Burgund Haneiyuutan:Volume1 Chapter 2

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Chapter 2: The Holy Swordsman, the Family and the Secret Later in the afternoon, wandering around the campus, Shun ran into Bui again.

"Hey, isn't it you, Shun? What're you doing here?"

"Ah, Bui. So we meet again."

Having just said goodbye in the morning, it was awkward to run into each other again so soon.

"Did you by any chance come back because they forgave you?"

"I wish..."


"No chance, right," Bui whispers after seeing Shun's gloomy expression.

"So, what're you doing here then?"

"That's...I, you know, started to miss this place when I thought how I have to leave."

"Oh, right." Bui seemed to buy the explanation, but for Shun things were a bit worrisome. He had come here in the afternoon just like Sophie had told him to, yet he had to run into someone he knew right now, of all times. The place was also more crowded than usual, and it would be impossible to have a conversation even if Sophie did show up.

"What're you doing here, Bui? Shouldn't you be in class?"

"Did you forget? Today's classes were over at noon."

"Oh right, I think there was a notification about it before..." Shun had been so preoccupied with his own problems that he had complete forgotten.

"Some foreign big shots are coming to observe the campus today, so for security reasons students with no business to be here were told to beat it."

So that's why there had been so many students making their way to the dorms. "The reason famous knights like Lady Sophie and Sir Perde came to the academy yesterday was to plan for security."

"I see."

People coming to observe the academy was nothing out of the ordinary. Known as the Kingdom of Knights, Juvren's knights were the most skilled knights on the continent. The Knight Academy was also internationally acclaimed as the educational institution training those knights. Therefore many foreigners visiting the kingdom seemed to be keen on observing the campus.

"Hey, do you know who's coming to observe the campus tomorrow?"

"No clue."

"The Goodwill ambassador of the Shamune Empire, that's who!" The Shamune Empire is a country bordering the Kingdom of Juvren to the east. The neighboring countries had a relatively amicable relationship.

"But didn't the ambassador of that country already visit before?"

"The ambassador did. But this time he comes with his companions. Important people are coming, so the knights are really busy taking care of it.

"Important people?"

"The best knight in the Shamune Empire, the strongest swordsman on the continent - the Holy Swordsman."


 

Shamune Empire is also known as the Sword Empire. As the name suggests, the empire had always been strong on fencing. This was most clearly manifested in the system called the Common Swordsmanship Examination. It is a kind of technical skills test, commonly known as the Sword Exam. The examination measures a knight’s swordsmanship skills, and skilled knights are granted a title. The examination is quite influential and internationally recognized. The Holy Swordsman is the highest title in the examination. The title can only be held by one knight on the continent, making it the title every knight was dreaming of obtaining.

“The Holy Swordsman.. that Holy Swordsman? He comes all the way to see this school?” “I heard that he himself requested to observe this place,” Bui explained. “The Holy Swordsman is the best knight in the Shamune Empire, a true VIP. Such an important person is really coming all the way here. Even the higher-ups are on edge.”

“I figured as much.” Speaking of which, the vase Shun had broken the previous day had apparently also been a gift from the neighboring country. Probably from the Shamune Empire. Perhaps it had been put on display because the Holy Swordsman is coming. “Hm? Who is it?”

“Huh?” Bui pointed front. Over there standing in the shade of a tree was a girl they had never seen on campus before. She appeared about 10 years old. She was a slender, petite girl. She had astonishingly fair skin, and her hair was a light gray as if its color had faded. Her hair was so silky that it would flutter even in the gentlest breeze. She had lovely features, and she looked like she could be mistaken for a fairy.

However, her face held no expression, and she seemed mature for a child.

“I’ve never seen her before. She can’t be a student here. A girl like that would stand out.”

First off, her clothes were different. She was wearing light green clothing that revealed her snow white shoulders. Compared to other students wearing their uniforms, she was clearly different.

“Let’s just try talking to her.”

“You sure?”

“Hey, leave it to me. I have a lot of siblings, so I’m good at dealing with brats.”

“Isn’t it mean to call her a brat?”

“Huh? What’re you getting angry at?”

“Nothing.” He didn’t mean to get angry, but he was maybe being a bit emotional. Bui ignored Shun with a “Whatever” and approached the girl.

“Hey little girl. What’re you doing here?”

“…” The girl stared at Shun and Bui from below. Her expressionless face showed no emotion. Emotionless, she just kept staring at them.

“Are you lost? I can show you around.”

“Are you hitting on me?” the girl whispered. Her voice was quiet just like her appearance. Looking surprised, Bui waved his hand.

“Huh? No no no, that’s not it, I’ve no intention of hitting on you, relax.”

“…That’s what men always say.”

“No, seriously, I’m not like that, I swear, I swear, I swear!”

“You’re too shaken up, it’s suspicious.” The girl steps back as if trying to get away from Bui. Bui looked at Shun with an expression pleading for help.

“Sorry, Bui… You look suspicious to me, too.”

“Rude!”

“Huh?”

“…”

The girl was pinching the cuffs of Shun’s uniform with her small fingers.

“What is it?”

“I can go with this guy.”

“What! Why is Shun okay but I’m not!”

“I wonder why, hahahahaha…” Shun forced himself to laugh as Bui was losing his cool. Frankly speaking, Shun knew this girl. However, the truth was a secret, so he had to feign ignorance. It was the same as with Sophie.


“Shit, what’s going on. Shun, you’ve been getting all the girls lately. Wait, your expulsion was a punishment from the gods for being too popular with girls, that has to be it,” Bui launches into a tirade. Even if he was biased, that was still a horrible thing to say.

“Ah,” muttered the girl.

“What’s wrong?”

“They found us.”

“Huh?”

“She’s here!”

A gust of wind blew past, and the next moment people appeared before them. Those people were moving so fast that the wind pressure made a violent gust of wind sweep over them.

There were three of them. They were all robust men. Each of them was wearing the uniform of a royal knight and carrying a sword on his back. You didn’t often see them on campus, but they seemed to be actual knights.

“We found her. Third Block in the north. She doesn’t seem to be injured,” one of the knights spoke to his Magic Mobile. Meanwhile another knight approached the girl, kneeling down to talk to her.

“May I ask you to return, Holy Swordsman?”

“…” The small girl answered the knight’s question with a stare stripped of emotion.

“Huh? …Hey, Shun, what’s going on? That knight just said…”

“This girl seems to be the Holy Swordsman.”

“This kid?” Bui shudders in horror. It doesn’t probably make much sense to him to hear that this little girl before them is the strongest knight on the continent. Although Shun did know it from the start…

“Students, huh. Get lost, you two,” a knight with his eyes fixed on Shun and Bui told them in a high and mighty manner.

“This lady is not someone you guys can just go up to and have a nice chat with! Leave, now!” the knight proclaimed, treating Shun and Bui like a nuisance.

Shun was not too happy about it, but talking back to an official knight was out of the question.

“Let’s go, Shun.”

“Yeah.” Shun decided to simply leave… However.

“You shouldn’t go.” The Holy Swordsman girl stopped Shun.

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“…Because it’ll probably be here soon,” the girl muttered looking up. Not knowing what she meant, Shun was utterly confused.

“What should we do?”

“Our mission hasn’t changed. Let’s take her to the original place.” The knights were talking among themselves. The girl remarked, “Everyone, you shouldn’t move. It’s already here.”

“What is?” The girl raised her gaze without saying a word. Shun followed her gaze and saw something glimmering high in the skies. A shrilling sound traveled the air. It appeared to be coming from the Magic Mobile of one of the knights. It seemed like an emergency buzzer.

“Yes, hello…Yes. What did you say? Air warning net? But that’s ridiculous!?” Shun could hear panic in the knight’s voice. Meanwhile the mysterious object shining in the sky was becoming larger… Ooooooooo, bang! A terrible shock ran over them. The gigantic thing had come crashing down.

“What’s going on!”

“Monster! There’s a monster!” The knights scream and shout. Meanwhile a black shadow had suddenly fallen over Shun and the others. They heard a deafeningly loud sound. It only took a moment for them to realize that it was a roar let out by the creature before them. A massive creature had appeared. Many times the size of a human, it was like a house. You could say it resembled a lion. Only it was many times larger than a lion, and it had massive wings on its back. It probably flew here on those wings. Its body was covered with fur that was like wire, and it had opened wide its jaws large enough to swallow multiple people at once, threatening the people around it. For a living creature it was all too big, and just looking at its frenzy and brutal appearance was enough to make one fall into despair. A monster – a creature not originally from Burgund. During the Northern War, the Demon Lord bought monsters from the Dark Continent to this continent to used them as weapons. During the war, these monsters were weapons used to torment the mankind. Even after the war ended and the Demon Clan was banished from the continent, the monsters remained. Rather, with no enemies to hunt them, the monsters were able to freely roam Burgund and breed, occasionally attacking humans and becoming an international problem.

“You filthy monster!” Unafraid of the monster that had appeared so abruptly, the three knights moved swiftly into positions to corner the monster. They were communicating with mere looks as they drew out their swords and aimed them at the monster like the professionals they were.

”You, get out of here! Do you want to die!” one of the knights shouted at Shun and Bui who hadn’t escaped yet. Shivering in fear after witnessing a monster at close distance from the first time in his life, Bui pulled Shun by his clothes.

“Hey, let’s get outta here! It’s dangerous here!”

“You go first, Bui,” Shun shook off Bui’s hand and ran to the opposite direction.

“Hey! Idot! Where do you think you’re going!”

“I can’t just leave her!” The petite girl with gray hair remained cool and composed even in such a situation. She looked at the monster as if it bored her, not even trying to move. Shun hurried to her side.

“Hey, we need to escape.”

“…I won’t escape,” the girl said promptly. Shun suddenly felt like screaming.

“It’s pointless to escape now. You’ll be expelled.” Shun did not really understand what she meant.

”Alright, keep up with me!”

“We get it!” The three knights confronting the monster all gripped their swords. The handles of their swords slide, made a metallic sound. Simultaneously small shell cases came out from the side. The next moment a blue light wrapped the three knights. “Imperial Clock” The three knights moved at the speed of sound, starting a glorious battle against the enormous monster. “Imperial Clock” is sorcery. It is a technique that allows one to forcefully boost their physical abilities by overloading the ”Mana” flowing in one’s body. Using this technique enables knights to move and think at abnormal speed. Only knights can use this technique, so to put it the other way around, only those who possess the qualities needed to use the “Imperial Clock” can become knights. However, the “Imperial Clock” requires a large amount of “Mana”, and even among knights those possessing a large amount of “Mana” in their body are rare. Therefore nowadays “Mana” is artificially produced in factories and then processed and turned into “Mana Bullets” used in swords. These bullets are used in combat to guarantee enough “Mana” for “Imperial Clock”.

The three shining blue knights were moving around the monster at ultra high speed, watching for a chance to slash at the foe in the commotion. While two of the knights were distracting the monster, the remaining knight slashed at it from behind, and if the monster turned around, the opposite knight attacked without a moment’s delay. Knights in “Imperial Clock” mode can move freely like the wind, so fast that an ordinary man would not even be able to see them. Even though Shun was a bad student, he was still an apprentice knight which meant that he was able to follow the knights’ movement with his gaze.

“…No good,” the gray-haired girl muttered next to Shun.

“They can’t win like that.”

“But the knights seem to be on top of their game?”

“It’s no good,” bitter words fell from the girl’s small lips. The next moment they heard a loud bang of something heavy crashing. The monster was swaying its arms like large trees. The arms were enormous yet swift as they moved, hitting one of the knights without giving him a chance for counter-attack. With just one hit the knight’s body was slapped onto the ground, rolling as if boring holes to the ground as it was blown off into the distance.

The monster had started to emit a blue light like the knights. That’s right, monsters born with a large amount of “Mana” in their body can also use the “Imperial Clock”. That is why monsters can only be beaten by knights.

“Shit, it’s Fred!” shouted one of the knights, thrusting his sword into the monster’s direction. However, the monster simultaneously sways its opposite arm, counter attacking the knight.

“Haaaaaaa,” another knight saw his chance and attacked with his sword from behind, thrusting the sword into the enormous monster, or so it seemed.

“No good,” the girl muttered. At that moment the knight’s body was catapulted into the sky. “’Cave Lion’ has a wide field of vision. It doesn’t have any blind spots.” The last knight standing was knocked out right before Shun’s eyes. The fallen knights lay sprawled on the ground, not trying to get up. It was a desperate situation. In the blink of an eye three formal knights had been left unable to fight.

Yet people remaining are Shun the failed apprentice knight and Bui who lost his chance of escape from being paralyzed with fear. Moreover, the Holy Swordsman girl standing behind them was unfortunately unarmed. They couldn’t even escape, let alone beat the monster. However, there was a sword lying on the ground in front of Shun. It belonged to one of the knights to took a beating. Unhesitatingly, Shun picked up the sword. “Confirm….” “Deliberate…..” Shun heard a voice inside his head. It was a voice he sometimes heard when he was extremely nervous. Other people didn’t seem to hear it, so considered it some kind of an auditory hallucination. “Deliberation….Complete….” “……Return.” To Shun the auditory hallucinations were a forewarning of something bad. Whenever he heard this voice, something bad was going to happen to him. After hearing this voice in an exam during his first year at the academy, he got the worst grade the history of the school.

After hearing this voice at the end of his second year at the academy, he suffered an unbelievable 78 consecutive defeats in combat training. It was so bad that he was only able to advance to the next grade out of pity. Now he had heard the one voice he did not want to hear in such a situation. It was too sinister. The monster was roaring before Shun, trying to intimidate him. He was honestly scared. Shun’s skills may not be enough to have a real battle. However, the sword goes off with a bang. Hot “Mana” flowed in Shun’s body… He had no choice but to do this. Only Shun was able to protect the girl now. In that case, if Shun didn’t do it, who would have!

“Alright, monster! I’m your opponent…”

“You don’t need to do that.” The girl standing behind grabbed Shun by the arm. Her grip was surprisingly strong and almost made Shun fall down.

“What do you want!”

“It’s dangerous to go further.”

“But I have to fight.”

“Tin will fight so just stay back.”

The girl – Tin – uttered and quickly grabbed the sword from Shun’s hand. Without showing any signs of fear, she approached the raging monster. Losing control of himself, Shun jumped to shield her. Shun didn’t even have a sword, so the monster could crush him into pieces with one hand. There was nothing Shun could do… He should have known it very well, yet his body moved on its own. Wanting to protect Tin no matter what, he went to block the monster. However.

“It’s dangerous for you to be there.”

With a loud bang, the monster fell on its knees right before Shun.

“I already killed it, so it’ll fall this way.”

Split in half, the monster’s body fell to the ground with an earth-shaking thud, black blood gushing out. The monster was obviously dead.

“Ha, hahaha…” Shun can’t help giving a laugh… It all happened so fast that he didn’t know when Tin had killed the monster. It was so amazing that laughing was really the only reaction he was capable of. Tin glimpsed at the sword in her hand. Few drops of blood had stained the sword that had pierced the monster.

”Here,” Tin said and put the sword back in Shun’s hand who was just standing still. Shun accepted the sword without moving. Shun heard noise from a distance, and he felt a large number of people coming near.

“This is where we got the call from!”

“Where’s the monster!?”

“It’s already dead!”

“What happened!”

Confused voices filled the air as dozens of knights rushed to the scene a moment too late. The knights had all arrived after hearing about the appearance of a monster, and they were all prepared for action with their swords drawn out.

“You rascal, what’re you doing here!” the person raging at Shun is Perde, who has arrived with the other knights by his side. He seemed to remember Shun’s face very clearly. This was bad.

“Ah, um, ahahahaha, what a coincidence…”

“Well, whatever, now is not the time to be dealing with urchins like you!” Perde spat out, glaring at the scene with sharp eyes.

“What’s the situation here!”

“Monster ‘Cave Lion’ came through the air warning net. We have just identified its dead body.”

”To have allowed it to get this close to the king is a disgrace! Summon the person in charge of defense immediately!” Perde shot instructions at the knights with a grim face.

“And where is the lost Holy Swordsman?”

“We were informed that she is here…”

“…You called me?” Tin quietly stepped forward. Perde grimaced.

“Your running around on your own hinders the amicable relations of our countries.” “I saw a monster flying and got intrigued and came to check what’s going on,” Tin replied without flinching.

“I see… Are you not hurt?”

“I’m fine. Because that guy saved me.”

“Huh?” Tin had suddenly pointed at Shun. Perde’s eyes were about to pop out.

“What did you say?”

“That guy killed the monster.”

“Is, is that true? This man did something so inordinate?”

Perde stared at Shun in disbelief. He fixed his eyes on the bloody sword in Shun’s hand. Shun replied fluster, “It’s, how should I put, I didn’t really…”

“He beat the monster with one blow. He’ll surely become a great knight.”

Hearing the Holy Swordsman’s words of praise, Perde let out a groan.

“That is… However, that man…”

“Captain, is everything alright?” The voice belonged to Sophie. She had joined the other knights to get here.

“Lady Sophie.”

“The three knights who first came to report the incident are being taken care of. They were attacked by the monster and injured, but fortunately their wounds are not life-threatening.”

“Take them to the infirmary immediately. Ask them about the incident after their wounds have been treated.”

“Yes the dead body of the reported monster has been confirmed, so the threat seems to have passed.”

“Leave the cleanup to the disposal unit. Keep guarding the area and don’t let your guard down.”

“Understood.”

Sophie nodded and briskly steped back. Even though she was among knights who were clearly older than her, Sophie showed no restraint, and instead even gave orders to the other knights. Although young, she looked like a woman capable at her job.

“Let us also go now for there are other people waiting for us,” Perde and Tin hurried away accompanied by a group of knights… As Perde was about to take his leave, he gave Shun a glare. Shun told him to take care, which made him look increasingly sullen, and then he was gone.

“Did it go well?” Sophie had appeared behind Shun. In a small voice that can only be heard by Shun she whispered, “Tin also seems to have done a great job.”

“Did you do something, Sophie?”

“I’ll tell you later… However, there should be no need for you to submit an application for withdrawal now.” Sophie said no more and left without making a sound. After she was gone, a fair scent like flowers in spring filled the air.

By the way, the knights had protected Bui who had been too frightened to escape. Fortunately, he was unhurt.

  That night – the Royal Palace of Bernard Pi

The king and the royal family live in the palace, and it is also the place where large numbers of knights gather and government affairs are carried out. It is the center of the kingdom. A report was given in its most important room, the State Chamber where the king and his knights gather to make various decisions.

“Because of the aforementioned reasons, the monster that broke through the air warning net of our country was slain on the grounds of the Knight Academy in the eastern part of the royal city.”

Perde was the one giving the report. He continued with a stiff expression, “Reinforcements were immediately placed to the line of defense where the problem occurred. The same situation may not occur ever again.”

“Good if that really were the case,” a solemn voice replies. It belonged to the man sitting on the throne at the far end of the chamber – the current monarch Sharm IV.

The king was an old man. His face was covered with wrinkles, but his body was so toned that one would not think it belonged to an elderly man. A thick moustache framed his dignified face, making him appear regal.

“Damage caused by monsters is increasing every year.”

“We are doing everything we can, but I am afraid it is difficult to handle all monsters that have the ability to move about freely.”

“Hmm. I do believe that the knights are doing their best with limited manpower.”

“The knights must be pleased to hear those words.” Perde and the rest of the knights in the chamber all bowed their heads.

“Regardless, a monster appearing upon the arrival of an imperial envoy poses a problem. We were witnessed in the most unpresentable state.”

“I can only offer an apology. The persons in charge have been dismissed. We are all going to work diligently to keep this from happening again.”

“Hm, it is consoling to think that the Holy Swordsman was not injured at the scene,” the king opened his eyes as if having realized something. “Indeed, when I met the Holy Swordsman a while ago, she was extremely pleased. I heard she had met an extraordinary student at the Knight Academy.”

Perde was looking down, but his eyebrows twitched. It was because the king’s words rang a bell.

“Faced with a raging monster so strong that it had taken down three knights in the blink of an eye, the student was not agitated, and instead slew the monster with a single stroke, I hear.”

“…That must have been sheer good luck.” “Really? As a knight you ought to realize the brutality of the monster, Perde. Usually multiple knights are needed to beat that monster. It is a marvelous achievement for someone to slay it alone, and a mere apprentice knight at that.”

“If luck is also considered a skill, it is as you say, your Highness.”

“Quite a severe judgment, Perde.” The king stroked his beard and continued, “Both the Holy Swordsman and the Imperial Ambassador sang the boy’s praises, marveling how in the Kingdom of Knights even apprentice knights are extraordinary. It made me feel quite proud.”

“…I have no words to express my gratitude for those generous compliments.”

“Now, who is this extraordinary student?”

Perde’s eyebrows twitched again. The face of Shun came to him, the face of the student who had hit him in the head with a vase the other day.

“He is…”

“His name is Shunavran Norve Harvest, your Highness,” someone replied. Perde turned around and saw Sophie sitting at the end of the table and raising her hand.

“Lady Sophie, I thought I told you refrain from speaking unnecessarily!”

“No, let her talk. You have my permission,” the king urged Sophie in order to silence Perde.

“Lady Sophie, do you know this student?"

“Yes, he is the same age as me. We took classes together in the academy.”

“Is that so. Indeed, not even two years have passed since you graduated the academy.”

Looking at the king nodding made Perde feel sick. The youngest person in history to become a knight and even allowed to attend political meetings, Sophie was the apple of the king’s eye. It was thanks to the support that Sophie had been able to get so far so young. Perde was not too happy about it.

“Now tell me, is the boy extraordinary?”

”As far as I am aware, he possesses both qualities required from a knight. Kindness and a strong heart. His justice-loving heart is parallel to none, surpassing every knight.” Sophie commended Shun’s spirit before Perde could speak, and the king became increasingly delighted hearing Sophie’s words of praise.

“If Lady Sophie so insists, then he must be an extraordinary man.” This is bad, Perde thought. He could not simply proclaim that in reality, Shun was the bottom of the class. “However, it is interesting that the boy is the same age as Lady Sophie. It seems your generation has many excellent knights.”

“Yes, Princess Lulithia is also our peer, so there are many excellent students who have been inspired by her.”

“I see. Hahaha, oh dear. This makes me a silly parent doting on his daughter. Isn’t it so, Perde?”

“…Not at all, Princess Lulithia truly is extraordinary.” That was the only answer Perde could give. The king adored his young daughter. One must not have a slip of tongue. “Oh, that brings to my mind,” the king claps his hands. “The student called Shunavran. I thought I had heard the name somewhere before, and I remember it now. Lulithia mentioned in a letter that I received this afternoon.”

“From the princess?” A cold sweat appeared on Perde’s forehead. It didn’t promise well. The situation was not favorable to Perde.

“Hm, Lulithia wrote in her letter than she has an excellent classmate who has been expelled due to an unfortunate misunderstanding. I reckon that student was called Shunavran.”

“…” Perde had feared that this story would become public.

“Hear me, Perde. I do indeed love Lulithia. However, I do not intend to give her special treatment. When I read the letter, I did not know what misunderstanding the student was a victim of, but if the academy has so decided, I will not interfere.”

“…Is that so.”

“However, having heard what the Holy Swordsman and Sophie have to say, I cannot but consider him a truly extraordinary apprentice knight. Is it true that this student will be expelled?”

“…I am not aware of everything that goes around at the academy, I’m afraid. You ought to consult Sir Effy, the principal, if you wish to be sure.”

“Hm… Alright then. By the power vested in me as the King of Juvren, I shall knight this student called Shunavran.”

“What…what did you say?” Perde’s face had turned pale like a corpse. However, the king calmly said to Perde, “he killed a monster by himself, surely he is more skilled than even a high-ranking knight. According to Lady Sophie, his character is also impeccable. I do not mind such a person becoming a knight immediately.”

“Your Highness… I’m afraid skipping a grade is an old custom rarely practiced these days. Lady Sophie’s case is an exception. We should not permit exceptions frequently.”

The king seemed to take Perde’s words into consideration.

“Hm, right now is perhaps too hasty… Well then, I will exempt him from the graduation examination.”

“As you will.” And thus the meeting ended in a manner that was truly objectionable from Perde’s point of view.

 

The next day at the Knight Academy

“I did not expect to see you again.”

“Me neither, Ms. Muska.” Shun had yet again been summoned to the office, and was now confronting Muska.

“How on earth did you do it? This morning all of a sudden I was summoned by the principal who told me that your expulsion has been revoked.”

“I didn’t really do anything… But this means I don’t have to leave the academy now, right?”

“Yes, in fact the principal told me to never let you go. What does that even mean?” Muska shrugged her shoulders.

“Well, fortunately my letter of resignation also became invalid, so I’m glad.”

“So if I resit the exam next week, I’ll be able to take the graduation exam?”

“Actually, the resit got canceled.”

“What do you mean? If I don’t resit the exam, I can’t graduate…”

“Calm down. It’s not bad news,” Muska explained.

“I don’t really understand it myself either, but there was pressure from the higher-ups to ensure that you become a knight… So it’s not just the resit, you’ve been exempted from all exams.”

“Huh? Huh? Huh?”

“In other words, you have been knighted unofficially. If you keep on attending classes, you can graduate without an examination and become a knight. It’s written in stone.”

“Is that even possible?”

“Not usually, but excellent students may be exempted from the graduation examination. The royalty and nobles are sometimes exempted.”

“…That sounds a bit lurid.”

“Don’t tell anyone that I told you.”

Maybe Shun was imagining things, but Muska seemed healthier and more energetic than ever before. She was a complete different person from the gloomy woman always troubled by stomach-ache.

“How should I put this… Having to deal with you has taken so much of my time until now, your whole existence has been like a thorn on my side and I’ve pretty much considered you a problem child, but I’m deeply moved by your unofficial knighting…”

“Ms. Muska, did you think about me that way…” Shun had not known that he had been such a burden to Muska.

“It hasn’t really hit me yet, but I’ve really become a knight, right?”

“It’s pretty certain that you will become a knight at this point. I just want to make this extra sure, if you cause any trouble now, your knighting may be canceled, so behave yourself. “

“No need to remind me…”

“Have you already forgotten what you did two days ago!”

“You are right.” That incident had led to this. Shun had to be careful. After being reminded to be careful by Muska over and over again, Shun was finally free to leave the office.

“…Ah.”

“….”

As Shun was making his way back from the office, he noticed Lulithia walking towards him from the opposite direction. She was walking quietly with Ange right behind her. Even though she was merely walking, there was something about her that made her different from the other students. Her movements as she walked were effortlessly elegant. For a moment, Shun’s eyes met Lulithia’s. However, Lulithia quickly turned her gaze away, and continued to walk as if nothing had happened, walking past Shun without saying a word. “Thanks,” Shun turned around to say a word of thanks to her back. Lulithia finally stopped.

“It was nothing.”

“Still, I’m grateful.” Shun thanked her again, but Lulithia turned around as if to say something more important.

“The rumor has it that you slew a monster all by yourself?”

“Huh? Ah, yeah, right, well, you see…” Shun stuttered. The one who killed the monster was the Holy Swordsman girl, Tin. However, Shun had received the glory. Many people had asked him how he really beat the monster, but he tried to make something up every time. “You see, I was just completely absorbed in wielding my sword, and then I somehow just killed the monster, you know, hahahaha…”

“…”

This is bad. Lulithia had sunken into silence, and Ange was looking at Shun with suspicious eyes. This was bad. This fabricated story was not believable.

“Now, now, I just got lucky, really.”

“…I would not expect anything less from you, Mr. Shunavran,” Lulithia surprisingly praised Shun.

“I want to see those monster-slaying skills of yours in class one day.”

“Huh? Oh no, you are a straight-A student, so I am nothing compared to you…”

“That is not true, I am aware of your outstanding abilities.”

“What?”

Why is she overestimating me all of a sudden?

“Yes, I know your powers…”

“Um, what do you mean?”

“I look forward to dueling you in class.” Lulithia smiled sweetly like a flower, excused herself and quietly walked away. Shun was left there cocking his head in puzzlement. However, no matter how hard he tried to think, he was not able to come up with an answer. Lulithia was a princess but also his classmate. Shun was supposed to have no connection to her, yet somehow they had become close enough to have a normal conversation. The self-important attitude of a princess and her enigmatic words were sometimes a bit annoying, but other than that, talking with Lulithia wasn’t all that bad. Shun was also a guy, after all. Who wouldn’t be happy if a beautiful princess spoke to them… The easy-going Shun truly believed so.

  "Shun, you going somewhere?"

“Yeah, I’m thinking of visiting my parents to share the news.”

The following weekend, Shun was packing up in his dorm room.

“Ah, right, you were unofficially knighted… Shit, I’m jealous,” Shun’s roommate Bui grumbled. The rumor of Shun’s unofficial knighting had quickly spread among his classmates, leaving many students ponder why Shun had been chosen.

“Yeah, my family promised to throw me a party, so I asked for a permission to spend the night off-campus and go home.”

“Hey, how do you get knighted unofficially? I wanna become one, too.”

“Well, in my situation, it was sheer luck…”

“Damn you, acting modest. Just wait, I’ll pass the graduation exam and become a knight!”

“Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.”

Shun had finished packing and was preparing to leave.

“I’ll be off then.”

“Have a safe trip.”

“Yeah, see you.”

“Hey, Shun.”

”Yeah?” Slightly blushing, Bui turned around and said, “congrats on your unofficial knighting.”

“Yeah, thanks. Bui.” Even though this friend was jealous of Shun, he was also happy for Shun’s unofficial knighting. That realization made Shun even happier than the unofficial knighting. After saying goodbye to Bui, Shun left the dorm.

All people have secrets. There is no person who doesn’t have any secrets. More precisely, you cannot live in as a member of society without creating secrets. There are small secrets and big secrets, but Shun was aware that compared to other people, the secret he holded is quite big. Shun was walking at the outskirts of the royal capital. This area is the target of a development project, and in the future the royal capital will expand here, but as of now it is still mostly vacant land. It is night. Large “Magic Lanterns” have been placed along the road, so night in the royal capital is illuminated.

“Magic Cars” drove past Shun. “Magic Cars” are four-wheeled vehicles that run on “Mana”. They have experienced significant development in the past few years. Even small cars are quite expensive, so the general public cannot afford vehicles. Regardless, quite many “Magic Cars” run the streets of the royal capital day and night. Moreover, large “Magic Cars” are used to public transportation in the capital. Shun also traveled by “Magic Car” from the academy to the capital. This advancement of magic technology showed how well-developed the royal capital was. Shun could already see his house. There was a single house with a red roof standing in the middle of a vacant land. That was Shun’s house, the current home of his parents. This house holds Shun’s big secret. Light was shining through the window. Shun’s family seemed to be home already. Shun stepped inside with his heart pounding.

“I’m home…”

“Shun, welcome home.”

The first person to greet Shun was a woman with a particularly carefree manner of expression.

“We heard it! You’ve become a knight!”

“I haven’t been knighted yet. It’s still unofficial.”

“It’s all the same to me! Amazing, Shun. Your big sis is really happy!” the woman approached Shun, reaching out to Shun’s head with her hands and pulling him into a hug.

“Hey sis, what are you doing!?”

“What, just showing you some sisterly love.”

“Sis, stop it, you’re touching me all over the place!”

“It’s alright, this is your reward for working so hard! I’ll tell you you’ve been a good boy, just like when you were little!”

“I’m not a kid anymore!” Her feminine and voluptuous bosom pressed against Shun’s face, making Shun feel embarrassed, awkward and all around uncomfortable. She seemed to enjoy Shun’s reaction, putting more force into the hug, and petting Shun’s head as if he was a child. Her name was Aria Nico Boltule. She was Shun’s family member and three years his senior. They have a different surname, but that is because of the situation Shun is in. Aria is about the same height as Shun. She has wavy hair with a tint of red, and she is always smiling. She is a beauty for sure, but her aura of innocence made her easy to approach. Aria was wearing a white, see-through bow blouse and a pair of skinny jeans. Even among the siblings she had grown the quickest, and you could see her curves even through her clothes. Although currently those curves were pressed against Shun’s face. Shun was in trouble. “Little Sister Kick!” Shun got kicked in the butt. The kick made Shun lose his balance and trip over to the floor. Oh my, Aria whispered and quickly got off Shun, so Shun alone fell to the floor.

“Why do you get all flushed when hugged by Aria, Shun?” Someone spoke to Shun in a determined voice. Holding his butt, Shun got up and turned around to look at the person the voice belonged to.

“That was mean, Chro.”

ILLUSTRATION

“Ha!  I thought things would get better once you became a knight, but I was wrong.  Shun is still the stupid Shun I knew from before”

A small girl was looking up at Shun from below.  Her blonde hair is tied up on the side.  She was born with odd-eye, or different colored eyes, one red, one blue.  Her black dress had many frills.  She had a bright appearance.  Chrollo Rorosé Dange.  She is Shun’s sister, often called Chro.

“Also, don’t forget, you’re just Shun, don’t call me by my first name!”

“Ok, but Chro, you call me by my first name too, don’t you?”

“Of course.  You’re useless Shun.  Compared to a genius like me, you are worthless.  I can call you by your first name if I feel like it.”

She hasn’t changed a bit, thought Shun.  She is the youngest girl in the house and for some reason, she always rebels against Shun.  “Awe, Chro-chan, you seem so embarrassed”

Watching over Chro, Aria was smiling with her hands on her cheeks.  “Chro-chan was really excited to see you back here Shun.  She was walking around the entrance for a while.  But because you were so late, she’s a bit angry.”

“Argh, Aria!  I told you not to say that to Shun!”

“You don’t have to hide it Chro, you’re so cute” Aria tried to tap Chro on her head, but Chro refused with all her might.  This was a familiar family scene for Shun.  Seeing this made Shun feel right back at home.

“Well, let’s celebrate, Shun is becoming a knight.  We are going to party tonight.  Tin-chan will cook her best meals tonight.”

“Nice”

“Hey brother, welcome home.” A girl appeared from the kitchen.  She was a small girl with shiny grey hair.  She was the holy swordsman Tin,  Tin Da Loris.  She became a sword master when she was only 10.  She was the youngest person to become a sword master.  She is Shun’s sister, and also one of the best swordsman in the land.

“Hey, thank you Tin.  It’s been a day, right?”

“Mhm.  Dinner’s ready.”

“You cooked for me?  Thank you always”

“No problem.  I like cooking.”

Tin is Shun’s younger sister.  She is 1 year older than Chrollo.  When he met her on campus, she was dressed properly, but at home Tin wore no-sleeve turtleneck with a pleated skirt.  She wore a blue apron on top.  Her pale slender arms and legs stood out.  At the kitchen, there was a gorgeous meal prepared, just like the sisters said.  Shun took a seat at the end of the table.  After all, this was a dinner to celebrate his achievements.  Aria, Tin, and Chro arrived, but there was one more seat left.  Somebody is not here.

“Well, Shun is already back, so let’s start.”

“Are you sure?”

“Well, we can wait, but she seems pretty busy these days...”  Shun was about to say they should wait, then...

Thump!

“Sorry I’m late, I was working late.”

“Hey there, welcome home Sophie-chan.”

“You’re late!”

“Welcome home sister”

There stood a beautiful girl that shines like a full moon in the night sky.  She had shiny hair.  An almost transparent white skin.  Thin chin like a doll.  Eyebrows with an elegant curve.  Eyes like the blue sky.  Lips like the flower of a cherry blossom.  Every part of her face was perfect, it was like art.  Shun knew her, because she was his sister who was 1 year younger than him.  She is Sophie a Blanc Silver, an upper-class knight in the First Knight Army “End Knights Army” of Juvren.  She was still wearing her knight outfit.  She must have came straight from the Royal Palace.  She was sweating too.  She was probably in a rush to come home.  “Well, now that Sophie is back, let’s get this party started.”  So with every family member at the table, Aria began Shun’s celebration dinner.  Yes, this is Shun’s secret.  Sophie is an extremely talented girl who graduated earlier than anyone from the academy and got a position at the Royal Palace.  She broke many records at the Knight Academy of Juvren.  Tin is another talented girl who became the youngest “Sword Master” in the Shamune Empire.  She is said to be the strongest swordsman in the land. They are both sisters of Shun.  But this is top secret.  They are the only ones who know about this secret.  But unlike his sisters, Shun was almost expelled from the Knight Academy.  He was a loser.  He isn’t anything like his sisters.  Even more, he didn’t have the great looks like his sisters.  Aria and Chrollo are both talented as well in their own fields.  In terms of social status, Shun doesn’t stand a chance.  Realizing all of these, Shun felt a bit disappointed.

“What’s wrong Shun?  You seem down.”  Said Aria, looking at Shun’s face.  Holding a glass with a red liquid, Aria came over.  She seems pretty happy.

“You’re drinking quite a lot.”

“Of course, today is a day to celebrate~.  You should drink too Shun-chan~”

“No, I’m okay”

“Come on, come on~”  Aria poured alcohol into Shun’s glass anyways.

Well, just a bit won’t hurt, thought Shun.  “

Bro, you seem depressed” said Tin.

“You don’t like the food I cooked?”

“No, it’s delicious”  This was true.  Tin can handle a sword and cook too.  When the family gets together like this, it’s usually Tin who cooks up a meal.

“This is beef boiled in red wine.  It’s quite tasty”  Tin said confidently.  Shun took a bite of the beef.  It crumbled down in his mouth.  The taste of the meat was still there, and the slightly sour taste wrapped up everything quite nice.  The butter melted in the sauce added an even richer flavor.  “Yes, it’s so good.  But when did you have time to cook something like this?”  There were many dishes on the table.  It was hard to believe she cooked all of these in a short amount of time.  “Well I’ve been in this country for a while now, so I popped out whenever I was free and prepared it.”

“Free time...  Do you get a lot of those at the Friendship Mission?”

“Yup”  nodded Tin...  It was uncertain how she managed her time, but with her brain, it was probably possible.

“Oh, about last time”

“Hm?”

“It’s dangerous, so you shouldn’t step in front of me”

Was she talking about when we were attacked by a beast?  Shun did take a step forward to protect Tin.

“Well, I know Tin is stronger, but my body just moved”

“You shouldn’t push your luck though, you can’t defeat the beast anyways”

“Urgh...”  Shun choked on words.  It’s true, but hearing it straight like that hurts.

“You’re weak”

“Urgh”

“Even if you’re upside down, you can’t beat Tin”

“Urgh”

“You should stay quiet and out of Tin’s way”

“Ugh!”

Tin doesn’t mean to offend him.  She is just innocently telling the truth.  But that was more reason to hurt Shun.

“...But I was a bit happy to see you do that”

“What?”  Shun couldn’t hear the last words, so he lifted his head up.  Tin had already stopped talking and was eating her meal.  She had no expression on her face, so Shun couldn’t see what she was thinking.

“Shun, pass me that bottle”

“Yes, yes”  Obeying Chro’s orders, Shun grabbed the black bottle on the table---

“No, not the alcohol bottle!”

“Pour it in my glass”  Chrollo pointed to her glass on the table arrogantly.  Shun noticed her face was turning red.  She was already drinking.

“No Chro, you’re too young”

“Shun, stop arguing with me!”

“Hey~ it’s okay.  Let’s celebrate today, forget about rules~”  said Aria irresponsibly.  She seemed pretty drunk too.

“Chro is too young to be drinking!”

“Tin is drinking too!”

“Huh?”

“Hm”  Tin was drinking from her glass too.  Her face didn’t change color, so it was hard to tell.

“Shun, you’re a man, stop being so paranoid!”

“It’s not about being paranoid, I just think it’s not a good idea for a child to drink...”

“Ha!  You always treat me like a kid!  You don’t see me as a sister.  Shun is the only one here without blood ties”

“Chrollo!”  Sophie snapped.  Chrollo put her hands on her face as if to say “Oh, I wasn’t supposed to say that”.

The room was filled with awkwardness.  Shun is the only one here without blood ties.  It’s not like anyone clarified it before, but Shun had a pretty good idea.  Compared to his talented sisters, Shun was clearly inferior.  All of them had traits that were seen in their parents, but Shun had nothing similar.  Shun always knew this, and so did everyone else in the family.  That’s why it was a taboo within the family.  It was an unspoken agreement.  “Hahahaha, Chro, you’re such a baby” Shun laughed out loud to clear the air.  “Fine, just a little bit”  Then he poured liquor into her glass.

“Th.. thanks” said Chro and started drinking.

“Shun-chan~ pour me a glass too~ just one more~”  Aria continued, pointing to the glass on the table.  Shun said “Fine”, and poured some more liquor.  Tin kept a cool face as if to say, “this is none of my business”, and Sophie was slightly glaring at Chrollo.

Before long, they returned to eating as if nothing had happened.

Yes, it's better this way, Shun thought. He was finally seeing his family again after so long. Nobody would want to have strange troubles stirred up because of him. Chrollo kept casting flickering glances at Shun, as if she had something she wanted to say but didn't know how to say it. Shun guessed that she wanted to apologize for her slip of the tongue, but strangely, he didn't want her to — in fact, it bothered him that she was still worried about it. In this situation, pretending that nothing had happened was the best solution.

"Chro, do you want to drink a little more?"

"Hmm? Oh, um... sure."

"Just as a special treat for today, okay?"

"H-hmph, if you want to pour me another drink that badly, I suppose I'll allow it!" Chrollo replied, finally reverting to her usual manner of ordering Shun around. With that, the mood in the room returned to normal. Feeling relieved, Shun poured some sake into Chrollo's glass. ...But, after a short while, he began to somewhat regret having felt relieved.

"Geeeez, Shuuun, you're just way too sloppy!" For some reason, Chrollo was now sitting on Shun's knee, her face bright red. For some unknown reason, having drunk too much alcohol and gotten quite tipsy, she had decided to come sit on Shun.

"Shun, you're perfect for the role of my chair!" she declared as she boarded.

Well, all right.

Chrollo had certainly sat on his lap quite often when she was smaller, and she was still petite enough that she didn't feel heavy on him now. Perhaps because of the alcohol, her temperature seemed a bit warm as her body heat seeped into Shun, but that wasn't unpleasant either.

"You just can't do anything without my lovely presence, do you realize that?"

"Ah, yeah, that's true."

"Even this time, when you dropped out of school and Sophie contacted you, that was all part of my brilliant plan!"

Of courseso Chrollo had been the puppetmaster behind that time, Shun realized. She might have been the youngest of them, but true to her boasts, Chro really was the most intelligent of the bunch. And she had often served as the brains behind Shun and the others.

"Shun, you still make the same stupid face as always... Really, you're just soooo hopeless!"

"Uh-huh, but that doesn't really matter to me, Chro. It's Tin who you're talking to right now, you know."

"Mm?" Probably thanks to her drunkenness, Chrollo seemed to have mistaken Tin, who was squatting in a chair impassively, for Shun.

Nevertheless, Chrollo, still seated on Shun's knee, breathed out a long “Harrumph”.

"Well, a piece of garbage that becomes a knight is still always going to be garbage!"

"Isn't that pretty insulting towards Ruby?"

"Well, I can't help it, I've spent my whole life looking after garbage! Look, if you understand that much, you should be thanking me through sobs of gratitude, Shun!"

"What about Ruby?! And also, it's still Tin you're talking to, so..."

"Mm." Tin was drinking sake expressionlessly as she listened patiently to her sister's speech. Still sitting on Shun's lap, Chrollo may have been drunk, but she seemed to be having fun as she cackled aloud and wobbled back and forth. That was all well and good, but her little bottom was moving about so violently that he was a little worried that she would fall off of his leg. Nonchalantly, he slid an arm around Chrollo’s waist to ensure that she wouldn't fall. Drunk as she was, Chrollo completely failed to notice that Shun was touching her.

"..."

"Really, you're awfully quiet today, Shun. Hey, Shun. Why don't you try talking a little? You drink something too, come on now!"

"..."

Chrollo was picking a fight with Tin now. Generally the taciturn type, even Tin seemed to be growing a bit irritated, as she was subtly knitting her brow.

"Erm, hey, Chro. It might be about time to call it a night and go to..."

"You're so annoying, Shun! I happen to be talking to Shun right now, so don't interrupt me, Shun!"

"Uh, there was definitely something wrong with that statement."

"Hey, Shun, hurry up and drink something, right now!" Chrollo forcefully shoved a bottle of sake toward Tin. Tin had been silent for some time, but unable to endure it any longer, she snatched the bottle out of Chrollo’s hand.

"Fine..." Incredibly, Tin started to drink straight out of the bottle. Now Shun became flustered. "Tin, stop, you can't drink it like that!"

"...It's fine." Only about half of the bottle's contents remained, but Tin drained most of it in one gulp, slamming the empty bottle down hard on the table. There was no sign of change in Tin's composed expression... no, upon closer expression, her cheeks may have turned just a bit pink.

"..."

Tin then reached for Chrollo, grabbed ahold of her by the back of the neck, and lifted her abruptly.

"Yow! What do you think you're doing?!" Chrollo struggled violently, but Tin held her up easily with one hand. For a master swordsman like Tin, holding up one small younger sister was probably no large feat. Although, small as Chrollo might be, there wasn't a huge difference in stature between them.

"...having ten sisters is a nuisance," Tin muttered, tossing Chrollo onto the bed. With that, she went over to the astonished Shun and planted her bottom on his knee.

"Huh? Tin, what's the matter?"

"...This is Tin's spot now," she answered, claiming the territory that Chrollo had sat in until a moment ago. For some reason, Tin's face looked pleased. It was an expression that rather seemed to say, "I finally get what I've been denied all this time, bahaha!" --No, Tin would never make a noise like "bahaha", but somehow or another there it was.

"...wh, waaaaaaaah! Tin stole my seeeeeat!"

Chrollo cried out shrilly from her position on the bed. She must have been drunk still, because she was crying like a child. In terms of age, it had to be said that Chrollo really was still a child, but it was unusual to see her cry like this when she normally acted so grown-up.

"Aah, Chro, it's okay..."

"...big brother, don't you dare get up," Tin said from Shun's knee, stopping him as he was about to stand. Certainly, if he stood up now Tin would fall off, but...

"Waaaaaah, Ariaaaaaaaa, Tin is, Tin iiiiis...!" With tears in her eyes, Chrollo ran up to Aria, who was drinking alone at her own leisurely pace.

"There, there." With practiced ease, Aria began to comfort her young sister. "Now, now, you were sitting there for quite a while, right? Don't you think you could let Tin have a turn?"

"But, but, I had him fiiiiiirst!"

"Well, if you put it that way, didn't you steal him from me even though he was mine before either of you were born? I'm the one who should be feeling hurt, don't you think?"

"What are you saying all of a sudden, big sister?!" This was starting to sound like they were debating over some kind of first-come, first-serve sale.

"Why, if only I could, I'd like to push Tin aside and have that seat for myself!"

"I'd rather you wouldn't, to be quite honest..." Unlike with Tin and Chrollo, who were still children, having the fully-matured Aria sit on him would be all kinds of trouble for Shun...

"Come again? What is that supposed to mean, Shun? 'You're heavy, so I'd be crushed if you sat on me,' is that it?"

"That's a scary look in your eyes, sis..." Now he was being fixed with an angry glare.

"How cruel, Shun! I want nothing to do with you anymore!" With a “Huff”, Aria pouted childishly and faced away from her brother.

Now I've done it, Shun thought, despite feeling that he hadn't really done anything particularly wrong.

"Zzz..." Shun heard a soft thud and felt something warm against his chest. Looking down, he realized that Tin had fallen asleep on his lap and was snoring lightly with her head resting on his chest.

"Ah... did you fall asleep, Tin?"

"...mm." She made a small noise in response, but she seemed to be mostly unconscious. Thinking back, Shun realized that she had been drinking steadily for most of the night, after all, finishing off by downing half the bottle in one go. She had probably just gotten drunk and fallen fast asleep.

"Tin... If you're going to sleep, do it in your own room, will you? You'll catch a cold," Shun said quietly but firmly to the snoozing Tin, but as she seemed to be totally passed out already, there was no response.

"Come on, wake up." He prodded at her slightly flushed cheeks, which seemed to bounce back somewhat elastically against his fingertip. It was an overall pleasant feeling, as her skin was very soft to the touch.

"Tiiiin..." Poke, poke.

After a while of repeated prodding, Tin let out a little groan. "...mmn."

Poke, poke, poke.

She seemed to be on the verge of waking, so he gave it a few more tries. This did not exactly yield the response he'd expected.

"...mmf." Acting on some truly bizarre misunderstanding, Tin had chomped her mouth down on Shun's prodding finger.

"Huh? Hey, Tin, my finger's not a piece of candy."

"...mmr." (Shup, shup.)

Shun thought maybe she'd gotten tired of chewing on his finger, but that wasn't it. In fact, she seemed to have latched on to it, and was sucking on Shun's finger as if it was indeed some kind of candy.

...Huh, the inside of a person's mouth is kinda soft, Shun thought to himself absentmindedly, having never experienced this situation before. Inside her mouth, Tin's soft tongue wrapped around Shun's finger, a ticklish but somewhat pleasant sensation.

(Shup, shlup, shup...)

For Tin, who was normally so taciturn, to be sucking on Shun's finger seemed unimaginably childish, like a baby suckling on its mother's breast. ...Maybe Tin was lonely after all, since they'd lost their mother...

"Ahem. Just what have you been doing for the past few minutes, big brother?"

"Huh? Ah, Sophie?!" Without his noticing, Sophie had risen up behind Shun, and was peering intently at him and Tin. It may have been Shun's imagination, but her face looked rather grim.

"Ah, no, this isn't — I wasn't doing anything weird..."

"What kind of a brother makes his baby sister suck on his finger? Pretty strange, if you ask me..." Sophie folded her arms and stared Shun down coldly. She'd gone unnoticed in the midst of the drunken and boisterous group of Chrollo and the others, but Sophie too had been in the room the whole time. It was quite possible that she'd been watching Shun's entire interaction with Tin from the beginning.

"No, I mean, this is just, uh..." (Shup, shup.)

"Get your finger out of Tin's mouth at once! This is a health issue here!"

"Ah, sorry." When Shun hurriedly popped his finger loose, Tin let out an inexplicably suggestive sigh.

"Okay, but just for the record, I washed my hands right before dinner, so it's not like my hands would've been dirty, okay?"

"I understand that. And I wasn't particularly trying to say that your hands were dirty..."

Sophie trailed off into a mumble for some reason. "...I mostly meant it was an issue of my own mental health..."

"Huh?" "It's nothing." Somehow Sophie seemed a bit sullen. What was this all about?

"Oh my, Chro's fallen asleep too~" This remark came from Aria, who had been busy comforting Chrollo. Upon closer inspection, Chrollo too was snoring away in Aria's arms.

"Well then, I guess we can bring the day to a close now, hmm~?" Neither Shun nor Sophie had any objection to Aria's words. Sure, the children were asleep, but Shun and the others too were long since finished with their meal.

"...aah, I might've had a bit too much to drink myself..." Aria's steps were dangerously wobbly. "Are you okay, sis?"

"Mmm... I'm fiiine, but could you take Chro for me, pleeease?"

"Yes, of course," Sophie responded, accepting the sleeping Chrollo into her arms. With that done, Aria staggered on her way. "Okaaay, we can tidy this up tomorrow, so I think it's about time for bed~"

"Yeah, sure, good night."

"G'night, sis."

"Mhmmm, good niiiight~" Still wobbling away, Aria returned unsteadily to her room on her own two feet. Shun and Sophie exchanged glances. The living room was a bit of a shambles from all of their eating and drinking, but nobody much wanted to clean it up now. "...well, let's just get these kids to bed for now."

"Yes, let's."

Together, Shun and Sophie set off for Chrollo and Tin's room — Shun carrying Tin, Sophie carrying Chrollo. To the strength of a knight, one petite little sister was no large burden. Shun and his next-youngest sister walked down the hallway.

"...Everyone seemed to be in unusually high spirits today, huh?" It was unusual for Aria to get so drunk that she could barely walk, and Tin and Chrollo had totally drank themselves under the table. Shun had never seen any of that before.

"Well, they were all really happy."

"About what?"

"About their big brother becoming a knight."

"What? Why would you say that as if I should've known already?"

"Well, Tin and Chrollo were pretty worried about your future, after all."

"...I'm sorry I'm such a bad older brother."

"There's nothing to apologize for. Besides, you did manage to get that tentative job offer, right?"

"That's true."

"Actually, big brother... I didn't really get a chance to say this before, but congratulations. I'm happy that you were able to become a knight, too," Sophie told him with a smile. Her words came as a bit of a surprise, so even Shun was caught off guard.

"Ah, yeah, that's... um, thank you." Getting a little embarrassed, Shun kept his eyes forward as if to carefully dodge the subject.

"Ah... at any rate, Tin is really passed out, huh?" Tin was snoring away as she lay fast asleep in Shun's arms, her silver hair swaying back and forth with the rhythm of his steps.

"When she's asleep like this, she looks pretty childlike... you wouldn't think she was a master swordsman at all."

"That's because she's with you," Sophie replied easily. "She's sleeping so soundly because she trusts her big brother. If it was me carrying her, she probably wouldn't be so fast asleep."

"You don't really believe that, do you?"

"Yes, I do. Out of all of us sisters, Tin is the most sensitive to the presence of others. You might be the only member of the family to whom she'd show such a vulnerable side of herself."

Sophie spoke with such confidence that Shun made no attempt to object any further. After that, they put Tin and Chrollo to bed in their own rooms. Then, saying goodnight to Sophie, Shun went back to his room in the corner of the first floor. It was a plain room, containing only a bed, a wooden desk, and a chair; it didn't seem very lived-in, but there was no helping that. They'd bought this house a few years ago so that Shun and his sisters could live together, but after its purchase, the time they spent in it all together was probably not even a month. As a student at an academy for knights, Shun was ordinarily living in a dormitory, and everyone else was at least as busy as he was, so in the end it was rare for all of them to be able to come back to the house.

"I might've drank a bit too much," Shun mumbled to himself as he sat down in the chair. He hadn't drank as much as Aria and the others, but he'd  still certainly had his share of alcohol. Not having a very high tolerance for it, Shun had been walking a little unsteadily himself. Now he reached for the desk drawer, and turning the key that unlocked it, he pulled it open and took out its contents: a single photograph. This photo was Shun's most treasured possession, and it contained his greatest secret. If anyone else were ever to see it, Shun would be ruined. Considering that danger, it would probably be better just to burn the photograph, but... Shun could never bring himself to destroy it. At that moment, there was a knock on Shun's door.

Who could that be? he thought at first, but out of everyone in this house, there was only one person who would come looking for him now.

"Sophie, is that you? Come in."

"Thanks, big brother." Just as Shun had expected, it was Sophie who opened up the door. She had already changed out of her knight's uniform into a comfortable set of pajamas, and was holding a tray with a pitcher of water.

"I thought you might be thirsty, so I brought you some water."

"Yeah, thank you."

"I boiled some curcuma, too. It's bitter, but they say it prevents hangovers." It seemed that she'd noticed that Shun had drank too much, for which he was grateful. He accepted both the water and the medicinal concoction.

"What were you looking at?"

Sophie's gaze had turned to the photograph in Shun's hand. With a nod, he showed it to his younger sister.

"...A picture of everyone?"

"Yeah. It's the only copy left."

It was a picture of a certain family gathering. It was a big family, at least ten people all together; notably, most of the people in the photograph were women. The photo seemed to have been taken in the middle of a forest somewhere.  In the center stood a man and woman who appeared to be the parents, surrounded by children of various ages. Chrollo could be seen standing on her tiptoes, straining with all her might to look taller.  The other girls in the photo were all Shun's sisters, too — his family.

"I wonder where our other sisters are right now."

"That's a good question... I'm sure we don't need to worry about Viognier, at least." Shun noticed that Sophie's voice had hardened just a little.

"Are you still on bad terms with Vio?"

"It's not that we're on bad terms... I just don't understand the way she thinks." Sophie looked discouraged. Because of certain circumstances, none of the sisters who weren't currently in the house had stayed in touch. In the end, they had all scattered in different directions after a big argument. Even now, Shun regretted what had happened. Because of him, his once-close family had gotten all... no, enough. There was no point in grumbling about it now...

Sophie's hair swayed in front of Shun's face. Seeing this, it finally occurred to Shun that Sophie was still standing.

"Ah, I'm sorry, Sophie. You can sit in... well, this is the only chair, huh." Indeed, there were no chairs in the room but the one that Shun was sitting in. Shun thought that maybe he should move to the bed so that Sophie could have the chair, but...

"No, there's a seat right here." As if it were the most natural course of action, Sophie seated herself on Shun's lap.

"Err..." Without thinking, Shun almost dropped the glass he was holding. She was a bit heavier than Tin or Chrollo had been, and as a result he felt her contact with his body that much more directly.

"Uh... what exactly are you doing, Sophie?"

"What, Tin and Chrollo can sit here, but I'm not allowed?"

"No, it's not that you're not allowed, but... don't you think this is kind of bad?" Tin was still definitely a child, so he hadn't really taken much notice, but Sophie was another story. While not as much as Aria, Sophie's body had definitely developed, and the feeling of her soft bottom on his lap was kind of nice...

No, don't go having any weird thoughts, Shun told himself. You can't start having weird feelings towards your own sister!

"...big brother," Sophie murmured. Her bittersweet scent drifted over to Shun, and he felt his heart pound with no real meaning.

"Wh... what is it?"

"You seem awfully close with her Highness Princess Lulithia."

"..."

Was now really the time to be asking that? Shun instinctively felt the urge to run away, but Sophie was still sitting on him, so that would be physically impossible. "N... no, not really?"

"Is that so? It looked to me as if you'd gotten to know each other quite well."

"No, I don't really think so. Before I knew it, she just kind of started talking to me."

"So it's this pattern again, huh?" There was some astonishment in Sophie's voice.

"You sure have a way of getting close to girls quickly like that, don't you?"

"I don't think that's really the case..." Still, having grown up in a family with lots of sisters, Shun was admittedly more at ease talking with women than with men.

"Sophie, it doesn't seem like you're on very good terms with Lulithia, either..."

"...that's true. there are reasons for that."

"Like what?"

"...I wanted to spend more time at the academy with you, but because of her I had to graduate sooner..."

"What do you mean?"

"No, there's no point in talking to you about that. Please don't worry about it."

Saying that just made him more curious, but...

"More importantly, big brother, I noticed that you haven't been very lively."

"Huh? That's not true."

"You looked like you were thinking about something else all day. Tin was worried about it too."

"..."

"Are you unhappy that you accepted our help and became a knight?"

"No, I wouldn't say I'm unhappy, exactly..."

Sophie, Tin, and even the always-bossy Chrollo had all come through for him, and for that he was honestly happy.

"But, you feel bad because it seems unfair?"

"A little, yeah..."

"Well, it's all right, big brother."

From on top of his lap, Sophie gave Shun an embrace, and the softness of her chest crushed up against his body.

"Wh-what are you doing, Sophie?"

"You and I are family. It's normal for a family to help each other out when they're worried about something... You really should depend on me a bit more."

Both her breasts were squished up softly on Shun's chest. It was a nice feeling, but that was definitely no good. Shun tried to pull away, but couldn't do a thing with Sophie's arms wrapped around him.

"Uh, hey, S-Sophie. Could it be that maybe you're pretty drunk yourself?"

"I might be." Sophie giggled, and a smile spread across her face that was more lovely than any Shun had seen before.

"It is true that I'm certainly intoxicated right now... intoxicated by my big brother's existence, that is."

"Just how drunk are you?!" Shun screamed internally. Now that he thought about it, without talking to anyone during dinner and while watching Shun's entanglement with Chrollo, Sophie had actually been drinking at a pretty fast rate.

"You're warm, big brother."

"Yeah, well, that'll happen when someone is clinging to you." With the upper parts of their bodies pressed so closely together, he could distinctly feel both their temperatures rising. At the same time, Sophie's bust bulging against him certainly wasn't helping.

"S-Sophie, settle down... come on, calm down, would you?" Shun said, flustered, but Sophie's arms were wrapped tightly around Shun's neck with no intention of letting go. On the contrary, she had brought her lips quite close to Shun's ear, so that they almost brushed against his earlobe as she spoke in a sweet whisper.

"I am perfectly calm, big brother."

"But..."

"I might not look it, but I am quite capable of calmly assessing the situation — after all, since Aria, Tin, and Chrollo all drank so much, everyone else in the house should be asleep by now. In other words, that means there's nobody left to come in here and interrupt us."

Damn, this is bad! Shun thought. He had figured that Sophie was thoroughly drunk, but she was still able to think surprisingly clearly. Still, just what exactly was she planning on doing in his room?

"Hey, big brother... it's finally just the two of us."

"Uh... yeah, that's true." What was this feeling? As she embraced him, Sophie's body gave off a sweet scent that was making Shun feel dizzy. Unable to shake her off, he had the distinct feeling of prey that had been captured by a snake.

"Mmm..." Sophie's head came closer to Shun's chest as she let out a long sigh, which only made her scent even more overpowering.

"Wh-what are you doing, Sophie?"

"I'm feeling your existence as closely as I can."

"Uh, is that right..."

"You spend so much time on Tin and Chrollo lately, you never take time to keep me company."

"Yeah, uh... sorry about that."

"So, you'll keep me company tonight, then?"

"...Huh?"

"You will, right?"

"Err..."

"Won't you?"

Sophie's eyes were welling up with tears. Hastily, Shun nodded.

"I will, I will, for as long as you want, okay?"

"Yes, thank you." Sophie grinned.

...huh? She'd been crying just a second ago... Shun had the feeling that his sister had pulled one over on him.

"Okay, big brother... let's go to bed. Then we'll do something really good," she murmured into his ear. Shun wished she would quit breathing into it like that. To be honest, it sent a shiver up his spine.

"What kind of something, exactly?"

"It's something that you used to do for me at times like this, way back when..."

"Uh... you don't mean...?"

"Well, big brother? Let's go to the very limit of ecstatic pleasure."

And so...

"...So, this is what you meant by 'something good,' huh?"

Nestled up in bed, Sophie was sound asleep next to Shun, her breath slow and quiet. She had both arms wrapped around her brother, her face looking very peaceful as she slept.

"I guess I did share a bed with you sometimes when you couldn't sleep back then, but..."

Their relationship should definitely be taking a different form by now, but here they were, with Sophie using Shun as a body pillow. Her face was pressed up against his chest, so that he could somewhat feel the warmth of her breath.

"...Well, I guess it's okay once in a while. Just for tonight." Thinking back, Shun realized that he hadn't been able to talk to Sophie at all since coming home today. Maybe he'd made her feel lonely. As far as sleeping together, I should be glad to do this much for her, Shun thought as he looked at Sophie's sleeping face in the trace of moonlight that came in through the window.

...Then, the light from the window shone onto the top of his desk, where it fell on the photo that Shun and Sophie had been looking at before. The group may have been a little bigger than average, but aside from that, it was a normal enough family photo. And from that perspective, it seemed like a charming scene. But if anyone else were to look at it, the sight of the people in the middle of the photograph would surely put them ill at ease. There, surrounded by her children and wearing a gentle smile, was a woman: Shun's mother. But there was something distinctly strange about her. Stretching out from under her long hair was a long, winding pair of horns. It was clear that she wasn't human. The mother of Shun and his sisters was actually a demon — the greatest natural enemy of mankind, you might say.mShe had been the main culprit behind a huge war that had swept across an entire continent a few decades ago: the ruler of the land of darkness, the "Demon Lord". The man next to her, Shun's father, was a human, but he had a secret too: he was the legendary hero who had clashed against the Demon Lord, the "Heavenly Knight". Mankind's greatest hero, the "Heavenly Knight", and its greatest enemy, the "Demon Lord"... the fact that they had borne children was the enormous secret that Shun and his sisters carried.