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The Sirius Dome’s waiting room in which he hasn’t been in after a long time.
“Hohou…… I see. That again is a quite delicious-looking box lunch, huh.”
“……When I was wondering why you were strangely late in coming back, geez.”
The scornful eyes of Julis, who folded her arms, and Saya hurt his back.
Because he returned with a box lunch for some reason on top of being very late in coming back, he was prepared to receive at least one complaint, but…… after knowing that the box lunch was something that he’s received from Sylvia, both girls’ eyes became colder.
“Even though we will have a match soon, doing something that will affect teamwork is a problem, Ayato.”
“Even if you tell me that……”
Even Claudia mildly admonished him.
However, that box lunch of Sylvia was actually so delicious as to make one’s cheeks fall off.
Open sandwiches garnished with various spreads/ingredients such as smallish meatballs with herbs, potato salad, vegetables and smoke salmon on top. While simple, it was a lunch in which the time and labor set in all over shone.
The fact that she was confident in her cooking seemed to be true.
If one might speak of luxury, if he could eat it in a slightly more comfortable space, he would have been able to enjoy the taste more.
“U-Um, everyone, why don’t we watch the TV? The teams’ presentation seems to have just begun……”
As Kirin bravely tried to change such an atmosphere, she opened the space window that the waiting room was equipped with.
『……With that said, I’m Yanase Miko, the ABC announcer assigned for the live coverage of this main stage this year, too! And for the commentary, Hiiragi Shizuna-san, an OG of Le Wolfe Black Institute and also the one currently acting as the first-class guard chief in the Star Hunter Guard, has been invited!』
Projected there was the female announcer whose face they were completely familiar with since last year’s .
『Thank you, I’ll be in your care.』
On the other hand, the commentator seemed to be a different person from the ; the said person, a woman with cut and evened up black hair and sleepy eyes, bowed her head.
Claudia, who saw her, held her lips as she was slightly surprised.
“Oh my, this person…… if I’m not mistaken, she was one of Yatsuzaki-sensei’s teammates.”
That meant that this person was probably also a winner of the .
“A commentator is chosen among the people who’ve left excellent results in the past . It isn’t that strange.”
“……Then among them, might Sensei be invited, too?”
“It’s obviously different for people in active service and belonging to any of the six academies, right?”
To Saya’s innocent question, Julis answered as she was amazed.
It would certainly be as such when taking fairness/impartiality into consideration.
“But, this time, we were really indebted to Yatsuzaki-sensei. To repay that favor, we have to do our best.”
“──It goes without saying. It will be fine as long as we leave the same results as Ms. Yatsuzaki, right?”
Julis fearlessly twisted her lips at Claudia’s words.
They had Kyouko strictly coach them for team battles in these several months. Although, on top of the stock of Kyouko’s ability, it was not like she always held mock battles every time. Even so, when the summer ended, they were able to carry out team battles to the point where they suffered almost no defeats against Kyouko and her puppet team; so they produced plenty enough of results.
『……Well then, Hiiragi-san. Though abrupt, I’ll rely on you for the prominent teams’ presentation and commentary of the current tournament.』
『First of all, the first favorites on the list are as expected the Silver Wings of Garrardsworth ── especially their first team, Team Lancelot. With the ’s wielder, the Ernest Fairclough-kun as its head, four among the five team members are members who played an active role in the last . The only new member, Perceval Gardner-san also known as the , is also the wielder of the ogre lux . There is also data revealing that in Garrardsworth’s history, the team, which gathered both the and the has never missed a championship.』
『 is the nickname of , and is the nickname of the . It’s also the same for Player Laetitia Blanchard’s nickname, which is , but there are many students of Garrardsworth who seem to be applied an alias.』
『It is probably their tradition. Now then, the two aforementioned ogre luxes are ones which are extremely difficult to defend against. In addition to this, since the other three team members, that is Player Blanchard, also known as , the and the , are quite excellent as supports, it won’t be an exaggeration to call it a rock-solid lineup.』
『In fact, no matter which odds you see, this Team Lancelot seems to be the overwhelmingly most popular.』
As expected, there seemed to be no mistaking it that Team Lancelot led by Ernest was the favorite among favorites.
『Well then, what about Team Tristan of the same Garrardsworth?』
『Unlike Team Lancelot, this team is peculiar in the fact that it is composed of new members.』
『Although it was the runner-up team of the previous tournament, most of the members who acted as the core have graduated after all. Isn’t that area a cause for concern?』
『Even so, Elliot Forster-kun, also known as , who became Garrardsworth’s rank #6 newly this year, is now considered to be an owner of sword skills next to Ernest Fairclough-kun; and the ability of the rank #7 Noel Mesmer-san, also known as , is very strong, too. It’s a team with enough chances to aim for the championship, too.』
『I see, I see. As expected of Garrardsworth which boasts of the most victories in the . ──Then, then, what about their antagonists?』
『The one whose name should be raised as their number one antagonist is Team Enfield of Seidoukan, I guess.』
“Wow! Our team’s name is……!”
“Well, that’s a given, isn’t it? Even looking objectively, there’s no mistaking it that we are one of the favorites after all.”
In contrast to the surprised Kirin, Claudia smiled with a face as to say that it was a matter of fact.
Certainly even looking at only ranks, with the new and old ranks #1, the rank #2 and the rank #5 gathered in the same team, there was no doubt that they would attract the public’s eye whether they wanted it or not. Moreover, there were also two ogre luxes namely and .
『After all, there are members of the ’s winner tag and a tag of the best four; with that alone, anyone can understand how powerful a team it is. The remaining member, Claudia Enfield-san, also known as the , is the wielder of the ogre lux , which has the ability of future foresight, and is rank #2. It’s one of the few teams which can stand up to Garrardsworth’s two teams with a well-coordinated strength.』
『Also, although I don’t know his name, the best disciple of the World Dragon’s Team Yellow Dragon, whose participation in the has finally been allowed by that , has his name entered in the . One can easily anticipate that he’s a very powerful person.』
『You’re speaking of World Dragon’s rank #2, contender Woo Xiao Fay, right? Like Fan XingLu-san, he’s a contender who has almost never come out in public until now; but his activity in this tournament is greatly anticipated.』
『The other members are also the last ’s winner tag, Zhao HuFeng-kun and Cecily Wong-san, and the very strong team of the Li siblings who participated actively in this year’s . In the first place, considering that “Yellow Dragon” is a team name which can’t be used unless deems the team worthy of being World Dragon’s representative, no one will say otherwise even if I nominate them as one of the favorites, right?』
Team Yellow Dragon members’ faces were projected on the terminal screen. Among them, there were three faces that Ayato and company knew, and they have also already seen the wavy long-haired woman’s face in match videos; but only the man with a clear-cut and fearless face were they not familiar with.
“This person is the , huh……”
“Yes. There is almost no useful data about him. Were we to clash against them, I just hope that he will reveal the scope of his strength to some extent before that.”
He was that XingLu’s best disciple, so he was probably a very strong person as the commentator said.
“Cecily Wong and Zhao HuFeng can’t be taken lightly, too. To be frank, if those two had formed a tag and participated in this , I don’t know whether we’d have been able to win the .”
Julis suddenly tightened the grip of her hands joined together while keeping her gaze at the space window with a serious expression.
HuFeng’s strength that Ayato witnessed in the school festival was the real deal; it might be said that on the Taijutsu side in particular, he overwhelmed Ayato.
On the other hand, Cecily was also a master of Star Senjutsu and Julis, who was a , seemed to be quite concerned about her. As far as she watched from several of Cecil’s match videos, Cecily seemed to excel at Star Senjutsu of the lightning system; but her Taijutsu too could not be taken lightly.
“Those nasty twins too will surely be the same as when we fought them in the . And above all, their abilities are extremely effective in group battles.”
The Star Senjutsu, which Li ShenYun excelled at, could show that which does not exist as if it was there; and the Star Senjutsu, which Li ShenHua excelled at, could display something existing as if it was not there. Certainly, bewitching abilities of that kind should work more effectively in team battles than in tag battles.
Saya and Kirin agreed to it, too.
『In the meaning of dark horse, we can’t overlook Team Rusalka of Queen Veil. Whether or not the strength, with which they won through until the best eight the last time despite being their first participation, was the real deal, it’s something I want to by all means ascertain.』
『All the members of Rusalka are busy with their activity as a rock band, and it doesn’t seem like they have been recorded fighting since the last . I, too, as an OG of the same academy, really look forward to seeing how much they have grown up!』
“……As for me, I hope that they have not grown up that much.”
To the words of the high-spirited Miko, Claudia put a hand on her cheek with a troubled face.
“You’ve been strangely concerned about these girls since before. Honestly, it doesn’t look to me like a team which you should be so much cautious of though…… at least I don’t think of them as a threat on the same level as those mentioned so far.”
Ayato and company have also checked the favorite teams’ match videos as much as possible. Since they were in the last ’s best 8, there was no doubt that Rusalka was also a strong enemy. But even taking their growth into account, as Julis said, Ayato too somehow doubted whether they could be put on the same level as Garrardsworth and World Dragon.
“At least regarding individual fighting strength, the one we must absolutely pay attention to is definitely the rank #3 Miluše.”
Even if their matches data as a team were only the ones of the last , this year’s data of the Official Ranking Battles appeared on the market. There, Rusalka’s members were defeated by Sylvia in a quite one-sidedly development. As long as this was not faked, one could guess their current specs to some extent.
“Does it mean that, even if their individual strength isn’t that high, their combination as a team is quite outstanding?”
Kirin nervously raised her hand, but Claudia slowly shook her head.
“Well, there is that, too; but rather than those girls themselves, my concern is──”
“Their ogre luxes.”
As if continuing Claudia’s words, Saya muttered.
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Hmm…… was it called ?”
Team Rusalka was famous in using musical instrument type weapons. It seemed that the ogre lux with the name of was originally one Ulm mana dite divided into five. Therefore, it was an extremely inconvenient ogre lux that could not even activate unless five users with high compatibility ratings appeared. In other words, Rusalka used one ogre lux with five people.
Ayato opened his own space window and checked Rusalka’s data.
Miluše used the guitar-type ogre lux , Päivi used the floating drum-type ogre lux , Monica used the bass-type ogre lux , Tuulia used the guitar-type ogre lux , and Mahulena used the space projection keyboard-type ogre lux . All of them were strangely complex names.
“Judging from the video recordings, they are ogre luxes which manipulates sound, but……”
As they attacked with the vibration of sound waves and created sound barriers in the last , they displayed abilities which matched with their (outward) appearances. Although, prior to Rusalka, it seemed that wielders of these ogre luxes have never been gathered, there was little information about them accordingly, too.
Then, Claudia was pondering with a serious expression.
“……No, I’m sorry. Well, there is no point in sparing too much time on a team that we are not yet sure that we will clash against. Let’s switch over.”
It wasn’t like he wasn’t concerned about an ogre lux that Claudia was that concerned with so far, but it would certainly be no problem after it was settled that they would confront them.
『Oh, yes! Speaking of Queen Veil, there are also interesting teams such as Team Merveille and Team Kaguya, so it’s an academy I’d by all means like you to pay attention to in this tournament. Especially……』
The topic of the live reporter and commentator has already moved to the topic of different teams.
“Team Kaguya, huh.”
“What about that team?”
Julis turned a wondering face to Ayato’s casual mutter.
“Ah, no, it’s just that I’ve an acquaintance there.”
“……An acquaintance in Queen Veil, you say? Other than Sylvia Lyyneheym?”
Julis’ eyes became once again severe, and the other members’ gazes gathered on him, too.
“Oops”, when he thought so, it was already late.
“I have also checked about Team Kaguya, but it is the first time I hear that there is a person like that. What kind of person is she?”
Claudia, who smiled, quickly cut in.
Though it was her usual smile, it let you feel a somehow strong pressure.
“No, it’s really just an acquaintance…… Renjouji Yuzuhi, she is a disciple in my house.”
“A disciple? …… does this mean that she is a user of the Amagiri Bright Dragon Style?”
Kirin opened her eyes wide in surprise.
“Although that’s true, it’s the branch family’s dojo that that girl attended. Saya, you know it, right? The Yatsuka’s one.”
“……Oh, the one of archery.”
To Ayato’s words, Saya clapped her hands as she recalled.
“Do you know her too, Saya?”
“……No, I’ve just heard that there was such a dojo. It seemed that Ayato’s father and Haru-nee occasionally showed up there though.”
“Because for some reason, I don’t seem to be suited for archery, I don’t have that much connection with that dojo. That’s why I’ve met Renjouji-chan only several times when we were children. But……”
As Ayato said up to there, he knitted his brows as he was troubled.
“Unlike me, Renjouji-chan’s bow skill is first-class. It was the case even in those days, so just thinking about how much she’s improved so far makes me shiver.”
“So it’s to the extent of making you say that much, huh……”
Julis too knitted her eyebrows deeper like Ayato.
“I see…… Honestly, I thought that Sofia Fairclough was the only person we should pay attention to in Team Kaguya, but it looks like I will have to revise my thought.”
“Fairclough? ……don’t tell that she’s Ernest-san’s?”
This time, it was Ayato’s turn to be surprised.
“Yes, she is his little sister. She is a talented girl to the extent that it’s said that her skill with a sword either equals that of the , who is her big brother…… or maybe even surpassed it. But, she has one big weakness……”
“──Wait a minute.”
Saya raised her right hand as to interrupt Claudia’s words.
Her face looked downward, and she put her left hand over her eyes as if suppressing a headache.
“No matter how you put it, I can’t memorize everything. Impossible for me.”
Though it was obvious for class, Saya’s head did not work that much on things she was not interested in.
“It is said that this year’s has many prominent teams, which is a rare bumper crop in these recent years after all.”
Claudia said so and gently struck Saya’s head.
“Well, I have roughly grasped the necessary information, so there won’t be any problem even if I have all of you memorized it after the opponent has been decided.”
Kirin stroked her chest as she heaved a sigh of relief.
『Besides, I’d heard that Team Androcles of Allekant will make their entry with a new weapon, although not yet announced, in their hands. As this is again a new model armament different from the Rectoluz, I’m really looking forward to seeing its debut. Then, my alma mater Le Wolfe has invited Team Hellion from HRMS, which is a major PMC, as mercenaries. There’s also the information that they, whom President Riberio Pareto personally selected, received that ogre lux, ──』
Though the commentary still continued the teams’ presentation in the space window, Claudia closed it and said as she looked at Ayato and company’s faces.
“Now then, let’s once again make a review of our opponent for the first match.”
──At the same time, Canopus Dome.
“Urgent meeting! The『what should we do to oust/bring down Sylvia Lyyneheym?』 meeting~!”
Shifting from Sirius Dome to Canopus Dome, which was the hall of the first match; as soon as she entered the waiting room, Miluše exultantly declared so.
“……Um, what are you saying all of a sudden?”
Though one could see that she was somewhat restless from her movements, when Mahulena asked so nervously, Miluše puffed up her chest as though she was waiting for it.
“Fufufu! Hear and be surprised! Unexpectedly──!”
“We have witnessed a scene where that Sylvia had a secret rendezvous with a man!”
But, Tuulia, who cut in while Miluše was putting on airs, smugly preceded.
The remaining Rusalka members ── Päivi, Monica and Mahulena raised voices of surprise all together, but……
“Ah! Hey Tuulia, it’s unfair! Even though I was going to say it!”
“Ehem, in things like this, it’s the faster one who wins!”
“Unfair! Unfair, unfair, unfair!”
To Miluše, who protested while swinging her arms around, Tuulia lightly ran around.
“Hey, hey, don’t gambol around, explain it properly! Is it…… really true?”
Monica half rose to her feet impatiently and questioned the two girls again.
“It’s true, it’s true, it’s a great scoop, right?”
“I’d also properly recorded it in video~.”
As Miluše said so and operated her portable terminal, the video, which she indeed took secretly, was replayed there.
Because they were far away, the voices could be heard only fragmentarily, but a man and a woman were intimately exchanging a conversation in the shade of a big pillar.
“That’s…… certainly Sylvia, yup.”
“There’s no doubt”, Päivi, who was watching the video intently, greatly nodded.
Although it was hard to tell at a glance as Sylvia disguised herself as always, it actually looked like her even to Mahulena.
“Right, right, right~?”
“Moreover, hey look here!”
In the scene that Tuulia pointed at, Sylvia was handing something over to the man.
“This is…… I wonder what on earth it is.”
Receiving a wink from Tuulia, Miluše raised the volume of the video.
What was heard mixed with noises was──
“By any chance…… is it said box lunch?”
After having made a high-five happily, Miluše and Tuulia looked together at Monica as to confirm.
“With this, no matter where we sell it, it won’t be said to be faked information, right Monica?”
“……Yes, with this, we can bring this up in the general net news, let alone the academy’s pro-media club…… Fufufufufu! Amazing! Amazing, amazing, amazing! It’ll without doubt make a great scandal! See? You can do it when you want, leader!”
Monica, who forgot her usual persona, twisted her lips quite nastily and resolutely took a guts pose.
“Y-Yes, thank you……”
Miluše slightly pulled back as she was overwhelmed by Monica’s vigor and tension.
Päivi, who was watching the video all along, suddenly tilted her head to the side.
“This man…… isn’t he perhaps ?”
At her words, all the members, including Mahulena, gathered again before the space window.
“Now that you mentioned it, we were preoccupied with only Sylvia, but this uniform is…… Seidoukan’s, right?”
“I-It’s true! This person is that Amagiri Ayato-san!”
They wondered why they did not realize it.
Speaking of Seidoukan Academy’s rank #1, Amagiri Ayato also known as ; he was now a top class celebrity in Asterisk, too. In the last year’s final, his fight against Allekant’s autonomous puppets was talked about among the lovers.
“……Wow, an unexpected big shot came out. Then, the person whom she was on a da-da-date with during the School Festival, don’t tell it was……!”
“With this, it really will become a big scandal……!”
At that time when Miluše tightly grasped her fist at the idea of having done it.
“Uyuyuh……? But, hold on, hold on.”
Monica, who returned to playing the hypocrite, took out a stuffed toy-shaped portal terminal from her breast pocket.
“Hey, hey, look here.”
What Monica projected on the space window ── by the way, Monica has also cutely decorated the design of the space window ── was a so-called gossip site. Monica picked up some articles with familiar hands. The headlines were『’s ardent love! His partner is that Princess!』, 『The ’s winner tag also partners in private life!』, 『That accompanies Her Highness Riessfeld in her triumphal return to her country!』 and the like……
“As you see, there’s a rumor that Amagiri Ayato-kun’s partner/lover is that , you know?”
“……Can we trust this?”
They thought that those were all blatantly lascivious articles whose credibility was doubtful.
“Who knows? But the Princess having returned to her country at the end of last year is true, and it’s also true that accompanied her. That was also brought up in the general news after all. Be-si-des……”
When Monica said up to there, she put a hand on her lips and giggled.
“Because the stimulation will be strong for you leaders, I didn’t project it here, but there is also a mooore indecent article, you know?”
“……Indecent, you say?”
“Such as a love triangle, or a love square or a love pentagon…… Come on, is also taking part in the , but in that team, all the other members are girls, right? So, there’s a rumor whether he has a good relationship with those girls……”
“N-No way, such a thing……”
Although Mahulena unintentionally blushed, Miluše and Tuulia looked puzzled even after hearing it.
“E-Err…… what do you mean?”
“……As innocent as always, huh, those two.”
Päivi muttered so.
“E-Errr, it means that, um ……Amagiri-san’s partner might not be only Sylvia-san……”
Though she said it in such a vague way because she didn’t know how to explain it, Miluše, after tilting her head to the right and then to the left, suddenly raised her face as she realized the meaning.
“In other words, Sylvia may be being deceived by !?”
“W-What did you say!? Damn ……! What a terrible bastard!”
Tuulia’s face also dyed in anger and she struck a fist against the palm of her hand.
Though she transmitted what should be transmitted, Mahulena felt light dizziness in their too simplistic thinking.
“N-No, um, you know, I’ll tell you in advance, but that too is only a rumor, so it isn’t yet sure it’s that way……”
Mahulena tried to soothe them, but the two girls did not listen to her at all.
“Gununuh……! It can’t be helped, let’s temporarily suspend this plan for the time being!”
“Eh……? B-By that, do you mean that we should stop spreading this information?”
As Mahulena blinked her eyes with surprise to the sudden decision, Miluše nodded as if it was quite natural.
“Obviously! After all, like that I’d feel sorry for Sylvia!”
“……Weren’t you thinking about a strategy to bring Sylvia-san down just a moment ago?”
“That is that, and this is this!”
As expected even Mahulena retorted, but Miluše flatly declared as such.
“Well, now that it’s come to this, it’s a little…… it kind of feels awkward, eh.”
“It can’t be helped, huh.”
“Eeeh? Geez, leader, really you’re too soft.”
The other members, too ── although only Monica seemed slightly disappointed ── did not seem to have any objections.
Mahulena felt like she wanted to hold her head, but at the same time, she felt herself slightly relieved.
Now, she strongly felt it.
That these girls were not bad people at heart, too.
But ── they were just slightly weak-minded.
“With that said, change of plans!”
“Let’s temporarily set Sylvia aside, and investigate about !”
To a sudden declaration again, Mahulena raised a voice of surprise.
“H-How did it turn out like this? N-No, in the first place, what are you planning to do after investigating about Amagiri-san?”
“If is really, like the rumors say, an extremely sh-shameless guy, we’ll give him judgment by kicking his ass. If she were to see such an uncool side of him, Sylvia will probably wake up, too; and then we can again resume our plan to bring her down without hesitation.”
Mahulena was at a loss for words before her logic which seemed to make sense and yet was grandly derailed.
“That’s a good idea.”
“Well, I also don’t want Monica to play the villain’s part.”
Moreover, the other members approved of it as expected.
“B-But, you know? Even in the case that these rumors are true, how on earth will we……?”
“Fufufu, Mahulena is really bad at thinking, huh.”
Miluše, who shook her index finger with a cool-looking pose, was brimming with self-confidence more than ever.
“ is also participating in the like us. In that case, we should clash against each other somewhere!”
Though she was about to ask whether she didn’t also think of the possibility of them losing before that, Mahulena managed to swallow it.
It would be no use whatever she said at this late hour, and in fact Team Enfield of Amagiri Ayato was one of the favorites. At least, they would definitely win through until the main battle.
And then, Mahulena knew it.
──That this Team Rusalka likewise had the strength of being able to easily make it to the main battle, too.
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