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Sunday, late September of 2096 AD, the National Magic High Schools will hold the Thesis
Compet.i.tion. The Kuroba twins paid a visit to Tatsuya's place. They brought a letter from the
Yotsuba Family Head, Yotsuba Maya. The content of the letter was a request of cooperation for
the pursuit of Zhou Gongjin, the mastermind of the Yokohama Incident. It wasn’t an order, but a
request. In order to chase the traditionalists who hid in Nara, Tatsuya visited the Kudou family
manor in Nara. Over there, Tatsuya and company met with a boy who was as beautiful as Miyuki
named, Kudou Minoru.
With his guidance Tatsuya explored the territory of Zhou Gongjin's traditionalists and of the
magicians from the continent with Taoist backgrounds. Meanwhile, the Saegusa family head,
Saegusa Kouichi, felt that he'd been betrayed and sent Nakura to a.s.sa.s.sinate Zhou. Nakura went
to Kyoto, and had engaged in combat against Zhou. He was defeated and died.
After receiving the news that her bodyguard suddenly died, Mayumi began to move in order to
search for the truth.
October 15th, 2096, after school, two weeks before the Thesis Compet.i.tion, First High School
was full of commotion due to the preparations. Despite that, the current buzz was due to
something else entirely different.
They were talking about a sudden visitor. The students from second and third years’ were
familiar with this visitor; even the freshmen could hardly miss the presence of the popular OG1
The person in question, Saegusa Mayumi, was walking towards the guest room. The school
seemed to have decided to treat her as a member of the 10MC instead of as the former Student
Council President; a daughter of the Saegusa family. Mayumi requested to see Tatsuya alone.
This was due to the nature of her request.
"I'm sorry, Tatsuya-kun. I thought it was best to come to First High to talk to you..."
Mayumi expressed her thoughts and bowed; probably, because she noticed the commotion she
had caused. Most likely not because she heard the rumors, since her skill of perception was
through sight, not by hearing. While walking to the guest room the commotion from everyone in
sight could be heard. By now, they've become the subject of curiosity and speculation. It's hardly
possible for her to not be aware of the situation.
"No, please don't worry."
Tatsuya had his share of being gossiped about due to his position and ability. But, his answer
was not meant to be consolation for Mayumi. Certainly, the fact that she came to visit the school
meant that there would be rumors going on for 75 days2
. Still, it's better than to be disturbed at
home. There was a mountain of things that he didn’t want to show to a member of the 10MC in
his house. Of course, he said it casually but he couldn’t ignore the risks of Mayumi ever seeing
It is more convenient for Tatsuya that Mayumi chose to come to school rather than his house. It
would be quite easy for her to obtain his address, but she blatantly chose to be gossiped about.
Though Tatsuya could hardly care about such baseless rumors. And yet, she chose to come to
school; she must have been considerate of Tatsuya. —He reached this conclusion based on her
"How do you do?"
Mayumi seemed to be quite tense, unbefitting of her character.
Tatsuya thought, despite being tense, she didn't forget to start with words of greeting. It's hard to
say that such an extent was required. 1
OG: Old Girl (ex-female student of First High)
2 The original word: uwasabanashi o nana jū go-kakan, literally: 75 days life span of rumor, meaning: rumors in the
world do not last long, it is something to be forgotten soon by its nature.
At this rate, there's a chance of wasting time. With that in mind, Tatsuya decided to take the lead.
"This year, I won't be as busy, since I'm only in charge of the security for the event day itself."
"Is-is that so? It's surprising for you to not join the compet.i.tion team.”
"That's why, depending on your request, I might be able to a.s.sist you."
Tatsuya didn't think that Mayumi came just to see him. They don’t have that sort of 'intimate
relationship' where the other party could be convinced with words like "I came to meet you
because I wanted to see you. This is not to say that they have a normal Senpai-kouhai
relationship, but for her to come to meet Tatsuya there must be something that she wanted to ask
"...You're right. You can't help it even if it's a waste of time."
Mayumi's eyes were still hesitating. But as he had said, at this rate they will only waste their
time. Both Mayumi and Tatsuya couldn't possibly have an unlimited amount of free time. Since
she visited Tatsuya with something on her mind, there's no way she would leave First High
dejectedly without even delivering her request.
"I wonder if Tatsuya-kun remembers Nakura-san."
"Yes, my condolences."
"Please don't be concerned. Tatsuya-kun, you know about what happened to him?"
"I saw the local news."
"Did you collect such information for the Thesis Compet.i.tion security preparation?"
"Well, something along those lines."
Mayumi paused for a split second, not to avoid the main issue, but to shake the last bit of
"Do you know about his cause of death?"
"Only that he was murdered."
"I guess that's the extent of the published information."
A bitter smile floated on Mayumi's lips, unexpectedly letting out her feelings.
"You're right. Nakura-san was murdered, and I don't know who the culprit is."
Tatsuya showed slight confusion at her words.
"You're not looking into it?"
Mayumi stopped briefly, but she decided to discard her hesitation.
"My father knows who killed Nakura-san."
Tatsuya didn’t hide his astonishment.
"Did your father admit this?"
"No. But I'm sure he knows; at the very least he has an idea. Nakura-san had been ordered by my
father to go on a secret mission in Kyoto."
"A secret mission in Kyoto, huh..."
If you used the familiar expression "undercover work" to Tatsuya, that will be referred to as
"I didn't get to hear this directly either. My father didn’t say anything besides 'a certain work'. I
was told that 'I don't need to know'."
That was the same as saying 'let him do the dirty work'. Tatsuya thought that perhaps Saegusa
Kouichi has no intention to hide it.
"So then Senpai, what do you want to do?"
Mayumi had hoped that this question would never arise. However, Tatsuya immediately asked it
and stared into her eyes, making her wince her eyes for a little while.
Yet, Mayumi didn't want to silently face down. She was empowered by her sense of duty and
righteousness and spoke to Tatsuya face to face.
"I want to know the truth."
"Do you want to identify the culprit?"
There was a slight delay before she answered. But that didn’t mean that Mayumi was hesitating,
she was just trying to calm her heart down before it started beating faster.
"I'll say it upfront. My relationship with Nakura-san was never a close one."
Hearing Mayumi's confession, Tatsuya was amazed. However, he quickly suppressed his mouth
so as to urge her to continue.
"My relationship with Nakura-san was strictly business-based. I never thought of him as more
than a bodyguard."
"Even so, you still want to search for the culprit? Even though the risk is hardly small."
Tatsuya tried to lightly provoke Mayumi.
He received a piercing stare in reply.
"Don't take me wrong. I'm not doing this out of sympathy."
"My bodyguard was killed in one of the Saegusa Family's missions. Though I know that he was
not ordered to die, it was a job with a high risk of death so the result is the same. I don't want to
avert my eyes from the truth. As a member of the Saegusa Family, at the very least I want to
know the truth."
Mayumi lifted her eyebrows.
Even when she raised her voice, Tatsuya continued with a cold tone.
"In the end, it's only for your own self-satisfaction, Senpai you should understand this as well."
"Hmph, that's right. But, there's nothing wrong with self-satisfaction, right?”
That was not a voice of desperation, but one filled with strong will, even Tatsuya couldn't
immediately think of words of reb.u.t.tal.
"In my current state, I can't do anything. I'm not satisfied with myself. I can't proudly bear myself
as the eldest daughter of the Saegusa Family."
"As the eldest daughter of the Saegusa... is it."
"Yes, for better or for worse, it is my position. I don't want to run away from my responsibility.
That's why I'd like to confirm the doubt in my heart. I wonder if this is weird."
"No, I don't think it's weird."
Mayumi's words were both enviable and repulsive to Tatsuya.
Miyuki had not yet been introduced as a direct descendant of the Yotsuba. Instead, she was
forced to hide her ident.i.ty. But, Tatsuya also never thought that being a Yotsuba was a good
thing or something to be proud of to begin with, yet to be unable to reveal your true self is a sad
situation. These were all Tatsuya's thoughts, instead of feelings.
His sister was forced to hide the pride of her birth. Tatsuya envied Mayumi for her presence, in
the light of Miyuki's own existence.
"I see, then what's the connection with me? Even if you ask me to find the culprit, I don't have
the 'know-how' to become a detective, nor have I helped in the investigation previously.
Unfortunately, I think I can't be of service to you."
However, despite his demeanor, Tatsuya truly wished that he could help her. But it was an
impossible task, even for him. He didn't have any means of finding out the whereabouts of the
killer whose name was unknown. Even the idea of doing that tired him.
Despite the frank rejection from Tatsuya, Mayumi stopped him when he was about to leave his
"There's a high chance that the culprit was involved in the Yokohama Incident!"
Those uttered words, made Tatsuya fail to leave the sofa.
"The same culprit as in the Yokohama Incident, you said?"
Tatsuya shouldn't have worn a surprised face.
But what Mayumi thought had little to do with his amazement.
"Seems like Nakura-san had done some research on the mastermind of the Yokohama Incident in
She probably thought that she was able to draw Tatsuya's attention. Her reasoning was flawed,
since Tatsuya unmistakably had no interest in the topic.
"That person never left my side when on bodyguard duty. Lately, he'd been bringing many
souvenirs from Chinatown. I wonder if he was mistaken about my age... I was wondering if
Nakura-san wanted to give me hints about the mission, so now I'm intrigued by them."
Mayumi might not have realized, but that remark was thought-provoking.
Nakura's employer was Saegusa Kouichi, and his relationship with Mayumi was strictly
business-based so he's basically an outsider.
To leave the dirty work to the bodyguard of his eldest daughter, a subordinate that had been
trusted to such an extent had left hints to another party about what he had been forced to do.
Seems like Saegusa Kouichi didn't have full control over his subordinate.
Or, in a truer sense, there are no subordinates that could be called loyal confidants of the Saegusa
——This might bring about a bigger meaning in the future.
Tatsuya stopped thinking about the internal conditions of the Saegusa Family.
"It might be as you've said. Nakura-san's work was related to the Chinatown in Yokohama. But
to deduce that from such weak evidence, I think there might be a chance that it was completely
unrelated to the Yokohama Incident."
At this point Tatsuya thought that he could actually use Mayumi's help for his problem. Even
though she didn't possess physical prowess, her combat ability had been proven on the battlefield
at Yokohama. Moreover, she is much more mobile as a college student when compared to
Miyuki and Minami who were still attending high school.
His objection was intended to cool Mayumi's head. It was possible that Mayumi was influenced
by her feelings too much to consider the possibility of her own misconception. If she still insisted
in asking for Tatsuya's cooperation based on those conclusions, Tatsuya would have just
proceeded from her a.s.sumption.
"Well, that might be true…"
Apparently she was thinking about the thing that Tatsuya pointed out. Mayumi timidly took a
peek at Tatsuya.
"Then... Tatsuya-kun thinks that ‘the culprit being related to the Yokohama Incident’ was my
But it was only for a few seconds, before Mayumi took a stronger stance against Tatsuya's 'sowhat'
"I didn't mean that."
Tatsuya appeased Mayumi with a fake smile.
"It was only because I'm afraid that your preconception of the truth is being clouded by your
Mayumi puffed up her cheeks... Despite becoming a college student, this expression still had its
"Preconception and perception are two different things."
These glaring words from Mayumi were delivered to Tatsuya's ears just fine. However, Tatsuya
chose to treat them as self-monologue. Hence, he paid no further attention to them.
"...I understand such a thing."
However, she returned these words to Tatsuya with firm eyes.
"Do you understand the danger?"
Tatsuya has been waiting for the chance to drop this line.
"Yes. Even so, I still want to do something."
From her answer just now, the uncertain feeling had completely disappeared.
"That's why, Tatsuya. Please lend me your strength."
However, it didn't seem to affect Tatsuya. It was convenient for him if he took up this matter as a
response to the strong request of Mayumi’s.
Mayumi showed a relieved expression with a smile.
Tatsuya was feeling the same, despite not showing it on his face.
"Specifically, what do you want me to do?"
"Tatsuya-kun, are you going to Kyoto for a preliminary inspection with the guard?"
"Yes, this upcoming weekend."
"I'd like to ask for you to accompany me for a while on that day. Let's go to the scene where
Nakura-san was killed."
After delivering her last request, Mayumi returned a question.
"Will that suffice?"
Depending on the situation, Tatsuya could spare a little time to accompany her. However, that
question was a set up to know her full intention.
"Even I understand, you know…"
Although Tatsuya couldn't care less about others so long as it didn't interfere with his priority, he
wouldn't go so far as to ignore others' feelings. It was not a pleasant feeling to see his close
friend fall for his words.
"As a daughter of the Saegusa Family, I still don't have the ability to support myself. I have no
means to move people regardless of my talent as a magician, I couldn't ask you to do the work of
the police by looking for the criminal, either."
Her remarks about her powerless self were right on the spot so Tatsuya didn’t offer a single word
of comfort. He was able to retaliate when the No Head Dragon messed with him with the help of
the Independent Magic-Equipped Battalion. He was able to intervene with the Parasite Doll plan
by the help of Kokonoe Yak.u.mo, and the Mobile Suits from the Independent Magic-Equipped
Which also shows that, by no means was Tatsuya's individual power able to tackle all the
problems he had. He never forgot this fact. When he learnt the limit of an individual's power, he
couldn't think of any reb.u.t.tal.
"Just as Tatsuya-kun said in the beginning. At the end, this is for my own self-satisfaction. It
might be foolish to run into danger for such a thing. Yet..."
Tatsuya repeated the same words, blocking Mayumi's words.
"Then, Sunday the 21st
. Please select the exact timing and location to fit your schedule."
Mayumi bowed her head low while sitting on the sofa.
"Then, I will email the details for the time and venue tomorrow.
"Can I ask one more thing?"
Mayumi was about to leave her seat when Tatsuya said this.
"Has Nakura-san's body been cremated?"
"Do you have anything left from what he was wearing at the time he pa.s.sed away? For example,
"The police requested those, since they want to store them as evidence. Furthermore, Nakura-san
has no relatives, so I thought it might help to catch the criminal even a little if I handed them
"Is it possible to have short access to those materials?"
"…I can try to ask the detective who gave me his contact information."
Tatsuya slightly lowered his head as response to Mayumi's answer.
Because she looked like she had something to say, Tatsuya urged her to speak with his eyes.
"I'm sorry. I didn't think that I would get so sensitive."
"I will cooperate as much as possible, so long as it's possible."
After saying so, Tatsuya stood up in order to prevent Mayumi from repeating her 'thank you'
During this short period, he had considered that Nakura might have been killed by Zhou. It was
not so absurd to hypothesize that Saegusa Kouichi had Nakura Saburou investigate Zhou. And
there was even a possibility where the Head of the Saegusa Family had a collusion planned with
He did think that Nakura's death was connected to Zhou Gongjin so there might be a lead to his
whereabouts there. Therefore, he did not need Mayumi's words of grat.i.tude.
After sending Mayumi up to the gate, Tatsuya went to the Student Council room.
For some reason, the current Public Morals Committee Chief was there with the Student Council
Officers, there was even the presence of the previous Club Leader.
"Onii-sama, thank you for your hard work."
"Ah, sorry for my tardiness."
Miyuki rose and gave him a hand gesture to sit with a smile, before Tatsuya headed to his desk.
He noticed the edgy stares on him, and chose not to react to them.
The one who started the conversation was Izumi, who had been fighting to face her terminal
right after Tatsuya entered the Student Council room.
"Do you have anything you want to ask?"
On the surface, Tatsuya's question was very reasonable and superficial. In fact, the expected
dialogue was most probably started because she wanted to know what had happened in the
meeting just now.
"That's not it!"
And there was nothing going out of his prediction.
"Onee-sama, no, has my sister gone back?"
"She has. Did you perhaps have something for her?"
"No, that's not the case. But, that, I just wonder what kind of business forced my sister to take up
your valuable time."
The meaning behind Izumi's words was clear as day. She wanted to know what kind of a
conversation her sister just had with Tatsuya.
"Please don't let it bother you. There's no need for you to worry."
However, Tatsuya played with his opponent, by avoiding the expected focus of the conversation.
"I'm not worrying about Senpai!"
As a result, Izumi retorted back frantically. Then, she blushed after receiving smiles from the
uppercla.s.smen, as per the usual pattern.
The one who helped take over the matter from the dismayed and red-faced Izumi was Miyuki.
She unmistakably did so while taking a peek at her brother; she was curious about the closed
meeting between Tatsuya and Mayumi. No, it would be better to say that she was the one who
wanted to know the most.
"Then, Onii-sama. What did you talk about with Saegusa-senpai? I hope you don't mind sharing
it with us?"
Immediately after Miyuki asked so, there were signs of people preparing to hear the answer.
Tatsuya looked around the room; n.o.body in the room diverted their eyes while waiting for his
"It seems like Senpai also has a matter to settle in Kyoto."
At the same time, Izumi's body was trembling. Her head was down, so her expression couldn't be
seen, but Tatsuya could easily guess that she was thinking about Nakura. However, he decided
that it would be counterproductive to voice some comfort for Izumi here. Hence, he continued
with his words, while pretending that he did not notice anything.
"She said that she'd like to accompany us in the preliminary inspection. I denied her request after
she refused to explain the reason behind it, but she had a comparatively serious face on her."
Hattori sighed a little after hearing Tatsuya conclude his answer. He must have been having the
However, he was not letting Tatsuya off the hook; he took up a harsh tone towards Tatsuya.
"Shiba, why did you deny her request when you don't have any urgent errands? The preliminary
security inspection is only to look around to see the state of the city, right? You should be able to
make some time for her that wouldn’t hinder your activities."
Tatsuya had a.s.sumed that this question would arise. Honestly, he thought that a good young man
would have a hard time accompanying her. Not that he meant to ridicule her, rather he was
saying that out of favor. He tightened his lips consciously to refrain himself from saying so.
However, another person followed up in blaming him.
"Tatsuya-san, I also think so."
Hattori's response was in line with Tatsuya's plan, but it was unexpected for Honoka to agree
"Although she had Ichihara-senpai and Juumonji-senpai at Magic University, she purposely
chose to come to First High. Doesn't that show how much she relies on you?"
Without knowing what the reason behind Honoka’s words was, Tatsuya couldn’t reply
There was no merit for Honoka if Tatsuya and Mayumi were to meet up in Kyoto. Even if
Miyuki was jealous of others, Mayumi might still try to use the chance, since Miyuki was his
real sister. She should have discerned that Minami was also taking a step back from Tatsuya as
Chances were——while it might be rude to Honoka——she might be purely feeling sympathy
"Tatsuya, wouldn't it be fine if you spare some time for her?"
Even Mikihiko made that suggestion. Tatsuya could no longer act that he was not doing
something bad. Even Mikihiko didn’t know that the true purpose of the trip was to arrest Zhou
Gongjin, he was only told that there was a certain 'Traditionalist' group in Kyoto who conspired
to make more trouble. He still acted as if he was stubbornly against Mayumi's cooperation
request and gave off the feeling of being forced to do it, despite the real situation he was facing.
Moreover, this development was also convenient for Tatsuya. They had just given him a valid
reason to spend time with Mayumi, so there was no need to disguise their meeting as
In reality, Tatsuya didn’t expect for her to be very useful. However, even the addition of a single
person was better for manpower. Tatsuya believed that the request he received was not only to
search for Zhou Gongjin, but also to take care of him once he's found. However, the content of
Maya's request was 'cooperation for capture'; if he couldn't locate him first, there was no way to
capture him. To do so, it was necessary to act like he was looking for Zhou. That was why he
gathered a lot of people.
"I shall apologize first, although it would be a little awkward for me to contact Senpai. Izumi, do
you mind if I contact her?"
"Why do you ask me such a thing?"
Izumi asked with an annoyed voice. She was alarmed by that question as Tatsuya treated her like
she had a sister complex.
"Izumi is Saegusa-senpai's sibling after all."
However, even for Tatsuya, it was not possible to act that cold towards an undercla.s.sman girl.
"You don't need my permission. Please act as per your discretion."
Izumi replied to Tatsuya with a cute face, despite receiving such an uncute remark from Tatsuya.
◊ ◊ ◊
Near the border of the former Nagano Prefecture and Yamanashi Prefecture, a nameless village
exists in a narrow valley surrounded by the mountains. This village which has never been listed
on the map is the home of the infamous Yotsuba Family.
In the center of the village, there is a conspicuously large single-story Manor of the Yotsuba. In
the main room within the house, Yotsuba Maya, the head of the family received a report from
her butler, Hayama.
"...Seems like all the facts are pointing to Nara."
"The JSDF Intelligence Bureau..."
Mockery floated from the shiny red lips of Maya. It was not too vulgar; instead her expression
was rather n.o.ble.
"I have also searched for the department that did the intervention in the investigation report, in
case they're being an obstacle."
"I don't mind. The JSDF has their own problems, right? The issue is almost settled, so I'll turn a
The old butler bowed reverently as an exaggeration. In Maya's eyes, the JSDF was a huge
underdog, Hayama had no doubt about this.
"More importantly, about Tatsuya-san."
Maya's interest immediately shifted from the JSDF. Since they were talking about Tatsuya
originally, it was natural to get back to the topic.
"He should be working really hard at this moment, right?"
"Yes. Particularly due to the secret development of the new magic, I couldn't think of any other
"New magic... Is it going to be a short-range physical attack, or should we make another guess?"
"If you don't mind my conjecture."
"I don't mind hearing what you have in mind, Hayama-san."
Maya did not hide her curiosity, and asked Hayama.
It is not rare for Maya to leave the negotiations to her subordinate but that's the way it goes in
this family. However, she doesn’t just idly spend spare time every day. She also certainly does
not indulge in game sprees. As one of the Yotsuba, the most important challenge is magic
improvement. Hence, she spent a great deal of time in researching magic.
For her, the rumors that Tatsuya is developing a new magic, is a story that intrigued her
"If he derived the new magic from Angie Sirius' Brionac, and judging from the name he gave to
the new magic 'Baryon Lance', it seems to be a magic that emits canon particles by decomposing
the substance to proton-neutron levels."
"I wonder if it's a chargeable particle cannon."
"If that's the case, it's not a new magic but a reproduction of Brionac, Tatsuya-dono must have
known that. Though there is still a high possibility of a neutron-based cannon."
"A neutron gun… Neutron barrier is already seen as magic in the realm of perfection, Tatsuyasan
has surely taken this fact into account as well."
Maya who has been enjoying her time making such conjectures, suddenly showed a worried
"…'Baryon Lance'. It's neither a 'Launcher', nor a 'Cannon', not even a 'Gun', I wonder why it is a
Hayama was also curious about that part, but it seems like the answer had been decided before
the question was asked.
"I don't know to such an extent. But he said that he would show the new magic when he visits
during the New Year’s Meeting."
Perceiving that there's not much left to be said, Maya wisely preferred to observe rather than
over speculate. However, the bad impression still lasted, and made her throw a spiteful question.
"Why didn't I ask for more details? I wonder if that child is really obedient, so I thought that
testing him would be a good idea."
"With all due respect, in order to achieve your purpose, you don't need to make sure to such an
This, however, might have a boomerang effect for Maya. At Hayama's word, Maya shrugged in a
barely visible gesture.
"I never thought that much in relation to that purpose."
Seeing Hayama's eyes fixed on her, Maya felt that there was a need for a valid excuse.
"It isn’t because he's my nephew. If I were to reject that child, it wouldn't be profitable for the
"I think the reason of being your nephew is fine."
"Pardon my rudeness."
At Maya's call to own up to his mistake, Hayama reverently bowed. However, it was not for an
apology. If that was the case, he would have used phrases like 'I've said too much' or 'please
forgive my insolence'.
Since Hayama did not retract his statement by saying it was 'insolence', as a result, Maya faintly
blushed at his statement.
Hayama had resigned from Maya's room, and was about to go to his residence, and in the middle
of the garden, he heard a voice from behind.
His presence couldn't be felt, there was no unbalance. In this village, it was not unusual for one
to have a skill such as a.s.similating their presence in the wind and even the darkness.
Besides, the voice which called from behind was familiar for Hayama.
"Kuroba-sama. Pardon me for not noticing your presence."
At the very least, he felt obliged to say this much in sarcasm.
The defeated Kuroba Mitsugu wore an uncomfortable face, of course, he was not angered by this
much of sarcasm.
"No, I was rude too for not unmasking my presence."
Hayama didn't care whether Mitsugu's words were truth or lie. It was highly likely because his
profession devoted him to be in the shadows, on the other hand, he thought that it was also
possible that he was extremely used to the state of stealth on every work-related occasion.
"No, please don't be concerned with such a trivial thing."
However, it was a good thing, regardless of the situation. If Kuroba Mitsugu seriously hid his
presence, even Hayama couldn't discern him by his eyes. He was also not provoked by the fact
that Mitsugu's ability was excellent and he was able at his job. Moreover, the Kuroba Family is
one of the strongest branches of the Yotsuba. So long as they're loyal to the head, Hayama
should still serve them. If he couldn't withstand the master's whims, he would have been
disqualified as a butler.
"And, Kuroba-sama. To what do I owe this patronage?"
"Well, I have something in mind, but... I want to talk to you for a while."
Hayama raised his eyebrow. He showed a somewhat discomfited face, but it was a deliberate
"Do you want to talk... about that?"
Hayama smiled politely.
Mitsugu hurriedly shook his hands in denial.
"No, no, please take the words at face value. I'd like to ask about something that I need your
"Oh, dear, please forgive my rudeness."
Hayama carefully bowed in the darkness. It was as if there wasn't a hint of hesitation.
"Then, this way please."
Hayama led Mitsugu to the Main House, from where he had just left. As a butler of the Yotsuba
Family, he had been given the discretion to use the waiting room of the Main House quite freely.
Otherwise, he could always claim that the Head of the Kuroba family was using the room; there
shouldn't be any complaints for him when doing so. If they were about to continue their
conversation, they could always confirm later.
However, Mitsugu did not follow Hayama's lead.
"No, if Hayama-san doesn't mind, we can talk here."
Hayama halted his step and turned back, to direct a quizzical gaze to Mitsugu.
Mitsugu was ignoring the fact that he was acting suspiciously.
"Hayama-san, you have been talking with the Head about that man——aren't you worried about
Hearing Mitsugu's words, Hayama nodded with a sense of revelation.
"It's natural to be curious about a job that was left to your care."
At his own words being distorted into the worst meaning, Mitsugu hurriedly followed up with a
"However, please don't worry."
But, Hayama did not spare him any chance.
"I'm sure you've heard that, Miyuki-sama's guardian has been requested to take care of this issue
in your stead."
Mitsugu frowned deeply.
He knew the fact that Tatsuya was going to handle the matter long before his children visited
him in September. It all started on that day in August. Mitsugu had seen Tatsuya's abominable
prowess. Certainly, he felt some level of grat.i.tude that he would not be one-armed, but that his
pride was deeply damaged was also a fact.
"I was just giving the progress report. I wonder if it's why Miyuki is the likely candidate for the
next head position. That way, we eliminate the possibility of him revolting against the Yotsuba.
All of these things must be identified for the future of the Yotsuba Family."
Mitsugu revealed increasing discomfort, Hayama acted like he didn’t catch that.
"It is extremely important, though I know it is disrespectful towards Kuroba-sama, I was allowed
to use this matter to determine his loyalty."
"That man can't possibly have any loyalty towards the Yotsuba Family."
Mitsugu threw out those words in spite. Both his words and expression, had never been shown in
front of Miyuki and Tatsuya.
"Kuroba-sama, I have no idea of what you have in mind for such a.s.sertiveness, but..."
Hayama sought for permission to continue with his eyes.
But, Mitsugu silenced him with a gaze instead.
Hayama chose to ignore that and spun his answer in a tone that was aloof. Perhaps, no other man
was able to utter such harsh words.
"Is the reason you distrust Tatsuya-dono related to the possibility of him finding out that the
family tried to kill him as soon as he was born?"
Mitsugu threw off his politeness towards Hayama.
That action was initiated by the people in Mitsugu's generation. Besides the seven families
affiliated to Yotsuba: 'Shiiba', 'Mashiba', 'Shibata', 'Kuroba', 'Mugura', 'Tsukuba' and 'Shizuka';
only Hayama knows about this fact. Even those who inherited the blood of the Yotsuba who are
less than 20 years old have never been informed. Therefore, Kuroba Mitsugu lost his composure
Hayama expelled the killing intent that was directed at him with a polite smile.
"That way, he would be tamed and loyal to the Yotsuba Family, and I'm sure you know that this
will be needed for the future. Although there were times when my lady didn't realize this. That's
why she left the rest to Miyuki-sama's care."
Mitsugu clenched his hand and grit the back of his teeth.
Mitsugu started the conversation to explore such a possibility, but inevitably, it has changed into
condemnation from Hayama.
"Kuroba-sama. Your worries are unwarranted. Only real action has meaning. Even if you pretend
to obey, and you planned to betray secretly, if in the end, you were not able to betray, the result
is the same and is more profitable. A tool does not need to be loyal. For a weapon, there's no
need to have a heart."
"b.a.s.t.a.r.d, do you think of magicians as weapons...!?"
"You might be forgetting the fact that I'm also a magician."
He's also quite able compared to the other servants, thus, Hayama laughed casually.
Mitsugu was trapped in heavy silence.
"A weapon doesn’t hold any fear. A weapon doesn’t feel any anxiety. However, for one to kill an
innocent person just because of the fear of their potential, perhaps the one whose heart has
become a weapon was really a better person."
Those words wedged deeply into Mitsugu's mind. Hayama bowed and left the scene.
◊ ◊ ◊
Friday, October 19th, 10 days before this year’s Thesis Compet.i.tion. Today, the preparations for
the presentation finally reached its last stage.
This year, there were no suspicious activities on the school grounds, unlike last year. Last year
was an exception, it can be said that this year’s procedures were normal. Therefore, there was no
need of extra manpower and the work was still able to progress towards completion as expected.
Tatsuya and company were also kept in peace. Perhaps, due to the hard work of Yak.u.mo's
disciples, or maybe through the undercover mercenary troops that were arranged by Butler
Hanabishi. Hanabishi was the number two servant of the Yotsuba; he was responsible for various
arrangements involving the underground business of the Yotsuba Family——in other words, the
butler in charge——including the arrangements of required personnel. He should not have made
any mistakes in his work.
The magicians in the Yotsuba Family were actually not many in number. Even not limiting it to
only magicians related by blood to the Yotsuba compared to the other 10MC Families like the
Saegusa or even Ichijou the number of magicians they could deploy was indeed ‘small’.
Although the number of Yotsuba Magicians was small, they won in terms of ability, these results
had been proven. However, there were times where numbers were important, for such cases the
Yotsuba had an organized network of disposable outsiders to collaborate with them.
The Yotsuba Family was often asked to purge those who conspired against the nation. To capture
rebel organizations or magicians that worked towards that goal. It didn’t mean taking action only
on magicians that took direct hostile action against the nation, so long as a magician was aiding a
foreign military force with the intent to harm this nation it was enough.
This work had become an important source of income for the Yotsuba Family. Not just
financially, Yotsuba's combatants had been trained through this work as well. It was also a
means to brainwash the captured rebellious magicians.
The No Head Dragon was using 'Generators' without the consent of the magician. However, the
Yotsuba knew very well that consciousness and emotion had a direct link to the power of magic.
They did cla.s.sic brainwashing to their enemies. Earnestly imprinting the fear of death for
defying the Yotsuba. An ideology of fear. In other words, those who weren’t afraid of death
couldn’t be affected by this magic. Then, the Yotsuba would offer a deal to those who feared
death, 'Depending on your work, we'll let you free.”
Then, those mercenary magician troops undertook missions in order to get their lives as a
reward, being used by the Yotsuba in a variety of jobs. The escort mission this time was to latch
onto magicians that showed unusual activity and to conduct a thorough search. It was work that
required a number of people as indicated by the Yotsuba putting the stock of brainwashed
magicians to use. Thanks to those arrangements, Tatsuya's friends and even First High itself was
Even with the pretext of being busy with work for the Thesis Compet.i.tion the girls couldn't
afford to remain in school until late at night. Although it seemed to be gender discrimination
between men and women, only the boys were permitted to stay and work until night after the
It was soon time for the gates to close today as well and the Student Council members had begun
to clean up. However, since they weren’t using paper now in terms of returning the doc.u.ments
into the cabinet the 'cleaning up' process was quite different when compared to one hundred
years ago. There was less movement and no rush or noise involved in the process and it could be
done almost immediately.
"…Miyuki-senpai, I will excuse myself now."
Tomorrow is Sat.u.r.day, Miyuki will be going to Kyoto and be absent from school. She had
applied for extension time from school to prepare things for the Student Council who will be
covering her work tomorrow. That was why Izumi went out first.
"Izumi-chan, I'm counting on you for tomorrow and the day after."
"It’s an honor. I'll do it to the best of my ability!"
Izumi had been fidgeting by the door before answering back in high-spirits due to Miyuki’s
"Seems like Miyuki has grown accustomed to handling Izumi-chan."
Honoka stood up from her terminal and gave a wry smile.
"You have talent to be a wicked woman."
Shizuku who came to the Student Council room to go back with Honoka capitalized this chance.
It was a phrase that she couldn’t say if she was to be objective but since Miyuki knew there was
no malice she only retorted with a laugh.
"There's no such thing as wicked or virtuous if the opponent is a girl, right?"
"…Miyuki, you're cold."
Even though Shizuku tried to sigh earnestly, Miyuki did not laugh.
Shizuku's role in this year’s Thesis Compet.i.tion was to escort the main presenter Azusa, but
Honoka tagged along even now. From the station onwards, it was just the two of them but they
were with Azusa up to the station. No, actually, there were bodyguards watching them from
behind, however they tried to keep out of Shizuku's and Honoka's sight. At the very least, she
was alone with Honoka in the individual train compartment.
While waiting in line for the individual compartment train, Honoka spoke to Shizuku with her
However, Shizuku had no idea what Honoka was concerned about. A two-seater vehicle stopped
in front of them, while Shizuku was staring at Honoka with a puzzled and curious expression.
They boarded the train after lightly bowing to the three people beside them who had waited for a
four-seater vehicle. Honoka asked again, when Shizuku was specifying the path to their
"Umm… I wonder if it's ok."
"Well, Nakajo-senpai's escort…"
"Ah, about that."
Shizuku relaxed her shoulders with a 'that's it?' expression.
"I was told by Nakajou-senpai."
"That she's going to be escorted only by Chikura-senpai?"
Since they’re best friends, Shizuku added in the part that was omitted by Honoka herself.
"Is it better to have someone from the same grade as a guard after all?"
"Yeah… I can understand what you mean. There are also some undercla.s.smen that don’t act
reserved around her too."
"Kazumi and Izumi are exceptions though."
"Ah, well... I feel that even Minami-chan has some kind of a wall around her."
Shizuku showed her agreement to Honoka with that word. Originally, she was the one who
argued that it was easier to connect with the students from the same grade, so it was an expected
response from her.
"And, I'm sure she'll be ok with Chikura-senpai."
"Hmm? Ah, because Chikura-senpai's magic is suitable for being a guard."
After suddenly being told that it would be fine, Honoka couldn't say anything more. As expected
of a best friend, with the little hints that Shizuku gave to her, she was able to find out the
meaning behind those words.
Chikura Asako’s magic specialty was 'Vector Inversion'. As long as the original direction of the
shot was known in advance, it was possible for her to intercept and repel objects such as rifle
bullets. The problem of being caught by surprise was not exclusive to Asako and something most
magicians struggled with. It was very powerful when being aimed at by guns.
Moreover, her magic was not exclusively for deterring projectiles. In the case of a human
opponent, it also repelled momentum. It was very useful against ma.s.ses with high speed as long
as it didn’t exceed 200 km/h.
As Honoka said, Chikura Asako has one of the most suitable magic properties as a guard among
the First High escort members.
"Anyway, are you ok, Honoka?"
"Eh… about what?"
Shizuku stared at Honoka who answered with such a naïve face.
A message was projected onto the window, alerting that they were about to reach the station.
Shizuku said 'we'll continue later', and faced forward.
Shizuku resumed the topic, while taking a bath after the meal.
"Honoka, are you ok?"
"Eh, did you say something? Wait a minute."
Honoka was washing her hair, and turned her head towards the hot bath where Shizuku was
"Never mind, come here after you're done with your hair."
"Wait, just a bit more."
Honoka rinsed her hair again from the shampoo, before taking out a towel from the storage rack
covered with tarpaulin. She wiped her hair to absorb the moisture, put the wet towel in the
laundry bag, and turned to get a bottle of conditioner.
"Should I do it for you?"
"No, I'm fine. If I asked you to do this, you'd do it carefully, and end up taking too much time."
"Isn't it ok? Let me do it."
Shizuku got out of the bathtub. Hot water was dripping off her as she pushed to seize the rinse
bottle from Honoka.
"Honoka, your hair is so straight and beautiful. How envious."
Shizuku sighed while stroking Honoka's wet hair.
"It's nothing much… compared to Miyuki."
She was stating the obvious praise, before facing down due to embarra.s.sment.
"There's no point in comparing with Miyuki."
Against Shizuku’s serious reb.u.t.tal, she awkwardly laughed with the expression of 'well, you
have a point'.
Shizuku opened Honoka's banded hair, and gently rinsed it.
"Anyway, I prefer Honoka's hair."
"Eehh!? That's just favoritism, rather, you’re just too biased towards your friend."
However, Shizuku’s next reply astounded Honoka; Shizuku said 'it's natural to be biased since
"Moreover, Miyuki's hair color is too heavy for my taste."
In contrast, Shizuku showed an uncommon eloquence.
"I prefer Honoka's bright colored hair."
"I-I see… Thanks."
Honoka said the last word with a small voice, barely reaching Shizuku's ears.
For a moment, Shizuku applied conditioner to Honoka's hair in silence, Honoka also entrusted
her hair to Shizuku in silence.
Shizuku took the showerhead into her hands.
Honoka closed her eyes.
Shizuku evenly showered Honoka's hair with hot water and the conditioner was rinsed away by
the water pressure.
Shizuku resumed the earlier topic from the bathtub and it was after she finished washing
Honoka's hair, as she promised.
Honoka and Shizuku entered the bathtub face to face. The bathroom in Shizuku's house was
s.p.a.cious; the room itself was about twice as large as in a general household despite not being the
main bathroom. The bathtub also corresponded in size; it could comfortably fit two people
"Are you alright?"
"Eh, about what? You were asking the same thing earlier…"
Shizuku stared at Honoka's face again from the water’s surface.
Apparently, Honoka was trying to play dumb, at any rate, Shizuku was determined and dropped
the question again.
"Are you fine with staying back in Tokyo? Don't you want to join the trip to Kyoto?"
Honoka froze and gasped.
The temperature of the hot water had not changed. However, Honoka's body and face were
frigid, as if the temperature had dropped.
"Sorry, I was insensitive."
Shizuku looked away from Honoka who had gone pale even on the lips.
"…It's ok. Shizuku, you have been cheering for me after all, I think it's natural for you to
After saying, 'wait a minute', Honoka took a series of deep breaths. She regained her composure
along with the complexion of her face.
"Fuu… Shizuku, I'm fine now. Look here?"
Urged by Honoka, Shizuku returned her line of sight. They were facing each other once again.
"Truthfully, I wanted to go to Kyoto together with Tatsuya-san. It doesn't even need to be the
two of us exclusively. I don't even mind if we go together with Miyuki. As long as I can be with
him, it's good enough."
"I don't want to be a hindrance."
Shizuku stared at Honoka, after hearing the unexpected answer.
Honoka smiled powerlessly with a lonely look.
"Shizuku too must have realized, right? Tatsuya even instructed me not to come to the Thesis
Compet.i.tion and stay in Shizuku's house instead."
A light of understanding showed up in Shizuku's eyes.
"Tatsuya was really worried about us too. Anyone who aims for the Thesis Compet.i.tion
materials couldn't be just a petty thief, he must be quite an opponent. Like last year, I think they
were quite a formidable opponent."
"Honoka, do you think that Tatsuya-san is making his move due to a mission?"
Shizuku dropped both of her shoulders, before embracing them while trembling.
Honoka waded through the hot bath and settled beside Shizuku.
Thus, the both of them sat side by side, even though the s.p.a.ce in the bathtub allowed them to do
so it was still cramped after all.
Their bodies were in close contact with each other, Honoka held Shizuku by the shoulders.
Shizuku lowered her hands, which had been clamping on her own shoulders.
"Yup… I think Tatsuya is on a mission for the JSDF. Moreover, I think the opponent is a
formidable large-scale organization. There are possibilities that we could be taken as hostages
"Is that why he requested you to be protected by a bodyguard?"
"It's not just us. The fact that I was made an escort was because Shizuku is also a possible target,
together with me. Mizuki is protected by Yoshida-kun for the same reason. Since Yoshida-kun's
skill is on a professional level."
"That's a side benefit."
The two of them laughed while taking off their bath towels.
However, Honoka's laughter soon stopped.
By the time that Honoka had lost her laughter, Shizuku had also stopped laughing.
"Even for this Kyoto trip, I'm sure that the preliminary security inspection is only a practicality.
He must have a separate goal in mind. It's also possible that it's going to be rough. After all, the
ones asked to join for the trip are experts in combat. Even Minami-chan has her barrier magic
that would be very useful in an emergency."
"I think you're quite skilled yourself."
"No, I'm useless. I can only help from a distance, if it's a close-range attack I would only be a
hindrance to Tatsuya…"
Speaking strictly on a general magician level, Honoka's combat power was not low. It could even
be said that she was one of the top on a high school level. However, when compared to Miyuki
or Tatsuya whose combat ability ranked as first-cla.s.s or even higher among military magicians,
even Shizuku as her close friend couldn't offer words of consolation.
"That's why, its fine."
Honoka felt uncomfortable looking at her best friend casting her head down in silence.
Honoka embraced the top half of Shizuku’s face that was above the hot water, to her chest.
"Fu-Onoka, can- brea-"
Honoka released Shizuku's head with a scream.
After Shizuku was freed, she took a deep breath with her nose and mouth.
She didn't stare at Honoka's bitter face but at her chest instead.
Honoka stuck out her hand on top of the water while apologizing.
The two of them let out a 'pu' sound at the same time.
The awkwardness vanished into thin air instantly.
"Shizuku, I'm sorry."
"It's ok, I'm sorry too."
"No, Shizuku, you were thinking about my feelings. So you don't need to say sorry."
Honoka said so with a carefree smile.
"Honestly, I really want to go to Kyoto. Yet, I don't want to be a hindrance for everyone. That's
why, I'll properly stay back in Tokyo this time. I did think that Tatsuya-san doesn’t want me to
realize this, so I pretend. I'm staying back here, just as he wanted me to."
Shizuku smiled warmly towards Honoka's words.
"Honoka, you're a good girl."
Honoka's calmness crumbled in the blink of an eye.
"Wha-what are you saying!?"
"If I was a boy, I wouldn't leave Honoka alone."
"Umm… Shizuku-san!? Your eyes look dangerous now!?"
"You have good style… You also look approachable and cute."
Shizuku's thin, slick fingers stroked Honoka's jaw.
"Shi, Shizuku!? Somehow you are acting like Eimi!?"
"Hmph. I have a bigger chest than Eimi."
"That's not the point!"
"Do you mean that the difference is negligible when compared to yours?"
"I said no such thing!"
"Show it to me."
"…I knew this, but this is absurd."
"Wai-, Shizuku, please, sto-"
It was hard to record in detail what happened this time. The only thing known was that they had
both gotten their heads very hot in the bath. Chapter 7
Sat.u.r.day morning, October 20th
The arts school still held on to the five days system, but the six-day systems are more commonly
used in high schools nowadays. Certainly, magic high school conducts the curriculum from
Monday to Sat.u.r.day.
Unlike their usual routine of going to school and facing the terminal in the cla.s.sroom, Tatsuya
was going to Kyoto with Miyuki and Minami.
They didn't skip school. It was a public holiday. This time, under the cover of preparing for the
Thesis Compet.i.tion they were going by trailer rather than the express train.
Simply put, a trailer is a two-story combination train, with cabinets for pa.s.sengers at the first
floor and amenities s.p.a.ce on the second floor. Speed-wise, it wasn’t a lot inferior to the express
train, since it was powered by linear motors.
The wheels were made of metal, running on a metal rail. It leaves a sense of "railway" when
compared to an express train or an individual compartment train.
Before the ride, the individual type train was parked in the trailer by a parking mechanism. As
the Individual compartment train has a higher speed than the trailer, it approaches the trailer from
behind. The mechanism then scoops up the compartment from behind. The mechanism itself was
housed inside the trailer and attached by a slider. Thus, the pa.s.sengers from each individual
compartment train were able to board the trailer for longer, inter-city rides. It was possible to
have such a system as the wheels of individual compartment trains were only for support and not
attached to the vehicle body.
Tatsuya and company boarded the trailer and immediately after, headed to the amenities s.p.a.ce of
the second story. The first floor seemed to be a waste because even though it was excellent for
privacy there was very little s.p.a.ce to stretch out.
Fortunately, the relax chair was vacant. Tatsuya and Miyuki sat side by side, and Minami sat
opposite Miyuki after she rotated the seat in front of her.
"Do you want something to drink?"
Tatsuya pulled out the order terminal from the armrest and asked Miyuki while showing the
“...Sorry to trouble you, Onii-sama. I'll go with this."
While Tatsuya excused himself to place the orders, Miyuki operated the terminal by herself.
Tatsuya also tried showing the screen to Minami, but Minami had already taken out the terminal
from her seat. It was as if she was declaring that 'I'd rather have my own than Tatsuya's', Tatsuya
returned back to his terminal with a laugh. Minami got a little annoyed when she saw that, while
dispensing her order.
The drinks arrived in less than a minute. A robotic arm that had been moving through the ceiling
lowered the tray for the three of them. This is the same type of mechanism that is used in
ordinary households, HAR (Home Automation Robot).
Reusable resin cups were handed over to Tatsuya, Miyuki, and Minami in that order, before the
arm returned back to the ceiling. The three of them had a mouthful to moisten their throats and
then put the cups on their side table.
It was immediately after, that a voice called Tatsuya from behind.
Tatsuya and company put down their cups, because they were aware that she was approaching
The one who greeted her was Miyuki.
"I didn't expect you to be in this trailer as well."
Erika sat down in front of Tatsuya, and Tatsuya continued the conversation.
"What a great coincidence."
Erika nodded while showing a little surprise. Intra-city trailers ran at regular intervals, those who
were traveling for long distances often got placed in the closest trailers. The control is done by a
traffic control system, so the pa.s.sengers who ride the trailer have no say in choosing.
However, it is not such a surprising situation. If they have the same destination and the same
estimated time of arrival they’ll always be merged into the same trailer, thus, the possibility of
getting into the same vehicle was quite high. Erika boarded from a trailer soon after Tatsuya and
company hence, there was a high probability that they would meet inside.
Following Tatsuya and company, Erika also ordered a drink and had a big stretch in the relax
"Yup, as expected, it's nice to be able to stretch my limbs."
"Do you feel it’s cramped in the narrow compartment train?"
Although there were individual cabin trains that were made according to body size, there were
people who would still feel the narrowness. Miyuki a.s.sessed from Erika’s att.i.tude that she was
"Hmm? It's not like that. I’ve also been disciplined to sit in a narrow room for hours."
"So there's such a discipline in swordsmanship."
Surprisingly, Miyuki's amazement was met with a bitter frown from Erika.
"That s.h.i.tty father forced me to do it as a part of swordsmanship training."
Tatsuya and Miyuki exchanged a glance at the choice of words of the young lady in front of
them. Erika might be seemingly boisterous, but she was actually brought up as a respectable
lady. Putting aside the ’baka aniki’ name-calling of her brot