Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 3 Chapter 2
Chapter 2 - Frontline on Distant Waters
The dragon cult, the Sons of Muspell, worshiped dragons as gods, obstructed NIFL's activities and its members were wanted internationally as terrorists. Even so, their influence continued to grow instead of waning. That was probably due to how frightening dragons were. To escape their fear of dragons, people chose to worship even though it would not change reality the slightest.
To them, humans possessing the power of dragons—the Ds—were also targets of worship. Nevertheless, without a special reason, no D would want to stay in a terrorist organization.
And the girl who had that special reason—Kili Surtr Muspelheim—was active as the leader of the Sons of Muspell.
Currently, Kili was lurking in a room in a hotel that was colluding with the organization. Inside the hotel room, she was in the bathroom that was filled with white steam.
Soaking her body in the bathtub filled with hot water, Kili examined the information she had gathered while infiltrating Midgard. In her hand was a waterproof computer terminal with Midgard's classified information shown on the screen.
"Oh... The only person capable of creating antimatter is Mononobe Mitsuki huh... In other words, she inherited Code Sechs, the sixth authority."
Reading the student's personal data, Kili murmured with delight.
"Legally his younger sister... Speaking of which, I seem to recall seeing her three years ago too... Coincidence is truly uncanny."
Kili's murmurings echoed in the bathroom. That being said, Kili did not consider herself to be talking to herself. She knew that she was always under "her" surveillance.
Being "her" eyes and ears to gather information, acting as "her" limbs to carry out "her" will, this was Kili's job. Also—this was the purpose of her creation.
"Eh... But I remember that it was Monobe Mitsuki who used antimatter projectile to slay the Kraken. If that's the case, it's weird... It doesn't make sense. She had to have defeated the Kraken first in order to create antimatter... So what actually happened?"
Kili frowned and searched through other information.
"Although there are exceptions... Mononobe Mitsuki does not meet the criteria. Speaking of matching... Oh right, if it's her... And there were two Krakens... The answer to the paradox is most likely that."
Muttering emphatically, Kili searched the information. Finally, she threw her head back and looked at the ceiling as though surrendering.
"Ah—Jeez, the report should have recorded correct information in detail! Now it means I can't corroborate the answer!"
Kili splashed the bathwater with her feet in displeasure. Then she closed the data file displayed on the screen.
"—Whatever, what's important is the future, not the past."
Then Kili opened the students' personal data again and called up the portrait of the only male student, Mononobe Yuu.
"Yuu... Surely you are different from me and the other Ds, although mother simply thinks of you as an error. However, I believe you are Neun, the ninth."
As though praying, Kili stared at Mononobe Yuu's face like she was anticipating minor hope.
"You must prove yourself to be superior to Basilisk in caliber—My prince."
Kili murmured quietly then kissed Yuu's face on the screen.
Staring at him, Kili's eyes showed signs of hidden madness.
Lisa's prediction turned out to be correct.
When evening came, a meeting was called in the ship. I entered the meeting room to see Mitsuki there as her usual self.
Passing out documents deftly, she explained the contents and did not look like she had been in an argument just now. Although there was some degree of unnaturalness when talking to Lisa, it was not something noticeable unless you were paying attention.
The meeting was about future plans.
After reaching the uninhabited island where the battle was set to take place, this ship would remain as the living quarters and base of operations. Lessons were apparently going to continue as normal. Mitsuki gave detail explanations and gave us our timetables.
Mitsuki's performance was too perfect, which was exactly why I felt especially unsettled. What worried me was: how far did Mitsuki strain herself for the sake of sustaining such perfection?
Whether during the meeting or dinner afterwards, I spent the whole time thinking about Mitsuki's issue. In the end, I returned to my cabin without taking any action.
My cabin was apparently provided for guests and meant for two people originally. There were two beds and it felt especially spacious for one person to live in. Back in my NIFL days, the battleships I traveled on basically had four people squeezed in a room. Showers also had to be taken in communal bathrooms but this cabin was even equipped with a personal bathroom.
Struck by how massive a difference in treatment there was between a D and a common soldier, I took a shower, washing away a day's worth of sweat. The surface of my left shoulder's wound had already closed up, so there were no problems as long as I washed gently. The bandage was for keeping the shoulder in position while the inside continued to heal. After the shower, I tied the bandage again then lay down on bed.
"Sigh... What should I do?"
Because Mitsuki was showing no openings, I wondered if I should try asking Lisa for information, but that would probably be difficult too.
In any case, I had to collect enough information to mediate their dispute. Just as I started thinking whether there was someone else who might know about what took place in the past—there was knocking at my cabin door.
—Who would come at this hour?
Speaking of which, I just remembered Iris' invitation to her cabin. Maybe she came over to get me? Since I had not prepared myself yet, my feelings were quite frantic.
No, the visitor could be Tia, because Lisa was the one who looked after Tia ever since I was hospitalized and they were also rooming in the same cabin, but Tia said wistfully during dinner that she wanted to sleep in the same room as me if possible.
With nervous feelings, I cautiously opened the door but the person there was completely unexpected.
I called the name of the girl who was standing before the door in displeasure.
Firill had probably taken a shower just now. She had changed from her uniform into aqua-blue pajamas, making her body's curves more obvious than usual. Her bust also looked especially large. Perhaps because her bust size made her pajamas uncomfortable, the top two buttons were unfastened, exposing her cleavage slightly.
—Isn't she acting a bit too uninhibited?
Perhaps because Midgard was totally an all-girls school before I transferred in, they lacked awareness in that area... But it really gave me a hard time controlling my gaze.
Just as my heart raced, Firill extended her hand slowly towards me.
Firill's curt statement seemed to be urging me to do something while her entire body gave off displeased vibes.
"Hand? You want to shake hands?"
Firill's voice was too quiet and I could not hear clearly, so I tried shaking hands with her first. It was a slender little hand.
However, Firill scowled and shook off my hand.
"...Wrong, hand it over."
Firill shook her hand and said.
"Hand it over...? Oh—"
Then I finally remembered that I had forcibly confiscated Firill's mystery novel to help her recover from her seasickness.
"Sorry, I accidentally forgot. But are your seasick symptoms better?"
"...Yes, I also had excellent appetite during dinner. Didn't you see?"
"Oh... I was distracted by something else."
While feeling apologetic, I scratched my head at the same time. Then Firill grabbed my right hand and pressed it against her stomach. Through the fabric, I could feel the suppleness and warmth of her skin, it made my heart beat like crazy.
"...How's that? Can you feel that I'm very full?"
Firill controlled my hand to touch her stomach. It did feel slightly taut, but I was in no mood to care about that. I was strongly conscious of the tender skin of a girl's, beneath the pajamas' soft fabric.
"...Your face is red, what's the matter?"
"Do you need to ask? If you suddenly do this, of course I'll..."
Firill's body warmth, felt through my palm, was making me unable to hide the my shaken emotions.
"...Oh, so boys will blush and get flustered because of this."
Firill blinked while observing my reactions in interest.
"S-Stop making fun of me. I'll return your book."
Hearing me say that, Firill instantly released my hand.
"Great, return it, instantly, hurry."
She evidently wanted to continue reading the story quite a lot. Making a fist in front of her chest, Firill hurried me.
"Okay okay, I'm getting it now."
So I turned my back to Firill and walked deeper into my cabin. But just as I picked up the paperback on the table, I suddenly felt like playing a prank on her.
It would be uncool if she played a joke on me and I did not retaliate, so I decided to make her panic a bit.
Hence, without thinking, I returned the paperback to Firill then said:
"By the way, about the novel's culprit..."
However, Firill reacted beyond my expectation. Charging at me fiercely she covered my mouth with both hands. Pushed back by Firill's force, I lost balance and fell on a bed.
"Don't say it! Absolutely not!"
Leaning her weight on me, Firill glared at me with tears in her eyes.
Even if I wanted to explain it was just a joke, I could not say a single word because she had my mouth covered.
Without a choice, I could only make muffled noises. Worse of all, even my nose was covered by her hands, preventing me from breathing. At this rate, I was going to suffocate.
Seeing the color of my face start to change, Firill relaxed her hands slightly and asked me:
"...Promise me you won't say it out, okay?"
Hearing Firill ask me that, I nodded as hard as I could.
"Then I'll release you."
Liberated, I took a deep breath then apologized to Firill.
"S-Sorry... Actually, I didn't read the book at all so I don't know who the culprit is either."
"...You deceived me? How malicious."
Firill pouted and glared at me. She was very close to me, almost to the point where we could feel each other's breath.
Pinning me down, Firill's body felt hot while her bosom pressed against me felt very soft.
"I'm terribly sorry, I-I'll apologize to you... Umm, could you please back off?"
Because this posture was too stimulating, I urged Firill to get away from me but she stared at my face and shook her head to refuse.
"...No, I won't back off until you compensate me."
"C-Compensate... What do you want me to do?"
"You don't need to do anything, just lie there quietly and don't move."
Saying that, Firill lifted up my shirt.
"W-What are you doing—"
"...Given this rare chance, I'll have a look at a boy's body."
Firill started to touch my upper body. Feeling someone else's fingertips moving along my skin, I could not help but squirm.
"Hey, it really tickles!"
"Don't move. This is research."
Enduring the feeling of my body getting fondled, I asked her.
"...One day, I'd like to write my own book, but that requires lots of knowledge... Hence, this is research for writing a book."
While explaining, Firill moved her slender fingers over my body. Although it felt ticklish, there were other additional sensations. Experiencing such a feeling surging for the first time, my back shuddered.
"Oh... Is your heart rate rising again?"
Firill put her hand on my left chest, asking with her head cocked.
"Don't fall for me, okay?"
With a serious expression, Firill stared at me in my flustered state then she continued:
"Do not fall for me unless you have the resolve to be a prince."
A prince? Since Firill was always reading books, was she the type of girl hoping for her own Prince Charming to appear?
Although this question crossed my mind, now was not the time to pursue such a matter.
"In that case, stop doing this. Even someone like me would start falling to temptation, you know?"
"...Then it would be a nuisance. Very well, I'm almost about to forgive you."
With a helpless look, Firill stopped her hands.
"Sigh... That felt like a close call just now..."
Feeling exceptionally exhausted, my body was limp and powerless. With me like that, Firill was looking at me incredulously.
"...Even if you're not in love with the other person, your heart will still race like that?"
"Well, if a girl as cute as you touched their body, I'm sure every man would feel their heart racing."
"Wow, you're hitting on me now."
Hearing what I said, Firill brought her hand over her lips in surprise.
"I-I'm not hitting on you! I'm just stating the truth, meaning that I'm asking you to take more care—"
I frantically explained but Firill interrupted me and said:
"In my view, if you're going to hit on someone, I hope you could pursue Lisa."
"Why are you bringing up Lisa now?"
I answered with a question because I could not understand how the subject came to this.
"Because Lisa acts so cute whenever you're hitting on her."
"W-When did I ever hit on Lisa?"
With an exasperated expression, Firill looked down at me.
Even after hearing what she said, I still had no recollection of ever hitting on Lisa. But speaking of Lisa, I remembered how she and Mitsuki had an argument today.
Come to think of it, Firill's student number was 2 and judging from Tia and my cases, student numbers were assigned in the order the student joined the class. If Firill had arrived even earlier than Mitsuki, who was Student No. 3, then she might very well know clearly about what had happened two years ago.
"I think you're probably mistaken, Firill, but anyway, can I ask you some questions... about Lisa?"
"...Why are you asking all of a sudden? Research to help you pursue her?"
"No, I'm being serious here. Firill, you've known Lisa for a long time, right?"
"...Yeah, we enrolled at the same time. Also, we already met before coming to Midgard."
"Eh!? You were friends to begin with?"
Thinking what a great coincidence, I asked her to confirm.
"...Only as casual acquaintances in high society."
"H-High society? What kind of lives did you two lead before?"
I could not help but blurt that out, slightly shrinking away.
"...A very boring and troublesome life, it's not that great."
Whether Firill or Lisa, both of them seemed to come from a world completely different from mine. Although I was curious about their backgrounds, Firill did not seem quite happy to talk about the past, so I did not pry further. After all, the matter between Lisa and Mitsuki was the main topic.
"Lisa and I truly became friends after arriving in Midgard. So... What would you like to know?"
"Y-Yeah, many things... But what I want to know most is: how can I get Lisa to forgive Mitsuki?"
Hearing me say that, Firill's expression tensed while she stared at me with candid eyes, as though trying to deduce my true intentions.
"...You want Lisa and Mitsuki to reconcile?"
"If possible, that's what I want to do. Do you think I'm meddling too much?"
Perhaps she might be offended by a third party like me butting in. Prepared for this possibility, I asked Firill.
"...No, because I'd like to resolve the problem between them too. After all, it's too unproductive the way they are now."
"Yes, they keep tormenting each other for absolutely no reason at all."
"There's a reason, right? About Shinomiya Miyako..."
I felt nervous to bring up this name but I still gazed into Firill's eyes and pointed this out.
However, Firill shook her head in disagreement with a sorrowful expression.
"Wrong. The moment you think that, you're mistaken."
Rejecting what I said, Firill revealed the truth in one sentence.
"Lisa does not hate Mitsuki at all."
Hearing her say that, I gasped.
Not hate? In other words, Lisa was—
Firill called my name, this was probably... the first time. Prior to this, she always referred to me as either "you" or "him."
"W-What is it?"
I gulped and urged her to continue.
"I have slight expectations for you, so you have to do your best, because I can't think of any better method than Lisa."
"...I don't know if I'll be able to meet your expectations, but I'll do everything I can."
After Firill told me the truth, I had to take the matter even more seriously. Anyway, I came up with one thing I needed to do first.
"That's good enough. If you succeed... I will reward you."
Firill placed her hand lightly on my left chest and smiled at me. Because she was still on top of me, that action looked especially sexy and seductive.
"Reward... I hope it's nothing too shocking."
"That I cannot promise."
Firill's answer sounded ominous. Despite getting a bad feeling, I still found my heart rate rising as though looking forward to it.
"Then please show some mercy. By the way, it's time you got off me. If someone sees this, we'll both get seriously misunderstood."
"Yeah, you're right—Oh... Sorry, too late."
Firill was just about to change her posture when she looked at the entrance and stopped.
Feeling a despairing premonition, I turned my gaze as well.
"What is going on here...? I demand an explanation from you two."
Outside the cabin's open door, dressed in uniform, Mitsuki was standing there with a twitching expression. She was holding a first aid kit in her hand, probably visiting me to check on my injuries.
I was lying on the bed with my shirt pulled up and Firill straddling me. How should I explain this kind of situation?
I was at a loss for words when Firill tearfully complained to Mitsuki.
"Let me tell you... Mononobe-kun is so bad. He refused to return this book to me."
Firill extracted the book from my hand and cradled it lovingly before her chest.
"Simply stated, this is completely Nii-san's fault, right?"
Mitsuki swept her icy gaze towards me. Hearing her ask that, Firill nodded with a serious expression.
"Yes, basically that. I only came to get my book back."
Since it was basically what she said, I could not retort.
"...Well then, that's that. I'm off."
Firill swiftly got down from me and walked to the cabin's entrance.
"H-Hey! At least help me explain a little!"
I frantically shouted at her but Firill made a thumbs-up sign.
She irresponsibly encouraged me then left the cabin. After seeing her off, Mitsuki entered and closed the door.
"Nii-san, you seem a bit too energetic. Perhaps I no longer need to treat you as one of the injured?"
Mitsuki's bone-chilling gaze pierced me while she approached. Putting down the first aid kit she was holding, she grabbed my ears and pulled forcefully to the sides.
"Hey, ouch, that really hurts! My ears are ripping off!?"
"Ears that do not listen properly to others must be lengthened. Seriously... I clearly warned you during the evening meeting just now..."
"Huh? You warned me about something?"
I could not remember so I asked directly.
"...So you really were not listening. What I said was that during this period before the battle, we will be living with closer proximity between the genders than usual, hence Nii-san, you need to be more disciplined than before to avoid doing anything against public morals!"
"Oh... Sorry, I think I missed it."
Because I had heard the same message many times already, I apparently failed to store it as new information. In addition, I was worrying about Mitsuki and Lisa's fight.
I had not connected my consciousness with Yggdrasil, so it could not be memory loss no matter what. This was probably just my own carelessness.
"Looks like you must be punished, Nii-san. How many repentance essays should you write?"
Mitsuki released my ears and started to ponder.
"W-Wait a sec! There was a reason for that just now!"
Since I was punished to write over a hundred repentance essays before, repentance essays had become my mental trauma. Hence, I desperately tried to explain how things developed to that situation.
"...Is that so? Because Firill-san was seasick... That does sound like something she would do, but are you really telling the truth?"
"It's the truth! Ask Firill to check if you don't believe me."
"Very well, I shall believe you, Nii-san, since you say so. You may be spared from the repentance essays, but—"
Saying that, Mitsuki flicked her middle finger against my forehead.
Struck by her finger, I held my forehead against my right hand.
"...From what you told me, the whole reason why you were tangled in bed together is because of your own malice, is it not? Hence, I punished you with a finger flick. Any objections?"
"You're right, it was my fault."
"I sighed and accepted the gentle punishment.
"Sigh... What a worrying future with this already happening the first day. Judging from this situation, I cannot take my eyes off you for a single moment, Nii-san. I might not be able to sleep tonight..."
Mitsuki added "what a mistake to assign this cabin so far away" under her breath.
But after hearing her say that, I thought of something.
Oh right—about Lisa, I had something to say to Mitsuki and this was a great opportunity. When Firill said "good luck" just before she left, I think this was partially what she meant.
"Say, Mitsuki, since you're so worried about me—Why don't you sleep in this room tonight? After all, there are two beds."
Mitsuki's eyes widened as she cried out in surprise.
"Then you'll be able to sleep peacefully if I stay within your sight, right?"
"What... W-W-W-What are you talking about!? Unlike last time, Tia-san is not here, you know? J-Just us two?"
"...? We're siblings, it's okay, right?"
"No, Nii-san and I are..."
Mitsuki's gaze wandered indecisively. Perhaps she was worried that this would count as breaking public morals as the student council president, even if we were siblings.
Then I should tell her that I had my own reasons too.
"Actually—I've got things to talk about, Mitsuki."
"Things to talk about...?"
"Yes, important things."
I looked into Mitsuki's eyes while speaking. Immediately, Mitsuki blushed and lost composure.
"B-By important things, you mean..."
"Please, Mitsuki. I know you're very busy as the Dragon Subjugation Squad captain... But even if it's just one night, please let me have your time."
Mitsuki repeated my words with her face all red then nodded lightly.
"—I-I understand. Then I shall p-prepare then come back."
Mitsuki finished in a hoarse voice and left the room unsteadily.
"G-Great, I'll be waiting."
Because Mitsuki seemed abnormally nervous, even my voice involuntarily went stiff too.
The room went quiet and the faint sounds of waves reached my ears. Looking out my window at the blackened sea surface of the night, I waited for Mitsuki to return.
Firill's "good luck" kept echoing in my mind—
After roughly half an hour, there was a knock at the door.
I opened the door to see Mitsuki standing there in pajamas, hugging a pillow. Her face was slightly red and her body was giving off a faint fragrance from after a bath.
"P-Pardon the intrusion."
Mitsuki greeted with rigid adherence to etiquette then entered the cabin. After surveying the interior, she chose the inner bed of the two to sit on.
"You went out of your way to bring your own pillow?"
I sat down on the edge of the outer bed, facing Mitsuki and asked her that.
"Y-Yes, well... I brought my own pillow from the dormitory, because I believe I will sleep better with this..."
Hugging her pillow, Mitsuki answered shyly.
"Your room got blasted by Kili not too long ago... So that pillow turned out okay."
In an attempt to retrieve Tia, Kili had infiltrated Midgard under the identity of Tachikawa Honoka recently and launched a surprise attack on Lisa and Tia who were staying at Mitsuki's dorm at the time. During that event, the majority of Mitsuki's room was destroyed and was still under repairs. For the time being, Mitsuki was using another room in the dorm.
"Since the blast mostly damaged the window's surroundings, even though the pillow was slightly blackened from smoke, its cleanliness could be restored after washing it."
"Really? That's great."
The conversation broke off unnaturally. Perhaps affected by Mitsuki's nervous emotions, I find myself unable to find a subject to continue the conversation.
—Why did I feel so self-conscious?
I scratched my head and tried my hardest to regain composure. Unless the mood eased up a bit, it would be hard for me to get to the main point.
Our voices overlapped. Mitsuki and I stared at each other for a moment then we both laughed at the same time.
"Haha, what are we doing? This isn't like us at all."
"You go first, Mitsuki."
"—Very well, then I will take you up on that."
Mitsuki made a carefree smile and said to me:
"Nii-san, how is your wound?"
"The wound is healing fine. Although it still hurts, the surface has closed up."
I could already do a certain level of activity with my arm below the elbow. Hence, I waved my left hand to show Mitsuki.
"Are you bandaging it properly. I suspect that the inside has yet to heal entirely. The wound could tear open if you are not careful, you know?"
"Yeah, I've bandaged it good. I did it myself after my shower."
"...How worrying. Allow me to check."
Mitsuki frowned and moved over to my side with her pillow.
Before I could stop her, Mitsuki had already pulled my collar open to examine the bandage on my shoulder.
"It is essentially bandaged properly."
"I won't have problems with small stuff like this. I already learned first aid at NIFL."
"...Without my knowledge, Nii-san, you have become someone capable of many things on your own."
Mitsuki's tone of voice sounded a bit sad.
"Well, the same applies to you to, Mitsuki. I never expected my introverted and shy little sister to become the student council president."
"Not at all... I am simply working my hardest at things within my power."
Mitsuki looked away. Rather than embarrassment, her expression seemed more like guilt.
I could also vaguely sense the shadow of Shinomiya Miyako here.
Perhaps Mitsuki viewed working as the student council president as a kind of atonement.
"Mitsuki—What were things like for you in the three years after coming to Midgard?"
"What were things... like?"
"Yeah, I'd like you to tell me... about your life after coming to Midgard."
When I made such a request, Mitsuki showed a troubled expression.
"Too many things happened, where should I start...? This is not something that can be finished in a single night."
"In that case—Oh right, I hope you can tell me about the girl who was your best friend, Mitsuki."
I made my decision and said to Mitsuki.
Mitsuki gasped and quietly started at my face. After ten-odd seconds of silence, Mitsuki asked in a calm tone of voice.
"...Is that what you meant by important things?"
"Well, one of them."
I nodded in admission while Mitsuki sighed deeply.
"Sigh... And to think I wondering what it was about. I see now. Nii-san, am I right in guessing that you heard my argument with Lisa-san?"
Hearing me suddenly bring up the matter of Shinomiya Miyako, the smart Mitsuki instantly guessed my motivation.
"I didn't mean to eavesdrop..."
"You need to mind your own business."
Mituski remarked with exasperation and glared coldly at me.
"Like you, Mitsuki, I'm just working my hardest at things within my power. But even if I want to intervene, I can't even stand on the same arena unless I understand Shinomiya Miyako as a person first. So... Can you tell me about her?"
I looked into Mitsuki's eyes and conveyed my wish to her directly.
"...Frankly speaking, I am reluctant to bring up this matter, because by this point, all of it has turned into painful memories."
Since I did not want to make Mitsuki suffer, I could only sigh helplessly. But seeing me disappointed, Mitsuki continued hesitantly:
"—B-But if you could agree to one demand from me, Nii-san... Perhaps I might be able to try hard to recount it."
"Really? I'm willing to do anything as long as it's my power."
I agreed without a second thought. Awkwardly, Mitsuki asked in a quiet voice:
"Then... May I hug you, Nii-san?"
"...Yes, by hugging you, Nii-san, I think I will be able to muster my courage."
I did not expect this suggestion, but having said that I was willing to do anything, I could not falter. Besides, as siblings, there should not be any reason to feel concerned about this kind of thing. Although my heart rate was accelerating abnormally, I decided it would be fine.
I answered hoarsely. With her face bright red, Mitsuki said "T-Thank you" in a barely audible voice.
Inside the room, dimly lit by a light bulb, Mitsuki and I were lying on the same bed.
Mitsuki called my name mournfully and hugged my right arm tightly. Through the pajamas, I could feel the warm and softness of her body covering my right arm.
I could feel the sensation of her petite but beautifull-shaped breasts on my upper arm. This meant that I could not move my right arm recklessly.
"I feel so calm now... This should be fine."
Leaning her cheek against my right shoulder, Mitsuki spoke with a smile. Her after-bath fragrance was caressing my nose lightly. In contrast to Mitsuki, I felt quite unsettled.
"Okay, can you tell me now?"
To prevent her from noticing my nervousness, I tried my hardest to stay calm while urging her to start.
"Very well... Let us begin with how we met. That day took place just when a strong typhoon was leaving. She arrived in Midgard two weeks after me."
Mitsuki closed her eyes and spoke nostalgically.
"My first impression of her, how should I describe it...? She was superior to me on all accounts. Of course, she was quite beautiful in face, but the light emanating from her inner character was blindingly bright to me. It made me feel that she lived up to her name as Haruka-san's younger sister."
"By Haruka-san, you mean Shinomiya-sensei?"
I confirmed with her and Mitsuki nodded with a chuckle.
"Yes, back then, Shinomiya-sensei was every student's idol! Perfectly flawless in all respects, she has always been my goal since back then."
"Wow, it's almost like the current you, Mitsuki."
"W-What are you talking about!? How could I compare to her!?"
On my end, this was not flattery, but Mitsuki still denied it with her face red.
She shifted her body slightly. I felt a definite sensation of softness from her bosom in contact with my arm.
"...I don't think it's entire out of the question."
While worrying whether my face was going red, I replied.
"Of course it is! Seriously, I am going back to the main subject! Simply stated, Miyako was very similar to Haruka-san, a very amazing girl."
Mitsuki spoke in embarrassment, but even if she claimed that Miyako was more amazing than her, I found it impossible to imagine.
"A girl like that—Because we were both Japanese and of similar age, she was assigned to be my roommate. In the beginning, I was very nervous but Miyako was a cheerful, lively and straightforward person, so we became great friends very quickly."
Mitsuki's voice carried nostalgia. It must have been a very happy time for her back then.
"However... She quickly surpassed me in both academics and the control of dark matter, which I found it a little hard to accept. Of course, since I arrived two weeks earlier than her, I had gone through a phase of hard work, but ultimately, she did everything better than me without exception. I was a bit jealous of her talent."
Smiling wryly, Mitsuki described her feelings from back then.
"Wow, was she that amazing? But from the it sounds, rather than best friends, wouldn't that normally make her your rival? Especially with your competitive personality, Mitsuki."
After hearing my response, Mitsuki glared at me unhappily.
"...I am not that competitive. However, I definitely felt a sense of rivalry against Miyako, but how should I put it...? Miyako felt strong affection towards me, even to the point of sweeping away my tiny hostility completely."
"P-Please do not misunderstand, okay? I mean feelings as friends, nothing more. I have no idea what she saw in me, but it was as though we were joined at the hip... We even slept in the same bed like this at some point."
Although I doubted whether those were truly feelings of friendship, I held my tongue. Since I did not know Shinomiya Miyako directly, I had no right to judge her.
"Perhaps that could be described as Miyako's only flaw. She often made errors in judgment due to putting me above all else. That time, it was also for this reason that—"
Mitsuki bowed her head gravely after saying that.
"You mean... The time when 'Purple' Kraken attacked?"
"...Yes, it was just as my first anniversary at Midgard was approaching, a siren suddenly blared. We were informed that the Kraken was approaching."
Perhaps because she had reached a sad scene, Mitsuki hugged my arm even tighter. Pressing herself close to me, her body was warm and giving off a fragrance with faint sweetness.
"Now that I think back, the situation was not quite right on that day. She seemed a bit distracted and would suddenly focus her gaze where there was nothing to be seen. Most likely, her dragon mark had already changed color by that point. But because Miyako's dragon mark was on her back, she did not notice immediately..."
Mitsuki spoke regretfully. Back then, no one knew that there was a link between the dragon mark's change in color and a D's dragonification. However, had they discovered the symptoms earlier, perhaps a different future would have resulted. That was probably what Mitsuki thought.
"There were already plans back then to use the Ds' powers as trump cards for vanquishing dragons. And so, the Dragon Subjugation Squad was established with Haruka-san as the captain. Miyako and I were part of it too, hence we head to the frontline... Falling into the Kraken's trap on our own."
Hearing what she said, I felt puzzled. Since the dragons' aims were unknown at the time, there should have been the option of escaping back then.
"Was the situation so urgent that it was necessary to send a newly established force to fight?"
"...The Kraken advanced with frightening speed. There was no time to evacuate Midgard completely. The fleet deployed by NIFL and Midgardsormr were all swept away by antimatter missiles and did not even manage to stall for time. To protect Midgard and our comrades, we had no choice but to fight."
There was a rich sense of reality in what Mitsuki said. Midgard must have been in chaos at the time. As one would expect, Mitsuki and her comrades must have went forward to fight the Kraken with resolve.
"But when the Kraken entered visual range, just as we were starting to attack, I noticed Miyako's dragon mark giving off a strong purple glow, clearly visible even through her clothing. Then with a shocked face, she said that the dragon's target was her."
"...Now that you mention it, back when Leviathan approached, Iris also felt its will."
I recalled what had happened roughly a month ago. Perhaps some kind of connection of that sort would form between the dragon and the selected D.
"Miyako tried her hardest to persuade us that the Kraken was pursuing her. Heating up, her dragon mark was summoning it and the rest of us had to hurry and run. However, at the time, we all thought that Miyako was speaking nonsense because she had lost her mind."
Mitsuki seemed deeply regretful and self-reprimanding. Closing her eyes, she leaned her forehead forcefully on my shoulder.
"...It couldn't be helped. I'd probably draw the same conclusion too."
"But... At least as her best friend, I should have believed in her without hesitation. But I failed to say anything at all. Just as we were perplexed, the situation had already gone beyond the point of no return, because the Kraken's tentacles had spread out in a dome shape, covering up the entire area."
Mitsuki's voice wavered slightly.
"After seeing the tentacles approaching to attack us, Miyako turned her gaze at me, then... She waved lightly before her chest then rushed out alone. She probably believed that at this rate, we were all going to be crushed to death by the tentacles."
Mitsuki spoke with her voice and body trembling.
"Miyako attacked the Kraken's purple eyeball while rushing at it, but her offensive was completely deflected by the tentacles of mithril. She had nowhere to run—Then after that..."
Mitsuki was finally at a loss for words.
"—Stop, thank you, it's already enough."
I could not bear to watch, so I asked her to stop. I already knew the gist of what happened next. The two Krakens, including the dragonified Shinomiya Miyako, were killed by Mitsuki with antimatter projectiles.
Shinomiya Miyako must have never suspected she would turn into a dragon. Otherwise, she would not have charged the Kraken on her own.
"Miyako really... always made errors of judgment at critical moments... Perhaps we might have been able to defend her by relying on everyone... She probably rushed out alone... to prevent me from coming into danger..."
Mitsuki said every word with a weeping voice.
If possible, I really wanted to stroke her head and comfort her but she was hugging my right arm while my injured left arm could not move. As a result, I could only remain motionless and silent.
Thus, I waited until Mitsuki's emotions calmed down and her trembling stopped. Then I said:
"Mitsuki, I now understand what happened between you and Shinomiya Miyako. Thanks to that, I can be certain now."
Mitsuki stared at me with her eyes, red from crying.
"Yeah, Mitsuki, you're the one who feels the most chagrin over what happened to Shinomiya Miyako. You're also the one who kept working hard despite the pain without avoiding it. There's no need for you to suffer Lisa's condemnation."
To observe Mitsuki's reaction, I deliberately made it sound like I was accusing Lisa.
"P-Please hold on! This is neither here nor there! Miyako was dear to Lisa-san too, which is why she has the right to reproach me!"
Mitsuki frantically defended Lisa, I knew it—Things were like that.
The truth that I had heard from Firill... She said that Lisa did not actually hate Mitsuki.
Hence, I came up with a hypothesis and it looked like I had guessed right.
"The right to reproach you... Mitsuki, have you ever sought Lisa's forgiveness?"
"That sort of thing... I have not. Because... I have done something absolutely unforgivable."
Mitsuki shook her head. I see. This was why the problem had gotten so complicated. While feeling exasperated, I asked Mitsuki:
"Last time, Mitsuki, you said that you continue to fight dragons as atonement, right? But based on what you just said, even if you defeated all the dragons, Lisa still won't forgive you, right?"
"...Of course not, because they are unrelated matters."
I sighed deeply.
"N-Nii-san, why are you making such an exasperated expression?"
"Of course I'm exasperated—Can you try being a little considerate for Lisa?"
Mitsuki looked at me in surprise. It looked like she did not get it at all.
"To stay angry persistently because of one incident, to persistently hate someone, that's very tiring, you know? If you were truly considerate for Lisa, then create an opportunity for Lisa to forgive you, how about that?"
"B-But I do not know whether she wants to forgive me either, that would be too shameless..."
"Whether it is shameless or not, that's for Lisa to decide. Even if you end up angering her, it's not like it's the first time."
Although I continued to persuade, Mitsuki still remained hesitant. Her gaze wandered.
"Mitsuki, do you really refuse forgiveness that much?"
"O-Of course not!"
With a dramatic change in expression Mitsuki yelled.
"In that case, you will ask Lisa tomorrow what you must do to earn her forgiveness. This is an order."
"Order...? My rank is higher than yours, you know?"
Mitsuki glared at me with displeasure.
"But I'm your older brother, right?"
"...What do you mean by that? That is too tyrannical!"
Mitsuki pouted unhappily.
"Then are you going to use your authority as a superior officer to negate my order?"
"............No, I will follow it, because I hate the idea that others thought I were escaping."
Mitsuki answered after a few seconds.
Hearing her reply, I exhaled in relief.
"As expected of my little sister who hates losing."
"Muu... Say whatever you like."
Mitsuki closed her eyes defiantly but continued to hug my arm tightly, refusing to let go.
"Do your best. I support you."
After whispering softly to Mitsuki who was about to sleep, I closed my eyes too.
During our long conversation, drowsiness had already arrived quietly at the fringes of my consciousness. Although Mitsuki's body warmth and softness felt so attractive, I seemed able to fall asleep by obeying this drowsiness.
"...Thank you, Nii-san."
—Just before entering the realm of dreams, I seemed to hear those words.
"Nii-san, rise and shine, Nii-san."
The next morning, Mitsuki roused me from sleep by rocking my shoulder.
I rubbed my eyes and got up. Mitsuki pulled me by my arm.
"Come, hurry over, we have arrived."
Still half asleep, I could not recall instantly why Mitsuki was in the room. Neither could i remember where this was.
But after Mitsuki brought me to the window side and I saw the expansive view beyond the glass, my drowsiness was instantly swept away.
Only an island in the scenery of the sea yesterday, it was apparently a volcanic island. Beautifully triangular, the mountain peak had white smoke rising from it. There were almost no plants on the island while the sides of the mountain were covered by what seemed to be black rocks solidified from lava.
The ship seemed to be moving along the island's perimeter. After a while, an artificially developed coastline gradually came into view.
"When the operation was drafted and a reconnaissance team was sent here, a simple pier had already been constructed. Until Basilisk approached, we will remained moored there."
Mitsuki looked ahead along the ship's direction and explained.
"We'll be living here for now... Can we go on the island?"
"You may go ashore freely, but there are forbidden places including the area near the volcano's mouth. I will explain the details during today's meeting."
Saying that, Mitsuki left the window and returned to the bedside, picking up her pillow.
"You're going back to your cabin?"
"Yes, there is still time before breakfast, which is why I would like to take a shower first. Umm... Others might misunderstand if your smell lingered on my body."
Mitsuki looked away shyly.
"I-I see, then I'd better take a shower too."
Feeling conscious of the scent from my right arm that Mitsuki had hugged, I was about to bring my nose closer to sniff when...
"...Stop, d-do not do that! It is sexual harassment!"
Her face bright red, Mitsuki frantically stopped me.
"Please enter the bathroom directly! No sniffing, anyone who does that is a pervert!"
"—Understood. I'll take a shower right away, I promise you."
Because I did not want my younger sister to think of me as a pervert, I instantly promised her.
"...Cross your heart, hope to die?"
Blushing, Mitsuki reminded me again.
"Yeah—Anyway, enough about me, Mitsuki, do you still remember last night's promise?"
Asking Lisa what it would take to forgive her—I checked with Mitsuki to confirm that she had not forgotten.
"Of course. How could I be the student council president if I were that forgetful?"
Mitsuki answered with displeasure and rapidly walked to the cabin's exit. But when she stopped when she gripped the door handle. Quietly, she said:
"...But I think that Lisa-san will definitely not forgive me."
"Even if that's true, it's still progress compared to you trying to guess Lisa's thoughts and feelings on your own."
"Indeed—You have a point."
Mitsuki smiled wryly and quietly left the room.
Then I walked to the bathroom to keep my promise with Mitsuki.
During the meeting after breakfast, we received a booklet which contained a map of the island and various reminders.
Thinking this resembled a guide for a school outing, I opened it up to have a look, only to find introductions to various attractions on the island, featuring especially cute illustrations.
—Someone really is treating this like a school outing!
I ridiculed in my heart.
I checked the copyright page to find that Shinomiya-sensei was apparently the one who put the handbook together. In accordance with her reputation of flawless perfection, she apparently had talent in drawing too. However, my image of her was shattered. She turned out to be an unexpectedly humorous person.
There were various places on the map marked with skulls. Warnings were placed near these locations to restrict entry because of poisonous volcanic gases.
At the end of examining the this overhead view of the island that was about to become a battlefield, I discovered a hot spring symbol.
As a main attraction, the hot spring even had a special feature written on a separate page to introduce it, even providing detailed explanations of the water composition and effects. The words of skin beautification were bolded for emphasis. There also seemed to be restorative effects for the sick and injured.
—Lemme check it out some time before the battle.
Thinking that, I shifted my gaze forward. Mitsuki was standing in front of the whiteboard in the conference room, talking about the contents of the booklet in her hand.
Mitsuki was not acting unusually in any way, but sitting diagonally in front of me, Lisa was staring at Mitsuki with an indescribable expression. It seemed like a chaotic mixture of emotions.
Perhaps Mitsuki had talked to Lisa already. This was very likely, seeing as Mitsuki was not the type to procrastinate on what needed to be done.
I could not guess the outcome even after looking at the two of them.
I'll know anyway once I ask Mitsuki later—I thought that to myself but did not expect the answer to arrive unexpectedly early.
After the meeting ended, just as I was about to exit the conference room, Lisa grabbed my arm from behind.
"Hold it right there, Mononobe Yuu. I have a few things to say to you."
Lisa was speaking with an angry expression and immediately closed the conference room door. With only the two of us in the room, Lisa glared at me angrily with raised eyebrows and interrogated:
"You said something unnecessary to Mitsuki-san, didn't you?"
"Hmm—Judging from this, you and Mitsuki already talked?"
Hearing me say that, Lisa became even more angry.
"I knew it was your meddling! Otherwise, Mitsuki-san could not possibly have asked me suddenly what would it take for me to forgive her!"
"...I simply told Mitsuki to think of things from your side."
I revealed what I had done truthfully. There was no reason for me to hide things.
"What... W-Why did I come up in your conversation?"
"Uh, because you don't actually hate Mitsuki, right?"
I revealed the truth I had heard from Firill.
"T-That is—W-Why would you know that in the first place?"
"I didn't know, but I got it from a trustworthy source."
"...I see now, it was Firill-san? I never expected even for her to have a part in this—"
Lisa tossed her hair in agitation.
"Then that means I'm right, doesn't it? Lisa, you've been pretending all the way until now that you haven't forgiven Mitsuki, because she craves punishment herself."
Lisa was unable to retort. I concluded that my guess was correct.
"But doing that must sadden you, Lisa, because you actually hold Mitsuki quite dear, but to keep reproaching her—"
"I do not need you to worry about me. I am simply doing what is necessary for family. If serving as her 'punishment' would help ease Mitsuki-san's guilt, I shall persist in it."
With arms akimbo, Lisa declared firmly. She was amazing indeed. I was thoroughly impressed with her kindness and fortitude, but this time, her strength in conviction was being counterproductive.
"—Yes, that definitely was necessary in the beginning. Thanks to you, Lisa, I think Mitsuki was saved quite substantially. But don't you think that you're being overprotective if you keep treating her that way even after two years have passed?"
Lisa widened her eyes, her expression looked like she had heard something unexpected.
"Yeah, Mitsuki has already decided to confront her guilt. She believes that fighting dragons incessantly is her responsibility. Isn't this single 'punishment' already enough for Mitsuki?"
Lisa stammered in hesitation. She was probably quite rattled, wondering if that was really okay.
"Say—How did you reply to Mitsuki's question of what would it take for you to forgive her?"
"...Because it came too suddenly, I could not give her any reply. I still have not responded yet."
Hearing her say that, I reached out and grabbed Lisa's shoulder with my right hand.
"Kyah!? W-What are you doing?"
Lisa shrank away in fear while I said to her:
"If that's the case, you'd better consider it carefully. If you're worried about Mitsuki, set a condition for her, because I'm sure she'll clear any kind of trial no matter what it is."
"H-How confident you are. Aren't you too biased in favor of your sister?"
Blushing slightly, Lisa remarked with sarcasm.
"As the older brother, believing in the younger sister goes without saying."
"...Hmph, in that case, I will think of a very difficult condition. Even if it causes Mitsuki-san distress, it will be your fault!"
Saying that, Lisa shoved me away and quickly exited the conference room.
"Hmm, did I provoke her too much...?"
A bit worried, I walked into the corridor as well. Immediately, I found Firill poking her head out from behind a nearby pillar.
"...Good work, Mononobe-kun."
"Don't tell me you heard our entire conversation?"
Hearing me say that, Firill nodded in confession.
"...Yes, I was eavesdropping outside. Then because Lisa came out, I hid."
Fearing that things were now awkward between Firill and Lisa, I felt apologetic to her.
"Oh, umm... Sorry, because of the way I worded things, Lisa guessed that you're the one who advised me."
"...This is fine, I don't mind. To me personally, this result is good enough."
"Eh? But nothing's resolved yet?"
I was surprised at Firill's response. Currently, Lisa was still at the stage of deciding the condition required to forgive Mitsuki.
"Even if it's not resolved yet, the situation has definitely made progress... A result will probably come soon. Just as we promised... I have to give you a reward."
"No, it's okay. I didn't do much."
Although I would feel bad accepting a reward I did not deserve, that was not the entire reason. In addition, I had a sense of foreboding, prompting me to refuse Firill's offer.
"...No need to be shy. I will prepare a present you'd enjoy. Look forward to it."
But Firill ignored what I said and declared that.
Watching Firill laugh "...hehehe" suggestively, I prayed intensely in my heart, please, don't be anything troublesome—
After our life at the volcanic island started, I realized that it was actually quite similar to our daily lives at Midgard.
Every day started with breakfast in the morning. On days with meetings, we went to the conference, otherwise, there were indoor lessons. After lunch, we went on the island for practical training or listened to status reports on the war against Basilisk. After that, I tutored Tia on homework, ate dinner then went to bed.
If there was anything different from before, that was living in closer proximity to the girls. Due to living together on the same ship, having meals together became habitual and usual.
Although the matter between Mitsuki and Lisa was still unresolved, the two of them went back to normal on the surface.
What worried me was Iris, who seemed to be getting increasingly unsettled as the days went by, and Firill, who was going to prepare some kind of present for me.
I knew the reason behind for Iris' uneasiness. Or rather, I should call it specific urging.
Just earlier, she was saying to me "when are you coming to my room...?" in a sulking manner. This whole time, she had apparently been waiting for the "continuation" of our conversation on the first day.
On my side, I wanted to fulfill that promise too but after the incident with Firill, Mitsuki's supervision became even more strict, limiting my movements. ALthough Mitsuki only spent the night in my cabin that one time, since my diligent little sister made frequent visits to my room, I could not find the opportunity to do it.
However, I had also heard many times that Tia wanted to sneak off to my room and due to Mitsuki taking precautions on my behalf, so I had nothing to complain about. All thanks to her, I was able to sleep in peace.
Then after these normal days persisted for five days, one of the girls who worried me—Firill—made a move.
During a lunch break, I left the dining table to go to the washroom and Firill chased after me.
"...Mononobe-kun, I've prepared the reward."
"W-What is... the reward?"
I gulped and asked. The reason why I was reflexively on guard was because I remembered her prank last time. Another one like that would be more than I could take.
"Here, for you."
Seeing the small slip of paper in her hand, I frowned. It was apparently paper cut out from a notebook. There was handwriting on the faintly lined paper.
"One day hot spring coupon... Expires today?"
I read out the words on it and Firill nodded to confirm.
"...Yes, you know there is a hot spring on the island, right?"
"Yeah, the handbook covered it."
I answered, perplexed.
"I've already tried it, a wonderful place. But I'm guessing you still haven't gone, right, Mononobe-kun?"
"Yeah, because everyone on this ship is a girl apart from me. It'd be bad if we ran into each other in the hot spring."
Since I knew that hot springs were very popular with girls, I knew I had better not go for now and give up a long time ago. However, Firill smiled and presented her handwritten coupon.
"Indeed... That's precisely why this one day coupon was born. You can enjoy the hot spring as much as you like today."
"Meaning that the hot spring is for my exclusive use today?"
"...Something like that. Today, the hot spring exists for you, Mononobe-kun."
Saying that, Firill stuffed the coupon in to my hand.
"Enjoy it well."
"O-Okay... Thank you. I never expected to receive such a considerate present."
Precisely because I expected a preposterous reward beforehand, I felt quite touched now. The thoughtful handwriting on the coupon instantly gave me a heartwarming feeling.
"...Fufu, you should thank me only after you've enjoyed the hot spring."
Firill touched her hand to her lips, smiling as though she found things very humorous.
Thinking about it after the fact, I realized it was an impish smile.
But immersed in touched feelings, I failed to discern Firill's true intentions and simply looked forward to the hot spring.
After dinner that day, I immediately took a towel and left my cabin.
Walking off the ship's gangway ladder and arriving on the volcanic island's shore, I felt slightly unsteady on my feet. Having lived on a rocking ship for a while, it felt unstable on solid land instead.
But that disrupted sense of balance soon recovered. Stepping on hard rock, I made my way to the hot spring.
The volcanic island was dark at night. With the starry sky as the backdrop, I could see the black, towering silhouette of the conical mountain. However, there was lighting around the pier and along the route to the hot spring, most likely because many people wanted to have a dip at night. Just by following the lighting, there was no need for a map.
It was less than five minute's walking from the pier to the hot spring. Following those regularly spaced lights, I arrived at a shore surrounded by rocks. It looked like an inlet on first glance, but I could see white steam rising inside.
According to the explanation in the handbook, the hot spring flowed out from inside the inlet. Because the inlet was connected to the sea, its outskirts had seawater but the inner side did not contain salt because it was isolated by the rocks.
As soon as I approached, I was struck by the distinct smell of sulfur that characterized hot springs. The hot spring's water was a cloudy milky color. I could not see the bottom, but it was probably not very deep.
Just to be on the safe side, I checked out the surroundings. Apart from me, there seemed to be no one else present.
Next to the hot spring was even a simple changing room. I cautiously peered inside but there were still no signs of others, only baskets for putting in clothing and buckets for bathing.
I sighed in relief.
Apparently, just as Firill had said, the hot spring really was for my exclusive use.
I swiftly undressed in the changing room and made my way to the hot spring with a towel and bucket. Using the bucket to scoop up hot water and check the temperature, I rinsed my body a bit before entering hot spring for a dip. The water was roughly a bit more than knee height.
I could not help but exhale. Although my left shoulder's wound felt some slight stinging, it was not painful. Not only that, a sense of warmth was gradually seeping into the surroundings of the wound, washing away the lingering dull ache.
"What a great hot spring..."
Outside the inlet, on the other side of the rocky shore was a stretch of calm sea. Countless stars were twinkling in the cloudless sky, decorating the world of night. This scenery was impeccable.
I felt that it had been quite a few years since I last experienced such a calming time.
—I really have to thank Firill.
I submerged myself into the hot water up to my shoulders, carefully savoring the blissful experience.
But just at that moment, I noticed several voices approaching.
Originally relaxed, my consciousness instantly became wide awake as though cold water had been dumped on my head.
"Having a bath together with everyone feels so great!"
It was Iris' voice.
"Honestly speaking, this is slightly embarrassing for me..."
"It didn't feel like my thing at first, but it became fun after I got used to it. This is what they call skinship, right?"
I could even hear Lisa and Ariella's voices.
"Yes, this is what they call it in Japan."
Mitsuki and Ren expressed agreement.
"Tia feels it'd be nice if Yuu came along."
Then I could even hear Tia's voice.
"...Fufu, if Mononobe-kun were present, all members would be gathered."
—Hey, even Firill's here!
I screamed in my mind. What the heck was going on?
Just as my mind turned into a mass of chaos, unable to take any action, the girls had already entered the changing room.
Having missed the chance to yell and alert them, I was totally panicking inside. But on further thought, my removed clothing was still in the changing room. As soon as they found my clothing, they would probably discover my presence. After all, I was the only one wearing a male uniform.
However, all I heard was mirth in the changing room. There were no cries of surprise from discovering my clothes.
...This was too weird.
Just as I decided it would be best if I announced my presence on my own, I was just about to yell towards the changing room when—
"I'm the first!"
Stark naked, Iris came out of the changing room and jumped into the hot spring with a splash.
I frantically hid myself behind a nearby rock. Thanks to this being a natural hot spring, there were many spots to hide out of sight.
"Iris-san, jumping into the water like this is very rude."
Then Lisa apparently appeared, correcting Iris with exasperation.
Now I could no longer afford to make a reckless move. If I went out in this situation, I would run into Iris and the others in their naked state.
—Indecision leads to death.
For some reason, what flashed through my mind was the voice of my former commanding officer, Major Loki.
"Don't be rigid. There's no other people after all. I actually wanted to try jumping into the water long ago."
Then I heard Ariella's voice and a loud splash.
This was followed by another splash. Ren apparently jumped into the water too.
"How rare it is to see Ren-san so unreserved."
"Tia is an adult and will enter the water normally."
Mitsuki and Tia apparently entered the hot spring too.
"...On the other hand, I will insist I'm a child and jump into the water."
The one who entered the water with a violent splash last seemed to be Firill. With that, the whole team had gathered.
Was there a way to find an opening to leave while everyone was taking a dip in the hot spring?
I quietly peered out from behind the rock to check the surroundings.
On the other side of the steam, I could see my classmates' pale and naked bodies. I gulped and frantically shifted my gaze away.
—No good. If I left the hot spring now, there was no way in hell I'd escape detection.
Even if I wanted to head towards the sea while swimming underwater, I would still need to traverse the rocky area along the way, which meant I would surely be seen too.
Apart from hiding here and waiting for the girls to leave, there did not seem to be any other way to survive safely.
"Wow! Lisa-chan's boobs are so big! They're floating lightly in the hot water!"
"I-Iris-san, please do not poke me with your finger!"
"Ah, the sensation is different from mine. It's more soft and fluffy than elastic... Like marshmallows."
"Nnnn... Yah—S-Stop it or else I shall retaliate!"
"Kyau!? T-That tickles, Lisa-chan!"
I heard dialogue from Iris and Lisa playing around.
"Ren-san, I can understand how you feel, but swimming in a bath is a bit..."
Then I heard Mitsuki reprimanding Ren.
Immediately, I heard splashing like someone was swimming.
"Oh, Tia wants to swim too!"
"S-Seriously, Tia-san, did you not say you were an adult just now?"
"Since the bath is so wide, who cares? I'm joining in."
"Even you, Ariella-san!?"
Tia and Ariella seemed to have started swimming while Mitsuki was left at a loss what to do about them.
"Mitsuki-chan, save me!"
I heard Iris' voice. She had apparently fled from Lisa.
"Kyah!? Do not hug me so suddenly!"
"Wow, Mitsuki-chan's skin is so smooth and soft."
"Hyan!? Where do you think you are touching!?"
"What kind of soap do you normally use, Mitsuki-chan? Oh, or do you use body wash?"
"I-I will tell you, so release me~"
The mood was very lively. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. However, I did not seem to be hearing Firill's voice.
"—Ah, so you're over here."
Firill suddenly poked her head out from the other side of rock where I was hiding. Almost crying out, I hastily covered my mouth.
"...Mononobe-kun, are you enjoying the view?"
Firill joined me behind the rock and peered at my face from below, and of course, she was naked. Her pale and voluptuous breasts were floating on the water. Due to the hot spring's milky white color, I could not see beneath the water surface, but the sight was plenty stimulating already.
"Firill, w-what is going on!? This wasn't what you said! Why is everyone here? Isn't the hot spring for my exclusive use today?"
I lowered my voice as much as possible and questioned Firill.
"...Nothing wrong here, it's totally for you and us to use today. This is the experience I prepared for you."
"By saying you prepared it, don't tell me that Iris and the others also know I'm here?"
"No, everyone doesn't know. I covered up the clothes in the changing room with my own before they could notice, so it's fine. Now you can secretly feast your eyes on the naked body of girls. Are you happy?"
Firill cocked her head and asked me. The hot water accumulated between her bountiful breasts looked especially salacious.
"H-How could I possibly be happy? By doing this, you're only making me feel troubled."
"...Honestly? Aren't guy supposed to be happy to see girls naked? See, your heart rate is currently so fast, right?"
Firill pressed her hand on my left chest and spoke.
"That... goes without saying. The results are unthinkable if I get discovered. How can you expect me to keep calm!?"
Actually, the main reason was due to Firill appearing naked before me, but I could not bring myself to say that explicitly, after all.
"...Really? Did I do something wrong? Are you that troubled?"
Firill immediately made a sad look and dejectedly sank her body deeply into the hot spring.
"Oh... No, I—"
Did I go too far? I felt sorry for her. Perhaps this situation was the result of Firill doing everything she could to make be happy.
I was just about to say something to the depressed Firill when something suddenly emerged from the hot spring.
Taking a deep breath, shaking water off herself, it was Tia, completely nude.
Too surprised, I could not help but exclaim.
Tia kept blinking and staring into my eyes. She was apparently swimming underwater for fun just now.
"Oh, it's Yuu and Firill. Eh? But why is Yuu here?"
Tia asked in puzzlement without hiding her body at all. I could not help but feel my gaze drawn to her pale and tender skin.
Still immature, her body lacked undulating curves but the slightly bulging chest gave a sense of budding femininity. I felt my heart rate rise involuntarily.
"...Be quiet. If anyone else discovers him, Mononobe-kun will be very troubled."
Since I was unable to answer, Firill covered Tia's mouth lightly and replied.
"Really? Tia knows. Tia won't let husband feel troubled."
Tia answered quietly then leaned against me while my body was frozen.
"Yuu—Tia will be quiet and be a good girl, so can Tia be with you?"
Tia pressed herself tightly against me, putting me in a fluster.
"H-Hold on, this is bad. D-Don't do this kind of thing."
"Why? Did Tia do something that Yuu dislikes?"
I advised her quietly but Tia ignored me and pressed her body tightly against me. The direct contact with soft skin was making me dizzy.
"I-It's not that I dislike it..."
If I denied it sloppily, Tia might think I did not like her company. While searching for words to persuade her without hurting her feelings, I stood there frozen, not knowing what to do.
"...So Mononobe-kun does not dislike this kind of thing."
But my comment was apparently getting misinterpreted. Originally watching my conversation with Tia, Firill clapped her hands together.
"Hmm, I guess I really need to help you enjoy yourself to the max."
Saying that, Firill circled around to my back.
Sensing she was about to do something, wariness and fear surfaced in my heart. At this moment, Firill pressed her massive bust onto my back.
That unbelievable softness and seductive sensation was blanking out my mind.
I was no longer capable of saying a single sentence.
"...One, two, three, okay—That's it."
After counting up to three, Firill left me. Perhaps having bathed for too long, Firill's face was a little red.
"...My heart is beating so fast. Luckily, I already learned beforehand that this can happen without being in love."
Firill pressed her hand against her left chest, exhaling hot breath.
"Or else I might have jumped to a wrong conclusion."
Speaking with a blushing face, Firill say that then asked me:
"...Mononobe-kun, are you happy I did that?"
"No, umm... Well, if I had to say it, I was very happy..."
I affirmed in a stammer and Firill smiled and seemed to breathe a sigh of relief.
I was mesmerized by her facial expression for a while. At this moment, Tia hugged me tightly.
"Husband really likes people with big boobs after all?"
Tia pouted and glared up at me.
"It's not like that—No, by the way, Tia, can you let go of me first? Otherwise, I can't talk calmly."
"No, Yuu forgot about Tia just now so Tia has to hug you tight to make sure you don't forget again!"
While we were talking, the other voices grew louder naturally. But it was too late by the time we noticed.
"Tia-san? Are you over there?"
Mitsuki's voice came from the other side of the rock. Our shoulders, Tia and mine, both shook at the same time.
"Oh dear, Firill-san also disappeared without me noticing."
Lisa also noticed and commented on Firill's absence.
Firill brought a finger to her lip and hushed us. Then slowly, she walked out from behind the rock.
"I'm here. Tia-san and I were having a quick chat."
"Yeah, Tia is here too!"
Despite a look of reluctance, Tia released me and emerged from the rock to show herself to Mitsuki and the others.
"Really... I think I heard Nii-san's voice too."
Hearing Mitsuki say that, I felt cold sweat slide down my face.
"...Mononobe-kun's voice? Did you imagine it?"
Although Firill tried to feign ignorance, it seemed to deepen Mitsuki's suspicions instead.
"This feels very suspicious. Just to be on the safe side, I shall confirm."
With the splashing sound of someone walking, I sensed Mitsuki's presence gradually approaching.
What to do—At this rate, I was definitely going to be discovered.
Should I move underwater to the back of another rock? No... even though the water was murky, with this amount of depth, the chances of being seen while moving was very high when under all gazes.
Thinking it was not the time for recklessness, I concluded my only option was hiding in the water.
This was a gamble on whether I could hold my breath all the way until Mitsuki left... Although I felt that it was futile resistance, it was all I could do.
Listening to the approaching water noises, I calculated the timing to submerge myself.
Three more steps... Two... One... Now!
But just as I was going to submerge, an electronic sound came from the changing room. Mitsuki's footsteps also stopped.
"Seems like an emergency call."
Saying that, Mitsuki then left for the changing room.
I exhaled deeply in relief while Tia bowed her head and apologized to me.
"Sorry, Yuu, Tia did not keep promise and made too much noise."
"No, my voice was heard too, so it's not your fault, Tia."
I caressed Tia's horned head and answered quietly.
But what was with that emergency call just now? Feeling concerned, I listened intently. Then I sensed Mitsuki returning from the changing room.
"—Important news, everyone."
Opening with that, Mitsuki then continued:
"Tomorrow morning, NIFL will be putting their plan into motion. Although details are as yet unknown, NIFL predicts a 90% chance of success. Almost assuredly—Basilisk will be defeated."
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