Shinichi was trembling to the point that Myuhi could tell just by looking.
“…I’m still me, right?”
Shinichi asked. It was such a weak voice.
“You can still recognize me for myself, right?”
Yet it sounded like a scream.
“I haven’t transformed, have I? My body, my arms, my face… I still look like me?”
In that regard, he couldn’t even trust himself. Though his voice remained calm, Myuhi could tell that he was just forcing his voice to sound like that. Coupled with the trembling of his body, he was the very picture of a child afraid of being abandoned.
─────A lost child.
She thought back to that phrase that came up when they first met. Yes, rather than his situation or his question, it was that phrase that bothered her. Because the boy in front of her was just like that – a child on the verge of crying and didn’t know where to go.
───Sigh, there’s really no helping him, is there?
“Yeah, you’re the same Icchi I remember.”
As a smile naturally surfaced on her, she embraced his black hair with both of her hands as though this was perfectly normal for them.
“You’re as poisonous to Garestonian women as ever, but what’s really annoying is how used you seem to be this in the way you hold back your strength.”
“You’ve got me firmly in your grasp and we’re so close to teach other, yet you’re keeping contact only with your forehead and your arms, as though you don’t want to cross the line. By this point, though, I don’t know if that’s just your shyness acting up or if that’s just you being kind.”
“There’s that knowing face of yours too that seems to say you understand everything yet at the same time is somehow lacking confidence – that same darned face that’s responsible for making women want to protect you. So, yeah, you look the same as ever, and by that, I mean as annoying as ever.”
Myuhi said all of that in her usual tone. It was curious what Shinichi thought of that, but there was no way for her to see his expression. Regardless, Myuhi continued to embrace him while patting his head and while her tail swung behind her.
“Heh, what the heck?”
“It’s my honest impression of you, you know?”
Shinichi chuckled, and the tension he failed to hide from her vanished. The trembling on him also became faint. For a moment, sadness flashed through Myuhi’s eyes, but that quickly turned into a smile as she softly and gently stroked his black hair. Shinichi quietly accepted her kind gesture.
“─────Sorry, but do you mind if we stayed like this for 10 more minutes?”
Those were the kind of words that broke that comfortable silence. This time his voice didn’t sound as weak, and it seemed as though he just wanted to rest and lean on her for awhile. Despite that there was still something in it that made Myuhi feel as though it couldn’t be helped.
“I’ll have to charge you for an extension.”
She tried to hide her happiness by saying that, but such an attempt was amateurish at best.
“Name your price. This place is the best.”
In the end, she just gave Shinichi an excuse to cling to her even more. He pulled her closer to him, and she sank deeper into his warmth. He clung to her like a child, and Myuhi blushed at his touch, but because he was still trembling to some extent, she couldn’t find it in her to abandon him.
“Ha… ha ha, thanks, I guess… *Sniff-sniff.”
Meanwhile, Myuhi wondered if she didn’t reek of sweat since this was right after a battle and she was yet to bathe. In that regard, she really was a maiden, and the way she ended up expressing her agitation surprised even her.
“S-Sorry about my breasts. I know they’re not as big as some people.”
──What the hell am I saying!?
Did she lose her mind worrying over whether she stank or not that she ended up saying something like that out of the blue?
“Fool. How can there be a place better than these breasts that belongs to a woman I like.”
Shinichi said as though to silence her. Myuhi still couldn’t see his face, but there wasn’t even a hint of teasing in his tone. It was as though he was just giving his opinion matter-of-factly, and that in itself was problematic.
“S-Sheesh, you’re so natural in that regard that it’s so troubling.”
“In that regard?”
Her mouth rebooted and began weaving words again, but she couldn’t help but wonder if it was working correctly. Did she sound too obvious that she was enjoying this too? Were her ears and tail moving about joyfully? Was she pushing down on his head a bit too much? But she could not be faulted in any of those, for she was just too embarrassed and afraid that if he were to look up right now, he would see her grinning.
──Get a hold of yourself, me! I’m not some cheap woman, right?
“Hmph, it’s nothing. I’m sure you’re just saying whatever to make women happy! I’m sure that 10 minutes you mentioned is also just the time you need to recover!”
It was only by mobilizing every drop of rationality in her that she was able to arrive to that answer. As for her peevish tone, it was actually Myuhi herself who understood least whether it was genuine or an act. Regardless, the thought that Shinichi asked for 10 minutes not because he wanted that much time with her but because he needed that much time finally cooled her head.
“──I need to concentrate on the flow of ki, the state of my soul, and various other things occurring in my body, so I don’t have any strength left to spare outside. I should be able to recover in 10 minutes, but if anything happens during that time, I’ll be in trouble.”
But while Myuhi thought that her conjectures right, at the same time, it was true that he was relying on her.
“Icchi, are you asking me to protect you during those 10 minutes?”
In a sense, he was basically saying that he was going to be defenseless for 10 minutes, so he wanted her to protect him. When asked frankly, Shinichi paused for a moment and answered in a disapproving tone.
───Ah, this is bad. I’m going to start grinning again.
She thought she’d calmed down, but she was heating up again. She couldn’t tell if this was the Garestonian in her elated to have the reliance of a powerful warrior, or simply her finding him adorable to actually ask for such a clumsy protection.
“Fu, fufu, Icchi, you’re one of those, aren’t you? Those kids that can’t help but always be starved for affection?”
Myuhi smiled. Apparently, that had completely taken Shinichi by surprise.
“Huh? How did you find out!?”
Shinichi panicked, and a few seconds after he met Myuhi’s gaze, a crescent moon smile bloomed on Myuhi. This time it was her turn to make that expression.
Shinichi had ‘I messed up’ written all over him. Myuhi didn’t know if it was the fatigue that made him let his guard down, but this was important intel without a doubt.
“I see, I see, so you were a spoiled child!”
Though Shinichi didn’t turn his face, it was obvious that he’d gone beet red. What a rare sight that was for Myuhi, and she felt as though she was able to get back at him for various things until now.
“There, there, don’t worry, just leave everything to this big sister of yours! I’ll be sure to protect you for the next 10 minutes.”
Shinichi was motionless and flushed, while Myuhi stroked him on the head and looked at him with warmth and affection. She had never made such a look before, so she didn’t know if she was doing it right or not. But regardless, she did it to go with the flow, and because she didn’t want to miss this opportunity. Really, it was a grand gesture on her part to tease him.
“Ku, damn it… What a ridiculous situation I’ve found myself in!”
Shinichi didn’t even bother to try and deny it, as he knew that doing so would be a mistake. He grit his teeth, while his body trembled for a different reason than earlier. Myuhi was ecstatic. She could probably eat twenty bowls of rice just from this sight alone.
“Dear, I’m sure you must be tired.”
“Stop saying that while laughing! Yeah, that’s right, I’m tired! It feels like my mind is being whittled away and I’m on the verge of dying!”
“Ah! Dear, you’re too rough!”
Perhaps in a tit-for-tat, or merely because he couldn’t meet her face anymore, Shinichi buried his face into her breasts, while Myuhi caressed his black hair and his back.