It was in the middle of May, a warm day that was a sign of the coming summer. Seeing this refreshing weather, he could understand the opinion of people who said Spring and Autumn are the most pleasant times of the year.
"That's perfect, this is the 'troisième plus'  busiest time of Student Council; you're entering aren't you. You know why?"
The warmth and cheerful weather from outside didn't reach the place he was in, an abandoned school building. After school was over, in the school building's furthest classroom a dignified voice echoed.
"The busiest time is of course the time around the school festival. Of course there's the cultural festival committee, but they're too busy to help either the student council or the teachers. The second busiest time is Shinkansai which is similar to the school festival. Because there are many reckless guys trying to acquire club members for themselves, there are a lot of problems happening. Because of a certain trio that stood out in both cultural-based clubs as well as sport-based clubs, everyone rushed over to inquire about them which resulted in us getting flooded."
With a tone of voice that revealed that its owner was considerably annoyed, it continued over and over again.
...'certain trio' was accented strongly, there was no way he misheard it.
"And so, the third time is now. A month after the new term begins, each and every student seems to be in a festive mood, especially the freshmen. I don't know whether it's the recoil after the examination war, but there are a lot of people fooling around. Thanks to that, the amount of work we have to do increases."
The girl stopped moving and brushed away her long black hair behind her ears. Her usually hidden self peeked out, normally it would have caught his line of sight and wouldn't let it go.
"Hey, where are you looking. You, don't you know what's your standing is now?"
However, it would not be good to look at the girl at the moment. She nudged the boy's head with her index finger. Dignity was exuded with every gesture the girl made, he felt a terrible disparity between that and her harsh tone of voice.
"...just what about this girl is ladylike."
"Ta〜i〜ga〜. Did you say anything?"
She picked up his quiet complaint, The fake yamato nadeshiko Kiritou Haya was all smiles. But those smiles of her weren't reflected in her eyes, making it scary.
The boy who was sitting on the floor in seiza——Tenryo Taiga let out a small sigh.
It was Friday's afternoon, and it was currently the time that Kiritou Academy switched into specialized course lectures.
To explain why was he sitting in seiza at such a time, we have to go back two weeks into the past.
Taiga's little sister, Tenryo Fuyuki and her best friend from the past Karasuba Shio.
The two girls were reunited and became friends once again two weeks ago. Although there was an unnecessary obstacle that caused complications, they were able to safely repair their past relationship. Because of that case, there was an unexpected lasting effect——which had nothing to do with the case itself.
"Not only did you used my Arclight without permission, you also broke it... you're going to accept this punishment aren't you?"
What became a huge problem, was him borrowing (practically without permission) two Arclights in order to head to where Fuyuki and Shio were. After defeating 《Zygote》 and logging out he carelessly dropped it on the floor.
The Arclights were machines that allowed the human spirit enter the virtual world. Although they were quite durable, they aren't supposed to be handled so roughly.
Moreover, the worst thing was the fact that the Arclight Taiga dropped was one of the rare custom-made models prepared by one of the four cyber-related companies, 'Namisagi'.
On top of being ignorant when it comes to machines, all he had in his head at the time was Fuyuki so he forgot to adjust his strength, which resulted in the Arclight being damaged. And now, after everything was calm down he was being scolded. By the way, the one who told him to sit in seiza was Haya.
"...I'm sorry for breaking it. I'll do anything to compensate you."
"What compensation, come on. Do you know how valuable this Arclight was?"
"Was it that expensive?"
"It's a special made-to-order good. If I were to auction it... well, about a million yen I guess?"
"Milionn?! Wait, wait a moment. Why did you bring something like that to school!!"
That number of digits normally doesn't appear in daily life.
The Arclight was held in a case before, there was no need to use any key to open it. Anyone could take it and leave with it were they to feel like it. It was too careless.
"It couldn't be helped. Were I to keep it in the house it might have been disposed of without my permission."
"Who would dispose of such a valuable thing?"
"Kiritou Group leader, Kiritou Kouya."
"Yes, blood related."
Haya didn't even try to hide her look of displeasure, she sat on the couch with a strong momentum and crossed her legs.
Various things became visible to Taiga who was sitting in seiza, he wondered if she was aware of it. For the time being he averted his gaze.
"Why would your father throw away your personal belongings? Is it because it's a product of another of the four major companies?"
"There's that but... I've told you before didn't I, about Asumi Aoko."
"Ahh, you said she was your friend who died last year, right?"
"It's Aoko's memento, this Arclight."
He was told something so amazing in a frank tone.
"Two years ago, I was sent two of them as a present celebrating entering this school. Since there were two of them, I gave one to Aoko. Although Aoko was a researcher, she wasn't getting along with the leaders. After she died, most of her personal belongings were disposed of."
"That seems... like she was really hated."
"I guess. The only memento I managed to recover before it was disposed of is this Arclight."
"So it was that important... I'm sorry."
Taiga felt really apologetic and bowed deeply. He knew that the problem won't be resolved by him apologizing, but that's the only thing he could do.
After seeing him make a concerned expression as he looked down, Haya put a finger on her lips pondering.
Of course she didn't think of whether to forgive him or not——rather, she thought of how to take advantage of this situation.
Honestly speaking, she wasn't all that fond of that Arclight. It was true that it was a keepsake, but the reason she clung to it wasn't its properties but more like 'because it's rare'.
Then what should she have Taiga who was sitting in seiza do... because she was irritated by the amount of work to do, she told him to help with that in an outburst of anger.
The work in Kiritou is all right, student council's is—...geez, I have no idea about the school events.
In her mind, she spat out words unbefitting the Student Council President.
Shinkansai was over, and the club activities began in earnest. The student Council was pretty busy.
Although she didn't want to do it, Haya as the student council president was required to make the final decision and look through almost all of the projects. There were a ton of them.
If there were at least one more person in charge of filling the documents——
"...ah, there is."
Of course there is one. Someone whom she could use as she pleases (in a psychological sense), moreover this someone who feels like he owes her a lot was right in front of her.
"Hey Taiga, you know about the work you were helping out with until the last week right?"
"The one you made me do in exchange for helping us contact Shio..."
"Then that's perfect. Starting from next Thursday help me out again. If you do that, I'll forget about the matter of the Arclight."
"...it's all right with just that?"
It was an unexpectedly good turn of events for him. As he asked about it, Haya shook her hands while saying "I don't mind.". Well, if she says so then he won't complain about it.
"Even so, what's happening next week... ah, the midterms are over aren't they."
It was nearly halfway through the semester. No different from all other educational institutions, Kiritou Academy had the first hurdle for the students, three days of mid-term exam. Knowing about routine testing ever since admission, Taiga continued to study diligently every day.
"Speaking of the tests, are you all right? It would be a troublesome matter for me were you to be in the red."
Even if he was to be in the red, that was Taiga's own problem. It should have nothing to do with Haya. When he thought like that...
"If a student of the cyber department is in the red, all teachers in charge of specialized courses are contacted. The teacher in charge is called and said to come directly."
"That means, if I fail..."
"The fact that 《Configuration of virtual personality》 is a fictional lecture will be revealed."
The specialized course called 《Configuration of virtual personality》 they were officially registered with didn't really exist. The teacher in charge 'Takiha Yori' was just an anagram of 'Kirito Haya', it was a fictional lecture Haya prepared.
"Means we'll get punished if it's found out."
"Of course. ——Iora, come out."
As Haya called out, a fairy-like small girl in a blue outfit appeared in mid-air——AI・Iolite. It was a personality made by Haya's program.
〈"Called me, damn it?"〉
"If I'm not wrong, the first years were supposed to have a small test yesterday. How were Taiga's results?"
〈"Yesterday...? Was there supposed to be a small test yesterday?"〉
As Haya questioned her, Iora tilted her neck cutely. She closed her eyes to explore her memory, she didn't seem to find it.
"There was one, hey... I told you that yesterday. How can you forget it despite being an AI?"
〈"Grr... O-oh, I've entered the damn database."〉
Haya frowned wondering.
Iora had no functions that would allow her to forget any data. That's why 'forget' was used as a joke... she wondered if some kind of bug had occur.
Need to take note of it.
She moved the doubt to the corner of her mind leaving it for later and asked again.
〈"Want me to be honest?"〉
"...considering your figure of speech, it must be terrible."
〈"The bad parts are really horrible, the good parts are really amazing. It's an unusually extreme academic ability. The memorization-based subjects are perfect, in exchange both classical and modern language are fucking below the red line."〉
"What's that. Does someone like that really exist?"
〈"Honestly I'm lost, I don't know whether I should call him an idiot or moron."〉
"Aren't both of them the same? Hey, so you thought of me like that Iora!?"
〈"Ops. Slip of the tongue."〉
Iora revealed an evil smile just like that of her Master (just a little bit less sharp). Why does she have to resemble her in this kind of manner.
"Well, let's leave how Taiga's head works aside... how are the midterms going to look at this rate."
〈"It's almost certain he's going to fail."〉
"Not good... there's only three days left until the test. He won't make it."
"No, I've been studying lately instead of entering Elysion."
"Someone like you who has no foundation whatsoever can't study alone. And Iora who took upon herself the role of your teacher is quite ignorant of feelings, unable to do neither classic nor modern language... can't be helped."
Haya let out a small sigh as if giving up. And——
"This Sunday, I'll be coming to your house to help you study. Prepare yourself."
To this sudden declaration, Taiga responded with a dumb expression.
"...then Onii-san won't be coming on for a while?"
"That's right. Geez, what is he gonna do about the school exams."
A girl's voice resounded in a blue glittering cave that couldn't exist in reality.
The voice echoed again and again as it hit the walls made out of crystal clear ore and was twisted so much that it came back as if it was a wild animal's voice.
After a chorus of ten or twenty voices calmed down, a girl with chestnut brown hair took a step forward.
"Hey, it's about time to stop talking! Prepare yourself, you two!"
Between her five fingers she held characteristic pebbles, 《Creative Stones》. A girl in white coat, Saionji Rui dropped her waist lower in preparation for the swarm of enemies incoming. Ready anytime, that's what the posture seemed to relay.
"They finally come out. They had us walking for quite a while."
"...we were walking for only about five minutes, Hime-chan."
Seeing Rui's movement in front of them, the two also prepared their weapons.
With long and glossy black hair reaching her waist, a girl in a remodelled kimono decorated with black and red colours——Tenryo Fuyuki.
And with faintly shining silver hair, a girl in a hunter costume in the image of elves——Karasuba Shio.
They were armed with a red folding fan and a bow, they deployed them in order to cover Rui and looked ahead towards the back of the cave.
"Umm, while Rui-chan is attracting enemies, Hime-chan and I are supposed to attack right?"
"Yep yep. Fuyuki will attack from range, and Shio-chan will aim her tracking bullets just like a sniper. ——Let's go!"
Eventually about a pack of wolves numbering over thirty appeared from the darkness, they all had transparent bodies.
"Crystal wolves. They are the weakest among the monsters in here, but since the two of you have a weak defence, don't go in front. Especially Shio-chan!"
"I know, Little Sister's defence is very low."
Rui jumped in front with a strong momentum, the wolves raised a howl.
As the pack of wolves spread to the full width of the cave, the thrown Creative Stones changed into blades, and just a moment after that arrows of flame were released.
The blades which landed under the wolves exploded with a flash blowing them into pieces.
And the flame arrow divided into an infinite number of smaller ones while in the air, and after homing in on the quickly-moving wolves shot them down one after another.
After they were herded together, Rui threw blades in there. Threatening the enemy with a medium-ranged attack to bring them in to close range——that was Rui's basic tactic.
The enemy ranks were destroyed completely, however half of them that stayed in the back and were unaffected by Rui's attack, bared their fangs and attacked with vigour. The completely neglected other half turned their sharp fangs towards Fuyuki and Shio who were staying in the back.
They completely ignored Rui's movements, Fuyuki sighed lightly.
"Seriously... first you tell us not to get in front, and then you go leaving the half to us. Aren't you contradicting yourself?"
"That's quite responsible of Rui-chan, isn't it... what do we do?"
"Little Sister will stop them from moving, Shii-chan will deal the finishing blow."
"Yup, got it."
Neither Fuyuki nor Shio were panicking, they calmly prepared to intercept the wolves.
Right before they could be devoured by the wolves, Fuyuki destroyed four Elemental Spheres. Two blue and two white ones right after they appeared.
In response to her voice command, countless amounts of icicles appeared from the walls, the floor and the ceiling. The scattered pack of wolves were hit by the icicles and frozen in the mid-air.
"I leave the rest to you."
A huge rotating spear of ice was released in a straight line, or rather it was released piercing through the crystal wolves that were lined up.
The thick ice spear pierced through the wolves with as much ease as it would have piercing a human body and disappeared in the depths of the cave.
A secondary world made up of data——Elysion
A world similar to a mythological utopia, created and maintained with various electronics. It became a necessity people cannot live without these days.
There was a countless number of structures making up this world, one of them was 《Aries》. A virtual space based on a fantasy world. In here Taiga and Fuyuki——the Tenryo siblings had their part-time job. Their work was akin to playing a game, they subdued monsters. It was quite good in its own way.
In the southern part of it, there was an A-ranked difficulty dungeon named 'Crystal Cave'. Inside of it, there were Fuyuki, Rui and Shio.
"Oh—ho—, it seems you cleared them up over here as well."
"...why are you going 'Oh—ho—' now."
Fuyuki was clearly annoyed and hit her best friend who laughed optimistically.
"Brother isn't here, Rucchan's the only vanguard you know? It'll be troubling if you don't do it more seriously."
"I know that. Isn't our current goal a rank up & special training for Shio-chan? That's why it would be troubling unless she fought as well. Am I wrong?"
"...you're not. But please say a few words in advance next time."
Certainly, they were hunting in order to earn Shio a rank-up, if it's a group with both Fuyuki and Rui it could be done. However, if it's the player's skill then the player herself has to take part as well.
"I'm sorry you two. Helping me to rank-up..."
"It's fine it's fine. Since Taiga isn't here any way, we can't hunt anything down, so we have nothing to do!"
"You're really honest. But you're right."
"...but the two of you are in the same school as Onii-san aren't you? Is it fine for you not to study for the test?"
Both Fuyuki and Rui were also first years in Kiritou Academy Cyber Department. Of course, they had the same test in three days.
Although Shio never attended school, she knew that tests were an important event in school life.
"Little Sister and Rucchan study regularly. We won't do something as pathetic as studying right before the test."
"It seemed like there were thorns in the way you said that?"
"Of course. Just when Shii-chan came back safely and we should be able to play together, the four of us, that brother..."
"Well well, it's going to be his first periodic exam so let him do his best. Wasn't he studying in his room every day after school?"
"Because of that, the amount of time we can flirt together was reduced!"
"Ah, so that's the reason for your grumpy mood?"
Learning about her super selfish reason, both Rui and Shio were unconsciously astounded. Well, they knew that Fuyuki was a bro-con for years, so it wasn't all that surprising.
"...but wouldn't he be happy if Hime-chan helps him study?"
"I think Shii-chan is aware of that, but Little Sister is poor at teaching people..."
Shio was being taught by Fuyuki before, it couldn't be called good even as a compliment. Fuyuki was a genius whose thinking circuitry was different from other people. She wasn't suited to teaching others.
"Moreover, Brother doesn't want to rely on his little sister. He's been working hard until a late hour at night."
"Lately, he hasn't been coming to 《Paradise》 either. Are his meals all right?"
"For the time being, he's living on the retort pouch type of food."
Rui's parents were running a café named 《Paradise》, ever since the siblings moved in a month ago they were eating their meals over there. Every day they ate a meal there in the morning, and went out to eat there every second evening.
Over the past few days, the siblings didn't show their faces together in there. It was natural that Rui would be interested.
"I see—... I'm a bit worried—..."
"Is studying that difficult?"
"Only a few people have trouble with it. Certainly, Kiritou Academy's level and especially the Cyber Department's level is high, but usually people don't have any problems with it."
Although Fuyuki said that, actually about half of the students who start in Cyber Department are busy cramming. If they are in the red, the person in charge of their specialized lecture is called, in the worst case they might get held back immediately.
However, Fuyuki (top student in her year) and Rui (the runner-up) didn't have to worry about such things.
"The test period ends in the second half of the second week, at this rate you should be able to rank-up before then. For now it's just the three of us."
"I wanted to show the results of the special training to Onii-san as soon as possible... it can't be helped."
Hearing the unfamiliar phrase, both Fuyuki and Rui stared at her head questioningly.
"Ah, yes. Recently I've asked Onii-san about how to train my body. I just started but it seems like I've become more able at handling the bow."
"When did that happen? Little Sister hasn't heard a word about that?"
"About five o'clock in the morning? I wake up at that hour every day."
"Grrrrr, so early."
If it's five o'clock in the morning, then Taiga would normally be training while Fuyuki of course was still sleeping.
"Damn Brother, having trysts with Shii-chan behind Little Sister's back... unforgivable."
If a pair consisting of a man and a woman meet up in secret, that's certainly a tryst. In this case 'secretly' was a wrong assumption of Fuyuki's. Shio was impatient to correct these words.
She hoped it would be passed off as a joke, since their words were dripping with jealousy.
However, because Shio's panic button was pushed and she was completely flustered——it seemed to them as if she really was guilty of something.
With that suspicious reaction, Fuyuki stared daggers into her. Rui threw a warm glance at Fuyuki which said, 'ahh—it's like that after all' and ganged up with Fuyuki against Shio.
"...um, Hime-chan? Your face's scary?"
"I've wanted to ask about it for a while already, Shii-chan is older than Brother, so why are you calling him 'Onii-san'? Is there any special reason?"
There was none——that was the truth. Not knowing that they are twins, she started calling him that knowing that he's Fuyuki's older brother.
But if she said 'there's nothing' that would be a lie as well——
"...why did you start blushing."
As she recalled his sweaty appearance as he was changing and got intoxicated by the heat coming from her heart, her cheeks were grabbed by Fuyuki and pulled.
"Eres' othig Hwime-hyan."
"Listen up. Brother belongs to Little Sister, and Little Sister is Brother's. I won't hand him over even to Shii-chan!"
"...you're sleeping together every night, isn't this much fine?"
In Rui's murmur there was jealousy mixed in.
Although Fuyuki was jealous over every little thing, the one who would be spending the most time with Taiga would be her. That would be normal for twin siblings, but they go to the extent of sleeping together.
In that case, (important point) the one who spends the least time with him would be Rui. Since she also liked Taiga wanting to complain about it was granted.
"But a special training〜. Certainly, Shio-chan's gotten really good. You don't miss with the piercing bullets any more. How is it, the new model of 《Cryoflare》 made by Rui-san?"
"It's much easier to use than before. Also, you have added a new type of arrow, I have more ways to fight like this."
"Well it is an attack-configured program made by Rucchan. The old one might have been a prize for winning a championship in the arena, but this one is a few stages above that."
The viruses and bugs that appear in this world——in order to defeat them after they take a form of a monster in 《Aries》, an attack-configured program is needed.
Taiga's 《Heavenly Sword》 and Fuyuki's 《Elemental Sphere》—— were attack-configured programs made by Rui, their performance was much higher than the ones that were commercially available.
And now also Shio's attack-configured program, a bow that could manipulate two opposite attributes of ice and fire 《Cryoflare》.
Although it was originally a prize for winning the 《UNKNOWN》 tournament, it was broken the other day.
That's why Rui remade the program from scratch and also improved it.
As a result, despite having a week long history of gameplay in 《Aries》, Shio's attack power has already reached a level close to that of an A-rank.
After collecting spoils from the defeated crystal wolves, Rui called out to the two.
"Come on, it's about time to go. Let's do another circle over the field, hurry."
"Fighting against small fries is tedious. How about we ignore them and run through?"
"Ehh, isn't it impossible with Fuyuki's and Shio-chan's legs?"
"Rucchan can carry both of us. We're light so the brute strength of an S-rank will manage somehow."
"Whether I can do it or not is not the problem, that's..."
The three girls moved towards the back of the cave while chatting. This was their current daily life.
Ever since Karasuba Shio joined them, the daily life the girls lived has become more fun.
"Ah, Fuyuki. There's something I want to talk about with you concerning the specialized course, do you have time this evening?"
"Sure. Through the phone?"
"Nnn, if possible I want to meet face-to-face... oh right. I thought of something nicee〜."
"Nfufu♪ it's a secret〜."
As Rui started skipping in good humour, Fuyuki stared at her in wonder.
"Aahhh, so tired—..."
After he finished studying in his room, Taiga lightly rotated his arms to stretch.
He checked the terminal and found that it was already seven o'clock. Since he came back home at four o'clock, that meant he was glued to the desk for about three hours.
That's quite long even if I say so myself... even so, my performance isn't improving despite spending more time on it.
Although he didn't miss morning training, he hasn't logged into 《Aries》 for a week already. And that meant the amount of opportunities to wield a sword has decreased.
For Taiga, 《Aries》 was a valuable place he could unload his stress in.
Although they obtained a new life a month ago and lived it leisurely, but 'experiencing combat' was also valuable in modern society. Deprived of an opportunity to dump his accumulated frustration that way, had an adverse effect and his academic ability worsened——but he wasn't aware of that.
"...I need to switch myself to studying completely."
Let's prepare some rice in the cooker... and just when he was thinking about the menu, the interphone's bell sounded informing him about a visitor, Fuyuki's voice could be heard from another room.
"Oh, you're here. Door's open so please come in!"
"Heyaa, I'm a bit late. Can you carry this in?"
"What are you saying to the powerless Little Sister... Brother, please come for a moment——"
After responding lightly, he headed towards the front door.
He knew whose voice that was——or rather, there was only one person whom Fuyuki would call over——Saionji Rui was standing there in plain clothes. She was holding a shopping bag in her hand.
"So it's Rui after all. What happened for you to come this late?"
"There's something I need to do together with Fuyuki. Ah, please hold this."
In the shopping bag he was passed were vegetables and meat.
"What's up with these ingredients?"
"Fufu〜 《Paradise》 is on a business trip to the Tenryo house."
She loudly declared that while spreading an apron she took out from a handbag.
*ton* *ton* *ton*——a light sound echoed throughout the house.
Although Tenryo had a high performance kitchen, it was being wasted since no one used it. This evening however was different from others.
Rui was humming happily as she rhythmically cut the vegetables.
She had a yellow apron on top of her usual skimpy outfit and her chestnut hair tied in a ponytail swayed lightly.
"Brother, you're ogling her too much."
Taiga admired the sight of Rui working in the kitchen to the point he didn't realize Fuyuki was talking to him.
It wasn't a seductive charm. Certainly the sight of a girl in an apron was something that couldn't be seen every day and had a considerable sex appeal. But more than that, there was something that put his mind at ease as he saw her cooking from behind.
Suddenly an enormous shock hit the back of his head.
He looked up after his face fell and hit the table to see where that hit came from, he saw Fuyuki standing there making an intimidating pose, acting trigger happy with a clunky machine she was holding and looking down on him.
"I won't forgive being charmed by any other girl than Little Sister, shitty Brother. Shall I physically erase your memory?"
"I-Imouto-sama... just now that was dangerous... my head made a weird 'ding' sound..."
Before she erases his memory, his skull will be already cracked.
Fortunately, it didn't seem like he was bleeding (he was quite sturdy but he checked it just in case), then he recovered and started daydreaming while staring at Rui in her apron again.
"Want another one?"
"Sorry I'll stop right now... no, this somehow gives me a nostalgic feeling."
"Nostalgic, is it?"
"Yeah... a family, that kind of feeling."
Family, when that word came out Fuyuki downcast her eyes.
Eight years ago, the young siblings had lost their parents in a blink of an eye. That was probably why the siblings were so intimate with each other——as if to cover up that loss.
"Kept you waiting, it's done... hey, what's up with you two?"
"...nothing. Come on Fuyuki, sit down."
Seeing Taiga act as if he tried to cover something up, Rui was puzzled.
"Then, it's about time for Rui-san to go home."
It was past eight o'clock in the evening, After cleaning up and finishing consultation on a problem which was the main purpose of her coming over, Rui stood up from her seat and headed towards the entrance with Taiga.
"I'll escort you home."
"It's still early isn't it? I'll be fine alone."
"I just feel like taking a walk, so might as well. Fuyuki, go ahead and take a bath."
"Understood. Don't come back too late."
Taiga and Rui walked under the night sky and the street lights.
The café Rui's parents were running was a short distance of 3 minutes by foot away. The shop's exterior looked like a bar located in the corner of an alley that stretched from the main street——they arrived at café 《Paradise》 almost immediately.
It seemed like it was thriving in its own way, many voices could be heard from inside of the store.
"Well then, see you tomorrow."
"Ah, wait a moment. Won't you come upstairs with me for a moment?"
As Taiga was about to turn away and head back, he was held back by Rui.
"At this late hour?"
"There's nothing in particular that I want to do... but I thought 'it's been a while since we've talked with just the two of us—'."
She was embarrassed by her own words and her cheeks faintly blushed.
It's a chance——that's what she thought when Taiga said he'll take her home.
Whether it's school or 《Aries》 they were always accompanied by Fuyuki and haven't had a chance to be alone together. She was really frustrated about that.
"——Is that... no good?"
So this was her small selfishness.
It was impossible for Taiga to refuse her invitation as she peeked at him from under him. He shook his head lightly and followed her as she happily entered the shop.
They went up to the second floor from the stairs in the back of the store and entered Rui's room which was the furthest in the back.
"As usual, your room is full of stuff."
"Muu, it's not like there's a mess in here so that's fine. I'll bring you a coffee."
As Rui stood up, Taiga took a breather and looked around the room.
He has been in her room for like ten times before, but its interior hasn't changed at all. Since it was too silent, he picked up a Rubik's Cube that lay nearby and started to fiddle with it.
Since he was bored and wanted to kill time, he solved it immediately——or was supposed to.
The movement of his fingers was somewhat dull, it wasn't working out well. Rui who came back stared at him as he struggled and started to think about something, she looked at Taiga's face from up close.
"...Taiga, can it be that you're tired?"
He was confused by her words. It didn't feel like it. But Rui was confident about the cause of his malfunction.
"Yup. Your eyes are more blurred than usual, so I can tell. Did you sleep properly yesterday?"
"Yesterday... about two hours."
"Why just two hours?"
"It's like that every day. I begin morning practice before four o'clock in the morning, I completely recover from two hours of sleep."
Rui was shocked, but for Taiga that was normal.
Certainly, his amount of sleep didn't change. But Taiga accumulated mental fatigue by studying daily while not noticing it himself, moreover frustration accumulated because he was unable to exercise himself physically. All of these have accumulated and turned into fatigue.
She made a displeased expression.
It's been a while since they were alone together. She didn't know when the next time would come were she to miss this opportunity. That's why, the fact that she thought 'I want him to rest' surprised her.
...it can't be helped.
"Dat's no good. Come on, over here."
Rui sat down on the bed and lightly patted her lap.
Even Taiga knew what that gesture meant.
"...you don't mean you want me to sleep there?"
It was the so-called lap pillow.
"I feel like saying lots of things... but for now, tell me why."
"To help you relax? Come on, hurry hurry. Don't waste time."
He hurried towards Rui and reluctantly lay down. He swallowed saliva involuntarily as he slowly lied his head down on the voluptuous things exposed by her hot pants——
"How is it? Does it feel good?"
The moment he entrusted his head to it, her thighs sank in slightly and accepted his head gently.
A neither too firm nor too soft comfort continued to spread through his whole body and power left his limbs bit by bit.
"This is... nice."
"Right? Fuyuki said before that Rui-san's lap rivals the most comfortable pillows."
"How did such a conversation come to be...?"
It couldn't be something just friends talk about.
With that said though, he could understand why Fuyuki said that. It certainly felt good.
Since she was trained by working in the café, her leg muscles moderately accepted the weight of his head. He could stay like that for hours.
"...does Rui-san resemble Taiga's Mother?"
Rui asked an unexpected question. He was reminded of the conversation back at home and answered quietly.
"Did you hear that?"
"No, I asked Fuyuki about it afterwards since you two looked strange."
"I see... if you ask about resemblance, then you aren't alike. She was very different from you and couldn't do any housework at all. But..."
"...the bright atmosphere around you is similar to hers."
She was an incredibly cheerful person.
She played with her children as if she was the same age as them, when she was doing her job she looked like she was enjoying herself, a human rich with emotions and facial expressions.
Those aspects of hers were similar to Rui's.
Before he noticed, Rui started to gently stroke his head.
Taiga involuntarily narrowed his eyes feeling comfortable and warm, but what left his mouth seemed to say something different.
"I'm not a child..."
And so, she continued to stroke his head. And as if to finish him off, she spun the words.
"It might be because of Fuyuki, but Taiga's always on the spoiling side. You're taking care of Shio-chan as well don't you?"
"Well... I guess."
"That'll surely tire you out. Come on, Rui-san will spoil you so relax."
It happened when he was about to respond.
His vision distorted.
It was dizziness beyond what happened when he logged in, darkness clouded his thoughts and his eyelids closed by themselves.
Certainly he felt like falling asleep. But this was different. He should be able to limit it. During sleep, people are completely defenceless.
Taiga who was always wary of night assaults was ready to jump up at any sign of life. The only exception to that was Fuyuki who was his family.
That's why, being vulnerable in front of someone like this was——
"It's fine to sleep. Rui-san will wake you up later."
"It's fine. Close your eyes."
Hearing her gentle voice and being patted on the head, his thinking gradually melted.
It was impossible for him to resist his eyelids dropping, Taiga slowly closed them shut.
"Sorry...I'll sleep...a bit..."
"Yup. Good night."
Seen off by Rui, Taiga sank into the world of dreams.
"Ha〜... how cute〜."
Rui stared at his face as he slept on her lap.
He rubbed his cheeks against her slightly and whenever she stopped stroking his head he frowned as if saying 'don't stop'. Every each of his reactions were unbearable and lovely.
"...Taiga's amazing. Not only Fuyuki and Rui-san, he even had Shio-chan fall for him. The amount of rivals increased by one again."
Although Shio's feelings still felt like an extension of admiration, but without a doubt she liked him.
While she was quite displeased by that, but at the same time she was proud of him.
Proud of the fact that the boy she fell in love with was so charming, that he made other people fall for him, proving his charm even further.
She murmured lightly and contacted Fuyuki.
"Ah, Fuyuki? It's about Taiga, is it fine to borrow him for a bit? ...no. The shop's a little busy, so I want him to help out. Yup, about two hours. I'll send him home after the peak hours pass. Also one more thing, about tomorrow——I'm thinking of using the ticket from before. Can you call Shio-chan?"
On the second floor of Saionji family house, in Rui's room the two leisurely spent their time together.
Her quiet murmur dispersed away in the empty room.
The Kiritou Group's headquarters that was located in New City——a tall building with thirty-five floors, on the thirty-third floor there was Haya's private room.
It was different from her dedicated laboratory on another floor, it was her own perfectly private room.
There was a Kiritou household's mansion built in a prime location of the New City, but she hasn't gone back there for years. For her, this was her 'home'.
She opened the blinds through the room's management system, vermilion sunset light entered the room.
As expected of a view from over hundred and ten metres above the ground. The view over the city was perfect. Haya took off her uniform's jacket and took out water from refrigerator, she sat down on a massage chair that has been taking care of her lately.
There's no work to do, so let's take it slow for now.
The company has been frequently dealing with large-scale structure problems recently, Haya already completed the tasks given to her.
At this time, she was able to enjoy a little bit of free time. Of course, unless she's entrusted with new work.
〈"Master. Do you mind if I materialized?"〉
From the projector the bracelet-type terminal attached to Haya's wrist was equipped with, the AI・Iolite's figure was projected. The figure projected was not the usual fairy-scale, but life-size comparable to that of Haya's.
"It's unusual for you to appear in this size. What made you change your mind?"
〈"I just feel like it, there's nothing in particular."〉
"...is that so."
Iora could freely change the size she appeared in. That's because other than 'navigation' purpose, she was intended to be 'the owner's friend'...
"This appearance, it's just like her..."
Asumi Aoko. A researcher affiliated with Kiritou and the co-developer of Iolite. Also, the one and only friend of Haya's.
A girl who was forced into researching things she didn't want to because of her talent, used and broken.
〈"Master, look at this dammit."〉
As Haya immersed herself in the sentiment while remembering the past, Iora held out a window towards her. On it 'Periodic test's expected problems 's exercise book' was written.
"What happened, this is?"
〈"You're going to tutor Taiga in his home tomorrow right? I've summarized the trends over the past few years, use it."〉
"...you made it by yourself?"
As Iora revealed a proud smile, Haya couldn't hide her surprise.
One month ago she noticed that Iora's emotions were developing, but for her to evolve to the point of 'doing something for someone else's sake'.
I allowed her to roam freely a while ago... it seems like it was a good stimulus.
Since she was busy and couldn't take care of her, there was no choice but to do so.
〈"It's your memorable first date. Failure is unforgivable."〉
...weird. A strange term appeared.
"Wait a little. First what?"
〈"Ain't that a damn date?"〉
"What did you misunderstand to come up with such an answer..."
〈"But Master's goin' to a man's home, that kind of crap never happened before has it?"〉
After being told that, she realized that was certainly true. As far as her memory went back, she didn't remember going over to a friend's place to play, even Aoko who was her best friend lived in the same headquarters building. ...though, that didn't make Taiga special in any way.
It's been a while since she was able to rest.
But with just a single call, her leisure time has been crushed. As she lowered her eyelids dozing off, a window opened on the corner of her field of vision and she jumped up seeing the caller's name.
She silenced Iora with a gesture and cooled her mind off by taking a breath few times.
Deeper and deeper, she buried her own self in the darkness. The one who was in here was the daughter of Kiritou Group's president, a researcher——she used her routine self-suggestion like that.
〈"It's me, head to the third conference room immediately."〉
An overbearing voice shook her eardrum without any greeting. She was instructed without being given any reason and thought of a possibility that caught her heart.
〈"I sent you a written notice. Carry it out as soon as possible."〉
The call ended with a minimal exchange of words.
Talking back to even the most unreasonable of instructions was unforgivable. Haya's father——Kiritou Kouya's words were an absolute chain in that it tied her mind.
〈"Is it work?"〉
"Yeah... I need to stay up all night, it can't be helped."
She checked the written directive sent by e-mail and let out a small sigh.
It was possible that it would take until noon tomorrow——until the appointed time. Guessing that, Iora's expression clouded over slightly.
〈"Will you cancel tomorrow's study session?"〉
"...no, it's fine."
Haya shook her head lightly.
Honestly, that was a quite tough schedule but... she didn't want the exercise book Iora went through so much trouble making to go to waste.
"I'll finish on time somehow. Will you help me?"
With Iora on her shoulder, Haya went down the headquarters building by elevator.
*slooshhh*, a cool sound of waves rang out.
The upcoming waves wet Taiga's feet and bounced off after finding resistance.
It was the sea.
Waves appeared on the crystal clear greenish water moved by the wind, it shone brilliantly reflecting the light of sun it was showered with. Pure white sand spread far and wide, it was white like chalk and hot, raising the body temperature through the soles of his feet.
By the way, it was still May. Too fast for the beach to be open for use.
"...well, it's the virtual world. I guess there are things like these as well."
Taiga looked up at the sun that radiated heat without any mercy and squinted.
What he was wearing wasn't his usual long coat, instead he was wearing black trunks.
Why was he in a place like this——he recalled what happened a few minutes earlier.
After finishing his morning practice he went straight to 《Aries》 after being invited over by Rui.
And the place she told him to come through 〈Transition〉 push was here——a new area 《Emerald Sea》 that was supposed to be implemented next week. Only ten people in all of Aries, namely people with an S-rank, were able to experience the area before it came out.
And thus, four people used that right together with her, coming to play in the sea.
However, there was only Taiga in this place at the moment. The other three told him to wait and left after passing him data for the trunks.
I can imagine what they are doing but... did they really have to move away for that?
He had first hand experience, unlike in reality changing clothes took only a moment. It didn't expose anything.
Even so, they moved all the way to disappear from his sight despite not needing to do so...
...I can't calm down.
It felt as if a heavy blow dealt to him was postponed.
And then, the terminal's window opened as he received a call. He was suspicious after seeing the caller's name, but he immediately answered.
"What is it Leon?"
〈"Heya. Got a moment?"〉
The person displayed on the screen was an older man——Leon.
A player he got acquainted with when he toured Aries together with Shio two weeks earlier, leader of a clan named 《Lion Alliance》. He was one of few acquaintances of the same gender he had, so he stayed in touch with him occasionally ever since the incident happened.
〈"There's something I'm worried about. You were investigating the 《Angel》 weren't you?"〉
"Yeah. You got something?"
《Angel》——the unidentified virtual body that was the culprit during the incident with Shio.
Its purpose was unknown. Nevertheless, Taiga instinctively recognized it as 'enemy'. Although he asked Leon to continue gathering information about it, there wasn't any movements.
〈"It seems like it's on the move big time. Various programs made by 《Angel》 appear not only in 《Aries》 but also other multiple large-scale structures. This time it's attack-configured programs, and the rate at which it spreading is far beyond how it was last time."〉
〈"Yeah, their performance is pretty good and I've seen an abundance of types out there when I recently looked around the city centre. For the time being I thought I'd tell you information on 《Angel》. "〉
After receiving Leon's report, Taiga started wondering.
Attack-configured programs were something essential to a large-scale structure. Although the most basic ones were given to people from the management, after getting used to those, people look for ones that have a better performance. That's why 《Angel》's actions would be considered 'a godsend' by players.
But simply because Taiga knew Shio's case, he felt anxious over what 《Angel》's real purpose was.
"...can you obtain one of these attack-configured programs? As soon as possible."
As Taiga requested that, Leon put a hand on his chin and thought.
〈"...even if I hurry, it might take a while."〉
"Got it. Then how about three times?"
He'll help them out in combat three times——he agreed on helping 《Lion Alliance》 when they were short of battle potential, that was the deal he made. When asking Leon for a favour, that's the method Taiga used. He already familiarized himself with it and he already got acquainted with all the members of 《Lion Alliance》.
〈"Now then, I'll send you a mail if I manage to get one safely."〉
And after that concise exchange of words, he cut the call.
If 《Angel》 was on the move, that wasn't a good thing. That's the feeling he had. He had to stay vigilant.
"Sorry for the wait〜."
And then, he was called from behind. He turned to look behind——and was at a loss for words. I'm glad to be here. He thought that from the bottom of his heart.
"Sorry, there were some formalities so it took longer."
"Nn... ah, no. You didn't make me wait."
"Really? That's good then."
It was just like her, Rui was wearing a bright yellow swimsuit and had a lovely smile on her face as she said that.
There wasn't much difference in the amount of exposure between this and her usual clothes when it came to the bottom of the swimsuit, as it was almost the same as the hot pants she usually wears. However, the upper body was a big problem. An unrivaled among the same age group of people abundant bulge was enclosed by a triangular bikini that obviously had not enough cloth on it, soft flesh was protruding from its sides.
"Muu... Brother, how's Little Sister's swimsuit? Is it charming?"
Fuyuki had notice where Taiga's line of sight was stuck, and said with a threatening tone. She urged Rui to step aside and moved in front instead. Incomparable with that of Rui's, his little sister's limbs were underdeveloped. She wore a black bikini.
Both the upper and lower parts were similar, there was an awkwardly small amount of cloth, at first glance it seemed like it didn't suit Fuyuki. However, that imbalance showcased her bewitching qualities that were hidden before.
As the girls showed off their dazzling figures, Taiga obviously averted his eyes.
However, the two of them weren't pleased with such an attitude and closed the distance on him. He took a step back reflexively.
"Brother, I won't tell you to stare a hole in us, but not looking at all is rude."
"That's right〜. Feedback please!"
"Y-you two look great."
"We're not looking for such a bland answer. What you think about Shii-chan——hey, Shii-chan?"
Prompted by Fuyuki, Taiga looked at Shio who was a bit further away.
Shio hasn't heard the trio's conversation and was still staring at the sea.
"Waa〜! So this is the sea...!"
Seeing an emerald sea spreading as far as she could see, she was filled with curiosity like a child.
"...your eyes are sparkling."
"Speaking of which, this is the first time for you to visit a beach. Last time Little Sister was on one was eight years ago. How about Brother?"
"It's my first time on a beautiful one like this."
That was the concept, 《Emerald Sea》 had an atmosphere like a resort.
Tropical trees, dazzling sun. The temperature was adjusted to be warm but not too hot, the perfect environment for spending time was maintained.
"Hey hey, can I go in already?"
"Ah, yes. Sure you can."
Without even waiting for an answer, Shio rushed into the sea impatiently.
At first she was fearful of it, but soon enough she proceeded into water until her legs were completely covered with water and she released the strength in her limbs, allowing herself to float on water..
Her face melted and changed into a relaxed one.
"Somewhat, she seems really refreshed."
"Oh, Shii-chan... let's surprise her a bit."
Fuyuki submerged slightly and approached Shio while making sure she isn't noticed, it was a pitiful sight as Shio's face floating on seawater was relaxed and she was enjoying herself. Shio's balance immediately broke and she sank into the sea hitting the seafloor with her bottom.
"Come on, let's join them Taiga."
"Haaa! Let's play around todaaay!"
Rui pulled Taiga by his hand and they went into the sea together.
He didn't know how long it's been since then.
Taiga went back to the beach alone and sat down under a palm tree on which he rested his back, he absent-mindedly watched the girls play in water.
...they're having lots of fun.
At the moment they were using rented water guns (they looked very similar to real ones) and were shooting at each other.
As far he could see, Fuyuki was losing. Rui was good at sports and Shio could be considered as someone who's familiar with shooting.
By the way, Taiga didn't join the battle, if he did it would no longer be a fair match.
Even if moving in water was harder than on the land, there was no reason to get hit by a mass of water that moved slower than live ammunition. Even if he held himself back, he would instinctively switch into combat mode were a muzzle to be aimed at him because of the way the water guns looked.
I can't even play around... what am I doing.
He stared at his own hands, to be exact he looked towards lower part of his wrist. A gunshot wound on his real flesh——although it was a very small wound that didn't stand out——but there was an old wound there.
A scar of the past.
As he was casually enjoying his everyday life, a heavy thought weighed on his mind.
You don't belong to this place——he heard a whisper like that.
Tenryo Taiga wasn't a good person who should spend his days in such a warm and clean place like this. He knew very well that he wasn't qualified to do that.
Even so, he hoped that he's able to stay in this place, he blamed his weak heart for that.
"Thinking about something? Your face is really dark?"
As he raised his face, he saw Fuyuki who must have left the sea before he noticed it and stood next to him. Water droplets were dripping down from her glossy black hair and fell on the pure white sandy beach.
"Where's Rui and Shio?"
"They're doing swimming training. Shii-chan doesn't know how to swim, so Rucchan is teaching her."
In the direction Fuyuki glanced to, Shio who was being pulled by Rui desperately repeated flutter kicks. Her movements were still stiff and weren't good enough to be complimented.
He watched that for a while.
When her practice time with Rui finished and Shio began to swim without aid, Fuyuki grasped his arm all of a sudden.
"...Brother, accompany me for a while."
She said that and began walking without waiting for his answer. Moreover, they went in a direction opposite from the sea.
"Hey, where are we going?"
"Further away... somewhere where we won't be disturbed."
The second part of the sentence was too quiet, so Taiga didn't hear it.
Fuyuki continued to walk to a distant part of the beach and finally stopped when both Rui and Shio were no longer visible.
"It should be all right over here. Yup."
She manipulated a window and extracted a light blue sheet and laid it down on the ground. After that she manipulated the window again taking out a small green bottle.
After it was passed to Taiga, he opened it and a flowery aroma tickled his nostrils.
"Hee... hey, Fuyuki! What are you doing?!"
As Taiga looked up after looking at the vial, he saw Fuyuki turned with her back to him and removed the top of her swimsuit. There was nothing covering her small and white back.
Taiga looked away in a hurry, Fuyuki lay face down on the sheet and murmured seductively to him.
"Please rub the aroma oil on my body. Of course, with your bare hands."
Suddenly his thoughts were thrown into confusion.
Seeing him like that Fuyuki repeated.
"This is something that has to be applied by hand. There are places Little Sister can't reach, can you do me this favour?"
"Ask Rui or Shio to do it!"
"Oh dear, you won't understand unless I explain it to you, will you."
Fuyuki puckered her lips dissatisfied and shook her hair off her back as she admonished him.
"I want Brother to rub it on me."
He started stammering as she looked at him.
Taiga had no willpower to resist her seduction.
"Come, hurry up."
Invited by her, he knelt beside her.
He swallowed his saliva as he closed on to her pure white back and tilted the vial, golden liquid poured onto palm of his hand. It was more viscous than expected and it was sticking to his fingers.
After splashing some of the sticky liquid on her back, he touched it. It must've been cold since Fuyuki leaked out a small voice.
While being flustered as her soft skin sucked his fingers in, he spread the oil while stroking her back.
"Brother, rub it on more firmly."
When he pressed the palms of his hands against her skin more boldly, the viscous liquid spread between his hand and her soft skin. The sweet flowery aroma drifted towards him and his thinking had been clouded over.
"Do it on the sides too, please apply it so that there's no places uncovered by it."
Her whisper penetrated his hazy consciousness, he slid his fingertips towards her sides.
Taiga's breath has already been turbulent and rough. It was the same for Fuyuki, whenever he touched a sensitive place, she raised a lovely moan, but since he didn't pay attention, he continued to slowly move his fingers.
The moment he slid his finger further to the side, his fingers sank in softly. An exceptionally sweet voice leaked out from Fuyuki's mouth.
Uwaa... this is——!!
His consciousness returned and he realized where he was touching, he moved his fingers away in a hurry.
The place mentioned earlier where he rubbed the oil on was Fuyuki's humble chest, it was shiny and the way it looked could be called obscene.
"...any more... is impossible..."
Then, Fuyuki suddenly hugged onto him.
He was caught off guard completely and unable to resist, she pushed him down on the sheet.
Fuyuki's hands wound around Taiga's neck and her bare breasts pressed onto his chest. He realized the identity of two hard spots in the centre of her breast and the inside of his head turned white.
"Onii... Little Sister can't hold back any longer..."
Her whisper seeped into his thoughts like poison.
His heart was pounding fast and hard as if it wanted to tear out from his chest, all the senses in his body were roused as he touched her body. His blood was boiling and his brain was dizzy so he couldn't think of anything.
Not good. This situation is... the worst.
He needs to hurry and pull away, if he's too late——
"...let's entangle together until we're all sticky and mushy...?"
The sweet voice melted away his reason with ease.
Motivated by urge that rose within him, he hugged her thin body strongly. Fuyuki in his arms let out a happy voice and sweetly rubbed her body on his.
He could no longer stop.
With lust burning in his heart, he wanted to devour this lovely girl until she's exhausted——
"...eh? Where did they go? Heeey, Fuyuki! Taiga〜!"
They couldn't afford to be seen like this——he thought that and regained composure all at once. He released Fuyuki and turned away quickly as not to look at her skin colour.
"H-hurry up and put the top on. They're coming."
Silence, no response. Fuyuki's frustrated gaze pierced his back, but he couldn't afford to let himself be shaken.
"...Onii's reasoning is weird. You went back to normal too fast."
Fuyuki opened a window and put the top on with it, she stored both the sheet and aroma oil as well. She went back towards Rui who was looking for them.
"...reasoning? Don't be stupid."
As he sent her back off, he grumbled softly.
"I'm completely done in right now."
He took a deep breath, and even as he released it the heat in his body wouldn't cool down. With nowhere to escape, feelings inside Taiga ran amok.
He couldn't cover it up any longer.
Tenryo Taiga was seeking Tenryo Fuyuki as someone of opposite sex.
If that happens again, he will be unable to restrain himself——he continued to breathe again and again, desperately trying to calm himself down.
Wrapped in the pitch black darkness, in an unknown location. In the empty world light didn't enter, an unpleasant sound that seemed like a swirling mood echoed.
The source of the sound, was a water inlet.
The scene of the cloudy liquids that filled it rubbing against each other would disgust anyone with a decent amount of sensibility and morals.
"...hmm. Looks like it's going well."
Next to it stood a virtual body covered by a white robe.
The pure white outfit was shining conspicuously in the darkness of the abyss. Originally that colour should blow away the darkness, but something like a black pollution was sticking to it. It was reminiscent to how moths flock to light.
It murmured a short command.
All the liquid collected at one point, and started to move eerily as if it had its own will. Spiraling, the pollution became more viscous and slowly hardened, shaping an armour of darkness soon enough.
Jet black knight 《Zygote》.
It made Taiga and Rui suffer in the past, a virus program with high combat capability. Even one of them would be powerful enough, but soon after two, three of them were produced.
The pure white virtual body gloated over it as 《Zygote》s appeared.
"It'll take few days until I have enough fighting force, will it. And then I'll break through security... fufu, it won't be easy."
Preparations were progressing steadily. If there was to be one thing that could stop it, it was——
"...Tenryo Taiga, eh."
That boy crossed its mind.
There was no reason for it, but it was instinctively convinced of it——that he will stand in its way.
To be honest, Tenryo Taiga alone wasn't that much of a threat. But his little sister Tenryo Fuyuki was different.
It was reminded of her abilities she displayed the other day. She could be the one who could stop its plan.
"Let's prepare some countermeasures."
Even if it was the slightest possibility, it had to be crushed.
《Angel》 formed another black knight, which disappeared soon after, as if melting into the darkness.