Shouko walked down the hallway with an unnatural step that Raishin had become familiar with.
Behind her, Yaya and Raishin were following her like two problem children who had been summoned to see the principal.
Finally, Shouko stopped at the deserted balcony. Irori took out and opened a small box, retrieving some tobacco from inside.
Shouko packed her pipe and lit it. She breathed in, exhaled, and tapped her pipe to clear some ash.
After finishing her sole task, Shouko was now relaxing. However, the silence was frightening. Raishin had failed to complete the mission the military had given him, and almost caused Yaya to suffer severe damage. His negligence had also caused him to be heavily injured. On top of that, because of his desire to save Rabi at any cost, he had done something that he knew would draw the attention of the academy; he had summoned Shouko over. Suffice to say there was no lack of material with which he could be reproved for.
Unable to bear the silence any further, Raishin decided to speak first.
“Well… Thanks for helping. I am in your debt…”
“I haven’t helped anyone yet. However, I’ll still hold you in my debt.”
While packing fresh tobacco into her pipe, she spoke without a tinge of anger in her voice.
And then, she gently rolled a small stone about in her palm for them to see.
The small stone had a pattern engraved onto it. Upon seeing that, Raishin and Yaya’s eyes opened wide.
“A magic circuit! Don’t tell me, this is Rabi’s…!?”
“With this, the military’s goal is achieved. Now there should be no complaints even if I let him live.”
Let him live. Once the meaning of those words sank in, Raishin suddenly felt the tension drain away, leaving him exhausted.
“Th… thank you… Thank you so much, Shouko…!”
“It’s still too early for words of gratitude. There’s only a small chance that what I did would help.”
Even though she said that, Shouko had done all she could. That alone made him feel all choked up.
Now that he was exhausted, the pain he had forgotten came back in full force. In the first place, Raishin’s body wasn’t in any condition to be walking around. Involuntarily, he found himself collapsing onto his knees there and then.
“This is most displeasing to me.”
Shouko’s words caught him by surprise, and Raishin looked up. However, it seemed like she wasn’t talking about Raishin’s situation. Shouko was gazing far off into the distance.
“Boy, you already realised it too right? D-Works participated in the Night Party as a means to compare the Angel and Garm type against each other.”
“… Yeah. Yomi said the same thing.”
“However, that’s just deception. It’s a lie used to conceal the fact that they are using those two.”
Those two. Was she talking about Frey and Loki?
“D-Works’ goal isn’t to compare the performance between the two models. While Loki looks to be really aiming for the seat of the Wiseman— Frey is being used for testing.”
That last part threw Raishin off. He didn’t understand what Shouko was saying.
To be more precise though, he was starting to understand. All the countless facts and numerous events were screaming the truth at him. Rabi’s rampage. The pain assaulting Frey. That immense bleeding…
“… Just now, during that fight. Why did Rabi suddenly go berserk?”
“You’ve got it the wrong way around, boy. The one who went out of control was Frey.”
“Rabi was overloaded with magic energy beyond the normal level, which is what caused him to lose his sense of reason. Unable to handle the strain, his Heart finally ruptured from the stress.”
“… I don’t get it. What are you talking about?”
“You really don’t understand?”
Raishin faltered in the face of Shouko’s sharp glare.
“Frey’s heart has been implanted with a magic circuit.”
Next to Raishin, Yaya’s mouth opened in shock.
No, that wasn’t it. There was no mistaking his ears. Shouko had clearly said Frey’s heart!
“If you want to forcibly pull out magic energy from the host, then you need to use a magic circuit. If you keep enhancing the host’s affinity with magic energy, sooner or later the composition of the host’s body itself will be altered.”
Finally, he understood the implications of her words.
He had seen it with his own eyes earlier, hadn’t he? Inside that facility which was an orphanage only in name. What he had seen inside was vile and repulsive.
“Shiramiko— in this country they’re called the Promised Children. Children who are born filled with abundant magic energy in them. Don’t you think it would be a wonderful idea if you could mass produce something like that?”
It was a crazy thought. It wasn’t something that someone would normally think of.
However, if it were a corporation, or if it were from an army’s point of view, then perhaps it wasn’t so… unthinkable after all.
If you could mass produce powerful soldiers like that, it would be a matter worth celebrating.
“So, in other words, Frey and Loki are…”
“Man-made Shiramiko. Guinea pigs of D-works.”
The truth hit Raishin like a blow to the gut.
Yaya turned a ghastly shade of pale. Even Irori grimaced slightly.
Shouko continued on in a matter-of-fact voice.
“If you looked at the circulation of magic energy within those two you’d have realised it. Not only is it artificially precise, there’s an unnatural flow of magic energy within. There’s no doubt about it, their hearts have been mechanised.”
“So, you’re saying they implanted a machine into a human…?”
“The change in body colour is probably a side-effect of the process. The increased burden on the body causes destruction of the body’s pigmentation.”
“And this… this is something that’s easily done?”
“Don’t be absurd. You should have already seen it, boy. What happens to those children whose operations have failed.”
The underground icehouse had contained the bodies of numerous children.
Most likely, those bodies had then been used as materials for the Garm circuit.
“There’s no wastage at all. Honestly speaking, it’s so efficient it’s unpleasant.”
A jet-black anger began to swell up, filling up Raishin’s chest completely.
What the hell was this?
What the hell was this?!
Raishin shot to his feet like a bullet, ready to sprint off at a moment’s notice.
There was no room for argument in her sharp voice. Her imperative tone caused Raishin to halt in his tracks, stopping him from moving any further.
Shouko spoke calmly and slowly, but there was no doubt that her words were strict.
“You need to rest tonight. For the moment, I forbid you from leaving the academy grounds.”
“You’re questioning me, boy?”
Her eyes were cold. It was as fearsome as staring down the barrel of a loaded gun. Yaya shrank back like a frightened rabbit.
“Why I assigned Komurasaki to go with you to D-Work’s orphanage- why I ordered Yaya to stay behind, do you still not understand the logic behind these?”
“… I’ll bite. Why?”
“It was to prevent you from doing something foolish.”
“The only one guilty of folly are those people! How long are you going to let them get away with doing as they please!?”
“Stop speaking so conceitedly. You’re still unable to do anything, boy. Shall I be frank with you? You are no match for him at all.”
“Bronson. Once, he was also one who aspired for the Wiseman’s seat.”
He had heard that name before. That time when Charl had come to give him information.
“This was five Night Party’s back, so it would be about twenty years ago. He was defeated somewhere along the road to the Wiseman’s seat, and so left the Night Party.”
“And after that, he founded D-Works… right?”
“The way you are right now, all bristled up like that, you’ll never stand a chance against him. You wouldn’t even be able to fight the Sword Emperor now. Not to mention boy, you are heavily injured. Don’t be careless. Have you forgotten our wager?”
Unable to respond, Raishin hung his head downwards, clenching his fists.
“If you understand, then I suggest you exercise prudence.”
Shouko extinguished her pipe, and coldly turning her back on him, walked away from the balcony.