Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 11 Chapter 3
Chapter 3 - Festival of Vivid Colors
'Everyone—I'm thinking of holding a festival!'
Without any warning, this voice suddenly resounded throughout the school during lunch break.
Eating lunch at the cafeteria, we of Brynhildr Class looked up because of the familiar voice.
"It's the principal's voice..."
In the middle of eating spaghetti, Lisa paused and whispered in surprise.
"She is full of surprises as always."
"Mm... I feel trouble coming."
Ariella and Ren agreed and sighed.
The other students in the surroundings were listening to the announcement with troubled expressions.
'—The school festival held last time was aimed mainly at parties external to Midgard, but this time, the goal is to allow you all to enjoy yourselves. There must be many people who were unsettled by NIFL's inspection. This festival is being held to reward you and help you relax. As a result, preparations and operations will be undertaken by staff including myself. Students, all you need to do is wait for the festival to arrive.'
"Oh? ...It sounds like good news, quite unexpectedly. Well done for the principal."
Firill remarked poignantly while wiping the ketchup on the corner of her mouth from eating omlet rice.
'However, there are apparently students who wish to set up shop like during the school festival. In that case, all you need to do is apply for permission to open shop from your homeroom teacher. We will permit anything as long as it is nothing bizarre.'
"Wow, we're allowed to open shop? Mononobe, what should we do? Should we do it?"
Iris asked me with a sparkling expression. Very clearly, she wanted to open one.
"Hmm, what should we do...? We just went through so much trouble, so I think we should just sit back and enjoy..."
However, I shared my contrary opinion with reservations.
The commotion centered on Jeanne had died down and peaceful days had finally arrived. To be honest, I just wanted to relax and enjoy myself.
'The application deadline will be three days from now, while festivities are scheduled to begin two weeks later. Well then, everyone, please look forward to the festival!'
Charl finished in a cheerful voice when the broadcast was suddenly ended, accompanied by static.
Somehow, it felt like Charl was the one who looked forward to it the most.
"—With the preparation time being not very long, it seems it would become very hectic. Just as Nii-san said, it would be better if we do not strain ourselves to open up a shop..."
Mitsuki sipped a mouthful of miso soup and concurred.
However, Shion asked a question.
"wHaT aRe feStiVitiEs oR schOOl fEstIvals...?"
Sitting on the side, Tia started to explain to Shion like a senior mentor.
"Although Tia doesn't know what ordinary festivities are like, school festivals are very fun. We ran a Japanese teahouse last time and practiced cooking... Then we also wore pretty kimonos and many customers came... It was really amazing last time, heart-thumping exciting! Tia also checked out other homeroom's shops with Yuu and the others, it was really fun!"
Tia spread her arms and gestured to express how fun the festival was.
Hearing all this, Shion's cheeks slowly turned red and her eyes glimmered.
"amAziNg—I waNnA tRy toO."
At that moment, I noticed a change in Mitsuki's expression.
Putting down her chopsticks, Mitsuki took out a small communicator from her uniform pocket.
I looked at her questioningly but Mitsuki began to make a call in a stiff tone of voice.
"—Shinomiya-sensei, this is an urgent call. Yes—You are right, I am contacting you regarding that. Shinomiya-sensei.................... Is that so? Then I have something to inform you... Actually, Shion-san—"
It looked like she was calling Shinomiya-sensei.
With her hand over her mouth, Mitsuki was conversing with Shinomiya-sensei with her voice lowered.
"Why am I getting a bad feeling about this...? I hope this doesn't result in piling more trouble on top of repentance essays."
Looking at Mitsuki, Kili remarked hesitantly.
"I am very bored every day. A bit of trouble would not matter."
Vritra spooned curry while expressing her indifference.
The others looked at Mitsuki, curious about what was going to happen.
Finally finished, Mituski put down the communicator and addressed us.
"Just now, I obtained permission from Shinomiya-sensei to set up a shop. We will apparently discuss this during the self-study period in the afternoon."
Mitsuki's sudden announcement to open shop left us stunned on the spot.
The first to recover, Lisa asked Mitsuki.
"Mitsuki-san... Shouldn't we first talk about whether we are participating in the festival? And just now, you did not seem inclined towards running a shop..."
"Since Shion-san would like to run a shop, we have no choice. Let us enjoy the festival together."
After making herself clear, Mitsuki smiled at Shion.
"—yEs, iT seeMs veRy fuN."
Shion nodded happily. Her guardian, Jeanne, frantically spoke up.
"h, umm, although I'd like to fulfill Zwei's wish too—we don't have to go out of our way to set up a shop just for her sake, right? This would cause too much trouble for you all, and spoiling her too much would be bad for her future education..."
Seeing Jeanne worry about us, I was slightly surprised.
Jeanne was probably in full support of the idea, but she was also considerate of Shion and everyone else. Instead of indulging Shion indiscriminately, she was treating her with a mother's responsibility.
—Jeanne was playing the role of "Mama" dutifully.
This was something I must learn properly. Although we had no blood relation, I was Shion's "Papa" of sorts.
Mitsuki also looked a little surprised but she instantly nodded and replied.
"No problem. Although participation is organized by homeroom, it is not compulsory. Everyone aside from me may join in voluntarily, no need to worry too much."
After speaking seriously, Mitsuki looked at us seated around the dining table.
"Furthermore, I have confirmed with Shinomiya-sensei just now. It is also allowed to open a shop in cooperation with staff. We coud participate in the form of assisting Shinomiya-sensei's shop, which would greatly reduce our burden. So, everyone—I hope you will consider it carefully."
Mitsuki placed her hand on the table and gazed seriously at all of us.
Always serious and giving her full effort in all her endeavors, Mitsuki was pouring in a different kind of passion this time.
Since Jeanne had always been the one taking care of Shion, I had not noticed until now, but Mitsuki also seemed very devoted to Shion's matters.
Shion was the orphan of Shinomiya Miyako, Mitsuki's best friend.
Hence, Mitsuki would feel extra concerned about Shion's matters. However, I could sense from Mitsuki's expression more than tender affection. There was also a strong sense of responsibility.
"Shion-san, please leave everything to me."
Anyone could see that the smiling Mitsuki was very reliable.
However, compared to Jeanne who was conscious of her maternal role, Mitsuki still felt insecure regarding her own position that had yet to be defined—
Just as Mitsuki had said, fifth period's self-study turned into a discussion about the upcoming festival.
Standing at the lectern, our homeroom teacher Shinomiya-sensei looked at us in our seats and said:
"Ehh... The following is information disclosed only to those involved in opening shops, so I hope all of you will maintain confidentiality—This festival will be held using Japan's fireworks celebrations as a motif."
Shinomiya-sensei explained while showing scenes from Japanese festivals and the setting off of fireworks on the classroom monitor.
Watching these, everyone went "wow" in admiration.
These scenes could be seen every year in Japan but for me, it had been a long time ago. When was the last time I ever saw fireworks—
While searching through the memories Tia had helped recover for me, the first image to surface in my mind turned out to be the side view of young Mitsuki's face instead.
It was probably the summer four years ago, a memory from when the two of us had taken a train to the neighboring town to check out a fireworks festival.
However, the side view of Mitsuki's face left a much deeper impression in my memory than the fireworks, because during that instant, illuminated by the light, she was so extremely beautiful—
Recalling the memory from that time, I looked at Mitsuki on my right.
When our gazes suddenly met, I frantically turned to look ahead. I don't suppose Mitsuki was recalling memories from four years ago too?
Showing an overhead map of Midgard, Shinomiya-sensei continued to explain.
"—According to the plan, shops will be set up along the coastal road while fireworks will be shot from the sea surface. Since the principal insists on Japanese style, the shops will recreate the look of Japanese night market vendors. Furthermore, I will be in charge of a yakisoba stall."
The monitor showed a detailed photo of a yakisoba stall.
"...Hmm, that looks about right."
I heard Vritra's whisper.
She was always keeping a poker face but whenever food was mentioned, she would pay more attention.
"Mononobe Mitsuki has proposed helping out at my stall together with Shion. However—according to the principal's wishes, this is a festival held to reward you. If you wish to enjoy the festival from the vendor side no matter what, all you need to do is assist at my shop."
Saying that, Shinomiya-senseii looked at us.
Lisa raised her hand next and asked.
"Excuse me—what sort of assistance in particular? I have never made yakisoba before..."
"Indeed... We staff will be in charge of preparations, so all you need to do is help out at the stall on the day of the festival. Those who cannot cook can be in charge of serving customers. Shifts can also be limited to the daytime when it is the most busy. During the fireworks celebration at night, you can go and enjoy yourselves freely."
Hearing Shinomiya-sensei's reply, Lisa nodded.
"Then I have no further questions. I shall help out as well. However, since it is a rare opportunity, I would like to learn how to prepare yakisoba too."
Looking like an idea occurred to her, Shinomiya-sensei made a suggestion.
"Hmm—let us have a barbecue this coming weekend and I shall teach you how to make Shinomiya-style yakisoba. You won't be able to practice properly unless you cook on an iron griddle for real."
"Wonderful! A barbecue! It'll be the first time since Tia's arrival!"
Iris cheered and looked at me.
"—Yeah, that was the time when Charl brought barbecue stuff along."
I nodded nostalgically.
It was a special day when Tia had gotten familiar with the class for real. It felt like a really long time ago.
"Shinomiya-sensei, you must be busy currently, right?"
Mitsuki asked with concern. As the student council president, she was well aware of Shinomiya-sensei's heavy workload.
"Yes, but I believe I can still squeeze out the time. In addition, consider this a reward for your assistance."
Shinomiya-sensei smiled wryly. Next, sitting in the left seat on the front row, Firill looked back and smiled.
"In that case... Those who don't help out won't be eligible to join the barbecue. I'll help too, what about everyone else?"
"Of course I'll help."
"Mm, me too."
"Tia has decided to help from the start!"
Ariella, Ren and Tia instantly responded to Firill's question.
"Oh, me too! What about you, Mononobe?"
A moment slower, Iris raised her hand frantically then asked me.
"I'll help too—I wouldn't want to miss the barbecue."
After I nodded, everyone's gaze fell upon the remaining Jeanne, Vritra and Kili.
"Huh...? When Shion offered to help, I already decided to do it together..."
Jeanne answered blankly and Vritra nodded deeply.
"I shall offer mine assistance. I am interested in yakisoba. 'Twould be possible to replicate it perfectly using dark matter if I knew the exact cooking procedure."
Vritra replied seriously. Perhaps her failure in replicating ice cream properly last time had been bothering her a lot.
Then only Kili remained—
"Kili-chan, join us too! It'll be lonely to watch the barbecue without taking part, right?"
When Iris finished, Kili nodded lightly.
"No helping it... If Yuu's doing it, so will I. But let me make myself clear, I won't feel lonely even if my companions abandon me."
Insisting that, Kili stared at me.
"ShiNoMiya-stYle yakisoba. i WanNa leArN it."
Amidst everything, Shion quietly motivated herself and clenched her tiny fist tightly.
Located near the equator, Midgard was hot all year round.
As a result, most people basically spent the majority of their time indoors in air-conditioning. The uniforms designed for this lifestyle were extremely hot when worn outdoors—which was why very few people would wear the uniform outdoors except during their commute to and from school.
And... on holidays where uniforms were not required, things would be completely different.
"Great, it's sunny today."
Using my hand to shield my eyes from the sun's powerful rays, I looked at the blue sky.
There were virtually no clouds for miles around in the sunny sky. There was also very little wind. The sea was calm.
Normally in such heat, I would rush indoors, but having changed to swimwear, the current temperature was just right.
At the seaside, Iris and Tia were playing in the water, similarly dressed in swimwear. The ones swimming in the sea were probably Lisa and Mitsuki. On the other hand, Firill was reading under a parasol.
"—How do I put this? It feels like a day off has finally arrived."
Approaching me from behind, Ariella came to my side and said slowly.
"Well, after the fighting ended, there were so many things preventing us from relaxing."
I smiled wryly and agreed with Ariella.
Wearing a bikini, Ariella was generously displaying her svelte and tender body under the sun. The tropical-themed swimsuit was an excellent match for the beach where it was summer all year long.
Ariella's narrow waist and slender legs were strongly alluring and I could not help but feel my gaze drawn to them.
"Oh—Mononobe-kun, w-what are you staring at?"
Keenly noticing my gaze, Ariella blushed and covered up her thigh area with her hands. However, trying to cover up when wearing a swimsuit was not very effective while her embarrassed look actually added to the allure.
"Nothing, umm, I didn't mean to—"
I scratched my head while my gaze wandered. Ariella smiled wryly.
"Didn't you mention before that you found my legs attractive, Mononobe-kun...? Looks like you were being honest."
"You didn't believe me?"
That time, I was sent to repentance essay hell for speaking my mind. It would be so not worth it if she did not even believe me.
"I thought it was partially a joke... But after seeing your reaction, Mononobe-kun, I believe you. You do treat me properly as a girl."
"...That goes without saying."
Ariella's very happy smile made me blush.
Seeing my response, Ariella became embarrassed and lowered her reddened face.
Someone suddenly grabbed my hand, surprising me. By the time I noticed, Ren was already standing next to me. Instead of the one-piece swimsuit I had seen before, she was wearing a more revealing set of pink swimwear separates.
"What's up, Ren?"
"What about... me? Do I count as a girl to you, Onii-chan?"
Ren looked at me seriously and asked. She must have overheard my conversation with Ariella.
Ariella looked a little panicked and grabbed Ren's shoulders from behind while she said to me:
"Mononobe-kun, you must answer properly, okay? Ren is our younger sister, but before that, she is also a girl."
She was encouraging Ren from an older sister's standpoint, demanding me to give a sincere answer.
"Well—of course I know that. Ren too, umm... I do think of you as a proper girl."
Saying that, I began to stroke Ren's head to hide my embarrassment.
However, Ren grabbed my hand and continued to question.
"Then what's my charm point?"
"Umm... V-Very cute... something like that."
I felt reluctant to say it face to face, but I still endured my embarrassment and voiced it out.
"Mm... That's a bit ambiguous. Be more specific."
Ren suddenly went red but she still shook her head, not yet satisfied.
In other words, I needed to point out what was cute about Ren, like how I had called Ariella's legs attractive.
"R-Right... Ren, your hair is a very pretty red. It's silky smooth and I find it very attractive."
"A-Also—There are your cheeks, for example."
When I said that, Ren tilted her head in surprise.
"Yeah... Umm, you tend to pout when you're unhappy, right? That look is strangely adorable. Your cheeks look so soft that it makes me really want to poke them..."
Wondering why the heck I had to explain this, I answered honestly.
"...It's the first time anyone told me this."
Ren placed her hand on face doubtfully.
"Mononobe-kun, you were a bit perverted there."
Ariella looked at me in shock.
"Mm, Onii-chan is a... maniac."
Seeing Ren agree with her, I slumped my shoulders.
"...It's impossible to argue against that here."
Holding my hand, Ren proceeded to bring it to her cheek.
"However, because it's you, Onii-chan... I allow you, just a bit."
Ren pressed my fingertip against her face and looked up at me.
Her cheek was very soft and elastic, it felt even better than I had imagined.
While I was immersed in poking her cheek, Ren suddenly turned red.
Rather than caused by friction, Ren's face had gone red from embarrassment.
"O-Onii-chan... When are you going to stop?"
"Oh—Sorry, I accidentally got too into it."
Coming to my senses, I took my hand away. Exhaling hot breath, Ren held her cheeks.
"You are a manic as expected, Onii-chan. But... in that case, I too—"
Blushing, Ren began to murmur then turned around and ran to the water's edge.
"R-Ren! You need to do proper warm-ups before entering the water!"
Ariella ran after her frantically. Left behind, I felt an inexplicable sense of guilt and sighed.
"I guess I'll go for a swim too..."
I was going to head to the water's edge for a change of pace. But at that moment, the rest of my companions who had been staying in the dorm arrived.
The four of them, Kili, Vritra, Jeanne and Shion had taken slightly longer to change.
Dressed in a bold swimsuit, Kili was holding the hand of the not-too-pleased Vritra. What displeased Vritra was probably the school swimsuit with "Vritra" written across the chest. Judging from the situation, it was surely a prank on Kili's part.
The other mother-daughter combo had the mother leading the daughter by the hand.
"Z-Zwei, slower please—I am not ready yet—"
"i cAn't wAit."
Wearing a yellow swimsuit, Jeanne was desperately trying to cover up her chest and lower abdomen. As a result, she was walking even slower than the young Shion.
Clad in a one-piece swimsuit, Shion waved as soon as she saw me and ran across the white beach.
"Uwahhhhhhhhh!? C-Captain! P-Please do not look at me!"
In stark contrast to the excited Shion, Jeanne wailed, almost about to burst into tears.
"—You don't need to hide yourself. You both look really good."
I smiled wryly at Shion and Jeanne who had arrived before me.
Slightly later, Kili arrived and grabbed Jeanne from behind, pinning her arms behind her back.
"Yes, Jeanne-chan is so pretty—Let him have a good look."
"K-Kili!? What are you doing—S-Stop it!"
Two well-shaped bulges entered my sight. Jeanne's struggle against Kili caused her twin peaks, wrapped in yellow fabric, to quiver seductively—I could not help but gulp.
"U-Unhand me! Ah—C-Captain, please don't stare at me—"
Obeying the blushing Jeanne, I averted my gaze.
Liberated from Kili, Vritra looked up at me in displeasure next.
"Thou seemest to love large chests. 'Twould explain thy lack of interest the previous occasion."
Vritra touched her flat chest and remarked with comprehension.
"N-No, that's not it—"
I frantically denied but someone caught my hand from the side, drawing my gaze.
"mY... chEsT is vEry sMall. Papa... diSliKes mE?"
Shion looked down at her own chest with extreme sadness. Noticing that I had brought on an unexpected misunderstanding, I bent down to look at Shion at eye-level.
"I don't dislike you, Shion, okay? Ignore what Vritra said."
"...thEn, yOu alSo loVe... sMall chEsTs?"
Shion's continued pursuit of the matter left me speechless. However, seeing her about to cry, I hastily replied.
"Yeah, big or small doesn't matter."
"biG oNes... sMall oNes... dOn'T maTtEr. bUt... Papa wAs stAriNg at Mama's chEsT. tHaT meAns Papa... loVeS chEsTs. yOu loVe... miNe toO?"
Questioned by those innocent eyes, I felt cold sweat flowing down my face.
Although her question had a bit of a reverse sexual harrassment flavor to it, Shion clearly had no intention of that. Telling myself that there was no malicious meaning, I nodded.
"Y-Yeah, I love yours too."
Feeling like I had lost something that a human being should have protected to the bitter end, I answered. Shion finally looked relieved.
"thAnk GoOdneSs... i loVe yOu toO, Papa."
Stroking Shion's head while she was hugging me, I exhaled in relief.
"Hmm, in other words, thou hast desires for this body of mine too. 'Tis truly a relief that there are further opportunities to create deeper interaction."
However, this time, it was Vritra's turn to misinterpret my words and she leaned against me on the other side opposite to Shion. This further elicited misunderstandings from Jeanne and Kili.
"Yuu... Although I intended to accept your entire being, I do wish your fetishes weren't so twisted. I will accept nothing less than arousal towards my breasts, okay?"
"C-Captain, forget about Vritra, but please could you treat Shion properly as family! If you have pent-up needs, a-allow me to relieve them for you!"
Questioned by the two of them, I wanted to back away but with Shion and Vritra hugging me, I was unable to move.
"Calm down! Now isn't the time to discuss this!"
While shouting that, I used my arms to pick up Shion and Vritra respectively who were restraining me like shackles.
"Neun, what art thy intentions?"
With the two of them confused and carried in my arms, I fled the scene.
"Where are you going, Yuu!?"
"Captain, please stand still!"
Hearing Kili and Jeanne's voices behind me, I rushed towards Iris and the others on the beach.
After leaving Shion and Vritra with them, I began to escape into the sea. Things should have settled by the time Shinomiya-sensei arrived with the barbecue equipment.
Racing across the sand under the scorching sun, I prayed for things not to get any worse.
However—I had forgotten one thing.
Having left an understanding unexplained, the situation would only deteriorate further.
I swam in the deep blue sea in the mood to forget everything.
Swimming silently alone in the warm and comfortable seawater, I felt very calm.
Without swimming goggles, I could not look into the sea but I knew very well that all kinds of tropical fish were swimming in the surroundings.
Slight movement of my sluggish body brought a sense of fulfillment. The sun hanging in the sky allowed me to fully enjoy a swim in the sea.
But when I returned to the beach in contentment, I was confronted by the reality I had left hanging.
Shinomiya-sensei had showed up and everyone was starting to prepare the barbecue. Slightly farther away, Charl and Mica-san were staying under a parasol. The girls were probably chatting about the barbecue.
However, when Iris and the girls, who were happily preparing things, they all instantly shielded their chests at the sight of me.
"M-Mononobe... You're late."
"Oh, sorry about that. I wanted to go for a quick swim but it ended up taking longer. Uh... Why are you covering your chest?"
When I asked with a frown, Lisa answered on Iris' behalf.
"W-We know that you are the type of person who gets aroused by all manner of breasts regardless of size! A-Although I don't dislike your stares... Now that I know about it, I cannot help but feel conscious about it!"
Using two arms to guard her massive bust, Lisa stared at me shyly. Next to her, Firill cocked her head.
"Mononobe-kun's type of person... A worshiper of breasts? Eh... But aren't they limited to large ones?"
"Yuu is fine with big or small! As expected of Tia's husband!"
Tia exclaimed excitedly and Mitsuki nodded deeply in response.
"Indeed—the strike zone's breadth is something we need to review... However, Nii-san... It is truly insensitive to publicize your fetishes while we are in swimwear. In a certain way, this counts as sexual harassment."
Covering her small but well-shaped bosom, Mitsuki reminded me.
It looked like Shion had spread what I had said.
Thinking about how to clear up the misunderstanding, I started to speak.
But at that moment, I noticed a golden fairy approaching at full sprint from under the parasol.
She—Charl—removed her lab coat while running then jumped up high. Spinning in the air, she took off her red dress as well.
I panicked at the prospects of Charl getting naked, but a closer look revealed that she was wearing a micro bikini.
She proceeded to fly over Iris and the girls before hugging me forcefully.
The softness of her skin and the sweet fragrance shook my brain with a violent impact.
Standing on the shore, I was unable to stop Charl's momentum and we fell into the sea together.
My back crashed into the water. Falling over, face up, I saw waves splashing in the surroundings. Then my vision was immediately occupied by Charl with watery eyes.
"My friend, I finally get to see you! I finally get to see you!"
Charl was very excited. She grabbed my cheeks with her hands and rubbed them. However, she soon showed discontent in her expression.
"I... have been waiting for you the whole time, you know!? But you never came! Is this all that our friendship amounts to!?"
"Huh...? No—I only returned to Mitsuki's dorm a week or so, right?"
When I asked in confusion, Charl shook her head in surprise.
"Only a week? It's already a week. Ideally, I want to spend the night with you every two days—every three days if I'm busy—once a week is the absolute minimum!"
This declaration caused a great commotion to stir somewhere outside my sight.
"My body can no longer be satisfied without your presence! Ever night after work—My body heats up and it hurts. I want the the two of us to clash intensely!"
"Wait—S-Stop using such misleading descriptions! What you mean is playing against each other in games, right?"
Explaining myself to the others, I sought Charl's confirmation.
"Playing!? No—Isn't it an irreplaceable moment of intercourse that is unique between the two of us!? The feeling of spending time together till dawn, falling into depravity together... It is truly the highest pleasure without any substitute!"
"That's way too beautified a description of playing games until you drop!"
Pushing myself up, I sighed and retorted against Charl who was out of control.
"Huff... Well, I'm sorry. I should've visited at least."
When I stroked Charl's head, she nodded with excitement.
"Yes. I'm glad you understand. You must stay over in my room at least once every two days."
"—No. No more than once a week."
I made the greatest possible compromise and demanded her agreement.
"Fine... I'll endure it for now."
With great reluctance, Charl accepted my terms. Then she got off me. Her attire was quite a problem. Her chest and lower abdomen almost lacked the minimum of necessary cover. I did not know where to direct my gaze.
"By the way... Is it okay for you to go out in the daytime? Don't you need to avoid direct sunlight, Charl?"
Shaken by Charl's attire, I asked.
"Don't worry, I avoid sunlight because my skin color reverts very quickly after tanning, which would arouse suspicions around me. But since everyone here knows me, there's no need to be concerned about the sun."
Looking at Iris and the girls who were staring at us, she shrugged.
"So I will enjoy myself fully today! My friend, let's enjoy a feast together with lovely maidens!"
Saying that, Charl led me by the hand back to where the others were.
Iris and the girls were still guarding their chests, but since it was impossible to work like that, they lowered their arms while glancing at me.
"Mononobe-kun, please remember not to stare, okay? It's too dangerous to be distracted while using a kitchen knife."
"Mm... Onii-chan probably knows the proper time and place."
Warned by Ariella and Ren, I gave up on clearing the misunderstanding and replied "Got it."
Shinomiya-sensei then walked towards me apologetically.
Like everyone else, she was wearing a swimsuit—However, my gaze was drawn to her undulating curves. Although I already knew she had a great figure, this far surpassed my imagination.
The navy-blue swimsuit, rather plain in comparison, was strongly emphasizing her voluptuous bust and seductive waist, impressing strongly upon me the feminine charm exuding from Shinomiya-sensei's body.
"Sh-Shinomiya-sensei... Umm, I—"
I stammered awkwardly, causing Shinomiya-sensei to cough with a blush.
"Sorry—I should have brought a jacket had I known your fetish... To think that my attire would seduce a student, I have failed as a teacher."
"No, not at all, please forget about that. It'd be a great help if you don't believe what the girls are saying."
Seeing Shinomiya-sensei reprimanding herself, I pleaded with her.
"In that case, the sight of a lady's chest doesn't provoke any thoughts in you."
Shinomiya-sensei murmured in relief, but I could not claim that was correct either.
"Umm—it would be difficult to have no thoughts at all. However, this isn't a special fetish, it's more like a trait common to all men..."
To prevent the misunderstanding from expanding further, I made a correction.
"Hmm, in any case, it is the same thing as being drawn to an attractive lady. Then I have nothing to be concerned about."
"Huh? Why is that?"
I could not help but ask Shinomiya-sensei, who had commented in a relaxed manner.
"I am not as attractive as they are, right?"
Shinomiya-sensei showed surprise then motioned with her gaze towards Iris and the girls who were in the middle of preparations.
"N-Not as attractive... That's not true at all."
Feeling that Shinomiya-sensei was too modest, I told her the truth.
However, it looked like Shinomiya-sensei actually believed what she had said. She stared at me silently.
After staring at each other for a while, Shinomiya-sensei's face went red.
Perhaps I should not have said that to a teacher.
However, I had no choice but to correct her. Shinomiya-sensei lacking attractiveness was a statement that no man in the world could let slide.
Amid the awkward silence, the shaken Shinomiya-sensei covered her chest and spoke up.
"M-Mononobe Yuu, enough with the jokes. W-Well then, let us start making yakisoba."
Shinomiya-sensei spoke with her entire body stiff. I also nodded awkwardly.
Although Shinomiya-sensei had forcibly changed the subject, the blush on her face still remained the whole time—
About to cook yakisoba, we started cutting up vegetables and meat.
Shinomiya-sensei was in charge of instructing us, assisted by Mitsuki, a talented chef herself.
But once we actually started preparing the food, the two of them placed all their attention on Shion.
"Sh-Shion-san, cutting it like that would be too dangerous! When using a kitchen knife, you need to make a cat's paw with the fingers on your other hand to avoid cutting yourself..."
Mitsuki frantically stopped Shion from cutting the carrots, curling up her hand to demonstrate what she meant by a cat's paw.
"cAt? wHaT iS a cAt?"
However, Shion's curiosity seemed to be drawn elsewhere. Inquisitively, she asked Mitsuki.
"Ehhh!? A-A cat huh... They're quite fun, their paws are very cute... An animal that goes meow—"
"That's right, meow meow, meow—"
Very interested in the sound, Shion began to meow repeatedly. Mitsuki also went along with her, going "meow" nonstop.
Seeing the two of them like that, Shinomiya-sensei stopped in her food preparation and revealed a gentle expression that I had never seen before.
I could fully understand what Shinomiya-sensei was feeling while she whispered that. The innocent Shion and Mitsuki going "meow" were extremely adorable, definitely a dazzling sight to behold.
However, if we were to lose ourselves in admiring this, the yakisoba was not going to get done no matter how much time went by.
"Shinomiya-sensei, I'm sorry—but please come back to reality."
I patted Shinomiya-sensei on the shoulder and she suddenly straightened herself in front of us.
"Uh, my apologies. I-I must demonstrate properly. First, chop the cabbage into appropriately sized shreds—"
Shinomiya-sensei coughed and resumed the demonstration, but kept pausing whenever Shion raised her voice.
When using the iron griddle to fry the noodles, Jeanne suggested not to be overprotective when Shinomiya-sensei was worrying that it would be dangerous for Shion.
"She won't be able to endure hardship in the future if you stop her from doing it just because it's dangerous. I wish for Zwei to become strong. L-Like... th-the Captain..."
Jeanne spoke with a blush and Shinomiya-sensei replied, "My thinking was too naive... For Shion's sake, I must teach her Shinomiya-style yakisoba as strictly as a teacher would." Then she handed the spatula to Shion.
"i WaNna beCoMe a ShiNoMiyA-stYle mAstEr. i wiLl dO mY bEst... Meow!"
Shion raised the spatula with great spirit and added her favorite "meow" as a verbal tic. Super cute.
Naturally, the effect on Shinomiya-sensei was overwhelming. The dignity she had just restored was instantly blown away.
"...I am at my limit."
Using her hand to cover her face while unsure what expression to make, she sighed.
Thus in this manner, after getting derailed many times, we continued to make yakisoba.
The steps for preparing yakisoba were quite simple. Anyone could do it with a recipe. However, there was much for us to learn from Shinomiya-sensei such as the coordination between ingredients and seasoning as well as techniques for controlling the heat applied.
"...The cutting of ingredients is of paramount importance, where flaws could result in vastly inferior taste. Mayhap the humans' delicate sense of taste ought to be commended."
Vritra was cooking with exceptional seriousness, turning into an excellent student for Shinomiya-sensei.
"Food pretty much tastes good once you heat it thoroughly with fire. Anyone can do it, so there's no need to waste time doing it yourself."
In contrast, Kili was not very enthusiastic. Jeanne issued a stern warning to Kili who was simply going through the motions.
"Hey Kili! Don't put in the meat first! You must start with the vegetables that take longer for the heat to permeate!"
Like me, Jeanne had had cooking practice during NIFL's survival training. As a result, her knife skills were fine.
However, seeing Jeanne give detailed instructions, I was reminded what happened when we were preparing a simple hot pot meal outdoors with the Sleipnir guys at the base after returning from a mission. On that occasion, Jeanne had been very insistent on the sequence to put in the ingredients to cook in the pot. She definitely had potential as a "hot pot master of proceedings."
Next, we continued to take turns in making yakisoba. After many rounds, everyone finally finished.
"Well done, everyone. This concludes my cooking lesson. The principal and Mica have prepared a barbecue, so please eat your fill."
A lively lunch began after Shinomiya-sensei praised our efforts.
Hearing Shion's cheering, my expression softened. It was only natural for Shinomiya-sensei to succumb to that innocent cuteness.
"...It really is delicious."
I gave my honest opinion after tasting a mouthful of yakisoba.
Hearing me, Lisa reached for the yakisoba.
"M-Mononobe Yuu—This sort of flavor is to your preference?"
"Hmm... I guess. I don't think it can get any better than this at a festival."
When I replied after giving it some thought, Lisa tilted her head in surprise.
"What an odd way of putting it. You sound like your standards would be different outside the context of a festival..."
"Well, how should I say this...? Going by my preferences, I guess my mother's yakisoba is the best after all."
When I admitted a little shyly, Lisa looked around her with a surprised expression.
"Excuse me... C-Come over here for a moment."
Seeming like she was conscious of the others, Lisa led me away and talked in a whisper.
"...Is there something different about the taste of the yakisoba your family makes?"
Since Lisa was in a swimsuit, the overwhelming presence of her massive bust leaning in was making my heart rate shoot up like a rocket. To avoid a misunderstanding about my preferences, I forcefully turned my gaze away.
"S-Slightly lighter on the seasoning. We also add onion and sausage..."
I recalled from memory the characteristics of the yakisoba made at my house. The yakisoba Shinomiya-sensei made did not include these ingredients. Upon recalling the memory, I really missed that particular taste.
"That is a lot of additional ingredients in the yakisoba. Umm... If you wish... Umm... A-Allow me to—"
"Oh, if you want the exact recipe, you could ask Mitsuki. She frequently helped my mother out so she should be able to replicate that yakisoba."
Compared to me, who had only eaten it, Mitsuki should have a clearer idea, having made it before.
That was what I thought when speaking. However, Lisa suddenly looked displeased.
"I see... Mitsuki-san is able to make it."
"What's wrong, Lisa?"
"...Nothing, I simply dislike myself for being greedy. This is clearly a domain belonging to Mitsuki-san..."
Frowning, Lisa sighed. It looked like she was not angry at me, but I did not understand what she meant.
"Yes—It is a domain belonging to Mitsuki-san as your younger sister and childhood friend. Although the room assignment dispute ended up resolved peacefully... A contest over what absolutely cannot be conceded would be unacceptable. Perhaps cohabitation might be harder than one would expect?"
Lisa smiled wryly.
"...I'll be careful. Back when deciding rooms, I relied on Firill to settle things peacefully—I keep depending on others. It was clearly a choice I had to make but I was indecisive."
Apologetic, I smiled wryly in return.
"Then choose. Your current ways are probably not going to work."
"Woah, you're strict..."
Lisa's merciless words made me slump my shoulders. However, she tapped me lightly on the head.
"Please do not misunderstand. I am not condemning you, because you have already made a choice. It is precisely the fact that you have made a choice that makes you unable to do anything to overturn that choice."
"...What do you mean?"
Unable to understand, I asked, prompting Lisa to sigh.
"You wish to take responsibility for all of us, don't you?"
"That's right—I want to protect everyone by my own hand... Rather than let someone else do it... I am the one who chose everyone on my own. That's why I will l definitely shoulder this responsibility."
I had said this to Ren before. I expressed my unshakable resolve to Lisa.
Hearing my words, Lisa looked anxious.
"You feel guilty about choosing us—It makes you feel like a weakling, doesn't it? However, I believe you have got it reversed."
"Indeed, because choosing a single person to protect is undoubtedly easier. In spite of that, you decided to protect all of us. This choice was certainly brought about because you are strong."
Lisa's smiling visage was too dazzling. I could not help but lower my eyes.
"I'm very happy that you're praising me—But you're giving me too much credit."
"Fufu, perhaps. In that case, please think of me as the only one who holds you in such high regard."
Lisa shrugged jokingly but her eyes were serious.
"Here on, even if you encounter another time when you must make a choice, know that everything is necessary for the sake of upholding your current resolve. At least, that is what I believe. So relax—No matter what happens, I will never forsake you."
Puffing out her magnificent chest to make a declaration, did Lisa suddenly feel embarrassed? Her face went red as though on fire.
"...What can I say? You're more than what the words 'a good woman' can describe."
I felt a huge load lifted off my heart all at once—Feeling an urge for tears to gush out of my eyes, I interjected with a laugh.
"Is that meant to be a compliment?"
Eating yakisoba, Lisa stared at me, slightly displeased.
"Of course, Lisa, you're someone beyond 'a good woman.'"
"Very well... But what would be beyond a good woman? C-Could it be, umm—"
Lisa looked at me with eyes of anticipation. I thought for a moment.
"Yes... Lisa, you're—"
"—The best 'good woman.'"
Wondering how to convey myself accurately, I used that term. However, Lisa suddenly slumped her shoulders.
"Huh... You don't like that description?"
"No—well, if only you had a better choice of words... Never mind. The best... number one, in other words."
Lisa sighed and avoided eye contact shyly.
"Oh, it appears that Tia-san has been caught by Kili-san! I-I must rescue her."
Seeing Tia and Kili in some kind of argument, Lisa deliberately made an excuse to leave.
Apparently, Kili was serving yakisoba but Tia complained that there was too much carrot.
Arbitration did not seem necessary, but I suppose this would be one of those "domains" that Lisa must not concede.
I finished the yakisoba on my plate at once and walked over towards Charl and Mica-san at the barbecue.
Although yakisoba was tasty, this amount was not enough to be filling. Having swum for so long earlier, I definitely had the appetite for more food.
"Oh! My friend! You came! You came at the perfect moment!"
Seeing me approach, Charl handed me a wooden skewer with meat and vegetables on it.
"—Thank you. This looks very good."
Diced pieces of beef were overflowing with juices dripping onto green peppers, corn and tomatoes. Just the sight of it was mouth watering.
"My friend, let's eat over there? We need to talk."
While taking a bite of green pepper and meat, I nodded.
Charl took a barbecue skewer as well and started walking towards the breakwater. Nearby, Mica-san watched us silently, nodding lightly in acknowledgement when we made eye contact.
Seeing that, I realized Charl had something important to say.
"What do you need to tell me?"
"Yes... Plenty. First is a progress report."
Charl sat down on the steps of the breakwater and patted the spot next to her.
Next to the steps were flourishing coconut trees. The subtle geography of our location had formed a blind spot.
When I sat down by Charl, she started speaking seriously.
"For the sake of handling conflicts all over the world—or as preemptive precautions—I was asked by various nations to use my authority... But a few days ago, this request was officially withdrawn. Judging from the results... That fellow, Loki Jotunheim, has fulfilled his job as the hero protecting the world."
Charl shrugged while she spoke but her expression did not show despair. Rather, it was one full of relief.
"—That's really like Major Loki's way of doing things. He always achieves his goal in the end regardless of the process... Every single time."
I concurred with a wry smile. During the previous battle, he even tried to kill me and my companions, but I could not bring myself to hate him.
Although the fact that there were no casualties on Midgard's side played a major part, more importantly, Major Loki's resolve—his justice—was something I could not reject.
"Hoo, what a troublesome guy. Midgard clearly won yet the hardship we suffered remained essentially the same. Hip hip hurray, like the Ds at the academy, I can no longer leave this island arbitrarily."
When I asked in shock, Charl sighed deeply.
"The United Nations and Asgard's higher-ups have finally noticed me as a result of this incident... Or rather, noticed that my authority isn't that convenient a tool. In other words, those who had been sucking up to me have started to become wary of me."
"Then... Will there be a problem?"
If Charl's position worsened, there was no predicting what problems could arise in the future. However, Charl smiled confidently in the face of my worrying.
"Relax, it's still very stable for the time being. The fact that NIFL's operation failed to kill me despite using the latest weapons and Code Lost—This had a great effect. As long as I lie low, the United Nations and Asgard probably won't provoke Midgard. They are people who know how to respect untouchable gods."
Charl finished in a laid back manner and took a bite from the barbecue skewer in her hand.
"Well, that's wonderful... I guess?"
I did not know if I should simply feel happy. Frowning, I bit some corn.
"Then... since I cannot leave the island, what I can do is limited. I can no longer stop war from breaking out somewhere in the world."
"Really, I see—But you don't need to make that kind of face, Charl."
Seeing her gloomy expression, I placed my hand on Charl's head and continued.
"Someone will surely stop war even if you don't, Charl. Take Major Loki for example. He must have carefully considered the future after assassinating you successfully. Just leave human matters to a human hero. Since you are now treated as an 'untouchable god' then just act like a god and watch without doing anything."
Charl smiled at what I said.
"Like a god, huh. Indeed—That's the proper distance that should be maintained between the world and me."
Murmuring quietly, Charl ate the green pepper remaining on her skewer with slight distaste. Then she put down the finished skewer on the side and held my hand.
"However, if you were to stay in the same place as me, by my side, being touched by me could be very problematic, you know?"
"—Yeah, I know. I am your best friend, Charl."
I nodded matter-of-factly, but Charl looked very surprised for some reason.
"What did, you, just say...?"
"Huh? What about it?"
"Don't play dumb! I was listening properly! You just called me best friend, didn't you!?"
Charl asked excitedly. Her swimsuit was very bold and skimpy. Moving too close would make me lose my calm.
"In that case, anyway, I have somehow leveled up in your heart to become your best friend! Hu, hahaha—Awesome! Having experienced hardship together, a definite bond has finally sprouted between us!"
Overwhelmed by Charl's emotions, I nodded.
"Back when Code Lost was devouring me, Charl, you were feeling the same pain too... We encouraged each other at the time, right? If there's a chance, I want us to encourage each other again."
"I see... So it was a special moment for you too. Oh—I clearly wanted to make you happy today, but haven't our positions have reversed now?"
Pressing her hands to her cheeks, Charl spoke softly in chagrin.
"Make me happy?"
What did she mean? I asked in surprise. Charl put on a pose and answered.
"Yes, the real main point of today... is to thank you. It was all thanks to you that we were able to get through that type of disaster."
"Not at all, I wasn't the only one trying hard."
I replied frantically and Charl nodded firmly.
"I know. That's why I organized the upcoming festival. I also used the best ingredients for the barbecue today. However, I think this still isn't enough for you."
Charl asserted strongly and started to fiddle with the button on her swimsuit.
"S-So... I was thinking of giving you a special present. But after hearing what the girls said just now, I've made my decision."
"What the girls said...?"
A bad feeling surfaced in my heart. Charl spoke with a blush.
"Yes, you... love girls' breasts, right?"
Before I could finish the last piece of corn, I coughed violently.
"No need to be shy. I understand that feeling very well. A young maiden's bosom is a supreme work of art, all filled with miracles. I wish I could frequently bury my face into those seductive valleys too."
"N-No, I don't—"
"Yes, I understand. You said you love small breasts too, the kind where you can't bury anything, right? After learning of that, I knew exactly what kind of present to give you."
Ignoring my objections, Charl continued. She placed her hand on her swimsuit's shoulder strap.
"Th-This still feels embarrassing after all... But it's for the sake of my best friend..."
The instant before she removed her loosened swimsuit, Charl covered her chest with her arms, staring at me while blushing to her ears.
"My friend—Feel free to play with my breasts as you wish. No matter what you do, I am fine with it."
Declaring that, Charl's pale skin turned red from embarrassment. Her fingertips trembled out of nervousness.
Charl normally did not act very feminine. Precisely because of that, her current racy look had a sort of irresistible charm to it.
"Umm, Charl, calm down first! Then listen to me."
However, I could not accept this gift of course. I mobilized the entirety of my sanity to stop her.
"I-I can't calm down! If I don't go with the momentum, I'll die of embarrassment! Ehhh, in that case—"
However, Charl did not stop. Mustering her spirit, she moved her arms away from her torso. Her shoulder strap slid down and thus the swimsuit she had been holding in place fluttered down lightly.
"Principal, watch out!"
At that instant, the sound of an acute explosion resounded all around.
At the same time, the ensuing wind and dust from the blast blocked my view completely.
Instantly ducking down, I felt tiny debris striking my back.
Then the wind from the explosion ceased. After the dust settled—I saw a mountain of debris before my eyes.
Pale and slender arms and legs were sticking out of the debris pile. They were twitching feebly.
"Phew... That was close."
Taking her gaze off poor Charl who had been buried alive, Iris wiped sweat from her forehead in relief while holding her staff-shaped fictional armament in her hand.
"No, Iris, I think you're the one who summoned danger—"
The explosion just now had been caused by Iris' transmutation. Realizing that, I replied.
"B-Because I came to find you, Mononobe, but saw the principal's swimsuit about to fall off in front of you... I knew I had to take action... It'd be very embarrassing to be seen naked... I had to help the principal as fast as possible!"
Dispelling her fictional armament, Iris waved her hands in apology while she spoke—She ran towards the principal who was buried under sand. It looked like Iris had mistakenly thought the swimsuit was sliding off due to an accident and was trying to save Charl from the predicament.
"...Even if that's true, you overdid it."
"Th-There was no time. But—I definitely overdid it. I'll rescue her and apologize. Go back to the others, Mononobe."
Iris spoke while digging hastily through the mountain of sand with her hands.
"If you're rescuing Charl, let me help you too."
As the "Gray" Vampire with the trait of eternal life and youth, Charl would not perish from this. However, suffocation would still be painful so it was best to rescue her as soon as possible.
However, Iris said frantically:
"G-Go dig that side! The principal's swimsuit definitely fell off, so don't you go digging at the chest!"
"Sure... Got it."
I nodded in response to Iris' forceful orders and focused on digging near Charl's head. Charl had wanted me to see, but I did not have the courage to bring this up.
Since the mountain of sand was smooth and light, I soon dug out Charl's face.
"Are you okay, Charl?"
I tried calling to her but she seemed to have fainted and made no response. However, since she was confirmed to be breathing, there was no need to worry about her anymore. Previously, I had experienced being buried under sand as part of a punishment game.
"Mononobe, leave the rest of the digging to me."
"Sure, then I'll be going now."
Although I felt bad for Charl who was just trying to thank me, I guess I'd better leave this to Iris first.
"Yes—Oh wait, Mononobe."
Iris nodded then called to me as though she had remembered something.
"What is it?"
"Umm... Mononobe wanted to see... The principal's chest, right? Sorry for interrupting you."
Iris apologized to me while I was looking back at her.
Like Charl, Iris also believed that I had an extraordinary thing for women's breasts.
"L-Listen, Iris—a lot of stuff happened, which resulted in this whole affair about me liking breasts, but it's not really true."
I explained seriously, but Iris smiled warmly at me.
"Mononobe... you're so kind. You're saying this to stop me from feeling guilty, right? But no need to push yourself—I take your matters to heart too."
Iris asserted strongly and approached me swiftly.
"Since you didn't get to see the principal's chest, you can bury yourself into mine."
Saying that, Iris' eyes shone with determination. She placed her hands on my head.
"Iris, what are you planning to do—"
Getting this close to Iris in her swimsuit made my heart pound uncontrollably.
Iris silently smiled at me in my confusion then pulled my head towards her chest.
Starting with my nose, my face was buried into a warm, soft and pale valley.
Iris' skin was very warm—The sweet fragrance from her body was causing my mental circuits to freeze instantly.
"Mononobe... How is it?"
Iris whispered to me in a warm voice. However, I could not answer her.
My mind was completely swallowed up by softness.
My heart melted—drowning in a sea of pure white.
By the time I came back to my senses, Iris was standing in front of me, fidgeting.
My sense of time had gone hazy like in a dream. As a result, I could not help but doubt whether this was reality.
"Oh, umm—Just as you can see, there's nothing to be shy about... Mononobe, you like... my breasts a bit, don't you?"
However, when Iris asked me this with a blush, I realized that the sensation had not been a dream.
I nodded stiffly and Iris patted her chest in relief.
"Thank goodness... U-Umm—If you're satisfied with that, I hope you'll quit staring at other people's chests today."
Covering up the pale cleavage under her swimsuit, Iris smiled.
"I-I got it."
Aware that my voice had gone up in pitch due to excitement, I answered. Next, I turned around and started walking like a robot. My mind was still halfway in a dream, but when I left the stairs at the breakwater and passed through the dense patch of trees that blocked the view to everyone else—This dreamy feeling vanished completely.
Dressed in black swimsuit, Mitsuki was standing there silently, expressionless.
Holding my breath, I stood rooted to the spot.
On further thought, since Iris had caused such a large explosion, it would not be strange for anyone to come looking.
Judging from Mitsuki's expression... Most likely, she had witnessed the scene just now.
Mitsuki called to me quietly.
I reflexively stood straight and answered Mitsuki.
"Umm—I-I have no idea what I should do."
"Huh? You s-saw it... right? ...You're not... mad?"
I was expecting Mitsuki to scold me but she was acting strange, confusing me.
"I saw it. Naturally, I am very mad."
However, Mitsuki instantly replied in a stiff voice.
"Yes, nevertheless—I have no idea with what attitude I should be angry. From the student council president's standpoint, I should scold you for shameless behavior outdoors and have you write repentance essays... But on a personal level, I am very jealous of Iris-san."
Mitsuki showed an expression of guilt.
"Yes—Because your mind is fully occupied by Iris-san, isn't it? If possible, I..."
Supporting her small but well-shaped bosom with her arms, Mitsuki blushed.
I was surprised to see Mitsuki like that, but she instantly switched back to a solemn expression.
"However, I... can I truly compete against Iris-san on a level playing field? Nii-san, you have gained many people whom you must protect... And there are many people supporting you. I have no idea where I should stand anymore."
Saying that, Mitsuki pressed her hand against her dragon mark on the back of her neck. It was almost like she was confirming the proof that she had selected by me—
"So, umm... Although I said I would like you to think carefully about your relationship with everyone, before that—I hope you could decide my position as quickly as possible. Please?"
Seeing Mitsuki's suffering expression, I felt my chest tighten violently.
"What exactly I am to you, Nii-san... And who is the one dearest to you."
Just as I was about to answer, Mitsuki shook her head at me.
"Do not worry, Nii-san. Even if you choose someone, you will never speak of abandoning the others. I am well aware that you will never give up taking responsibility for us, Nii-san. Consequently—I only wish for you to make a decision then tell me."
Although her tone was very gentle, there was a sense of urgency in her voice.
"If you do that, I will be able to work hard in that position's capacity. Surely, a situation like now when I am hesitating over what I should do... would exist no longer. So please, Nii-san."
Mitsuki spoke in earnest and bowed her head deeply towards me.
"Yeah... I got it. I'll hurry... No, I will decide before this coming festival—So please raise your head."
I must have committed a grave mistake to have Mitsuki troubled to such an extent.
Feeling intensely guilty and apologetic, I nodded deeply.
"Thank you, Nii-san."
Looking up, Mitsuki thanked with a slightly relieved expression.
Thus, we returned slightly to normal at last. With a gentle and beautiful smile, Mitsuki urged me, "Let us return to the others."
While we were walking back to the group, I kept pondering the answer to Mitsuki's question.
A decision rather than a choice—This was "something that must be done now" which I had never expected.
Surely, the answer was already in my heart.
However, expressing this answer properly was an extremely difficult task.
"What am I being so impatient for...?"
Eating barbecue under a parasol, Mononobe Mitsuki sighed deeply.
—I clearly had not intended to say that sort of thing...
Recalling what she had just said to him—Mononobe Yuu—deep regret surged in her heart.
Of course, it felt like a load had been lifted after speaking these words she had held back for so long. However, it would have been better to wait longer. There was clearly no reason to rush.
"I am such a bad girl..."
In hindsight, she was the only one who felt better.
Although she had told him to decide rather than to choose—She had not said this out of worry for him.
This was a defensive line she had set up in advance, fearing she was not the chosen one.
—Because, if I force Nii-san to choose one person... He will definitely pick Iris-san. Iris-san certainly does not think so, but—that is what I believe.
Despite this was too cowardly, too unfair, she found it impossible to dispel this thought no matter what. Furthermore, she was tired of agonizing over these matters.
Hence, I had to verify whether or not I am number one and also to get closer to him... That was why I made such a demand.
Too much thinking? I was having a splitting headache. Perhaps staying under the sun was making me dizzy from the heat.
I put down my tray that was carrying yakisoba onto the mat and brought my hand to the back of my neck.
The back of my neck was the location of my dragon mark—The spot where Nii-san had kissed.
Whenever I felt a bit unwell, I would touch my dragon mark like this—I felt reassured by recalling my vow with.
It was the same today, after pressing on my dragon mark for a while, my mind cleared up as though a gray haze had dispersed.
At that moment, I noticed my parasol's shadow was overlapping with different, petite shadow.
I looked up to see Vritra standing there in her school swimsuit.
Sensing unease in those eyes looking at her, Mitsuki called out hesitantly.
"Art thou feeling unwell?"
Vritra then asked solemnly.
"Oh no, I am fine now."
"Is that so? However, thou shouldst not strain thyself."
"Yes... Thank you."
While feeling surprised by this show of care, Mitsuki thanked Vritra.
Vritra stared silently at Mitsuki, looking as though she still had other business.
Feeling as sense of deja vu regarding this gaze, Mitsuki frowned slightly.
—Speaking of which, I seem to recall speaking with Vritra about something previously...
When Mitsuki tried to remember, the pain from the back of her neck interrupted her thoughts.
Watching Mitsuki, Vritra frowned then turned around silently.
"Thou dost not look well after all. I shall fetch a drink for thee."
"Eh, sure—Thank you for your concern."
Curious about Vritra's strange kindness, Mitsuki saw her off.
—Oh, I, just now...
She seemed to remember something just earlier, but now she could not recall what it was.
It was possible that her health still had not recovered after all. Although Vritra had already noticed it, she must not let him find out.
Looking at him preparing food together with the others, Mitsuki pressed her hand tightly against her chest that was pounding inside.
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