Onii-san is calling me.
I open my eyes to see a face with sharp, cold-looking features. But this is the face of the close friend who understands me better than anyone else. It’s quite close; actually, his body is close as well.
It seems that I’m being carried in his arms.
In the corner of my vision, I can see a wall made of solid stone. This dim, cramped space is the north defensive tower of Iskia Fortress, which I have spent the past few days secluded in.
There is only me and Onii-san in the room. There’s no sign of the students who defended the tower with me.
The prototype rifle and the『Yata-Garasu』are lying nearby. It’s likely that neither of them are loaded. I get the feeling that that’s the case.
Up until this moment, I have been fighting with a gun in my hand. That crushed iron door was definitely supposed to have been pounded on and broken by Orcs.
Ah, but if Onii-san has come to help me, then that means I don’t have to fight anymore.
Onii-san’s face, which has an unusually serious expression, draws closer and –
Before I know it, I’m being kissed. With a natural motion, like a kiss between lovers.
「– Puhah! W-what are you doing?!」(Simon)
Confused, I separate our lips. I push against his sturdy chest that is covered by a black demon’s coat with all the strength that my thin arms can muster, managing to put some distance between us.
「What am I doing, you ask? I’m kissing you, of course.」(Kurono)
He is giving me a doubtful look, as if genuinely confused as to why I asked that question.
「No, I mean, why are you kissing me?! Isn’t this strange?!」(Simon)
「You’re the one who made me feel like doing it, aren’t you?」(Kurono)
He gives a dubious smile as the sharp gaze of his black and red eyes pierces straight through me. Uwah, he seems somewhat dangerous. It’s startling, and my head is in a dangerous state as well.
「That was my first kiss, you know. I didn’t think that you would give me a passionate French kiss.」(Kurono)
Th… Th-that’s wrong! It’s not wrong, but it’s wrong!
It’s true that I did extend my tongue out as well… or I get the feeling that I did, but I was in that strange state because of the Morjura’s aphrodisiac, and – actually, that shouldn’t count as a kiss, should it, Onii-san!
If medical procedures like artificial ventilation count, then my first kiss was with Ria-nee. As cruel as it is, during our childhood training that I didn’t learn anything from, I had it done to me countless times.
So, you know, the fact that I became like that wasn’t on purpose; it was something of an accident, so –
「Umm… That was, you know… a mistake…」(Simon)
Though the desire to deny his words is going in circles inside my head, only clumsy words come out of my mouth.
「Even if it was, that doesn’t matter. I’ve already become serious about this, so give it up, Simon.」(Kurono)
「Eh, that’s… No way… After all, we’re both guys…」(Simon)
There’s nothing I can do as Onii-san closes in on me once more. My body stiffens.
The only thing I can do is avert my gaze in embarrassment – and as I do so, I see a light.
That faint, pretty green light is spilling through the doorway covered by the iron door. A small silhouette peeks through the gaps in the doorway created by the Orc. Yes, the person on the other side of the door is looking at me.
Before I know it, our eyes have met. My eyes have met with the hollow, emerald-green eyes filled with murderous intent.
「UWAAAAAAAAAAAAH LILY-SAN I’M SORRYYYYYYYYYYYY!」(Simon)
As Simon leaps out of his bed onto his feet, he instantly realizes that he has been having some kind of crazy nightmare.
「Haah… I thought forcing me to rest was overdoing it, but it seems I really am tired…」(Simon)
Simon is currently resting his body at the mansion of his stepsister, Emilia Friedrich Bardiel. It is the same situation as when he returned to Spada after the battle of Alzas.
However, Simon’s current mental state is considerably different from how it was back then. Simon is currently fairly healthy, perhaps because he has become more strong-willed after experiencing multiple harsh battles.
His memories of when he was attacked by the Morjura vaguely remain. He was intoxicated by the aphrodisiac compounds, so his consciousness was muddled in a drunken-like state, but that doesn’t mean that he has completely forgotten those events, either.
His rifle sinking into the mucus, the tentacles coiling around him, the sweet smell – these fragments of memories alone are enough to stir an unpleasant feeling inside him, but Simon is not weak enough to let this break his mind.
「Hmm, but if I don’t return soon, Onii-san will probably worry about me… O-Onii-san will…」(Simon)
However, it is painful to recall the memory of Kurono feeding him the antidote potion mouth-to-mouth. In a variety of ways.
「U-uwah… I really think I did something awful at that time…」(Simon)
Simon lets his body sink into the bed once more and squirms around.
The king-sized bed that is around double the size of the beds used in the dormitories has plenty of space to roll around on. The fabric spread out on top of it is one of the high-quality products sold by the Bardiel family, one of the Four Great Houses. This exceedingly soft, elastic material gently wraps around Simon as he agonizes over that event.
「B-but it should be fine, right? I’m sure Onii-san won’t consider that his first kiss or anything. We’re adventurers, after all. That kind of thing isn’t out of the ordinary!」(Simon)
The techniques of administering artificial ventilation for people who have drowned and feeding potions mouth-to-mouth are commonly used by adventurers and knights. They are taught as fundamental techniques at the academy. Mannequins are used for lessons and training, so there are likely few who have actually done it in practice other than veteran adventurers, however.
As if he has finally calmed down, Simon lets out a big sigh and sluggishly gets up from the enormous bed.
He sweated during his sleep because of the nightmare, so he feels disgusting. He can feel that it has soaked all the way through to his underwear, so it really is a substantial amount of sweat.
He fishes around in the closet, seemingly familiar with it, and searches for suitable clothes to change into. There have been various other occasions where Simon has been confined to his older sister’s mansion, not only after the battle of Alzas. This room was used each time, so it is no exaggeration to say that this is Simon’s personal room.
Of course, the items in the closet are all clothes for Simon to wear. There are certainly no extra-large-sized brassieres that have been custom-made for his older sister inside it.
He prepares a pair of plain underwear designed with practicality in mind, fit for a knight to wear, and some clothes that a young son of a noble family might wear, though this isn’t to Simon’s taste. The underwear is fine, but he thinks that this shirt, pair of shorts and these suspenders are a bit too much. Even so, there is nothing he can do about it as these are still the clothes with the best design that are available to him. He definitely does not want to wear anything with frills on it.
With the disgusting feeling of the drenched clothes that he slept in sticking to him, he first strips all of them off and then begins to wipe his sweat away. As he cleans his body with the fresh towel that is always prepared for him and thinks that he wants to go back to the dormitories today –
「Simon, are you awake? I’m coming in.」
The voice that he hears along with a knock on his door is unmistakably that of his older sister Emilia.
「Eh?! Wait, wait a minute, Ria-nee –」(Simon)
Why does his onee-chan always open the door while knocking? There’s no point in knocking if you’re not going to wait for a reply, Simon complains in his head. But he is unable to prevent his sister from forcefully rushing into his room.
As his only act of resistance, he covers the front of his body with the towel.
「Hmm, you were already awake. You can still spend today sleeping –」(Emilia)
「I’m changing clothes right now, so don’t come in!」(Simon)
Using the towel as his only unreliable layer of his almost-non-existent defense, Simon hunches his shoulders as he shouts in protest.
「What are you getting embarrassed for?」(Emilia)
「I’m embarrassed because I’m naked, of course!」(Simon)
「We’ve seen each other naked plenty of times as children, haven’t we?」(Emilia)
「I’m an adult now!」(Simon)
This is a very reasonable objection, but in the end, Emilia quickly approaches Simon as if not concerned about such small details. This is the result that Simon was expecting from the beginning, but being completely naked isn’t a situation he can simply accept with a sigh.
「You sure sweated a lot; let me wipe it for you.」(Emilia)
「Eh, I don’t need –」(Simon)
But resistance is futile; the towel is quickly transferred to Emilia’s hands. Indeed, Simon’s hope of covering his nether regions has been robbed from him.
Emilia deliberately walks around to stand in front of the now completely-naked, defenseless Simon.
If someone were to see this scene of a shy, naked, handsome young man and a beautiful woman wearing the black Spadan military officer’s uniform with red decorations, it would certainly appear incredibly suspicious.
Emilia would look like a female general who is about to enjoy a male prostitute who is working for the first time rather than an older sister considerately wiping her adorable younger brother’s sweat.
There is no need to worry about what anyone may think, however. If there was, it would only be the employees of this mansion. They would even call a white object black if their master Emilia were to tell them it was black.
「… Did you have a bad dream?」(Emilia)
「Nnh, not really… I’m fine.」(Simon)
In the end, Emilia is bothering her younger brother. As if giving up, Simon entrusts his whole body to his sister and lets her do as she pleases.
「You know, Ria-nee.」(Simon)
Emilia gives a short reply of,「What is it?」as she carefully wipes Simon’s small back.
「I’m fine now, so I’m going back to the dormitories today.」(Simon)
「You don’t have to push yourself. You can still take a break from attending the academy, right?」(Emilia)
「No, there are things that I need to do, so I can’t take it easy and rest like this.」(Simon)
Simon hasn’t been seriously injured. In fact, physically, he is completely unharmed. He is in a condition where it wouldn’t be a problem for him to attend the decoration-awarding ceremony and victory celebration party today.
「No, but –」(Emilia)
As his sister gives a hesitant reply despite knowing that, Simon speaks to her with a small smile, a truly small smile.
「Ria-nee, you’ve kind of become a little nicer, haven’t you?」(Simon)
「… I haven’t.」(Emilia)
Simon has guessed that Emilia has allowed him to sleep here because after hearing that he was attacked by a Morjura, she was worried that he would be suffering from emotional damage.
Even if that isn’t the case, the way she is meddling with his affairs now is different from how she was doing so when he returned from Alzas. The way she is nursing him is very pushy, including the way she is wiping his back, but considering that she is doing it with nothing but good intentions, he doesn’t feel that opposed to it.
However, the change that Simon is most thankful for is that she is no longer voicing her displeasure at the fact that he is an alchemist.
「I was wondering if you’ve come to acknowledge me a little.」(Simon)
「You fought well.」(Emilia)
「Fufu, this is the first time that you’re acknowledging something I’ve done, Ria-nee.」(Simon)
Unlike the battle of Alzas, the conditions of the battle of Iskia are clearly known. The students were forced into a harsh conflict to defend the fortress, and the defense they displayed would put the knights of Spada to shame. It is something that should be praised.
Simon thinks that the battle of Alzas was far more difficult, but even so, he feels confident that Emilia has acknowledged him as a result of the battle at Iskia Fortress.
「But don’t push yourself too hard. The knights of Spada have duties that they must fulfil even at the cost of their own lives, but you’re still a student. Prioritize your survival over everything else.」(Emilia)
Simon has been wondering whether she knows about the problematic situation he is in, but it seems that she doesn’t and he doesn’t correct her. He silently allows his back to be wiped.
Time passes in silence, and Simon’s body is cleaned without incident. He quickly finishes putting his clothes on as his sister watches him, and finally his body and heart both feel at ease.
「By the way, Ria-nee, did you need something?」(Simon)
Embarrassed to be wearing clothes intended for a noble family’s young son as a grown adult, Simon snaps his suspenders with a dissatisfied expression as he asks his sister the reason she barged into his room.
「Yeah, I came to deliver something to you.」(Emilia)
Wondering what it is, Simon takes the package in Emilia’s hand. Judging from its size and weight, he guesses that it is a single book.
「Well then, I’ve definitely given it to you.」(Emilia)
「Ah, yeah, thanks.」(Simon)
Finishing her blunt delivery, Emilia’s black military uniform flutters as she turns and leaves the room. Just before she passes through the doorway, she turns around and speaks, as if she has just remembered something.
「Make your return to the dormitories tomorrow. Take care of yourself and just rest for today. Understand?」(Emilia)
Emilia leaves with these words.
This is her usual high-handed manner of speech, but Simon had a small, strange feeling that there was some kindness and appreciation towards him in it.
Now that he thinks about it, he gets the feeling that she said some strangely understanding words right before he left for the open-field exercise – Did something happen for her to have a change of heart? He suspects that this might be the case, but since he does not live with his older sister, he has no way of knowing what might have happened to her.
He welcomes this change and half-jokingly, half-seriously wishes that she would stop nagging and nitpicking every little thing as he unwraps the package.
And then he is lost for words in the next moment. At the same time, his spine freezes.
Inside is the nightmarish brainwashing Magic Item that Lily once showed him.
That alone wouldn’t be a problem. No, if the Law Guardians of Spada knew the purpose of this dangerous item, they would deem it illegal and arrest him, but for now, he holds it in place.
Simon has already taken it apart and examined every small part of it. He is confident that he knows a lot about both Lily and this Ring.
The problem is the letter that accompanies this ring. It is written in the round, adorable handwriting of a little girl, but its contents cause Simon to tremble in fear.
『I have learned the technique for controlling human brains. With this, I can finally begin development of a mass-production model –』
This letter eloquently describes the success that has finally been achieved after Lily’s repeated human experiments.
As a matter of fact, Simon was half-convinced that Lily would never be able to make full use of these Rings.
This is definitely not because he was looking down on Lily. He had concluded that the Rings were so complex and mysterious in their structure that it would be impossible for even the instructors of the academy and the mages of the royal castle to decipher how it worked and how to make it perform its originally-intended function within a month or less.
However, it appears that the gods of Pandora have blessed Lily with a most terrible talent.
『With regards to mass-production, I’ve already drawn a general blueprint. I want to hear your opinion after you have seen it –』
The numerous documents that came in a set with the letter are indeed blueprints with a general outline of the design for an improved version of the Ring.
It seems that Lily has completely memorized the documents regarding the investigation of the Ring that Simon previously sent her; there are many sections where the description is based on Simon’s predictions down to the smallest part. And there are detailed descriptions of functions she has newly discovered after having actually used it as well as corrections to Simon’s predictions that were off the mark.
Reading this, Simon is plunged even further into despair.
「I-I can do it… I can probably make this…」(Simon)
Lily’s blueprint is almost flawless. The structure is, of course, well-detailed but Lily has even calculated the cost of manufacturing each part and made adjustments so as to not require high-quality materials like Mythril.
Considering her ability as an adventurer of the Element Masters and the income that she would be earning from now on, mass-production of these Rings is within the realm of possibility.
That is precisely why Simon is at a loss as to what to do.
If he really mass-produced these –
「This is a nightmare… But, I…」(Simon)
As an alchemist, he wants to try building it. It is an extremely attractive Magic Item to try and build, this『Angel Ring』– no, after the improvements Lily has made to its design, it has been renamed to『Fairy Ring.』