CtG – Zero kara Sodateru Dennou Shoujo Volume 3 Chapter 1 part3(2)
『Cradle to the Glaive』
Better known as 『CtG』, it was an ultra-realistic virtual adventure RPG that utilized a headset device known as Ramiel.
Imagine Ekphrasis worked with an external research agency to develop this game. In a mere one year after its release, it secured over one hundred million (technically, one hundred and fifty million people) active users. It made itself known with the slogan, "An entirely new form of entertainment".
The engine used to create its elaborate virtual world caught much attention from various audiences and was viewed as a great addition to scientific study, environmental engineering, and even military research.
However, the technology used to create 『CtG』 had not been revealed to public at all and served solely for entertainment. Even now, they continue to decline requests from many national and foreign official institutes to share their technology.
Many theories were made concerning their reasoning, however the real reason was still hidden within the shadows.
And the origin of the strange events that befell Kasugai Yuu were none other than that game.
Shortly after his mother, a former 『CtG』 developer, passed away, Yuu start playing 『CtG』 as if to chase after her remnants. One day he met a player named Mifa, and completed an event called 《Marriage》. It was a rare event with unknown unlock conditions, however it was supposed to be nothing but a single experience in that unreal world.
The next day, a baby was born between Yuu's Avatar, Clamp, and his 《Marriage》 partner Mifa.
Born from a game, it was none other than their daughter. They later named her Haruha.
Haruha possessed very extensive range of emotions and wisdom, things one wouldn't expect from an AI. Although Clamp was puzzled at first, he began to grow fond of her as she continued to absorb their teachings like a sponge.
Both Yuu and Mifa had issue with their relationships with their own parents, therefore by raising Haruha, they figured it might help them find out the way to fix their problems.
However, in a mere 2 months, Haruha had grown to the size of an eight-year-old and everything started to change.
Haruha, who were supposed to be nothing but an existence within a game, suddenly appeared in front of Kasugai Yuu in the real world.
Those who brought Haruha to his side were Niiro Mansei and Hajime Hidari. The two claimed that they belonged to a secret organization researching the method to give birth to a new type of human. They called themselves the "Human Equilibrium Institute".
Their researchers secretly conducted their experiment in 『CtG』 's virtual world. There, they created the prototype of new humanity, Hadzar. And the first successful incarnation of their experiments was Haruha――― Yuu's daughter, Kasugai Haruha.
Alongside her came the player who controlled Mifa, Kugimiya Miharu. She served the role as Haruha's mental support. In the end, the three of them live together in the Kasugai household.
To Yuu, who had once separated from his mother, abandoning Haruha was not an option he could take.
Thus, it started, a strange daily life alongside Miharu, who was a little afraid of men.
The gaze of suspicion from Yuu's childhood friend, Kodzuchi Fuyufu.
The threat from a rogue Hadzar, Memento Coppelia.
The challenge from the self-proclaimed delinquent middle schooler, Kanna Sakura.
And lastly the battle with a Hadzar who attempted to unite the world of 『CtG』 under one united consciousness, Ikui Librium Gepetto,
Their new life was filled with many new meetings and troubles, all the while illuminated by Haruha's pure innocent smile.
And finally, …
That girl showed herself in Kasugai household.
『Haruha, the first successful unit of New Humanity.
In other words, my daughter. I have come here to pick her up!』
A bold declaration made through the entrance intercom.
It all happened shortly after the conclusion of the "Ghost" incident caused by Ikui, in the early days of summer vacation―――
The sound of cicadas filled the living room.
The Kasugai household is located on the far corner of the suburbs and is surrounded by forest. During summer and autumn, the sound of insects could be constantly heard. Before Haruha and Miharu came here, their sound was the only thing that kept things lively in this once quiet house.
Right now, the sound of summer that filled the room felt different from the normal sound of nature. The tremendous tension distorts the atmosphere and instills pressure in the ear.
Feeling curious, but looking disinterested. That was what her sigh conveyed as she looked around the Kasugai household.
"Well, at least it's not that dirty."
She doesn't appear to be that far of an age from Yuu.
Her long glossy blonde hair swayed from the wind coming from the weak air conditioning. However, despite her provocative expression, she does not give off a strict impression, partly because of her somewhat youthful rounded face. Her sleeveless blouse looked simple but was really well-made, displaying the superb skill of its tailor.
Yuu seemed to not be able to take his eyes off her for some reason.
In short, she's a beautiful girl. But, besides her blonde hair, nothing about her particularly stood out. Though, for those who knows, her clothes and accessory are actually that of top-class works from a skilled designer. But Miharu aside, Yuu has absolutely no clue about such a thing.
Therefore, the reason why Yuu was so attracted to her looks lies somewhere else.
They look alike.
It is as if the kid he used to know appeared in front of him after growing 8 or 9 years older. Lastly, the words she spoke through the intercom echos inside his mind and pulled him into the abyss of confusion.
On the other hand, the girl in question suddenly sat down on the most comfortable-looking sofa in the room without permission and embraced her own knees. Her bare legs uncovered by her short skirt was so white as if she had never been in contact with the sunlight, and it moves restlessly as she sits.
"So, where is my Haruha?"
"D-Did you just said 'My Haruha'…?"
Miharu weakly protested, but the glare from the girl sitting on the sofa immediately drowned out her voice. After being together with her for so long, Yuu had forgotten how timid Miharu actually is when with those who she was not familiar with, even if that person is off the same sex. She's the complete opposite of her Avatar-self, Mifa in 『CtG』.
Meanwhile, Haruha was on the second floor with Sakura. Apparently, this conversation is something that shouldn't be heard by her.
Yuu placed his hand on Miharu's shoulder to tell her to stop then looked at Hajime Hidari. He's demanding for an explanation through his gaze, while delivering criticisms along the way.
The girl who suddenly visits them and the words she said through the intercom. Yuu was taken aback by it, but Hajime appeared to hear her as well and quickly changed to her serious face and welcomed the girl inside.
If she's related to their laboratory, it won't be weird for her to know about Haruha's existence. Therefore, Hajime has the obligation to explain.
Hajime made a smile but it was obviously a crude one. Her glasses were slightly off but she forgot to fix it. She understands the situation but was unable to fully adapt to this unforeseen occurrence. Her face shows that much.
"E, eerm… this lady over there is Kusaka Airi-san. She is from the chemical food company that is currently investing in our laboratory. Not only that, despite being just 17 years old she cooperated in the creation of Ramiel and the Nephilim Computer synchronization technology…… she's truly a talented woman."
A lady and a genius girl at the same time, how overly high-spec, he thought, but he's oddly convinced. Her unique eccentric personality and her "at my own" pace kind of behavior feels befitting of such a special individual.
And before Hajime could continue to introduce Yuu and the rest, she got cut off by the girl―― Airi.
"I know you. You're the son of 『CtG』 game designer, Kasugai Mana, Kasugai Yuu and…"
Airi then switched her stare over to Miharu.
"Haruha's babysitter, Kugimiya Miharu right?"
Miharu wanted to say something back, but had her words stuck in her mouth. Taken aback by her unexpected remarks, she couldn't prepare a reaction matching to her emotion.
That's why in Miharu's place……. or not, Yuu opened his mouth.
"……I still don't know who you are. I also don't know your relationship with Imagine Ekphrasis, the laboratory, or Haruha.
But, you're wrong. Kugimiya-san is Haruha's mother. Please correct yourself."
Paying no heed to his strong demanding voice or his piercing gaze, Airi did not flinch at all. Instead, she listened, full of interest.
"What if I say I can't?"
"I'll have you kicked out of this house. This is my house, and I will not accept any visitors who insulted Haruha's mother."
Just before, Airi said "I know you", but if she had indeed "known" Yuu she should know that Yuu's behavior was a weird one. Outside Haruha related-cases, it's unlikely for Yuu to get this angry. That's why, Miharu, Hajime and even Yuu himself was surprised.
Just how much Miharu thinks about Haruha.
Just how much Haruha yearns for Miharu.
Yuu knew all about it. He knows because of how much he has regretted the fact that he never once realized how much his mother loved him when she was still alive. Hearing someone denying Miharu and Haruha's relationship has angered him beyond his imagination.
However, Airi did not notice that, or maybe she's just too rational to realize that. She's that kind of girl.
"Really? But I can't deny a 『fact』. After all, Haruha is a child born from my 『blood』, and that girl is just simply taking care of my daughter up to this point.
You too will surely understand after knowing about the truth that I'm about to tell you today."
Airi raised one finger and closed her eyes. It was as if she was about to show the proof that she's indeed the one worthy of the possession of this Hadzar.
"Listen well. To begin with, Haruha is――
……Eh-? Wha-, what!?"
Airi's lecture suddenly turned into scream midway.
It's because she was suddenly carried by Yuu.
To put it in a word, it was a princess-carry, but it was too crude and had no trace of grace at all, just like how one would carry luggage.
Dumbfounded by Yuu's unusually violent behavior, Miharu and Hajime were so surprised that they couldn't even react. All they could do was to watch over Yuu who nonchalantly carried Airi to the entrance.
Yuu swiftly unlocked the entrance while carrying Airi and tossed her out butt-first. In other words, he threw her out. (ED: That's right! Show her who's boss!)
Airi having gone red from the humiliation, glared at Yuu, but just like how Miharu behaved in front of her before, all she could do was move her mouth fruitlessly.
In front of the house parked the black foreign car that drove Airi here. The young man who served as the driver looked at them from the rear seat with a surprised look on his face.
He gave both of them a shallow bow and tried his best to ignore Airi who's showing her intention to protest and watched over Yuu walking back into the house. After the door closed, he heard the sound of the automatic lock turning, preventing the door from being opened again.
Shortly after Airi finally unleash her frustrated voice, but none of her words could be recognized through the thick door.
Appearing to be slightly refreshed, Yuu returned to the living room. He faced Hajime who was still dumbfounded and tiredly asked her.
"Just who was that person?"
Sakura got her hand pulled by Haruha and was taken into Yuu's room.
Although Sakura had arbitrarily explored the Kasugai household storeroom in search of the old game console, it's the first time she has gone to the second floor.
Yuu's room was surprisingly clean, with no furniture other than the bed, a desk, and a bookcase.
"Fuu…. hot hot."
Haruha crawled up onto the bed and operated the air conditioner remote placed at the bedside with familiarity. After that, she moved on top of the bed and stretched her body around the middle of it. It appears to be the spot where the wind blows onto directly.
Sakura then took off her jumper, and lay near Haruha. The wind blowing onto her head feels comfortable.
(……That guest just now, just who was she?)
Sakura hadn't seen her, but judging from the atmosphere and the fact that they didn't want Haruha to listen to their conversation, it most likely had something to do with 『CtG』. It's the overly realistic and mysterious game that gave birth to Haruha and turned Sakura into a "Ghost".
Could another trouble like 《Crystal World》 be happening again? As she thinks about such things, she closes her eyes――― and suddenly felt a presence around her back and she turned around. In front of her eyes was Haruha's smile. This girl has a habit of hugging others.
"Sakura-chan, Sakura-chan. What should we play?"
Now that she mentioned it. Sakura told her that she had gotten tired of the fighting game and had Haruha to take her to somewhere else as an excuse to leave the room.
"Wanna play Sumo? Payakino-san taught Haruha how to do Uwatedashinage” (TL note: It's a Sumo move. I can't find an equivalent English name for it.)
"Girls don't play Sumo, geez."
Sakura replied as Haruha shook her body as she clung to her back.
"Is that the law?"
"It's no-… nn? A law huh. I'm not really sure."
"Law is a hindrance…?"
"You sure say some scary stuff sometimes…"
As she says that, she pushed Haruha's body off simply by moving her center of gravity. For Sakura who had once earned the title of prodigy in Judo, rolling a clumsy little girl is a simple matter. Like that, she then lies her head on top of Haruha's belly like a pillow.
"Uwaaa, Haruha have been had!"
Haruha looks like she's having fun. For a while, she restlessly swung her arms and legs like an overturned turtle, but Sakura's head that was placed perfectly on top of her prevents her from escaping. Shortly after, appearing to be switching interest, Haruha started playing with Sakura's hair.
"You see, Haruha always sleeps here."
"Nn? Not with Miharu-san, but with Senpai?"
Haruha shares many likeness to her mother, so it was pretty surprising. But once she thinks about it, it's not weird for girls with mental age such as Haruha to sleep with her father. Even Sakura herself sleeps together with both her parents up till elementary school.
However, this family's circumstances is far different from normal ones. Yuu and Miharu are both Haruha's father and mother, but the both of them aren't exactly husband and wife, not even a couple (apparently).
"Daddy and Mommy sleeps together here too."
More confusion follows as Haruha's explanation continues.
……Yuu and Miharu? Together? In this bed?
Reflexively she started to get conscious about the smell of others that remained in the bedsheets. The image of Miharu's overwhelmingly beautiful body and the unexpectedly strong-looking hand of Yuu pops into her mind.
The image of a "Romantic Relationship" Sakura had was mainly based on the ladies' comic that a senior from her dojo had lent her. Therefore, once she pictures a woman and a man lying on the same bed, the rest will be quite a mess.
And then, once she started to think about such a thing happening on this bed that she's lying on, the immoral feeling(?) reddens her face.
But once she thinks more rationally, between them there is Haruha, and judging from Yuu and Miharu's personality, such a mistake is unlikely to happen. But the fact that the pair of guy and girl whom she's familiar with is sharing the same space together had turned Sakura's heat switch on as her brain continue to produce inappropriate images and have it flowing inside her head.
Sakura then got up, and lifted Haruha up. Both then face each other while sitting. And after clearing her throat, she asked.
"F-……Fill me in on the detail, please!"
She wasn't conscious about it, but she started speaking in a similar tone as her mother.
『Agh, I got it……! I got it already…… For now I'll admit that Kugimiya Miharu is Haruha's mother, so hurry up and let me in!』
After several times of ringing the interphone, Airi finally compromised. Ten minutes had passed since she got kicked out of the house.
As she entered the Kasugai household for the second time, Airi angrily glared at Yuu, but he ignored her as expected. While being soothed by Hajime, she walks in and once again rested on the sofa while folding her arms.
Being locked outdoors on a midsummer day, Airi was drenched wet in her own sweat and her expression turned stern, leaving no trace of the elegance and composure she had from earlier. After receiving a towel from Hajime, Airi started wiping off her sweat and continued to glare at Yuu expressing her protest. Miharu herself started to forget the feeling of antipathy she had towards her.
It's all because of how surprising it was for Yuu to become so enraged.
Usually, though not as much as to the point of being a coward, Yuu is a very prudent person. Although it was concerning Haruha, he just literally threw out a girl he met for the first time. Although it's certainly not just for Miharu, that act shows just how much Yuu cherished the relationship the three of them have.
That's right. This family will not break away like Miharu's family did……
But, the sudden appearance of this girl who looked very alike to Haruha, and the identity she spoke of, blew away all the composure Miharu had.
―――Although the air conditioner was working perfectly to chill one's skin, sweat still began to flow. Yuu wiped his forehead and opened his mouth.
"In other words, Kusaka-san is… the DNA provider for Haruha's body?"
Yuu was sitting on the carpet facing Airi who was sitting on top of the sofa while hugging one of her legs. In response to his question, Airi replied.
"That's right. The female DNA came from mine."
It was the second time Airi declared that. The first time was in the middle of her far-reaching explanation using multiple esoteric terms plus commentary from Hajime, which made it pretty hard to understand.
But, after Yuu confirmed it, the atmosphere instantly turned heavier.
The proof is right there in front of them. It's Kusaka Airi's face.
Both of them looked alike.
She had the face that would most likely be how Haruha would look like after 7 or 8 years. The only difference that stood out were her eyebrows, but other than that, they're like a carbon copy of each other.
And now, the reason behind that has been explained by Airi herself. To even the smallest detail.
According to Hajime, the embryo DNA that gave birth to Haruha and the other Hadzar are based from 『CtG』 user biological DNA that was then hand-selected for the most appropriate ones and later modified into what it was now. The subject of the modification, in addition of Kaman Modd (TL Note: Kaman Modd/カマン・モッド, I had no idea what it is and google didn't help me much), includes metabolism, strength, enhancement of metabolism system, and other physical characteristics, apparently.
"In Haruha's case, Yuu's mainly unmodified DNA was taken as part of her paternal reproductive DNA."
Hajime explained as she awkwardly pushed up her glasses. Hearing that, Yuu got mildly confused.
"Why mine? Shouldn't there be many others that would work better than mine?"
Objectively speaking, Kasugai Yuu's mental and physical strength is only slightly above average, in other words he's a normal boy. Just by looking at students from his school, there were so many others who are much better than him.
"Well…… you see, Yuu's mother is a talented creator after all. Tracing back her bloodline we might find a surprising number of great people, right? We believe that there's a possibility within the genes, the latent ability that the person themselves didn't know off might later flourish in their offspring.
Also, needless to say, you're the one in charge of Haruha-chan's upbringing after all. The priority to adopt DNA from you will be inevitably high."
Hajime's answer was undoubtedly a plausible one, but it sounds like she's trying to move the conversation elsewhere.
Miharu who couldn't catch up with the conversation muttered.
"So, I was not that excellent at all……"
"No, it's not that simple. It's simply the matter of your suitability with the Hadzars, it has nothing to do with your ability as an individual."
Hajime tried to cheer Miharu up, but the cloud on her face still hasn't cleared up. After all―――
"In other word, Haruha was born from Kasugai-kun and Kasuka-san's…… body DNA, right?'
Miharu couldn't say it in any other way. She couldn't, but…
Although Haruha has been modified as a Hadzar, she's still their daughter.
Hearing Miharu's words, Airi nodded in response.
"Well, to put it simply, that's the case. Although it's unpleasant to have my dna used without my permission, I'll let it slide.
I've also got my way of remodeling Ramiel, and hacking into the Nephilim Computer, so that makes up for it."
"So, that's how you learnt about Haruha's successful incarnation and that she's now staying in this house…… Although you're indeed involved in the Ramiel development, I didn't expect you to be able to crack into Nephilim…"
Hajime said so as if lamenting. From her response, it's clear that Airi's knowledge of Haruha was unexpected.
If she's not mistaken, Nephilim Computer is the strange computer that runs 『CtG』. Miharu recalled.
With aid of its exclusive terminal, Ramiel, it's able to reproduce and modify the "World" that the player perceives through their brain and cells, creating the most realistic virtual world possible. Due to its nature, the more players that logged into the game, the more realistic it will become. The reasoning behind such a system was simple. The perception a person had might be full of holes and mistakes, but if you synchronize the perception of 100,000 people together into one, then it's possible to erase those errors and contradiction.
In this era where the development of quantum computer is at a stalemate, this heterogeneous technology allows them to create an advanced artificial intelligence like Haruha by utilizing human resources.
Hacking into the human body and using their brain as a computing machine. Because of its nature that contradicts with ethics, its existence was kept secret, and they decided to secure resources through 『CtG』(Online Game). It's not a computer for games, but a game for the computer itself.
Their purpose for doing so was to create personality for the Artificial New Humanity Hadzar and have them reside in the real world with a human body.
And now, the current result of their Hadzar research was Haruha who's the first to succeeded in her incarnation ――― from inside 『CtG』 to the outside, a child who's raised by Yuu(Clamp) and Miharu(Mifa).
And Kusaka Airi's goal is to take back Haruha.
"Now you understand, right? I have the right to have Haruha by my side, and I have a complete understanding of her nature and how to properly raise her.
That's why I'm saying that you should give her to me. I find it interesting to raise a new founder(Adam) who looks just like me."
The reason why Haruha was given to Yuu and Miharu was to keep Haruha, who was still mentally unstable, under a minimum stress environment.
Haruha is the first and only Hadzar to ever succeed in her incarnation, therefore it's desirable for her to live in an environment that would stabilize her growth.
Hajime preached, but Airi simply sneer in respond.
"No matter how you look at it, it's clear who her real parent is. Right?"
"B-But you just merely resemble her!"
Miharu finally opened her mouth. But, although it's a sound argument, those words sounded bitter. Sure enough, Airi smiled and shrugged.
"That's what is important right? 『Form ever follows function』 someone once said, in other word, the format itself is the function. (TL Note: It's quoted from Louis Sullivan whose full saying is "It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human, and all things super-human, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law.")
God created humans in the form of himself. A child is the duplicate of their parent's genes. Meaning, precisely because I look similar to Haruha that I ought to have the function as Haruha's mother. It's a very simple matter, don't you think?"
"That's a sophism!"
Yuu couldn't help but argue back. Airi narrowed her eyes aggressively.
"What nonsense are you speaking? Inheriting a form is the ultimate proof of bonds between living beings, right?"
"In this world, there are plenty of parents who do well with their kids even though they're not related, right? To begin with, Kusaka-san, in a normal sense, you're not blood related to Haruha either."
"That's what I would call sophism! If not, a hypocrisy. In the end, to inherit a form from their parents is a child's noble privilege."
Both Yuu and Airi wouldn't back off from their argument. On the contrary, it heated up more and more.
Meanwhile, Miharu missed the opportunity to enter the discussion, but thankfully because of that she's able to calm down a little and started to feel a slight discomfort.
(Kusaka-san…… it sounded like she's insisting on the fact that they look alike.)
As a matter of fact, aside from their size, they really do look alike so it's not that weird for her to insist on saying that. But, if she's indeed a great woman like Hajime said she is, she should be more reasonable, or maybe using her political power to take Haruha away from Miharu and Yuu.
Could it be that Airi's company is not really that big? But even so, Hajime is trying too hard trying to not anger her.
――― , Could it be that she don't really want to take Haruha with her, or is there another reason why she's insisting on the point that they share a resemblance?
That's what she thinks. In 『CtG』, it's Yuu(Clamp)'s role to think up tactics, but now that he's all heated up together with Airi, Miharu must be the one to protect Haruha and Yuu……
(That's right. I must tell him that it's not Kodzuchi-san, but I'm the one who can save him……!)
With such an earnest thought, she enters in. And as if to ruin that determination,
"Mommy, Mommy, Haruha is thirsty. Can Haruha drink cola?"
"You just had cola not long ago, so have some tea oka-…. Eh, eeh? Haruha!?"
All of a sudden Haruha pops out, and pulled at Miharu's clothes. She was so absorbed into her talk with Airi she didn't notice her.
"W-What happen to Kanna-san?"
"Sakura-chan, said something like, 『Painful and look painful is the same thing』 and got mad."
Just what the heck is that girl doing? She thought, but thinking back again, Sakura is simply an innocent bystander. It's wrong to blame her.
And so, it was already too late.
"So, you're Haruha, huh."
"? Indeed Haruha is?"
Perfectly alike, even so, their height gap is too big.
Kusaka Airi stood up and smiled victoriously, all while facing Kasugai Haruha who blinked her eyes innocently. It's clear that the two of them have the same face.
Taking a closer look, their similarity is uncanny. No matter how close a parent and child can be, it's rare for them to look so alike. It’s as if they were two halves of the same being.
Miharu had her head cooled down and she turned pale. Airi's fixation doesn't feel that weird now. For both a child and a parent to hold so much resemblance, it might be not so weird for the child to follow their parent――― such worries occupy Miharu's mind.
And so, Airi started talking to Haruha.
"You understand right, Haruha? I'm your real mother."
Haruha widened her eyes and awkwardly approached Airi.
Then, while being watched over by Miharu and Yuu, she opened her mouth.
"Are you the real Cacao seller? Haruha always eats your chocolate dumplings!" (TL Note: The 'pun' here is that Airi said "Hontou no Okaa-san" and Haruha misheard it as "Hontou no Kokoa" which means "The real Cacao")
The chocolate dumplings sold in the neighborhood supermarket is the Kasugai household’s staple afternoon snack.
Airi stomped the floor.
"M・O・T・H・E・R! Just why do you think a person who looks exactly like you is a chocolate seller!?"
"Haruha always eats chocolate dumplings and Choco no Egg every day, so Haruha thought it's a present for a loyal customer……"
"MOTHER! Mom, Mama, Madre!"
"Aah, so… Mommy huh…"
"……Why you look so depressed after learning I'm not the Cacao seller? But at least I got you on the right track now."
"Real-san's mommy?" (TL Note: The particle の/no can also mean [ ‘s ], so “Hontou no Okaa-san” becomes “Honto’s Mother”)
Airi shouted furiously.
It seems Haruha finally understood what she was trying to say. Because, she was tilting her head curiously.
"? But Haruha's mommy is Mommy?"
Haruha then buried her head into Miharu's bosom to express that she's her mother. Out of habit, Miharu hugged Haruha back and patted her head. "Nfufu…" Haruha smiled, making Miharu smile back.
Airi was taken aback upon seeing how Miharu’s bosom had the capability to engulf Haruha’s head, but once again she tried to convince Haruha.
"T-That person is just raising you, she's not your mother. You can tell just by looking, right?"
Haruha lifted her head out of Miharu's chest and once again faced Airi. Airi spread open her arms.
"I, with my body data, gave birth to you."
Instantaneous. Not even a second was wasted for her to say this word of denial.
"Haruha is not yours. Haruha is Mommy and Daddy's."
Not to mention, Haruha's expression did not change in the slightest. Innocent and indifferent, she simply continued to smile.
It's not like she didn't expect her to deny her. As a matter of fact, no matter how many times Yuu fought back, she didn't move an inch. But after being denied by Haruha in such a fast and indifferent manner, Airi became speechless.
On the other hand, Haruha's response was also a shock for Miharu and Yuu. Of course, they believed she wouldn’t follow Airi in the end, but they didn't think it would end so instantaneously. They thought she would have more interest in others who look like herself.
Everyone in the room turned silent, all for different reasons, and Haruha looked at them with a confused face. Hajime then stood up and placed her hand on Airi's shoulder.
"Well…… you hear what she said……"
Even so Airi continued to complain, but in the end, she got kicked out by Yuu again. This time he carried her on his shoulder, treating her completely like luggage.
"W-What a rude man! I won't give up you know!"
He intended to put her down as gently as possible, but possibly out of embarrassment she started cursing him while crying, so he threw her out like trash. The guy from the car looked at them and made a bitter smile. Judging from his attitude, and how he talks to Airi once she's inside the car, it appears that he is her older brother or something similar. They give off the impression of a rich family from a western movie where they eat steak inside the car. (TL Note: Is this even a thing?)(ED Note: Apparently, there is such a stereotype out there somewhere…)
While watching over the noisy visitor's car go past the residential area, Miharu asked Yuu who was standing by her side.
"It sure is rare for you to treat woman roughly."
Yuu let his gaze wander ambiguously.
"I might have treated her like that because she looked like Haruha"
"Daddy, Mommy, Haruha wants to drink cola!"
"Barley tea okay"
"Here…. we go" said Yuu as he lifted Haruha and carried her back into the house.
Seeing such a strange sight, Miharu let out a sigh, mixed with both relief and anxiousness.
And so, as she declared.
Starting from that day, Kusaka Airi's approach as "The daughter’s biological mother" starts.
One day she came by with a full set of Figurines from Haruha's favorite candy toy, Choco no Egg. It appears that she got it from an auction. (ED: You know, that chocolate egg thing that comes with a toy inside…… I forgot the name orz… or what It's called actually, suggestions appreciated~) (TL: You mean Kinder Eggs?)
"How about this, Haruha! I've completed all of the Choco no Egg Figurine sets, up to its latest release for you. Now, if you want this follow me back to my house!" (ED: Pedo bear alert~)
"Don't need it…"
"Eh……? W-Why?? You like these, don't you?"
"Haruha like to open the treasure box herself"
You won't know what's inside till you scoop out all the chocolate; that is Choco no Egg. The feeling of "excitement" from it is what she likes.
In the end, Airi got a very long lecture on the excitement of opening chests and breaking vases in video games.
As someone who was born from a game, Haruha couldn't tolerate any compromise in entertainment.
One day, after conducting through research on Haruha's thoughts and preferences, Airi forced Haruha to sit by her side in the living room and started talking with confidence.
"Come, Haruha! Let's talk about 『Revive! Mystical Priest Girl Rasupu-chan 5』, your favorite anime. You can ask me anything!!"
『Revive! Mystical Priest Girl Rasupu-chan 5』 is a magical girl TV anime that Haruha diligently watches and followed ever since she arrived in the real world. It is a candy-like sweet fairy tale hellish love story about the protagonist who fights over a handsome guy guest-character against groups of love rivals every single episode.
This episodic crazy love battle story featuring one-off handsome guys and the destruction of Hokkaido and Saint Petersburg has captured the hearts of many young girls all over the country. This series has become the modern icon for girls of the generation (By the way, the number 「5」 on the title does not mean that it's the fifth installment of the series, but rather comes from the story setting that features the protagonist being in a reverse-harem situation with 5 international model-level handsome guys).
Judging from the tired look of her eyes, it appears as though Airi had sacrificed her sleep to study about that.
"The hidden theme and message hidden under its seemingly pandemonic and immoral story. All historical backgrounds and parodies behind the characters' costume. The history of the series. Anything about its staff composition and the company's previous works. The sale record of its various toys and goods, box office income for its movie releases, the characteristics of its marketing strategy, and its secondary economic impact— Everything, I know it all!"
"……? What about it?"
Haruha showed no interest. Completely uninterested.
Even Miharu started to pity Airi. According to Hajime, she's quiet skilled technician, but she got a few screws loose. Seeing how much effort Airi had put in, it makes it hard for Miharu to hate her.
But at the same time, it might just be because she looks like Haruha. Miharu couldn't help but be worried as she thinks about that.
Once, she came to the house to show a picture to Miharu. It's a printed screenshot from a video in『CtG』.
The image shows Clamp, Yuu's avatar, walking alongside a girl with a decorated knife (ED: Ceremonial?) on her waist in a city in Dragons Glaive. It's not like they were flirting, but they looked like they were really close with each other as they looked over a map together.
"Look here, Kugimiya Miharu! Kasugai Yuu's Avatar is talking nicely with this Ren girl. You've been cheated on!"
"Now, hand over Haruha to me and cut your ties with this unfaithful cheating trash right away!"
"………I know her."
"I know her alright. She is Kasugai-kun's childhood friend. Judging from the time registered on the picture, it must be when I went away with Haruha to buy new clothes, so this must be when they were doing some hard quests in 『CtG』." (ED: Such a understanding wifey/mother/partner…… kek)
"A-Are you okay with this? Seeing what they're doing—"
Airi was dumbfounded, but Miharu was as calm as always.
"I'm Haruha's mother, and Kasugai-kun is Haruha's father, but it's not like the two of us have anything going on, okay."
She was as calm and cold as ice.
Now that her plan has failed, Airi returned with a dejected look on her face. But judging from the fact that the dinner at the Kasugai's household that day was ultra-spicy croquette that Yuu hated, you may say that her plan of revenge was partially successful in a way. (ED: Ok maybe not…)
On another day, Airi came trying to show her superiority over Yuu and Miharu to Haruha.
"Listen well, Haruha. If you come to my house, you will be able to use the library, IT room, theater room, training room, and a big bath as much as you like. I don't have one right now, but I can even prepare you a karaoke room and a drink bar if you want!"
"You can get anything too in Payaport."
Payaport is the name of a shopping mall that the people of the Kasugai household often visit. In addition to various shops, it also has a fitness club, theater and even public baths.
"B-But it's inside the house you know. You can use it whenever you like!"
"Haruha likes to go out with Daddy and Mommy more"
"I'm the one who drives the car though…"
Hajime added dejectedly, but Airi and Haruha ignored her.
Airi spread her arms wide and started a speech.
"……Regardless, raising Haruha here won't do any good in developing your skill. I'm here to help you improve your talent and lead you to higher heights. The needed knowledge and ideal environment, I'll even provide you with the funds to do whatever you like.
It's much more meaningful than living with these people, right?"
Airi pointed at Yuu and Miharu.
Both Yuu and Miharu certainly felt upset by her remark, but they didn't say anything in protest. It's because both of them are well aware of how normal they are aside from being "Haruha's parents". That's why, they know it is better for Haruha to get a more appropriate environment to live in.
But, contrary to her parents, Haruha easily answered.
"Daddy is great with games you know?"
Haruha said so while hugging Yuu's back, but Airi just snort triumphantly.
"Listen and remember this, Haruha.
―――A person who is competent in games is equally incompetent in real world."
"Ahahaha. You're right on that."
"Despite how it is, you're a game developer right, Hajime-san, why are you laughing so much!?"
In contrast to the glasses lady who burst out laughing, Yuu turned pale in response.
"Also, please stop making 『She sure hit us in our weak spot』 face while wiping your tears right there, Kugimiya-san! It makes me sad!"
Miharu finally got a hold of herself and started arguing with Airi.
"T-That's right! While it's true that Kasugai-kun might be too passionate in playing games that he start slacking off on his dinner duty――― Can you believe he actually served refrigerated curry for three days straight? ――― , and sometimes starts grinning disgustingly in the middle of class, but even so he's still a gentle father to Haruha!"
Hearing her desperate 'defense', Yuu ended up falling all four and froze there for few moments.
Even Airi started feeling bad for him and started directing her criticism towards Miharu.
"Then what about that woman over there? Does she even deserve to be the mother of Haruha, the pioneer of our new generation?"
Now that Yuu was down on all fours on the ground, Haruha peeled herself off him and sat on top of Miharu's lap who was sitting in Seiza.
"Hrmm. Mommy is kind, cute, and sings great~…."
"Hmph, how normal."
"Also, her boobs are bigger than Hidari-chan and Sakura-chan, it ※Dakkokochi (※Haruha's made-up word. It means the comfortable level of hugging it.) is really good." (TL Note: Dakkokochi, or 抱っ心地. Literally "the feeling of hugging")
Airi compared herself with Miharu. The gap between them was as big as the heavens and earth itself.
After a brief silent.
Airi clicked her tongue.
All that remain were the depressed Yuu and Hajime, and a blushing Miharu and Haruha who had started her afternoon nap.
One time, she followed Yuu in the middle of his afternoon jog. It's one of very few moments during summer vacation where Yuu was alone.
"H, How about it? …..Let's…. m, make… *pant*… a deal?"
Yuu had started jogging ever since Miharu and Haruha moved in. The course consisted of a few laps around the residential area. Now that he's used to it, his pacing was pretty fast. While he's indeed a gamer, Yuu didn't hate physical activity and physical endurance was one of his strong suit.
Naturally, if a girl who lacked exercise tried to follow him, she would end up running out of stamina quickly.
Yuu's sweatpants was the one he used to wear since middle school, bit it looked awful so Miharu bought a new one for him.
And right behind him, lay Airi, looking exhausted.
She wore pretty stylish-looking jersey and sweatpants. From the look alone, she's fully prepared for physical activity but in reality, it was not what it seemed.
While they were running, it appeared she's trying to make a deal, but ended up collapsing on the road mid-way. Thinking it's weird that she would fall like that, Yuu stopped, and checked her ankle.
"It doesn't seem to be a sprain…."
"I said I'm okay."
"But it still hurts, right?"
"Ouch…! What are you doing, you sadist…!"
Airi tried to act tough when Yuu was checking her leg, but because she tried to stretch her leg in doing so, pain struck her and tears started flowing out. Fatigue also started to get to her, so it didn't seem she could move for a while.
The car that Airi was driving was parked in front of Kasugai's house, and the terminal she owned to call it had just run out of battery.
Being unable to leave her alone, Yuu carried her on his back.
Excluding some occasional car passing by that were returning from work, it was a very quiet time here in this wide residential area. The summer sunset turned purple, and the shadow of Yuu carrying Airi was made in the shape of a club.
"………This is humiliating."
"It's not that bad right? When I was little my mom… I mean, my mother once gave me a piggyback ride too."
"You're not my dear father okay. A father is something like, more……. at any rate, it's different!"
(Oh, so she calls her dad "dear father" huh…)
The vibration of her voice transmitted through his back and into his body. Even now he still couldn't fully comprehend the individual known as Airi. She was said to be a talented technician who puts adults to shame, and her knowledge and skill were way higher than Yuu and others, but her childish side of her was extremely childish.
In order to prevent Airi from falling, Yuu regained his posture and started speaking in his serious voice.
"Regardless, I have no plans in giving Haruha away."
Ever since the day Airi appeared, Yuu continued to think over it every night while looking at Haruha's sleeping face, but he always reached to the same conclusion. It's impossible for him to let Haruha go. Is it really better to be in a bigger house, being taken care of by a more competent adult? He doubted it, because Yuu believed that Haruha was happy the way everything was now.
"Haruha might look like an elementary school student, but counting from the day she's born she's no different from a baby. The one she needs right now is Kugimiya-san."
Based on his own experiences, Yuu believed that it's better for Haruha to stay with her mother until she could truly be independent.
But, Airi responded by shaking her head.
"That's precisely why. Since she's a new born, she can still……"
"……Nothing. It has nothing to do with you."
"Of course it does, it's about Haruha after all!"
Yuu couldn't help but raise his voice. Having to hear such loud voice so closely, Airi tensed her shoulder.
Perhaps because it all happened so sudden, she reacted like that in response. Feeling a bit bad over his actions, Yuu felt a little pain in his chest.
But Airi refused to admit that she was frightened and instead replied with a loud voice.
"How arrogant…… I know that you're having an affair, you know!"
"Haaaah!? A-Affair…. Affair!? Me?"
Out of sheer surprise, Yuu couldn't utter a single proper word and stopped walking.
"Playing dumb won't do you any good! I've looked into it.
―――Kozuchi Fuyufu. It's the name of the woman under the avatar name Ren in 『CtG』 you're dating with!"
Yuu didn't know what to say. Airi acted all triumphant and straightened her body, but she almost fell because of it and hurriedly clung back to Yuu's shoulder.
In order to hide her embarrassment, she continued to verbally abuse him.
"Kasugai Yuu. Even though you already have a wife and kid, you frequently make contact with Ren in 『CtG』, and in real life you often accompany her carrying her stuff when shopping!"
"Ah, well, that was just a gesture of thanks for helping us during the fight against Ikui……"
Airi's body trembled. She's feeling excitement now that she finally got a chance to have her revenge against Yuu.
"Stop with that unsightly excuse! At any rate, a man like you have no right to act as Haruha's father!"
"Wait a sec! It's not like I'm dating Fuyufu. For starter, I only 《Married》 in 『CtG』 (Game), so it shouldn't count as an affair!"
"But Haruha has appeared in the real world, and the three of you are living in the same house. Now that your family have moved from the game into real world, it's only natural to think that your marriage got carried over as well!
Despite so, you continued your relationship with your childhood friend. It's clearly an infidelity act! Thou hast conducted an affair!"
"B, But that…. I mean……"
Absurd. Airi's claim was clearly absurd. But even so, Yuu couldn't think of a word of rebuttal.
Yuu got along well with Fuyufu, not to mention their family circumstances made her a special childhood friend for him. That should be just it, but ever since the incident with Ikui and the thing that happened in her room, her body warmth that permeated through a single layer of clothing had continued to remain within Yuu's subconscious.
Meanwhile, Miharu was just the player whom he 《Married》 with in-game. It's not like they married in real world or anything. Not to mention, they had only just met recently and not even a couple. But to Haruha, she's undoubtedly her one and only "Mother". While she might be a little bit hard to deal with, the more time they spent together, the more Yuu found her kindness towards Haruha to be charming.
To begin with, the reason he started this jogging routine was so he could sleep properly even when sharing the bed with Miharu. After some trial and error, he concluded that the only way to subdue earthly temptations was to be physically exhausted.
(C-Could it be that I'm really such a loose man……? No, but Kugimiya-san did say she supports my relationship with Fuyufu after all……)
"Somehow I don't know what is what anymore."
"W-Whoa, just because I guessed right, don't stop so suddenly!"
Yuu fell flat on the ground with Airi still clinging to his back. Then Airi tried to peek at Yuu's face.
A shadow casted over both of them. Reflexively, both of them raised their face.
When Yuu and Airi was arguing over the affair topic, someone riding a city bicycle with an eco-bag on the bicycle basket approached them.
And when both of them fell, the person looked down at them with cold eyes with a dangerous glint, and said.
"………More girls, I see."
The evening wind blew pass her short black hair, reminiscence of a traditional Japanese doll. But what was felt there was the personification of the word" danger" itself.
Yuu looked at Kozuchi Fuyufu's face with despair.
—————–To Be Continued—————–
(After I watch… which superhero movie coming out soon again?…)