On the balcony of the central auditorium, several elegant tables had been placed.
The students had come to use it for resting. Normally, it was crowded with students, but since it was a Sunday afternoon, there were only a few people around.
At one of the tables, sitting at a seat that allowed her a view of the tortoise dormitory, was a woman.
She was wearing a peculiar kimono which had an open neckline, emphasising her ample cleavage. In spite of wearing very little make up, she still had an appealing sensuality to her. Packing tobacco into a pipe, she looked very much like a scene out of a portrait. The movements of her hands were graceful, with no wasted effort, which was beautiful.
It was the woman called Shouko.
A doll-maker boasted by Japan, the unparalleled artisan of the Karyuusai name.
Her appearance, as well as eye-patch which did little to hide her pretty face, made her stick out like a sore thumb… or it should have, but the students passing by didn’t even turn an eye to her. They didn’t even seem to notice her presence. Unbelievably, it seems they were unable to see her at all.
Shouko inhaled, spat out the smoke, and emptied the ashes. Looking satisfied, she cast an easy eye downwards without refilling her pipe.
The academy was full of life. The plaza which was to become the stage of the Night Party was already completed, and the ceremonial curtains and tent which housed the judges were in place. The students were restless, like they were getting ready for a festival.
Sliding her gaze sideways, she looked at the old exterior of the tortoise dormitory. In front of it, there were trees lined up in a way that resembled a tunnel leading to the building. Unmaintained, in the middle of its dense foliage, there was a white colour amongst the green that stood out. Shouko’s eyes rested on that spot.
The white belonged to the hair colour of a girl.
With pearl coloured hair, a strange female student was standing in the middle of the trees.
With both hands raised into the air, she was gathering her magical energy. Like she was practicing basic magic arts, she was deep in concentration. She looked like she was practicing by herself where no one could see her.
Briefly, Shouko stared at the girl.
Noticing something, she reached for her eye-patch.
Turning the dial, the shutter opened and closed as three different lenses fitted in it in succession. Choosing the red lens, Shouko observed the girl.
She seemed to have seen something. Shouko was lost in thought for a moment, before letting out a sigh.
“… So that’s how it is. Poor child.”
She looked at the girl with pity in her eyes.
At that moment, a tall lady was walking by near her.
She had red hair swept upwards, and was wearing a white coat over her teaching attire.
It was Raishin’s homeroom professor Kimberly. Her blues eyes turned to the direction of Shouko.
For an instant, her line of sight crossed over to something which shouldn’t have been seen.
Without stopping, she walked on as if nothing had happened.
Having walked a few steps away,
She had a tiny grin on her face.
Shouko grinned for a moment as well, before returning her gaze towards the tunnel of trees.
In that instant, before Shouko’s eyes, a large amount of magical energy had swelled up.