Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 11 Chapter 1
Chapter 1 - Room Wars of Chaos
"Ohhh... My friend, young maidens... Do you truly intend to leave me behind...?"
Reaching out with trembling arms and a pallid demeanor, the petite blue-eyed blonde pleaded hoarsely.
At first glance, one might think she was younger than us students; however, she—Charlotte B. Lord—was actually Midgard's chief administrator.
As the principal, she occupied the clock tower's top floor with her office and private room. Along with a couple others, we members of Brynhildr Class had been hiding here the whole time until the situation settled down outside.
"We won't forget you... Principal."
The silver-haired girl, Iris Freyja, tearfully bid her goodbye.
"Tia... had a very happy time... We made wonderful memories."
The young girl with little red horns on her head, Tia Lightning, had her eyes completely wet.
"Thank you for your hospitality."
My younger sister, Mononobe Mitsuki, bowed deeply and thanked her.
"This sure brings back a lot of memories for me—It's like having a huge family. Ren, you had a good time too, right?"
Ariella Lu smiled happily. The red-haired girl next to her, Ren Miyazawa, spoke next:
"Mm... Staying up late with everyone was not bad."
Nodding, Ren seemed a little reluctant to leave.
However, the rest of us all showed a mixture of relief and exhaustion on our faces.
"Finally, we can get back to a life of routine."
Tossing her long blonde hair with her hand, Lisa Highwalker sighed.
"Yes... Although living together is fun, not having any private time is a bit tiring."
Firill Crest agreed with Lisa. She looked very sleepy and was rubbing her eyes.
"Though I have no right to complain—I believe this kind of lifestyle will lead to one's decline if continued. More importantly, it's a bad influence for Zwei's education."
The cross-dressing girl speaking in upright posture was Jeanne Hortensia. Since she was borrowing my school uniform, the sleeves were slightly long.
"bAd inFlUenCE... What does ThAt mEAn?"
The youngest of the group, the purple-haired girl Shion Zwei Shinomiya, tilted her head in puzzlement.
Next to her, Kili Surtr Muspelheim smiled with delight and said:
"I am greatly in favor of leaving this place too. It's hard to make nocturnal visits with so many people living together."
Hearing that, Jeanne explained to Shion that "bad influence refers to imitating people like her," causing Kili to grumble "how rude" to Jeanne.
"Noise is not to my liking either."
Next, the girl who looked like a smaller version of Kili—Vritra who was currently in human form—murmured.
Smiling wryly at everyone, I—Mononobe Yuu—extended my hand towards Charlotte.
"Thanks for looking after us, Charl."
Charlotte proceeded to grab my hand, looking like she was about to break into tears.
"P-Please... Don't go. If you're not here, who's going to stay up all night to play games with me—Owwwww!?"
However, Charlotte's head was pushed down before she could finish. This was the doing of her secretary standing behind her, Mica-san.
"Please do not be selfish, Charlotte-sama. NIFL has withdrawn and Midgardsormr has been repaired. There is no reason to keep everyone here any longer."
Dressed in a maid uniform, the statuesque and busty Mica-san glared at Charlotte.
"B-But I still have to supervise my friend—"
"Subjecting Mononobe-san to house arrest was to prevent him from coming into contact with those whose dragon marks had changed color. However, now that all of them have chosen to touch him, the color changes in the dragon marks have stopped. And right now, none of the other students have shown signs of their dragon marks changing color. Hence, there should not be any problem allowing him to return to school life. Furthermore, documents pertaining to this incident still require your stamp and signature, Charlotte-sama."
Showing a surprised gaze, Charlotte pouted in a sulk.
"I-It's true that they can return to school life... But there's another issue if I let them go... We still don't know what changes might happen to the young maidens..."
"In light of this issue, all of them, who had been living in the girls dormitories, will officially transfer to live in Mitsuki-san's quarters. Information control would be very difficult if anything happened while they continued living in the girls dormitories."
After saying that, Mica-san looked at me.
"Furthermore, Mononobe-san, please refrain from coming into contact with girls from other classes. In the event that you were to cause their dragon marks to change color—We would need to quarantine you again."
I could not help but gulp in the face of Mica-san's pressure and nodded firmly. This is something I had been warned many times in detail already.
"No problem. I will make sure to keep Nii-san under my watchful eyes."
Mitsuki took a step forward and hugged my arm. Although the soft sensation against my elbow was making me flustered, Mitsuki did not seem to mind. After the transformation into my kind, we seem to have grown closer.
Seeing this situation, Iris frantically raised her hand.
"I will watch Mononobe carefully to prevent affairs!"
I was troubled already but even more dangerous comments could be heard.
"If any girl dares make a move on my Yuu, I will have her body remember the consequences. Fufu... I wonder which move should I use?"
Kili smiled coldly but Lisa immediately issued a stern warning.
"He is not yours, Kili-san. Should you dare to do anything inappropriate, you would be the one placed in isolation, understood?"
"Isolation... Do you seriously think you can deprive me of my freedom?"
Kili glared back at Lisa with a fearless expression. At that moment, Firill interjected.
"There there... You have to listen to Lisa carefully. What she said just now was out of concern for you, so please interpret it as her slowly warming up to you, Kili-chan."
Hearing that, both Lisa and Kili went red and cried out at the same time.
"Please don't add weird interpretations!"
"Don't you start calling me Kili-chan too!"
The tense atmosphere immediately turned inconclusive. Mica-san smiled wryly.
"I apologize for imposing such trouble upon you. I shall lend my assistance in the dorm moving process too."
"Definitely, moving everything will be quite a huge task—Well, I have very few belongings so I don't mind..."
Ariella glanced suggestively at Firill.
"Mm... Firill will probably need to work a hundred times harder than us."
Ren concurred. She was looking at Firill with eyes filled with pity.
"Firill's room is all books! Piled up to the ceiling!"
Tia spread her hands in a forceful gesture to indicate the vastness of Firill's book collection.
With everyone staring at her, Firill scratched her cheek while breaking out in cold sweat.
"W-Well... Bridges will be crossed when encountered."
Then she slowly approached me and placed her hand on my shoulder.
"...Mononobe-kun, I'm looking forward to your contribution."
"You're going to have me take care of it!"
Although I already expected it, I still exclaimed loudly in protest, extremely exasperated.
Despite having just survived an intense battle , it looked like my body was going to be conscripted for labor again.
Hopefully, I won't end up with muscle pain, I braced myself in resignation.
Looking up at the blue sky with scattered white clouds, I sighed.
Today the sky was clear with a very bright sun, but I avoided direct sunlight by staying in the shade of a fire escape staircase.
Although not as comfortable as being in an air-conditioned room, the breeze from the shore could still blow away the heat.
Listening to unseen birds, I muttered poignantly.
Ever since NIFL imposed that inspection on Midgard—which could actually be called a war between the two sides—four days had passed since that major incident.
Although the landed NIFL troops withdrew after retrieving their destroyed unmanned weaponry, clear signs of battle still lingered everywhere.
But even so, Midgard had returned to peace. Compared to the time when Hekatonkheir attacked the island, things had calmed down much faster.
This was probably because the enemies were human this time, coupled with the fact that Midgard had not suffered any casualties.
Although I did not know what kind of aftermath handling and diplomatic activities Charlotte had to do specifically, the various superpowers apparently withdrew their demands to have Charlotte exert full control over human society using her authority.
Consequently, NIFL no longer had any urgency to take out Charlotte and they generously accepted Midgard's demands.
Midgard's demands mainly included compensation for the monetary damage incurred by NIFL's attack. Apart from that, there was the cessation of satellite monitoring too.
The eye in space looking down upon us from the sky should have changed its orbit already to watch a different scene.
"Oh—! Mononobe, so there you are!"
While I was looking out at the sky, I heard a voice from the landing above.
I looked up to see Iris staring down at me, slightly displeased.
"Jeez, Mononobe... Firill-chan is looking for you, y'know? Slacking off is not allowed."
Iris scolded me with arms akimbo. However, I already had an excuse prepared.
"I'm not slacking off—This is just taking a break. I did make dozens of trips between the entrance and the second floor already while carrying boxes filled with books."
I waved my exhausted arms and explained the necessity of rest to Iris.
Today, I was granted special permission to enter the girls dormitories. Since morning, I had been helping Firill move house the whole time.
Firill used her room as book storage and apparently lived in Lisa and Tia's room instead... Indeed, Firill's room was not a realm fit for human survival.
Rather than towers, the piles of books reaching the ceiling were more akin to walls that divided the cramped room into squares, turning the room into a labyrinthine space.
Although there were gaps large enough for a single person to pass through, accidentally touching a wall of books could cause a collapse, hence there was no guarantee of safety.
Gingerly as though handling explosives, I first disassembled the walls of books, packed the books into cardboard boxes, then moved them to the dorm entrance. I had done this dozens of times already—So many that I gave up counting.
To me, the only saving grace was that autonomous machines were in charge of transporting belongings from the girls dorm to Mitsuki's place. If I had to make trips to Mitsuki's dorm and back, I doubt even a week would be enough to move everything.
"Sigh... I-Is it that big of a job? It looks like it's still not over yet?"
Iris looked a bit intimidated.
"I think it's almost half done now... I should be finished by sundown or so."
"If you have the time, I'd like your assistance too... But it looks like I should hurry up with my part so that I can help you out instead."
I wanted to tell the wryly smiling Iris "that'd be a great help"—But to be honest, something else had been bothering me the whole time.
Iris was standing on the landing half a floor up—And I was looking up at her. Hence, no matter what, I would see her pale thighs between her skirt and her kneesocks. It seemed like I could even see under her skirt if I were to shift my angle.
I felt guilty for staying silent, so I was going to tell Iris that she was currently standing at a bad location.
"What's wrong, Mononobe?"
However, just as Iris inclined her head in puzzlement, a gust of wind blew across the fire escape.
Her uniform skirt puffed out then the hem slowly flipped—
Iris frantically used both hands to hold down her skirt hem. However, the pure white fabric under her skirt had already been imprinted clearly in my eyes.
Surrounded by an embarrassing and silent atmosphere, we stared at each other.
"......Mononobe, you're blushing."
Clutching her skirt hem tightly, Iris spoke quietly.
"No... You're the one who's blushing, Iris."
I was well aware that my face had gone red, but Iris also looked thoroughly red as though she had just taken a hot water bath.
"Did... you see it?"
"Well—Umm, I'm sorry."
Scratching my head, I apologized.
"Umm, you don't need to apologize..."
"No—Because it's you, Mononobe."
Seeing Iris nod shyly, I held my breath.
It was possible that my face was now redder than hers. Since it would be very embarrassing if she saw it, I pressed my hand against the side of my mouth.
"Well luckily, at least you're wearing it today."
I made a joke to regain composure. There was one time in the past when Iris had gone to school without remembering to wear panties.
"I-It's not like I forget to wear it every single day!"
Iris answered with a pout. The mood went back to normal—I smiled.
"Saying it like that makes it seem like you frequently forget."
"Ooh... You're so bad, Mononobe. The fact that you peeked at my y'know... I'm going to report it to Mitsuki-chan, got that?"
Blushing red, she stuck out the tip of her tongue and immediately opened the door to enter the building.
"Please let me off the hook."
"Fufu, just kidding. Then I'm going back first."
While Iris waved to me with a smile, I answered "okay."
After seeing Iris off, I looked at the blue sky again. However, as soon as I saw a white cloud, the image of white fabric, imprinted on my retina, resurfaced in my mind, making it impossible for me to calm down.
"—Nothing else I can do. Time to head back too."
I originally wanted to take a longer break, but time was running out if getting things done before evening was the goal.
I went up the steel staircase and returned to the corridor of the second floor of the girls dorm.
My classmates from Brynhildr Class all had their rooms on this level. To observe whether their move was going well, I walked past and glanced at them.
The doors to rooms where the move was in progress were open. Cardboard boxes were piled up by the doors.
Lisa and Tia's room was already cleared out. Neither of them were in the room and were probably moving their belongings at the entrance.
Ariella and Ren were in the process of packing up a desktop computer's central processing unit. Since Ariella had mentioned that she had few belongings, it was probably Ren's.
—Sure enough, the girls with roommates were very fast at moving out.
Things were most likely okay on their end, but Iris roomed on her own.
Since she looked like she wanted help, I was very curious about her progress.
But as soon as I approached Iris' room, I instantly knew there was nothing to worry about.
"—Iris-san, you are too sloppy. Please categorize things properly and label the contents clearly on the outside of the boxes. Otherwise, it will turn into a mess when you unbox them, do you understand?"
"Umm, yes, I understand."
I could hear Mitsuki and Iris' voices from the room. I peered through the ajar door to see Mitsuki issuing directions to Iris.
It looked like she had coming over to help out Iris whose move was going slowly. Initially after making contact with me when her dragon mark was changing blue, Mitsuki had been feeling unwell, but she seemed to have recovered now. In that case, I guess I did not need to help Iris.
Although I hoped for assistance with Firill's move, since Jeanne and Kili's presence had not been disclosed to ordinary students yet, I could not ask them to come to the girls dorm to help out.
I went to Firill's room again—Or rather, her book repository.
Adjacent to the door on both sides were a great number of boxes for packing books.
According to Iris, Firill was apparently looking for me. Preparing myself to face her anger, I looked into the room.
However, I was greeted by a scene that was totally off from my expectations.
Things had improved greatly from the maze of books. Standing at the doorway, I was able to see the situation in the room. Firill was sitting squarely in the center of the room, reading a book in her hand.
Sighing, I entered the room. Firill looked up at me.
"Oh, Mononobe-kun—Sheesh, where did you go?"
"...I went for a 'self-directed break.'"
"In other words, slacking off, bad guy."
Firill pouted adorably.
Next, I pointed at the paperback in her hand.
"I apologize for that—But all things considered, I'm just here to help, right? You've got to do your part too, Firill."
Firill had been reading the whole time, contributing nothing at all. As a result, my burden was greatly increased.
"Hmm... I did intend to help out properly too, you know? It's just that I somehow got sucked in when I was taking a quick flip through an old book I've read before."
"Fine, you're forbidden from flipping through books during the move."
Firill expressed her discontent.
"Not allowed. I'm helping out voluntarily, so you have to obey my demands too."
I declared with my arms akimbo, but for some reason, Firill looked confused.
"Eh? I did intend to reward you properly, you know?"
Surprised, I asked in response.
Speaking of rewards from Firill, what flashed through my mind was the event on the volcanic island during the punitive expedition against Basilisk. To reward me for clearing up the conflict between Mitsuki and Lisa, Firill had brought Iris and the rest of the girls into the bath while I was using the hot spring.
"Oh, Mononobe-kun... Your face is turning red. Are you looking forward to something?"
Firill looked up at me with an alluring smile.
"Uh, it's not like that—"
"—Go ahead and look forward to it, Mononobe-kun."
When I denied in fluster, Firill interrupted me with a whisper as though telling a secret.
"Uh... What on earth are you planning to do?"
"Fufu, I'm still thinking. Go ahead and tell me if you want anything. I'll do anything no matter what."
With Firill's serious gaze upon me, I could not help but feel my heart pound faster.
"Anything no matter what... I don't think you should make such a promise so lightly, right?"
I used my rationality to drive away my surging delusions and feigned a calm expression while I warned Firill.
"Don't worry. I've already thought it through properly. I said it only because it's for you, Mononobe-kun, so don't worry."
These words unsettled me, causing me to avoid her gaze.
What surfaced in my mind was still the event on the volcanic island. Back then, I was in the hot spring, hugged by Firill in the nude. Recalling that soft and elastic sensation, my thoughts were scattered all over the place.
"E-Even if you say that suddenly..."
"That's why you should give it some thought. But if you don't hurry, I'll decide on my own."
Smiling mischievously, Firill placed the book she was holding into a box. The move resumed again.
I nodded and picked up a cardboard box filled with books.
However, due to the wavering in my heart, I accidentally tripped over some books by my feet.
I lost balance slightly and my shoulder leaned into a wall. Normally, this would not be a problem, but—The wall I had leaned into was made of books, towering up to the ceiling.
The books above collapsed and came down like an avalanche.
Shocked, Firill looked up at the falling books.
I put down the box I was carrying and used my body to shield Firill.
Many books fell on my back. As the weight increased, I could no longer stand and ended up falling towards Firill.
Boing, the instant my face was cushioned by something soft, my vision turned completely black.
Knowing that I was buried by books, I struggled under the heavy weight.
Next, I heard a sweet voice nearby for some reason. Due to my movement, the books on top of me fell left and right, lightening the load. Thus, I was able to escape from from the weight. I pushed myself up using my arms.
After I got rid of some books on top of me, a ray of light entered—I found Firill and I gazing into each other's eyes up close.
This posture looked as though I had pinned her down on her back. And where my face had been buried was the valley in her massive bust.
"...Thank you, Mononobe-kun. Another favor I have to return."
Blushing, Firill smiled.
"No, you don't have to. It was my mistake just now... You don't owe me anything."
Conscious of my own face going red, I shook my head stiffly.
"Really? But it's a rare chance—Then I'll first return the favor of helping me put my room in order."
With slight disappointment, Firill wrapped her arms around my neck with a seductive expression.
As I looked at her in puzzlement, Firill whispered to me in a sweet voice.
"What would you like to do, Mononobe-kun? If you don't hurry up and tell me, I will give you my treasured present."
Pulled by Firill's arms, I leaned closer in her direction. However, we were not face to face. My head rested on Firill's chest with her uniform ribbon against the tip of my nose.
"Hey, what are you doing—"
"Boys enjoy burying their face between boobs, don't they? I read that from a book before."
"W-What kind of book did you read!?"
When I asked that, Firill looked a little flustered.
"N-Not the dirty type, okay? Just ordinary shounen manga. Don't get the wrong idea."
"...So reading books of that kind is embarrassing."
I smiled wryly. Due to Firill's fluster, I regained my composure a little.
"Because—I do need to maintain a princess' dignity, you know?"
"In that case, doing this would be bad, right?"
I brought up the fact that we were pressed together intimately, but she shook her head.
"This is fine, since you are my prince, Mononobe-kun. By the way... Having selected me, Mononobe-kun, you must show more princely self-awareness. You need to take responsibility properly."
Seeing her serious gaze, I could not help but fall silent.
Although I wanted to retort, that would probably prompt Firill to proceed with an unexpected counterattack.
Changing the color of the girls' dragon marks and turning them into my kind through contact, this was beyond the point of no return. Although it was an emergency situation at the time, what I did was no different from how dragons turned Ds into mates. No longer considered Ds, the girls might not lose their powers even after reaching adulthood. If things really ended up like that, it would become very difficult for them to leave Midgard. It was possible that I had already warped their lives greatly.
"You don't intend to take responsibility, Mononobe-kun?"
Seeing Firill a little worried, I shook my head to reassure her.
"No, that's not true. I touched you of my own will, Firill. I will take responsibility for all problems arising from that. I will also do everything within my power."
I asserted strongly and met Firill's gaze squarely. Next, her expression turned gentle as she spoke with a giggle.
"Oh, didn't you warn against lightly claiming you'll do anything?"
"...I'm not saying this lightly either."
"Really? ...Good to know."
Firill looked reassured then hugged my face tightly.
"Mmmph! W-Wait! Although I said I'd do anything, I still haven't sorted out all kinds of circumstances, plus I still need to discuss things properly with everyone—"
Sandwiched between her warm and soft breasts, I spoke hastily. The body warmth transmitted through her uniform and the girly fragrance filling my nose were making me lose my sanity.
Firill then loosened her hug and stroked the hair on the back of my head.
"Very well. Let's conclude here for today."
"...Thanks a lot."
Filled with embarrassment, I lifted my head from Firill's chest.
"However, you might be out of pondering time, you know? Oh, there's a bump there."
Firill warned while stroking my head. The bump was probably caused by a falling book. It was slightly painful to the touch.
"What do you mean by out of time—"
"...Resolution will not wait for you. Although straightening out this room is a lot of work... True trouble will come afterwards."
Firill cocked her head with a mixture of worry and anticipation.
"Yes, Mononobe-kun. You are about to face an important choice. However, this burden might be a bit heavy for you right now... I will be assisting you. Rest assured."
Although Firill spoke with confidence, I still felt uneasy.
"What kind of choice?"
"—Secret. Revealing it now would be unfair. However... You'll understand if you give it a little thought."
Firill only gave me a cryptic answer.
In the end, no matter how I asked after that, Firill refused to give a clear answer. I tried thinking on my own but to no avail.
However, just as she predicted, after the girls finished their move from the girls dorm—It was going to turn into a time of tribulations.
"—Mononobe! You prefer me, don't you, Mononobe?"
Iris leaned forward and asked me.
"Mononobe Yuu, you said that it felt reassuring to be by my side, didn't you?"
Lisa looked at me sharply, seeking my agreement.
"Yuu is Tia's husband and must be next to Tia!"
Bouncing over to my side, Tia tugged at my clothing. On the opposite side, Ren pulled my sleeve gently.
"...Onii-chan, are I no good?"
"Mononobe-kun, I'd like to stay by your side too, if it's okay with you."
Ariella scratched her face shyly and glanced sideways at me.
"How unfortunate for you all. Yuu's side is the spot belonging to me. I won't concede it to anyone."
Kili touched my cheek from behind and declared strongly.
"Hey Kili! Get away from the Captain! That is the one spot I cannot concede to you!"
After Jeanne forcibly dragged me away from Kili, Shion trotted over to me in tiny steps.
"Papa... i wAnt To bE close To yOu."
"E-Even if you say that..."
I patted Shion's head, comforting her while looking around me.
We were at the entrance hall of Mitsuki's dorm. The girls' belongings, moved over from the girls dorm, were piled up here in a mountain.
It was currently 5pm. Streaming in from outside, the rays of dusk were casting shadows of the windows on the ground. Although we succeeded in moving the belongings before sunset... There was a tense atmosphere surrounding me right now.
Everyone was staring seriously at me. An urgent decision was thrust upon me. And what caused this was—
"Please calm down, everyone. Nii-san is caught in a dilemma too. How about following the rooming arrangement we had already assigned previously?"
Inserting herself between me and the others, Mitsuki remarked in exasperation.
Indeed—We were currently stuck in a fierce dispute over the distribution of rooms. As the master of the house, Mitsuki's intervention caused the girls to back off slightly, but Lisa immediately shook her head.
"—No, that is not agreeable at all. In the beginning, I did not object against the room assignments because it was a temporary arrangement for concealing the dragon marks whose color had changed. However, now that we have moved into your dormitory officially, Mitsuki-san, considering we will be living here for the long term, I disagree with maintaining the current rooming arrangement."
The other girls agreed with Lisa, but Mitsuki glared at them with displeasure.
"Your misgivings sound reasonable... Yet judging from the conversation between you earlier, all of you are merely contending for the room adjacent to Nii-san's, is that correct?"
"W-Well... I am simply... I am simply making this suggestion out of consideration for him. I-If... If Kili-san were to live next to him, she will surely break the wall..."
Lisa explained in a stammer, causing Kili to look offended.
"How rude. I won't be doing anything as barbaric as smashing a wall. That would prevent me from enjoying the pleasures of being neighbors. At most, I might drill a small hole."
"Drilling holes are absolutely forbidden!"
"Of course I know that... Sheesh. Can't you even take a joke?"
Covering her ears, Kili replied unhappily.
"—It certainly does not sound like a joke to me. I knew it, I should be the one to live next to Mononobe Yuu."
Lisa puffed out her chest and insisted, but Ariella and Ren objected.
"In that case, what's the difference if I took that room instead?"
Iris raised her hand and added:
"I-I will protect the wall properly!"
"...Iris-san, that is not the point of contention here."
Mitsuki sighed with her palm against her forehead before saying to the rest of us:
"I understand—Regarding the matter of room assignments, let us save the discussion for another time. However, since the room adjacent to Nii-san's is causing such a heated contest, it will have to remain empty for now."
"Eh, no way..."
Iris whined unhappily and the other girls also showed dissatisfaction on their faces. They were not going to accept, apparently. Next, everyone looked at me.
I would have to be the one to make a choice if Mitsuki's decision were to be overturned without a dispute.
This was probably the "important choice" that Firill had predicted. However, this was not a question that could be answered straight away.
—By the way, didn't Firill say she was going to help me?
I glanced hopefully at her, who had kept silent so far.
Standing at the back of the group, Firill exchanged a glance with me then nodded with a smile.
"Excuse me, Mitsuki. As long as everyone stops fighting, it would not be an issue, right?"
Saying that, Firill took a step forward.
"Eh, yes... I suppose you are right."
Mitsuki nodded somewhat hesitantly.
"In that case, let's fight. The rooms will be picked based on victory rankings."
Just as Mitsuki's expression turned grim, Firill shook her head at her.
"I'm not talking about mock battles, but something even more fun than that."
Mitsuki showed an expression of comprehension after hearing Firill, but I was still left completely in the dark. However, Firill soon gave the answer.
"Yes—We will decide using a game."
Everyone who was going to live in this dorm had gathered inside Mitsuki's room. Although her room was far more spacious than the ones in the girls dorm, it was still a bit cramped with ten-odd people packed inside.
"—Oh my, Mother is here too."
Seeing the presence of Vritra, who had been absent from the previous scene, Kili expressed surprise.
"Hmph, ye shall be determining residence locations. 'Tis interesting to me, more or less."
Suddenly turning her face away in a huff, Vritra was glancing at me for some reason.
When I looked at her questioningly, Vritra glared at me with arms akimbo.
"...'Tis not like I am looking at thee, okay!?'
"But you were looking at me."
I corrected Vritra's strange declaration. Somehow, something about her choice of words seemed odd to me.
"Like I said, I was not looking at thee. I hate thee!"
Finding Vritra's speech very odd, I stopped pursuing the matter.
—I suppose Vritra did hate me after all.
Not only did I foil her plan but also sealed away her power to keep her under house arrest. It would be only natural for her to feel that way. I averted eye contact guiltily.
"Hmm...? How odd... According to that book, 'twould arouse thy interest in me..."
However, Vritra cocked her head and murmured to herself quietly in surprise. Trying to figure if she was angry or not, I concentrated but still could not catch her words clearly.
"Mother seems to be saying something...?"
Kili looked troubled. At that moment, Mitsuki walked to the front of everyone.
"Well then, everyone, according to Firill-san's suggestion, we will be playing a game here to decide the rooming arrangements. For those who are currently living together, namely Lisa-san and Tia-san, Ariella-san and Ren-san, Jeanne-san and Shion-san, as well as Kili-san and Vritra-san, I intend to have you participate in the contest as partners in teams... Is there anyone who would like to change roommates or live alone instead?"
Mitsuki sought confirmation.
"I am fine with the current arrangement."
"Tia is okay with living with Lisa!"
Lisa and Tia answered simultaneously and smiled at each other.
"Let's continue to room together?"
"Mm... I don't want to separate from Onee-chan either."
Ariella asked and Ren nodded deeply.
"I wish to remain with Zwei too. No changes necessary."
"i wAnT tO Be wiTH... Mama."
Zwei held Jeanne's hand tightly. It was clear that she did not want to leave Jeanne.
"Well, someone has to keep an eye on Mother—Let me be the one to protect you."
"...'Tis not a choice for me regardless. Do as thou wishest."
Vritra answered Kili's teasing with displeasure.
After listening to everyone, Mitsuki nodded and continued.
"In that case, there are a total of four teams of two. Furthermore, Nii-san, myself, Iris-san and Firill-san room alone, so we will be participating individually."
However, I raised a question at this point.
"Hold on. If we're deciding on rooms, what point is there for you and I to participate? I'm fine with keeping my existing room..."
When I asked Mitsuki, she nodded with comprehension.
"If I were to win, Nii-san's room will be left unoccupied. If you were to win, Nii-san, you shall nominate someone to take the room adjacent to yours. Naturally, you may choose to leave it empty too."
Hearing this, I could not help but gasp.
Then it was going to be the same as just now, right? I became painfully aware of the increasing pressure everyone was directing at me. No one was going to allow me to leave the room empty, I guess.
—I'd better lose the game as quickly as possible.
I committed my determination for defeat.
"It's ready. Let's start the game!"
After connecting the game console to the giant LCD television, Firill announced cheerfully.
Thus began the chaotic room wars.
"Simply stated, this is a variation of Double Six or Snakes and Ladders, a game that everyone knows about. You advance by casting dice with predetermined events triggering when you land on squares. This game is essentially based on luck without giving anyone an advantage. Oh of course, Tia, you're not allowed to hack the game."
Firill reminded Tia when explaining the game.
Having inherited Yggdrasil's authority, Tia was able to hack computers through electrical interference.
"Got it! Tia won't be cheating!"
Seeing Tia's matter-of-fact expression, Firill continued explaining.
"—Then there's no problem. Although it's possible to have four-player games, let's have each team play the game individually one after another to determine the rankings."
At that moment, I noticed something and asked Firill.
"Double Six is a race to the finish, right? This game will always end, right?"
Back when we were children, Mitsuki and I played a version of Double Six where we competed to see who could earn the most money. Judging from Firill's tone of voice, there did not seem to be any problems of that sort.
"Don't worry. This game does have a finish but no one can reach it in practice."
"...What do you mean by that?"
I asked with a frown. The same question seemed to appear on everyone else's face.
Next, Firill slowly took out the game software that was stored on casette tape. Judging from the faded packaging, this was an antique. On it was a difficult to read title—
Reading out the title, Iris tilted her head in puzzlement.
"That's the scientific name of sunfish."
Explaining that, Firill inserted the cassette into the ancient game console and switched it on. Next, a pixelated picture of a sunfish and the title appeared, composed of large dots.
"...Compared to the games I have played with Firill-san so far, this is very old."
Seeing the flashing picture of the sunfish, Lisa murmured with interest.
"Fufu—This was created at the dawn of video games. A curious gem of which very few copies remain because it was too boring. I came across it by chance at an online auction and won the bid."
Firill recounted proudly. However, there was something I could not ignore in what she had said.
"Too boring... Is that the kind of game we want to play?"
When I asked that, Firill waggled her finger and said "you don't understand."
"Too boring is only when played alone. Things get very lively when you play this sort of game in a group."
Firill proceeded to seek agreement from Ariella nearby.
"Well—It's true. We often gather together in Lisa's room to play Firill's games back in the girls dorm... Games that look boring at a glance could actully turn out to be very fun."
"Mm... And there are many ways to enjoy games. Like naming game characters after Onii-chan."
Ren nodded to concur with Ariella.
"...Is that really okay?"
I had mixed feelings about creating clones of me elsewhere without my knowledge.
"Rest assured, Nii-san. I have been guiding 'you' properly the whole time."
Mitsuki spoke with a serious expression. She had probably been showing this look the whole time while playing games with the group.
After picturing her playing games, I was slightly relieved.
—It looked like Mitsuki had been taking breaks properly.
As student council president and captain of the Dragon Subjugation Squad, Mitsuki was often shouldering a heavy burden. She always looked busy and it made me worried about her.
"Mononobe-kun can't be used here on a whim, so relax. Then let's hurry and get started—Who wants to be first?"
Firill presented the controller and asked us.
"—Then I shall go first."
Mitsuki was the first to raise her hand. As a game of Double Six, the risk in playing right off the bat was very high. Even so, Mitsuki did not hesitate at all to volunteer as the first to play now.
The others intended to check what the game was like, so no one objected to Mitsuki going first.
"Okay, Mitsuki, here you go. Just select single player mode and roll the die."
Receiving the controller from Firill, Mitsuki sat down in front of the console and stared at the television.
Shown on the screen were the squares on the Double Six board. A small white dot was shaking at the start square.
"Is this white dot my position marker? What a plain design even for a game from the past."
"It's an egg, not a marker."
"A fish egg?"
"Yes, it represents your current state. This is a Double Six game about a sunfish's life cycle. When you advance, the egg hatches into fry before growing into young fish, maturing like that."
"...How innovative. In any case, I shall begin."
Mitsuki pressed the button to toss the die on the screen.
"Five? Not bad for an opening toss."
Mitsuki murmured after looking at the result. The white dot—the sunfish egg—advance automatically according to the die. The instant it stopped on the fifth square, the screen turned dark.
Immediately, a pixelated image appeared on the screen. It was a strangely realistic fish.
"Let me see—'A bonito has appeared. Evasion succeeds on four, five or six'...? Oh well, it means another toss of the die in any case."
After reading the message on the screen, Mitsuki pressed the button again. The die swiveled again and stopped on three.
The screen proceeded to darken again. This time, the words "Game Over" were displayed.
Mitsuki stared at the screen in shock, frozen in place.
Everyone seemed puzzled but Firill recorded something on a piece of paper in her hand without much surprise.
"Mitsuki, five squares huh..."
Hearing Firill's murmur, Mitsuki looked back hastily.
"W-Wait! Are you telling me that this is over? Umm... Isn't this Double Six? Normally speaking, you miss out a turn or return to the start, right...?"
Firill looked like she had been waiting for this reaction from Mitsuki and smiled proudly.
"Fufufu, this is the reason why this game is known as a curious gem. No second chances... A sunfish's life is over once it is eaten by a bonito. Double Six that ends with death—Mola is this type of game."
"...I feel like it does not even count as a game."
After hearing Firill's explanation, Mitsuki put down the controller, appalled.
"Too naive, Mitsuki. Perhaps that may be true at first glance, but the true value of games like Mola is in their realism."
"Yes. A sunfish lays three hundred million eggs at a time, but only about one of them survives to adulthood."
"Well... I have heard of that."
Mitsuki could barely conceal the doubt on her face.
"According to the game designers of Mola, the probability of finishing this kind of Double Six game is one in three hundred million. In other words, this game completely simulates the life of a sunfish!"
Firill exclaimed loudly but the room was silent.
"Uh... It's not going to work if it lacks the fun of Double Six itself, right?"
Since no one was talking, I kept my voice lowered to make my comment.
Smiling wryly, Firill seemed to agree about the flaw of this Double Six game.
"Well, don't say it like that. Isn't it fun with everyone screaming and yelling? We also get quick outcomes."
"True... If the game drags on for too long, we'll never finish moving all the luggage tonight."
After I agreed reluctantly, Firill's expression mellowed. Then she sought the next challenger with a "Who's next!?"
"Let me go."
Jeanne instantly raised her hand.
"Mama... Do yOuR beSt!"
With Shion cheering for her, Jeanne walked over with Shion and sat down in front of the game console and picked up the controller.
"—Leave it to me. I'm sorry for everyone else but for me, this isn't a game to leave everything to fate. As long as I track the rotating die with my eyes, I'll be able to choose any outcome I want."
Jeanne spoke confidently and narrowed her eyes at the screen.
Jeanne was an outstanding sniper with excellent vision. Since her reflexes also far surpassed that of ordinary people, it was definitely possible.
"Hey Jeanne-chan, that's too unfair."
Kili gurmbled but Jeanne ignored her and started the game. She stared intently at the spinning die.
"For my sake and Zwei's, I must roll a six!"
Having said that, Jeanne pressed the button. The die read—
"O-One...? That's impossible."
Jeanne groaned with disbelief. Next to her, Firill explained:
"The spinning die is just part of the game's graphics. You can't see through the random number generation with your eyes."
"W-What did you say?"
Jeanne was rendered speechless. However, a serious event popped up on the square where she landed.
"A tuna has appeared. Evasion succeeds on five or six."
The same kind of fish graphic appeared on the screen as before, but this time, it was apparently a tuna fish.
"Hey, the evasion probability is lower than last time's!"
"Well, a tuna is bigger fish than a bonito after all."
Firill calmly replied to the complaining Jeanne.
"Damn it... Please, I must survive to advance!"
Jeanne prayed while tossing the die but the outcome was two. "Game Over" appeared again.
"Zwei... I'm sorry."
"yOu diD YoUr bEst."
Shion patted Jeanne's shoulder to comfort her disappointment.
Just as the atmosphere was turning awkward and silent, Ariella coughed and walked up.
"Well, just relax and take it on since it's a contest of pure luck. Leave it to me, Ren. I'm pretty strong when comes to confronting bad luck."
Despite saying that, Ariella did not show any arrogance on her face. She began the game.
"Mm, you'll definitely do it, Onee-chan."
Ren nodded with a trusting look, standing by Ariella's side to watch the game's outcome.
"Then I'll toss—Oh, it's one. The square with the tuna. But since it's me... Here."
She rolled a six matter-of-factly, successfully evading the tuna.
"Wow, it's the first time someone reached the second round."
Firill remarked poignantly.
"Okay, here I go again."
Ariella rolled the die again, obtaining a four this time. It was the square where Mitsuki had stopped just now.
"It's the bonito this time, but I've no intention of losing here."
Smiling confidently, Ariella rolled for evasion. She escaped the bonito successfully too.
"Fufu—finding a way to survive even in the face of bad encounters. That's what it means to be a child of misfortune."
Ariella replied proudly to Ren who had exclaimed in joy. However, she accidentally pulled the controller, causing the console to choke. Suddenly, static appeared from screen while the cursor and the graphics stopped moving.
"Huh, what happened...?"
Ariella pressed the button but there was no reaction on the screen. Seeing this, Firill sighed apologetically.
"Oh dear... It hanged. It's a console dating back to that era, after all, so it's really sensitive. The slightest movement could cause it to hang. Starting over would be unfair, so this is the end for Team Ariella and Ren."
"......I'm sorry, Ren. Every time, at a critical point, I..."
Ariella slumped her shoulders but Ren shook her head.
"Don't say that. Being in first for now is good enough."
"—Thanks. Then let's pray that no one overtakes us."
Ariella encouraged Ren while moving over to a corner of the room.
Next, Lisa and Tia came over.
"What a shame, Ariella-san—Nevertheless, we will attempt to surpass your record."
"Lisa will come in first for sure!"
Strangely confident, the two of them sat down before the game console. Lisa held the controller while Tia sat down lightly on her lap.
It felt like a customary seating arrangement. I suspected that they always sat like that.
They looked exactly like a mother-daughter pair. However, I noticed Mitsuki's absence at that moment.
After searching back and forth with my eyes, I found Mitsuki sitting behind me—on the bed in the room, watching from outside the circle of spectators like me.
"...What's wrong? Are you feeling unwell again?"
Feeling concerned, I leaned towards Mitsuki and asked. Ever since touching me to resolve the color change in her dragon mark, Mitsuki's state of health had not been great.
However, she had rested properly in Charlotte's room after all the fighting was over and seemed like she was no longer feeling unwell.
Be that as it may, given Mitsuki's personality—Perhaps she was simply enduring it.
"Oh, do not worry—I am feeling fine. It is just that I recalled some memories from the past... It feels a little like... a dream come true."
Mitsuki scratched her cheek shyly and smiled wryly at me.
"Yes—We had gathered to play like this before... But that was back when I had not located your whereabouts, Nii-san. All this time, I have prayed, hoping you could join us to play in such occasions."
Watching Lisa playing and the others gathered around her getting worked up, Mitsuki explained with nostalgia.
"Since then, so much has happened... Even including irreversible regrets... However, I feel that this moment already approaches my dream back then."
"Really...? That's wonderful."
Unable to think of anything special to say, I could only offer my thoughts. I was overjoyed to see Mitsuki looking so happy.
"Yes—Oh, it is 'Game Over' for Lisa-san and Tia-san too."
Mitsuki nodded with a smile and pointed towards the others.
"Wah... Eaten by a saury this time..."
"And we only advanced four squares..."
Tia and Lisa shrugged and yielded the stage.
"Very well, go forth, my daughter."
"It feels like you're strangely motivated, Mother. What on earth happened...?"
Next, Vritra walked over swiftly with Kili following her puzzled.
"Hmph—I simply wish to shake off the frustration of a losing streak. Thou intendest to live adjacent to him, yes? Then thou ought to do thy best."
"...I don't need to hear that from you. Although the dependence on luck pisses me off, I refuse to give up on the spot next to Yuu."
Nodding with a tensed expression, Kili sat down before the game console.
Vritra looked back, pointed at me and shouted harshly.
"Make no mistake, I have not the slightest desire to move in next to thee! It is not as though I intend to try hard for thy sake! Truly serious I am!"
"Sure, fine, got it."
I nodded at Vritra who kept nagging me.
"Yes, 'twould be meet... However, thy reaction is weaker than I expected."
For some reason, Vritra looked away with a disappointed expression towards the television.
"Everyone... is trying so hard. Nii-san, are you happy that you are so popular?"
"Not really. How should I put this...? I feel like Vritra doesn't seem to welcome me..."
With Mitsuki looking up at me, I scratched my head, not knowing what to say.
Mitsuki did not seem angry right now, but I had a feeling that irrevocable developments would unfold if I answered without thinking.
Seeing me respond respectfully to her, Mitsuki giggled.
"You do not need to be so worried. The question of whom you would like to live adjacent to you—I will not ask that sort of thing. I do know that you are shouldering the heavy burden of taking responsibility for all of us. However—"
Mitsuki paused there and stared at me with extraordinary seriousness.
"Just as the environment is changing in this manner, the relationship between me and you would no longer remain as it were. Hence, from now on, what kind of relationship you intend to construct with everyone... Please think carefully about it. Naturally, this includes your relationship with me."
I nodded seriously while looking into Mitsuki's eyes. There was no need to hesitate or delay my response for this sort of thing.
At that moment, I heard someone shouting from the television direction.
"Jeez, what the heck!? Getting caught in an underwater volcanic eruption in the second square, what kind of sick joke is that!? It's instant death without even giving you a chance to roll! This kind of game is—"
"Wawah! Stop, Kili-chan! It's all my turn next!"
Iris pulled back the greatly upset Kili.
"Clearly it would have been possible to recreate all sorts of scenarios if living adjacent... What an incompetent daughter."
Vritra was pouting on the side with displeasure. Her words remained indecipherable but it seemed like she wanted to live next to me.
After she finished consoling Kili at last, Iris started the game. She rolled a six right off the bat.
"Wonderful! I passed Mitsuki-chan and Ariella-chan to become first!"
She cheered with her arms raised. Seeing Iris like that, Mitsuki sighed in dismay.
"—I was overtaken."
"Oh well, I would simply keep the room adjacent to yours empty had I won, in any case... Whatever."
Without insisting, Mitsuki simply stated calmly.
"...But if you won, couldn't you use this chance to move to that room?"
"Yes, I could, but I am fine with living here. This room is directly above yours, Nii-san."
Mitsuki motioned to the floor suggestively with her eyes. Indeed, my room was right below.
"Mitsuki, you mean—"
I was touched by her expressing her wish to stay near me when Mitsuki instantly continued with solemnity.
"So long as I live here, I will instantly know of any commotion occurring in your room, Nii-san. Public morals are easily violated in this sort of coed housing arrangement. I will keep my eyes and ears open and observe carefully—Please be prepared."
Overwhelmed by Mitsuki's gaze, I nodded stiffly.
At that moment, Iris' mournful wail reached my ears.
"Oh, I got swallowed by a whale. That's too bad, since I actually hatched..."
It looked like it was "Game Over" for Iris too, but compared to the others, she had advanced much farther.
"Then that leaves only you and Firill-san. Nii-san, it is time for you to play, right?"
"—Yeah. I'll give it a shot as suitable."
Urged by Mitsuki, I walked over to Iris' side.
"I'm next, Iris. By the way, how many squares did you move forward?"
I received the controller from Iris' hands while praising in admiration. According to what I had seen so far, reaching that point was quite difficult.
In that case, it was essentially impossible for me to win.
Just as expected, the game ended fast for me. Like Mitsuki, I was eaten by a bonito on the fifth square.
"...Nature is very cruel. Come, you're last, Firill."
Feeling like I had gotten a glimpse of the world of survival of the fittest, I called Firill.
Firill had a laptop on her lap and seemed to be running some kind of calculation, but she raised her head and stood up after hearing me.
"Okay—I've found the path to victory."
With triumphant confidence, she accepted the controller from my hand.
"...Is there a sure-win method? Nothing unfair, okay?"
Feeling a shred of suspicion, I stared at her.
"I'm not going to do anything unfair. I simply recorded everyone's playthrough and analyzed them to find ways to improve the odds. This is called orthodox methods or game strategy."
Firill replied, slightly offended.
"R-Really? Sorry I offended you but—I can't believe there's a strategy in a game that relies on luck."
"There is. The chance events in games are basically all governed by the rules of random number generation. Part of the calculation formula makes use of a value that changes every round, thus altering the result. Because of that, you can predict the result to some extent if you know what conditions appear in this random number generation. Old games are this simplistic."
Firill's explanation basically flew over my head, but Ren, the computer expert, seemed to understand. She spoke up, rather displeased.
"Firill, this is... half cheating. It's bad manners to do it even if it's possible."
"Fufu, I beg to differ. In my opinion, anything humanly possible doesn't count as cheating. I'm simply making records then analyzing the patterns in them."
Ren pouted, unconvinced.
"Jeez, don't be so angry. I'm not as smart as you, Ren, so even with data, I won't be able to figure out the exact formula. At best, what I know is that the result of the previous die roll and the duration in seconds of the current roll have an influence."
While saying that, firill started the game. She began to roll the die. The first roll was four—The square where Lisa's team had been eaten by a saury.
"See, the first roll can only be left to chance. The random number generator is reset every round, so all I can analyze are the evasion rolls. It's all over if I land on any squares with instant death. But even if that's the case my sunfish's chances of survival will increase greatly!"
Just as she claimed, Firill evaded the saury successfully.
Next, she arrived at the square with the sardine predator event. Calmly and confidently, she escaped again.
"Fufufu—I'm going to pass Iris and take the room next to Mononobe-kun's."
"Wah—Firill-chan is about to overtake me!"
Just as Iris lamented, Firill rolled a six. This placed her at the thirteenth square, one away from Iris' record.
The egg on the square had turned into a tiny fish. That was probably a sunfish fry.
However, I noticed a fundamental issue.
"Be quiet, Mononobe-kun, I'm currently concentrating. I need to use the data from Lisa's team here... Okay, one, two, three!"
Counting the seconds, Firill rolled the die and evaded successfully.
Next, she rolled a five.
"I did it! I'm first! The room next to Mononobe-kun's is mine!"
The fish shown on the screen was even bigger than Iris'. It was flashing on the square.
Iris slumped her shoulders. The other girls sighed too.
"Umm, I'm sorry for interrupting your happy moment, but—"
I patted Firill on the shoulder while she was celebrating on her own.
"What's the matter, Mononobe-kun?"
When Firill turned her head back to look at me in surprise and confusion, I finished what I was trying to say earlier.
"Uh—If we move in all your belongings, Firill, your room will turn into book storage again. Back in the girls dorm, you've been using your room as a library while you stayed in Lisa's room, right?"
Firill exclaimed in a silly voice and froze.
"—In that case, it will be no different from leaving the room unassigned. Hence, no one will feel it is unfair. A most laudable outcome, congratulations."
Mitsuki stepped forward from the back of the group and announced with a shrug.
"That's not good at all—"
"Then will you dispose of your books?"
Mitsuki asked the complaining Firill.
"No way! These books are the absolute minimum."
"Then please resign yourself."
Mitsuki's declaration caused Firill to hang her head.
Thus, our little war came to an end without issue to mark the beginning of our new life.
"It's been so long since I last returned to this room..."
I sat down at my desk and looked at the room emotionally.
After dinner, everyone started moving their belongings to their new rooms and I helped them out too.
However, because there was not enough time to move all the luggage, we prioritized necessities and left the rest for tomorrow. The majority of Firill's books remained in the entrance hall.
I leaned against the back rest. My entire body was fatigued and I still had to work hard tomorrow.
"Let's sleep earlier tonight."
Muttering to myself, I stood up. At that moment, I touched the table with my hand—But something felt off.
"...There's no dust accumulated."
Ever since setting off for Japan after the school festival, I had not returned to this room. Upon my return to Midgard, I had been quarantined in Charlotte's room the whole time.
Even though my room had been unoccupied for a month or so, the furniture and bed were very clean and tidy.
After looking elsewhere in the room, I discovered other things that felt odd.
There were subtle changes in the positioning of small articles. The air itself in the room felt different too.
Holding the master key, Mitsuki might have entered to clean and tidy, but if that were the case, the bed should be untouched.
Did she straighten out the sheets when coming in to clean?
Just as I cocked my head, confronted with this incomprehensible situation, I heard knocking from my door.
When I walked to the door, wondering who it was, Vritra entered the room without permission. She was wearing a black dress.
—Speaking of which, I definitely had not locked the door.
Since I had been living in this dorm with only Mitsuki until now, I had not developed much of a habit of locking my door. This was something I must pay more attention to from now on.
"Hmph, it seemeth there are no others present."
After looking around the room, Vritra walked up to me.
"What do you want, Vritra?"
Seeing Vtritra confirm that we were alone in the room, I asked slightly warily. Vritra pouted with displeasure.
"—'Twould be thee instead. Dost thou not have reason to seek me out? I... have behaved strangely on numerous occasions, yes? Thou ought to be very curious."
"Behaved strangely...? Like glaring at me many times and suddenly losing your temper?"
After I asked in confusion, Vritra nodded with satisfaction.
"Hmph, thou noticed after all. Just like in manga—human thought processes are very simplistic. I shall make one correction. When I claimed to hate thee last time, that was not true."
"Indeed. How now? Art thou happy?"
It was a bit annoying to see Vritra ask me that while inexplicably showing a proud expression all of a sudden—Whatever, let's not make a fuss for now.
"Well... If I had to pick between happy and unhappy, I guess it's still happy. I can't help it if you dislike me, but that's quite tiring."
"Fufu, in other words, thou currently feelst gratitude and goodwill towards me. That implies a deepened relationship. In that case, thou shouldst place thy full trust in me. From this point onwards, no matter what I ask, answer honestly without question."
Vritra spoke in full confidence but I began to correct her.
"No, calling it a deepened relationship... is a bit too much."
"W-What!? Is it still insufficient!? Hmph... How unexpected. In that case, 'twould mean I must resort to more advanced methods recorded in those books..."
Vritra made a surprised look and kept murmuring to herself.
"What the heck is going on? Did something happen recently?"
I asked with a frown. However, Vritra ignored my question and instantly took off her black dress.
Vritra's sudden undressing action made me exclaim in surprise. She still had camisole under the dress, so she was not naked, but this was not a respectable appearance to be seen by others in public.
Behind the sheer fabric, I could catch faint glimpses of panties and things I was not supposed to see.
"Though circumstances force my hand, I permit thee to do unto this stand-in everything thou desirest. Come, do not hold back, touch me. Male-female intercourse is not merely reproductive behavior for ye humans but also the deepest level of interaction, is it not?"
Vritra spread her arms and stood there with a "come at me." Her attire was very dangerous, but how should I put it...? I did not feel the slightest thing that could be called arousal. Thanks to that, I was able to stay relatively calm.
"...In other words, you want us to get along better, Vritra?"
That was the conclusion I had deduced from what she had said so far.
Vritra showed an expression that seemed to read "you finally understand me" and smiled happily.
"Indeed, that is so! I wish to hold a candid discussion with thee in preparation for the arrival of the ninth calamity. This is essential."
"The ninth calamity..."
"Hast thou forgotten what Yggdrasil's successor and I have said?"
Seeing me troubled by her sudden bringing up of the matter, Vritra frowned.
"No, of course I remember. All the dragons we've been fighting so far were counterdragons that came into being in order to resist the great calamities that would mess up the world... There is a possibility that I am the ninth counterdragon—Neun. Is that right?"
While we were taking refuge underground of Midgard, I had learned about dragons from Tia and Vritra.
However, NIFL's invasion, Ariella's betrayal and the battle against Major Loki had me totally occupied with the crises at hand, pushing dragon matters off to a corner of my mind.
"Indeed—I used to dismiss this possibility as very unlikely, but after witnessing thy use of Hraesvelgr's authority in battle, I have changed my mind. 'Tis likely without doubt that thou art the ninth counterdragon holding the authority for opposing the ninth calamity."
"Well... I already suspected whether I was a dragon or not back when I marked Iris and the others. However... I don't actually know much about the ninth calamity or my own authority."
After I said that while scratching my head, Vritra made a critical look.
"Thou art truly... calm."
"Hmm... Is this situation already urgent? Then I'd better call the others to discuss—"
Seeing Vritra's reaction, I made a suggestion but that made her flustered instead.
"N-Not necessary, it is not that urgent yet! Thou needst not contemplate the matter nor unsettle the others by mentioning it. Nevertheless, simply as a precaution ahead of time,, I wish to establish a relationship of trust between thee and I."
It looked like the ninth calamity was not urgent or imminent.
Relieved, I placed my hand on Vritra's head.
"—Got it. In that case, let's have a heart to heart chat."
While patting her gorgeous black hair, I smiled at her.
"Wow! It finally came to this! Fufu... How unbelievable. I wonder if my past self had felt this same sense of reliability when fighting alongside Kiskanu back then...?"
Vritra obediently allowed me to pat her head. Closing her eyes partially, she hugged me at the waist with emotion.
Two sizes smaller than Kili, Vritra had a fairly high body temperature. I could clearly feel her warmth and softness through our clothing.
"I felt repulsed by it earlier, but now, it feeleth that allowing thee to do as thou pleasest with this stand-in would not be unpleasant. Come, let us deepen our trusting relationship!"
"W-Wait! There's no need to go that far, is there!?"
"Still not enough. 'Twould trouble me if thou did not trust me further. Let our bare skin overlap, turning thee into my captive, then develop a strong obsession and dependence on me. With that, thou shalt never betray me."
"That's not trust! It's something else!"
I retorted while Vritra pulled me. Despite her small size, she was very strong.
Even though it was just a stand-in, this body probably had very high physical strength.
At that moment, I heard another knocking at the door.
Vritra and I froze on the spot and looked towards the door.
"Are you free, Nii-san?"
It was Mitsuki's uncertain voice.
With Vritra in a camisole before my eyes, I instantly understood. This was undoubtedly a huge crisis.
I thought Vritra would not care about something like this, but for some reason, she seemed very agitated too, murmuring "no way, why did it have to be her in particular—" Was she worried about having to write repentance essays like Kili...?
"...Nii-san, I am coming in, alright?"
Without hearing an answer, Mitsuki announced. Just as when Vritra had entered without permission, the door was not locked.
I picked up Vritra's petite body and placed her on the bed—Then I covered her with the sheets. Next, I picked up the dress she had taken off and stuffed it under the sheets too.
"Hmm, what art thou doing—"
"Please, just keep quiet for a while."
I whispered quietly to the grumbling Vritra. To hide the bulge under the shees, I sat down on the side of the bed.
At that very moment, the door oopened and Mitsuki entered the room.
"—Oh you are here, Nii-san. Answer me, at least."
Mitsuki looked at me disapprovingly.
"Uh, sorry, I'm a bit sleepy."
"Oh... My apologies, Nii-san. Go ahead and rest while I take care of a certain matter swiftly."
After apologizing, Mitsuki entered the washroom for some reason.
What on earth was going on? I frowned.
Hidden in the bed, Vritra remained quiet obediently as I had asked.
Had things gone in the normal pattern, Vritra probably would have thrown a tantrum, then Mitsuki would scold me harshly after witnessing such a situaton but at this rate, perhaps I might be able to get through this unscathed.
Experiencing first-hand the importance of a trusting relationship, I waited for Mitsuki to take care of whatever she needed to do.
"Are you done?"
Although I was curious about what Mitsuki was doing, talking too much could increase the chances of her discovering Vritra. Hence, I asked that instead.
"Yes—Umm, Nii-san... You have not used the washroom yet after entering the room, have you?"
"No, I haven't."
I confirmed Mitsuki's query that had been asked in strong tone of voice.
"Th-Then... Has anything struck you as being out of place...?"
Fidgeting awkwardly, Mitsuki stole glances at me.
"Anything out of place? Oh—The room is spotless without a speck of dust. I'm guessing you came by to clean the room, right...?"
Hearing my answer, Mitsuki jumped then sighed deeply.
"—Since you have noticed this much, Nii-san, there is no point in keeping it a secret from you. There is probably evidence lingering on the bed too..."
"O-On the bed?"
With the subject drawn to the one location I did not want Mitsuki to investigate, I could not help but feel my heart rate accelerate. However, it looked like Vritra's presence was not going to be exposed.
"Yes... My hair, my scent or the like. There are probably lingering traces."
Blushing, Mitsuki confessed in embarrassment.
"So... Mitsuki, you mean you had been using this room?"
Figuring out what she was implying, I confirmed.
"Yes, I am sorry—While you were being quarantined, Nii-san, I felt very uneasy... Whenever I had difficulty falling asleep, I would come over to sleep in this room."
Mitsuki apologized shly and showed me what she was hiding behind her.
"I came over to retrieve it when I remembered that I had left it in your washroom. But since it has come to light after all, may I continue to leave it here?"
Mitsuki looked up at me with warm eyes, asking me.
No matter how dense I was, I still understood the meaning behind this question. Mitsuki was asking for permission to sleep in my room from here onwards.
However, I did not think this sort of thing actually needed confirmatioin.
"Sure—I don't mind."
"...Thank you so much, Nii-san!"
Mitsuki's expression instantly brightened up and she walked quickly into the washroom. After putting the toothbrush away, she came up to me again.
"Well then, Nii-san, I am terribly sorry for disturbing you tonight. Please have a good rest."
In a very good mood, Mitsuki answered:
"Yes—Good night to you, Nii-san."
Mitsuki bowed gently then left my room.
At the same time, Vritra poked her head out from under the sheets.
"—Sorry, Vritra. Thank you so much for staying still quietly."
"'Twas nothing. I too... must avoid perturbing that girl's emotions as much as possible."
Vritra spoke seriously. After putting on her black dress properly, she got off the bed and walked to the door.
Having braced myself for an ensuing argument, I found my prediction wrong.
"Yes—I have accomplished mine objective tonight, in a manner of speaking. Additionally, on further thought, 'twould not be right for our relationship to deepen too much."
Looking pensive, Vritra stood at the doorway and looked back at me.
"Irregular—no, my comrade Neun. Thou must treasure thy younger sister."
Vritra's sudden comment made me very confused.
Treasure my younger sister—Mitsuki?
"What's with saying that suddenly? I'll do that even without you telling me."
I answered seriously and Vritra's expression turned slightly gentle.
After saying that, Vritra left my room.
Not knowing why she had said all this, I laid myself down on the bed with a frown.
Indeed, there was a sweet scent lingering on the bed. It was not mine.
But ultimately, I could not distinguish whether it was left behind by Mitsuki or Vritra.
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