Once the training was over, it was time for a somewhat late lunch. Awaiting the hungry members at the holiday house were preparations for a barbeque. There were several set up around the wide garden, with charcoal already burning within them, with heaps of meat, fish, and vegetables laid out.
“The fish were bought from the island’s fishermen this morning, the meat was ordered from my family’s farms, it’s island wagyu steak. It’s not that big a deal, but it’s tasty.”
Shouts of joy and applause resounded at Tokiko’s words. Even if she was putting on airs, it was okay this time, okay.
Groups of friends formed around barbeques and quickly started. Moroha was in a group with Satsuki, Shizuno, Maya, and Haruka. Satsuki took the initiative and lined up meat and vegetables on the burner. Moroha waited for them to cook as he stared at them.
The scent of charcoal filled the air, mixing with the fragrance from the fat of the meat. It was an irresistible smell that made him even hungrier.
It was strangely a stronger sensation out here in the open garden rather than the rooms inside. Meat really was great. Certainly, the lightly flavoured fish might have been better to eat first, but after the tough training that day, this was the best. Firm, life-affirming meat!
He could feel Satsuki’s consideration through that. He was thankful for the barbeque magistrate taking charge of cooking, but.
“Sniffle, sniffle, sniffle.”
“Make up your mind, cry or cook.”
“But I couldn’t even win against Momo-senpai once, sniffle, sniffle, sniffle.”
“Eat a lot and get your energy back, then try again. Right?”
“Sniffle, sniffle, sniffle, this is done.”
Even as she sniffled, Satsuki used tongs to put meat on everyone’s waiting plates.
Maya had a full smile as she scarfed down the food.
“The meat is fine, but taking the fire’s strength into account… how irritating.”
Said Shizuno, glaring at Satsuki as she turned the ingredients over. Haruka seemed to be kicking her feet, unable to speak. Moroha looked over everyone and gave in, opening his mouth.
There was a slight resistance as he bit into the meat, with its elastic, meaty texture. Biting into it made the juices well forth, the rich taste of meat filling his mouth from the fat. Yeah, this was the proof that it had been cooked well. And, as he chewed and chewed, there was no end to the meat juice!
He hadn’t had a gourmet’s life, that would let him talk about wagyu, but this island wagyu was a taste he liked.
“Uuuuu, it’s so tasty it’s making me cry, sniffle, sniffle.”
“Make your mind up, Satsuki, eat or cry.”
“My heart’s broken, sniffle, sniffle.”
“I told you, you won’t have your energy back if you don’t eat! Here, let’s eat this next? It looks tasty, right?”
Haruka said consolingly, lining up turban shells on the barbeque. The horned turbans were still in the shells, and after a while began to let out a colourless liquid. Their surfaces were bubbling, and a strong smell of salt assaulted their noses. It was irresistible too.
“Here here, this squid too!”
Haruka lined up the squid with the tongs, and Shizuno spoke in admiration.
“That’s what you get for gathering them fresh, their bodies look like they’re transparent.”
“The swordtip squid around here are famous for being tasty. They even recently got the brand name ‘Susamikoto Squid’. They’re in the perfect season.”
“You know a lot, Maaya, well done.”
Moroha patted her head and Maya giggle and puffed up her chest.
The four of them were having fun, and Satsuki seemed to be coming around —
“Seafood needs more attention! It’s my turn to shine!”
Satsuki scrubbed at her eyes and then, now with a smile, took the tongs from Haruka. Her propensity towards festivity was probably making itself known. Shizuno carried on as normal, but Moroha, Maya, and Haruka all exchanged looks of relief.
“No way, what’s with these… the ones I know are more rubbery.”
“They’ve just been harvested, of course they’re soft.”
“Then is the squid different from the ones I’m used to and it’s springy?”
“It’s fresh, so the texture is the best!”
It wasn’t just the meat, they enjoyed the seafood with relish too. The smell of the browning onions along with the grill marks on them appealed to their appetite, and they were sweet like fruit.
“She adjusted for the cooking splendidly… how annoying.”
“It’s surprising you’re so good at cooking, Satsuki.”
“Have you been practising?”
Shizuno, Haruka and Maya all praised her in turn.
“I’ve always wanted to let Nii-sama have something tasty to eat, fwoo fwo fwo!”
“You say always, but didn’t you only reunite with Moroha at Akane Academy?”
“I had a premonition I’d be able to meet Nii-sama, fwooo fwo fwo!”
As Satsuki’s nose grew like Pinocchio’s, she laughed loudly. She’d somehow been cheered up.
“She really is one of those people that tries hard.”
But Moroha had partially closed his eyes as he looked at Satsuki, as if he was looking at something bright.
Atop the grill were meat, seafood, and vegetables, a profusion of ingredients cooking away. Around the grill were Satsuki, Shizuno, Maya, and Haruka, a profusion of beautiful girls chattering away.
Looking up, he could see the clear blue sky. A cool breeze blew from the hilltops, and Moroha savoured the charm of the barbeque.
Shizuno and Maya had eaten their fill and finished, and the remaining three lowered their pace significantly.
“The captain said that we’ve got the entire afternoon free.”
Maya asked what they’d do with sparkling eyes.
“Rejected, Ranjou-san. That would just be you training.”
“I-I won’t keep going even in my free time.”
Satsuki’s immediate suggestion was likewise immediately shot down by Shizuno and Haruka.
“Geez! Then I’ll never be able to catch up with you, Momo-senpai.”
“I didn’t say I’d never carry on, did I?”
“Mgh. That’s right, what was your choice, Urushibara?”
“I thought I’d try for a fourth level Dark Art.”
“Ahyahyahya! Fourth level ones are super hard, right? There’s no way you can do one.”
“Indeed, you’re completely right, it’s too hard a challenge. It’s impossible for me. What a shame.”
“…You weren’t even going to try, were you?” Shizuno spoke as usual, and Satsuki became disappointed. “Choose a more realistic challenge, you chocolate watch…”
“I’m sorry, okay? I’m busy this camp.”
“Playing until you collapse isn’t being busy!”
“You’re perfectly welcome to continue practising in your free time, you know? Alone.”
“I, I I I, I’ll play too!”
Satsuki took it seriously, she probably still didn’t know the meaning behind the dimples that appeared on Shizuno’s cheeks.
“What did you choose, Moroha?”
Asked Haruka, with a deeply interested expression.
“There was… something I thought of after I fought Edward—”
He swallowed the meat he was chewing and answered.
In the battle with Edward a month ago, no matter what he tried, all of his Dark Arts were negated. That cheat-like invincible armour was good at deflecting the blows. In all likelihood, no one would be able to use that kind of technique, if a metaphysical that was that tough showed up, there would be nothing to do but run.
There were two problems.
One was that when Moroha was casting, he would use Alkaid and rapidly close the distance, interfering with him.
The other was Moon, a technique that made you invulnerable for an instant, it was a technique that was hard to time, but Edward easily managed it because, in his words, Dark Arts were slow.
Someday, he might lose in the same situation. Metaphysicals’ abilities were many and varied, there were some that could almost teleport, some appearing that were momentarily invulnerable wouldn’t be strange at all.
“—I need something to counteract that.”
As he finished his explanation, he found that Satsuki, Maya, and Shizuno had been listening in interest.
“Are you going to raise your casting speed, Nii-sama?”
“Moroha’s already fairly fast, anything more isn’t too realistic.”
Satsuki quickly raised her hand, and Shizuno shot her down straight away.
“If you fire off a Dark Art from point blank, they hit right away, they’re not slow.”
“I did that too, but apparently Edward saw through to the timing itself.”
Moroha shook his head at Maya’s suggestion.
Countermeasures for both Alkaid and Moon would be difficult, Satsuki and Maya made thoughtful noises.
“In the end, don’t Dark Arts have too many steps? There’s the incantation, writing it out, and pulling it together.”
“Yes, you can omit the incantation if you sacrifice the power, but the other two are necessary.”
“So it takes too much time to put the technique together, and the timing’s easily visible.”
With the insight of a senior, Haruka cut right to the heart of the problem. Moroha nodded.
“So, what are you going to do, Moroha? You mentioned it because you have an idea, right?”
“Eh!? That’s my Nii-sama!”
Moroha scratched his head with a glance at Shizuno as Satsuki looked proudly at him.
“I thought I’d try a new Yin-Yang Technique, that’s my subject.”
Yin-Yang Techniques was the name that the White Knight Agency had given to the combination of Light Techniques and Dark Arts Ancestral Arts. It was a method that Moroha had thought up, that only he could use.
“Try hard for me too, Moroha?”
“No, you need to try too, Shizuno.”
“Now I’m fired up! Help me with my training, Momo-senpai!”
“No way! I… want to play… with Moroha.”
“I want to play too. Haven’t you already run off into the sea?”
“T-that was Taketsuru-senpai’s fault.”
“Mghghgh, should I train, should I play.”
The five of them chattered while poking at the diminishing barbeque.
“What are you yammering about, brats!?” A drill Sergeant like voice resounded, a voice that gathered glares from the five of them, Kanzaki Tokiko had appeared! The group exchanged looks asking each other what they would do. “Obviously Moroha’s time is mine this afternoon!”
Tokiko didn’t pay any attention to the atmosphere around them and forced her way in between them, pushing Satsuki aside, taking up the seat next to Moroha as if it were hers.
“Hey! This is tyranny!”
“Silence, are you betraying your commanding officer, Ranjou? Whilst you’re only a reserve?”
“I’m saying this is tyranny!!”
“Hmph, that’s what it means to be a superior.” Tokiko glared as she adjusted her glasses, and Satsuki’s face flushed. Letting out another hmph, Tokiko turned to Moroha. “I apologised to the captain and he’s let me wear a normal swimsuit, so come with me.”
She invited him while stubbornly stroking his backside.
“What exactly are you doing, honestly.”
He then noticed that she had changed from the jersey that she had worn for her punishment into a white t-shirt. Black cloth was showing through, probably the swimsuit.
Tokiko ignored Moroha’s protests and continued caressing his backside.
“Sunbathe with me. And cover every nook and cranny-”
“With sun lotion? Give me a break.”
“Hmph, do you think I’d be so cliched? Don’t make light of me.” Tokiko took her hand from him and folded her arms with a superior look before shouting. “It’s an adult lotion I want you to cover me in!”
“What the hell are you thinking!?”
“Nothing but perverted things of course.” Tokiko smiled widely. She would have looked cool if she wasn’t being so stupid with her words. She then took the steak from Moroha’s plate and ate it, before pervertedly running her tongue over her full lips. “Meat is good, it gets you worked up and heightens your libido.”
“What are you on about?”
It wasn’t just Moroha that recoiled, so did Satsuki and the others. Even the retort felt like they were afraid the perverted demon’s spores would infect them.
“My ass-meat is good too, Haimura.”
“That’s an awful image.”
“Come on, let’s go, let’s go. Your ass is mine and mine is yours. We can do as we like to them, stroking them, groping them, licking them, sucking them, biting them, or violating them like animals, right?”
“You should stop it already, Senpai…”
“Defiance will not be tolerated, you’ll have to fight me for it.”
Tokiko’s eyes glinted under her glasses.
Then, a hand extended from behind her, gripping the back of Tokiko’s head strongly enough for her skull to creak.
Tokiko made a sound of perhaps surprise, pain, or both.
“I’m always telling you, Kanzaki-kun, don’t you understand what your captain is telling you?”
Standing behind her was, as usual, Isurugi Jin.
“W-w-w-w-wait, captain! Why are you always getting in the way of my romance!?”
Tokiko cried out in protest as she shuddered. She should learn before this.
“If you were to keep it to a respectable student’s level, and not cause issues for Haimura-kun, I’m not so boorish as to interfere with your romance.”
“Hmph, a respectable level? You should overlook it a little more.”
“You should think about why there are no teachers supervising this camp. As long as I breathe, my squad will never be allowed to act in a way that betrays the trust the teachers have put in us. You hear me? Never.”
Isurugi’s voice went deep, as if he was giving her a real scolding, and the colour rushed from Tokiko’s face.
“If this happens again, and you cause me trouble, you’ll be confined to your room, understand?”
“Wha!? This is tyranny, have you forgotten it was me that offered this place to use?”
“And you, have you forgotten that my word is law here? I believe it was ‘that’s what it means to be a superior’, was it not?”
Isurugi cruelly threw the words Tokiko had used against Satsuki back at her. Tokiko’s expression soured and she reluctantly acknowledged him.
Satsuki stuck her tongue out but Haruka hurriedly stopped her, while Moroha silently thanked Isurugi as he left.
And then, when they had eaten their fill, they played beach ball together.
They’d heard from Tokiko that there were sea urchins in the shallows so they were all in the sea.
Calls of ‘I can’t find any at all!?’ came from the ocean. It was depressing to see the seniors that had grown up near the sea with mounds. They were yelling ‘Let’s all have sea urchin for dinner!’
They relaxed in the pleasant sun on the beach, and when they played beach flags, everyone told Satsuki that it wasn’t training when she used prana.
Either way, they played and dispelled the earlier gloom.
“This is the first time I’ve had such a fun holiday!”
Shouted Maya, with a smile as dazzling as the sun. No one laughed that she was exaggerating, if anything they nodded in agreement.
Of course, that included Moroha.
The Kanzaki holiday house was a three storey building, and big enough that it could be called a mansion and could easily accommodate even the forty members. However, the bedrooms were all four-person rooms assigned by Isurugi for the duration of the camp.
When Moroha asked, Satsuki was with Haruka and Shizuno was with Maya, and Shizuno told him.
“Perhaps he wants us to get better relationships with different members, and not just stay with those we get on with? But he also thought it up so we weren’t completely isolated.”
Moroha made a sound of agreement. Isurugi had a firm personality, and seemed like he would be hard to get on with, but he actually had a side to him that would think of the little considerations like this. He didn’t just rule through strength.
And then, as he remembered that conversation with Shizuno, Moroha looked over his room-mates.
The first: with his charming unapproachable personality! Captain Isurugi Jin.
The second: Popular with everyone, but would kill you with praise if there was an opening! The third year, Taketsuru Uisuke.
And the third—
“You’re out of luck, sharing a room with me, Haimura! Prepare to be the dogsbody!”
A senior that had held constant resentment for Moroha! The second year, Mannendou Kamekichi.
He didn’t hate Kamii-senpai, he didn’t, but…
“Shizuno-san… I’m isolated…”
That was a different matter. Moroha could only slump as he sat cross-legged on the bed.
Incidentally, this was after dinner. He had thought he would take his time and send a letter to his aunt and uncle, but could he really focus in this situation (particularly with Kamekichi?
“Hya ha ha ha ha, what joy, I feel sorry for the other rooms without a convenient slave.”
Kamekichi was bouncing around and shaking the soft bed. It was irritating.
“It was so quiet this afternoon and I let my guard down…”
It had been so peaceful that Moroha hadn’t been certain that he was there.
“Moron. I was half asleep all afternoon, I’m all fired up now it’s the evening!”
“Why were you half asleep?”
“It’s ‘cause you don’t get that that you’re a kid. Obviously, I was too excited for camp and didn’t get any sleep yesterday, you moooooron.” Which of them was the child again…? “Nooow then, what shall I have you do first~”
“Why am I the designated dogsbody…?”
“Because you’re the youngest! It’s the divine providence of the universe since its creation!”
“So you were the dogsbody last year, Kamii-senpai?”
Asked Moroha, his voice full of sarcasm that he’d do something so laudable.
“Shut up… leave off…”
Kamekichi suddenly turned to the wall and curled up, a harsh change from his ecstasy from earlier.
What was with that reaction? Was he really traumatised from being made the dogsbody last year?
Moroha blinked in puzzlement and Taketsuru looked up from his phone and told him.
“Kamii didn’t come to last year’s camp, he wasn’t even a reserve member then.”
Kamekichi hid himself under the sheets.
“Hmm? But didn’t Kamii-senpai say he was the best in his year? And yet he’s sad about not being called the super rookie last year.”
“Eh, you said that, Kamii? I thought Takenaka was better than you in the Black Mages.”
Kamii-senpai curled up in the sheets like a turtle, not able to listen anymore.
Even though he had earned it, Moroha couldn’t help but pity him.
“Shut uuuup. You’re not a hot girl, so don’t be sympathetic, Haimura, it’s too much.”
“You’ll be okay while you’re bluffing, you can get stronger.”
Taketsuru gave a bright smile, killing with praise.
The sides of the sheets opened slightly and Kamekichi’s face was visible.
“Besides, being able to participate in this in your first year is rare, I couldn’t either.”
Kamekichi’s face asked if he was teasing, and Taketsuru’s replied, telling him not to be afraid.
It was a mental communication and Kamekichi cheerfully came out of the sheets.
It might have been a nice scene, but Moroha was honestly a little unnerved by the interaction between the two men.
But Kamekichi cried out with manly tears.
“Waaa, I’ll also follow you, Takkii-senpai! Waaaa.”
“Well, you’re bad too, don’t act with so much vanity and throw your weight around in front of your juniors, okay? Making them dogsbodies and the like is out, it’s lame, you know?”
Kamekichi wiped his tears. He seated himself properly and looked up at Taketsuru with eyes gleaming in respect.
“Also, don’t be so noisy, okay? It’s not fair to Isurugi while he’s sleeping, is it?”
Still with shining eyes, he continued replying like a model student. With this splendid training, the nuisance was sitting politely and quietly.
Taketsuru relaxed and went back to his phone.
Moroha looked at the bed, in which the other occupant of the room, Isurugi, was sleeping. He’d retired to bed after dinner with the phrase ‘I’m one of those early to bed, early to rise people, I apologise but I’ll be leaving now.’ And dropped off immediately, and with a sleeping posture as sharp and good as Tutankhamen.
Moroha had thought Kamii-senpai was being noisy earlier, but Isurugi hadn’t even stirred. The room suddenly fell silent, the only thing audible being the chime of Taketsuru’s phone as messages arrived. This might just be his chance to write that letter.
Moroha was making his preparations when Kamekichi spoke to Taketsuru, unable to take the silence.
“Oh yeah, why were we assigned this room?”
It was irritating, but Moroha had wondered that too, so he paused and joined in with the conversation.
“He probably wanted to watch over the three problem children himself, right?”
Taketsuru answered naturally as he used his phone.
“Eh, isn’t Kamii-senpai the only problem child?”
“Eh, isn’t Haimura the only problem child?”
Their thoughts were strangely similar, and they glared at each other.
“Ha ha ha, you might not have realised it, but I’m a problem child just like you two.”
““Do you not know what a problem child is?””
They asked in perfect unison.
Kamekichi glared, telling Moroha not to flatter ‘his Takkii-senpai’ with his gaze, while Moroha glared back, his own gaze saying that Kamekichi was really weak to his superiors, even though the acted big around his juniors.
“Well, talking about your own embarrassments is a bit…” Taketsuru shyly bent more over his phone and spoke: “but last year I was in the camp, but I was constantly going into the girls’ tents, and got a right scolding from Isurugi about disrupting the morals of the camp.”
“That’s Takkii-senpai for you! Haimura could never do that!”
Kamekichi swung around in excitement, he was someone that could never calm down.
“Huh? But don’t you have a girlfriend, Taketsuru-senpai?”
He’d heard that he was devoted to his girlfriend and didn’t have eyes for anyone else, even though it was a long-distance relationship.
It was a famous story that even Moroha had heard, even though he had no interest in gossip. So because of that fame, the girls around him read the mood and didn’t pointlessly pursue him.
So even though he was seen as handsome, there wasn’t any romantic gossip.
“Well, that’s true, I was drunk on the atmosphere I guess. The third-years were particularly eye-catching, and even I fell to them.”
“It was one of those ‘Just tonight, give me a summer memory’ type things, ge hee hee hee!”
Moroha turned a cold gaze at Kamii, who was laughing at his own dirty line.
“And right now you’re…?”
He pointed at Taketsuru’s smartphone, which was constantly chiming.
“Yeah, I can’t normally care for her so much.”
Taketsuru said it straightforwardly, but this faithfulness was almost certainly one of the reasons for his popularity. On the other hand, Kamekichi cried out while moving around the most he had so far.
“Now I get why I’m being treated like a problem child! In other words, me and you are too popular, Takkii-senpai, and the captain’s worried!”
“Nah, you’re just someone that causes problems.”
Kamekichi retreated back to the sheets, crying at Taketsuru’s blunt retort.”
While he felt sorry for him, Moroha was more concerned with why he was seen as a problem child.
“Why does Isurugi-senpai think I’m a problem?”
Was he one of the ones that disagreed with his elevation to S rank?
“For the same reason as me.”
Moroha was dumbfounded at Taketsuru’s simple revelation.
It was something he couldn’t accept immediately, and he asked again.
“There’s no comparison with how much the girls are after you, is there? If I’m like a chunk of raw meat, you’re like a well-done steak. If Isurugi wasn’t rooming with you, there’d be a knock at the door any moment, don’t you think?”
He couldn’t believe it immediately and was lost for words, but reluctantly accepted it.
“Do you mean there’s no comparison because… I’m single?”
“Ha ha, not likely! It’s because you’re a two-timing fiend. Plus you’ve been seducing a little girl recently, right? So ‘course there are girls that want to be your fourth or fifth.”
He couldn’t accept that immediately, and once again, Moroha was speechless.
“Wait a minute, Satsuki, Shizuno, and Maya are-”
“It’s fine! I’m not so rude as to ask about what’s really happening, but that’s what people think, so it’s only natural, right?”
That was a fair argument, Moroha had already understood but he was still silent, and vowed to pay more attention to his usual behaviour to avoid causing any more misunderstandings.
Though it might already be too late.
“Sorry, I’m going to sleep now…”
He wasn’t in the mood to write a letter, so Moroha went to retreat into his sheets, battered by the shock.
And then, his phone buzzed with a message-tone. It was a different sound from earlier.
So whose was it? Isurugi’s? Maybe Kamekichi’s?
“Ah, it was mine…”
Perhaps because he had been so shocked, he gave those words of acknowledgement as he got his phone out and checked it.
Sender: Ranjou Satsuki
Subject: I’m waiting at the beach ♥
Message: Come and meet your loving sister! Alone!
After he saw the message, he unconsciously looked out of the window. The sun had completely set, and the darkness of the night ruled the world.
The population was low on the island, so there were no lights, and it really was dark.
“Isn’t it dangerous… for a girl to be alone?”
Even though he knew Satsuki was a Saviour, he was still worried about her.
He slipped out of bed.
Taketsuru raised his gaze from his phone and looked at him, then gave a wink which said ‘I get it, I won’t say anything to Isurugi, so go ahead’.
He was happy for the consideration, but…
“It really might be too late…”
Moroha fully realised that his reputation wasn’t recoverable when getting a message, standing, and being understood with such little information was the case, and left the room discouraged.
And headed for the beach before Kamekichi, wrapped in his sheets, got wind of it.
So this was what they called a star-filled sky…
As he left the holiday house, Moroha looked up in admiration. His gaze was covered in shining stars, it was the first time he’d seen this many with the naked eye. With no light on the ground, the night sky really was clearly visible.
If he left his room in the lit town, the sky would have been pitch black, but coming out now, his surroundings were well lit by just the moon and stars.
Nothing stopped him as he walked. He took the paved path down the hill, and soon found Satsuki.
She too was looking up at the stars with a smile.
Her profile as she looked up at the heavens, with her eyes sparkling, was every bit as beautiful as the night sky, and it took Moroha’s breath away for a moment.
Finally, she noticed Moroha, and her smile turned to him.
“Moroha, you came!”
“Yeah, it came out of nowhere though. If Taketsuru-senpai hadn’t have been there, it would have been hard to sneak out.” Moroha scratched his head as he arrived at her side. “So? What’d you want at this time of night?”
“To walk alone on the beach with you! Well, that’s what I’d like to say, but I’ll bear with it, there’s something more important.” Satsuki’s expression tightened, and she looked at him with burning eyes. “Please, Nii-sama. Coach me to be faster than Momo-senpai!”
She begged him with a serious voice. The somewhat pleasant atmosphere of a holiday night was blown away.
Moroha… didn’t immediately reply. He just scratched his head as he looked back at her.
Satsuki’s eyes wavered in worry.
Moroha hesitated for a while, then answered plainly.
“Why not choose another challenge?”
Satsuki opened her eyes wide, like she had been struck, and then her face twisted.
“Why are you saying the same thing as everyone else!?” She was half crying, half angry. “I know it’ll be hard! But am I so unreliable… that I should give up before trying!? Should I just stay as your little sister, dragging you down, like before, and even now!?”
She moved near him, clung to him and cried, yelling.
He continued, hit with his sister’s raw emotion.
“Calm down, let’s sit for a bit.”
He soothed her and took a seat on the sand.
Satsuki took a breath, and glared at him through teary eyes but thudded down onto the sand and rudely leaned on him.
The two of them then looked out at the dark sea. Unlike that afternoon, the waves were gentle, and it became a mirror that reflected the night sky, a beautiful sight that made it seem that the stars had fallen to earth.
It was a fairytale-like sight that seemed like it would suck you in.
“This is the first time… we’ve done something like this…”
Satsuki’s tone had calmed down and she was whispering near his ear, tickling him.
“Yeah, it is.”
Moroha nodded firmly. Even in his past life, he hadn’t sat with his sister and gazed at the sea like this.
He had very few memories of his past life, so there were many things he couldn’t remember, but he had a strange certainty that this was the case. Some wall like thing within his head creaked.
“You’re not unreliable.” And then, Moroha started speaking of his few memories as Flaga. “I’m always, always fighting in what I remember of Flaga. He fought alone, with feelings of protecting you in his heart.”
“He was always leaving me, Salacia, behind…”
“Yeah, he didn’t want you on the battlefield.”
“That does mean I’m unreliable doesn’t it?”
“It’s the opposite…” Moroha murmured. Satsuki looked up at him. “He wanted to protect you, so didn’t want to take you to somewhere dangerous like a battlefield. He certainly felt that way, but there was another reason he didn’t want you on the front lines,” Satsuki waited with baited breath for him to continue “He knew just how talented you were, so if that talent bloomed in a fight, he wouldn’t be able to keep you from the battlefield.”
“I didn’t… know…”
Satsuki stared at him in surprise.
“Well yeah, he didn’t tell you. If you knew, you’d be angry and train, right? It would have been a bother if you didn’t keep it mostly stopped. He wanted you to stay a battle princess, an idol, waiting at the final battle lines in the castle. Fortunately, no one else seemed to realise.”
He was ready for her to shout at him in anger, but-
“…Do you still think the same way…?”
Satsuki asked timidly.
“That’s a tough one,” Moroha answered openly. “Obviously, I want you safe. But you’ve already come to Akane Academy, so you’ll obviously be on the battlefield at some point. So I want you strong and safe, plus…”
“When I was fighting Edward, I was really relieved when I could leave AJ to you. It’s kind of pathetic though.”
“It’s not pathetic! I’m really happy!”
Satsuki’s eyes that had been wavering before were now sparkling. Moroha had a pained smile at her self-interest.
“So I don’t think you’re unreliable or anything. I’m saying from that perspective that you should give up on beating Momo-senpai in speed.” Satsuki didn’t shout anymore and silently listened. “Momo-senpai is a speed-specialised White Iron. To put it the other way around, she only has speed. She realises that too, so polishes her God Speed Link to its limits. I know just how hard her training is because I do it with her. And I know just how much pride she takes in it.”
Moroha looked at Satsuki. Eyes sparkling like the stars shone back at him, and he quietly admonished her.
“So I won’t let you just shout thoughtlessly about how you’ll be faster than Momo-senpai.”
She huffed and turned away, burying her face in her lap.
There was probably something wrong with Moroha that he found something like that cute.
“Even if it’s you. You understand, right? Rethink things, you have your own strong points, if you reach for them, you’ll grow stronger, don’t rush.”
Moroha added kindly.
“I’m not being thoughtless.”
Satsuki pouted, with her face still in her legs.
Then, why was she fussing over that?
“Momo-senpai is your partner in the Strikers, right?”
“Well yeah, no one else can keep up with our speed-”
As he spoke, Moroha realised why she was worrying over it.
“I want to be your partner.”
Satsuki sulked, still pouting.
Moroha said nothing more, and Satsuki fell into silence too.
Moroha tapped her slim shoulders and embraced her. The two of them cuddled and once more looked at the sea.
The crashing of the waves faded away, and the sea calmed. It was a miracle that only happened for a few hours each year here, but they didn’t know that.
They just gazed at the clearer image of the stars.
“I can’t guarantee you’ll win, you know that?”
“Thank you, Nii-sama.”
Satsuki finally smiled. She really was a self-interested person.
Moroha and Satsuki stood opposite each other on the beach.
“You don’t know the basics yet, so we’ll start from there.”
Moroha said, and showed her an example.
It was a relaxed, open stance.
And then, he stood ‘upright’.
It was difficult in its simplicity. It was a perfect stance that drew a single line down from the distant heavens. And in that stance, he covered himself in prana.
It was almost as if a star was made manifest on the Earth.
The dazzling, pure white light engulfed his body completely.
“This is with all seven gates open, understand?”
“Yeah. Your power is rippling.”
Satsuki obediently, seriously nodded at Moroha’s words that were on the level of a review.
A White Iron’s body had seven gates that pumped out prana. Each one that was opened meant they could use stronger prana, and having all seven open meant that they could completely cover themselves in prana, which was the basis of being a White Iron. A new learner usually achieved this in a year.
Currently, Satsuki could open five, the ones in her right and left hands, right and left legs, and her brow.
Excluding Moroha, Satsuki, and Isurugi’s brother, who still hadn’t been to school, people in the first year had only just started to be able to use three, so Satsuki was working at a good pace.
However, she was the only one amongst those on this camp that hadn’t reached this basis. On top of that, her opponent, Haruka, was at the peak of the school in speed.
“You have your heart and navel left, and you should be able to open one of them in this camp. Increasing the amount of prana you have access to will increase your speed on its own. Even so, asking if you can win against Momo-senpai is a foolish question, but there’s no other method.”
“Isn’t there… like some Ancestral Art trick that you know…?”
“There isn’t.” Moroha shot down Satsuki’s question. “Besides, I hate methods that neglect the basics.”
“Uuugh, I get it. It’s too good to be true.”
Satsuki probably accepted it. Both her legs and arms were covered in golden light, and the glint in her eyes mixed with the covering of prana.
“These five were easy to open, but I’m stuck here.”
“It’s because you always use your arms and legs, you move them consciously, right? So those gates are easy to open, your brow is connected with using your eyes to see, so it’s not hard either. But the heart and navel aren’t things you consciously use, so they’re suddenly a lot harder.”
“What should I do? I could do it as Salacia, and I do it naturally in my dreams, but it’s hard to imitate…”
“That’s the answer.”
“Eh, which is!?”
“The ‘doing it naturally’ thing. Opening the seven gates gives much more prana, but doing it naturally is the most suitable.”
“Now that you mention it, I think you taught me that in my last life too… but isn’t that hard?”
“But if you don’t, you can’t get stronger.”
“They don’t teach it at school, not even Isurugi-senpai says that.”
Satsuki asked if there was no other way with upturned eyes.
“You wanted to be taught by me, right?”
“Uuuugh. That’s right. Yeah, got it! I’ll do it naturally.”
Satsuki slapped her cheeks and took a triumphant pose.
Moroha gave another pained smile and Satsuki slumped in shock.
“D-do I not have the right personality for it…?”
“Maybe, but I won’t hear any complaints, okay?”
“Isn’t there at least an effective training method?”
“You really are a by the book person.”
“Call it hardworking!”
“Ha ha, okay, I got it. There actually is-”
Her eyes flared into light.
“Let’s start training then.”
He let her gaze wash over him and then let the prana disperse from around his body, going back to normal flesh and blood.
“What are you doing, Moroha? Aren’t we training?”
“I won’t use any prana, you will, you need to wrestle me and win like that.”
Moroha smiled boldly at a dumbfounded Satsuki.
Of course, Satsuki was surprised, if a White Iron didn’t use prana, they were no different from a normal person. Whether they were an A rank or an S rank.
“No matter what, I think it’ll be an easy win for me when I can use Titan Strength Link.”
“Come on already, and don’t hold back, or it won’t be training.”
Satsuki had an uncomprehending expression, but was serious when she was told that it wouldn’t be training otherwise and readied herself.
At that signal, Satsuki yelled and grabbed at him. Still with just his flesh and blood, Moroha grabbed her arms with a fearless smile. The titanic strength of a superhuman, and a normal person’s strength clashed, but a moment before, with pinpoint timing, Moroha moved.
It was a minimal movement and Satsuki’s arms pivoted like pinwheels, and at the same time, he moved to the left and avoided her charge. With that alone, Satsuki flipped and fall back onto the beach.
“I didn’t hit you hard enough to hurt?”
“It was a reflex!”
She was probably the type to cry out when her game character was hurt.
“Come on, again.”
“I’ll get you next time!”
She wasn’t hurt, so soon bounced back. She rushed at Moroha in the same way and was thrown down with slight movements. It was exact, like replaying a film, and it was a strange movement.
“What’s going oooooooonnnnn!?”
Satsuki cried as she spun through the air.
Moroha wasn’t using a light technique, they weren’t usable without prana. It was a judo floating drop, also called an empty throw. It was a high-class technique that used a good grip and the opponent’s strength to throw them through the air.
However, Moroha hadn’t learnt martial arts in this live, it was a technique created from his past life’s experiences.
“Understand? No matter how strong you are, if it can be turned aside, it will help your opponent. If you waste your strength or can’t focus on your attack’s vector, or miss, those things will undermine you and you’ll be turned aside.”
“Gyaaah, this time for suuuuuuuure!”
Every time she was thrown, and thrown again, Satsuki would rise again and come back, she was always energetic, so she was somewhat of an ostentatious hard worker. And her eyes were shining, filled with trust, sparkling.
“Don’t look at me like that…”
Moroha couldn’t let that go unanswered.
“Not power, naturally!”
“You mean like a trance?”
“It’s fine for your heart to be fired up, in fact, let it burn, but keep your head cool. It’s important to avoid wasting your strength. Like when you’re walking, you don’t scream out ‘uuooooh, next is the right foot’ do you?”
“I get the logic, but I can’t get the knaaaaack.”
“You’re always hugging me, right? What do you do then.”
Satsuki’s eyes had a glint of understanding. For perhaps the who knew how manieth time, he caught her arms, and then smiled.
“I can’t throw her.”
The wasted strength was gone.
Moroha was then bowled over by Satsuki, where they lay on top of each other in the sand. Satsuki’s slight weight was pleasant on him.
Her breath was harsh after the effort, and he could feel her soft chest inflate and deflate where it pushed into his stomach.
The two held each other for a while.
Finally, Satsuki caught her breath.
“Heehee, I won.”
She was brilliant.
That wasn’t metaphoric, she was literally covered in golden light. Proof that she had opened her sixth gate, her navel.
“It took a while before you could remove your strength, but once you did, you opened it right away, you really are talented.”
“I’m your little sister after all♪”
Her innocent pride in her victory made him want to hold her tight.
“But I promised to try and think of her as my sister.”
He thought it was a waste, but he didn’t tighten his grip.
“Don’t forget what it feels like.”
Said Satsuki as she nodded into his chest.
“It’s late, so let’s leave it here for tonight.”
“Ehh, I want to train mooore.”
Satsuki shook her head into his chest.
“I’ll practice with you tomorrow night as well.”
“Ehh, those are different things, aren’t they?”
Satsuki grumbled like a spoilt child.
But even so, suddenly her head shot up and she glared into the distant ocean.
Her slight body shook pitifully, and goosebumps raised up on her skin. Moroha was so close he could tell.
“Doesn’t it feel… like there’s something weird over there?”
Even her voice was shaking as she asked for his agreement. Moroha used Clairvoyance to better his eyesight and looked out to the sea without obstruction. But he couldn’t see anything strange…
“What does it feel like exactly?”
“Ummm… uh…” Satsuki searched desperately for words to answer him. “Kind of… like a really big creature that only breathes once a day?”
She said without confidence.
Even as she managed to put the feeling into words, she couldn’t get rid of the feeling she’d said something weird.
“A really big creature. Like a whale? Or bigger? A metaphysical even?”
As he added clarifications, Satsuki made an expression as if she’d remembered something, and he pressed her on what it was.
“I had a bad feeling like this before, when I went to the shopping centre with Urushibara.”
“Was that when the nine-headed hydra appeared?”
“Y-yeah… But this feels much, much worse.”
Moroha’s eyes grew more serious, and he used more prana from his brow. Carefully looking for anything abnormal. Searching for a lurking metaphysical.
But he could find nothing.
There was a slight wind, causing ripples on the mirror-like surface of the sea. That sight carried on until the horizon.
Finally, Satsuki shook again and then stopped shaking completely.
“Maybe… the wind was just cold? E-ehehe, I guess it was just my imagination, I was cold just got the shivers from that.”
She gave a shy laugh for worrying him.
“Really? Maybe it was an omen of a metaphysical?”
“I… don’t think it was. The shivers I’m getting now are completely different from when that nine-headed snake appeared. I can’t think of something much more demonic than that… you know?”
Satsuki asked for his agreement through upturned eyes. Moroha thought it looked like she was trying to convince herself.
“There’s no possibility something more demonic is lurking?”
His eyes sharpened.
“There’s not, there’s not! The Japanese head would feel it if there was!”
Satsuki shook her head back and forth.
Moroha had learnt that in classes too. One of the Six Heads, the Japanese Branch Head, The Watcher, was a unique Saviour. An exceedingly rare Saviour that was neither a White Iron or a Black Mage in their previous life. Apparently, he could feel it the instant that any metaphysical appeared.
Then, they would alert the country’s branch and issue a notice of alert. The White Knight Agency being able to send Saviours to exterminate the metaphysicals before they could destroy habitation was because of his power.
“There’s no possibility you could sense it before the head?”
“There’s not, there’s not! I’m just a White Iron. I don’t have a better skill than one of the Six Heads.”
Satsuki denied it fervently, and Moroha had no reason to question further.
“If it’s her imagination, then that’s it… but…”
Even as he worried, he slowly relaxed.
“The feeling’s gone now, shall we return?”
Satsuki got up and offered a hand. The two of them stood and knocked off the sand all over them.
“Let’s go back together then ♥”
Satsuki once more held out a hand, this time to hold as they went back.
“No, if we went back together, it’d be suspicious right? There’d be strange rumours, wouldn’t there?”
“I don’t mind if they’re with you.”
“Your value as a girl will drop.”
Even as the sour words left Moroha’s mouth, Satsuki laughed happily, it was a strange reaction.
Satsuki skipped back along the path and said.
“I’m happy! You’re always just saying that to Urushibara, so I’m happy you see me as a girl too.” She then looked back and asked. “You’ll come tomorrow? You promise?” Before waving and returning to the holiday house.
Moroha waited for her to disappear into the woods and then looked back to the sea. He’d probably give her more of a lead.
The wind gradually grew stronger. As his fringe fluttered, Moroha kept glaring into the dark, bottomless sea.