Chapter 3: Open your Heart!Edit
It had been past a week since Ichika started looking for Kanzashi.
"Hey, pair up with me."
As it happened everyday, news that Ichika was chasing Kanzashi non-stop soon spread.
"Hey hey, did you hear that?"
"I heard that Orimura-kun's trying to get closer to Sarashiki-san of Class 4."
"Huuh? That's a lie, right!? Why, why!?"
"I'm not really sure, but it seemed that Orimura-kun chose Sarashiki-san as his partner in the personal IS tag match."
"Huh, what about the rest?"
"Well, about that, how should I put it..."
–Cecilia Alcott's situation:
"Ichika-san...I'll make you regret for not pairing up with me. Fu, ufufu, fufufufu."
The [Starlight MKIII] and the four BITs fired out at the same time. As they were in [Polarized Shooting] trajectory, Cecilia shot down all the moving targets.
"Tremble to your heart's content under the Requiem that's played by me, Cecilia Alcott, and [Blue Tears]."
–Huang Lingyin's situation:
"I want my right shoulder part to be replaced with a spread [Impact Cannon], send me the package data of the piercing [Impact Cannon] on the left side. Also, [Souten Gagetsu]'s to be changed into a spear. Change the [Impact Cannons] on the wrists to a high voltage chain! To be done in three days—ha? Can't do it? DO IT EVEN IF YOU CAN'T! GET TO WORK!"
After sending a one-sided message to the person in charge of manufacturing her armaments in her own country, Rin fired the [Ryuuhou] at maximum output.
The ground exploded majestically, leaving a large crater in the arena.
"Watch this, Ichika...I won't forgive you even if you beg me for forgiveness!"
"Kukuku." Clenching her fist tightly, Rin's eyes were burning with battle intent.
–Charlotte Dunois' situation:
Looking down from 200m above the central tower, there were 57 targets on the perimeter. They were all auto-fire mock-battle types.
"Let's go, [Revive]!"
*Swoosh!* Charlotte quickly swooped down. She was holding onto two large and long .59 caliber heavy machine guns [Desert Fox]es, one in each hand.
Not decelerating but accelerating, Charlottle swung the heavy machine guns and shot down her targets.
*CLUNK!* Once she used up her bullets, Charlotte threw her guns away and summoned a pair of Assault Blades.
Charlotte continued to maintain her maximum speed as she flew down to the ground in a straight line.
She continued to slice up all the targets in her path as she quickly approached the ground.
Just when she was about to crash hard into the ground, Charlotte did a 180 degree turn, using the thrusters on her feet to support her body. With that, she crossed her arms and threw the two blades in her hands, hitting the last target nicely.
"I'm a strong opponent here, Ichika."
Charlotte smiled. That angelic smile however was giving off an absolute zero-like freezing air.
–Laura Bodewig's situation:
*Creak*...*creak*...Laura was sitting on the bed of the changing room as she sharpened her knife.
Then, she raised the knife to check it.
The thing that was sharpened until it was glittering like a mirror was a sharp weapon that could cut off flesh on the slightest contact.
Seeing her face reflected on the blade, a smile appeared on Laura's face.
(Instructor rejected me, and I couldn't pair up with Ichika. What was I doing...)
If it has come to this...
Black flames lit up in Laura's body.
(I'll show you. I'll let real terror strike your body, Ichika!)
*KLANG!* The knife that was thrown out went into Ichika's photo that was in her locker.
"I'll win! After I win, I'll make you completely mine, Ichika!"
Laura stood up and clenched her fist. There was no sign of hesitation in her eyes.
(That's right. Get ready, Ichika!)
Laura's eyes gazed sternly at the photo in the locker.
Looking closely, the knife pierced viciously into Ichika's forehead on the photo.
It was the only photo she had. However, Laura completely forgot that she bought the negatives as she turned completely pale. She gingerly raised the photo that had a hole opened in it with both hands.
(I-I-I finally got this. It was the only photo in the world...)
She paid 200,000 yen to get the priority to choose at the photo auction Mayuzumi Kaoruko organized.
And she even bought the photo of the Ichika she liked, together with the negatives.
–That's not too bad.
But it was too late even if she thought of that. She had burned the negatives because she was afraid that others would duplicate it. In other words, this was really the only existing photo of Ichika in the world, the one that Laura liked the most. And this one photo now had a hole ripped through it viciously by the knife.
"D-Duct tape...if I use duct tape, maybe..."
Though Laura frantically rummaged through her locker, she only had military rations, prepared IS suits, knives, knives, knives and more knives.
Forcefully poking out her face from the locker, Laura screamed loudly.
Her eyes were completely teary, and it most likely wasn't just a feeling.
...Either way, Ichika had been treated cruelly like an enemy by the girls with the personal ISes.
And as for the last important character, Shinonono Houki—
"WAAH!? Wh-Wha-What's going on, Sarashiki—san!?"
After school, she was caught by Tatenashi while doing Iaido[7C 1] training in the kendo dojo.
"Ah hun, call me Tatenashi."
"Ta-Tatenashi-san. Is something the matter? I'm doing self-training."
"Ha, Iaido with real swords? You're going for real."
"Yeah, sort of. I'm a descendant of a family that went through the Sengoku Era[7C 2] after all."
"Really? Okay, I understand. Houki-chan, pair up with me!"
"Please! I-It's unbearable that no one wants to pair up with me."
"I see, alright..."
Tatenashi put her palms together and begged. Seeing Tatenashi like that, Houki was so troubled that she couldn't look back at her coldly.
"Well, this, if that's the case, I don't really mind..."
"Really? That's great. Houki-chan's so kind."
Tatenashi's face went from troubled to delighted as she gave a radiant smile.
(Uu...! I-I got fooled, huh...?)
Just when Houki was wondering about that, Tatenashi grabbed Houki's hand and walked out.
"Come on, let's go. Let's do it!"
"Whe-Where are we going?"
"The checkup room. I want to see Houki-chan's biometrics."
"Oh my. Isn't this important? IS have an auto-adjust mechanism, but it's not good to do these adjustments without the latest figures."
Understanding Tatenashi's smooth explanation, Houki found herself in front of the checkup room.
As she said that, Tatenashi touched the switch on the door. *Phoosh*. The sound of compressed air being released could be heard, and the door opened diagonally.
"Then, I'll operate this. Houki-chan, please stand on the scanning area."
Summoning the control panel, Tatenashi began to prepare the data scan.
During this time, Houki wiped her sweat off with the towel on her neck.
"Okay, I'm ready. How are you feeling, Houki-chan?"
"I'm okay here."
"O-kay, let's begin."
*Beep*, *beep*. The keyboard was tapped, and the scanner floated up from below Houki's feet, shooting out an intensive green light on her body.
"Hm, this is..."
"Is there a problem?"
"Houki-chan's breasts are really big. Maybe I lose by a notch."
"WH-WHERE ARE YOU LOOKING AT!?"
"Ahaha. Sorry, sorry."
"Do it seriously! Really..."
After that, Tatenashi never said anything strange to tease Houki. About 2 minutes later, the checkup was complete.
"Then, I'll send the data to [Akatsubaki]. There will be a certain level of auto-adjustments, but you have to do the rest yourself...oh yeah. I'll explain those things to you before the tournament starts, okay?"
"Mn, okay. I don't have a reason to refuse."
"Fufu, Houki-chan, you're cute when you're being honest, you know?"
"Pl-Please stop teasing me! The-Then, I'll say goodbye for today."
"Mn. Good job."
After leaving the checkup room, Houki had an inexplicable feeling.
(Why is it...that I don't hate her for saying that...)
Normally speaking...if it were someone else, she would resist that person no matter what.
But for some reason, she accepted Tatenashi's words.
This inexplicable feeling wasn't something she was unhappy about. Engulfed in this emotion, Houki walked to the bathroom in a good mood.
Tatenashi was still in the checkup room.
Opening several display screens to compare the data, her expression became extremely serious.
(What's going on...)
On the left side, Houki's personal biometrics from when she entered the Academy were displayed. Her physical ability was top-notch like now, but the most important 'IS compatibility' was rated at C
Tatenashi then turned to the display screen on the right side. It's the latest biometrics she just got, and over there, the 'IS compatibility' was rated with the letter S
(The biggest factor in the compatibility was that the pilot had to be born with it. Of course, the compatibility would naturally increase through training and synchronizing with the IS...)
But improving from C to S in such a short time was completely unheard of. Of course, there was no such record in any open library.
(The only ones who have the IS compatibility S are people like 'Brunhild' who won the Mondo Grosso, and the Valkyrias who won the group stages...)
In terms of compatibility, Houki was equal to the five strongest pilots in the world.
This sort of thing shouldn't be possible at all—logically, it should be like that.
(If that's the case, the key is...)
Related to that peerless genius, Shinonono Tabane. It should be correct if I think of it like that.
Tatenashi again gazed at the screen seriously. A sharp glint could be seen from the eyes that belonged to the Sarashikis.
"Let's go to the cafeteria, Kanzashi-san."
After hearing from a certain information network that buns were sold out at the shop today, I ran into Class 4 when 4th period ended and grabbed Kanzashi's hand.
"It'll be my treat."
Uu. Kanzashi curled up like a timid rabbit.
But there's no way back now. Either way, the deadline's 5pm today.
I pulled Kanzashi away a little—or rather, forcefully.
I lifted Kanzashi up and carried her,
Anyway, it's the Princess Cradle.
"Kanzashi-san, you're so light."
"Shu-Shut up...let-let me down..."
"Then, hang on tight."
I ignored Kanzashi's protests and ran to the cafeteria.
On the way, I passed by a few girls who screamed in shock, but I ignored them.
I went down to the first level, out of the corridor, and opened the door of the cafeteria that was formed by three areas.
*BAM!* The door was opened loudly, and I was really loud. Because of these reasons, there were a lot of 'What just happened?' looks directed at me.
"Let go..., ..."
*PAK!* *PAK!* *PAK!* My head got hit many times.
Using this chance, Kanzashi started to get violent as she kicked me in the chin.
"Wa, idiot. Hey, stop fooling around!"
"I can see your panties."
Perhaps realizing her actions after I pointed this fact out, Kanzashi, who had been struggling up till now, gradually reduced her movements, and soon became obedient.
Kanzashi didn't look at me, but bit her lips tightly as she muttered.
I put Kanzashi down while she was still like this, and to prevent her from running away, I pulled her hand and queued up at the counter.
"Today's set meal of the day is Tartar Fried Chicken. What do you want, Kanzashi?"
"Okay. Kanzashi will have a large pork chop curry rice."
"...Meat, I don't like it..."
Ohh, I finally got a response. Maybe this can do.
"The-Then how about the Seafood Rice Bowl?"
Kanzashi continued to squirm, and she looked at me for a moment, murmuring.
"Just udon will do..."
"Got it. Want some eggs?"
*Shake*...Kanzashi shook her head.
"But, I want...Kakiage..."[7C 3]
"Oh, Kakiage. Okay. It's good. Here."
"Uu, mn...it's nice..."
"Okay, I'll buy the tickets and get the meals. Go get some seats."
"Ah...the tables, inside there...they're...empty..."
"Oh, that's true...heh, Kanzashi-san's eyesight's really good."
"It-It's nothing...it's just normal..."
Just when I saw a skill that I didn't expect, our orders came out from the counter.
"Hn? If you have such good eyesight, why do you need glasses?"
"This, is a portable display."
"Heeh, I see."
"A holographic display's...really expensive."
"Is that so? Then, let's go to that table."
Mn mn. After nodding her head, Kanzashi followed me from behind.
On a side note, the cafeteria here's really big, so there's quite some distance to the seats inside. Because of that, most of them are empty. But since they're the seats where one can see the seas outside, they will be crowded if it's a bright sunny day that makes people happy.
(Today's weather's good too. Lucky!)
At the empty table, I sat opposite Kanzashi.
On a side note, in the end, I ordered a Tartar Fried Chicken. The delicious Tartar sauce is irresistibly good. I smiled as I took a large bite out of it.
As for Kanzashi, she dipped the Kakiage on the udon down into the soup with chopsticks. Most likely, the bubbles that would come out from them would be what she was aiming for. I did feel that Kanzashi was like an excited kid as she continued to look at it innocently.
"Oh, you're the deep-fried sponge kakiage type. Watch out. Laura's of the crispy type. There'll be war once she sees it."
"...No...this, it is a full body bath..."
Oh, a new sect altogether. That was really disrespectful.
Anyway, Kanzashi and I continued with our lunch.
"Even so, the Tartar Fried Chicken today that's fresh out of the fire's really great. Want some, Kanzashi?"
Kanzashi raised her head in shock, and I used my chopsticks to pick the Tartar chicken and brought it to her mouth.
She looked at it blankly, and then saw my face. Kanzashi then lowered her head.
Maybe it was just my imagination, but her ears seemed to be blushing.
"Do you...conquer[7C 4] girls like that...?"
Throw down[7C 5]? I did carry girls up, but I do let them land properly. I don't think I threw them down once.
"I don't understand. Oh well. Try it,...ah, but you hate meat, right?"
"Erm...it's alright, if it's chicken..."
"Is that so? Great. Then...ahh."
Feeling somewhat timid, Kanzashi bit onto the Tartar chicken.
One entire piece of chicken was too big for Kanzashi's mouth, and so there was about half of it left on the chopsticks.
Seeing Kanzashi chew on, I finished off the remaining piece of chicken.
"Well, it's really good."
It was like she was suddenly shocked when she was about to swallow, Kanzashi patted her throat a few times and hurriedly drank a gulp of water from her cup.
"Wha-What's wrong? Are you alright?"
Kanzashi's breathing wasn't in sync yet, but she glared at me sharply. It felt like she was protesting at me or something.
"Can you share some of that delicious looking Kakiage with me?"
On seeing the part that was bitten and tasted, I thought she would give me some of it.
She forcefully refused me, even lifting her bowl up and moving away from me.
"Ah, sorry. I didn't know you liked it that much."
"I-I...won't give this to you..."
It's just Kakiage. No need to be so serious.
Kanzashi seemed to detect something, as she suddenly dropped chilli peppers into my rice.
"GYAAHHHH!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?"
She turned 90 degrees to the side from where I was seeing her, seemingly saying 'Who cares about you'.
*Chiu* *chiu* *chiu* *chiu* *chiu* *chiu*... she continued to slurp the udon silently.
"Wha-What do I do now. This..."
Seeing the red-dashed rice, I swallowed my saliva.
Is this the famous Calvary hill[7C 6]?... No no no, this isn't the time for jokes.
"It's not that I can't eat it. It's not that I can't eat it..."
If that's the case, I have to eat it.
"It's not that I can't eat it! It's not that I can't eat it!"
*GANK!* I picked up the bowl and scooped up the rice into my mouth with the chopsticks.
My gung-ho, or rather, brave act now raised applause from around me—however.
I could feel my tongue expanding crazily.
My tongue felt like it got ripped off instead of burnt. Water, miso soup. Tartar sauce, I can't even taste anything now.
Tilting her head slightly as she watched me suffer and stutter, Kanzashi said quietly from those thin and even lips.
"Serves you right."
Such cruel words, and an even crueller voice. But at that moment, even if it was for just a moment, Kanzashi smiled.
"...And so, the most important aspects in battle are 'weight', 'speed' and 'mobility'. These three aspects take up a large ratio..."
Fifth period, Class 1-4. Kanzashi listened quietly to the lesson material at the last row.
Actually, it was more like she was leaving it to deaf ears, but that wasn't a problem since the information was in her mind already. Even if she was asked to answer now, she could read it out as if she was reciting it.
--However, that wasn't the main problem.
The main problem was what happened between her and Ichika in the cafeteria during lunch break.
Rewinding time back.
The scene was when Ichika fed Kanzashi 'Here, ahh', and ate the rest himself.
(Tha-That's not just it...in-in-indirect...kiss...he, even did that...)
And from Ichika's reaction, it didn't look like he hated it.
If he were lying, Kanzashi's instincts would have told her that.
However, Ichika just looked happy in front of her.
Feeling that she was blushing, Kanzashi hurriedly buried her face into her textbook.
(An-And then...after that...my food...he-he even wanted to eat it...)
*Gushuu~*...like heat smoking out, Kanzashi's heart got dominated with shame.
She couldn't understand. She couldn't understand. She couldn't understand.
She couldn't understand him. She couldn't understand his intentions
--And also, she couldn't understand anything about her own heart.
(Wh-What...do I want to do. Ah...? What...will happen to me...?)
Beginning to lose control of herself since she was unable to calm down, Kanzashi began to feel restless as she shook her petite body.
(That thing...on the first time...I don't understand...at all...)
Again, she suddenly remembered Ichika's smiling face.
Kanzashi held back in order not to let that strange sound out as she was pinching her thigh viciously.
«If you don't understand, shouldn't you try it?»
She heard Ichika's voice, and soon lifted her head. She shook her head lightly and looked around.
«Pair up with me, Kanzashi-san.»
(Be-Because...I don't...I don't understand...I...I, hate things that I don't understand...)
«But if this keeps up, you won't understand anything in the end, right?»
(Even though...it's like that...)
«There's nothing to be afraid of. Just leave it to me.»
They were like the lines that appear in the usual hero anime. But these felt better than anything else.
"Hey, pair up with me, Kanzashi."
Kanzashi grabbed Ichika's hand that was stretched out in front of her.
Abnormally excited, Kanzashi stood up forcefully the moment she grabbed the hand.
She suddenly realized it.
The orange sunset shone in from the window outside. The classroom was empty, and the Ichika in her imagination continued to hold onto her hand without disappearing.
Just when Kanzashi was confused, the Ichika in her imagination jumped up.
"I DID IIITTTTTT!!! You said that you wanted to pair up, right? Right!? That's great! Let's run to the staff room and apply for the tag-match team! Okay, *DON!*"
Kanzashi's hand was held tightly by Ichika, who rushed out of the room.
That powerful force that dragged her made Kanzashi realize that this is reality, and she felt her face blush because of the shameful feeling.
(I-In other words...I started spacing out from the 5th period...then until the 6th period...it's over. Orimura-kun's here...he invited me...I mixed up reality with my imagination...)
--This is bad!
Still thinking about this, her body reached the front of the staff room.
"Let's go in then."
Wait. Before she could say that, Ichika's hand dragged her into the staff room.
As she was mindful of how her hand was held, Kanzashi signed without understanding what was going on.
"Okay! Let's work hard at the preparation room from today onwards!"
"We need to wear our IS when adjusting, and so we need our IS suits. I'll get changed then. See you at the preparation room!"
*Ta*, *ta* ,*ta*. Kanzashi's words couldn't catch up to Ichika's back who was running.
...But Ichika suddenly turned his head behind while running.
"Ah! Which preparation room?"
"Got it. See you later then!"
Seeing Ichika run off, Kanzashi realized that she had stretched her right hand out when she recovered.
--What did I do that for?
Thinking about this, she started to feel shy and hurriedly retracted her hand.
She again recalled what happened a few minutes ago.
She couldn't say 'Wait' when they entered the staff room.
--But was that really because she couldn't say it?
--Most likely, she was looking forward to this and 'Didn't say it', right?
*Gugugugugug*. She shook her head left and right.
But whether it's her mouth or her heart, she just couldn't say 'You're wrong'.
The sunset shone into the corridor. In the orange world, Kanzashi felt for the first time since birth, the sweet pain that gushed out from her chest.
"Alright. Let's see Kanzashi-san's machine!"
In the second prep room, Kanzashi and I were together.
It's an elimination tag-team tournament for pilots with personal IS, but because of the high standard of this tournament, there were many students other than us who were tuning their machines too.
"I said, please send me the mobility data you got yesterday."
"I want to lighten my armaments. Can I make it if I do so now?"
"Wait! The Hyper Sensors base values are off! Who was the last one who tweaked it!?"
There was quite a ruckus. Since they're working together happily, there will be groups screeching all over the place, but everyone was tuning their IS seriously.
"Heh, that's the first time I'm seeing the upperclassmen with Personal ISes."
"Over there is...the 2nd year, Forte Sapphire-san...with her IS [Cold Blood]...opposite her is the 3rd year, Daryl Cayce-san and her [Hellhound V2.5]..."
I'm somewhat shocked by Kanzashi's smooth explanation.
She spoke so fluently, not stuttering and stopping like usual.
Standing over there was the representative cadet of England, Cecilia, piloting her IS [Blue Tears].
"Yes. I want to increase the output efficiency by tweaking the mobility."
"We can do that...but it'll be difficult to control the IS, you know? Of course, it won't be as safe."
"No problem. I won't lose in my next battle."
"Oh well. Let's try it. If the consequences are too severe, we'll just change it back to normal."
Cecilia continued to discuss with the 2nd and 3rd year girls who were most likely in the conditioning class.
Suddenly, she turned to look at me. Perhaps she noticed me.
Her face darkened as she forcefully turned her face away. After I refused to participate in the tag match with her, Cecilia would treat me as an enemy no matter what.
(Well, I do feel sorry about that...)
But there's no need to be that angry.
On a side note. Rin would kick me hard every time we met. Laura would completely ignore me, and Charl would start to say, 'What's wrong, Orimura-kun?'.
You don't have to be that angry, right...even I will feel hurt.
"...It's about time. We have to start..."
"Oh-Oh yeah, that's right. Do your best."
After checking that I nodded my head, Kanzashi stretched her right hand out. There was a crystal ring on the middle finger of that hand.
Kanzashi's body was covered with light, and floated up as the armor was donned on her.
It's the next generation of [Uchigane], and though I heard that it's a prototype, it looked completely different.
The skirt armor was modified into a one-winged type. Compared to the defensive [Uchigane], [Uchigane Nishiki] focuses on mobility.
The armor on the wrist became a beautiful line, and it became a construct that could utilize its mobility in combat.
The parts on the shoulders aren't shields, but hold a large winged-shaped thruster and 2 little boosters on both front and back sides of it. That figure resembled [Byakushiki].
Looking at it, the [Nishiki] didn't have any similarities with the [Uchigane], but the Hyper Sensors on the head were of similar design.
"Speaking of which, huh? Don't tell me the machine's complete."
I asked, and Kanzashi, who kneeled down to remove the IS, shook her IS slightly.
"The armaments...aren't done. And...I haven't gotten operational data...it's impossible for it to battle like this..."
"I see. Lemme ask, the armaments are?"
"Hi-performance guided missiles that use a complicated lock-on system...and, the particle cannon's not..."
"Particle cannon? You can use the [Byakushiki]'s data."
Though it's differently designed from the particle cannon on my [Byakushiki], she should be able to use the sample data of output control and structural dynamics.
Thinking about this, I summoned the [Byakushiki]'s console and began to search for it hurriedly.
"Then, this is the [Yukihira Nigata]'s..."
"Oh, got it."
I lifted my head, and found myself exchanging looks with Kanzashi.
At that moment, Kanzashi looked aside.
"Hey hey. You can't read the data like this, right? Look."
I forcefully grabbed her hand and brought her in front of the holographic screen.
"How is it? You can use it as reference, right?"
"You, you're too close...a-a little further..."
Immediately, the hand separated.
Kanzashi rubbed the wrist that I had touched and again focused on the screen.
Kanzashi's eyes were serious as she looked intensely at the screen, using her fingers to check the relevant data.
"This...output's too great...it uses too much energy..."
"Ah, that's true. I did suspect this before..."
"It's better to adjust it...you'll waste too much like that..."
"Oh. Then, since you're reading [Byakushiki]'s data, can I ask if if there's anything I don't understand?"
"I'm...okay with that..."
"Mn. Thank you."
Quickly returning to inspect her own machine, Kanzashi still remained stone-faced as ever, but it seemed like she was looking more lively.
*Patapatapatapata*. Footsteps could be heard coming here...there's only one person who would call us that.
It's Nohohon-san, also known as Nohotoke Honne. She's a secretary of the Student Council, a maid at the Sarashikis and my classmate. Her characteristics are her lazy expressions and the slow movements.
(Hm? If her family served the Sarashikis for generations, she and Kanzashi should be childhood friends too.)
"Ehehe. I'm here to help~"
Honne swayed her drooping sleeves slowly and gently. She just so happened to hit a 2nd year who was passing by, and who glared at her in return .
However, this being Nohohon-san, she was still as carefree as ever.
"Kan-chan, I'm here to adjust your machine~ehehe!"
"St-Stop it...don't...ah, ah..."
It seems that Kanzashi's not used to dealing with this childhood friend who's of the same age.
"Honne...you were called over, by onee-san...right?"
"Huh~? Nope—I'm Kan-chan's personal maid. It's my job to help!"
"I'm Nohotoke Honne who watches your life from Monday to Thursday!"
For some reason, it felt like a catchphrase from a certain advertisement.
"What about...Friday, Saturday and Sunday?"
"Huh—, I want to rest on weekends!"
"3 days...you really rest too much..."
That's completely right. Please work properly, maid of a prominent family.
"Then, where should we start? Should we upgrade the system? Or the weapon support system?"
"Weapon support system. It won't do if it's not me...I want to set up the mobile control...Honne, you..."
"Adjust the shield barrier, right? Got it!"
"Li-Listen...help me, check the armor..."
"Ehehe, I understand."
Having lost all resistance to Nohohon-san, Kanzashi sighed and lowered her shoulders.
"Wha-What...are you looking at..."
"Ah, no, it's nothing."
"I hate...guys who sta-stare at me like that..."
"Oh, ah, sorry."
After that, the three of us were so busy adjusting the machine that we lost track of time.
Half of the time, I did the adjustments based on the reference books, but due to the brilliance of the occasional suggestions Kanzashi made, I managed to increase the energy efficiency by 15% today. Amazing.
"But really. It's a lot of work to adjust the machine...oh my."
I just need to operate the controls if it's just a system tuning, but the delicate task of tweaking the power output or the structural dynamics means that we had to open up the armor of the machine and work on the parts directly.
We were using mechanical arms, but it's really tough to open the armor like that.
"Orimu, you relied on Professor Tabane's machine's functions. IS itself should be delicately adjusted personally!"
Woah! The day when Nohohon-san gave me an accurate suggestion actually came.
"The IS'...self-improvement and optimization is really impressive...but, you can't...rely on it."
"Speak...speaking of which...that..."
Kanzashi started to squirm all of a sudden...what's wrong?"
She wrapped her fingers around and played around with them. Her eyes wavered, and she looked like she couldn't calm down at all as she looked around, obviously looking suspicious.
"Do you want to go to the bathroom?"
Lifting her head up, Kanzashi immediately blushed.
"Ojyou-sama~[7C 7], I beat up the rude fellow~"
I say, Nohohon-san! Is-Isn't that a screwdriver!? It hurts when you mess around like that!
"Orimu~, I feel that you're so inconsiderate!"
"Even if she really wanted to go to the bathroom~, it's courtesy for her not to say it!"
Guaahhh! Nohohon-san's so harsh when lecturing me about basic knowledge!
"It's said that with an elder sister around, the younger brother will be unfamiliar with the opposite gender. My friends used to say that in the past, but I guess Orimu's abnormal. That's a bad habit~"
"That-That's not true!"
"What ojou-sama...don't call me that..."
"I don't like that either..."
The conversation that occurred between them calmed down after that, and Kanzashi again looked over at me.
"Th-Then...the flight test...I hope, you can accompany me..."
"What. That's it? No problem."
Kanzashi cautiously bowed at me.
To me, it felt that it wasn't something that's to be requested like that, so I felt somewhat awkward.
"The-Then, do you want to use this arena?"
"It's flight testing...number 6..."
Speaking of Arena 6, it's the arena that was used a few days ago for [Cannonball Fast], the Super-speed flight training arena. Unlike the other arenas, the space's completely open, and there's no restriction to fly around as long as we keep moving around the central tower of the Academy.
"Alright, let's go!"
"Take care~ I'll go to the control room and use the data scanner to assist you!"
Nohohon-san waved her droopy sleeves softly, and again knocked into another girl, who glared at her slightly for a while.
Having opened all the controls of her [Uchigane Nishiki] at Arena 6's conditioning point, all the values entered her eyes.
Due to Honne's help, there was quite some development in the building of the machine. Most likely, she would follow her sister Utsuho to join the conditioning class in second year. That's the level of ability Honne had.
Ichika's [Byakushiki] values had a lot of use.
As it was the machine that was developed from the same development center, the data compatibility was much more than expected.
But maybe, more than that, perhaps Ichika's own existence was important.
(Wha-What...am I thinking...I...)
Kanzashi forcefully rubbed her reddish face into her hands.
Just when she was doing this, a message came from Ichika through the private channel.
"How is it? Can we move off now?"
"Then, I'll fly off first. We'll meet at the highest point of the tower."
Kanzashi bent down and fixed her feet into the gravity catapult.
The holographic display showed the word Ready, and it instantly became Go!. Kanzashi accelerated and flew to the sky in Arena 6.
(Structural Dynamics...no problem...next, Hyper Sensors...connect, activate...)
*Pi* *Pi* *Pi*, the Hyper Sensors soon caught [Byakushiki].
Zooming in on Ichika's face, Kanzashi's heart couldn't help but beat faster.
Noting the output levels of the thrusters on her back, Kanzashi let the machine accelerate.
(Maintaining thrusters in this position...no problem...acceleration...shield barrier to be tested activated...)
She summoned the control option and tried to turn.
It was an action that shouldn't have had any problem, but on activating the shield barrier, the machine started to stutter and stopped.
Just when she felt that it was weird, numerous displays showed up, confirming the current parameters.
(Shield barrier created interference when deployed...so...[PIC] was interfered with...)
It seemed as though there was a problem with the installation of the shield on the wrist, and Kanzashi temporarily cancelled the deployment as she summoned a keyboard on both sides to input data one by one before letting the machine fly.
(Adjusting point of deployment...from [PIC] interference range...Gravitational Deflection Angle...6m in front of machine...undergoing adjustments...then...balancing boosters...4 minus and ignition...)
At the central tower of IS Academy which was in a curved shape, the machine outside it used the thruster output to fly up quickly.
At that time, Kanzashi piloted the machine with both hands on the keyboards and caught up with Ichika, completing the course in the process.
Ichika casually raised his hand.
And Kanzashi, who didn't know how to respond, nodded her head slightly first.
"How is it? That machine."
"Really? That's great."
Smiling away heartily, Ichika just looked so dashing, and Kanzashi hurriedly looked away.
"The-Then...let's go back..."
Feeling that it may end up with something really abnormal if it was just both of them, Kanzashi quickly flew down without waiting for Ichika to answer.
"Heh. It's really fast. It's about as fast as Cecilia's [Blue Tears], right?"
"I-I guess...according to the figures..."
Kanzashi frantically answered.
Her machine quickly flew down at breakneck speed as if it was running away from Ichika.
Following Kanzashi from behind, Ichika suddenly noticed something abnormal.
Sparks appeared from time to time on the boosters on the legs of the [Uchigane Nishiki] Kanzashi was piloting...*PA*...*PAPA*...
(It's really weird.)
Thinking about that, just when he was about to open a communication channel, the booster on the right leg of the [Uchigane Nishiki] exploded.
Due to the sudden explosion and the imbalance due to the unexpected loss of one of the boosters, Kanzashi and the machine flew diagonally in a straight line towards the outer wall of the central tower.
([PIC] was ineffective...!? Wh-Why—)
Many 'Errors' appeared on the screen, and [Uchigane Nishiki], which had lost control of the system, quickly closed in on the outer wall of the tower.
Kanzashi closed her eyes in reflex. At that moment, a powerful voice flew in like it was tied in.
Using [Ignition Boost] to increase the output of the thrusters to the maximum, Ichika forced his way between Kanzashi and the wall.
Ichika hugged Kanzashi's body, and his back slammed into the wall.
A pilot with an IS on has protection, but the impact couldn't be removed completely as Ichika grimaced with pain.
"He-Hehe...are you alright...? To be honest, I'm feeling a lot of pain now..."
Saying that as he gave an awkward smile, Ichika looked like a hero to Kanzashi.
The stupid words that were said to calm the situation down sounded really cool to Kanzashi's ears.
"Are you alright, Kanzashi?"
"Really? That's good."
With the pain still coursing through him, Ichika closed an eye and pulled himself from the wall.
The outer wall of the tower had a huge dent on it due to the impact, and a part of it cracked.
Continuing to grasp Ichika's hand like that, Kanzashi felt her heart beat so crazily it ached.
It was the first time she stuck so close to a guy's body, but she didn't hate it. It must be because he's Ichika, Kanzashi thought as she matured late.
«Hey, hold it, those students over there! What happened!? I'm seeing an indication that the tower was damaged!?»
"AH, yes. Well, it's an IS training accident. I'm Orimura Ichika from Class 1-1."
"Sarashiki...Kanzashi, from Class...1- 1-4."
«AN ACCIDENT!? YOU AREN'T HURT, ARE YOU!? ARE YOU ALRIGHT!?»
WA WA. Continuing with the questions was the math teacher Edwards Franchee. On a side note, she was born in Canada, 25 years old, and looking for a boyfriend. Her hobby was gardening.
"Anyway, it's good that you aren't hurt. Since you need to return to the Maintenance Branch, please wait for us down there."
«O-Okay. Then, please be careful on the way down.»
After cutting the communication signal, Ichika carried Kanzashi and slowly descended.
"It'll be dangerous if there's another system error. Let's just go down like this."
Gently...nodding lightly, Kanzashi went silent.
Right now, her face was dyed as red as the sunset.
"Ahh...as expected, just as expected, I had to hand in a report..."
Having returned to the maintenance branch, we explained everything to the teacher, and after undergoing a checkup to see if we were alright, a report of more than 10 pages was passed to us.
"Haa...these are really tough. Man..."
Kanzashi looked like she was rather apologetic as she looked at me.
"Hm, what's wrong?"
"Ah, er...m..., it was...all my fault...so-sorry..."
"Well, you don't have to mind. It can't be helped if it was a machine malfunction."
As I said that, Kanzashi gripped her hands tightly and lowered her head.
(Ah. She was really affected by it. Well, the machine she fine-tuned had a mishap.)
It's great that she was not hurt.
And having understood her personal limits, Kanzashi should have grown up a lot from now on.
"Better to get the people from the conditioning class to help."
"There's only one week to the tag match. Safety's the most important thing—"
"U...uu...I'll do that..."
For a moment, I didn't know what to do when I saw Kanzashi nod her head lightly.
I thought she would definitely, wordlessly refuse or say something like 'No...'.
"We-Well...since Nohohon-san's okay, I'll get Mayuzumi-sempai along as well."
"So-Someone you know...is it?"
"Ah, sort of. You see, we met often because of news club stuff, so it naturally ended up like that."
? Is it just me, or Kanzashi didn't look too happy just now...
Huh? The moment we recovered, we found ourselves with nothing to say.
Edwards-sensei, who had been making a fuss up till now, isn't here now, so it's just Kanzashi and me in the large maintenance branch.
I do feel that there's nothing to say.
Forcefully...Kanzashi gripped her hands and ran in front of me.
"Thank you...very much."
"We-Well...thank you...just now, because of you..."
Kanzashi immediately backed away from me and turned aside. Perhaps she's feeling shy about saying it out loud. She clasped her hands together in front of her chest and softly played with her fingers.
"What, that? Well, isn't that to be expected?"
*Jiii*. She continued to stare at me...what's with that?
Looking outside, the sky became pitch black under the screen of night.
It's been about 10 minutes after we dispelled our ISes, and our bodies should be cold now.
"Let's go back. We'll catch a cold if we continue to stay here."
She nodded her head, but for some reason, Kanzashi didn't move.
"What's wrong, Kanzashi-san?"
She's probably shy. Looking closely, Kanzashi's face is all red now.
"Do...Don't say...san...just, call me Kanzashi..."
After saying those words softly, Kanzashi scampered away as if she was escaping.
Seeing her disappear behind the door, I scratched my head.
(Call her Kanzashi, is it? Our emotional distance should have shortened, right?)
(I-I said it...)
Having returned to her own 1st year dorm, Kanzashi showered in hot water, as *DOKI* *DOKI* her heart beat.
For the Sarashikis' daughter, allowing another to use one's given name had a significant meaning.
Kanzashi touched her lips and tried to say the words.
*DOKI* *DOKI*. Blushing furiously, Kanzashi felt that her heart was a fragile item as she gently touched her chest.
It wasn't too big, but the treasure of love that was hidden in it was really soft.
"Honne...really has it good..."
They're both in their first years, yet they had a difference of 2 cup sizes.
Her sister Utsuho was the same. She had well-ripened fruits.
And her older sister—
Upon thinking till here, her head suddenly cooled down.
Kanzashi, who was drowning in the heat of love, became a captive by her own realistic sense of inferiority, and her body jerked slightly.
The existence she looked up to yet couldn't catch up to...Sarashiki Tatenashi.
She was a gentle sister, an outstanding, strong person and a lovely woman—she was completely flawless.
(I...can't catch up to that person at all...)
It was unknown when she started to think like that.
--She ended up unable to catch up to that back.
--She couldn't look at that expression directly.
--She started to feel painful about bearing the same family name.
*Gya* *gya*. The warm shower of rain fell.
Lowering her head, Kanzashi looked like she was crying, but that face—looked up.
"Calm down...nee-san, nee-san...I-I..."
--I, Kanzashi, won't be crushed as long as I have Ichika.
She finally found a hero, someone who had a bright smile.
She tried to call that name again, and she was happy yet trembling anxiously. The inexplicable drive rose up within her.
Courage—Perhaps that's what people call it.
"Thank you very much!"
After the special training ended, Houki and the kendo members bowed and thanked each other.
"Hey~. You don't have to say it so stiffly."
Floating down from above was Houki's coach and tag match partner, Tatenashi.
She looked carefree as usual as she waved her hand lightly.
"No, it's unacceptable for a swordsman[7C 8] to lack formalities."
Seeing the stern looking Houki, Tatenashi couldn't help but give a wry smile.
"Oh yeah. How about we have dinner today? At the cafeteria in the second year dorm. I'll lead the way."
"Huh? No, I—"
"Okay. It's decided. Let's go, let's go."
"Wait-Wait a minute! I—"
"Okay okay let's go!"
Unable to endure Tatenashi's angelic expression, Houki couldn't help but sigh deeply.
It was the same when she complied to pair up with her. Why was Houki unable to resist Tatenashi at all?
At first, she thought that this sempai wasn't willing to listen to others, but even after thinking about that and getting manipulated, there were a lot of inexplicable things.
(For-Forget about it. It's not like I hate it.)
Now being led by the hand that was holding hers, they walked to the changing room in the arena.
It wasn't something she hated.
She remembered her own sister who used to hold her hand like this.
To Houki, Tabane was an existence she couldn't surpass no matter how hard she tried.
When she was young, Tabane was someone she relied on, and someone she was proud of.
But unknowingly, she felt that the difference between her and her sister had started to show.
--That person, she's of a completely different breed from me.
The inherent talent difference was too great.
But even so, somewhere in her heart, the aspect where she viewed her sister Tabane as someone she vaguely admired only lasted until 'That Incident'.
"Ah, what is it!?"
"What's wrong? We reached the changing room."
"Huh, I see, yeah. Okay."
"Are you thinking about something? You look really scary."
"I do. Girls are prettier when they smile—!"
Tatenashi went behind Houki and moved both hands under her armpits.
"Koochi koochi koochi!"
"GUHAA! HA-HAHAHA! STO-STOP IT...AHAHAHAHA!!"
Just like that, they spent two minutes in laughter, and Houki was out of breath when the tickling attack ended.
"Haa... haa... haa..."
"Mn--, Houki-chan and Laura-chan's reactions are so cute...speaking of which."
"Wha-What is it?"
Finally regaining her breath, Houki opened the locker and answered,
"Houki-chan, regarding your elder sister—Professor Tabane, do you keep her away?"
It wasn't that she hated it. Recently, she finally started to realize it.
But she would remember that incident when they met.
She wanted to seal her memories, her lack of control over her emotions, and—
(The hurt I inflicted on her...)
All those were her own fault.
Not Tabane's fault, but her own fault.
She couldn't control herself, drowned in power, and caused 'That Incident' to happen.
She no longer wanted to remember that, and now she wanted to run away from everything related to Tabane.
In fact, she wanted to reject the entrance to IS Academy, but she finally entered because the government somewhat forced her. Of course, that was because she was Tabane's imouto.
"It's not that I hate her."
"Really. That's good. A family should get along well together."
Though I really can't say that about others—
Tatenashi murmured, although it wasn't heard by Houki.
"Let's take a shower together."
"Huh? No, I'll just use my own room—"
"Okay okay. That guy's gonna hate the sweaty smell."
That guy. Houki knew who Tatenashi was referring to, and her face immediately blushed.
"It's so late already, and there shouldn't be anyone in the shower room. We got the whole room, you know?"
"Pl-Please don't drag me along! I'll just walk on my own."
Though Houki protested, Tatenashi just answered with a smile and even pulled Houki by the arm.
"Ah~ it feels so good."
In the shower of hot water, Tatenashi let out a refreshing sigh.
The showerheads in the shower room were separated, and both of them entered neighboring cubicles. Even though they were separated, the leg and head area were completely open for everyone to see, so there would normally be girls chatting away happily. The spacers were all translucent glass sheets, and though they could block the exposure of the chest to the thigh, the human figure would be shown as a silhouette.
Houki didn't like this shower room as her bust size would be checked on by the other girls.
"Are you the bathing type, Houki-chan?"
Tatenashi suddenly asked Houki, who remained silent up till now.
"Well, as for what you said just now."
"Hm? About Houki-chan's onee-san?"
Nn. Houki nodded her head.
"I don't really hate her. I'm really grateful about the Personal IS."
"But I still can't understand."
"Can't understand what?"
"What was my sister thinking..."
*Kyushh*. Tatenashi turned off the shower and leaned on the spacer.
The space between the body and the spacer couldn't take the ample breasts, and they were squashed.
"You're scared because you don't understand?"
Getting a silent affirmation, Tatenashi continued,
"If that's the case, I'm the same."
"So I'm sure your onee-san's the same as well."
Unable to understand.
Unable to understand, and being afraid as a result.
However, one has to understand that courage was needed.
The courage that surpasses the fear of hurting oneself, that surpasses the fear of hurting others.
"In-In what case?"
"There's no need to worry. I'm sure your onee-san would treat you as someone important."
"So, there's no need to be scared."
Explaining this gently, Tatenashi maintained a silent smile on her face until the end.
The next day, in the second preparation room after school.
"Ah, Mayuzumi-sempai! Thank you for your appearance today!"
"Let me say first that my appearance fee's really high, you know~? An exclusive, ahem, date for once."
"A date with Orimura-kun. Fufu—that's something to be proud of."
"Pl-Please spare me."
If we want to complete Kanzashi's personal IS, we definitely need the 2nd year ace of the conditioning class, Mayuzumi Kaoruko-sempai to help us.
"Okay~ Okay~ Okay~. I want to go on a date with Orimu~"
And there's Nohohon-san, Nohotoke Honne. She's a first year, but amongst the members of the conditioning course, her ability's top notch.
"Fuu, hm, then, do I need to call in Kyouko and Fee to help?"
As she said that, Mayuzumi-san pulled her handphone out to gather her team.
And the bait was—
"Mn, two photos of Orimura-kun. Anyway, it's not like you can't have a date in school, right?"
Me again? But I'll be willing to toil on if I can get a flock of fish to bite on.
A voice came over from the other side to confirm. Most likely, it's that 'Kyouko' or whoever.
"Tha-That's still acceptable."
"OKAY! OKAAAYY!! DEAL! DEAL DEAL! ZUU-SAN! BRING YOUR BEST CAMERA ALONG!!"
Since when did Mayuzumi-san...become Zuu-san?
"Okay okay. How about Fee?"
"Heh. I think I want that famous massage."
"There's no problem right? Orimura-kun?"
"Haa, well, never mind. I've done quite a few massages recently when I was sent to the clubs."
"Okay! It's decided! Hurry up and gather at the second prep room! Last one here will have to treat juice!"
After saying that, Mayuzumi-san hung the phone up. However, there's only me, Kanzashi, Mayuzumi-san and Nohohon-san here, so it's just a showdown between Kyouko-san and Fee-san.
"Then—, let's get to work!"
Mayuzumi-san smiled. 30 minutes later, I felt the strictness of the conditioning course that would drive me crazy.
"Orimura-kun, hand over the cables over there! All of them!"
"Then get the super-large wrench and the hi-frequency cutter."
"Fu. There aren't enough holographic displays. Get a few LCDs here. 8 will be enough. Borrow a mini-TV here too."
Anyway, I went around working busily.
In order to complete Kanzashi's personal machine [Uchigane Nisihiki], all the second year members of the conditioning class were present and fighting.
The hardware included the thrusters, boosters, armor, armaments, internal firearms and so on. Also—the core needed to use data to create the respective parts and the final model of the machine. Kanzashi continued to assemble the IS in order to operate it immediately after finishing work.
However, there're a lot of problems with the software.
It's based on the [Uchigane], but there's the adjusting and checking of things that include the construct of the [Multi-Lockon-System], the booster's [Unit Control System] optimization and efficiency maximization, the machine's [Energy Bypass Operating System] simulation, and the [Shield Barrier] system.
Helping to support the development, the pilot, Kanzashi, had been operating on both software and hardware with the support of Nohohon-san, She's working on things far more than what an ordinary person can do, like operating the machine, gathering data and controlling the feedback.
What's most amazing however is the way she's controlling those machines. She's not just using voice control, eye control or body gestures, but also using both hands and both feet to control 2 keyboards each, 8 holographic keyboards altogether.
I know that she can put her hand between the keyboards above and below. As the keyboard below's being typed on, the keyboard above can be controlled by the hitting motion.
The problem is that the toes are doing the same thing, though she's using [PIC] to let the IS float in mid-air, that's practically god-like.
As a side note, the keyboard's not flat, but a fully customized model where each key's shaped in a sphere.
(Customized for herself, like how Tabane-san does it?)
Something like 'It's too slow to move the fingers if it's just the ordinary method'.
What kind of construct is that?
(But even so.)
The way Kanzashi's floating in the air, with both hands and feet surrounded by light was like a wizard in a fantasy game.
"What are you saying?" Kanzashi tilted her head.
I subconsciously muttered. Thinking about it, it's really embarrassing, so I coughed a few times to hide it.
"Hey—, Orimura-kun, don't get lazy! The laser-arm there."
"Get me the data-scanner! Godspeed!"
"Erm, and also, please take down the ultrasonic sensor."
Now, it's a rush down to the equipment store.
Anyway, I sweated and toiled as I brought the equipment over.
"Orimura-kun, help me tidy my hair."
"Orimura, juice! I want some!"
"Ah, please get some snacks."
Huh? Is it just me? Why is it that even unnecessary chores are added into it?
"Ah, I ran out of shampoo. Help me buy. I want vanilla."
"Orimura, please return this book to the library."
"Mn, help me check out the set meal of the day for dinner."
"Huuh—! That has nothing to do with work, right? Neither does this nor that!"
"Ah, you found out?"
"Che. Pretty smart, aren't you."
"Fufu, that was a joke."
How, how tiring.
It's not just physical fatigue due to the carrying; Even the mental fatigue swarmed onto me.
I sighed from the bottom of my heart. It felt like even my soul was about to float away.
Seeing me like this, Kanzashi chuckled.
It's just a little smile, but it glittered brighter than any diamond.
"Okay okay, we got the basic parts assembled together. Sarashiki-san, do you feel something weird about the machine's movements?"
On the day before the tag match, they finally ended our final run of work at 9pm.
On hearing Kanzashi's answer, Kaoruko nodded her head. Yup yup.
"How about the weapons control system? Finally, is the [Multi Lockon System] completed?"
"Ye-Yes. The normal [Lockon System] can...be used..."
Kyouko, who planned on working as an arms developer in the future, seemed to be concerned about that.
Right now, the [Uchigane Nishiki] has hi-performance guided missiles amongst its armaments, 6 missile pods altogether, 8 mini missiles in a defensive type weapon system. It's a weapon that can fire 48 of them at one go, but as the important '48 independent operational' [Multi Lockon System] wasn't completed, the supposedly high accuracy and high firepower type didn't appear.
However, the fact that they managed to complete the machine to such an extent in less than a week, was due to Kaoruko, Kyouko, Fee and Honne.
Kanzashi secretly glanced at Ichika.
Currently, he was clearing up the mechanical tools that were used, and like usual, he was the one who ended up doing all the physical stuff.
On looking at him, her eyes started to be passionated.
*Fuu*, Kaoruko detected the gaze from Kanzashi's eyes, and her eyes began to glitter.
"Then! That'll be all. We'll be making a move first then."
"Hm? What are you saying, Kaoruko? We'll be scolded if we don't send the machinery and equipment back."
"Ahh. Okay okay. Can't Orimura-kun just do it?"
"Me? Well, it's not like I really mind..."
"Oh my. How kind of you. Nn—"
"Yay~ Then, Orimu~, we'll leave it to you then~"
"Yay~" Fee and Honne cheered, *pechi* *pechi*, as they repeated this somewhat unknown high–touch.[7C 9]
Kanzashi was stuttering, but she decided to thank everyone who worked so hard to help her, so she said really loudly.
"THAN-THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I-I DEFINITELY COULD'T HAVE DONE THIS ON MY OWN. REALLY, THANK YOU, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!"
She earnestly lowered her head.
Seeing Kanzashi like that, the five of them showed a kind smile.
"Ahaha. Don't really mind. Aren't we all friends in school."
"Ah, well. It's meaningful to meet a Japanese made IS after so long."
"Nn nn—please treat me to dessert next time."
"I want cake~"
After being surrounding by cheery voices, Kanzashi felt tears well up in her eyes.
Up till now, she was so obstinate—
But even so, the world was still filled with the light of kindness.
"Then, we're going back."
"Orimura-kun, we'll leave the rest to you."
"Sarashiki-san, do your best."
Kaoruko whispered to Kanzashi's ear just when she was spacing out, and even gave a small knowing look.
On hearing that, Kanzashi immediately blushed and looked down.
Sweat immediately appeared.
(Wha-What's with that...telling me to do my best...)
While keeping her head down, she still glanced at Ichika secretly.
He was panting heavily as he put his life on the line to carry the heavy equipment.
(Wha-What do I do...? No...no matter what, I want to help him...)
Deactivating her IS and opening the armor, Kanzashi landed on the floor.
"Hm? Ah, it's okay, Kanzashi. Just fine-tune [Uchigane Nishiki]."
"Okay okay. Well, if you're done, hurry up and go back. Isn't the usage time for the bath today very short?"
"Wa...WAIT A MINUTE!"
The unexpectedly loud response caused Ichika to back away slightly fearfully.
Kanzashi being Kanzashi, she immediately felt shy about speaking out loud, and turned back to the tuning on the [Uchigane Nishiki].
*KACHANK* *KACHANK*. The maintenance sounds echoed through the preparation room.
In the spacious preparation room, only Ichika and Kanzashi were present.
(Wha-What do I do...what do I do...)
Kanzashi wondered as she continued to fine-tune the [Uchigane Nishiki].
The machine was without a pilot, and thus in standby mode now. Of course, she didn't forget to let the core optimize itself.
She glanced slightly at Ichika.
Though they were all heavy machinery and equipment, he was moving them fluidly. It seemed that he didn't realize that he and Kanzashi were alone.
(He-He's really used to...handling girls...)
Even though she didn't join the inner circle of girls, she did hear the rumors.
Rumors like the guy named Orimura Ichika having a good relationship with all the Personal IS pilots in 1st year.
"As expected...I'm still..."
As a Personal IS pilot, the girl still turned her face back to recall.
All of them were all girls with overwhelming charm.
Kanzashi felt really depressed, and there was an ache in her chest.
She started to feel dejected.
If she can—umm, was more loveable than now. If she could be even cuter now—
Just when she lowered her head and got lost in her trail of thoughts, Ichika suddenly patted her on the shoulder.
As it was too sudden, Kanzashi got shocked and straightened her back.
"I'm done here. What about you?"
There were a lot of materials and equipment, yet he really cleared them all.
Most likely, time flew as Kanzashi was thinking to herself.
"Then, let's go back."
Kanzashi couldn't calm down as she stroked [Uchigane Nishiki] that was in standby phase, the ring on the middle finger of her right hand.
She walked with Ichika side by side out of the entrance of the preparation room.
The tremendous beating in her chest was now painful, as if it was giving a loud cry.
"Then, let's get changed. I'll go to Room B at the 3rd Arena. What about you, Kanzashi?"
"Well, that...Number 2-, A..."
"Is that so? I'll walk with you for a while then."
Kanzashi and Ichika walked together side by side. They could see the sky outside through the window, and it was completely dark now
"But we finally completed it."
"Yeah...thanks to everyone..."
And naturally, the conversation ended as both of them continued to walk silently.
Kanzashi was so nervous she didn't know what to do, but Ichika just thought that Kanzashi preferred to remain silent.
"And, we're here."
Ichika raised his head, waved, and walked away.
Kanzashi stared at that figure's back for a while, and only when she lost sight of Ichika did she run into the changing room as if she was escaping.
They weren't so close that she could talk to Ichika naturally.
She thought that she could say something at the beginning.
--Like him. Isn't that the case?
Thinking about this, her heart pounded again.
(No, I can't...think about that, no way...)
Finally reaching her locker somehow, Kanzashi silently leaned and placed her hand on her chest.
After a shower, I rubbed my head and sprawled on the bed.
"We finally completed it."
The development of [Uchigane Nishiki], which we despaired over in the beginning, finally became reality with the help of Mayuzumi-sempai and the rest. Of course, this did involve a certain 'third-party' power—
"Ah, I'm in."
On hearing the knocking on the door, I stood up.
*Gachunk*. The door opened, and the 'third party's standing there.
For some reason, my feelings sank, and I couldn't help but look around the corridor.
...Luckily, it looks like nobody saw us.
"Can I come in?"
"Huh, yes, well..."
"Then, excuse me."
Like usual, Tatenashi-san entered the room with graceful steps before walking to the bed and leaping onto it.
...Haa. Why does she feel like a kid?
She even flailed her legs about.
...Hey. You there, your panties...I can see them...
But since this person's that Sarashiki Tatenashi, it's pointless for me to resist. Even worse, I think I'll be messed around with even worse if I dared to resist.
(Like for example, ordering me to massage when I'm bathing. Well...)
Besides, that's something that can't be joked about.
I put my hands on Tatenashi-san's body unwillingly (definitely unwillingly!)
"Speaking of which, who are you paired up with tomorrow?"
*Guu*...*gu*...I continued to feel her for the stiff parts as I asked what was on my mind.
"Hn? Isn't the team list released already?"
"No, I didn't have the chance to look at it since I was in the prep room. Huh? Why're your legs so stiff? Did you run a marathon?"
"Hey, first year. I did a lot of valuable speeches during the school gathering. Weren't you listening?"
"Hahaha, that can't possibly be happening now, right?"
"Ichika-kun, you can't say lies that can't even fool yourself, you know?"
"Yare yare.[7C 10] Also, my partner's Houki-chan."
"Is that so—, Houki...HUH!? HOUKI!?"
The unexpected name shocked me. Since it's Houki, so I thought she would say something like 'One person's enough!'. Tatenashi-san...she's at it again.
—Ahh, yeah. Tatenashi-san's using her own way.
To look for the existing link in an imouto with her elder sister.
Perhaps she found a silhouette of her own imouto inside.
However, as expected, Tatenashi-san still couldn't ignore Houki's situation.
"Ichika-kun, you really have quite the good relationship with your sister."
"Wha-What? Why so sudden?"
"Because Orimura-sensei's always really strict with you."
"Is-Is that a display of a good relationship?"
"Ah, so you don't know. You don't understand at all— because you're important, special, she had to be even stricter with you."
—And you mustn't die.
Tatenashi-san casually said those words. I didn't understand it immediately, but I was stunned.
My memory got awakened again. That person who looked exactly like Chifuyu-nee, Orimura Madoka. Her hand held onto a tool that was born to kill, giving me an undefined killing intent.
Unknowingly, my right shoulder started to tremble.
I tried my best not to let Tatenashi-san notice as I grabbed my right arm with my left hand to calm it down and lecture it, earnestly praying that I was just thinking of it.
"Well, a war's going to start again."
Out of a sudden, Tatenashi-san revealed her normal expression as she flailed her two legs again.
And the fear that held me scattered like the wind.
"Ichika-kun, massage my butt."
"So-SO I SAY! CAN'T YOU JUST LEAVE THIS TO UTSUHO-SAN OR NOHOHON-SAN!?"
It's not just ample, but the figure of Tatenashi-san's hip is really refined. Just from thinking about that soft touch that was in my hands, blood felt like it was going to gush up to my nose and spurt out.
"Nope. Ichika-kun's skill is the best."
I got praised, and I do feel a little happy.
"Calm down, calm down, clear your mind of useless thoughts ♪."
"Ufufu." Laughing away is Tatenashi-san as she looks as delighted as ever.
I swallowed my saliva...to a guy, this trial is unavoidable.
"Do it now!"
...No no no. There's no need to do this. I told myself off.
"Should I take off my panties?"
"You looked like you wanted to see it, you know ♪?"
Tatenashi-san continued to chuckle as she leaped onto me and started to rub my face.
Kanzashi was using the kitchen in her dorm.
The gas stove was giving off piping hot air, and Kanzashi, who was sitting on a chair in front of it, looked on impatiently.
(Orimura-kun...will-will he eat it...)
She was making green-tea-flavored cupcakes.
One of the many specialty dishes of Kanzashi.
Looking at the clock on the wall to check the time, it was now past 10pm.
Maybe Ichika would be sleeping. Thinking about this, Kanzashi's heart sank again as she stared at the stove expectantly, thinking that it would have been better to bake it earlier.
Kanzashi's expression immediately brightened. She carefully placed her mittens on both hands and took out the cupcakes from the oven.
The sweet smell of baked sugar and the aroma of green tea scattered out.
(Uu, yup...well done...)
Hoho. The cupcakes that were giving off hot air so yummy that it could be eaten.
Kanzashi gently put each cupcake into the prepared bag one by one, and then used a string to tie the opening.
(The-Then...I'll give it to Orimura-kun to eat...)
And because she was too happy, Kanzashi's heart felt like it was going to explode.
"Be-Before it cools down."
Holding the three cupcakes with both hands, Kanzashi ran out of the kitchen.
Taking three, two steps on the corridor, Kanzashi couldn't help but smile.
Giving something to the person she liked. While she was somewhat shy about it, she also felt a little proud.
(I want to see him.)
I want to see him. I want to see him. I want to see him.
Kanzashi continued to run on the corridor and hastened her pace.
She turned around the next corner, and soon, she was about to reach Ichika's room.
She stopped at the corner to adjust her breathing.
(I'll go slowly from here.)
She didn't want to be seen panicking. Thinking about this, she turned the corner.
Ichika's door was open, and Kanzashi hid instinctively.
"Mn~ I'm really happy."
She definitely didn't mistake that. It was her sister, Tatenashi's voice.
(Wh-Why in this room.)
Hiding at the wall, she peeped in from there.
"Damn it, that's enough. Spare me the agony."
"Huh—isn't that pretty good?"
Tatenashi said that as she tugged at Ichika's arm.
Seeing them like this, Kanzashi's breathing stopped for a moment.
"Both of them seem to have quite the good relationship."
*CREE*, *CREE*. Her heart ached as if a knife had pierced into it.
Kanzashi then subconsciously held onto the cupcakes tightly.
"Then, how is it? Kanzashi-chan's machine. How is it?"
"Hmm? What, basically."
--What's, going on?
She couldn't help but prick her ears and eavesdrop on their conversation, and her heart rang like a siren.
She shouldn't listen.
She mustn't listen to it at all.
"How was my machine's data?"
Subconsciously shocked, Kanzashi immediately stuffed her mouth and leaned her back on the wall.
(The test data Orimura-kun gave me.)
She thought that it was [Byakushiki]'s, but it was actually—
*Krak* *krak*, her world started to collapse.
Nobody had any ill intent, however—Kanzashi had her own pride.
([Uchigane Nishiki]'s assembly...I finally managed to complete it with my own power...finally...finally!)
Perhaps she thought that she caught up to her sister, or that's what she had thought.
It was an illusion.
All that was an illusion.
The gentle Ichika.
The completion of [Uchigane Nishiki].
--All of it.
All that was completed by her own sister.
Thinking about this, Kanzashi's heart couldn't help but imagine about her sister.
The perfect appearance, outstanding brain, athletic ability that far surpasses an ordinary person, the charisma that locks the hearts of many in.
It's scary It's scary It's scary.
It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary It's scary.
The voice of the illusion rang beside her.
Even when she covered her ears and closed her eyes, she couldn't get rid of that sound.
"You don't have to do anything. I'll deal with everything."
It's so sweet, so sweet, yet the words sounded like posion.
It started to spread in Kanzashi's heart, and soon flowed out.
--The despair, darkness.
Can continue to remain powerless.
Her heart and body felt like they couldn't take it.
Kanzashi ran out.
She ran, ran, and ran, until she reached her room in a daze.
Her shoulders couldn't stop trembling, and her face was covered with trails of tears that looked like they were drawn on it as they drip onto the floor.
She forcefully rubbed her eyes to wipe her tears away.
But the tears swelled up again, and Kanzashi couldn't take it as she escaped into her bed.
(I...I just-just...I just...)
"Just continue to remain powerless."
The cruel voice of her imagination pierced through her chest.
And then, the dam burst as tears flowed out.
Choking and crying, her heart was wavering.
Feeling that she really wanted to die, Kanzashi just continued to cry alone.
<ref>tags exist for a group named "7C", but no corresponding
<references group="7C"/>tag was found.