Responding to the light shining through a gap between the curtains, Kisaragi Hayato awoke.
…Hmm? What’s this…?
Feeling a strange warmth on his body, he sat up in surprise. Emilia was fast asleep in his bed.
This discovery called to remembrance the events of the day before. After returning from the hospital, he’d passed out and Emilia had helped him, unconscious, to his bed.
I’m guessing she watched over me after that?
Next, he recalled the confession from yesterday evening.
The person before him was – per his self-introduction – his classmate, Emil Crossford.
However, this person’s true identity was none other than the girl he’d seen in his dreams of his childhood – his first love, whom he’d met in Gutenberg ten long years ago – Emilia Hammett.
Whispering her name, he caressed her head as he had long ago.
This brought to mind joyful memories of the time he’d once spent with her.
What a strange feeling…
He laughed to hide his embarrassment.
Sharing the same bed as they were made him distinctly aware of her fragrant, womanly scent. It inspired some strange feelings in him.
I might do something I’ll regret if I don’t end this situation…
Cautioning himself, he tried to slowly rise. Rubbing her seemingly still sleepy eyes, Emilia raised her body before him.
“Nn, morning… Hayato…”
“Oi, what’s with that getup—?!”
Hayato blushed a deep red.
Emilia was, after all, wearing only a thin, white shirt. The two bulges on her chest only made things worse; he well understood the danger that they posed. Furthermore, her lower half was covered by only a pair of thin white shorts.
“Well, last night, I helped Hayato to bed, nursed you, and I guess I fell asleep like that… Wait, UWAA—!”
She finally realized what she looked like. Emilia grabbed the bed covers in a fluster and covered herself.
“No need to explain, just change into something fast!”
“With you here? Hayato… ecchi…”
“Then I’ll leave!”
As he tried to jump off the bed in a panic, something warm introduced itself to his back. Emilia had snaked her arms around his back and gripped him in a tight embrace
“W-What do you think you’re you doing?”
“It’s fine if you don’t leave; I can change if you’ll just turn your back…”
“No, I meant why are you suddenly…”
“Sorry. But let me stay like this a bit longer.”
“Why would you…”
“Because, well, these peaceful moments with Hayato make me happy… I can be together with you…”
Two soft objects pressed up against his back. This was far too stimulating for this early in the morning.
“Isn’t it about time you let go?”
“Ah, yep… sorry.”
“I’m heading outside then.”
“I already told you that that won’t be necessary. Just turn around,” she called out as Hayato began to leave the room.
“I can still hear you changing. I can’t help it if I feel uneasy about that.”
“Ahaha, Hayato, you’re so cute.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Emilia’s giggling made him pout.
“Anyway, hurry up and change. Breakfast time’s already started.”
The sound of rustling clothes and clothes hitting the floor caused his heart to pound in his ears.
Behind him, a girl – Emilia – was only changing, but his face turned feverish nonetheless.
“You can turn around now.”
By the time she called out, Hayato, too, had finished changing.
He turned around to find Emilia Hammett gone and Emil Crossford in her place.
Although she wore a lightweight outfit of a jersey and trousers over her shirt, her hair was bound together at the back in her usual ponytail style. It was only natural that one wouldn’t notice the bulges on her chest.
“I’m going to go ahead and wash my face.”
Responding to the voice calling out from behind her as she made her way to the bathroom, Emil paused and turned.
“Thanks for last night. I was totally out of it.”
“Carrying you to your bed was no trouble at all. Removing your clothes was a bit troubling though…”
“Removing my— oh…”
Hayato remembered that he’d been in his uniform when he’d collapsed. However, when rising, he’d only had his uniform shirt and trousers on.
“I was pretty concerned. You also sweat a lot, so I wiped your body down with a towel after I bathed.”
“You wiped me down… You didn’t touch me in any weird places…?”
“If you didn’t, then it’s fine.”
Chuckling, Emil entered the bathroom.
Afterward, they traded places and Hayato washed his face, finalizing their preparations to leave.
“So Hayato, how does your body feel now?”
“A lot better than it did yesterday; I seem to be as healthy as always.”
“But your stomach’s empty, right?”
“Well, yeah. Very much so.”
“I knew it.”
Emil grinned broadly.
“When people consume a lot of Energy, they get really hungry.”
“Is that so?”
“Yep, especially after you use the power of a Variant. It tends to leave you that way, you know?”
With that, Hayato and Emil promptly left for the lobby where breakfast was being prepared.
“Mornin’. Yesterday was pretty incredible, huh? You feelin’ better already?”
In the lobby were three freshmen. One of them, Fritz, approached them with a greeting.
His dress – a shirt and trousers – was very casual. The other freshmen were dressed as he was, and they were all engaged in busily filling their mouths with sandwiches.
“Well then, let’s eat.”
On a wide table, a variety of sandwiches with egg, lettuce, and tomatoes – some with ham, some with roasted chicken – were laid out.
The selection of beverages – including orange juice, vegetable juice, milk, ice coffee, and mineral water – was enough to confuse.
On a side note, the dorm’s food was all prepared by the school cafeteria and transported to its destination each morning and evening.
In this way, both the taste was guaranteed and nutrition tightly managed.
All of this info had been shared with them by Fritz, at their request.
Afterward, Hayato and Emil sat down for breakfast with Fritz and the others.
Hayato was then informed that the two freshmen from earlier would be continuing their stay in Little Garden after all. Claire had repealed the order for their expulsion.
At that, Hayato heaved a sigh of relief.
“So, what are you two going to do today?”
“That depends on Hayato’s condition, I’d say…”
Emil answered Fritz’s question, meeting the gaze of the face assessing Hayato’s condition.
“I’ve said this already, but I feel perfectly fine; I’m not hurt anywhere.”
Emil’s face lightened up with enthusiasm at his reply.
“If that’s the case, then there’s something I’d like to do with Hayato today.”
“A date? With…!”
Hayato spat out his orange juice in shock.
“Ahaha. This warship’s business district——I thought I’d like to visit Central.”
Emil told the flustered Hayato with an innocent expression.
Yesterday’s duel had robbed them of the chance to look around, and lessons began on the morrow. There wouldn’t be another opportunity to do so until the end of the following week, so she wanted to visit the business district before the day was out.
“So, why don’t we go together?”
If she hadn’t characterized it as a date to begin with, then he would’ve agreed from the start. He’d been wanting to see Central as well, after all.
“If that’s the case, then let’s do it, shall we?”
Upon hearing Hayato’s reply, the delighted Emil gave a cheer.
“In that case, I’ll head back to our room first, okay?”
After finishing breakfast, Emil stood up from her seat and went to their room. Subsequently, Hayato stood up from his chair, and then Fritz asked something of him as well.
“You headed for the bath?”
As he didn’t get into the bath yesterday evening, he wanted to at least take a shower after this, Hayato had told Fritz and Emil that during their meal.
He had sweated a lot while he was asleep and, as Emilia had been close to him all the while they were sleeping, he was deeply dyed in her scent. Worrying about that, he couldn’t help the racing of his heart. He couldn’t keep going on without taking a bath.
“Which reminds me, what are your plans for the day, Fritz? If you’d like, why not join us in Central?”
Although he had already agreed to visit Central together with Emilia some time ago, it was his first time in ten years going on a date with a woman that wasn’t his sister…
Even if the person from that time had also been Emilia, things had changed too much; he didn’t know how he should behave.
With that in mind, he figured that it’d probably be better for Fritz and Ridia to accompany them.
The reply, however, dashed his hopes.
“Sorry, but I already have an appointment to visit the Colosseum with Ridia today. The seniors from the Bugeika will be holding a mock battle there, and she wanted to watch.”
That was a very Ridia-ish excuse, he thought. It would have been nice if he hadn’t had other plans, but given the circumstances, he couldn’t ask Fritz the impossible.
“Come to think of it, are you and Ridia going out?”
“The heck are you asking all of a sudden?”
Hayato accidentally blurted out something he’d been wondering for some time now. Fritz’s face clouded over at his question.
“Don’t tell me you’ve fallen for her or something? You’d better give up on that; that girl’s just a brat – in mind, body, and experience.”
“It’s nothing like that. I was just curious about your relationship; you’re always together, after all. Why is that?”
To be honest, he was hoping for a reference for his relationship with Emilia.
He couldn’t say that, though, so he dodged the question. Eyeing Hayato with suspicion, Fritz responded.
“I already introduced her as my childhood friend, right? Don’t confuse us for lovers, okay? We’ve just always been together since way-back-when, so our relationship just naturally became like this.”
“So, even when you’re near Ridia, your heart doesn’t throb?”
“Of course not! No way do I have those kinds of feeling for Ridia… Ohh, I see now. You fell for the student council president! She’s a beauty, she is, and her breasts are massive.”
“That’s not it!”
“It’s fine. There’s no need to be shy.”
“I said that’s not it!”
Hayato shouted again to get his point across.
“What, I thought that during that fight you seemed to get cold feet or something, but I figured… If you had fought with your fists, a wonderful friendship would’ve probably bloomed between you two. Didn’t you fall in love because of that?”
Laughing heartily, Fritz continued.
“It must’ve been great, rubbing the Prez’s breasts. They were huge, right?”
They were huge indeed. And very soft. But that wasn’t what he should be thinking about right now. He wasn’t in a situation to remember that feeling.
“Well, whoever it is, good luck, alright? They say love makes people strong, after all.”
Fritz rose and returned to his room.
He had the feeling there’d been a grave misunderstanding, but the more he protested, the worse the misunderstanding became. He eventually gave up on trying.
Since she was always by my side, I’d never really thought anything of it, huh——
As he soaked in the public bath, Hayato recalled the earlier exchange with Fritz.
That continued even after he’d finished his bath and returned to his room.
He remembered the feeling of Emilia’s lips from the evening before.
That was just a Hundred thing and not that kind of thing, I guess… he convinced himself.
But if the girl who was my first love does that kind of——Aaah, enough!
He shook his head to dislodge the thoughts running through his mind. If this continued on, his body would soon hit its limits, leaving him at a loss for what to do.
As I thought, there’s nothing I can do but get used to it, huh?
A short time after, Hayato and Emil left their dorm and made their way toward the warship’s prime shopping district – Central.
“It’s annoying that we have to wear the uniform even on holidays…”
The weather was warm: sunny, without a cloud in the sky. That, combined with the long-sleeved uniform, made them sweat.
“It can’t be helped; on this battleship, Slayers and Bugeika students are a somewhat special existence. It’s to distinguish them, or so Fritz said.”
“If I remember correctly, soldiers in Liberia also receive special treatment. You get freebies for entering a shop in uniform, I hear…”
“That’s… ehm, not particularly the reason, though.”
After leaving the dorm, they’d been walking side-by-side, close enough for their uniforms to brush against one another.
When they got too close, however, his heart would pound, and so he did his best to keep his distance.
“Muu, stupid Hayato,” Emil pouted, closing the distance again.
Even if she looked like a boy at the moment, he couldn’t forget that she was a girl after all; it was a difficult situation.
That was why he’d tried to distance himself, but Emil had noticed and thwarted his efforts.
It didn’t look possible to separate anymore.
It makes me happy walking side-by-side like this, but, as expected, it was rather stimulating…
He still had a ways to go to get used to this.
“Now that I think of it, the business district’s probably called Central because it’s in the middle of Little Garden…”
Hayato spoke to distract himself. That, and not silence, would help his nervousness.
“We can probably tell if we take a look at the PDA’s map, but I don’t think it is. It seems like it’s called Central in the sense of being the ‘heart’ of the city.”
“You sure know your stuff, don’t you?”
“I consulted a map of Little Garden on my PDA while you were bathing.”
Emil proceeded to share what she’d learned, describing the three main regions of Little Garden.
The first of the three – the ‘Terminal Area’ – was the outer region wherein the airport, dock, etc. were located. Both airplanes and small ships reached the warship through this area.
Next was the half of the Dome section designated as the ‘Military Area’, located at the ship’s forward bow. This area housed the academy, military, training facility, colosseum, practice grounds, and research lab. The dorm where Hayato and the others resided was also here.
The last area was where they were headed now, the ‘Family Area’. This warship’s business district – Central – was located there, as were many commerce and entertainment oriented businesses. Additionally, it, as its name suggested, housed the residential area that was home to Little Garden’s staff, employees of the Business district, and their families.
Perhaps due to transitioning between the Military and Family Areas, the number of refined houses surrounding them began to increase.
The view unveiling itself to their eyes made it harder than ever to believe that they were still on board a ship.
“Aaah, I can’t wait; I’m looking forward to it so much!”
“Even if you say you’re looking forward to it, there’s no way it compares to Gutenberg, where you lived before, right? All the rebuilding after the Second Attack should be long done.”
Before leaving their dorm, the two had decided that when she was dressed like a man, they’d refer to her as Emil and not Emilia. There was no way of knowing when someone might be listening, and so this made things easier.
“Umm, that’s true, but I didn’t often go outside in Gutenberg, you know? After the attack, we relocated to a more rural area…”
That reminds me, Emilia said the same thing when we were young.
She was always wearing some expensive-looking dresses. It’s probably because of the ‘relocation’, but she’s certainly grown up into a fine ojousama.
I guess that caused her to grow up pretty ignorant as to the ways of the world. That’s pretty amazing in its own way, really.
“That’s me, so it’s your turn now. How is Yamato’s capital?”
“Yamato? The imperial capital never suffered a Savage attack, so it’s prospered, I guess. After the attack on Gutenburg, we went home to the Yamato countryside, where we’ve lived ever since, so the only image of the imperial capital that I have is the one from TV.”
Although he’d visited the imperial capital briefly before coming to Little Garden, he had only had time to visit the Warslan company’s Yamato branch before boarding the transport nearly immediately after.
There had been no time for sightseeing, so he didn’t know a thing. Furthermore, the weather had been bad, so even viewing the townscape had been just about impossible.
“That makes us pretty much the same then, right?”
Emil smiled brightly.
After a ten-minute walk, starting from their dorm, they finally arrived at their destination: Central.
It was a bit before 10 o’clock, but the town was already surprisingly crowded.
“There seem to be quite a few Slayers too, huh…”
Upon entering Central there were quite a few people who passed by them that were wearing military uniforms or were wearing the same school uniform as them. Comparatively speaking, there were more students, but the Slayer population was nine-tenths the size of the student population, so it was only natural.
“There are many freshmen like us too, right?”
Certainly, as Emil had said, he could see the figures of many freshmen with a single badge attached to their collars, their bodies clad in brand-new uniforms. Given their restless gazes and nonchalant walk, it was immediately obvious – they were the same as Hayato and company.
“So what do you want to do first?”
“First, let’s do a round of Central itself. It’s not that big, so we can think about what we want to do as we walk around.”
Alongside Emil, Hayato circled Central once as if it were a track, before ending up walking down Main Street.
Various shops lined the street. It wouldn’t be too far fetched to say that some parts of it were the same you’d see in a normal town’s shopping district, although one could say that it was perhaps somewhat more attractive than a normal town’s. Clothing and apparel shops, taverns and bars, and even toy shops could all be seen.
“We’re just looking around, but it’s fun. It’s really been a while. Since we walked the streets of Gutenberg together, that is.”
Hayato felt similarly.
It really was fun.
But there was just one thing on his mind.
“Aren’t we drawing a lot of attention somehow?” Hayato whispered into Emil’s ear.
Ever since entering Central, he had felt the weight of countless gazes upon them.
“It’s only to be expected, you know?” Emil answered unconcernedly.
“To be expected…? What do you mean?”
“Well, you were already an object of interest from the start, and the way you beat the president yesterday only made that more so, so of course you draw attention. What you did yesterday is the talk of the town. I’m pretty sure tomorrow people will be talking about our going shopping together here in Central.”
Simply put, it wasn’t just a few eyes that were on him, but many, and it wasn’t likely to be a temporary situation, either.
“There’ll be a fuss about everything you do here, whether it be shopping, eating, or anything else…”
It looked like visiting Central in the future could be quite irritating.
“It’ll be okay. After a while, people will get used to it, and you won’t have to worry about it anymore. Alternatively, we could try to start some even stranger rumors.”
“Hey, stop that! That kind of rumor is bad news!”
Emil had twined her arm around Hayato, as lovers do. Even if he couldn’t feel her breasts against him, her body was still extremely soft. When the distance between them shrank like this, it was simultaneously heaven and hell. Her feminine fragrance threw him off his stride even more.
“Think about your situation and control yourself a bit…”
Flustered, Hayato pushed Emil away.
“Mou, Hayato’s such a shy-guy…”
“That’s not the problem here, geez…”
Hayato and Emil were walking side-by-side once more.
Extending beyond the attention they were already receiving, he began to hear mutters of “Hayato-kun and Emil-kun… I wonder who’s the top and who’s the bottom?”
Were we seen?
I would’ve been fine if there weren’t any strange rumors spreading, though…
At that thought, his shoulders slumped.
“We’ve just about circled the place now, so what next? Wanna grab something to eat, or would you rather go shopping?”
“There’s a place I’d like to visit first, if you wouldn’t mind going with me? It’s somewhere close by, okay?”
“…And that place is?”
“In Westside – opposite the Terminal District, at the westernmost end of Central – is a park. It’s Little Garden’s most popular dating spot. You can see the ocean from there and the sun sinking into the horizon’s supposedly very pretty. It’s totally worth a visit from what I’ve heard.”
“Isn’t it still too early for that?”
The sun was still high in the sky.
“That’s true, but even at midday, we can still enjoy the pretty scenery, so let’s go!”
“If that’s the case, then maybe we should.”
She’d kept him company during his crash course training and even gone so far as to nurse him back to health yesterday. So today, he intended to return the favor and keep Emil company.
When they had gone West long enough, the trees in their surroundings increased.
“We’ll soon be there; this greenery’s part of Westside and beyond this plaza should be a viewing platform.”
As described, once they’d left the red-brick plaza behind, the ocean filled their vision for as far as the eye could see.
Seagulls swam through the blue sky, almost as if piercing through it.
*woosh* *woosh*, the sound of waves and the scent of salt water grew ever stronger.
The ocean’s really beautiful…
Walking along the railing which had been installed on the edge of the battleship, Hayato looked at the ocean.
Brilliant rays of sunlight glistened as they were reflected off a pure emerald sea without a hint of murkiness.
A scene not to be found in all of Yamato – it left him speechless.
It must be even more amazing in the evening…
Just as he’d been told, it was a popular dating spot flooded with couples. Pairs of people passed time in silence, their gazes fixed on the setting sun.
Eventually, their hands finding one another——
Just kidding, he might indeed have desired that kind of thing but there was no way that he could do that with Emil, standing beside him and watching the ocean with him.
She wasn’t Emilia Hammett right now, after all, but Emil Crossford—— Someone who, no matter how you looked at him, was a boy.
But, just a bit, I wonder how it’d feel…
There wasn’t anyone near them right now, so it’d be fine if just for a moment. With that thought, he extended his hand to grasp Emil’s.
But he just couldn’t do it…
With just a hair’s breadth between them, his hand failed to bridge the gap.
And, just as he had finally steeled his resolve and was about to reach out…
Unexpectedly, their hands touched.
Emil looked at Hayato and smiled, tightening her grip on his hand.
“There’s no one around right now, so just this much should be fine, right? Plus, you were trying to do the same thing just now…”
“So just for a bit.”
For a while, they held hands.
“Wouldn’t Emilia be okay for now?”
“Eeehm, then, Emilia…”
“What is it?”
“There’s something I’d been meaning to ask once we were alone…”
He spoke aloud what had been on his mind since morning.
There was no one around and so he didn’t have to worry about others listening in.
It was the perfect opportunity.
“Eh, that’s, what might it be… somehow, my heart’s kinda pounding…”
“Um, well, didn’t you say yesterday that you came to Little Garden to meet me? So, now that you’ve met me, I was wondering what your plans were.”
“Aaah, so it’s that. That’s the kind of talk you wanted to have, huh…”
Losing her strength, Emilia’s head drooped.
“’That kind of talk?’ What kind of talk did you think it was?”
“J-Just forget it. As for what I plan to do, well, you’re going to be here from now on, right? In that case, so will I. That’s all there is to it.”
Emil continued with a smile.
“I ran away, after all. I can’t go back yet; first, I’ve got to repay the favor to Charl, who was forced into enrolling me here.”
“So you’ll become a Slayer and fight the Savage, huh?”
She noticed that Hayato’s expression had darkened.
“Do you have something against me becoming a Slayer?” she asked with a meek expression.
“No, it just feels wrong to ask you to put yourself in danger for my sake without regard for what you’ll have to go through.”
“That’s not true. Plus, we’re in the same boat here – because of me, Hayato’s come to Little Garden to become a Slayer.”
“That might be true, but…”
“I get the feeling that you want to take revenge on the Savage for tearing us apart ten years ago. Hayato, if you become a top-tier Slayer, kill my portion of the Savage for me, and are willing to support me with your salary, then I wouldn’t mind thinking about retiring.”
“The heck is that…”
“Ah, well… what I said just now, just forget it, haha…”
A deceptive laugh.
“In any event, we’ve only just arrived here. We can think about what to do from now on little by little, alright?”
“Though I’ve unexpectedly had to duel the Pres right off the bat, huh…”
“Sorry about that. But you might also say that it’s thanks to that that we’ve grown used to our current situation, right?”
Suddenly, the PDA’s default ringtone interrupted the two.
“…Is that yours?”
“Looks like it.”
Hayato pulled his hand away from Emil, and sticking it in his pocket, retrieved his PDA.
He checked the display.
“It’s from Karen…”
“Your sister? You should answer it.”
He had a very ominous feeling, but as urged by Emilia, Hayato timidly pressed the call button.
[Nii-san, why haven’t you told me about yesterday’s duel?]
It was a preemptive attack.
“That, well, it was decided on out of the blue and I thought it’d be bad if I worried you…” Hayato answered in a fluster.
[Although it was some time ago, I heard from Miharu about yesterday’s duel and the fact that Nii-san was brought into the hospital; it really shocked me, you know? Although I wanted to see your injuries, is your body okay?]
“It’s nothing to worry about. I feel just fine. So everything’s fine, don’t worry.”
[If I worry, it’s because Nii-san does nothing but unreasonable things…”
“If you put it like that, I can’t really argue…”
[But what you did is just so like you, I think. Duelling for someone’s sake——]
“Is that so?”
[That’s the kind of person Nii-san is. But before you do anything dangerous again, make sure you let Karen know properly. Promise me. If you don’t, I’ll curse you for real.]
“Right, got it.”
[So, Nii-san, what are you doing right now? I think I can hear birds chirping for some reason…]
“I’m in Westside, at the outskirts of Central right now.”
[Westside…? You’re not with a girl right now, are you?]
Karen’s tone had dropped. That happened when she was suspicious. Given her reaction, she probably knew that Westside was a dating spot.
“O-Of course not…”
[That’s a little suspicious, isn’t it? Nii-san, you had that duel yesterday and it looks like you’re popular among the girls in the hospital too, so I’m a bit uneasy. You haven’t been deceived by some strange girl, have you?]
“I’m fine, really!”
[According to yesterday’s fortune telling, today, a girl and Onii-chan…]
“I’m telling you there’s nothing like that!”
[That’s the honest truth, right? If that’s the case, then you have nothing to worry about if I confirm that in person, right?]
[I have permission to go out today. So, I thought I’d come and have dinner with Nii-san after this. Originally, I was calling to inform you, but it seems like Nii-san’s already at Central…]
“Going out? How do you plan to do that? You can’t walk…”
[I’ve got a wheelchair, and I can take a bus from the hospital to Central so it’s no problem.]
“…Are you serious?”
[Dead serious. From tomorrow on, Nii-san’s classes will start and we won’t be able to see each other as often.]
“If that’s what you want, then I can come to the hospital…”
[Now that that’s settled, once I arrive at Central, I’ll contact you, okay? Please be alone by then.]
“No, wait, hey!” Hayato shouted.
However, there was no response.
The call had ended.
Is she really coming here?
…Given her tone, I get the feeling that she is.
“Karen’s coming here…”
“Ah, so it’s that!”
“What’s with that reaction? You seem delighted.”
“I’ve been wanting to meet Karen-chan too. She’s your little sister, after all. I’ve got to properly greet her. We’ll be socializing for a long time from now on, so I want to be on good terms with her.”
“What are you thinking… Plus, she’s afraid of strangers, you know…”
“I’ll show you how skilled I am. Okay? It’s fine, right?”
It can’t be helped, Hayato sighed once more.
Emilia may have been delighted, but Hayato was filled with anxiety.
“Where are you meeting Karen-chan?”
“I believe she said she’d come by bus…”
“Then shouldn’t we go back to the town center and try to look for her at the bus stop?”
Hayato and Emil returned to Central’s town center and went looking for the bus stop.
It seemed that buses were constantly traveling around Little Garden. At their current location, the bus appeared once every 15 minutes or so.
A bus arrived immediately after the pair reached the bus stop, but as might be expected, Karen was not on it. 15 minutes passed before the next bus came.
After several passengers disembarked, a wheelchair alighted next.
Riding in this wheelchair was none other than Karen.
Unlike the wheelchair she’d used back in Yamato, this one was far more elaborate. She had no need to move her wheels herself; instead, via a joystick located on the armrest, she was able to direct the movement of her wheelchair.
Deftly manipulating her wheelchair controls, she made her way to Hayato’s side.
“Oh, you’re here to greet me, right?”
The moment she caught sight of her brother, she raised her voice happily.
“To travel this far alone… Are you feeling okay?”
“My health’s been much improved ever since coming here. Miharu also kept me company until the bus came.”
“Is that so…”
If she was feeling better, then he was happy to hear it.
“Well then, Nii-san, th——”
At long last, Karen became aware of the presence of Emil, standing behind Hayato. Her face took on a severe expression.
“Nii-san, you weren’t alone…?”
“…Uh, I didn’t mention it?”
“I certainly don’t remember hearing it,” Karen answered plainly.
Come to think of it, I did say I wasn’t with a girl, but I guess I never mentioned I was with my roommate…
“…So? Who is that?”
She directed a stern, pointed gaze in Emil’s direction. Her tone was much harsher than it had been during her call earlier.
Emil took the opportunity to step in, asking gently, “Um, would it be okay if I introduced myself?”
Karen didn’t reply.
Ohhh man, I guess there’s no helping it…
With his eyes, Hayato signaled to Emil that she should continue with her introduction. Emil turned to Karen with a smile.
“I’m Hayato’s roommate in the dorms, Emil Crossfield. Nice to meet you, Karen-chan.”
However, Karen didn’t say anything. Instead, she continued to watch Emil with a look of puzzlement.
“…You’re a… man, aren’t you?”
Just as he thought to himself, Finally, she speaks, those were the words that left her mouth.
“People often tell me I have cute, feminine features, but I’m definitely male, unfortunately.”
Emil followed up her response with a natural-sounding laugh born of countless experiences just like this one.
Karen, however, was not to be done in so easily.
“Do you perhaps… like men…?”
“Oi, Karen! What do you think you’re saying—?! Apologize to Emil!”
Unable to contain himself, Hayato forced his way between them and shouted without thinking.
“But he accompanied Nii-san to Westwide; there’s just the two of you, right? That’s why I think he might be that kind of person…”
“You’re reading too much into it.”
Hayato sighed in exasperation.
“Nii-san also has the potential for such things…”
“Nope, no such thing.”
“If that’s really the truth, then fine, but… even then, it must be problematic for you. If you’d simply keep your distance from his person, then messy situations like this wouldn’t keep happening…”
“What do you mean by ‘messy situations’?”
“Things like yesterday’s duel or your popularity with the girls in the hospital that came because of it. I’m curious what you plan to do, surrounded by girls like this.”
“There’s nothing to worry about there. I’ll drive away any scum which dares to gather around Hayato, so you can rest easy, Karen-chan.”
“…And why on Earth would you care?” Karen retorted with a sharp glare.
“Um, well, if it’s something my roommate’s little sister wants, then I can’t just ignore it, right?” Emil said deceptively.
Karen wasn’t buying it.
What do I do about this…
“So uh, we’ve been talking for a while, and I’m getting pretty hungry here, so why don’t we get something to eat?”
“In that case, there’s somewhere I’d like to go.”
“…Somewhere you’d like to go?”
“Could you go shopping with me for a bit first? The place I have in mind is outside of Central.”
“That’s fine by me, but where is it you want to go? Somewhere that specializes in sweets?”
Karen was especially fond of sweet things, so that had been his guess, but it seemed he was wrong.
“The place Karen wants to go to is the school cafeteria.”
The buildings for Little Garden’s elementary school, middle school, and high school could all be found within close proximity of the Bugeika building.
These were connected to the Bugeika building by a series of roofed walkways, at the center of which lay a courtyard.
The cafeteria thus served as a locale where all Little Garden students could freely intermingle.
The food was cheap and the servings plentiful.
A large number of people had gathered in the cafeteria today as well, even though it was a holiday.
“I never would’ve guessed that the place you wanted to visit would be the school cafeteria. Are you really sure about this?”
“I am. Nii-san hasn’t been here yet either. I also wanted to see what kind of place Nii-san will be attending from tomorrow on as well as to see a school for myself.”
“And how is it? Your impressions of having seen a school?”
“Even if it’s just the cafeteria, I’m glad that I could go inside the school building like this. Next time, I want to properly come on my own two feet and experience school life that way.”
“If you hurry up, it’ll be possible, right?”
“……Yeah,” Karen replied with a nod, earning her a charming smile from Emil.
“Now then, shall we order something?”
As prompted by Emil, Hayato and Karen turned their gazes to the menu.
As if to match the diversity of people living in Little Garden, cuisines of various countries had been prepared by the cafeteria. Given the sheer selection available, it was hard to know where to start.
“Hmmm, I guess I’ll go with a pasta?”
Emil decided on a meal set that included pasta, bread, and a salad.
“That looks pretty good, wonder if I should get that too… What’re you getting, Karen?”
“Karen wants… that.”
Karen was pointing at a meal set of hamburger steak and fried prawns.
“Isn’t that a kids’ meal?”
“…Whatever. I want it.”
Buu, Karen pouted.
“I get it, I get it. Let’s find somewhere to sit then, shall we?”
Hayato shifted his gaze to a table with a parasol, just outside the cafeteria.
They stood out immensely; Karen, because of her wheelchair, and he, because of his duel the day before. He wanted to eat somewhere where they’d pass as unnoticed as possible.
“Wait here for me, Karen. I’ll get your order for you too.”
Hayato, having secured a table, left Karen to go place their orders with Emil.
The pasta sets came in three variations, of which Hayato chose the penne arrabiata and Emil, the macaroni and cheese.
Incidentally, they’d used their PDAs to pay for their meals electronically. Little Garden did not participate in cash exchange. The allowance for their meals had been given them in January, at the time of their entrance into the school.
Naturally, Hayato paid for his sister’s meal as well as his own.
Hayato and Emil took their meals out of the cafeteria and settled down under the parasol of the table they’d chosen earlier. The three began their meal.
“It’s great that I was able to become friends with Karen-chan today.”
As their meal approached its conclusion, Emil suddenly said these words. Hayato froze and his eyebrows rose.
Until this point, Karen had basically ignored any and all attempts on Emil’s part to draw her into conversation.
“Haven’t we shared food?”
“That’s true, but…”
Karen had accepted the pasta Emil had offered her earlier.
“That was only ‘cuz I wanted to try your food too. It looked pretty tasty.”
“But when I asked you if you liked it, you answered. Isn’t that right, Karen-chan?”
Emil’s question left her at a loss, so Karen hung her head in shame.
“I guess there’s still a ways to go, but I was able to speak with you at least once; that’s progress.”
Emil was extremely optimistic.
That Karen had been willing to accept food from her was a big step in the right direction. Karen had always been reluctant to take anything from people she had just met, a habit that dated back to their time in the orphanage.
Karen’s slowly becoming an adult too, it seems…
She’s opened her heart to Miharu – the nurse in charge of her care – too. She’s already becoming an adult without me noticing. That makes me happy.
Immediately after Hayato had this thought…
“Ara, what a coincidence.”
An unexpected voice.
Surprised, Hayato turned his gaze in the direction of the voice.
There stood the Queen – Claire Harvey.
Nor was Claire alone. She was accompanied by the two vice presidents – Erika Candle and Ridi Steinberg – as well as a boy with cute features whom appeared slightly younger than Hayato and the others.
“Are you here to eat as well, or are you here to start something again?”
Just as she had the day before, Emil flared up in response, standing in stark contrast to the president, was unbothered by her hostility.
“…Nii-san, who are these people?”
Though clearly displeased——
The gaze Karen directed their way was nonetheless fearful.
“They’re members of Little Garden’s student council. The one in red is the president, while the two in blue are her vice presidents.”
“President… In other words, this drill is the one causing problems for Nii-san…”
Her sharp gaze targeted Claire.
“…Drill… you say?”
*twitch* Claire’s cheek twitched at Karen’s words.
“Kisaragi Hayato, who is this rude young lady?”
“She is Kisaragi Karen, the younger sister of Hayato-sama, Claire-sama,” the young, blonde boy behind Claire replied.
Appearance-wise, his hair was trimmed short, but his bangs were long – long enough to hide one of his eyes. His features were childish, and his uniform belonged not to the Bugeika, but to the middle school.
“Yes, that does seem to be the case, doesn’t it? Now that I look at them, there certainly is a family resemblance, is there not?” Claire mumbled as she looked at Karen.
“Indeed. That would be the reason for her hostility, Claire-sama,” he responded with an innocent smile.
“…That reminds me, I have yet to introduce myself. I’m a second-year in middle school and Claire-sama’s assistant – Chris Steinbelt. Best regards, Kisaragi Hayato-sama, Karen-sama, and Emil Crossford-sama.”
He bowed deeply.
It seemed he also knew who Emil was.
“In any event, this timing is fortuitous. There’s something I wanted to discuss with you, Kisaragi Hayato.”
“…Discuss? You want to pick up where we left off yesterday?”
“That too, but before that――”
Claire met Hayato’s gaze as she spoke.
“To jump to the heart of the matter, it’s regarding your serving as an assistant to the student council from tomorrow forward.”
“Wait, what do you mean by that―?!”
Emil, next to the dumbfounded Hayato, raised his voice and pounded the table with both hands as he leapt to his feet.
Clanking loudly, the tableware rattled with the impact.
Karen showed a frightened expression.
“Whoops, sorry… Because of yesterday’s incident, I unintentionally flared up.”
Emil apologized to Karen before glaring at Claire once more.
“Yesterday’s duel was a draw, right…? So why does Hayato still have to be an assistant for the student council―?!”
“Emil Crossford, I said we’d make him an assistant for the student council, but I never said anything about making him clean the student council room.”
“…Then what are you planning to have Hayato do?”
“Claire-sama has direct supervision over the student council Selections team―― and would like to scout Kisaragi Hayato as a member.”
Erika, who had been standing silently by Claire’s side until now, answered.
“And? Are you interested?”
Claire turned to Hayato once again.
“Well, even if you ask whether or not I’m interested… To be honest, I don’t even know what members of the Selections do…”
“Their duties are nearly identical to the Slayers’. That includes taking requests from the Warslan company, operation of the Hundred, and completing missions.”
They handled a wide range of matters from guarding vital facilities to protecting VIPs, such as world leaders.
“The single most important duty is, of course, to battle the Savage, however,” Claire added in a tone which suggested such a thing was only natural, “Although Slayers belong to the Warslan company from the moment they enroll in the Bugeika, they are nevertheless still students, and thus participation in such duties is not mandatory; it is up to each student’s own judgment. However, the way I see things…”
After a short pause, Claire continued with a serious expression.
“It’s a matter of noblesse oblige. Those with power have an obligation to wield that power for the sake of those without. Such a thing is only natural. This is why the Warslan company provides suitable compensation for those who hold such power.”
In other words, increased pay. For Hayato, such an offer was incredibly tempting. That would increase the amount of money he’d be able to send to the facility.
…But could I really do my job as a member of the Selections as I am?
He thought about his duel with Claire.
If he entered the battlefield without the ability to control his power, he might be more of a liability than an asset.
That was reason enough for him to hesitate.
I wonder what Emil thinks?
He turned his gaze her way.
“If you’re telling Hayato to join, then I will as well.”
Emil seemed more than confident about his ability to enter the Selections.
He was grateful that Emil’d be with him. The thought of being alone made him uneasy, but with Emil by his side, even if something happened, he felt he’d be able to overcome it, one way or another.
Unfortunately, Erika dashed his hopes.
“That’s not possible. The requirements for the Selections necessitate that one either possess the ability to fight on equal standing with the Savage or are capable of serving in a pure support capacity. None others are allowed.”
Her words brought a thought to Hayato’s mind.
That reminds me, even though she was only helping during yesterday’s duel, Emil’s better with the Hundred than I am. I guess the student council isn’t aware of that, huh…
In that case, their rejection was only to be expected.
“So, in other words, all I have to do is demonstrate my abilities.”
“And what do you mean by that?”
“I request a duel with Pres. Once I win, I should be free to enter the Selections alongside Hayato, no?”
“How dare you, Emil Crossford!? To suggest that the likes of you could rival Claire-sama!” Ridia, who had been restraining herself this entire time, roared.
I agree, Hayato thought. Her words had been provocative indeed. However, Emil didn’t seem intimidated at all.
“You’re not going to run away, are you?”
“I’m not. Unfortunately, I cannot accept your proposal, nonetheless.”
Claire rejected Emil’s proposal. It, of course, was not the end of the matter.
“And why is that?”
“School regulations state that students who participate in a duel may not do so again until a week later.”
There were countless people who wanted the chance to duel those with a high rank, but were those duels to happen without end, it’d be a pointless waste of Stamina and Energy.
If the Savage were to appear, it wouldn’t be possible to sortie in peak condition. The consequent disabling of Little Garden’s greatest force was counterproductive.
The rules were designed to prevent just such a situation.
“It’s fine if it isn’t you personally. Ridi Steinberg should serve just as well, right? A battle with her would serve to showcase my abilities, would it not?”
“Know your place, Emil Crossford! Even if you do place just after Kisaragi Hayato among the freshmen reaction readings, the difference is still considerable. In any event, a reaction reading and proficiency with the Hundred are two very different things!”
“A fight will reveal everything. When do you want to do it? Right now sounds good to me…”
With those words, Emil took out her Hundred from her chest and threw it into the air.
With her shout, her Hundred, in particles of bluish-white brilliance, enveloped Emil’s torso from the hips on up, forming the [Arm’s Shroud].
“Emil Crossford, why do you possess a Hundred…?”
Emil’s deployment came as a shock to Erika.
“I’ll tell you once the duel is over.”
“Oi, I haven’t even decided whether or not I’m joining, so cut it out!”
“Sorry. I got a bit ahead of myself, I guess…”
At Hayato’s prompting, Emil attempted to release her Hundred. Ridia, however, rejected that idea.
“I won’t forgive it if you simply back down after such disrespect. I’ll show you your place myself―― HUNDRED ON!”
Angrily shouting that she’d resolve the matter personally, Ridia clenched her Hundred. She was surrounded by a thick, dark cloud of violet particles and a giant thruster appeared on her back.
Next, a drill-like spear as tall as she appeared in her right hand, accompanied by a shield in her left.
“The weapon’s a spear―― So a Phalanx type?”
“Correct, my Hundred’s of the infantry-style – also known as the Phalanx type. Its Arms’ name is the [Ebon Heavenly Spear], the Midgardschlange!”
With that, Ridia turned to Claire.
“Claire-sama, permission to duel…”
“Of course I can’t allow something like that! Emil Crossford’s Hundred is a Dragoon-type like mine, so you’d put your surroundings in danger with a duel.”
Truly the words of a “president”, Hayato thought.
Mutters of “What’s going on over there?” could be heard as curious students and citizens of Little Garden had assembled. Furthermore, Karen, in her wheelchair, was also present. A duel would also endanger her.
Karen grabbed the hem of Hayato’s uniform in concern.
Hayato leapt in front of her wheelchair protectively.
“It’s alright, even if something happens, I’ll make sure to protect you.”
Adapting to the circumstances, Emil spoke up.
“We need to be careful about bystanders―― So, it’d be fine as long as we avoid using the Hundred’s shooting systems, right?”
With those words, Emil’s Hundred formed into a lance.
“You’ve changed the nature of your Hundred―― How on Earth?”
Claire stared in wonder. Ridia and Erika, and eventually even the curious onlookers revealed the same reaction. The commotion from the crowd grew even louder.
“Why are you so surprised? Your Hundred can change forms as well, can it not?”
Hayato recalled that during their duel the day before, Claire had combined [Alystherion’s] six batteries into a giant cannon. Was this somehow different from what Emil had just done?
“Even if the shape of my weapon changed, it was nevertheless of the Dragoon-type throughout. The Hundred’s types are hardcoded at construction. However, Emil Crossford has changed his floating battery Arms – of the Dragoon-type – into a long spear Arms of the Phalanx-type. A change at such a fundamental level like that is no ordinary thing.”
Originally, each Slayer was capable of wielding but one Arms.
A Slayer that could stably employ more than one kind of Hundred was simply unheard of.
“Alright, here I come―!”
Emil, kicking up dirt with a furious leap, attacked Ridi with the lance in her hands.
Seeing her actions, Erika was outraged.
“Even though there hasn’t been a duel declaration, you suddenly start to fight – this is simply outrageous. Stop this insta――”
“Let them continue.”
“Please allow me to observe the situation for just a bit.”
Emil’s spear collided with Ridia’s Midgardschlange, generating a terrific sound which shook the courtyard.
Ridi was unable to go on the offensive of her own volition, able only to react to the furious onslaught of blows that came from Emil.
She shifted her gaze to Claire, silently asking for permission.
As Claire nodded, signalling her permission to proceed, Ridia’s feelings shone through. Baring her teeth in a broad grin, she repelled Emil’s spear with Midgarschlange, sending it flying into the air, and then began preparations to go on the attack.
“With permission, I can finally get serious! Let’s see if you’re a Slayer who can keep up with one of the Selections!”
“Then I’ll get serious as well. I can’t take it easy on an opponent like you!”
Ridia’s thrusters fired and she accelerated, thrusting Midgardschlange mightily forward. Emil, warding off the blow with a shield formed from [Arms Shroud], sent forth her own spear in attack.
Ridia panicked, blocking the blow with the shield in her left hand.
“Erika, please check the database for Emil Crossford’s registered data. What does it say about the form of his Hundred?”
“A moment, please.”
Erika touched the frame of her glasses, causing characters and images to appear on her lenses.
“Correct. It is connected to [LiZA] via the Vital Link and is operated by eye movements,” Claire explained.
“…Claire-sama, I have finished verifying his information. It is indeed registered as a Dragoon-type in the database.”
“And yet, he can fight with so many――”
Once again, Claire turned her gaze to Emil.
It was a fact of reality that attaining mastery of even just one Hundred form required overcoming incredible hardship. That notwithstanding, Emil’s spear skills were not outdone by Ridia’s, even though it was her only specialty; they stood on equal footing.
More worrisome still was the way this Hundred enveloped his entire body.
Unlike Claire’s own Hundred, [Alystherion], nothing bearing the slightest resemblance to a gun barrel could be seen in its form. Furthermore, it had now somehow taken on the form of a spear and shield…
What on Earth is it…?
Squinting as she inspected it more closely, she realized that this Hundred did not maintain a fixed form, but was rather more like a mass of particles. As if validating this insight, Emil’s spear dissolved back into particles before reforming into yet another shape.
“Not two, but three…!”
Its new form was a boomerang.
Thrown mid-jump, it sent Ridi’s Midgardschlange flying before promptly returning.
“Kisaragi Hayato, what do you know about this?”
“What do I know――”
“About Emil Crossford.”
Even if she asked, he wasn’t sure if it was okay to answer. In any case, it wasn’t like he knew that much about Emil either.
As he stood, uncertain…
“Let me answer that.”
A voice called out from behind them.
Taken by surprise, Claire instantly turned her head.
“Why are you here…?”
Hayato mirrored her action.
Standing there was the main technologist of Little Garden, the head of their research lab, Charlotte Dymandias.
“I’m here to eat, but I happened to overhear you, and thought I’d answer; that’s all. That said, I wonder if I’m allowed to talk about Emil’s Hundred, after all…”
“You do take your time, don’t you? What on Earth is he?”
“Emil and I first met five years ago. At that time, I was visiting a hospital in Gutenburg, having been informed that there was a patient I’d undoubtedly want to see.”
“And that was Emil Crossford?”
“I soon grew aware of Emil’s unrivaled talent as a Slayer. For that purpose, I’ve bequeathed Emil a personal Hundred and had him take part in some experiments. As a result, he’s become very skilled in both wielding and controlling the Hundred. His skill is to the extent that he can manipulate his reaction readings.”
“His reaction reading is comparable to Kisaragi Hayato’s – or rather, at the moment, it should be even higher. Nevertheless, even if his operational skill is high, it is also formless. For that reason, Emil Crossford’s Hundred has no type.”
‘That’s unheard of’ was written all over Claire’s face.
“Even for me, it’s my first time meeting someone who can handle the Hundred like that. It’s pretty troubling to me as well, you know? That ‘Innocence’ – which has no type – as well as that [Arms Shroud] which can morph into other types.”
“In other words, you’ve brought Emil Crossford to Little Garden to further your own research?”
“You’re upset that you haven’t been informed? I have been strictly ordered not to disclose the nature of his unique abilities.”
“…If your intentions are to increase the quality of Slayers in Little Garden, then I do not mind.”
Clenching both fists, Claire returned her gaze to the pair who continued their duel uninterrupted.
Though it had borne a different form just a moment prior, Emil once again formed [Arms Shroud] into a spear, faced Ridi, whom had lost [Midgardschlange], and charged.
Panicking, Ridi hastily grabbed [Midgardschlange], granted it her Energy, and parried the blow, but her defense proved inadequate.
Ridi’s body flew into the air.
Emil’s Hundred immediately changed forms once more.
The tip of the spear warped, transforming into a muzzle.
“If I fire from point-blank range, I won’t damage any of our surroundings, right?”
Emil leveled the muzzle directly at Ridi, who had collapsed to the ground, falling on her backside. The barrel shone brilliantly, glittering with concentrated Energy.
“So what’s it gonna be? Do you surrender?” Emil taunted, grinning.
Ridi’s ground her teeth in frustration.
She didn’t want to accept defeat, but there was nothing she could do.
Even if she were to expand an E-Barrier, it was likely incapable of nullifying Emil’s shot.
“It’s my lo――”
Just as Ridi was about to acknowledge defeat…
A low-toned buzzer rang out simultaneously from Claire, Erika, and Ridi’s PDAs.
“What’s going on…?” Emil murmured, as she lowered her weapon, Charlotte simultaneously mumbling, “The call’s come sooner than expected.”
“Call? What call?” Hayato asked.
“Savage have appeared on the neighboring island. A request for support from Little Garden has thus been issued by headquarters.”
“You knew this was possible—”
“Yes, that is what I wanted to talk to you all about earlier.”
Immediately following Charlotte’s reply, sirens all across Little Garden screamed as one.
Afterward, Meimei’s voice could be heard echoing from speakers installed along the roads.
“Announcement from HQ, announcement from HQ. A request for support has been issued by the province of Seonia. The presence of three Savage has been confirmed. Little Garden will immediately begin preparations for sortie. Slayers and Bugeika second and third-years are to prepare to sortie immediately and standby. Warslan company staff are to do likewise.”
“Erika, prepare the car at once.”
“That won’t be necessary. When I call for it, it’ll already be prepared,” Charlotte interrupted, taking her PDA from her pocket.
As described, a long, black stretch limo soon appeared.
It was an eight-seater.
“Claire-sama, let’s go.”
Erika entered the car in a hurry, with Ridi following immediately after. Claire promptly got in as well.
“Charlotte, are you not coming as well?”
“Just a moment,” Charlotte replied, before walking away from the car to approach Hayato and Emil.
“Kisaragi Hayato, Emil Crossford―― You two are coming to the operations room as well.”
Her unexpected words took Hayato by surprise.
As they did Claire.
“CHARLOTTE DIAMONDUS, WHAT ON EARTH IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!”
“Claire, you invited Kisaragi Hayato to be a Selections member, did you not? I thought this would prove a valuable learning opportunity for him to watch you in action.”
With those words, Charlotte turned to Claire.
“Moreover, there is currently a lack of proficient Slayers aboard this warship, a fact of which you, more than anyone, are certainly aware. On-the-job training is faster, is it not?”
Claire could not rebut her words.
“…I understand. There is indeed truth to what you have said.”
Sighing in resignation, Claire continued.
“You heard, correct? Kisaragi Hayato, Emil Crossford: please get in the car.”
“It’ll be fine.”
Hayato placed his hand atop Karen’s head, she having grabbed his uniform in unease.
“He has yet to decide whether or not he will join the Selections. He won’t have to enter the battlefield.”
“Kisaragi Hayato, what are you doing?! We’re racing against time here, you know?!” Claire screamed from within the car.
Emil had already joined the others in the car.
“That just leaves…”
Hayato turned his gaze to Charlotte.
“You can leave your sister to me; I’ll ensure that she’s properly escorted to the hospital. I’ll join you in the operations room once that’s done. You guys go on ahead.”
“Then I leave her in your care.”
With that, Hayato walked toward the car.
“Nii-san, have a safe trip,” Karen called out from behind him.
“Yeah, I’ll be going then,” Hayato answered with a smile as he turned and waved before entering the car.
Translator notes and references