The next day. Raira Academy.
Seeing Yahiro swollen-faced when he reached school, Himeka inched closer.
“What happened to your face…?”
Himeka asked this expressionlessly. Yahiro, through a large bandage, rubbed at the wound on his face as he replied.
“Ah, I just fell from the stairs.”
“Are you all right?”
She showed little expression, but it seemed she was in fact worried.
“My bones were fine and all, so yeah.”
“…You didn’t… happen to get into anything dangerous looking for the Headless Rider, right?”
“Ah, no, that’s definitely not the case.”
He was not lying.
It was not completely unrelated to the search for the Headless Rider, but that had certainly not been the cause of the incident.
“All right… Do take care.”
“Yeah, thanks.” “?”
Himeka was confused by how upbeat Yahiro was, but most likely she was not inclined to push the issue; she did not ask further about the injury on his face.
A strange atmosphere came on between them, and for a while both were speechless.
Destroying this atmosphere was Kuon as he reached the classroom.
“Mo~rning! Doing well?”
The green-haired boy said this with a bright smile, and without waiting for a reply, he pushed the conversation onward by himself.
“Hey, did you hear? Looks like the Headless Rider came back to the city last night, you know?”
“Oh, no, it’s not that I looked into the Headless Rider by myself, yeah? Just, it was reported on some information sites; right now it’s a rumour you can find even on Twitia.”
Kuon justified himself pre-emptively—but Himeka did not chide him, and only wore a complicated expression. Feeling obliged to change the pace,
Yahiro attempted to shift the conversation away from the Headless Rider.
“B, by the way, I wanted to get a TV or radio to put in my room. Is there anywhere nearby that sells cheap?”
“Aren’t you boarding? Your room doesn’t have that?”
“No… I say it’s boarding, but really I’m just borrowing one room at a house…”
Here Himeka raised her head as if she had thought of something.
“If you’re looking for that, there’s Sonohara Hall, it’s an antiques store near my place…”
“An antiques store?”
“It was always closed before, but last month it renovated and reopened. It seems the store was put up for sale but no one bought it over, so in the end it was started up again. I think in the storefront there was an old radio that might’ve been made of wood. But the other things on display were all unusual; old katanas and strange vases… The lady running the store graduated from this school, if I’m not wrong.”
“Wow… TV aside, that sounds like an interesting store.”
And Kuon replied:
“An alumnus? Well, well. Sounds like we can get to ask about the urban legends of the school and teachers’ weak spots and other interesting things, right? It’s a rare chance, why not the three of us try visiting today, together?”
“Don’t be so pushy.”
Yahiro, sighing, did not take up Kuon’s offer, but Himeka said, expressionlessly:
“I do want to talk to both of you more about the Headless Rider, too, so…”
“Really? Then it’s set!”
Kuon clapped his hands together, but Yahiro said, anxiously: “Ah, but I have some work with the library committee after school today…”
Even that aside, Yahiro was concerned about troubling Himeka, but—
“It’s all right. I’ll wait until you’re done.”
And with Himeka’s prompt answer, eventually, the three of them settled on traveling together after school.
After school. Raira Academy, 8th floor. The library.
“But is it really okay…? Though it should be fine if it’s not a bother…”
Yahiro mumbled as he arranged the newly-arrived books, and a senior called him:
The boy turned, thinking there could be a new task for him, and the senior pointed to the librarian’s room and said:
“The library committee president is calling you. He wants to talk or something.”
30 minutes later. The school entrance.
“I’m so sorry, I’m late.”
By the time Yahiro came running, Kuon and Himeka were both already waiting, having changed their shoes.
“Yo, was there trouble? Or just a lot to do?”
Kuon did not appear to be particularly angry, and asked this lightly.
“Ah, the work was fun, but I got called out by the library committee president.”
Yahiro nodded slightly to Himeka.
“Yeah… We talked a bit. He gave me his email address and all.”
“Oh? So… Is he choosing the next president?”
“No way. It’s only my second day in the committee.”
Yahiro changed his shoes as he said this, and Himeka said:
“But honestly, the library committee president, he looks really mature, doesn’t he. He has something of a philosophical air all the time.”
“Yeah. He really does have the feel of a committee president.”
Yahiro nodded enthusiastically, and Kuon said, lightly:
“Ah, that committee president—he’s almost an adult already, you know.”
Yahiro and Himeka appeared puzzled, and Kuon answered, innocuously.
“Apparently he got badly injured and was hospitalised for many months or something—he’s a retainee.”
Raira Academy, 8th floor. The library.
“Ryugamine-senpai, where should I put these? They’re reports from library committee members.”
The young man so referred to by his junior turned, while replying evenly:
“Oh, I’ll move that to the librarian’s room. Good work.”
The junior said this, and seeing that they had stood and left, the library committee president—Ryugamine Mikado—looked down to the school’s main gate from the window.
The figure of the boy with which he had had a certain conversation could be seen, with a girl and boy that looked to be his friends, heading for the city.
As he saw their silhouettes, a memory awoke in Mikado.
A memory of himself from three years ago, walking the streets exactly like that, with another boy and girl.
In the past, the young man had made his way through the whole of Ikebukuro.
He had been pulled into all sorts of events, occasionally starting some of his own, had even been submersed in the extraordinary of the city.
“Mizuchi Yahiro-kun… huh.”
With that experience, Mikado had laid hands on various pieces of information faster than most in the city.
“To be able to fight head-on with Heiwajima-san, amazing.”
The boy who had fought with Heiwajima Shizuo, who had said he came to Ikebukuro to see the Headless Rider. And the serial disappearances in the city, and the return of the Headless Rider.
He had returned to the ordinary, only: information like this reached his ears faster than most.
However, he had only given the underclassman advice, and made no attempt to involve himself with the legend in the making.
Because he understood that he, himself, was already an outcast from the extraordinary of the city.
As the face of his lover, who had already graduated, and that of his close friend, who had pulled out of high school and started work, came to his mind—he turned his gaze, once more, to the underclassmen that were seeking to entangle themselves with the Headless Rider.
As he smiled at their backs as they passed the school gates—Mikado murmured, softly.
“Welcome to Ikebukuro. I… wish you the best.”
And so the city of Ikebukuro began to writhe once more.
Currents new and old swirled together, to call forth a new wind between them.
And still, as to what would be born after the wind had passed, even the city itself knew nothing.