“Raishin Akabane is the black sheep of his family?”
A look of surprise made its way onto a well-bred face.
Inside the chairman’s office of the executive committee, the youth who was said chairman elegantly placed his teacup down.
There were two others inside the room. Shin was standing in front of the table, and Ravena— who was really Charl in disguise— was sitting in a corner of the room, hugging her dove.
Shin nodded at his master’s words.
“The Akabanes were a clan whose talents were widely known, but it appears Second Last did not associate himself with the clan, and he received no training in the magic arts whatsoever.”
“I thought his grades were the result of the language barrier, but it appears he’s a genuine idiot.”
“It is as you say. As a magician, he’s essentially on the same level as an amateur.”
“Then Felix was an idiot as well. How could he have let an dunce like him interfere with his plans?”
He brought the black tea to his lips— then appeared to have realised something as he placed the cup back on its saucer.
“Is something the matter?”
“I just had a thought. Perhaps the guard dogs at Nectar aren’t marking Raishin Akabane per say— rather they’re actually fixating on that automaton of his.”
“Are you referring to the doll with the Kongouriki circuit…?”
“If the data is correct, then how do I put it… It’s so boring. Such a simple magic circuit, wouldn’t you agree?”
The youth had a thoughtful look in his eyes as his gaze fell upon the wall.
“Hardening all monads within an internal field of control to an extreme level, and as a result the subsequent output of strength is increased a thousand-fold. The concept itself is simple and solid enough, but then again it’s filled with so many weaknesses.”
“It is as you say. No matter how you look at it, surely this circuit is overrated?”
“It is possible. However, if the circuit does turn out to live up to the expectations…”
He flashed a meaningful look at his servant.
“Then that doll might actually be very similar to you, Shin.”
Charl’s hands suddenly froze up.
“I don’t know whether this is true or not, but it seems like the puppet maker Karyuusai actually ‘made a human.’”
“— Surely that is just idle gossip?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Why, if I may ask?”
“Well, if it weren’t true, then wouldn’t it make things extremely boring?”
He laughed innocently. Almost instantly though, the laugh vanished, replaced by a serious look on his face as he removed the crystal ball from his breast pocket. It was as if someone who wasn’t present in this room had just contacted him.
The youth stared intently into his crystal ball— then suddenly burst out into laughter.
“Something fascinating has just happened. Second Last has just kidnapped Henriette.”
For a brief moment, a small snort of laughter cut in.
It was Charl. She had a hand to her mouth, stifling her laugh.
“Oh, Ravena. What is so funny, I wonder?”
“It’s because you treated him like an idiot that this happened. How does it feel to be thoroughly outwitted by someone you took for a fool?”
“That’s a rather abrupt change of heart, you trollop. After cozying up to Felix, now you’re spreading your legs for the Oriental monkey?”
“What’s the matter? You’ve turned completely red. Isn’t a little too late to act all embarrassed now? Weren’t you happily mewing like a little kitten in Felix’s presence?”
“How da— Don’t be ridiculous!”
Charl’s face was bright red, but not because of embarrassment.
She was angry. Her pride had been hurt, and she was extremely upset. It was an extremely humiliating thing to say, and as a daughter of the House of Belew, she couldn’t let an insult to her face like that just slide!
The boy had a surprised look on his face.
“I see, who would have thought you were an unspoilt flower… In that case, why don’t I throw you naked into a den of hooligans? I’m pretty sure something enjoyable will happen, you know?”
In an instant, the anger in Charl’s eyes vanished.
“… Do as you please.”
In an icy voice, she threw him a dirty look, before turning away.
Although she wasn’t bursting with anger anymore, her current attitude was essentially the same.
However, the youth didn’t seem slighted by it in the slightest, and continued grinning.
“You have my sympathies, Charlotte. The great house of Belew, renowned for its valour, now reduced to a mere shadow of its former self. The former Earl left his wife and children behind to venture into the continent and vanished there, and facing the spectre of poverty, the lady Belew finally sold her own daughter away. Should I tell you something good? Henriette was about to be sold to a brothel when I rescued her.”
“— You lie! My mother would rather starve to death than to sell Henri away!”
“The truth can be so cruel. So how does it feel? I’m sure your mother burdened you with a sense of responsibility too, didn’t she? While acting out the part of a gentle sister looking out for her younger sister, I’m sure you’re inwardly basking in your sense of superiority, aren’t you?”
“… Sense of superiority?”
“God sure has sophisticated tastes. He made the elder sister beautiful and cultured, giving her an abundance of magic energy, while the younger sister didn’t get a single good trait at all. Thanks to that the elder sister is always in a good mood. As long as the younger sister is by her side, she can feel the gifts she’s been truly blessed with. Even if the younger sister can’t do anything— or rather, because the younger sister can’t do anything, once she’s not around the elder sister would be troubled, no?”
“You’re wrong! I’ve never thought lik—“
“And that’s the real reason why the great T-Rex, who hates everyone else, would go so far as to saving a trash of a younger sister, even if it meant great sacrifice to her. Dear me, sisterly love is such a wonderful thing.”
Charl’s shoulders trembled slightly. Tears of vexation were beginning to form around her eyes.
The youth started to get ahead of himself, pouring on the scorn onto Charl even further.
“You know, that talk we had earlier about throwing you to a bunch of hooligans was just that— a talk. I suppose I could throw your sister to them instead— I wonder what kind of face would the great T-Rex make then?”
There was a burst of magic energy, a bluish white flame forming in an instant.
Charl’s body was radiating the fire, and Sigmund’s dove form was surrounded by a dark aura that was mystical in nature. The strength of it was such that the naked eye, let alone a magician, was able to see the effects.
“If you ever do anything to Henri… I will hunt you down and wipe out your entire bloodline…!”
There was a sharp crack as something hit Charl on the cheek.
Her face struck, Charl fell onto the ground.
The youth slowly glanced over to the side, where Shin was standing with his head slightly raised.
“I apologise for acting out of turn. However, I cannot and will not ignore anyone who acts toward the young master in such an insolent manner. Even if said action is a result of the young master’s rotten nature, or his warped character.”
“Ok Shin, that’s enough. Your punishment will come later. Leaving that aside for now, we really can’t afford to let Henriette slip out of our fingers.”
“Should I attend to it?”
“… It would be boorish to turn down such an invitation. You’re right, I’ll leave this matter in your hands.”
“Very well, I will capture her post-haste. What about Second Last?”
“You can kill him. And bring his freshly severed head to me. Since we’re going to all that trouble, it would make a fine present for the trollop here. Will you be able to do that?”
“That’s an extremely sick hobby to have, but if it’s an order from the young master, it will be a piece of cake.”
Shin bowed slightly, then flew out of the window.
“Hm? You look like you have something you want to say, Charlotte.”
“… What are you planning? Why are you doing this to us?”
“If by this you’re referring to my treatment of you sisters? Well, the reason is simple, really. I think it’s fun.”
“Besides, if I bully you Felix will be gratified, you know? The two of us— Felix and Cedric are cousins after all, and that makes us close friends.”
“That’s a lie! There’s no way you’re Cedric!”
“Huh, what an interesting thing to say. Especially when the real deal is standing right in front of you.”
“Don’t play dumb with me! You’re obviously using a magic art that lets you change your form—“
A hint of fear crept into her voice, and she faltered.
Realising that she was going up against an enemy she had no clue about, her heart felt like it was crushed into a million pieces.
A slow and steady stream of tears began to trickle down as she asked in a trembling voice.
“Who… are you? Just who… or what are you?!”
The youth laughed airily.
“I am a shadow.”
Happily, in a sing-song voice, he appeared to almost dance as he continued to speak.
“I am a shadow with no real form.”