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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk Vol 6 Chapter 4

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Chapter 4 – Julis and the Orphanage

The next day, Ayato and company were summoned to the royal palace by Jolbert.

“Gustave Malraux?”

“Yes. Well, I don’t really know, either. According to the police, it seems to be the name of yesterday’s criminal.”

They were in the same room as yesterday and Jolbert’s casual outfit was practically the same, too. The only difference was that Maria was not there. Apparently, one of Jolbert’s mistresses stayed in bed due to the shock of yesterday’s incident and Maria went to visit her. What a really wonderful relation.

Ayato and company were also asked a lot of questions by the police yesterday, but partly due to the fact that they were the King’s honor guests, it was a polite interaction and they were freed earlier than expected.

“They say that he’s an internationally wanted criminal. He seemed to have been in Asterisk in the past and errr, if I remember correctly… huh? Which academy did he attend again?”

Jolbert folded his arms and pondered as he forgot. It made one wonder whether he treated this seriously even though a criminal attacked his royal palace.

“It’s Allekant Academy, I think. He’s a celebrity in that field.”

Having spoken in his stead was Claudia.

“When you say celebrity, do you mean something like winning a ?”

“No. Gustave Malraux was in the ranking of up-and-coming students, but he has never participated in a . He is ── one of the members who brought about the .”

“!” “ I see, I remember now! So that man is the !”

Julis half rose to her feet with a startled face.

“When you say , you’re talking about the hostage incident which occurred in Asterisk in the past, right? It’s said that the Captain of the Star Hunter Guards settled it alone…”

“Yes, it’s the greatest terrorist incident in Asterisk’s history.”

Claudia nodded to Kirin’s words.

Though Ayato did not know the details, he had also heard that name before. It was the incident which was the origin of why the Redevelopment Area was born.

“…So that means that man with a mustache is a terrorist?”

“No, it’s slightly different. The was an event which brought about 77 criminals including students’ sympathizers too, but about a quarter seems to have money reasons. Gustave Malraux was among them.”

When Claudia took out her portable terminal and operated it, multiple space windows opened.

All of them seemed to be news regarding the terrorist incident.

“All these are incidents recognized for Gustave Malraux’s involvement. A terrorist is to the bitter end someone who only aims to achieve some political purpose, but he has no such thoughts. That can also be surmised from the fact that after the , he cooperated with various terrorist organizations with different principles and position.”

“In other words, he moved only for the basis of work, huh ── wait a minute. More importantly, what do you mean by after the ? If Captain Lindvall settled the incident, wasn’t he caught at that time…?”

However, Claudia ruefully shook her head to Ayato’s words.

“The masterminds in the as well as the main members were mostly caught, but about seven people succeeded in escaping. Gustave Malraux is one of them, and that’s precisely why he’s famous.”

“…I see.”

His name would indeed be famous after that.

“There are still many unclear parts about the though. The guard captain had reported everything about the details until the event resolution, but the background and processing after the incident were kept in the dark under the Integrated Enterprise Foundation’s supervision. It’s one of the taboo topics in Asterisk.”

The face of Julis who said so was clearly displeased.

“So… What kind of ability does that man have as a ?”

Answering to Kirin who timidly raised her hand was as expected Claudia.

“Gustave Malraux is a who was called an unparalleled genius in the conversion construction technique of mana from his school days. His ability is… as you saw last night, something like using magic beasts.”

“Even if you say magic beasts, that one was man-made, right?”

Ayato remembered last night’s chimera. Although it moved well, it was clearly not a living creature.

“Yes, of course. Up to this date, there is no ability user who succeeded in creating a life (living one), and it’s also said that it’s theoretically impossible. You could say that that was a living body model in which the skeleton, muscles and body tissues were all made without exception with conversion by mana.”

“Our ability is the power of image. If you spoil it, the power will be weakened; conversely if you establish a firm image within your mind, the mana’s movement will speed up and the power will be enhanced, too. Although there is no universal benchmark, in the case that you materialize not a phenomenon, but a substance, the ingenuity of the image is often effective. At first glance, it totally looked like that magic beast was alive. No matter how strong the ability is, it’ll first be impossible to materialize an image to that extent if you normally think about it.”

Julis who was the only ability user among the people present indifferently explained.

“But, Gustave Malraux made that possible. With his overflowing talent and by spending a great amount of time.”

“Time?”

“It isn’t his own words, but some people among the arrested terrorists have testified for that in order to create a new magic beast, he needed from several months to several years depending on what he wanted to create. By spending that much time, he would surely squeeze an image to the details.”

A few years is again, quite a patient story.

“Although, mana certainly converts all phenomenon or substances, but as a fundamental principle, it’s impossible to fix them. No, it isn’t that it’s impossible, but if one is to maintain such a huge magic beast’s body for a long period of time, he would have to keep converting an unimaginable amount of mana. Such a thing is impossible no matter how tremendous the prana one has.”

“Then, that was…?”

“If we’ve left it alone, it would’ve probably lapsed only a dozen of minutes.”

“In which case, it’s very convenient for terrorist attacks. After all, it isn’t necessary to retrieve it.”

“I see… There is also that viewpoint, huh.”

As Ayato said in admiration, Julis suddenly frowned.

“…Big Brother!”

“──Hmm? Ah, sorry, sorry. I slept late last night after all.”

When looking over, Jolbert was dozing off sitting on the sofa as such.

“Big Brother, you should feel a little tense. The royal palace was attacked, you know?”

“It wasn’t the royal palace who was attacked, but you guys, right?”

“Then, how about worrying a little about your cute little sister?”

“Hahaha, if I were to worry about you for something of that extent now, my body wouldn’t last.”

A sibling-like familiarity could be felt in that exchange between Julis and Jolbert.

At first, Ayato thought that they didn’t get along, but unexpectedly it did not seem to be the case.

“In the first place, to let a criminal through so easily, what are the guards here doing?”

“No, please don’t blame the guards for that. It looks like that Gustave man falsified his status with that of a Research Institute official of Galaxy, and the Galaxy’s ID which he used on that occasion seemed to be genuine. It can’t be helped. It’ll be impossible even for me.”

“An Integrated Enterprise Foundation’s ID?”

Claudia knitted her brows.

“Is something wrong?”

“Integrated Enterprise Foundation’s IDs are given only to people of the head offices or under the direct control of the organization. It is originally not something which should be available so easily...”

“He spoke as if he was requested by someone, so I wonder whether a big organization backs him… But, even if we assume that, why make such a request…?”

──There is someone who will be troubled if Ayato and the others join Claudia’s team.

Gustave certainly said so.

If he told Ayato and company not to participate in the , it could still be understandable. After all, they were respectively the tags which won the and were in the best four. Be it for a team aiming for the championship or for other academies, there would be no mistaking it that they were an eyesore.

But, telling them not to join Claudia’s team meant, in other words, it would be troublesome if Claudia’s team became strong; but any other team she could form would pose no issue.

(In that case…)

“Ah, that’s right. One more thing, I received a request from the police to assign guards for you guys, but what will you do?”

“It’s unnecessary for me, but if there is someone who needs it, they should do so.”

“…Actually, isn’t a guard necessary for the Princess first and foremost?”

When Ayato said so with a wry smile, Julis snorted as if bored.

“If they’ve spare energy to protect me, it’d be much more useful to invest it in the search for Gustave Malraux. We haven’t yet found even his traces, right?”

“Judging from the report I received in the morning, it looks like it. Well, our police haven’t that much of a staff after all”

Jolbert spoke like it was somebody else’s problem.

As a result of having talked at this place, it was settled that Ayato and company did not need guards.

“I Got it. I’ll tell that, in fact, you are stronger than our guards.”

Aside from a case of practical use of an organization or execution ability of a mission, when comparing only the simple individual combat ability, Asterisk’s students received a fairly high evaluation. This was because of the fact that characteristically, with many battle opportunities were more adapted to it.

Simply put, it meant that the , who were in a place where battles were actively performed like Asterisk, were stronger (Besides, there was also the fact that the use restriction of luxes, ogre luxes and abilities were loose, thus it was easier to accumulate experiences in actual fighting). Asterisk’s graduates were also no exception to this, and when they got used to a peaceful life after graduation ── even if one independently trained their body daily ── they could see that their combat ability dropped remarkably compared to their school days.

The world was still far from peace, and war and terrorism still existed, but even so they were controlled to some extent by the Integrated Enterprise Foundation and the occupation of always entering in the battlefield was extremely limited. Of course, average guards and police officers underwent training, but at least up-and-coming students probably exceed them in terms of combat ability.

But naturally, those with combat ability higher than Asterisk’s students were not few, either. The members of the Special Forces held by the Integrated Enterprise Foundation and those of the elite troops of major PMCS were incomparable with students in terms of combat experience, and there were also those who put themselves in the world of violence as a criminal like Gustave.

“If there was an army, there would have been more ways to do things; but we don’t have that.”

“Is there no army?”

When Ayato asked again slightly surprised, Jolbert plainly nodded.

“Yes. In case of an emergency, we are to borrow soldiers from the Integrated Enterprise Foundation. From Solneige and Frauenlob, that is. Besides, some military units should be stationed in the Research Institutes of the Integrated Enterprise Foundation, but they probably won’t move unless sparks reach them.”

At present, the military section owned by the Integrated Enterprise Foundation and the PMCS far exceeded the military force of the existing nations. But still, the country’s polity needed to maintain a certain level of military force.

“…It truly is a puppet nation.”

“You put it bluntly, eh.”

Jolbert rather looked at Saya in admiration.

“But, as expected I couldn’t afford to leave it as is without taking measures when the honor guests were attacked. I took proper measures so as to not get in your way.”

“Do as you like. Are we done talking?”

Julis said so and stood up, but Jolbert stretched out a hand to stop her.

“Wait a moment. I said yesterday that I want to talk with you and Amagiri-kun, right?”

At his words, Julis stole a glance at Ayato.

When Ayato nodded, in a way as to say that it could not be helped, she once again sat down on the sofa.

- ψ -

“So, what do you want to talk about so much that you went as far as to have Claudia and the others leave?”

“Yes. There are two things, but… Now then, I wonder by which I should talk about first.”

“…Either is fine, so let’s quickly get it over with.”

“I see. Then, I’ll begin the one easier to speak about. ──Amagiri-kun”

As Jolbert turned to face Ayato, he said with a smile.

“Won’t you consider marrying Julis?”

“……”

For a moment, unable to comprehend what he said, Ayato stiffened.

That also goes for Julis sitting next to him as she became completely rigid like a stone, but her face immediately turned bright red and she began shaking.

“W-W-W…What are you suddenly saying, Big Brother?! T-There is also a limit to a joke!”

“Yes, well, I’m not saying to do it right now. How about beginning with the engagement for now?”

While splendidly ignoring Julis’ angry voice, Jolbert deeply leaned forward.

Ayato finally came to his senses and though flustered, honestly answered.

“N-No, even if you tell me such a thing so suddenly, I don’t know what to say… I mean, you may have misunderstood it, but Julis and I really don’t have that kind of relation…”

“Guh…! T-That’s right, Big Brother! In the first place, why’d you bring up the subject to Ayato while ignoring me?!”

Though Julis snarled at him, Jolbert did not even try to look her way.

“Yes, I’ve heard about your relation in a report from Flora. I was a little surprised though. But, that’s fine. It isn’t really a problem now.”

“It’s a big problem!”

There, Jolbert finally turned his gaze to Julis.

“I’m saying that while thinking about you, Julis. It isn’t as if you don’t know what will happen at this rate, right?”

“…Humph, mind your own business.”

Jolbert’s eyes were serious. Perhaps overwhelmed by them, Julis’ tone slightly dropped.

“What do you mean?”

“It means that if left alone, Julis will become like me in the near future.”

Jolbert exaggeratedly shrugged his shoulders.

To Ayato who was unable to understand what he meant, Julis said with a sour look.

“In other words, it means that I’ll be given someone convenient by the Integrated Enterprise Foundation.”

“!”

That meant that Julis would be forced to marry someone.

When Ayato realized that from her words, he received a shock greater than he thought.

“It’s fine for me. No matter what kind of woman is to be my partner, I have the confidence that I will love her. But Julis, you’re different.”

“……”

Julis was silent, but it was clear that her silence meant that he was right.

“Then before it’s too late, you should at least choose a congenial partner. You were able to get along as tag partners, and it’s not like Julis dislikes Amagiri-kun, right?”

“That’s… Of course, I don’t dislike him, but…”

Julis who muttered something in a subdued voice suddenly raised her face.

“Big Brother! Don’t tell me the reason why you organized the triumphant return parade yesterday was…!”

“Yes. I thought to make a light introduction.”

That explained why the two of them were sat side by side.

“B-But, why so suddenly…? It’s not like we’ve never had that kind of talk so far. And I remember that I’ve rejected all of them!”

“The situation has changed, Julis. You’ve won the after all.”

“!”

One could see that Julis had suddenly gasped.

“So far, the Integrated Enterprise Foundation wasn’t serious, so I was able to somehow manage it; but your value increases at a stretch due to this win. They will be definitely thinking about holding you down somewhere.”

“T-That’s…”

“But if it’s now, I can still take the initiative. Nowadays, there is no annoying custom like social status, rather there is no better status than the ’s tag partner.”

“Guh…”

Julis averted her gaze in frustration.

“With that said, how about it, Amagiri-kun? This country may be nothing compared to Japan, but at least, you wouldn’t live here in discomfort. I don’t think it’s that bad a deal.”

Jolbert said so with a smile on his whole face.

“…That’s right.”

After a short pause, Ayato answered as to persuade himself.

“Certainly, there may not be inconvenience. But… there isn’t some kind of freedom there, either. Am I wrong?”

“There is nothing as complete freedom in this world. I think there’s no choice but accept some ties of obligation.”

“But, there should be room to choose how to accept which ties of obligation. Julis came to Asterisk to break that.”

To Ayato’s words, Julis raised her face as she was surprised.

“Choice, huh… isn’t it a luxurious desire? There are many people with no room for choice.”

“That may be so. But ── even so I can’t become the shackles which will bind Julis.”

Ayato decisively asserted.

Jolbert silently looked at the eyes of such an Ayato for a while, but he deeply exhaled before long as if giving in.

“Phew… You’re more serious than I imagined. I got it, I got it. I’ll leave this talk aside for now.”

Saying so, he raised both hands as to give up.

“Ah, but can I say one more thing?”

“Yes?”

“If Julis herself wishes for those shackles, will you accept it?”

“Wha…! B-Big Brother, what are you…!”

“T-That’s… I’ll think about it when that time comes…”

Seeing that Ayato’s and Julis’s faces simultaneously dyed red, Jolbert contentedly nodded

“Hmm, I see. There seems to be a possibility.”

“──I-If you only wanted to talk about this, then we’ll excuse ourselves! Let’s go, Ayato!”

When Julis vigorously stood up with her face still bright red, she squared her shoulders and headed to the door.

“Wait a moment, Julis. Haven’t I said there were two things I want to talk about?”

“…If it is another stupid talk, I won’t forgive you.”

Julis who stopped in front of the door looked back and glared at Jolbert.

“Oh, it’s not that long a talk.”

As Jolbert paused there for a moment, he revealed his usual frivolous smile.

“Julis, can you not participate in the ?”

At that moment, all expressions vanished from Julis’ face.

“──Are you seriously saying that, Big Brother?”

A cold, and low voice calmly resounded through the room. It was as if the room’s temperature dropped at a stretch.

“Of course, I’m serious.”

“Let me hear your reason.”

“Didn’t you see in the triumphant return parade? Julis, your current popularity is tremendous. If you’ve any more achievements, I might lose my position. That’d be slightly problematic, so I hope you won’t participate in the if possible.”

“…I refuse.”

As Julis said only that, she went out of the room violently closing the door.

One could feel how angry she was from her violent footsteps gradually fading away outside of the room.

“…Is it all right. She’s seriously angry, you know?”

“Looks like it. How long has it been, I wonder? That Julis has been this angry.”

Jolbert said so and cacklingly laughed.

“Haa… I’ll run after her.”

As expected, he could not leave Julis like that alone.

But, Jolbert hailed such an Ayato.

“I know where she’s headed, so don’t worry. I’ll tell you the place later, so can you keep me company a little more?”

“…What is it?”

“Well, I thought to ask you to also try and persuade Julis if possible, but… it seems to be impossible looking at your face.”

“…Yes.”

Even if it’s Ayato, he didn’t think that he could persuade Julis in that state and he did not even intend to do so in the first place. After all, he had decided to be Julis’ strength.

“Mmm, I give up…”Jolbert grumbled so while scratching his head, but contrary to his words, he did not seem to have really given up.

“Don’t tell me you were serious when you said it a while ago?”

“Didn’t I say so? I’m seriously serious; I desire it from the bottom of my heart. Try thinking about it a little; what do you think will happen if Julis were to win the next ?”

“Well… Her popularity will rise more than it is now.”

“Probably. Jeez, the citizens are really selfish. Even though when Julis was born, they were saying things such as a Princess being of is disgusting and frightening.”

Jolbert sarcastically twisted his lips.

“After all, I think it’ll be sad if that happens and I might be relieved from my post. It’s only because I’m obedient to the Integrated Enterprise Foundation and an apathetic dimwit in both politics and work that I can sit on this country’s throne”

As the saying, “it’s better if the Palanquin was lighter.”[1]

“For the Integrated Enterprise Foundation, it’s a piece of cake to replace the King at the head of this country. Now then, when that happens, the next person to sit there would be──”

“──!”

There, Ayato finally realized.

“…Julis is serious and gentle. So, she can’t become like me. She’ll probably try to change this country and try to help people in dire straits. But in this country which is completely under the Integrated Enterprise Foundation’s control, it’s impossible. And Julis is aware of that. Precisely because she knew that only too well, she went to Asterisk. Julis is only suffering.”

“……”

“I still have a higher utility value now. No, more exactly, Julis’ value is low. As you know, Julis is rebellious to the Integrated Enterprise Foundation. But when the time comes, it’d be easy for the Integrated Enterprise Foundation to force Julis to do what they tell her. By doing something like using this whole country as hostage for example. So, if Julis’ value were to become higher than mine…”

Saying up to there, Jolbert smiled sadly.

In short, it was the same as the talk of marriage a little while ago. The more Julis did her best, the more Julis’ position here ── for Julis at least──would turn for the worst.

“Now then, Amagiri-kun. I’ll ask again.”

Jolbert stared straight at Ayato.

“Could you somehow persuade Julis?”

“…I can’t”

Even so, Ayato’s reply did not change.

Of course.

After all, Julis chose that path despite understanding all that.

“Haa… I see. I understand.”

When Jolbert leaned his back on the sofa, he looked up at the sky with a wry smile.

“Well, it can’t be helped. In that case, I guess I’ll exert myself further on being a dimwit.”

He said so and slowly closed his eyes.

“Jolbert-san…”

“It’s fine. I may not look like it, but I’m enjoying my current position. It’s also my true intention of not wanting to hand it to Julis.”

Jolbert looked at Ayato as he opened only one eye.

“──Julis should be at the orphanage on the opposite bank of the lake. Since she was child, she would always go there whenever she was troubled. Sorry, but I’ll leave it to you.”

After Ayato deeply bowed towards Jolbert, he left the room at a quick pace to run after Julis.

- ψ -

Unlike until yesterday, the sky was covered by thick clouds.

Snow which danced down here and there grew hazy to the white of one’s breath and disappeared.

“It’s here, huh…”

It was about 30 minutes by car from the royal palace. On the hill in the outskirts of the slums, there was the church.

The church had an old structure built with brick and wooden framework; there was also a two-storied building standing there and connected to it. It was much bigger than the image he had when he heard the description from Julis, but as expected he could not deny that it was quite shabby overall. Although surrounded by a high fence, it fell apart here and there and there were also places hardly usable.

When he set foot on the site, high and frolic voices peculiar to children could be heard from behind the church. As he was going there while firmly stepping on the snow thinly piled up, children of still tender ages and Julis were playing as they bandied snow around.

“Ah! It’s Amagiri Ayato”

One among them noticed Ayato and raised his voice.

“It’s true!”

“Amazing!”

While the children raised their voices one after another, Julis wearing a black coat slowly turned her face.

“This was early than expected. Did you hear from Big Brother?”

“Yes, I did.”

Julis’ tone and expression were calm.

Rather, she clearly looked depressed.

“You too, Julis. When did you arrive here? Just to note, I came by car.”

After Julis left Jolbert’s room, not that much time should have actually passed until Ayato ran after her. He immediately asked Flora and had her send a car (since Flora herself was still in the middle of work, she could not tag along with him), and even thought that he could possibly catch up to her on the way, but…

“I’ve a secret route which I use since I was child. So you couldn’t catch up by car.”

“…I see.”

In fact, if a was serious, it was not impossible to arrive earlier than a car which could only take the roadway. If it was a path which they travelled on frequently, then all the more so.

“Ara, I was wondering why it was so bustling, so it was a visitor, Julis.”

An elderly Sister who slowly opened the window of the church peeked through there.

“Sister Therese ── Ah, I’ll introduce him. This is…”

“It’s fine; even I’ve watched the . ──Welcome, Amagiri Ayato-san”

The Sister called Therese said so with a gentle smile.

“Though I cannot provide you a very decent accommodation, if you are fine with it, how about tea?”

“Ah, yes. Please.”

“Great. Then, please come in.”

When he entered the church with Julis as he was suggested to, a passage connected immediately to the (two-storied) building could be seen.

Several other Sisters were busily working inside, and children somewhat older than those who were playing outside were helping them.

“Since the National Day is close, they are currently preparing for it.”

“Heeh…”

Julis stopped and nostalgically looked at that scene, but when she came to her senses startled, she began to walk again.

“Sorry, it’s just nostalgic, you see”

“Did you also help with it in the past?”

“Well… once. I don’t think I was that much of a help though.”

When Julis said so with a complicated expression.

“──Fufufu, that’s right. Certainly, the time when Julis had begun to show up here, she was a child who could really do nothing. No matter what she helped with, she was only holding back the others.”

Therese who was walking as she approached Ayato and Julis laughed teasingly.

“Sister Therese… Please don’t tease me so much.”

“I am sorry. But, to think that such a child won the .”

The atmosphere between Julis who smile wryly and Therese who gently smiled was like that of a true parent and child.

There, he finally noticed, but it seemed like Therese was a .

Therese guided Ayato and Julis to a room somewhat like a dining room inside the building.

An indentured wooden long table and chairs stood in a line, and they sat as suggested by Therese.

“Once again, welcome Amagiri Ayato-san. I am Therese. I am in charge of this church and the orphanage.”

When Therese sitting opposite to them said so, a still young Sister carried tea in the right timing. After that Sister politely greeted Ayato, she chuckled towards Julis sitting next to him.

“Welcome back, Julis. I watched the . You did it.”

“Fufufu, well it’s only natural.”

“Oh, look here whose talking big now. Even though you cried all the time before.”

That Sister was probably the same age as Ayato and Julis. She seemed to be a like Therese. While nudging Julis with her elbow, she was happily frolicking in a low voice. Julis also responded to it with a carefree smile; from that atmosphere one could understand that they had an affable relationship. Beside her, several other Sisters of the same age gathered around Julis.

(Being here like this, she looks like an ordinary girl one could find anywhere…)

Because Julis usually felt strained, he found such an aspect of her fresh and was strangely happy for some reason.

“…What a relief.”

“Eh?”

Ayato returned his gaze to Therese who suddenly muttered so.

“I’m glad that the one that Julis chose is a person like you.”

“No, I’m not…”

“It’s all right. I understand with how you were looking at Julis just now.”

As Therese pleasantly smiled, she turned towards Julis and the Sisters and clapped her hands.

“Yes, yes, leave it at that and return to your work. Otherwise, we won’t make it for the Epiphany[2].”

“Yeees.”

The Sisters reluctantly left.

After having seen them off, Therese turned to Ayato with a serious face.

“Now then ── regarding the incident with Flora, I am sorry to have caused you trouble.”

“Ah, no, it wasn’t actually me who saved Flora-chan…”

As Ayato was gratefully waving his hands, Julis lightly glared at him with an amazed face.

“You say that. But in that situation, we wouldn’t have been able to save Flora without everyone’s cooperation. Let’s leave it at I’m a relative and you’re a representative for the time being.”

“Yeah…”

Being spoken up to there, he could only concede.

“Besides, the main problem was that I let that child go alone after all. Even though I should have had a Sister went with her whether she liked it or not.”

Therese said so and feebly shook her head.

“Speaking of which, some Sisters here seems to be of .”

“Yes, including me, there are four. There is a little more if we include the children though.”

If they were not being gathered expressly, having four of the same age then in an institution of this scale was quite many. Moreover, from what Ayato saw a short while ago, he could understand that they piled up training to some degree judging from the way they walked.

“By the way, Sister Therese is a master for me.”

“Eh? Is that so?”

“I taught her with the thought that she should become able to defend herself, but she was unexpectedly a quick learner. She can handle her power better than me now.”

Certainly for someone who learned by herself, Julis’ tactics were quite refined.

Especially the timing to set setting type abilities and the ways to lure her opponent to it were probably based on some sort of theory.

“Excuse me if it may appear impolite, but was Sister Therese also in Asterisk before?”

“Fufufu, no way. I only learned a little from a acquaintance long ago, too.”

Therese said so and sweetly laughed.

“I’m teaching the art of self-defense not only to , but also to the children. Of course, not to all of them since there are also children who aren’t very good at or hate such a thing…”

Then, Ayato noticed that the eyes of Therese who nostalgically talked were looking behind him.

When he turned his head, there wasn’t anything in particular in the room. However, he noticed that a neatly glazed building on the other side of the window could be seen.

“Is that… a greenhouse?”

“Yes. It was the favorite place of a child who was here before. She didn’t like fighting… She really was a gentle child.”

“……”

──Suddenly, Julis loudly stood up from the chair.

“Julis?”

“…Sorry. I’ll go get some fresh air outside.”

Julis said so and left the room.

“Phew…”

Therese looking at her with a sad face heaved a heavy sigh and muttered.

“As expected, it’s still no good, huh…”

- ψ -

When Ayato went outside, Julis was surrounded by the children.

“Everyone, my bad, but I’m going out for a little. Please tell that to the Sisters, too.”

Julis said so in a gentle voice as she squatted and looked at the children

“Eeh! Princess, are you going already?”

“You just came a short while ago.”

The children unanimously raised complaints, but Julis stroked their heads one by one while smiling wryly.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be right back. Until then, please go help the Sisters again. They seem to be having some trouble with the preparations of the festival.”

The children still revealed really dissatisfied faces, but even so they went back running towards the building as they accepted.

“Was that alright?”

“Yes. Let’s walk a little.”

Julis put on her hood and began to walk looking down.

As they went out of the site of the church, a desolate townscape spread out. It had an atmosphere close to that of the Redevelopment Area in Asterisk, but the scene was quite different.

The houses standing in a row were either so old that it seemed that they would collapse at any time, or were only shabby like shacks. There were apartment-like buildings, but their walls were full of countless cracks and graffiti. Trash was left on the road and several silhouettes of people who seemed to be residents gathered around a bonfire in a somewhat vacant land. When fleetingly looking at their figures, they were only staring aimlessly at the blazing flame with listless, dull eyes.

It was such a suffocating scene, as if the whole town was squashed by an invisible power.

“…Sorry. The atmosphere is somewhat unstable today.”

Julis opened her mouth before long.

“There are also such times.”

He didn’t know which part of the conversation with Therese made Julis reacted, but it was probably something important for Julis.

“If I’m not even able to control my own feelings, I can’t make irresponsible remarks to my brother.”

“…Jolbert-san worried about you.”

“…I know.”

Julis bit her lips as she said that.

“I know that my brother values me more than anything and how blessed I am thanks to that.”

It was a tone as if telling it to herself more than telling it to Ayato.

“Even so… No precisely for this reason, I can’t agree with this country’s state.”

“I think you’re doing your best. Even that orphanage, you no longer need to worry about them, right?”

As her wish from winning the , Julis purchased this orphanage in Lieseltania and secured future funds. Even if it was self-satisfaction of only extending a helping hand to a relative, it did not change the fact that she could be proud of it.

“But, that’s just pouring water on a hot stone. In the end, the very system of this world keeps bringing forth these slums-like places, orphanages and children who had no way but to rely on them (orphanages).”

A world controlled by the Integrated Enterprise Foundation would continuously give birth to people with economical disadvantages. It essence was disparity. Of course, that in itself was humanity’s endless karma since ancient times, but the Integrated Enterprise Foundation accelerated it to a frightening degree.

“──I want to release at least even only this country from that curse. If it’s impossible, then I want to deal a serious blow at least.”

“And that’ll be… the wish of the next ?”

When Ayato asked, Julis gave a small nod.

Certainly from the start, Julis openly declared aiming for the Grand Slam. In other words, she understood that only having won the once was not enough at all.

“That orphanage’s situation was quite critical economically. Therefore, I prioritized it first above all and saved it. That was my first goal and it was achieved.”

Julis suddenly stopped as she spoke up to there.

“But… Certainly all of this is my selfishness fawning on my brother’s kindness. I…”

Strong affliction blurred in Julis’ voice. This is the first time he’d seen Julis like this.

“Julis…”

As Ayato hesitated about what he should say to her.

“──!”

Julis suddenly raised her face.

Her expression filled with affliction was instantly repainted by surprise.

Her eyes were wide-open and her body was trembling.

“Just now, don’t tell me…”

“Julis?”

Julis’ eyes seemed to be looking at the car which passed them as it went through the slums a short while ago. That car seemed to be driving at a considerable speed and could no longer be seen.

“…No, there is no doubt. It’s certainly…!”

One could see that emotions like anger were flared up in her eyes and that she gritted her teeth.

“Julis? What is it…?”

“──Ayato. I’m sorry, but please return to the orphanage and wait for me there. A little business came up.”

Immediately after Julis said that, she suddenly started running.

And almost at full strength at that.

“Hey, Julis! What is it suddenly?!”

Even if he was asked to return, he couldn’t leave Julis in this state alone.

Ayato also started running chasing Julis.

Since this neighborhood was the town’s outskirts, the scenery around immediately changed to that of snow and forest. Julis seemed to be running after the car from a short while ago.

The narrow road which bent many times seemed to be heading to the mountains. As he saw that there were no other cars around, he guessed that it was probably not the main road.

“Julis!”

As expected, Ayato was superior to Julis in leg strength.

When Ayato overtook Julis, he stood before her as to block her way.

“Move aside, Ayato! I’m in a hurry!”

“I understand that just by looking. But, I can’t let you go in your current state. Though I don’t know what kind of reason it is, you should first calm down.”

“That’s…!”

Julis bent herself forward as she snarled at him, but then lowered her eyes.

“I know it myself…! ButI beg you, Ayato…! Let me go!”

She might have calmed down just a little, but still Julis’ eyes blurred a strong feeling of anxiety. It must be something quite serious.

It was not possible for Ayato to reject such a strong entreaty.

“Haa… I got it. But, I’ll tag along with you.”

“Yes, I don’t mind.”

Julis nodded and started running immediately.

As if knowing where the car was headed, she chose a way which ramified inside the forest on the way without hesitation.

As they advanced in the forest covered with snow, they saw the car in question stopped a little ahead before long. Julis slowed down her speed, and Ayato followed that, too.

Then, Ayato noticed. The state of this neighborhood was strange. The state of the trees was different until a while ago.

When looking carefully, all the trees around this area seemed to have withered.

Even those withered trees were dying as they advanced and a huge gaping wide space opened ahead from the place where the car stopped. Perhaps if seen from above, it would seem like a circular plain had suddenly appeared in the middle of the forest.

Julis did not show a slight interest in the car and slowly advanced while only staring at one point in front of them. Ahead of it was a pure white snowy plain and footprints left there.

As they advanced so as to follow those footprints, Ayato noticed that the sensation of the ground was strange.

When he squatted down and looked at the snow, a pungent smell assailed his nose.

(Has the soil rotted…?)

The snow which fluttered down seemed to gradually increase in strength.

At this rate, it might turn into a snowstorm.

When he strained his eyes before long, a building which seemed to be an abandoned one could be seen in the center of the plain.

Although almost of the building was crumbled down and could hardly keep its original form, it seemed to be quite a large-scale facility.

In front of it was standing one silhouette.

Julis stopped just before it and called out towards the silhouette.

“──It’s been a while, Orphelia.”

References Jump up↑ a mocking proverb, which reveal the laziness of the carrier( in Japanese olden days now we thinks that being lighter is smarter), here to more precise http://detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp...il/q1387035023 Jump up↑ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epiphany_(holiday)

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