Chapter 1 – Each Beginning
In a room where the moonlight of the late fall illuminated, Claudia deeply sank her body in a sofa.
Her long, rich blond hair had softly become wet and her body which was covered only with a bathrobe had become slightly flushed. A space window for voice communication floated at her side and transmitted a perplexed voice.
“──I’m sorry, but no matter how much you insist, I can’t yield there.”
After Claudia spoke in a calm voice, the person in the other side of the space window repeated the same thing with an irritated tone.
“Yes… Of course, I’m aware of all this. I thank you for the advice.”
Claudia revealed a light smile and casually closed the space window.
And she slowly spat out a breath; lengthily, deeply as if trying to spit out all the dregs which she had in the bottom of her stomach.
Of course, there was no way that what had filled Claudia on the inside would disappear with such a thing.
There was one and only way to deal with it.
“I have finally come this far. What is left is…”
After Claudia spoke and stood up, she headed to the window.
While being flooded with the moonlight which poured down over the thin lace, she hugged her body with both hands.
“Fufufu, like this, there is no turning back.”
She laughed in self-derision and whispered as if to persuade herself.
Claudia’s wish which she held since that day.
The sole hope given to her within her nightmare which continued every night.
There would probably not be a single person who would understand it. Even if it was laughed at for being foolish or discarded at being worthless when she revealed it, she was sure that there was no one who would seriously scramble for it.
After all, even Claudia herself thought so.
But precisely because she had clung to that helpless, foolish and worthless wish, Claudia could exist here like this now.
Whether it was her position of Seidoukan Academy Student Council President, her fame of being ranked #2, her objective of winning the , or in the first place, the fact that she had come to this Asterisk, all of these were merely preparations in order to arrive at her wish.
Even so, it would probably be difficult for Claudia to fulfill her wish. In terms of likelihood, it was fine even if there was one chance in ten thousand.
However, it was not zero.
“──Now, I will have you follow this dance, Ayato. After all, the main stage for me starts here.”
As she said as if savoring it, Claudia quietly closed her eyes.
- ψ -
“By the way, do you guys already have plans for winter break?”
In the school cafeteria, Julis asked that when everyone had finished their lunch.
Since the same members gathered at these seats every day recently, it almost became like reserved seats; but it was not really like they had made the arrangement beforehand.
The school cafeteria where congestion had finally settled was wrapped up in a leisurely atmosphere and perhaps because there was a fine weather, the figures of students who had fallen asleep could be seen.
“It’s still a matter for the future, so I have no plans in particular…”
Saya and Kirin, sitting side by side in front of Julis, tilted their heads to the side in thought.
It was October now.
They had finished the final exams last month and the short autumn break at the beginning of this month; the period following that had just begun. All the six academies of Asterisk had a semester system ── in other words, dividing one year into the first term and the final term, and acquiring credits in both ── and an entrance ceremony was also held in the final term. Therefore, recently in this academy, new student-like individuals could also be seen here and there.
“If possible, I want to relax this time…”
Saya said that and wearily put her face down on the desk.
“Haha, Saya had supplementary lessons all the time during the autumn break after all.”
Though Saya puffed her cheeks at Ayato’s words, she did not mean to argue.
“Well, on that point, there are no supplementary lessons in winter break, so relax.”
“Are you saying that to yourself, Yabuki?”
At Julis’s words, Eishiro sitting next to Ayato unnaturally averted his eyes.
There was only a considerable difference between Saya’s strong subjects and weak subjects, but for Eishiro, almost all the subjects had a failing mark or one close to it. He seemed to dislike study very much.
Among the members in this place, Julis was the highest ranking, and though not to the extent of Julis, Kirin also left some good results. Ayato was slightly above average.
Although there were not too many things which attention was paid to, the “academic ability” of each academy also influenced the overall results of the . All the test results of the season became targets and highly regarded above all else were the results of the ’s participants. In other words, by restricting the act of attempting to raise the overall results by only letting students with excellent academic ability enroll, it was a measure to make them learn both the literary and military arts.
However, as a matter of fact, the points obtained by academic ability were not so numerous. Each academy was respectively ranked from the first to the sixth place and points were given with it, but even if the regulations placed utmost emphasis towards academic ability in the past, the points that the #1 ranked academy was able to obtain would not reach that of the people who advanced to the best four of the .
And above all else, that was the biggest reason why the rank that had mostly remained unchanged in recent years did not attract attention.
The higher positions of first and second places which were St. Garrardsworth Academy and Allekant Academy, the medium positions of third and fourth places which were Seidoukan Academy and World Dragon Seventh Institute, and the lower positions of the fifth and sixth place which were Queen Veil Girl’s Academy and Le Wolfe Black Institute respectively assumed their fixed positions. At least for these past ten years there were no academies which jumped up or down in this ranking.
Even so, there was little difference in academic ability in each position; and for the sake of changing, even if only a little, the amount of points obtained between the third and fourth places, each academy could not also afford to ease up too much in educational guidance.
“So, is there something happening in the winter break?”
When Ayato got back on topic they had strayed from, Julis replied with a complicated expression while looking at the faces of all the members present.
“Actually… due to the matter of Flora the other day, my big brother began to say that he wants to invite you to the country by all means.”
“By country… you mean in Lieseltania?”
“Well, yes. He wants you to come together with me when I’ll return home.”
As Julis nodded, she looked around at each other’s faces.
“It’s ── a very great honor, but…”
“If it’s Julis’s big brother, then this means that it’s an invitation from the King of Lieseltania, right?”
It was no wonder that Kirin did not commit herself. Being suddenly invited by his Majesty the King was not something which happened so often in one’s life.
“No, you don’t need to be so nervous. I’ve also told him not to do something formal. It’s just so to give you his words of thanks”
“…For only that, you also make quite a difficult expression, Julis. Aren’t you actually eager about it?”
“Ugh…! N-No, it’s not really that…”
Julis faltered for a moment at Saya’s point, but she slightly shook her head and before long took a breath.
“My big brother… um, how to put it, he isn’t a bad person, but… he’s a little eccentric. I’m a little worried about whether or not he is plotting something bad again.”
Now that she mentioned it, whether it be about Flora’s maid outfits or about the question that he entrusted her with, it looked like Julis’s big brother was certainly quite a peculiar one.
“But, for having saved Flora, not only my brother, but the sisters of the orphanage have said that they want to directly thank you. For that reason, I’m also not reluctant to invite you guys to our country, but…”
When Julis spoke, she smiled wryly and shrugged her shoulders.
“Well, you guys also have your own circumstances, so I won’t force you.”
Having been told that, Ayato pondered.
In reality, he thought about returning to his home at least for the New Year’s Eve, but to be frank, the relation between Ayato and his father was not that good. This was because after his big sister disappeared, although it was not to the extent to be called serious, they often argued. Since it was his big sister who skillfully mediated his relationship with his father who was a taciturn person and Ayato did not know what he was thinking about, there was probably no helping it in a sense.
Just as a note, he got in touch with him when he won the , but even that time, there was only a curt reply. Of course, he was thankful to his father and looked up to him as a master, but it was his real feelings to want to take some distance for now.
“Then since it’s a rare opportunity, I will accept the invitation.”
When Ayato raised his hand, Julis nodded somewhat happy.
“I see. I’m sure that Flora will be happy.”
Then, Kirin nervously raised her hand, too.
“Um, if it doesn’t bother you, can I also come?”
“Of course. But, Kirin… um, is it all right with you? Not going to see your father?”
Kirin’s father, in order to protect Kirin when she was young, had killed robbers, and was in penal servitude even now. Although various procedures were usually needed to go out of Asterisk, it was simplified during vacation and became nearly unnecessary. Kirin probably had only opportunities like this to go meet him.
“That’s… Actually, I went for a visit during autumn break, but he had scolded me saying that rather than being concerned about him, I should try harder in training.”
Although Kirin said that, she had a relieved expression.
“I also showed up to my home, but thanks to the help of the best disciples regarding the branch dojos of every place, there doesn’t seem to be any problem. The people of Galaxy are also supporting in the management aspect and my great-aunt who returned to the head family from the branch family also put things in order well.”
As expected, when it comes to a structure of the scale of the Toudou Style, there seemed to be difficulties in various ways.
Perhaps because Kirin also had things to think about herself, she declined the official rank battle for the reason “I will retrain once again”. Because she had passed the grace period given to the former top ranking people, the current Kirin was out of the list (non-ranked).
“Therefore, I’m all right.”
“I got it. So, what will you do, Saya?”
“…As expected, it’ll be bad if I don’t show up at home.”
Saya frowned in vexation.
“I’m reluctant to be the only one left out… But, the adjustment of the repaired lux will be done the fastest only if I personally go for it, but...”
In the ’s semifinal ── in the fight against Ardi and Rimsi, most of the luxes Saya possessed had broken to the extent that they were unusable. Saya seemed to have sent them back immediately to her father, but it looked like the repairs were finally finished.
“In that case, how about we first stop by at Sasamiya-san’s house?”
Suddenly being embraced as if being covered from behind, Ayato unintentionally raised his voice.
Of course, since there was only one person who could do something like this, Ayato called the name earlier than confirming who it was.
“You do this each and every time; don’t surprise me like this, Claudia…”
“Fufufu… I’m sorry, it was just by reflex.”
Just as he thought, the person ── Claudia slowly separated her body while putting her hand on her mouth.
Still, although his guard was down, she had perfectly taken his back this time, as well.
He knew that Claudia was a formidable lux user, but still the way she erased her presence was not ordinary.
“That’s quite sudden as usual, you… So, what do you mean by stopping at Saya’s home?”
As Julis asked so with a half amazed expression, Claudia raised her index finger with a smile as is.
“There are no airports in Lieseltania, so you’ll enter via Germany or Austria, right? Since Sasamiya-san’s family resides in Munich, I think that there won’t be any problem stopping by there.”
“…You’re well informed, eh.”
“Well, I’m the Student Council President after all.”
Though Saya said as she was slightly surprised, Claudia plainly answered.
“I see, it’s certainly possible like that, but… what will you do, Saya?”
After pondering for a while, Saya readily nodded.
“If that’s fine with everyone, then I have no objection.”
“Fufufu, then it’s decided. By the way──”
Claudia who clapped her hands turned her gaze to Julis.
“Am I also included in that invitation?”
“Since when were you listening to our conversation…? Well, whatever. Of course, I intend to tell you, too.”
“Oh, what a relief. I also don’t like being left out after all.”
“Which means that you also intend to come?”
With a surprised face, Julis looked back at Claudia.
“Naturally, it’s my intention.”
“No, as you have probably come several times to Lieseltania as well as the palace.”
“That’s true, but there is the meaning to be with everyone.”
Certainly, they had heard that Claudia was an acquaintance of Julis from before she (Julis) had come over to Asterisk. Judging from the fact that she was familiar with Flora, it was probably not just once or twice that she visited Lieseltania.
“Besides, since it’s a rare opportunity, I would also like to talk to everyone ── about next year, that is.”
At Claudia’s words, the air became tense just for an instant.
Now that the and tests were over, the Asterisk’s topic of focus had already moved to the next .
In other words, it was the team battle ── which would be held in the next autumn.
First of all, since the members of the composition of the five members for the team battle was important above all else, the sounding out of those in the vicinity as early as possible, regardless of inside or outside of the academy, started.
Among them, since Julis who was the ’s victor declared aiming for a Grand Slam, her participation to the next was almost confirmed, too. The attraction was gathered about what kind of members she would gather ── of course, also including the trend of her tag partner Ayato ── but there were rumors about whether she would plausibly enter the team of Claudia, the Student Council President. Furthermore, it was a well-known fact that Kirin and Saya were on familiar terms with Claudia, and their abilities were proved in the . It was the majority’s expectation that Claudia might gather these four people.
In fact, Ayato already received her invitation ── but, just having asked indirectly, it looked like the invitation had not yet reached Julis and the others. Be that as it may, when Claudia invited Ayato, she said that she would invite Julis at least. Setting aside whether or not Julis would accept it, there was no mistaking that she was included in the plan for Claudia’s team.
“Oops, I’m quite interested in that conversation, Pres. I by all means want to inquire about it in detail.”
Getting into that topic at once was Eishiro.
As a member of the newspaper club, it would be information that he could not overlook.
“Fufufu, by the way Yabuki-kun, what will you do?”