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Infinite Stratos Volume 3 Chapter 1: Rain Maker

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Chapter 1 Rain Maker - The Heart of a Young Girl is the Fog of a Clear DayEdit

"Sorry for making you help me."

"Don't worry."

Under the red sunset, Ichika and Charlotte were walking together through the corridor. Both of them were carrying the itinerary information for the seaside school that was to be held this month.

"But...is this really alright? You're supposed to go with Cecilia and the rest, right?"

"It's alright. It's pointless for me to go if Charlotte's not going."

"Huh?"

"Well, how should I say this. Even if it's just giving out pamphlets, I still prefer to be with the ones I like."

Saying that, Ichika's face blushed somewhat. That didn't seem to look like the color of the sunset.

"Ichika..."

"Charlotte..."

On the corridor where they were standing on, both of them were looking at each other in the eyes.

At this point, silence is golden.

In this orange scene, the two shadows overlap--

"--That's, weird?"

She looked around to confirm. She had spaced out.

She was in her own first-year dorm room in IS Academy. It was 6.30am in the morning.

"..."

While she was still a little drowsy, Charlotte blinked twice, and finally grasped the current situation.

"It was a dream..."

Siiggghhh....she sighed deeply, so deep that it reached 20,000 feet below sea level.

(Ahh, at least let me dream on for another 10 seconds...)

She continued to cling onto to remnants of her dream, obviously looking unwilling to give it up.

Even the dream sequence that would be quickly forgotten continued to linger as she continued to hang onto it. The image that was left in her mind was like a video record she loved to watch, as the 'play' button seemed to be pressed in her mind.

"..."

Charlotte's face blushed.

As her consciousness started to clear, she began to feel embarrassed about the dream.

(We actually...in the sch-school corridor...)

However, as the words indicated, that was just a dream. She placed her hands on her chest, and found her heart beating wildly.

(Wha-What was I thinking...)

Ever since the individual division tournament last month, she went from Charles Dunois to her actual gender of Charlotte Dunois. Right now, she was sleeping in a separate room from Ichika.

But every week, she would dream of such a thing twice a week. She knew that they're in different rooms, but she would turn her eyes to look at the bed beside her for Ichika.

"That's strange?"

Her roommate wasn't in the bed.

And that didn't mean that she left the bed and went off. That bed wasn't used.

"...Well, never mind."

Right now, the most important thing to her is to continue to dream. If she were to sleep again, maybe she might dream of the continuation.

Carrying such casual thoughts, Charlotte closes her eyes, intending to sleep again.

(Since it's rare to have a dream, I won't mind having some erotic content in it--)

...

"Wha-What am I saying!!"

Charlotte covered the top of her head with the blanket, as if trying to hide her rapidly blushing face, and finally calmed her crazily beating heart down.

*Chirp chirp...*

"Mn..."

The sun that frantically tried to enter the room passed through the window, and the chirping of the sparrows seemed like they were prompting me to get up.

(A little longer...just a little longer...)

At this moment, staying in bed is the most wonderful feeling. I suppose everyone knows how to enjoy this peaceful feeling, right? Well, that should be the case.

It's soft.

(...?)

Soft and squishy.

(Huh? What's this feeling? Do I have something smooth in my bed?)

However, right now, I can't get myself to give up on this comfort and laziness to stay in bed and search for the unknown.

(Ahh--how wonderful...)

Soft and loose.

"Mn..."

--HOLD ON A MINUTE! I just heard a voice that doesn't belong to me. And that's most likely not a guy's voice. (Speaking of which, it would be really terrifying if it's a guy.)

A premonition passes my mind, letting out a *GONG* like sound effect.

*POW!* I flip the blanket off, and what appears in front of me is--

"La-LA-LAURA!!?"

The German representative, Laura Bodewig. Ever since she transferred in last month, she suddenly challenged me, and after that, a lot of things happened--lots of them.

However, that's not the problem. The problem is 'why is she not wearing any clothes?'; which means, well...she's completely naked. She has only a left eyepatch and an IS on standby--the black leg band on her right thigh. The flowing silver hair is scattered down her waist.

"Mn...what...? It's already morning...?"

"IDIOT, IDIOT!! HIDE THEM!!:

"You're saying such weird things. I heard that spouses don't hide things from each other."

"Maybe you're right...NO! HURRY UP AND PUT SOME CLOTHES ON! WEAR SOME CLOTHES!!"

Ignoring my chaos, Laura just rubbed her eyes once and immediately reverted back to her usual expression...amazing, she can actually get out of bed easily. Such a terrifying person.

--No, now's not the time to think about this! Just when I was busy thinking about it, Laura said,

"I heard that this manner of waking people up is very common, isn't it? It's said that engaged couples do this."

"...Who's the bastard who gave you such false information?"

"But it seems to be have an instant effect..."

"?"

"Are you awake?"

"Damn right..."

Anyone who's still not awake after seeing this either has a damaged brain or a rotten body, right? Either way, their specialty is that they're dead, devoid of response and just like an ordinary corpse. But to a bystander, only a psychologically abnormal person would talk to the dead, right? The dead need a grave, and that guy needs a doctor or something.

"But there's still some time 'til breakfast."

Laura's covered with the blanket, and the hair that was bundled behind at one point is scattered. I'm unhappy about it, but that shiny silver hair that's basking under the morning sun is really beautiful.

(Even so, this gal here has been doing this kind of stuff ever since the tournament last month. It's really troublesome...)

She basically treated eating food at the same table as something to be expected. Once, she appeared when I was showering, and even before that, she was below me in an IS suit...no way! If I leave her like this, she would be even more incorrigible.

"..."

Uu--is there a way to make her less enthusiastic?

"What's wrong...ah, stop staring at me like that! I'll get really embarrassed."

I have a liar in front of me. But the way this liar looked embarrassed is a little...no, extremely cute.

(Ugh, ah...NO! NO, NO, NO!!)

--Oh, I got a great idea!

"Laura."

"What?"

"I like dignified and elegant girls, you know."

"Oh--"

Seemingly surprised, Laura widened her eyes slightly, and then nods her head twice, seemingly processing what I meant.

Ohh, things are proceeding smoothly! I'm glad. Here's a reward! Haha, thanks for your reward. I'm the Master and the Servant is Me[3A 1].

"But that's just what you like, right?"

"Huh?"

"I'm me."

Those eyes filled with determination are staring at me.

The hand that's seemingly pointing at where the heart is draws what looks like a heart.

"..."

...Whaa--

What's with this organism that's full of belief? I'd likely sleep with her if I'm a girl, I guess? Sorry, I was just spouting nonsense.

"Bas-Basically, didn't you say that..."

Huh? What did I say? Damn it, I can't remember?

"You told me to do anything as I wish, but now...that's too despicable..."

Uu, I seem to have said that before, but what should I say...being liked to such an extent. I should be troubled or something like that...

Speaking of which, she went from a brazen attitude to looking up at me and talking to me now. It looks abnormally charming. This is what she's talking about, right? Besides, it nearly caused her to blush or her heart to start pounding like crazy...well, I don't really know anyway.

Once this thought developed, even the hand that she placed in front of her chest so openly now looked like it's blocking my sight. Unbelievable.

"Yo-You're telling me to cover them, but you seem to be enjoying it, isn't it?"

"WHAT....? I-IDIOT! I'M NOT! I'M NOT!!!"

"The-Then, do you want to look? You've been really daring ever since morning started..."

"WAAH!! WAIT A SECOND!!"

Seeing Laura flip the blanket off, I panicked. Though I intend to make her cover it up, I got easily passed, causing me to end up in a wrestling match.

It's now 6 plus in the morning...to the residents in the rooms besides me, above and below, I'm really sorry.

"You...!"

I tried to grab a corner of the blanket to suppress Laura...or so I intended. But she used my momentum that was going above to sweep me down. It's over, this is a military combat skill. I can't possibly win.

And thus, having been flipped over, my head landed directly on the floor in an embarrassing manner, and my neck got twisted by 90 degrees. IT HURTS!!!

"You should do some more wrestling techniques."

Huh...Laura's tone is just like Chifuyu-nee. As expected of her ex-student, even the icy cold stare's the same.

"Bu-But, about that...if you want to do sle-sleeping technique training, it's not that I can't join in..."

Why is she blushing? Basically, the sleeping technique she's mentioning is--AH!

"I-IDIOT! GIRLS SHOULDN'T BE SAYING SUCH THINGS!!"

"Oh? You want to say it yourself? I-I'm fine with it..."

"NO WAY! SPEAKING OF WHICH, YOU DID SUCH A THING TO ME, AND YOU NEVER REFLECTED ON IT!!"

"What thing?"

"Wha, huh, that, that..."

Huh--ah--uu--

"A...a kiss..."

Uu...remembering this, I didn't just blush, my body went hot on it's heart. However, I don't want to remember the hellish sight from that time, so I have to stop here. Anyway, my lips got taken by Laura last month, and also--

"Th-That was my first time..."

Though I feel inferior for saying this, this is still a fact. That was my first kiss. As it was too much of an impact, who would notice the taste? Those people who said that a first kiss has a taste of lemon, stand right up!

"I see."

"What do you mean by 'I see'..."

The irritating response made me rage, but before I went berserk, Laura continues,

"I-I'm the same as well...first time! Mnn...I'm really happy..."

Because she blushed as she said that, I had nothing to say at all. Please think carefully. When the girl in front of you is blushing and extremely cute (outstandingly cute), who can complain? Any guy who can complain isn't a guy at all, or at least that's what I think. I guess.

"..."

"..."

Huuh, what's with this silent presence? More than awkward, it feels more like we feel more aware of each other's presence.

No wait, let's change the atmosphere.

"WAAH!!"

Intending to stand up, I got forced back by Laura back onto the bed. That's a splendid yet quick skill, making me suspect 'where did she get such tremendous strength on those slender arms?'.

"You, you're really troublesome. I really want to ask you, why are you so capable of inflaming other people's feelings?"

Wh-Wha-What's she saying!? I don't understand at all! But right now, time is essential. Laura's blushing as she's covered by the morning sun, slowly pressing down on me.

Behind the dormitory, in an empty space that's occasionally used as a simple gathering place, Houki would come here to train seriously almost every day.

"Hoo..."

Having finished her morning shadow swing practice, Houki pulled out her towel from her bag of belongings.

The beads of sweat that were lit by the morning sun shone like precious stones.

The white torso guard (do) and the navy blue skirt (hakama) covered her healthy skin. Houki actually wore tabi socks and straw shoes (zori). To put it seriously, footwork has a very important significance in kendo. The tabi[3A 2] and zori[3A 3] that can allow the practitioner to step forward, defend and conserve energy are the 'imaginary battle practical equipment'.

In kendo tournaments, the practitioners are required to be barefooted. And the tabi and zori combination can give a barefoot-like touch.

But either way, Houki seemingly never went to the kendo club before. Even so, she continued to practice in order to not waste her skills.

(But it's already July...)

Recently, the morning sun began to rise earlier. Besides that, she began to feel that the gradually rising hot air was mixing in the atmosphere. Though exercising did improve her mood, she wouldn't feel good after being all sweaty and sorts.

(Let's go take a shower then.)

If that's the case, my roommate should be sleeping, right? Though they're rather distant, she would feel bad waking her roommate up, thus Houki walked towards the club tower bathroom.

(July--it's July already, Ichika, you haven't forgotten about it, have you?)

At this point, the first month of summer is extremely special to Houki.

"Oh my, you woke up early as well. Good morning."

"Good morning, sensei."

The teacher who's in charge of the club tower still opened the facility at this time today for the students who were practicing in the morning.

Sakakibara-sensei, who was about to be 29 today, is gentle to students, has great morals, and has good looks, but her luck with men is abysmal. Anyway, the guys she likes every time are the ones where other females would think 'no, I think he's a little...', guys who aren't going to have positive impressions. Many times during the year, she would be dumped badly and would go drink alone.

But this is the last year where she's going to be 20+. Her parents have been trying to matchmake for her, which is her present trouble recently. Unable to refuse, Sakakibara-sensei went dating with a few people, but she kept having the same thoughts.

"He's good. But I just can't fan my passion..."

Yes, that's right. She doesn't want peace nor stability. That's why she keeps falling for strange guys. She feels it herself too. If the target she meets can't fan her passion, nothing he says can change her mind. She doesn't want to end a marriage just because she's tired of it--that's Sakakibara Natsuki's introduction.

"I'm here to borrow the bathroom."

"Okay, take your time. Make sure that the faucet's turned off properly once you're done."

"Okay."

Hearing Houki's clear answer, Sakakibara-sensei smiles as she nods her head--she's a beauty, but as for her luck with guys, just read the above.

(Then...)

She walked into the changing room. There was no one here other than Houki, and it was to be expected given the time. Before the students end their morning exercise and run in, she could probably dilly-dally for another 30 minutes.

In fact, Houki came here earlier because she didn't want to meet the students who were training.

And the reason why she did this is--

"..."

As the 'do' was taken away, the breasts that were held down underneath bounced out.

The breasts that were way too developed for a girl her age would attract looks from people of the opposite gender and of the same gender.

Once, she was changing with the girls who were doing morning exercise, and all of them stared dumbstruck at her breasts. As Houki walked towards the bathroom, the girls started following her like she was the piper who led the girls away[3A 4]. After that, though everyone went into their own bath cubicles, she couldn't calm down with all the stares around her.

And that time, something worse happened. After someone mentioned the word 'watermelons...', everyone started playing a charades game with round-shaped fruits like they were hypnotized.

Embarrassed and angry and blushing red, Houki escaped the bathroom that time.

(Uu, seems like they've gotten bigger...)

File:IS03 027.jpg

Huge breasts aren't as good as what people say, at least that's what the person who has them will say.

First, the shoulders would ache. They shake every time she made a large movement. She also found them bothersome. There seemed to be few matching bra sizes for her, and because of that, the number of clothes she could wear were few. And no matter how she wore them, the clothes seemed to emphasize the bustline, attracting looks from both genders.

(Can't I deal with this problem...)

Haaa...she sighed. On a side note, if she were to say that trouble to Rin accidentally, she would face a situation even worse than being pursued and hunted by her till the end of the world. It's that terrifying. A woman's pride is higher than the Everest, deeper than the Mariana Trench and even more delicate than the sweets from that famous Kyoto Ogiya. It's also classified as the first kind of dangerous items, level 1 'highly explosive and dangerous', to be handled with respect and cautiously.

(B-But, that...if Ichika likes girls with large breasts, it would be a different thing altogether...)

She remembered that when she argued against Cecilia last month, she couldn't help but grab Ichika's arm.

To Houki, that was an unbelievably daring thing to do for her normally, but seeing that Ichika realized that she's of the opposite gender, it made her even happier than she imagined.

Truth be told, even though she wanted to go against Cecilia, just having Ichika's arm touch her breasts made her self-aware and embarrassed at the same time. However--

(If that can make Ichika be aware of me...)

Anyway, that's good as well. No matter how much kendo training she puts in, she's still a girl in her youth, so it's unavoidable that she would like someone.

And there's also the seaside school this month. In terms of timing, there's nothing better than this activity.

Of course, the main aim of the seaside school is to have IS equipment mobilization in the open unlimited space, but this is IS Academy, where 99% of them are girls, so naturally they would consider the girls' feelings. The first day would be free and easy--in other words, everyone can swim or play, and the school did think of the students feelings by not limiting them to just school swimsuits. It's all free and easy.

(This is a rare chance...!)

There will be an intense battle to get the only guy, Ichika. Though this is to be expected. Houki has her own plan.

"Okay! I'll get him to buy something with me this weekend!"

Unknowingly, as Houki clenched her fist, her voice echoed throughout the bathroom that has only her in it.

(...Okay.)

Having used the shower to wash away her sweat and blow her hair dry, her clean summer clothes were already put on herself.

Then, she checked her hair thrice, cleared her throat five times to adjust her voice. After doing all that, Houki finally knocked on Ichika's room door.

*Knock* *knock*.

"I-Ichika, are you in there? It's a rare chance, so how about we go out for breakfast?"

Silence, no response.

"Ichika? Are you still sleeping? You'll miss breakfast if you don't wake up."

But even after saying that a second time, she didn't get a response.

Somewhat unhappy, Houki placed her hand on the door handle.

*Clack*.

(Hm? The door isn't locked...that guy's really careless. Really!)

"I'm going in, Ichika. Hurry up and get ready--"

"Ge..."

"Mu?"

*BISSH!!* Houki's expression, movements and her entire body froze.

As she pushed the door open and walked in, she saw a thoroughly naked Laura pressing on Ichika's body, getting ready to kiss him. For some reason, Ichika didn't look like he was making any resistance.

Understanding till this part, Houki finally lost it.

"ICHIKA! WH-WHA-WHAT ARE YOU DOING, YOU WEAK BASTARD!!"

*SWOOSH!* She drew out a real sword at one go. That was the result of training everyday, but to Ichika, who's being pointed at, this isn't a joke.

"What? Hold it, Houki! That's a misunderstanding!!"

"WHAT MISUNDERSTANDING!? HOW DID I MISUNDERSTAND! HUMPH, JUST LET ME SLICE YOU UP!!"

"AHH!! STOP IT, I'M TELLING YOU TO STOP, YOU IDIOT!!"

"YOU'RE AN IDIOT! YOU BIG MORON!!"

Being unreasonable, Houki raised the blade above her head, getting into a position where she's about to slice my head in half. Unquestionably, that blade that's reflecting pure light is as serious as ever. I can tell that I won't just be injured if I get hit.

"YOU-YOU-YOU BETTER ACCEPT PUNISHMENT NOW!!"

*SWOOSH!* As the sound of the blade dancing through the wind could be heard, Ichika felt his sweat foreboding his imminent death.

--But that blade stopped at the last second. More accurately, it got blocked.

"It'll trouble me if you end up killing my bride."

"Cheh, you..."

Laura's right arm deployed the IS. It seems like she put the AIC on that part to block Houki's blade.

Being held down by that invisible force, Houki was unable to move, making her even more impatient.

On a side note, Laura's bride = Ichika. Though it should be the groom, but it's unknown where Laura heard that 'in Japan, everyone would treat the people they love as 'their bride'[3A 5]. So the conclusion became Ichika = Laura's bride. One day, just one day, I have to choke that person who taught her this extremely wrong piece of information--Ichika swore deep inside.

"Hoo, I'm saved...hm? Laura, you took off your eyepatch?"

Noticing the shiny gold left eye Laura's showing, Ichika's shocked. Once, due to a certain event, this eye changed color. It contained Laura's self-loathing past, thus she fought with her sealed left eye, but lost.

That's because that left eye had nanomachines that were used to complement the IS's extremely potent sensors. It enhances her sights, and even if the IS is in standby mode, she can see objects more than 2km away.

"I really hated this eye in the past, but not anymore."

"Oh, really? That's great."

Ichika added on with a 'no point hating your own body...' as he nodded his head. Seeing him like this, Laura blushed again.

"Be-Because you said that it's pretty..."

Seeing Laura turn away in an embarrassed manner, Ichika's heart raced for some reason. But Houki didn't feel interested.

"Che..."

"Che?"

"CHIESTOOOOOO---!!"

Roaring, Houki broke through Laura's AIC with brute force and swings down.

"WAHHH!!"

*ZUDOMU!* The blanket and bed got sliced down in half. She had such talent wielding a sword at 15 years of age. Any swordmaster who's around would definitely recruit her into his clan.

"ICHIKA!! DIE!!!"

"YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT!!"

"How rude of you, putting moves on other people's brides."

3 people, 3 different reactions. The standoff continued as they trudged on line by line. The morning commotion proceeded until the dorm caretaker Yamada-sensei frantically came running in.

"..."

After a while, the location changed. This is the first year student cafeteria. Having been released from the hellish calamity just now, I'm eating a slightly late breakfast.

On a side note, Laura's sitting beside me, and Houki's sitting opposite me.

I ordered a natto and grilled fish set, Laura chose bread, corn soup and chicken salad. As for Houki, she chose-

"Hm? Do you want to eat it?"

Having noticed my stare, Laura added 'I'll share some with you' and used her mouth to pick the bread up. Hm? Why must you use your mouth to pick up the bread...sigh, WAH!!

"Hm...what's wrong? You can bite it, you know?"

"ID-IDIOT! WHO CAN EAT LIKE THIS! THIS IS JUST LIKE KISS--"

The moment I said 'up till there', Houki forcefully slammed onto the table.

"Can you please be more quiet when eating...?"

Her lips are twitching, giving a terrifying smile.

"Fuu... are you jealous?"

"What?"

"You're envious because you couldn't do it?"

"Wh-Who, who can't do it! I-Ichika!!"

After drinking a large gulp of miso soup, Houki reaches out. Don't tell me this is...no, whatever the taste is, isn't she going to feed me with her mouth? Huh, when can I eat breakfast?

"...!...!"

The meaning of this is to prompt me to drink. So this is the meaning of talking with your eyes. It's referring to this. It'll be good if those eyes can be less like some highly-skilled sniper.

"Let me tell you something. Ichika said this himself."

Laura, who stuffed a large amount of chicken salad into her mouth, swallowed it before saying.

"Ichika likes elegant and dignified girls, you know."

"!"

Facing Laura who said that without any care, Houki revealed a mystified look.

Then, she swallows the miso soup in her mouth and then sits down. After that, she keeps a serene expression on her face as she eats her breakfast. Maybe she's mindful of the 'elegant and dignified' part, I guess? The amount of food she picked up is a lot less than usual.

(But, Houki's really a beauty when she can remain serene like this...)

Due to her daily training, her back's normally straight, and she doesn't have any additional fat on her arms and legs. The fingers that are holding the chopsticks are exceptionally pretty and her skillful use of the chopsticks has the elegance of a pianist.

"WAAHH!! I-I'M LATE...I'M ALMOST LATE...!"

Suddenly, a rare voice range.

The person who spoke hurriedly rushed into the cafeteria and picked one of the remaining sets that's closest to her.

"Yo, Charlotte."

"Ah, Ichika, good-good morning."

As there happened to be a seat beside me, I waved my hand to call her here.

It's rare for Charlotte to come to the cafeteria at such a late timing, and it's easy to tell from her hurried expression. It's true that in this situation when she just got ready to eat breakfast, she'll be late if she doesn't finish it up quickly.

"What's wrong? Charlotte? You would be punctual most of the time. Did you oversleep?"

"Y-Yeah, a bit...well, too much..."

"Oh, so Charlotte also oversleeps."

"Uu, well, yeah, oo...that's because...I went back to sleep..."

Maybe it's because she's eating? Charlotte seemed to be mumbling. Also, I don't know if it's just me, but she seemed to be delicately keeping her distance from me...?

"Charlotte..."

"Uu, hm?"

"You seem to be avoiding me."

"No, no, such thing!! Mn, not at all!!"

Though she said that, it seems that she's wary of me.

Besides, she was my roommate who stayed with me for about a month, so I can more or less tell that Charlotte's hiding something.

(But it will be irritating if I press on. Never mind. Speaking of which--)

Unknowingly, I start to look away from Charlotte who was hurriedly eating her breakfast.

On a side note, after my one on one training with her, she became rather skilled with chopsticks. Right now, for her to remove the bones of a grilled fish is as easy as washing her face before breakfast...we're eating breakfast, and I just mentioned about before breakfast[3A 6].

"I-Ichika? You're staring at me, you know? Is-Is my hair messy due to sleep?"

"No, that's not it. It's because you've been wearing guys clothes the past month that I felt it's refreshing to see Charlotte in girl's clothing."

"Re-Refreshing?"

"Hn. I feel that you're cute."

Maybe she's not used to being praised, I guess, as Charlotte immediately blushed on hearing my words.

"...Though you say-say that, you told me to wear guys clothing in the dream..."

"Hm? Dream?"

"NO-NOTHING! NOTHING AT ALL!!"

Charlotte forcefully shakes her head and waves her hands to deny it before retracting her hands to continue eating her breakfast.

And because I'd finished eating breakfast, I intended to drink some tea. However--

"OWW!!"

There was a shoe stomped on my feet, and my face got pinched.

"Saying to others that you like elegant and dignified girls, yet you're pretty frivolous, aren't you?"

"You're my bride. You should praise me more."

On a side note, Houki and Laura said these as they did those things respectively. Huh? Where did this hell come from? Do I have to keep pressing the 'B' button to escape[3A 7]? Spare me the deep-fried punishment[3A 8].

"Huh..."

Hurry up and think of somethin--okay, got a good idea!

"You're both beauties if both of you calm down."

*DONK!!*

MY FEET GOT STAMPED BY BOTH PEOPLE!! IT HURRTTSS!!

""STOP COMPARING US TOGETHER!!""

Uwahh, really terrifying...both of them are glaring at me really fiercely. What's wrong? You two hate to be mentioned together? Get along together more, you two. Really...

*DING--DONG--DANG--DONG*.

See, even the prep bell rung because both of you don't get along well with each other--hm? The prep bell?

"UWAHH! IT-IT'S THE BELL! WE HAVE TO GO GET READY FOR CLASS. HURRY UP!!"

Huh, that's weird?

Frantically getting up from the table, I was the only one left. Houki, Laura and Charlotte have already left the table and ran off...uwahh! Wait for me, you people!

"DON'T, DON'T LEAVE ME BEHIND! I REMEMBER IT'S CHIFUYU-NEE'S--NO, ORIMURA-SENSEI'S SHR[3A 9]!!"

It's practically suicide to be late.

"I don't want to die."

"Me neither."

"Sorry, Ichika."

UWWAHHH, THESE PEOPLE ARE TOO MUCH!! EVERYONE SHOULD DIE TOGETHER RIGHT!?

--On a side note, if I were in their shoes, I would've answered the same. Besides, the number of martyrs and salt content should be reduced to the lowest.

Just when I was thinking about this, we arrived at the main door. We had to change to outdoor shoes when we leave the dormitory, and we had to change back to indoor shoes once we reach back to the school building, so it was really troublesome...ugh, the three girls have already disappeared.

"Hurry up, Ichika!"

OOHH! My hand got grabbed immediately after I put on my indoor shoes on. I thought who it was. Charlotte seemed to have been waiting for me. Such a great person. Are you willing to die with me?

"I'm flying off, Ichika!"

"Huh?"

Just when I was about to ask, Charlotte's deployed parts on her legs and back, assimilated them and flew off.

This was a partial deployment of Charlotte's personal IS, the 'Raphael Revive Custom II', which was basically materializing the parts on the legs, to allow thrust, and on the back, to allow flight.

"--OWAAHH!!"

My body got dragged up suddenly. I couldn't even see anyone on the corridors when the official bell that indicates the start of lesson rings. With the IS' flight capability, Charlotte and I got up to the 3rd level in a jiffy...but, about that, what should I say...I think it's best that you don't fly with a mini-skirt, because, well...I just saw her light blue panties.

"We're here!"

"Oh? It's been tough on you."

...That's strange? The official bell hasn't rung yet, and yet the demonic teacher is already in the classroom.

The homeroom teacher of class 1-1, Orimura Chifuyu, my own older sister and the ex-representative of Japan in the IS global tournament. She's also winner of the overall and close ranged categories in the first tournament, and she's a teacher who's still as strong as an Oni even without any equipment.

I glanced at Charlotte's face, and this is the first time I saw her face turn blue like that.

"This school is established as an institute to develop IS pilots, so this place isn't affiliated to any other country or is it affected by external powers...however--"

*BAM!!* The attack of the attendance book sounded as loud as ever.

"You are not allowed to deploy IS without official permission, even if you're in school. Do you understand me?"

"Ye-Yes...I'm sorry..."

To think that the honor student Charlotte would actually do something that would break the rules. This seems to have left quite the impression on the other classmates as everyone just remained dumbstruck.

On a side note, Houki and Laura used the time when Charlotte and I got lectured and sneaked in through the back of the classroom, getting into their own seats. Huh...I guess it's to be expected, but they don't intend to help me.

"Dunois and Orimura, after school, stay behind to clean the classroom. If there's a second time, I'll make you two write a letter of reflection and live in the special classroom, am I clear?"

""Yes...""

Both of us got to our seats with dejected moods. Being scolded by the devil, tough luck.

*DING* *DONG* *DANG* *DONG*. Ignoring the occasion, the bell rung, and SHR started.

"We'll be having an ordinary lesson today. Though all of you are IS Academy students, you are all still High School students. Don't fail!"

That's right. Though there's less lesson time, we have to learn ordinary subjects. These subjects aren't tested in mid-term, but they are tested at the end of the term. If I fail, I have to spend the entire summer vacation in remedials, and that's the only outcome I want to avoid at all costs.

"Also, from next week onwards, it will be the special school trip practical lesson time. Everyone is reminded not to forget your items. We will be leaving school for 3 days, so remember not to play too much during your free time."

That's right, the special school trip practical lesson time in early July--the seaside school will last 3 days. The first day is basically free and easy. Of course, because we're going to the seaside, these girls in their youth of teenage years were already excited since last week.

On a side note, I find that buying trunks is too much of a hassle. But when I mentioned that honestly, Cecilia and Rin warned me like a machine gun, so I have to buy a pair. Well, I'll go take a look during the weekend.

But I haven't swum in the sea for a long time. Actually, I'm really looking forward to it.

"Then, that'll be the end of SHR. Everyone's to study seriously today."

"Excuse me, Orimura-sensei. Is Yamada-sensei on leave?"

The good student in class, Tagatsuki Shizune-san raised an obvious question. To be honest, I'm mindful as well, but she either overslept or got bothered by something else, right?

"Yamada-sensei went ahead to check the place for our field trip, so she won't be here today. Thus, I'm taking over Yamada-sensei's duties for today."

"Huuh, Yama-chan went to the seaside already? That's so cool~!"

"That's sneaky! She should have brought me along!"

"Ah--is she swimming? She must be swimming--!"

As expected of the girls in their teenage years. Once there's something, they can make a ruckus out of it. Chifuyu-nee found it irritating since she continued on.

"Ahh, stop making a big commotion out of everything, it's irritating! Yamada-sensei went to work, not to play!"

Yes-- the girls in class answered in unison. Such amazing teamwork[3A 10].

After school, in the classroom that's dyed sunset, Charlotte and I are cleaning the classroom. There're no other students here, or rather, in this IS Academy, they wouldn't call on the students to clean the floor. The assigned cleaners will clean the classrooms, corridors and even the ceiling are cleaned neatly.

The reason they don't allow students to clean the classroom seem to be because in the past, the caretakers of the students voiced an objection, saying that 'even if it's just a little time, they should focus on IS education' and made the rule.

Thus, cleaning the classroom became a light punishment for students, and we're experiencing this now. But--

"Mn--it's interesting."

"Huh?"

"Nothing. I'm just saying that it's interesting to clean, especially when it's the classroom we use so often."

"Is-Is that so? You're so weird, Ichika..."

Huh? How did it end up like this? I thought Charlotte would agree with me. I'm a little hurt here.

But either way, no matter how she felt, Charlotte's still Charlotte as she seriously helped me in cleaning up.

"Ugh, uu~"

"Ah, don't force yourself. I'll shift the table."

Speaking of which, that's Kishisato-san's table right? Her textbooks are all over the floor. Though she herself said that it's a 'fully-armored' table, there's all sorts of holes to this saying...

"No, no problems! I'm an owner of a personal IS, so my physical ability compared to the rest is..."

Saying that, Charlotte lost to the weight and slipped. I immediately supported her body from behind.

"That was close...wouldn't that be adding insult to injury if you're hurt? See, just let me..."

"Uu, yeah, tha-thanks..."

As I slipped back to support Charlotte's back, the movement feels like I'm hugging her. Maybe she couldn't calm down because a guy's body's around her as her eyes seem to waver.

"Huh--sorry, I'm letting go then."

"Ah..."

Hm? Why do I feel that Charlotte sounded like she felt that it was a pity gesture, how come?

"...That was alright..."

"What?"

"No, nothing!"

"That's good."

Including what happened this morning, I really feel that today Charlotte's been acting strange.

(Wa, wa, my heart's beating so fast...my face, is my face alright? I'm not showing any strange expression, right?)

Though they were punished to clean the classroom, the fact that Charlotte got the dream sequence of being alone together naturally made her heart beat faster.

The classroom that's dyed orange suddenly overlapped with the scene Charlotte saw in the morning, causing even her ears to become red.

At this moment, she also realized that the heat on her face is such that she would be giving off hot air, and that the calm demeanour she would usually show is no longer present.

(Wha-What should I do...got to say something, uu, but I really can't say anything, and I don't know what to say...)

"Oh yea--"

"KYAAHH!"

Ichika's sudden words caused Charlotte to react in shock since her voice went embarrassingly high-pitched. As the voice was too weird, she immediately covered her own mouth after making that sound.

"Wha-What's wrong? Letting out such a strange sound..."

"It-It's nothing! Nothing at all!! I-I was just thinking about something, that's all..."

"Really? That's good."

Seemingly without any suspicion, Ichika moves the table. After putting these things back onto the original position, the cleaning was finished. Thinking about this, Charlotte starts to feel an inexplicable loneliness.

"I've felt something weird since last month started, so I should ask you now."

"Uu? Oh yes, what is it?"

"Huh...when you said to me that 'please call me Charlotte when we're alone', I thought that you intended to continue your disguise as a guy. The next day, you just returned back to your girl identity, so I was wondering if something happened..."

"Ah, huh, well, that, that's..."

As for the details to this, Charlotte really has difficulty saying it out. Normally, she would just answer simply, but today, she's been stuttering all day long.

"Ah, it's not that. It's fine that you don't want to answer, it's just that I feel weird about it."

"Do-Do you care about that...?"

"Of course I do."

"Is-Is that so...I see."

Huh...even though she felt puzzled, Charlotte tried to think of a suitable vocabulary. After exchanging looks with Ichika many times, she finally decided on it and said,

"Well, I hope that Ichika can seriously..."

Even though her face immediately blushed, Charlotte continued to stare at Ichika and say,

"...treat me like a girl. So, when I'm a girl while we're alone, I don't know if it's weird or despicable...but, that, an-anyway, you're the reason, Ichika."

"Is-Is that so? I'm really sorry then..."

"The-There's nothing to be sorry about..."

After saying that, Charlotte turned her face to look at the window. Even under the shine of the orange sunset, her face still looked exceptionally red.

"But I did seriously treat Charlotte as a girl."

"Huh? You mean..."

As Charlotte heard something unexpected, her heart began to pound crazily. But at this point, while the girl in her teenage years was a little expectant for him to step forward, the blockhead of the blockheads, Orimura Ichika, stood there.

"Because you're not a guy."

*KRAU*, *KRAU*. A crow flew behind Charlotte. Well, it didn't actually fly by, but it sounded like a dumbfounded crow's cry.

(Uuu~! Ichika, you, Ichika, you...!)

Recovering herself, Charlotte felt like stomping deep inside her heart, and her face was red from anger instead of the emotion just now.

However, she couldn't say it out clearly, or rather, she couldn't say it out at all, so she ended up at her wits end like this. In fact, she was about to suspect if Ichika was deliberately doing this.

Speaking of which, it was because he didn't do it on purpose that made it irritating. He's definitely a big blockhead, yet he would say things that will make people nervous, causing Charlotte's face to instantly become like a hot water boiler all the time. It was the same this morning; hearing him suddenly say that she's cute, causing her heart to nearly pop out at that moment.

(Never mind...that...I'm really happy...)

But really, she just wished that he would just say those things to her. She knows that it's difficult, yet she couldn't help but continue to wish for this. It's really a girl's complicated feelings.

"But now, the name you asked me to call you has become normal already. Don't you want a nickname?"

"Huh, can-can I?"

"If Charlotte doesn't mind."

On hearing Ichika's answer, Charlotte immediately nodded her head forcefully.

"Yeah, okay! I have no objections at all! It-It's rare to have this chance, so I'll leave it to you!"

As she was excited and shocked, Charlotte's voice accidentally went high by half an octave. In order not to let him realize this, Charlotte tried to act as calm as possible, yet her heart was already showing a scene of a blooming flower field.

(WA~! WHA-WHAT'S GOING ON? WHAT'S WITH ICHIKA!? SUDDEN-SUDDENLY SAYING THAT, I HAVEN'T EVEN GOTTEN MY HEART READY YET...AHHH!! BUT...THA-THAT MEANS THAT HE-HE L-LI-LIK-LIKES ME, RIGHT? I'M RIGHT, RIGHT? AM I!?)

As she was overly excited, Charlotte nearly let out a strange sound, which she clears her throat to hide it as she awaited Ichika's words with expectant feelings.

"Let me think. Mn, how about Charl? It's nice and intimate."

"Charl--okay! It's great! It's very good!"

"Is-Is that so? Having such a large reaction, I guess you like it."

"It-It's okay, Charl...Charl, ufufufufu~"

Right now in the flower field in her heart, there are 4 large-head chibi-Charls holding hands and dancing. If subtitles are allowed, there would be a 'please hold on a moment'.

"--Then Charl, I got something I would like to ask you..."

"Hm? What is it?"

Ichika suddenly grabbed Charlotte's hand forcefully while she's smiling in her own happiness.

As Charlotte had a '?' pop out above her head due to this sudden action, Ichika closes in with a serious expression and says to her,

"Go out with me."

"Huh?"

Charlotte heard the world stop.

"Oh, the weather's great today!"

It's Sunday. The weather's clear. That's great.

To prepare for the seaside school that's starting next week, a certain girl arrived on a street. As for that girl--

"..."

Charlotte is--or Charl is giving an unhappy look.

"...I just heard my dream shatter..."

I don't know what happened, but she's been like this ever since morning started. I don't know whether she's listless or just moody, but she's been looking like that.

On a side note, Charl's wearing a short-sleeved white shirt that's suited for summer, and she's wearing a cutie-top that's of the same color as the skirt. That light cream skirt is short, sufficiently showing her healthy leg outlines.

--Mn, very cute! Especially the elegance of the matching colors, they do look classy and trendy.

"What's wrong Charl? Are you feeling sick?"

As I peered over worriedly, she forcefully pushed my face away,

"..."

And doesn't say anything. However, her eyes seem like she's blaming me badly.

"Charl, that's--"

"Ichika."

"Ye-Yes?"

"Those guys who play with girls' feelings should be stomped to death by horses."

WAH, SUCH INTENSE WORDS!

But as for that, I agree with that all the way. Even if it's not a girl, fooling with other people's feelings like that is still bad and goes against morals. This kind of guy can't even support himself, let alone others.

"Yeah, such a guy should just die."

"Go look into a mirror!"

Hm? Is my hair messy? Not good, this can't do.

"Sigh...beside, besides, you just asked me to go accompany you to buy something. Ahh, I feel that you said something similar last month, Ichika...haa~..."

Wahh, she just sighed deeper than 20,000 meters deep into the ocean. Wha-What should I do? Is it really a hassle to go out with me?

"Huh...about that...I'm sorry, but, it's alright not to force yourself like that, you know? If you're really feeling unwell, we can always go back to rest. Health is first priority."

"..."

Charlotte continued to stare at me as she gave off a silent pressure. What's with this oppressing feeling? It's making me feel painful.

Because it's painful, I started making some ridiculous concessions,

"Huh, well, to thank you, I'll treat you to parfait at the shop in front of the station."

"Just the parfait?"

"An-And cake! And drinks!"

"Good. Also, this."

After that, she suddenly reached her hand out. Hm? Hold hands? It's not that I can't. For some reason, I feel that she just let out a sharp glare.

Huh...got to think. Think fast! Me!

"I won't argue with you if you're willing to hold hands with me."

"Ohh, so that's how it is. Okay."

Speaking of which, this is a street she's unfamiliar with, and since she's in a foreign land, it would be really bad if we lose each other. It's Sunday, the day when everyone's resting, so there're a lot of people.

Thus, to prevent this, Charl actually thought of holding hands. She sure can think fast. I have to learn from her more.

"..."

Huh? That's strange? Why did Charl suddenly become so silent? For some reason, I find that she looks different, her face just seemingly blushed, and her eyes are wavering. Does she have a cold?

"Are you alright?"

"KYAH! Wh-Who-Who're you asking?"

"Huh, you. Do you want to go back to rest?"

"No, no need! I'm alright, I'm good, no problem! Le-Let's go!"

Being dragged by Charl as she suddenly took large strides, I follow her to the train station.

Even so, right now, Charl's hand that's holding onto mine is a lot slender than expected. It contains the warmth of a woman, causing my heart to beat ridiculously.

"..."

"..."

Two figures were hidden in the shadows, noticing Ichika and Charlotte walk towards the station.

As both of them passed the crossing with the green light on and disappeared into the crowd, those two figures used the opportunity to appear from the tress. One of them had a pair of lively ponytails, and the other one had elegant blond hair. In other words, they were Rin and Cecilia.

"...I say."

"...What is it?"

"...Well, did they just hold hands?"

"...They did."

Even if they asked 100 people, they would get 100 same answers. Cecilia lets out a spastic smile as she holds onto the PET bottle. *PACK!* The bottlecap flew up!

"Is that so? That happened, right. I didn't see it wrongly, and I wasn't daydreaming. So that happened--alright, let's kill him."

Rin clenched her fist, and the IS was partially deployed on it as she got ready to battle. There were about 2 seconds before the Impact Cannons were fired.

Girls' naive feelings can be that terrifying.

"Oh, seems like you're having fun. Let me join in."

""!""

The voice of the person behind them caught them off guard.

Standing over there was the opponent that caused Rin and Cecilia to suffer defeat, the one person they would never forget, Laura.

"KYAH! Wh-When did you appear there?"

"Don't be so wary, I don't have any intention to have it at you for now."

"Who-Who would believe that! If you want to battle again, I'll accept it willingly!"

Having been beaten in a 2vs1 match, Rin and Cecilia began feeling suspicious, but in contrast to their reaction, Laura didn't seem to mind as she replied,

"About that? Oh well, I forgive you."

Hearing her say that casually, both of them just remained rooted to the spot, unable to respond to what she said. However, they immediately recovered.

"Wha-What forgiveness, you...!"

"Who would say 'Is that so? I got it?' after hearing you say that...!"

"Is that so? I'm going after Ichika then. Got to make a move first."

As Laura really made a move after she said that, Rin and Cecilia frantically stopped her.

"Wa-Wait-Wait a minute!"

"Tha-That's right, what are you going to say after catching up to them?"

"It's obvious, right? I just want to tell them that I'm joining in."

Hearing Laura's direct response, both of them cowed back. As her response was so direct, they didn't know whether they should be unhappy or envious.

"Wa-Wai-Wait a minute! If you want to fight against an unknown enemy, we have to collect information first, right?"

"Well, that's true. What do we do?"

"So we should tail them from behind and observe what state they're in."

"I see. Let's do it."

Thus, under ridiculous reasons, they became the mysterious 3 stalkers.

"Let me see...the swimsuit're over here."

Right now, we're standing at the 2nd level of the shopping center in front of the station. Being the transport hub here, it's easy to find anything, whether it's the train, subway, public bus, taxis or whatsoever. This place is accessible from every single place in the city, and can allow access to any place in the city.

Also, this shopping center 'Resonance' that links to the station and the surrounding underground streets has all sorts of restaurants, whether it's European, Chinese, or Japanese. The shops selling clothes have all sorts of top class international brands. Also, there're all sorts of entertainment facilities for all ages. It's been described as 'if you can't find it here, you can't possibly find it anywhere else'. It's that simple, no wait, it's extremely glamorous.

On a side note, this place is linked to the station, and yet I called it 'in front of the station', which makes it unbelievable. However, this is already 'in front of the shop' since the beginning, so it can't be helped. In middle school, Dan, Rin and I would often come here after school. Such fond memories.

"Oh yeah, Charl, do you want a swimsuit?"

"This, well, that...Ichika, well, do you want to see me in a swimsuit?"

Hm? She just asked a weird question. Wouldn't the main point be whether you want to swim instead of asking me if I want to look at it? Charl can be really be weird at times.

"Well, since it's rare, let's go for a swim. I haven't been to the seaside for a long time, so I'm really looking forward to it."

"I-I see. Th-The-Then, since we're here, I'll just buy a new one then."

Charl slightly increased the force of her grip as she nods a few times. Maybe she's feeling excited about being able to swim after a long time? Speaking of summer, we can't miss out the sea, the watermelon and the fireworks. That's right, that's right.

"Well, the guys and the girls have different areas to shop, so let's separate here."

"Ah..."

As I let my hand go, Charl let out a sound as if she missed it. After that, she has 'that kiddy look of wanting something but can't say it' as she stares at me.

"Huh-what's wrong?"

"Ah, nothing, nothing at all."

"That's good. We'll meet back here in 30 minutes."

"Mn, got it."

Charl nods her head in understanding and heads off to the girls' swimsuit area. Just looking at those arrays of colorful swimsuits, it makes me feel like I'm in a Southern country.

"No, hold on, I need to choose my own swimsuit as well."

Good thing I saved up quite a bit of personal money as I went working during middle school, and now that I'm living in the IS dorms, the meals, electricity and gas are all free. Ahh, how is it that this unique independent school IS Academy is run by Japan so brilliantly.

Speaking of which, I haven't chosen swimming trunks for a long time. I feel that there's a ridiculous sort of colors, but I just chose a simple navy blue swimming trunks.

(Mn, that can do. There's still 10 minutes, but let's go wait for her.)

Thinking about this, I return back to where I left Charl. Unexpectedly, she's already waiting for me.

"That's strange. You're fast. Is everything complete?"

"Ah, no, well...I want Ichika to choose for me."

"Really? Let's go look at it then."

Saying that, we arrive at the female swimsuit area. But, what should I say? The colors, the styles or whatever, the number of women's swimsuit far exceed the number of men. Seeing such a huge variety of them, I inadvertently backed away with 3 large steps.

(Uu, but since Charl wants me to give her suggestions, I'll just endure it for now...)

As today's Sunday, there're female customers all over. They seem to immediately notice a guy walking into a place where female goods are sold.

"Over there."

"Hn?"

Looking around, Charl and I are only ones standing here.

"I'm calling you, man! Arrange the swimsuits here!"

A woman whose name I don't know suddenly said to me. 10 years after the introduction of IS, the female superiority quickly spread throughout the world, and every country treats women better. When guys walk down the streets, they will be ordered to do something by someone they don't know. But I--

"What? Just do it on your own! If people like to order other people to do things, humanity will became dumb!"

I hate this the most. Forget about it if it's a friend I know, but when I don't know the person, I don't think I have the need to listen to this, and I don't want to follow it.

"Oh, do you want to say that? It seems that you don't really understand your own circumstances."

After that, the female customer intends to call the guards. Right now, this is a women superiority society, so if she says something like 'he suddenly exerted violence on me', I don't need to defend myself and will be deemed as guilty.

That's how society is right now.

"Sorry, can you hold it here. I (boku)--I (watashi) brought him here."

Charl entered at the right time. Since both of them, are females, things won't go out of hand.

"He's your man? At least train him better!"

Wah, you heard that? That's basically men=dogs!

On a side note, only a few females would be this arrogant. Most females would still think that men are of equal standing to certain extents. However, that attitude was obviously out of the thought that 'men have to help women do things'.

"Really, it's because you people never trained them properly that men would..."

The female customer grumbled as she left. What's wrong? Did she end up meeting something irritating? A stressful society's really isn't good for humans.

"Sorry Ichika for making you meet such unpleasant things."

"Hm? No problems. I'm the one who should be thanking you for saving my life."

"That's to be expected! That, well...can you help me choose a swimsuit?"

"Okay."

Now that I answered that, Charl dragged me over. Feeling puzzled, I got dragged by Charl to the changing room...huh? Hold on? Charl-san?

"We-Well, I can't tell if a swimsuit's suitable if I don't buy it...right?"

No, that...well, even if you ask me that, I can't answer that easily...

But I just seem to notice that there's a large promotional board with the notice 'females can try this', which seems to make this popular. Also, it seems that those that were worn before will be washed by the staff. Ohh, how luxurious. Female superiority has extended to such levels.

"I-I'll be done soon. Just wait for me."

"Huh, then I'll go outside--"

"No, no you can't!"

No, even if you say so, I...

"It-It's okay, I won't take too much time."

Charl said this as she started taking off her shirt.

"WAAH!!"

File:IS03 067.jpg

I immediately turn my back on Charl.

In the crammed changing room, only Charl and I are here. And no matter how unwilling I am, I can hear the sound of clothing being rubbed, which makes my heart beat faster. And since the space is so crammed, I can immediately detect the sweet smell only girls have...ugh, no! Got to remain calm.

"Ah. Cha-Charl?"

"Wha-What is it?"

"Huh..."

Though I really want to ask how it ended up like this, I'm hesitating on whether I should say it, so it's became a situation in which I don't know what to say.

"Mm..."

*Pasari*. I hear something light land on the clothing or something. Don't tell me that's--no, doesn't matter whether I can hear it. Was that the sound of underwear being taken off?

WAAHH!! Instead of being troubled wondering what I should do, maybe I should ask Charl what's she's doing, right?

(Uu, I did this out of impulse, but what should I do next...)

Speaking of which, the reason why it ended up like this was because Charlotte noticed three people trailing her.

The IS Core Network is a unique network that links together. IS was developed for space exploration, so even if they are a galaxy apart, they can accurately detect each others position, so the network had the specialty of identifying each others location.

Of course, to accurately detect each others location, they have to get authorization. But even without it, one can tell roughly where they are.

However, if one wants to avoid being detected by the Core Network, they can use what's called a stealth mode.

'All three are using stealth mode, impossible to detect where they are'. In other words, they're 'at a place where they don't want to let other people know where they are'. Thus, Charlotte could tell that they were 'following her from behind'. As Laura, who was in the Army before, was amongst them, they wouldn't commit such a stupid mistake as being spotted. However, Charlotte had an amazing perception, and so this deduction was just easy.

(Hn~ can't the three of them go back...?)

Either way, it's now here time to go out with Ichika alone. In other words, it's a date. Right now, let's not bother about what Ichika thinks. Charlotte just thought of this.

The movements of youthful girls couldn't be underestimated. Even if it was just in her mind, such a pressure was still active.

(Bu-But, changing clothes in the same room is definitely too much...)

She blushed as she looked back at Ichika. It seemed that he didn't know how to deal with this as well as he's been looking up at the ceiling for no good reason.

(Uu...does he find think I-I'm a very weird girl?)

Besides, she was changing in a room that didn't have anybody of the opposite gender, and there would be a moment when she would be completely naked, so it's impossible not to be embarrassed.

She grabbed the jewellery in front of her chest, the Cross-shaped jewellery that was the Revive's standby mode, tightly in her chest.

(But, but then, Ichika's basically a Dreadnought level blockhead! If I don't do this...ahh, forget about it. Let's just do it!)

After blushing, Charlotte decided on it and removed her underwear down the legs. After putting them on her clothes, she puts on the swimsuit on her naked body.

Oh yes, as for the English battleship 'Dreadnought' that was built in 1906, the official records never mentioned that it was a blockhead. In truth, it was not a human to begin with, so please bear with this.

"I-I'm done..."

"O-Okay..."

She brought him here to see herself in a swimsuit, so it was treated as something to be expected. But the moment her body sensed Ichika's stare, Charlotte started to feel uneasy. In order to hide this emotion, she rubbed her fingers together, anxiously waiting for Ichika's thoughts.

"..."

Up till now, Ichika, who's the crux to all these, is hit with the triple attack of 'being alone with a girl', 'a girl is changing clothes' and 'a bikini look' in this enclosed space, which bothered him, or rather, made him embarrassed.

(Wh-Why isn't Ichika saying anything? Is-Is the swimsuit weird? We-Well, looking at it closely, this is a really bold bikini...)

That was a swimsuit that had been designed as a mix between a two-piece and a one piece. The two pieces at the top and bottom were linked through a cross at the back. It was that kind of a design. As for the color, it was bright yellow, which made one think of the summer. The front design seemed to be emphasizing on the busty breasts.

"The-Then, there's another piece, actually--"

"No, no need for that! Isn't this suitable? Mn, that's good, Charl!"

Ichika was starting to get wary about her changing again, and accidentally said such words in reflex.

Those words weren't something that would make the opposite gender happy, but on hearing Ichika stammer frantically, Charlotte felt like she got praised.

"I-I'll be choosing this then!"

"O-Okay. I'm going out then."

This time, before Charlotte could stop him, Ichika opened the door and got ready to leave the changing room.

"Huh?"

"Huh?"

"HUUUH?"

Standing at the door was actually the vice-homeroom teacher of class 1, Yamada Maya-sensei. Then, behind her, Chifuyu noticed that there was something going on and pressed her head.

"Idiot, what are you..."

The next moment, Yamada-sensei sank into a light frenzy, and her shrill scream echoed throughout the room.

"Oh, so you're here to buy swimsuits. But two people entering a changing room together is totally unacceptable! It's not alright even on the educational aspect!"

"So-Sorry..."

Charl lowered her head and apologized. Well, I seem to find that's she's been getting scolded a lot nowadays, and all because of me. Uu, sorry.

"Oh yeah, Yamada-sensei, Chifu--ahem, Orimura-sensei, why are you here?"

I tried to divert the topic and explain the doubts. Man, I'm good.

"We're here to buy swimsuits. Al-Also, we're not on duty now, so there's no need to force yourself to call us senseis."

Well, even if she says that...naa, it's alright for Yamada-sensei, but even though Chifuyu-nee's wearing somewhat casual clothes, she's wearing a summer suit. Especially in this situation with other people around, I would likely get scolded if I just call her 'Chifuyu-nee'.

At this moment--

"You people should come out now, right?"

I seemed to hear a 'gulp'. No, maybe I'm just thinking too much.

"We-We were intending to come out."

"Tha-That's right! We were waiting for the right time!"

And thus, two people appeared from behind the pillar. They're Rin and Cecilia.

"And why are both of you being so sneaky? I wonder?"

"Girls don't want guys to know their shopping plans!"

"Tha-That's right! Really, Ichika really has got so much nerve that it's mindboggling."

Wa--for some reason, I got blamed badly. I shouldn't have asked.

"Make your purchase and go back."

Chifuyu-nee's seems to be holding onto a swimsuit. It seems like she's like Yamada-sensei, making her final preparations.

"Ah, ah--I got something I forgot to buy! I'll go buy it! Umm, I don't know where it is. Rin-san, Alcott-san, please follow me! Dunois-san too!"

Y-Yeah? What's with Yamada-sensei all of a sudden? As I sensed a flash in her eyes, she dragged the three girls away without allowing any protests.

With that, only Chifuyu-nee and I are here. The mysterious silence remains around us for several seconds.

"...Really, Yamada-sensei's way too sensitive."

"What?"

"Sigh...anyway, it's meaningless to say such words now. Ichika."

"Wha-What is it? Orimura-sensei?"

As I hadn't heard her call my name for a long time, I accidentally made a stiff response. Chifuyu-nee just gave a stiff smile, probably seeing that my expression's weird.

"We're not having lessons now, so you can call me by my name. We're just normal siblings here."

"I-I got it."

Seems like this means to be together as sister and brother--or something like that? I really don't understand Yamada-sensei's concern.

"Then, Ichika, which swimsuit do you think is nicer?"

Saying that, Chifuyu-nee showed me two swimsuits that were hung on the clothes hangers.

One is a black sporty type with web-parts that's showing a sexy look.

On the other side, in contrast, it's a white one that cuts a lot of the look and focuses on the functions.

Both of them are bikinis, and they both reveal quite a lot.

(Well...the black one, I guess.)

Considering this, I suddenly noticed something.

If she puts on this black swimsuit, maybe she might attract a lot of weird guys, no, that's a certainty. The white swimsuit may be comparable, but that forbidden allure would definitely cause any guy to be unable to say something.

"--The white one"

I did try to say it as naturally as possible, but after hearing that, Chifuyu-nee's response has a bit of wryness to it,

"The black one, right?"

"No, the white--"

"Liar. You looked at the black one first! Ever since before, you would always look closely at the one you like, so I knew immediately."

Uu...I got seen through really easily.

"Really, there's no need to worry as a younger brother. Do I look like a woman who would succumb to those frivolous men?"

"No, not at all...but Chifuyu-nee, aren't you going to get a boyfriend? I never heard you mention it before..."

"Say that once my brother can be independent."

Uu, now that she said this, I have nothing to say. I tried working in middle school, but in the end, most of the living expenses--well, 90% came from Chifuyu-nee. Though I tried spending before, but...

"Just use that money to get a gift for the girl you like."

--But I got shot back like that. I don't have anyone I like!

"Then what about you?"

"Ah? Me? Why?"

"What why? Aren't you dating? Luckily, there's an abundance of girls in the school, so you can just choose as you like, right?"

What do you mean by 'choose as you like'? Speaking of which, I used to think that 'choose as you like' was a type of color. Green (もぢり, midori), yellow green (きもぢり, kimidori) and 'choose as you like(よりどりみどり, yoridorimidori)'.

"Let me think...how's Laura? She's a really problematic kid, but she's an empathetic one. She looks good as well."

"No, that..."

"Besides, didn't you two kiss?"

UGH! DO YOU HAVE TO MENTION IT!? DAMN IT, IT SEEMS THAT I'LL SELF-DESTRUCT NO MATTER HOW I ANSWER.

Perhaps seeing that it's interesting to see me this embarrassed, Chifuyu-nee, who was giving a wry smile up till now, now unknowingly shows a slight smile.

"It's nothing bad, you know."

"No, how should I say it? I don't really understand that..."

"Oh, I see. Is she your type or not?"

"Well, I...uun. Well, I guess, she's pretty cute."

"Oh--"

"Laura's pretty cute--NO WAIT, WHAT DID YOU MAKE ME SAY!?"

"You just said it out, didn't you?"

UGH! That was the case. It feels like I was baited, but it's my fault for being baited in the first place.

"Never mind. Either way, before worrying about me, deal with your own problems first. I'm not so old that I need my younger brother to take care of me."

"Okay. I got it. I won't be worried about anything weird. Is that alright?"

"Mn, that can do."

After showing a smirk, Chifuyu-nee walks towards the cashier. I don't know whether I should follow her or wait here for Yamada-sensei and the rest to come back, so I just waited her for a while.

Rewinding time back to 10 minutes ago.

As compared to Charlotte's reaction, Ichika was simply too normal, so Rin, Cecilia and Laura, the trio of stalkers all noticed something,

"...Ahh, as usual, the blockheads of blockheads, Orimura Ichika."

With that, Laura feels that they're about to be discovered at this rate, and didn't want to continue.

Thinking this way, she left Rin and Cecilia and headed towards the swimsuit area. As the large number of swimsuits form a wall, she doesn't need to worry about being noticed.

(Fum. Speaking of which, I don't have a swimsuit myself.)

But it doesn't matter anyway. I can just wear the normal school swimsuit. Laura thought.

On a side note, the IS Academy designated swimsuit are of the endangered species, the sporty navy blue piece of art, the school one-piece swimsuit. On a side note, there's even a nametag on it.

(Doesn't matter anyway. If I can swim, I just need to wear something right? That swimsuit's functionality's rather good, so there's no need to find a replacement.)

Thinking about this, Laura stared at the swimsuits lined together with icy cold eyes, but at the next moment, her white skin immediately became red.

"Laura's pretty cute."

Because of Ichika's voice, of what he said, she suddenly turned around.

Laura knows that he and Chifuyu were talking to each other, but she disliked eavesdropping on others, so she didn't mind them and got hit hard.

"..."

The sudden words caused her face to be flushed red, her heart started beating like it was in 4th gear. *DOKI DOKITO, BAKU BAKUTO!!* The beating in her heart couldn't stop at all.

You should praise me more. Laura did say that to Ichika, but in fact, he never praised her before, so of course he never told her 'you're cute'.

But after hearing such sudden words, it's no wonder that the calm Laura who was called the German Ice would panic.

(Cu-Cut-Cute...? I'm, cute...cute...)

Ignoring the surroundings, Laura pressed her hand on her chest and closed her eyes. She gathered concentration that would normally be unrequired, and after mis-dialling a few times, she opened the IS private channel.

At the same time, in a German training facility, the IS special group 'Schwarzer Hase'--normally called 'Black Hares' were training.

There were ten IS in Germany, and this unit had three, which proved that they were the strongest squad.

The unit's seal was the 'Hare with an eyepatch'. With Laura as the leader, all the members had nanomachines inserted into their eye to improve IS computation. Though Laura's eyepatch was a function control, right now, all the members wore eyepatches to protect their eyes and for the pride of the unit.

"What are you doing!? You're late by 37 seconds!! Hurry up!!"

Growling angrily was the assistant commander, Clarissa Harfouch, 22 years old, the oldest in the squad. With so many members who were in their teenage years, she was a 'reliable big sis' who was strict and yet could involve everyone appropriately.

Her IS suit [Schwarzer Zweig] received a private channel signal from what amounted to a distress call.

"--Roger that. This is Lieutenant Clarissa Harfouch."

"It-It's me..."

Normally speaking, one has to report the name and rank, but as the other person's voice was wavering ridiculously, Clarissa inadvertently let out a stunned look.

"Commander Bodewig, have you encountered any difficulties?"

"Ah, ahh...there's-there's a major problem now..."

Listening to the tone of the speaker from the other side, Clarissa felt that things weren't that simple, and immediately used hand gestures to order 'end of training, emergency gathering'.

"--Do I need to bring the squad over?"

"No, no need, there's no need for the squad. It's, it's not military, anyway..."

"What is that?"

"Clarissa, well. Do-Do-Do I, look, cute...or not?"

...

"What?"

Clarissa's voice, which was rhythmically flat, just raised by half an octave. Facing the unknown sudden situation, the originally intense tone became what seemed to be dumbfounding words to them.

"I-Ichi-Ichika, he-he seemed to have said that, so..."

Hearing this, Clarissa immediately remembered.

"Ohh, so it's Instructor Orimura's younger brother. Commander seems to have feelings for that guy."

"Uu, well...wha-what should I do, Clarissa? What should I do in this situation?"

"Well...let's understand the situation. Did he say that to you directly?"

"No, that's not it, I think he wouldn't expect me to be here..."

"--That's great."

"Is-Is that so?"

"Yes, praising someone when she's not around, that's definitely not a lie."

"I-I see...!"

Laura's voice, which was wavering up till now, seemed to bloom like a flower after hearing Clarissa's words.

On a side note, Clarissa had been chatting with her using the private channel and using a pen to pass the message to the other members at the same time.

There's hope for the Commander and her crush.

"OOOHHHHH~!!!!" More than 10 girls cried out.

--On a side note, Laura had a lot of interpersonal relationship problems with this squad, but after the VT incident last month, she started discussing with Clarissa that 'I have someone I like', and all walls vanished.

If there's a need to describe the situation--

"WHAAAT!! THAT-THAT COMMANDER, LIKES, A...A GUY!!!?"

"I THOUGHT SHE REALLY LIKED INSTRUCTOR ORIMURA...!"

"Yeah, yeah, I thought so as well. But, well, that commander, I'm talking about her now. She actually asked 'What should I do to a-attract a-a guy...?'!"

"""KYAAAHHHH!!!"""

"So I seriously taught her! I told her that there's a culture of 'taking the person you like as your bride' in Japan!"

"AS EXPECTED OF THE VICE-COMMANDER! SHE'S REALLY FAMILIAR WITH JAPAN!"

"Of course, I didn't just read Japanese Shoujo manga just to put a front or because of curiosity!"

"SO-SO COOL...!"

"I LOVE THIS COOL VICE-COMMANDER!"

"BUT I LIKE THE CUTE COMMANDER EVEN MORE!"

"THAT'S RIGHT! ME TOO!! AHH, WHY COULDN'T WE LINK WITH HER WHEN SHE WAS IN THE COUNTRY!?"

"I REMEMBER THAT THEY COOK RED RICE IN JAPAN AT THIS TIME!"[3A 11]

"I guess so? It probably means that the blood is thicker than what, or something like that."

"AS EXPECTED OF JAPAN, IT'S REALLY EXCITING!!"

"IT'S WORTHY OF ADMIRATION!!"

"ALRIGHT, EVERYONE, THAT'S IT FOR TRAINING TODAY! LET'S HEAD TO THE ARMY CANTEEN AND COOK RED RICE TOGETHER!"

"""YES! VICE-COMMANDER!!!"""

--It was that sort of feeling. As expected of girls in their teenager years (a small group of them are 20+). Everyone would argue because of trivial matters, and would patch up because of trivial matters.

"An-And then, I-I'm at, that-that place where they're selling, swimsuits now..."

"Oh, swimsuits! Oh yeah, you have a seaside school next week. What will you be wearing then, commander?"

"U, un? The school issued swimsuit--"

"ARE YOU STUPID!!"

"!"

"I remember that the IS Academy has the old-fashioned sports swimsuit, so it isn't bad, or not...guys more or less would be aroused by it. But...that's--"

"That-That's...?"

Laura forcefully swallows her saliva.

"THAT'S NOT GOING TO BREAK THROUGH THE LINE OF EROTISM!!"

"Wha...?"

"It's true that commander can't use voluptous curves to trap men, but if you give up on this opportunity, you can't progress with 'that guy you have feelings for'!"

"The-Then...what should I do?"

"Fuu, I have a secret weapon."

As even her words were burning with passion, Clarissa let out a glint in her eye.



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