Epilogue – The Puppeteer from the Far East 2
“Raishin Akabane. Step forward.”
The headmaster’s voice sounded clearly throughout the dreary auditorium.
This was his first time seeing the headmaster up close. Unlike the image of a decrepit old man he had in his mind, the actual headmaster was a robust big man with an elegant moustache.
“In my name of Edward Rutherford, I hereby acknowledge your candidacy for the position of the Wiseman, and permit you to participate in the Walpurgis Night.”
Laid out on a silver tray, a resplendent glove was brought to him.
The embroidery done with gold thread was beautiful. It was made out of first-class silk, giving it a brilliant lustre. Because his dominant hand was in a cast, Yaya received it on Raishin’s behalf.
Lowering his voice, the headmaster whispered to Raishin somewhat affectionately.
“As of now, you are an official Gauntlet— a glove bearer. Set an example for the rest of the students and become a splendid puppeteer.”
It was a simple award ceremony, and as such it ended quickly on that note.
The headmaster left, and so did the number of professors in attendance, leaving him behind in the auditorium.
Walking out into the illuminated hallway, Raishin walked towards the entrance and was startled.
It was about to be sunset, yet a large crowd had gathered outside.
It was all students. It looked like they had been waiting for Raishin to come out. There were a few evil stares in his direction mixed in, but a large majority of the students’ expression were positive. A lot of them were dressed like Raishin, having deliberately put their coats on.
It took a second before Raishin realised they were all in admiration of him.
“Why did this suddenly become so grand?”
“Because the headmaster arranged for it to be so.”
A voice cut in suddenly. Looking around, he saw Kimberly sitting down in one of the chairs in the lobby.
“You’re like a flatworm, you know that? You were just discharged yesterday, and yet—“
She laughed sarcastically. Her eyes swept over Raishin, from his shoulder to his right arm, to the crutches in his left hand, and finally to the bandages tied around his neck.
Considering how beat up you were, I’m surprised you can even walk. It looks like you didn’t suffer any serious injuries.”
“Well, this time around they’ll take longer to heal.”
“Is it because you’re getting old?”
“From some odd reason it sounds like you’re speaking from experience, professor. So, what about the headmaster?”
“The disciplinary committee chairman was the true culprit behind this whole affair. So there’s been a whirlpool of distrust and suspicion focused on the academy both on the inside and from the outside. By promoting you as the hero of this affair, he’s hoping he can deflect some of the bad press.”
If that was true, then the headmaster was a sly fox.
Kimberly looked at Raishin’s glove— the words etched onto it, to be more precise, and grinned.
“That suits you. Now you’ll officially be known as Second Last.”
“Who was it that applied for such a shitty codename?”
“Why, me, of course.”
Raishin shut his mouth. Kimberly continued grinning at him,
“Don’t be such a sourpuss. Thanks to my eyewitness testimony and machine analysis, the both of you were cleared of all suspicion. Doesn’t that make me your benefactor?”
Raishin sealed his mouth even further. He realised he was now in a strange person’s debt, much to his dismay.
“Go on, the spectators are waiting. Time to be the trophy wife— I mean the court jester, mister hero.”
“That change in expression was redundant.”
Raishin sighed and was about to walk out, when he stopped suddenly.
“I have something to ask you, Professor Kimberly.”
“You were the professor in charge of my entrance exam. You of all people should have known how bad my academics are. So then, why didn’t you laugh at all when I asked you how could I become the Wiseman?”
“That’s simple. I used to be bad at my studies too.”
Raishin was surprised. Kimberly’s controlled voice had a hint of sentiment to it that wasn’t usually present.
“People gain reasons to study. I’m sure you yourself have your own reasons to do so. It’s as simple as that.”
He didn’t know what to say, so Raishin bowed slightly, and turned to walk out of the door.
As dusk fell, the sounds of applause filled the air.
Raishin grew flustered, which was something out of character. He was used to being looked down on, but being admired was something he wasn’t. In fact, he would have preferred if he was on the receiving end of a scolding.
While deliberating on how he should handle this situation, the clapping suddenly stopped, and the sea of people parted.
Not even glancing at the cowering students, a beautiful girl with blonde hair and a dragon atop her hat— Charl was, quite rudely, making her way towards him.
In contrast to the students in formal wear, she was wearing her normal uniform.
Yaya went on high alert, sticking close to Raishin.
Charl turned her chest away, and looked down upon him.
“I can’t believe the Night Party has sunk this low. For someone like you to be a Gauntlet, the world must be coming to an end.”
She had spiteful words for him. After finishing her sentence though, she began to act suspiciously, her face turning red and her gaze wandering here and there. After a moment of hesitation, she abruptly thrust out her right hand.
There was a small box wrapped with a ribbon on her palm.
“… What’s this?”
“Are you an idiot? Obviously it’s a thank-you gift. As far as things go, no, I mean looking at the chain of events, there was the part where you did help me. Therefore, from an objective point of view, giving you something like this is only common courtesy…”
Taking the box, he undid the ribbon.
Opening it, he removed the silver pendant that was inside.
“A protective amulet… I don’t see any spells, but there are runes inscribed on it.”
“It’s a defensive amulet that ups your defensive power. It goes well with your barbaric fighting style.”
“Take it, Raishin. Charl thought about what to give you so hard she almost got a fever.”
“Q-q-quiet, Sigmund! I’ll feed you breadcrumbs from tomorrow onwards!”
She turned red to the tips of her ears. Crossing her arms in a huff,
“There’s no ulterior motive behind this. It’s like that saying in Japan, ‘Send CO to your enemy.’”
“If Kenshin did that Shingen would have died, ok? That’s just a gas attack!”(1)
Having said that though, it wasn’t a bad gift. He felt that he should thank her.
She then turned back to look at him with a severe glare.
“I hope you understand this, but when we meet in the Night Party—“
“We’ll be enemies, right?”
“That’s right. Both Sigmund and I will be coming at you with all that we’ve got.”
“I might go easy on you though.”
“Wh… you… how can you say such an idiotic thing?”
“Yaya won’t hold back.”
Yaya cut in while smiling, but the smile didn’t quite reach her eyes.
“Yaya won’t hold back.”
She said it twice. It must have been important to her.
But she was right. No one could afford to hold back, and the Night Party wasn’t a place where people who just roll over and die. Especially since the both of them had goals they needed to achieve at any costs.
Of course, that was the same for all other participants as well. All of them had dreams to achieve and reasons to fight.
With those at stake, there was no choice to go at it with all they had.
Raishin looked upwards, staring at the sky which was rapidly becoming pale.
With this, the curtain was about to rise on the Night Party.
1: salt in Japanese is shio, so Charl thinks it means CO, carbon monoxide. In Japan, there is a famous story about Uesugi Kenshin sending salt to his rival Takeda Shingen. For more details, please see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uesugi_Kenshin#Uesugi_and_Takeda