Sie sind auf Seite 1von 283

Chapter 13

---Hey, dont you think its terrible? I was publicly humiliated,


publicly humiliated.
The agitation in the shrill girlish oice was obious and the response
to it was,
!"Thats the #ourth time, already.$
This oice that was also girlish was truly sleepy.
The di##erence between the mental conditions o# the pair haing this
telephone conersation was like the di##erence in temperature between
mid winter and mid summer.
Howeer, that might be ineitable. %nly Honoka had reason to be
agitated and &hi'uku had a reason to plead to be allowed to sleep.
Honoka was agitated #or a reason. Her hearts secret longings had
been e(posed. )ot *ust the likes and loes that resided in hersel# could
be called #or#eit, een to hersel# that thought #elt like it might be a
little too serious #or this era. +lthough the yearnings she hersel#
couldnt oice being spoken #rom anothers mouth was humiliating
enough, Honoka had been e(posed not *ust in #ront o# the one she was
thinking about but a gallery o# people, so her #eeling o# such sel#-
conscious torment was ineitable. The #act that the one who spoke her
own #eelings #or her was not a human but, a maid droid possessed by a
parasite did not com#ort Honoka at all.
That doesn,t matter, because I hae been so humiliated.
Honoka demanded that her #riend com#ort her in a sullen oice. The
sight o# Honokas pouty pro#ile made the &hi'uku in the middle o# the
screen sigh lightly.
!I understand that so please understand my position. -hat time do you
think it is right now?$
%n the other hand, &hi'uku had good reason to make the demand ,I
want to sleep. It was simply the time, no actually it was the time
di##erence. To emphasi'e &hi'ukus remark, a clock with three hands
#illed the display. The classic +rabes.ue design short hand was
pointing between I/ and /. Tokyo and 0erkley 12ali#ornia3 hae a
seen hour time di##erence. I# it nine thirty pm in Tokyo then, it was
#our thirty am in 0erkley.
!4lease cant this wait at least two hours?$
It could be said that it was per#ectly natural #or &hi'uku to ardently
grumble. 5en now, the eyelids on both eyes looked *ust about to
close. )aturally, Honokas #ace turned apologetic and her shoulders
hunched.
I did wait #or an hour already but"
-hen she heard the e(cuse, &hi'ukus sleepy eyes twinkle and this
time she sighed her acceptance.
!That trait o# yours has changed ery little oer the years""$
Im always, always troubling you""
!6oure not a bother"..as long as you pay attention to the time.$
7h"..Im sorry.
8a'ing across the screen at Honoka who had no more e(cuses,
&hi'uku sighed one more time. This time she probably shook o## her
sleepiness with the sigh, while her eyes were no more than hal# open,
her #ace was pretty steady.
!Howeer, something good might come out o# this.$
The oice lacked much in#lection---as usual and her pronunciation had
become distinct.
-hat? -hat? Theres nothing good about this9
+s she thrust away &hi'ukus words o# com#ort, Honoka #orgot how
de*ected she had been until now and ehemently chewed out &hi'uku.
!0ut, you werent able to speak those words yoursel#, right?$
Howeer, &hi'uku wasnt *ust carelessly using the word ,good.
:aybe because o# her tone or perhaps it was the way she put it into
words, Honokas protests were taken out with a single shot.
!-ill you acknowledge that you hae dependent tendencies?$
&uch tendencies"
Honoka re#le(ie tried to deny it but, perhaps she didnt think she
could deny it een to hersel#. Her words o# rebuttal #aded out part way
thru and she aerted her eyes #rom &hi'ukus eyes which were peering
her intently through the screen---to be e(act, her eyes were only partly
open.
!Honoka, how many years do you think wee been hanging out
together.$
&hi'uku deliered one last shot to make sure in a gently instructie
tone.
"0ut, I cant help it.
Honoka acknowledged &hi'ukus point with a oice that was both
de#iant and resigned.
I am descended #rom ,5lements a#ter all.
Is een personality in#luenced by genetics?, &hi'uku thought with her
usual doubt, howeer, een i# she debated it, it would be meaningless.
0esides, she understood debate wasnt really necessary.
!-anting to rely on someone is neither good or bad. )ot eeryone is a
leader that takes the initiatie without relying on someone and I think
they #unction in the world .uite well.$
-hen her #riends words did not berate her, Honokas ga'e still
showed indecision, but it had returned to normal.
!-hat I want to say is Tatsuya-san is a rather good person #or Honoka
to rely upon.$
Their eyes met through the camera, &hi'uku speaking as i# she was
care#ully giing detailed instructions.
6ou think"so?
&hi'uku nodded without a .ualm o# hesitation to Honokas tremulous
.uestion.
!I beliee Tatsuya basically does not only do part o# what someone
wants. Instead, he is a person who precisely answers someones
desires.$
6ou mean i# I do not speak clearly, he wont understand me?
!Thats right. 0esides he is certainly ingenuous.$
7m, by that"?
The answer &hi'uku made to Honokas oh so timid .uestion was,
!5en i# he does do what you say, he wont #orce you to do anything
se(ual, is what I mean.$
&uch directness---could be critici'ed as lewdness.
Honokas #ace became red in the twinkling o# an eye.
&till beneath the red #ace, a glimpse o# a little regret could be seen.
!Honoka maybe you want to be a little more #orce#ul in how you
approach him.$
&hi'uku9
Honoka raised her oice and glared at the screen. Howeer, in there
was only a look on &hi'ukus #ace that said ,0ut, its the truth.
5nough9
5en though she turned her #ace away with a sulky look,
""
""&hi'uku.
+s e(pected the one who gae in and spoke #irst was Honoka.
-hat should I do?
!The only thing you can do is keep moing #orward.$
&hi'uku did not hae a wealth o# romantic e(periences. ;ather her
e(periences could be called meager compared to other teenage girls
around the same age in their country in this era. 5en so, she dared to
gie her #riend who was trapped in a ma'e caused by thinking too
much, a kick in the posterior with simple assertions.
5en now, I intend on doing all I can to keep moing #orward but"
!<ust intending is #utile. 6our rial is too strong.$
0y rial"?
!/ictory oer :iyuki would di##icult.$
:iyuki? 0ut :iyuki and Tatsuya-san are=
!&iblings. &o?$
&hi'uku dismissed Honokas common sense rebuttal with one word.
That simple ,so was packed with the nuance o# ,I know that. -hat
does that matter.
0ut, that, that is"
-ith a shocked look, Honoka shook her head at the camera. Howeer,
to the eyes o# &hi'uku who had been #riends with Honoka #or a long
time, she did not look like had actually receied a shock.
!Honoka, theres no way you are going a#ter Tatsuya-san *ust because
you want to hae se( with him.$
%-%# course not9 -ell, theres no way that I am completely
uninterested in that but"
&hi'uku #rom her side o# the screen was looking at Honoka who had
started #idgeting with eyes that said ,what is this person saying.
Howeer, i# she remained silent, &hi'uku was the one who was going
to #eel uncom#ortable. &hi'uku #orcibly cut o## this part o# the
conersation.
!0lood ties only inter#ere with things like that. I# youre satis#ied with
*ust being with someone, blood connections wouldnt be an obstacle. I
would like to ask :iyuki something.$
"-hat?
&he asked that .uestion with a look"..that said she did not want to
ask but, she couldnt not ask.
!How she thinks about Tatsuya.$
"+nd?
!>oes she loe him.$
7h".o# course".
Her #ace was pale but, she did not want to shriek, so instead she
murmured it with a sigh.
!I did not mean #ondness, I meant loe.$
"%h?
!I meant the #eelings a girl has #or a boy. )ot simply as ,his little
sister.$
?
)eertheless, the supplementary in#ormation &hi'uku proided put
her in a .uandary on how to interpret her words.
!Howeer".$
Howeer?
-hen &hi'uku hesitated, Honoka pressed her to continue by repeating
her words back to her in a di##erent tone o# oice.
!I think een i# she o##icially wont een admit it een to hersel# that
:iyuki does indeed like Tatsuya-san as a girl likes a boy.$
&he continued her statement with a decisie supposition that showed
no hesitation.
&hi'uku also thinks".
+lthough &hi'ukus logic ran a little 1?3 counter to wordly
commonsense, Honoka wasnt raising ob*ections.
!6es, there#ore, I think you should take her on be#ore she admits it to
hersel#.$
-hat do you mean?
Honoka was not #eigning innocence when she asked the .uestion.
!0e#ore :iyuki becomes serious, Honoka-san should become Tatsuya-
sans number one.$
Howeer, some words #ormed images, the words :iyuki become
serious had such a strong #uture potential that the image #illed
Honokas mind.
&uch a thing, is impossible"
!+t this time, its wrong to gie up. This was a disaster but I think you
can use it to attract him.$
&hi'uku delicately instilled the will to win into the whispering
hunched oer Honoka---she hersel# was #ired up to do this---by giing
her encouragement.
+ttract Tatsuya?
!6es. &omehow you hae to coney all your #eelings to him.$
-ont I be annoying""
!Itll be alright. Tatsuya certainly wont #eel that youre a burden$
Howeer, those words were not merely #or reassurance. It was a
strange thing to hae #aith in but &hi'uku earnestly belieed it was
true.
? ? ?
+bout the same time when &hi'uku was lighting a #ire under Honoka.
Tatsuya was con#ronting @ina who had trans#ormed into ,+ngie
&irius.
Aire-like hair and gold colored eyes. Her entire appearance changed
down to her #acial #eatures and height, no matter how much you
looked at her, she didnt look like the same person as @ina. 5en
without the concealing mask, there was probably no one who didnt
already know who would connect ,+ngie &irius and ,+ngelina
&hields. )ot as long as they thought the mask was meant to conceal
her identity by concealing her #ace.
Tatsuya care#ully e(amined her #orm. There was no way he had spent
this past hal# o# a month playing around. He had practiced against
6akumos ,2lothed making a pile o# countermeasures to the
in#ormation altering magic ,4arade.
4erhaps it was a result o# that training. The e##ect o# @inas ,4arade
now stopped at outward appearance, he understood the coordinate
in#ormation was not going to be rewritten. -ith this resistance, een i#
the coordinates were #alsi#ied, Tatsuya thought he keep her in his
2+>s sight.
)aturally, he couldnt be optimistic. This only a##ected @inas
appearance, this was not the time to take things easy or be careless.
;ather, there was probably no room #or error. 7ndoubtedly, he
couldnt guarantee that he had the necessary magic power to keep the
coordinate in#ormation #rom being rewritten.
1In short, the magic took that much o# his capacity.3
The 7&)+ armys most elite magician battalion, ,&tars gae the code
name ,&irius to their head. )amely, the magician who possessed the
strongest magic power. This girl must hae all the resources #or that
magic that power#ul concentrated in her.
The glittering striations o# the attack on Tatsuya and 2hiba )aotsugu
had cleaed the darkness o# the night. That attack was probably in #act
a high energy plasma beam. I# it was then the name o# the magic she
had per#ormed was--- 14robably, without a doubt. That was ,Heay
:etal 0urst.3
The strategic magic o# +ngie &irius o# the Thirteen +postles was
,Heay :etal 0urst.
&he trans#ormed heay metals into high energy plasmaB the magic
disseminated ampli#ied solar ions oer a wide area by the use o#
creating gas and electromagnetic repulsie #orce and increased high
pressure .
Incidentally, there were more than a #ew users o# magic that changed
materials into plasma other than ,+ngelina &irius. Howeer by only
ioni'ing atoms, the complete body o# the plasma that sprung #orth
would not produce the neutrali'ing electric repulsie #orce. +ngelina
&irius was the only one who used ,Heay :etal 0urst with that speed
and scale, because only she could actually do the process that emitted
the atoms to #orm the cloud and maintain the manu#acture o# plasma.
)eertheless, ,Heay :etal 0urst was supposed to be a magic that
e(pelled high energy plasma in all directions #rom ground 'ero.
>espite that, the plasma that attacked 2hiba )aotsugu was a beam
with directionality.
1Its not *ust being condensed. The e##ectie range"..the scope o# the
dissemination is also being controlled.3
4lasma had strayed away #rom )aotsugu yet none o# the buildings in
the street around him had been destroyed because the plasma hadnt
reached them. -as it accompanied a magic se.uence that made it lose
plasma energy a#ter it e(ceeded its target, maybe she established a
power point that would sere as a plug to stop the beam at a terminus.
How was she able to do that? He couldnt tell #rom only seeing it one
time but, perhaps---
1Is it that ,sta##?3
He had neer seen that sta## be#ore in @inas hands so, that was a good
possibility. :aybe but no, undeniably that was a 7&)+ deeloped
casting assistant deice. I# he wasnt in this spot, he would probably
be praising the e(cellence o# this techni.ue.
1)eertheless, right now this has the highest threat potential.3
He hadnt attained comprehension o# the plasma stream control
system but it wasnt as i# he hadnt understood anything. I# he
,obsered it one more time then he would be able to make a counter-
measure. -as he being optimistic about obseration? Tatsuya
immediately repudiated that speculation himsel#. Tentatieness at this
time would do him no good.
Instead, it would become a problem.
1I# he took a direct blow, would he hae enough resere power
remaining to counterattack?3
+gainst signi#icant physical attacks, Tatsuya possessed reial ability
that he did not control but, all he could do was ,reie, he could not
,block.
The lack o# control depended on the leel o# in*ury, not the #re.uency
o# use.
The beam *ust now was as #ast as the speed o# light. -hich was #ar
#aster than the speed o# sound which is why lightning is seen be#ore
thunder is heard. The speed o# light is probably about a hundred times
the speed o# sound.
Howeer in the present interal, the distance o# si(ty meters was
spanned in less than two milliseconds. -hich is the same as being
instantaneous. It looked like eading it was impossible.
)eertheless""..
1-ith the actual body moing at such speed, een i# the gas was ery
diluted, a strong shockwae should occur. &ince that was not
happening, meant that she had to hae prepared some kind o# tool
be#orehand to keep that #rom happening.3
I# he could sense the creation o# the ,path then his body could aoid
the targeting sights.
Tatsuya #ully mobili'ed his senses and scowled at @ina.
In the darkness broken by the street lights, @ina *ust aerted her eyes
#rom Tatsuyas #ield o# ision, abruptly turned back, made another
.uick turn back and smiled weakly.
&he was clearly initing him.
Tatsuya was pu''led.
-ithout a doubt it was a trap but i# it was a trap then Tatsuya was
already in its *aws.
5en i# he did not take her initation, he did not think she would let
him return sa#ely.
I# he couldnt een eade his adersarys aim then a gun#ight at this
location was out o# the .uestion.
0e#ore the ga'e o# Tatsuya who was still deciding what he should do,
@inas #eet lightly kicked o## the roads sur#ace.
That broke through his indecision.
-hile she ran or rather leaped, the deep red hair was growing distant
at a rapid pace.
He le#t behind )aotsugu whose conulsions had brought him to a
standstill and inoking the same graity control that @ina had, Tatsuya
pursued that back.
? ? ?
@t. &irius has made contact with the target9
;esponse?
)one9
The secret command room that had been proided at the <apanese
branch o##ice o# the 7&)+s dummy corporation had #allen into the
state o# a certain type o# panic.
The capture operation had undergone changes beyond their control
#rom the ery #irst stage but, something like that would not cause
/irginia 0alance limbs to shake.
The interention o# a combatant who was apparently an agent o# the
<apanese army was rather predictable.
The cause was something di##erent.
@inas arbitrarily leaing her station had begun the panic.
-hile the &tars commander, ,&irius had been gien the right o#
independent moement, she had iolated military regulations by not
reporting it. Howeer, now the operation #or the team was in progress.
This was not a situation where asking permission be#ore you did
anything was a good thing.
+lso, 0alance had le#t the usage o# 0rionac up to @inas personal
*udgment but setting it o# in the middle o# the street was e(tremely
une(pected.
The target has begun pursuit o# @t. &irius.
+t the report o# the new in#ormation, a little bit o# calmness was
returned to the mood o# the control room.
-hen she considered the cleanup o# this operation including the
retrieal o# &tardust, her head started to hurt. )eertheless, #or the
time being, they were back on track. ---That was all @t. 2ol. 0alance
was going to think about.
1It might be that I must completely suspend the operation".3
&ummon the outside broadcast an.
The colonel e##ectiely kept her true irritation out o# her oice when
she gae the command to the operator.
? ? ?
-ithin the initing light that could be seen all oer the city, there was
a passage where the light was interrupted.
+ nightlessness o# the city o# Tokyo had gien it a name, the 'one
where the black sky becomes a white background.
The park he had been inited to was also at the threshold o# the lights.
)o, it might be better to call it a acant lot not a park. The hedges
were maintained but, there were no play areas or benches. There were
no more than token street lights positioned in it. 4erhaps, in the war
period, it had been public land maintained as a disaster preention
'one but the redeelopment process had probably neglected it.
0eneath those sporadic street lights, @ina reealed her golden hair.
+boe her head, darkness hung oer her like a cap.
Arom the beginning o# this night, it hadnt been possible to see the
moon or the stars in the cloudy sky but he understood that it wasnt
*ust that #rom one glance.
%ptical type magic was being used to obstruct sureillance satellites
and stratosphere plat#orm cameras.
Here, he was in the lair o# the enemy.
0ecause he knowingly leapt into the enemys trap, he was not
surprised or #lustered *ust now. ;ather what was une(pected to
Tatsuya was that no traces o# magic was being used other than
concealment magic.
1>o they hate inter#erence #rom #ellow magicians""3
In short, the magic @ina was using was a techni.ue so adanced that
letting her attack alone was more e##ectie than a mass attack where
she would be #orced to consider #riendly troops.
2ancelling the illusion was probably done so she could concentrate
her mind on the attack se.uence.
1<ust like I thought, it is ,Heay :etal 0urst.3
CTatsuya.C
<ust as he #inished recon#irming his impression o# the name o# her
attack, @ina opened her mouth.
I didnt think you would come here so nonchalantly.
0ecause, being #ollowed so persistently is a bother.
Hearing his arrogant reply, @ina made a cruel smile.
6oure .uite con#ident. 0ut that is oerly pretentious at a time like
this.
@ina #ace Tatsuya with the sta## she was holding interposed between
under her arm and her hand.
Tatsuya, surrender. I dont know what means you use to dispel the
e##ects o# magic but you cannot dispel the e##ects o# this 0rionac.
To @ina, her statement was nothing more than a simple surrender
demand.
10ri-on-nac"..0rionake? %r ,0rionac?3
)eertheless, @inas words gae the #inal piece to the nearly complete
pu''le o# the beam within Tatsuyas mind.
The name had meaning to him.
+#ter the name completed the pu''le, part o# many o# its attributes
were reealed.
His mind was taken with inspection o# his ideas, Tatsuya #orgot to
reply to @inas demand.
@ina took that #or a re#usal.
&he cannot be slandered as being hasty.
&he had carelessly #orgotten to establish a time limit on a reply but,
not replying to a surrender demand according to tradition meant
re#usal.
@ina gripped the hori'ontal crosspiece that *utted out o# one side o# the
sta##.
That part without a doubt sered as the same #unction as the grip o# a
pistol.
+long the long thin eighty centimeters o# the lower two thirds o# the
0rionac, a double heli( o# psion light ranB in the wider #orty
centimeter cylinder upper third o# the 0rionac in #ront o# the grip, a
magic se.uence was instantly constructed. Tatsuya who perceied it
inoked 8ram >ispersion and---reali'ing it would be too late
suspended it.
The tip o# the cane glittered.
+ thin ray o# light was s.uee'ed out and gra'ed Tatsuyas right arm.
>espite it only being gra'ed---Tatsuyas right arm #rom the elbow
down was carboni'ed and blown away.
His body was twisted by the attack.
Tatsuya did not resist that #orce, he used it to propel himsel# behind
the hedges.
@ina released her hand #rom the grip, and charged like the 0rionac
was a spear or something.
-ithin that interal, she hori'ontally swung it at the hedges Tatsuya
was hiding in.
The lie wood caught #ire here and there. The hedges were only
shrubbery.
The plasma did not reach Tatsuya who was behind them.
0e#ore the eyes o# Tatsuya who was hal# kneeling with his right
shoulder lowered to conceal the right side o# his body, a #antastic
glowing plasma sword disappeared.
0rionac"..the label is 0rythonic. It is one o# the weapons o# ,@leu
the light god o# 2eltic :yth. >oes the title mean it is a reproduction o#
the mythical weapon?
-hile he was in that posture, Tatsuya .uestioned @ina who was
walking toward him.
The oice was not blurred with pain, his resistance to pain was
probably high, @ina thought.
5(tensie training against torture was not unusual #or special #orces.
6oure worrying about that? )ow, when you are at a critical *uncture
between liing and dying.
-ithin the sta##, the magic se.uence was again instantly inoked.
The congealed metal dust was disintegrated into high energy plasma
by the magic.
The phenomenon known as high energy plasma was created by
magic but, the container it was bound in changed shape in accordance
to @inas thoughts.
+s an incandescent blade crackling with electricity was thrust at the
tip o# his nose the #inal piece slid into place within Tatsuyas mind.
It bothered me. 4eople like to gie names with meaning. 0rionac was
a spear that sent a spear tip shaped #orm o# penetrating light bursting
out o# it at #oes, perhaps it could called a bullet o# light that was #reely
thrown about like a spear. +lthough, in this case, #reely probably takes
a lot o# guts.
6ou copied a weapon o# myth, a reproduction o# the mythical
weapon 0rionac.
To actuali'e the theory o# A+5""". <ust what can be e(pected
#rom the technical might o# the 7&)+.
7ntil then @ina hadnt been interested in the statements she was
hearing #rom Tatsuya but her eyes widened at the phrase ,A+5 and
her #ace sti##ened.
"How do you know about the theory o# A+5?
&eeing @inas astonishment, Tatsuya also looked surprised.
Its probably not all that strange. 0ecause the A+5 theory originally
was espoused #or a short time in a *oint laboratory belonging to <apan
and +merica.
That was a secret lab9 Aurthermore, the documents #rom that lab were
disposed o#9
)eertheless, they were not actually destroyed. Isnt the reproduction
o# the mythical weapon you hae in your hands the best proo# o#
that?
-hile Tatsuya peered at the 0rionac @ina had,
A+5---Aree +#ter 5(ecution.
That name con*ured deep emotions.
In <apanese, it is called the theory o# controlling phenomenon a#ter it
had been created but Aree +#ter 5(ecution is a better way o#
e(pressing it. The phenomenon produced as a result being trans#ormed
by magic is already a phenomenon that was not originally in this
world, immediately a#ter trans#ormation the shackles o# the laws o#
physics are loose. 4erhaps it would be better i# I changed it to a short
time lag e(ists between when the laws o# physics reasserts itsel# a#ter
an eent produced by magic.
The totally inappropriate e(planation made in a lecturing tone created
a mysterious oid in the middle o# this battle to the death.
+ccording to the theory o# A+5, i# plasma constructed by magic
which is supposed to scatter chaotically can be easily gien directional
moement then een without #lash #ree'ing, plasma can go #rom a
super heated state to normal temperature #or an arbitrary period o#
time rendering it harmless. It is restrained #rom scattering naturally
because maintaining #i(ed state is also possible. That is the method.
@ina had #orgotten about interrupting Tatsuyas long winded speech
and had *ust grasped 0rionac,s hasp.
)eertheless, i# you use the time lag in the law o# physics
presupposed by the A+5 theory, it is only an instant. It is considered
impossible #or a magician who has *ust made the inocation to add
new conditions to the newly constructed phenomenon.
+t this point, Tatsuya made a mid-shrug like e(pression with his #ace.
Thats true. Theres less than a milli-second to de#ine the
phenomenon which isnt possible #or a human.
+nd his #ace showed a completely sincere wonder.
To do that""within a containment barrier isolated #rom the
in#luence o# the worlds physical laws, magic is e(ecuted to e(pand
that gap in the law o# physics.
This was a mani#estation o# the emotions o# the boyish part o#
Tatsuya, who desired to #ollow the path o# science.
I humbly praise this person. To braely eade the law o# physics. The
person who constructed ,0rionac is a true genius.
Tatsuya9
@ina who had been listening to Tatsuyas words suddenly raised her
oice. &he had gotten rid o# the plasma sword, and was once again
poised to bombard him as she gripped 0rionac when she interrupted
Tatsuya. ---It the oice o# someone #orcibly reing up their lost
combatie will.
I will say it once more. &urrender9 6ou cant use your special
techni.ues with one arm. 6ou no longer hae any way to win9
@istening to @inas wail, Tatsuya made a cruel smile. The smile was so
inhuman that it made her shudder and didnt seem to be made by the
same being who had shown her a di##erent smile *ust a little while ago.
I# you are able to capture me what do you want to do to me?
Howeer, despite the look on his #ace, Tatsuyas oice was not cold,
:aybe e(periment on me?
-ith a rather sweet snare, he gently laid bare the wickedness o#
humans.
@ike those guys?
7nhappily, @ina was sharp enough to understand that by those guys
he meant &tardust. The combination o# stress and shock made @inas
#ace pale.
)aturally""I re#use to become a guinea pig.
Then dont moe until I come to get you9
The tip o# the 0rionac was at point blank range and aimed at his raised
knee.
Into that gun barrel, Tatsuya thrust his gun shaped 2+>, the custom
&iler Horn, Trident.
-ith the right arm that was supposed to be blown away.
That arm9?
@ina shrieked.
4artly due to her shriek, her se.uence inocation was slow.
Tatsuya had already drawn his magic.
The ,gun barrel o# the thrust out 2+>---the aiming assistance deice
lead him to the target within the barrier containment unit.
-ithin the reproduction o# a mythical weapon in the part that was
supposed to be #illed by the power o# the 7&)+s strongest magician
,&irius, the dissolution magic :ist >ispersion was inoked.
:etal particles changed to gas at normal temperature #orce#ully burst
#rom 0rionacs mu''le.
>ue to the pressure #rom the gas, the Trident went #lying #rom
Tatsuyas right hand.
Howeer, the impact it had on @ina was greater.
The thing she was holding so tightly back#ired.
The unintended backlash blew @ina and the pieces o# the 0rionac
backward.
The shock o# being slammed to the ground caused the 5idos
rein#orced armor that protected @ina to #luctuate.
+#ter picking up the Trident, Tatsuya inoked ,;estoration.
He reconstructed the relatie coordinate in#ormation using the data on
2+> construction and his own body as re#erence points, the Trident
returned to his hand in repaired condition.
Tatsuya #ired si( shots o# his ,dissolution but it had no e##ect on
@inas magic barrier, it persisted in sticking to her limbs.
+t the *oints o# both arms and legs, he was able to drill thin holes large
enough to put a needle through. The #our microscopic scars caused
@ina intense pain e.ual to haing a #ile whittle directly on her neres.
&he didnt hae time to cry out in pain be#ore, her mind blew a circuit.
Her mind was swallowed by a white darkness.
? ? ?
@ina""
+#ter #inishing his task, Tatsuya returned to where @ina was, he
looked down on her body which still lay limp on the ground
unconscious and murmured to her knowing she wouldnt be able to
hear him.
It would be better i# you .uit the army as soon as possible.
He had been saed by her so#tness in the skirmish that had *ust taken
place.
5en only giing consideration to the battle power, Tatsuya should
hae had a much more di##icult struggle.
+s her #irst shot had reduced his right arm to cinders, he interrupted
8ram >ispersion in order to aoid receiing greater damageB i# he
destroyed the in#ormation that coalesce it into a beam, the plasma
would disperse. He had lost #rom the moment the beam had started
coalescing, and i# there had been wider dispersion o# plasma when she
#ired then Tatsuya probably wouldnt hae *ust lost only his right arm
as much as hal# his body could hae been burned away. %# course,
een i# it was, his body would probably be instantly restored howeer,
that had become his winning moe without the sleight o# hand with
his right arm, he wouldnt hae been able to launch a surprise attack.
Arom the beginning o# the bombardment he had to aoid inter#ering
with @ina in order to curb consecutie damage by using the e(tra time
to construct how the ,path was created. 5en i# he #ollowed the path
o# the shot by the shockwae it produced, without a doubt he would
hae been gien enough damage to hinder his counterattack.
>uring the time the hedges were mowed down also, he also shouldnt
hae aoided receiing damage. >espite the #act that in order to take
away the enemys ability to resistance, the accumulation o# damage
was a cornerstone.
The long conersation on the theory o# A+5 wasnt necessary. There
was absolutely no reason to disturb @ina by reealing the operating
principle o# the secret weapon.
In the last attack, she hadnt aimed at the legs, the power had been
regulated to stop be#ore the underlayer o# the skin burned. 0y
changing the orientation o# the 0rionac, she had lost critical time. It
was not the time lag #rom being surprised by the restoration o# his
right arm but rather the time lag produced by moing 0rionac that was
actually the #atal one.
&tars 2ommander ,&irius""I dont think the *ob is suitable #or
you.
Tatsuya muttered the words as he picked up @ina.
Chapter 14
-hen she opened her eyes, the scene that #illed her ision was a
ceiling D a ceiling that she seemed to recall belonged to the large cargo
truck that sered as their mobile base.
The dank, stale air caused her skin to #eel clammy.
&till, i# placed under the bitter cold, this would probably result in a
cold, though complaining about the canned air right now would be
pure decadence"" @ina thought.
%nly hal# awake, @ina sureyed her surroundings.
Though there wasnt any particular intent behind her actions"" In
her heart, the sense o# unease was growing.
This wasnt normal.
The moment that crossed her mind, her sleepiness anished.
Theres no one here""
8ien that she was now #ully awake, it was unbelieable that she
couldnt recall how this came about.
Though the ehicle was a large cargo truck that boasted the utility o#
something that can be drien on a camping trip, they werent here
#or #un and games.
+n incident must hae occurred to prompt them all to leae.
The ery #act that @ina had been de#eated was stunning. 4ersonnel
could easily hae been mobili'ed #or obseration as well as a search
and rescue mission.
&till, it was plainly impossible #or eeryone to be absent.
1-hat is the reason #or this?3
0ased on her perspectie, abandoning the mobile base was
unthinkable.
In that case, who could possibly cause them to=
&uddenly struck by a thought, @ina hustled to the control panel that
operated the obseration cameras. &he remembered that the interior o#
the ehicle was monitored EF hours a day. -hile she #elt that this
setting was a little out o# date, this was still a iable method to recoer
her memory. +t any rate, she turned back the record GH minutes.
--%nly to be greeted by a blank monitor.
15h?3
@inas *aw dropped at the une(pected result and immediately #ell into
a sheepish smile since no one was watching her. &he assumed that she
had made a mistake manipulating the controls.
%nce again, she care#ully ad*usted the record #or GH minutes ago.
--+s e(pected, there was nothing.
&he commanded the machine to rewind at F times the speed. &he een
swapped the speed. The rewound time changed to G hour ago, then
two hours, een three hours.
)o matter what she did, the end result was the same. The recording
had been erased.
@ina #rantically e(amined the data that was not attached to the
monitor, only to #ind the cache had been wiped.
-ith a #urious e(pression, @ina hammered at the keys be#ore suddenly
laying her hands on the keyboard. Though her #ingers and palms
stung, her inner agitation #ar outweighed these triial matters.
1;ight, I need to report this to 2ontrol""3
7n#ortunately, @ina was once more thrust into a pit o# #rustration.
The entire communication console had been damaged by a cleer
techni.ue that could not be identi#ied #rom the outside.
&he hit the console twice, then thrice be#ore slumping powerlessly into
the chair.
Her hands had grown numb and were slightly heated.
@ina care#ully raised her hands to check #or any in*uries.
@uckily, she wasnt bleeding anywhere.
How childish would it be #or her to in*ure hersel# in the throes o# a
tantrum? The #act that her display o# anger wasnt recorded allowed
@ina a small sight o# relie#.
%nce she calmed down D she reali'ed another detail that made her
een more uneasy.
Theres no sign o# any"" 4ain, wounds?
&he ran her hands oer both legs, then crossed her arms to check the
shoulders and wrists.
0ut, the wound that brought her hideous pain and caused her to lose
consciousness had anished.
)ot only was the in*ury gone, her clothing remained unblemished, nor
was there any trace o# blood.
-hat is going on here""?
+ll o# a sudden, @inas mind was starting to lose touch with reality.
---hich one was the truth?
--Had she truly been in*ured?
---ere they trying to make me unable to tell the di##erence?
--:aybe, they were""
12ould this be, )on-&ystematic :agic"" :ental +ssault?3
12ould it be"" That we hae made a terrible mistake?3
1Tatsuya isnt a :agician who employs matter to energy conersion
magic, but a :agician with outstanding compatibility with :ental
Inter#erence &ystematic :agic"" +n Illusionist?3
1""I# thats true, then much can be e(plained.3
1The truth behind the charred arm reerting to its original #orm could
be e(plained i# I saw the illusion o# an arm being burnt.3
1@ikewise, he might hae broken through 4arade because he has a
higher degree o# compatibility with illusions.3
1I# purely in terms o# direct application o# :ental Inter#erence
&ystematic :agic, then the nulli#ication o# :uspelheim also makes
sense.3
1&ince magic re.uires #ine control, een i# I didnt notice, once the
mind has been sent o## kilter then the magic would #i''le as well. This
is much easier than destroying the magic itsel#.3
1+#ter all, Tatsuya is the disciple o# a nin*a renowned #or his skill in
Illusion :agic. That Tatsuya himsel# is also a nin*a is much more
probable.3
+ll o# this ran across @inas muddled mind.
? ? ?
Tatsuya had no way o# knowing whether @ina persisted in her
misguided way o# interpreting the clues 1not that it made much o# a
deal, since he only #i(ed her limbs and clothes3 in a way that
bene#itted him.
2ompared to that, he had other pressing matters to handle.
There was still EH minutes until he had to pick up :iyuki.
I# possible, he wanted to ensure all the arrangements were in place.
Inside the automatic car, Tatsuya actiated the heaily encrypted
communication line.
Ho, i# it isnt Tatsuya-dono. Has something happened?
Hayama-san, my apologies #or calling at such an hour.
The one who answered was the 6otsuba Aamilys butler, Hayama,
though he was more o# 6otsuba :ayas personal butler.
This line was a hotline that led directly to :aya.
It is not too late in the eening, but un#ortunately the madam has
other urgent business and cannot come to the phone.
Aorgie my discourtesy.
0ased on the time, she must be bathing. + de#inite miscalculation.
This isnt something that re.uires repentance. +ccording to my
recollection, this must be the #irst time you hae called in #rom your
side. Things must be grae.
<ust as the old butler pointed out, this was the #irst time Tatsuya
actiated this hotline.
In truth, asking the 6otsuba #or help riled Tatsuya and was something
he tried to aoid at all costs, but this wasnt the time to be stubborn.
This was a situation wholly unlike )o Head >ragon or the inasion o#
the 8reat +sian +lliance, where strength alone was enough to carry
the day.
Hayama, who stood at the core o# the 6otsuba Aamily, undoubtedly
had access to more in#ormation and clues than Tatsuya did. Howeer,
in order to tap into that power, tradition dictated that Tatsuya
personally e(plain the situation at hand.
In reality, we were *ust under attack #rom a 7&)+ s.uad. The #irst
attack was beaten back thanks to intercession #rom the second son o#
the 2hiba Aamily, 2hiba )aotsugu, but damage #rom &tars High
2ommander +ngelina &irius rendered him unable to continue.
+#terwards, I engaged &irius=
--+#ter striking down @ina, Tatsuya couldnIt een a##ord wasting time
on restraining her as he walked towards the parking lot at the parks
edge. )ot that there was any need #or him to do so. 5en i# @ina
recoered consciousness, moement was impossible. +ssuming she
could block out the pain, under her current state with the neres
responsible #or moement seered, standing or crawling were both out
o# the .uestion. He had attacked @inas limbs precisely #or this reason.
Aurthermore, i# she had been trained in the ery beginning to #eel no
pain, then she wouldnt hae #allen unconscious in the #irst place, thus
Tatsuya concluded that @ina wasnt likely to awaken any time soon.
Thus, his #irst priority was the enemys reseres.
2urrently, the @ight 1light wae oscillation type3 :agic oerhead that
was blocking any sight was still in e##ect. This was the obious
approach since there were no worries about recording @inas real
isage. 6et, at the same time, this implied that the reseres were
#orced to come here directly.
0ecause the 7&)+ military would neer abandon &irius.
In order #or them to retreat, they must dispatch a unit to recoer @ina.
This time #rame was precisely the opening #or Tatsuya to slip through.
The enemy should be e(pecting Tatsuya to strike at this time and be
appropriately on guard. +#ter all, they had witnessed him striking
down &irius. )eertheless, leaing the resere #orce alone was not an
option #or Tatsuya.
It wasnt like he could e(ecute @ina.
Though he could not kill her, at the ery least he could still restrain
her.
&till, killing or capturing her posed ma*or issues o# their own.
Tatsuya had already buried one o# the international &trategic-2lass
:agicians known as the GJ +postles. Though it was not Tatsuyas
intent to do so, he had already #undamentally upset the worlds
balance. The a#tershocks o# him wiping out another &trategic-2lass
:agician that balanced the international balance o# power were
simply unimaginable.
Howeer, the support personnel were another story altogether.
In regards to those who plainly bore him enmity D they were possibly
an organi'ation that sought to capture him #or use as an e(perimental
sub*ect. These people sought nothing less than his destruction.
Aor such opponents, mercy was not re.uired.
They re.uired a reminder o# the cost when it came down to tangling
with Tatsuya in the shadows.
Though he was unable to concentrate on the resere #orce during his
stando## with @ina, now that he reached out with his senses once
more, he #ound that they were still in their original positions and
hadnt moed yet. +#ter the shocking turnaround with their trump card
taken out, they were probably still waiting #or orders #rom command.
There was no other e(planation #or their delayed reaction.
+lthough this was per#ectly plausible, Tatsuya #elt that this was too
naKe.
In the eent o# a tactical retreat, #orming a combat s.uad was o#
utmost priority.
He should say they had too much hubris.
%# course,
1This was the time that he should be thank#ul #or their oersight.3
I# the enemy had launched an all-out #rontal assault, it was plain that
he might hae succumbed be#ore the #orce o# numbers. +#ter
intentionally creating a situation where @ina would s.uare o## against
Tatsuya G-on-G, he could only say that they had too much hubris on
their side.
%n the other hand, the enemy might hae also taken into consideration
that they couldnt cause a spectacle in another nations capital.
;egardless, #or Tatsuya, this was an e(cellent opportunity to take
adantage o#.
&kipping the time needed #or proper aim, Tatsuya used his own ability
to lock on be#ore clicking the trigger on his 2+>.
The targets were the electronic e.uipment in the cargo truck.
The #irst shot struck the communication line, the second #ell on the
power supply leading to the camera systems on the outside, and the
third landed on the power supply #eeding the cameras in the interior.
%riginally, magic wasnt a techni.ue that could be properly employed
against electrical e.uipment. Aor that, he had to thank Au*ibayashi and
&anadas in#luence.
Though any personal communication deices were still operable,
Tatsuya had no time #or such things as he laid a hand on the cargo
trucks door. The door wasnt locked.
)or was there any biological eri#ication #or anti-the#t preention.
Instead, he was greeted by a hailstorm o# bullets.
:aybe it was thanks to high .uality silencers or special ammunition,
but there were practically no sounds o# gunshots. Aor Tatsuya, who
stood in the doorways shadow, it was more like the dulled open and
release o# an assault ri#le.
Howeer, the gunshots .uickly stilled.
That was because the decomposition o# weapons was one o# the
magics he was most well ersed in.
:en leaped out #rom the car door brandishing knies.
+ctiation &e.uence #illed the cars interior.
2lose .uarters combat #rom the #ront #ollowed by Alying-Type
e.uipment support in the rear D the situation looked to be a magical
assault. &lightly traditional, but undoubtedly an e##ectie tactic.
)aturally, that was under the assumption that Tatsuya was unable to
discern his opponents +ctiation &e.uences.
&o long as he acted during the deployment phase o# the +ctiation
&e.uence, psion bullets would be su##icient een i# he didnt use
decomposition.
Tatsuya reached out with his empty le#t hand.
In his le#t hand, he created the basic #orm o# the compressed psion
bullet, Aar &trike, that he had been #uriously training. )ot only did he
target the deeloping +ctiation &e.uence, but mercilessly included
the caster as well.
Tatsuya saw the +ctiation &e.uence shatter into pieces.
Though the enemy :agicians were able to de#lect the psion backlash,
the damage su##ered #rom the psion bullet rendered them unable to
prepare the ne(t spell.
%# the three combat personnel who leaped #orward, two were already
staggering.
Aar &trike a##ected the astral #orm rather than the physical #orm, the
soul to be speci#ic. -hile it was more e##ectie against human beings
trained to use their willpower to control the physical body, e(perts in
chi utili'ation would be able to de#lect or aoid the attacking psion
bullets.
In other words, it was super e##ectie against hal#-assed :agicians
who #ailed to properly learn how to control their physical #lesh.
The a#orementioned hal#-assed :agicians were hanging on because
they didnt want to lose #ace in #ront o# Tatsuya. The last remaining
:agician appeared to be a belieer in the +sian arts o# discipline.
+ simple, straight #orward #ight actually made it more di##icult.
Tatsuya sei'ed the initiatie #irst.
He e(changed the 2+> in his right hand #or the dagger-shaped
e.uipment that belonged to @ina and tightened his grip.
He swung his right arm #rom the le#t shoulder #orward and hurtled the
blade towards the center o# the chest belonging to the enemy who had
not been a##ected by Aar &trike.
The une(pected throwing attack was launched at e(tremely close
range.
The tra*ectory o# the dagger was such that in*uries could not be
aoided een i# blocked.
+s e(pected o# an e(pert, the man elected to choose to aoid the
blow.
6et, the mans easie maneuer #ell along Tatsuyas calculations.
4recisely because the action was too logical, planning #or it also
became easier.
The man raised his le#t shoulder and leg while the right arm holding
the dagger swung outwards #rom the inside, causing the hurtled dagger
to #ly past his #lank.
0ased on his posture with the right arm e(tended outwards swung
down toward his le#t #lank, the ne(t attack was not going to come
#rom the blind spot at his right back, but #rom lower below.
Tatsuya kicked out with his right leg.
&eeing the piot #oot during the throwing motion make such an
irregular moement, the man was unable to hide his shocked
e(pression. The mans right hand that was warily held in a tight #ist
and had *ust returned due to the centri#ugal #orce o# his moement
took Tatsuyas kick dead on.
The man didnt lose the dagger in his grip.
0iting back the sudden pain #rom the kick on his wrist, he planned on
striking down Tatsuyas kick.
I# the piot #oot proided the blow, then that #oot must hae been used
to *ump. In reality, Tatsuya was currently in a state with both #eet o##
the ground. I# the #orce o# his blow had been blocked, then no matter
how agile Tatsuya was, his sense o# balance would be compromised. D
I# this #ight was going to be decided on pure physical blows alone.
This time, Tatsuya actiated the 8raity 2ontrol-Type :agic lurking
ahead o# time in the magical calculation area. Aor a continuous J
seconds, the a(is would alter oer ten times during the Alying-Type
:agic. +#ter his right leg had been blocked, Tatsuya continued to rise
in the air without touching the ground and deliered a roundhouse
kick with his le#t leg.
This time, the man didnt een hae time to react.
The le#t heel struck the back o# the mans neck directly.
+ heay sound came #rom the impact as well as the #eeling o# a solid
hit.
This was a sound Tatsuya was well #amiliar with, the sound o# bones
breaking under a kick.
The mans body #lew sideways.
>ictated by inertia, Tatsuyas body slid towards the le#t.
+ blade pierced his a#terimage. The weapon was thrown by one o# the
two companions accompanying the man who had success#ully
de#ended against Aar &trike.
Though he was still under the in#luence o# Alying-Type :agic,
Tatsuyas #eet still touched the ground.
He used magic to lessen the #orce o# contact.
+t a speed beyond the human body D at least a speed that Tatsuya
could not achiee, Tatsuya rushed towards the two o# them.
The 2+> he held in his right hand had already been returned to its
holster when he whipped out the dagger.
+#terwards, he didnt use magic to slow himsel# down but used the
#orward leaping moement to harness the kinetic energy. +t the same
time he launched o## the ground, he sent his right arm that was #ueled
by inertia and the kinetic energy straight into the enemys chest.
This was not a #ist, but a palm strike directed towards the enemys
heart position.
7pon being struck, the man was li#ted bodily #rom the ground and
went #lying.
Tatsuya lowered his height slightly and once more made contact with
the ground on his #eet.
Alying-Type :agic was still actie #or another second.
+#ter he *umped two meters into the air, the sound o# oncoming
bullets could be heard #rom behind him as they #ell where he stood
earlier.
The shots came #rom within the ehicle. The assailant must hae
picked up another #irearm to replace the deconstructed assault ri#le.
)onetheless, adopting that tactic at this stage was #ar too late.
Tatsuya pulled out a gun #rom his waist.
This was not the handgun-shaped 2+> he usually held, but a real gun
that he also took o## o# @ina.
He turned in mid-air and returned a gi#t o# lead towards the shooter
poking out #rom the window. +#ter Tatsuyas bullets pierced his chest,
the mans body slid #rom the window back into the car.
Immediately, Tatsuya landed atop the third man.
His right #oot stamped on the shoulder while his le#t #oot snapped the
collarbone as it landed.
His body, #ree o# any more magical in#luences, landed behind the third
man *ust like that.
The ensuing rain o# bullets that splashed around his body was a clear
sign o# how panicked the opposing shooter was.
Though it was di##icult to hit the enemy taking coer in the car, there
was thank#ully only one opponent le#t.
+#ter using gun#ire to suppress the enemy and charge into the car,
Tatsuya sureyed the situation and couldnt help but #eel a little let
down.
0esides the two who had been shot and killed, there were two other
men knocked unconscious on the #loor.
0ased on the 2+>s on their wrists, both o# them should be supporting
:agicians.
It appeared that Aar &trike had a #ew unintended e##ects. This also
rein#orced that 6akumos training was particularly e##ectie.
+s insurance, Tatsuya stomped on eery mans chest to check #or any
reaction be#ore hurtling the bodies o# the slain and unconscious out the
car.
&ince @inas gun had a small mu''le, the bodies luckily didnt show
any ma*or wounds. Though eeryone had a #ew holes on their bodies,
not a whole lot o# blood escaped.
+#ter making a copy o# all the records on board, Tatsuya set about
wiping all the onboard machines.
+#ter taking into consideration that the ne(t group o# guests would
clean up a#ter him, Tatsuya did a cursory *ob wiping away the blood
and e(ited the ehicle.
Throughout this entire se.uence, Tatsuya pretended that he was
obliious to the mysterious indiidual spying on him.
=-hen I carried +ngie &irius oer to the ehicle, there was no trace
o# the sub*ugated resere #orce.
-ere they taken by the obserer?
I assume they decided that this outweighed my continued
obseration, since by the time I returned, the immobile 2hiba
)aotsugu had also disappeared.
+#ter listening to Tatsuyas situation report, Hayama adopted a
contemplatie posture. 8ien that there was no way to see i# he was
putting on an act, this could only be chalked up as an older mans
e(tensie e(perience.
@ooks like our obserer is closely connected to the &aegusa Aamily.
The &aegusa Aamily? +re you sure its not the 2hiba Aamily?
Tokyo belongs to the &aegusa Aamilys *urisdiction. -e hae also
caught wind o# Loichi-samas subordinates taking certain actions.
Loichi-sama was the head o# the &aegusa Aamily, so Tatsuya naturally
understood that this was re#erring to &aegusa Loichi. The names o#
the arious heads within the Ten :aster 2lans were common
knowledge among <apanese :agicians.
@imiting the usage o# magic to a minimum and primarily relying on
close .uarters combat to settle the issue are both born o# the #act that
you are aware that o# the sureillance, but ultimately this was
something to be aoided i# possible gien the obserer.
)one o# the string o# eents that started since +pril were instigated by
Tatsuya. He had always become embroiled in the eents because he
had been dragged in. ;egardless, Tatsuya was ery cogni'ant that a
guardian like him being so conspicuous was not a wise course o#
action, so he demurred.
&till, we are also aware that Tatsuya-dono has not done anything
worthy o# blame. +lthough protecting one o# the candidates #or the
ne(t head o# house, :iyuki-dono, is your mission, you are de#initely
not the only one assigned to this task. 5en i# she is not yet by :aya-
samas side, it is #ar too early #or the other #amilies to be aware o#
:iyuki-donos position. %# course, gien that this is Loichi-sama, he
may already hae caught on""
2aught on must re#er to the idea that Tatsuya was someone a##iliated
with the 6otsuba Aamily. Tatsuya was inwardly impressed that this
was still caught on and not a growing concern.
In spite o# this, we cannot allow them to sei'e any eidence that
would moe beyond speculation. Tatsuya-dono, please trans#er the
copied data oer to me. I will begin handling the 7&)+ military side.
The light words that dropped #rom Hayamas mouth sounded like a
proud boast to Tatsuyas ears.
In terms o# numbers, the 6otsuba Aamily were plainly outnumbered by
the &aegusa and Ichi*ou Aamilies. 6et, their combat prowess were
comparable. In G-on-G con#rontations, the 6otsuba would hae the
adantage. >espite their limited numbers, they were more than
capable o# becoming the counterterrorism trump card and carrying out
actions that went beyond the reach o# the law that the goernment
needed. In terms o# black ops and assassinations, none among the
)umbered Aamilies could match the 6otsuba Aamily.
&o long as we dont leae an opening #or the <&>A to interene,
Loichi-sama shouldnt be able to intercede directly.
The other agents were another story altogether, but at least Hayamas
words were trustworthy.
+t the same time he hit the switch #or the communication line, Tatsuya
bowed deeply be#ore the camera.
? ? ?
The instant she saw Tatsuyas #ace as he arried to pick her up,
:iyukis eyes widened in shock.
>id something happen?
)o, nothings the matter.
Though the response was immediate, :iyuki understood ery well
that those were only super#icial words meant to coer the situation.
%nii-sama, you arent hurt right?
+ll o# a sudden, :iyuki hugged Tatsuya tightly.
This actually threw Tatsuya #or a loop.
)o, :iyuki, please calm down a little.
I cant possibly calm down9 This smell"" %nii-sama, you #ought
against @ina, right9? +nd, it wasnt one-on-one, right9? 6ou smell
like you #ought against ten people at least9
<ust as Tatsuya could use sight to capture in#ormation, so too could
:iyuki detect in#ormation through touch. Howeer, :iyuki was
more capable than that, as she could also use smell to receie
knowledge that was practically instinct. +lthough Tatsuya carried no
traces o# physical in*uries, he still carried the scent o# battle.
4lease, Im asking you to settle down a little.
Haing someone #eel concern oer him was something worth cheering
about, but there was no way to conerse i# she could not calm down.
6ou should know that no one is capable o# leaing a mark on me.
+nyone else might hae been bemused by those words, but :iyuki
immediately grasped the meaning within.
8radually, her e(citement settled.
Aie seconds later, she had entirely calmed.
""%nii-sama, my sincere apologies #or my display.
)ot only was she apologi'ing erbally, but een his sisters body was
huddled together in embarrassment. Tatsuya couldnt help but smile D
maybe he #elt a smile was the only proper way to respond D and
slightly shook his head.
)o worries. I was the one who caused you to worry.
&uch a thing"" %# course a sister would be concerned #or %nii-
samas sa#ety.
%# course? Though that .uestion #lashed across Tatsuyas brain on
re#le(, he was well aware that oicing that aloud was taboo.
It was nothing more than a thought.
True, #eeling concern #or others was a matter o# course, but :iyukis
#eror was slightly atypical.
)aturally, theres no way @ina could beat you no matter how she
challenged you. Thats because theres no one in the world who can
beat %nii-sama.
+s he watched his sister sprout her usual #erent words, Tatsuya sel#-
consciously watched her with slightly colder eyes.
+s long as :iyuki belieed in him, he had to meet that e(pectation no
matter the cost. This thought truly e(isted somewhere in his heart, an
understanding born o# both determination and pride.
6et, at the same time, his own ob*ectiity that was completely
unrelated to this understanding saw that this was #ar too dangerous.
I# not #or the #act that his opponent was an emotionally immature
young lady o# GM years, i# both sides had brought their #ull might to
bear, he might hae been the one who #ell in the end.
Howeer, een i# he wasnt relieed o# his duties, it would be terrible
i# his principle detected this sort o# de#eatist thinking.
-hich is why, more than eer, he needed to present an indomitable
#ront.
&o long as you are waiting #or me, I will bow to no one.
5(cept, these words seemed a little oerkill.
;ather, the presentation was a tad oerkill.
Tears #ormed at the corners o# :iyukis eyes.
&eeing the warm ga'e :iyuki directed towards him, Tatsuya reali'ed
that he had made a tactical error.
)onetheless, there was no way #or him to take back the words he
spoke.
)ay, een i# he could erase them, this situation was beyond his
control.
In addition, :iyuki was in a state that went well beyond any easy
means o# de#using.
1""%h well, still better than being mercilessly interrogated.3
;ight now, Tatsuyas mind was #illed with escapist thoughts.
? ? ?
0y the time @ina returned to her apartment, it was already the second
day. Aurthermore, it wasnt immediately a#terward but #ar later. +t
the ery least, the sun hadnt risen when she returned home, so at least
she could draw a little com#ort #rom that.
-hile all o# her e.uipment had been con#iscated, #or some
ine(plicable reason 0rionac was still with her, so personal sa#ety
wasnt going to be an issue.
7n#ortunately, since her communication deice had been taken away,
there was no way to call a car to pick her up.
Aurthermore, since she always used electric currency, she wasnt
carrying her purse. 5en more importantly, in order to preent any
inestigation on her combat operation, she didnt bring any personal
items either. Thanks to that, een EF hour public transportation was
denied to her, #orcing her to walk all the way home.
&ince her &peciali'ed and 8enerali'ed 2+> were both gone, Alying-
Type :agic and high speed mobility magic were both inaccessible. 0y
the time she #inally arried at the apartment she lied at thanks to
intermittent @eaping techni.ues, @ina was practically on the erge o#
tears.
I# anyone had been un#ortunate enough to witness her state, @ina
might hae #ired with 0rionac on re#le( out o# incredible shame.
Thanks to biological identi#ication, @ina managed to get inside
without much trouble.
+t the same time she breathed out a sigh o# relie#, #ury roused within
her.
1>o you hate me or something, Tatsuya9?3
Arom an ob*ectie perspectie, @ina had a mountain o# reasons to
complain about him. 5en so, the ma*ority o# them came #rom her
emotions. In the end, thanks to her military training, she broke through
these #eelings and remembered what her priorities were.
Airst, she opened the signal to the command center. Howeer, no
matter how she signaled, she #ailed to receie a reply.
2old sweat dripped down @inas back. In order to dispel the dark
premonition in her heart, @ina #uriously shook her head.
&he tried using the communicator in her room once again to call the
command center. 5arlier, she still bore hope that the signal wasnt
going through, but as she repeatedly called out, this hope #lickered
and died.
-hat happened to the colonel, @ina couldnt help but think.
@ina swi#tly e.uipped hersel# with 2+>s and other weapons, told
hersel# to buck up, then *umped o## the balcony into the night sky.
Her destination ahead o# her was the skyscraper that housed their
secret command center.
0y the time she discoered that the place was abandoned, it was well
a#ter an hour since she began her thorough search.
? ? ?
The ne(t morning.
The news on the teleision reported that a small 7&)+ essel was
#ound in <apanese waters and had been rescued by the <apanese )aal
>e#ense Aorce a#ter said essel was le#t adri#t a#ter su##ering
mechanical #ailure.
Howeer, the news #ailed mention as to why a high ranking o##icer
stationed at the Tokyo embassy was on board.
+dditionally on that day, the beauti#ul trans#er student at Airst High
continued to call in sick on account o# physical in#irmity.
Chapter 15
+s he ate break#ast while watching the morning news, Tatsuya noticed
that he was unconsciously nodding along and hurriedly stopped his
head motions. Aortunately, :iyukis eyes were drawn to the
teleision, so she remained obliious to Tatsuyas odd moements.
:echanical #ailure? 0ut I didnt see any #orecast regarding
hurricanes or thick #og.
:iyukis skepticism arose #rom the news that a small +merican naal
essel dri#ted within <apanese territorial waters.
Its hard to imagine that machines will hae such a large breakdown,
so it probably has something to do with the motor. In this age o#
automated machinery, the chance that this is caused by human #ailure
while moing in the wrong direction is slim.
&eeing the pose his sister struck as she simply 1?3 accepted his word as
truth while nodding along, he couldnt help but #eel that his soul was
being corrupted.
D%# course, Tatsuya was sel#-aware enough to know that was nothing
more than a misconception.
%n the other hand""
15en i# this is %ba-samas direct order, the e(ecution speed is simply
too .uick.3
0ased on the time that the dri#ting essel had been taken under
protection and cross re#erenced against the time Tatsuya contacted
Hayama, #orget hal# a day, the entire episode #rom attack to clean-up
was completed in barely hal# that time.
In other words, they were currently embroiled in secret war#are while
their #ighting strength was highly restricted, but their opponent was a
nations pro#essional army. This was no militia #ound in small
deeloping countries, but most likely the elite o# the elite #rom a ma*or
superpower.
)o matter how capable the 6otsuba agents were, this was an
unbelieable operation tempo.
In short,
10y the time I made contact, they had already distributed their assets.3
In regards to e(actly what their plans were, that he was not priy to.
:aybe this was a natural coincidence, or perhaps they had planned on
not inter#ering in the #irst place.
)or was it impossible that they simply wanted to see Tatsuya bow
down to them and re.uest #or aid.
1;egardless o# what it is, its not like I #eel like I owe them anything.3
)o matter what the background was, Tatsuya was satis#ied so long as
the end result was moing in the positie direction.
:iyuki intentionally portrayed her agreement to the motor
mal#unction e(planation while she sneaked a peek at her brothers
isage.
Her brother didnt seem to notice anything out o# the ordinary #rom
her.
-hile these small motions that misled her brother strained her, she
also wanted to keep a #ew things #rom her brother on occasion.
:iyuki deposited the utensils and dinnerware in the kitchen and le#t
the cleanup to the H+; 1Home +utomation ;obot3 be#ore heading
upstairs to her room to change.
&tanding in #ront o# the mirror, :iyuki gae a small sigh.
:iyuki didnt een need to watch the news to know something was
a#oot.
+s usual, a#ter Tatsuya le#t #or his morning training a#ter break#ast.
:iyuki receied a phone call #rom :aya.
The contents in#ormed her that the 7&)+ troops threatening
Tatsuyas surroundings hae been dealt with.
&till, :iyuki remained unaware o# which speci#ic members in the
6otsuba Aamily conducted the operation. Thus, the only person whom
:iyuki coneyed her thanks to was :aya. >espite knowing that these
were methods to keep tabs on her, :iyukis gratitude was heart#elt.
In addition, :iyuki re.uested that :aya, who typically did not look
upon her brother and hersel# with #aor, to keep all o# this #rom
Tatsuya.
1How wily I am"" I# %nii-sama knew the truth about this, then he
must think Im a terrible girl""3
%n one hand, :iyuki wished to preent Tatsuya thinking o# her as a
dolt o# a child.
2oncurrently, on the other hand, she tried her utmost to ensure Tatsuya
didnt iew her as a smart child.
Arom the bottom o# her heart, :iyuki didnt want to be weigh down
her brother.
6et at the same time, the one thing she absolutely abhorred was #or her
brother to beliee my little sister doesnt need me anymore.
%nce she became the head o# the 6otsuba Aamily and was #ully
independent"" %nce he came to that conclusion, her brother may
depart #rom her side.
5en i# he wasnt leaing, he would probably still keep his distance.
That, was the nightmare that eer tormented :iyuki.
:iyuki and Tatsuya were siblings by blood.
+s she grew older, leaing her brother was a matter o# course, *ust as
he would naturally grow apart #rom his sister.
:iyuki also understood that one day she must marry.
&he would be #orced to accept someone other than her brother as her
husband.
Though this was against :iyukis wishes, society and this country
called <apan would neer allow her not to do this, so long as she was a
talented :agician with hereditary genes boasting power#ul magical
.ualities.
This was not something #ar o## in the distant #uture, but something
looming rather closely.
In the modern age, :agicians were re.uired to marry early. This was
especially the case #or #emale :agicians, so that they could marry
.uickly and bear children. The reason behind this was that the sooner
a :agician was born generation-wise, the greater the tendency #or him
or her to wield innately power#ul magic. &cientists re#erred to this as
magic seeping into hereditary genes. The di##erences between the
greatest :agicians o# each generation werent obious, but the
aerage power leel was on the rise. Their parents generation
surpassed their grandparents generation, *ust as they too surpassed
their parents. -hile this would leel o## sooner or later, eeryone was
still bound by the oerwhelming urge to bring #orth the ne(t
generation as .uickly as possible.
It wasnt strange #or #emale students who applied #or magical
uniersities to suddenly drop out to raise children.
:utations with unstable li#e e(pectancies were not under this
restriction, but een now, well into the second or third generations,
there was still a duty in the eyes o# the public to bear children at a
young age. Their mother marrying late and their aunt who maintained
her stead#ast resole to remain single were both e(ceptions, though
accepted only because o# inescapable physical reasons.
:iyuki was the picture o# per#ect health, so none o# those reasons
applied.
)ot to mention that she was seen as the ne(t head o# the 6otsuba
Aamily, a bearer o# e(ceptional genes.
In reality, she wouldnt do anything o# that nature with any boy sae
her brother. These were :iyukis true #eelings. )o, the real truth o#
the matter was that she detested all the other boys e(cept #or Tatsuya.
It wasnt a biological issue, so something like dancing was still
acceptable. Howeer, in :iyukis heart, the only who was allowed to
touch her was Tatsuya. The only who could do as he wished with her
was Tatsuya alone.
The re#lection in the mirror was that o# hersel# clad in her underwear.
+s she looked upon hersel#, :iyuki couldnt help but think. These
#ingers and this hair, lips, bosom, the secret places that no one was
allowed to see, all were aailable #or Tatsuya to touch i# he willed it
so. I# it was Tatsuya, she was willing to do anything.
--)o matter i# it was her body or heart, eerything that she was
belonged to %nii-sama=
This was :iyukis truth, a wish that came #rom the bottom o# her
heart akin to prayer.
6et, :iyuki also knew that these #eelings would neer come to pass.
That was what she thought.
15en i# Im *ust a lamentable little sister"" )o, it would be een
better i# I seem like an unreliable, lamentable little sister. I# this will
allow me to stay by %nii-samas side #oreer""3
+s she thought this, she also worked hard to ensure she was not
resented by Tatsuya
+ll o# this summed up the conundrum :iyuki was #aced with.
? ? ?
+#ter stepping into the classroom #or 6ear G 2lass 5, Tatsuya noticed
the atypical atmosphere and swept his ga'e back and #orth.
He immediately #ound the reason.
The arrangement o# the EN seats in the class were normally musically
arranged with boys and girls mi(ed together.
Tatsuya sat behind @eo, :i'uki sat to his le#t D and the source o# the
turmoil came #rom one row across #rom the seat ne(t to the window.
Auming, 5rika sat there looking out the window. >ispleasure seemed
to oo'e out o# her ery being as she sat in that posture.
1-ell"" I guess that cant be helped.3
Tatsuya had a clear grasp on the source o# the displeasure. 0ased on
that adoring look #rom last summer, it was ery hard her to accept
what happened last night.
Tatsuya"" 5rika-chan, whats going on?
+ oice called out to Tatsuya a#ter he swept a .uick glance oer 5rika
be#ore sitting down.
-hile watching Tatsuyas #ace, :i'uki kept hal# her mind on 5rika.
5en i# it wasnt OHP or QHP o# her attention on 5rika, the only thing
she could acutely pick up was that Tatsuya knew something.
0ased on the looks #rom :ikihiko and @eo that looked like :i'ukis
own, they also noticed.
Howeer, there were things in this world that Tatsuya was unable to
answer een i# asked.
+t the ery least, he couldnt say @ast night, 5rikas second brother
was de#eated by @ina.
-hat is going on here?
In the end, Tatsuya had no choice but to play dumb.
%ne o# his #riends positie points was that they wouldnt #uss #or too
long. Their reasons di##ered in that this was :i'ukis nature, while
:ikihiko and @eo had personal e(periences with things that they
didnt want other people to know.
&till, it was ineitable #or them to be subtly in#luenced by this
unnatural atmosphere.
The uncom#ortable mood continued on, to the point o# the rare
occasion where the #ie classmates separated during lunch D the word
classmate was used intentionally because :iyuki and Honoka were
usually included in the mi(.
+ny change in the situation came about a#ter school.
<ust as he told his sister last night, Tatsuya swi#tly negotiated 1in
secret3 with the holder and priately borrowed 4i(ie.
This was not #or amusement purposes, but #or an interrogation, e(cept
that the storage room belonging to the ;obotics 2lub wasnt suited #or
that enture.
That being said, her garb was simply too eye-catching #or walt'ing
around campus. He also wished to aoid any rumors or suspicions 1o#
his interests3, and with his ob*ecties in mind, being conspicuous was
simply no good.
Thus, Tatsuya #irst ordered 4i(ie to change into a girls uni#orm. The
uni#orm was actually a costume #or humanoid models that :ayumi
borrowed #rom the +rts 2lub. There was some concern that the
di##erences in the human skeletal structure and the machines design
may inter#ere with changing clothes, but the JHs body proed to be
more #le(ible than imagined, so both acts o# remoing clothes and
changing were possible. Though the lines in the lower hal# o# the body
were somewhat unnatural, but Tatsuya had already planned ahead by
preparing a uni#orm that was one si'e larger so this detail wasnt as
obious. +nyone who passed by along the halls would only assume
that she was a #emale student. D<ust in case, it should be stated that
Tatsuya had no peculiar #eelings while watching a humanoid robot
changing clothes.
+#ter all this, Tatsuya brought 4i(ie to an empty room in the labs and
began his interrogation.
&etting aside the awkwardness o# hearing a oice reerberate through
his head and #eeling the mysteriously burning hot ga'e that had
nothing to do with optics coming #rom its optics, Tatsuya began his
.uestioning.
The .uestions he asked pertained to the ampire incident. In
particular, the ictims clearly bore no sign o# in*ury, yet an
unbelieably massie amount o# blood was missing #rom their bodies.
Ruestions regarding this mechanic and the motie behind it. These
were the topics that drew Tatsuyas attention eer since he heard about
this incident.
-ere 4arasites responsible #or remoing the blood #rom the
ictims?
1165&.33
-hy did you need blood #rom liing humans?
110lood loss was not our intent. That is the side e##ect o# #ailed
reproduction.33
4lease gie a more detailed e(planation.
11%ur reproduction process begins by separating a part o# ourseles
and transplanting that portion into the body o# a potential host. The
separated portion will absorb the psions and pushions in the blood to
grow, thus replacing the lost blood within the #lesh o# the essel.33
Hold on"" ;eplacing blood with yoursel#? +s in#ormation bodies,
you shouldnt hae energy. -here does the energy #rom the replaced
blood go?
11It is consumed by the body during the assimilation process. I#
assimilation #ails, then it would be trans#ormed into gas and e(pelled
out o# the body along with the separated portion.33
I see, so thats how it works"" 2ontinue.
11I# entry into the #lesh is success#ul, then we are able to tap into the
astral #orm o# the in#ormation body.33
:utual use o# body the in#ormation body and the material #orm,
much like the theory behind magic.
11The astral #orm is the route that leads to the spirit. %nce a connection
has been made between the astral #orm and the essels spirit, then
reproduction ia assimilation has succeeded. 7n#ortunately, there are
currently no e(amples o# such success.33
;eason being?
117nknown. I would like to know as well. Aor reason, only that #eeling
remains in my heart.33
""How many o# your companions are in this country?
11+t the time I took re#uge in this essel there were si(.33
2an 4arasites communicate amongst one another?
1165&.33
-hat is your communication range?
11+nywhere within this countrys borders would be possible.33
-here are the other 4arasites currently located?
11@ocations unknown. &ince residing in this body, the link to my
companions has been seered.33
4i(ie neer hesitated when answering Tatsuyas .ueries.
There was no way to di##erentiate e(pressions on that #ace, but her
cognitie pattern appeared to be in high spirits. This, at least, didnt
seem like a misconception on his part. 5(actly how accurately
emotions could be coneyed across telepathy and to what degree those
#eelings could be disguised were both uncertain, but the #eeling being
sent across seemed like genuine happiness that she was able to assist
Tatsuya.
>espite the callousness o# this statement, it was undeniably chilling to
be perceied in a positie light by a monster. &till, all o# this could be
rela(ed when one recalled that the host was an ob*ect and not a
human being. He made a clear distinction between the two, so this was
nothing more than both sides using one another, thus he proceeded
without a guilty conscience.
+s the two o# them sat alone 1to be precise, more like one person and
one machine3 in the classroom, 5rika entered the classroom during the
lull in the interrogation.
Tatsuya-kun, may I come in #or a second?
There was no way o# telling i# she calculated that this was per#ect time
to make an entrance a#ter eaesdropping or this was pure coincidence.
8ien that this was 5rika, nothing would be awry een i# she
oerheard anything. Then again, since the .uestion and answer session
was done ia telepathy, no one could oerhear them no matter how
hard they tried.
He had no complaints about the sudden re.uest #or entry.
&ince this wasnt his room and he wasnt changing, there was no need
to re.uire people to knock. Howeer=
I dont mind i# you want to ask me something, but please rein in that
killing intent o# yours a little. Im not entirely blind, you know.
--He honestly wished she would calm down a little.
+h, sorry.
5rika hersel# seemed to be obliious to that matter. &he blushed in
embarrassment a#ter Tatsuya pointed it out.
)o, so long as you understand.
&he truly appeared to be unaware, seeing as how the porcupine-like
aura that clung to 5rikas body gradually #aded into thin air.
In other words, she had added those emotions into the mi(. He
couldnt help but #eel that she shared a #ew points o# similarity with
his sister, so he had to earnestly suppress the wry grin threatening to
leak #rom his lips.
4i(ie, lock the door.
7nderstood.
&witching with 4i(ie, 5rika stood be#ore Tatsuya.
>espite his encouragement #or her to take a seat, she declined to do so.
5rika maintained her standing position as she looked down at Tatsuya
as he sat in his seat.
&ince he understood the #eelings running through her, Tatsuya didnt
press the issue.
&o, what did you want to talk about?
6ou already know.
<ust the anticipated conersation?
5(actly"" @ast night, a brother o# mine engaged in a disgrace#ul
per#ormance.
5rikas response was within e(pected parameters, but Tatsuya had
more than one answer prepared ahead o# time.
Thats it?
+t any rate, this comes #irst.
I see, so some things come #irst. <ust as Tatsuya was about to say this,
5rika continued on.
-ho was the other guy?
There was no small talk inoled as she asked her .uestion directly.
&peaking o# which, seeing as how she didnt een wait #or an
e(planation o# the opponent inoled, she must be ery agitated.
7&)+ :ilitary, &tars High 2ommander, +ngie &irius.
In response, Tatsuyas answer was also decisie and direct.
:aybe it was because she didnt e(pect him to answer immediately, a
cloud o# con#usion gathered around 5rika.
&o, what are you going to do a#ter hearing that?
Taking adantage o# 5rikas momentary bemusement, this time it was
Tatsuya to raise a .uestion.
That sort o# thing"" >o you een need to ask?
&he appeared to be a little shocked at the direct .uestion out o# the
blue, but she immediately #ired back with a #ierce look on her #ace.
I can surmise what course o# action you hae in mind, but"" I
recommend you gie up, 5rika.
+re you saying that its impossible #or me?
This was not the unconsciously e(pressed #ury #rom be#ore.
Tatsuya didnt een bat an eyelid as he absorbed this intentional
display o# wrath.
It is impossible. )ot because o# talent, but #rom a results
perspectie.
""-hat do you mean?
The #irst hal# o# that that phrase was still buoyed by #ury, but the latter
hal# was switched #or astonishment.
6ou saw the news this morning, correct? It doesnt matter i# it was
the images or the words.
I did. -hich one are you talking about?
The news about the small 7&)+ essel le#t adri#t.
That one"" 6ou cant mean?
How astute o# you.
7pon seeing the change in 5rikas #acial e(pression, Tatsuyas words
were not simple courtesy, but honest praise.
Though this remains a mere possibility"" 0ut &irius will likely
not appear again. 5en i# both sides remain in a stando##, there is no
bene#it to be gained here #or either side.
5rika didnt hae an answer or re*ection #or Tatsuyas suggestion.
Tatsuya-kun""
In comparison, she was staring in all seriousness at Tatsuya as i# she
beheld a completely unidenti#iable stranger.
-ho".. -hat are you""?
)o, not as i#. &he actually saw him as an enigma.
That sort o# thing, at least #or my #amily"" That is beyond the
2hiba Aamily.
Is that so?
Tatsuya wasnt playing dumb here, but he had no other options at this
point.
)ot *ust our #amily. This is de#initely impossible #or #amilies like
Isori, 2hiyoda, and Tomitsuka. I dont know e(actly how this
happened, but the only ones capable o# getting that kind o# result
would be the Ten :aster 2lans. +nd een then, only""
I beliee thats #ar enough, correct?
+ lineage o# incredible power. + #amily whose power base surrounds
the capital, or a #amily who has #ree reign to act regardless o# territory
or *urisdiction.
&he couldnt stop speaking.
5rika, enough.
;emoing the Ichi*ou Aamily station in the north"" Then there is
only &aegusa, <uumon*i, or"" 6otsuba. Tatsuya-kun, you cant
possibly be""
&ilence9
+h9
5rika shut her mouth not because o# coarseness o# Tatsuyas oice or
the olume, but the intent mi(ed within.
+ny #urther would only result in things getting awkward #or
eeryone.
Tatsuya calmly made that declaration.
5rika was not lacking in e(perience when it came to walking though
the alley o# death.
&he was not #alling .uiet because she was oerawed by his manner.
;ather, her e(tensie e(perience told her to do so.
5specially because she was about to recklessly cross oer the line.
""Im sorry.
+s long as you understand.
The phrase was similar to the ones be#ore. +s usual, his tone was light.
Howeer, cold sweat dripped down 5rikas back.
5rika, een i# you wanted to #ind out who &irius is, there is nothing
#or it now. Thus, lets *ust end things here.
""6oure right.
&he understood that hal# the reason why Tatsuya changed the sub*ect
was #or hersel#, so 5rika acknowledged Tatsuyas proposal.
Then, lets hear what else you wanted to know. I assuming it has
something to do with the 4arasites remnants.
&pot on, though this doesnt really merit praise. 6ou wouldnt be
Tatsuya i# you couldnt discern things to this leel.
Ainally, she had regained her usual sel# at least #or appearances sake,
which must mean she was aware o# it now.
-ere those words o# yours actually praise?
+t the ery least, Im not demeaning you, right?
>uring this acting se.uence, 5rika was gradually resuming her typical
state. This high degree o# resiliency was .uite admirable.
Its not like I planned on leaing things alone. 6ou can count on me
to let you know i# I hear anything.
+s he said this, Tatsuya directed a look at 4i(ie that was #ull o#
undercurrents.
5rika also sneaked a peek at 4i(ie be#ore the corners o# her mouth
twitched upwards in a satis#ied manner.
>e#initely, %L? In response, I will also be open about this and not
hold anything back.
It was precisely 5rikas personality to add a corollary to this part o#
their agreement now.
+h, agreed.
This was appropriate distance when it came down to his relationship
with her.
Then, Tatsuya-kun, sorry #or bothering you.
+h, and please coney my regards to your older brother.
The hand 5rika e(tended towards the door shook #or a bit, but 5rika
.uickly le#t the room as i# nothing had happened.
Tatsuya had no #urther remarks #or that.
? ? ?
+#ter leaing the classroom where she had the secret conersation 1?3
with Tatsuya, 5rika .uickly walked down the hall. +#ter returning the
sparsely populated e(perimental building to the main #loor, 5rika
leaned back against the wall o# the corridor.
+nd heaed a giant sigh o# relie#.
+s i# #inally reali'ing how deep o# a hole she was in, cold sweat ran
down her temple.
Thinking back on what happened, she couldnt help but think she was
behaing strangely today.
)ormally, she would neer do something so silly like stepping on a
tigers tail.
--&cratch that, rather than calling that a tigers tail, more like the
untouchable scales o# a dragon.
--Thanks to that, she knew clearly.
--&he een knew the things that she didnt need to know.
1""How terrible.3
5rikas lips curled into a sel#-depreciatie smile.
%nce she drew back the curtain and witnessed what was going on, a
lot o# things suddenly made sense.
%riginally, 5rika didnt agree with that person who een called on
her second brothers assistance to #ind out about Tatsuya. &he thought
that, as one o# Tatsuyas companions, she should obstruct such a thing.
&he had planned on sa#eguarding Tatsuyas secret.
)ow, #or some reason, she wasnt *ust wanting to protect but being
#orced to protect.
This was not to say that i# 5rika leaked the secret that Tatsuya would
come down on her with a engeance.
1I get the #eeling that een i# I let it slip, Tatsuya would *ust laugh and
#orgie me.3
&till, eerything had a what i#, which prompted some serious
consideration on 5rikas part.
There was no way she was going to put that to the test.
<ust Tatsuyas ability alone would be incredibly di##icult, and on top o#
that D though that only remained a possibility.
1+hSSSS ""Im so con#used. &eriously, I shoulde let sleeping
dogs lie.3
-hy the heck did she say that, 5rika wordlessly complained to
hersel#.
)ow that she thought about it, there was a sense that she was being
led around.
1Thats ridiculous"" Thats pushing it too #ar no matter how eil
Tatsuya-kuns personality is.3
5rika resolutely smiled to blow away all those hanging concerns.
&he was #uriously backpedaling away #rom the notion that he was
capable o# doing e(actly that.
? ? ?
1"">id that back#ire on me?3
Tatsuya thought to himsel# as he kept staring at the door a#ter 5rika
le#t.
He had considered the possibility that 2hiba )aotsugus interention
yesterday was the result o# the 2hiba Aamily *oining the &aegusa
Aamily, or more appropriately, the recon anguard dispatched by <&>A
intelligence bureau a#ter being goaded on by the &aegusa Aamily, but
this appeared to hae nothing do with 5rika.
&till, this may be as simple as 5rika being not in#ormed.
1Aorget it. They would catch on sooner or later.3
In the end, 5rika had already witnessed all sorts o# things. )ot only
had she seen his powers, but also :iyukis 2ocytus. 0ased on her
outstanding instincts, all o# this was simply a matter o# time
regardless.
10ased on the end result, we still pulled her in anyways.3
This deelopment was not something that Tatsuya planned #or in his
scenario, but it was #ine in his book so long as the result was alright,
he thought.
Typically, it was impossible to keep a secret without a #ew
conspirators.
There were situations where the person in .uestion simply could not
coer eerything by themseles. &trictly speaking, that was because
those who sought these secrets acted behind the backs o# the person in
.uestion. +t that time, the ideal scenario was #or the seeker to run into
a third party that happened to be the conspirator.
Tatsuya unilaterally drew the curtain on this incredibly sel#ish
monologue.
4i(ie.
116es, :aster.33
Tatsuya more or less understood that when conersing with 4i(ie
using telepathy, they were communicating with concepts rather than
words. The image being sent oer was then translated into words by
the receiing side.
5en while wearing a serants garb, being called :aster by
someone wearing the same school uni#orm still threw him out o# sorts.
&till, this was how the other entity #elt and once this became a habit
during their telepathic communication, there was nothing he could do
about it.
)onetheless, Tatsuya was glad that at least the term hadnt translated
into something like :y @ord or :ilord. +#ter all, this was his
personal pre#erence when it came down to language.
&ince she 1?3 used a mobile #orm o# telepathy, Tatsuya belieed that
she was unaware o# this. &he was probably doing this a#ter reading the
behaioral patterns based on the names recorded in the electronic
brain, Tatsuya thought as he moed be#ore her.
0e#ore taking hold o# this body, you guys appeared to #unction like a
group towards a common ob*ectie. -ithin your group, was there an
entity that sered as a leader?
11There is no one among us who #unctions in the capacity o# a leader.33
Then how do you maintain group cohesion?
11&trictly speaking, all o# us are not independent bodies. -e are both
indiiduals and the whole body. -hile we possess the ability to think
critically, we also share our consciousness.33
In other words, one mind e(ists in a state with multiple cognitie
processes?
11)ot cognitie processes. I think it would be more appropriate to
describe this as an incompletely independent cognitie process in the
subconscious being gathered by a higher leel o# cognition.33
I understand. Howeer, in that case, i# the subconscious has di##ering
agendas, wouldnt the higher leel lose cohesion?
117nder the condition that the li#e #orm is set as the host, then it is
impossible to completely aoid being in#luenced by the hosts most
#undamental desires. %ur actions are determined when surial
instincts and reproductie impulses reach an accord within the
consciousness.33
@i#e e(tension and producing more companions. Ruite simply really
#or li#e #orms seeking surial.
11Indeed. -e will abide by the li#e #orms greatest desire then proceed
along with surial and reproducing as our goals.33
&ince there is a uni#ied consensus within the group, does the group
proide assistance #or ob*ecties that lie outside o# surial and
replication?
11>espite achieing general consensus, we still possess indiidual
sense o# sel# that reciprocates the hosts personal desires on our own.
Howeer, that is under the condition that the oerall ob*ectie holds
the priority, so I think its *ust as :aster beliees.33
I see""
Tatsuya #ell into a reerie a#ter speaking.
%ne reason that she #ailed to interrupt him any #urther could be that
she wasnt human in the #irst place, or the #act that her host was pure
machinery.
Then, the current you is something that e(ists outside o# the general
consensus, an almost heretical e(istence. I# a dissent appeared in your
group, wouldnt you be eliminated?
11-e do not hae the desire to root out dissenters. Howeer, once they
determine that I may pose an obstacle to their ob*ectie, they may
elect to launch a pre-emptie attack.33
I see"" I hae one other .uestion. ;ight now, you said that you are
cut o## #rom contact with the rest o# your comrades, but can you detect
their presence?
11That is possible i# the target shows high actiity. %n the other hand,
my current state is one such that they can also detect my presence i#
were in the same area.33
Is that so?
Tatsuya #ell into a thought#ul posture be#ore immediately giing new
orders.
4i(ie, return to the trailer, change into your original uni#orm and
enter sleep mode. I will #ind you later.
117nderstood. 5(ecuting standby orders.33
4i(ie primly, or rather sti##ly, bowed be#ore moing towards the
garage.
Tatsuya mentally selected the e.uipment he needed, #irst returned
home, then went to the &tudent 2ouncil to pick up :iyuki.
In the year EHQN, the world had grown smaller. Howeer, the gap
between :agicians and mundane humans was the e(act opposite.
:agicians had receied o##icial recognition a#ter early deployment
and action in the scattered national territorial disputes and were
heaily restricted #rom leaing the country e(cept on goernment
business. Aor :agicians, the world had shrank to within the countrys
interior.
%n the other hand, mundane humans could take #ull adantage o# the
adancements in transportation technology. @and, sea, and air trael
had all become streamlined and more e##icient, so people could #reely
trael internationally. )ow, getting to the other side o# the world was a
simple matter o# one .uick #light in a matter o# hours, remoing the
need to switch #lights. 2ompared to one hundred years ago, the world
had indeed become smaller.
+#ter e(periencing con#licts across the world, eery country paid
care#ul scrutiny to potential illegal immigrants who loitered within the
countrys borders #or too long. In comparison, the current trend was
that short stays #rom #oreign traelers were on the rise. This was made
blatantly obious by the sight o# #oreigners walking along the streets
o# Tokyo.
%n the eastern bank o# the rier, no <apanese person would #ind it
odd #or young men o# &panish or mesti'o ancestry walking with
young women o# e.ually mi(ed ethnicities at dusk. )one o# the
citi'ens would hae #ound it strange #or the three o# them to walk into
the large, somewhat out o# #ashion hospital.
There were beds laid out in the hospitals basement.
7sually, this would be considered on par #or the course, but these beds
usually wouldnt appear in a hospital.
The bedspring wrapped within the black leather was practically
useless, so rather than calling this a bed, this was more like a long,
rectangular bo(.
The arious beds werent arranged in one row or split into two rows o#
#our or #ie, but a hapha'ard arrangement o# all Q beds. +top each bed
lay a young male, each with a #ace #rom 5ast +sian descent. +ll nine
o# them had pale #aces as they slept on beds with no pillows without a
single chest rising or descending. They appeared to be corpses, or in a
near death-like state. The basement only contained the Q silent young
men as well as the three men and women o# mi(ed descent who *ust
entered.
+ white male stood in the gap #ormed by the beds set up with the head
#acing inwards. &tanding in the darkness, he almost seemed like a
necromancer.
The mesti'o male checked his watch and raised an arm as i# waiting
#or something. +#ter appro(imately ten minutes, the man looked
towards the young woman standing on the other side o# the ring o#
beds. This appeared to be some sort o# signal as the woman nodded
and raised both hands be#ore her #ace.
The man repeated the same motion. 0etween the man and woman who
were #acing one another, the white male clapped his hands while his
#ootsteps emitted noise.
The clapping continued.
The steps continued as well.
The young man and the woman *oined the white male in clapping
while the sound o# their pacing around the ring continued. +s the
young man and woman switched positions, the white male gae a
louder clap.
0e#ore the sound #aded, the silent bodies rose #rom bed.
%ne body, then another.
5ight o# those preiously in a near death-like state had reied #rom
their black beds.
In the darkness o# the basement, there was the sound o# an insects
wings #lapping, e(cept this e(isted in the mental landscape instead o#
the material world or the Idea.
I# translated into a human language=
1IT-e hae #inally reawakened.3
1:yT%ur numbers hae decreased again.3
1+nother personTone was lost?3
1+re there enough essels?3
1)egatie. The #acilitator has procured them #or us *ust as you see.3
1The 2hinese spiritualists are .uite capable.3
1Ho, at least they surpass meTour leels.3
1The desire #or li#e on the cusp o# death. The consciousness has been
suspended.3
10ut ITwe hae also learned #rom this. )ow we know how to moe
#rom host to host.3
15en i# the essel is destroyed ne(t time, actiities can still resume
a#ter a short delay.3
1It should be easy to replace the missing personTone.3
1@ets go reclaim myTour missing companion.3
1@ets #ind myTour companion.3
--This was the contents o# that conersation. This was the
conersation held between the three bodies who had come #rom
oerseas and the eight monsters who had reawakened #rom their
slumber.
? ? ?
+#ter returning home, Tatsuya headed #or the phone instead o#
changing #irst. ;ather than using the telephone with the large screen in
the liing room, he used the secured line in his own room. +ny power
usually resered #or e(ternal purposes was instead dierted to
encryption on the phone that Tatsuya used to call Hayama, the butler
#or the 6otsuba Aamily. ;ight now, he was barely in time #or the
appointment he arranged ahead o# time by mail.
6oure *ust on time, Tatsuya-dono.
Hayama-san, much thanks #or last eening.
0oth sides skipped the small talk. Tatsuya was matching Hayamas
tempo. ;ather than saying the old butler was in a hurry because o# his
schedule, Tatsuya got the impression that the old man had something
he wanted to say.
+s I said last night, theres no need to thank me. +#ter all, protecting
:iyuki-sama is the second highest priority #or us in the 6otsuba
Aamily.
Hayama-san, saying you say that so lightly puts me in a small
.uandary.
There are no issues so long as the time #rame and opponents are
made clear. :ore importantly, I am di##erent #rom that person in that
Im not brae enough to tangle with Tatsuya-dono.
He appeared to hae enough time to engage in some small talk.
That being said, Tatsuya didnt hae much time on his end. Though he
had speci#ically re.uested a secure line, he still wanted to coney
critical in#ormation as .uickly as possible. DIn addition, Tatsuya
wasnt sure what he was going to do i# Hayama brought up the
conersation he had seeral months ago with +oki.
&o, what did you need to talk to me about? 6ou could not send this
ia mail nor was there time to meet in person, so I conclude that this
in#ormation must be ital.
%h yes, thats right.
Hayamas oice sounded like he *ust remembered this. Howeer,
anyone could hae noticed that this was nothing but theatrics based on
the oice intonation alone een i# they didnt Hayamas personality.
Tatsuya-dono, in regards the to the monster incident, the Jrd >iision
will be mobili'ed. I *ust wanted to coney this to you.
Third >iision"" <&>A Intelligence 2ounterintelligence
>epartment Jrd >iision? I beliee that interesting unit is a##iliated
with the &aegusa camp, correct?
+#ter Tatsuya said this, a chuckling sound could be heard oer the
receier.
I dont think they would want someone like you #rom the
Independent :agic-5.uipped 0attalion calling them interesting, but it
is indeed that Jrd >iision.
:y interests do not lie in the direction o# eradicating the source. In
other words, the &aegusa Aamily is using the Jrd >iision to
inestigate the 4arasite"" )o, capture them instead?
Though I wanted to say that you are as sharp as always, but we are
still unclear on their ob*ectie. 7n#ortunately, it is most likely aligned
with what Tatsuya-dono *ust said.
How troublesome, Tatsuya thought #rom the bottom o# his heart. This
was originally a complicated incident with multiple #actions already
inested, now a new player had *oined the #ray. Aurthermore, the
&aegusa camp had a decidedly di##erent perspectie than :ayumi.
Thank you ery much #or this aluable in#ormation.
&till, he was not allowed to *ust reset the board and try again. )o
matter how di##icult it was, reality di##ered #rom games, and do oers
were not an option.
I #elt that this was necessary a#ter taking :iyuki-samas sa#ety into
consideration. 4lease do not #orget this, Tatsuya-dono.
I will keep that in mind.
Indeed, they could not destroy the world that :iyuki lied in. Though
there was no need #or Hayamas e(tra reminder, Tatsuya accepted the
comment without resistance.
? ? ?
&een oclock in the eening.
+ll the students had long returned home, and the only lonely souls still
occupying the school were a #ew o# the #aculty members. The school
gates had been locked and, until the ne(t day, access was strictly
denied to all but a small group o# e(ceptions. Teaching supplies,
products #or the campus store, and #oodstu##s #or the ca#eteria were all
largely brought through the back door to the underground passage
be#ore sundown.
The only ones allowed access were a hand#ul o# #aculty members,
security guards #rom a contracted security company, engineers
working on maintenance that could only be done at night, indiiduals
with special dispensation #rom the school, and select members #rom
the &tudent 2ouncil.
This power that seemed a mite oerkill een #or student goernment
was adopted last year while :ayumi was &tudent 2ouncil 4resident.
This was a huge help in that there was no longer a need to submit a
re.uest with alid reasons to the #aculty. This was also especially
use#ul #or situations where the reasons could not be stated aloud.
Tatsuya had already made arrangements on the way home be#ore he
arried there, and was now carrying the package that arried at home
on his back be#ore heading #or school. Arom the security guard at the
door, he receied J I> cards issued to isitors that only allowed night
time access a#ter a con#irmation number #rom the &tudent 2ouncil was
inputted. This was designed so that anyone not carrying a alid I> at
night would trigger the security alarm as a suspicious indiidual.
+s to why there were J cards, well, one o# them was obiously #or
himsel#.
The second one was #or :iyuki.
:iyuki receied the I> card with a satis#ied smile.
+t #irst, Tatsuya neer planned on bringing :iyuki along. The original
plan called #or :iyuki to watch the house.
7n#ortunately, :iyuki added on a condition when issuing the night
time access number.
&he said she wanted to come along.
The power to issue access con#irmation lay within the hands o# +'usa,
the &tudent 2ouncil 4resident. Howeer, *ust as the rumors went, the
real power in the &tudent 2ouncil was the /ice 4resident and not the
4resident. +ppro(imately three hours ago, this was on #ull display in
#ront o# Tatsuya.
+#ter #ailing to conince his stubborn little sister otherwise, Tatsuya
was #orced to ac.uiesce.
:iyuki, along with one other.
The third card was handed to Honoka, who met him at the station.
This may not need to be said, but *ust as with :iyuki, no, een be#ore
:iyuki, Tatsuya neer planned on bringing Honoka along. The reason
eerything turned out like this was because Honoka was also present
when the .uestion about the access con#irmation came up in the
&tudent 2ouncil ;oom. Indeed, he could only blame himsel# #or being
careless. %n top o# that, een i# he could re#use her, he couldnt tell
her the real reason with +'usa and Isori eaesdropping on them. He
still might hae been able to deny Honokas re.uest, but he could not
go through with this a#ter :iyuki threw in her support. +dditionally,
unlike :iyuki, Honoka receied the I> card #rom Tatsuya with a
petri#ied e(pression on her #ace.
The reason he re.uested the access card was to inestigate the odd
behaiors in the JH-4QF model. )eertheless, the real reason Tatsuya
wanted to bring 4i(ie outside was to bait the 4arasites.
He knew something a#ter .uestioning 4i(ie multiple times, and that
was the 4arasites wont leae 4i(ie alone. +lthough this knowledge
was nothing more than speculation, Tatsuya had con#idence in that
line o# thinking. I# the general consensus lost contact with a
component, they should attempt to recoer that piece. Tatsuya *udged
that in order to accomplish this, they had to make contact somehow.
He had no way o# locating the 4arasites, though he didnt need to do
that actiely. D7ntil yesterday, that is. &ince 4i(ie had been possessed
by the 4arasite, he could not wash himsel# o# the whole deal. There
was a much bigger problem with handing oer 4i(ie in that state, and
when compared to all that, he wanted to wipe out the 4arasites een
more. He had originally planned on #ighting the 4arasites again, which
was precisely the reason why he asked to train with 6akumo. 4i(ie
was nothing more than the impetus that changed a reactie stance to a
more proactie one.
Tatsuya wasnt planning on taking out all the 4arasites tonight. &till,
he belieed that i# they could lure out one or two, then that would lead
to clues regarding the rest o# them.
+#ter taking into account the danger inoled with this course o#
action, Tatsuya probably should hae decisiely #orbidden :iyuki and
Honoka #rom accompanying him. In all likelihood, Tatsuya was
probably numb to the danger o# too many things.
-hile strategi'ing tonights actiities, he neer planned on proceeding
alone. 0ased on his e(periences to this point and contemplating the
necessity o# this moe, he petitioned 5rika and :ikihiko #or support.
It was only thanks to their help that he was able to allow :iyuki, who
was in the know, and Honoka, who was somewhat o# a participant, to
come along.
Airst Highs school rules re.uired students to wear their uni#orms
be#ore or a#ter class, but this restriction was li#ted when isiting the
campus at night. %n the sur#ace, this was because the I> card had a
built in transmitter so there was no need to wear a uni#orm, but in
reality, the underlying intent was to preent students #rom wandering
around on the streets a#ter hours in their uni#orm.
This was a matter o# risk aoidance D better to hae less incidents than
more incidents D #or the school. 7nderstanding this, Tatsuya complied
with that wish and wore the same combat-use *acket he usually wore.
:atching her brother, :iyuki wore a hal# coat, sweat pants, and a pair
o# high boots #or mobility.
6et, Honoka still wore her uni#orm underneath her *acket. This caused
one to ponder i# she was #ully aware o# what they were about to do
tonight, but Tatsuya wouldnt be Tatsuya i# he did something so
blatant like e(pressing that thought aloud.
Honoka, did you not go home today?
:iyuki was the one who gently asked the .uestion on her brothers
mind.
5h? )o, I did go home.
Honoka lied alone in a rented room that was much closer to school
than the siblings residence. It was #airly implausible #or her to not
hae enough time to change.
Is"" wearing a uni#orm, going to be a problem""?
-ell, its not going to be a problem"" 0ut it might be a little
inconenient.
Though scolding words were to be aoided, they were planning on
running into trouble tonight. Aurthermore, Honoka seemed to hae
missed that memo.
I# he knew this was going to happen, he should hae e(plained more
care#ully, Tatsuya thought with a hint o# regret.
%nii-sama, would it be better #or Honoka to #irst stop by her
apartment?
:iyuki wanted to dispel the glum atmosphere.
-e can wait #or her downstairs while Honoka changes.
:iyuki probably wasnt doing this to help her rial. :ost likely, she
was presenting a solution to Tatsuyas pu''lement.
Thats true. Its too late #or us to isit"" I# Honoka is %L with it,
lets go.
%# course not9 I, uh, would neer mind i# you came to isit. I# you
hae time, please drop by.
Howeer, while completely unrelated to :iyukis thoughts, this was
something that Honoka dearly wished #or.
+nd so, while this drama was playing out, the three o# them arried at
the garage #or the ;obotics 2lub. The door was locked o# course, but
things like locks were designed to be easily disabled #rom within.
Tatsuya pulled out his portable terminal and engaged short range
communications be#ore sending out a recognition signal that he
prepared ahead o# time. The response was practically immediate.
11>id you call #or me, :aster?33
+ simple doors thickness, een a heaily rein#orced armored door
that was completely out o# place on this #limsy looking e(terior, was
not going to a##ect telepathy.
%pen the door #or me.
117nderstood.33
Immediately a#ter the response, the door to the garage opened.
)ot #ar inside, the silhouette o# a doll wearing a maid uni#orm dropped
into a deep curtsey. 5en with a monster dwelling inside, the basic
behaioral modules were still actie.
%nce 4i(ie raised her head, Tatsuya remoed the #irst thing #rom the
bag.
4i(ie, put this on.
5en i# it was late at night, no, on some leel precisely because it was
late at night, there was no way they could bring her around like this 1in
her maid getup3. -hateer the case, any reason #or wearing a maid
uni#orm was no good. Aor this operation, Tatsuya #irst had to prepare a
set o# clothing #or 4i(ie.
It appeared that orders o# this e(tent did not re.uire a erbal response.
+ll o# a sudden, 4i(ie began remoing her dress.
Tatsuya treated this entire process as i# it was all a matter o# course.
This is already the second time he has seen her changing clothes
a#ter school, and since he had no interest in treating humans and dolls
in the same light, to him 4i(ie changing clothes was the same thing as
li#ting the hood on an automatic car.
%nii-sama? -hy are you *ust watching9?
Howeer, it appeared that it was a little di##icult #or :iyuki to come
around to his line o# thinking.
@ikewise, Honoka seemed to share that sentiment based on her
disapproing ga'e.
-hat are you talking about, :iyuki? 4i(ie is a robot.
+ robot that happens to be a girl9
)o, humanoid actually, and not precise enough to emulate the human
body""
<ust as Tatsuay said, the JH was designed to be a humanoid robot
indistinguishable #rom human beings a#ter putting on clothes, but
the portions and lines hidden beneath the clothes could not possibly
compare with a human #emale. The parts on a doll used #or deiant
purposes would be a little more pronounced.
The torso gae the impression o# a woman wearing a skin-colored
leotard, but that only e(tended to the waist. The portion #rom the
waist to the leg showed lines that clearly belonged on a robot, and
een wearing tights oer that could not hide the #act she wasnt
human. That was the reason why the disguise inoled a long dress.
&till, #or the two young ladies, sub*ectiity trumped ob*ectiity.
:iyuki #orcibly turned Tatsuya around while Honoka stood
protectiely between 4i(ie and the other two.
Though he #elt that this was a little ridiculous, it wasnt like he wanted
to peep. 7ntil the moment the two o# them gae the %L, Tatsuya
obediently kept his back to them.
Tatsuya, its %L now.
>espite Honokas words, Tatsuya checked :iyukis e(pression *ust in
case be#ore turning around.
The clothes that Tatsuya brought included a standard windbreaker
*acket with high elasticity as well as knee length skirt that coered the
lines.
+ scar# was wrapped twice around her neck.
+ hat to coer the #acial #eatures was not proided on purpose.
The legs were wrapped in a thick pair o# leggings and boots, which
sered to hide the #ine details while improing the purchase on the
#eet. DThese were all suggestions he took #rom the #emale o##icer
responsible #or clothing in the Independent :agic-5.uipped 0attalion.
Honoka produced a brush out o# nowhere and started organi'ing
4i(ies hair. 4i(ie didnt seem to care in the slightest as she stood there
without moing. This was declaring that, no matter how she looked on
the outside, she was *ust a doll and not a human. Tatsuya did not hae
such high demands #rom 4i(ie.
+s long as she could moe about on the streets without suspicion, that
was more than su##icient.
%n that point, 4i(ies current appearance was passable.
4i(ie, #ollow me.
+s i# declaring the onset o# hostilities, Tatsuya made this declaration
He gae a lo#ty order as i# commanding a slae.
2ompletely apathetic.
? ? ?
5rika stood in #ront o# her brothers room in a da'e.
Aor her, this was une(pected beyond the une(pected. &he couldnt
beliee she was still so weak in some areas.
+lthough she wasnt nerous when coming to her mothers house, she
still tried her utmost to aoid her #ather and older sister. There was no
con#lict with those two, but she also wanted to dodge her oldest
brother. Thank#ully, her eldest brother shouldnt hae returned at this
hour yet.
+t any rate, .uickly handling the issue and then retreating #ar away
#rom here to her own room was the best bet, so stalling in the hallways
was the worst possible choice.
&econd brother, its me, 5rika.
&he encouraged hersel# to strike up a conersation.
2ome in.
There was a tiny delay be#ore a response was heard.
The sound was neither displeased nor welcoming.
Instead, the unpleasant aura must already hae been retracted.
&triking down the urge to do an about #ace, 5rika opened the door.
-hat is it, coming here at this hour?
)aotsugu sat in a chair at the writing table. He turned in his chair and
#aced his upper body towards 5rika. Howeer, 5rika noticed that the
bed behind the writing table showed signs o# someone *ust in bed
recently.
+lthough this was the opposite situation #rom last night, 5rika didnt
open her mouth to scold him.
Theres *ust a #ew things I wanted to talk to you about.
5rikas tone was slightly hesitant.
Her change was brought about by the #orced smile that #loated across
)aotsugus #ace.
8o ahead.
)aotsugus response was a little hal#-hearted, almost as i# it was like
Ill listen *ust because its you. 6et, this didnt lesson 5rikas load in
the slightest, since something else seemed to be on his mind.
%nii-san, hae you heard o# a unit called the GHGst Independent
:agic-5.uipped 0attalion?
-hy do you know that name, 5rika?
5rika was a little hurt by )aotsugus nonchalant attitude and rallied to
utter those words, words that immediately captured all o# )aotsugus
attention.
+ctually""
%nce she got here, 5rika was again #illed with doubt, but there was no
other way to go about it.
The person %nii-san was protecting is actually my classmate, &hiba
Tatsuya-kun. He happens to be one o# the soldiers #or the Independent
:agic-5.uipped 0attalion.
-hat did you *ust say""?
5rika was trembling with hesitation, i# not outright #ear, as she said
this, to which )aotsugu was unable to hide his shock.
Im terribly sorry. %riginally, I should hae passed this along seeral
days ago when you asked, but because o# someone called :a*or
La'ama, I was unable to do so because o# a gag order related to
classi#ied national security reasons.
:a*or La'ama""? D+s in >aitengu La'ama Harunobu9?
>aitengu?
This time it was 5rikas turn to tilt her head in surprise at her brothers
words.
Aor the appropriate :agician, and also to oerawe their opponents by
bolstering their name, sometimes an e(aggerated alias was called #or,
but >aitengu was too uni.ue een #or that. It was so oerblown that
it seemed impossible.
>oes %nii-san know about :a*or La'ama?
6eah"" In #orests or mountainous terrain, he is globally
acknowledged to be one o# the #inest +ncient :agic users. @ikewise
in the realm o# paratroopers, he is still renowned as one o# the great
commanders in the country.
)aotsugus e(pression and oice were interlaced with e(citement and
awe.
>o you know the about the /ietnamese 2on#lict? In that war, the
&outh /ietnamese +rmy that was trying to wage guerilla war#are
against the 8reat +sian +lliance that was encroaching into the Indian
4eninsula and the Lorean army dispatched by the 8reat +sian
+lliance were so #ear#ul o# him that they treated him like >eath or the
deil himsel#.
7pon hearing her brothers words, 5rika knew that he had #orgotten
eerything in #ront o# him and merely sighed as i# to say -hat am I
going to do with you""
:any were those who martyred themseles on the path to glory by
going that e(tra mile. :aybe one day, this sort o# thinking will drie
this country to destruction. 5en though this wasnt something that a
young woman like her should consider, 5rika couldnt help but ponder
this in her head.
;umor has it that the Independent :agic-5.uipped 0attalion is under
:a*or La'amas direct command"" In that light, all o# these rumors
that smack o# urban legends make sense. Aurthermore, i# &hiba
Tatsuya-kun is a member o# that out#it, then that power unbe#itting his
age could also be e(plained.
<ust as 5rika seemed to be lost in her own world, )aotsugu also
appeared to be talking to himsel#.
Thanks to this, 5rikas attention was drawn back to her original goal.
%nii-san, I made contact with :a*or La'ama during the 6okohama
Incident. I# not #or that emergency, I may not hae been able to
stumble across &hiba-kuns secret. 5en then, I #elt that this was a
huge secret.
HmS"" The Independent :agic-5.uipped 0attalion carries all the
characteristics o# black ops. Haing a high school student *oined them
as an irregular must contain a ery special reason.
I broke regulations by in#orming %nii-san about &hiba-kuns
situation, so please keep that in mind.
In other words, 5rika is telling me to stop poking into his a##airs,
correct?
Indeed. The #allout #rom poking that hornets nest should be
something that not only %nii-san, but the 2hiba Aamily as a whole
would want to aoid. @ikewise, that nest may contain a giant swarm o#
poisonous hornets.
Hm"" Thats true, you hae a point there, 5rika. Howeer,
although hes a student, I belong to the army. I cannot disobey a direct
order.
Then, can you pretend to obey orders? I# you pretend to be his guard,
then under situations where he gets attacked, then you can appear and
sei'e control o# the situation.
I see"" I understand. Then lets proceed along these lines.
""Aortunately, she was able to conince her brother without
dropping the name 6otsuba. 2oncealing her uneasy e(pression,
5rika bowed and le#t )aotsugus room without catching his eye.
+#ter returning to her own room, 5rika read the message that was
#lashing on the in#ormation terminal atop her desk be#ore murmuring
+oyama 2emetery, eh? &he didnt sit in the chair directly and
immediately peeled o## her clothes and threw them aside. This was not
something a young lady should be doing, but she was also taking this
opportunity to get rid o# the depression she #elt while trying to
conince )aotsugu.
+#ter putting on the composite rubber under armor with bulletproo#,
anti-piercing and other .ualities, she put on a leather biker *acket and
shorts. &he wore protectors that did not disrupt her mobility oer her
knees and pulled a pair o# clothes oer her hands that had thin,
composite #ibers oer the palm and #inger areas. +#ter eri#ying the
contents in her *acket pocket, 5rika picked up her weapons and headed
#or the threshold. The shorts and long rubber boots appearance highly
suited her #iery appearance, but her destination wasnt the night li#e.
)ot #ar #rom her, 5rikas personal guard awaited her. In this recent
ampire incident, they were the core elements o# the 2hiba Aamilys
personnel and sered as 5rikas hands and #eet in this operation.
2ome.
5rika coldly uttered those words.
6et no trace o# displeasure was shown by the men as they #ollowed in
her #ootsteps.
? ? ?
Honokas place was a single person apartment #or rent. The total area
was supposed to be G @>L, but with a small dining area in the
kitchen, the total area was less than G @>L.
5en with the liing room and bedroom separated #rom one another,
this was something that was absolutely re.uired #or young girls. 5en
i# the boy was Tatsuya, she wasnt willing #or someone to open the
door and immediately get a glimpse o# her bedroom.
In the liing room, Tatsuya was en*oying tea with :iyuki. 4i(ie had
been halted #rom e(ecuting her routine behaioral pattern when
Honoka #rantically prepared tea in time.
The coarse tea that was brought out was likely Honokas personal
#aorite.
Honoka hersel# was changing in her room. The soundproo#ing was
e(cellent, but #or some reason, there appeared to be some sort o#
nerous aura emanating #rom Honokas side. %# course, the siblings
knew that #eigning obliiousness here was what propriety demanded.
-hen they #inally caught sight o# Honoka, the siblings *ust #inished
the tea.
&orry #or the wait9
Aull o# igor, Honoka appeared dressed in the pretty much the same
#ashion as :iyuki.
Her upper body was coered by a large hal# coat. 0eneath the *acket, a
sweater with a high collar could be seen. Howeer, the bottom hal#
was not coered by sweats but a combination o# mini-dress and thick-
soled shoes. Her skirt had a circular hem and her shoes were the type
that reealed her ankles due to the heels.
The skirts length was per#ectly coered by the large hal# coat, which
gae the impression that she wasnt wearing anything under the coat.
This was a getup that was sure to draw attention D rather, this was a
getup that was supposed to catch the eyes o# boys.
&till, it wasnt without any practicality. Honokas leggings retained
heat ery well and the #abric was woen with #ibers that improed
durability. Tatsuya knew that the same type o# #ibers were used #or
*ackets deployed in combat operations. +#ter e(amining her #rom head
to toe, he nodded lightly.
-ell then, lets be o##.
There was no way to tell how Honoka interpreted Tatsuyas nodding
motion, but her smile was #it to melt as she tagged behind him.
In her hair, she wore the pair o# crystals Tatsuya brought her. 0oth
Tatsuya and :iyuki as well as Honoka hersel# missed the brie#
instance where 4i(ie was drawn to that #lash o# light.
%nii-sama, where are we o## to now?
+#ter getting their tickets and boarding the escalator to the station,
:iyuki posed this .uestion to Tatsuya a#ter seeing that no one was
about. :iyuki would #ollow him regardless o# where their destination
was, but that did not mean she cared not where they were going.
+oyama 2emetery.
Honoka was the same in terms o# interest, but her #ace paled at
Tatsuyas response. Taking the hour into consideration, #aor and trust
were two di##erent things, but there was nothing to be done. %nly a
decidedly small minority among young ladies would be able to
emulate :iyukis ability to not bat an eyelid.
+ test o# courage in the wrong season"" could not possibly be the
reason. Is it something like ghosts or demons will appear there?
How astute o# you.
Though care#ully controlled, Tatsuya seemed to be slightly pleased
a#ter con#irming his sisters speculation.
)aturally. Thats because its something %nii-sama is thinking
about.
In e(cellent spirits, :iyuki replied back with a smile.
This pricked something in the depths o# Honokas heart.
7m, Tatsuya, isnt the place closed at this time""?
Two days ago, she may hae endured the pain and wilted.
Howeer, on that eening two days ago, her close #riends power#ul
encouragement reerberated in Honokas consciousness, no, her heart.
&tanding on the higher step o# the escalator, Honoka inter*ected
hersel# into the conersation.
:iyuki wore an +ra? e(pression, but Tatsuya seemed unru##led.
-e should be able to enter, though its not like we would be
hampered een i# we could not enter. &o long as we get close, they
should come out and meet us. Thats the reason we brought 4i(ie
along.
The results o# 4i(ies interrogation told Tatsuya that the other 4arasites
were unlikely to accept her current e(istence.
Aor li#e #orms that synchroni'ed with other creatures, a 4i(ie who had
lost the drie #or reproduction was something to be eliminated.
&ince their numbers were so #ew, they should attempt to retriee her
#rom that mechanical prison. %nce the two #undamental impulses like
sel#-de#ense and species preseration kicked in, then their plan o#
action should be .uite similar to humans.
5en i# were about to get caught, Im sure Honoka would do
something, right?
Her %ptical 2amou#lage ability was not mere rumors but something
that Tatsuya had personally witnessed. Tatsuya also knew that this was
a power#ul, high leel techni.ue that was #ar beyond the 7&)+
militarys support personnel to imitate with their >ark 2urtain.
Honoka was a :agician who could entirely shroud her presence.
That being said, this was *ust a turn o# the phrase #or Tatsuya. In
reality, Tatsuya neer considered the possibility that they would be
#orced to obscure themseles.
Howeer.
Tatsuya also didnt #ully comprehend something else.
Honoka was going to take that *oke o# his completely seriously.
@eae it to me.
Thanks to the titanic misunderstanding Tatsuya created, Honoka was
now completely #ired up and bursting with con#idence as she replied
back in a warm tone while patting her chest.
? ? ?
@ocated underground beneath a medium-si'ed building within a
corner o# Ichigaya, the <&>A Intelligence Jrd >iision set up their
head.uarters.
I# the main o##ice located in the >epartment o# >e#ense was a #aUade
#or the central head.uarters #or the <&>As intelligence work, then this
basement was undeniably one o# the central head.uarters hiding
behind that mask. &ince this was central head.uarters, re#erring to it
was one o# the seemed a little odd, but this was the product o# risk
management to preent a crisis like being paraly'ed with the #all o#
head.uarters #rom occurring.
%# course, this caused seeral serious side e##ects that came with the
territory with being an irregular organi'ation and le#t great #laws.
It was only natural #or an intelligence organi'ation to hae a side
where the right hand has no idea what the le#t hand is doing, but this
was incredibly blatant here. @acking initiatie was still e(cusable, but
with each department haing their own patron, it was also true that
each #ollowed their own special interests to the point o# disunity.
The <&>A intelligence diisions contained ma*or unity issues.
The obseration target is moing towards the center o# the city.
Target is accompanied by the sister and two others.
The sponsor o# this basement came #rom one o# the primary #inancial
groups in the #ield o# electronics manu#acturing and at the same time
was the second largest military supplier in the country. Aurthermore,
this group was deeply entwined with the &aegusa Aamily, to the point
that the statement could be made that the real patrons o# the Jrd
>iision was actually the &aegusa Aamily. 2urrently, they were
#ollowing the will o# the head o# the &aegusa Aamily and not in
concert with the &aegusa and <uumon*i +lliance spearheaded by
:ayumi and company.
2omparing images on #ile"" %ne o# them is a 6ear G student at the
)ational :agic 7niersity +##iliated Airst High, :itsui Honoka.
2lassmate, eh. -hat an odd interest, bringing the sister along on a
date.
The tone that belonged to the man who appeared to be in charge
sounded mocking, but #rom a di##erent perspectie, it may hae also
sounded a little biased.
The other person is".. )o, not a human. @ooks to be a Humanoid
Home Helper #rom the 4QF series.
+ H+; model? -here do they plan on going with that in tow? Hae
we gotten into the ehicles guidance system?
&ir, the protection is ery stout"" :y terrible apologies9
In response to his subordinates practically tear#ul reply, the one in
command did not issue any more reprimands. He understood ery
well that i# the public transportation system could be so easily hacked,
then terrorism would run rampant in the streets.
2hie#, the ehicle that the target is on board has changed direction.
+kasaka"" )o, +oyama?
The chie# murmured as he watched the monitor display the estimated
destination #or the a#orementioned ehicle be#ore issuing new orders.
>ispatch agents disguised as police to the +oyama Tunnel. Aake an
arrest on charges o# the target using magic and capture them.
+mid the replies o# the order being acknowledged and being
trans#erred to arious receiers, the chie# continued to obsere the
monitor.
? ? ?
2olonel /irginia was stretched out in e(haustion in the rented
apartment 1more like condominium3 #ully e.uipped with #urniture that
the embassy rented #or e(tended stays.
Though it was only a temporary command center, they had still been
breached. In addition, despite the battle had not concluded on a
kidnapping, they still put on a shame#ul display o# being le#t adri#t
until another nations essel rescued them. This was a huge blow
against her record and #uture career.
&urprisingly, the o##icers #rom the homeland stationed at the embassy
#ailed to blame her. This disgrace e(tended #ar beyond her alone and
included the special #orces dispatched as guards #or the temporary
command center and the nay belonging to the sei'ed essel 1#or that
matter, the 7&)+ nays pride su##ered an een more grieous blow
than she did3, so she knew that it was impossible #or them to blame
her.
Howeer, een beyond that, she still had the energy #or #urther
rumination.
6et, she was unable to deny that they had su##ered a huge de#eat.
It was only a#ter she raised her head at the une(pected ringing o# the
speaker phone that she noticed it was late into the night.
&he een heard the #emale o##icer on guard duty answer the phone.
/irginias ears detected a sharp intake o# breath #rom the #emale
o##icer.
5(cuse me.
The #ootsteps that approached the room she occupied as well as the
oice that re.uested permission to enter had both been knocked askew
out o# shock.
2ome in.
/irginia ad*usted her posture and mentally reminded hersel# to speak
clearly. &he could not allow her subordinates to witness her weakened
state D her brand o# leadership inoled not inesting additional
interpretations and emotions.
The door to the room was care#ully opened. + tall young woman in
#ull uni#orm saluted be#ore her eyes. Her guard was selected #or
martial prowess oer appearance or o##icial record and possessed
superlatie ability and courage. Indeed, /irginia rated her highly
enough that she belieed that last nights outcome may hae been
di##erent had she been present at her side.
)onetheless D she currently stood there sti##ly and pale-#aced.
Aeeling that something was awry, /irginia rose #rom the so#a.
-hat is it?
&omeone has re.uested to meet you #ace to #ace, 2olonel.
-hat""?
/irginia residing at this location was highly classi#ied. I# someone
#rom the military 1#rom the 7&)+ military3 came to see her, her guard
wouldnt be so #lustered. @ikewise #or anyone #rom the embassy. In
other words, the isitor had broken through the 7&)+ militarys
in#ormation lockdown and was an outsider who knew that she was
here and re.uested an audience.
7nwilling to een issue orders to her sergeant, /irginia manipulated
the remote hersel# to put on the display #rom the main liing room.
The image that was re#lected contained a poor young girl wearing
elegant lace with a curious e(pression on her #ace.
This utterly astounding sight caused /irginia to #ree'e #or a solid N
seconds.
""-ho the heck is that?
/irginia #inally rebooted her consciousness and detected the two
sturdy men standing behind the young girl. %ne o# them care#ully
carried what must be the young girls coat, so they must sering her,
or een guardians.
The person that these people who were plainly no ordinary plebeians
were guarding was most likely that young girl o# tender age.
>espite knowing that she should be on guard, /irginia could #eel her
sense o# reality being eroded.
Her name is +yako Luroba.
The sergeant spoke. 5en /irginia could not #ault her gulping motion
a#ter hearing the ne(t #ew words.
&he claims to be an emissary #rom the 6otsuba Aamily.
How wonder#ul it is to meet you, :s. /irginia. :y name is +yako
Luroba. 4ardon my intrusion, but today I come on behal# o# the
6otsuba Aamily.
The young girl greeted /irginia in #luent 5nglish.
Howeer, she discarded any military re#erences to superior o##icers.
8ien her per#ect grasp o# the 5nglish language, it was impossible to
beliee that she was un#amiliar with those terms.
In short, this was intentional.
0roadcasting her own name and surname was likely also intentional.
I am 2olonel /irginia 0alance, 7&)+ :ilitary <oint 2hie#s o# &ta##.
5(cuse my rudeness, but I wanted to ask something prior to our
conersation.
+ra, what is it? I will answer i# I am able.
&he was likely younger than :a*or &irius, but this young girl #ar
outstripped her at the negotiation table.
Though still immature, she was still superior to the 7&)+ :ilitary
High 2ommander with all o# her e(periences.
This was no simple girl be#ore her eyes. /irginia care#ully engraed
that in her heart.
6ou said 6otsuba Aamily"" +re you re#erring to that 6otsuba?
&he spoke in an abstract #unction *ust in case that there was an error.
Howeer, in regards to this ague line o# .uestioning, the young girl
laughed merrily.
Indeed, that 6otsuba. Today, I come on behal# o# 6otsuba :aya, head
o# the 6otsuba among the Ten :aster 2lans with a re.uest.
5en though she was mentally prepared that this wasnt a mistake,
simply accepting such a boldly stated truth was no easy task.
The 6otsuba o# <apan.
Aor those who walked with magic, this was the untouchable land.
5specially #or people who wielded magic #or military purposes.
They were not like :a*or &irius in that one person bore the absolute
destructie might to challenge an army.
The e(istence o# the 6otsuba Aamily lay in the entirely opposite
direction.
;ight now 1at least #or now3, they were subserient to the <apanese
goernment, but i# they suddenly morphed into terrorists, they were
held as indiiduals who could pull the trigger on -orld -ar I/.
%n the magic side, #or such a 'ealous organi'ation, they were not
raised up as something worthy o# respect, but o# complete and utter
#ear.
;e.uest, is it?
Indeed. I sincerely hope that you will hear me out.
-hat is it?
It was only now that /irginia noticed that they had not sered tea.
Howeer, this was #ar too late to o##er re#reshments.
/irginia concentrated all o# her #ocus on what the young girl was
about to say.
Then please e(cuse me. -e would like to use :s. /irginias hand to
halt the inter#erence on our countrys :agicians.
""""
There was no need to say this, but inter#erence re#erred to clandestine
operation she was in command o#. The inestigation and protection 1in
short, abduction3 o# <apans undisclosed &trategic-class :agician as
well as his or her nulli#ication 1assassination3. %# course, she had
anticipated that this girls re.uest D the 6otsubas demand. In
essence, this was the most likely outcome.
6et, to hear someone utter a phrase #ar coarser than please stop in
their re.uest temporarily robbed her o# the ability to respond.
:s. /irginia, you appear to be someone who understands what sort
o# system my countrys Ten :aster 2lans is.
To put it plainly, i# you dont know then I will tell you. Irked by that
tone, /irginia nodded her head at the same time. There was no point in
playing dumb.
%ur head, 6otsuba :aya, dislikes your meddling. 6our country and
mine are allies, and neither wishes to sow the seeds o# war.
""Is that a threat? 6ou will open #ire i# we do not stop?
+yako neglected to reply to /irginias .uery and once again laughed
merrily.
:s. /irginia, was last night rest#ul?
&o you were the ones who did that9?
0y the time she caught hersel#, /irginia had already risen #rom the
so#a and leaned #orward.
I# the table was any smaller, she may hae already sei'ed the young
girls collar.
-hat are you re#erring to? I only asked because I thought that your
comple(ion was a little unhealthy, thats all.
Though her words were out o# concern, no trace o# that emotion could
be detected on her #eatures.
The young girl continued to smile. &he made no attempt to hide the
#ace that signi#ied she had complete con#idence that she knew
eerything.
:s. /irginia, please calm down. I# possible, we would like to #orm a
#riendly relationship with you, :s. /irginia.
6ou dare to say a #riendly relationship""?
:aybe it was only because the young girl oiced it aloud, but /irginia
reali'ed that capturing her now at this point in time would pose no
bene#it whatsoeer. This only sered to in#uriate /irginia #urther as
she sat back down.
:s. /irginia is well aware o# the 6otsubas power. @ikewise, we too
understand :s. /irginias power ery well.
Her emotions were about as dark as possible, but logic commanded
/irginia to listen to the young girls words.
The young girl who claimed to speak on behal# o# the head o# the
6otsuba was not talking about the 7&)+ militarys strength or the
might o# &tars, but saying she knew about /irginias power.
That meant""
%ur head said that i# :s. /irginia can arrange #or this incident to end
here, we will neer #orget this personal #aor that you hae bestowed
on us. +lso, our head said that should there be an opportunity in the
#uture, we would like to lend :s. /irginia a hand as well.
This was certainly a tempting o##er.
I# she was on personal terms with the 6otsuba, then she had more
than enough to reclaim her lost position in the military and then some.
&he had personally tested their prowess the night be#ore.
+s usual, the young girl maintained her smile.
+#ter weighing both sides on a scale, logic won. DThe side o# logic
named ambition.
2olonel /irginia, #aced with a deils contract in the #orm o# a
beauti#ul young girl, decided to sign.
? ? ?
+long the way #rom +oyama &tation to the street side walkway,
Tatsuya #elt the eyes #astidiously obsering him the entire time.
Aurthermore, it wasnt *ust one or two. 0ased on his conersation with
Hayama be#ore leaing the house, Tatsuya had already predicted that
he was going to be under obseration. That being said, the amount o#
personnel heartily inested into this enture surpassed his
e(pectations.
They may be aware o# the siblings connection to the 6otsuba Aamily
or were merely in the guessing phase, but it was also possible that this
large #orce was deployed to ward against the 6otsuba Aamily #rom
interening.
In the end, een with the support o# the &aegusa Aamily, Tatsuya did
not beliee that this national intelligence group would dare incur the
wrath o# the 6otsuba Aamily directly.
&o they dont care about the 6otsuba Aamily"" Internal +##airs,
4ublic &a#ety, and the Intelligence >epartment should hae been
aware o# the incident that embroiled the siblings mother and aunt in
their youth. 2ompletely uncaring o# the #act that they could be drawn
into a rampage o# reenge heedless o# the target, there was utterly
incredible that they could hae #orgotten such a harsh reminder in the
last EH to JH years. )ot to say the might o# the 6otsuba Aamily D
might that hinted at in#luence but was more along the lines o#
iolence D was #ar greater now than it was in the past.
Tatsuya curtailed his train o# thought there. )ew eyes were added to
the mi( that were obsering him.
)ew, alien, eyes.
Those were the ga'e that came #rom inhuman, monstrous eyes.
Aor pro#essional intelligence o##icers, being ordered to obsere three
high school students and a single H+; model certainly de#lated those
receiing the orders, but still went along with it belieing that there
was no other recourse.
-ith the e(perience underneath their belt, they also had a side where
they were increasingly going easy on the target. There were a #ew
among them who always gae it their all under any circumstance and
neer let down their guard while diligently handling their task, but
despite the similarities between going easy and sloth, they were
#undamentally di##erent.
-hile going easy bears a somewhat negatie impression, this was also
a matter o# pacing onesel#. There was no need to inest all GHHP when
a mere NHP could get the *ob done.
2ompared to the usual GHHP, this missions di##iculty only re.uired
NHP o# their power to accomplish, so they only used NHP. Though
they might be a little slow o## the draw in the beginning, in the end,
they still managed to accomplish more things. Habit was also an
ability.
Howeer, it was also true that there were adantages as well as
disadantages.
Aor the elite intelligence agents mas.uerading as police o##icers,
shadowing and obseration were their most common tasks. They
relied on their bounti#ul e(perience to selectiely #ocus their attention,
hereby creating an opening.
The mission they receied was to immediately #ake an arrest when the
obseration target used magic and thus subdue and abduct them.
Aor this, they were issued measuring deices to detect magic.
Howeer, the change on the deice only occurred directly a#ter a cry
o# alarm put eeryone on guard.
--The mens ision were assailed by a tide o# #lashing lights.
+ thoroughly une(pected pre-emptie strike.
+ hostile act utterly without precursor.
Their will to retaliate was submerged beneath the roiling waes o#
those #lashing lights.
Tatsuya-kun, I hae caused the people obsering us to #all asleep.
8ood work.
&eeing an elated Honoka report her accomplishment, een Tatsuya
#ound it hard to preent his #ace #rom becoming oerly sti##.
The alien ga'es were drawing closer. Inhuman"" )o doubt about it,
it was the 4arasite. -ith them as opponents, human obserers were
too great a hassle.
7sing magic at will on the open streets was illegal in the #irst place.
+nyone who eyed someone else with such dogged persistence could
not possibly be the aerage ciilian or real public serants, which only
compounded the di##iculty because their usage o# magic was not
authori'ed. The reason why Tatsuya communicated the location o# the
obserers to his companions was to warn them against using magic
hapha'ardly prior to shaking o## their pursuers.
In truth, Tatsuya was going to say it aloud.
2ompared to that, howeer, Honokas actions outstripped him in
speed.
5en i# were about to get caught, Im sure Honoka would do
something, right?
Honoka had made a rather broad interpretation to Tatsuyas phrase. In
reality, her heart #airly sang that This is the #irst time Tatsuya is
asking my assistance9
&ince there was always a side o# her that tended to daydream, neither
Tatsuya nor :iyuki ob*ected to this, but it was een greater today than
usual.
+s a :agician, @ight-based magic was Honokas specialty. &he was
particularly adept at manipulating light.
+#ter in.uiring the obserers location #rom Tatsuya, she used the
magni#ication o# light re#raction to eri#y this be#ore suddenly
unleashing a brilliant #lare o# light be#ore her opponents eyes.
0rainwashing magic, the light o# 5il 5ye.
-hen Tatsuya noticed this, he was seriously getting worried.
&ince he had hinted #or her to simply let them sleep, Tatsuya had
allowed her to actiate her magic, though to be brutally honest, he
wasnt con#ident that this was the right decision. :agic that contained
hypnotic e##ects was *udged to be the same leel as magic that brought
direct harm to the physical body and was considered to be an innately
icious magic.
I# they had been caught by real policemen, then they wouldnt *ust be
let o## with a warning. +dolescence would not spare them #rom real
punishment D something along the lines o# using magic #or
community serice.
The magic she used was the same as the leader #rom the 0lanche
terrorists, but both her speed and accuracy #ar surpassed him though
she had e(ecuted it against F di##erent people.
0eing capable o# using 5il 5ye was something praiseworthy, but
Tatsuya immediately #elt that they needed to relocate .uickly.
@ets get out o# here be#ore their companions arrie.
+s e(pected, bringing Honoka along was a complete disaster""
Ainally reali'ing this, Tatsuya .uietly in#ormed his other companion.
? ? ?
-hat a troublesome young lady""
+s she watched the monitor #or the obseration system along the
streets D primarily composed o# street cameras, there were also
deices to detect poisonous gases, illegal high e##iciency electric
waes and the psion detectors #or unauthori'ed usage o# magic,
Au*ibayashi couldnt help but sigh.
Thats still a wonder#ul techni.ue. I# I recall correctly, she is called
:itsui Honoka, correct?
The oice that came #rom behind her spoke solely on the meritorious
alue o# a :agician.
In regards her grand#athers words that bore no ulterior meaning,
Au*ibayashi sighed again.
Thats true, &o#u-sama. &he is a 6ear G student #rom Airst High,
:itsui Honoka.
2ould the :itsui who e(cel in that system o# magic belong to the
bloodline carries the 5lement o# @ight?
That remains unknown. &hould I inestigate?
%h hardly, theres no need to inestigate speci#ically #or that reason.
-hen asked by his granddaughter, 5lder Ludou chuckled happily and
shook his head.
&peaking o# which"" Though the outstanding indiiduals hae
been called outstanding and the uni.ue hae been labeled uni.ue, he
certainly has a group o# #ascinating people gathered around him.
)ot *ust on abilities alone. There are .uite a #ew children with
interesting personalities as well.
2asually throwing out those insulting words, Au*ibayashi slipped on a
pair o# thin gloes #or calculation purposes be#ore her #ingers came
into contact with the touchscreen and danced oer the controls.
The obseration system based on system alone was stubborn in both
so#tware and hardware, but in comparison, operation was a piece o#
cake. 7nrestricted recordings could easily be taken adantage o# by
malicious indiiduals or those lurking in the depths o# the
goernment. %nce restricted to being operated by hand, such a
ponderous obseration system would be too di##icult to manipulate.
Including this ampire incident, in order to be aboe blame #or any
use o# magic, a #ew actions were re.uired to ensure that select portions
o# the data were not le#t #or the &aegusa and 2hiba Aamilies.
:ayumi was responsible #or the leading in#ormation control, but with
the e(ams coming up, her task was delegated to Au*ibayashi.
Howeer, Au*ibayashis approach was to e(clude all others and
operate the controls hersel#. 7nlike :ayumi, Au*ibayashi was also
working to hide the #act that the daughter o# the &aegusa Aamilys
head was being used as a cats paw, since she knew that the head was
secretly obsering all o# this behind his daughters back. Lnowing the
reason #or it, so there was no way she could leae this task to others.
&ince she was not operating as a hacker and as a legitimate operator o#
the system, this was easier on her than usual, but at the same time she
#elt a little out o# whack behind the controls.
&till, there was nothing she could do about that.
&ince she was #iguratiely being relied upon and realistically doing
her duty, she could go about as she pleased like she typically would.
)ot to mention the #act that her grand#ather was right behind her.
0oth she and the one who sent her 1in other words, the one who
planned #or her substitution3 were not e(pecting 5lder Ludou to be
obsering here.
+s to why he was here, Au*ibayashi wasnt going to ask that.
Though he was her grand#ather, they were not that close. +s a member
#rom the Au*ibayashi Aamily, she had taken heed not to e(press any
close relationship with the elder o# the Ludou Aamily.
In addition, i# sparks did #ly between the &aegusa and 6otsuba
Aamilies, it would be unsurprising #or Ludou ;etsu to act and put out
the #lames.
Au*ibayashi Lyoukos grand#ather was one o# the #ew priy to &hiba
Tatsuyas real identity.
&hould I say birds o# a #eather #lock together"" %r maybe theyre
cut #rom the same cloth. ;egardless, he is de#initely a star who is a #ar
cry #rom being normal.
Indeed. @ooks like the manipulated might actually turn out to be the
manipulator.
Au*ibayashi *oined in as she continued to watch the monitor.
I# she turned to see her grand#athers #ace, then she may hae noticed
the deeper meaning behind his words.
Howeer, she #ailed to do so.
0irds o# a #eather. 2entered round the Independent :agic-5.uipped
0attalion headed by La'ama, she was also included among that
number. )eertheless, whether #ortunate or un#ortunate, her
grand#athers message was not passed along to the granddaughter.
? ? ?
<ust as they e(pected, they could not enter +oyama 2emetery.
&till, there was no need to do so.
+long the high wall built a#ter the war 1a tactic employed against
disrespect#ul people snapping pictures o# the dead3, the three
#ashionable 1?3 youngsters and one machine were taking a walk at
night when they detected auras approaching #rom the #ront and back.
11:aster, three 4arasites are coming.33
Tatsuya stopped upon hearing 4i(ies telepathy.
The reason why they used telepathy instead o# the bodys speakers
was to draw in the 4arasites.
He had also ordered 4i(ie to telepathically communicate with :iyuki
and Honoka.
+t pretty much the same time Tatsuya halted, the two girls also came
to a stop and drew near Tatsuyas sides.
Though the two o# them were una#raid, their #aces betrayed their
unease.
Tatsuya himsel# was not be immune to an(iety, so he was not
displeased with their attitude.
+s prearranged, Tatsuya pressed the button on his terminal that
actiated the beacon. Through the 84&, he located his position and
passed it along to 5rika and :ikihiko. Immediately, they would hasten
towards here with the members o# the 2hiba Aamily in tow. %nce they
had prepared their ambush as planned, they would start capturing the
4arasites.
&till, based on their opponents situation, Tatsuya was #iguring on
waiting #or rein#orcements.
Tatsuya pulled his #aored siler machine #rom a pocket on the le#t
side. His right hand carried the pistol-shaped &peciali'ed 2+>
Trident as he naturally allowed his hands to dri#t downwards,
waiting #or humans possessed by demons to approach.
+s i# protecting Tatsuyas back, :iyuki stood there with her back to
him and a terminal-shaped 2+> in her hand. 4ressing her right hand
to the bracelet-shaped 2+> worn on her le#t hand, Honoka stood at
Tatsuyas side as she altered between looking #orward and back.
&eeing these trustworthy silhouettes around him, Tatsuya
unconsciously smiled.
In a thoroughly une(pected area, his an(iety eased.
The source o# his an(iety was that he was worried about putting these
two girls in danger.
%nce he reali'ed that there was nothing to worry about #or these two,
his an(iety dissipated.
&ettling himsel#, he directed his ga'e toward the area illuminated by
the street lights.
Three #igures walked towards them. Their #ootsteps were #ree o#
hesitation. <ust as 4i(ie had said, the 4arasites appeared to hae #ound
4i(ies location.
)either side #ired the #irst shot as both sides shrank the distance
between them een #urther.
-hen they came within range o# identi#ying their clothing, the two o#
the 4arasites came to a halt.
The last remaining one continued to plod #orward towards Tatsuya.
+s their #eatures became less murky, the sense o# awkwardness grew
steadily.
The source o# this awkwardness was swi#tly unraeled.
That was because the in#ormation presented by the eyes was di##erent
#rom the in#ormation relayed by the skin.
He wore a plain windbreaker coat and striped pants. The coat was
unable to hide the physi.ue and the #ace was not coered. 5yes,
mouth, ears, hands, and #eet all did not e(ceed normal parameters.
>espite being plainly human in appearance, there was no aura o#
humanity. &o this was what a demonic aura truly was.
+s Tatsuya care#ully scrutini'ed the target, the gap between him and
4arasite continued to close, until they were close enough to hear each
others oice and see each others e(pression.
&hiba Tatsuya, we need to speak with you.
&ince Tatsuya was not planning on speaking, it was within his scenario
#or the other side to initiate communications. This was a stable
situation #or a conersation 1wording was another problem altogether3,
so eerything was still within e(pected boundaries.
&till, the other side calling out his name came as somewhat o# a shock.
-hat should I re#er to you as?
In reply, this was how Tatsuya responded.
)o words came #rom the open mouth belonging to the man possessed
by the 4arasite. This sort o# blank staring was actually .uite human-
like, Tatsuya thought. The personality may hae been taken oer, but
the emotional base remained unaltered.
:aybe, using the term taken oer may be erroneous. 0ased on the
in#ormation he got #rom 4i(ie, 4arasites only carried the original
consciousness. 4ut it another way, this was as #ar as their emotions
could deelop. It was possible that the 4arasites sense o# sel# had not
taken oer the human host, but had merged with the human to create a
new personality. Tatsuya renewed his own understanding.
:arte.
In regards to the contemplatie Tatsuya, the 4arasite gae this concise
answer. In regards to how to re#er to him, he had replied to this
.uestion with his own name. Tatsuya knew enough to know that this
was either the &panish or Italian word #or :ars.
That made sense. Though they had a #luent grasp o# <apanese that may
be misleading, closer inspection reealed that their #acial structure was
that o# 2aucasians. Haing neer lied out o# the country, Tatsuya
only had a theoretical grasp, but the man be#ore his eyes appeared to
carry distinctie #eatures #ound on @atinos in +merica. His name was
a call sign, no, there was an OHP or QHP chance that was a call sign,
so re#erring to onesel# as :arte wasnt surprising.
Howeer, Tatsuya was unaware that there were 4lanet and &atellite
2lasses within the organi'ation called &tars. He assumed that the title
o# &tars was the literal de#inition o# a #i(ed star. Thus, he only
understood that :ars re#erred to the 4lanet-2lass :agician :arte
within &tars, and not the hosts *ealousy, obsession, and eny that
came within someone #rom the 4lanet-2lass who trained to be a
substitute but still #ailed to be one o# the &tars.
&o, :r. :arte, or should I re#er to you as &enor :arte? -hat do you
need to talk about?
There was no deeper meaning behind that .uestion. Aor Tatsuya,
:arte was nothing but a simple label.
-hich was why he #ound his opponent being enraged by this mere
words, he only though this was because the man had been cut o##.
Thats :ister, 0oy.
+#ter being re#erred to as 0oy by the 4arasite named :arte, Tatsuya
#elt that the mans attempt to ridicule him was a clear sign he was
losing his composure.
-ell, what is it?
In order to continue biding time, Tatsuya didnt care that he had to
continue this proocation, but since his comrades were getting #idgety,
he elected to push the conersation #orward.
""&hiba Tatsuya. -e bear no ill will towards you all.
Aor :r. :arte, it appeared that calling him by his #ull name was
more appropriate than re#erring to him as 0oy.
&till, that detail was unimportant to Tatsuya 1he neer anticipated any
oertures toward politeness3.
Thats a little too ague #or me to understand. -ho is this we you
speak o#? -ho are you re#erring to and what do you mean by ill will?
2ompared to that, what the other side was trying to coney was #ar
more critical.
=Arom this point #orward, we >emons do not plan on any hostile
action towards you <apanese :agicians.
1&o they call themseles demons......3
)ot deil, ghost, or specter, but demon. This was how they saw their
own e(istence. &ince he neer heard that term #rom 4i(ie, they must
hae discussed be#orehand to decide a term that humans can re#er to
them as.
Tatsuya wanted to break into a wry chuckle because he knew that
there were people who re#erred to his >ecomposition :agic as
>emon ;ight. The primary reason #or that was because he usually
actiated his >ecomposition :agic at whateer his right arm pointed
to, but he was not endeared to the 4arasites because o# this.
&o? Is there anything else?
In regards to the short comment #rom the 4arasite known as :arte 1the
sel#-proclaimed >emon3, Tatsuya also had a #ew things he wanted to
say.
0ut #irst, it was probably best #or the other side to #inish speaking
#irst.
+s the price #or keeping us #rom seeing you as enemies, we hope that
you will turn that robot oer to us.
Tatsuya must hae imagined 4i(ies body shiering. +#ter all, a robot
had nothing to do with biological reactions.
""I say, :r. :arte. 4lease elaborate a little more on that. 5en i# I
gae her to you, why do you want her? I cant answer that i# you dont
e(plain it clearly.
I dont think I need to e(plain, do I? 6ou are the ones who should
hae no reason to protect that robot.
-e will decide whether there is a reason or not.
:arte #rowned upon hearing Tatsuyas response. +#ter considering
that his physical appearance and age were di##erent, that displeased
e(pression wasnt that strange any more.
""Its in order to #ree our companion trapped within that robot.
Hearing this, Tatsuya intentionally tilted his head.
&o a robot cant be a host?
:artes e(pression grew solemn.
I dont know how you guys think, but we are li#e #orms. Aurthermore,
our connection with each other #ar surpasses you humans. In regards
to saing a companion who is a li#e #orm but trapped with a li#eless
essel, is that something that is beyond you humans to grasp?
Howeer, both the oice and tone were both reined in.
)o, I can understand.
Tatsuya answer was *ust as decisie. 6et in this instance, :artes
answer was much like what he learned #rom 4i(ie earlier and could
not rouse Tatsuyas interest. Arom another perspectie, that also meant
4i(ies words were trustworthy. The .uestion and answer phase could
stop here, Tatsuya thought as he continued to speak in order to buy
time #or the trap to be prepared.
0ut, how will you go about that?
>estroy the body. %nce the host has been lost, then another host can
be #ound.
I see"" &o thats how it is. 4i(ie, do you wish to be #reed #rom
there?
11I do not, :aster933
Tatsuya wasnt seriously asking. 5en i# possessing a li#eless body,
once it has e(pressed a desire #or sel#-preseration, Tatsuya wasnt
going to agree to hae it destroyed. -ithin the three #undamental
processes o# all robots D they were #orbidden #rom harming humans,
obeyed humans, and were able to de#end themseles so long as the
#irst two were not broken D the JH was a iable tool.
5(cept, the telepathically e(pressed re*ection was #iercer than he
anticipated.
11I am mysel#. :y only wish is to something possessed by the :aster.
That is who I am.33
)ot only did she possess the original sel#-preseration instinct, she
had her own will to boot.
11)o matter what I was originally, #rom where my core desires came
#rom, all o# these things are no longer important to me. I loathe the
idea that I will no longer be mysel#.33
4i(ies telepathy was sent not only to Tatsuya and the three 4arasites,
but to Honoka and :iyuki as well.
Honoka bit her lip.
:iyukis lips turned into a grin.
There you hae it, %nii-sama.
Ruite so.
+ grin also appeared on Tatsuyas lips.
+ma'ingly, a wry chuckle was not bubbling up at that une(pectedly
passionate speech.
Aor reason, Tatsuya didnt plan on aoiding the thoughts pro*ected
#rom the demon dwelling in the robot.
Then, I think you can already guess this sides answer"" 0e#ore
giing a decsiie answer, I hae two or three .uestions I would like to
ask.
6ou are more #oolish than we imagined, &hiba Tatsuya. -e are
disappointed in you"" /ery well, ask your .uestions.
6ou said earlier that you bore no ill will towards :agicians, correct?
-hy did you say :agicians and not humans?
There was no answer to that .uestion.
)o, he had asked that .uestion with a mocking smirk on his #ace.
I# we agreed to your condition, then you >emons would no longer
stand against :agicians. Then, what about humans who arent
:agicians, what about them?
""""
+#ter destroying 4i(ies body, what kind o# host are you looking #or?
)o, theres no need to answer. I already know.
......&o you are a little cleer beneath that stubbornness.
:arte shrugged at the steely ga'e in Tatsuyas eyes and the two girls
who #ell into combat stances.
2annot understand. -e already said that we will not #ight you, so
how are you still dissatis#ied? <ust as we demons cannot coe(ist with
humans, you :agicians are also an alien e(istence to humans.
Huh?
Tatsuya emitted a #alse sound o# surprise during the 4arasites sudden
speech.
Howeer, that speech was nothing more than in#lammatory remarks.
Tatsuya would neer beliee any words uttered by that #alse tone was
worth considering.
:y host is also a :agician.
+s he said this, he patted his chest in an e(aggerated manner.
There was a chance that the man was someone who worked as an
inciter prior to being possessed by a 4arasite. In that case, the call sign
:arte didnt suit him. The name :ercury was #ar better #or him.
2ompletely heedless o# Tatsuyas cold ga'e, the 4arasites speech
grew in #eror.
&o I know as well. How :agicians are treated by humans.
How are they treated?
Aor humans, :agicians are both tools and lab e(periments. Humans
will neer care about the :agicians #eelings. They only use them as
tools because o# magic and lab animals in order to create more
magical power.
Though he #elt like he had heard this speech somewhere be#ore,
Tatsuya still decided to allow the 4arasite to #inish.
In regards to the humans who only seek to use you, what reason do
you hae to protect them? 6ou hae no such duty. 6ou hae your own
will and dreams, do you not?
Tatsuya locked his eyes on :artes #ace a#ter he #inished his speech.
)o matter how earnestly :arte stared at Tatsuya,
Tatsuya only replied with a ha o# a sigh.
Hardly, the ones being used arent *ust the :agicians.
In response to the host with the malicious 4arasite, Tatsuya spoke in a
tone that had pro#ound meaning.
How should I say this......? I #eel like Ie heard those lines #rom a
book somewhere.
Then, his lips turned into a mocking smile.
To see humans as nothing but #oolish"" 6ou are the true #ool.
Aury #lickered in the mans eyes.
-as that the 4arasites emotions or the hosts #eelings?
0ulling oer whateer :arte wanted to say, Tatsuya continued.
6ou will not harm us :agicians. That sounds all well and good, but
you hae already harmed my companions. :y #riends, who are
:agicians. In regards to this, you hae #ailed to utter a single apology,
so where do you suppose I will dredge up the reason to beliee your
words about not harming us? Theres no di##erence between this and
respecting the human rights o# :agicians. )ot to mention using these
empty words to swap with us as i# trying to con us out o# something.
5en shamelessness should hae a limit.
+#ter speaking this long wind o# words, Tatsuya seemed to become
bored and once again #ell into a mocking smile.
2ome to think o# it, I haent told you our earlier answer yet. The
answer, is no.
0oy""
4lease dont say youll regret this or something clichVd like that? I
would be too ashamed to be your opponent.
Lilling intent #illed :artes eyes as he waed his right arm.
+ small dagger appeared #rom his pocket. 0ased on the buttons on the
hilt, this was no ordinary dagger and must carry some sort o#
contraption.
The other 4arasites held similar daggers in their hands.
&eeing this, Tatsuya chuckled coldly.
-ell, thats easy to understand. Then, allow us to simpli#y things as
well.
Tatsuya sneered theatrically.
Throw down your weapons and surrender .uietly. 6ou will not su##er
should you do so. I guarantee you all a happy li#e as e(perimental
animals.
6ou"" wretched hound o# the humans9
The 4arasite who had possessed the body o# the human was in turn
consumed by the strong desire in the human host.
4ossessed, being possessed, ad in#initum.
:ost likely, the :agician known as :arte must hae #iercely hated
the humans who controlled him prior to his possession.
That was the natural conclusion one arried at a#ter hearing the #ury in
his roar.
-ithout any +ctiation &e.uence, the precursor #or magic appeared.
&o it was true that 4arasites did not need +ctiation &e.uences or
incantations to cast magic.
Howeer, on this point, Tatsuyas side was pretty much the same.
Aaster than the 4arasites magic could materiali'e, Tatsuyas
>ecomposition shattered the in#ormation bodies that were trying to
change reality.
The ability that dominated all :agicians, the power to decompose the
in#ormation bodies.
That magic, 8ram >ispersion, was *ust as use#ul on the spells o#
inhuman creatures.
&oundless and without light, a silent means o# attack and de#ense.
6et :arte, who planned on using magic #irst be#ore attacking, was
completely be#uddled when the magic une(pectedly #i''led.
Tatsuya was not going to miss that opportunity.
He #ired at the *oints o# all #our limbs and :arte rolled on the #loor.
5en with a 4arasite possessing them, there was no way #or them
change the structural composition o# the human body. 5en i# they #elt
no pain, the limbs were rendered immobile once the *oints were
seered.
Tatsuya pointed his empty le#t hand at the 4arasite on the road.
I# the human essel was destroyed, they will #ly away seeking a new
host.
They would also sel#-destruct and #lee i# #ro'en by :iyukis magic.
4arasites didnt need +ctiation &e.uences, so een an immobile body
was probably still able to cast magic.
In order to completely nulli#y a 4arasite, he needed to delier direct
harm to the mental in#ormation body.
Tatsuya tightly clasped the compressed block o# psions in his palm.
7n#ortunately, there was no guarantee that he would succeed.
;egardless, there was no hesitation in Tatsuya. I# this didnt work,
then they had to wait #or the sealing specialists who understood
+ncient :agic to arrie.
;ight now, hesitation held no merit #or him.
Imbuing the concept o# ;e*ection inside his hand, Tatsuyas le#t
hand stabbed towards the 4arasite.
The compressed block o# psions shot #orth like a cannonball towards
the 4arasites chest.
)ot the brain, the heart.
This was the result based on the in#ormation he receied #rom 4i(ie
and a#ter a lengthy discussion with 6akumo. They did not attach
themseles to the human bodys organs, but to the human spirit. In
that sense, there was no di##erent striking anywhere on the body.
8ien that, he might as well seek the deepest connection and aimed
#or the heart that proided #uel #or all cellular actiity.
The result was #ar more dramatic than he imagined.
@ike a shrimp leaing the sa#ety o# the ocean, the 4arasites body
started to iolently spasm.
0ouncing like cra'y.
The body that the 4arasite had inaded was re*ecting it.
Tatsuyas will had been in*ected into the 4arasite and was re*ecting the
4arasite *ust as the 4arasite was re*ecting it.
%nii-sama9
+las, they did not hae the leisure to saor this.
Aorced into a corner, :iyuki called out.
Howeer, Tatsuyas eye neer le#t :iyukis side.
The moment danger approached :iyuki, Tatsuya would notice een
without her calling out.
5(actly what was be#ore him when he turned around,
)e(t to where :iyuki had #ro'en not *ust the #our limbs and clothes o#
her opponent, but also used Wone Inter#erence to #orestall her
opponents magic, Honoka was under siege #rom the small blades
connected to some sort o# deice. &ering as her shield, 4i(ie was
weathering the blows on her behal#.
Honoka9
Im #ine9
+s i# re*ecting Tatsuyas o##er o# support, Honoka replied back in sti##
tone.
+ power#ul light dwelt in Honokas eyes.
That burning light that dwelt there declared that she was not going to a
stumbling block.
That light was in Honokas eyes,
<ust as it was in her hair decorations.
Tatsuya #elt the psion waes spike dramatically.
That was the harbinger o# a massie increase in mental energy.
)ot magic.
This was something more direct, the inter#erence o# the mind.
Immediately,
+ #urious psychic blast was released #rom 4i(ie.
+s a price #or its lack o# #ine-tuned control, the coarse #orm that was
released carried the #urious might to batter all phenomena. 5en
:iyukis erected Wone Inter#erence was shaken.
+mong the currently liing :agicians, een the Wone Inter#erence
belong to one o# the ery best, :iyuki, had been shaken.
Tatsuya #ormed a new psion bullet and shot it into the 4arasite that
was #ighting his sister.
%nce again, the dance #rom the re*ection e##ect occurred.
6et now, Tatsuya and :iyukis attention was no longer there.
4ure motion alteration inter#erence strength D so called
psychokinesis, had *ust been released at that ery spot.
Honoka, who was still in a da'e #rom the sudden release o# power#ul
psion waes, and 4i(ie, who stood there in a protectie stance.
%# the 4arasite who stood against them, it had long been blown out o#
sight.
? ? ?
&hocked beyond words by the display on the monitor, Au*ibayashi
only recoered her wits once she heard the delighted chuckle #rom
behind her and turned around.
""Ho, neer thought that I would witness something so #ascinating
here.
0ehind the swiel chair, 5lder Ludou coughed as he spoke with a tone
that seemed to be looking #or e(cuses at his granddaughters glare that
he was not acting his age.
>id the JH release that last burst o# psychokinesis? I neer heard that
we hae already deeloped robots capable o# using psychic powers.
Au*ibayashi was sitting in #ront o# the control panel #or the psion wae
detector. There was no way to hide the readings displayed on the
monitor in #ront o# her.
""I neer heard o# it either. Arom a technological standpoint, I
thought that was impossible.
Indeed. -ith the current technology, neither magic nor psychic
powers can be mani#ested by machinery alone. In other words, there is
something other than machinery inside that JH.
""""
+ light sound that could be interpreted as either a sigh or a sob leaked
#rom Au*ibayashi.
Is there a monster on that robot?
""""
Though I hae receied reports on the 4arasites, I didnt hear about
this detail.
-e hae not receied a report about this either. This was only spoken
o# in priate conersations.
)o, no.
5lder Ludou waed his hand as i# to com#ort his granddaughter, who
had replied back in a sti## manner.
Lyouko, I am not scolding you. That was not my standpoint #rom the
ery beginning. I am *ust highly interested.
Au*ibayashis poker #ace caed in.
The source o# her #luctuating emotions lay directly be#ore her ga'e.
It had been a ery long time since she saw the shadow o# ambition
#litting across her grand#athers #ace.
I neer imagined that robots could be used in this way""
? ? ?
The usual Au*ibayashi would hae already noticed.
Howeer, right now she was acting in the capacity o# an operator and
not a hacker, so today she could only manipulate the system according
to the rules. 7nder those conditions, een the 5lectron &orceress
would be hard pressed to catch obserers who were acting beyond the
systems de#ensie capabilities.
The obserer who had *ust beheld the scene, 6otsuba :aya, remoed
the display monitor #rom her eyes be#ore leaning back deeply into the
chair and closed her eyes.
This lasted appro(imately GH seconds.
+#ter placing the display monitor back into a drawer in her desk, she
picked up the bell and so#tly shook it. The crisp sound reerberated in
the room that she alone inhabited.
>id you call #or me, madam?
%pening the door, :ayas butler and con#idante, old Hayama,
appeared.
2all +oki here #or me please.
7nderstood.
;espect#ully bowing, Hayama the butler once more le#t the room.
This time, a short moment elapsed.
Though there was no sound o# any #ootsteps, an an(ious presence
drew closer be#ore the sound o# knocking could be heard.
2ome in.
5(cuse me.
Hayama replied in a solemn oice.
The an(ious presence came #rom his side.
The one who came in was a butler #ar younger than Hayama 1though
still older than :aya3 in his prime.
&orry #or calling you so late, +oki.
)o problem at all. &o long as the madam gae the summons, I, +oki,
will immediately be at your side een i# I was on the other side o# the
world.
+oki had not learned how to per#orm Alash &tep D in short, no one had
accomplished instant teleportation D so immediately was physically
impossible, but gien that his e(aggerated #ashion o# speaking was
typical #or him, neither :aya nor Hayama paid any e(tra attention to
it.
Though this is ery sudden, there is something I wish to hae
immediately.
+s you wish.
+oki was the #inancial manager who was responsible #or oerseeing
all o# the 6otsuba Aamilys assets. He belieed that being able to
delier on these demands was the ery purpose #or his e(istence, so
while there were a #ew problems with his personality, his abilities in
both the legal and illegal #ields were undeniably outstanding.
&wi#tly purchase the rights #or the JH-4QF on lend to the :agic
7niersity +##iliated Airst High. :oney is no issue. >o this by any
means possible.
:aya saying money is no issue wasnt surprising, but she rarely
said directly by any means possible.
I# that is too di##icult, #ind a way #or the current owner to be unable
to trans#er ownership rights. In particular, do not allow the other
#amilies #rom the Ten :aster 2lans to get ahold o# it. >o not be
concerned about the price inoled #or this task.
This was the #irst time in +okis recollection that she een handed out
speci#ic instructions in the eent o# #ailure.
7nderstood.
Aor an instant, +oki waered there, but that #ailed to e(tend to his
oice as he bowed respect#ully.
+s +oki #rantically le#t, :aya turned towards the waiting Hayama by
her side and gae him a searching ga'e.
"">ont you hae something to say?
6et in the end, :aya was unable to pierce Hayamas poker #ace and
urged him to speak.
I know it is not my place""
He was still going to ask despite knowing this, so Hayama started
speaking while bending at the waist. Though this *ust the customary
phrase that obsered decorum, that particular tone told :aya that this
was not going to be a pleasant conersation.
&houldnt you be a little more prudent about using Hlidsk*al#?
5en so, she couldnt tell him to recant those words D or suggestion.
The honest suggestion was *ust as bitter as she anticipated, but :aya
#ailed to #rown or become enraged.
+s the operator, :aya D along with the other M operators who also had
access rights D knew that there was more than *ust mere bene#its better
than anyone.
=That is a product o# pure science. Aurthermore, at least when
compared with magic, the risk o# those black bo(es is still lower.
:aya-sama, I wasnt re#erring to that.
Hayama decisiely cut short the twisted counter argument that she
hersel# knew rang hollow. :aya wore an e(pression indicating she
wished to change the sub*ect.
Aurthermore, when it comes to black bo(es, we dont een know
where the real Hlidsk*al# is located. <ust because it has not lied to us
yet does not guarantee that will not happen in the #uture.
Hayamas opinion de#initely had a point.
@ikewise, :aya was conscious o# the danger een i# he hadnt pointed
it out.
Thats true"" Hayama, lets proceed with your idea. ;ecently, I
hae been too reliant on that ability to gather in#ormation.
It would be a shame to abandon such a use#ul #unction. This is only a
#oolish thought on my part, i# its Tatsuya-dono, he may be able to
#igure out where the real location o# Hlidsk*al# is. %nce connected to
the real one, complete dominance o# Hlidsk*al# may also be possible.
Hayamas words completely caught :aya by surprise. In order to #ully
comprehend his meaning, :aya contemplated this #or a while be#ore
#inally shaking her head.
Its still too early.
+s to what e(actly was too early, the answer le#t that to ones
imagination.
Hayama bowed deeply be#ore leaing :aya and .uitting the room.
? ? ?
-hat a mess""
In response to the words that inoluntarily slipped #rom Tatsuyas
mouth, :iyuki raised her head #rom where she was taking care o# the
da'ed and #ainting Honoka.
)ow that you mention it"" Thats kind o# true. %nii-sama, should
we leae here #or now?
&ince the response was so natural, Tatsuya was practically on the
erge o# nodding.
1"")o, thats actually %L.3
I# he continued to beliee that it was natural #or someone to grasp the
situation that .uickly, sooner or later he was due #or a comeuppance.
Howeer, right now there were other things to worry about.
There was that gigantic psychic blast #rom *ust now. That reaction was
undoubtedly noticed throughout the +oyama and +kasaka regions.
&oon, unwanted guests would arrie in droes.
The 4arasites that had been struggling #uriously a moment ago had
now .uieted down in e(haustion. <ust in case, he had bound their
wrists, but as to what practical purpose that sered, een Tatsuya
didnt know. +t least, so long as the essel wasnt destroyed, they
werent able to #lee the hosts physical #lesh, but their opponent could
still sel#-destruct as a last resort.
1Thats true"" I# only we had some sort o# techni.ue #rom +ncient
:agic.3
Tatsuya-kun9
&orry were late9
&peak o# the deil, scratch that, *ust as he thought about that person,
their oice rang out. +bout time they arried.
&till, Tatsuya wasnt going to scold them #or being slow since they
were also using their methods to search #or the 4arasites. Its not like
they were being la'y about it, so there was nothing to complain about.
Indeed"" There was nothing to complain about een i# they arried
at a time when all the iolence had ended, Tatsuya mentally stressed to
himsel#.
7m...... Tatsuya? -hy do I get the #eeling that your e(pression is a
little terri#ying?
:y attitude is *ust a little belligerent.
)o, I dont know about belligerence, but somehow I dont #eel thats
the reason""
+#ter sweeping an oer the strangely 1?3 petri#ied :ikihiko, Tatsuya
began conersing with the e(tra indiidual who was not planned to
appear.
@eo, so you came as well.
+h, since I *ust recoered, might as well add me to the mi(.
>ont #orce yoursel#. )ow, 5rika""
Hm? -hats up?
+s he spoke to 5rika, who was watching the capties with a solemn
ga'e, Tatsuya une(pectedly spoke in a calm oice.
+lthough we are #orced to leae this area as soon as possible, can
you prepare a way to transport these three?
&eeing that none o# them made any heart pounding actions, Tatsuya
rela(ed a little and began talking about the things on his mind. Tatsuya
casually glanced around him to #ind the two motorcycles that the three
o# them arried on. D+s to who sat with who, Tatsuya wasnt able to
see that.
5h, why?
;eacting to Tatsuyas words, 5rika took on a perple(ed e(pression.
-hat do you mean why, 5rika?
Tatsuya wasnt the one who said that. 7nable to hide his agitated
isage, :ikihiko .uickly interrupted their talk.
>id you not #eel that shockwae? +#ter releasing such a ridiculous
amount o# magic, I doubt the ones arriing here will be normal
policemen.
Though I really want to say that Ie resigned mysel# to that #rom
that start"" That would trouble Tatsuya-kuns group.
0esides #rom a #ew looks snuck in between, this was the usual 5rika.
+t the ery least, neither @eo nor :ikihiko noticed anything di##erent.
&o, will it be %L i# we carted them to storage shed at :ikis house?
The storage shed that 5rika spoke o# was obiously not a literal
storage shed. It was not one o# the 2hiba Aamilys #acilities, but
transported to a restrictie #ield operated by the 6oshida Aamily
speci#ically designed to seal the 4arasite.
-ill that be alright, :ikihiko?
5h? %# course. )ow that you mention it, that was our *ob all along.
%ur re#erred to +ncient :agic users.
He probably meant sealing demons was the mission o# the onmyo*i
1the 6oshida Aamily were o# the &hinto sect and not actual onmyo*i3.
Then :iki and I along with @eo will take oer here. Tatsuya-kun,
you guys should get going #irst.
-hy? >uring that time, I can wait here.
Im *ust a tagalong9? Ignoring @eos #urious roar #or the moment,
Tatsuya asked in ama'ement.
5rika seemed to hae a hard time #inding the right words.
Tatsuya, well, uh""
Tatsuya #ollowed the stammering :ikihikos ga'e.
+head o# him stood 4i(ie was a slightly ripped dress as well as
Honokas #igure with seeral large rents in her hal#coat.
""Ill call the car.
I think that would be best.
+nd thus, Tatsuya le#t the scene to 5rikas group.
? ? ?
The siblings home was within the 'one o# automated control, but
Honokas apartment was *ust outside the area #or automatic ehicular
control. +#ter using the in#ormation terminal to summon the automatic
car, there was no way to take Honoka home. In the end, the #our o#
them got on the light rail at the station.
5en with their rather shocking attire, thank#ully they did not receie
any undue attention in the city.
+t least, not any more than anticipated 1when accompanied by
:iyuki, being completely inconspicuous was #rankly impossible3.
Tatsuyas group got into a section with #our seats on the train.
7m, Tatsuya-kun""
&ince the act o# boarding the train was so ery natural, it wasnt until
a#ter the train departed that Honoka had a .uestion. 5en i# they were
going in the same direction, they couldnt get o## hal#way between
stops""
Ill take you home.
7pon hearing him utter the words she earnestly wished him to say but
was unable to ask him do so, een the multiple instances o# Honoka
trying to be polite were unable to hide her radiant e(pression.
There was no way to alter seating arrangements in the cabin that the
#our o# them sat in.
:iyuki sat ne(t to Tatsuya, with Honoka sitting directly across #rom
him.
Tatsuya glanced oer at 4i(ie sitting diagonally across #rom him 1#or
some reason, she was being treated as a customer rather than cargo3,
be#ore turning his eyes back to Honoka since she had #allen .uiet #rom
the beginning.
"...%nii-sama, its probably about time to say something, otherwise
I dont think Honoka can hold it in any longer?
&eeing Honokas an(iety spike a#ter Tatsuya looked at her, :iyuki
spoke up #rom his side.
+h, my apologies.
Tatsuya appeared to be unaware. +#ter being pushed into a tight spot
by his sister, Tatsuya acknowledged his error with an apologetic look
on his #ace.
Thank you #or all o# your hard work tonight, you three.
The words o# praise were only the icebreakers, and proo# o# this was
that 4i(ie had been included within. &till, this may be because he
taken into consideration that 4i(ie had also contributed .uite a bit, but
gien that Tatsuya didnt di##erentiate between humans and robots,
this sentence clearly wasnt gien too much thought.
&o, Honoka. How should I put this""? +re you #eeling a little
strung out?
There was no need to say this, but the ne(t line was obiously an
in.uiry. Though somewhat con#used at the sudden .uestion, Honoka
still shook her head.
;eally"" 4i(ie, i# you are e(hausted"" That phrase seems a little
out o# place. >o you notice any o# the psions or energy reseres that
make up your body being consumed?
112onsumption is within naturally recoerable parameters, :aster.33
I see""
%nii-sama, is something lingering on your mind?
)ot to the point o# lingering""
+#ter shaking his head at his sister, Honoka once more looked towards
Honoka.
5arlier, when 4i(ie released that power#ul burst o#
psychokinesis"" Honoka, do you hae any idea what happened?
"")o, what are you re#erring to?
Honokas eyes were #illed with unease as she asked this.
True, the in#erences behind this line o# .uestioning was an(iety
inducing.
That being said, o# course Tatsuya had no intention o# #anning the
#lames o# uneasiness.
I would like you to calm down and listen to me care#ully.
The #act that this had descended to the point where an intentional
icebreaker was re.uired troubled Tatsuya himsel# to no end.
The instant 4i(ie released that burst o# psychokinesis, psions were
proided #or 4i(ie #rom Honoka.
5h?
Honokas *aw dropped at Tatsuyas words.
""&o Honoka was proiding energy #or 4i(ie?
)o, it didnt #eel like that.
In a rare showing, the oice Tatsuya used to answer :iyukis .uestion
was not #illed with con#idence.
This is similar to the process where psions are inputted into the 2+>
in order to deploy the +ctiation &e.uence. :ight hae been
something like priming"" %r maybe een resonance.
Honoka darted a #ear#ul look at 4i(ie.
4i(ie D the JH-4QF unit with a 4arasite on board, paid little heed to
that. That being said, there was no way to tell the real situation since
there was no change in e(pression.
+ :agician trans#erred psions to a machine.
This phenomenon itsel# was per#ectly #amiliar to Tatsuya, no, to
modern magic users as a whole. Howeer, that was a phenomenon that
occurred with machinery constructed according to the systems
deeloped by magic engineering to do it this way. That #unction was
not installed on the JH.
;obots do not hae powers beyond those granted to them by humans.
0y themseles, they were unable to learn new #unctions.
This phenomenon"" :ust hae not hae been caused by 4i(ies
mechanical body, but by her real body instead. +ny other
e(planation was too outlandish.
It was per#ectly natural #or Honoka to #eel uneasy and a#raid.
:i'uki did say this be#ore"" That there is some sort o# connection
between Honoka and 4i(ie. Aurthermore""
&uddenly, Tatsuya stopped speaking.
Aaced with her hesitant older brother wearing a bitter e(pression on
his #ace, :iyuki responded with an alarmed look.
+s i# needled by an unspoken .uestion, Tatsuyas #ace seemed to gie
up the struggle and continued speaking.
""Aurthermore, the medium inoled appears to be Honokas hair
decorations.
Huh?
Honoka was waering between surprise and #ear earlier, but now she
was entirely astounded.
+stonishment was not restricted to her alone.
:iyuki was also scrutini'ing the rubber bands holding Honokas hair
with great attention.
To be precise, it should be the crystal within. +s to how this
occurred, I hae no idea""
Honoka caressed the crystals in hair decorations with both hands.
This was an unconscious reaction that didnt hae any ulterior motie
inoled.
Howeer, Tatsuyas hypothesis was immediately proen by the
ensuing reaction.
%n 4i(ie, in the middle o# the torso area, a spiritual light emerged.
The light was not blinding. Arom a isual perspectie, the strength
was about the same as a lantern.
&till, gien the suspicion about their mutual connection, this
coincidence was a little too per#ect.
Tatsuya and :iyukis eyes both #ell upon those hair decorations.
Honoka coered her hair decorations with both o# her hands.
This was as i# she was terri#ied that they would be taken away #rom
her.
The cause can be set aside #or now"" + method to control that
needs to be #ound #irst.
Tatsuya spoke in a tone that one used to com#ort wary little animals.
-ariness turned into surprise as Honoka returned his look.
Tatsuyas eyes dri#ted #rom Honoka to 4i(ie.
+t any rate, bringing 4i(ie back looks to be the right idea.
? ? ?
The high school #orce led by Tatsuya and company were not the only
ones actie tonight. The &aegusa and <uumon*i #orce were inactie
since Tatsuya had neglected to in#orm :ayumi and Latsuto about this
action, but the many people in the 2hiba #orce were actiated on
5rikas orders. In spite o# this, the sole reason that 5rikas group was
the only one to arrie was because they were the strongest unit o#
those mobili'ed tonight. 5rika, @eo, :ikihiko. Though their
indiidual assessment was not spectacular, their combat capabilities
towered oer their peers. This was not *ust restricted to high school
students, but adults as well. 5en e(cluding techni.ues associated
with weapons, their indiidual prowess was still in the top tier.
Howeer, since this was an independent action, they were stuck in a
situation where they had to guard the bound 4arasites while awaiting
eacuation"" 5(cept unwanted guests #ound them be#ore their
getaway ehicle.
Hey, what are you guys doing9?
Two young men wearing police uni#orms parked an automatic ehicle
1e.uipped with a motor3 near the streetlight be#ore running oer and
shouting out a .uestion.
&eeing these two, :ikihiko reealed a harried e(pression and @eo
pouted in irritation, whereas 5rika remained silent but retaliated with a
belligerent ga'e.
-hat is this9? 6ou guys should be high school students. -hat the
heck is going on here9?
&eeing the two men lying on the ground with their wrists bound
behind their backs, the taller one shouted shrilly. In truth, this was
probably a policemans natural reaction upon #inding citi'ens bound at
night while lying on the ground.
)o, thats *ust""
Aeeling that this was a legitimate .uestion, :ikihiko was #rantically
looking #or e(cuses.
+rent you guys the ones who should be saying who you are?
Howeer, 5rikas riposte bulled right oer that .uestion.
-hat did you say9?
Hey, 5rika9
Aaced with une(pected resistance, the mens rage seemed to intensi#y
while :ikihiko turned an unbelieable look at her.
:ikihiko.
+ hand reached out to grab his shoulder.
-hen :ikihiko turned his head, he #ound @eo standing there with a
highly entertained smile.
>idnt you hear me? I will ask again. -ho are you?
5rika snorted at the intimidating glares shooting out #rom beneath the
police caps.
>ont you know? There shouldnt be any policemen in this area
because such an order was gien. That idiot older brother o# mine
cant possibly slip up at this *uncture.
There was no eidence to support 5rikas words.
I# #aced with real policemen, this wasnt a *oke that should be bandied
around.
In spite o# this, the young men in #ront o# her blatantly #altered.
-hat nonsense is this?
The #altering was wiped clean in an instant, but 5rika didnt miss that
brie# second. It wouldnt hae mattered een i# there hadnt been a
reaction.
Thats because her words were not *ust braado.
I# you wanted to disguise yoursel#, you should hae chosen to be
plainclothes detecties. In that case, hearing you out wouldnt hae
been an issue.
5rika was highly e(aggerating about the hearing you out part.
The taller young man was about to e(plode at her, but his colleague
stopped him. They switched places and the slightly shorter man
stepped #orward. %# the two, this one was shorter but #ar bulkier, and
the intimidation #actor was a lot higher.
@ooking #or an e(cuse to #lee is useless. 6ou are suspected o# assault.
@ets take a walk.
HeyS. &o youre playing it out to the end.
)onetheless, 5rika was completely #earless. &he continued to leel a
dismissie, challenging glare at them.
+las, I captured these two on the spot during an attempted rape. I
beliee this constitutes a citi'ens arrest. Thus I am waiting #or the real
police to show up. There is no room #or counter#eit policemen to
appear here, un-der-stand?
:ikihiko could only watch in admiration at his childhood #riend reply
so #lippantly with a ery logical argument. 5en someone knowing
this was a con would be misled. D-hich was why he was a beat slow
in detecting the hidden presence around him.
:iki9 :ikihiko9
-ithout a sand D that was not an e(aggeration, there literally was no
sound D a black shadow attacked #rom aboe his head. The attack
came #rom the wall surrounding the cemetery, and by the time
:ikihiko reali'ed this, it was already too late to meet the attack.
:ikihiko #elt the blow land on his shoulder.
+#ter being knocked #lying the sudden attack, he subconsciously took
action to recoer himsel#.
@eo raised his arm to the leel o# his head and to meet the oncoming
downward swing o# a rod. <ust the sound alone was enough to tell the
might behind this strike and a normal person would undoubtedly
su##er broken bones #rom this, but @eo took the blow as i# it was
nothing. )ot only that, as his opponent touched the ground, he
immediately retaliated with an iron #ist o# his own that #airly seered
the air around him.
Tch9
7n#ortunately, his #ist barely brushed against the ambushers body
be#ore being retracted.
In the #lickering street light, :ikihiko say an arc o# lightning.
That man was apparently wearing a coat that shocked an opponent
with high oltage electricity on contact.
4ressing his #ist, @eo leaped back a step.
He saw the man wielding the rod prepare to pursue.
@eo, get out o# there9
:ikihiko took the opportunity to swing his le#t wrist down. He used
his customary hand to grab the #an-shaped 2+> that #ell out o# his
sleee.
<ust as :ikihiko was about to release magic to support @eo against the
man attacking him, an ob*ect came #lying #rom the #lank to strike his
2+>.
Though the 2+> didnt #all, the spell had still been interrupted.
The ob*ect that had inter#ered with :ikihikos spell traced a loop
be#ore returning to its original position.
He #inally reali'ed that it was a boomerang o# some sort, which would
then automatically return to the hand o# the thrower. %# course, it that
was *ust a simple boomerang, there would be no way #or it to return
once it came into contact with the target. This must be some sort o#
magical weapon.
+#ter taking an une(pected *olt o# electricity, @eo rolled back on the
street to aoid the downward blow o# the rod be#ore pulling back and
resetting his posture.
:ikihiko didnt hae the leisurely time to worry about @eo.
There was more than one enemy.
He heard the 4sh sound o# compressed air being released and two
connected cannonballs that looked like soda cans #rom a while ago
came #lying towards him #rom the street.
:ikihiko used the seal o# the wind to meet the cannonballs.
The cannonballs stopped in mid-air. Howeer, in the ne(t instant, a net
was deployed #rom the cannonballs and rushed towards :ikihiko. %n
the eight points o# the octagon, there were miniature rockets to replace
the arrested momentum.
-hat the hell is that9? Those were :ikihikos undisguised #eelings.
The speed wasnt all that impressie, but he had no idea what trickery
lay within that net. :ikihiko used a @eaping spell to dodge the net.
7n#ortunately, there were shadows waiting #or him in the sky. The
human silhouettes hurtled round throwing weapons.
@ike a game o# chess, this was the per#ect arrangement.
+ny normal :agician would hae been checkmated right there.
6et, the current :ikihiko was a #ar cry #rom normal. He had already
recoered the strength that earned him a reputation as a child genius
and had een progressed #urther.
In mid-air, :ikihiko used the air as a *umping board to @eap again
and aoid the attacks o# the three round pro*ectiles and their master.
&till in the air, :ikihiko looked down upon the head o# the man
wielding a thin, long ob*ect D most likely a whip o# some sort.
Ainally, it was :ikihikos turn.
He e(tended his bent leg.
His #oot came into contact with the mans #orehead.
The action itsel# became the seal to actiate magic.
Through the point o# contact between #oot and #orehead, a web o#
lighting spread out and encapsulated the mans body.
%nce more stepping o## the wind, :ikihiko landed on top o# the wall.
There, he looked #or @eo and 5rikas #igures.
@eo had recoered #rom that early surprise attack. Aacing the opponent
wielding the rod, he was engaged in a #ierce battle using his bare
hands. The reason why he had not su##ered any in*ury #rom the electric
attack was probably because he wrapped himsel# with something. The
other man also had a certain degree o# skill, but in terms o# speed and
power, @eo was superior.
The problem was 5rika.
The two who #irst struck up a conersation werent ery adept at
acting, but their #ighting skills were .uite capable.
)o matter how he put it, 5rika actually had to de#end against their
attacks. They must be wearing special armor beneath their uni#orms,
though the uni#orms themseles may also be custom made.
&till, durability alone was insu##icient to stand against 5rikas sword
strikes. 5ach time they came into contact with 5rikas sword blows,
something would #litter o## the sur#ace o# the clothes. -arily, 5rika
continued to slowly press her attack #orward.
I# the weapon she held was any longer, then she probably wouldnt
need so much time. 7n#ortunately, the weapon she had today was a
short rod that could morph into a waka'ashi. 5rika was aoiding dust
that was most likely some sort o# poison, so there was no chance she
could close into close .uarters.
Thanks to him sei'ing a higher antage point, :ikihiko #inally noticed
something.
The three o# them were being slowly pulled away #rom the bound
4arasites.
In addition, the distance between the three o# them was also growing.
I# this continued, the capties may be taken away be#ore support
arried.
5en i# this was pushing it a little, they had to take care o# this
.uickly.
The ne(t instant a#ter he made up his mind, no, it was likely their
enemy had also *udged that they couldnt hold out much longer.
In terms o# timing, :ikihikos assessment and their opponents
*udgment were o# an accord.
The enemy was one step ahead.
They heard the sound o# something #alling to the ground.
@eo kicked aside his opponent while 5rika unleashed a chain o# ra'or
sharp blows to pull away #rom her opponent.
8et down9
The same time that call rang out, a cocoon o# air wrapped around
5rika and @eo.
That was the de#ensie barrier :ikihiko had deised.
The e(plosie that had #allen #rom aboe detonated be#ore coming
into contact with the ground and unleashed a thick smoke that
obscured the street lights.
The sound o# heay metallic ob*ects #alling continued.
:ikihiko called the wind to blow apart the smoke.
They immediately #ound out what had happened.
:etallic arms trailing down #rom the sky grabbed the 4arasites bodies
and swi#tly retracted. The source o# the lines came #rom a pitch black
#lying ship hiding in the night sky that had appeared at some point in
time.
The silence o# it all was astounding, and there was no sign o# magic
being used. -ithout a sound and any sign o# magic waes, none o#
them had noticed the unidenti#ied #lying ship #lying oerhead.
The body o# the capties anished into the ship.
:ikihiko saw 5rika ready hersel# to slash upwards. Though her
slashes were not the same leel as &trateigc-2lass :agic, she might be
able to shatter the #uel compartment and cause a crash.
5rika, stop9
Howeer, thanks to :ikihikos interention, 5rika reluctantly stood
down. &he also knew ery well that it would be a catastrophe i# the
#lying ship crashed here.
-hile their attention had been drawn away by the #lying ship, their
ambushers shadows also disappeared. )eedless to say, the counter#eit
policemens party were o# the same a##iliation with the #lying ship.
-hat a headache""
:ikihiko nodded as i# in complete agreement, to which 5rika
responded with a particularly brilliant smile.
&o what are we going to tell Tatsuya-kun?
:ikihiko was asking @eo #or help.
@eo shrugged when :ikihiko looked at him.
Its already so late, I dont think we should trouble him, right?
@eo shrugged again at :ikihikos ga'e.
Ha, youre right. +t this hour, might as well tell him tomorrow.
Their hollow laughter was mi(ed into the slight wind that blew
towards the center o# the city at night.
? ? ?
-e hae captured the specimen.
This was the head.uarters o# the <&>A Intelligence >epartment Jrd
>iision located in the basement o# one o# the buildings in Ichigaya.
7pon hearing the report #rom the deployed stealth airship, the assistant
director in charge o# this entire operation D this department did not
employ the <&>As ranking system and used entirely #alsi#ied ranks D
nodded as his e(pression seemed to sigh in relie#.
Though there were a #ew surprises, we still accomplished our
ob*ectie.
-hen the agents disguised as policemen had been knocked
unconscious by mere high school students and a H+;, the #irst thing
that #lashed across his mind was demotion. )ow that he may hae
aoided ruining his superiors mood, the assistant director could rela(.
He knew ery well that the specimen they had captured was the
ampire that disturbed the peace, but he was unaware that the real
identity o# the ampires were actually :agicians who had been
possessed by monsters called 4arasites. )or was he aware that one o#
the captured ampires was a retired soldier #rom the 7&)+ born in
:e(ico and that the reason #or his retirement was that he lost his
magic due to an in*ury su##ered during training. The assistant director
had simply been ordered to capture a specimen o# the ampires.
The reason why they were obsering Tatsuya was because the higher
ups told him there was a higher probability they would come into
contact with the ampires i# they shadowed Tatsuyas group. Though
as to why a high school student, despite being known as :agician
larae, would hae a link to ampires, that reason was beyond him.
His subordinates being instantly nulli#ied immediately dispelled the
preconception that they were *ust high school students, but the
mystery in regards to why high school students were so strong only
deepened. &till, it looked like they would no longer hae to trouble
themseles with ridiculously strong high school students. That was the
reason why the assistant director could breathe a sigh o# relie#.
Their task was only to temporarily sa#eguard the specimen. +ny
procedures beyond that were done by his superior, the director. %ne o#
the tricks to the organi'ations continual surial was not .uestioning
their superiors tasks. The re.uest #or obtaining the specimen didnt
come #rom the goernment but #rom their sponsors, and the assistant
director was somewhat aware that the real client was that particular
#amily #rom behind their sponsor, but he really didnt want to know.
+s ordered, transport the target to the icebo(. <ust in case, up the
dosage.
+#ter ordering his subordinate to use low temperature anesthesia used
to induce hibernation on :agicians to nulli#y the 4arasites be#ore
moing them to the #acility, the assistant director returned to his seat
to report to his superiors the result o# his mission.
? ? ?
That damnable Loichi, still so enamored with intrigue. Its practically
part o# his personality now.
<ust listening to the words may gie the impression that this was a
complaint, but a#ter hearing her grand#ather utter this phrase in a
highly entertained oice, Au*ibayashi pretended not to hear anything.
The sudden intrusion o# the Jrd >iisions stealth cra#t shocked
Au*ibayashi, but she dealt with the a#ter e##ects as swi#tly as usual. &he
immediately used the #lying ships wireless signal to pinpoint the
organi'ation it was a##iliated with.
@ikewise, in#iltrating the connection to the basement in Ichigaya was
*ust business as usual. +s e(pected o# someone whose talents earned
her the name 5lectron &orceress.
&ir, what is &aegusa-sans goal here?
&he chose to the word sir and not grand#ather here to obsere
protocol while on the *ob. Ludou ;etsu understood this, so he didnt
make a point oer the #ormal re#erence o# sir.
Im not priy to what Loichi is thinking. Though I do hae a #ew
guesses on worst possible scenarios.
That being said, he had no intention o# playing along with his
granddaughters speech pattern as 5lder Ludou continued to speak as
i# addressing kin.
-orst, eh""?
Hm. Louchi knows that :aya is interested in the 4arasites, so he
may hae wanted to sei'e control o# it.
The lady #rom the 6otsuba Aamily has e(pressed interest?
In the 6otsuba Aamily, the side branch Luroba Aamily is responsible
#or gathering intelligence. Aurthermore, the Lurobas apparently
adopted assassination against the 4arasites and inestigated .uite a
#ew things a#terwards.
+ side branch responsible #or gathering intelligence"" The 6otsuba
Aamily is certainly uni.ue.
-ell, the EO #amilies were originally *ust like side branches #or the
deelopment and research o# :agicians. Indeed, no other #amily
besides the 6otsuba Aamily has adopted the side branch system.
5lder Ludou wore a sel#-depreciating smile as he probably recalled
his own origins. Au*ibayashi made no attempt at any third rate words
o# com#ort and merely waited #or her grand#athers ne(t words.
&etting that aside"" Lnowing that the 6otsuba hae an interest in
the 4arasites, Loichi would then act. That guy will want to surpass the
6otsuba by any means possible. How tragic it is that the demon #rom
JH years ago has still not been e(orcised yet""
In Au*ibayashis eyes, the way 5lder Ludou said this was as i# he
himsel# was reisiting the past. Lnowing that wasnt a ery pleasant
recollection, she used a slightly stronger tone to recall her grand#ather
#rom his memories. &o what are we going to do?
-hat do you mean by going to do?
I beliee that allowing the Intelligence >epartment Jrd >iision to
go rogue isnt a wise course o# action.
Thats true"" I# they were able to handle it any better, leaing
them alone wouldnt be a problem.
+s Au*ibayashi predicted, 5lder Ludou had returned #rom the world o#
his memories and his mind was #ully #ocused on the present.
Lyouko, can you anonymously leak some intelligence to the
6otsuba?
I think I can.
Then that should be enough. :aya will think o# what to do #rom here
on out.
&aegusa Loichis plot would be #oiled by the 6otsuba. Lnowing the
backstory, Au*ibayashi #elt that this was a cruel punishment. &till,
Au*ibayashi had no intention o# disagreeing with her grand#athers
proposal as she immediately turned back to the controls.
? ? ?
+#ter seeing Honoka home and returning 4i(ie to the original garage,
by the time Tatsuya and :iyuki arried home, it was already late into
the night een though the date hadnt changed yet.
That being said, #or the siblings age, this wasnt a particularly late
hour. Though they had not engaged in #ull scale combat, the neres
were still stimulated that there was no sign o# sleepiness.
%nii-sama, its :iyuki, can I bother you #or a moment""?
It was a rare occurrence indeed #or Tatsuya to be in his own room
studying a sub*ect other than magic instead o# being in the lab in the
basement a#ter eating dinner and taking a bath. The primary reason
why he let :iyuki into his room was because neither o# them could
sleep.
+t this time, Tatsuya appeared to be trying to use the books to lull him
to sleep. Though it wasnt entirely appropriate #or siblings to isit the
bedroom 1pretty much a priate room3 at this hour, Tatsuya #elt that
speaking with :iyuki might improe his mood a little.
&ure, come in.
Then, Im coming in.
Tatsuya naturally leaned oer the monitor that sered as the tables
sur#ace as he heard the sound o# a door closing coming #rom the entry
way.
""&o, what is it?
The oice was neither high nor low and was *ust a simple .uestion
being oiced.
In spite o# this, an unnatural lull still mani#ested.
:iyuki didnt immediately reply to her brothers .uestion as she
obediently sat on the bed.
5en so"" + series o# .uestions started churning through Tatsuyas
brain.
--)ot too long ago, his sister still #aored pa*amas.
---as her current appearance the result o# &hi'ukus recent
appearance taking root?
;ight now, the pressing issue was the style o# :iyukis pa*amas.
%b*ectiely speaking, she was currently wearing a nightgown.
Technically, she had a small *acket draped oer the outside and the
gown was neatly #astened.
Howeer, #rom the chest to the knees, the barest hints o# snowy white
#lesh could be seen through the thin layer o# silk, #illed with
mesmeri'ing temptation.
1Thank#ully Im the only one who saw that"" Isnt she a little
lacking in the sel#-consciousness that young ladies usually possess?3
+s her brother, Tatsuya was highly concerned about his sisters lack o#
wariness, --yet whether this was truly right or wrong, there was
un#ortunately no *udge present to determine the outcome.
%n the other side, :iyuki appeared to be highly pleased with her
brothers blank stare and an embarrassed smile graced her #ace. &till,
that isage swi#tly altered to one o# seriousness.
Hae I interrupted %nii-sama #rom studying""?
Hardly. :iyuki, you know that such things are not necessary #or me.
+nyone else would hae #elt a surge o# disgust at those words, but
there was no sign o# eny, ama'ement or praise #rom :iyuki as she
took those words as per#ectly natural.
Tatsuya rose #rom his position be#ore the table and walked to the
bedside be#ore taking seat beside :iyuki. %# course, there was a
de#inite distance between them. 6et, #rom the side and not the #ront
came a look that clearly said >id you hae something to say? that
urged :iyuki onward to oice her hesitant, stuttering .uestion.
%nii-sama"" :iyuki is really con#licted right now.
2on#licted?
>espite knowing that something was on :iyukis mind, this was still
a sudden .uestion.
Tatsuya repeated part o# :iyukis sentence and kept his eyes #astened
on her, yet she #ailed to raise her eyes to her brother.
;ight now, I completely dont understand, what magic is".. -hat
we :agicians are""
0emusement coered Tatsuyas #ace.
He was completely not e(pecting such a pro#ound .uestion. ;ather
than belonging to the #ield o# magic studies, it may be more
appropriate to say this came #rom the realm o# psychology.
-hile he didnt #eel that he was unable to .uestion, Tatsuya didnt
hae an option that was appropriate enough to answer :iyukis
.uestion.
-hat makes you think that?
;egardless, Tatsuya prompted her to continue speaking.
Arom a #undamental perspectie, magic and super powers are one
and the same. %nii-sama knows this better than anyone else when it
comes down to theory or practical application.
I think knowing that better than anyone else may be a stretch""
0ut go on.
4arasites D demons also know how to use magic. -hen comparing
the magic they use with the ones we cast, there is nothing di##erent
besides the procedure.
True.
:iyukis hands were tightly clasped on top o# her knees, but she
suddenly twisted around towards Tatsuya. 4lacing her hands in the
space between Tatsuya and hersel#, she leaned #orward towards
Tatsuya.
Her eyes were #illed with unease.
I hae been wondering whether thats"" the result o# demons
possessing :agicians. -as the demon using the :agicians mind to
cast magic?
Terror lay in the depths o# that unease.
6et, a#ter seeing the power 4i(ie used and %nii-samas ensuing
e(planation, I hae #ound that I am in error.
+re you re#erring to the psychokinesis #rom that time?
6es.
There was another lull until the conersation resumed. :iyuki was
a#raid o# erbali'ing the rest. &he was terri#ied o# the idea that her
theory would be rein#orced i# she trans#ormed her speculation into
words. That was the #eeling Tatsuya got #rom her.
Telepathy is the ability to communicate #rom one consciousness to
another. The original 4arasite that is akin to a spirit #orm was capable
o# this, so thats nothing surprising. -hen I heard that she used
psychokinesis to create #acial e(pressions, I also thought nothing o#
that matter.
Tatsuya #elt that :iyukis #ace was getting closer.
The waering emotions in her eyes were becoming more obious.
6et, that burst o# psychokinesis"" -hile rough in design that
de#initely still was :oe-Type :agic. +nd that magic was actiated
a#ter resonating with Honoka, right?
""6es.
Tatsuya answered with some hesitation. Though that answer was a
little dubious, Tatsuya was practically certain that the phenomenon
between Honoka and 4i(ie was nearly as those who with close blood
ties, much like the resonance rarely obsered in :agicians who are
identical twins D a phenomenon that occurred when the magic
calculation area o# one o# them is stimulated, the other ones magic
calculation area becomes more actie as well.
JH"" +s a machine, it does not hae the power to wield magic.
Howeer, 4i(ies psychokinesis was not the power o# the host, but a
power that came #rom the monster, the 4arasite.
:iyuki lowered her head when she #inished. Immediately, she brought
her eyes back to him as i# she was about to break into tears.
&ince magic is practically the same as psychokinesis, does that mean
demons hae the same power that we :agicians do?
Tatsuya #inally understood the root o# his sisters unease.
-hy is magic called magic? ""2ould it be that our power
originated #rom them?
:iyukis #ace drew een closer.
&he was close enough that he could #eel her breathing. +t this time,
Tatsuya stood up #rom the bed.
&uper#icially, he looked to be aoiding :iyuki, but the reality was #ar
di##erent.
Lneeling in #ront o# :iyuki, Tatsuya caught :iyukis eyes.
:iyuki".. 6oure oerthinking this.
:iyuki rotated her so#t, #le(ible body and used her arms to support her
leaning body. &he took in Tatsuyas ga'e D and stored it within her
heart.
8ently taking hold o# his sisters shoulders, Tatsuya gradually shi#ted
his sisters leaning body to the proper position bit by bit.
-hile magic is re#erred to as the law o# demons in <apan, the word
magic in 5nglish contains the connotation #or ability o# sages.
:iyuki gae a small ah sound.
+s to where the power o# magic came #rom, that is currently
unknown. :agic &e.uences rewrite other in#ormation bodies to bring
about phenomenon alteration, and though we understand this system,
e(actly why is this change possible and why the magic calculation
area in the human subconscious is able to do so are still enigmas.
Tatsuya wore the con#used e(pression o# a master berating a student
making a mental error despite being more talented than himsel# as he
smiled.
Aor that matter, we cannot een guarantee that magic is something
created by :agicians. It would be too great a leap in logic to say that
since demons can use magic, then there must be a connection between
:agicians and demons.
Thats true""
Aurthermore, the real identity o# the 4arasite could be said to be
independent in#ormation bodies that originated #rom the human
psyche. &ince they came #rom the human consciousness, then its
power should come #rom humans. It would be #ar more appropriate to
say the power o# demons come #rom humans instead o# saying that the
power o# :agicians come #rom demons.
I see"" %nii-sama is completely right.
The an(iety in :iyukis eyes #aded away into nothing.
Tatsuya got the impression that :iyuki seemed to hae understood a
tad too .uickly, but this was still more constructie than doubt, so
there was no reason to ruin her mood.
6ou were thinking that you are kin to demons and not humans, and
that is why you couldnt sleep, right?
Tatsuyas words did carry any in#lection that poked #un at his sister.
Howeer, as i# a button had been pressed, :iyuki blushed een more
#uriously than usual. Aro'en to the point that she #orgot to een coer
her #ace, :iyuki rebooted and swi#tly turned to #ace the wall.
&played out oer the bed in an odd position, she #aced the wall
without budging an inch.
Theres no need to be that embarrassed"" Tatsuya thought to
himsel#, but he did acknowledge that his sisters current state was
adorable.
In that case""
He stealthily moed his lips ne(t to :iyukis earlobe as he spoke
so#tly.
7ntil you #all asleep.
&he was so adorable that it roused Tatsuyas mischieousness.
+s e(pected, :iyukis body gae a huge start.
It was as i# she was ready to #ly to the ceiling.
&hould I stay by your side?
:iyuki slowly turned her head around, blushing the entire time. +s
she watched Tatsuya with abashed and tender eyes, she spoke in a
#eathery tone.
""2an you hold my hand?
%erdid it, Tatsuya thought.
Tatsuya had no authority to deny her.
7ntil :iyuki #ell asleep, Tatsuya sat on the bed tightly clasping
:iyukis pearly white hand.
Aortunately, :iyuki immediately departed #or dreamland.
His sisters happy, slumbering #ace was Tatsuyas greatest reward.
5en so, it was hard to hide his mental e(haustion.
2are#ully walking away and turning o## the light, Tatsuya le#t
:iyukis bedside.
&ilently closing the door, he walked towards his own room.
Hal#way back, Tatsuya reali'ed something.
5en :iyuki, who had receied higher education as a :agician, had
thought that there was a connection between :agicians and demons
instead o# #ocusing on magic alone.
&he took :agicians #or something inhuman.
I# someone well ersed in magic like :iyuki thought so, then those
who were un#amiliar with magic and were not :agicians themseles
could hardly be #aulted #or seeing :agicians as demonic.
It would hardly be surprising i# they thought :agicians were not .uite
human, or #rankly something inhuman altogether""
? ? ?
The ne(t morning.
-hen Tatsuya got to school, he immediately dragged 5rika, @eo, and
:ikihiko out o# the classroom. Though he saw that :i'uki watched
them with nerous eyes, he neer gae her an opportunity to rescue
them.
Their destination was the roo#.
)ot only was it the coldest time in the morning, not a single person
was on the wind-e(posed roo#top. Tatsuya didnt want to stay too long
himsel#.
6ou guys hae something to tell me.
The three people on the roo#top werent intentionally keeping .uiet.
Howeer, seeing that their #riend had speci#ically called them up here
and spared them the small talk, no one could knock Tatsuya #or losing
his patience een i# his tone was a little an(ious.
The three o# them glanced at each other and all wore resigned
e(pressions. +s their e(pressions clearly showed that they had gien
up, they wordlessly determined who was going to be their
spokesperson with high speed.
Tatsuya, um, actually""
The one who spoke with trepidation, or maybe in a sel#-de#eating
manner, was :ikihiko.
+re you saying that you guys let the 4arasite get away?
Though Tatsuya *umped the gun because he wanted to get this oer
with .uickly, he couldnt help but sight when he saw :ikihiko raise
his head in shock as i# he had heard o# something impossible.
Im not going to be upset i# thats all it is. +lthough its going to be a
little di##icult to recapture".. 0ut theres nothing to be done i# it
already got away.
Though he didnt hide his disappointment, this wasnt a completely
unsalageable situation. <ust as Tatsuya e(pressed his stance and was
about to return to the warm classroom,
)o, thats not it, Tatsuya9
:ikihiko #rantically grabbed a hold o# him.
6eah, its not like they got away".. -ell, technically they did get
away""
0ased on those mutually e(clusie words, his #riends hadnt gotten to
the important part, so Tatsuya turned his ga'e on to @eo.
They were taken by someone else.
-ere they that strong?
Tatsuyas reaction to @eos answer was a little di##erent than the usual
approach to this situation.
Howeer, the detail that Tatsuya cared about the most was precisely
this one.
They had been in the same close #or almost a year. In Tatsuyas eyes,
the three o# them had the power now to match any #rontline combat
:agician and maybe een the members o# the Independent :agic-
5.uipped 0attalion.
%# course, they still couldnt take on La'ama or 6anagi 1without
Trident, een Tatsuya couldnt de#eat them3, but they could
de#initely hold their own against the rank and #ile.
-hile it was un#ortunate that we #ailed, but #rom a strength
perspectie, they werent particularly capable opponents.
They did hae e(ceptional gear. Thats the #irst time I ran into
someone wearing a *acket that could numb an enemy on contact.
They also had durable armor that scattered dust on impact. I# only I
had a longer weapon yesterday.
)o wonder.
That sort o# e.uipment was certainly uni.ue, but then again, that made
it easier to identi#y the enemy.
In the end, they een got on a black airship and #led. That was
#rustrating.
%L, we should be thank#ul that nothing more serious happened.
Hearing Tatsuyas words, or more like a#ter hearing Tatsuyas words,
5rika couldnt help but turn a Hm? look on Tatsuya.
Tatsuya-kun, dont tell me you already know who they are?
&ort o#. I neer made direct contact with them be#ore, but I think I
can guess.
-ho are they?
+#ter considering the nature o# the answer, it wouldnt be strange that
saying something and not saying something both held merit.
<&>A Intelligence >epartment 2ounterintelligence Jrd >iision.
-ith that sort o# interesting e.uipment and een a stealth airship #or
transport, it must be the Jrd >iision.
Tatsuyas answer was ery direct. )or did there appear to be any sign
he was holding back. It may be that not only 5rika, but een @eo and
:ikihiko had become embroiled in his a##airs.
>oes"" Tatsuya know that because hes a member o# the
Independent :agic-5.uipped 0attalion?
+h?
5en so,
I dont recall telling 5rika the unit I belong to""
+t someone pointing out something they didnt remember, 5rika
shook her head.
""I see, you heard #rom :iyuki.
+#ter seeing something like that, theres no way I wouldnt ask.
The item 5rika was re#erring to was probably the :oable &uit.
>espite uncoering Tatsuyas identity, 5rika still hadnt connected
Tatsuya to the &corched Halloween yet.
&ince we were engaged in #ull blown combat with the inading #orce,
a clearly di##erentiated chain o# command couldnt be aoided. &till, I
do hope you will keep that a secret.
I know. I dont want to be arrested #or espionage.
2ompromising the )ational &ecrecy +ct was synonymous to being
suspected o# spying. The ma*ority o# the citi'ens protested that this
inasion o# priacy in the latter hal# o# the preious century, so <apan
had since returned to being a normal country.
Hey, since you know who our opponents are, you wouldnt happen to
know where they carted those guys o## to, right?
5rikas mood rebounded .uickly as she asked in a hope#ul oice.
7n#ortunately,
-ithout knowing their ob*ectie een I cant be sure.
Tatsuya #rankly shook his head. That was how reality was.
True"" %ur opponent is a goernment organi'ation, so they must
hae multiple hideouts.
Thats because theres a budget, though its not ine(haustible. &till,
theyre probably like a wily rabbit that has three di##erent hiding
holes.
<ust as :ikihiko said, this time their opponent was a goernment
organi'ation. In terms o# #ighting assets at their disposal, they were on
a #undamentally di##erent leel than #oreign #orces that had illegally
inaded their soil. They had always en*oyed home #ield adantage, but
this time that was trans#erred to the other side.
:eh, its not like we hae to worry too much. This wouldnt hae
ended een i# you guys had taken care o# the interlopers #rom last
night. -e also know that the 4arasites are onto 4i(ie. -e *ust hae to
lay a snare that cannot be stolen #rom us ne(t time.
Tatsuya wore an eil smile as he reassured the three o# them. D>espite
the kind words, 5rika, @eo, and :ikihiko all backed away #ear#ully
#rom that e(pression, but Tatsuya seemed not to care.
@ets table this here. Hurry back to the classroom be#ore we #ree'e
here.
Though no one present would #eel that this chill would be anything
serious, at the end o# the day, cold was cold.
)one o# the three raised any ob*ection as they #ollowed behind
Tatsuya going indoors.
? ? ?
2oincidentally at the same time that Tatsuya and 5rikas group were
haing a chat on the roo#top, 2olonel 0alance also receied a phone
call on her end.
Im terribly sorry #or bothering you so early in the morning, :s.
/irginia.
Its you again.
The image that appeared on the screen was the #ace she saw yesterday.
The GN-year old young lady who claimed to be the spokesperson o#
the 6otsuba, Luroba +yako. This morning, she was still wrapped in
silk and lace.
&chool"" )o, e(cuse me.
5(cept while she was #ul#illing her duties, 2olonel 0alance was pretty
much a moralist. That was why she was on the erge o# telling o## a
young girl who plainly was o# the age that she should be in school but
was eidently engaged in non-school related actiities this morning.
Thank you #or caring.
Leenly discerning what /irginia was thinking, +yako reealed a
per#ectly polite smile.
&till, :s. /irginia need not worry. I hae long since obtained the
necessary credits to graduate.
&ince /irginia was not aware o# the <apanese middle school system,
there was no way #or her to *udge i# +yako was lying.
)o, I was the one who said something pointless. &o do you hae
news on your end?
2olonel 0alance was only obsering the #orms by asking this
.uestion. &he honestly was not e(pecting to receie any worthy
intelligence on the #irst day.
Indeed. +ctually last night, the <&>A Intelligence >epartment
2ounterintelligence Jrd >iision captured a 4arasite. ;ight now, we
hae con#irmed that one o# them was a #ormer :agician o# the 7&)+
military. The head told me that I should bring this to :s. /irginia o#
this and I hae done so.
0ring this ia phone was a slight problem. &till, 0alance wasnt
planning on wasting breath on that, since the in#ormation that was *ust
proided to her #ar outweighed that.
+re the 4arasites on the moe again?
Aamily members hae reported that 4arasites who hae lost their
essels #ound new hosts. These should be the people who captured
one.
+t the same time she said this, +yako trans#erred encrypted documents
to 2olonel 0alances terminal. +#ter reading the table o# contents #or
the documents that automatically decrypted themseles, she eri#ied
that one o# the contained personal in#ormation with a picture attached.
There are J captured 4arasites. +mong them, this is the only one we
hae currently identi#ied. I# you wish, I can also in#orm you o# the
location they are being held captie.
<ust looking at the table o# contents was not su##icient to clari#y why
this retired :agician was so important, but leaing him alone was not
an option #or 2olonel 0alance.
4lease do so, :s. Luroba.
7nderstood.
The young lady in the picture bowed as the in#ormation was sent oer.
-ithout losing decorum, 2olonel 0alance gae a simple thank you
be#ore hanging up and immediately e(amined the documents.
2olonel 0alances e(pression turned dark.
&he turned towards an encrypted line speci#ically prepared #or her and
swi#tly sent out a message.
The message contained orders to prepare #or mobili'ation tonight.
The recipient o# that message was :a*or +ngelina &irius.
? ? ?
The #irst sub*ect o# the day was 8eneral &tudies. &tudents were
allowed to read and work on problems, though some students chose to
listen to music in order to enhance their studying.
Tatsuya had always allowed the te(t to scroll on its own, so today he
brought his earphones. He would listen to the synthesi'ed music while
thinking about .uestions that had nothing to do with school.
It was true that he heard about the 2ounterintelligence Jrd >iisions
name and uni.ue #eatures #rom the Independent :agic-5.uipped
0attalion.
6et, this wasnt like it was incomprehensible #or a branch o# the
Intelligence >epartment.
-ithin the Intelligence >epartment, they were the diision that had
the closest relationship with the &aegusa Aamily. They were a
detachment that had participated in this action as the hands and #eet o#
the &aegusa Aamily. To be precise, they should be a unit that had
mobili'ed with the &aegusa Aamilys support in the background,
which was how Tatsuya speculated this opposing #orce to be.
&till, this turnout #elt rather surreal to Tatsuya.
He was working under the assumption that this incident happened
under the &aegusa Aamilys orders.
7sing a stealth airship as the centerpiece to #orcibly take the 4arasites
seemed a little too iolent.
Tatsuya wasnt that #amiliar with the modus operandus o# the head o#
the &aegusa Aamily, &aegusa Loichi, hence why he was unable to
discern the &aegusa Aamilys moties. Howeer, i# this sort o# high
stakes gambling was the &aegusa Aamilys style, they would hae
con#licted with the 6otsuba Aamily a long time ago.
&o in the end, who was it that plotted this se.uence o# eents?
There was also the possibility that this wasnt the will o# the &aegusa
Aamily and simply the 2ounterintelligence Jrd >iision going rogue.
18ien that the army has disobeyed their hidden backer and acted on
their own"" Then his motie must lie around some goal that is
connected with the armys e(istence.3
Then what is the army a#ter?
+s the iolent organi'ation dedicated to protecting the country, the
armys sole purpose was to directly meet another countrys direct
oerture o# iolence.
The nature was too comple( to e(plain in one or two sentences.
Howeer, #rom the sur#ace, the armys intent was glaringly obious.
The armys sole goal is ictory. +ll other goals were secondary to that.
There were many paths to ictory, and #ailing where they were
supposed to #ail was also a #orm o# ictory.
)o matter what, eerything was #ine as long as they won.
+nything a#ter winning was the business o# politicians. The army only
had to worry about how to sei'e ictory.
Thus, the army would pursue power.
+n intelligence unit that belieed itsel# a cut aboe the norm and
going rogue would undoubtedly pursue strength as its goal.
Thinking along those lines, a chill ran down Tatsuyas spine.
It couldnt be that the Jrd >iision was trying to harness the 4arasites
D the demons #or military purposes?
That was #ar too dangerous, Tatsuya couldnt help but think.
%ne o# the key indictments that painted :agicians in a negatie light
within the 7&)+ was the accusation that :agicians summoned
demons to this world. Though the agitators blamed military ambition
as the reason behind summoning the demons, the slander here was
obious. Howeer, using 4arasites #or martial purposes would only
gie more ammunition to the anti-:agician #action.
1)o, the end result would be the same i# the Ten :aster 2lans were
plotting behind the scenes.3
;egardless o# whether the 2ounterintelligence Jrd >iision went
rogue or were operating under orders #rom the &aegusa Aamily,
Tatsuyas renewed consideration placed them both at the same degree
o# risk.
+ mere pup like him may hae no business doing so, but a warning
shot needed to be #ired across the &aegusa Aamilys bow.
Though this was de#initely going to inconenience :ayumi as she
was preparing #or a test, he really needed to #ind some time to talk.
The moment the thought crossed his mind, he used his personal
terminal to send set up a meeting with :ayumi.
--Though his brain may say that this would inconenience her, Tatsuya
really didnt care that this would make it tough #or :ayumi.
+#ter sending a message to :ayumi in the middle o# class, he got a
reply back within one minute. +lthough the message was #lagged as
urgent""
1Isnt that person supposed to be a test taker?3
There wasnt too much time until the test began. Though there was no
danger o# her #ailing, he still couldnt help but think Is this really a
good idea #or a test taker?. %h well"" +ny #urther thought on this
matter was minding someone elses business. &ince she could reply to
urgent messages immediately, she must hae no complaints on the
matter.
+#ter ruminating oer this, Tatsuya opened the mail.
The message Tatsuya sent oer was 2an I see you within the ne(t
two days to talk about something?
:ayumis reply was 2ome immediately to the &tudent 2ouncil
;oom.
5en though she was able to #reely come and go #rom school, she still
came to school o#ten.
Aurthermore, her current location was not the classroom or the library,
but the &tudent 2ouncil ;oom.
""Is this really a good idea? Test taker? Tatsuya thought #rom the
bottom o# his heart.
&ince Tatsuya was the one who reached out #or a meeting, o# course he
was the one who wanted to handle the situation as soon as possible,
hence why Tatsuya was walking directly #or the &tudent 2ouncil
;oom.
Though this was bona #ide ditching school, cheating the monitoring
system was di##icult but hardly impossible.
Tatsuya used the I> card that someone he didnt now set up #or #ull
access and opened the door. 4robably because this was still class time,
:ayumi was the only one in the room.
+#ter e(changing greetings D :ayumi thought that was enough
whereas Tatsuya had to consider #or a moment about the right attitude
D Tatsuya sat down across #rom :ayumi and immediately coneyed
what had happened.
""This is the situation. I think that airship belongs to the
Intelligence >epartment 2ounterintelligence Jrd >iision that is
rumored to be connected with the &aegusa Aamily. +s to e(actly why
they wanted to capture a 4arasite, I hae no idea. Howeer, it is
e(tremely dangerous i# they plan to use the 4arasite #or military
purposes. Though I do not know i# they can be completely destroyed,
sealing them would probably be the best bet.
2ounterintelligence Jrd >iision? Though not an adult, een I as a
member o# the &aegusa Aamily do not know about this. Tatsuya-kun,
Im ama'ed that you are in the know #or something like this.
I would greatly appreciate it i# you would not ask me #or my
sources.
""-ell, Tatsuya-kun seems to hae a lot on his plate so I wont
ask. 2ompared to that, can you tell me why you went a#ter the 4arasite
alone?
I #elt that i# senpais side also sent men, they would be too wary to
come.
Is that all there is?
:ayumi watched Tatsuya playing dumb with a highly displeased
e(pression on her #ace.
Ill let it go #or now""
6et, be#ore the completely unperturbed Tatsuya, she was about to
shrug her shoulders but stopped the motion hal#way.
Tatsuya-kun wants me to try and persuade my #ather, correct? &o that
the 4arasite captured by the Intelligence >epartment can be returned
to 5rika-chan and her group.
Though this hardly mattered, at some point :ayumi started to re#er to
5rika as 5rika-chan, something that would hae prompted a highly
unwilling look on 5rika hersel# is she were present 1:i'uki was
allowed to do so, but no one else3. Then again, he could neer get used
to :ikihiko being called :iki, so this must be what it means by
what goes around, comes around.
""Tatsuya shook his head to dispel the random thoughts and replied
with I didnt ask you guys to return it in response to :ayumis
.uestion.
Ill be blunt. I# the reason #or keeping the 4arasites turns out to be
something other than e(perimentation and that their usage as military
tools is discoered, hereby haing a negatie e##ect on :agicians, I
will ensure that the organi'ation responsible pays dearly #or this.
Ruite the terri#ying declaration.
Though the oice contained some degree o# surprise, her ga'e seemed
to signi#y an unspeakable hatred that sort o# talk.
+#ter taking into the consideration what is happening in the 7&)+,
such a threat is necessary.
:ayumi also knew that discrimination against :agicians was growing
worse day by day oer there. I# a similar situation broke out in the
much smaller <apan, things might turn into bloodshed at a much #aster
rate.
""I understand. I will talk to my #ather, but I cannot guarantee
anything, so please dont be too hope#ul. +#ter all, unlike <uumon*i-
kun, Im not the heir to the &aegusa Aamily.
:ayumis last words threw Tatsuya #or a loop.
""-hat?
)o"" Its *ust that its surprising that the &aegusa Aamily turned
out to be so patriarchal.
-hat is Tatsuya-kuns #amily like?
This may be because she was shy or simply being sulky. Tatsuya was a
little unclear about the meaning behind :ayumis reaction.
&till, there was no reason to answer. +#ter re#lecting brie#ly, Tatsuya
approached :ayumis .uestion in a state o# mind much like someone
playing a penalty game.
%ur #athers in#luence isnt something that is a part o# our lies, since
he currently moed into his second wi#es condo.
:ayumis eyes started dri#t all oer the place.
&eeing such an innocent side o# :ayumi that was so easily #lustered
by something like this, Tatsuya couldnt help but think that shes not
that much older than we are. Though she o#ten acts like an adult, she
de#initely couldnt be called a mature woman.
The only di##erence is that shes not a loer but a second wi#e now.
How mature.
Thats *ust giing up. +nd i# being an adult means giing up""
Then I dont een want to think about it.
Tatsuya answered :ayumi with a completely de#eated tone.
5en a bad premonition will occasionally miscalculate.
In regards to Tatsuyas theory about the <&>A Intelligence >epartment
using the 4arasite, that was sadly not going to happen.
&till, it was hard to say whether this constituted being #ortunate.
The ne(t morning.
The 2ounterintelligence Jrd >iisions espionage detention center
was raided. The captured 4arasites hae been e(ecuted.
That was what was written on the message :ayumi passed along.
Chapter 16
--The Intelligence 0ureauIs #acilities were attacked, and the contained
4arasite had been killed--
Tatsuya suppressed the urge to immediately contact :ayumi with a
detailed report, instead going to the bathroom #or the time being.
;insing o## the sweat #rom his regular training under the shower, he
considered his ne(t moe.
:iyuki still hadnIt been told.
He had *ust come back #rom 6akumoIs temple. This was per#ectly
routine, and *ust because he had checked his mail be#ore entering the
shower she shouldnIt hae in#erred anything #rom it.
1)o...... ItId be useless to try and hide it.3
&hould he *ust keep .uiet, Tatsuya considered, then immediately
re*ected the idea.
He wouldnIt be able to keep anything #rom his sisterIs sharp intuition
ery long. +nd it would be one thing i# it were completely unrelated,
but :iyuki was *ust as inoled in this matter as Tatsuya was.
>eciding to not sneak around and openly come clean to his sister,
Tatsuya e(ited the shower.
TatsuyaIs #ingers #lew oer the console o# the workstation in the
basement. I# it were to be described in words, it wouldnIt be IbrilliantI,
but IaccurateI, and I#astI, rather like his personality.
It was a &aturday, so they only had a #ew morning classes. 0ut i# the
inestigation ended up dragging out, Tatsuya had considered skipping.
In that case, it would be something natural #or him 1he himsel#
considered it to be InaturalI.3
In :iyukiIs case, it would be something natural #or her, as well 1to her
howeer, it would be more due to InecessityI3, and since skipping
today would hae been entirely o# her own #ree will, she had waered
until the last minute.
Aortunately, he #ound the data they were looking #or immediately.
+lthough he was unauthorisedly accessing the >e#ense Aorces serer,
the resistance o# the local system 1local here meaning, not standalone,
but merely localised3 against the hacking program made by the
I5lectron &orceressI Au*ibayashi Lyoko was decidedly inade.uate.
2ompartmentalising in#ormation in this way as a risk countermeasure
meant that, whilst speci#ic sections may be ulnerable, leaks would
not impact the wholeB it had both merits and demerits.
-ell, since it had led to a #aourable result #or Tatsuya this time, he
could a##ord to be grace#ul.
The ideo which was recorded therein, contained something shocking.
)ot in the sense o# ruthlessness or cruelty causing a physiological
impact, but that the identity o# the one who had gone and caused
eerything had a considerable impact on the siblings.
7nder the coer o# darkness, a petite #igure inaded.
Illuminated by the light o# the alarms was a masked, #laming haired
girl.
-ith a single glare o# her golden eyes, the plain clothed soldiers were
blown away, then she proceeded to care a complicated pattern #our
times towards the door. +s she then stepped aside, the door crashed
down.
%n the other side was a small room. The width was about enough to #it
two single beds, and the low ceiling was E metres tall. %n the #ar side
were three bunk beds.
>epried o# moement, in a strait*acket, legs tightly bound, a man was
lying on top o# the third bed. -hile he looked di##erent due to being
completely pale, #rom his #ace he was unmistakably the 4arasite who
had identi#ied as :arte.
+ pale mist emitted #rom the girlIs mouth. It seemed the room was
kept rather cold.
In her hand, the kni#e had been replaced by an automatic pistol.
The single shot she #ired hit :arte right in the chest.
+ll o# a sudden, the manIs body combusted.
The source o# the #lame had likely been the bullet. It was probably a
magic which bla'ed on the condition the bullet stopped inside the
targetIs body.
The #lame haired girl, +ngie &irius, #ired more shots into the top and
bottom beds. 2learly, this was a killing with no regard #or recoering
the IcontentI. The ob*ectie had been not merely to erase the
IcontainerIB it was an Ie(ecutionI.
-hile watching the girl calmly walk away o## the camera, Tatsuya
sighed unconsciously.
He knew that &iriusI tasks included the neutralisation o# rogue
magicians. He also knew per#ectly well that humane treatment #or
magicians was all *ust empty talk, but he couldnIt help sighing
nonetheless.
The entire a##air was highly un#ortunate.
In#licting the role o# a merciless killer on a GM year old girl, *ust what
were the 7&)+ military brass thinking.
5en the :a#ia was more considerate in their personnel selection.
This was no di##erent #rom religious and #undamentalist nuts who
droe boys and girls to terrorism in the name o# holy war.
C%nii sama, that was...... @ina wasnIt it?C
:iyuki had been in#ormed o# &iriusI secret, I4aradeI.
&he could tell #rom that rough image that the killer was &irius-- @ina.
C4robably.C
:iyuki seemed to be in shock, but Tatsuya could #ind no words to
soothe her.
There was nothing he could say about the murder itsel#. He didnIt
beliee he was .uali#ied to do any such thing. He himsel# had
undertaken missions he could not reeal, and amongst the dirty work
to be done, assassination could be said to be one o# the more cleaner
acts.
+t the same time howeer, it was lonely dismal work.
7nless there was a great compatibility in terms o# personality, it would
be #ar too heay #or a teenage girl. 7nable to bear the weight, her
heart would break down little by little.
+nd #rom what Tatsuya had seen, @ina was no killer.
Arom the oice and look :iyuki gae him, she was o# the same
opinion.
+t this rate, there may come a time when she is lost to the darkness.
Aortunately1?3, what happened ne(t was #urther shocking enough to
blow such melancholy away. +ll o# a sudden, another #igure walked
into the monitor screen o# the Third 2ounterintelligence >iisionIs
ideo serer Tatsuya was hacking into.
-ith blond hair and blue eyes, the young man appeared to be an
+nglo-&a(on. He looked childish, but his age was probably around
that o# TatsuyaIs.
Holding her hands to her mouth :iyuki let out a sound o# dismay, but
Tatsuya remained calm.
This workstation had been intended #or hacking, and was completely
isolated #rom the other systems as well as running on a dedicated line.
There were no mics in the room, nor cameras. &ound and isuals
could only #low one way, so there was no way o# obsering this place
#rom the other side o# the connection.
CHello, you can hear me right? IIll speak on the assumption you can.C
&ure enough, the youth re#lected in the monitor began to speak
without attempting to establish communication.
C@etIs start o## with introductions. :y name is ;aymond &age 2lark.
%ne o# the I&een &agesI.C
:iyukiIs hands, which had at some point #ound their way to TatsuyaIs
shoulders, tensed.
Tatsuya was aware that the sensation included tenseness o# his own.
CIIe heard about you #rom TearX...... )o, &hi'uku. )ice to meet you,
Tatsuya.C (*The kanji for 'Shizuku' means 'teardrop' )
It seemed this boy was a #ellow student o# &hi'uku in her e(change.
Aurthermore, someone she had proided in#ormation to.
I# &hi'ukuIs in#ormation source had been @inaIs mentioned I&ageI,
little wonder een o##-record in#ormation could be accessed.
0ut, *ust what was his purpose?
8oing as #ar as to e(pose himsel# to Tatsuya.
There was always the possibility it was a ideo dummy, but TatsuyaIs
intuition told him it was the real ;aymond &age 2lark.
C@etIs speak bluntly. ...... +h, thatIs a pretty nice phrase.C
;aymond was speaking <apanese. I&peak bluntlyI was #luent, i# not a
bit incorrect. There was nothing IbluntI about his speaking anyway.
CThe one who told +ngie &irius about this place was me.C
Tatsuya re#le(iely wanted to point out Iyour use o# idiom is
completely wrongI, but there was no way to coney that un#ortunately.
There was no doubt that Ithis placeI re#erred to the Third
2ounterintelligence >iision.
C&ince be#ore I said anything, she already knew about this place,
anyway.C
The hell is that, Tatsuya thought. 6ouIre not telling someone anything
i# they already knew.
%nce again, there was no opportunity to retort. Tatsuya decided to see
the ideo through to the end.
C+nd now, IIe got something special #or you.C
I5(clusie newsI was pretty in#ormal <apanese. It was as i# he had
been learning <apanese #rom some news room.
CI think itIs something youIll be .uite interested in. The price is my
repayment to you #or watching, is what IId like to say but since weIre
wrapping up IIll gie it to you #ree.C
+lthough Tatsuya knew he couldnIt hear, he still muttered IitIs not like
I asked youI under his breath.
That was all he had time to spare howeer.
CThe anti-magician moement currently raging in the &tates, and
which is about to spill oer into <apan was orchestrated by one o# the
&een &agesY <iedo &age Heigu.C
0eing hit with this news all o# a sudden, een Tatsuya couldnIt
suppress his surprise.
C<iedo Heigu, aka 8Z <iV. + stateless 2hinese, and leader o# the
international terrorist organisation I0lancheI. The boss o# that 0lanche
<apan branch branch leader whom you caught, Tsukasa.C
+s the names lined up one a#ter the other,
CHe was also the preious leader o# the international crime syndicate
I)o Head >ragonI, and his grandson ;ichard is a senior in that same
group. -ithin the organisation he is re#erred to as the I0lack &ageI , or
I0ig :an HeiguI.
Tatsuya was trans#i(ed to the screen.
C+h, so you know, *ust because weIre both &ages doesnIt mean we
hae any connection to each other. The &een &ages isnIt the name o#
some group, but rather re#ers to the seen operators who hae access
to Hli[sk*\l#.C
It wasnIt like conersation--.uestions were possible, yet he willed him
to hurry up.
Hli[sk*\l#...... He had only heard a rumour o# it once. It was a rumour,
no more seemingly more real than an urban legend, yet it was true,
apparently. -as this the same thing as that which he had heard in the
rumour?
CHli[sk*\l# isC
-ith impeccable timing as i# reading TatsuyaIs thoughts, ;aymond
proceeded to describe it.
C+n additional e(tension o# the global obseration system I5chelon
IIII. ItIs a backdoor into 5chelon III, so I suppose you could think o# it
as a hacking tool which allows you to lurk within the system? -hat
would you say Tatsuya?C
I-hat would you sayI he asks, een though there wasnIt the slightest
chance o# an answer.
%# course ;aymond was per#ectly aware o# that as well, so he
continued without waiting #or one.
C+s #or where Hli[sk*\l# itsel# is located, not een us operators know.
It may een be that itIs simply a program, with no physical hardware
to be #ound.C
;aymond shrugged on screen. The gesture looked like it came straight
out o# some anime.
C+nyway, Hli[sk*\l# collects in#ormation #rom all oer the world with
an e##iciency surpassing 5chelon IIIIs main system and brings it to the
operators. The operators seem to be chosen by the system itsel#, and
there seems to be no discernible selection criteria. +pparently itIs
completely random.C
;aymond mimicked twirling a pipe. He was probably rather
disappointed he had #orgotten to bring an actual prop.
CTo try and think o# something they hae in common, I suppose itId be
the #inancial security to access adanced in#ormation systems on their
own? ItIs not like youId need to be a millionaire or something, in terms
o# <apan or the &tates something along the lines o# the standard o#
liing o# an aerage middle class would be enough.C
This was completely unbelieable.
That was TatsuyaIs impression #rom ;aymondIs e(planation so #ar.
<ust what were the creators o# Hli[sk*\l# thinking. It was
inconceiable that they were merely hackers doing this #or the
pleasure o# it.
C-ell to be honest, itIs not much o# a system. Hardware wise
Hli[sk*\l# is completely dependent on 5chelon III, and itIs merely the
data processing which is more e##icientB it canIt access data which is in
storage since itIs merely an interception system. 0y the way, thereIs a
system guard in place which preents saing any o# the results to
some e(ternal storage. The in#ormation which can be obtained is
limited by the brain o# the operator. +t best, itIs something which
grants in#ormation gathering capabilities, and allows its operators to
take the name o# I&ageI.C
5en with *ust that though, it was a serious threat.
It could be said now that all data o# importance was moed through a
network o# some kind.
<ust, what data were there which wasnIt communicated at least once.
C)ot to mention, using Hli[sk*\l# poses a risk to its operators. In order
to streamline the search, Hli[sk*\l# uses two agentsY Huginn and
:uninn. The search history o# the operator is recorded in :uninn.
+nything one operator searches #or will be known to all the other
operators. The reason I know o# <iedo Heigu is due to :uninn.C
+t this point, Tatsuya thought I%h myI. Theoretically speaking, that
would mean it was possible the identity o# ;aymond 2lark was known
to <iedo Heigu as well.
C>ue to the loss o# the <apanese branches o# both 0lanche and )o
Head >ragon, Heigu lost the means to meddle with <apan. The reason
Heigu sent the 4arasites to <apan was to cause an escalating turmoil,
under coer o# which, he could rebuild his bases o# operations.C
In the ideo, ;aymond had dropped his per#ormance. It seemed this
was a serious matter to him.
CI hae come to the conclusion that his aim is the elimination o# magic
#rom society. I# he can push out magic technology, magically
underdeeloped countries like the 8reat +sian +lliance can een the
balance o# military power at a stretch. They would be dominant in a
non-magical world, and I beliee that is what Heigu and those who are
behind him are plotting.C
+lthough seemingly oerdramatic, Tatsuya concluded it was logical as
a whole. It had been TatsuyaIs own #eeling that the 8reat +sian
+lliance seemed to want to eradicate magic technology.
CThat is not a world I desire. ...... ItIs #ine i# you laugh and call me a
romanticist, but I truly beliee that magic is something which will lead
to the adancement o# mankind.C
+lthough he knew there was no way the other side could hear, Tatsuya
couldnIt help a spit-take. &omehow, a #undamental part o# the boy *ust
didnIt seem to match with that opinion.
C+nd so, #rom here on out, IIll try and continue proiding in#ormation
you may #ind necessary. Tatsuya &hiba--&trategic class magician, 8od
o# >estructionIThe >estroyI.C
+t that e(aggerated nickname ;aymond bestowed upon him, Tatsuya
#rowned with all his might.
-->onIt gie me a name that sounds like the boss o# some crappy ideo
game. -as it possible that this boy was an IotakuI o# uniersal
language.
C-e may hae gone *uust a bit oer time. To summarise, #or this
matter I o##er my help in the destruction o# the 4arasites.C
Hardly *ust a bit, Tatsuya thought, but the monitor didnIt switch o##.
C+bout the in#ormation on <iedo Heigu. ItIs up to you i# youIll beliee
it or not. -hether youIll trust what IIm about to tell you right now is
up to you as well. I# you do howeer, IId like you to repay me by
completing a #ew tasks.C
Aor a moment, ;aymond was silent. )ot in the sense o# dramaticism,
but #rom what was re#lected in the screen due to tension.
CTomorrow, the night o# Aebruary GQth your time, all actie 4arasites
will be drawn to the back outdoor training grounds o# Airst High. IId
like you to destroy them there.C
)o eidence had been presented, but by this stage Tatsuya was already
prepared to take ;aymond up on his o##er.
C6ou should note that IIe already relayed this in#ormation to +ngie
&irius as well. -hether to cooperate or not, is once again all up to
you.C
He wasnIt particularly thrilled about this gesture o# consideration, but
un#ortunately there wasnIt e(actly any way to ob*ect either.
;aymond spoke no #urther, then the monitor suddenly went dark.
+n e(hale was heard oerhead.
:iyuki appeared to hae been holding her breath.
Tatsuya had been too.
C&eems that weId better leae soon i# we donIt want to be late.C
;ising and looking back, Tatsuya called :iyuki along.
? ? ?
6ear G 2lass 5Is Epm class was practical.
+lthough itIs called a class, as usual there was no teacher present.
&tudents *ust operated their 2+>s on their own #ollowing guidance
shown on the wall monitors. The students themseles were already
#amiliar with this, and there was now an ease due to being #ree #rom a
teacherIs eyes. %# course there were those who simply gae upB
whether one did so or continued perseering was up to the indiidual.
:ost o# the boys kept it up.
In order to keep not raise attention @eo was delayed in arriing to the
practice roomB looking around and seeing the #igures o# :ikihiko,
5rika and :i'uki he proceeded inside.
C...... 6ouIre late, @eo.C
CRuiet you.C
-hile :ikihikoIs oice had so#tened considerably as o# late, his
reproo# contained a hint o# sharpnessB @eo responded with a #earless
grin.
That grin soon switched to an Ioh?I e(pression.
C-hat about Tatsuya?C
To his in.uiry, :i'uki replied CIt seems he has a isitor?C
Her tone was rather .uestioning since :i'uki was unsure as well.
C/isitor? +t school?C
+s @eo echoed with raised eyebrows, :i'uki could only return a
ague smile.
C:ore importantly, letIs get this oer with.C
5rika spoke up #rom the side in a care#ree oice. >iscernible
underneath her indi##erent tone was a warning not to step into priate
matters.
C6ouIre right. TodayIs task seems like itIll be .uite challenging.C
&aying so, :ikihiko began setting his 2+>. 5rika considered it
someone elseIs business, :i'uki was slightly an(ious, and @eo #elt a
slight twingeB their smiles each contained their own respectie
#eelings.
:eanwhile Tatsuya, with his moody poker#ace, was sitting on a so#a
in the drawing room.
+cross #rom him sat a middle-aged man in a lu(ury suit. His
e(pression was plain moody.
+s those two displeased isages #aced each other, it was unlikely
either would attempt a conersation.
The one who ran out o# patience #irst, haing being #orcibly called out
o# class, was Tatsuya.
C+oki san, would you please state your business?C
His tone couldnIt be said to be polite, neermind his wordingB the
temper eident in +okiIs seemed to step up a notch.
+oki as well, since it was Tatsuya, couldnIt help letting his #eelings
show. +s the one who dealt with the underground economy and
guarded the 6otsuba treasury #or oer ten years, +okiIs mask shouldnIt
hae a single crack, neermind going as #ar as to impair his speech.
+oki should hae known more than anyone, how letting his emotions
out like this would impair his mission. 0ut the hierarchy o# the
6otsuba had been too deeply ingrained into him,
&uch consciousness had turned no #ew people into idiots.
C...... IIm in the middle o# class at the moment, so i# thereIs nothing
important I will e(cuse mysel#.C
C-ait.C
+t TatsuyaIs ultimatum, +oki #inally opened his mouth. 2onsiderably
reluctantly too.
CThe other day, you purchased a JH-4QF, did you not?C
The business-like way o# speaking +oki adopted was understandable.
Tatsuya #ound it humorous, but didnIt laugh. &uch petty retaliation
was, in all likelihood, *ust his way o# coping.
CTo be e(act, it was the day be#ore yesterday.C
In the same way, Tatsuya responded in a business-like manner.
7n#ortunately, his resole would be lost almost immediately.
CThe madam wants it. -eIll reimburse you twice the amount, so please
hand it oer immediately.C
Tatsuya rapidly stood up, and con#irmed with a sharp ga'e there were
no eaesdroppers.
&ince there was always e.uipment #or the obseration o# magical
power in magic high schools he could not use his I5yesI #reely, but his
naked eyes were also trained #or such a #eat. In any case, there had
been none listening in to their talk.
Tatsuya took out #rom his pocket, his mobile terminal, and connected
a cable into it, holding out to +oki the other end.
Thinking about it--no, een i# you didnIt this was pretty presumptions
behaiour, but realising Tatsuya wasnIt about to say anything +oki
with a #rown nonetheless took the cable and plugged it into his own
terminal.
C+oki san, are you sick?C
The #irst message he sent oer was this une(pected thing.
+okiIs re#le(ie reaction was to get angry, but sensing the unusual
pressure emitting #rom the other side he inadertently kept himsel#
under control.
CToday is a &aturday. I# you had waited *ust #our more hours you
could hae called me somewhere with no people. -hy would you run
the risk o# discussing House matters in the drawing room o# a public
school? IIm sure you know itIs an order #rom my +unt that my links
with the #amily are to be kept absolutely secret.C
@arge cracks began to appear in +okiIs mask o# calm. The edge o# his
lips was trembling #inely. His comple(ion was also pale.
Tatsuya knew there must hae been reasons #or such carelessness.
+oiding places :iyuki would be, presering hierarchy, all could
account #or such unreasonableness.
+oki should hae realised Tatsuya would see through all that. +nd yet,
the moement o# his pen as he wrote a reply was the only answer.
CI would *ust like to carry out madamIs orders as soon as possible.
:ore importantly, please bring out the JH right now. I can leae
straight a#ter.C
CThereIs no way I can do that. 5en i# I trans#erred ownership to you,
the loan agreement with Airst High would still be in e##ect. The reason
I brought the JH-4QF in the #irst place was to preent it being taken
away by a third party. I will take responsibility #or it mysel#. 4lease
tell +unt that.C
+okiIs #ace shi#ted #rom red to blue. This generally signaled an
incoming tantrum.
C+re you going to disobey your orders?C
+t TatsuyaIs stinging words howeer, +oki de#lated.
&eeing this change in him, Tatsuya stood up. He *udged there was no
longer any reason #or him to remain.
C-ait. )o, please wait.C
It seemed +oki didnIt intend to leae *ust yet.
@ooking closely, the arrogance, which had earlier #illed his #ace, no,
his entire body had disappeared. Tatsuya didnIt think #or a moment he
was haing some sort o# e(istential reelation. @ooking in his eyes
howeer, his attitude had completely changed.
CI apologise sincerely #or my conduct earlier.C
&aying so, +oki bowed low to Tatsuya. He was still seated on the
couch, but there was no misunderstanding that he really was
apologising.
C4lease raise your head, +oki san.C
+s he spoke, Tatsuya returned to his seat. It didnIt mean he was
responding to +okiIs sincerity. In the #irst place, Tatsuya didnIt #eel
much sincerity at all. Howeer, he was interested in what +oki had to
say which would cause him to become so serious.
CTatsuya kun, rather, Tatsuya dono, itIs e(actly as you say. &ince the
loan agreement was a prere.uisite #or the purchase, it stands to reason
that you cannot *ust take it away. IIm sorry #or asking something so
unreasonable.C
CItIs #ine.C
+s +oki bowed again, Tatsuya inclined his head to match. He replied
with *ust that because what +oki had stated was so obious, anything
he said could end up being construed as sarcasm. In any case, the #act
that he didnIt consider it a problem anymore seemed to hae been
coneyed to +oki, who raised his head without prompt this time.
CI would *ust like you to understand this. :adam isnIt asking #or your
JH because sheIs taken some #ancy to it. It seems she thinks itId be
necessary #or some kind o# research.C
CI understand.C
CI wonIt impose on you any #urther. +gain, I realise you must #eel the
need to keep that near at hand. I# at any point you #eel like letting go
o# it howeer, please consider handing it oer to madam. In that case, I
will o# course proide appropriate compensation.C
It wasnIt hard reading the lines behind +okiIs proposal. It seemed
whateer the case, his +unt didnIt want 4i(ie #alling into someone
elseIs hands.
CI# youIre willing to accept, we will be happy to the promised amount,
plus an additional GHP o# what you spent eery year.C
C5ery year?C
He didnIt think theyId go this #ar. It was still only a drop in the bucket
#or the 6otsuba, but #rom global rates it was a princely sum.
C6es, eery year. &peci#ically, we would like to make contractual
conditional purchase reseration with you which automatically renews
eery year.C
)ot *ust a erbal promise, but een a contract. 0oth to Tatsuya, and
the 6otsuba, GHP o# the purchase amount was peanuts. The purpose o#
the contract then, was more #or Tatsuya to keep his end o# the bargain.
In other words, claiming ownership. It was an o##er behind which the
seriousness o# the 6otsuba-- o# :aya could be glimpsed.
C+s IIm sure you know, IIm still a minor.C
CI will relay things to your #ather.C
:eaning that +oki would sort through the legal details himsel#.
C8ot it. I donIt mind.C
There was no disadantage in +okiIs proposal #or Tatsuya. ;ather than
#urther harming his image in the iew o# his obstinate +unt, itId be
better to make a compromise here Tatsuya thought.
? ? ?
Haing accompanied +oki all the way to the entrance, Tatsuya went
back to the practice rooms. +lthough hal# o# the two hour class had
passed already, he #elt he should still be able to make attendance.
His #eet stopped howeer be#ore he entered the corridor.
C@ina.C
The #ace o# the trans#er student, whom he hadnIt seen #or a while, was
notably worse #or wear. There were no physical cues such as gaunt
cheeks or bags under the eyes isible. It was impossible to #ind any
sign o# aderse health.
0ut her luster had gone. &he was holding on to her usual act, and
someone who knew little about her would hae been #ooled yet by her
utterly gorgeous looks. 0ut someone who was #amiliar with her--een
i# only to TatsuyaIs degree--would notice the absence o# the
oer#lowing spirit which had truly made her shine, and the di##erence
was palpable.
It seemed the mental #atigue was stacking up.
&he must be under immense pressure.
)ow howeer the shadows added a #rail transience to her beauty, and
increased her charm in a di##erent way #rom usual. 5en Tatsuya who
normally took little interest in a girlIs appearance--or rather, was
utterly accustomed to them, couldnIt help but #eel admiration.
CTatsuya.C
)onetheless, it wasnIt to the point his reactions were delayed.
+t his name being called, he ad*usted his ga'e to look into those
sapphire eyes.
C>id you hear?C
C6eah.C
They were talking about the in#ormation obtained #rom the &age. The
one which said that tomorrow night, the 4arasites would be led to the
outdoor training grounds in the back. Their words were brie#, but the
intent was #ully receied by both o# them.
C>o you know who it was?C
C)o.C
&o it appeared he had not shown @ina his #ace, Tatsuya in#erred #rom
that answer. It made sense. I# the 7&)+ army became aware o# the
&ageIs identity, they would stop at nothing to hunt down that eritable
#ount o# knowledge.
CI see, thatIs a pity.C
CI suppose. )ot that it matters.C
2utting to the chase, @ina looked at Tatsuya with challenging eyes.
CTatsuya.C
Airm and bright.
+ ga'e with as strong a will as that night they were killing each other.
CI will not hold back.C
He already knew, but Tatsuya #ound himsel# realising again.
;egardless o# his own pre#erence, an alliance had not been an option
#rom the ery beginning.
CI know. The worlds we lie in, are completely separate a#ter all.C
TatsuyaIs answer was a classic 1old #ashioned3 line o#ten #ound in
romance noels 1or moies3, synonymous with a #arewell.
The reason he chose such an easily misunderstood line was because o#
those secretly listening in.
@ina isibly swallowed her retort. -ith *ust a little delay, she seemed
to hae noticed TatsuyaIs intention.
&ome colour howeer had returned to @inaIs pale comple(ion.
&omehow, Tatsuya #elt that the red now dying her cheeks held a
di##erent meaning #rom be#ore.
C&uch an idiot9C
&pitting those words out, she spun around on her heels,
+nd it was impossible to tell whether she was simply playing along
with TatsuyaIs act,
%r i# those had been @inaIs true #eelings.
Tatsuya was clear o# one thing now howeer.
---ith a sigh o# acceptance, he reigned himsel# to a detention practical
a#ter school.
? ? ?
6otsuba main house.
+s Hayama sered a#ternoon tea, an electronic sound denoted an
incoming call. &eeing :ayaIs nod, Hayama picked up the classic oice
communication terminal and pressed it to his ear.
C+oki. ......&o, you #ailed. ......It is a #act it seems you were unable to
carry out :adamIs orders. -ell, such circumstances cannot be
helped. ......I do no beliee there is any hurry. Tatsuya dono is unlikely
to change his agreement oer something o# this degree. ....../ery well.
I shall in#orm :adam. ......8ood work.C
C......-hat news #rom +oki san?C
+#ter Hayama set down the terminal, :aya asked. -ith a look o# not
wishing to hae to coney unpleasant news, Hayama bowed to :aya.
C+pologies, :adam. -e were unable to procure the JH.C
The #ailure had been +okiIs. 0ut as the head butler, Hayama could be
said to be +okiIs superior. +okiIs bungle was his shame to bear.
:ayaIs answer held neither #orgieness nor reproach.
CTatsuya sanIs name had come up.C
-hat she took interest in was this point.
CTatsuya dono had purchased the JH.C
+s Hayama answered, a wry smile appeared on his #ace.
C+pparently Tatsuya dono did not wish #or it to #all into the hands o#
others. He has entered into an ownership lend-lease agreement with
Airst High.C
&till, that had been the ne(t best alternatie had :aya not been able to
get ahold o# 4i(ie itsel#.
C......I wonder i# he knew. %r was it *ust coincidence?C
CI do no know.C
:ayaIs e(pression was slightly pu''led. 0ut she immediately cleared
her mind.
C......-ell, i# Tatsuya san can take good care o# it I donIt mind.C
C+oki has said that i# Tatsuya dono eer decides to let go o# it, we are
contracted to purchase it.C
C6es, that would be good.C
Hayama #aced :aya and bowed lightly. +lthough :aya had not
blamed +oki, much less Hayama #rom the beginning, he nonetheless
showed his gratitude #or her leniency towards the mismanagement.
C&till, it really would hae been nice to hae a sample on hand......C
+t :ayaIs mutter Hayama, with a look suggesting Iwe should *ust
leae things beI spoke up.
C:adam, IIm sure there is no need #or me to say this, but itIs best to
hae as little as possible to do with those creatures.C
:ayaIs ironic smile was a reminder she was loely still.
C0ecause theyIre rather distaste#ul?C
C+s you will.C
CTheyIre ery important sponsors a#ter all.C
+t :ayaIs sly smile, Hayama #rowned.
CI know what you want to say, Hayama san. I hae no intention o#
causing discord. I only do this because I beliee that obtaining a
I4arasiteI is necessary #or the 6otsuba.C
C>oes :adam beliee then that studying the 4arasite, will bring us
closer to the mysteries o# :ental Inter#erence?C
C6es. <ust what e(actly is the mind, is a .uestion the 6otsuba hae
been endlessly pursuing. ItIs said that the 4arasites are indiidual
mental in#ormation bodies. In#ormation on substance, structure,
location......een i# only a little, it should gie us hints as to the true
nature o# the mind.C
7nderstanding :ayaIs reasoning, Hayama bowed.
:aya returned to the original topic.
C0y the way, what are the moements o# the other spirits?C
C+ccording the the report #rom Lurobane dono earlier, the spirit which
had been purged yesterday night has already been resurrected.C
C+lready? ThatIs .uite early.C
CThere must hae been a reason #or the rush. Lurobane reported it
seemed the spirits were preparing #or battle.C
CI see......any idea against possibly whom?C
Aloating on :ayaIs #ace as she .ueried Hayama was a barely
repressed smile.
C<udging #rom their modus operandi, they will be aiming #or their
compatriot trapped in the doll.C C+t this point itIs not so much that
trouble #inds him, but almost as i# he goes a#ter trouble himsel#.C
)eedless to say, :ayaIs words re#erred to her nephew.The person in
.uestion would no doubt iolently protest that, but here there was no
one who oiced dissent.
C>o you know when it will be?C
CLurobane dono anticipates it will be tomorrow night, around Airst
High school.C
CIt would still be prudent to keep an eye on the surroundings
then......alright, please organise a group. The leader can be......+yako
chan should be #ine. The goal isnIt a #ight a#ter all.C
C2ertainly.C
Hayama clapped his hands, calling #or a maid to sere :aya in his
place, be#ore heading towards the communications room to relay
:ayaIs orders.
? ? ?
+lthough it was not a relatiely late hour, &aegusa :ayumi was a
e(aminee.
Today was Aebruary GOth, &aturday. %ne more week until the entrance
e(ams #or magic uniersity. Her chances o# not making it were
practically 'ero, yet nonetheless it was a #act she had little time #or
much else.
That the Iampire incidentsI had seemingly subsided #or now was good
news #or her mental state.
:aking up on her weak areas in the school library, by the time she
returned home the day had almost passed.
0eing welcomed back by a slightly timid young serant, :ayumi
immediately noticed.
CIs Aather back?C
C6es, mIlady.C
0eing well trained the maid didnIt #umble her words or the like, but
:ayumi could perceie that what had #rightened her was her #ather.
1To scare a young girl like this......Aather, *ust what are you doing?3
+lthough she #elt irritation in her heart, to display it would only
disturb the sta## more.
C+lright.C
:ayumi smiled at the maid, then proceeded to her own room.
+t that time in his study, the household head &aegusa Loichi turned a
#ace #illed with ill-concerned #rustration to his con#idant )akura.
C......&o youIre saying, the one who inaded and killed the 4arasite the
Third 2ounterintel diision had captured was the &tarsI &irius?C
CThere is little doubt.C
In the light o# his masterIs anger, there was no trace o# #ear in )akuraIs
#ace. -hile he was courteous, unlike the interactions between Hayama
and :aya, there was a business-like aspect to be #ound. )akura was
not a #amily member o# the &aegusa, and would be more aptly
described as a mercenary. He was not ine(tricably bound to LoichiIs
side.
&ometimes he was assigned as a guard #or children, such as with
:ayumi, or sometimes sent to accomplish missions which lay outside
the law such as intel gathering. That was how he was treated by
Loichi, as an 5(tra number.
C0ut een #or the &tarsI &irius, #or them to simply walt' in and kill the
prisoner so easily is too much. The Intel diision wasnIt slacking o##
either. 2ould your source hae been mistaken?C
+s Loichi spoke with disgust, )akura calmly rebutted.
CThe Intel diision o# the de#ence #orces is by no means incompetent.
Had we been the ones to attempt an in#iltration o# the Third
2ounterintel diisionIs building, we would not hae #ound the security
to be lacking. ;ather, itIs simply that the &tars are *ust that good.
ThereIs a reason theyIre known as the most power#ul #orce o#
magicians in the world to date.C
0eing spoken to as i# been chided as a child, LoichiIs e(pression
became increasingly sullen. )ot to the point o# losing it and yelling at
)akura howeer.
C&ir, i# I may be so bold, I beliee itIs time we cut our losses. The
bene#its to the &aegusaIs continued inolement in this diminish by
the day.C
C......6ouIre right.C
Loichi calmly considered )akuraIs calm adice.
CIt seems the Ludou are also moing in this matter. I had considered
asking them to supplement our depleted #orces, but pulling out may be
#or the best.C
C+s you say.C
CTell our dispatched members to return to their normal duties. )akura,
dismissed.C
C5(cuse me.C
+s Loichi began operating an encrypted communication terminal by
himsel#, )akura le#t the study.
? ? ?
+> EHQM, Aebruary EQth, &unday.
5ight 4arasites would be moing. Tatsuya did not unilaterally trust
this in#ormation #rom across the sea.
He had endlessly researched regarding a boy named ;aymond 2lark
amongst the students in &hi'ukuIs e(change school.
The #ace on the photo stored in the school serer was the same that
which had appeared in the ideo.
0ut that alone did not guarantee ;aymond 2lark was telling the truth.
<ust as you would not dismiss all anonymously supplied in#ormation
as #alse, you wouldnIt trust all in#ormation *ust because it had been
supplied by someone who gae their true identity.
)onetheless Tatsuya had gone oer the speci#ied location--the outdoor
training #ield o# Airst High. This was because he had no other
signi#icant leads.
He awaited, leaing things in the hands o# chance. 5en i# it ended up
being #alse and he wasted the day, it wasnIt much o# a big deal.
In the e(ceptionally large grounds behind the school was an arti#icial
#orest. To be technical that was also part o# Airst High, but it was
di##icult to tell where the arti#icial #orest came to an end and the
natural #orest began. 5specially so at night.
The time was almost ]pm. :aybe it didnIt .uite .uali#y as night yet.
7nlike in the inner city howeer where bright lights eclipsed the
darkness, in this #orest with no street lamps in sight it wouldnIt be
wrong to think it was nearing night#all.
To preent trespassers entering by mistake, a high #ence surrounded
the training grounds. I# a normal citi'ens wandered in and was hit by
magic shot during training, it would be all kinds o# problematic.
Howeer een without the #ence, it was unlikely any locals would
enter. It was well known within the neighbourhood that this was the
practice #ield o# Airst High.
0esides there were no households around unrelated to the magic high
school. -hen Airst High had been established here, the goernment
had o##ered compensation to trans#er residence to all those who were
unrelated to magic, who couldnIt use magic, or who wanted nothing to
do with magic. +ll those who remained knew ery well the risk o#
setting #oot in that #ield.
That was also why there was no particular security system. There was
nothing to steal considering it was *ust an arti#icial #orest, so there was
no pressing need to keep out intruders.
C2an you get oer it?C
@ooking up at the three metre high #ence, Tatsuya in.uired his
companions. The only direct entrance in was a back gate #rom Airst
High, so haing e(ited the school the only way in was scaling the
#ence. 5ntering #rom outside was simple, but entering #rom inside
would re.uire dealing with the schoolIs di##icult to deceie monitoring
system. -hile systems were o# course in place to detect thiees
entering #rom the training grounds, i# suspicious people entered not
only #rom outside but inside as well there would be #ar more cause to
inestigate.
C%# course, %nii sama.C
C)o problem.C
C&omething like thisIll be a piece o# cake9C
+t TatsuyaIs words :iyuki, 5rika and @eo replied in the a##irmatie.
CIt is possible.C
@ast o# all, the one to whom the .uestion had originally been posed to,
4i(ie, answered.
TatsuyaIs companions tonight were these three, and one doll.
--%riginally, Tatsuya had not planned on bringing :iyuki. 5rika as
well, since she had been inoled thus #ar, had only been supposed to
be in#ormed o# eents.
0ut he knew that knowing about such eents, there was no way theyId
simply wait .uietly at home. -hen leaing :iyuki had tagged along
as i# it were only natural, and at the speci#ied time 5rika had casually
*ust turned upB at both these times Tatsuya had not protested. He knew
that resistance would only be a pointless e(ercise in #utility. ;ather he
had gien up, and immediately set about incorporating his #riends into
his strategy.
Turning his #ocus to the training grounds again, he #elt the air o# the
#orest stir. The other plays seemed to hae gone up the stage already.
-hilst pretending to operate his 2+>--he didnIt #orget to keep
con#identiality at this stage--he pulled the se.uence #or I@eapI #rom his
memory and *umped oer the #ence.
+mongst the shadows o# the #orest, the #our^one moed as a single
entity. They did not spread out to search #or the target. In an area o#
this si'e, in this darkness, separating would hae little bene#it and only
run the risk o# them being de#eated indiidually.
5en i# that hadnIt been the case, it had been proen in +oyama that
regrouping under such circumstances would be an arduous task. It
wasnIt impossible that the opponents wouldnIt be coming out on alert,
but een so there was no sense risking it. I# they couldnIt #ind the
4arasites like this, they would simply come back tomorrow and search
steadily again.
)ot to mention, Tatsuya had the #eeling that they would appear.
It was not a prediction.
)or an in#erence.
+lthough he had no basis, Tatsuya was certain as he cloe through the
trees. The light o# their torches only illuminated a small part o# the
ground, but there were none who stumbled amidst the dead branches
and tree roots. 4ossibly because there were no new tracks whilst
straining their eyes they simply proceeded on at the same pace as i# it
were day, #or about GN minute.
CTatsuya san, please stop.C
Arom the communications deice #itted to his ear, the oice o# :i'uki
came through. In con#erence mode, the words reached all o# their
headsets.
CJO degrees to the right o# your current direction, I can see the aura o#
4arasites.C
Instead o# accompanying Tatsuya and the others, :i'uki was on a
roo#top oerlooking the training grounds proiding naigation with
her IeyesI.
CI see them too9 Two men and a woman, three in total.C
7sing the aura :i'uki had spotted, HonokaIs magic applied to a
camera actiated. The image a.uired ia optical magic was as clear as
those taken #rom close range in broad daylight, and was deliered to
the groupIs terminals ia wireless.
I# not #or the uni.ue talents :i'uku and Honoka possessed as
magicians, a search scheme o# this type would be impossible. Haing
determined that their utility was indispensable to the mission tonight,
:ikihiko had been assigned as an escort #or the two. :ikihiko himsel#
had not been unhappy with this placement. He understood #ull well
how important his role was, and knew that he was per#ectly suited #or
the *ob.
C+h9 Arom the opposite direction, a masked girl is approaching the
4arasites9C
HonokaIs report rang in. -ith the 4arasiteIs aura becoming isible, it
seemed @ina had sprung the attack.
Tatsuya signalled with his hands. :iyuki, 5rika, @eo and 4i(ie
nodded.
The ne(t moment, Tatsuya became a gale bla'ing through the #orest.
5rika #ollowed right behind him whilst @eo, checking side to side,
started running with :iyuki and 4i(ie.
? ? ?
TatsuyaIs group, the band o# 4arasites, as well as @ina and her backup
team.
8athered in this #orest right now were these three #orces, both Tatsuya
and @ina thought.
Tatsuya knew that there was a #action in the de#ense #orces who
wished to capture a 4arasite, but he recognised they were under the
in#luence o# the &aegusa. 0eing warned through :ayumi, with the
6otsuba undoubtedly moing to keep them in check and haing
receied a large blow #rom I+ngie &iriusI, Tatsuya determined that
they should been in pretty bad shape. +t least, they would be in no
condition to inter#ere tonight.
In #act howeer, under the shade o# the trees, a di##erent group
approached both Tatsuya and @ina.
They were a guerrilla in#antry platoon o# the de#ense #orces Airst
diision, specialising in close combat, known as the I&word 2orpsI. +s
the name implied they did not use #irearms, but were a group which
launched surprise attacks using sword type deices.
Their mobilisation was due to a range o# circumstances, what with
Tokyo being under the Airst diisionIs *urisdiction, the nature o# the
mission re.uiring coert action, as well as them being under the
in#luence o# the Ludou. )o, that last reason may hae been the biggest
o# all.
Tatsuya was not omniscient. &omething unknown couldnIt be
calculated #or, and naturally the wrong response would result. That the
Ludou elder would be interested in the 4arasites as weapons, and that
he could assemble a #orce in only three days, was not something he
could hae hae known.
+nd #urthermore, there was another. ;ather, one more person.
%ne shadow, tracking the &word 2orps.
)ow, within the training grounds o# Airst High, these #ie powers
raced towards their ineitable collision.
? ? ?
+s the &tars captain ,&irius, the mission must be #ul#illed.
7nderpinning @ina now, was this pride alone.
It wasnt as i# she had known no setbacks be#ore coming to <apan. In
the *uenile education program proided by the 4entagon, she had
gotten only 2s in algebra and biology. In the combat class, within the
same group, there were monstrously deeloped #emale soldiers o# the
same age who she *ust couldnt seem to beat. &he had not done well in
pilot training either.
0ut she had neer once lost in magic.
The captain o# &tars, +ngie &irius.
%ne o# the most power#ul magicians in the world.
5eryone had praised her, and she had supreme con#idence in her
skills hersel#.
0ut here in <apan.
&he had lost to those siblings.
The #irst battle had been o# her choosing.
Haing withdrawn in her own time, it had been a ,success#ul retreat.
The second time she had #altered in the #ace o# Tatsuyas ,kamika'e
attack, and though she had lost to the ambush, een though
strategically she was de#eated she had not been bested by magic.
In the single combat with :iyuki which #ollowed howeer, it was her
de#eat.
In spite o# the aderse conditions, @ina did not think o# them as an
e(cuse.
In a head on clash, she had lost to :iyuki.
That de#eat had #urther spurred her #ighting spirit.
7n#a'ed, she had owed indication.
Howeer,
In that #ight #or redemption,
@ina had been hammered by Tatsuya.
@uring him out into a one-on-one, een going as #ar as to pull out
,0rionac, she had still lost.
5en as she #elt chagrin towards him, there was neither enmity or
resentment. -here Tatsuya had put @ina to shame was not in the
speed o# her restraint.
The #ight itsel# had been ery #air. ;ather, she had the adantage.
&he had lost to Tatsuya not *ust in terms o# magic skill, but also in
coniction""@ina accepted that.
0ut without a doubt, that de#eat had shaken her to the core. &he was
one o# the most power#ul combat magicians in the world, &irius.
There#ore she had been selected as the captain o# &tars, the position
which cared neither #or age nor gender but was gien to the 7&)+s
strongest based on power alone. In the case said magician wasnt in
the army, een i# plotting and subter#uge was re.uired they would be
conscripted in as the &tars captain and ,&irius.
The chances o# those de#eats leaking out to the world at large was
slim. In the #irst place both Tatsuya and :iyuki, as well as those who
had accompanied them, were keeping .uiet. Tarnishing the name o#
&irius was not their goal.
6et een i# nothing was known to others, she had to #ace the #act she
lost with dignity. In order to redeem hersel#, @ina had to demonstrate
her abilities and #ul#ill her duties as ,&irius.
I# she were to be able to continue as &irius.
Aor the sake o# the girl within her who was lost the moment she had
taken the &irius name, +ngelina &hields.
? ? ?
-hen Tatsuya had closed enough to see with his own eyes he saw
@inaB masked, #laming haired and golden eyed taking on the three
4arasites alone.
+lthough the 4arasites could cast magic without the need #or
actiation se.uences, merely thinking it into being, @ina wasnt giing
an inch. In terms o# attack ratio, @ina was dishing out seen blows #or
eery three the 4arasites managed to get in. I# it werent #or one o# the
4arasites haing a dangerous ability, the battle may hae been een
more skewed
The ability was pseudo-teleportation.
In terms o# magic, it combined comple( inertial dampening and high
speed moement techni.ues.
0y using the trees #or mobility, it was possible to moe in three
dimensions, popping up and #iring o## magic.
The magic attacks held low inter#erence power, and were nothing
be#ore @inas magical might, yet she could not merely do nothing and
eery time she raised de#ensie magic, some o# the attacks #rom the
other enemies would get through. Tatsuya *udged the situation in an
instant.
He had no intention o# assisting @ina, but Tatsuya halted, and aimed
,>ecomposition at the 4arasite using teleportation.
:any magicians aim magic using the #ie senses. 5en when using
perceptions outside the #ie, their aim would be the location o# the
target.
That was normally.
Tatsuya howeer could aim at the in#ormation itsel#. 5en i# the
location o# the target changed rapidly, as long as the in#ormation itsel#
was recognisable the aim would not be hindered.
The pseudo-teleportation had no e##ect on Tatsuya.
@eae it to me9
That wasnt the case *ust #or Tatsuya howeer. 2atching up to the now
stationary Tatsuya, then passing him, 5rika actiated inertia control.
The pseudo-teleportation held a threat only i# the opponents hands,
#eet, and aboe all eyes could not keep up. %n the other hand, i# the
opponents speed e(ceeded that o# the operator, such three-
dimensional maneuers were merely wasted acrobatics.
5rika grasped the Isori house made and Tatsuya ad*usted 1not that she
asked him to3 downsi'ed ersion o# I%rochimaruI, the integrated 2+>
armament I:i'uchimaruI, and accelerated straight ahead.
Her destination was e(actly where the 4arasite, who had *ust kicked
o## a tree trunk, would land.
-ith e(traordinary dynamic ision, her body control not lost een
under the e##ect o# an inertial canceling techni.ue, her #ootwork
propelling her #orwards without any wasted motions, she was able to
calculate the e(act moment the opponent would hit the ground.
In terms o# magic power, the 4arasite was probably ahead.
0ut 5rikaIs might as a martial artists oerturned the di##erence.
5rika swung :i'uchimaru.
-ithout an ounce o# hesitation, the honed blade cut the 4arasite down.
Tatsuya modi#ied the aim o# his partial decomposition, shooting out
the limbs o# another 4arasite which was now aiming a telekinetic
attack at 5rika, and as she deliered the #inal blow he held out his le#t
hand towards the #resh corpse.
:ikihiko would maintain a barrier which preented the 4arasites #rom
e(iting their hosts. He had set up a simple altar on the roo# o# the
school building. The reason :ikihiko was positioned on the roo#top
was not only to escort :i'uki and Honoka, but also because he could
pro*ect remote barriers.
The e##ects o# the barrier were imper#ect howeer. It wasnIt a matter o#
:ikihikoIs skill, it was a #undamental #law o# the techni.ue itsel#.
%riginally, barriers could not be constructed like this.
+s long as the host suried, the 4arasite could not #lee #rom itIs
essel. In other words, once the hosts died the 4arasites were #ree to
escape. 5en i# they could secure the bodies, they could not contain
the 4arasites themseles. 0e#ore 5rika #ully killed the 4arasite, it was
necessary to process it.
+ mass o# psions shot #rom TatsuyaIs palm, and ripped the psions
away #rom the body o# the 4arasite. )o, a closer image would not be
IrippedI but rather IscatteredI.
Tatsuya, :iyuki and :ikihiko had e(amined the results o# preious
engagements, and deduced that the 4arasiteIs were a core o# 4ushion
in#ormation bodies with a thin layer outsideB schematically speaking
analogous to a #ibrous layer o# 4sion in#ormation bodies coating a
4ushion centreB this led to the hypothesis that they consumed 4sions
wheneer they used magic.
>estroying the 4ushion body itsel# was di##icult #or Tatsuya. That had
been proen twice now.
He had discoered howeer that he could cripple them.
+nd while :ikihiko would hae di##iculties sealing a 4arasite alone,
when stripped o# magical resistance and weakened it was a di##erent
story.
C:ikihiko9C
Tatsuya called out into the hands-#ree headset. It wasnIt necessary.
Thanks to HonokaIs optical magic and :i'ukiIs IeyesI, :ikihiko was
already #ully aware o# eents transpiring in the #ield.
:ikihiko IseeingI what was happening, and calling down a bolt o#
lightening #rom the heaens, was almost simultaneous with TatsuyaIs
call. The lightening struck the dead body o# the host, and seared the
skin black. ;emaining on the skin were cared a series o# characters
and regular geometrical patterns.
C)ice shot9C
5rika shouted out with delight. In TatsuyaIs sight, the no in#ormation
was leaking #rom the host body.
Howeer, he didnIt share 5rikaIs *oy *ust yet.
He #ired more shots at the 4arasite he had disabled.
The body o# the host, le#t to itIs biological response was #lailing
around wildly.
+nother #lash o# sealing retribution struck down. The body, hit by
TatsuyaIs 4sion bullets, stopped moing. That made two 4arasites
sealed.
+t the edge o# his ision, di##erent thunder roared. ;ather than +ncient
lightning, it was a blit' o# modern magic.
He saw a body charred by @inaIs magic. It was probably already *ust
an empty shell.
C%ne escaped. :i'uki, do you hae it?C
CIIm sorry, keeping track o# eerything #rom here is......C
-hen he re#le(iely in.uired into the headset, the answering tone was
apologetic. Thinking about it this was naturalB as :i'ukiIs ision
couldnIt e(tend to that which she couldnIt physically see, she couldnIt
enlarge and iew distant ob*ects.
CI see. &orry, I asked something unreasonable. >onIt mind it.C
Aollowing up to :i'uki, Tatsuya turned to @ina and 5rika with a bitter
look.
C+ngie &irius.C
That she was upset behind her mask was not an illusion o# TatsuyaIs.
C-hat.C
0ut this time, she seemed willing to talk. Her oice had changed as
well, was this another e##ect o# I4aradeI?
CTry not to kill them until theyIre sealed. The cleanup will be
troublesome.C
&he was momentarily at a loss #or words. &he intuitiely understood
that Tatsuya hadnIt said ItroublesomeI simply to look badB he truly did
simply iew a personIs li#e and death as a IhassleI. --)ot that it
changed @inaIs answer.
CItIs not my problem. I am merely here #or the deserters.C
-hile she had consciously changed her tone, it was still possible to
tell #rom her intonation Tatsuya thought.
%# course, what he said was completely di##erent.
CThe duty o# &irius is it......well, thatIs why we want to seal the bodies.
%neIs escaped.C
CThat is not included in my mission.C
&tubborn as eer. +nd negotiating with someone unwilling to listen
had neer been TatsuyaIs strong point. His stance had always been Ii#
you donIt want to listen then #ine do what you like, and so will II.
Howeer, he had to get her to listen in this case. Tatsuya perseered as
he suppressed the urge to heae a sigh.
C:ission you say, but the one you killed *ust now seems like an +sian
born and bred. -as he really a deserter?C
Tatsuya wasnIt completely certain that wasnIt the case. It was a blu##
really. 0ut @ina was clearly upset. His guess appeared to hae hit the
mark.
C......5en i# not a deserter, he was guilty o# aiding them.C
6et een now, her stubbornness re#used to relent.
CIIll say it again, the 4arasites are no concern o# mine. +ll IIm here #or
is to #ul#ill my role as &irius.C
&aying so, @ina disappeared into the #orest.
Holding back an urge to shrug, Tatsuya turned to 5rika.
C&o she came out, that &irius.C
5rika came leaping oer. Lnowing that she smiled without holding a
grudge oer the eents o# three days ago, Tatsuya could be smile
wryly in turn.
+#ter her grin o# triumph passed, the smile anished,
CThat was......@ina wasnIt it? +lthough she looked completely
di##erent.C
+nd 5rika asked with a straight #ace.
CI# she looked completely di##erent, why would you think so?C
CHer actions, I guess. The way she moed and carried hersel#, itIs all
so #amiliar.C
C8ood point......C
Tatsuya had to admit 5rikaIs powers o# obseration. The illusory
magic I4aradeI which changed eerything #rom #ace to build had been
seen through by something so triial.
&till, he couldnIt be stuck in admiration #oreer.
CI think you understand already, but keep it a secret. That being said,
IId like to apply what I said to @ina to you as well.C
C>onIt kill em?C
C6es. 6ou heard the e(planation. +s long as the host doesnIt die, the
4arasites cannot escape #rom within them. -e put up a barrier to
preent escape, but neutralising without killing is still the best way to
make sure.C
TatsuyaIs re.uest was reasonable. 5rika understood that.
CIIm sorry. ItIs un#air on you Tatsuya kun, but I canIt do that.C
Howeer, 5rika--5rika shook her head.
C%ne who is prepared to kill by the sword, must also be prepared to be
killed. Thinking about that moment......I *ust canIt purposely prolong
their pain without killing them.C
The reason was completely di##erent #rom @ina howeer. It was
personal, and her true #eelings.
CItId be di##erent i# they could be saed without killing them, but
sealing them is the same as killing them isnIt it? &o een i# theyIre no
longer human, I want to take them down without drawing out their
su##ering.C
There was no nerousness in 5rikaIs e(pression, or her eyes. Her
determination howeer was resolute.
C8uess it canIt be helped.C
Lilling was an absolute to Tatsuya. -hether one was killed a#ter being
in#licted with su##ering or not, the end result o# being killed did not
changeB this was TatsuyaIs reasoning.
He didnIt try and sway 5rika howeer. /alues were an indiidual
matter.
&ome o# which did not bear anotherIs meddling.
C-ell, IIll *ust hae to work e(tra hard.C
That e(terminating the 4arasites would re.uire such contradictory
commitment didnIt cross TatsuyaIs mind.
? ? ?
@eo, chasing a#ter Tatsuya, saw the #lashes o# thunder and psion light
and #rom the battle and suddenly #ro'e. -ith almost no delay, :iyuki
immediately stopped as well. 4i(ie, in the body o# a machine, took a
#ew steps to come to a halt.
C&ai*ou kun, care#ul.C
CThatIs my line.C
@eo spoke in a *oking tone, but his eyes were already sweeping le#t
and right.
C-eIre surrounded.....or something. It seems like it i# nothing else. IIm
empty handed #or now, but what should we do :iyuki san?C
He had no #ar-sight or in#rared perceptions. He had done no particular
training either, but obsering his surroundings he could aguely make
out the signs o# othersI maneuers .
C@etIs intercept.C
:iyukiIs reply was short and straight#orward.
C......ThatIs pretty aggressie.C
@eoIs reaction wasnIt .uite as enthusiastic.
CIs that so? 0ut thereIs nothing to be a#raid o# you know? 5en i#
things get out o# hand, %nii sama will come oer and help
immediately.C
C+hS, o# course, o# course.C
Her reasoning was ery cute howeer.
His eyes narrowed as he unintentionally muttered.
CThough, I donIt want to bother %nii sama either......C
+s :iyuki debated back and #orth to hersel#, she called out to 4i(ie.
C4i(ie, stay behind me.
C6es.C
Turning towards the thicket on the le#t, :iyuki gae instructions.
%rdered by Tatsuya to obey :iyuki, 4i(ie complied with minimal
erbosity and moed into position.
The mobile terminal 2+> in :iyukiIs le#t hand was already on
standby. +s @eo wondered *ust when she had reached #or it, he #ound
himsel# looking at her with admiring eyes once again.
To his credit, his ga'e didnIt remain #i(ed inde#initely.
He was an IunconcernedI type, but een i# not :iyuki hersel# would
hae ignored without noticing the eyes o# any sae Tatsuya.
Her awareness was already #ocused on the enemy.
:iyukiIs #ingers moed smoothly. The thumb o# her le#t hand gripping
the 2+> danced across the #orce #eedback panel.
There was no warning.
The air o# the #orest gleamed. 8littering shards o# ice #ormed on
trunks and branches and #ell to the ground. It was a phenomenon
known as thin ice, or diamond dust. Aebruary, inland, in a #orest at
nightB needless to say it would normally be impossible gien the
conditions.
There were none who mistook it #or a natural occurrence howeer.
It was a magic which #ormed an area o# diamond dust in a GHH metre
radius instantaneously. This was neither an o##ensie nor de#ensie
magic howeer. 7nsure o# the intent o# the other party, :iyuki was
merely declaring her territory.
0y merely #orming a thin layer o# inter#erence, the weather had
changed. In the 6okohama incident o# %ctober, :ari had ealuated
:iyukiIs magic as Iworthy o# Tactical leelI.
&trictly speaking, that was incorrect. :iyukiIs magic wasnIt Iworthy o#I
tactical. It was tactical.
:iyukiIs magic abilities, rather than enhancing an e##ect, was more
specialised towards suppressing an area.
--4ower su##icient to, een unintentionally, dye the world white as #ar
as the eye could see--
That was :iyukiIs magic.
In this situation, @eo was truly impatient.
To him, a #ight was the means by which ItalksI were resoled.
@ike in 6okohama, in a situation where it was clear the opponent had
no interest in words, strength would immediately become the
ImediatorI.
I# it was the enemy who had underestimated them and come oer, he
would not be stingy in IcorrectingI them with his #ists.
I# it was an ac.uaintance in trouble, he would Ilend a handI in a rough
iolent manner.
It may be called IunciilisedI, but #ighting had always been a staple o#
negotiating.
In the #ace o# :iyukiIs power howeer neermind their claimB the
enemyIs ery e(istence would be blown away.
;ather than a cat toying with a mouse, it would be more like an
elephant crushing ants.
They would be #ar too piti#ul to be considered opponents.
That was against @eoIs style.
C:iyuki san, IIll take these chumps on. <ust back me up until Tatsuya
arries9C
In this darkened #ro'en world, a #ocused #ighting spirit bla'ed #orth.
There was no hostility, only willpower. )o negatie #eelings, simply
purpose.
The other party were pro#essional #ighters incomparable with typical
city thugs, yet nonetheless he threw down the gauntlet be#ore :iyuki.
His mind was probably already made up.
C%h? Then, IIll leae things to you.C
+t @eoIs words, :iyuki lightly stepped back.
The #rigid air permeating the #orest howeer lingered.
@ike IIll lose to these guys, @eo psyched up.
Arom the shadow o# the trees and thickets, men in #ield uni#orms
wielding large knies materialised one a#ter another.
+#ter around ten, the newcomers ceased.
)o more #lashes had been seen in the direction they had been heading
towards, and the din o# battle was no longer audible. It seemed things
had settled one way or another.
C4an'er.C
:uttering Ihurry up, TatsuyaI in his mind, @eo spoke the oice
command to deploy his actiation se.uence.
Ironically, that became the signal.
-ordlessly, soundlessly, one o# the encircling soldiers sprang #orth.
Aast9 @eo barely had time to think be#ore the kni#e thrust.
He repelled it with his le#t arm.
0oth @eo and the soldier were startled.
6et neither o# them lost a beat.
The soldierIs #ree le#t hand shot towards @eoIs #ace.
+lthough he had a bit o# time @eo #ollowed his instincts and
immediately threw himsel# to the right.
+ shockwae hammered the side o# his #ace.
5ardrums--stable. /estibular system--minor damage.
-hile checking damage receied, @eo rolled oer and sprang up. He
really would hae liked to distance himsel# #urther, but his opponent
was not so permitting.
The moment he was on his #eet, the kni#e was already #lashing in. I#
he had still been on the ground, the kni#e would hae approached #rom
aboe and it would hae been checkmate.
The blade was aimed at his shoulder--it seemed the opponent was not
intent on killing a #ellow <apanese high school student--and @eo
intercepted it with his arm.
The IpenetrationI magic on the kni#e clashed with the I#orti#icationI
magic on the #au( leather sleee.
The kni#e haing #ailed to strike @eoIs skin, he proceeded to slam a #ist
into the soldierIs chin. It was a superb le#t hook.
The power o# the strike, strengthened by genetic manipulation then
#urther by relentless training was enough to knock out the seasoned
soldier in a single blow. The moement o# the other nine soldiers,
howeer, was not a##ected.
-ithout a momentIs pause, more knies came #lashing in #rom both
sides. <ust one had been barely manageable, and now there were two
o# them. Aurthermore, the lengths o# the blades were di##erent.
5en a master swordsman would hae #ound it di##icult to deal with
that combination o# blows. +nd despite his superhuman re#le(es and
howeer #ast his reactions were, @eo was no master swordsman. In
order to learn to wield 7suba Lagerou, in the short period o# time @eo
spent in the 2hiba do*o, he had ac.uired the sword ability o# a black
belt. 0ut there were limits. The rich soil o# his capabilities could only
do so much against the storm.
Trusting in his magic, @eo #ocused on the enemy to his le#t.
He shut out the sight o# the kni#e approaching #rom the right.
&liding under the slim sword aimed at his claicle, he sprang up and
swung his le#t arm around.
The impact o# @eos punch on the opponents nose was almost
simultaneous with the sound o# blade ringing on blade.
=Thanks #or the assist.
@eos #licker punch had merely gra'ed the enemys #ace, and was #ar
#rom decisie.
The attacking two soldiers *umped back out o# reach.
%ne o# them was empty handed.
The kni#e he had held was stamped #irmly under @eos #oot.
6ou seemed like you were in trouble.
-hat had knocked it out o# his hand was 5rikas sword.
-ell, een i# I hadnt *umped in it seems :iyuki was ready to coer
you.
@ooking back, @eo saw :iyuki merely return a #aint smile. I# 5rika
hadnt arried in time, it was likely the enemies arms would hae
been #ro'en solid.
@eo #elt an inoluntary shudder.
-heres Tatsuya?
Trying to suppress the #eeling, he changed the sub*ect.
Hes haing #un with the guys who were circling around back.
5rika purposely replied in a loud oice.
+s per her intention, the soldiers seemed rather agitated.
:iyuki, Tatsuya kun said #or you to link up with him.
-hat about 4i(ie?
&till on the sidelines, :iyuki replied to 5rikas message in a slightly
#lustered oice.
--+lthough this was not the time to be laughing, 5rika couldnt help
but #eel a laugh coming up her throat.
4i(ie will assist us. 4i(ie, instructions should hae come #rom
Tatsuya kun already right?
+s per, :asters orders, authorisation #or use o# psychic powers,
con#irmed
+nd there it is. :iyuki, *ust leae this placetous.
>espite the situation, 5rika was per#ectly content to make a show.
Then, please take care.
:iyukis reply was brie#, then she le#t without looking back.
+hhSh""do you een know where he is? -ell, that would be
rather insensitie.
6ou two oer there.
@eos #ace too was di##erent #rom be#ore, a #earless e(pression welling
up.
+lthough he himsel# was desperately trying to suppress it.
)ow then""its been le#t to us, so shall we clean up?
+ware o# the change in @eo, and deliberately not pointing it out, 5rika
gripped :i'uchimaru. +t that moment.
)o, thats enough. 5rika, sheathe your sword.
+ new player appeared on the stage.
5rika sharply drew a breath.
The tall shadow who came out #rom the darkness o# the arti#icial
#orest was,
<ikeiue"" (Respectful term of address for second eldest brother)
5rikas second eldest brother, 2hiba )aotsugu.
? ? ?
The reason Tatsuya called :iyuki to his side was not purely because
he was worried about her. %# course such an element always e(isted,
but consciously at least the reason was di##erent. He had perceied a
situation occurring beyond @eo and 5rikas abilities to deal with. In
order to handle it, :iyukis powers would be necessary.
+nd the situation he had predicted had occurred.
;ight behind him, :iyuki gasped. D>eastation was spread out
be#ore.
In #ront o# Tatsuya, in twos and threes, lay the #allen bodies o# the
de#ence #orces. +lthough they didnt know, these were the combatants
sent by the Ludou.
This was not Tatsuyas handiwork.
;ather it was the 4arasites, now engaged in battle with @ina.
@ina, get back9
7seless talk9
Tatsuya was not merely watching either. He was in the midst o# the
engagement as well.
@ina was attacking a group o# 4arasites head on. Their number was
si(. Aactoring in the number o# opponents cleared up already, it was
more than the amount calculated by 4i(ie.
I# they had been si( ordinary opponents, the #ight would hae been
oer. The name o# &irius wasnt *ust #or show, and as the one whose
main mission was the hunter o# rogue magicians ,&irius specialty
could be said to be magic combat. )ormally, these numbers could
neer trouble ,&irius to this degree.
6et @ina was struggling. I# Tatsuya had not been constantly
decomposing the magic raining down upon her, she may hae been
done already.
@inas greatest weapon was her actiation speed.
Aaced with that oerwhelming speed, most opponents would be
de#eated without being able to li#t a #inger. That was @inas specialised
style. 5en her habit o# arming hersel# with handguns was to match
this.
The 4arasites howeer could work magic by *ust literally thinking it.
:agic born o# images.
-ithout the need o# actiation se.uences or other such media, it was
like a ,psychic power.
-hile this was a strength to them, it was also their weakness. The
ariation in what they could e(ercise was limited. It seemed there was
a limit in the images monsters could isualise too, although #or
reasons di##erent #rom humans.
%ne o# the merits o# modern magic was increasing ariation. In return
#or sacri#icing speed, an increase in stability and diersity was
achieed. 2ountless e(periments and practical situations had proed
this was a bene#icial trade o##. That was why deelopment had
progressed so #ar in this direction.
Howeer while it was a boon to those in small groups or alone by
allowing a limited number to respond to a range o# situations and
#ocus their e##orts, in cases like ,burn the enemy in sight speed was
de#initely a more important #actor.
2+>s were tools deeloped to satis#y both diersity and speed. 5en
amongst 2+>s howeer the e(istence o# the specialised type, which
traded ariation #or speed, showed *ust how ma*or a #actor it was.
0oth the three 4arasites earlier, and the si( now.
The adantage couldnt be said to be something simple like double.
+ccording to @anchesters s.uare law, the war potential o# an
attacking group in terms o# #irepower was e.uialent to the number o#
soldiers 1or weapons, or combat units3 s.uared. ;elating this to
combat magic, per unit time the number o# magic attacks three could
output against one was QYG, or a di##erence o# eightB in this case the
potential magic di##erence between si( and two was JMYF, or a
di##erence o# JE.
&uch a di##erence could only mean trouble.
The reason Tatsuya and @ina could #ace o## against that numerical
adantage was because they could oerturn the di##erence in potential
magic di##erence per unit time. +s it stood howeer they could not
take the initiatie, and both Tatsuya and @ina were #orced to #ocus on
de#ence. Tatsuya in particular had his hands #ull simply decomposing
all the magic coming at them.
He had summoned :iyuki because he had guessed this situation
be#orehand.
:iyuki9
6es, %nii sama9
Those were all the words the two needed.
&imply by calling her name, :iyuki knew what her brother re.uired
o# her.
Arom :iyukis body, or more precisely #rom the coordinates where
:iyukis body was present a torrent o# heay inter#erence power was
released.
Wone Inter#erence.
-ith no de#inite eent modi#ication goal, it was anti-magic solely #or
disabling other magic.
+ magic which preents others #rom modi#ying eents. + techni.ue to
shut down all other magic e(cept your own.
@anchesters s.uare law was established #or cases where attacks were
scattered and interspersed. It couldnt be applied to that oerwhelming
pressure.
:iyukis Wone Intere#erence made the area a magic null 'one.
In the #ace o# that both Tatsuya and @ina switched to narrow, high
density magics.
Their inter#erence strength was only enough to counteract :iyukis.
:ounting a direct attack against :iyuki under her 'one would hae
been di##icult een #or these two, but otherwise despite signi#icant
reductions in number and speed they were still able to actiate magic.
The inter#erence power o# the 4arasites howeer couldnt compare to
those two, or rather the three o# Tatsuya, :iyuki and @ina.
Tatsuya and @ina continued to actiate magic in succession.
@inas magic targeted si(. Tatsuyas magic targeted GE. Hal# o#
Tatsuyas shots were meant to break down the magic o# @ina, who was
aiming to kill the 4arasites hosts, but his 8ram >ispersion was only
in time to dissole hal# o# @inas magic se.uences.
+s a result.
Three o# the 4arasites were hit by @inas magic and slain,
-hile three o# the 4arasites were pierced by Tatsuyas magic and sel#-
destructed.
? ? ?
:agicians o# the blade.
This was the second name gien to those o# the 2hiba house, #or the
close combat techni.ues combining swordplay and magic.
7sing magic in close combat was not something uni.ue to the 2hiba.
The :artial :agic +rts deeloped by &tars, prior to their separation
#rom the :arine 2orps was probably earlier. +s i# to counter the
7&)+, the )ew &oiet 7nion deeloped hand to hand magic
techni.ues blanketed under the name 2ommando &ambo 1although
this had by now #allen into disuse3.
>uring the tumultuous #ormation o# the Indo-4ersian 7nion, in the
northern regions centred around >elhi, traditional <amadhar daggers
were gien modern redesigns and used as weapons.
0ut as #ar as it was known close combat techni.ues used with magic
deeloped outside o# <apan had all been created around assisting
,ranged magic and #irearms. The main idea was, while adancing, to
output attacks comparable to #irearms while e(erting de#ence against
opposing #irearms.
%n the other hand the ,sword arts practiced by the 2hiba lay in using
techni.ues to augment the main system o# close combat. 0y casting on
onesel# to close the distance #rom ranged weapons to hand to hand,
then attacking with swords which were superior at that distance to
both knies and bare hands, the opponent would be .uickly subdued.
These skills, e(celling in both surprise and stealth were a great
adantage in guerrilla war#are and antiterrorist operations #or both the
<apanese military and police.
The swords techni.ues themseles had not been deised by the 2hiba.
+t the same time military applications #or magic were being studied in
<apan, arious magicians had been e(perimenting with the idea o#
combining swords and sorcery. The 2hiba had simply structured it to
be easy to learn.
0y organising it to be simple to pass on howeer, ,techni.ues became
,arts. This was groundbreaking #or its transmission. The preious
head o# the 2hiba was praised as the ,modern 1Lamii'umi3
)obutsuna, and #or their achieement the 2hiba house became
respect#ully known as the ,magicians o# the blade.
In the background, it was said that up to ]H-OHP o# the magicians in
the army and riot police were learning the 2hiba blade arts.
+mongst those were the guerrilla in#antry platoon o# the de#ense
#orces Airst diision, the ,&word 2orps. They belonged to the Ludou
#action, but at the same time they were a close combat unit using short
ranged magic and swords and amongst other in#antry units, had
receied training #rom the 2hiba #or longer.
To them, the 2hiba were like their master. +lthough they knew
nothing about 5rika, who was not publicly acknowledged, they
naturally knew about )aotsugu who was #amous as the ,2hiba Lirin.
)ot *ust knowB the commander o# the s.uad had been personally
introduced to the sword through )aotsugu.
+nd so,
+ssistant instructor""
The reason they had #ro'en the moment )aotsugu arried onto the
scene was #or that reason.
In terms o# military rank, the s.uad commander as a regular o##icer
outranked the student )aotsugu.
;ight now howeer, the hierarchy was martial.
)aotsugu stepped through their unmoing ranks, and stood to #ace
5rika.
5rika appeared daunted.
Howeer, she immediately rallied and looked back strongly.
5en i# it was braado, #or both 5rika and )aotsugu, this was a
milestone.
5rika had directed her sword at )aotsugu.
This didnt mean they were literally pointing blades at each other.
0oth o# their swords were still aimed at the ground.
6et eeryone could sense that the two were at kni#epoint.
)aotsugu was aware that this sister o# his, born o# a di##erent mother,
had always been relying on him.
He had considered this understandable.
2hildren were not so strong that they could lie without depending on
anyone=he had always thought so. To him, there were none who
were #orce#ul enough to ,become an adult without needing anyone
else.
)ormally, these would be the parents. 4arents are the ones a child
unconditionally relies on.
0ut #or 5rika, this was not the case. Her mother was weak, and her
#ather had not been content to play that role #rom the start.
In truth, )aotsugu also hated his #ather. The reason he was so
absorbed in what 5rika called ,#riolous pursuits was partially due to
the spite he #elt towards their #ather. -hy had this mans brothers and
sisters, looking at he who abandoned his obligations as a parent, not
#ound anything strange with it. ;ather, as the head o# one o# the
Hundred Aamilies, it had been seen as something natural.
It may hae been then that he #elt sympathy #or this hal#-sister o# his.
In the #amily he alone had been gentle with her, spoiled her,
encouraged her, and raised her to be able to stand on her own two #eet.
It seemed the time #or his sister to #inally become an adult had come,
)aotsugu thought.
He e(perimentally released a blast o# sword pressure. -hile it was a
spiritual techni.ue, when used by a highly skilled practitioner it could
actually mani#est cut skin and blood #low along with the illusion o#
being cut.
5rika de#lected )aotsugus sword pressure with pressure o# her own.
0y de#lecting, rather than dodging, she was declaring she could #ace
him straight on.
Inoluntarily, a smile dri#ted onto )aotsugus e(pression.
He raised his right hand.
-hen it appeared he was li#ting his weapon, his sword was already
swinging towards 5rika.
It wasnt that he had acted #aster than the eye could see.
0y minimising preceding actions and blurring the line between
preliminary act and the true act, he achieed this ,earliness. This was
a phantom blade techni.ue , which took adantage o# the blind spot in
the opponents recognition. + skill realised by merely moing his
limbs, the sword o# the genius.
5rikas blade intercepted that slash o# )aotsugus.
He had intended to stop his blade in the beginning, but now he held
the course. 2ountering )aotsugus ,earliness, by her outstanding
senses and reaction rate, was 5rikas ,speed.
+ clear smile now broke out onto )aotsugus #ace.
The tension colouring 5rikas eyes darkened.
&he gripped her sword two handed against the sword )aotsugu had
swung with one, and pushed back hard.
+bruptly, the pressure disappeared.
-ithout a moments delay, 5rika caught hersel#.
)ot bothering to correct their posture, the siblings #aced each other
again.
Then )aotsugu turned around and #aced away.
-ary o# a surprise, 5rika slipped a slight ,opening into her stance.
6et no blow came to take adantage o# that opportunity.
<ikeiue""?
)aotsugu did not respond to his sister, and instead raised his sword
towards the sword corps.
>ismay #illed their #aces.
They took positions, but their reactions were notably duller than
5rikas.
--He held no #ondness #or them.
The smile on )aotsugus #ace disappeared.
)ational >e#ence +cademy special war#are technology research
diision, ;esere second lieutenant 2hiba )aotsugu.
Leeping his sword raised, )aotsugu declared his name, rank and
a##iliation. 10y the way to achiee the rank o# second lieutenant while
still in school, and a sophomore at that, regardless o# being in resere
was e(ceptional een #or a magician and could only come through
haing true achieements.3
I am currently carrying out my mission o# escorting ciilians who
hae become the target o# terrorists. 4lease state your name, rank and
a##iliation9
+t )aotsugus apparent about-#ace, 5rika e(changed glances with
@eo.
I# you hae been mobilised #or the purpose o# harming ciilians, that
will be construed as an act o# rebellion against democracy. I will
oppose you with all my might.
@isting the Ten :aster Houses and the Hundred Aamilies under
democracy was really stretching it. They pursued the interests o#
magicians more than that o# the general public a#ter all.
Those were 5rikas thoughts upon hearing )aotsugus speech, and
)aotsugu himsel# #elt so too.
There was no hesitation in the aura he now emitted howeer.
-ith the addition o# )aotsugus blade, the situation had shi#ted into a
stalemate.
The con#rontation between )aotsugu and the &word 2orps was
interrupted by an e(plosion o# 4sions a short distance away.
5rika, @eo, take care9
Thats the 4arasites true body9
&lightly blurred #rom the speed o# speech, an impatient oice #lew
#rom the communication deice.
They were :ikihikos and :i'ukis oices.
+s a warning, it was incomplete.
<ikeiue9 It seems the 4arasites true body is heading towards here9
5rika howeer deduced what the two were trying to say.
The ones who became warier as a result o# 5rikas words were
probably the &word 2orps.
+ll things considered, the probability )aotsugu had not receied a #ull
brie#ing on the 4arasites was high.
5rika was both impatient and hesitant as to whether she should try to
e(plain their threat or not.
&preading her awareness in all directions right down to the leel o# her
#eet, 5rika turned to #ace )aotsugu.
+t that moment, whether because she had perceied accurately or by
chance.
The ground behind 5rika e(ploded. + #igure leaped up #rom amongst
the raining sand and debris.
C5arth release9?C
It was @eo who cried aloud. %# the techni.ues commonly known as
the Iart o# #ie releasesI, one o# the #irst-class schools o# +ncient
magic, )in*utsu, was particularly adept at using the #ie elements o#
IwoodI, I#ireI, IearthI, ImetalI and IwaterI as a medium #or
reconnaissance, #light and ambushes. That ariation was a duality o#
nin*utsu and <apan itsel#, but a#ter nin*utsu and itIs Iart o# #ie releasesI
became #amous, internationally all magic using these #ie elements
came to be blanketed under the terms Iwood releaseI, I#ire releaseI,
Iearth releaseI, Imetal releaseI and Iwater releaseI.
In short, *ust because this attack came #rom underground did not
automatically make it actual nin*utsu. It was *ust as likely this was
+ncient magic #rom the continent. There was no time to ponder that
now howeer.
The target o# the emerging man was not 5rika but the one opposite
her, 4i(ie.
+ blade resembling a thick hatchet swung down upon 4i(ie #rom the
underground assailant.
C&hield9C
@eo *umped in #ront o# her. The hatchet the man had swung took @eo
in the le#t arm, and was caught in the protector o# his 2+>.
C@eo, thatIs a 4arasite9C
Hearing :ikihikoIs warning, @eo whipped his arm around and #lung
both the hatchet and 4arasite away.
+#ter his bitter e(perience, he made sure not to touch the thingIs body
directly. 0ut een @eoIs strength was not enough to disarm it. The
4arasite brandished the hatchet again.
The monsterIs #eet howeer neer kicked o## the ground.
+ sword was pierced through itIs chest.
5rika, haing impaled the 4arasite with :i'uchimaru, wore a #aint
smile as i# saying IwupsI. 4erhaps she remembered TatsuyaIs entreaty
not to kill. &he had opposed his words at the time, but it still was what
it was.
The attack had not only come #rom the ground. The moment
)aotsuguIs attention had been dierted by the eents occuring behind
5rikaIs back, a soldier had sprang #rom behind the sword corps with
blade in hand.
That he appeared like a soldier was an illusion. >ressed in a nay blue
costume indistinguishable in the darkness, the man had depried a
sword corps soldier o# his weapon and rushed towards 4i(ie. The leap
was assisted by weight systematic magic. The manIs body didnIt make
a parabola with the ground, and closed in on 4i(ie #aster than
graitational acceleration.
The blade held oerhead neer #ell. In the middle o# his spring, the
man was knocked aside by a kick #rom )aotsugu.
The #lying *ump kick was so brilliant it was hard to remember that
)aotsugu was actually a swordsman. The beauti#ul #orm wouldnIt
hae been out o# place in a karate do*o poster. 5rika had always
accused )aotsugu o# wasting time with I#riolous magicI, but
eidently he had been inoled in arious other aspects such as
martial arts as well.
+ murmur arose #rom the sword corps. The soldier whose blade had
been taken was collapsed. He had likely receied an attack by this
man. The #eedback #rom the kick had been considerable, but )aotsugu
care#ully walked towards the man now lying on the ground. He had
been hidden care#ully enough that een )aotsugu had not noticed him
be#ore the attack. There was no such thing as too much precaution.
&uch attentieness was .uickly rewarded.
-hen )aotsugu reached a distance o# three steps away, the manIs
body suddenly burst. )aotsugu *umped back, but he was ineitably
caught up in the spraying gore.
+t this un#oreseen deelopment, )aotsugu was at a loss. 0ehind him,
5rika and @eo also #rowned. The sword corps were stunned. 5eryone
in that place did not notice the 4sion wrapped 4ushion mass which
issued #rom both the impaled man and the ruptured body.
C4i(ie, link up with me9C
0reaking the spell was TatsuyaIs rough oice issuing through the
communication deices.
C%# course.C
4i(ie turned to the direction o# the 4sion e(plosion, the direction that
:iyuki had headed towards and where Tatsuya was likely right now,
and began running.
CHonoka, please #ollow 4i(ie.C
Arom the oice communicators set to group communication mode,
TatsuyaIs oice #lowed again.
C8ot it9C
HonokaIs oice was terse.
C5rika and @eo, donIt moe #rom there. Tell the people there likewise.C
C5h......right.C
C%, ok.C
5rika and @eo replied in oices suggesting they had not yet #ully
recoered.
%erhead, the two 4sion and 4ushion lumps chased a#ter 4i(ie like
clouds blown by the wind.
? ? ?
CHonoka, please #ollow 4i(ie.C
C8ot it9C
;eceiing TatsuyaIs instructions, Honoka wasted no time.
--Immediately a#ter acknowledging howeer, she realised she didnIt
know e(actly what it was she was meant to be doing.
It was .uite a Honoka-ish moment, but her subse.uent action was *ust
like her as well. 0eing told to I#ollowI, she decided to monitor her
status #or now and trained her optical magic towards 4i(ie.
+lthough that was easier said that done.
&he lucked out.
>espite there being arious interpretations #or those words, Honoka
decided to open the 4sion circuits which linked her to 4i(ie.
? ? ?
There had been a total o# GE 4arasites drawn to this world.
%ne currently inhabited the integrated au(iliary housework humanoid
robot, the Humanoid Home Helper IJH4I 4i(ie.
Two had been sealed in todayIs battles.
Aour had had their hosts killed by @ina, and one by 5rika, releasing
them.
Aour more had sel# destructed, being likewise released.
+ total o# nine had lost their hosts, and that was the number o#
4arasites gathering here now. In their true body, the spirits were drawn
to 4i(ie.
They were all 4ushion bodies #rom the same dimension o#
in#ormation.
%riginally, all GE had been o# one IconsciousnessI.
Haing their true body e(posed, they were now trying to return to one
e(istence.
The nine 4arasites had coalesced already.
-hilst sharing the consciousness o# one, yet possessing nine wills,
they were an amorphous 4ushion mass.
That structure o# one stem branching into nine, i# one possessed IeyesI
capable o# IseeingI 4ushions, they no doubt would hae thought o# one
o# the most #amous spirits o# this country, albeit with one head e(tra.
+nd it was attempting to capture one more.
&preading their nine necks, they resembled a IserpentI bent on
deouring 4i(ie.
4i(ie #orti#ied her barrier o# IwillI, and endured the storm.
That will, what droe IherI now, was something imparted to her by the
human who could be called her ImotherI. 5en now these #eelings
#rom her ImotherI #lowed into her matri( o# 4ushions, mi(ing in.
The will that she was not one o# IthoseI.
The will that she was not her own.
The will that she e(isted #or IhimI.
+ single indiidualIs will would not normally be able to oppose IthoseI.
0ut 4i(ieIs ImotherI, Honoka, was not normal.
&he was a descendant o# the I5lementsI. The blood o# the 5lement o#
I@ightI #lowed through her eins.
The 5lements were those magicians who had #irst practitioned magic
in this country, be#ore the deelopment o# the )umbers.
0e#ore the organisation and classi#ication o# the #our systems and
eight types, a classi#ication based on the traditional attributes o# Iearth
IwaterI I#ireI IwindI IlightI and IthunderI had been used. The 5lements
had deeloped in accordance with this concept.
7pon the establishment o# the #our system eight type classi#ication
howeer, the deelopments o# those magicians #ollowing the
traditional attributes became regarded as ine##icient, and the
deelopment o# the 5lements ceased.
This could be said to be one o# the #re.uently .uestioned episodes o#
the secret history o# magic deelopment.
Howeer, the 5lements also innately inherited gi#ts separate #rom
magic--or were gien.
>uring the dawn o# magic research. -hen #ears and superstitions o#
those against magic ran rampant.
The authorities who practiced 5lements deelopment, being labeled as
IsorcerersI and IwitchesI, took it upon themseles to show that they
would not be a threat. They had scientists incorporate into them genes
compelling absolute obedience to their leaders.
Is this characteristic inheritable?
That is a .uestion which is still unanswerable een now, e(ing both
psychologists and geneticists alike.
5en identical twins will grow up to hae ery di##erent personalities.
In light o# this #act, it could be concluded that Ipersonalities are not
inheritableI.
%n the other hand i# one goes back long enough through parent and
child, grandparents and grandchildren, great grandparents and great
grandchildren and so on, undeniable similarities begin to show which
cannot be e(plained away by simple Ienironmental #actorsI.
-ith this challenge the authorities had gien to them, the genetic
engineers took whateer steps they could.
+s a result--although it cannot be said whether it was #or the better or
worse--the Idescendants o# the 5lementsI hae a high ratio o#
e(pressing a certain trait.
That is, dependency.
It was ery commonly obsered that they would hae one speci#ic
person, usually o# the opposite se(, that they would greatly attach to
and rely on.
The descendants o# the 5lements themseles belieed that their
destinies were written in their genes.
4erhaps, using that as an e(cuse, was their way o# accepting their
reliance on another.
The IdependencyI that they #elt was not the publicly perceied
emotional IweaknessI
&ome scholars hae claimed that there was a more appropriate word
#or that IdependencyI.
That is, IloyaltyI.
+n unshakable #aith, that II am theirsI.
That was more than strong enough to push back the coalescing
synergetic will o# the spirits.
? ? ?
The point where Tatsuya had been #ighting the 4arasites, and the point
where 5rika had been con#ronting )aotsugu.
4i(ieIs battle against IthatI, and withstanding IthatIs attack, was right in
the middle o# the two.
;eaching that place, Tatsuya saw the shape o# the nine-headed dragon
rearing its heads as i# to deour 4i(ie.
He could not comprehend the 4ushion in#ormation structure. 0ut he
knew there was IsomethingI there. He could XseeX it.
)ine 4ushion in#ormation in#ormation bodies were *oined together at
the base. +nd branched into nine, that inter#ace was attempting to
capture 4i(ie. That was su##icient to resemble a nine-headed dragon in
his mind.
C-hat is that9?C
@ina, who had #or some reason #ollowed Tatsuya, e(claimed in shock.
C6ou can see it?C
CItIs not......that I can see it, but I can sort o# understand it. &ome
massie IpowerI is pressing on that doll. Tatsuya, *ust what is that?C
CThe result o# you not listening to %nii sama.C
It was :iyuki who responded to @ina. That blunt, #rigid oice silenced
@ina #or the time being.
C5en though %nii sama had told you not to kill them, you *ust
mindlessly slaughtered the 4arasites hosts and now the bodies are
rampaging #ree. @ina, how do you intend to sole this misconduct?C
Aigured she wouldnIt stay .uiet at that.
C-hat misconduct9 I was simply #ul#illing my duty9C
CThen please settle the cleanup yoursel#. 2an you? 5en i# unlike %nii
sama, you hae no idea how to sole things noniolently?C
5er since the combat earlier, a dangerous air had been simmering
between these two beauties.
This was *ust a continuation o# that.
CIIll do it9 <ust watch9C
2asting caution to the winds, @ina took the challenge.
CHey, @ina.C
Howeer one looked at it, she had to be stopped. It was #ar too
reckless #or someone who had no idea how to begin countering the
thing to *ust *ump in.
Thinking that, Tatsuya called out in a paci#ying tone.
C&hut up9 Tatsuya, you keep .uiet9C
Aor what good it did.
CI absolutely must make this mission a success9 I# not, then *ust why
am I een here9C
The tantrum @ina threw was directed not only against Tatsuya.
Hearing her cry, he himsel# realised that.
IHereI was not simply this location. ;ather right here, right now she
stood not as I+ngelina &hieldsI but as I+ngie &iriusI--that was what she
meant.
+t some point @inaIs hair had reerted to gold, and her eyes to blue.
Her I4aradeI, which had not #altered een under :iyukiIs heay Wone
Inter#erence, had been released.
&he was giing her all as I+ngelina &hieldsI to #ul#ill her mission as
I+ngie &iriusI. Trying to be a I&iriusI.
8limpsing the heay burden on her, Tatsuya was hesitant to #ollow up.
In that moment, @ina launched a magic attack o# her own.
+ eritable barrage, shot a#ter shot raaged the air and encountered
empty space.
That was only natural.
@inaIs magic was meant to modi#y physical eents. &he was simply
not e.uipped with magic to #ight an in#ormation body.
IThatIs awareness turned towards @ina.
In TatsuyaIs ision, the nine head were now arrayed against her.
)o sooner than that, a storm o# magic #ell.
It was all Tatsuya could do to try and bring them down.
-hen they had #ought the 4arasite in#ormation body at Airst high,
only one person had been possessed and there was only one spirit.
That had already been di##icult.
)ow there were nine.
He could not e(pect to weather the storm.
)o, on the contrary, there was no way that he alone could hae
stemmed the onslaught #rom IthatI.
0ehind him, :iyuki was maintaining a supportie inter#erence area
oer the place where IthatI e(isted. 0ut een though :iyuki could
IsenseI the 4ushion in#ormation bodies, she could not IseeI them.
0ecause o# that, the inter#erence area had to be loose. I# she increased
the #ield to coer all possibilities, it would inter#ere with TatsuyaIs
own magic.
That barely tenable situation continued, yet it was #ar too risky #or the
allied #orces to relent een a little.
He #elt a s.uee'e on the back o# his *acket. :iyuki was also uneasy.
+lthough they knew that haing lost their hosts the 4arasites were
now IconsumingI magic and had to run out o# power at some point, not
knowing *ust how much longer they had to hold out sapped their
willpower considerably.
+t this rate, :iyuki may end up the same way as @ina.
0ecause o# her recklessness, @ina was now locked down under a shell
o# >ata Aorti#ication.
)ot being able to launch an e##ectie attack #rom their end was too big
a handicap.
:agic which inter#ered with physical eents was useless.
4hysical attacks were completely out o# the .uestion.
I# possible, mental magic might--
1--ThereIs no choice.3
2lenching his teeth, Tatsuya decided to throw the dice.
C:ikihiko, can you see the situation?C
C6es. IIm assembling a seal as #ast as I can, so please hold out a bit
longer.C
The oice which answered #rom the communication unit was een
more hurried than TatsuyaIs.
C-hat is the likelihood that your seal could suppress this?C
The reply came a#ter a pause.
C......Honestly speaking, not een #i#ty percent.C
His con#ession was anguished.
Hearing :ikihikoIs answer, Tatsuya did not think any less o# him. In a
direct con#rontation, Tatsuya knew that he was not someone who
would make rash promises.
C:ikihiko, *ust temporarily is #ine. 2ould you suppress it #or GH
seconds?C
+t Tatsuya re.uesting #or the #irst time, not *ust :ikihiko but but
eeryone listening in on the communication gasped.
-ith no backup or proo#, it was *ust a simple plea. In a 1bad3 sense, it
was blind #aith.
6et it was not something he would do i# he did not trust them.
C......8ot it.C
+t least, that was what :ikihiko #elt.
CAor GH seconds, IIll keep it down no matter what. IIll signal, so
Tatsuya please do your own thing.C
He had a plan, and he needed GH seconds #or it.
In order to secure that time, his own power would be necessary.
:ikihiko was inspired by the trust Tatsuya was placing in him.
CTatsuya san, IIll also help9C
HonokaIs #irm oice #ollowed :ikihikoIs.
It was not in rialry. There was one simple intent, that she wanted to
be his strength.
C+lright. :ikihiko, on you.C
C%L......J, E, G, now9C
+s he shouted, :ihiko unleashed his +nti-demon8aruda #lame.
The I#lameI e(panded around IthatI--the nine-headed dragon the
4arasites had combined into, and wrapped around the in#ormation
bodies. It was like two serpents #ighting each other.
0eneath them, 4i(ie was mentally pushing IthatI back. The 4sion
bonds holding 4i(ie were being replenished as #ast as they were being
consumed. Honoka saw that the 4sions had almost completely
captured 4i(ieIs lower hal#.
%# course, Tatsuya wasnIt *ust silently watching.
+t the signal #rom :ikihiko, Tatsuya stretched out his arm not holding
his 2+>.
That arm,
Took hold :iyukiIs waist,
+nd pulled her in close.
C----9C + silent scream. %r maybe a cry o# delight.
In that instant both :iyukiIs Wone Inter#erence and TatsuyaIs 8ram
>ispersion ceased, but :ikihiko and Honoka,
+s promised kept IthatI at bay.
Held in TatsuyaIs arms, with an e(pression o# astonishment on her
#ace, :iyuki looked up at him.
+s his sister looked up, Tatsuya himsel# moed in closer.
+s their #oreheads touched, and their eyes melted together,
+s their noses touched, and their lips came closer and closer,
C:iyuki, XlookX9C
Tatsuya whispered #irmly to :iyuki.
+n inisible light #lowed #rom him to her.
+n inisible light #lowed #rom her to him.
0etween them, their auras pulsed.
CI see it, %nii sama9C
It may hae been that those were not words spoken #rom the mouth,
but enounced #rom the heart.
Their communication lasted but an instant.
:ore than hal# o# the GH seconds still remained.
TatsuyaIs le#t hand held :iyukiIs head to his chest.
0oth o# :iyukiIs arms were wrapped around him.
TatsuyaIs right hand, pointed at IthatI.
-ithin :iyukiIs consciousness, the #igure o# IthatI was now clearly
discernible.
TatsuyaIs ability to IseeI in#ormation bodies.
:iyuki took TatsuyaIs IsightI to iew IthatI,
;eleased their seal, and unleashed her inherent magic.
%uter systematic:ental Inter#erence magic, I2ocytusI.
:agic to #ree'e the spirit.
:iyukiIs magic struck the spirits themseles, stilling the 4ushion
in#ormation bodies--
--and bere#t o# a essel, IthatI shattered into nothingness.
Chapter 17
5en though she had no way to iew the spirits true body, @ina sensed
that IthatI had perished. The mass o# Iin#ormationI had stopped--#ro'en,
then crumbled. I# being able to manipulate 4sions within the
dimension o# in#ormation is the norm #or magicians, there was no way
a magician o# the highest calibre like the I&iriusI would not notice the
collapse o# such a high amount o# 4sions.
C@unar magic.....?C
+nd although she hersel# could not use :ental Inter#erence magic, by
using her magic sensitiity it was possible to guess #rom the result
what sort o# magic had been used.
@unar magic is what 5nglish speaking magicians use to re#er to a
particular branch o# mental inter#erence magic, that which speci#ically
targets and directly damages the spirit, and is named #or one o# the
most #amous %uter-systematic mental attack magics I@unar &trikeI.
@unar &trike, o# the magics outside the :ental Inter#erence system
unusually has its processes #ormulated outB since it is used by &tars o#
the IAirst 2lass starsI rank then in the eent that they became the
enemy, the method o# counteracting it was taught.
%# course @ina had seen @unar &trike countless times and thus
although it was her #irst time seeing 2ocytus and she did not #ully
understand itIs mechanisms, she was able to deduce that it had causes
#atal damage to the spirit.
That, and that the caster had been :iyuki.
C@unar magic o# this power......:iyuki, you......no, *ust what are you
two siblings?C
&till on the ground, @ina muttered.
I# she had used this magic during their duel......thoughts like that did
not #ully materialise in her mind. &hock still took up too much o# her
thought processes #or now.
+ctually, :iyuki was in a similar state.
Hal# lost in ecstasy, she was still #irmly held in TatsuyaIs embrace. In
addition to that she had gone all out with her magic #or the #irst time in
a while, as well as haing seen the world through TatsuyaIs eyesB she
was likely still drunk with it all.
The two who were preiously in a bad mood were now in a state o#
insanity1?3B this was a chance. Tatsuya took the communication unit
#rom his ear, and switched it o##.
C@ina, do not reeal what you saw *ust now.C
@ooking down at her, his oice was low and intimidating.
C--what, suddenly......C
I# she had been her normal sel#, such oerbearing methods would hae
been counterproductie. 0ut as Tatsuya e(pected, @ina was not her
normal sel#.
&he had been under enormous stress, and now with the disappearance
o# the target which had been such a tense load on her she had #allen
into a state o# collapse. It was a per#ect condition #or IpersuasionI.
CIn return, weIll pledge to keep the identity o# +ngie &irius secret. This
applies not *ust to me and :iyuki, but eeryone else inoled in the
incident today.C
@ina gae no reply.
0lue eyes *ittered between TatsuyaIs. 8radually, he could see cognitie
processes coming back.
>uty.
&uspicion.
>e#ensieness,
/indication.
/arious thoughts #lickered through her eyes, as within her
1psychologically3 rationalisation dawned. Tatsuya wasnIt particularly
skilled in psychoanalysis nor was he a telepath so he wasnIt per#ectly
clear, but he intuitiely knew that @ina was trying to conince hersel#
somehow.
Her con#lict didnIt last ery long.
CI hae no choice in the matter do I?C
CItIs not like that.C
Tatsuya re#uted her resigned words. He didnIt elaborate on the
conse.uences o# her re#using either howeer.
&uspicion nurtures an(iety. Those unspoken words, or rather his
unspoken action, were the #inal push.
CAine......i# it keeps you .uiet, itIs not a bad deal #or me. IIll remain
silent about you two. ......)o one will listen to what I hae to say
anyway.C
That last phrase was mouthed .uietly, so Tatsuya didnIt hear. He didnIt
ask #or clari#ication.
He was carrying :iyuki who was still limpB when she suddenly came
to and started wriggling around he told her Icalm downI as they turned
away #rom @ina.
%nly #aced away, not moing.
Immediately be#ore @ina could call out in suspicion to Tatsuya,
C@inaC
Tatsuya called out to @ina instead.
CIs there something else?C
Arom her words alone it could be interpreted that @ina was still
annoyed, but her oice was not as sullen as her words.
The air o# being cornered a while ago had disappeared.
CI# you wish to retire #rom the &tars......C
C5h?C
CI# you eer wish to .uit being a soldier, I think I could help. )o, itIs
not that I hae any power, but there are people I know who could be o#
serice.C
CTatsuya? <ust, what are you saying?C
@ina didnIt angrily burst out IitIs none o# your businessI or laugh out
IdonIt be a #oolI.
CItIs not that I particularly want to .uit the &tars......to stop being the
I&iriusI.C
&he simply answered in wonder.
CI see.C
-ithout looking back, Tatsuya curtly replied, then began to walk.
C-ait, Tatsuya9 -hy did you say such a thing9?C
)ot turning around to @ina who called out in a loud oice,
C&orry, I said something strange.C
He merely spoke those words, and proceeded on.
The mechanical doll accompanying him likewise took no notice o#
@ina.
%nly :iyuki still held in TatsuyaIs arms looked back oer his
shoulder, giing @ina an an(ious look.
? ? ?
+s TatsuyaIs #orm disappeared into the dark night, @ina returned to
hersel# with a sigh.
;ealising she had simply been motionless staring at TatsuyaIs back,
she rose #rom the ground in a hurry.
-hy had her eyes been so resolutely #ollowing his back......the
moment such thoughts entered into her mind, @ina igorously shook
her head.
1ItIs *ust because he said something so weird. ThatIs obiously it93
7nconsciously, she had been #i(ed on his #orm all the while.
+s soon as she was aware o# her own actions, she also became aware
o# her #lushed cheeks and the racing o# her heart.
The #act was she had merely been dragged into a ImisunderstandingI o#
her own making, but haing in a sense #allen into his trap @ina was in
no position to make a sober ob*ectie analysis. &he was now being
held captie in a psychological state similar to the suspension bridge
e##ect.
In order to de#lect the morti#ying thought o# IloeI #rom her
consciousness, @ina desperately searched #or anything else to think
about. +s a result, her mind #i(ated on his last .uestion.
TatsuyaIs pu''ling proposal.
-ondering *ust why would he say such a thing, @ina tilted her head.
-as it because her #ace, her #orm, being attacked by monsters and
haing to dispose o# her #ellow countrymen, seemed to be in pain?
I# that was the case then he was mistaken, @ina thought.
0eing #orced to turn her hand against her I#amilyI certainly caused her
chest to ache.
6et @ina belieed her actions were merci#ul. That she was bringing
salation.
&he had long since learned that humanIs dignity was something
precious.
--It was di##icult work, yet someone had to do it.
--&he would not run #rom it.
--I# a power#ul magician #ell to eil, then the only one who could
oppose them was the strongest, &irius, in other words only she
hersel#......
1......%nly she hersel#?3
Haing neer oerthought the matter, @inaIs thinking now stumbled.
>isposing o# those #allen magicians be#ore they gae birth to new
ictims. +s the strongest, she was indeed the most suited #or the task.
There had been no doubt in her mind--until now.
&he now knew that was not an absolute.
5en i# she didnIt do it, those two would.
5en i# she hadnIt put hersel# through all the pain, the guilt o# killing
her brothers, those two would--
1I see......thatIs why I was so lost, so impatient.3
The cobwebs which had clouded her mind #or most o# the month, now
melted away as i# the sun had dawned.
5en i# she hersel# doesnIt do it, someone else would.
Aor @ina, it was like discoering something unimaginable.
&he realised that her #uture she had thought to be decided,
unchangeable, was something she could choose #or hersel#. The
straight road she had always thought to lie be#ore her, suddenly
branched--and with it came came both an(iety and hope.
Haing #inally awakened #rom her illusion, @ina was kept wrapped in
con#usion #or a while.
? ? ?
TatsuyaIs destination was the location o# the two preiously sealed
4arasites. 0ut someone had already gotten there be#ore.
Two groups #aced against each other.
%ne was a black clad group, led by an old man deeply wrinkled with
years yet standing #irm.
The other was also black clad, led by a young lady in a black one
piece dress.
+lthough #acing each other, it didnIt mean they were hostile. The
group lead by the girl, and any rate, showed no hostility towards the
group led by the old man. That was probably because the girl, their
leader, hersel# showed no hostility towards him.
;ather, the girl looked at the old man with respect. --+t least,
apparently.
C6our 5(cellency Ludou, it is an honour to see you.C
The girl came #orward and curtsied grace#ully. >espite the elegance
howeer, there was no modesty. The light within her eyes was #ar too
strong #or that.
C:y name is Lurobane +yako. I am but a lowly member o# the
6otsuba, and I sere at our Head, :ayaIs, conenience.
;aising her head, +yako gae a play#ul smile.
+ proocatie yet withdrawn, enigmatic smile.
+s e(pected howeer, Ludou ;etsu did not rise to the bait.
C+ representatie o# the 6otsuba, is it. 6ou seem solid, despite your
youth. It appears you already know about me. %r should I introduce
mysel# regardless?C
2lose--although not in terms o# #riendly--with :aya, Ludou was
publicly o# the same status, a #ellow Head o# one o# the Ten :aster
2lans. The way he said I6otsubaI, and the way he now looked upon
+yako who was o# age with his grandchildren, was as an IadersaryI.
C)o, that will not be necessary.C
+ light be#itting his intentions dwelled within LudouIs eyes. 6et
be#ore that, +yakoIs cutesy yet #earless attitude didnIt break.
C0y the way 6our 5(cellency, we donIt hae much time, so thereIs
something IId like to discuss with you.C
+t her hasty, or rather determined attitude, the Ludou elder showed no
sign o# discom#ort. He didnIt think things were as rushed as that, but
since he also wished to conclude things .uickly he went along with it.
C8o ahead.C
C:y thanks.C
+t the old manIs liberality +yako gae another theatrical bow, then
looked straight into his eyes.
CIIm a#raid that 6our 5(cellencyIs ob*ectie, the beings called
4arasites sealed here which you had intended to bring back, hae also
been tasked to be retrieed by us as per my HeadIs orders.C
CHou.C
The light in LudouIs eyes increased in sharpness and intensity.
+t that light a hint o# trepidation crept into +yakoIs #ace, yet she
rebounded with a #irm smile immediately.
C--0y happy circumstance howeer, there appear to be two sealed
essels. How about this, one #or 6our 5(cellency, and one #or us?C
:aintaining her #irm smile, +yako looked into the old manIs eyes and
awaited his answer.
Ludou laughed une(pectedly.
@oudly, and in en*oyment.
C%h my......indeed. +nd you are yet but a *unior high student.C
+yako had not told Ludou her age. His words implied that he had
already pre-inestigated her be#ore she eer introduced hersel#.
There was no sign o# disturbance in +yako this time. It was her
attitude that it was little wonder Ludou ;etsu would hae e(amined
een a 6otsuba pawn such as hersel#.
Haing hersel# known that Ludou ;etsu would be taking to the #ield,
that he would know o# her was no surprise.
C/ery well. @et us get along and go with one each.C
CThank you ery much, 6our 5(cellency.C
-ithout changing her e(pression, +yako patted her chest in relie#.
&he had no illusions as to her own magic strength. -hile she was not
restricted in her magic like Tatsuya, she was not as uniersal as
:iyuki either. &he was a magician with de#ined strengths and
weaknesses. +nd short range, direct combat magic was decidedly not
one o# her strengths.
&he did not beliee #or a moment she could hae hoped to take on one
who was once lauded as the IworldIs most skilledI.
+yako gae silent thanks that by chance there had been two.
+nd--
1Tatsuya san, I was able to per#orm my duty sa#ely thanks to you.3
5en i# Tatsuya hadnIt agreed to cooperate, there wouldnIt hae been a
time to re.uest it anywayB +yako slyly muttered in her mind.
? ? ?
In TatsuyaIs arms, :iyuki huddled hersel#.
Howeer much she pleaded, Tatsuya would not put her down. :iyuki
was not particularly petite #or a lady, and was o# a moderate weight.
Howeer much Tatsuya was trained there was no way the weight
would not eentually be #elt, but TatsuyaIs arms cradling :iyuki
waered not in the slightest. ;ather, he was carrying her so care#ully
that :iyuki did not #eel any swaying despite the uneenness o# the
ground.
Arom their eeryday conduct and behaiour, :iyuki would be the
natural suspect #or initiating skinship. :iyuki now howeer didnIt
een cling to TatsuyaIs neckB she merely clasped her hands to her chest
and withstood the shame.
The silence, was pain#ul.
)ot bitterB yet her chest ached.
It #elt as i# her breathing would stop, and her heart burst--#rom the
perspectie o# others it would no doubt be a surprising IoerreactionI,
but :iyuki hersel# was desperately searching #or Isomething to talk
aboutI in her oerheating mind.
C%nii sama, about @ina?C
This was what came out.
Tatsuya had shown beyond ordinary care towards @ina. +t least, #ar
beyond that o# a mere #riend.
0ecause she understood, truth#ully :iyuki had not wanted to bring the
topic up with her brother.
0ut now nothing else came to mind.
C6eah?C
C@ina......did she seriously take %nii samaIs words to heart?C
0esides, :iyuki was also worried about her.
CI donIt know. ThereIs no way I could. IIm not her a#ter all.C
&omewhere under TatsuyaIs tone was the #eeling that it was
unnecessary meddling.
%# course :iyuki knew her brotherIs words had been anything but.
5en in :iyukiIs eyes, the impulsie yet good-hearted @ina was ill-
suited #or the military. It may hae not been her place, but looking at
@ina she #elt e(tremely con#licted.
C@ina has her own circumstances. )ot being able to #ind her way is
not something limited to her alone.C
C6et %nii sama, you had reached out to her right......? -hy?C
C-hy, what?C
:iyuki was well aware that they were stepping into uncharted
territory. I# they were to stop, it had to be now.
0ut :iyuki did not stop.
C%nii sama......why did you #eel you had to help @ina? Is it
because......you hae special #eelings concerning her?C
TatsuyaIs eyes widened upon hearing his sisterIs words, but it was only
#or a moment.
C6ou seem to be misunderstanding things in arious ways......C
Tatsuya gae a wry smile. 0ut his e(pression wasnIt ery serious. +t
least, he seemed to be trying to answer his sisterIs .uestion in good
#aith.
C+s you say, this is the #irst time IIe interacted with someone like
@ina. 7ntil now, eeryone in the military was much older than me, and
they had all chosen their path.C
%ne by one, he care#ully went oer the misconceptions.
CThe #eelings I hae towards @ina are not the kind you think. 0luntly
speaking, I simply think itId be conenient in the #uture i# @ina were to
leae the &tars. I# possible not *ust e(it the army, but moe here.
)aturalising as a <apanese citi'en would be best.C
)o lies could be #elt in TatsuyaIs words. This close together, they
could sense each other. :iyuki was con#ident she would be able to
detect any #alsehood in her brotherIs speech.
C%# course, itIs not like I #eel no sympathy. In a sense, @ina and I are
ery similar. 6ou could say that weIre in the same category.C
TatsuyaIs eyes were #ar away.
C0oth @ina and I were placed Iwhere we are nowI by no will o# our
own. +nd although I can at least say that I IselectedI to come to Airst
High, @ina probably didnIt een hae that triial choice.C
+lthough his eyes were #i(ed on :iyuki, his ga'e was somewhere
#urther.
CI took the choice I was not granted. I discarded the IroleI I had been
assigned, and leaped #rom the stage I was gien. I# @ina had hoped #or
something similar, as someone who was the same place as her I
thought I would like to lend her my strength......C
+s Tatsuya hesitated, his eyes shi#ted their #ocus back to :iyuki and
he smiled uncom#ortably.
CIn any case, it seems it was rather, unnecessary?C
There was a reason #or the turbulence in TatsuyaIs tone.
7p to now :iyuki had been huddled in TatsuyaIs arms, yet now she
embraced him tightly
-ithout thinking, Tatsuya released his hold on his sister.
That being said he didnIt suddenly drop her but gently let her down,
probably something subconsciously ingrained into his body.
5en as she touched the ground, :iyukiIs arms neer le#t TatsuyaIs
neck.
CIt wasnIt unnecessary...... %nii samaIs care will de#initely someday,
someday soon, reach @ina.C
Tatsuya #elt his sisterIs words #low into him, seeping into his chest.
CI mean a#ter this incident, @ina must de#initely be Xdoubting who she
is nowX. &heIs a bit simple, but @ina is a smart girl. Haing been this
deeply inoled with %nii sama, thereIs no way no .uestions would
not enter her mind.C
CI&impleI is rather cruel.C
:iyuki looked up, and moed her arms to TatsuyaIs shoulders.
The siblings laughed together, then peace#ully walked side by side.
>espite being a machine, or because o# being a machine, haing read
the mood 1?3 4i(ie had turned into a literal doll, and #ollowed in
silence.
? ? ?
5en the heartwarming air between the siblings couldnIt help but
change upon seeing this.
The place where they had #irst sealed the 4arasites was empty. The
two sealed 4arasites had been taken away by someone.
CIIm sorry, Tatsuya san......I didnIt intend to look away.C
C......Tatsuya san, IIm so sorry9C
CTatsuya, please donIt blame &hibata san and :itsui san. I can
guarantee that they didnIt slack o##. I didnIt notice at all that the sealed
IesselsI had been taken away. 5en though it was my seal......C
C6ou guys, donIt blame yourseles. I donIt mind at all.C
Hearing that completely discouraged oice, sel#-hating oice and
regret#ul oice issuing #rom the communication deice, Tatsuya stroe
to reply with a bright tone.
CTatsuya san......C
They possibly misunderstood it as him trying to cheer them up.
TatsuyaIs attitude had not merely been out o# consideration towards
themB he truly wasnIt concerned.
......He was ama'ed howeer.
C-e got blindsided, but all it means is that they one-upped us this one
time. -e hadnIt really considered what to do with them a#ter the
capture anyway, so thereIs no point being caught up in it #oreer.C
+s Tatsuya said, they hadnIt made any plans about what to do Ia#ter the
captureI. They had only aguely considered Imaybe weIll ship them o##
to :ikihikoIs placeI, as they themseles had no use #or the sealed
4arasites whatsoeer.
:eaning, the ones who had carried them o## at least had something to
do with them.I# it were them, all they might end up doing was
accidentally release the 4arasites.
10ut, well......were they aiming #or this?3
C%nii sama?C
It seemed she was misunderstanding his silence. +t :iyukiIs an(ious
in.uiry, Tatsuya shook his hand in reassurance.
Arom his state, :iyuki knew Tatsuya was making a guess as to the
culprits. I# he traced back, he could probably track them down she
thought.
--2ertainly, Tatsuya had used his IisionI. He knew appro(imately
what had happened here.
Howeer be#ore that, one o# the IculpritsI had le#t a message here #or
Tatsuya.
The reason he was so listless was primarily because o# that.
+ gust o# wind blew, and stirred up the dead leae not stuck to the soil.
:i(ed amongst them were black #eathersX, probably #rom a crow, and
were captured by TatsuyaIs own two eyes.
*Kurobane () - black feather just like the name Kuroba
? ? ?
-hen Tatsuya re*oined the duo o# 5rika and @eo, both )aotsugu and
the &word 2orps had already withdrawn.
They patted each otherIs backs, didnIt pry deeply into what had
happened, and went back.
4i(ie was le#t in the school garage.
In order to enter the school a#ter *umping the #ence they had to return
to the main gate, but neither @eo nor 5rika said IitIs a bother, IIm going
homeI.
+#ter *oining with :ikihiko and the others, the seen o# them le#t
school as a group.
&uch a large group leaing school at this time receied no little
suspicion #rom the gate guard as they e(ited, but they had prepared an
e(cuse be#orehand, and thanks to the da''ling smiles #rom the girls
they le#t without a seere .uestioning.
+nd so, the long night ended.
The eents o# tonight, the people, demons and spirits, signaled the
dawn o# a new history in the contention o# those who ied #rom the
shadows, yet Tatsuya himsel# was little aware o# this at the time.
Epilogue
The e(citement could be heard #loating on the wind. The grounds o#
Airst High &chool were #ull o# *oy#ul oices. I# he strained his ears, it
was possible to hear crying oices mingled in with them as well but,
those were not necessarily unhappy ones.
In contrast, the ca#eteria was barren. There were scattered #igures,
whose number was less than the #ingers on both hands. 0y the way,
this did not mean that the students here were playing hooky #rom
classes in session.
Today was the graduation ceremony.
Tatsuya was not using a paper cup, he sipped his co##ee #rom a proper
ceramic cup and placed the cup down directly on the table not on a
saucer 1it had not had a saucer #rom the start3.
+nd, he looked down on the multipurpose watch that most magicians
did not use.
The time indicated that the ceremony itsel# was already oer.
Those oices were probably the graduates leaing the site o# the
graduation ceremony, Tatsuya surmised.
+#terward, parties would be held in two small gyms. It gae o## an
unpleasant #eeling that een at a time like this the #irst and second
course students were segregated but, it might be that the people
themseles #elt more rela(ed this way.
To be correct, normally this was not most suitable thing. 0ut second
course students might somewhat tentatie when they were with #irst
course students and #irst course students might not celebrate as much
1primarily, about their entering :agic 7niersity3 in the presence o#
the second course students. 0ecause there was no di##erence between
the #ood, drinks and other stu##, it was probably unnecessary to
.uibble about the di##erent locations, Tatsuya thought.
Howeer, due to the separated locations, it certainly took more people
to do the labor than it should hae. 0ecause the contractors assigned to
make the #acilities and the ca#eteria sta## that prepared the #ood #or the
two sites receied an e(tra bonus, they probably wouldnt complain
about the ,super#luous work but, on the other hand, the student
council who was hosting the graduation parties was on the top o# the
list o# the people complaining loudly about the super#luous work.
It was probably understandable.
Tatsuya was waiting #or :iyuki who was e(tremely busy with the
management todays graduation parties.
It should be added so that there are no misunderstandings that he had
o##ered to help with the preparations and management.
+nd been repeatedly re#used.
+'usa and the rest had clearly wanted the help.
Howeer, :iyuki had determinedly re#used Tatsuyas assistance.
There is no reason to bother nii-sama with this matter9
-ith this emphatic ob*ection to een asking him #or the slightest bit o#
help, +'usa could do nothing but re#use him.
-ell, een without his sisters e(cessie consideration 1?3, #or many o#
the #irst course students and not too #ew second course students,
Tatsuyas presence would be slightly awkward.
He was the owner o# abilities and achieements that cast doubts on the
distinction between the #irst and second course.
Aor the third years, he was the rock that threw their #inal year into
con#usion. )ot taking part was probably the correct moe.
)aturally, when it was #inally decided that he would not help out with
todays parties, there were people who indirectly said things similar to
this is all #or the better and sometimes 1?3 :ayumi was there when
it happened and #or some reason she blatantly steamed.
:ayumi had sa#ely been accepted by :agic 7niersity. -ith her
proen abilities and achieements, this could be thought o# as
ineitable howeer, een with the damages #rom ampires abruptly
ceasing since that night, she unmistakably had to work harder because
she couldnt gie the entrance e(amination her undiided attention.
&he would #rom +pril on study at :agic 7niersity with &u'une and
Latsuto who had also been accepted as it was only proper.
:ari had not taken the e(am #or :agic 7niersity. &he would be
going to the >e#ense 2ollege. &he did not gie a reason. Howeer, it
seemed that she did not in#orm :ayumi be#orehand and he had seen
:ayumi make some harsh *ibes to :ari about that---perhaps, she was
hiding her loneliness.
The :agic 7niersity and the >e#ense 2ollege were not really that #ar
apart, i# they wanted to meet, they would be able to do so at any time
still, to hae the #riend---the pair might not like to call each other
#riends but, eeryone else had been labeling them that #or some
time--- you thought was going to attend the same school with go to a
di##erent school instead was probably not something that can be
accepted easily.
&peaking o# going to the >e#ense 2ollege---
&hiba
+s Tatsuya was that, a oice called out to him.
Lobayakawa-senpai, hasnt the party started already?
This was the ery person he had been thinking o#.
+h, well it is but I heard #rom :ari that you were here
The magic abilities o# Lobayakawa hae neer recoered #rom the
incident at the )ine &chools 2ompetition een with therapy that
risked her li#e. There was no loss to her sensitiity to magic but she
could not use magic as long as the suspicion ,that she couldnt use
magic was not eradicated.
It seemed that Lobayakawa had resoled to .uit school in %ctober.
Howeer, with only hal# a year le#t, een i# she trans#erred to a liberal
arts or science high school, she clearly would not hae enough time to
prepare to graduate and prepare #or college. It seemed that a#ter
trans#erring, she intended to spend a year as a ;onin and search #or a
new career path.
>o you need me #or something?
+h, that is, what"naturally, it is di##icult to speak o# it #ace to
#ace".. 0ut, its necessary. I want".to say thank you to you
Tatsuya was comparatiely earnest when he looked in.uiringly at the
red #aced obiously embarrassed Lobayakawa.
I haent done anything that I desere Lobayakawa-senpais thanks
#or
Thats not true9
In the highly unpopulated ca#eteria, Lobayakawas raised oice
echoed pretty well. &he was not e(pecting that, and #rom her downcast
head, Tatsuya could see her #ace becoming slightly redder.
The suggestion about a path that could make the best use o# magic
sensitiity and my knowledge about magic een i# I couldnt use it
was yours right?
Tatsuya instantly started to scowl but didnt out o# consideration #or
Lobayakawas #eelings.
>id -atanabe-senpai let it slip"..
5en so, he could not hide the disgust in his oice.
>ont say it like that. I #orced :ari to spit it out
I asked -atanabe-senpai to pretend it was her own idea, she told you
anyway
+ll the third year #emale representaties to the )ine &chools
competition including :ari and :ayumi had worried about
Lobayakawa. :ari who had narrowly escaped a similar incident could
not help taking it personally. Lobayakawas accident had lead to the
incident inoling Hirakawa 2hiaki in %ctober which only increased
:aris worries.
+#ter that incident, :ari had grumbled idle complaints at Tatsuya. &he
understood it was not his responsibility but, although she pre#aced her
complaints with that the gist o# her grumbling was was there really no
way to preent Lobayakawas accident.
Tatsuya had an answer #or those doubts.
The answer was ,he couldnt.
He was not all knowing and all power#ul. +nd een i# the ,all
power#ul was omitted, he was #ar #rom ,all knowing. It was all he
could do to use his obseration power to coer the area around himsel#
and :iyuki and take care o# the duties he was responsible #or, he did
not hae the #reedom to look a#ter others. It was the same #or the other
members, because neither Lobayakawa hersel# or Hirakawa Loharu
1the elder o# the Hirakawa sisters3 who was responsible #or her 2+>
had been aware o# the trick, nobody else had caught it either.
Howeer, it would be awkward to *ust coldly cut her o## like that. &o
Tatsuya had sent their theoretical discussion down another route.
Tatsuya had heard #rom Au*ibayashi a number o# times that there was
a dearth o# tactical sta## that understood how to take magic into
consideration #or tactical planning. 0ecause there were so #ew people
with a talent #or magic, they were normally sent to the #rontlines, so
ineitably in an actual battle, the sta## managing the tactical planning
#rom the rear were all non-magicians who had only a theoretical
understanding o# magic.
I# someone who was a superb magician but could not use magic #or
some reason was added to the tactical sta## then it would be much
easier #or the magicians on the #rontlines to do their work than it was
now, was the idle complaint Au*ibayashi who had seen the problems
#rom both the #ront lines and in the rear to Tatsuya. He had relayed
that to :ari without naming who he had heard it #rom.
-ell she tried to keep it #rom me. 0ut, it didnt seem like :ari was
all that interested in hiding it
8ee', that girl".
I am glad she told me
Lobayakawas sincere words interrupted Tatsuyas statement
e(pressing his annoyance.
I wasnt aware o# it mysel# but, until I heard those words, I was in a
state o# despair. I said ,do you think this will de#eat me but it was a
blu## , thinking that way was only to #ool mysel# into not admitting
that I already #elt de#eated
Lobayakawas eyes watered, she was probably remembering how she
was back then.
0ut, when I heard that news #rom :ari, I #elt like my eyes were truly
opened. I thought this is the road I must #ollow. This way I would not
be le#t behind alone, it gae me hope that I would not be cut o## #rom
my #ellow students I had walked the road to become a magician with.
In the eleenth hour, my li#e path suddenly changed, I thought that i# I
tried hard #or *ust hal# a year, I could pass
Lobayakawas #ace was once again red, undoubtedly she was
embarrassed by the statements coming #rom her mouth.
Tatsuya did not #eel the statements he heard were particularly
embarrassing but.
&o, &hiba, no, &hiba-kun, thank you Lobayakawas tone changed to
a polite one as she bowed deeply.
Tatsuya was no so impudent as to sit while he was bowed to.
He got up #rom his chair and clicked his heels together.
Lobayakawa was not the only one who li#ted her head up at the
sudden sound o# the clicked shoes, he accumulated the ga'es o# all o#
the small number o# students in the ca#eteria but, Tatsuya ignored that
as something not worth paying attention to, as he deliered the salute
o# the Independent :agic-5.uipped 0attalion.
&hiba-kun".
Lobayakawa-senpai. It is trite but good luck
+s he answered her with a salute, Tatsuya said that without
embarrassment or laughter.
Tears swelled in Lobayakawas eyes once more howeer, she nodded
with a smile without crying.
&enpai, the party has started
6es, it has. -ell, bye. 6ou, too good luck
+s she said goodbye and trotted o##, Tatsuya sat down.
:ysteriously, the lukewarm co##ee did not taste in#erior.
? ? ?
%nii-sama, sorry #or making you wait
-hen the liely oice called out to him, Tatsuya took his eyes o## the
portable in#ormation terminal he was in the midst o# writing a paper
on and looked up.
Tatsuya-kun, what are you writing?
The one who had called out to him and made him look up was not
:iyuki, it was a broadly grinning :ayumi with the roll o# her
diploma---as e(pected, the school used paper---clasped to her breast.
Im *ust writing some notes related to lengthening the time o#
continuous magic by systematic assistance
".um, I didnt think it was a #ruitless topic like that
Tatsuya stopped be#ore replying to :ari who looked at him with a
stunned look and simply lightly shrugged his shoulders. He thought
about complaining to her about the Lobayakawa incident but, today
was their day. -ith that thought in mind, he restrained himsel# #rom
triial sniping.
:ore importantly, why are all o# you together? I didnt think either
&aegusa-senpai or -atanabe-senpai wouldnt hae been inited to the
a#ter party
Arom behind the backs o# the #emale students who were looking at
each other, Latsutos #ace abruptly appeared.
-e thought we would say goodbye to you be#ore that
"thats thought#ul o# you. I# you hadnt purposely come to see me, I
was going to come and say my goodbyes a#terwards
%h, really? 0ecause Tatsuya is hiding away #rom the parties here, I
thought you would pretend not to know us and leae
5en though, he knew that :ayumis sullen #ace and outpouring o#
complaints were an act, Tatsuya still #elt like he had to gie her an
e(planation.
I am not een a member o# the student council, so I shouldnt show
up at the graduation party, right. 5specially the #irst course party
-hat9
&uddenly an intense e(clamation interrupted the e(planation Tatsuya
was #raming.
+ shiny blonde head o# hair pushed through the graduates to appear in
#ront o# Tatsuya.
-hy was I who am not een a proper member o# the student council
made to help with the party, when its alright #or Tatsuya, a member o#
the public morals committee, to do nothing9?
The one who #lared up at Tatsuya and insolently spelled out her
workload was @ina.
".public morals committee members are not student council
members. 0esides, although it is only temporary arent you a member
o# the student council
I *ust dont get it9
@ina was probably not all that bothered by the graduates stares. In
#ront o# the bewildered :ayumi and the others, @ina was as usual.
Hey, @ina dont say rude things to %nii-sama
+nd, she was #aced1?3 with the usual speech o# :iyukis loe #or her
brother.
)o, perhaps it should be said that it was :iyukis usual loe #or her
brother speech.
6ou are a temporary member o# the student council and %nii-sama is
a member o# the public morals committee, this was all settled be#ore
the preparations #or the party started. In the #irst place, why are you
grumbling about it now, werent you all #ired up?
Tatsuya did not know what she meant by ,#ired up but,
un.uestionably @ina turned red be#ore the ga'es she had accumulated.
:iyuki, what do you mean by #ired up?
Tatsuya did not hae the option o# ,not daring to ask what happened,
at this place.
Tatsuya, its nothing9
-ell, as you know it would be deplorable to gie a temporary o##icer
o# the student council, @ina, the type o# work that would take a lot o#
time so, we put her in charge o# todays entertainment but"..
:iyuki9
5en i# we said entertainment, we didnt say she had to do some kind
o# per#ormance, it would hae been alright i# all she did was get
olunteers #rom the graduates and the other students but
:iyuki, dont talk9
@ina apparently misunderstood
:iyuki, please9 >ont say it9
@ina desperately tried to interrupt :iyukis discourse but, the amused
:ayumi and :ari cleerly blocked her moements.
&o?
:iyuki was looking at @ina distracted by the desperation in her oice,
howeer, at Tatsuyas prompting, she readily switched her ga'e back
to her brother.
&he took the stage as the lead singer o# the band. &he stood up there
and sang about ten songs, she was ery enthusiastic
6es, it was an e(tremely #ine per#ormance. )ot in#erior to a
pro#essional talent
:ari added to :iyukis e(planation and,
Its true. &hields-san is a ery good singer. +n incredible oice
In a not all that complimentary tone, :ayumi praised @inas singing.
7rk"
@ina looked down red #aced in shame.
It was not an angry #ace, it was clearly an embarrassed #ace.
@ooking at that made Tatsuya #eel like smiling.
I see"youe made some good memories, @ina
".I dont care
+side #rom @ina, the people let out genial laughter at her speaking
rudely and turning away.
? ? ?
1That was the last, I saw o# @ina3
+#ter graduation was oer, @ina didnt come to school.
-hen he asked :iyuki, she had gien class + the e(planation o# ,she
was busy with preparations to return home.
)one the less, he thought a withdrawal order had probably come in
since that incident. 5en so, until that day, @ina had continued
attending school and she probably hadnt done it to #ul#ill her assigned
role o# high school student or prepare #or the graduation party.
It could be that she did it so she could en*oy the li#e o# a high school
student a little.
---as he looked at the arrial and departure delay announcement,
Tatsuya mused oer that.
The day be#ore yesterday, the third .uarter had ended.
In short, his #irst year o# his high school li#e had ended.
Tatsuya grades were predictable.
His marks in theory were e(tremely good.
His marks in technical were pretty bad.
His combined marks was in the lower part o# the middle.
Howeer, he wasnt bothered by that.
In that year, he had continued to get entangled in arious troubles but,
he had steadily approached his goal.
2ontrary to his e(pectations, he was able to build good #riendships.
5en taking into account the negatie aspect o# getting inoled in a
string o# incidents, it could be said to be an e(cellent #irst year.
Today, he had come to the Tokyo 0ay #loating international airport to
welcome one o# those #riends back.
%# course, he was not alone.
:iyuki and Honoka were to his le#t and rightB @eo, 5rika, :ikihiko
and :iyuki sat across #rom him.
The plane, &hi'uku was on, was supposed to arrie in a little less than
an hour. <ust as I thought it takes time to get here #rom the +merican
mainland
Arom Tatsuyas le#t, :iyuki spoke to him and,
It seems like it takes a military plane less than #our minutes to cross
the 4aci#ic %cean so why does it take this long #or a ciilian plane?
on his right side, Honoka .uestioned him.
Thereupon,
The engines are di##erent. 0ecause military planes can go aboe the
stratosphere. &a#ety and economy are a priority #or ciilian planes
@eo inter*ected #rom directly across #rom him,
%h my, youre well in#ormed. >espite being a barbarian a horse
could kick
5rika teased.
-hy you
@eo, restrain yoursel#
5rika-chan, you too stop constantly teasing him
+nd :ikihiko and :i'uki interceded into their stri#e, well, they
usually did.
<ust then, Tatsuya spotted a #amiliar gleam o# gold in the crowd o#
people in the lobby.
His #riends looked up at Tatsuya who .uickly stood, wondering what
was up.
:iyuki promptly stood up also.
+lthough, a little slower she had also spotted the same thing as
Tatsuya.
:iyuki #ollowed Tatsuya who had walked away with a short
announcement o# I wont be long.
+ #lustered Honoka also stood up but, #or some reason 5rika who was
seating directly in #ront o# her grabbed the sleee o# her spring coat.
Honoka, dont inter#ere. 0ecause it is #arewell to a rial
0e#ore the ga'e o# 5rika who was impolitely twisting around in her
seat,
@ina who o# course hadnt #led a#ter being spotted by Tatsuya walked
toward the siblings hersel#.
Tatsuya, :iyuki hae you come to see me o##?
-hen they had approached close enough to speak in a normally, @ina
spoke #irst.
-ell. :eeting you here was a coincidence
@inas momentary brooding completely disappeared, as she let out a
genuine laugh.
Howeer, she did not #eel completely the same as she had been. +
shadow o# doubt could be seen in her eyes that hadnt been there when
she had *ust barely arried in <apan. That showed that in this brie#
period she had become more mature.
%h my? >id I not say I was departing today
-e didnt hear you say it
:iyuki #inished o## @inas e(aggeratedly mild be#uddled banter in one
blow.
5en so :iyuki wasnt in a bad mood, she was smiling in an wry way.
-ell, *oking aside. I am obliged #or the aid o# you two
@inas smile became bra'en as she said it,
>on,t you mean, we,e caused you trouble
and Tatsuya smoothly denied it.
Im the one the one who is in trouble. "youre an unbending person
to the end, Tatsuya
6ou wouldnt be happy i# I went easy on you @ina".. 0esides, this
isnt the end, right?
@ina shrugged her shoulders at Tatsuyas .uestion.
I think it might be. I dont think I am able to easily leae my own
country
@inas oice showed tinges o# acknowledging a pain#ul truth.
Howeer, to erase that,
0ut, this is not the last time
:iyuki inter*ected with emphatic words.
:iyuki
&o I shall not say goodbye, @ina
""..:iyuki what was that, it sounded like a con#ession?
@ina widened her eyes as she stared at :iyuki with a #ace that had
grown mischieous.
Hmm, I suppose it might be a type o# con#ession. 6ou are my rial,
@ina
:iyuki was undisturbed by the remark and mad that declaration in an
unwaering oice.
6ou will surely reach out to take %nii-samas hand someday. 6ou
will surely become %nii-samas ally. +nd that will begin our true
competition. +nd so, I will not say goodbye. 7ntil we meet again,
@ina
@inas eyes widened, again. +nd this time her gentle smile was like
the sun matching the color o# her eyes and hair.
I cant understand what you said ery well, but".. :iyuki surely it
will be as you said. )ow, I hae the premonition as well. 7ntil we
meet again :iyuki, Tatsuya
Im back
%ne hour a#ter @ina disappeared into the gate, these were &hi'ukus
#irst words.
-elcome back, &hi'uku
%er the back o# the moist eyed Honoka who was embracing her
which she was patting to soothe her, &hi'uku directed her eyes to
Tatsuya.
-elcome back, &hi'uku. Im glad you came back sa#ely
yes
Her curt replies hadnt changed #rom be#ore her study abroad but,
&hi'uku, your aura has changed
Thats true. It has become more grown uppish
+s :iyuki and 5rika said, the aura coating her body had become
#airly mature.
>id you undergo some kind o# sin#ul e(periences?
5rika-chan9?
The one who responded to the broadly grinning 5rikas *ibes was
:i'ukiB &hi'uku, the one under attack, only tilted her head slightly.
It was unchanged #rom what had been the normal commotion,
howeer, a stronger sense o# composure could be #elt.
Tatsuya-san
hmm?
+#ter Honoka #inally released &hi'uku #rom her embrace and allowed
her to step away #rom her, &hi'uku walked in #ront o# Tatsuya and
looked up at his #ace.
I hae many things I want to talk about. I also hae been gien many
messages #rom ;ay. -ill you listen?
8ood. I will certainly listen
4erhaps, her souenirs #rom +merica were a lot o# insights.
That was what Tatsuya thought.
? ? ?
Their talk with &hi'uku took a pretty long time.
5en so, they werent able to #inish discussing eerything.
They could not discuss ;aymond 2larks message in #ront o# their
other #riends.
1It might be necessary to take her up on her initation to her house".3
In order to relate the remaining message, &hi'uku had inited Tatsuya
and :iyuki to her own house. To go to the great industrialist,
Litayama 7shios priate residence without their other #riends.
5en #or the 6otsuba, this was not a minor thing to hae.
Howeer, they could not choose to not accept the initation. The
in#ormation she had returned with was necessary to decide their #uture
course o# action.
Tatsuya was ree(amining the predetermined conclusion once again in
the liing room o# his own home.
+t that time, the bu''er rang.
+ shocked cry #rom :iyuki who had answered the door intercom
reached Tatsuyas ears.
:iyukis #ace displayed surprise and impatience when she came to
Tatsuya.
7m, %nii-sama, theres a guest".
&hould I meet the guest?
Tastuya had got up because he thought it was some kind o# uninitiated
guest, howeer---
)o, I didnt inite her but,"..the guest is &akurai :inami-chan who
I met at the 6otsuba main house
what""?
Tatsuya also remembered that girl maid.
&akurai Honami. The #ormer :etropolitan 4olice &4 who was his late
mothers 8uardian. The woman who had poured loe out to the two
siblings as easily as i# she was an elder sister or a relatie. Three years
be#ore in the summer in that battle in %kinawa, the augmented
magician had lost her li#e protecting Tatsuya. The girls #eatures were
completely like the person the siblings could neer #orget.
&he was a isitor completely une(pected to een Tatsuya.
In #ront o# Tatsuya with :iyuki at his side was a girl in a spring like
pastel one piece dress.
+#ter &akurai :inami politely bowed, she passed a single enelope to
Tatsuya.
Tatsuya inited :inami to sit and sat down on the so#a himsel#. +s she
watched, he cut the seal and sent his eyes to the letter inside prompted
by her ga'e.
+s he continued to read, Tatsuya #elt like an illusionary pain was
spreading in his mouth.
The sender was 6otsuba :aya.
+#ter the per#unctory seasonal greeting, the letter read thusY
This Sprin!" #inami chan will be enrolled in $irst %i!h school&
'n re!ards to this" please !i(e #inami chan accommodations in )our
home&
She has become a !ood housekeeper" she alread) possesses enou!h
skill&
*ou must need help around the house" after all )ou purchased a maid
robot" ri!ht+ 'n an) case" )ou and #i)uki-san both are !oin! to be
bus) with (arious thin!s now that )ou two are becomin! second )ear
hi!h school students&
She has been informed that she will work as a li(e-in maid so" please
do not ha(e an) scruples about orderin! her about&
,lso" ' intend to ha(e #inami chan learn the work of a -uardian&
,s her senpai" please teach her man) thin!s.
He #elt like he could hear his +unts high pitch laugh #rom the #ace o#
the page.
Tatsuya #olded up the letter and returned it to the enelope then placed
it on the tableB perhaps, she could tell something #rom his behaiour,
:iyuki said %nii-sama? to him in an an(ious oice.
Tatsuya took one deep breath and passed the letter to :iyuki.
+#ter a small wait, the sound o# air being gulped emitted #rom
:iyukis throat.
:inami stood ne(t to the wall #acing her as i# she was waiting #or
:iyukis eyes to leae the letter.
I am a noice but, please accept me. +s %ku-sama stated, please use
me to the #ullest
:inami deeply lowered her head.
5en though they understood she was the linchpin o# an inasion #rom
:aya, neither Tatsuya nor :iyuki could re*ect a girl who had the
same #ace as Honami.
+rmored behind his poker #ace, Tatsuya could do nothing more than
nod at his +unts bitterly ironic ,present.
---In +pril the new school year would began and it would be een
richer in mayhem than the preious one---
That unwelcome premonition would not disappear #rom its resting
place in Tatsuyas chest.
!The end o# the #irst year olumes$
The Ojou sama Magnificent(? !a" off
Common Era 2095, November 2
nd
.
Throughout the nation, a triumphant mood was #elt.
The eening o# the day be#ore yesterday, the news had reported that
the de#ense #orce had eliminated the 8reat +sian +lliances #orward
base and armada with their secret weapon. The latest news #lowing
through the liing room late yesterday eening was that )orth Tokyo
had asked -ashington to put out #eelers as an intermediary o# peace.
This deelopment had occurred way too .uickly, so there were those
who did not consider the report to be all that reliable, but only a small
percentage o# the population maintained the ability to make unru##led
*udgments.
:uch o# the population had abruptly become commentators on
military a##airs = boys who would normally hae no interest in
politics talked about diplomacy and pragmatic power politics in loud
oices at schools.
To the girls apparent shock, disapproing glares at a time like this had
no power to restrain them.
This was not limited to school. &ighing at the high spirited,
irresponsible celebrity on the screen, &aegusa :ayumi switched the
teleision o##.
The current time was ten a.m. &ince today was a weekday, she would
usually be at school at this time. Howeer, students o# eery magic
high school inoled in the 6okohama incident had continued to be
gien a break #rom school since yesterday, and Airst High &chool was
no e(ception.
+s someone preparing to take her e(ams at the beginning o# the new
year, taking a break #rom being drilled on the sub*ects she was
studying certainly caused complicated #eelings in her heart, but she
wasnt someone who had been inoled *ust because she was at the
scene. :ayumi had been actually inoled, so it was good #or her to
take a break. =7n#ortunately, she could not rela(.
_%-<ou-sama, please #orgie this interruption o# your rest`!G$
&he reali'ed that she had turned o## the T/, right?
The e(tremely good timing o# the housekeeperIs oice that could be
heard #rom the intercom was mere coincidence = :ayumi was #ully
aware o# that een as she mused oer the possibility.
Ill open the door right now.
&he replied as she stood up #rom her chair. +ctually, she could hae
unlocked it by giing a command to the oice recognition inter#ace o#
the Home +utomation ;obot, but #or no particular reason, :ayumi
opened the door hersel#.
In #ront o# the door was the housekeeper in charge o# looking a#ter
:ayumi. 5en now, there is an e(tensiely supported subculture o#
people who wear a uni#orm and are called a word starting with : and
ending in >. "-ell, the skirt was cal# length, the collar concealed the
region below the neck, and there were no large uncoered parts in the
back, so this was a #unctional uni#orm.
0esides, in this house, the e(istence o# a housekeeper wearing this
kind o# uni#orm is not strange in the least. +#ter all this time, there was
no way it should #eel unusual at all.
-hat is it?
:ayumi asked the housekeeper, who was about hal#way into her
twenties.
>anna-sama has summoned you.
-hen she heard this, :ayumi grimaced slightly. I+gain?I she thought.
>espite being .uestioned on what happened oer and oer *ust
yesterday" while :ayumi grumbled in her mind, the ne(t words
made her tilt her head.
He is waiting in the reception room.
5en though it was described as a head tilt, this was a priate gesture
made only in her mind.
=The reception room? )ot the &tudy?
That was a .uestion that :ayumi had.
Is there a guest?
It seems so.
It could not be said that they had been together #or a long time, but
roughly speaking, it was her companions *ob to be e(tremely help#ul
to :ayumi. Arom the short e(change, :ayumi understood that the
woman did not know the guests name.
4lease in#orm him that I will come a#ter I change my clothes.
&hall I help you change your clothes?
+#ter considering it #or a moment, :ayumi immediately made an
intuitie decision. :odern #ashion did not present many opportunities
to wear dresses that could not be put on by onesel#.
It will be alright. I will present mysel# in properly #ormal attire.
In short, the housekeeper had probably been ordered to make sure o#
that. +s usual, the housekeeper respect#ully bowed and withdrew
when :ayumi gae her answer.
? ? ?
The tailored one piece dress she wore was in a light color, with an
ankle length skirt that protruded slightly near the icinity o# the thigh.
+#ter she ad*usted the lace on the hem, :ayumi knocked on the door
o# the reception room.
5nter.
The oice that seemed to come #rom the room was her #athers
recorded oice #rom a speaker installed within the decorated wood
door. The recorded oice was almost indistinguishable #rom his liing
oice and told #amily members that they needed to be #ormal.
+pparently, todays guests were people they couldnt be ery open
with.
4ardon me.
-earing her usual two layer thick mask o# a lady, :ayumi uttered the
clichV phrase in a low tone and slowly entered the room.
-ith her eyes cast down, she peeked at the guests #aces.
The man and woman seated in #ront o# her #ather, both had #aces she
knew. 5en so, they were not the type o# ac.uaintances she
particularly welcomed. )onetheless, she did not particularly hate them
either.
Howeer, she did not show any o# her true #eelings as she stood beside
her #ather with a smiling #ace and made a grace#ul bow to their guests.
-elcome, Hiro#umi-san. :io-san, it has been a while since I last saw
you.
0e#ore the girl replied, the young man stood up.
)eertheless, the woman with the appearance o# a young girl
remained seated. +nd no one raised their eyebrows at this.
They were not maintaining poker #acesB neither :ayumi nor her
#ather, Louichi, considered this disrespect#ul.
+s #or why the woman, Itsuwa :io, wasnt sitting on a so#aB she was
sitting in a wheelchair.
Howeer her brother, Itsuwa Hiro#umi, seemed to #eel guilty about itB
een though they didnt consider it rude, his return greeting was
slightly inarticulate.
I hope we haent called at a bad time, :ayumi-san.
4lease hae a seat. +#ter all, :io-san is already seated.
Thank you ery much, :ayumi-san. I am sorry #or waiting so long
between isits.
It #elt like the person being discussed, :io, had become de#iant
instead, when she answered :ayumis words with a laugh and a
cherubic smile.
-hile Hiro#umi seated himsel# lightly on the so#a, as she asked him
to, :ayumi was gripped with the same doubt, Is this person really
older than me? that she always #elt when she was #ace to #ace with
:io.
It was an indisputable #act that Itsuwa :io had turned twenty-si( this
year. Howeer, wheneer the actual person was in her #ield o# ision,
she couldnt help wanting to doubt that truth.
Her height was only an inch or two shorter than :ayumis ownB
howeer, their #igures were completely di##erent. Her body could be
described in one word = undeeloped. There wasnt much about her
body that could be called ,womanly.
To be truth#ul, she could still moe her legs. 0ut because o# her
e(tremely weak constitution, her body could not endure walking #or a
long period.
&he started using a wheelchair around the time she turned twenty,
howeer, because her body had been too weak to e(ercise #or a long
enough period o# time. Her appetite was small, which meant that she
didnt get enough nourishment, which made her body weak in a
icious circle. Her undeeloped #igure was a result o# that.
There was ery little bulge in her chest area that could be seen while
she was clothed. 2alling her completely #lat wouldnt be much o# an
e(aggeration. Her hip area was also as thin as a young girls. :ios
body looked like it belonged to someone around the age o# thirteen.
Her #acial #eatures matched the youth#ul appearance o# her body. Her
style o# clothing completely #it her physical #eatures, and somehow
gae o## no hint o# ,womanliness.
Howeer her childish looks didnt matterB :io hadnt made any
outings a#ter she had graduated #rom college and had made special
arrangements to take most o# her college classes online, so why on
earth had she come here today? &ecretly, in her mind, :ayumi was
scratching her head in pu''lement with the thought o# ,I dont think
she is merely accompanying Hiro#umi by any means, though.
-e came to say goodbye to you, today.
-hen :io broke that news, :ayumis ga'e clouded with disbelie# =
or to be correct, she was mysti#ied by the preceding statement.
+re you returning to your #amilys main estate?
To conceal any obious turmoil = but she had no need to #eel upset
= :ayumi replied with a .uestion.
The Itsuwa clans main seat was in the 5hime pre#ecture, but because
:io needed to commute to uniersity, she had le#t and come to Tokyo
to lie her li#e in one o# their other residences. 0ecause her younger
brother, Hiro#umi, started college *ust a#ter she graduated, the two
lied together.
I will return to the main houseB howeer, be#ore that=
:io cut o## her words in a #ormal manner to hide her inner laughterB
Hiro#umi was purposely changing his e(pression, bringing his brows
together sullenly.
-e will be going to the #ront.
The Aront" youre going into battle9?
-hen the meaning o# the words, The Aront, sunk into her brain,
:ayumi raised her oice without thinking.
=4lease e(cuse my rudeness. 0ut why"
:ayumi promptly apologi'ed #or her impropriety and looked at :io
and her #ather with con#used eyes.
The public announcement will be made ne(t week, but the o##icial
decision has been made.
The answer came #rom her #ather.
:io and her brother are going to stay #or a while at the &asebo )aal
baseB #rom there they will go west with the nay by sea. Their
destination is something we dont knowB howeer, their purpose is to
urge the 8reat +sian +lliance to conclude a peace treaty by making a
show o# #orce. "It probably doesnt need to be said, but until the
o##icial announcement is made, not a word to anyone.
6es, I understand that.
:ayumi readily agreed with her #athers admonishment. )aturally, she
was only agreeing to the ,not a word to anyone part.
&he understood the reason why the military would deploy :io. The
woman was one o# only thirteen publicly acknowledged &trategic
:agicians in the world, o# which there were said to be probably less
than #i#ty total, the rest o# whom were hidden. The <apanese
goernment publicly admitted to haing only one user o# &trategic
2lass :agic.
The womans &trategic 2lass :agic ,+byss was a speciali'ed naal
attack, but it could also be used e##ectiely on land. <ust by haing her
accompany them, they should be able to apply tremendous pressure on
the enemy.
Howeer, een so, she #elt that it wasnt a ery rational moe at this
time. The #ore#ront o# the inasion had been launched against the
6okohama coastal region and the militarys actions at the time had
wreaked haoc on the Lorean peninsula, which had actually brought
an end to the %ctober JGst stage o# the con#lict. +s long as they
werent going to pursue territorial concessions, a counter inasion was
already strategically unnecessary. There was no need to say that she
#elt the demerits o# going as #ar as to sending :io out #or seeral
weeks in her condition, een with all the thorough preparation, were
greater than the merits.
It was not clear enough to put into words in her mind, but :ayumi #elt
a general uneasiness.
I will also be going with my elder sister.
He was probably gripped with similar #eelings o# dissatis#action.
Howeer, this was a goernment decision which the head o# the
Itsuwa clan accepted, and could not be oerturned by Hiro#umi. He
was someone who could be chosen as the ne(t head o# the Itsuwa clan,
but he was not yet the ,ne(t headB at this stage, the situation could not
be changed by any ob*ections he raised. His decision to at least
accompany his elder sister in order to help her showed in Hiro#umis
#ace.
The truth is...
4erhaps desiring to change the ambience brought about by her
brothers mood, :ios tone switched to a *oking one.
I did want to see :ayumi-san become my brothers bride howeer.
This certainly resulted in a change in the mood. =)onetheless, it was
in the opposite direction o# what she intended.
This remark, un#ortunately, continued the preious topic and no one
laughed at what was commonly called a ,death omen type o# *oke.
)ee-san.
"Im sorry.
-ithin the increasingly serious atmosphere, :io gae a mourn#ul cry
and become completely crest#allen.
+h, well, well take up that conersation once again when Hiro#umi-
kun returns.
>ue to his #eelings o# responsibility as a host, Louichi promptly
coered up the ga##e and returned the weak smile to :ios #aceB as a
result o# the paucity o# choices #or their e(pressions, :ayumi and
Hiro#umi went e(pressionless.
There was a reason :ayumi did not gie a ,its been a while to
Hiro#umi. This was the reason :ayumiIs thoughts scattered when it
turned out that :io was not simply accompanying Hiro#umi.
Hiro#umi was one o# the candidates to become :ayumis betrothed.
Howeer, since Hiro#umi wasnt the eldest child o# the Itsuwa 2lan, it
might be better to say :ayumi was one o# the candidates to become
Hiro#umis betrothed. They were both direct descendants o# the Ten
:aster 2lans and close in ageB one was an heir and one was the eldest
daughter o# the main #amily with an elder brother who was the
principal heir = the conditions could be called .uite #aorable.
To tell the truth, the conditions were the same with the <uumon*i clans
Latsuto, and Louichi was thinking about which one he wanted to
marry :ayumi o## to. 1The Ichi*ou clans :asaki was e(cluded
because he was younger than :ayumi.3
%# course, the people in .uestion had their own opinions on the matter
and there were other arranged marriage talks that hadnt .uite become
engagementsB howeer, :ayumi and Hiro#umi o#ten dined together
and went to the theater together in a #amily setting with both the
&aegusa and Itsuwa clans. =>espite the e(pectations o# the adults,
the pair themseles werent interested, hence the mutual poker #aces.
Howeer, always ,silently going along only made their moods
worsen, which was something :ayumi knew .uite well.
0y the way, when do you leae?
-ith the redirected #low o# conersation, a relieed atmosphere that
could not .uite be concealed arose = :ayumi was dissatis#ied with
this weakness = and Hiro#umi answered.
-e go to &asebo at the end o# this weekB I heard that the ship departs
Ariday o# ne(t week.
+s #or :ayumi, while she was preoccupied with her unhappiness, she
did not #orget to learn the details.
Those are certainly .uick arrangements" -ell, please take care. -e
will await your sa#e return.
Impeccably disguised behind her cats mask, :ayumi leaned #orward
in her seat.
Thank you.
:ayumi turned her ga'e to her own toes and considered that they
were probably done with her.
0e#ore we leae to go to the #ront, could we hae :ayumi-sans
assistance"
Hence when she heard Hiro#umi say this, it was a little di##icult #or her
to control the speed with which she looked up.
:y assistance?
-hile implicitly e(pressing the opinion that ,there is nothing I can do
#or you, she deliberately tilted her head in a childish manner. Her
rock-like classmate would probably pay it no mind and her mature =
she would call him ,impertinent = underclassman would see through
it and look at her with pretended boredom, but Hiro#umi .uit trying to
conceal his unrest and let his eyes water.
)o, rather than assistance, we want you to lend us your insight.
Howeer, it didnt work on :io. -as it because her e##ect was
predictably weaker on her own se(, or maybe because :io looked so
young hersel#, that she saw her as an ,older woman.
:ayumi-san has already been in#ormed, which will make this a .uick
conersation. -e dont hae enough time #or a preliminary
inestigation.
Thats true. I understand.
:io appeared distressed to her core, with her hand on her cheek.
2ertainly, her speech and manner inoked some #eeling that she was
an older woman. )eertheless, the impression that she was a child
oerreaching hersel# was strong = she roused amusement rather than
interest. Howeer, that did not make :ayumi rela(B she concealed her
wariness as she agreed with :io.
C:agic is resisted by magic. :agicians by magicians. That, I think is
surely what we hae in common.
Hiro#umi continuedB receiing his sisters support, 1?3 his calm had
returned. 0y ,in common, he un.uestionably meant between <apan
and the 8reat +sian +lliance. -ith that interpretation, :ayumi waited
#or his ne(t words.
I will be accompanying my sisterB the other side has undoubtedly
reali'ed this.
:ayumi concurred with Hiro#umis statement and displayed her
agreement. In the #irst place, the <apanese side had no intention o#
concealing :ios deploymentB besides :io and Hiro#umis #ull
identities, their membership as o##icers deployed in war and
capabilities were well known. &o under the circumstances they were
e(pected.
In order #or a checkmate to be e##ectie, you had to let your opponent
know about it. In other words, a secret weapon is not good material to
get your adersary to negotiate a compromise.
The other side understands it is at a disadantage in naal combat
with )ee-sans +byss. There#ore, we anticipate a counter attack
combining aerial combat power with magic.
The :oement type-&trategic 2lass :agic ,+byss was a magic
capable o# creating a spherical depression capable o# e(tending #rom a
#ew tens o# meters to seeral kilometers. /essels caught within the
magical 'one at sea slide down the steep walls o# water, tumbling
aboutB then, upon cancellation o# the magic, are swallowed up by
massie waes as the sea returns to a hori'ontal plane. The
hemisphere can be created up to a kilometer in depth, easily catching
submerged submarines as well.
I# the distance between the two adersaries was too close, the water
moements could cause damage to ones own side as well. The
&trategic :agic :io possessed, with its great range, could be called
the natural enemy o# naal power.
Howeer, at the same time, :ios ,+byss was completely powerless
against an air #orce. &he couldnt inoke it without a continuous water
sur#ace, and to use it on land, she had to know be#orehand that there
was a subterranean source o# water she could use = there were
arious conditions #or its use.
-ith the enemys battle #ormation that Hiro#umi spoke o#, she had no
other option.
The air #orces will be le#t to the <>&AB we must think how to deal
with the magicians.
This was also a #act she could not dispute.
In #orm and substance, the magician community headed by the Ten
:aster 2lans within <apan = whether they were magicians attached
to the goernment, attached to the military, attached to a ciilian
institution, modern magicians or sorcerers o# ancient magic = were
sel# reliant. The magicians who would probably be accompanying the
military were included in that ,we.
:ayumi-san, did you see our magician allies repulse the enemy and
enemy magic at 6okohama? I would like you to tell us about the
aspects o# the enemy magic you saw and the e##ectie magic that was
used against it.
+ctually, this was a di##icult, dangerous .uestion. &he did not doubt
the necessity o# proiding in#ormation and she would not re#use to do
things she could not re#use to do. =That was how it was.
"5en though I saw enemy magic, I was always in the rear, and the
only time I actually crossed swords with them was when I was
attacking #rom a helicopter.
+ctually she had directly contributed to the destruction o# a tank
twice, but :ayumi was not intentionally lying. It simply had not le#t
an impression.
He did not doubt :ayumis wordsB howeer, Hiro#umi was not
satis#ied with her answer.
Then you were assisting with the ciilian eacuation until the end.
0y ,ciilian,, he meant the non-magicians. :agicians were recogni'ed
as a special e(istenceB usually :ayumi #elt sorry #or both sides o# the
narrow iew that people that werent magicians were powerless.
Howeer, this was not the time to point that out.
Til the end would be wrong, but" while I was waiting #or the copter,
students #rom my year and below held them o##.
Then cant you introduce us to these people? The Airst High &chool
students who actually #ought against the 8reat +sian +llianceIs
magicians.
-hen Hiro#umi said it, right away he came to mind. The mature,
impudent, yet reliable underclassman. The #irst year who changed a
gigantic truck into dust, was encased by glittering psions, and used a
miraculous healing method.
)onetheless, immediately a#terward, nearly simultaneously, the
recalled words )ational &ecret paraly'ed her tongue.
:ayumi-san?
The #altering :ayumi was being e(amined by :ios suspicious eyes.
:io was not the only one looking at her suspiciously. Hiro#umi = and
anyway her #ather = were looking at her with doubt, and :ayumi
recogni'ed their impatience.
+h, no" thats right. I# you isit the <uumon*i #amily, I think you
will hear a thorough report.
>o you mean Latsuto-kun"
Hiro#umi was by no means an unpleasant personB naturally he was a
nice boy, but :ayumi had #elt #or some time that actually meant a
little too agreeable.
&he knew Hiro#umi #elt in#erior and competitie with the boy two
years younger than him and understood it to be natural. Howeer, at
this point in time, she didnt #eel displaying *ealousy was all that
praiseworthy.
=)ot only that, but letting a younger #emale discern it.
The ,passable grades she had put #or him on one sheet o# the report
card in her heart were all insincere.
The others, who should be use#ul" would probably be the Hundred
Aamilies -atanabe :ari, Isori Lei, and 2hiyoda Lanon. I will contact
them all #or you.
4lease do.
-ell, i# all you do is #ind #ault with your associate, you will not #eel
good either.
:ayumi gae them the names and promised to set up the meetings in
a businesslike #ashion.
? ? ?
+#terward, she called :ari, Lei and Lanon right then and there
1Latsuto wasnt home3, she set up appointments with all o# them and,
along with her #ather, saw the Itsuwa siblings o##.
:ayumi really wanted to sigh when they le#t, but peeping at her
#athers #ace told her it would be a little while be#ore she was set #ree.
:ayumi, I want to talk a littleB you dont mind do you?
+s she had e(pected, *ust as she returned #rom the hotel si'ed porch to
the entrance hall you could probably dance in, Louichi called out to
:ayumi to stop.
@ets talk in the study.
He .uickly walked away without waiting #or an answer.
Louichi presented an outward appearance o# an elite businessman o#
the middle o# the last century. +nyone would say his health was #ragile
= his #ace was more sociable than digni#ied and the tone o# his oice
was gentle to match that, but like all the other heads o# the Ten :aster
2lans, no member o# his #amily would disagree with &aegusa Louichi.
+nd it was not :ayumis style to take a meaningless rebellious
attitude. -hile wearing a long sleeed sti## one-piece that she
normally wouldnt wear, :ayumi trailed a#ter her #athers back.
The study had a classic bookcase, a massie desk, and a single leather
chair. Louichi promptly sat down, #orcing :ayumi to listen to her
#athers words while standing. &ince this is what he always did,
:ayumi was not bothered by it.
There were no #irst year students in the list o# names you gae
:ayumi.
Louichi broached the sub*ect with his daughter who was standing
about two meters away #rom him without preliminaries.
>idnt I hear that the daughter o# the 2hiba 2lan and the second son
o# the 6oshida 2lan played an actie role?
:ayumi murmured ,;accoon!J$ >ad in her head. Louichis physi.ue
was more #o( than raccoon and more wol# than #o(, howeer, :ayumi
was con#ident that her #ather couldnt tell what she was thinking #rom
her outer appearance.
>espite that, they are still #irst years, so I didnt think they could
e(plain things well to Hiro#umi-san and :io-san.
1)eertheless, he probably got the details #rom )akura-san.3
-hile watching her #ather murmur II see,I :ayumi thought that. In
general, this is the same as the harsh cross-e(amination she receied
*ust yesterdayB his persistence was more hunting dog than raccoon, she
cursed in her head.
Howeer, didnt they make unthinkable great strides #or #irst years?
5specially that girl who also played a ery actie role in the )ine
&chools 2ompetition=
6ou mean :iyuki-san?
Thats right, &hiba :iyuki-kun.
&he #elt like the #rames o# the lightly tinted glasses he wore #or show
were emitting a sparkling light. These spectacles were supposedly to
conceal the #act that his right eye was a #alse eyeB howeer, because
they didnt contain any special gimmick #or doing so, :ayumi had her
doubts about that.
&he seemed like a ery e(cellent girl. + ice president in the newly
seated student council and, i# all goes properly, she will become
student council president like you, :ayumi.
6es, shes a ery e(cellent child. In addition to being a ery beauti#ul
child.
%h, thats what she looks like in :ayumis eyes?
>o you mean een #rom a #emales perspectie? 6ea, I think :iyuki-
sans beauty is obious to either se(.
Louichis lips twitched a little.
)o trace o# lust could be seen in the le#t eye inside the glasses.
&uch a thing especially sparked :ayumis wariness.
0e that as it may" managing to use magic o# such high degree o#
di##iculty as ,In#erno and ,)i#lheim" Id like to meet her once.
2ant you introduce her to our #amily?
+aah" Ill hae to ask about that.
Thats right, couldnt you ask about that #or me? 2ome to think o# it,
Im #airly certain that :iyuki has an elder brother? >idnt you say that
he helped you out :ayumi, at the )ine &chools 2ompetition? This is
a good chanceB I will gie him my thanks at the same time = it would
be good i# you inited both o# them.
The polite smile would not let her read what was going on in his head.
The tinted lenses would not let her catch the anticipation in his pupils.
=Howeer, she had known him since she was born. &he was already
eighteen years old = their relationship was no longer one where only
one side #ound the other transparent.
1This was what he was aiming at"93
2ertainly, :ayumi had made )akura promise to keep the secret in the
helicopter. The episode concerning Tatsuyas special magic hadnt
reached her #athers ears.
Howeer, she didnt think he had not told him anything.
&he was not that optimistic.
)akura was a sly old #o( = he had probably gien his employer hints
without breaching his agreement to keep it secret, and her #ather, who
was a eteran o# countless battles, would be able to ac.uire much
in#ormation #rom that.
Her #ather was suspicious o# him = &hiba Tatsuya.
+dditionally, it seemed to be about ,something unknown een to
hersel#.
-ithin :ayumi, the desire to #ind out also smouldered, but een now,
the #eeling that she should aoid touching this mystery was still
stronger.
&he unconsciously #eared touching this mystery would destroy their
current relationship.
Ill try asking"
It took eerything she had to make that answer.
? ? ?
The head o# the &aegusa 2lan secluded himsel# #or a while in the
study, looking at the desk, when the small sound o# a knock on the
door caused him to look up.
5nter.
The door to the study was di##erent #rom the door to the reception
roomB it didnt hae a speaker built into it. +ccording to common
sense, a .uiet sound like a whisper shouldnt pass through the massie
door and walls #rom the hallway.
Howeer, the knock didnt repeat and the door opened without a
sound.
The one who entered was an elderly man with care#ully brushed white
hair, )akura the butler.
6our report?
The .uestion was a little too #ragmentary, but )akura walked closer as
his master indicated and respect#ully o##ered a memory card.
Louichi set the paper card with the data printed in a detailed pattern
on the micrometer leel into the scanner and called up the decoded
document to the wide display on the desk.
The GHG Independent :agic-5.uipped 0attalion" bothersome.
2ertainly, this is the unit the 6otsuba are 'ealously approaching?
It seems they are in #re.uent contact, but their goal is unknown.
I think there is only one reason we would hae #or contacting the
military?
-hen Louichi said ,we, he wasnt limiting himsel# to the &aegusa
2lan or the Ten :aster 2lans = he meant all the magicians in the
country in general.
The magicians o# this nation did not want status. The Ten :aster
2lans endorsed by the nation were prohibited #rom ac.uiring #ormal
political power.
Instead, there was administration, the military, the police and the
#inancial worldB in arious aspects, the ones who held political power
needed the sponsorship o# magical skills to continue their personal
power base. To not be treated as disposable tools, to be tools that
continued to be used, they had made themseles indispensable tools
and had risen to the position o# serants who manipulated their
masters. Aor this purpose, ,to be able to continually be used by them,
it was necessary ,to become necessary and temporary alliances were
needed.
In order to gain that, ability was not enough.
+ sharp sword produced a #ear in the wielder that its blade would be
turned against him. The temporary alliances were relationships o#
mutual trust that they would not be betrayed.
I# a magician had contact with the military, then it was to ac.uire and
maintain that trustB less with the aim o# constructing that relationship
than to solidi#y it. &uch thinking was, #or someone who understood
the position o# magicians, common sense.
Howeer, )akura did not nod his agreement with his masters words.
The commander in chie#, :a*or 8eneral &aeki, established the
Independent :agic-5.uipped 0attalion with the aim o# haing a
magic-e.uipped military #orce independent #rom the Ten :aster
2lans. The commanding o##icer, :a*or La'ama, when commander in
chie# Ludou retired #rom military serice, was known as a person who
disapproed o# the Ten :aster 2lans. Howeer heretical the 6otsuba
2lan is, I think that it would be di##icult to win oer his battalion.
Louichi raised his brows at )akuras words.
"Thats the #irst Ie heard o# this.
Thats because the Independent :agic-5.uipped 0attalion did not
touch the &aegusa 2lans interests.
The .uestion o# Iso why do you know about thisI was not drawn out o#
Louichis mouth.
IAor the sake o# this inestigationI was the only e(cuse he would
receie. 0esides, een though the man had sered him #or a long time,
Louichi did not think o# )akura as a member o# the &aegusa. +nd that
was surely the same #or that man as well.
"&o then, why do the 6otsuba remain in contact with the
Independent :agic-5.uipped 0attalion?
His .uestion was on a di##erent matter. +nd immediately a#ter he
asked it, Louichi had an answer #rom himsel#.
4erhaps it is as >anna-sama thinks.
)akura did not hae any mind reading skills. Louichi didnt hae any
such skill either. )eertheless, without making certain, )akura was
con#ident that Louichi had made the same con*ecture he himsel# had.
Louichi took the card released #rom the scanner between his inde( and
middle #ingers and lightly #licked his hand. The paper card he let #ly
#lared with light be#ore instantly burning up.
0e#ore he disposed o# the ashes in the wastebasket, )akura bowed and
turned his back.
? ? ?
+t the edge o# the &aegusa mansions e(tensie grounds, there was a
long, narrow, rectangular, cube-shaped building. This simple but not
rustic building was the &aegusa #amilys priate shooting range.
5en i# its called the &aegusa #amilys, the range was actually built
#or :ayumi. Aie years be#ore, when :ayumi took her #irst trophy in
a national leel tournament, it had been built in commemoration o#
that.
:ayumi who had been piled with mentally draining things #rom the
morning onward, immediately a#ter lunch, came to this shooting range
and had already been at it #or three hours. >eterminedly, she shot
targets with a long, narrow, cane-shaped speciali'ed 2+> with a
handle.
4ierce.
>estroy.
7nlike using an actual gun, #iring with magic did not cause a recoil
that would hurt her hands but the mental #atigue was naturally harsh.
)eertheless, to the e(tremely gloomy :ayumi, this #atigue warmed
her heart.
-ithout worrying about the pace, she earnestly #ired, and be#ore she
knew it, she had depleted the stock o# targets. &he cast her eye at her
watch and was surprised by how much time had passedB she placed
her 2+> on the rack and started to put eerything else away. =+#ter
she started.
%nee-chan, IIm back9
Howeer, when she took o## her in#ormation blocking goggles, she
receied an embrace #rom behind that she was unprepared #or = a
change o# plans was unaoidable.
Kasumi-chan" don/t cause problems for nee-sama b) jumpin! at
her suddenl)&0
8ee', I'umi, you are such a nag.
That/s because Kasumi-chan is so ill-mannered&0
The problem was only a simple stumble and she was immediately
released 1Lasumi was torn o## o# :ayumi3 #or which she was, to be
#rank, grate#ul #or.
Lasumi-chan, I'umi-chan, welcome home.
>uring the twins usual spat = that is play#ul bickering = :ayumi
restored her posture and came to them.
''m back" nee-sama&0
The girl who politely bowed with her hands together was the younger
twin, &aegusa I'umi. + #eminine girl with hair in a straight bob that
went to her shoulders.
The one who had embraced :ayumi was the elder o# the twins,
:ayumis younger sister and I'umis elder sister, &aegusa Lasumi.
&he was the opposite o# I'umi, a tomboyish girl with short hair.
They were mono'ygotic twins, but because their tastes and manners
were completely opposite, ordinarily you wouldnt mistake one #or the
other.
-hat are you practicing? Its not an actual physical bullet :oement
magic. /irtual Aield magic?
1irtual ,rea 23pansion 4enetration ma!ic" ri!ht+ nee-sama has
been practicin! this ma!ic often" latel)&0
Howeer, they shared a similar sharp sensitiity toward magic.
+nyone would say that :ayumiIs sensitiity towards the practice was
superior to her ability with theory, but the twins were the type o#
magician that had the same orientation as her. Their ability to discern
the identity o# inoked se.uences might be een greater than
:ayumis own. <ust now, they had perceied the magic she had used
correctly #rom the bullet hole that remained on the target.
:ayumi spoiled the twins too much because they were adorable, and
the pair adored :ayumi in return. Howeer, lately = perhaps due to
their ages = she had noticed them being a little insolent.
5e(ertheless" nee-sama has certainl) been poundin! awa) a lot&0
I'umis sharp eyes perceied the lack o# remains o# the targets,
causing her to speak out in a slightly astonished tone.
Then, Hiro#umi-san came?
Lasumi answered in a smirking oice.
%nee-chan, you de#initely get in a bad mood when Hiro#umi-san
comes.
Her unwaering e(pression disappearedB :ayumi had not thought
anyone could see what she was trying to hide.
+t any rate, these two were .uite perceptie.
%r perhaps I am more easy to read than I belieed, thought :ayumi,
becoming a little depressed.
I dont think Hiro#umi is all that bad a person.
%e isn/t a bad person" but that/s all he is& Such an unreliable person
is not suitable for nee-sama&0
I'umi, your scoring is too harsh. %kay, what kind o# person would be
alright, how about Latsuto-kun?
Hey, Lasumi-chan, <uumon*i-kun and I arent particularly=
Thats right, hes not de#icient in good looks but the un#ortunate point
about him is that he wouldnt e(actly try to understand a maidens
heart.
-hy did = :ayumi sincerely thought this = Latsutos name come
upB :ayumi hurriedly tried to #i( her younger sisters
,misunderstanding, but neither I'umi nor Lasumi was listening.
@ets see, how would I go about making the right guy #or her"
+nyway, I thinks its only natural that a guy wouldnt understand a
maidens heart since we dont understand what guys are thinking.
Lind9 6oure being too kind, Lasumi-chan9 Its enough that a maiden
understands a mans heart a#ter they become loers9 In order to make
a maidens heart his, #irst the man must understand the maidens
heart.
C+ maidens heart", #ine. &o, what would be necessary other than
good looks?C
@oe, absolutely" I# theres a sudden hurdle thats too high, a #ierce
true loe should awaken, right.
-ee been together since birth, but I didnt know you were this
much o# a romanticist 1spelled as person with the mindset o# a little
girl3, I'umi. I thought you were only being rigid.
I #eel like you meant something else when you said ,romanticist"
well, enough about that. 0esides, I am not a romanticist" Lasumi-
chanB you *ust dont care enough about this stu##.
-hateer, IIm not ery girlish anyway. &o, a#ter all, who is allowed
to be loed by %nee-chan? &omeone like Hattori-san?
Lasumi-chan9 How do you know Han'ou-kuns name9?
+ppearing out o# nowhere 1actually shed been there #rom the start3,
:ayumi was between them because she couldnt *ust silently listen to
these words. :ayumi had absolutely no recollection o# introducing
Hattori to her younger sisters.
%# course, we would know about any annoying bugs bu''ing around
%nee-sama
I'umi-chan, I dont beliee it, you two haent been spying on me,
hae you9? It doesnt..., its none o# your business who I date or
anything else9
-rong, %nee-chan. I'umi and I hae school, so theres no way we
can go around spying on you, so there9
16oue been using other people to do it9?3
&he was only screaming in her mind, so o# course it could not be
heard by other people. Howeer, perhaps the twins could hear it
somehow, but :ayumi couldnt see them acting like they did #rom
their behaior.
0esides, Lasumi-chan and I worry about %nee-sama? In spite o#
%nee-sama being so beauti#ul, youe neer had a boy#riend and
youre already eighteen" 6oure een about to graduate high school.
Its not that I cant, my social standing"
&he was aware that saying she *ust hadnt made one sounded ery
much like an e(cuse. 5en worse, a #airly ,wretched e(cuse or
perhaps a ,pathetic kind o# e(cuse.
Hey, arent you two in the same boatB a#ter all, you two haent dated
anyone either.
&o she tried to rapidly change the sub*ectB howeer, :ayumi was not
aware that this was also a pretty piti#ul comment. =7ntil her sisters
counterattack.
&o what, I'umi and I are still #i#teen.
+s #or loe con#essions, I receied two today. They were politely
re#used. ,This e(perience is not all that uncommon.
6oure rigid, I'umi. -ouldnt it be all right to try dating them #or a
little while.
Lasumi-chan is too cruel. 7ndoubtedly, all o# Lasumi-chans
boy#riends dont think o# Lasumi-chan as ,a mere #riend" I# you
keep up with that la( behaior, sooner or later something bad will
happen.
-ell aware o# her own patheticness, :ayumi #ell into a depression to
the 08: o# her sisters conersation.
? ? ?
November 4th.
+t last, it was the noon break o# the #irst day o# restarted classes.
4resident = I mean, :ayumi-san. 6ou seem a little tired.
-orried looks were being directed at :ayumi, who was isiting the
student council room to help deal with the #ollow-ups, by +'usa.
Hmm, a bit. 0ut Im #ine.
-ouldnt it be better i# you waited till ne(t week"
Today was Ariday. There was lessons on &aturday as well, but third
years didnt actually hae to attend school, and the number o# them
doing sel#-study at home today and tomorrow was not small.
I thought I could not endure becoming een more worn out.
I see. &o you le#t and came to school?
+'usa tilted her head, staring in pu''lement at :ayumis reply.
-ell, coming to school because staying home was een more
e(hausting was probably something other people could not
understand.
&he #elt e(plaining would be somewhat embarrassing.
Thus, :ayumi did not answer +'usas .uestion and yawned a small
,aah with one hand coering her mouth.
&he #olded both arms on the table.
Then, rested her cheek on them.
&he #elt that +'usas eyes widened when she suddenly laid down and
began to do'e, but :ayumi paid her no mind and began breathing like
she was soundly asleep.
#fter$or%

Verwandte Interessen