Continues on from Chapter 3 – The Academy City Aims for Reconstruction
Continues on to Chapter 5 – Celes’ Confession
Chapter 4 – The Beginning of a New Life, and an Investigation of the Omen
One week had already passed since everyone began their new lives on the magical ship. During her lunch break, Rebecca took a shower in the ship’s bathroom. Since she started helping out with the reconstruction effort early in the morning, her body was covered in dirt and grime. Within the Academy, there was still a lot of work ongoing which involved the removal of rubble. The bathroom that she used was surprisingly spacious, one that wouldn’t have been expected from one inside a ship. Both the tiling and the bathtub were mostly constructed from marble. The faucet had been crafted in the shape of a dragon, and as a testament to the lavishness of the design, it was also made of gold. By twisting the faucet, hot water poured out from the shower head that resembled a dragon’s head. Rebecca’s fiery red hair had become dripping wet, and it stuck to her porcelain white skin. Each droplet of water that trickled down from her hair slid through the cleavage between her ample breasts. Every time Rebecca changed her position, her supple breasts bounced and swayed.
Rebecca closed her eyes and contemplated the state of the Academy’s reconstruction. The good news was that the reconstruction effort was proceeding smoothly. Under Rebecca’s direction, every student and their Pals took part in the large reconstruction effort. The Academy’s board also decided to temporarily suspend all classes. However, all of the students had surprisingly radiant expressions, and not even the slightest trace of despair could be seen on their faces. Rebecca took this as a good sign. No one seemed to know that a full restoration of the Academy would take several years. Moreover, Rebecca herself would graduate from Dragonar Academy in just four months.
“This is the last great mission that I have as the Student Council President. What kind of outcomes will I be able to accomplish before I step down…?”
As soon as that thought crossed Rebecca’s mind, a strand of loneliness stroked her heart. Inadvertently, she thought about Ash.
“Come to think of it…I haven’t seen Ash today.”
In order to observe the analytical work that was being performed on the Escavaron, Ash had recently been together with Mirabel more often. He had probably been forced to accompany Mirabel for one of her investigations again this morning. Perhaps…Ash and Mirabel were alone together. As soon as Rebecca thought that, there was a sudden ache in the depths of her chest.
It was then that Rebecca realised how her feelings for Ash had grown deeper and stronger. Originally, she only wanted to be the Student Council President who was quietly concerned with Ash’s growth. That gave her satisfaction, and she didn’t crave anything more than that. But as of late, not only had Ash performed exceptionally, he also awakened as the <Avalon Knight Dragonar> and protected the Knight Country from Prince Uriel’s vices. He had become a national hero.
“Ash, just how far will you grow…?”
Rebecca muttered to herself as she breathed a warm sigh.
“—Did you call my name, Rebecca-san?”
Ash’s voice suddenly resounded from behind as he casually embraced Rebecca.
Given the unexpectedness of the situation, even Rebecca couldn’t help but feel embarrassed, prompting her to stiffen and cover what she could of her body.
“Is that you, Ash!?”
Rebecca always played the role of the Student Council President who was proud and awe-inspiring, but on this particular occasion, she was at a loss on how to respond. No, if the intruder hadn’t been Ash, she likely would’ve yelled ‘molester!’ and swiftly dealt with the matter…but for some reason, she was nervous and her limbs remained frozen in place. The next instant, Ash’s hands quickly began to move.
An exquisitely seductive and bewitching moan escaped from the depths of Rebecca’s throat, surprising even herself. Without warning, while Ash embraced Rebecca from behind, he began to fondle her breasts as well.
“Ah…kuh! H-Hey…Ash! W-What do you think you’re…!?”
The unexpected development caused Rebecca’s entire mind to go blank.
“N-No, you can’t…Ash! I-If you…touch me like that, I’ll…my body will…!”
“Would you prefer it if I touched you like this?”
Rebecca’s cherry-pink nipples were pinched between his fingertips.
Rebecca felt as though an electric current pulsed through her entire body and she reflexively curled into the shape of a bow.
“Enough is enough, Ash! Hero though you may be…don’t think that you have the right to do something like this!”
“The mere words that you utter don’t hold a candle to the truth that your body conveys, you know?”
Ash replied as he breathed purposely against the nape of her neck. Perhaps due to his own excitement, Ash’s breath felt hotter than the water from the shower against Rebecca’s neck.
“Ash…w-what’s wrong with you today? You’re acting strange!”
“What are you saying? I’m dead serious.”
Ash’s fingers then slithered down towards Rebecca’s lower body.
His feverish hand slid in between her tightly held thighs. A gentle caress stimulated the inside of her thighs.
The instant that Rebecca shuddered and contorted her body, her tightly clamped legs spread apart. Ash didn’t miss the opportunity to make the even bolder move of pushing his fingers towards Rebecca’s private garden—
“Hold on! Who are you!? No matter what, it’s impossible for Ash to act so rude and arrogant!”
Desperately clinging onto her sense of reason, Rebecca spun around with a glare.
“…Oh my, I’ve been discovered.”
Shockingly, the person who stood behind Rebecca was — in fact, Cosette. Cosette had once served as a body double for Silvia, so it was a rather effortless and trivial task for her to emulate Ash’s voice.
“Ufufu, as expected of Rebecca-sama. Although you were only a smidgen away from being sullied, you managed to maintain your willpower until the very end. I’m deeply impressed.”
Cosette unhanded and liberated Rebecca with an unremorseful expression.
“Cosette, what is the meaning of this…?”
Rebecca remained vigilant as she cast a sharp glare at Cosette.
“My apologies, I didn’t mean to offend. I only wanted to verify your feelings, Rebecca-sama.”
“My feelings? For what…?”
“Because it’s possible that you may become the number one rival for the princess I serve, Rebecca-sama. If Rebecca-sama has also fallen for Ash-sama…that would be an important concern for the princess.”
“I see, so everything you did was for Silvia’s sake…but, don’t you think that your mischief went just a little too far?”
“Rebecca-sama, I sincerely apologise for that. Having said that — it was truly unexpected for me that the <Scarlet Empress> would exhibit such a lovely reaction. Ufufufufu…”
Rebecca’s skin instantly grew hot and was coloured a bright shade of pink.
“P-Please forget everything that you saw!”
“Obviously, I wouldn’t tell anyone about it. It’s just that your affection for Ash is a lot deeper than I thought it was. Ufufu…things just keep getting more interesting. Now then, please take care.”
Cosette lifted her skirt in a curtsy as she bowed and then silently disappeared.
“Geez, I just can’t let my guard down around her…”
After Rebecca murmured so with an irritated expression, she began to shower with cold water as if to cool her heated body.
“But then again…”
If the person who appeared in the bathroom wasn’t Cosette, but Ash himself, how would I have reacted — Rebecca couldn’t help but distract herself with that thought.
While Rebecca was victim to one of Cosette’s devilish ploys—
Ash had stripped down to only his undergarments as he lay within a glass chamber. —This was within the infirmary of the magic ship Escavaron. However, its appearance was vastly different from what most people would expect of an infirmary. If not for the ancient characters inscribed on the door to indicate that it was an infirmary, it might not have been immediately obvious that it was the case. Various strange and bizarre-looking devices were installed in the room after all, and Ash’s body was contained within one of these devices. According to Mirabel, it was a magically engineered device that mimicked a mother’s womb. The ancient people named the device — <Iunones>. The initial impression that it gave off was that of a large capsule, and in terms of size, it was probably capable of accommodating three adults at once. Although Ash was entirely submerged in a liquid, it strangely didn’t affect his ability to breathe at all.
—So, is this what it feels like to be inside the womb…?
Ash couldn’t help but begin to muse upon insignificant matters such as that. That aside, the presence of Princess Mirabel and Her Eminence Raquel IV in the infirmary made him feel somewhat…no, most certainly uncomfortable. The two of them stared intently at Ash’s body with profound interest. Even though he was wearing underwear, his upper body was unclothed. It was undeniably embarrassing to have two ladies stare at him with such fixed rigour. Since returning to Ansarivan, Mirabel had invested all of her time and effort into an investigation of the Escavaron. On the other hand, although Raquel followed a busy schedule which involved visiting the city hall from time to time and expressing her condolences to the people assisting with the reconstruction project at the Academy, she could be found in the Escavaron whenever she had a moment to spare.
On the other side of the glass—
While Ash received treatment, Raquel acted playfully with Mirabel as they stood before him.
“Fufu. Mirabel-sensei, your hands stopped moving, you know?”
As soon as that was pointed out, Mirabel immediately resumed scribbling down research notes. I accidentally became entranced when I stared at Ash’s chest — such words were an impossibility for her to actually utter, though it was actually the first time that a male body had stolen Mirabel’s attention.
—I wonder what’s wrong with me…
While Mirabel panicked, Raquel tugged on her sleeve, bringing her back to reality.
“Onii-chan’s body looks like it’s completely healed. This super ancient technology is amazing.”
“Indeed. The device should automatically switch off in thirty minutes. In the end, the condition of his injuries already improved thanks to the complete version of Eco’s Ark. Lucca’s <Arundel Herbal Tea> was also highly effective.”
“Combined with the effects of <Iunones>, Ash-oniichan might become even healthier than he was before his injuries!”
“…If he has too much energy, that might not be a good thing.”
After muttering so, Mirabel’s cheeks began to turn red and hot — even though she didn’t understand the reason for it herself.
“W-What is it?”
Unwittingly, Raquel had gotten incredibly close to Mirabel as she peered at her face, and the two of them were so close that their noses almost touched.
“It’s such a rare opportunity that we’ve met again, yet you never play with me at all, sensei. I feel a bit lonely.”
“Even if you say that, I’m not sure what to do…”
Mirabel felt overwhelmed and unsure of how to react. She definitely harboured no hatred for Raquel, it was simply that she didn’t know how to interact with children. Strictly speaking, she actually thought that Raquel was rather cute, however…partly due to the fact that Mirabel spent her childhood obsessed with studying and learning swordplay, interacting with children felt more difficult than complex mathematical problems to her. Having said that, Raquel was the Pope, so she couldn’t just be ignored. At that moment, Raquel formed fists with both of her hands as she said,
“Mirabel-sensei, you should act more like an adult! You’re still the same as ever in that you don’t know how to get along with me, you know?”
Mirabel always had an impression of Raquel being a young child, but she soon felt embarrassed as Raquel bluntly laid bare the concerns that disturbed the innermost thoughts of her heart.
“Of course, I still like you this way, Mirabel-sensei.”
Raquel revealed an innocent smile as she turned and directed her gaze at the medical device known as <Iunones>.
“Say, Mirabel-sensei…do you think that device could perhaps be used for beauty?”
“Look! Don’t you think that Ash-oniichan’s skin looks way smoother than it was before his treatment?”
After listening to Raquel, Mirabel carefully examined Ash’s bare skin.
“Like you said, it really does appear to be the case…”
Mirabel heaved a sigh tinged with admiration. It was amazing that a nine-year-old child was able to discern such a detail.
“Speaking of which, have you been feeling tired lately, Mirabel-sensei?”
As the topic of their conversation took an abrupt turn, Mirabel was caught off guard.
“Sensei, you’ve been working day and night doing investigations on the Escavaron, so it’s no surprise that your face looks so sleep-deprived! Why don’t you test out the effects of <Iunones> as well, sensei?”
“B-But, Ash is in the midst of his treatment…”
“Going by the size of the capsule, two people — no, even three people could use it at the same time without issue! Moreover, you can also perform an experiment to see whether it can treat multiple patients at the same time — wouldn’t this be killing two birds with one stone?”
“An experiment? …I suppose you’re right. If it’s for the sake of experimentation, then I suppose it can’t be helped.”
Although it seemed as though such a reason was close to self-deceit, Raquel’s suggestion certainly did have an element of reason to it. Having made up her mind, Mirabel turned around and looked at Eunice, who stood behind her.
“Eunice, have you memorised how to operate <Iunones>?”
Eunice, who was working on brewing a pot of black tea, answered with confidence,
“Please leave it to me, princess-sama.”
“Very well, I shall also enter!”
“Hold on! What does ‘very well’ mean!?”
Raquel didn’t take heed of Mirabel’s verbal attempt at restraint, and she set her Papal mitre down on the table.
“Eunice-san. Please help me keep an eye out to make sure that Penelope doesn’t find out whilst she stands guard outside the door!”
Her playful smile was exactly what one would expect of a nine-year-old girl. It was at this point that Mirabel found herself with no way to turn back.
Ash closed his eyes and allowed himself to sink in the liquid solution, feeling as though he was in a dream—.
All of a sudden, someone else squeezed into the same capsule as him, sparking confusion which interrupted his thoughts.
Naturally, she was also in her underwear. As the fabric of her underwear absorbed the liquid solution, it clung tightly to her porcelain skin. The contour of her chest was clearly discernible. Although she was smaller than Veronica and Silvia in terms of size, she potentially had the best shape out of the three…while Ash silently scored them in his mind, he suddenly choked on reflex. Mirabel’s underwear turned half-transparent, and her pink nipples became faintly visible beneath her underwear.
—She hasn’t noticed!?
Ash quickly averted his gaze. Although he wanted to remind Mirabel of such things, verbal communication was not possible as he was submersed in liquid.
[Ash-oniichan! I’m next!]
Raquel’s voice then resounded through his mind.
Ash was stunned. Even Raquel was dressed in only her underwear.
—W…W-Wait! Why is Raquel coming in as well!? What’s going on!?
At that moment, someone knocked on the glass wall of the capsule and Ash directed his eyes to the source of the noise. Eunice held a notebook open for Ash to read. In large font, it read: “Her Highness and Her Eminence the Pope have entered the capsule for an experiment. Thank you for your understanding and support.”
—What on earth are they trying to test!?
While Ash panicked, Raquel playfully hugged him.
[Fufu. I’m so happy that I get to play in the water with you, onii-chan.]
Although Raquel’s innocent telepathic voice resounded through his mind, Ash was incapable of comprehending anything. It was because the bare skin of a girl who wasn’t even ten years old could be felt against his back. Although her chest looked flat when she wore her usual outfit — a slight bulge could be felt in that area.
—I thought she was just a girl, but she’s actually surprisingly…
[Onii-chan? What are you thinking about?]
When Raquel innocently questioned him, Ash quickly shook his head. At that moment, the sound of water splashing around reverberated to his ears, and a turbulent current whooshed through the liquid in the capsule. Mirabel had lost her sense of balance…and by the time Ash realised, his vision had already been obstructed.
—I can’t see what’s in front of me!
Unexpectedly, Mirabel tightly clung around Ash’s head in order to maintain her balance. It was Mirabel’s bosom that obstructed Ash’s vision. Despite the small size of her bosom, it still possessed the unique softness of a woman. Mirabel forcefully grabbed onto Ash’s head with both hands and she ceaselessly flailed about in the liquid. Given how sheltered she was, it was possible that she had never swam before. Despite being a landlubber, she still entered the capsule without regard for the consequences for the sake of an experiment.
—In any case, this situation is really bad. Absolutely dreadful…
While Mirabel desperately clung onto Ash’s head, Raquel was akin to the experimental control who cheerfully held herself against Ash’s back. Being sandwiched between the Third Princess and The Pope was far too surreal — to the point that Ash felt as though he had ascended to the comforting bliss of heaven. Mirabel’s underwear had been saturated in liquid and stuck closely to her skin. Ash felt that there was barely any difference between her naked body and the present state. Moreover, Mirabel’s hands gripped him more tightly as time went on, which meant that her slender body became more closely entwined to his.
—Oh no…I’m going to have a nosebleed…
Ash lamented and struggled, though there was nothing he could do but float buoyantly in the liquid.
After some time, Mirabel finally calmed down, and she let go of Ash in embarrassment. At the same time—
Feeling a terrifying and murderous intent in the air, Ash turned and looked out to the side of the glass wall. Ash also felt the sensation of the capsule itself trembling, though he was uncertain if it was real or not.
The unexpected scene that Ash’s eyes lay witness to caused him to choke. Unwittingly, Eco, Silvia, Lucca, Jessica and Cardinal Penelope had all gathered around the <Iunones> to stare at him. Eco and the others were supposed to be helping out with the Academy’s restoration work, so they probably made use of their break to come and visit Ash. On the other hand, Cardinal Penelope who had been waiting outside must’ve taken the opportunity to come in along with Eco and the others to check up on the situation in the infirmary. Eco and the others would probably calm down after venting their anger verbally for a while, but what about Penelope? The strict-looking Cardinal was very fond and protective of Raquel. At present, Raquel was still attached to Ash’s back and refused to let go.
—I might actually die this time…
That night — Ash heaved a sigh as he lay atop his bed in the Escavaron.
“Geez, it was a total mess during the day…”
After being punished by the iron fists of Eco and the others, Ash returned to the <Iunones> to heal the pain that had been inflicted upon his body. If Raquel hadn’t stepped forth to intervene, his head might’ve been separated from his body. Such a description was testament to the unbridled fury that Penelope displayed at the time.
“The way she dotes on her also makes it somewhat troublesome for others.”
Ash turned over as he thought about the Cardinal who looked like she was ready for blood.
Beside him, Eco was sweetly asleep. She hadn’t forgotten to cuddle with her plush toy which had escaped the battle unscathed tonight either.
“Mmm…I…can’t eat anymore……”
Eco murmured adorably in her sleep. It appeared as though she was dreaming of a feast. As she turned over, she revealed her pale white stomach. Ash made a wry smile as he helped straighten out her pyjamas, and then pulled the blanket up to her shoulders.
“In any case, this bedroom is really luxurious…”
Ash glazed his eyes over the room once more. Pale rays of moonlight shone in from the round windows, dimly illuminating the room. The decadent styling of this bedroom made it resemble one that would belong to a nobleman. There was also a magic-powered heating device installed in the room which maintained a constant temperature. The bedframe was gorgeously decorated, and its size was more than ample given that there was extra room even when Ash and Eco shared the bed. This room probably belonged to the most highly-ranked individual on the ship — the captain’s personal room. Ash still felt uncomfortable in it because of its sheer extravagance.
“It’d be nice to go out and get some fresh air…”
Ash quietly crept out of the bedroom whilst trying not to wake Eco up. He walked through a narrow aisle towards the deck. Thanks to Mirabel dragging him around the entire week, he had almost memorised the entire structure of the ship. The interior of the Escavaron was roughly divided into four areas. The first was the central area that surrounded the cockpit. Next was the area that extended from the hangar to the deck. The dragons aside from Eco — Cú Chulainn, Lancelot, Gawain, Arianrhod and Rhiannon all lived there. They’d come out to bathe in the sun when the weather was good, and they’d nest in the hangar on rainy days. However, Rhiannon was a Hydra, so it usually hid in the hangar and joyfully made its way to the deck on rainy days instead. And then there was the engine room that contained the magic engine. Because Mirabel expressly forbid anyone from entering, Ash never went in to explore. Finally, there was a living area composed of personal bedrooms, a kitchen and dining room, as well as bathrooms and other facilities. After a while, Ash reached the end of a long corridor.
The moment he opened the heavy metal door, a draft of cool evening wind poured into the ship. Ash had forgotten that it was already the month of Sagittarius. As Ash was reminded of the cool outdoor temperature this time of year, each breath he exhaled was a haze of white. A starry night sky cast its luminescence from above.
“I wonder what will happen to us…”
Ash felt something inexplicable within himself about the great changes that he had undergone. Up until Eco’s birth, he was just a student — a failure of a student who was last in everything to be precise, though he was now hailed as a national hero. Although he did feel happiness in it, he still had concerns which troubled him. In order to protect Eco, his precious comrades and the Knight Country, Ash had continued to put up a desperate fight, and that somehow elevated him into the pages of history — bluntly speaking, that was all he had done. However, such a simple reason was no longer permissible. Ash had already foiled Prince Uriel’s plans twice in a row. If everything had gone exactly according to Prince Uriel’s ambitious plans, the Lautreamont Knight Country might already have become a part of the Chevron Kingdom. There was no way that someone as determined as Prince Uriel would take Ash’s interference lying down. If Uriel still had another plan up his sleeve, Ash planned to confront him with everything he had. Amazingly, Ash didn’t feel even the slightest bit afraid. At present, he had Eco as his Pal by his side. Moreover, he also had the support of strong comrades such as Silvia, Rebecca, Lucca, Jessica, Oscar, Celes, Anya, Cosette, Raymond, Max and Navi. Mirabel had also formally declared war against Uriel. Even Mirabel, someone who only cared about academia, was enraged by Uriel’s actions. Even though their opponent was the formidable Third Prince of the Chevron Kingdom, Ash didn’t think that the odds were stacked against them.
“I just wish Oscar would come back soon…”
Just as Ash murmured his thoughts towards the night sky—
Ash quickly narrowed his eyes. There was an object moving at high speed in a corner of the night sky.
“Is that a Maestro?”
Indeed, there was a single Maestro which let off an immense magical glow as it approached Ash. As the distance between them shrank, Ash was able to make out that the Maestro appeared to be rather large. Even among the larger Maestros, this one in particular was at the far end of the scale.
“Uwah! Is it really trying to come over here!?”
Ash hurriedly retreated backwards. The landing site chosen by the mysterious Maestro was the Escavaron’s deck.
The Maestro landed on the deck, accompanied by a violent impact that rocked the entire ship. A black crystal was embedded on its forehead. The instant that Ash recognised it as Pluto, he yelled out,
“Oscar, you’re finally back!”
However, there was no response that could be heard from Oscar, nor was there any sign of that brave handsome figure on top of Tristan’s head.
“…What’s going on? Did Tristan fly back to Ansarivan by itself?”
As Ash quietly uttered that to himself, he realised — there was a person in Tristan’s mouth.
As if to lament something, Tristan uttered a low-pitched whimper. Ash trembled as he approached Tristan. Tristan lowered its neck and slowly entrusted the person in its mouth to Ash. Ash was dumbstruck as soon as he recognised that person’s face.
Her doll-like beauty, black leather eyepatch and black maid outfit was unmistakable — she was undoubtedly Celes. However, her clothing was in a terribly ragged state, and the bare skin exposed by her torn clothing was marred by unsightly scars. It appeared that Tristan had already given her first aid with healing magic. As a result, her blood loss was under control, but she had yet to regain consciousness.
“What on earth happened Tristan!?”
Ash questioned Tristan with fuelled emotions, but it simply curled up like a cat and fell asleep. Its stamina and magical energy had probably been pushed to the limits of exhaustion. Looking closer, Tristan was also just as hurt as Celes. Its silvery fur was covered in blood all over the place. Celes and Tristan made a desperate attempt to escape, which meant that—
“Is Oscar safe? What happened in the Chevron Kingdom!?”
In the middle of the night, everyone on board the ship gathered in the infirmary. Everyone who had been sound asleep was abruptly awoken by the impact when Tristan landed. Even the deepest of sleepers, Eco, was no exception.
“Should we worry about Oscar’s maid…?”
Raquel quietly murmured as she joined everyone from the Holy Ship. She was wearing only her pyjamas and a robe on top. The impact of Tristan’s landing had also affected the Esperanza which was docked next door.
“Don’t worry, Celes will be fine.”
Ash’s reply also seemed to act as solace for himself. Celes was still unconscious when she was delivered to the infirmary bed. Lucca and Cosette assumed responsibility for her treatment. Cosette used aspects of medical training that she had received, while Lucca used her knowledge of herbal medicine to effectively treat Celes’ wounds. Ash suddenly felt puzzled.
“Princess Mirabel, why can’t we allow Celes to use the <Iunones>?”
“…That would be our last resort. The <Iunones> is a medical device of the holy attribute. However, the Pluto in Celes’ left eye is of the dark attribute. It’s possible that allowing the <Iunones> and Pluto to interact with each other will worsen her injuries.”
Following Mirabel’s calm response—
“—For starters, her life is not in danger.”
Cosette wiped the sweat from her forehead with a sleeve as she made an announcement that put everyone at ease. Everyone simultaneously heaved a sigh of relief.
“Anyway, what’s going on? The Kingdom just held the funeral of Zacharias III a few days ago. It stands to reason then that the Kingdom should be in mourning until the end of the year…”
Silvia muttered with a doubtful expression.
“It must be because Prince Uriel couldn’t wait for the funeral to finish and decided to go after Oscar first. Oscar should’ve expected as much, or maybe Prince Uriel’s actions were truly a surprise…”
Rebecca answered with a prudent expression.
“He’s gone too far…!”
Ash clenched his fists as he tried to contain his overflowing fury. If he had things his way, he would immediately rush off to rescue Oscar. But, if they didn’t first ask Celes about what had happened, they’d have no way of knowing what kind of situation Oscar was in.
“In any case, we need to wait for Celes to wake up first. Lucca and Cosette, please continue to stay by her side to take care of her.”
With Mirabel’s conclusion, everyone else dissolved from the room.
“Iunones ~A.S.B.1365.12” is closed.
(All 6 of 6 parts) (18/1/20)
Continues on to Chapter 5 – Celes’ Confession