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Chapter 1 - The Opening Eve
“Um…… You are the  Amagiri Ayato-senpai, right?”
During lunch break, as Ayato was taking his lunch at the table of the North Star Cafeteria, a lively female student with chestnut hair accosted him with a big smile.
“Umm……, May I have an autograph?”
Saying so, she readily extended a colored paper and a pen.
“Ah, yes…… I don’t particularly mind.”
Even though slightly pressed by the momentum, he wrote his name on the handed colored paper. Naturally, since he did not have a somewhat stylish signature, he wrote in his standard handwriting. Although confused at first, Ayato had somehow gotten used to it recently.
“Thank you…… very much! Good luck for the Phoenix! I will cheer for you!”
The girl, who received the signature, left while waving her hand greatly.
Ayato, who saw her off with a wry smile, suddenly noticed cold gazes directed at him and hurriedly turned around.
Then, Julis and Saya, who sat opposite to him, were glaring at him with scornful eyes.
“--Nothing. I just thought that the popular ones don’t have it easy as usual.”
“Ayato, you’re too friendly. It worries me a lot.”
“I-is that so……?”
While feeling slightly uncomfortable at the pressure of the two girls, who seemed displeased, Ayato scratched his head as troubled.
It has already been one week since Ayato won the duel against Kirin and became the #1 rank of Seidokan Academy. These things were no longer unusual for him. In addition, it was a situation in which whatever such as fans letters, presents, coverage from the Media, various offers from companies, and the like, or anonymous harassment or intimidation, could occur.
Fortunately in the Academy, there seemed to be a department, which brought a follow of those sections, and though they were left in a lump, cases like fetching direct contact as a little while ago would naturally only be dealt by the concerned person himself.
“Princess and also Sasamiya, you shouldn’t be so worked up on the details. Since a nameless non-ranked student has suddenly taken the first place, it’s normal that it became like this.”
Saying so while chuckling was Eishiro, who sat next to Ayato and was slurping the buckwheat noodles in hot broth.
Even looking at the past cases, in Seidokan Academy there were very few cases of a non-ranked student suddenly becoming #1 rank. This was because the nomination system in the official ranking matches made it impossible.
In the official ranking matches held monthly, the system was made so that, when a Page One received a duel request from a lower ranked student, he could not refuse the match; but the students, who participated in this, were divided in three major levels. The first one was that of the higher-ranked students called ‘Top Twelve’, the second was the level of the ‘up-and-coming’ students, who had their name recorded in the Named Charts, and the third was the ‘non-ranked’ students, who did not have their name in the Named Charts.
In the official ranking matches, one could only appoint an opponent, who belonged to one level above. In other words, to appoint a Top Twelve as an opponent, it was necessary to at least belong to the level of up-and-coming students. Therefore, to suddenly become a Top Twelve from having been a non-ranked student, it was necessary to defeat one’s opponent by means of a duel ── generally, as the ranking became higher, one would indeed tend to be wary of duels.
In fact, it could be said to be natural if one considers the enormity of what would be lost by their being defeated.
“That’s right. I also, Um…… Luckily, I also became the #1 rank by duel, but still it was when I was ranked #11. Even though it’s me who says it, I think the case of Ayato-senpai, who suddenly became the rank of #1 from being non-ranked, is much more sensational.”
Even Kirin, who was next to Saya and was eating udon, agreed with Eishiro.
Though until just a week ago, Kirin was ranked #1, she did not seem to be particularly depressed.
Furthermore, although in the ranking system of Seidokan Academy, due to a replacement system, Kirin was a non-ranked student at present, she was in a special situation called “moratorium”. This was a right given to the up-and-coming students including the Top Twelve, and it was a measure in order to minimize the negative effects of the replacement system. Though the up-and-coming students could acquire various privileges, due to the fact that it would cause them trouble if they lost everything at once by a single defeat, they were guaranteed the same service for a certain period of time. In addition, the students in moratorium at the most recent official ranking matches, if it was an opponent below one’s old rank, had preferentially the right to challenge disregarding the level.
“To begin with, when even the Princess became a , hasn’t it made pretty much of a racket?”
“It might have been so, but such a thing is just going to, over time, toss things up after all. It ended much earlier in my time, you know?”
To Eishiro’s banter, Julis answered with a serious look.
“Well, it was because the Princess was completely shutout. With that degree of coldness, it would be normal to pull back.”
“Unfortunately, I don’t have the mind for that kind of service. I really appreciate the cheering, but I refuse to be used for crass selfishness. And if so, isn’t it rather more sincere to decline everything?”
As Julis said so, she operated a mobile terminal, and opened a space window.
“Net auction……? Eh, ah!”
Ayato, who looked into it, raised his voice. This was because his signatures had been put up for sale. Moreover, he wondered whether he should be happy or sad that the price was rising considerably.
Even though it was something not that much time-consuming, witnessing this sort of end was indeed a bit of shock.
“Oh, it’s one of the students’ popular pocket-money earnings. It happens quite often.”
Eishiro, who saw it from behind, tapped Ayato’s shoulder.
“Don’t mind it. You also have fans properly cheering for you, Ayato. Like me.”
“Th-that’s right! In my class there is also a child, who is a fan of yours, Ayato-senpai, even me……”
To such follows of Saya and Kirin, Julis fearlessly smiled.
“Fufufu, saying such things, actually what do you intend to do if we confront each other in the Phoenix?”
“Oh, speaking of which, I recall the participation of both of you was confirmed, right?”
Although greatly surprised when he heard that Kirin accepted the invitation from Saya to register in the Phoenix preliminaries, it seemed that their participation was settled the other day since there was a vacant place due to some contestants not taking part.
“……Of course, at that time, we intend to fight you with all our might.”
“Yes, I feel the same. And, this is a different issue.”
Changing the topic completely, both of them turned a sharp, yet straight gaze at Ayato and Julis.
“Fufufu……Well, it should be like that.”
“If possible, I don’t want to confront you guys, you know?”
Lately, Ayato and Julis were having practice tag team matches with the Saya – Kirin pair on a daily basis, but the winning percentage in actual combat format was about fifty-fifty.
Saya and Kirin were also working together so well that their coordination could hardly be regarded as a rapid increase tag; if they really were to confront them in the tournament, they would indubitably be formidable opponents.
“Fufufu…… I see that everybody is in high spirits. I can’t wait.”
Coming over there was Claudia with her usual mild smile.
“Oh, It’s been a while Claudia. You seem to be very busy lately……”
“Yes, it’s hard, since work increases with the approach of the Festa after all.”
While saying so, Claudia unfolded a huge window space on the table.
“……However, since the tournament table of the Phoenix was announced just some time ago, I thought to let you know.”
With these words, all eyes focused on the window space in an instant.
There were so many names lined up in a row that even counting was troublesome, and a very high tournament table-like castle, which was standing towering above it.
“Wow…… There is an amazing number of participants.”
The number of participants in the Phoenix was 512, that’s, 256 sets (teams). Although it was common knowledge, when witnessing it like this, one would be overwhelmed by the sheer number.
“Well, let see, we are …… Ah, here! We are in block L!”
“Hmm, we are…… in block C, huh. For the time being it doesn’t look like we would clash until the final stage (main battle).”
Kirin and Julis mutually looked at each other, and lightly smiled as relieved.
The duration of the Phoenix was about two weeks. Within that period, in the first half, that’s one week, commonly called preliminary, the best 32 would be elected. It was that combination table that Ayato and the others were looking at right now. Afterwards, those 32 sets (teams) were to be allocated to a new tournament table by drawing of lots; this was commonly known as the final stage (main battle). It was beyond this best 32 that the points entered to the affiliated Academy.
“But, Claudia, did you expressly come here just for this?”
As Claudia herself just said earlier, she was recently extremely busy. Certainly it was not as if the announcement date and time of the tournament table of the Festa was already determined, but even so Ayato and the others would have known it sooner or later; it was not something for which she would need to expressly come to convey.
“There is that; and it’s also because you guys are top favorites after all. I must have you firmly prepared.”
“F-favorites? How exaggerated……”
As Ayato lightly waved his hand to deny it, Eishiro with a stunned expression flicked his forehead with a finger.
“Fool, it’s the tag of the rank #1, and the tag of the ex-rank #1 we are talking about, you know? There are no other favorites than you.”
“That’s right. Ayato, Toudou-san, excessive humility is also unpleasant; you must have a bit more confidence in yourselves. You are the representatives of our Academy after all.”
“Even if you said that……”
Lowering their eyebrows as troubled, Ayato and Kirin hanged their heads.
“Since especially this time, there are no strong participants, who will appear. Actually, it wouldn't be strange even if either of you guys win the championship, you know?”
Eishiro’s words were light, but he was not a man who would say useless compliments.
“As I see it, with members almost expected beforehand, I think that there won’t be any big surprises.”
Though natural, No Academy would announce their contestants in the Festa beforehand, either.
But, it seemed that there would still be some info leaking from somewhere, which mostly seemed to turn out to be pretty much the same with the public expectations.
“Fortunately, the absolute figures such as in the previous Gryps and Lindvolus would not be there.”
Ayato looked puzzled at Claudia’s words.
“She’s probably talking about the Silver Wing Knights of Garrardsworth in the Gryps and the Venomous Witch of Le Wolfe in the Lindvolus.”
Julis said while shrugging her shoulders as if bored.
“In fact, each had won a previous Festa with unprecedented and overwhelming power. This time, on the contrary, it will be a large melee. Well, the Top Twelve of each Academy stand out as such……”
“The winning pair of the last Phoenix graduated. There is the rumor that the World Dragon pair, which was the runner-up, switched to the Gryps.”
As expected, Claudia and Eishiro were well-informed.
As Ayato was listening in admiration, Claudia clapped her hands and looked around at everyone.
“Anyway, in the strategy of this season, this Phoenix is in a very important positioning. And it is not an exaggeration even if I say that the success or failure depends on you guys. I look forward to it.”
Among the six Academies in Asterisk, there were Academies that were skillful in a specific Festa. St. Garrardsworth Academy with team battles in the Gryps, Le Wolfe Black Institute with individual battle in the Lindvolus, and Seidokan Academy with tag battles in the Phoenix, were respectively strong; even looking at the past data they had won those Festa the most.
In other words, for Seidokan, it could be said that earning points is as valuable as possible, this was a prerequisite for occupying a higher rank in the overall rankings.
By the way, the coordination strength of the World Dragon Seventh Institute was high; instead of crying that they were strong in any Festa, it would be better to say that they left stable results in any Festa. The wave of Allekant Academy was violent, there was the characteristic that the Festa in which they were skilled, changed over a certain period of time. Queen Veil Girl’s Academy did not have a particular Festa, in which they were good.
Then Saya, who was silent until then and drinking orange juice, raised her hand.
“What happened to the major contenders of the other Academies?”
To Saya who inquired like a student, Claudia, as expected, responded properly like a teacher.
“It’s a good question……is what I would like to say, but Sasamiya-san, you are only interested in those two persons of Allekant, right?”
Saya slightly frowned.
Saya had a minor squabble with a student of Allekant ── Camilla, who came the other day in Seidokan, and she seemed to want to settle it.
“Those two are…… Ah, here it is. They are in block H.”
Julis keenly checked the tournament table.
It meant that they would confront neither the Ayato team nor the Saya team until the final stage (main battle).
“Since there will be more info in the announcement from the Steering Committee, about those people in various ways, there is nothing from me.”
“──Really? Then is it a special case again?”
Eishiro’s eyes brilliantly glittered, to the blurred words of Claudia.
As she was bothered by the way of speaking of Eishiro and asked, Eishiro cheerfully explained.
“It is always what Festival regulation is being changed, make a special case, or broken. Well, hearing about trial and error is good, but it’s very inconstant. Since normally thinking, it’s impossible for the students of research classes to participate to the Festa──”
“The top priority of the Steering Committee is “to heat up the Festa”. For that purpose, they incorporate more and more new things; if they judged that it will be detrimental, they will quickly throw it away……That's all there is to it.”
Interrupting Eishiro’s words, Claudia rounded up the talk.
Although Saya seemed to be clearly dissatisfied, she seemed to find it difficult to get out any info from Claudia’s behavior.
“Th-then, about information of the other major contenders……”
“Yes, yes, Toudou-san. Please wait a little.”
As Claudia sweetly smiled, she operated the portable terminal.
And, almost at the same time a mail went to the terminal of Ayato and the others.
“So, I sent the data of the event to everybody in the neighborhood just now. Please consider it as help in working out countermeasures.”
“Oh, that helps a lot.”
Immediately they opened the student database, which amounted to many dozens of persons, where each record included a photograph along with the data. Personal data such as: height, weight, if there was combat experience, weapons used, Ogre Lux users, ability users and other things attached to the record like video recording data of duels depending on the situation. The student database was quite detiled and functional.
“No, no, it’s something that any academy does. I’m sure that by now the data of everyone here is also probably being studied in other schools.”
“Uh-huh. It really say's something about the intelligence capability of the school by how reliable and comprehensive such data is.”
Eishiro, who had not received one person’s data, laughed as fun.
“Ah…… Speaking of which, I have heard from uncle that Le Wolfe and Queen Veil were good in that area.”
“Well, it means that we will face them in the light of their own skills.”
Though while saying so, Julis was looking at the data, her gaze suddenly stopped right away.
“──* Sigh *, she will appear after all, huh. How troublesome.”
“What is troublesome?”
Ayato turned back to Julis, who sighed, and looked into her hand.
“This is the user of the Ogre Lux . I don‘t know what the people of Allekant are plotting, but apart from it, among the guys that are rising here, the most dangerous would probably be this fellow.”
“The name ── Irene Urzaiz. Huh.”
There, a female student with strangely sharp eyes revealing a fearless smile.
If one were to describe the Central Big School Building of Le Wolfe Black Institute, the word “Fortress” would be appropriate. Uncouth yet serious, it was the iron crag, which gathered power and intimidation.
However, though it tended to be misunderstood, there wasn't that much chaotic sense of decadence there. Whether being an Academy some regarded as the polar opposite of Garrardsworth, which was the Academy of discipline and order, or because of the image of slum areas that bad students considered their stronghold; There were many people who held the impression that Le Wolfe was in itself spoiled and in ruin – The reality was somewhat different.
Certainly there were no school regulations of equality in Le Wolfe, and although it was known as the den of individualists from the outside, this was because there was only one absolute rule that had rooted widely and deep here.
──In other words; “Absolute obedience to the Strong”.
For Le Wolfe, power was everything, and victory was above all revered, but at the same time it played the role of a kind of brake. An overly defiant behavior might be frowned upon by a stronger power.
Another reason was, because of prejudice currently borne by outsiders, it's also said that ‘all the students of Le Wolfe were people similar to atrocious and fearful beasts.’
This also must be referred to as being a great misunderstanding. Such people filled the school population to about 80% to 90% at best. For at least around 10%, even in Le Wolfe, there were students who managed a legitimate student life.
──Kashimaru Corona, who belonged to those 10%, had always wanted to say so loudly. But she had never once done it; all she was doing was just thinking about it.
“What are you doing, Corona? Hurry up and come.”
“Ah, y-yeah! I’m sorry……!”
Reprimanded by the plump male student, who went ahead, she hurriedly caught up with his back on the run.
Dirk Eberwein. As the dominant force in Le Wolfe Black Institute, it was this young man who arrived at the seat of student council president as a non-Starpulse Generation for the first time.
Though there were many cases where the students of Le Wolfe were inevitably regarded as villains in the Festa, this Dirk was the most loathed and hated in all of Le Wolfe.
Never getting his hands dirty, and while moving people like pieces on a board, the man who was sneakily scheming ── Dirk’s reputation was probably something like that. Frankly speaking, it was the worst. Even though he was not in the rankings, and was willfully given the nickname “Unscrupulous King” by the students, it was understandable.
In fact, Corona herself did not think that Dirk was that much of a bad human being.
Of course, his way of speaking and his attitude were detestable, and let alone his face, which ill-humoredly laughed all the time, she had never seen him broadly smile; But anyway, for Corona, Dirk was an irreplaceable benefactor. If he were the kind of human that everyone said he was, would he have entered Le Wolfe by mistake, and (or) expressly appointed just a goofy girl like her with no merit as secretary?
If it were not for Dirk, a helpless student like Corona might have already fallen in the lowest level campus caste to only be exploited.
(Given what he has done (so far), I can’t really say that he’s a good person, but I don’t think that he’s such a bad person, either, as publicly said……)
Whether or not he was aware of what Corona was thinking, Dirk silently advanced through the gloomy corridor, which somewhat wore a damp feeling. The security level was high around here; it was a section, where entry was not allowed to average students.
(Eh? If I’m not mistaken, what’s ahead is──)
Corona’s face quickly turned pale.
“Um, President……? Perhaps where we are going now is……”
“Ah? It’s obviously the discipline room.”
“I-I was right!?”
Speaking of the discipline room it was, so to speak, a place like a prison in which students, who committed an act that reached the degree of flagrant, were put up for sanctions. As a result, since only the heinous violent student even within Le Wolfe were gathered there, to a petite bourgeois such as Corona, it was an out-of-the-way place, which she wanted if possible to always remain as out-of-the-way as it is.
However, Dirk passed the security checks one after another, and headed towards a secluded place even within the discipline room. Though things that looked like rooms delimited by thick walls were lined up on both sides of a narrow passage, just by putting up the number plate where were written down a series of digits (number), things that looked like doors were nowhere to be found. Though at the entrance, the security guard offered to accompany him, Dirk seemingly annoyed by it, flatly turned it down, for Corona, there was nothing as discouraging as this.
Angry voices and boos, which leaked from the rooms lining the passage, and sounds like one was rampaging around or beating walls were flying about.
Corona was timidly advancing while bending her body behind Dirk, who is shorter than herself. While Corona, a Starpulse Generation, who was frightened, Dirk, who was an ordinary person, was instead walking without paying heed to it.
Before long, Dirk stopped in front of one room.
As he held up his hand to the number plate, an optical display appeared; when he operated it, the wall facing the passage disappeared as if being transparent. When looking at the place where the number plate itself which was floating in the air without disappearing, it was not as if the wall itself disappeared, it was only the transparency mechanism which was operated.
“Yo, bitch. Are you alive?”
When Dirk called out so to towards the room, within the room about the size of a three-tatami, there was a sign of something moving. Though there was no light within the room and it was just faintly visible, it seemed that someone was sitting, leaning against the back wall.
“──Ah, it’s just you, huh. What business do you have as to expressly come all the way to here?”
Though said in a rude tone like Dirk, the voice was high. It was a female student.
When Corona looked closely, she was finally able to discern her appearance.
With an arm tied with handcuffs extending from the wall, she was daringly sitting cross-legged with her uniform figure. Even though it was summertime, a long muffler was rolled around her neck, whether thinking that, she was not wearing an undershirt under her worn-out uniform; it was a very mismatched appearance.
Corona, who was steadily staring at that unique appearance, was keenly glared at(by her) with eyes akin to those of a hung-up wolf, and unintentionally backed off before that intensity.
“Well, I have a request to ask you.”
That girl scornfully laughed at Dirk’s words.
“A request? You wanted to say ‘an order’, right? Since you say it seriously, I don’t have the right of veto.”
“If you listen to me, I will get you out from there even right now.”
“Before that, didn’t you prepare even one supply of provisions? I’m starving to death. If you want, even that young girl will do.”
Corona walked around so as to hide behind Dirk’s back.
“Will you do it, won’t you do it? Which is it?”
Dirk continued his point without paying attention to the girl’s joke.
“Yeah, yeah…… So, what do you want me to do?”
“It’s not a big deal. It’s just to crush a boy of Seidokan. So that he would be beyond recovery. I don’t mind even if it’s in a duel, but the Phoenix is just the right situation. Go for it. ──Corona, is the participation Registration done?”
“Eh? Ah, yeah!”
Though surprised to be suddenly talked to, Corona buzzingly nodded.
Speaking of which, as Dirk said, she had performed the substitute application of Phoenix participation registration, but was it for this? However, she did not think that he had not yet talked through it to the person in question.
“Enter the Phoenix?”
“There’s the possibility that a duel will be rejected, but that can’t happen during the Festa.”
Just as Dirk had spoken, up to that point, he suddenly looked into the room.
“If it‘s you, it’ll be a piece of cake to advance to the final stage, right? It’ll also be the same for him. Since that way, you’ll confront each other somewhere, crush him. You don't need to win.”
The last words were with a voice seeming to resound from the bottom of a deep hole.
A cold chill ran to Corona’s spine.
“……Oh, of course if you can do it, I don’t mind even if you win the championship.”
“Don’t say it as if it was easy, dude!”
Even while saying so, the girl happily shook her shoulders.
The chains jingled and jangled.
“──There are several things I want to ask.”
“First of all, if your target is just one boy, you should just use the , right? Why do you specially give such a job to me?”
“Because you’re the most suitable for the stage called Phoenix. Besides, both  need their hands free. On top of that, if I move those guys, they will take the bait.”
“Is it the only reason?”
“……The boy is ranked #1 in Seidokan. If I’m to use the , it’ll be bad for us. Firstly, I want to use legitimate means as much as possible.”
The girl, who heard it, cacklingly laughed.
“Ranked #1? Hey, are you serious? Do you want me to confront such a guy?”
“I would not give you this job, if it was impossible.”
The girl silently looked down for a while as she was lost in thought, but she raised her face before long and spoke.
“Secondly. The reason aiming at the boy?”
Whether or not Dirk was also surprised by the question, the clicking tongue sounded through the passage.
It was a habit of Dirk when he was irritated.
“I don’t have the obligation to tell you that, but……Well, it’s fine. Do you know the ?”
“Haa? What’s that?”
“It’s an Ogre Lux of Seidokan for scholarship. That boy is its user. He doesn’t seem to have already mastered it, but if we let things go by, since it will become a troublesome fellow in the future; we must crush him now, before it’s too late.”
“Hmmm…… Ogre Lux, eh? It must be very powerful, since you mentioned it.”
“──Anyone would think so after witnessing its strength.”
Dirk muttered as if spitting out.
Those words were not addressed to the girl. Dirk talked like that just to persuade himself.
“Well good, then the last question…… It’s more of a confirmation.”
When the girl said so, she looked straight at Dirk’s eyes.
“──I hope that no one will get in my way.”
“Of course. You probably know, right? I always honor contracts.”
Corona calmly took in the eyes, that seemed to shrink only from the aftermath, and Dirk nodded.
Though the two people silently glared at each other for a while, until he eventually diverted his line of sight from the girl.
“……Well, just because I wreaked havoc in a mere casino, how long do you plan to keep me locked here? If it’s a job, I’ll gladly accept it, Dirk Eberwein.”
“You should have said so quickly, Irene Urzaiz.”
As Dirk complained with a seemingly bored face, he operated an optical keyboard.
The chain came off with a jangled sound, and the girl ── Irene stood up and greatly stretched herself.
“*sigh*…… Good grief”
While letting her shoulders loose with a cracking sound, Irene muttered.
Her back was quite high and her flexible, well-proportioned body looked like that of a carnivorous animal.
“Well then, for the time being…… I’ll have a meal.”
Two big sharp fangs stuck out from the mouth of Irene, who said so while grinning.
Jump up↑ Either referring to “gathering clouds”, that is “trouble on the horizon” or Ama-no-Murakumo no Tsurugi, the Kusanagi Sword http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ama-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi
Jump up↑ Referring to those next highest in rank and thus making good progress towards becoming one of the Top Twelve.
Jump up↑ Thick Japanese wheat noodles.
Jump up↑ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moratorium_(law)
Jump up↑ It means here that if, for example, they were stronger last year in the Phoenix, this year, they could be stronger in the Gryps and the next year in the Lindvolus and so on. Their strength varied every year.
Jump up↑ The ‘cats’ names are 銀目 and 金目, no doubt you would call them the “Odd Eyes” as a “team name” in English: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odd-eyed_cat
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