Chapter 2: The Younger Sister’s Determination
The sound of tableware clinking together rang out.
In the midst of the (likely astonished) gazes focused on him, Tohru continued his meal without a word.
It wasn’t like his manners were exemplary to begin with, but right now he was stuffing his face with reckless abandon, not stopping once to savor the food.
Cram in a mouthful. Chew. Gulp it down. Take a swig of water, then cram more inside. Repeat.
Over and over again, as if he were performing a simple mechanical operation.
He looked neither pleased nor perturbed by the quality of the food.
Though there was probably no greater insult to the chef that made it, Tohru wasn’t even tasting the food. He was eating only to replenish the nutrients within his body.
It had only been a little over three hours since then.
Upon gathering wild plants in the forest, he’d come across a lone girl, leading to a face-to-face encounter with a Feyra unicorn. Running around trying to protect the girl from the unicorn and buy her time so she could use her magic had caused him to lose a lot of blood and stamina. On top of all that, he’d activated a technique that he hadn’t used in about two years, “Iron-Blood Transformation”.
This “Iron-Blood Transformation” in particular had consumed a bizarrely huge amount of his stamina.
To be honest, it was a miracle he was still standing. The skill had forcibly dragged all the natural strength out of his body, and he was now walking the tightrope between consciousness and unconciousness.
As a result…Tohru found himself to be ferociously hungry, and the second he had set foot back in Del Solant, they had headed to a diner. Incidentally, the pile of empty plates in front of him was already large enough to hold portions for more than five people.
It was already afternoon, and the diner was bustling.
At first, the people around Tohru didn’t pay him any mind, but after a while they could no longer ignore the fact that a young boy was downing all this food, stacking plate after plate without a word.
After cleaning his sixth plate, Tohru looked up and spoke.
“One more just like that.”
Through a small window that connected the kitchen with the dining room, the chef could be seen nodding and looking irritated.
“Eat, too much,” muttered the silver-haired, violet-eyed girl as she furrowed her brows, looking at Tohru.
That was what she had told Tohru to call her. Though he didn’t know where she came from, right now the important thing was that she had said she would pay for the meal. Tohru didn’t have an ounce of pride, and he was completely penniless.
“Unreasonable. Eat, too much. Stomach, shocking.”
“You’ve got the money, don’t you?”
Chaika gave a nod, but didn’t look happy about it.
“Then no big deal. People get hungry after they work, y’know.”
Well, she had said she would treat him to breakfast as compensation for guiding her here. But she was probably also thinking that not precisely confirming the amount, or rather, the budget beforehand was a mistake.
Tohru then took a piece of bread out of a basket beside him and began to devour that as well, tearing the bread into small strips.
He wasn’t just eating anything and everything he could. Actually, Tohru had been taught that in order to replenish nutrients most effectively, the order in which he ate mattered. The brain sent signals to the stomach to release digestion enzymes based on the stomach’s current state, and he was coinciding his eating habits with when he thought his stomach would be releasing those enzymes. So this manner of eating was actually pretty effective.
Tohru had just scarfed a piece of bread from the basket in the blink of an eye, when—
He froze in place.
For some reason, out of the blue, every patron in the restaurant froze as well.
No, for it to be “out of the blue” meant that there was absolutely no reason for it. It was more like an instinct. When a rabbit comes face-to-face with a tiger, it instinctively cowers, and this was much the same thing. The rabbit probably isn’t aware of the reason, and neither were the patrons from the diner.
“You didn’t come back, so I was worried.”
“What on earth is my dear brother doing here?”
Tohru mustered up his willpower, and turned around to face the entrance of the restaurant.
Standing there was—just one girl.
She had a long, lean figure, and black hair that was tied up at the back of her head. Her eyes narrowed into long slits were beautiful, but—when she stared at you with those half-lidded eyes, there was an intimidating air about her.
Akari. Tohru’s younger sister.
She briskly made her way through the restaurant, toward Tohru and Chaika’s table.
Instinctively, the restaurant’s patrons moved out of her way, making a path for her. They didn’t know why she was here. She was only walking—her eyebrows weren’t raised in anger and her face wasn’t red, but she still gave off a raging heat. None of them were able to hide their fear.
“Akari, no, well, this is…”
In a panic, Tohru struggled to find the words.
Come to think of it, it was already the middle of the day—he had left the house with the intention of procuring breakfast, and it was way too late for that. With no thought to the sister who he had left waiting at the house without food, he had put down enough for six people, and was about to pick up his seventh plate. There was absolutely no more room for excuses.
Conclusion: All he could do was earnestly apologize.
“…Sorry. I forgot.”
Rather than considering her brother’s grandiose apology, Akari narrowed her eyes at him, and then looked behind and noticed Chaika, whose eyes were wide in surprise.
“…I smell blood,” she murmured.
For the time being, Tohru’s back, which had been sliced open by the unicorn’s tusk in a single blow, had been stitched up with some needle and thread which Chaika had on hand—both the clothes and the skin—so he had thought he was pretty inconspicuous. As expected of a sister, she seemed to have noticed something unusual about her brother immediately.
“Ah, no, this is just…”
“It might be unbecoming for someone like me to say this, but…”
“Just what do you think you’re doing, deflowering this girl that looks to be a child?”
Tohru looked at Chaika.
Chaika didn’t seem to know what she meant, since she was just staring blankly.
“What is it, dear brother?”
“There are all sorts of things I’d like to say to that, but now’s not the time. Point is, you’re wrong.”
“Is that so?”
Akari tilted her head, devoid of expression.
“Then what am I misunderstanding? Please enlighten your stupid sister, dear brother. This scent clinging to you is without a doubt the smell of blood, of a girl on the cusp of womanhood whom you’ve deflowered.”
“Suspect a wound first!” Tohru shouted as he struck the table.
But Akari tilted her head to the other side and spoke.
“But that would be strange.”
“What’s so strange about it?”
“It’d be strange if you got injured just by going to the mountains.”
Tohru heaved a sigh.
Well, the fact that she had faith in him to that extent made him somewhat glad.
“Moreover, leading around a girl you don’t even know, I doubt you’d be able to keep your sexual desires in check.”
“Don’t say disgraceful things like that!”
After all, they were currently in a restaurant full of people.
“But if that’s the case, you always have your non-blood-related younger sister right here, so it would be more logical for you to express your sexual desire towards me first. I might not be to your liking, but the desire of man is—”
“Shut up. Just shut up already,” Tohru said with something like a moan. “Or rather, just take a look at this.”
Tohru reached around to his back and lifted his clothing up just a bit.
The entire wound wasn’t visible, but even Akari could see the remnants of a sewing job.
She seemed to be as surprised as one would expect, as her eyes went wide.
“Do you understand now?”
“Yes. I understand. It seems I’ve made a grave misunderstanding.”
“If you get it, then good. If you get it. Oh yeah, since you’ve come all this way, your food is also—”
Without even hearing Tohru’s words, she fixed her gaze upon Chaika.
“I will kill her.”
Akari determinedly walked towards Chaika, and Tohru automatically stopped her by twisting her arms behind her back. Right now she didn’t have the hammer; but that didn’t mean he could relax. Akari could crush an apple with her bare hands. It wasn’t like she was particularly muscular, but since she was a member of the Acura clan she was certainly no novice.
“You don’t get it at all, do you!?”
“Of course I do. This girl did you in. And she gave my exalted brother that wound, so my gentle, understanding self might not be able to hold back, either.”
“Exactly what part of you is ‘gentle’ and ‘understanding’? And are you respecting me or insulting me? I can’t tell!”
It seemed like Akari thought Chaika gave him that wound.
“…Am I mistaken?”
Still held back, Akari turned her head and looked at him over her shoulder as she asked that.
“But there is no other way to hurt you than distracting you with your fetish for young girls.”
“Exactly what kind of person do you think I am?”
“It was a Feyra.”
He lowered his voice as he said this, and changed his way of speaking. If word got out on this side of town that a destructive beast had appeared, it would cause a huge uproar. They would probably say things like, “That guy encountered a beast of destruction and lived to tell the tale? Just what in the world is he?” If it came to that, there would no longer be any point to going so far out of his way to keep his family name secret and hiding himself within the refugee district of Del Solant.
Akari immediately narrowed her eyes.
“For whatever reason, I met a Feyra. By chance, I happened to meet this girl, Chaika, and I got her to help me defeat it. She’s a wizard, and there’s a Gundo in that coffin there.”
In the town of Acura, there was a code language that only the Acura clan knew of. These words made it so that anyone around them would have no idea what they were talking about, but at the same time, using it also indicated to Akari that this was a serious matter.
“And so this girl’s actually my benefactor. It’s lunchtime now, but this girl offered to pay for our breakfast in return for me guiding her. We’ve had enough plants already, so eat up.”
Akari nodded her head.
At the same time Tohru released his hold on her.
“I apologize, dear brother.”
“Finally, you understand.”
“I had thought that since you’d been out of work and lying around all day, your sexual desire was full to—”
“Shut up already.”
“Anyway…since you went through the trouble of coming here, we can both get fed. Her treat.”
Akari looked in Chaika’s direction, and after a long sigh, Chaika nodded.
“I see. Then I’ll have the special of the day, enough for four people.”
“When you didn’t come back, I got worried, used my hidden technique, and ended up looking all around town for you. As such, I am quite famished.”
“…Wait, you shouldn’t use the technique like…ah, never mind. Whatever.”
Well, it was true that Akari could also use the “Iron-Blood Transformation” technique.
“Well, sorry, but I guess that’s how it is.”