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Chapter 4 – Noon
──Le Wolfe Black Institute, Student Council room.
“……The Yabuki Clan is moving, you say?”
『You could say that Galaxy finally ran out of patience, I guess.』
“Hmph, it’s none of my business.”
Dirk Eberwein spat out a response, his face carved with deep wrinkles on the middle of his forehead as he lay out on his chair with his legs stretched out.
Madiath Mesa, looking at Dirk through the space window, shrugged his shoulders unnaturally.
“Rather, if that woman were to disappear, it’ll save me the trouble as Seidoukan will become easy to deal with. I don’t think they’d find anybody as outstanding as her any time soon.”
『I see, so even you highly valued her ability, huh.』
Dirk glared at the space window at Madiath, seeing as his voice seemed to have a teasing tone.
“If you’ve called just to have such a worthless chat, I’ll cut the communication. Unfortunately, I don’t have any time to spare, you see?”
『Now, now, wait. You’re short-tempered as usual, eh.』
As Madiath said so to soothe him, he finally got to the main point.
『The truth is, I happened to hear something just a little while ago. It looks like that young lady Enfield also knew about Varda.』
“What did you say……?”
As expected, even Dirk changed his complexion to this.
Dirk and company were members of the Golden Bough Alliance, and the existence of Varda, known also by the name of as the only ogre lux in this world capable of acting of its own free will, was a top secret only known by a small handful of people. Currently, except the Golden Bough Alliance’s members, this fact was only known by Galaxy’s top executives.
Other than them, those who knew of Varda were all either buried in darkness, or had their memories erased by the mind interference which was the ability of Varda herself.
『She used it either to negotiate with Galaxy…… or threaten them, well something like that probably.』
“She’s crazy after all.”
Doing something like that with the Integrated Enterprise Foundation as the other party could only be described as folly.
『Yes, the problem is there. Do you think that someone who even you recognize as talented would make such a stupid move?』
“……What do you mean?”
『In other words, what has happened so far might have been all according to her plot.』
After a brief pause, Madiath continued.
『Think a little about it, Galaxy went as far as to drag out the Yabuki Clan in order to deal with a student of the academy they managed; if you think about it normally, it makes no sense, right? Well of course, after all if they just want to deal with her, they could just handle it secretly after making up some sort of reason to have a restriction placed on her. 』
“Therefore, so that they don’t make any careless moves, she aimed for the period of the , and moreover, by pretending herself to be a snake in their bosom, she induced the other Integrated Enterprise Foundations to check Galaxy……”
『And when it comes to this situation, for Galaxy, there was no better move than having her secretly disappear ── in other words, an assassination.』
Thinking so, it was kind of unnatural.
“In the end, the biggest problem remained. We don’t know why she’s doing that.”
For Claudia, it was an act without merit that only cornered her.
『As expected, even I don’t know the reason…… But, there’s only one thing that I can say.』
『She’s the same type of human as us. No matter what her wish is, she doesn’t mind sacrificing all other things in order to realize it…… No, in the first place, she’s human who doesn’t even think about other things.』
Don’t lump me together with you, Dirk cursed so in his heart to Madiath’s words.
『Well, the situation is like that, so I think that we should slightly pay attention to her.』
“There’s no meaning to paying attention to her as she’ll die.”
Speaking of the Yabuki Clan, it was a renowned group from old days in the underworld of the Far East.
No matter how talented Claudia was, he did not think it possible for her to escape from them.
『Hahaha, that’s right. But ── I don’t think we can know that for sure.』
After smiling suspiciously, Madiath ended the communication
Dirk, who was left alone, pondered for a while with folded arms, but before long, he opened a space window again while clicking his tongue.
“──Go get Corona by the evening. And then as always, spread information indirectly. The content is…… Seidoukan’s student council president seemed to have gone missing.”
“……I see, got it. Well then, I’ll contact you later, so you guys as well…… yes, I leave it to you.”
As Ayato closed the concealed space window, he took a small breath and began to talk in a low voice.
“It seemed that she wasn’t in her room in the dorm. And, according to what Julis said, it seems like there were traces of fight in the room……”
A gloomy coffee shop in the outskirts of the commercial area ── at the seat in the back alongside the wall, there was no other figures except Ayato’s. He sat at a four-person table that was dimly lit, only accompanied by a mug filled with mud-like coffee.
“It’s just as I expected, huh.”
Thus, that voice could be heard from a seat behind Ayato.
Though it was muffled, the voice’s owner was St. Garrardsworth Academy student council vice-president, Laetitia Blanchard.
When he sent a fleeting glance behind him, a woman that was unsuitable for the atmosphere of this shop elegantly carried a tea cup to her mouth.
Her gorgeousness clearly felt out of place in the shop, but Ayato could do nothing about it.
“At any rate, I am honestly surprised that you knew such a place. It is certainly the most suitable place for a secret talk, but…… it is hard to say that it is a shop with a very good quality of customers.”
While there was admiration in Laetitia’s voice, there was also a slightly blaming tone in it.
“No, this place is a shop I was told as well……”
Ayato vindicated so without turning around.
It was a shop where he met Irene in order to get information from her when Flora was kidnapped before. There was no helping that Laetitia was suspicious as it was without doubt a shop with a suspicious atmosphere.
In other words, it meant this atmosphere was obviously closer to Le Wolfe’s more than Garrardsworth’s.
“Well it saved me the trouble this time, and I will not inquire any further. I am unfamiliar with such things after all. However……”
“I do not really appreciate the fact that you come and go in very suspicious places. From what I have heard, it seems like you often go to the Entertainment District as well. Since you are intimate with Claudia, you must polish your character a little more.”
“No, I went there because of another purpose, so it can’t be helped……”
Though he tried to explain himself, Laetitia did not lend an ear to it.
“Speaking of the Enfield House, it is a prestigious House alongside my Blanchard House in Europe. If you were to behave in a way that is not suitable for that name, not only you, but also Claudia would be laughed at. I cannot forgive such a thing……!”
For some reason, Laetitia felt indignant all by herself on her own accord.
However, judging from her way of speaking, it seemed to be a fact that Laetitia was seriously concerned about Claudia.
“Listen well, Amagiri Ayato. To tell you the truth, I have not yet acknowledged you. I am only relying on you this time only because I have no other choice. So, please bear at least that in mind.”
“Errr…… So, what do you want to tell me?”
As the talk would not advance if he were to let it continue like that, Ayato urged her as such.
“Ah…… Ahem. That’s right.”
Perhaps because Laetitia finally calmed down, an unnatural cough was heard from behind him.
In the first place, because Laetitia expressly said that she wanted to meet him directly and talk with him, Ayato decided to meet her in this shop that he designated.
He heard that phone communication did not seem to be possible here.
“If possible, I also want to go looking for Claudia quickly though.”
“……It is a talk that might be necessary in order to save that Claudia.”
Laetitia said after hesitating only a little.
In that case, he must hear it.
“Haa…… I will say this beforehand, but this is a story that I heard from Claudia herself and she made me promise not to tell anyone about it. I did not intend to break that promise on my honor, but…… I have no other choice considering this situation.”
“……? What do you mean?”
But, Laetitia, not answering his question, asked a different question.
“Before that, do you know the wish that Claudia wants to fulfill in this Asterisk?”
“Yeah, well…… If I’m not mistaken, she said that she would like to meet face-to-face with Professor Ladislav Bartsheik who takes part in the .”
This was what Claudia told in the winner interview, so it was a well-known fact even without asking Ayato and company. But as for Ayato, although vague, he wondered whether Claudia’s goal was not somewhere else.
“Well, that’s right. I also saw when she said that during the interview. But ── it was totally different from her wish that she told me before.”
As if holding back Ayato, who was about to turn around unintentionally, Laetitia continued.
“I shall talk about it in order. She and I were good rivals who competed for the championship every year in the martial tournament of Europe when we were children…… Well, in the end, I have never been able to win though!”
Frustration to the point that she could bite off a handkerchief at any moment blurred in Laetitia’s words.
“Ahem. Anyway, a certain year in the martial tournament, in unusually high spirits, she said this. “I finally found a wish that I want to fulfill”.”
“Claudia said that in high spirits……?”
It has only been more than one year since Ayato met Claudia, but he has never seen such a figure of hers.
“Yes, I was also surprised and tried to inquire about the details; but she would not tell me any further about it. I, who became irritated then because of that, proposed a bet before the final against her. The content was that if I were to win the next match, she would have to tell me about it.”
“But…… Blanchard-san, um, you said earlier that you had never won against Claudia.”
In that case, it meant that that bet ended with her defeat.
Then, perhaps because she became sullen at these words of Ayato, Laetitia said by fast taking as she was slightly irritated.
“T-That’s right, but please listen properly to my story until the end! At the time of that tournament, she was clearly feeling strange. From what I heard later on, it seemed that she had just obtained . Since it was in violation of the tournament’s regulations, she did not use it, but……”
“……? Eh, but please wait a minute. It is a story of when you two were still children, right?”
It was the premise that an ogre lux was originally used only in Asterisk. Of course, there were exceptions as such, so it was not impossible to carry it out after going through a procedure like when Ayato visited Lieseltania.
If it was the wish of the winner, he or she could obtain the ownership rights ── even in that case, it would be only for his lifetime, and the ogre lux would eventually go back to the Integrated Enterprise Foundation ── but that an ogre lux was given to a child, who was not even a student of Asterisk yet, was probably an exception among exceptions.
“I was surprised, too…… Well, judging from her mother’s position, it’s something easy to do. At the time, that person seemed already close to be a central figure of Galaxy after all. Besides, it did not seem like was in Claudia’s hands all the time. It seemed to be often collected for data analysis.”
Laetitia paused once there and put the teacup to her mouth.
“Anyway, as there were such circumstances ── the final between me and her, whose condition has clearly deteriorated, ended up in a draw.”
“In other words, there was neither victory nor defeat. Then, with the condition of not revealing it to anyone, while laughing teasingly saying “I will tell you about only half of my wish”, she whispered into my ear.”
There, Laetitia heaved a small sigh and continued.
“Her ── Claudia’s wish is “to dedicate herself to her destined partner”.”
Because it was too unexpected words, he unintentionally leaked a strange voice.
“Her destined partner? Dedicate herself?”
Ayato did not know what kind of personality Claudia had when she was a child, but at least that did not match the current Claudia’s image.
“Well, I knew that you would have such a reaction. I also thought at first that she was just teasing me and even when I asked about that destined partner of hers, she said “I have not yet met him”.”
I see. Certainly, it would naturally be assumed that she was being teased.
“But, she enrolled at Seidoukan, became President…… and while observing her actions, I then realized it. At least, there is no mistaking that the destined partner whom she was talking about is you, Amagiri Ayato.”
This time, because of too much surprise, he unintentionally looked back while raising his voice.
He then hurriedly looked in front again immediately and lowered his voice.
“……How on earth did it turn out like that?”
“Honestly speaking, I thought at first that you might have deceived her, but……”
“No, even if you said that, I……”
“Rest assured. I am not that poor a judge of character to that extent. Judging from your actions so far, I at least understand that you certainly are not a bad person.”
While saying so, Laetitia’s voice looked slightly displeased.
“Anyway, even so it is a fact that she invested an extraordinary amount of effort and personnel in order to find you and recommend you as a special transfer student. The nameless you, who has no achievements whatsoever, you know? This was the only time that she has ever done something like that ── at least, that’s what I determined from my reports.”
It was certainly a doubt that he has held all along.
Even the first time when he met Claudia, he asked a little, but Ayato should not have originally been a talented person whose name was well known enough to the extent of being invited as a scholarship student ── much less a candidate for being one. Claudia said that she faced quite the opposition pushing his name through and recommended him, but in the first place, how did Claudia find out such Ayato?
“……This is only a guess, but I think that Claudia might have seen you in a nightmare of .”
“’s……? But, I heard from Claudia that almost all of her memories of ’s nightmares disappear after she wakes up.”
Claudia should have previously stated this.
“It looks like it. But, didn’t she say this as well? That, fragments of memories remain. Even if it’s just fragments and if it was really something strong enough to change a person, then how about it?”
After these words, Ayato recalled the occasion where he met Claudia for the first time.
『……Finally……Finally I get to see you……』
That time when he was suddenly embraced from behind by Claudia in the student council room.
Looking back now, Claudia at that time was completely different from her usual self. Such brittle and frail voice of Claudia, he has heard it only once at that time ── since then, he has never heard it again.
“In other words, she met you inside a dream and was attracted to you…… then she came over to this Asterisk in order to meet you and dedicate herself to you. That is what I think is her wish. Well, honestly speaking, I think that it is an absurd and foolish wish though.”
As for Ayato himself, it was a conclusion quite hard to accept; but when looking objectively, she did have a point.
“But then, Claudia doesn’t need to participate in the , right……?”
Assuming that it was as Laetitia said, there was no meaning in taking part in the and going as far as to make enemy of Galaxy.
“Right, that’s it!”
While implying that this was the main point, Laetitia spoke eagerly.
“I only heard half of her wish ── so, I think that the remaining half is related to this matter.”
“The remaining half…… Are you saying that it’s about Claudia being connected with Professor Bartsheik and the ?”
But considering that, they did not seem to have any connection at all.
“And so, I would like to ask you, but…… Amagiri Ayato, do you have any idea regarding that?”
Of course, there was no way he would.
“Even the professor’s name, I only became aware of it when I heard about it from Claudia.”
Even though he knew it without seeing it, he answered so while shaking his head.
“Really? Aren’t you hiding anything?”
“Yes, I swear.”
“Haa…… is that so.”
It was a crestfallen voice as if to say that her expectations were off.
“But, at any rate, I think that for Claudia, you are without doubt one of the important keys.”
“Well…… that might be so, but”
Though he was not sure yet, if he were to believe Laetitia’s story, he could not deny the possibility.
“In that case, you should first find out Claudia and make her give up her wish by all means. You are the only one who might be able to persuade her, after all.”
Ayato was at a loss for words for an instant.
Ayato wondered whether he had the right to make someone give up their wish ── and moreover a wish that they wanted to fulfill even after the situation reached this point.
“Even if she were to pull through the ordeal this time, since the Integrated Enterprise Foundation has begun to move, it is impossible for them to stop. Even you understand that, right? In this world, opposing the Integrated Enterprise Foundation is tantamount to death. No matter what kind of wish it is, it should not be something worth exchanging for one’s life.”
One could see from the sincerity of her words that Laetitia was seriously concerned about Claudia.
Therefore, Ayato swept away the doubt in his heart and nodded emphatically.
There might certainly be wishes that one was willing to stake their life on in this world.
Even so ── as expected Ayato did not want Claudia to lose her life.
“……Then, I will believe in you and entrust you with this.”
A small silver amulet was quietly slipped from the chair in the rear seat to Ayato’s sofa.
“It is a charm that was given to me as a present by Claudia before. It seems like it grants good luck…… Haa, really, it is a quite disagreeable present.”
Ayato had no clue at all of what she talked about.
“It’s fine; anyway please give it to her. This is ── a little revenge of mine after all.”
When Ayato came out of the coffee shop, the earl autumn’s sun was blocked by thick clouds and it was awfully dusky even though it was noon.
The lukewarm wind carried a unique smell with moisture. As the weather forecast, there might soon be a rainfall.
“……Anyway, I must first find Claudia.”
While muttering so, he hurried on his way back to the academy.
What were the reasons that made Claudia move like this? Ayato could only ask the person herself, and if he was one of the keys as Laetitia said, Ayato himself had to get to Claudia no matter what.
──Then, Ayato received a call on his portable terminal.
As he hurriedly opened a space window, the face of someone unexpected appeared there.
『Ayato-kun, I heard about it. It looks like it’s somehow became a serious matter.』
“Ah, yes. That’s right, but…… from where did you hear about that information?”
『I may look like this, but I am a student council president and we have Benetnasch, which is more or less an excellent Espionage Organization, here.』
Just like Laetitia and company, though there was a little time lag, each academy’s higher-ups seemed to have already grasped this information.
“That’s right! Perhaps, if it’s Benetnasch from your side, I wonder whether they might grasp Claudia’s whereabouts.”
Though he asked so holding on a gleam of hope, Sylvia apologetically shook her head.
『Sorry, Ayato-kun. I didn’t hear up to there, and even if they grasp it, I think that they probably won’t tell me to that extent.』
As expected regarding this situation, even Queen Veil seemed to judge a watchful stance as the best course of action.
They naturally knew about Sylvia and Ayato being friends, and so, there was no way that they would reveal such information to Sylvia.
『But you know, I thought about in my own way, but──』
As Sylvia spoke up to there, the space window suddenly black out with a snapping sound.
The message, which was displayed by the newly opened space window, was not something he saw so often. Aside from if it was a particular place like the underground block where Saya fell in the other day, it should usually be impossible to be unable to communicate in a middle of a town like this.
Ayato, who raised his head while thinking so, was shocked. Before he was aware, the surrounding scenery has completely changed. A Street devoid of people and abandoned buildings about to collapse ── it was the Redevelopment Area.
Ayato should have advanced to the direction opposite to the Redevelopment Area’s in order to return to Seidoukan Academy. And yet, why was he in such a place? Moreover, as if it was waiting for Ayato to stop, a thick fog rose up from the ground.
It was clearly abnormal.
As Ayato went on his guard, a figure of a person appeared like a ghost from the fog.
“……This is a kind of art of seclusion, you see? It interferes with the target’s sense of direction. It’s quite hard to deal with it if one doesn’t notice before it’s cast on him.”
To Ayato, who was on guard, that figure said so in an out-of-place, light tone.
“Eh? This voice…… Don’t tell me, Yabuki……!?”
“Yes, correct answer~”
When the figure, who was slowly advancing, finally reached a distance where it could be distinguished, there was the figure of his roommate putting on a hood over his eyes. Though his eyes were hidden, a light smile floated on his lips.
“Why are you in a place like this……?”
“Now, now, Amagiri. Could you let me hold you here for a while without asking for any reason?”
With both hands in his pockets, Eishiro stopped at the very limit of Ayato’s range.
“Hold me? ……Ah, I see, so that’s how it is.”
At Eishiro’s way of speaking, Ayato, although vague, guessed the circumstances.
He lightly scowled at Eishiro while smiling wryly.
“In other words…… Yabuki is on the academy’s side, huh.”
“Hmm, actually I wanted to reveal it grandly in a more elaborate situation, but…… Well, can’t be helped, I guess.”
As Eishiro took off his hood, he scratched his head with his usual friendly smile.
“You’ve surely heard about the Shadow Star, right? I’m pretty much a member there. Hehehe, are you surprised?”
“……Well, yes. Of course I’d be surprised if I was suddenly told that a friend of mine is an agent of an Espionage Organization.”
“Considering that, you’re quite calm.”
At Eishiro’s pointing out, Ayato answered while putting a hand to his waist.
“It’s because I noticed for quite some time ago that Yabuki wasn’t an ordinary person. And considering all that, you showed no behavior of taking part in the ; I found it strange.”
“Arara…… looks like I’m still lacking training, eh.”
Saying that, Eishiro unnaturally dropped his shoulders as if crestfallen.
“But still, I’m happy that you still consider me as your friend. Though I say it myself, I deceived you, you know?”
Although his head was hung, a cunning glint showed in his eyes.
“Hmm…… I think “hide” would be the right word to use here though. Besides, in that case then there are still one or two things that even I’m hiding to you, so we’re even.”
When he said so, Eishiro opened his mouth with a dumbfounded face.
“I already knew it, but there’s a limit to be softhearted, you know……”
“That’s not it. I’m properly moving with calculation. After all, come on ── if it’s a friend, then he might let me through here, right?”
Ayato returned to a serious face and squared off once again.
One could feel that the surrounding atmosphere became tense.
“Hey, hey, how scary.”
However, Eishiro smoothly warded off the pressure.
“Well, actually, I’m not that reluctant to let you through though.”
“I also have my own circumstances, you see? I don’t really like…… or rather, I don’t feel in the least inclined to taking on this job.”
“Good grief” said Eishiro while shrugging his shoulders.
“……I’ll ask just in case, but does the Shadow Star allow such a casual attitude towards work?”
It was an Espionage Organization after all.
“Hahaha, it obviously doesn’t. Not that I want to boast, but as a problem child since the Shadow Star’s establishment, I’m fairly well-known in that world, you know?”
“……It really isn’t something to boast about.”
Even at such a time, Eishiro did not feel tense at all.
“You know, aside from if it’s something that I myself want to do, I hate being unreasonably forced to do a job I don’t want to. And well, the job this time is exactly that.”
“Then this means that you’ll obediently let me through, right?”
When Ayato said so, Eishiro broadly grinned.
“But, assuming that you went past here. Do you have any idea where the Pres. is?”
“That’s…… not yet.”
Though he was irritated to that fact, he could not help but recognize it.
“There’s no way you’ll find her by searching randomly. After all, the ones chasing after the Pres. are those guys.”
“Those……? No, more importantly, perhaps do you know something about Claudia’s whereabouts, Yabuki?”
“Hmm, it’d be a lie if I said that I don’t.”
Eishiro plainly said so.
“In that case──”
But, so as to hold back Ayato in high spirits before the latter could finish his sentence, Eishiro stuck out his right arm.
“No, no, as expected if I were to reveal it, I’d find myself in a bad situation. No matter how you look at it, it’ll be dangerous.”
“Yabuki, Claudia is in danger of life, you know?! Please!”
Ayato desperately begged him.
“Well, I’m also quite indebted to the Pres., and there is a mountain of things I want to repay her for, but…… Ah, then how about we do this?”
Then, Eishiro clapped his hands as if he had just thought of a good idea.
“──Amagiri, have a bout with me.”
Ayato wondered what he would suddenly start talking about, but judging from this situation, it looked like Eishiro intended to lead the talk up to here from the beginning.
“If you win, I’ll tell you the Pres’ whereabouts. Also, if I lost, it’d work well as an excuse to make to the top brass. And above all…… I’ve wanted to play a little with you for a long time now.”
“No, I don’t have such a time……!”
“Then, forget it.”
Though Eishiro revealed his usual frivolous smile, his eyes were serious. It was not a lie, and Ayato understood too well that he would probably make no concession.
“Haa…… I got it. So, what kind of bout will we have?”
It looked like he could do nothing but take on that bout here.
“Let’s see…… I don’t intend to have a bout of life and death, so how about a bout with bare hands without weapons? It’s your win if you bring me down.”
“What about your victory condition?”
“I should originally just hold you back here, so it wouldn’t count as a clear win. If anything, the more it drags on, the closer will it be to my win.”
It looked like he was skillfully made to take the bet, but it could not be helped at this late hour.
“As for the field…… Ah, we’ll do with the abandoned building over there.”
Eishiro looked around and pointed at a nearby abandoned building. The height was a four-storey building, but the top floor part’s walls and ceiling greatly crumbled. It was a common abandoned building which you would find anywhere in the Redevelopment Area.
“Got it. My bad, but I’ll go at it seriously.”
“Fine by me. But, don’t take me too lightly.”
As he said so, Eishiro’s figure melted once again and disappeared inside the fog.
Ayato calmly released his seal and set foot inside the abandoned building.
“Huh……? It’s strange.”
Queen Veil Girl’s Academy, Twin Hall Top Floor ── in the corridor, Sylvia cocked her head in puzzlement while fiddling with her portable terminal.
Even though she could normally communicate with it until just a while ago, the communication suddenly became impossible. She thought that it might have been broken, but even so it was too sudden.
As for searching for the cause, it wasn’t like Sylvia was unfamiliar with machines, but she did not know a lot about them, either. As she was trying this and that which came into her mind for the time being──
“……Whom were you speaking with, Sylvia?”
“Uwah! Petra, san……”
When she turned around as she felt someone’s presence, Queen Veil Girl’s Academy’s board chairman, Petra Kivilehto was walking towards her.
“No, it’s nothing, it’s nothing…… Ah, it’s no use after all, huh.”
She hurriedly hid her portable terminal at her back…… But guessing that she could not talk her way out of this situation no matter what, Sylvia resigned herself and assumed a serious attitude.
“I was speaking with Ayato-kun. Is it bad?”
“Haa…… I told you many times not to poke your nose into this matter, right? No matter if you are the world diva, you surely know what will happen if you go against W&W’s intention, don’t you? ……Even I wouldn’t be able to protect you.”
“I…… Know that, but”
“Then, quietly follow my advice.”
Sylvia reluctantly put her portable terminal into her pocket.
She wanted to help Ayato if possible, but unfortunately, there was practically nothing that she could do regarding this matter.
“Still, the intention of the great Integrated Enterprise Foundation, huh……”
“What do you want to say?”
To Sylvia’s teasing way of speaking, one could see that Petra’s expression stiffened behind the visor glass.
“Nothing really. Just that I don’t find it funny.”
Seidoukan student council president’s life was aimed at by the intention of the Integrated Enterprise Foundation, and when she thought that the other Integrated Enterprise Foundations moved in an attempt to stop it, now they calmly decided to keep a watchful stance letting her die without interfering as soon as the situation changed. As though to say that both sides should just fall down.
“Every last one of them is selfish……”
When Sylvia cursed as such, Petra said with a sigh.
“You are still young, Sylvia. It’s not just limited to the Integrated Enterprise Foundation; when one thinks that they might obtain greater benefits in a more efficient way, it’s natural for them to be selfish. And in this current world, it’s not regarded as being bad.”
“I wonder about that…… I think I’m different though.”
Sylvia muttered as if to persuade herself.
In the end, she felt like she was again made to realize that the students of Asterisk were only pawns in order to provide profit for them (IEF).
Even if like Sylvia, some could gain more freedom than ordinary students, that did not change the fact that the cage was just a bit bigger and they could go out of it.
“……Do you know, Petra-san? This made me realize once again that it’s no more than a mere show, you know?”
“Throw away such trivial sentiments, Sylvia. Didn’t you choose yourself to become an idol?”
“That’s true, but…… it isn’t something so easy to decide. Even you were a student of this academy, so you understand, right, Petra-san?”
When Sylvia said so, Petra, after keeping silent for a while, answered in a voice with a somewhat muffled tone.
“……I have forgotten about them, such old days.”
──What an obvious lie.
Sylvia did not voice it out as she just stopped at muttering so in her heart.
She understood that there was no point in teasing Petra any further. Venting one’s anger was unsightly, and it would make her feel even more miserable.
“Ayato-kun…… Do your best.”
Therefore at least, Sylvia prayed for the safety of the person who was going to fight with his helpless power.
As a matter of fact, inside of the abandoned building was dim and moreover, because fog also went inside, one could hardly see far ahead.
Ayato immediately noticed the sense of incongruity as he was carefully advancing.
(The state of “cognition” doesn’t work……?)
Perhaps because this was also the effect of the art of seclusion, the effect of the state of “cognition”, which was the Amagiri Bright Dragon Style’s perception expansion technique, did not work as he expected.
“I didn’t see this coming……”
However, there was no point in grieving over something that was not usable.
When he looked around the dimly inside through the fog, the first floor seemed to be an empty hall. He could grasp stairs, which apparently led to the second, at the back and a partially destroyed door, which looked like it would collapse at any moment, on the wall surface on the side.
Relying only on the weak light coming in through a broken window, immediately after he went into the hall, where debris were scattered, something flew towards Ayato.
As Ayato tried to catch it, it was a lump long and narrow iron ── the so-called bo shuriken.
“……Eishiro, wasn’t it a barehanded bout?”
As he raised such a voice to the other side of the fog while being slightly amazed, a reply returned immediately.
“Of course it is. But unfortunately, it seems like traps were set here and there in this abandoned building. Dear me, I don’t know who on earth did it, but it sure is dangerous, yup. You should be careful, too.”
“What a transparent lie……”
Although, it was no use complaining at this late hour. He could only proceed very carefully.
Though it was a situation where it was hard to see even his steps, he advanced little by little while paying attention to the maximum.
About when he arrived until the center of the hall before long, truly abruptly, blood lust suddenly appeared behind him without any previous notice at all.
When he suddenly evaded by rolling forward, Eishiro’s sharp hand sword cut thin air by a hairbreadth.
“Arara, it was avoided. You’re good as expected, Amagiri. You aren’t the winner just for show, eh.”
Eishiro laughed somewhat lightheartedly.
“You too, I didn’t feel your presence at all…… what kind of trick is it?”
“Well, this kind of attack under cover of darkness is our specialty after all. If it could be easily seen through, that would put me in an awkward position.”
While saying so, Eishiro’s body once again became blurred in the fog and the very dim light.
“Moreover, this place currently is completely under control of my technique. You can’t use your state of “cognition”, right?”
“As I thought, you did something, huh…… or rather, from the fact that you said technique, are you , Yabuki?”
While being cautious of the surroundings, he continued the conversation so as to draw out information even if a little.
“In a wide meaning, you could say that; but well it’s something like World Dragon’s Star Senjutsu. Though unlike them, it’s a technique only my clan can use.”
“My home has such an occupation since long ago. I was already training in various ways since I was a child. My father adopts the train of thought that someone with no talent should just die, so he showed no mercy at all. Really, how many times do you think I ran away from home……?”
The voice could be heard from the right front. The moment when Ayato turned his attention and consciousness there──
A low roundhouse kick from the side swept at Ayato’s leg.
A complete surprise attack. Even so, as he forcibly twisted his body and put his right hand on the floor, he escaped from pursuit with the trick of back flip.
“Hahaha, you’d better be careful, Amagiri. Tricking someone with the source of a voice is a basics of basics for us.”
Such a voice was heard from overheard.
“……Thanks for the advice.”
As of now, Ayato finally realized it.
──Yabuki Eishiro was strong.
Although he used preliminary arrangements and locational advantage, the sharpness of his attacks and his carriage were first class levels. He would not be inferior even if compared with a .
Fortunately for Ayato, Eishiro did not devote himself to escape and rather assertively came out to attack.
If he were to believe Eishiro’s words as is, gaining time should be his goal. In that case, it would be much more effective to only hide himself.
(Or, does he have another purpose……? No, it’s no use thinking about it now.)
Ayato fixed his breathing and concentrated his nerves.
No matter how much one erased their presence, blood lust would leak out at the moment of the attack. In that case, what was left was to wonder how fast he could react to it.
He calmed his heart, and circulated prana until every corner of his body.
Ayato just barely evaded the gouging-like hand sword that was once again lunged from behind. His flank was torn and a dull pain ran through there, but he had no room to mind it.
While Ayato rotated his body to the side, he drove in a backhand chop to Eishiro’s chest using that momentum.
Eishiro deflected the trajectory by repelling the blow with a fist and then immediately returned a sokutou kick. Ayato blocked it by crossing both his hands and then released a palm strike with his left hand while sweeping the kick foot with his right hand.
Fist and fist, and kick and kick clashed with each other; and a hard sound echoed in the hall of the abandoned building shrouded in mist.
An even offense and defense like a Kumite was proof that both parties’ abilities rivaled each other.
Though Ayato was patiently looking for an opening of Eishiro, he finally found it when Eishiro released a kick with large swing.
(There’s…… no reaction!?)
Even though it should have been a perfectly good timing, Ayato’s fist cut through empty air.
No, more precisely only Eishiro’s jacket remained there, and the figure of Eishiro himself was not there.
“Hehehe, naïve, naïve!”
The next moment, a flurry of blows seeking out their targets was driven in from inside the fog as if drifting to Ayato’s temple, solar plexus and inner thigh.
Although he raised his defensive power with prana, damages of attacks to vital parts were great. Moreover, Eishiro’s blows splendidly transformed prana into offensive power like World Dragon’s fist warriors. Though it was not something difficult as a technique, suitable training was necessary in order to smoothly perform this.
Even so, Ayato did not stop and released a roundhouse kick towards the direction where he was attacked.
There was a response, but he could tell that he was guarded judging from the sensation. The presence which arose there for an instant immediately disappeared again.
“Phew…… You’ve quite a good intuition, eh. Looks like I should proceed a little more carefully.”
Eishiro’s voice was once again heard out of nowhere.
Ayato wondered on earth what kind of move he would set next.
As he stood ready by lowering his waist so as to cope with any attack, he suddenly heard a strange sound. It was a weird sound, as if something cracked.
He surveyed the surroundings, but there was not particularly anything strange in the visible range.
(No…… Wait! Wrong!)
It was almost at the same time when Ayato unintentionally shouted so that spiderweb-like cracks ran in length and breadth to the ceiling and collapsed.
While debris of various sizes poured down like rain, he ran through the hall while evading only debris of size that could crush a person. Though debris of fist size struck his body, he could not afford to mind it.
If he arrived until the stairs, he should be able to somehow manage for the time being ── but just before he reached there, Ayato’s sharpened perception felt the sign that a trap activated.
Bo shurikens were shot from tree directions towards Ayato. The way and angle, how they sandwiched Ayato, would not be established unless Ayato stepped into this direction from this place.
In other words……
(The debris a prior move in order to lead me here, huh……!)
It restricted the route with debris of various sizes that fell and forced Ayato into the trap. He no longer had any choice other than to admire the meticulousness of the setup.
Because he could hardly evade the bo shurikens that came flying, he could only guard by concentrating prana in both his arms. Though the damages were not that much, as expected he was made to stop.
──That instant, blood lust rose up behind Ayato.
“It’s over, Amagiri.”
Eishiro’s voice, which was convinced of his victory, yet cold and calm without the slightest carelessness, resounded into his ear.
In fact, it would be just as he said.
If Ayato could not predict it, that is.
Eishiro’s face was distorted in shock.
This was because when Eishiro appeared behind Ayato, he had already begun the motion of an attack while turning around.
His right hand’s palm strike struck Eishiro’s chin and at the same time he (Ayato) drove in an elbow strike into his (Eishiro) chest. Furthermore, he drove in three consecutive blows into Eishiro’s solar plexus with his left fist.
“Amagiri Bright Dragon Style Grappling Technique── “Lightning carrier (Mikazuchi)””
Eishiro, who directly received them, collapsed pitching forward with eyes wide opened.
“Are you all right, Yabuki?”
When Ayato called out to him, Eishiro somehow turned his body to look upwards while raising a painful voice.
“Owww…… Haa, it’s my complete defeat.”
An ounce of blood lust of earlier could no longer be felt from Eishiro who said so. Rather, he felt somehow refreshed and even revealed a relieved smile.
“Tell me one thing, how did you read my attack in that situation?”
“Well, if I’ve to say, it was just intuition, but……”
“Even the two times before, Eishiro came attacking from my back, right? That’s why, I thought that maybe you’d do the same thing this time, too.”
To these words of Ayato, Eishiro slapped his forehead.
“Kaah~, so that’s it……! I failed!”
Though he said it lightly, it looked like he was really frustrated from the bottom of his heart.
“I’ll tell you just in case, but normally, I’d have brought you down with the first move, so such guess would have been of no use.”
“What a dangerous pride…… or rather, it’s an excuse, isn’t it?”
After coming so far, he wondered whether he should be amazed or impressed.
“By the way, something’s been bothering me a little.”
“Just now, was it Yabuki going all out? For some reason, it didn’t really feel like that to me though.”
“That’s not true, I went all out.”
Though Eishiro laughed as he said so, it was a fact that Ayato did not feel his bottom.
But, now was not the time to mind such a thing.
“So Yabuki, Where is Claudia?”
“Ah, that’s right. The Pres.’s whereabouts…… she’s in the harbor block of the academy.”
As he promised, Eishiro easily told him about it.
“When you say the harbor block, do you that place at the outer edge of the academy?”
Although the harbor block, which spread by surrounding Seidoukan Academy, was more or less a site of Seidoukan, it was normally impossible for students to enter there. It was an area for mainly storing supplies and, if one had to say it, it was almost like a warehouse town.
“Judging from the people who attacked the pres., the worst will be to escape to the urban area. As expected, it would be difficult to destroy the evidence there even for Galaxy. Still, although now the period of the and holiday, it would stand out too much to try to dispose of her within the academy. The most convenient place to drive her away is only that place.”
While grimacing in pain, Eishiro got up.
Now that Ayato knew that, he could stay here like this.
“Yes, I’m all right, so don’t worry. More importantly, if you seriously go to save Claudia, you should worry about yourself.”
Eishiro said so and turned a wry smile to Ayato.
“The ones attacking the pres. now are Galaxy’s active corps, the “Knight Emmitt”…… They were once called Yabuki Clan.”
Which means, no way……
“Yes ── the one leading them is my father.”
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