"Chiharu, are you OK!?"
Five seconds before my bladder was seriously about to explode, Zonmi, Manami and Kyouko entered the room by smashing the door open.
Right now I don't care how they knew about this place.
Good. What nice timing! I'm saved!
"You girls... Have you come to save me?..."
"Naturally. I have no excuse for suffering such an embarrassing defeat against that dragon earlier. But now that's all right."
"Good grief. When I heard that Haru had been taken captive, I doubted my ears."
"Even Kyouko... What the heck happened?"
"I brought her along. If we are going to confront a dragon, isn't it better to have even a bit more battle power?"
Manami laughed with innocence.
My little sister Manami and my childhood friend Kyouko — the relationship between the two of them seemed surprisingly good, it looks like Kyouko was personally teaching Manami at some place I didn't know of.
Even though I was curious about how Manami knew about Kyouko, right now, more than that...
"Quickly unbind these ropes! I'm in trouble! It's a state of emergency!"
The instant I yelled that, they entered in panic.
"The dragon! If you have returned, show yourself!"
"Step back, little sister. This is our duty."
Umbrella and halberd. Zonmi and Kyouko held those weapons in preparation to battle.
"Fu, fu. Draw back, newcomers. 'Cos the one that will protect brother is me. I will finely chop that dragon!"
Manami dual-wielded huge kitchen knives that looked like they had blades of 40 cm.1
Eh, how come even you can nonchalantly make a cool pose?
Or rather, where did you purchase those things!? Isn't that a flagrant infringement of the Swords and Firearms Control Law!?
"No, it's not that..."
The danger... is the pressure of liquid in my bladder...
Shit, this situation... It's extraordinarily difficult to tell them...
"What do you mean it's not that... Chiharu!? What's with that ring!?"
"It's a long story, but I... was forced into a contract with that red dragon against my will..."
"Fufu~n, a ring on your left ring finger~♪ Onii-chan, you've gotten engaged without Manami knowing! ... Well, who's the girl?"
"Forget that! Hurry up and unbind me. If not, I'll..."
"What's with that!? Chiharu doesn't learn! Is there something more important for us monsters? Irresponsible..."
As Zonmi raised the umbrella in her hand — at that instant.
In the end my bladder surpassed its limits.
Making a nice *whoosh*, I stained my trousers yellow.
Nooooo, don't looooook!
I peed, I peed myself! Stoooooooop!
I screamed inside my heart.
Aaah~, why did I have to wear white trousers today... Stupid, stupid, stupid.
The monster girl combo glared at me as if they had seen something filthy.
No, but isn't that actually filthy?
I don't know why, but my sister's bloodshot-eyed stare gave me an 'as I expected, that's my sister~' strangely deeply moving feeling.
× × ×
"Isn't it better not caring about it? That is, I don't like careless people, but... Since I used to have the same problem... Was it 15 years ago?"
"What a surprise. This development is more screwed up than I predicted... Lucky I had already crossed my fingers2 that Chiharu didn't become a monster tamer."
"Mufufu, Onii-chan's pee-pee..."
Facing my foolishness, those three's reactions were varied.
There aren't many spots to play the straight man...
I mean, today's was such a disgrace that could eternally revoke my position as the straight man.
I wanna die.
If there were a hole, I'd continue digging it until I reached Brazil.
For now, I'll rinse my trousers and pants and then dry them at the fireplace.
It's good that there's a fireplace... I wouldn't want to return home with my trousers dripping wet.
Incidentally, since I came across a cloth of a correct size right in the middle of the room, I tied it around my lower body like a pareo. It seems I have to endure it for about an hour.
"... Hey, is it true that I can't remove this ring?"
"The answer is both 'yes' and 'no'. At least, the tamer cannot one-sidedly cancel the contract."
"... If it's the opposite, it could be?"
"Yeah, the monster is granted that legitimate right. If it feels the master is not an appropriate one, it can void the contract at any time."
Well, if it wasn't like that, there wouldn't be any benefits for the monster when forcibly making a contract. Isn't that only natural?
"Then, what do we do after this, ghoul?"
"... For the moment, let's try to consult with Luka. If we try to conceal this matter, the IMA could misunderstand it. If that's the case, providing rings for us two — maybe they could approve an exception."
"I think it will be difficult, though. It doesn't seem those straight-laced people will acknowledge an exception."
"Hey. Were both Zonmi and Kyouko acquainted with the IMA since before?"
"Shut up, Manneken Pis3!"
Since I didn't have a rebuttal, I shrugged.
"In the first place, according to the laws approved by the IMA, in order to travel between both worlds, you need their authorization. That means there are no monsters that don't know them."
What's that... They have a Constitution?
Did those kinds of questionable laws exist with me being unaware?
"But, hey, in any case I too agree with raising this with the IMA. Though it seems unlikely, we can't give up before trying something."
"Then, once again, let's return home and ask for another ring. Here it stinks of piss."
Aren't all of them becoming more and more mean?
... But, I have lost. I'll have to overcome many times this kind of adversity.
"Hold your horses!"
I said raising my voice a bit.
No matter what, I couldn't ignore something she said when she left from my head.
"The dragon that kidnapped me... That kid called Iris, I'm... worried about her. She may fall into unforeseen problems. That's why, I'm thinking on going to see how she's doing."
"You'd like to go see?"
Zonmi threw me a glance as cold as ice.
As I thought, did I end up being hated?...
That's right, after all I'm the Manneken Pis. I can look the 1,000 yen note's Noguchi Hideyo4 in the eyes... Ha, ha, ha.
"... Why are you feeling down? You can summon her... Since you have already made a contract."
Grumbled Zonmi while sulking a bit.
I think Zonmi said something like that before.
I didn't realize — Monster tamers can invoke their contracted monsters any time they like.
"Weeell... How do I do that?"
"Bring the ring to your lips and chant 'Summon'."
"Fine, understood... Summon!"
Nothing happened even though I chanted... A blunder?
"Summon! Summon! Summon! Summon!"
"... How weird. In a contract it's normally possible..."
"Mmm~, could she be outside the summoning range? Or maybe Haru's magic power's dimmed?"
"... Both possibilities seem low. Since to get outside of the summoning range, you should at least go overseas, and it looks that Chiharu's magic power is full throttle — no, it seems to have increased instead since the last time we were together."
"Certainly strange... As far as I can think, the only possibility..."
"A 'Catch Net'?"
A term I didn't recall to have heard suddenly appeared.
"... What's that 'Catch Net'?"
"It's a man-made tool — an illegal item that traps the catched monster and prevents its invocation by means of summoning... But that possibility is also low. The use of 'Catch Nets' has been forbidden amongst monster tamers. Since there were some tamers that employed them with evil intentions."
The next instant, a chill ran down my spine.
It could be. If Iris was chasing tamers that participated on that 'dragon hunting'...
"Say, is there another way to look for Iris's whereabouts?"
"It's possible for fellow contractees to discern each other's location at any time."
"And how do I do that?"
"Narrow your eyes while thinking about your contract partner."
I narrowed my eyes as I said that.
Then, something like a faint line of light appeared.
"As that magic power thread connects both rings, I suppose that if you follow it, you'll meet. But be careful, since if the line is thin and brittle, the magic power of the partner will decrease."
What's with this?
The thread that comes from the ring was so thin that looked like it could snap any moment.
"Hey, I have to tell you something..."
I told the girls all that happened until Iris departed.
"I see, the ringleader behind the 'dragon hunting' five years ago — if it's him, there's a possibility he could be using 'Catch Nets' without permission. If we assume the worst case scenario..."
"Iris could have been captured."
"Most probably, it's like that."
Shit, that Iris... It was rash to go alone.
"I think we should go help her."
The moment I said that, the two monsters showed surprise.
"You, could you explain what you mean by that? If our reasoning was spot on, our opponent is a very strong evil tamer with a career of at least five years... To march into enemy camp without thinking is suicide!"
"... Acknowledged. Even so, I can't let her die without doing anything."
That chick... Iris, how could I have fun while she's left without blood or tears by an evil tamer. Reality isn't like that. It was only for a short time, but I could experience Iris's kindness. I can't agree to see her die without doing anything.
"First, I want to confirm something."
Zonmi said with a serious tone.
"Chiharu... Is your resolution the real thing? This battle will be different from anything until now. In the battles for the contract 'till this moment, your life was barely assured... However, this time is different. The decision that you won't regret it even if you lose your life — does Chiharu have that?"
That's right, it's as Zonmi says. Surely, this battle is different from those until now.
A small error of judgement could become a big crisis. Our lives would literally depend on it5...
However, we have to do it!
My reticence has long since gone far away.
It's too late to hesitate.
After thinking for a bit, I raised my head.
Those two showed shocked smiles.
"Haah... Things like getting himself killed when going to rescue his partner... What a naive guy... But, well, Haru's softheartedness isn't something new."
"On that, I also agree... I still have some debt to repay6 to the red dragon. I'd regret it if she died like that."
"... Is that OK, even though it's totally my selfishness?"
"Don't look down on us. We already knew about our master-to-be Chiharu's character."
"Well, we're about to board that boat~7"
I have good companions.
Anyhow, I had already made a contract with Iris. That resolution overcame any thought of giving up. It seems that I didn't have to worry about these girls. Wait, hey?. Ain't I forgetting about something important?
I noticed the source of the uneasy feeling.
"Come to think of it, I wonder where Manami has gone."
I tried to survey my surroundings, but my little sister's shape was nowhere to be found.
"... How weird, she was next to me a while ago."
"Hey, which reminds me, haven't Chiharu's pants disappeared?..."
What the heck. I have a nonsensically bad premonition...
Over the fireplace... A farewell letter? I tried reading the written contents.
Sorry. I was so horny I couldn't help but steal them. Don't look for me.
"Danger! Haru has broken!?"
Overcome with anger, I promptly tore the letter in little pieces.
"Why has my little sister acted so idiotically right when we were in a serious mood!?"
"I don't know. I'd be troubled if you asked me..."
Zonmi made a face of utter disgust.
"Though I don't want to tell her how serious the moment is."
Kyouko's statement was painfully too spot-on.
"... I have been wondering since long ago, but Chiharu's sister is really weird. She's abnormal."
"... Well, that's because at Haru's place there are a lot of complicated family circumstances."
Shit, because the situation was like this I let my guard down8.
I couldn't let my home's laundry (especially underwear) remain long inside the washing machine. Because my sister is like a crow looking for garbage.
"Well, since anyway we couldn't follow little sister, it's all right."
"Since were she here, we absolutely couldn't ask her to come with us. If your dirty pants have saved Manami-chan's life, that's cheap."
Manami-chan's life and my dirty pants have the same value?...
How can that be? What a pitiful fellow, my sister.
× × ×
Going outside, the first thing that came into my field of vision were luxuriant and abundant trees.
Since one could see the ground gently sloping, it seems like this is the top of a mountain.
There were no traces of humans living nearby. As the leaves obstructed the light, it was overall a gloomy and unpleasantly humid place.
"A beautiful place, as always; though I can't stomach red dragons, their sense for choosing a place for their den deserves praise."
"Is, is that so?"
It seems this is a comfortable place for ghouls.
"Which reminds me, how did you locate this place?"
I asked the question that was bugging me.
Since a place this remote cannot be found by searching at random.
"That's because Chiharu's sister... No, let's better stop with that."
"Eh. What's with that disturbing way of talking!?"
"Haru, don't you think that in this world there are things you'd be happier not knowing about?"
Kyouko admonished me.
Since imagining it was terrifying... I stopped thinking about it.
"Eeerrr, then, let's get out of here."
We knew our destination.
We only had to follow the red string that stretched from the ring. Why don't we take a taxi once we climb down this mountain?
Nightfall was slowly approaching... We don't have time to rest.
"What a difficult problem. As the quickest means of transportation depends on the destination, we can't decide immediately."
"But, well, in any case we need to descend the mountain... Do we climb down?"
The one who stopped us on going down the slope was Kyouko.
"I don't think that's a good idea."
"... What's the matter, Nephilim... Eh, wai... Wha-wha-wha-what!?"
Zonmi's bewilderment was not unreasonable.
As if she had thought something, suddenly — Kyoko took off her clothes.
"I misjudged you, Nephilim... Even you are a pervert..."
"... Saying it like that, anyone who hears you will think I'm a pervert."
"Doesn't saying it with no pants on take away your credibility?"
She hit where it hurt.
As I'm now suffering from the disgrace of having my pants stolen by my little sister, I'm currently in the highly-praised "going commando" state. To me, it takes away all the solemnity that should have been present before a decisive battle. If I go out without wearing pants, of course I can't calm down.
No, it would be a problem if I could calm down.
"It's only this much, let's be calm. Si-since Haru has seen me many times, I'm accustomed!"
Why do you say it in a way that can lead to misunderstandings...
Like throwing daggers from her eyes, Zonmi glared at me with her dead fish-like eyes, grinding her teeth and without saying anything.
"Heh. Humph, was it like that, so? Well, I don't mind it in the least. I already knew about the improper relationship between you two."
"If you don't mind it, put on a more normal face! And also, we don't have any improper relationship!"
I've said it many times.
We're only normal childhood friends.
"But, am I not still embarrassed?... Showing everything, it's the first time."
As she ended up in her undies, Kyouko's body was wriggling.
Hey, wait. Could this fellow... Be undressing completely...
"Stop, wait! As I expected, going further... You absolutely can't! If I undressed like that, I wouldn't be able to keep living!... Bu-but I don't have anything to show."
No... I certainly saw Zonmi's nude figure, but since she was in ghoul form, does she think it doesn't count?
Then, the next instant.
Kyouko's body became black and gigantic.
I see, Kyouko intended to do that from the start...
A giant with wings growing from its back — a body length of maybe around 8 meters9?
Peeking out from within its robot-like mask there were sharp eye glints. A jet black coat as if clad with shadows. Its hair that had changed to peach pink and seemingly long enough to reach the waist was of a charming color.
That appearance, rather than a giant, was more fitting to be described as that of a devil or fallen angel.
... This is a Nephilim. Kyouko's true form?
"Ho-how is it? Revolting, as I thought?"
Said Kyouko transformed into a Nephilim.
"Absolutely not, I think it's absurdly cool."
It was not a lie.
It sure is eerie, but this dark feeling appeals to my chuuni10 soul.
"... Thank you. If you ride on my back, I think I can transport us to our destination... But it's the first time I've tried this."
"Eeh, how amazing."
"A giant that soars through the sky — Nephilim. It's my first time seeing one, but you sure have been hiding a lot of magical power..."
Zonmi muttered in admiration.
A flying giant? It's certainly very unusual.
And in addition to that, superhuman strength enough to lift a truck with a single hand. Thinking like this, isn't Kyouko a considerably strong monster?
"The ghoul has picked up my clothes, right?, since I wouldn't like it if Haru had picked them up."
"Oh, now that you mention it, where have you put Kyouko's panties? Perhaps they got ripped in the earlier mix-up..."
Taking a peek just to be sure, I couldn't find anything like that on Zonmi's hands.
"When Chiharu opens his mouth, it's only 'panties'. Isn't there anything other than panties in your head?"
"It-it's not like that!"
Having said that, it surely feels that recently I've been repeating 'panties, panties' with an abnormal frequency.
If I'm not careful — Won't I be treated as a pervert?
"Since I assumed from the start that today I'd be involved in many ruckuses, I put on underwear made from 'Magical Silk'."
"Mm, What's that?"
"'Magical Silk' — It's a specially made cloth that won't be torn even when changing from human to monster. It's very popular among female monsters in the Netherworld."
"Eeh, there's something like that?"
"Then, hurry up and get onto me. Since I can't go very far with this form."
Following the instructions, we rode on Kyouko's back.
The lack of seatbelts was worrisome. While praying that we didn't get thrown off, I clung to Kyouko's shoulder.
"... Hey, but isn't it weird? Usually, isn't keeping human form what consumes magic power?"
Suddenly, I remembered what Zonmi said to me before.
"That depends on what the base form you live in is. In my case, since I usually keep human shape a lot, this one is more tiresome."
"Eeh, looks like there are many kinds of monsters."
And, at last, Kyouko flapped her wings and began to fly.
"Well, here we go. Hold on tight."
Our bodies were pushed up by an intense buoyancy.
Uoh... We're flying for real...
Gaining altitude quickly, before long we could take in the whole area.
"Ha, ha... This is fantastic! I'm... impressed. Kyouko, you are truly amazing!"
"... For that, thanks. I'm glad to be employing the power of a monster for the sake of others..."
"Humph, how come you say things like that after growing wings?..."
Zonmi seemed somehow displeased as she pouted.