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“Chiharu… Wake up… Chiharu…”
My body was slowly swaying. It’s being shaken.
“You shouldn’t be napping. We’ll soon reach port. The only one who’s not ready is you, Chiharu.”
Hearing Zonmi’s words, I sprang up from the bed.
And then, I noticed something amiss.
“Hey… Isn’t the room somehow quite cold?”
I didn’t think I’d left a window open somewhere, so that doesn’t seem to be the reason.
Despite the room interior being airtight, for some reason I was freezing as if I had been submerged in cold water.
“… You’ll understand the reason why once you go out.”
As I was told, I put on my outdoor shoes and went up to the ship’s deck.
I wonder what’s up now.
“Uwah… What’s this…”
A snowy scenery.
All of a sudden, what entered my field of view was a world with a silver layer.
“They say it boasts the greatest surface area in the Netherworld… The continent where ghouls live, Living Lodge.
I heard that it was a country where the snow didn’t melt in all the year, but this is quite…”
For an instant, I really didn’t know who was the one who said that.
Lilith-san, having changed her usual maid uniform for a thick duffel coat, muttered that.
Excuse my rudeness, but in Lilith's case, no matter the situation, her bust size is a dead giveaway.
“The largest continent, covered in snow? This Living Lodge sounds a lot like Russia back at the human world.”
“… That’s right. Now that you mention it, I think they have many points in common.
But then, as nine tenths of it are comprised of ice and snow, the monsters living in it are restricted to the ghoul tribe and other members of the undead tribe.”
Before my doubt, Lilith-san coolly answered.
Though it’s been a short time, I learnt something from living with her.
Lilith-san knows a lot about the Netherworld, of course, and also about the human world.
In fact, she who had graduated from a prestigious Netherworld university after skipping grades, also seems to have experienced studying abroad at the human world.
In other words, even among the demons, she’s the elite of elites.
“By the way, Lilith-san. How sly… You cunningly said to only me that I didn’t need thick clothes…”
Trembling in just my T-shirt, I complained in dissatisfaction.
“About that, there’s no problem, Chiharu-sama. Have this…”
What Lilith-san took out from the inside pocket of her coat was a necklace with a red gemstone.
“This gemstone is a magical stone and this wonderful artifact displays various effects depending on the runes carved on the stone.
By the way, in this magic stone there’s an ‘raising the body temperature when worn’ effect.”
“… Ah. True. It’s not so cold.”
If I wear this magic stone, should I feel relieved even in a land of snow?
“… By the way, is Zonmi alright? She doesn’t seem to be wearing a necklace.”
“Yeah. Don’t worry. To us ghouls, this temperature is rather comfortable.”
Not only doesn’t she wear a necklace, Zonmi’s choice of clothes is so thin that I feel cold just by watching.
It’s a total mismatch with the surrounding scenery.
“Uwaa—. Look, look! Even though it’s summer, it’s snowing.”
“… This snow thing is truly white. I had knowledge of it though writings, but it’s the first time I witness it in person…”
Each one wearing a magical stone necklace hanging on their chests, Kyouko & Iris looked at the silver-covered world and got pumped up.
“Uu… It’s cold… What’s this. It’s unbelievably cold. Why do I have to suffer this…”
Contrasting with those two, my sister had fallen into unusually low spirits.
It seems that she was also wearing a magic stone necklace on her chest, but as, on top of that, she was wearing thin clothes, it looks like she wasn’t totally protected against cold.
“The heck. You—. If you’re cold you shouldn’t be wearing a skirt! Go back and put some clothes on!”
“Eeeh—. That’s absolutely not possible!”
“I mean… Since the zombie is wearing a miniskirt with bare legs…If I wear trousers… I’ll feel like I lost. In a femininity sense…”
“… What a weird consideration.”
Am I the only one who thinks he wants my sister to, instead of femininity, learn some common sense?
“Wha, for reals!? The one there is Lilith-san!? Without her maid uniform, I totally didn’t know who she was!”
“I-Is it that so? The truth is, it’s been a while since I last went out without my maid uniform. You can think of them as my everyday clothing…”
“Why have you changed from it?”
“… As expected, I surmised that that appearance was too attention-catching. Erm… Is it that weird?”
“No. Without your maid uniform, Lilith-san, you give a ‘mature woman’ feeling, you’re very beautiful.”
“Be-beautiful…A-am I… Me!?”
“Of course. That aside, who…”
Wha-what’s this shivering?
It’s a bit different from just the cold from the falling snow…
Hasn’t the temperature dropped even more right after I complimented Lilith-san!?
“Fu—n. I see—. As I thought, gap moe attacks are very effective against Chiharu…"
“Moreover, in her case, she achieves it naturally, so it’s excessively wicked.”
“… Kuh! All gentlemen… Like bosoms. J-just a while ago, what little sister-kun imparted to me was an actual fact.!”
This Iris… In that short time, it looks like Manami has had her totally trained.
It’s difficult to tell if I can be glad or must be sad.
Said little sister, staring intently at Lilith-san breasts with eyes full of scorn,
“But, you know, If you take out the maid uniform from the titty maid, isn’t it just tits?”
Blurted point blank.
“D-don’t talk about my breasts, please!”
It’s hard to please everybody.
Surrounded by just girls, having lots of gorgeous and happy settings, in times like this, since I have to be considerate to all parties, I can’t help but worry.
That said, bah, like that, us six went through the entry procedures to the land of the ghouls.
× × ×
“Welcome back, Zonmi-ojousama.”
Some hours later.
Having just finished the entry procedures, the one who came to pick us up was a forty-something old man in a tuxedo.
“Long time no see. Thank you very much for coming expressly to pick us up.”
Since I had heard that from here on we will continue on in the car of an acquaintance of Zonmi, I was convinced that we’ll ride a wagon or something of the like, but the car parked before us was a classy limousine that wasn’t no worse than one belonging to demons.
“Mm, what’s it?”
“Us all, until now we didn’t know much about the ghoul’s family.”
“Yep. That’s right.”
“There’s no need to say…”
“… Yeah. Seeing this situation… I think that, perhaps, our hunch is spot on.”
““Zonmi (The ghoul) is a rich girl!?””
A shocking (?) fact has just been revealed.
As Kyouko has bashfully said, We didn’t know a thing about Zonmi.
How many members her family has? Where did she live before coming to the human world?
Surprisingly… Not even a thing?
Zonmi is the most polite of us, second to Lilith-san, and her table manners are elegant without fail.
Thinking calmly about it, maybe the development of Zonmi being the daughter of a good family is only natural.
“Oneesama. Long time no see—!”
The moment after those thoughts went around inside my head.
From inside the car a girl promptly rushed out and embraced Zonmi.
“Aruru… Is it you?” Fufu… You’ve grown a lot while I wasn’t watching.”
The one that Zonmi called Aruru was a petite girl one hundred and fifty centimeters tall with the same silver hair as Zonmi.
Her age… Maybe around Manami’s?
Her sharp features, with still some innocence left in them, bore a close resemblance to Zonmi’s.
From the previous conversation, I could surmise that they're sisters.
I didn’t know.
That Zonmi… She had a little sister so cute like this one.
“… How reserved. If you had a little sister, you could have said something in advance.”
“My apologies. It’s not like I planned on hiding it, but…”
“Oneesama. Who are these people?”
“Yes. I haven’t introduced you yet.
This one here is my master, monster tamer Chiharu.
The woman with the glasses over there is the succubus Lilith and this blond girl here is the red dragon Iris… The rest, I’ll omit them since they are extras.”
“I got omitted!?”
Kyouko had her mouth open agape from the shock suffered.
Recently I’ve grown accustomed to Kyouko’s reactions.
“Eeeerrm, Aruru-chan, right? Nice to meet you.”
“Just Aruru is fine. Since oneesama’s contractor… Is already like family.”
“I-Is it like that?”
“… Wow. This is my first time seeing a living human.”
Aruru, full of interest, approached me so as to get a peek.
I felt like retorting with “Does that mean you’ve seen dead humans!?”, but I abstained from it since I thought it was bad manners to retort to a girl I’ve just met.
“Nevertheless, what a surprise. By no means I thought that Zonmi had a little sister.”
“… If this is enough to surprise you, that’s troubling. Meruru! I know that you are there. Please quickly show your face.”
A while after Zonmi rose her voice, one more girl appeared from inside the car.
“Eh… Could this be…”
The girl that Zonmi called Meruru had identical features to those of Aruru before me.
As I raised my voice in disarray, Zonmi, *ahem*, clearing her throat,
“… Yes. Sorry for the late introduction. These two… Aruru Ra McKenzie and Meruru Ra McKenzie, are my sisters two years apart from me.”
She pointed to the two pretty girls before me.
Aruru and Meruru.
Their appearances may be like two peas in a pod, but their atmospheres were contrasting.
Opposite to Aruru, who faces me with a polite smile, Meruru, instead, shows open animosity that feels like “a mongoose before a viper”.
Basically, on top of not establishing visual contact with me, she shot me, from time to time, murderous glares.
“… Kuh! Why neechan, with such a dull guy… I will absolutely not allow it!”
“My, my, Meruru. Stop the prejudices before talking enough with him.”
“… Humph! Aruru is too fond of humans!”
I wonder why.
The truth is I feel that I want, like Kyouko, to show a flashy reaction, but since ‘something’ bugs me to no end, I could only stand upright.
If you ask what’s bugging me…
Though the little sisters have such cute names… Zonmi alone has such a deplorable name.
“I-I come here and there are two little sister characters!? It’s the worst! What will be of Manami’s identity!?”
Though it seems that my little sister was also under a shock for different reasons, I couldn’t care less.
× × ×
‘Hey. Though the little sisters have such cute names, why does Zonmi alone have such a deplorable name?’
… If I had a personality that let me ask that straight on, how much happier would my life be?
Totally unable to ask that before the person in question, I secretly asked Lilith-san inside the car.
According to Lilith-san.
The name “Zonmi” may leave a memorable impression at the human world, but it’s relatively common among ghouls.
… Though I don’t understand what were ghouls thinking when they popularized such a misleading name, that’s enough for now.
It has been bugging me since Zonmi introduced her sisters, as her “sisters two years apart from her”.
For some reason, I didn’t want to ask until now… No, though I did want, I couldn’t ask… I’ll try attacking head on the greatest taboo for us.
“Yes. What is it?”
“Zonmi, right now, how old are you?”
Despite trying to make it sound as casual as possible, I noticed Zonmi’s face softly distorting.
“Wh-what…!? What are you suddenly blurting out so late in the game!?”
“… No. I want you to answer me seriously and without being mad.”
“I-I’m not particularly angry! I’m just wondering why would you ask now after such a long time!”
“I mean. Errrm, in the first place, it’s a doubt that I have, but does the body of monsters pile up years like that of humans?”
As if realizing the meaning of my question, Zonmi kept silent with a meek face.
As I can’t tell everyone’s ages, I had no other way.
Let’s say that ghouls have a lifespan about twice of a human’s.
In that case, with a simple calculation, does the growth rate of their bodies halve?
Let’s say that’s true… What awaits us is a tragic reality.
Judging by outer appearance alone, Zonmi’s age is no different than mine. Since she looks like sixteen, by applying the former theory…
Zonmi Ra McKenzie (32 yo).
It’ll be like that.
It would be surreal beyond imagination.
As if unable to just watch me scared of the upcoming dread and trembling like no tomorrow, Zonmi, dispelling my worries with a composed tone,
“Now that you mention it, I haven’t told you straight out of my own mouth.
I’m sixteen, same as you, Chiharu. I thought you’d had guessed it by the time I transferred into the same class as you, Chiharu…”
“… Is that so? That’s good.”
Really, really good.
I felt my strength leaving me.
Had Zonmi been a generation older than me… I would’ve suffered an unfathomable mental shock.
“Erm, I want to ask just for reference, but how many years did you thought I had?”
Why?… She’s slapped me without a word.
So, as if anxious before my erred guess, the rest of the monster group gathered their glances on me.
“Chiharu-sama. I’ll tell you just for the record, but I’m nineteen years old.
I’m certainly older than the rest of you, but even so, don’t misunderstand, so I’m a genuine teenager, thanks.”
“Eeeeh. Lilith-san, you’re younger than you look.”
“Do-does that mean I look aged!?”
Lilith-san became depressed on the spot, as if she had just received a blow.
Have I been too honest?
Now that I think, that may have also been the case with my exchange with Zonmi just now,
It seems that age is a delicate topic for girls, as expected.
“Monster tamer. I’ll tell thee so that thou dostn’t hold any misunderstanding the likes of the prior one, but my age numbers twelve. Dost not get it wrong.”
“…Is it? What a relief that Iris too doesn’t have an unexpected gap with her looks.”
In fact, I was more worried about Iris than in Zonmi’s case.
I mean, in manga and such, this kind of childlike girls often seem to go with the “I’m really ○○ years old” development.
I could wipe away at last the “Iris: loli granny” theory that I held deep down.
“Erm. Haru, my age is…”
“No. You don’t have to.”
“W-why do you treat only me so badly!?”
“I mean… Aren’t you sixteen, like me?”
“T-that may be true, but… At least worry about it!”
“… Even if you tell me…”
To ask now about her age to a childhood friend I’ve known since elementary school, I find it weird.
“Erm… Miss tits. Manami… Right now has a rea~lly bad feeling about it, but can I ask you a question?”
“Yes. No problem. And… Please, don’t call me ‘miss tits’.”
“Is a monster’s lifespan longer than a human’s one? How many years do they usually live?”
“… That’s right. It depends on the tribe, but a monster’s lifespan is from three to five times that of a human. The undead tribe in particular is known for their longevity.”
“In other words. Just as oniichan worried, they don’t age at the same rate as a human?”
“Yeah, so it comes to that.”
Lilith-san kept on, fixing her glasses in place.
… I’ve recently noticed that Lilith-san has the habit of lifting her glasses before entering exposition mode.
I’ve grown used to Lilith-san’s exposition persona.
“Though there are individual differences, the body of monsters gradually stops aging when it reaches around what would be seventeen years old for humans.
Therefore, they pass more than half of their lives with a physical appearance that would amount to their twenties for humans. In other words, simply put, differently from humans, they suffer a stop in their growths.”
“A-a real ‘forever seventeen’!?”
I don’t know the reason why, but Manami seems to have suffered quite a shock.
“Incidentally, as for why the body of monsters is under such a mechanism, it’s widely regarded as true that lengthening even a bit the age most suited for reproduction is more advantageous for the survival of the species from a biological standpoint.”
“… By the way, what happens with chimeras like me?”
“Right. I think that your case, Chiharu-sama, is a tad particular, but basically shouldn’t differ from other monsters.
If not for illness or injuries, as a low estimate, you’ll live around two hundred years?”
“Uwah!? F-for reals…?”
Should I be calling this good luck?
Up until now, about my perspective on life, I had the feeling of “if I live until I’m 80, that will be pretty damn awesome”, but I’ve unexpectedly got more years to live.
What’s more… I’ll spend more than half of my life with a body in its twenties…
Though I’m relieved that I don’t have to worry about balding for the time being, with such a constitution I definitely cannot attend old class reunions.
“Eh, erm. Miss tits. A regular human… girl, does she have a way to live as long as the monsters?”
Manami asked Lilith-san with an unusually trembling voice.
“I’m very sorry. As I’m not an expert, I’m not aware of the specifics, but as long as I know, there isn’t.”
Manami suddenly started to scream like an uprooted mandragora and writhed about on the car’s sofa.
Maybe because of her femininity stressing (*snicker*) miniskirt, I could catch glimpses of her black panties.
It’s what’s commonly referred as a pointless panchira.
… Speaking for myself, I didn’t think that in this world there could be something like a panchira with no meaning whatsoever.
“… Since the mood seems to prevent someone from asking, I’ll have to ask myself so, what’s the matter, Manami?”
“Be-becaaause… Like that, after fifty years, while oniichan will keep being young, only Manami will be an old granny!”
“… Yeah. Following Lilith-san’s explanation, isn’t that what will happen?”
“That’s… Too cruel! I… Till when will I be able to remain as a little sister character!?”
“… First of all, do you intend of parting from your brother?”
Does she plan to remain as the same character as now even when she’s an old granny?
That’s somewhat horrific.
“Hey. Aruru. Why do humans raise such a ruckus for such trifling matters?”
“Ufufu. You don’t know that because you are still a kid, Meruru. All girls, no matter who or which time period… Reach a point where they come to fear growing old.”
“Ch!… Darned Aruru… Just because she was born two minutes earlier than me, she acts like a grown-up.”
I could hear this exchange between the AruMeru sisters coming from the front seat of the car.
Meruru’s hate of humans reminds me of Zonmi just when I first met her.
Does the ghoul clan have lots of monsters that hate humans?
When I was thinking about that.
“Ah, look! At last we can see our destiny… I mean, my parent’s home!”
Said Zonmi as she pointed with her finger outside the window.
“We can see it, you say… Is there some kind of mistake? There’s no way that we can see a house from so far aw…”
As I was speaking, it hit me.
Currently, we couldn’t discern any building of the like.
For starters, from this distance, barely able to get a view of the entirety of the town, no matter how big we say the building is, it’s nearly impossible to specifically tell it apart.
With the exception of that single building standing at the very center…
“… Don’t tell me? It can’t be.”
This must be me over thinking things.
To wipe out that possibility that crossed my mind, I shook my head.
“I see. Is that the McKenzie castle, where those who have ruled over ghouls for over a millennium live in?
Its majesty doesn’t lose in any way against those of demons. Impressive!”
“What’s it, Haru?”
“Could this per chance possibly… be that?”
“… Yeah. I think that, perhaps, our guess is spot on.”
““Zonmi (The ghoul) is a princess!?”
Kyouko & me were left with our mouths agape from the shock.
Practical question. This shock can’t be compared to anything.
Why is that?
Maybe because the girl I’ve been living with for over two months is the princess of a country… Did anyone expect it?
Different from me, who was frankly surprised, Iris kept her usual unruffled look.
“Iris, did you already know? That Zonmi… Was the princess of…”
“If we speak of the McKenzie house, they are the lineage that holds more influence from among the undead tribe. Naturally, any individual who lives in the Netherworld is bound to have heard such appellation at least once.”
It seems that those who didn’t know the fact that Zonmi = princess were me & Kyouko & Manami, just the three of us.
… And the one who has suffered the most a shock among us was Manami, my sister.
So shocked she was that both her body and her voice trembled noticeably.
“E-eeeeh—. The zombie is the zombie princess—
I see—. Manami understands. The reason for inviting oniichan to see her parents now was about that?”
“I-it’s not! It’s not like… I intended…”
“Humph. Shameless lies! Don’t get carried away just because you live in such a splendid house!”
What are you being so competitive about since a while ago?
“Besides… I-I have no need in the least for such a splendid home! Oniichan’s thingy is a thousand times more splendid!”
“Is my thingy a biological weapon!?”
Right after making a rebuttal.
The ambiance around me seemed to freeze solid.
… Sorry, sorry.
If I get carried away by my sister’s pace, won’t you take me as a pervert?
“… Ah! Wait a minute.”
I then noticed something important.
“Since Zonmi is the Ghoul princess, then Zonmi’s parents who I am to meet…”
“Yes. My father… Satosu Ra McKenzie happens to be the king who reigns over the land of the ghouls.”
By this trip’s planning, I thought I’d exchange a simple greeting with Zonmi’s parents and spent all of the remaining time mainly sightseeing, but it seems that’ll be not possible.
Greeting Zonmi’s parents has turned into getting an audience with the king of the ghouls.
Before this unexpected development, we (specially the human world team) felt needlessly dwarfed.
× × ×
“But, why did you kept silent about such an important thing until just right now? You had many chances to tell us.”
“… That’s right. I was torn about if I should come clear, but… Claiming it myself would be strange…”
“Yup. Isn’t it?”
“Besides, long ago, back when I was living in the Netherworld, I heard some rumor.
At the human world, girls who call themselves ‘princess’ are, oftentimes, just people weird in the head… So they say.”
“… What a heartless remark.”
Certainly… Girls who come to address themselves as “princess ○○” are more often than not just lunatics or people with mental issues.
… It seems that Zonmi, in her own way, had also been thinking about many things.
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