Luckily for Ichika, Tsukiyo seemed to have mostly forgotten about having to fight Sakura, or so she thought. Well, she obviously still had that goal in mind, but rather than doing it as fast as possible she told Ichika to recover as best as she could before making another move. Somehow, it seemed like she cared a bit more than before. But Ichika wasn’t about to question good things like these. And so, the days passed by relatively peacefully.
She had managed to build up quite a strange relationship with Sakura. It was the kind of relationship that neither of them was likely to acknowledge, but anyone could tell they were on friendlier terms now. Ichika at times helped Sakura out with her homework, per Sakura’s request. (She claimed Airu and Hinata were too busy lately to do so, so it couldn’t be helped.)
Actually, observing those two, they really did seem to be busier lately. Neither of them had any club activities (being a magical girl was time-consuming) but they politely declined any invitations to hang out with their classmates, and instead they both went directly home after school, usually together.
Sakura often left them behind on the way home. She had developed a habit of pretending to bump into Ichika so they could walk home together, doing it so often at this point she honestly didn’t need an excuse anymore.
Ichika wasn’t sure how to feel about all the attention she’d been receiving from the protagonist. Of course it was a good thing for her potential saviour to like her, but it was also dangerous. She hadn’t forgotten Tsukiyo’s threats.
Well, all she could do was enjoy this peace while it lasted, which likely wouldn’t be very long.
It wasn’t very long.
After only a week or three, it was already time for their school trip. Usually, such trips were for individual classes, but on this one the whole school would be going to the beach for a few days. The school honestly wasn’t that big, so it was manageable. While this was something Ichika had been looking forward to, she also dreaded it terribly. The plot had been progressing differently (progress being basically halted until Tsukiyo made up her mind about the course of action), but in the original series, Ichika’s first contact with Ririka had happened during this trip.
Yes, Ichika served Tsukiyo, and thus technically Ririka, but she’d never before met the actual boss in person. The reason was simple: she was sealed away by a powerful spell and could only appear temporarily using some sort of sacrifice.
This was quite dark for a children’s series, but the sacrifice could be anything, as long as it had importance to the person losing it. Things like a childhood toy worked just as well as blood (though blood was the most efficient way, probably).
The only way for Ririka to break the spell was either for someone to willingly sacrifice their life, or for them to slowly gather evil power from innocent humans. While Tsukiyo would probably gladly sacrifice herself, Ririka forbade her from doing so. Ichika wasn’t quite certain why, but it was likely because coming to life was kind of meaningless without a servant to protect her. If she was on her own, she’d probably be sealed away again before she had the chance to recover her magic powers and cause any real damage.
In the original series, Tsukiyo summoned her using a teddy bear belonging to one of the other students. Ririka gave them further instructions on how to deal with Sakura, but not before giving Ichika a serious talking to, wondering why this little brat hadn’t been eliminated yet.
This was honestly one of the scariest scenes in the show. Ririka looked furious, and her generally ghastly appearance didn’t help. Hopefully the summoning wouldn’t take place in this weird timeline.
Hinata was excited for this school trip. They’d be going to the beach! She’d get to swim and play in the water and, if she was lucky, Airu would join her.
She didn’t really cound on Sakura joining them. Sadly, that girl had lost much of her interest in the formerly so close group of friends. Well, that was probably to be expected. It was clear by now that she had some sort of crush on Ichika, and while Airu didn’t seem to approve, it was natural to want to spend time with the one you like rather than your other friends, right?
At least that was what Hinata thought. She followed this way of thinking herself as best as she could, so she couldn’t blame Sakura.
Airu felt a bit hurt. Before Ichika changed, Sakura and Hinata had been her closest friends. Now, she could probably only consider Hinata that. She didn’t get what was so good about this Ichika girl, anyway.
Hadn’t she bullied Sakura before? How could she change her mind so quickly? She didn’t trust her one bit. Ichika was probably still the same person deep down, doing this only to trick Sakura.
This school trip would be more boring than the others before it, she thought. Well, at least she had Hinata.
Sakura didn’t quite know how to feel.
She enjoyed spending time with Ichika, and found herself liking her more and more. But, in the end, Ichika was her enemy. She wasn’t quite willing to risk everything just for some kind of fling. Besides, maybe this was all some sort of plot designed to finally beat her? She couldn’t risk it.
But, judging from what Tsukiyo had told her, Ichika was genuine. She sighed. Was she leading the other on with this? She just needed a bit more time to fully get to know the situation, and to get to know her own feelings.
Maybe the school trip would help. Sakura was looking forward to it.
And so, it was finally time for said trip.
The students were divided by grade on the bus, Ichika ended up sitting next to a stranger who appeared very uninterested in her.
The ride there was quite boring, but she managed to enjoy herself a little by reading a book. The kinds of literature in this world was pretty much the same as in her own, although the authors and stories varied. Ichika had always enjoyed fantasy, and she almost finished the book when they arrived.
The rooms were divided based on their grade as well. This meant Ichika wouldn’t share a room with either Sakura or Tsukiyo, but after getting the paper detailing which students would end up in which rooms, it seemed she did end up in the same room as Hinata.
She looked over to Hinata, who appeared to have just read the same thing, and smiled and waved. Ichika didn’t know whether to smile and wave back, and so she pretended not to have seen it.
She didn’t talk to any of the other students, really. Hinata tried to start a conversation a few times, but she ended it quickly.
To be honest, she hadn’t really liked Hinata in the original series. She was tomboyish and cheerful, but kind of boring. Well, she couldn’t dislike her now that she saw her as an actual person. It was just that she was a bit too extraverted for Ichika, who was exhausted by this kind of personality. Sakura was a nice blend of talkative yet silent when she needed to be. The protagonist really was the best...
On their first day there, they didn’t do much. The teachers let the students play around as they liked on the beach, and they did without causing much trouble. For some reason, Tsukiyo was the only one wearing regular clothes instead of a swimsuit.
Ichika was just wearing her school swimsuit, like many others. Sakura was wearing a cute and frilly one, the same as she wore in the series. It suited her.
The next day, those who wanted would be taking a walk in the woods nearby. For this, they would be divided into smaller groups, each with their own route. Hinata and Airu chose not to, but Sakura and Ichika went.
They didn’t end up in the same group, though. Instead, Ichika ended up with Tsukiyo. Somehow, this gave her a bad feeling.
This bad feeling wasn’t wrong. When they’d walked a while, Tsukiyo quickly knocked out the three other students and the teacher supervising them.
Before Ichika, could react, she said this:
“Well, Anemone, it’s time to test where your loyalty lies. Don’t worry, these ones won’t remember anything that happened. However, the other group may get in danger...”
That was worrying to say the least.
In the original series, Tsukiyo had simply lead Ichika away from the group to summon Ririka. This time, she seemed to be targeting Sakura instead.
Ichika wanted to say something in reply, but Tsukiyo was already gone. Cursing under her breath, Ichika ran after her.
When she found Tsukiyo, she had already transformed into Aconite, and was now hiding in some bushes behind the other group.
“Oh, you’re here? Good. Watch and learn,” she whispered.
She drew out her soul flower and charged a great amount of energy. Clearly aiming at Sakura, she released it all at once.
And hit Ichika.
This amound of energy was enough to kill someone. Sakura wasn’t transformed right now, and she didn’t suspect anything. Ichika couldn’t afford to let her die. And so, she jumped out from the bushes, in front of this deadly burst of power.
She heard some yelling, but it sounded distant, and her vision was blurry.
Well, if this was how she died, at least she hadn’t summoned Ririka.
The throbbing pain in the back of her head was quite familiar to her. It wasn’t the first time she died, after all.
Maybe she’d even return to her own world. That’d be nice... though she’d miss Sakura a bit.
Slowly, her thoughts drifted away, as everything went black.
When she opened her eyes again, she heard arguing.
Both voices were all too familiar.
“You planned this, didn’t you!”
“She had to be tested some way or another! I needed to know whether she truly loves you that much.”
“And for that, you almost killed her!?”
“If she isn’t willing to die, then it’s worthless!”
Ahh, all this arguing hurt her head. Ichika decided to sleep a little while more, and closed her eyes. No one had even noticed she opened them.
Sakura was furious. She had quickly understood this was Tsukiyo’s doing. Who else would try to kill her like that?
But she couldn’t forgive the fact that Tsukiyo did this purely to trick Ichika into protecting her. Of course, Sakura was happy that Ichika was willing to go to such lenghts to save her, but had she really died, she’d make sure Tsukiyo joined her.
At least this confirmed Ichika’s feelings were genuine. But she couldn’t forgive Tsukiyo for this.
Tsukiyo meanwhile didn’t understand what the big deal was. Of course Ichika should be willing to die for the one she loved. Tsukiyo was fully prepared to do so for Ririka.
And in the end, she didn’t die, did she? She’d made sure not to charge enough energy to actually kill someone, though it did look like that from the outside.
Well, this meant she had to think over some things, though. Since Ichika really did like Sakura, she had to try and talk to Ririka.
She shuddered. She adored talking to Ririka, but she was still afraid of summoning her. It wasn’t that she wasn’t willing to, though. Sacrifices had to be made for love. Her fear was just a flaw she had to work on.
And so she stopped yelling at Sakura. She raised her chin, indicating that this argument was definitely not over yet, and left the room.
The room in question was a hospital room. Luckily, there was a hospital nearby, and Ichika was immediately brought there. The teachers and other students conveniently had their memory wiped, and Tsukiyo told them Ichika had fallen from a cliff somewhere.
In the end, Sakura and Tsukiyo had been the ones to accompany Ichika to the hospital, along with a teacher. She was wounded pretty badly, but still alive.
She felt a bit bad, but now that Sakura was alone with her, she had another opportunity to heal her soul flower.
As she let magic flow into it, she softly started crying.
She didn’t stop even after she was done. Instead, she buried her face in the blanket, and sitting next to Ichika, she cried herself to sleep.