Among the puppeteers, there were those who aimed to become puppet craftsmen.
Using and creating were not the same things. Originally it was considered two completely separate skillsets, and the training structures were completely separate… however, it went without saying that there were a considerable number of aspects that overlapped with each other.
With that in mind, the academy introduced the Machine Technical Vocations course, as well as prepared dedicated facilities for those who wanted to become puppet craftsmen.
The place Magnus was headed to now was the Machine Technical Vocations building.
With the maidens following after him in succession, he branched off the main street onto a smaller road. As he neared the school building, just in front of a grove of trees, he stopped unexpectedly.
It was the young professor of the Machine Physics department, Kimberly. Although good looking, it was her roughness that stood out rather than her beauty. She wasn’t wearing her glasses, which she normally would have if she was giving a lecture.
Reacting to her presence, Magnus’s puppets alter their stances subtly.
However, Kimberly didn’t pay them the slightest bit of attention, and began to casually chat with him in a light manner.
“How did you find Second Last?”
“… What do you mean by that?”
“Isn’t he an interesting fellow? What do you think were his first words when he received his test results? I believe they were ‘what should I do to get into the Night Party?’, if you can believe that. “
“The Night Party—“
“Isn’t it laughable?”
“… No. If there were to be any upsets, then it will be by his hand.”
“Oh? Someone of your standard has that high an opinion of that guy?”
Magnus didn’t reply. He could guess Kimberly’s intentions, and it discomforted him.
“Well let’s leave it at that. What’s that?”
Unfolding her crossed arms, she pointed at Magnus’s hand.
It was the small bottle filled with powder that he had received from Raishin just earlier.
“Without proper analysis of its composition I cannot say. However if I were to venture a guess, I’d say it’s probably ash.”
She had a surprised look on her face. After a moment, she realised where she was standing—near the Machine Technical Vocations Building— and grinned.
“I see. While you are an excellent puppeteer, you are also a puppet craftsman. And a very skilled one at that too. For a craftsman of your level, it shouldn’t be a problem to take the ash—which is such high quality material for magic arts— and use it to create a puppet.”
Magnus didn’t answer. However, Kimberly took his silence as a sign of affirmation.
“Although, it’s really strange. Why would Second Last pass something like that to you of all people?”
“… He was throwing down the gauntlet. A symbol to mark a showdown.”
He suddenly muttered. Kimberly raised her eyebrows in puzzlement.
“In a certain Oriental clan, throwing the ash of a dead person signifiesvengeance for the deceased.”
“… Does he have some sort of grudge against you?”
As expected, Magnus didn’t answer.
“If there’s nothing else, I’ll excuse myself now.”
“By the way, Magnus.”
Magnus passed by her, but Kimberly cut him off with her interjection.
“Have you heard about this rumour? I’m not sure who started it, but rumour has it that each and every one of your puppets is a Bandoll.”
Once again, Magnus stopped in his tracks. Kimberly continued,
“I’m talking about living machines. Using a human’s flesh and blood as parts. Not ash or remains, but turning parts of a living human into material. Such parts would have vastly superior affinity with magic energy as compared to remains or a memento… But, obviously, this is a violation of the code of ethics all mages must follow.”
Her words were disguised as casual gossip, but her whole body was radiating a sort of tension akin to killing intent.
Magnus’s dolls had picked up on it, and faced Kimberly with hostility.
Kimberly had a cruel smile on her face, like it had been carved with a knife.
“Can I ask you to clarify that for me?”
“… Is this an interrogation?”
“Chalk it up to personal curiosity.”
Magnus appeared to think for a moment—
“In accordance with the guidelines for the Night Party, there is no rule that states you cannot use a Bandoll.”
Was all he said.
Kimberly’s eyes sharpened, like a sword that had been honed with a grindstone.
“… Can I take that as your answer?”
“If you want to, Professor Kimberly.”
Without a proper goodbye, he left. His footsteps were those of a person brimming with self-confidence, steady and assured.
Compared to him, even his dolls were more humanlike. As if they were warning Kimberly, they repeatedly looked over their shoulders as the followed behind after Magnus.
As they walked away in a line, Kimberly let out a huge sigh, followed by a wry smile.
“Really, what a fearsome guy you are. To be able to create Bandolls at such a young age… If the Maestros at the workshops caught word of this, they would definitely become depressed.”
Gazing at the back of the boy disappearing into the Machine Technical Vocations building, Kimberly muttered.
“Also, Magnus. Who exactly did you turn into material?”
Obviously, there was no one around to answer that question.