Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 9 Chapter 1
Chapter 1 - Blue Stigma
The fifth day of my life in confinement.
Today, the principal was working in the adjacent office, separated by a door, with Mica-san substituting in the role of supervising me.
While feeling Mica-san's gaze, I silently did push-ups next to the window.
Initially, I chatted with her about many things, but after she told me not to restrict my activities, I started using this time for physical training.
I was playing games the whole time when the principal were here, so my body had become sluggish.
After one round of daily training, I stood up. Coincidentally, there was a bell ringing outside.
Through a large window in the room overlooking the school, I saw students leaving the academic buildings. Until recently, this had been my daily life, but at the moment, I could not return to it yet.
Feeling frustrated about this boring life, I sighed.
Then I heard a sound indicating the melody of an incoming call on a terminal.
I looked back to see Mica-san taking a portable terminal out from her maid uniform's pocket and bringing it against her ear.
"—Yes, I understand. I shall pass the message along."
After a simple exchange, Mica-san looked at me.
"Mononobe-san, a certain person has arrived today, requesting to meet you face to face."
"Meeting me face to face? Is that okay when I'm still in isolation?"
Feeling quite perplexed by the sudden notice, I replied but she nodded.
"This young lady has made contact with you previously and the color change in her dragon mark had vanished. No anomalies have been found despite daily examinations, hence we have agreed to let her go out and meet you."
The only girls who matched those criteria were Iris and Kraken Zwei, but the latter would not be coming to see me alone. In other words—
I excitedly waited for her arrival.
After a while, Mica-san seemed to notice something and moved away from the entrance. Immediately, the door was flung open vigorously.
Calling my name, a silver-haired girl—Iris Freyja—rushed into the room. She was my classmate in Brynhildr Class as well as a D whom I had marked when I had refused to allow anyone to take her away.
After seeing me, a red flush appeared on her pale skin as she dashed towards me. However—
She tripped on a game controller the principal had tossed out there, resulting in a great fall forwards.
"Iris, are you okay?"
I hastily ran over to her and helped her up.
"Ow... My forehead, I bumped it..."
Iris was holding her forehead while tears appeared in her eyes. However, she instantly clasped my hands with happiness written all over her face.
"Mononobe! It's you, Mononobe! I finally get to see you..."
Seeing Iris make such a joyful face, my heart began to race.
It had been quite a while since I last heard this voice of hers.
"It's only been five days, right? You're exaggerating too much."
Too embarrassed to show so much happiness like Iris, I feigned calmness.
"I'm not exaggerating! They won't let me see you no matter how much I begged... No calls or emails allowed and I had no idea where you were... I was worried sick!"
With a slightly angry look, Iris approached me.
With Iris' face so close that we could feel each other's breaths, I felt quite flustered. Noticing this fact, Iris also blushed intensely.
"Oh—S-Sorry. It's clearly not your fault, Mononobe..."
Iris frantically separated from me and apologized.
"No—I should be the one to apologize. I didn't consider your feelings. To be honest, Iris, I'm very happy to see you too."
With shyness and embarrassment, Iris and I gazed at each other.
Suddenly, a deliberate sounding cough could be heard from the doorway.
"—I shall be waiting outside the room. In light of Mononobe-san's situation, I shall lock the door from outside. When you wish to leave, Iris-san, please knock to let me know."
Saying that, Mica-san left the room.
Left behind, Iris and I looked at each and smiled wryly.
"She's being considerate in an unusual area. Anyway, I'm very happy we can chat together, just the two of us."
Saying that, Iris leaned towards me, then starting sniffing as though she noticed a smell.
"Mononobe, you seem like you have a sweaty smell? Have you been bathing properly?"
"Oh, that's because I was training just now. There's a bathroom here so I do take baths every day. But since it's bothering you, I'll hurry and take a bath now."
Noticing my shirt was drenched with sweat, I replied but Iris hastily shook her head.
"I-It's okay! I don't mind... I don't dislike your smell, Mononobe. Also, it's a rare chance for us to meet, so don't worry! Oh, but—"
She stopped halfway, apparently thinking of something.
"What's the matter?"
I asked, but for some reason, Iris went red and started acting shy.
"U-Umm... I thought of one way to not waste time. Umm... We could b-bathe together, you know?"
Faced with this sudden suggestion, I gasped in shock. Then Iris clenched her fist and leaned forward with an expression intending to cast away all hesitation.
"Yes, it's a great idea! Just like last time, I'll scrub your back for you! T-The bathroom is that way, right!?"
Iris kept talking on her own without waiting for my answer, then dragged me by the arm.
I yelled frantically, causing Iris to stop in front of the bathroom door, looking back uneasily.
"Mononobe... You don't want to?"
"It's not that I don't want to, but—"
She breathed a sigh of relief and smiled with joy. While I was involuntarily mesmerized by her face, she already brought me into the changing area.
"Then you undress first, Mononobe. I'll cover my eyes."
Covering her eyes with both hands, Iris urged.
The changing area was quite small and could only hold two people. In response to her demand for me to undress in front of her, I stood there motionlessly.
—What the heck was she thinking of doing?
For the past while, Iris had been keeping her distance from me out of consideration for Mitsuki. In that case, why was she...
"Mononobe, what's wrong? Hurry up."
"I-I'm on it..."
Intimidated by her vigor, I began to take off my shirt despite my doubts.
However, Iris suddenly cried out, causing me to stop.
"Iris, you saw, right?"
"I-I didn't see! I didn't peek!"
Obviously peeking at me between her fingers, Iris shook her head.
I was slightly relieved to see Iris acting the same as usual.
Sure enough, it was quite bad for me to be taking a bath together with Iris in the principal's room while under house arrest. Perhaps the principal or Mica-san might come over to check on us. However, if I refused Iris at this point, she would definitely be sad. Weighing common sense against Iris on a balance, I made my decision decisively.
I grabbed Iris' shoulders and spun her around. Then I swiftly undressed and wrapped a bath towel around my waist.
Anyway, I must not make Iris sad.
If scolded, I will be the one to apologize, it's decided—After warning myself to keep things within defensible bounds when questioned afterwards, I tapped Iris on the shoulder.
"I'm ready. I'll go in first."
"Y-Yes! I'll come in right away. Wait for me, Mononobe."
Turned away, Iris answered slightly nervously.
I nodded, entered the bathroom and closed the door. As expected of the principal's personal room, the bathroom was very spacious and luxurious.
The floor and walls were all made of marble while the bath water was drawn up from a natural hot spring deep in Midgard's underground. Although I had used it many times already, I still felt envious about this facility from the bottom of my heart.
In any case, I turned on the faucet, adjusted the temperature and waited for Iris to enter.
—I recalled what had happened with the Leviathan battle.
Just now, Iris had also mentioned "like last time."
It had happened almost half a year ago. Due to Iris getting marked by Leviathan and I was serving as her bodyguard, we were in the underground shelter. On that occasion, Iris had entered the bathroom to wash my back in an attempt to reward me.
Iris had screamed despite being clearly the one who was barging into the bathroom, making me quite upset.
I smiled wryly as I recalled those memories. Suddenly, I heard the bathroom door opening.
"M-Mononobe, I'm coming in."
Wrapped in a bath towel, Iris entered the bathroom stiffly. She had clearly not entered the water yet, but her face was already bright red.
"You don't have to force yourself if you feel that embarrassed, you know?"
I asked in worry but Iris frantically shook her head.
"I-I'm not forcing myself! It's true I'm embarrassed... But I do this willingly."
Her brave voice sounded like she was encouraging herself. Then she took the shower head from me.
"Okay, Mononobe, I'm going to scrub now."
Intimidated by Iris' vigor, I nodded. Iris came behind me while I was sitting on a stool then used the shower head to pour water. The warm water felt very comfortable on my back.
But the sudden touch of Iris' hand there made my heart pound nervously.
"So... your wounds are already healed. Although I heard you were saved with the principal and Shinomiya-sensei's help... It's still quite amazing to see with my own eyes."
Looking at where I had been heavily injured in the fight against Kraken Zwei, Iris touched my back and whispered. She applied body wash with her hands and it felt very good.
"So Shinomiya-sensei told all of you about the principal?"
"Yeah. Because you already told us the news of Shinomiya-sensei's death, Mononobe. We wouldn't accept anything but a proper explanation."
Replying with a wry smile, Iris touched the scars on my back with her fingertips.
"The principal's powers are so surprising... But scars are still left behind."
"Well... It only speeds up recovery rather than make the wounds go away. It can't be fully restored back to what it looked like."
Iris applied more force through her hands after I replied.
"That's true—it can't be fully restored. Although I turned back to human thanks to you, Mononobe... but I'm not the same as before."
I sensed a dangerous atmosphere in Iris' words and intended to look back at her, but Iris hugged me from behind even faster.
"When my dragon mark became your color, Mononobe, I knew. You desired me from the bottom of your heart... And I... also felt that I might be able to make you happy. Even if Mitsuki-chan is your number one, I still don't want to give up... Also—"
Iris wrapped her arms around my waist, pressing tightly against me. I could feel her soft bosom pushing against me with the bath towel in between. Iris' sweet fragrance was also caressing my nose.
"Right now, I'm already... your partner, Mononobe. So—"
My heart rate increased as a hot impulse surged within me.
But at the same time, I felt quite worried about any change occurring to Iris.
Marked by me and becoming my mate, Iris had shown no anomalous signs even after repeated examinations.
But just as she had described, she was no longer her former self. If she were to take action as my mate—
Reaching forward, Iris' hand caressed my body seductively while covered in soap suds. The pleasure caused my back to shudder as my mind went blank.
—Not allowed. This sort of thing...!
If something anomalous had happened to Iris, we could not simply go with the flow like this. I gritted my teeth and turned my head back to face her. However, Iris then said something unexpected.
"I want to look after you, Mononobe!"
She embraced my back tightly and looked at me with serious eyes.
Unsure what was going on, I asked in a questioning voice.
"Umm... Mononobe, umm... Apart from me, you also marked Zwei-chan and the rest of them, right?"
The one I targeted was Iris but Zwei next to her and even Lisa and the others who were far away also had their dragon marks colored.
"After that, Mitsuki-chan and I talked... We've decided to stop yielding to each other. If we keep trying to be considerate for each other, someone else might end up claiming all of you first."
"...What does this have to do with looking after me?"
Still feeling embarrassed by what Iris said, I asked.
"Because a mate is also a 'wife,' right?"
"Well, that's true... Indeed, humans are like that."
Surprised by the word 'wife,' I nodded stiffly.
"That's why I tried to think from a wife's perspective, to make you think I'm amazing. I want to be your wife."
My face heated up and I found myself unable to tear my gaze away from Iris' moistened eyes.
"So, so, I can't scrub just your back today, Mononobe... I'll give your front a good wash too. You'll be very embarrassed if we do it face to face.. so let's do it this way..."
While hugging me, Iris started to move her hand that had reached around me from behind.
"Wait... N-Not there—"
Noticing Iris' hand gradually moving down, I panicked.
"Why? Does it hurt?"
"N-No, that's not it..."
I could not tell her overtly but letting her continue was not an option either.
I desperately resisted Iris' body warmth, her soft touch and the pleasure coming from her hand caressing me. I grabbed her hand and pulled it away.
"I'm feeling a bit cold so I'm entering the bathtub first. This is water from a real hot spring, so it's really warm."
I spoke with affectation and retreated towards the tub.
"Hey, you can't enter the tub when you haven't washed off the suds on your body!"
Iris pouted. Her point of contention was a bit misplaced.
However, I soaked myself into the water all at once in order to escape from the current situation. The water reached up to my shoulders.
"Seriously, Mononobe, you sometimes act just like a kid."
Pouting, Iris washed the suds off her hands then followed me to the tub.
"Wow, it's a bit hot."
Iris exclaimed in surprise and raised her foot after dipping the tip of her toes into the water. This ended up creating a situation with me staring up at her pale thighs. I frantically looked away.
"Should I add some water?"
"No, you don't have to. I want to get used to your preferred water temperature, Mononobe."
Iris replied as though we were going to be bathing together henceforth, then slowly lowered herself into the tub.
"Hoo— I finally lowered myself entirely. I never thought it'd be that hard."
Breathing a sigh of relief, Iris leaned herself against me.
"H-Hey, with so much space, you don't have to stick to me."
"Because we've been apart all this time, I want to stick to you as much as possible right now... Can't I?"
With her looking up, gazing at me, I could not shake my head.
"No—It's not like... you can't."
"Thanks. I'm so happy, Mononobe."
Iris relaxed her expression. Moving over to me, she rested her head against my shoulder.
I could feel her body warmth from my shoulder, the point of contact, and also catch a glimpse of her cleavage outside the bath towel—
The water was a bit cloudy because it came from a natural hot spring. The pale thighs that had drawn my gaze earlier were out of sight but now my eyes were pulled to her chest.
My heart rate naturally increased while a bittersweet silence filled the entire bathroom.
Feeling like we were going to remain silent the whole time, I spoke up.
"U-Umm, how's everyone doing?"
My voice echoed in the bathroom. Iris moved slightly. Her beautiful silver hair swayed and brushed against my face.
"Everyone is worrying about you, Mononobe. Also, they're very bored because no one is allowed to go outside except for me. We frequently gather in Mitsuki-chan's room to play video games."
"Even Jeanne and Kili?"
I had trouble imagining them playing together with the rest of the girls, but Iris nodded.
"Yes, Jeanne-chan is super good at games. No one can beat her. And Kili-chan and Vritra-chan have become super serious, it's awful. Zwei-chan is crying there... It's a total mess."
"Haha... That feels quite surreal. But the situation is almost the same as mine. I've been playing games with the principal the whole time too."
I spoke with a wry smile and Iris made a "mm-hmm" expression for some reason.
"Yes... Mononobe, you've been with the principal the whole time."
"Let me be clear, honestly, all we did was play games, okay!?"
I frantically added but Iris' gaze still stung.
"You didn't bathe together like this?"
"The principal suggested it—but I refused resolutely."
The principal said it was for building stronger bonds of friendship, but I refused no matter what.
"Hmph... Well, what about bedtime? There's only one bed in the principal's bedroom."
The sharp question rendered me speechless for a moment.
"......W-Well, I guess it can't be helped...? Umm, we don't sleep together, but it's more like we fall asleep while playing games..."
I explained incoherently. Iris' gaze gradually eased up and she smiled wryly.
"That's nice, I'm so jealous of the principal. But thank goodness..."
"Yes, Mononobe, things aren't as difficult for you as we imagined. Now Mitsuki-chan and the others can stop worrying a bit. Tia-chan can also... cheer up too."
Iris smiled and answered but her face became gloomy when Tia was brought up.
"What's up with Tia?"
Very curious, I asked. Iris answered gravely.
"...Starting from when we returned to Midgard, she's been in low spirits ever since. When playing games with us, her face still looks gloomy... She hasn't eaten much either."
At this point, Iris seemed to recall something.
"Umm, Mononobe—Could you go visit Tia-chan, even if just for a little while?"
"Visit her... But I'm under house arrest right now."
I answered Iris' whispered question in a dilemma.
"I know, but we could sneak out... If that doesn't work, we could fly Tia-chan to outside this room."
Iris stared at me seriously and pleaded strongly. She knew that Midgard's decisions must not be disobeyed but she still felt this was necessary.
"Bring Tia here...?"
I asked carefully and Iris nodded slightly.
"...Yes, it feels like she's very troubled. Lisa-chan asked her but she won't speak... So you're the only one left, Mononobe..."
Seeing her rely on me, I tapped her on the head.
"—Something must be done, I get it. I'll try to find a way to speak to Tia."
Relieved, Iris relaxed her expression. Looking at her face, I came up with a simple solution.
"Oh right—Can I use your portable terminal, Iris? Then I can give Tia a call."
My terminal was still under repairs. They probably did not issue a substitute for me because they did not want me to have contact with outside. However, Iris should have her own terminal.
That was what I hoped but she shook her head apologetically.
"Sorry... I had to hand over my terminal when entering the room, together with my bag..."
"It's okay, no need to apologize. On further thought, it's only natural."
I sighed at the naivety of my idea.
"Then that leaves meeting her directly, huh? ...Tia's movements should be restricted too. Leaving the dorm will be hard. I guess it's better than I sneak out then—"
I rested the side of my mouth on my hand and turned my head aside. Iris leaned forward.
"Mononobe, is there anything I can do to help?"
Our bodies were pressed together even closer than before. Not just her shoulder but even her chest was pushing against my arm.
"Huh? Oh, umm..."
Blood rushed into my head all at once, heating up my entire face. With an excessive blood supply circulating in my brain, my thoughts were all tangled together.
With a intrigued expression, Iris peered up at my face. However, this action caused Iris' bath towel to unfasten and her pale and voluptuous breasts to—
"Hey you two!! What on earth are you doing here!!?"
But just at that moment, the bathroom door was flung open and a shrill howl of anger was heard.
I looked over there in shock to see Charlotte standing there sternly with arms akimbo.
She glared with eyebrows raised at Iris and me, pressing against each other in the tub.
"Taking a bath during a visit... What on earth are you two thinking!?"
Iris was so frightened that she apologized straight away. I was planning to apologize since there was no way to explain this, but Charlotte's next words made me stop.
"Why, why... why didn't you call me!? My friend, isn't it too unfair for you to hog this all alone!?"
Charlotte looked at me tearfully. Stomping her feet in chagrin, she pointed at the cowering Iris.
"You clearly know how much I yearn to take a bath intimately with young maidens!"
"No, I didn't know."
I answered woodenly. Charlotte's body shook, but then she clapped her hands as though thinking of something.
"—Oh right, I can fix this by joining in right away! Then I'll deepen our bonds of friendship and share in the joys of bathing with a girl at the same time!"
Saying that, Charlotte removed her lab coat in the changing area then brought her hands to the hem of her one-piece dress.
"D-Don't look, Mononobe!"
Iris frantically covered my eyes, plunging my view into darkness. Now in a posture of embracing me, Iris was pressing even tighter against me. Due to my vision getting blocked, the soft sensations of Iris' body were getting transmitted even more vividly to me.
"Ah... Ya—Mononobe, keep still."
My struggling caused our bodies to rub against each other. Iris' cries grew shrill.
I apologized hastily, but was drowned out by a splash. A large ripple formed on the bath water. As a result, Iris loosened her hands from my eyes.
"Hoo, this bath water is so comfortable."
In front of my eyes was Charlotte who had dipped herself up to her shoulders.
It looked like she had jumped in buck naked, but thanks to the cloudiness of the water, all the crucial parts were blocked out of view.
"Thank goodness, I made it just in time..."
Witnessing this scene, Iris breathed a sigh of relief next to me.
"Fufu, I've finally fulfilled one of my dreams! This space is a supreme paradise right now! My friend, young lady, come enjoy a bath together with me!"
Charlotte's both fists were clenched and shaking in excitement. Seeing this, I sighed deeply.
"Charl... As a principal, is this really okay?"
"No problem, I'm just carrying out my duties to keep you under surveillance!"
Charlotte puffed out her flat chest proudly and nodded. Then she suddenly switched to a serious look.
"Well then—I will now continue speaking as the principal. You are not allowed to make contact with anyone whose dragon mark has changed color, no matter what the reason. I absolutely forbid you from sneaking out."
Her last sentence made me gasp in surprise.
Iris huddled herself in the tub in embarrassment.
"That's right. Since slightly earlier, I've been waiting for a chance to barge in. It's not like I was getting excited, eavesdropping on your private conversation!"
Slightly reddening in the face, Charlotte declared and coughed once.
"Anyway, I can't let you meet yet. When someone with dragon mark that had changed color makes contact with the dragon that marked her, thus 'transforming into the same kind'... The risks are still unknown. 'Black' Vritra, who had been spreading D genes might know the truth.. But she won't say anything."
Charlotte spoke in serious tone of voice but Iris replied defiantly.
"But Zwei-chan and I haven't shown any anomalies, right?"
"...That's only for the present so far."
With a stiff face, Charlotte answered suggestively.
"What do you mean?"
Sensing a hidden message, I questioned her.
"Yes... Although I was contemplating whether to say this in front of Iris Freyja, who cannot go back anymore—This is something I needed to convey sooner or later."
Charlotte exhaled as though resolving herself and stared at Iris intently.
"...Although I don't quite get it, since it concerns me, I want to listen!"
Iris replied, prompting Charlotte to nod deeply.
"I know. But for this purpose, first of all—regarding my friend, Mononobe Yuu, it's necessary for me to explain my ideas first."
Charlotte glanced at me as I asked then spoke in a researcher's tone.
"You, who has marked Ds, might not be an irregular male D after all. Instead, you might be a humanoid dragon like me."
I had thought of that myself too. When marking Iris and Kraken Zwei, I realized I was closer to a dragon than anyone else.
But the impact of having someone else point it out was completely different.
"Mononobe, a dragon..."
Iris ruminated those words but did not look that surprised. So this was not something unexpected to her.
"Well, this is basically speculation. But following this line of speculation, Iris Freyja—having become his mate—is already the same species of dragon as my friend."
"Really...? That's what I turned into huh? I can't go back to being human anymore."
With her hand on her chest, Iris remarked.
I reached for her shoulder worriedly but noticed her smiling at me, shaking her head.
"It's okay. I don't mind being with Mononobe. Rather, it's better to say I'm overjoyed."
Her expression showed sincerity from the heart rather than putting on a brave face.
Seeing this smile, I felt warm feeling surge from the bottom of my heart.
While thanking her, I placed my hand on Iris' shoulder. Putting her hand on top of mine, she smiled and said:
"I'm the one who must say thanks. Mononobe, you saved me. The same goes for Zwei-chan. Surely, things are happier the way they are now."
Perhaps turning into a human-like dragon might be happier for Iris, who had been undergoing dragonification to turn into the Basilisk's successor. And the same also enabled Kraken Zwei to live among humans. But—
"However, there is no advantage for the others to become your mates, my friend."
Charlotte spoke what I was thinking.
"Not only that, there might be other risks too. The greatest being possible homeostasis in the ability to generate dark matter."
"Possible homeostasis in the ability to generate dark matter?"
Unable to understand what she meant instantly, I asked Charlotte.
"Ds lose their powers naturally when they become pregnant or reach the age of twenty or so. But if they turn into a dragon, they might not lose their powers."
"Eh... But isn't that good?"
Iris cocked her head in a daze.
"Don't you get it? People with the ability to generate dark matter are obliged to be confined to Midgard and managed. In other words, you might not be able to leave Midgard for the rest of your life."
Shocked, Iris exclaimed in surprise.
"Even after reaching adulthood, not being able to return to one's country... not being able to return to family."
I looked at the dragon mark on my left hand and muttered. This was quite a heavy revelation. Even if it was just a possibility, I could not accept it so easily.
We had left Midgard a number of times, but under the special reason of fighting dragons. This type of special exception was probably not going to come up again.
"Indeed, as a result, coming into contact with you must happen with the other party's full understanding of the risks. Hence, direct meetings are forbidden for now."
"...I got it."
I must not sneak out from here to meet them. I nodded. If I came into contact with Tia, it could very well decide the rest of her life.
"Good. If you want to talk, just give them a call. I will return your repaired terminal to you later."
"Eh, I can?"
I confirmed in surprise.
"From the moment I allowed you to meet Iris Freyja, the information blackout had already been lifted. They will be informed later of the risks I just told you. That way, none of you will act recklessly, I hope."
Charlotte smiled at me and nodded.
"—Somehow, it feels like it's been a long time since I saw this side of yours."
I smiled wryly and she pouted.
"That's so rude. This is your punishment for saying something so malicious!"
Splash, Charlotte threw bath water at me.
"Uwah—Well... Since you're doing this, that means you're prepared to be counterattacked, right?"
I clasped my hands together and squeezed water out from between them forcefully. In other words, an impromptu water gun.
Shot in the face directly with bath water by me, Charlotte shook her head then immediately approached with an excited face.
"What move was that just now!? How do you do it!?"
"Mononobe, you're so amazing! Shoot again!"
Iris also leaned towards me in curiosity.
Surrounded by two girls, I was panicking inside while I raised my hands towards them.
"Don't you know? If you put your hands together like this, leaving a gap on one side, then push—Look."
I slowly demonstrated again and the two of them went "wow" in amazement.
"Wow, Mononobe, I did it!"
Iris excitedly shot bath water at the wall again and again.
"Oh! I did it too! I can't believe you knew this kind of fun technique, I'm impressed, my friend!"
The excited Charlotte suddenly stood up.
With no towel, her bare skin was presented before me. My gaze was drawn completely to this slender and adorable body.
"Wah!! Don't look!!"
Iris frantically inserted herself between Charlotte and me, intending to cover my eyes. But the sudden intense movement caused her bath towel, which was hanging precariously in the first place, to slowly drift away.
Reddened from the bath, Iris' naked body rushed into my view. A large volume of blood shot straight to my head.
Without any obstructions, Iris' body was both beautiful and stimulating. My consciousness gradually faded as my strength slowly drained.
Hearing Iris' frantic voice, my mind went blank.
"Charlotte-sama! What on earth are you three doing!!?"
Before all my senses faded away, I heard Mica-san's scolding voice.
Sitting in the balcony of the principal's bedroom with a evening breeze blowing, I sighed gloomily.
Fainting at the sight of naked bodies, I had shown a pathetic side to Iris.
I most likely passed my limit because that kind of shocking imagery had appeared just as I was desperately controlling myself.
I woke up to find myself lying on the bed. Visiting time with Iris was already over.
I still wanted to speak to Iris so I took out my portable terminal from my shirt pocket.
Mica-san had returned it to me earlier. Just as Charlotte had said, my freedom of communication had been restored. Since I was allowed to make calls now, I could talk to Iris soon.
However—I should first call those whom I was not allowed to meet directly yet.
I furtively glanced behind me through the balcony window to peer into the room. Over there, Charlotte was seated while being lectured by Mica-san.
I felt uncomfortable about Charlotte taking the full blame, but to stop the girls from worrying, I should call them first.
I began to operate with my fingers, planning to dial the number of Tia whom Iris was very worried about.
—No, before that, should ask I someone apart from Iris about Tia's condition?
Before I dialed, I thought of that and called Mitsuki instead.
Putting the terminal against my ear, I waited for Mitsuki to pick up.
Purururururu, purururururu, puru—
'Is it Nii-san!?'
The third ring was interrupted as I heard Mitsuki's voice loudly from the receiver.
"Oh, yes—It's me. Don't yell so suddenly, Mitsuki."
Startled by the sudden yell, I replied on the phone call.
'Oh... S-Sorry. But I have been waiting the whole time... Nii-san, are you doing well?'
Was it because it had been so long? Mitsuki's voice sounded a bit nervous.
"I'm doing great. By the way, didn't you hear about me from Iris?"
'Of course I heard... But I felt even more worried! Playing games with the principal till very late every night, this type of lifestyle will ruin your health!'
Mitsuki scolded me in a forceful tone of voice. It was honest advice, so I accepted it honestly.
"Yeah, I'll be careful from now on."
'Are you eating properly? You are not filling your stomach with junk food, I hope?'
"Mica-san brings me three meals a day. The nutritional balance is perfect."
"Not really sufficient... But I do muscle training and the like."
'Are you brushing your teeth properly?'
"When I get up in the morning..."
That was the result of playing until I fell asleep. But upon hearing my reply, Mitsuki said anxiously:
'Unacceptable! You will get cavities if you do not brush your teeth before you go to bed!'
"I-I know. I'll start today."
Overwhelmed by Mitsuki's forcefulness, I hastily replied.
'Seriously... Nii-san, please pay proper attention. Oh, is there anything lacking over there? I could ask Iris-san to bring necessities to you—'
"T-There's no problem at the moment. By the way, how are things on your side, Mitsuki? You slept for so long because of Vritra's poison... Are there any after effects?"
Deciding that Mitsuki's questioning was not going to stop, I decisively changed the conversation's direction and asked my own question.
'None at all. It is just that—the dormitory has become lively all of a sudden. It is not easy surrounded by everyone.'
Mitsuki replied with a wry smile. Iris said that everyone was enjoying themselves, but things must be difficult from Mitsuki's position.
"You're all living together now, right? Also, about Tia..."
I finally brought up the main point, but the terminal on the other side was suddenly plunged into a commotion.
'—Eh? Hey, stop that! Nii-san and I are currently—'
I heard Mitsuki's frantic voice then a different voice spoke from a distance.
'Mononobe-kun, good evening.'
"This voice—Are you Firill?"
I asked in surprise and the other side answered "yes." There was also a faint "return it to me—" from Mitsuki.
'I'd like to talk to Mononobe-kun, so let's switch for a bit.'
"...But I think I heard Mitsuki and she's not very pleased."
'You imagined it.'
Firill asserted. Was she running away from Mitsuki? I heard a patter of footsteps.
"Looks like you're having fun over there."
'Yes, it feels as amusing as camp. But... I think it'll be even more fun if you were around.'
Embarrassed by such a direct compliment, I thanked her clumsily.
'When can we meet again?'
"Hmm—I'm not sure either."
I answered ambiguously.
I was allowed to meet Iris, but I still did not know about the future.
If the girls learned from the principal about the risks of becoming my mates, Firill and the others would probably be able to understand the current situation.
In the worst case, my freedom might be restricted indefinitely. Perhaps I might not be allowed to meet anyone but Iris until they had reached adulthood.
'Is that so...? Then I'll start with internal preparations.'
What was she talking about? I frowned.
'Preparations to make you my prince, Mononobe-kun. It will be hassle when the critical moment comes if I don't communicate properly beforehand. I'm a princess, after all.'
"Uh, wait, hold on a sec!"
'I'm not going to wait—You're the one who marked me, Mononobe-kun!'
Ignoring me in my panic, Firill laughed.
'Oh, let's switch it up because Mitsuki is catching up. Lisa, catch! It's a call from Mononobe-kun!'
Firill informed me without listening to my answer. Her voice gradually grew distant while I heard a "W-What!?" from Lisa. I seemed like there were others present apart from her with sounds of a great commotion.
After some rustling noise, I heard Lisa's voice on the receiver.
"Mononobe Yuu... is it?"
"Yeah, it's me, so it's your turn, Lisa?"
"Yes—How should I put this? It feels like it has been so long."
Doubt vanished and her voice became gentle.
"Yeah, me too. What's it like over there right now?"
Feeling a mysterious sense of reassurance, I asked Lisa.
'Well... I was clearing up after dinner and preparing tea for everyone in the dining hall just now. Then suddenly, Firill-san—Oh, could you wait a second? Mitsuki-san is throwing a tantrum...'
As a result, Lisa's voice grew faint while saying something.
I thought the terminal would return to Mitsuki's hands... But Lisa's voice spoke again.
"Thank you for your patience. Thanks to Mitsuki-san's benevolence, we will now take turns to speak with you in order. However, I do feel sorry for Mitsuki-san, so let me say this—"
Next, Lisa's voice changed and she said in gentle tone:
'You don't need to feel too conflicted. Although I said you have to take responsibility for my dragon mark changing color, I have no intention of leaving you to agonize alone. Let us think of solutions together. I will call you next time.'
"Got it... Thanks. Lisa, you're honestly a good woman."
I felt a little more relaxed and thanked her. Then an irritated voice came from the terminal.
'Goodness gracious, quit making fun of me! Well then, Ren-san is next.'
I lost the chance to ask about Tia again, but her turn will come again, right? Thinking that, I wanted for Ren to speak.
"Yeah, Ren, how are you?"
She responded affirmatively but there was slight hesitation, so I asked her:
"What's wrong? You don't sound too upbeat?"
'No, I'm fine. It's just... a bit lonely. Onii-chan is not here, Ariella too..."
Ren stopped halfway and stayed silent.
I had already heard about Tia acting strange but something was up with Ariella too?
'...Nothing. But if possible, Onii-chan, please call Ariella afterwards. She's not here right now.'
"I see—Got it."
'Mm, I'm counting on you. Oh—'
I agreed to Ren's request solemnly but then I heard a brief bout of noise from the other side.
'—I'm next, Yuu. I'm so happy that we finally get to speak.'
Noticing that the speaker had changed, I spoke the name of the voice's owner.
'What is this? You don't sound too happy.'
"No, it just feels so unbelievable that you're hanging out with everyone, drinking tea."
I answered with a wry smile and heard Kili chuckling.
'...That's true. Hanging out alone is boring me to tears so I'm hanging out with them. But indeed, it is hard to imagine. It reminds me of my time as Tachikawa Honoka.'
Kili brought up the alias she had used when infiltrating Midgard under a different identity in the past.
"Don't do anything crazy like that time."
In her attempt to take Tia away, Kili had summoned Hekatonkheir, injured Lisa and caused great damage to Midgard. I warned her to prevent that something like that from happening again.
'That will depend on you. Life here is very enjoyable but I will soon tire of it. If you don't come see me soon, my patience is almost about to reach its limit.'
"—Please, don't force things. The principal and Mica-san will be going there soon to explain to you girls."
'Is that so...? Since things are progressing, I will wait a little longer. However, waiting is pointless for me. Becoming your mate is already something I decided a long time ago.'
There was a dangerous aura in her words. Indeed, she probably had nothing to deliberate over. As someone who took a D's abilities for granted, perhaps acquiring permanent powers might not be a bad thing in her view. However—
"Aren't you afraid you might turn into something whose identity is unknown?"
'Of course I'm not afraid. With this, I will finally turn into "the real thing." Am I right, Mother?'
Was Vritra nearby? Kili had addressed her question towards a different direction, but I did not hear any answer.
'—Fufu, Mother is sulking in silence. Looks like she wants a turn but that's not necessary.'
Kili laughed with delight. Vritra's unhappy face seemed to surface before my eyes.
"Then who else is over there?"
I wanted to have a turn with Tia if she was there, so I asked.
'Iris-chan is the only one who still hasn't spoken to you. But since she met you today already, there's no need.'
After Kili said that, I heard a faint 'eh, no way' from Iris. But compared to what they were talking about, Kili's way of addressing Iris attracted more of my attention.
That was what Kili had called her, so I asked. Then in a rare display, Kili's unnerved voice replied.
'W-What, is it very creepy? She calls me Kili-chan so I'm simply responding like with like.'
"Well... You seem to be getting along well, thank goodness."
'I'm a bit miffed at how close she is with you...'
Kili grumbled in disappointment and sighed deeply.
'Also, Jeanne-chan and the sleepy Zwei have returned to their room. When she finds out she missed out on a chance to talk to you, she'll definitely feel like dying of regret.'
Kili added as an afterthought but even then, she did not bring up Tia.
"What about Tia?"
'She's in her own room too.'
"Although I heard from Iris that she's in low spirits..."
I asked cautiously but Kili remained silent. Did she stand up to move? I heard footsteps.
'—It's true that Tia is behaving strangely, but I don't know the reason either... However, I've seen her talking alone with Mother recently.'
Lowering her voice, Kili finally answered.
I realized she must have moved to avoid Vritra's earshot.
'Yes... Perhaps as Yggdrasil, Tia had said something to Mother. Her synchronization with the core is probably finished at last.'
I had forgotten completely after resolving the Kraken Zwei incident. Vritra had taken human guise originally for the sake of conversing with Tia who had taken control of Yggdrasil.
To keep her own identity intact, Tia had kept her connection to Yggdrasil at a minimum, but for the sake of negotiations, she had been cautiously increasing the synchronization rate.
'Yuu, at this rate, you might turn into an outsider, you know? This is no time to be letting others control your situation, thus wasting time. Also, that woman who's Midgard's principal is a dragon, right?'
The principal was the gray dragon—"Gray" Vampire. I had heard from Iris that Shinomiya-sensei had informed the girls of that. Kili must have been present too at the time.
'Personally, I can't trust her without reserve like you guys. The current situation—and you as well—everything is under her control, isn't it?'
"That sort of thing—"
I reflexively intended to deny it but Kili interrupted me.
'Are you going to deny it? Do you know her that well?'
I could not refute her. It was true that there were many things I did not know about Charlotte.
'In any case, you cannot possibly become a pitiful man whose thoughts get swayed by others. You are my mate, surely more than anyone else—'
Kili spoke passionately but halted mid-sentence when footsteps could be heard.
'...Your sister is here so I have to return the terminal to her. We will meet face to face next time to talk.'
After saying that, she handed the terminal to Mitsuki without waiting for my answer.
'Phew, I can finally speak with you, Nii-san. Then let us continue the earlier conversation—'
From this point onward, I conversed with Mitsuki almost the entire time, then the call ended.
Kili's words kept echoing in my mind. I looked into the room and seemed like the lecturing had ended. However, Charlotte was sprawled on the bed in exhaustion.
It was hard to be wary when looking at her in that state, but I decided there was indeed a need for a deeper understanding of Charlotte's affairs.
Intending to return to the room, I recalled what Ren had said and stopped.
Tia might have gone to bed but Ariella was probably still awake.
Thinking that, I dialed her number. There was a ring then I heard a message indicating the side was switched off.
"What's going on..?"
Looking at the screen showing the call did not connect, I turned my neck.
Tia too, had something happened somewhere outside my knowledge?
As Kili said, I really would become an outsider at this rate. However, escaping just like that would not be right either.
What should I do? Without reaching an answer, I returned to the room where Charlotte was.
Mild anxiety was sprouting in my heart.
"Mononobe-san, you will be examined today. Please follow me."
The next day, I was informed by Mica-san as soon as I got up in the morning.
It had been a while since I last left Charlotte's private bedroom. Passing through her office, I took the clock tower's elevator and traveled downwards.
I had been examined once, after returning to Midgard and before getting placed on house arrest. That had taken place in an examination room in the medical building, but this time was different.
As a side note, Charlotte was still resting in her room. I had gone to bed early after listening to Mitsuki's advice yesterday. Sulking, Charlotte had apparently played video games the whole night on her own.
"This place... is the floor with a training site, right? What kind of examination will we be doing?"
When the elevator stopped at a level deep underground, I asked Mica-san.
"Iris-san was examined after coming into contact with you yesterday but there were no issues. Hence, as a test, we will allow you to make contact with the other person who has transformed."
"Eh, so that means—"
The only one I marked and have become "my kind" were Iris and Kraken Zwei.
"Unlike Iris-san, one cannot predict what might happen when you two confront each other. Hence, we will have you meet in a training site as a precautionary measure."
Mica-san explained then led me to one of the training sites on this floor.
After passing two layers of sealed doors, we entered a space so vast that it made people forget they were underground.
A number of lights were suspended from the ceiling. On the side was a control room separated by glass.
There were three figures in the center of the spacious training site.
As I approached, one of them waved to me. Platinum blonde hair. Dressed in a male uniform same as mine. Despite dressing as a man, she was a girl—Jeanne Hortensia, who used to belong to the same team as me under NIFL.
Next to her was Brynhildr Class' homeroom teacher, Shinomiya-sensei, and a petite girl with purple hair.
Shinomiya-sensei approached Mica-san and me with a smile, but the purple-haired girl seemed very shy and hid behind Jeanne's back.
She was the second-generation dragon who had burst onto the scene fiercely, Kraken Zwei.
She was the daughter of the dragonified Shinomiya Miyako. Her human appearance and sanity had been restored due to transforming into "my kind." Although recently born, she looked like a young elementary schooler in appearance, slightly younger than Tia.
"Mononobe Yuu, you finally came. Shion must be happy to see you."
Shinomiya-sensei took a step forward to greet me but the name I was hearing for the first time made me frown and ask:
Shinomiya-sensei immediately made a wry smile and indicated towards the girl hiding behind Jeanne's back.
"It's her. As a human—as Miyako's daughter—she needed a suitable name. Shion, or Aster tataricus, is the name of Miyako's favorite flower which is why I used a name that's pronounced identically. It also feels like a good match for this child's vibes... But she doesn't seem to like this name."
As though to prove this point, the girl did not react at all to what Shinomiya-sensei said. Jeanne showed a complicated expression on her face when she saw that.
"Perhaps it's my fault for calling her Zwei. She already considers it her name and doesn't respond to any other names."
After Jeanne explained, the girl peeked out slightly to stared at Shinomiya-sensei.
"i Am, Zwei, not, Shion."
Her speech was broken but the girl did speak properly in Japanese. During the trip back to Midgard, I did not get a chance to say hi to her but during this short amount of time, it looked like she could now carry out conversations.
The girl kicked Shinomiya-sensei for insisting.
"Hmm... Have I no choice but to give up?"
Shinomiya-sensei slumped her shoulders sadly.
Watching this scene, I bent down to speak to the girl.
Her shoulders shook then she hid behind Jeanne again. But soon after, she timidly showed half her face to peek at me.
Called by the name she approved, she probably had to respond. The girl asked hesitantly.
Now that I looked at her face to face, she really was an ordinary girl. She was no longer the enemy whom Iris and I fought in a battle of life and death. The slight wariness lingering in my heart vanished.
"I know Jeanne's name for you is very important. But you should know that people don't just have one name."
For the sake of Shinomiya-sensei, who was quite hurt, I looked the girl in the eye and told her that.
"dOn'T juSt hAvE... one?"
"Yes—For example... Oh right, you're living together with Iris now, aren't you?"
The girl nodded at my question.
"Yes, Iris, i KnOw. vEry nOisY pErsOn, ofTen maKes Mitsuki and Lisa aNgrY."
—So Iris hasn't changed at all.
I smiled wryly. The girl had already memorized the names from Brynhildr Class. That made things easy.
"Yes, that Iris calls me Mononobe. Firill and Ariella calls me Mononobe-kun. Tia calls me Yuu. Lisa calls me Mononobe Yuu. Mitsuki calls me Nii-san. Ren calls me Onii-chan. Jeanne always calls me Captain. See, they're all different, right?"
The girl nodded honestly.
"That's why you don't need to be fixated on a single name. Names are used to represent you, so they're fine as long as you know who it is. Shion Zwei Shinomiya—I think that would be a suitable name for you now."
I stared into the girl's eyes and told her my thoughts.
"Shion Zwei Shinomiya..."
The girl kept repeating the name on the tip of her tongue as though to confirm.
I rubbed the girl's head and examined the dragon mark on her forehead under her bangs.
The girl widened her eyes slightly in surprise.
"Mama sAid bEfoRe... You are sPeCiaL."
No way. I looked at Jeanne.
"Actually... She means me."
Jeanne scratched her own cheek in embarrassment and nodded stiffly.
I was dumbfounded by what the girl said next.
I turned my gaze back to the girl. She was staring straight at me.
"Are you referring to... me?"
The girl nodded at my timid question.
"sPeciAl pErsOn iS Papa, Mama saId thAt."
Slightly apprehensive earlier, the girl was now looking at me, blinking.
Due to becoming "my kind" as a result of direct contact, it was possible that the girl felt something. But why was she calling me "Papa"?
Seeking an explanation, I turned to "Mama" Jeanne. Blushing intensely, she waved her hands.
"U-Umm, Captain, please do not get the wrong idea! Uh, I have no intention of creating a fait accompli. I felt that this was necessary—P-Please step aside for a moment."
Frantically, Jeanne led me by the hand to somewhere slightly farther away.
Sneaking a peek at the girl who was spacing out next to Shinomiya-sensei, Jeanne lowered her voice and started explaining to me.
"Zwei... has already made contact with you and turned into your mate, is that correct?"
Jeanne looked a bit worried while whispering quietly to me. I concurred.
"So I was predicting that she might have some sort of reaction when meeting you this time, Captain."
"—Yes. In fact, when I touched her head just now, she seemed to have felt something."
"Yes... But if Zwei realizes she is your mate, Captain, and takes corresponding action... It would be very very bad!"
Despite controlling her voice, Jeanne insisted fiercely.
Action corresponding to a mate... Hearing these words, I was reminded of my bath with Iris yesterday, so I frantically shook my head.
"T-That's definitely bad—How should I put it? It'd be a crime."
"Yes. That sort of mindset and behavior is too early for Zwei. So even if she feels you are special, Captain, I taught her that it was a feeling for family like me."
"Then that's how 'Papa' came about huh..."
I finally understood how the process went, but was there really no other way?
Hearing a worried voice from behind, I looked back to see the girl watching us uneasily.
"Don't worry! I'm done talking to Papa."
Pulling me by the hand again, Jeanne led me back to the girl.
To reassure her, Jeanne stroked the girl's head, causing her to close her eyes partially to enjoy the comfortable feeling.
Then she looked at me with eyes of anticipation.
"Oh, umm, sorry for making you wait."
I stroked the girl's purple hair and she smiled contentedly. Such innocent goodwill made me feel an involuntary surge of tender affection towards her.
"iF Papa saYs so... cAlliNg mE Shion Zwei Shinomiya iS fIne."
The one reacting in surprised joy was Shinomiya-sensei rather than me.
"tO BeGin, Shion... tHiS namE, i dOn'T haTe it."
Extremely moved, Shinomiya-sensei covered her mouth and frantically turned around. She must be overjoyed that her younger sister's orphan had accepted this name.
"Then I'll start calling you Shion, can I?"
"Yes—but Mama, hAs to kEep cAlliNg mE Zwei."
The girl—Shion—nodded while telling Jeanne her wish.
"As you wish, Zwei."
Jeanne smiled gently and accepted Shion's request.
Holding hands with Jeanne and me, Shion swayed happily back and forth.
"—Mononobe-san, you have gained a wife and a daughter all of a sudden."
Having witnessed everything silently, Mica-san commented with amusement.
"P-Please don't make fun of me..."
"Fufu, my apologies."
Smiling while apologizing, Mica-san patted Shinomiya-sensei's shoulder while she had her back to us.
"Haruka, this is wonderful."
Shinomiya-sensei replied, sounding like she was crying.
At this moment, perhaps I had finally brought her salvation.
—What about Mitsuki?
Mitsuki had been tormented the whole time ever since she executed the dragonified Miyako.
Praying that Shion's existence could turn into an opportunity for Mitsuki's salvation, I caressed the head of my innocently smiling "daughter."
Shion's hair, which used to be made of hard mithril, was now as smooth as silk and very soft.
After the meeting, Mica-san and I returned together to Charlotte's private bedroom.
Charlotte's breathing in slumber could still be heard from the bed. The only thing that had changed since we left was her sleeping posture.
Her clothing had rolled up to expose her belly button. I covered her up properly with the blanket then walked to the balcony.
I should take this chance to give Ariella a call. It was just past noon so she shouldn't be sleeping.
But just as I took out my portable terminal, I suddenly heard the ringing of an incoming call. The screen indicated the caller was unknown.
To this date, there were only two people who always dialed this number as unknown callers.
One was Ren's father, Miyazawa Kenya. The other was—
Doubtfully, I touched the screen to pick up the call.
'—Hello, 2nd Lieutenant Mononobe.'
The instant I heard this voice, my entire body's muscles tensed up.
Appearing on the screen was the face of my superior officer during my NIFL days, Loki Jotunheim.
While feeling surprised, I also thought—Sure enough.
I had a feeling that he was going to contact me recently.
Roughly a week earlier, the sneering man portrayed in the screen here had sent out a team of drones led by Hreidmar to attack us at the mountain villa where we were taking refuge.
At the time, I had conversed with Major Loki over Hreidmar's communication.
The fact that Hreidmar's armor contained only smoke. The statement that change would be triggered by acquiring power. Then there was what he said about the true identity of the almost complete "Fafnir"—
"Major Loki... Are you sure it's okay to talk to me now? Isn't it necessary for the Midgardsormr defense system to switch to interception mode before you can communicate without Midgard's knowledge?"
Trying to find time for my turbulent emotions to calm down, I raised a question.
From this balcony on the top floor of the clock tower, I could see the blue ocean surrounding Midgard.
Midgardsormr would rise above the water during emergencies to form defensive lines but it was not activated at the moment.
'Oh, you don't have to worry about that. Remember I visited during Midgard's school festival as a member of the observing delegation? I put many preparations into place back then. By the way, I also know that you are currently alone in the balcony on the clock tower's top floor. This comes from a satellite that was launched a few days ago for monitoring Midgard.'
Revealing a bit of his mischief, Major Loki smiled and said:
"—Satellite aside, it would be troublesome if Midgard were to discover those preparations. By the way, I'm not obliged to keep quiet."
I looked up while warning Major Loki. Given current technology, even discerning a person's face from satellite orbit would be a piece of cake. It looked like he had called me after confirming I was alone.
'You can report all you like. It is no longer necessary for NIFL to maintain a superficial stance.'
"What... do you mean?"
Noticing something dangerous in Major Loki's words and expression, I asked in return.
'Don't you get it? It's easy to figure out once you understand what the world has become.'
Major Loki shrugged with a surprised look and continued:
'Dragons are monsters roaming freely across the world. Mankind's common enemy, disasters requiring total cooperation between humans to handle. Hence, Asgard was established and NIFL, a military force with international jurisdiction, was organized. You should know all this.'
I nodded and started to realize what Major Loki was implying.
'But there are no more dragons in the world. All dragon have been exterminated. At least on the surface.'
Major Loki said suggestively. I did not know how much information NIFL had gathered on Vritra, but judging by his mentioning of "Gray" in the past, he most likely knew of Charlotte being a dragon.
"Asgard and NIFL no longer have a reason to exist... Is that what you mean?"
'Indeed. Putting Asgard aside, NIFL will be dismantled recently, downsized and converted into an organization centered around D-related missions. Consequently, there is no longer any need to consider NIFL's position.'
Revealing he did not care about souring relations with Midgard, Major Loki narrowed his slender eyes.
'What we should consider is what comes later. Having lost the common enemy of dragons, you should know what will happen to humanity, right?'
"Conflict between humans—Is that what you're talking about? But I don't think large-scale war as before will break out between humans after cooperating together until now."
Noticing Major Loki's point, I refuted him in a forceful tone. However, he sighed in surprise again and shook his head.
'You've got it backwards, 2nd Lieutenant Mononobe. Twenty-five years ago, dragons appeared, forcing humanity to put aside many things, concealing, holding back dissatisfaction and hatred. Once the dam is gone, all hell will break loose. Signs of this are already appearing all over the world.'
Because we defeated the dragons, world stability was collapsing?
'—Oh, don't misunderstand. I don't mean to blame you. Rather, I should praise you. You exterminated dragons, bringing the world closer to its original state. However...'
For the first time, the smile vanished from Major Loki's face.
'The world remains unnatural due to a dragon's existence. By the hand of the "Gray" Vampire—Charlotte B. Lord.'
As I had thought, Major Loki knew Charlotte's true identity, but more than that, I was more surprised by Major Loki's face and voice when he said Charlotte's name.
Conveyed there was intense hatred. It was my first time seeing Major Loki with such overt emotions.
'Take out "Gray," 2nd Lieutenant Mononobe.'
Staring straight from the screen, Major Loki ordered me.
'This is the reason why I contacted you this time. To save humanity, I hope you will help. The current "Fafnir" should be able to eliminate her.'
"W-Wait! It's true that the principal is a dragon but she's on the side of humans—"
'Wrong, "Gray" is not on humanity's side. What she protects is something different.'
Major Loki interrupted me and jeered.
'In the world plunged in great war, "Gray" has committed grave sins. Many lives were lost for no reason at all, due to her fault.'
A gaming enthusiast, sometimes scolded by Mica-san, sometimes acting like a principal, Charlotte was trustworthy.
I could hardly believe she had taken many lives. However, Major Loki's words were filled with certainty.
'"Gray" is a monster that dominates mankind, toying with humans as her pawns. Her father too—'
However, the screen on the terminal was suddenly scrambled and Major Loki's voice was cut off.
"—Don't insult my father."
I felt an intense chill down my back.
Charlotte was standing next to the balcony's French windows. Starting when, I had no noticed at all.
Normally relaxed with a sunny smile, her face was now shrouded in cold fury.
I forced a word out and she raised her right hand with a slight twist in the corner of her mouth. Held in her right hand was something resembling a switch.
"This room is equipped to cut off communications through electromagnetic interference. I used it."
Charlotte shrugged and explained how she had interrupted Major Loki's call. Her tone of voice was carefree as usual, but her eyes were not smiling at all.
"You heard the conversation just now?"
"Yes, pretty much starting from the part about me distorting the world. My friend... Are you going to follow that man's orders to take me out?"
I could not read any emotions from Charlotte's voice.
"Don't be ridiculous. I'm not going to take you out, Charl."
I instantly replied but Charlotte shrugged slightly.
"Are you sure? What if he was speaking the truth?"
I gasped and responded in shock.
"It is true that no small number of lives have been lost on account of my will and choices. Perhaps for humans... I might be the worst dragon."
Smiling in self-mockery, she looked at the dumbfounded me, turned around and returned to the room.
I felt anxious about needing to say something, but confronted with the view of her back, I was unable to say anything.
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