enough to not be completely overwhelming. But it was still strong.
Then again, that was to her tongue. It was... probably fine for the others. But while it was fine to eat, it should probably simmer a bit more until the flavors came into balance.
Chihiro sighed and kept scrolling through her phone. But after a few swipes, she paused, as if realizing something. "...Hey. We're in the mountains near Hokkaido, right?"
Yuri left her spoon in the pot and then sat back. "Technically, we're still on the mainland. But pretty much. Why?"
Chihiro's eyes widened and she suddenly stood up. "D-Doesn't that mean that we're in man-eating bear territory!?"
Rin's eyes sparkled. "Man-eating bears?"
Shu laughed. "What are you worried about, Chi-chan? It's not like we'll get-"
Chihiro pointed at Shu with panicked eyes and said, "STOP! Don't finish that-"
"-Attacked by a bear or something."
And then Shu shrugged. "See?"
Chihiro tensed and then let out a sigh after seeing nothing happening. "...You're right. Maybe I was a bit too-"
A roar cut through the air, followed by the sounds of bamboo snapping. In the distance, a giant brown mass started getting closer.
Chihiro screamed and moved her hand to her side. But when she came up with nothing, her face paled.
Yuri felt her heart race as the brown mass... No, that was a giant brown bear.
Did it get drawn by the smell of cooking? Dammit, she should have realized that. But... What could they do now? Run?
No way. They'd get hunted down and killed.
This wasn't like the VR game where they had superpowers. So what-
Shu kicked off the ground and charged at the bear.
Yuri's eyes widened and she called out. "Shu! No!"
The bear roared and swung its giant limbs at Shu's head.
Yuri screamed and covered her eyes, not wanting to see her friend die in front of her eyes.
But then she heard a weird sound. A low grunt, like the bear was confused.
Yuri hesitated and then cracked a finger open to see what happened.
Shu wasn't moving. Her fists were raised and she was poised to throw a punch, her body turned to the side and wound up. But before she did, she froze.
And the bear had as well. Its limbs were raised, as if ready to pounce. But it didn't move.
Yuri was confused. And then she quickly realized why.
Bits of silver flashed beneath the bear's brown fur. Her entire knife set, over a dozen blades pinned in each of the bear's joints and locking it in place.
Before Yuri could finish talking, a blur shot past her. Rin, flipping through the air... with two metal kebab sticks in her hands?
She landed on the bear's shoulders.
At that time, the bear shuddered, as if trying to break free. But before it could do anything-
"I win, Mister Bear!"
A pair of silver flashes, followed by a burst of blood.
The bear's body finally gave out, collapsing on the ground and sending a few of Yuri's knives clattering against the floor.
Rin stepped on the bear's head and then stuck up her fingers in a victory pose. "Two wins for me!" She looked at Shu and said, "You'll have to try better next time, kouhai!"
"Argh!" Shu stomped her foot on the ground and said, "Not fair! I had it!"
Rin stuck her tongue out.
Yuri watched everything and then slowly turned to look at Chihiro.
Chihiro turned to look at Yuri as well. And for the first time, the two instantly understood each other, not needing to share a single word.
'...They're freaking crazy, right?'
Yuri and Chihiro shared a sigh and watched Rin and Shu get to work plucking out the rest of the knives in the bear.
...What a wacky wild weekend this was...