“Hey, you gotta see this! A foreign student challenged the T-Rex to a fight!”
“What!? Where’s he from? What kind of idiots do they raise there?”
“Japan. He’s an idiot from Japan.”
“Japan? Is it the Izanagi style’s princess?”
“No, he’s a new guy that just arrived here two days ago.”
“What’s a new guy doing with the T-Rex? Is she spoiling for a fight?”
“No, it seems the one who started it was the new guy. Apparently he wants her entry qualification.”
“And of all the people to challenge, he chose the T-Rex… is he suicidal or something?”
“I don’t think so. Look at him, he looks confident.”
“He’s that strong? What rank is he?”
Naturally, the students’ attention became focused on him.
Raishin was feeling uneasy on the inside, but he wore a relaxed look on his face. He was ignoring the looks that others were giving him, which were a mix of oddness, contempt and even unhappiness.
“They always increase in number whenever spring rolls around.”
Charl spat out those words as the dragon perched itself on her arm.
“The number of idiots who don’t know their place, that is.”
“I may be an idiot, but at least I know my place.”
“Oh, really? What do you think it is then?
“The 1235th place.”
Laughter broke out from all around him. An embarrassed-looking Yaya stared at the offenders, but Raishin’s face was still relaxed, not responding to the laughter.
On the other hand, Charl was dumbstruck. With her mouth agape,
“I’m shocked. You’re a real idiot. The idiot of idiots. An idiot that towers over all other idiots. Your idiocy shines like a beacon. You said you were placed 1235th? How can you hope to win against me with a grade like that…”
Raishin’s expression was as calm as ever in the face of her derision.
“Go ahead and laugh. Quite honestly, my puppetry skills are third-rate at best. If you compared me to the crowd surrounding us, I’m sure you’ll find that I possess less knowledge and less talent. However, there is one thing that sets me apart from them.”
“… And that is?”
“I haven’t given up before I’ve started.”
The laughter died.
Charl looked around, and everyone was averting their eyes with a sour taste in their mouths.
He was right— Most of them couldn’t participate in the Night Party.
And yet, all they did was silently watch on.
All these losers who admitted defeat before a battle, that is.
“…Hmph, I’ll at least praise your admirable determination. Or perhaps, are you just very slow on the uptake?”
“You must be joking. I’m very delicate when it comes to picking up on feelings.”
“You really are slow then. A dullard. I bet you’re the slow and easily tired type.”
“Do you even understand the meaning of what you’ve just said?! A lady of your age shouldn’t be saying something so thoughtless!”
“That’s right! If anything, Raishin is a quick finisher!”
“You be quiet! How the hell could you even know something like that anyway!?”
Raishin hurriedly silenced Yaya. However it was too late, as Charl had conspicuously brought her eyebrows together in a frown.
“Not only are you an idiot, but you’re a pervert that fools around with his doll? You’re the worst kind of deviant, you lewd freak!”
The coldness in her eyes bordered on absolute zero as she gave him a look of disgust. It was as if she was staring at a cockroach.
Raishin felt an immense depression coming on. All he wanted to do was to curl up in the corner of a dark room and hug his knees. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in any position to do so at the moment.
“I don’t go easy on perverts. Let’s smash him with all our might, Sigmund.”
In that instant, the dragon (who appeared to be named Sigmund) let out a roar.
Although his figure was that of a small creature, it began to transform before Raishin’s eyes. A black mist— like some sort of darkness belonging to its true body— began to envelop Sigmund; limbs, claws and wings beginning to form from it.
It hadn’t simply grown in size. As it grew, its strength also grew in proportion. It was like watching a baby dragon mature into a full-fledged adult.
(It’s mass increased as well…?)
Raishin stared in amazement. He had seen automata that could transform before, but this was the first time he was seeing an automaton that could increase in size. He wondered where the extra mass was stored normally when the dragon was in his regular form. Perhaps it was down to some sort of magic circuit running inside him? Many thoughts ran through Raishin’s head.
A ray of light could be seen flickering inside the dragon’s jaw, much like a tongue.
Sigmund roared, and the atmosphere itself trembled, causing gusts of violent wind to blow. So far, Charl hadn’t activated a magic circuit, and yet Sigmund’s own body was already displaying a tremendous amount of power.
It was an overwhelming force. His instincts told him this was a strong opponent.
However, that was something he had already known. Raishin grinned slightly, focusing his magic energy.
“Alright, let’s show them what we got as well Yaya. Suimei Nijuuyon—“
Even without her warning, he had already noticed. In an instant, he threw himself out of the way, dodging to one side. Yaya leapt in the opposite direction, evading the incoming object.
A large iron ball passed through the spot where both of them were standing just moments earlier.
It was about a metre in diameter. Sharp spikes covered its entire surface, giving it a very vicious form.
The iron ball continued on its trajectory, charging straight towards Charl and Sigmund.
Obviously, the both of them weren’t going to just sit there and quietly take the attack. Sigmund used his wing to swat the ball away… however, that mystery person’s attack didn’t stop there.
From the surrounding crowd, a few shadows dashed into the area together.
An armoured doll that looked like a knight, a barefooted girl, and a six-legged beast— it looked like all of them were automata.
The armoured doll charged head on, while the other two leapt in from the right and left, trying to close off any escape. However, their target wasn’t Raishin— it was Sigmund!
Charl issued out an order. Even though she hadn’t instructed him on what to do, Sigmund seemed to understand her thoughts entirely. Carrying Charl on his back, he flew up into the air.
The armoured doll had barely begun its charge before being smacked away by Sigmund’s forelimbs.
With a sweep of his tail, the two bodies approaching him from the sides were sent flying as well. With such simple movements, all three automata were down for the count, the occasional twitch coming from their lifeless bodies.
(She’s good… The title of the Rounds isn’t just for show.)
Basically, an automaton under control moved according to the puppeteer’s will. However, an automaton wasn’t just a wooden doll. They were autonomous, which meant they had their own will as well. If the puppeteer didn’t synchronise with the automaton properly, then the automaton’s movements would be dulled, and the excessive magical energy would be needlessly wasted by the puppeteer.
On that point, Charl and Sigmund were in perfect harmony with each other. If the two of them weren’t intimately familiar with each other, there was no way Sigmund could move like that.
However—it was too soon to say that the danger had passed.
Raishin’s exceptional kinetic vision allowed him to catch their movements.
Within the crowd, there were a few people who had hostile intents, and were moving secretly whilst hidden within the students.
He could feel nine, ten presences… or even more. Even if half of them were merely puppeteers, that was still a formidable force. Also, that meant they might have the advantage due to their superior numbers.
Before long, they made their move.
Two monster-like figures flew out. It was an undine(1) and a harpy(2), automata whose designs were based off legendary mythical creatures. The puppeteers behind them had clearly projected their interests and senses onto their automata giving them such designs.
The first to attack was the undine type automaton with the semi-transparent body, which launched a spear-like high pressure jet of water straight at Sigmund.
Sigmund easily dodged, but as he did so, a snow spirit— Jack Frost— approached from the side and unleashed an attack. Sigmund barely managed to dodge the ice-cold magic art that was aimed at him. Although he emerged unscathed, the icy blast had frozen the water from the undine’s attack, causing the ground to be frozen as well.
In addition, an attack came from above as well. The harpy type automaton whipped up a fierce gale. Unable to dodge this, Sigmund lost his buoyancy in air and crashed down onto the frozen ground.
Appearing right there was a new opponent. A giant with looks befitting that of a golem charged in.
His legs were unable to gain traction on the slippery ground, so Sigmund couldn’t dodge. The golem grabbed onto his wings, robbing him of movement.
The surrounding students began to murmur amongst themselves. Perhaps the time had finally come for the legendary T-Rex?
A horrible sound could be heard as Sigmund’s wings began to creak under the pressure. If things remained like that, he would be in danger. However, Sigmund was unable to shake the golem off. Still atop his back, Charl clicked her tongue, and at that moment, the large iron ball flew through the air with a whoosh.
Brimming with tremendous destructive force behind it, the iron ball—
—did not collide with Sigmund.
“…What are you playing at?”
Charl asked in a cold voice.
Raishin ignored the question coming from behind him, and spoke to his partner beside him.
“Let’s go, Yaya.”
“If Raishin so desires it, I’ll even go to the ends of the Earth for him.”
Yaya replied emphatically, throwing aside the iron ball she had caught.
1: A water nymph. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Undine_%28alchemy%29