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[Kyuuchouji (Kyuuchou Temple)], where Kokonoe Yak.u.mo served as the head priest, lay on top of a small
hill at Fuchuu City, Old Metro Tokyo. As a devoted temple for volunteer “physical work”, word among the
temple staff was that it was probably a [link to ascetic practice] ‐‐ close to the neighbourhood, it had fitted
into the regional community as an indispensable part to the town scenery.
And as an extra, when the townspeople had a chance to look at old map details, they were in for a
surprise. It didn't matter if old meant a hundred years old, they were looking at genuine maps.
They learned that there was no temple from the start.
They learned that there was no hill at such a place.
During the later period of the twenty years of repeated world wars, the capital defense forces were
deployed to the Choufuu, Fuchuu, Mitaka, and Musashino districts, with Choufuu Air Field serving as their
base. And following the rules of troop deployment, the civilians in these areas had been evacuated for
almost ten years. The hill Kyuuchouji stood on was formed from the earth dug up when a large
underground defense bunker was constructed on its spot.
While it was regretful that the capital sustained damages during the war, thanks to the [Musashino AA
fortress], the old capital ward escaped unscathed. On the other hand, the defense position bore the brunt
of the attacks from multiple attackers, but that meant the civilian evacuation did not go to waste.
And so it was unavoidable for the blank that occurred between the town and its residents. The people
returned to their own [residences] because the war had ended. And later the government spent money to
reconstruct the town. Although it wouldn't be completely the same as before.
After a total sealing, without any dismantling of the underground defense bunker, and the accompanying
town replanning, the number of families that were unable to return to their former residences was
reduced. And the quick installation of an advanced transportation system gave the town scenery a
somewhat futuristic look.
What was added was not only overhead tracks where small‐scale compact train‐type public transportation
facilities [Cabinets] ran through. Apart from those new features, traditional features and various facilities
large and small were added to the town scenery. A [large temple on top of a small hill], Kyuuchouji, was
one of them.
The temple had a history that was somewhat, no, considerably delicate to say. The previous priest, in short
Yak.u.mo's master, was compensated for cooperating with the Ninth Magician Development Research
Inst.i.tute, and obtained the residence and facility to train disciples ‐‐ disciples in [Shin.o.bi], rather than
disciples in Buddhist priesthood.
And for that reason, the façade of Kyuuchouji was aimed for camouflage and was intentionally constructed
in the old style. Even the grounds inside the fencing were in a 20th century style.
In contrast, the training facility was dug deep, deep down into the earth and its area, even wider than the
grounds above it, was fortified with the latest technology. Not only was it a training ground for ancient
magic, at present it was even a training ground at the highest level for modern magic.
Kazama introducing Tatsuya to Yak.u.mo was more than to introduce the latter to this underground facility.
As a master of taijutsu, Yak.u.mo's skill was top‐rank. However, Kazama's expectations were not only to aim
for Tatsuya's taijutsu improvement. He did not bring Tatsuya into the military in order to be a “usual”
close‐combat specialist. He was expecting, to the very end, the abilities of an extremely powerful magician
that could fight on the frontlines.
It was a facility where both taijutsu coaching and magic training were possible. As soon as he knew that
Tatsuya's house was within an agreeably short distance from Kyuuchouji in the neighbouring town, this
temple was Kazama's only choice.
And now, Tatsuya was entering into the lowest level of Kyuuchouji's underground training facility. This
training room had, from the floor to the ceiling and even the walls, three layers comprising of 10cm thick
concrete, 30cm thick lead, and 60cm thick of neutron shielding concrete.
This was no nuclear shelter, it was meant as a training room for magic. And as to why such secure anti‐
radiation shielding was required, there was a reason behind it within the history of how 21st century magic
Research and development on modern magic originated in AD 1999, in an incident when an American
police officer used an unusual power (at that time it was still called ESP) to take down nuclear terrorism.
From those events onwards, R&D on modern magic started out as a means to counter nuclear threats;
basically the primary objectives were the control and suppression of nuclear fission, and the isolation and
nullification of radiation.
With focused research on it being worthwhile, it was at a stage where it was safe to say that neutron
barriers and gamma radiation filters were completed. Nevertheless, even today the development and
improvement of spells against nuclear reactions was essential data captured in magic ability development.
Even so, what Tatsuya was about to do in this room was neither practice for radiation isolation magic nor
improving nuclear fission control magic. In some ways, it was the opposite.
This underground training room was currently turning into a pool. Even so, it was not being flooded for
swimming purposes. With his shoulders just out of the water, Tatsuya was in short‐sleeved training wear
holding a pistol‐shaped CAD in one hand. Though he wasn't swimming, both his head and hair were
What his right hand was gripping was not his favorite Silver Horn Custom. It was clear from its plain
appearance that it was a prototype. The biggest difference was the bayonet‐like object attached to the
muzzle end of the barrel. An imitation, because it was neither sharp nor pointed, and only because the
metallic thick plate was constructed to be like a bayonet.
With his right hand underwater, Tatsuya pulled the trigger. The “two” activation sequences that generated
underwater were absorbed into his right arm. The first one was output from the pistol‐shaped CAD. The
other one was output from the bayonet‐like attachment.
The magic sequences acted on the attachment. Water bubbled at the tip of the CAD. The groans that
escaped from Tatsuya's clenched teeth grew louder and he went down on his knees. His right hand
hideously burned deep red due to the severe scalding, Tatsuya ended up dropping the CAD due to the
Submerged up to the top of his head, he immediately went up to standing position. His hair being
drenched was because of this being repeated. Often with ragged breaths, he would raise his right hand to
eye level and repeatedly clench it open and closed. There were no remnants of scalding due to the use of
[Restoration], but the semi‐conscious action was due to the immediately uncomfortable feeling that he
might suffer intense damage.
With his right hand finally regaining its sensation, he stretched it out underwater. Its fingers latched on the
CAD which had floated up. Even the bayonet‐like attachment, which was burned off from the tip when it
was submerged at that time, was back to its old form due to [Restoration].
Tatsuya then again prepared his CAD underwater. However, a commanding voice with no one around and
nothing close to his ears softly echoed.
["Tatsuya‐kun, it's almost midnight."]
With an air‐vibrating spell ‐‐ its activation was different yet its contents were the same as those activation
sequences from USNA STARS Planet‐cla.s.s magician Sylvia Mercury Faust ‐‐ Yak.u.mo whispered from outside
Tatsuya's reply was spoken in the same manner as before but Yak.u.mo understood what was picked out
from Tatsuya's voice using his spell.
Sure enough, as soon as Tatsuya made clear that his training was over, the water in the room began to
recede. As he waited for the water to recede, Tatsuya used emission‐type magic to shake off the moisture
from his hair, skin, and clothes.
His casting didn't aim for a totally dry state. As soon as he dried his clothes enough so normal movement
wouldn't be a problem, he used gravity‐type magic to flick the door switch on the other side of the room.
Due to the nature of the training room, no electrical equipment could be installed inside the walls.
("An inaccessible room if magic weren't used...")
As he ruminated once more on the fact that came only now, Tatsuya started on the ladder that would
bring him back to surface ‐‐‐ for Yak.u.mo had cut the electrical power to the elevator.
◊ ◊ ◊
September 23 2096, Sunday. Even though he had returned home the night before, just before a date‐
changing midnight, Tatsuya still started out this morning very early for morning training. That made Miyuki,
who was checking the unread messages on the home server, a bit worried for an early‐rising Tatsuya.
He was not a brother who would stop upon being told not to overexert himself. No, resorting to persuasion
by tears might “for a bit” get him to listen to what she said, but perhaps even that would only be
temporary. And she had just used that weapon last month.
"I'll hold on to sympathetic tactics for a little longer until it's time for serious need." Miyuki resignedly
In the kitchen, Minami had already started preparing breakfast. Lately Miyuki and Minami got surprisingly
cooperative together, and changed the rules about who prepared what meal. From the start, with the
development of home automation, since there was no preparing meals by hand unless for special events,
the appearance of struggling in the kitchen looked hilarious from a third person view ‐‐ that was what the
two of them belatedly noticed.
And so, Miyuki left the kitchen work to Minami as she headed for the bathroom.
She then controlled the HAR in the dressing room, taking out Tatsuya's clothes ‐‐ underwear included, but
Miyuki was not into being bashful.
In truth, it had been in her third year of middle school that she had had thoughts on whether it was good
being bashful like a maiden in situations where she was in front of male underwear even though it
belonged to her beloved brother. Although, when she imagined herself being red‐cheeked in front of her
brother's underwear, she changed her mind thinking [this is for degenerates rather than maidens]. ‐‐‐ If
another person saw her expressing her delightful smile, as she was hard at work preparing the shower for
her brother, he would have thought she was beyond help in various ways. But perhaps he would never
meet Miyuki herself face‐to‐face and tell her that.
Having prepared for her brother's prompt return, Miyuki's last task was to place the towel as it was‐‐‐ in
other words hold the towel in her hands ‐‐‐ and head at a hurried pace for the entryway. She was not into
unladylike behavior like running inside the house. Even if she wasn't seen by her brother, Miyuki didn't
have the guts to behave in a way her brother deemed unsuitable.
Due to door biometrics, the sound of the door being unlocked echoed to both kitchen and living room. By
the time Minami had stopped watching her cooking and came out of the kitchen, Miyuki was already
standing by in the entryway.
"Welcome back, Onii‐sama."
"... Welcome back, Tatsuya‐niisama."
The slight delay was due to the time Minami took to rush from the kitchen to the entryway. She was out of
the kitchen at the same time of the unlocking, but for this morning Miyuki still ended up in a big lead over
her. When she first came to this house Minami couldn't hide her disdain over this, but nowadays she had
all but given up.
And that was the proper response. They may not be in the middle of combat, but it was strange for Miyuki
to correctly ascertain Tatsuya's presence even when he was still over 50 meters away. Minami not putting
up an astonished expression would be earning the praises instead.
"Onii‐sama, the shower has been prepared for you."
Miyuki followed behind her brother, who had taken the towel and entered the bathroom, with a truly
happy smiling face. On seeing her, Minami exhaled secretly. Even for a live‐in maid, this level of letting off
steam should have been permitted.
It was Sunday and yet due to circ.u.mstances already mentioned, mornings at the Shibas proceeded
according to the ever‐usual timetable. That meant a comfortable teatime after breakfast. And for Miyuki,
who had given in to Minami over preparing breakfast, preparing Tatsuya's tea was something she didn't
turn over. For Minami's part, she would be studying and, to avoid taking damage from the sickly‐sweet
atmosphere, was a.s.signed the task of cleaning and laundry.
Her ever‐usual wholeheartedly prepared coffee earning the [words of praise] from Tatsuya and finally
settling down, Miyuki then,
"Onii‐sama, I would like to ask you about something."
Suddenly made up her mind and tried asking Tatsuya on one thing that had been clawing at her mind for
quite a while.
It was blunt, but Tatsuya's voice towards his younger sister was gentle all the same. Encouraged, Miyuki
threw away the last of her hesitations.
"Why is Onii‐sama not entered into this year's Thesis Compet.i.tion? I'm aware that the solar furnace
experiment performed last April at the school grounds was exempted from submitting a screening thesis
which was required for Magic Engineering students, it does mean it wasn't prohibited from partic.i.p.ating,
"Come now, don't say it wasn't out just for nothing."
The idea of prohibited from partic.i.p.ating was strange, Tatsuya smiled as he shook his head.
"It's because I don't have the time."
Tatsuya's answer to Miyuki's short follow‐up question was just as short, and was precise unlike Miyuki's
"Was it... related to the magic that Onii‐sama is practicing every day until late at night?"
Miyuki hesitatingly followed up with a question. She was at a loss whether or not it was okay for her to
"That's right. You understood it well."
Tatsuya's hand reached out towards Miyuki's head who was beside him. Along with his commending
words, Tatsuya softly stroked his younger sister's hair. Such gentle sensation led the hesitation remaining
in Miyuki's heart to melt away.
"Was it perhaps what is Onii‐sama making efforts for is not practicing magic, but development of a new
kind of magic?"
"As expected of my Miyuki, she really knows what I'm doing."
Those words were embarra.s.sing to Miyuki even more than his hand touching her hair, although she knew
that most of it was flattery, or rather in jest.
Tatsuya wouldn't have to subject himself to such hardship if it were training for an existing magic. The
virtual magic calculation area that was planted in him may have such low magic output, but more than
copying entire magic sequences and then using it, it can “completely” identify the structure of the magic
sequences no matter the magic and what status it may be just before activation. From there on it was a
problem of throughput. If it was magic he could activate he could use it without any training, if it was not
then no matter the training he could not use it. And with his “eyesight” and a.n.a.lytic skills, there was no
magic spell that he could not a.n.a.lyze.
Whatever was troubling him at this time until late every night, there was no way that was an existing
"I've started development of this magic since March. That may be the case; it took me some time even
though I clarified the theories from the onset. It was finally in June that I managed to clear the magic spell
And so, I wasn't into the Thesis Compet.i.tion at all, Tatsuya smiled.
However, Miyuki wasn't smiling at what she heard. First off, the fact was that her brother, the theoretician
[Silver] of the mysterious genius magic engineer Taurus Silver, took three months just to work out the
theories. Another thing was the development start, which was March.
"Then the new magic Onii‐sama was dealing with now... was it meant for the confrontation with Lina?"
"You understood it well."
The answer that came out from Tatsuya had the same words, but its nuance was surprisingly different. This
time it had both real surprise and admiration. Tatsuya really felt admiration at Miyuki for figuring out an
almost correct answer with those hints only.
"The magic I'm developing now is a magic sequence for a close‐range direct attack that uses the FAE
"FAE... theory? If I remember right, that was the theory used behind Lina's weapon, wasn't it?"
"Yes, the magic theory that was the foundation for what Lina used; the strategic‐cla.s.s wielded magic
weapon [Brionac]... FAE, that's Free After Execution."
The strong emotions that were put into Tatsuya's tone were either respect towards the engineer who
completed the ersatz divine weapon Brionac... or antagonism. It was felt by Miyuki, not which of the one,
but in that it could be both of them.
"The resulting generated phenomenon that was manipulated by magic was a phenomenon that was
essentially not part of this world, so immediately after the manipulation the shackles due to the laws of
physics were weakened. And so during the short time lag until the normal laws of physics take effect, one
can execute the next magic with an amount of power far smaller than the required interference power to
do normal phenomenon manipulation. That's how the hypothesis goes."
And thereupon Tatsuya noticed his own mistake, and shook his head as he smiled bitterly.
"No, it's not a hypothesis. It was already demonstrated by Brionac that the FAE theory is correct."
"Onii‐sama, pardon me. There's something about what you've discussed now that I don't understand, can
you clarify it for me?"
Miyuki's question was not mere socializing; it was a chance to clear up her doubt due to her love of
learning. If it were a mere difficult theory, she would have probably swept it off by giving her brother
annoying thoughts. But the FAE was a theory connected to magic used by Lina. Miyuki couldn't bring
herself to remain ignorant of that.
"Go ahead, no need to restrain yourself."
"As long as it is not a single‐process magic, magic is constructed using consecutive processes. With that
many, the succeeding process will take over and take effect on the state of the event manipulation of the
previous process. However, for such magic, I have no actual experience in easily activating the second
process onward, isn't this a counter‐example to the FAE theory?"
On hearing Miyuki's question, Tatsuya, his head as if struck at a blind spot, nodded.
"That kind of misunderstanding is probably common among magicians."
However that was an unexpectedly strong emotion he felt, not because it was unexpected that what
Miyuki pointed out was correct, but because even proficient magicians on the level of Miyuki would
misunderstand something like that.
"Misunderstanding, you said?"
"The fact is that magic processes by themselves are not magic."
At Tatsuya's short explanation, Miyuki expressed confusion.
Of course, Tatsuya intended to keep on explaining until her younger sister got it.
"Take this magic for example"
As he said that, Tatsuya opened the sugar pot lid, made a sugar cube float to his eye level and held it there,
then a second later he returned it back to the pot.
"Onii‐sama... that may be seasoning, but you're aware how I feel on wasting food."
"Oh, yeah, sorry."
And, upon seeing Miyuki rebuking him for what she saw, he was stuck with doing an apology without any
Miyuki smiled satisfactorily at her brother meekly apologizing.
Experiencing the discomforting young‐and‐old rank reversal, Tatsuya slightly forced the discussion back on
"There's no need to say it to you, but the magic just used was the popular basic training spell [Suspension].
A magic comprising of four processes ‐‐ a gravitation‐type anti‐gravity magic process to make the sugar
cube float, a movement‐type rest magic process to suspend the sugar cube mid‐air, a gravitation‐type
gravity control magic process to slowly lower the sugar cube into the sugar pot, and a movement‐type rest
magic process to make the sugar cube stay still inside the sugar pot without impacting it. However this
presentation, now that you've said it, would easily foment misunderstanding."
"Where have I made a misunderstanding?"
"I didn't say you made a misunderstanding. It's just that for the four processes of the magic, the delusion
that each of them is an independent magic rises."
"That was... a delusion?"
Tatsuya nodded gravely at Miyuki, who was currently bewildered upon being told that unexpected fact.
"Suspension is a four‐process magic, but it's those four processes that it becomes a single magic. To reach
the stage where the magic is activated one has to complete constructing the magic sequences until the
final rest process and define the variables. Without the full magic power to cover the four processes,"
Tatsuya broke off there and his eyes gazed into Miyuki, as if ascertaining her comprehension.
"The magic wouldn't be interrupted during activation, the anti‐gravity process wouldn't activate from the
Miyuki expressed a surprised look.
"That's right... if each process were independent magic, the moment the magic power is insufficient the
magic would have been cut‐off mid‐way... and not the result when it would have been non‐activated from
Muttering as if talking to herself, Miyuki was at that moment digesting eagerly what Tatsuya had taught
"Magic processes are by themselves not independent magic. They are, through and through, part of one
magic. That's what you mean, isn't it Onii‐sama."
"Exactly as you've said it. That's my Miyuki, you sure learn fast."
Smiled upon by Tatsuya, Miyuki turned her eyes away bashfully. It was an expression of pure and simple
embarra.s.sment, but this time the feeling of embarra.s.sment because she was unable to comprehend
something until she was taught this much, was stronger.
Tatsuya was not praising her out of sarcasm, he was really commending her. Miyuki was ashamed of
herself who was aware of that and yet, while she's “her brother's” younger sister, all the more unable to
understand this much.
Although, she probably thought that she always mustn't turn her face away. Miyuki faced Tatsuya with a
"Now, now, something like this would end up being “intuitively” misunderstood without practically any
personal experience, no matter how much of the theory you've understood. Magic is not a scholarly
pursuit, but a technical capability. Without any experience in failing to activate magic, we wouldn't be
troubled over its reasons."
Tatsuya wasn't sharp at other people's emotions, but it's a different story towards Miyuki. Whether it's
seeing Miyuki go into a slump, or quickly going around with a cover‐up.
"Besides the important point is not the reason why magic failed to activate, it's the fact that magic
processes are only nothing more than convenient objects. As per what modern magic scheme had taken
form, from activation sequence to magic sequence construction, to successfully describe the activation
sequence it's only convenient that the magic sequence be broken down into modules called processes."
Then again, Miyuki is not the type who doesn't know she's being encouraged on by her brother. Tatsuya
was concerned “about her”. Glad about that, her forced smile softened up somewhat.
"I finally understood what Onii‐sama was talking about."
Miyuki lightly poked her own head, and she expressed a pleasant [Sorry, for being a dunce of a younger
sister] smile. As that expression would cause one to experience large gaps with the usual images of an all‐
too‐orderly beauty bringing about even the coldness, Tatsuya released power enough to totally get rid of
his awareness towards ostrich‐ism.
"Magic processes are through and through part of magic. Therefore event manipulation due to magic goes
through all processes and is singular. Since even completing one process is still nothing more than a mid‐
stage event manipulation the manipulated event won't be successful, the event manipulation difficulty
lowering described by the FAE theory wouldn't occur, right?"
"...That's right. Full marks for you, Miyuki."
Even Tatsuya had his senses taken away by his younger sister charmingly swinging slightly her head onto
one side. He tried to cover it up by pretending to be unnaturally silent, as if scrutinizing Miyuki's answer,
but he had no faith in himself whether or not he can really deceive his younger sister.
Miyuki's smile, that made flowers bloom to their full glory, rejected Tatsuya's prying as something
◊ ◊ ◊
Just how does that pair pa.s.s time during a holiday?
For uppercla.s.smen, cla.s.smates, and undercla.s.smen who knew to some extent the siblings Tatsuya and
Miyuki ‐‐ that meant the majority of First High students, it was the first time all of them had encountered
this question. And so,
‐‐‐ They flirt with each other all day long, like a couple in pa.s.sionate love?
‐‐‐ No‐no, say what you want but to go that far... at least how about on the level of an all‐day date?
‐‐‐ Nah, that's naive. I'm sure that couple would finally end up in a scene where...
In those situations, a colorful array of speculation spread around.
Their speculations were partially spot on. It's true that the pair are “very happily” spending their rest days,
even going on dates.
However, it is not every day. In fact Tatsuya many times was away from home on Sundays. It's mostly going
to the FLT research labs or being summoned by the Independent Magic‐equipped Battalion, but ever since
Minami came to the Shiba house, he stopped worrying about Miyuki being alone, and so the frequency of
occurrence went up.
But today was right now unusual, for there are no appointments set for Tatsuya. Even Miyuki was not into
saying "I want to go out". It wasn't because the student council elections were moved to weekends; it was
covered by the fact that Tatsuya was physically exhausted due to training.
And so to tell the whole story, Miyuki was in no mood to entertain guests today. Even though those guests
were close relatives. What's more, she was disinclined to show this pair into the house. Even if the people
were close relatives she can't rest easy, even though she knew they're allies she cannot lower her guard.
But those were nothing more than Miyuki's personal sentiments. Moreover their reason was [for her
brother] and since Tatsuya didn't show any stance of denying them, Miyuki (on the surface) has no reason
not to welcome them.
"Fumiya, Ayako, good for you to come."
"Fumiya‐kun, Ayako‐chan, welcome."
Tatsuya and Miyuki friendly addressed the pair who had just settled down after being led inside by Minami
and offered to sit on the sofa. It was for the above‐mentioned reasons that Miyuki's manners were quite
diplomatic, while Tatsuya was never to lower his guard whoever he was facing ‐‐ apart from one person.
But seen from outside the pair's manners showed an impeccably friendly affection.
"Tatsuya‐san, Miyuki‐oneesama, pardon us for intruding you."
"Tatsuya‐niisan, Miyuki‐san, long time no see."
In contrast with the greetings of the Shiba siblings, the response of the Kuroba siblings were stiff.
Compared to Tatsuya and his sister they should not be considerably inexperienced. Age‐wise those June‐
born twins would have been sixteen, the same age with March‐born Miyuki. Whether sixteen years of age
was adult age or minor age was set aside for now, and since it was almost ignored the twins should be able
to easily and completely hide their nervousness.
In other words, today was perhaps due to business that corresponded to those [considerable matters].
Both Tatsuya and Miyuki drew that conclusion from their appearances.
"Which reminds me Fumiya, Minami was indebted to you for last month."
Minami, standing beside the sofa, quickly bowed to Fumiya who was bewildered at suddenly being
thanked by Tatsuya.
"Thanks to you eliminating the guards, you saved me from trouble."
"O, oh... that incident, right?"
On the words for guard elimination, Fumiya gradually realized it was the incident during the last day of the
9SC when he brought down the security surrounding the van Minami was on.
"No, it's not a considerable matter."
Don't mind about it, Fumiya tried to answer this back. However,
"Though this may not repay the favor back to you"
Tatsuya was quick to follow‐up his words.
"Is there something I may be able to help you with?"
Fumiya was struck speechless at the unexpected words, while Ayako sitting beside him exhaled loudly.
"... Really, we're no match for Tatsuya‐san. With a calm look that shows zero interest in other people's
mood, he brought down such a surprise attack at us."
Shaking her head with a look that's raring to say something even though she's stumped, she turned her
focus at her younger twin who's frozen beside her.
"Fumiya, let's take up his offer. We're only emissaries from the start, we have no choice about it."
"Y, yes. You're right..."
Fumiya nodded with a resigned look, then from an inner pocket of his jacket he neatly wore even though
it's a Sunday he took out a normal‐sized sealed letter.
There was no address. Picking up the sealed envelope then turning it over, Tatsuya lightly raised his brows.
Miyuki, peering over from her brother's side, lightly gasped as she placed a hand into her mouth.
Written on the reverse side was the name of their aunt, Yotsuba Maya.
"We're here to personally hand this to you from the mistress."
At Fumiya's words, Miyuki looked beside at her brother. Tatsuya nodded back at Miyuki, accepted the
paper knife that was presented by a fast‐acting Minami, then broke open the seal.
Inside the envelope was a simple single sheet of stationery. Tatsuya looked it over thoroughly, and when
done reading he handed it over to Miyuki who's been waiting patiently.
"Are you aware, Fumiya, of the contents that were written here?"
Fumiya showed some slight hesitation,
"Yes, I'm aware"
And yet answered on his own without asking his sister for help.
This time Tatsuya shifted his focus onto Miyuki. Miyuki had just finished reading the stationery, and was
softly nodding with the intention to [it's your call].
"That written here is a commission for a.s.sistance for the capture of Zhou Gongjin?"
"That too we know."
This time, Tatsuya plainly raised his eyebrows.
"I see. The commission is not a figure of speech, it's meant as it was written."
Both Fumiya and Ayako nodded as one.
Miyuki half‐rose to her feet and faced Tatsuya.
"Onii‐sama... why has Aunt offered this [commission] to us?"
The question was is it okay to commission when “ordering it” was enough. Even Tatsuya was of the same
opinion on the matter.
"On that matter we were entrusted with a verbal message."
"A verbal message? Is it something that cannot be left even in a letter?"
Secrecy was normally tighter for paper doc.u.mentation than electronic data. He's wondering just what kind
the contents are to make her hesitate to even put it into the letter.
However, Ayako didn't answer directly to that question.
"'It doesn't matter if you refuse this job.'"
"Aunt would say such a thing!?"
Miyuki unintentionally raised her voice, then *faced Tatsuya* and ashamedly muttered [Pardon me].
Tatsuya understood the reasoning that made his younger sister be taken aback. However he was not that
much surprised. Maya may be the head of house Yotsuba, but since Tatsuya's status to the Yotsuba was
that of a Guardian, Miyuki has the highest authority when it comes to ordering him. And as per the secret
agreement arranged between house Yotsuba and 101st Brigade, apart from missions that concern Miyuki's
protection, it was decided that the 101st Brigade has the preferential right.
Miyuki was seeing as absolute truth the might of the Yotsuba, or rather since she doesn't know well the
competencies of other magic organizations or military powers, she was at a state where she was convinced
that she cannot go against Maya's orders. In fact, even Maya cannot ignore the Yotsuba organization and
its agreement with the military. With these set regulations, there aren't many cases where Maya can order
Accordingly, Tatsuya judged that it wasn't time yet to oppose Maya. And that call, just because the
opponent had behaved like a lamb, won't change.
"Fumiya, tell Aunt that it is [accepted]."
Both Miyuki and Ayako faced Tatsuya with plainly surprised looks.
"I will certainly pa.s.s the word. ...My apologies, Tatsuya‐niisan."
And Fumiya faced Tatsuya and bowed very deeply.
"Why is Fumiya apologizing?"
"Capturing Zhou Gongjin was a mission originally given to the Kuroba. And because of our incompetence
we ended up causing Tatsuya‐niisan trouble..."
The [incompetence] Fumiya said referred to the circ.u.mstances surrounding last month when on Maya's
orders the Kuroba sortied to Yokohama Chinatown for Zhou Gongjin's capture. That time the head of
house, Mitsugu, was severely injured with one arm completely bitten off, and the dragnet set by the
Kuroba hit squad was broken allowing Zhou to escape.
Fumiya's look, when he answered Tatsuya's question, had [shame] written all over it.
"Fumiya, it is not bad to ask for other people's help."
At that state, Tatsuya took on an unexpected brotherly att.i.tude.
"All the more if it is a Kuroba business, you should have actively sought me out even if you suppress your
"Wanting to accomplish by your own what was entrusted to you is an att.i.tude I can understand. However
making the mission succeed is the greater priority."
By their own meant by their own strength, that is to say the manifestation of juvenile perfectionism and an
aspect of dangerous obsession common among the youth.
"Failure is not permitted whether it's your or my ‘work’."
Tatsuya's voice was stern. However, hidden in there is a gentleness that would make Miyuki envious.
"... You're right. It was a verbal gaffe."
Even Fumiya understood that Tatsuya was looking after him without the need to be taught of that by
"So it's not an apology then, is it. Thank you very much, Tatsuya‐niisan."
On seeing Fumiya bowing down again, Tatsuya replied back with a satisfied nod.
"Well then let's hear out what's clear thus far."
"Understood. After escaping Yokohama, Zhou Gongjin headed west by sea, apparently his escape route
through the Pacific was blocked. After disembarking at Ise, Zhou was cornered at Biwakooohashi as he was
heading north, but he ended up getting away. We believe he has slipped in somewhere in Kyoto. Our men
are currently on the move and searching in the Oohara area.
"Any info on the supporters?"
"It's likely that the [Traditionalists], the organization of ancient magicians opposing the houses of [Nine],
have had a hand in his escape."
"The traditionalists, eh?"
"Tatsuya‐niisan, do you know of them?"
"I've heard a bit of them from Master Yak.u.mo. They're not only a domestic gathering of astray ancient
magicians, they have ancient magicians that have fled from the mainland ‐‐‐ and they have even taken in
occultists, probably attempting to boost organizational strength. And last time I remember there were
refugee occultists within the Kudou; is it possible that they have given a hand?"
"We don't have to worry about that. The occultists under Kudou escaped from the former Ninth
Laboratory immediately after Zhou Gongjin's escape from Yokohama and have joined up with the
traditionalists. No need to inquire to the Kudou about this, we got direct confirmation from them."
"The fact that the traditionalists and the houses of [Nine] are joining hands behind the scenes is
unthinkable. No need to worry about the Kudou stabbing at our backs."
It was Ayako, up to now was leaving the explanation to her younger brother, who was reservedly asking
Tatsuya who was staring into mid‐s.p.a.ce and thinking about something.
"No, pardon me. I'll keep those in mind."
On detecting that those thankful words contain a [question time is over] sign, Ayako and Fumiya stood up
During the time when Tatsuya and Miyuki left to see Ayako and Fumiya off at the entrance, Minami was
clearing away the tabletop and prepared additional black tea. Her sorry feelings for jumping the gun on her
master (Miyuki) had already disappeared from within her. She has emotions of respect towards her master
Miyuki, esteem towards her as a magician, and aspirations towards her as a young girl. At the same time,
she's a bit bothered at her master taking up maid duties, and is well aware of her inconveniently severe
Returning to the living room with teacups in hand, Minami was motioned to settle herself on the sofa
Fumiya had sat on just now. Reluctantly, she lowered the teacups in front of Tatsuya and Miyuki and had
just sat down when Tatsuya slightly frowned.
Minami had internally categorized Tatsuya as one with more common sense than Miyuki. In short, a
companion even more sensible than her master. While she wasn't reacting wildly, Minami was driven to
worry whether she had committed some kind of blunder.
"Minami, prepare one more cup of tea."
She was self‐aware that now she might have shown a stupefied expression; Minami's confusion was
evident in her face.
(Is there another guest coming right after this time?)
"It's not what you think."
She herself may not have noticed it but Minami's face has not only confusion, even her doubt was showing
When he perceived what was on her expression, Tatsuya brought in a correction along with a slightly
"I meant that you prepare some for yourself since our conversation might take long."
Minami's doubt cleared up with Tatsuya's explanation, but a new confusion came up at the same time.
Even so, Tatsuya saw right through it.
"It's uncomfortable for me and Miyuki having something to drink while you don't have any."
"... Please wait for a moment."
As she was beaten down with a not‐well‐understood sense of defeat, she quickly went back to the kitchen.
As he was waiting for Minami to bring her own cup and return to the sofa, Tatsuya spread out Maya's
letter on the table. Only terse business was written on the single sheet of stationery. He used [Elemental
Sight] to read the information attached to both stationery and envelope, but there were no traces of
special tricks being applied.
"In other words, Aunt's task really appears to be only to help out in the capture of Zhou Gongjin."
Explained on this, a strongly suspicious look showed up on Miyuki's face.
"Why Aunt would only this time choose not an order but a commission?"
"It's true that it bothers me. And unless we ask Aunt we won't know the answer..."
Tatsuya looked at Miyuki, and then at Minami.
It was no way a severe gaze. Even so, tension ran through Minami's spine.
"Both of you may not be aware of it, but from the start Aunt holds no authority to order me. To put it more
concisely, Aunt's command authority has the lowest precedence."
Miyuki and Minami's shock and awe were laid bare. Both of them covering their mouths in unison was
perhaps the fruits of their manners education or the result of the maid under her master's influence.
"Needless to be said guaranteeing Miyuki's safety is the highest priority, but the next in priority are duties
with Independent Magic‐equipped Battalion. Aunt's command authority comes in third after that."
Miyuki stirring beside him was transmitted to Tatsuya, but he didn't give attention any more than that.
Even Minami, who was focused on Tatsuya's words, didn't gaze coldly as usual at a writhing Miyuki's
brother complex reaction.
"However up to now when Aunt has instructed ‘work’ for me, it was always in the form of orders. Perhaps
they knew through ways and means that I'm not in a duty, but in any case that was the norm."
Tatsuya then reached for his teacup. Either he was thirsty with all the talking, or perhaps behind his tea
drinking he was collecting his thoughts. His returning the cup to its saucer was a bit slower than usual.
"Since a not‐too‐common method was used, it seems that we have an unusual situation. Such as the case
this time when it requires special countermeasures, for example."
Comprehension was in Minami's expression, but worry was showing up in Miyuki's.
"That is, the task this time is especially dangerous, right?"
"We have an opponent who has heavily injured the head of house Kuroba, and is still evading the Yotsuba's
pursuit. It's no easy task to capture or to off him."
As he was answering with those, he gently stroked Miyuki's hair as if telling her to "not to worry". On
feeling those hands as Tatsuya saying he was not thinking of it as a dangerous mission, Miyuki regained her
"The problem is not the difficulty of the mission."
However, the next thing Tatsuya informed them when he let go of hair‐stroking brought tension back to
Miyuki and Minami's expressions.
"It's the first time for me in a situation where the target's whereabouts are unknown, and I say it's very
rare for the Yotsuba. And I haven't known of one who has the capacity to escape from the Yotsuba's hand."
Tatsuya sighed at the difficulty of the latest task.
"An opponent for such a situation. There's no avoiding that this might turn into a long‐term task."
Miyuki's expression turned from tension to worry and loneliness. Upon seeing that Tatsuya hastily added
his next words.
"It doesn't mean that I'll be gone for extended periods. There is school, and from the start I have zero
know‐how on persons search I have to commission other people to locate his whereabouts. My turn will
come when Zhou Gongjin is located."
"... Will it turn into a battle?"
"Miyuki, enough with that face. There's no way I'm going against him alone. The task that is requested of
me is to cut off all of the target's escape routes."
As he said, that Tatsuya pointed at himself.
Miyuki, having understood what that meant, breathed a sigh of relief.
"However from time to time there are days that I have to be away from the house."
Tatsuya pretended that he did not see Miyuki's "that's not what you said" sulked look.
"When that time comes, Minami, you protect her."
Minami didn't understand well why she was made to sit here. As a result, she was so far vaguely listening
to Tatsuya's talk with her mood that it was other people's problems.
However, that was in some way a surprise attack. Minami, on hearing formally from Tatsuya the tasks that
were given to her as a magician and a Guardian, instinctively straightened her back more than that was
necessary and ended up answering in a surprised tone.
Tatsuya remained impa.s.sive even when hearing her "Ya.s.s‐‐!" response.
"Magic strength‐wise, Miyuki is stronger than you are. Perhaps she can use many spells in simulated
combat. But those have nothing to do with this."
Inspired by Tatsuya's serious tone, Minami this time solidly responded back.
"Minami, for the Yotsuba you are Miyuki's Guardian. But for me you're more than that, you're one of the
few magicians whom I can put my trust in."
Tatsuya's voice was darkly grave. Tatsuya was aware that Maya was the one who sent in Minami and had
some hidden plans for her; likewise, Minami was aware that Tatsuya knew. But, on top of that, Tatsuya
said he trusted Minami. Judging with his own eyes, he said she was trustworthy.
"When I'm out of the house, I entrust Miyuki to you."
"Please leave the rest to me."
Minami squarely accepted that trust.
◊ ◊ ◊
Due to the nature of work of the Kuroba “family”, they have numerous business trips. For that reason, they
have regular hotels in every area in j.a.pan. For major cities, either a hotel under the direct patronage of the
Yotsuba or a hotel with direct Yotsuba funding was set up. Even this time Fumiya and his sister were
staying at a hotel set up under the Yotsuba umbrella.
And so they could make calls to the Yotsuba main house without fear of being intercepted.
"The mistress' letter has certainly been handed to Tatsuya‐niisan. Moreover we were entrusted with
Tatsuya‐niisan's verbal message."
Fumiya was reporting what had transpired today to the Yotsuba main house.
["And what did Tatsuya‐dono say?"]
The number he was calling was a direct line to Maya, but because of circ.u.mstances she unexpectedly could
not answer the call, and so he was speaking with Hayama instead. Fumiya didn't mind talking to a butler on
the results of the task that was ordered by their mistress since [Hayama‐san as the other party was easy on
“‘Acknowledged’, he said."
["Anything else? Did he say anything indicating about a censure should, for example, the request of
Madam be not accepted?"]
"No, he did not say anything of the sort."
["Indeed. Good work Fumiya‐dono and Ayako‐dono. I will relay to Tatsuya‐dono from here on the detailed
"I see. A pleasure talking to you."
As Fumiya said that, Hayama respectfully bowed on‐screen. With this, the call had ended. Fumiya too
bowed to him as he cut off the line.
"With this our mission is over, right? This time we were really just mere messengers, weren't we?"
Ayako, who was beside him listening to their call, talked in a flat tone to Fumiya, who took a big breather
after finishing his report. On the surface one would think those words would reveal her displeasure on the
zero resistance at the mission, but looking at her expression would make one realize that she was very
receptive at the fact that the mission was over quickly .
"It's still six in the evening. We can get home early at this time, so what next then?"
Fumiya, who had just sat down, shook his head at Ayako's inquiry.
"Well, we'll go take a rest today. After all the main house took the trouble of preparing for us a luxurious
room like this suite of three adjoining rooms."
"So this is the so‐called luxurious... So such petty bourgeois‐like stuff meant we're far from Maya‐sama's
envoys we're not even fit to be Father's envoys."
After lightly rebuking her younger brother's idle talk, Ayako noticed that mixed in with the [idle talk] was a
cynical streak, so unusual for her brother.
"Fumiya, are you unhappy with today's task?"
Ayako changed her tone, and took on asking point‐blank her younger brother's true intentions.
"I have no complaints on the mission itself."
With a paradoxical expression, Fumiya acknowledged that he had complaints relating to today's mission.
"I know that being an envoy is an important task, and I know also that I'm the person suited for the task of
bringing Maya‐sama's letter to Tatsuya‐niisan. But..."
"You are not happy with the conditions that were imposed when bringing the letter, are you?"
Ayako supplemented Fumiya's muddled words with her soft voice.
"That's what I'm talking about!"
Fumiya blew his pent up emotions up at Ayako's [sisterly] voice.
"Just what the h.e.l.l are these, not making a move and not shaking off what is following us!"
That was the restriction, rather than condition, that was imposed upon Fumiya today.
On the onset, during the time he was ordered directly by Maya to [bring this letter to Tatsuya‐san], Fumiya
has no beef against being sent on an errand; instead he was happy about it. He was simply happy that he
was going to see Tatsuya, and was just satisfied being made an intermediary to send out a “request” to
Tatsuya who was said to be not on very good terms with Maya (but they appeared to be).
However after Maya had left, on being informed on the above‐mentioned restrictions as an important
point of today's mission from butler Hanabishi, the Yotsuba's number two servant and in‐charge of various
arrangements incident to the accepted primary [task], he felt that cold water was doused onto him. It was
not that he was getting unhappy on meeting Tatsuya. What he was harboring was not disappointment, but
"And I know that we're being shadowed and we cannot interfere with it! Thanks to them, it'll end up with
us informing some gang from somewhere the residence of Tatsuya‐niisan and Miyuki‐san!"
"It's all right, Fumiya. Whoever they are, they cannot divulge the link between Tatsuya‐san and the
Yotsuba. He himself may not be aware of it, but Tatsuya‐san's personal data was manipulated such that the
more it is investigated the more they will conclude that it has no link with the Yotsuba."
Ayako's consoling words unfortunately had almost no effect to Fumiya now.
"I'm not worried about that! The guys that were tailing us could be the people hiding Zhou Gongjin."
Ayako did not brush off Fumiya's judgement as [over‐thinking]. From the time he fled Yokohama, Zhou
Gongjin was well aware that his pursuers were the Kuroba. However, in accordance to their family
directive, Fumiya and Ayako went on to deliberately stand themselves out as the Kuroba during last
"Even though the best case is where Tatsuya‐niisan would be bothered due to incompetence from us the
Kuroba, due to our action allowing us to be followed, they would end up in someone's cross‐hairs. I can't
see Tatsuya‐niisan face‐to‐face anymore," Fumiya lamented, face down and in a grim tone.
Ayako stood in front of him and called out her younger brother's name.
Ayako had pulled both ways the cheeks of her brother, who had raised his head up.
"What are you doing!?"
Fumiya immediately shook off her sister's hands, but on seeing Ayako quite roughly pulling him, his cheeks
reddened. Towards a tearfully protesting younger brother, Ayako had, for an instant, shown a really
pleasant‐looking s.a.d.i.s.tic smile, then quickly switched to a kept‐up false smile.
In an almost suspicious tone, Fumiya asked for an explanation from his sister.
"You should be relaxing more, Fumiya. It's different when you're stuck with your inattentiveness, but since
it's the main house's orders shouldn't you be doing nothing? It's not your mission. It doesn't matter even if
they go for Tatsuya‐san. Even should they try something meddlesome, it only means we have the enemy
by the tail."
A seated Fumiya stared with upturned eyes back at Ayako who was standing in front of him. From a third
person view ‐‐‐ as far as Fumiya himself was concerned he was in something unintentional ‐‐ an expression
that could only be called cute, but then Ayako wordlessly and forcefully pulled back.
"I should be saying something that might be very appropriate, but I saw exactly a while back that's
"W, well Fumiya, it should be nothing of that sort. And oh, we can't return at this rate, I must go fix our
"But we didn't prepare luggage for a night's stay!"
"Well then, Fumiya, see you at dinnertime."
"Ah, hey, don't run out on me!"
The escape pace quickening all the more when told not to escape was not limited to thieves. Ayako ran
into her own room, and clicked it shut before Fumiya could catch up.
◊ ◊ ◊
It was a little over a month before this year's [National Magic High School Thesis Compet.i.tion]. However,
the most discussed topic among the First High students was, still, not the thesis compet.i.tion.
"This year probably won't have the chaos of last year, right?"
"Told you before it wouldn't occur. And in the first place the election itself is probably unnecessary. Even if,
for argument's sake, an opponent stood up, it's still a landslide victory for Shiba‐san."
"Shiba‐san's that good, eh? I can't wait for the oratorical. Dammit, if only that brother isn't present."
"Don't be stupid. Shiba‐san can't have a ‘boyfriend’ because of that elder brother, right? Unlike a
performer, she cannot be betrayed. She's the best."
‐‐ So went a conversation between second year boys.
"I wonder who Shiba‐san places to what position?"
"It's exciting... no more, isn't it. It's the annual elections, and this year there's especially no one brave
enough to stand up to her."
"If that's the case then the first year Saegusa‐san will be vice chairman, and Mitsui‐san will be treasurer,
"Eh? Onii‐san is not given a position?"
"Onii‐san... wait, isn't he a junior?"
"Well, yeah he is. Didn't he impress you as something as an [Onii‐san]?"
"If that's the case isn't it 'Onii‐sama'? Even I wish for such an [Onii‐sama]."
"Right right. Didn't that [Onii‐sama] become a treasurer? You know that other people can't hold back
"Oh‐‐, just like what happened last year, right..."
‐‐ So went the conversation between third year girls. Also, gossip similar to those could be heard here and
there in the cafeteria. The First High students' current interest gravitated towards the student council
president elections coming this weekend.
Most of all, this year was an almost certain vote of confidence with zero opposition.
This year also the general student meeting had no major themes like last year's regulations change in
student council member selection criteria. The boys' talk was on Miyuki's charming figure that was bound
to be seen on the oratorical, while the girls' talk c