Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 5 Chapter 3
Chapter 3 - The Disappeared Green Dragon
"—What spectacular scenery."
Kili Surtr Muspelheim looked out to the epicenter of the blast and remarked.
This was farmland on the border of Germany and Denmark that had been abandoned due to Yggdrasil's arrival. Right now, there was absolutely nothing.
Whether abandoned farmland, broken sections of road, or even the dragon in the shape of giant tree, nothing existed.
Everything had vanished without trace, leaving a gigantic crater several kilometers wide. A hemisphere had been gouged cleanly out of the ground to serve as evidence for a powerful explosion.
"What on earth..."
Jeanne Hortensia was murmuring in a daze next to Kili. Together with Kili, she was looking down from a slight hill, staring at the crater in the distance.
"Who knows. Without witnessing the moment, all we can know is that this resulted from Hekatonkheir making contact with Yggdrasil."
Looking at this scene which seemed as though part of the world had been dug out, Kili replied.
"NIFL should have recorded what happened. If we infiltrate a base again, perhaps we might be able to get details—Are we doing it?"
"Oh my, Jeanne-chan, that's so proactive of you, how rare. But there's no need, because what's important is the outcome, not the process."
The wind blowing from crater was causing her hair to fly up. Kili narrowed her eyes and answered.
Hearing Jeanne's question, Kili nodded with a stiff expression.
"Yes, whether Yggdrasil was truly destroyed—This is the only question of importance."
Ever since preparations for the school festival started, two weeks had passed.
Through continued practice, everyone's cooking skills were improving bit by bit. The "fake couple" interactions between me and Lisa were gradually getting more natural than before.
The ordered supplies had also arrived at last, so Brynhildr Class started making costumes in our homeroom classroom.
"...It's almost like cutting paper."
Cutting folded fabric with scissors, I muttered.
Although I was following pre-made templates and instructions, I still found it hard to imagine the full look of the finished garment.
But once the cut cloth was spread out, the garment had definitely taken form. It felt like mischievous fox spirits were playing pranks on me.
"Feels unbelievable, doesn't it? That's why I love making clothes."
Sewing sleeves next to me, Firill stopped what she was doing and remarked.
"Yeah, I've discovered it's unexpectedly fun after doing it for real. But by the way, I never knew you had tailoring skills, Firill."
I originally thought she would not have any tailoring experience just like with cooking, but Firill joined Mitsuki in directing the making of costumes.
"I learned about cosplay culture from the books and manga I read... Hence, I tried making some and ended up getting obsessed."
Firill replied quietly with some embarrassment.
"Really? Then you have a lot of clothes in your room that you made yourself?"
"Yes... but I've kept it a secret from everyone so far, because none of them have met my standards. However—If you're interested, I could wear them to show you?"
Firill leaned near me and whispered in my ear.
Just as Firill's breath and words were making me waver, she said with a slight blush:
"Many cosplay outfits are quite sexy... So be prepared for your adrenaline to pump, Mononobe-kun."
"Uh... S-Stop joking around with me."
I imagined Firill in a revealing costume but halfway through, I frantically shook my head.
"I'm serious, not joking."
Firill leaned in closer.
But seeing our interactions, Lisa scolded us with displeasure.
"Hey, you two over there, cut the idle chatter and get back to work."
"Eh? Don't tell me you're jealous, Lisa?"
"O-Of course not!"
Lisa went red in the face and denied Firill's observation.
"Hmm... It feels so suspicious. Lately, Lisa, you've gotten unusually close with Mononobe-kun."
"Nothing of that... sort."
Lisa looked away while answer. Feeling embarrassed too, I scratched my face.
Most likely, the results of our lovers training were showing up, but it was quite embarrassing for a classmate to point it out.
"Hmmmmm... Are you two hiding something from me?"
Essentially, we intended to reveal Lisa's request just before the event and ask for everyone's assistance. But if we told them this early, we would have to suffer teasing for the next two weeks for sure.
If possible, I wanted to delay announcing this. Just as I was thinking of an excuse, news arrived.
The door was forcefully flung open, drawing everyone's gaze.
Shinomiya-sensei appeared. Looking at all of us with a stiff expression, she spoke the shocking truth.
"We just received a report from NIFL. Yggdrasil and Hekatonkheir—apparently disappeared."
"—Let me start with what transpired. After resurrecting, Hekatonkheir made its way towards Yggdrasil. This was confirmed quite some time ago already. But for the past twenty-years, Hekatonkheir has never made contact with other dragon, hence, the majority opinion was that it would change direction eventually."
Shinomiya-sensei entered the classroom, went up to the lectern and started to explain.
We paused in our dressmaking for now and returned to our seats, listening intently to how the two dragons vanished.
"But that prediction was off. Hekatonkheir approached Yggdrasil. Deciding this was an anomalous situation, NIFL observed the two dragons."
Everyone listened to the teacher with serious expressions on their faces.
But my mind was in a partial state of panic. Cold sweat slid down my forehead.
To me, Yggdrasil was not simply a dragon. As things stood at the moment, it was cooperating with me. And on the matter of recovering my memories, it was the last resort I would consider relying on.
Getting a premonition that an irrevocable situation had occurred, I felt intense anxiety as a result.
Noticing my anxiety from her seat on my left, Iris looked worriedly at me.
I forced a smile to tell her "I'm fine" and focused on Shinomiya-sensei's explanations.
"Then an hour ago, Yggdrasil started to attack when Hekatonkheir reportedly reached within two kilometers or so."
"Attack!? A fight between dragons!?"
Lisa cried out in surprise.
It was only a natural reaction. A fight between dragons—There was no precedent at all.
"Yes. Perhaps it was an act of interception against an invader of its territory, but in response to the attack, Hekatonkheir began to fight as well. Despite getting skewered by Yggdrasil's branches and roots, Hekatonkheir still continued to advance. Releasing a blinding flash of light, it caused a massive explosion."
"Meaning that Hekatonkheir detonated itself in a suicide attack of mutual annihilation?"
Mitsuki asked Shinomiya-sensei in a hoarse voice.
"That appears to be the case based on NIFL's observations, but what actually happened is still unclear. However, as results stand, both Yggdrasil and Hekatonkheir vanished together. This is the truth."
Hearing the teacher's answer, Mitsuki's face went stiff.
"Considering past precedents, Hekatonkheir should not be regarded as destroyed...."
"Indeed, we cannot reject the possibility that Hekatonkheir will reappear eventually. But so far, there are no reports of its revival. In other words, perhaps it is only a temporary situation, but for the time being, there are no dragons on Earth to threaten us."
Everyone gasped, then whispers started up in the classroom.
Two dragons disappeared, "Black Vtrita" missing—
Just as Shinomiya-sensei said, there were no dragons existing anywhere on the Earth to threaten us.
"Although we cannot lower our guard, this incident should be considered advantageous to us. If anything changes, I will inform you, so go back to your school festival preparations."
After finishing, Shinomiya-sensei left the classroom in a rush. She was probably very busy due to the incident.
"Nii-san, I will go out for a short while too."
Mitsuki left as though chasing after Shinomiya-sensei. As the captain of the Dragon Subjugation Squad, she probably wanted to get more details on the situation.
"Sure... I got it."
I answered absentmindedly but in her rush, Mitsuki ran out of the classroom without noticing that something was off with me.
—Could this situation really be considered advantageous?
I looked up at the ceiling in the classroom and wondered.
If Yggdrasil was humanity's enemy like the other dragons, it was definitely advantageous. But if it was standing on humanity's side, this would be a severe loss.
If the missing Vritra were to show up again, putting us in a desperate crisis, I would not be able to rely on Yggdrasils power to obtain data on new weapons.
Although this problem was also related to my memories, I intended to shelve the matter of my memories for now. I could not honestly feel happy about the current developments.
After school, Lisa and I were staying in the classroom as members of the festival executive committee as usual. Today, there was the additional presence of Iris as well.
"Speaking of which, Iris-san, you know about his matter too, right?"
Seeing Iris with a serious expression, Lisa spoke as though it had just occurred to her.
"Yes, so when I heard that Yggdrasil vanished... I felt very worried. Mononobe, are you okay?"
Iris stared at my face and asked me.
"I haven't experienced any changes at all. Even when something so drastic happened to Yggdrasil, I didn't notice anything."
To put Iris at ease, I smiled to her and told her I had no symptoms.
Immediately, it was Lisa's turn to question me.
"Did you try to summon Yggdrasil?"
"No, not yet, because you asked me not to summon it on my own, so I thought I'd discuss with you first, Lisa."
"A wise decision. However, I believe we need to confirm Yggdrasil's continued existence even if it means bearing some risk right now. I permit you to do it. Try summoning it."
I nodded and called to Yggdrasil in my mind.
—Yggdrasil, are you listening? Answer me if you are.
But even after waiting a long time, no voice responded.
"...Doesn't seem to be working."
I shook my head and Lisa murmured with her arms crossed.
"Then should we regard it as destroyed...? If that were the case, then it proves that defeating Yggdrasil will not recover your memories."
"How can this be—then Mononobe will never recall his precious memories again?"
Iris spoke, almost looking like she was about to burst into tears.
"I didn't say that. Although it's true that options have been reduced, I will find a solution. Iris-san, leave his matter to me and focus your efforts on preparing for the school festival."
Hearing Lisa's assertion, Iris showed relief on her face.
"Okay... I got, but Lisa-chan—"
Iris paused here and stared at Lisa squarely.
"I can't think of a way to recover his memories, so I have to rely on you, Lisa-chan—But I'll support Mononobe all the way!"
Pressured by Iris' forceful gaze, Lisa backed away slightly.
"I'm the one that Mononobe entrusted his memories to, so I can't leave everything to you, Lisa-chan. I'll try to do what's in my power."
Iris smiled sweetly, took her school bag and walked to the classroom door.
"Whether it's about Mononobe or the school festival, let's do our best! See you tomorrow!"
Iris waved goodbye while Lisa answered in a slightly higher pitch. I said "bye" to her and waved.
Only after Iris disappeared from sight did Lisa exhale deeply.
"She... seems to have changed."
I tilted my head. Iris did not seem to have changed in particular.
"She did. Until recently, she was gave off an air of unreliability and unsteadiness. But now, I can feel strong willpower coming from her."
Perhaps I was the one who forced Iris to change in this way. I could not help but feel guilty.
Staring at me, Lisa seemed to be observing my attitude. Then hesitantly, she said:
"Excuse me... By any chance, are you and Iris-san—"
But Lisa halted mid-sentence and felll silent.
"Are we what?"
Not understanding what was up with her, I urged her to continue.
"No—I'd better not pursue the matter unnecessarily, because I... am not your real girlfriend."
Lisa's answer sounded like she was trying to persuade herself. Then she smiled somewhat forcibly.
"Very well, let us get to work. We will begin with writing today's activity report."
Next, when sat in our seats with our shoulders touching, taking care of our jobs as executive committee members.
Before I knew it, Lisa's body warmth from the side had already become something I took for granted. Her warmth was gradually calming down my anxious emotions from the sudden incident.
"Then let us begin the third Ether Wind experiment."
The voice of the lab coat wearing Principal Charlotte B. Lord was heard in the special underground training site below the school.
I answered briefly and raised my left hand.
—Fictional armament, Siegfried.
I raised the ornamental gun made of dark matter and aimed at the target—
"What's the matter?"
"Isn't this scene too surreal?"
Looking at the giant frozen tuna on the target location, I asked her.
"...Shut up, I'm holding in my laughter too."
Shoulders and voice shaking, the principal replied.
"Hey, you're already laughing out! Since you find it hilarious too, prepare something more normal, okay...?"
"This can't be helped, because preparing a cadaver is quite difficult."
The principal shrugged and replied.
"At least it's not processed food, so it's much better than last time..."
After defeating Hraesvelgr, I had gained a new ability—the generation of "Ether Wind."
Four days had passed since the report that Yggdrasil and Hekatonkheir had disappeared. Today, it was the third experiment to test and analyze Ether Wind.
Ever since it was confirmed that I had inherited Hraesvelgr's ability, two experiments had already taken place in the intervening two weeks.
But there was never a satisfactory result each time, because of the special properties of Ether Wind.
"If the golden particles you create through transmutation has the same properties as Hraesvelgr's power, it might be a medium for souls to manifest. Since it's impossible to test this effect without the presence of souls, I prepared the largest dead body I could find so far. Be grateful."
Pointing at the frozen tuna, the principal puffed out her chest and declared.
Last time, we were using processed meat borrowed from the catering building, but nothing happened. Hence, this time, we were using a frozen tuna that had not been processed yet.
There was nothing wrong with this approach, but even though it was not wrong...
"Why a tuna..."
"I understand how you feel. But importing human cadavers might cause unnecessary speculation among the outside world, so I decided to use tuna with its relatively large body size."
"In a case like this, wouldn't the size of the brain matter more for selection?"
"Don't be like that. As an international organization, Midgard is under many ethical constraints. We will face protests on many fronts if we used sapient creatures. Also, if we use tuna, we'll be able to have a feast after the experiment, don't you agree?"
Seeing the principal licking her lips while she spoke, I slumped my shoulders powerlessly.
"Now those are your true thoughts..."
"Fufu, it's just a small reward. Come, hurry and start the experiment."
I sighed and raised Siegfried again.
Then focusing my mind, I imagined Hraesvelgr's power.
Turning the picture in my mind into a bullet, I pulled the trigger.
The fired bullet of dark matter turned into golden particles and covered the frozen tuna.
If the tuna's soul manifested, it would surely be a bizarre scene. While thinking that, I observed the experiment's reaction.
However, nothing happened. The golden light faded and disappeared.
"No good this time either...? Perhaps we need to use a subject with higher intelligence."
The principal remarked ruefully.
"—Is that it for today's experiment?"
I put down Siegfried and asked but the principal shook her had.
"No, there's something else for you to test. Mica, get into position!"
The principal shouted and the door to the training site instantly opened. Mica-san appeared in her maid outfit.
She strode over to the frozen tuna and stopped.
"This time, fire at Mica."
I stared into the principal's eyes and wondered if she was serious.
"I heard that during your battles against Hraesvelgr, there was one instance when you were enveloped in golden particles and unable to move. This experiment will test if that phenomenon can be replicated."
"But suddenly experimenting on a human will be dangerous..."
"Don't worry. Mica is very strong."
I was worried about Mica-san but the principal asserted with inexplicable confidence.
"I will be fine. Please do not hold back."
Mica-san herself was urging me with a smile.
Despite clearly chosen as a test subject, she did not look nervous at all. She was abnormally bold.
"...I got it."
Despite my uneasiness, I aimed Siegfried's muzzle at Mica-san.
Since I absolutely must not transmute it into any other substance, I strongly maintained the picture in my mind and pulled the trigger.
The fired bullet turned into golden particles and covered Mica-san's body.
"How is it, Mica?"
The principal called to her but she did not reply. Mica-san's smile seemed frozen on her face.
"—I'm guessing she's unable to speak. Because when we were hit by Hraesvelgr's move, we couldn't make a sound either."
I told the principal while observing Mica-san's condition.
After a while, the particles faded and Mica-san immediately blinked.
"Oh, I can move now."
Mica-san opened and closed her hand repeatedly while reporting to the principal.
"Yes, the phenomenon during the battle against Hraesvelgr was successfully replicated. Although we have failed to confirm the power to manifest souls, this has raised chances that your power is of the same nature as Hraesvelgr's."
The principal nodded contentedly, patted me on the back and said "Good work."
"What remains is quite a significant factor of uncertainty. Indeed, Basilisk's power still remains unknown..."
Holding her hand against the side of her mouth, she murmured. Having ended the experiment, Mica-san approached and replied to the principal.
"Yes. Using the school festival as a pretext, we conducted a health examination but no changes were diagnosed among the students' dragon marks."
"No visible changes in appearance. That means that the person might not even notice herself. What exactly should we do...?"
"Charlotte-sama, for example..."
Seeing the principal and Mica-san begin a discussion, I asked them apprehensively:
"Umm... The experiment has really ended, right? Since I still need to prepare for the school festival, can I leave?"
"Hmm? Oh, sorry, you must be busy too. But hold on, I've got something else to tell you."
The principal halted her conversation with Mica-san and turned to me.
Seeing the principal grin maliciously, I had a bad feeling and asked her.
"As Midgard's principal, I have a favor to ask of you. You know that the school festival is held over two days, right?"
"Yeah, I know..."
"The reason for having two days is to differentiate visitors. People with intimate ties to Midgard, privy to undisclosed secrets, versus the other group who are not. These two groups cannot mix."
"That definitely make sense. But what does that have to do with me?"
So there was that kind of reason behind it. As much as I could understand, it was an issue on the organizer's side. I did not think it had anything to do with me as an ordinary student.
However, the principal shrugged in exasperation and sighed in an exaggerated manner.
"It has a lot to do with you. Have you forgotten how special you are? You are the only one verified case of a male D. This has not been disclosed to the public yet and it is unknown what chaos might result."
"Eh, really? But Firill's parents know about me..."
The next king of the Principality of Erlia—Firill's father apparently heard rumors of me. As a result, I originally thought that my existence was already known to the outside world to some extent.
"Firill Crest's parents, the royal family of the Principality of Erlia? Naturally, as major sponsors of Midgard, they must have heard rumors about you. But people who are only slightly involved with Midgard would never expect in their wildest dreams the existence of a male D, hence—"
The principal snapped her fingers. Immediately, Mica-san jogged over to go through the door then swiftly brought something back.
"We will concentrate all the people who don't know about you on the first day's invitations. When the time comes, I want you to wear this."
The principal motioned to Mica-san with her eyes. Instantly, Mica-san handed to me what she had brought.
"The Academy's uniform...? Hey, isn't this a girl's!?"
Seeing the uniform I received, I could not help but scream.
"Yes, it should fit you well because it was made according to measurements the other day."
"That's not the issue here, why do I have to wear a female uniform—"
So that was why Mica-san was measuring me with a tape the other day? While thinking that, I tried to protest but the principal interrupted me in a forceful tone of voice.
"Of course it is for you to disguise yourself as a female student. Although I considered putting you on house arrest for one day, I'd feel sorry for you."
"E-Even if that's the case..."
Looking at the female uniform, I did not know what to do.
Immediately, Mica-san dropped a long-haired wig on the uniform with a smile.
"Don't worry, Mononobe-san, you have a cute face. You won't be exposed as long as you pay attention to your voice and manner of walking."
Receiving such encouragement that I could not feel happy about, I slumped my shoulders in dejection.
Seeing me disheartened, the principal patted me on the back and laughed.
"I will issue orders to the entire student body beforehand to keep the truth of your gender a secret. So relax and enjoy the school festival."
So all the students will know I'm crossdressing huh?
Feeling even more depressed, I sighed.
To be honest, being confined in a room would feel much better, but as a member of the festival executive committee, I must not take a break. I was cornered.
"Principal, let me ask while I'm here. Which days will my parents and Lisa Highwalker's be visiting?"
But this was a matter I must confirm in advance no matter what, so I asked the principal.
"The Highwalker Group is one of Midgard's sponsors and their position allows them to know about you, so they will be invited to the second day. However, your parents will be on the first day. Even if they know you are at Midgard, they are still ordinary people in position. I cannot allow them to mix with the second day's visitors."
If I was allowed to show myself as a man on the second day, I should be able to play the part of Lisa's boyfriend.
But on the first day, I must crossdress in front of my own parents. That would be almost the same as torture.
No... But this could be my excuse to avoid my parents, right?
To prevent my memory loss from coming to light, I must avoid contact with my parents as much as possible. And to achieve this goal, I could apparently take advantage of the current situation.
"Then do your best to prepare for the school festival. Right now, there are no dragons targeting you lot. Enjoy the festivities as much as you can."
Laughing jovially, the principal's shoulders shook.
But after hearing her say that, my uplifted feelings cooled down a bit.
"...Principal, do you believe that all dragons have disappeared?"
I was interested in her opinion as Midgard's chief administrator, so I asked.
"Hmm, all dragon eh—"
Immediately, the principal smiled wryly for some reason then said:
"I cannot assert there are no more dragons."
"Perhaps Hekatonkheir will revive, or Vritra might reappear..."
I agreed but the principal shook her head.
"That's not what I mean. What I'm implying is there might be other undiscovered dragons hidden in the world."
Hearing this unexpected answer, I could not help but gasp.
"What's to be so surprised about? This shouldn't be anything impossible to conceive. Besides, what the things we call dragons? You can't understand that either."
"R-Right. Now that you mention it... The ones who decided on the name dragon and described these things as monsters from legends was Midgard's superior—Asgard. If you're part of the higher-ups, Principal, do you know the truth about dragons?"
Hearing her say that, I asked in return. It was something that had intrigued me since a long time ago.
"—You overestimate me. No one knows about those monsters. At most, there is a hypothesis founded on speculation."
"Basically, a theory that no one knows is right or wrong. And the person who proposed it is no longer around, how irresponsible..."
The principal sounded like she was grumbling. Her face seemed especially sad.
"Can you tell me that hypothesis?"
"Unfortunately, it is top secret, not something you're allowed to know."
"Yeah... I thought so."
Information held only by the higher-ups could not possibly be told to an ordinary student like me.
Because I asked without raising my hopes, I gave up after knowing it was not possible.
But seeing me like that, the principal seemed to show embarrassment on her face. Hesitantly, she said:
"No, it's not like that. Personally, I think you can be told... But umm, rules..."
The principal glanced furtively at Mica-san while speaking to me.
"Charlotte-sama, please don't, okay?"
Mica-san warned the principal while smiling courteously. The principal motioned towards her with her eyes and smiled wryly.
"...So that's that. But personally, I really wish you could stand among those who ought to be in the know."
"Those who ought to be in the know?"
I found the principal's wording quite curious and cocked my head in puzzlement.
"Meaning that—whether you can become my friend in the truest sense of the word. I mentioned on our first encounter, right? I want a friend."
Speaking of which, the principal apparently said something like that to me... But I could not remember clearly.
"How can I become your friend, Principal?"
"Hmm, welll... First we have to sneak into the girls dorm together—"
The principal made an excited look then started speaking but halfway through, Mica-san grabbed her by the head.
"Owwwwwwwwww!? M-Mica, my head's gonna split open!"
"Charlotte-sama, the joke ends here. Mononobe-san, please do not take her seriously and do anything weird. It was all a joke."
Seeing her intimidating smile, I nodded reflexively.
Then the principal was taken away by Mica-san, held by the head, thus ending the experiment.
I looked at the female uniform and wig in my hands and could not help but sigh deeply.
I was curious about what the principal had said but more importantly right now, perhaps I should think about how I was going to survive the first day of the school festival.
Busy times flew by within the blink of an eye.
The festival executive committee was not only in charge of directing their homerooms but also mobilizing manpower to help the school festival's overall preparations. The continuous flow of jobs gave me little time to catch my breath.
Thus, the school festival's first day came at last, my time of trial and tribulation.
"Fu, fufu... N-Nii-san... You are so adorable."
Seeing me look like a completely different person, Mitsuki clutched her sides with laughter. It was rare to see Mitsuki laugh so unreservedly. I seemed to have stimulated endless laughter in her.
"—Sorry, but even if you call me adorable, I don't feel happy at all."
Dressed in a female uniform with a wig, I replied with a scowl.
The skirt was too breezy, making me feel very uneasy. To think that girls could tolerate wearing such insecure outfits, I was thoroughly impressed from the bottom of my heart.
"B-But... it looks way better than I would have expected. If it is like this, the various visitors probably will not realize you are a boy, Nii-san."
Mitsuki examined me from head to foot again then promised me "No problem."
Having mustered my resolve, I had put on the female uniform. To check the look, I visited Mitsuki at her room. It seemed like there was nothing amiss.
Even so, I still did not feel entirely reassured, but with this, I could take part in the school festival at least.
"Fufu, I will have to call you Nee-san today."
"I beg you, please don't call me that."
Mitsuki said with delight but I objected seriously.
"But I believe it would not work unless I change the way I address you..."
"Normally, you can just call people by name. There's nothing unnatural about 'Yuu' as a girl's name."
"Eh—c-call you by name?"
Hearing my suggestion, Mitsuki went red in a fluster.
"This suggestion should work, right?"
"True, I suppose... But no way! I cannot do it!"
Mitsuki shook her head as hard as she could and refused.
"In any case, I still cannot do it now! Y-You are Nee-san for today! It is decided!"
Having declared that, Mitsuki expelled me from her room. Slam, the door closed.
"If you can't do it now... When else?"
Left in the hallway, I cocked my head in puzzlement, dressed in a female uniform.
Was it because of my missing memories that I could not understand Mitsuki's thoughts—or was I simply dense? Right now, I could not tell.
"Wow! Mononobe turned into a girl!"
"Yuu is wearing the same clothes as everyone!"
Mitsuki and I arrived at school earlier than usual. What awaited me were reactions I was somewhat prepared for already.
Iris and Tia rushed over and examined my appearance closely.
"Yeah, it's very cute. For a moment, I didn't recognize Mononobe-kun."
Ariella and Ren looked at me with impressed eyes.
"Mononobe-kun, excellent. It makes me... want to marry you a bit."
Firill stared at me with inexplicable ecstasy.
"The appearance is acceptable. But so-called femininity is something that is expressed through subtle behavior. You would do best to pay attention to your walking posture and various gestures. Also, there is—"
Lisa approached while observing my female outfit then placed her hand on my chest.
"Given this rare chance, how about some breast pads? Someone small and petite like Mitsuki-chan could get away with a more modest chest without looking unnatural... But statuesque as you are, I believe you need to show more femininity."
However, when Lisa offered this advice, Mitsuki's face instantly froze.
Comparing her petite chest with Lisa's voluptuous bosom, Mitsuki smiled unnaturally.
"L-Lisa-san, there is no need to go to such lengths. Nii-san—no, Nee-san—is already very feminine. The size of one's chest does not affect a woman's charm."
"But having some is better than none—"
Mitsuki's face twitched in spasms.
Mitsuki glared at Lisa and asserted.
Intimidated by her forcefulness, even Lisa backed down.
"Good grief—Now I shall confirm today's plans. Please sit wherever you wish, everyone."
Instructing everyone, Mitsuki stood up at the lectern.
The reason why she asked us to sit wherever we wanted was because our seats were no longer in the classroom.
The day before, we had moved all the desks and chairs out of the classroom, replacing them with three tables for customers to use. The interior was decorated into a "Japanese-like style" and felt completely different from the usual classroom atmosphere.
The ornamental Hinamatsuri dolls brought by Mitsuki were surrounded by a large number of Japanese fortune cats, a rather bizarre sight. As a side note, the fortune cats were brought by Ren who seemed to have a hobby of collecting them.
"The ones in charge of running the Japanese teahouse on the first day will be Iris-san, Ariella-san, Ren-san and Firill-san. The four of you, please change into your uniforms and prepare breakfast for all of us as warmup practice and for taste testing."
"Yes, I'll do my best!"
Iris answered Mitsuki energetically.
"The school festival starts at 9am. The initial shift will have Iris-san and Firill-san in charge of serving customers while Ariella-san and Ren-san will be responsible for the kitchen. However, when there are many customers, please leave only one person outside and have three of you cooking. If things are still tight, the remaining members will join in to assist."
Mitsuki explained fluently. She looked no different from when she was commanding anti-dragon battles. Perhaps due to that, everyone's face naturally tensed up.
"In the afternoon, please allow each person to take half an hour break each depending on customer volume. During that time, please have one person in charge of the outside and two in the kitchen. Then let us begin!"
Following Mitsuki's orders, Iris, Firill, Ariella and Ren, on duty today, exited the classroom.
This was because the cooking and changing areas were located in the unused classroom next door.
Left in the classroom were me, Mitsuki, Lisa and Tia, the four of us.
We sat down around a round table and waited for the food to be done.
"—Nee-san, let us head to the pier to pick up Father and Mother after breakfast."
Mitsuki examined the table's cleanliness with her finger while speaking. While feeling this title of "Nee-san" nagging at my heart, I observed Mitsuki's face.
Mitsuki looked like she believed I would matter-of-factly go with her. But if possible, I did not want to meet our parents.
"Sorry, but can I ask you to pick them up on your own? Look... at the way I'm dressed."
"Not an issue. I already informed them of the crossdressing."
"No, it's embarrassing even if they know. I'll go say hi to them afterwards, so give me some time for mental preparation."
I wanted to minimize contact with the parents as much as possible, but Mitsuki looked displeased.
"Say hi... Why do you sound so detached? Nii-san, you never called home even once, did you? Father and Mother are extremely worried about you. Please consider their feelings!"
Crap, Mitsuki was angry for real.
Indeed, my attitude would seem heartless and ungrateful to others.
But right now, I was not the "Mononobe Yuu" whom they knew.
"Mitsuki-san, my apologies, but he promised me already."
While I was hesitating how to answer, Lisa interjected.
Mitsuki looked at Lisa in surprise. I was also wondering "Did I promise something like that?" and looked at her doubtfully.
"In our discussions, we decided to immediately scout the other homerooms as soon as the school festival starts. Because there are other homerooms opening cafes like us, which could be used for reference. Am I right?"
Lisa sought my agreement while winking at me. I realized she was secretly helping me.
"Y-Yeah, that's right. I promised Lisa already."
I frantically agreed and Lisa turned to face Mitsuki again.
"—And that is the case. Since this is part of the executive committee's job, I asked him to accompany me."
"Tia wants to go along!"
Then Tia raised her hand.
"Sure, no problem, Tia-san, you will come with us to check out the school festival."
Seeing things gradually decided, Mitsuki slumped her shoulders in resignation.
"No helping it... I understand. But conversely, after you finish scouting, you must go meet Father and Mother."
Mitsuki glared at me with some linger displeasure.
"Got it—I promise you."
After all, I still had to meet them once no matter what. Mitsuki would never allow anything else. Also, running from them the entire day would be unnatural.
"You must, okay?"
Perhaps my attitude did not inspire trust in her, Mitsuki kept reminding me repeatedly.
Thus, after some time, the classroom door opened. Dressed in kimonos, Iris and the others entered. They were coming over with trays carrying breakfast. Then they placed the food on the table.
"Mononobe, thanks for waiting! It'll definitely be tasty today for sure!"
Saying that, Iris placed the miso soup in front of me.
"Yeah, it seems very tasty. Also... Your outfit is very well-made. As expected of something you made yourself, Iris, it's very much in your style."
Smelling the miso soup's aroma, filled with anticipation, I admired Iris' kimono look.
She was wearing a kimono patterned with many small white flowers. Iris' airs matched the kimono's design very well, producing a sense of attractiveness different from usual.
"Oh, you even put on that hair accessory."
Seeing the butterfly hairpin I had given to her as a gift, I felt quite happy.
"Ehehe... I decided to put it away carefully for most of the time to avoid getting it dirty, and only wear it on special days."
Iris smiled shyly then served miso soup to the others.
Next came Firill with plates of tamagoyaki.
"This tamagoyaki is the best I've made to date. Mononobe-kun, you must savor it carefully."
Firill divided up the beautifully shaped tamagoyaki between everyone. Just as I could see, there was no charring on the inside.
"Got it. Also, Firill, your kimono looks great."
Firill's kimono had an abstract snowflake-like pattern which matched well with the kimono's background of light blue which resembled the winter sky.
"...That's it for your comment?"
However, Firill sounded slightly dissatisfied. While serving the others, she deliberately pushed her bosom against me.
The soft sensation on my shoulder, transmitted through the kimono, was making me flustered. However, Firill did not leave me and whispered in my ear.
"Mononobe-kun, did you notice anything different?"
"Notice what... D-Don't tell me... you're not wearing any?"
The softness from her bosom felt especially vivid. I asked hoarsely.
"Yes, today—I'm not wearing a bra."
Firill smiled mischievously then separated from me, puffing out her magnificent chest.
"But I did use a supporter. Wearing a bra would ruin a kimono's beautiful curves. If possible... I wish you could comment on this sort of invisible effort."
"N-Nothing less expected of you..."
Overwhelmed by her in many different senses, I expressed my amazement. Firill finally showed a contented look and left.
"Come, next is plain rice and grilled fish."
Then Ariella and Ren brought the remaining food and breakfast had arrived completely.
Ariella was wearing a kimono with subdued colors and a pattern of bamboo grass. Ren's was a red kimono with floral patterns.
"You two look good in your kimonos too, but you seem a bit exhausted."
Looking at Ariella and Ren's faces up close, I noticed the fatigue on their faces.
"Because a few places in Ren's kimono was sewn wrong, I re-did the sewing yesterday, working until late night, so I'm a bit tired today."
Ariella smiled wryly and yawned slightly.
Ren bowed her head apologetically.
She was what one would call a prodigy, giving an impression that she could finish anything perfectly and effortlessly but there were apparently things she was not good at.
"Then all the food has arrived. Let us hurry and try it out."
After confirming everyone was seated, Mitsuki issued orders.
"Thanks for the food."
"—Thanks for the food."
Everyone put clapped their hands together and began to eat.
The month-long training had paid off. The food prepared by Iris and the others was very delicious.
"Every step I take, I instantly feel conscious I'm wearing a skirt..."
After breakfast, I left the classroom with Lisa and Tia. With every step, I would look down at my swaying skirt. During the walk from the dorm to school, I had gone through quite an embarrassing experience, hence my resistance against crossdressing had already numbed somewhat. But the sense of dissonance generated by the clothing itself was impossible to erase no matter what.
"Yuu dislikes skirts? Tia loves them because they're cool and breezy."
Tia walked while holding hands with me and Lisa, asking me incredulously.
"Yeah, it's definitely cool and breezy... But it also feels like not wearing anything, it makes me uncomfortable."
After I gave this answer to Tia, it was Lisa's turn to speak:
"By the way, how did you take care of underwear? Don't tell me you're wearing Mitsuki-san's..."
"Of course not! I'm just wearing normal boxers!"
I frantically denied Lisa's suspicions.
"Hoo, very well. I am relieved to know that the person I will be introducing to my parents tomorrow is not that type of pervert."
Lisa chuckled and said.
I glared at Lisa coldly.
"Lisa's papa and mama will come tomorrow?"
Tia asked Lisa.
"Yes, that is the plan."
"But Lisa will be working with us tomorrow. Even if your papa and mama come to school, you won't be able to take them around?"
Tia asked in worry.
Lisa made a troubled expression then answered ambiguously:
"That works better for me, because I will be free from unnecessary questioning..."
We still had not said anything about our pretending to be a couple. We intended to explain tomorrow morning and ask everyone to help.
"Oh... How strange. Neither Lisa nor Yuu wants to see their papa and mama, but if Tia was in your shoes... Tia will feel very happy."
Tia commented with a baffled look on her face.
I recalled that Tia's parents were deceased and felt sorry for her.
It had probably puzzled Tia the whole time that I did not go to pick up my parents.
Even if I told her the truth, standing from Tia's perspective, she would probably think that my troubles were luxuries.
Lisa looked at me.
Since we had worked together for a month and kept practicing being a couple, I could tell from her gaze that she was asking me "What to do?"
However, I could not come up with a correct answer to tell Tia.
Whether apologizing or explaining, both would only cause Tia to disagree even more. Hence—
"Tia, let's go!"
Pulling Tia's hand, I walked quickly ahead.
"Wait, what is with you suddenly?"
Holding hands with Tia, Lisa was dragged along and asked, feeling troubled.
"The visitors will be arriving soon and there will be flood of people. Before that, we should visit other homerooms' shops as much as possible. Let's have fun with us for the whole day, Tia."
Tia nodded in agreement and smiled.
This way of doing things might be a bit stiff, but right now, the only way I could think off to make Tia happy was for her to devote herself to enjoying the school festival.
"It is fine that you want to enjoy the school festival, but please do not forget to gather information properly."
Lisa sighed and reminded. However, the corners of her mouth were smiling.
In this manner, we raced to the other homerooms.
Along the way, we passed by Shinomiya-sensei who warned us not to run in the hallways—
Midgard's Ds were all assigned to respective homerooms.
Apart from the most prominent Brynhildr Class where I belonged, there were Gerhilde Class, Helmwige Class, Schwertleite Class, Ortlinde Class, Siegrune Class, Waltraute Class and Rossweisse Class, a total of nine homerooms.
These homerooms seemed to be named after Norse valkyries. Although there was the exception of me, but Ds were essentially young maidens, hence naming them after valkyries carried the meaning of "girls who fight dragons."
Although there were extreme geniuses like Ren or people with extenuating circumstances like Tia, who were assigned as exceptions, girls were essentially assigned to homerooms according to age group.
In most cases, the ability to generate and use dark matter seemed to awaken roughly the same time as when secondary sex characteristics appeared. Many of the Ds' homerooms had students similar to Lisa and my age. Conversely, young Ds were very few in number.
Rossweisse Class was where all these young Ds were gathered.
Thinking it would be better to visit a place with children the same age as Tia first, I picked Rossweisse Class first, but—
"Thank you for coming!"
"Please come again!"
—While the girls in monster costumes saw us off, I walked unsteadily out of their classroom.
I exhaled deeply and remarked. Lisa agreed and nodded with a feeble look.
"I really can't keep up with the energy of young girls..."
The first classroom had already consumed a lot of our energy.
They were doing a haunted house.
But the scariness was zero. It would not be a stretch to say that from start to end, it was like playing with exceptionally hyper girls in costume.
But Tia looked satisfied, grinning from ear to ear. As expected of someone from the same age group, she seemed to be able to keep up with their pace. When the haunted house was suggested in our discussion last time, she was still quite scared, but this kind of not scary haunted house was evidently fine.
"Okay... Next one."
Thinking it was fine as long as Tia was having as much fun as possible, we headed to Gerhilde Class next.
Gerhilde Class seemed to be doing a performance. A girl dressed in medieval clothing was standing at the entrance to pull in customers.
The girl showed joy on her face as soon as she saw us.
"It's been so long, Mayumi!"
"You know her?"
I asked Tia and she nodded.
"When dropping the bomb on Basilisk, we worked hard together!"
Speaking of which, back then, Tia had joined the Dragon Subjugation Squad to support Mistilteinn. This girl was probably part of that group. Reminded by Tia, I felt like I had seen her before.
"Eh... Is this person beside Tia-chan actually Yuu-sama!?"
Mayumi noticed me despite my crossdressing disguise and exclaimed in surprise. In that instant, the other girls suddenly poked their heads out from the classroom together.
"Wow, it really is Yuu-sama! Lisa-sama is here too!"
"Even in a female uniform, he still looks so gallant!"
"Ah, idiot! The school gave orders that Yuu-sama's crossdressing has to be kept secret!"
"People from outside aren't here yet, so it's fine. Okay, Mayumi! Hurry and lead the way for them!"
The girls screamed and cheered, watching us with excited eyes. "Yuu-sama" bothered me a lot and I felt extremely uncomfortable.
"Please come this way, everyone! I will lead you to the VIP seats!"
Urged by her classmates, Mayumi led us to our seats.
A small stage was set up in their classroom.
"Ours is a drama performance! Please enjoy 'The Adventures of Yuu the Hero'!"
Hearing the title of the play, I had a bad feeling but before I could speak, the classroom went dark and a light shone on the stage.
The story then started, it was about a hero named Yuu who defeated evil dragons one after another.
The protagonist was totally based on me. While watching the play, I kept yelling in my mind "can I just find a hole to bury myself?"
"It was super fun to watch!"
After the play ended and we walked out of Gerhilde Class, Tia commented, her excitement still not yet faded.
"Fufu, Yuu the Hero, what a grand performance."
Lisa laughed while teasing me. During the play, Lisa had been laughing the whole time, keeping her voice down. Due to laughing to much, there were even tears in the corners of her eyes.
"Don't call me with that..."
Were they trying to shame me to death with praise? Thinking that, I sighed. Back when putting on the female uniform this morning, I was thinking there would not be anything more embarrassing than that, but who knew that it would get dethroned so quickly...
The first two classrooms had sapped my mental strength almost to the limit. But even so, I still went with Tia and Lisa to visit other classrooms.
While we were touring around, outside visitors gradually increased in number. They were probably relatives of Ds and other involved parties invited from outside.
"—Let's make a visit to our classroom first, because I'd like to report the results of our reconnaissance. Also... Your parents are probably waiting for you."
After lunch at Ortlinde Class' maid cafe, Lisa suggested to me.
By this point, we had checked out five homerooms—more than half. It was definitely time to make a trip back.
"Tia wants to see Yuu's papa and mama too!"
"—Got it, let's go."
I prepared myself and nodded. I just had to say hi then go visit other homerooms with Tia and Lisa before my condition got exposed.
While thinking of ways to listen without speaking as much as possible, I walked back to Brynhildr Class.
What I had to pay the most attention to was not recognizing the wrong people. After all, I currently could not even recall my parents' faces.
However, I stopped before reaching my homeroom.
Not because of fear but surprise.
Seeing him, who was not supposed to appear here, my body froze on reflex.
My excitement from the school festival atmosphere was frozen solid in an instant.
Leaning against the wall, he made eye contact with me. A cold smile instantly surfaced on the corners of his lips.
"2nd Lieutenant Mononobe, the way you're dressed is truly a joy to behold."
Checking out my crossdressing look, the man in the NIFL military uniform—Major Loki Jotunheim—spoke.
"Major Loki... Why are you here—"
"This isn't anything surprising. Since Midgard is holding such an event, it is normal for NIFL to send an observing delegation and I'm one of them."
This man was my direct superior back in NIFL. He answered with a grin on his face.
Although Midgard and NIFL's relationship was not particularly good, even so, I understood that Midgard could not disregard NIFL in this kind of promotional activity, still—
"Given your position, Major Loki, you wouldn't take on this kind of 'overt' mission, would you? What is your goal?"
One could call him someone who lived in NIFL's dark side who was almost never active in an aboveboard role like this. Conversely, if he was taking action, then there must be corresponding reasons.
"Because I wanted to talk to you directly. Can I have a moment of your time?"
Hearing him say he was here to see me, I felt some kind of premonition rocking my heart, telling me that things were definitely unusual.
"I understand. Lisa, Tia, please head back to the classroom first."
I nodded to Major Loki and urged the two of them, who had been unable to get a word in, to leave.
"You want us to leave first...? Who is that man? If you are going somewhere else, I shall come along."
"Tia wants to go with Yuu too!"
I felt anxious and uneasy to see that Lisa and Tia wanting to come along, so I shook my head and refused them clearly.
"—No. Do not come no matter what."
I could not allow them to get involved with Major Loki—Deciding that in my mind, I told them that.
Taken aback in surprise by my forceful rejection, they could not speak for a moment.
"Major Loki, let's go somewhere else."
Taking that chance to lead Major Loki away, I left quickly.
This was to get Major Loki away from them as quickly as possible—
Having invited external visitors, Midgard was bustling everywhere. It was not easy to find a place to talk without getting disturbed by others.
Hence, I took Major Loki to the school roof which was forbidden to entry during the school festival.
Major Loki looked up at the sun in annoyance and grumbled quietly.
"Because it's a tropical island near the equator. So, what exactly do you want to talk to me about?"
Just to be on the safe side, after confirming there was no one present, I asked him cautiously.
"Well, to be honest, there's no particularly important topic, because the main point is to meet you directly."
Indeed, if it was just talking, he could get things done by making a call like before.
However, for him to take such pains to mingle among the observing delegation, to meet me here. It would not be excessive to be wary under these circumstances.
"After seeing me... Did you learn anything?"
"Yes, I learned very clearly that you are enjoying your school life."
Seeing me in a female uniform, he smiled wryly with a complicated feelings on his face. Then Major Loki wiped away his expression.
"But I still know nothing of what I wish to learn. Hence I must confirm it."
In that instant, I reflexively distanced myself from Major Loki.
Immediately, a chill ran along my spine and I sweated profusely.
Major Loki had not moved at all, but I felt as though a knife was being held against my throat—That was the intense sense of crisis I felt.
"—You've grown lax, 2nd Lieutenant Mononobe."
Major Loki spoke expressionlessly. He had already reduced our distance back to what it was just now.
The distance I had gained by jumping backwards had vanished.
Seizing the moment when I blinked, he must have closed in all at once.
While I was speculating on the situation like this, Major Loki had already delivered a sweeping kick, throwing me off balance.
Immediately, my view spun around and I saw the blue sky and white clouds. My breathing was interrupted by an impact on my back. Seeing the sole of a shoe descending, I hastily twisted my body.
Seizing the opening when I was changing posture, Major Loki grabbed my arm and subdued me on the floor.
"Too easy. Although you defeated Hreidmar, this is all you can do without the intent to kill."
Major Loki kept me restrained while he talked.
"What the hell do you want...? Are you just trying to test my abilities?"
Completely immobilized, I asked Major Loki while he was staring coldly at me.
"I won't waste my breath on something like that. Since the current 2nd Lieutenant Mononobe has no reason to kill me, your 'Fafnir' will not attack. There's no point in testing you when you're not serious."
"Then why are you doing this—"
"Because I wanted to confirm what exactly is obstructing 'Fafnir' from becoming complete."
Major Loki immediately stared into my eyes as soon as he finished speaking.
That gaze reminded me of my first encounter with him. Those eyes were observing me, appraising me.
An unpleasant feeling rose up, as though someone was peeking at the bottom of my heart, but I could not move my gaze away, because my instincts were warning me of danger and refusing to show an opening in front of him.
"The current 2nd Lieutenant Mononobe—has no gaps."
I repeated what Major Loki said.
"The first time we met, you happened to be broken just right, full of gaps. But right now, despite being clearly more severely broken than before, it feels like your gaps have decreased."
Feeling as though he had seen through my loss of memories, I could not help but freeze.
"What exactly have you stuffed into the broken parts? What did you use to fill up the gaps?"
The weapons data downloaded from Yggdrasil flashed across my mind, but of course, I could not bring that up.
Seeing me stutter, Major Loki lowered the pitch of his voice slightly.
"2nd Lieutenant Mononobe, have you become the puppet of that abominable 'Gray'?"
I frowned, not knowing what he was talking about. Seeing my reaction, Major Loki exhaled.
"Forget it if you don't know. But it it's not 'Gray' who did it, the most likely possibility is the one who broke you in the first place."
Major Loki narrowed his eyes and finished, then released my arm. However, I was only liberated for a fleeting moment. This time, he grabbed my face in his hand. Gripping my face forcefully, Major Loki then said:
"I don't know who you are, but I'm warning you. Perhaps you might be the first to have set your sights on him, but he is mine. As long as 'Fafnir' remains, he will never belong to you."
Instead of me, Major Loki was addressing something else, declaring in a cold voice.
At this moment, I seemed to hear a certain voice in my head.
Dark emotions of unidentified origins surged from the bottom of my heart.
However, from the gaps between Major Loki's fingers that were obscuring my view, I saw my left arm move on its own.
Dark matter appeared on my left hand and transmuted into a metal shard.
Just as I was feeling baffled, not understanding what was happening, my left hand move the metal shard's sharp edge towards Major Loki—
"Hey! What are you doing over there!?"
But just at that moment, a sonorous roar resounded across the roof.
Surprised, I flinched and my left arm stopped moving as well. I looked in the voice's direction to see Lisa there with alarm on her face.
"...Someone came to interfere huh."
Major Loki left me then shrugged in disappointment.
Finally freed, I looked at my left hand that was holding the metal shard tightly.
Just now... What was that? I attempted to kill Major Loki?"
It was almost like my left arm moved on its own, but that should be impossible. Most likely, I instinctively sensed dangerous and my subconscious awakened "Fafnir."
However, even if I wanted to make myself accept this explanation, my heart still felt that something was not right. Because my actions had contradicted my will to such a degree, this had never happened before.
"In any case, I now have a grasp on your situation. As for dragging out that certain existence which is obstructing 'Fafnir,' I'll leave that for the next opportunity."
Major Loki finished and walked over the roof stairs where Lisa was.
"—H-Hold it, if you were subjecting him to violence, I shall not let this go without repercussions!"
Lisa glared at the approaching Major Loki and said.
"You misunderstand. I was simply helping my former subordinate train a little."
Major Loki shrugged and turned his gaze to me.
"...He's telling the truth, don't worry."
To avoid getting Lisa involved in troublesome things, I backed up what Major Loki said.
Lisa still looked unconvinced but Major Loki went past her and disappeared down the stairwell.
After looking alternately between Major Loki and me, Lisa ran over to me.
"Are you okay? Tia-san said she still felt worried, so we split up to find you... I never thought you'd end up in this kind of situation."
I was collapsed on the floor. Lisa knelt down next to me and inquired of my condition in worry.
"Yeah, I'm fine—!?"
I nodded and stood up but felt a sudden headache. The metal shard dropped from my hand.
"What is the matter with you!?"
Lisa caught and steadied me, but I could not answer.
Suffering from a splitting headache, I held my left hand to my forehead, but then I discovered that even my left hand was totally drained of strength too.
It felt very distant. I had difficulty transmitting my will to my fingertips.
"Did you hit your head when you fell earlier? Pull yourself together! I will call for someone right away."
Just as I looked up to see Lisa take out her phone and make a call—My consciousness fell into darkness.
"Thank goodness—You woke up, Nii-san."
I opened my eyes to see Mitsuki peering at me. The ceiling was red from the setting sun.
"This place is...?"
My consciousness was still hazy, so I asked her.
"This is the infirmary. I heard you suddenly fainted, Nii-san. Please know that I was very worried, okay? Although tests came up with nothing, please rest more."
Mitsuki looked at me with a complicated expression of relief and anger.
"How long... did I sleep for?"
"Approximately five hours. Unfortunately, the school festival has ended for the first day."
Hearing her say that, I discovered I had forgotten something important.
"And Father and Mother?"
"They went back after seeing your sleeping face, Nii-san. Seriously... You not only failed to reassure them, but even made them more worried."
Mitsuki sighed deeply.
"I see... They went back already."
Despite feeling apologetic, I still breathed a sigh of relief.
"Also, the Major Loki Jotunheim who allegedly helped you 'train' has also left Midgard. He simply said his task was done without even a single word of apology..."
Mitsuki spoke with intense anger.
Hearing that Major Loki was no longer at Midgard, my body instantly relaxed.
If that was the case, I could rest assured for now.
Major Loki said he would wait for the next opportunity. If he had already left Midgard, then I would not be seeing him for now.
"Speaking of which, I promised Tia to visit all the other homerooms. I really let her down."
Just as I could relax, these feelings of regret surged.
"Do not worry, Tia-san does not mind. Everyone is purely worried for your sake, Nii-san."
"Right now... Where are Tia and the others?"
"They are at the classroom cleaning up for today and replenishing supplies in preparation for tomorrow. Although you are on duty tomorrow, Nii-san, please do not overexert yourself."
Although Mitsuki was trying to be accommodating for me, I could not accept.
"No, it's okay. I'll do my job properly tomorrow."
Saying that, I sat up.
The headache that attacked me before I lost consciousness had subsided completely.
Tomorrow was not just about my shift at the teahouse, but also the important mission of acting as Lisa's boyfriend.
Hence, I must not rest.
She hoped for freedom, even if it would only last during her time at Midgard, and I wanted to make her wish come true.
To me, this school was like paradise, a place that had helped me to escape my burdensome bonds.
Precisely because of that, I felt I could understand Lisa's feelings.
However, Mitsuki looked at me with extreme worry.
The next day, it was the second day of the school festival.
Like the first day, the members of Brynhildr Class came to school early and had meeting before starting to prepare breakfast.
Today, Mitsuki, Lisa, Tia and I, the four of us were in charge of serving customers and the kitchen.
After changing in a different room from the girls, I entered the spare classroom to start cooking.
As expected, it took longer for girls to get changed. Mitsuki and the others arrived slightly later.
"Yuu, thanks for waiting!"
Tia had changed into a pink kimono, running to me with full vitality.
"Wow, Yuu so handsome!"
Seeing me dressed in a jinbei set, she stared at me with eyes shining with excitement.
"—Thank you, you look very cute too, Tia."
I rubbed her head with slightly embarrassed feelings.
"Ehehe... So happy. Yesterday's Yuu was so cute, but Tia likes the handsome Yuu better."
"P-Please don't remind me of that ever again..."
With my hand on my forehead, I sighed.
"Nii-san, are you still feeling unwell?"
However, my gesture was misinterpreted and Mitsuki asked me with concern.
"No, I'm fine, it's just that it depresses me when I recall yesterday's crossdressing."
Hearing my reply, Mitsuki smiled wryly.
"Good to know. The visitors today are all people who know of your existence, Nii-san, so no need to worry."
"Yeah—Oh by the way... Kimonos really suit you, Mitsuki, and your hairpin looks great."
I carefully examined my younger sister in her kimono.
The kimono was exquisitely crafted, of course, but as the wearer, Mitsuki herself had put a lot of effort on the details too. A glittering hairpin was embedded in her tied up hair, contributing to the overall impression.
"T-Thank you. This hairpin is a gift from Father and Mother yesterday."
Blushing, Mitsuki touched her hairpin.
"I see... So they prepared it specially because we're running a Japanese teahouse."
I ended up not seeing my parents and could not recall their faces. This filled me with feelings almost as though I had committed a crime.
But while I was thinking over these things and checking out Mitsuki's kimono look, someone timidly tugged my sleeve from the side.
"M-Mononobe Yuu, how is my kimono?"
Lisa's voice was slightly reprimanding as she asked me.
"Eh? O-Oh, of course it looks very good on you."
Lisa was wearing a yellow kimono, giving a very refreshing image and highly attractive.
"...What half-hearted praise. Are you aware of what you need to do today?"
However, Lisa glared at me in displeasure, in other words, she wanted me to praise her as a boyfriend would.
Indeed, today was the all-important real event. I had to pay attention starting now.
"Got it, here goes—"
I placed my hand on Lisa's shoulder and looked her directly in the eye.
"Lisa, you're beautiful."
But the instant I said that, Lisa immediately went red in the face and flung my hand away.
"What did I do wrong?"
"N-Nothing, I was merely a bit careless just now. My mental preparation isn't sufficient yet."
Holding her hand on her chest, Lisa replied reluctantly.
"Nii-san, Lisa-san... What on earth are you two doing?
Seeing us like that, Mitsuki stared in amazement.
"N-Nothing! Come, let us make breakfast."
Lisa spoke as though trying to cover things up and put on her work apron.
Thus, the cooking of breakfast began.
Lisa and I were standing next to each other. I chopped up the ingredients for miso soup while whispering to Lisa, whose face was still red:
"Lisa, when are we telling the others? In the end, we couldn't speak up during the meeting..."
We still had not told the class about Lisa and I pretending to be a couple for today.
"After this, I intend to bring it up during breakfast. Because a weird misunderstanding could arise if you spoke, please leave all the explaining to me."
"Got it. Yeah, things could definitely get very bad if anything goes wrong with the explanation..."
Iris severely misunderstood me when I first explained to her that Lisa had asked me to play the part of her boyfriend. In consideration of that, I thought it would be best to leave the explaining to Lisa.
However, I still had not noticed yet—
I had not noticed that Lisa was already so nervous that she could not maintain her sense of mind.
"E-Excuse me! Actually, Mononobe Yuu and I will be a couple today!"
It was the first thing Lisa said at the breakfast table.
Amidst the harmonious atmosphere of a meal, Lisa cried out without warning. Everyone stared at her in dumbfounded shock.
"Hey... Lisa, putting it that way is very bad!"
Although she told me not to butt in, I still could not refrain from reminding her.
Lisa came back to her senses then stood up frantically and cleared her throat.
"Sorry for startling everyone, but please listen to a few words from me."
Under everyone's shocked gazes, Lisa started explaining again.
But this time, her explanation also lacked a crucial component.
"I-I will be introducing him to my parents as my boyfriend today, consequently, I would like everyone's assistance in this matter—"
"Introducing him to your parents... Lisa, are you getting married to Mononobe-kun?"
Firill asked Lisa anxiously.
Hearing this, Tia cried out in alarm:
"N-No, even if it's Lisa! Yuu has to be Tia's husband!"
Expressionlessly, Mitsuki turned her gaze to me.
"—Nii-san, what is going on here?"
Then I saw Iris staring at me tearfully.
"M-Mononobe... Are you marrying Lisa-chan?"
"Hey, why are you getting the wrong idea as well, even you, Iris!? I already explained the whole story to you, right!?"
Amidst the chaos, I still retorted to Iris.
But during this time, the misunderstanding was snowballing out of control.
"Oh... So you two are in that kind of relationship, I didn't even know. When did you start?"
Ariella asked Lisa in surprise. Lisa replied in a fluster:
"U-Umm, it was a month ago when I asked him about this."
"So you've been going out that long ago... Come to think of it, you two have been especially close lately."
Ariella kept nodding her head and Ren agreed.
"W-Wrong! That isn't what I mean!"
Lisa frantically tried to clear up the misunderstanding.
However, the more she tried to explain, the weirder the interpretations went. It finally took us quite a long time to explain the whole story clearly.
"—In other words, Nii-san is playing the part of Lisa-san's boyfriend in order to disrupt her engagement."
What took me tons of talking to explain was concisely summed up by Mitsuki in a single sentence.
I stared at Lisa coldly. Had she explained in this way from the start, things would not have been so hard.
"I am ashamed for causing everyone to misunderstand."
Lisa slumped her shoulders dejectedly, feeling responsible.
"So I see... What a relief."
Firill breathed a sigh of relief.
"If Lisa has trouble, Tia will help too!"
After figuring out the situation, Tia spoke, reassured.
"Seriously, Mononobe... You scared me there."
"No, like I said, Iris, why would you be surprised even though you know the story..."
Seeing Iris breathe a sigh of relief, I could not help but sigh.
"So we just need to say things to support when Lisa's parents come, right?"
Ariella raised her hand and asked.
Lisa nodded affirmatively and bowed her head to everyone.
"Yes, it would be a great help if everyone did that. Please lend me your assistance."
"We'll do this kind of thing even if you didn't make a request. Leave it to us."
Ariella agreed readily and Ren followed suit.
Everyone else nodded matter-of-factly.
"...Thank you, everyone."
Lisa thanked them with an expression of sincere joy then wiped the tears from the corners of her eyes with her finger.
"Then let us use this moment to decide on a concrete strategy. For Lisa-san's sake, we must not fail, however..."
Mitsuki spoke seriously then looked at me uneasily.
"After putting on this performance, would things develop to the point that Lisa-san and Nii-san have no choice but to get married?"
"No need to worry about that, because unless someone's social standing and family background matches the Highwalker family... He cannot be considered my prospective suitor."
Lisa reassured Mitsuki.
But I could hear a hint of sadness in her voice.
"Then we will visit the other homerooms and come back. Mononobe, you guys do your best!"
Iris encouraged me then left the classroom with Ariella and Ren.
Like what we did yesterday, she intended to check out the other homeroom's shops.
"Since I've met Lisa's parents before, I'll report back when I spot them."
After saying that, Firill followed Iris and left.
Her parents—the king and queen of Erlia—were supposed to be guests for today, but were apparently too busy with state matters to visit, having succeeded the throne recently.
Lisa was the only one with relatives scheduled to visit today.
After discussing how to react when Lisa's parents arrived, Mitsuki, Lisa, Tia and I, the four of us began preparations to open shop. Then an unexpected situation came up.
"What a long line up..."
Lisa peered out of the corridor window and remarked.
Even though we had clearly not opened shop yet, there was already a long line outside Brynhildr Class' entrance.
"Was there this many people yesterday?"
Since I fainted before returning to the classroom, I did not know what business was like after we opened shop yesterday.
Hence, I thought there were just as many people yesterday but Tia shook her head.
"No, yesterday had less."
"This is probably... due to Nii-san."
Mitsuki glared at me.
"Huh? But I didn't do anything, did I?"
I was completely baffled so I asked.
Hearing me say that, Lisa shrugged in exasperation.
"Your comprehension is hopeless. You are standing in the shop today. People are presumably gathering here because they heard rumors about this."
"Yuu is so popular! Thanks to Yuu, there are so many customers!"
Tia raised her arms in joy.
"People will surely protest if we do not let Nii-san serve them out in the shop. Until the school girls finish their patronage, Nii-san, you will be in charge of serving them."
I agreed while feeling troubled by this development.
"Nii-san, do not get carried away by the attention, okay?"
Mitsuki warned me with displeasure on her face.
"Mononobe Yuu, today you are p-playing the part of my boyfriend, so I forbid you from leering at girls."
Lisa also glared at me and warned.
"Tia is happy that Yuu is popular but don't make a move on customers!"
Even Tia was reminding me like this. I could not help but sigh.
"I know without needing all these repeated reminders."
Wondering if they truly distrusted me, I answered. But when the shop opened for real, I discovered that the situation had far exceeded my expectations.
"Yuu-sama, please shake hands with me!"
"Umm... Can I have an autograph?"
The screaming school girls made such demands one after another, putting me in a panic.
W-What was going on? This could not be happening no matter what, right?
Was someone playing some kind of trick on me? Although this crossed my mind, the girls' gazes at me were very serious. I was overwhelmed by their vigor.
Even if I wanted to cry for help, I was the only one in the classroom.
Due to too many customers, the other three were in the adjacent spare classroom, focused on cooking.
"Yuu-sama! Umm... C-Can I take a photo?"
Just as I made a twitching smile in response to her request, Lisa appeared, carrying food.
"Photos are forbidden. Isn't it written on the notice at the entrance?"
Reprimanded by Lisa, the girl bowed her head in dejection.
Then Lisa pointed her finger at me.
"You have to keep the rules in mind too. Have you forgotten what I said earlier?"
Out of the customer's sight, Lisa pinched me in the thigh.
"S-Sorry... I blanked out because the situation was too chaotic, I never expected so many people..."
I apologized and Lisa released me with a helpless expression.
"Fine—this is possibly a backlash to sustained suppression since Mitsuki-san had been restraining everyone by the rule on 'inappropriate interactions between the genders.' But today, everyone can talk to you without reservation as customers, so things are going out of control. This cannot be avoided perhaps."
Lisa cleared away empty dishes and spoke, but in the end, she added a sentence sarcastically.
"Because of that, you should enjoy the feeling of being an idol and indulge them to some extent. However, please exercise restraint."
Lisa smiled in a terrifying manner then left the classroom.
Left on my own, I was overwhelmed by the girls' vigor again.
In the afternoon, the line of school girls was finally interrupted and outside visitors started lining up. Hence I was permitted to retreat to the spare classroom where the cooking took place.
But just as I was sprawled on a desk in exhaustion, Lisa pushed my shoulder.
"Okay, no time to rest. There are many customers in the shop, so you must continue to cook and work quickly."
I got up unsteadily and began to cook with Lisa.
Mitsuki and Tia were serving customers, leaving only Lisa and me in the unused classroom.
"Your parents haven't come, Lisa?"
While making a customer's order, I asked Lisa.
"I have no idea either, but they should be coming soon... However, I did not ask them when in particular they were going to arrive. Every time I carry food over, I check the line, so I will tell you if they arrive."
"—I want them to come faster, because it's tough working with my nerves tense the whole time... And according to Mitsuki's plan, we can't rest before your parents arrive."
While cooking more miso soup for who knew how many times, I exhaled in fatigue.
"I remember that according to the plan, we will be putting up a notice of a temporary break when my parents arrive."
Lisa tasted the miso soup's concentration while confirming the plan.
"Yeah. After all, it'll probably cause a huge uproar if we act as a couple in front of other students. So I'll greet your parents as your boyfriend after the classroom is cleared of customers."
I recounted the steps and Lisa immediately threw a sideways glance at me.
"You seem quite confident. To think I am clearly so nervous..."
Lisa grumbled to me, sounding like she was complaining about the unfairness.
"I'm nervous too, but by this point, all we can do is brace ourselves. We've done everything we can."
"Is that so...? Just before the school festival, we were really so busy and almost had no time to practice being a couple. To be honest, preparations are not perfect."
Lisa spoke with a stiff expression. In the morning when explaining to the class, I could sense that she was shouldering extra pressure today. Perhaps she felt guilty for deceiving her parents.
Seeing her like that, I guess offering her encouragement was my job as her acting boyfriend.
I put down the kitchen utensil in my hand and held Lisa's hands.
"W-What are you doing!?"
Lisa went red in the face and screamed in surprise.
"No matter how busy, we've been practicing holding hands all along. Don't you feel your mindset switching naturally just by holding hands like this? I feel I can behave as your boyfriend flawlessly now, you know?"
To reassure her, I smiled at Lisa. Just by recalling our repeated practice over the past month as well as working side by side till now, my confidence was surging.
Lisa relaxed. She smiled lightly and looked up at me.
"Thank you, I have calmed down slightly. However... I still cannot be confident like you, so—"
She turned her body and stared at me square with moistened eyes.
"Should we have some final practice?"
Lisa looked up and asked me.
Not understanding what she was asking for, I responded in puzzlement with a question.
"...Make me experience something more like a girlfriend than holding hands."
Lisa stared at me passionately and drew her face closer.
At this moment, I finally understood her intent.
"Eh? Hey... W-Wait!"
I frantically tried to stop her but she refused to separate from me.
"—What does it matter? After all, you and I will never have a future. No matter what you do... Ultimately, it will be as if nothing ever happened."
Lisa smiled sadly then tiptoed slightly.
Her pink lips approached, her fiery breath making light contact.
But just at that moment, footsteps could be heard faintly from outside the classroom.
Lisa backed away, suddenly regaining her senses. I frantically pulled back from Lisa too.
The door was opened forcefully.
Carrying empty utensils and trays, Tia rushed into the classroom.
"Right now, Firill and the others are bringing Lisa's papa and mama over!"
Tia reported loudly to us.
"I-I got it."
Lisa replied to Tia, unable to hide the panic in her voice.
Then she looked at me in embarrassment and said quietly:
"—Forget what just happened."
When saying that, Lisa showed great sadness in her expression—I felt a stabbing pain in my heart.
"I saw Lisa's parents near the entrance, seemingly lost, so I brought them here directly. Mononobe-kun... I'm leaving Lisa in your hands."
Firill came over to the spare classroom and spoke with a very serious expression.
"Mononobe, do your best!"
"I'll pray for your success, Mononobe-kun."
Returning with Firill, Iris, Ariella and Ren also encouraged me.
Thus, our plan was put into motion.
According to plan, we immediately put up a notice for a temporary break at the classroom entrance when Lisa's parents entered the shop.
Although students in line objected, we responded by passing out number tags as an emergency measure, trying everything we could to disperse them first.
To prevent people from eavesdropping, Firill, Iris, Ariella and Ren, the four not on duty in the shop today, were on watch outside the classroom.
Lisa and Mitsuki were in charge of serving them while Tia and I cooked and waited for the opportunity to make an appearance.
"—Nii-san, everyone else has left the classroom."
Soon after, Mitsuki returned to report.
"What's Lisa doing?"
"Talking to her parents. I heard mentions of engagement, so it is probably time for you to head over, Nii-san."
Mitsuki answered while deftly pouring green tea from a pot into a cup.
"They were in need of refills just now, so please bring this over."
I placed on a tray the cups of tea that Mitsuki had poured then nodded firmly.
"Yuu, good luck!"
"Nii-san, I am counting on you."
With Tia and Mitsuki's encouragements, I head to Lisa's side.
Carrying the tray into the classroom, I saw a couple with elegant airs sitting at a table, looking in my direction.
—So these are Lisa's parents.
The woman looked like an older Lisa while the man was tall and slender. The word "gentleman" would be a fitting description.
Standing next to them, Lisa saw me arrive and immediately breathed a sigh of relief.
It looked like just as Mitsuki said, they were talking about the matter of an engagement.
"Thank you for your patience."
I bowed to Lisa's parents then set the tea before them.
I could see a thick photo album spread open on the table, showing pictures of men on the pages. They were probably prospective suitors for Lisa.
"Oh... So you are the male D who is the subject of many a conversation."
When I glanced at the photo album, Lisa's father talked to me, apparently quite interested.
"Yes, I am Mononobe Yuu."
"My name is Mark Highwalker and I am Lisa's father. Thank you for looking after my daughter."
"No, not at all..."
I extended his hand cordially. Despite feeling surprised and confused, I still shook hands with him.
He was the CEO of a huge corporate group with intimate ties to NIFL as well, originally a VIP whom I would not get to converse with, but I could sense from him an open-mindedness that lowered my guard.
Then Lisa's mother introduced herself.
"I am Linda Highwalker. It is a pleasure to meet you."
Mrs. Highwalker smiled gently and nodded to greet me.
"Y-Yes, the pleasure is all mine."
I frantically bowed my head as well.
Then as though waiting for a pause in the conversation, Lisa leaned against me in a natural motion.
She looked like she intended to announce things immediately.
"Father, Mother, actually he and I—We are currently dating."
Lisa announced clearly to her parents.
Mrs. Highwalker exclaimed in surprise while Mr. Highwalker widened his eyes.
"Is that... true?"
But he did not lose his cool. Cautiously, he asked Lisa.
Clutching my clothing tightly, Lisa nodded affirmatively.
Although she had long resolved herself, even so, I could still feel faint trembling from Lisa.
I could not leave her to face things alone, because right now, I was... Lisa's boyfriend.
Wrapping my arm around Lisa's shoulders, I drew her body towards me in an embrace.
Resting her head against my chest, Lisa blushed red.
"Just as Lisa said, I am currently dating her. Naturally, we are following Midgard's rules and adhering to standards of decency."
Ds lost their powers during pregnancy or upon reaching the age of twenty or so, hence Midgard would forbid impure relations between the genders, of course. Mitsuki also warned me many times.
Precisely because of that, I had to state things for the record. We were not breaking any of Midgard's rules.
Mr. Highwalker seemed to understand correctly what I was trying to convey. He nodded lightly in response.
"Lisa, do you love him?"
Mrs. Highwalker still seemed shaken inside. She asked Lisa.
"Yes, I love him from the bottom of my heart, therefore..."
Lisa asserted in a strong tone of voice then motioned with her eyes at the open photo album on the table.
"—I cannot consider anyone else at the moment."
Mrs. Highwalker sighed, apparently at a loss what to do.
However, she immediately smiled and turned her gaze to her husband.
"Looks like all we can do is give our blessings to Lisa's first love."
"...Indeed. Now is the time to rejoice for our daughter's growth."
Mr. Highwalker nodded in agreement and applauded.
I was originally prepared for a dispute so this felt a bit disarming.
Lisa had said that as long as we made it clear that we were a real couple, her parents would back down honestly—That seemed to be true.
But aren't they being too reasonable here?
Things were going so smoothly that it felt unsettling.
I could only respond to their blessings with a stiff smile.
"Mononobe-kun, is that right? Please take care of my daughter."
After confirming my answer, Mr. Highwalker closed up the photo album on the table.
"Lisa, don't make life too difficult for him, okay?"
Lisa answered in a voice released from tension. It was probably a relief to her that the situation proceeded ideally.
"Then it is almost time for us to take our leave."
Mrs. Highwalker concurred with Mr. Highwalker and the two rose to their feet.
Lisa chased after her parents who were about to exit the classroom.
When seeing them off at the entrance, Lisa bowed her head and thanked them. On the other hand, I also said "Thank you very much" loudly and watched them leave.
However, just as Mr. Highwalker was about to step out of the classroom, he brought his face close to Lisa's and apparently whispered something.
Standing some distance away, I did not hear what Mr. Highwalker said.
But Lisa looked extremely depressed and disheartened in her response—This was probably not my imagination.
"—It seems to be a success. Good work, Lisa-san and Nii-san."
After Lisa's parents left, everyone entered the classroom. Most likely, they had been listening outside the whole time.
Mitsuki showed relief and congratulated us on our efforts.
Tia happily made a "hurray" pose.
"Mononobe-kun, thank you for helping Lisa."
Firill bowed her head and thanked me. She seemed honestly worried about Lisa.
"I knew you'd be fine, Mononobe-kun."
Ariella and Ren also congratulated us on the plan's success. Likewise, Iris smiled at us and said:
"Good work, Mononobe. Lisa, I'm so glad for you!"
"Yes—This is all thanks to everyone's assistance."
Although Lisa responded with smiles, I did not think she was smiling from the heart.
"Then let's get back to touring the school festival, because we were only halfway through."
However, no one noticed the slight gloom that Lisa was hiding. Off duty for today, Iris, Firill, Ariella and Ren exited the classroom.
"We will take a break starting now. Tia and I will prepare some food. Nii-san and Lisa-san, you must exhausted so please wait here."
"Tia will do her best!"
Mitsuki and Tia did not seem to notice anything amiss in Lisa's behavior and they went to the spare classroom used for cooking.
"...I am so grateful to them. Come, have a seat."
Lisa urged me to sit down at the table where Mr. and Mrs. Highwalker had been seated earlier.
I took a seat opposite Lisa.
"Lisa, did it really succeed?"
With only the two of us in the classroom, I asked her hesitantly.
"Yes... Of course."
"Then why were you showing such a gloomy expression?"
"I did not. See, I'm smiling, right?"
Lisa smiled at me but I shook my head.
"No, not at all. Since we've been doing 'couples training' all month long, I can at least tell if your smiles are genuine. What did your father say to you at the end?"
I made my decision and tried asking, but Lisa bit her lip and lowered her head.
"Did he say something excessive?"
Seeing Lisa so sad, I was extremely worried, so I asked again, but she shook her head in denial.
"No, Father was simply encouraging me. He said: This will become a wonderful experience, so make the most of your youth and enjoy it."
Lisa answered in a trembling voice.
It definitely sounded like warm encouragement to one's daughter, but Lisa's face was definitely not showing joy.
Unable to bear the sight, I moved over to Lisa's side from my position opposite to her.
Then leaning shoulder to shoulder, just as we normally did when working after school in the classroom, I placed my hand on top of Lisa's trembling hand.
"But those words hurt you, Lisa?"
Looking at Lisa's regretful demeanor, I asked.
"...I'm not hurt, but simply confronted with an understanding of reality once again. These days at Midgard, one day, they will eventually turn into nothing more than an experience."
Lisa replied in an extremely sad tone of voice.
I could feel that it was an extremely heavy word, because the word "experience" referred to what was accumulated from the past.
If Lisa's father believed our relationship would continue to persist, he would not be using "a wonderful experience" to describe it.
"I think that Father and Mother offers me their sincere blessings regarding my seeing someone, but from their perspective, you... will not be a person relevant to my future. I have come to understand this fully."
Lisa spoke in resignation, turning her gaze out of the window.
"What I can do now is only create memories of youth. As soon as I lose my powers and leave Midgard, everything will become past experience. I will probably get married to someone somewhere."
Looking out at the white clouds floating in the sky, Lisa spoke.
"Lisa, do you think... that's good?"
Seeing the side of Lisa's face, lacking in vitality, I felt very indignant, so I asked.
"There is no question of good or bad. Because to me, there is no other path to choose."
"No, wait, isn't there the option to run away from home? As long as you earn enough money at Midgard, you won't need to rely on your parents."
I offered these words to Lisa who viewed the future with pessimism.
"—I am not arrogant enough to assert that my life belongs to myself alone. Also, more importantly... I cannot betray my parents."
However, Lisa smiled wryly and shook her head.
Naturally, she must have thought of that option without needing me to come up with it, and rejected it herself already.
"Sorry, I didn't think it through enough."
Feeling ashamed of my shallow thinking, I looked away.
"There's no need for you to apologize. I know clearly that you are showing your care for me. Also, despite uttering such high-principled words, I still cannot help but hope—If only I could remain a D forever."
These seemed to be Lisa's true feelings straight from the depths of her heart.
I saw her stare afar, continuing to speak as though in a dream:
"If I could stay here forever, to spend joyful times with Mitsuki-san, the others and you, how happy that would be. But just as one cannot refuse to grow up... These times will eventually come to an end. You will not exist in my future."
Lisa gazed at my face and smiled with melancholy.
"Perhaps precisely because of that, these times are so endearing."
Saying that, Lisa drew near and kissed me on the cheek.
I touched my cheek in surprise, only to see Lisa smiled mischievously:
"This is my thank you gift—my feelings."
Then she moved her chair away in apparent embarrassment, distancing herself from me.
"H-However, I have not forgotten the original terms of exchange. I will keep searching for a way to recover your memories, although I haven't found any suitable means yet... In any case, I will now give an interim report and offer my current suggestions."
Lisa spoke rapidly as though forcing a change in subject.
But the sensation of her lips on my cheek did not disappear that easily.
"Say, Lisa, that kiss just now—"
"Don't interrupt. Listen to me quietly!"
What kind of feelings did the kiss convey? I wanted to ask that, but she cut me off while blushing.
Also, she sounded ferocious, as though she would pounce and bite me if I said anything more.
"G-Got it. Please tell me."
I nodded to appease her then entered a listening pose.
"Goodness gracious... Stop thinking nonsense and put your mind on track. Focus and listen to me, this is extremely important."
Lisa reminded me strongly then proposed her thoughts regarding my memories.
"First of all, I've come to learn one fact through my research. Namely, memories are not lost that easily. Even if they appear to be lost, they might simply be in an accessible state while the memories themselves still exist in the brain."
"But I think my memories might've been overwritten by the weapons data downloaded from Yggdrasil. Won't memories vanish in that case?"
I asked my question and Lisa immediately shook her head.
"No, that idea is wrong. To begin with, human brains do not erase old memories even when they record new information. Suppose there was a method to overwrite things without regard for the brain's memories, it would most likely destroy the brain and personality."
"Then my memories... really remain somewhere in the brain?"
I found it hard to believe, so I asked Lisa.
"It is highly improbable for long-term memories settled in the brain to vanish suddenly. It would be a different matter if the brain was damaged physically, but there is no such obstacle in your case. To be honest, after you fainted, I already had people perform intricate examinations on your brain."
I was impressed that Lisa had taken advantage of yesterday's unexpected incident.
"I didn't even know about that... You're so reliable, Lisa."
Lisa scratched her cheek shyly then resumed the conversation.
"So judging from these symptoms, your condition is extremely unnatural. If you were simply transmitted a huge volume of information, I don't believe it would cause memory loss."
Looking into my eyes, Lisa asserted clearly.
"—But I am suffering from that in fact, right?"
"Even conceding a hundred compromises and assume that your memory disorder stems from some kind of error, losing memories starting from the earliest ones is still extremely weird. It would only be natural if it started with more recent memories that had yet to stabilize in the brain."
"That definitely makes sense..."
Why were all the lost memories from before I was taken to NIFL? That question did occur to me
"So I speculate that perhaps Yggdrasil might have transmitted something else to you, apart from weapons data."
"Something else apart from weapons data?"
I gulped and asked. Lisa nodded with a serious expression.
"If I had to give an example, it would be something like a computer virus."
"I believe that it entered your mind in the form of 'information' then severed your memories with clear intent. Perhaps something with properties similar to a computer virus is causing mischief here."
A chill rushed along my spine.
I heard a garbled voice from afar, mixed with noise.
"Just as I told you earlier, if Yggdrasil possesses the power of electrical interference, it might not be impossible. Because you were in an unconscious state yesterday, a full check of brainwaves could not be carried out, but if detailed tests were done in the future—"
Lisa's voice began to sound fainter and fainter.
Instead, noise from some kind of source grew louder and louder.
—Threat, recognized. Elimination, of doubt... Impossible. Far exceeded, rectification range.
The noise turned into a voice, echoing in my mind.
—Considering she is obstructing factor in elimination failure the other day, determination: continued lurking is difficult.
I could no longer hear Lisa's voice.
—Review, situation. Neun. Conclusion: immediate action necessary. Eliminate threat then reclaim code.
This cold and robotic voice, could it be Yggdrasil's...
I was struck by a splitting headache. The noisy voice was twisting my thoughts.
The headache felt like being stabbed by pins. My consciousness went hazy.
But this cry of pain did not come from my own mouth.
Seeing the scene before me, I was rendered dumbstruck.
My left arm—it had moved on its own to strangle Lisa's neck.
Lisa stared at me in pain.
"W-Why!? W-Why am I doing this—"
I frantically tried to get my left hand to release but my will did not reach my hand. Despite being able to feel, my hand did not move according to my thoughts.
—Compressed seed, uncompress. Begin assimilation of consciousness.
I tried to use my right arm to pull my left hand away but my right hand could not muster any strength.
"Yggdrasil, is that you? What are you doing with my body—!?"
But ignoring my voice, the fingers of my left hand sank into Lisa's throat.
—Error occurred. Difficulty reaching control territory of other factors. Complete control of consciousness, impossible. But even at current assimilation rate, control of movement not a problem.
"Gah... Someone! Hurry, anyone!!"
I yelled loudly out of the classroom but no one arrived to the rescue.
There were no customers since the shop was on break. My voice probably could not reach Mitsuki and Tia cooking in the adjacent spare classroom.
—In that case, I'll use dark matter to cause an explosion!
I used my last resort, but the instant I generated dark matter, an fierce headache instantly attacked.
Then the generated dark matter ignored my will and turned into a slender woody vine wrapped around my left arm.
Transmuting into plant matter... This was the realm of biogenic transmutation that ordinary Ds could not possibly achieve.
—So Yggdrasil did this?
The vine entangling my left arm controlled my movements despite being on the outside.
The force strangling Lisa's neck increased.
Perhaps unable to make even a sound now, all Lisa could do was open her mouth in pain.
"Guh... Lisa! Use dark matter to transmute explosives. Blow off my arm!"
I desperately tried to persuade Lisa.
But Lisa shook her head slightly with tears in her eyes.
I did not know if she meant that she was in too much pain to generate dark matter, or she refused to do that—
"Damn it! At this rate—Please! Someone!? Anyone—please save Lisa!!"
I could only continue to yell and cry for help.
Although Lisa tried to struggle free of my arm, her resistance was gradually weakening.
Her life was gradually about to be snuffed out, and—It was going to be my doing.
"Stop... Stop it!!"
I yelled at Yggdrasil that was controlling my body against my will.
"What are you doing!? You fool!!"
But at this moment, someone kicked the door down from outside with a loud crash and a petite figure rushed in.
Blonde hair fluttering, the person glaring at me with blue eyes was Midgard's chief administrator, Principal Charlotte.
"Please! My body isn't obeying me! I don't care what happens to me, please save Lisa immediately!"
Apart from her, there was no one I could seek help from, so I pleaded desperately for her help.
"Tsk—I can't believe it came to this."
The principal clicked her tongue and instantly rushed to our side. She pounced and bit my left arm.
Despite feeling a wave of intense pain, my left arm, not under my control, refused to leave Lisa's neck.
"That won't work! You have to break the arm at least—"
"Don't worry, since you are being controlled—I just need to dominate you who are being controlled."
After saying that, the principal sank her canines deeper into my arm.
In that very instant, I lost all feeling of my left arm as though I had been anaesthetized.
My fingers buried in Lisa relaxed. She struggled free of my hand and collapsed on the floor.
Holding her throat, Lisa kept coughing.
—Other factor, mixed in. Assimilation rate lowered. Response to emergency, disconnect terminal and withdraw.
I heard Yggdrasil's voice in my head. The vine entangling my left arm began to squirm in a sinister manner.
Although the principal discovered its movements and reached out, the vine disengaged nimbly from my arm and jumped towards the open window.
Seeing the vine vanish outside the window, the principal cursed "Drats, it escaped."
"Charlotte-sama, why did you suddenly break into a run? Ah—Oh dear, what on earth is..."
Mica-san showed up. Seeing our unusual look, she stared with widened eyes.
"This is an emergency, Mica. Find an arbitrary reason to evacuate the visitors out of the island. Also, inform all student terminals of a Type A alert. Issue orders for Haruka to lead the Dragon Subjugation Squad to search for 'a mobile vine.' Although they will definitely have questions, I will explain reasons later."
The principal turned her gaze to Mica-san and issued orders concisely.
Mica-san bowed with a tense expression then ran out of the classroom.
"C-Cough, c-cough... Huff... Huff..."
Quieting down, the classroom resounded with Lisa's coughing and irregular breathing noises.
I really wanted to help her get up, but I did not know if I was allowed to approach her in my current state. All I could do was stand there and apologize to her.
"Huff... Huff... Don't make that kind of face, I... am fine."
Lisa looked up and replied to me with a stiff smile.
"But Lisa, I did that, to you—"
"Yggdrasil is the one controlling your body, isn't it? I was too careless on my part too. Despite clearly considering this possibility... After hearing that Yggdrasil had vanished, I could not help but lower my guard."
Lisa shook her head and insisted she was responsible too.
"Probably... You guessed correctly. Something was transmitted to my mind apart from weapons data... I don't know when I'll get controlled again."
I looked at my left hand that had strangled Lisa's neck and replied in regret.
Yggdrasil was not destroyed, all along—It was inside me.
"Don't worry about that, because I'm the one with dominance over your body now."
However, the principal asserted with full confidence.
Speaking of which, she had mentioned something like that when biting my left arm.
"Because I've temporarily dominated you and the thing that has invaded your body, so I already know the gist of things. Seriously—Things ended up like this all because you kept your deal with Yggdrasil secret. This is your fault, you know?"
Arms akimbo, the principal glared at me.
"What... Why do you know this—"
"Understanding simply through domination, that is the kind of authority domination is."
"Authority...? Principal—No, who exactly are you?"
I could sense something mysterious from the principal, so I asked.
"Yes... By this point, I guess I've no choice but to reveal my identity."
The principal nodded and seemed a bit happy for some reason. She raised her hand ostentatiously.
"I am precisely the manager of humans, the king of the human race! I am the mastermind who controls this world from the shadows!"
The principal puffed out her flat chest and declared openly.
Unsure how to react, I concurred ambiguously.
"What's with that daft look of yours? You don't believe me?"
"No—Rather than not believing, it's more like I can't imagine it at all..."
To suddenly learn that she was the mastermind controlling the world, I only felt confounded by the enormity of the scale. Also, the petite and weak-looking principal totally did not match that image.
"...You're saying I'm not dignified?"
The principal's body shook with a twitching expression on her face.
"Huh? W-Weird, did I say it out loud?"
"You are currently under my dominance, which means your thoughts are being transmitted to me. Seriously... It can't be helped. Then I'll word things differently and prepare myself to be misunderstood."
The principal took a deep breath and continued:
"My predecessor called himself this—the gray dragon—'Gray' Vampire."
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