Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 1 Chapter 2
Chapter 2 - Witch of Silver Explosions
Seeing the white room, I was reminded of my first encounter with him.
Yes, it was three years ago.
After I surrendered myself as a D, I was injected with some kind of drug and fell unconscious. By the time I woke up, I was in a cramped room.
The ceiling, floor and walls were all pure white. Standing in front of me was a young man in military uniform.
—Who is he? Someone I know? Or someone I just met?
I had no idea no matter how hard I thought. With one exception, everything seemed so fuzzy and unclear.
Staring at me, the man then spoke:
"...Although the cause is unknown, you happen to be broken just right. That plus your rare talent makes me like you very much."
The man's voice was very loud, strong and forceful as though he did not permit anyone to miss his words.
"How about it? Do you want to work under me? It's very meaningful work. You'll be able to save hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of people. You are definitely very suited to the job."
I was unable to answer despite being asked a question.
Because I was gagged. My arms and legs were tied up too.
Looking at me, the man smiled and extended his hand towards me. I thought he was going to take out the object stuffed in my mouth—But the man ended up grabbing me by the hair.
Forcing my head down with a push, he compelled me to nod.
"Really? So you agree? Thank you. From today onwards, you are my subordinate."
The man smiled while he spoke.
An indescribable chill instantly ran along my spine. This was not a conversation, it was merely a formality.
Only then did I finally realize that my fate had already been decided.
Coming from this man's mouth was my future, my destiny ahead.
"You'll definitely achieve it. You'll definitely become a killer who can save thousands, billions—"
"Eh, where is this place?"
"Sigh... You finally woke up. It's already after school. This is the infirmary, Iris. I brought you here after you fainted."
Iris blinked and stared at the white ceiling while I explained to her.
After the explosion from the failed transmutation of mithril, Shinomiya-sensei instantly contacted the administration. A woman calling herself the school nurse soon arrived.
Although the nurse said Iris was fine without significant injury, she was still sent to rest in the infirmary just to be on the safe side. I stayed behind voluntarily to look after her.
Later on, that nurse had to go out to attend to certain matters, thus leaving Iris and me alone at the moment.
"Mononobe...? Ahhh... I messed up again, right?"
She seemed to be linking up her memories. With a gloomy expression, Iris murmured.
"Yeah, the explosion blew you away completely. A big failure that couldn't be more simple and obvious."
"You're so blunt... Shouldn't you encourage and console me at a time like this?"
Iris said with a wry smile.
"Half-assed encouragement to give you baseless hope would only make you repeat the same failure—or it could even make things worse. People who can't confront their failures tend to die early—That's what I learned at NIFL."
"Yeah, Iris, besides, you were probably thinking you'd succeed as long as you tried hard, right?"
"H-How did you know!?"
Iris made a look surprise.
"I could tell from the way you looked before the training."
"A-Am I a big failure?"
"Yeah, you were a big failure today, Iris."
I nodded in agreement. Iris slumped her shoulders and asked again in a small voice:
"An idiot, airheaded and useless?"
"Currently speaking, perhaps there's no way you can deny these kinds of criticisms."
"Really...? Then I guess it's impossible for me to join the Dragon Subjugation Squad..."
Iris sighed heavily.
"You want to join the Dragon Subjugation Squad, Iris? But that's the most dangerous job, putting yourself on the frontlines, you know?"
"Yes... Because that's my reason for coming to Midgard."
Iris nodded to confirm then spoke as though looking out into the distance:
"I... until a year ago, I've always lived an ordinary life in the outside world. But when I was on a ship with my family, the white dragon—'White' Leviathan—happened to pass nearby... Causing our ship to sink."
"A dragon disaster huh..."
I muttered angrily. Disasters caused simply from the movement of dragons were called dragon disasters. Three years ago, Mitsuki and I had similarly encountered a dragon disaster caused by "Blue" Hekatonkheir.
"That's right... Because of the dragon disaster, everyone died. My powers awakened for the first time then... I was the sole survivor."
The smile surfaced on Iris' face did not carry her usual cheerfulness. Instead, it contained an element of self-deprecation.
"Because no one saw me use my powers at the time, I could have kept quiet and continued living outside... But I admitted my identity as a D on my own."
"...You intend to take revenge against the dragons?"
"How should I say this...? Actually, I don't have any negative obsession like hatred in my heart... But I think I must step forward to fight. It's for this reason that I survived."
Looking at me, Iris' eyes shone with strong determination.
Seeing those unwavering eyes, I could not help but gasp. Back in the past when Mitsuki declared she would protect the town, she had shown the same eyes too.
"...That means you still don't intend to give up, right?"
"Although you just said that joining the Dragon Subjugation Squad is impossible, you don't intend to give up on the test, right?"
"T-That goes without saying! Even though I might still fail... I will try my hardest!"
Hearing the expected answer, I smiled.
"Like I said, just working hard isn't enough. You've got to avoid repeating the same mistakes."
"Urgh... I understand this logic, but even if I understand, I still can't do it..."
Seeing Iris disheartened, I made a decision in my heart.
"Iris, how many training sessions are there before the test?"
"Uh, I think there won't be any more chances to use training site number three... We'll just have basic training in smaller spaces from now on."
"Hmm... That's not good. We're out of options if there's no time to practice. Is self-directed practice after school allowed here?"
"Using training sites requires authorization and someone to supervise."
"Oh okay, anyway, I'll discuss with Mitsuki first. If authorization is granted, let's start training together after school starting tomorrow."
"Eh... Training together?"
Iris' mouth gaped wide in surprise.
"Yeah, today's training was forcibly interrupted. I'm a total novice in the area of fighting dragons, so I have to learn Midgard's combat methods as quickly as possible."
Tears welled up in Iris' eyes.
"H-Hey! Why are you crying?"
Seeing her tears flowing nonstop, I hurried to comfort her.
But Iris simply would not stop crying for a long time...
"Training after school... Is that so?"
Due to accompanying Iris the whole time until her emotions stabilized, I returned late. As soon as I got back to the dormitory, I went directly to the dining hall to pitch the afterschool training idea to Mitsuki.
It was just after 7pm. Arranged on the dining table were dishes prepared by the housework robots, but they looked untouched. Mitsuki had probably been waiting all along for my return.
"Yeah, I heard that we could practice as long as we obtained authorization."
"Indeed, such a rule exists... In any case, we should start the meal first and you can tell me about it. The food is getting cold."
Mitsuki pointed at the dinner laid out on the table.
"You're right. Sorry for making you wait. Let's begin."
"Yes, bon appetit."
Mitsuki clapped her hands together then picked up her chopsticks. While picking up food with chopsticks, I continued to converse.
"We need time to train. Iris' state is obvious from today while I don't know anything because I just transferred. At this rate, it doesn't take a genius to predict next week's test results. We won't pass."
"That is true indeed..."
For some reason, Mitsuki was reacting a bit sluggishly. Sticking her chopsticks in the roasted saury, she was half-heartedly engaged in the conversation.
Tonight's cuisine was pure Japanese style. The table was laden with my favorite dishes. If anything, Mitsuki's preference lay in western food, so she must have prepared this for me.
"So I guess we have to discuss directly with Shinomiya-sensei?"
"No, my position is sufficient to grant authorization. No need to trouble Shinomiya-sensei, but... Nii-san, why are you trying so proactively to help Iris-san?"
Mitsuki asked in a slightly sulking tone of voice.
"Do I look like I'm favoring Iris that much?"
Mitsuki gazed at me with narrowed eyes. Her response came with no hesitation at all.
"If that's the case... I guess it's because Iris has been trying as hard as she can."
"Trying as hard as she can?"
"Yeah, someone who tries as hard as they can... It somehow feels impossible to ignore people like that."
Just like Mitsuki three years ago—
I added these words silently in my mind while smiling at Mitsuki.
"Hmm... N-Nii-san, you are too nice, but... It is commendable that you are not doing this for ulterior motives. No helping it, then I shall take on the role of supervisor—"
In the middle of Mitsuki's sentence, an alarm suddenly sounded in the surroundings.
I looked out the dining hall window in surprise, only to see the academy clock tower at the island's center, flashing a red warning light.
'Emergency warning, emergency warning—Level E alert, Type Yellow. I repeat, Level E alert, Type Yellow!'
The urgent voice was coming from speakers inside the dormitory but Mitsuki did not get up from her seat. Instead, she continued her meal gracefully.
"Mitsuki, is it time to be eating leisurely now? There's an alert!"
"Yes, but the alert mentioned Type Yellow, which ought to be 'Yellow' Hraesvelgr approaching this island."
"What are you talking about!?"
"But seeing as it is Level E, that means Hraesvelgr simply brushed past the warning zone, that is all. Since Hraesvelgr flies at high-speed in the stratosphere, this type of approach happens roughly once or twice a month. Relax, it will end very soon."
No sooner had Mitsuki finished than the alert sound stopped. The red warning light also shut off.
'Target has left the warning zone. All units, please return to regular stations.'
This time, the announcer's voice was calm. I breathed a sigh of relief and returned to eat at the dining table.
"Gave me quite a fright... I thought a dragon was going to attack. It's because I heard during the daytime that dragons target this place."
"Dragons start their advance after the dragon mark of one of the Ds changes color. Currently, I have yet to receive reports of that sort."
After finishing this sentence, Mitsuki drank her miso soup and ended the meal.
I hastily shoved the rest of the food into my mouth.
"—What a wonderful meal."
"Fanksh fo' da food..."
With food in my mouth, I mumbled a response to Mitsuki.
"This is very impolite, Nii-san. Neglecting etiquette will worsen others' impressions of you, so please pay attention. Come, do over."
"—Thanks for the food."
"Pass. So, Nii-san, I shall make a trip to the school. Although nothing happened, there are aftermath matters to handle. I will take this opportunity to complete the procedure for training site usage."
"Thank you, Mitsuki!"
I stood up to thank her.
"This is not something worth thanking me for. As the student council president, it is only natural to assist students who are striving to improve."
"Even if that's the case, I'm still grateful to you."
I thanked again. Mitsuki avoided eye contact.
"I-I was interrupted just now. I am supervising to prevent you from engaging in any behavior with Iris-san that goes against public morals, Nii-san. I will watch you two carefully."
"What are you talking about? We're just training."
"Who knows if that is really the case... From what I saw, today's warm-up exercises were very suspicious already."
Mitsuki glared coldly at me.
"Ugh... Don't worry, I'll be careful. I won't let that kind of thing happen again."
"Please, Nii-san. Since this is a fundamental matter but too delicate for me to bring up in front of other girls... Do know that inappropriate interaction between genders is strictly forbidden! Rather than a matter of public morals, it stems from more serious losses."
"You know this, right? We Ds lose the power to create dark matter once we reach twenty years old or so—or become pregnant."
Mitsuki spoke, her cheeks reddening slightly.
"I've heard that kind of rumor before... Then it's true?"
I was surprised. Essentially, only Midgard held correct information regarding Ds. Many of the rumors circulating in the world were completely fabricated. I originally thought the pregnancy rumor was one of them.
"What...? So that is your level of knowledge? How fortunate that I decided to remind you beforehand as a precaution... If you were to take away someone's powers, Nii-san, you would probably be handed over to a tribunal meeting and sentenced to harsh punishment. Please, you must... you must pay attention."
Mitsuki glared at me harshly from extremely up close, warning me again and again.
Confronted with such pressure, I had not choice but to nod in response.
Second day of my school life...
Because I was woken up by Mitsuki at 7am yesterday, I set my alarm clock for 6:30am today. Roused from bed by the noisy alarm, I washed my face and changed into uniform, then made my way to the dining hall.
"Good morning, Nii-san."
Greeting me, Mitsuki was sitting in the same seat as last night.
This feeling of family members greeting each other good morning felt quite unbelievable.
Rather than nostalgic, it felt quite new instead. That was the extent that my memories had been eroded.
After finishing the simple breakfast of only toast and salad, I picked up my school bag and exited the dormitory. Inside the bag were the portable terminal and gym clothing issued to me by the school. All the materials required for class were stored in the portable terminal, eliminating the need for textbooks.
The two of us walked on the road along the shore.
Like the first day, as soon as we went left the house, Mitsuki virtually stopped talking, hence we were essentially silent the whole time.
But incredibly, there was no feeling of awkwardness.
Looking out at sea, I could see cumulonimbus clouds rising from the horizon.
It was currently sunny but there might be showers later today.
The road took us away from the shore and as we gradually neared the center of the island, girls from other dorms began joining us on their way to school. Although hair colors and complexions varied widely, the majority of students were Asian girls.
It was said that the occurrence of Ds tended to increase the closer a location was to places where Vritra had passed through. Hence, Japan, where Vritra had first appeared, was where the greatest number of Ds had been born. It was also for this reason that Japanese was used as the lingua franca at Midgard.
"Good morning, Mitsuki-sama!"
"You're beautiful as usual today, Mitsuki-sama!"
"Your speech yesterday was so touching, Mitsuki-sama!"
Many students were greeting Mitsuki with excitement in their eyes.
"Good morning, everyone."
Mitsuki responded to them with a smile. Although I had already sensed it yesterday, Mitsuki really was quite a popular student council president.
The girls kept stealing glances at me while I walked with Mitsuki, but they hesitated and dared not talk to me. I guess it was difficult for them to relax and approach because of my male gender, but—
"Good morning to you too, Y-Yuu-sama!"
After greeting Mitsuki, one of the girls also spoke to me. It was a glasses-wearing girl who looked serious in personality.
"Oh, good morning."
Hearing my slightly nervous answer, the girl instantly fled with her face red. As soon as she met up with her friends in the distance, I could hear cries of joy along the lines of: "Kyah! I said it! I said it out loud!" "Well done, Mayumi!" "How does it feel up close!?"
Although it felt like being treated as an exotic animal, I did not feel particularly displeased.
"Nii-san, you are making a lewd expression. You wouldn't have forgotten my advice last night, have you?"
Mitsuki quietly reminded me as though reading my mind.
"I-I remember, it's just that I felt a bit happy that someone greeted me for the first time."
Inappropriate interactions between genders were forbidden. I knew that very well. But having lived in a world far from girls for so long, I simply got a little carried away from someone speaking to me. This was understandable, right?
The school's entrance resembled an automatic ticketing turnstile. I placed my student ID on the panel sensor and entered.
"Can I ask a question, Mitsuki?"
I asked her while we made our way to the classroom.
"Please go ahead, Nii-san. I can answer anything as long as it is not inane or top secret."
"...Just checking something about school life. You mentioned when you handed this student ID to me that it can be used for shopping. What's the limit?"
"Naturally, it depends on the funds in your own bank account. One difference between Midgard and most schools is that students receive a salary. Apart from minimum living expenses, students are rewarded according to their accomplishments when taking on matter creation requests or NIFL missions. All of this is deposited into personal bank accounts."
Mitsuki took out her own student ID to show me while explaining fluently.
"Learning how to transmute rare metals and energy resources is a shortcut to making money, because requests of that sort are always more numerous than can be handled. But in your case, Nii-san, I doubt there is any urgency for you to earn money that desperately. Your bank account balance can be viewed from your portable terminal. Please have a look, Nii-san."
"Oh, I'll check it out."
I took out my portable terminal from my bag and tried to check my account information.
However, the figure shown there was far bigger than I imagined.
"Eh... Is there a mistake in the number of zeroes?"
I could not help but ask Mitsuki.
"No, the figure is correct. It includes your living expenses for this month as well as your wages from the three years working at NIFL. In consideration of the hardship you went through, Nii-san, it is actually on the low side."
Mitsuki clenched her fist as though squeezing out these words took much difficulty.
Judging from the side of her face, she seemed to be desperately enduring something.
How much did Mitsuki know exactly about my three years there?
As much as I felt concerned by this question, I was unable to ask her.
Because I was afraid of the answer.
Like that, we walked in silence and reached Brynhildr Class. I was greeted by a gaze completely unlike those along the way to school.
Because the blonde girl—Lisa—suddenly glared at me.
I tried to greet her but she went "hmph" and turned her head away.
I tried again but she turned her head even farther.
The third try.
Lisa tried to turn her head away for the third time but suddenly choked. She had apparently forgotten that there was a limit to her neck's rotation angle.
"A-Are you trying to kill me!?"
Lisa held her neck and complained.
"No, I just wanted to greet you."
"So irritating! You ought to show consideration for my neck! No matter how many times you repeat this, I shan't greet you!"
Hearing my question, Lisa glared harshly at me.
"Because I still have not approved the matter of your staying at Midgard."
"...I see, then there's nothing I can do about that. Thanks."
Hearing my word of thanks, Lisa looked surprised.
"Why are you thanking me?"
'Huh? Because even though you didn't greet me, you still answered my question."
"What...? H-How dare you mock me!?"
Lisa gnashed her teeth in chagrin.
"No, it's not as extreme as mocking, right..."
"I absolutely refuse to forgive you! Remember that, Mononobe Yuu! Hmph!"
Lisa extended her finger, pointing at me, then turned her head away again.
Continuing the conversation seemed difficult, so I went over to my seat. I will try my hardest. One day, she will approve of me.
I took out my portable terminal from my bag to get ready for class. At this moment, the classroom's door opened lightly and Iris poked her head in, looking extra apprehensive than usual.
Shifting her gaze, Iris seemed to be looking for someone. When she made eye contact with me she instantly made a panicking look.
"Oh! Mononobe, g-good morning!"
For some reason, Iris' voice sounded very frantic as she greeted me. What was with her apprehensive look just now? Then I saw her coming over to me in a panic.
Perhaps she was concerned about crying yesterday but I was not so tactless as to confirm that with her.
I decided to ignore the unnecessary and responded to her greeting as though nothing had happened.
"Good morning, Iris. I've obtained authorization so we can start our special training today."
Hearing me say that, Iris blushed and nodded.
"Great! We'll do our best, Mononobe!"
Classes in the morning were no different from an ordinary school's.
Mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry taught at the level of first year high school. These were core subjects because some of the knowledge could be applied towards matter creation.
The afternoon consisted of Shinomiya-sensei teaching about subjects related to Ds, but instead of practicals, it was carried out in lecture format.
"—To accommodate our new student, we will review during the lesson. Let us begin from the theory of transmutation techniques, Firill Crest. What type of transmutation has the widest range of applications?"
Called upon, Firill stood up and replied.
"...Air. By adjusting directionality and compression ratio, air can be used for defense and movement in addition to attack."
"Excellent. The transmutation of air is accompanied by the generation of wind. With appropriate adjustments, one could even fly in the sky. For those in the vanguard, this method of flying is virtually a required method of movement—"
The teacher was talking about systematized dark matter transmutation techniques and ways to use our powers in hypothetical battles against dragons. This knowledge felt very refreshing and new to me.
"—Furthermore, there are many substances that can only be created through the transmutation of dark matter, of which mithril and antimatter are particularly useful in battle. Mithril is theoretically the hardest alloy while antimatter can be used to destroy any type of matter in an annihilation reaction. Very well, Ariella Lu, between these two substances, ultimate offense and the ultimate defense, which is stronger?"
Called upon, Ariella answered concisely:
"Indeed. This type of situation is where offense is stronger because if antimatter is used to attack, even mithril cannot withstand it. However, there is currently only one person in the Dragon Subjugation Squad who is capable of transmuting antimatter—"
In consideration of my circumstances, Shinomiya-sensei was reviewing the basics while conducting her lesson to let me understand simple key points.
Using the creation of air to fly. Powerful long range attacks.
These two were apparently the most highly prized abilities in anti-dragon combat.
In other words, next week's test involved assessing one of them: testing students' skill in long range attacks. Because the target was diamond, simply hitting it was not enough. At the same time, attacks needed firepower that would not weaken after being shot from afar.
As relief measures, the auxiliary test also involved a high-difficulty skill. If it was just making a shield, ordinary transmutation was enough, but it was a totally different matter to manifest it at a distance of 50m.
Parameters were too different from combat against humans.
By this point, I finally became painfully aware that this was training for the sake of defeating dragons.
Next, after school, accompanied by Mitsuki, I went to the training site with totally tensed nerves.
Despite it being practice, Iris seemed to be nervous again.
Perhaps other homerooms had been training, a block of diamond was still located 100m out front.
"You are allowed to use this training site from 5 to 6:30pm. I have obtained authorization for today, the day after tomorrow, as well as the day before the test. A total of three days. The other days were either booked or did not fit in my schedule. For that, I am deeply apologetic."
Mitsuki bowed her head to apologize to us.
"Ehhhh!? Three days is enough for practice! Sorry, Mitsuki-chan, you're accompanying us even though you're so busy. I'm so grateful to you!"
Iris held Mitsuki's hands and thanked her with a radiant smile.
"—No, responding to the requests of students is part of the student council president's responsibilities."
Mitsuki struggled free uncomfortably and separated from Iris.
"Even so, I still thank you!"
"No need for thanks. Hurry and begin to train. Time is limited, yes?"
"R-Right! So... Then you start first, Mononobe. You didn't get to take part in the training yesterday because you were taking me to the infirmary."
I nodded and stood at the marked position. Anyway, I tried using my past methods to see how far they could go, then decide on the next step based on that.
First was the construction of a barrier. As a newcomer and novice, accepting the auxiliary test would be the more appropriate choice.
Standing at the prescribed location, I created a baseball's volume of dark matter.
This black mass was not any kind of matter or phenomenon yet. According to physical definitions, it did not even count as existing.
Nevertheless, it was definitely on my palm.
Only Ds were capable of sensing their existence.
But not ordinary humans. Hence, scholars proposed a hypothesis.
Namely, the dark matter conjecture.
For example, humans were able to photograph an object from different angles using a camera. They were able to capture a three dimensional object into an arbitrary two dimensional planar photograph.
Similarly, this black substance could be transmuted into any arbitrary substance from the three dimensional world.
Hence, it was believed that this could be a higher dimensional substance—ergo, it was named dark matter.
Supposing dark matter was a fourth dimensional substance, then defining its existence would require four axes.
What would the fourth axis be? It was still currently unknown, but the most convincing suggestion was that it was something closely related to the mind.
Because dark matter's form would change according to the creator's will.
Despite having no mass, the dark matter on my hand produced a sensation.
Probably, Ds used their minds to sense dark matter.
Hence, just by adding force of willpower to the body's movements, a throw towards a location 50m away was possible!
"Y-You threw it!?"
Iris exclaimed in surprise but I ignored her. My gaze followed the black sphere closely.
I did not have the ability to generate dark matter suddenly at the far distance of 50m. Hence, I threw it then judged the distance visually. This was the best method I could currently think of.
...Slight deviation to the right.
When the sphere arrived above the marker, I transmuted the dark matter.
Voicing silently in my mind, I imposed limits on the possibilities of the dark matter that could turn into anything.
The image formed in my mind was a shield of iron. Acquiring mass, the dark matter fell almost vertically with a clang, planted on the ground.
If it were still dark matter, it would not make any sound, vanishing as soon as it touched mass. Hence, the sound of impact was evidence of transmutation.
Although it had fallen to the right of the marker, standing upright there was exactly the shield I had imagined.
However, it was only two meters in length, which was fine when fighting humans, but somewhat worrying against dragons.
Also, it was lacking in thickness. Rather than a shield of iron, it would be more apt to call it a plate of iron.
Mitsuki silently went to verify my shield. Because it was some distance away, I had nothing to do for the moment, so I turned to face Iris.
"Mononobe, that was way too..."
Iris was looking at me in exasperation.
"No good, I guess?"
"Yeah... Hmm, I think you'll get it after Mitsuki-chan explains."
Iris sighed. At this moment, Mitsuki returned with rapid footsteps.
Mitsuki stared coldly at me.
"Man... Don't make such a scary look. I did manage to make a shield."
"Yes, indeed it is a shield of iron, however—It is not only too small but also too thin. Something like that cannot be used as a shield. Added to that is the fact that throwing dark matter is a completely pointless move. It wastes too much time before transmutation completes and there was also a deviation from the target location."
"In other words, failure?"
Mitsuki nodded clearly.
I guess using my usual method really did not work. Just as Mitsuki said earlier, my methods were apparently considered unorthodox in Midgard.
"Kyah! Mononobe failed too! We're comrades!"
"Don't get so happy over there!"
I retorted back at Iris who was overjoyed to find someone else in the same boat as her.
"Then next, Nii-san, please attempt to destroy the diamond, even though I have a bad feeling about this."
At Mitsuki's behest, I stood at the spot for aiming at the diamond. This time, the distance was 100m.
If attacking a target at long range, I could not think of anything apart from guns.
Anti-materiel armament—AT Ishtar.
I let the blueprint in my mind flow into the extracted dark matter, turning it into a long ranged anti-materiel weapon.
What appeared in my hand was an anti-materiel rifle similar in appearance to the Nergal.
The gun's body was longer than Nergal's. The grip was not meant to be held in one hand and the gun had to be held with the stock against the shoulder.
Although its design differed from ordinary firearms, its mass production model was also used by NIFL.
While the rifle's heavy mass weighed on my arms, my entire body instantly felt enveloped in a light sense of fatigue.
A D's ability was not an endless power.
Extracting dark matter required concentration and transmutation caused strain to the mind. Repeated use would cause extreme stress to accumulate in both the body and the mind.
I heard Mitsuki's heavy sigh from beside me.
It looked like this method was unorthodox too.
Although I felt the result was already decided, I still took a prone posture on the ground and aimed at the target. Ishtar's effective range easily exceeded a kilometer. Sniping a block of diamond 100m away was a piece of cake.
I pulled the trigger to snipe the diamond.
The gunshot echoed throughout the training site while a small amount of diamond fragments flew apart.
"How's that? It caused a bit of damage—"
I looked up at Mitsuki and inquired, but seeing her expression that read "utterly hopeless," I could not bring myself to finish my sentence.
"So wrong it is absurd, Nii-san. Lack of firepower is admittedly an issue, but if weapons were going to be used, there would be no need to deploy Ds in the first place. Just leave things to soldiers equipped with existing weapons. What we are hoping for are more practical and destructive ways of attack."
"Even if you say that... I can't think of any other ways. I can only make a shield of that size. Mitsuki, you should know the amount of dark matter I can generate each time, right?"
Although I was answering Mitsuki, Iris was the one who reacted.
"Really? How much can you generate each time, Mononobe?"
"In the case of transmutation, roughly ten kilograms after conversion. That's my limit."
"T-Ten kilograms!? Are you using the wrong unit!? Ignoring issues of control, every D without exception can make at least ten tons, you know?"
"Kilogram is the right unit. Do you wanna have a look at my dragon mark? The size of a dragon mark will change according to the ability to generate dark matter. After seeing it, you'll understand the gap between us."
With self-deprecation, I showed her the back of my left hand.
"Eh? Where is it?"
"Here... This is it."
"No way—This tiny pattern? Liar... Is yours that tiny, Mononobe? So tiny... Too tiny!"
"Stop calling me tiny! It's very hurtful!"
Her words stabbed into my heart. I cried out while enduring the mental trauma.
"I like Nii-san's dragon mark. It is like a little snake, very cute."
"Uh... Your defense actually makes me feel worse."
Mitsuki's comment made me hang my head in dejection. Iris left me on the side and walked over to the auxiliary test position.
"Iris-san, are you intending to use mithril to create a shield again?"
"Eh, that is my intention..."
Upon hearing Iris' answer, Mitsuki made a strict look. I thought she was going to tell Iris to stop, but after some consideration, Mitsuki said:
"Indeed, it would not be training if there is a fear of failure... But considering the possibility of explosions, please lower the transmutation amount as much as possible."
"O-Okay. I get it."
Hearing Mitsuki's serious suggestion, Iris nodded in agreement then manifested her staff of dark matter.
Aiming the staff at the target, she chanted words like an incantation.
"Come, come, fragments of the Far Beyond..."
Multiple pieces of dark matter appeared near the target marker. As before, her precision was the only thing correct.
"O holy silver, transform!"
Just like last time, an explosion happened in the middle of transmutation.
I knew it...
Because the result was as expected, Mitsuki and I were not surprised. Due to the smaller amounts, the air current from the explosion only managed to blow strands of hair.
"A-Ahaha... Umm, Mitsuki-chan... Can I try the attacking test too?"
Iris smiled dryly and asked Mitsuki.
"No problem... But do not perform excessively dangerous transmutations, okay?"
"Okay, no problem! Because what I'm transmuting is the safest substance, air."
Iris forced a smile and replied then moved to the marked location.
Will she be okay?
Attacking a block of diamond should be harder than making a shield.
I watched over Iris in worry.
Iris faced the diamond, raised her staff and chanted an incantation. This time, dark matter appeared in front of her staff.
She intended to accelerate the mass transmuted from dark matter to smash into the diamond, right? It would not count as an attack unless the impact was raised in such a painstaking manner.
Staring at the target, Iris called out in a shrill voice:
"O bullet of wind, crush it!"
Powerful wind began to blow in Iris' surroundings. The blowing dust made the wind's currents vaguely visible. Iris looked like she intended to fire a projectile of a massive amount of compressed air.
Diamond was surprisingly fragile against pure shock, hence this was not a bad choice. Depending on the air's compression ratio and speed, perhaps it could produce an impact capable of breaking diamond.
But things would be bad if this move failed...
Although she was using harmless air, in order to create a projectile of compressed air, she had transmuted quite a large amount, if she were to accidentally lose control—
The foreboding feeling came true. The compressed air exploded, blowing Iris into the air.
Prepared in advance, I instantly dashed towards where she was going to fall.
Arriving calmly this time, I caught the falling Iris.
"Seriously... You're always getting blown away."
I supported Iris' body with both arms and sighed.
"T-Thank you... Mononobe."
Perhaps feeling ashamed of her failure, she was blushing when she thanked me. That look of hers was especially adorable, forcing me to become aware of the current situation. Feeling Iris' body warmth and suppleness up close, it made my heart begin to pound.
"Although I expected it... You're not good at controlling the transmutation of air, right? It exploded in front of you just now, didn't it?"
"Yeah... Because air is so intangible, it's difficult to imagine... It feels like even if I want to control it, the air slips out from between my fingers... Then it explodes in a weird place."
"That's really... tough."
"It is very tough..."
We both sighed heavily.
At our first encounter at the beach, Iris was probably blown away in a similar manner.
"Nii-san, Iris-san, how much longer do you plan on sticking to each other?"
Mitsuki walked over and glared at us harshly.
Iris and I looked at each other from up close then frantically separated.
"Helping each other is a good thing but please refrain from excessive skin contact."
"Very well, after witnessing your practice attempts, I think I can offer some advice based on what I saw."
Saying that, Mitsuki pointed at me first.
"Given Nii-san's volume of dark matter generation, making an acceptable shield is impossible. Hence, please give up on the auxiliary test."
"Man... You're totally merciless. That means I can only try the diamond breaking challenge?"
"Correct, but the use of real firearms and ammunition is forbidden. Please take the test by creating a fictional armament like the rest of us. As for the form of your armament... Right, how about a gun, since you are so adept at using guns? If you fire dark matter by picturing a bullet, your speed and accuracy should increase."
Apparently, damaging the diamond by shooting it with a gun like just now was not within assessment standards.
However, that could not be helped. If anti-materiel rifles of this level worked in actual combat, NIFL would have taken out Basilisk a long time ago.
In order to pass the test, there was no other way apart from learning effective attacks against dragons in the Midgard way of doing things.
"A fictional armament as a gun huh... I remember you said it's best to reference weapons of legend as the prototype, right? But there aren't any legends about guns, a modern weapon, are there?"
"I think not... Just interpreting it loosely is fine. Ultimately, what matters is that you do not cause accidental transmutation, so even a fictional firearm of your own creation would be fine."
"That's really vague..."
I grumbled, only to see Mitsuki's displeased look.
"Precisely because you need to make a vague fictional weapon, that is why it is better to be more vague. But for you, Nii-san, whose imagination is lacking, perhaps it might be too tall an order. Shall I help you think of one?"
"Sure... You're right, Mitsuki. Thanks."
Because I did not think I was suited to the task either, I agreed with Mitsuki's suggestion.
"Understood. Then let us first decide the name, let me think... I believe Siegfried is a very cool name."
Mitsuki gazed at me with especially excited eyes. I think I might have turned on some kind of weird switch in her.
"Siegfried, you say... I remember that's a hero's name rather than a weapon, right?"
"Although not a weapon, he is a master archer. Close enough in traits!"
I tilted my head in puzzlement, but Mitsuki ignored me and continued:
"It is an image! Just an image! Please think of it as a powerful gun. You get too hung up on trivial details, Nii-san. Do you not find your blood boiling with excitement after hearing this name!?"
Mitsuki clenched her fist before her chest while she asserted to me forcefully.
In the end, so that was the most important point.
Mitsuki liked acting cool since a long time ago. Simply stated, she was predisposed to eighth grader syndrome and the it looked like the precursor of that syndrome had been quietly growing for the past three years.
"...Got it, anyway, so let's name it Siegfried."
Under Mitsuki's hard sell, I reluctantly agreed.
"Great! I will sketch the overall shape for you later! Please use it for reference when imagining it!"
Mitsuki nodded especially happily. The way she looked still showed a little of her innocence from three years ago remaining.
Then Mitsuki came back to her senses, controlled her expression and coughed lightly.
"Ahem, so next is Iris-san."
Iris instantly stood with her back very straight, waiting for Mitsuki's advice.
"Because your air projectile is too unstable, Iris-san, you should probably focus on shield construction in the auxiliary test. However... Even if you do that, it is honestly quite uncertain whether you could succeed in time for the test next week. After all, I have never heard of any precedent for explosions arising in the process of transmuting mithril."
I interjected and asked:
"Is mithril exploding that rare?"
"You can say it is impossible. Mithril is the most sturdy and stable substance. Even if the transmutation failed, the metal proportions might be wrong or changed into similar metals... Probably something along those lines. The chances of mixing an explosive substance into it are extremely low."
"In a certain sense, she is quite amazing huh..."
"Yes, perhaps it could be called a kind of talent. Although people might be better or worse at transmutation due to variations in personality or inborn disposition, since it involves one's imagination... Iris-san is the only D who causes explosions no matter what she transmutes."
Mitsuki nodded somewhat sardonically.
However, her comment brought a flash of inspiration to me.
"In short, Iris cannot do what is perfectly natural, but unintentionally achieves what other Ds can't do even if they wanted to?"
Iris looked like she was almost into tears.
"Rather than a talent... It would be better to call it a disposition that is completely opposite. If that's the case, it's probably futile no matter how much you practice something you're not suited to."
"Mononobe... You're so mean, don't put it so bluntly..."
Iris looked at me like she was about to cry.
"Don't get the wrong idea, I'm not trying to put you down, rather, I'm praising you. Iris, you have a talent that's unique to you. Seeing as that's the case, you only need to hone that talent. There's no need to force yourself to do the same things as the other people around you."
"A talent... unique to me?"
"Yeah, Iris, instead of shield construction, you should focus on your talent—Blow up that thing."
I smiled proudly and pointed to the block of diamond.
Everyday life was something that would pass day by day before you knew it, as soon as time started to flow.
Whether the tropical island scenery that I initially mistook for a parallel world, the school filled with female students, or the vibes of not fitting in the class, everything gradually became so matter-of-fact.
In just a few days, I already felt like I had been living this current life since a long time ago. The previous everyday life seemed so distant instead.
Getting up every morning at 6:30 to eat breakfast with Mitsuki then go to school, attending lessons on ordinary subjects, taking care of lunch through the snack shop or the cafeteria, attending D-related courses in the afternoon, staying after school to train on days when the training site was free.
The days passed like that and it was finally the day before the test.
Because it was a holiday today, there were no classes and the whole day could be used for training.
Under Mitsuki's supervision, Iris and I had been carrying out our final special training since morning.
"Ahhh, I'm so hungry... I can't move anymore, Mononobe..."
Using up all her physical energy on repeated transmutations, Iris was lying on the ground, looking at me with hopeful eyes.
"...I'm hungry too. I'm heading to the snack shop so let me buy you something while I'm at it. What do you want?"
Left without a choice, I could only ask her proactively. Iris suddenly sat up and recited her demands.
"Yakisoba bread, curry bread, porkchop cutlet sandwich, club sandwich and a donut for dessert!"
"...That's a lot."
"Because I'm so famished!"
"I'm not responsible if you get fat."
I reminded her, causing Iris to immediately go "ooh" and fall silent.
"I-It's okay! I will work even harder to consume the calories I ate!"
"Fine. Mitsuki, how do you want to take care of lunch?"
I asked Mitsuki who seemed to be working on her portable terminal.
"Please buy me bread. Apart from curry bread, anything will do. Also, a drink."
Afraid of spicy food, Mitsuki answered without even looking at me.
"Got it, then I'll go buy the stuff."
I left them behind in the training site and took the elevator to the first floor of the school building.
The snack shop was located in the catering building linked to the school building through a corridor. To accommodate the different ethnicities and nationalities of the Ds, the catering building was divided into Japanese, French, Chinese, Vietnamese and other areas.
Arranged in the first floor of the catering building was a cafeteria as well as all kinds of vendor spaces.
After buying lunch for Iris, Mitsuki and myself, I was just about to return directly to the training site when I noticed familiar students seated inside the cafeteria.
My classmates Lisa, Firill, Ren and Ariella were sitting around the same table.
Although I felt hesitant on what I should do, presented with this rare opportunity, I walked over to them.
Though I did not expect a friendly response even if I greeted them, I knew I would never be able to get closer to my classmates if I let fear prevent me from taking steps forward.
"...Why are you suddenly speaking in English?"
Probably having noticed my presence early on, Lisa glared viciously at me as soon as I greeted them.
"Uh, I was thinking you seem European-born, Lisa."
"You are indeed correct... But there is no need for you to think so much. That would only fill me with disgust."
"Really? Then good day to you."
"Yes, good day to you—Oh no, I greeted accidentally! You laid another trap for me!"
Lisa accused me angrily. She probably remembered her declaration to never greet me.
"Sorry, I did that on purpose just now."
I replied honestly.
"Eww! What pleasure is there in making fun of me!?"
"I'm not making fun of you. But to be honest, it makes me glad that I can talk to you."
Lisa's face went red, her mouth opening and closing, unable to speak.
"After all, Lisa, you're the only one who answers me..."
I sighed and looked at my other classmates. Although they all saw me, none of them responded, unlike Lisa.
But I did not get disheartened here. Renewing my spirits, I said to Firill who was sitting opposite to Lisa:
"It's rare to see you girls gathered together outside of the classroom."
Originally eating a sandwich, Firill paused and tilted her head in puzzlement. Her neat bangs swayed accordingly.
"Yeah, because all of you tend to leave the classroom separately during lunch breaks, right? I thought you would never do things together."
Hearing that, Firil looked at me, somewhat displeased.
"...Nothing of that sort. It's very normal to have lunch together if we meet up by coincidence."
Someone tugged my sleeve from the side. Ren showed me her portable terminal.
'While Ariella and I were having lunch, Lisa and Firill happened to come, but we didn't call for you.'
Ren glared at me a little uneasily.
"...You're right, you didn't call for me, but there shouldn't be any problem with chatting, right? Eh? There's something on your face."
I reached out and took off the bread crumb stuck on Ren's cheek.
Ren instantly went red in the face and shook her head, making "Mm! Mm!" growls in her mouth.
"Oh sorry, I couldn't help it..."
Accidentally doing what I used to do with Mitsuki when we were young, I apologized to Ren.
Ren pouted and waved her hand to shoo me away.
"...I got it. I won't disturb your meal anymore."
I sighed but just as I turned around to leave, a unexpected voice stopped me.
I looked back to see Ariella staring straight at me.
"I remember you are currently doing something like special training with Iris, right?"
"Not just something like special training, but special training for real. We started since this morning. I came here to buy lunch."
I showed Ariella the bag filled with bread.
"Oh... Any progress?"
I asked her in return and Ariella nodded honestly.
"Yeah. Currently, Iris might not only fail to bolster our forces but even drag us down. If her abilities have improved, I'd feel very glad."
"You don't sound very hopeful."
Hearing me, Ariella shrugged.
"Can't be helped, Iris hasn't improved at all in the past year after transferring here. I don't think a few days of special training could change her much."
"...You're so upfront with your words, Ariella."
"Are you offended?"
Ariella peered at me and asked.
"No, I'm not. I like this kind of personality."
I answered her honestly but for some reason, Ariella acted awkwardly.
"I-Is that a confession? It's a confession, right!?"
Hearing Ariella ask me with a red face, I panicked as well.
"Huh? How did things get to that kind of topic?"
"N-No...? Y-You are such a thoughtless guy. Don't say this kind of thing lightly to girls."
Ariella glared at me with a serious look.
"Although it wasn't a confession, I didn't say it lightly either. I simply said what I actually thought. So, what I'm going to say next is serious too. Ariella, in the test tomorrow, Iris will surely surprise you. I guarantee that to all of you."
Hearing me, Lisa and the others frowned. All of them showed skepticism on their faces.
Amidst all this, Ariella was the only one laughing with delight.
"How confident you are, but I still don't believe you, so I can't believe what you just said. Tomorrow, if I find out you're not lying, I'll revise my opinion of you."
"Good, you should look forward to it."
I nodded but Lisa interrupted at this time.
"You keep talking about Iris-san, but what about yourself? Since you are doing special training, I hope you will show us some results."
"I basically have results already. I finally managed to make a fictional armament not too long ago."
Hearing my answer, Lisa only felt exasperated.
"What...? Isn't that the most basic of basics!? You are training from that level? In such a state, you can't possibly pass the test!"
"It is very difficult for sure, but I will do my best. Bye now."
I waved and left their table for real this time.
Feeling their gazes against my back, I walked out of the catering building to get back to Iris and Mitsuki.
After lunch, we resumed the special training...
"Well then, let the test begin to select the Dragon Subjugation Squad for the battle against Basilisk."
Shinomiya-sensei's voice echoed in the vast underground space.
After spending a whole day on special training, I slept especially well and the next day, the test, arrived in the blink of an eye.
Like last time, we were gathered in training site number three. Volunteers began the test first.
"I shall show off first."
The first to be tested was Lisa Highwalker. Tossing her long blonde hair, she walked up front.
"Watch, Mononobe Yuu! I will make you understand what is called a gap in levels!"
Perhaps thinking of yesterday's conversation, Lisa stared only at me when she spoke.
The very image of confidence, she walked over there with her chest out and head held high, arriving at the spot to target the diamond.
Lisa's fictional armament was apparently a spear. Holding the golden shining spear at waist height, she aimed the sharp spear tip at the block of diamond.
"Here I go—Pierce, flare!"
The spear tip emitted a brilliant glow, shooting out a flash of light. The light pierced the diamond, boring a hole in the wall behind.
"A-A laser beam..."
Watching from afar, I could not help but mutter in shock. Diamond was not a particularly heat-resistant material, hence attacking with heat was a correct decision. But to instantly bore a large hole in diamond, that firepower was extraordinary.
Rather than a laser, this move would be closer to a positron cannon.
Lisa achieved the task easily and returned to the standby area proudly.
Lisa leaned her back against the wall, taunting me with her gaze. Her expression seemed to be saying: Just try it if you think you can.
This competitiveness was not a bad thing. Back in my NIFL days, this was commonplace. It filled me with fighting spirit instead.
Next to be tested was the bibliophile, Firill. Gazing at the diamond with tired eyes, she raised one hand in front of her chest.
Firill shaped the dark matter into a book's form and held it on her hand. As though reciting an incantation, she said:
"Aero Blast Quartet."
I heard four consecutive sounds of heavy impacts then shattered diamond fragments scattered in the air.
It was probably four shots of extremely compressed air projectiles, aimed at the exactly same place. A truly astounding show of force.
Apparently, like Iris, she pictured magic to perform transmutation. Judging from this, so-called picturing magic seemed to offer much more freedom than using a weapon.
Then it was Ren. She apparently chose to break diamond instead of participating in the auxiliary test.
Ren raised her slender arm to the air and lightly spoke the name of the fictional armament to be manifested. Then a hammer several times her body size appeared in her hand.
The hammer could be seen growing gigantic in size, almost reaching the ceiling. Even though I knew in my mind that it was massless dark matter, it was still a strange scene lacking in balance.
That kind of generated volume was extraordinary. Converted into matter, let alone ten tons, it might even reach a hundred times more than that.
Ren then swung the enlarged hammer down. In the process of falling, the hammer grew even larger. Finally, the hammer's tip arrived on top of the diamond.
Then the hammer's tip glowed red and started to materialize. Obtaining mass, the hammer accelerated towards the diamond, drawn by gravity.
Unable to withstand that kind of shock and weight, the diamond shattered.
Ren walked back nonchalantly. Next to step up was Ariella. She walked over to the auxiliary test's position.
"Sensei, I choose this side."
Ariella informed Shinomiya-sensei of her intent to take the shield making challenge. Raising her right hand to shoulder height, she called out sharply:
Dark matter instantly covered Ariella's right arm. Her fictional armament looked like a gauntlet.
Ariella swung her right arm and yelled. Spherical dark matter instantly appeared over the marked spot 50m away. Like Iris, Ariella seemed to have excellent spatial awareness.
The dark matter gradually turned into a giant wall and not just one, it was a multi-layered structure.
Compared to the thin iron plate I created earlier, it was on a completely different level.
Ariella easily passed the test. When returning, she whispered to me:
"...Show me proof of what you said yesterday."
I nodded affirmatively.
Because Mitsuki seemed to be standing in the same position as Shinomiya-sensei, supervising the test together, only Iris and I were left.
"So Iris, I'll go first?"
"Sure, good luck! Mononobe, do your best!"
With Iris' energetic blessing, I walked over to the diamond side.
"What... Are you serious?"
Lisa cried out in disbelief. She probably did not expect me to choose the more difficult side.
"I'm serious, because this is the only test which I have a chance of passing."
I smiled wryly at Lisa and answered, then stood in position.
I knew quite well this was very difficult.
But to give courage to Iris who was taking the test next, I hoped I could succeed.
I focused to change the form of the generated dark matter.
Appearing in my right hand was a large-caliber ornamental gun.
This was the fictional armament belonging to me, based on the sketch Mitsuki had given me.
Because the gun's body seemed quite small compared to its caliber, were it a real gun, one would worry whether such a design could withstand the recoil of a shot, but since this was purely dark matter whose shape had been altered, there was no need to worry about practicality.
The gun glowed with faint phosphorescence. Although I was trying hard to keep it in the dark matter stage, due to sensing the image in my mind, the gun's body still caused some slight transmutation.
That was the reason why dark matter, which was supposed to be black, had color after being turned into fictional armaments.
Holding this Siegfried, I was finally standing at Midgard's starting line.
But this fictional armament probably could not be used in the same way as Lisa's and the other girls'.
My dark matter generating capacity was extremely low. To create Siegfried, I had already used almost my entire output.
Even after making their fictional armaments, Lisa and the others still had spare capacity to perform another summoning of dark matter. Consuming the dark matter in the fictional armament would be an emergency measure only used as a last resort.
But I had no choice but to use that emergency last resort. Even by keeping consumption at a minimum, including the amount used to create Siegfried, the amount of dark matter I could fire as bullets was only three shots at most. And firing consecutively was not possible either. Once consumed, even the fictional armament itself would disappear.
That meant I had to repeat the step of creating Siegfried all over again. This dead time could sometimes be fatal in real combat.
Hence, I must use these three shots of dark matter cautiously. However—
It would be pointless to save on consumption here. I had to gather all my dark matter to concentrate in one shot.
I aimed the muzzle at the block of diamond 100m away.
Even so, I did not know if this would bring the result I sought.
Although I had practiced repeatedly before the test, my success rate was below 50%.
Right now, all I could do was try my best. That was all.
Telling myself that, I started to conceptualize the image.
Then I was going to perform the initial transmutation of air.
I chose air not because it was simple but because even a dark matter generating capacity of merely ten kilograms would have a volume of over ten thousand liters once transmuted into air. By compressing that air, it was possible to obtain a massive amount of heat as well as the necessary hardness.
But that also required controlling it well—
I spoke as though tracing out the outline of my mental image.
When performing transmutation, the step of voicing things out was not particularly required, but language would help stabilize the image. For the sake of raising the success rate as much as possible, I had to use words to describe what I was transmuting next.
I slowly increased the pressure on the trigger and transmitted the image over.
Without a sufficient compression ratio, the bullet would not bring out enough power.
Conversely, if the compression ratio was too high, particle collisions would turn the superheated air into plasma, releasing all the energy and disappearing before it struck the target.
I had always performed pure transmutation in the past, so my control of this type of thought-driven power was quite crude.
Speaking softly in my mind, I pulled the trigger.
In that instant, the dark matter in the fictional armament was completely transmuted into a bullet of air. Siegfried vanished.
The air bullet that was fired was not supposed to be visible to the naked eye.
But my eyes captured some faint white light.
Crap, did it create plasma?
Then silence spread.
There was no sound of an air bullet striking the block of diamond. The plasmafied bullet probably had not struck the diamond.
"See, all bravado without a plan. It's not too late to start now. I believe you would be best advised to attempt the auxiliary test instead."
Lisa broke the silence and spoke as though boasting of victory.
Shinomiya-sensei nodded too and said as though trying to persuade me:
"Indeed, this test is too difficult for a novice. How about you switch to constructing a shield?"
Even if they said that, a large enough shield was impossible due to my low dark matter generating capacity. Hence, for me, that test was completely impossible to pass.
As much as I hated to admit defeat, this was the best I could do. I could only give up on the test.
"No, I have already—"
I was about to decline Shinomiya-sensei's offer of the auxiliary test.
However, Mitsuki interrupted this time.
"Excuse me, please wait a moment. I believe it is too soon to discuss results."
Mitsuki walked over to the block of diamond with clearly heard footsteps.
Seeing that, Lisa frowned and scolded her.
"Mitsuki-san, have you not given up yet? Even if he is your relative, one would be hard pressed to approve of your prejudice in favoring him."
"I am not favoring him but merely inspecting fairly."
Mitsuki walked while answering, stopping next to the diamond.
Anyone would think it was a failure from a glance, but Mitsuki seemed to have sensed something unusual.
She carefully examined the diamond then turned her head back to us and said loudly:
"Next to the hole bored by Lisa-san, I have discovered an inconspicuous but carbonized portion! Since it is found on the front and back of the diamond, it is very likely the traces left behind by the penetration of a super high-temperature object."
Lisa exclaimed in shock but I was equally surprised.
Shinomiya-sensei's expression changed and she walked over to Mitsuki.
The two of them conversed at the diamond for a while then returned before me.
"Hmm... There is indeed a carbonized portion but there is no mark on the wall behind... The bullet probably plasmafied only during the instant of penetrating the diamond. Mononobe Yuu, was this an outcome within your expectation?"
Shinomiya-sensei directed her sharp gaze towards me.
"Huh? Oh no... I only did it by chance."
If I claimed it as my own power now, perhaps I might pass the test, but I answered honestly.
What I originally predicted was striking the diamond with the air bullet, shattering it. I did not think of using plasmafication's heat to carbonize the diamond.
Even if I was asked to do it again, due to the difficulty in adjusting the timing and compression, I would probably fail.
"Hmm, that's quite a shame. Judging purely from this one attack, this would be very intricate and efficient transmutation... The probability of causing effective damage to Basilisk is very high. But if you can't do it at will, you have not reached the level required for the Dragon Subjugation Squad."
"Then I guess I failed, after all?"
Hearing me ask that, Shinomiya-sensei crossed her arms and made a troubled look.
"Hmm... But you did succeed during the test after all. In any case, I'll pass you and have you listed as a reserve member. Although you cannot be considered combat potential right now, depending on your future growth, promoting you to take part in the battle against Basilisk is not impossible, so work hard and strive for progress."
"T-Thank you very much!"
My stiff shoulders instantly relaxed then I thanked Shinomiya-sensei.
But when I returned to the standby area, Lisa glared at me like she found things difficult to accept.
"A mere coincidence on one occasion, I shall not approve! And even if you could use that attack in a well-trained manner, the fact of your vast inferiority to me is still clearly evident!"
Lisa pointed at the diamond and declared.
The laser-bored hole was visible clearly even at this distance, but the carbonized hole was almost invisible. This indicated the gap between our firepower.
"Yeah, you girls are amazing, Lisa. I understand that clearly now, after this test. It's true that I am vastly inferior to you girls."
"M-My, you are unexpectedly honest."
Lisa showed surprise on her face as she tilted her head in puzzlement.
"I am accepting results honestly. But though I am a reserve member, since the teacher passed me, it means there are things I can accomplish. As a member of Midgard, I will work hard to assist everyone."
"Hmph... We have no need of your power! Having us is enough."
"But Shinomiya-sensei told me to work hard and improve."
Hearing that, Lisa wavered a little but immediately retorted.
"That is... merely etiquette! The teacher only said that to be considerate for Mitsuki-san's feelings!"
"Considerate for Mitsuki... There's no need, right? Shinomiya-sensei's rank is higher."
I felt speechless but Lisa puffed out her chest and asserted as though she had some kind of proof:
"She must be worried about not getting to eat Mitsuki-san's sweets again! As reluctant as I am to admit it, the sweets Mitsuki-san occasionally makes for us are quite a delicacy! Addictive with just a single bite, even Shinomiya-sensei must find it impossible to resist that kind of temptation."
"Wow... Are Mitsuki's sweets that delicious?"
This was my first time hearing of this. Because the menus were usually left to the housework robots, I did not know that Mitsuki's cooking had improved so much.
Perhaps these sweets were an important contribution to Mitsuki's overwhelming popularity.
Bribery with food... These words crossed my mind.
"Your face suggests you are thinking something rude, you know?"
"...You're overthinking things. But anyway, please confirm your allegations regarding sweets with Shinomiya-sensei herself."
Lisa's grumbling looked like it was going to continue for a long time, so I prepared to leave.
"Wait! Mononobe Yuu! I haven't finished talking yet!"
Getting rid of the persistently harassing Lisa, I returned to my original spot, only to see Iris clapping to greet me.
"Clap clap, Mononobe, congratulations!"
Seeing Iris smiling happily for me as though she had passed the test herself, I suddenly felt embarrassed.
"I only passed as a reserve member. Okay, you're next, Iris."
"Y-Yes... I will do my best!"
Iris stood up and walked over to the block of diamond.
"Just do the same as during training. Give everyone a big surprise. Let them never dare call you a poorly performing student again."
Iris looked back and nodded in agreement then reached the spot to aim at the diamond.
After informing Shinomiya-sensei she was not taking the auxiliary test, she manifested her staff of dark matter.
Iris pointed the staff's tip at the diamond then focused. Seeing that, Lisa came to talk to me.
"What's the matter? If you still want to continue the conversation just now, I'll have to ask you to give me a break."
"No, shelve that conversation for now. What is important now is... Aren't you going to rescue Iris-san? She will surely be blown away again, won't she?"
Rather than sarcastic, her tone was more worried. I smiled and nodded.
"Yeah, that's right, it will probably be blown away—I mean the diamond."
"What... Are you serious? You heard Ariella-san yesterday at the cafeteria, didn't you? Iris-san is hopeless as a poorly performing student. Her memory is poor, she is not smart enough. No matter how hard she tries, she is just a silly kid who is wasting her effort."
Seeing that I had made no move to help Iris, Lisa frantically tried to persuade me.
"Yeah... I guess that might be true. But even while saying that, you're actually observing her quite closely."
"N-Nothing of that sort! We have been in the same class for a year already, so understanding her is only natural. Ever since transferring here, Iris-san has never succeeded in using her power before, even the most basic air bullet also—"
"What Iris wants to do is not transmuting dark matter into air."
I interrupted Lisa.
"Eh... Could it be a transmutation of even greater difficulty? That would be even more impossible!"
"Okay, just watch. You'll surely be surprised."
Saying that, I turned my gaze back to Iris.
She could be heard chanting a spell quietly.
"Come, come, fragments of the Far Beyond—"
Multiple black spheres of dark matter appeared in the diamond's surroundings. Iris' excellent spatial awareness had correct judged the distance of 100m.
Then staring at the diamond, Iris recited:
"—O holy silver, explode!"
The dark matter gathered in a point then turned into mithril shining with silver luster.
It was like how she wanted to create a shield last time. But during transmutation this time, countless bulges appeared on the mithril.
Then the entire thing expanded—It exploded.
The mithril's sharp fragments were sent flying, accompanied by a silver-white explosion. Mithril of maximum hardness smashed and penetrated the diamond, causing it to break apart.
That destructive power far surpassed my plasma bullet. Because Iris had giving them directionality, the fragments only flew forward.
After the special training after school, we came to understand one thing. As long as Iris was aiming for an explosion, she could control things to a certain extent.
"What a... unique talent."
I said with a wry smile. From a dragon's standpoint, it would be like a mithril grenade suddenly appearing in front of it. This would most likely become a means of attack to inflict definite damage on dragons.
"No way... To think that Iris-san would...?"
Lisa looked at the destroyed diamond, her entire body stunned. Normally expressionless, Firill and Ren also showed surprised looks on their faces.
Ariella stood up to applaud for Iris. She had no patience for those lacking in power but conversely, she would offer her respect if one could win her approval. That seemed to be Ariella's personality.
"Iris Freyja, you pass."
Shinomiya-sensei also seemed to be in a state of surprise as she announced the test result to Iris.
Hearing this, Iris instantly had a smile all over her face. Then turning towards me, she dashed at full speed.
"I did it! Mononobe!!"
With momentum from her sprint, she hugged me. In order to dissipate the impact, I spun her several times, keeping my balance with much difficulty.
"What are you doing so suddenly—"
I was just about to complain when I saw Iris' face in front of my eyes. Feeling the warmth from her body, tightly pressed against me, I could not help but forget what I was going to say.
"Thank you, Mononobe... Thank you!"
Leaning her face against my chest, Iris kept thanking me.
—Was she that happy?
During this past year, Iris had always been treated as a poorly performing student. I could not imagine what it felt like. Despite a strong will to keep trying, her power did not reach standards. This chagrin was something only Iris herself could understand.
However, the emotional stress accumulated would be quite heavy.
—Anyway, I'll just wait until her emotions calm down.
Although the surrounding gazes concerned me too, I could not bring myself to push Iris away by force. I could only pat her silver hair gently and praise her for passing the test.
"Nii-san, remember what I said about refraining from excessive skin contact—"
Hurrying over, Mitsuki also sighed after seeing the way Iris looked.
"—Thirty more seconds only."
Then Mitsuki feigned indifference and said that.
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