Ageha opened the door to his apartment with a sigh, his shoulders slouched from fatigue. He was not physically tired. His alloy muscles could operate optimally as long as the power cells were charged. However, he was mentally haggard after a long day’s work.
He entered the dark living room and noticed two faint silhouettes.
Saya and… Kai?
Taking two steps inside, he reached towards the right wall for the light switch and gave it a press. The tube lamps on the ceiling flooded the space with light, causing him to squint. His guess was correct. The tiny tycoon and her reliable butler were standing side by side in the middle of his living room.
“Welcome back!” said Saya with a bright smile.
“What took you so long?” asked Kaika, her lips forming a sarcastic grin.
He was about to smile back at them when he noticed something odd. They were holding onto the end of a thick nylon rope. Despite him not returning their greeting, the two ladies kept jester-like smiles plastered on their faces. He felt a sharp incongruity between their expressions and the situation, as if discovering a splinter buried underneath his skin.
Are they planning something?
Kaika was infamous for her pranks. His instincts were sounding the alarm. He traced the rope with his eyes. It extended diagonally upward from the ladies’ hands, causing him to look up at the ceiling. The back of his head hit something.
It was a pair of bare feet. Cute and feminine. And cold. His heart rate skyrocketed. Icy sweat leaked from his pores. Ignoring the paralyzing fear gripping his heart, he took a step back and looked up.
A young woman hung from the ceiling. A noose was tucked snugly under her chin. Her ponytail gently swished in rhythm with the rest of her body.
A sharp moan escaped from Ageha’s throat. He strained his neck to look away, but an invisible force compelled him to gaze at the woman’s face.
Rin was smiling. “Welcome back!”
Ageha’s eyelids snapped open.
His eyes darted around, trying to make sense of his surroundings. The room was unlit, but his vision was already adjusted to the darkness. There was an unfamiliar ceiling in front of him. No, it was familiar. It belonged to the new apartment he had just moved into a few days ago. He forced his arms and legs into motion and noticed the rustling sheets underneath him. His rapid, erratic breathing gradually calmed down.
It was a dream.
The unnerving scene had felt absurdly real, but he quickly realized its true nature.
He turned his head to the side and saw Saya’s silken nape and shoulders peeking out from underneath the covers. Her normally immaculate hair was ruffled by sleep. Hearing the regular beat of her breaths, he sighed in relief.
Taking care not to wake her up, he got out of bed and picked up a small towel on the nightstand. While wiping off the sweat drenching his face and neck, he tried to rub out Rin’s smiling face from his head. If it were not for his extensive cybernetics, such a small towel would not be sufficient to dry him off.
Ageha headed to the balcony to cool off. He normally disliked the cold, but his body was burning. His nerves were on edge, and his mind was fully awake. Going back to sleep was impossible. He opened the sliding door and stepped outside. The summer night air was warmer than he expected, but it still felt cooler than the stuffy room. He wondered if it was okay going outside in his underwear but decided not to worry about it. No one was around to see him this late.
The nightmares began the day Yama told him about Rin. The contents varied, but the frequency was consistent. Hardly a night passed without him waking up from one.
What an amazing brat.
A newfound respect for Kaika’s hardiness was born within him. His insomnia, which had continued for mere weeks, had pushed him near the end of his rope. That girl had lived with it for her entire life. He lamented his own weakness.
He leaned on the railing and recalled the dream. Saya and Kaika, teeth bared in full grins, had been holding up the noose around Rin’s neck. Ageha understood that neither of them were truly to blame. He bore the most responsibility for Rin’s fate. His teeth cut into his bottom lip as he cursed his cowardice. How dare he push the blame on anyone else? Logically, he knew he had no control over his subconscious, but that did not prevent him from seeing himself as a filthy, disgusting creature.
“You’re a monster.”
Rin was right. She herself might not have believed it, but reality was undeniable proof.
He had tried to convince himself that breaking up with Rin that night was the right decision. Distancing himself from her was for her own safety. He piled up such reasons day and night, but they crumbled like sand each and every time. Hollow excuses could not hold much weight. If he had truly wanted to protect her, he should have kept her by his side. But he had not done that.
I’m nothing but a monster that brings suffering to everyone around me.
Ageha turned to the strong yet gentle voice. Saya stood there, looking at him. Her hair was a mess, and her negligee was all wrinkled. Even so, her unusually unguarded appearance looked breathtakingly beautiful.
“Did Kai grant you her mind reading powers?” he asked. “That’ll be problematic for me.”
“You weren’t hiding it as well as you thought. You didn’t even notice me approach you until I called out.” Saya narrowed her eyes. “And why would that be problematic, hm?” Her lips curled into an accusatory smile.
“How would you feel if I could read your thoughts?”
She blushed and looked down. “Point taken.”
Ageha got the feeling that they were thinking of completely different things, but he did not comment.
Saya approached him and placed a hand on his thinning cheek. “Looks like moving didn’t help. I thought staying at your old apartment was part of the cause.” She tenderly ran her thumb on top of his cheekbone. “Maybe you should see a doctor.”
He shook his head. “I already know what they’re gonna say. Kai already gave a diagnosis, right?”
“But Ojousama isn’t a specialist. Maybe-”
“Surgery would be one thing, but are you really implying she can’t diagnose something of this level?”
Saya frowned. “‘Something of this level’ is giving you so much trouble. A licensed psychiatrist can prescribe medication-”
He did not answer.
“Because it’s cheating?” She glared at him.
He seriously wondered if Saya had indeed acquired Kaika’s mentalist powers.
Saya held his face with both hands and gently pulled it downward. While closing her eyes, she touched her forehead to his. “Can you read what I’m thinking?”
This is my punishment.
Saya released him and backed away with a sigh. “Stubborn as always.”
“Look who’s talking.”
Despite his defiant attitude, Ageha found his hands reaching for her lithe frame, as if they had a mind of their own. He enclosed her in a firm embrace.
“Can you please decide if you’re trying to act tough or spoiled?” asked Saya with an exasperated tone. She pressed her body onto his and hugged him back.
“Just a little while.” His voice cracked a little.
She held him tighter. “I was just joking.”
He could not even bear the weight of his sins properly.
Truly, he was a pitiful, pitiful monster.
“Are you sure?” asked Kaika.
Ageha nodded. “Yeah.”
The quasi-nymphet in twintails pulled her legs up and crossed them Indian-style on the back seat of the plain black car. Her dark red dress hid her thighs, but her posture was undeniably unbefitting a lady. She thought Saya would surely scold her had she been riding with them.
“There’s no going back. Are you certain you don’t want to wait for her?”
“No one knows when, if she’ll wake up.”
“She’s getting the best care.”
“…I’m surprised her parents accepted your help.”
“They didn’t, so I bought the hospital. They don’t have to know why medical treatment is somehow so cheap there.”
“You could’ve just paid off a doctor or two, you know?”
“That’s too troublesome. Owning the place also makes it easier to post a disguised guard detail.”
Ageha gave a satisfied nod. “That’s probably for the best. Her parents, especially her father, is really obstinate. He’d probably go at it with your men if he finds out.”
“I heard from Saya that your meeting with them didn’t go so well.”
“After I introduced myself, her father tried to hit me in the gut, so I dodged. He was probably trying to be considerate of my face, but I couldn’t let him break his wrist.”
“As expected of Rin’s dad. He’s a good man.”
“He went ballistic after that. In the end, the hospital guards had to drag him out. If he had just gone straight for my face, I would’ve let him knock himself out.”
“Don’t you mean knock you out?”
“I wasn’t sure he’d stop even after I went down.”
Empty laughter bounced off the car windows. The sound was as lifeless as their faces.
“How is she doing?” asked Ageha.
“To be honest, it’s not looking good. The doctors were hopeful early on, but it’s been almost a month.” Kaika crossed her arms. “Still, she was lucky her parents were visiting her apartment that day. If they had found her any later-”
“How can you call her lucky after all this?”
“…Sorry. I misspoke. Meeting me is equal to a life’s worth of luck running out, after all.”
“That doesn’t sound like you. Where’d all that self-confidence go?”
“I’m just a broken girl who isn’t even a shell of her former self,” she said with a playful tone.
“Sounds like you’re just fine to me.”
Kaika smiled. “I liked, no, I like her, Ageha.”
Her lips flattened into a straight line. “I will get even.”
“Still no leads?”
“Not yet. You’ll be the first to know.”
Kaika’s search for Rin’s attacker was still ongoing. She and Ageha never believed that Rin had tried to commit suicide. The cameriera was far too strong, too pure, to do something like that. More than anything else, killing herself would invalidate the resolve she had shown when she cut ties with Ageha.
I do have a suspect.
But no evidence.
Kaika did not want to distract Ageha with baseless speculation. Luckily, he did not pry any further. She would be forced to spill her guts if he delved into the details. Her oath of truth towards him bound her to do so.
The scenery outside the car gradually became greener. The farther they got from the city, the more foliage lined both sides of the highway. The car eventually exited the freeway and continued on a single lane road. Half an hour later, the driver pulled over to the side.
Ageha grabbed his large rucksack and opened the car door.
“Be careful,” said Kaika.
“Who do you think you’re talking to?”
“A broken man who isn’t even a shell of his former self.”
Without denying it, he shrugged his shoulders and got out of the car.
“Delicious!” said a plump man in Chinese. The buttons on his dark green military uniform were pulled to their limit.
“Here, say ‘Ahh~’” A Japanese lady in a loose black kimono slightly opened her mouth as she prompted the man to do the same. She raised a piece of salmon sashimi near the man’s lips.
“No fair! It was my turn to feed the colonel.” A younger woman dressed in similar geisha attire pursed her lips in an exaggerated pout. Her makeup was lighter compared to the other lady and complemented her cute features well.
Contrary to their Japanese looks, they also spoke in Chinese. The three were snugly pressed together on a leather sofa, the two women sandwiching the fat officer. Saya, in her butler uniform, sat on a single-seat couch across the table. Aside from the occasional server bringing in food and drink, they monopolized the hotel’s spacious private meeting room.
“Now, now, don’t fight. This is just an appetizer!” He wrapped an arm around each of the entertainers and dug his fingers into their fleshy parts. “I need to eat a lot so I have enough energy for tonight, right?” His bloated belly jiggled as he laughed wholeheartedly.
“Oh you perv~”
“The colonel is so naughty!”
Saya sighed inwardly while watching them, but the business smile on her face never wavered.
As if sensing her gaze, Colonel Liu met it. “Seems I was wrong about Japanese food and women. Excellent, I have to say.”
“I am honored by your praise,” said Saya. Her Chinese was indistinguishable from a native’s.
“It would be even better if you joined us.” Liu leered at her.
Saya raised her left hand and gracefully displayed the jeweled band on her finger. “I am afraid I am already committed.”
The ring was a gift from Ageha, but it was not a symbol of commitment. Saya simply found wearing it on her ring finger convenient to discourage suitors.
“Oh, sorry about that!” Liu laughed and took a swig of sake.
“Not at all. I am flattered.”
“Aw, Colonel Liu is not happy with just us,” said the older geisha with an obviously fake frown.
Her younger companion caressed Liu’s jaw line and pecked at his neck. “Maybe we should punish you for being so greedy.”
The colonel guffawed. “What kind of punishment?”
“What kind would you like?” She stared into his eyes while releasing a hot breath.
Saya coughed to get Liu’s attention. “I apologize for interrupting your enjoyment, but I would like to discuss the metal processing plants in Guangxi.”
He shifted his gaze to her. “Oh, about that. Like I said in our previous meeting, I really can’t do anything about it.”
“But you hold significant influence within the Chinese military. I am sure a man in your position-”
“That’s the problem. A man in my position doesn’t have the freedom to make such decisions, especially in matters involving the triad.”
“Rumors say that you are the man to go to when it comes to dealing with those types.”
“Rumors are just rumors. Even if they were true, things change.”
“By that you mean?”
“The triad hierarchy underwent restructuring a while ago.”
“Are you saying that you are powerless in the current state of things?” she asked without breaking her polite smile.
Liu winced but immediately regained his amiable expression. “No. It’s just more trouble than it’s worth.”
“Maybe we can balance the scales.” Saya placed a folder on the sofa table and politely slid it towards him.
Liu glanced at the two women draped on his shoulders. They took their weight off him and gave him some space. He picked up the document and quickly scanned through it. After flipping a few pages, his eyes widened.
“I’m impressed. To think you knew I was pushing for cybernetics reform in the military.”
“It is also within our interests. We would very much like to help you with that.”
The plump man’s brow crinkled as he fell into deep thought. After a few moments, he shook his head. “I’m sorry. As tempting as this offer is, my hands are tied. The best I can do is arrange a meeting between you and the Soaring Serpent Society’s leader.”
The corners of Saya’s mouth twitched, but she managed to prevent herself from grinning at the alliterative organization name.
She closed her eyes for a moment. “I see. That is fine.”
“Maybe I can offer you something else-” Liu raised an eyebrow at Saya. “Excuse me?”
“We are still willing to provide discounted ARMS deals to the Chinese military, or more specifically, you, Colonel Liu.”
“R-Really? Why would you do that?”
“Please think of it as a sign of our friendship. I am certain our backing will be a potent card to play in your quest for reform.”
The colonel’s face lit up. “Understood! I’ll set up that meeting as soon as possible.”
“Let us discuss the details at a later date.”
Saya stood up and offered her hand. Liu took it with his chubby fingers and shook it vigorously.
After leaving the meeting room, Saya watched Liu, still pressed between the two prostitutes, head back to his suite. The moment she became alone, she called her mistress on her mobile.
“How did it go?” asked Kaika.
“I managed to get a meeting, but that is all.”
“That’s still progress, I guess. Zhang has refused to negotiate with us so far. At least now he’s at the table.”
“The previous leader was easier to deal with. It is unfortunate that he was removed.”
Kaika’s faction already had an understanding with the leader of the previous top triad clan. However, the equally powerful Soaring Serpent Society had recently usurped control. Her bridge to the Chinese underworld had crumbled. Rebuilding it with a complete stranger on the other end was no easy task. To makes matters worse, Zhang, the Soaring Serpent’s boss, had ignored all of NGC’s attempts to communicate.
“Luck hasn’t been on my side lately,” said Kaika, her voice uncharacteristically weak.
Saya felt the weight of her own powerlessness bearing down on her shoulders. While wishing she could do more for her mistress, she searched for words to encourage her.
Kaika spoke first. “We may need to move up our travel plans. I want to see someone before meeting Zhang.”
“About that, Ageha has decided.”
“Yeah, he told me just now.”
“Is he still there?”
“No. Did you want to send him your love?” Kaika’s tone was completely serious.
“O-Of course not!”
“Poor Ageha. He even got you a ring, but now you’re saying you don’t love him. I’ll make a note to tell him that when I pick him up later.”
“Ojousama! That is not what I said! And how did you know about the ring!?” Saya unconsciously clenched her left hand.
“How could I not know about it?”
She was Kaika Nikaido, after all.
“Marriage, huh?” muttered Kaika. “I thought you two were late bloomers, but things are moving really fast.”
“It is just a gift! A normal one! We are not engaged!”
“I know, I picked the ring myself at Ageha’s request.”
You’d know about it alright!
Give me back my moment of awe!
Not caring about Saya’s internal complaints, Kaika continued, “It’s too cheap for that. The thing’s not even close to three months of his salary. Trust me, I pay his wages.”
“Please do not casually expose the price!!!”
“Oh were you expecting it to be more expensive?”
“That is not the point! It is a gift! The value is irrelevant!”
“Then why are you complaining?”
Saya did not even know what she was protesting about anymore. She heard a faint chuckle on the other end of the line.
“…It is not like I am doing this on purpose for your entertainment.”
That did not change the fact that she was happy to be instrumental in lifting Kaika’s mood, even by just a little.
“For being you, I mean.”
…Am I being praised or insulted?
“It’s the former,” said Kaika.
“…How did you know I thought of the options in that order?”
“Syntax and your personality. Anyway, what did you want to say to Ageha? Something you can’t tell me?”
“Not at all. I just wanted to wish him luck.”
“Just that? How boring.”
He’ll need it.
Arashi placed her finger on the assault rifle’s trigger. She adjusted her grip on the handguard and felt the weapon’s weight. It was much lighter than the custom carbine her father had given her. She had opted to sacrifice firepower for mobility. The reduced recoil also boosted her accuracy. It was a necessary change for her current mission.
The moon gently shone on her battlefield. Illumination was usually advantageous for a sniper, but her bionic eye’s night vision rendered that irrelevant.
Her target zipped from cover to cover. She did not move from her perch on a thick tree branch, patiently waiting for a clear shot. Shooting prematurely would just reveal her position. Sniping a normal person was child’s play for her, but the enemy’s speed rattled her confidence in her marksmanship. He was carefully but steadily heading her way. Though unaware of her exact position, he knew her general location, just as she knew which direction he would come from.
The enemy took cover behind a large tree. An obstacle course of sandbags and metal drums lay in between them. Arashi saw this as a big opportunity. He would have to check his course before running out again due to the obstructions. She aimed her sight at the left side of the tree and waited for the enemy to peek out.
A black helm popped out from the other side.
Without wasting time to regret her wrong guess, she adjusted her aim and shot the enemy’s head.
I got him!
But she knew it was not a direct hit. The slight delay before she got the shot off had allowed the enemy to tuck his head into cover. The bullet had only grazed his helm. Still, that should have caused significant damage. He might even be unconscious with a concussion.
Ten seconds. The enemy had not moved for that long. Did she do it? Did she win?
Twenty seconds. He was not coming out. Did he get knocked out? Did she finally beat him?
Did she kill Ageha?
Instead of joy, dread crept into her chest. She jumped down from the tree and slowly made her way towards his hiding spot.
Thirty seconds. Her cautious strides turned into a light jog. Anxiety about what she might have done caused her knees to tremble.
Isn’t this what I wanted?
I wanted to beat him no matter what.
Then why do I feel so scared?
Forty feet. The moment the distance between them shrunk to that, a jet-black cannonball shot out from behind the tree.
Arashi aimed her rifle and shot at the humanoid ram hurtling towards her. The bullets hit but did not even slow him down. She had lost the sniping position she had painstakingly discovered, and the advantage her rifle provided diminished as he closed in on her. The current situation was the worst possible scenario among the battle simulations she had done in her head for the past week.
But it was still included in those simulations, and in all of them, she won. She would not have challenged him again without that much preparation.
Instead of running away, she faced the black meteor and dashed in her 2 o’clock direction. This instantly shrank the gap between them, but due to the angle of her route, they passed by each other. Ageha’s speed was incredible, but that also meant he had trouble with unexpected stops and turns.
As Ageha braked, she twisted her body and aimed at his head. This was no time to be caring about the well-being of her enemy. Her naivety had almost caused her defeat. As if gently squeezing a sponge, she pulled the trigger.
The burst of gunfire hit its mark. Loud clanks resounded from his helm as he staggered backward.
The risk she took by changing her weapon had paid off. The extra speed had allowed her to lose Ageha and to keep him in place for a moment. The weaker recoil had allowed her to hit his head with several shots despite her unstable shooting posture.
But he did not fall.
Even though the helm did not have a visible visor or eyeholes, she clearly felt his eyes on her. She stifled her surprise and used her bionic eye to zoom in on his face. His helm was supported by an alloy neck brace that was attached to his body armor.
You’ve gotta be kidding me.
She was not the only one who had prepared for their duel.
Sacrificing firepower had backfired on her. A more powerful rifle could possibly pierce that helm, but the one in her hands had already failed to do that twice. The only real weak point Ageha had, along with her confidence in her victory, disappeared like a puff of smoke. A certain emotion filled her heart. Contrary to what one would expect, it was not fear or awe.
Arashi was exhilarated.
She tried to keep calm. Getting too excited in combat dulled her judgment and made her too bold. Arashi had learned that lesson from her previous fights and was determined not to let that get in the way of winning.
But she could not do it.
A boyish grin appeared on her face.
“I know you’re just happy, but that never fails to piss me off,” said Ageha, his voice slightly muffled by the helm.
She threw three grenades at him in reply. As if expecting that reaction, he tossed a small device in the air. It looked similar to her grenades, except it was about two times larger. His projectile exploded, or rather, burst open first. A large clear film spread out like a net and ensnared her three grenades, killing their momentum. The bombs fell to the ground around midway between the two fighters and detonated. Arashi ducked behind a sandbag stack for cover. Ageha just stood there as the few pieces of shrapnel that made it through the transparent net bounced off his body.
Now that’s just cheating!!!
Kaika had told her that she would be impartial when it came to Ageha and Arashi’s duels, but his new toys indicated otherwise. Arashi wanted to complain about Ageha’s obvious preferential treatment, but she decided to do that after the battle was over. She had no intention of giving up.
Arashi sprinted across the abandoned airsoft field while leaping over drums, sandbags, and wooden barriers. Following close behind her, Ageha just whacked away the obstacles. His new armor had reduced his flexibility and agility, but that barely slowed him down as he barreled through the hurdles.
A sandbag hit Arashi in the back. She crashed to the ground, swimming in dirt from the ripped sack. Gritting her teeth, Arashi picked herself up and checked the enemy’s location. Ageha kicked another sandbag in her direction. She rolled to the side and unloaded a long burst of bullets in retaliation. While protecting his head with his arms, he randomly zigzagged towards her, enduring the few rounds that hit his body armor. He stopped right in front of her just as she ran out of bullets.
Arashi grabbed the muzzle of her rifle with her right hand and swung it at Ageha like a bat. He blocked it with an arm, causing the weapon to smash into pieces. Not minding the metal parts bouncing off his helm, he countered with a leg kick, which cleanly connected, causing her to buckle.
Arashi knew that he attacked her cybernetic limb to prevent her from getting seriously injured. He was always like that, and she was thankful for it. Arashi held no pride as a martial artist or soldier, so handicaps did not offend her. She merely enjoyed combat, like how a child enjoys a game of tag or hide and seek. She appreciated anything that would prolong her time of bliss.
That was why she would also resort to dirty tactics without batting an eyelash.
Her left hand gently pushed off Ageha’s chest, leaving a gum pack-shaped object on it. As expected, Ageha had paid little attention to her human hand because it was not much of a threat. The rifle smash was just a distraction. Her true goal was to plant a time-delay grenade on Ageha’s armor.
Ageha looked at the thing on his chest and immediately disengaged his body armor. That was the right decision. Removing the grenade forcefully risked detonating it. He hurriedly ripped the alloy plate mail from his torso and tossed it away.
The grenade-laden armor did not blow up. But that was to be expected because it was not armed to begin with.
Arashi landed a turning kick to his exposed back, causing him to fly forward and skid face-first in the dirt. Pouncing like a wolf spider, she assaulted the grounded Ageha with a jumping axe kick. Dust flew up from the impact.
Ageha had dodged her blow by twisting his body. Losing his armor had weakened Ageha’s defense, but it also gave him back his flexibility.
Before she could move, he grabbed her calf and pulled her to the ground. She kicked him with her other leg, but he caught that with his other hand.
He coughed hoarsely and said in a pained voice, “Saya is teaching you too well.”
Still holding her ankles, he stood up and lifted her off the ground. She never really minded her small stature, but that changed just now because she was beginning to see a pattern.
Why do I always end up hanging like a roasted duck?
The mental image of the dish caused her salivary glands to activate, but she cleared her head and refocused on the fight.
“I… won’t surrender..!”
“I know. I didn’t ask you to.”
Ageha started spinning her around, as if preparing for a hammer throw. However, he did not release her no matter how fast the spin got.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa,” said Arashi in a flat tone, her face as blank as ever. She sounded like a kid speaking into a fan, only in this case, she was the fan.
After a few minutes of that ARMS powered high-G training, Ageha flopped Arashi on the ground. Though her body had stopped spinning, her head and vision continued their merry-go-round. She turned to her side and emptied the contents of her stomach. Ageha sat down a few feet from her.
“I hate wearing this, but it’s a good thing I did,” he said while taking off his helm. Rivers of sweat crawled across his face. “You’ve gotten stronger.”
“You… got cheaper.”
“Says the one who slapped a bomb to my body. Good thing that armor is easy to take off.” He released a long breath, as if discharging steam.
“Fortunately. I was worried you‘d gotten suicidal after losing again and again. Are you okay now?”
She had lost. Again. But that was fine. Having poured out her everything, she was satisfied.
“Your tactics were excellent. I need to be even more careful next month.”
As part of her agreement with Ageha, she was only allowed to challenge him once a month. She wanted to do it more, and not just because she loved fighting. Arashi took a glance at his face.
Looks like he’s feeling a bit better.
Arashi did not know what was bothering him. Nevertheless, she was glad that their game served as a pleasant distraction for her god.
“Can you stand?” he asked.
She probably could if she tried, but she shook her head. The dust on the ground rubbed onto her cheek like foundation.
“Guess I got no choice.” Ageha walked over to her, picked her up, and gave her a piggyback ride.
He always carried her home like that after their duels. She did not really understand why, but being so close to Ageha aroused an unknown emotion in her. That feeling came from the pit of her stomach and slowly rose to her chest. Normally, she could not put it into words, but right now, something warm seemed to gush forth, threatening to escape from her lips. She leaned her chin on his shoulder and-