After school on the first day of my high school life. A day I should have had fond memories of.
I, Mitsuka Souji, together with my childhood friend Tsube Aika, was having a late lunch at the Cafe Adolescenza. It might seem pretty fashionable for us to be eating lunch at a cafe, but seeing as I live here, it’s like a normal meal for me.
Its main selling point is our special house blend coffee. It has lots of fans, but, being something my mom does on the side, the shop is prone to being closed whenever she feels like it.
The sign over the door read “Closed”. Of course, that meant that it was just the two of us in here.
The intense spicy smell hanging in the air was nothing compared to the weight of sorrow in my chest.
“Why the heck did I put down something like that...”
“There’s no such thing as the Twintail Club,” my childhood friend said, looking at me amazed. The smell of spice swirled around her.
“I was put on the spot... and wrote it down without thinking. I didn't mean to!”
“If you ask me, anyone that would inadvertently write down something like that is bad news. You have Twintails on the brain.”
“Shut up! How many times do you plan to make fun of me for that?!”
“Yeah, yeah, ta-daa―”
She took the two tails on both sides of her head, long enough to reach her hips, and swung them at me.
She may be trying her best to make me angry, but to me it feels more like a refreshing greeting.
As always, her twintails were wonderful to behold.
Waist-length twintails framing the head ― they may be the most basic, but their simple purity shows you the elegant conceit of hair that has been worn in twintails every day for years. A great artist's paintings can draw people in even when they aren’t using flashy colours or a surprising subject. It’s like that, I think.
“Still, the teacher didn't have to say it out loud...”
“Well, what did you expect when you wrote something that bizarre?”
“Well, excuse me!”
No matter how long we continue the pointless argument, it will not overturn this fact: there are over a thousand days of my life as a high school student ahead of me, and on the first day, I made the biggest mistake of my life.
The private school that I go to, Yougetsu Academy, can take you straight from elementary school into university. A super-escalator school. I wasn’t going to feel different just because I’d moved up into high school.
That’s what I thought, but... the size of the school building, the gymnasium, everything was so much larger than junior high school that I was overwhelmed.
And the highlight was the orientation in the gymnasium by the leaders of the clubs, after the entrance ceremony had ended. The various sports and culture clubs took turns making their appeals to the new students. The passion they showed moved me deeply.
The image I see when I close my eyes is the girl who took the stage after that. To be exact, her hairstyle. Twintails.
She may have been about as tall as a grade schooler, but her freshman welcoming speech as student council president would rival that of the greatest orators in human history. Her address touched the hearts of everyone who heard it.
“There are no limits to what you can accomplish here. I, together with the high school division of Yougetsu Academy, will guide your brilliant future on the path to its full bloom. I promise you!”
She may have been as tall as a grade schooler, yet the tone of her speech contained no hint of condescension. The dignified manner in which she stood was mesmerizing.
I stared at her, forgetting to blink.
She may have been as tall as a grade schooler, but it was the first time I’d ever heard a woman use ’young lady’ language, and she made it sound so natural that I was shocked.
And above all else – her twintails.
Hair, of course, does not have a peerage. But if it did, then those beautiful twintails would have held a high and noble title. The way the tips of her hair curled softly into circles also showed the excellence of her upbringing.
As she put heat in her words and moved more vehemently, the twintails danced through the air in response to her motion, as if she were a princess under a luxurious chandelier and the twintails were her partner on the dance floor.
I couldn’t get my heart to stop pounding.
It felt like everyone around me was staring at her as though a kitten had gotten up on the stage, but I'm probably imagining things.
The student council president has such amazing twintails. I can only imagine how wonderful the next three years of my life are going to be.
On the way back to my classroom, I paid no attention to my chattering classmates. They were like a candle compared to the brilliant light still burning in my heart. The lingering memory of the orientation wasn’t much more than a fart.
All I could see was that beautiful scene. My head was full of twintails. I had my head in the clouds for the self-introductions once we got back to the classroom, too.
And I don’t even seem to have noticed when they handed out the club questionnaire.
“All right, pass your sheets forward starting at the back, ple~ase.”
The class rep's slow drawl brought me back down to Earth. The girl whose name I didn’t know (of course, because I hadn’t listened to her introduction) handed me some sheets. In a panic, I scribbled something on the the paper before me.
“Hm hmm... Huh~? Someone forgot to write their name on their survey~”
“Oh... Sorry. I think that’s mine. I was rushing.”
The teacher looked up from the sheets she was going through and tilted her head in doubt, so I said my name.
“Ahh, Mitsuka-kun, was it? ...Twintail club? Did we have a twintail club here? ... Oh~h, you mean you want to set one up.”
"What!? No, I didn't actually want to do that, really! I was-"
I was even more nervous, and I had gone beyond rescue.
“I see~. ... Twintail club? You must really like twintails, Mitsuka.”
“Oh, yes, of course. Obviously.”
― Conditioned reflex.
And here I was hoping that I could start anew, in this place full of fresh faces.
That was the instant that decided my position for three years of high school.
“Alright everyone, that’s all for today’s homeroom. It seems like there have been some deviants in the area lately, so be careful!”
“Why are you saying this now!? Look, teacher, please wait! I am serious! I really, seriously love twintails!! Wait, that’s not what I... argh!!”
And so, the first day of my brilliant high school life ended, with me sabotaging myself in the most pathetic way imaginable.
Just the memory of it is killing me.
When I see a blank I write “twintail” in it. That is a pretty ridiculous conditioned reflex. It’s already part of my physiological makeup ― no, it might be closer to the area of ecology.
“Mguh... mm. Seconds.”
Ignoring me and the full cup of coffee that hadn’t even touched my lips, Aika calmly put her hand on the second plate of curry.
Uh, I don’t have any appetite, so it’s fine, but still, that one’s mine.
“Writing that stuff down isn’t so bad, but that was pretty much the worst follow-up ever made. Why did you have to freak out so badly?”
“If you knew that I was nervous, then you should have come in and backed me up! Aren’t we friends!!”
There was something sullen about the look on Aika’s face. What are you mad about? You just stole my lunch.
“You have to use questionnaires and stuff to make a good first impression. It's just an interest check, after all. Yeah, it says to write down clubs you're interested in, or clubs you want to start, and all that, but it's just a formality. What new student would suddenly assert themselves like that?”
“Uh... You mean...”
“You know what that means, don't you? By writing that down, you're telling everyone that, even after seeing all the clubs give their presentations, even after all their recruiting efforts, you still want to set up your own club. You get it, don't you?”
“And then I... wrote something strange like `twintail club’?”
“We can look back and analyze it calmly now, but you know, back then my mind was one hundred percent blank!!”
“Well, I could have at least stuck out my chest and said, ’A lot of people don’t even know the word for that hairstyle, so don’t suddenly start talking about it.’”
“That wouldn’t have helped at all, and what were you going to stick out, there’s nothing thbuhhh”
My little resistance was cut off in the middle. Aika's got a complex about her modest (non-existent) chest, which is why I like to rib her about it. But, as you can see, if you do that, she will punch you in the face with one hand while eating off her plate with the other.
It can’t be helped, the rest of her is perfect.
Especially the twintails, and the twintails.
“Ugh. If only I was better at improvising...”
I don’t think I’m exaggerating if I say that it’s indirectly the fault of the student council president that my future was destroyed, the exact opposite of what she said in her speech. Although, as Aika says, I was basically inviting this result by being such a loser.
Sighing gloomily, I wrapped my arms about my head.
“Besides, that obsession of yours would have been exposed sooner or later. Look on the bright side. At least you don't have to worry about it anymore.”
“You’re telling me I’ve come to a crossroads in my life? Then don’t just go on eating two meals worth of curry as if nothing's wrong! And I’m impressed you can eat curry while drinking all that coffee!”
You'd think someone like her, who could finish off two large plates of curry as if it were nothing, would have a bigger chest. Is it because of her hair? Does her body need all the nutrients just to sustain it...?
I felt a strange chill suddenly and glanced around the store.
A woman customer was sitting alone. Her position was at an exact right angle to our seats.
Was it my imagination, or were her eyes flickering over here?
(That’s strange. I thought Mom already closed the store.)
But when I look at the cup on her table, it seems like she was sitting there from the start. We just didn’t notice. Probably Mom didn’t take a good look around before she rushed off.
Great. I thought there would be no one else around. Why did I have to run my mouth like that? I’m not surprised she’s looking.
“Hey, Souji... you’re doing it again.”
Snapping back to my senses, I realized that I was holding on to Aika’s twintails. She breathed out a tired sigh and I hurriedly released my grip.
It’s half your fault for leaving them on the table and letting them slip into my grasp so easily ― but that’s a very selfish thing to say.
Because when they’re as long as Aika’s, if you don’t lay them on a chair or a table, they’d touch the ground the moment you sat down.
“Sorry. I really can’t help it. It’s been like this since we were kids. Touching your twintails just... calms me down.”
I know that already, Aika replied, coolly. She sighed again.
“Seriously. Thanks to you, I’m starting to feel ashamed of myself.”
“And that’s my fault?”
“What are you going to do if someone takes this the wrong way? They’ll look at my twintails, and... and us being friendly... and connect the dots...”
Having exhausted her coffee, Aika kept glancing between me and the table, all the while pressing her index fingers together bashfully.
“What’s the matter? Don’t tell me you want to change your hairstyle?”
“N-no way! Why would I change my hairstyle just because someone said something about it? I like my hair this way, thank you very much!”
Exactly. Seeing this steadfast determination of hers made me proud to be her childhood friend.
Despite her attitude, Aika’s the one person who would understand my love for twintails. As she said, we’d often get made fun of because we were always together.
But ― neither of us cared about what anyone else had to say about it.
She’s my childhood friend. My best friend.
Everyone has a friend or two they’d keep for life. Someone they can open their heart to. As for myself, by pure chance - that someone just happened to be a girl.
Part of it was because we were neighbours, but it seems like our families have been on good terms for a long time. That’s why it’s almost as if we were siblings. As if we were from the same family.
Back in grade school, I was never able to beat her in a fight. It was only afterwards that I found out her granddad had been teaching her martial arts.
Suppressing my wounded pride, I eventually started training with her at the dojo. I suppose that was when it all started. Ever since then, we’ve always spent our time together.
For some reason, we’d always end up in the same class. No matter how classes got shuffled, or how many people transferred in, we’d see each other in class every year.
To be honest, it was starting to get really weird.
Aika was always popular. She’s frank, honest, strong, and always so full of life - I mean, why wouldn’t she be?
And here I am, screwing everything up in the first day of school. I hope I don’t cause her too much trouble.
I felt another shiver run down my back.
“Huh? What’s wrong?”
I kept my voice low. Aika seemed to have noticed it as well. That customer was still around.
“How... Why didn’t I sense her presence...!?”
Although Aika was whispering, what she was saying was even more grandiose than usual. Do you normally sense people’s presence as you go through your day...?
That woman was still sitting there. Quietly observing us.
Her eyes met mine. She hurriedly spun around, turning to face the wall behind her.
“What the heck...?”
Okay? That was strange, but I’d feel uncomfortable too if some other customer was kicking up a fuss across the room. Guess I’d better restrain myself.
While I started to relax, Aika was having none of it. I could tell she was on high alert.
Twintails have expressions of their own. Anger, sadness, joy, suspicion, and anxiety are just some of the emotions that they can show.
What I’m saying is - twintails are like a second mouth.
Aika gestured to me silently from the side of the table. That woman was now holding up a newspaper, as if to conceal herself from us.
She had poked a hole through it, and was peeping at us through it.
Are you kidding me?
It was beyond ridiculous. Was she filming some kind of comedy skit?
I became paranoid there might be some kind of hidden camera in the cafe. Please keep me from becoming Boy A in the credits.
“... Let’s try not to make eye contact.”
Aika had also settled on that being the best course of action in this situation.
Our assumed suspect folded the newspaper over, set it on the table, and stood up.
For a moment, I hoped she would leave. Instead she went right past the entrance, heading in our direction.
Stopping right next to me, unphased by our shocked expressions, she looked directly at me with a smile on her face.
“Mind if I sit with you?”
“Hold it right there!” Aika shouted in a rapid-fire manner, exasperated.
Aika stood up while scowling at me. I flinched instinctively. Leaning her head back, the woman began to laugh.
“Who are you?!”
“Don’t mind me.”
“I do mind!”
“I have some business with this gentlemen over here.”
Like a tour guide giving information, she pointed in my direction with her palm open.
“Just what exactly do you think you’re doing?! Standing there with that calm look on your face in those flashy clothes. I’m gonna jam a straw in your cleavage!”
“Now, now, Aika, calm down. Please,” I said, looking to defuse the situation.
I was taken aback by how beautiful she was. She may have been be a bit odd, but seeing her up close, she really was an incredibly beautiful woman - young lady, from the looks of it.
Her Japanese was excellent, but she was definitely a foreigner. She had white hair... no, wait. Make that silver hair.
Like it was dyed, yet it seemed natural. Which made it even more unnatural. Silver hair like hers doesn’t exist. Yet, it was still beautiful.
It seemed to glitter in the dim lighting of the cafe.
Along with her long eyelashes, her eyes were so blue they reminded one of sapphires.
Following my gaze down the bridge of her nose, she smiled brightly with her delicate pink lips.
Like something straight out of a movie, she was a mysterious faerie., It felt like her entire body was surrounded in a faint glow, like the twinkling light of a firefly.
Above all, just barely below visible when you look at her face, the enormous volume of her breasts demanded your attention. What an outrageous fairy.
She looked to be around the same age as Aika, and yet the difference between them was almost depressing. The thin clothes emphasizing her cleavage clashed with her clean-cut features. Over which she wore a white robe. One might even call it a coat. The design was quite fashionable.
Her skirt, which one might even hesitate to call a mini-skirt... traced a line that made one wonder how her panties weren’t visible. Yet, with one look at her long slender legs, any doubts about her ability to coordinate clothes vanished. It was certainly a sight not seen among the masses.
It’s such a shame.
Twintails would undoubtedly suit sparkling silver hair like hers.
There I go again... I’ve barely even met this girl, and yet my brain was already filled with thoughts of twintails.
For a guy going through puberty, undressing such a cute girl in your mind would be a natural instinct, honed over millennia.
Naked? With twintails?
I suppose that still counts?
Aika jabbed me in the temple with her straw. What the heck are you doing, I asked, in a hushed tone. Aika simply turned her head away with a “Hmph!”.
Watching the two of us bicker, the girl looked like she was smirking while she laughed. Instead of an innocent laugh, I sensed a twinge of evil to her laugh. Maybe I’m wrong. She does seem like a very gentle person.
“Uhm, is there something that we can help you with?”
I unconsciously drew myself into the back of the chair.
The girl put her hand on top of the bench and leaned in closer to me.
“Yes. I have very important business with you.”
Pretending not to hear her clearly wasn’t working.
Re-iterating she only wants to speak with me... was it a language problem? Across the table, Aika’s frown deepened.
“My name is Twoearle.”
“I see... Miss... Twoearle...”
She’s definitely not from this country. Nevertheless, her Japanese was impeccable.
“You sure like twintails.”
“I love them.”
Oops... that’s what I felt inside. And I blurted it out immediately. Saying it out loud to someone I just met – I really didn’t learn anything from what happened earlier today, did I?
“Would you mind not asking why, and put on this bracelet for me?”
“What the heck does this have to do with anything!?”
The girl known as Twoearle suddenly pulled an object out of her coat pocket and handed it to me. It was a very beautiful glittering red bracelet.
Taking advantage of my confusion, she softly took the bracelet and gently prised my fingers apart.
With a mischievous grin, she grabbed the back of my hand. At which point, a strange tingling feeling shot through my body.
“Now, please put it on.”
“He doesn’t need it!”
Leaning over the table, Aika roughly grabbed the bracelet and pushed it back towards Twoearle.
“What is with you?! You just waltz over here and start pushing strange things onto him, how rude!”
“It is not anything suspicious.”
“At this point, it’s a little late to see it as anything but suspicious!”
As usual, she doesn’t hold back even with people we’ve just met.
...Well, I do agree it’s rather suspicious.
“...Uhm, well... hmm... ah!”
Twoearle abruptly clasped my hands and said, “It’s me, Souji-kun. Me.”
I was perplexed by her suddenly friendly tone.
“You remember me. Look, it’s me. Twoearle. You see, I’ve got a bit of a problem right now – so, could you please put that bracelet on?”
I think I’m imagining things, but the way she thoughtlessly leaned forward, exposing her cleavage to me, seemed as though she was begging for me to look at her ample chest.
“What kind of idiot would use an ore-ore scam to someone’s face!”
A whirlwind tore past me as I hesitated. Aika hit Twoearle’s cheek with an open-palm strike of terrifying power, improved by a snap of the wrist.
“Are you insaaane?! Don’t hit people that you just met, seriously!! That was a really sharp sound!”
My shout was already close to a scream.
And it was no wonder. That wasn’t a slap but a little trick that aimed for the cheekbones ― one of the jujitsu techniques of the Mizukage school taught by Aika’s late grandfather. Overturning all theories of martial arts, it was meant to cause as much sharp and serious pain as possible to its target without moving the chest too much. Close to a torture technique.
And it had been carried out brilliantly and flawlessly by a mere high school girl.
It was no wonder that the old man had wanted to make her his successor right up until the moment he died.
“Souji, I’m sure this woman is a crook! Just like those people by the train station who say, I’ll tell your fortune, come into this alleyway! But then they have a bunch of people with mohicans and spikes on their shoulders or something waiting there for you!”
“I don’t know about the first part, but not the second!!”
If there is a villain here she’s in front of me.
Twoearle was bent over with a hand pressed against her cheek. I felt worried and looked over at her.
“A-are you okay? This girl, sometimes she doesn’t know when to hold back.”
She’s so beautiful, and she’s a foreigner. It would really suck if this turned into an international incident.
“Huh?... I was holding back, it shouldn’t be that...”
Aika started to look uneasy, although about at the level of a young kid with a knee scrape that you can fix by rubbing spit on it.
If you were holding back, then what was that noise.
“Oh, y, es... I am... fine...”
“Are you really okay...!?”
The way you’re cupping your cheek and trembling tells me that you’re not! I started to hold out my hand to her, and ―
Aika desperately caught my wrist.
...Twoearle had gotten the bracelet into my blind spot and was trying to put it on my hand.
“So you were just acting!”
“Why are you trying this hard? What do you want me to put my hand in that bracelet for...!?”
Getting a little uncomfortable with this after all, I took a step back. And my heart felt like it went back a hundred meters.
“But I am not asking for any money! ...Just put it in! All I want you to do is put it in! Please put it in, if you don’t put it in I don’t know what I will do!! If you want me to, I will put it in for you.”
I’m pretty sure she’s talking about the bracelet, but you could hear it as something else, so stop, please.
“You can’t, Souji, if you put it on, they’ll say you can’t cancel any more or something and take a huge amount of money off you! Those mohawk guys are going to crash through the entrance of the store on armored buggies!!”
Aika’s got a keen sense of danger, but her information seems to be a little bit lopsided. Twoearle put her hands together as if praying and looked straight into my eyes.
“Please. I will do anything you want if you wear the bracelet...”
My mind was screaming no, but my heart skipped a beat. My eyes moved towards Twoearle’s hair.
“Anything... you said?”
“Yes... I will do anything you ask of me. I will be fine with whatever special interests you may have! Especially the kinky stuff... ha... ha...”
For some reason, Twoearle was starting to breathe heavily. Her face was red.
“Don’t say things like that!”
This is bad.
Is this what you call a cultural divide? Are the differences in humanity that difficult to reconcile? Even though we speak the same language, I don’t think we’ll ever be on the same wavelength.
“I don’t know what you’re thinking about, but asking him something like that is useless. The only thing he ever thinks about are twintails. He’d just ask you to tie your hair up or something.”
“R-really!? But, he’s a guy, isn’t he!?”
I’m not surprised that Aika could tell what I was thinking, but Twoearle seemed more than a little shocked.
If you say you’d do anything...
Twoearle raised her hands, half-smiling.
“You must be kidding me... It is alright! Think of this as advance payment. I’ll let you squeeze them, right here... hurry... they’re surprisingly soft!”
Her softly wobbling chest seemed to explode in my vision. I didn’t know where to look.
Cupping her hands over her breasts, Twoearle thrust herself at me.
“Get away, you pervert! I’ll crush your spine in self-defense if you come any closer!”
Why are you even explaining to her what you’re going to do in self-defense?
“Calm down, Aika! ... I get it, I get it!”
I have to stop this mess before Aika crosses the line.
“I’ll take it. She said it was free, didn’t she? It’s almost like picking a tissue off the sidewalk. If that’s all it takes to make her happy ... it is free, isn’t it?”
Her sudden smile, like a flower blooming, caught me off guard. If only she’d act a little more normal...
“No! Don’t! She’s just trying to scam you! It’s like those spa treatment packages where they say the bath salts are free but it ends up being really expensive! She’s just like one of those door-to-door salesmen!!”
“What are you talking about this time?”
“If he does not wear it, the world will end! Also, it is against the law to bait people by giving out bath salts for free!”
“That’s exactly what I was saying, you free-bath-salt merchant!”
Seriously, what kind of a conversation is this? And what’s up with all the bath salts?
“Anyway, if you do not put this on! All the twintails in this world are going to vanish!!”
Twoearle’s sudden exclamation was like a punch to my stomach. I stepped up to her.
“What the hell did you just say!?”
In that brief moment, Twoearle grabbed my arm, and slipped the bracelet onto my wrist.
Normally, I wouldn’t have been caught off guard like that. However, the spirit-shattering thought of all the twintails in the world disappearing, coupled with that pair of all-encompassing, enveloping, Gaia-class motherly breasts pressing against me ― the assault on my heart and mind left me unable to avoid it.
“Thank goodness. Like this, we will be ready when it finally appears.”
Looking at the clock, Twoearle breathed a sigh of relief before turning her teary eyes towards me.
Oh shit. I don’t think she noticed, but when she’s that close... every inch she moves makes her chest jiggle, pushing their soft, undulating mass against my body... this is bad.
Stay strong, Mitsuka Souji! You mustn’t be defeated by something like this!
She’s a foreigner, okay? This level of intimacy is probably completely normal for her. Don’t imagine anything lewd! You’ll destroy the esteemed image of Japanese men if it ends up showing on your face!
“Take it off! Throw that thing away!!”
While I was lost in thought, Aika grabbed me by my neck, forcefully pulling me away from Twoearle’s embrace.
It felt as if I was flying. Can you believe it? She just lifted me up with one hand!
The sudden movement sent the cups, plates, and cutlery on the table flying all around me.
“Come on... h-huh!?”
Aika was pulling on the bracelet with both hands, her face twisted in exertion. Guess it fit better than I thought.
“Argh! I can’t... get it off!!”
“Ouch! Ow, ow, ow, ow!! What the hell is this thing? It’s like a wedding ring that’s gotten stuck on a finger joint!”
And unlike Twoearle, Aika has no `cushions’, so having her press herself against me was very uncomfortable to say the least.
“A wedding ring!? Aaargh——!”
“Yeaaargh!! Stop! You’ll rip my arm off!”
For some reason, Aika started pulling at it even harder than before. My arm jerked around as if it were a candle flame in the wind.
“This is... strange... Why is it... so tight...!? Look! There isn’t even... a gap on this... thing!”
She’s right. It’s made of metal, and definitely isn’t elastic. How did Twoearle even manage to get it on my arm in the first place!?
I wonder if you can unscrew this thing, I heard my childhood friend say. Stop! Humans don’t work that way!
I almost wanted to cry from the suspicion and despair flooding my mind.
It’s strange asking Twoearle to take it off after I let her put it on me, but I don’t have any choices left.
“Um, excuse me, could you please―”
In a flash.
We were enveloped in a retina-burning, polychromatic stream of light.
As if we were melting into the air, our bodies began fading away along with the light―
And then, we were gone.
“I am very sorry about all this, but I thought it would be faster than an explanation.”
I heard Twoearle say.
Just as the burst of light faded from my vision, a very different sight greeted my eyes.
Soot. The acrid, stinging smell of smoke filled the air around us.
I looked around in a panic.
Sunlight. Wind. Sidewalk. Asphalt.
It was a feeling unlike any that I’d experienced before. My body struggled to get up to speed.
“Why are we... outside?”
We weren’t dreaming, were we? How did we get outside without even noticing it?
“Answer me! Why are we here!?”
Our surroundings were familiar, yet it took quite some time for me to recognize them. No way. How could we have made it here?
‘Maxim Horizon’, the biggest convention center in town. A giant building, spanning two blocks, with an equally large open-air exhibition space. Events, live concerts, and other activities were often held here.
Somehow, we ended up at the center’s open air parking lot.
Roughly 20 minutes away from where we previously were. By car.
“Earlier than expected... I intended for us to have some prep time, but I guess we’ll have to wing it.”
In contrast to the two of us, Twoearle was completely calm.
“I really should have done this earlier...”
She was holding a small stick, about the size of a pen and talking in a very subdued voice.
Unless I’m mistaken, that pen-like thing was what emitted that strange burst of light.
“W-what did you do to us!?”
“I did not intend to bring you along with us, Aika-san, but unfortunately, you would not leave the effective radius. Sorry about that.”
For a moment, I thought they would end up having a (very one-sided) argument again, but a loud sound derailed my train of thought.
“What is it this time!?”
And then, we finally understood what was causing all the soot and smoke.
It was absolutely unbelievable. Cars around us were cooking off like popcorn, sending plumes of smoke and ash into the air.
“This can’t be happening...”
Earlier, I thought we would end up being on some comedy program. Now... it was as if we were passers-by getting caught up in some Hollywood movie pyrotechnics display.
It just didn’t seem real.
“Souji-sama. Please try your best not to leave my side. They will spot you. I cannot project my recognition jamming field very far.”
Twoearle stopped me from moving closer to one of the flaming cars.
“If you stay beside me, they will not be able to see you. Look at that thing over there.”
Twoearle pointed at something in the distance. In the middle of the parking lot was... something.
Both Aika and I leaned in for a closer look... and we both screamed.
“It can’t be! What is that thing!?”
It’s like someone forcefully jammed an insect’s head onto a man’s body. The figure was fully clad in some kind of armored exoskeleton.
Normally, I would have thought it was some actor in a suit, thanks to where we were, but―
Its weight ― wherever it stood, cracks formed in the asphalt.
Its height ― over two meters tall.
Its eyes ― they never stopped moving, darting left and right.
Its teeth ― they looked as if they could crush a boulder.
Its spines ― as sharp as swords, and too many to count, extending from spine to tail.
Everything about it was as real as it could get.
Every cell, every breath it took, was real.
I really wish it was just a suited actor. I really hoped it was.
But, that thing... the mere sight of it filled me with dread. Pure, unrelenting―
The wreckage... the fire... and the smoke. And in the middle of it all, the swaggering figure of that unknown figure... it was almost picturesque.
Almost like a scene from a movie, made real.
“Come out, wherever you are!”
As if flicking a bug, the thing sent a nearby car flying. At the same time, I clearly heard it say that line.
Speaking human language.
Aika and I were too shocked to say anything. The creature, not noticing our presence, twisted it’s mouth, roaring.
Roaring those words of doom that would strike the hearts of its listeners with despair-
“Fuhahahahahaha!! All the twintails in this miserable world will be ours!!”
At the hoarse, resonant voice and the warped thing it was saying I came close to choking up blood.
We were pretty far from it here, but it felt like its voice was ringing right in my ear.
“...Hey, Souji, what are you doing wearing a theme park costume.”
“That’s not me!”
A large number of pure-black creatures manifested themselves around the monster.
The identical mindless drones were massed in a group, ready for battle. Their strange forms were uniformly solid black. It was an incredibly eerie sight.
The combat drones skittered away, dispersing rapidly in all directions, capturing a number of random girls.
But my heart was not beating fast because the girls had twintails. It was because of the monster’s orders.
“What are they holding... Hey, it’s twintail girls!”
“What are they planning to do?”
Unlike Aika and I, who fretted in hushed voices, Twoearle silently tracked their movements.
“Even so, this world is regrettably lacking in twintails! Draped in nothing but steel and electricity ― it’s like they never left the Stone Age!”
It was clearly speaking Japanese, but something was off. Something... no, everything.
“Oh well, that just means we have to find twintails of the finest quality!”
With a wild tone of voice, the monster walked with its shoulders held high.
“Don’t forget the orders from our commander, you vermin! Top quality twintails have been detected in this area, so leave no stone unturned! … There might even be a young girl crying while holding her stuffed bunny rabbit!”
“... Moke? Moke- “
“Hold your tongues! Gathering all of the twintails is our ultimate goal… however! Beyond being a soldier, I’m also a man… and so I’d also like to see a young girl holding a stuffed animal! Find me one and there will be a reward waiting for you!!”
It wasn’t my imagination.
No, it was speaking fluent Japanese,ã€€but for some reason nothing it was saying made any sense.
“We have no need for adults! Drag them out here quickly! I don’t mind if you’re a little rough!”
The black creatures were moving efficiently to carry out its orders.
“What? There are no young girls carrying stuffed animals!? Hmm, if girls don’t have stuffed animals, then a man can provide!! I don’t care, bring them here!”
...Although, can you really call these orders? He’s shouting so crazily that I think if he had something hard in his hand he would throw it.
A crying young girl was brought in front of the monster.
The way she looked, with her twintails disheveled under the eyes of the grotesque, hulking figure, made me think of a shrine maiden taken for human sacrifice, the victim of a crime against nature.
I tried to jump out, but Aika grabbed my arm and stopped me.
My hazy brain began to catch up with what was going on. I got the situation clear in my head, at least.
“They’re only taking girls with twintails, what are they planning to do?”
The monster and his troops weren’t hurting them. Rather, they were giving them dolls to calm them down.
So we can stay here and watch for now, but...
“Hey, Twoearle, you took us here because you knew this was happening, didn’t you? What is that monster...”
Halfway through the sentence, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
In my line of sight was something I should never have seen.
Well, this isn’t the place for sarcasm. But the radiant sight that had burned itself into my heart earlier today had not been a dream or an illusion. I knew that now.
No mistake. That was it, the source of my suffering from the first day of high school life, the diabolical hairstyle that had charmed me in both the good and bad sense of the word.
Two of the solid black combat drones were dragging along Shindou Erina, president of the student council, in her school uniform, one on each arm.
“It’s, it’s her! Hey! Isn’t that the president?”
It looks like Aika has noticed too.
In the gym there were maids standing by her silently to attend on her, but I couldn’t see anyone like that now.
The president was holding something tight in her arms as if it were important. It was hard to see, of course, but the thing sticking halfway out of her shopping bag looked like a toy from a kids’ tokusatsu series.
The monster ran his eyes over her as if he were deciding on her price.
“Ho-hooo, a nice little child! Not only that, but she looks like she’s a princess! A twintail princess... no, indeed, this is nearly perfect! Yours could be the ultimate twintails!!”
“Ultimate...!? No, tell me who you are! You speak human language, don’t you!? Set the other girls free!!”
“I do. As you can see, we can communicate well with each other. And so, I tell you that I cannot release them.”
“Then what are your intentions!”
“You’ll understand soon! First, while I have the opportunity...”
The monster handed a large stuffed animal to the president with an overfamiliar gentleness.
“I want you to hold this kitten stuffie! There is sweetness even in your hostility. A kitten stuffie suits a naughty young girl well!! Hug it!!”
The jet-black figures came up carrying a three-meter-wide pink sofa which it was hard to believe existed, maybe part of their supplies.
They forced the president, now holding the stuffed animal, to sit on it.
“You all, engrave this sight into your minds! Twintails, stuffed animal, and resting on a sofa! This is the golden ratio that my long years of discipline have led me to!!”
The monster was acting like it had at last succeeded in turning gold into a base metal, and on top of that the shrill voices seemed to be cheering it for what it had done. I felt light-headed.
“...We understand that they are aiming for girls with twintails, anyway... Tell me, Twoearle, what can I do? You brought me here because there’s something I can do, right?”
“I will leave the details for later. Right now, we will act.”
My legs were trembling a little despite my brave act, but Twoearle ignored that. She was so calm that she seemed reliable.
“Souji-sama... First, please take off the clothes I am wearing. No, more like rip them off, please. ...Oh, yes. Push both of my arms above my head like this and hold them there... Like this, Souji-sama, with one hand. Then with your other hand, pull off my bra...”
“What is wroooooooooong with you!!”
Twoearle had been making gestures to go with what she was saying.
“Aika, too loud!”
I hastily clapped my hand over her mouth, but―
“Ohh, I sense the presence of a new twintail... Where? Where are you hiding!!”
(What is a presence supposed to be!)
I left that comeback inside my heart, and looked at the twintails beside me. Certainly, they do draw the eye, but...
“Aaah, I’m a twintail too―!”
“Wheeeare are yoooou!!”
We were sixty or seventy meters away from the center of the huge open-air parking lot, but the thick, harsh voice sounded as though it were coming from right next to us. Still, even though we weren’t under any kind of cover, he can’t see us. What is this?
He’s looking straight at us, but he doesn’t seem to notice.
I felt deja vu.
Aika’s words in the store went through my mind.
― “How... Why didn’t I sense her presence?”
Recognition... jamming... that’s what she said earlier.
“...Oh, ohh... Even though I was taking the serious route that I’m not used to and holding it in... This situation I was longing for... The script I polished over and over again... I can’t believe my plan was crushed the moment it started...”
Twoearle’s glare at Aika was a mixture of resentment and disappointment. Apparently something hadn’t gone well for her.
“There’s some way we can help those girls, right!? Come on, tell me!!”
Impatient, I grabbed her shoulders hard.
For some reason a seductive voice.
“Oh, we can do a course correction! Well, Souji-sama, let us go ahead with the script just like before! Shove me against the wall like this, and we’re up to the place where you rip all my clothes off at once! Take them with one cut!!”
“Why don’t I shove you against the wall? As hard as I can!?”
Under Aika’s glare, Twoearle reluctantly said, “I, I understand. It is true we do not have much time, so I will skip a little! And they can sense her Twintail Element even through recognition jamming, so even in the first battle I do not think we can take them lightly.”
Did you say “the first battle?”... but I didn’t have time to wonder, because what she said next was even more outrageous.
“Souji-sama, use the bracelet I gave you and transform!”
“This is what she was going for! All that stuff earlier was for this!”
Twoearle ignored Aika and continued.
“That device creates a battle suit that will reinforce your physical power. You should become at least a match for that monster when you transform.”
“Are you serious!?”
Just as if it were a kids’ superhero show or something like that.
...But I was willing to grasp at any straw right then, and my heart soaked it up without resistance as if it were a voice from heaven.
She could have said any crazy thing to me and I wouldn’t have been able to imagine it was a joke or a trick after the unreal experience of being put through the teleporter.
At least there’s no harm in trying.
“Wa, wait a minute, I don’t know about transforming, but why do you need Souji to do something that dangerous!!”
“You idiot! The enemy’s target is twintails!! How can we overlook that!!”
“...Wait, umm, that’s the most surreal thing about this, or rather, that goal is too stupid... Or Souji, can’t you at least say that it’s because they are kidnapping girls...?”
“No, that is how it should be. It is because you love twintails that you can use the bracelet. There is no need to act like you care about justice.”
“No, I mean, I did want to rescue the girls, I was thinking that...”
An enemy who’s aiming at twintails, and supposedly I can fight against them because I love twintails? What is this?
Really more and more this seems like a joke.
The earth shook so much that I seemed to float for a second, and then came an ear-splitting roar.
“Souji, the people they caught!”
A terrifying scene was unfolding where Aika pointed.
A tragic scene as though I were looking into hell.
In the very center of the parking lot ― the parked cars had been torn out by the roots and scattered and the girls they had caught were lined up single file.
An improvised ceremonial site.
I don’t know if the girl at the front of the line had fainted, but she didn’t seem to be moving as her body floated into the air.
Like a lion jumping through a flaming hoop, the girls in the line moved through a metallic ring with light stretched across it in iridescent colours like a soap bubble. The moment the first girl passed through, her hair came gently untied, and she drifted back down tracing an arc across the sky.
One by one, the instant they could put the next one through, the girls went through the ring as lifeless as parts on a belt conveyor.
In less time than it took to blink, it was President Shindou’s turn... and even the beautiful twintails that had fascinated me dissolved into the air.
“All the twintails in this miserable world will be ours!”
That had sounded like a joke, but I was seeing it for real now.
“― Those bastards.”
I felt something deep snap in my heart for the first time in my life.
“Souji-sama, please compose yourself. It is still all right, they can still be saved.”
“Tell me...! How can I save the twintails? How can I destroy those guys?!!”
“You’re kind of exaggerating... You know, they don’t seem to be hurt at all aside from losing their twintails?”
“Exaggerating, you say......!?”
I grabbed Aika by the front of her shirt and lifted her up with violent emotion overflowing in my heart.
“Is that all that twintails mean to you? If someone takes them, then that’s fine, you don’t really care? Were they such a little thing to you?!!”
“Ca, calm down, Souji. They’ll notice us again...!”
When I heard Aika’s out-of-character thin voice without any force in it, my head cooled off a little, and I let go of her.
“I’m sorry for shouting at you too, Twoearle. But tell me how to use this thing. Quickly.”
“...Are you serious!? No, Souji, you shouldn’t! Especially after earlier! I don’t think you can trust her at all!”
Aika’s voice had tension in it like she was trying to talk a friend out of murder.
“I don’t care if it’s stupid or if it’s dangerous. I can’t forgive those monsters for playing games with twintails!”
Twoearle had been at least half messing around with me, but I think that that part of my feelings got through to her.
She nodded with an earnest expression, and explained, raising her own right arm to her chest.
“Please wish in your heart, ‘I want to transform.’ Wish hard. If you do that, the bracelet should activate.”
“That’s all I have to do? I don’t think about anything specific?”
Twoearle nodded forcefully.
“Okay. Sounds like something even I can do.”
I gathered my resolve and raised the bracelet to my chest, making a fist with my right hand.
Closing my eyes, like she had told me, I wished hard, hard.
I want to transform... I want to save the president, those girls. To take back the twintails. To become someone who can defeat those bastards.
It wasn’t righteous anger. Is there a guy anywhere who can just keep quiet after he sees something he loves trampled into the dust!!
The next instant―
The “transformation” really happened, just like that.
Light began to shine from the bracelet on Souji’s right arm.
An intense light as though soundless fireworks were exploding before his eyes.
Aika covered her eyes with her arm at the unexpected brilliance.
Bands of red light looped around Souji’s body, forming a cocoon. As specks of light flooded out, they tightened around him.
An even brighter sudden flash.
They began to change the barely visible silhouette.
Shoulders, chest, hips, legs - from the top in order light burst like an explosion, and Souji was covered from the neck down in a red suit. But this all happened in a hundredth of a second ― the work of an instant, faster than the eye could see.
Spraying out like steam, lines of red light.
And although it was strange, Souji was surrounded by a radiance that didn’t come from reflected light, just like Twoearle’s silver hair.
“Awesome... I really did transform...”
Souji put all the strength into the fists, testing how it felt.
As far as he could see, the suit covered the body without a gap, from the tips of the feet when he looked down to the fingertips he was opening and closing over and over again. But he seems to have noticed before long that there was no pressure on his head.
“Huh? My face... It isn’t hidden!?”
Touching the cheeks, Souji was disturbed to find that they weren’t covered.
“The suit itself is not that important to the defense system. Also, it is using Imagine Chaff as a countermeasure, so even though your face is uncovered, other people will not realize that it is you, Souji-sama.”
“Imagine... What’s that?”
“It is something so you do not have to worry about people finding out your real identity! Please fight with peace of mind!”
“I, is that so? Okay! Let me try this...!!” I don’t really understand the practical side very well, and there are a lot of things I’m still worried about, but there’s no time left.
Souji put his faith in Twoearle’s words and started to run toward the battlefield, his hair gallantly fluttering behind him.
Souji had already vanished by the time Aika opened her eyes.
“That idiot! Why did he agree to all of this so easily?!”
Aika knitted her eyebrows and looked around.
“Hey, you, uh... hey, Twoearle.”
“There weren’t any other girls around here just now...?”
“Li... light, what is this, I can’t run so easil... whoaaa―!!”
As if someone had put the decimal point in the wrong place, the power in my legs was so great that I kept almost falling on my face when I sprinted.
I was reminded of the time when I was bored and tried setting the running machine to maximum speed.
â‰ªPlease focus your awareness! Souji-sama, that suit, the Tailgear, is created with the power of your mind. You must drive it with your will!â‰«
Some kind of communications device? I heard Twoearle’s voice as if she were whispering into my ear, although I don’t think anything was mounted on it.
“The force of my mind... My will...!!”
This time, I tried to wrap my awareness around my legs.
Up until then it felt like I was clinging to a car moving at top speed, but I suddenly started to feel my feet landing on the ground through the suit.
It wasn’t like driving a car, it was a sense of complete unity like I had become the car.
I had already reached the parking lot and gone more than halfway across it, kicking the rubble out of the way as I was running without trying to avoid it. I could see the girls lying unconscious on the asphalt now.
I know they regretted having their twintails stolen.
I’ll absolutely get them back for you...!!
“Hmmm, magnificent Twintail Elements... But at this rate, I’m not sure if we can obtain the greatest power under this star, the one the Commander was praising as the ultimate...”
It seems like my hearing has improved, too. I can hear the monster muttering something cryptic to President Shindou, lying at his feet.
My anger hit its peak when I saw the president with her twintails cruelly untied.
I planted my feet on the ground, braking at high speed. As I did, something like stoppers came down from somewhere near my ankles and jammed into the asphalt, scraping it and blowing off sparks and dust.
(...What ridiculous strength. That girl created this...!?)
A sense of awe filled my body at the unknown power, taking my mind off my anger. And then I started to be afraid. I was surprised again by the kind of power the girl called Twoearle had in her hands.
How had she created something with this kind of terrifying strength? Just as I was told, just as I had wished, I had accepted it, but had that been the right thing to do?
No, I don’t have time to think about that now. I have to concentrate on saving the twintails... saving the people before me.
“You understand human language, right, monster? Give these people back the twintails that you... took.”
“Tha... You are...”
“...Did you not hear me...? You stole their twintails. Give them back, goddamn you!!”
My anger itself hit him together with my scream.
It sounds strange when I say it, but I understood that the strange ring could take people’s twintails away from them. And so it should also be possible for it to give them back.
Who would subject someone to this kind of danger just because they have twintails? The word “irrational” is not good enough for them, it’s absurd, it’s monstrous.
“Steal the twintails.” If what they said, if their objective were known to the public, then tomorrow there might not be anyone wearing twintails anymore. Because it would be stupid to take the risk.
I can’t... I can’t forgive that...!!
When I scowled at him, the monster soared high into the sky as if he had been caught in a sudden gust of wind.
The ground hit him face-first.
“Nnn, nngh... Was I blown away by such a strong young innocent... Those are... spectacular twintails!!”
“The Commander’s prediction was right when he chose this spot! Even if I leave out the girls before. It was you...! You’ve finally come! We didn’t miss our mark, those are the ultimate twintails!”
The monster was staggering to his feet in exultation.
“The ultimate... twintails...?”
Something is strange.
What the monster was saying gave me an uncomfortable feeling, but at the same time I myself began to feel obscure doubt.
My field of vision, my viewpoint was oddly low.
Maybe it was my imagination, but the hands I was holding up also seemed smaller than usual.
Cold sweat ran down the back of my neck.
A premonition of evil stronger than I’d ever tasted in my life sent a chill through my whole body.
Like a rusty gear grinding, I turned my head over to the side.
One of the car windshields was still in its original shape. I saw the reflection and was speechless.
What would you call this.
― There was a girl with lovely twintails there.
Even now a “twinta~ils” sound effect rang like a chime in my head. Beautiful, spectacular twintails hanging down past the knee.
And ribbon-shaped pieces that moved up and down together with her breathing, so smoothly that they seemed to be swaying.
Her wide eyes opened even farther.
The word “armor” was a little off the mark for what she was wearing, a strange protective suit that didn’t look like it had any weight at all, showy in its use of fashion with red and white as its key colours.
In places, on top of the body suit that stuck closely to her bare skin, angular mechanical-looking armaments had been attached. They were the source of a mysterious glow.
And, and and. There were giant attachments on either side of her hips, but the crotch area of the suit had been designed like a bikini, and half of her thighs were exposed.
I wasn’t sure if I believed this. But I tried touching my chest and groin. My chest was just as flat as it looked from outside, but my constant companion for half my life, the prince between my legs, my important partner, was cleanly and completely missing.
Now that I understood, I became more conscious of it. My unnaturally high voice.
Yes, the reflection in the glass was ―
I, who had become a twintail.
“It turned me into a girl―――――――――――――!!?”
A childish scream was absorbed by the sky.
Aika, watching, was also lost for words.
“...What is that.”
“That is our single strongest weapon against those monsters, the Daydream Armor, Tailgear! Aah, you are wonderful, Souji-sama! Ehehehehe big success.”
Twoearle, with a ribbon of drool that was hanging down to the choker around her neck, stared at the panicking Souji with a look of ecstasy on her face.
“...It’s too wonderful, I’m starting to cry!!”
Aika visited Twoearle with the palm of her hand, using even less restraint. It wasn’t a pinpoint strike to her cheek or somewhere this time but an impact to the whole top of her skull.
“Is, is this already a girls’ catfight scene... or actually it is more like being mauled by a tiger...”
“Depending on your answer it really will be like that. What happened, why is Souji a wwwwwoman!! That’s not just girls’ clothing, is it? He’s even way shorter now!!”
“...Aika-san. In order to obtain great power, you have to pay a corresponding price. It makes a person stronger to face the truth ― little girls are cute, little girls!”
“Is this your fucking rotten hobby―!!”
The sound of a merciless blow.
“That’s not transforming, that’s warped!”
Of course, she didn’t mean “warped” in the sense of metamorphosis.
“Fight fire with fire, they say. When the enemy is ‘hentai,’ a fighter cannot oppose them without becoming HENTAI to a certain degree themselves.”
“So the enemy is yooooooooooooooooooou!!”
Thud, thud, thud...
The head of the beautiful girl whose default was complete corruption ― Twoearle’s imagination soared left and right in thrilling leaps.
Is this my punishment?
I’ve been saying twintails, twintails from childhood until now, did God finally get fed up with me and say, you’re a pain in the ass, shut up, become a twintail already, and give me a shove in the back?
You shoved too hard, God. This isn’t like I can stagger and keep moving forward, this is like a complete orbit of the Earth.
This is like even my cool entrance scene earlier looped once around the Earth and crashed into the back of my head.
“A, a, a, ah.”
I was confused and unable to deal with reality, and the monster and the black things had completely surrounded me.
“Hmm, so you’ve decided you want to be ours? You have my gratitude! Show her along, and be polite!”
At my lack of resistance, the monster suddenly switched to kindness.
The black thing... the soldier in front broke out into a run toward me.
“Ge... get awaaaaaaaaaaaay!!”
As I was waving my arms in front of me like a kid throwing a tantrum, I lightly hit the black thing, and it flew into the air with a clear ‘thunk’ sound like a plastic bottle rocket and crashed into a wall on the rooftop level of a distant building.
Its body began to glow. Before long, it exploded softly into dust and disappeared into the sky.
The monster let out a little noise of interest.
“Hnnn... One Ultiroid in one blow! You’re not just beautiful twintails... What is that fierce power!? Who are you, child!!”
The enemy’s words were getting bit by bit more old-fashioned, and now, as if we were actors in a period drama, he was handing me my promised “cue.”
Although judging from his expression he was serious.
â‰ªSouji-sama! This is a great chance for a cool intro speech!â‰«
“...What am I supposed to be?”
If you have something you want to say, then say it, God --
â‰ªAaah~, that is right, you did not decide what you were going to call yourself after you transformed, did you...!?â‰«
“No, I’m not worried about my name, I’m having doubts about my identity!”
Communicate, help me out, Aika... If I can’t hear your comebacks, how am I supposed to do this?
Not who I am, I’m not even sure what I am.
“Waoo~h, I’m not sure what’s going on but this downhearted little girl ― I can’t stand it!! One of you, get me a doll she can hug!”
The encirclement slowly tightened around me.
I could feel piercing stares even from the soldiers though I didn’t know where their eyes were.
Like they were giving off desire as an aura.
The target of those innumerable desires ― I didn’t try to hold in the chill climbing up my spine.
â‰ªSouji-sama, touch the ribbon piece and picture a weapon in your heart. It should create a weapon made just for you!!â‰«
“Rib, bo, n.”
With bloodshot eyes, I hit one of the two metal ribbon pieces, the only armor on my head.
“Turn me, turn me back into a man......! Agagagagagagaga”
â‰ªThe ribbon does not grant wishes!?â‰«
What is this... I’m not in a fairytale with a moral, there’s no way this punishment can happen, no way I turned into a twintail!!
I hit the ribbon over and over.
Whether my bitter wish got through or not, it lit up and a burst of flame shot out. Forming a spiral in the air, it gathered in my right hand and began to take the shape of a sword like vapor condensing.
The red blade lengthened, wrapping itself around a black core.
A word appeared in my mind like it was being punched into a typewriter.
Fire burst out from my right hand. The magnificent double-edged sword was finished, glowing with red heat.
You couldn’t call it a longsword, but in my hands it looked like a longer than average blade.
Amazi~ng, coo~ol... by the way turn me back.
One of the soldiers came down out of the air with a pose like a jumping frog.
My voice was frozen, so I swung the sword. The enemy took a diagonal slash to the chest, and with a small explosion evaporated into dust.
I was attacked without a moment of pause and made a sudden horizontal sweep. The soldiers, cut in half, vanished one after another.
With no hesitation - with even less hesitation than before, attacks began to come all at once from the earth and sky.
I slashed at them, the spinning sword wrapped in fire that traveled with the sword’s pressure, spreading out like a burst from a flamethrower.
The figures all in black attacked four ways, eight ways, and evaporated without even having time to scream.
The reptile monster, alone now, was trembling all over.
“I’m nailed to this spot, I can’t move... The sword like lightning and the twintails dancing in the sky... I was sure that I was lost in heaven!!”
“You really are lost! Stop, that’s creepy!!”
The monster was overcome with emotion. Tears were flowing from his eyes.
I’m the one who wants to cry.
“Haaah, haah, twintails...”
Desire was swirling around the monster like a vortex. He stuck out his hands and came at me like a zombie.
He was different from the one-kick soldiers before. In many ways.
“Those twintails... Could you pinch them between your thumb and index finger and give my cheeks a few slaps, pechi pechi...!!”
Wide eyes, the blood pulsing in them. Rough, thick breaths. And with the tip of his lips stained with drool, the monster came at me.
A dread second to none rushing through me and a weak scream I’d never heard from myself even once before.
I fell on my butt, letting the sword drop.
“Haah, haah, twintails...”
I can’t stand to look at this.
Is that right... is this what I look like.
Were guys who like twintails all like this? Would someone who didn’t know me think of me as his accomplice? Was this how other people saw me?
...If nobody approves of me, will I become warped too?
“Shit, it’s because there are things like you that...!”
Clutching my head and trembling, I curled up into a ball.
My memories flickered around me like shadows from a lantern.
The times when I had a passionate talk with someone about twintails.
Or when they might not have known them well, but they knew what they were.
There's not a single one of them who didn't start to look suspicious.
What’s wrong with insisting on the kind of hairstyle you like, I always thought... but was this kind of monster what they were seeing?
I was pretending that I was confident and didn’t care what anyone thought, but maybe I was really feeling guilty about my love of twintails...?
â‰ªSou-ji! Get a hold of yourself! You’re the one who said you were going to save them, what are you doing!!â‰«
At Aika’s words I came back to reality.
â‰ªYou were bragging earlier how important twintails were to you, you even grabbed my... you grabbed the front of a girl’s shirt and lifted her up. Now that you became a twintail you’re scared!? Pull yourself together!â‰«
â‰ªShe said ‘the front of her shirt,’ but Souji-sama, you just grabbed her collar in one smooth motion, didn’t you? There were no obstacles to intercept you, were there? Hahahaâ‰«
â‰ªI’m sorry I stopped you before... I can’t look at that monster anymore either, that creep, don’t worry about all the other stuff, just punch him hard!â‰«
â‰ª...Don’t, squeeze like a washcloth... Please let go of my obstacles!!â‰«
â‰ªIf you can’t do anything now, then that’s the thing that will make you his accomplice! If you feel guilty about your usual self, then when it’s time to act, do it right!â‰«
â‰ªIt hurts, ow ow ow ow ow!!â‰«
Aika’s precise speech, as if she could see straight through me. A feeling rose in my heart like sunlight breaking through clouds.
I thought I heard a voice rising in pain, but my mind had already become one with the space around it.
And I’m not confused about what I am anymore.
I’m an idiot.
What Aika says is right. After shaking her off and coming into the battle, what am I doing.
I have been given the power to protect what I love and respect and I’m completely losing it because of my own small worries.
Come to think of it, back when I was a kid, when I was fighting Aika and I had that old man training me, he beat that into my head a lot. You have a lot of idle thoughts, you have to empty your heart - that kind of thing.
Let your heart fill the space... let idle thoughts loose.
Let your heart―
“You are tearing off my breaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasts!!”
For the first time in my life my whole mind is concentrated on this fight. But there’s something, some noise that I can’t imagine comes from a creature of this world, that’s pulling me away and making it really hard to focus, so I let a scream out and began to run.
Nothing else than the scream now.
“I’ll pechi-pechi you! Get your face out here!!”
I lifted the Blazer Blade above my head.
For the first time my slash was blocked.
But on the left cheek of the monster that hadn’t been touched, a burn like the mark of a sword appeared, running in a single horizontal line.
The monster screamed and a beam of light flashed out of the palm of his hand.
But the beam evaporated as soon as it touched my body without disturbing my twintails a millimeter. I didn’t feel anything either.
A combat suit that was so thin, except at my hips, and arms and legs and other places covered by the angular armor, that it didn’t hold me back at all - the Tailgear.
You could see its true worth in the light that surrounded me.
“...Photon Absorber... Is that what this is.”
An â‰ªexplanationâ‰« echoed in my head.
The ultimate defensive film takes the absorbed energy of motion - in other words, impact - and kills it completely by controlling and intercepting it at the molecular level.
This is also the reason why the head, which should be protected as much as possible, is exposed. No attack will hit the Tailgear as long as the whole body is covered in light, and that makes it an invincible weapon.
“Hmph... You’re a terrifying little kid! For the first time in many days my soldier’s spirit is roaring! I am Lizard Guildy, the leader of the Ultima Guil raid squadron! I fight in the belief that a man’s heart should beat even stronger at the sight of a girl who is holding a doll! Tell me your name, at least, if nothing else!!”
I said it so naturally that I was surprised. It felt as though the suit itself was telling me what to say.
The moment I had broken through, it had started calling to my heart.
An irrepressible power was pulsing in my whole body.
“...I asked for your real name!!”
“It’s fine... If you shout a disturbing belief like that at the top of your lungs then I don’t need someone like you to remember my name!”
“That’s mysterious! You believe more or less the same thing, don’t you?”
“Don’t put me together with you!”
“It’s obvious at a glance! If you weren’t one who loves twintails more than anything else, you wouldn’t be shining like that!”
“You know your stuff, don’t you... Fine, I shine all the brighter because of my love for twintails - go ahead and remember that!!”
“That runs counter to what we want, then, doesn’t it... For us, we love twintails even more when we have our hands on them! Hnnnn... hmph!!”
The countless spines on Lizard Guildy’s back separated and lifted high into the sky.
A thin belt of light seemed to bind the spines and his body together.
And one by one as if they had a mind of their own they came down to attack.
I started to cut all of them down with the Blazer Blade.
The burning spines one after another started to hiss like bombs, and after they hit they blew away part of the asphalt.
They came flying even faster. I could dodge them by the width of a hair and they’d still spin around quickly and pursue me like guided missiles.
My eyesight for moving objects was much better because of the Tailgear, but even for my improved vision the complicated orbits were a threat.
“Twoearle! Will everything be okay even when I defeat this guy? What will happen to the twintails!?”
â‰ªThe twintails that were stolen...? The Elements... they’re stored in that ring for an hour or so, I believe! So ignore that guy! Defeat him and break the ring and they’ll go back! ...I believe!!â‰«
I had been a little frightened about the thing Aika called me about... no, incredibly frightened, but I would stick with my first decision to rescue the president’s, and everyone else’s twintails.
“Magnificent! I will not forget this day if I live for ever! My apologies, but I’d like to take a photograph as a souvenir! Rest your head on my shoulder like this, and hold a stuffed...”
I shortened the distance with a single bound and with my left hand wreathed in fire, I punched him hard.
His face mushed in and a large amount of blood came out of his nose.
“Agh, aaugh... No, no help for it... I was trying hard to keep from hurting your face or your twintails, but you’re going to have to resign yourself to a certain amount of damage!!”
The muscles under Lizard Guildy’s steel scales bulged out still more.
He must be gathering all of his strength for an attack.
I stood straight in front of him, preparing for the worst.
But isn’t there... It’s going to be dangerous for the girls lying around here if we keep fighting in this flashy way!
At that moment the vivid image of a deep red pillar of fire floated into my mind.
“―Aura Pillar...? This, then!”
It’s like a help file was included and I can search through it by thinking. Very nice of her.
Fire burst out of the tip of the Blazer Blade and swelled to the size of a basketball. With all my strength I swung the sword up and let it fly loose.
“What is this!?”
The ball of fire exploded right in front of Lizard Guildy, and drawing a spiral encircled his body as its track took the shape of a pillar.
“N, m, nor can I move!”
It certainly is a barrier that binds the enemy. So this is the Aura Pillar!
Keeping my eyes on Lizard Guildy, I began to run.
The sword that I was holding started to change shape, responding to my spirit. The hilt and ornamental piece unfolded, and the lines that ran through the sword like the veins of a leaf began to flash violently.
Fire shot from the blade shining with red heat, stretching it to almost twice its length.
The edge slipped through the barrier that was holding him. And straight down in the direction it was already going, it cut Lizard Guildy in a single sweep from the crown of his head.
Yes, â‰ªGrand Blazerâ‰« is definitely a final move... The trails of flame ran into the sky.
A heat wave like a bubble popping. Lizard Guildy screamed in agony. Arcs of electricity were coming off him.
“He, hehahahaha... Magnificent... To perish with a twintail brushing gently against my cheek... How can I have any regrets! This is the end I always dreamed of as a child!!”
The Aura Pillar swelled out suddenly to three times its size.
Lizard Guildy, holding his belief next to his heart to his last moment, detonated in a tremendous explosion which couldn’t be compared to the others, and dispersed on the wind ―
“Don’t vanish with a dying vision like thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!!”
After there was only silence.
I looked out on the devastated parking lot, although you could hardly tell that’s what it was anymore.
On the other hand, Grand Blazer had scorched the ground a little, but there weren’t many more traces of my fight. The unbelievable flare and impact had done almost no damage to the surroundings.
I saw Aura Pillar as something like a support technique for capturing the enemy, but maybe it’s to keep damage from explosions down to a minimum.
I cut the drifting huge metal ring in half without any particularly strong feelings.
As if it had completed its task, the sword I was holding turned into flame and dissolved into the air.
The ring broke into tiny pieces and the light inside it became sparks that broke into streams flowing down into the unconscious girls one by one.
As I saw their hairstyles returning properly to twintails, I was hit by a sense of exhaustion. I wasn’t sure if I might fall on my back.
I had been lost in the fight, but was I really able to save these girls... was I really able to save twintails?
There was a small diamond-shaped stone glittering light green on the ground. I picked it up.
The word came into my mind. As I held it the armor piece on my left hand slid open and sucked it in.
“...Huh, this is another power of the Tailgear?”
I almost jumped when someone called me from behind.
The president was awake and looking at me in wonder with her twintails fluttering behind her. They were covered in soot but had not lost their nobility.
She was making a token effort to hold the hem of her torn skirt together with her hand.
“I would like to... thank you very much for saving me.”
“Ah, hahaha, for what? I’m just a guy, no girl who happened to be passing through!”
I don’t think anyone could believe that when I’m dressed like this but I have to come up with something.
“No, um, that is... I woke up midway through the fight.”
“Yo, you fought wonderfully! ... You’re still only small, but you’re gallant... and strong ... I was... so moved!”
This is bad. I thought everyone was unconscious.
The president is also really young-looking, but right now I don’t look like any more than an elementary schooler.
And that child was carrying a sword and fighting with monsters... how can you come up with an explanation for that situation.
“Excuse me... How in the world did you...!”
“A, a, I’m an ally of justice! Now, please get, out of here quickly!”
I’m really feeling how bad I am at ad-lib, as Aika pointed out an hour ago.
“I would like to thank you very much for saving me!! Will we meet again!?”
“You’ll see me again, as long as you love twintails.”
Bowing deeply to me, the president left at a half-run.
Thank goodness, she didn’t investigate too much.
For something on the spur of the moment, that line wasn’t bad. Although I was just trying to get through this.
A limousine cut diagonally across the parking lot at a reckless speed like it was slashing the lot in half and stopped, leaving a huge tire mark. Maids, a lot of maids, jumped out from inside and rushed over to the president.
A few of the girls who had fainted also began to wake up. The maids... probably at the orders of the president, broke the task up and began to care for them. It didn’t seem like there was any place for me anymore.
Afterward were the girls’ parents and families, maybe... adults, now free, also came running one by one.
The president might have seen me when I was screaming in terror... but I had rescued everyone safely, so I’d like her to forget about it.
I shifted my line of sight to the front.
I can see myself reflected in the side mirror of a car.
It’s a little young, but the way I look is certainly exactly what I was dreaming of, my ideal twintails.
I felt heat coming into my cheeks and shook my head desperately.
If I keep looking at myself, happiness and unease will hit me simultaneously.
Sirens started to come into earshot. Of course, the police and ambulances and things would be coming.
As the thread of tension snapped I felt dizzy.
Hugging a wall to avoid people’s eyes, as I went around a corner I saw Aika and Twoearle, who had been waiting for me.
“It’s finally over...”
My last strength drained out and I fell back on the ground.
The transformation was cancelled, and I was wrapped in a cocoon of light and returned to my original shape.
Thank God I didn’t stay like that my whole life...
Aika ran over to me and caught me in her arms, and out of relief, maybe, I flickered in and out of consciousness.
“It is a pity for you to have your head pressed against the ground. Please come here, my chest has proper cushions.”
“It’s my chest, not the ground!!”
“―For a woman it is only called a chest once it has begun to puff out. That is, the area below your neck is referred to as the ground, Aika-san.”
“Why don’t you kiss the ground, dumbaaaaaaass!!”
Aika caught the back of Twoearle’s head with an eagle grip and shoved her into the sidewalk.
“Nooo, stooooop, it’s my first kiiiiiiiss!!”
I want to fall asleep feeling like I made everything turn out okay, but I still hear screaming. Come on, guys.
As though guided by fate I dived into the maelstrom of war.
And the curtain closed on TailRed’s first battle.