Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 3 Chapter 1
Chapter 1 - The Invading Basilisk
Somehow, I found myself having trouble breathing. My body was unable to move.
Every breath I took came with a whiff of fragrance.
Although smothered, it did not feel unpleasant at all. With that kind of unbelievable feeling, I opened my eyes slightly.
Then I was so surprised that I even forgot to breathe.
In front of my eyes was pale skin. Tender as a newborn baby's, skin giving off a fragrant scent—A voluptuous bust was covering my face.
Someone was calling my name lightly next to my ear. It seemed like someone was hugging me.
As for that someone—I was 80-90% sure it was Iris.
Without looking at her face, I could instantly tell from her voice.
Iris Freyja was my classmate in Brynhildr Class, a beautiful maiden with sparkling silver hair.
She was also the only person who had given me the taste of a kiss.
But that was like a reward gift—Although Iris and I were good friends, it was not the kind of relationship where we could be locked passionately in embrace like this in bed.
Hence, my mind was in turmoil. Despite trying to figure out the situation, I could not think properly.
Iris' bodily scent and soft bosom was blanking out my mind.
"Ah... Mononobe... Mmm..."
Hearing Iris' voice next to my ear, my back shuddered.
It felt like someone was using her fingers to comb my hair. Iris was apparently awake.
Then I heard the sound of someone sniffing.
"Mononobe's smell, sure enough... it's so soothing..."
Iris buried her face in my hair, exhaling hot breath.
I shifted my gaze to confirm. Although Iris had her top unbuttoned, she essentially still had her clothes on. She was wearing her school uniform.
My view was dominated by Iris' chest, which prevented me from acquiring more detailed information. But as my brain started to operate after waking up, I recalled that this was a sickroom in the medical building rather than my own room.
I was injured during the battle five days earlier—in other words, "Blue" Hekatonkheir and Kili's attack on Midgard, which was why I was currently under treatment in the medical building.
Although the more heavily injured left shoulder still could not move, the fever arising from my wounds had subsided. Starting today, I could attend classes. Hence, I was scheduled to be discharged today if there were not problems.
"...Mononobe will feel soothed too, right... Hugging you like this... You'll forget your pain and suffering, right...?"
Iris hugged my head tightly, burying the tip of my nose in her cleavage. It felt very soft, warm and comfortable—even though I was almost about to suffocate.
I heard the beat of Iris' heart. Or was this my own heartbeat?
"Don't worry, Mononobe... You won't have nightmares as long as someone is by your side... Because I didn't have nightmares that time."
Iris was probably talking about the time when "White" Leviathan had targeted her. To help her feel at ease, I had lent my back for her to lean on.
—Maybe I was having a nightmare earlier.
Although I had no recollection of it, that was probably the case. Now that the painkiller's effect had subsided, my left shoulder was hurting. It did not come as a surprise that I would have nightmares in such a state.
I guessed that Iris was doing this to put me at ease. After figuring out the reason, I was not longer panicking but that still did not change the situation.
Or perhaps, now that I had less to think about and occupy my mind, I became even more strongly conscious of Iris' body warmth.
Iris relaxed her embrace slightly, murmuring softly to herself:
"However... For some reason, even though my emotions are clearly calm... my body is getting hot—something seems to be tugging at my heart... even though it didn't happen before... it doesn't feel right somehow... so weird... hmm—"
Iris' exhaled breaths were hot. She moved, causing our bodies, in close contact, to touch and rub against each other, forcing me to hold my breath for several seconds. Had I not done that, I might have succumbed to an indescribable impulse.
"Ah... Mmm... Mononobe..."
Iris moved restlessly, calling my name in a somewhat lamenting manner.
Iris' heart had been beating fast since a while ago. My heart was beating madly too.
At this rate, it was only a matter of time before I lost self-control. But under such conditions, even if I told her I had already woken up, I had a feeling that it would still bring about something irrevocable.
Iris exhaled hot breath and sandwiched my face between her soft breasts. I understood that there was no time to lose, so I called upon my inexperienced "acting skills."
I deliberately groaned as a hint to Iris that I was about to wake up.
Iris immediately screamed and released my head. Normally speaking, I should have woken up from her cry but I continued to pretend I was still asleep.
"M-Mononobe, don't wake up yet! Don't wake up!"
Iris frantically climbed off the bed. As reluctant as I was to leave her body warmth, I did not try to make her stay. Then after counting thirty seconds silently in my mind, I opened my eyes lightly with caution.
"G-Good morning, Mononobe!"
Iris was sitting in a chair next to the bed, smiling stiffly as she greeted me. Her face was still flushed red but I deliberately pretended not to notice and responded:
"Good morning, Iris, why did you come here this early in the morning...?"
Seeing that her unbuttoned top was already fixed up, I secretly felt relieved and asked her that. At the moment, the digital clock on the side of the sickbed read 6am.
"Oh, umm, Mononobe, you're going to class starting today, right? So I wanted to welcome you back!"
"Welcome me back... I'm happy you're doing that but isn't it a bit too early?"
Although Iris' busty embrace had swept all sense of drowsiness from me, I would normally be asleep at this hour.
"Oh, right, actually I was planning to wake you up later. So... I'm sorry. If you're still sleepy, you can continue sleeping, you know?"
Iris spoke apologetically.
"It's okay, I feel particularly energized waking up today so I'm not sleepy. This is probably because—I had a good dream."
Iris replied happily, a smile blooming on her face.
It was probably thanks to Iris that I did not remember the contents of my nightmare. Surely, it was Iris' heartbeat and body warmth that had driven away my feelings of suffering.
But since I could not thank her directly while feigning ignorance, my only choice was to tell a little lie and say I had a good dream.
No, in actual fact after waking up, I really did enjoy a wonderful dream.
I could not help but recall Iris' snow-white skin, so I hastily shook my head to drive those thoughts away.
"Mononobe, what's with you? Do you know that your face is very red?"
Despite her own red face, Iris asked me with puzzlement.
I suppressed the urge to retort, avoided eye contact and said "it's nothing."
"Really? Then since you have to get up, Mononobe, why don't I help you change? Your left arm can't move, so it must be inconvenient, right?"
Iris stood up from her seat and brought over the school uniform that was hanging in the closet. My sister Mitsuki had brought this uniform from the dorm for me yesterday.
"Sure, that'd be a great help—"
However, I stopped mid-sentence. I discovered there would be a serious problem if she helped me to change.
"—No wait, forget it! I can get changed on my own!"
Not only had I just woken up, I had also viewed Iris' tender skin up close immediately after waking up. How could I calm down immediately? If I undressed under such conditions, things would be extremely bad.
"Jeez, Mononobe, you're a patient. You're not allowed to act polite towards me. If you move forcefully, your wound might open up."
Iris had a very good point. Unless I told her the real reason, she was probably not going to be dissuaded. But that would only make the mood turn embarrassing. This was foreseeable too.
"T-That's right, but... there might be an examination in the morning, so it's fine to get changed after that..."
Since I could not find an excuse, I tried to stall for time so that I could calm down first.
"Oh, I asked the nurse about that already. She said you just need to make a visit to the infirmary before going to class. Also, I heard that breakfast will be served at the school cafeteria, so let's go together after you're done changing."
Iris smiled with 100% benevolent intentions. Given her carelessness, this was quite well thought out of her, but it mercilessly sealed off my avenues of escape.
Just as I was breaking out in cold sweat, thinking of excuses, Iris peered at my face as though she figured out something.
"Mononobe, don't tell me... you're shy about getting undressed by me?"
Iris was not far from the truth, rendering me speechless. Immediately, she made an expression as though a great idea had occurred to her and chuckled.
"I see, so Mononobe gets shy too! I was so embarrassed when you saw me naked, Mononobe, with this we'll be even."
Perhaps as revenge for that time, Iris gleefully reached towards my clothing.
"H-Hey, wait! Wait first, just a short while!"
"No, don't move recklessly or it'll affect your injuries, okay? Don't move."
Iris climbed onto the bed and pinned me down lightly. Then straddling directly me like that, she began to unbutton my light-green hospital gown.
"Fufu, it feels like you're a bit cute today, Mononobe, hmm... Weird? What is this...? It feels like something's poking my bum—"
Just as the situation turned desperate, the sickroom's door was opened loudly.
"Ah! What are you doing, Iris!?"
The petite little girl with horns on her head entered the room and yelled loudly.
Saying she had horns on her head was not a metaphor for anger. Rather, it was a true description of her appearance. A D named Tia Lightning. Her age would put her in elementary school, but due to various reasons, she had transferred into Brynhildr Class where I studied.
Shaking her beautiful fluttering hair, which looked pink in the light, Tia rushed over to the side of my bed.
"Yuu will become Tia's husband! S-So, not allowed to do dirty thing with anyone apart from the wife!"
Tia climbed on the bed and pushed aside Iris, who was straddling me.
"W-We're not doing anything dirty. I just wanted to help Mononobe get changed!"
Iris exchanged glares with Tia across me, but her face was still blushing.
Because she realized what the scene looked like to others, with her straddling and undressing me.
"Then Tia will help Yuu change too! Because taking care of the husband is the wife's job!!"
"You haven't married Monobe, Tia, so you don't have that kind of priority! So first come first served. I tried very hard today to get up early!"
Refusing to back down against the aggressive Tia, Iris retorted and argued.
I could almost see sparks flying between them. No, there really could be sparks because Tia had a bad habit. Whenever she got emotional, she would subconsciously generate dark matter, converting it into electrical currents.
Without interjecting thoughtlessly, I quietly watched them argue.
Normally, I would have intervened to stop them, but right now, what I needed most was time.
After roughly ten minutes, Iris and Tia finally reached an agreement. They would cooperate and take turns to assist me in changing.
During those ten minutes, I finally managed to settle down.
Twenty-five years ago, the first dragon—"Black" Vritra—made its appearance in the sky above Japan.
Ever since, children possessing the same power as Vritra—the Ds with the ability to generate dark matter—were born among humans. The tropical island where they were gathered was Midgard here.
When Midgard was first established, it leaned heavily towards a detention facility in purpose, but now, it had become a self-governed organization with massive influence over the world.
There was extremely high economic value in the ability to transmute dark matter into any substance. Hence, Ds contributed to society by using their powers to undertake jobs to produce rare resources.
However, Midgard also had an undisclosed function. Namely, to intercept and defeat dragons that were attacking in search of mates.
Targeted Ds would turn into the same type of dragon when they came into contact with the dragon targeting them. Currently a target, Tia Lightning was sitting on my lap.
The red dragon—"Red" Basilisk—had chosen Tia and was apparently crossing the African continent right now in pursuit of her. However, there was an ocean between Midgard and the continent, hence, it was still unknown whether Basilisk would cross the ocean, seeing as its body structure was not suited to swimming.
"Here, say ah—"
Sitting sideways on my lap—more precisely, on my thigh—Tia was bringing a sandwich towards me with an innocent and pure smile on her face.
She looked completely carefree but until five days ago, she had been insisting she was a dragon, thus raising a huge wall between herself and the other Ds.
But in response to her classmates' gentle treatment, Tia had by her own will rejected Kili, the leader of the dragon worshiping cult the Sons of Muspell, thus choosing to live with us as a human. That was why she was staying here now.
Initially, Tia had refused to leave my side but because I was hospitalized, she was currently living with her classmate Lisa in the student dormitories.
"Yuu, hurry up."
Asking me to indulge her, Tia urged me to open my mouth. Although she was now getting along well with others, she still did not change her tendency to make me dote on her. Although I had suggested to her that I hope she would not sit on my lap anymore, Tia insisted that she could hold herself back during class but I had to obey her now.
"...Can't be helped."
I gave up resisting and obediently bit the sandwich.
We were currently in the cafeteria on the ground floor of the catering building. Of course there were other people watching and this sort of behavior was very embarrassing, but if I declined, Tia and Iris might start arguing again.
In the sickroom earlier, Tia and Iris had reached a consensus to take turns helping me change. But they continued to "care" for me even while we were traveling to the cafeteria.
"Mononobe, it's my turn next."
Sitting on my right, Iris leaned closer and presented me with a sandwich. As a side note, Tia was feeding me an egg sandwich while Iris was holding a tuna sandwich.
My right hand could move normally so it made me feel bad that I even needed help to eat meals. Nevertheless, when I voiced my view, Iris' answer was "this has nothing to do with that."
Ignoring the surrounding gazes, I bit Iris' sandwich as well.
Iris' face relaxed and she made a happy expression. Feeling unable to look her in the eye, I chewed the sandwich while my gaze kept wandering.
"Hurry hurry, eat Tia's too."
Seeing this, Tia impatiently extended her sandwich again.
Under their urging, I ate their sandwiches in alternate bites. However, eating sandwiches alone made me start to feel thirsty.
But because the sandwiches were delivered to my mouth without pause, I could not find the chance to speak for a long time.
"—Tia-san, Iris-san, this cannot be called care, you know?"
Immediately, a voice was heard with sighing tones.
I turned my head to look at the source, instantly making eye contact with a pair of clear blue eyes.
"Gulp... Good morning, Lisa."
I hastily swallowed the sandwich in my mouth and greeted my classmate, Lisa Highwalker. Lisa tossed her long blonde hair and answered me with a scowl.
"Good morning. How exalted your position must be, to have two girls serving you so early in the morning."
Hearing Lisa's sarcastic tone, I frantically explained myself.
"No, I didn't ask them to serve me. They're trying to help me in my injured state—"
"Oh, is that so? But do you truly need the assistance?"
If it was just eating, I could manage without their help, so I fell speechless.
"Letting others help unnecessarily is tantamount to asking them to serve you. Also, Tia-san and Iris-san—The two of you have erred to an absurd extent."
"...Lisa so scary."
Hearing Lisa's harsh tone of voice, Iris and Tia shrank their shoulders in fright.
"Did you know that excessive care may sometimes burden the receiver? You two should try to think from his perspective and only assist him on necessary tasks."
After saying that, Lisa took a cup of water that was on the table and presented it to me.
"...You are thirsty, am I correct?"
I thanked her and took the cup with my left hand, then drank the entire cup.
"Mononobe Yuu, you must decide for yourself the occasion when you need to ask for help. If it is something truly necessary, I will assist you with my full power too."
Despite turning her head away fiercely, Lisa made me that kind of offer.
Stunned, Iris and Tia stared at Lisa.
"Lisa-chan is so cool..."
Iris murmured with eyes of worship.
"Lisa is amazing..."
Tia offered her a gaze of respect.
"I-I simply said something that was a matter of fact."
Seeing Lisa explain modestly in embarrassment, I also praised her.
"Lisa really is a good woman indeed."
On further thought, it was quite unnatural for Lisa to appear on campus early in the morning. Perhaps she had come to school this early for the sake of helping me resume school life.
"Y-You are saying that again! Is making me the brunt of your jokes that amusing!?"
Instantly gone red in the face, Lisa glared at me viciously.
"No, I'm not joking about you. It's just that I couldn't think of any other way of putting it."
"Then my wish is that you could study seriously and learn more vocabulary."
Arms crossed, Lisa replied unhappily but her cheeks remained red.
Seeing that kind of reaction from her, I could not help but smile. This time, I really wanted to play a joke on her.
But just as I was about to tease her, there was suddenly a quiet commotion coming from the lounge where the vending machine was located. Noticing unusual vibes in the voices, everyone stopped what they were doing.
"Did something happen?"
Intrigued, Iris asked quietly.
There were staff having breakfast in the cafeteria like us and they also looked towards the lounge, unsure what had happened. Things like "hey, come over here" and "what's going on..." could be heard from the lounge.
"Yuu... Tia has a bad feeling about this."
Tia clutched my uniform tightly with a worried look.
Only then did I remember that apart from the vending machine, there was also a satellite television in the lounge as well.
"Let us head over to verify what happened."
Saying that, Lisa urged us to move.
Hence, The four of us went to the lounge and saw many staff with their eyes fixated on the television. Shown on the screen was the overhead view of a coast somewhere.
Seeing that screen, I was instantly speechless.
One type of news had absolutely first priority no matter which country in the world.
Namely, news regarding dragons that moved around on whim without regard for national borders, the disasters they caused, as well as disaster predictions.
Currently airing were images from news linked to a dragon disaster.
But this was a type of dragon disaster I had never seen before.
The sea had a patch of it dyed pure white. Judging from the map on the right of the screen, the scene was near the equator on the African continent, a place where the ocean could not possibly freeze.
In fact, whether the words on screen or what the newscaster reported, neither indicated that the ocean was exhibiting a freezing phenomenon.
What the news reported was—
Moving across the African continent, after reaching the coast, Basilisk had turned the surrounding seawater into salt completely.
"I believe many of you have already learned through the media that Basilisk has finally begun to cross the sea."
Standing on the podium, announcing gravely was my little sister, who was simultaneously the student council president of Midgard Academy—Mononobe Mitsuki. Despite her short stature, one did not get any impression of unreliability from her. A sense of solemnity could be felt from her tense expression.
"Believed to be unable to swim on grounds of its bodily structure, Basilisk is turning seawater into salt. Rather than taking the land route of the Eurasian continent, it is advancing towards Midgard along the shortest distance. Roughly one month from now, it will have crossed the Indian Ocean, passing the Indonesian archipelago to reach us."
A slight clamor arose between the students after listening to Mitsuki.
The first day I returned to school, the timetable was suddenly changed to hold an impromptu full-school assembly. Mitsuki was originally visiting me frequently at the sickroom, but today was the only day when she did not appear, probably because of the Basilisk incident. Also, the assembly was taking place in the sports ground instead of the usual gym.
When the clock tower was destroyed by Hekatonkheir the other day, its debris had apparently struck the gym's roof directly. Hence, the gym was currently barred from usage. Looking around me, I could see the lower half of the slanted, collapsed and bifurcated clock tower.
"However, this development is within our expectations. Midgard and NIFL has independently planned operations capable of dealing lethal damage to Basilisk and made preparations. We have sufficient chances of victory."
Perhaps to encourage everyone, Mitsuki declared firmly, causing many students to nod in response with determined expressions. Since recent lessons involved training under the assumption of fighting Basilisk, everyone had a certain level of confidence and preparedness. There was no gloomy mood like for Leviathan's attack.
"Detailed plans will be explained to members selected for the Dragon Subjugation Squad. Please prepare yourselves, everyone."
After announcing the necessary facts concisely, Mitsuki descended from the podium.
Although noon had not arrived yet, the sun was already shining intensely. Perhaps Mitsuki had judged that a long speech in tropical Midgard would be a bad idea.
After a teacher went on the podium to make a few announcements, the full-school assembly was dismissed.
"After hearing Mitsuki-chan's speech, it really feels like there won't be problem."
Walking side by side with me, Iris spoke.
"Mitsuki so cool, as expected of Yuu's little sister."
On my other side, Tia also praised Mitsuki.
Although I concurred with them, I was feeling uneasy inside.
I felt the same thing when Leviathan invaded. When fighting dragons, Mitsuki's mindset was likewise troubling.
Just now, although she had urged everyone to prepare themselves mentally, in Mitsuki's case, it seemed like she had prepared too much. In other words, I felt that she seemed to be leaving no margin to spare mentally.
Mitsuki had personally killed her dragonified best friend in the past. She had also said that she was continuing to battle in order to atone for that crime.
Hence, I had also vowed to put everything on the line to terminate her battle.
Even if Mitsuki did not want me to help, I had no intention of going against my vow.
—If Mitsuki does anything reckless, I must stop her.
I was thinking over these matters while returning to our classroom—Brynhildr Class. In the 3x3 arrangement of seats, I was sitting in the back row in the center, flanked by Iris and Mitsuki.
Earlier, Tia had kept treating my lap as her seat but now, she was sitting in the seat in front of me. Turning her head back, her gaze seemed to be asking me, "Is Tia obedient?"
I caressed her head. Tia showed a contented smile and turned to face the front.
Sitting on her two sides were the red-haired prodigy, Ren Miyazawa, and the tomboy, Ariella Lu. Tia naturally began to chat with them. Watching this from behind, I knew she had no more problems. I could finally relax. Tia was already getting along as a member of Brynhildr Class.
Seated in the front row were Lisa and the bibliophile who was always reading, Firill Crest. The seat between them was empty. Before I transferred in, the entire middle column was unused, but now, that seat was the only opening left in the Brynhildr Class.
At this moment, the door opened. Homeroom teacher Shinomiya-sensei and Mitsuki entered together.
Seeing the one empty seat that was now emphasized, what would Mitsuki think? I was quite curious about this.
Student No. 4, Shinomiya Miyako, was Shinomiya-sensei's little sister and also Mitsuki's best friend.
Were she still alive, all the seats in the classroom would be filled.
"—Please be quiet, everyone. Homeroom time still has not ended, so please listen to a few words from me."
Mitsuki stood at the lectern and swept her gaze across us while she spoke. Everyone stopped chatting and directed their gaze at Mitsuki.
On the other hand, Shinomiya-sensei was sitting in the chair next to the lectern, using the register book in her hand to fan herself.
"The members of the Dragon Subjugation Squad for this operation will be centered on our Brynhildr Class. Most likely, every member of the class will be selected. Hence, I will first tell you about the operation's key points."
Almost everyone...? In other words, everyone apart from Tia who was being targeted by Basilisk?
I found it a bit strange but did not interrupt, deciding to listen to Mitsuki first.
"Basilisk fires red beams from its eyes, using the light to turn the target of its gaze into stone, dust or salt. The range approaches five kilometers, which is why we cannot fight it directly but must find cover to block its line of sight. However, there are objects for cover on the sea. Consequently, Midgard has decided that the most effective tactic is to lure Basilisk to a desert island in neighboring waters, then blow Basilisk to smithereens together with the island."
Hearing that, Ariella raised her hand to ask a question.
"You mentioned luring Basilisk, but how?"
"Tia-san will be transported to that island temporarily. Because Basilisk's target is Tia-san, it will surely head towards the island. Naturally, before Basilisk arrives, we will let Tia-san retreat."
"Oh, that sounds like it'll work."
Putting down her hand, Ariella seemed to accept the answer. It felt like she had expected this answer more or less.
Then Firill raised her hand and asked Mitsuki:
"...What are chances that the island will be flattened by Basilisk as soon as it enters visual range?"
"According to data collected so far, even when Basilisk turns vegetable impeding its advance into dust, the landscape remains unaltered. Or rather, even after getting exposed to the red beams, the land does not show significant changes."
"...Now that is quite unbelievable. So Basilisk's red beam is not purely a high firepower attack?"
After listening to Firill, Mitsuki nodded solemnly.
"Indeed. Although there have been various theories regarding Basilisk's ability, abundant data has been obtained from the current incident. Hence, we are currently drawing deductions to narrow down the overall direction. Before the operation is put into action, it should be possible to put forward a more accurate theory."
Basilisk's ability was not fully analyzed yet, it seemed. For one thing, it had stayed in the desert for the past twenty years or so since it appeared, hence a lack of data was very normal.
Prior to this, Basilisk was a dragon that caused no problems unless one approached it. Of course, the country where Basilisk made its residence had things tough, but nothing happened as long as one kept their distance. But precisely because nothing happened, no data was gathered about the dragon, and now, that was the price paid.
All the anti-Basilisk training conducted so far were probably based on the assumption of that Basilisk would not leave the desert.
I had to take a test where I had to attack and pierce diamond from a distance of a hundred meters. But now, it was obvious that getting that close to Basilisk was impossible no matter what. The drills on close range combat probably assumed the battlefield would be the desert with things like sand dunes for cover.
"—Anyone have other questions?"
Mitsuki swept her gaze across us and asked.
Since no one else seemed to have one, I decided to pose the question that had bothered me from the start.
I raised my right arm. Mitsuki turned her gaze at me.
"Go ahead, Nii-san."
"Just now, Mitsuki, you mentioned that almost every member of Brynhildr Class will be selected for the Dragon Subjugation Squad, which means someone will be excluded?"
At first, I thought Tia would stay behind but according to Mitsuki, she was the center of the operation and absolutely indispensable. This meant that there was someone else who would be excluded.
"Well, although it has not been confirmed yet... I intend to have you stay behind, Nii-san."
"What... Me? Why?"
I asked in surprise.
"Obvious, is it not? Because you are a patient."
"No, wait a sec, there's almost a month until the battle against Basilisk, right? Before that, my wounds would have healed. Taking part in the operation shouldn't be a problem."
I hastily objected but Mitsuki sighed with an exasperated look on her face.
"What would be the point of straining yourself to take part? What this operation requires is high offensive power. Although you possess anti-dragon weapons, Nii-san, you also mentioned before that they cannot be used from unstable positions such as ships or in the air, right?"
"That's... true, yeah."
Countered so completely, I began to stammer.
The anti-dragon weapons I created by borrowing other people's dark matter were only parts from the lost weapon known as Marduk. Hence, there were many incomplete functions. If standing somewhere unstable, I had no confidence I could aim accurately. In addition, I had no idea whether my foothold would be able to withstand the recoil.
"When destroying Basilisk together with the island, of course the attacks will be launched from a ship. Hence, there is no need for you, Nii-san. Furthermore, Lisa-san is enough as the candidate to look after Tia-san."
Mitsuki's argument was perfectly logical, but I could not bring myself to agree candidly. If she were to do anything reckless, I needed to be at her side to stop her.
I racked my brain, trying to think of an excuse to use.
Was there no place for me to contribute in the operation? If I could suggest something impossible to replace, something that only I could do—
It suddenly occurred to me. Apart from constructing lost weapons, there was currently one other thing only I could achieve.
"—No, Mitsuki, I believe there is value in bringing me along."
"You saw it, right? I created antigravitational matter during the battle against Hekatonkheir. In an emergency, this power might prove to be a useful trump card."
I did not know why I suddenly gained the ability to create antigravitational matter. Before "Green" Yggdrasil urged me to, I never even considered whether it was possible for me to do that kind of thing.
Although this type of uniqueness of unknown origin felt eerie, I was exploiting this fact on purpose right now.
"So, Mitsuki, let me join the Dragon Subjugation Squad. When there's a need to adjust battle plans, it's better to have an extra option, right?"
Despite my arguments, Mitsuki still frowned and made a stern expression.
"I understand what you are trying to say, Nii-san, but unknown powers cannot count as an option. Currently, information regarding that ostensibly antigravitational matter is too lacking. And that is still because... Nii-san, you refuse to disclose."
Mitsuki's tone sounded sulking when she added the final sentence.
"It's not because I don't want to say anything, but I don't know anything about it."
"In that case, such a power cannot be relied on."
Mitsuki spoke in a strong tone of voice. She seemed to be getting stubborn, but Shinomiya-sensei intervened.
"Calm down, Mononobe Mitsuki. If information is lacking, how about gathering information as a next step? Besides, we intended to have him examined once he recovers."
Hearing my doubtful tone, Shinomiya-sensei turned her head to face me.
"Yes, Mononobe Yuu. The higher-ups are very interested in how you successfully created antigravitational matter, hence they would like you to let us investigate and analyze that new substance."
After slightly thinking over what Shinomiya-sensei said, I asked her:
"If the outcome of the examination discovers that antigravitational matter is useful... Will you let me join the Dragon Subjugation Squad?"
"We want to raise chances of success too, so even if it's 1%, as long as it seems useful, we will naturally allow you to join."
Hearing this, Mitsuki yelled at Shinomiya-sensei in a rare display.
"This is a logical decision. You will be the one suffering in regret if the operation fails because you refuse the best options on account of personal feelings."
Shinomiya-sensei persuaded Mitsuki in a calm tone of voice.
After several seconds of silence, Mitsuki reluctantly nodded. Then she glared at me silently. But rather than angry, her expression seemed more like she was fearing something.
The examination occurred that day after school, in a special training site underground.
Unlike the one normally used for special ability practicals, there were all sorts of devices on the walls, resembling measuring instruments. There was a large glass window near the ceiling with women in lab coats walking around on the other side. That was probably the monitoring room where they analyzed all sorts of data.
Shinomiya-sensei, Mitsuki and I were the only ones in the training site. None of the other classmates were present. Apparently, since all data gathered from this point onwards would be top secret, ordinary students were barred from entering.
To be honest, I had no confidence whether I could create antigravitational matter again. After all, I did not even know how to transmute it from dark matter. Neither could I simulate it in my mind.
Nevertheless, my worries proved to be unnecessary.
Because my dark matter would automatically metamorphosize as soon as I wanted to create antigravitational matter.
Thus, antigravitational matter would appear in my hand effortlessly.
My attempts had already reached double digits but I still had not failed even once.
"...Very well, Mononobe Yuu, start again from the beginning."
I followed Shinomiya-sensei's orders and generated dark matter in my right hand.
—Fictional armament, Siegfried.
Then maintaining its nature as dark matter, I simply altered its form into a large-caliber ornamental gun.
After many attempts, I found out something. Namely, compared to direction conversion from dark matter, it was easier to control minute transmutations through a fictional armament.
I looked ahead to see small red bricks, roughly 10 cm in size, scattered across the training site's white floor. This was to make the effects of antigravitational matter more visually distinct.
I aimed at the floor thirty or forty meters away and said quietly:
This was the name of Leviathan's ability. This was a suitable name for picturing the substance to be created.
I transmitted the image and pulled the trigger.
A bullet of dark matter shot out, turning into antigravitational matter at the spot where I had aimed. While white light shone, the surrounding red bricks floated up as though they were in water.
Although the wave of floating bricks flowed over here, they stopped just as they were about to reach my feet.
The white glow lasted for roughly ten seconds before vanishing. Then the floating bricks also fell to the floor again.
"Hmm... One shot's worth is enough to neutralize gravity within a radius of roughly thirty meters. The duration is approximately ten seconds. Considering that a full-powered shot can take effect in a radius of a hundred meters for thirty seconds, this figure could be considered reasonable."
Standing in the back, Shinomiya-sensei offered her opinion.
"For the second shot, try converting to antigravitational matter with a higher density."
I nodded. Aiming for the same spot as the first shot, I fired the bullet.
Immediately, white light brighter than before was shot out. The surrounding bricks flew away in a radial pattern.
"...By increasing the density, it will apparently produce a strong repulsive field. But both the range and duration of effect are less than one tenth of earlier."
Shinomiya-sensei's voice was heard from behind.
Siegfried could fire three bullets of dark matter at most. For the final shot, I created relatively low-density antigravitational matter. As expected, the range and duration increased, but the only effect was weight reduction to some extent.
Thus, after I tested all the possible modes I could think of, the examination finally ended.
"I'm at my limit..."
Transmuting dark matter strained the mind and tired the body.
Having created antigravitational matter persistently, I leaned against the wall in exhaustion and sat on the ground.
"Good work, Mononobe Yuu, thank you for your cooperation."
Shinomiya-sensei praised me during my state of fatigue. Her gaze fell upon the screen of a portal terminal.
"...So what's the conclusion about the Dragon Subjugation Squad thing?"
I asked her while catching my breath.
"There's no need to make a hasty conclusion. Data analysis is not complete yet. But personally, I think there is no liability in taking you along, because the repulsive field can serve as a defense measure that does not depend on physical barriers."
Replying that to me, Shinomiya-sensei walked over to the monitoring room.
Left behind, I looked timidly at Mitsuki standing next to me. Whether during the examination or after I came over to her side, she had remained silent. It made me a bit afraid.
"...How lovely, Nii-san."
Perhaps noticing my gaze, she finally spoke. But whether her tone of voice or expression, both gave off an air of displeasure.
"Are you that against my participation in the operation?"
"If it's only as a precautionary measure for emergencies... I have no wish of bringing you in your injured state to a dangerous location just for the sake of such an ambiguous reason."
"I'm very glad you're worried about me, but I have to go no matter what. Personal feelings aside, there shouldn't be any drawback to have additional backup personnel."
I asserted but after hearing me say that, Mitsuki shook her head gravely.
"No, there is a drawback. Suppose the operation were to fail and develop into the worst-case scenario—There will be one more person dead. This situation is different from the time with Leviathan."
"...Compared to Leviathan, isn't Basilisk easier to defeat?"
Mitsuki's words filled me with doubt, so I asked.
Back when Leviathan was invading, Mitsuki mentioned that Leviathan was considered second only to 'Yellow' Hraesvelgr in how troublesome they were to handle. Then that meant Basilisk should be easier to handle than Leviathan, right?
"Indeed, Leviathan was a dragon that was extremely difficult to attack... Even to the point of impossibility. Compared to that, in terms of being able to devise an attack plan, Basilisk is much easier than Leviathan. But on the matter of risk during battle, the two cannot be compared."
I repeated like a parrot. Mitsuki nodded.
"Yes, Basilisk's red beams fly towards the target at light speed, which of course means it is impossible to evade after seeing it. Since a direct confrontation is equivalent to suicide, the risk is much higher when standing on the frontline, which is why I did not wish to take you along, seeing as you are irrelevant to the details of the operation..."
Mitsuki answered unhappily. Then lowering her head, she continued:
"If this operation fails, as long as you stay in Midgard, perhaps a new battle plan could be devised using antigravitational matter, so as to make a comeback. But if you came along with us, Nii-san, it would be a totally meaningless sacrifice if you got killed without doing anything."
"But it's possible that everyone gets saved because I'm there."
Despite acknowledging my point, Mitsuki sounded quite disapproving in tone. Nevertheless, she did not argue further. She probably thought that a dispute about possibilities would lead nowhere.
—But that being said, I never knew that the operation this time was so dangerous.
Now I could understand why Mitsuki was so overly tense. Because her judgment could decide other people's survival, no wonder she was putting so much pressure on herself.
Precisely because of that... I must stay by her side after all.
But even if this topic continued, clearly it would only make the mood worse. Hence, I tried to find a different topic of conversation. Perhaps thinking the same thing, Mitsuki secretly glanced at me sideways to see my reaction.
For siblings, this unnatural silence persisted quite a while on this rare occasion.
The awkward atmosphere was making me anxious, so I said half-heartedly:
"M-Mitsuki, why did I gain the ability to make antigravitational matter?"
"W-Who knows? If you do not know, Nii-san, I cannot possibly know either. However... Although I was quite surprised initially, it is possible that your situation might be the same as mine back then."
"Your situation back then?"
Not understanding what she meant, I asked.
Then another voice entered our conversation.
"—Meaning that you are not the first person to emulate a dragon's ability."
I took a closer look and discovered that the principal, Charlotte B. Lord, and her secretary, Mica Stuart, were also present.
The principal walked over, her long blonde hair fluttering lightly, and stopped next to my collapsed state. Still the same as always, she looked like a teenaged girl. She would definitely be mistaken for a student if she were to wear the uniform. But she was undoubtedly Midgard's chief administrator.
Mica-san was dressed as a maid as usual while the principal had a lab coat over casual clothing.
"...Principal, were you watching while I was being examined?"
The principal nodded at my question.
"Yeah, in the monitoring room. Say, how much longer are you going to lie there? Do you really want to see my underwear that much?"
"Eh? N-No, sorry..."
I frantically stood up. Although the principal's lab coat had a long hem, the skirt underneath was especially short. From my position, her underwear was almost visible.
"I apologize for my brother's indiscretion."
Mitsuki glared at me coldly before bowing her head to apologize to the principal.
"It's fine, don't let it bother you. Because I can understand the feelings of finding girls' underwear attractive."
Seeing Mitsuki's shocked expression, the principal deliberately.
"Cough, nothing much, I accidentally spoke from the heart, that's all."
"...Principal, no second chances."
Mica-san's smile felt extraordinarily scary. Cold sweat appeared on the principal's forehead as she turned her gaze to me.
"B-Back to the main topic. Judging from the situation just now, you evidently have no idea what was the impetus that allowed Ds to create mithril or antimatter, right?"
"Impetus... Huh? I definitely never heard about it."
I only knew that these two substances were considered ultimate offense and defense.
"Speaking of which, neither mithril nor antimatter could be created by anyone in the beginning. But after the battle against the dragon capable of manipulating those two substances—'Purple' Kraken—someone capable of emulating the antimatter projectile appeared about the Ds."
I looked at Mitsuki.
"Indeed, it was your sister. An after the Kraken was vanquished, Ds capable of transmuting mithril successfully appeared one after another."
"Is that true, Mitsuki?"
I asked Mitsuki for confirmation. Perhaps because the subject brought up the Kraken battle, Mitsuki's expression was a bit dark.
"Yes, it is true. Without conscious intent, I successfully emulated the Kraken's antimatter projectile."
Mitsuki answered but it seemed like she could offer no further explanation to that.
I finally understood what she meant by "the same." The situation was the same for Mitsuki and me, who suddenly became able to create antigravitational matter.
Seeing me taken back by surprise, the principal continued to explain.
"In other words, the reason why you are able to create antigravitational matter, the key trigger could very well be the battle against Leviathan, or related to its defeat. But why this happens, the most fundamental reason still eludes understanding, that's all."
The principal smiled wryly and made a slight shrug.
"Uh, but that's the key..."
"Don't put it that way. Just knowing that there's precedent should be enough to reassure you, right? Now, you'll neither feel arrogant for being special nor need to fear that you're heretical."
"Well, that's true."
After nodding to concur, I suddenly thought—
Did the principal come here for the purpose of encouraging me?
"Although you had to undergo careful examination, with this, you won't need to be treated as a lab rat from now on. But just like your sister, you might need to shoulder a little more responsibility."
The principal's blue eyes stared at me while she smiled suggestively.
"I'm actually getting what I want if this allows me to help Mitsuki or friends in need."
"...An excellent mindset. Then do your best."
Nodding with satisfaction, the principal turned around.
"Let's get going, Mica."
The two of them started making their way to the elevator, but along the way, the principal looked back.
"Ahhh, I just remembered. By the way, all Ds could be considered humans who had stolen Vritra's ability. Fufu, if you look at it from those dragons' perspective, humans are actually the robbers who are stealing their special rights successively, striking fear into their hearts."
The principal smiled happily.
"So there's no need for you to hold back. If Basilisk has any ability to steal, go ahead and steal it. Because you are the dragons' hunters, not their prey."
After encouraging us in this manner, the principal departed with Mica-san for real. Her powerful presence did not match her petite stature. Ultimately, the title of Midgard's chief administrator was not just for show.
"...Who is she actually? Mitsuki, do you know anything about her?"
Watching the principal's back, I asked Mitsuki.
"No, I have no idea either, but I have heard rumors... It was all thanks to her that Midgard was able to gain independence to become an autonomous educational institute, thus rapidly expanding its influence over the world."
"The mystery deepens... And her age is unknown."
"This is only hearsay, but reportedly, she has been on this island ever since the inception of Midgard..."
Hearing Mitsuki say that, I could not help but show a stiff expression.
"Y-You're kidding, right? Because wouldn't that make her—"
I almost blurted out the age I guessed but hastily swallowed my words.
Because I felt an inexplicable chill run along my spine, similar to when I sensed life threatening danger on the battlefield. Clearly the principal could not hear our conversation, but my instincts rejected such a notion.
"...No, we'd better not pry unnecessarily."
In the end, for the sake of self-preservation, I deliberately said those words.
Two days after I was examined, the participants in the operation were officially announced.
A total of twenty, of which eight were students from Brynhildr Class. Luckily, my name was included.
Considering the scale of the operation, this headcount was smaller than I had imagined. This was probably the result of trying to minimize risk to prevent the worst-case scenario.
On the day it was announced, we were briefed officially and informed of the planned itinerary.
To lure Basilisk, Brynhildr Class was apparently heading first to the uninhabited island.
Then the next day, after rushed preparations, we were already on the ship.
"Mononobe, look, Midgard became so small!"
Pointing at the island in the distance, Iris spoke excitedly.
"...Viewing that island from outside, the feeling is quite strange."
I could not help but feel poignantly how small our world was as Ds.
The sky and the sea stretched limitlessly. The tiny island floating alone between the sky and the sea was Midgard where we had been staying just earlier.
The students of Brynhildr Class boarded the ship today and set sail for the uninhabited island where Basilisk was to be lured. This ship was a transport ship that Midgard used to move supplies and did not have any weaponry.
A request to NIFL could probably get them to lend us a much faster battleship, but that would give them an excuse to interfere in our operation. As the commander of this operation, Shinomiya-sensei seemed quite wary of NIFL's interference.
Due to NIFL sending a team to infiltrate Midgard during Leviathan's invasion, a vast gulf had apparently arose between the two sides. Although I felt uneasy about how the two sides could not cooperate, at least it was better than them trying to get in each other's way.
—I hoped this would not develop into a conflict between humans.
While staring out blankly towards Midgard as it gradually disappeared over the horizon, I thought to myself. Compared to dragons, I was more adept at fighting humans, but I did not like to do that.
"Oh, Mononobe! Isn't that a dolphin?"
Rocking my shoulder, Iris pointed diagonally behind the ship. There was a school of dolphins swimming as though they were chasing the ship. Slicing through the water surface with their dorsal fins, they sometimes jumped skillfully using their speed, tracing out beautiful curves.
But compared to dolphins, the side view of Iris' elated face attracted my eyes more.
"...Is there something stuck to my face?"
Noticing my gaze, Iris cocked her head and asked in puzzlement.
"Oh, no—I was just thinking you seem quite happy."
"Yes, I'm very happy! It feels like all of us are going on a trip together, I'm so excited!"
Iris replied, smiling happily as though she believed that from the bottom of her heart.
But... I knew, I had heard Iris say so herself in the past.
Iris had apparently encountered a dragon disaster while on a ship journey with her family. Due to Leviathan passing by, the passenger ship was sunk, killing Iris' family.
"...You aren't forcing yourself, are you?"
Because of that, I was quite concerned and asked her.
"Forcing? Oh—Mononobe, don't tell me you're worried about me because we're traveling on a ship?"
"Well... I am, a bit."
I scratched my cheek and nodded to admit it but Iris beamed happily.
"Thank you, Mononobe. But it doesn't bother me at all, because in the end, a lot of happy thing happened on the family trip... Those are very precious memories to me... That's why, even though the ending is so sad, it didn't make me hate ship journeys."
I was stunned to hear her talking so matter-of-factly.
Normally speaking, it would not be surprising to develop mental trauma towards ship travel because of this, but Iris called it her precious memories very calmly.
"You're always full of surprises, Iris."
I smiled wryly and said to her. Iris had a careless personality, often made mistakes and used to lament how weak she was, but I considered her true character to have far more inner strength than me.
"Hmmhmm, because I'm not a girl who can be judged by common sense."
Iris proudly puffed out her chest.
"Yeah, like making everything explode no matter what you're transmuting. That's really far too mysterious."
"W-What's wrong with that!? Even if it's still a mystery, at least we've found a way to make use of it, that's why I'm able to join the Dragon Subjugation Squad like this!"
"Yeah, but—One day eventually, I will unravel that mystery, because I'd like to know you better, Iris."
Only after saying this without thinking did I realize in alarm that it almost sounded like I was courting her.
Despite showing a surprised look initially, Iris' face gradually grew red.
"U-Umm, m-me too..."
As though trying to muster courage, Iris stared into my eyes.
Her cherry lips kept trembling while she continued in a hoarse voice:
"...If it's you, Mononobe, umm... I want you to know me better too."
Towards the end, her voice was as quiet as a whisper.
This unexpected development halted my thoughts. I did not know how to continue.
Seeing my entire body freeze Iris tilted her head somewhat uneasily.
"Mononobe...? Don't tell me you didn't hear... me?"
"N-No, I heard you..."
Hearing me answer, Iris breathed a sigh of relief.
"Then, uh... Can I tell you now?"
Iris asked me softly in a stammer.
"T-Tell me what...?"
"Basically... Many things. As long as it's something you want to know, Mononobe, anything at all."
Very shyly, Iris answered while fidgeting.
"By saying it could be anything at all, you're actually making it harder for me..."
I scratched my head and replied. Iris looked up at me and asked hesitantly:
"If you can't think of something on the spot, then... Wanna visit my cabin? This isn't a place to talk secrets anyway..."
Making such a suggestion with blushing cheeks, Iris looked incredibly attractive, forcing me to gulp.
"Well, Iris, if you're okay with it—"
Dizzy from the mood, I was almost about to agree when I heard rapid footsteps approaching. I hastily stopped talking.
"Yuu! Tia took a tour of the deck and came back!"
I took a closer look to see Tia running here, out of breath. She had been very excited ever since she boarded the transport ship, running all over the place the whole time.
Although she should have been transported by ship when she first came to Midgard, she most likely did not have the freedom to tour around at the time.
"Yuu, let's explore the inside of the ship next?"
"Hold on, Tia. Iris and I are currently—"
With Tia pulling my right hand, I asked Iris "What now?" with a gaze.
"Oh, it's okay, go explore with Tia. The thing with me... Umm, it doesn't have to be right now."
Iris shyly saw me and Tia off. What she meant by that was asking me to come find her at her cabin later. Since inappropriate interaction between the genders was prohibited, I was definitely not going to do anything bad, but even so, I still felt my heart rate rising.
"Yuu, let's go this way to have a look!"
Tia held my right hand tightly and walked rapidly. The deck of the transport ship was very spacious. Several cranes were installed for moving shipping containers.
There was a female member of the crew operating the cranes nearby. Most likely just like the staff at Midgard, the crew of this ship were also all female.
Entering the ship and advancing along the corridor, we came to a spacious lounge. This seemed to be a leisure space for the crew. There were vending machines along the wall along with a self-served cafeteria, although it was currently closed.
In a corner of the lounge, I saw classmates sprawled on a table.
They were Firill and Ren.
Firill had a paperback in one hand while her entire body was limp. On the other hand, Ren had a hand on her laptop while her body kept trembling.
"W-What's with you two!?"
Surprised, Tia ran towards them.
Firill's body shook then she turned her pallid face towards us.
"...I feel terrible."
Then she described her condition while in suffering.
Ren also looked up unsteadily, nodding once to concur, then sprawled on the table again.
"Yuu, oh no! They're both sick!"
Tia frantically tugged my sleeve, so I worriedly inquired of them.
"Hey, what the heck's going on? You two were fine earlier when you boarded the ship, weren't you?"
Firill and Ren turned their pale faces towards me.
"I was reading a book when the world started spinning before my eyes..."
Firill pointed at the paperback in her hand while Ren pointed at her laptop. With that, I figured out the situation. To put Tia at ease, I placed my hand on her head.
"Don't worry, Tia. They're just seasick."
"Yeah, because it's different on a ship. Unlike land, it's always in a rocking state. Some people feel unwell because of that."
After explaining to Tia, I looked at Firill and Ren in exasperation.
"—Say, this is also because you two started reading a book and using the computer despite being unused to ships, you know?"
It was easy to get seasick when doing those things to begin with. That was really obvious, so they were reaping what they sowed.
"But... I really want to read, the culprit will be exposed in just a bit..."
Firill seemed to be reading a mystery novel. Despite her pallid demeanor, she still insisted on reading further.
"Doing that will only make the seasick symptoms worse. Sheesh... I'm confiscating this book for now."
Exasperated, I could only take away the book from Firill's hand.
"Ah!? G-Give it back..."
"I'll return it as soon as your seasick symptoms get better. At this rate, you won't even be able to eat your meals. You'll get sick for real."
"Ooh... I never knew you're this kind of person..."
She glared resentfully at me. Although I felt guilty to some extent, I must not give the book back to Firill in her current state.
Seeing this, Ren hid her laptop underneath her body while watching me with wary eyes.
Ren waved her hand to shoo me away, but like Firill, her face was pale.
"No, I'm not planning to forcibly confiscate your computer as well, Ren. As long as you rest in your cabin and don't strain to use the computer, I won't do anything."
Hearing me say that, Ren seemed reassured, nodding frequently.
"Really? You're a good kid, Ren. Are you able to return to your cabin on your own?"
I breathed a sigh of relief and petted Ren's head.
Despite pouting with displeasure, Ren nodded lightly in acknowledgement.
"Then you two should rest properly."
"Once you get well, play with Tia again!"
Tia and I said goodbye to Firill and Ren then continued our exploration of the ship's interior.
We randomly turned a corner then advanced deeper, but encountered a flight of stairs.
Going down a level would take us to a series of cabins where we were staying. I had gone down to have a look once when moving luggage onto the ship. Perhaps designed with the expectation that VIPs might travel on it, even though it was not a passenger ship, the cabins assigned to us were still quite comfortable. The girls' cabins were near the prow side, while mine was in a corner towards the aft. Despite being on the same level, they were quite far apart.
One more level down should be the storage and engine rooms.
As for going up, I had not tried it yet, but ascending the stairs would probably get us to the bridge.
"Which way do we go?"
Hearing me ask that, Tia thought for a while then pointed up.
"Up is better."
Although we might not be allowed into the bridge, I still accompanied Tia on her adventure, to go everywhere as long as it was open to us.
Tia and I followed the metal staircase that was painted white. Immediately, we heard faint sounds of voices coming from above. With every step we took, the voices grew louder.
Although the words could not be heard, judging from the tone, it seemed to be some kind of dispute, and they were familiar voices.
"...Lisa and Mitsuki's voices."
Tia pulled my hand and quickened her pace. Thinking something had happened, I ran up the stairs too.
After going up two levels, I could heard the voices clearly. Reading the sign located at the landing, this was a level used for a conference room and other purposes.
"—And that is why I still cannot forgive you even now!"
"It matters not to me that you cannot forgive me, because what I had done was unforgivable!"
Lisa and Mitsuki's voices were coming from around the corner. I could also see Ariella hiding in the corner, peering at the situation in the corridor.
Ariella showed a troubled expression immediately after discovering us.
"Oh, it's you guys? Uh, just as you can hear, Mitsuki and Lisa are occupied right now. You'd better come back later if you need to find them for something."
"Lisa and Mitsuki are fighting? You're not stopping them?"
Tia asked Ariella in a slightly accusatory tone.
"I'd like to stop them but it doesn't seem like a problem I can just butt in."
Ariella sighed and shrugged, looking very helpless.
Tia and I did not know what had happened between them, so we listened carefully to the arguing voices.
"—Mitsuki-san, are you insisting that you will shoulder everything alone, be it the crime of killing Miyako-san or the responsibility of atoning for that?"
"Of course that is what I believe. I have no wish to push my responsibilities on others!"
"Hmph, what pretty sounding words. But no one will understand you and no one will follow you so long as you continue to monopolize that kind of resolve. Aren't there many things that you ought to confront bravely?"
"I-I am confronting bravely—"
"Do not say such words lightly when you clearly have not tried to obtain my forgiveness!"
Lisa's shout caused Mitsuki to swallow the remainder of what she was going to say.
I peered discreetly around the corner. Lisa had her arms crossed before her chest, standing with her feet apart. On the other hand, Mitsuki was in front of her, head lowered, shoulders shaking nonstop.
"Lisa... is very angry."
Similarly poking her head out, Tia under me remarked quietly.
Just as Tia described, Lisa was exuding anger that I had never seen before. Although I had incurred Lisa's wrath many times before, no occasion could compare to how angry Lisa was right now.
The dispute seemed to have started because of the subject of Shinomiya Miyako. This I can understand why Ariella could not interrupt. Because someone trying to intervene without knowing the details would only make matters worse.
I did not know much either.
Mitsuki had personally killed her dragonified best friend Shinomiya Miyako whereas Lisa still could not forgive this act. Lisa had also said before that she still could not approve even though she knew it was unavoidable.
"Mitsuki-san, could you say something?"
Lisa asked the silent Mitsuki.
But Mitsuki turned around to leave as though fleeing, unable to say a single word in return.
Seeing Mitsuki coming towards us, we frantically leaned our backs against the wall. Luckily, Mitsuki walked past us to the other end of the corridor without noticing us. Noticing that she seemed to be crying, I wondered whether I should chase after her or not.
"The people over there, how much longer are you going to hide?"
But just as I was hesitating, I heard Lisa yelled in our direction. Although Mitsuki had not noticed us, Lisa had discovered us out of the corner of her eye.
"Sorry, I originally did not mean to eavesdrop..."
Ariella walked out apologetically. Tia and I followed.
"Sorry, it was because I heard voices."
"Because Tia heard angry voices, Tia was very worried..."
Seeing me and Tia apologize, Lisa sighed.
"Sigh, more eavesdroppers come out, one after another... Never mind, it's fine even if you overheard. Since we chose to converse in the corridor, I am in no position to blame you for eavesdropping.
Lisa spoke wearily then gazed in the direction where Mitsuki had fled.
"...However, if possible, I hope all of you will pretend you did not hear the earlier conversation. If you are worrying about Mitsuki-san, there is no need. Because once the evening meeting starts, she will appear as though nothing had happened, as usual like every other time..."
Hearing Lisa's bitter tone of voice, I asked her:
"As usual like every other time... Do you fight like this often?"
"Occasionally. The last time I argued with her was when Leviathan approached. We got into a dispute over interception matters and it developed into a fight like just now. The same goes for this time, it was originally just a discussion on future plans..."
I heard lisa saying "why did it end up like this?" quietly followed by a deep sigh.
On reflex, I wanted to say "because you still refuse to forgive Mitsuki, Lisa" but stopped myself. Because even if I accused Lisa, it would only make things more complicated. I noticed that Mitsuki's tears seemed to have made me lose my cool.
"...If you have something to say, I hope you can finish what you started out to say. Nevertheless, I can probably imagine the gist of it."
After speaking harshly to me like that, Lisa walked past us and went up the stairs.
In the end, I watched Lisa leave without being able to say a single word.
After Lisa was out of sight, Ariella relaxed her shoulders and said:
"Even though it's just the beginning, it feels like there are tough times ahead. Although given their personalities, they're still going to perform their duties properly... But it still doesn't feel reassuring."
Tia also concurred with a worried face.
"Yeah... It's not good to keep fighting. Tia wishes they could make up."
As much as I agreed with Tia, I also understood that it was no easy task. This problem was quite deep-rooted, because Mitsuki and Lisa's dispute had persisted all the way from two years ago ever since Shinomiya Miyako's passing.
It looked like I should not go chasing after Mitsuki either. If I made things worse, it might make prevent Mitsuki from even feigning "things as normal."
But I did not think that maintaining the status quo was the right answer either.
—I really want to find a way to mediate this.
In any case, I should try finding a solution.
Because if those two could reconcile, perhaps it could also eliminate Mitsuki's insecurities.
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