The attack that hit Raishin on the neck felt like a horse had kicked him.
It was a force strong enough to crush human vertebrae. Raishin flew like a cannonball, crashing into the sand slope.
Tumbling down, he sprang to his feet on reflex. It wasn’t so much as he was kicked then he had jumped himself, but even then it didn’t diminish the pain, which shot through his brain.
A beat later Henri screamed, curling up into a ball where she stood.
Raishin didn’t have the luxury of caring about her at the moment. He strained his eyes, trying to spot his attacker.
Suddenly, the figure of his attacker vanished.
A chill went down his spine. Reflexively he threw himself forward, somersaulting to the front in an evasive manoeuvre. A kick landed where he was a moment ago, causing the sand to spurt into the air like a fountain.
It was very fast. When had the mysterious figure moved behind him? While rolling on the floor he searched for the mysterious figure’s presence. When he finally located it, he was surprised to find it was human shaped.
By the light of the fire he saw the figure had silver hair— or was it gold?
He had a nicely tailored suit on, looked like he was in his twenties, and his face was hidden behind a pair of tinted glasses.
The man was floating in the air. His polished shoes barely skimmed the surface of the sand.
The man glided smoothly in the air, silently charging towards Raishin.
As he thought, this guy was fast. The trajectory of his movement was almost the same as Cherubim, but there were definitely some differences. The man accelerated suddenly. Obviously, Raishin’s reflexes were too slow to react.
He couldn’t dodge this— he was going to be killed!
There was a mysterious whoosh, and a pink shadow cut in in front of him.
But he knew the truth. That wasn’t Nadeshiko.
The automaton maiden protected Raishin, blocking the man’s kick.
There was a dull thud as the heavy kick landed. However the maiden didn’t break, easily fending it off with a single hand.
“Hotaru. Catch him.”
‘Yes, Master. As you wish.”
Having received her master’s command, waves of magic energy began to crest from her body.
A heat haze formed; the surrounding air distorting. As it grew hotter, the air began to glow.
It was so bright it gave off the illusion that the sun had risen inside. The atmosphere around the maiden turned white hot, and a dust cloud of sand was blown up as she accelerated with explosive force.
Raishin wasn’t sure when she had pulled it out, but the maiden was brandishing a knife as she charged towards the man.
As she slashed, the atmosphere was literally ripped apart. However, the man saw through her attack. Undaunted by her speed, he dodged the incoming knife.
He kicked, she blocked. She slashed, he dodged, and returned the blow. The shockwave generated this time sent a violent gale roaring throughout the place. Henri covered her head in her hands, unable to stand. The headmaster was— unknown. Raishin couldn’t afford to turn his head away.
He continued to watch the battle, unable to even blink.
The man’s movements had no inertia generated from his momentum. Additionally, it looked like he was unaffected by gravity. It was as if he was a man eating shark, moving freely inside the ocean.
On the other hand, Hotaru— the fake Nadeshiko was also an enigma. He wondered what her limits were, since in addition to her fearsome explosive power, she was also displaying remarkable resiliency and endurance.
(Just what magic circuit did that guy install inside her…?!)
It was similar to Yaya. But since there was heat haze involved, maybe it was a magic art related to heat…?
This caused him to recall Cherubim. But this was clearly different from the Jet circuit. The maiden hadn’t used hot air to propel herself, it was definitely her leg power that generated the jumping force.
Suddenly, an obvious doubt popped itself into Raishin’s head.
Who, or what was the attacker?
His reasons for attacking were unknown as well, but first and foremost— was he even human?
The man was fighting on equal footing with one of Magnus’s automata. The movements he were performing were definitely not human. However, no matter how hard he searched, Raishin couldn’t locate the presence of a puppeteer.
Also, the man’s kicks had finally broken the maiden’s knife.
The man’s heel was aimed right at her head. If it made direct contact she would be decapitated clean in one kick, but the maiden crossed her arms together and blocked the man’s kick.
An explosive wind erupted. Blown away by the gale, Henri was sent tumbling over to where he was. Grabbing onto her shoulder, Raishin pulled her towards him as he continued to stare at the source of the gale.
The two of them were still going strong. Just as they engaged in a fresh exchange of blows, a beam of light shone in all of a sudden.
It was faint, but it was assuredly a beam of light. Illuminating the darkness, perhaps it was from a floodlight or sorts.
The man instantly reacted to the light. He sprung into the air without delay, accelerating instantly as was his habit, disappearing into the darkness.
— He escaped, or so it would seem.
They were both still in it, so why had he fled?
Who was he? What was the meaning of the whole affair? Was I his target from the very beginning?
With not a clue as to what was going on, Raishin could only stare dumbfounded when there was a sudden clapping of hands behind him.
It was the headmaster. The great man was smiling broadly as he happily praised Magnus.
“Such fine dexterity. If he were to face you at full strength surely he wouldn’t be a match for you. I feel proud knowing that such a fine puppeteer as yourself is studying at my academy.”
Magnus gave a little bow. The fake Nadeshiko silently bowed as well.
“Hm, it looked like he was after me.”
The headmaster spoke like he was giving a reminder to them.
Or rather, Raishin had the feeling that the headmaster was telling them to read it as that.
“It’s a pity he got away, but all’s well that ends well. Are you fine, Raishin?”
“… Ah yeah, I’m fine.”
“Good, good. Look, help has arrived.”
The sounds of numerous footsteps approaching was accompanied by floodlights.
Finally, accompanied with several puppteers in tow, a beautiful blonde woman appeared. With them were two automata which had arms like logs, and three Heimguarders.
The beautiful woman had a stern expression on her face. For some reason she gave off the same air as Kimberly, but instead of a skirt she had on a pair of pants instead. A sabre was carelessly slung around her waist.
The smell of blood wafted over from the sabre… or so he felt.
“Are you alright, headmaster?”
“Hm, it is as you can see, Avril.”
“That’s a disappointment then.”
She spoke without so much as a smile, barking out orders sharply to her subordinates.
“All units, right face. Grab the kids and escort them to the surface. Also, while you’re at it you can bring the gramps along as well.”
The beautiful woman ignored the headmaster’s pitiable voice, and started walking ahead of the rest.