Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 6 Chapter 1
Chapter 1 - Silent Genius
Midgard was the stronghold in the southern seas where Ds, people capable of generating and using dark matter, were gathered.
Their powers would awaken with the onset of secondary sex characteristics then disappear when they reached maturity. Hence, the majority of Ds were school-age children.
Hence, an academy was established at Midgard for the Ds.
The Academy's campus contained all kinds of facilities. There was also a medical building fully equipped with cutting-edge technology.
A week earlier, I was severely injured in the battle against Yggdrasil and admitted to this medical building for treatment, but—
"Principal... I'm getting sleepy. Can we end this here?"
I—Mononobe Yuu—spoke hesitantly to the blue-eyed blonde who was sitting on the bed, face to face with me.
She looked like a petite girl in her teens but was actually Midgard's chief administrator—Charlotte B. Lord.
Dressed in a loose-fitting lab coat, she looked like she was merely "playing doctor" but she actually had a medical license. She was currently my principal physician to conduct treatment for me.
But after arriving at my room under the pretext of diagnosis, she had already stayed for as long as three hours.
"Wait, be quiet, I'm currently thinking."
The principal furrowed her elegant brow, pursing her pink lips, concentrating on her thoughts. Meanwhile, her gaze was focused on the game of Japanese chess on the board between us.
"I'm basically a hospitalized patient, right? I don't think pulling all-nighters is good for my health."
"I've already healed your wound. Since your body is back in full health, keep me company for a while longer. Okay, try this move!"
Smack, the principal moved her chess piece and looked proudly at me.
Yes, my wound originally required a long time to recover completely, but it was all healed now. I was scheduled to go back to school tomorrow.
This was only possible thanks to a "power" possessed by the principal.
She was the "Gray" Vampire—the dragon that controlled other people by using bodily fluids as a medium.
I heard that she had managed human society from the shadows the whole time, preventing humanity from destroying itself. My left arm, controlled by Yggdrasil, was currently at peace only thanks to the principal's power.
But in exchange, my left arm was no longer under my own control either.
"Unfortunately, it's over. Here, checkmate."
I sighed and used my mobile right hand to place my piece in front of the king.
"What!? I can't believe you used a captured piece. That's way too underhanded! You're under my dominance right now, so don't forget I can read your thoughts if I wanted to, okay? But I faced you fair and square without doing that!"
The principal frantically spoke and pointed at the piece I had moved.
"I can't help it even if you call me underhanded, because that's what rules are like for Japanese chess. And I basically explained in the beginning, right?"
"Hmmmm... Looks like I wasn't listening carefully because I was focused on memorizing how the pieces moved. I never expected these factors absent from international chess... This game is more complicated than I imagined."
Arms crossed before her chest, the principal stared at the ended game in chagrin.
"It might be a bit hard playing the first time when you need to memorize lots of things, but I'm actually not that good at chess. Once you get the rules down, Principal, you'll probably play better than me. Besides, I got totally thrashed in international chess just now... Yawn... Then I'm going to bed." I cleared up and prepared to put the chessboard away while yawning, but the principal showed displeasure on her face.
"Hold on, one more game. It's too much of a waste to end things here when I went out of my way to order a Japanese chess set just to play with you."
"Can't we just play again next time? I'll be your opponent any time I'm free."
Rubbing my sleepy eyes, I tried to convince the principal, but she made a sulking look and started to place the pieces.
"How could I sleep without avenging my defeat?"
"You're such a sore loser..."
Given no choice, I arranged the pieces in their starting positions.
Inside the quiet sickroom late at night, the principal and I began a second game of chess.
"But by the way, it really is so similar."
After capturing my pawn, the principal placed the piece in her hand and murmured.
"Similar to what?"
"Not just defeating the enemy but also bringing them over to your own faction to become part of your strength—Don't you find this very similar to our relationship with dragons?"
Prompted by the principal's question, I thought briefly about it.
"—Yeah, we gain the powers of dragons by defeating them. Conversely, if we lose, dragons would turn Ds into their mates... It really is quite similar to chess now that you point it out."
"I know, right? As a result, a single victory in our war would greatly affect the overall development of the situation. Mitsuki Mononobe defeated the 'Purple' Kraken while you defeated 'White' Leviathan. Replicating their powers was conducive to later victories, but—"
Then the principal showed a gloomy expression.
Understanding what troubled her, I lowered my voice and asked:
"...You're thinking about Iris?" My classmate, a lively and straightforward girl—Iris Freyja.
During the battle against Yggdrasil, Iris had used Catastrophe without going through the step of dark matter. There was a fundamental difference between Iris generating Catastrophe directly, versus how Mitsuki and I replicated dragons' powers through transmutation. This difference was so great that it might transcend the boundaries of what it meant to be a D—
"Yes, I was wondering this. Suppose Iris Freyja were to change into a dragon, whose side would she take?"
Looking at the opposing chess pieces on the board, the principal spoke with worry.
While moving my piece forward, I looked into the principal's eyes.
"Iris is human. She's not a monster like Basilisk."
Falling unconscious from my severe injury, during my first conversation with the principal after I woke up, I heard that Iris might turn into a dragon, but I could not accept such a suggestion
"Don't make such a scary face, it's just speculation. Although I've conducted thorough physiological exams on her, I haven't found any anomalous changes in her body. As a result, I've no intention of treating her as a dragon."
The principal smiled wryly and shrugged.
"Good to hear that."
I breathed a sigh of relief but the principal made a serious face in response.
"Compared to what you are, how you live is more important. Bluntly stated, whether someone is a dragon or not is totally irrelevant. On the other hand, you should pay more attention to her and don't let her feel troubled by her own existence."
After I nodded and answered solemnly, the principal relaxed her expression contentedly.
"I've inherited this title of a dragon too... But I choose to stand on your side, to live this kind of life. I've also gained a friend like you, so I'm very satisfied with my current lifestyle."
The principal's smile conveyed her candid joy. Feeling embarrassed, I avoided eye contact.
"T-The pleasure is all mine..."
Perhaps offended by my reaction, the principal pouted unhappily.
"However, could you quit speaking so formally to me? I'm playing games with you as a friend right now, so there's no need to care about hierarchy, okay?"
"Huh? But even if you say that, I..."
Having spent a long time at NIFL, a place with a clear system of hierarchical relationships, I could not help but speak in a reserved manner to superiors. This had become a kind of habit.
"Hmph, you're taking that respectful attitude again. Fine, I've decided! If I beat you at Japanese chess, you're forbidden to use polite speech with me again. Also, you'll use my nickname of Charl."
"H-Hold on. Principal, you're Midgard's chief administrator. If I call you that, what would other people think?"
"No problem, just address me that way when we're alone. Okay—I'm going to get serious now."
The principal put her smile away and moved her chess piece with a smack.
"...Sure, and if I win, you'll give up, right?"
I sighed and advanced my piece as well.
"What are you talking about? I intend to play until I win."
The principal smiled proudly.
I was rendered speechless and realized that I was probably not getting any sleep until the principal won tonight.
Feeling bright light hurting my eyes behind my eyelids, I opened my eyes.
By the time I knew it, it was already morning. White rays of dawn were streaming in through the window, illuminating the sickroom's interior brightly.
I remember playing Japanese chess with the principal last night...
Tracing back my memories, I recalled the previous night's events.
The principal really refused to give up unless she was victorious. Taking advantage of my drowsy consciousness, she won against me in the third game. I could not remember anything after that, so that was probably when I fell asleep.
Trying to move my body, I felt something weird. My right arm seemed inexplicably heavy.
I turned my head right to see the principal's pretty face. She was lying on my right arm, using it as a pillow, and was staring at me with her gemstone-like eyes.
"What a wonderful morning. Sleeping next to someone else's body warmth is kind of nice, actually."
The principal rubbed her cheek against my arm with a comfortable look on her face, greeting me in a gentle tone of voice.
"What... W-Why are you sleeping here, Principal?"
Despite a moment of speechlessness, I still asked.
"Because you fell asleep last night the moment I won. To make sure you keep the promise, I decided to wait until you woke up. Come, we're alone right now. Don't be shy, call me Charl."
The principal leaned herself against me on the bed, rocking me. A fragrant scent was tickling my nose. Making body contact with a supple body, I felt blood rush to my face and ears.
"Y-You're too close. Please move away a bit."
"I refuse. I won't release you until I get my reward for last night's victory, because I won't tolerate you cheating me out of my reward."
The principal grabbed me even more stubbornly. Things were not going to end at this rate.
"...Got it. I'll keep my promise."
I prepared myself and took a deep breath.
"Good, ready any time."
The principal waited excitedly for me to speak.
Meeting the principal's gaze, I spoke like a friend:
"Good morning, Charl."
Instantly, a smile bloomed all over the principal's face.
"Wow, you did it! Excellent, that's more like my friend!"
The principal rubbed my head happily.
While her delicate fingers combed through my hair, I felt both embarrassed and extremely comfortable. With these indescribable feelings, I exhaled.
"Is this enough?"
"Yes, I'm happy now. Since you listened to my unreasonable demand, I must do everything I can for you in return."
The principal straightened her relaxed expression and continued seriously:
"Ever since the giant tree, ostensibly Yggdrasil, appeared in Japan, the interference power affecting you has been increasing. Even I cannot tell how long I can suppress it, so we must find a way to take down Yggdrasil as soon as possible."
"But didn't you say before that defeating Yggdrasil requires wiping out all plant life from the Earth? Or maybe I should put it this way... If such drastic measures are required to defeat it, what exactly is Yggdrasil?"
I posed a question I had not asked before. It was a bit awkward to speak because I had to intentionally avoid using polite language.
"When I controlled you, I sensed Yggdrasil's true nature... But I don't have proof. Currently, I am asking Asgard's laboratory to perform verification and I believe there will be response soon. I'll tell you the details later."
"Asgard... So it's a research facility of the higher-ups."
Asgard was an international organization in charge of dragon-related policies, the superior agency ruling over Midgard and NIFL. Most likely including the principal's true identity, they were privy to many secrets. Otherwise, Asgard would feel suspicious about how the principal was able to obtain information regarding the truth of Yggdrasil.
"Gathered there are the world's most prominent researchers on dragons, countable on one hand. Believe in me and them, rest properly and wait for the time to act."
"—Got it. I'll believe in you, Charl, and bide my time."
Seeing me nod, the principal smiled contentedly.
But at that moment, the sickroom's door opened.
"Mononobe, it's morning already! Have you woken up?" Entering the sickroom was the girl whom the principal and I had discussed last night—Iris Freyja.
Iris was originally smiling cheerfully, but the moment she saw us, her expression froze instantly.
My classmates from Brynhildr Class were also showing up behind her.
"Nii-san, I heard you were coming back to class starting today, so I came to pick—"
My little sister of no blood relations—Mononobe Mitsuki. Upon seeing the principal lying in bed with me, her entire person froze.
The price for downloading pre-civilization weapons data from Yggdrasil was that I had lost virtually all my memories beyond three years ago. Hence, I did not have my memories from when Mitsuki and I were still family and more often than not, I did not know what she was thinking—But now was an exception.
Her face was red, eyebrows raised and eyes staring in anger. Anyone could tell what Mitsuki's current emotions were.
"N-Nii-san... What on earth are you doing?"
Pointing at me, Mitsuki cried out in a trembling voice.
Entering the room after Mitsuki, the others also questioned me with their faces red.
"Mononobe Yuu! What is the meaning of this!?"
Lisa Highwalker glared at me, her long blonde hair almost about to rise vertically.
"Mononobe-kun and the principal... What did you two do?"
Always reading, never showing much change in expression, Firill Crest was showing a terrifying smile.
"No fair that only the principal gets to do this! Tia wants to sleep with Yuu too!"
The young girl with two red horns on her head—Tia Lightning. Only her reason for being angry was different from the others.
"D-Don't do that, Tia. It's not allowed."
Ariella Lu tried to dissuade Tia. Her ribbon-tied ponytail also jumped.
Ren Miyazawa also kept nodding, her red hair swaying.
"Wait, t-this is a misunderstanding! Listen to me, all of you!"
I frantically tried to find an excuse, but the principal spoke up as though interrupting me:
"—Hmm, it looks like the Academy's students have caught sight of my unseemliness. Actually, I was locked in an intense battle until late last night. Utterly exhausted, I fell asleep with him like this."
The principal got off the bed nimbly and explained the reason to the group.
But after listening to her, all the girls' faces went even redder.
"A-An intense battle until late last night...?"
Repeating the principal's words in shock, Mitsuki looked like she was getting some kind of weird misunderstanding again.
"I'm a bit sleep-deprived... But since there's business matters to handle today, I need to get back to the principal's office first. Work hard on your studies, everyone."
Ignoring the girls' reactions, the principal walked to the door.
The just before exiting the room, she looked back and smiled proudly at me.
"I'll practice seriously from now on and overwhelm you next time. I'll make you scream. Prepare yourself."
Leaving behind words that could easily cause misunderstandings, the principal left the sickroom.
Left behind, I looked in trepidation at the people gathered.
Tia was staring wide-eyed while the others were red in the face, glaring sharply at me.
"Nii-san... Even though I said that impure relations between students were forbidden, I never expected you to make a move on the principal..."
Seeing Mitsuki's clenched fist shaking nonstop, I shook my head and denied in full force.
"I-It's not like that! Last night, we were only playing—"
But Firill interrogated me in a fierce tone of voice after hearing my explanation.
"You were only playing with the principal? A depraved... adult relationship?"
"Stop thinking in wrong directions! My conscience is totally clear!"
Although I explained as much as I could, thanks to deep misunderstandings, it took me a very long time before I could get the girls to accept my explanations.
"Seriously, Nii-san... Why did you not say so earlier if all you were doing was playing Japanese chess?"
Along the way from the medical building to Brynhildr Class, Mitsuki remarked with displeasure.
"No, I already said it who knows how many times, but you won't believe me..."
I sighed in exhaustion.
"B-Because it sounded too much like an excuse... Oh, putting that aside, how are your injuries, Nii-san?"
Mitsuki changed the subject in embarrassment and shifted her gaze to my left arm and abdomen.
I had changed into my uniform with my left arm in a cast. Although it was covered by clothing, my abdomen was also wrapped in bandages.
"Don't worry. Although my left arm might take a while to heal up, I think the abdomen bandages can be taken off soon."
Although to others, it might look like I had suffered grievous injuries, thanks to the principal's ability, my wounds had long recovered.
The cast was a disguise to mask the immobility of my left arm while my abdomen did not actually need bandaging. For those who neither knew about my relationship with Yggdrasil nor about the principal's power, the cover story was that I had suffered a fracture.
"That is a relief, but please do not overexert yourself. Please observe instead of participating in PE and practical classes."
"Got it. Thanks for worrying about me."
"Eh... Oh, yes."
Hearing me thank her, Mitsuki nodded somewhat in surprise, her cheeks turning red faintly.
Maybe the way I was talking did not sound like myself.
It occurred to me—If I saw Mitsuki as family, I might not be thanking so solemnly in this kind of situation. But having lost my memories, of course I could not possibly know the right answer.
"Mitsuki-san, you worry too much. This level of injury is completely nothing seeing as it is Mononobe Yuu."
Lisa touched my cast from the side.
Due to knowing the whole story, she was also clearly aware that my left arm was uninjured.
"Lisa... So Mononobe-kun is actually that reliable in your view?"
However, Firill interpreted Lisa's words differently and interjected in a playful tone of voice.
"What, I never... Uh, after all, since he is the one who rescued my parents from Yggdrasil's evil grasp, I won't regard him as unreliable, but... Umm..."
Blushing, Lisa seemed especially flustered.
Seeing her reaction, Firill smiled.
"And you two have pretended to be a couple before. I'm a bit jealous... that your relationship with Mononobe-kun has gotten so close all at once."
Saying that, Firill leaned in. I could not help but feel flustered from the contact between her voluptuous bust and my elbow.
"Listen, Mononobe-kun, even for just a moment, play the part of my boyfriend—or rather, play the part of my prince."
Looking at me with a pleading and endearing expression, Firill made such a suggestion.
"Wait, Firill-san! I simply asked him to play the part of my boyfriend out of necessity, but right now, there is no need for him to play a prince."
Before I could answer, Lisa pulled me away from Firill.
"Eh... That's so unfair, Lisa, hogging everything."
"I-It's not unfair! I am simply maintaining public morals on Mitsuki-san's behalf."
Lisa looked away from Firill's glare of dissatisfaction. Her answer sounded like an excuse.
"Y-Yuu! Tia wants Yuu to play husband character too!"
But this time, Tia pounced on me from behind wrapping her arms around my neck, choking me.
"T-Tia, I-I can't breathe..."
"Don't do that, Tia, Mononobe-kun is still injured."
Seeing the situation, Ariella cautioned Tia.
"Oh, sorry! Does it hurt?"
Tia frantically jumped down and apologized to me in worry.
"No, I'm fine, it was just hard to breathe. Just as Lisa said, this level of injury is nothing."
"Thank goodness, but... Tia is unfit to be a wife, failing to consider husband's injury."
Tia breathed a sigh of relief but got depressed.
"I-It's not like that. I'll feel cheerful as long as I can see you lively and energetic, Tia. No one will say you're unfit to be a wife."
I tried my best to console her. Immediately, Tia looked up at me and said as though examining my face:
"Really? Then... You think so too?"
"Eh, well, of course, but I'm just giving an objective opinion—"
Given what I had already said, I could not refute my own words, so I had to nod ambiguously.
"Objective opinion? Tia doesn't get what that means, but Yuu approves of Tia as wife! Then Yuu, let's get married!"
However, my ambiguous answer did not work on Tia. She raised her arms and cheered with a joyful expression.
"W-Wait, those are totally separate things—"
"Not marrying a wife who's not unfit, that would be weird!"
"Maybe you have a point, but..."
Cornered by Tia's logic, I could not help but take a few steps back.
However, just as I was about to be trapped, someone extended a helping hand.
"Tia-chan, please don't make things difficult for Mononobe."
Iris had intervened in Tia's conversation with me. Arms akimbo, she spoke to Tia.
"Muuu—Iris is always getting in Tia's way. So Iris wants to marry Yuu too, right?"
Iris instantly blushed to her ears. She secretly glanced at me from the side.
But as though suddenly realizing something in alarm, she looked in Mitsuki's direction then shook her head hastily.
"N-No, it's not like that. Tia-chan, what I mean is you can't get married at your age. If you make a fuss, you'll be a nuisance to Mononobe..."
Iris answered with a suffering look on her face. Seeing her expression, I felt a stabbing pain in my heart.
Iris knew that "the me before I had lost my memories" used to have an engagement promise with Mitsuki. Because I had told Iris that "the real Mononobe Yuu" probably loved Mitsuki the most.
Ever since, Iris always worried about Mitsuki's feelings. Surely, she was considering what would happen after I recovered my memories.
Currently—Iris and I were deeply in love with each other.
However, Iris seemed to have prepared herself for the present state of affairs to be lost eventually in the future.
Hence, I was not confident at all whether these current feelings were legitimate, because I could not be certain whether these feelings might waver.
Thus, in the roughly two months that had passed since Iris and I confessed our feelings to each other after the Basilisk battle, our relationship had not advanced a single step. Neither advancing nor regressing, it simply remained stationary while time continued to flow by.
"Feels like Iris never speaks the truth."
Perhaps sensitively noticing Iris' feelings, Tia grumbled with dissatisfaction.
"N-No! I'm not lying! Right, Ariella?"
"Huh? Well—Tia's age definitely cannot marry. I don't think there's a need to rush to get married. You should enjoy the current life more. There's so many things to do before marriage."
Suddenly called out, Ariella answered in a bit of a dilemma.
"Really!? Then what kinds of things need to be done before marriage?"
I did not know what Ariella was thinking of, but she went red and stammered ambiguously.
"Hey Ariella, tell Tia!"
Tia tugged Ariella's arm and begged her to answer.
I felt bad for Ariella but breathed a sigh of relief that the subject of conversation had moved on from me.
Perhaps to escape Tia's questioning, Iris also left us in a hurry, going off on her own. Instantly losing someone to talk to, I looked around me with nothing else to do.
We happened to have reached a connecting corridor between buildings, overlooking the school's courtyard and sports ground.
A pile of abandoned scrap, probably from the school festival, could be seen in a corner of the school.
My classmates and I had prepared and opened a Japanese teahouse for the school festival.
Tragically forced to crossdress, pretending to be a couple in front of Lisa's parents, fighting Yggdrasil's clone—Now that I thought about it, those were two extremely busy days.
And only a week of time had elapsed since then.
While I was immersed in reminiscence, I noticed that just like me, Ren was staring out at the school festival scrap.
She looked especially forlorn from the side of her face. Hesitantly, I tried to ask her:
"Ren, what's wrong?"
She threw a glance at me but did not say a word.
But that was how she always behaved. Ren always answered briefly with an "mm," typed on a terminal, or responded with silence.
I had never had normal dialogue with Ren so far.
But somehow, I had already grown accustomed to interacting with her without the use of words and language. We were naturally able to achieve communication.
If she responded with silence, it was a signal that she did not wish to broach this subject.
Hence, I did not pry and switched to another topic.
"But anyway, so much happened during the school festival. Ren, did you enjoy yourself?"
This time, she nodded in response.
"What did you find the most fun, Ren?"
Ren thought for a while after hearing my question then typed on her portable terminal and turned the LCD screen towards me.
"—Rossweisse Class' haunted house eh. Yeah, that definitely was a blast."
I read out the words shown on the screen and smiled wryly.
Rossweisse Class was where the youngest Ds in Midgard were gathered. Their haunted house consisted of costumed girls trying to scare visitors, but since all they did was scream and play around, it was not scary at all.
However, simply watching young girls playing around in excitement would bring a smile to one's face—Although it was tiring, I found it to be a fun activity for sure.
"Due to Yggdrasil, the afterparty had to be suspended, but if there's another chance, I'd really like to enjoy thing from start to end completely."
Ren answered in agreement. A bonfire party was originally planned for evening festivities. Without seeing the bonfire, it felt like a proper conclusion was lacking.
"Oh... Now that I think back, there's so many things to do apart from the afterparty. I didn't get to visit all the homerooms, and despite this rare visit from my parents, I didn't even greet them once..."
I sighed heavily.
While I was unconscious after the incident with Major Loki, my parents already left Midgard. Since meeting them directly might expose the fact of my memory loss, in a certain sense, it was quite fortunate.
Even though it was unavoidable, I still could not avoid getting tormented by guilt for feeling "thank goodness" inside.
This time, Ren responded with silence. However, I got the sense that rather than refusing to answer, she was expressing her empathy for what I felt. The same forlorn expression from earlier surfaced on the side of Ren's face again.
"—Is there someone you want to meet during the school festival, Ren?"
Feeling this inexplicably, I tried to ask her.
Ren's shoulders immediately shook. She looked down as though hesitating on how to answer.
However, it looked like I was not too far off the mark.
I knew nothing about Ren's origins and family background, so I had no idea who she wanted to meet at the school festival, but—
"If you want to see the other person, you'll see them eventually. Don't worry."
I placed my hand on her red hair and encouraged her.
There was no proof but I had a precedent. Mitsuki and I were only able to reunite at Midgard because of the effort she had dedicated towards wanting to see me.
However, Ren kept shaking her head under my palm.
I thought she hated being touched on the head, so I hastily withdrew my hand.
Ren shook her head again as though saying "that's not what I mean." She typed on her portable terminal then showed me the words.
"...I don't want to see him. I hate that kind of person the most?"
I read out the words on the screen. Ren immediately nodded in confirmation.
"By 'that kind of person'... What kind of person do you mean?"
I asked Ren whom she was referring to.
However, Ren kept her lips shut tightly without answering the question and looked away.
Evidently, she was not going to say more.
Although Ren's relationship with me had become slightly more harmonious compared to the very beginning, there was still a tall barrier between us.
One day, will I be able to become better friends with her, even to the point of having a dialogue with her?
While thinking this, I glanced sideways at the young redhaired prodigy.
The situation changed four days after I resumed attending classes.
"—Twenty-five years ago when the first dragon disaster took place, Japan suffered the most severely as the location where Vritra made its appearance. Although the Greater Tokyo Area was devastated, reconstruction after the fact proceeded quite rapidly because the Japanese delayed resistance and refrained from conducting useless attacks. No signs of the tragedy remain visible anymore. However, other countries chose to fight to the very end. The pollution caused by chemical and nuclear weapons has hampered reconstruction efforts."
During second period, Shinomiya Haruka-sensei was lecturing on modern history.
Her long black ponytail swayed every time she walked back and forth at the lectern.
She was both Midgard's commander and the homeroom teacher of our Brynhildr Class.
"—As you all know, Japan is also the country with the highest incidence of Ds. Hence, during reconstruction, many Asgard facilities were built on reclaimed land along Tokyo Bay's shore. Furthermore, there is a large-scale NIFL base. An important stronghold against dragons, from Tokyo's perspective. The people who promoted the construction of these facilities are Asgard's first leader and Japan's prime minister at the time. This will all be on the exam, so please pay attention. Iris Freyja, given your grades, you don't have the luxury of napping in class, do you?"
Frequently nodding off to sleep, my neighbor Iris replied frantically at the call of her name.
At this moment, the classroom's door suddenly opened.
"Sorry for interrupting the lesson, but I have an extremely urgent announcement."
Principal Charlotte and her secretary, Mica Stuart-san, showed up. Dressed in a maid uniform as usual, Mica-san was holding a stack of paper.
"Principal, what exactly is the matter?"
Shinomiya-sensei asked with concern.
"—Asgard's First Laboratory in the east has proposed a possibility that might be able to defeat Yggdrasil. To verify the plan's feasibility, they have asked us to send Mononobe Yuu to assist them."
"Why does Nii-san have to go..."
Mitsuki asked. All eyes gathered upon me.
Seeing everyone's reactions, the principal added to her explanation.
"There is something you have not been informed yet... After defeating Hraesvelgr, Mononobe Yuu gained the ability to replicate Ether Wind using dark matter. When fighting Yggdrasil, that Ether Wind might come in handy."
"What!? When exactly—"
Mitsuki glared at me. Her face seemed to be saying: Why did you not tell me?
"Don't blame him, because during the process of verification experiments, I warned him he must neither disclose the fact nor carelessly generate Ether Wind."
The principal smiled wryly and appeased Mitsuki.
"—In that case, Principal, do you intend to accept their request?"
Shinomiya-sensei went back to the main topic and asked the principal.
"Yes, not just Mononobe Yuu. I intend to send all members of Brynhildr Class to head forth as the Dragon Subjugation Squad. Once it is known that the plan is feasible, you will go directly to strike Yggdrasil. Of course, I will send additional personnel when the time comes."
After the principal replied, Mica-san, who had been standing on the side, walked up instantly.
"These are letters of instructions issued to all of you. Please accompany them as the commanding officer, Haruka-san."
Mica-san distributed the papers in her hand to us. Written on them were orders dispatching us to the Asgard laboratory in Japan, authorizing us to leave Midgard temporarily.
"Instant departure...? Isn't this too rushed?"
After reading the letter of instructions, Shinomiya-sensei frowned.
"If a means to defeat Yggdrasil exists, then it must be carried out as quickly as possible. The Yggdrasil that has appeared on Aokigahara is growing bigger day by day. The range of mechanical anomaly is also expanding gradually. I fear that the longer we delay, the more disadvantageous it will be to us."
"Fair enough, but... somehow, I feel that you seem quite anxious—"
Shinomiya-sensei's words conveyed slight worry.
"...Nothing of that sort. Anyway, you will start preparing to head for Japan immediately."
Although the principal denied what Shinomiya-sensei said, I knew she was lying.
She was anxious for my sake. Along with weapons data, Yggdrasil had transmitted something akin to a computer virus to my brain. Once the invasive state increased dramatically, even the principal would be unable to stop Yggdrasil from controlling me.
Hence, Yggdrasil must be defeated as soon as possible.
"—Understood. Everyone, we will return to the dormitories to prepare."
Lisa nodded and called for everyone to move.
"Yes! We must get to Japan earlier!"
Iris concurred with a solemn expression.
Since Lisa and Iris knew about my relationship with Yggdrasil, they probably understood the principal's anxiety.
"I agree... Besides, I cannot allow Nii-san to go alone. I have no objections."
Mitsuki agreed with a serious expression. Firill and Tia also nodded.
"The First Laboratory of the Far East Branch... Don't tell me it's..."
But for some reason, Ariella showed a grave expression and muttered to herself.
Beside her, Ren also made a complicated expression.
"Ariella and Ren, what's wrong?"
I asked out of curiosity, but Ariella smiled wryly and dodged the question.
"Eh? Oh, nothing much. This has nothing to do with you, Mononobe-kun, so don't mind us."
Ariella replied while putting her hand on Ren's shoulder.
"—Don't worry, Ren, I'll be at your side."
Hearing her say that, Ren nodded lightly in response.
Although seeing them like that worried me, since Ariella said it had nothing to do with me, I could not pry any further.
"Nii-san, let us return to the dorm too."
Urged by Mitsuki, I left Ariella and Ren.
Japan was the country where Mitsuki an I were born and raised.
But to Ariella and Ren, perhaps it was a place of complicated backstories.
Midgard was a remote island located south of Japan.
Compared to Firill's homeland that we visited before—the Principality of Erlia in Europe—it was not that far away from Japan.
Hence, we took a long-distance transport helicopter directly from Midgard to Japan, but—
"Ooh... I have had enough of this."
Lisa remarked irritably inside the cramped helicopter cabin. The propellers were noisy and even sitting next to Lisa, I could barely hear her voice.
With four of us sitting against each side of the wall, we waited quietly to reach our destination.
Sitting on the opposite row of seats, Mitsuki and the others showed weariness on their faces.
Without large windows inside the cabin to offer a view of the outside scenery, there was a strong sense of isolation. The frequent vibrations caused our arms to shake, making it impossible to kill time through reading.
Even so, Firill still tried to read a book in the beginning, but since that would definitely result in airsickness, I confiscated her book for the time being. My decision was probably correct since she had quickly gotten seasick on a ship.
"Last time's helicopter ride was clearly much more comfortable..."
Sitting on my left, Iris said in boredom.
"Because this is a military transport used by NIFL as well. Unlike civilian transports, comfort is not a consideration, but we'll probably get there soon. Iris, Lisa, just hang in there a bit longer."
Checking the time on my portable terminal, I encouraged the two girls.
We should be almost there. I was still part of NIFL not too long ago, so I was already used to this kind of uncomfortable transport. However, it must be quite a harsh experience for Iris and the other girls.
Most likely, the principal prioritized speed above all else despite knowing this. Time might be more pressing than I imagined.
I sighed at the sight of my left arm in the cast.
I must not repeat that mistake ever again.
Looking at Lisa's delicate neck while she was sitting on my right, I warned myself.
Controlled by Yggdrasil, I had strangled Lisa's neck, trying to suffocate her. Had the principal not arrived to the rescue, things might have developed past the point of no return.
"...What is it?"
Noticing my gaze, Lisa asked in puzzlement.
"Oh, nothing much... Umm, your neck—I was worried whether any marks were left behind."
Despite feeling embarrassed, I still answered Lisa.
"You still feel guilty about what happened? I'm fine already. Although the finger marks stayed for a while, they're all gone by now."
Lisa replied in exasperation. Her reply was drowned out by the propeller noise. Apart from me, no one heard her.
"I see, that's good to hear."
I could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
"By the way, just to be clear... Even if marks were left behind, I would not resent you, okay?"
"—I know, because you're so nice, Lisa."
I nodded and smiled wryly but Lisa blushed in embarrassment.
"What!? W-What do you mean by nice? It's not like that, it was simply my own carelessness... You're the one who is nice."
I was surprised to hear this unexpected response.
"For my sake, you accepted this job to play the part of a couple and even worried this much about me... You are too nice, it's so unfair."
For some reason, Lisa's tone of voice sounded a bit angry.
"No, but playing a couple was part of the deal when you agreed to listen to my troubles, right?"
"Indeed that is true, but even without any terms of exchange, upon seeing me in trouble, you would have agreed to my request either way, right?"
"Well... I guess I would've agreed."
If Lisa really was in trouble, I could not leave her without assistance.
"That is why I'm calling you nice, and because you are such a nice person, I—"
Lisa gazed at me with moistened eyes. Due to the propeller noise, I could not hear what she said at the end.
Then just like that, Lisa rested her head against my shoulder.
Feeling my heart rate rise, I called her name.
"I feel a bit sleepy. Lend me your shoulder."
"You can sleep in this kind of noise?"
"Indeed, as long as I have my lover's body warmth."
Lisa smiled gently and closed her eyes.
With her eyes closed, Lisa replied with laughter in her words.
Then she really slept peacefully for real.
Next, someone tugged my clothing from the left side.
I looked over to meet gazes with the pouting Iris.
"What are you and Lisa-chan talking about?"
"U-Umm... Nothing important."
Discussing whether I was nice or not—This sounded too embarrassing, I could not say it out.
"Hmph... Mononobe, you really seem like a real couple with Lisa-chan."
Iris made a jealous look. Then looking at Lisa who was sleeping on my shoulder, she leaned against my other shoulder too.
"I'm sleeping too, Mononobe, so don't move."
Saying that, Iris closed her eyes.
With Iris and Lisa leaning against me on both sides, I could not move. Giving up, I served obediently as their pillow.
But suddenly feeling gazes from the front, I looked up.
Seated opposite to us were Mitsuki, Tia and Firill, glaring coldly in my direction.
Although they were showing scary expressions on their faces and seemed to be saying something, I could not hear them due to the propeller noise.
"T-This can't be helped..."
I knew my voice could not reach them but still defended myself and stiffly avoided their gazes.
Ignoring us, Ren and Ariella simply stared into space with frozen expressions.
It was roughly half an hour later when an internal line announced that we had reached the destination.
The helicopter landed on a helipad on the roof of a high-rise building somewhere.
Ending the long journey, we dragged our weary footsteps and got off the helicopter. It was currently 10pm at night. Since the longitude here was similar to Midgard's, there was virtually no time difference.
This was probably the Asgard laboratory located in the Tokyo Bay area. Rows of undecorated pure white buildings surrounded this building, reminiscent of a hospital.
The helicopter instantly flew away after we disembarked. According to Shinomiya-sensei, it was apparently flying to a nearby NIFL base to refuel.
A strong gust of wind blew, causing Iris to hold down her hair. Compared to Midgard, the air temperature was much lower, but not to the point of chilliness. My sense of seasons had numbed due to being on a tropical island, but now that it was September, Japan was entering autumn.
The sun had already set in the west. Illuminated by bright streetlights the sky showed a murky purple-red hue. With almost no stars visible, there was only the moon hanging high in night sky with the occasional aircraft lights crossing back and forth. The scenery on the shore was hidden behind deep darkness.
But just by turning my gaze inland, I was instantly greeted by a magnificent scenery of the night. Red lights flashed on the roofs of high-rise buildings. Countless dots of light leaked out from windows, decorating the brightness of urban areas. Rows of connected lights were surely headlights from cars driving on highways.
—This is Tokyo.
My hometown was farther inland. Besides, I had already lost all memories prior to three years ago, so I had no recollection of this scenery, but for some reason, a hint of emotion resembling nostalgia flashed across my heart.
"I only visited Tokyo a few times when I was young, but even so, there is this feeling like returning to my hometown."
Mitsuki seemed to be feeling similar emotions while she remarked with a wry smile.
"Well, it's because we've already left Japan for three years. We'll still feel this way even if it's not a city where we lived."
While looking out at the stars twinkling on the ground, powered by electricity, I concurred with Mitsuki.
In contrast to the city center's dazzling brightness, the reclaimed land on shore was only sparsely illuminated. Many facilities were probably deserted during the night.
"Tia is so happy to come to the country where Yuu was born!"
Tia was originally feeble when she first got off the helicopter, but had recovered her vitality now, bouncing around energetically.
"But by the way... No one came out to receive us."
Lisa looked around. Her long blonde hair was fluttering in the strong gust of evening breeze.
On this roof equipped with a helipad, the only people visible were Shinomiya-sensei and the students of Brynhildr Class.
"Do we have to enter on our own?"
Firill pointed at the stairwell leading to the building's interior.
However, Shinomiya-sensei shook her head.
"No, they said someone will lead the way when I contacted them from the helicopter. Let's wait a while longer."
"...Who will it be?"
Ariella commented quietly.
Ren clutched Ariella's clothing tightly, showing an even more nervous expression than on the helicopter.
Then the stairwell's door finally opened and a man in a lab coat jogged over to us.
"Oh my, sorry about that. I'm late because there was a bit of work I had to finish."
The man scratched his messy hair apologetically, his stubble-covered face smiling.
Ren's expression became stiff the moment he appeared. I did not miss this change.
"I knew it..."
Ariella gnashed her teeth and glared at him sharply. She was giving off aggressive emotions akin to killing intent, causing the mood to tense up.
—Was this someone they knew?
I was intrigued by Ren and Ariella's reactions.
"No, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to receive us. I am Shinomiya Haruka, Midgard's commander and their homeroom teacher. As the leader of the group this time, I am accompanying these students, Mononobe Yuu most of all."
Shinomiya-sensei greeted and extended her hand to the man.
"I am Miyazawa Kenya, the director of this laboratory. Nice to meet you."
Then man introduced himself and shook hands with Shinomiya-sensei.
Miyazawa, the same family name as Ren. Since it was not a rare name, it could be coincidence, but Ren and Ariella's reactions did not seem to be directed towards someone they were meeting for the first time.
Also, I seemed to have heard the name Miyazawa Kenya somewhere before...
"Miyazawa Kenya... Is that not the author of the paper on Ether Wind? If that is the case..."
Mitsuki asked in surprise then glanced in Ren's direction.
Her words prompted me to remember.
In the initial battle against "Yellow" Hraesvelgr, no attacks worked. In order to find a strategy to break through the impasse, Mitsuki had found a paper on Ether Wind written by someone named Miyazawa Kenya.
"Yes, I am. And you are?"
"Forgive me for the late introduction. I am Mononobe Mitsuki, captain of the Dragon Subjugation Squad."
Mitsuki lowered her head and bowed, greeting him.
"Mononobe Mitsuki... I see, you are the one with antimatter... I remember you called me during the battle against Hraesvelgr, but I only heard about it after the fact. Unfortunately, due to the timing, I could not answer your call. My utmost apologies."
"No, not at all... The paper alone was enough to inspire me greatly."
"I am very happy to hear that. Since you are here, that means... The girl who can use 'Catastrophe' is present too?"
Miyazawa Kenya swept his gaze over us after saying that.
"—Oh, that would be me."
Iris timidly raised her hand.
"Wow, what unexpected fortune. If possible, may I collect some data?"
"Eh... Well, if there's time."
Miyazawa Kenya's eyes shone with excitement. Intimidated by him, Iris answered vaguely.
"Then you have my thanks. Next—Mononobe Yuu and Tia Lightning, I presume?"
This time, Miyazawa Kenya turned his gaze to Tia and me and confirmed with us.
"You know about us?"
Seeing subtly different emotions in his eyes compared to earlier, I asked with concern.
"Although I don't know your faces, I could tell at a glance. I've always wanted to see you, the only male D and the one who successfully replicated 'Antigravity' and 'Ether Wind,' as well as the girl who was given horns through biogenic transmutation."
He leaned towards us in excitement.
"This man... feels so scary."
Frightened by his forcefulness, Tia hid behind my back.
"Oh sorry, I'm a bit overexcited. But I strongly hope you could assist in my research. Especially your Ether Wind, which might turn out to be a trump card for opposing Yggdrasil."
He stared at me and said.
"Well, that's what we came here for, but why Ether Wind—"
"I'll explain that in detail later. First things first, all of you must recover from the fatigue of long-distance travel. I'll take you to your rooms and the dining hall first."
Saying that, Miyazawa Kenya walked to the stairwell. We were just about to follow when a sharp voice pierced the night breeze.
I looked closer to see Ariella glaring at him in fury.
"What is it?"
Ariella questioned him in a low voice. Ren stood by Ariella's side with her head down.
"Hmm...? Aren't you Ariella? And Ren too—So you two came as well."
Ren's shoulders shook.
"In other words, you didn't notice until now? How uninterested in us you must be."
Ariella spoke with a strong tone of sarcasm and hostility.
Not knowing the backstory, Iris and the rest of us could only look at one another awkwardly, but Mitsuki and Shinomiya-sensei's faces showed worry instead of a troubled expression. Perhaps the two of them knew something about Miyazawa Kenya's relationship with Ariella and Ren.
"No, it's not like that. I am very happy for a reunion after so long. But why did you come here? You two are not needed this time."
While we watched, he posed this question with an expression on his face as though he found it unbelievable from the bottom of his heart.
Listening with her head bowed, Ren clenched her tiny fist.
In that instant, Ariella kicked the ground.
Closing in with merely one step, she swung her fist sharply in a powerful stride.
Mitsuki and the rest of the girls could not react because Ariella's movements were too fast.
Only I made it in time.
Before Ariella's attack aimed at Miyazawa Kenya's face could land, I caught her fist from the side.
A monotonous thud. I felt a wave of numbness on my right palm.
It was a heavy and acute punch. Ariella had exhibited expert martial arts before. She must have trained somewhere before.
"Calm down, Ariella. I don't know the story but violence is not good behavior."
Ariella gnashed her teeth and withdrew her fist, but she still glared at him.
Staring blankly at Ariella, Miyazawa Kenya asked without any visible surprise:
"—Are we done? Then let me take you all inside."
He turned around and walked to the stairwell.
Without a doubt, Ariella seriously wanted to punch him, but he was completely unfazed.
He could dodge even if I did not intervene—That did not seem to be the case. Judging from the way he walked, he did not seem versed in martial arts.
"Still the same as always... It doesn't mean anything to him. Whether getting beaten by me—or anything to do with Ren."
Ariella muttered in chagrin. Ren approached her and gripped her sleeve tightly.
"What the heck is going on?"
I kept opening and closing my still-numbed right hand while asking Ariella and Ren.
"Oh—Sorry, Mononobe-kun. Thank you for stopping me. I did something pointless and almost caused trouble to everyone."
Ariella smiled wryly and apologized to me.
"No, it's fine..."
I shook my head to tell her I did not mind. Glaring at Miyazawa Kenya's back as he receded into the distance, Ariella spoke:
"Legally speaking, I am his adopted daughter."
This sudden confession made me speechless.
"And Ren is his daughter by blood, but we are not family with him. Because he has never tried to be a father to Ren."
Ariella continued to glare at his back, speaking in a fierce tone of voice.
Led by Miyazawa Kenya, we entered the lab through the stairwell then took an elevator to the guest rooms on the eighteenth floor—
Based on the elevator display, this building seemed to have twenty floors.
After we settled into our assigned rooms with our luggage, we were taken to the staff dining hall in the lab.
The dining hall seemed to be self-service. Everyone picked their preferred menu items, picked up their food then took a seat, but the atmosphere was very heavy. This atmosphere had hung around ever since Ariella's reveal.
However, only Miyazawa Kenya seemed unfazed. On his own, he continued to explain the interior of the facility.
"This is an ID card for guests, which also serves as a room keycard, so please take the card that corresponds to your own room. This ID card gives access to the eighteenth floor where the guest rooms are, the tenth floor where this dining hall is located, as well as the ground floor's entrance lobby. You can come and go as you like. I basically won't interfere in your movements, because I wouldn't have granted access to anywhere I don't want you to go in the first place."
After saying that, he placed numbered ID cards on the table. The cards were otherwise unadorned.
Once we had picked up our respective cards, he stood up.
"—So, I'm leaving first because I've already eaten. Despite appearances, I'm very busy. I'll come pick you up once you're done with the meal. The battle plan against Yggdrasil will be explained in the conference room after that."
Then without waiting for our answer, he quickly left the dining hall.
Since he was no longer around, the mood eased up somewhat.
Originally glaring at him, Ariella took a deep breath, trying to calm herself.
Due to Ren looking downwards, I could not see her face.
"Then let us begin."
Sitting next to me, Mitsuki announced and we began our meal.
"—So you already knew that Miyazawa Kenya is Ren's father?"
While eating my pork tenderloin cutlet set meal, I quietly asked Mitsuki.
"I already knew beforehand that Ren's father is named Miyazawa Kenya, the scholar who wrote the Ether Wind paper. However, I did not know that he is the director of this lab or about his relationship with Ariella-san and their complicated past."
Mitsuki took a sip of miso soup and answered.
"What happened between him and Ren and Ariella...?"
I whispered while glancing sideways at those two while they were eating.
"You would have to ask them directly."
"I guess you're right... But let's not ask that for the time being."
I smiled wryly to Mitsuki and shook my head.
Ariella had not said a word since what happened earlier. I could tell that she refused to let us pry further. Although Ren was silent as usual, she looked quite unsettled inside.
Given the current mood, trying to get to the bottom of the matter now would truly give one pause.
"Hey Mitsuki-chan, he said we could come and go as we like. Can we go sightseeing?"
As though trying to dispel the heavy atmosphere, Iris asked Mitsuki in a cheerful voice.
"—Shinomiya-sensei, what do you think?"
After thinking briefly, Mitsuki sought Shinomiya-sensei's judgment.
"Please be aware that we are not here for fun. We are currently here to carry out a combat operation against Yggdrasil."
"Y-Yes... I'm sorry."
Hearing Shinomiya-sensei's harsh words, Iris apologized timidly.
"But plans are not yet set. Whether there are days for free time will depend on the schedule. I will consider it based on the situation at the meeting after dinner."
"Oh—That's wonderful! Thank you, Shinomiya-sensei!"
"I'll say this upfront. Don't get your hopes up. It's better if you think of it as a bonus if you do get it."
Although Shinomiya-sensei issued a reminder to the overjoyed Iris, she was also showing signs of a smile on the corners of her lips.
"Nii-san, perhaps we might be able to visit home."
Mitsuki said happily to me.
I smiled stiffly and nodded in response.
If I had to be honest, I wanted to avoid it as much as possible due to the risk of my memory loss coming to light if I came into contact with our parents. But I already felt guilty about missing the chance to greet them during the school festival, so I could not refuse.
At this moment, there was a sudden explosion, shaking the entire building. The windows in the dining hall kept vibrating.
"Eh... What happened?"
Firill looked around in puzzlement while Lisa frowned, not knowing what was going on.
"Yuu, look! Outside the window!"
Tia pointed at a window in the dining hall.
Although it was hard to tell from the darkness, there was a plume of dense smoke rising.
The alarm began to sound and the surroundings suddenly got noisy. Armed security guards rushed past in the hallway outside the dining hall.
I stood up from my seat and approached the window. The others followed.
"Looks like... it's no simple fire."
Looking through the window, at the dense smoke rising from the bottom part of the building, I commented.
If this were a fire, they would announce directions and prioritize evacuation. But since they had mobilized armed guards rather than make an announcement, chances were high that this was an external attack, or rather, an invasion.
"Everyone, please remain here on standby before the situation is clarified. But as a precaution against all kinds of situations, materialize your fictional armaments first."
Shinomiya-sensei issued orders to us who were panicking.
Mitsuki instantly responded and created her fictional armament of a bow.
Iris summoned her fictional armament after Mitsuki.
I also generated my fiction armament with the appearance of an ornamental gun.
With bated breath, everyone looked out the window.
Next, something suddenly flew out of the dense smoke
It was a shadow rising towards the sky with a tail of red flame—
"Just now... What was that?"
Ariella asked in amazement but no one could answer the question.
Since it happened for such a brief instant, I could not capture the object's appearance clearly either.
But when I looked at the gradually receding red flame, I noticed the object was turning around high in the sky and coming towards us.
"M-Mononobe! It's heading here!"
Iris shook my shoulders in a panic.
"Get away from the window, everyone!"
At Mitsuki's orders, we all kept our distance from the window. Just at that moment, the descending flame stopped outside the window.
Only then did we realize the shadow's true identity.
Wrapped in burning red flames, using them as a means of propulsion to hover in the air was a girl with long fluttering black hair. In addition, there was a blond young man hugging her waist.
I knew their names.
"Kili... and John?"
Overcome with surprise, I called their names.
The black-haired girl was Kili Surtr Muspelheim, the leader of the dragon cult, the Sons of Muspell. At the same time, she was also a D who was deemed a disaster.
The young man was named John Hortensia. Back when I was part of NIFL and the captain of the special forces team named Sleipnir, he was the sniper under my command.
I had heard from my former commanding officer, Major Loki, that John had been abducted in the Principality of Erlia. It turned out that they really were together.
Kili smiled proudly on the other side of the window as soon as she made eye contact with me.
Immediately, the window glass glowed red from heat and melted like candy. Kili's specialty was using dark matter to generate heat. Most likely, she had used high temperature to melt the window glass.
Carrying heat and a burnt smell, the wind blew in through the hole in the melted window glass.
"—Yuu really is here. Your eyes are amazing indeed."
Kili landed on the window frame and said to John.
"Like I said, I cannot possibly miss the captain's figure."
Despite answering proudly, John looked somewhat unimpressive because he was still clinging to Kili's waist. But since he was still suspended in midair, he could not just let go.
"Why are you two here...?"
I asked this question in surprise. Kili turned her gaze to me and smiled.
"We are searching for something. Currently, we are searching every Asgard lab and NIFL base in Japan."
"What... Then you caused the explosion just now?"
"Yes, we made an emergency escape because we were discovered. We were planning to escape just like that, but because Jeanne-chan said she saw you—"
John cried out frantically.
Hearing Kili, I frowned in puzzlement.
"Oh sorry, I made a mistake. Speaking of which, your name is John."
Kili spoke suggestively while John gnashed his teeth, looking like he was holding his anger back.
"I'll make you pay later..."
"Fufu, how scary. I won't get it wrong again, so please forgive me—John."
Kili replied gleefully.
Watching their interactions, I felt troubled.
"You two seem to be getting along quite well. I heard from Major Loki you were abducted by Kili... Don't tell me that you're working with Kili voluntarily, John?"
"T-That's a misunderstanding! Captain! This bitch took me away by force... Although it's true I'm currently assisting her, I'm not getting along with her at all—"
Stuttering, John tried to explain the story.
But many footsteps approached from the hallway then security guards rushed into the dining hall.
"Freeze! Surrender now!"
The guards pointed guns at them and issued a warning.
Judging from their equipment, they might be soldiers sent from NIFL. As an international organization, Asgard's premises were not bound by Japanese laws. If necessary, they could shoot without hesitation.
However, even if that was the case, their opponents were not to be underestimated this time.
Kili glared at them. Instantly, the guns in their hands glowed red-hot and melted like the window just now.
The guards hastily let go and the guns fell to the ground. Then the gunpowder inside exploded.
This was Kili's Muspelheim. By spreading dark matter, too small to be seen by the naked eye, throughout space, this method of fighting allowed her to generate high temperatures at will without any preparatory motion.
"With people in the way, we'll talk next time. Since you're in Japan, there will be other opportunities."
Saying that, Kili stepped on the window frame and jumped into the air.
Giggling, Kili waved goodbye and flew high in the air, taking John with her.
Even Kili and John had come to Japan...
Watching the trail of red flames, I felt a premonition that an even bigger storm was brewing.
"—This place got busy no sooner than you arrived. But to think the intruder was Kili, the leader of the Sons of Muspell... It's such a shame I didn't get to see her."
Saying that, Miyazawa Kenya honestly looked like he found it quite a shame.
We were located at a conference room located on the same floor as the dining hall.
He had arrived immediately after Kili and John had left, then taken us here while we were perplexed by the sudden situation.
"You... want to see Kili? But she's a dangerous character deemed a disaster, you know?"
Surprised by what he said, I asked him.
"I heard she is currently the only D capable of biogenic transmutation. As a research subject, it's very interesting."
He insisted with added emphasis in tone. Ariella glared at him coldly and said to me:
"Mononobe-kun, this guy isn't interested in anything outside of research."
"...Looks like it."
I sighed and decided he and I had different values.
Back to him, Ren was silently looking out the window.
"It's unfortunate that data on Kili could not be obtained, but let's have a chance of pace. Come, please listen to the plan I've conceived to defeat Yggdrasil."
Miyazawa Kenya entered the main topic seriously.
When he operated the laptop by his side, the lights dimmed in the room dimmed and a white screen was lowered from the ceiling.
Shown on it was the image of a giant tree.
"This is an image of the Yggdrasil that has appeared in Aokigahara. Compared to when it was making the Germany-Denmark border its territory, its size is roughly ten times larger. Currently at a height of 5000 meters, it continues to grow."
I could not help but gasp because it was too enormous.
"Although I have my opinions on Yggdrasil's choice of location and the reason for its rapid growth... Let's put that aside for now. The issue here is what kind of existence Yggdrasil is."
After saying that, he switched the image on the screen.
The screen showed the appearance of Yggdrasil that we had fought recently at Midgard. Although its massive body exceeded fifteen meters in height, it was dwarfed by the image we saw earlier. The "mass of vines" produced from my dark matter had expanded to this state after absorbing the fictional armaments of Iris and the other girls.
"To you all, it must have been a huge disaster for Yggdrasil to suddenly appear at Midgard. But thanks to that, we were able to obtain plenty of valuable data. The fact that Yggdrasil relies on the application of electrical interference to tamper with dark matter, this is a new discovery. In addition, the renowned dragon researcher—Principal Charlotte B. Lord—also proposed an extremely interesting 'hypothesis.'"
He spoke quite suggestively.
This so-called "hypothesis proposed by the principal" was probably what she sensed regarding "Yggdrasil's true nature" through her power of dominance.
Miyazawa Kenya was probably one of the few people privy to the principal's true identity. Unless one knew the principal possessed special powers, her hypothesis would become completely baseless.
"We tested that hypothesis and conducted verification. Finally, the full picture of this being known as Yggdrasil has surfaced. It is... the core consciousness of all plants on Earth."
Hearing this unfamiliar term, I could not help but frown.
But "all plants" reminded me of what I had heard from the principal.
The principal had said: Defeating Yggdrasil requires wiping all plant life off the entire planet.
"For example, Yggdrasil might be considered an operating system... of a biological computer built from a network of all plant life. We have observed that Yggdrasil will transmit weak electrical signals to nearby plants."
We exchanged glances with one another after hearing what he said. Iris and Tia only stared wide-eyed, evidently not understanding, tilting their heads in puzzlement.
The others seemed to grasp the rough principles, but Shinomiya-sensei seemed to disagree and asked a question:
"A computer of plants... That would mean that plant life itself is a dragon. But Midgard has plants to begin with. If Yggdrasil was hostile to us, it should be able to take action earlier, right?"
Immediately, Miyazawa Kenya explained proudly as though praising her question for being a good one.
"Things are not that simple. According to the results of observations, the surrounding plants show no signs of high-level information processing. From this, it can be seen that the giant tree known as Yggdrasil is the only part possessing information processing ability. That true is both the CPU and Yggdrasil's main body. All other plants are like external memory. Hence, one could deduce that only the main body is self-aware and capable of action."
After listening to him, Lisa leaned forward emotionally and spoke:
"Then all we need to do is defeat that main body!?"
She was probably this anxious because she knew about my situation.
However, Miyazawa Kenya shook his head.
"No, Yggdrasil disappeared together with Hekatonkheir on the Germany-Denmark border, but after that, just as you all know, it appeared in Midgard. Then after its defeat, it appeared in Japan like this. Simply destroying the main body does not solve the problem."
"Indeed that is true..."
Lisa's tone weakened while she bit her lip anxiously.
"Yggdrasil's consciousness most likely exists on the network formed by all plants. Even if the CPU, its main body, is destroyed, another plant will simply become the new CPU. Although destroying a mature CPU would definitely weaken Yggdrasil's abilities... The effects might only last for a limited time."
"I-Isn't that the same as saying Yggdrasil cannot be defeated unless all plant life is exterminated!?"
Lisa went pale and exclaimed hoarsely.
Only now did I understand what the principal meant.
"Indeed, the method you described is the only way to eliminate Yggdrasil from the root. But that method is close to impossible. Even if it could be done, humans cannot survive in a world where plants have been eradicated."
Without changing his tone, Miyazawa Kenya calmly told of despairing speculation.
"However, you have an idea, right?"
Calmly listening to his explanations, Firill asked Miyazawa Kenya in a serious tone of voice.
"Yes, of course. That's precisely why I requested for Mononobe Yuu to be sent here."
He turned his gaze towards me and smiled.
"Is there something I can do?"
After listening to all the explanations so far, I did not feel that there was anything I could help.
"Yes, you are currently the only one who can replicate Hraesvelgr's ability—Ether Wind. I believe it will be the key to defeating Yggdrasil."
"Why Ether Wind...?"
Hearing my question of incomprehension, he changed the screen.
Dimming briefly, the screen then showed an image of the Hraesvelgr battle. The picture showed Hraesvelgr enveloped in golden particles as well as us, about to strike it down with anti-dragon armaments... Someone had evidently recorded the battle in detail.
"Mind and body—Living organisms cannot function normally unless both are maintained in healthy states. Since Yggdrasil's physical body cannot be eliminated, just destroy its mind. It is possible as long as we have your Ether Wind and the weapon that penetrated the 'soul coating' surrounding Hraesvelgr."
Miyazawa Kenya pointed at my anti-dragon armament on the image and asserted clearly.
Shinomiya-sensei's eyebrow moved as though she had noticed something. She urged Miyazawa Kenya to continue.
"Director Miyazawa, could you explain in greater detail?"
"It's actually not that hard to understand. The plan itself is very simple. First, obliterate the majority of Yggdrasil's main body, then spread Ether Wind. After that, if Yggdrasil's mind—the soul—materializes, use the weapon that defeated Hraesvelgr to physically destroy Yggdrasil's soul. That's all."
After listening to his explanation, everyone gasped.
If the main body could be switched endlessly, just destroy Yggdrasil's intangible consciousness itself—I believed that this approach was correct in theory, but...
"That method... Will it really work that smoothly? Given Nii-san's dark matter generating capacity, will there be enough Ether Wind to spread around...?"
Mitsuki turned her gaze at me. I smiled wryly at her in return.
"Definitely—my generating capacity is too little."
Converted into mass after transmutation, the amount of dark matter I could generate at a time was roughly ten kilograms. Compared to an average D's capacity of ten tons at least, the paucity of my generating capacity stood in even greater contrast.
Even after hearing such a question, Miyazawa Kenya remained unfazed. Smiling, he said:
"Your worries are very normal. Hence, in order to review whether this plan is feasible or not, I must first collect more detailed data. If possible, it would be best to start immediately."
He looked at me with eyes filled with anticipation. I sensed that his motivation stemmed more strongly from curiosity and his interests as a researcher than for the sake of the battle plan. However, I had no objections to getting started as soon as possible, because based on what the principal had said, time was running out.
"Wow, thank you. If possible, I would also like to have Tia-kun, Mitsuki-kun and Iris-kun's assistance. Although there is no direct relation to the battle plan, the uniqueness you possess might provide breakthroughs to problems."
He thanked me and sought the cooperation of Tia and the others.
"Tia will go along with Yuu!"
"Me too, if Mononobe is going, I'm coming along too..."
Tia and Iris agreed, but Mitsuki looked at Shinomiya-sensei and asked:
"Shinomiya-sensei, what do you think?"
"I will permit it so long as the examinations do not burden the students' bodies or mind. If you intend to conduct suspicious experiments, I will stop you immediately."
Shinomiya-sensei declared to him in a fierce tone of voice.
"I understand. I only need to examine the matter they create and carry out oral interviews. I promise not to use any drugs or touch a single hair of theirs."
He answered in a relaxed tone of voice then stood up.
"Then please follow me. I will take you to the examination room in the research area."
But just as he was about to exit the room, Lisa called to him.
"Excuse me... What about us?"
Lisa, Firill, Ariella and Ren were not named by him just now.
He swept his gaze across them then said in apparent disinterest.
"Oh, I don't particularly need data from you, so you may return to your rooms."
Hearing his reply, Ariella gnashed her teeth in anger. Ren kept her head down and did not react. Although I did not know what had happened between him and Ariella and Ren, I could understand that his words had hurt them. Including me, everyone was glaring at him as though condemning him.
"...? What's the matter?"
However, he was not fazed the least. He probably was not even aware that his words had hurt Ariella and Ren.
"—Then we'll be on our way. Let's go, everyone."
Firill spoke to smooth things out. As though to appease Ariella, Lisa placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Ariella-san, Ren-san, let us depart."
Hearing Lisa, Ren nodded lightly.
Thus, Lisa, Firill, Ariella and Ren quietly left the conference room. After that, the rest of us followed Miyazawa Kenya to the research area.
Leading us to take the elevator, Miyazawa Kenya swiped his own ID card on the panel. Immediately, all the floor buttons lit up.
Access to different floors by elevator was probably restricted based on each ID card's authority.
He pressed the button for the third floor underground. From what I could see, this building seemed to have five levels underground at most.
After reaching the third floor underground, we walked out of the elevator and looked around. A dark corridor extended into the distance. Apart from faint air conditioning noises, there was no sound at all. It was especially quiet.
"This way please."
He walked in the lead with Shinomiya-sensei, Mitsuki, Tia, Iris and I following in that order.
"It feels a bit scary..."
Feeling an atmosphere different from the dining hall floor, Tia commented uneasily.
"It does feel slightly creepy... Or rather, I would describe this atmosphere as like a hospital at night."
Mitsuki looked down the deserted corridor and remarked.
"So many crossroads. I'll definitely get lost if I came alone."
Iris looked left and right at a set of crossroads, squinting.
"Don't run around randomly, okay? If you end up somewhere weird and the alarm sounds, the guards might come rushing straight away."
"Yeah, in that case—I'll hold on to you, Mononobe."
Iris nodded then paying attention to Mitsuki and the others in front, she hugged my arm.
Feeling my elbow against Iris' soft bosom, my heart rate began to quicken.
"If anyone looks back, I'll let go, so please, I want to act like a couple with you, Mononobe."
Iris whispered quietly so that only I could hear, then hugged my arm even more tightly. Feeling my arm sandwiched between those beautifully shaped breasts, my blood rushed to my face. Iris was apparently still bothered by what happened on the helicopter ride.
I smiled wryly and agreed. Iris then happily leaned her forehead against my shoulder.
Since I must pay attention in front while walking along the corridor, I felt especially nervous.
"This feels so exciting, Mononobe."
Perhaps feeling the same as me, Iris smiled mischievously and whispered softly.
Seeing her like that, I suddenly thought—Speaking of which, if Iris were to be examined as she was now, wouldn't that be bad?
"Iris, after the battle against Yggdrasil, did you ever try using Catastrophe?"
"No, not even once. The principal said it was very dangerous and asked me not to use it on my own."
Iris shook her head so I asked her:
"Iris, do you still remember... how you used Catastrophe?"
"Let me tell you... Honestly, I can't remember at all, because I was in a trance at the time."
Iris drew near my face and answered quietly.
As expected, Iris did not seem to have realized herself that she had used Catastrophe without going through the step of dark matter.
In that case, if the following examinations brought this to light, Iris might feel quite troubled. Moreover, if Asgard were to learn of this truth, it might be very bad.
The principal had said that Iris might become a dragon. If Miyazawa Kenya or Asgard were to see her in the same way, Iris might be in a dangerous position.
"Iris, if that's the case, could you not use Catastrophe during the tests? Because we should obey the principal, Midgard's chief administrator, above all else."
"Oh... I guess that's true. If you didn't remind me, Mononobe, I probably would've wanted to use it. Thank you, Mononobe. Then I won't try a real demonstration."
Although I found the reason a bit contrived, Iris accepted it honestly and thanked me.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Now, Iris' secret would not be leaked.
"—We've arrived. Please enter."
We happened to reach the examination room at this time. Iris and I hastily separated and entered the room at Miyazawa Kenya's urging. Instantly, the smell of antiseptics struck my nose. The plain white room contained many examination devices. There was a spacious room next door separated by glass.
"Then let us hurry and collect data. You'll start first. Please enter the examination room over there and show me Ether Wind."
He pointed at the examination room and looked at me with fervent anticipation like he could not wait. I nodded and entered the room that was isolated by the glass.
Then I used my dark matter, which was maintained in the shape of a gun, to transmute Ether Wind.
Golden particles were shot out as a bullet then exploded.
'Splendid... This is precisely Hraesvelgr's—'
I could hear Miyazawa Kenya's voice through a microphone.
Through the glass, I could see his expression twisting in joy.
His expression gave me a creepy feeling. Indescribable unease surged in my heart.
Following Miyazawa Kenya's instructions, I performed transmutation inside the examination room then answered questions based on the data afterwards. The examination was this simple.
He seemed quite disappointed about Iris refusing to try out Catastrophe, but it could not be helped. Surprisingly, he spent the most time on interviewing Tia.
"—I heard that Kili gave you your horns. Could you tell me in detail what happened before and after that?"
Just as when I used Ether Wind, his eyes displayed a strong desire for exploration while he asked Tia questions. I listened closely because it was also my first time hearing her talk about this topic in detail.
"Umm, she first gave me an injection to prevent pain... Then I felt sleepy. When I woke up, the horns were already there."
"I see... Since anesthetics were required, it meant that the process probably strained you substantially. Did Kili say anything about your horns?"
When he asked that, Tia went "hmm..." for a while.
"Kili said that these horns were for making Tia become a dragon."
"To become a dragon, these words could be interpreted in so many ways. What else... Did she say anything about how these horns should be used, for example?"
"Used... Oh, come to think of it, Kili seems to have said—'We will fight together when you're able to use these horns!' She said that we needed to fight to become real dragons!"
Hearing Tia's answer, his eyes flashed with the light of excitement.
"In other words, your horns are for fighting a certain existence? What exactly is the opponent? Also, what does a 'real dragon' mean?"
Tia shook her head in puzzlement at his additional questions.
"Dunno. When Tia's dragon mark turned red, Kili said 'Since you will become a Basilisk, those horns probably won't be needed'... Apart from that, she refused to say anything more."
"Right, you were targeted by Basilisk initially. In other words, you almost became a dragon, in a manner contrary to Kili's original intent, but because they defeated Basilisk successfully, you are still a D..."
He glanced at us, slightly regretful in tone, as though he felt disappointed that Tia was a ordinary D.
"I guess I must ask Kili if I want to know more. Thank you for your assistance."
Saying that, he ended the questions for Tia.
Since his inquiry of me, Mitsuki and Iris had finished, all examinations concluded here.
The whole thing took roughly an hour.
Things ended earlier than originally expected. I exhaled.
"Then how are the results? After these tests, do you think the previously mentioned plan to strike Yggdrasil is possible to carry out?"
Mitsuki asked him while he was summarizing the results.
"Well, if the original plan were to be followed exactly, success is impossible."
Seeing him give a negative answer so readily, Mitsuki was speechless for a moment.
"I just confirmed with him earlier. When the soul of the previous King of Erlia manifested due to Hraesvelgr's Ether Wind, its size was roughly the size of a human. In other words, the size of a soul might very well be proportional to the size of the physical body. In that case, the amount of Ether Wind he can create at a time is still not enough."
Miyazawa Kenya looked at me while replying.
"No way... Then what should we do—"
Iris said with melancholy on her face.
"No, I don't think you need to be that pessimistic. If there is a shortage, just add extra supply. You Ds are capable of lending dark matter to one another, aren't you?"
"Oh, that's right! Tia just needs to lend dark matter to Yuu!"
Tia raised her arms and cheered.
Indeed, this problem would be solved just by borrowing dark matter, however—
"Tia, controlling other people's dark matter is very hard. I don't know if I'll be able to do it..."
"Really? I heard that you always borrowed dark matter from others to construct giant weapons..."
Hearing what I said, Miyazawa Kenya asked in disbelief.
"I can't explain it very well... But this is different from the principles of weapon creation. Even if you ask me to try right now, it'll probably fail."
When creating weapons, I performed transmutation according to the data downloaded from Yggdrasil. Due to clear blueprints, it was possible to forcibly filter other people's dark matter through the blueprints.
But when using my own imagination as the base to perform transmutation, there would be ambiguous portions no matter what. If interference from the dark matter lender was added to the mix, the transmutation process would fail.
Lisa had trained in borrowing Ren's dark matter prior to the Basilisk battle, but it was still quite an arduous struggle. This was despite the fact that they had already accumulated vast amounts of dark matter training even before my transfer to the Academy—
"Hmm... But it's not impossible, right? Then all I can do is ask you to do your best. Regarding the prior stage of destroying Yggdrasil's main body, it should be achievable just by using antimatter or Catastrophe, so please do your best for the rest."
He finished as though it was no concern to him, then turned his back to us and started clearing up the examination room.
"Hold on, is there no other way?"
Shinomiya-sensei asked him frantically but he replied without even looking back:
"None. This is the only battle plan I can offer. But if alternatives occur to me during the process of data analysis, I will let you know. Okay—Let me take you back to the elevator."
Switching off the lights in the room, he ushered us to the corridor.
While walking, he still continued to browse our examination records on the tablet on his hand.
He no longer looked at us, simply muttering to himself while walking quickly along the dim corridor. Just as Ariella said, he was only interested in his own research.
Perhaps he was simply using the Yggdrasil matter as an excuse to collect data from us.
"Looks like we can only rely on ourselves for the concrete battle plan."
Mitsuki remarked while staring at Miyazawa Kenya's back.
"Yeah... Can you think of a solution?"
"This will depend you, Nii-san, because the plan is based on Ether Wind and the anti-dragon armament that defeated Hraesvelgr."
Seeing Mitsuki's expression of unease, I smiled wryly in response.
"I'll do everything I can even though I don't know if my power is enough."
Currently, that was all I could say.
But since Yggdrasil was an enemy... I could not use a new anti-dragon armament to reverse the situation as before. If I tried to download new weapons data, Yggdrasil really might try to take over my body this time.
"...You did not say those words this time, Nii-san."
Mitsuki commented with slight incredulity.
"—Leave everything to me."
I was shocked inside to hear what Mitsuki pointed out.
If the original "Mononobe Yuu" were here, would it be that kind of scene right now...? Or was I feeling uneasy because I could no longer rely on Yggdrasil?
"...I guess I'm a bit afraid. Sorry, I should pull myself together."
Hearing me apologize, Mitsuki smiled for some reason.
"No, it is fine. Nii-san, you should be more afraid, because that reassures me more."
Mitsuki shook her head slowly. She seemed to believe this sincerely.
"—We have to do our best on our own. That guy hasn't changed at all. He actually doesn't care about Yggdrasil, I think."
After hearing from Mitsuki what happened at the examination room, Ariella spoked as though spitting.
Ren also nodded faintly to express agreement.
We were currently on the eighteenth floor of the laboratory, in the guestroom assigned to Mitsuki.
Including Shinomiya-sensei, all nine of us were gathered in the room for a strategizing meeting about how to fight Yggdrasil.
"However, we have already obtained the necessary information. It is also true that what follows is our own job. Hence, let us first consider how to defeat Yggdrasil."
Calming down the furious Ariella and Ren, Mitsuki operated her tablet on a table to display Yggdrasil's image.
Sitting side by side on the single bed, the girls looked at Mitsuki.
It felt quite packed with so many people in a one-person room.
But it would be a pain to ask Miyazawa Kenya to let us use the conference room again, so we made the best of what we had and gathered in Mitsuki's room.
Standing by the window overlooking Tokyo's night scenery, I listened to Mitsuki.
"As things stand currently, eliminating Yggdrasil is almost impossible. Hence, just as Director Miyazawa proposed, instead of targeting Yggdrasil's body, destroying its mind to paralyze it would be the most effective measure. However, there are two serious questions—"
Mitsuki shifted her gaze to me and continued:
"The first is Nii-san's dark matter generating capacity, which is probably insufficient to spread enough Ether Wind to materialize Yggdrasil's soul. The other is that of range."
I frowned, not knowing what she meant. Miyazawa Kenya had not mentioned anything about range.
"It is said that electronics act anomalously in the area around Yggdrasil, most likely due to Yggdrasil's electrical interference. Considering what happened in Midgard, our dark matter will very likely be stolen within that interference range."
"In other words, we cannot get close..."
Mitsuki nodded at Lisa's comment.
"Yes, I intend to request for information regarding the precise interference range. But from what I have seen in reports on television, its current interference range might be around fifteen kilometers or so. Furthermore, Yggdrasil continues to grow, which means that range will expand even farther."
"T-Then that means we must attack from very far away?"
Iris asked frantically.
"Indeed. Yggdrasil is gigantic. Although we could use the same method and have Lisa-san snipe from afar as during the Basilisk battle, Nii-san has to be the one to deliver the fatal blow. Nii-san, are you capable of sniping Yggdrasil from fifteen kilometers away?"
I crossed my arms after hearing Mitsuki's question.
With detailed weapons data in my mind, I considered the specs—
"Noah, which had defeated Hraesvelgr, is not a weapon suitable for sniping, because each shot is not very high in firepower. Destroying a target would require a large number of shells. But striking from as far away as fifteen kilometers is very difficult and would lower the power as well. To be honest... It's very hard."
Mitsuki brought her hand to the side of her mouth and said:
"In that case... We must approach as near as possible. If electrical interference is the only obstacle, we will discuss with Director Miyazawa to try coming up with countermeasures."
Shinomiya-sensei spoke up.
"Let me take charge of this part. Although I am reluctant to owe them favors, I will also attempt to contact NIFL."
"Thank you, Shinomiya-sensei. Then let us focus our attention on solving the other problem."
Mitsuki thanked Shinomiya-sensei and turned her gaze to me again.
"Nii-san, please borrow dark matter from Ren-san and try to construct your fictional armament."
"Huh... Borrow from Ren?"
I looked at Ren in surprise.
As soon as we made eye contact, Ren instantly hid behind Ariella.
"Indeed, Ren-san's dark matter generating capacity is outstandingly enormous even among us. Even so, it is still unknown whether it is enough to materialize Yggdrasil's soul, but I believe that having Ren-san assist in distributing Ether Wind would be the most suitable."
"—You heard her, right? Can I ask you to assist me?"
I lowered my gaze and asked Ren. Somehow, it felt like interacting with a wild animal.
"Come on, Ren, you're not afraid of Mononobe-kun, right?"
At Ariella's urging, Ren walked over to in front of me.
Then she nodded hesitantly.
"Great, let's start. Fictional armament—Siegfried."
I constructed my fictional armament of an ornamental gun as usual.
Ren placed her hand on Siegfried's unsteady outline.
As a result, a large amount of Ren's dark matter flowed into the fictional armament all at once.
The fictional armament expanded and became distorted in shape. Unable to maintain its form, Siegfried turned into black bubbles of dark matter and disintegrated.
"—Looks like it is true what Nii-san said previously about the principles being different from weapon creation."
Observing the entire process, Mitsuki showed a troubled look on her face.
"Yeah, it's very hard after all."
I stared at my empty right hand.
"Unless you can maintain other people's dark matter in the state of a fictional armament, you will not be able to perform transmutation freely. Nii-san, please train with Ren-san to achieve fictional armament creation as quickly as possible."
"Well, even if you say that, I... Is it possible to do that in a short amount of time?"
I understood after an actual attempt. Other people's dark matter would not obey ambiguous orders. Unlike weapon blueprints in the mind, constructing a fictional armament based on imagination alone was extremely difficult.
"In the battle against Basilisk, Lisa-san successfully synchronized with Ren-san in short time, so it should not be impossible."
"That's true now that you mention it. What kind of training did Lisa do at the time?"
I asked her to see if there was some sort of trick.
"Training huh? I did practice repeatedly, but I think your issue concerns the stage before that."
Lisa shrugged and answered as though exasperated by me.
"The stage before that?"
"Dark matter from other people carry their thoughts. You might call them fragments of the mind. If you want to control Ren-san's dark matter, you must first know Ren-san herself."
I looked at the redhaired girl beside me. I definitely did not know her very well.
"Rather than training, it would be better to say that you and Ren-san are lacking in communication. To help you know each other better—Why don't the two of you go out together and have some fun tomorrow?"
Lisa pondered for a moment then made this suggestion.
But Ren went red in the face and shook her head fiercely.
"Hanging out as a pair immediately is setting the bar too high."
Seeing her like that, Ariella smiled wryly.
"In any case, let us all go out together, whereupon you two can communicate as much as possible in the process, how about that?"
Ren showed a hesitant look but this time, she nodded in agreement.
"Then it is decided. Is there anywhere you would like to go?"
Prompted by Lisa, Ren took out her portable terminal and typed swiftly.
Ren showed us the terminal.
Two words were displayed.
I read out the words and Ren nodded in confirmation with blushing cheeks.
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