Raishin was led to a space set aside for the disciplinary committee’s exclusive use.
It was an area located on the second floor of the central auditorium. There were three rooms in total, the committee head’s office, a rest area, and a meeting room. Although a simple gathering of student volunteers, the disciplinary committee was an important existence charged with defending the public morals of the academy— thus they were favourably treated accordingly.
Opening the door to the office, Felix ushered them inside.
“Have a seat on the sofa. I’ll prepare us some tea.”
“Ah, please let Yaya handle that.”
Felix turned towards Raishin, to confirm if that was really his intent.
“If she says she’ll do it then let her. I can assure you she’s pretty skilled.”
“Alright then, please.”
Handing over the tea set, he instructed Yaya where to get the hot water from. Having been praised by Raishin, Yaya was in high spirits, and she enthusiastically left the room.
Felix sat across from Raishin, a grin on his face.
“Firstly, allow me to welcome you. Can I take it that you’re here because you’re interested in my proposal?”
“Yes. If you’re offering an entry qualification, then I can’t afford to ignore your proposal.”
“So in other words, my strategy was a success.”
He laughed jokingly. Raishin was starting to get weary of seeing the guileless smile on his pretty face.
(This guy’s true intentions are hard to read…)
While thinking he was a difficult person to deal with, Raishin prompted the conversation along.
“So, whose entry qualification are you giving me? I don’t suppose it’s yours?”
“If we successfully resolve the problem at hand, my entry qualification is but a small price to pay—“
A dazzling smile radiated from his face which made it seem like there were stars in the background giving off light.
Almost immediately after, the lights in the background faded as he shrugged his shoulders.
“… is something I can’t say. I do have some attachment to obtaining the Wiseman’s Throne.”
“Hearing that is a relief. At least I know you’re being honest about it.”
“Your entry qualification will be sponsored by the Night Party’s executive committee. As long as the disciplinary committee agrees to it, we can send a referral to the executive committee endorsing your participation. Although quite frankly, even without our endorsement— if you took care of this incident, you would become someone so big that the executive committee wouldn’t be able to ignore your presence.”
His speech was more like a prediction. Was his request something that bothersome? This was becoming increasingly suspicious, but on the other hand he was growing more interested, and so he asked.
“What would I have to do?”
“We want you to defeat a puppeteer.”
It was an anticlimactic answer. Or rather, more than feeling disappointed, he wondered if Felix was being serious.
Defeating a puppeteer— something like that was a given, even if it wasn’t said he was bound to do something like that anyway. Was the disciplinary committee specifically designating a target? However, with regards to the permissibility of such an action…
While he was deep in thought, Yaya came back with the tea.
Suspiciously eyeing the two of them who were deep in thought, Yaya placed the cups on the table.
Felix picked up a cup and elegantly brought it to his lips. Raishin asked impatiently,
“Who do I have to do in?”
No matter how much he tried to jog his memory, he couldn’t remember such a registration code amongst the Night Party participants.
Felix swirled his teacup, and happily spoke.
“Your automaton is skilled indeed. The tea still retains its aromatic flavour.”
“Cannibal— who’s that?”
“You know, in this academy, there are people who go missing every year.”
It didn’t feel like he was evading the question. Raishin silently waited for him to continue.
“Most quit of their own accord. The academy’s curriculum isn’t exactly a cakewalk, and people who can’t keep up with the lectures are fated to eventually fall by the wayside. Furthermore, the tuition fees here aren’t cheap. There are countless reasons to want to quit.”
“I don’t get it. If they want to quit, then they just need to submit a notice of withdrawal—“
Halfway, his mouth shut. Even Raishin knew the reason for not submitting a notice.
“Exactly, due to extenuating circumstances there are those who can’t submit a notice of withdrawal.”
As the premier institution of the magic world, the academy was exceedingly hard to get into. Those who had the brains and resources to enter on their own were fine, but those who couldn’t had to rely on a backer to get them in.
Armies from different countries, various conglomerates, religious organisations and syndicates provided the financial capital required.
Quitting school halfway was tantamount to a betrayal in the eyes of the backers.
Not only would they have to repay the loan, they would also have to pay compensation as well as a penalty fee for breach of contract—
The worst case scenario was that their lives would be forfeit.
“Those from that group who do drop out have no choice but to go underground. Some also stain their hands with crime and heretical magic. Students from the academy are in great demand— and obviously, that demand doesn’t just stop at places where the sun shines. Rather morbidly, academy students still retain their value even if they were dead.”
“Sounds about right.”
Raishin himself had been part of a clan that undertook similarly dirty work.
“However, this time around things are slightly different.”
The tone of his voice changed. Felix continued on in an unusually serious manner.
“Since last October, which was the start of the school term, there have been twenty six people missing—those numbers are a clear spike. That isn’t all though. We’ve also have had twelve cases where we’ve discovered automata which have been destroyed.”
“Yes. If it were a simple case of running away, there would be no need to destroy their own automata.”
An automaton was a puppeteer’s treasure. Not only was it the tool of the trade, if there was no need for it any longer they could sell it.
There was no reason to destroy it.
If that was the case, then—
“Someone’s attacking them—“
“There is a high chance that is the case.”
“Wait a minute… you’ve been letting him get away with it till now?”
“Obviously, we haven’t been standing around and doing nothing. These few months, we’ve enlisted the help of the campus security and increased the number of patrols. Of course, we’ve been hunting for him on our own as well.”
“And the results?”
“Absolutely nothing. We did get statements from eyewitnesses, but there were too many exaggerated parts, and it’s become an urban legend of sorts among town. It’s like the second coming of Jack the Ripper. To be exact though, what the academy calls Cannibal Candy has a distinct craving for automata.”
“Craving… you say?”
Yaya’s body stiffened visibly. For a female automaton, the idea of being caught and eaten had a certain nuance to it that made it creepy.
Felix put his cup down, and spoke with his normal smile back on his face.
“Now then, I’m sure you understand what I’m trying to say. Cannibal Candy is a serious threat to the academy— it’s someone we have to defeat no matter what… an opponent that would raise your profile if you were to defeat.”
“Why are you asking me to do it?”
“There are two reasons. Firstly, there’s no way you can be Cannibal Candy.”
‘What makes you so sure?”
“All students and professors are possible suspects. Even me. But you’re different. You’ve barely been in this academy for a few days.”
“And the second reason?”
“You’re strong enough.”
It was a statement made without any flattery behind it. He said it with real earnestness.
“The enemy’s strength is equivalent to a member of the Rounds. Sending someone ordinary to hunt would only result in the predator becoming the prey.”
“Why should I take your words at face value? I am Second Last after all.”
“You like to sell yourself short, don’t you?”
Felix chuckled wryly.
“Even with the numerical disadvantage, you were able to send several students packing. Did you know this? The students you beat were all approaching the top hundred places. We call them the Benchwarmers. Their actual strength isn’t something to sneeze at.”
“But the difference between the Rounds and those lot is like the distance between heaven and earth. I’m aiming for the Wiseman’s Throne— winning against them has no meaning. Besides— ”
Raishin’s lips twisted as he spoke sarcastically.
“What you’re really trying to say is ‘I’ll give you a qualification so stop going around creating more disturbances’, isn’t it?”
Felix didn’t even flinch.
“Unless you destroy school property, or harm a bystander, we can’t take action against students’ personal battles— although having said that, from the perspective of someone who has an obligation to protect public morals, I can’t silently stand back and watch as you test out your power on other people.”
“So you’re throwing out bait to domesticate the wild animal.”
“I prefer to call it fair trade. This won’t disadvantage you in any way after all.”
This time, it was Raishin’s turn to chuckle wryly.
In order to reign in his destructive behaviour, they chose to send him to face Cannibal Candy. If Raishin won, then things would end well. And if he lost, then there would be no loss to public morals. In the end, Felix was the sole winner.
“Up to this point, do you have any questions?”
“The Night Party has a hundred participants. If I were to gain an entry qualification—“
“Obviously, someone will have to be kicked out. However—”
Felix still had a smile on his face, but he spoke like he was casually discarding someone.
“In the two hundred years that the Night Party has been held, there has never been an instance where the 99th or 100th seat became the Wiseman. Even if you did force someone out, it wouldn’t affect that many people.”
He was more— no, exactly as cool-headed as Raishin thought.
Because of that, Raishin felt that he could trust him.
Unexpectedly, playing along wouldn’t be a bad idea… just as he thought that,
Without even a knock, someone burst into the office.
With shoulder length hair that swayed dynamically, it was an intelligent looking girl with glasses. She had an aristocratic air, and looked like she had had a fine upbringing. However comparing her to Charl or Felix, there was no denying that she looked a little plain. She had an armband with the words Censor, and a white glove that signified participation in the Night Party.
In that instant, Raishin’s five senses screamed that there was something weird about her.
However, before he could even confirm that his senses were tingling, the weird feeling vanished.
Noticing that there was a visitor, the girl came to a halt in surprise. Her stiff movements made her seem like a doll.
“Let me introduce you, Raishin. This is Liz. She’s basically my reliable watchdog.”
Regaining her senses, the girl cleared her throat.
“Pardon my earlier rudeness. I am the chairman’s assistant, Lisette Norden.”
Felix continued on in a teasing manner,
“It’s not like you to be in such a fluster, Liz. Did Cannibal Candy appear or something?”
Responding to his joke with a straight face, she managed to wipe the smile off Felix’s.
Continuing on in the same serious manner, she began to give her report in an efficient manner.
“A ‘devoured’ puppet was discovered in the grove of trees behind the Technical Vocations building. It seems to have been attacked last night.”
Felix sighed, and resignedly turned towards Raishin.
“Talk about a bad time… or rather, perhaps maybe this is perfect timing?”
Shrugging his shoulders, he slapped his thighs and stood up.
“Let’s go, Raishin. Time to go look at some leftovers.”