Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 2 Chapter 2
Chapter 2 - Innocent Pursuit
"—Due to the fact that Tia Lightning refuses adamantly to separate from Mononobe Yuu, she will be taken in by this Brynhildr Class. Please get along with her from now on."
After the full-school assembly ended, Shinomiya-sensei made this announcement in a business-like manner during homeroom.
Tia and I were standing at the lectern together because Tia refused to leave me no matter what. Right now, Tia was hugging my arm with her eyes partially closed and happiness written all over her face.
This girl wouldn't be—the D whom I saved in the past, would she?
From her reaction that seemed like she had seen me before, as well as my nagging feeling of familiarity, this possibility was quite likely. But I had no proof and could not ask in front of everyone either.
If my hunch was correct and the matter of letting a D go free came to light, this would endanger Mitsuki's position in addition to mine.
"H-Hold on! Tia-san should be of an age that belongs in elementary level education, right? I doubt she can keep up with our curriculum."
Lisa asked Shinomiya-sensei with a troubled look.
"That's true indeed... But her declaration, appearance and offensive attitude has made many students afraid. Even if she were to be forced together with other Ds in her age group, it's probably impossible for them to get along peacefully. In that case, leaving her to Mononobe Yuu, the only one whom she opens her heart to, is the better solution."
—Leaving her to me?
I had a bad feeling about the way she phrased that.
"So here is how it goes, Mononobe Yuu. You will be in charge of her education. Basic studies, common sense, rules for living in Midgard, you will teach all of that to her."
"What...? I-I'm gonna teach her? I only arrived in Midgard a month myself, you know?"
I argued anxiously but Shinomiya-sensei's tone of voice forbade me from refusing.
"Ask other people if you run into difficulties. You may regard this as a mission associated with the anti-Basilisk battle. If she causes serious trouble in Midgard, then the only option would be to hand her over to NIFL. What this means... You probably understand."
Ds must be appropriately managed under Midgard in order for their human rights to be recognized officially. Getting exiled from Midgard would be equivalent to being deemed a disaster, which meant that NIFL was going to dispose of her mercilessly in order to take care of the current incident.
Just like when Leviathan attacked, they intended to kill Iris whose dragon mark had changed color.
"......I got it. Although I'm not confident, I'll try my best."
For a newbie like me, the responsibilities of this mission were way too heavy.
But I could not leave the young Tia to her own devices. And for some reason, she harbored strong affection for me. My heart was not cold enough to be able to mercilessly ignore a girl like that.
"Hmm? Are you done talking?"
Tia looked up at me and asked. Despite it being a conversation about her, she paid almost no attention to it.
"Yeah, from now on, Tia, you're classmates with us."
"Really? Then we can be together all the time here! Where is Yuu's seat?"
"Huh? Middle seat on the last row—"
I pointed at the last row of the 3x3 arrangement of seats—The spot sandwiched between Mitsuki and Iris.
By the way, although I feigned ignorance the whole time, the two of them had been staring daggers at me since a while ago. Mitsuki's eyes seemed to be reprimanding me while Iris was pouting unhappily, glaring at me.
"Then Tia will sit there too!"
Saying that, Tia pulled my arm.
"You want to sit there...? If you want the back row no matter what, I'll swap places with you."
"No, Yuu just sit here. Come, sit down."
At Tia's urging, I sat down on my own seat.
"Fufu, then Tia will sit down too."
Tia sat down on my lap with a plop.
Ignoring my distress, Tia leaned her back against me.
At this moment, Iris suddenly stood up from her seat. Probably reaching the end of her patience, she said to Tia:
"Hey Tia-chan! You'll get in Mononobe's way if you sit there. You should sit in an empty seat!"
"Muu... Who is this Onee-chan?"
"I am Iris Freyja, Mononobe's... friend!"
Iris introduced herself proudly but Tia retorted without getting intimidated.
"If you are his friend, Tia hopes you can read the mood better. Sticking your nose into a husband and wife's problem is meddling, right?"
"H-Husband and wife... Didn't you just meet Mononobe, Tia-chan!? It's me who's been close to Mononobe the whole time!"
"Wrong, Tia and Yuu were tied together by the red string of fate a long time ago. No one can break us up."
Saying that, Tia changed her posture. Wrapping her arms around my neck, she hugged me tightly.
"T-Tia, wait... This is very uncomfortable."
Previously, I always treated her as a child and acted generously, but with such intimate contact, I could not help but waver a bit. Feeling her delicate, petite and lightweight figure and her soft skin, I was forced to become aware that, even at this kind of age, she was already a girl. The fragrance drifting from Tia's beautiful hair was tickling my nasal cavity.
"—Tia-san, sitting in your own seat to attend class is a rule of this school's. Please follow it."
Mitsuki's acute voice was heard at this time. Iris instantly brightened up at the arrival of reinforcements.
Tia pouted unhappily and turned her gaze to Mitsuki.
"Again, you... will say mean things to Tia?"
Tia seemed to be holding a grudge about what happened at the full-school assembly.
"I am not being mean. I am simply bringing up the rules. Please do not cause Nii-san trouble."
"Nii-san? You're not Yuu's family, are you?"
Tia blinked in surprise.
"Right, I am Mononobe Mitsuki, Nii-san's younger sister."
"Aha... Then Tia has to get along with you, because the husband's little sister is Tia's little sister."
Tia put away her defiance and smiled at Mitsuki.
"...I do not recall having an older sister younger than I am."
"Hmm, then you can be the older sister, or do you want to be the mother-in-law?"
"We are not playing house here, please do not randomly reassign roles, seriously... Sensei, could you tell her off?"
With an exasperated look, Mitsuki sighed and sought help from Shinomiya-sensei.
"Yes... You are right, rules must be followed, but I fear that trying to make her understand this principle right now would be very difficult. Hence, please tolerate her actions for now as long as lessons are not disrupted."
Mitsuki and Iris both made speechless expressions then Tia raised her arms to cheer in joy.
"Awesome! Then Tia will stay quiet. A good wife doesn't make trouble for the husband."
Tia resumed her earlier posture and sat properly on my lap. With that, as long as she did not move about, I was able to look in front and manage to follow the lesson
However, Shinomiya-sensei cast her sharp gaze at me and said:
"Mononobe Yuu, let me state for the record. Her special treatment is only limited to today. You have to settle this before tomorrow."
In other words, I had to make Tia obey school rules within today?
Tia showed a joyful expression while her legs swayed nonstop.
I looked down at Tia, my self-proclaimed wife. This was a mission harder than imagined, totally putting me at a loss what to do.
After that, Tia still refused to leave for even an instant.
During homeroom, Lisa and the others introduced themselves but Tia was uninterested, simply looking up at my face.
"M-Mononobe Yuu... I shan't lose to you!"
This provoked a weird sense of competition in Lisa—
Firill was inspired with unsavory doubts about me.
"Only Mononobe-kun gets to talk to her, so unfair."
Ariella and Ren were looking at me with displeasure in their eyes. Particularly Ren, whose age was closest to Tia, she had kept glancing secretly at Tia ever since class started, quite curious about her.
"Tia, why don't you talk to everyone a bit."
I encouraged her but Tia shook her head and refused.
"No need, if Tia had to talk, talking with Yuu is better."
It looked I was the only thing that mattered in her red eyes. Anyway, I had no idea how to persuade Tia unless I got to know her as a person. Hence, I decided to let Tia do as she pleased for the first day, the only time for special treatment.
Keeping her promise in class, Tia sat quietly on my lap. Although she yawned in apparently boredom many times, even sleeping very soundly during fourth period, she did not seem to be a child who could not be reasoned with.
During the lunch break, we went to the cafeteria together as a class, sitting around a table as before.
"Here, husband, say ah—"
But most troublingly, Tia continued to sit on my lap just as in the classroom. She was extending a spoonful of vegetable curry towards me. The gazes from not only my classmates but also girls in the surroundings were making me uncomfortable.
Due to Tia's uneasy look, I had no choice but to eat the vegetable curry. Then I heard whispers all around. Bothered by the surrounding gazes, I almost could not taste the curry's spiciness.
"Fufu, we are like newlyweds."
Tia smiled happily and ate a mouthful of vegetable curry too.
Going with this situation, I was probably going to be labeled a lolicon tomorrow.
But to me, it simply felt like accompanying her to play house like a children.
Although she insisted she was the wife, I felt that it would be more accurate to call her a very spoiled younger sister.
"Tia, you've got stuff next to your mouth."
After thinking of it that way, I stopped feeling particularly bothered. In a natural manner, I used a tissue to wipe Tia's mouth.
Tia thanked me somewhat shyly. From the eyes of an older brother, I found that behavior of hers to be very cute.
If the one sitting on my lap making me dote on her was Iris instead, I probably would not be able to remain calm like this.
Thinking that, I looked forward, only to see Iris glaring at me with a pout.
"Only Tia-chan can do that... Too unfair."
Clutching her fork, stabbed in the pasta with tomato sauce, Iris spoke in a low voice.
"U-Unfair? What's unfair?"
"I'm clearly your friend, Mononobe... Compared to Tia-chan, we should be closer... But I never got to do the say 'ah—' thing, so I have to do it too!"
Saying that, Iris wrapped pasta around her fork and extended it before me.
With cheeks blushing, Iris spoke in a trembling voice.
I felt my heart starting to race.
"...Mononobe, hurry, this is very embarrassing."
Seeing her plead tearfully, I opened my mouth despite the hesitation in my heart, but—
With a metallic clang, Iris' fork was deflected by Tia's spoon.
"Yuu is Tia's husband. You're not allowed to do that."
"I can, because Mononobe is my friend!"
Iris' gaze turned sharp. As though about to have a fencing match, she entered a pose with her fork, still with pasta wrapped around it.
"Hey, what are you doing?"
Sensing danger, I yelled at her but Iris made a thrust with her fork.
Tia used her spoon to defend again, but Iris' first strike was a feint. Stopping her fork halfway, she evaded the timing of Tia's parry. Getting past the spoon, she shoved the pasta into my mouth.
The flavor of tomato sauce instantly spread in my mouth. While the fork was drawn out, the pasta was left in my mouth.
Iris cheered and made a victory pose.
"Oh no, husband is having an affair!"
Tia screamed in shock. Her voice echoed throughout the entire cafeteria. All the students present were looking in our direction.
"...Knock it off, you two. Be quiet in public areas."
Mitsuki spoke in a voice filled with rage.
Iris instantly shuddered then scratched her head apologetically.
"Oh, s-sorry, Mitsuki-chan... I was too impulsive."
"Tia was clearly not at fault..."
Despite muttering in her mouth, Tia settled down. Because Mitsuki was my sister, Tia cared about how she was viewed.
"Phew... Mitsuki, thanks—"
I was just about to thank her when I saw Mitsuki's extremely displeased look, forcing me to grind to a halt mid-sentence.
"—Nii-san is an idiot."
After saying that quietly, Mitsuki turned her head away.
Lisa and the others all showed exasperation on the their faces. In the end, the meal ended under an indescribable atmosphere.
And after that, there were problems aplenty.
Using the remainder of the lunch break, we took Tia around to get to know the campus. At the clock tower, I was just about to go to the washroom when Tia wanted to go with me, thus causing a dispute for a while.
Persuaded by Mitsuki, Tia finally agreed to let go of my hand, but she kept holler "Yuu, are you there?" from outside, giving me no peace while I did my business.
—As a side note, inside Midgard, there were only two washrooms I could use. As Midgard's core area, the clock tower would have occasional visitors from outside, hence male washrooms were available for visitors to use. The other one was the toilet in my own room at the dorm.
Later on during afternoon class time, Tia wanted to go to the washroom this time, intending to drag me to the female washroom.
I patiently convinced her, finally reaching a compromise where I waited outside while repeatedly responding to her calls.
In this manner, today's classes ended while feeling several times longer than usual.
But my mission was just beginning here.
"—Mononobe Yuu, I will let Tia Lightning live in Mononobe Mitsuki's dorm like you. Take good care of her."
During homeroom before dismissal, that was what Shinomiya-sensei said. I was in charge of educating Tia. After school, I had to oversee her studies and Tia refused to leave me, so this could be considered an appropriate arrangement.
Although Mitsuki's expression seemed quite unconvinced, she still agreed reluctantly.
"Nii-san, I still have student council work to do, so please return first. Although you will be alone with Tia-san temporarily... Under no circumstances should you do anything violating public morals."
"...I know. Could you believe in your brother a bit?"
I nodded with a wry smile and exited the classroom with Tia.
Using her tiny right hand, Tia held my left hand tightly.
Accommodating Tia's pace, I slowly made my way to the building entrance, but just as we reached the first floor's entrance, I noticed a student standing still in front of the school map.
It was a very obedient-looking girl, wearing glasses, with long black hair in a braid.
—Eh? I remember that girl... the one who transferred together with Tia—
Seeing me stop walking, Tia looked at me in surprise.
"Sorry, Tia, come with me for a bit."
Holding Tia's hand, I approached the girl.
If she was facing any trouble, I should help her, right? This was the spirit behind Midgard's founding. This was what I learned from Lisa and the others during the battle against Leviathan.
I asked her from behind.
She looked back, widening her eyes greatly after seeing me. Perhaps she was startled because I was a man.
To avoid making her unwary unnecessarily, I smiled and talked to her.
"I remember you just transferred in today, right? Tachikawa... What was it again?"
To be honest, because Tia caused me such a great shock, I had little recollection of her, even her name was fuzzy.
"Uh—Right, I am Tachikawa Honoka, you are... Mononobe Yuu, right?"
She nodded and asked in a confirming tone of voice.
"You know about me?"
"Because you are the only male in the academy, I soon heard rumors about you. And I saw you this morning at the full-school assembly."
Speaking of which, this morning I had rushed up to the podium to stop Tia who was acting emotionally unstable. Since I had done something so conspicuous, no matter where I went, there were always people talking about the topic of me and Tia. With that, whether she wanted to or not, she would surely hear my name.
"...Then we can skip the introductions. Tia, you know her already, right?"
I motioned with my eyes, to introduce her to Tia, but for some reason, Tia hugged my waist tightly and glared at her silently.
"Right, although I saw her for the first time at the full-school assembly, I still have not greeted her... But I did hear the student council president's introduction."
Saying that, she lowered her head and bowed to us.
"Yuu-san, Tia-san, pleased to meet you."
"Yeah, likewise here."
I smiled in response but Tia scowled and refused to answer.
"Sorry, how should I say this...? Apart from me, Tia pretty much treats everyone like this."
I frantically explained for Tia, but she smiled gently and said:
"No problem, I don't mind."
"Thanks, that would be a great help—Tachikawa."
"Just call me Honoka. I'll address you by name too."
She replied in a relaxed tone of voice.
"O-Okay... Got it, Honoka."
Slightly nervously, I changed my way of addressing her. Although she seemed introverted in appearance, her personality might turn out to be more approachable than expected.
"So, what are you doing here, Honoka? If there's anywhere you want to go, I can lead the way."
I looked at the map that Honoka had been staring at.
"No, it's okay. I was just trying to memorize all the locations because I'll be living here from now on."
"I see, so you're not lost. That's great. Sorry for disturbing you."
I should have minded my own business. I scratched my head.
"Nothing of that sort, I'm happy that you talked to me. Even just knowing that you are such a friendly person counts as a kind of encourage to me here on."
Although Honoka thanked me, what she said made me a bit concerned. Thinking more carefully, taking her around to familiarize with the campus should be what her classmates would do first. Perhaps there was not anyone friendly in the class she was assigned to.
"...If you have any difficulties, you can find my any time. I'll tell you my email address."
"Oh... Thank you."
Honoka smiled radiantly. After exchanging addresses, we bid her goodbye and walked out of the building.
During that time, Tia's expression remained quite unhappy. She gripped my hand tightly.
"You're both transfer students, so why don't you try to get along with her? I think you'll surely become friends."
I said that to her while walking towards the school gates, but Tia shook her head.
"No, Tia doesn't want to be near her."
"Doesn't want to be near..."
Compared to Lisa or the others, Tia was expressing a clearer attitude of rejection, baffling me.
"And Tia is angry with Yuu too. A married person should not hit on girls."
"H-Hit on? No, that wasn't what was happening just now."
Suddenly exchanging email addresses might seem like hitting on a girl, but the only reason why I told Honoka my address was purely because I worried about her.
"...Honestly not hitting on her?"
"Okay... Then Tia won't be angry."
Tia's displeased look changed to reveal all smiles.
Seeing her mood improve, I breathed a sigh of relief. Although we were not a real couple and I was not obliged to explain to her, it made me feel uncomfortable to be saddled with a trumped up charge for no reason.
Then we passed through the school gates and headed to Mitsuki's personal dorm.
Although we attracted the gaze of female students along the way, after entering the road leading to the dorm, no one was in sight anymore.
We held hands and walked on the road along the beach. That alone was enough to make Tia smile contentedly. Bathed under the setting sun's rays, both her hair and her horns shone with red light.
—Tia Lightning huh...
Having accompanied her the whole day, I came to understand one thing clearly. She extremely hated separating from me.
Almost like a lost child.
She looked like a child who was finally reunited with parents, refusing to separate again no matter what. Most likely, Tia's affection towards me was neither infatuation nor love, but an expression of emotions from the fear of separation.
Although that was possible, the correct answer could only be known by asking directly.
There were many things I wanted to ask but among them, what I needed to confirm most—the question I had held back all this time to avoid giving Mitsuki trouble—I finally inquired of Tia at this time.
"Say, Tia, have we met somewhere before?"
"Eh—Yuu doesn't remember?"
Tia asked as though she was struck by a blow. It looked like we really did meet before.
"Don't tell me... you're the D whom I saved on in a warzone before?"
I voiced my guess.
Before coming to Midgard, I had only met two Ds. One was Mitsuki, the other was the young girl I saved in a warzone without knowing her name. Hence, it was very likely that the girl was Tia.
However, since she was a D, she could also be someone I got involved with unknowingly, hence I was not confident.
"Oh, phew, good... Yuu didn't forget."
Tia seemed relieved. I had guessed correctly, apparently.
—Lucky I did not confirm in front of others.
Letting a discovered D go free was a complete breach of military discipline.
Apart from that, because Basilisk's target was Tia, it had caused NIFL to expend a lot of effort.
I had no intention of fleeing from those responsibilities but I did not want to cause a situation that would cause Mitsuki problems.
"So you really are the girl from that time... You seemed to have changed."
The girl in my hazy memories was even younger and did not have horns like these.
"Really? Did Tia become more cute?"
She looked at me with excited eyes. I nodded in embarrassment.
Becuase the shock was too great, it was easy for the horns to steal the spotlight, but objectively speaking, Tia was a cute girl. In two or three years, she would surely become even more beautiful.
"Tia is—a cute girl, right?"
"Yeah, that's what I think."
I answered her question that seemed to be seeking confirmation, but for some reason, Tia made a sad face.
"Thanks... I knew that if it's Yuu, you'd say that again. Tia is so happy, but... It's wrong."
I did not understand what was going on, so I asked her. But looking at me, Tia's eyes were emotionless, as though her earlier childishness was a lie.
"Tia is a dragon, not a girl."
I instantly felt a chill along my back. In the depths of those red eyes, I saw a dark color akin to that of dried blood.
I reflexively tried to tell her no but held my tongue before it came out. Even if I unilaterally refuted Tia's assertion, it would only end up the same as what happened at the assembly.
This was most likely Tia's berserk button. If I had to touch it, I would best wait for the next opportunity.
First, I should carefully find out—Why did she believe so strongly that she was a dragon?
"...So to you, am I a dragon too?"
"Yes, all Ds are dragons."
Spreading her arms, Tia said that.
"Why... do you think that?"
"Because we have the same power as dragons, we are the children of dragons, isn't this logical?"
We definitely possessed the same power as the black dragon—"Black Vritra"—the ability to generate dark matter. Because Ds were the same as dragons, they must be rejected—There were many radical organizations pushing such beliefs. Was Tia influenced by that kind of thinking?
"No, but you have human parents, right?"
I had seen her parents when saving her in a warzone. I thought that afterwards, they should be living together as a family of three.
"......Tia has no human papa or mama."
But Tia refuted me with an emotionless expression and voice.
"No? But back then—"
I frowned and asked but I felt mild trembling on my hand, forcing me to stop mid-sentence.
I had apparently broached a very sensitive issue again.
"Yuu, don't talk about that—Tia wants to touch the seawater."
Just as I was hesitating how to continue the conversation, Tia smiled innocently and changed the subject.
Tia pointed at the vast beach beyond the breakwater, pulling me, wanting to go there.
"...Okay, let's go down the stairs over there."
I gave up on the spot asking about her father and mother and took Tia down to the white beach.
I'll have to find a chance to ask again later.
As soon as she reached the water's edge, Tia instantly squatted down and dipped her left hand into the waves rushing onto the shore. I also squatted beside her and watched her scoop up seawater with her tiny hand.
"You've never been to a beach, Tia?"
"No, Tia originally lived in a place without a sea. And after coming to this island, Tia could only look from a distance."
Saying that, Tia licked her fingertip, moistened by seawater.
"Ah... It's really so salty!"
Tia seemed quite moved and yelled excitedly. How should I say it? looking at her like that, I could not help but smile.
—I can't force this child to make that kind of expression.
When insisting she was a dragon, insisting she had no parents, Tia's face lost all emotion.
Tia's issues seemed to much bigger than imagined but I decided in my heart to help her resolve them bit by bit.
This started as a mission forced upon me by someone else, but after knowing she was the D that I had met in a warzone, I could not stay uninvolved anymore because I had to take serious responsibility for her.
If I had sent Tia to Midgard when we first met, at least she would not have ended up with this dragon girl appearance.
With my unoccupied right hand, I tried to touch Tia's horn.
"Kyah... It tickles."
Tia made a startled sound and huddled herself.
"Your horn has feeling too...?"
It really was like a part of the body. I could not help but gasp.
"Yes, it's very sensitive too, so Tia doesn't like others touching it... But it's okay if it's the husband."
Tia put her hand on my hand that was touching her horn, smiling shyly.
That sincere affection made my cheeks heat up involuntarily.
But just at that moment—I felt all my hairs stand on end.
Feeling a sharp gaze of murderous intent, I forcefully spun around.
Switching my consciousness to combat mode, I picked up Tia in one arm and extended my right arm forward to create the dark matter required for a shield.
However... I could not see any enemy in the direction I felt the gaze. There was only the breakwater and coconut trees swaying in the wind.
I sharpened my senses even more and searched for human presences, but there seemed to be no one nearby.
Hence, I lowered my vigilance and put my hand down.
—Was it my imagination?
Midgardsormr was already restored. It was impossible for NIFL to infiltrate again like last time.
Inside Midgard here, there should not be anyone who intended to resolve the situation by killing Tia.
Judging from this situation, anyone would say it was my imagination no matter who I asked.
But I had survived battlefields all this time through my senses. My instincts told me that it was too early to dismiss that murderous intent as imagination.
—Things had become not very peaceful.
In another sense, I must not leave Tia now.
Just as I scanned the surroundings with my gaze, lost in thought, Tia called my face with her face gone red. Speaking of which, in order to protect from enemy attacks, I was hugging her forcefully. Hence, I hastily relaxed my force.
"Sorry Tia, does it feel very uncomfortable?"
"N-No, Tia is fine, but sorry, Tia doesn't know what to do next."
"What do you mean by... what to do next?"
"Eh...? Next up is that thing husbands and wives do together, right? Although it's so sudden, Tia was frightened, Tia is prepared now."
Realizing Tia had a huge misunderstanding, I could not find words to speak for a while.
"But Tia... knows nothing about that kind of thing. Tia is a failure of a wife. So... Husband needs to teach Tia. No matter what needs to be done, Tia will work as hard as possible."
Tia looked at me with moistened eyes, gripping my uniform tightly.
"Hey, no, it's wrong! I didn't mean that just now... B-Because there was a big wave, I was worried you'd get swept away, that's why—"
I would scare Tia if I brought up the murderous intent honestly, so I stammered a random excuse.
"...Really? Then Yuu was protecting Tia! Thank you, Yuu!"
The straightforward Tia believed me and thanked me with a pure smile. Although I found my reason quite contrived, she showed no signs of doubting.
Did Tia trust me so much because I saved her in a warzone? Or simply because I was a male D?
Still with no idea where Tia's affection for me came from, I could only turn my gaze away with an unsettled feeling, looking at the horizon where the sun was setting—
As soon as we returned to the dorm, I decided to begin tutoring Tia.
I had already gotten materials appropriate for Tia's level from Shinomiya-sensei, so I took Tia to my room and placed the textbooks and notebooks on the desk.
Elementary school curriculum apparently aimed to teach students how to write by hand, so materials were paper-based. For me who usually relied on a portable terminal during lessons, the touch of paper and pencil felt very nostalgic.
"...You really have to sit here after all."
Seeing Tia sit on my lap matter-of-factly, I could not help but sigh.
"Yes, because Tia is the wife."
Tia turned herself and looked up at me, smiling with a nod.
"...Normally speaking, even married couples don't stick together like this twenty-four hours a day."
"Other people are other people, we are us. Also, we are newlyweds."
"No, now that you mentioned it, I don't recall us getting married."
I pointed out the most fundamental point.
Tia showed surprise.
Did I bring it up too rashly? I could not help but feel frantic, but she immediately smiled.
"Now that you mention it, we... still haven't held the wedding! Yuu, when will it be held?"
"W-When... First of all, Tia, we can't marry at our age, right?"
"Human rules have nothing to do with us, because we are dragons."
Refuted by these unexpected words, I was speechless for a while.
No good, human logic did not work on Tia.
I had to get her to attend class normally by tomorrow. What should I do?
"......Tia, about this issue, let's discuss it later. Now's the time to be studying. Come, open the textbook."
After thinking for a while, in the end, I could only postpone the issue to resolve later.
"Eh... Then it's a promise? We will decide on the wedding date properly, okay?"
"If possible, I'd like to start the discussion from an earlier stage than that..."
Let alone changing her mind, I felt that I was the one being gradually forced into a corner.
While thinking of ways to reverse the current situation, I started teaching Tia.
As soon as she focused on studying, Tia became an excellent student. Reading passages from the text, she would ask whenever she did not understand any part, instantly absorbing the knowledge.
On the topic of languages, she was capable of using three languages, including Japanese, on the level of everyday conversation.
—It looked like she had a good teacher in the past.
Considering Tia's appearance, it was quite unlikely she was attending a normal school, but Tia was no less educated than peers from the same age group.
I originally thought that since her way of speaking Japanese was very child-like, her mental age was probably very childish too, but perhaps it was the opposite.
The tutoring went very smoothly. By dinner time, we had already finished what was planned for today.
At 7pm, Mitsuki had returned home and came to call us. We had dinner together in the dining hall.
"...Tia-san's education seems to be going poorly."
Seeing Tia treat my lap as her designated seat, Mitsuki remarked with disappointment.
"No, academics-wise, it's going very smoothly... It's just that teaching her to follow rules is very hard."
Hearing my answer, Mitsuki sighed.
"I understand. Then I shall take over education regarding rules, because I am the student council president, I cannot allow Tia-san to do as she pleases."
Thus, after dinner, Mitsuki started to educate Tia in my room.
"...That is why, Tia-san, by living a rule-abiding life at Midgard, only through that will the world recognize our existence—"
"That is something humans decided on their own. Tia is a dragon, it has nothing to do with Tia."
Confronted with Tia's dragon logic for who knew how many times, Mitsuki slumped her shoulders in dejection.
"I now understand your hardship very well, Nii-san."
Mitsuki showed an exhausted expression to me, who had become Tia's chair.
"I know right? No matter how we try to make her accept rules, it just doesn't work."
I remarked with a wry smile, feeling as though I had finally gained a comrade.
"She is truly a formidable opponent... Time sure flies. It is already past 9pm. Time to take a bath and clear our minds slightly."
Saying that, Mitsuki got up from her seat, but froze after hearing Tia's next comment.
"Then Tia will have a bath with Yuu!"
"This came after all..."
Pressing her hand to her forehead, Mitsuki murmured quietly.
"Tia, I'm begging, could you take a bath alone? Like going to the washroom, I'll wait outside."
I tried to ask her as gently as possible but Tia shook her head forcefully.
"No! Tia wants to have a bath with Yuu! The husband has to be with the wife at all times!"
"...Why do you hate separating from me so much, Tia? I'm not going away, you know?"
I steeled myself and tried asking, prompting Tia to show a gloomy expression.
"No... If Tia is not at your side, you'll disappear for sure."
I did not quite understand what she meant, so I repeated the same word as a question, but Tia kept her lips shut tight and refused to answer.
Silently, she gripped my clothing, refusing to budge even if the sky were to come crashing down.
"Understood, then it cannot be helped..."
Hearing Mitsuki say that, I jumped in surprise.
"Eh? No way? You allow it?"
I really could not believe that Mitsuki, the student council president, would permit a mixed gender bath. When the fact that Iris helped scrubbed my back came to light, I was punished to write a huge number of repentance essays.
"Yes, but on one condition. I basically predicted this, hence I came prepared. Please wait a moment, Nii-san."
Saying that, Mitsuki left the room and soon returned with certain articles in her arms.
I pointed at what Mitsuki had brought and asked.
"Swimsuits and pajamas."
Mitsuki answered with a serious face. Figuring out what she meant, I frowned.
"......Swimsuits make it okay?"
This was quite a huge compromise on Mitsuki's part, I thought, so I confirmed with her.
"The swimsuits are school prescribed, so just think of it as entering a hot spring and there should not be a problem with public morals. H-However, because I am responsible for supervising, I must be present too."
Blushing, Mitsuki said something even more unexpected.
"What... You're taking a bath with us too, Mitsuki?"
"—Is there any problem? Do you prefer to be alone with Tia-san, enjoying a lovey-dovey bathtime together?"
"H-How could I possibly think that!?"
I frantically denied. However—I somehow could not stay calm as soon as the thought of taking a bath with Mitsuki crossed my mind. Mitsuki was my sister, so there should be no reason to be so concerned.
"In that case, there is no problem, right? I will enter the bath with Nii-san too."
The central topic should be Tia, so her way of putting it made me feel a sense of dissonance. But due to Mitsuki's intimidating gaze, I nodded in agreement without pointing it out.
"Very well, bath time it is."
Mitsuki declared with elation. Somehow, she sounded inexplicably happy.
Perhaps she was remembering things from childhood.
—Eh? However... Did I ever take baths with Mitsuki before?
If we were siblings, bathing together as children should be quite normal.
But no matter how hard I thought, I still could not find memories of that sort—
"Sure enough, three people in a bath is very crowded..."
Having changed into a school swimsuit, Mitsuki surveyed the bathroom and remarked. The form-fitting navy-blue swimsuit served as a perfect foil to emphasize Mitsuki's snow-white complexion and slender figure.
"This is a swimsuit...? So tight, it feels weird."
Tia seemed like she had never worn one before. With curiosity, she pulled at her shoulder strap.
What drew my gaze was the red dragon mark on Tia's thigh.
—Once targeted by Basilisk, the dragon mark would turn red.
It was white in Iris' case, which seemed to imply that the D's symptoms would vary depending on the dragon.
"...Nii-san, your gaze is very suspicious."
Just as I was staring at Tia's dragon mark, Mitsuki pulled me by the ear.
Naturally, I was wearing swimming trunks. It felt quite out of place to be wearing swimsuits in a bathroom, but perhaps due to the presence of two girls, there seemed to be a sweet fragrance drifting in the air.
This was a single room's bathroom, hence it was never designed to accommodate multiple people bathing in the first place. With three people inside, there was no space left for rinsing oneself. Mitsuki seemed to realize the same thing while staring at the cramped bathroom with a troubled look.
"Three people rinsing together seems too hard. Nii-san, please enter the tub first. We will switch later."
I poured hot water over myself to briefly wash away the sweat before stepping into the tub. Then I soaked myself up to the shoulders. As a result, the water level rose to almost overflowing.
"Ah, Tia wants a soak too!"
I finally had some space to myself but Tia jumped into the tub. With a massive splash, hot water spilled all over the floor.
"Hey, Tia-san, what are you doing!? You have to rinse your body together with me first!"
Hearing Mitsuki scold her, Tia pouted.
"No, Tia has to be with Yuu."
Saying that, Tia leaned herself against me in the tub.
"T-Tia, don't lean in so close."
The sensation of soft skin, transmitted through the swimsuit, was making me waver.
And left behind, Mitsuki stood there stunned for a moment before speaking in a determined voice:
"In that case... I shall join in too."
Mitsuki forced herself into the tub. Naturally, since this was not meant to be a bathtub for three, it became extremely crowded. Everyone was pressed together while the tub's hot water flowed out.
Feeling something soft against my shoulder, I hastily changed my posture, but this time, my knee went between Mitsuki's thighs.
"Ah... N-Nii-san... Not there, please."
Every move of the body caused friction between skin and swimsuits.
Mitsuki exhaled hot breath.
Tia happily leaned herself against me.
Unable to move, I could only surrender to the two of them.
"Three people is too much of a stretch. Could one of you please go out?"
"No, Tia will not leave Yuu."
Tia wrapped her slender arms around me.
"...If Tia-san will not go out, I shall not leave either, because I am in charge of supervising... By the way, you two are leaning too close together."
Mitsuki kept pushing her body over, trying to get between me and Tia.
Her swimsuit slid down slightly, exposing the valley between her petite yet beautifully shaped breasts.
"Jeez, don't get in the way."
Tia resisted intensely, hugging me even tighter. This scene in the narrow bathtub was almost like a game of sardines-in-the-box.
"I-If you two aren't going out, I'm leaving."
To me, they were Tia, who was just a child, and Mitsuki, my younger sister.
I originally thought that I would not feel especially conscious like with Iris... But I found it unbearable. Despite soaking in the hot water only for so short a time, my face was already too hot to bear.
"No! The husband cannot run away and leave the wife behind!"
But Tia pounced on me, refusing to let me escape.
"Tia-san will follow you if you leave, Nii-san, so the situation will remain the same. If you are leaving the tub, Nii-san, please wait until you warm up more. If either of you were to catch a cold, I would be to blame for failure in management."
Saying that, Mitsuki grabbed my arm to keep me here.
My body was already burning but Mitsuki's words and gaze had a kind power impossible to resist. Reluctantly, I sat down in the bathtub.
Then after roughly ten minutes—until the happy and excited Tia went dizzy from the heat—I kept enduring, left with no choice but to keep my mind blank to prevent unwanted thoughts.
"She is sleeping so soundly."
Looking at Tia lying on my bed in pajamas, sound asleep, Mitsuki smiled.
"...Now I'm finally liberated."
I exhaled deeply, collapsing completely in the chair in front of the desk.
"You worked hard, Nii-san."
Mitsuki praised me with a wry smile then sat down on the bed's edge.
After the bath, we changed into our respective pajamas and drank cold drinks to soothe our throats... By the time we realized, Tia had already started nodding off drowsily .
Anyway, we laid her out on my bed and she fell asleep in the blink of an eye.
"But the mission failed. In the end, I still haven't convinced her."
Most likely in class tomorrow, Tia was still planning to sit on my lap.
"Likewise, I have failed to teach Tia-san to abide by rules. I shall explain to Shinomiya-sensei tomorrow to ask for an extension."
"Thank you, Mitsuki, then I'm saved. However... Unless we find a way to resolve the problem of Tia believing herself to be a dragon, it's probably a waste of effort no matter how much time we spend trying to convince her."
Rules decided by humans were irrelevant to dragons—These words rendered all arguments moot.
"...To be honest, I did not expect her to be such a stubborn child at all. I was told that she did not resist at all, no matter when NIFL took her into custody or when she was transported to Midgard to be examined. Always expressionless, she listened obediently to others."
"That's such a far cry from right now."
Tia's face was always busy making all kinds of expressions. While spinning in circles because of her, I could hardly imagine such a description applying to her.
"Yes, like a completely different person compared to what we saw of her during the full-school assembly. In the beginning, I thought she was reticent and obedient child..."
"In other words, your 'Ds are human' assertion was something Tia found intolerable, to the point of causing a drastic change in personality. Mitsuki, do you know what kind of environment Tia lived in previously?"
Mitsuki glanced at Tia after hearing my question.
"—Before lessons ended, I asked Shinomiya-sensei to tell me in as much detail as possible. Tia-san seems to be sleeping soundly, so it should be fine to discuss the matter now. Because there are things I would be reluctant for her to hear."
Hearing her say that, I frowned.
"Did Tia have some kind of traumatic experience?"
Tia's belief had similarities with D-rejecting organizations. I was worried whether she might have been captured by that type of organization at one point.
However, Mitsuki shook her head slowly.
"—No, it happens to be the opposite. Tia-san used to be worshiped."
"Reportedly, when NIFL's team discovered Tia-san, it was in a military vehicle belonging to the dragon worshiping cult, the Sons of Muspell."
Hearing that name, I could not help but gasp.
"The Sons of Muspell... Isn't that the world's most vicious terrorist organization?"
So-called dragon cultists were polar opposites in ideology compared to D-rejecting organizations. They revered and worshiped dragons, the monsters transcending human wisdom, as gods. In a certain sense, it was only inevitable for new religions like this to arise in a world threatened by dragons.
So-called worship was a method to escape from absolute fear. Believing themselves to be apostles of dragons, it provided them with mental stability.
Out of the dragon cults of this sort, the Sons of Muspell was the largest sect and was the most radical in their thinking. They launched terrorist attacks against countries and organizations that attempted to defeat dragons, obstructing them persistently. Naturally, Asgard and NIFL were also targets for them.
"Did you ever come across the Sons of Muspell, Nii-san?"
Perhaps sensing something from my bitter tone, Mitsuki asked me hesitantly.
"...Yeah, because they would sneak into countries where dragon disasters had occurred, trying to gain followers, so it was inevitable that they came into conflict with NIFL. I have received orders in the past to immediately eliminate the D who is their leader as soon as she is discovered."
"Eh...? Their leader is a D."
Seeing Mitsuki's eyes widened from surprise, I explained to her.
"This was not disclosed publicly, but the leader of the Sons of Muspell is a D who had been deemed a disaster. Her name is Kili Surtr Muspelheim. She has killed far more humans than the dragons and is feared as a witch in NIFL. However, I've never met her."
If I met her, it would definitely turn into a killed or be killed situation. The reason why I could keep my hands clean was also because I had never encountered her.
"No way... To think a D was leading a terrorist organization."
Mitsuki's voice trembled, greatly shaken.
"The Ds' position in society would probably be endangered if this comes to light. That's why Midgard and other benefactor countries have engaged in information control. It's normal that you haven't heard of it."
"...But why would a D want to worship dragons? They are clearly our enemies."
Mitsuki asked in puzzlement.
"The dragonification of Ds is top secret, right? So they simply don't know about this... Or even after knowing it, they still want to become dragons."
"The former I could understand... But it is the latter, I find it incomprehensible."
"Well, who can understand how terrorists think? However... Judging from Tia's behavior, it's very likely that their organization knows about dragonification."
Tia said she was born to be a dragon's wife.
Those words probably did not mean marrying a male D like me, but referred to being a real dragon's mate like for Basilisk for example.
To increase the number of dragons, dragon cultists had indoctrinated Tia like that. Things made sense if that was the case.
"So the reason why Tia-san insists she is a dragon is because of that...?"
"Hard to say...? How should I put this? Because I don't think Tia is the kind of person who believes everything others say without question."
When tutoring her today, I came to understand that Tia was a smart child who always took initiative to ask questions about what she did not understand, trying to comprehend them. Always seeking knowledge with basis, would she unquestioningly accept those absurd teachings of dragon cultists?
"Indeed... The impression I gather from Tia-san is that she was forced to convince herself to believe rather than sincerely believing she is a dragon."
—Convince herself to believe... huh?
Indeed, throwing a tantrum in response to allegations was evidence of uncertainty in one's heart.
Humans sometimes worshiped things as gods, even when they were monsters like dragons, trying to believe the impossible. If Tia was believing herself to be a dragon in order to maintain mental stability... Then by doing this, what was she running away from?
"Mitsuki, were her parents by her side when they found Tia?"
I asked because I recalled what happened at the beach. Tia seemed to react quite strongly to the subject of her parents. Perhaps that might have something to do with Tia's condition.
"I have no idea. At least according to what I heard, there was no information regarding Tia-san's parents."
"I see... Then I guess I'll have to ask her directly."
I looked at Tia's sleeping face and said.
"She is already asleep now, so ask her tomorrow. Well then, it is time for us to sleep too."
Saying that, Mitsuki lay down next to Tia.
"Huh...? You're sleeping here too, Mitsuki?"
Seeing Mitsuki lying down in an unguarded state, I asked her in surprise.
"It is probably a bad idea to separating Tia-san from you while she is asleep. But that being said, I cannot allow the two of you to be alone."
"No, but this bed is too small for three people to sleep in."
"...What are you talking about? Nii-san, you are sleeping on the floor. Please head over to the unused room next door to move the bedding over. Nii-san, you really have been lacking in delicacy lately."
Rebutted with her cold gaze, I felt my cheeks grow hot.
Because the three of us had bathed together, I mistakenly thought that the bed needed to be shared between the three of us too.
"I-I know, I was just kidding."
I frantically explained myself then headed out to move the futon over.
"...Nii-san in the past would have suggested this kind of thing himself—"
Just as I was about to leave the room, I heard Mitsuki's murmurs to herself, lingering in my ear the whole time.
Had I really changed?
However, I had no way of telling whether the "past" Mitsuki mentioned was referring to three years ago or three weeks ago, before the battle against Leviathan?
"...Nii-san, are you asleep?"
Inside the dark room, I heard Mitsuki's quiet whispering.
I had the futon laid out on the floor and had closed my eyes originally. I immediately fought off my drowsiness and opened my eyelids.
I answered briefly. I could not see Mitsuki on the bed from my position. Faint breathing noises from sleeping could be heard, probably Tia's.
"The last time we slept in the same room like this, who knows how many years ago it was...?"
Mitsuki voice entered my ear, reminiscing about the past.
"I don't know either... Probably when we were small."
Unable to recall something so far back, I could only answer ambiguously.
"Yes... Because our rooms were separate. Perhaps... even earlier than that promise."
Not knowing what she was referring to, I frowned.
Mitsuki had brought up "that promise" so matter-of-factly just now. By the tone of her voice, she believed I would understand just from her saying that.
However... Why did I feel so troubled?
Just as I was struggling to find an answer, Mitsuki continued:
"Nii-san... Tia-san calling you husband makes you happy, right?"
"What...? How could that be true!?"
I denied frantically. I could not accept that even my younger sister suspected me of being a lolicon.
"Really...? The way I see it, Nii-san, you do not seem too opposed to it, right?"
"Come on, you..."
"Fufu, just kidding. Nii-san... the one you like is Iris-san, am I correct?"
Hearing what Mitsuki said, I felt my heart jump intensely.
"W-Why are you bringing up Iris now?
"No? Nii-san, you seem very conscious of Iris-san..."
Realizing she had seen through me long ago, I felt my blood rush to my face.
"No umm... Because a lot of things happened... I became a bit conscious of her... But it's not like what you think, Mitsuki."
Although for Iris, it was a show of gratitude, of course losing my first kiss to her made me conscious of her. But apart from that, I was not quite sure—At least, not quite sure yet.
"...I understand, let us assume that is the case for now. However... Please do not forget that inappropriate interactions between genders are strictly forbidden, okay?"
I was quite relieved that she did not pursue the matter deeply. But after that, Mitsuki added something surprising.
"Still... If there is nothing inappropriate, it is fine."
I asked in surprise.
"Midgard does not forbid dating, so there is no need to hide your feelings, Nii-san, and no need to... feel bound by that promise."
Her voice sounded full of sorrow.
I could only stay silent, unable to say a word. I did not understand what Mitsuki was talking about.
No matter how I thought about it, I still could not understand what "that promise" referred to, so I was unable to answer.
So I did lose something?
I could not look away anymore. Clenching my fist, I accepted reality.
Three years ago, the price I paid for obtaining power was losing many memories... Even so, things about Mitsuki were the only memories I did not forget.
Three weeks ago, when connecting to Yggdrasil again during the battle against Leviathan, I also believed that I would not forget my memories with Mitsuki.
Although my childhood memories were fuzzy, I optimistically assumed this went for everyone.
But I had probably lost very precious memories.
The promise brought up by Mitsuki unsuspectingly, convinced that I knew what she was talking about, could not possibly be the kind of promise that would be accidentally forgotten.
"...Sorry, Nii-san, for talking for so long..."
Mitsuki apologized to me with wryness in her voice.
I answered briefly in a hoarse voice. That was all I could manage.
I suppressed my feelings and answered her. After the conversation ended, the dark room returned to silence.
—Things had gone beyond recovery. Back when I sought new power, I should have prepared myself that it could turn out like this.
Hence, what I must do was prevent Mitsuki from discovering I had lost memories, prevent her from feeling she was to blame, prevent her from feeling sad, prevent her from showing suffering on her face—
Warning myself that, I closed my eyes.
Hoping for sleep to ease the pain in my chest, I allowed my consciousness to gradually sink into the abyss.
However—my day of spinning around in circles because of Tia had not ended yet.
Late that night, I was roused by yelling.
"Where!? Where is Yuu!?"
"Calm down! Please calm down, Tia-san!"
Light kept flashing in the room with popping sounds. I frantically jumped up to see Tia on the bed in a panic. Bubbles of dark matter were surging forth, turning into electrical currents, sparking everywhere.
As soon as I called her name, Tia instantly stopped.
The flow of dark matter halted and the intense lightning also ceased. I stood up and turned on the room's light.
Tia pounced on me from the bed. I caught her tiny body.
"Thank goodness! Thank goodness! Tia thought... Even Yuu disappeared."
Tia rested her forehead against my chest and spoke in a trembling voice.
"Phew... I was thinking something might have happened."
Perhaps relieved, Mitsuki sat down on the bed, exhaling deeply.
"Tia, I'm here, so it's okay."
I gently stroked the two horns on her head to soothe her emotions.
I never expected her to panic so much just because she could not see me when she woke up. It looked like not moving her while she was sleeping was correct, but this reaction was way too sensitive.
"Yuu... Yuu... Yuu!"
Tia kept calling my name. I patted her on the shoulder and said to her slowly:
"Tia, what's making you so afraid? You refuse to leave me because you're afraid I'll disappear, right?"
Tia looked up but kept her lips shut tightly, refusing to say a single word.
"Please answer me. I'm worried about you, Tia."
I stared directly into her eyes and spoke to her. The very depths of her red eyes wavering, Tia spoke with trembling lips:
"...Yes, because Tia doesn't want Yuu to disappear... So Tia will protect Yuu."
"Protect? Tia, you want to protect me?"
Hearing something unexpected, I asked in surprise.
Tia nodded lightly in confirmation.
"Precious things must be protected personally, once they disappear... It's too late, impossible to get back no matter what."
Impossible to get back after disappearing. Too late.
Tia's words shook my heart. I realized there was a gap in my heart from losing that promise with Mitsuki.
—This girl had lost something precious, just like me.
"I see... I finally understand you a bit, Tia. Thank you for protecting me, but you're mistaken on a few counts."
Tia made a surprised face and cocked her head in puzzlement.
Now was the chance to persuade her. Since I knew what motivated Tia's actions, it was easy to think of solutions.
"Yes, I'm not so weak that I need you to protect me, Tia. I can protect my own life."
"But... No matter how strong you are, there might be even stronger enemies. That's why if Tia is protecting you, it will be safer."
"Well, that's not wrong..."
Tia's logic was correct. Looking at me, Mitsuki's eyes seemed to be saying: Nii-san, what are you doing?
Originally I thought that I could reassure her by proving I was not weak, but it looked like I had to change the conversation's direction.
"...But Tia, now that you mention it, no one will attack me here in Midgard. So there's no need for you to protect me so desperately."
There was nothing threatening my life. Rather, it was Tia who had people after her life. I recalled the feeling of murderous intent at the beach and continued my attempt to persuade her.
"Who knows. Perhaps some people pretend to be good kids but are actually planning bad things."
She was using correct logic to reply to me again. But this time, I did not back down.
"That's right, I can't say for certain there are no bad people, but Mitsuki and Iris are different. Even if it's just the classmates in our homeroom, could you please trust them?"
"...Can't do it. Maybe Mitsuki... But Tia doesn't know what other people are thinking."
Tia shook her head with a stiff expression and refused.
"In that case, you need to make friends with them until you understand them. If you can trust all of us, then you can relax in the classroom and the dorm."
"Yeah, so tomorrow, try talking more to everyone, okay?"
Hearing my suggestion, Tia asked very uneasily:
"...Yuu trusts everyone?"
"I trust them. Iris is a very honest and upstanding person. Lisa and the others are people who step forward to fight for their friends. At least, I don't feel wary of them."
When Iris was targeted by Leviathan, Lisa and the others had fought to protect her as though it was the most natural thing in the world. They had said that classmates in the same homeroom were family and truly cared about her from the bottom of their hearts.
On the battlefield, humans would show their true nature. Precisely because of that, I did not doubt the truthfulness of what I witness on battlefields.
"If I become friends with everyone, Yuu will be happy?"
"Yes, I'll be very happy."
"...Got it, since Yuu... the husband says so, Tia will try it. Because Tia... hopes to make Yuu happy."
Tia answered quietly.
I could not help but exchange gazes with Mitsuki.
"Finally a step forward."
Mitsuki remarked with relief.
"Yeah... By the way, Mitsuki, is there practical training tomorrow?"
"Yes, third and fourth periods are for practicing normal powers, while the afternoon is a special joint drill in preparation for the battle against Basilisk. Why do you ask?"
"Nothing much, I think that practicals are different from lectures and there will be more chances to interact with everyone. Since there are that many practical lessons, it's perfect. Tia—tomorrow will be very fun for sure."
I said that and smiled to Tia.
Tia's face showed inability to understand what I said. Head tilted, she yawned. She was probably sleepy again.
Then we switched off the light and went to bed again. However, it would be bad if Tia panicked again so I slept on the bed this time.
Squeezing onto the cramped bed with my back to them, I closed my eyes while feeling Mitsuki and Tia's breathing nearby.
The next morning, the three of us went to school. Just as we opened the door to the classroom...
I gave Tia's back a push and she greeted quietly.
Inside the classroom, Firill and Ariella turned their gazes to Tia. The others had yet to arrive.
Firill closed the paperback in her hand and responded with a somewhat surprised expression.
"Good morning, what a wonderful morning it is. I'm so happy that you greeted us on your own."
Ariella responded with a cheerful smile.
Feeling those two's gazes, Tia hid behind my back, unsure what to do.
But this was quite good for a start. Mitsuki and I also greeted them good morning then walked to our seats.
As soon as I sat down, Tia immediately took her seat on my lap.
"Yuu... Did Tia do well?"
"Yeah, very well, amazing."
I praised Tia and stroked her head.
Tia closed her eyes happily. Before she got along with everyone in harmony, this state seemed like it was going to persist.
I took out my portable terminal from my bag and pondered excuses to convince Shinomiya-sensei. Just at that moment, I noticed that Firill, whose seat was in the front row, was searching through her desk drawer.
Looking at her, I wondered what was up. But Firill took out a book from her desk then walked over to us.
Rather than me, Firill was looking at Tia while talking to her softly.
Tia replied nervously. Firill presented the book in her hand. A pretty girl was illustrated with delicate strokes on the cover. It seemed to be shoujo manga from Japan. Although Firill gave the impression of reading difficult novels all the time, it looked like manga was also in her strike zone.
"Here... I'm lending this to you, because I think that during class time... You're probably very bored."
"Is this really okay?"
"Yes... This manga is very interesting... I hope you'll have a look, Tia-san."
Tia looked alternately between Firill's face and the manga, then accepted the book timidly.
After handing the book to her, Firill simply returned to her seat while Tia looked down at the manga's cover with a perplexed look on her face.
Regarding Tia's special treatment, thanks to Mitsuki speaking on my behalf, Shinomiya-sensei agreed readily. Perhaps she already knew that a limit of one day was too difficult, but used this method on purpose to encourage me.
However, only Iris was unhappy, glaring at me from her seat as my neighbor.
"...Mononobe is my friend, right? We are the closest, right?"
Iris pouted and asked me.
"Well... That's true, I guess."
I scratched my cheek and concurred.
Excluding my younger sister Mitsuki as an exception, Iris was my closest friend indeed.
"In that case, I hope you'll let me sit on your lap too, Mononobe."
The wonderful fantasy surfaced in my mind, making me hesitate for a brief moment, but I shook my head in refusal.
"Ehhh!? Why not?"
"Iris, you're not a child."
"...Mononobe is so stingy."
Iris sulked and turned towards the window. She was probably trying hard to express her anger but that pouting face looked very cute from the side. If a girl like that sat on my lap, I had no confidence I could stay sane. I really hoped that Iris could be more aware of how attractive she was.
I sighed and observed Tia.
Were it yesterday, Tia probably would have complained about the dialogue just now, but she was currently silently reading the manga Firill had lent her.
Based on what I sneaked a peek from behind, it seemed to be a lighthearted romance manga with comedic elements.
After class started, Tia continued to read the manga with full focus, occasionally shaking as though suppressing laughter. Apart from that, she behaved very well the whole time, but as soon as she finished the manga, she started becoming restless.
Then when first period finished, Tia pulled my hand and walked over to Firill's seat.
"Here, thank you."
Tia timidly extended the manga she had borrowed.
"...What are your thoughts?"
Accepting the manga, Firill asked. Tia answered with a blush:
"Great read! Tia is reading this kind of book for the first time!"
"...Really? That's wonderful."
Firill relaxed her expression slightly.
"But it ended in the middle, what a shame..."
"...It hasn't ended yet. Do you want to read the continuation?"
Hearing that, Tia's face became radiant.
"Really!? There's a continuation? Tia really wants to read it!"
Firill took out the second volume of the same series from her desk and handed it to Tia.
"...Here, this is Volume 2. Volume 3 and beyond are in my dorm room... I'll bring them tomorrow."
"Thank you! Uh... Firill?"
"...Sure, you're welcome."
Hearing Tia call her name for the first time, Firil smiled gently and nodded at her.
Listening to Tia and Firill conversing, the other classmates gathered around.
"Oh, you're reading that manga too? I asked Firill to lend it to me before, it's great. Especially later when the protagonist—Mmmph!"
Ariella was about to give a spoiler when Ren covered her mouth, stopping her.
"Seriously... Ariella-san, you really need to learn to show some tact."
Lisa remarked with exasperation.
Then gathered around Tia, the girls began to chat enthusiastically about things related to manga. Tia originally seemed afraid, but gradually joined in with excitement.
I was ignored on the side but did not feel offended at all. Just seeing Tia chatting happily with everyone made me satisfied.
—Simply by not rejecting others, she made such a huge change.
Tia was not taking active steps yet but unlike me, who had transferred in as a man, Lisa and the others wanted to accept Tia proactively.
At this rate, she was going to quickly become a part of the class.
—Or rather, judging from this situation, I could tell how wary they were of me in the beginning.
Although it could not be helped, but this difference in treatment demoralized me somewhat.
Thus, Tia spent the second period reading manga as well. Third period was a practical conducted at a training site, requiring us to change to gym clothes. It was the same vast underground space used for the Basilisk battle test.
Due to everyone having different areas of specialty, this was essentially a time for individual training, but Tia had to begin with the basics first.
"Tia-san's instruction must not be left to Mononobe Yuu who only transferred in recently. Hence, I shall teach her personally."
While everyone scattered in the training site to start training, only Lisa walked towards us, volunteering to be the teacher.
"T-Thank you... Lisa."
Perhaps thanks to the manga giving them a chance to chat for a bit earlier, Tia called her name directly and thanked her.
"Lisa, I'm counting on you."
Tia refused to leave me, so naturally, I had to join in the lesson with her.
"...Although I have no intention of looking after you as well, this cannot be helped. First of all, I shall teach you the key principles to making a fictional armament."
Tia widened her eyes, tilting her head in puzzlement.
"To perform transmutation more precisely and efficiently, we have to shape the dark matter into a weapon. This is my fictional armament—Gungnir."
Lisa extended her palm. Immediately, a golden spear manifested out of thin air. Instead of generating dark matter then altering its form, it seemed like she had generated dark matter directly in the spear's shape, technique that required substantial mastery.
"Dark matter is strongly affected by the human will. This spear can be considered my feelings during battle, the ultimate spear that can pierce and destroy all enemies—Hence, its attacks are the strongest, of course! Through this chain of imagination, you can increase the power of your attacks."
Holding the spear, Lisa entered a stance and said.
—Feelings during battle huh...
This explanation was very apt, perhaps I could use it for reference when making fictional armaments from now on.
"But this is merely the stage before battle. If you obsess over altering the dark matter's shape, transmutation would occur at that point in time. Hence, what you should imagine is the outline of the mind, rather than dark matter, to meticulously create your own form in battle."
"Own form in battle... But Tia has never used a spear or a sword and don't know what to use for a weapon."
Tia stared at her palms and murmured.
"This does not require martial arts experience. Just imagine yourself in a stronger form. First of all, please generate dark matter while imagining yourself wielding the strongest power. With that, the dark matter will naturally take form."
Tia nodded after hearing Lisa's suggestion.
"Okay.. Tia will try!"
Tia closed her eyes and began to focus. Numerous bubbles of dark matter manifested in her surroundings.
However, I should have noticed at this time. Just by thinking carefully about what kind of girl Tia was, I should have been able to predict what was going to happen next.
Tia's dark matter gathered together piece by piece, gradually forming a massive clump.
"That's the way, slowly, carefully, no need to rush."
Lisa watched Tia while speaking to her. But when the expanding clump of dark matter gathered around Tia's body, Lisa frowned in surprise.
—I thought things were finally on track. Optimistically, I thought that once Tia got along with everyone, soon enough, she would be fine even if separated from me, be it in the classroom or the dorm.
But the root issue had not been resolved.
There was a decisive gulf between Tia and us that needed to be bridged.
Tia believed she was a dragon, not a human.
With such a belief, what would result from her attempt to create a fictional armament—we totally failed to consider that.
The black bubbles of dark matter finally surrounded Tia's entire body.
Seeing an even larger mass of dark matter, Lisa stepped back. I simply stared at the scene in shock, no knowing what was happening.
Raging winds were blowing with Tia in the center. Continuing to expand, the dark matter floated into the air.
Originally black spheres, the dark matter gradually distorted in outline and changed shape.
The spreading wings seemed to cover our heads, while there was a long tail extending out.
A tall body, almost reaching the ceiling of the training site, dozens of meters tall.
That kind of figure—A dragon's.
It did not seem to be a materialized dragon. Its outline was shifting unsteadily like a mirage.
However, minor transmutation had occurred on the surface. The dragon's entire body shone with red light.
Only then did I realize that this was Tia's fictional armament.
It was what Tia imagined as her fierce self, her strongest form.
I transmuted dark matter into wind and yelled at the red dragon floating in the air.
The dragon turned its gaze towards me.
The loud roaring reverberated throughout the training site. Then immediately, a thunderstorm swept through the entire surroundings.
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