“-so please tell Shouko that.”
The next morning. At the first floor of the tortoise dormitory, in the lobby.
Half a day was left to the start of the Night Party, and the school was in high spirits. Right in the middle of that, with a sullen look on his face, Raishin was on the phone. His face and arms were covered in fresh bruises. He was hurting from the welts on his body.
“I’d like an investigation into Frey’s background. I would really like to have done it myself, but I have my hands full dealing with her attacks.”
On the other side of the receiver, Irori gasped.
“Then, the enemy has been bombarding you with various magic arts?”
“No, the attacks weren’t magical in nature. Still, I almost died last night.”
“She did that to Raishin without using magic arts!? Is the opponent really that powerful?!”
“No, well, not exactly, but I guess you could say that.”
“Out of us sisters, Yaya is the most suited for bodyguard and escort missions. For Yaya’s Kongouriki(1) to be ineffective, the opponent must be a fearsome warrior indeed. I understand. I will tell the master straightaway.”
“Ah, hey, wait. I think you’ve gotten the wrong idea- ah.”
The call had been cut. Irori had hung up in a hurry. She probably misunderstood something… but it was fine. It wasn’t as if he was lying when he had said he felt that he was in danger.
Lifting the receiver from his cheek caused a smarting pain on it. The person who caused this wound was undoubtedly still in the room with her breakfast uneaten, weeping uncontrollably. She was seriously depressed.
(Still… that was strange.)
Placing the receiver back onto its rest, Raishin thought to himself.
He didn’t mean to brag, but Raishin’s five senses were sharper than most. It was comparable to a soldier who had served several tours of duty. Even when he was sleeping, the slightest sound would awaken him.
Raishin’s room was pretty old. Unfastening the rusty lock, opening the creaky door, and stealthily sneaking up to his bed without him waking up wasn’t something an ordinary person was capable of.
Moreover, Frey was such a slow person. He couldn’t imagine her pulling off such a risky stunt.
If she was able of doing such a thing-
(… A magic art?)
A magic art that could kill off one’s presence. Magic arts that could increase stealth had been in development since the time of the Renaissance. Of course, it hadn’t been limited to just that. Like the time with Loki, Rabi had fired off that “something” that had gouged out the pavement.
“Early in the morning and you already have such a sullen face.”
I don’t want to hear that from you, thought Raishin as he turned around.
Standing in the entrance to the lobby, with a grumpy look on her face, was Charl.
The sunlight was shining down on her gorgeous golden hair, causing it to glow. Looking like she was about to head off for Sunday service, she was dressed in her school uniform as usual. Sigmund was resting on top of her beret.
Hands on her hips, she haughtily turned her chest away from him.
“I remembered a famous tale about Frey, so I came down to tell it to you. Thank me, and reverently listen to what I have to say.”
“Hear her out, Raishin. She went asking around the female dormitories a few times.”
“Q-q-quiet Sigmund! Or I’ll feed you weeds from now on!”
“Sorry for making you go to all that trouble. Please, tell me.”
Charl’s cheeks were slightly red, and covering her outburst with a slight cough, she continued.
“Do you know of D-Works?”
“I’m surprised. How can you be a puppeteer in the Academy and not know that?”
She sighed. It seemed like somehow, she was getting surprised on a daily basis.
“For the past 10 years, it’s an up-and-coming Machine workshop that has been making a name for itself. They also dabbled in developing magic circuits, and about 5 years ago they patented the Sonic magic circuit. They’re one of the companies nominated for the contract of supplying the British Army with next generation technology.”
“Seems like a prosperous workshop. So, what about them?”
“They’re Frey’s sponsors. Well, Frey and Loki’s.”
Sponsors. In other words, they were the ones paying for their enormous tuition fees.
“- speaking of which, could it be that those automata that they’re carrying around-”
“-are probably the newest models developed by D-Works. Possibly even the prototypes.”
“Prototypes? They mean to test out their prototypes in the Night Party itself?”
In a battle they could ill afford to lose, they were going to use unreliable prototypes?
“Come now. There’s no way they’d risk their automata on such a ridiculous gamble.”
“It’s the reverse. The Night Party is an extremely harsh struggle for survival. It’s a zero sum game where there can only be one winner. Even if you do it the normal way, it isn‘t easy becoming the Wiseman. Although it might be a slight gamble, having new technology should be advantageous. Furthermore,”
Charl glanced upwards at Sigmund,
“The Night Party is like a world fair for Machinart. It’s a place where the old, the new, and the superior Machines gather. The magic circuits that become popular here will surely spread throughout the world.”
“… I see. It’s the perfect testing ground.”
They would be able to test it without having to go to war. Recovery of the body was guaranteed, and as long as they could gather data, losing the Wiseman position would be of no great loss.
And even better, if they were to sell their product to the army-
There was no grander stage on which to demonstrate it.
“If that’s the case, then obviously, I’d be the proverbial spanner in the works…”
Defeat in the first round would mean that any tests would not be able to be conducted. It would be the worst demonstration possible.
If Raishin were out of the equation, then the odds of meeting a strong opponent early would be lowered. Using feedback from the battle result, adjustments could be made, and research on tailoring it to better suit the army could progress, strengthening its position.
However- was it really because of this reason that Frey would scheme to “assassinate” him?
Charl was frowning silently, and turned away with a difficult expression on her face.
“What? What’s wrong now?”
“Nothing, really. Just that… well, I’ve heard some unpleasant rumours.”
“Rumours? About D-Works?”
“I’ve heard they bribe important people and twist arms to get special permissions, and perform illegal research. And their lobbyist is a supposed lady-killer who moves from women to women…”
Charl came to herself with a start,
“That was something I saw in “Bingo”, some 3rd rate gossip rag. Such stupid things they write.”
“Incidentally, that’s Charl’s favourite.”
“Q-q-quiet Sigmund! I am Charlotte of the noble Belew family! There’s no way I would ever read such trashy magazines like that!”
The daughter of a noble family shouldn’t be reading gossip magazines, thought Raishin, but he didn’t say it out loud.
“In any case, you understand now, right? The “circumstances” behind Frey’s actions, ultimately is the for the sake of D-Works. Testing their new model, and aiming for the position of the Wiseman, they want to eliminate you so that they can win the Night Party.”
“It looks that way.”
“There’s no need to hold back. Tonight, completely annihilate her.”
“… Now that you mention it, tonight’s the night. My big debut.”
Between his reports and avoiding the attacks, he had completely forgotten about it. The Night Party which he had waited for so long, was finally commencing tonight.
Charl blinked, and the look on her face was troubled.
“Shouldn’t you be a little more nervous? You’re really such a thick-headed person. … Are you sure you’re going to be fine like that?”
“Don’t worry. Whatever happens, happens.”
“Don’t be so conceited. No one would worry about such a pervert like you.”
Turning the other way, she made a U-turn for the lobby entrance. Chasing after her, Raishin walked her as far as the front yard of the dormitory.
“Thanks. That was very helpful.”
Turning her back around, Charl muttered in a low voice.
Don’t forget the defensive amulet I gave you. And the handkerchief too.”
Having said that, she quickly strode off. Sigmund waved goodbye to Raishin with his tail.
“What is she, my mother?”
Raishin chuckled wryly. Reaching into his shirt, he pulled out a silver pendant.
Runes were etched into the pendant, and under the rays of the sun, they shone with a mysterious light. Other than just being a token of Charl’s feelings, it looked like it had some power too.
Suddenly, the pendant was filled with a bluish white light… or so he felt.
Passing through the chain, he could feel a vibration in his fingertips. His forehead tingled with pain, and an unpleasant premonition spread throughout his body.
More through instinct than reason, Raishin perceived some sort of danger coming.
And then, reality didn’t betray the premonition.
Ripping apart the ground, scattering the soil everywhere, “something” like a cannon blast came flying over.
1: 金剛力: Herculean Strength