With Yaya in tow, Raishin burst out of the Tortoise dormitory.
It was way past curfew. The boarding master called out from behind him to stop and turn back, but because it was an emergency Raishin ignored him. Having to explain that he was assisting the disciplinary committee, and this was a related matter, was too troublesome.
Following the street lights outside the buildings, he dashed towards the griffon dormitory. The cold night wind caressed the back of his neck, causing his body to shiver.
The conversation he had with Felix earlier replayed itself in Raishin’s mind.
Raishin wanted to chase after Charl, but a hand on his shoulder restrained him from doing so.
Felix held his hand out in a pacifying gesture.
“I know what you’re going to say, Raishin. First off, let me just say I’m not doubting your relationship with Charl at all.”
“Then why did you go and say all that?”
“Obviously, it was for her sake.”
“What do you mean?”
“If I didn’t tell her that, she would have continued her reckless actions, no? She’s bad at cooperating with others, and working alone is fraught with danger.”
Raishin fell silent. He couldn’t think of a response. He was right that Cannibal Candy was dangerous, and that Charl wasn’t likely to follow the instructions of the disciplinary committee.
However, while it was logical, he still couldn’t accept it, and Raishin doggedly continued on.
“Even if you say that, you can’t deny Charl was hurt.”
“After we take care of Cannibal Candy, I’ll make amends for what I’ve said.”
There was more sincerity in his eyes than usual as Felix said that.
His recollection coming to an end, Raishin clicked his tongue.
By the time they took care of matters, it might already be too late.
Charl wasn’t as strong or as aloof as she pretended to be.
(Don’t do anything rash, scary dragon girl…!)
Yaya shouted a warning. He was lost in thought and his attention to his surroundings had therefore decreased. Suddenly he noticed for the first time there was a presence approaching from directly opposite them.
Reflexively preparing for combat, he extended out a hand towards Yaya. The other party had the same reaction, and braced their body. Catching the light of the street lamps around them, something glimmered in their hand.
It was the cold glint of metal — a knife.
Something felt suspicious as the height of the unknown person caused a sense of déjà vu to pass over him. The body was slender and conservative, with shoulder length hair and a pair glasses giving off an intellectual air… this person was—
“Lisette! It’s me!”
Lowering her knife, she lit a lamp in her hand to check Raishin’s face.
She was alone. As always, her automaton wasn’t accompanying her.
“Are you searching for Charl?”
“Yes. As a matter of fact, I was just on my way to the Tortoise dormitory.”
“You were heading towards me?”
“Knowing you, I felt that you’d come dashing out.”
“— is that faith in me?”
“Don’t get too carried away, you tapeworm.”
“My bad. What did you want with me then?”
“Where were you headed to?”
“In your direction. I wanted to hear your thoughts.”
Lisette had a clouded expression on her face as she gave an exaggeratedly loud sigh.
“Charlotte didn’t have a large circle of friends. If she didn’t think of going to you, and is just foolishly loitering around the area, then the situation is hopeless.”
“Uhuh. Can you phrase that in a better way?”
“Quite simply, I have no clue as to where she could have disappeared to…”
Pressing her finger to her lips, she was deep in thought. After that, something occurred to her and she turned to face him.
“You were out with her the whole day today, weren’t you? Did she say anything at all?”
“No, not really… In any case, I believe Felix is the cause of her disappearance.”
“Was that a feeble attempt at shifting responsibility onto someone else to hide your own incompetence, you tubifex worm?”
“Why are all your insults fixated on variations of long and thin worms?”
At that moment, Raishin noticed something out of the corner of his eye, and turned to look at their surroundings.
“It’s getting a little rowdy out here.”
Looking closely, he could see shadows moving about stealthily amidst the trees and in the cover of the buildings. Although they had skilfully hid their presence, Raishin’s five senses were sharper than a normal person’s. As long as he stopped moving, he could sense them.
Lisette looked over at them as well, before hesitantly speaking.
“The truth is… the disciplinary committee is putting its full effort into searching for Charlotte.”
“What, is she that important— wait, you’re not suspecting her, are you?”
If the disciplinary committee were chasing after her, did it mean they thought she was Cannibal Candy?
Lisette didn’t even move an eyebrow, but Yaya covered her mouth with her hands in shock.
Raishin stared at Lisette with a questioning look.
Lisette hesitated a little before finally caving in and resignedly confessing the truth.
“Just earlier, several magic circuits were discovered in Charlotte’s room.”
Was she referring to the ones that Cannibal Candy had removed…?
“It’s the truth. The one who discovered it was the boarding master…”
He went over the facts in his head. It looked like someone was trying to set Charl up— no, that wasn’t it. If Charl really was Cannibal Candy, her magic art would annihilate the magic circuits. If someone was really trying to set her up, doing this would have the opposite effect.
So, did that mean that Charl was hoarding magic circuits for reasons unknown to Raishin…?
Considering Charl’s strength, there was also the possibility she could have inflicted an attack that would leave the magic circuits undamaged.
“We still have yet to verify if the circuits in question are those that Cannibal Candy had removed. One of the professors is currently examining them, but since they’re in pretty bad shape, the results will only be out tomorrow.”
Raishin grew silent as he continued to think.
Judging him to be of no further use to her, Lisette gave a short bow,
“We’ll part here. I should be getting back to the search now—”
Lisette dubiously came to a halt.
Wanting to confirm something, Raishin chose his words carefully and deliberately.
“Would it be correct to say that I am currently someone who’s assisting the disciplinary committee?”
“In that case, I would like to carry out an investigation, with your co-operation.”
Her interest piqued, Lisette turned to face him.
“What do you want to do?”
“I would like to confirm something with my own eyes.”
Raishin told her where he would like to go.
Lisette was shocked. A rarely seen troubled look appeared on her face.
“That’s… somewhere where I don’t have the authority to grant you access.”
“Whose permission is needed then?”
“Give me a minute. I need to discuss this with Felix first.”
“So you’ll help?”
“Given the current circumstances, yes. No matter how much of a brainless mosquito larva you may be, for you to request such a thing during an emergency like this must mean there’s a reason behind it, no?”
Although he was a little bothered by some of the things she had said, Raishin nodded.
Lisette told him she would have to make a phone call, and returned back onto the path.
For a short while, Raishin and Yaya were left alone in the cold.
Yaya was sticking tightly to him, so the cold didn’t affect him that much. The wait however, was something that was excessively hard to endure.
Maybe the negotiations weren’t going smoothly, or she had completely neglected to mention it, or perhaps she had met an accident halfway; Lisette still hadn’t returned.
The anxious wait lasted several minutes. Finally, Lisette returned—
“Be grateful. Felix talked to the executive committee.”
In short, they had been granted permission.
“I will guide you. It’s the least I can do since we’re co-operating on this.”
“I am in your debt.”
“I shall have to decline your gratitude. This is merely part of my duties after all.”
Having spoken curtly, Lisette started walking ahead of Raishin.
She led them towards the most important block of the academy.
Heading past the central auditorium, passing through the back of the clock tower and cutting across the headmaster’s residence, there was a large rectangular building that looked like a gravestone.
The building where all the important machines were stored away, the Locker.
“Before you enter, you should know that your entry is subject to one condition.”
The expression on her face was five times more severe than normal as she gravely spoke.
“Inside, countless automata are stored in a state of hibernation. Needless to say, they are all completely defenceless. If you wanted to, you could easily destroy them, and their owners would be unable to participate in the Night Party.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not going to stoop to that level.”
“I’m just saying the possibility exists, you pond scum.”
“So I’ve been demoted to a microorganism now? Fine, I get it. I’ll leave Yaya here.”
Yaya looked up at him with a worried look on her face. Her large eyes glimmered, reflecting the light from the lamp. She looked as innocent and helpless as a puppy.
“Shout if anything happens. It would be tragic if you were attacked by Cannibal Candy.”
“Yaya will be fine. More importantly, Raishin…”
“Don’t worry. I’ll be with Lisette.”
“… You’re still going on about that?”
“You have no cause for concern, sex-obsessed doll. In the unlikely event he does attack me, I will bite my tongue.”
“I’m not going to attack you! Both of you stop your nonsense!”
Ending the conversation, Lisette took the front again, and walked towards the rectangular building.
There were sentries posted at the entrance, and more security personnel in the guardroom. Lisette pointed at her armband to indicate they were here on disciplinary committee business.
It looked like the guards had been informed already. After processing their entry, they handed over a master key.
The inside of the building was the same as its façade, lacking in any form of decoration whatsoever. Its floors, walls and ceilings were all built with straight lines, making it feel choking and confining.
The lights inside were all switched off, so they headed deeper inside with only their lamps lit up.
“So, what do you wish to confirm?”
“A third-year student’s automaton. If my logic is correct, then it could prove to be a decisive clue to locating Cannibal Candy.”
“In that case, we should be heading up to the second floor. This way.”
“… Can I ask you something?”
“I don’t have a boyfriend, but I rather die than have sex with a playboy like you.”
It was an awkward moment. Lisette coughed in what appeared to be embarrassment.
“That was a joke. What is it?”
“What kind of automaton is Felix’s?”
Lisette thought for a while, searching through her memories before answering.
“I don’t exactly know much about the details, but I have seen it before. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I’ve heard rumours that it was made during the Renaissance period.”
“So it’s an antique?”
“It’s not something you can just dismiss lightly. The Renaissance period was a time in human history where countless exceptional geniuses walked the earth. Techniques that are now lost to us existed back then, and there are magic arts from that period that we have yet to break down. Felix’s automaton is also theorized to be one of the miracles created by those geniuses.”
“… That’s no surprise. Anyhow, I can at least say it’s an automaton that got him listed in the Rounds.”
Even though it was a remnant from a century ago, it was still in active use— an automaton like that couldn’t be just dismissed as obsolete. It was likely far superior to modern craftsmen’s handiwork, and there had to be a secret to it.
“So what sort of magic circuit is installed inside it?”
“Well, I don’t know that much… I might be his assistant, but I am also a Night Party entrant. It’s not prudent to reveal your hand to someone who will become your opponent someday.”
“I guess that’s not surprising as well.”
“When we were doing field practice before, he created lava.”
“Yes. He heated the earth and used it to dig trenches. Also, during another time, he manipulated dense fog to throw the enemy team into confusion.”
“Fog… you’re sure it wasn’t just steam?”
If it was a magic circuit that revolved around heat manipulation, then it was possible to generate both lava and fog.
“No, it was more natural, like it was an extension of his nerves or senses.”
“What the heck is that? Unless he’s using several magic arts together in conjuction… but no way, something like that should be impossible.”
In any case, he was sure to be a troublesome opponent. Lava and fog were both fluid states without form.
Having reached the top of the stairs, Lisette came to a halt.
“Felix’s locker is in the room furthest back on the right.”
“It’s alright, I don’t plan on going there.”
Lisette’s eyes narrowed in puzzlement.
From the flow of their conversation, she had the impression that they were going to search Felix’s locker.
Raishin took the master key from her hand, and started walking off in the opposite direction.
He had already grasped the layout of the building.
Behind him, Listette was saying something. Raishin ignored her and opened the door.
The lockers resembled caskets, and were lined up in orderly rows.
Relying on the nameplates, he looked for the locker he was searching for.
Before long, he discovered what he was searching for.
Registration code White Mist— Listette Norden.
Supressing his impatience, he used the master key to unlock the lock, and opened the cover with an air of finality.
Inside the locker, there was a large glass cylinder.
It looked like a giant test tube. The liquid that filled it completely looked just like formaldehyde. Enveloped in that liquid, just like a biological specimen, there was a completely naked girl suspended within.
It wasn’t an automaton.
Peeking out from her split chest was real tissue and real flesh.
Raishin cursed his own foolishness.
I am such an idiot. This… how could I have not noticed something so obvious?
In other words, from the beginning of the beginning, she had been here all along.
Suspended inside the glass cylinder, this was—
Lisette Norden’s corpse.
The next moment, something hit Raishin from behind with enough force to knock the wind out of him.