The first person to notice the figure was Yaya.
They were walking along a small path that led to the technical vocations building. While wordlessly walking, Yaya suddenly reacted to something, and like a cat on high alert she stared ahead of them suspiciously.
Inside the dim grove of trees, a crowd of students had started to gather. A little in front of them, a girl with a dragon atop her head was standing with a grumpy expression on her face.
“Yo, Charl, Sigmund.”
Raishin hailed them in a friendly voice… however, the reserved glances she threw in his direction went straight past him, settling on the figure of Felix who was behind.
“So, you were here as well, Charl.”
“There was a commotion going on, so…”
Charl answered while looking downwards.
Don’t just ignore me, thought Raishin. But he wasn’t childish enough to verbalise the thought.
Felix was his usual self, an amicable smile surfacing onto his face.
“Full of burning curiosity, as always. Or should I just say you have extraordinarily sharp ears?”
“I-it’s not like that’s something unusual. Cannibal Candy attacks people indiscriminately— even someone like me is at risk. It’s not something I can dismiss as someone else’s problem.”
“Haha, I guess you’re right. I apologise if I offended you.”
Felix slipped past Charl, and entered into the grove of trees with Liz in tow. Hailing the disciplinary committee members on watch, he entered into the grove.
Charl appeared to be down-hearted after Felix left. It looked like she was regretting they had part on a sour note.
Seeing her attitude, even someone as disinterested in love as Raishin could tell instinctively.
“You like him, don’t you?”
“Wha— I— You—“
She turned so red it was almost pitiful.
Ah, she’s blushing.
So even she can make that sort of face, thought Raishin as he indulged himself in that train of thought.
Charl grabbed him by the neck and hissed angrily in his ear, like she was about to bite it off.
“Don’t speak of it so casually! This isn’t something like that vulgar emotion!”
“There’s nothing vulgar about it. Falling head over heels for someone is a natural phenomenon.”
“I told you to be quiet! Or do you want me to tear open a new hole in your chest?!”
“This way, Raishin.”
Felix waved to him from the opposite side of the crowd. Charl hurriedly withdrew her hands, covering her actions with an insincere laugh. Raishin decided not to comment, and walked towards Felix with Yaya in tow, whose mood had suddenly gotten a lot better.
A little way into the grove, a rope had been hung with the words ‘Keep Out’ written on it. The disciplinary committee members had gathered in front, standing guard to prevent curious onlookers from disturbing the scene.
This is almost like a murder case, thought Raishin to himself as he stepped under the rope. That thought wasn’t entirely wrong, because what was laid out in front of him was—
A dead body. For all intents and purposes.
Charl let out a little groan. Raishin frowned reflexively.
The top half of the body had been separated from the bottom.
The abdominal cavity could be seen from the one half of the body. Because various internal mechanisms had been constructed and housed within, it was like looking at a human’s insides. Looking at the various gears and cords spilling out of the body was more unsettling than if it had been a real human.
The bottom half of its face had been smashed in, retaining none of its original shape. Something akin to blood had been scattered around the body, making it look like some creature had feasted on it.
The most conspicuous detail that caught the eye however, was the curious wound.
A neat circle had been carved into the place where the heart should have been.
The scar was impossibly smooth and glassy, like it was candy that had dissolved through licking.
(I see, so that’s where the Candy part of the name comes from…)
Cannibal for the eating of others, and Candy because of the scar. Combining the two words, it was the perfect way to express its peculiar traits in a single phrase.
Raishin brought his fist to his jaw, deep in thought.
He had seen a similar scar before in a different place.
(It couldn’t be, but…)
Briefing glancing over at Yaya, he saw that she was staring down at the corpse, her face slightly pale. — It looked like she was a little frightened.
Raishin turned his gaze back to Felix, seeking a confirmation as to what he had noticed.
“The magic circuit’s gone, isn’t it?”
“That’s his M.O. So far, all his victims have had their heart— a certain part of the magic circuit removed without fail.”
“Let me guess, when you say remove you mean they’ve all been eaten right?”
“We still don’t know whether that is the case. No one has actually caught him in the act of eating at the scene.”
An automaton’s ego was born from Eve’s Heart. As long as the Eve’s Heart was unharmed, the automaton could be rebuilt. Not to mention there were self-repairing automatas as well. If you looked at it the other way, then it meant that even if the Eve’s Heart itself was the only thing destroyed, it was effectively a death strike for the automata.
“Whose puppet is this? What happened to the puppeteer?”
The one who answered wasn’t Felix, but Lisette.
“We’re still in the process of identifying the owner. However, based off what we know of the situation so far I believe that this automaton is a morning star wielder— the one whom you fought and defeated yesterday.
She’s was probably right. The broken automaton’s feet had been crushed by a familiar looking iron ball.
However— wasn’t that a little strange?
“Hey, Charl. What do you think—“
Her lips were pursed, her shoulders were shaking, and she was staring off into space.
“What’s wrong with you?”
Without answering him she turned on her heel, like she was about to go off somewhere.
She was acting strange. Raishin grabbed onto her arm, to try and stop her.
“Let go. Unhand me this instant!”
“You’re planning something weird, aren’t you? Look, acting recklessly now will get you nowhere.”
There was a transmission of magic energy. The little dragon bared his fangs and bit Raishin’s hand.
Yaya hurriedly dashed over to him, grabbing hold of his hand tightly.
“Show me the wound Raishin! I think it’s bleeding!”
“You just want to lick it! Go stand over there!”
While the two of them continued their slapstick routine, Charl had disappeared.
“… She’s gone.”
“She’s as impulsive as she looks. Being forced to show restraint irritates her.”
“Similarly, my blood is boiling over this as well.”
Although he was smiling as he always did— his eyes had a steely light to them.
“Will you not lend me your power, Raishin?”
He stared at Raishin. His eyes were usually half closed, but now they were opened wide. Raishin noticed for the first time that Felix’s eyes were pale blue.
“I don’t think my strength is so powerful that I can lend it to others…”
Raishin looked troubled then he gave a self-depreciating laugh.
“But given my circumstances, I do need that entry qualification.”
“Let me think about it for a while.”
“Of course. If we’re going to work together I’d rather you do it of your own volition.”
It was akin to a confident prediction. Quite possibly, Felix had been manoeuvring behind Raishin’s back and was holding back information or understood something he didn’t.
“We’ll call it a day here then. I have other matters to attend to.”
With an ‘I’m looking forward to your favourable reply’, Felix returned back to the scene of the crime. The academy was autonomous to a large degree, but it still was subject to police authority. However, as long as the crime was not as serious as murder, the town police wouldn’t interfere. In lieu of that, the disciplinary committee shouldered the burden of policing the academy.
Even if he were to disturb them now, nothing useful would come from it. Raishin decided to go back to the dormitory instead.
With Yaya behind him, he made his way out of the crowd of onlookers.
Leaving the grove, he started walking back along the small path, when suddenly,
“Wait a minute, Raishin Akabane.”
Someone called out to him from behind. It wasn’t Felix, but rather, his assistant Lisette.
Stiffly bringing her face close to his, she whispered into his ear.
“I have something I wish to speak with you about.”
“Is it something confidential?”
“Yes. It’s not something I can discuss openly.”
“Does it have something to do with intimate relations with opposite genders?”
“Please sleep talk only when you’re dead. Ah, I made a mistake. What I was trying to say was—Please die.”
“Where exactly is the mistake in that?”
“Raishin…! You get turned on from being insulted…?!”
“And now you’re making mistakes on various fundamental levels, Yaya.”
Raishin stared at Lisette with a critical eye.
Observing her slender frame and intelligent face, he finally spoke.
“Yaya, go back first.”
“—No! Yaya will go along as well!”
“Don’t worry, just go back to the dorm. It won’t be good if we can’t have a quick discussion, right?”
His tone implied that there was something he wanted her to do. Picking up on it, Yaya grudgingly nodded.
“… I understand.”
Yaya’s eyes lost their light. In a monotonous voice, she carried on speaking.
“Come back as soon as you can… Before the dorm turns into rubble…”
“I’m forbidding you to do so, ok? Don’t turn it into rubble or ruins, got that?”
After watching her trudge off, Raishin turned back to face Lisette.
“Alright then, let’s hear it. This big secret of yours.”
Nodding her head in assent, Lisette took the lead and started to walk ahead of him.