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Chapter 1: But Weirdness Happens Daily — Strange Days AgainEdit
After school, at the open air area of the canteen, Kanzashi was facing the fuming Rin.
Without any explanation, she had been brought here and then was treated like this. As the "shy" personality of hers was being clearly exposed, she trembled while cringing.
(Why... am I experiencing a situation like this...)
By the way, Rin was not the only one present. Houki, Cecilia, Charlotte and Laura, these familiar faces, were also around.
If a certain person were to join them, all of the first-year personal-IS pilots would be gathered here. Seven people in total, which also meant seven IS machines. A number that only a handful of militaristic countries can barely compare themselves to.
"Err, Rin, could you calm down? You are scaring Kanzashi-san."
Charlotte stood up and expressed her gentle nature to comfort everybody.
"Stop it, Charlotte. I'm already holding back the desire of resorting to torture and truth serum right now."
Crossing her arms and standing up, the angry Laura shot down Charlotte's words.
Even so, she was acting a lot gentler than how she would usually act, which was by using her bayonet.
"Don't say that, Laura. Here, Kanzashi-san, have some orange juice. You must be thirsty, right?"
Kanzashi looked up at Charlotte timidly. Seeing this, Charlotte revealed a kind smile.
(Well... This person doesn't seem to be bad...)
She thought, as she began drinking the orange juice.
On her second mouthful, Charlotte, maintaining her gentle smile, asked:
"Keep going. So what exactly is going on?"
Not understanding the question, Kanzashi returned a clumsy smile while tilting her head.
At the same time, Cecilia and Houki stood up, outraged.
"I-I-I am saying! W-Wi-With Ichika that! "
"I-I-In a relationship?!"
To be suddenly asked such a question, Kanzashi blinked in surprise and then gasped. After a while, her face turned red.
"M-Me and Ichika... are not like that..."
Rin repeated in surprise.
(What's wrong with this person, suddenly calling him by his first name. Doesn't it seem too intimate? ... Wait, come to think of it, am I not the same? ... Well, it's not such a big deal... Yeah.)
Boiling a second prior, then returning back to calm the next second.
Then, as the five people, boiling again, stared at Kanzashi, the latter could not help but continue to shrink.
"Thi-This... is... aah... though I do not bear such thoughts... in short, it is like this..."
The usually soft-voiced Kanzashi, under the pressure of the five people in front of her, had her voice become even softer.
Her last few words could not be heard. But seeing her lowering face, which became red, while fiddling with her fingers, everyone confirmed something.
——"Aah, another rival, huh?"
Kanzashi, like a frightened little animal, curled up.
The five, now aware that Kanzashi was not actually in a relationship with Ichika and seeing her in such a pitiful state, frantically tried to change the topic.
"Ah, um. Sarashiki... -san?"
"Kanzashi... Please just call me Kanzashi..."
Houki asked in a state of panic while Kanzashi replied in the same state as well.
"Th-Then, just call us by our names as well. It's fine, right?"
Facing the outspoken Rin, Kanzashi replied in a slightly louder tone.
"Bu-But, thinking back, to suddenly bring you here was a little bit rude."
"I'm just, just a little shocked..."
Faced with an unnatural smile from Cecilia, Kanzashi, also feeling sorry for making them worry, responded with an awkward smile.
"Ah——, um, do you want another cup of juice?"
"No, no need..."
As Charlotte handed over the menu, Kanzashi gently waved her hand to decline.
"Sa-Say. Since we are all first-years, why don't we all have some combat training together?"
"Ah, um. Thank you..."
Holding her arms, Laura sat back down. Her strong yet gentle voice made Kanzashi nod twice.
By coincidence, all six of them let out a sigh of relief.
All six individuals thus carried a slightly shocked expression, releasing it only after a brief moment.
"This is kinda strange, isn't it?"
Charlotte said this at the perfect timing, reaching her hand out to Kanzashi.
"From today onwards, I'll be in your care."
"Ye-Yes... I'll be in your care..."
Seeing those two shake hands, the rest nodded in agreement.
Thus, a problem that weighed the heart was solved and a new competitor and companion was born.
Ichika, even as the morning sun started shining into his room, was still silently sleeping.
In his room, a trespasser with her presence perfectly hidden was also present.
This person was none other than Laura Bodewig.
Even though this was not the first time she committed the crime of trespassing, this definitely was the first time she challenged to enter in her black cat-eared pajamas.
Due to this challenge, she was also in high spirits.
(Calm down, calm down... Act just like the usual, just like in training...!)
Repeating these words in her heart, Laura slowly entered into the sleeping Ichika's blanket.
"Biii——. Intruder. Intruder."
Suddenly, an electronic voice sounded.
"Wha? What——? This is?!"
*Bang! * Expanding like a balloon, the blanket pushed Laura down.
Even though she tried to push it away, the expanding force was just too great and thus made pushing it away impossible.
Moreover, with both her hands pressed down by it, she had no way of drawing out her knife.
"Why, why you..."
To be able to set such a trap, among the people Laura knew, there was only one person who could do it.
"Ah hahaha, you fell for it Laura-chan!"
Laughter came from the shower room.
"That's right! I am Sarashiki Tatenashi! IS Academy student council president and also the strongest——"
Ichika's groans of pain overwhelmed Tatenashi's voice at this point,
"I'm saying, if you don't do something soon, I think I'm going to die..."
This sound rang throughout the whole first year dormitory.
"Ah, that was horrible..."
Still rubbing my hurting head, I changed into my gym clothes in the locker room.
There was a physical check-up scheduled later.
Here, a problem arose.
That is, why was I chosen as an assistant for the check-up?
WHY-AM-I the assistant for all things the physical check-up!!
Aah, a certain demonic student council president suddenly came into mind.
(Because, if you think about it, 「physical」 would definitely mean a certain 「three sizes」, right? How could you even allow such a thing, IS Academy!)
Thinking this, I sat alone in a certain classroom waiting.
At this time——,
"Ah, I'm so sorry Orimura-kun. I was sorting out the documents and lost track of time."
As she said this, Yamada-sensei entered the classroom.
"Ah! So Yamada-sensei is in charge of measurements right!? Thank goodness, at least this academy still has some conscience left."
"Yes. I will work hard recording!"
"Yup! I'm only responsible for recording! "
"JUST WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THIS ACADEMY THINKIIIIIIIIING!?"
My plea seemed all so useless just as a group of girls entered the classroom noisily.
"Oh, so it's really Orimura-kun who is taking measurements?"
"Eeeeeeh, so it's like this!? I might have eaten a little too much last night!"
"YAHOO, Orimura~. Hehe~, Tatenashi-chan's big surprise is a total success~"
I've never felt a greater urge to blow that person sky high than now.
"Okay, everyone please be quiet~. We're now going to take measurements for the IS suits, so please do not wear any unnecessary clothing ok~? "
Yamada-sensei happily announced to everyone. But to me, this was no different to a death sentence.
"Gym clothes must be taken off, please be in your undergarments only, ok~?"
Yes, I'm dead. I'm so dead.
"Ah, everyone will enter that cubicle one at a time. Follow the order of undress, measure and redress. All will be done in there. Thus there will be no worries of being seen in underwear by anyone~."
"Yamada-sensei, won't you be able to see them!?"
Orimura Ichika shouted in rage, renewing his determination to get away from this atrocious situation.
After all, Orimura Ichika is a person who can never understand a woman's heart. A guy through and through.
And also a guy who has spent almost all of his days playing around with other boys only. Making him all the more sensitive to the bodies of women even when compared to the average guy.
——«Run! Ichika», Dazai-sensei, you are the best. It would be my great honour to meet you at heaven.
"You see, I'll just be behind this curtain. All Orimura needs to do is say out the measurements."
"ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?"
I was no longer in a state of rage or indignation, but had begun to slightly lose it.
"What's all the commotion about..."
"This voice is, Chifuyu-nee——Ah!"
My neck endured the great feeling of a hand chop. Ah, what a great feeling. About at a 32 degree angle.
"You brat, are you still not happy even after getting this kind of job?"
"No, there is obviously something wrong here! I was set up!"
"Really... Are those the words a guy should say?"
"Why can't you just say「I'll do it and show you!」 or the like?"
"Fine! I'll really do it and show youuuuuu!"
The beast in my heart awakened!
"Is that so? Then good luck! "
"Eh? Eh? Huh?"
"Didn't you just say you will do it?"
Being stared down by that gaze, no words escaped my mouth. Can I no longer escape this fate of being under the scythe of the reaper?
"Don't looked so despaired. Come on, why don't you use this to cover your eyes."
To be given such an amazing thing! As expected of Chifuyu-nee!
"I'll leave first then."
Watching Chifuyu-nee as she left, I saluted to her.
Thank you Chifuyu-nee! No, thank you Orimura-sensei!
(Now then, let's use it to cover my eyes...)
"Isn't? Isn't this half-transparentttttt!?"
I could hear Chifuyu-nee's laughter clearly in the corridor.
W-What's with all these people!
"Index number 1, Aikawa Kiyoka, it's my turn!"
"Wa-Wait-Wait a sec!"
"Eeh~, so slow."
Walking into the measuring area, Aikawa Kiyoka-san was clearly only wearing her undergarments: bra and panties.
(That-That's right! It will be fine if I just do it with my eyes closed! Use the mind's eye! The inner third eye!)
I closed my eyes tightly and picked up the measuring tape.
"Th-Then, here we go."
"Hyah!? O-Orimura-kun, what are you doing all of a sudden!?"
"Eh, ah. No, this is——"
A soft full feeling slowly spread throughout my hand.
Squish squish squish.
"I-I said, don't... aah~!"
——Ah, I'm dead meat.
"Ichika!!!! Why youuu!!!!!"
"Ichika-san, what are you doing!?"
"Ichika you pervert! Unbelievable!"
"——Ichika, get ready to die."
Here they come! What's the action!?
"I'm getting—— out of hereeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!"
*Ichika dead sound effect*
"Ooh, for Ichika to have died in such a pitiful way."
——Ah, it's like this.
"But, to be thrown into such a state of panic just because you see a little girl in her undies is truly humiliating. You are a real failure as a「man」."
Ah. You definitely aren't Dai***-sensei after all——
"Ichika... Ichika, please wake up..."
Who's calling me...
"C'mon, get up! Wake up, Ichika!!"
*Thwack!* Just as I was about to get up, I received a straight punch to the face.
"W-What are you doing, Rin!?"
"Don't ask me! You're the only one who needs their body measurements done! Just how much longer do you plan on sleeping?"
Rin exposed with a suddenly angry expression.
Say, isn't this the nurse's office?
"I said, hurry and take of your clothes! I-I'll personally help take your measurements!"
Not knowing if it's due to the fact I was still in a daze after just waking up, I followed Rin's instructions and began taking off my clothes.
"I-Idiot! There's no need to take off the bottom!"
Well, of course.
"Really, just what are you doing, you... hurry and raise your hands!"
Before me, Rin was dressed in IS Academy gym clothes: a.k. a bloomers.
The soft yet elegant curves of her body were clearly evident, reminiscent of a cat, and gave off the feeling of a healthy beauty.
Moderately tight thighs, showing off a sense liveliness, quite a real feast for the eyes.
"Let's see, what a broad chest... Hey, Ichika!"
"Y-Your face is all red and your nose is bleeding! Wait and let me check your temperature!"
What the, I feel weird.
My body... is not...
I want it to...
"Hey, what happened! Hey, Ichika! Wake up!"
"Like I said, just leave watchout to me!"
"Why should Houki be the one!"
"Rin-san, you have no right to say that! Did you not had your turn back at the nurse's office? Please pass this chance to others!"
"Can everyone keep it down a little...!"
"No, I will never pass my bride to anyone!"
I forced a little sound.
"Oh, Ichika! Have you come to?"
"Hey, are you ok?!"
"Ichika-san! Are you really alright?!"
"Are, are you okay, Ichika?"
"Should I help replenish liquids first or nutrients?"
I said, sliding off the bed.
"Really, you guys! Don't disturb me as I take care of Ichika! Please get out!"
"What?! Houki, you should be the one getting out!"
"Both of you quiet down!"
"I say, let's first help lift Ichika back onto the bed!"
"Looking after an injured bride is a husband's job! Leave it to me!"
The dispute continued to intensify.
In my hazy consciousness, I heard the sound of the door opening.
——zhi da da da.
"Enough is enough!"
"Get out. ——Kanzashi-chan, please lift Ichika's legs for me."
Ah... it's Tatenashi-san and Kanzashi...
It seems everybody's head was hit by that folding fan of hers, seeing how they all had some look of dissatisfaction and remained silent.
"Since it already came to this, please stop trying to do anything silly to make it worse, okay?"
"Since you understand, please leave immediately."
The five, with their enthusiasm deflated, left the room one after another.
My memory became a little vague after this, but it seems that Tatenashi-san and Kanzashi continued to look after me after returning me onto the bed.
Tatenashi helped me replenish my liquids and fed me food while Kanzashi placed a wet towel on my forehead.
Trying to say something, I struggled to sit up.
"Don't force yourself up. Get some rest."
"Yes... That, it's about those guys..."
"How should I say this... please don't scold them too severely... even though they don't get along at times, they're still good people..."
At this very point, I wanted to make sure that there was no misunderstandings.
With a face that said "I just can't believe you," Tatenashi-san sighed.
"——Is what he said, you five in the hallway."
Creaking sounds could be heard as the door shook slightly.
"Nee-san... why not let them in..."
"You're right. They should have fully reflected on their actions by now."
Just as Tatenashi-san said this, the five entered the room.
"That is, I'm sorry Ichika..."
"It, it's my bad."
Everyone lowered their head to show that they were truly sorry.
I replied with a weak smile.
"Really, this is how you attract us."
Tatenashi-san showed a smile more beautiful than usual.
A few days later, a joint IS training class was held for all of the first-year students.
In the arena, every single first-year was present, lined in a straight line with Chifuyu-nee standing in front with arms crossed as usual.
"Orimura, Shinonono, Alcott, Huang, Dunois, Bodewig, Sarashiki! Step forward!"
As soon as class started, Chifuyu-nee called out all the personal IS users.
"During the incident a few days ago, all of your IS units sustained serious damage. So due to repairs, you're all not allowed to use your IS."
This was something that everyone understood even without saying.
As if to prove this point, everyone replied without hesitation.
"Then, it's about time... Yamada-sensei."
"Yes! Everyone, please look this way!"
Saying this, Yamada-sensei, standing in front of a cargo container placed behind Chifuyu, waved her hands in a "look here!" manner.
From the moment everyone gathered in the arena, they were curious of what was inside the container. Now that its contents were finally coming to light, a commotion naturally erupted. After all, grabbing any chance to talk was a distinct trait of all maidens.
"What could be inside?"
"Could it be a new IS model?!"
"Eh——? If it was, then it wouldn't be in a cargo container, but an IS stand right?"
"What? What is it? How strange?! How very strange!"
... these last words carried no meaning. Said just for the sake of saying.
"Quiet! ... Really, can't you guys just keep your mouths shut? Yamada-sensei, please open it!"
"Yes! Then, open sesame!"
Not understanding Yamada-sensei's words, everyone stood stunned.
Seeing this reaction, a tear formed on Yamada-sensei's eyes as she pressed the remote controller.
"Uuu, this generation gap sure is painful..."
Powered by a motor in the container, the heavy metal door began to open with a buzzing sound.
"This, this is..."
Ichika let out a surprised voice.
"... What is this?"
Bang! Chifuyu's attendance book attacked, causing 30 damage to Ichika.
Rubbing his head, Ichika looked at the container once again. What was inside was something that resembles metal armor.
"Instructor, this is——"
"Call me Orimura-sensei."
It seems Laura has seen this armor before. Being called by the name back when she was training the German army accidentally, Chifuyu shot a stare towards Laura.
Being shot by such a harsh expression from her beloved Chifuyu, Laura immediately shut her mouth.
"This is the offensive armored exoskeleton developed by the United Nations, 'EOS'."
“Extended Operation Seeker. Known as EOS, it is mainly designed for disaster relief and peace keeping operations. However, branching out the suit's usage is under consideration”
"Then, Orimura-sensei, what are we supposed to do with it...?"
Houki asked conservatively.
Right after, she received this simple answer.
All seven — Ichika and the girls — replied in unison.
"Don't make me repeat myself. These are the orders of the academy's higher ups; they want a report on these things' practical operation data. Since you guys can't use your personal machines anyway, why not help me with this report?"
Finally receiving an answer they could understand, the seven nodded their heads.
Maya then walked forward and clapped her hands together as she began to give orders to the rest.
"Ok. Everyone please form groups for the mock battle~. And bring out the training machines from the hangar~."
Wanting to witness the EOS's capability, the girls let out an "eh" sound of unwillingness. However, they sprung to work as soon as they received Chifuyu's stare.
To the seven personal IS users who were still pondering about the armor, Chifuyu used the attendance book to knock their heads to hasten them.
"Hurry up, you idiots. We don't have all day, or could it be that you guys can't pilot these on such short notice?"
"That, that can't be, Orimura-sensei. As representative cadets, how could we possibly not know how to pilot such weaponry?"
Cecilia confidently asserted.
"Oh really. Try it then."
Seeing Chifuyu smile secretly, everyone began to feel a certain sense of extreme terror, but they all went to their allocated machines and worked into them.
When manipulating the armor, it gave a sensation no different from lifting heavy metals. Lacking being able to move freely, their brows naturally furrowed.
"Uuu, this is...!"
"Ah, this must be a joke right..."
"How, how difficult to move..."
Ichika, Houki, Cecilia, Rin and Charlotte ran into trouble operating EOS. Simply because they were just too heavy.
Well, of course it felt that way. An EOS had more weight compared to an IS. Not to mention, IS's are equipped with the PIC's (Passive Inertia Control) anti-gravity system, and all IS parts also have auxiliary drives and auxiliary power to minimize loading. Therefore, one could operate it without worrying about it's weight.
In contrast, the EOS, in one sentence, is a big block of metal.
Even if auxiliary drives were to be fitted, the difference was still as clear as day.
In addition, the auxiliary power generator couldn't remain on for long periods of time with the EOS.
Furthermore, compared to the IS, which is equipped with the Direct Motion System so the suit could move faster than the pilot's body could, the movement of the armor, which did not have this system, seemed to lag behind the manipulation of the operator.
To top it off, the main weight problem is largely due to the huge box at the back of the armor. Called the next generation PPB (Portable Plasma Battery), just the weight of one plasma cell inside is already 30 kilograms.
Even so, the EOS only have an operation cycle of 10 minutes.
In this situation, everyone grew to understand how superior IS was.
However, compared to the others, the only remark Laura had for the EOS was an "ok".
"Then let's begin testing the EOS in a mock war situation. By the way, the only protection is the armor, so no one is allowed to aim directly at unarmored parts. Even though we're using paint bullets, getting hit will really sting."
Chifuyu clapped her hands to order everyone to get ready. At a moment's notice, a loud "Start!" resounded. Upon this signal, Laura used the roller blades on the machine to close in on Ichika who was still fighting with the controls of the armor.
"Humph. Too late!"
Laura turned to avoid a weak counter punch and drove right in front of Ichika.
She then lowered her waist and attacked his legs with a sweep.
As Ichika fell, Laura took out the semi-automatic assault rifle equipped on the EOS, fired a burst of 3 bullets and retreated. The next target was Cecilia.
"I will not be defeated so easily!"
Using the assault rifle which was set on full-auto, it was impossible for Cecilia to aim properly.
"Damn! What enormous recoil...!"
Typically, any IS-related shooting reaction force would be automatically offset by the machine's body, the PIC's reaction controls and the automatic balancing systems of the IS.
However, the EOS did not have such convenient systems. Thus, all actions and their resulting forces had to be controlled directly with the body.
"Ah, really! Even though it's just a normal live ammunition gun, operating it is enough to throw up!"
Even though she was hesitant at the start, Cecilia was still a national IS Representative Cadet. And thus, she had also experienced combat training in the military which allowed her to get used to the recoil after a while.
But, Laura was far superior. Before Cecilia could get used to the gun, she closed the gap between them.
"Aren't you fast! However, at this distance, I will not miss!"
Different from the turn against Ichika, it was a straight rush this time. Using the physical shield on her left hand to block the bullets, she dashed towards Cecilia using gathered momentum.
Still in her usual graceful posture, Cecilia's shoulder armor was rammed by Laura's straight rush.
Losing balance, Cecilia fell to the ground.
Due to the weight of the EOS, it was very difficult to get back up.
Of course, there was a support arm at the back to help one get back up, however, it was already too late. Before she could get up, Cecilia was caught in a rain of bullets from Laura.
"Hu hu, an opening!"
From Laura's side, Rin rushed in for the assault.
A straight punch suddenly came into range, however, with a slight tilt of her body, Laura avoided the attack.
Unable to stop from her initial acceleration, Rin tripped and, "Bang" the unavoidable sound of Laura's gun resounded.
"Now all that's left is..."
Laura turned her gaze forward, towards Houki and Charlotte who were standing side by side.
"Who shall I start with?!"
"I, I don't mind going second..."
"Me, me too..."
Charlotte and Houki stood head to head, mutually asking the other to go first.
"Charlotte, why, why don't you go first?"
"No, no need. Houki can go first."
"Don't say that."
"You are being too kind."
"Then I shall go first!"
"No, let me go first!"
""You go ahead. No, you go ahead. No, you go ahead.""
Aah, such touching friendship.
But, the person to attack first was Laura.
By the time Houki and Charlotte had realized this, it was too late.
A low but sharp sound resounded as the roller blades brought Laura closer.
"Eat, eat this!"
"I'm sorry Laura!"
The two formed a temporary team and decided on a shoot-out after seeing the way Rin fell.
Let's first not talk about Charlotte. Houki, being unable to control the recoil of the gun, fell butt first onto the ground.
To be expected, a rain of bullets came right after.
"Ouch! Stop, stop it idiot! Ouch! It hurts it hurts it hurts!"
But, Laura mercilessly fired the remaining bullets in the gun at Houki. Subsequently, she threw the empty assault rifle at Charlotte.
Laura closed in in an instant, using both her hands to hold down Charlotte who instinctively took a defensive stance.
"Ah, ha ha...!"
"Oh. You guarded against it?"
"Then let's try it again."
Dong! She mercilessly pushed down the second time.
Just like Cecilia, Charlotte fell, back first.
But, as expected of Charlotte, she braced herself just before hitting the ground.
"Ok, that's enough!"
Chifuyu's voice announced the end of the mock battle.
"As expected of Bodewig."
"No, all of this was taught by the instructor when she was in the German army——"
Bang! An attack from the attendance book burst forth.
As Laura rubbed her head, the rest took off the EOS and gathered around.
"Laura, have you used the EOS before?"
"I have not, but I have used something similar in the German army. It was mainly during the practical experiments with IS equipment."
Facing Ichika's question, Laura answered fluently. At this point, Charlotte joined in on the conversation.
"Eh, so that's why you're so amazing."
"No, this level can't be considered 'amazing' yet."
"If this is not amazing, then what is? Really."
Having felt utter defeat, Rin could only carry a sad expression.
"I say, you guy, ah... ha, ptz~."
Laura suddenly seemed to be holding back an urge to laugh.
Not understanding the reason, Ichika and the rest looked at each other. No matter what, whether it was their attire or faces, there were paintball ink traces everywhere.
"How, how evil of you Laura... You shot my face on purpose right?"
"I say, you can only blame yourself for getting hit... Ha ha ha~."
Seeing Laura's rare laughing face, Houki and the rest were at a loss.
Shown all over her face was an expression of an ordinary girl playing around with her friends.
"But really, this EOS thing, is there really any practical application for it?"
"I am also very concerned about this point."
Cecilia and Houki used their eyes to inquire Chifuyu.
"Well, in the wake of the limited number of IS available, this thing will show its worth in the fields of rescue activities and the likes."
Not to mention, even with 1000 EOS, it still cannot defeat 1 IS. About this point, it is better not to mention it.
It's tentative basis is also on the conclusion of 'never come into combat against an IS'.
(Really. To have these sent to the IS Academy, they sure are taking some risks.)
Furthermore, it's hard to understand the purpose of the principal in accepting such things.
But, let's not think too much for now.
——before 'that moment' arrives, Chifuyu can't consider too much on this issue.
But of course, some preparations still had to be made.
Because of such thoughts, she continued to reason in silence. Noticing the look of "we are waiting for further orders" from the members who had taken off the EOS,
"Ah. Then everyone, move the equipment to the second hangar. Use the equipment used to bring them here to bring them back. That's all."
Chifuyu clapped her hands together and everyone began working as ordered.
Even though the container was returned by Maya using an IS, the movement of the equipment still had to be done by hand. Rin let out a clear sound of dissatisfaction. With this, today's practical lesson ended.
"Ah, now that I think about it,"
In the changing room filled with girls after the joint practice, in the shower compartment,
Rin started this conversation.
"In that incident, didn't other personal IS machines receive serious damage as well?"
"There was something like this... ah, Rin! Please don't take my shampoo without permission!"
"Eh——, is there a problem? So the great Cecilia is actually very stingy."
"I am not! I just want you to tell me first!"
"Ah~, expensive shampoo really is the best~."
"Are, are you even listening to me!?"
Putting this problem aside first, the topic Rin brought up seems to have caught the attention of all the personal IS users present.
"Indeed. I heard that the second and third year personal IS users had to return to their country of origin for emergency repairs."
"U, un... It seems to be the case... however, it seems onee-san used the school's resources to fix hers..."
Kanzashi replied to Laura's words.
"Tatenashi-san's machine belongs to Russia right?"
"I've heard her say that because of international technical cooperation, it also incorporated technology from other countries."
Charlotte and Houki added respectively. Kanzashi added,
"Japan's technology, and... There were Italian researchers as well..."
"Italy? Could it be (Tempesta II)...?"
As expected of someone who was in the European next generation IS development race, to hear information about a competitor, Cecilia asked in a hurry. Kanzashi frantically nodded her head and answered.
"Un. The model was based after (Tempesta)... Just the machine, though."
The pilot of that model was Chifuyu's finals opponent in both the first and second Mondo Grosso. That (Tempesta).
She was also one of the rare few machines with a One-Off Ability, renounced world Number 2 and like Chifuyu's machine at that time, it was a pure offensive-type, using raw power to overwhelm its opponents.
Because she had such strengths, she dared to openly announce that the strongest was still undecided between her and Chifuyu. However, she also seems to have declined being the winner of the second Mondo Grosso.
Thus, when mentioning the "Strongest in the world", it is widely believed to be Chifuyu.
"Aah, but aren't those liquid nano machines something like the VT System?"
Charlotte's careless reasoning or should it be said natural direction of thought, caused Cecilia to shiver.
It seems she had reached the same conclusion in her heart.
"Because, to use emotions to control the flow of energy and that, aren't they the same thing?"
"Is, is it like this..."
"That said, aren't they the closest to perfecting it now?"
It seems that Rin had stepped on a landmine in Cecilia's heart, or should it be said ripped through it.
"Ah, what is it?"
"I'm never lending you my shampoo again."
"Bath soap, hair conditioner, face cream, hand cream, towel, lotion, perfume, money. I am never lending anything to you ever again!"
'Eeeehhh? Why? Hey, why? Uuu, I will be really troubled by this..."
"Don't ignore me!"
As expected, such an opinion on the topic of this importance to Cecilia could not be ignored or forgiven. Rin now faced the full fury of Cecilia.
But, as expected of British royalty, once they made a decision, it would be very hard to change it.
Ignoring Rin who was making a racket, Laura washed off the shampoo and put on her eye patch.
"Now that you mention it, I have received the troop's orders. I might have to return to Germany sometime soon."
"Oh, is that so? Then be sure to bring back some souvenirs for them."
"Un, yes. My platoon mates asked me to buy many things."
"What is it that they want?"
Rarely seen, Houki was interested in Laura's topic. For her home country to leave such a strong impression on others was something to be happy about.
Watching Laura recount the requests with her fingers, Charlotte and Houki became stiff.
"Why, why do I get the feeling that the requests are all strange...?"
"Even though they are of the Special Forces, it seems they are all still girls at heart..."
"Aah, I almost forgot the thing Clarissa asked for!"
"What, what is it?"
Houki and Charlotte were stunned.
However, Laura repeated seriously.
"Shachihoko. What, you don't know? It is something that is like the protecting spirit of ancient japan. If one has this thing, he will have something akin to a impregnable defense. It also seems to play an important part on the strong defense of olden time Japanese castles."
(Could this mean it was just a talisman to ward off disasters...?)
(Laura's vice commander seems to be totally wrong when it comes to this topic...)
"Then, where is it sold?"
"No no, that thing is not for sale."
"Is that so? Then it is fine if I snatch it right?"
"How did it end up like this!?"
"I once saw such an example in a manga."
"Laura, you can't copy that manga!"
Even though Charlotte didn't know what manga it was, it was more important to correct the misunderstanding first.
Thus, in the remaining time in the showers, Houki and Charlotte used all their effort to convince Laura.
Laura, on the other hand, just nodded her head as she muttered "So it is like this."
"Cecilia! People have already apologized, but why are you still like this!"
"Just when, where, and who apologized to me!?"
Looking at Rin and Cecilia, who were still fighting even while changing, Houki, Charlotte, Laura and Kanzashi put on their undergarments.
Because of the variety of colors shown at this point, it gives off a bright and refreshing feel only present in 10 odd year old girls.
To put it simply, it would be——'beyond what words could describe'.
Let's not talk about the IS Academy, but this research center is very far from the town center. I have to take a tram for an hour and then a bus ride for another hour, which led me to this deep forest in the middle of nowhere.
"It should be right here......?"
I carefully compared the map and the research center's signboard.
"Kuromochi Research Center ....... Hmm. Spot on."
That's right————- today I am here at Byakushiki's research center.
Today is a working day and I should be in school but for some reason, I got special permission to go out.
(Byakushiki's overall maintenance? What exactly has to be done?)
I was thinking of going near to the entrance but the entrance was blocked by some white wall.
There's no door handle, doorbell or even a surveillance camera.
"How am I going to get in......"
I nearly fell down due to the fact that my butt was just groped by someone.
I manage to recover my balance and at my rear, there's a girl wearing swimming goggles (or black sunglasses models).
"What, what, what.......!?"
"Fufufufu. Underage boys' small butts are awesome."
She grins and her grinning smile is almost like the crescent moon.
When she grins, she revealed her unusually long canine teeth as if they're Dracula's.
"What are you trying to do!?"
"What am I trying to do? Can't you see what I'm doing?"
She's wearing a school swimsuit with a deep blue IS shirt. On her bosom, there is [Kagaribi] nametag.
What makes me even more surprised is that she is all wet from top to bottom.
Not just plain wet, her right hand is holding a harpoon and her left hand is holding five or six freshwater fish.
The water just kept on dripping on the floor and her damp hair curled and warped up like wakame.
(....... No matter how you look at her, she is a weirdo or should you say a pervert.....)
I want to maintain some distance from her.
But this pervert....... she quickly closes the distance between us.
"Fumu, fumu, fu——mu."
While I am slowly immersed in an extremely weird atmosphere, the door behind me suddenly opens.
"Director! What are you are doing out here!"
This man in his 30's comes running by and when he sees me, he gives out an [ah] exclamation.
"You, you are Orimura-kun!? Orimura Ichika-kun!"
"Really! Please forgive us. Last time, we said that the director will be the one to receive you, but this person here is just another ordinary pervert."
Woah—— to even speak like that so bluntly!
"Shut up, gramps."
While she said that, she waved her spear and then throwing it aside...... What the!? This, this person is really dangerous!
"Come, come here, bishonen. Why don't you come into my room and we can have some 'fun' time together!"
"What are you referring to with this 'fun' thing?"
I have to admit that those boobs really captivate me.
"It's too boring with just two people!"
"You're right. Ok, let's play some ero games then."
The male staff and I could only look at her with accusing eyes.
"Iya..... even two persons entering a narrow bathroom is out of the question. A——a—— Japanese laws are too boring!"
This strange woman used her hands to rest her head and pursed her mouth.
There's a short moment where I didn't know how to deal with this embarrassing situation, the male staff then whispered to me:
"Please forgive us. Well, let's go inside. I will serve you juice for you to drink later."
After he apologized to me, he led me into the building.
Inside the building, everything was pure white. The floor, walls and ceiling were all white. Even the lamps were white fluorescent lamps.
(I wonder if it's because this place is Byakushiki's development chamber..... This is strange.)
Bechiya, bechiya, bechiya.
I can hear the wet barefoot steps from my back, almost like a mild horror movie of some sort.
"AH——! Director! Please dry yourself up before entering!"
"Humhahahahah, don't mind it."
"In the end, there's still some mopping to do!"
"You're right. Alright, I will wait here until it dries up."
"But this will take time to dry up!"
It seems that this person is a pain in the neck.
"Um, well, um....... see you later.
"Ui, ui, see you later——"
I carelessly waved at the director before slowly walking along the corridor.
N——fufu. That is really Orimura’s younger brother.”
After Ichika left, the female director is alone, smiling to herself in the corridor.
When she smiles, she shows her unusually long canine teeth, which mostly give the goose bumps feeling.
“Director! Please dry yourself up with the towel!”
“OK, ok, I am sorry.”
After putting her harpoon and fish up in exchange for a towel, she fiercely rubs her body dry.
“You better let me have some good data, Orimura Ichika-kun.”
While rubbing her face, this [director] has a profound smile, hidden under her towel.
I waited for 30 minutes after being told to stay in this room.
Just when I was feeling really bored, I thought about doing some push-ups, and got up from the sofa. At this moment, the woman from before entered.
“Sorry for being late! Did I keep you waiting?”
She angrily puffed her cheeks while still wearing the swimming sunglasses from before. It seemed my answer wasn’t satisfactory.
“Seriously, when a female asks you ‘did I keep you waiting’, the correct answer should be ‘I just arrived’!”
“You must learn these aesthetics, or you won’t be popular with the girls.”
“Is-is that so…”
“But if it really ends up that way, I’ll happily take you in. There won’t be any problems at all.”
It’s really a problematic statement, but I better ignore it for now.
“Then, let’s begin!”
The woman draped the white coat over her IS suit. On a side note, she’s wearing furry kitty paws slippers on her feet.
Then, she slowly takes off her sunglasses, and finally reveals her eyes.
“Nice to meet you. My name’s Kagaribi Hikaruno, the second research facility director of Kuramochi Technology Research Institute, and I’m your sister’s classmate in the same year.”
Her long and narrow eyes have a smiling intent in it, resembling a cat. The crescent moon like smile showed the long canines within again.
“Onee-san…as in Chifuyu-nee!?”
Pochin! The rubber strap of the sunglasses was stretched and loosened, sticking itself onto the head and letting out a sound.
The pair of swimming sunglasses now looks like a helmet.
(No, instead of this!)
“Well, as same-year classmates, you mean the high school days, right?”
“Then, you’re friends with Tabane-san…”
“No, no no no.”
Hikaruno-san immediately reacts to my words, and shakes her head.
“The term of friends refers to the equal relationship between each other. They can be considered friends to each other in their cases. Shinonono Tabane is a friend to Orimura Chifuyu, and Orimura Chifuyu to Shinonono Tabane. This is a one and only kind of thing.”
Hikaruno-san says this as she wags her finger.
“I can’t match up to those two at all. That’s why we can’t be considered friends, but classmates, just classmates.”
Anyway, it’s best not to talk about this for the time being; Hikaruno-san finishes this topic by saying this, opened the holographic display, and called out an IS maintenance suit. Six mechanic arms silently reach for me.
“Then, please activate your Byakushiki. We’ll now start to repair the damages, optimize the system, and collect data.”
I gather my concentration and call out Byakushiki. My body’s surrounded by light, and a pure white armor covers me.
“Speaking of which, sorry about the summer. I couldn’t come to IS Academy because of something. Oh my, this really won’t do. We got a big problem!”
“Ah, the current trend certainly is cruel.”
I don’t really understand, but this is plausible.
Haa. Hikaruno-san lets out a long sigh, and then turns her stare to the display.
“Hmm, it certainly took a lot of damage. In that case, it’ll be faster to have you take off Byakushiki and let our technicians repair it.”
“Then, how long will it take?”
“Hm? It’ll be done tomorrow or so. Isn’t it easy if we spend an all-nighter on this?”
All-nighter—I don’t think that’s easy.
“Then, let’s get in! Everyone from Kuramochi Technology!”
The sliding door moved aside and let out a hissing sound of air; men and women rushed through the door with frantic footsteps. Their ages vary, but they seemed to be all Japanese.
“Then, go fish for something. You can get a lot in the river nearby.”
She said that and handed a fishing rod over to me. Of course, there was no reel, just a hook and line draping down.
“Please use whatever bait you can find.”
“Oh, then, erm, I’m leaving.”
“Have a nice trip~”
With Hikaruno-san waving her hand to bid me farewell, I left the research room.
It’s been a while since I last went fishing.
I often went there in my primary school. The first time was with Chifuyu-nee, then Houki, and finally Rin.
(I was busy with a lot of things in secondary school, and couldn’t go for a trip.)
I recall as I walk down the hill path, and soon, I hear the sound of water pattering in the river.
The river sparkled under the sunlight, and there stood a large rock in a wide part of the river.
(It’ll be comfy sitting down there and fishing.)
I thought as I can’t help but start to look for bait, and start flipping over the rocks at the riverbank to look for bugs.
Earthworms can do too, but I prefer bugs. I always feel that the latter’s easier to get the fish to bite.
(Ah, speaking of which, I think Rin hates looking for bugs.)
“Now what do we use for bait?”
“What? You’re noisy.”
“That-that’s not a bu-bug-bug!”
“Un-unbelievable…Japanese are really a little weird somewhere…”
“Don’t people from China deep fry centipedes?”
“THAT’S ONLY A SMALL GROUP! WHO’LL EAT SUCH THINGS!?”
“Eh? But don’t the Chinese eat anything with legs other than chairs?”
“Ah, sorry. Can tables be eaten too?”
I got hit, and by the fist too. The Chinese are really scary.
(But she often comes fishing even though she hates bugs. Hm, I miss those times.)
I recalled those things while looking for bait. Soon after, I managed to collect quite a lot.
“Alright, then let’s get started.”
I started to climb up the rock beside me, went past several more, and got onto the largest one.
I thread the hook through the bait, and throw it to the water. After this, I just need to wait patiently.
Fishing is good.
I let myself merge into the silence of the hill alone, away from the buzz.
In this peaceful time, my soul’s comforted by the sounds of wind and water, and I enjoy the blank in my thoughts.
This is fishing to me. It’s important to catch fish, and to be honest, I did think of it this way when I was in primary school, but my attitude to fishing changed recently.
(Speaking of which, yeah…even though I can’t say it, I definitely mustn’t…)
“IS Academy certainly is noisy…”
It’s fine, no one heard what I said just now.
“Heh? You can’t get used to the chattering of teenage girls?”
“A-ah-arre!? Hikaruno-san!? Why are you here!?”
“Well, I don’t have anything to do for the time being as my specialty is IS software. Ha.”
Hikaruno-san jumped up onto the rock like a bunny, and arrived beside me.
On a side note, I would look away whenever I see those ginormous breasts bounce midway while we’re facing each other.
“Ah, give me some bait.”
“Pl-please have some. Just bugs though.”
“It’s fine, bugs are the best bait, but it’s best if you prepare some grass or fruits if you want to give them to a girl.”
Hikaruno-san said as she received the bug bait from me, and poked the hook through it.
(Is that so? If I had done so right from the beginning, I wouldn’t have received the beating from Rin. So that’s how it is.)
On a side note, Hikaruno-san’s holding a bamboo rod just like me, and the lengths are similar. We sit side by side as we let the angling lines drop.
“Speaking of which, Orimura Ichika-kun, how much do you know about IS software?”
“Eh? Well, I heard that the settings vary based on the core unlimited circuit will gather and evolve on its own, and that they also have congenital tendencies and preferences beforehand.”
“Yes yes, that’s certainly a unique answer. Let me say too that this unlimited circuit is a special privilege used when connected to the core network. If it’s used in an ordinary network, you can hack the computer easily.”
“Then, here comes the question. What is the core network?””
“Well…it was originally a computer world meant to connect all the ISes through an interstellar communication protocol when ISes are planned to move in space.
“Hm, that’s about it nya. Haven’t you learned quite a lot? Well, it’ll be better if you’re a little more aware of other things.”
“On a side note, this core network can allow for exchanges of messages or data backup, you know?”
“Oh my, you don’t know? For example, your ‘Byakushiki’ inherits data of Orimura Chifuyu personal ‘Kurezakura’ one-off ability, and the unique functions of the first Infinite Stratos, the ‘White Knight’.”
Hikaruno-san glances at me, showing that bewitching smile again.
But the smile I can see now is a little different from before.
Right, it felt like a wild beast licking its lips in front of its prey.
“Oh, Orimura Ichika-kun, your fishing rod got a bite.”
I hurriedly pull up a rod.
A fat liver fish jumped out from the water, and it might be the largest one for the day.
I’ve been waiting for a while, but the achievement of catching a fish still can’t increase my appetite.
After that, I put the fish I reeled into the basket, put another bait on my hook, and throw it back into the water surface.
“But I do like to readjust those picky ISes.”
“Yeah, like convincing those ISes that hate shooting weapons, train them with those weapons for example. This is adjusting.”
It’s like training a horse. Hikaruno-san quipped and pulled her line.
“A big fish?”
“No, most likely just a small fry.”
Hikaruno-san sighs as she puts on the bait again. Leaving aside the size of the escaped fish, her bust measurements are comparable to Yamada-sensei’s level.
(—Haa!? This isn’t good!)
I hurriedly looked away.
I could hear Hikaruno-san’s cheerful giggle from beside me.
“Haa, I feel lethargic for some reason.”
Rin cups her hands behind her head against the corridor wall and drinks a packet juice dangling in the air, supported by a straw, looking nonchalant.
“Fufu, is it because Ichika isn’t around?”
Charlotte, who’s walking beside her, said this, and Rin nearly dropped her juice packet in shock.
“Wh-what!? Tha-that’s not it! Humph! It’s fine for that kind of guy to not be around!”
On a side note, they were paired up together because they had a common subject before this, and they were on the way back after compiling their lesson data.
It truly was Rin’s style to buy juice immediately after class.
“But it’s really troublesome not to be able to use IS now. It’s in personal lock mode for the time being; it won’t be stolen, and it’s useless even if it’s stolen.”
Rin said this as she looked at the ‘Shenlong’ on her wrist.
Its original form was that of a ring bracelet, but in a personal lock mode, it would stick on the arm while being less than 1mm thick, and would look like some trendy sticker on first glance.
“The problem is that this mode is going to be slow when the user needs to use it for emergency protection.”
“Well, it can’t be helped. It’s like disassembling a gun.”
“Hm, well, we went through quite some training too, so it’s not like we’ll be dealt with easily. Also, we can still summon them when we need to, just that it’ll take some time.”
“Yeah, but because of this, all personalized IS users have to move in more than twos.”
“The only one on her own in the academy is the second year Tatenashi-san, right?”
“Yeah, and also Ichika. I think he’s probably fine.”
“…Really, hurry up and come back.”
Rin inadvertently muttered, “Ah”, and covered her mouth again.
But Charlotte heard her clearly, and giggled as she looked back.
“I-it-it’s not that! I’m just, well, that guy never went through military training, so…!”
“Right right, you’re worried, aren’t you?”
Rin stammered harder, and the lights on the corridor suddenly went out.
The corridors, classrooms, and electronic bulletins were all switched off at that moment.
Of course, it was not pitch dark as it was daytime—the moment Rin thought of this.
“The defense shutter!? Eh!? Why is it sliding down!?”
The defense wall slid down diagonally, protecting the glass windows.
Amidst the buzz full of screams of shock, all the walls were sealed up, and the interior of the building was so dark the fingers could not be seen.
“…2 seconds. Hey, Charlotte.”
“Hm, I know. There’s no switch to the emergency power, and the response lights aren’t lit. There’s a catch.”
They activate their IS low energy mode and summon the display window to their eyes. They also switch their sights to night vision mode, activate their sonars, heat sensors, motion sensors, sonar to sight radar.
“This is Laura. Are you alright, Charlotte?”
“Rin-san, where are you now?”
Both Charlotte and Rin received the messages on the IS private channels from Laura and Cecilia respectively.
Just when they were about to answer, they were interrupted by an intercept channel.
“All personalized suit users are to gather at the underground command room. I’m sending a map over. If there are walls getting in your way, feel free to destroy them.”
It was Chifuyu’s calm yet forceful voice.
These words clearly indicated that something was going to happen in this IS Academy again.
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