October 25th, the Tuesday after school. Tatsuya, Mari, and Mayumi went to the Hachi?ji Special Detention Center where Sekimoto was held. There were only five days until the Thesis Competition, so this was really the busiest last leg of the preparation phase, but since Tatsuya's tasks were proceeding smoothly, he was able to spare two or three hours away from preparations.
In reality, Erika, Leo, and Mikihiko also wanted to tag along, but that was a little inconvenient for the upperclassmen. Mari only had reservations regarding Erika alone, but it was a little too challenging for innocent high school boys to associate with unfamiliar female upperclassmen. —Actually, the permission slip that Tatsuya handed in only had three spots anyway. Speaking of which, Miyuki was completely tied down with Student Council business, so she could only send the three of them off with an unsmiling "beautiful smile".
While there were all sorts of procedures at the door, there wasn't any hassle beyond the door. After handing them a LPS terminal as a guide, there wasn't even a staff member to accompany them, which was most likely the result of Mayumi leaning on the "Saegusa" name. Of course, Tatsuya wasn't certain of the veracity of that, nor did he wish to comprehend the reason behind their special treatment.
The room Sekimoto was held in wasn't a "cell" and there wasn't anything like metal windows or something like that. It was actually more like a second-class room in a hotel. Even then, there was a hidden room that could observe the contents of that room.
Mayumi and Tatsuya both entered the hidden room. Mari would be the only one to face off against Sekimoto. Although Mari was the one who proposed this arrangement, neither Mayumi nor Tatsuya voiced any disagreement. Tatsuya knew very well that even if Sekimoto proved to be violent, Mayumi was confident she could control him from the other room, although Sekimoto's talent was but a tiny fraction of Mari's own.
From the hidden room, they saw Sekimoto without any restrictive shackles. Of course, he was forbidden from leaving the room. Sitting obediently on the side of the bed, he was wearing simple clothes not out of place during a hospital check up. He probably had undergone a thorough full body search, so the chances he carried hidden weapons or a CAD was absolutely zero.
Under Tatsuya and Mayumi's watchful gaze in the other room, the door leading to that room opened. Needless to say, this was Mari. Sekimoto, nonplussed at the opening door, revealed his astonishment at this. However, in the next instant, his eyes were wary and suspicious. Sekimoto detected a hint of danger when Mari appeared by herself.
"Watanabe...... Why are you here?"
Subconsciously, Sekimoto rubbed at his left wrist from his seat on the bed, probably involuntarily looking for his confiscated CAD. Although his voice did not waver, it was filled with a nameless dread.
"Obviously, I'm here to understand the situation."
Likely due to his service as a Public Moral Committee member, Sekimoto knew what Mari was capable of. He must be downright terrified of Mari's ruthlessness.
"So...... Even you can't use magic here."
Sekimoto's accusation was correct. This was the place to detain adolescent Magicians who broke the law. Though there were no automatic anti-magic devices like "Cast Jamming" installed here, there were still devices that could detect magic invocation. Once magic usage was confirmed, disarming gas would be released along with rubber bullets from machine guns, followed by security bursting in wearing full protective gear.
"Is that so?"
—On the condition that the surveillance system was working properly.
Sekimoto finally comprehended the reason why Mari couldn't help but smile.
"We don't have much time. Just tell me the important details."
Seeing Mari's teasing grin (in Sekimoto's eyes), Sekimoto frantically stopped breathing. —But it was already too late, halting his breathing was insufficient to avoid magic.
Sekimoto's consciousness suddenly dipped into the fog. He wasn't even aware that he had succumbed to Mari's attack before starting to answer Mari's question.
"Is she using scents to control his mind?"
Tatsuya was perfectly clear on what Mari did after watching from the hidden room.
She was using various scents to directly provoke emotions and memory. This theory had already been medically proven in the previous century. Commercial aromatherapy relied on the powerful effects on emotions caused by smells.
Using the ventilation system, Mari sent perfume wafting through the nose into the olfactory cells, hereby combining a scent that lowered mental resistance and another which controlled the consciousness to create a literal truth serum.
"Tatsuya-kun, is this the first time you've seen this?"
Mayumi was not surprised that Tatsuya could see through Mari's technique. Taking Tatsuya's diverse knowledge in magic, Mayumi felt that this was perfectly natural. She was likely more amazed that he had served in the Public Moral Committee for half a year and had never witnessed Mari used this technique.
"This is truly the first time. Wouldn't blatantly using this sort of magic land her in a heap of trouble?"
Mayumi nodded at Tatsuya's words. "Just as you say." Magic usage has been heavily restricted by the law, not to mention this sort of brainwashing ability. If used recklessly surely this would come under fire from "collective reasoning" and "civic duty".
Despite his ongoing conversation with Mayumi, Tatsuya never lost sight of Sekimoto's "confession" for a second. What aroused his interest was Sekimoto confessing that "after obtaining the data from the presentation device, he planned to investigate Shiba's private possessions". When Mari asked for why, Sekimoto answered with "the Magatama relic".
"......Tatsuya-kun, do you have something like that?"
Mayumi asked him with wide eyes.
"No, I do not have such a thing."
While Mayumi's question hinted at all sorts of underlying questions, honestly answering the question would only create more problems for Tatsuya.
"Probably because recently I was researching things related to the "Philosopher's Stone". Maybe this is where he got mixed up?"
Mayumi also knew that he did use this excuse a few days before the election for the Student Council President, hence she didn't pursue the issue. Still, this wasn't because she entirely believed Tatsuya's words, but more because this wasn't the right time to do so.
Just as Tatsuya was let off from this easily debunked lie, the alarm sounded for the Hachi?ji Special Detention Facility rang out.
The reactions from all three of them upon hearing the alarm were incredibly swift. After pressing the still befuddled Sekimoto down onto the bed (not to let him rest), Mari charged out of the room. At the same time, Tatsuya and Mayumi also exited from their chamber.
"Looks like we have illegal intruders."
Mari's voice trembled slightly in surprise. Thanks to the assault on the hospital affiliated with the magic university yesterday, the police in western Tokyo were on high alert. Although the mobile defense force (National Guard) that were the highest form of security hadn't been mobilized, the number of patrols today had increased by fifty percent. Likewise, this Hachi?ji Special Detention Center was also twice as alert as usual. Only someone who truly had some skills or was a complete moron would charge in now. —Mari's gut leaned towards the former.
"Tatsuya-kun, do you know where they are coming in from?"
Hearing Mayumi's question, Tatsuya removed the LPS terminal and fiddled with it. The flip open display showed a 3D map for the evacuation route. They could estimate the intruder's point of entry based on the route.
"They seem to have come in through the roof. They might have used a flier or a spring loaded mechanism. Currently they are near the east wing of the third floor."
At Tatsuya's words, Mayumi's gaze drifted towards an unknown location. She had activated her Sensory Systematic Magic "Multi Scope" to its largest extent and looked in the direction Tatsuya indicated.
"......Found them. Nice work, Tatsuya-kun. There are four intruders, each armed with high power assault rifles."
High power rifles were mandatory weapons against Magicians. The explosiveness and flying speed of their rounds were three to four times higher than normal rifles and could even penetrate defensive magic. The surplus in strength could only be produced by highly skillful manufacturing. There was no way the average gangster or terrorist could get their hands on one.
"Security is setting up a defense line near the platform of the stairs using the terrain."
"The entrance to the corridor has been blocked by blast doors."
As Mayumi was reporting the current situation, Tatsuya pulled up the 3D projection for the building map. The three of them were on the first floor in the central building. Although there was no cause for alarm based on the current situation......
"Their target is here."
Half a beat after Tatsuya twisted his head to look towards the upper levels, Mari also watched the entrance warily.
Mayumi had no idea what put the two of them on guard, but in the next instant.
Directly before their eyes, the figure of a large man appeared. He was taller than Tatsuya by a head and approached nearly 185 cm. His muscular physique didn't betray a hint of sluggishness, like a large carnivore advancing forward. Still, the man appeared to be using some sort of technique, since his aura and appearance were both faint. Despite his appearance before them, he seemed to disappear if they stopped paying attention, so he must have arrived here using some sort of invisibility spell. Of course, Mari had a deep impression of this man.
Mayumi didn't seem to comprehend Mari's soft whisper, so her facial expression didn't change much. On the other hand, Tatsuya kept a grim visage on his face. Although he had heard of this individual, after Mari calling out his name, this was the first time he had met the man face to face. —Of course, he was well aware of the man's reputation.
Advancing forward, Lu's eyes stopped on Tatsuya and company. Specifically, his eyes rested on Mari.
"I believe we should be beating a retreat at this time, but looks like it's too late for that."
Tatsuya said in a light tone as he stepped in front of the other two.
As he prepared to walk towards Lu, Mari grabbed his shoulders.
"I'll take him on. Tatsuya, you protect Mayumi."
From Tatsuya's perspective, this was a ridiculous arrangement. True, Mari boasted first class magic combat ability as a Year 3 magic high school student. However, Lu Gonghu's close combat magic level was "beyond first class". She had no chance of victory in a head to head confrontation. Their chances of victory were definitely higher if a "regular" like himself took the field.
"Mari, be careful."
Unexpectedly, Mayumi voiced her support for Mari's tactical assessment. Still, this wasn't the time to continue this conversation, so Tatsuya obeyed.
"I know he's no small fry."
Mari stretched her left hand slightly forward and, as if to pat her dress, swatted downwards before raising her hand again. With a sound, the normally straight pleat dress made from ultra thin fabric was massively raised, revealing a pair of tights that outlined delicious curves along with the leather holder along one thigh. A 20 cm long rod was removed from this leather holder.
The hem of her dress fell back down to obscure Mari's pair of mesmerizing legs. Maybe he had been caught up by the sight, but Lu didn't fall into a combat stance until Mari raised her left hand.
Lu Gonghu tilted his upper body forward with both hands dangling in front of him. His fingers were slightly curved, giving his body the impression that it was ready to pounce at any given moment.
Yet, the first to act here was neither Mari nor Lu Gonghu, but Mayumi standing off to one side.
The instant mist seemed to cover the walls to the left and right and the ceiling, countless white pellets swarmed towards Lu Gonghu. Lu Gonghu pounced forward, but over half of the ice pellets still struck his body.
However, Lu was not harmed by this barrage. His entire body was covered by Steel Qigong and managed to repel the incoming ice pellets. His momentum didn't decrease in the slightest as he charged towards Mari. Mari raised her 20 cm blade to meet him.
A dull metallic sound rang out as Mari stopped Lu's outstretched right arm. Afterwards, Lu's head massively tilted backwards as a 20 cm edged leaflet sheared by his face. The weapons in Mari's hand included a 20 cm long handle, two 20 cm long short blades, and another small short blade attached to a string.
At this time, Mayumi's second attack descended. Lu leaped backwards to a safe distance. His instincts were correct. The floor and neighboring wall where he just stood were peppered with numerous pellet marks. Mayumi's second attack was harder and even more precise than the first one, with superior speed and penetrating power.
For the first time, a human expression came across Lu's face, an expression called mystification. He knew that he wasn't at full power due to the injury in his side. Still, that a few students, and female high school students at that, were able to hold him off rather begged disbelief. Nonetheless, Lu's bewilderment only lasted a second. He canceled the magic that suppressed his aura and focused entirely on the battle at hand.
Lu erected several layers of psion information bodies around his entire body. Tatsuya could see that both his layers of information bodies and physical barrier magic were of the same nature. Earlier, his entire skin was covered by a high density of psions, which was the same as fortifying the Eidos of the skin. However, now he switched over to barrier magic. After Mayumi released her third shot, this attack was blocked by Lu's physical barrier. Afterwards, he closed in on Mari with lightning speed, to which Mari raised her dual-edged blades to counter, but it didn't seem likely that she could hold him with that pair of blades against the strength of that barrier magic.
At the point of impact with Mari, Lu's figure disappeared.
Mari frantically pivoted to the right, an action that was entirely based on her instinct, but fortunately this was the right choice.
Unfortunately, she wasn't going to make it in time.
Lu Gonghu had passed by Mari's short sword and got behind her.
Mari mentally called out "Mayumi!", but there was no time for her to actually verbalize this.
Just as Lu came face to face with Tatsuya, who was standing directly in front of Mayumi — a storm of psions devoured him.
Seeing that Lu Gonghu had transferred his Data Fortification magic to a physical barrier, Tatsuya used a continuous stream of compressed psion particles to shred Lu's armor.
Lu's eyes were filled with shock.
Now, Mayumi's shooting magic activated once more.
Lu's reaction sustained his high reputation as "beyond first class".
He swiftly recovered from the shock that came from the destruction of his barrier Steel Qigong, and immediately erected Steel Qigong for Data Fortification. However, while Mayumi lowered the number of shots, she had raised the strength of each shot accordingly. Now, Lu Gonghu's hastily erected Steel Qigong was no longer able to completely deflect Mayumi's shooting magic.
Taking hits from the pellets, Lu was forced to halt his footsteps due to the impact from the large number of psions disrupting his senses. Now, even Mari was closing in from behind.
The twin blades in her left hand released a small short blade that flew towards Lu's head.
Mari's right hand suddenly hurtled some sort of black dust towards Lu Gonghu.
Lu immediately covered his eyes and ears.
The black dust seemed to cover his head and quickly dissipated after emitting a faint light.
Lu's large frame started to rock back and forth. Under the effect of Mari's Absorption-Type Magic, the rapidly "burning" carbon particles were restricted from interacting with heat and light, but quickly interacted with oxygen. The result was that much of the oxygen was converted into carbon dioxide. In a flash, the air became thin around Lu Gonghu's position.
Mari wielded the thin string in her left hand like a weapon. Along the direction of the swing, the string emitted the repulsion edge "Pressure Slash". Also, there was more than one. The twin blades falling upon the head also emitted "Pressure Slash" along the edges of the blades. The thin string in Mari's hand had exceeded the speed of her twin blades thanks to the application of Gravity-Type acceleration magic. Even Tatsuya wouldn't be able to dodge all three attacks at the same time, and the "Devouring Tiger" Lu Gonghu was no exception. Although Lu managed to evade the repulsion blade in Mari's hand, the other two struck him in the shoulder and back. Even with Steel Qigong sustaining him, he was in a state of oxygen deprivation after sustaining Mayumi's magic shooting, and the barrier wasn't operating at full strength. Thus, the two blades landed direct hits to his body. Although he was able to avoid major bone fractures, the blades still sank into his flesh, leaving two long cuts. Under the impact of Mari's direct attacks, Lu keeled over.
Cavalry was a role that always arrived late to the party. Only in movies do they appear in the nick of time.
Thus, reinforcements from security only arrived after Lu had been subdued. The four security officers beheld the scene where a young man was knocked down by twin blades and revealed astonished expressions, but upon closer examination of the uniforms the three students wore, they quickly bound Lu Gonghu tightly. Chances were high that these people knew of Mayumi as well.
Running counter to Tatsuya's estimation, they were not questioned by the authorities. Again, this might have been caused by the power coming from the name "Saegusa", though Tatsuya wasn't going to complain. He was already incredibly thankful that he didn't have to waste any more time, a thought that Mayumi and Mari must also share. By the time the three of them were conversing, they had already left the premises.
After leaving through the front door of the detention center, Mari somewhat hesitantly approached Tatsuya.
"Tatsuya-kun, uh, although you may know now, but please don't speak of what you just saw."
Naturally, Tatsuya had no way of making heads or tails of what she meant with just those words.
"In regards to not speaking of this, are you referring to senpai's weapon? Or the fact that senpai can wield 'Dojigiri'?"
Tatsuya asked this to verify the conversation topic, but when Mayumi and Mari heard his question, they both sighed in unison.
"So you really do know about it......"
"Tatsuya-kun, so you are omniscient after all......"
Based on the ladies' indecisive appearance, Tatsuya inferred that they must be talking about the "Dojigiri".
"It's not that I know everything...... Isn't the Genji 'Dojigiri' quite famous?"
Mari's final attack used three simultaneous attacks from different directions. Much like ninjutsu, in order to hide the identity of the attack, the name "Multiple Slash" was replaced with "Dojigiri" and passed on exclusively by Genji swordsmen. However, in the age where magic had become public knowledge, "Dojigiri" had suddenly vanished, becoming an ability that researchers are aware of but have not witnessed with their own eyes.
"Don't worry, senpai, I will not disclose the details of your technique."
Hearing Tatsuya's reply, Mari's expression was both tentative and embarrassed.
"Of course I believe you...... But also, please don't tell anyone that I can use 'Dojigiri'."
After receiving Tatsuya's confirmation even though he didn't ask for a reason, Mari still continued on for some reason.
"Ah, of course."
Naturally, he complied. And he didn't really want to know the reason either. But, for some reason Mari started to talk about it.
"Thanks for your help. In reality, I didn't actually formally receive training in this technique. I stumbled across this after perusing the contents of ancient texts left at home and having Nao assist me in training and somehow ended up learning it."
After listening to Mari's explanation, Tatsuya judged that the "Nao" she spoke of must refer to Chiba Naotsugu. Speaking of which, that earlier "Dojigiri" included elements from the "Genius of Magic Close Combat".
"I see, so that's why your attack included 'Pressure Slash'."
"Exactly. Also, my house lies on the tail end of the Watanabe Family. I am of the Genji style, but my house's position isn't very high. If the Watanabe Family knows that I can use the Secret Sword of the Genji, then some trouble may arise......"
"Still, given your status as a combat Magician, I doubt you can keep that a secret for long."
In the end, this point was unavoidable. Mari's face darkened as Tatsuya pointed this out.
"I know that, but I hope to keep this a secret while I'm still a student."
Seeing Mari pout, Mayumi burst into laughter.
"Understood, I'll keep that to myself."
At any rate, Tatsuya had no intention of interfering with mundane matters of such level, especially because they had nothing to do with him. Handling something like this was a piece of cake for someone like him.
On the Friday evening that was two days before the official commencement of the "National High School Magic Thesis Competition", he received a phone call from Fujibayashi after eating dinner and taking a bath.
"......In other words, the mobile forces for spies have all been apprehended in the past two or three days."
After speaking these words clearly in an official capacity, Fujibayashi finally relaxed on the other side of the monitor.
"The intel Tatsuya-kun provided was a huge help. Thanks."
"Hardly, I was the one who made the request in the first place."
"That may be so, but the magic high school and FLT were not the only victims. Industrial spies are a headache not only for the semiconductor industry and magic academies, they also pose trouble for manufacturers as well. Intelligence and counter intelligence are not under our purview, but based on the nature of our unit, we cannot simply turn a blind eye to spies using magic to accomplish their objectives. So we planned to move out soon even without your communication, which merely hastened the operation time and really helped me out a lot."
"Is that so. Now that you mentioned it, where did the news from the relic leak from?"
"This is a little embarrassing, but the military's operational data was leaked out. In the end, based on the military's allocations for magic research and grants, they went down their list of targets."
So that's how it was, Tatsuya thought. No wonder their methods seemed so unprofessional.
So they were literally fumbling around in the dark. The intrinsic value of this might be low, but intel wasn't something that had uniform quality in the first place. Even the really valuable pieces of information that were mined from patent databases were one in a thousand, which may be why the spies adopted this plan of action.
"While the majority of those we caught were of East Asian nationalities, we may have been able to catch wind of our quarry."
"You seem quite pleased."
"Restraint isn't a bad thing, and I'm a cautious person after all. Still, since the enemy has the gall to waltz into our backyard, there's no need to suffer that. We may need to call on your support at that time, so take care."
"If there's a mission at stake, I have no objections. Thank you for the notification."
"You're welcome. Good luck on Sunday. I'll be there to cheer you on."
After encouraging Tatsuya, Lieutenant Fujibayashi hung up the phone. Plainly, she hadn't put much thought into the manipulator pulling the strings in the dark and saw this incident as the typical magic industry spying incident. Actually, even Tatsuya had no idea that "their opponent" was on such a scale.
Alas, they took their enemy too lightly.
Having returned to the living room, Tatsuya collapsed onto the couch. Truthfully, it was very rare for him to show fatigue such as this. In terms of pure stamina, simply keeping vigil all night for a week straight would normally not wear him out to this extent. However not only did he have to work on a thesis dealing with one of the "Three Great Puzzles for Gravity Magic", a Sustained Gravity Control-Type Magic Sequence Thermonuclear Fusion Reactor, he also had to use his unique ability in analyzing structures to investigate a relic which modern technology could not hope to replicate, on top of looking out for spies. He was mentally exhausted as well.
Emptying his head for the moment, Tatsuya closed his eyes as he leaned back into the one seat sofa, curving his neck and resting his head on the backrest. There was no particular meaning to this position, simply his mood.
Sitting next to her brother as always, Miyuki was not irritated at all that Tatsuya had suddenly retreated into his own world. Leaving himself defenseless to this extent was something he reserved for her presence alone. Miyuki was overjoyed that Tatsuya would leave himself in her care so.
Miyuki did not wish for her brother to concern himself with her all the time. Just being able to be by his side, even if only for a while, was enough happiness for her. These words by no means meant that Miyuki was a doormat, but rather convey praise. It can safely be said that there is no one who would say such things about her.
Rather than being frustrated, Miyuki was much more worried about her brother. However much he insisted otherwise, not even Miyuki could recall the last time Tatsuya so honestly let his weariness show.
Taking care not to make a sound, Miyuki rose from her seat. Standing before him, she softly leaned closer to his face with their eyes closed. Ensuring that her long hair wouldn't brush against him, she pressed down on it with her left hand. Ensuring that she wouldn't end up accidentally touching him, her right hand pressed onto the sofa supporting her weight. When the hem of her pleat skirt almost fell onto his legs, Miyuki's heart thundered in her chest, but Tatsuya didn't stir. Daringly wearing such a short skirt seems to have unexpectedly paid off, she thought.
Seeing from up close, her brother’s complexion wasn’t as bad as she had feared. In her relief, she continued observing his face for signs of anything awry. Watching him at this distance, Miyuki’s consciousness gradually clouded. As her mind went blank she began to forget what she was thinking and doing, as her face slowly crept closer to his.
Her heart pounding, blood rushing to her head, she couldn’t think of anything at all. Miyuki obliviously stared at her brother’s face. Breathless, she didn’t even notice that she was holding her breath. Immediately becoming aware of that situation, Tatsuya snapped open his eyes.
Tatsuya and Miyuki’s eyes met.
Time stopped. Not just Tatsuya, Miyuki also stood absolutely frozen as if paralyzed.
Both Tatsuya and Miyuki simply stared at each other, their respective expressions full of surprise.
Suddenly, no longer able to sustain her unnatural position, Miyuki fell forward.
Her face closing in on his, Miyuki’s lips rapidly approached Tatsuya’s own.
Regardless of intention, just before the two of them crossed a line which absolutely should not be crossed.
—Tatsuya’s body came back online.
Faster than his voice traveled, his hands whipped out and supported his sister’s shoulders.
Unable to forcibly keep herself up, or perhaps just out of energy, Miyuki’s feet staggered and she sank to her knees onto the couch. Or rather, she sank into Tatsuya’s lap who was sitting on the couch.
The two froze again.
Once again close enough to kiss, Miyuki and Tatsuya stared at each other.
Tatsuya’s hands were wrapped firmly around Miyuki’s shoulders,
and Miyuki was straddling Tatsuya on her knees.
This time, the ice melted quicker.
Taking care their near mistake didn’t become reality, Tatsuya brought his head back to its original position.
Tatsuya’s eyes dropped from her face to her chest, then further down.
Following her brother’s gaze, Miyuki gingerly looked down at her own body. She did so 'gingerly' because she was already well aware of her own state without even seeing.
Sure enough, not only was she kneeling on her brother, her legs were spread beyond the original allowance of her short pleat skirt such that her underwear was almost visible.
"I am so sorry!!"
With amazing speed Miyuki leapt off Tatsuya, then faster than the wind (yet still dignified enough as to ensure that when her feet hit the ground nothing indecent was exposed) she flew out of the living room straight upstairs.
Diving into her own room, she slammed it shut, locked it, then finally fell back against the door panting. She couldn’t muster the energy to stand. Perhaps due to the refined upbringing instilled within her she subconsciously tried to align her knees and sit up straight, but after fleeing into her room she was utterly drained and simply collapsed down to the ground.
She flattened her skirt where she sat, straightened up a bit then just spaced out for a while. Her feverish head refused to think at all. As time passed, her emergency evacuated thought processes returned little by little.
Where she was.
What she was doing.
Why she was alone in her room right now—
Miyuki immediately buried her head in her hands. Her palms felt hot. Even without looking in a mirror, Miyuki knew that her face must have been burning red.
(I, just what was I doing to Onii-sama……!)
She couldn’t even begin to understand what she was thinking at the time. All she could think of was that she must have completely lost it.
(Onii-sama and I, almost ki, ki, ki……)
Her consciousness began to overheat again, and she was forced to freeze her thoughts.
Left alone, Miyuki would likely have remained like this until morning. An infinite loop of restarting and freezing.
However, there was no way Tatsuya would leave Miyuki alone,
And at the sound of Tatsuya’s voice calling her name from the other side of the door, Miyuki responded in a panic from the floor.
She steadied herself by pressing hands that had been held against her flushed hot face onto her thighs. Her eyes were so moist that tears threatened to spill out any moment. Her arms were straightened out with such force, as were her shoulders and back, that her entire body trembled slightly. It was almost as if she was scared.
"May I come in?"
"Just wait a moment!"
Even so, within Miyuki, any thought of resisting her brother simply did not exist. She rose rapidly, defying belief that her legs had been powerless until now, and firmly unlocked the door with hands that had been trembling just a while ago.
"Please, come on in."
Shifting sideways as she opened the door, Miyuki made a space for her brother to enter. However, Tatsuya didn’t set a foot inside.
He just watched……
Unable to meet her brother’s gaze Miyuki tried to casually look away, but she could still feel his eyes on her.
She began to heat up again.
It wasn’t a superficial heat from some childish sense of wrongdoing, but rather came from deep within her. That heat continued to rise, not her body temperature but rather perceived temperature—until finally she could bear it no longer, and turned her averted face to meet her brother’s eyes.
Miyuki looked up from a height difference of 15 cm. From that distance, the tears gathered in the corner of her eyes were plainly visible. In a hurry, Miyuki tried to raise her hands and dry herself. However, before she knew it both Tatsuya’s hands were already cradling her cheeks. Gently, he wiped the tears from her eyes.
"Well, um, how to put this."
As Miyuki stared at him wide-eyed and lost for words, Tatsuya spoke bluntly.
"I’m sorry, I made you worry about me. I’m fine, so Miyuki, don’t be so concerned anymore."
Saying so with a clumsy smile, he removed his hands from Miyuki’s face.
"I’ll clean up downstairs. You rest for today."
Ordering Miyuki in a somewhat embarrassed tone, Tatsuya turned away without waiting for a reply.
Waiting until her brother’s back faded from view down the stairs, Miyuki closed the door again.
Walking unsteadily to her bed, she slowly took her clothes off, then slid under the blankets in her underwear.
Having finally made it thus far, Miyuki began frantically rolling around on the bed.
Despite appearing to be in agony all over, her face, unlike before, seemed really happy.