On the main street running through the academy―
Right in the centre, where the clock tower had once stood, the passage had been completely sealed off.
The tower had collapsed under its own weight, looking completely nothing like its original form. Now, it was just a mountain of rubble. Looking at it, it was hard to picture what it looked like back in its days of glory.
Faced with no other alternative, Raishin had to detour through the grove, heading south with the others in tow.
Yaya caught up to Raishin, and whispered into his ear.
“Raishin, if we keep walking in this direction, you know we’ll end up in the Gryphon dormitory, right?”
“Yeah. First, we’re gonna ask Charl’s sister a few questions.”
Yaya’s brow knitted together. Her displeasure was obvious.
“Her attitude yesterday wasn’t normal. She definitely knows something about Charl.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Call it a gut feeling. I’m good at reading people. Didn’t you know that?”
“Nope, Raishin is a dense person.”
Yaya rebutted him in a depressed tone of voice. Even Frey nodded pointedly in agreement.
A united warfront had sprung up between the girls at some point unknown to Raishin. He wondered when they had suddenly got along so well. Raishin was a little chuffed at their response, but since them getting along was a good thing, he let it slide.
Suddenly, the atmosphere in the grove had changed. Wild, unkempt weeds and natural vegetation gave way to neatly ordered trees, well groomed and trimmed. Walking on further, the white walls of the Gryphon dormitory came into view.
Reaching the front of the dormitory, a female came bursting out of the entrance.
She looked like she was in her mid-twenties. She had a gentle face, and looked quite refined.
She was most likely the boarding mistress. Keeping an eye on Raishin, she began to chastise Frey.
“Now look here. You can’t bring a boy into this place. Male students are prohibited from entering female dormitories.”
“Uu… That’s not it. We’re looking for Henri…”
The colour of the boarding mistress’s face changed. There was a strained tension in her voice as she said
“I see. Unfortunately, Henri has disappeared yet again.”
“I’m going to search for her now. Hopefully nothing… weird will happen again.”
With a goodbye, she flusteredly ran off. Frey watched her go, then turned to face Raishin with a troubled look on her face. Raishin spun around on his heels,
“In all probability, it’s likely something that concerns her life. We better hurry and look for her too.”
“Hold on. Raishin… wait here a moment.”
Saying that, Frey disappeared into the dormitory without explanation.
Raishin and Yaya looked at each other. They didn’t understand the reason behind her action, but since she had left her precious dogs behind, she would surely be back soon.
They impatiently waited for her. Finally, after a few precious minutes had passed, Frey emerged from within.
Eight new faces were following behind her. Obviously, they were the Garm type automata.
“Sorry to keep you waiting…”
“You’re slow. Were you just gathering them?”
“No. I also brought this out…”
The thing that Frey removed from her pocket was white, with blue stripes running across it. It was a piece of cloth, made out of cotton and triangular in shape. Just by looking at it Raishin could tell it felt soft.
Having figured out what it was, Raishin found himself blushing uncontrollably.
“Why are you holding on to that!? Where did you even get it from!?”
“In other words, those are her panti… I mean, what are you planning to do with them?”
Frey gathered all the dogs, and held out Henri’s underwear. The dogs began to sniff at it, and moments later all of them began to bark.
Frey blew a whistle. All the dogs save Rabi scattered. Confirming their mistress’s intent, the dogs ran off in different directions.
I see, tracking her by smell.
Seeing the glint of emotion in his eyes, Yaya clasped her hand over her mouth, taken aback.
“Raishin! If you want to sniff panties that desperately, then Yaya will―”
“I wasn’t thinking anything of the sort! You’re the only one perverted enough to think of that!”
After a moment, a howl could be heard in the distance.
Rabi slowly got up to his feet. Frey sat on his back.
“They’ve… found Henri.”
Nodding, Frey started off on Rabi’s back. Raishin and Yaya hurriedly chased after them.
The intermittent howling continued in the distance. Slowly increasing in number, a harmony was eventually born.
Frey weaved between trees, never losing sight of the direction where the howling was coming from.
Raishin willed his weakened legs onwards, trying his best to keep up with her.
The worst case scenario flashed through his mind.
What if the Henri the dogs found was nothing more than a dead body?
They arrived next to a small lake, which was located next to the practice battle field.
The dogs were at the base of a young evergreen oak, and had completely surrounded it. Once they noticed Frey, they stopped howling and began to wag their tails.
Up in the branches of the oak, there was a figure of a kitten-like maiden.
She had probably planned on hanging herself, for there was a rope tied to a branch. However, it looked like she didn’t have the willpower to go through with it at the moment. The girl was hugging onto the trunk of the tree, bawling her eyes out.
“No―! Dogs―! Shoo… shoo, go away… someone help me!”
It was Henri screaming. That was good; it meant she was still alive.
Her trembling figure made her look exactly like a small animal. Even though she was going to kill herself just a few moments ago, now she was pathetically begging for help, not caring about what others would think of her.
Raishin hurriedly ran under her, barely managing to catch Henri in time. Using his knees to cushion the impact, he felt a bolt of pain run up his collarbone as she landed in his arms.
“No, no…. the dogs, the dogs!”
“Calm down. It’s ok. These fellas are completely domesticated; they won’t—“
“Eeeek! A man—!“
Violently pushing him away suddenly, Raishin was caught by surprise and tumbled over.
Henri hated dogs, but it looked like she hated men more.
Raishin got up, a little unhappy with her lack of gratitude for saving her, and stared at Henri.
Surrounded by thirteen dogs, she was on the verge of fainting.
“Hey, Henriette Belew—”
Hearing her name, Henri bolted upright in surprise.
“Where is Charl? Is it true she didn’t return to the dormitory last night? Does it have something to do with the destruction of the clock tower earlier? Why do you want to die so badly?”
Henri pulled her cap down, hiding her face behind it, and remained silent.
“Say something. If you know where Charl is currently, then—“
“Wait a moment, Raishin. You shouldn’t ask her all those questions at once.”
Strangely, Yaya had interrupted him. With a knowing look on her face, Yaya’s chest puffed out with pride as she said
“Please leave this to Yaya. Henriette, please answer honestly. You’re just faking all these suicide attempts so that you can catch Raishin’s attention, am I right—“
Raishin’s fist descended, silencing Yaya.
Yaya rubbed her head, with tears leaking from her eyes, but Raishin ignored her, turning to Frey and giving her a signal with his eyes. It looked like Henri hated him no matter what. Rather than continue his hard line of questioning, perhaps it would be better if a fellow female student were to try a softer approach.
His train of thought thus concluded, he wanted Frey to help. With a slight nod of her head,
“Uu… Henri. You’re just faking all these suicide attempts so that you can catch Raishin’s ate—“
Raishin’s fist descended once again, playing the straight man to her silly line.
Ignoring Frey, who was now rubbing her head in pain, Raishin strode up to Henri.
“No… a man… and a foreigner too!”
“You can’t escape. If you know where Charl is, tell me now.”
At those words, Henri shut her mouth tightly. That response— she knew something!
“Tell me! If you don’t, I’ll set the dogs on you!”
Reading the atmosphere, the Garm types began to bark loudly. Henri screamed in fright, before covering her head in her hands and wailing out loud.
“How can you derive pleasure from watching animals ravage a poor maiden, you sick demented freak!? Dear mother, I’m sorry… I… I’m about to lose my purity to beasts and a beast-like man!”
Suddenly, a cold killing intent blew over from behind Raishin, causing him to shiver involuntarily.
Like a clockwork doll, he slowly turned around. Standing behind him was a living, breathing demon, which would make even the scariest man-eating fiend flee in terror.
“Raishin… you… you had that kind of interest…”
“Now wait a min… Calm down Yaya. Think through this rationally.”
“Even though you won’t even give Yaya a kiss… that woman… you were going to… and with wild beasts…”
Something snapped inside Yaya.
“If you’re going to be stolen by other women, then Yaya would rather kill Raishin first, and then kill herself—!”
While bawling her eyes out, Yaya lunged forward, unleashing a heavy looking iron fist. Raishin narrowly dodged it; Yaya’s punch landed onto the oak tree instead, snapping it clean in half.
Cold sweat ran down Raishin’s back.
Wait… Yaya wasn’t joking?
Yaya was approaching him, swaying unsteadily on her feet. His life was flagrantly in danger! While he was distracted momentarily, Henri took the chance to flee like a frightened hare.
“Damn it! Frey, chase after her!”
However, there was no response. Feeling something was weird, Raishin turned around— and got the shock of his life.
A cold look which he had never seen before was now present in Frey’s eyes, and the person she was directing at was him.
“Raishin… you’re the worst… you pervert.”
In a voice almost like a whisper, she hid the dogs behind her back like she was trying to protect them from him.
To Frey, they were her important family. If she thought they were going to be used for deviant purposes, then of course she’d get angry. Raishin felt a migraine coming on, and the feeling of wanting to cry washed over him.
“Not you too! Don’t get the wrong idea!”
It was useless. There was no way to clarify things to the two of them. Somewhere deep inside his heart, Raishin wished that Sigmund, or even Charl at the very least, was right next to him.