Rakudai Kishi no Eiyuutan:Volume1 Chapter 2
Chapter 2: Visitor from that Former Home
On an early morning in still-chilly April, two figures stood outside Hagun Academy. One was Ikki Kurogane; he was wearing a jersey and standing in front of the main gate, sipping from a sports drink bottle while moving his shoulders up and down lightly. The other was Stella Vermillion; she was quite a distance away and panting from fatigue, running towards the main gate.
Ikki had no magic talent so he set intense training routines for himself, and ran about twenty kilometers every morning to maintain his physical fitness. Those twenty kilometers weren't some light jogging; he sprinted at full speed and changed the rhythm often to strain his heart and lungs. Stella, who had become his roommate three days ago, also joined him in this daily routine.
On the first day, Stella collapsed along the road. On the second, she threw up. Because of that, Ikki started to match his pace for today, the third day.
"Didn't I say not to mind me!?"
But when he dropped his speed, Stella shouted at Ikki with an intensity he hadn't seen before, so he ran as usual today too. And today, though there was quite a delay, she made sure to reach him.
…As I thought, Stella really is amazing.
As she staggered to the gate, Ikki admired Stella's figure. She possessed great talent in magic, but also trained herself physically. He had to acknowledge that she continued to improve without relying solely on her talent.
"Haa, haaaa―! Goooaaal…."
"I-I'm fine… th-this much is―"
She was so exhausted that her clothes were damp with sweat. That was some amazing willpower. Ikki watched Stella breathe heavily, and offered her the beverage he had just been consuming.
"Here, want some?"
Stella stared at the bottle with a bewildered expression.
"Eh, that's… indirect kiss…."
"What's wrong? …Oh, sorry. You can't take a bottle that a boy used."
"I-I didn't say anything was wrong with it! Just the opposite!"
"N-N-Nothing, you idiot! Give it to me!"
Ah, of all places, she drank from where I put my mouth.
Stella took the bottle with her face even redder than running had made it, and Ikki wasn't fast enough pointing that out. Feeling apologetic, he ducked away from Stella's gaze to look at Hagun Academy's main gate, where there was a signboard indicating the upcoming school formalities.
"The opening ceremony, finally."
It would be deeply personal for Ikki. Last year had passed him by, but this year was different because Kurono Shinguuji, the new board chairman, was giving all students the chance to learn. He could feel his anticipation rising. And also―
"You look pretty happy, Ikki."
"Do I? Actually, there's someone I want to meet."
"…I don't suppose you're talking about a girl?"
Huh? I feel killing intent.
"Umm, it's true she's a girl, but―"
"Wait, wait! Put down Lævateinn and listen to the rest! I'm talking about my little sister!"
"Sister? Come to think of it, you said something about a sister during the duel."
"Yeah. She's entering as a first-year. I haven't contacted her after running away from home, so I'm kinda happy to see her after so long."
She was a girl with silver twin-tails, always following Ikki around with small unsteady steps. She was a spoiled and lonely cry-baby, but also his cute little sister who hadn't scorned him when his brother, mother, father, and relatives all did. For Ikki, Shizuku Kurogane was his only family. How much had she grown in four years?
"I'm looking forward to it."
"I have one question about that sister. You're sure she's actually connected by blood, right?"
"Oh, she's just a normal blood-related sibling you'd find in any family. Why?"
"Then I'll forgive you."
Why was he being forgiven? Ikki didn't quite get it, but his policy was to avoid things he couldn't understand. Ikki looked at the signboard again and thought about the days to come. The fights that decided the right to perform at the Seven Stars Sword-Art Festival that were about to begin.
"Okay☆! To all the new students, congratulations on getting in―♥!"
*Bang!* Standing on the platform in front of the students, a young teacher greeted everyone with a shot of confetti and a big smile.
"I'm Yuuri Oreki, the person in charge of Year One Class One. It's my first time teaching homeroom, so I'd be very happy if you call me Yuri-chan☆ and treat me as a friend―♪"
Their school days were starting quite lightheartedly. Stella, sitting in a neighboring desk as if linked to Ikki by fate, grumbled at Oreki's manic enthusiasm.
"…She seems exhausting."
"Haha, that's true, but she's a good teacher."
"You know her?"
"Well, a little bit."
Ikki smiled, and turned his attention back to the teacher's speech.
"Since today's the first day, there aren't any lessons! But I do have something to share about the representative selection battles for the Seven Stars Sword-Art Festival. Everyone, can you take out your student datapads?"
As instructed, Ikki took out a palm-sized liquid crystal terminal from his breast pocket. The Hagun Academy student pad was an all-in-one tool that could be used as ID, wallet, cell-phone, internet terminal, and much more.
"Okay, like Miss Director said in the opening ceremony, Hagun Academy was using an attribute score system to select the Festival representative up until last year, right? But from this year forward, selection by attribute scores has been abolished! The system was changed to a tournament with the whole school participating, and six people will be chosen based on results from actual battles! Wow, violence! The selection battle executive committee will send messages to your datapads, so you should come to the designated place when the dates and times are confirmed, okay? It's a loss by default if you don't come, so be careful―♥"
Stella suddenly raised her hand.
"Non non. If you don't call me Yuri-chan☆ then I won't reply."
"Yay! What is it, Stella-chan?"
"How many matches will these selection battles involve?"
"I'm not sure, but each student should go through roughly ten matches or more. After the matches start, you'll definitely have one match every three days, so be ready―♪"
Ikki felt a bit relieved after hearing that, since Ittou Shura's once-a-day limit made consecutive battles quite severe. But while this arrangement was good for Ikki, it was much less convenient for his fellow students.
"Hey, you can't be serious."
"Too troublesome~. Then I won't be able to go out!"
"I don't really want to participate in the Festival anyway."
Displeased voices sounded across the classroom, but of course not everyone was as interested in the Sword-Art Festival as Ikki. For one thing, illusionary forms weren't used there, making the fights dangerous. Some people didn't want to risk injury just to raise their rankings. Graduating peacefully and acquiring mage-knight qualification, finding a high-salary job and attending to it with normal diligence―there were many students who sought that straight a path.
One of those students spoke up.
"Are there any penalties for losing or abstaining?"
"Nope~♪ There's no penalty, and no black marks on your grades either, but there are bonuses if you win~☆ And of course, you can also abstain, and people who aren't interested in joining the Festival should write the executive committee a mail saying they won't participate. You'll be removed from the roster immediately. But you know…."
Oreki looked at Ikki's direction for a moment, and smiled gently.
"Even if it might be very tough, I still think this is a wonderful system that gives each of you an equal chance to win the Sword-Art Festival and become a Seven Stars Sword King. That's why I want you all to participate ambitiously if you can. I'm sure everyone will treasure the experience."
Ikki nodded gratefully at the gaze aimed towards him. He knew Oreki from when she was his entrance examiner, and he was now attending Hagun because she evaluated Ikki properly.
As his mind wandered toward that event from a year ago, he recalled something.
Wait, doesn't Oreki-sensei―
"So everyone, please do your best from now on! LET'S ALL ABUUAAABUFUUU!!!"
―have an extremely weak body? But by the time he remembered it, Oreki was already vomiting blood onto the floor.
His classmates screamed at the bright red explosion from the teacher's mouth, and Ikki jumped from his seat to support Oreki.
"Ah, she's okay, she's okay. Everyone please calm down. You don't have to worry so much. Oreki-sensei is just very unhealthy."
"No, that's worrying too! How can there be so much blood!?"
Coughing violently, Oreki showed her distressed students a fragile smile.
"Oh, I'm quite fine, as Kurogane-kun said. Your teacher… has been spewing a liter of blood each day since she was a child…."
"What's fine about that!?"
"…Well, I've been living with this body for over twenty years. It'll be fine again in a week. Haha… amazing, isn't it?"
"Please don't be proud of something so sad. Erm, I'll take her to the nurse for now, so why don't you guys clean up the pool of blood over here?"
"Gotcha. Leave that to us!"
After seeing a peach-blonde girl nod, Ikki leaned Oreki on his shoulder and headed towards the infirmary.
On the way, he asked his teacher about something that had been worrying him for a while.
"Oreki-sensei, you seem to be in quite the mood today. Was that to welcome the incoming students?"
*Cough cough* "…Yes, it's the opening day after all… so to congratulate everyone and fire up their spirit, I pushed myself."
So that was why, as he thought. It was something his gentle teacher would do.
"Oreki-sensei, there's something important I'd like to say."
"What is it?"
"I think you ended up disturbing them instead."
It was harsh, but it was for her own good. People had to act their age.
"Sensei says we can just go home today."
The first homeroom of the year ended with Ikki delivering that message.
Guess I'll go look for Shizuku? I shouldn't remain here much longer anyway.
He had been feeling confused gazes since the class started, from people wondering how to deal with him. Oreki had collapsed before the students could share introductions, but no doubt they already knew he was repeating this grade level.
Maybe I acted more openly than I should've.
Minding his classmates' feelings, Ikki turned to leave, but―
―one of his female classmates grabbed onto him. It caught Stella's attention immediately.
"Wha―!? W-Wait a minute! What's going on here, Ikki!"
"That's what I want to know! H-Hey, what are you doing so suddenly?"
"Ah, when I realized I finally had a chance to speak to Senpai properly, I got too excited and… please excuse me."
The cute peach-blonde girl apologizing to him was the same girl who had agreed to clean up. Licking her lips cutely, she separated from Ikki.
"I'm Kagami Kusakabe. I'm a huuuuge fan of yours~!"
The world held Blazers in high regard, and mage-knights were always at the center of attention. This included student knights, and there were even those like Stella who the media watched with interest. In addition, the Seven Stars Sword-Art Festival, the highest battle for students, was broadcast all over the country via the Net. It wasn't rare for students to enroll into the academy after becoming a fan of one of those celebrities.
But… that had nothing to do with Ikki, so he tilted his head in confusion after hearing this response.
"I don't think I've done anything to deserve fans. Maybe you're confusing me with someone else?"
"Oh please, Senpai! Trying to play dumb, you~. I'm talking about this, you know?"
Ikki wasn't trying to play dumb, but when he saw the datapad Kagami presented, his tongue got stuck in his throat. Stella, who was also looking at the display, cried out in surprise.
"Hey, isn't that our duel!?"
"Could it be that Senpai and Stella-chan actually didn't know? Neither of you look on the Net at all?"
"Yeah, I'm not good with machines and stuff."
"I don't keep up with that. And I don't have a computer either."
"Huh, oh well. This was uploaded to a video sharing site immediately after you two finished your duel. It caused quite a stir. Everyone knows about it, right?"
All the classmates who were listening to their conversation nodded.
"Yep, I saw that video."
"And a ton of articles got posted. Shouldn't most people know of it?"
"I saw it too. I wanted to ask about a lot of things, but you're a year older, so it was hard to speak out. Hahaha…."
So that's the real reason for the gazes I felt before?
"Ah… I'm sorry for troubling you. But it's okay to talk to me normally, since we're classmates and all."
All the girls in the class approached him instantly.
"Thank goodness! Thank you very much, Kurogane-san!"
"I've been wanting to talk to Kurogane-san ever since I saw that match!"
"Me too! I mean, you were so cool!"
"Erm, Kurogane-senpai. If it's not a bother, could you teach me swordsmanship? I want to be stronger like you!"
"Ah! That's unfair! I wanted to ask that!"
Ikki pleaded with the cheering girls whose eyes all glowed with affection and respect.
"W-Wait a minute. I did say it was okay to talk freely, but it's confusing if you all come at me like that."
Since Ikki spent all his leisure time training instead of interacting with the opposite sex, of course he'd be uncomfortable. Girls his age had never approached him like this, and the admiration sparkling in their eyes made it all the more embarrassing.
Kagami giggled at his expression.
"Is being popular that surprising? Senpai, you're seriously the center of attention right now. Especially from the female population, according to my data!"
"I mean, aren't you like, su~per strong? Girls who aim to be mage-knights all love strong guys. And even though you're that strong, you're called a Failed Knight. Something so mysterious sends the heart racing. But most importantly, Senpai, you have such an adorable face―"
"I-I don't really think that's true though."
"And that troubled face also pushes a girl's maternal instincts hard―"
At Kagami's words, the girls surrounding him all cheered "Right! Right!" and "Even though he's older, he's so cute!"
C-Cute? I know my face isn't too manly, but being labeled cute by girls younger than me… as a guy, that gives me complicated feelings!
Well, being liked was way better than being hated. Ikki thought that with a smile, when Kagami suddenly grabbed his right hand.
After latching on, Kagami came to point-blank range and pleaded with teary eyes.
"So, Senpai. I have a big favor to ask my super popular senior. Won't you listen to your cute junior's request~?"
"W-What is it? If I can help… then I'll try to…?"
"Yay~♪ Thank you so much! Actually, I was thinking of starting a newspaper club, the Hagun High School Wall Newspaper, and I wanted to put everything about you in the first issue! The title would be… that's right, how about 『The Menacing Ambush! The Rumored Supernova Conquered!』, or something like that?"
She wanted to write this terrible story even with Stella standing right here? Ikki broke into a sweat and looked to his side.
"Oo~h. Isn't it great? Being so popular. That story, why not help her with it? Senpai."
Stella had an incredibly sour expression, but of course she wouldn't be happy about her defeat becoming a news article. Ikki didn't have the courage to accept after seeing her face.
"I'm really sorry, but I'm not used to that kind of thing."
But Kagami didn't retreat one step, and grabbed Ikki's arm even more tightly.
"It's fine! I'll gently lead you through it~"
*Squish* She pressed Ikki's arm against her breasts, and a sweet feeling immediately ran through his body.
"Wha… erm… Kusakabe-san."
"Please don't treat me like a stranger. Kagami is fine. Isn't our relationship like that~?"
What kind of relationship do we suddenly have? Didn't we just meet?
"Kagami-san, err, let go a little. It's touching."
"Oh really? Touching? What is?"
Did Kagami not realize it? She blinked, but after realizing Ikki's arm was on her chest, she grasped the situation and revealed her deepest thoughts with an amazingly evil grin.
"No way, I won't let go until you agree to an interview~"
She pressed herself against him even harder.
"Tell me all… about… you…♡"
A sweet voice murmuring, a warm sigh brushing his ear―these were both to bait Ikki, and he knew it.
But Ikki was a man after all. How could he stay calm with a cute young girl approaching him so aggressively? Even though he knew she was leading him on, her assertive appeal overwhelmed him.
Stella's patience finally hit rock bottom after seeing Ikki in that state.
What was he acting so lovestruck for!? This miserable person! She tried to rebuke Ikki like that.
"Hey Senpai, we also want a chat with you."
But before she could, an insolent voice like that of a ferocious beast erupted without trying to hide its hostility.
Five wild-eyed boys pushed through the ring of girls to stand before Ikki, and one conspicuously tall boy among them spoke with the overpowering voice from before.
"You seem to be quite popular, but don't you think flirting with all the chicks in class is going too far?"
Ikki's monopoly over the girls was apparently getting on the guy's nerves, if the vein popping on his temple was any sign. Their classmates didn't take to that attitude, though.
"What's with you, Manabe!? Are you jealous?"
"Don't start sulking just because you're not popular! You're the worst!"
Their words seemed to set off the rest of the guy's group.
"Whore, what did you just say!? Don't go spouting shit at Ma-kun!"
Manabe's followers were now threatening the girls, but if they wanted to pick a fight, Ikki thought it was best if he remained their target. He bowed before them slightly, trying to calm them down.
"If I bothered you, I'm sorry about that. Causing a racket after school certainly isn't appropriate, like you said."
"The hell is this? Are you trying to play decent, you fraud?"
"Fraud? What do you mean?"
"Even if you can trick these idiot girls, you can't trick me. There's no way an F-Rank can beat an A-Rank. That match was probably fake, to get popular like this."
"Err, I haven't tricked anyone. And you're being rude to Stella."
"So you're still saying you beat an A-Rank? That's pretty shameless. If you're so strong, then let's spar a little right now and see."
At his words, the five boys started to circle Ikki like hyenas surrounding prey, and the four with Manabe summoned their Devices. Kagami yelled out at that sight.
"Hey wait! Are you guys serious!? You'll be suspended if you use Devices here!"
"Shut up, bitch! Get back if you don't wanna get hurt."
Manabe's four followers ignored her warning and brandished their weapons. Judging from their ferocious expressions, they weren't using illusionary form. But even in this situation, Ikki held his composure and tried to control the situation.
"No, we can't do this here. As Kusakabe-san said, fighting in the classroom is against school rules. Our powers as student knights are restricted in this academy, and we're not allowed to use them outside of designated zones. If you'd like to fight, let's go somewhere else. I'll play along with you until evening in one of the practice fields."
Ikki was saying he could spar at one of the training arenas. He would accompany these boys even though they weren't worth fighting and he'd rather go find his sister. He was acting as a senior, indulging his juniors.
Yet another vein popped on Manabe's temple, because Ikki had made a blunder. What Manabe and his followers wanted wasn't to spar, but to see an F-Rank coward crawl at their feet and beg forgiveness for using deceit to make himself popular with girls. Instead, this F-Rank said he wanted to fight after switching locations? That was pure insult.
"Don't be cocky, you damn repeater! Get him, guys!"
Huh? Did I say something wrong?
It was too late to wonder. The boys could no longer be stopped from trying to cut Ikki down, and the girls screamed at the unfolding scene. This was no longer a mess he could resolve peacefully. Ikki sighed. He had to use force now.
"Senpai! I'll vouch for your legitimate self-defense, so stomp them good!"
Kagami urged him to fight and promised to absolve him if the school authorities investigated. That was a nice proposal, but―
"No, there's no need."
No need, because he wouldn't wield his Device in this scuffle.
In an instant, Ikki focused his sight. He didn't need color, so Ikki cut off that detail, and seeing the world moving in gray, he transferred the acuity of his color sense to his motion perception. As he did so, the movements of the world around him slowed. This was no special power, just the boost in cognition that even regular people would receive from danger, except that Ikki could activate it consciously since, obviously, he couldn't reach the level of concentration needed to win a fight in under a minute without this sort of ability.
The gray world around him slowed and dimmed as if sinking to the bottom of the sea, and Ikki analyzed his surroundings. There were four enemies to his left, right, front and back.
The fastest would be the one wielding a Japanese sword and coming directly from the front.
Seeing that, Ikki gently used the back of his empty right hand to hit the center of the sword, and with a completely relaxed motion, he changed the trajectory of the swing.
Surprise emerged on the face of the boy who swung the sword. His blade flew horizontally past Ikki, and at the same time, Ikki used one leg to trip him.
As he tripped, he crashed into his compatriot coming at Ikki from behind with a longsword-shaped Device, and they both tumbled crashing into some nearby desks.
"You son of a biiiiitch!"
Two boys on his left and right attacked him simultaneously with axes. They were both aiming for Ikki's head, so responding was simple.
Ikki folded his knees and ducked. A second later, the clear sound of steel on steel rang above him. That was the sound of a clash between two parties giving their full strength.
Both boys fell screaming. The jolt of impact had completely numbed their arms.
Manabe's haughtiness was nowhere to be found. He couldn't comprehend how his friends were defeated so easily, so he summoned his Device in confusion. It was a large-caliber revolver, an unusual Device for an Easterner, and he aimed the muzzle at Ikki. He could fire a magic bullet with just a squeeze of the trigger.
Ikki was already moving. He grabbed a eraser from someone's desk close by and flicked it upward with his thumb. The piece of rubber hit the ceiling, bounced down, and―wedged itself in the space between the gun's hammer and percussion cap.
Manabe raised a voiceless scream as if he saw a ghost. Ikki had disabled the gun in a totally unimaginable way.
Ikki stepped into the now defenseless Manabe's blind side, and―
―clapped his palms together before Manabe's eyes.
But that was enough. Though Ikki had only clapped once, Manabe fell down on his back and stared at Ikki with trembling eyes. And why not? Right before those eyes, an empty-handed F-Rank had defeated five Device-wielding Blazers like it was nothing. There was no way Manabe would have any fight left in him, so Ikki didn't need to give a finishing blow. No battle using Devices had happened. No combat had even occurred.
At that outcome, Ikki looked downwards with a smile that according to Kusakabe was sure to spark a girl's feminine instincts.
"Let's get along, since we're going to be classmates for a whole year."
Manabe could only nod his trembling head. The classmates around them also stood stunned after seeing Ikki disable five Blazers without injury.
"E-Eh? Stella, isn't the mood a bit too cold?"
"Naturally! What do you think happens when you show off so much power?"
"Show off? I thought I held back enough not to hurt them though."
"Isn't that exactly what everyone's so surprised about?"
Stella sighed in amazement. But at that moment―
*Clap clap clap*
Applause came from the classroom entrance. Everyone turned, wondering who it was, and saw a small girl standing in the hall. She had short silver hair and jade-green eyes, showing enough charm to fascinate everyone, and she wore a light smile on her flower bud-like pink lips.
"Overwhelming strength that never lets weaklings approach. That's just like you, Onii-sama."
Her refined voice resounded like song.
Onii-sama. At that word, Ikki's eyes widened.
"You can't be…."
No, he didn't need to ask. The tone, features, hairstyle, and everything else about her had changed so much, but only one person in the world called him so. She was the sole resident of the vast Kurogane estate who put him at ease, his one and only little sister that followed him around with small steps.
"Yes. It's been so long, Onii-sama."
Ikki rushed over to his sister and took her hands.
"Wow, it's really you! You've grown up so much, I didn't recognize you!"
"Of course, since we haven't met in four years. It would be more odd if I didn't change."
"Ahaha, that's true. But still, I'm so happy! To think that Shizuku would come for me! I was going to look for you myself, but I had a bit of trouble in class and―no, that doesn't even matter, right? Sorry, I'm getting too excited."
He wanted to say many things, to apologize for suddenly leaving home, to share his joy in this reunion. But all those things tried to leave his mouth together, so he couldn't speak properly. It was quite troubling.
"Hey Ikki. Could she be the sister you mentioned this morning?"
Stella's question was a lifesaver, giving Ikki a chance to pull himself together.
"Eh? Ah! Yes! Stella, I'll introduce her to all of you―"
But when Ikki turned to the class, Shizuku grabbed his sleeve to draw his gaze back, and pulled him closer.
"Onii-sama… I've wanted to see you so much…."
Touching Ikki's cheeks, Shizuku kissed him with pale pink lips.
At this heedlessly public kiss, the rest of the class screamed.
"WHAT THE HELL―!?"
"W-Wait a minute! Ikki! Y-Y-You! What do you think you're doing!?"
Of course, Ikki was the one most confused about getting kissed by his little sister. He quickly removed Shizuku's hands from his jacket.
"I-I-I don't know what happened either! Shizuku! Just now, what did you…!?"
"What? …It was a kiss, you know?"
"I know that! I'm surprised because I'm totally clear about that! But why did you kiss me!?"
"Does there need to be a reason? A kiss is proof of deep love, something done even by people sharing the shallow, fickle, and crude bond of romantic love, so isn't it natural for siblings of the same blood to kiss? Rather, it's odd for them not to. Besides, kissing is simply a greeting in other countries."
"Eh? Is that true? Stella, am I the weird one here?"
"Of course not! Why are you following her pace!? First of all, mouth-to-mouth is an inexcusable greeting even in other countries! Is Japan a nation where siblings kiss!?"
Their classmates recoiled at Stella's question and began to mutter among themselves.
「No, that's definitely wrong.」
「I'd throw up just thinking about it.」
"Oh, then Shizuku, you're the one who's weird. The voters were unanimous."
Shizuku laughed softly at that.
"There's no problem at all, Onii-sama, because they are them, and we are us. I'm sure the sibling bonds of everyone else here are as cold as tundra. Our modern era is sick like that. But you and I are different. Such a kiss can't even express the love I've felt for four long years. Even if we have sex right here, it'd be no more than a greeting."
"LIKE HELL THAT'S POSSIBLE!!!"
It was only the first period of the first day of school, but Year One Class One found themselves already unified in mind and spirit.
"No, Shizuku, what are you saying!? For a young lady to say s-sex so easily, how is that decent!?"
"It's a joke. You're so cute, blushing like that."
Who… who was this!? Shizuku's enchanting smile made Ikki break into a cold sweat. The sister in his memories was terribly shy and scared of crowds. How in the world did she turn out this way?
"Well then, Onii-sama, let's put those trivial things aside. Please feel more of me, and let me feel more of you too."
Shizuku said that, and her arms wrapped around Ikki's neck like white serpents. Her jade eyes, having not fallen on anyone else since she entered the classroom, shined at Ikki like those of a bird of prey.
"These four years, I've been so lonely…."
Her pink lips came near for a second kiss. This was bad. Going any farther was bad. This was no healthy relationship for siblings. But even though Ikki knew that, he couldn't move. His sister had locked her green eyes onto him and wouldn't let him flee, so the two of them once again―
But Stella ripped Ikki out of that dangerous position.
"Hey Ikki! Why aren't you stopping her!? Get a hold of yourself!"
"S-Sorry! I mean, thanks for saving me Stella!"
For the first time, Shizuku looked at someone other than Ikki, as if she had just now noticed the other girl's presence.
"What are you doing?"
"That's my line! What are you up to!? Why were you getting close to Ikki!?"
"What? I was going to kiss him."
"Th-That's right! Why on earth would you do that!?"
"Why? Well if I have to answer, then―"
Shizuku sighed at Stella's question.
"―I do with my brother whatever I like."
"Ikki! Your sister is strange! What part of her is 'a normal blood-related sibling'!?"
"No, I'm surprised too!"
"You've interrupted us more than once now. You're that rumored Princess Stella, right? Why is royalty intruding on a conversation between commoners?"
"Can commoners stand such an obscene conversation either!?"
"As I said, they are them and we are us."
"You're just glossing over the issue! Think with common sense for a moment!"
"…What a noisy person. Fine, even if―let's pretend if―it's odd for a sister to kiss her brother, and I've done something contrary to common sense… why does it matter to you?"
"This issue is between him and me. A small-minded princess who's not involved in our affairs should stay away."
Shizuku said that with a half-lidded gaze, and Stella winced. This little sister's resolve came from a great longing for her brother Ikki after four years of separation. Stella certainly had no direct connection, and she shouldn't be pricking at their reunion from the sidelines, but―
"Onii-sama, there seems to be a hindrance here, so let's go somewhere quieter and reclaim the years we lost."
―but this wench wasn't acting like a little sister. She was speaking to Ikki in a manner that crosses beyond right-minded blood relations, and Stella couldn't leave that kind of person alone with Ikki.
So Stella braced herself.
"…If it's a connection you need, then I have one."
Her face was dyed red as she said it.
"We have a relationship, so him kissing you, I can't allow that!"
Those words shocked Ikki, because Stella had just declared it wasn't okay for him to kiss another girl.
Does that… by any chance… mean that Stella, towards me―
"Because Ikki is my master! If my master turns into an perverted sis-con and gets thrown out of society, it would obviously bother me!"
"That's your reason―!?"
"Super huge scandal―! I can finally see the first issue, 『Squirm on My Chest! Princess and Savage Locked in Room Almost 72 Hours!』 It'll definitely be that!"
「Kurogane seemed mature, but he's even into…?」
「Wow, maybe he's hiding really strong appetites?」
「Making a princess your servant? That's some high level degradation play.」
Th-This is bad. Stella just turned everything in a ridiculous direction.
"W-Wait a minute, Stella! What are you saying in front of all these people!?"
"B-But isn't it true!? We fought that duel while betting our all, and I lost to you. Which means, even though I'm unwilling, that my body and heart belong to you! You could even say we're one in body and soul. There's no way I'm not part of your affairs! And keeping one's lord on the right path is a vassal's duty!"
"Didn't I say we should just forget about that promise!?"
"No! My royal pride won't allow it, and haven't you already given this princess the order to 'Live together with me'!?"
"I don't remember it sounding that smooth! And I wasn't implying anything immoral either!"
"But what you said wasn't very different!"
Which he couldn't argue, but….
"Is that true?"
An ice-cold voice struck Ikki's back, and it sent a chill cutting through Ikki body as if water had been poured into his veins. The charm Shizuku had been showing was nowhere to be seen. Her cold voice resounded again.
"Is it true?"
Shizuku stood there staring at Ikki, her face as stiff a Noh mask.
"Onii-sama. I'm asking whether that was true or not."
What a heavy question. He wanted to deny it. If he didn't deny it, something bad was going to happen. Ikki knew that, but unfortunately it was almost exactly as Stella said, so―
"W-Well, I think some spiteful nuance was added, but… it's like she said."
The honest Ikki couldn't help but give that answer, even if honest people didn't live long.
"Oh, so it's true? Fu… fufufu… fufu―hii!"
Shizuku smiled with narrowed eyes, and fear―as if someone was licking his spinal cord―raced through Ikki's body.
"Why would you tell such a lie, Onii-sama? There's no way you'd do that. You'd never make me sad, never say something that could hurt me. That's not―"
"―you at all. Ah! I understand. I'm sure this woman is blackmailing you to go out with her. And you're covering that fact so you won't make me worry, right? Yes, what else could―"
"Wait, just listen to me for a―"
"―it be? Poor Onii-sama. What a horrible woman. This is exactly why I didn't want you to leave home. You're so amazing and fascinating, why else would lewd and stupid people―"
"Shizuku, I'm begging you to calm down a bit and we'll talk this over―"
"―who only have large breasts come near you? You're not to blame. You're just captivating and dreamy. So it's all this woman's fault. It's all this woman's fault. That's why I'll set you free. Splash away, Yoishigure!"
"H-Hey Shizuku, that's bad! You can't do that! Put that dangerous thing away and listen to me! I'm not actually being blackmailed―hey, are you listening!?"
Ikki could only stand there with a blanched face as Shizuku summoned her kodachi-shaped Device, Yoishigure.
"Oh please, Onii-sama. I am listening. How can Shizuku not hear something Onii-sama said? That's more impossible than the world spinning backward. I might be the runner-up among the first-years and a B-Rank inferior to Stella-san, but my element is water, the natural counter to her fire. Still, I'm thankful for your worry. I love you, Onii-sama."
"You're obviously not listening at all! You've been talking nonsense since the beginning!"
"Serve me, Lævateinn."
"Wha!? Why is Stella getting aggressive too!?"
"Sorry, but unlike you, I'm not so soft I'd hold back while someone points a Device at me. If she wants to fight, then I'm ready and willing."
By the time Ikki realized it, neither Shizuku nor Stella were looking at him any longer. Only the enemy was reflected in those jade and ruby eyes. He could no longer stop them with words, now that they were set on beating each other.
"Okaaay! Everyone, please go out to the hall. If you stay here you'll die, you know~!"
Kagami had already started the evacuation, showing the great adaptability of a journalist. Soon, the only other people remaining in the classroom were the two girls glaring at each other.
"But still, you have such a modest Device… just like your chest."
"And you, a weapon with no elegance at all, just like your vulgar breasts. Both are only uselessly large. They fit you well."
"Someone so deprived can't help but speak her bias, but I shall forgive it, since I'm a woman whose heart is as big as her chest."
Ikki heard an unpleasant sound from Stella's direction.
Ahh, it's hopeless.
Ikki left the room with his shoulders slumped, and the unavoidable tragedy began.
"I'll kill you!"
Those two Blazers turned Year One Class One to rubble.
Needless to say, having a classroom destroyed was a catastrophe. The teachers conferred, and decided the punishment for the two culprits: one week of house arrest―and so the top two incoming first-years were both suspended on their first day of school. This scandal became the inaugural story for Kagami's wall newspaper and spread through the student body like wildfire.
Well, Ikki was happy to be spared the 『Squirm on My Chest! Princess and Savage Locked in Room Almost 72 Hours!』 story, but―
"…She really wasn't like that before."
He was shocked about many things, and he didn't stop sighing even after returning to his room that night. Shizuku really had been a sheltered, severely shy little girl. She always followed Ikki with light footsteps, and hid whenever something embarrassing happened―a truly obedient child. How did she turn into such a wickedly alluring teen?
Stella, now under house arrest, complained beside him with a displeased voice.
"Maybe not, but you sure looked happy about it. Weren't you actually delighted?"
"That's not true."
"Yes it is. If I hadn't stopped her, you would've been kissed twice."
If not for Stella, he certainly would've been kissed a second time.
"B-But it wasn't like I didn't try to move because I wanted to be kissed. How do I put this… Shizuku seemed so mature and feminine that I became overwhelmed."
"In other words, you were fascinated by your little sister who turned out to be so pretty after four years."
"No, I'm saying it's not like that…"
Shizuku was still Ikki's sister. He had never thought of her as more than that, and he absolutely never would. But today, seeing her again after four years… those alluring wet eyes, lightly blushing face, and lonely lips… if asked whether he saw Shizuku as a woman now, he couldn't deny it with full conviction.
"I… have no excuse."
Oh no, maybe I was hungry for girls after all. To be charmed by my little sister after four years….
Stella glared as he stumbled toward their shared bathroom.
"And where are you going?"
"I'm gonna cool my face in the shower a bit."
He had taken too many jolts today. Washing up and going to bed early would be best.
After Ikki entered the bathroom, Stella bit her lips and pouted. What was that "maybe"? He should've denied it with all his strength!
"…Even though you said I'm beautiful."
But to be distracted by his sister? It was so vexing that she couldn't settle down. Despite saying he wanted to be friends and sharing the same room, why was he still not approaching her yet? Stella had prepared for Ikki, waking up before him every morning to mend her bed hair so he wouldn't see her unsightly appearance, and she was ready every night for him to engage in that legendary Japanese "yobai" tradition.
Wait, it's not like I want to do that! If it happened, then of course I'd refuse! I'd kick him! A princess can't have a premarital sexual relationship! But….
But she couldn't bear to leave things as they were.
"Even though you called an unmarried girl beautiful! Even though you told me you wanted to get along better!"
What was the big idea, spitting out all that nonsense and then leaving her hanging? Was this what they call "not feeding a fish that's already been caught"? She wanted an explanation, and he had better apologize for being mesmerized by his sister after getting kissed.
"Ah, dang it! Idiot! Ikki, you idiot! Sis-con! Just die!"
Stella felt like crying as she hit her pillow, spouting abusive language all the while.
What if Ikki wasn't interested in Stella as a woman? What if she wasn't what Ikki wanted? What if he was more interested in loli-type girls like Shizuku? That was bad, because even though Stella wasn't tall, she'd been confident in her mature body, but what if Ikki got so caught up in being a sis-con he turned into a lolicon too? Then Stella's figure would be completely incompatible with his tastes.
That would be terrible. She didn't want that. She couldn't allow that.
So Stella hatched a plan.
Ikki sank deeper into the bathtub after remembering Stella's words, and his feelings sank with him.
"Maybe she hates me now…."
Was there a man not disheartened by a girl calling him a pervert? Honestly, it was quite unbearable, especially since those harsh words came from Stella. Ikki respected Stella Vermillion as a real knight, because despite her great talent, she always aimed higher and never went easy on herself. Could he do the same if he were similarly gifted? …Of course, she was a fascinating woman too, and being hated by someone he admired both as a knight and a woman left him quite depressed. He had to sweep away this bad impression as soon as he could.
"But I should also talk with Shizuku tomorrow."
While changing Stella's impression was important, he also had to make Shizuku understand she was no longer a child, so she couldn't go around kissing her brother. There was nothing good in Shizuku growing up so cute only to ruin their joyful reunion that way.
Just as Ikki thought that, Stella―wearing a bikini―charged into the cramped bathroom.
"I-I'm coming in."
What could this be? For some reason, Ikki felt he had made some great mistake, like thinking he just saw a whale in a pond. Ah, of course. It was strange for Stella to wear a swimsuit in the bathroom. Strange, and improper, and even impractical. A towel, even if it seemed embarrassing, made more sense―
"―No no no no no!"
Ikki almost flipped upside down at this suddenly nonsensical development.
"That's not the issue but it's weird by itself! First of all, why would you even come in here!? I don't get the situation!"
"W-What!? You don't have to be that shocked, right?"
"I'm shocked anyway! Of course I'd be! Seriously, what's going on!? Why would you put on a bikini and enter the bathroom that I was already in!?"
"You… can't tell?"
"I can't guess at all!"
"That… I-I was thinking of washing Ikki's body…."
Dizziness struck him. His head was spinning. His body boiled. He must be hallucinating.
Stella wants to wash my body? Hahaha, yeah right. What kinky video game did I fall into?
"Sorry Stella, it seems I'm not quite myself right now. I think I heard something absurd. Could you repeat that?"
"I mean… that… you know? I'm your slave, right? Then washing my master's body is my duty as a maid, yeah."
"Oh-ho, so that's all it was. Being a maid sure is tough."
"N-No, w-wait a minute! I never asked for that!"
"I'd do it even without you asking! Didn't Hideyoshi warm up Nobunaga's sandals even though he didn't ask!? It's like that!"
"What are you even talking about!?"
"Anyhow! This is my duty as your slave! So hurry up and sit!"
"There's no way I can do that! There's no way I can have you do that! All this stuff about masters and slaves is definitely wrong! First Shizuku, and now Stella, what the heck happened to a girl's sense of virtue!?"
"It's fine if I say it is! Just do as I tell you! If you don't―"
Stella paused for a moment, and fire started to scatter from her hair.
"I'll boil you!"
*Rub rub rub*
Stella, princess of the Vermillion Empire, was currently wearing a swimsuit and kneeling before Ikki, washing his body that only had a towel around his hips.
W-What was going on…? Ikki's head was about to go haywire. Or maybe it went bad a long while ago. If not, he wished it had.
"Be sure to keep your promise. I'll play along with this prank for today, but I'll definitely not do so from tomorrow on."
"I-I get it already. I'm not going through with this because I want to, you know. I lost, and became your slave, so that's why it has to happen."
…Why can't you just not do it?
But asking her would do no good, not after his last few requests. According to Stella, washing was supposed to be a slave's duty, so she wouldn't settle down without carrying it out at least once. Ikki didn't understand, but with her royal pride fired up, he couldn't easily argue her reasoning.
Anyway, just today. I'll bear with it just for today and then forget it all…!
Ikki swore that to himself while Stella washed his body. However―
His eyes were drawn to Stella's bikini-clad body. Reason was telling him not to stare, but his instincts wouldn't listen. He pretended to look away, but his emotions forced him to peek.
Right now, he was looking at the flawless figure of this charming roommate he couldn't understand. Stella was far more exposed than when he saw her half-naked that first day, exposing the pale shadows of the collarbone at the bottom of her long but thin neck, her tightly straightened shoulders, and her hips that drew a sweet line to the edges of her long and tender white legs. And among her striking features, the most outrageous was… her breasts. White and massive breasts, colossal enough to bulge tightly from her bikini. Fully ripe and peachy fruit that couldn't be hidden by her uniform. Bulges that swayed left and right while squishing every time Stella moved her body even slightly. Seeing them, Ikki felt his brain empty of blood, and his throat burned with thirst.
This is… impossible to take….
There was no way he could turn away or shut his eyes. Ikki was more temperate than most boys, maybe even too serious, but he was still a healthy sixteen-year-old lad. He wasn't adult enough to remove his attention from the bewitching body of a younger girl right in front of him. He couldn't help but stare furtively at every nook and cranny of her alluring, seductive limbs. Thank goodness Stella hadn't noticed it.
…Still, Stella really is beautiful.
Of course, Stella was beautiful as a woman, but her body was also beautiful as a knight. Ikki could see how Stella tormented herself to get that far. She had an unyielding will despite possessing so much talent. Her body could be a sculpture of her soul.
It was the first time Ikki realized her figure was this lovely. It was also the first time he wanted to touch it so badly. Of course, he knew that touching would be unforgivable, but―
At the same time, from Stella's perspective….
He's been staring so hard for a while now….
Stella had noticed Ikki's peeks long ago, since a woman was sensitive to a man's eyes, especially those of a man on her mind. It was probably that thing called "a woman's intuition", a sense that men didn't have, and hers immediately felt Ikki's feverish gaze and told Stella, Oh no! He's looking! He's looking!
She was aware of that intense gaze, and her body started to heat up feverishly. His line of sight crept from her nape to her collarbone, breasts, navel, and thighs―as if he was brushing her whole body gently.
So embarrassing… I'm gonna faint….
But Stella didn't mind. No, she was relieved, because this was proof that Ikki didn't dislike her figure, or at least he wasn't indifferent to it. Seeing Ikki's body had unsettled her, and seeing hers had sent Ikki's heart thumping the same way. Stella was reassured by this, and very happy. She wouldn't lose. She definitely wouldn't lose to that little sister.
"Then, next… your back. I'll wash it…."
Stella turned towards Ikki's back after finishing his torso. Of course, she wasn't going to wash his bottom half. It was still too soon for that. Right. Not just yet.
"Y-Yeah, I'll leave it to you."
Ikki took care not to mention Stella ignoring his waist. If the situation called for him to take off his towel, he was prepared to escape even if he had to smash through a wall.
Only the back left. It'll all be over after that….
As long as he didn't look at Stella's body, controlling himself was quite simple. Having his back washed made him a little uneasy, but he didn't need to move his chest or abdomen. He could endure. He could pass this mysterious ordeal. And then he'd forget it entirely, never recalling what happened here today or speaking a word of it to anyone. May it lie buried and abandoned in the deepest corner of his memories.
As Ikki resolved himself, Stella suddenly spoke behind him, her voice as soft as a butterfly's wings beating.
"What is it?"
"Um. You, see… erm, I mean, there's something… I'd like to… ask you…."
"Sure, that's fine. What is it?"
"Ikki… you… do you like… girls with breasts?"
Ikki felt a hammer hitting the back of his head.
"Wha! Ah, you―! W-W-What are you…!"
"I mean… weren't you staring… a while ago?"
He'd been caught! She caught him stealing glances!
Ikki wanted to die. Disappear. Let him turn to wind this instant.
"I'm sorry! I knew it wasn't good to stare like that! But you have to understand―!"
"Y-You don't have to apologize. Just answer my question."
The question? He'd rather cast himself face-first onto the ground before her than answer that. To be asked about his preferences by a girl right behind him, what kind of crazy penalty game was this? Terrible, it was just too terrible. Had he called down some god's wrath?
He was mortified, but―Ikki had no escape, so he resigned himself and squeezed out a tiny reply.
Ikki nearly died from the silence, but the moment he spoke up―
―two round things, springier than a sponge and far softer than one's palms, pressed against his back. Numbness bolted up his spine and into his brain, short-circuiting Ikki's consciousness instantly.
Incomprehensible. Everything had happened behind him in his blind spot. No matter how excellent his vision, Ikki couldn't see somewhere he couldn't look. But even if he were fully blind, he'd still know what had happened.
"S-Stella… just now… you…!"
Before he could demand an explanation, Stella dashed from the bathroom with lightning speed, her face red to her ears.
First Shizuku, and now Stella. Just by being the other gender, do people really become that hard to understand!?
Ikki couldn't comprehend a single thing that had happened since waking up this day. But one thing he could say for sure: he'd never forget that sensation.
- Sensei: "Teacher", used as a form of address.
- Senpai: A more senior member of an organization. In the case of a school, it is equivalent to "upperclassman".
- Onii-sama: "Big brother", spoken as a highly respectful form of address.
- Sis-con: A person with a "sister complex", who dotes too much on his sister.
- Yoishigure, 宵時雨: "Evening Rain"
- Kodachi: A Japanese shortsword, essentially a short katana.
- Yobai: A traditional Japanese practice, where a man sneaks into a woman's house and bed during the night to have consensual and discreet sexual intercourse, then sneaks back out of the house before morning without disturbing the rest of the household. It is often done with the household's knowledge, such as before intended marriage.
- Loli: Abbreviation of "Lolita", a precocious and sexually seductive underage girl.
- Lolicon: A person with a "Lolita complex", who is attracted to underage girls.
- During the last part of Japan's Warring States period near the mid-1500s, the samurai warlord Nobunaga Oda began the unification of Japan's various domains. Hideyoshi Toyotomi was a peasant-born servant of Oda, initially working as Oda's sandal-bearer, but Toyotomi's accomplishments as negotiator and general raised him above his low status and birth, and he is today considered one of the three main personages who unified Japan alongside Oda and fellow Oda supporter Ieyasu Tokugawa.
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