Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 5 Chapter 2
Chapter 2 - Bubble Engagement
Crossing the ocean, crushing the land, the blue monster advanced forward.
Its gigantic body, towering into the clouds, almost seemed to intimidate the sky itself.
It was called the blue dragon—"Blue" Hekatonkheir.
Recovering no matter how many times it was attacked, reappearing even if its entire body was destroyed, Hekatonkheir was known as the "Undead."
Now that everyone know how pointless it was to get in its way, even countries with combat ability would not wish to oppose it.
After fighting long and hard, humans learned from experience. The wisest way to deal with Hekatonkheir was to avoid its travel route and wait for it to leave.
Hence, the blue monster continued walking on its way without meeting any obstructions.
Simply moving in a straightly, ignoring mountains, rivers and oceans, it kept advancing.
Hekatonkheir's direction was headed towards the green dragon in a faraway land—"Green" Yggdrasil.
Certain people found its route of advance quite unusual.
After all, despite leaving tracks all over the world, Hekatonkheir had never made contact with another dragon, not even once.
But even after someone discovered that Hekatonkheir was behaving differently from before, they did not know what might result.
Thus, without anyone realizing what Hekatonkheir's objective was, that moment was approaching second by second.
Having decided what kind of shop we were going to open for the school festival, Brynhildr Class went to work on preparations.
As representatives, Lisa and I stayed after school in the classroom to discuss details in the planning.
"—So the school festival will be held for two days."
I looked at the school festival schedule and spoke. The school festival's dates were set on a Saturday and Sunday roughly a month from now.
"Yes, so two days' worth of ingredients need to be prepared. Furthermore, manpower should be assigned according to Day 1 and Day 2 so that everyone gets a day of free time, how's that?"
Sitting opposite me across the desk, Lisa recorded our discussion while offering her ideas.
"I think it's a good idea. Everyone wants to check out what the other homerooms are doing. Then we need to scale the teahouse so that it can be operated smoothly by four people."
Brynhildr Class had eight students, just the right number for four people to a group.
"Yes, but Mitsuki-san will be busy with student council affairs. I don't expect her to be able to stay with us the whole time. The executive committee members will have to assist on this front."
"Understood. So it's best to divide groups after listening to everyone's opinions. They'll surely want to be free if their parents are coming on a certain day."
Shinomiya-sensei had mentioned about inviting parents. My father and mother might be coming too.
I started feeling down as soon as this crossed my mind.
In my current state, I could not even recall their voices. If possible, I did not want to meet them.
"...Yes, let's do that."
But after hearing my answer, Lisa sounded slightly gloomy, so I asked:
"Oh... Are your parents unable to come, Lisa?"
"No, they will definitely come, because they are major sponsors of Midgard as well."
Lisa sighed and answered. For some reason, she did not seem happy at all.
"Major sponsors... Just as I thought, Lisa, your family is very rich."
I already knew that she frequented high society, but this was my first time hearing that her parents were major sponsors of Midgard.
"Rich huh? Judging by your description, you do not know about the Highwalker Group."
Staring at me, Lisa looked totally exasperated.
"Huh? Is it that famous?"
"It is a business conglomerate in Western Europe with numerous subsidiaries. I thought you were intentionally feigning ignorance all along..."
"Haha... Sorry, I simply didn't know. How should I say this? My earlier life was too far removed from that kind of world."
Hearing me explain, she shook her head in disbelief.
"I remember you said you were from NIFL, didn't you? Let me state for the record, the Highwalker Group's ties with NIFL are far more intimate than those between it and Midgard, you know?"
Getting a feeling like I was cornered, I asked in return.
"Under the Group, there are industries in military production. The majority of weapons used by NIFL were manufactured in the Group's factories."
"—Then without knowing it, I've been enjoying your Group's care."
Although I could use transmutation to create Nergal and other firearms, other equipment such as flashbang grenades or tear gas were all standard-issued supplies. It felt quite strange to learn that those supplies were all manufactured by Lisa's family business.
"So that is how it is... But there's nothing glorious about being arms dealers."
Lisa remarked with a complicated expression. It seemed like she had many misgivings about the family business.
"Life must be tough for an heiress of that kind of corporate group."
"Indeed, it is surely a hundred times tougher than you imagined."
Lisa shrugged and smiled wryly. She was probably not exaggerating.
"...You don't seem too happy about your parents visiting. Are you on bad terms with them?"
"No, we are on excellent terms as family, but right now, due to certain reasons, I am reluctant to meet them. That's all."
"I see, then it's similar to me."
I felt an inexplicable sense of camaraderie and accidentally blurted it out. It was too late by the time I realized in alarm.
"You don't want to meet your parents either?"
Lisa asked me in a probing manner.
"Oh... Umm, it's because I've got reasons too."
"Would it be related to the matter of discussion that you mentioned yesterday?"
Lisa raised a sharp question, forcing me to break out in cold sweat.
"Then I seemed to have guessed correctly. If it is troubling you to the point of wishing to avoid your parents, I am willing to hear you out. Please don't be shy and tell me as much as you can."
Lisa leaned forward, bringing her face closer to mine. Under the gaze of those gemstone-like eyes, I forgot to breathe for a moment.
"—No, it's fine."
I was almost about to confess everything but I managed to shake my head and decline.
"Hmph... Do you mean to say that I cannot be relied on?"
"That's not it. It's just that you have your own troubles, right? I can't burden you with my troubles when I clearly know that."
Lisa would definitely dedicate her full effort in trying to help me find solutions. Precisely because of that, I must not confer with her when she was facing her own troubles right now.
"You don't need to mind my affairs."
"—But I do mind. Asking me not to mind is impossible."
I stared into Lisa's eyes and answered.
Lisa's face went red. She looked very awkward.
"It's the same for you, Lisa. If you have any troubles, feel free to discuss with me. I'll do my best to help you."
"T-That is why I said don't mind my affairs! It has nothing to do with you!"
"Maybe you're right, but don't tell me there's absolutely nothing I can do to help?"
Questioned by me, Lisa seemed to let her gaze wander indecisively.
"Well... No, even if there was, your matter is more important at the moment."
"No, Lisa, your troubles are equally important to me."
Precisely because I saw Iris fall ill from straining herself, I absolutely refused to compromise on this point.
"The same goes for both of us."
We faced off for a while then Lisa sighed as though giving up.
"—Fine, I shall compromise."
"Yes, I'll first have you help resolve my problem. Then with that, you can discuss your problem without reservations, right?"
Lisa stared at me with widened eyes. Confronted with her extraordinary pressure, I could only nod hesitantly.
"Well, I guess that sounds about right. But even though I said I'll help you... Is what's troubling you something within my power to help?"
"Yes. As much as I hate to admit it, I just realized that it is something that can be resolve simply with your assistance, despite my extreme reluctance, that's all."
For some reason, Lisa was answering with anger in her voice. Her face also seemed a bit red.
"—Understood. Then please tell me what I need to do."
Preparing myself to do anything that was asked, I urged Lisa.
However, Lisa blushed, glared at me but did not say a single word.
Hearing me call her name, Lisa's shoulder shook.
"U-Umm... Let me be clear, I have no other intentions, got that? Also, if you're unwilling, you are allowed to decline."
Wringing her hands several times, fidgeting restlessly, Lisa issued a prior declaration first.
"I don't plan on refusing no matter what you'll have me do, because it's your request, Lisa."
Lisa's face went even redder. Was her request something so embarrassing?
"Then I-I shall start?"
I nodded clearly and waited for Lisa to speak.
After several deep breaths, Lisa said in a trembling voice:
"M-Mononobe Yuu... May I ask you to be my b-boyfriend?"
During the lunch break the next day, Iris and I had bought bread and drinks at the snack shop and were having lunch at the benches on the roof. Due to strong sunlight, very few students had lunch outdoors so the roof was empty.
Naturally, I chose to eat at a deserted location so that I could explain to Iris about the favor Lisa was asking me to do.
I summed up yesterday's conversation and nervously told Iris that Lisa had asked if I could be her boyfriend.
In that instant, the melon bread in her hand dropped to the floor.
"O-Oh~ So Lisa-chan confessed to you."
"No, it's not a confession—"
"Then Mononobe... H-How did you answer?"
I frantically explained but Iris interrupted me, questioning me in a strong tone of voice.
"—I haven't given my reply yet."
"Then what are you planning to do?"
Iris asked me immediately.
"If possible, I want to accept her request."
I told Iris my intentions.
From the very start, I intended to agree to Lisa's request no matter it was, just that because its nature came completely unexpected and I needed to discuss with Iris first, so I asked Lisa to give me one day to consider.
"—Eh? Is that really okay when you clearly insisted on not hurting Mitsuki-chan? Although you forgot, Mononobe, you and Mitsuki-chan promised during your childhood to marry each other in the future, you know?"
"It's okay. As long as the whole story is explained to Mitsuki, she'll surely understand."
Hearing me say that, Iris showed a shocked look then slumped her shoulders dejectedly.
"I see... So you already like Lisa that much, Mononobe. In that case, not getting your memories back will probably be happiest for you, Mononobe. Ahahaha, I... totally wasted my efforts."
With tears in the corners of her yes, Iris laughed feebly.
"W-Wait, don't jump to conclusions! This isn't about liking or confessions at all! I'm acting as Lisa's boyfriend for just one day!"
"...Eh? Just one day?"
Iris stared in surprise with her mouth open.
"Lisa asked me to pretend to be her boyfriend when her parents visit for the school festival."
Like Iris, I almost got the wrong idea in the beginning, but Lisa explained: "Although I said boyfriend, it's actually just an act."
"Pretending to be a couple... Why?"
Still stunned, Iris asked me.
"She hasn't told me the reason. If I refused, she probably wouldn't want me to pry too deeply into her problem. But even if I accepted, all I'm doing is an act. Just by doing that, I'll apparently resolve Lisa's troubles."
"I-I see now..."
Iris remarked in relief.
"But since we have to pretend to be a couple... If that's not okay with you, I intend to refuse. Then I'll just have to get the story out of Lisa somehow and find another solution."
Tears fell from Iris' eyes.
"Woah! W-What's wrong?"
"You're so considerate of my feelings... I'm so happy, because I thought you didn't love me anymore, Mononobe."
"Nothing like that at all. Sorry for giving you the wrong idea from the way I worded things just now."
I placed my hand on her cheek and wiped her tears away with my thumb.
"...If you'll give me half of your yakisoba bread, Mononobe, I'll forgive you."
Looking at her melon bread that had fallen on the floor, Iris chuckled.
Taking my hand off Iris' cheek, I tore my yakisoba bread into two and gave her half.
"Great—Now I forgive you."
Iris wiped her tears on her uniform sleeves and began to take large bites of my yakisoba bread.
Then after a while, she said quietly:
"If it's just one day... Sure."
"You're not forcing yourself?"
The first to finish eating my bread, I was looking up at the blue sky. Then I looked at Iris.
"Yeah, because Lisa-chan is in trouble, Mononobe, you must help her."
"I'm counting on you, oh, but—"
After I nodded, Iris smiled and brought her face up close.
Just as I faltered, Iris touched my cheek lightly with her lips and tongue then withdrew.
"Your face doesn't look good with bits of seaweed stuck there."
Iris spoke with a blush. Seeing her like that, I felt my face heat up too.
"What... I-In that case, you could've just told me."
"True, but I wanted to do it just now."
Iris scratched her face shyly then spoke somewhat hastily.
"Next period is homeroom time, right? Are we going to discuss the school festival again?"
"Yeah. First, we'll announce what Lisa and I were discussing after school yesterday, then we'll decide on the detailed menu and how we're going to assign essential tasks here on."
Hearing me say that, Iris cocked her head in puzzlement.
"Assigning tasks huh... If I get assigned to cooking, that means I'll need to practice, right?"
I nodded affirmatively while thinking I might need to ask Mitsuki to instruct the class on cooking.
"If I cooked something, Mononobe, will you taste test it for me?"
"Really!? Then it's a promise, okay?"
Iris said happily, showing a smile even more lively than usual.
During homeroom that day, the Japanese teahouse's refreshments menu was decided to offer a set meal of grilled fish, rice, miso soup and tamagoyaki. As for drinks, apart from green tea, black tea and other choices were included.
Although uniforms were going to be kimonos, instead of ordering pre-made ones, we would make them ourselves.
Hence, in preparation for the upcoming school festival, our essential tasks were cooking practice and costume making.
As the executive committee members, our first step was to hurry with writing orders for the required cooking ingredients and fabric.
"How many forms exactly does it take..."
Seeing the thick pile of paperwork on the desk, I could not help but grumble.
Every item purchased required detailed specifications and an explanation on its purpose. Apart from that, due to providing information to multiple agencies, it required filling out several forms that were almost identical.
It would be much easier if this could be done on the computer, but these documents were required to be filled in by hand. Purchasing and other important procedures related to outside of Midgard apparently accepted only documents of this type.
This was most likely because they needed proof that Ds were handling the procedures themselves.
"If you have the time to gripe, you might as well do the work. Time is precious."
Sitting on the neighboring seat, Lisa was working silently and gave me a vicious glare.
"I know... But no matter how I rush, I'm not going to finish before school closes."
"If you're not going to finish, please take it home and continue to work. Ordered supplies need two weeks to arrive, so the application needs to be made as early as possible."
"S-So it takes that long..."
Since I had never applied for deliveries from the outside world before, I was quite surprised when Lisa told me that. Food ingredients were less of an issue, but costume making could not begin until the fabric arrived.
"—Understood, I'll get them all written by tonight no matter what."
Now that I knew that any delays would add pressures to work times, I could not afford to be sluggish.
I focused on filling in the forms and moved my pen rapidly.
My efforts were rewarded at least. By the time the setting sun's rays streamed in through the window, less than half the paperwork remained.
It was almost time for school to close. If I took the rest back to fill in at the dorm, I should be able to finish within today.
Finally seeing the finish line in sight, I breathed a sigh of relief.
Next, there would be no time left to discuss unless I brought up the "fake couple" matter.
I glanced at Lisa to see what she was doing, but ended up meeting her gaze.
Lisa was also looking at me. She frantically faced forward as a result.
Clearly our work had reached the point where we could call it a day for now.
"Say, Lisa, about yesterday's topic—"
I intended to give a reply to her request from yesterday, so I spoke to Lisa.
Lisa's body froze while she returned her gaze to my direction. From the way she looked, perhaps she had been looking for an opportuty to talk about yesterday's topic.
"Lisa, I will accept your request."
Lisa confirmed with me a bit nervously.
"Yeah. Just by pretending to be a couple for one day, your troubles will be resolved, right?"
"—Yes. By doing this, I should be able to get through this occasion."
"Can you tell me the whole story?"
Before knowing whether I was going to accept or not, Lisa refused to tell me the story behind the request. But now that I had agreed to play the part of Lisa's boyfriend, I had to acquire a definite grasp on the situation.
Lisa nodded lightly and spoke with a gloomy expression.
"Actually, my parents demanded a long time ago that I had to hurry and choose a fiance."
"Yes, this is the destiny that comes with being born as an heiress, no—More accurately, it was determined even before birth. I heard that back when I was still in my mother's womb, many people wanted to arrange engagements with me already."
"What... That's abnormal, before you're born..."
Hearing me exclaim in surprise, Lisa smiled wryly.
"It is nothing rare in families wielding vast amounts of authority and wealth. I believe my father and mother already count as parents who give their children a fair amount of freedom."
I recalled what she had said about not being on poor terms with her parents.
"Then as long as you ask, Lisa, they should give you the freedom to choose your husband, right?"
"—Of course I've asked already, and my parents gave me the freedom to choose a suitor from among candidates they've approved."
Lisa remarked sarcastically.
"No, I don't think that's freedom at all..."
"Perhaps, but my parents believe that such freedom is sufficient."
Lisa's voice showed weariness.
Most likely, this was something she had discuss with her parents many times already.
However, Lisa had not succeeded in expanding the freedom offered by her parents, which was why she was troubled right now.
"Then in that case, if I pretend to be your boyfriend... How does that help?"
To be honest, I really did not think Lisa's parents would approve of me.
"They can't possibly acknowledge you as my prospective husband. Precisely because of that, I'm asking you to do this."
"What do you mean?"
I frowned, unable to understand Lisa's intent.
"On this occasion, my parents will probably demand that I pick a fiance, because the candidates cannot keep waiting forever. But so long as I tell them I have a boyfriend, my parents would probably back down on their own without saying anything."
"Really? I think they might say: 'This kind of guy is no good! Break up with him!'"
I acted out my impression of an obstinate father, but Lisa smiled wryly.
"My parents aren't the stupid and emotional type. They know clearly that they cannot interfere forcibly while I am currently a D."
"Yeah... No matter how much they oppose you going out with me, as long as we're still in Midgard, they can't pull us apart."
"Indeed, they are very smart and gentle, parents who are considerate for their child. While I am in Midgard, they won't question my games of youth."
Conveying resignation in her words, Lisa laughed.
"You said while you're in Midgard... Then what about afterwards?"
"—You have no need to be concerned with what comes after. So long as I am temporarily liberated from the pressure of selecting a fiance, that is enough."
Lisa extended her hand towards me without answering my question.
"Well then, Mononobe Yuu, this is the true story. May I ask you to play the role of my boyfriend? Please relax, things will definitely not develop into actually marrying me."
Some parts still worried me but regardless of the true story, I had already made my decision in my heart.
"...I understand. I accept the request."
I nodded, reached out and held Lisa's hand.
"Thank you, then this resolves my troubles. Now it's your turn."
Holding my hand firmly, Lisa stared at me with a serious expression.
Just as she said, it was my turn to discuss the matter of my memories, but—
The bell rang to urge all students to leave the school.
"There's no time today, let's talk about it next time. Mine is a long story."
"...No helping it."
Lisa sighed and released my hand reluctantly.
We packed our things rapidly and left the classroom together.
"I must hand in the application forms early tomorrow. Please arrive earlier to school tomorrow. I won't accept tardiness from you, got that?"
"Understood, I'll set my alarm clock half an hour earlier than usual."
"Oh my? You made a mistake, right? Shouldn't you say you'll ask Mitsuki-san to wake you up earlier?"
"Come on... I normally get up on my own. It's only when I oversleep that Mitsuki wakes me up."
While carrying this kind of conversation, we walked along the deserted corridor.
Our footsteps and voices sounded especially loud.
After the conversation ended, we descended the stairs silently.
"Mononobe Yuu—I have a question."
Along the way, Lisa broke the silence and asked in an especially cautious manner.
"Yes, although you've accepted my request... How exactly do you intend to play the part of my boyfriend?"
"Huh? Well, umm—"
I was at a loss for words. My gaze wandered.
Indeed, on further thought, I did not know what to do.
"W-Well, we just have to act lovey-dovey in front of them, that's enough, right?"
Lisa glared at me coldly so I had no choice but to give a vague answer.
"What do you mean by lovey-dovey? You have to be more specific or else I won't understand."
"How should I put it? Like hugging and exchanging sweet words, something like that."
I racked my brain desperately to give examples of acting lovey-dovey.
"Speaking of which... When the actual occasion arrives, will you be able to do those things suddenly?"
Prompted by Lisa's question, I tried to run a simulation in my mind.
'Lisa, you're so adorable.'
'No, you're so handsome.'
Imagining Lisa and I, locked in embrace, flirting with each other—I could not help but clutch my head.
"...I can't do it."
It was way too embarrassing. Just imagining it was already unbearable.
Even if I knew it was an act, I did not think I could do it.
"I know, right? I can't do it either. So it looks like—practicing might be necessary."
"Yes, practicing to look like a convincing couple."
Lisa was originally a body's width away from me. After saying that, she came close and wrapped her arm around mine.
Feeling my elbow touch Lisa's voluptuous bust, my heart pounded intensely.
"H-Hey, your chest..."
"I know. Don't lose composure. This sort of distance is very normal for a couple. This is supposed to be even easier than a hug."
"But you're going red too, Lisa."
"T-That is due to the setting sun!"
However, Lisa's arm was trembling faintly. I could feel that she was very nervous.
If Lisa's parents were to see us as we were now, they would not think we were going out.
"Pretending to be a couple is harder than I thought."
"...I-Indeed, me aside, you are totally off."
Lisa's blushing face looked down. Nodding in agreement, she then continued in a hoarse voice:
"Umm... The day after tomorrow is Saturday, a holiday. Do you have any plans?"
"Huh? If there's no work related to the school festival, I should be free."
"Oh, don't worry on that front. So long as the applications are handed in, there is nothing urgent at the moment."
Lisa seemed to breathe a sigh of relief while she spoke, but I did not understand what she was getting at.
"Are we doing something the day after tomorrow?"
Hearing my question, Lisa spoke with a solemn expression:
"To ensure that we definitely look like a convincing couple when the time comes, we must focus on special training! You will accompany me for the entire day after tomorrow. I will also listen properly to your matter then."
After staying up all night to get things done, I successfully handed in the application forms the next day. Then the following day after that, I was at the seashore some distance away from Mitsuki's dorm.
Sitting on a breakwater under the shade of coconut trees, I stared out blankly into the distant horizon.
Although noon had not arrived yet, the sun was shining fiercely. Since it was a holiday, I left the house casually dressed in a short-sleeved shirt and pants. Even so, my forehead was still sweating.
Today was designated by Lisa as a day of "special training." Leaving the dorm slightly early, I waited for her arrival.
At the appointed time, I heard footsteps approaching.
On this seaside road that traced out a gentle curve, Lisa appeared. As soon as I saw her attire, my breath was taken away.
Lisa was wearing a sunhat with a white sundress that exposed her shoulders.
Currently, she exuded an air like a sheltered young lady on a summer vacation. This dreamy sense of beauty was in stark contrast to her usual forceful impression, forcing me to stare in mesmerization for a while.
"—Thank you for waiting. T-Then off we go."
Carrying a basket, Lisa spoke to me nervously.
My answering voice also seemed quite stiff.
As soon as I stood up, Lisa immediately took my arm in an inexperienced manner. Perhaps because the fabric of her clothing was thinner than last time, the softness of her bosom felt even more distinct than before.
"S-So we have to walk arm in arm after all?"
"Of course, because today's objective is to grow accustomed to behavior as befits a couple. By the way—before that, shouldn't you be saying something first?"
Red in the face, Lisa stared coldly at me.
Figuring out her demand, I gulped and spoke up:
"The dress suits you a lot. You look very pretty in it."
Hearing me say that, Lisa immediately blushed red to her ears and turned her head away.
"—I-Indeed, that is correct. Although it is very ordinary flattery, I shall give you a passing grade for that."
"No, it wasn't flattery. I seriously think so, you know?"
Lisa spoke sharply then pulled my arm forcefully.
"G-Go this way, I shall take you to my specially treasured location. It is a place where virtually no student in the Academy knows of."
"A special secret place? I'm looking forward to it."
I followed her directions and walked with her.
I could not help but recall dancing at a ball in the Principality of Erlia when Lisa's soft bosom had made contact with me as well. My heart pounded uncontrollably.
Whenever I took a step, my elbow would feel an extremely elastic sensation. I tried my hardest to ignore that feeling and turned my gaze to the nearby scenery.
The seaside walking path was laid with asphalt along the island's edge, tracing out gentle curves. On the other side of the breakwater, a white beach and blue ocean stretched as far as the eye could see.
—I remember I first met Iris somewhere around here.
When I was thinking about this, Lisa pinched me in the arm.
"W-What are you doing?"
"—Nothing much, except I got a vague sense that you seem to be thinking about something completely irrelevant. It doesn't count as practicing unless you pay proper attention to me."
Lisa glared at me sideways, her cheeks still blushing red.
"You want me to pay attention to you... But I won't be able to stay calm like that."
"Do you really understand? There is no need to stay calm. Do you think there are any couples who engage in lovey-dovey behavior calmly?'
"...No, I guess."
I answered after thinking briefly. Indeed, that would not be classified as a couple.
"Unless we can act natural while staying conscious of each other, we won't look like a couple. Please get used to this."
"Aren't you setting the bar too high?"
I doubted if there was a need to be so thorough, but Lisa shook her head in disagreement.
"No, my parents won't be deceived unless we go that far. So let us do our best. I-I feel embarrassed too..."
Perhaps due to nervousness, Lisa's arm was trembling faintly.
Indeed, since Lisa was pushing her so much already, I must not lose to her.
"—Got it, then let's do our best."
To calm down the trembling Lisa, I smiled at her.
"Oh...... V-Very well."
Lisa paused for a moment then as though regaining her senses, she nodded and agreed.
In this manner, we kept walking along the road that followed the island's outline.
The shore became more and more rocky while the road gradually went uphill.
Before long, we had gotten quite far from sea level. The coastline in this area were all towering cliffs.
Since I had memorized Midgard's overall layout, taking a guess from our walking distance, we had probably circled halfway around the island.
From what I could see, there were no buildings in the surroundings. The inland side consisted of a dense jungle.
"—Here it is."
However, Lisa stopped walking in this place where there was nothing.
"Huh? I don't suppose we're entering the jungle?"
"No, look down the cliff."
Lisa approached an unfenced part of the cliff side and urged me to look down.
I did as she instructed, leaned over the fencing and looked down the cliff.
The fringing reef jutted high above the sea surface. These rocks enclosed a portion of the sea to form a small inlet. The inner edge of the inlet was a beach where gentle waves broke over it.
"Wow... That kind of place is normally quite difficult to find."
"And that is why it is a specially treasured location. Come, we will descend."
"Descend... But there's no path?"
Seeing me looking around in puzzlement, Lisa smiled wryly.
"If there's no path, just fly down. It is within our power as Ds. Could you please hold this for a moment?"
Lisa handed me the basket she was carrying, then pushed her empty hand forward.
Accompanied by a stern shout, Lisa's fictional armament manifested. Holding the golden spear composed of dark matter, she point at the basket in my hand.
"Do not drop that basket no matter what, understood? Then off we go."
Lisa took me arm in arm and we floated into the air together, By transmuting dark matter into air, she created air currents to fly.
Due to my extremely low dark matter generating capacity, I could not achieve such a skill, hence I still had not gotten used to this floating feeling yet.
I hugged the basket tightly to prevent it from falling, then waited for the brief flying journey to end.
"There—We have arrived."
The feeling of sand underfoot was accompanied by Lisa's voice. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Then I looked across the inlet.
This place was wider than my first impression. The cliff side slanted greatly inwards near the bottom, which was why this place was hard to see from above.
"It feels like a secret base."
"Well, that is true indeed, because this is a secret location that only Ds capable of flight may enter."
"You can't get here by boat?"
"No, there are many fringing reefs nearby, preventing boats from approaching. Due to turbulent waves outside of the inlet, swimming here is also very dangerous."
Lisa answered me while using her fictional armament to transmute a vinyl sheet to spread on the beach. Then she snatched the basket from my hand.
"...What's inside the basket?"
"I'm not telling yet. You'll find out later. Please focus on the special training right now. Since there is no fear of being seen by others here, we can do embarrassing thing as much as required."
Lisa's wording caused my imagination to go wild. My face involuntarily heated up.
"I meant nothing weird by that, okay?! Please do not get the wrong idea!"
"I-I know... Then what kind of special training is next?"
Hearing me ask that, Lisa placed the basket on the vinyl sheet and took off her hat.
"Speaking of what could be done here, there's only one thing, right?"
Blushing intensely, Lisa untied the shoulder strap of her dress.
As she pulled the neckline of her dress open, pale skin and her cleavage instantly entered my view.
"Huh? W-What are you doing—"
"Do you even need to ask? Y-You too, strip now."
Lisa kept stealing glances at me. Shyly, she clutched the hem of her sundress. Hesitantly, she gradually lifted up her skirt.
Seeing those very soft-looking thighs gradually exposed, I could not help but gulp.
"Q-Quit staring at me! Arghhh, goodness gracious... Stripping slowly feels even more embarrassing. In that case, I'll simply do it in one fell swoop!"
Then Lisa removed her dress in one breath—revealing a dazzling swimsuit look before my eyes.
I involuntarily made a stupid sound while Lisa stared at me in amazement.
"Why are you so surprised? I must have emailed you yesterday, telling you to put on swimwear before coming here, right?"
"Oh... Now that you mention it, that's true."
My brain was totally sluggish due to nervousness, even to the point of forgetting I had come here wearing swimwear underneath. I guess Lisa was occupying so much of my attention that I had forgotten everything else.
Hence, I hastily took off my clothing while checking out Lisa's swimsuit look.
Her black swimsuit was extremely skimpy. Her voluptuous breasts almost looked like they were going to pop out.
"That swimsuit looks really good on you. I can't describe it very well—Anyway, it's very attractive."
Before I got reminded this time, I hastily took initiative and stammered in praise of Lisa's swimsuit.
"T-Thank you for the compliment..."
Even so, I suppose I managed to get a passing grade on this. Shyly shielding her chest with her arms, Lisa thanked me.
Thus, we stared at each other's swimwear.
Due to Lisa fidgeting awkwardly, her bosom, impossible to hide, was wobbling intensely.
It looked extraordinarily sexy, making my heart accelerate to an insane degree.
"Next comes swimming, right?"
Since Lisa did not speak for a long time, I took initiative to ask.
If this continued, with us face to face in our swimwear, my emotions were about to get abnormal.
"N-No, swimming alone would not count as special training. We need to frolic on the beach like a couple. Hence—This comes first."
Saying that, Lisa handed a small tube to me.
An idea occurred to me as I read out the words on the tube, then I looked at Lisa
"—You seem to understand. S-So, please do the honors."
Lisa nodded with a blush then lay down forward on the vinyl sheet.
The beautiful lines from her waist to her buttocks entered my view. Holding sunscreen in my hand, I froze.
"What's the matter? Hurry, no need to be shy. I have prepared myself already."
Hurried by Lisa, I nervously knelt down beside her.
Seeing the pale and flawless skin before me, I gulped involuntarily.
"You only need to apply it on my back. I've done the rest of my body already."
Squeezing sunscreen onto my palm I cautiously touched Lisa's back.
Lisa cried out and her body shook.
"N-Nothing, I simply cried out reflexively."
"Then I'll keep going."
Touching Lisa's back, I smoothed out the sunscreen.
My heart accelerated on its own while I was feeling Lisa's warm and smooth skin directly.
"Mmm... Ah... I-It tickles a bit."
Lisa emitted exceptionally sexy sounds, making it impossible for me to calm down.
Perhaps because of that, I applied too much force and my hand slipped on the sunscreen, accidentally touching Lisa's wonderfully shaped bottom. Immediately, my palm felt a soft sensation almost like touching breasts.
"Hyau!? W-Where do you think you're groping!?"
Lisa jumped up and glared at me, her face red to her ears.
"S-Sorry, my hand slipped."
"I'm not lying, please believe me."
I explained desperately then Lisa exhaled deeply.
"I understand—I shall assume it is so. And if we were a couple, that level of skin contact is only normal. We will enter the next stage."
Lisa grabbed my arm and went towards the sea.
Accompanied by splashing sounds, we entered the shallows to ankle depth, then Lisa released me and said:
"I've heard that couples would play around on the beach by splashing each other. We will put that into action right now. Mononobe Yuu, please get ready."
Urged by Lisa, I bent down and dipped my hands into the water.
"—Let us begin, take that!"
Scooping up seawater, Lisa threw water at me.
I imitated Lisa and splashed water at her.
However, after repeating the same action roughly five times, Lisa cocked her head incredulously.
"It does not feel particularly fun... Is there something we're doing wrong?"
"No, but if you ask that, I'd feel very troubled too."
I looked away and changed the subject.
I could not bring myself to say that Lisa's motions were causing her bosom to bounce, in combination with her wet body, I was staring in a trance.
"Hmm~ Perhaps we need to think outside the box a little. But even so, what other ways are there...?"
Saying that, Lisa crossed her arms and contemplated.
Seeing Lisa ponder silently, always treating everything so seriously without exception, I could not help but smile wryly.
"—Have you been here many times, Lisa?"
"Huh? Y-Yes, I come here every now and then for a change of pace..."
"Then can you tell me what do you usually do for fun while you're here, Lisa? Couples pretty much share their joys, right?"
Hearing me say that, Lisa gasped as though feeling impressed for an instant, then she immediately regained her senses and pointed at me with her finger.
"I-I know that too! However... Surely you cannot understand my manner of entertainment."
"How can we know if we don't try it? What needs to be done? Tell me."
After I asked her repeatedly, Lisa spoke hesitantly.
"...Just floating, that's all."
"Relaxing on the sea, just floating on your back, doing nothing. Since the waters are calm inside the inlet, there's no worry of being washed out to sea."
"—Got it, let's do it together."
Taking Lisa by the arm, I headed for the sea.
"A-Are you really fine with it? Are you really fine with floating on the water until you're tired of it?"
"Don't worry, I don't dislike doing nothing."
Going slightly farther, our feet could no longer reach the bottom, so Lisa and I swam to the center of the inlet.
"I always float around here, but I still don't think it feels couple-like..."
"Then let's hold hands. That way, we won't drift apart and it's more couple-like."
I held Lisa's hand and floated on my back. By relaxing all unnecessary tension and controlling the balance properly, I wouldn't sink.
"F-For a suggestion from you, this is pretty smart."
Lisa clumsily gripped my hand in return and floated beside me.
What entered my eyes was a clear blue color.
The sky dominated my entire view.
I could see clouds drift by, slowly changing shape.
Holding hands with Lisa, I felt her body warmth pass to me.
"Oh—So this is the kind of feeling you enjoy, Lisa."
Completely relaxed, I remarked.
Due to the water's high temperature, it felt like being soaked in warm water.
"To think you are capable of understanding the merits of this... How surprising."
Lisa's reply did not sound as stiff as before.
Without any particular reason, I looked in Lisa's direction, only to see her facing me as well.
Our gazes met. She chuckled "fufu" then smiled faintly.
A smile surfaced naturally on my face too.
It was clearly nothing more than just floating, but that was what I truly felt.
This was the first time ever that I felt so close to Lisa.
In this manner, we floated on the sea, even forgetting the passage of time.
But before either of us got bored or exhausted, the end came.
Rumble, a cute stomach sound reached my ears amidst the sound of waves.
I looked to the side and saw Lisa holding her stomach, her face gone red.
"T-Time for lunch. In fact, I made sandwiches."
Lisa spoke rapidly to me as though trying to cover things up.
"—So that's what the basket contained."
"Indeed that it is the case. You should gratefully try out my personal cooking."
"Come, bon appetit."
Sitting on the vinyl sheet, Lisa nervously opened the basket.
Inside were crooked looking sandwiches and a small water bottle.
"How should I put this...? The sandwiches look really handmade."
"No need to force yourself to search for words of praise. I'm aware that they don't look good. I've never cooked before so this cannot be helped. Come—This is black tea."
Lisa spoke sulkily then poured black tea from the water bottle into a cup.
"Thanks, then I'll begin."
Taking a crooked looking sandwich, I brought it to my mouth."
"...How is the taste?"
Lisa gulped and observed my reaction.
I had picked a tuna salad sandwich. The instant I took a bite, the fresh juices of vegetables and the savory richness of tuna expanded in my mouth.
I said my words almost subconsciously, then stuffed the entire sandwich in my mouth.
"You're not just... being polite?"
"No, it really does taste good. If it's this kind of food, I can eat an unlimited amount of it."
I replied while picking up a second and a third sandwich.
"Really...? Then my efforts are rewarded."
Lisa seemed to sigh in relief and started eating a sandwich too.
"It tastes so good even though you're clearly a beginner. I think you're amazing."
"Because it's just ordinary sandwiches. Anyone can make them taste good by following a recipe."
Lisa turned the head away coldly and replied, but I could sense her joy vaguely from the mood.
Having spent some time together on the sea just now, it seemed Lisa and I had grown much closer than before.
There were also egg sandwiches, fruit sandwiches and others. While we tried out all sorts of flavors, the basket soon became empty before we knew it.
"Hoo~ I'm so full. It's great stuff."
Finishing Lisa's sandwiches, I thanked her.
"I'm glad you're satisfied."
"Now all you need to improve is the appearance."
"—I will hone my culinary skills from now on. Seriously, could you keep that comment to yourself?"
Lisa pouted mildly then started tidying up.
Putting the water bottle and the cups back into the basket, she closed the lid. Watching her, I asked about what was next.
"Then what's next? Want to go for a brief swim to help digestion?"
Immediately, Lisa placed the basket on the vinyl sheet's edge and said solemnly:
"We could do that—But personally, I'd like to hear about your matter now."
Lisa moved closer, shoulder to shoulder with me, then drawing her knees up to her chest, she stared at me. With our bare shoulders touching, I felt my heart speed up.
"Indeed, I would like to know what is troubling you."
Hearing her say that, I understood she wanted me to explain what I wanted to discuss with her.
"...It's better to save it for later. If I brought it up now, it'll probably ruin the mood and put an end to our special training."
Since what I wanted to discuss was quite a grave matter, it would surely disrupt the current atmosphere if I told her.
However, Lisa shook her head.
"No—Since it is troubling you that seriously, then I must ask you to tell me now all the more. I will listen to your troubles as if I were your lover."
Lisa urged me in a sincere tone of voice.
From her words, I could hear that she truly cared about me. I felt my heart wavering inside.
Most likely from the very start, Lisa was treating this as part of the special training, intending to hear my troubles.
I had said earlier that we had to share joys to look like a couple, then as a couple, it was only natural to share each other's troubles as well.
If Lisa believed that this was a necessary process in order to act more like a couple, I probably should not be too apprehensive.
"So, a lot of the story might be shocking to you... But please hear me out."
"Very well, leave it to me. I shall take on all of your troubles."
Lisa thumped her chest and promised. Seeing that massive bosom wobble intensely, I frantically looked away while starting to confess my secret to her.
Three years ago, I had made a deal with Yggdrasil in order to repel Hekatonkheir that was invading my homeland, thus obtaining data on pre-civilization weapons, most prominently the anti-dragon armaments.
But in exchange, I lost a portion of my memories.
Then during the respective battles against Leviathan and Hrasvelegr, I had sought new power in the same way, losing more of my memories—
I recounted everything in order.
Lisa's face went pale initially and asked me question many times, but later on, she could not say a single word.
The expression on her face resembled not only anger but also sorrow. Staring at me, she listened silently to me.
"—And this is how I can no longer recall any of the past beyond three years ago."
I told her the current state of affairs then voiced my current feelings.
"Initially, I thought it was a price I had to pay to obtain power, so previously, I had already given up on the memories. But Iris, the only one who knows about this, vowed to help me recover my memories no matter what... I've then decided to do everything I can, so—"
"...So that is why you sought me to discuss this."
Lisa finished my sentence.
Her voice was clearly filled with anger.
Despite feeling myself cower for an instant, I still nodded and admitted it.
I felt an impact on my left cheek. Lisa had slapped me.
Normally, I might have dodged reflexively.
But seeing the tears flowing of Lisa's eyes, I could not move at all.
"In any case—whether as lovers or classmates, I have judged this as the appropriate response."
Holding the hand that had slapped me tightly against her chest, Lisa quietly told me.
"...Yeah, I think you're right."
Feeling the numbing pain on my left cheek, I nodded and agreed with Lisa.
"Although Mitsuki-san, who shoulders many mental burdens alone, is also quite a nuisance—Your problem is even worse than hers! Deciding on your own to pay a price, deciding on your own to protect us, deciding on your own to suffer alone... How can you be so selfish!?"
Lisa scolded me harshly, but tears were flowing from her eyes.
"Rather than apologize, why didn't you ask for my advice earlier!? At least if you had confessed to me before the Hraesvelgr battle, there might have been another solution, more or less..."
Lisa showed chagrin on her face while her shoulders kept shaking.
"Sorry, it's not that I don't trust you, Lisa, but I absolutely don't want Mitsuki to know... That's why I couldn't speak out lightly."
I apologized to her again.
"If Mitsuki-san learns of this, she will surely be more angry and saddened than me—and hurt far deeper. But even so, I would think that she still hopes you will confess everything to her."
Lisa spoke bitterly then glared at me.
"—Lisa, you think that I should tell Mitsuki too?"
"If I had accepted your request for a discussion as your classmate, I might have insisted on that already. However, I am currently taking the standpoint of your girlfriend... Hence, I will respect your wishes."
Although Lisa did not seem like she accepted my way of doing things, she still said that to me.
"Thank you, Lisa."
"It is too early for thanks. I still haven't offered any suggestions about what you came to me to discuss. Frankly speaking, I never expected such a difficult problem."
Lisa exhaled as though to calm down her turbulent emotions and wiped her tears away with the back of her hand.
I felt sincerely grateful to Lisa whose eyes had reddened slightly from crying.
"Goodness gracious... It would be troubling if you were satisfied with this. Since you are relying on me, you must set your goal higher. Although it might not be possible immediately, I will try to find clues to help recover your memories, even if it means exhausting all possibilities."
After declaring that, Lisa changed postures, from having her knees drawn to her chest to sitting formally in seiza.
"So—In any case, you should lie down on my lap."
'Huh? W-Why do I have to do that?"
I was troubled to hear such a sudden suggestion. I kept looking back and forth between her pale thighs and her face.
"Just now, I was scolding you as your lover, so next, I will console you. Now then, hurry and lie down."
Lisa pulled my shoulders and had me lie down on the ground with my head on her lap.
The soft feeling of her thighs and the bodily fragrance from her skin was making my heart pound intensely.
Looking up, the majority of my view was dominated by her bosom that was slightly squeezed by her swimsuit.
I called her name anxiously. A warm hand immediately rested gently on my forehead.
"Even at the cost of sacrificing precious things, you decided to protect us—I am truly grateful to you. Although it is impossible to call what you did correct... Without you, I might have lost precious family already."
Lisa stroked my head while thanking me in a gentle tone of voice.
"You must be... suffering. Because you've worked so hard from the past all the way to the present, so even if it's just for now, please allow your body and mind to rest. I will stay here by your side."
Her words permeated into the depths of my heart. I could feel the anxiety sticking to the bottom of my heart gradually disappear.
Lisa stroked my head. Her hand was making me so comfortable that I had to close my eyes.
"You can sleep if you wish. Right now, there is no one in this world who treasures you more than me, your lover, so please rest assured and leave everything to me."
Guiding me like a lullaby, Lisa's gentle words made me fall asleep naturally.
Thus, I slept peacefully on her lap. By the time I woke up, it was already dusk.
"—Sorry, I slept too soundly. Your legs must be numb and it was probably quite boring for you."
Along the way back, I apologized to Lisa who was walking by my side.
Back when I came to, she beamed at me and said "good morning" with a smile. As a result, I accidentally missed the timing to apologize to her.
"I switched postures several times in the process, so I didn't get numb. Also, there were many things to contemplate, so I didn't feel bored either."
Back to her hat and white sundress getup, Lisa replied while facing forward. And of course, I was back in my shirt and pants instead of walking in swimwear.
"Were you thinking of what I discussed with you?"
"Yes, and there was also watching your sleeping face. I don't think I can ever tire of it, you know?"
While walking arm in arm with me as when we started the day, Lisa smiled mischievously with her other hand carrying the empty basket.
"Does my face look that weird?"
"Rather than weird, it would be more apt to call it childish. It's almost like Tia's when she is taking afternoon naps, very adorable."
I felt extremely embarrassed at the thought that I had shown such a vulnerable expression.
"Fufu, perhaps I should take a photo if there is a chance next time."
"Please, anything but that."
While we were chatting like that, we reached the spot where we met up by the time we realized.
Lisa swiftly released my arm and separated from me.
I felt a little unsettled that Lisa's body warmth, which had accompanied me for the whole day, had left me.
"—This ends today's special training. Thank you for accompanying me."
"Oh no, I'm the one who needs to thank you."
Seeing Lisa thank me solemnly, I scratched my head and responded. Since I was only sleeping for the second half, I felt quite bad about that.
"On my end, I seem to have acquired a grasp on behavior expected of couples. How about you?"
"Well, lemme see... Walking arm in arm naturally on the way back, I think it's progress."
Hearing my reply, Lisa nodded with satisfaction.
"Judging from the way things look, there shouldn't be a problem. Do not forget this kind of feeling. We will continue to practice."
"Huh? More practice?"
"Naturally, we must not get complacent before the real event. Nevertheless, we will probably be using pockets of free time in between preparing for the school festival to revise a bit of what we did today, so it won't take up your time."
Lisa replied confidently with her head high then said with a serious expression:
"In fact, I originally intended to have more training, but right now, your matter is more important. In any case, I will use the weekend to put together all known information regarding Yggdrasil. I believe that dragon still holds the key."
"Yeah, I'll review the lecture notes from all the lessons so far."
Indeed, researching the other party would a basic thing to do, yet until now, I never even thought of investigating Yggdrasil.
Or rather—For some reason, I did not want to investigate.
Perhaps just as Iris pointed out, my trust in Yggdrasil had gotten to an unnatural extent.
I seemed to hear a tiny voice, so I looked around but there was no one else along the seashore path or on the beach.
"What's the matter?"
Lisa asked curiously.
"No, nothing, I guess it was my imagination."
"...Is that so? Then I shall take my leave here. See you in school on Monday."
"Yeah, see you."
Lisa turned around and left after I replied.
I watched her depart until she vanished on the far end of the road that traced out gentle curves, then started walking to return to Mitsuki's dorm.
But in that instant, my vision suddenly shook.
A moment's dizziness.
I steadied my footing immediately and did not allow myself to fall.
Was it the result of sleeping outdoors? I shook my head.
—Huh? Speaking of which, I think I was planning to do something when I get back...
I seemed to have something to investigate, but could not recall what it was.
Whatever, it was probably nothing important. Without dwelling on it deeply, I stopped thinking about it.
On the Monday after Lisa's special training, Brynhildr Class officially began to work in preparation for the the school festival.
That being said, since the ordered supplies had not arrived, costume making could not begin yet.
Hence, the first thing to do was cooking practice—
"I-I'm going to cut it now? Can I cut it like this?"
Holding a kitchen knife unsteadily, Iris asked Mitsuki who was supervising everyone.
"Ahhh, wait! Did I not mention that the hand keeping the food stationary needs to be closed, held like a cat's paw!?"
Mitsuki corrected Iris with great alarm on her face.
"Tia will add the seaweed!"
"Stop! Too much! It expands suddenly in hot water, so just a little is enough!"
This time, Mitsuki was stopping Tia's actions.
What could I say? Watching the girls was making me gradually unsure of the outcome.
We were gathered in the home economics classroom to use fourth period's homeroom time for practice, trying out simple Japanese dishes. Any ingredients or equipment we lacked was taken from Mitsuki's dorm.
Mitsuki was the only one versed in Japanese cooking, so she had to walk around busily between the whole class.
Apart from Mitsuki, Ariella was apparently the only one with plenty of cooking experience. Although NIFL's survival training had taught me how to prepare wild game when hunting, my experience in normal cooking was virtually nil. But in spite of that, my skills still came in handy.
"Mononobe-kun... You're very fast at cutting."
While I was cutting ingredients without taking, Firill and Ren, working next to me, watched with impressed eyes.
"Because I'm very used to working with blades, but I know nothing about seasonings, so I need to count on Mitsuki for that."
Seasonings in survival cooking was basically using spices to cover up gamey flavors, which was quite primitive and could not be used in delicate Japanese cooking.
"I'm done over here."
Ariella, who had been working on the opposite kitchen table, spoke to us.
"Phew... This is exhausting."
Finishing her work with Ariella's assistance, Lisa wiped sweat off her brow.
Thus, we finally finished before fourth period ended. Then we all started to eat when the lunch bell rang.
The menu consisted of plain rice, miso soup, tamagoyaki and grilled fish.
"Mononobe! I'm the one who cut up the turnip in the miso soup!"
"Tia added in the miso and the seaweed!"
Iris and Tia stared excitedly as they watched me pick up a bowl of miso soup.
"—Thanks for the food."
At their urging, I tried the miso soup first.
But in that instant, an unexpected taste of sweetness made me choke accidentally.
"C-Cough, c-cough... W-What's with this sweet miso soup...?"
Hearing me say that, Iris cocked her head in puzzlement.
"Eh? Did I put in too much sugar at the end?"
"I-Iris-san, I never gave any instruction of that sort in the first place!"
Mitsuki confirmed the taste frantically then questioned Iris.
"Because I thought it tasted a bit salty, I thought I could use sugar to adjust."
"In a case like this, just add water to dilute the flavor—"
Hearing Iris' answer, Mitsuki brought her palm to her forehead and sighed.
"Sheesh, Iris! Don't do things without asking!"
Even Tia was angry at her. Iris slumped her shoulders dejectedly.
Just as I laughed wryly at their interactions, someone patted me on the shoulder from the side.
"Mononobe-kun, try mine... for a change of taste."
I looked back to see Firill bringing a piece of tamagoyaki, cut to bite size, to my mouth using her chopsticks.
Before I could answer, the approaching tamagoyaki was shoved into my mouth.
Initially, it tasted like ordinary egg, but when I bit into it, an intense bitterness instantly expanded in my mouth.
I gave my thoughts honestly, immediately prompting a surprised look on Firill.
"Eh? I heard it tastes better a bit charred, so I fried one side thoroughly..."
"You fried it for too long. Look, the inside has turned black, hasn't it?"
I pointed at the remainder of the tamagoyaki on Firill's plate. Since the charred side was rolled on the inside, it looked normal at first glance, but the burnt portion could be seen from the cross-section.
"Cooking is so deep... Ah, it's bitter."
Firill tried a bite herself and made a bitter look.
Thus, the first cooking practice concluded with many lingering issues.
The only saving grace was that the plain rice and grilled fish were successfully prepared, but that was only because they were Mitsuki and Ariella's responsibility.
If assigned to Iris or the others, failures might very well have resulted.
—Next time during practice, I'll need to watch everyone carefully.
After forcing myself to finish the sweet miso soup and bitter tamagoyaki, I secretly vowed to myself.
"Looks like we all need to practice cooking more, me included."
After school, Lisa remarked while preparing a report on today's activities. A band-aid was wrapped around her fingertip—She had cut herself when chopping ingredients.
"Yeah, because we're low on manpower... If possible, I hope everyone can get familiar with every job."
While feeling conscious of Lisa's warmth from our shoulder contact, I nodded in agreement.
Putting our desks together, we were working side by side with our shoulders touching.
The only people staying behind in the classroom were Lisa and I as members of the festival executive committee.
With a low student population to begin with, the school became silent as soon as lessons were over, hence writing with a pen sounded especially loud.
"...But by the way, leaning so close together does make it difficult to write."
Lisa remarked, feeling cramped.
Due to being so close together, we had bumped into each other's arm several times already.
"In that case, shouldn't we separate a bit?"
"No. To prevent us from forgetting the feeling during special training the other day, we must keep a proper distance as lovers as much possible when we are alone."
Despite blushing mildly, Lisa refused to separate.
"It's a bit late by now for me to ask, but you don't dislike this?"
I tried to ask her a question that had also occurred to me during the special training.
"Well, I was thinking... even if it's for delaying engagement matters, isn't it quite an ordeal if you have to pretend to be a couple with a guy you don't like?"
Perhaps I was not being clear enough, so I explained further.
"Y-You have no need to worry about that sort of thing. I do this for myself."
"But... Sure, if it's just for a day, but we're going to keep doing this until the school festival, right? If you're forcing yourself, you definitely won't make it to the end."
The school festival workload was only going to increase, but adding mental stress unnecessarily for the sake of lovers training made me worry if it was a bad idea.
"No—I am not forcing myself."
However, Lisa was answering with a displeased expression.
"Really! There are many things I wish to th-thank you for... I also believe that you are not without aspects worthy of respect, so I don't d-dislike you."
Lisa stared at her paperwork while speaking.
"Huh? You mean—"
"Ah! D-Don't get the wrong idea, okay? I am simply saying that I don't dislike you, which doesn't mean I like you!"
Blushing intensely, Lisa waved her hands and added a clarification.
"I-I get it."
"Hoo, goodness gracious... Now isn't the time for you to be worrying about others, is it? Please prioritize your own memories."
Lisa sighed in exasperation and stopped what she was doing.
Then putting her paperwork on the side, she took out her portable terminal from her bag.
"—Just as I mentioned the day before yesterday, I researched Yggdrasil as much as possible. Including unconfirmed reports, I've picked out all the information that intrigues me."
"Now that you mention it, you said to start with investigating Yggdrasil. Oh... I originally planned to look things up, but totally forgot."
Realizing how forgetful and careless I was, I could not help but scratch my head.
Why would I neglect something so important?
"Could you at least show some crisis awareness for your own affairs? Whatever, even if you investigated, I expect nothing more than what was taught in class."
Lisa seemed like she had not expected anything from me to begin with. Shrugging, she called up Yggdrasil's information on the screen.
First to be seen was a photo of a gigantic, strangely shaped tree.
"This is a picture of Yggdrasil?"
I confirmed with Lisa.
"Yes, this the clearest of all recent photographs. Just as you can see, Yggdrasil resembles a tree in appearance, but unlike ordinary plants, it can move on root-like feet. Growing approximate twenty meters a year, its height currently approaches 500 meters."
Lisa nodded affirmatively the started explaining.
"It initially appeared in a Norwegian mountain range then moved south slowly. Currently, it has stopped on the border between Denmark and Germany. Furthermore, Yggdrasil was designated a dragon twenty years ago, but some say that it actually appeared not long after Vritra went missing. However, since there are no concrete records, the veracity of this is open to question."
"Not long after Vritra went missing... Meaning before the birth of the Ds, right? This is my first time to hear this."
I answered in surprise.
"Disregarding whether the report is real or not, there is no question that someone has proposed that idea. Back then, there were apparently rumors among the locals about a gigantic tree that suddenly appeared. Reportedly, it never moved until Leviathan and other dragons started to become active, which is probably why it wasn't designated a dragon until later."
"If that report is real—It means that Yggdrasil must be driven by different motives compared to the other dragons after all."
Vritra had appeared twenty-five years ago. Afterwards, Ds began to be born among humans and as though in response, the dragons made their appearance... Judging by this sequence, the explanation, that the dragons awakened in search of Ds as mates, would hold.
But if Yggdrasil had appeared before the birth of Ds, then very naturally, one would conclude that its goal was not to find a D for a mate.
"According to what you said, Yggdrasil seeks the extermination of all other dragons, right?"
"Yeah, that's definitely what Yggdrasil said."
"If that were to be the case, the report on the timing of its appearance becomes slightly more believable. However, this is merely unconfirmed intel, hence making deductions on such a foundation is very risky. For now, please listen to the other information I have researched."
Lisa switched screens to show the next page.
"Three large-scale attacks have been launched at Yggdrasil to date. On every occasion, they failed due to weapons malfunctioning."
"Weapons malfunctioning? Not attacks having no effect or getting defended against?"
"Indeed. According to reports, all tanks and aircraft entering Yggdrasil's range would behave abnormally without exception. Even missiles launched from a distance would fly off in the wrong direction."
After listening to Lisa's explanation, I crossed my arms and pondered.
"If it's electronics going haywire, I think the reason might be a strong magnetic field..."
"Indeed, a strong magnetic field was apparently measured in Yggdrasil's vicinity. However, what acted erratically was not only computer-controlled weapons but everything powered by electricity."
Hearing this, I was reminded of something.
I was reminded of the data transmitted to me from Yggdrasil. In other words, that data was also—
"The following is my hypothesis. Perhaps Yggdrasil might possess a power related to electricity. The weapons data you've said to have received so far, and what is known as information recorded in the brain, are in other words, electric signals."
It looked like Lisa had thought of the same thing as me.
"Yeah, I think that's very likely."
I nodded and agreed with Lisa. Immediately, she looked at me worriedly.
"May I... confirm something with you?"
"What is it?"
"Are you always connected to Yggdrasil?"
Lisa asked me cautiously. I could read from her eyes slight nervousness and wariness.
"No. If I call to it in my mind, Yggdrasil reacts, but it's only when receiving data that I feel there's a connection."
"Reacting when you call huh? In that case, it means that you might be under surveillance. But if you are not always connected to Yggdrasil... It's a relief for now."
Lisa breathed a sigh of relief but I did not understand what she was worried about.
"If I'm always connected to Yggdrasil, will something bad happen?"
"Certainly. Suppose it keeps sending electric signals to you persistently—In the worst-case scenario, Yggdrasil might seize control of your body. Please don't summon Yggdrasil lightly from now on."
"I-I got it."
Confronted with a possibility that never occurred to me, I nodded to promise her.
But regarding the transmission of information, I was always able to terminate it by my own will, so it seemed to me that Lisa was being paranoid.
During the first deal, Yggdrasil had sought my consent too. In other words, Yggdrasil did not have any coercive power to ignore my will when transmitting information.
"—Please be careful, okay? In any case, this is the information I have gathered this time. From now on, I will search for ways to recover your memories while working on the assumption that you are under Yggdrasil's electrical interference."
"Great, thank you, Lisa. I will put some serious thought into it too."
Hearing me say that, Lisa glared at me.
"Being motivated is very good and all, but since we have no idea whether Yggdrasil is friend or foe, we will leave direct negotiations as the last resort. Please do not take matters into your own hand."
Reminded by Lisa, I nodded.
But thinking in hindsight, perhaps we should not have left it as a last resort for later.
Because two weeks later—"Green" Yggdrasil would vanish off the face of the Earth.
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