Maou na Ore to Fushihime no Yubiwa:Volume 4 Chapter 5
Chapter 5: Survival race on the snowy mountain
Three days after arriving to the undead tribe’s lands.
At last the day has come. It’s the day the hundred deaths course is held on.
On the huge three thousands meters tall snowy mountain that had become the race course, we resolutely went to the hundred deaths reception hall at its foot.
Though that’s fairly obvious, right now we have the highlight right before our eyes.
In the reception hall there were gathered monsters of varied looks that came from all of the Netherworld.
According to Zonmi.
Though in the quickly developed Netherworld it’s become customary to live in human form for the purpose of convenience, it seems that that custom has yet to permeate into every nook and cranny of the Netherworld.
For that reason, among the monsters gathered at the reception hall there’s a fair amount that have not adopted human forms. Monsters that look like mummies and monsters that look like vampires… It looks like the core of the participants comes from the undead tribe.
Before the reception hall there are many stalls in a row, there’s a mood like it’s some sort of festival.
“Muu. This…Intoxicatingly mellow fragrance that resembles a forbidden fruit crafted by the devil… Candied apples!?”
“Do candied apples have such an exaggerated smell!?”
“Monster Tamer. I have recalled that I had some business to take care of. I shall go wait in line around here.”
Iris slurped the drool that spilled from her mouth while wiping it with her robe’s sleeve.
“… So it seems. Do we need to remain together from here on?”
Nonetheless, Iris being alone leaves me with a dreadful unrest.
She may have that haughty attitude, but a stranger wouldn’t have it difficult to lure her with a piece of candy.
“Chiharu-sama. Rather than worrying for others you should first worry about yourself.
If it’s about Iris-sama, leave it to me. I’ll watch her so that she doesn’t get hurt.”
Lowering her voice so as to not be heard by those around us, Lilith-san secretly whispered to my ear.
“Lilith-san. Thank you very, very, very much.”
It’s as Lilith-san has said.
I have to attain victory in the race and get my existence as a human acknowledged among the ghoul clan.
It would be unsightly to forget about my main objective because of being worried about others.
It seems that the development of the competition will be broadcasted in real time via monitors and the rest of your group can cheer you from there.
I haven’t told this to Kyouko and Manami, who had disappeared after saying they had issues to attend, though.
“… Chiharu. Let’s go to the tent on the other side of the reception hall.”
Zonmi tugged my sleeve while looking around, worried by the public notice.
Even supposing that she hadn’t come back to the Netherworld in a long time, if word gets out that the country’s princess was at this place, things would get a bit rowdy.
For that reason, today Zonmi was wearing glasses & a hood that covered the upper part of her face so as to disguise herself a little.
How troublesome it is to be famous.
“Now let’s follow the succubus’s words and finish with the registration asap.”
This way, Zonmi & I, while feeling grateful for Lilith-san’s actions, set foot on the reception hall.
Having the majority of the monsters finished with their registration, the inside of the tent was more deserted than I had expected.
Speaking of the most important registration… It happened so easy that it was even disappointing.
“Hey, Zonmi. Wasn’t the hundred deaths course the biggest event for the ghoul clan?”
“Yes. Didn’t I explain it to you beforehand?”
“… But, isn’t it weird?
They don’t even hold any preliminaries for such an important event… You can participate this easily on the same day.”
Lilith-san called the hundred deaths course the Olympics, Netherworld-style, but to me, that example didn’t fit it.
Surely, judging by the number of participants and the scale of the venue alone, this race may deserve to be called the Olympics, Netherworld-style.
However, with only this, it’s unnatural that despite being a large-scale event, there’s absolutely no selection of the participants.
Well, since if they did have preliminaries there’s no doubt that we wouldn’t be able to participate in this race, it’s not like I have complaints.
“… It’s easy. Though it sounds cruel, this competition not having preliminaries is due to being more exciting to mix strong people with weak people.”
“? What does that mean?”
“Since there’s no rule that guarantees the participant’s lives, that way they get naturally sieved… As expected from the Netherworld’s sports, how nasty.”
“Whoa, Kyouko!? You… What have you been doing until now!?”
The one who answered my question instead of Zonmi, was Kyouko, who appeared all of a sudden.
“What have I been doing… Don’t you understand seeing me like this? Sorry, but… Waiting and cheering is boring.”
On Kyouko’s chest there was a badge with a registration number that identified her as a participant in the hundred deaths course. In this badge, it seems there was a transmitter that served to locate the participant in case they got stranded on the snowy mountain.
“Eeeh. Could it be that you're also participating?”
“What’s with that face of open disgust?”
It’s simply that my chance of winning has gone down.
But I desisted in my heart on giving in and saying aloud my honest feelings.
… Is there a need of saying that now?
If it’s Kyouko, since she knows what’s the reason behind this competition, she should be able to properly read the mood.
For the one in a million chance that I can win… There’s no doubt that she’s giving me all of her support.
Thinking that I have one more ally, it’s rather reassuring.
“Ufufu. I won’t lose to the zombie!”
Laughing fearlessly, Manami wore a badge with a registration number on her chest.
The one who can’t read the mood in the least has comeeeeeee!
“Hey, Manami… Is there any merit from you participating in the race?”
“There’s merit. Oniichan. Did you forget the purpose of this race?”
“As if I could forget.”
I’m repeating myself, but by winning this race I’ll have the ghoul clan acknowledge humans.
“Then there’s no problem if Manami wins ♪”
“I mean. Since we aim to show to those cheeky zombies the true value of us mighty humans… Rather, wouldn’t it be more effective if Manami wins?”
“Yeah. Now that you say… It is?”
Even if it’s acceptable, I want to be spared from that development.
I mean… Could you picture it?
Just thinking on having to tell Zonmi’s father “my sister has won, so accept my contract with Zonmi!”… Too lame.
“… Besides, ever since coming to this town, I’ve been having a bad hunch.
More than this, so that the relationship between oniichan and the zombie doesn’t advance, I have to cut off this bad progress early on… Ufufufufu.”
*SPARKLE* Manami’s eyes let out a dangerous gleam.
I think that I have found the mightiest foe right beside me.
If I’m not careful… She’s quite capable of tripping me up.
I think that my sister’s physical capabilities, strongly inherited from my mother, a living legend among monster tamers, still haven’t shown their whole depth yet.
“Chiharu. You can’t afford to lack in concentration. No matter who participates… We absolutely must not lose this race.”
“… Yeah. That’s right.”
Though I’ve said it just before, as expected, I think it will be difficult to persuade Zonmi’s father if Manami wins this race.
At the end of the day, the one who wins should be none other than me.
And if we’re speaking of wanting even more… I want to attain a great difference with the second place.
If I manage to stand out like that… From the results of the race it won’t be difficult to propose a negotiation with Zonmi’s father.
Having recognized the situation anew thanks to Zonmi’s warning, my enthusiasm got renewed.
When I reached the snowy mountain that had become the racecourse, there were already lots of participants starting to position themselves as they pleased on the starting line.
Those numbers… five hundred, no, making a low estimate, there were around six hundred?
Since the girls had gotten delayed, changing their clothes, I who had finished my own arrangements stood all alone on the snow.
Since I had no choice but spacing out, I think I’ll check the rules of the hundred deaths course one more time.
The rules are easy.
The one from the participants who reaches the top of the snowy mountain the fastest is the victor.
However, monsters that can fly are forbidden of doing so.
Engaging in direct attacks against other participants is also forbidden.
… Though, at first glance, it may look like a half-baked competition, negligence is taboo.
As even at the best of times just traveling on a path with deeply piled up snow can have you break a bone, if you add going up a steep slope, many a monster will easily have his stamina exhausted.
“Haah… Even though I went out of my way to warn you… You’re quite eager to die.”
“Chiharu-sama… We have heard the circumstances from oneesama. Go for it!”
“Meruru. Even Aruru…!! Have you come to cheer me on!?”
“… Humph. How conceited. We were going to participate in this event since the very start.”
“… Eh. Could it be that you will be participating in this race?”
“No. Chiharu-sama. We are not contestants…”
The instant after Aruru started to tell me something.
“Ah! Isn’t the one there princess Aruru!?”
From somewhere on the venue, someone shouted that.
“So does that mean that the person next to her is princess Meruru!?” “It’s true! I… It may be my first time seeing them in person.” “I had heard rumors, but… They are very beautiful girls…” “The truth is… I’ve only participated in this race because I wanted to meet them.”
As a chain reaction from that voice, other voices kept popping up and the venue became an uproar at once.
“… Tch! They noticed us?”
Meruru muttered in a spiteful voice unbecoming of a beautiful girl.
“Chiharu-sama. Continuing with my earlier statement, we are not contestants in the hundred deaths course, we’ve been entrusted with the award delivery… We’ve been invited to this event as special guests.”
“I see. So it was like that?”
“For that… I case that you manage to win this race, Chiharu-sama, I think that we’ll meet again at the awards ceremony.”
“Human. Do your best not to die.”
“… Understood. Thanks!”
The AruMeru sisters, so as to slip past the glances from those around, quickly left my side.
I thought that with Zonmi’s case, but… as expected, being a country’s princess may bring with it various hardships.
Several minutes later.
In the blue sky without a single cloud… The fireworks that signaled the start of the hundred deaths course were launched.
At the same time, around six hundred monsters, raising a sound like a tremor, strived to be the first to reach the summit.
“Chiharu… Don’t leave my side!”
Had I not firmly grasped her hand, pushed by the surge of people, I would have lost Zonmi in a flash.
After standing for a bit at the start line, the forerunner group disappeared from sight before you could say Jack Robinson and at last we could chat peacefully.
“… But, is this right? It seems we’ve blundered charging ahead at full strength from the beginning.”
“There’s no problem. In this competition people who make a head start are not bound to have an advantage.”
Certainly, Zonmi’s speech seemed to have a point.
It seems that around three quarters of the participants had rushed out with the starting signal, and in contrast, the remainding quarter seemed to be taking it leisurely.
According to Zonmi,
In this race, along the way, diverse traps were set and in the worst case, it seems that one has to be prepared to face the danger of losing one’s life.
This means that starting in the vanguard = demerit of being more prone to falling into a trap, while those at the back, as they have the merit of being able to retain their stamina, they can progress better in the race.
“… Nonetheless, it’s not like we can remain here forever doing nothing. Chiharu, we will go on soon.”
Like this, we started the race about one minute after the starting signal.
I think we kept going up the mountainside for around thirty minutes.
Have we been able to avoid the traps as Zonmi expected?
After going up the snowy mountain for a while, we found a bunch that appeared to be the leading group.
“… Chiharu. Be careful. Up there… There’s something.”
Right after Zonmi’s warning.
There were a succession of tremors in the ground and, as a result, big holes appeared here and there.
And from inside those holes, around a hundred monsters appeared all at once.
Their length is about… 5 meters or so?
They were cute monsters with tufty white fur and round eyes.
Though it’s not like their size is especially big compared to the monsters that I’ve met till now, the highlight was their numbers.
Surprisingly, it may be the first time I’ve seen so many of the same monster before me at the same time.
“Zonmi… What are these monsters?”
“These children are snow moles. Properly speaking, they are not monsters, they are beings called magical beasts that don’t have intelligence. At a glance, they have charming looks, but their true nature is that of ferocious carnivores. They hunt other beings in groups and eat their prey alive.”
So that means this situation is quite dangerous?
… Zonmi may say so, but I can’t quite believe it.
First, this lovely creature, there’s no way it could do such a wretched…
At that time when a question mark was floating above my head.
A mummy man (?) that was running in the attack group raised a cry of agony having his head gnawed by a snow mole.
I withdraw my statement.
With such a cute face. What a wretched thing to…
“Zo-Zonmi. That guy, look! Isn’t that guy in danger!?”
"Chiharu. We cannot afford to worry about other people.
Moreover, I told you. This competition is more exciting with some weak people mixed in.
More or less, having victims makes the show more exciting.”
Thinking about it, Zonmi boldly speaking without hesitation about these dreadful things gives me the chills.
However, I agree with Zonmi’s words that we can’t afford to worry about other people.
I mean, hey, that guy, he’s a mummy man. He’s from the undead tribe.
Being from the undead tribe, he wouldn’t die just by having his head gnawed.
In any case… What Zonmi said about people who have a head start not being bound to have an advantage starts to make sense.
Why is that so?
Because people who run at the front must conversely face more obstacles (?) in their way.
“… Here they come!”
So, it seems that this time the snow moles have shifted targets to me.
Their numbers, one, two, three, four… five moles.
About the same number of snow moles rushed on to Zonmi.
The lovable cry of the snow moles was heard.
Zonmi, with the umbrella she had produced out of nowhere (really, how come she always produces it out of nowhere?), fought back the snow moles.
“… Be that as it may, you’re amazingly nimble.”
The attacks she directed against the snow moles, all critical hits to their weak points (the crown of their heads), utterly managed to turn the tables around.
As she managed that chain of attacks without stopping her feet nor going off from her running course, I don’t know the depths of Zonmi’s true power.
“… You too, Chiharu. Haven’t you managed to avoid the snow moles’ attacks with the least movements without even glancing to the enemies’ actions? I, sometimes… Become astonished from the speed of your growth.”
“… I don’t think it's like that.”
Like Zonmi said, the pacifist me, by twisting half of my body, suitably avoided the attacks.
It’s not difficult.
Being the case that I receive Zonmi and Kyouko’s attacks everyday, the attacks from the snow moles comes at super slow motion.
“A fellow with an astonishing growth speed… It seems that there’s one other.”
“… I see. So it seems. Time and time again, I keep being surprised by you two pair of siblings.”
“Haaaaaaa… Release now! My femininity power… FULL☆RE☆LEASE!!”
Though I’ve been for a while trying to not notice it as much as possible, surprisingly indeed, the person among the current leading group of the race that was furthermore the head runner… Was unmistakably my little sister, Kusumi Manami.
In other words… I have the vague fear that, presently, the lead racer is my sister.
“That chick… Isn’t she even stronger than before…?”
Before the top runner Manami rushed on snow moles in a number that couldn’t be compared with what happened to us, but…
“Eat this special move! Sister-in-love-that-gets-horny-by-heartrendingly-thinking-of-her-older-brother… Kick!”
The snow moles, kicked with force in their nether regions, writhed on the snow raising heartbreaking screams.
This little sister of mine.
She has no mercy…
Manami kept defeating with one blow any magical beast that obstructed her way and continued in a situation of running solo.
“It seems that our biggest rival in this race is the little sister.”
“… It may be.”
“Moreover, her. Not only she has great speed, it seems she’s constantly running along a route with winds favorable to her.”
“…? Is that possible?”
“That… Even I don’t know.
However, Living Lodge’s mountain are famous for their strong winds, said to be the strongest in the world.
Supposing she possesses a sixth sense to intuit the direction of the wind… She will pose a threat to us.”
I’ve been having a faint hunch, but to think that we’ll have to fight my sister for the top position…
My pride as an older brother is hanging on this match… I feel that I can afford less and less to lose.
“Let’s go. The race will soon enter its mid stage. The obstacles and troubles in the course are expected to increase.”
Struck by Zonmi’s words, I increased my speed even more and pursued my sister’s back.
Have we been going up the mountainside around one more hour?
As the race has reached its mid stage, the number of quitters went up and the figures of the contestants other than us gradually disappeared.
And… Due to the troubles, the mountainside seems to get more harsh as we approach the summit.
Currently. Zonmi and I are climbing a rocky surface that stands perpendicular, at almost 90 degrees.
“Chiharu. If we reach that depression, we can seek an easy route afterwards.”
Since it’s my first time rock-climbing, at first I didn’t know how to, but I think I can make up for my lack of experience with physical ability.
“Haah… Manami has taken quite the lead.”
“There’s no problem. The race is about to enter its final stage.
The magical beasts that will appear from now on should be so strong that they cannot be compared with those up until now.
Even with the tenacious physical ability of the little sister and her battle sense… She’s human. If it’s just simple battle power, we win.”
“In other words… We can still make a comeback.”
Said Zonmi with an intense glance while raising her index finger with a snap.
… To reach here, Zonmi has had to do many unreasonable things.
When we were climbing the snowy part, as instead of going in the back she went at the front, she must have suffered several cramps.
Besides… While we climbed the cliff, she had to go on while giving advice to me, a total novice.
Even now, most likely, despite conducting herself with stout-heartedness, Zonmi’s weariness must be reaching its peak.
So as to not bring to waste Zonmi’s efforts… I must win this race at all costs…
I forcibly pushed down the open-mouthed and dumbfounded Zonmi against the snow.
“Chi-Chiharu…? What the…?”
“Listen. Be quiet for a bit.”
A wind so strong that it was unthinkable by the human world’s common sense blew over our heads.
The gust of wind that blew boisterously, bore such strength that it almost blew us up, stooped as we were.
Eventually, the wind passed by and Zonmi, fixing her posture and with a face that said “I can’t understand”, addressed my previous actions.
“… I can’t believe it. How could you, just now… Know that the wind was going to blow?”
“No, just. It’s not like it’s specially groundless, but… Somehow I think I heard the wind’s sound.”
Ever since my power as a monster awakened, my five senses have reached the level of your average wild animal.
It’s not like I can’t do something my sister Manami can.
Thinking like that, in the time it took me to reach here I went through hell trying to get the knack of it, but… It seems that at last results begin to appear.
Finding and running along the route with favorable wind like my sister does… Though I can’t produce such a superhuman feat, if it’s just big winds like the one just now… It seems that somehow I too am able to perceive them.
“Holy cow… You pair of siblings never cease to surprise me.
Grasping the sound of the wind… I thought it was impossible unless one was a legend-class monster.
If we manage to keep going in the race hereafter… Those are quite reassuring words.”
While I was basking in the not all that bad feeling of being praised by Zonmi.
I sensed from behind, the presence of a strong magic power.
“One trouble after another… Is it?”
“… So it seems.”
Will the magic beast-sama appear soon?
It may be a result of being in the race for so long.
Besides grasping the sound of the wind, I… have come to acquire the trick of perceiving the enemy’s whereabouts by the presence of their magic power.
… However, the enemy this time has an atmosphere in no way like those until now.
Just by pure quantity of magic power it’s like that, but the essential difference that monster has is the darkish and wicked magic power it has attached…
So, we could promptly see the owner of the magic power I sensed earlier before us.
“What the heck… This guy…”
The one that appeared before us was a red dragon—well, a bit different.
That guy certainly was built into the shape of a dragon, but… In length alone, it was maybe twice Iris’s.
The color of its scales and the shape of its wings were also different from Iris’s.
Somehow… It seems that it’s a dragon from a species other than a red dragon.
However, that wasn’t the point that surprised me.
Its skin was slowly rotting and it let out a foul smell.
The scales crumbling and peeling away, it was mostly just bones.
A completely zombified dragon.
If I had to concisely describe its appearance, those would be suitable words.
“Zonmi… Is this guy a magical beast…?”
I asked Zonmi a question related to the explanation about monsters and magical beasts I was given before.
Magical beasts are for the most part monsters with no intelligence.
The same like humans and cattle, being both mammals, each are given different treatment though, to monsters, magical beasts are existences not far from wild animals.
However, is it possible?
Is there a being that, while having the shape of a dragon, is an unintelligent magical beast?
“This… Is surprising. Right now, the being we have before our eyes is not a magical beast.”
“! Does that mean, after all… It’s a monster!?”
Zonmi, slowly shaking her head,
“That’s still wrong.
Speaking properly, that dragon there was once a monster… In other words, now it has become just a soulless lump of proteins.”
“What the heck does that mean…”
“… Well. Not even I can make heads or tails of it.
However, right now, the only think I can say is that we don’t have even a second to waste discussing about what's the thing before us.”
“… Here it comes!”
The completely zombified dragon…
That’s right. Why don’t we address it from now on as skull dragon?
The skull dragon moved its huge forelimb so as to trample down on my body.
“… So fast!?”
There is a remarkable difference with the attacks of the snow moles back then.
If I was careless, this attack just now could have smashed my head.
However, no matter how many enemies or if it’s an unidentified strong foe, I am fortunate to have such a reassuring partner.
Having just now gone around the side of the enemy, Zonmi has already thrust the tip of her umbrella at the back of the neck of the skull dragon.
A critical hit.
Suffering a severe blow on the back of its neck, the skull dragon spouted out a large quantity of blackish body fluids.
Were this opponent before us normal, the game would have been decided long ago.
Reality is different.
The one who received damage then was Zonmi, instead.
The skull dragon shook its big head and threw Zonmi with force over the ice.
“Are you joking… No damage with that just now!?”
But, thinking about it, it may be quite natural.
Zonmi has just described the skull dragon as the soulless remains of a monster.
In that case… No matter how we attack it it’s meaningless since the enemy is already dead!?
Tell me, how do we defeat an already dead opponent!?
An attack from the skull dragon.
This motion is very bad news.
As if trying to absorb all the oxygen in the atmosphere, the skull dragon took a deep breath.
As I have a dragon acquaintance, I can easily guess this guy’s next action.
This guy… Plans to breath out flames.
However, unfortunately, my prediction was off by a half.
Certainly the enemy had entered into a breath attack’s motion, but… What came from inside its mouth were not flames, but a darkish, hazy vapor.
Thinking back, the carelessness of the me at the time knew no bounds.
I mean, I… Even after my surroundings were filled with it, I didn’t realize that the vapor was in fact poisonous gas.
Receiving the brunt of the poisonous gas attack, my consciousness soon became dim.
Zonmi hugged me as if to protect my body.
All of a sudden, my body was struck with the strong pull of gravity.
Somehow, while fleeing from the range of the poisonous gas, it seems that I lost my footing and fell down the cliff.
While it’s a situation that puts my life in jeopardy, I felt miraculously relieved thanks to Zonmi’s strong embrace.
Where is this place?
When I opened my eyes, there was an unknown ceiling.
“… Chiharu. You have woken up.”
When I recovered my consciousness, I was wrapped in a blanket lying on the floor.
“… Zonmi. Where is this?”
When I tried asking, Zonmi just avoided my gaze,
“… This is inside a cabin for the use of those in distress. That time, after evading the enemy attack, we fell down the cliff and… We went completely off course.”
“… Say what!? We have to return to the course asap!”
Seeing me jumping out from the blanket, Zonmi slowly shook her head.
“Sorry, but since the battle before around four hours have passed. They should be already starting the preparations for the race’s closing ceremony.”
“… Is that so?”
We couldn’t put up a fight?
It’s a pity, but since it’s become like that, I must change my mind and come up with the next strategy.
What should I do?
What can I do to get my existence acknowledged by the ghoul clan?
While I was pondering several strategies, I noticed an abnormality with my body.
“… Zonmi. Isn’t this room somewhat strangely cold?”
“? Well. It doesn’t seems to me. At least, the inside of the cabin should be some degrees higher that the blizzard out there.”
Wrong. It’s not that the room is cold.
It’s just that my body is totally chilled.
“… Could it be!?”
I took out the magic stone necklace from inside my shirt.
“Chiharu. This is…?”
“… This can’t be good.”
Could it have broken with the impact of the fall a while ago?
The magic stone I was wearing had a big crack and it has completely lost its former glow.
As this magic stone has the effect of raising the temperature of the wearer, it’s because of that that I could climb this snowy mountain with such light wear.
Wrapping myself again with the blanket, I tried to warm myself.
However, that was pouring water over a hot stone.
Inside a cottage that was probably already under the freezing point, a single blanket was but a mere consolation.
My breath is white.
Trembling altogether, it was my body’s danger signal.
“… Chiharu. Is it painful?”
Zonmi’s eyes were tinged with worry.
Honestly, my body is nearing it’s limits so I can only mutter weak sounds.
If I remember well, the young lady at the counter told me that the badges given to the participants doubled as transmitters.
That means chances are quite high for rescuers to come once the race has finished.
I must endure until then.
“I’m fine, so… Let me lie down a bit.”
What about summoning Kyouko or Iris, with whom I’m already contracted with?
… No, when Kyouko or Iris appears, what are the guarantees for her to be wearing the magic stone? Let’s say that when I summon her, she doesn’t wear the magic stone… I would have had needlessly increased the damage.
Anyways… Isn’t the risk too high?
“Chiharu, for a short while, could you keep your eyes closed?”
When I was pondering in my head several plans to break through this, Zonmi muttered with a glance that looked like she had made a decision.
As Zonmi told me, I shut my eyes.
Then, for some reason I could hear the smooth rustle of clothes.
“D-don’t look to me!”
I may be excessively shaken up, but what the heck does Zonmi intend?
Speaking from the results, I could find the answer pretty soon.
A feeling a bit colder than human skin was glued to my back.
Even if I’m numb from the surroundings and being teased, the meaning of this feeling… I easily guessed it.
Zonmi had completely taken off all of the clothes she was wearing… And she had entered stark naked, the blanket I was wrapped in.
“… Zonmi. I would’ve been fine even if you didn’t do that.”
Instead, Zonmi’s distinct heartbeat and the sound of her breathing were transmitted to me.
I was so nervous that I didn’t know if I was trembling from that or from the cold.
“… I’m very sorry.”
In the end, after a brief silence, Zonmi muttered that into my ear.
“? Why do you apologize?”
“… My body… Isn’t even a bit warm. The ghoul clansmen’s body temperature is 2-3 times lower than that of humans. I… Seeing your suffering, Chiharu… Didn’t know what to do, and… Am I a bother?”
“A bother… That can’t be. Moreover… Don’t worry, Zonmi, you’re veeeery warm.”
“… That’s a lie. That can’t possibly be!”
“It’s not a lie. Certainly, your body may be colder than that of humans. But, Zonmi, doesn’t your heart hold more warmth than anyone’s? That’s why… With just this, my body gets warmed from the core.”
This is bad.
Was that line too conceited, as expected?
Thinking back calmly, it was a no go…
“Chiharu… You idiot.”
However, contrary to my expectations, Zonmi was fairly happy.
Huumm. Is this what they call “all right in the end”?
I’ll try saying conceited lines from time to time.
“… Hey. Zonmi.”
“Yes. What is it?”
“Can I face you?”
“… Eh? What the heck… What do you mean by that?”
“I can’t settle down addressing someone that remains at my back. Somehow… I want to speak with you looking at your face.”
“… Really? Can I?”
“However, you may not pull out the blanket without my consent… I’m not wearing clothes right now, after all.”
“Understood. I promise.”
Since I pledged, I turned over and faced back.
Zonmi, reaching the peak of her shame, hid half of her face with the blanket.
Zonmi’s slightly flushed cheeks were so lovely that I unconsciously wanted to poke them with my finger.
It’s too late to think about it, but having such a cute girl so close to me was quite… surprising.
“… This is a little embarrassing.”
“… Yeah. It is.”
By any chance, I… Maybe I like Zonmi.
I vaguely thought that.
I mean… With that in mind, many things become coherent.
For example, that weird antagonism against Zonmi my sister has… It could be that, guessing the feelings even I am not aware of, she’s holding in her own way a sense of danger.
Buuut… Am I thinking too much?
Actually, these feelings I hold for Zonmi, I still don’t know if they are what’s commonly regarded as love.
We are monster tamer and partner.
The feeling of wanting to be forever at her side, I also hold it for Kyouko and Iris.
“Errm, Zonmi… Can I feel your hair?”
Coming back to my senses, I suddenly blurted those words.
For some reason, I’m absolutely sure that she won’t reject it.
It’s true that Zonmi, compared with the other girls, is the most relentless against accidents of a sexual nature, but… In the end that’s only when they happen by accident.
If I ask her directly face to face, I think that she won’t refuse a thing I do to her.
“… Do as you please, Chiharu.”
As I predicted, Zonmi didn’t refuse.
Zomi, with an expression of having made some kind of resolve, accepted my fingers.
Guuh… It’s not good…
My reasoning can’t endure this.
Zonmi’s hair made a rustling sound and smelled nice… For this reason I don’t believe that I can keep my reasoning…
Second year of high school. Summer.
At last I’ll become a man.
I gulped the saliva collected inside my mouth from the nervousness, at that time.
“You human scum! Whatdoyouthinkyou’redoingtoneechanhey!”
Suddenly, we heard that incoherent angry shout.
What is happening now before us?… Not being able to assimilate it into my head, my body just went stiff.
“… T-to think people came expressly to save you, and before them you, to neechan… You do those rude things! Human, I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you and feed you to Aruru!”
“Hay, Meruru! Act properly!”
“O-ouch! What did’ja do that for, Aruru!”
“You see the situation and don’t understand?
They're doing this out of mutual consent. It’s a nice scene where us, outsiders, cannot find fault with.”
“M-mutual consent!?” You moron! Neechan wouldn’t willingly show her naked body to a man!”
“… Since you don’t understand that, Meruru, how much more will you keep being a little child?
Loving couples showing each other their bare bodies is hardly unnatural.”
“L-loving couples?! Do you mean that neechan and the human are girlfriend and boyfriend!?
Or else… They are showing each other their naked bodies despite not being boyfriend and girlfriend!?
I know about that. Those things are what’s commonly called adultery and bitch… Hmppff.”
“… Meruru. That’s wrong. Maybe you perhaps have stepped onto an outrageous landmine right now?”
Aruru covered Meruru’s mouth, turned to us and quickly bobbed her head.
“Oneesama. Chiharu-sama. I’m deeply sorry.
We heard that your signal had been lost off course and, unable to sit still, we went searching for you, but… It seems that it was a terrible misunderstanding.
We’ll be on standby outside, so… You two, don’t hesitate on keeping at it with what you were doing before… Well, then!”
With an extremely apologetic wry smile, dragging Meruru, Aruru quickly left our side.
How could we keep at it in this mood!?
The first one to break the awkward silence was Zonmi.
“Wasn’t what I said before everything a joke?”
“Understood. We faced mortal danger… And there was no other way to keep ourselves warm. We haven’t done anything we should be ashamed of. Isn’t it?”
“… Yeah. That’s it. Of course… It’s like that…”
I’m curious about as to why is Zonmi making such a long face, but for the present I was relieved by that confirmation.
That was dangerous.
Somehow… I think I will later regard it as cowardice, but…
If hindrances hadn’t come like that, surely… I think that our relationship would have changed beyond repair.
In order to not hurt Zonmi, of course, but also Kyouko, Iris and Manami—
If I were careless…
My thoughtless actions might disrupt my relationship with them.
It’s too late to say this… Our relationship is made up of a subtle balance.
Renewing my resolution, for the time being I’ll pray for Zonmi to put on clothes.
References and Translation Notes
- She says “ningen-sama”, which is “humans” plus a honorific suffix meaning superiority. Applying it to oneself sounds conceited.
- Just under 16 feet and a half.
- This is a pun; “attack group” and “leading group” sound the same.
- The original says “at a speed of a fly alighting”, a reference to a kind of throw from the baseball manga Dokaben that was commonly referred as “fly alighting” while it’s proper name was “super slow ball”. Or one was the reading while the second were the kanji.
- Much like the Z Warriors from Dragon Ball with the ki.
- Geez… Reading Kankitsu-sensei may make you think that his character’s bodies are made from protein supplements.
- As in “game, set, match”.
- Futile, not enough (a Japanese saying).
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