"Lately it's been lacking the flirt ingredient, what do you think Brother?"
She cut in as soon as he started eating his lunch.
The boy who stretched his chopsticks towards the lunchboxes stopped moving, he continued to chew the omelet savouring the taste. It was just as he liked it, seasoned with salt instead of sugar.
"Please don't ignore me."
It was impossible not to hear it. He put away the chopsticks reluctantly and turned towards the black-haired girl.
Glossy black hair long enough to reach her waist and mysterious eyes that had the colour of the sky. As usual her hair was tied up in twin tails and she currently got up and was on her knees.
Despite her underdeveloped body, ten out of ten men would call her 'Unusually pretty girl', and now she had a serious expression as she looked towards him in anticipation.
The boy who had the same sky-blue eyes——Tenryo Taiga asked, noticing the troublesome atmosphere.
"——so, Fuyuki. What is it?"
"I said there isn't enough of Brother and the little sister flirt ingredient."
The one who referred to herself as 'little sister' was Tenryo Fuyuki, Taiga's twin little sister. Although they didn't bear much resemblance aside from the eye colour, they were genuinely blood-related siblings.
"...for the time being, I want to confirm. What do you mean by 'flirt ingredient'? I have an idea what, but still."
"It's generated by Brother and little sister's love flirting, an essential ingredient for little sister."
"Oh, is that so. That's what I thought it was."
It's been two weeks since their reunion, after this time Taiga finally understood his little sister.
"How dull. Let's make out here, is what I'm saying."
"...just how did you reach that conclusion."
They were inside of the Kiritou Academy's cyber department, the school the two of them were commuting to. Currently they were on the roof of the first year's building.
There was a cloudless clear sky today. Even so, the only ones who used the roof at lunchtime was just them, the siblings expanded the thin blanket in a good, sunny spot.
By the way, there should be one more person there, the girl who was always together with the siblings, but she was slightly late today because of work.
"Like I said earlier, because of the recent lack of physical contact with brother I am in a bad mood. That's why I was wondering if I could be supplied with it all at once right now."
"What is this imouto-sama saying despite sleeping together with me every night."
Rather than need of supplementation, it would rather be her having an excess of it.
Because of certain circumstances (Fuyuki's ploy) there is only one bed in the siblings' home which is why Taiga and Fuyuki sleep together. Every day Taiga suffers of sleep deprivation because of it.
Although she was his real sister, it didn't change the fact Fuyuki was an extraordinarily pretty girl. Furthermore, all she wore to sleep was practically her underwear and as a bonus she clung to him the entire night. Being able to sleep like that was an absurd thing to ask of him. If Taiga didn't cut off all feelings during nighttime, he would already have fallen long ago.
"Yahoo—— Sorry for the wait you two〜"
From the direction of the school building's door came a cheerful voice. A girl entered the roof.
With chestnut brown hair fluttering in the wind, the siblings' friend Saionji Rui ran up to them lightly.
She too, was an extraordinarily pretty girl, although she was completely different from Fuyuki. The most significant and noticeable difference was her bodily development beyond that of other girls the same age.
Also, the bright atmosphere her entire body was emitting, she was like a perfect opposite of Fuyuki.
By the way, all the lunch boxes were prepared by her.
"It came. The root of all evil."
"...what is it all of a sudden?"
Feeling the thorns in Fuyuki's voice, Rui tilted her head. If Taiga who knew the entire flow of the conversation didn't understand, there was no way for her who just arrived to understand it.
"Why are you blaming Rui. She's unrelated to that right?"
Taiga was so hungry he couldn't bear it, and he reached out towards the lunch box. Or rather, since they are changing classes after break, if he didn't start eating soon he would be late. He put three small rice balls in his mouth and looked for something to drink——
"Yes, here you go."
He drank the tea that was held out to him. The Japanese tea in the thermos was still slightly warm, it went well with the rice ball and its pickled plum filling.
And, he noticed Fuyuki glaring at him with a disgruntled expression, she was clearly in a bad mood.
"What is it Fuyuki?"
"Weird? What is?"
"You really do have zero awareness. Well I already knew that."
'Good grief', Fuyuki dropped her shoulders and sighed. She seemed somehow astonished.
"Brother, please look at Rucchan rea〜lly carefully. Don't you notice anything?"
As he was told to, he stared at Rui who sat next to him, looking from the top to bottom. She was shyly, lightly swaying her body, there was nothing else significant enough to notice.
"So what's weird?"
"Even though it's lunch there's no dishes nor chopsticks, isn't that weird?"
"Eh? ...yeah, now that you say it."
Although she was late because of work, it didn't seem like Rui was in hurry. She left behind chopsticks, but carefully prepared the thermos with tea.
"You know. While Brother was eating, Rucchan was smiling the entire time and passed the thermos immediately when Brother was looking for something to drink. What is this, are you a freshly married couple...?! You bastard Brother!!"
"No, wait why are you snapping at me!?"
Further annoyed by her own words, Fuyuki pinched the back of Taiga's hand.
It simply hurt.
"Rucchan as well. We agreed on having lunch boxes occasionally, but aren't you making them on a daily basis lately?"
"Uuu... t-that's because..."
"Taiga says its delicious and happily eats it, that... really makes me happy, ehehe."
As Rui said it shyly, she was so lovely it made Taiga want to hug her. He couldn't look away from her——
"Flirt like that with little sister, Brother."
"It hurts, it really hurts!?"
The skin on his hand was pinched with enough force to tear it off, and he screamed in pain.
Operating under unknown logic, it seemed the powerless little sister had strange power-ups recently when she scolded her older brother.
Under the blue sky, the trio started to eat their lunch in a noisy and fun atmosphere.
Two weeks have passed——ever since the Tenryo siblings moved to New City.
"You two, have you gotten used to your new life?"
"Not yet. It's a completely different life, there's a lot of new things."
"Me too, it's been a while since I commuted to school."
Fuyuki and Taiga responded to Rui's question.
The three of them surrounded the lunch boxes laid out between them, and the conversation blossomed.
They already finished their meal, ten minutes left until the cyber-related specialized course starts. Kiritou Academy was large enough to be comparable to a small town, so they will be late unless they leave soon.
"Been a while? Was it elementary school or middle school?"
"I was attending elementary school normally until eight years ago. But I couldn't afford to go to school after being taken to Renjou."
"But isn't education compulsory?"
"On paper, I've graduated properly."
"You really did well passing the entrance exam..."
Kiritou Academy's cyber department was part of the Elysion, a department specializing in the professional virtual area on the network that is composed of electronic data.
Since the cyber world is a foundation of the modern life now, out of all the students aiming for Kiritou Academy, most of them aspire to enter the cyber department. Of course the level was tremendously high.
Honestly, Taiga would have failed if not for an acquaintance who tutored him.
"It was very similar for the little sister.'
"Eh? Fuyuki hasn't gone to school for a while either?"
"There is an unique educational institution inside of Karasuba, little sister graduated from there. But I attended it for only a year, since I was given a special treatment allowing me to skip grades."
These twin siblings had a little, no, a very special past.
Tenryo Taiga and Tenryo Fuyuki, the siblings lost their parents on a certain day eight years ago in a traffic accident. And the two of them were taken away to separate households and spent eight years as Renjou Taiga and Karasuba Fuyuki.
They started living together again two weeks ago, in this New City where Fuyuki's best friend Saionji Rui was living in.
"Haa〜 you two really come from strange environments don't you〜"
Rui unintentionally sighed in admiration.
One corner of four major cyber-related corporates 'Karasuba' was in a scope beyond her imagination.
But the martial art masters 'Renjou' who took contracts for anything from assassination to acting as mercenaries was a region completely beyond her knowledge. And the fact that boy in front of her was a part of it was unrealistic.
"Oh, right. You two, what about club activities? It's your first time attending school properly right, why don't you enter some kind of club?"
"Club activities, speaking of which there was something like that."
"There's the Shinkansai coming too, let's go around together."
"It's an official name for club activities' freshman recruitment festival. Like the name suggests, it's a festival〜"
"How did recruitment for extracurricular activities turn into a festival?"
Speaking of festival events, it was both a cultural festival and a sports festival at the same time. He never heard of a festival like that before.
"That's because there's a lot of people from Kiritou group in Kiritou Academy's board. Every year there's a struggle for human resources. There were many problems in the past, but even so the festival is fun〜. And so it became an event the entire school is involved with."
"Oh, no wonder the campus was so noisy today."
As he looked down, the upperclassmen were hurriedly running around, they were probably finishing the final preparations.
"Club activities... little sister has to pass. The exercise part is out of the question, as for everything else it's a no because little sister's skill is beyond high school level."
"Yeah〜 that's right, I guess."
As one of the top people in 'Karasuba' Fuyuki's skills were far beyond that of a normal student's. She wouldn't be able to enjoy club activities made for students.
"Brother can't do the exercise part either, right."
"Well, that's how it is. I'll have to pass on looking around, sorry."
If Taiga were to get serious in a club no one would be able to keep up with him.
Because his specs are way too different, skills and experience meant nothing compared to it.
"Then why don't you do club activities together?"
"What would you do in that case, Rui?"
"Nn— Rui-san gets bored easily. Ever since middle school I entered and quit many clubs. I guess I'll stop that now. Also, playing together with the three of us is more fun."
"And we can't do it because we need to earn a living."
The genius siblings ran away from the households they were taken off to, and needed to earn their living expenses by themselves. Although they prepared a substantial amount of money beforehand, but Fuyuki was too merry when spending and bought the top floor at a luxury apartment, and they've ran out of money.
Now, the siblings started a part-time job introduced to them by Rui, although it seems like a simple monster-hunting game, the pay is pretty good. Because of that, they were reluctant to do club activities.
By the way, before Rui asked 'Why don't you do a job that allows you to draw more from your abilities?', but the circumstances didn't allow them to do so. Both of them ran away from families prominent in their own way, they couldn't afford to stand out. That's why they couldn't work in fields that involved their own specialties.
Finally, they reached the conclusion of 'We're not interested in club activities, but we'll tour the festival.', right before the lunch break ended.
"Club activities? Taiga, do you think I have time to do such a thing?"
"Is that so."
"Seriously, don't ask me stupid questions. I'm busy."
The female student that sat on the sofa with her legs crossed bluntly while operating a machine on her wrist——and turning on the terminal. Three windows were projected displaying a three-dimensional image, the data was being changed in accordance to the movement of her fingers.
Specialized courses were taking place in the afternoon in Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Fuyuki chose a different lecture, so Taiga parted from her and Rui and was now in a small classroom in the back of a seemingly unused school building.
Originally, it was supposed to be a classroom in which the lecture of 《Configuration of virtual personality》took place, but the only people inside of it were Taiga and the black haired female student.
The girl's name was Kiritou Haya. A third year senior from the cyber department.
She's the student council president and daughter of the 『Kiritou』 group's leader that has its headquarters in New City. Her appearance is that of a ladylike yamato nadeshiko.
But her real nature is that of someone who privatized a classroom and forged a fictional lecture, a tyrant that does whatever she wants. Taiga learned of her true nature by chance (she self destructed), and was dragged into this lecture by force.
〈"Taiga. Do not look away."〉
Just as he recalled his first meeting with Haya, something that looked like a black needle appeared in his line of sight.
Seems like she didn't overlook it, he looked back at the semitransparent girl floating in the air in front of him and pointing at him with a black pointing stick.
〈"Concentrate over here. Slacking in front of Iora-sensei is unforgivable."〉
The fairy-like girl wore an outfit that imitated a teachers and glasses with a black frame, she looked different than usual.
While it was obvious from her scale, she was not human. She's a virtual personality Kiritou Haya has developed——codename Iolite, nicknamed 『Iora』.
Although Iora was only existing in a form of data, right now she was being projected from the terminal's three-dimensional projector. Of course the range it projected to was very broad.
Then, why was Iora calling herself a 'sensei'? There was a certain situation that happened a few days ago.
Last week, Taiga was hospitalized after being involved in a certain incident. Although he was discharged a few days later without a single injury, there was another problem. Because he was in the hospital, he couldn't attend class.
It was fatal for Taiga who wasn't good at studying, and what awaited him after he left the hospital were incomprehensible lectures.
Feeling too miserable to consult it with Fuyuki or Rui, he tried getting help from his senior, Haya.
As a result, for some reason Iora ended up being his teacher, and was currently tutoring him.
That was three days ago.
"And to think I was the one teaching not too long ago〜"
〈"Now. The next one is mathematics."〉
Somehow having fun, Iora expanded the exercise books with a faint smile.
She was expressionless and apathetic until a week ago, she felt like a machine, it was unbelievable.
It was an incredible learning ability, no, it was an eerie growth rate.
It's impossible not to worry.
There was something that caused Iora's rapid evolution——he glanced at Haya who said so. Although she was usually being lazy and lying down on the couch, it was different today.
She really does look busy.
It's been thirty minutes, and Haya continued to operate the windows all this time.
Her appearance suggested that she regretted losing every minute, every second. Her complexion was poor because she lacked sleep. Although Taiga worried about her, knowing the reason he couldn't tell her to stop.
The cause was the incident with Iora going berserk, the one that involved Rui falling into a coma.
Taiga, Fuyuki and Haya. The three of them stopped the runaway Iora, Haya had to use her status as president's daughter in the process when using a trick called 'Structure Lockdown'. However, the price was great, a large amount of work was pushed onto her in order to compensate for the losses.
『Kiritou』 worked on many matters that were confidential, so Taiga couldn't help even if he wanted to.
〈"Taiga. Don't look at Master, look over here."〉
"Yeah, I get it."
For another hour Haya quietly worked while Taiga worked hard studying.
The specialized course ended without incidents, it was now after school.
Taiga, Fuyuki and Rui boarded the academy's dedicated linear and had just left the ticket station of the New City's central station. The siblings and Rui are going home in the same direction but Rui stopped at the station as if she remembered something.
"Oh, right! Dad asked me to do shopping!"
"For the store?"
"Yup. Ah, we're not entering《Aries》today so that's it, see you tomorrow."
"Not going to enter?"
"We can't connect because there's a regular maintenance until 3 p.m. tomorrow, I've already told you that yesterday didn't I. Did you forget?"
《Aries》is one of the wide variety of structures Elysion consists of. It's a large scale structure tens of thousands players are using, it's a virtual world with an orthodox fantasy setting as a base. In that world, bugs and viruses are arranged to appear as monsters the trio hunts to earn money from bounties.
Now that I think about it, she said something like that.
To maintain the Aries' system, there is extensive maintenance done on a regular basis during which the structure is closed.
In general the regular maintenance is disliked, however the bugs and viruses continue to appear so there is a large quantity of bounties right after maintenance is finished. That's why, it's said to be a blessed time for some users like Taiga and the others.
"Well then, Rui-san is going. See you tomorrow!"
"See you tomorrow."
Rui said her farewell and headed towards the grocery store and the siblings returned home.
Their home was the apartment on the top: fifteenth floor, too luxurious for just two high school students to live in.
Taiga took off his school uniform's blazer, sat down on the sofa located in spacious living room and sighed.
"Ah〜...I studied too much and I'm wasted〜..."
He stretched his neck making a dry sound. It seemed like (well, it didn't just seem like it) it was caused by the spartan Iora's guidance, his head seemed really heavy.
"Want some coffee?"
The Remotely controlled coffeemaker started to grind the beans, they were beans they got from Rui's father who runs a café so it was delicious.
"Here you go, Brother."
He received the cup from Fuyuki and took a sip. It was best to drink it right after it was ground from the beans, he enjoyed the bean's taste for a moment.
"This is really good. Master was right on the mark again——so, what is it Fuyuki?"
Suddenly, Fuyuki sat down on Taiga's lap.
His little sister's body leaned deeply entrusting her back to him, she was very light and a flowery smell drifted from her black glossy hair tickling his nostrils.
Even though we're using the same shampoo.
She acted like a spoiled child, but Taiga placed a hand on her head and gently stroked it without saying anything.
This seemed to be the 'flirting ingredient' this girl spoke of during the day.
"Well, it's black that's why. Here, milk and sugar."
"You put in too much."
Fuyuki listened and started to put in sugar cubes like crazy. Because of that, the coffee lost all of its flavour, and the high class coffee beans were ruined.
That's what Taiga thought in the back of his mind, but Fuyuki put in milk without stopping. Her cup of coffee turned into café au lait and she made a happy smile. Although there were many things he wanted to say, he couldn't do it seeing his little sister's happy expression.
"Speaking of which, it's the first time I've heard of Karasuba's school."
"I didn't tell you about it?"
"Well, we didn't talk about ourselves enough to know everything, there surely are one or two things we don't know about each other."
"Then, is there anything Brother doesn't want to tell his little sister?"
"Hmm, I wonder."
"So there is. I see."
Hearing Taiga dodge the subject, Fuyuki puffed her cheeks a little.
The siblings had an eight years blank, for the two of them who are fifteen years old it's more than half of their lives. That's not a gap you can fill easily just by talking.
That's when, *pikon*, a sound came out from Fuyuki's terminal and a window opened. It seemed to be an e-mail.
"It's from Rucchan. Eight o'clock tomorrow morning, meet up in Paradise."
"Oh, it's about Shinkansai, I look forward to it."
"The first festival since elementary school, little sister is also excited."
Fuyuki closed the window by tapping it and drank the contents of the cup all at once. It seemed like she didn't have enough, so she stared at Taiga's cup and put sugar cubes inside before drinking it.
"Hey hey, what are you doing Imouto-sama."
"Little sister is thirsty so let her."
"It's fine if you pour yourself a new one right?"
"No. I don't want to move away."
It might have sounded like she was being lazy, but in her case it's because she's 'sitting on her brother's lap'. As proof of that, the fact is that she is leaning her head against his chest.
Having someone on top of him, Taiga couldn't move. He reluctantly tried to drink the coffee that had a large quantity of sugar and milk put in, it was too sweet so there was no flavour at all but it wasn't that bad.
"That's an indirect kiss isn't it."
"Nn? ...ah, I guess."
Looking carefully it seemed like they drank from the same side of the cup. But he didn't really care about it and sipped it again.
"Muu, even though it's an indirect kiss with your cute and wonderful little sister, your reaction is really bland."
"It's too late to be embarrassed..."
Although it's been only two weeks since he reunited with his little sister, somehow he already got used to indirect kisses. It might sound horrible for him to get used to indirect kisses with his sister but they already share the same bed (meaning is exactly as it sounds like) and there were various other things happening.
"Is it that fun to tease me?"
"Yeah. Seeing Brother blush in embarrassment is the best."
Fuyuki smiled like a little devil.
As if to fill the eight year's blank, she sought interaction with him.
"Little sister loves spending time with Brother and Rucchan the most."
He wondered why.
For Taiga, those earnest feelings of hers made his own turn in a dangerous direction.
"I'm looking forward to tomorrows festival."
As the sun set, the siblings continued to talk in a relaxed manner.
The history of Kiritou Academy is very shallow.
While there is a lot of it to the Kiritou Group ever since the company has been founded, the school is new and it has only been about ten years since its founding. Even so, since the Kiritou Group has been growing fast thanks to the school's graduates, its popularity among students is very high.
It offered professional teaching on many subjects and its average was quite high, but it wasn't just classes, it also offered active club activities.
Three thousand students divided into various smaller and bigger clubs. The total number of those is larger than a hundred, and because there's a lot of room on the campus none of the activities are inconvenienced.
However, it's different with human resources and budget.
To have a budget assigned, achievements are required and to have achievements there's a need of obtaining talented people. The outcome of club activities is also directly linked to future employment, so every year clubs desperately look for new members.
Because the recruitment was gradually intensifying, the school side limited recruitment to a certain time period, and the public morals committee acted and created a new school event.
And it became a joint club recruitment festival held at the end of April called 'Shinkansai'.
"Woah〜 it's really busy!"
"Well, it is a festival."
Saturday, half past eight at the station in front of 'Kiritou Academy'.
In modern days due to declining academic standards, the policy called relaxed education  has been abolished, however Kiritou Academy is being supplied with a huge amount of money therefore as an independent school they were free to set their education policies.
On the route there's usually a lot of students, there's space prepared by clubs as they crammed it in overnight. It was the same scene in every direction, whether its north, south, east or west.
And there were upperclassmen whose eyes were glittering.
"Is it my imagination or do they look like carnivores looking at their prey?"
At least, it's not a look a student gives another student.
Taiga wasn't the only one who sensed this turbulent mood, a freshman who came on board of the same linear noticed the odd presence in front and didn't want to leave the station.
"Little sister wants to do an immediate U-turn and go back."
"That's no good Fuyuki, if you're not with Taiga you might get taken away."
After looking outside Fuyuki wanted to catch a returning linear but was caught by Rui.
It might be unbearable for her who has a fear of strangers but if they notice her, a beautiful girl and a top grade student she won't be able to escape from people trying to recruit her. That's why Taiga had to act like a wall to help her.
"Well then, what is it..."
"Everything will be solved if Brother sacrifices himself and jumps in."
With that said, they can't stand there forever. The station will be filled when the next linear arrives and they will be forced out. Other students glanced at each other's movements.
As Taiga worried, he felt someone's hand on his back. Having a bad premonition he looked behind, and saw Fuyuki pushing his waist from behind.
"...umm, what are you doing Imouto-sama?"
"Little sister's creed is 'act according to one's word'."
Fuyuki made a big smile.
And the next moment, Taiga was pushed with all her strength.
"W-wa... hey! Uwah!"
Taiga plunged forward and left the station building, upperclassmen with club admittance forms swarmed to him. Seeing them flock to Taiga like ants flock to sugar, everyone had a painful look on their faces and Fuyuki smiled proudly.
"Then, Rucchan. Let's use this opening to slip past."
"Umm—...what about Taiga?"
"If its just that much, Brother will manage somehow. Also, he's already accustomed to being the shield of his cute little sister, if anything, he would do it until exhaustion and be satisfied afterwards."
Fuyuki left him as a decoy and pulled Rui's hand and passed by the crowd's side.
The recruiters in front of the station seemed to be the fiercest ones, the amount of people scouting decreases as they're moving away. It went to the extent of students calling out from their own spaces.
The two ran behind the building escaping from yelling people and were catching their breath under the tree's shadow.
"Fuah, finally released from that squalid atmosphere."
"That was amazing— ...I wonder if Taiga is all right, maybe he was taken somewhere——"
"I won't get caught so easily."
"Hey Taiga. When did you catch up with us?"
Rui looked towards the source of the voice, and found Taiga right beside them.
He looked really rugged, his hair was unkempt and he had club admittance forms affixed all over his body. He looked quite miserable.
"See. He's alright after all."
"I'm not alright at all. What was that?! You left me alone in that club recruitment place. That's too much."
Taiga sighed without thinking.
Although he escaped through a gap in the crowd, things like trying to forcefully sign the form with his arm was no longer recruitment. He had to fling two, maybe three people off him.
"Ahaha, I've heard rumours about it, but it really is fierce."
Taiga peeled off the papers affixed to his body and placed them in the trash. Rui took the ones he couldn't reach with his hands, and he fixed the uniform on his body.
"Now, let's see on the map where we should tour first, where we are is the part with cultural clubs, among these there's a lot of tech clubs."
Fuyuki displayed an area map from her terminal, and the three stared at it.
The area they're assigned to seemed to be determined by the type of club activities, the cyber-related activities were lined up around the area they were currently in.
"It's fine to go around once, it's a festival after all."
"No. Brother would definitely find athletic clubs more fun. And the cyber-related clubs are full of tech and machines."
"I'm in cyber department so I assumed it's a good chance to get used to it."
As for machines Taiga uses it's only the daily necessities, the terminal and machine used to dive in Elysion the 'arclight'. Although in a certain sense he did use an automatically-controlled drone, he didn't have much common knowledge about these things.
"Then, let's tour the athletic clubs later, let's conquer the ones here first! Let's go〜!"
"Fufufu... little sister is going to bring them down on their knees with her skill..."
"Don't do anything too flashy."
Taiga advised his sister who blurted some disturbing words, and chased after the girls.
In a nutshell, his advice was wasted.
"Haa〜 with this we toured all cyber-related clubs."
"Yeah. I'm quite tired after all that."
"Well, after trying everything that was exhibited it's obvious that you'll be tired."
Seeing a 'that was well done' expression on the girl's faces, Taiga muttered amazed.
As a matter of fact, naturally they weren't able to tour the clubs without any issues. It was mainly because of Fuyuki.
"I didn't really care about their impressions, I just pointed out the weaknesses, they don't have to necessarily improve it."
"Even so, when I told them what I thought, the club members seemed very happy."
"And because of that, when you declined their invitation they looked horrible..."
He was reminded of how students from the entire section flocked with club admittance forms after seeing the program Fuyuki made by herself. He scraped his nerves to make sure he didn't hurt anyone there.
"...but in the end even Rui participated in it."
"Yaha〜 Rui-san wasn't able to endure any longer."
The two beautiful girls were incredibly conspicuous.
Although everything calmed down after the two declared 'We're not going to enter any club' still some of the upperclassmen checked on them from a distance.
"It's gotten really tedious. Let's hurry to the sports department."
"Whose fault is it, huh?"
While exposed to many stares, Taiga and the others started to move.
"But I expected more of a school directly managed by one of the four major corporates. Looks like activities done by students are just at this level."
"Was it that bad?"
"No, the level is pretty high. I think it greatly exceeds normal high school's level. As expected of Kiritou Academy."
"Fuyuki is just too special. Probably people on the same level as president are as good as the teachers."
"As far as performance goes, Rucchan is probably the runner-up."
"...you mean that Rui is better than the majority of students in this school?"
"Yeah. Honestly, she's on so a high level it's unthinkable she grew up in a normal household."
Rui's home was an ordinary café. And come to think of it, Fuyuki was educated in Karasuba, and as the heir of Kiritou, Haya also received special education. She really was amazing.
"Yahaha... that's because I've seen Fuyuki programming many times before. I just mimicked what she did."
"Stealing technology from others is also a talent. There are people who spend a fortune and can't do
"Also Rucchan doesn't just mimic, you also can do others things. Especially when it comes to attack-configured programs you're better than little sister."
A program made to counter viruses and bugs in Elysion, that's the attack-configured program.
Generally they are programs bought from large companies that develop them. However Rui prepared them more powerful ones, both Fuyuki and Taiga use her programs all the time.
"Uuu〜...it's not that big of a deal..."
Embarrassed by the praises, Rui continued to walk at brisk pace with her cheeks dyed red.
"Look, that's the athletic club's area."
They chased after Rui, it was the first time since admission for the three of them to set foot on the east side of the school.
Kiritou Group was a major cyber-related company, but it also focused on sports as a strategy to improve its image. They own many professional sport teams, it's a system that allows sport departments students to join those after graduation.
"It's all sports grounds and gyms."
"Scholarship students gathered here in sports department from all over the country. And because there's a lot of clubs there's a need of sports grounds and facilities."
"Are they by any chance exempt from studying?"
"No, there's no such thing. The department policy is to train both mind and body. Academic skills are required to some extent in sports department. Still, compared to the normal and cyber department it's a breeze."
At the same time, exercise is encouraged in the cyber department. The ball games tournament, a sports festival or a marathon, events promoting exercise appear several times a year.
"Anyway, this is pretty quiet〜"
As they looked around, there was recruitment in the form of experiencing the club. They didn't see any club members raising their voices and actively recruiting.
"There's no point in loudly recruiting people here. The scholarship students mostly decided on their club before they came here."
Even so, in some cases they managed to find a talent from among the general students, they participate in Shinkansai to recruit managers or with similar goals.
"Well then, where shall we start touring, since little sister is horrible at sports Brother can do as he pleases."
"Do as you please, even if you say that... what about Rui?"
"I don't really have anywhere I want to go."
It was just as Fuyuki declared, her stamina was close to none and as a bonus her motoric senses were horrible. During the physical education that's twice a week she's completely out of breath.
Rui had excellent motoric senses, she definitely wouldn't lose to the students in the sports department. If she trained properly she could excel at any sport.
"...little Fuyuki is always like that——ouch! Hey!?"
"Where are you looking as you say those words, you asshole brother...!!"
Fuyuki's heel ground on his foot with a sinister sound.
"Where... of course I mean your height..."
"Hee〜 Hou〜 I thought you were looking at my chest, but it seems like it was my imagination."
"That's a false accusation!"
Though, the fact that he didn't look at it at all was a lie.
"...Taiga is a pervert."
"I'm saying you're wrong!"
It was an act someone looking from the side would take as flirting. As Taiga defended himself, a figure appeared a short distance away.
"Nah, it seems like there's something better over there. Let's go."
Taiga brought the two of them towards the spot that caught his attention. About fifty students gathered there. A punching machine was located in the center.
"It seems like a joint martial arts project."
They received leaflets from nearby upperclassmen, written on it was 'Looking for challengers! A luxurious prize for people who clear it!'.
"What is it, you clear if you exceed the number of points set by the boxing club captain. Even if you don't reach it you can get gift goods. The prize is... no way, 《Oonira》 preferential rights!"
It seemed like Taiga was the only one who didn't know about it, both Rui and Fuyuki looked at the leaflet as if they were to devour it.
There was a queue of people who wanted to participate on the stage, male students with strong physique hit it and left. The 'luxurious prize' must have been really good, expressions of the students who received different prizes were really dark. As Taiga tilted his neck, Rui explained.
"Umm, 《Oonira》 is one of the structures. It's been in operation for about a year, it's been really popular since then."
"The user can change it as they please, they can change the world as if it was a dream. Although I've heard there are reservations for it six months ahead of time."
"Oh, come to think of it, there's a rumour that the karate club captain's father is one of higher ups at the company managing it. It seems like he has connections."
Taiga's reaction was really bland.
Since he only knew 《Aries》 and 《Virtual New City》 he didn't know about its greatness.
But it seemed to be different for his little sister.
It was a double combo of looking up at him and pulling the hem of his uniform. Although he knew what it was she was aiming for, she was too adorable.
"...you want to go there?"
"Rui-san also wants to go there〜..."
There was no way to refuse after being asked by the two of them. Taiga lined up at the end of the queue and observed other challengers as he waited for his turn.
The goal is to score above five hundred points. The guy just now had a little more than three hundred——
If Taiga hit it at full power, the machine would definitely break. It meant he had to go easy on it, he can't score too high or too low. He has to adjust it somehow to the extent of hitting a little above the target number.
He observed the fifteen people in front of him and continued to modify the image he had by taking their specs and scores into account. Finally, Taiga's turn came.
At the reception he filled the form with 'Tenryo Taiga, Cyber Department'. And received the glove from an upperclassman who openly didn't expect anything of him.
Well no wonder. For someone from sports department, the cyber department students were a group of 'wimpy geeks'. For everyone present at the recruitment with exception of the two girls who knew him, Taiga was a 'reckless challenger'.
Taiga slowly took a deep breath, gently lowered his hips, he gathered strength according to his image while surveying his surroundings——and swung his left fist.
Just as students looked away from him, they heard a heavy and dull sound.
"F-five hundred and thirty points."
The student in charge announced the amount of points in disbelief.
And the measuring machine retracted nearly a meter away, everyone could tell that it was hit with a considerable amount of force.
"Thirty points over. ...well, this should be enough."
While the upperclassmen were taken aback, Taiga returned to the reception and held out his hand.
"I've cleared it, can I receive the prize?"
"Ah, yes. There you go."
Taiga prompted the upperclassman who blanked out and received an electronic card that can be scanned with a terminal. Then he turned on his heel and headed towards where Fuyuki and Rui were before walking away cheerfully.
"...eh, where did that guy go?!"
Before they noticed the golden egg has disappeared, the three of them were already gone.
"We got something really good. Good job Brother!"
As Taiga held the prize he acquired in his hand, Fuyuki smiled at him from the other counter seat.
Rui who peeped from the seat next to him read an explanation from her terminal.
"It can be used only for an hour〜 Mm, it can't be helped. But it's free and can be used without reservation."
They were in Rui's home, at café 《Paradise》.
The three of them finished touring the Shinkansai and quickly escaping the school they returned to New City.
They already finished lunch, in the small store there were only three of them and 《Paradise》's master, Rui's father who was the back of the store.
It's Saturday and yet we're the only customers here, is this store really alright?
The food is delicious and the waitress is cute, normally 《Paradise》 would be very popular, but the location in the back of the street was really poor and there wasn't many customers entering.
But it seems like the business is booming in the evening... something is not right.
Paradise was Jyugo's hobby, and during the night it was open as a chic bar. He saw it several times, but it was always crowded.
When they used the shop like normal Taiga was at ease, but when the store he was familiar with was used like that his mood worsened.
"Taiga, why are you making such a difficult face?"
"It's nothing. So, how are you going to use these preferential rights?"
"Since theres no real time limit, we'll do it when we have time. It's our first time using such a structure so it'll be fun."
"Eh? But can't Fuyuki make a similar program?"
"Unfortunately little sister's skills are only suited for actual combat, they're unsuitable for entertainment."
Fuyuki was best at hacking, as a programmer her nature and speciality was 'optimizing the events'. And entertainment was for her 'pointless effort' and she didn't give it much thought.
"So you've never made one before?"
"...no, I've made one, just once. It was a gift for my friend. In the end, I couldn't pass it to her."
"? What do you mean Fuyuki——"
"Well then——it's about time we went back. It seems like a good moment."
As he asked the question casually, Fuyuki's voice was dark and quiet. Taiga wanted to ask her what happened since it was the first time he heard that kind of voice come from her, but it seemed like she was hiding something.
It was fifty past two in the afternoon. While it still shouldn't be a 'good moment'——
"Oh right, the maintenance in 《Aries》 should be over in ten minutes."
"Yeah. Let's dive in and hunt for a bit."
The siblings paid for the lunch and returned home and headed straight to the room in which various machines were placed which was named 'Dive Room'.
They sat down on the two chairs in the middle, and connected the equipment surrounding them.
When they turned on the machines the devices made a dull sound as they started.
A specialized machine allowing two people to dive in Elysion——they proceeded with the activation of Arclight. They checked various life-support systems, the medium-sized machine was equipped with and completed preparations by linking the terminal with the headgear.
"You're quite used to it already."
"Well after doing it every day of course I'll learn it. Dive start."
He closed his eyes and muttered, his consciousness blacked out in an instant.
His body's data was stored in electronic within the terminal——and was transferred to his virtual body, his nerves and five senses were also switched one after another.
The last one to transfer was his soul. It was complex human data made of personality and memory called mental structure, it was removed from the body and embedded into the virtual body.
——— Log In ———
He opened his eyes and no longer saw the familiar room.
It was a fantastic spectacle of a cool mountain stream and abundant dark greenery.
A magical sky unlike that in reality was towering over him and spreading far and wide and majestic land dominated by nature.
Elysion——in the modern days almost everyone used this world made up of electrons.
It's the lifeline of security and management, it's even used for research and entertainment, it seemed like a second utopia.
And that electronic world consisted of a multitude of structures rivalling the numbers of stars in the sky, both large and small.
It was one of them, a large structure managed by Kiritou Group 《Aries》 .
It's said that tens of thousands of people connect to it at the same time and subdue monsters that appear in form of naturally occuring bugs and viruses, this grand fantasy world is continously gaining in popularity.
"I didn't log in for only a day, but it feels like it's been a while."
As Taiga pulled off grass beside him, the grass in his hand became small particles of light and faded away into nothingness. He put on the special white coat suggested to him by 《Aries》 and clenched his fist to ascertain the senses throughout his body.
"It is slightly sluggish after all."
"That can't be helped. The mental structure and virtual body aren't tuned perfectly. In the first place, Brother is the only one who can notice such a small difference."
As he looked behind, there was his little sister wearing a strange outfit that was a combination of both kimono and a dress instead of her school uniform. The red and black kimono was fitting for her long black hair.
"But your physical abilities really are monstrous. To think you can't get serious because the system cannot keep up with you."
"Even if I can't use all my strength here, it still is a good change of pace. And it's not like I can act violently in the real world now."
"Is that so, then that's good."
Fuyuki put some strength in her leg and lightly jumped to a branch three meters above the ground. Of course, it wasn't a feat Fuyuki can do normally with her poor athletic abilities.
Players connected to 《Aries》 are ranked from E to S. Additional assistance is given to the user's body depending on their rank. Fuyuki is a B-rank which is third rank from the top, and her physical ability was as she just displayed.
Taiga's rank was the lowest since he was an E rank, but his original physical abilities exceeded that of Fuyuki's in 《Aries》.
"The move point is a bit further, it seems like we have to walk through the forest."
"That's a bit troublesome... speaking of which, isn't Rui here yet?"
"Did you call me—?
He heard a voice from above, Rui was wearing a lab coat on top of skimpy clothes and sat on top of a small cliff.
"I took a look around here, but there's no big monsters there. We can just ignore them."
Rui lightly jumped down from a height of above ten metres and safely landed. She already had excellent athletic abilities and she was S ranked in Aries. Her status was pretty high.
"So Fuyuki, what do we do now?"
"While we can immediately start hunting some bounties since there's no shortage of them because of maintenance. But first I'll lecture Brother about 《Aries》 for a moment."
"A lecture, is there anything I can still learn after all this time?"
"There is. First, let's move to the move point——"
Fuyuki guessed something and jumped down from a branch, the next moment a rugged spear flew in between the branches.
As he traced the trajectory of the spear, there in the river was a lizard-like humanoid monster holding a spear.
"A lizardman. How disrespectful for someone of such a low standing to attack this little sister."
Fuyuki landed safely and fixed her untidy hair and raised her right hand towards the sky. In her hand appeared a folding fan decorated with crimson leaves.
"Now, we're ready so let's go."
"Right〜. There's three of them so it's one for each of us."
Taiga pulled out an over a meter long Japanese sword from his waist and Rui placed small pebbles in a characteristic shape between her fingers.
Taiga's 《Heavenly Sword》, Fuyuki's 《Elemental Sphere》, and Rui's 《Creative Stones》 ———Starting their respective attack-configured programs the three of them started to move at the same time.
In an instant Taiga closed the distance between them and cut both the lizardman and his spear in two. Fuyuki broke the red sphere with her fan and summoned a flame and the creative stones Rui has thrown changed into swords before piercing the enemy's body.
These blows exceeded the lizardmen's durability and they turned into particles of light.
This was the 《Aries》 structure. Each and every player in this world acts as a debugger.
Among the monsters there were powerful individual with a bounty money on them and only the strong players were able to subdue those.
Taiga and the others were a three people team that subdued enemies for bounty every day.
"I have to fight against these guys again..."
Ten minutes later, for some reason Taiga ended up alone in the forest.
He was separated from the others after defeating the lizardman from before, it was the same forest in which he first fought monsters two weeks earlier.
Blocking Taiga's way was the over two metres long worm (or an organisms resembling a pink earthworm) and a herd of giant mantises.
Since they looked disgusting he didn't want to fight them ever again——
"It can't be helped."
Taiga gave up and started to dismantle the monsters whose appearance was based on insects.
Of course, he didn't come to a place like this for fun.
There was a small update together with this maintenance, it was a fix applied to all players of rank B and above. Fuyuki and Rui went to a place called central district to apply the procedure. As they went ahead, Taiga was left alone.
And thus, Taiga continued to walk through the forest that was crawling with small fries, just as Fuyuki told him to, he arrived in the open area soon after.
"The starting point should be around here..."
It was right beside the forest's exit, a wide grassland. A carpet of golden-coloured natural grass spread all over. The majestic grassland occupied the entire scenery stretching for kilometres, it spread as far as he could see.
Taiga didn't know what to do after that. Although he was told to wait in this place, he couldn't just stand like an idiot in the prairie.
He started to walk to the centre of the grassland, as he headed towards it he found a girl rooted on spot, he stopped moving.
Seeing people wasn't rare, but what caught his attention was the way she was dressed.
She wore plain, real clothes rather than an outfit from 《Aries》, and she had no weapons. It was the first time she came from the real world into this place, he was convinced of that.
"Uuuu... it isn't too user friendly... I want a manual..."
I still have some time.
He made a fast decision, and changed his destination. He walked towards the girl.
She noticed the sound of his footsteps, looked towards him and asked warily.
"No, I thought you seem to have some trouble so I wanted to help you out. I'm not anyone suspicious... I think."
Recalling how he was clothed (and that he carried a sword) he spoke more politely. With that, the girl's gaze softened, it didn't seem like she found him suspiscious.
Like light snow——he thought that as he looked at the girl.
That could've been because she had cool shoulder-length hair, or maybe that was because of the atmosphere she exuded. Or perhaps both.
She was slightly taller than Fuyuki, and her age was about the same. She had a thin body that could be encompassed by a single arm, her hands and feet seemed like they would break with just a little force. Her skin was so white, it seemed as if she never went out. She looked like a western doll, there was no other girl that description would fit better.
A light snow that would melt away the moment it was touched, that was his first impression of the silver-haired girl.
"So, what happened?"
"...umm, I only have the initial settings set-up here... and I can't move now."
"Indeed, going anywhere while looking like that would be disastrous."
The white one piece wasn't offering enough protection, and her white skin would definitely bait monsters in.
"Sorry, I don't know how to change the initial settings either."
"...is that so."
The girl's dropped her shoulders disappointed. And looking at the crystal she had in her right hand she sighed.
"It's too early to give up. Others will come in a moment. They did my initial settings before, why don't they teach you?"
The girl didn't know whether she should trust Taiga, she was at a loss for a moment——and gave him a small nod.
"I'll wait then."
Just the two of them in the vast grassland, Taiga and the silver-haired girl continued to wait.
The atmosphere seemed uncomfortable ever since they met, the girl seemed to hate it and was acting restless; staring away. Fuyuki was scared of strangers, but this girl might be beyond that level.
"Are you alone?"
Maybe that was why Taiga tried talking to her naturally.
Although the girl was flustered after being talked to suddenly, she slowly fixed her breathing and replied.
"...yes. I just dived for a bit to have a change of pace from studying."
"Is that so. That free pass a moment ago, what was that?"
"Umm, something I was given. I wanted to throw it away."
He expanded the conversation bit by bit.
While not trying to press on her too much, he tried to accustom her to talking with people——what he learned when dealing with Fuyuki was useful.
They talked about silly things for a few minutes, and the girl's stiffness gradually went away.
Finally, he saw Fuyuki's and Rui's figures at the edge of the forest, and at that moment.
"Ah, Taiga—! Sorry for the wait〜!"
Rui came over while waving her hand, Taiga answered raising his own. And when he attempted to introduce the girl——he noticed an abnormality.
"...those eyes, long black hair... it can't be..."
The girl murmured while dumbfounded and stared at the two who were walking towards them.
No, she wasn't looking at the two of them, the one she stared at was——
The girl's gazes met, and Fuyuki's expression froze.
The silver-haired girl muttered someone's name in disbelief. There was only one person among them with 「Hime」 in her name.
Taiga stared at his little sister's face as he thought that——
"...why are you here... Karasuba Shio."
With a trembling voice Fuyuki spoke the name of the silver-haired girl.