Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 1 Chapter 1
Chapter 1 - Dragon Garden Midgard
I couldn't help but feel dizzy from the massive dissonance between the scenery before me and the world I used to live in.
Clear blue skies. A navy-blue sea. A white beach. Coconut trees in the breeze. This tropical island scene was like a drawing.
Because it was too hot, I took off my long-sleeved jacket, leaving just a shirt, then looked out to sea.
"Am I dreaming...?"
I muttered to myself while listening to the sound of waves.
This suspicion rapidly turned into certainty.
Because a girl suddenly appeared out of the sea.
Beautiful silver hair, dripping wet, was glittering brightly from reflecting the dazzling sunlight. Droplets of water slid over clear, flawless snow-white skin, flowing along gentle curves.
Without wearing anything at all, she was walking on the beach nude.
Roughly the same age as me, probably fifteen or sixteen years old.
It really had been too long since I last saw a girl of my age, so I had no idea how to react.
However, I could not tear my eyes away from that snow-white, naked body. Seeing bulges that flashed in and out view between gaps in the silver hair, wobbling as the girl walked, I could not help but gulp.
"Yeah... This has to be a dream."
This kind of scenery could not possibly be reality. I must be quite exhausted.
Then at least before I wake up, allow me to enjoy this paradise. Because once the dream ended, the usual dark and gloomy world must be waiting for me again.
After thinking that, I stared at the naked girl.
Her beauty was akin to a fairy's—a kind of otherworldly charm detached from the mundane world. I was mesmerized by that beautiful figure.
Perhaps noticing my gaze, the girl turned her head to look in my direction.
Then the girl stopped moving.
Meeting her gaze, I felt extremely nervous, but since this was a dream, there was no need to panic. Anyway, I lifted my hand first to greet her.
"H-Hi, the weather's so nice today."
The girl's face instantly froze.
The girl went bright red in the face and screamed. Then covering up the front of her body with her arms, she squatted down on the spot.
I was rooted to the spot by this shrill scream that almost split my eardrums in pain.
What could one say? This was a very normal response, not the slightest like a dream. Were I dreaming, developments ought to be... of a more sultry nature, right?
In other words, no way—
"This island and you... They're all real?"
"Y-You, w-what are you talking about? No, I should be asking why is there a man here!?"
Staring into my eyes, the girl's gaze conveyed not only shame but also fear.
This was apparently no dream. In that case, I definitely wronged her.
If this was reality, this island down south—Midgard—was indeed supposed to be completely free of men. One could hardly blame this girl for being so unguarded. I should have realized earlier.
"Oh... Ummm, sorry, actually—"
I apologized to her, but just as I was about to explain the whole story, the girl interrupted me and yelled loudly:
Using one arm to shield her well-shaped bust while raising the other arm towards the sky, she manifested a black sphere on her palm, which then turned into a silver-white staff.
"Dark matter transmutation...!?"
I stared wide-eyed in amazement but quickly understood that this was nothing worth getting surprised over.
Because every child at Midgard was a "D"—a superpower-wielding candidate for the Dragon Subjugation Squad.
"I-I can do this... I'll take care of you, a mere intruder!"
Speaking in a trembling voice, the girl pointed the front end of her staff at me.
I noticed that the girl was about to attack using her superpowers.
So-called dark matter was an energy substance that only Ds were capable of producing, which could be converted into any material or phenomenon. If she conjured high-temperature flames, instantly burning me to ashes would not be impossible.
If what she intended to unleash was a wide-area attack, even trying to defend or evade would be pointless.
—I instantly felt my hairs stand on end.
In the depths of my consciousness, the originally slumbering monster woke up at this time.
This monster was deeply rooted in my subconscious.
When confronted with a crisis of life and death, instinct would calculate multiple patterns to strike preemptively.
Automatically selecting the most efficient and certain means of attack, the body would take action as though reflexively.
Recognizing the girl as an enemy, the monster of my subconscious brandished its claws at her.
Without changing my posture, merely raising my right hand by the minimum amount—
Seeing fear surface on the girl's face, I instantly came back to my senses.
—At this rate, she will die. I was going to kill her.
My mind recognized this fact.
But time did not afford the luxury of changing my method of attack. If I did that, her attack would surely take my life first.
Instinct was insisting on the legitimacy of its actions, but I screamed in my heart to oppose instinct.
—What does my own life matter!?
Using rationality, I forced my subconscious action to stop, canceling the attack against the girl.
Muscles screamed while bones creaked from forcible exertion.
Perhaps due to coercive suppression of subconscious responses, my nervous system fell into disarray for a moment, rendering my body unable to follow the next order.
Although my brain was currently searching for other methods of reacting, my arms and legs failed to keep up with my thoughts.
Without missing out on the opening presented by the halt in my motion, the girl yelled loudly:
"I won't lose!"
Multiple black spheres could be seen manifesting near the staff's tip.
Since I had shown murderous intent towards her at one point, it was unlikely that she would show mercy towards me.
Chances of my surviving this wave of attacks were very low.
—Even so, this was my choice too.
Telling myself that, I quietly prepared myself.
The expected explosion arrived, but it happened under the girl's feet instead.
Raising a tall cloud of dust, the girl was blown into the air. Her shrill scream gradually faded into the distance.
Sand and soil fell in the surroundings like rain while the girl fell into the sea.
Then she did not float up again.
"Hey...? Hey hey hey!"
I ran towards the sea. While running, I removed my shirt then jumped into the clear seawater.
Fortunately, the seawater was clear and transparently, allowing me to swiftly locate the gradually sinking girl.
Picking up the apparently unconscious girl in my arms, I returned to the beach.
Unconscious people usually felt very heavy, but the girl's body was far lighter than imagined—far softer too.
"She shouldn't have died... Right?"
Laying the girl down on the beach, I examined her condition. No external injuries. The earlier explosion probably happened underground in the sand.
My gaze shifted downwards. Almost staring straight at the girl's bosom, I hastily turned my gaze away, but discovered a strangely shaped birthmark near the side of her abdomen.
"Is this... a dragon mark?"
A so-called dragon mark was an emblem that all Ds were born with. That mark on the girl's body did not resemble the kind caused by abrasive wounds.
Then trying to check her breathing, I brought my face close to hers.
The girl proceeded to open her eyes suddenly.
Our eyes met at extremely close range.
Only after inspecting at such a close distance did I realize that her face was very well-proportioned. Added to that was her head of silver hair and flawlessly clear skin.
Such sublime and otherworldly beauty, like a work of art, it made me stare in mesmerization—
The words slipped out of my mouth unintentionally.
"W-What what what..."
Lying on the sand, the girl went red in embarrassment, her lips trembling nonstop.
But she suddenly regained her senses. Using her left arm to cover her chest, she pointed at me with her right hand.
I held her arm down and straddled her, sealing off her movements.
"L-Let me go! Molester! Pervert!"
"I'm neither a molester nor a pervert, nor an intruder! Could you please listen to my explanation!?"
Although I was aware that such words should not be said while pinning a naked girl down on her back, I knew there was no way I could withstand more explosions from her.
"Q-Quit lying! I won't be tricked! Because Midgard is not supposed to have men!"
"I was brought here! I was stuffed into a shipping container along with supplies to be transported here!"
Last night, I suddenly received a reassignment order. Without receiving detailed explanations, I was taken to a container.
Then I was left behind in that dark and rocking container for a number of hours. When the container was finally opened, I already found myself on this tropical island.
The ship that had delivered the container was no longer in sight. I found myself surrounded by autonomous work robots.
I wandered all over the place in search of people but ran into this naked girl.
"I can't believe you hid inside a container to sneak in here... Y-You must be a professional spy, right?"
"No, I said I was stuffed into a container, right? And even if I managed to sneak in, it's impossible to bypass the security system here. Do you really think the concentric defensive system named Midgardsormr, legendary for being impregnable, is that easy to breach?"
I calmly reprimanded her, but the girl still retorted defiantly.
"B-But humans have infinite potential!"
"How did that even occur to you!? Besides, if I'm an experienced spy, I wouldn't be hanging out leisurely at the beach, right!?"
"I-It could be a trap too! Your goal is to lure someone out... Oh no!? Am I going to be silenced!? I'll be tortured, forced to give up information, then finally killed!?"
The girl went pale, falling into despair on her own.
"Listen to me! I won't silence you nor kill you!"
—That's right, I absolutely won't kill her. Even if my body moved on its own like earlier, I would still subdue it through willpower.
"T-Then you wouldn't by any chance intend... t-to do obscene things to me?"
The girl's face gradually turned from pale to red. Seeing that kind of reaction from her, I felt rather troubled too. It forced me to become aware of the supple body that I was touching, the fragrance of maidenly scent, as well as the lovely shape of her twin peaks.
I had no intentions of that sort, but my face naturally heated up.
"I-I said I won't do anything..."
"Liar! Your face is going red!"
"Why are you so sharp when it comes to this kind of thing!?"
I sighed deeply after retorting. This would take forever at this rate. In any case, I had to deliver the necessary explanations first.
"I am Mononobe Yuu. I belong to NIFL, the military organization directly under Asgard's command. Rank: 2nd Lieutenant. I was reassigned to Midgard, effective today. The official document is here."
I took out the drenched document from my pants pocket. To avoid damaging it, I carefully spread it open for her to read.
The girl's eyes widened in surprise.
"Mononobe, Yuu... You really are... a soldier? Not a pervert?"
After inspecting the document carefully for a while, the girl asked me.
From an intruder to a pervert, her choice of words to describe me was getting worse, but I deliberately ignored it.
"You said you're a 2nd Lieutenant... You... Mononobe, how old are you?"
"I-Isn't that the same as me!? It would be understandable for a D, but for most soldiers, getting a rank of 2nd Lieutenant at this kind of age is too unusual!"
"Even if you say it's unusual, it's the truth. Nothing I can do about that. So, what's your name?"
"I already gave you my name. I'd appreciate it if you could introduce yourself too."
After I urged her, the girl finally spoke despite her hesitation.
"...I am Iris Freyja. Student No. 7 in Brynhildr Class. Rank is... Private 2nd class, no wait, the students aren't NIFL soldiers so there's no rank hierarchy between us!"
"Yeah, that's right. Midgard is just a school. Rank is irrelevant."
"G-Glad you know that."
The girl—Iris—nodded, apparently relieved.
"So, Iris, now that we've introduced ourselves, I think the misunderstanding is over... You won't attack me again, right?"
Iris nodded a little absentmindedly. Hence, I released her arm and stood up. Picking up the shirt I removed before jumping into the sea, I handed it to her.
"Anyway, put this on first. Otherwise, I won't know where to look."
Casting my gaze out towards the distant horizon, I suggested.
With a complicated expression on her face, Iris put on my shirt. Thanks to the relatively long hem, at least it covered up the lower part of her body that was not meant to be seen.
"Umm, I'm very sorry. I shouldn't have approached the beach so casually. In this place free from the male gaze, I should've expected that there might be girls going skinny dipping."
After all, I was the one at fault, so I bowed my head and apologized again. However, Iris tilted her head and said:
"Eh? Even if it's only girls, we don't go skinny dipping either, because that's too indecent."
"...What? But unless I'm mistaken, you weren't wearing a swimsuit just now, were you?"
Frowning, I looked at Iris who had been completely nude until just now.
"Oh, my swimsuit got swept away by the sea. While I was swimming, it somehow came loose without my noticing it... That's why I dove into the sea to see if it got caught somewhere."
Iris replied matter-of-factly. Recalling the earlier explosion, I reached the conclusion that this girl—
"—Iris, you're quite careless, aren't you?"
"I-I am not careless! I'm neither an idiot, nor an airhead, nor useless!!"
"I never went that far..."
It looked like I had poked her in a sore spot.
Idiot, airhead, useless—
I felt like I was starting to understand Iris as a person. Despite no similarity in appearance, Iris' earnest personality was actually quite similar to a certain girl.
Then I heard Iris make a strange sound.
"Hmm? What's wrong?"
"D-Don't ask me... It's because you suddenly showed a gentle smile, it frightened me..."
Iris answered with her face gone red for some reason.
"I was smiling just now?"
Iris nodded, answering somewhat uncomfortably.
"Oh... I smiled because I was reminiscing, so don't mind me."
I tried to sweep things under the rug ambiguously. It was not something to discuss with someone I just met.
"What did you recall, Mononobe?"
"Eh, what's wrong with telling others?"
Because Iris insisted on prying, I resorted to changing the subject.
"—What's important right now is that neither of us are in decent attire. If possible, Iris, I hope you can change back into your own clothes and give my shirt back."
Iris was wearing just my shirt whereas I was topless. Under such circumstances, any sort of misunderstanding could arise.
"Ehhh!? Mononobe, you want me to give you clothing that I've worn!? No way! No way no way no way! Impossible! You're going to sniff the lingering scent and lick it all over, aren't you!?"
"I'm not doing that!! What's scary is your imagination!"
"Mononobe the molester! Mononobe the pervert! Huh? Speaking of which, her family name is Mononobe too—"
Refusing to let me explain, originally making a noisy fuss with her face gone red, Iris suddenly came back to her senses, her head tilted in puzzlement.
As it so happened at this moment, a calm voice interrupted our conversation.
"Iris-san, could you please not use other people's family name to scream pervert or molester? Even though I know you are clearly not referring to me, it feels very unpleasant."
Simultaneously, Iris and I looked in the voice's direction.
A girl in school uniform was standing on the tall breakwater separating the beach from the road. With her long black hair fluttering in the sea breeze, the girl slowly walked down the steps leading to the beach.
Whether in facial appearance or voice, this girl greatly resembled a certain person I knew.
But she could not possibly be at a place like this. She was the one person who could not possibly be here.
Because that was why I had—
But my flimsy hope was shattered by what Iris said next.
"Oh! M-Mitsuki-chan! S-Sorry... Speaking of which, your family name is Mononobe too, Mitsuki-chan, I forgot because I always call you by name..."
Feeling guilty, Iris scratched her head and apologized.
Ahhh... So it really was true.
In fact, I already knew the instant I laid eyes on her. I could not possibly be mistaken. I simply refused to believe it no matter what.
It took all I could to force these words out when she came over to me. Holding the hem of her skirt between her fingers, she bowed elegantly then said:
"I have been waiting for you the whole time. It has been three years—Nii-san."
Twenty-five years ago, without any prior warning, a gigantic unidentified creature appeared in the sky above Japan.
The first dragon, possessing the power to generate dark matter.
A monster beyond common sense, bringing massive calamity to various locations simply by the act of moving, it vanished as suddenly as it had appeared.
Later on, the international organization Asgard, established specifically to handle dragons, announced that the gigantic creature was very likely the same type as "the enveloper" Vritra recorded in ancient Indian scripture.
Although Asgard had not publicized evidence to support this assertion, on grounds of confidentiality, thereafter, the first dragon came to be known as the black dragon—"Black" Vritra.
Ever since, people possessing the same power as Vritra—the ability to generate dark matter—began to be born among humans. These superpowered children were called Ds, or Type Dragon. Currently, they were all gathered at a certain place to be managed and protected.
And this place was my current location—Midgard.
A small remote island, several kilometers in diameter, far south of Japan. Remodeled thoroughly from a formerly uninhabited island, it was rebuilt as an educational institute.
The island was surrounded by the autonomous concentric defense system named Midgardsormr, which would mercilessly eliminate all unauthorized ships and aircraft.
I was redeployed to somewhere like this, simply because of a reassignment order.
"Say, Mitsuki, it's time for you to answer me, right? What on earth... What happened?"
I walked over to ask Mitsuki who was in front.
"There are appropriate times and venues for talking. This type of road where anyone could overhear us is not a place suitable for holding discussions."
Mituski rejected my question without looking back. I had already asked her many times, always getting the same reply. It even felt like I was listening to a pre-recorded voice.
I gave up as a result to wait for the "appropriate venue" that she mentioned.
Currently, we were following the beach from earlier, walking along a road on the shore. Although no people could be seen in the surroundings at all, Mitsuki still seemed worried about "walls have ears."
As a side note, Iris had already left. Taking her belongings that were on the breakwater, she had run away as though fleeing, still wearing my shirt as well. It looked like she really did not want to give me clothing she had already worn.
Hence, I was forced to put on the long-sleeved jacket I had initially taken off due to the heat. Being knife-proof, the jacket locked heat within its thick fabric, making me sweat like a dog.
Soon after, I saw a large building. Despite a modern design, it gave me an impression like a medieval castle. Mitsuki stopped in front of the building then placed her hand on a sensor panel next to door. Almost silently, the door opened automatically.
I followed Mitsuki indoors. As cool wind blew away the heat from my body, I instantly stopped sweating.
The entrance area was a vast hall. Taking care of all house chores, cylindrical robots were sweeping and vacuuming as fully autonomous servants.
"So grand... Is this the school?"
As I muttered to myself, I immediately heard a chuckle.
I turned my gaze to Mitsuki ahead, only to see her cough once then turn to face me.
"—No, this is not the school. These are my personal living quarters."
I was instantly stunned by what Mitsuki had said.
"...P-Personal living quarters? All of this crazy big building?"
"Yes, all of it is for my use, which is why I replied to you that way."
In other words, this was apparently the "appropriate venue" mentioned by Mitsuki. I stared in disbelief to check out the interior of this building. The hall opened up to the third floor with an extremely high ceiling. It was hard to imagine how many rooms exactly there were inside.
"Why are you living in this kind of house—No, speaking of which, why are you at Midgard? This time, you can finally give me an answer, right?"
"That is because I am a special D. Brynhildr Class, Student No. 3, Midgard Academy's student council president as well as captain of the Dragon Subjugation Squad. Rank: Lieutenant Colonel. I have attained higher levels of greatness than you, Nii-san."
I was dumbstruck from surprise. Mitsuki continued:
"Nii-san, the personnel transfer of reassigning you to Midgard was accomplished using my authority. Starting tomorrow, Nii-san, please study at this school as a student. A room in this dormitory has already been renovated for your use. Your uniform is also ready inside there, so please try it on first. If by any chance the size does not fit, I shall immediately send it away for alterations."
"H-Hold on! You're asking me to study at this school starting tomorrow? Are you for real? So this so-called personnel transfer isn't about a position in the coast guard?"
"Of course I am serious. How could I serve as a role model for all the other students if I were to lie as the student council president? Midgardsormr is sufficient as defense already. No other personnel is needed."
"No... But I'm a guy!"
I pointed out the most important problem.
For some unknown reason, all Ds were female, which meant that the students in Midgard were inevitably girls only. In other words, Midgard was an all-girls school, not a place where I could study.
"There is only one eligibility requirement to receive an education at Migard—namely, one must be a D. You fulfill this requirement, Nii-san. Being female or male is irrelevant."
Indeed. I was the sole exception.
I was the male D whose existence was concealed the moment I was discovered.
"Maybe you're right, in theory... but is it really okay to publicize my circumstances? Asgard sent me to NIFL because they wanted to cover up the existence of someone like me, right...?"
The international organization Asgard was established twenty years ago to handle various cross-border issues related to dragons. Currently, there were two divisions under its banner.
One was the military organization NIFL, in charge of researching weaponry and tactics for fighting dragons, as well as taking measures against the dragon disasters happening daily.
The other was the Midgard, the autonomous educational institute of the Ds.
Reportedly, Midgard had been under NIFL's administration until recently, but currently, the two sides stood on diametrically opposite stances.
Due to the system of conducting join operations with NIFL under Asgard's command during emergency situations, students like Mitsuki and Iris were assigned military ranks common to NIFL.
In this kind of organizational hierarchy, I believed that even Mitsuki could not oppose Asgard's decisions as a Lieutenant Colonel, but...
"No, hiding your existence was not Asgard but NIFL. Taking advantage of the pretext of ensuring your safety, Nii-san, they decided on your treatment on their own without reporting back to Asgard. It was due to this that... it took me an extremely long time to locate you, Nii-san."
Mitsuki gnashed her teeth in chagrin.
"Mitsuki... You've been searching for me the whole time?"
"Yes, I was so surprised to find you absent when I first arrived at Midgard. It felt very odd that you were not here despite being taken away before me, so thereafter, I have been searching for you."
Despite Mitsuki's explanation, I still felt a bit worried.
"You must've used quite forceful means, right? Won't that worsen your position—"
"Worry not, it was NIFL that took unilateral action, hence there is no need to worry about them complaining on our door. Please enjoy your school life, Nii-san."
Although Mitsuki was making a face that read "absolutely no problem," I still found myself unable to agree candidly.
"Well, I basically understand the situation now and I'm very happy about your good intentions... But in practice, there are still many problems, right?"
Even if uncertain factors had decreased slightly, the fact of my gender as a man still remained.
"—Indeed, of course I have considered the many issues arising from mixing a boy into an all-girls school. Precisely because of that, I have decided to manage you myself, Nii-san."
Mitsuki made a look as though she understood my worries perfectly and nodded proudly.
"To prevent you from disrupting public morals, Nii-san, I will supervise you properly and work hard to prevent you from causing problems. I will not allow you to engage in such shameless behavior as earlier."
Mitsuki smiled for the first time, but it was one that made me shiver from the bottom of my heart.
"Mitsuki, are you actually... angry?"
Mitsuki had not brought up the matter of Iris wearing nothing but a shirt in my presence. I originally thought she had missed the worst scene—me pinning down the naked Iris—so I was feeling relieved, but actually, Mitsuki was simply waiting for the opportunity to confront the whole matter.
"Of course, because your indiscretions are my responsibility, but I cannot believe that you started accosting girls as soon as you arrived... I fear for a terrible future."
"I-I was not accosting!"
"Is that so? But the two of you were flirting quite intimately despite having just met."
Mitsuki turned around and started walking without looking back.
"Where are you going, Mitsuki?"
"...I will take you to your room. Follow me."
Giving off an aura of displeasure, Mitsuki led me to the far end of the corridor on the first floor, the room on the right side
Every room was labeled with a numbered plate, except for that one room whose plate read "Nii-san" in bubbly handwriting.
I looked at Mitsuki silently, hoping she could change it to my name at least, but having grown up, my little sister had no intention of understanding me. Coldly, she presented a key to me.
"This is the room key. Although you may lock it with this, I do hold a master key in my possession, so please be aware of that."
"Uh, then what's the point of locking the door?"
"Please think of it as a matter of mood, but unless there was an emergency, I will not open the door without consent, so I suppose it is not entirely pointless."
"In that case, I'll accept it first..."
I took the key with uneasy feelings.
"I mainly use the room that happens to be located directly above yours in the corner of the second floor. Please knock on my door if you need anything. You may move around freely in this dormitory, but going out is forbidden after 8pm. The housework robots will prepare breakfast and dinner at the dining hall on the third floor every day at 7am and 7pm respectively. Laundry should be placed in the basket then put out in front of your door. The bath and toilet are inside the room. These are basically the rules. Any questions?"
"Uh... Nothing right now—"
Listening to so much all at once, my mind still had yet to organize all this information. Neither did I have the time to come up with questions.
"Is there anything you feel concerned about, Nii-san? For example, during these three years at NIFL... You were unable to contact Father, Mother and friends at school, right?"
"—Right, oh by the way, how are Father and Mother?"
As a matter of obligation, I inquired of the parents whom I could not even remember their appearances clearly.
"Yes, they are well. I do talk to them by phone occasionally. Although communications with the outside world requires authorization, it is not forbidden. Nii-san, you should take the initiative to call them next time."
Despite nodding in agreement, I had no intention of calling my parents, because as soon as I talk to them, I would definitely get exposed.
I did not want Mitsuki to know what I had lost three years ago.
"You may also call friends, Nii-san, but the phone calls will be recorded, so please take care not to say anything unnecessary. If you do not have their phone numbers, I could also help you look for them."
"Got it, thanks for doing so much for me."
—Friends? While wondering whether I had people like that, I thanked her.
"Then I shall excuse myself."
Mitsuki took a bow, turned around and was about to leave when I thought of a burning question to ask.
"Oh—Can I ask a question?"
Mitsuki halted and looked back at me. I gulped, steeled myself and raised the following question:
"What I did three years ago... was it a waste? Was it ultimately just a child's naive thinking?"
Three years ago, I stepped out to fight. To prevent Mitsuki from being sent to Midgard, I had claimed that everything was my doing.
I insisted that I was the only one who had fought the giant.
However, seeing as Mitsuki was in this place now...
That meant that my action had ended up futile.
However, Mitsuki shook her head slowly.
"No, Nii-san, your efforts were definitely not a waste. Three years ago, my being a D did not come to light, but..."
"I committed an error back then—An irrevocable error."
Saying that, Mitsuki smiled sadly.
Mononobe Mitsuki was my sister, but we were not blood related.
Mitsuki and I had become family as foster siblings back when I was six. We studied in the same year group at school because our birthdays differed only by a month. Even so, Mitsuki still insisted on calling me "Nii-san."
This rigid personality remained unchanged even now, but apart from that, everything else differed quite substantially from my recollections.
Three years ago, she spoke in a more childish manner. Furthermore, she was shy and introverted, and disliked showing herself in public.
Standing fearlessly in front of everyone to give a speech like this was something beyond her in the past.
"...Hence, despite being male, more importantly, he is a D—in other words, one of our rare comrades. Only by accepting him as one of us without gender discrimination would we prove that we are humans with a highly developed sense of social awareness—"
The current location was the school gym at the center of the island. All students were arranged neatly in rows while the faculty was lined up along the wall. On the other hand, Mitsuki was standing on the podium with everyone's gaze gathered on her, speaking fluently through the microphone.
Standing beside her, I was dressed in the school uniform, similar in style to the other students, but mine was a male uniform of course. The size fitted me to a frightening degree.
"—Naturally, even so, I believe there will still be many worrying issues. Hence, I hereby promise everyone that I will do everything I can to protect your daily lives. Although he is my brother, precisely because he is family, I shall deliver even harsher punishment if he were to cause trouble—"
The current full-school assembly was being held to explain my transferring into Midgard.
After yesterday's commotion, I was roused from bed early in the morning and suddenly brought to this place. (As a side note, Mitsuki had used the master key to open my door.)
When I stood up on the podium together with Mitsuki, inquisitive gazes gathered on me—But right now, all eyes were on Mitsuki. Everyone was listening attentively to her with no one whispering among themselves.
—She really was the student council president.
I felt impressed in my heart. Based on the atmosphere, I could feel everyone's respect and trust in her.
I swept my gaze across the students who were gazing at Mitsuki with fervent eyes. The students were not that many. Since I had nothing to do after all, I counted them. A total of sixty-five. Forming lines of between five to nine students, there was a total of nine lines. Perhaps that was the number of homerooms.
I had heard before that Midgard's homerooms were divided in consideration of combat teams, hence they were relatively small in class size.
The silver-haired girl, Iris, who had gotten into a dispute with me yesterday, was standing in a line of five on the very side. That line seemed particularly short in number, perhaps due to Mitsuki's absence. I remembered both of them saying they were in Brynhildr Class.
"—I hope everyone will give him a warm welcome and at the same time, I demand that he return the sincerity and trust we have extended to him. So please look after him—please look after my brother."
Mitsuki took a deep bow and ended her speech. Thunderous applause instantly sounded throughout the gym.
Amidst the subsiding clapping, Mitsuki handed the microphone to me.
"Uh... My name is Mononobe Yuu. I may not be good at anything, but please be kind to me, everyone."
I did not expect myself to be so pathetic, only able to give such an unbelievably cliched greeting due to nervousness.
But the applause was even louder than before and I could hear heartwarming cheers of "Nice to meet you!" "We will look after you!"
They were supposed to be quite opposed to the idea of a boy enrolling in their school, but with just a ten-minute speech, Mitsuki altered the student's perceptions.
The two of us bowed and withdrew behind the curtains on the stage. Mitsuki exhaled deeply and smiled.
"With this, the school should exhibit a friendly atmosphere towards you, Nii-san, but please do not mess it up, okay?"
"S-Sure, I got it. I'll be careful and not cause you trouble, Mitsuki."
To be honest, my mind had yet to catch up to the situation, but the transfer to Midgard was an official order whereas Mitsuki was my superior. I had no authority to decline.
Everyone must follow orders issued from above. This was common sense ingrained in my mind during the past three years.
Perhaps my answer sounded half-hearted, hence Mitsuki looked up at me with eyes of suspicion, then she advised me:
"Let me inform you in advance, Nii-san, that your assigned homeroom consists of problem children entirely. I am not confident that they will listen to me so you will need to work hard on your own if you want them to accept you. Please bear this in mind."
Actually, I had already guessed for the most part—I was assigned to Brynhildr Class, the same as Mitsuki's.
Inside the small classroom, the desks were arranged in a 3x3 array.
Sweeping a glance at the girls in the seats, I understood very well what Mitsuki meant by problem children.
For some unknown reason, the blonde girl sitting in the front row was glaring angrily in my direction. Ignoring me while I was standing at the lectern, a short-haired girl was reading her paperback book. In the second row, a red-haired girl was engrossed in playing on her laptop. A tomboy had her face turned away in displeasure.
Iris Freyja's seat was in the third row. She kept stealing glances towards me from time to time, but as soon as we made eye contact, she would turn her head away immediately.
The girls were all sitting on the edge seats, leaving the middle column unoccupied. How should I put it?
—Were they on bad terms with one another?
They felt rather divided.
"Well then, I shall make introductions anew. He is my older brother, Mononobe Yuu, sixteen years old. Since the Student No. is determined by order of enrollment, he is No. 8."
"Pleased to meet you."
Following Mitsuki's introduction, I lowered my head and bowed.
Clapping was heard. Only Iris was clapping but as soon as she saw that none of her classmates were applauding, she instantly went red in the face and lowered her head.
The blonde girl, who kept glaring at me the whole time, her gaze turned even sharper now and she stood up.
"I do not approve! To think you would search for a man to bring to Midgard... Mitsuki-san, is this not abuse of power?"
The blonde girl pointed to Mitsuki and accused.
"This decision was reached through official procedures and review. If you have any objections, feel free to start a petition. So long as you gather fifteen or more signatures, an extraordinary general assembly of the students can be called whereupon a referendum can be conducted. If a majority of the student population agrees with your motion, Lisa-san, then I shall reevaluate the matter."
The girl named Lisa gnashed her teeth. She was probably thinking of the thunderous applause earlier. With a face of chagrin, she turned her gaze towards me.
She was evidently one of the students who would not listen to Mitsuki. Her reaction was precisely what I predicted beforehand.
Indeed, this was the normal response. In the first place, it would not be surprising if the majority of students held this stance.
Hence, I did not feel offended.
"Speaking of which... Are you truly a D? First and foremost, this is the one fact I cannot believe."
"Hmm... What you mean is you'd like to see proof?"
Lisa nodded affirmatively in response to my question.
"Indeed, please prove it right now. Everyone is interested, isn't that right?"
At Lisa's call, all the other girls looked up from what they were busy doing, gazing in my direction. Now I had no choice but to proceed with it.
"Mitsuki, may I?"
"Eh? Oh, you may... So long as it is simple transmutation. Since phenomena involving kinetic energy or the transmutation of unstable substances is very dangerous, it is forbidden outside of training sites."
I confirmed with Mitsuki, prompting her to nod uneasily.
Mitsuki should know better than anyone the fact that I am a D. Why was she making such a facial expression?
"Don't worry, I won't fail. Just watch."
I smiled at Mitsuki to reassure her, then started the demonstration.
Extending my hand, I concentrated to picture my hand reaching into the interior of the world.
Then with my fingertips immersed in an imaginary parallel world, I grabbed the "world in the Far Beyond" and drew it out.
A black sphere the size of a baseball instantly manifested on my palm.
A commotion instantly arose in the classroom.
This allusionary act was something I had repeated thousands, tens of thousands of times previously. I could not possibly fail.
—The black sphere was known as dark matter, an all-purpose element that could be converted into any material or phenomenon in this world. Although there were many theories regarding dark matter, it is believed that it is very likely a part of the "world in the Far Beyond."
The ability to produce dark matter could be regarded as proof of a D's identity.
As proof, it was enough... But ending it here would be too boring.
Hence, I decided to perform my most familiar transmutation.
Anti-personnel armament—AT Nergal.
Retrieving the blueprint stored in my mind and melding it into the dark matter, I caused its shape and properties to change.
Then I felt from my hand the familiar weight and hardness. A uniquely shaped gun created from the transmutation of dark matter. As though assembled from multiple blocks, the gun's body exhibited faintly glowing lines that seemed like a pattern carved upon it.
It looked like a model gun from some kind of science fiction movie, but this was undoubtedly a real combat weapon used by NIFL in recent years. Strictly speaking, the ones issued by NIFL were the mass production (MP) models rather than my archetype (AT).
According to habit, I entered a stance while holding up the gun, leaning my back against the wall.
At this moment, I came back to my senses and put down the gun in embarrassment while I surveyed the crowd. For some reason, they were all stunned.
What was going on? Dark matter transmutation should be something everyone here could perform with ease.
"Is that a... gun? Rather than a mere alteration of dark matter's form... it appears more to be a fully materialized gun?"
Lisa asked me in a trembling voice.
"Yeah, that's completely correct."
"It doesn't shoot actual bullets, does it?"
"What are you talking about? What's the point of making a gun that can't shoot?"
Upon hearing my answer, everyone showed an unmistakable expression of shock on their face this time.
"I-Impossible! To craft something so intricate through imagination alone, that would be impossible for a human!"
After seeing Lisa's reaction, I finally realized I had done something unnecessary.
At NIFL, other people would only think "this is the way Ds are supposed to be like" without making a big deal out of things. But here, where everyone was a D, I would be compared to them according to the same standards.
Since what's done is done, it could not be helped. I forcibly glossed over the issue.
"Uh, I can't help it if you say it's impossible... I just did it in an actual demonstration."
"T-True, you do have a point..."
Left speechless, Lisa bowed her head.
At this moment, the tomboyish girl with the displeased demeanor earlier raised her hand.
"You're so amazing... I even jumped in fright. Did you practice this?"
"Well, more or less..."
Despite feeling guilty about it, I lied.
"Wow... That's really amazing... But why are you putting so much work into something that's wasting effort?"
I frowned and ask. I originally thought she was mocking me but the girl's eyes were very serious. She sincerely found it incomprehensible.
"Yeah, because a small gun like that won't work on dragons at all, right?"
This answer made me realize the fundamental difference between these girls and me. Namely, the guiding principles of our educations were completely different.
These girls were trained to fight dragons.
A gun's transmutation was completely pointless to them. They most likely had far more powerful means of attack than guns.
Hence, even if I managed to surprise them to some extent, I would never win their approval with this. It would not affect perceptions of me at Midgard.
—My demonstration was nothing more than a funny trick.
Looking down at the gun, I muttered to myself mentally.
What I had learned in my days at NIFL so far was mainly methods of fighting humans. Using military force to pacify countries and regions where public order had broken down due to the passage of dragons—This was NIFL's main activity.
NIFL's military power was directed at humans, not dragons.
In other words, that was as far as my level of power reached—
"Nii-san, I have to confiscate this."
While I was lost in thought, Mitsuki took away my gun from the side.
"This sort of dangerous object is forbidden in school. I will be responsible for it disposal. Please do not frivolously perform this type of transmutation ever again."
After a harsh glare from her, I could only answer "...Understood" obediently.
The expression of uneasiness she showed in the beginning was perhaps from guessing this sort of development.
Mitsuki held the gun behind her back and swept her gaze across her classmates.
"I believe this is enough to prove that my brother is a D. Homeroom is almost over, so let us start simple self-introductions next. Excluding me, please introduce yourself according to Student No. sequence."
Saying that, Mitsuki looked at Lisa. Despite a defiant expression on her face, Lisa still stood up.
"Student No. 1, my name is Lisa Highwalker. Sixteen years of age. I still do not approve!"
Lisa pointed at me at Mitsuki then sat down angrily.
Next to stand up was the short-haired girl who had been engrossed in reading.
"I am Student No. 2, Firill Crest... Fifteen years old, my hobby is reading. Pleased to meet you."
The girl calling herself Firill bowed slightly then took her seat quietly.
Then the tomboyish girl stood up, the student who had called me out for "wasting effort."
"I'm Ariella Lu, fifteen years old, Student No. 5. If possible, I hope you won't drag us down. I hate weak people."
Ariella went with harsh words right off the bat, just as earlier. She seemed to be the straightforward and upfront type.
By the way... Why did the numbering suddenly jump to five?
Even if Mitsuki was skipped, that still meant one person was missing. However, no one corrected this in particular. The next student stood up.
This was the red-haired girl who had been using her computer the whole time. Once she stood up, I could see that she was especially petite.
The red-haired girl took out a small portable terminal to show me the screen. My vision was supposed to be quite good but I still needed to focus and stare to read it clearly. Leaning forward, I read out the displayed words:
"Student No. 6... Ren Miyazawa... Don't look down on me just because I'm young... I'm ten times smarter than you...?"
After I read it out, the young girl Ren nodded silently and sat down immediately.
By my side, Mitsuki whispered to me a supplementary explanation.
"The various homerooms essentially gather students of similar age, but since Ren-san is what you would call a prodigy, she skipped grades and was assigned to our class."
A girl who looked quite difficult to handle. I was gradually losing confidence in my ability to get along with these girls.
Then the last to stand up was Iris Freyja.
As though committing her resolve, she made eye contact with me. An unnatural smile surfaced on her face.
"Mononobe... Sorry I called you a molester and pervert yesterday and said embarrassing things—Uwah!?"
Iris suddenly bowed her head to apologize but crashed her head into a desk with a thud.
Seeing Iris suddenly apologize instead of introducing herself, the other classmates all looked at her in surprise.
"H-Hey, are you alright?"
"I-I'm alright... But that's not important, listen to me! Mononobe! I was wrong! Just as Mitsuki-chan said, it's not right to discriminate just because someone is a guy! As fellow Ds, we have to cherish one another!"
It looked like Mitsuki's speech had touched Iris' heart deeply. Should I call her naive or innocent...? It was not a bad thing, but it made one worry for her.
"So I don't mind what happened yesterday anymore! Whether getting seen naked, pinned to the ground, or almost robbed of the shirt I was wearing, I don't mind anymore!"
After hearing what Iris aid, the classmates all gazed at me differently.
Icy cold gazes were stabbing into me. The classroom's temperature felt as though it had plunged ten degrees all of a sudden.
"N-No! That was—"
I was about to defend myself when Mitsuki patted me on the shoulder.
"Nii-san and Iris-san are apparently extremely~ acquainted already. Let us end the introductions here. Everyone, I shall conduct a thorough investigation regarding the matter just now, so please do not spread rumors based on groundless speculation."
Smiling to the class while she spoke, Mitsuki gave off pressure that made even Lisa nod and agree reflexively.
At this moment, the bell rang, sounding like any other school's.
Then Iris and I were instantly taken away to the student counseling room where Mitsuki interrogated us.
"Sigh... What rotten luck."
I groaned, sprawled on the desk.
Thanks to Iris testifying on my behalf, I was spared from weird misunderstandings, but the entire class all learned about the truth.
Seeing her naked body and pinning her under my body were true, hence the surrounding gazes remained icy cold. Although the level of coldness had improved somewhat, from a level directed towards a criminal to one directed towards a pervert, it still made me uncomfortable all over.
"Mononobe, are you okay?"
Iris peeked at me face and asked in worry.
"...Not too good, but I'll try my best to survive."
Ultimately, it was my fault so I could not blame her.
"Really? Please tell me if anything bothers you. I'll help no matter what! Oh... B-But... perverted things excluded. Because I really felt afraid when you pinned me to the ground, Mononobe."
"I get it, it was my bad that time. I won't do anything weird to you again. Besides, if I really did it... Things wouldn't have been settled so easily."
I secretly glanced at the seat on my right.
My seat was the middle one in the third row with Iris on my left and Mitsuki on my right. The two seats in front of me were empty.
Mitsuki seemed to have student council matters to attend to and was away as a result.
It was currently the lunch break. The three students in the classroom were Iris, the red-haired prodigy Ren and myself. Ren was engrossed in the computer while eating snacks.
I had taken care of lunch in the student counseling room—Mitsuki had bought me bread from the snack shop—but her lecturing continued even while I was eating, rendering the meal quite tasteless.
Due to the interrogation dragging on, I still had not attended a single lesson yet. This morning's lessons were elective liberal arts subjects and attendance was not compulsory, apparently. Real classes began in the afternoon with core courses teaching knowledge needed by Ds.
The warning bell rang. Students returned to the classroom one after another.
Lisa and Ariella threw me a cold glance. Firill took her seat while holding a different paperback from before.
FInally, Mitsuki entered the classroom and sat in my neighboring seat. My first lesson at this school was finally about to begin.
Just as I waited nervously, the classroom's door opened with a clack.
A woman in her twenties appeared. Her long hair was tied in a ponytail behind her head.
The woman stepped up to the lectern and her slender eyes instantly surveyed us.
At Mitsuki's command, everyone stood up together. I frantically stood up from my seat as well.
We sat down after bowing. The woman waited until she had everyone's eyes on her before she started to speak.
"So, let's begin the lesson. However, we have a fresh face in the class today, as well as the very first male student since the school's founding... At the same time, he is also Mononobe Mitsuki's older brother."
The woman at the lectern shot her gaze at me. I reflexively straightened my back. Those were a soldier's eyes.
"In any case, let me introduce myself. I am Shinomiya Haruka, this class' homeroom teacher and in charge of all courses related to Ds. Rank: Colonel. And Midgard's commander at the same time. Please bear that in mind."
Seeing me salute out of habit, the woman—Shinomiya Haruka—smiled.
"Excellent response. As expected of one from NIFL, I suppose? However, please don't address me as Colonel in school but call me Shinomiya-sensei."
"Excellent. Then allow me to verify your knowledge level first. As revision, I will call upon others to answer questions, so everyone else needs to pay attention too. Mononobe Yuu, do you know for what purpose does this Midgard exist?"
I answered this question with my basic knowledge.
"I heard that it started out as an isolation facility to house the captured Ds, those who have the ability to generate dark matter. However, due to the increase in the number of Ds, international society began to acknowledge their position. As a result, Midgard gained independence from NIFL to become a self-governing educational institute under Asgard."
The situation of the Ds had undergone drastic changes over the past twenty-five years.
There was an extremely high economic value in the ability to produce dark matter from nothing and transmuting it to any arbitrary substance. From what I heard, wars were even fought over the acquisition of Ds, back in the time before I was born.
Hence, the United Nations had decided to label the cause of wars, these Ds, as a type of dragon, to be regarded as a resource belonging to the entire world, managed by the international organization Asgard.
As Asgard's army, NIFL captured Ds from all over the world under the banner of protection, isolating them on a remote island named Midgard.
However, those Ds, originally children, grew up as time passed. They began to petition for their rights as humans, hence continuing to rule over them became difficult.
After that, a D was also born among the daughters of a wealthy and ancient royal family, hence this served as the trigger for Midgard to acquire the right to autonomy all at once.
"Yes, then what are Midgard's current activities?"
"Cultivating the Ds' powers in directions beneficial to society and educating them, devoting efforts towards the production of rare resources, as well as training them as trump cards to deploy in battles against dragons."
Ds had become essential to modern industries.
If Midgard's supply were to be lost, nearly exhausted resources would instantly jump in price, possibly causing a world war.
Furthermore, currently speaking, Ds were considered the only ones with the possibility of defeating dragons.
Merely treating them as resources in the past, the world now had to acknowledge Ds as a force to be reckoned with.
These facts were all part of common knowledge that could be learned in schools outside.
I did not think it was possible to be wrong... But Shinomiya-sensei differed.
"This answer is worth roughly forty marks. Midgard's most important responsibility lies elsewhere. It isn't publicized to the outside world, but this remodeled island is a stronghold for intercepting dragons. They will inevitably attack, sooner or later."
I frowned, unable to understand those words.
Seeing my reaction, Shinomiya-sensei's gaze turned.
"Lisa Highwalker, please recite the list of all confirmed dragons to date."
Suddenly called upon, Lisa stood up calmly to answer the question.
"Yes. A total of seven dragons have appeared to date. They are respectively: The black dragon—'Black' Vritra. The white dragon—'White' Leviathan. The red dragon—'Red' Basilisk. The blue dragon—'Blue' Hekatonkheir. The yellow dragon—'Yellow' Hraesvelgr. The green dragon—'Green' Yggdrasil. The purple dragon—'Purple' Kraken."
"Excellent, please take a seat. I will add one point to that. Vritra has gone missing after vanishing twenty-five years whereas Kraken was vanquished two years ago. In other words, there are currently five dragons roaming the world, doing as they please."
Shinomiya looked at me as though seeking confirmation. Because I had spent time in the army, I already knew things of this level. Seeing me nod in response, Shinomiya-sensei continued:
"Why did dragons awaken all over the world at the same time? And what purpose drives their actions? To the outside world, our official stance is that these answers are unknown. But in actual fact, we have already found a relatively believable theory. Namely, their goal is searching for a mate."
"A mate... huh?"
I tilted my head and asked. Shinomiya-sensei nodded affirmatively.
"Yes, the dragons are each looking for a suitable mate. You do know that birthmarks called dragon marks are found on Ds, right? When targeted by a dragon, a D's dragon mark would change in color, and once that D comes into contact with the dragon targeting her... She will turn into a dragon of the same type."
"No way... Ds will turn into dragons?"
I cried out in disbelief.
"This fact was confirmed during the battle against Kraken. Two years ago, we vanquished two Krakens."
No way... Meaning that they had killed one of their own who had turned into a dragon?
This left me unable to make even a sound. I was overcome with terror.
"After that, Midgard's function was changed fundamentally. For the purpose of killing male dragons that desire female dragons, Midgard has become a stronghold for interception. Students raise their combat power for self-defense in preparation for the attacks of dragons. And not only that, we are also planning to go on the offensive. Iris Freyja, which dragon are we currently planning to attack?"
Called upon, Iris shook then stood up frantically to answer.
"Y-Yes! I-It's the red dragon—'Red' Basilisk."
"Correct answer. Due to this reason, Mononobe Yuu, although it's very sudden, I must ask you to accept a test to simulate combat against Basilisk. The test will take place one week later while training is being held today in preparation. Everyone change to gym clothing and assemble at training site number three!"
Everyone answered in unison apart from me, standing up from their seats. Still shocked from learning that Ds could turn into dragons, I was unable to respond.
While I was stunned on the spot, Mitsuki patted my shoulder.
"Please head to the unused classroom next door to get changed, Nii-san. Or perhaps, you intend to admire our naked bodies here? Just like how you watched Iris-san last time?"
Despite the smile on her face, her eyes were not smiling at all. Iris looked at me with her face all red.
"Mononobe... You're a pervert after all?"
"What do you mean, after all!? I-I'm leaving right now!"
Picking up my bag which contained the gym clothes just delivered this morning, I frantically fled the classroom.
Training site number three was a facility deep underground on campus. It was a huge rectangular space over a 100m long. Whether the ceiling, the walls or the floor, everything was covered by steel-reinforced concrete, with equipment such as cameras and screens installed all over the place.
"We took the elevator to a very deep level, right...? Why build a training site so deep underground?"
Iris was next to me, doing warm-up exercises. Hearing my question, she looked in my direction.
"Because the environment might get contaminated depending on different transmuted matter, so it's necessary to have closed space underground. After all, whether poison gas or nuclear material, we can create anything as long as we have the intent."
Iris answered while doing stretching exercises.
I found my drifting gaze uncontrollably drawn to her wobbling bosom inside her white t-shirt and her thighs extending out of her bloomers. Wait, why are they still wearing bloomers in this day and age? Maybe because they did not need to worry about male gazes originally, they prioritized ease of movement... But still, it gave me difficulty in directing my gaze.
"Poison gas and nuclear material... You girls are planning to make such dangerous things next?"
"Of course not, this is just in case. If poison gas or a nuclear bomb got made, we won't be spared either. But transmutations sometimes fail and it's possible that those things might get made by accident, right?"
"I see, transmutation failure..."
I eyed Iris suspiciously.
"No, I was just thinking, you're probably the most dangerous, Iris. Judging from your self-detonation blunder yesterday, you're not very good at controlling transmutation, right?"
"Ugh... N-Nothing of that sort! I will definitely succeed today!"
"In other words, you've never succeeded before?"
Iris pouted and glared at me. She was probably trying to look angry but she looked very cute instead. I could not help but smile wryly.
"W-What are you laughing at!? Sheesh, stop saying such malicious things. Come over and help me with warm-up exercises. Relaxing the body is very important for controlling our powers."
"Eh? Why me—"
"Because warm-ups are meant to be done in pairs, right? Mitsuki-chan normally pairs up with me, but she's talking to the teacher and looks very busy."
Indeed, Mitsuki was talking to Shinomiya-sensei in the corner the whole time. Everyone else was paired up to do stretching exercises. Lisa was with Firill while Ariella was paired with Ren.
"Well, I don't really mind... But are you seriously okay with it, Iris?"
"Why are you asking? You're helping me if you'll pair up with me. Okay okay, Mononobe, I'm going to do hamstring stretching, so help push my back."
Since Iris did not mind, it was fine, I guess? I pressed my hand on her soft back. Seeing her lovely neck in the gaps of her silver hair, I could not help but feel my heart rate rise.
"Then I'm gonna push."
"Okay... Ah, ow ow ow!"
Without even reaching her toes with her fingers, Iris was already screaming.
"You're way too stiff."
"N-No, Mononobe, you're the one doing it wrong. You're pushing too hard!"
"Then let's do it slowly this time."
"Ah... Ow... Ah, mmm... E-Enough!"
Again, Iris gave up without reaching her toes.
"See, you're too stiff like I said."
"Ugugu... H-How about we switch! This time, I'll be the one to make you cry out, Mononobe!"
"Fine fine, be my guest."
As she pushed forcefully, I allowed my body to bend down. This sort of stretching exercise was something I did many times before going to bed each night, so it was no problem at all.
"Ehhh!? Why? I-In that case, try this!!"
Seeing me so relaxed, Iris put her entire body weight on me. With her body tightly pressed against me, I could feel a soft sensation transmitted through the gym clothes.
"I-Iris, hold on! This is bad!"
"Oh, you're finally hurting? Hmph, but it's not over yet, I'm gonna make you taste the same pain I felt. Prepare yourself. Take that! Take that!"
Her highly elastic bosom was pressed on my back. At this rate, my male organ was going to react. If others were to witness that, my classmates' perception of me would probably deteriorate to an unsalvageable degree.
"S-Stop it now—"
"Nii-san, you seem to be quite happy."
The voice entering my ears caused the blood rising in a certain body part to subside.
I looked up in trepidation, only to see Mitsuki with arms akimbo, staring down at me.
"Training is about to begin. Please finish your exercises and line up. I suppose that must sadden you, Nii-san..."
"N-Nothing like that. I'm not saddened at all! You actually helped me out big time, Mitsuki!"
I left Iris and stood up to thank her, but Mitsuki blinked in surprise.
"I had no intention of helping you. Whatever, we should hurry."
For some reason, the hint of a smile surfaced on the corners of Mitsuki's lips while she pulled my hand and walked.
"Oh, wait up, Mononobe! Mitsuki-chan!"
As we started assembling at Shinomiya-sensei's side, Iris hastily ran after us.
"Next week's test will involve attacking a block of diamond placed at a range of 100m. You will be mainly assessed on accuracy and destructive power. The main objective is to test whether you are capable of causing damage to Basilisk, because its body is covered by slightly red-tinted scales of diamond."
After we lined up properly, Shinomiya-sensei explained the training.
In the direction indicated by Shinomiya-sensei, a block of diamond with a diameter of ten meters was placed there. Most likely, Mitsuki had made it using transmutation while we were doing warm-up exercises. How terrifying, a D's power—I felt impressed from the bottom of my heart as though it did not apply to me.
"This test requires carrying out unstable transmutation under high-energy conditions, hence the risk of failure is very high. Hence, to accommodate students whose forte is not transmutation control, I have also prepared an auxiliary test. This test assumes that you will work as part of the defense team in the battle against Basilisk. You must create a giant protective barrier at a distance of 50m, as large as you can. Apart from size, thickness and hardness of your shield, you will also be assessed on transmutation speed. Please bear that in mind, everyone."
Despite saying "everyone," Shinomiya-sensei had her gaze directed towards Iris and me.
A newcomer like me and Iris, a student not good at transmutation, should choose this test, right?
"I hope you will pass at least one of the two tests. If anyone fails both, they will not be able to take part in combat operations against Basilisk."
I was the only one next to Iris currently and noticed her exclaiming in alarm.
She was gnashing her teeth with an extremely serious look on her face. I could not feel any of her earlier levity.
"So we will start one by one. Volunteers, present yourself."
Iris was the first to raise her hand
Everyone showed a worried look. Apparently, the whole class knew how bad Iris' transmutation control was.
"How worrying. Nothing good ever happens when the last-ranked Iris-san gets all fired up."
I could hear Lisa whispering to Firill.
"Very well, Iris Freyja, I would advise you to take the auxiliary test. Do you agree?"
"I don't mind doing the auxiliary test, but in that case, I'm going to use mithril to make a shield!"
Mithril huh... Indeed, it would be full marks if one could use that to make a shield.
Mithril was the hardest alloy in theory, only possible to create through the transmutation of dark matter. New technology and weapons developed in recent years were mostly based on the mithril provided by the Ds. I had seen many weapons like that at NIFL.
"Oh, I look forward to it. Please begin. Everyone, step back to the wall."
We followed Shinomiya-sensei's instruction and left Iris. The emergency shelter's entrance was nearby so evacuation could take place any time if anything happened.
"Yes! I will do my best!!"
Iris clenched her fist and nodded, then moved over to a marked location. A marker with the same color was also present at a spot 50m away. Looking from here, 50m felt like quite a far distance. Simply getting a grasp on the sense of distance would be hard enough already, but in addition to that, the required transmuted substance was even mithril.
Mithril's transmutation difficulty was quite high. Due to it being an alloy, it required transmuting multiple metals in fixed proportions, which necessitated quite precise control.
"I will make.... I will definitely succeed in transmuting..."
Iris was so nervous that her entire body was tense. The way she looked, she would fail even if she were originally capable of the task.
"Iris! You said yourself that relaxing is important, right? Relax yourself more!"
I yelled at her because I could not bear the sight. Iris turned towards me.
"I-I know without needing you to tell me that, Mononobe! But still... thank you."
Iris smiled with a gentle look on her face. Then taking a deep breath, she extended her arms forward.
Like the first time we met, Iris materialized a silver-white staff. The staff's outline fluctuated unstably, giving off bright light.
"Mitsuki, why does Iris need to summon a staff?"
This test was clearly to create a shield—Perplexed, I asked as a result.
"Huh...? Nii-san, you do not know about fictional armaments?"
I was hearing this term for the first time. Seeing my reaction, Mitsuki sighed.
"...Speaking of which, Nii-san, you transmuted dark matter directly into a gun last time. However, that method is unorthodox to begin with."
"When transmuting dark matter suddenly, it is easy to produce unexpected matter due to the uncertainty in mental image, which is why one should first maintain the dark matter in the shape of a weapon like her, then filtering out the direction of transmutation."
Mitsuki pointed at Iris who was holding the staff in full concentration.
"Maintaining dark matter in the shape of a weapon... Meaning that the staff hasn't materialized?"
"Indeed. Although altering the form causes the surface to materialize slightly, that staff is still 99% composed of dark matter."
"No wonder I feel that the outline is unstable. But by changing the appearance to a weapon's shape, does it really make things easier to imagine...?"
Because I have always transmuted dark matter directly, it was impossible to understand that feeling without experiencing it.
"Yes, this is quite an effective method. A sword slices, a spear pierces, a bow shoots. When performing transmutation while picturing the respective weapon being used, that type of weapon will automatically attack."
"I see, then it eliminates the need to imagine the resulting scene when attacking. But how does a staff attack? It feels like it can only be used to smack things at most, right?"
I could not think of other ways of using, so I asked. Mitsuki smiled, the corners of her lips rising slightly.
"You are too lacking in imagination, Nii-san. Speaking of staves, of course one would associate them with magic."
Although I suspected her of joking, Mitsuki continued to speak with a serious face:
"There are certain students who specialize in this method, imagining magic to perform transmutation. Unlike you, Nii-san, girls have very rich imaginations."
I did not quite agree and turned my gaze back to Iris. Imagining something so intangible like magic was definitely beyond me, but to Iris, perhaps that was the method she was best at.
Maybe building the picture in her mind, Iris did not move for a while.
"So Mitsuki, what does this name of Caduceus mean?"
"I remember it was the staff carried by the god Hermes."
"Oh... So even Iris would choose such a flashy name?"
"When altering the shape of dark matter, it is advisable to imitate mythical weapons and tools because transmutation might sometimes occur directly and subconsciously if objects that actually existed were used for reference."
"So that's why you need something fictional? I get it now, it's not Iris trying to act cool."
I listened intently and heard her murmuring quietly. Since Iris was imagining magic to perform transmutation, perhaps this would be an incantation. Just as a sword needed a swinging motion, a staff would need a corresponding action.
"Come, come, fragments of the Far Beyond..."
Iris raised her staff and recited, instantly producing numerous small black spheres near the marker—Dark matter. She looked like she was going to perform transmutation directly at the 50m location.
I honestly felt impressed. Without high-level spatial awareness, this would not be possible.
If I were doing it, I would probably generate dark matter in the wrong place because I failed to grasp the distance accurately. Although I revised my opinion on Iris, if she actually succeeded this time, it would raise the question why she caused an explosion under her own feet the first time we met.
"O holy silver, transform!"
The dark matter created by Iris gathered to one point and started to transmute.
The dark matter twisted in shape, gradually turning silver in color, but—
An ominous sound echoed throughout the entire training site.
In the next instant, the manifesting mithril glowed brightly then exploded.
The training site shook.
Iris was blown into the air by the blast.
I reflexively rushed forward. Although the intense wind opposed me, I lowered my posture and broke through the strong wind.
Let me make it!
Sliding like a baserunner, I inserted myself between Iris and the concrete floor.
Unable to catch her precisely, all I could manage was serve as her meat cushion to soften the impact.
Iris' head struck me hard in the chest, making me cough nonstop for a moment.
"Cough, cough... H-Hey Iris, are you okay?"
I called her name but Iris simply whimpered then fainted immediately—
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