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Mahouka Koukou No Rettousei - Volume 17

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Master Clans Conference Chapter (1)

Satou Tsutomu

Illustrations by Ishida Kana

ASCII Media Works / Dengeki Bunko • Tokyo, Japan

Copyright © 2015 by Satou Tsutomu

Illustration © 2015 by Ishida Kana

All rights reserved.

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei / Satou Tsutomu ; [illustrations by

Ishida Kana] — digital ed.

ISBN: 978-4-04-865313-8

Summary: The story follows Tatsuya Shiba, a bodyguard to his sister

Miyuki Shiba who is also a candidate to succeed the master clan,

Yotsuba. They enroll into First High School which segregates its students

based on their magical abilities. Miyuki is enlisted as a first course

student and is viewed as one of the best students, while Tatsuya is in the

second course and considered to be magically inept. However, Tatsuya s

technical knowledge, combat abilities, and unique magic techniques

causes people to view him as an irregular to the schools standardized

rankings.

[1. Romance-Magic—Fiction. 2. Magic-Engineer—Fiction. 3. School —

Fiction.] I. Title. II. Series: Tsutomu, Satou. Mahouka Koukou no

Rettousei.

ePub by Roah Nosh. Visit the “Oniisama” page for details.

9

http://polyaness.com

Translation by oniisama-TL.

[Leader (Recruitment, PR): M.R Editors: C KA M N W S (MIA) N Anon

Proofreader: L Y Translation checkers: D MW K KA Translators: Y T R ]

All materials’copyright reserved by their respective authors and the

associated publishers. Please respect their rights.

Works will be deleted upon request by copyright holders.

If you like the book buy it once localized in your area. Support the

author.

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Title

Copyright

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Afterword

Illustrations

Notes

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Chapter 1

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January 2 ncl , 2097 A.D., the news that had spread from the

Magic Association early into the New Year had produced a big

shock among related parties.

The person who made such an announcement was one of the

Family Heads of the Ten Master Clans, Yotsuba Maya, from the

Yotsuba Family.

The included contents were the chosen heiress of the Yotsuba

Family, as well as the engagement of the next Family Head.

It meant that the Yotsuba Family was moving forward to the

next generation. Shiba Miyuki was named as the next Family

Head of the Yotsuba, and unexpectedly, Shiba Tatsuya was also

chosen as her fiance. Both pieces of news became a major

announcement for the next era of Japan’s Magic Community.

However, this news didn’t just place expectations on the “New

Era”.

Anxiety and shock rippled through those who knew about

Tatsuya and Miyuki. Leaving out the fact they were both related

to the Yotsuba Family (in some way) which they had hidden up

until now, it was revealed they were also not real siblings. The

emotional rivalry among the girls and boys had, perhaps, seen

this as a “bolt from the blue”, which was a natural outcome with

the events as they were.

Among those to be jarred from this was the Ichijou Family’s

eldest son from the Ten Master Clans, Ichijou Masaki.

< — >

January 2 ncl , 4 P.M., Masaki came back from the New Year’s

Ritual and went to his father’s parlor after being summoned.

It was rare for Masaki s father to be around the house at this

time. He was usually moving around the seabed looking for

resources for his mining company, as that was the official family

business. Otherwise he would be overseeing the training of

Magicians under the Ichijou Family, hence he wouldn’t return

home before dinner. However, during the first three days of the

New Year, he had to receive greetings as the Head of the Ichijou

Family of the Ten Master Clans. For better or worse, his

obligation as a Family Head required him to stay put in the

house.

The Ichijou Family’s Mansion has a Western-style partitioned

structure, and the room to greet the guests was located at the end

of a long hallway attached to a parlor which was designed

according to japanese-style architecture, like a Samurai-styled

mansion.

Masaki arrived in front of his father’s parlor, and knelt down in

the hallway before knocking on the door rather than suddenly

barging into the room.

“It’s me, Masaki.”

“Come in.”

He received a rough response from the other side of the sliding

door.

The voice was unlike Masaki’s who had the tone of a young

nobleman, but it was not an uncouth voice. Rather, it had a wild

vibe to it that you could feel in your belly regardless of the

volume.

“Excuse me.”

He opened the sliding door while kneeling down, and soon

after entering the room, he knelt down again. It might appear as

excess politeness between parent and child, but it suits the good

behavior and sensibility of Masaki.

On the other hand, his father, Gouki, who was wearing a haori

hakama with the family crest hanging on his chest, broke his

posture by attaching his elbow to his foot. He looked like a

“Lord” in a popular drama which was set in the late Showa Era,

but Gouki was spared from scrutiny for his rough attitude.

Masaki sat in front of his father. They didn’t resemble each

other well for a parent and child. The Ichijou Family’s son and

daughters take after their mother, and that was a widely known

fact.

Gouki was 42 years old this year, and if he was to be described

in one word, it would be “manly”. His whole body was overly

tanned, and on his head was short and cropped hair, all acquired

due to the long time he spent under intense sunlight. His

appearance suited his dignity quite appropriately for his age. In

contrast, his body did not appear to age as much, his muscles

were firm, albeit not voluminous, but toned and edgy.

Despite his harsh features, he left a strong yet tasteful

impression.

“Well, don’t be so uptight.”

That was the first sentence he offered to his son, who was

sitting with an upright attitude from the very beginning.

“Then, I won’t hold back.”

He was dressed up throughout the New Year-with his

student uniform-so Masaki followed his father’s

recommendation and relaxed his posture. Gouki did not like

formal manners, but he still exercised some degree of distinction.

Whoever it may be it, as a member of the Ten Master Clans, or as

the Ichijou Family Head, any human being must exercise the

appropriate behavior. Now, as soon as he asked his son to “not be

uptight”, he was acting as Masaki’s father, instead of the Head of

the Ichijou Family.

“Masaki. It’ll be hard to answer this question honestly to your

parent when you’re at this age, but please make your best effort.”

“What happened? Is it something serious?”

It was unusual for Gouki to give such a prelude. He was

usually a cut-to-the-chase, blunt-to-a-fault kind of person.

Especially towards his own son. Masaki was naturally mystified.

However, Masaki also decided to go along with him, since he

was already there.

“You really need to answer honestly. Do you know a girl named

Shiba Miyuki?”

“Wh-why are you asking such a thing!?”

Masaki spoke in a panicky voice, which indicated that he had a

positive answer to the question given.

“Do you, Masaki?”

However, Gouki wanted a clearly worded answer, so he asked

Masaki again straightforwardly.

“.. .1 know her.”

He still didn’t know what his father was thinking. After being

persistently asked, Masaki decided to answer obediently.

“When and how did you meet her?”

Masaki almost shouted “Why do I need to answer a question

like this for my father?”. Although he had it on the tip of his

tongue, Masaki held back, realizing the act would be

meaningless. His father may have an assertive personality, but he

wouldn’t say something like that without reason.

‘At the Nine Schools Competition, two years ago. I’ve known her

since the Opening Ceremony. I got to know her during the

Celebration Party when I got to be her dance partner.”

“So you had an eye on her first. Since she didn’t reject your offer

to dance, at the very least you weren’t disliked by her.”

He didn’t have enough information from just that, and his

frank guess of the situation made Masaki’s face grow hotter.

However, this was still just testing the waters.

“Then, do you like Miyuki-jou?”

In the following instance, an intense stare emitted from Gouki,

and Masaki seemed to skip a heartbeat.

“Wha-what are you talking a-!?”

“I asked you, are you in love with her?”

“Why do you need to ask me such a question!?”

His tongue was tied due to his agitation, so Masaki’s speech

didn’t come out well and was similar to a scream. This time, he

was unable to suppress his feelings.

‘Approximately 30 minutes ago, I received a message from the

Yotsuba via the Magic Association.”

Gouki answered his son’s question with a grave tone. He would

never, ever, tease his son about love, and neither would he

ridicule him.

“From the Yotsuba?”

He immediately told Masaki about it. The word “Yotsuba”

which came out of Gouki’s mouth made Masaki disrupt his cool

consciously.

“What business does the Yotsuba have with the Ichijou?”

“It’s not only between the Family Heads. The Yotsuba Family

announced to the Ten Master Clans, the 18 Assistant Houses, as

well as the Hundred Families. It is some sort of a greeting

towards the major houses of japan’s Magic Community.”

“Greeting? How amusing, for that unfriendly Yotsuba Family to

do such a thing... What exactly is happening that would make

them send such a greeting?”

Masaki and Gouki stared into each other’s eyes for a while.

Masaki made sure that there were no lies in the information that

his father was about to deliver, and he confirmed that Gouki was

prepared to tell Masaki the truth.

“The Yotsuba Family has named their next Family Head. She is

a First High sophomore student, Shiba Miyuki.”

“Shiba-san is, from the Yotsuba, the next Head...?”

Despite keeping his polite tone, Masaki was deeply shaken. The

fact that Miyuki was a Member of the Yotsuba Family, on top of

the fact she was of a close lineage that would be appointed as

the next Family Head. A fact that he’d never dreamt to hear

rocked Masaki’s heart hard.

Gouki kept his strong gaze upon Masaki while continuing to

retell the story upon Masaki’s drifting consciousness.

Soon after, a bigger bomb was dropped on Masaki.

“Masaki, the Yotsuba named Shiba Miyuki as the next Family

Head. Additionally, it was announced that Shiba Miyuki is

engaged to her cousin, Shiba Tatsuya.”

“Shiba-san is engaged...?”

Masaki was stunned in surprise. However, he only needed a

short time to realize the details of the fact.

“Cousin, you said? Shiba-san and Shiba Tatsuya are supposed

to be siblings!”

Gouki nodded lightly to his son’s words.

“I have also confirmed about that fact. Certainly, they were

supposed to be siblings up to now. However, the truth seems to

point out that they are cousins.”

“Seems?”

Despite his overflowing upsetness, his father’s words were still

a problem. He recognized an unnatural part.

“Shiba Tatsuya is Yotsuba Maya’s son who was born via

artificial insemination from her egg. Please read carefully, his

family registry data was modified at the end of last year.”

Gouki was also displeased about this fact.

“Certainly, it is a plausible tale. At the very least, there is no

evidence that Yotsuba-dono did not tell a lie. However, there is

no evidence that what Yotsuba-dono said is the truth either.”

“Dad, do you think... that the Yotsuba are lying?”

Masaki’s voice came out sounding like he was almost sniveling.

“That’s not the main problem right now.”

However, Gouki shook off his son’s accusation.

“Whether they are siblings or cousins, it’s still no good for close

relatives to marry each other. The genes of Magicians in this

country are at stake. Marriage between close relatives might

compromise their genes, so it must be avoided. It’s a natural

responsibility of the Ten Master Clans towards the nation.”

Masaki changed his legs’ positioning, and broke his posture

unconsciously.

“This was a one-sided decision by the Yotsuba Family. Even so,

they can’t ignore that the possibility exists. That’s why I asked

you. Masaki, do you like Shiba Miyuki-jou? Are you in love with

her?”

Gouki stared hard at Masaki. He has strong eyes, which might

even stay open without blinking even in the midst of a raging

ocean. However, Masaki had no reason to be afraid of them.

“Yeah. Pm in love with Shiba-san. It was love at first sight.”

Masaki had no reason to feel guilty about his feelings.

“I see.”

Gouki nodded in satisfaction after eliciting a confession from

his son.

“Then, as a parent, I should assist with realizing your feelings.

Oh, don’t worry. The Ichijou Family can still be inherited by

Akane. You are free to go as the son-in-law without refrain.”

“Dad?”

Masaki was confident that his love for Miyuki was earnest. He

was convinced his feelings were real.

“First of all, we must force the current engagement to stop. To

do so, shall we express the wish from our side now?”

“Wait a minute, Dad!”

However, for his parent to convey his feelings before he had any

chance to say it by himself simply felt wrong to Masaki.

“There’s no time to wait. The other party has announced to the

world that they have been engaged.”

However, after seeing the “don’t be a loser” look in his father’s

eyes, Masaki was unable to say anything to his father’s

unreasonable argument.

<~ — — >

January 3 rcl . The previous day, the Yotsuba Family sent an

engagement announcement to the main Magic Families of Japan,

and the Ichijou Family made an objection via the Magic

Association.

Yet, the one who felt the most intrigued was not the Yotsuba

Family, but rather the Head of Saegusa Family, Saegusa Kouichi.

Ichijou Gouki sent a written rejection to the Magic Association

as displayed on the electronic paper, and Kouichi read it with a

thin smile.

(You’re bold as usual...)

Kouichi and Gouki have been old friends since they were

young.

Although they didn’t have a very close relationship, they didn’t

particularly hate each other, either. Since they have completely

different personalities from the other, it was natural for them to

be distant. They were more suited to be called acquaintances.

Furthermore, the age gap between them was adding to the

reason that the relationship between them didn’t turn hostile.

Kouichi was six years older than Gouki. When they first met,

Kouichi was a university student while Gouki was still a middle

school student. Perhaps, that was the reason why Kouichi

couldn’t shake off the image that Gouki was “a time consuming

naughty little brother”, and did not feel any hostility towards

him. Even with this objection, Kouichi felt like saying “You’re

doing another reckless thing again”.

(One wrong step and the Ichijou Family will be exposed to

crossfire criticisms.)

The Ten Master Clans was set to be of equal allies to each

other, and not in any position that could interfere with the

internal situations of the other families. There is likely to be

damage to valuable genes due to close-relative marriages, so

regardless of the justification, it was not allowed to deny the

engagement of other families.

However, if the situation affected himself, then it was a

different story altogether.

This time, the ones who opposed this engagement of the

Yotsuba’s next Family Head was not just the Family Head of the

Ichijou Family.

Together with his opposition of the engagement between

cousins who have monozygotic twin mothers, he also proposed to

engage the eldest son of the Ichijou Family, Ichijou Masaki, to the

Yotsuba’s next Family Head, Shiba Miyuki.

Proposing an engagement to a party who had already decided

on a fiance would normally be seen as a hint towards illicit love.

However, in this case, the main underlying reason was to avoid

the risk of impairing the genes of excellent Magicians.

The fact that the Ichijou Family was interfering with the

Yotsuba Family’s next Family Head due to Gouki’s support of his

son’s love was unknown to Kouichi. It would impossible for

Kouichi to come out with such a gamble for the love of his

children, but the Gouki he knew of from the past would be able

to do so.

(However, it doesn’t really matter with this kind of timing.)

The fact that Shiba Miyuki was going to be named as the next

Head of the Yotsuba Family, and that Shiba Tatsuya would be

chosen as her fiance were already deduced by Kouichi.

Despite being a freshman, Shiba Miyuki had mastered high-

end magics like “Inferno” and “Niflheim”, and she also exercised

an unknown deadly magic during the Yokohama Disturbance.

The range of that magic and the effect of which were unknown

as an interpersonal magic, but its power was comparable to the

“Meteor Shower” from what the Saegusa Family Researchers

have predicted.

Then, Shiba Tatsuya, who holds the strongest counter-magic

and unidentified Decomposition Magic as well as a miraculous

kind of magic. Kouichi also received a report that Tatsuya was

likely to be the Strategic-Class Magician who caused the

“Scorched Halloween” incident. Moreover, he was closely related

with the JSDF 101st Battalion, which was said to be the worlds

first Flight Combat Independent Magic Battalion.

Kouichi also knew beforehand that the two were related to the

Yotsuba.

Although he didn’t know that Shiba Tatsuya was Maya’s son,

he only knew that there was no concrete evidence that Shiba

Miyuki was a daughter of Miya. When these two individuals

become the center of the Yotsuba Family, the other 27 Houses

constituting the Ten Master Clans— 18 Assistant Houses might

become useless in terms of suppressing the Yotsuba Family, even

as a group. It was not known to Kouichi, but Kudou Retsu had

similar fears.

Regarding the appointment of Shiba Miyuki as the next Head

of the Yotsuba Family and that Shiba Tatsuya was chosen as her

fiance, Kouichi was responding impatiently to this news. He

thought that Tatsuya and Miyuki were siblings (although they

are siblings), and if one of them were to leave the Yotsuba Family,

perhaps it would be Tatsuya. Although it wouldn’t be enough to

completely weaken the Yotsuba Family, Kouichi thought that it

would keep the domestic power balance of persuasion power over

time.-Of course, it also meant that he would set a trap to get

that persuasion power.

That was why when Maya announced that Shiba Tatsuya was

not Shiba Miyuki’s brother, and that the both of them were

engaged, Kouichi was taken aback by his complete

miscalculation. It didn’t matter whether they were real siblings

or not since he couldn’t extort such a precise inspection of them,

since published news is the truth. If they do get married in the

future, Shiba Tatsuya would become an unwavering pillar of the

Yotsuba, together with Shiba Miyuki. Kouichi was afraid of the

time when that reality would be realized.

When that happened, there wouldn’t be any more ways of

stopping them. The fact that they already sent out an

announcement through the Magic Association regarding the

formal engagement meant that they could no longer be stopped.

Kouichi was chewing bitterly, but-

(There is still that method, huh.)

Although Gouki’s reaction was rude, it was not reckless. He

knew that Gouki had calculated at least that much. Yet, given

Gouki’s nature, Kouichi concluded that the greater possibility

was that Gouki did it based on his intuition rather than thinking

it through.

However, there was no doubt it was a valid move.

Kouichi immediately called his daughters to the living room.

Kouichi was wearing a suit while his daughters gathered

wearing glamorous, long-sleeved kimonos. Although they were

not wearing the furisode willingly, the three of them nevertheless

wore the clothes. It wasn’t due to their parent’s preference either.

Such a factor wasn’t nonexistent, but their getups were primarily

done to entertain the visitors.

While the eldest son of the Saegusa Family had the role of

entertaining the guests, the three daughters had the role of

guiding guests. On a side note, Mayumi’s mother was estranged

with pretext of medical treatment.

“Otou-sama, what’s the matter?”

Mayumi suddenly asked Kouichi who sat across from her.

Although she was dressed up in a furisode every year during this

time, she was not so amiable this year despite the kimono that

she put on.

“I haven’t told you about this, but yesterday I received an

announcement from the Magic Association, from the Yotsuba

Family to the Ten Master Clans, the 18 Assistant Houses, and the

Hundred Families.”

“Not only the 28 Houses, but the Hundred Families as well?

Was it such an important announcement?”

With Kouichi’s suggestive words, Izumi did not show any tense

response in contrast to her sister, and showed up as per her

father’s order.

Looking at Izumi who got quite interested in the topic despite

her reluctance to listen to her father’s story, Kouichi nodded with

satisfaction. His youngest twin daughters were cute, even Izumi

when viewed from an adult’s point of view, and seemed to

sweeten Kouichi as well.

“It is important. To the Yotsuba Family, and to you all as well.”

“To us as well?”

Mayumi raised her question with a louder voice. Kouichi paid

no heed to her.

“The Yotsuba Family’s next Family Head is named to be First

High Student, Shiba Miyuki-jou.”

“Ehh!?”

The one who raised her voice was Mayumi. Izumi, on the other

hand, widened her eyes while holding both of her hands tightly.

Kasumi remained relatively calm, although she had a hard time

believing the news so suddenly.

Mayumi, who had the closest relationship with the Shiba

siblings in her family, originally had the notion that Tatsuya was

from a Family as an “Extra with the Number Four” at best.

However, the three of them never imagined in their wildest

dreams that Miyuki was a Member of the Yotsuba Family.

‘Also, it was announced that Shiba Miyuki-jou is engaged to a

student from First High, Shiba Tatsuya-kun.”

“Huh!?”

“It can’t be!”

“Even if they’re from the Yotsuba Family, siblings still can’t

marry each other, right?”

Izumi remained speechless, while Mayumi started to sound

like she was screaming, before Kasumi asked her to remain calm.

“They are actually cousins.”

“Cousins?”

Kasumi was not as upset as her sisters due to her calm

personality, but she had little fondness for Tatsuya and Miyuki.

Kouichi, who understood his daughters’ temperaments, was able

to understand this.

Kouichi also knew that Izumi is attracted to Miyuki’s beauty.

That was why the point of Kouichi’s interest was Mayumi’s

violent upsetness.

“Shiba Miyuki-jou’s mother is Yotsuba Miya-san. Shiba

Tatsuya-kun is the son of the current Family Head, of Yotsuba

Maya-san who was born from a frozen egg cell of hers.”

“Tatsuya-kun is... the son of the Yotsuba Family’s Head?”

Kasumi decided to focus her sight downward rather than to

watch her sister stunned. The twin sisters seemed to have

decided to leave them alone for the mean time since they had

nothing to say as well.

“On the contrary,”

However, the sharp tone in Kouichi’s voice continued, and

Kasumi was aware of the voice of her father.

“The Ichijou Family’s Head, Ichijou Gouki-dono, has

challenged the engagement of the two from the Yotsuba Family

through the Magic Association.”

“The Ichijou Family has?”

Mayumi made a confused face after listening to her father.

“That’s right. He didn’t only go against the engagement, but he

also proposed the engagement between his eldest son, Masaki-

kun, and Miyuki-jou to Maya-dono.”

“Is that so?”

Mayumi seemed to have overcome her upsetness. She tried to

mull over some behind-the-scene speculation of the engagement

of the eldest son of the Ichijou Family and the Yotsuba Family’s

next Family Head.

“Mayumi, has some idea come to mind?”

There was no evidence seen that Mayumi was shocked to the

unexpected “new facts” about Tatsuya and Miyuki anymore. Her

speed of regaining her composure was evaluated as an

advantage for Kouichi.

Rather than taking an interest in what Mayumi knew, Kouichi

asked the question to get her comments on the matter, as he

wanted to know what she was thinking since she was able to

regain her composure in such a short amount of time.

“No, it’s nothing important. I was simply reminded that Ichijou

Masaki-kun has a strong favor towards Miyuki-san.”

“I see. Mayumi, I wonder, when did you notice that?”

“The Nine Schools Competition from two years ago, during the

after party. I am pretty sure I’m not the only one who has noticed

this.”

However, unexpectedly, the content of what she said was

helpful for Kouichi. Apparently, the motive of the Ichijou Family

Head seems to be helping the romance of his son.

“I see. Hence, rather than acting from the political arena, he

chose to consider his son’s feelings.”

Kouichi couldn’t consider the same thing as Gouki. He would

never take any action that would disadvantage the Saegusa

Family for the sake of his daughter’s love. However, he

understood the principle behind Gouki’s actions well, more than

his daughters.

“By the way, how do you see Shiba Tatsuya-kun? Mayumi,

what do you think about him?”

Being questioned by Kouichi, Mayumi’s eyes began to show a

hint of anxiety.

“Even if you ask me... I think he’s an excellent junior.”

Kouichi did not miss the fact that his daughter was slightly

blushing when Mayumi tried to answer him blandly.

“How about you, Kasumi?”

“I have very little contact with Shiba-senpai so my knowledge

is only on the surface. I only know that he is someone who excels

greatly in Magic Engineering.”

Kasumi said so in a vague manner, before she turned her eyes

to Izumi.

“I think Izumi knows better than I, since she’s working with

him in the Student Council.”

“I see.”

Kouichi moved his eyes towards Izumi.

“Izumi, what do you think of Shiba Tatsuya-kun?”

Izumi changed her hollow eyes instantly when her name was

called. She understood what the question was about, so she was

not pretending to answer seriously, but had a naturally firm

countenance.

“...I think Shiba-senpai... is someone who can’t be measured

by normal standards.”

“Really.”

The one who showed a hint of surprise was not only Kouichi.

Kasumi revealed her surprised look to Izumi, while Mayumi

turned her body to Izumi with rounded eyes.

Without flinching from the attention she brought on herself,

Izumi continued her words and returned a straight gaze to

Kouichi’s face.

“I believe you remember that the First High conducted a Stellar

Furnace experiment last April.”

‘Ah, if I remember correctly, Shiba Tatsuya-kun was the one

who had the initiative to do so.”

It was an event which overturned Kouichi’s plan to damage the

Yotsuba’s reputation in the public’s eyes. He wouldn’t easily

forget it.

‘At the last Nine Schools Competition, Shiba-senpai

contributed greatly as a member of the Technical Staff. Even

during the previous year’s Nine Schools Competition, Shiba-

senpai also introduced Flight Magic which had just been

published just before the Nine Schools Competition had started

for the Mirage Bat event.

Kouichi also knew about this, but he directed his sight to

Mayumi for confirmation.

“It’s true. He did implement the Flight Magic to the specified

CAD. He also developed a new magic which has been recorded

in the Magic Index.”

“This year, he was selected to improve high level magics such

as Invisible Bullet and Phonon Maser.”

Mayumi further added to Izumi’s testimonies.

“Thats something else.”

What his daughter said were all known to him, yet he looked

naturally surprised, as if he was hearing this for the first time.

“However, what I find unfathomable about Shiba-senpai, is

that on the surface he doesn’t appear to see any of his actions as

achievements.”

Izumi did not end her comment there.

“Shiba-senpai... and us, are seeing a different world... While

he lives here, he’s fundamentally living in a different world...

Sometimes, I get this kind of feeling.”

“Is that because he has a similar special vision like Mayumi?”

“...I don’t know. Sorry, Otou-sama, it’s just a vague feeling.”

Izumi looked down as she was not able to explain her feelings

properly.

Kouichi stared at Mayumi.

Mayumi also shook her head, hinting that she had no idea.

Although Izumi’s impression of Tatsuya had piqued Kouichi’s

interest, she missed a fact in her conclusion. Kouichi decided to

temporarily shelve his curiosity.

“Then, what do you think of him as the opposite sex?”

Izumi turned her face up due to the unexpected question, while

opening her eyes wide due to the surprise.

“He’s not someone that I could lay my hands on! ...It’s

regrettable, truly regrettable.”

“Izumi, what do you mean?”

Suddenly, Izumi’s calm and collected appearance crumbled

down, Kouichi looked rather anxious than worried at this sight.

“From my point of view, Shiba-senpai seems to be very

manipulative... Even if he’s rather suitable for Miyuki-senpai,

still...”

“Izumi, do you know what you are trying to say? Even for me,

this is quite a surprise you know?”

It seemed like Kasumi had forgotten that her father was

watching her, she involuntarily turned to Izumi with a surprised

face.

With an uncomfortable face, Kouichi cleared his throat.

Kasumi and Izumi shivered as if shocked by electricity, and

aligned their downcast heads shyly.

“Mayumi, how about you? How do you think of Shiba Tatsuya-

kun as a member of the opposite sex?”

Kouichi went about without scolding Kasumi and Izumi-

who were now, hesitant to continue their comments-then

proceeded with Mayumi.

“Even if you ask me.

Even though it was expected that she would be asked this,

Mayumi’s eyes wandered around in a panic. However, despite her

nervousness, there wasn’t a hint of dislike to be seen.

There wasn’t even a tinge of a troubled expression either.

“Shiba Tatsuya-kun is two years younger than Mayumi, but

that much shouldn’t cause any significant problems. Especially

considering his position as the son of the current Head of the

Yotsuba Family, the age gap is balanced out.”

‘About that, he has a very mature air around him...”

If everything fell in place neatly as Kouichi planned, this might

go well.

Aligned with Gouki’s pace, he might be able to destroy Maya s

plan.

“Mayumi, if you have such feelings, you should officially date

him.”

Kouichi told her so with respect to his plan,

“I disagree!”

Kasumi raised her objection.

“Kasumi, restrain yourself.”

Not only did she disturb him in an untimely manner, it was

also a behavior unsuitable for a high school student. This time,

Kouichi reprimanded her instantly.

“...I’m terribly sorry.”

Kasumi was also aware that her attitude was inappropriate.

Although she was unhappy, she did not rebel against her father.

“Otou-sama, if Onee-sama has such feelings for Shiba-senpai,

I would suggest for her to have a proper relationship with him,

but Pm also against this.”

“Izumi. Do you have any reason?”

Kouichi, though serious in dealing with Kasumi, did not intend

on immediately reprimanding Izumi but instead wanted her to

continue.

Although Izumi’s polite manner of speaking was part of the

reason, the main reason was Kouichi doted on Izumi more.

“For a female to actively approach a male who has already

formally announced his engagement to the public, if news got out

of this, it would be absolutely unacceptable. The Ichijou Family

can only do what they’re doing because Ichijou-san is a male.

Shiba-senpai is a male so he can just laugh it off if his love gets

snatched away, but for Miyuki-senpai, it would very likely hurt

her.”

..Is that so?”

When it came to such unique female sensibilities, even Kouichi

could not refute them. In fact, just asking such a thing already

pushed him to his limit.

“Yes!”

The one who exclaimed thus was Mayumi.

“To ask a guy who has just announced his engagement, if word

got out it, that would be unacceptable. Not to mention Tm older

than him. I don’t want to spread rumors that Tm a senpai who

tempts her kouhai or that Tm lacking in morals.”

“Is that so.”

Kouichi could only leave things in such a disadvantaged

position.

Henceforth, Kouichi never again brought up the issue of the

Yotsuba Family announcement of the engagement. From this

point out, he had to fully focus on matters concerning Miyuki and

Tatsuya since they were now known to be from the Yotsuba

Family. Kouichi dismissed his daughters after that.

< — >

After 8 P.M. in the evening, visitors to the Saegusa household

had all but left. There were no more prior engagements to any

dinner banquets before tomorrow. Kouichi and his daughters,

changed out of their kimonos into normal clothes, and he

finished dinner before settling himself in his study.

This did not differ much from his normal routine. Although

having dinner with his daughters was a rare sight, retiring back

to his study after dinner was a perfectly normal occurrence. After

completing the work required of him as a Head of the Ten Master

Clans and that of a businessman, as well as reading the reports

of clandestine operations, the call that Kouichi had been waiting

for finally arrived.

[New Year’s greetings, Saegusa-dono.]

“Happy New Year, Ichijou-dono. Apologies for having you

specially make this call.”

Ichijou Gouki was precisely the person Kouichi was waiting for.

[No, I’m the one who made you wait, sorry.]

“I didn’t have to wait long at all.”

It was two hours ago when Kouichi sent his request for Gouki

to give him a call when Gouki was free. Hence, to say that he

didn’t have too long to wait really was too subtle.

[Then, what you wanted to discuss, is it about the Yotsuba

Family?]

Although, in terms of age, Kouichi was older than Gouki by

seven years, the one speaking to the other in familiar terms was

Gouki. However, there was an unwritten rule when it came to the

Heads of the Ten Master Clans owing to their equal standings

and it was Kouichi’s attention to formal speech that was

inappropriate.

Kouichi was probably the only one from the Ten Master Clans

who was such a stickler for those kinds of details.

“Yes, but to be accurate it’s about the request Ichijou-dono

made of the Yotsuba Family, specifically about your son.”

While Kouichi said so with a smile, Gouki started frowning.

[Please, don’t pretend as if you know everything, will you?]

As Gouki’s response was within his calculations, Kouichi

replied unhurriedly.

“I am considering supporting your son’s pursuit of love.”

Perhaps complaints about Gouki’s highly unreasonable act had

already started to show. To move the conversation forward,

Kouichi clearly stated his intentions before Gouki got annoyed.

[Is that so. Thanks.]

Gouki thanked Kouichi while trying to guess at his true

intentions, causing Gouki to reveal a weird expression.

"I, too, am saddened by the engagement announced by

Yotsuba-dono.”

Gouki’s expression changed from one of surprise to agreement.

Compared to feeling sorry for his own son, objecting to the next

Head of Yotsuba Family’s engagement was a more palatable

excuse.

[Then, I’ll assume Saegusa-dono feels that the marriage

between two close relatives that the Yotsuba Family is proposing

is too dangerous?]

“Yes, exactly. I also frequently hear of the next Head of the

Yotsuba Family, Shiba Miyuki-jou’s outstanding qualities from

my daughters.”

This was a lie. Kouichi and his daughters didn’t even hold

conversations “frequently”. Intel on Miyuki and Tatsuya had been

entirely obtained through private investigations.

If he was honest about it, however, the question of how Kouichi

knew about Miyuki and Tatsuya despite the Yotsuba Family

covering up the two’s relationship would arise. Whether or not

Kouichi had been secretly conducting investigations would also

rise into suspicion, so it was more convenient to simply say he

had heard it from his daughters.

“It’s impossible to overlook the possibility of her talents not

being passed on after all.”

Kouichi’s words were meant to echo Gouki’s intentions.

Unexpectedly however, Gouki bit his lips unhappily, which was

outside of Kouichi’s calculations.

[-Not only Miyuki-jou, Shiba Tatsuya-kun, too, is a

Magician who has achieved victory over my son. Although I

might sound like an idiot for saying so, but I think those that win

over Masaki are pretty valuable.]

“Yes. It is as you say.”

Kouichi immediately corrected his stance. Though Gouki might

think himself stupid just now, winning over Masaki was

definitely a huge accomplishment. In actuality, when the Third

High team led by Masaki lost to the First High team led by

Tatsuya in the 2095 Nine Schools Competition, the shock was so

great that the Magic Association almost convened an online

meeting via its direct line to discuss their response.

“Shiba Tatsuya-kun’s abilities must be treasured as well.”

Kouichi’s was not merely paying lip service with his immediate

agreement with Gouki’s words.

[Then, Saegusa-dono, what do you want to do? Is it to plead

with Yotsuba-dono to dissolve their plans for marriage, or to

support my son?]

Although Kouichi appeared to support him on the surface,

Gouki revealed an unhappy face, obviously suspecting that

Kouichi was trying to make use of his son.

That was beyond Kouichi’s calculations, or rather perhaps, it

was even within his calculations.

“In truth, I am considering having Shiba Tatsuya-kun become

my son-in-law.”

Here, Kouichi had revealed that he was acting humble while

bowing down his head.

Gouki couldn’t help but waver for having arrived at the same

conclusion as Kouichi.

[...Isn’t your Mayumi-jou currently dating the young son of the

Itsuwa Family?]

Gouki probed Kouichi with expression and tone speaking of his

inability to hide his surprise.

“Yes, putting aside the lack of progress between Mayumi and

Hirofumi, the two do not seem to intend on continuing the

relationship, to the extent that they might be going back to

square one.”

[If it’s Shiba Tatsuya-kun, are you saying that Mayumi-jou

thinks that way too?]

“For Mayumi, Shiba Tatsuya-kun is also a Kouhai, but for her

to feel that way should not be a surprise. Mayumi is already

twenty now, and as a father, she is approaching the age when I

wish she would start making plans for marriage.”

Gouki’s intuition was telling him that Kouichi wanted to make

use of the Ichijou Family, but his level of understanding failed to

allow himself to understand this. Kouichi’s words contained

absolutely nothing to arouse anything suspicious, and it helped

that he was approaching Gouki at this point in time.

“I’m embarrassed to say this but I’m still at the stage where I’m

negotiating with my daughter, and still not at the stage when I

can propose a marriage. Hence, in place of a proposal I’m hoping I

could add my name to your voice of dissent.”

Gouki felt that he was slowly slipping into an ingenious trap.

[Then as the Family Head, it’s something I should feel grateful

for.]

However, he was now only considering whether to accept

Kouichi’s proposal.

[If you could give me a reply as soon as possible, I would be

very grateful. As a Family Head, I plan to contact others who

also consider Yotsuba-dono’s plan dangerous, what do you

think?]

“If such people really exist, please do introduce them to me.”

It wasn’t really a request made of Kouichi, but rather Gouki

trying his best to maintain his position as the main party

involved. However, in the current state of affairs it was all Gouki

could do.

[Oh, of course.]

Kouichi while smiling, nodded. Gouki understood from the

start that to see through Kouichi’s real thoughts on the phone

was impossible, so he gave up.

[Then, I’ll send you the original document sent to the Magic

Association later.]

“In case of any errors I’ll send the co-signed document back to

you first, so please do a thorough check.”

[Understood.]

“That’s concluded, then. Ichijou-dono, thank you very much.”

[No, I should be the one feeling thankful. I’ll take my leave

now.]

The conversation with Gouki over the phone ended

satisfactorily for Kouichi.

< >

As Tatsuya and Miyuki brought Minami home, it was already

Friday, January 4 th .

Those who knew of Tatsuya and company’s relationship with

the Yotsuba Family were only limited to those at the top of the

magical community. However, it would not take more than a few

days for this intelligence to proliferate through the people

connected to magic. The existence of the location of their house,

too, was only a matter of time.

Hayama had mentioned of preparations being made in Tokyo

for a second Yotsuba Family Residence; Tatsuya mused that

considerations will have to be made about a possible move to

there.

Even if such a move was made, however, Tatsuya anticipated

that it would only happen in one to two months’ time. He had to

take care of some errands first before that.

If it was the end of the last century, that would mean cleaning

up the house, clearing out everything together with everyone. For

homes in the modern age where domestic chores have become

highly automated, however, it was no problem leaving the

cleaning up to automatons. After finishing lunch at home,

Tatsuya and Miyuki left for Yakumo’s Temple— Kyuuchouji

Temple, leaving Minami behind.

Tatsuya changed into a suit while Miyuki changed into a

kimono. Riding Tatsuya’s motorcycle was out of the question; the

skates didn’t even need to be mentioned. Fortunately, both

Tatsuya’s house as well as Kyuuchouji Temple were within the

public transportation grid where driver assistance AI could take

them there automatically. Hence they used their private car

instead of a public one.

The trip to Kyuuchouji Temple only took around ten minutes. A

call made before leaving ensured they didn’t show up with no

one not being home.

Nonetheless, Tatsuya who had arrived punctually was instead

asked to wait. Yakumo was definitely in the temple. However, an

earlier visitor was in fact present. Arriving just before Tatsuya,

the individual had suddenly appeared without having made any

arrangements beforehand.

Looking like he was a visitor, who Yakumo simply could not

turn away.

One of Yakumo’s most talented disciples who was close to

Tatsuya apologized to him profusely.

Tatsuya was deciding if he should pay a visit on another day

though ultimately was stopped by that disciple, and so the

decision was made to wait longer. Tatsuya didn’t have anything

important on his schedule today and he was in no mood to work

anyway, so with the thought that it was fine, Tatsuya continued

waiting.

When Tatsuya was finally summoned, it was already 30

minutes since he arrived.

Leaving the lecture hall for the main hall, Tatsuya passed the

courtyard when he saw the back of the previous visitor at the

main gate.

It was a bald old man. Perhaps he was from the same Buddhist

sect, Tatsuya thought, but he immediately dismissed it. Although

the bald head suggested the visitor was a monk, what he was

wearing however was a high-end suit and coat. Although monks

who wore suits probably still exist, the old man was definitely

not one, Tatsuya’s intuition told him such. At the very least he

wasn’t a monk, and he gave off the impression of being one in a

position of authority.

Probably feeling Tatsuya’s stare, the old man turned his head

around from the left.

The old man’s left eye, it was cloudy white.

The old man’s movement caused Tatsuya great unease. If the

sight of one’s left eye were impaired, one would usually turn his

head from the right.

In that eye, contained an extraordinary sight...

The old man immediately returned to his previous position,

then he left walking away through the temple gate.

“Onii-sama?”

Hearing Miyuki’s call, Tatsuya instantaneously regained

himself. His attention was drawn to that old man by such a

degree.

Being unsure of what he was afraid of, Tatsuya shifted his

focus.

Kneeling in front of Yakumo, Tatsuya did not inquire as to the

old man’s identity.

“Sensei, we’ve visited at such a late hour. Happy New Year.”

Tatsuya was at the moment considering if he should investigate

his other visitor. Though he had no reason to think so, asking

would probably yield no answers.

Miyuki formally bowed, in harmony with Tatsuya.

“Congratulations. I already understand the situation so let’s not

care too much about that.”

Receiving Yakumo’s answer, the pair of siblings raised their

heads together.

“To already know, as expected of you.”

To Miyuki’s admiring look filled with respect, Yakumo smiled

while shaking his head.

“No, no. This is nothing worthy of admiration. Because news of

Miyuki-kun being made the next Head and the marriage

between you two is spreading fairly quickly.”

“...Do so many people already know?”

To the vexed Tatsuya who asked so, Yakumo melodramatically

widened his eyes in surprise in an act.

“Of course. For people related to magic, this is big news. Plus,

it’s intelligence related to the Yotsuba Family that’s surrounded

by mystery and doubts, receiving attention is expected. In

addition to that, it’s almost time for the Ten Master Clans

Conference. Especially since this year’s the quadrennial Ten

Master Clans Selection Conference? Events that happen just

before it would be impossible to keep a lid on.”

Tatsuya furrowed his brows while Miyuki appeared distressed.

Although the notice was limited to the 28 Houses and the

Hundred Families, news would rapidly spread once the Magic

Association made the announcement. This news was originally

meant to let third parties know of Tatsuya and Miyuki’s

existence. To let the majority of those related to magic remember

this was another intention of the Yotsuba Family.

That was at most only Maya’s plan, though. Tatsuya did not

wish for things to be done this way. Putting aside the rumors on

the street, how First High’s students would react during the new

semester, was more than enough to depress the two.

“Speaking of which... To think that you two were not siblings

but cousins, and engaged to each other.”

Yakumo laughed nastily.

“Even I was completely cheated. Congratulations.”

Hearing Yakumo’s congratulations, Miyuki blushed while

shifting her line of sight.

However, Miyuki’s expression froze at Yakumo’s next sentence.

“Well, where does the truth end?”

“We heard that it is all true.”

As Yakumo revealed a smile filled with interest on one side,

Tatsuya, immediately turning expressionless, replied without

confidence.

“Hmm, so you heard, huh.”

“Since I have no memories on this matter, I can only learn from

others.”

“Is that so, is that so. Even if it’s Tatsuya-kun, you wouldn’t

remember what happened immediately after you were born. Not

to mention things that happened before that, you will only be

able to know of them by hearing from others. You have a point.”

Yakumo smiled while glaring coldly at Tatsuya.

Tatsuya, as if saying “It’s just as you’ve said”, lowered his head

silently.

After this, only small talk took place and after about 20

minutes had passed Tatsuya and Miyuki stood up.

Yakumo as if naturally, stood up as well, following behind the

siblings.

Under such circumstances, regardless of any misgivings they

might have had, Tatsuya and Miyuki understood that it was

meaningless to Yakumo.

The two, thus sandwiched between the disciple tasked with

leading the way and Yakumo, proceeded towards the gate

heading to the parking lot.

At the gate, Miyuki and Tatsuya stood properly once more,

preparing to say their greetings once more.

However, the one faster to speak was Yakumo.

“Tatsuya-kun. Tomorrow, I will give you a more rigorous

training, you would better prepare yourself mentally.”

Tatsuya, unprepared, widened his eyes. Yakumos words just

now implied that Tatsuya need not mind this matter and should

come here to train as before. Yakumo meant this, despite

Tatsuyas identity as being someone from the Yotsuba Family

going public, getting along like how they used to, is just fine.

“Please take care of me this year as well, Sensei.”

Although Tatsuya did not reveal any indication that he was

moved,

“Sensei, thank you.”

Though in Miyuki s eyes, tears welled up.

< X V ->

On the day after Tatsuya paid his visit to Kyuuchouji Temple,

he left Miyuki at home to head to the jSDF 101 Brigade Base

situated in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki to pay a visit.

The destination was the Independent Magic-Equipped

Battalion Headquarters. It was not for training but rather to greet

Kazama.

Although Tatsuya was in a normal suit, the ID card he held

was no less different than that held by a regular soldier. He only

needed to pass through a card scanner and a bio-scanner before

Tatsuya easily passed through the gate, after which he walked

towards the building that the Independent Magic-Equipped

Battalion was in. Tatsuya initially planned to go straight to

where Kazama was, but in the sturdy plaza spanning three floors

both above and below ground, he saw a familiar figure, so he

walked towards it.

“Happy New Year, Special Lieutenant Ooguro.”

“Happy New Year and congratulations, First Lieutenant

Fujibayashi.”

As they saluted one another, Tatsuya and Fujibayashi

exchanged New Year’s greetings. Tatsuya, though, appended his

congratulations not only for the New Year’s well wishes.

“Thank you, Special Lieutenant. The increase in salary at this

point really sincerely makes me happy.”

Fujibayashi replied in a joking manner. Tatsuya felt that her

words contained some complex undercurrents, but did not point

them out right then.

“I also wish to give my New Year’s greetings to the Lieutenant

Colonel.”

“Of course, the Commander is waiting for us as well. Let’s go.”

Fujibayashi gave a bright smile before turning around.

Tatsuya followed behind her.

“It’s Fujibayashi.”

“Come in.”

Kazama gave his permission to enter the room, in response to

Fujibayashi’s knock on his door. There was only one person in the

Commander’s Office.

“Excuse me. I brought Special Lieutenant Ooguro along.”

“The two of you, stand there and wait a moment.”

As he was speaking, Kazama operated the end of the desk. At

the wall near the entrance, a part came down to the height of his

hand, and stopped as it became parallel to the ground to form

the seat of a chair.

Tatsuya and Fujibayashi sat down on the chairs that were

prepared.

There were cushions placed on the seats, so it didn’t feel

uncomfortable sitting on them.

Kazama continued repeating movements using his stylus on the

monitor reclined at a 15-degree angle, as if signing documents,

before raising his head.

Fujibayashi and Tatsuya stood up together in front of the table

where the monitor was stowed away. Tatsuya moved forward

half a step before saluting Kazama.

“Commander, New Years greetings to you. Also,

congratulations on your promotion this time.”

“Well. Special Lieutenant, I’m looking forward to your being

active this year as well.”

“Yes. Thank you very much.”

Kazama loosened his expression, then stood up.

Behind Tatsuya and Fujibayashi’s backs, appeared a sofa that

came up from underneath the floor.

“Well, sit down.”

While saying this, Kazama sat down on a simple inflatable

sofa. Tatsuya then sat down on the sofa by the door as well.

The ceiling descended between the two, forming a suspended

coffee table. A teapot, teacups and saucers had already been

prepared on the table.

Fujibayashi, still standing, picked up a kettle, filled the teapot

up with hot water, then poured the tea into the teacups after a

while. She then placed the two teacups, on saucers, and teapot in

front of Kazama and Tatsuya. Smiling in response to Tatsuya

who thanked her, Fujibayashi started moving to the left of

Kazama.

‘Although I don’t think you have any matters which you

specifically need help with, you didn’t come here today just for

New Year’s greetings did you?”

Kazama asked Tatsuya as he picked up the teacup. Although

the cup was not filled with boiling hot water, the teacup made of

thin celadon should still have been pretty hot, Kazama however

did not reveal any reaction to it.

“I heard the Commander received a promotion, so of course I

can’t pretend I didn’t know about it.”

In response to Kazama’s direct question, Tatsuya answered

while smiling. Although it was just to be civil, the smile was not

accompanied by any emotions. Instead of a sincere expression, a

smile was chosen instead.

‘Although it’s called a promotion.”

Kazama responded to Tatsuya’s faked smile with a smile of his

own.

However, Kazama’s was a forced smile.

“My salary hardly increased and compared to my

contemporaries, I’m already one of the last. Well, even though I

feel better that I was promoted, it’s a good thing that situations

where my subordinates will be put under pressure will

disappear.”

just as Kazama had said, in the official routine orders sent out

on January 1 st , the promotion list wasn’t limited to just Kazama.

As Tatsuya pointed out, Fujibayashi was promoted from a

Second Lieutenant to a First Lieutenant, Sanada and Yanagi were

both promoted from Captains to Majors, their military ranks

increased.

When Kazama was younger, in carrying out some of his

missions, he once displeased the Central higher-ups, causing his

records and deeds, strength, reputation and position to be

suppressed, inconsistent with his accolades. After becoming the

Commanding Officer of the Independent Magic-Equipped

Battalion, it was thanks to the efforts of the Brigade

Commander-Major General Saeki that he finally became a Field

Officer, but the Bureaucrats in charge of Military Affairs and

Politics did not plan on allowing Kazama to get promoted again.

However, the results achieved in the Yokohama Incident was

not something that the Ministry of Defense could overlook.

Instead, reasoning that the Independent Magic-Equipped

Battalion was a secret unit, the excuse that immediate

promotions would expose them as the operatives of the Battalion

was given. Thus the promotion that should have been decided in

January and July of the previous year was delayed, but they

could not keep ignoring the protests of those who had achieved

victory and had not been given what they deserved. Hence, they

could only send out the routine orders that Kazama was among

the ones being promoted.

He was accompanied by Sanada, Yanagi and Fujibayashi, the

three of whom received similarly delayed promotions by one

rank.

‘A raise in rank shouldn’t be a bad thing. Even if it’s just a little,

if there’s an increase in income, nothing beats it.”

“You have a point. Speaking of the matter on the Special

Lieutenant’s income, my feelings are a little complex.”

“The difference in my income isn’t that great. Since CADs are a

product of the budding Magic Engineering sector, its market

remains very small.”

Tatsuya and Kazama both smiled at the same time. After

which they simultaneously tightened their expressions.

“Lieutenant Colonel, how are the anti-spy measures?”

“They are complete.”

In response to Tatsuya’s question, Kazama nodded while

answering.

Tatsuya took in a small breath of air.

“Lieutenant Colonel, has the structure of the Independent

Magic-Equipped Battalion changed?”

“There are no changes this time. Because our Independent

Magic-Equipped Battalion is positioned as a secret unit, the

Major General feels that it’s not a problem even if the ranks and

the job scopes don’t match up.”

“Understood.”

Tatsuya was deployed with the Independent Magic-Equipped

Battalion as a Special Forces Soldier and his identity was closely

related, in a personal way, with Kazama or Sanada. If the head

changed, then considerations had to be made if he would be

affected as well.

Those words just now were not just polite remarks, rather they

were instead sincere in respect to the interests of the Yotsuba

Family. If he must be placed under the command of someone

who couldn’t be trusted, he would have to re-examine if he

should cut ties with the military. This time however, it looked like

this worry was unwarranted.

“Tatsuya, we can be just like how we were before, so do you

think we can receive your support?”

This time, Kazama questioned Tatsuya with a nervous

expression.

“Yes.”

Tatsuya lightly nodded his head, indicating assent.

“Weren’t you entrusted with a new identity by the Yotsuba

Family?”

“That does not conflict with the interests of the Independent

Magic-Equipped Battalion.”

Tatsuya replied not with “the JSDF” but with “the Independent

Magic-Equipped Battalion” in response to Kazama’s question,

after he consciously thought about it.

‘At least, for now.”

The meaning of then adding “for now”, Kazama clearly

understood.

“Is that so.”

In this way, Kazama quickly accepted it.

“We predict that in the coming months, the international

situation will start to escalate rapidly, including within Japan.

Even if it doesn’t reach the scale of another World War, the

possibility of mid-level military conflicts happening in the near

future, specifically within a year, in the East Asia region is

significant.”

‘Are we referring to the Army Staff’s views? Or the General

Staff’s views?”

Leading up to World War III which lasted for 20 years, the

]SDF as an organization changed on a massive scale. The

Ministry of Defense was shuffled into the consolidated Joint

Staff, which now included the General Headquarters of the

Defense Army, Defense Navy and Defense Air Force. The Joint

Staff became affiliated with the Joint Staff Office and reports

directly to the Chairman of the Joint Staff, that now, at the same

time, assumed the position of Director of the Joint Staff Office.

The function of the Joint Staff Office was to convene during

emergencies to act as the JSDF’s highest decision-making body.

For example, during last year’s Yokohama Incident, within two

hours of the start of the invasion, the Joint Staff Office convened

and subsequently decided for the authorization and use of

“Material Burst”.

Within the current system, under the Army, Navy and Air

Force, each had set up their own respective General

Headquarters responsible for managing intelligence, combat and

deployment. Their difference from the consolidated Staff Office

was that they were only responsible for analyzing military

intelligence as well as providing suggestions.

Tatsuya’s question was asking about which level of analysis

Kazama’s earlier statements had passed.

“No, it’s Excellency Saeki’s analysis.”

Kazama’s answer was not one Tatsuya expected. Looks like it

was, at most, the 101st Battalion’s informal internal analysis.

However, Tatsuya’s trust in the prediction of military conflicts

instead soared.

It came from an excellent and experienced expert without

considerations of politicians’ judgment, without considerations

for popular opinion or political bias. It could be said that it was

the result of pure analysis.

Although Tatsuya did not at all want the prediction to be

realized, he didn’t have the confidence to optimistically

pronounce it as baseless.

‘Although the Ten Master Clans is an organization for the

protection of Magician’s rights, they will not shy away from the

duty of National Defense. Based on this, the Yotsuba Family and

the jSDF share the same interests.”

“I won’t involve you with matters unrelated to National

Defense, meaning I won’t impose upon you any obligations.

Tatsuya, I’m looking forward to working with you this year.”

With the same phrase that started it, Kazama ended the

conversation with Tatsuya.

After greeting Kazama, Tatsuya had originally planned to greet

Sanada, Yanagi and Yamanaka. However Yamanaka was not in

the base at the moment, while Sanada and Yanagi were currently

occupied. In a dilemma as to whether he should wait somewhere

or go straight home, Tatsuya was invited to the officer cafe by

Fujibayashi, who helped ascertain the three’s status, instead.

The time now was 10:50 A.M. Although it was still too early to

be having lunch, it was just right to have a cup of coffee.

Especially since it was still the New Year period, the Brigade as a

whole had not started training in earnest, causing the use of the

cafe by officers making it crowded and rather lively.

Although it was the New Year period, the personnel were still

on duty, and the officers were all in uniforms. Fujibayashi, too,

was wearing the female logistics personnel uniform. Conversely,

Tatsuya was wearing a three-piece suit. If he had been holding

his coat in one hand he might not have been feeling so

indisposed, but in the present situation, he was subtly

conspicuous in the cafe.

Fujibayashi looked on in interest at Tatsuya who was taking

his discomfort calmly.

“.. .So Tatsuya-kun you can be shy like this too.”

Since Tatsuya was trying to preserve his dignity, he didn’t say it

aloud but looked at Fujibayashi helplessly.

“I don’t really like attracting people’s attention.”

Hearing Tatsuya’s reply, Fujibayashi almost burst into laughter.

“Then, this time could be said to be a catastrophe for you.”

“There is nothing to be done about it. Especially since the choice

to refuse doesn’t exist.”

Fujibayashi, as if attempting to probe Tatsuya’s innermost

feelings, gazed at Tatsuya.

“Is this about the marriage?”

“Of course.”

“Do you hate it?”

“It’s only that there is no other way. Being ordered to get

engaged to someone who has always been your sister, my brain

can’t switch tracks so quickly. Especially understanding that

Miyuki must have a fiance, makes it harder to resist...”

Tatsuya’s reply was merely a polite remark. It wasn’t because

he was required to be the fiance but probably rather because he

absolutely could not let go of Miyuki.

If anybody who knew the sibling’s feelings for each other could

think of it, it wasn’t difficult for Fujibayashi to see through

Tatsuya. However, out of Fujibayashi’s mouth didn’t come words

of teasing Tatsuya.

‘A fiance is necessary, huh...”

Tatsuya looked at Fujibayashi, surprised.

However, he didn’t ask about it. Because considering

Fujibayashi’s age, it was easy to infer that her relatives must

have demanded she get married.

“...Recently, it’s been irritating. Speaking of which, I’ve been

told I should be getting married too.”

Although Tatsuya wanted to avoid the topic at hand, it was

instead brought up by Fujibayashi.

“Even though I also know that I’m already at this age...”

Considering the modern trend of Magicians being required to

marry early, it wasn’t difficult to imagine that Fujibayashi was

under enormous pressure from her family. It was because of this

that Tatsuya didn’t say anything to Fujibayashi.

Precisely because of knowing Fujibayashi’s reasons for not

wanting to marry, it was even harder to say heartless things.

“I know. IPs about time to properly straighten out my state of

mind. If I keep being stuck on that person, he probably won’t be

happy either.”

Today, unexpectedly, Fujibayashi stepped on a landmine even

Tatsuya wanted to avoid. Compared to the other Officers’ curious

eyes, listening to Fujibayashi’s words now, instead, made Tatsuya

even more uncomfortable.

In the Defense Battle in Okinawa in the year 2092, Fujibayashi

lost her soon-to-be-married fiance. Even though it was one

arranged by their parents, she was still never able to forget him.

Her fiance was new. He was killed-in-action in his first

deployment.

Fujibayashi, who was previously a researcher, also became a

uniformed military personnel because of the death of her fiance.

She didn’t hate the military for losing him, but perhaps because

in his place, she wanted to fulfil his dreams. Tatsuya had not

heard the details to this degree.

What Tatsuya understood was that Fujibayashi was unable to

forget her fiance who was killed-in-action, and the people

surrounding her could not forgive that.

‘Ah, sorry! I really... To make you listen to my complaining, it

would only annoy you Tatsuya-kun.”

Sensing Tatsuya’s difficult position, Fujibayashi was

embarrassed and hurriedly apologized.

“No... I think your family is only worried about you.”

To the Fujibayashi of now, Tatsuya could only say something to

this degree.

x x —>

<

Just as Yakumo had said, rumors of Tatsuya and company had

speedily spread among the Magicians.

“Shizuku, that, is it true!?”

“...There’s no mistake.”

Moving her line of sight away from the Honoka who was

standing on the other side of the table, Shizuku replied with

difficulty.

“Miyuki is the next Head of the Yotsuba Family!?”

“Yeah.”

As if losing her strength, Honoka lightly sat back down.

In front of the two were bite-sized cakes and red tea.

Today was Sunday, January 6 th . Shizuku and Honoka were in

the Kitayama household’s dining room enjoying desert time after

the meal.

-Although the atmosphere was turning anything but

“enjoyable”.

With Honoka, who rarely came over to play (to be precise, it

was Shizuku who invited her), talking about this topic made

Shizuku herself uncomfortable, but compared to telling her

suddenly after meeting her again in the future, she felt it was

better to tell her right from the start.

As Shizuku had thought, Honoka did indeed suffer a serious

blow, and she was now sitting in the chair, in a listless state.

“Miyuki is... So it’s like this...”

However, the listlessness persisted for a surprisingly short time.

Honoka muttered, as if accepting it, then resolutely looked at

Shizuku.

‘Although it gave me a fright, I can accept this. If it’s the Ten

Master Clans and even one of the Yotsuba Family, it feels like

having that kind of ability and power is understandable.”

Although Honoka’s expression was tinged with loneliness, she

looked at Shizuku with an understanding expression.

“Well, from who did you hear that from? Auntie? Or from

Uncle?”

“The Yotsuba Family contacted the Heads of the Main

Members of the Hundred Families through the Magic

Association. It was one of my Moms contacts from the old days

that told her.”

‘Ah, if Papa were home he might have told me.”

Honoka’s dad was a subordinate of a strong member of the

Hundred Families. Because the news was not specially

designated a secret, the possibility that the source of the rumors

came from the workplace wasn’t low.

Initially, Shizuku was feeling slightly lucky at the fact that

Honoka’s dad was not home. Honoka’s dad did not know about

her being in love. Just bringing up anything related to Tatsuya

and Miyuki to her dad might have caused him to warn her to

stay away from the two.

“Honoka.”

“Yeah, what is it?”

However, for Shizuku, it was not easy to properly handle this

matter.

Especially knowing she wasn’t good with words, the trouble of

exactly how she should tell her started growing heavier.

(But... I really must tell her.)

Honoka might cry. No, she will definitely cry. At that time, the

only one able to let her cry out honestly was herself, and

Shizuku’s sense of duty began to well up.

If she didn’t do so, it would feel like running away from the

topic.

‘Actually, there was a follow-up to what I heard from Mom.”

“Follow-up? Exactly what is it?”

Shizuku took a small breath,

“It’s that Miyuki and Tatsuya-san are not actually siblings but

rather cousins. Also, it looks like even Miyuki and Tatsuya-san

did not know this. Following that, Tatsuya-san has also been

chosen to be Miyuki’s fiance.”

Finished in one breath.

“It cannot be...”

Honoka’s face tried to remain strong, then immediately broke

into a smile.

“Rea-aaa-lly, Shizuku. Just stop with this type of cruel joke.

April Fools is still three months away.”

Honoka waited for Shizuku to smile as well. Waiting, for

Shizuku to reply with something like “I’ve been found out” with

an expression without malice.

However, Shizuku only looked into Honoka’s eyes with a calm

expression.

“Hey, Shizuku. Stop joking.”

Fear appeared in Honoka’s eyes. Even so, maintaining a smile,

she implored Shizuku with a half-joking tone to tell her that this

was a joke.

“Honoka.”

However, Shizuku’s tone wasn’t what Honoka was waiting for,

but was a sincere tone.

“...Its true?”

Honoka asked, while shaking.

“...Yeah.”

Shizuku affirmed painfully.

“How could...!”

Honoka stood up, wanting to run out of the dining room.

“Honoka!”

While her back, was tightly hugged by Shizuku.

“Let go of me!”

Honoka struggled with slightly rough actions. She was not in

fact conscious of who it was that hugged her. More importantly,

even where she herself wanted to go, no, what she wanted to do,

she did not know.

However, a type of survival instinct to escape from what she

feared made her want to run with all her might, away from the

darkness.

With the hands pushing away, their strength was totally

uncontrolled.

“Kya!”

A wail. As well as the sound of a body hitting the table. The

sound of the grinding of table legs. The sound of chairs flipping.

The sound of forks being strewn across the floor, and of utensils

breaking.

“...Uhh.”

Followed by a moan suppressing the pain, which pulled

Honoka s consciousness back to the present scene.

What she saw upon turning her head in panic, was Shizuku

lying beside the flipped chair. While on the floor behind her, were

fragments from all the broken utensils.

“Shizuku!? S-Sorry! Are you alright!?”

Forgetting what she was crying about-changing into a face

like she was about to cry about something else, Honoka hurriedly

ran to Shizuku s side.

“It’s nothing.”

Lightly holding onto the hand that was trying to help her,

Shizuku stood up almost with her own strength.

“It was only a light bump. There’s no injury.”

This sentence was not said only for Honoka’s benefit, but at the

same time also for the maids who had rushed in upon hearing

the commotion.

Shizuku stood up as if wanting to prove her point, not revealing

a single sign of pain. However, upon looking down at the skirt of

her dress, she frowned slightly.

“Spilt on myself as expected. Let’s change in my room.”

The skirt of the dress, was ruined by the milk tea that was sent

flying.

“That, let me help-”

The speech of one of the maids, was cut off by the

expressionless Shizuku.

“No need. Compared to that, I’m sorry to bother you with this

instead.”

“Understood.”

However the maids, knowing that this family’s “Ojou-sama”

did not like people helping her enter the bath or change clothes,

no longer brought up the above-mentioned request and

immediately attended to Shizuku’s request.

“Honoka come with me.”

“Y-Yeah.”

Shizuku got slammed onto the table and the floor-although

slightly exaggerated-the shock that Honoka had received just

now was overshadowed by the shock of pushing her to the

ground, and she agreed to Shizuku’s words without even

thinking about it.

“That, Shizuku... I’m sorry, I was so violent against you...”

Upon arriving in Shizuku’s room, Honoka looked like she had

already calmed down. In the room with only the two of them,

what Honoka said, was an apology to Shizuku.

“Don’t mind it. There were no injuries, and it doesn’t look like it

will leave any scars.”

As she was replying, Shizuku who had already taken off her

dress, dropped it to the ground. After which she let Honoka

examine the left side of her waist, shoulder and elbow that were

hit. Indeed, Shizuku’s snow-white skin showed some redness,

but it was apparent that it wasn’t to the degree that it would

leave scars.

“Honoka, sit anywhere you like.”

Having changed into a maximum-length one-piece dress made

of thick cloth, Shizuku told Honoka while standing.

Honoka looked around the room, then sat down on a side of the

big bed.

“I’ve kept you waiting.”

Shizuku who had finished changing sat down beside Honoka.

The fact that Honoka was taller, was reflected in their height

when sitting down.

Naturally, Shizuku’s peeking from below, collided directly with

Honoka’s face.

“Honoka, are you okay?”

This sentence became the trigger, causing the sorrow in

Honoka’s heart to awaken.

Tears welled up in Honoka’s two eyes.

Shizuku straightened her back, putting her hands around

Honoka’s shoulders, hugging her.

“Tatsuya-san and Miyuki are cousins, is it really true?”

“Mhm.”

“Tatsuya-san and Miyuki, it’s confirmed that they’re

engaged...”

While sobbing, Honoka asked.

In response to the question she had already answered once,

Shizuku tightly hugged her friend as an answer.

“How could this be... It’s too cruel...”

Just like a dam breaking, Honoka started crying continuously.

“Tatsuya-san said before... Clearly that they were siblings...

Miyuki too... Said that we were friends...”

Shizuku, without saying anything, put one knee on the bed and

hugged Honoka’s head tightly against her chest.

As the sounds of Honoka’s crying started to weaken-not

stopping, but rather tiring from crying-Shizuku remained

hugging Honoka tightly against her chest while moving her lips

towards Honoka’s ear.

“Honoka, you have three paths to choose from.”

Honoka’s body, revealed a reaction different from sobbing.

Confirming that her words had indeed been registered, Shizuku

continued speaking.

“The first path would be to give up on Tatsuya-san. I’m afraid

this is the option that will hurt the least.”

Honoka did not react. She was waiting for the next option.

“The second path would be to still not give up, continue to go on

the offensive against Tatsuya-san. Tatsuya-san views Miyuki as

a sister, I am pretty sure this point is true. For Tatsuya-san, and

for Miyuki, the matter of them not being siblings should be very

surprising.”

“...Is that so.”

Honoka’s voice was mixed with crying.

“Mhm.”

Shizuku specifically did not use words such as “probably” and

“I think”, tersely making a stronger statement.

“Miyuki probably saw Tatsuya-san as a love interest of the

opposite sex from the start but Tatsuya-san’s feelings are at most

love for a sister.

Hence, to suddenly confirm their engagement, Tatsuya-san

should be confused as well.”

“But, they’ve already confirmed their engagement...”

“They’ve only yet to reject it. It doesn’t mean he has accepted it,

hence, the chances are not zero.”

Shizuku did not say “there was a chance” but rather “was not

zero”.

As for its meaning, to the Honoka of now was rather easy to

understand.

“...The third path is?”

Shizuku briefly sucked in a breath of air, and then said so

hesitantly.

“...The third is, the matter of becoming Tatsuya-san’s mistress.”

“Mistress!?”

Perhaps it was too much of a surprise. Honoka raised her tear-

stained face to look at Shizuku.

“Of course, it doesn’t need to be right away. Miyuki might not

immediately become the Head of the Yotsuba, either, and I think

the marriage is something for the future. Becoming his mistress is

a matter for after Tatsuya-san and Miyuki get married.”

“Being a mistress.”

“Honoka, you can’t bear to not have Tatsuya-san all to

yourself?”

“This! ...maybe a little, but, compared to not being able to be

together.”

Honoka, blushing and lowering her head, was hugged by

Shizuku again.

“Tatsuya-san possesses a rather special magical disposition.

The matter of having his hereditary genes being inherited by

more people, is something the Yotsuba Family should consider as

well.”

Against Shizuku’s chest, Honoka tightly clasped her hands.

“...The one that will hurt Honoka the least is the first path.

Giving up on the second path at the time when it becomes

untenable will stop you from being hurt again as well. With the

third path, however, even if everything is smooth sailing, you will

have to live on while bearing irreparable wounds. Not only for

you Honoka but even for Miyuki as well.”

‘As for me, I would actually prefer you to take the first path.

However, the choice is yours.”

Shizuku knew that the problem was very cruel. However, if

things were left as they are, Honoka would only drown in the

abyss of sorrow, unable to float up. Shizuku was rather afraid

that it could become like this.

If she was left to continue like this, Honoka’s sorrow was far

too close to extinguishing her dreams. Shizuku was even more

afraid that this would happen.

Shizuku no longer said anything, awaiting Honoka’s reply.

“...I can’t give it up.”

That was Honoka’s answer.

“I, as of yet, I am still unable to give up. However, I hate that I

am not the one that he loves the most. Miyuki and I have the

resolve to hurt each other, but to hurt her over and over again, I

definitely can’t do it.”

Shizuku started feeling heartache. Somewhere in her heart

however, she breathed a sigh of relief.

“Then.”

“I will choose the second path. Until the possibility reaches

zero, no matter how many times it takes, I will approach him. ...

Although, I can’t do anything right now.”

To the last part of what Honoka said, Shizuku did not know

how to reply and furrowed her brows.

“...Abit of rest is a must.”

‘A rest in love?”

“The rest of a heart in love.”

Honoka lightly laughed against Shizuku’s chest.

Shizuku let go of Honoka then sat down properly, before

revealing a shy smile.

Chapter 2

ZJCS3riaaBRBBBBR3Ca0FHlRBEa0Hn2Bn51ED53EJD^

January 8 th , the first day of the new semester. Tatsuya’s group

of three people went to school 30 minutes ahead of the usual

time.

It wasn’t because of some sort of opening ceremony. Even

though the three of them were members of the Student Council, it

wasn’t because they needed to make preparations for an event

related to the beginning of the new semester either.

The reason they were going there earlier was because they had

received a direct message from school. Yesterday, Tatsuya and

Miyuki received an email asking them to come to the Principal’s

Office before the school opened.

The email had arrived in the afternoon. At the time, even

though Miyuki was still in the house, Tatsuya was already

headed towards FLT.

Therefore, it was only after dinner that they had a chance to

talk about it, they immediately understood the reason behind the

summons.

It would be hard to think of any other reason than the recent

confirmation to the Magic Association about Tatsuya and

Miyuki’s positions about being a part of the Yotsuba Family.

A mix of questioning, and reprimand for reporting false

information about their identities to the school and pressure to

ensure that, despite the fact they were engaged, they would still

act with moderation within the school grounds. These kinds of

things were expected.

This prediction would prove to be spot on.

In front of Tatsuya and Miyuki was the Dean Yaosaka, and

deeper into the office, behind an imposing desk, was the

Principal himself, Momoyama Azuma. Meanwhile, Minami was

in her classroom. The mail had been addressed to Tatsuya and

Miyuki only.

“Then, you’re saying that you never intended to report false

information to the school?”

“Indeed. Since it was even recorded in the Family Registry, up

until now, I too believed it.”

Momoyama could have been frowning due to the militaristic

tone of Tatsuya, or it could have been because of his composed

attitude, devoid of any tension, that he felt was bordering on

insolence.

Yaosaka had become quite perceptive of the Principal’s mood

changes over the years and he was starting to get nervous himself

as he continued to interrogate Tatsuya.

“Then that means the Family Registry was falsified? In the

eventuality that your custodians intentionally falsified official

papers, there is a possibility of you being erased from the School

Registry.”

‘About that, I have heard that you have already received a

letter of apology from my father as well as documents explaining

this whole affair.”

“I certainly received such a letter. That there was a writing

error from your departed mother on your birth certificate and

that you had never noticed until now, was that it. However, I

question the idea that it is impossible not to notice such a

mistake for as long as 17 years.”

“My father holds no interest in me. Now that I think about it, it

might have been because I was never his biological son.”

Even after hearing of a parent never caring about his son,

Yaosaka’s expression didn’t particularly waver. That’s because

these sort of stories, whether in the present or the past, were not

that rare.

Therefore, he did not think of Tatsuya’s excuse as a lie.

“Principal, I do not think that Shiba-kun’s explanation has any

particularly strange points.”

Momoyama did not return an answer immediately.

“The Public Data, including the Family Registry, has already

been corrected. If we take their family’s special circumstances

into account, I do not think that there is a need for punishment,

what do you think.”

“I understand the circumstances.”

Momoyama was solemnly nodding. On the other hand,

Yaosaka was showing clear signs of relaxation.

“Indeed, neither of you is responsible for this. It is not the place

of the educational team to inflict punishment on the innocent

party. However, even if your revocation from the school registry

will be canceled this time, do not forget what such errors can

bring about. Please transmit this important reminder to your

parents.”

“Understood.”

In order to match the bowing Tatsuya, Miyuki made courteous

bows as well.

“From here on, even though you are engaged, I will require that

you act with moderation within the school’s premises. With your

special circumstances in mind, I don’t plan on opposing your

cohabitation.”

“Thank you very much.”

The siblings bowed to Momoyama once again.

“...Up until now there were a lot of things that were excused

because you were siblings, however, do not forget that from now

on you will be seen as engaged.”

“Understood.”

After Yaosaka brought this fact to their attention, the

questioning and admonition in the Principal’s Office came to an

end.

c —X * >

The “sermon” from the Dean and the Principal ended much

quicker than expected. Still, compared to the usual time Tatsuya

was a little late in going to Class 2-E.

‘Ah, there he is.”

That was probably the reason why Erika had been waiting by

the window until he arrived.

“Yo, Tatsuya. Been a while.”

It seems like Leo, after learning that Tatsuya hadn’t yet arrived,

had went back to his own classroom for a while. Leo greeted him

from behind when he passed by Class-F.

“Erika, Leo, long time no see.”

Tatsuya stopped in the hallway and answered them like this.

By the way, the reason Erika’s name was the first to come out of

his mouth was because otherwise she would enter a bit of a

sulking mood.

“Tatsuya-kun, when did you return from Tokyo?”

The moment Erika enquired so, Tatsuya recalled that he had

made a promise to report as soon as his business was finished.

“Four days ago. Sorry about not keeping you informed.”

Tatsuya wasn’t the type to forget things. To be more precise, he

was unable to forget things. However, this once, he didn’t even

have the spare time to remember it.

“It’s okay. It must’ve been pretty tough right?”

“I know right, but anyway, it’s probably going to be even worse

from now on. I’ve already got past the initial shock so, no

problem on my end.”

Tatsuya felt a slight surprise at Leo’s unexpected speech. It was

no surprise at all for Erika to be aware of the latest letter from

the Yotsuba Family to the rest of the Magic Association. The

Chiba Family was included in the list of the various Families to

which duplicates of said letter were sent to after all.

However, Leo’s house had no relationship with the Japanese

Magic Community. As a matter of fact, Leo’s magical genes came

from his grandfather who was a refugee originating from

Germany, he has no blood ties to any other Magician Family that

Japan exploits. That is why he shouldn’t have the means to get

information from the Magic Association nor even hear rumors

from any of the Houses that are part of it.

Has the information about me, Miyuki and the Yotsuba

Family’s relationship already spread that far... The answer to

the question Tatsuya was asking himself was soon afterwards

given to him.

As soon as he entered the classroom, all of his classmates’

stares gathered on him, then immediately turned away.

“Good morning.”

Tatsuya more or less understood what the others were thinking

of him, still, he greeted Mizuki who was sitting next to him as

usual.

‘Ah, umm, good morning...”

As expected, Mizuki immediately averted her eyes after

returning the greeting. It was made obvious that she had heard

about Tatsuya and Miyuki’s situation.

Tatsuya also turned his eyes away from Mizuki and ejected the

terminal attached to his desk.

The two people who had talked with Tatsuya before he entered

the classroom. Erika, who was resting her elbow on the window’s

bottom frame, and Leo who was right behind him, sent anxious

looks his way.

Tatsuya met their gazes and wore an expression that said

“don’t worry”.

This morning, Mikihiko didn’t appear in Class 2-E.

< — >

The morning classes came to an end. It looks like Tatsuya’s

classmates’ way of dealing with him was to ignore him as much

as they could.

Tatsuya typically didn’t talk much with his classmates in the

first place; however, it was the first time not even a single person

addressed him for half a day. Despite the fact he had kept his

distance, it had been a daily occurrence that people asked him

for help when they had problems.

Tatsuya didn’t care about his classmates’ stares, even if they

were filled with ill will or hostility. If they were ready to ostracize

him then he would just have to shut out and deny their very

existences.

It’s not as if Tatsuya hated humans.

But at the same time, it’s not like he particularly liked them.

-Himself included.

Tatsuya strongly felt that so long as Miyuki was near him, he

didn’t need anything else.

The existence of people other than Miyuki was of no real

importance to him, although it was preferable to have people

around in order to live a pleasant school life, it went no further

than that. For that reason however, he wanted to maintain at

least reasonably good relationships so as not to let them turn into

clear hostile ones.

In the current atmosphere, it would be unpleasant to make the

first step.

That was what Tatsuya thought.

“Mizuki, I’m going to the Student Council Room, could you

please relay so if anyone asks.”

“Y-yes!”

Her voice to Tatsuya, Mizuki’s reaction showed signs of fear.

So as to not lose Mizuki completely, it had been necessary to

interact, even at the cost of scaring her.

Tatsuya wasn’t lying when he said he was heading towards the

Student Council Room. However he made a U-turn in front of the

door.

That was because Honoka and Shizuku were inside.

Without opening the door nor using his “Elemental Sight”, he

could understand this much, if they were only separated by a

single door. It would be another story if they could make their

presence difficult to notice like Tatsuya, for him, this had become

an unconscious act, regular students however were unlikely to

conceal their presence on the school grounds.

Since Honoka was a member of the Student Council it wasn’t

surprising that she was present. He was also used to Shizuku

spending a lot of time there as well. However, the fact that the

two of them were present on this particular day was indeed

surprising.

Contrary to his expectations, Miyuki wasn’t present in the

Student Council’s Room.

Tatsuya left the place as it was.

The reason Honoka and Shizuku were in the Student Council

Room was to escape the curious glances they would be exposed

to in the dining room. It was a pretty well-known fact in First

High that they were close friends of Miyuki’s. The number of girls

in their second year who also knew about Honoka’s feelings

towards Tatsuya were not just a few.

For the same reason, Miyuki avoided the dining room. Even

more so because she was the one who the rumors were talking

about. As the Student Council President, Miyuki often ate her

lunch in the Student Council’s Room. Tatsuya thought it’d be the

case today as well. If anything, Tatsuya thought that the one who

would want to avoid Miyuki was Honoka, but it seems like it was

the opposite.

Keeping in mind what the Principal told to them this morning,

for the time being Tatsuya thought it would be best to avoid

having lunch together. It seems like Miyuki thought this would

be a necessity as well, Tatsuya had come up with this proposition

as soon as they came out of the Principal’s Office, wearing a

dissatisfied expression she had reluctantly accepted.

For that reason, they hadn’t determined any particular meeting

spot.

However, by focusing his senses even just a little, Tatsuya

would be able to immediately tell where Miyuki was. It wasn’t

that difficult to imagine what she was up to either, after

confirming her position, Tatsuya headed towards the place she

was.

The door to the rooftop was opened. And without a shadow of

a doubt, Miyuki was there.

Even though snow hadn’t fallen or anything like that, the

temperature was still only in the first half of the single digit

range. If you think about it, there really wasn’t any other student

who would come here with such cold weather. It was a good

place for someone who wanted to be alone.

‘Ah, Onii-sama. I’ve been waiting for you.”

Well, it wasn’t exactly “to be alone” though more like “for the

two of us to be alone”. It seems like that was Miyuki’s plan from

the very beginning.

“If you had told me I’d have come immediately you know?”

Miyuki softly smiled at Tatsuya’s answer.

“There is no way Onii-sama wouldn’t know where to find me.”

Befitting of the smile turned towards him, Tatsuya’s body was

being enveloped in a gentle warmth. It wasn’t just his

imagination. That was Miyuki’s magic.

“Onii-sama, you still haven’t had lunch right? Please sit over

here.”

Miyuki offered the seat next to her. She was currently sitting on

a three-person bench, at the right end of it. Since Tatsuya had

originally planned on sitting next to her, he accepted her offer

without any reservation.

Miyuki took out two boxes of varying sizes from the insulated

pack that was resting on her lap. The small one was left on her

lap and she presented the bigger one to Tatsuya. Needless to say,

they were bento-boxes.

“So you even prepared bento-boxes?”

“Yes, I prepared them after Onii-sama went to his morning

training. I thought they would be useful today.”

Now that she mentioned it, Tatsuya remembered that Minami

was carrying a fairly large bag while they were headed towards

the Principal’s Office.

“I see. Thank you, Miyuki.”

Tatsuya thought that it’d have been pointless to not express his

gratitude beforehand. However that’s not exactly what he should

have said, or so he thought. Miyuki most certainly prepared the

bento-boxes because she anticipated what would happen today.

And the reason for keeping silent about them was probably that

she didn’t want him to realize how bad the situation would be.

“Don’t mention it. Still, it looks like we’ll end up having lunch

together after all.”

Tatsuya couldn’t help but turn a wry smile at Miyuki’s words

mixed with a little scorn.

“If you had told me about the bento-boxes this morning I

wouldn’t have suggested we take our lunches separately.”

“Oh my, is that true?”

Despite her dissatisfied tone Miyuki was in a cheerful mood.

Probably because, setting the small details aside, they were

having lunch with only the two of them.

However, in Tatsuya’s eyes, a little bit of bravado might have

been mixed in as well.

‘Alright then. Then, allow me to dig in.”

“Please, do so.”

Receiving the authorization to, Tatsuya opened the lid of the

bento-box.

Showing a mischievous smile, Miyuki held out a pair of

chopsticks for Tatsuya.

‘Anyway, there should be no problem in allowing me to feed

you as well.”

Maintaining her balance so as not to drop the bento-box on her

own lap, Miyuki picked up a piece of Tatsuya s lunch with her

own chopsticks.

She then brought it near Tatsuya s mouth.

‘Allow me.”

Saying so without any sign of panic, Tatsuya moved his neck so

as to eat what Miyuki was holding with her chopsticks without

touching them.

Miyuki’s face quickly reddened.

Miyuki rearranged her sitting posture in a panic and opened

the lid of her own bento-box.

In other words, she had just performed a self-destroying move.

“The bento-box prepared by Miyuki is as expected, really

delicious.”

While openly stating so, Tatsuya stole side-glances at Miyuki s

face.

And, he estimated that the teasing should not go any further.

To tell the truth he really wanted to follow up with a “Won’t you

feed me for a bit longer?” but restrained himself.

“...Being just the two of us is nice, however, having only the

wintry sky as a scenery can get pretty depressing. If we could find

a suitable, unused classroom I’d like to relocate there from

tomorrow on.”

Tatsuya didn’t want this little joke to take a bad turn so he

changed the subject, Miyuki, who was hanging her head down,

looked up at him.

“Is it okay for us to... eat together from tomorrow on?”

“I think it might be preferable to do it like this for a while.

Although, the days when the Student Council has a lot of work

will be different.”

Even though that was going in the opposite direction from what

they had planned this morning, Miyuki didn’t object.

“Let’s find one before the end of the day.”

Clenching her hands into fists, Miyuki powerfully declared so.

“I’ll search for one on my own as well, so don’t push yourself

too hard.”

At Tatsuya’s smile, the younger sister’s burning enthusiasm

calmed down.

“-How was Class-A?”

Tatsuya started this conversation after the both of them had

finished their bento-boxes and cleaned up.

“I know it can’t be helped but it’s still uncomfortable. It looks

like everyone is looking at me from afar and it feels like they’re

all talking behind our backs.”

“No one addressed me either today.”

“I wasn’t even able to talk to Honoka or Shizuku.”

Hearing this, Tatsuya slightly frowned.

. .Were they angry?”

‘As long as I was directly talking to them they responded but...

Yes. At the very least I got the impression that they were avoiding

me.”

Miyuki seemed a little lonely while answering.

“Won’t it be alright even if we don’t talk to them about it? I

think these two will understand that we had no choice in the

matter.”

“...It would be great if that was the case.”

Miyuki’s smile had a tinge of sadness mixed in it.

“I think it’ll be alright. There’s no use worrying about

something we can’t do anything about.”

Tatsuya put his hand on Miyuki’s cheek. Miyuki pressed her

own hand against his and shut her eyes.

“Understood.”

“Time might settle all of this on its own. For now, it’s not to a

point where we should be pessimistic about it.”

“I see... However, that is the same for Onii-sama.”

Miyuki turned a playful gaze towards Tatsuya.

“Since we’re talking about Onii-sama, maybe your friends are

thinking of leaving you alone ‘until time settles things’ as well? I

think that occasionally, one should step up to solve these kinds of

problems, don’t you think?”

“You got me.”

Tatsuya smiled wryly with a “touche” expression.

< — — >

After returning home, Tatsuya called the direct number for the

Yotsuba Family’s Head.

Even though Tatsuya wasn’t allowed to directly call Maya up

until New Year’s Eve, their current relationship was officially

that of a Mother and Son.

Miyuki was next to Tatsuya. Even though this was usually the

time to start preparing dinner, Miyuki knew this matter took

precedence.

Tonight’s dinner had been left in Minami’s hands.

[Sorry to have kept you waiting. The timing on Tatsuya-san’s

report is excellent.]

In fact, this call was the second. During the first call it had

been Hayama that appeared on the screen. He asked them to call

back in roughly 20 minutes, instruction that Tatsuya followed to

aT.

“Do you have an order for us?”

[Would you let me hear your story first, Tatsuya-san?]

Even though Tatsuya was slightly anxious about what business

she might have with them, he obediently followed her request.

“Today we were called by Momoyama, the Principal of First

High.”

Starting like this, Tatsuya reported what had been said during

their meeting.

[Momoyama-sensei is pretty strict...]

Maya let out an amused tone for some reason. Judging by the

way she was talking about him, they were probably

acquaintances.

[In any case, thanks for reporting. Tatsuya-san doesn’t need to

do anything in particular.]

‘As you wish.”

Tatsuya and Miyuki bowed towards the camera.

[There is something I need to inform you of, on my side.]

After the both of them looked up, Maya began explaining.

Apparently, they were about to receive a new mission. Thinking

so, Tatsuya adopted the posture of someone listening with

attention.

[Regarding the matter of the notification to the Magic

Association about your engagement, it seems like we have

received a formal protest from the Ichijou Family.]

“Oba-sama, why would the Ichijou Family do something like

this?”

Even though Miyuki’s voice had remained calm on the surface,

a strong resentment was hidden beneath it. Understanding this

much wasn’t that hard for Tatsuya and Maya.

[It’s not easy to say but.]

While that might have been true, Maya didn’t keep it to herself

and started explaining. It wasn’t because she was sensitive about

Miyuki’s feelings that she hesitated, rather, it seemed like she

was thoroughly enjoying the sight of Miyuki struggling to keep

her emotions in check.

[The Ichijou Family’s argument is that the blood ties are too

close. The talent of a Magician is a property of the Nation, it

would do no good to have the next generation plagued by genetic

abnormalities.]

“Such.”

“Surely this isn’t all there is to it.”

Interrupting a Miyuki that was about to shout, Tatsuya

presented Maya with a question.

“The prevention of future generations’ gene abnormalities is not

a concern limited to Magicians. That is why the law might forbid

a marriage depending on the degree of kinship.”

[This might not be the only reason but it certainly makes up the

largest portion of their objection.]

“Conversely, the Ten Master Clans shouldn’t have the power to

question the validity of a lawful engagement. Surely the Ichijou

Family had something else to say?”

Hearing Tatsuya’s point, Maya expressed a satisfied smile and

nodded.

[It’s exactly as you said. As expected of Tatsuya-san.]

Tatsuya on the other hand didn’t express any satisfaction at

being praised.

“Then, just what exactly did they say?”

[Well, that is... They proposed that their eldest son to become

Miyuki-san’s betrothed.]

“Please decline!”

To Maya’s answer, Miyuki’s voice rose in a flash.

“Miyuki.”

[It’s alright, Tatsuya-san.]

Although Tatsuya was about to reprimand Miyuki for raising

her voice like that, Maya showed tolerance towards her pleasant

response.

[It is natural that Miyuki-san is angered. I also have a problem

with the fact they replied with a notification of marriage with a

marriage proposal of their own.]

“In that case, the rejection answer...?”

Miyuki expectantly asked this.

[No, not yet, Miyuki-san. I don’t plan on answering the Ichijou

Family for a while.]

However, contrary to her expectations, Mayas answer was a

subtle “No”.

“If that is the case, won’t our position suffer?”

Maya answered Tatsuya’s question with a nod carrying the

meaning of an “I know”.

[I do not intend to leave it as is forever. That’s why the two of

you shouldn’t worry about it too much, alright.]

“No imprudent moves, is it?”

[Indeed. You two just have to happily spend time together as

usual.]

To Maya’s sentence who emphasized the word “Happily”,

“Oba-sama...”

Miyuki looked away with an embarrassed expression.

“Understood.”

However, Tatsuya bowed towards the camera while keeping a

serious expression.

< >

Even though it was now the second day of the school semester,

there was no change in the current life of Tatsuya and Miyuki at

First High.

The other students hesitated to approach them, yet but they

were unable to hide their curiosity. Oh well, this isn’t the kind of

situation that can get better in just a single day after all.-It

could easily get worse in a single day however.

Originally, Miyuki had a tendency of being idolized in First

High.

Appearance, Ability, just because of those two traits of hers

alone, she was hard to approach. And now, lineage was added to

the mix. Not only her classmates and underclassmen but even

her upperclassmen were nervous in her presence.

On the other hand, the number of people who deep in their

hearts felt “fear” towards Tatsuya were not just a few.

Fear. Horror. Anxiety. The kind of fear, dread and awe that an

exceptional warrior would inspire.

And after they learned that Tatsuya was a part of “the”

Yotsuba Family, these feelings were amplified. Getting closer is

too scary and at the same time, they’re too afraid to completely

ignore him. This contradiction made it look like they were being

cold towards him.

The interest they bore towards them, of course, wasn’t only

because of their youthful High School Student curiosity. Stars

and Idols being the center of scandals was not something new.

They couldn’t help being curious about the story of the siblings

that had too good of a relationship, were later revealed to be

cousins, got engaged and are, even now, still living together.

Before the start of morning classes. Soon after arriving at Class

1-C, Minami was encircled by a crowd of people who seemed to

be mainly composed of girls.

“Like I said already, nothing has changed from before.”

Minami had been repeating this answer many times already

since her arrival. Her responses sometimes varied between “They

didn’t do such a thing” to “I am not allowed to respond to this” or

even “Sorry, I can’t answer.”

“Eeh, but, you are together all day long right?”

“That means, when they’re going to sleep as well... right?”

A high-pitched shriek shot up from the crowd. Minami on the

other hand emitted a discreet sigh.

‘As I said already, Tatsuya-sama and Miyuki-sama never do

these kinds of things.”

Despite the fact that Minami was well aware that they

wouldn’t listen, she kept answering faithfully. She did so because

they might take her silence as consent otherwise.

Maybe her perseverance won out in the end because the next

questions were different.

“By the way Sakurai-san, up until December you were calling

the Shiba siblings ‘Tatsuya-niisama’ and ‘Miyuki-neesama’

right? Could it be, Sakurai-san is also a member of the Yotsuba

Family?”

The chattering of the crowd that was around Minami stopped

immediately. What would she answer? They were waiting with

bated breath for her response.

“I have been addressing them this way until now because it

was a direct order from Tatsuya-sama. I am, well, I have a debt

towards the Yotsuba Family, so...”

Her original answer would have sounded too much like the

truth that “she is a being dedicated to serve the Yotsuba Family”

so she hurriedly changed it. However, due to this, she stumbled

during her explanation, this really betrayed the given impression

that “she’s hiding something”.

“Hmm, really?”

“It is the truth.”

Because it was a fact that she was lying, even the voice that she

used to refute the others’ doubts was pretty weak. If she had

raised her voice and used a strong denying tone, it might have

been easier to deceive the students.

“Eh... So the Yotsuba Family also does these kinds of things.”

There are plenty of dangerous things in a Magician’s work. It

wasn’t that unusual to hear reports of Magician’s sons and

daughters dying while performing their work or accomplishing

their duties. In First High. No, in this very Class-C classroom,

there have been such cases already. That was the reason there

wasn’t any particularly awkward reaction at Minami’s “they

helped me” explanation.

“However, since you actually received help from the Yotsuba

Family, that means you can’t be considered to have no relation

whatsoever with them right?”

“That may be the case but was it natural to investigate by

directly asking the concerned person persistently?”

“No, not really...”

‘Alright everyone, the lesson will begin pretty soon! If you don’t

go back to your seat as soon as possible you might lose a few

points on your evaluation scores.”

The person who had just saved Minami from the very

inconsiderate questions from her classmates was the person who

was pretty much the leading figure of this class.

“Saegusa-san? But we still have some time.”

To Kasumi who had loudly interrupted the questioning from

the back, a single female student had a look at her terminal to

confirm the hour and answer back.

“The lesson will begin pre-tty soon right?”

However Kasumi countered her complaint by repeating the

exact same phrase with a smile.

“I-I guess.”

It wasn’t because what Kasumi said was correct, but rather,

there wasn’t a student who could resist the overpowering feeling

that her smile gave off and thus, Minami’s surroundings slowly

cleared as students were returning to their seats in groups of two

or three.

Kasumi folded her arms and saw off the remaining students

before proudly sitting at her own seat.

“Um, Saegusa-san. Thank you very much.”

Minami expressed her gratitude to her back.

“Don’t mention it. I hate these kinds of things too.”

Kasumi turned her head towards Minami and winked.

During recess time Minami managed to avoid being the center

of the usual crowd. However that was only because second

period was a practical class and they couldn’t do that while

moving towards the classroom. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be that

easy to dodge during lunch break. The number of classmates

who thought this would be the best time to talk freely weren’t

just one or two.

More than half of Class-C stood up as soon as the bell rang to

signal the end of the morning classes.

“Sakurai-san, you’re going to the Student Council Room right?

Let’s go together.”

However, the one who was the fastest in inviting her was

Kasumi.

In a sense, it was a natural result since the seating

arrangements for the First Year’s was the traditional gender-

based syllabic order. Kasumi’s family name was, of course,

“Saegusa” while Minami’s was “Sakurai”. In other words,

Kasumi’s seat was just in front of Minami. So it was indeed

natural that, given everyone reacted at the same time, Kasumi

would be the first to reach her.

‘Ah... Yes.”

Minami was slightly surprised at this sudden conversation. Her

surprise was understandable, after all, despite the fact they had

been classmates for nine months now, it was the very first time

that Kasumi directly invited her somewhere.

Kasumi didn’t have anything against Minami herself. Since she

was a close acquaintance of Tatsuya’s however, she kind of

avoided her up until now. And suddenly, this happened. Minami

wasn’t the only one who was surprised.

“Come on, let’s go.”

Being urged on by Kasumi, Minami reached the bag that

contained her bento-box in a bit of a panic and stood up from

her seat.

“Well, Saegusa-san.”

They were headed towards the stairs leading to the Student

Council Room when Minami matched Kasumi’s pace and started

up a conversation, her expression was that of someone who had a

few questions.

“Hmm, what is it?”

After stealing a glance at Minami, Kasumi replied with a curt

question.

“Just like this morning, thank you very much for what you did.

However, may I ask why you are helping me.”

Up until now Kasumi never gave Minami any reason to think

she disliked her, but it’s not like she gave her any reason to think

she liked her either. That certainly wasn’t just an impression on

Minami’s part. It was a fact that there had never been any degree

of conversation above the expected minimum between the two

classmates. Minami herself never really tried to proactively talk

to Kasumi, hence why she still couldn’t understand the reason

behind her actions.

“I told you before. That I hate these kinds of things.”

The smile that Kasumi turned towards Minami seemed a little

awkward.

The reason was that being openly told by someone who you

aren’t well acquainted with to begin with, “you helped me”, was

a little too much for Kasumi, in other words she was shy.

“I know how these sort of things feel like. They likely don’t

have any bad intentions, they’re just satisfying their curiosity, but

they can get pretty insensitive sometimes.”

“You’re right.”

Minami wasn’t hurt because of the barrage of inconsiderate

questions in itself but by the fact that there were a lot of

questions she couldn’t answer due to her position. Still, since she

also wanted the other side to take her feelings into account, she

couldn’t help but nod at Kasumi’s words.

“Sigh. I also have had quite a few bad experiences.”

Minami understood that she was trying to cheer her up.

Kasumi unintentionally referred to herself using “Boku

something she had never done at school.

Kasumi didn’t notice her blunder.

When it reached her ears, Minami was a bit taken aback, due

to her training as a servant however she managed to keep a

straight face.

< >

Saturday, January 12 th , it was the first weekend since the

beginning of the new school semester.

Even though the classes on Saturday were only in the morning,

the dining hall was still left open for the students with Club

activities and members of the Committee. Erika, Leo and Mizuki

had Club activities while Mikihiko had his duties as a member

of the Disciplinary Committee, they all gathered in the dining

room to prepare for the afternoon.

Compared to a month ago, the number of people present during

their lunch break had been halved. Since Tatsuya, Miyuki, and

Honoka were members of the Student Council they should be

having lunch in the Student Council Room-though in Tatsuya

and Miyuki’s case, it seems that since the beginning of the new

school semester until yesterday they had taken their lunch in

secret in another classroom. This is what information Erika had

heard from Shizuku.

The reason there wasn’t much of a conversation at their table

wasn’t only because of their decreased number. The usual mood-

maker, Erika, her expression and her every gesture were

practically oozing of irritation.

Maybe Mikihiko thought it was best to quickly disperse, he

finished his lunch in a hurry and was about to stand up from his

seat.

“Miki, wait for a bit.”

However, Erika who forced him to sit down again stopped his

movement dead in its tracks.

“What is it.”

In order to hide his trembling due to his escape attempt being

found out, he answered with a strong voice.

“Wait until Mizuki finishes her lunch.”

Of course, Erika wasn’t the type to back down that easily. The

one who tremblingly calmed down the two’s arguing was Mizuki.

In the end, Mizuki put down her chopsticks on her plate which

still had about a third of its original contents left.

Currently, the four of them were sitting in the following order,

Erika and Mizuki were next to each other while Leo was in front

of Erika.

Erika directed a sharp voice towards Mikihiko, who was sitting

diagonally from her.

“Miki, just what are you doing exactly?”

“What do you mean.”

Mikihiko once again answered in a strong tone however, his

voice was unnaturally stiff.

“I see, so you won’t understand unless I say it directly? In that

case I will!”

Erika’s swung her palm down on the table.

She paid no attention whatsoever to the numerous stares that

turned towards her due to the loud sound she had just made.

"I’m asking you why the hell are you avoiding Tatsuya-kun!”

The dining room instantly became silent. Everyone’s gazes were

concentrated on Erika and Mikihiko. While Erika could ignore

the others’stares, Mikihiko didn’t have such composure.

"I’m not really... avoiding him or anything.”

“Huh? So you’re gonna play dumb?”

Mikihiko faltered in the face of the fire that was in Erika’s eyes.

“It’s obvious that you’re avoiding Tatsuya-kun, even to this

idiot over here.”

The person Erika was pointing to with her finger was Leo.

“Who are you calling an idiot! ...Putting that aside, Mikihiko.

It’s just as this tomboy is sayi —”

After having said that, Leo suddenly let out a scream.

“Ouch! You...! You have something on your shoe!”

“Don’t worry, it’s not an iron tip or anything like that.”

If you were to ask what just happened, it seems like Erika

kicked Leo’s leg under the table.

The atmosphere loosened a little. For Mizuki and Mikihiko, this

wasn’t that rare of an occurrence.

“Sigh... Somehow I feel exhausted.”

This allowed them to take a breather before going right back in,

even for Erika, this had been convenient.

“Oh well. Miki, to be honest, I don’t even want to hear why

you’re avoiding Tatsuya-kun. However, if it’s just because

Tatsuya-kun is from the Yotsuba Family, then it’s not a reason to

avoid him like you do. If you think it is, then there is no point in

calling yourself his friend.”

Erika quietly stared at Mikihiko in the eyes. It was because

Erika had been so aggressive that Mikihiko had been obstinate a

few moments before. However, with such sincere eyes turned

towards him, the guilt that he felt deep inside didn’t allow him

to feign ignorance anymore.

“...It’s not because he’s a member of the Yotsuba Family. No, to

be honest that is one of the reasons. Rather I resent Tatsuya for

not telling any of us sooner.”

Despite saying that he was resenting him, the expression that

Mikihiko wore was one of regret.

Erika and Leo instinctively looked at each other.

“Wait a second, Mikihiko. Don’t you think it’s a bit wrong?”

Leo kept on talking to a Mikihiko that couldn’t look at him in

the eyes.

“Don’t you think Tatsuya felt bad being forced to hide this from

us? You should understand better than anyone that this was

some kind of tradition he had to abide to right?”

“Miki.”

Erika sent a sharp voice flying towards a Mikihiko that still

didn’t show any reaction to Leo’s words.

“Let’s assume you had heard of this directly from Tatsuya-kun,

what would’ve changed?”

Mikihiko was at a loss for words. No, even if he tried to answer

back he was unable to form a coherent response. Using this

opportunity, Erika pressed even further.

“If you had heard this from Tatsuya-kun directly, do you think

it’d have ended with a simple “Oh, I see”? Do you think you’d

have been able to hang out like before? Looking at the way you

reacted to this affair, I really don’t think that’s the case.”

Mikihiko couldn’t answer back. He couldn’t even come up with

a makeshift lie.

“In other words, Miki, you’re just afraid of the Yotsuba name.”

“...What about you Erika.”

Mikihiko finally abandoned the tough act he was putting on

until now.

Taking a defiant attitude, he answered back at Erika with a

somewhat pouting voice.

However, that was a silly question.

“What do you think, of course I’m terrified.”

For Erika, bluffing about her own weaknesses was something

she simply couldn’t do.

“He’s a member of that Yotsuba Family. If we ever found

someone who wasn’t afraid after hearing that, he’d just be a

gigantic fool. We’re way past the limits of the things you can just

hear about for the first time and be done with it.”

“Then how can you just keep going on like nothing happened!?”

“Isn’t it obvious, it’s because we’re friends.”

Erika answered his question wearing the exact same expression

that she had when she admitted that she was afraid earlier.

“The Yotsuba Family is scary. No one knows what they do and

it makes me uneasy. But still, Tatsuya-kun is my friend. Even if I

don’t trust the Yotsuba Family, I trust Tatsuya-kun. And that

holds true even if there are a lot of things he needs to hide.”

Erika was stared at Mikihiko in the eyes and delivered the

finishing blow.

“To begin with, there are things Miki hides from us as well, and

they’re not limited to a mere 10 or 20 things either.”

“That’s...”

“I won’t let you say that it’s not the case. We’ve been hanging

out for a long time after all.”

“It goes for me as well. Things I don’t want you guys to know,

things that I absolutely don’t plan on sharing with you, there are

a lot.”

Mikihiko looked away awkwardly. The reason was, he actually

had an idea as to what her “things she doesn’t want known” was

referring to.

“There were things he couldn’t share with us? Well of course,

we’re not married or anything, so isn’t it actually normal.”

Mikihiko looked away dejectedly. As he was right now, he

didn’t have any excuses left.

“How come... Erika and Leo were able to find so quickly the

correct way to deal with all of this?”

Outside of Mikihiko’s field of view, Erika stole a glance at Leo.

“I guess that’s because I’ve never faced a Yotsuba. I don’t even

know how dangerous Yotsuba Magicians are. However, I know

Tatsuya.

Despite knowing how dangerous Tatsuya can be, I also know

that I can trust him to the end.”

Leo felt embarrassed at his own speech and forced a clumsy

smile before continuing.

“Well, it might be a misunderstanding. Though I figured it out

on my own. I understand why he was keeping silent about it and

above all, I trust Tatsuya because he’s my friend. Letting this

'possibility’ ruin our relationship would be stupid.”

“Leo... you’re an amazing guy.”

Mikihiko wasn’t the only one watching Leo with an amazed

expression.

Erika was the same. When she caught Mikihiko’s eyes turning

towards her she hurriedly regained her composure.

“Was it the same for you Erika?”

“Not exactly... Even I wasn’t able to immediately come out with

the appropriate reaction. However, I didn’t need to dwell on it for

three or four days.”

Erika learned about Tatsuya’s lineage in February of last year.

Even if she was aware of that fact, the shock she received was

exactly the same as the others. However, even if their situations

were different, Erika managed to recover from the mental

damage in less than a day.

If Erika hadn’t suffered the same kind of shock then it would

have been impossible for her to understand Mikihiko’s dilemma

to this extent, that’s what he thought. However, he couldn’t come

to terms with the fact that while he had been indecisive, she had

overcome the trauma.

“...I see.”

Mikihiko shut his eyes and ceased all movement. His posture

didn’t have the serenity of someone meditating, but the suffering

of an internal conflict.

“...I understand.”

After opening his eyes, Mikihiko reported so to Erika.

“I also think of Tatsuya as a friend. I will do my best. On

Monday of next week, everything will be settled.”

Mikihiko’s expression seemed a little refreshed.

Erika smiled with satisfaction, she then turned her eyes

towards the nearby Mizuki.

“Mizuki, this goes for you as well.”

“Eh!?”

Mizuki’s reaction wasn’t that of someone who had just been

suddenly greeted, rather, it was as if she had just dodged a spear

by a hair’s breadth.

“You must stop treating Miyuki and Tatsuya-kun so coldly.

Even Miki said he’d do his best, so you should be able to do it as

well, right?”

“Hmm...”

“You-can-do-it-too, right?”

“Y-Yes... Understood! I will do something about it!”

Erika forcefully pressed the indecisive-looking Mizuki.

“Shibata-san, I will do my best as well. Let’s do it together.”

To answer Mikihiko’s words of encouragement,

“.. .Yes! Let’s do our best.”

Mizuki cheerfully nodded.

Admonishing Mikihiko in front of Mizuki had been Erika’s

plan. Erika expected Mizuki to be difficult to persuade if she had

tried to do it alone, that’s why she first made Mikihiko promise

to amend his relationship with Tatsuya, to get her to do the

same.

The result was just as she had predicted.

However, as she had planned, faced with the two people who

(mentally held their hands in encouragement, Erika showed an “I

can’t stand this” expression and turned her head away.

< X V ->

Due to Erika’s (and Leo, a little) persuasiveness, Mikihiko and

Mizuki decided to abandon their current attitude towards

Tatsuya and Miyuki.

However, fighting her feelings wasn’t that easy for Honoka.

She had already decided how she would act towards Tatsuya

in the future. However, she had yet to muster the courage to

actually do it, not to mention how she should act towards

Miyuki.

Honoka honestly thought of Miyuki as a friend.

However, at the same time, she was a strong rival in love.

Moreover, she was leading by two or three steps already.

After being admonished by Shizuku, she no longer cared about

the fact Tatsuya and Miyuki had deceived her. After all, it

seemed like Tatsuya and Miyuki themselves had been deceived.

Still, it wasn’t possible for Honoka to smile at them like before.

Due to Honoka’s behavior, Miyuki herself didn’t know how to act

and the atmosphere had become awkward between them, it was

a vicious cycle.

Even now, Honoka was running away from the Student Council

Room and was heading towards the Club Management’s

Headquarters. Honoka was the Student Council Treasurer.

Allowing a supplementary budget to the various Clubs was part

of her job. As such, there wasn’t anything strange in her visiting

the Club Management’s Headquarters. However even if the

people in her surroundings didn’t think it was strange-she

herself knew that she was just avoiding Miyuki. The fact she was

actually aware of that fact depressed her even more.

The current head of the Club Management Group was in the

same club as Honoka, an acquaintance of hers since their first

year, his name was Igarashi. A boy whose temperament was a

subtle balance of gentleness and timidity. There was a saying

that went “He’s neither sugar nor salt” though in Igarashi’s case,

you could definitely say that he was sugar.

He wasn’t to Honoka’s taste but in her current emotional state,

he was an agreeable partner. He had become a suitable person to

speak to when she wanted a change of mood.

“Excuse me. It’s Mitsui from the Student Council.”

“Please, you may enter.”

After she reported her visit through the interphone, the answer

didn’t come from the speakers, the door opened and she was

directly invited in.

The student who had come out was the first year Shippou

Takuma.

Even though, at first, there had been a lot of bad rumors about

him from his classmates, his attitude greatly changed near the

end of April.

His self-assertiveness was just as strong as usual, however he

did not feel the need to push it anymore.

His ambitions and desire of taking over leadership was still

present, however taking a good look at him, you could notice that

his former complacent attitude had for the most part, totally

vanished.

Well, to begin with, his hot-blooded nature couldn’t be easily

changed but he had come to a point where he could honestly

apologize and reflect if you pointed out his mistakes.

Above all, anyone could tell that he was putting in the effort to

“change” and “grow up”, he thus garnered the sympathy and

even trust from his classmates.

It had accumulated to a point where during the Nine Schools

Competition, he had spontaneously become the manager of the

nine first years registered on First High’s team.

Without any arrogance, he steadily increased his abilities. As of

today, not only his classmates but also various seniors openly

recognized his efforts.

Honoka as well bore ill will towards Takuma at first, after the

incident with Tatsuya. However, right now, she didn’t have a bad

impression of him. She could humbly recognize that he was a

promising junior.

“Excuse me, I had an appointment with President Igarashi.”

“With the President? There was a call just a few moments ago

and he had to go out.”

Honoka reported that she would be coming over just before

going out of the Student Council Room. However, it seems like

some sort of trouble had risen. Even though the former President

Hattori’s efforts had been concentrated on abolishing the stigma

that only top students could attain important posts, Igarashi

seemed to have had a negative effect on peoples’ attitudes.

Honoka thought it would be great if that was just a

coincidence. Even though she shouldn’t be one to worry about

others’ situation considering her own mental state, this was

undeniably her good nature speaking. In that respect, Honoka

couldn’t really complain about Igarashi.

“Was it urgent business?”

While Honoka thought it couldn’t be helped and started to go

back, she was stopped by Takuma’s voice.

“Yes but since he’s not present I thought I would come back

later.”

“Wait a moment please.”

Was Takuma in charge of the communications, rather he took

the wireless headset that had a microphone attached. It was a

device that had integrated brain wave assistance. He put on the

headset and turned towards the desktop terminal.

“This is Headquarters, Shippou speaking. ...Mitsui-san from

the Student Council is here. ...Yes, understood. I will transmit the

message.”

Takuma took off the headset and stood up, he then turned

towards Honoka.

“Mitsui-senpai, the President asked me to tell you to wait, if

possible, as he is on his way.”

“On his way... How long will it take?”

“He wasn’t that precise but if we take past examples into

account, I would say about five minutes.”

Five minutes was roughly the amount of time it would take her

to go back to the Student Council Room. Since she didn’t really

want to go back there yet, Honoka decided to go along with

Takuma’s recommendation and wait.

(Still, these days, I did nothing but out of office work, the desk

work must have been accumulating...) However, it was especially

when she wasn’t doing anything that Honoka unintentionally

cornered herself the most. This too, was because of her nature.

(It would probably end in the blink of an eye if Tatsuya-san

were to help... Though I can’t ask him, it would definitely be

awkward...) (But, Miyuki is sure to handle the task... Even

without me saying anything, and if she was to ask for Tatsuya-

san’s help... Then, won’t they think that I am unneeded!?)

Honoka made her face go pale by herself.

“Um... Mitsui-senpai, are you feeling unwell?”

If you were to look at her from the outside, then eight or nine

times out of ten you’d reach that conclusion. Even if you were

someone as self-centered as Takuma.

“Eh!?”

However, in her current state, of course the meaning of that

question would fly over Honoka’s head. In the first place, she

wasn’t so much thinking as she was being caught up in intense

delusions, she wasn’t the type to be able to shelve these sort of

thoughts instantly when someone interrupted her.

“Really, it’s nothing.”

Still, this reaction, no matter how you looked at it was just a

bluff.

Takuma thought so as well.

And in his mind, he even added his own explanation.

“Mitsui-senpai, how should I say this...”

“Yes?”

“Um... I fully understand that this is none of my business but,

about the matter with Shiba-senpai...”

“Wait a moment, Shippou-kun? Just what are you talking

about?”

A flustered Honoka tried to stop the words coming out of

Takuma’s mouth.

However, even if Takuma was wrong about Honoka’s condition,

he certainly wouldn’t misunderstand the reason for her

depressed attitude.

It was precisely because he was right that Honoka was

flustered. What Takuma was about to say, Honoka didn’t want to

hear it.

“I think you should give up on Shiba-senpai.”

Despite that, Takuma had said it.

“Stop!”

“But at this rate, Senpai will suffer from it!”

Takuma had changed his attitude these days, his behavior had

greatly improved. Still, he hadn’t given up on his ambition just

yet. He still had hope that as a promising Magician, by making

Honoka his ally, he could get close to Shizuku eventually.

But above all, Takuma was attracted to Honoka.

It happened the day Takuma and Kasumi had gone overboard,

which ended up with a fight between the Saegusa twins and

himself. A lot of people had rebuked him, Honoka however had

stretched a helping hand towards him. Speaking objectively, the

only thing she did at the time was lean on him and ask “Can you

stand?”, it wasn’t as if she had lent him her hand or anything.

What started with the one-sided embellishment of that

memory hadn’t yet bloomed into fully romantic feelings. They

didn’t really have many occasions to talk to each other either so

that description was appropriate.

Though today, by chance, the two of them were all alone, and

coincidentally, he also witnessed Honoka’s distress due to her

unanswered feelings. You could say that Takuma short-circuited,

he was running wild.

“Senpai! I’m-!”

Honoka closed her eyes and covered her ears with her hands.

Takuma stretched his arm towards Honoka’s hands.

“Shippou, what are you doing...?”

However, that was as far as he would go. The voice of President

Igarashi, who had just arrived at the Headquarters, stopped

Takuma’s rampage.

Igarashi was not alone. Shizuku walked out abruptly from

behind him and stopped in front of Honoka, she buried Honoka’s

head in her chest.

“Shizuku...?”

“Yeah.”

Shizuku gently patted Honoka’s back several times to tell her

that everything was alright now.

The stiffness left Honoka’s body.

Shizuku turned cold eyes towards Takuma while still holding

Honoka.

“What were you saying?”

The tone of her voice was fitting for the look she was giving

him.

“Well, that’s...”

Takuma had intended to finish his sentence that started with

“I’m-” by saying “I’m worried about you!”.

“Trying to seduce someone when they’re feeling down, you’re

the worst.”

Shizuku had accused him. Still, it wasn’t entirely wrong.

The reason Takuma wasn’t able to answer was certainly

because he himself was conscious of that.

“Let’s go, Honoka?”

Shizuku took Honoka out of the Club Management’s

Headquarters.

No word of protest came out of Takuma’s mouth.

Igarashi, who had come to fulfill his promise, could do nothing

but stand there dumbfounded.

< * * - >

That day, Honoka didn’t return to her house. As usual they

were coming home from school separately from Tatsuya and

Miyuki, when they arrived at the station Honoka was ordered by

Shizuku to stay at her house.

She didn’t even ask if she was okay with it. It was a unilateral

decision.

It’s not like staying at Shizuku’s house was unpleasant or

anything. She was aware of her own current indecisiveness and if

she was left alone she would probably feel depressed very

quickly, that is why Shizuku’s invitation was welcomed.

She had dinner with Shizuku’s parents, who had hurried back

home, and as usual they stepped in the bath together. However,

once there, the usual chattering didn’t come out.

What differed from usual was the fact that Shizuku took

Honoka to her room afterwards.

Honoka had her own room in the Kitayama Family’s house.

Although it was just a guest room on paper, the reality was that

this was a room for her use only. The interior matched Honoka’s

tastes and you could even find her underwear in the closet.

Though aside from that, there wasn’t much Honoka herself

used in this room. When Honoka stayed overnight, she would

usually hang around in Shizuku’s room, and even sleep there in

fact. Today however, Shizuku took her towards “Honoka’s Room”.

Honoka obediently sat on her bed, compared to just a few

moments ago however, while she had been wearing a happy

expression during dinner, a grim, painful one now floated on her

face.

Shizuku sat in front of her.

She kneeled on the floor seiza-style.

Of course, sitting on the bed, Honoka’s face was higher.

Shizuku looked at the downcast, pained face of Honoka directly.

“Honoka.”

“I know...”

Honoka tried to escape Shizuku’s look by looking even more

downwards.

“You’re probably pitying me right now...”

With a trembling voice that threatened to turn into sobbing any

minute, Honoka said so.

“Even though I’m completely fine.”

“But, you’re making such a face.”

“Eh...?”

Honoka lifted her head.

Shizuku’s stare hadn’t changed from the time she sat on the

floor, it was still fixed on Honoka.

“Honoka, this entire week you wore such an expression.”

“What kind of expression...?”

‘A crestfallen one.”

Honoka couldn’t help but gape in shock.

“It can’t be...”

“Even worse than Shippou’s.”

Without holding anything back, Shizuku pointed that out.

“Everyone in your surroundings who’s looked at you has said

the same.”

“I don’t want that! I don’t want others to take pity on me!”

“It doesn’t matter what Honoka thinks. They’re thinking like

that for their own good.”

Shizuku, firmly grasped both of Honoka’s hands away from

covering her eyes, and she stared straight into her eyes.

“They’re showing sympathy because they pity you, but doing

so, they can reassure themselves that they’re not miserable.”

“I’m... I’m not miserable!”

“Hmm.”

Shizuku nodded at the words Honoka managed to squeeze out.

Honoka matched Shizuku’s gaze by her own volition.

“I know that Honoka isn’t miserable. It’s just that everyone else

doesn’t know that.”

Shizuku had been looking at nothing but Honoka this entire

time.

“They don’t know about Honoka’s determination. They don’t

know that Honoka is strong.”

Honoka nodded with her eyes.

“That’s because Honoka didn’t show them that she wasn’t

miserable.”

Shizuku released her hands and stood up.

“Honoka.”

This time, it was Shizuku who was looking from above.

“Monday.”

Honoka inhaled with a serious expression on her face.

“Show me that there’s no reason for anyone to pity you.”

Without waiting for either a “Yes” or a “No” from Honoka,

Shizuku left the room.

< * * >

Sunday, January 13 th . Tatsuya was going to FLT. The CAD

Development Center, in other words the Third Division, wasn’t

particularly different from usual despite today being a holiday.

Even though as its name suggests, this place is mainly about

CAD Development, Tatsuya wasn’t currently working on

developing a CAD nor a software related to CADs.

He was working on his Stellar Furnace, the energy providing

resource, the design for the model plant of non-military Magic

usage.

The company wasn’t aware that Tatsuya started making such a

thing.

Mainly because he didn’t report about it. After all, Tatsuya

wasn’t exactly an employee of FLT, he was a researcher currently

under contract. Meaning, aside from confidentiality clauses he

had to respect, he had quite a bit of freedom.

Due to his position, Tatsuya benefitted from a private room at

his disposition in the Third Division, so if he really wanted to do

things secretly it was doable. Even Ushiyama, who is considered

the second half of Taurus Silver, wasn’t aware of it yet.

Nevertheless, the other members’attitudes never changed.

‘Ah, good morning Young Master.”

“Young Master, good morning.”

While heading towards his private room, many people greeted

Tatsuya.

They were already aware of his identity as a member of the

Yotsuba Family. That was because Tatsuya had already gathered

all of them and publicly made that revelation known earlier this

year.

Still, their attitude didn’t change and they addressed him as

usual “Young Master”. It seems like positions in the Third

Division attracted people who turned their backs on authority, so

it’s not surprising that learning he was part of the Yotsuba

Family didn’t trigger any reaction beyond the “What of it”.

Thanks to that, he could concentrate on his plans for his own

project.

The non-military Magic Usage Project (Extract both useful and

harmful Substances from the Coastal Area of the Pacific using

Electricity generated by the Stellar-generator), construction plan

“ESCAPES”. It was the “means of escape” for Magicians from

their fate as living weapons.

At first, this Project was made as a means to “escape” from the

Yotsuba Family’s influence and provide him with the means of

living afterwards.

Even though his motives were now slightly different as a part

of the head family of the Yotsuba, it didn’t change the fact that it

would be a large advancement for the non-military applications

of magic. With the nuclear fusion reactor operated by magic,

stable electricity and fuel can be produced. Moreover an

important position in the industrial society can be secured just

with the by-product of supplying mineral resources from the Sea.

As a result, Magicians will be able to provide for themselves

without being forced into the Military. That was the baseline

thinking behind his project.

The current sources of electrical power were natural energy

such as the heat from sunlight, the force of the wind, the

biomass.-As a result of increased reliance on such renewable

energy, modern industries had become extremely dependent on

weather conditions.

Of course, this was much preferable to a society dependent on

fossil energy and nuclear fission energy. Especially for long-term

development, it was crucial for mankind to actively protect the

environment. However, it was undeniable that this provoked an

unstable fuel delivery situation. The system behind orbital

satellites equipped with photovoltaic solar panels was also one of

the projects destined to lower this reliance on weather conditions

for energy supply.

The rough outline of Tatsuya’s Stellar Furnace was composed of

four crucial points: The furnace itself produces Electricity. It then

uses this electrical power and from its high temperatures creates

hydrogen gas by electrolysis. Thus again using the electrical

power of the furnace, fresh water is produced using reverse

osmosis on sea water. The leftovers from the previous operation

are thus highly concentrated sea water, in which useful resources

as well as toxic substances can be extracted.

Although, Tatsuya’s knowledge of industrial technology stayed

at a High School Student level. It wouldn’t do any good to not

cooperate with specialists for matters other than the Stellar

Furnace itself. Even though the manufacturing of hydrogen gas

and collection of all usable resources in sea water could be done

directly with Magic, the responsibilities of Magicians would be

too consequent. Using Magicians as part of the engineering

process itself would be mistaking the means for the end,

moreover it wasn’t what Tatsuya desired.

(The ones who should approach the non-Magic Community

should be the Magic Community itself. It will be easier to find

partners if the Yotsuba name is used, moreover the opposition

from the Magic Association will be avoided. So the problem will

lie in making concrete arrangements.) The groundwork was

already completed. The conceptual plans for the Stellar Furnace

should be ready within 3 months, the baseline design could be

expected within half a year. From then on, even Tatsuya had to

admit that he would need cooperation.

(It might be a little too fast considering I’m still only a High

School Student...) He wouldn’t be able to find anyone willing to

participate due to his young age. That was Tatsuya’s greatest

cause for concern at the moment.

Chapter 3

^Fl-I^HHFFlBBlBSERRiaBHHBIBBBEBaBHEaaSFE^D

Wednesday morning, the second week of the new semester.

“Good morning.”

Having entered Class 2-E, Tatsuya received the mornings

greeting from Mizuki, who sat beside him as before.

“Good morning, Mizuki.”

Mizuki answered Tatsuya s reciprocation with a smile. Except,

her smile was a bit awkward.

It would have been rather suspicious if she gave a natural

smile, Tatsuya thought without a hint of doubt.

He felt blessed that his friends would strain themselves

nonchalantly trying to smile.

There’s no mistaking, from Mizuki s perspective at least, that

she would prefer to keep her distance from a suspicious

character such as himself, Tatsuya thought. Mizuki is not privy

to the World of Magicians. She’s bound to dread the infamy of

the Yotsuba Family more than one normally should. On top of

that, here’s a suspicious character who’d been covering up his

real identity for close to two years now. Even then, a normal girl

like Mizuki has been trying to connect with him as a friend.

Tatsuya is not irritated about this, rather he’s come to think it’s

normal.

He approached his own seat while wearing a faint smile on his

lips.

A sound echoed from the windows to the hallway that were

right beside Tatsuya as he took his seat.

“Good morning, Tatsuya-kun.”

“Good morning, Erika.”

It was Erika who spoke to him from the other side of the

window. She wasn’t with Leo today, but Tatsuya didn’t point this

out. He remembered the last time when Erika had gotten mad at

him for treating them like a couple. Besides, it’s not like Erika

and Leo were dating.

Them not being together was not something strange in

particular.

“Good morning to you as well, Mizuki.”

“Good morning, Erika-chan.”

Erika gleefully nodded her head with a satisfied smile akin to

a bright day in spring, no less than what Mizuki would normally

do.

With that smile alone, Tatsuya could tell that Erika’s meddling

was intended to cheer Mizuki up. Even so, “What’s the matter,

Erika? You seem energetic.”

Tatsuya dared to ask.

“Eh, it’s nothing.”

Erika returned an answer that Tatsuya had expected.

< — >

With the afternoon classes having ended, Miyuki got up from

her seat and turned toward the Practical Building where Tatsuya

was waiting.

The Practical Building also had a meeting room for mass

fighting instruction.

And so, a week passed with them having lunch at a specific

time to try and avoid attention. It had been pleasant for Miyuki

to be alone with Tatsuya, but she felt lonely when she reminded

herself of their relationship.

“Miyuki.”

Miyuki suddenly heard her name called from behind her, and

she dashed onwards thinking she shouldn’t make Tatsuya wait.

“Honoka, what’s the matter?”

Honoka let out a noise.

Her face was stiff with tension.

Miyuki, despite wearing an unchanging expression this whole

time, was also tense. It had been almost a week since her last

exchange with Honoka that didn’t have to do with work.

No, tense would be better applied to the state of Class 2-A who

had fixed their eyes upon the two girls, making no sound.

“Oh, this must be about that thing later this afternoon, right?

Shall we go to the Student Council Room?”

Miyuki had been unable to instantly craft a response. She

wanted to make amends with Honoka, but she didn’t fathom

that Honoka would meet her halfway.

“Would it be alright if I went along with you?”

Shizuku raised her voice from the side before it turned into an

awkward situation where Miyuki’s silence could be interpreted

as her refusal. That single utterance from Shizuku was

hospitably received by both Miyuki and Honoka.

‘Alright, go ahead.”

Miyuki wore a small yet bright smile and nodded to Honoka

and Shizuku.

Miyuki, Honoka and Shizuku had already made it to their

seats by the time Tatsuya, who was contacted through his mobile

terminal, had entered the Student Council Room.

Neither of the girls had picked up their chopsticks yet. Miyuki

hadn’t opened the lid of her bento box; Honoka and Shizuku

hadn’t gotten anything in front of themselves yet either.

“Onii-sama, thank you for waiting.”

“Tatsuya-san, go ahead. Please, over here.”

Miyuki and Honoka stood up to guide Tatsuya to his seat. It

was located beside Miyuki’s and in front of Honoka’s. Shizuku

also stood up, but she went to the dining server and took out

trays for two which had been warming on standby.

The four congenially started to eat. It was just Honoka and

Shizuku who offered topics for conversation at the dining table,

while Tatsuya and his sister never brought themselves to break

the ice. It felt like Honoka and Shizuku were avoiding having a

conversation about the Yotsuba Family.

It was Tatsuya and Miyuki returning their bento boxes to their

valises that broke the calm atmosphere. This was after Honoka

and Shizuku had returned the trays to the dining server’s inlet,

and Miyuki distributed tea to everyone.

“Miyuki.”

Standing up, her voice and expression betraying her stress,

Honoka raised her voice.

“What is it?”

Miyuki, too, shed her smile and looked up at Honoka with a

serious face.

Shizuku gazed at the two of them intently from Honoka’s side.

Tatsuya, too, silently observed the situation from Miyuki’s side.

“Umm... Umm... I...”

Honoka was wringing out words with a frantic expression.

Miyuki, while waiting, had never averted her eyes from

Honoka’s.

“I won’t give up!”

_

Miyuki, Tatsuya and Shizuku turned to Honoka. To ascertain

Honoka’s intentions, and to see Honoka’s resolve with their own

eyes.

“I will not give up on Tatsuya-san!”

Honoka successfully spoke her feelings without faltering, even

with everyone’s eyes fixated on her.

“I will not yield.”

Miyuki responded without a moment’s delay.

She then courtly stood up and held her right hand out to

Honoka.

That hand was in a position that demanded it be shaken.

“I will definitely not be defeated.”

Honoka gripped Miyuki’s hand. Her competitive spirit was

showing through her face.

Miyuki showed a smile. Though it was much more than just a

“smile”, it was the manifestation of her aggression and

competitiveness.

Tatsuya tried to put on a bitter smile, but it failed miserably.

The two women in front of him just declared rivalry over his

affections. It was only natural that he would be dumbfounded in

regards to what expression he should make.

Shizuku, on the other hand, was more expressionless than

usual. No, since she was always bereft of changes in her

expression, we can’t say she was “now” expressionless. Rather,

this time she deliberately rid herself of expression.

Speaking of one’s true feelings, Shizuku hoped Honoka would

immediately give up on Tatsuya. But Honoka chose the path of

battling it out with Miyuki on her journey to Tatsuya’s heart. She

frowned at the thought that Honoka would choose such a harsh,

thorny path—a frown which Shizuku endured for dear life.

< — — >

After school in the Student Council Room, things were

progressing with the friendly attitude that existed before the

announcement. Izumi and Minami noticed this minute change,

but neither wanted to investigate into the reason why. They were

relieved that the tense atmosphere had abated, which showed

through their facial expressions and actions.

However, they weren’t the type of people that would just act

carefully.

That would put them in the minority in High School.

“Hey, Izumi. Doesn’t the atmosphere feel sort of different from

usual?”

Kasumi had come up the stairs since it was nearly time for the

school gate to close. She had stealthily gotten close to Izumi-

and asked in a fairly loud voice.

“Is that so? Everything seems normal to me, Kasumi-chan.”

With a calm expression on her face, Izumi responded with an

intensity that was difficult to oppose.

Sensing that she had somehow angered Izumi, despite not

understanding why, Kasumi nodded lightly and dropped the

subject.

“Huh? ...Uh, yeah.”

Having also just come up from the Public Morals Committee

Headquarters, Mikihiko’s reaction was slightly more guarded

than Kasumi’s.

“What’s the matter?”

His reaction was even greater when hearing Tatsuya’s voice,

“No, it’s nothing.”

He was responding in the same way he had prior to Winter

Break.-It was different from last week.

Tatsuya had thought that Mikihiko got yelled at by Erika.

Tatsuya thought so, but of course he didn’t say this.

Despite that, he couldn’t help the fact that his lips were

trembling.

“What’s the matter, Tatsuya? Did something good happen.”

“Yeah. But, it’s nothing important.”

Yes, it was nothing important. It was definitely a “good thing.”

For Miyuki, and for himself.

Having reached that conclusion, Tatsuya decided to change the

mood.

“Moreover, show me today’s report.”

‘Alright. It’s no problem if I show it to you while we’re at

school.”

Tatsuya quickly looked over the e-reader that Mikihiko gave

him, and entered his hard key for the Student Association

confirmation signature.

“Has some kind of trouble started outside of the school?”

Tatsuya asked as such when he returned the e-reader to

Mikihiko.

Mikihiko had agreed to show him “at school” which had

drawn Tatsuya’s attention.

“Yes... after those candid photographs, the number of students

following us has increased.”

“Stalkers?”

Unaware, this was the first time Tatsuya had heard of it. His

hands had been full lately and he had eyes only for what was

directly around him.

“You could call them stalkers... it seems to be a ‘Humanist’

Organization.”

“You’re saying the students at this school have become the

target of an anti-Magician organization?”

Tatsuya’s eyes glimmered sharply.

Mikihiko had also drawn the attention of Miyuki and Honoka

as they were preparing to head home.

“It looks like no students have been threatened or assaulted yet.

That being said, ever since the group formed, some students have

reported being verbally abused.”

Mikihiko answered Tatsuya’s question in a provocative tone.

“Minami-chan.”

Returning to her designated President’s seat, Miyuki spoke to

Minami.

“Yes, President.”

Minami stood up and moved to stand in front of Miyuki.

However, Miyuki stopped her in place with her gaze.

“Regarding the case we heard from the Public Morals

Committee Chairman, has the Student Council noticed it?”

“One moment please.”

In response to Miyuki’s question, Minami hit the switch on her

desktop terminal that she had already shut down. Contrary to

how information systems from half-a-century ago worked, it

booted up near-instantly.

The operating system appeared on the screen immediately.

Minami entered a search term and then read out the results

that were displayed.

“The number of people and events discussed at the Student

Council includes 24 people spanning a total of 38 events. They’re

already reporting these to the police, but there are no reports of

any concrete crackdowns being reported.”

“They’re ignoring it!?”

Honoka had raised her voice as if to say “I can’t believe it” in

response to the facts Minami had read out loud.

“They may be speaking rashly, but a crackdown would be

difficult.”

Shizuku replied with a sigh.

“Despite the candid photographs, it’s difficult to present

evidence of stalking.”

Mikihiko muttered irritably.

If it had been like the obvious enemy in the Yokohama Incident,

they could easily counter-attack and crush them. But they had

no way of counter-attacking a divided, vague attack coming from

among the otherwise virtuous townspeople. If they raised a

finger, they would be branded criminals. To begin with, they had

no idea who the enemy was, or even how to defeat them.

“We should likely urge all students to be careful. Be on the

lookout for any direct assaults and also be careful not to

overreact at risk of appearing to be in the wrong. Or rather, so

that you are not branded a criminal.”

“Understood. I will handle it immediately.”

Tatsuya had shown concern in response to Miyuki’s reaction.

< >

Saturday, January 19 th . The end of the second week of the new

school term.

Morning lectures were over, and now it was time for club and

committee activities.

Kasumi and Izumi had previously dropped by the dining hall

to replenish their energy. Izumi had wanted to eat lunch with

Miyuki in the Student Council Room, but she couldn’t resist

Kasumi who had insisted on a whim “We should eat together

once in a while.”

Kasumi and Izumi were both popular among the Year 1

students. No, they also boasted high popularity with the Year 2

and 3 students, but they were especially popular people to the

Year 1 group. The twins weren’t the type to be very helpful so

they couldn’t form factions like the “Kasumi Army” or “Izumi

Guard”, but at the same time they were unrelated to any

factional disputes so they were adored as though they were

“Everyone’s Idols”. It left a stark contrast compared with Takuma

who steadily formed the “Shippou Group” because of his

outgoing assistance.

Kasumi and Izumi didn’t normally have anybody in particular

who followed them around so it wasn’t difficult for them to keep

to themselves. On the other hand, when it came to lunch, they

had continually accumulated a group of Year 1 students with

their lunch trays in hand.

What stood out about the two was that the students who came

close to them were mostly girls. That said, boys weren’t

intimidated by them like they were by Miyuki, so the boys could

express affection for them much like they would for a mascot.

For that reason, although they constantly had lots of people

around them, not a single one would interrupt them when they

were talking. Under these circumstances, the two of them

engaged in unrestrained conversations while slurping their

noodles.

Izumi ate, true to her proper image, but Kasumi also ate

carefully. She slowly cut her kakiage into bite-sized pieces and

ate them with good manners. She never talked with food in her

mouth which meant her pace was fairly slow. Without a doubt,

this calm lunch scene made it hard to guess what they were

talking about.

“In these last two or three days, the atmosphere at school has

become really gloomy, hasn’t it.”

“Those rumors about Shiba-senpai and Miyuki-senpai? It’s

going to be a real problem if senrou people like them run around

making a fuss all the time.”

“...What’s does 'senrou’mean?”

“It means abject.”

‘Ah, you mean they should keep their lowly curiosity in check

and not make a fuss all the time, right?”

“If you want to be direct about it, yes.”

“Then you should have said that in the first place.”

“I don’t even call my classmates ‘lowly’, much less an

upperclassman. I believe every student at this school are proper

gentlemen and ladies.”

“I said the same thing you did, but you need to be less cruel,

Izumi.”

“That isn’t true, Kasumi-chan. I simply think while nobody’s

true character is ‘lowly’, occasionally they become delusional

when obsessed with such base things.”

Izumi, having said that with an unruffled expression, picked

up the rice bowl that she had placed on her tray. (Inside: the

lunch menu has small/medium/large sizes for lunches.) “Well, I

don’t think you should hide your real feelings with complicated

words.”

Kasumi had quietly muttered this while Izumi was focused on

her hands.

If she didn’t let off any steam during conversations with Izumi,

even though she knew her twin sister’s true character, things

would become too tense for her.

“Kasumi-chan, did you say something?”

But her timing had been a little too quick, and Izumi raised her

face as she was putting her chopsticks in her rice bowl.

“No, I didn’t say anything.”

Kasumi said so, while picking up her rice bowl as Izumi had

done.

Kasumi slurped her soba with a little more enthusiasm than

Izumi. With her brows furrowed at her twin sister, Izumi also

moved her chopsticks.

Having used her manners as a shield to redirect the

conversation, Kasumi set her bowl down and spoke to Izumi as

though nothing had happened.

“By the way, how do you feel about the Student Council Room?

I only had a glance but it looks like they’ve made it peaceful

again.”

‘Although they are only slightly different from us, I believe all

involved parties are adults.”

Izumi had answered Kasumi’s question in a not-entirely-

complimentary tone of voice.

“I think Mitsui-senpai in particular has a lot of good things

about her... Miyuki-senpai and Shiba-senpai are both excellent

at behaving themselves as well.”

“Hmm... Well, the President has reined in how clingy she is

with Shiba-senpai, and it looks like she’s finally paying attention

to other people.”

Izumi had knit her face at the words “clingy”, but Kasumi was

indisputably correct.

“No matter how close you are as friends, ignoring each other

will cause you to drift apart for sure.”

“Even close friends have to be courteous, right?”

“Correct. Disregarding the fact that plenty of people lack that

level of intimacy, rather, they look down on it, and prefer to

amuse themselves by spreading irresponsible rumors. It can lead

to an inevitable drop in the overall relationship.”

Izumi stopped for a moment, then added as though

remembering something.

‘At the utmost, that’s a general rule.”

Kasumi and Izumi’s classmates all hung their heads and

huddled up.

< — >

Around the same time-well, it was actually a fair amount

of time thereafter-the Magic University’s cafeteria was

thronged with students.

Mixed among them are students who are visiting from the

National Defense Academy’s “Special Warfare Research” course.

Out of all these students, two girls were facing each other, a

normal student and a magical officer trainee. There wasn’t a real

difference in how the two students looked, just glancing them

over wouldn’t help. The officer’s brilliant smile was making it

difficult to tell if she was a normal or Magic University student.

“Hey Mari! You don’t have to laugh like that, do you?”

“Sorry. But still, him and you...”

Watanabe Mari, a visiting student and the former Chairwoman

of the First High School Disciplinary Committee, apologized as

she continued to suppress her laughter. Opposite of her was

Saegusa Mayumi, the former First High School Student Council

President, her face blushing red and her eyes glaring into Mari’s.

The blush on her face was not out of anger but of

embarrassment. She glowered at Mari with teary eyes, yet they

did not feel threatening at all.

“Hey!”

“No, I’m really sorry.”

In the end, it was Mayumi’s sulking and turning away that

made Mari stop laughing.

‘Are you seriously telling me that the Head of the Saegusa

Family wants to make you and Tatsuya-kun marry?”

“It’s an engagement! Not marriage!”

Keeping her face averted and her arms crossed, Mayumi

snapped at Mari’s statement.

Mari suddenly asked herself how that was supposed be

different, but she decided to keep those words to herself.

“Well then, why are we even talking about Mayumi and

Tatsuya-kun’s marriage?”

The Magic University is more flexible in regards to breaks and

lunches than the National Defense Academy. At the same time,

it’s not like the students can have lunch as long as they want.

Mari decided to move on to the main topic.

“You heard about it as well, Mari?”

This conversation was originally started by Mayumi, who

wanted to voice her idle complaints. Still sulking, she realized

that their respective breaks were almost over, and her face

regained a serious expression.

“Is this about the Yotsuba Family? Well, I can’t say I expected it,

but it’s also not that surprising.”

In this case, expecting and being surprised are two completely

different things, but Mayumi did not press her to make up her

mind. She felt the same way as Mari after all.

“How much did you know about this, Mari?”

“How much... Those siblings are actually cousins and direct

descendants of the Yotsuba Family. And wasn’t Shiba appointed

as the next Head of the Yotsuba Family and hasn’t Tatsuya-kun

been engaged with Shiba? Isn’t that all there is to it?”

Mayumi closed her eyes and shook her head to Mari’s doubtful

inquiry.

“That’s all that was publicized. There’s more to the story, you

know.”

Mayumi leaned toward the table.

Having lured Mayumi, Mari brought her face closer.

“The day after the Yotsuba Family announced Tatsuya-kun

and Miyuki-san’s engagement, the Ichijou Family raised their

objection to the engagement.”

“Objection to the engagement?”

It was as if Mari’s face was asking, “Can they do that?”

Mayumi hinted a forced smile.

“They said they’re too related by blood that there is a risk the

marriage would harm magician genetics, which is an invaluable

resource of the country.”

“They said ‘resource’ now?”

Mari looked stunned. This way of thinking, which is quite

contentious even within the Ten Master Clans, would sound like

a suspicious excuse by the Hundred Families to Magicians not in

the know.

Mari’s conclusion is most likely correct. Rather, it’s spot on.

“Resource”, in this context, is being used synonymously with

property. Calling a person’s genes “property” makes that person

no different than livestock.

One wrong step could lead this whole situation into a

dangerous political mess of placing genes above all else.

“I can never find myself to like that aspect of the Ten Master

Clans.”

“If I were to choose between saying whether I like it or not, I’d

go for the latter, but this decision is for the greater good. Even so,

I won’t consent to them meddling with my private life, such as

this whole engagement business.”

“Is there anything else?”

As the topic approached the climax, Mayumi let out a sigh.

“The Ichijou Family raised their objection, citing close blood

relations as their grounds. At the same time, they proposed

Miyuki-san’s engagement with their eldest son, Masaki-kun, to

the Yotsuba Family.”

“I don’t know whether they’re just shameless, or insensitive...”

hooking at Mari who had turned speechless, Mayumi shrugged

her shoulders.

“But surely a marriage between Miyuki-san and Masaki-kun

would be more preferable than one between Tatsuya-kun and

Miyuki-san. They just have to ignore the feelings of the people

personally involved.”

“So, this would be what they call a marriage of convenience,

which the magical community is celebrated for.”

Mari thought of it more as the mating of thoroughbred

livestock more than a marriage of convenience, but she hesitated

describing it as such.

“That’s true, but... I don’t think it’s purely out of the

convenience for the families. I mean, Masaki-kun is the eldest

son, so normally he would be in the position to accept a bride.”

Having gone as far as to say it, Mayumi turned her eyes away

for some reason as if a little embarrassed.

“The Ichijou Family’s display of bravado is because Masaki-

kun likes Miyuki-san, I think.”

“...Oh.”

Mari, who was frowning just earlier, grinned wilily as if she

had just discovered something groundbreaking.

“So that’s it. ...Your Father is trying to make you marry because

you like Tatsuya-kun. Is that it?”

“No, it’s not!”

Mayumi’s face turned red as she hit the table with both of her

hands.

There was no mistaking the disruption field in place around

them was the only thing preventing the entire school cafeteria

from looking at them. Mayumi’s reaction had been that fierce.

“That sly dog just got it wrong! He’s just trying to use me to

annoy the Yotsuba Family!”

“Really now?”

“Why do you look so unconvinced!? I’m really the one being

inconvenienced here!”

“So you would rather not?”

Mayumi was rendered speechless, without her even realizing it,

by Mari’s quick questioning.

Mari raised both ends of her lips as if to show she had got it all

according to plan.

Impelled by the sense that she is in danger of actually

acknowledging Mari’s words, Mayumi forced her frozen tongue

to move.

“It’s not that I would rather not, but... But I just can’t see

Tatsuya-kun that way. I can’t imagine being engaged to Tatsuya-

kun.”

“Why is that?”

Mari attacked without delay.

“Why you say — ”

“Surely Saegusa Mayumi won’t make a good match with Shiba

Tatsuya.

However, the story changed when he became a direct

descendant of the Yotsuba Family. He is not unqualified to

become the husband of the eldest daughter of the Saegusa

Family, both in terms of blood relations and power.”

“I mean, Tatsuya-kun is even two years younger than me!?”

“I don’t think an age difference of just two years would be a big

problem though. ...Does he even look younger than you to begin

with? You look younger than Tatsuya-kun from my point of

view.”

“How rude! If you’re going to say that, then you don’t look any

much older than him, you know!”

“In what universe do I look younger than Tatsuya-kun?”

“ ‘Oh, I can’t do this,’ ‘Oh, the terminal isn’t working right,’ ‘Oh,

it won’t print out a report.’ You’re always just cozying up to

Tatsuya-kun! Actually, isn’t it you who likes Tatsuya-kun

more!?”

“I have Shuu, you know!”

“That’s not a reason to like or not like Tatsuya-kun, now is it!”

Mayumi and Mari glared at each other face to face, then

immediately averted their eyes.

Both their faces were red. Normally, this would be the scene

where they would exchange empty smiles, and move on to a

completely different topic from their petty argument.

However, that didn’t happen this time.

Mari ended up flustered from their exchange of inflammatory

words, but she immediately recovered her serious composure. A

smile could be seen on Mari’s face as her eyes once again fell

upon Mayumi.

“Mayumi, what do you really want to do?”

Mayumi, surprised by Mari’s unimaginably serious voice,

looked back at Mari.

“What’s with you all of a sudden?”

Mari stared at Mayumi fixedly. That face could not possibly be

joking.

“It doesn’t benefit Tatsuya-kun’s sister, but is also holds no real

downsides for you, Mayumi.”

“What’re you getting at? I mean, I don’t think of Tatsuya-kun

as anyone special...”

“You don’t have to say any more, just shut up and listen.”

Having heard Mari’s strong words, Mayumi stopped making up

excuses.

“I intend to know why you haven’t had a boyfriend up until

now. Regarding your lacking pursuit of a relationship between

you and the eldest sons of the juumonji or Itsuwa Families, I

understand that it’s a modest protest against the future that was

decided for you.”

Mayumi didn’t object to Mari’s statement. It wasn’t that Mari

hit the mark with her words, but Mayumi wanted to listen to

everything Mari had to say first.

“Didn’t you always tell me you never looked at juumonji as a

possible boyfriend? Is that because he’s the type of partner who

would notice right away? Juumonji has always been a fellow

Magician from the Juumonji Family to you, not even a fellow

student. That’s why he sees you as Mayumi, the eldest daughter

of the Saegusa Family, not someone who came from an all-girl’s

school.”

Mayumi listened to Mari’s words without saying a word nor

showing a reaction. Her expression was reminiscent of a Noh

mask.

“You’re looking at him to see if he’s suitable as a member of the

Ten Master Clans, not if he’s suitable as a partner. There’s no way

feelings of love would arise like that. Respect, maybe, but not

love.”

Mari continued to speak, not paying attention to Mayumi’s lack

of response.

“But Tatsuya-kun is different, isn’t he? You were first

introduced as someone older than him, and gradually came to

like him, and then found out he was from the Ten Master Clans. I

would like to consider my usage of like to mean affection

towards the opposite sex, but I wouldn’t go so far as to imply it.

However, you at least like him. Am I wrong?”

“You are not wrong. I don’t think my liking of Tatsuya-kun is

love, but everything else is as you said.”

Mayumi answered disinterestedly; Mari nodded.

“Incidentally, the person that you like is the person that they

allowed to date the eldest daughter of the Saegusa Family. This

would be your first experience.”

“Hmm, that’s right.”

“Well then, what’s your first step? No, wait, that’s not how this

should be asked. Mayumi.”

“What?”

“Do you just want to wait without doing anything? Or do you

actually want to do something?”

“I don’t want to be passive, but what can I do?”

“I want to tell you, ‘Find the answer yourself,’ but yeah. Well,

here’s an idea; you have the chance to confirm how you really

feel about Tatsuya-kun.”

Mayumi said, “I know,” then she stopped.

“What do you mean by that?”

“If you know if you have feelings for Tatsuya-kun, you can

align your interests with your father’s. You can act like you are

being used by your father, but in reality it’d be you who’s

actually using him.”

“Using that sly dog, you say... That’s tempting.”

Mayumi stopped short of hinting at an evil smile without

realizing it.

“...But that would involve a lot of work.”

“You’ll know that once you actually try dating him, now won’t

you?”

“Date someone I don’t like? Rather, someone I’m not sure I like

or not?”

Realizing they had almost gone full circle with the denial,

Mayumi surrendered and spoke her thoughts.

“That wouldn’t be too weird, would it? Isn’t that a common

saying? ‘Let’s start by being friends,’ or something along those

lines?”

“That’s not what you’d say to someone you don’t really know.

We’re bound to start out as friends with our current relationship.

And just what do I do when that fails? Say I dated him, and we

went straight to being engaged. I can’t back off with just ‘Turns

out being lovers won’t work out’after going through all of that!”

“So that’s how it is?”

“Of course!”

“I see... Well then, it seems your only choice is to date Tatsuya-

kun without his sister finding out.”

“How did you even reach that conclusion!?”

“Didn’t you want to confirm it for yourself? How you feel about

Tatsuya-kun?”

“I told you that wasn’t the case...”

“Well then, why are you discussing this with me?”

Mayumi’s expression froze.

“Haven’t you always come to me when you’re troubled? Even

though it may be your first time dating someone who’s already

engaged, isn’t being unable to solve this on your own the

problem? If you think hard enough, shouldn’t you have just

declined the proposal? Since he’s already engaged, the situation

is borderline impossible as it stands.”

“...I did decline. But that sly dog would keep bringing it up

again and again.”

“Your father probably has seen through that, you know. The

fact you don’t really object to it.”

“Mayumi. At this rate, you’d just end up going with the flow,

indecisive until the end.”

“Even if you say that...”

Mayumi was stumped. She might break down if she went any

further than this. Mari pretentiously turned her eyes to the

multifunctional military watch wrapped around her left wrist.

“-Our time’s up. Mayumi, you should properly think it over.”

“Yeah. ...Thank you, Mari.”

Mari stood up while Mayumi also nonchalantly left her seat.

< — >

Tatsuya who had just arrived at home saw he had mail, which

was unusual and forced a frown out of him. It wasn’t an email,

but rather a discrete communication using the message board for

First High’s students and alumni.

The sender was Mari.

Tatsuya thought that she might have sent it to the wrong

person, but he couldn’t check that without opening the letter. He

also thought of opening it using a trick to prevent the read

receipt, but it would lead to a more cumbersome after effect. He

wouldn’t mind if he didn’t have to meet Mari afterwards, but

that didn’t seem to be the case.

Even though he had a hunch this would lead to a meddlesome

situation, he opened the message.

The first thing he concluded was the message was, indeed, for

him.

The message started out as a simple seasonal greeting, asking

about his recent condition, and how he had been doing as of late.

It was unexpectedly written in a polite manner. It was probably

the result of her military education.

The heart of the mail was very simple.

It was merely a question of whether they could meet the

following night.

It would be a good idea to keep this a secret.

Well, normally that would be the case, but now that he had a

fiancee, he needed her permission to meet a girl alone.

Without sending a reply, he knocked on the door leading to the

room next to his.

“Watanabe-senpai said she wants to meet with Onii-sama?”

Tatsuya saw abundant suspicion in Miyuki’s expression. If it

was just a little flicker of doubt, he would write it off as an

inevitability, but being distrusted to this extent was totally

unexpected.

“I’m as surprised as you are about this sudden invitation. The

last time I saw her was during the graduation ceremony.”

Tatsuya was nonchalantly playing the innocent.

“Then what is her intention with this?”

Miyuki didn’t think that Tatsuya was cheating on her, it was

actually Mari who she was doubting.

Tatsuya (in Miyuki’s perspective) is a very attractive man. Even

though it was known that Mari has a boyfriend, Tatsuya would

be a very desirable partner to have in an affair (again, in

Miyuki’s perspective).

“It isn’t a love affair.”

He wasn’t only aware of what his sister was thinking, but he

also frankly expressed that he saw through her.

Miyuki’s face quickly became red.

While observing his innocent sister, Tatsuya feigned ignorance

and continued speaking.

“Chiba Naotsugu-san is a good lover for Watanabe-senpai.”

“...She might have had a fight with him.”

Miyuki hid her embarrassment by stating her opinion with a

disgruntled tone.

“If she just wanted to grumble, she would have called Saegusa-

senpai, right?”

Miyuki’s easy to understand behavior made Tatsuya chuckle

during their exchange.

“...No, actually, it’s the opposite.”

Taken by surprise, she put on a serious, albeit dazzling,

expression.

“The opposite... So that means Saegusa-senpai vented to

Watanabe-senpai?”

Tatsuya put on a completely serious expression and nodded

back to Miyuki’s question.

“It isn’t limited to just Watanabe-senpai. If a First High alumni

had something to discuss, considering what’s happened recently,

it would most likely be about the Yotsuba Family matter.”

‘Ah, that’s right.”

There are also people who give suggestions without considering

the time or place, and merely say it for their own convenience.

Miyuki’s first thoughts went to that by reflex, but she also

understood that there are some exceptions to this.

“Even if you think about it, I’m going to ignore the exceptions

we can’t do anything about.”

Miyuki’s thoughts were plainly seen through again by Tatsuya.

Miyuki’s white skin became vermillion again.

Without concerning himself with her looking at the floor,

Tatsuya continued his reasoning.

“If I were to guess as to who will take action regarding the

notification given by the Yotsuba Family, the most likely culprits

would be those from the Ten Master Clans. I assume that

Saegusa-senpai was dragged into a scheme conceived by the

Head of the Saegusa Family. Then, the puzzled Saegusa-senpai

went to Watanabe-senpai for advice. Considering their

relationship, this invitation isn’t a mystery at all.”

“It can’t be!”

Miyuki vigorously lifted up her face which still had a tinge of

red to it.

Intense anxiety surfaced on her face.

“Why are you panicking like that?”

He couldn’t understand why Miyuki got panicked, because of

that Tatsuya paused his reasoning and asked why.

“Could it be that... the Saegusa Family is scheming to make

Onii-sama Senpai’s fiancee?”

Miyuki’s thought took Tatsuya by surprise. This would

definitely warrant her concern.

“...No matter how you look at it, isn’t that progressing a little

too quick?”

Of course it wasn’t an impossibility, but Tatsuya was of the

mindset it wouldn’t happen even if the chance was there.

Mayumi’s nature wasn’t one that would be obediently married as

a political piece.

“I wonder...”

Miyuki and Mayumi shared that trait, neither would readily

become a puppet of their own parent. But if Mayumi shared her

father’s decision-it would be a whole different story.

“No, it isn’t like that.”

To shake off her anxiety, she spoke words of denial to herself.

“So then Onii-sama, what are you going to do with Watanabe-

senpai’s invitation?”

“I don’t have the luxury of ignoring it. Plus, I’m curious about

why she went through so much trouble to contact me.”

Tatsuya nuanced his words to mean “there is no other way” so

he could avoid distressing Miyuki.

< — >

The next day, in the afternoon at 5:55 P.M., Tatsuya visited a

cafe near the National Defense Academy’s Special War Skills

Research Department’s auxiliary building.

To make it brief, the Special War Skill Research Department is

a course with a curriculum for Magicians focused on research

and also training for combat Magicians. They conduct a lot of

joint research and also have a secondary building near the Magic

University.

The Special War Skill Research Department’s students have

been exempted from a dormitory lifestyle. Even so, Mari made

the location for their appointment to be near the school building

due to military drills they have on Sunday.

Tatsuya arrived 5 minutes before the meeting time. Then at 5:59

P.M., he saw Mari’s figure.

“Hey, sorry to make you wait. It’s been a while Tatsuya-kun.”

“Yes, it has.”

Under the coat, Mari was wearing plain clothes. Her pants-suit

combo wasn’t rare in the university, nor in government or

company offices.

Chances are that she got it from the National Defense

Academy, and it was a uniform.

“I rented a room in this area.”

Mari gave an explanation when she noticed Tatsuya gazing at

her clothing. It seems she picked this place not because of being

near the school, but rather that it was conveniently close to her

place.

“That’s right, we also had a drill today too... I feel bad for

calling you out at this hour.”

“Let’s ignore that for now. What’s your business with me?”

Tatsuya wasn’t trying to push Mari away. Just like she had

said, it was quite late for a man and woman to be meeting. Since

they were close to the National Defense Academy, it wasn’t a

strange sight to see students visiting this place... But to avoid

misunderstandings, they decided to finish their matters quickly.

“That’s right. We both have classes tomorrow, so let’s save the

idle chatter for next time.”

After stating her piece, she ordered a hot coffee from the

terminal on top of the shop’s desk.

“But I’d rather not leave with just having water. Please wait a

little bit.”

Just as Mari said, she didn’t say anything until her drink

arrived. She was planning her words during the lull.

By happenstance, the shop they were meeting at wasn’t an “old

school” shop. It didn’t even take a minute from ordering for the

completion ring to sound out. Mari came back from the counter

and sat in front of Tatsuya, suddenly moving her face close to his.

“Tatsuya, what do you think about Mayumi?”

Without any preface, she whispered a question.

“I think she’s a great Magician. She has talent, and also

experience. As for her life and stature, she can separate them

well. I have a good impression of her because of that.”

In spite of that sudden question, Tatsuya answered it without

any hesitation.

“.. .You know, I hate that part of you.”

Mari glared at Tatsuya with an annoyed expression. She could

tell that he knew what she was getting at, even if he put on a

face feigning ignorance.

Tatsuya reacted to Mari’s glare without faltering. She didn’t

even put her drink down.

“Why do you want to know about something like that?”

Tatsuya’s expression changed to a frown as he fired a question

back.

Mari didn’t answer Tatsuya.

“I’m gonna ask again. What do you think of Mayumi as

someone of the opposite gender? Do you like her? Do you dislike

her? Please answer seriously.”

‘As someone of a different gender, it can’t be explained in such

black and white terms.”

“Even so, I want to hear it.”

Tatsuya didn’t have any obligation to answer Mari’s question.

With Tatsuya’s current situation, answering would bring him

more trouble than merit.

“I will say that I like her.”

But he still answered. Not because of the pressure the girl in

front of him was putting out, but rather out of curiosity as to

what would come next.

‘As someone of the opposite sex right?”

“Yes.”

“I see...”

Tatsuya didn’t have any sensibility on the feeling of “liking

someone from the opposite gender.” It wasn’t within the extent of

his limited emotional processing. Affection for a member of the

opposite sex was of far lower priority than his fondness towards

Miyuki. But he didn’t have to explain any of that to Mari.

“Is that affection considered love?”

“It is not. If I must say it, these feelings are more like sexual

desire.”

Tatsuya showed no embarrassment when delivering that line.

Mari, on the other hand, was blushing.

“Y-you have that kind of desire as well, huh?”

“Mari was quite inexperienced on this topic,” Tatsuya thought.

Even though premarital sex was a taboo in this generation, her

reaction was very innocent for someone who had been in a

relationship for a long time.

Of course, Tatsuya had the common sense to not sexually

harass Mari with those words.

“Of course I have it. It’s a primordial desire to preserve one’s

own lineage.”

That wasn’t a lie. But Tatsuya didn’t share the whole truth that

his upper sexual limit was predetermined. It has no capability to

rule over his actions or thoughts. Miya’s Mental Interference

Magic ensured this.

Because of that, Tatsuya’s matter of “sexual desire” isn’t about

to entice him to make out. This had no need to be said either.

“Watanabe-senpai. You asked me about how I feel towards

Saegusa-senpai. What do you plan to do with this information?”

Mari hadn’t recovered from the shock she originally got from

Tatsuya.

Having the main subject of their meeting suddenly brought up,

she consoled herself to stop her flustering.

“Tatsuya-kun, would you want to try going out with Mayumi?”

“...By going out, you mean like that, right? Does Senpai not

know about Miyuki and I?”

Tatsuya’s cold glare disheartened her, but she gathered her

courage and continued.

“I know that your little sister is actually your cousin, and you

both are engaged to each other.”

“So you should understand that Saegusa-senpai and I

shouldn’t be going out.”

Tatsuya’s gaze became even more frigid.

Cooling magic should be his little sister’s domain, but Mari felt

his look could freeze her to death. She was screaming internally

at herself to stay awake, for some reason she had started

hallucinating that falling asleep could cause her to die from

frostbite.

“Your engagement is being contested by the Ichijou Family. Isn’t

that right?”

“You are quite informed. Did you hear that from Saegusa-

senpai?”

The formal objection made by the Ichijou Family shouldn’t

have reached her ears. The engagement between Tatsuya and

Miyuki was legal-though, if the actual link between Tatsuya

and Miyuki got leaked, they would be punished for forgery of

official documents-, the Ichijou Family had already caused a

scandal in the world of magic. With that in mind, this whole

topic has been kept more or less private.

“Oh yeah. Also, Mayumi is in the same situation as well. Hmm,

saying this the wrong way will cause misunderstandings...

Mayumi is in the same boat as the Ichijou Family’s eldest son.

They’re both being ordered to fill the same role.”

The iciness in Tatsuya’s glare vanished. It was replaced with a

chill that made Mari shift uncomfortably in her seat.

“That... is a shocking story.”

Tatsuya’s remark was his evaluation of the Saegusa Family’s

decision, but his heart was different. He shuddered in

amazement at the revelation that Mayumi was made to be a

fiancee candidate for Tatsuya. He was awed at Miyuki’s intuition

being so spot on. Even though she is still considered a young lady,

a female’s intuition is scary... that was the only thought in

Tatsuya’s mind.

“I think so too.”

Mari’s casual remarks were welcomed by Tatsuya’s sharp

tongue.

“Do you really understand what will happen?”

“What?”

“The one who will be slandered by the public won’t be me, but

Saegusa - senpai.”

Mari’s eye suddenly tinged with soft light.

“How kind of you.”

“This amount of concern is normal.”

Tatsuya’s gaze didn’t relax.

“If Mayumi didn’t have feelings for you, I would have dropped

this a long time ago. I told her she didn’t have to suffer from this,

but she doesn’t understand her own feelings.”

And then? Tatsuya asked back with his eyes.

“Mayumi doesn’t comprehend how she feels about you. She

doesn’t know the depth of her affection. No, it’s more like she

doesn’t want to admit it. She’s running away from her emotions.”

“Isn’t that because she understands her position in this

matter?”

“She does. Mayumi isn’t able to just choose someone based on

love interest. Having a lover and being married are different

things, so falling in love is pointless. That’s how she feels about

it.”

‘Are you sure you aren’t overthinking this? There’s certainly a

tendency to prevent high level magicians from being single, but it

isn’t to the point where you can’t pick your marriage partner.”

“How about you? Your little sister?”

This time Tatsuya stayed silent.

Mari didn’t pursue any further for information about those two.

“I want to make her experience love. It may be an unneeded

and meddlesome thing to do, but after thinking about her

situation, I don’t want her to just throw in the towel. You’re a guy

so you probably don’t understand what I’m getting at.”

“You’re right. I don’t.”

“Ok... well at least just understand this; Mayumi has

recognized that she has feelings for you. You might be the first

and last love that she has.”

Mari’s words were full of sincerity. She was only thinking about

her friend’s feelings.

“You’re overthinking it again.”

But Tatsuya threw that sincerity aside with only those words.

“Tatsuya-kun, you!”

“I don’t know her as well as you do, but Saegusa-senpai doesn’t

seem like she’d be that weak.”

Mari’s enraged tongue was stopped by Tatsuya’s objection.

“Give up on this matter. Abandon it. She won’t be seen as an

obedient child if she pursues this road. Even if I don’t return her

feelings, she would eventually find someone. Right?”

Tatsuya stood up, looking down at Mari who was at a loss for

words.

‘And above all else, it’s impossible because I am Miyuki’s

fiancee.”

The payment for Mari’s drink had already been taken.

And like that, Tatsuya left the shop.

Chapter 4

FJ3F^E1E1BDB552C3BBD3BDBBBD3H03BQ5BDO1^EI^3ZJ

Raymond S. Clark. He’s currently a high school sophomore

located in USNA Berkeley, California. He had been one of

Shizuku’s classmates during her foreign exchange student

program.

The high school he attends differs from a Japanese Magic High

School in that it isn’t a facility that specializes in Magic Training.

In this school, Magic Studies and Magic Practice are optional

subjects. However, even the USNA can’t escape from the cruel

lack of teachers related to Magical courses. Since the number of

student applicants vastly outnumber the amount of teachers,

each and every school comes up with its own entrance exam to

select future students. Objectively speaking, Raymond’s school

had turned into a “Magic High School”.

That wasn’t implying he was a poor Magician. Among his

peers, Raymond was at the top of his class. Still, it wasn’t enough

talent to enter the Stars or something similar. His value and

talent lay in another area.

That’s how they’re called by the USNA’s Intelligence Agency. In

reality, they aren’t so much an organization as they are a group

of unaffiliated individuals with the same special ability.

“Hlidskjalf” is the hacking system concealed within the USNA’s

worldwide communication interceptor “Echelon III”. Only seven

“operators” have access to it. That’s the ability shared between

“The Seven Sages”, using Hlidskjalf, which greatly surpasses

Echelon Ill’s legitimate operators, to gather information from

anywhere in the world, earning them this title.

Among the seven operators of Hlidskjalf, there was only one

person who actually used the title. This person, on a whim, gave

information to the USNA about an anti-government organization

and introduced himself as one of “The Seven Sages”. This was, of

course, none other than Raymond.

Today as well, Raymond was swimming in the sea of

information brought to him by using Hlidskjalf. He was a person

who was zealous about acquiring knowledge. He also liked to

investigate about specific things here and there, but amassing

information without a specific topic was closer to being a hobby

of his. For Raymond, Hlidskjalf was the greatest of his toys.

That being said, in order to actually use Hlidskjalf, one has to

define search parameters first. That is because the nature and

the function of Hlidskjalf is to answer questions.

Rays of light became characters as the search conditions were

being specified. The terminal of Hlidskjalf was operated by the

user’s brain waves and gestures in a VR (Virtual Reality) like

environment made possible by the HMD (Head-mounted

Display). The camera caught the movement of his fingertips, rays

of light were projected in the virtual environment. The operator

inputs the search criteria with characters of light, determining

the settings with the assistance of their brain waves.

Right now, Raymond was using the broad “Scandal of the

USNA Army” terms for his research. A massive amount of

information opened in the sky, being displayed in various

“windows”. The window in the distance displayed only the titles

of articles while the window close-by was displaying their

contents. Another window was composed of diagrams with their

accompanying text, another contained images, and another was a

video. If you directed your eyes on a window, it would come

closer, while looking away would send it away. As far as the eye

could see, there were innumerable windows in every direction.

Speed reading and memorization were Raymond’s forte. Tens of

windows queued up as he progressively carved their contents

into his head. However, he unexpectedly stopped this operation.

A certain window’s content attracted Raymond’s attention.

(The contents of an old depot for small missiles went

missing...?)

It would be no surprise if this fact had made headlines. Sadly,

it wasn’t unusual to hear that old weapons that were planned to

be scrapped had up and disappeared.

The missiles that went missing were using C-20

(cyclotrimethylene trinitramine) as the main explosive ingredient

for an infantry-usable anti-aircraft missile. Even though it had

been used quite a bit during the war that lasted until 2020, the

progress on nanotechnologies allowing explosions to surpass the

previous limits had forced these weapons into obsoletion.

(Still, it’s a well-tried warfare tool... I can’t think of this affair

as just a matter of control negligence.)

Raymond licked his lips at the perspective of having found

something suspicious. His forte was his fast reading speed and

good memory, but he also had some kind of sixth sense for

detecting fishy affairs.

For Raymond, the events occurring in the real world were like

the grandest shows. The more substantial and serious the event

was, the greater his interest became.

He knew full-well that he was no superman. Even if his

magical talent was first-class, it wasn’t anywhere near the

world’s finest. He knew that he would never be an influential

Magician. Nor will he ever become a hero travelling the world.

-No matter how much he wished for it.

Raymond looked at his potential that way. That is why, by

lending his power to real heroes, he could feel like he shared in

their adventures. He could then enjoy watching the events unfold

on the stage he had set.

Thats what he thought, and Hlidskjalf made this a possibility.

It was like Hlidskjalf had been made to allow him to do so.

(Should I start by examining this from the management

situation of the depot?)

Even if he finds out where the missing missiles went, he wasn’t

sure that this whole thing would end there. No matter the affair,

it was always a human’s hand that caused it. Who could’ve put

those weapons on the black market? Raymond started a search

with a now all too familiar procedure.

< >

Before Raymond noticed the disappearance of the old missiles

-two days before in fact-this matter had become a

problem for the USNA Army. This wasn’t a matter that could

remain within the base’s jurisdiction, so the Joint Chiefs of Staff

of the USNA’s Intelligence Division had begun an internal

investigation.

The reason this matter wasn’t entrusted to the gendarmerie

was because they suspected a terrorist organization was

involved. Those missiles could be put on the black market and

end up in the hands of terrorists. If that disaster became reality,

it would mean that once those missiles had been used and their

origin discovered, it would provoke a worldwide scandal. The

Department of Defense was ready to do anything to prevent that.

However, the investigation had already started six days ago,

but it was now January 27 th and things had hardly progressed.

Despite the fact that it was a Sunday, the Number 2, Colonel

Virginia Balance, was present in the office. She had a grim

expression as she read the presented report.

There were almost no clues whatsoever that would help in this

affair.

She understood from the very beginning that the perpetrators

must’ve received inside help. To begin with, it was practically

impossible to steal weapons from the military, as old as those

weapons were, without the cooperation from the inside. However,

even if they somehow managed to bribe the captain of the unit

charged with guarding the warehouse, there was no way they

could’ve taken the weapons without leaving any trace

whatsoever.

The comings and goings of weapons are double, if not triple-

checked. In addition to an RFID tag, the warehouses are

equipped with biometric sensors, and moreover, it is impossible

to open or shut the accesses if you are alone because the need for

two people cannot be bypassed. They were investigating if there

had been any anomalies in those systems, to no avail.

Virginia was reminded of a point that was particularly

perturbing her: how did they notice that something went

missing?

The loss of the missiles was noticed by the people responsible

for checking stocks. However, if this theft was performed by an

organization capable of completely bypassing the security of the

warehouse, why didn’t they also falsify the stock records? These

were obsolete weapons awaiting disposal. If they had modified

the data to make it seem like they had been disposed of, no one

would have noticed.

It was as if someone had stolen them and allowed them to

notice on purpose. Colonel Virginia genuinely felt that this was

the case.

(But then, who could ’ve done that, and for what purpose? No,

to begin with, who even has the capability to pull something like

this off?)

The lack of information made it impossible to reach a

conclusion.

Knowing so, Virginia was lost in unnecessary thoughts.

Virginia collected herself at the sound of her phone’s ringtone,

signaling a new email. It wasn’t an ordinary email either. It was

a communication using a code that only top-level members of the

Intelligence Division knew about.

With practiced, machine-like movements of her hands, she

transferred the contents of the email to an offline decoder as per

procedure. It wouldn’t be readable on a device available due to

the masses to prevent sharing information in plain text. When

she saw the deciphered message and spotted the name of the

sender, Virginia wore an amazed expression.

“The Seven Sages”.

Her eyes glistened as she read the contents. Forgetting to

breathe as the pored over the contents, it took a few moments for

her to compose herself after reading the email.

‘Are these kinds of things even permitted?”

The secret information received from “The Seven Sages” stated

that the President’s Assistant of the Deputy Chief of Staff took

part in the matter.

And even worse was the motive. If what was written here was

true, then all of this was part of a much larger-scale plan that

vastly exceeded Virginia’s expectations.

Virginia stretched her hand towards the visiphone when her

hand stopped.

She was hesitating about who exactly she should call. No, to be

more precise, she had no idea.

To whom she should share this information with, and if she

can even trust anyone with this, Virginia was at a loss.

< — - >

Angelina Sirius, High Commander in direct command of the

USNA Armys Magician Force, Stars, was enjoying a rare

shopping break.

Of course, she currently wasn’t walking around as the

“Strategic-Class Magician Angie Sirius” but as the 17-year-old,

Lina.

Instead of going to the nearest town Roswell, Silvia Mercury

First, nicknamed Silvie, who was accompanying Lina, strongly

recommended that they extend their travel to Albuquerque.

Since their mission last year in Japan, these two have been

spending quite a lot of time together. Despite their age difference,

Silvie treated Lina as if she was her younger sister. Lina’s utter

lack of what could be called a normal girl’s common sense

provoked a swirl of emotions inside of her, and she simply could

not leave Lina alone.

Today, like prior ones, was Silvie playing dress-up using Lina

as the doll. However, Lina was also enjoying herself. Even though

her fashion sense was on the questionable side, she like dressing

up. To be fair, if the subject’s tastes were fine, there wasn’t much

need to improve them.

In this case, Lina didn’t have someone to look pretty for in

comparison to Miyuki, which lead to a huge gap.

But putting all of that aside, Lina was going back to the base’s

lodging house in a very good mood, carrying her spoils of war.

You could say that those were very fulfilling holidays. Even

though she didn’t receive any mobilization orders as Sirius, a

harsh session of training was waiting for her tomorrow. Today

had been pretty refreshing, Lina was quite satisfied.

However, her cheerful mood was immediately blown away by

the mail she received on her room’s terminal.

‘An encrypted mail!?”

It wasn’t that unusual for her to receive an encrypted mail

containing secret orders. However, that a mail using the special

encryption code only known of the High Commander, the Chiefs

of Staff and the Captains of the Stars, arriving directly on her

room’s terminal was a first.

Could it be an emergency? In a mix of impatience and

nervousness, Lina was waiting for the decoder to transcribe the

contents of the mail.

Shocked feelings surfaced in her expression as she started to

read.

“The Seven Sages...?”

The name of the sender was “The Seven Sages”.

‘A joke?” was Lina’s first reaction but she dismissed that

thought as quickly as it came. There is no way a mere hacker

could access the Stars special encryption code. To begin with, the

title of “The Seven Sages” wasn’t known by those outside the

direct control of the joint Chiefs of Staff HQ.

Lina hurriedly resumed her reading. A few events without

seemingly any relation to her duties were recorded.

“Eh!? The mastermind behind the Parasite event!?”

However, as she reached the end of the mail, information that

was strongly connected to Lina started to appear.

Lina had been sent to Japan due to the event that occurred on

October 31 st , 2095 A.D. She had been sent to uncover the identity

of the user of the Strategic-Class Magic that ravaged the

southern tip of the Korean Peninsula, the “Great Bomb” (this was

the name given to Material Burst by the USNA). However, once

the Stars Members possessed by the Parasites started to desert

and flee to Japan, as a part of her High Commander ’s duties she

ordered their “Disposal”.

Lina was told that the Parasite outbreak was the result of an

accident.

Due to that fact, it was supposed to end with the deaths of the

affected people. However, if this source was to be trusted, then

the Parasite Affair had been purposely started and the

perpetrator was responsible for the comrades that Lina was

forced to kill. The added despair from her assassination duty

would also be the instigator ’s fault.

This was definitely something that couldn’t be forgiven.

“...The Mastermind of the Parasites is going to try to perform

acts of terrorism in Japan by using old missiles he stole? This

can’t be real!?”

After she finished her reading of the mail, Lina found herself

instinctively shouting about.

This was information coming from a dubious source. There was

no guarantee that it held any truth.

A profiler working for the USNA Army had analyzed “The

Seven Sages” and came to the conclusion that they most likely

enjoyed the reactions provoked by their whimsical acts. Even if

that mail truly came from “The Seven Sages”, Lina couldn’t shrug

off the possibility that this was all part of an elaborate plan to

play some kind of trick on her.

Despite that, Lina believed this information.

During the last stages of the Parasite Affair of last year, just

like today, Lina had received information from someone using the

name “The Seven Sages”. At that time, she didn’t have any reason

to believe the information given either. But even still, she had

believed it was the truth.

This time was the same. Her believing it had no basis. There

was no real reason for her to believe it.

However, if she ignored this information and something

happened afterwards she would deeply regret it.

Being tricked, being manipulated and becoming a

laughingstock wouldn’t compare to that.

If the conspiracy recorded in the mail was the truth and

became reality, then the USNA would have a great debt towards

japan. Considering japan’s current state of tension, if USNA-

made weapons were used in terrorist acts... Then it wouldn’t be

surprising if japan accused them of instigating terrorism on their

territory.

If you think about the difference in power between the two

countries, the possibility of a war happening was rather small.

However, that is if we’re only taking conventional war potential in

account, and not something like the Strategic-Class Magic

responsible for “Scorched Halloween”. If the range of that magic

can extend even further than the Pacific Ocean-as another

user of Strategic-Class Magic, Lina’s common sense denies the

possibility of... the worst could happen.

That is why she believes the information.

Lina was convinced she had to stop this plan from reaching

fruition. Not just obstructing, but actually killing the mastermind

behind it as well.

However, according to the information provided by “The Seven

Sages”, the Mastermind “Jiedo Heigu” had already left the USNA

for Japan.

Indeed, it would be difficult for Lina to act outside of her

country, let alone in Japan.

Lina decided to consult about this entire scenario with the only

person she thought could help.

< >

Virginia extended her hand towards the ringing visiphone.

Her posture crumbled for a moment. She quickly recovered and

pressed the button to accept the call.

[Colonel, forgive me for calling unannounced.]

Lina appeared on the screen, saluting in her purple-black Stars

uniform.

Seeing Lina’s appearance, as if she had just changed in her

fresh, tight uniform, Virginia felt slightly nostalgic.

“Major Sirius. Weren’t you on leave today?”

Lina’s expression betrayed her surprise. She struggled to

understand why Virginia was aware of her schedule despite the

fact that she is not even under her direct command. From

Virginia’s point of view, it was part of the course for her to know

everything about the movements of a Strategic-Class Magician,

one of the “Twelve Apostles”, the strongest magician of the USNA

and High Commander of the Stars, Angie Sirius.

“Don’t pay attention to what I just said. So, do you have any

business with me?”

Sincerely apologizing for the idle talk, Virginia enquired about

the reason of her call.

[Yes. Being blunt I require assistance from the Colonel about a

report I received.]

Being urged on by Virginia, Lina began exposing the matter.

“Go on.”

[Understood. To tell you the truth, in the period of time ranging

from 0900 hours to 1632 hours when I was out, I received an

encrypted message from someone who claimed to be a member of

“The Seven Sages”.]

“When you say the Seven Sages, are you talking about Those’

‘Seven Sages’?”

Hiding the shock, she received behind a poker face, Virginia

responded so.

[It was indeed the sender’s name. Although, I have no way of

knowing whether it is the truth or not.]

“Hmm.”

Virginia nodded and urged Lina to continue through the

camera.

[Assuming that the source of information is indeed “The Seven

Sages”, the report stated that weapons stolen from our army are

going to be used in a terrorist attack. The target would be Japan.]

“What kind of weapon?”

[Infantry-Carried Anti-Aircraft Missiles.]

“...Major, do you think such a case of theft actually occurred?”

[I don’t have a definite answer. However, there are indeed

rumors about weapons awaiting disposal being stolen from us.]

Virginia uttered a sigh. If someone like Lina who was pretty

much isolated from the regular military troops...

If the information leaked so far that even a “Sheltered Official”

such as her was aware of this matter, then that means it wasn’t

just the staff in-charge of the weapons’ surveillance whose

discipline was lacking.

[Colonel?]

A worried expression started to appear on Lina’s face. Knowing

her, she might be thinking that she offended Virginia in some

way.

Virginia herself interpreted it so anyway. For her, this was

rather vexing.

“No, it’s nothing. Please go on.”

[Understood. Even though there was no mention of a specific

target, there were references concerning a Mastermind. The name

was jiedo Heigu. He became a political refugee following

Dahan’s ruin, his Chinese name is Gu jie. His estimated age

would be between 60 and 90 years old. Black eyes and white hair,

it appears that despite his Eastern Asian lineage, he possesses

dark skin. There was a special note mentioning that he might be

a survivor of the Kunlunfang Institute.]

“The Kunlunfang Institute? Isn’t that the Magic Research

Laboratory of Dahan that was exterminated by the Yotsuba?”

[I think that is indeed the case.]

They couldn’t possibly be thinking of taking revenge on the

Yotsuba by using the missiles, could they? Virginia thought, but

she immediately dismissed that hypothesis as nonsensical. If the

Yotsuba could be dealt with as simply as that, they wouldn’t be

feared as “Untouchable” throughout the world.

[Furthermore.]

While Virginia was lost in her thoughts, Lina continued her

report.

[It appears that Jiedo Heigu was the Mastermind behind the

Parasite Affair.]

Virginia had a look of understanding.

“I see, so this was the main reason of your call.”

Even if her intention was discovered, Lina didn’t cower.

[Colonel. Even if the information about ]iedo Heigu’s relation to

the Parasite Affair is the truth, I would like to know his degree of

involvement. The deserters might have had no relation to the

Parasite Outbreak, and could have been mere pawns. However, if

this ]iedo Heigu has even the slightest link to this affair, I cannot

overlook it. If I don’t pay him back with my very own hands, I

won’t be able to get over it.]

“Major Sirius. Are you telling me you want to go to japan once

more?”

[Affirmative, Colonel.]

Virginia frowned as if taken by a sudden headache.

Allowing Lina to leave the country was a difficult matter. Even

under the best circumstances, dispatching magicians to other

countries should be done carefully. The degree of difficulty

increases by several orders of magnitude if they were talking

about the Strategic-Class Magician “Sirius”. One of the Strategic-

Class Magicians of the USNA, Roland Bart, had been placed in

the British territory of Gibraltar, but even then, there was almost

no record of him going out of that base. To the extent that he is

purposely called back to the USNA during his vacations.

Having sent Lina in japan last year was an exception among

exceptions.

Lina herself probably understood all of this very well. That is

why Virginia also understood what this was about when Lina

decided to call her. Moreover, Virginia fully understood Lina’s

desire to take revenge on Heigu with her own hands.

“...At this time I cannot give you an answer. Major, you will

have to give me some time.”

Lina couldn’t hide her surprise in front of the camera. For her,

who thought that she would be immediately rejected, Virginia’s

response was going in a surprisingly good direction.

[Yes, I’m counting on you, Colonel.]

The call ended with Lina’s appearance saluting on the screen.

< — - >

Meanwhile, Jiedo Heigu, or Gu jie, was at sea.

Even though up until a few days ago he had lived on the

USNA’s West Coast, he didn’t possess USNA citizenship.

Gu jie’s homeland was Dahan, a country that had already

disappeared.

He used to belong to the Magician Development Institute of

Kunlunfang. In the eventuality that Dahan would collapse, the

USNA’s government would grant him refugee status, and as such,

his social status was currently that of a normal refugee.

However, at the time Gu Jie arrived on the North American

continent in 2054, the country’s name was still the USA. Dahan’s

collapse occurred in February of the year 2064 A.D., merely a

single year after the destruction of the Kunlunfang Institute.

After the collapse of Dahan, rather, the destruction of the

Kunlunfang Institute, Gu Jie didn’t seek asylum from North

America. He ran away from Dahan.

The Kunlunfang Institute predated the division between the

Great Asian Alliance and Dahan, and one could think of it as the

main Modern Magic’s research laboratory of the old Eastern

Asian region.

However, that wasn’t the entire truth.

The Kunlunfang Institute had earned quite the renown as a

laboratory developing Modern Magic. But that wasn’t the only

thing they had been working on.

Both Ancient Magic and Modern Magic were being researched.

However, just like the other countries, those two “factions”, so to

speak, were at odds.

Originally, the Ninth Institute in japan was supposed to use the

know-how of Ancient Magic to develop Modern Magic. That

being said, it wasn’t researching both Ancient Magic and Modern

Magic simultaneously. In the end, the Ancient Magic Users

revolted, and the rebels also took over the Ninth Institute after

the lockdown.

Both groups turned into something similar to organizations,

competing for leadership. Ancient Magic and Modern Magic

users argued about each and every policy for the Research

Laboratories, including objectives, budgets, and human resources.

Even in the Kunlunfang Institute, both Ancient Magic users and

Modern Magic users fiercely competed for control.

Despite the fact that the Kunlunfang Institute was the main

laboratory of Dahan, the internal dispute continued. No, rather, it

intensified and this escalation would bring about a catastrophe

before long. The Modern Magic side ended up winning the power

struggle and banished the Ancient Magic users from the

Institute. This happened in the year 2054.

It was at that time that Gu jie, as an Ancient Magic User, fled

to North America along with his apprentice Zhou Gongjin. That’s

why, under normal circumstances, Gu jie shouldn’t have any

grudge towards the Yotsuba nor japan’s Magicians. The Yotsuba

were the ones who crushed the Modern Magician sect, the ones

who had taken over the Kunlunfang Institute. They should have

been something similar to a “the enemy of my enemy is my ally”

existence to Gu jie.

However, after Dahan’s collapse, Gu Jie decided that the

Yotsuba and the Japanese Magic Community were targets for

revenge. Exactly what kind of mental thought process led him to

that conclusion, no one really knew.

Was it patriotism?

Did he feel like his own revenge of Dahan had been taken

away from him?

Was an enemy simply needed to maintain his subordinate’s

cohesion?

The only thing that was certain was that Gu Jie constructed a

criminal network made up of Dahan’s deserters, that he exerts a

powerful control over them and that his only known objective so

far is revenge. As for the person in question, nothing else is

known.

When he was still alive, Zhou Gongjin had apparently

compared his obsession to that of a “vengeful spirit”.

Due to the lack of apparent reason behind his acts, it was

impossible to convince him to stop. Having lost his last

apprentice, Zhou Gongjin, he decided take matters into his own

hands.

However, Gu jie’s direct, immediate fighting potential was low.

Even though he was also a user of Ancient Continental Magic,

the Magic that he possessed wasn’t suited for direct

confrontation. If we’re talking strictly about duels, Zhou Gongjin

was his superior. This was something Gu jie himself was willing

to admit.

Gu jie was proficient in techniques that used human organs or

parts to create magic devices, like with the case of “Sorcery

Boosters”, that is, to turn a human into a tool functioning

similarly to a “Generator”, and magic for controlling corpses.

He was the practitioner of the side of Magic that concentrated

all of its vilest aspects, but ethical questions aside, he really

wasn’t the type to fight head on. Actually, he had kept himself to

just being a manipulator until now.

For Gu Jie himself to come to japan was proof that he had been

cornered, and had no other choice.

The international Anti-Magic Political Organization that he

had been supporting, “Blanche”, had been considerably

weakened by the pressure and measures taken by the

governments of several nations. As the leader of the criminal

syndicate “No Head Dragon”, he had also tried to spread rumors

in both Japan and the USNA (with the cooperation of the Great

Asian Alliance) but his plan ended in failure as well.

Finally, he lost his envoy in Japan, Zhou Gongjin. Zhou Gongjin

had been under Gu Jie’s command for more than 40 years, the

last remaining person who had fled Dahan with him. With this

loss, Gu Jie was forced to act by himself.

Zhou Gongjin had been killed in October of last year.

It was slightly past mid-January when Gu Jie left from the Los

Angeles’ port.

It wasn’t because he was mourning the death of his apprentice,

nor because his plan had failed that Gu Jie took more than two

months to make his move. It was the result of him waiting for the

most appropriate time. Truth be told, he wanted to leave for

Japan immediately and retaliate, however, if he failed to, then

things would be over once and for all. He was conscious of that

fact.

With his magical skills, being too aggressive was impossible.

That isn’t to say that his magical skills are nonexistent, but

against a first-rate Magician, it was nowhere near sufficient.

That was why he first needed weapons.

If Blanche and No Head Dragon had been in a better state, a

simple word of his would have done the deal, and a single month

would’ve been more than enough to gather the materials.

That would include the arrangements required for a ship that

would cross the Pacific Ocean. As things are, he had to set up all

of that himself. To be more precise, he found a random punk that

he used as a disposable puppet, but since he had to go through

the trouble of preparing him as well as giving him various orders,

it was basically as if he had done all the work himself.

Furthermore, to make it so that this puppet wouldn’t be traced

back to him, he embarked it on the boat to get rid of it in the

ocean.

“Sir Gu. We can be expected to enter the port of Yokosuka

tomorrow morning.”

The captain of the freighter reported so to a Gu Jie who was

looking at the sea in front of him. The deck of the freighter was

completely covered by solar panels.

“Just as planned.”

Without any trace of exhaustion from the long journey, Gu Jie

answered in a firm voice.

Gu Jie is currently 97 years old. His outward appearance

however was barely that of someone in his fifties. His hair was

completely white, however, the wrinkles, sagging and age spots

that one should normally find on someone of his age were

inexistent.

‘And also, umm... Sir, my reward.”

“I understand. Tomorrow at the morning twilight, I will apply

my Magic.”

“Thank you very much! Even after this journey ends, I promise

my unwavering loyalty to you, Sir.”

Gu Jie nodded with a pleased expression. Behind this mask

however, he had nothing but contempt for the captain.

The reward this captain was talking about. Longevity and

perpetual youth.

It was the truth that Gu Jie’s “surgery” could maintain a

perpetual youth, his very own face was the proof of that.

However, even if he could guarantee a physical youth, longevity

was out of his reach. He couldn’t give genuine immortality.

This surgery of his was a magic developed in the Kunlunfang

Institute, and it was the very reason of his presence in the

Kunlunfang Institute.

Unsurprisingly, coming from humans with power, the Leaders

of Dahan longed for perpetual youth. And while the Modern

Magic Users in the Kunlunfang Institute replied that it was

impossible, Ancient Magic Users assured them of the opposite.

For the Ancient Magic Users whose position had fallen behind

Modern Magic in the race of arms that the Kunlunfang Institute

advocated, it had been a godsend.

The one who was developing the most promising magic among

the Ancient Magic Users group was Gu Jie. Of course, it was his

surgery of perpetual youth.

It was in the year 2049 that he used his magic on his own body,

like a test subject.

To ascertain whether this magic could be used safely or not, he

used it on nine apprentices in the year 2050.

After 5 years had passed, it was confirmed that Gu jie’s aging

had come to a stop. His apprentices didn’t develop any side-

effects either, and it was then thought that a magic of perpetual

youth had been achieved.

However, there was a drawback in this Magic. Certainly, this

“Surgery of Perpetual Youth” appeared to stop the aging.

However, if the person the magic is performed on doesn’t have

the aptitude, the compensation for staying young is to consume

their life force. In other words, one’s lifespan. There had been

some cases of sudden death after three to six months.

A magic that acts for eternity is impossible. This holds true for

both Modern Magic and Ancient Magic. The surgery of perpetual

youth consists of implanting the magic inside of someone who

then continually applies it.

This magic had been made specifically for Ancient Magic

practitioners.

What would happen if a Magician tried to perform a magic

that he has no aptitude for?

What would happen if this magic was used on someone who

isn’t even a Magician?

The surgery of perpetual youth gave the one answer to those

questions.

When the men of influence from Dahan, who had already

received the “Surgery of Perpetual Youth” presented it to their

kinsmen, Gu Jie explained to them the flaws in his Magic.

The ensuing result was the purge of the Ancient Magic Users’

group.

Quickly learning the failure of his experiment, Gu J ie took his

apprentices and fled to North America.

20 years later, Gu Jie realized that his magic also didn’t prolong

one’s longevity either.

He realized it with his own apprentices’deaths.

In the end, the surgery that he had developed could only stop

the degradation of one’s outward appearance. The only reason

Gu J ie lived up to this age was that he originally had a long life

ahead of him.

It was this kind of imperfect Magic that the freighter’s captain

hoped for.

From Gu Jie’s point of view, it was quite a laughable matter.

The one who told the captain about the surgery of perpetual

youth was none other than Gu Jie himself. To earn the captains

cooperation, he had told him “there is a secret art that allows one

to conserve his youth until the day of his death”. If you cooperate

with me, I will apply this magic on you.

It wasn’t a lie. Without a doubt, this captain will conserve his

current youth until his death. Which will probably happen

within half a year.

Gu Jie himself was aware that his own time was getting

dangerously short.

“I will be pretty busy from tomorrow onwards.”

“I will also help you once we land on Yokosuka. Please, feel free

to ask me anything, sir.”

Without any knowledge about his real intentions, the captain

stated so in an elated manner.

< — - >

Even though Virginia had asked Lina to give her some time, she

went into action pretty quickly.

She left her office the morning of the following day and made

arrangements for her journey. Her destination was the Stars

Headquarters situated in the city of Roswell, New Mexico.

Wrapping up all the urgent deskwork she had to do for the day,

she used the encrypting device at her home to safely transmit the

data via email.

This encryption machine had been a gift from Kuroba Ayako,

and the recipient of the email was Yotsuba Maya. The content of

the email was basically the same as what Lina had reported to

her, that an act of terrorism had been planned in Japan using

stolen missiles and that the possibility of the mastermind, ]iedo

Heigu, being a survivor of the Kunlunfang Institute was high.

Virginia didn’t include the secret information that Lina had

shared with her however. That is, an information related to the

scandal on the USNA government. Even though Virginia formed

an alliance with the Yotsuba Family she did not completely trust

them. She had no reason to hesitate on cooperating with them,

however, she couldn’t endanger national interests.

The reply from Maya arrived when Virginia was eating. The

content of the letter had simple words of gratitude for the

information provided.

This kind of message had no real importance for her, but she

didn’t particularly mind. That was because this mail’s purpose

was simply to seal the deal regarding their alliance.

Finally, after reconfirming the schedule of each Stars

Commander, she headed for the bathroom.

< X V ->

Maya had received Virginia’s mail at 8:00 A.M., Monday,

January 28 th , Japan standard time.

“Hayama-san, it appears that remnants of the Kunlunfang

Institute are plotting an act of terrorism here in Japan.”

“That is quite the important matter.”

Hayama’s answer was rather neutral. Of course, he was aware

of what Maya had gone through in the Kunlunfang Institute.

Taking her feelings into account, it was perfectly natural for him

to not return a proper answer at once, even if neither anger nor

hatred could be felt from Maya’s voice.

‘An important matter? A mere stray dog who lost his home?”

However, it wasn’t like Maya was completely emotionless. You

could hear slight disdain in her voice.

“Mistress, if there really is a survivor from the Kunlunfang

Institute then that means he managed to escape from the

previous Head of the Family.”

Hayama lightly reproved her. Maya’s pride, to be more precise.

“We have no idea what sort of unusual talent he might possess.

I strongly recommend we stay vigilant.”

“I understand.”

Despite responding so, Maya’s lips curved into a smile full of

disdain.

“Still, what are they hoping to achieve with small missiles?

Japan is not a zone of conflict after all. Moving around carrying

these is practically begging to be captured, don’t you think?”

“During the Yokohama Incident, the guerillas who had

concealed themselves in town beforehand had managed to

prepare quite a few missiles.”

“That was thanks to the camouflaged warship they had as

backup, wasn’t it?”

Objecting on reflex, Maya retorted.

“...Yet, it’s true that there is no guarantee that we will be able

to successfully prevent this planned act of terrorism.”

“Even a Magician would die if hit by a missile while in a

defenseless condition. Moreover, depending on their objective, we

might have to deal with danger in another form altogether. There

is a possibility of them dismantling the warheads and using

them as bombs too. Back during the times of war, these kinds of

suicide bombing attacks were regular occurrences.”

Faced with Hayama’s numerous examples, even Maya couldn’t

deny the necessity of dealing with it.

“Understood. Then let’s look for this Jiedo Heigu. A lot of our

workforce is focused on the preparation for the Master Clan

Conference, however, so we won’t be able to field too much

personnel.”

The Master Clan Conference will take place next month, in the

beginning of February in 2097. In particular, this period was the

reunion of the Ten Master Clans which happens once every 4

years.

The Conference will decide the members of the future Ten

Master Clans for a duration of 4 years. There were 28 Houses

which had the qualifications to become a Member of the Ten

Master Clans, and everyone was in a hurry to perform the final

tasks in order to have an advantage for the selection.

The selection will be decided by internal voting, and since only

28 Houses can participate, it will be nothing like large-scale

elections or anything. However, it was necessary to make various

arrangements as well as finding faults in other Houses to have

the best possible odds.

“Should we talk about this matter with the other Houses?”

Maya pondered for a few moments before shaking her head

from left to right at Hayama’s suggestion of asking for the

cooperation of the other Clans.

“I would rather not be a subject of gossip. Let me think...

Alright, spread the rumor that terrorists targeting magicians

have infiltrated the country. With this, we should expect them to

make the necessary moves.

Could you work on this until lunch?”

“Understood, Mistress. They will be ready in two hours.”

Search and Information Manipulation, giving his words this

double-meaning, Hayama politely bowed.

< — >

9:00 A.M., Japan standard time, January the 28 th , Gu Jie’s

freighter entered Yokosuka’s port.

Immediately after landing, Gu Jie started to collect the required

personnel for his plans. That being said, the arrangements had

already been done beforehand. Despite losing the No Head

Dragon Organization, Gu Jie had gathered quite the extensive

know-how to make deals with the obscure sides of modern

society during his days as a mastermind. As long as quality

wasn’t a crucial factor, it wasn’t that difficult to gather personnel.

No matter how prosperous a society is, unfortunate people exist.

The target had been confirmed even before the landing. Of

course, the location for the Ten Master Clans Conference had only

been shared between the concerned. However, using Hlidskjalf

would allow one to easily uncover that information.

The super-hacking tool, Hlidskjalf. Gu Jie wasn’t the type to

qualify anything as 'super”, but the fact of the matter is, there

wasn’t really any other expression strong enough to describe it.

Hlidskjalf’s information gathering capability was effective

worldwide.

Gu Jie was aware that it was impossible to access information

which only exists offline, however, in this day and age,

information that couldn’t be found using the network was

practically nonexistent. No matter the complexity of the

encryption, Hlidskjalf would decipher it.

Even quantum encrypted transmissions that "cannot be

intercepted without possessing the correct decryption key” can be

completely overturned and rendered powerless.

Who exactly invented this system? Who, and for what purpose,

did this person send me this terminal? Even Gu Jie had first

approached it with caution. Especially, when he discovered the

hidden drawback in the system after having made a random

search.

This drawback became clear all too soon.

Hlidskjalf records everything that the user investigates. The

other Operators can also see it.

Still, they have no way of understanding who exactly made the

search.

What they know is 'what has been searched” and that’s it.

Gu J ie remembered the disappointment he felt back then. That

the system’s creator would be able to see what exactly he

searched for had been within his expectation. Even though the

identities of the seven operators was supposed to remain a

mystery with this system, Gu J ie wasn’t the kind of person to take

someone’s words as gospel (At least, that’s what he thought of

himself). The administrator of this system, the person who most

certainly sent this terminal to him, could probably understand

who did what. If you were to acknowledge this fact and still

wanted to use the terminal, then the fact that other operators

could also search your history shouldn’t matter that much.

Gu J ie didn’t have any hesitation in using Hlidskjalf.

Of course, he always had in mind the possibility that the

system could be lying. He didn’t use it for every piece of

information he wanted, however. There have been plenty of times

where he collected information without relying on it, for the

reasons stated above. But still, Hlidskjalf was an extremely

convenient tool.

The problem he faced this time was that the Ten Master Clans

might have predicted an attack if they had heard rumors of

someone making investigations on the conferences location. Gu

Jie didn’t underestimate the power of the Ten Master Clans. It

was also possible that if a person among the Ten Master Clans

also had access to Hlidskjalf, an ambush would be waiting for

him. Of course, he was extremely careful as to what keywords he

used during his search, and just because things went smoothly

up until now didn’t mean that this time would be the same.

Taking this into consideration, he had prepared various plans

in the eventuality of an ambush.

Gu jie’s purpose wasn’t to assassinate the Heads of the Ten

Master Clans. Socially ending the Yotsuba Family that destroyed

the Kunlunfang Institute was his goal.

While seeing off his dolls who were heading towards the town

of Hakone in freight vehicles, Gu jie sneered at the dark pleasure

swelling from within himself. These dolls had been made from

various poor citizens of Yokosuka.

< — >

Even though Lina was slightly surprised at her training’s

interruption, she obeyed the orders and headed towards the

base’s control room.

Her companion was the Commanding Officer of the Stars First

Unit, Benjamin Canopus. He was the person Lina was relying on

the most, Stars’ Number 2.

“Ben, what do you think this is all about?”

Canopus shook his head at Lina, whose voice betrayed a

certain anxiety.

“Truth be told, I have no idea. However, nothing in particular

has happened recently so I doubt this is going to be a scolding or

anything of the sort.”

It wasn’t that rare for Stars Members to break things during

their training. Things like training equipment, vehicles, and even

facilities.

Considering the Stars were training for combat situations, a

certain degree of destruction couldn’t be helped, and this was

even more valid when Commander-Class personnel were

training. Lina had heard various complaints about the budget

from the base’s commander.

“I-I guess so.”

Canopus looked at Lina with a smile while she was mumbling

to herself words of encouragement. He had a daughter who was

only 2 years younger than Lina, and because of that, he’d sort of

developed parental feelings for her.

Without knowing that her subordinate was pointing such

warm eyes towards her, Lina tightly clenched her fists and was

psyching herself up.

-Lina was unaware that her childish, cutesy gesture was

further prodding Canopus’ feelings.

Somehow successfully managing to put her uneasiness in a

corner of her heart, she straightened her posture and adopted

-or at least she thought she had-a proper expression for

someone of the military, then knocked on the door of the

Commander’s Room. With a voice signaling her to come in, the

lock of the door disengaged. Opening the door for herself, Lina

instinctively raised her voice at the unexpected person in the

room.

“Colonel Balance!?”

Right next to the commander of the base, who was behind his

desk, was Colonel Virginia Balance sitting in a chair.

“Major, what are you doing. Come in.”

Ordered by the irritated voice of the base’s commander, Walker,

who also had the rank of Colonel, Lina moved in front of the

desk in a hurry.

Canopus followed Lina with a composed attitude.

“Major Sirius, Major Canopus, at ease.”

Walker talked to the two people who saluted in front of his

desk.

“Yes.”

Lina and Canopus both adopted the resting pose

simultaneously.

“Colonel Balance has something to tell to the two of you.”

Saying so, Walker stood up.

“Then, Colonel Balance.”

Virginia stood up from her seat slightly after him.

“Colonel Walker. Thank you for allowing us to borrow your

room for a few moments.”

Walker and Virginia saluted each other, then Walker went out

of the room.

Locking the door using the remote control, Virginia finally

faced Lina.

“Major Sirius, even though I think you already figured out the

reason for my presence, it’s about yesterday’s matter.”

“Yes.”

As she said, Lina had guessed that this could be related to the

request she had formulated yesterday.

“It is unfortunate, however, that the Major’s request cannot be

granted.”

And the answer was as Lina had expected.

“We cannot carelessly allow the High Commander of the Stars,

a Strategic-Class Magician to leave the country.”

Even though she had become accustomed to this reason, she

still couldn’t accept it deep in her heart. Despite the fact that she

fulfilled her duty when she was sent to Japan last year, it didn’t

change the fact that she really wasn’t fit for such a task.

Thinking about it, dealing with a terrorist threat in a friendly

nation that was allowed to exist due to her own army’s blunder

was, in fact, considered an obligation of Stars. At the very least,

those were Lina’s thoughts on the matter. Even more so

considering the chances of the Mastermind being a Magician

were exceptionally high.

“-That is the official reason on the matter, anyhow.”

However, Lina’s displeasure at hearing this was about to

skyrocket.

“The truth is, higher-ups are starting to wonder if the Major

holds excess sympathy for japan. Some are even fearing that the

Major would consider exiling herself to Japan. In other words,

there is an issue of trust.”

“Wait a moment! I have sworn loyalty to this nation, haven’t I?!”

“I know.”

Virginia nodded with a calm expression at a Lina who

instinctively reacted.

“I am not doubting the Major’s loyalty. However, the fact you

have Japanese lineage, and that you are still only a 17-year-old

girl are causing them to doubt your allegiance.”

Lina was mortified. For her, having mostly an Anglo-Saxon

face, experiencing what basically amounted to racism was a first.

Furthermore, considering it wasn’t face-to-face discrimination

but instead being whispered behind her back, her head was

starting to boil from rage.

“I can’t really find any other word than utter stupidity to

qualify this.

However, it is specifically because such fools exist that we must

avoid giving them any chances. Major, you are our nation’s

greatest asset.”

Still, despite her enraged state of mind, Lina wasn’t so far gone

that she forgot her etiquette training and completely ignored the

words of a superior. Those remarks had been spoken for her sake.

“It is impossible to send Major Sirius to japan. However, it isn’t

like we can just leave this matter unattended.”

Virginia took in a breath and put power in her next sentence.

“That is why, we will send Major Canopus. Major Sirius, is this

alright?”

“...Understood. I will be on standby for further orders.”

Swallowing her dissatisfaction, she saluted Virginia.

Virginia slowly nodded with a “very well”.

“In that case I will start to explain in more detail the mission to

Major Canopus. Major Sirius, you may leave.”

“Yes. Then, pardon me, Colonel.”

Even though a part of Lina had wanted to explain things

directly to Canopus, she had no confidence that doing so

wouldn’t generate jealousy, and that was why she obediently left.

“-The situation is as stated above. Major Canopus, do you

have any questions?”

After having explained to Canopus everything, from the stolen

missiles to “The Seven Sages” information, Virginia inquired so.

“No, I don’t, Colonel.”

It is unknown if there will indeed be an act of terrorism in

japan, and their only source of information had been the

suspicious “Seven Sages” as well. Is there any dissatisfaction to

being given a mission based on such ambiguous intelligence?

That had been the nuance in Virginias earlier question, but

neither a question nor a complaint came up from Canopus.

“I see. In that case, Major Canopus, there is something I would

like to ask you.”

“Yes, what is it?”

Even though Virginia carefully scrutinized Canopus’expression,

not even a brow of his twitched. Feeling relief more than

disappointment, Virginia carefully continued.

“Major Canopus, no, allow me to call you Major Benjamin

Lowes here.”

In the middle of Virginia’s question, Canopus’ eyebrows moved

ever so slightly.

“The Major is blood-related to the Assistant of the Deputy

Chief of Staff, Mr. Kane Lowes, right?”

“Yes. I think the Colonel is already aware but the Assistant of

the Deputy Chief of Staff and my father are cousins, and he is my

mother’s cousin-in-law.”

In other words, he is connected to the Lowes’ Family both by

blood and marriage, and with this kind of close relationship it

wouldn’t be exaggerated to say he’s part of the upper echelons of

society.

“To tell you the truth, the information brought to us by ‘The

Seven Sages’ isn’t limited to what I talked to you about earlier. I

wish it was some kind of mistake but...”

Seeing Virginia hesitate, Canopus’expression moved a little.

His expression had a faint “It can’t be?” feeling to it.

“It would appear that both the acquisition of the missiles and

the terrorists leaving the country with them has been

accommodated by the Assistant of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Mr.

Lowes.”

“...Are you saying that the Assistant of the Deputy Chief of

Staff has been corrupted by the terrorists?”

To Canopus’ question, Virginia shook her head with a gloomy

expression.

“If that was all there was to it, it wouldn’t be so complicated.”

“So that means there are other points of concern?”

Virginia frowned before opening her mouth to answer.

“Truth be told, the possibility that he and the Deputy Chief of

Staff decided to make use of ]iedo Heigu is higher than the

corruption hypothesis.”

While Canopus couldn’t hide his shock, Virginia decided to ask

him something seemingly unrelated to the matter at hand.

“Major. What do you think about the Humanist Ideology?”

A popular opinion was that “humans have to live only using

human abilities”, or at least that is the doctrine that the anti-

Magician Catholic cults go by. Again, this was a mere excuse to

agitate the anti-Magician sentiment.

However, Canopus’ answer would be even more concise.

“Mass hysteria. Still, to effectively use this, it would require

influence as well as extreme prudence, I think.”

‘As a Magician yourself, don’t you feel threatened by all of

that?”

“If it seemed like it was about to escalate then I do think some

measures should be thought of. We Magicians have no reason to

bow down to false charges after all.”

“...You seem to possess pretty radical opinions.”

“Colonel, you’re misunderstanding something. I only think that

it would be dangerous for the citizens if society didn’t allow them

self-defense.

Those calumnious would-be victims incite racism and

discrimination, something that has a high risk of breaking down

any country, ours included, so we shouldn’t take it lightly.”

“I understand your stance. But that is not the problem at hand.”

While saying this, Virginia had an unpleasant expression.

“Lowes, the Assistant of the Deputy Chief of Staff, has a

different thought process but appears to have arrived at the same

conclusion as you.”

Even though Virginia was peering into Canopus’ expression, he

kept a cool, if somewhat brazen, expression.

“However, this is the country of freedom. It is a necessity to

guarantee freedom of speech. No matter how good the cause, we

cannot suppress it. At the very least, politicians think so.”

“I agree with this, Colonel.”

“...That is where the group Lowes belongs to decided to act,

and they planned on giving the Humanists a target other than

them, another country.”

“So that they can perform their act of terrorism in Japan, and

feel satisfied enough to not do it here as well?”

“Your sarcasm is unneeded, Major. This is something I don’t

agree with.”

Virginia reproved with a sour look, a Canopus that was

wearing a smile full of derision.

“Forgive my rudeness, Colonel.”

Thinking that he had gone too far, Canopus genuinely

apologized.

Seeing Canopus apologizing, Virginia realized that she might

have been too high-strung herself and decided to resume the

conversation.

“Putting that aside, if the information given by The Seven

Sages’ is to be trusted, Lowes’ group’s objective isn’t even the

terrorist act itself.”

“In other words?”

“It is nigh-impossible to limit the damage of a terrorist

bombing to only the planned targets. Citizens will also

unfortunately get involved in this.”

“That is...”

It was the first time since entering this room that Canopus wore

such an expression.

“With this kind of weaponry, it would be impossible to harm a

Magician unless they were taken by surprise. However, if you

were to prepare a bomb using tens of those missiles’ destructive

power, it would be difficult even for Members of the Ten Master

Clans of Japan. Although a high-ranked Magician could

definitely survive the explosion with a heatproof barrier, the

civilians who happen to be in the area wouldn’t have a chance. If

the explosion came from all directions, then even protecting the

innocent would be next to impossible. As a result, only the

civilians would suffer casualties. This was the scenario

envisioned by The Seven Sages’.”

‘And since Magicians of Japan let innocent civilians die under

their very eyes, the Humanists would take them as their new

target. Their energy would be concentrated on Japan, thus, the

anti-Magician movement in our own country would weaken.

Moreover, the risk of Humanists resorting to radical measures

out of frustration would decrease, is that it?”

“Indeed.”

Canopus’eyes had a sharp light to them.

“In that case, my mission will be to restrain ]iedo Heigu’s act of

terrorism before it happens?”

“What I ask of you is in fact much more than that.”

Virginia took a provocative stance.

‘After last year’s Parasite Affair, the Japanese authorities

definitely won’t see us in a good light. It will probably be

impossible to capture Heigu on Japanese soil without alerting

them. That will lead to an inquiry as to why we captured Heigu,

and then they’ll discover the weapons he planned on using had

come from us.

However, if this act of terrorism actually succeeds, the origin of

the used weapons will probably be discovered as well. I think

that it would be much more disadvantageous to not stop it

beforehand.

The difference between losing weapons and having them

purchased from a black market by a terrorist versus letting a

terrorist steal our weapons is quite vast.”

“...So we’re going to let innocent Japanese citizens be

massacred?”

“I have already secretly warned Japanese Magicians about

Jiedo Heigu’s group of terrorists.”

It wasn’t as if Canopus could completely agree with Virginia.

However, he couldn’t dispute the fact that there was a need for

the USNA Army to cover their position. Before being a Magician,

Canopus was a military man. This fact was one of the biggest

differences between him and the virtuous Lina.

“Major. Your duty is not related to the execution of Jiedo

Heigu’s act of terrorism, whether it is before it happens or

afterwards, your mission is to assassinate him. His plans will

probably still be realized even if he is killed, but you need not

worry about that. According to ‘The Seven Sages’, Heigu doesn’t

seem to be using aerial transports. If he is on the sea, you may

use ‘loud’ means to get the work done. Do not allow the Japanese

to capture him.”

“Understood.”

Faced with the image of a saluting Canopus accepting the duty

bestowed upon him, Virginia couldn’t help but feel guilty.

“Forgive me, Major. Even though we understand this kind of

dirty work isn’t part of your duties, considering the possibility of

our opponent being a peculiar Magician is high, we need to meet

him with an eminent Magician of our own.”

Canopus stopped saluting and without putting on a tough act,

shook his head.

“You need not worry yourself, Colonel. If anything, I would like

to express my gratitude for choosing me. I do not want the High

Commander... I don’t want Lina to suffer the pain of

assassination work, as much as I can help it.”

Saluting once again, Canopus left the commander’s room.

< -— >

Canopus arrived at the Japan-USNA Joint-Base of Yokosuka on

January 29 th , 1800 hours, Japan standard time.

Due to the frequent wars throughout the world over a 20-year

period, most countries decided to call back all their troops to

their respective territories, thus, things like the U.S. Forces’ Bases

in Japan had disappeared. However, after the U.S became the

USNA, the alliance between them and Japan had continued, but

changed. Each country installed bases on their lands, bases that

could be used freely by the other nation. The base of Yokosuka

was one of those. (That being said, those bases’ activities were

close to nonexistent).

Of course, the fact that the Stars First Unit Commander,

Canopus, came to Japan remained a secret. Immediately after

arriving, without even going out of the base, he went on a

destroyer ship towards the sea.

The warship that Canopus was on headed south, towards the

Sagami Bay, and it passed by a small cruiser of 20 meters in the

middle of the sea area between the Boso Peninsula and Oshima.

Canopus jumped from the destroyer to the small cruiser when

the two were close enough. This boat had been camouflaged

using Optical Magic which could reflect even infrared rays.

Although a faint shadow would probably appear on

stratospheric surveillance cameras, discerning its identity should

be impossible. With this, Canopus could be smuggled into the

country safely.

This small cruiser was originally something that the USNA

embassy possessed for leisure purposes, thus, to use it for

information gathering, its power output and the hull’s outer

armor had been reinforced. Of course, cutting-edge sensors had

been installed as well. Despite the fact that this cruiser didn’t

have many weapons, so long as Canopus was on it, this wouldn’t

be a problem at all.

Canopus turned the cruiser towards Sagami Bay. The cruiser

went south, following the Izu Peninsula, then at Cape Irozaki

turned north towards the Suruga Bay. Due in part to the slow

speed at which he sailed, it was already nearing midnight when

he found the target ship.

It was a small freighter which had its deck entirely covered

with solar panels. When sailing, the arms on each of the sides of

the hull would open up, like a Tobiuo’s wings, and the thin solar

films would then increase the power generation. This auxiliary

power source uses a photocatalytic hydrogen production model

built into a regular fuel cell, and with nearly all the energy

required coming from the sun, this type of freighter had become

the main transport model in the latter half of the 21st century.

This freighter had been mentioned along with the presumed

date at which ]iedo Heigu left the USNA. However, this ship was

supposed to arrive yesterday in Japan. That is why the ship’s

inspection was unnecessary, so they decided to search the port at

which it had anchored.

“Major, is it that ship?”

The captain of the ship who served as an officer in the USNA’s

Marine Corps talked to Canopus with a mix of awe and fear in

his voice. As a temporary subordinate under his command for

this mission, he had been told about Canopus’ background. The

Stars were already a unit whose reputation was close to that of

legendary, and factor in that he was now talking to one of its best

field officers, and you get that result. Albeit, this captain wasn’t

aware that “Canopus” the Number 2, was right behind “Sirius”,

so he didn’t need to be that tense. If he had been aware of

Canopus’ rank, it was quite possible that he wouldn’t have been

able to focus on his work to begin with.

To the captain’s question, Canopus expressed a bitter smile.

Seeing this smile without an ounce of intimidation or malice, the

captain’s tension softened a little.

“My apologies but ships really aren’t my forte. You guys should

have much more expertise on this subject than I do, right?”

Understanding that Canopus implicitly asked “Isn’t this

something you of all people should bring answers to?”, the

captain straightened his spine.

“Pardon me, Sir. There is no mistake that this is the ship in

question.”

“Of course, I will trust you on this matter.”

Canopus adopted a serious look and nodded, and a breath of

relief escaped from the captain’s lips.

“Captain.”

“Yes, Major?”

The captain answered with a tone fitting of the serious

expression Canopus was wearing.

“Keep that ship under surveillance. Since Heigu brought this

ship all the way from Yokosuka to Numazu, he might be tempted

to use it again to escape.”

“Understood. I will immediately contact local agents.”

“We will continue observing the vessel tonight.”

“Major, aren’t you going to the mainland?”

“We’re already past the planned time for landing. If we are to

successfully complete this mission, we must avoid drawing

attention as much as possible.”

“Sir, yes, sir!”

Nodding silently, Canopus turned his attention towards the

freighter.

< >

Persuaded by Virginia, Lina graciously decided to give up on

going to japan. She thought that sending Canopus wasn’t a

mistake. Thinking about it, if they were to exclude Heavy Metal

Burst, he might even be stronger than her, Sirius, since he was a

veteran combat Magician. Lina kept repeating to herself that he

never failed his duties.

Still, Lina had come to a point where it was unbearable to not

do anything.

“...It’s true, I cannot do anything. I have to obediently remain

here.

However, if it’s about warning a fri... an acquaintance, then

there should be no problem!”

Despite the fact that no one was listening to her monologue, she

felt the need to hurriedly correct herself before she could utter

the word “friend”.

Looking left and right with a red face, no matter how you

looked at it, it was her excessive self-consciousness.

Was she aware that her actions were a bit childish? Lina

cleared her throat-which was quite a cutesy act in and of

itself anyway-and looked towards the vision console.

It was currently two hours past midnight. In other words, that

meant Lina had been worrying until that time, but it also meant

that it was just six o’clock in Japan. Even though that wasn’t

planned at all, it was just what she hoped for.

Although she had decided to phone them, if she gave herself

the time to hesitate, it would have been too late. Lina psyched

herself up in front of the console and dialed Miyuki’s number.

After five blips, the screen’s light turned on. Looking at the

display, her rival appeared, and compared to a year ago, her

beauty had even further increased.

[My! Lina, it’s been a while.]

Neither envy, fear, reverence nor admiration transpired from

her gaze, and she was only looking at the person named

‘Angelina”. Lina remembered the illusion of the water concealing

her heart melting away.

“Hello, Miyuki. It’s been awhile indeed. Is everything going

well?”

[Yes, thanks to you. Did you lose some weight I wonder? Are

you alright? Aren’t you busy with your work?]

Calling her role as the Stars’ High Commander, the duty of the

Sirius, as just “work”. This spontaneous boldness gave Lina

pleasant feelings.

“My weight actually increased you know? Maybe I became

more muscular.”

[Hmm... It looks like you did shape up a bit. I’m a little

jealous.]

“Miyuki... I told you that when someone such as yourself talks

like that, it sounds like sarcasm. Moreover, what’s up with you?

Getting even more beautiful like that. When are you going to feel

satisfied and stop?”

[I could say the same to you, it really sounds like sarcasm

when you say such things... If it seems like I look beautiful, then

it’s only because of Onii-sama.]

Lina suddenly had dejected feelings. Really, if the situation had

been different... such thoughts wandered in Lina’s head, feelings

of disappointment.

“...Ah that’s true, Miyuki is now engaged to Tatsuya, right.

Congratulations.”

[Thank you very much, Lina. Still, the news spread pretty fast it

seems.]

“Well, we’re talking about the ‘Princess’ of the Yotsuba. It’s

normal to bear an interest.”

[Is that true? Then could it be that Lina called to congratulate

us?]

Lina was taken aback by Miyuki’s happy smile. And with this

she remembered the purpose of her call.

“Umm, no, sorry. It’s not really for that.”

Hearing Lina’s apology, Miyuki slightly cocked her head to the

side, but rather than being ill-humored, she was puzzled.

[Oh my, in that case, is it an important matter?]

Lina wanted to ask why Miyuki would show her such a cutesy

face, but refrained from doing so and swallowed her retort.

“Indeed. It’s probably a very important matter.”

[...Would it be better if I called Onii-sama I wonder?]

Thinking for less than a second, Lina nodded her head at

Miyuki’s proposal.

“Yes. It would be better for Tatsuya to hear this as well.”

[Please, wait for a moment.]

The screen entered suspension mode.

It took roughly three seconds for the display to turn on again,

and for Miyuki’s beautiful figure to reappear.

[Lina, long time no see.]

“Yes, Tatsuya. It has been a long time.”

Tatsuya was sitting next to Miyuki. To Lina’s surprise, the

distance between Tatsuya and Miyuki wasn’t zero.

[I guess this would be the time where we slowly talk about

how things have been going around each other, but you seem to

have important business to talk about. Let’s leave the friendship

talk for the next time, then. What did you want to consult us

about.]

“You haven’t changed, Tatsuya. I must say, I like that

straightforward personality of yours.”

Immediately after saying this, Lina thought “Damn it”. Using “I

like” to qualify an aspect of Tatsuya while Miyuki is right next to

him, isn’t that like pouring fuel on the already lit fire that is

called “Miyuki’s jealousy”.

However, once again unexpectedly, Miyuki remained calm and

composed.

This was incredibly eerie to Lina.

“Umm... Miyuki. Aren’t you angry?”

[Eh, about what?]

Miyuki replied with a face that explicitly told she had no idea

what Lina was talking about.

From Miyuki’s point of view, it was natural that other women

would be attracted to him, or at least find likeable points about

him, so there was no reason to get angry about such trivial

matters. Lina wasn’t aware of that fact however.

“Well, let’s forget about it.”

If she doesn’t care about it then there’s no reason to press the

issue.

Thanks to that, Lina was able to get down to business.

“Tatsuya, Miyuki, do you remember about The Seven Sages’?”

Tatsuya and Miyuki looked at each other.

[We remember.]

The one who answered was Tatsuya.

[Have you received some information from those Seven Sages?]

While picturing Raymond Clark’s face, Tatsuya asked Lina this

question. There should be no way for her to know about “The

Seven Sages” identity. Never mind that Raymond was one of

them.

“Spot on.”

As Lina didn’t have any telepathy or unusual mind powers, she

couldn’t see what image went through Tatsuya’s mind at the

moment. Lina also didn’t have observation powers on a level

where she could see through Tatsuya’s poker face.

‘According to the information we received from them, remnants

of Dahan have planned an act of terrorism in Japan.”

Having received an answer to her own question, she answered

Tatsuya’s.

“The Mastermind is someone named Jiedo Heigu. His Chinese

name is Gu Jie. He is a presumed surviving Magician from the

Kunlunfang Institute... What’s wrong Miyuki?”

Miyuki was about to raise her voice but quickly held it in, and

having seen that, Lina inquired for the reason of her response.

[The name Kunlunfang Institute holds a very special meaning

for us... Forgive me for interrupting you.]

The truth was that they had heard this name already from

Raymond, that he was another member of “The Seven Sages”,

Miyuki quickly covered up with a lie as Tatsuya didn’t have any

reaction.

‘Ah, I see...”

Lina knew about the connection between the Yotsuba and the

Kunlunfang Institute. Considering it normal for the Yotsuba

Successor to react vividly at the mention of a “Kunlunfang

Institute Survivor”, Lina didn’t press the issue.

“You might have already guessed, but we think that the

possibility of the Yotsuba being Heigu’s target is pretty high.”

[I see. Indeed, this line of thought seems to be the most

plausible. Is that the reason Lina contacted Miyuki?]

“W-well, yeah, that’s how it is.”

Hearing Tatsuya say “I think the same”, Lina started to blush

without any particular reason.

[It’s true that both Miyuki and I are related to this matter.

There is also the possibility that Miyuki would be directly

targeted.]

“Tatsuya... Don’t talk as if it’s someone else’s problem. There is

a possibility that you could become a target as well.”

To a Lina who stated so with an amazed voice,

[It would be convenient if I was their target.]

Tatsuya answered with a fearless expression.

“...Well, I guess so. If they make you their target, I guess things

would be wrapped up in short order.”

Hearing his answer, Lina instinctively consented.

Even Lina didn’t understand the extent of Tatsuya’s true power.

Even though, at first, she had thought that he was a Magician

skilled in Mental-Interference Magic, she came to doubt that

assessment during their final battle with the Parasites.

In a word, Tatsuya was, and still is a mysterious Magician.

However, if anything, Lina couldn’t question his ability. Lina

couldn’t even imagine how Magicians who had no choice but to

rely on the little missiles they stole would go about dealing

Tatsuya.

[Lina, what’s wrong? You have the face of someone who just

lost all her worries.]

Lina violently jumped up at Miyuki casually revealing her

thoughts.

Why was she feeling so relieved after confirming that Tatsuya

wouldn’t be done in so easily.

“No, well, you know.”

Hampered by the noisy sound her heart was making, she

couldn’t form a proper sentence.

“You see, how should I say it...”

Looking at the wry smile of Tatsuya, Lina remembered how

irritating it could be.

‘Ah, geez! See, to sum up, I just wanted to.”

To tell you about Heigu, was what she was about to say, but

she managed to seal her lips right before saying it.

[I see... In other words, you were in such a hurry to tell us

about Heigu that once you did what you called for, you felt

relieved, is that it?]

“Yeah, that’s right!”

Lina showed quite the grand reaction to the figurative lifeboat

that Tatsuya sent her.

‘Ah...”

While Lina was rapidly getting redder,

[I see. Lina, thank you very much.]

Tatsuya ignored it and expressed his thanks to Lina.

“Y-you don’t need to thank me! I just thought that if I didn’t

tell you guys I’d have trouble sleeping, that’s all! Well then,

Tatsuya, Miyuki, good night!”

Forgetting the time difference between their countries, Lina cut

off the transmission after rapidly saying her goodbye.

She violently took off her clothes and slipped between the

sheets without even putting on her pajamas.

Chapter 5

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=j£jEj£j£i

A week had passed since Tatsuya and Miyuki had received that

phone call from Lina.

Lina’s communication had been last Tuesday, and since today

was Monday, six days had passed. There were still no clues about

the terrorist attack or Heigu. This was the case not only for

Tatsuya, but also Maya and Canopus as well, none of whom had

made progress in the search for Heigu.

Furthermore, today was February 4 th . The Master Clans

Conference would be held in two days’time.

The Master Clans Conference is the summit for the Japanese

Magic Community. Even for Ancient Magicians who didn’t even

accept the Ten Master Clans as the Leaders of Magicians, they

couldn’t deny the influence of the Master Clans Conference.

Especially this year, the Ten Master Clans Selection Meeting

would be held on the second day. It would decide the next Ten

Master Clans for the next 4 years, which heightened the

Magician’s concerns even more.

The students of First High, too, were restless since early

morning.

Though they were only High School Students, being Magicians

themselves, they couldn’t help being concerned. Especially for

people who are related to the Ten Master Clans and the 18

Assistant Houses, or people associated with the Ten Master

Clans whose probability for selection was low, were anxious to

the point of being incapable of concentrating in school.

As Miyuki entered Class 2-A, the students reacted by freezing

in shock, and silence fell upon the room.

“Good morning, Shizuku, Honoka.”

Miyuki greeted Shizuku in the seat in front and Honoka

standing adjacent to Shizuku. With a greeting, she removed the

spell on her classmates.

“Miyuki!? Why did you come to school!?”

Honoka let out a voice similar to a scream. With that, Class 2-A

was filled with the loud buzz of commotion.

“Why... Isn’t today a weekday. For a High School Student to

come to school is a given, isn’t it? Or since when have I been

ostracized by my friends? Or could it be bullying?”

Miyuki tilted her head with one hand on her cheek, making a

troubled expression.

In response to the unexpected counter-attack, Honoka was

bewildered.

Shizuku too had a face which indicated that she had no idea

as to how she could assist her.

However, the troubles of the two did not continue for long.

“I apologize, that was a joke.”

A quick smile slipped out of Miyuki that turned into a giggle.

“I thought you would be absent? Today’s the Master Clans

Conference after all.”

“Y-Yeah!”

Honoka who followed-up, anxiously drew closer to Miyuki.

“Miyuki, is it fine to not go to the Conference? After all, this

time, they’re holding the selection meeting, too? Since you’re the

successor, ah...”

Honoka covered her mouth with her hand, showing an

expression that she messed up.

The classmates who heard this, turned away all at once.

“Even though I would prefer it if you weren’t so bothered about

it...”

Miyuki put on a smile of embarrassment. But the classmates

who, until recently, were concerned about her, couldn’t help but

worry about her attendance.

“So Miyuki, is it okay to not go?”

Following Miyuki’s statement, Shizuku asked a rather bland

question to break the sour mood.

“Well, I wasn’t invited to go.”

As Miyuki answered while smiling, gazes which seemed to say

“Eh?” gathered around her.

“I wonder if Honoka and Shizuku don’t know this. The venue of

the Master Clans Conference is a secret to everyone except the

attendees. For the 18 Assistant Houses attending the Selection

Meeting, as of today, they are only informed about the

approximate location, with the specifics about the room being

used still unknown.”

“But Miyuki is...”

To Honoka revealing her surprise, Miyuki pleasantly smiled.

It paralyzed Honoka’s tongue and throat.

“I wasn’t invited. Thus, I don’t even know where the meeting

will take place. It’s not that I take no interest in the contents of

the meeting but if I don’t even know the general location, there’s

no way I can go, right?”

“That’s true.”

In place of Honoka who had started blushing quietly, Shizuku

nodded in agreement to Miyuki’s words.

At the same time, something similar was happening in Class 2-

E.

“Hmm? Tatsuya-san, why did you come to school?”

“Good morning, Mizuki. To greet me with such a question in the

morning.”

“Eh, ah, no, about that... I’m sorry.”

It wasn’t that Tatsuya particularly felt uncomfortable but for

him to say such a thing was natural. Tatsuya had never taken

long periods of absence from school, so to be questioned, “Why

did you come to school”, on a Monday, the question coming out of

nowhere was nothing less than a rarity.

But on this day, it wasn’t just Mizuki who seemed to have

forgotten her common sense.

“Tatsuya-kun, is it alright for you to come to school!?”

Opening the window noisily, Erika cried out loud without any

prior greeting.

“Erika... why do you all want me to be absent?”

The sight of Tatsuya frowning in displeasure, beside an

embarrassed Mizuki entered Erika’s sight.

‘A, ahahahahahahaha.”

Realizing her attitude to be a little senseless, she revealed a

false smile.

Some things were impossible, even for her.

“But still, Tatsuya. Isn’t today the start of the Master Clans

Conference? Is it fine to not go there?”

Fortunately for Erika, she wasn’t the only one who dared to

venture into the minefield.

“Why would you want to know?”

In response to Leo’s question, without trying to play the fool,

Tatsuya curiously asked a question of his own.

“I think that to not be interested would be strange.”

As Erika replied to Tatsuya’s question, Leo nodded his head in

agreement.

“These two are really getting along now,” Tatsuya thought

while putting out another question.

‘As I said, why? Well, it does seem the amount of interested

people is rather numerous but...”

While saying that, Tatsuya glanced backwards, and his

classmates hurriedly averted their eyes.

“If you think that my relation to the Yotsuba Family is a good

enough reason, then you would be mistaken. Just because a

person is blood-related to the Ten Master Clans does not mean

he or she can participate in the Master Clans Conference. For

example, as the successor of the Juumonji Family, Juumonji-

senpai attending is a given but, Saegusa-senpai is unlikely to be

attending.”

“.. .So that’s how it works?”

Leo wore a face that lost interest. Conversely, Erika had an

expression that seemed to express her content.

“Therefore, even if I did know the location of the conference, I’m

not interested in going. In the middle of the conference, rather

than to be bored waiting, it would be more beneficial to go to

school and take lessons.”

“But still, aren’t you interested in the contents discussed in the

Master Clans Conference?”

“I’m not allowed to attend, so even if I wanted to go now, I have

no way of doing so. All the results of the conference will be

publicized. There’s no way for me to know the process of the

discussion.”

“Haa... in the end, we only need to follow the announcement

huh?”

“That is indeed the case.”

If the discussion ended here, it would have been resolved under

the category of small talk.

“In the end, powerless small fry Magicians can only follow

something you decided? That sounds like something Ten Master

Clans-sama would say.”

A loud monologue resounded throughout the quiet classroom

which had been listening to Tatsuya.

The source was diagonally behind Tatsuya. More accurately, it

was diagonally behind Mizuki.

“What? You have something you want to say?”

Using her sharp eyes, Erika glared at Hirakawa Chiaki, the

student who had voiced such words.

Chiaki didn’t answer Erika’s question. If that was the extent of

her reaction, it would have ended fine. But, Chiaki looked away.

Erika’s eyes twitched upwards at the provocation.

Erika, who was at the window, walked in through the door.

Then, she headed towards Chiaki.

“Wait a moment! Chiba-san, calm down!”

The one who hastily blocked Erika’s way was a male student.

Not yielding to Erika’s spirit, he tried to resolve the situation

peacefully as if he was the class rep. The student in question was

Tomitsuka, a man who fit the definition of a worry-wart.

“Tomitsuka-kun, could you stand down? I have something to

say to that girl.”

“No, that will definitely end badly!”

Tomitsuka, who certainly understood what Erika meant by

“something to say”, tried desperately to dissuade Erika.

But, as if to ruin his efforts, Chiaki stood up behind Tomitsuka.

“Isn’t it true?”

“What?”

Over the shoulder of Tomitsuka, the two girls glared at each

other.

“Chiba-san, err, lessons will be starting soon...?”

Acting like a shield for Chiaki, Tomitsuka still tried to arbitrate

the issue.

“There’s still 5 minutes.”

But was tragically shot down.

“So, Hirakawa-san, answer me?”

The intensity of Erika’s gaze was such that it could even cause

a grown man to shudder.

Chiaki’s knees were currently trembling, but she still bravely

replied.

“The fact he’s related to the Ten Master Clans! Are you telling

me I’m wrong?!”

‘And? It may be true that Tatsuya-kun is related to the Ten

Master Clans, so what? Even if someone’s parents are from the

Ten Master Clans, the children aren’t necessarily involved as

well.”

“Sophistry. Chicanery. Being a member of the Yotsuba Family

behind our backs, he hid it and deceived us!”

“Perhaps a young girl who was fortunately brought up in a

normal household may not know, but children who do not take

their parents’ surnames is not a rare occurrence in the Magician

Community.”

Chiaki’s tongue was tied and she was unable to reply due to

the fact she knew Erika was telling the truth. That fact was

common knowledge.

“Wha-Why...”

“Nn? If you have something you want to say, just be out with it.”

Erika’s contemptuous tone angered Chiaki. Rage broke any

reason left in her.

“Chiba-san, why are you getting angry because of that guy!?

Do you like him or something!?”

The classmates who had been spectating the argument

frowned. This was because Chiaki’s reasoning was sorely lacking

in dignity for a High School Student. To put it crudely, “Whether

someone likes someone or not, what does it matter? Aren’t you

being an idiot?” was what they felt.

‘Are you an idiot?”

Erika spoke those thoughts aloud.

“Do I like Tatsuya-kun? I’m not so reckless.”

Hearing Erika’s objection the students of Class 2-E tilted their

necks in puzzlement.

“To be a love rival against Miyuki, I’ve seen the horrors it can

bring. I’d rather not risk my life in such a dangerous scenario for

love.”

If Miyuki had heard her, the situation wouldn’t have ended so

simply.

Even sympathizing with that statement would be dangerous.

But, excluding Tatsuya, Chiaki and Tomitsuka-In short the

spectating students of Class 2-E-deeply nodded in agreement

at Erika’s words.

‘Ah, to seriously argue against such a dolt, I must look like

quite the fool.”

Saying that, Erika briskly walked out.

“Tatsuya-kun, I’ll be returning. See you next time.”

‘Ah, see you next time.”

Returning a wave to Tatsuya, she smiled and left Class 2-E.

The end result was that Chiaki successfully drove off Erika.

But Chiaki was left standing and trembling in embarrassment.

< — >

For High School Students, the conference might seem like

something casual, but for the participating adults, the Master

Clans Conference is nothing less than a serious duel, which

concerned their very lives.

The venue was in Hakone, held in a rented conference room in a

luxurious hotel. As the start of the meeting approached, the seats

of the round table were filled.

Casually dressed in a copper brown sweater, that wrapped his

tall and sunburnt body, was the cutthroat Head of the Ichijou

Family, Ichijou Gouki. Residing in Kanazawa, he had recently

celebrated his 42 ncl birthday a few days ago. His occupation was

being a Seabed Mining Company President.

With her hair tied up, and donning an elegant kimono, was the

Head of the Futatsugi Family, Futatsugi Mai. Residing in Ashiya,

55 years old. She was a major shareholder of a Food Industry

Company.

Wearing a jacket on top of a polo shirt, coupled with a rough

look, was the petite yet athletic middle-aged Head of the

Mitsuya Family, Mitsuya Gen. Residing in Atsugi, 53 years old.

He, for lack of a nice way of putting it, was an International

Arms Dealer.

Enveloped in a wine red formal one piece was the beautiful

Head of the Yotsuba Family, Yotsuba Maya. No matter how one

looked at it she looked to be only 30 years of age, but she is

actually 47 years old.

Neatly dressed but also having a plain appearance, like an

unrefined businessman was the Head of the Itsuwa Family,

Itsuwa Isami. Residing in Uwajima, 49 years old. He was the

director and the owner, of a Shipping Company.

Short, yet straight, brown hair, and wearing a pantsuit, the

glamorous woman was the Head of the Mutsuzuka Family,

Mutsuzuka Atsuko. Residing in Sendai, 29 years old. She was the

owner of a Geothermal Power Plant Excavation Company.

Somewhat old fashioned and reminiscent of the elite

businessmen of the 1980’s to 1990’s, was the Head of the Saegusa

Family, Saegusa Kouichi. Residing in Tokyo, 48 years old.

Wearing lightly colored spectacles, even indoors, was a

characteristic trait of his. He is a Venture Capitalist.

Wearing a three-piece suit without a tie and his hair gathered

up, was the Head of the Yatsushiro Family, Yatsushiro Raizou.

Residing in Fukuoka, 31 years old. He was a lecturer in at a

university and a major shareholder of a Multi-Communication

Company.

Dressed in an overseas brand three-piece, the white-haired

gentleman was the Head of the Kudou Family, Kudou Makoto.

Residing in Ikoma, 64 years old. He was the shareholder, investor

and creditor of various Military Industrial Companies.

The bald man in full formal Japanese attire, a haori hakama,

was the Head of the Juumonji Family, Juumonji Kazuki. Residing

in Tokyo, 44 years old. He was the owner of a Civil Engineering

and Construction Company that has a connection with the

National Defense Force.

These were the current Ten Master Clans, and their respective

Heads. In addition, only Juumonji Kazuki was accompanied by

his son, Katsuto.

Once all the members were present, the door closed. The one

who locked the door was the youngest of them all, Katsuto.

“Juumonji-dono, has your condition improved?”

The first to speak was the eldest, Kudou Makoto.

All Families were equal within the Ten Master Clans. There

was no hierarchy of any sort. Such a belief was obvious due to

the usage of a round table in the hotel.

But to carry out a meeting without a chairperson was

unconducive. So among the Family Heads, it had become an

unwritten law that the eldest would have the role of facilitating

the meeting.

Makoto inquiring about Juumonji Kazuki’s health condition

was due to the fact that previously he had been absent from the

Master Clans Conference, with Katsuto going in his place. For the

other Heads, it had been actually 3 years since their last meeting

with Kazuki.

“In regards to that, I have an announcement to make to

everyone.”

Hearing Makoto’s words, Kazuki stood up. Speaking while

seating was the standard in the Master Clans Conference so his

attitude seemed to give the feeling that it was an important

announcement.

“This may be sudden but, I, Juumonji Kazuki, will use this

meeting as a means of handing over the seat of Head of the

Juumonji Family to my son Katsuto. With that in mind, I would

like all of you present to bear witness.”

Exchanging glances with surrounding members, while staring

at Kazuki, each Head had varied responses but, not one of them

freely chattered.

“That is quite a brash thing to say.”

Makoto said on behalf of all the other members present.

“I have been considering this for quite some time. Having

reached adulthood, I believe Katsuto has also been thinking

about it. Occupying the seat of the Head and having no ability as

a Magician... such a thing, not only speaking for the Juumonji

Family, but for the Ten Master Clans, would not be desirable.

Thus I’ve made such a decision.”

“You mean to say, you can no longer use magic?”

The person who asked this was Ichijou Gouki. In the Master

Clans Conference, difficult topics that had to be broached were

numerous.

“Since 3 years ago, I have been suffering from a disease that

has caused a decline in my magic power. 2 years ago, I was at the

stage where I could no longer fight, as such virtually left all the

duties of being Head to Katsuto. And then 3 months ago, I lost

all use of my magical abilities.”

Kazuki’s explosive message reverberated amongst everyone.

‘A sickness that causes a decline in magic? This is the first time

I heard of such a thing. I know this is impolite but, as a Magician

this is a big problem. Do you have more information? Are there

no cures?”

The person asking was Saegusa Kouichi. For him, when in the

Master Clans Conference, talking came first and the debate

second.

“Saegusa-dono, such a worry is unnecessary. For it is unique to

the Juumonji Family.”

“Unique only to your family? Are you sure?”

“Saegusa-dono.”

As Kouichi tried to question further, he was softly chided by

Maya.

“It would be better if you refrain from asking anything more

than that.”

“That is true. Do not pry into the business of other families.

That is a rule not only followed by the Ten Master Clans, but the

Magic Community as a whole. It is as Yotsuba-dono says, shall

we cease such questioning? Juumonji-dono has already said that

Magicians of other families will not catch such a disease, isn’t

that good enough?”

Futatsugi Mai followed up on Maya’s opinion. After Kudou

Makoto, as the next eldest, she held the role of being the

arbitrator during the Master Clans Conference.

“Very well, I understand. Juumonji-dono, I apologize for my

actions.”

Kouichi withdrew quietly. Let alone Maya, he had no reason to

be stubborn towards Mai.

“No, I don’t really mind it.”

As Kouichi replied as such, Kazuki faced Maya and Mai and

showed gratitude with his eyes.

“Now then, everyone. Are there any opinions about the

Juumonji’s Succession?”

About Kazuki’s question,

“Even without our presence, I know it would be fine for the

Juumonji’s Family matters to be settled internally, but... I have no

objections. I would happily bear witness to the succession of

Katsuto-dono.”

“I too have no objections. Rather, I think it’s quite an honor. I

would happily be a witness.”

As Maya raised her volume, Mutsuzuka Atsuko continued.

Atsuko had an admiration for Maya, so often when disputes

broke out, she would often take Maya’s side. One of the Yotsuba

Branch Families, the Shibata Family’s eldest son, Katsushige

commuted to Sendai’s Fifth High School. Such a thing was

partially due to the friendliness of Atsuko to Maya.

“I have no intention to protest against other family’s succession

matters. I wish Katsuto-dono the best of luck in his future role

as the Head. It’s unfortunate for Kazuki-dono, but, for putting

forth so much effort for the Japanese Magic Community, thank

you for your hard work.”

Perhaps because of what happened earlier, Kouichi actively

showed his support.

With both Maya and Kouichi accepting Kazuki’s proposal in

concert, the remaining Heads congratulated Katsuto, and gave

words of appreciation for Kazuki.

“Now Katsuto-dono. As the new Head of the juumonji Family,

please sit in that seat.”

Fastly, Makoto prompted Katsuto, recognizing him as the Head

of the juumonji Family.

Sent by Katsuto to this room, Kazuki left the room, Katsuto sat

in the seat for the Head of the Juumonji Family. With that

adjustment, the Master Clans Conference began.

“Then Ichijou-dono.”

“The mountain recesses of the Hokuriku-San’in regions have

seen no movement that might become a problem. There have

been no signs observed that the New Soviet Union and the Great

Asian Alliance are working on an intrusion.”

Prompted by Makoto, Gouki made a report on the observations

of the activities of opposing governments.

“Mutsuzuka-dono.”

“The Tohoku region has seen no irregularities.”

“Futatsugi-dono.”

“Hanshin is as usual. Should there be any eyesores, I will

immediately set out to clean it up.”

“...Futatsugi-dono, be careful. Itsuwa-dono.”

“No movements have been observed in the Shikoku region.”

“Yatsushiro-dono.”

“Much like the Hanshin region, the Kitakyushu region is as

usual.”

“Is that so? Keep a look out and be careful.”

This report was in regards to the activities in the areas which

each family was in charge of. The Hokkaido, Ogasawara and

Okinawa regions were under the jurisdiction of the Magicians

from the National Defense Forces, even the Ten Master Clans

could not raise a hand so easily.

Other than those areas, the mountain areas of the Hokuriku-

San’in region is under the Ichijou Family, Tohoku the Mutsuzuka

Family, Hanshin-Chugoku the Futatsugi Family, Shikoku the

Itsuwa Family, the Kyushu area excluding Okinawa was under

the Yatsushiro Family, and Kyoto—Nara-Shiga-Kii the Kudou

Family. Furthermore, the Mitsuya Family actively provided the

know-how to the Magicians of the Defense Forces and of the

applications of the Third Research Laboratory, while cooperating

with the other Houses of the “Three”.

The Saegusa Family as well as the Juumonji Family were in

charge of the Kanto region, including Izu, while the Yotsuba

Family is in charge of Tokai as well as the Gifu-Nagano

Prefectures.

“Saegusa-dono.”

“The Kanto region has had an increase in anti-Magician

activities. It’s not at the level where interference is necessary, but I

think sooner or later we will have to make a move. Also, there

was some suspicious activity in Yokosuka. Perhaps they are

planning sabotage.”

“Does Juumonji-dono share the same thoughts?”

“In regards to the anti-Magician movement, the (uumonji

Family and I share the same opinion as Saegusa-dono. In

regards to the saboteur, it is unfortunate, but we couldn’t catch

him.”

“Hmm. Regarding the so-called Humanists, let’s discuss this

later. Then, Yotsuba-dono.”

“While absent in Kanto, the Humanists have begun

encroaching upon Tokai. Now then, Saegusa-dono, Juumonji-

dono.”

“Yotsuba-dono, what is it?”

Addressed by Maya, Kouichi answered with a smile. In that

smile, elements other than sociability were slightly mixed in. The

only time Kouichi would show a fluctuation of any emotion was

when the other member of the conversation was Maya.

For Maya, she had never directed a gaze of concern towards

Kouichi.

No matter what, she would always return a look that seemed

to say whatever.

“There is suspicious activity in Izu. We propose tighter

surveillance.”

Now was no exception. Glancing coldly and uninterestedly at

Kouichi, the eye that seemed to ask why are you looking at me,

then only gave a perfunctory reply.

“I understand. If you don’t mind, could you explain a little as to

what kind of activity it was.”

The one who said so in a dignified voice was Katsuto. Though

surrounded by seniors, he seemed to be indifferent to such a fact.

“I don’t mind. Last week, a small cargo ship that arrived at the

Yokosuka Port via the North American route is currently

anchored at the Numazu Port. We were observing that cruiser

owned by the USNA Embassy. As of now, the embassy’s cruiser

disappeared but, our surveillance of the cargo ship is still

continued.

“Yotsuba-dono, do you know of the whereabouts of the

cruiser?”

Kouichi posed another question towards Maya.

“I don’t know. Perhaps it is at sea.”

Though it seemed like Maya gave an irresponsible reply,

originally it was supposed to be Kouichi that was responsible for

investigating. The Juumonji Family is better suited for combat, so

even though both were in charge of the Kanto-Izu region, the

Saegusa Family was in charge of the investigation work.

“Very well, our family will investigate this issue. With the

increase in anti-Magician activity... if that cargo ship has

humanist passengers, then the USNA authorities might chase it

as well. Numazu is Yotsuba-dono’s territory but, the issue is that

ship entered the harbor of Yokosuka. Our family will continue to

pursue this as well.”

Obviously understanding that, Kouichi summarized the

situation flawlessly.

“Eh, I look forward to working with you.”

Nodding, Maya did not further discuss the topic of Heigu’s boat

and Canopus’ cruiser.

As the regular reports concluded, the conference room’s

atmosphere changed.

“Kudou-dono. Firstly, I have something I would like ask about

this location.”

The remark which heralded trouble was made by Kouichi.

“Saegusa-dono, go ahead.”

With a sighing expression of patience, Makoto prompted

Kouichi to go ahead.

“Very well, thank you for sparing me some time.”

Saying that, Kouichi faced Maya.

Once again, a certain mood drifted from Mutsuzuka Atsuko to

Yatsushiro Raizou. Kouichi (with a gentlemanly attitude) turned

to Maya, something that could be said to be a familiar sight in

the Master Clans Conference.

“Yotsuba-dono, congratulations on your decision about your

successor.”

“Thank you.”

Both Kouichi and Maya had fake smiles plastered on their

faces.

Beneath the facade, Kouichi had a provocative glimmer in his

eye, while Maya returned a cold gaze. No matter how one looked

at it, both seemed ready to fight.

“But, regarding your son’s engagement issue, I’m afraid I cannot

agree to that.”

“Why? If I remember correctly, personal issues like marriage

have no necessity to seek approval from the Master Clans

Conference. Am I wrong?”

Before any voices of approval could be interleaved, Maya

rebutted Kouichi.

“Indeed if it was only a marriage, I wouldn’t be saying this. But

when the possibility of ruining potential talent exists, it’s a

different story.”

With the exception of Kouichi and Maya, everyone’s eyes

focused on Ichijou Gouki.

Gouki’s mouth was twisted into a bent shape, with arms

folded. His face seemed to voice his thoughts “In such a place

and time...”

How does consanguineous marriage impact a Magician’s

quality? Such research has not made much progress, and thus is

a topic yet to be concluded. Some researchers have claimed it is

harmful, while some have claimed it beneficial. But, above the

fact that the risk of genetic abnormalities is assumed, it is

considered that it is better that marriages with blood

relationships too close be avoided. Actually among the Numbers,

the law tends to discourage even marriage among cousins.

Kudou Makoto interlaced his fingers on the table, closing his

eyes. From the side, he looked like he was deep in thought.

“It’s just an inclination, it is not forbidden. There are real

examples too.”

The one who refuted Kouichi in a weary voice was not Maya.

“Eh. just as Yatsushiro-dono said, even among the 28 Houses,

there are sanguineous couples. But in that case, they have

different mothers. Considering Yotsuba-dono’s current case, it

cannot be discussed on an equal basis.”

“Even if they weren’t cousins, you can go back to the

grandparents and find the father is related by being cousins with

the other’s husband. Even when the blood relations are distant,

the element of risk still exists in sanguineous marriage, doesn’t

it?”

This time it was Mutsuzuka Atsuko who refuted Kouichi’s

claim.

“The risk is never zero. The only question is to what degree,

Mutsuzuka-dono.”

But, Atsuko’s remark could not cause Kouichi to falter.

“The reason I object to the Yotsuba Family’s Successors’

engagement, is that they are monozygotic twins, with very close

blood ties. No different from a marriage between half-siblings. Is

that not the case?”

Atsuko did not reply. Kouichi ignoring his emotional intention,

his logic held persuasion.

‘A marriage between cousins may be recognized by law. But if it

becomes a marriage between half-siblings, then it could even be

called a circumvention of the law.”

“Saegusa-dono, that is going too far.”

Futatsugi Mai gently restrained the extreme phrase,

circumvention of the law. But, Mai didn’t seem to show any

intention to oppose Kouichi’s claim.

‘Apologies. I’ve indeed gone too far. Please forgive me, Yotsuba-

dono.”

Maya ignored Kouichi’s apology.

“So in the end, what do you want to say Saegusa-dono?”

Ignoring everything, she cut straight to the point to seek what

Kouichi’s request was.

Stopping even Kouichi’s smooth tongue, Kouichi’s face in the

direction between Itsuwa Isami and Mutsuzuka Atsuko, staring

at Maya.

“What I seek is very simple. I believe the successor to the

Yotsuba Family, Shiba Miyuki-dono, and Shiba Tatsuya-dono’s

engagement should be cancelled.”

Maya returned Kouichi’s stare.

Both Maya and Kouichi’s line of sight met.

Hidden beneath his light colored lenses, the emotion that

crossed his remaining left eye was either joy or hatred.

“My apologies. May I add in something?”

The person who cut into the high tension between the two was

Ichijou Gouki.

“Yotsuba-dono, though our family has yet to receive an answer

from yours, I should admit that what Saegusa-dono has said

was influenced by us. As such, could you please consider our

request?”

“The issue regarding the request for the engagement between

your family’s Masaki-dono and Miyuki?”

“Yes.”

Returning a face of fortitude, Maya languidly sighed deeply.

“Masaki-dono is the Ichijou Family’s successor is he not?

Miyuki has also been confirmed as the successor of our family.

Even if I put aside the fact that it is inappropriate of you to

request an engagement when a prior one has been confirmed,

what you speak of is impossible.”

Maya clearly sought to offend Gouki-or so was her guise

Gouki replied in a chilly tone.

“I apologize for being rude. But we too are making a serious

request. It is not a joke of any sort.”

‘A serious request? To seek the hand of my niece who’s already

engaged to someone, what part of that is a serious request?”

“My son genuinely hopes to tie the knot with Miyuki-dono. If

you were to accept our proposal of marriage, then we intend to

give Masaki to the Yotsuba Family.”

The round table was astir. Carrying the title of “Crimson

Prince”, Ichijou Masaki demonstrated a degree of power that’s

combat worthy of that title even at the age of 13, also during the

2095 Yokohama Incident, even now as a 17-year-old youth, his

reputation as a first-class combat magician is well known

throughout the Ten Master Clans.

For Gouki to say that it would be fine to let go of such an heir.

No matter how one looked at it, the deal was very much

favorable to the Yotsuba Family. Since there was no amount of

deception in Gouki’s words, even Maya had to recognize the

proposition.

“Is that so? But I still cannot accept your request.”

Although the discomfort disappeared from Maya’s expression,

her attitude did not turn cold.

“...The reason, may I hear it?”

“For Ichijou-dono, as a parent, to hope to fulfill your child’s

wishes, that is something I understand as well. But if Ichijou-

dono has considered your child’s feelings, then as an aunt, I must

also consider my niece’s feelings.”

“Miyuki-dono’s feelings?”

“Yes. My niece, Miyuki, likes my son Tatsuya. I believe that

Tatsuya too cares for Miyuki. I wish to respect both their

feelings.”

To Maya’s words, Futatsugi Mai and Mutsuzuka Atsuko both

deeply nodded. Such words after all resonated more easily with

the female gender.

‘Are Miyuki’s feelings unmovable? Could you perhaps give

Masaki a chance?”

‘A Chance?”

“Miyuki-dono likely does not know much about Masaki yet.”

“Is that not the same for Masaki-dono? Aside from appearance,

your son likely does not know much about Miyuki.”

Subtly saying “Masaki was only attracted to her looks” made

Gouki feel very ashamed. Despite it being the truth, he was

defiant.

“Thus, I hope you would give them a chance for them to become

acquainted. If both of them get to know each other well, and still

she refuses to choose Masaki, then we will give up.”

“Ichijou-dono... Are you aware that since earlier, your family

has been rather disrespectful to both Miyuki and Tatsuya?

Especially towards my son, Tatsuya. What Ichijou-dono is saying

can only be interpreted as calling Tatsuya inferior as a man in

comparison to Masaki-dono.”

Gouki was at a loss of words. He had no intention of saying so

but, he may have spoken out as a doting parent.

Towards Maya’s harsh words, even Mai, who’s role as the

stopper, did not say anything to chide her. This was to say that

the majority of the Family Heads felt that Gouki should be

accountable for what he said.

Then Kouichi who did not think so, once again dredged up his

claims.

“However if one were to shelve their romantic feelings and look

at it objectively, I think an engagement between Masaki-dono

and Miyuki-dono would be a good match. More than anything, it

would avoid any harm that could come from a sanguineous

marriage.”

“Saegusa-dono... Are you saying that Miyuki-dono’s feelings

are not worthy of consideration?”

Mitsuya Gen, who had been silent until then, reproved Kouichi

in a bitter voice.

But Kouichi did not withdraw.

“Suppressing one’s emotions to a degree is necessary, especially

as a successor to one of the Ten Master Clans. Is that not the case

for everyone here?”

No voice of objection gave rise. What Kouichi said, everyone

present knew.

‘Also, Miyuki-dono is still young. If she were to get to know

Masaki-dono, she may change her feelings.”

“Is that so... chemistry between a man and a woman, if they do

not get to know each other, one will never know.”

The first voice who supported Kouichi, was Itsuwa Isami.

But the one who was most surprised at Isami’s words was most

likely Kouichi. Though not apparent in his expression, Kouichi

doubted Isami’s intent in his heart.

“I too thought it was a good pair, requesting for an engagement

with Saegusa-dono’s daughter, but... Mayumi-dono and

Hiroshi’s character didn’t mix well, and in the end it did not go

anywhere.”

As Isami said, right before the Master Clans Conference, the

Itsuwa Family broke off talks of marriage.

“Kouichi’s claim that an engagement between the Ichijou

Family’s Masaki-dono and the Yotsuba Family’s Miyuki-dono is

reasonable. Their marriage will bring more and more

development to Japan’s Magic Community. Not to mention

Ichijou-dono has said he is willing to give the Yotsuba Family

Masaki-dono, I don’t think it’s such a bad deal to Yotsuba-

dono.”

With Isami’s support, the winds began to change. In that

instant, the tail wind was definitely blowing for Kouichi and

Gouki.

But that wind was about to be broken in an instant.

“Itsuwa-dono. Our family does not consider or seek benefits

from Miyuki’s marriage.”

Isami awkwardly looked down. Having realized his intention

to induce discussion about short-term gain and loss, Maya flatly

rejected him.

“I understand your stance; Miyuki is still young. I cannot say

that the possibility of her feelings to change is zero. But that is as

far as I can say, I think Masaki-dono should put in his own effort

to move Miyuki’s heart. If Masaki were steal Miyuki away from

Tatsuya, then even I wouldn’t tie up Miyuki. To the Yotsuba

Family, we will serve any command from Miyuki, but we may

yield regarding the seat of the son-in-law.”

“So the engagement is not annulled?”

“In exchange, you would not mind if Masaki-dono were to go

after Miyuki-dono?”

Makoto and Mai confirmed Maya’s meaning.

“That interpretation is fine. In the first place, dare I say, that

Miyuki and Tatsuya’s marriage is a legitimate thing recognized

by the law. It’s not anything that must result in accepting any

objection by the law, is it?”

To Maya’s words, Mai nodded.

“It is certainly as Yotsuba-dono said. Sanguineous marriage

does indeed carry some risk. That said, Saegusa-dono’s claim

exceeds the scope of decisions that can be made in the Master

Clans Conference.”

Mai then moved her gaze from Kouichi to Gouki.

“Ichijou-dono, is that fine? Yotsuba-dono has said that despite

Miyuki-dono’s engagement, she will allow your son to interact

with Miyuki-dono. The parents will not interfere with anything

beyond that.”

“...I understand. I will convey that to my son.”

“I too, am fine with that.”

Both Gouki and Kouichi decided to lay down arms.

“By the way, the allowing of one to date while they have a

fiancee also apply to Tatsuya-dono?”

Of course, Kouichi was not of the type that would raise the

white flag without conditions.

Under the gaze of Maya and Mai, Kouichi made a smile.

‘As Itsuwa-dono has said earlier, the talks for the engagement

between Itsuwa Family’s Hirofumi and our Mayumi have broken

down. If it goes well, I was hoping for Mayumi to marry Tatsuya-

dono.”

Kudou Retsu had been once referred to as a “Trickster” due to

his magic, but perhaps in terms of personality, Kouichi possessed

similar traits.

As everyone was tired from the miasma thrown by Kouichi, the

Master Clans Conference had a break.

Then ten minutes later, this time it was Maya who began with

a bombshell.

Not an iffy thing like Kouichi’s claim, but a big scandal.

“Everyone, I have something I would like to say.”

“Oh. An issue raised by Yotsuba-dono is indeed rare. What

would it be about.”

Encouraged by Makoto, Maya smiled at Kouichi.

A shudder ran down the spines of the rest of the Ten Master

Clans Heads’. The extent of their antagonism was such that even

Katsuto who had yet to see it felt the same.

Maya slowly opened her glossy red lips.

“Has everyone heard of a man that goes by the name of Zhou

Gongjin?”

The moment Maya said that, Makoto’s body stiffened. Though

Kouichi did not show any reaction but non-reaction was the

same as saying that he indeed had knowledge about the subject.

“Zhou Gongjin...?”

“Yotsuba-dono, isn’t that the famous Zhou Yu of Wu from the

Romance of the Three Kingdoms?”

Maya shook her head while smiling in response to Mutsuzuka

Atsuko and Yatsushiro Raizou’s questions.

“Basing his headquarters in Yokohama’s Chinatown, he’s an

Ancient Magician born on the continent. Taoists, I believe they

were called, correct, Kudou-dono?”

‘A, aah. Ancient Magicians from the continent are often called

as such.”

Makoto used all his strength to suppress his body from

trembling.

“Kudou-dono, what happened? You seem to have a bad

complexion.”

“No, it’s nothing, Mutsuzuka-dono.”

After tilting her head at the suspicious attitude of Makoto, she

turned back to Maya’s direction.

“So, what about this Zhou Gongjin?”

‘Anti-Magic International Political Organization ‘Blanche’.

Hong Kong based International Crime Syndicate ‘No-Head

Dragon’. The sabotage forces of the Great Asian Alliance that

caused the Yokohama Incident. And then the incident that took

place in the heart of Tokyo, the Vampire Incident which took the

world by storm: ‘Parasites’. He is the man who helped orchestrate

all of this, the mastermind that brought chaos to our country, or

should I say, the mastermind designated to cause trouble in

Japan.”

The conference room had a bustling atmosphere.

It wasn’t that there was an increase in chatter, there were

barely ten people in the room. It was not a topic one could freely

discuss with those next to them.

But even so, the shock that took away the calm and composed

attitudes of the Heads of the Ten Master Clans stemmed from

Maya’s short speech.

“Yotsuba-dono.”

Facing Maya, Raizou softly raised his hand. It seemed to be an

unintentional habit from university.

“Just now you used the word ‘designated’in past tense, which is

to say he has already been disposed of? Or that he has fled the

country?”

‘Assisted by Ichijou Masaki-dono, and Kudou Minoru-dono,

Zhou Gongjin was killed by Tatsuya last October.”

Makoto expressed a feeling of surprise. He had heard the report

from Masaki but he didn’t hear from Minoru.

However, the change in his facial expression was not noticed by

the other Heads. This was because all eyes were concentrated on

Maya, excluding Kouichi, Gouki and Makoto, the Heads were

nodding in admiration.

“Minoru-dono, which is to say, Kudou-dono’s youngest son?”

Makoto barely faked a smile while nodding to Raizou’s

question.

“The Ichijou Family’s Masaki-dono, the Yotsuba Family’s

Tatsuya-dono, and the Kudou Family’s Minoru-dono... how

reliable.”

Mitsuya Gen broadly complimented.

“That’s right. It really brings me joy to hear the next generation

is growing up so splendidly. I can believe that the future of

Japan’s Magic Community is secure.”

Futatsugi Mai accompanied.

“Both Juumonji-dono and I feel that, even though they will only

be juniors in the next generation, they are indeed reliable.”

Mutsuzuka Atsuko’s words invited laughter from the seniors.

However the peaceful atmosphere was shattered by Maya’s

next words.

“Saegusa-dono. Were you in collusion with Zhou Gongjin?”

The round table returned to silence.

“...Yotsuba-dono, does that claim have a legitimate basis?”

Itsuwa Isami squeezed out in a hoarse voice.

Kouichi remained silent.

“Saegusa-dono. You used your subordinate, Nakura Saburou,

to establish contact with Zhou Gongjin, indirectly using Civil

Rights Party’s Congressman Kanda to instigate the anti-

Magician movement. Do you have any objections?”

Kouichi slowly opened his mouth.

“Yotsuba-dono, I too, would like to hear the basis of this.”

Kouichi and Maya coldly glared at each other.

“If I may speak.”

In that tense moment, it was the youngest, Katsuto, who spoke

up.

In spite of the gazes focused on him, Katsuto began his

testimony in a calm tone.

“The fact that Saegusa-dono instigated the anti-Magician

movement is the truth. I heard it from Saegusa-dono himself.”

All the gazes on Katsuto, shifted to Kouichi.

“Saegusa-dono, do you have any excuses?”

Atsuko sharply cross-examined Kouichi.

Kouichi had a smile that had a feeling of complacency and

calmness.

“What Juumonji-dono said is true. What Yotsuba-dono said is

somewhat true as well, just that the order is somewhat

mistaken.”

“The order? What do you mean?”

Gouki spat out. But Kouichi’s smile did not falter.

“My subordinate established contact with Zhou Gongjin, only

after the anti-Magician movement was more stable after First

High’s Stellar Furnace Experiment. Aah, now that we’re on this

topic, that too was the achievement of Yotsuba Family’s Tatsuya-

dono. That experiment was highly evaluated by Rozen’s Branch,

and radically changed the winds. What a spectacular son.”

“So, what about it?”

Gouki irritatedly rebuked Kouichi.

Kouichi did not delay the conversation any longer, or do

anything that could irritate Gouki.

“When I established contact with Zhou Gongjin, it was to stop

the Mass Media’s attempts to target Magicians as a whole. Of

course, I had to give something in return, something that would

be disadvantageous to Japan’s Magic Community.”

‘Aa, you’re right. You joined hands with Zhou Gongjin after the

instigation of the anti-Magician movement.”

Maya frankly admitted Kouichi’s claim.

“But the fact that Zhou Gongjin caused so much harm to our

country is an indisputable fact. To collaborate with someone like

that, is very inappropriate for someone from the Ten Master

Clans. Everyone, is that not the case?”

The reason Maya wasn’t overly respectful with her words was

due to this.

“Certainly.”

Ichijou Gouki expressed his consent briefly.

“It is as Yotsuba-dono said.”

Mutsuzuka Atsuko, “Unfortunately, it is as she said.”

Yatsushiro Raizou, “Saegusa-dono, at the time, I too said that it

would have been better for you to stop.”

Juumonji Katsuto, “Saegusa-dono may have had his own ideas

but...”

Itsuwa Isami, “I cannot defend Saegusa-dono.”

Mitsuya Gen, “Saegusa-dono. No matter what your intents

were, you crossed a line you should never cross, and collaborated

with someone you never should have.”

Futatsugi Mai, everyone supported Maya.

Kouichi, who was still smiling, was now cornered.

Gouki, Atsuko, Raizou, Katsuto, Isami, Gen, Mai’s eyes, all

pointed in Kudou Makoto’s direction, who had yet to express his

opinion.

But what Mai said to Kouichi at the end applied to Makoto as

well.

Though it could be said that his circumstances were different

from Kouichi, he too had been in collusion with Zhou Gongjin.

Makoto’s worries were interrupted by a knock on the door.

“Would you mind if I enter?”

The voice that likely came from the other side of the door was

from an old man that all the members knew very well.

Sitting closest to the door, Katsuto stood up and looked at the

rest.

Though there were others who agreed, no one was shaking

their head.

Katsuto walked to the doorway, and opened the door.

Standing behind the door was the retired Kudou Retsu.

“Sensei, I haven’t seen you in a long time. Even so, what

business do you have today?”

Mai invited Retsu in cordially. Katsuto tried to offer his seat

but, Retsu smiled and waved his hand.

‘Apologies but, I overheard the topic at hand.”

Retsu immediately cut to the chase.

Though there was nobody who would call it into question, it

was a rule that the topics of discussion during the Conference

were to remain absolutely confidential. The Kudou Family wasn’t

the first to use methods to leak the general basis of the

conference.

“For everyone to hold Kouichi accountable is obvious. But, I

would like for that to be put on hold.”

Retsu referred to Kouichi not as “Saegusa-dono” but by his first

name.

By doing so, he made it clear that his intent was not to speak as

a former member of the Master Clans Conference but as the

Patriarch of Japan’s Magic Community-the speech of an old

man who held no authority.

“Instigating the anti-Magician movement was something I too

discussed with Kouichi. And I did not stop Kouichi.”

Glances were exchanged in a flurry across the round table.

Excluding Maya, Kouichi and Makoto; Gouki, Mai, Gen, Isami,

Atsuko, Raizou, and Katsuto were all contemplating Retsu’s real

intentions. Makoto wasn’t even aware of his father’s intentions.

The only people who had guessed Retsu’s motive were Maya and

Kouichi.

‘Also, if you’re talking about relations with Zhou Gongjin, then

the Kudou Family is not innocent either. Although we did

discuss this plan, we hadn’t take any concrete actions. I took the

magic provided by Zhou Gongjin to use Parasites as non-human

magical weapons, with innocent young people as guinea pigs. If

Maya’s son did not stop it, then something irreversible might

have occurred.”

As Retsu faced Maya, she nodded and faintly smiled. She had

intended to strike Kouichi firmly, but she wasn’t driven by that

goal. If Retsu wanted to cover for Kouichi, she had no intention of

ruining the student-teacher relationship.

“If you compare the actions we took, Kouichi’s do not exceed

mine in severity.”

“But Sensei.”

Retsu turned towards Gouki’s direction and signaled for him to

stop speaking.

“The Kudou Family shall retire from the Ten Master Clans.

With that, could you consider this case concluded?”

“Senior...”

Makoto looked up at his father with a shocked expression.

As Retsu made his suggestion, he directed a harsh glance

towards his son.

“Makoto, you are guilty of directly accommodating Zhou

Gongjin. The incident caused by the Taoists sent by Zhou Gongjin

has greatly inconvenienced Yotsuba-dono’s son, and Ichijou-

dono’s son. For this kind of outcome, you should be speaking up,

not me.”

“Senior... Father!”

“Makoto, Pm disappointed in you.”

“Sensei, would that be okay with you?”

The one who soothed Retsu was Maya.

“If the Kudou Family takes full responsibility for this, then the

Yotsuba Family shall consent. It would be fine if Saegusa-dono

makes amends with future contributions.”

Retsu did not cover for Kouichi just because of their teacher

and student relationship. Makoto, his son, would hold higher

priority in that case.

Currently, the magic group with the most power in japan isn’t

the Nation Defense Force, but actually the Yotsuba Family

followed closely by the Saegusa Family. These two Families are

the two greatest authorities in the Japanese Magic Community. If

the Saegusa Family was to be excluded from the Ten Master

Clans, it would be a very undesirable outcome. For the sake of

maintaining order, they must remain a part of the Ten Master

Clans.

To ensure the Ten Master Clans that he created would survive,

Retsu covered for Kouichi. Maya seeing through his intentions

wasn’t difficult.

“If Yotsuba-dono says so.

“It’s certainly true that if the Saegusa Family were to be

removed from the Ten Master Clans, the hole left behind would

be too great.”

Atsuko and Raizou agreed with Maya successively. Yet

Kouichi’s only eye still remind cold.

There were no voices of objection.

Kouichi looked at the circumstances with a poker face that

lacked a smile.

Maya faced such a Kouichi and gave a smile.

“Makoto, let’s go.”

Ordered by Retsu, Makoto stood up tardily from the Ten Master

Clans seat.

“Everyone, excuse us.”

Retsu lightly nodded and left the meeting room.

Makoto followed behind with drooping shoulders.

The door shut with a pattern sound.

“Very well then.”

As the stopped time began moving, Itsuwa Isami started with a

harried voice.

“We must decide on a family to replace the Kudou Family.”

“Tomorrow is the Selection Meeting. Why not do it then?”

Mitsuya Gen objected, “In the event where a vacancy occurs in

the Ten Master Clans, a replacement member will be chosen to

fill in that role. Even if it would only be a day, the Ten Master

Clans should not be in a state where it’s missing any members.”

In replacement of Makoto, Futatsugi Mai supported Isami’s

suggestion as the next eldest.

“Is that so. Who would be a good choice? Any candidates?”

Gouki questioned with a helpless expression.

“Then.”

As Maya said that, all eyes were on her.

“How about Shippou-dono? The Head, Takumi-dono is wise,

though they have few disciples, they have considerable economic

strength.”

Gouki, Katsuto and Isami glanced at Kouichi’s face. Though it

was well known by the others that the Saegusa Family and the

Shippou Family had a bone to pick, Kouichi showed no sign of

any reaction.

“Shippou-dono... Any other recommendations?”

There were no Heads who answered Mai’s question.

“Very well, the new member of the Ten Master Clans is decided

to be Shippou-dono. Though it will only be for a day but, who

shall convey it to Shippou-dono?”

“Very well, I shall do so.”

Katsuto raised his hand, and exited the conference room to

make the call.

“Wait a moment, |uumonji-dono.”

Mai voiced out when his back was to her.

“We shall be taking a break for a while. How about resuming in

30 minutes?”

There was no objection to Mai’s words.

< — * * >

The next day, February 5 th .

Right after entering Class 2-E, Tatsuya was visited by Shippou

Takuma.

“Shippou, is something wrong?”

Faster than Tatsuya could ask, a voice filled with curiosity

greeted Takuma, and the owner of said voice was the Club

Activities’ senior, Tomitsuka.

“No, it’s just... I wanted to express my gratitude to Shiba-

senpai.”

Takuma uncomfortably replied so.

Well, such feelings of discomfort were perfectly understandable.

It was a well-known fact that Takuma had caused quite the

commotion back in April with his series of duels.

His recent change of attitude was unanimously acknowledged

by not only the freshmen, but even the upperclassmen. Even so,

his rudeness to Tatsuya was still fresh in their memory. This was

made evident by the numerous inquisitive looks that people gave

him whenever he talked to Tatsuya.

In addition to this, Erika and Leo also gave him gazes of ill

will.

Although Mikihiko had come to Class 2-E today, his look bore

the same unfavorable feelings as Erika’s and Leo’s.

“Gratitude? I don’t remember doing anything worth being

thanked for?”

What saved Takuma was that Tatsuya apparently didn’t hold a

grudge at all. It was quite the opposite in fact, having seen

Takuma’s efforts during the Nine Schools Competition, he now

had a better opinion of him.

“Umm... I heard that Yotsuba-dono recommended my family

as a replacement for one of the Ten Master Clans...”

“My apologies, but this is the first I’ve heard of it.”

Tatsuya wasn’t pretending, he genuinely wasn’t aware of it. To

begin with, the fact that a “replacement” was needed meant that

one of the current Ten Master Clans had stepped down from their

seat. Just what kind of incident had occurred? Tatsuya couldn’t

help but wonder.

“Even if it’s just as a replacement until a proper selection is

made today... I’m still extremely grateful. Thank you very much!”

It had probably been extremely embarrassing for him, after

immediately finishing his sentence, Takuma went back to his

own classroom at full speed.

Tatsuya was vaguely aware of the fact that Takuma was

sensitive about everything related to the Ten Master Clans.

However, to think that it brought him such a level of

happiness...

Tatsuya was reminded once again of the fact that every person

had a different sense of values, and of what was important.

< — >

Today was the day of the Ten Master Clans Selection Meeting,

an event that only took place once every 4 years. Along with the

Ten Master Clans, the respective Heads of the 18 Assistant

Houses could be seen.

Aside from the Kudou Family, everyone was present.

“Well then, the Ten Master Clans Selection Meeting can begin.”

Following Futatsugi Mais declaration, all the members stood

up.

“First of all, as per the tradition, if anyone present here has an

objection or feels dissatisfaction at the current line-up of

Members of the Ten Master Clans, please remain standing. If you

don’t have any, sit down within the next minute.”

The primary voting is a peculiar tradition of the Selection

Meeting. Even if only one person remained standing, then papers

would be distributed and the ballot would move on to the actual

voting. The vote would decide who would become the 10 Houses

that would be the most suitable to hold the title of Ten Master

Clans, and the counting would be done under the supervision of

3 Members of the current Ten Master Clans as well as 3 Members

of the 18 Assistant Houses for a total of 6 Members.

However, this would be a 'signed vote”. The criteria for

choosing the next Ten Master Clans would be the power carried

by each House at this point in time. However, “Magical Power”

wouldn’t be the only factor in this, for the ability to support the

Nation would also be required.

Even if you were to vote for an unsuitable House, you wouldn’t

lose your Number. However, the following 4 years would have

your House bear the penalty, or rather, stigma of not having

discerning eyes.

Following Mai’s instructions, the first 10 Members around the

table returned to their seat.

The current Heads of the 18 Assistant Houses also started to sit

one by one.

When the second hand of the clock had done a 180°, the

unexpected happened.

The Heads of the Kuki Family and the Kuzumi Family sat

down.

Those two had been expected to vote for the now dismissed

Kudou Family’s inclusion in the new Ten Master Clans, so this

action struck a blow to the other members of the 18 Assistant

Houses who hadn’t foreseen this turn of events.

The members who were still standing up looked at each other.

One by one, people sat down as if stopped dead in their tracks.

When 50 seconds had elapsed, there was no one left standing.

When the one-minute mark was reached, Mai stood up once

again.

“Then, for the next 4 years, the Ichijou Family, Futatsugi Family,

Mitsuya Family, Yotsuba Family, Itsuwa Family, Mutsuzuka

Family, Saegusa Family, Shippou Family, Yatsushiro Family and

the Juumonji Family will be known as the Ten Master Clans.

Everyone, I expect your continued cooperation.”

The other nine members of the table stood up, and following

Mai’s words, bowed.

The 18 Assistant Houses who were surrounding the new Ten

Master Clans joined in a round of applause.

Once the selection of the new Ten Master Clan ended, it was

part of tradition that the 18 Assistant Houses leave to allow the

Ten Master Clans to discuss about their new organization and

structure. However, when the Heads of the Kuki, and Kuzumi

Families tried to leave, Mai called them to a stop.

“Kuki-dono, Kuzumi-dono, please wait for a moment.”

“Futatsugi-dono?”

“Is something the matter?”

“There is something I would like to ask of you two. Would you

mind giving me a little bit of your time?”

The Heads of the Kuki and Kuzumi Families nodded. When

the other Members of the 18 Assistant Houses finished retiring,

only the Ten Master Clans’ remained, as well as two families

bearing the Number “Nine”, for a total of 12 names.

“What did you want to ask of us?”

“Futatsugi-dono, allow me to take it from here.”

The one who stopped Mai had been Shippou Takumi, the

newest member of the Ten Master Clans.

“Kuki-dono, Kuzumi-dono. Even though my family was

bestowed the honor of being part of the Ten Master Clans, quite

frankly, we don’t have the numbers that would be required to

fulfill our duties. Normally we would have to take the

supervision of the Kyoto area in Kudou-dono’s stead, but this is

too big a duty for my family in its current state.”

“In that case, why don’t you ask for Yotsuba-dono or

Futatsugi-dono’s help? If Kyoto is a problem, then Ichijou-dono

also has responsibilities towards this area.”

Takumi shook his head with a smile at the proposal by the

Head of the Kuki Family.

“That is also an idea. However, I want the Kudou Family to

continue to watch over the Kyoto-Shiga and the Kii Peninsula. Of

course, the Shippou Family doesn’t plan on only making

demands. I would like every one of the ‘Nine’ to lend my family

their strength.”

After a moment of wide-eyed surprise, the Heads of the Kuki

and Kuzumi Families smiled broadly.

“Understood.”

“I will consult about this matter with Makoto-sama, we will

definitely have a positive answer.”

“I’m counting on you.”

Takumi bowed deeply, the Heads of both the Kuki and the

Kuzumi Families also bowed politely.

After their departure, a somewhat relaxed mood drifted in the

conference room.

“Well then, let’s continue the Master Clans Conference.”

‘A counter-plan to the Humanist ideology right?”

Mai’s words invited this question.

“No, before that we have to talk about this suspicious ship

spotted near Izu.”

The one who had interrupted was Gouki.

“Ichijou-dono... There’s no hurry now is there?”

Although Isami reproved him with a shocked expression,

“If it is a terrorist ship, I can’t imagine the other side will keep

waiting.”

Gouki didn’t yield.

“I don’t mind, Itsuwa-dono.”

The one who answered with this was Kouichi, who had

regained his usual composure overnight.

“Then let’s hear more about this matter.”

Although Kouichi’s attitude was the same as ever, it appeared

that Gouki didn’t want to associate with him anymore. For

someone like Gouki, secret communication with the enemy was

an inexcusable act.

“There was no reaction when searching for a Magician on the

freighter Yotsuba-dono gave us coordinates for. Neither weapons

nor ammunition were found on board.”

“Did you find anything?”

“There is a possibility that explosives were being transported.

Since it’s also possible that the ship will be used for escape

purposes, we plan on keeping it under observation.”

“How about the USNA’s movements?”

Taking Gouki’s momentum, this time it was Katsuto’s turn to

question Kouichi.

‘An agent has been dispatched. In other words, the group that

has betrayed the USNA has been found out, but they’re not being

that tactful about things. It’s quite possible that this duty wasn’t

an order from the USNA Government itself.”

“In other words, a favorite hunter of theirs is on the prowl,

hiding somewhere?”

“The cruiser that Yotsuba-dono received information on was

confirmed as outside of territorial waters. He could unexpectedly

be hiding out there.”

Hearing Kouichi’s answer, Isami wore a pensive expression.

“If its at sea, should I go and poke around? It should be

possible to camouflage it into an accident using the natural

disaster excuse.”

“The problem isn’t so much the hunter from the USNA, but the

terrorists that have infiltrated our country.”

At Isami’s proposal, Atsuko brought forth a diametrically

opposite opinion.

“That is certainly the case. We have no evidence of their

presence at the moment, but we also don’t have any evidence of

their absence. It’s really worrying that we don’t even know if

they’re lurking about.”

Raizou was supporting Atsuko’s argument.

“They might even be targeting this very Master Clans

Conference for all we know.”

This must have been a pure coincidence.

However, it was the truth.

Immediately after Raizou had said this, an overpowering sound

accompanied by powerful vibrations invaded the conference

room.

< >

February 5 th , 2097 A.D., 10:33 AM

It was currently break time between second and third period at

First High.

A buzzing sound came from Tatsuya’s pocket as he was

heading towards the Practice Room, it was an emergency signal.

Taking out his terminal and confirming the contents, you could

read on his face that something terrible had just happened.

“Sorry, go on ahead without me!”

Tatsuya left his classmates, among which was Mizuki, and

dashed towards the Practice Room.

Tatsuya, who had received his teacher Jennifer Smith’s blessing

to leave early, met Miyuki on the way towards the main gate.

“Onii-sama also received the emergency signal?”

Miyuki, whose face had lost all trace of color, asked Tatsuya

with a short sentence.

“Let’s go.”

Tatsuya answered with an even shorter sentence.

Although Miyuki had nodded and was about to hasten her

pace, a voice called her from the behind.

Minami came out of the entrance, accompanied by her

classmate Saegusa Kasumi, as well as her sister Izumi and last

but not least, Shippou Takuma. All of them were related to the

Ten Master Clans. All of them, with the exception of Minami,

were blood-related to the Ten Master Clans.

“Miyuki-senpai.”

Izumi ran towards Miyuki.

“Izumi-chan, too.”

“So it wasn’t a false alarm then!”

Miyuki nodded to her question.

Izumi started to tremble uncontrollably.

“We’re going to see what happened for ourselves. What about

all of you.”

Tatsuya, who was just a step away, asked the freshmen.

“I’m coming too.”

Takuma immediately answered so.

“We’re going as well.”

Kasumi grasped her trembling sister’s hand.

Minami came closer to Miyuki. So that she could shield her at a

moment’s notice.

Leading the group, Tatsuya and the five other people hastened

towards the station.

< — >

During the same time, at Third High.

“Masaki, what happened!”

Masaki had dashed out of the classroom after having asked

permission to leave early. Kichijouji, who had run after him until

he was out of breath, asked such.

“My old man has been attacked.”

Regretting even the time spent looking back, Masaki answered.

‘An attack? But... Right about now it should still be in the

middle of the Master Clans Conf.

“I’m saying that the Master Clans Conference was the victim of

a terrorist attack.”

“What did you say!”

Seeing Kichijouji at a loss for words, Masaki turned around.

“I can’t be sure about what exactly happened from the

emergency signal alone. I only know that he’s still alive. I’m

heading there by helicopter. I’m counting on you to watch over

Akane and the others.”

‘A-alright, I get it! Be careful, Masaki.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Masaki wasn’t heading home, he was heading towards the

company heliport.

< >

Simultaneously, at the Magic University.

“Saegusa-san, something the matter.”

During a lesson that was in the form of a debate, the female

teacher called out to Mayumi.

“My apologies, Sensei. Could I borrow your ear for a moment.”

With a dark expression floating on her face, Mayumi walked

with quick—steps towards the teacher’s desk.

She discreetly showed the teacher her terminal which was still

displaying the emergency signal.

Just as the teacher was about to raise her voice, she managed to

keep it under control with a gesture, she then brought her ear

close.

“I recall the people in my family were rather anxious. My older

brothers might even attempt to go on-site, I would like to go back

home and try to have everyone settle down.”

The teacher nodded with a serious look.

Not letting her classmates feel any ambiguity, Mayumi

announced with a smile and a slightly apologetic expression that

she had to leave for familial business.

< * * >

The explosion had occurred right behind the conference room’s

doors, crimson flames licked the walls.

However, those flames were extinguished at once.

“]uumonji-dono, exemplary.”

Not a single member of the Master Clans Conference had a

bruise. Both the heat and the impact were completely hampered

by Katsuto’s heatproof shield.

“Mutsuzuka-dono as well, as expected.”

The erasure of the flames was caused by Mutsuzuka Atsuko’s

Heat Manipulation. For the Magicians of the “Six”, putting out a

flame that couldn’t even melt steel was child’s play.

“We should probably head towards the exit. If we get buried

alive, it’ll be too much of a bother to escape.”

While Futatsugi Mai was prohibiting the oxidation of the

structure from the heat so there would be no spreading of

poisonous fumes, she made that comment with a composed voice.

‘Agreed. It seems like a considerably large-scale suicide¬

bombing operation has begun.”

While Mitsuya Gen had several magics’ on standby, he nodded

to Mai’s words.

“Puppet terrorists! Such a terrible thing they’ve done.”

Gouki clicked his tongue intensely upon seeing the suicide

bombing continue. Puppet terrorism was basically suicide

bombing using humans as puppets to perform the act. Using

Magic or drugs to make human dolls out of human beings, there

were also ways to deprive someone of self-control with magic.

What Gouki sensed was the latter, a magic that controlled the

flesh. He felt slow-moving presences in the first floor’s lobby, as

well as the corridors of every floor, it seemed to be going

downward.

Although the Ichijou family and the Magicians of the “One”

were skilled in Magic that interfered with the flesh and body,

magic that manipulates the movement of the body has always

been forbidden. There have been examples of “losing one’s

number” for those who ignored that law. That is why even if

Gouki understood what exactly was happening, he didn’t know

how to stop this wicked thing known as Puppet Terrorism.

“This is bad.”

Sensing that the floor was about to collapse, Yatsushiro Raizou

executed Gravity-Control Magic. It wasn’t comparable to the one

used for Flight Magic, and lifting an area of this size which lost

all support required tremendous effort.

“Let’s make haste.”

Everyone nodded to Kouichi’s words, Maya, Mai and Atsuko

left the room, the ten Magicians aimed for the outside as a group.

Aiming at the bombers who were roaming around in the

corridors, Ichijou Gouki unleashed “Rupture”.

“They aren’t suicide bombers. They’re just manipulated corpses

carrying bombs.”

The flow of insults that Gouki, who had just blown off a

corpse’s arm to obstruct the detonation procedure, was spitting in

an angry voice, surpassing the others’expectations.

To prevent getting buried due to the crumbling floor, the leaders

of the Ten Master Clans decided to go to the rooftop and jump off

from there while disposing of the occasional corpse bomber they

encountered.

It was Mitsuya Gen and Saegusa Kouichi who were the fastest

in taking action towards the bombers. There was a technique

that originally allowed one to perform up to a maximum of nine

different Magic Sequences at the same time, then store them to

allow a simultaneous, instantaneous release of all of them.

“Speed-Loader”, using Kouichi’s “Octet” allowed him to maintain

8 different Magics from 4 different Systems on standby and select

which Magic he needed to deal with a wide variety of situations

instantly. The walking corpses could not even hope to approach

them.

The odd time an explosion couldn’t be prevented, the multi¬

layered defensive wall “Phalanx” was the perfect tool.

Raizou’s Gravity-Control Magic was there to prevent the

ground from suddenly falling under their feet.

Atsuko’s Heat Manipulation Magic could erase any fire.

Futatsugi Mai would remove the poisonous fumes, Maya was

acting as a flashlight in those lightless corridors once the flames

were put out.

Itsuwa Isami and Shippou Takumi didn’t have a chance to do

anything.

It was impossible for those bomb-carrying corpses to kill or

even wound any of them.

The Family Heads had already noticed this fact.

“It’s going to be tough finding a countermeasure to the Media.”

Gen complained all the while making Swiss cheese out of the

corpses.

“I guess we have no way of deceiving them at all.”

While putting out a wall of flames, Atsuko made a comment

with a tone of resignation.

‘Although we managed to get a photograph of the fact that it

was corpses who were holding the bombs... I think revealing this

to the public would have quite the negative effect.”

Isami, who had given up on any hope of getting a turn at doing

anything, he agreed while taking photos.

“Still, I doubt purposely injuring ourselves would help much, if

at all.”

Hearing Maya s point, Raizou shrugged his shoulders.

“Shall we hide until the flames of their fury cool down.”

Raizou s comment which might have been either a joke or a

serious statement, no voice of objection came.

< — >

February 5 th , 2097 A.D., 10:30 A.M.

The number of victims of the Hakone XXXX Hotels terror

bombings came out to be 22, and it became a disaster with as

many as 34 casualties.

Furthermore, the number of uninjured people was 33. The

number of Magicians among them was 27.

The harshest criticism came from the public opinions of those

who claimed that the Magicians had prioritized their own well¬

being above that of others.

(Electronic version of the newspaper dating from February 6 th

2097 A.D.)

Afterword

D-J:LE!2HF“llCna5BBE55nnBna5FDBB0EFFaB5lE]r=^

Have you enjoyed, “Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei” Volume 17

“Master Clans Conference Arc” ? This time around action

wasn’t a factor, instead I tried to introduce plenty of love-hate

components. (Lie) Not all of the men and woman are pessimistic

about the establishment of the Class One couple. I think the

majority is rather ‘glad” and would congratulate the two of

them, and those who are on the side of “They are stuck together

willfully” will think that it’s common. As for the couple

themselves, if people think about them living as an established

couple later on, it would probably be best to have them give their

blessings.

But due to people being friends, acquaintances, and perhaps

something that should be expected from a rival’s grief, it isn’t

rare for “lover” relationships to be formed. They’re certainly

present within today’s world. Surely the majority lies in this

direction for fictional worlds.

However, speaking of established couples who were urged by

their parents... How’s this: I think the author himself should

become engaged before they officially become a couple. Well with

the case (Refrained due to Spoilers), the person himself might be

thankful since he has a clear mind to do as such. There are tons

of late-bloomers though.

But I think (Refrained to due Spoilers) is an extreme nuisance.

One’s true feelings get set aside.

Although it was slightly different from the previous

illustrations, Lina had appeared in the storyline for around one

year now. She is an easy character to write so I really want to

include her a lot more... as of now, she has yet to depart from

America. Even though she’s appeared on stage for a while,

perhaps it will take form this time. Too bad.

Well, the next book will be “Master Clans Conference (II)”. This

section will be made up of three parts just like the “Visitors Arc”.

The content will be similar to that of the “Visitors Arc”. You

might say that the games “Out of Order” and “Lost Zero” are

similar.

...Since I won’t try to “not spoil anything anymore”, please look

forward to enjoying the next book “Master Clans Conference Arc

(11)”.

(Satou Tsutomu)

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