“Between the citizens of the Zwei Archipelago, the concert staff, and audience members, there were only minor casualties – some injuries, but no deaths.”
Having been thus debriefed by Meimei upon their return to the WL-03, Claire heaved a sigh of relief and smiled.
“So I guess there’s a silver lining to all this. The fact that no one died is what really matters here.”
“The civilians in question have expressed their gratitude for your efforts on their behalf. Please look outside.”
As Meimei had directed, Hayato and the others looked out the window.
Though difficult to catch with the naked eye, given how small they appeared in the distance, it was nonetheless clear that a crowd of people were waving and shouting in their direction. They could not hear what was being said, but their feelings were conveyed, nonetheless.
“Seeing that really makes you happy, doesn’t it? After risking our all to fight, it’s really touching.”
It was just as Emil had described. His heart was warmed by their gratitude and he felt a sense of accomplishment. This was the first time in his life he’d experienced such feelings.
I protected these people… this place…
It made him happy.
“It’s precisely for times like these that we head to the battlefield.”
Claire’s muttered words penetrated deep within him.
Afterwards, Hayato, who had showered and changed back into his school uniform, made his way to the parlor beside the briefing room with Emil at his side.
The floor within was covered with red carpet, with a large desk occupying the center of the ostentatious room. Chairs circled the desk, with a saucer and a tea cup set before each seat.
“I apologize for the wait.”
The door opened to admit the student council president, Claire Harvey. It had been she who had summoned Hayato and Emil to this room. Erika Candle could be seen standing behind her, a tray with a teapot in her hands. They had changed into their school uniforms just as Hayato and Emil had.
“First things first, shall we have some black tea? Erika, the usual, if you would.”
As Claire lowered herself into the remaining chair, Erika made her way from seat to seat, filling their cups with black tea.
“Do you always drink black tea like this after a battle?” Hayato asked, dumbfounded by the restful atmosphere which drew stark contrast to the life-and-death battlefield on which they’d fought the Savage just earlier.
“The return to everyday life first requires a lifestyle of normalcy to which to return, does it not? That’s why I take a break for tea after every battle.”
“Incidentally, this black tea is chamomile. The aroma calms the heart,” Erika informed them.
Savoring a cup of black tea after battle seemed to be a habit of hers as well.
“If you’ll excuse me, I have other matters to tend to——”
Erika, having finished serving everyone their tea, placed the teapot atop the desk and exited the room.
Hayato called out to her back, “How’s the other vice president doing?”
“If you’re referring to Ridi, her stamina and Energy are nearly spent, but her life is in no danger. She’s been placed in the care of medical staff who have come aboard the WL-03.”
Once they arrived back in Little Garden, however, her medical treatment would be continued in the hospital.
“Recovery from her wounds and replenishment of her Energy will take some time; at least one week’s worth of rest will be required.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, but it’s good to hear that her life’s not in danger; that’s the most important thing,” Emil murmured, relieved.
Hayato felt similarly; Ridi’s condition had weighed on his mind.
“Now then, shall we get to the main issue at hand?”
Once Erika had left the room, Claire returned her tea cup to its place atop her saucer and, meeting Hayato’s gaze, opened her mouth to speak.
“And what would that be?” Emil asked.
“In truth, there are several concerns I’d like to address, but first of all, let’s settle the matter of the Selections team. Kisaragi Hayato – have you come to a decision?”
“A decision, you say——”
Her question caught him on the wrong foot.
“By that, I mean to ask whether or not you will join the Selections. I had supposed that you’d already made up your mind on the matter——”
Claire was correct.
Having saved others with his own strength, and being thanked for doing so, made him happy. Moreover, thanks to Emil, he’d managed to control his Variant abilities in the battle with the Savage, which had been a major cause for concern for him.
That alone made him confident that he could see things through as a member of the Selections. Indeed, he thought that he would like to do so, however…
“By the way, Emil Crossford – I’d be open to you joining the Selections as well, should you wish it.”
“…Well… What do you think I should do, Hayato?” Emil inquired with a bright smile.
Doing battle with the Savage was, of course, a terrifying thing, a point which made him apprehensive.
Nevertheless, his sense of duty triumphed over his fears given that there were many others who sought deliverance from the Savage.
This feeling was surely what the president had meant when she had cited “noblesse oblige.” Furthermore, accepting this duty would keep him close to Emil. In other words, there weren’t any problems. And so…
“I’ll join the Selections.”
“Then count me in as well.”
“Very well then. We can discuss the details tomorrow.”
Seemingly pleased, Claire’s face relaxed as she raised her teacup and finished off her tea.
Erika knocked on the door and entered.
“Claire-sama, we’ll be arriving in Little Garden shortly.”
“In that case, shall we end things here? Please make sure to get adequate amounts of rest tonight; do not be late for tomorrow’s lessons. Oh, and one last thing——”
Responding to Erika’s announcement, Claire rose and turned to Emil.
“Emil – no, Emilia Hammett. You are to join us in the student council room and clarify your circumstances.”
“I guess I knew that was coming…”
Emilia Hammett, she who had disguised herself as Emil Crossford, sighed heavily, her shoulders drooping.
Disembarking from the WL-03, the moment Hayato set foot on Little Garden’s airfield grounds, he heard Karen shout.
Unsteadily, she rose from her wheelchair and, eyes brimming with tears, dove into her brother’s chest.
“Wha… Are you alright getting up like this?”
“If it’s just for a little while… I’ll… be fine…” Karen answered, soaking his uniform with her tears as she sniffled.
“Anyway, Nii-san. You said you wouldn’t be fighting…”
“You know what I was doing?”
“When Karen got back to the hospital, my fortune-telling showed an ill omen, so I asked Miharu for a favor and she looked into it for me. When I heard that you’d gone to battle, I…”
Turning, he saw Kashiwagi Miharu, Karen’s supervisory nurse, standing behind Karen’s wheelchair. She had likely escorted Karen here.
“I apologize. I’m sorry for worrying you.”
Hayato stroked his sister’s head as she sobbed into his chest. At long last, Karen raised her head.
“…Then show it.”
She couldn’t mean…
“Show you’re sorry for making me worry.”
Karen closed her eyes, and proffered her forehead. As he’d feared, Karen was demanding a kiss on her forehead.
“…I get it already…”
There was no denying that he’d made her worry. That was reason enough to humor her. With that in mind, he leaned in and planted a kiss on her forehead as he always did.
“Yeeesh, you sure are an affection pair of siblings, aren’t you?” Emil commented, her expression stiff.
Hayato came to the sudden realization that Erika and Claire had also witnessed the kiss just now.
Erika blushed and stammered, “W-What are you siblings doing?”
Crap, what did I just do in front everyone…
Hayato’s face was dyed a deep red, and the blushing face of Karen, standing beside him, grew redder by the second.
Some time later, the freshmen, Hayato included, had returned to the dorms while Karen had returned to the hospital. Emilia, however, had not. Claire had pulled her to the student council room to discuss the circumstances behind her disguising her gender, her arrival at Little Garden, as well as the nature of Variants.
He, too, was a party to the Variant matter, so Hayato had offered to go as well, but Emil had refused.
The rationale behind her decision had been that the primary reason for the inquiry had been the disguising of her gender and subsequent entry into Little Garden; they were, as of yet, ignorant of the fact that Hayato was a Variant.
Seeing as Charlotte had accompanied her to the inquiry, the likelihood that Emilia might rage out of control was minimal, nevertheless, he couldn’t help but worry about how Claire would judge things. After arriving back at the dorms and washing off his sweat, he returned to his room and laid down on his bed, the matter weighed on his mind all the while.
Is it really okay for me to not do anything…?
The invitation to join the Selections had been extended to her as well, so it was unlikely she’d be expelled. That thought came as a relief, but it didn’t negate the possibility of some other form of punishment being meted out.
…Just what does the President have in mind?
As he mulled over the issue, his PDA rang; he’d received an email. Hayato sat up in a hurry and opened the email.
——It’s from Emil!
The letter contained only a single sentence, “It doesn’t look like I’ll be back anytime soon.” It offered no answers to the questions he was concerned about, such as what they had talked about or what would happen next. He fired off an email asking for further information but no reply came.
He determined to stay up and await Emil’s return – or at least her reply – but perhaps owing to the tremendous Energy consumption that accompanied his Variant abilities, he was soon gripped by a wave of lethargy, which he was powerless to resist.
Hayato fell into a deep sleep.
Kisaragi Hayato awoke to a voice calling his name. He felt a sense of weight against his body, as well something soft – something silky and fragrant.
…What is this?
With that question in mind, he opened his eyelids.
“Morni— Wait, what are you doing—?!”
At the sight of his roommate, peering back at him, Hayato reflexively cried out.
“What, you say… I’m waking you up.”
“That’s not what I meant! Your clothes, your clothes!”
Emil wasn’t wearing her men’s clothes. On the contrary, she was dressed in a frilly, fluttery negligee.
In other words, none other than Emilia Hammett stood before him.
“What’s wrong with my clothes? This is what I usually wore to sleep back in Gutenberg, you know? Charlotte bought it for me yesterday. What do you think – cute, right?”
“I do think that, but…”
It was terribly see-through. Although her cleavage wasn’t entirely exposed, what he could see was stimulating enough already. That alone was more than enough to make his heart race.
“More importantly, what did you and Prez talk about…?”
Unable to keep himself from staring, he pulled his gaze away entirely, distracting himself by asking about the matter that had consumed his thoughts since the evening before.
“This and that, but long story short, I’ve been given leave to continue my stay here at Little Garden. As a Bugeika student, of course.”
“As a man?”
Emil nodded. That came as a shock to Hayato; he’d expected Claire to order her to attend as a girl.
“I see, so Prez gave you permission.”
“Charlotte persuaded her. The terms stipulate that as long as I continue my tenure as a member of the Selections, they will keep quiet about my being a girl. It’s not all good news, though——”
Emilia’s expression turned dark. That filled him with worry.
“I have to leave this room.”
That was no surprise. In fact, it was rather within expectations, really.
“So where are you going to live?”
“I’ll move into the room in front of this one.”
“Eh? Is that alright?”
He was honestly surprised. He’d have figured she’d have to leave the dorm altogether. This way, they would be able to continue to spend time together.
“It seems suddenly exiling a freshman from the dorms and ordering them to live on their own would be too much, so this was the result.”
“I think having a room to yourself all of a sudden would feel pretty strange already…”
All the other freshmen were two to a room; why were he and Emil suddenly exceptions?
“As a member of the Selections, I’m getting some special treatment. The other Selection members have apparently been granted rooms of their own as well. Fritz has already been notified and I’ve been given the key to my new room. There’s just one problem——”
“I mustn’t enter Hayato’s room. And you must not enter mine. That’s an iron-clad rule. If we break that rule, Prez has warned us we’ll be punished…”
That seemed only natural. However…
“In that case, is it okay for you to be here?”
A question that seemed to naturally follow.
“My luggage is here, and I need to remove it, so this much is only to be expected, right? Plus, I wanted to check up on you once the inquiry was over; Charl told me I should.”
In other words, she seemed to have been told to check if the side-effects of his Variant abilities had kicked in or not.
“Hayato, you look like you’re in pain. That’s why I need to look after you myself, just like last time.”
“Like last time… You don’t mean——”
“Ahaha, no, I don’t mean kissing. But if you’re hurting, I might change my mind; what do you think?” Emil teased, smiling mischievously.
“No, I… I’m fine. Just as healthy as always.”
“Ahaha, Hayato, you’re blushing.”
Being told that, his blush deepened.
A knock at the door interrupted their banter.
Just who was it?
Given the situation, it was entirely possible that Emil Crossford’s true identity would be exposed. That set off a warning inside his head.
“Kisaragi Hayato, I’m coming in.”
That short sentence was enough for him to recognize the owner of that voice – the student council president, Claire Harvey. She more or less held the authority here. Opening the lock to his room, she entered.
If the other party was Claire, then he didn’t need to worry about Emil’s secret being exposed, but that in no way meant that he could feel relieved. She had no way of knowing Emil was currently in his room.
Given their current positions, it would look to a third party as though they had been sleeping together. When taken in the context of the condition Claire had emphasized earlier, things could turn ugly.
Unfortunately, it was far too late to do anything.
“Emilia Hammett, you’ve already violated…!”
Catching Hayato and Emilia sharing a bed, Claire thrust a finger in their direction.
Her body trembled with anger.
“To share a bed—! And that posture… h-how shameless—! You two need to be punished, no, expelled—!”
“President, please calm down! Lower your voice—!”
If someone overheard the president’s cries before the door closed, things could quickly go from bad to worse.
“S-Shut your mouth—! Anyway, y-you two hurry up and get off each other—!”
Shouting, the president approached Hayato and Emil.
“We understand already, so Prez, please cal—… m…”
Hayato, who had pulled himself away from Emil and was trying to get off the bed in a hurry, instead caught his foot in the sheets in his rush, losing his balance in the process.
He tumbled from the bed.
The next thing that could be heard was the president’s shriek.
His vision shook and grew dark.
Lost in the darkness, he felt a sensation on his lips, something sweet and soft.
Don’t tell me…
He remembered this feeling from when Emilia had kissed him two days ago…
Emilia’s shriek pierced his ears. Opening his eyelids, Claire Harvey’s blushing face revealed itself to his eyes.
Raising his head, Hayato could see Emilia, trembling in rage as she stabbed a finger in his direction.
“H-H-H-HAYATO, YOU IDIOT—! YOU CHEATER—! EVEN THOUGH YOU WERE FLIRTING WITH ME JUST A MOMENT AGO, NOW YOU’RE KISSING PREZ—?!”
That confirmed it.
What he’d felt just moments ago had been the president’s lips.
“Another of my firsts, and you…”
“Ah, sorry about…”
“Before apologizing, first get off of me…”
Hayato rose to feet in a hurry. Claire sat up on the spot with her eyes cast down.
“That… was really just an accident, so please forgive me…”
“I said I understand—! That’s why you don’t need to apologize or worry yourself over it—”
Her voice trailed off. This was a development he hadn’t seen coming; on the contrary, he’d thought she’d be outraged, as she had been when he’d touched her breasts during their duel. Instead, as she lifted her head, he caught tears brimming in her green eyes.
Emil seemed just as taken aback as Hayato.
“Prez sure is kind to Hayato…”
“Kind… What are you implying… This is——Well, this time, it really was just an accident, right?!”
“Even if you put it like that… Anyway, what brought you here in the first place?”
“I-I wanted to make sure that you had moved out as directed and deliver this Selections badge at the same time… B-But then you two were openly flirting…”
“And if we were flirting, what business is that of yours, President? Is there a rule that prohibits impure sexual relationships?”
“Not only had you already specifically promised not to enter this room, school regulations explicitly forbid girls from entering the male dorms!”
“In that case, how are you here right now?”
“I’m the student council president, so it’s fine. I wield executive authority over the student body.”
“So it’s only okay to flirt with and kiss Hayato if you’re the president? That’s dishonest.”
“Kiss… As you know, that was an acc… A-And it’s a sign of deep affection in Liberia and—— Kisaragi Hayato is the first member of the opposite sex I’ve ever kissed aside from relatives…”
Thoroughly embarrassed, Claire’s voice grew softer and softer as she spoke while the expression on Emilia’s face turned ever more rigid.
“…Uh, is something wrong?”
“…Won’t you kiss me?” Emilia asked, standing directly in front of him.
“Wha—, What are you saying at a time like this—?!”
“Don’t worry about that; let’s just do it. Your lips on my lips!”
Grabbing Hayato by the shoulders, her face closed in on his.
“Again, what the hell—?!”
“You were fine kissing Prez! So you shouldn’t have any problems kissing me too. Anyway, when you fell earlier it was likely the recoil from using your Variant abilities earlier, which is all the more reason we need to do this.”
“This is different…”
Objectively speaking, he’d simply tripped on the sheets in his scramble to get away, but Emilia wouldn’t hear it.
Actually, why does she look so angry?
Hayato didn’t get it.
“C’mon, Hayato. Let’s kiss. If we don’t act quickly, you’ll faint. If it’s for the sake of virus delivery, then it’s hardly anything indecent, so not even the prez would mind.”
“I would! And just what do you mean by ‘virus delivery’…?”
“Didn’t I tell you yesterday? Once a Variant has activated their abilities, their physical condition becomes unstable. The most effective countermeasure is the transmission of the Virus carried within the body of a fellow Variant. That’s why Hayato and I kissed during the battle against that huge Savage. Hayato and I have kissed on many other occasions too, you know?”
“’Many’ you say… Since when is three ‘many’?!”
Claire’s tone attested to the loss of her cool.
“Anyway, Hayato; let’s make it four times. I won’t lose to Prez.”
“I-I won’t let you—! Release Kisaragi Hayato at once—!”
Flabbergasted by the pair who had locked arms while glaring murderously at one another, Hayato wondered how things had reached this point.
Deep within his heart, he came to the realization that the future before him was going to be rife with trouble.
The top floor of a high-class hotel in the heart of Angel City, the largest city on the West coast of the federal state of Liberia. Through the window located on one side of the suite, one could gaze out from the skyscraper which, though it was the dead of night, continued to shine brilliantly. A scene so breathtaking that one could not help but give voice to their awestruck wonder.
However, one girl wasn’t interested. Seated on a sofa situated amid a spacious living room, she was gazing intently at a monitor installed on the wall.
The young girl had a cute face. She was dressed in a frilly pink negligee and was clutching a large, stuffed penguin.
When it came to the content of the video displayed on the monitor she was so studiously watching, however, it didn’t seem to be something a young girl would be interested in; indeed, it even seemed at odds with her cute appearance. Portrayed on the screen were the figures of the Slayers engaged against the Savage that had landed on the Zwei Archipelago in the heart of François territory in the South Pacific Ocean three days prior.
“Souffle, would you come over for a bit?”
As the girl raised her voice, a woman wearing a suit and thin glasses – the very picture of a businesswoman – instantly appeared from the next room over. As with her tidy clothing, the eyes behind her glasses didn’t reveal the least hint of fatigue despite the late hour. Her trim appearance gave the impression that, the time notwithstanding, she was still at work.
“What can I do for you, Sakura?”
“The people that saved us the day before yesterday——”
“They were Slayers from Little Garden.”
Even as she replied, Souffle, noticing what video was playing on the monitor, grew stern.
“Where did you get this?” she questioned forcefully.
Footage of Slayers fighting the Savage was never made available to the public. International law classified any such material and prohibitions against its display were very strict.
“It was uploaded to cyberspace.”
Dangling her legs over the sofa, Sakura tilted her head in the direction of a PDA atop a desk with a snort.
Cyberspace was a construct that existed on top of the cybernet. It was a service allowing for people all over the world to freely distribute self-made media such as pictures, videos, and music.
Simply put, the video in question had been recorded by a bystander and illegally uploaded. A closer inspection of the video revealed some rough edges and occasional jarring movement.
“On that note, what exactly is Little Garden?”
Souffle sighed. Sakura’s curiosity knew no bounds.
What should I do, I wonder…
Souffle debated whether or not to answer the question, but came to the conclusion that Sakura could find this information on the cybernet anyway. In fact, if she didn’t answer, Sakura would likely do just that.
“Little Garden is a military installation under the control of the Warslan Company, the world-famous defense contractor. It apparently doubles as both a forward base and a Slayer training facility.”
“You wouldn’t happen to know where Little Garden can be found, would you?”
“That’s a very worrying question, isn’t it?”
“If even you don’t know, then this place must be classified, right? Is it a military installation then? Would you be unable to find its location on the cybernet or a cybermap?”
“It’s not just a matter of not knowing its location; Little Garden is an aircraft carrier – something like a mobile megafloat. That’s why I have no way of knowing its precise location right this moment. I imagine it cruises throughout the Pacific Ocean…”
“I want to go there.”
“What are you——”
Souffle frowned in concern at the sudden demand. Unconcerned, Sakura continued her plea.
“Please, Souffle. I want to go to Little Garden; I want to personally thank the Slayers who rescued us from the Savage. That’s why I want you to take me to Little Garden. We have some free time before the next recording after all.”
Kirishima Sakura, the world-famous idol hailing from the Yamato Empire, pleaded with her manager, Souffle Clearrail, with a devilish grin on her face.
Translator notes and references
Chamomile: Black tea uses the leaves of the camellia plant, and is thus a “true” tea unlike chamomile tea, which is made from the chamomile flower (The katakana 100% read chamomile, though.).