Arifureta Shokugyou de Sekai Saikyou (WN)

Chapter 446 Tortus Travel Journal ? Won’t You Become XX Too?
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Chapter 446 Tortus Travel Journal ? Won’t You Become XX Too?

After learning about Myuu’s unexpected talent and the basis of her shooting sense, Yue and others were chasing around Shizuku, Aiko, and also Liliana in jealousy and wishing to take them down with them by making them trying their hands on shooting too. Meanwhile,

「Let’s stop there, we’re going to watch Shizuku’s trial now~」

「Wait a second Hajime-kun. It’s unfair that only Myuu-chan is allowed to shoot.」

Hajime urged everyone to move on with the trip while smiling wryly, but someone interrupted him.

A rugged hand grasped Hajime’s shoulder firmly. It was Koichi-san, making a stern face like a tough veteran middle-age detective that was often portrayed in detective drama of the olden days.

「Yes? What do you mean?」

「What do you mean what, that’s horrible. Haven’t I kept asking you since before to allow me to try my hand on shooting various firearm?」

「A-aa, that’s true.」

It started when Hajime visited Yaegashi family for the first time. At that time he drove back the disciples who attacked him using non-lethal bullet. After that while he was talking about Shizuku at Tortus, Hajime also took the chance to actually showed his weapon to her family.

The reason why he did that was partly because Shuuzou and others had also shown him numerous ninja tools──not, but weapons of ancient Japanese martial arts. Hajime was allowed to try using them and after that they asked him to show them his weapons too.

Yaegashi family’s interest and curiosity toward weapon was something that was far beyond a normal family.

「I held back at Japan because the right place and preparation would be needed for giving your weapons a try.」

「Aa~, sorry I guess. I completely thought it was just some kind of small talk.」

「That’s horrible, even though I was completely serious」

「No, Kirino-san and Shuuzou-san were also saying “Yeah, I want to try shooting gatling gun at least once” while laughing. They were clearly saying that jokingly so……」

「I was serious.」

「I-I see.」

「Umu. When the other world trip was decided, I rejoiced because I thought I’ll finally be able to experience using super weapon but……the chance for shooting didn’t come at all. We’re going to the western sea at the end, so I was looking forward to be able to do it there.」

「You could simply ask me for that anytime though.」

「Our schedule for this trip is jampacked. I can’t ask for something selfish just for me alone.」

「O-ou」

Hajime felt complicated inside his heart asking why Koichi’s common sense was only applied there while,

「No, you could ask me like yesterday night for example.」

「Making loud noises during night is simply thoughtless.」

「So you’re applying common senses for that part」

In the end Hajime’s thought slipped out from his mouth. In respond Koichi-san spewed a delusion 「I’m always acting with common sense though?」 with a very serious face.

「How can you give a chance to shoot just to Myuu-chan while knowing about my feeling……」

「What’s with that line that sounded like a jealous maiden? As expected it’s making me shudder.」

「Otou-san, what is a mature adult like you are saying?」

Shizuku had returned without them noticing. Or rather, Yue and others had also heard the conversation here and stopped the chase. Everyone else was also watching. Especially Myuu. Her gaze was busily moving back and forth between the improvised Donne~r on her hand and Koichi-ojisan.

「I can’t hold back anymore (after being shown such heated gunfight and Myuu’s shooting). Hajime-kun! I want you to respond to my urge!」

「I can imagine the part that was omitted from that line! But it’s still scary hearing just the words that were actually said! For now can you please let go of my shoulders!?」

Koichi’s eyes were also bloodshot while he was also breathing heavily.

It seemed that Koichi-san was a gun loving uncle to a degree that far surpassed everyone’s imagination.

The parents and also the girls were dumbfounded because of the complete difference between this Koichi and the quite and fundamentally composed Koichi in their image.

Shizuku couldn’t bear to watch anymore and pulled at her father to drag him away.

「Otou-san, you’re acting disgusting!! Let go of Hajime!」

「No way! We’re going to the western sea tomorrow right!? I won’t be able to sleep tonight like this! Just a bit is fine! My hands definitely won’t let go until I’m allowed to shoot!」

「Don’t be childish! It’s embarrassing so stop it!!」

The stern looking uncle who was at the middle of his forties was throwing a tantrum like a little kid……

No wonder it made his daughter so embarrassed. Shizuku’s face was bright red. Even though they were going to watch her unvarnished past after this, she was already receiving mental attack from here as an appetizer.

Shizuku hugged Koichi from behind and tried to tear him off Hajime, but Koichi didn’t even give an inch as though he was a stone statue that weighed several tons. It seemed he was resisting by skillfully moving his center of gravity. What a pointless way of using such technique. So childish.

That was just how much Koichi’s gun maniac soul had gotten stimulated by the parade of Hajime’s transcendental Gun Kata battle.

It was similar with how Gunda* lover uncle would get wildly enthusiastic in high spirit when there was some kind of new work coming out. The charm of Gunda* was similar with the Force. Sometimes it would show human the way to enrich their life, but at the same time it was also hiding the risk of being led toward the dark side……

「Koichi. This year too you went hunting in the mountain during the start of the hunting season right? Using hunting gun.」

It was just as Shuuzou said. Koichi also possessed hunting license and permit to possess hunting gun. In the first place Yaegashi family possessed a ton of sharp tools, but even all those things had been processed to have official permit.

「Or rather, dear. You even went until abroad during your long vacation to experience shooting.」

Kirino-okaasan said that with a gaze that was filled with exasperation. In respond to that, Koichi answered with a serious face again just as expected.

「Trigger is something that you can keep pulling how many times you like.」

「Don’t speak like a trigger happy person!」

Of course Shizuku retorted even while doing her best 「Nnnn-」 to tear off her father from Hajime. And of course Koichi-san didn’t stop.

「What’s more this is a hybrid magic firearm you know? Do you think there will be a chance to fire gatling and 88 mm in normal life?」

「Listen to what people are saying Otou-san……」

「I’ve been idolizing commando and Rambo from a long time ago……」

「I know that. You’re gathering that kind of movie or model gun as hobby.」

「That was why I even thought of abandoning my family and moved to abroad when I was young.」

「I, don’t know that.」

「It’s also Okaa-san’s first time hearing that.」

「Me too.」

Oh? A secret of Koichi-san that even everyone in Yaegashi family didn’t know about……?

As expected it seemed the mind of the gun lover uncle was running wild from seeing the transcendental gunfight. He confessed the secret inside his heart from when he was young that he actually didn’t need to say, or rather he didn’t plan to say at all before this.

「I also felt greatly lost when marrying Kirino. I thought that at this rate my life will end as a citizen of Japan where the strictness of gun regulation is world top class. That this is to be my life’s graveyard.」

「Dear, you had that kind of thought?」

Kirino-san’s eyes were twitching! Sumire and Kaoruko and also Akiko were groaning 「Uwaa」 while drawing away from him. They looked toward Kirino-san with an expression that was at a loss of what to say.

「When I pushed my stamp on the marriage registration……fuh, my hand shook. That was because I was conflicted until the very end, whether to live together with Kirino, or to live together with gun.」

「I don’t want to hear it, this kind of secret of my parent.」

「Kirino, lower down that kunai.」

「Move aside. I can’t kill my husband with you in my way.」

It seemed that Kirino-san got compared with a gun in the past and furthermore it was a really close match. Even though they married each other based in love, she never thought that her love rival was actually “gun” of all thing. She couldn’t hide her shock of that. Their marriage was in danger.

「Fuh, really, this so called mistake of the youth is hard to accept.」

「Say dear. Can you tell me which one is it that you think as a mistake? Depending on your answer, I might give the gatling gun shooting experience a try myself. With you as the target!」

It’s okay, you can come back from death with Kaori-chan here! Kirino-san said with the corner of her eyes raised. The danger to their marriage was getting severe.

How did it turn out like this? Even though they should be coming here in order to see their daughter’s trial with their own eyes, the parents were going through their own trial instead. The husband was suicidally exposing “his negative part (?)” on his own……

「……Hajime, could it be that Vandre’s mechanism is operating?」

「…………No, I don’t feel anything like that.」

Yue looked around restlessly. She recalled how Vandre warned them at the labyrinth “Don’t come here just for sightseeing!” while being wary against the dungeon’s mechanism, but it seemed that it was just her needless fear.

「I never saw uncle acting like this before……」

「Koichi-dono looked like the very picture of warrior, someone who excelled in disciplining himself but……this art unexpected.」

「Well, it’s not like I can’t understand how you can unconsciously get high tensioned when something that you really love get involved.」

The eyes of Tio and also Kaori who had known Koichi for long turned into dot from seeing his current state. Shia alone looked like she could sympathize with him just for a bit. The bike loving girl Shia too would change completely and become like the child of wind the instant she straddled her beloved vehicle, so perhaps she was really similar with him.

「Umm, papa. Here, Myuu return it……nano」

「O-ou」

Myuu quietly held out the improvised Donneer~ to papa.

She kept glancing at the side where Koichi finally got torn away from Hajime after his wife broke his control of his center of gravity. In the end he even got slammed on the ground hard with a magnificent shoulder throw.

Her eyes spoke of her feeling more eloquently than anything.

Which was, I mustn’t become like that……

「Perhaps, this is a good thing. After all with this Myuu-chan too now know how scary gun is.」

「No Kaoruko. I think the scariness of gun isn’t in something like that though……」

No matter how talented she was, having a child carrying a gun was just……that was the impression of Shirasaki husband and wife, the owner of extremely sensible good sense. They were slightly relieved because Koichi’s passion served as a good example of what not to do.

「By the way, Myuu.」

「Myu?」

Hajime disassembled Donneer~ back into the base material while saying something.

「It seems Remia’s favorite is gatling.」

「!?」

「Hajime-san!?」

「She did her usual my my ufufu while blasting it with ecstatic expression. Though you couldn’t see it that time from where you were standing.」

「Is there any need to say that!?」

「M-mama is also like Koichi-ojisan……?」

「Y-you’re wrong Myuu. Mama wasn’t excited or anything!」

「……Really?」

Remia’s gaze wandered around when her daughter stared fixedly *jii-* on her. And then,

「M-my my──」

「Don’t laugh to avoid the question nano.」

「──Uffuuh」

Remia let out a strange voice while quietly averting her gaze. It seemed Myuu’s excessively straightforward gaze made her resigned herself and she confessed.

「…………Just a little, it was really just a little but, okay? …………It might, felt good, okay?」

It seemed that she felt pleasure that time. A fragment of Remia-san’s hidden fetish came to light.

「Papa, Myuu won’t lose against gun!」

「Mama also didn’t lose that time! Myuu!」

Remia-san fell on her knees and took Myuu’s little hands before she desperately tried to convince her. It was an extremely rare sight that was unthinkable coming from her usually extremely composed figure. It made everyone’s eyes to widen in astonishment. Even Kirino who was putting her husband into triangle choke and Koichi who was continuing to throw a tantrum while being triangle choked were returning to their senses.

「It looks like even Koichi-san has calmed down thanks to Remia’s noble sacrifice……」

「Hajime-san, let’s have a small talk later okay?」

「Kirino-san too, let’s stop here seeing that it’s a past matter.」

「……It can’t be helped.」

「Koichi-san, the plan is to relax at the beach of the western sea tomorrow. I promise that you’ll be able to experience shooting there. And so I ask you a favor to prioritize the sightseeing for now.」

「U-umu. My apologies. I got a bit too heated up there.」

Koichi looked a bit guilty, Kirino was making a slightly scary stare, and Remia was smiling bitterly while Hajime opened a “gate” for real this time.

「For some reason it feels unpleasant to have my past watched in this kind of atmosphere……」

Shizuku whispered with a very conflicted look, but Yue and Kaori each took a hold of her arm from both sides.

「……I won’t let you. Because this is the trial that I’m most curious about.」

「Yeah. You already explained about it verbally before, but as expected, the moment Shizuku-chan confessed to Hajime-kun, I want to actually see it! Let’s see it!」

It seemed that for Yue and others, it was Shizuku’s trial that was the one they were the most curious about.

Shia, Tio, even Liliana and Aiko were also nodding furiously.

「I’m really glad that I managed to wake up before reaching Shizuku’s trial. ……The Shizuku who I knew should absolutely never confess to Hajime-san even if she became aware of her romantic feeling to him. Not only that, she should be condemning herself for feeling like that. After all you’re someone who keep prioritizing other people so much that it pain me just from watching it.」

「That’s true. You’re able to suppress your own feeling like it’s only natural……that’s certainly a type of kindness but……I was worried that it would explode in a bad way sooner or later.」

「Lily, Ai-chan-sensei……」

Aiko said 「Even though it should be my role to guide you so that won’t happen……in the end you solved it by yourself. Really, I’m simply useless」 with her shoulders drooping in dejection.

Shizuku looked partly happy and partly embarrassed that the two of them could feel concerned so accurately about Shizuku’s negative part that was brought about by the trial’s whisper. It made her heart felt ticklish that she scratched her cheek awkwardly.

「Now then Koichi, Kirino. Shift your mood back on track. After all the past that we’re going to see after this is something that we too need to be resolved for to watch.」

Shuuzou said that and took the lead to pass through the “gate”. Koichi and Kirino also fixed their expression and went to the next room with a subdued atmosphere.

「Really, I don’t want everyone to be so tense like that though. Say Hajime, can you provide everyone with popcorn and cola again?」

「Weren’t you in the verge of dying when I arrived? I don’t think there’s anyone where who can eat and drink while watching the process of how things turned out like that you know?」

「Uu」

Shizuku passed through the “gate” with her back being pushed by Hajime who was smiling wryly.

Kaori and others also followed behind them. And then they came to a realization. That Hajime’s words of “almost dying” were actually meaning exactly that and not a metaphor at all.

They realized that what happened in Shizuku’s trial was even more dire than Kaori’s trial, and they shouldn’t watch it with the expectation of watching an opening scene for a confession event to Hajime.

.

.

.

.

.

Shizuku’s trial began with fierce but beautiful sword fighting.

An exchange of technique against technique. Countless sword lines that could even be called beautiful were dancing wildly to every direction. Sparks bloomed profusely in the air.

「If Hajime’s battle is like Holliwood’s action movie, Shizuku-chan’s battle should be called a historical play’s sword fight.」

「It’s thanks to Yue-chan slowing the past replay that even our amateur eyes can catch up with their techniques.」

Shuu and Sumire were enthralled by the battle of the fake pure white Shizuku and the past Shizuku. Their admiration was clear to see from their sparkling eyes.

「I already knew since you were little that Shizuku-chan is good with sword but……this is amazing. Shizuku-chan’s way of fighting looks like the one that has the most technique.」

「Yes. Sorry to Hajime-kun and Kaori and the others but……this is my first time seeing a fight that made me want to call it as “beautiful”.」

「Y-you are exaggerating Oji-san, Oba-san……」

The Shirasaki couples often came together with Kaori to kendo tournament to cheer for Shizuku ever since they were little. Hearing their impression once more like this made Shizuku twirled the tip of her ponytail with her finger shyly.

But the two’s impression wasn’t an exaggeration at all, which was clear from a glance at the expressions of the other spectators.

「Umu umu. Certainly it’s just as Kaoruko-dono said, this art beautiful. Any technique that hath passed a certain boundary and reached the height will be beautiful no matter what they art.」

That was why, there was no need for her to be humble. Certainly Shizuku’s “martial art” was something magnificent that looked “beautiful” to anyone, Tio said with a fond look in her face. Next after her, Liliana also looked toward Shizuku with a similar expression and said.

「That’s right. Even after Kaori went together with Hajime-san and others, Shizuku kept training harder than anyone in the palace. Since that time, watching Shizuku became my secret enjoyment.」

「Eh? Is that so?」

「Yes. The line that your sword drew in the air, and even Shizuku’s figure that was like dancing while swinging the sword, they were so pretty that it felt like my heart was cleansed from watching.」

Shizuku became even more embarrassed. Liliana suddenly smiled complacently to her.

「Especially after you received that black katana from Hajime-san. Your technique became even more refined──」

「Well, the saber that the kingdom gave me also wasn’t bad, but as expected handling a katana was the easiest……」

「But even more than that, you looked happy because it was a gift from Hajime-san──」

「Lily?」

「Sometimes you would suddenly grin while staring at the black katana──」

「Lily!?」

「Like during a break, you would hold it like hugging it tightly──」

「Lilyyyy-!!」

「And when a cat barged in, you would talk to it while adding nya at the end of your sentence──」

「That’s unrelated isn’t it!!?」

「Really Shizuku-chan! Geez! You’re just so cute!!」

「Kaoriii-!!」

「Shizuku-oneechan is a maiden nano~~~」

「Nnmyuuuuu-!!」

Perhaps at the end there she wasn’t calling Myuu’s name but screaming from her embarrassment breaking through the roof. She swiftly wrapped her ponytail around her head to hide her bright red face. Kaori and Myuu were grinning besides Shizuku who was activating her pony cocoon guard while poking at her cheeks.

In any case, the parade of stunning sword techniques that had weight of history behind them coupled with the fact that it was an exchange between two swordswomen from the same school were making the spectators heart to dance in excitement of different vector than Hajime’s battle.

「……How nicee」

「Eh!? My fake’s appearance also hit the spot with Hajime──」

「This exchange of extraordinary slashes between katana……it’s filled with romance. It’s a way of fighting that I can’t do so I admire it.」

「……Aa, that huh.」

「……Hajime, bad! Meh!」(Note: Meh is a tone that Japanese people often used when scolding pet or kid)

「Your reaction is too weak only when it’s Shizuku-san! That’s horrible desuu!」

Yue and Shia slapped his arms from both sides. Hajime returned to his senses and blinked.

「Aa~. No, look. I’m watching her closely.」

「「Even so!」」

Have a care with maiden’s heart, Yue and Shia said while directing reproachful gazes toward him, so Hajime smiled wryly toward Shizuku who was observing his reaction through the gap of her ponytail cocoon while apologizing obediently.

「My bad my bad. It’s not like I’m disinterested with the white Shizuku. It’s just the fight captivated me even more than that.」

Look, it’s because I only saw the last attack the last time, Hajime said with a troubled expression. Shizuku immediately removed her ponytail guard. Her cheeks were still blushing. The word “captivated” that Hajime said wasn’t a lie at all and it was conveyed to her. It seemed she was satisfied with that for the moment.

Beside her,

「Ee~rr, Kirino-san? Shuuzou-san and Koichi-san too……are you three alright?」

Akiko hesitantly asked. Only the Yaegashi family members were enveloped in slightly stinging atmosphere. Perhaps it was just to be expected. They wouldn’t take off their eyes from Shizuku’s fight even for a moment. Their expression also didn’t twitch at the slightest since the battle started. They were the very picture of seriousness.

「Akiko-san, right now is a bit……」

「I see……yes, that’s true.」

Remia shook her head with a faint smile. Akiko too understood the implicit meaning of that and took a step back to watch over the Yaegashi family quietly.

Right after that, it finally cut in between the gap of the wonderful exchange of sword techniques. The moment the fake exposed the heart of the challenger.

『I actually don’t want to do something like swordsmanship. I actually wanted to wear frilly western clothes that look cute rather than dougi or kimono. I didn’t need something like bamboo sword. I wanted to have cute dolls and sparkly accessories!』

That was undoubtedly the true feeling that Shizuku never expressed openly. Shuuzou and the others narrowed their eyes grimly. Their cheeks stiffened from gritting their teeth.

Shizuku had suppressed her true feeling in order to answer her family’s expectation and she also got teased by the girls her age because she was close with Kouki.

The many thoughtless words that were stabbed into her childish heart must be resurrected at the back of mind regardless of what she wanted. Shizuku’s expression started showing bitterness and pain. The fake was slowly pushing her back.

「I think, the me at that time was chaining up myself. I told myself that I have to be like this, I convinced myself about those things on my own. Really……I’m glad that I met Kaori.」

「Shizuku-chan……」

「She even charged into our dojo and yelled the things that I couldn’t say straightforwardly and without any reservation. Fufu」

「B-because, at that time I thought that Shizuku-chan was forced, so it made me snapped……」

Of course Shuuzou and the others never forced Shizuku to do anything.

Whether it was Shizuku cutting her heart short and evenly, or her buying nothing but active and easy to move in clothing, or her spending a lot of time training, she did all of those by her own volition.

If Shizuku just told them a single sentence “I want to do this” for something other than training, they would surely not refuse her even if their eyes would widen from surprise.

「But, that courage and kindness of yours saved me. It’s a bit embarrassing to say it again but……thank you, Kaori.」

「……No. It’s me who have to thank you for meeting me, Shizuku-chan. You always covered up for my recklessness or anything that I’m hopeless with……if I didn’t have Shizuku-chan at my side, I believe that I would make some kind of big blunder someday somewhere.」

Shizuku and Kaori spontaneously took each other’s hands and stared into each other’s eyes.

「I-I can see lilies blooming profusely behind them desuu」

「This art the usual for them.」

「This is what you called “Daww, so precious!” just like papa and Yue-oneechan’s “pink colored world” nano!」

「The extent of Myuu-chan’s vocabulary is rapidly leaning toward a certain subculture……will she be alright at school?」

「It seems she at least has a lot of friends there……」

Aiko and Remia worried for Myuu, but their gazes were directed toward Shizuku and Kaori. They were also looking at the two as though they were looking at something precious. Naturally Shuu and Sumire were going 「「Oh myy~~?」」. Tomoichi and Kaoruko who had seen this kind of scene many times since the past were smiling warmly at the scene. Liliana and Akiko were watching with a faint blush on their cheeks while their eyes were opened wide.

But as expected the members of Yaegashi family were the only ones who didn’t smile. Yue was considerately slowing down the replay during the conversation but, they were so focused to the projection that they even urged her to 「Sorry but, can you show us the rest of it?」.

『It was also like that when I came to this world. I was actually filled with anxiety.』

Shed was hiding and crying at the night when she killed a monster for the first time.

Since the day Hajime fell into abyss, she was actually feeling scared of “death” from the bottom of her heart all the time.

Hajime, Kaori, and even Aiko were surprised to hear this. Their gazes spontaneously snapped toward Shizuku.

「You didn’t show any sign of that at all. Even during the training you took the initiative to take care of your classmates.」

「I too, didn’t notice at all……」

「Shizuku-chan……you were hiding even from me to cry? Why……」

「It wasn’t just because I didn’t want to make others concerned you know? I got the feeling that if I didn’t put on a mask……if I broke even once that would be it for me.」

Kaori said that she wouldn’t give up until she confirmed Hajime’s death with her own eyes. She said that and stood up. Shizuku decided to support her.

It was also that role that was supporting her, Shizuku confessed with a wry smile.

Everyone got a half exasperated and half impressed look, not knowing of what they could say here.

Yaegashi Shizuku was extremely strict to herself while kind to other people. She was really not good with exposing her true feeling.

It wasn’t that she “didn’t” get drunk with doing self-sacrifice. It wasn’t that she was completely unable to do that. Surely she was simply very clumsy, whether it was with being aware of her own feeling or expressing it openly.

The reason why Shizuku got attracted to Hajime was being exposed inside the past replay.

The expression of the past Shizuku, to be honest, it was something that everyone there couldn’t bear to watch. It was a cornered look that was far more severe than anyone else until here.

And then, the thing that she mustn’t noticed, the thing that she had unconsciously sealed at the very bottom of her heart echoed through the area like a finishing blow.

『IYou love Nagumo-kun. Really you, how can you fall in love with your best friend’s beloved person. ──This traitor.』

「Shizuku-chan!!」

Shizuku who was already wounded all over her body finally fell on her knees.

It was because Shizuku treasured Kaori more than anyone else that such emotion was something that mustn’t existed no matter what for her. It was the symbol of her own ugliness.

Of course emotion was something that was born naturally. Nobody was able to do such thing like controlling it.

Even so it became a lethal attack for Shizuku’s mental state. As expected, Shizuku was a girl who was hopelessly clumsy toward her own heart.

「「「Shizuku!」」」

Finally three overlapping voices resounded through the room. It was from Shuuzou and others.

Shizuku had also gotten lethally wounded physically inside the past replay. She was thrown until the wall and got stuck on the ice wall while slowly sliding down toward the ground powerlessly. A trail of blood was left behind on the spot that her body passed through.

Everyone other than Hajime and Shizuku held their breath. Shizuku’s trial had driven her toward the verge of death far closer than they expected. It felt like they had just gotten splashed with cold water.

Even Hajime and others, especially Kaori had gotten really cornered in their own trials, even so there was no miserableness in those trials that made them wanted to avert their gaze. Their hearts had the leeway to alternate between happiness and anxiety seeing the past selves’ gallant figure taking on the challenge.

But, the figure of Shizuku whose whole body had been badly mangled and sinking in the pool of her blood, looking so beaten down that she looked like she didn’t have the energy to move even a single finger was……

It conveyed the true terror of this ice and snow cavern, no, the great dungeons keenly to all of them.

Seeing this scene, was apparently too much for even Shuuzou and the others to keep maintaining their calm.

「Stop it-……」

「Sorry, Yue-chan. ……Can you, pause it for a bit?」

「……Nn. It’s alright.」

Koichi sounded like he had to make an effort to squeeze out his voice, while Kirino’s resolute bearing had crumbled and she was covering her face with both her hands while asking Yue her request. Yue considerately agreed with a gentle tone and paused the past replay.

With that Shuuzou too remembered that he had to breath and inhaled deeply.

「……Sorry. I’m really sorry……Shizuku. I couldn’t notice anything at all……I was really useless……」

None of the vigor that he had shown until now could be felt from Shuuzou. He suddenly looked really old at this time. His large body looked like it had withered.

Koichi and Kirino were also looking down with a gloomy expression and muttered.

「This isn’t something that can be forgive with just an apology. This is the result of us overlooking our daughter’s feeling.」

「Our daughter almost died because of our fault……how can such thing be forgiven. I’m a failure as a mother──」

「Okaa-san, don’t say anymore than that.」

A strong voice unexpectedly put a stop to those self-recriminations. Kirino and the others lifted up their head.

There they saw their daughter looking straight toward her family. She had a mature expression that took them aback. They even felt overwhelmed by her dignified unwavering eyes.

While Hajime and others were silently watched over them, Shizuku paused for a moment before smiling softly.

「It’s alright, so how about we see the continuation properly?」

Shizuku only said that before urging Yue with her gaze to continue the replay. Yue looked a bit hesitant and turned her gaze toward Shuuzou and the others. They nodded to her in agreement because they had resolved themselves before coming here.

The past replay resumed playing.

The fake approached in order to finish off the past Shizuku. Even knowing that Shizuku had overcome this trial in reality, everyone couldn’t stop from clenching their sweaty hands looking at the critical moment.

Shizuku was crying while mouthing the words 「Someone help」 for the first time. Seeing that made everyone felt like their heart was constricted.

A hole was opened on the wall behind her and Hajime appeared. The fake temporarily retreated. There it could be seen how the fake was held in place by Cross Bits while he treated Shizuku’s wounds.

A relieved atmosphere enveloped everyone. However, what entered their eyes next was the figure of Shizuku whose heart had completely broke and clung on her savior.

And then……

Hajime presented her with the Masked Pink - Mark II.

「「OII! READ THE DAMN MOOD!!」」

「「「WAITTTT! READ THE MOOD!!」」」

In turns the ones that just spoke were Shuu, Tomoichi, Sumire, Akiko, and Kaoruko. It wasn’t just the parents. Even Yue and others were sending extremely unamused stares that seemed to say 「This is just not right」 that stabbed into Hajime.

「I-it was just to cheer her up! I wasn’t going to seriously put the mask on her! That’s why don’t look at me with that kind of eye! Even you Myuu! This is my first time seeing your eyes turning that cold……」

Setting aside just how cold Myuu’s eyes were right now,

It was just as Hajime said, apparently it was just a light joke for blowing away Shizuku’s depressed mood.

Shizuku got completely worked out from it. Then the past Hajime said this to her.

『──The “Yaegashi Shizuku” in front of my eyes right now should have the really important feeling.』

In the end the fake was nothing more than the negative aspect of the challenger. It wasn’t the whole part of the real person.

The past Hajime told that to her straightforwardly. It changed Shizuku’s expression. Light was returning to her dark and dull eyes.

「It’s just as Hajime said. It wasn’t all painful things. I was genuinely happy, seeing Ojii-chan and everyone rejoicing that I have talent. Even though it happened when I was really small, Ojii-chan’s happy face at that day is still remaining clearly in my mind.」

「Shizuku……」

Shizuku stood up inside the past replay. Hajime gave her his words 「I’ll watch」 and 「I won’t let you die」. It made her smiled and she straightened her back once more with dignity.

「It made me so happy many times to have worked hard when Otou-san and Okaa-san praised me, and when I became useful to someone and they said “thank you” to me.」

「……Yeah, you were a real hard worker ever since you were little.」

「You often ran toward us yelling Look look! while looking so proud. It made us really happy and looking forward to what you’re going to show us next time.」

Koichi and Kirino’s gazes firmly watched their past daughter confronting her fake.

「And after Kaori told my feeling in my place, Otou-san and Ojii-chan would ask me “Can you continue?” or “Is there anything else that you want to do?” many times. But, I still continued.」

Certainly a part of her felt that it was painful. But her feeling that enjoyed herself for spending time at the dojo wasn’t any weaker than that. At that time, although she wasn’t aware of it she chose to continue not solely because she didn’t want to betray her family’s expectation.

Shizuku chuckled while glancing at Kirino.

「It was since that time wasn’t it? Okaa-san started to buy me things like stuffed toy really often. That was also the start for Otou-san and Ojii-chan, and even all the disciples……fufu」

Most of the many cute stuffed toys inside Shizuku’s girly room were present from her family and the disciples. Being suddenly treated like a princess made Shizuku at that time to feel bewildered and embarrassed rather than happy. She even put a stop to it by yelling 「Enough already!」 instead to them.

「Surely the people of Yaegashi family is just awkward. We are bad at expressing our true feeling, and no matter what happened we will just keep it to ourselves, trying to do something about it on our own first. That’s just how our bloodline is.」

Shizuku smiled wryly even while raising her voice somewhat. She then said 「But you see」. She said her next words that were properly filled with her true feeling. Those words overlapped with the past Shizuku’s words.

「Everything that Ojii-chan and the others taught me are my pride. I didn’t almost die because of Otou-san and everyone’s fault. It’s the heart and technique and body that Okaa-san gave me that allowed me to survive.」

『I’ve certainly lived until now by concealing various things, but I’ve also obtained a lot of things as the result of that. All of them are so precious to me that I can’t throw them away anymore.』

That’s why, she said

She poured her everything into just a single attack within the past projection.

The battle was decided.

The ribbon that tied her ponytail was cut and her hair fell down softly, while the fake was vanishing after being splendidly bisected into two.

「Thank you.」

She told them that they didn’t need to feel weighed down anymore. Because she was thankful to them. Shuuzou and the others couldn’t hold back themselves anymore after their beloved daughter told them that.

Shuuzou, and Koichi, and Kirino, the three of them silently hugged Shizuku tightly while holding back something shiny from flooding out from the corner of their eyes.

Hajime and others silently narrowed their eyes while watching over them.

Not a single one of them said anything to make fun of them, not even any sound. The feeling of not wanting to break this moment right now was shared by everyone there without even saying anything.

It was shared but……

『Carry me?』

「Nna!?」

Somehow a voice that sounded excessively adorable and also spoiled on top of it echoed through the area. Shizuku let out a strange voice in panic, while everyone else’s gaze snapped toward the direction of the voice in surprise.

There, they saw Shizuku sitting girlishly on the ground while holding out her hands toward Hajime. Her atmosphere was like a spoiled kid, but only her expression looked somewhat bewitching. It was accompanied by a smile that was overflowing with affection and trust to the max.

「「「「Sooo~cuu~teee~eee~~~~!!!」」」」

The female groups harmonized beautifully even though they hadn’t arranged anything beforehand.

The past Shizuku demanded a hair ornament from Hajime. The way she seemed to act so selfishly made the girls to start go kyaaa kyaah noisily.

「STOP-STOP-STOPPPPPP!! YUE! The trial is over already! As I thought this is so embarrassing so can you please turn it off!?」

「……Fuh, what a funny joke.」

「Rather the main show start from here you know, Shizuku-channn!!」

「Exactly right! You need to go over my dead body if you want to stop this! Desuu!」

「That far!?」

It seemed they had no intention to stop. And so Shizuku asked for help from Hajime.

「Hajimeee!!」

「Aa, yeah. Certainly this is also a little embarrassing for me. Yue, please. Stop it.」

「……Fuh, what a funny joke.」

Whoops, Yue-san easily refused even though it was a request from Hajime. Hajime’s expression twitched.

Hajime and Shizuku were making an exchange like in a bittersweet youth drama inside the past replay. Yue and the others were giving the scene their undivided focus with their eyes widening like saucer. It seemed they didn’t give a damn for Hajime and Shizuku’s embarrassment. Especially,

「Even if god allow it, I the princess will never allow for the climax in this ice and snow cavern to stay unseen!」

「You say that but, the god is dead though?」

「I command it on my royal authority! Yue-san, never stop it no matter what!」

「What an absurd abuse of authority.」

「……As you command!」

「You’re really into it huh.」

The self-proclaimed romance (novel) master Liliana was breathing hard. Her eyes were also slightly bloodshot. It seemed this situation was to her liking. She was whispering something like 「This is, a good progress-」 in a small voice that couldn’t fully hide her excitement. Scary.

This is why your treatment as the princess (lol) is becoming the standard you know……Remia and Aiko who were standing at her side were thinking like that with slightly cringing expression.

Tomoichi-san raised the corner of his eyes and pointed sharply at Hajime.

「Hajime-kun. Someone like you is really……as I thought, you were planning to seduce Shizuku-chan too despite having Kaori already!!」

「There’s no way that’s the case.」

「But Hajime. The way you kept choosing all the right choices for Shizuku-chan, no matter how you look at it……even Tou-san can’t help but think like that.」

「Don’t talk like this is some kind of gal game.」

Even while everyone was making such commotion, the past Hajime was walking toward the new passage while carrying Shizuku on his back.

『Nagumo-kun, I, want to meet with Kaori quickly. And not just Kaori, I also want to meet with Yue, Shia, and Tio. And then──I’ll tell them that, I fell in love with Nagumo-kun.』

I don’t know what will happen but, I want to try being a bit more honest and tackle this feeling head-on, the past Shizuku casually confessed before she shyly pretended to be asleep on the back of the shocked Hajime. The excitement of the female group reached the peak after seeing that.

Kyah kyah kyah They surrounded Shizuku and then they all started dancing following the rhythm of Mayim Mayim dance, once more without making any arrangement beforehand. Furthermore even a song parody that praised Shizuku-chan who finally became honest started flowing out from Kaori’s mouth.

Shizuku-chan shut herself inside her ponytail cocoon once more.

But putting that aside.

「Hajime-kun.」

「Shuuzou-san? Koichi-san and Kirino-san too.」

Shuuzou and the others came to Hajime’s side. Their eyes were slightly red with softened gaze. The three of them took Hajime’s hand together. Koichi and Kirino conveyed their heartfelt gratitude with a gentle voice.

「Really, thank you so much for saving our daughter. Not only physically, but even mentally.」

「Really, you were always, always be there for her every time that girl sought you from her heart. We can’t thank you enough.」

「No, htat’s……just by accident you know?」

「Coincidence can only be called as inevitability when they happen three times……but it doesn’t matter which is it. What’s important is that thanks to you, my granddaughter’s life was saved until three times. It’s understandable how that girl’s heart can feel attracted toward you.」

Shuuzou and the others smiled. They could finally understand Shizuku’s feeling toward Hajime for real. An awkward feeling strongly assaulted Hajime and he made a troubled look.

Seeing Hajime like that, Shuuzou sent a gaze toward Koichi and Kirino as though he was asking some kind of question. The two of them seemed to understand what he meant and nodded.

While Hajime was tilting his head in confusion toward the gestures that the three exchanged, Shuuzou and the others looked toward Shizuku who was writhing in embarrassment at the middle of Yue and Sumire and the others who were forming a circle and dancing. The three of them made an extraordinarily kind smile before a moment later,

「We shall recognize you. No, we ask you to accept it by all means.」

「? What are──」

「The title and position as our “Ninja Master”.」

𝑓r𝘦𝘦𝘄eb𝒏𝙤vel.c𝙤𝙢

「I humbly refuse.」

Hajime instantly refused & retorted 「Or rather you guys finally acknowledged that you all are ninja huh!」.

The refusal and retort were given too fast that the Yaegashi family members unintentionally missed it. They froze with their smile still affixed on their face, and then they suddenly said 「「「Eh? What did you say!?」」」 like a deaf main character.

For them that declaration was like a crucial decision that was given to him as someone who would become Shizuku’s husband in the future. Hajime himself understood that, but to him retorting like that was the only thing he could do toward such offer.

「No, in the first place I’m not a ninja. If anything I’m more of a gunner.」

Even though he was obstinately refusing, Hajime tried to soften his refusal by saying that he couldn’t accept if he was suddenly being asked for something like that, but the three looked at each other’s face before they swiftly *grab* tightened their hold on Hajime’s hand. Their grip was powerful like a vise.

「「「Won’t you become a ninja too?」」」

Of course Hajime answered them with extremely apathetic eyes.

「Ain’t no way.」

After that Shizuku who slipped out from the female group’s circle witnessed the sight of her family who had so obstinately denied their true identity until before was so easily acknowledging it now. And not only that, they were persistently inviting her lover to be one too. It went without saying that it dumbfounded her.

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