Chapter 3 – Morning/Recollection III
“Y……Y-Y-You confessed, you said……!?”
Although Julis tried to ask as calmly as possible, her voice could not help but sound nervous.
Training room before noon. As Saya nodded calmly, Julis and Kirin widened their eyes in shock.
“W-Wait, Saya. In other words, does that mean, um…… that you conveyed your feelings to Ayato……?”
“That’s what I’m saying.”
Even when she asked again just to make sure, the answer did not change.
“Y-Yes, I see, that’s right……”
It really seemed to be true. As soon as she realized it, an indescribable feeling of anxiety welled up in Julis’ heart.
“No, but, um…… and then……”
There were many things that crossed her mind that she wanted to ask Saya, but she was not able to easily put them into words.
After all, it was a confession.
And moreover, it was a confession from Saya, who was a childhood friend for Ayato and, although they had been separated for several years, the closest and most reliable existence to him.
From a third party’s viewpoint, even if Saya had bluntly expressly her good will, the fact that she, who should have only maintained their past relationship, took a step forward meant that it would not be strange even if there was something similar from Ayato’s side.
And a.s.suming that there could be a similar change in Ayato, it meant that there was enough possibility of him accepting Saya’s confession; and in that case──
As Julis’ eyes were spinning around in circles and she held her head, her train of thought ground to a halt.
“U-Um! Err, a-and then, what was Ayato-senpai’s reply……!?”
Then, Kirin, who was stiff like a stone statue until now, finally came to her senses and asked so with teary eyes while panicking more than usual.
(Yes, that’s it!)
Julis abruptly came to her senses and nodded vigorously as Kirin asked precisely what she wanted to ask.
However upon close inspection, Kirin’s eyes were also going around in circles just like Julis earlier and one could see that she was at her limit.
Rather, her feet were trembling and it looked like she would collapse at any moment; her whole body trembled like a wet small animal’s and she seemed to be much more confused than Julis.
“He didn’t give me a reply yet.”
“I told him that he can give a reply anytime. I only wanted to convey my feelings.”
But in contrast with the perplexed Julis and Kirin, Saya plainly declared so.
Although Julis heaved a sigh of relief for the time being, the next moment she felt irritation to herself.
(Why do I have to feel relieved about that……?!)
Including the matter of Ayato and Sylvia at the School Festival, there had been many cases recently where her heart had been thrown out of order.
(That’s right, regardless of whom he a.s.sociates with, it doesn’t anything to do with me…… no, well, he’s a teammate, so it isn’t completely unrelated to me; but anyway he’s free to do as he pleases, I have no say in…… no, but, he was the one who came and told me face-to-face that “he wants to become my strength”, so even I can at least make a complaint…… No, no, it isn’t really like I have anything to complain about, but…… Ah!)
Julis nearly reached an impa.s.se in her thoughts once again, but as she somehow came back to her senses by herself this time, she shook her head many times as if to shake off these thoughts.
Kirin, too, perhaps because she felt relieved at Saya’s words, weakly sat down on the floor.
“B-But, why are you expressly telling us that……?”
“I just want to play fair with my rivals…… Well, you as well, do your best.”
To these words plainly said by Saya, both Kirin, who suddenly hopped from her seated position as is, and Julis, with a red face, shouted.
“N-No, I-I don’t really……!”
“T-That’s right! W-What are you saying……?!”
Looking at Julis and Kirin, Saya nodded expressionlessly.
“If that’s the case, it’s fine then. But, don’t regret later.”
For some reason, Saya’s words today felt strangely heavy.
(N-No, no good, no good. Calm down……)
Julis’ pace has been disturbed for some reason since a little while ago.
As she calmed down her heart by taking a deep breath, she asked a question different from Kirin’s to Saya.
“N-No, well, more importantly. I don’t mean to pry too much into a private matter, but why on earth did you do it in the middle of the ? One wrong move and it could become a seed of trouble within the team…… No, it’s not really like we’re that narrow-minded; I ask just to be sure.”
“Yea, about that…… I’m sorry.”
Then unexpectedly, Saya honestly bowed her head.
“The timing was purely due to my selfishness, so I apologize for it. But──”
As Saya said up to there, she stared straight at Julis’ eyes.
“It may selfish of me to say this, but I think that when the match will come, everyone shouldn’t be so weak-minded as to be affected by such a trivial matter. That’s why, it’s all right.”
Since Julis thought that it was in fact as Saya said, for an instant, she was at a loss for words to return. Both Julis and Kirin could concentrate without problem in a serious match; she had that conviction.
This was because rather than keep going on about the importance of the matter, there is the problem of separating it into different part to the very end. Both Julis and Kirin had a place that they were aiming at in the and a reason why they had to win no matter what.
And, Julis knew that Saya did not have any reason to do it.
Saya purely fought for Ayato. That’s why she was probably able to take the big step called confession, and no one could blame her for it.
“But, only Enfield is different. I might be a little anxious regarding her.”
“Eh……? The president, is it?”
To these words, Kirin’s eyes flickered wonderingly.
Julis had the same expression though.
“There’s probably no problem with Claudia. Even considering her personality, I think that she’s the number one person about whom you can come to a clear decision on that area though.”
Claudia took a quite a.s.sertive approach towards Ayato, and there was no mistaking that Julis was concerned about it; but when it came to how serious she was about her feelings, even Julis could not judge.
However, in contrast to Kirin who nodded several times, Saya shook her head with a serious look.
“You’re wrong. I understood it right away the first time I met her. Enfield is serious.”
“……Hou. Is it an affirmation based on some firm reason?”
Though Saya’s reply was very simple, Julis already understood that she could not take it lightly.
──Then, the training room’s door opened there, and Ayato who was wearing training gear and with sweat streaming down his forehead, walked in.
“Sorry, guess I barely came on time……? I was immersed in my independent training.”
Seeing as he was breathing slightly heavily, he probably ran his way here.
“Ayato, good morning.”
“!…… Ah, Saya. Good morning.”
Saya ran up to Ayato with a smile, and Ayato gently greeted her as usual.
But, Julis did not overlook the nervousness that ran on his face, although it was just for an instant.
“It’s all right, even if you didn’t rush, everyone hasn’t gathered yet. Come on, Ayato.”
Saya took out a towel and handed it to Ayato.
Was it their imagination or did it feel like Saya was closer to Ayato than before? Although there was originally the fact that they were childhood friends and that closeness of Saya was more like intimacy between family or siblings, the atmosphere was somewhat different now.
“……Yes, thank you.”
On the other hand, the att.i.tude of Ayato, who received the towel, was, though just only a little, awkward. One could guess that he was obviously conscious of Saya. But, one could also see that their relationship was by no means advancing into the bad direction.
“Errr, then I’ll wash this towel and return it later, so……”
“No, it’s fine. You don’t need to worry about it.”
“No, I can’t do that.”
“……Boo, I’m saying that it’s fine.”
Saya, who pouted and tried to take the towel, strongly glued to Ayato.
Then, as she noticed it, Saya abruptly separated her body. Although her expression did not change, she slightly blushed and cast her eyes down.
It was not a reaction that Saya would have made before (before the confession, that is).
Julis and Kirin were looking at such Saya and Ayato at a distance.
“……W-What’s wrong, Kirin? If you have anything you want to ask Ayato, you should just go ask.”
“Eeeh!? I-I-I don’t really have anything……”
Kirin curled herself up with a face which seemed like she would cry anytime, but even so she timidly opened her mouth while looking up at Julis with upturned eyes.
“D-Does Julis-senpai, er, um……”
“I-I don’t really anything to ask. Yes, that’s right. Absolutely nothing!”
“Aw…… I-Is that so? I’m sorry……”
“N-No, it isn’t like I’m angry, you see?”
Julis hurriedly comforted Kirin and then greatly exhaled so as to relax. It was to no avail in any way though.
“……But she goes have courage. We should honestly praise her for that.”
The form was different, but Julis understood all too well the fear of taking the first step in order to change something.
Saya’s determination deserved her respect.
“By the way, you say that everyone hasn’t gathered…… it’s already time, right?”
There, while Ayato checked the time on his portable terminal, he looked around in the training room.
They should have scheduled to carry out a strategy meeting today in preparation for tomorrow’s semifinal. It could be said that Team Yellow Dragon, their opponent of the semifinal, was definitely their most powerful enemy so far.
Especially the strength of Woo Xiao Fay alias , who was their (Team Yellow Dragon) greatest battle potential, was overwhelming; and defeat would be inevitable should they challenge him without taking any measures. The spearmanship, Taijutsu and Star Senjutsu that he displayed in the second round── even though even only one among these was enough a threat, Xiao Fay possessed all of them.
“That’s right, but the President isn’t here yet……”
“To think that she’s late; that’s quite rare.”
To Kirin’s words, Julis continued as such.
As far as Julis remembered, there has never been a precedent in the past where Claudia came late at the appointed time.
“Oh, I’ve got a call. Speaking of the devil, how…… Hmm?”
When Julis took out her portable terminal, she knitted her brows. It was an unregistered number.
As she opened a s.p.a.ce window while feeling dubious, a terminal screen in blackout state was unfolded.
It was voice communication.
『……! Ah, thanks G.o.d! It’s finally connected!』
Moreover, the sound was very bad as there was too much noise. Even so, Julis was familiar with that voice.
“……This voice, is it Laet.i.tia?”
Although they were acquainted, it was not to the extent that they would contact each other directly.
『That’s right. There is no time, so I’ll go right to the point. Is Claudia there?』
“What is it, out of the blue? ……Well whatever, she hasn’t yet come here today.”
『Ah, I thought so……!』
A voice filled with anguish leaked out from the other side of the window s.p.a.ce.
“What the h.e.l.l is going on? If you’ve business with Claudia, you should just call her directly.”
『It’s because I can’t do it that I’m calling you like this! Anyway, please go look for her at once and ensure her safety!』
“Her safety, you say……? Wait, what the h.e.l.l do you mean by that?! What are you talking about!?”
From the sense of urgency transmitted by the voice, Julis guessed that it was not trivial matter.
Ayato and company, who were listening to the conversation on the side, kept quiet with serious expressions.
『Even this line, which I took measures against the Sinodomias, will hold safely for still around 30 seconds. So, I will tell you only about my business. ──Galaxy has taken action.』
With that alone, they were able to roughly understand the situation.
“I got it. I don’t know the details, but I give you my thanks.”
『And one more thing, there is something that I want to tell Amagiri Ayato.』
When Julis made an eye signal, Ayato also gave a small nod and stood beside Julis.
“What do you want to tell me?”
Quite a time has pa.s.sed after having watched the .
“Claudia, this is a present for you.”
Claudia stared, as she was unusually surprised from the bottom of her heart, at the case that Isabella held out while saying so. After all, for as long as she could remember, this was the first time that she got something like a present from this mother of hers.
Claudia was bought things she wanted and, while being a child, she was given an almost inexhaustible amount of funds; but that and this were different stories.
“What on earth is this sudden turn of events?”
When Claudia asked so while smiling wryly, Isabella kindly answered.
“Nothing special. It will be your birthday soon, right?”
“That’s right, but……”
“Well anyway, look at this.”
Isabella released the lock of the case that she put on the living room’s desk before the perplexed Claudia.
Seeing it, which was stored in the case, Claudia unintentionally held her breath.
“Yes, it is .”
A pair of ogre lux sleeping like twin fetuses. Claudia, who had its activation body in front of her, felt a shiver going throughout her body exactly similar to the one that she had felt in the battle hall of the before.
Seeing Claudia abruptly standing from the chair and drawing back, Isabella narrowed her eyes joyfully.
“Oh my, Claudia. What’s the matter?”
“Did you taste the same sensation as in the time of the ? In that case, it is splendid. It means that you have been chosen by this after all.”
Isabella spread her hands as if that was something extremely delightful. As Claudia heaved a small sigh in front of such Isabella, she pulled herself together.
“But, I am amazed that you were able to take out an ogre lux. I heard that the management of ogre luxes was quite rigorous, but……”
No matter if she was an executive of the Integrated Enterprise Foundation, wasn’t it too selfish to take it out from Asterisk in order to give it to her daughter?
“Fufufu, who do you think I am?”
But, Isabella plainly declared so.
“Well, actually, due to the matter of the previous , this had been designated to be sealed. And so after explaining the situation, I borrowed it before it was sent to one of Galaxy’s research facilities. The people there also seemed to want some more data, so I was rather welcomed to borrow it.”
“I am honored to be able to receive such a dangerous thing.”
Even though Claudia returned such sarcasm, Isabella remained indifferent and did not break her smile.
“Of course, if you say that you don’t want it, then that’s it. You don’t really need to force yourself. But, a case of someone being chosen by an ogre lux is extremely rare, and when looking only the ability, is a powerful weapon. I thought that it might someday help you, but……”
Although it was her mother, it was difficult for Claudia to read Isabella’s real intention.
In the viewpoint of self-interest, there was the approach of using her daughter for the data collection of that had almost no one compatible with it. It would certainly lead to the benefit of Seidoukan Academy which was managed by Galaxy.
But in the viewpoint of Galaxy as a whole, it might not hold so much interest, and Claudia could not imagine that a person of Isabella’s position would expressly take the initiative in it.
In that case, was it purely meant to be a present to her daughter just as she said? In fact, if the foresight ability was the real thing, then was definitely a powerful and unparalleled ogre lux. To the point that it could become an indicator for Claudia who had yet to decide her future path.
However, as Claudia said sarcastically, it was a very dangerous thing. For a present to her daughter, one might said that it was extremely unsuitable. But even in that case, in antic.i.p.ation to Claudia’s wisdom, she might have judged that it was all right. Claudia’s past achievements were enough to merit such an evaluation after all.
(……Probably, it is all of these.) 
After thinking to that extent, Claudia reached such a conclusion.
Regardless of it being objects or people, in most cases, an action is taken between many overlapped complicated circ.u.mstances .If he was a human like Isabella, then all the more.
Therefore, Claudia rather decided to choose it for a simple reason.
“Understood. I shall gratefully borrow it.”
It was because she was very happy about a present from her mother.
“That’s fine. It was worth giving it as a present.”
Though Isabella laughed as she said so, as if suddenly remembering something, she clapped her hands and called a servant.
“Oh yes, speaking of which, it seemed that another present arrived.”
Judging from her way of speaking, it seemed to something unrelated to Isabella.
When she opened the box that the servant carried in, there were a bear stuffed toy of about 30 cm in size and a message card inside.
“Oh my, how lovely.”
“……I wonder whom it is from.”
Both the fabric and the sewing of the stuffed toy were splendid ── in any case, it was something that was sent to suit with Claudia’s taste ── and one could perceive with a look that it was a very high-cla.s.s item.
When she wonderingly opened the message card as she had no idea at all of who could have sent it, an unexpected name was written down there.
“Oh, it is from the young lady of the Blanchard House, huh”
Isabella nodded by herself as she was convinced.
“You two are quite close, eh.”
“No, it’s not really like that……”
In the message card were written the words “next time for sure, I will defeat you, so prepare yourself”.
“But in that case, you’d better hide it in front of Nicholas.”
When going back, the Enfield House of Claudia and the Blanchard House of Laet.i.tia, seemed to have some kind of fate for several hundred years since the Great Alliance War; and Nicholas, as the direct descendant, harbored antipathy towards the Blanchard Household.
Frankly speaking, though it was not that much her hobby, as expected Claudia could not bring herself to throw away a present that she was given expressly.
“Still, now that it has come to this, I will have to return her something as a gift as well. If I am not mistaken, her birthday should be…… in February, right?”
Since it was June now, it was quite a long way off.
“In that case, there will be the ball of the Opera House of Vienna, right? How about give it to her at that time?”
The ball of the Opera House of Vienna was the star of the high society in the past and even now, but it nature has changed after the revival of the . Especially, the age of debutante was greatly reduced; this was the result of the European High Society after the revival trying to look for a candidate for it (debutante) faster rather than searching for a superior bloodline.
Even the Houses famed as prestigious could not survive without relations with the Integrated Enterprise Foundation at present. To that end, people with superior ability inside the Household were necessary no matter how few there were.
“……Well, there’s still more time, so I guess that I shall choose something suitable for her.”
As Claudia muttered so, she compared the bear stuffed toy and and then smiled wryly to the surreal difference between them.
──However, this choice of receiving would eventually change Claudia’s life greatly.
The next morning, when the day has not yet fully risen, Claudia’s scream echoed in the mansion.
As a servant rushed, Claudia was breathing out roughly while lying down with her eyes wide open and grasping the sheet so tightly that her fingers turned white.
The contents of her dream had already become fuzzy like morning fog and disappeared.
But the continuous agony and overwhelming fear of the “death” that Claudia tasted by the price of ── they easily destroyed the nihilism of the very young Claudia and gave a shock strong enough to knock down her partial self-consciousness, although precocious.
“Oh my…… As expected, looks like it was severe.”
Isabella, who had come over before she was aware of it, looked down at Claudia with a disappointed face.
As her eyes reflected the figure of her mother, Claudia desperately fixed her breathing
“Now then, what will you do, Claudia? Will you part with ?”
As though she knew that it would turn out like this, and yet while oozing only a meager disappointment, Isabella said.
Even so, Claudia weakly shook her head to her question.
Isabella knitted her brows as she was slightly surprised.
Claudia’s reason for this (reply) was also simple.
It was only her willpower ── her rebellious heart.
While Claudia was surprised at the fact that there were such childish feelings inside her, she mustered her strength and raised her body.
“……It is a precious present. I shall enjoy it a little more.”
As a result, Claudia’s willpower was maintained for nearly one month.
Considering the fact that ’s wielders until now had not held even three days, it might be said that Claudia possessed an astounding mental strength.
However, the nightmare repeated every night mercilessly undermined Claudia’s mind and body and steadily debilitated her.
On the bed, at that night when Claudia, who could no longer clearly make even the difference between reality and nightmare, as expected had begun to feel her limit──
Claudia met Ayato in that dream.
“Claudia! Are you there, Claudia?!”
There was no reaction at all even though Julis violently knocked the door.
Julis and company, who received the call from Laet.i.tia, hastily headed to Claudia’s room in the Seidoukan Academy’s girl dormitory.
But, the room door was locked as is; as there was no sign of Claudia coming out no matter how much she knocked, Julis gritted her molars.
“d.a.m.n! How careless of me……!”
Honestly speaking, she did not expect Galaxy to take action with this timing.
No, more exactly, she had treated Claudia’s words lightly.
Making enemies of Galaxy ── she prepared herself for it when she was first told about it by Claudia, but since the began, nothing happened in particular, rather it might be said it went smoothly so far.
Though they by no means let their guards down, she could deny the fact that rather than Galaxy, they were more focused on the next match.
All of these were thanks to the plan that Claudia worked out, even though it doesn’t mean that Galaxy did not loosen their hands.
“……Julis, step aside. At this point, we can’t choose our methods.”
While Saya said so, she deployed a large-scale lux.
“Eh!? H-Hold on Saya-san, no matter how you look at it, using it here in the dorm is a little……!”
Though Kirin tried to stop at Saya while panicking, Julis was also of the same opinion this time.
“Okay, do it, Saya!”
The light bullet fired from the lux blew off the door with a roaring sound and wind raged.
Though other boarding students turned up wondering why on earth was going on, Julis ignored them and set her feet in the room.
“What the h.e.l.l is this……?”
She looked around in the room and was amazed at the disastrous scene. This was because the inside of the room, be it the living room or the bedroom, was senselessly laid waste.
For an instant, she thought it to be the aftermath of Saya’s bombarding, but the damage range was too wide to be it. The sofa was overturned, the bed sheet was tattered and torn and countless cuts ran on both the wall and the carpet.
And above all.
“……Close-range combat with weapons seemed to have taken place here.”
Kirin, who examined the floor, said so with a severe expression.
“I can’t distinguish the footprints, but it’s likely that they attacked the President in great numbers…… There’s a bloodstain.”
Julis unintentionally bit her lips, but Saya lightly tapped her shoulders.
“It isn’t settled that it (blood) belongs to Enfield. She might have turned the tables back to those ruffians.”
“That’s right, but……”
a.s.suming that that was the case, it was strange that Claudia was not here.
“The amount of bleeding doesn’t seem to be that much. Also…… I think that the President may have escaped. I a.s.sume that she escaped after she was attacked.”
Then, Kirin, who was examining the floor, said with serious face.
“Why can you declare that?”
“It’s only a guess from the situation, but…… if the President was attacked by Galaxy’s subordinates and they succeeded in it, I don’t think that they would leave the room like this. They may be able to crush her whenever they want if it’s inside Seidoukan, but even so they should do the minimum cleaning up afterwards. Yet, look at this room’s disastrous scene……”
Perhaps due to the fact that her uncle was a person of Galaxy, Kirin was unexpectedly well-informed on the Integrated Enterprise Foundation.
“I see……! In other words, those guys had no room to do it……!”
Saya also nodded as she agreed.
They did not know whether it was staff-wise or time wise, but it meant that there was something which should have had priority over it.
Saying so, Kirin turned her eyes to the window.
Though the window gla.s.s facing the balcony was broken, the gla.s.s splinters did not fall inside the room; they were all scattered outward.
As Julis rushed up to the window, sure enough bloodstain continued to the balcony sporadically.
“So, she escaped from here, huh……”
“……Anyway, we should tell Ayato what we’ve found so far.”
Saya said while pulling the sleeve of Julis who scowled outside of the window.
“Yes, you’re right. I want to check the situation on his side as well.”
Julis took out her portable terminal while praying for Claudia’s safety.
Translator and references notes
 meaning that Isabella gave not only purely as a present, but also with the above-mentioned ulterior motives