Gakusen Toshi Asterisk - lightnovelgate.com
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Cyrus Norman dragged his limp body onward, desperately fleeing into a small alley in the redevelopment zone.
He'd carefully aimed his fall at what he'd deemed the largest pile of wrecked dolls. Acting as a cushion, it offset some of the impact from his fall, but it was too much to expect that he'd avoid injury nonetheless. He wasn't sure just how many bones in his body had been broken, but a horrifying pain ran throughout his body, and he felt as if he had been rent apart.
But he didn't stop.
Since the Integrated Enterprise Foundation's secret forces ––the Shadow Stars–– had already been mobilized, there was no way he could afford to be caught here. Without a doubt, they'd go to any length to get answers out of him, and then...
"Shit! Why?! Why aren't you picking up...?!"
This was clearly the moment when he most needed Allekant's support, and yet his designated contact line wasn't working.
"If I'm going down, don't think I'm going down alone...!"
"You really do place a lot of value on yourself, Norman-kun."
Emerging from the darkness to block Cyrus' path of escape was a golden-haired young woman.
"Th-The student council president...!"
In her hands she held the strangest-looking swords he'd ever seen. The pattern on their bodies looked rather like eyeballs, and the pair of swords gave the distinct impression that you had caught the eye of a monster.
Ogre Lux "Pan-Dora". This was the first Cyrus had ever seen of those notorious blades, but he'd previously heard of their ability.
"You know, the way they see it, you're just there to be used and then discarded. It's rather pitiful, really."
"...L-Let's make a trade."
"A trade? With me?"
"Everything! I'll tell you everything I know! In return, I want your guarantee of my safety! Don't hand me over to the Shadow Stars but the disciplinary committee!"
Claudia tilted her head, and asked one question.
"So what's in it for me?"
Hearing her response, Cyrus snickered inwardly.
If given the slightest leeway in their negotiations, he still had a chance to turn things around.
"The Shadow Stars will undoubtedly dispose of me in some secret location. On the other hand, if the disciplinary committee gets a hold of me, this incident will spread far and wide. Until that time, you can feel free to use me as a bargaining chip for negotiation. How's that sound...?"
Claudia closed her eyes, seemingly deep in thought.
Seeing what looked to be an opening, Cyrus pressed his silver tongue onward.
"We're the same kind of person, you and I–– treating others like pieces on a chessboard. Morons wouldn't understand, but using your chips where they're most warranted is how a master wins this game. I think you understand as well, right?"
"I see... that certainly does make sense."
At this sentence, Cyrus relaxed immensely.
This woman definitely placed the priority on things that had value–– a rational, but easily-seen-through personality.
Suddenly, however, Claudia gave an elegant laugh.
"It's just that... there's one area where we're different, Norman-kun."
"You think of yourself as the one moving the pieces, but I see myself as just another piece on the board. If that wasn't the case, wouldn't things be just too boring?"
She began to chuckle delightedly.
"Moreover ––as opposed to having this incident spread all over–– I'd much rather take care of it in quiet, and hold it over Allekant's head. I think that's a lot more useful, don't you think?"
Cyrus' face lost its color, and he began to tremble.
With a terrible shout, Cyrus played his last card.
From within his clothes, a hidden knife burst out, under the control of his abilities; a sneak attack aimed directly at Claudia. From this distance, this was a sure-kill; of this, Cyrus was certain.
"Honestly. I thought you already knew what these kids' ability was?"
Claudia had foreseen his sneak attack, and swatted his knife out of the air.
The sneak attack was a complete and utter failure.
As the knife landed, it came to rest precisely in the heel of Cyrus, who had turned to flee.
"Hey, there's no need to be so scared; you're still of use to me. For now, anyway."
Claudia showed her usual smile.
But her eyes were cold as ice. Cyrus was frozen to the spot like prey caught in the glare of a predator.
"Right then. I bid you farewell."
Speaking in a gentle tone, Claudia waved her twin blades as if dancing. From the eyeballs on the hilt of her swords erupted an eerie ray of light. Cyrus suddenly fountained blood from all over.
He fell to his knees and then slumped onto the ground.
Among those Ogre Lux weapons most prized at Seidoukan, this demonic weapon boasted the power to see the future.
The school badge on Cyrus' chest had been destroyed. As he faded into unconsciousness, he felt someone approach.
"Oh, come on. Don't tell me you did this again."
From out of the shadows of the streetlights, an indiscreet young man appeared, greeting Claudia in a casual tone.
"Don't worry about it. Just toss him in the punishment room. I leave the cleanup to you Shadow Stars; covering things up is your specialty after all."
"Of course. That's how we put food on the table, after all."
The young man cast a quick glance at Cyrus, shrugging as if it didn't concern him.
Almost as if he was an outsider.
"Oh, that reminds me. How did things end up with those two?"
"Julis just contacted me. It seems everything went well."
"If that's the case, why is it that you really don't look like you seem all that happy right now?"
"Ho~... To be seen through by you, I really need to step it up."
"If it bothers you that much, shouldn't you have just gone with him?" the young man said noncommittally.
"It wasn't an option. I have my own responsibilities, after all."
"Is that really all there is to it?"
The young man chuckled, teasing Claudia. She laughed as before, before countering him sharply.
"Could it be that you were ordered from on high to investigate me, Yabuki Eishirou-kun?"
"No, no, no, of course not!"
The young man vigorously shook his head, but he never stopped chuckling.
"That was purely out of curiosity. I was just wondering if you were really fine leaving everything up to them."
Crestfallen, Claudia hung her head dejectedly in response, and sighing, said, "...It can't be helped. It's regretful, but, just this once, I'll let Julis have this one. Either way, this show is just getting started."
In the dark corners of a lab somewhere, a young girl heard the news. Momentarily pausing in her work, she sighed.
"Guess it's time to cut our losses. Well, in the end, we did gather all the data we wanted, and he even accomplished his goal–– he really took to ambushing those strong students rather earnestly."
At her side, innumerable space windows opened in mid-air, displaying rapidly changing numbers and graphs.
"But more importantly~ Doesn't that mean that the puppets I designed are super strong? Hehehe."
The girl laughed in delight, as she manipulated her optical keyboard.
"...As expected, those who think they're smarter than they actually are–– really are the easiest to deal with."
The corners of her lip were upturned in a confident, self-assured smile. The girl returned to her work.
––From out of the corner of her eye, two puppets were silently resting.