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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk Vol 6 Chapter 2

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Chapter 2 – Dear People

Floating Airport on the North Kanto Multiplex’s Crater Lake.

In a special lounge, Ayato and company were waiting for the boarding time.

“I was wondering why I wasn’t informed of the details no matter how much I asked, but I didn’t expect that the royal family’s private plane would be sent… Given the situation, it isn’t brother’s own discretion. Really, I feel uneasy about what will happen in the future.”

Julis, with her hand put on her waist as is, complained to herself.

Ahead of her gaze ── on the runway on the other side of the glass, was the figure of the scheduled airplane which Ayato and the others would board from here on. A complicated national emblem was drawn on the fuselage flank. According to Julis, it seemed that a red rose on a golden background shield was the crest of the Riessfeld House, with an eagle holding a crown being the crest of the old royal family of the Barzelunia House, and crests of several other royal families interlaced on it became the national emblem of the present Lieseltania.

“Even though there is no airport, there is a royal family private plane?”

“The role of royalty is solely foreign trips. As expected, it’ll be troublesome without at least that. Well, we depend on the neighboring country for the management and maintenance, but… there are a lot of troublesome circumstances in that area. I’ll explain it later.”

At Ayato’s question, Julis answered so with a sigh.

“Fufufu, Lieseltania’s circumstances are slightly complicated after all… Now then, we shall get ready soon.”

Claudia clapped her hands and looked around at everyone.

Since Lester refused to come in the end, going to Lieseltania were Julis, Ayato, Claudia, Saya and Kirin.

With New Year’s Eve just around the corner, it was crowded everywhere in the airport; but this special lounge for VIP had been reserved for Ayato and the others. It seemed that this was also arranged by Julis’ brother, and there seemed to be an exclusive boarding bridge for boarding, and they were grateful that they would proceed without standing out thanks to it.

Since they were going outside of Asterisk, everyone was naturally dressed in casual clothes, and they didn’t wear school badges which they were usually obligated to carry. The four girls were dressed differently: Julis was dressed in a silk dress; Claudia wore a mini-skirt, a knit turtleneck, and tights; Saya wore denim short pants, a parka, and leggings; and Kirin wore pants (trousers) and a large sweater.

By the way, Ayato had an extremely plain appearance consisting of a collared shirt, jeans and a jacket.

“Oh yes, everyone; please confirm that the carrying out procedures of luxes have been properly completed.”

As Claudia said so, they took out their portable terminals to confirm the application data.

The character of approval was properly written there.

Despite the awareness in Asterisk, an approval was needed for possession of a lux above a certain power level. It was also the same when carrying it in and out of the country. That was particularly strict for ogre luxes, such as Ayato’s , and though the application passed, it was most time consuming.

Speaking of this point, Claudia’s should have also been the same, but it seemed that a temporary free pass was issued to her by the Integrated Enterprise Foundation as a special case.

“Speaking of which, Julis hasn’t applied for anything, right?”

“Yes, the new model lux which I’m testing now is a technology that hasn’t yet been made public. So I can’t readily take it out.”

Julis said so and smiled wryly.

“More importantly, it seems to have been quite troublesome for Kirin.”

“Ah, yes… But, it somehow went well.”

It seemed that a procedure different from a lux’s was required for Kirin’s Senbakiri, and she met fairly unexpected difficulties.

“Well, it isn’t Asterisk, so I don’t think that there will be many opportunities to use our weapons, but… wait, huh?”

Just then, Ayato’s portable terminal informed him of a call.

When he took it out wondering who it might be──

“Eh…?”

His hand unintentionally stopped at the unexpected name.

“?”

“Ayato, what’s the matter?”

“N-No, it’s nothi──”

But, by the momentum from him trying to hide it from Saya, who wonderingly tilted her head to the side and looked into his hand, Ayato’s finger pressed a button.

“Yoo-hoo, Ayato-kun. Do you have a little time now?”

The space window opened, and projected Sylvia with a cheerful smile.

“──!?”

At the same time, surprise and strain ran among everyone.

“Geez, it’s because you didn’t contact me even once even though it was you who asked for my contact address… huh?”

Sylvia, suddenly seeming to notice the commotion on the other side of the space window, lowered her eyebrows slightly awkwardly and said to Ayato.

“Arara… were you by any chance busy?”

“Ah, no… it isn’t really that, but…”

Not knowing how to answer, he gave such an evasive answer for the time being.

Since the communication just came from only a mere acquaintance, there wasn’t anything particularly underhanded. Of course, even if the fact that the other party wasn’t an ordinary person, but the world famous Diva Sylvia Lyyneheym, all the people present here already knew that Ayato had become acquainted with Sylvia.

But, when asked the details of how he and Sylvia had become acquainted, Ayato had made up several reasons and dodged the questions. This was because he had promised Sylvia not to tell anyone about it.

Thanks to that, he had been persistently questioned by Julis and Saya for a time, but it had finally subsided recently.

And now he received her call at this timing.

“Look here, if it isn’t the . It’s been since the ’s closing ceremony, hasn’t it?”

Claudia took a step forward and smiled at Sylvia.

“Yes, that’s right. We didn’t have the chance to chat much there, so I feel like it’s been a longer time, but… You seem to be doing quite well, .”

“If you had shown up at the Rikka Garden Council for a little while, we could have talked though.”

“Hahaha… it hurts when you tell me that.”

Perhaps because they were old acquaintances, Claudia and Sylvia naturally exchanged words.

Then Julis broke in.

“By the way ── what kind of business does the Queen Veil Girl’s Academy Student Council President have with our Ayato?”

“Fufufu, don’t make such a scary face, Riessfeld-san.”

Sylvia smoothly eluded Julis’ sharp gaze and returned her gaze to Ayato.

“I don’t have business with Ayato-kun as the Student Council President, but just as the individual Sylvia Lyyneheym.”

“Individual, you say…?”

“Yes. ──So, Ayato-kun? I’ll repeat myself, but why didn’t you contact me? It isn’t really like I helped you expecting thanks, but not even contacting me after that slightly hurts, you know?”

Sylvia said to Ayato as she lovingly pouted.

Contrary to her words, her tone implied that she was teasing and did not mean to blame Ayato at all.

“Errr, that’s… I’m sorry. Sylvie seemed busy, so I felt a little hesitant. If I’m not mistaken, you are currently touring, right?”

While feeling a little relieved, he explained the reason.

It was true that he thought of wanting to thank her somehow or other, but after the end of the , Ayato was busy with this and that, and by the time things had settled down, Sylvia had already departed for the Asian Tour. She should still be in the middle of it even now, so it was really unexpected that she would contact him.

Though they exchanged contact addresses, their direct acquaintance was only that once after all. Moreover, the other party was the diva of the century and the world’s top idol. He understood that the person herself had a candid personality, but even so it would normally be an impossible story.

“Hmm, so you paid attention to it. All right, in that case, I’ll forgive you.”

Sylvia nodded with a smile as she said so.

“And so, whenever things calm down on your side, I’ll contact you this time for sure. It’s true that I want to thank you after all. If I remember correctly, right now… you’re in Thailand, right?”

“Yes, Bangkok. My return there (Asterisk) is scheduled in the next month, but at this rate, it looks like it’ll be slightly delayed. At any rate, thank me, huh… Ah, then Ayato-kun. I’ve one request, if you would hear it?”

“A request? Well, if it’s something I can do, then…”

Then, Sylvia teasingly winked.

“Don’t worry, it’s not that much. I mean, there is a school festival next year, right?”

“Yes, I’ve heard that there is such an event in spring. I’ve never participated in it before, so I don’t really know though.”

After all, this year’s school festival was already over when Ayato enrolled.

In common schools, a school festival was probably a big event, but needless to say that in Asterisk, what was given top priority was the . Therefore, the school festival seemed to be held in the spring when not a single was held. Even so, he heard that it was so lively that by no means did it lose to the .

“Yes, won’t you go on a date with me there?”

“He~e, a date, huh. Yes, I can at least… huh, a date!?”

Since Sylvia said it so indifferently, he reflexively nodded, but then immediately realized what was said and asked again in confusion.

“Ah, I’m relieved. I’ll properly disguise myself like last time.”

But, it was a subtly evasive answer which had returned.

“I don’t mean that!”

Seeing Ayato flustered, Sylvia happily shrugged her shoulders as she chuckled, but Julis, Saya and Kirin who raised their eyes broke in there.

“W-Wait a moment! What the hell do you mean by that?!”

“…I can’t ignore that.”

Claudia folded her arms and smiled wryly as she took a step back, but Kirin stared at Ayato with an anxious look.

“Even if you ask me what I mean, I only want to know Ayato-kun better. Of course, if Ayato-kun has a girlfriend, then I retract my request since I’ll feel bad for her. How about it?”

“No, I don’t have a girlfriend, but…”

“What a relief. Then, there’s really no problem, right? I’ll contact you again to give you the details when I’m back.”

Sylvia slightly waved her hands while saying so, and the space window shut down with a snapping sound.

“Ah! Wait, Sylvie!”

Ayato’s voice resounded in vain, and instead several painful gazes ran into his back.

“…Well, for the time being, it’s boarding time. Let’s go. ──What, we’ve a lot of time anyway. You’ll tell us the story in detail in the plane.”

To Julis’ thorny voice, Ayato felt cold sweat run down his back.

- ψ -

“──Sorry. As expected, I can’t break my promise.”

When Ayato decisively said so, Julis greatly sighed.

“Good grief… Well, it’s you we’re talking about. I had guessed you might say that.”

“…You really are stubborn, Ayato.”

Saya smiled wryly as she somewhat gave up, too.

“Now, now, that’s also Ayato’s good side after all.”

Claudia said so and clapped her hands. As to mean, ‘with this, this topic is over’.

Ayato heaved a sigh of relief, and leaned his back on the fluffy sofa type seat.

As expected of the private plane that the royalty used; the room had a luxurious interior design hardly thinkable to be inside a plane, and was surprisingly comfortable. Naturally, at the time of taking off and landing they were required to go back to the normal seats, but right now everyone was relaxing around a table.

──No, to be exact, there was at least one person which this didn't qualify to.

“By the way… How is your physical condition, Kirin-chan?”

Ayato called out like so to Kirin who sat next to him.

“Y-Yes… Thank you, I’m all right…”

Kirin answered with a powerless smile and didn’t appear to be all right at all, contrary to her words. Her face had turned pale, and upon closer inspection her feet were slightly trembling.

“I’m sorry to worry you… S-Since I was child, I-I’ve had a great fear of planes…”

“You don't have to force yourself. You can return and lie down on your seat.”

Since the normal seats could recline, it would certainly be better if she lay down there.

“N-No, I’m calmer when I’m with everyone.”

To Julis’ words of concern, Kirin feebly shook her head.

When she was wondered why Kirin had not been feeling well all day long, this appeared to be the reason.

──And,

“Kyah!”

The plane suddenly shook, and Kirin fell down on Ayato.

Kirin vigorously hit her face on Ayato’s thigh and held her nose with a frown.

“Aww…”

“Are you, all right, Kirin-chan?”

“Y-Yes, somehow… huh, waah!?”

Kirin's eyes widened in surprise, and she immediately tried to raise her body in a state of panic, but she once again fell right away on Ayato’s knees as she couldn’t muster strength in her arms.

It was the so-called ‘lap pillow’ situation.

“U-Um, s-sorry…! I’ll immediately…”

Kirin said in panic while turning her eyes around, but Ayato put his hand on her head with a wry smile.

“It’s fine, Kirin-chan. You’ll be more at ease like this, so you can stay like this until you calm down.”

“Eh!? B-But…!”

“It’s fine, just stay like that.”

When Ayato gently stroked her soft silver hair, Kirin apologetically ── and yet somewhat happily too nodded slightly.

“Gunuh…”

“Kuh…”

Saya and Julis were looking at them with eyes seeming to want to say something, but Claudia once again opened her mouth so as to change the atmosphere in the place.

“Now then, there is something I would like to consult everyone here with, if that is all right?”

Though her tone was calm, it had a serious ring to it.

Everyone noticing it turned their eyes towards her.

“I think that everyone already knows, but… by consultation, I mean to speak about next year’s . To everyone present here, I would like you to participate in the as my team members.”

As Claudia took a short pause once there, she turned to Ayato.

“I had invited Ayato earlier. His answer at that time was──”

“Only if Julis agreed to join.”

Ayato answered before Claudia finished her sentence.

“Does that feeling stay unchanged even now?”

“Yes, it does.”

When Ayato asserted so, Julis nodded while slightly blushing.

“W-Well, I guess it’s not surprising coming from you.”

“Then, Julis. What do you say?”

Claudia directed her attention to Julis.

“Before that, there is also something I want to ask.”

“Yes, what is it?”

“Why are you so fixated on the ? With your level of skill, you should be able to win the or the. But, since your appearance to the last , you didn’t show any behavior to participate in the previous and .”

Ayato had also wondered about that. In another perspective, there was also a rumor that it was because she made such a contract with the Integrated Enterprise Foundation, but he could not feel the will to participate in other tournaments from Claudia herself.

“You’re right. Certainly, I would be able to win be it the or the . However ── it’ll probably be difficult to win. In that case, it’s no good.”

“Do you mean to say it’ll be possible if it’s the ?”

“Yes, as long as I have reliable comrades though.”

Claudia affirmed with a smile.

“I will tell you more than this only when you all decide to become my teammates. Since it’s related to my and this child’s weakness.”

Saying so, Claudia lightly tapped the holder on her waist.

The activation body of the ogre lux was likely settled there.

“…The future foresight’s weakness?”

Saya quizzically frowned.

was an ogre lux of a level which there were hardly any people that didn’t know of it due to its overwhelming ability, but when it came to the details of its ability, no one really knew.

Even if you are able to foresee, exactly how far ahead can you foresee? How many times can you use it? Regarding that those questions, even the well-informed Eishiro seemed to know only rumors.

Ayato had also heard about the price (of using the ability) from Claudia before, but he was told nothing about the ability.

“Fufufu, there exists no invincible weapon in this world.”

“But, President is fairly strong even without , right?”

Kirin inclined only her head and timidly said.

Her complexion looked slightly better and, though only a little, her voice seemed to have regained some strength.

“No, no, my power without isn’t worth much. That’s precisely why I need strong comrades. After all, if I intend to win in the , I must defeat those .”

‘Silver Wings Knights’ did not only point at the St. Garrardsworth Academy’s (s), but it was also the name of the strongest team that Garrardsworth, which specialized in group battle, was proud of. Two teams, team N°1 and team N°2 were composed of members from rank #1 to rank #10, and team N°1 achieved victory in the last .

Of course, the members would probably be different from last time, but the rank #1, , and rank #2, , who formed its core would remain. They would definitely be the greatest favorite this time, too.

“From World Dragon, Zhao HuFeng and Cecily Won who formed the tag-team that won the before you’d appear. Moreover in that World Dragon’s team, I hear that the best disciple of will also participate.”

“Ah, you mean the rank #2, , huh. I hear that he’s skillful to a fearful degree.”

“Also, Rusalka of Queen Veil can’t be underestimated… With that said, with only what we know now, there are a lot of strong contestants, and there are powerful enemy teams which will be coming out from now on. Please keep this secret, but the revival of the mercenary system also seems to be up for consideration in the next , so we don’t know from where an ambush would appear.”

“Mercenary?”

Ayato asked this, as those were words he had never heard before, and Julis sullenly answered.

“It’s a system to let people outside of Asterisk participate in the . Naturally, there are various restrictions, but it may be adopted in order to preserve the scale of the . Especially in the where, compared with other , the number of participants tends to be lower.”

From the viewpoint of maintaining the performance-like climax, a certain participation quota was established for each academy in the , but as for this quota, trading between academies was accepted. Specifically, it was as such: World Dragon, where there were many students and the quota was not sufficient, bought from Queen Veil where the quota was in excess and there was little number of students[1].

But, for the , you had to first gather members and then must have them undergo training so that they can work as a team; as such, the hurdle here was higher than the other . Hence, there were cases where the quota was not filled.

“Since the matter of mercenaries is a problem related to the foundation of the , it’s carefully handled; although it’ll be able liven up the atmosphere, there will be positive and negative impressions.”

When inquiring further in detail, the mercenaries were temporarily given a membership as students by each academy, and could also participate in the only once. Even the points given to them by the attached academy seemed to be much less than the regular students’. Because the age limit was also conformed to that of a regular student, it went up to 22 years old.

“…In short, supplement participants?”

As Saya also did not know about this system, she put on an expression showing that she did not quite understand.

“You shouldn’t take it lightly. Among the past mercenaries, there were a lot of people who experienced actual combat such as the children soldiers of the major Private Military Companies (PMC). In such cases, they were much stronger than the up-and-coming students.”

“If I remember correctly, I heard that quite long ago, mercenaries nearly won the and because of that, there have been many complications.”

When Kirin said so, Claudia nodded in agreement.

“Since then, the mercenary system has repeated the cycle of disappearing and being revived. Well, if it’s Chairman Madiath Mesa, I think he will properly deal with it…”

“Anyway, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a troublesome thing. Certainly, it won’t be easy to win the next .”

Julis said so and looked straight at Claudia.

“…Phew, I got it. I’ll participate in your team. I had no reason to decline from the beginning.”

“Thank you, Julis. But… it’s also available to the rest of you; it is fine even if you don’t give your answer right now.”

“Even though you’re the one who is asking.”

Julis frowned with a “what are you saying” face.

Then, it was unusual for Claudia to reveal some hesitation in her pupils.

“Now ── I just want to confirm everyone’s intention. Let me see… Well then, let’s assume the time that this trip ends is the time limit. After all, something might happen and you have a change of heart. Until that time, you don't have to worry about it.”

Claudia immediately returned to her usual smile, but her way of talking was somewhat unusual.

Julis and company, having probably understood it, looked at each other with somewhat dubious faces.

- ψ -

The damage from the was relatively small in the European area, and the metropolises were also developed and preserved as those of the old century. However, since they could not escape from the flow of population concentration, the disparity was notable with mid-sized cities and below.

Transfer by railway from Munich Airport only took one hour, and Ayato and company arrived at Saya’s house earlier than expected. Even so, time had already passed into the evening and the sun was gradually setting. So they decided to stay at Saya’s house for today.

Saya’s house was a detached two-storied building in the Munich suburbs. Though it seemed to be an old private house of brickwork which had been remodeled, as expected it looked too old to live in as is; so considerable effort was put into rebuilding it. Upon close inspection, various kinds of sensors were installed in the premises and the entranceway, and one could tell that it was a fairly strict security.

The temperature in southern Germany was low and although it was really sunny today, there was a lot of snow piled up on the way.

Honestly speaking, it was quite cold.

“…I’m back.”

“Oh, so you’re finally back, my stupid daughter.”

Saya stood at the front and cancelled the sensors and locks and opened the door. Welcoming Ayato and company was Saya’s mother ── Kaya. She held an electronic cigarette in her mouth and her hair was roughly gathered on the back of her head.

“Kaya-san, long time no see.”

“Yes. Long time no see, Ayato. You’ve become a fine man.”

Kaya said so and revealed a carefree smile.

Her slender figure and features looked a lot like Saya’s, but she was quite tall, probably almost around Ayato’s height. She was so young that it was hard to think that she was Saya’s mother.

“Mrs. Sasamiya, we will be under your care today.”

Claudia stepped forward and deeply bowed her head.

“Thank you for your politeness. You’re Seidoukan Student Council President, right?”

“Yes. My name is Claudia Enfield.”

“U-Um, I’m──”

At the moment when Kirin was going to introduce herself after Claudia.

『My, my, you can’t stand around talking in the doorway. Anyway, come in.』

“Hiyaah!?”

Suddenly, a semi-transparent figure of a man appeared next to Kaya and Kirin, who let out a surprised, cute scream.

“Hey Soichi-san, they’ll be surprised if you suddenly come out like that.”

『Oh, sorry, sorry. Since I could see them from the side, I just…』

Being glared at by Kaya, the man scratched his head.

He was around 50. His figure which wore glasses and grew a beard mostly matched that of Saya’s father Sasamiya Soichi that was in Ayato’s memory.

──If you excluded the fact that it was insubstantial, that is.

“A holograph, huh…”

Julis muttered to herself.

They knew that Soichi lost his body in an accident during research since they heard it from Saya after the end of the . However, now that it was before their eyes now, they didn't know what to say.

『Hahaha, don’t make such a face, Ayato-kun. I did certainly lose my flesh-and-blood body, but it’s not really that much of an inconvenience. Rather, this way is more suitable for my luxes’ production.』

“…Yes.”

To Soichi who laughed loudly, Ayato returned a wry smile.

“Well, as Soichi-san said, we can’t stand around talking at the entrance. For the time being, come in. It isn’t much, but I also prepared dinner.”

Being guided by Kaya as such, they proceeded to the living room.

The attire of the room which was functional and where there weren’t so many things hadn’t changed from the past. On the table conspicuously placed in the center, dishes were lined up in a row.

“I usually make only the portion I eat. So, I was happy to have the opportunity to display my ability after such a long time. Here, sit, sit.”

When they arrived at the table being urged by Kaya, Julis and Kirin introduced themselves once again.

“My name is Julis-Alexia van Riessfeld. I am very grateful for Saya…san’s family to take care of us.”

“I never thought that the Princess of the country neighboring to ours would have come over. It’s a small house, but please relax.”

“U-Um, I’m Toudou Kirin. I was really helped by Saya in the , too…”

“Hahaha, you don’t need to be so humble. Rather, didn’t our child cause you any trouble?”

“N-No, hardly…!”

Kirin buzzingly shook her head.

“Honestly, I didn’t expect you to make it till the semifinals.”

『Fufufu, I believed it though.』

“Sochi-san, it’s because you’re just a doting parent, geez.”

While smiling wryly, Kaya moved as to tap Soichi’s shoulder.

Although there was a great difference between their ages, this husband and wife pair was close as usual.

『Well, after all thanks to you, lots of offers flooded (in) from research institutes and enterprises here and there to my place, too. It’s indeed a good feeling. Well, I turned them all down though.』

Soichi who said so looked very satisfied.

“Turned them down… why is that?”

『It’s enough for me if the luxes I made are highly evaluated. Of course, money is necessary to live by, but I’m not so poor for the time being.』

“If I’m not mistaken, Sasamiya-sensei participated as a development assistant in Galaxy’s research facilities, right?”

『Hou, you’re well-informed, eh.』

At these words, Soichi opened his eyes wide in surprise.

Claudia’s parents were big shots of Galaxy, so she might also be well-informed in that area.

“That reminds me, Soichi-ojisan. This House also has a laboratory, right?”

『Yes, it’s in the basement. I prepared a facility which can’t compare with the one of the house in Japan. My main body is there, and the factory is operating even now as we speak.』

“…Dad invested all the compensation payment of the accident in there.”

“Good grief”, Saya shrugged her shoulders as she sighed.

『That’s right! In any case, I’ll have to adjust Saya’s luxes after this. Since it’s a rare opportunity, I want to show you how amazing──』

“Yes, yes, let’s leave it for later. More importantly, let’s dig in without delay. I’ll go warm the soup.”

Kaya said in order to hold back the enthusiastic Soichi, and the lively meal began before long.

Even Kirin, who was nervous at first, soon relaxed and had fun talking about the and Flora’s rescue.

As for Kaya’s meal, a Japanese-style meal was at the center and it had a delicate seasoning which ── though it was rude to say this ── did not match her easy-going character. Plaice[2] boiled in soy sauce, and rolled eggs, though plain, were both delicious, but for Ayato, it was above all a taste which felt nostalgic.

In Ayato’s house, his big sister took over in place of their mother. But still, as expected it was difficult for a student to handle all of the housework every day. And since Haruka also had training to do, all the more so.

Therefore, both Ayato and Haruka were often under the care of the Sasamiya house which was their neighbors.

For Ayato, it might be said that the image of harmony was rather closer here than in his home.

(It’s really nostalgic, eh…)

Ayato savored the taste before he realized it while loosening his cheeks.

- ψ -

“Now then, I’ll guide you to the rooms.”

A while after they finished dinner, Kaya said so and stood up.

“Just for note, there are two vacant rooms for guests on the second floor and I’m thinking to have you use them, but are you all right with two people for each room?”

“Yes. There is no problem.”

Though Claudia answered in everyone’s stead, Kaya slightly frowned.

“But you know… how will we assign the rooms? Even if it’s already good since Saya will use hers…”

“Assign the rooms?”

While saying that, Ayato suddenly came to a realization.

If two people shared one room, and Saya already had her own room, then he would inevitably──

“I see. In that case, I’ll use a room together with Ayato.”

“Eeeh!?”

“Wha!? Wait a moment, Claudia! W-What are you saying all of a sudden?”

“Ara, is there any problem?”

Julis flustered tried to stop her, but Claudia wonderingly tilted her head to the side.

“Of course, there is a big problem! F-For a man and woman of the same age to sleep in the same room is, um…”

“Fufufu, it’s all right. After all, I believe in Ayato. Right, Ayato?”

“No, well…”

Ayato revealed a cramped smile as he escaped from her meaningful gaze.

Though it was the usual thing, he didn’t know at all how far Claudia’s utterance was serious.

“Or can’t Julis trust Ayato?”

“Ugh…! T-That’s not right! Of course, I believe in Ayato, but t-this and that are different matters, I mean…”

Julis mumblingly faltered.

“I-I also believe in Ayato-senpai!”

There, Kirin with a deep red face suddenly bent herself forward.

“Oh my, in that case shall I leave him to you, Toudou-san?”

“Eh? T-That’s, um…”

Kirin looked downward for a moment, and then looked at Ayato with upturned eyes while bashfully shaking her small body.

“B-But, if A-Ayato-senpai is fine with it, then I…”

“Eh…?”

“I see. It’d certainly be better to have Ayato choose.”

Claudia clapped her hands and Julis also looked with a sidelong glance as she glared at Ayato while blushing.

“Errr…”

This was a situation where it was impossible for Ayato to safely come through no matter how he answered.

He could not help but feel like running away, but he keenly felt a pressure which did not allow even that.

“Ah by the way, I won’t mind even if you are to do something to me. In fact, I’ll welcome it.”

“No, I won’t!”

He reflexively retorted to Claudia who calmly said that.

──Then.

“…Mom, stop teasing us.”

Saya who said so with a sigh turned a blaming gaze towards Kaya.

“Ayato should just simply use my room. Like that, it’s settled.”

“…Ah”

At her words, the air, which froze for an instant, flowed to the place again.

It was quite plausible now that she said it.

Considering that there were three rooms, it wasn’t necessary at all for Ayato to share a room with a girl in the first place.

“Hahahaha! Sorry, sorry, I couldn’t help myself.”

“Fufufu, then let’s do that. It’s a little regrettable though.”

Kaya burst into laughter as she could no longer bear it, and Claudia as well smiled while shrugging her shoulders. Since there was no way that she would not notice such a simple thing, she was probably teasing them from the beginning.

“……”

On the other hand, Julis and Kirin turned their faces away somewhat embarrassed.

- ψ -

Saya’s room almost didn’t change since when they were children and there was almost nothing put in there. Beside a bed, a desk and a portable terminal, there was hardly anything which stood out.

Naturally since she currently lived in the dormitory, it was a fact that she carried a part of her luggage; but he guessed that her room in the dormitory was probably not so different from her room here. With the exception that the dormitory room would probably have a case where she stored her luxes.

Even when she was child, aside from fiddling with a lux, Saya did not have a hobby which could be called so (hobby). Though it was probably also because of her father’s influence, it should not be only that.

While being illuminated by the moonlight coming in through the window, Ayato who lay down on the bed was vaguely thinking about such things.

It was now late at night.

In the other rooms, the others were probably already asleep.

However, for some reason Ayato could not fall asleep, and was immersed in endless thought.

(I wonder if it’s because I met dear people after a long time…)

Not sleeping might impede him tomorrow; but it was not a bad feeling.

──And.

“…Ngh”

The room’s door suddenly opened and someone unsteadily walked in.

“!”

Ayato was about to get up promptly, but he immediately lowered his guard as he realized who it was.

“What, it’s Saya, huh. What is it at such a time?”

Although he did not notice at first because it was dusky, it was certainly Saya.

However, without even answering to Ayato’s call, she slowly walked towards him with unsteady steps.

“Saya…?”

“Ngh…”

It looked like she was half asleep.

Saya who came while drowsily dozing off with half-closed eyes, collapsed in the bed with a *thud* sound. Ayato hurriedly stopped Saya who was about to crawl into the futon.

“W-Wait a moment, Saya! It’s bad!”

Upon closer inspection, Saya had pulled down her pajamas, and it was a quite suggestive appearance as her shoulders as well as her stomach were exposed

While being troubled at where to look, Ayato shook her body trying to wake her up, but Saya showed no signs of waking up at all.

“Haa… Saya’s bad habit of sleepwalking hasn’t changed, huh…”

Having said that, since he couldn’t leave her just as is, he had no choice but to use his last resort.

“I hope it’ll still work though.”

As he slightly pinched her nose, Saya's face and peaceful sleeper’s breathing changed completely. She knitted her brows and reluctantly shook her head, but Ayato did not let go.

When they were children, this was the best way to wake Saya, but it seemed to be still effective now, too.

“…PUHA!”

Saya, whose face turned red before long, vigorously got up.

“You finally woke up, huh…”

“? …Hmm?”

Saya restlessly looked around as a question mark appeared over her head.

But, after staring at Ayato’s face for a full ten seconds when she noticed him next to her──

“Ayato…? Why are you… ah! Don’t tell me you crawled into my bed at night?”

She unnaturally hugged the futon with a somewhat happy face for some reason.

“No! It’s you who came in on your own accord!”

“Huh? But, this is my room…”

“This is certainly your room, but it was decided that I’ll be using it today!”

“…Oh.”

As she finally understood, she tapped her hand with a *pon* sound.

“…It looks like I woke up to go to the toilet and on the way back, I ended up coming here.”

“Well, I’ve already figured out that it was something like that.”

When Ayato said that with a wry smile, Saya bowed her head.

“…Sorry, Ayato. Did I wake you?”

“No, I couldn’t fall asleep anyway. For some reason, I was remembering various things of the past.”

“Past…?”

Then, Saya hung her head down with a somewhat pondering face.

“…Saya?”

“──Ayato. Can we talk for just a little bit?”

“Ah, yes. I don’t mind, but… What is it so suddenly?”

When Saya turned around to Ayato, she opened her mouth after she hesitated for an instant.

“I have wanted to apologize to Ayato since a long time ago...”

“Apologize…? About what?”

Since he had no idea at all about what it was, he frankly asked back.

“…After I moved, you and I kept in contact. Do you remember?”

“Of course.”

Even after Saya moved, Ayato normally contacted her with a portable terminal. No matter how far away you lived from each other, there were as many ways as you wanted to keep in contact in the modern era. There was the problem of time difference so could not be frequent; but even so they had initially decided to contact each other about once every three days.

However before they knew, it gradually turned into once a week, then once a month when half a year passed, until such exchanges naturally stopped at last.

There was a time of loneliness, and although she was child, she remembered that she thought that it was probably inevitable.

“…It became painful to continue like that, so I decided to cut contact.”

“Eh? Was it like that?”

He did not remember it that way, but now that she mentioned it, the number of times that he got contacted by Saya was few.

“After all…we were playing together every day before, and yet we could only talk after I moved. And for just a short time at that. At first, it was pleasant even like that, but it became immediately painful for me. That’s why I thought… until the day we’ll be able to meet again properly.”

As she remembered those days, Saya muttered with a despondent face.

“But, I don’t really mind that…”

“──It isn’t only that.”

Saya shook her head and continued with a sad expression.

“If we had kept in contact all along, I might have been your strength when Haru-nee disappeared.”

“──”

To these unexpected words, Ayato gasped for an instant.

“Even if I couldn’t be your strength, I could have at least cheered you up. I could have also supported you. That’s why… It’s very frustrating for me.”

“Saya…”

“I should have done so. After all…I’ve been beside Ayato for a very long time.”

In fact, if Saya was there in those days, Ayato also thought that it would’ve been quite helpful. But, it was of no use for him to say it at this late hour.

“Therefore, Ayato. I want you to rely on me when it’s necessary. This time for sure, I’ll be your strength.”

When Saya raised her head, she held Ayato’s arm and said that.

Her eyes were serious, straightforward and not cloudy.

(Be my strength, huh…)

Strangely, these were the same words that Ayato had said to Julis before.

“Thank you, Saya. Then, I’ll count on you when the time comes.”

“Yea.”

As he said so, Saya finally revealed a smile and nodded.

“Now then, if we don’t really sleep now, tomorrow──”

As Ayato was speaking, a high-pitched sound suddenly echoed.

“W-What is that?”

“…Our alarm system.”

He remembered, now that she mentioned it, that security had been awfully tight (strict) in Saya’s house for a long time now. According to Soichi, it seemed to be a measure “to defend against people who try to snatch his research”, but Ayato had also been caught by it when he was child and had suffered a painful experience.

“Then, don’t tell me it’s a thief?”

He went out of the room, and the others similarly came out of their rooms, too.

“What the heck is this noise…?”

While holding back her yawn, Julis grumbled.

Kirin also looked half asleep while briskly rubbing around her eyes.

“Is it some sort of emergency state?”

As usual, only Claudia was calm, but she had an even more adult figure than Saya, that made one unsure on where to look. Ayato averted his eyes since, although she put on thin pieces over her shoulder, her negligee figure was uselessly transparent here and there.

『Oh, sorry, sorry. Looks like I’ve surprised you.』

There, Soichi’s holograph appeared and the alarm stopped exactly at the same time, too.

“…What happened?”

『There seems to have been fellows who invaded the back yard, but it looks like they immediately ran away.』

“Intruders, you say?”

『Yea. I’m analyzing the traces they left now. I think perhaps there’re subordinates from either an enterprise somewhere or a research institute, but…』

At Soichi’s words, Claudia pondered with a serious expression.

『Well, my house’s security system doesn’t lose even to that of a research institute directly under the Integrated Enterprise Foundation’s control. So you may feel at ease and rest.』

When he said so, the holograph disappeared as it melted.

“……”

“Claudia?”

“──Ah, sorry. I was thinking a little about something.”

Claudia chuckled as if there was nothing.

“Then, it’s fine…”

Since it was rare for Claudia to make such a serious expression, he could not say that he was not bothered; but if the person herself said so, then it couldn’t be helped.

“By the way, Ayato. I have one question.”

“Hmm?”

The voice of Julis who said so was somewhat extremely tense.

“Earlier, I saw you and Saya come out of the same room. Why is that?”

“…Ah”

──In the end after that, it took time to solve the misunderstanding and before they noticed, the eastern sky has brightened white.

References Jump up↑ basically World Dragon bought slots or entries to the from Queen Veil Jump up↑ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plaice

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