The Guest House.
One of the school facilities used for the opening ceremony. It is also where Nozomu lives now.
Returning to the guest house, Nozomu entered through the main gate and went straight to the residential section of the building.
When he opened the door to the dining room, he was greeted by an appetizing aroma.
"Welcome home, Nozomu, you're late."
"Yeah, I'm home, Iris."
A black-haired girl greeted Nozomu upon his return.
She was probably doing some cooking. Irisdina stood in the kitchen, which is attached to the dining room, wearing an ap.r.o.n over her regular clothes.
The bell of her hair ornament, which adorned her, made a shrill and refres.h.i.+ng sound.
"The meal will be ready in a minute, you can go wash your body first."
“A-, alright, thank you. I'll take you up on your offer then..."
Nozomu and Irisdina were currently living together in this guest house.
Considering their special circ.u.mstances, this is a natural arrangement.
Of course, they are not alone. Two teachers are living with them as supervisors.
The teachers who live together with them are Inda, Jihad's second-in-command, and Anri, Nozomu's homeroom teacher.
However, according to Irisdina, they have not yet returned from the academy.
Incidentally, the other Francilt family members are being taken care of at Madame Parline's mansion.
The place where the Francilt mansion used to be has literally been cleared, so Madame Parline took care of them.
After cleaning off the day's dirt and getting dressed in the simple bathroom provided, Nozomu went straight back to the dining room.
"Sorry to keep you waiting."
"Oh, just in time. It's ready just now, so let's eat it right away."
Dinner was already laid out on the table.
Bread, stew, and salad. And a grilled wurst. It was a typical commoner's dinner.
Nozomu took his seat and first put a spoonful into the stew.
Meat simmered with animal milk and a variety of vegetables danced in the bowl.
The aroma of the milk and melted vegetables stimulated his nose, and his throat naturally started to salivate.
Nozomu gently put the spoon into his mouth, trying to appease his stomach's urge to hunger.
"... It's good!"
The spoon naturally kept moving. Such words were unintentionally leaked out as the umami taste spread in his mouth.
Seeing Nozomu's reaction, Irisdina's mouth was smiling happily.
"Thank you. I've never done home cooking before, so I was a little worried."
Irisdina said that although she had learned about this kind of cooking, she had hardly ever practiced it.
However, it turned out to be quite delicious. The vegetables that melted in one's mouth went well with the stew, which had a concentrated flavor.
Above all, the warmth and comforting feeling of the stew naturally permeated into the body.
"Thank you for the food. I'll wash the dishes."
"T-, thank you. Well then, please."
After finis.h.i.+ng the meal, Nozomu began to put away the dishes. Meanwhile, Irisdina went to the bathroom.
As she left the dining room, Nozomu wiped off the stains on the dishes and rinsed them off with water.
After cleaning the stains again with the soap provided, he wiped off the remaining water with a dry cloth.
The soap was not the soft one used on the continent, but a stiff, hard one.
It seemed to have been recently made in the craftsmen district of Arcazam, and it was easy to use, with little of the characteristic smell of something made from animal oil and lime.
He then covered the leftover stews and salads with a cover so that they would be ready to eat when Anri and Inda returned home.
"Okay, we're done..."
"Thanks for your hard work. What will Nozomu do now?"
After a while, Irisdina came out of the bathroom.
Her wet black hair and nightgown were glamorous, and the way she brushed her hair back made his heart skip a beat.
His heart thumped loudly. Since they had started living together, Nozomu had been getting nervous more and more often.
"U-, umm, there's nothing more to do today. But I don't feel sleepy yet either... I think I'll go for a little walk in the garden, just to freshen my stomach."
"Okay, let's go together then."
"Aren't you cold?"
"Don't worry, I won't be out that long."
Nozomu picked up a scarf from a nearby coat rack and draped it over Irisdina's shoulders. He thought it would be bad for her body if she got cold after taking a bath.
"Fufu~, thank you."
After putting on their coats, they went outside the guest house.
The garden, which had been crowded with people during the opening ceremony, was deserted, and snow was piled up here and there.
The frozen snow made a crunching sound as they stepped upon it.
The cold winter air caressed their bodies, which were burning from the bath and meal. For a while, the two of them walked slowly side by side along the garden path, relaxing in the pleasantness of the air.
"Iris, how's your body?"
"No problems at all. Rather, I'm in better shape than I was before. Even my hair is back to normal."
Nozomu was concerned about Irisdina, who had become a Dhampir, but she smiled cheerfully while making a fist pump with both hands.
Although Nozomu was relieved to see her energetic demeanor, he couldn't help but notice that Irisdina's eyes had turned a dark purple-blue color.
"But the color of your eyes is..."
Irisdina's hair returned from white to black, but the color of her eyes did not completely return to normal.
This was probably because she had changed into a completely different race. This fact left Nozomu with a little regret.
"Well, it can't be helped. Besides, I'm glad. Thanks to this power, I didn't lose anyone I cared about."
Irisdina, on the other hand, was unperturbed and didn't seem to be bothered by her situation. She was still smiling as she kicked the snow around her feet like a little child.
"Of course, now that I've changed, things certainly won't be the same as they were before."
"Did something happen?"
"I am officially no longer the next head of the Francilt family. In other words, I'm disinherited."
According to Irisdina, since she is no longer a human being, she is no longer qualified to take over the Francilt family.
Nozomu was taken aback by her words.
"Hold on, there is more to this story."
Upon seeing Nozomu's serious expression, Irisdina continued her story, looking a little fl.u.s.tered.
"The next head of the family will be Somia. Along with that, I will serve the Francilt family as counselor and regent."
"Yeah, and this idea came from Somia herself. Fufu~, surprising, isn't it?"
"... No, not really. If it's Somia-chan, it wouldn't be surprising if she would voluntarily consider succeeding Iris."
Nozomu's stiffened eyes naturally relaxed as he looked at Irisdina, who smiled again and began to play with the snow. This time, he was able to properly accept her words.
"Hmm, you seem to be saying that you know Somia better than I do. I'm not going to let you get away with that!"
"You're showing a compet.i.tive spirit over such a thing?..."
Even after becoming a Dhampir, Irisdina is still a sis-con as ever.
Nozomu couldn't help but let out a chuckle at the sight of her unchanged character.
"Well, that's how it is. When I heard this idea, I actually did not feel sad or frustrated, but rather happy for Somia's growth."
This was the beginning of a transition from being an object of mere protection.
This incident brought about a big change in the two girls, Irisdina and Somia.
Such a change in two cherished people. Nozomu was genuinely happy to see their growth.
The Francilt family will undoubtedly face difficult times in the future, but there is hope for the future. That's what he thought.
"Well, Father, after much dismay, was being shaken down by Mena and Madame Parline though..."
"When I told him that I was going to be disinherited, he almost bit his tongue and cried tears of blood. Seriously, Somia seems to be more dependable than him..."
But there were also those who were more likely to remain the same. It should have been a good thing, but Nozomu's body was drained of strength all at once.
Although Viktor has been behind a lot of things this time around and must have a lot of responsibility to bear, he seemed to have not changed his love for his daughters.
"Well, that's how it all worked out for us. So I have nothing but grat.i.tude to you. Thank you for coming to our rescue at that time."
Illuminated by the moonlight of the night, Irisdina suddenly looked up at the sky.
"It's a nice moonlit night. It's cold, but that's why the moon looks so beautiful."
As if drawn by her, Nozomu also looked up at the moon.
The moon s.h.i.+ning in the sky illuminated the night sky with starlight.
Irisdina, perhaps inspired by the cold but gentle moonlight that enveloped her, opened her mouth, looking a little excited.
"That's right. Now that we're here, why don't we dance?"
"Such a nice night. Wouldn't it be a shame not to dance?"
Nozomu's eyes blinked at the sudden invitation to dance, and he looked up at the sky once more.
Indeed, it was a beautiful night. A quiet, yet moonlit night that made one want to return to one's childhood.
Nozomu, too, gently held out his hand to Irisdina, as if inviting her to join him.
"I guess so. Then, may I ask you to dance with me?"
"I gladly accept your offer."
As if guided by the overlapping hands, the two naturally began to dance.
In the starlit garden, their shadows drew beautiful footprints on the snow.
Nozomu took the lead with fluid steps, followed by Irisdina.
*Tap-tap-tap*, *tap-tap-tap*, the tempo of the dance was fast, yet calm and elegant.
Their movements overlapped each other without a single deviation. As if drawn by their movements, their gazes naturally intertwined with each other's.
"It's just like when we were practicing our dance in Francilt's mansion, isn't it?"
"Ah, that time. Even though that was only the third time you danced, your dancing has improved a lot."
"Is that so? Hearing Iris say so gives me a lot of confidence."
Prior to the Opening Festival. They smiled as they recalled their rush training at the Francilt mansion.
Then they remained silent for a while and continued to dance, surrendering themselves to each other's breathing.
Not even the sound of the wind could be heard. Only the sound of footsteps on the snow in the garden of the guest house and the chime of the bells of the hair ornaments that rang in the air.
After repeating the same routine several times, Irisdina suddenly opened her mouth.
"Why did you come to help me?"
"Because I wanted to connect with everyone's-... no, with your dreams."
"You told me about them when we were practicing our dance at the Francilt mansion at that time."
"Oh, now that you mention it. Fufu~, it feels like a long time ago."
Irisdina's dream was to protect her family and the people she cared about, including Somia.
He didn't want her dreams to be extinguished. Nozomu again clearly spoke up in front of her.
"My dream was to do that after all. I want to support the dreams of my loved ones."
Nozomu's reason for fighting. His reason to become strong.
It took him a long time to realize it, but it has not changed.
Hearing his words, Irisdina's mouth hung open.
"I see, so that's how you managed to seduce Lisa-kun."
"Isn't it awful to say I seduced her?"
"Not at all. You're a playboy with no self-awareness after all. If I don't say something like this to you, I can already imagine you helping anyone you want and getting into trouble."
You'll eventually get stabbed in the back on a moonless night.
Adding those words at the end, Irisdina puffed out her cheeks with a pout.
In response to her slightly dissatisfied expression, Nozomu showed his dismay by saying, "Ha~~."
"Unfortunately, I'm not good enough to be a playboy."
"I know. I said so because I wanted to make fun of you."
The disgruntled look on her face changed. Nozomu let out a deeper sigh than before at Irisdina, who gave him a wide smile on her face.
"Iris, you're a terrible person..."
"Well, I am a cold-blooded aristocrat. Formerly though."
Both of them let out a chuckle and continued to dance under the empty winter sky.
Eventually, Irisdina stopped her dance.
Is something wrong?
Nozomu tilted his head and looked into her face. Irisdina looked up at him with her purple-blue eyes s.h.i.+mmering with anxiety.
"Hey, Nozomu, why-... did you come to help me?"
Again, it was the same question. But Nozomu knew right away what she wanted to ask.
He met her gaze and mulled it over for a moment before slowly opening his mouth.
"Because I like you... There's no other reason."
Irisdina's lips quivered as she demanded to hear the words again, which came calmly but clearly from her ears.
"Because I like you."
Is that true? Is that not a lie?
Her anxiety was quickly dispelled by Nozomu's reiterated words.
What followed was a surge of intense joy. Her whole body heated up, and her eyes could not look away from him.
"Can I hear your answer?"
A single tear spilled from a pair of flickering purple-blue eyes.
"I-... I adore you too."
The distance between the two, which had been only slightly open, slowly closed and then overlapped.
Their hands were gently entwined in a white chain that glowed with a faint light.
We've caught up to the latest chapter of the raw, wohoo~!
So only the side stories are left now.
By the way, the next chapter would be the continuation of the Volume 7 side story that I skipped before.