Mio and I sit awkwardly on opposite sides of the carriage. She's glancing out the window towards the open sea, pretending that I'm not even here. Cargo ships and cruise liners slowly make their way east where they will eventually either make port in Kobe or Osaka.
I've been given a chance to speak with Mio alone thanks to Hana and Yumi's silly plan, but the longer I sit here, the more I'm beginning to think how dumb my plan is to make up with her is. I hadn't even noticed the top part of the bag has been wrinkled from me gripping on it so hard.
The silence is too much to bear. I swallow the apprehension in my throat and call out to her.
"Save it," she says, stopping me before I can even start. "I get it. Hana and Yumi talked to me. You kept Bea a secret from me because she put that stupid thought in your head that I was gonna betray you."
"So they told you." I begin to lose confidence again.
"What I don't get is that we already went over this. I told you I stopped caring about the sword, but you choose to listen to her over me?"
"You're right," I admit. "I should have trusted you more, and I realized what really mattered to me the moment you jumped out of Yumi's apartment. When I thought I was going to lose you, I just wanted to curl up in a corner."
The carriage lurches to a stop. The other carriages to the front and back are slightly below ours, so we've reached the peak of the ferris wheel. I look back at Mio, not realizing she's finally meeting my eyes.
"What mattered most to you?" She asks.
"You—" The rest of the words lodge in my throat. My heart starts racing, pumping the blood to my head. "Sorry, I…"
Mio springs from her seat and comes right up to my face, the sudden movement causes the carriage to rock and lean. "I don't care what you're sorry about. Tell me what you were gonna say."
She's so close, I can make out the pores on her face and the redness in her eyes. The hardened expression on her face tells me she won't let me move from where I'm sitting until I speak. If she's willing to meet me with such resolve, then it's only right I do the same.
It's not just about being truthful now but also from now on. In order for that to happen, I need to be true to myself. To answer the reluctance and hesitation that's been plaguing me for years, even when I was a boy who thought being a man was the answer to my problems.
That was wrong, because what I really needed to do— and I know that now, looking into the eyes of the woman who makes my heart flutter just being with her.
"You. You matter to me, Mio." I declare.
Mio sucks in a quivering breath and embraces me. No sooner did she wrap her arms around me, so too, do her lips press onto mine. I lean in to the kiss, savouring the familiar sensation. It's not the first, second, or third time we've done this. There's no lust, only passion and relief. Like in the moment our lips met, confirmed to me the feelings I had bottled up for her.
"Say it again," she pleads between breaths.
"You matter to me, because I lo— mmph… chu!"
Her kisses become more ferocious, sinking her tongue into my throat. Our human forms fade away during the passionate embrace, and we've become two succubus madly pouncing at each other's tongues. Mio's tail whips around excitedly behind her. I reach out with my own tail to grab it and they become like two hearts dangling above our heads.
She sits on top of me intertwining our thighs over each other so our crotches are pressed up close. She starts moving her hips, rubbing our clits together. The fabric of our underwear is quickly getting soaked as we're getting wet from the stimulation.
My mind is growing hazy. All I can think about are her tender lips, and the building pleasure below. The carriage sways even more as we are getting more into it.
I find the strength to push my tongue into her mouth, and Mio's more than happy to receive it, sucking on it as if it were a lollipop.
"Mio… I'm cumming…"
"Me, too… keep going… aahh, chu— kiss!"
Our tongues are locked tight. The pleasure reaches a high. Her embrace tightens as we orgasm at the same time. She continues to kiss me, sucking my lips and tongue, fondling my breasts over my bra.
We're so wet, the seat is soaked with our juices. Someone's going to need to mop it up when we go down, but that isn't our problem.
We sit like this for a few minutes, our lips never parting and Mio grinding on me until the carriage starts moving again. It will take some time before we reach the ground, so I take this time to give Mio her gift.
She pulls out the tricorn hat and plastic scimitar from the bag, and stares at them utterly baffled.
"Am I missing a joke?" Mio asks.
"Y-You told me about wanting to sail the seas in Elza, so I got… you something that pirates would… wear… on Earth… ehm…" Embarrassment claws at my mind. I bury my face in my hands. "It seemed like a good gift in my head."
"You remembered a stupid thing like that?" She asks.
"I don't think it's stupid! I think it's cool that you want to sail a ship. In fact, if there was a way to go back and forth between our worlds without trouble, I'd definitely go with you!"
Mio is taken aback. She stares at the childish gifts in her hands, and then back at me. "You turned me down last time."
"I wasn't sure about my feelings, but I am now. These last two weeks have been the most fun I've ever had, even if my world is in danger by a crazed queen, and I've been having sex like a porn st— that's not the point. What I mean to say is, I don't want this fun to end with you one day leaving."
Mio smirks. She puts the hat on her head and hands me the scimitar. "Every captain needs a first mate. You telling me you actually wanna go on this journey with me?"
"Yes," I say. "More than anything—"
My cheeks are suddenly pinched and pulled to their limits.
"Kahaha! Good. We can take turns being barrel wenches, too. That'll be fun."
She lets go. Judging by my stinging cheeks, it's probably left a red mark on both sides. "Uu… wait, what's a barrel wench?"
The carriage comes to a stop as we hit the bottom. Hana opens the door for us, and Yumi is standing by her side with the biggest grin on her face.
"Ufufu~ we saw how much the carriage was shaking from down here."
I cover my face as Mio puts an arm over my shoulder. "Squared things off with a nice tribbing session!"
It's getting late into the evening, but the carnival is still in full swing. The four of us find a table tucked between two game booths to sit. Yumi buys each of us a crepe to eat as we talk.
"Now that we know for sure it's Beatrice, we should be careful how we move. She's super strong, so we need to take this seriously." Hana tells us.
"Funny coming from you when you're still wearing the silly disguise," I remark, gesturing to the fake moustache and glasses on her face.
Mio snaps her finger. All eyes turn to her as she seems to realize something. "Remember when you asked me if 'false queen' meant anything to me? I think I know now. The Blade emerged from you and treats you as its queen. That's why it was referring to Bea that way. My question still remains, since when the hell did the sword talk?"
Everyone lingers on Mio's words, but I'm the one that voices what everyone is thinking. "Could it be the demon lord from your world?"
Yumi clutches her shoulders, shuddering. "I don't want to imagine, though I wouldn't put it past Beatrice. If the demon lord is dwelling within the Blade, she may be trying to bring him out. If that happens, we won't have even a fraction of the strength to defeat him."
"When I spoke to Beatrice during our fight, she told me that I've already lost. She might be close to it," I say, staring at my half-eaten crepe which I've the appetite to finish.
"Bea always talks big," Mio remarks. "There's a good chance that she's bluffing. What we need to do is scour outside of the city, and with Prez helping, we might be able to find her."
"I know how much you hate Selene, but I think we should have her help us." I say.
Mio scowls. "Fine. Bea first, then Selene."
Aside from searching for Beatrice, I also have the Hyogo Invitationals to deal with. I know there are more pressing matters, but I still have a life after this. Maybe Kana would be willing to help manage the team in my absence.
The four of us decide sticking together is the safest option. We fly back to my house together, only to see that Hatumi isn't home. She hasn't sent me a text other than telling me to look forward to dinner. But that was a few hours ago, and there isn't any dinner made.
It's possible she went to Kotaro's place, but I find it odd she wouldn't tell me beforehand. I send her a text asking where she is, hopefully I'll receive an answer in the morning. I dread to think of the worst possibility. If anything were to happen to Hatsumi, I—
"Hey!" Mio sneaks up behind me, poking my armpits. My entire body jolts to the unexpected attack. "I'm sure Hatsumi and Kotaro are probably fucking like animals. We should get some sleep, unless you wanna continue where we left off from the ferris wheel?"
"N-No, sleep sounds good."
As I head to bed, there is a sinking feeling of unease that claws at my mind. The voices from the sword used to be so clear. It only spoke occasionally, and sometimes I mistook them for my own thoughts, but now I'm not hearing it anymore.
Beatrice… just what are you up to?
I wake up sandwiched between Yumi and Mio. I don't see Hana anywhere. Maybe she went home in the middle of the night? When I try to reach for my phone on the nightstand, Mio wraps her arms tight around me, burying my face into her breasts.
"Mio… I can't breathe like this… help— I'm going to die before we even face Beatrice—!"
She turns over and drops me out of the bed. I fall flat on my face, but at least I've been let go.
"So much for my bed being my bed." I grab my phone from the nightstand while rubbing my nose. Much to my relief, there's a text from Hatsumi telling me that she's with Kotaro, and that she'll be staying with him for another night.
It's good that they have made up, but there is a hint of jealousy that someone else has my sister. I can't stay depending on Hatsumi forever. I need to clean and cook for myself.
Since my uniform was ruined yesterday, I'll need to borrow a spare from Hatsumi's room. It turns out Hana was downstairs all along. She wakes up as I fire up the kitchen to start cooking.
"Watcha making?" Hana asks, hovering around me and tiptoeing to see.
"I'm not an expert cook like Yumi or my sister, but I can do simple recipes."
Rice is steaming in the cooker, the miso soup is about done, and… Hana is playing with the natto already.
"Uwahaha! What is this sticky stuff? It's like spider webs," Hana grabs a handful and pulls them apart in her hands.
"That's food, stop messing with it!"
"Ah!" She freezes up, I can practically see a wicked idea form in her head.
"Whatever you're thinking, don't do it—" I warn, but she's already gone, racing upstairs to my room.
In the next moment, I hear—
"Magical girl Hana, sticky attack!"
"HANA, WHAT THE FUCK—"
Yumi and Mio come downstairs a few minutes later covered in natto. A limp Hana is being carried in the latter's arm, there's a red lump on her head that wasn't there when she went up, and natto has been smeared over her face.
"What's for breakfast?" Mio asks, dropping Hana onto the kitchen floor.
"Well, some of it is on you guys." I say.
After having breakfast and cleaning up, we meet Rika and Hitomi at the school gates. There's a glow about them that makes me think they did more than just have sex last night.
Rika clutches her own face in embarrassment. "Some things were said last night and, well… Hitomi and I are dating now. Hehe!"
"I don't want this power anymore. I'll help you fight Beatrice. After all, I need to find her if I want to change back" Hitomi says, clenching her fists. Whatever she resolved to do yesterday in the city, she appears to have given it up now that Rika has become an even more important part of her life.
"Thanks, Hitomi." We shake on it.
She then turns to Mio. "I believe I owe you an apology."
"Don't sweat it. You'll just have to make it up by giving me a smooth ride through school," Mio doesn't hesitate to use this chance to one up her status.
"I'll see what I can do," Hitomi says, smirking.
"Did Beatrice ever let slip where she's hiding?" I ask.
Hitomi shakes her head. "No. But I used to report to her everyday on the rooftop. I also met with one of her underlings and noticed they always flew in from the same direction— north-east, from the mountains."
"What's even over there…?" I wonder aloud.
Then it hits me. Hitomi and I come to the same conclusion. An empty shrine long abandoned, a perfect hiding place tucked away in the mountains.
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