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Infinite Stratos Volume 6 Chapter 4: Heartbreaker

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Chapter 4: Heart BreakerEdit

"Kyaaa!"[6D 1]

Someone's scream could be heard. Because of the sudden turn of events, the tournament's organizer was left not knowing how to react, and panic spread through the audience.

"Calm down! Everyone, calm down and go to the shelter!"

The staff's voice reverberated, but no one listened to the transmission.

"Kya...!"

Ran was bumped by someone's arm and knocked off balance.

About to fall, her body was caught by a gentle hand.

"Are you okay?"

"Y-Yes...."

The hand's owner was Tatenashi.

Today, Ran's heart throbbed to an older beauty twice.

Uwaa, so cool....

"Geez, this is really troubling. For now, until the chaos subsides, it's better to stay away from the pathway. Come here."

Having her arms naturally pulled, Ran followed Tatenashi.

Ran was led to a staff room beyond a door that could only be opened by authorized people.

"Well then, onee-chan has a little something to do so please stay here for the time being."

"Umm..."

"If someone comes, please explain to them that the student council president told you to stay here."

"S-Student council president..."

She's a student council president herself, but clearly unlike that lady, who can make a clear distinction on what's important in front of her, Ran was very nervous and unable to calm down.

"See ya."

That throwing finger pose she made looked so cool.

Ran was dumbfounded for a while after Tatenashi left and was unable to move.

....Wha!?

She remembered the moment where the offender trespassed into the race and began firing its cannon toward Ichika.

He should be okay, right?....Ichika-san....

Along with the hands that grabbed each other tightly, just like a prayer, a wish was made.





"Are you okay! Laura, Charl!""

I immediately moved to the side of those two, who had crashed into the wall, and deployed Setsura's energy shield.

In the next instant, attacks from the BT rifle were raining down.

"Kuh...!!"

"Ichika-san! Leave that IS to me!"

"Cecilia!? Hey!"

"BT unit 2 [Silent Zephyrs]....! This time surely!"

Not heeding to my call, Cecilia headed towards the assaulter - Silent Zephyrs - alone.

But, unlike a normal operation, Cecilia was equipped with the high-speed maneuver package, and so, her Bits' shooting ability had been sealed. A reduction in the firepower of that large BT rifle that also seemed to be intended, was also something that couldn't be avoided.

"Ichika! I'll depend on you for defense!"

Rin hastily aided Cecilia, who had just left towards the Silent Zephyrs.

Cecilia's beam shot, and Rin's shock wave cannon aimed and fired at once towards the enemy.

"You're not getting away!"

"Gooooo!"

But, Silent Zephyrs didn't even evade the attacks, and a defiant smile surfaced on the pilot's face.

Right when the attacks made contact, Pang, an umbrella shaped beam surfaced.

"Wh...!?"

"Kuh! Just as expected, a shield bit.... Rin-san! Let's do a multi-directional attack!"

"Don't boss me around! Geez, I'll do it anyway!"

Cecilia and Rin's simultaneous attack started. As if to match that, Silent Zephyrs soared.

"That's the unit that was plundered from England...."

"Laura! Are you good enough to move?"

"No, I'm still unable to enter the battlefield directly. At least I'll give some fire support with my cannon."

After saying that, Laura raised her body, faced Silent Zephyrs and began the bombardment.

But, as if she was being mocked because of the overwhelming difference in the specs of the machines, she was unable to catch the Silent Zephyrs' figure.

"Ku!"

While taking on both Cecilia and Rin, the fluttering Silent Zephyrs flew through the sky, as if it was dancing.

"Ichika! Leave this here to me! Go with Houki to Cecilia's location!"

"Charl! What's your damage level?!"

"The thrusters completely died off. I can still fly using the PIC, but against that unit I won't be able to catch up."

Saying those words, Charl disconnected the additional thrusters in her unit. Those crumpled and crushed things won't be able to fly through the sky anymore, will they?

"I'm going to defend Laura while she does the support bombardment, so go, Ichika!"

"Got it!"

Leaving Laura's defense to Charl, I flew towards Silent Zephyrs.

On the way, I met up with Houki, and together brought the battle a close quarter combat with a linked attack.

"Uoooo!"

"......"

Silent Zephyrs accepted the challenge with the bayonet that's attached to the tip of its rifle.

I attacked continuously using Yukihira Ni-gata in my right hand and Setsura Claw Normal Blade mode in my left hand, but just like before, the shield bit blocked my attack with miraculous timing and, I couldn't make any decisive hit.

"What's your target! [Phantom Task]!"

".....What a joke."

"Wha!?"

Parrying Yukihira Ni-gata, a kick came down on me.

"Gu!"

"Ichika!"

Thanks to Houki's charge I barely managed to escape from the rifle's point-blank attack.

But, Silent Zephyrs - who had just done that - used the Flexible BT attack. The beam flexibly bent in its path and locked on to me.

"Uoooo!!"

Changing Setsura to Shield Mode, I somehow blocked that attack.

But, I crashed into the wall on my back because of that.

"Gaha!"

Seeing me wide open, Silent Zephyrs didn't let the chance go.

"Die..."

*Bakan!* The splited from its center rifle was aimed at me at max power.

The electrical discharge shaped energy that overflowed from that rifle was released in my direction -



"Fufu, as expected of M. To hold her ground while facing that many personal IS users."

While looking at the assaulter, at M's battle, beyond her sunglasses, the woman narrowed her eyes as if she was enjoying it.

Looking at her clearly, it's the lady that bumped into Ran earlier.

"Even so, it's actually not that great isn't it. I wish they could work harder though."

Behind her, a voice called out for this lady that just sighed.

"Ara, for someone who forcibly participated in the event, isn't that remark a little too much?"

The lady didn't turn around.

She already knew whose voice called for her. - Sarashiki Tatenashi, while being IS academy student council president, she's a genius who has already attained the right of freely choosing her nationality while still being a student. She's currently Russia's representative. Not a representative candidate, but a representative.

"IS [Gustoi Touman Moskwa (Moscow's Deep Mist)] isn't it? Your unit's name?"

"That's its old name. It's called [Mysterious Lady] now."

"I see."

The woman turned back. In an instant, a glistening knife was thrown.

"A woman without manners isn't attractive, you know."

Tatenashi, who deployed her IS in an instant, repelled it using the whip sword [Rusty Nail].

And then just like that, she used that sword which bends just like a whip to aim at the woman.

"You too, aren't you quite rude to someone you've just met for the first time?"

While taking off her sunglasses, the woman deployed the arm part of her own IS and blocked the whip sword's attack with it.

"[Phantom Task], what's your target I wonder?"

"Ara, there's no way I'm gonna tell you ain't I? Since we finally managed to make a good situation too."

"Then I'm going to hear it even if I have to force it from your mouth."

"I wonder if you're up to the task? Sarashiki Tatenashi-san?"

"I already said I will, [Squall (Heavy Rain)]."

Letting go of the whip sword, she called out her spear at the same time.

That thing which has a 4-barrel gatling gun inside of it, made some kind of formation and fired at once.

*Dododododo-!!*[6D 2]

"....."

Tatenashi managed to accurately grasp her opponent, but there was no leeway in her face.

Squall's figure was encompassed by a yellow cocoon, and not even one bullet managed to reach her.

"How about we stop this?"

"...."

"Your unit won't be able to break through mine. You also know this right?"

"If you can't win, if you can't defeat the enemy, then you shouldn't fight. That might be a wise choice - but!"

Tatenashi changed the water veil into a blade, and shifted to an offensive move at once.

"I am Sarashiki Tatenashi, IS academy's student council president, and that's why I will at least conduct myself in a way that befits that title...!"

Swiftly evading the blow of the high-speed assault caused by the lance that was clad in a water drill, Squall once again threw her knife.

"Such a thing!"

The blade of water cut the knife to pieces. But, in that instant a big explosion occurred originating from it.

"!?"

A thick black smoke enveloped her.

Of course, for an IS, this level of sight impediment was the same as nothing, but in Tatenashi's hyper sensor, she could see the figure of Squall escaping.

"Kuh.... With this, it's the 2nd time in a row I let the enemy escape, isn't it."

In a direct confrontation, Tatenashi was quite capable.

But, if the enemy focuses on fleeing, there's a chance she would be unable to stop the enemy from escaping. Also, because she is a human, it is impossible everything could go perfectly.

Haa.... Lately, I haven't shown anything good, have I. I have no right to make fun of Ichika-kun, right.

Unlike her usual easygoing attitude, a truly mortified Tatenashi stood there.



"Kyaa!?"

"Rin!?"

Rin, who received Silent Zephyr rifle's maximum power attack, was fiercely blown away.

"M-Moron! Why are you covering for me....Hey! Rin!"

"You're so noisy....It's because you're so stupid.... Geho geho[6D 3]!"

"Rin!!"

Rin, who took the blow in my place, faced me to punch me, and then lost consciousness.

I think it was probably because the Absolute Defense Field ability of the IS, that makes the pilot lose their consciousness when it receives a critical damage, activated. I also experienced it once during the summer, and it was quite tough.

"Damn it!!"

I raised my body, but at that point, Setsura's energy had already been depleted.

And then once again, this time in a shield-less condition, Silent Zephyrs' attack was directed at me.

"I won't let you!"

Right before firing, this time it's Cecilia who comes in the space between me and Silent Zephyrs.

Furthermore, it was not to become a shield, instead she made use of the high-maneuver package high output to do a body ram attack.

"Cecilia!"

"Ichika-san, use this chance to go to Houki-san for a resupply! I'll take over this place until then!"

Cecilia soared as if to pin down Silent Zephyrs, and just like that she pushed into the arena's shield barrier.

Firing her thruster to rush at the shield as if to crash the enemy to it for many times, the barrier finally broke during the fourth charge.

"Damn you...."

"This BT unit-01 [Blue Tears]'s power, I'll show it to you to your heart's content!"

From the crevice of the broken barrier, 2 blue units flew out.

Accelerating together at once, they flew to the town area.

"Kuh! Cecilia, wait for me!"

I took Houki's hand, which was flying this way, and requested a resupply as soon as she could.

"Please, Houki! Initiate [Kenran Butou]!"

"T-That's... not something that can be used conveniently like that...."

"Please somehow do something about it! Cecilia alone won't be able to restrain that machine!"

I shook Houki from my impatience.

But, it seemed that my desperation was conveyed to her, and Houki nodded with strength.

"I-I got it. I'll give it a try."

Houki touched my shoulder. I naturally knelt, and lowered my head.

"Alright! Please do!"

".....The same feeling as that time. I - "

Houki closed her eyelids to fully concentrate her senses.

"I - want to fight together with Ichika. I want to be Ichika's strength...."

Bunnn....

"Answer me, Akatsubaki! Haaaaa!!"

At that moment, from the shoulder that was touched by Houki, a warm torrent could be felt.

"T-This is.... It works, Ichika! I managed to initiate [Kenran Butou]!"

"Aa! Thanks, Houki!"

"I-It's nothing.... I'm satisfied if I can be of help to you."

"Then, I leave this place to you. Please resupply Rin's energy too."

"Leave it to me. You should go after Cecilia right away."

"Aa!"

After replying, I turned my thruster output to the max.

"I'm coming now, Cecilia!"



Kuh! Just as expected, she's strong...!!

While keeping her pace with her enemy, Cecilia directed the high-output BT long rifle [Blue Pierce] towards Silent Zephyrs.

But, as if carefully aiming for that attack timing, the distance between them opened again due to the obstruction from the barrage and shield bit.

"......"

M disinterestedly repeated her attacks toward Cecilia over and over again while keeping her silence.

Accuracy, overwhelming barrage speed, and to top it all, Flexible (Deviation Shoot), were making Cecilia suffer.

I will get hit sooner or later if it stays this way. Now that things have come to this....!

Cecilia summoned the closed range blade [Interceptor] into her tightly clenching hand, and charged at Silent Zephyrs at once.

"I got you!"

"Fun...."

M, as if to say she'll play the game, summoned a knife to her left hand and started a close range battle with Cecilia.

*Kin!* When the two blades hit each other, a sharp sound and sparks flew.

"Ku..!"

A close ranged battle in a supersonic condition harshly consumed a person's mental power.

But, Cecilia, as if to say that she won't lose even in obstinacy, refused to back down.

*Kin*, *Gin!* *Ga....Gin!*[6D 4]

While the one handed close quarter battle continued, M dared to decrease her speed.

And then, the chasing Cecilia came almost crashing into the high-speed road's multi-level crossing point which suddenly entered her field vision.

"You!!"

Cecilia who got out from the dangerous situation using Alley Roll (High speed rotating maneuver) was enraged at M who laughed as if to make fun of her.

She intends to play around with me!?

Cecilia swung downward her blade once again. But, with a flash, that blade was repelled and flew away.

"!?"

"...You're already dead."

It was a cold voice that made you tremble. And then, a merciless barrage poured down on Cecilia's whole body.

"Aa!"

The shield energy was gone at once, and the rifle that was in her left hand was destroyed.

Just when she thought she would get wounded from crashing to the ground, Cecilia barely managed to do an emergency pull-out just before she reached the ground.

"It's over."

From the rifle tip that was installed with a bayonet, a blue light was released.

"Not...yet. I still have my trump card!"

Shouting, Cecilia hit the trigger inside her heart.

High-speed maneuver package [Strike Gunner]. Out of all the techniques to redirect all of the propulsion power of the bit, it was technique that was said to be a forbidden maneuver, a technique that must never be used -

"Haaaaaaaa!? Blue Tears Full Burst!"

Simultaneous shots from all of the closed cannon mouth. A simultaneous discharge of four cannons that blew away the parts.

This was something that could be said to be the worst situation, dismantling a unit in mid-air. But, for Cecilia who couldn't use Flexible (Deviation Shoot), this was the highest level of attack that could be said to have the timing of a finishing blow.

"This is your trump card? Don't make me laugh!"

M raised her voice. And then, together with a laughing voice, she evaded all of Cecilia's shots with high speed rolls.

"Wha!?"

"Die."

*Zaku!* The bayonet pierced Cecilia's two arms.

"Aaaaah!"

A scream escaped due to the extreme pain.


File:IS v06 199.jpg

Hearing that voice, M's lips evilly contorted.

"-Please, Blue Tears - "

Cecilia directed both her pierced right and left hands, that were no longer able to grasp anything, toward M.

Inside her heart, a blue drop of water fell.

That drop of water that fell on the water's surface made a wide ripple.

Aah, is that so. Blue Tears is, in a word -

".....?"

M was unable to figure out Cecilia's plan.

And, a smile slowly surfaced on Cecilia's face.

"Bang."

She made a pistol shape with her hand. There was nothing fired from that fingertip.

But, the next instant, M was pierced by 4 beams from behind her.

"!?"

A technique that could only be used with a highly skilled manipulation of BT energy, Flexible (Deviation Shoot).

Cecilia finally managed to make that technique her own in the last moment, but her unit that lost its propulsion power in supersonic condition was unable to maintain its appearance and started to break down.

So this is as far as I can go isn't it..... But, I managed to return a blow.

Cecilia accepted her defeat with a sportsman's-like attitude. But, at the moment she gave up, a voice reached her.

"Sorry to make you wait!"

Byakushiki, rushing in at full blast, cut Silent Zephyrs' rifle, and used its hand to take back Cecilia.



"Cecilia! Get a hold of yourself!"

"Ara[6D 5], Ichika-san.... Fufu, you're late."

"Sorry about that!"

"Can't be helped. I'll forgive you with a....date...."

"!? Hey, Cecilia! Cecilia!"

Cecilia's vital signs were sent from the hyper sensor toward the shouting me. It seems she just lost consciousness.

Pushing yourself too hard, geez...

I found a building's roof where it seemed I could get down, and landed there.

It seems the IS stopped the bleeding in the wounds on her arms..... But, it could be bad if it's not tended to quickly.

At IS academy, there's a facility that's on the same level as a university's hospital. For the time being, let's bring her back to the academy.

"....!"

I, who was about to stand up and fly away, got startled and stopped my movement.

Silent Zephyrs was coldly looking down at us with its back facing the sun. There's an icy presence accompanying that gaze, like the pressure you feel when there's a knife pointed in point blank range at your neck.

"You bastard....."

I scowled at the enemy that hurt Cecilia. The enemy's face can't be seen because of the visor, but the enmity I gave out should have reached the enemy.

But, what should I do? Can I fight against that IS while protecting Cecilia?

But, whether it's impossible or not, if it's to protect a friend then I have to do it. I strengthened my resolve, and tightly grasped Yukihira Ni-gata.

" - Squall huh, what is it? ........ I got it, I'll go back."

"Wha...?"

"...Fun..."

Silent Zephyrs glanced at me once, and then turned her back and flew away.

"That person, what's the matter with her...?"

Even after Silent Zephyrs left, bound by that unpleasant pressure, I was unable to move for a while.



"One, two"

"Ichika, happy birthday!"

With Charl's voice as the signal, the sound of party crackers reverberated.

"Ye-Yes. Thank you."

The time is 5 o'clock in the afternoon, the place: Orimura family residence..... it's fine up to this point.

"What's with this number of people....."

Let's sort out the party members.

The usual faces. Houki, Cecilia, Rin, Charl and Laura.

And then Ran. There are also my male friends Gotanda Dan and Mitarai Kazuma.

Furthermore, there's the student council members Tatenashi-san, Nohohon-san, and Utsuho-san.

On top of that, for unknown reasons, even the ace of newspaper club, Mayuzumi Kaoruko-san, was here. The living room, which wasn't that big in the first place, almost burst.

Haa[6D 6]. I'm concerned about how they can make that much of a noise after that kind of incident.

No, it's the opposite isn't it. Maybe it's because it's after that kind of incident that they want to make some noise.

In the end, Phantom Task's objective is unclear too this time even after the temporary settlement was reached.

Seeing the academy's authorized people's, including both Chifuyu-nee and Yamada-sensei's, hurried movements, it seems this is a really big problem isn't it.

It's because we used IS in the town district after all....."

I was also investigated. In the end, I wasn't released until past 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

"U-U-Umm, Ichika-san! I, I baked a cake for you!"

"Oo, Ran. How was today? Did you have fun? Well, even if I said that, it got messy midway though."

"Y-Yes! Umm, it was great! Ah, please have some of the cake!"

"Thank you."

I took the plate that Ran held out, and ate the cake on top of the plate.

It was a cream and chocolate cake from cocoa based sponge cake. The smooth texture and big volume of cream made a good amount of sweetness unfold inside your mouth when you took a bite out of it.

"This tastes really good. Did you make this by yourself?"

"Y-Yes!"

"You are really good at cooking aren't you. Hm, you're going to be a good wife."

"W-Wife...!?"

"Ichika, here, Ramen."

"Owa!? Rin, that's so sudden."

"It's better while it's still hot. After all, the noodle is handmade by me. Fufun."

Rin boasted while sticking out her chest.

Indeed, the noodle floating on the golden soup looks delicious. Could it be that this chashu is hand made too? How elaborate.

"Mu, Rin-san..."

"Hmm? Ah, I was wondering who it was, so it's Ran isn't it? Did your body grow a little bit taller?"

"I, I don't want to be told about that by you!"


File:IS v06 207.jpg

Rin and Ran, the situation became stormy in an instant.

I wonder why these two can't get along with each other? It's been like this since our junior high school days.

Once, I wanted to ask about the reason, but somehow I got the feeling it will bring unnecessary trouble instead.

"T-Then, Itadakimasu."

*Slurp* *slurp* I vigorously ate the ramen.

The soup that's nicely coordinated with the noodles tasted very seafood-based-dashi-shiru[6D 7] like. It's very refreshing and the aftertaste is great.

The noodles are also chewy enough, it bounced when you cut it inside the mouth.

While chewing on it, the soup and noodles' refined taste spreads out inside your mouth, it somehow feels relieving.

"Hm. This tastes really great. Rin, did your cooking skill improve again?"

"Well, more or less! Although I'm a representative candidate student, I also trained to be a b-bride."

"Is that so. I see."

"...What's with your lack of response...."

"Wha?"

"It's nothing!"

I wonder why, Rin is mad at me.

For the time being, I put the porcelain bowl down and headed to the kitchen.

"Cecilia."

"Y-Yes?"

The person standing there with the bandaged right hand was Cecilia.

Her wound wasn't a light one, but it seems it will return to normal in a week due to receiving activated regenerative treatment.

She was advised to stay in the hospital for today, but she strongly opposed the idea thus she's attending the birthday party like this.

"Your wound, is there no problem? You should rest if it's painful."

"No! This much is not enough to be considered an injury! R-Rather than that, Ichika-san!"

"Hmm?"

"Happy birthday. And then, please take this."

"What's this box?"

"I-It's a present. Please open it."

"Alright."

I smoothly removed the packaging paper from it, and then opened the lid.

"Ooh? It's a tea set."

"*Gohon*! This is English imperial family's purveyor, [Einsley]'s high class tea set. Also, I also put inside leaves for first-grade tea that I love to drink inside."

"Oo...it looks amazing. Thank you. I'll treasure it."

"N-Not at all. This much is nothing. R-Rather than that, how about next time we - "

"Ichika-kun, did you eat well?"

"T-Tatenashi-san!? P-Please stop hugging me from behind!"

"*Fufun*, it's fine isn't it. It's not like you'll lose anything."

"I will! Such as my pure heart for instance!"

"Ara, then it's just perfect isn't it. Please console this heart-broken onee-san."

"Heart-broken....?"

Even while all this happened, Tatenashi-san's voluptuous chest bulge was pressing on my back.

"Wait a minute! Sarashiki-kaichou![6D 8]"

Cecilia's raising her voice.

She tried to remove Tatenashi-san from me, but Tatenashi-san's body was closely glued to me and she wouldn't move away.

"G-Get away from him please!"

"An, call me Tatenashi"

"That kind of thing doesn't matter! Please get away from Ichika-san right aw...ouch!"

"S-Stupid. Cecilia, your right hand is injured so take it easy. Are you okay?"

"I, I'm okay....n-no! I'm not okay. Ichika-san!"

"Which one is it...."

"*Gohon*! Because my right hand is injured, please feed me the cake."

"Y-yes, no problem...."

First of all, I took a piece of the cut cake, and then fed Cecilia.

"Here, aaahhnnn...."

"A, a...."

"Aaah!? Cecilia, what are you doing!? Even though this is Ichika's birthday!"

Damn it! Charl found us.

Cecilia, who ate the cake with a big bite, closed her eyes and let out a sigh in bliss.

"Fuuu... It's a privilege."

"I-Ichika! That's not fair! Rather, Tatenashi-san what are you doing too! Ah, really!"

The restless Charl spoke this and that. ...Somehow, she really understands other people's problems doesn't she.

"Arara. Well then Cecilia-chan, shall we go that way?"

"Yeah. I'm satisfied now so I don't mind. Ha....♪"

The two-girls group who seemed satisfied for some reason headed to the living room.

I, who was left in the kitchen alone with Charl, pulled out the watch that Charl bought for me when I remembered something.

"Thank you for this. I'm going to use this from now on."

"Y-Yeah! Please take care of it!"

That golden white wristwatch, aside from the usual wristwatch functionality, you can also see current temperature, humidity, weather, and even the latest news too. For the battery used in the wristwatch, of course there's the latest air battery, solar battery, and there's even a heat power generator too. This watch sure is amazing.

"Next time tell me Charl's birthday too. I definitely gonna return this favor during that time."

"Y-Yeah. I'm looking forward to it."

"Even so, today sure is troublesome isn't it. Who was it, that person."

"...why do you change the topic to something like this only when talking with me...."

"Huh?"

"N-Nothing!"

Charl waved her hands. After that she cleared her throat once, and then she gave her opinion.

"I heard it was an international terrorist, but if they possess IS then the situation has become grave hasn't it. It's because even if it's only one, depending on the circumstances, it might mean that they possess a military power equal to a country."

Of course, every unit has its limit due to the quantum transformation capacity, so it's still safe as long as they haven't removed that lock, she added.

"Is that so...."

"Even the academy side is on alert right now, so it should be safe for now I guess?"

"It'll be nice if that's the case...."

I remembered about that assaulter again.

Even if it's covered behind visors, those eyes looks like it held deep hatred toward me.

"........"

"Here now, don't look that grim."

"Huh? D-Did I make that kind of grim face?"

"Yeah. If you worry about things too much, happiness will run away from you you know. Here, smile, smile."

"A-Alright."

Charl touched her mouth with her own hand, push the tip of her lips as if to make a smile.

That extraordinary smile made my heart bounce a little.

"Ah, ummm, Laura said that she wants you to come to the garden later."

"Hmm? Then, I guess I'll go now."

"Yeah. See you later, Ichika."

Bidding farewell to Charl, I passed through the living room and went outside.

"Y-You're late!"

"Uh, sorry."

"A, aah, no, you're not.... it's actually just me who's selfishly waiting for you. I retract my previous remark."

"Huh? Is that so."

To retract her previous remark, it's rare for Laura to do that. Her awkwardness in adapting and being honest are her selling points though.

"I-I-Ichika!"

"Wha? -Uwaah!?"

Suddenly a knife targeted my neck. I jumped back at once, but when I looked at it closely, the knife actually stopped just right in front of me.

I-I thought I was going to be killed....

"I-I'll give you this knife!"

"...What?"

"It's a birthday present! This is the one that I usually use in real battle! Its cutting ability is excellent, and it also has a high endurance. Take it!"

"A-Alright!"

Taking the knife from Laura's hand, she also handed me the sheath associated with that knife.

That knife, with a blade of length exceeding 20 centimeters, is clearly one that's used for military use. The black metal exterior released a silent overbearing presence.

Needless to say, it's a [tool for killing].

"Ah."

"W-what is it!?"

"The grip, it looks cool doesn't it"

"I-Is that so. The holster is quite good too you know. Look!"

"Thank you."

When the belt on the sheath is put on, it becomes a holster.

The sheath was to be positioned horizontally under the armpit, in order to make it easy for the knife to be drawn with just the slightest movement.

"....As a fellow warrior, you understand the meaning behind handing my weapon to you, don't you...."

"Huh? What did you say?"

"N-nothing! I'm done! I'll be going now!"

"Ah, hey, I said hey!"

"W-what is it!?"

"Thanks, Laura."

"!!"

I wonder if it's because my words were unexpected, or just because she was purely feeling shy, Laura became bright red up to her ears before she went away with a "F-Fuhn!" snuffle.

What's wrong with her, that Laura.

"So this is where you've been, Ichika."

"Aa, Houki? How was it? Did you eat enough?"

"It's your birthday isn't it. Or what? Do I usually look like I'm eating all the time?:

"N-no, that's not what I meant..."

"Fu fu, it's a joke."

I was taken aback by Houki who let a small laugh escape from her.

Somehow, it looks like her mood is remarkably good isn't it.

"Ichika, I'll give you this for your birthday present."

Saying that, she handed me a bag.

From that not so big bag, I can somehow see a wrapping paper in it.

"Houki, this is?"

"Open it."

Following her words, I took the present from the bag, and removed the wrapping paper. Inside of the wrapping paper was...

"Ooh? It's a kimono."

"I-I found a good cloth at my home. I had that sewn into this kimono."

"Ooh, I'll try it next time. Thanks, Houki."

"U, umu. I also put the obi inside right?"

"Ah, is it this one? It looks expensive."

"Don't worry about the price. That's.... I-It's a pair set with mine..."

"Hmm?"

"Y-you don't have to hear it!"

Houki suddenly became flustered. What's wrong with her?

"Let's wear it in the dorm next time."

"U, umu. Please announce it to me when you plan to wear it beforehand o-okay!?"

"Okay, okay. Even so, a kimono isn't it? I've always wanted one."

It got a calming pattern too. If it's like this it seems I can use it as a casual wear in my room.

You also always borrow a yukata when you go to an onsen too. That kind of clothing is really relaxing isn't it.

"Rather, somehow this present makes the one I gave you look really worthless doesn't it."

"N-Not at all. I really like this one too so it doesn't matter."

Saying that, Houki played with the ribbon in her ponytail. That white ribbon is the one that I gave as a present on her birthday on 7th July.

"........."

"You've been using it all the time since that day haven't you? I somehow feel happy about it."

"I-It's not like I use the same one every day you know!?"

"I know. Around two times a week right?"

"Uu.... You really pay a lot of attention to it didn't you."

"Because it's Houki after all."

"I-Is that so.... So it's because it is me isn't it...."

Could it be that she's happy being paid attention to, Houki's blushing at her cheek and fidgeting with her fingers.

As someone who knows her usual demeanor, when she shows this kind of meek demeanor somehow my heart would mysteriously throb.

"I-I-Ichika, next time, that's...."

"Hmm? Hey, that's Dan and Utsuho-san isn't it? I wonder what they're doing. I can't hear what they're talking about from here."

"H-Hey. Eavesdropping is not good you know."

"It's fine, it's fine, just a little."

I pulled Houki's arm and went closer to the living room where the two of them resided.

"S-So we meet again huh? Ahaha...."

"T-That's right..."

"....."

"....."

""Umm, hey""

After the silence, the two of them opened their mouth at the same time.

They respectively realized about this, and then averted their gaze from each other.

"P-Please go ahead..."

"N-No, you go first..."

"".......""

And then, the silence continued once again. Both of their faces became bright red.

"What are they doing?"

"Beats me. Usually people would ask for a contact address first aren't they?"

"Aa, something like an email address."

"Hey, this is enough isn't it. Let's go back while we still haven't been found out."

"Okay."

I, who left that place in a hurry, suddenly realized that I've been holding Houki's hand all this while.

"Ah, sorry."

"N-No, that's....I-It's not like, that's, it doesn't bother me at all....."

"Is that so. Then, let's go back to everyone shall we?"

"Y-Yeah!"

Houki and me returned to the sofa at the living room together. In there's the board game that Rin played with everyone spread out.

Just like this, these fun moments passed in the blink of an eye.



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