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These are laboratories for magician development that were established one after
the other in the AD 2030s by the j.a.panese gov't in response to the increasing
international tensions leading to World War III. The labs' aim was not magic
development but magician development, and so genetic research to manufacture
the perfect magicians for their target magic was included.
From the First to the Tenth, ten laboratories were established. Five are currently in
Below are their individual details.
Established 2031 in Kanazawa. Currently shut down.
Its focus is the research of magic for direct interference of organic bodies in antipersonnel
warfare. The vaporization magic [Rupture] is the derivative from that
research. However, research on human movement control magic led to [Puppet
Terrorists] (suicide terrorists manufactured from puppetized humans), and was
Established 2031 in Awaji Island. In operation.
In contrast to First Inst.i.tute magic, its focus is magic for direct interference of
inorganic substances, especially the research on absorption-type magic that handle
Established 2032 in Atsugi. In operation.
In developing magicians that can independently handle multiple situations, it is
implementing multicasting technology. Exploring limits on the maximum number
of magics that can be cast synchronously and continuously, it is developing
magicians able to cast multiple magics synchronously.
Details unknown. Believed to be located near the borders of old Metro Tokyo and
old Yamanashi prefecture. Believed to be established in 2033. Now shut down, but
even its true status is unknown. Rumors exist that it was the only lab set up by an
independent non-governmental sponsor which has a strong clout on nations, and it
currently operates under said sponsor's support. There are also rumors that thanks
to said sponsor, it was effectively operating before the AD 2020s.
Using mental interference magic, it aims to strengthen the magic calculation zone,
the reservoir of the superpower so-called magic that resides in a magician's
Established 2035 in Uwajima, Shikoku. In operation.
It researches on material phase manipulation magic. Though the technically easy
fluid-state phase manipulation has turned mainstream, it has succeeded in solidstate
phase manipulation. The result is the magic co-developed with the USNA,
[Bahamut]. Along with fluid manipulation magic [Abyss], the laboratory won
international fame for the magic development of two Strategic-cla.s.s magics.
Established 2035 in Sendai. In operation.
It researches on heat control magic. Along with Eighth, it is strong on theoretical
magic research but light on practical military magic research. Nevertheless, it was
said that this lab alone (apart from Fourth) has conducted more genetic
engineering experiments than any other magician development labs (true details
on Fourth is unknown).
Established 2037 in Tokyo. Currently shut down.
It researches on magic with its focus on anti-unit warfare. Their results are colony
control magics. This was in contrast to the non-militaristic Sixth, and it was set up
as a magician development lab that took on an additional role of emergency capital
Established 2037 in Kitakyushu. In operation.
It researches on magics that manipulate the four fundamental interactions
(gravitational, electromagnetic, strong atomic, weak atomic forces). It is a lab even
more focused on theoretical research than the Sixth. However, it differs strongly
from the Sixth when it comes to JSDF relations. Eighth's research can easily lead
to nuclear weapons development, so it has been quashing suspicions that it was
developing nukes with JSDF approval.
Established 2037 in Nara. Currently shut down.
In a fusion of modern and ancient magic, by incorporating ancient magic knowhow
to modern magic, it aimed to resolve many issues that plague modern magic
like fuzzy casting operation.
Established 2039 in Tokyo. Currently shut down.
In addition to capital defense like the Seventh, it focuses on wide-area magic that
generates virtual structures in s.p.a.ce as a defensive countermeasure to heavy
firepower. The results are the barrier magics against a great variety of objects.
In addition the Tenth sought to increase the magic abilities with methods different
from that of Fourth. Specifically, not by strengthening the magic calculation zone
itself but by temporarily overclocking it, it dealt in developing magicians that can
cast powerful magic when the situation calls for it. However the results were not
Apart from these ten there are other laboratories operating from AD 2010 to AD
2020 that sought to develop the Elements; all are currently shut down. There are
also HQ-affiliated secret research groups put up in AD 2002 by the JSDF itself
that are now independently continuing their research. Kudou Retsu himself
underwent strength enhancement measures at these research groups until he joined
There were only Ten Magician Development Laboratories established in the entire
country, each with a different research subject.
For example, the first laboratory founded, Lab One, researched magic that directly
interfered with living organisms in order to improve the efficiency of using magic
as a weapon.
Lab Four used Mental Interference magic with the goal of strengthening the Magic
Calculation area, the area of the brain that magicians used unconsciously as the
source of their individual magic.
Lab Seven’s goal was to develop magic that was used to battle against multiple
opponents. The result was Herd Control magic.
And the research subject of Lab Nine, which invited a mult.i.tude of Ancient Magic
pract.i.tioners to Nara, was the combination of Ancient and Modern magic.
The Ancient Magic users cooperated with Lab Nine out of their own free will; they
hoped to improve the Ancient Magic that had been pa.s.sed down with science and
create newer stronger magic. However, from the beginning, Lab Nine’s goal was
to develop stronger Modern Magic by taking components of Ancient Magic and
produce magicians that were superior to them as weapons.
As a result, the Ancient Magic users only ended up getting the techniques they
used stolen, but understanding the details doesn't matter. It can only be said that it
was inevitable Ancient Magic users would feel hostility to magicians produced by
Lab Nine who bear the symbol “Nine” in their names.
This ingrained hostility still remains in Common Era 2096.
◊ ◊ ◊
Common Era 2096 June 25th, Monday. The retired general known as the
Patriarch of the j.a.panese magic community, Kudou Retsu, was visiting the former
site of Lab Nine with his eldest son, the present head of the Kudou clan, Kudou
Lab Nine was closed as a national research facility soon after the end of the Third
World War, but its functionality as a laboratory remained, even now. Currently, it
was a civilian research facility jointly operated by the Kudou, Kuki and Kuzumi
families — that had turned to researching perception type magics, a field that
produced much slower results than developing the operator of the magic.
However, that was only its outer veneer. Certainly, research of perception type
magic took place here. However, that was not the research subject of the current
head of the lab.
Deep inside the research facility, Retsu and Makoto were guided to a large room,
followed by human sized androids. There were four rows of four, sixteen in total.
The androids had a thin column attached to their backs, a female form robot,
If this was a lab that developed 3H-Humanoid Home Helpers, this would probably
not be a strange sight. There were other usages for them; for example, they might
be used by a research facility developing androids for military purposes.
However, gynoids were unsuitable material for a magic research lab. —If you
stuck to traditional thinking.
“What’s the progress?”
Pride in his role as overseer of this research surfaced on their guide’s face in
response to Makoto’s question.
“Parasite cultivation is going well. Successful installation into gynoids has risen to
sixty percent. As you well know, the prototypes are sixteen in number.”
“So it’s reached the initial projections?”
The researcher’s att.i.tude as he answered would be felt as abnormal excitement if
this was normal research, but neither Retsu nor Makoto were bothered by it.
Certainly, the researcher’s team’s results were ones that he could definitely take
He probably noticed the signs of their approval. The head researcher’s tongue
began to wag with increasing fluency.
“The parasites cultivated now are kept in a completely dormant state in the
gynoids according to the results of the loyalty programming. The initial resistance
to the loyalty programming is no longer being observed. It looks like the most
important barrier to actually using parasite dolls, successful application of the
loyalty programming, is done. A performance test will be done whenever you
The expectations that oozed out of the supervisor’s remarks exceeded Makoto’s
predictions. Makoto considered the fact that it would probably take some time to
put together a combat performance test in his mind, as such preparations hadn’t
“It’s probably too early for a combat test. You say that they’ve undergone loyalty
programming, so the number of tests of their autonomous behavior is
Retsu, not Makoto, replied to the researcher’s proposal.
“It is not even understood how stable their use of spirit power is outside the
“For that reason, the test…”
The supervisor who persisted due to his lack of understanding was brought to heel
by Retsu with a gesture.
“Are you aware of the compet.i.tion the magic high schools hold annually in
August? This year an event called Steeplechase Cross Country has been
scheduled. In addition to physical obstacles, they must also overcome obstructions
with magic aiming for the goal, a long distance obstacle race.”
The supervisor immediately understood Retsu’s true meaning.
“The Parasite Dolls will be used as an obstacle?”
“The defense force has too few people to use many of them for a compet.i.tion for
high school students, right? If Parasite Dolls are used, then military magicians
cannot be injured from attacks from the students, and with the loyalty
programming, there is no worry of the students being greatly wounded if the
strength of the spirit power is controlled. It is an excellent chance to conduct a test
of their practical usage.”
“However, Elder, will the management committee agree? If the experiment’s
details are leaked, what kind of response will the public make? Considering that, I
don’t think they will give it an okay.”
Makoto hadn’t known Retsu’s plan, but the management committee would
definitely show anxiety about the public’s reaction to high school students being
used as guinea pigs. However, Retsu’s determination was unshaken.
“No, the management committee has given their consent. The management
committee has already yielded to military intervention in this year’s event
selection. At this point, no spirit remains to fight our demands.”
However, Retsu did not touch on the countermeasures, in case the information was
disclosed. It was clearly evident that he would not take the fall by accepting
And if by some chance magic high school students were hurt by Parasite Dolls
slipping from control, neither Retsu nor Makoto would say anything.
Leaving the details concerning the operational test to his son, Retsu returned to the
Kudou family’s princ.i.p.al residence in Ikoma. After arriving at the mansion, he
immediately went to the room of Minoru, Makoto’s youngest son.
Kudou Minoru was sixteen years old this year and a first year at the Magic
University attached Second High School. Normally, he should be at school at this
hour, but today he was staying home sick. —No, rather he was staying home sick
“Minoru, it’s me.”
Retsu called out as he knocked; after a moment of slight hesitation, the door to the
room opened, showing a narrow view of the face of a pale boy. He had gentle,
delicate features, but he probably wouldn't be mistaken for a girl. With looks like
these, Kudou Minoru was the archetype of a 'pretty boy'.
“Ojiisama (Grand Père, forme polie), please excuse my appearance.”
His apology to his grandfather was spoken in a high voice, befitting his boyish
“You do not need to bother with such things. More importantly, is it alright for you
not to be lying down?”
His words to his pajama clad grandson were not just pro forma. Grief was carved
into Retsu’s face; his concern for his grandson’s condition was heartfelt.
Minoru replied to his grandfather’s affection with a smile.
“I’m fine. My temperature has already gone do—”
However, just as he was trying to say 'gone down', he was a.s.saulted with a severe
cough and could not reach his trivial goal. The ‘please do not worry about me’ in
his heart was betrayed by his body. This was always the case for him. Right now,
the only thing Minoru could do was not show his respected grandfather his tears.
“Minoru, lie down.”
Retsu, who was lightly rubbing the back of his coughing grandson, urged Minoru
when the fit eased.
Minoru started to protest, but stopped. He knew exactly what kind of body he had
and could not pretend otherwise. In the end, he obediently returned to bed; he was
wise enough to understand that not worrying his grandfather was the more
Retsu propped Minoru’s neck on a pillow himself and sat down on the chair he
had moved. In a gentle voice, Retsu induced Minoru into conversation.
“Minoru, you don’t need to be upset over your absences becoming somewhat
His consoling words were not a polite lie.
“Your magic power is among the most powerful in your generation in the world.
Even if I compare you to the magic high school students taking part in the Nine
Schools Compet.i.tion, you have almost no equals among the students.”
And, this was not the bias of a relative. Minoru possessed magic power befitting
the grandson of Kudou Retsu.
He probably understood that his grandfather genuinely acknowledged his talent.
The hidden sorrow cleared from Minoru’s face. Retsu’s words had succeeded in
cheering up his grandson.
However, they were also a little insensitive.
“The Nine Schools compet.i.tion… I wish I could partic.i.p.ate.”
Minoru muttered not with self-pity but with longing. Those words struck a heavy
blow to Retsu’s heart.
If magic power was the only consideration, then Minoru would probably have a
100% chance of being picked as a representative for the Nine Schools
Compet.i.tion. However, that was only if he was able to go and compete. Minoru, a
first year who spent a fourth of his days in his sickbed, would refuse to go even if
Second High chose him out of consideration for the problems he would cause for
“Please do not make that face, Ojiisama. After all, the Nine Schools Compet.i.tion
isn’t the only stage for a contest of strength.”
“That’s true, you are smart as well. As a magician, perhaps as a magic artificer,
you will have a number of chances to show your strength.”
Retsu held back the pain that was boiling over in him to hide it from his grandson,
who was smiling at him from his bed, and smiled back at him.
Minoru really wanted to take part in the Nine Schools Compet.i.tion and he wanted
to have a place in the sun where he could show off the talent he was born with;
Retsu took his hand because he understood. But, at the same time, his grandson
knew that such a chance may never come.
If he was healthy, then there would be no need to give up on the future.
If he had been less powerful, then it would be an idle wish.
The abundance of Minoru’s talent only hurt him more. To Retsu, this was absurd.
And the one who had brought about this absurdity was not an invisible existence
like G.o.ds or demons.
—The one who had consigned his grandson to this gruesome fate was his own
—The one who hadn’t stopped him was his own self.
These self-condemning thoughts were gradually eroding Retsu’s heart.
“Now that I think about it, Kyouko-neesan is also coming by to visit me today. She
said she would also like to meet with you, Ojiisama.”
“Really? That’s good, Minoru.”
Among Retsu’s grandchildren, Minoru and Fujibayashi Kyouko were especially
close. Minoru was really happy about the visit he spoke of.
The genuine smile finally surfacing on his grandson’s face was all too pitiful,
making it hard for Retsu to remain in this place. He placed his hand on his
grandson’s forehead to confirm that the fever was not all that great and stood up.
“Rest for a while, Minoru. If you do the fever will probably subside.”
Receiving a reply that accepted his advice from his grandson, he forced himself to
smile in return and left Minoru’s room.
Retsu sunk his body down in his favorite armchair in his own study. So deep, he
gave off the illusion that he was submerging into the soft leather cushions. To
Retsu, it felt like the bottle of Armagnac (a specific variety of brandy from France)
enshrined in the cabinet was beckoning him. He got up and, just as he took one
step toward it, he returned to the chair again. Because he thought it was
unforgivable for him to escape into drunkenness just now.
Retsu asked rhetorically, 'How could this kind of thing have happened?', and
thought it illogical. It wasn’t, after all, that uncommon a story. He had always
dismissed it as only to be expected whenever it happened to others, so it was
egotistical of him to bemoan desolately when it struck one of his own relatives…
Retsu ruminated over this. However, no matter how much he mockingly rebuked
himself, this misfortune would not go away. Retsu knew this also.
Minoru’s weak const.i.tution was a byproduct of gene manipulation. He was a
magician with a modified body — a human created with genes remodeled to
strengthen the magic factor.
Makoto was a father who recklessly carried out genetic manipulation on his own
son; in a nutsh.e.l.l, his hang-ups about Retsu were to blame. Ever since Makoto was
young, he had an inferiority complex about his own magic power being so much
less than Retsu’s. His own children were also ordinary by Ten Master Clan
standards and he despaired over the fact that their talents only slightly exceeded
Looking objectively, both Makoto and his children were endowed with sufficiently
strong magic power. He just picked a bad target for comparison. Retsu had
observed a successful increase in power in the 10 percent who survived
remodeling and even without taking such a risk, Makoto certainly displayed ample
ability. Retsu had repeatedly told that to his son and heir, but he could not get
Makoto to comprehend it.
When Makoto’s obsession with power turned into despair, a madness developed
inside him. He became fixated on the warped idea that if he could not get a heir
who possessed high magic ability naturally, then he should artificially create one
by his own hand.
Furthermore, to create the strongest magician, he planned to make an improved
crossbreed of Kudou genes using the technology of artificial insemination and an
artificial womb. And the one who was created was Minoru. Officially, the
fertilized egg used as the base for the creation of Minoru was an egg from
Makoto’s wife inseminated with Makoto’s sperm. However, in actuality, it was not
such a respectable matter as that.
Minoru’s father was genetically Kudou Makoto.
Genetically, his mother was Makoto’s youngest sister who had married into the
In short, Minoru was Kyouko’s half-brother — a child born from two actual
He was not a child of incest. Makoto and his younger sister did not have s.e.xual
intercourse; all they did was supply the sperm and the egg. Even so, that did not
change the fact that he was the child of two blood related siblings.
Minoru’s physical condition could be a defect in his genetic modification or it
could be due to inbreeding, the cause wasn’t known. Just that, due to his unusual
birth, Minoru was irrevocably cursed.
In terms of magic power strengthening, the modification was a success.
The talents of what would be a genius of the highest level among the currently
known magicians were embedded in Minoru. His magic power rivaled that of
Shiba Miyuki and Angelina Sirius.
However, due to his decidedly weak const.i.tution, Minoru couldn’t demonstrate
that magic power consistently.
It wasn’t because he was feeble like Itsuwa Mio; when Minoru wasn’t sick, he
could utilize his magic as he wished. Nevertheless, the opportunities for a
magician whose body needed to be put on bed rest for every trifling thing, to shine
It wasn’t just that; he might not live long enough to become an adult. As a
modified body magician, even though he was created as a living weapon, his
youngest grandchild could not accomplish this. The curse that afflicted Minoru
had been brought about by the twistedness of modern magic development that
constructed magicians as weapons. After over ten years of anguish, Retsu had
reached that conclusion.
—The usage of magicians as weapons must be stopped.
—More importantly, children like Minoru must not be created.
Retsu fortified his determination for what might be the hundredth or thousandth
The last week of June. Regardless of the fact that it was after school, the
proximity of the quarterly exams meant that the sounds of keystrokes, the buzz of
electricity and even hushed voices doing question and answer drills fluttered about
the National Magic University affiliated First High School.
It was roughly an hour since the last of the afternoon instruction had finished.
After the pa.s.sage of that not very long amount of time, Tatsuya stood in front of
Azusa, who was overseeing things.
“President, the information as well as the proposals of the self-governing
committee and the Public Morals committee have all been sorted into the approved
directories; please confirm this by tomorrow.”
“Understood. …Umm, Shiba-kun, you really don’t mind processing it to the end?”
“Not at all, do you need me to stay?”
Perhaps because she trusted his abilities, or maybe simply because it was
troublesome, Tatsuya curtly shook his head at Azusa’s words, which admitted that
she had pa.s.sed off most of her work to him.
“Then, excuse me.”
“Thank you for all your work.”
The time was nowhere near the closing of the gate. All the other officers were
continuing to work and made no move to get up and leave. Nevertheless, Azusa
accepted Tatsuya’s “declaration of his intent to escape” as if it was only natural
and thanked him.
The truth was that Tatsuya’s early withdrawal was at Azusa’s direction; she had
asked him to do it.
There were currently a total of six members on the student council: the president,
the two vice presidents, treasurer, and the two secretaries. That was one more than
it had at the same time last year. Under normal circ.u.mstances, the workload would
have been decreased by one person; however, with the addition of Tatsuya, things
had turned out a little too much for the better.
In other words, Tatsuya’s ability to handle work was too strong.
The Student Council entrusted the work of controlling necessary operations for
management of the school to a few committees. Not only magic high schools did
this — it was the normal way for schools to operate at the end of the twenty-first
However, control of the important matters of school management were by no
means left to students. Major disturbances like the ‘Blanche incident’ that occurred
on the April of last year were actually quite rare. The work of the Student Council
was almost all simple decisions, time consuming work of making small necessary
adjustments and clerical work.
And if Tatsuya exhibited his full ability to take care of matters, he could
unfortunately finish off all the adjustments and clerical work easily all by himself.
That would mean no work for the other officers and that would mean that they
would lose the chance to acc.u.mulate experience doing the work.
The most anyone can remain an officer on the Student Council is only two and a
half years. If Tatsuya did everything, then the undercla.s.smen wouldn’t learn the
job and his fellow second years might forget how to do their jobs while the
uppercla.s.smen wouldn’t know the current arrangements. And, if Tatsuya was
absent for a long time, the work of the Student Council wouldn’t be performed
properly. Consequently, the management of the school wouldn’t go smoothly.
The risk of that was actually quite infinitesimal, but just the potential alone was
extraordinarily unpalatable. So in the first month, April, President Azusa and
Treasurer Isori came to a decision. And so, the pair plucked up their nerve and
asked Tatsuya ‘to ease off a bit’ for that reason. At their wit‘s end, they came up
with an ‘approved early leave-taking’ solution.
This was quite convenient for Tatsuya. Originally, Tatsuya had intended to spend
time after school reading unpublished research doc.u.ments that the National Magic
University disclosed to affiliated high schools and training. He had not wished for
the positions of Public Morals committee member or Student Council officer (and
the accompanying duties). Finishing work early left him with a lot of time he
“Yes, I’ll wait here.”
They had repeated the actions so many times, they were well beyond the point
where he had to say that he would come to pick her up.
Secretary Honoka watched Tatsuya depart with dissatisfaction.
The cold gaze of the other secretary, Izumi, as she watched Tatsuya depart only
said ‘you darn slacker’; she was unaware that Miyuki was quietly glaring at her.
At this hour, club activities were not yet over. Consequently, the locker room was
empty when Tatsuya changed into his gym clothes, and after he put his uniform in
a bag and into his own locker, he went to the training forest behind the school.
This man-made forest wasn’t just for practicing magic. In order to fulfill the needs
of students who aspired to take the path of soldiers, policemen and rescue workers
for physical training, the density of all the trees and the ups and downs of the
ground were all calculated for usefulness; the ponds, the sandy soil, the running
paths and the rest were carefully positioned. Also, various devices and instruments
were installed. As a result, it served as a base for activities of more than just clubs
that took part in compet.i.tions; they shared it with clubs centered purely on outdoor
The club Tatsuya was visiting was one of those that didn’t take part in magical
Before he could greet them, his friend’s voice rang out.
Perhaps the voice alerted her, as Minami went to Tatsuya, a big kettle in her hand,
the sound of metal grating accompanying her greeting.
“Glad to see you, Leo. Looks like you’re trying hard too, Minami.”
Tatsuya raised his hand to reply to Leo and called out to Minami, and then,
“By the way, where’s Chief Agata?”
asked about the whereabouts of the person in charge.
The answer to that question came from the man himself. He was not on one of the
paths maintained for running within the forest; the figure of Agata Kenshiro, the
chief of the Mountain Club Leo belonged to, emerged from the overgrown
undergrowth beneath the trees. Tatsuya slipped through the male freshmen and
soph.o.m.ore club members moaning from exhaustion on the ground and bowed a
greeting before Agata.
“Chief, may I join in again, today?”
“Sure, I’m taking it easy. If you can, could you work the freshmen a little for me.”
This remark made half the club members who had been transformed into living
corpses shudder in surprise, but there was no one who was able to stand up and
make a run for it.
“I see. How about once around the course.”
“Just one more time, hmm. That‘s easy… Race him, you guys.”
After Agata laughed happily upon hearing Tatsuya’s answer, he looked around at
the miserable club members who hadn’t been able to rise up until now.
“It’s only a ten kilometer run through the forest! Look at Saijou, isn’t he
“…Please don’t compare us to Leo.”
One of the second year members just barely managed to talk back. Somehow, he
revived enough to speak; to actually get up was still beyond him.
“Don’t whine! The third years have already run one extra lap. Come on, how long
are you going to lie down. You guys aren’t dead yet.”
Unenthusiastic cries rose up from here and there, as one by one the second years
mustered their strength and got their bodies up. Naturally, they were reluctant to
pretend that they were dead.
However, only the second years got up. The first year members didn’t have
enough remaining strength to persevere.
“Nothing for it… Sakurai!”
Minami, who had been patiently hanging back, replied to Agata’s call with a ‘yes’,
took the kettle she had temporarily placed at her feet, and trotted over to the side
of the nearest of her fellow first years.
At Agata’s direction, Minami tilted the kettle in her hand.
The first year whose face was drenched by the liquid poured from the kettle rolled
over away from Minami’s feet, got up, and stumbled away from Minami.
Leo, who had come up next to him, laughed and shook his head at the question
Tatsuya unintentionally murmured.
“Nope. It’s 45 to 46 degrees at most. That level of heat won’t scald.”
The female club member sitting down in the shade of the trees only snickered
without a trace of concern. So it was probably true that it wasn’t a big deal;
nevertheless, Tatsuya thought it was a fairly violent method.
“It’s said that at the end of the last century, they would bathe rugby players who
collapsed in the middle of a match with water from a kettle to rouse their fighting
Agata, who had been listening to Tatsuya’s and Leo’s conversation, offered up that
bit of trivia.
“Was it your idea, Chief Agata, to make it hot and not cold water?”
“Because at this time of year, being soaked with cold water would feel good to
Agata announced his internal logic to answer Tatsuya’s question. Before their
eyes, Minami baptized the boys who were her fellow first years with hot water,
one by one.
There were a number of ropes strung above the pond. Narrow logs dangled from
them as Tatsuya smoothly used them to advance through the air; the equally
composed Leo at his side spoke to him.
“Hey, Tatsuya. Why did Sakurai-san join my club?”
“That’s just started bugging you now?”
“Naw, I’ve wondered about it before.”
As Leo said, Minami was a proper member of the mountain club in contrast to
Tatsuya, who was not a member and was just using their facilities. —It’s
somewhat tangential, but as a condition for being allowed to take part in the
mountain club’s activities, Tatsuya had to tune the club members’ CADs and his
fellow second years who were club members called him things like an ‘honorary
member’ and the like.
Back to the main topic.
“With Sakurai’s magic power, didn’t she get a lot of invitations from a lot of
It was just as Leo said, so Leo’s skepticism was natural. Minami’s magic power
had been revealed to the whole school in April’s ‘Stellar Furnace Experiment’, but
even during newcomer invitation week, the top scorers on the entrance exam were
noted by each club. Normally, she should have joined a club that took part in
“She said it was because she wanted to train her body.”
Tatsuya answered the question with a half-truth. After landing on the opposite
bank, while using the narrow footholds that had become stepping stones in the
prepared ground to run across, they conversed effortlessly.
“I think she’s already in good enough shape for a first year girl.”
Leo’s point was expected. Because Minami had been raised as a combat magician
by the main house of the Yotsuba, her physical abilities shouldn’t be something
that could be improved further.
However, in terms of being good enough, her magical ability was also already
more than good enough for a high school student. There was even less reason to
join a club to improve that.
“Minami probably doesn’t think so.”
Minami wasn’t just a member of the mountain club, she had also joined the
cooking club. Her primary reason for joining clubs was to waste time so that she
could leave with Tatsuya and the rest of the Student Council — with her mistress,
Miyuki, to be exact. Tatsuya was scrupulously keeping this other half of the truth
For magic high schools that put emphasis on practical skills, the Nine Schools
Compet.i.tion — the great tournament that all the magic high schools competed in
— was a very important event. This was true not just for the school administration
but for the students as well, due to the results of the Nine Schools Compet.i.tion
being linked to their career paths. Nevertheless, this was not in the least unusual.
As a result, it is perhaps only natural that even more effort is put into it than the
The diligent in all things Nakajou Azusa, president of the Student Council of First
High School, in order to not let the individual student’s enthusiasm go to waste,
had started to work on the preparations for the Nine Schools Compet.i.tion a month
earlier than had been done in other years. As a result, she antic.i.p.ated that there
would not be a flurry of activity right before the quarterly exams and that the
preparations would proceed in a rather relaxed fashion.
Until today, Monday July 2, 2096, when a totally unexpected notification caught
her completely off guard.
On that day, Tatsuya and Miyuki went to the Student Council room after school as
usual. The quarterly exams were next week; however, that had nothing to do with
the activities of the student council. For the already mentioned reason, compared
to most years, the duties of the Student Council officers had lessened. —Not that
this had anything to do with the siblings; they were not the kind to do overnight
cramming sessions, so the uneasiness, discontent and grumbling had nothing to do
Anyway, immediately after Tatsuya opened the door to the School Council room
The gloomy atmosphere wafting out of the room made Tatsuya unconsciously
“Onii-sama? What is…”
It wasn’t just Tatsuya. Miyuki, who was peeking out from behind his back, was
too shocked to finish saying the simple sentence, “What is the matter?” Right
before their eyes, Azusa was emitting ‘it’s the end of the world’ despair while
covering her head.
“Oh. It’s you two, thank you for coming.”
From in front of the president’s desk, Isori spoke to them with a face dark with
despair. That prompted Tatsuya to muster the determination to finally take a step
into the moribund air.
“You're welcome, Isori-senpai. What the heck happened?”
Once he made a decision, he took the direct route. That was Tatsuya’s style.
Ignoring Azusa, who was covering her head, Tatsuya asked Isori for information.
“The details of this year’s compet.i.tion have been delivered from the Nine Schools
Compet.i.tion’s management committee.”
Instead of the inarticulate Isori, Azusa, who still wasn’t showing her face,
answered Tatsuya’s question.
“Oh, it’s already that time.”
“The particulars will be made available on the public website, tomorrow.”
“I see. So, what is the problem?”
Apparently, he realized that the details contained a problem worth covering one’s
head over. However, what on earth could the problem be that caused this
extravagant display of despair? Tatsuya was unable to take the option of not
Perhaps, Azusa had been waiting for that question. She vigorously lifted her head
and began pouring out complaints like they were curses.
“Changes to the event program are included in the information notices!”
“…What has changed?”
Certainly, that was bad news. First High’s Student Council had made preparations
based on the a.s.sumption that the program had not been changed from last year.
However, although the schedule had been fixed in recent years, there was no rule
that it couldn’t be changed. Due to the fact that the finalized event listing was sent
about a month before the compet.i.tion, it wasn’t against the rules to notify them of
a change in the roster of events today.
However, Tatsuya was still surprised by the answer Azusa gave in a shrieking
“Speed Shooting, Crowd Ball, and Battle Board are out; the newly added events
are Row and Gunner, Shield Down and Steeplechase Cross-country.”
There were six events in all and half of them had been changed. Furthermore, due
to the nature of the new events — the type of magic that needed to be used was
pretty different. This meant it was probably necessary to change the selection of
However, it was premature of him to make decisions. Azusa’s answer didn’t end
“What’s more, athletes can only take part in two events if one of them is
Steeplechase Cross-country! Additionally, Ice Pillars Break, Row and Gunner, and
Shield Down are divided into solo and pair events.”
Azusa pounded on the desk with both hands for emphasis. Tatsuya could vaguely
understand how she was driven to such an extreme. This represented a major
change; this had a dramatic influence on the way each school conducted the Nine
Schools Compet.i.tion. Not just athlete selection, strategy and tactics would have to
be reworked as well.
In short, all the early preparation they had done was useless. Preparing beforehand
had backfired on them. It was inevitable that Azusa became this distraught.
Tatsuya thought she had good self control not to panic.
From behind him, Miyuki diffidently spoke to Tatsuya, who was considering what
to say to the heavily breathing Student Council president.
“Row and Gunner? Shield Down? Steeplechase Cross-country… what kind of
events are they?”
Miyuki was probably going to be entered into Ice Pillars Break; there was almost
no chance that she would take part in Row and Gunner or Shield Down. However,
she would probably have to enter Steeplechase Cross-country, the only other event
she was allowed to enter, and she was interested in the other two events as a Nine
Schools Compet.i.tion athlete. Her curiosity was only natural.
“They don’t have to adopt the rules I know of, but…”
After making that preface, Tatsuya answered his sister’s question.
“Row and Gunner: Row is short for rower and Gunner means a shooter. In the pair
category, one person acts as the 'rower' of an unmotorized boat along a water
channel, and the other acts as the 'gunner', who will shoot down targets either on
the banks of the channel or moving on the water channel itself. Both the time
taken to reach the goal and the number of targets shot will determine the score. In
solo, a single person probably acts as both the 'rower' and 'gunner'. The event was
originally part of the USNA’s naval curriculum.”
After confirming that Miyuki had no questions, Tatsuya switched to explaining the
“Shield Down: a close combat event that uses shields. It’s usually held in a ring
that is a bit higher than the floor or surface. You win by destroying the opponent’s
shield, stealing the opponent’s shield or expelling the opponent from the ring.
Additionally, physical attacks on one’s opponent are forbidden but are allowed
against the shield. In short, magic is used on your own shield, your own body and
to attack your opponent’s shield, and using magic to expel your opponent from the
ring is allowed.”
“Can you hit your opponent's shield with your own shield to expel your opponent
from the ring?”
“There’s an additional rule: if you can get the opponent to release the shield for
five seconds, you win even if you don’t take the shield.”
After Tatsuya answered Miyuki’s question, Isori provided the supplemental
explanation. Tatsuya waited for a bit but no further supplements or amendments
came, so he switched to the next one.
“Steeplechase Cross-country is as the name says. In short, a cross-country obstacle
course race. You compete by clearing obstacles placed in a forest in a time race.
It’s an infantry training exercise held in mountains and forests. Obstacles can be
natural or man-made, and automatic gun emplacements or magic obstacles can be
“That’s an extremely difficult event…”
Tatsuya scowled as he agreed with Miyuki’s honest a.s.sessment.
“Row and Gunner and Shield Down aside, Steeplechase Cross-country is not an
event high school students should partic.i.p.ate in. What on earth is the management
Tatsuya muttered like he wanted to scold them. Just then, Isori added some more
“Furthermore, all the second and third year athletes, male and female, can
potentially enter. Actually, everyone but the first years can partic.i.p.ate.”
“…If the athletes are not extremely well trained in countermeasures, there will be
a huge quant.i.ty of dropouts.”
By dropouts, Tatsuya didn’t just mean out of the compet.i.tion, he meant out of
magic high school. They probably didn’t realize he meant that possibility.
Azusa made that cry of despair and once more collapsed on the desk radiating
The Student Council’s work wasn’t just to prepare for the Nine Schools
compet.i.tion; a portion of the high school’s management duties were consigned to
the Student Council to give them practical work experience. Not just in magic high
schools, but in all high schools. Not performing those duties would hinder the
smooth management of the school. Therefore, even at a time like this, they had to
get at least the minimum of the work done; when Honoka, who was acting as an
envoy, and Izumi, who had been delayed by practical skills training, showed their
faces in the Student Council room, both Tatsuya and Miyuki were wrestling with
the work of the Student Council.
—Azusa still had her head buried in the desk, however.
—Isori was making great efforts to pull her out of her depression, however.
“Since it’s become like this, all we can do is choose the athletes again.”
“Isn’t it good that there is still time to do it! Besides, not all of our preparations are
“Somehow we will surely be able to come up with countermeasures to
Steeplechase Cross-country! So, hey, Nakajou-san. Now—”
He engulfed Azusa from behind; he was trying to at least release her from the
world she had trapped herself in and Isori was gently caressing her shoulders,
he was frozen by a cold voice coming from behind him.
With awkward movements, Isori turned around to face the staircase that led to
Public Morals Headquarters. Just as he expected, his fiancée was standing right
there. —While she was smiling, the veins on her forehead had surfaced.
“Keeeiiii-. What are you doingggg?”
“Uh, umm, by what?”
“Engulfing Nakajou-san like that, what on earth did you intend to doooo?”
It wasn’t a sincere smile, it was more like a seal that had been pasted on. Kanon’s
actual feelings were quite easy to read.
“A misunderstanding! It’s a misunderstanding!”
Isori earnestly shook his head. On the other hand, Azusa took refuge in a corner of
the room. Rather than next month’s Nine Schools Compet.i.tion, they should
probably choose to deal with the carnage occurring before their eyes. But as for
the response from the other members, Izumi, for example, was viewing Isori, who
was desperately making excuses, with annoyance, but was this from tiredness or
was this from shock; she was not looking at the work in progress screen — but
rather at Miyuki, who was reading reports at her desk.
For Izumi, Miyuki was an oasis for her heart. When she was tired from work,
when she was deadlocked in confusion and when she was uncomfortably nervous,
she would actually feel her heart warm when Miyuki entered into her field of
vision. A lover’s quarrel anyone would avoid was making Izumi’s will to do
anything gradually sink to the ground. She was covertly trying to take a look at
Miyuki which (in Izumi logic) was an indispensable step to recovering her
Just then, perhaps by some kind of coincidence, the gazes of Izumi, who was
turning, and Miyuki, who was looking up, met directly. To Izumi, who was beginning to be fl.u.s.tered and was thinking of excuses, Miyuki
gave a troubled smile and flicked her eyes toward Isori and Kanon. And this time,
Miyuki gave Izumi a look.
Izumi had asked the ‘Onee-sama’ she loved and respected, ‘What should we do?’
with her eyes. Or so she felt. And Miyuki had responded with one slight shake of
her head, ‘We should do nothing’ and gave a bewildered smile.
As per their usual after school routine, Tatsuya and his friends stopped by their
favorite coffee shop, ‘Eine Brise’, on their way home today. The group included
the eight second years and one first year, Minami. On the way there, Izumi looked
like she wanted to join them, but Kasumi, her elder twin, was completely
uninterested, so it was inevitable that they went straight home. Minami was pretty
uncomfortable being the only first year among uppercla.s.smen; however, since she
was diligent in her duties, she couldn’t choose another option.
Today, Mikihiko had suggested the after school coffee break. It was rare for him to
be this proactive, so it felt like he wanted to say something or ask about
And as expected, immediately after they finished ordering, Mikihiko pelted a
question at Tatsuya.
“Tatsuya, is it true that the roster of events in the Nine Schools Compet.i.tion have
“You sure got wind of that quick.”
It was hard to tell if the affirmative answer to the question Tatsuya gave was praise
“Who did you hear about it from?”
“The committee chief and Isori-senpai discussed it.”
Mikihiko did not reveal his source; Shizuku volunteered it. They were both
members of the Public Morals committee. In short, they had eavesdropped on
them in the committee headquarters.
“But, we don’t know the full details.”
“Eh, the events have changed? What to what?”
Erika took the bait of Mikihiko’s unnecessary explanation.
“A notice addressed to the Student Council came today. Speed Shooting, Crowd
Ball and Battle Board are out; Row and Gunner, Shield Down and Steeplechase
Cross-country have been added.”
“What type of compet.i.tions are those?”
After Tatsuya gave the same explanation he gave to Miyuki to Erika, she grinned
“Hey… those sound like fun. Especially Shield Down.”
Erika’s excitement showed in her voice.
“Oh, really… they seem kind of scary to me.”
Looking at her ecstatic friend, Mizuki made a diffident protest.
“Yes… up to last year, all the events they held avoided direct clashes between
“Even Monolith Code was like that.”
Perhaps Miyuki was thinking the same thing; she promptly chimed in her
agreement to Honoka’s remark.
“But I think Steeplechase Cross-country is more dangerous than Shield Down.”
“Yes. Onii-sama said that, as well.”
Miyuki nodded as she agreed with Shizuku‘s interjection.
“In a forest without paths, even moving around is dangerous if you’re not used to
it. With not just physical obstacles, but magical ones as well, it would be strange if
no one got hurt.”
“Right. A very experienced guide is needed for hiking in the mountains even with
roads. It’s too reckless to do a speed compet.i.tion in an unknown forest.”
Leo and Mikihiko voiced critical, or rather negative, opinions based on their
“Hey, Tatsuya. I get the feeling that the events they added this year are awfully
military-ish, you agree?”
Everyone there was somewhat in agreement with Leo’s words.
Once again, he was right not to try and fool his friends. And so, all Tatsuya could
do was nod. Without reluctance, Tatsuya explained what he had surmised and what
he based it on.
“It’s probably an effect of the Yokohama Incident. After last year’s incident,
people connected to our national defense affairs have acknowledged the usefulness
of magicians to the military and this is an attempt to influence our education in
“That’s exactly what the anti-magician activists in the media are protesting.”
Erika jeered with an evil grin. Tatsuya couldn’t just smile at her mockery.
“Yes but their timing is not the only thing that is bad. Why are they making such
easily understood changes… And, I think adding provocation to the current
international situation is unnecessary.”
Honoka’s and Mizuki’s faces clouded with unease in response to Tatsuya’s words.
“…Well that doesn’t matter, it’s going to get busy from now on.”
Perhaps to change the mood, Tatsuya continued to act as if he was already bored
with the topic. This was not a complete pretense. In the current situation, Tatsuya
would have to do without his pleasant after school routine at least until the Nine
Schools Compet.i.tion was over.
◊ ◊ ◊
The students of First High School were not the only ones to show annoyance at the
change in the event program of the Nine Schools Compet.i.tion. In the mansion of
the Ichijou clan of the Ten Master Clans, students of Third High School were also
pouring out complaints like their fellow second years.
“To suddenly… unbelievable.”
“No matter how much they say it’s within the rules… it would have been better to
inform us earlier with such a large scale change, right?”
“And we already started practicing the ousted events. We even got as far as
refining the activation sequences… all the hard work we’ve done til now have
been a waste of time.”
“We have to redo everything from the athlete selection on… eh, Masaki, are you
Perhaps feeling that he was being repeatedly given absent minded words of
agreement, Kichijouji, who had been grumbling about the notice from the Nine
Schools Compet.i.tion management committee, flared up at Masaki.
“Naturally. I’m sorry if you felt I was ignoring you.”
However, it seemed that Masaki’s mental state was even less calm; his tone as he
answered was quite pointed.
“…Sorry, I was venting.”
“No, I’m the one at fault. It’s natural for you to be upset, George.”
And with that, the pair were apparently able to release their anger and cool their
heads. The th.o.r.n.y mood promptly disappeared; their need for fruitless agitation
“Anyway, no matter how much we grumble, there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Masaki spoke as if he was telling himself that and,
“Right… First, we re-pick the athletes. Ahh…”
Kichijouji sighed as he accepted it.
“Right… we have to think about what this means, George.”
However, the next words that came out of Masaki’s mouth were packed with more
“What do you mean?”
Naturally, the suspicions on Kichijouji’s face as he questioned Masaki only made
him seem more earnest.
“The events that have been added to the program all have strong ties to actual
combat. I think that is more to our advantage than First High’s.”
“I see… First High puts a lot of emphasis on achieving a high ranking
international license, they don’t seem to stress combat techniques that have no
bearing on improving practical magic skills.”
“Although, there are exceptions like Sawaki, the Magic Arts athlete, and ‘that
guy’. But, if we look at the student bodies in general, ours is the one that excels in
magic combat techniques and as a group of athletes in the Nine Schools
Compet.i.tion, the odds are in our favor.”
“I… see. But.”
Kichijouji agreed with Masaki’s opinion but not unconditionally.
“The outcome of the Nine Schools Compet.i.tion is not determined by the average
rankings of the partic.i.p.ating athletes. Only the top ranks in the individual events
determine it. Under the rules of the compet.i.tion, other than Mirage Bat, the
athletes have to enter into either the solo or pair compet.i.tions for the event. The
key is deciding who is going solo and who is going to form a pair.”
“I see. Now, there are limitations on the duplication of entries this time. It’s as you
say, George. How we divide the athletes into solo and pair compet.i.tions is going to
have a big impact. For example, you and I would form the best pair. However—”
Masaki suddenly paused and looked toward the door. There was no knock.
However, his intuition was not mistaken.
The next instant, Akane, the eldest daughter of the Ichijou clan and Masaki‘s
younger sister, entered the room as she called out in a lively voice.
“You… knock before entering my room, like I’m always telling you.”
As she listened to the lecture from her brother that had already become routine,
Akane took iced tea and gum syrup from the tray in her hand and placed them in
front of Kichijouji.
“Here, Shinkurou-kun. One gum syrup is fine, right?”
“Uh, thank you, Akane-chan.”
“You're welcome. You don’t want one, Nii-san? A drink from the sister who
entered without knocking.”
And Akane demurely looked at her brother as she spoke, the one who was
addressed answered with a sour look.
“…Put it down.”
It probably goes without saying that it was a joke. Akane smiled as she offered
iced coffee to Masaki. It can be said without sarcasm that Akane was a properly
raised young girl.
This kind of exchange was just the traditional practice between the siblings.
“Akane-chan, you just got back?”
Therefore, not even Kichijouji was bothered by it at this point. What was
bothering him was Akane’s attire.
“Yeah, that’s right.”
She innocently nodded. Eventually Akane noticed and an ‘ah’ surfaced on her
“I see. This is the first time you’ve seen me in my summer uniform.”
Her tray now empty, Akane twirled around. The pleated skirt and sailor collar
constructed from light cloth for summer use danced lightly.
“So? Does it suit me?”
Akane’s bashful smile was surprisingly ‘girlish’. Kichijouji knew that by
becoming a middle school student his friend’s sister had made a radical
transformation from ‘child’ to ‘girl’ as he watched. However, even though he knew
that, unexpectedly confronting it shocked him.
“Ye-yes, it looks good on you.”
“Really, I’m glad, thank you.”
The graceless compliment wrung out from Kichijouji made Akane supremely
happy and she gently smiled. Half a year ago, she would have clapped her hands in
joy. Even her small habits were now infused with ‘girlishness’.
A white and light blue sailor uniform with fashionable half sleeves. The traditional
colors and uniform of the prestigious middle school made the girl especially
radiant and Kichijouji’s eyes unconsciously narrowed. …And directly beside him
he felt an accusing disappointed stare.
“George, just like I…”
Kichijouji reflexively denied Masaki’s accusation. If the two of them were alone,
there probably wouldn’t be any problem with his response. However, it was
unwise in front of the third party present.
“Hmmm… jealous, Nii-san?”
Having the one she liked promptly deny ‘that he had any romantic interest in her’
would hurt anyone. That had no relation to age. It had everything to do with the
pa.s.sion Akane acknowledged she felt.
However, she childishly vented her wrath on Masaki rather than Kichijouji
himself, or perhaps her pa.s.sion for him kept her from seeking her beloved’s ire.
“Don’t say stupid things.”
Whichever one it was, all Masaki could do was refute it bluntly. He didn’t feel like
making a serious attempt to communicate and the other side became even more
sullen about being treated like a child.
“Hmm, a misunderstanding you say.”
Up to this point, their words were at their usual level of abusiveness. Afterward