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Ancient City Insurrection Chapter (I) is the 14th volume in the Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei Light Novel series.

With that, hope we'll meet again in the next volume,「Ancient City Insurrection Chapter」. Hope you can also patronize both the comics and anime.

Volume 13 Afterword

Synopsis

The mastermind behind the "Parasite Doll" incident of "Nine Schools Competition", Zhou Gongjin, has fled from Yokohama to the area of the original ancient magic users group centered around Kyoto. This group is also known as the "traditionalists".

Since then, two months have passed - The "National High School Magic Thesis Competition" will soon be held. This year's Thesis Competition is being held in Kyoto. It is sponsored by the Magic Association and will take place in their conference hall. The Kuroba twins visit Tatsuya as representatives and bring Yotsuba Maya's letter to him. The letter is a request from his aunt to cooperate with capturing Zhou Gongjin.

While it was questionable whether this was a "command" rather than a "request", Tatsuya and Miyuki go to Kudou's house because they are in the center as opponents of the "traditionalists". As a result, the two siblings have a fated encounter with the "Genius Augmented Magician”...

The stage was the conspiracy of the ancient city. The fate that has continued to smolder away in the back of the history of magician development, Tatsuya and Miyuki and his companions are challenged.

Chapter 1

Spoiler
[Kyuuchouji (Kyuuchou Temple)], where Kokonoe Yakumo served as the head

priest, lay on top of a small hill at Fuchuu City, Old Metro Tokyo. As a devoted temple for volunteer *physical work*, word among the temple staff was that it was probably a [link to ascetic practice] -- close to the neighbourhood, it had fitted into the regional community as an indispensable part to the town scenery. And as an extra, when the townspeople had a chance to look at old map details, they were in for a surprise. It didn't matter if old meant a hundred years old, they were looking at genuine maps.


They learned that there was no temple from the start.

They learned that there was no hill at such a place.

During the later period of the twenty years of repeated world wars, the capital defense forces were deployed to the Choufuu, Fuchuu, Mitaka, and Musashino districts, with Choufuu Air Field serving as their base. And following the rules of troop deployment, the civilians in these areas had been evacuated for almost ten years. The hill Kyuuchouji stood on was formed from the earth dug up when a large underground defense bunker was constructed on its spot.


While it was regretful that the capital sustained damages during the war, thanks to the [Musashino AA fortress], the old capital ward escaped unscathed. On the other hand, the defense position bore the brunt of the attacks from multiple attackers, but that meant the civilian evacuation did not go to waste. And so it was unavoidable for the blank that occurred between the town and its residents. The people returned to their own [residences] because the war had ended. And later the government spent money to reconstruct the town. Although it wouldn't be completely the same as before.


After a total sealing, without any dismantling of the underground defense bunker, and the accompanying town replanning, the number of families that were unable to return to their former residences was reduced. And the quick installation of an advanced transportation system gave the town scenery a somewhat futuristic look. What was added was not only overhead tracks where small-scale compact train-type public transportation facilities [Cabinets] ran through. Apart from those new features, traditional features and various facilities large and small were added to the town scenery. A [large temple on top of a small hill], Kyuuchouji, was one of them.

The temple had a history that was somewhat, no, considerably delicate to say. The previous priest, in short Yakumo's master, was compensated for cooperating with the Ninth Magician Dev't Research Institute, and obtained the residence and facility to train disciples -- disciples in [Shinobi], rather than disciples in Buddhist priesthood.


And for that reason, the façade of Kyuuchouji was aimed for camouflage and was intentionally constructed in the old style. Even the grounds inside the fencing were in a 20th century style.


In contrast, the training facility was dug deep, deep down into the earth and its area, even wider than the grounds above it, was fortified with the latest technology. Not only was it a training ground for ancient magic, at present it was even a training ground at the highest level for modern magic.


Kazama introducing Tatsuya to Yakumo was more than to introduce the latter to this underground facility. As a master of taijutsu, Yakumo's skill was top-rank. However Kazama's expectations were not only to aim for Tatsuya's taijutsu improvement. He did not bring Tatsuya into the military in order to be a *usual* close-combat specialist. He was expecting, to the very end, the abilities of an extremely powerful magician that could fight on the frontlines.


It was a facility where both taijutsu coaching and magic training were possible. As soon as he knew that Tatsuya's house was within an agreeably short distance from Kyuuchouji in the neighbouring town, this temple was Kazama's only choice. And now, Tatsuya was entering into the lowest level of Kyuuchouji's underground training facility. This training room had, from the floor to the ceiling and even the walls, three layers comprising of 10cm thick concrete, 30cm thick lead, and 60cm thick of neutron shielding concrete.


This was no nuclear shelter, it was meant as a training room for magic. And as to why such secure anti-radiation shielding was required, there was a reason behind it within the history of how 21st century magic was developed. Research and development on modern magic originated in AD 1999, in an incident when an American police officer used an unusual power (at that time it was still called ESP) to take down nuclear terrorism. From those events onwards, R&D on modern magic started out as a means to counter nuclear threats; basically the primary objectives were the control and suppression of nuclear fission, and the isolation and nullification of radiation.


With focused research on it being worthwhile, it was at a stage where it was safe to say that neutron barriers and gamma radiation filters were completed. Nevertheless

even today the development and improvement of spells against nuclear reactions

was essential data captured in magic ability development.


Even so, what Tatsuya was about to do in this room was neither practice for radiation isolation magic nor improving nuclear fission control magic. In some ways, it was the opposite.


This underground training room was currently turning into a pool. Even so, it was not being flooded for swimming purposes. With his shoulders just out of the water, Tatsuya was in short-sleeved training wear holding a pistol-shaped CAD in one hand. Though he wasn't swimming, both his head and hair were drenched. What his right hand was gripping was not his favorite Silver Horn Custom. It was clear from its plain appearance that it was a prototype. The biggest difference was the bayonet-like object attached to the muzzle end of the barrel. An imitation, because it was neither sharp nor pointed, and only because the metallic thick plate was constructed to be like a bayonet.


With his right hand underwater, Tatsuya pulled the trigger. The *two* activation sequences that generated underwater were absorbed into his right arm. The first one was output from the pistol-shaped CAD. The other one was output from the bayonet-like attachment.


The magic sequences acted on the attachment. Water bubbled at the tip of the CAD. The groans that escaped from Tatsuya's clenched teeth grew louder and he went down on his knees. His right hand hideously burned deep red due to the severe scalding, Tatsuya ended up dropping the CAD due to the injury. Submerged up to the top of his head, he immediately went up to standing position. His hair being drenched was because of this being repeated. Often with ragged breaths, he would raise his right hand to eye level and repeatedly clench it open and closed. There were no remnants of scalding due to the use of [Restoration], but the semi-conscious action was due to the immediately uncomfortable feeling that he might suffer intense damage.


With his right hand finally regaining its sensation, he stretched it out underwater. Its fingers latched on the CAD which had floated up. Even the bayonet-like attachment, which was burned off from the tip when it was submerged at that time, was back to its old form due to [Restoration]. Tatsuya then again prepared his CAD underwater. However, a commanding voice with no one around and nothing close to his ears softly echoed. ["Tatsuya-kun, it's almost midnight."]


With an air-vibrating spell -- its activation was different yet its contents were the same as those activation sequences from USNA STARS Planet-class magician Sylvia Mercury Faust -- Yakumo whispered from outside into Tatsuya.


"...... Understood."


Tatsuya's reply was spoken in the same manner as before but Yakumo understood what was picked out from Tatsuya's voice using his spell. Sure enough, as soon as Tatsuya made clear that his training was over, the water in the room began to recede. As he waited for the water to recede, Tatsuya used emission-type magic to shake off the moisture from his hair, skin, and clothes. His casting didn't aim for a totally dry state. As soon as he dried his clothes enough so normal movement wouldn't be a problem, he used gravity-type magic to flick the door switch on the other side of the room. Due to the nature of the training room, no electrical equipment could be installed inside the walls. ("An inaccessible room if magic weren't used ...")


As he ruminated once more on the fact that came only now, Tatsuya started on the ladder that would bring him back to surface --- for Yakumo had cut the electrical power to the elevator.



September 23 2096, Sunday. Even though he had returned home the night before, just before a date-changing midnight, Tatsuya still started out this morning very early for morning training. That made Miyuki, who was checking the unread messages on the home server, a bit worried for an early-rising Tatsuya. He was not a brother who would stop upon being told not to overexert himself. No, resorting to persuasion by tears might *for a bit* get him to listen to what she said, but perhaps even that would only be temporary. And she had just used that weapon last month.


"I'll hold on to sympathetic tactics for a little longer until it's time for serious need." Miyuki resignedly thought. In the kitchen Minami had already started preparing breakfast. Lately Miyuki and Minami got surprisingly cooperative together, and changed the rules about who

prepared what meal. From the start, with the development of home automation

since there was no preparing meals by hand unless for special events, the appearance of struggling in the kitchen looked hilarious from a third person view -- that was what the two of them belatedly noticed.


And so Miyuki left the kitchen work to Minami as she headed for the bathroom. She then controlled the HAR in the dressing room, taking out Tatsuya's clothes -- underwear included, but Miyuki was not into being bashful.


In truth, it had been in her third year of middle school that she had had thoughts on whether it was good being bashful like a maiden in situations where she was in front of male underwear even though it belonged to her beloved brother. Although, when she imagined herself being red-cheeked in front of her brother's underwear, she changed her mind thinking [this is for degenerates rather than maidens]. --- If another person saw her expressing her delightful smile as she was hard at work preparing the shower for her brother, he would have thought she was beyond help in various ways. But perhaps he would never meet Miyuki herself face-to-face and tell her that.


Having prepared for her brother's prompt return, Miyuki's last task was to place the towel as it was--- in other words hold the towel in her hands --- and head at a hurried pace for the entryway. She was not into unladylike behavior like running inside the house. Even if she wasn't seen by her brother, Miyuki didn't have the guts to behave in a way her brother deemed unsuitable. Due to door biometrics, the sound of the door being unlocked echoed to both kitchen and living room. By the time Minami had stopped watching her cooking and came out of the kitchen, Miyuki was already standing by in the entryway. "Welcome back, Onii-sama."


"I'm home."


"... Welcome back, Tatsuya-niisama."


The slight delay was due to the time Minami took to rush from the kitchen to the entryway. She was out of the kitchen at the same time of the unlocking, but for this morning Miyuki still ended up in a big lead over her. When she first came to this house Minami couldn't hide her disdain over this, but nowadays she had all but given up. And that was the proper response. They may not be in the middle of combat, but it was strange for Miyuki to correctly ascertain Tatsuya's presence even when he was

still over 50 meters away. Minami not putting up an astonished expression would be

earning the praises instead.

"Onii-sama, the shower has been prepared for you."

"Thank you."

Miyuki followed behind her brother, who had taken the towel and entered the bathroom, with a truly happy smiling face. On seeing her, Minami exhaled secretly. Even for a live-in maid, this level of letting off steam should have been permitted.

It was Sunday and yet due to circumstances already mentioned, mornings at the Shibas proceeded according to the ever usual timetable. That meant a comfortable teatime after breakfast. And for Miyuki, who had given in to Minami over preparing breakfast, preparing Tatsuya's tea was something she didn't turn over. For Minami's part, she would be studying and, to avoid taking damage from the sickly-sweet atmosphere, was assigned the task of cleaning and laundry.


Her ever-usual wholeheartedly prepared coffee earning the [words of praise] from Tatsuya and finally settling down, Miyuki then, "Onii-sama, I would like to ask you about something." suddenly made up her mind and tried asking Tatsuya on one thing that had been clawing at her mind for quite a while.


"What?"


It was blunt, but Tatsuya's voice towards his younger sister was gentle all the same. Encouraged, Miyuki threw away the last of her hesitations. "Why is Onii-sama not entered into this year's Thesis Competition? I'm aware that the solar furnace experiment performed last April at the school grounds was exempted from submitting a screening thesis which was required for Magic Engineering students, it does mean it wasn't prohibited from participating, was it?" "Come now, don't say it wasn't out just for nothing." The idea of prohibited from participating was strange, Tatsuya smiled as he shook his head.


"Then why ... ?" "It's because I don't have the time."


Tatsuya's answer to Miyuki's short follow-up question was just as short, and was precise unlike Miyuki's inquiry. "Was it ... related to the magic that Onii-sama is practicing every day until late at night?"


Miyuki hesitatingly followed up with a question. She was at a loss whether or not it was okay for her to intrude further, "That's right. You understood it well."


Tatsuya's hand reached out towards Miyuki's head who was beside him. Along with his commending words, Tatsuya softly stroked his younger sister's hair. Such gentle sensation led the hesitation remaining in Miyuki's heart to melt away. "Was it perhaps what is Onii-sama making efforts for is not practicing magic, but development of a new kind of magic?"


"As expected of my Miyuki, she really knows what I'm doing." Those words were embarrassing to Miyuki even more than his hand touching her hair, although she knew that most of it was flattery, or rather in jest.


Tatsuya wouldn't have to subject himself to such hardship if it were training for an existing magic. The virtual magic calculation area that was planted in him may have such low magic output, but more than copying entire magic sequences and then using it, it can *completely* identify the structure of the magic sequences no matter the magic and what status it may be just before activation. From there on it was a problem of throughput. If it was magic he could activate he could use it without any training, if it was not then no matter the training he could not use it. And with his

  • eyesight* and analytic skills, there was no magic spell that he could not analyze.

Whatever was troubling him at this time until late every night, there was no way that was an existing magic.


"I've started development of this magic since March. That may be the case, it took me some time even though I clarified the theories from the onset. It was finally in June that I managed to clear the magic spell design phase." And so I wasn't into the Thesis Competition at all, Tatsuya smiled. However, Miyuki wasn't smiling at what she heard. First off, the fact was that her brother, the theoretician [Silver] of the mysterious genius magic engineer Taurus Silver, took three months just to work out the theories. Another thing was the development start, which was March.

"Then the new magic Onii-sama was dealing with now ... was it meant for the confrontation with Lina?" "You understood it well." The answer that came out from Tatsuya had the same words, but its nuance was surprisingly different. This time it had both real surprise and admiration. Tatsuya really felt admiration at Miyuki for figuring out an almost correct answer with those hints only.


"The magic I'm developing now is a magic sequence for a close-range direct attack that uses the FAE theory." "FAE ... theory? If I remember right, that was the theory used behind Lina's weapon, wasn't it?"


"Yes, the magic theory that was the foundation for what Lina used, the strategic-class wielded magic weapon [Brionac]. ... FAE, that's Free After Execution." The strong emotions that were put into Tatsuya's tone were either respect towards the engineer who completed the ersatz divine weapon Brionac ... or antagonism. It was felt by Miyuki, not which of the one, but in that it could be both of them. "The resulting generated phenomenon that was manipulated by magic was a phenomenon that was essentially not part of this world, so immediately after the manipulation the shackles due to the laws of physics were weakened. And so during the short time lag until the normal laws of physics take effect, one can execute the next magic with an amount of power far smaller than the required interference power to do normal phenomenon manipulation. That's how the hypothesis goes." And thereupon Tatsuya noticed his own mistake, and shook his head as he smiled bitterly.


"No, it's not a hypothesis. It was already demonstrated by Brionac that the FAE theory is correct." "Onii-sama, pardon me. There's something about what you've discussed now that I don't understand, can you clarify it for me?"


Miyuki's question was not mere socializing, it was a chance to clear up her doubt due to her love of learning. If it were a mere difficult theory, she would have probably swept it off by giving her brother annoying thoughts. But the FAE was a theory connected to magic used by Lina. Miyuki couldn't bring herself to remain ignorant of that.

"Go ahead, no need to restrain yourself." "As long as it is not a single-process magic, magic is constructed using consecutive processes. With that many, the succeeding process will take over and take effect on the state of the event manipulation of the previous process. However, for such magic, I have no actual experience in easily activating the second process onward, isn't this a counter-example to the FAE theory?" "I see ......"


On hearing Miyuki's question, Tatsuya, his head as if struck at a blind spot, nodded. "That kind of misunderstanding is probably common among magicians." However that was an unexpectedly strong emotion he felt, not because it was unexpected that what Miyuki pointed out was correct, but because even proficient magicians on the level of Miyuki would misunderstand something like that. "Misunderstanding, you said?"


"The fact is that magic processes by themselves are not magic." At Tatsuya's short explanation, Miyuki expressed confusion. Of course Tatsuya intended to keep on explaining until her younger sister got it. "Take this magic for example" As he said that, Tatsuya opened the sugar pot lid, made a sugar cube float to his eye level and held it there, then a second later he returned it back to the pot. "Onii-sama ... that may be seasoning, but you're aware how I feel on wasting food." "Oh, yeah, sorry."


And, upon seeing Miyuki rebuking him for what she saw, he was stuck with doing an apology without any excuses. Miyuki smiled satisfactorily at her brother meekly apologizing. "Well then,"


Experiencing the discomforting young-and-old rank reversal, Tatsuya slightly forced the discussion back on track.



"There's no need to say it to you, but the magic just used was the popular basic

training spell [Suspension]. A magic comprising of four processes -- a gravitation- type anti-gravity magic process to make the sugar cube float, a movement-type rest

magic process to suspend the sugar cube mid-air, a gravitation-type gravity control

magic process to slowly lower the sugar cube into the sugar pot, and a movement- type rest magic process to make the sugar cube stay still inside the sugar pot without

impacting it. However this presentation, now that you've said it, would easily foment misunderstanding." "Where have I made a misunderstanding?" "I didn't say you made a misunderstanding. It's just that for the four processes of the magic, the delusion that each of them is an independent magic rises." "That was ... a delusion?"


Tatsuya nodded gravely at Miyuki, who was currently bewildered upon being told that unexpected fact. "Suspension is a four-process magic, but it's those four processes that it becomes a single magic. To reach the stage where the magic is activated one has to complete constructing the magic sequences until the final rest process and define the variables. Without the full magic power to cover the four processes," Tatsuya broke off there and his eyes gazed into Miyuki, as if ascertaining her comprehension.


"The magic wouldn't be interrupted during activation, the anti-gravity process wouldn't activate from the start." Miyuki expressed a surprised look. "That's right ... if each process were independent magic, the moment the magic power is insufficient the magic would have been cut-off mid-way ... and not the result when it would have been non-activated from the start." Muttering as if talking to herself, Miyuki was at that moment digesting eagerly what Tatsuya had taught her.


"Magic processes are by themselves not independent magic. They are, through and through, part of one magic. That's what you mean, isn't it Onii-sama." "Exactly as you've said it. That's my Miyuki, you sure learn fast."



Smiled upon by Tatsuya, Miyuki turned her eyes away bashfully. It was an

expression of pure and simple embarrassment, but this time the feeling of embarrassment because she was unable to comprehend something until she was taught this much was stronger.


Tatsuya was not praising her out of sarcasm, he was really commending her. Miyuki was ashamed of herself who was aware of that and yet, while she's *her brother's* younger sister, all the more unable to understand this much. Although, she probably thought that she always mustn't turn her face away. Miyuki faced Tatsuya with a forced smile.


"Now now, something like this would end up being *intuitively* misunderstood without practically any personal experience, no matter how much of the theory you've understood. Magic is not a scholarly pursuit, but a technical capability. Without any experience in failing to activate magic, we wouldn't be troubled over its reasons."


Tatsuya wasn't sharp at other people's emotions, but it's a different story towards Miyuki. Whether it's seeing Miyuki go into a slump, or quickly going around with a cover-up.


"Besides the important point is not the reason why magic failed to activate, it's the fact that magic processes are only nothing more than convenient objects. As per what modern magic scheme had taken form, from activation sequence to magic sequence construction, to successfully describe the activation sequence it's only convenient that the magic sequence be broken down into modules called processes." Then again, Miyuki is not the type who doesn't know she's being encouraged on by her brother. Tatsuya was concerned *about her*. Glad about that, her forced smile softened up somewhat.


"I finally understood what Onii-sama was talking about." Miyuki lightly poked her own head, and she expressed a pleasant [Sorry, for being a dunce of a younger sister] smile. As that expression would cause one to experience large gaps with the usual images of an all-too-orderly beauty bringing about even the coldness, Tatsuya released power enough to totally get rid of his awareness towards ostrich-ism.


"Magic processes are through and through part of magic. Therefore event manipulation due to magic goes through all processes and is singular. Since even completing one process is still nothing more than a mid-stage event manipulation the manipulated event won't be successful, the event manipulation difficulty lowering described by the FAE theory wouldn't occur, right?"


"... That's right. Full marks for you, Miyuki." Even Tatsuya had his senses taken away by his younger sister charmingly swinging slightly her head onto one side. He tried to cover it up by pretending to be unnaturally silent, as if scrutinizing Miyuki's answer, but he had no faith in himself whether or not he can really deceive his younger sister.


Miyuki's smile, that made flowers bloom to their full glory, rejected Tatsuya's prying as something unsophisticated.



Just how does that pair pass time during a holiday?

For upperclassmen, classmates, and underclassmen who knew to some extent the siblings Tatsuya and Miyuki -- that meant the majority of First High students, it was the first time all of them had encountered this question. And so,

--- They flirt with each other all day long, like a couple in passionate love?

--- No-no, say what you want but to go that far ... at least how about on the level of an all-day date?

--- Nah, that's naive. I'm sure that couple would finally end up in a scene where ... in those situations a colorful array of speculation (wild ideas?) spread around. Their speculations were partially spot on. It's true that the pair are *very happily* spending their rest days, even going on dates.


However, it is not every day. In fact Tatsuya many times was away from home on Sundays. It's mostly going to the FLT research labs or being summoned by the Independent Magic-equipped Battalion, but ever since Minami came to the Shiba house, he stopped worrying about Miyuki being alone, and so the frequency of occurrence went up.


But today was right now unusual, for there are no appointments set for Tatsuya. Even Miyuki was not into saying "I want to go out". It wasn't because the student council elections were moved to weekends; it was covered by the fact that Tatsuya was physically exhausted due to training.


And so to tell the whole story, Miyuki was in no mood to entertain guests today. Even though those guests were close relatives. What's more, she was disinclined to show this pair into the house. Even if the people were close relatives she can't rest easy, even though she knew they're allies she cannot lower her guard. But those were nothing more than Miyuki's personal sentiments. Moreover their reason was [for her brother] and since Tatsuya didn't show any stance of denying them, Miyuki (on the surface) has no reason not to welcome them.


"Fumiya, Ayako, good for you to come."

"Fumiya-kun, Ayako-chan, welcome."

Tatsuya and Miyuki friendly addressed the pair who had just settled down after

being led inside by Minami and offered to sit on the sofa. It was for the

above-mentioned reasons that Miyuki's manners were quite diplomatic,

while Tatsuya wasnever to lower his guard whoever he was facing -- apart from one person.

But seenfrom outside the pair's manners showed an impeccably friendly affection.

"Tatsuya-san, Miyuki-oneesama, pardon us for intruding you."

"Tatsuya-niisan, Miyuki-san, long time no see."


In contrast with the greetings of the Shiba siblings, the response of the Kuroba siblings were stiff. Compared to Tatsuya and his sister they should not be considerably inexperienced. Age-wise those June-born twins would have been sixteen, the same age with March-born Miyuki. Whether sixteen years of age was adult age or minor age was set aside for now, and since it was almost ignored the twins should be able to easily and completely hide their nervousness.


In other words, today was perhaps due to business that corresponded to those [considerable matters]. Both Tatsuya and Miyuki drew that conclusion from their appearances.


"Which reminds me Fumiya, Minami was indebted to you for last month." Minami, standing beside the sofa, quickly bowed to Fumiya who was bewildered at suddenly being thanked by Tatsuya.


"Thanks to you eliminating the guards, you saved me from trouble."

"O, oh ... ... that incident, right?" On the words for guard elimination, Fumiya gradually realized it was the incident during the last day of the 9SC when he brought down the security surrounding the van Minami was on.


"No, it's not a considerable matter." Don't mind about it, Fumiya tried to answer this back. However, "Though this may not repay the favor back to you" Tatsuya was quick to follow-up his words. "Is there something I may be able to help you with?" Fumiya was struck speechless at the unexpected words, while Ayako sitting beside him exhaled loudly.


"... Really, we're no match for Tatsuya-san. With a calm look that shows zero interest in other people's mood, he brought down such a surprise attack at us." Shaking her head with a look that's raring to say something even though she's stumped, she turned her focus at her younger twin who's frozen beside her. "Fumiya, let's take up his offer. We're only emissaries from the start, we have no choice about it."


"Y, yes. You're right ..." Fumiya nodded with a resigned look, then from an inner pocket of his jacket he neatly wore even though it's a Sunday he took out a normal-sized sealed letter. There was no address. Picking up the sealed envelope then turning it over, Tatsuya lightly raised his brows. Miyuki, peering over from her brother's side, lightly gasped as she placed a hand into her mouth.


Written on the reverse side was the name of their aunt, Yotsuba Maya. "We're here to personally hand this to you from the mistress." At Fumiya's words, Miyuki looked beside at her brother. Tatsuya nodded back at Miyuki, accepted the paper knife that was presented by a fast-acting Minami, then broke open the seal.

Inside the envelope was a simple single sheet of stationery. Tatsuya looked it over thoroughly, and when done reading he handed it over to Miyuki who's been waiting patiently.


"Are you aware, Fumiya, of the contents that were written here?" Fumiya showed some slight hesitation, "Yes, I'm aware" And yet answered on his own without asking his sister for help.


"I see" This time Tatsuya shifted his focus onto Miyuki. Miyuki had just finished reading the stationery, and was softly nodding with the intention to [it's your call]. "That written here is a commission for assistance for the capture of Zhou Gongjin?" "That too we know."


This time, Tatsuya plainly raised his eyebrows. "I see. The commission is not a figure of speech, it's meant as it was written." Both Fumiya and Ayako nodded as one. Miyuki half-rose to her feet and faced Tatsuya. "Onii-sama ... why has Aunt offered this [commission] to us?" The question was is it okay to commission when *ordering it* was enough. Even Tatsuya was of the same opinion on the matter.


"On that matter we were entrusted with a verbal message." "A verbal message? Is it something that cannot be left even in a letter?" Secrecy was normally tighter for paper documentation than electronic data. He's wondering just what kind the contents are to make her hesitate to even put it into the letter.


However, Ayako didn't answer directly to that question. "'It doesn't matter if you refuse this job.'"


"Aunt would say such a thing!?" Miyuki unintentionally raised her voice, then *faced Tatsuya* and ashamedly muttered [Pardon me].


Tatsuya understood the reasoning that made his younger sister be taken aback. However he was not that much surprised. Maya may be the head of house Yotsuba, but since Tatsuya's status to the Yotsuba was that of a Guardian, Miyuki has the highest authority when it comes to ordering him. And as per the secret agreement arranged between house Yotsuba and 101st Brigade, apart from missions that concern Miyuki's protection, it was decided that the 101st Brigade has the preferential right.


Miyuki was seeing as absolute truth the might of the Yotsuba, or rather since she doesn't know well the competencies of other magic organizations or military powers, she was at a state where she was convinced that she cannot go against Maya's orders. In fact, even Maya cannot ignore the Yotsuba organization and its agreement with the military. With these set regulations, there aren't many cases where Maya can order Tatsuya.


Accordingly, Tatsuya judged that it wasn't time yet to oppose Maya. And that call, just because the opponent had behaved like a lamb, won't change. "Fumiya, tell Aunt that it is [accepted]." Both Miyuki and Ayako faced Tatsuya with plainly surprised looks. "I will certainly pass the word. ... My apologies, Tatsuya-niisan." And Fumiya faced Tatsuya and bowed very deeply. "Why is Fumiya apologizing?"


"Capturing Zhou Gongjin was a mission originally given to the Kuroba. And because of our incompetence we ended up causing Tatsuya-niisan trouble ..." The [incompetence] Fumiya said referred to the circumstances surrounding last month when on Maya's orders the Kuroba sortied to Yokohama Chinatown for Zhou Gongjin's capture. That time the head of house, Mitsugu, was severely injured with one arm completely bitten off, and the dragnet set by the Kuroba hit squad was broken allowing Zhou to escape.


Fumiya's look, when he answered Tatsuya's question, had [shame] written all over it.

"Fumiya, it is not bad to ask for other people's help." At that state, Tatsuya took on an unexpected brotherly attitude. "All the more if it is a Kuroba business, you should have actively sought me out even if you suppress your own sentiments." "Tatsuya-niisan ...?"


"Wanting to accomplish by your own what was entrusted to you is an attitude I can understand. However making the mission succeed is the greater priority." By their own meant by their own strength, that is to say the manifestation of juvenile perfectionism and an aspect of dangerous obsession common among the youth. "Failure is not permitted whether it's your or my *work*." Tatsuya's voice was stern. However, hidden in there is a gentleness that would make Miyuki envious.


"... You're right. It was a verbal gaffe." Even Fumiya understood that Tatsuya was looking after him without the need to be taught of that by anyone.


"So it's not an apology then, is it. Thank you very much, Tatsuya-niisan." On seeing Fumiya bowing down again, Tatsuya replied back with a satisfied nod. "Well then let's hear out what's clear thus far." "Understood. After escaping Yokohama, Zhou Gongjin headed west by sea, apparently his escape route through the Pacific was blocked. After disembarking at Ise, Zhou was cornered at Biwakooohashi as he was heading north, but he ended up getting away. We believe he has slipped in somewhere in Kyoto. Our men are currently on the move and searching in the Oohara area. "Any info on the supporters?"


"It's likely that the [Traditionalists], the organization of ancient magicians opposing the houses of [Nine], have had a hand in his escape." "The traditionalists, eh?" "Tatsuya-niisan, do you know of them?"

"I've heard a bit of them from Master Yakumo. They're not only a domestic gathering of astray ancient magicians, they have ancient magicians that have fled from the mainland --- and they have even taken in occultists, probably attempting to boost organizational strength. And last time I remember there were refugee occultists within the Kudou, is it possible that they have given a hand?"


"We don't have to worry about that. The occultists under Kudou escaped from the former Ninth Laboratory immediately after Zhou Gongjin's escape from Yokohama and have joined up with the traditionalists. No need to inquire to the Kudou about this, we got direct confirmation from them."


"The fact that the traditionalists and the houses of [Nine] are joining hands behind the scenes is unthinkable. No need to worry about the Kudou stabbing at our backs." "Tatsuya-san?" It was Ayako, up to now was leaving the explanation to her younger brother, who was reservedly asking Tatsuya who was staring into mid-space and thinking about something.


"No, pardon me. I'll keep those in mind." On detecting that those thankful words contain a [question time is over] sign, Ayako and Fumiya stood up as one.

During the time when Tatsuya and Miyuki left to see Ayako and Fumiya off at the entrance, Minami was clearing away the tabletop and prepared additional black tea.

Her sorry feelings for jumping the gun on her master (Miyuki) had already

disappeared from within her. She has emotions of respect towards her master Miyuki, esteem towards her as a magician, and aspirations towards her as a young girl. At the same time, she's a bit bothered at her master taking up maid duties, and is well aware of her inconveniently severe brother complex.


Returning to the living room with teacups in hand, Minami was motioned to settle herself on the sofa Fumiya had sat on just now. Reluctantly, she lowered the teacups in front of Tatsuya and Miyuki and had just sat down when Tatsuya slightly frowned.


"Err, Tatsuya-sama ... ?" Minami had internally categorized Tatsuya as one with more common sense than Miyuki. In short, a companion even more sensible than her master. While she wasn't

reacting wildly, Minami was driven to worry whether she had committed some kind of blunder.


"Minami, prepare one more cup of tea." "Yes ... ?"

She was self-aware that now she might have shown a stupefied expression; Minami's confusion was evident in her face. (Is there another guest coming right after this time?) "It's not what you think."


She herself may not have noticed it but Minami's face has not only confusion, even her doubt was showing up. When he perceived what was on her expression, Tatsuya brought in a correction along with a slightly strained smile.


"I meant that you prepare some for yourself since our conversation might take long." Minami's doubt cleared up with Tatsuya's explanation, but a new confusion came up at the same time. Even so Tatsuya saw right through it. "It's uncomfortable for me and Miyuki having something to drink while you don't have any."


"... ... Please wait for a moment." As she was beaten down with a not-well-understood sense of defeat, she quickly went back to the kitchen.

As he was waiting for Minami to bring her own cup and return to the sofa, Tatsuya spread out Maya's letter on the table. Only terse business was written on the single sheet of stationery. He used [Elemental Sight] to read the information attached to both stationery and envelope, but there were no traces of special tricks being applied. "In other words, Aunt's task really appears to be only to help out in the capture of Zhou Gongjin."Explained on this, a strongly suspicious look showed up on Miyuki's face.

"Why Aunt would only this time choose not an order but a commission?" "It's true that it bothers me. And unless we ask Aunt we won't know the answer ..." Tatsuya looked at Miyuki, and then at Minami.


It was no way a severe gaze. Even so, tension ran through Minami's spine. "Both of you may not be aware of it, but from the start Aunt holds no authority to order me. To put it more concisely, Aunt's command authority has the lowest precedence."


Miyuki and Minami's shock and awe were laid bare. Both of them covering their mouths in unison was perhaps the fruits of their manners education or the result of the maid under her master's influence. "Needless to be said guaranteeing Miyuki's safety is the highest priority, but the next in priority are duties with Independent Magic-equipped Battalion. Aunt's command authority comes in third after that."


Miyuki stirring beside him was transmitted to Tatsuya, but he didn't give attention any more than that. Even Minami who was focused on Tatsuya's words, didn't gaze coldly as usual at a writhing Miyuki's brother complex reaction. "However up to now when Aunt has instructed *work* for me, it was always in the form of orders. Perhaps they knew through ways and means that I'm not in a duty, but in any case that was the norm."


Tatsuya then reached for his teacup. Either he was thirsty with all the talking, or perhaps behind his tea drinking he was collecting his thoughts. His returning the cup to its saucer was a bit slower than usual. "Since a not-too-common method was used, it seems that we have an unusual situation. Such as the case this time when it requires special countermeasures, for example."


Comprehension was in Minami's expression, but worry was showing up in Miyuki's. "That is, the task this time is especially dangerous, right?" "We have an opponent who has heavily injured the head of house Kuroba, and is still evading the Yotsuba's pursuit. It's no easy task to capture or to off him."

As he was answering with those, he gently stroked Miyuki's hair as if telling her to "not to worry". On feeling those hands as Tatsuya saying he was not thinking of it as a dangerous mission, Miyuki regained her composure. "The problem is not the difficulty of the mission."


However, the next thing Tatsuya informed them when he let go of hair-stroking brought tension back to Miyuki and Minami's expressions. "It's the first time for me in a situation where the target's whereabouts are unknown, and I say it's very rare for the Yotsuba. And I haven't known of one who has the capacity to escape from the Yotsuba's hand."


Tatsuya sighed at the difficulty of the latest task. "An opponent for such a situation. There's no avoiding that this might turn into a long-term task."


Miyuki's expression turned from tension to worry and loneliness. Upon seeing that Tatsuya hastily added his next words. "It doesn't mean that I'll be gone for extended periods. There is school, and from the start I have zero know-how on persons search I have to commission other people to locate his whereabouts. My turn will come when Zhou Gongjin is located." "... Will it turn into a battle?"


"Miyuki, enough with that face. There's no way I'm going against him alone. The task that is requested of me is to cut off all of the target's escape routes." As he said that Tatsuya pointed at himself.


Miyuki, having understood what that meant, breathed a sigh of relief. "However from time to time there are days that I have to be away from the house." Tatsuya pretended that he did not see Miyuki's "that's not what you said" sulked look.


"When that time comes, Minami, you protect her." Minami didn't understand well why she was made to sit here. As a result, she was so far vaguely listening to Tatsuya's talk with her mood that it was other people's problems.

"Yes--!" However, that was in some way a surprise attack. Minami, on hearing formally from Tatsuya the tasks that were given to her as a magician and a Guardian, instinctively straightened her back more than that was necessary and ended up answering in a surprised tone.


Tatsuya remained impassive even when hearing her "Yass--!" response. "Magic strength-wise, Miyuki is stronger than you are. Perhaps she can use many spells in simulated combat. But those have nothing to do with this."


"-- Yes" Inspired by Tatsuya's serious tone, Minami this time solidly responded back. "Minami, for the Yotsuba you are Miyuki's Guardian. But for me you're more than that, you're one of the few magicians whom I can put my trust in."


Tatsuya's voice was darkly grave. Tatsuya was aware that Maya was the one who sent in Minami and had some hidden plans for her; likewise Minami was aware that Tatsuya knew. But on top of that, Tatsuya said he trusted Minami. Judging with his own eyes, he said she was trustworthy.


"When I'm out of the house, I entrust Miyuki to you." "Please leave the rest to me." Minami squarely accepted that trust.

◊ ◊ ◊

Due to the nature of work of the Kuroba *family*, they have numerous business trips. For that reason, they have regular hotels in every area in Japan. For major cities either a hotel under the direct patronage of the Yotsuba or a hotel with direct Yotsuba funding was set up. Even this time Fumiya and his sister were staying at a hotel set up under the Yotsuba umbrella. And so they could make calls to the Yotsuba main house without fear of being intercepted.

"The mistress' letter has certainly been handed to Tatsuya-niisan. Moreover we were entrusted with Tatsuya-niisan's verbal message." Fumiya was reporting what had transpired today to the Yotsuba main house. ["And what did Tatsuya-dono say?"]


The number he was calling was a direct line to Maya, but because of circumstances she unexpectedly could not answer the call, and so he was speaking with Hayama instead. Fumiya didn't mind talking to a butler on the results of the task that was ordered by their mistress since [Hayama-san as the other party was easy on the nerves].


" 'Acknowledged', he said." ["Anything else? Did he say anything indicating about a censure should, for example, the request of Madam be not accepted?"]


"No, he did not say anything of the sort." ["Indeed. Good work Fumiya-dono and Ayako-dono. I will relay to Tatsuya-dono from here on the detailed appointments."]


"I see. A pleasure talking to you." As Fumiya said that, Hayama respectfully bowed on-screen. With this the call had ended. Fumiya too bowed to him as he cut off the line.

"With this our mission is over, right? This time we were really just mere messengers, weren't we?"


Ayako, who was beside him listening to their call, talked in a flat tone to Fumiya, who took a big breather after finishing his report. On the surface one would think those words would reveal her displeasure on the zero resistance at the mission, but looking at her expression would make one realize that she was very receptive at the fact that the mission was over quickly .


"It's still six in the evening. We can get home early at this time, so what next then?" Fumiya, who had just sat down, shook his head at Ayako's inquiry. "Well, we'll go take a rest today. After all the main house took the trouble of preparing for us a luxurious room like this suite of three adjoining rooms."



"So this is the so-called luxurious .... So such petty bourgeois-like stuff meant we're

far from Maya-sama's envoys we're not even fit to be Father's envoys." After lightly rebuking her younger brother's idle talk, Ayako noticed that mixed in with the [idle talk] was a cynical streak, so unusual for her brother. "Fumiya, are you unhappy with today's task?"


Ayako changed her tone, and took on asking point-blank her younger brother's true intentions.


"I have no complaints on the mission itself." With a paradoxical expression, Fumiya acknowledged that he had complaints relating to today's mission.


"I know that being an envoy is an important task, and I know also that I'm the person suited for the task of bringing Maya-sama's letter to Tatsuya-niisan. But ..." "You are not happy with the conditions that were imposed when bringing the letter, are you?"


Ayako supplemented Fumiya's muddled words with her soft voice. "That's what I'm talking about!" Fumiya blew his pent up emotions up at Ayako's [sisterly] voice. "Just what the hell are these, not making a move and not shaking off what is following us!"


That was the restriction, rather than condition, that was imposed upon Fumiya today.


On the onset, during the time he was ordered directly by Maya to [bring this letter to Tatsuya-san], Fumiya has no beef against being sent on an errand; instead he was happy about it. He was simply happy that he was going to see Tatsuya, and was just satisfied being made an intermediary to send out a *request* to Tatsuya who was said to be not on very good terms with Maya (but they appeared to be).


However after Maya had left, on being informed on the above-mentioned restrictions as an important point of today's mission from butler Hanabishi, the Yotsuba's number two servant and in-charge of various arrangements incident to the accepted primary [task], he felt that cold water was doused onto him. It was not that

he was getting unhappy on meeting Tatsuya. What he was harboring was not disappointment, but worry.


"And I know that we're being shadowed and we cannot interfere with it! Thanks to them, it'll end up with us informing some gang from somewhere the residence of Tatsuya-niisan and Miyuki-san!"


"It's all right, Fumiya. Whoever they are, they cannot divulge the link between Tatsuya-san and the Yotsuba. He himself may not be aware of it, but Tatsuya-san's personal data was manipulated such that the more it is investigated the more they will conclude that it has no link with the Yotsuba."


Ayako's consoling words unfortunately had almost no effect to Fumiya now. "I'm not worried about that! The guys that were tailing us could be the people hiding Zhou Gongjin."


Ayako did not brush off Fumiya's judgement as [over-thinking]. From the time he fled Yokohama, Zhou Gongjin was well-aware that his pursuers were the Kuroba. However, in accordance to their family directive, Fumiya and Ayako went on to deliberately stand themselves out as the Kuroba during last month's 9SC. "Even though the best case is where Tatsuya-niisan would be bothered due to incompetence from us the Kuroba, due to our action allowing us to be followed, they would end up in someone's cross-hairs. I can't see Tatsuya-niisan face-to-face anymore," Fumiya lamented, face down and in a grim tone.


"Fumiya"


Ayako stood in front of him and called out her younger brother's name. "What aryu-!?"


Ayako had pulled both ways the cheeks of her brother, who had raised his head up. "What are you doing!"


Fumiya immediately shook off her sister's hands, but on seeing Ayako quite roughly pulling him, his cheeks reddened. Towards a tearfully protesting younger brother, Ayako had, for an instant, shown a really pleasant-looking sadistic smile, then quickly switched to a kept-up false smile. "Nee-s


In an almost suspicious tone, Fumiya asked for an explanation from his sister.

"You should be relaxing more, Fumiya. It's different when you're stuck with your inattentiveness, but since it's the main house's orders shouldn't you be doing nothing? It's not your mission. It doesn't matter even if they go for Tatsuya-san. Even should they try something meddlesome, it only means we have the enemy by the tail."


"Nee-san ..."

an?" A seated Fumiya stared with upturned eyes back at Ayako who was standing in front of him. From a third person view --- as far as Fumiya himself was concerned he was in something unintentional -- an expression that could only be called cute, but then Ayako wordlessly and forcefully pulled back.


"I should be saying something that might be very appropriate, but I saw exactly a while back that's somewhat interesting." "W, well Fumiya, it should be nothing of that sort. And oh, we can't return at this rate, I must go fix our luggage."


"But we didn't prepare luggage for a night's stay!" "Well then, Fumiya, see you at dinnertime." "Ah, hey, don't run out on me!"


The escape pace quickening all the more when told not to escape was not limited to thieves. Ayako ran into her own room, and clicked it shut before Fumiya could catch up.

◊ ◊ ◊

It was a little over a month before this year's [National Magic High School Thesis Competition]. However, the most discussed topic among the First High students was, still, not the thesis competition.


"This year probably won't have the chaos of last year, right?" "Told you before it wouldn't occur. And in the first place the election itself is probably unnecessary. Even if , for argument's sake, an opponent stood up, it's still a landslide victory for Shiba-san."

"Shiba-san's that good, eh? I can't wait for the oratorical. Dammit, if only that brother isn't present."


"Don't be stupid. Shiba-san can't have a *boyfriend* because of that elder brother, right? Unlike a performer she cannot be betrayed. She's the best." -- so went a conversation between second year boys.


"I wonder who Shiba-san places to what position?" "It's exciting ... no more, isn't it. It's the annual elections, and this year there's especially no one brave enough to stand up to her."

"If that's the case then the first year Saegusa-san will be vice chairman, and Mitsui- san will be treasurer, right?"

"Eh? Onii-san is not given a position?" "Onii-san ... wait, isn't he a junior?"


"Well, yeah he is. Didn't he impress you as something as an [Onii-san]?"


"If that's the case isn't it 'Onii-sama'? Even I wish for such an [Onii-sama]."


"Right right. Didn't that [Onii-sama] become a treasurer? You know that other people can't hold back Shiba-san?"


"Oh--, just like what happened last year, right ..."


-- so went the conversation between third year girls. Also, gossip similar to those could be heard here and there in the cafeteria. The First High students' current interest gravitated towards the student council president elections coming this weekend.


Most of all, this year was an almost certain vote of confidence with zero opposition. This year also the general student meeting had no major themes like last year's regulations change in student council member selection criteria. The boys' talk was on Miyuki's charming figure that was bound to be seen on the oratorical, while the girls' talk converged on who would be chosen for what position.


"You're an [Onii-sama] now, Tatsuya-kun."


"It's bad manners to eavesdrop, Erika."



The chitchat also reached the table of Tatsuya, the person concerned. Forget it, it's

not only the voices. Though no one was shameless enough to see him openly, Tatsuya's antenna immediately picked out many times the stealthy quick peeks that were headed his way.


Right now there are five at same table: Tatsuya, Erika, Leo, Mizuki, and Mikihiko. Miyuki would have tried too, but it would be troublesome with too many gazes converging on them, so she hesitantly took her lunch at the student council room, along with Honoka and Shizuku. Honoka herself didn't chose her friends over her love, it's that she's avoiding by herself the maelstrom of gazes headed at the person concerned.


"Tatsuya, you're not running for student council president this year?" "I didn't announce my candidacy last year either."


As Leo's question stepped on last year's poll count, Tatsuya's answer once again stressed that last year's vote count was invalidated. The massive number of invalidated ballots last year was something unspeakable not only to Miyuki, who ended up with a embarrassingly humiliating nickname, but also to Tatsuya. "Now now, there wouldn't be a racket like last year for this year, right?" Thinking that provoking Tatsuya too much was untimely, Erika said that to smooth things over.


"I'm sure there's no wise guy who can make fun of Miyuki's speech." Mikihiko expressed the same opinion in an earnest tone. "Oh yeah Tatsuya-san, who was chosen by Miyuki-san to take on the new roles?" Even the other three listened attentively to Mizuki's question, not to mention the others surrounding the table who, all as one, were straining their ears.


"I wasn't told of that. We didn't discuss it much back at home." Signs of disappointment went along here and there on Tatsuya's direct answer.

"Didn't I tell you that it still hasn't been decided yet? The elections are not yet over, don't rush such stuff." At the same time in the student council room, Miyuki was saying that in an exasperated tone.

"Honoka, in this situation Miyuki would refuse to yield. Give it up." "Uh ... I'm sorry, Miyuki, for making such ruckus." Honoka, already losing her nerve at Miyuki's ill-natured aura, luckily surrendered at her close friend's rebuking.


"... I was a bit harsh on my words. I'm sorry, too, Honoka. I was trying to understand well the reason behind you worrying my Onii-sama's actions." Miyuki said that as she glanced at Honoka's back. Honoka, locked on by the Miyuki's gaze, turned around. Standing there was Pixie, who had just finished preparing the after-meal tea. "Ugu ..."


Honoka stiffened her expression, but Shizuku patted lightly on her shoulder. Shizuku showed her shaking head at Honoka who had turned around. "It's too late, Honoka." Honoka hung her head, crestfallen.


Azusa, Isori, and Kanon all smiled wryly as they looked sympathetically at a discouraged Honoka. Izumi and Kasumi looked at each other with a "Hm?" expression.

"Eh? Isn't that Minami-chan?" "Hm, that's her alright." Tatsuya spoke in a lightly surprised tone towards a mystified Mizuki and Erika.


"There are times Minami would come to the dining hall with her classmates." She probably realized that she was being watched. Minami, holding a tray, turned to the group of classmates (probably) at end of the queue and was greeted upon. Tatsuya nodded back at her then turned his focus back to his two female friends. "Small wonder at that."

"True, true." The pair laughed deceptively but then,


"Which reminds me, Tatsuya-kun, why aren't you joining the Thesis competition?" Seeing the situation turn sour, Erika tried to divert into the pressing subject. Tatsuya was not the one who couldn't read that girl's motives, but facts about Minami were never a subject worth nagging about. Tatsuya *willingly* acquiesced to Erika's request.


"Very simple, it's merely because I have no time for it." "Eh, what do you mean by that?" Mikihiko was likely the one who had shown the most interest on this subject. Even now he was especially straining to listen in, indicating that the biggest issue was Tatsuya's answer.


"No matter what and how you put it, it is as what I said." Tatsuya tried to answer as such to end the discussion, but he quickly changed his mind on seeing the other five's overpowering gazes on him that demanded his explanation.


"After the stellar furnace experiments, I went into an independent study, but it still hasn't reached the stage where I can announce it." "Oh ... so you're engaged in an extremely advanced study, eh?" Leo let out a sigh as he nodded deeply. Into it a [tell me what subject is it!] nuance was included but, "You could say that. But its contents are a secret."


He could not straight out say that he was into development of a combat magic that uses the FAE theory. "Err---"


And as expected, a displeased voice came out from Erika. However, "Erika-chan, you shouldn't be saying such nonsense!"

"Erika, I'm sure Tatsuya has some reason for keeping it a secret. First off, even revealing the magic theories the level of the stellar furnace would not even satisfy our curiosity."


Mizuki's words were to rebuke Erika, while Mikihiko's words were aimed at both Erika and Leo.


In short, Mikihiko was saying that [they would not understand at all even with the detailed explanation], but intelligence-wise the pair were never dull. However, it was for that all those reasons that both Erika and Leo did not object at what Mikihiko had pointed out. Both were not stupid enough to know that to be strangely obstinate would only bring trouble upon themselves.


"Speaking of which, Tatsuya-kun, did they request your assistance?"


"They haven't for now."


"This year's front man is Kei-senpai, right? You and Kei-senpai are on good terms." "Of course I would cooperate if they would tell me so, but it is not my time this year."


Towards Erika's surprise-filled question, Tatsuya answered not with [smiling and dodging], but with a honest manner. "Eh, why is that?"


This time it was Mizuki, tilting her head to her side and looking doubtful. "This year's venue will be in Kyoto."


"The thesis competition alternates between Yokohama and Kyoto, but the bias of the evaluation is different by location. They say that when it's held at Yokohama the practical subjects are valued highly, whereas it's the purely theoretical subjects that are preferred in Kyoto."


Tatsuya nodded at Mikihiko's additional explanation. "In the Kyoto-held competition, presentations related to the theories of magic like the cardinal code hypothesis are easily ranked higher than subjects on activation sequence improvements, power systems that use magic, and magic sequence development for the aforementioned purpose."


Leo finally shook his head many times with a crestfallen expression.

"So they cannot use Tatsuya's expertise if he were to join." "I thought Tatsuya was far ahead of the high school students even for pure theoretical fields ..."


However Mizuki meekly raised her protest, unable to accept it. "Yeah, and it isn't that difficult to do." Erika answered Mizuki's question. Or rather, she directly voiced out what was her own idea.


"Kei-senpai may not lose his nerve or grow jealous, but when the methodologies are different they would have a hard time even just to mutually reconcile of methods." "Are they really that different?"


"Now look, I had my CAD carved by Kei-senpai, right? And from time to time, I had Tatsuya run maintenance on it so he knows about it somehow. What do you mean the approach are different when they support on the same spell."


"I see ... carved seal support is closer to our Ancient Magic talismans." As the friends sidelined the main person and went on their own topic, the afternoon class bell rang.

◊ ◊ ◊

7:30pm. Normally it would be still a time for get-together after dinner. But for today, when the needles point at 7:25pm -- though it's not a classic wall clock but a modern one with a virtual two-needle clock face -- Tatsuya went into his own room. There, using his own room's security-enhanced voice-only telephone, he called a certain lady's private number.


["Hello, this is Fujibayashi."] The telephone, with its normal vision-phone image processing resources all diverted to encryption, was handling high-grade encryption at a speed that did not interfere with the call.

"This is Shiba. My apologies for calling you this late at night." He hurriedly ended his time with his *precious* younger sister to make this call at this time, something he had arranged for in an advance e-mail.


["It's rare for you Tatsuya-kun to contact me. What's the matter, you have urgent business?"]


"It is urgent business. Far more important than time." An uneasy pause came about from the suggestive expression. ["... somehow I don't want to hear it."]


"And I don't want to say it if I could." ["........."]


Fujibayashi's silence urged Tatsuya on. But although as far as tonight goes, Tatsuya's speaking must be unaffected by any reaction from Fujibayashi.


"I ask for Elder Kudou's cooperation." And Tatsuya's request smoothly went out, even though he had spoken of the [unspeakable words]. ["With Grandfather?"]


"Yes. A request not to Lieutenant Fujibayashi of the 101st Independent Magic Battalion, but as to a daughter of the Fujibayashi and Elder Kudou's granddaughter. And I want you to set a time and place where I can discuss privately with him." ["When you say privately, you mean it's linked to Yotsuba *business*?"] This time Tatsuya was silent.


["Considering the event last month, I can't say I refuse, can I?"] "That's right."


Fujibayashi was startled into almost voicing that out. And despite of what he had said himself, Tatsuya's call for cooperation now has that [returning the favor from that time] nuance; she didn't expect him to freely admit it.

It would take her several seconds to spin out her next words. And so Tatsuya resumed the conversation. "However I have no intention of speaking out unreasonable demands. I would rather consider for the Elder to kindly oblige a voluntary assistance." ["Can I hear out the *business* at hand?"]


"The location and capture of a certain magician who had escaped from Yokohama Chinatown." ["... I see. Now I know that's the Yotsuba wanting to hire the services of Grandfather."]


A sign that showed that Fujibayashi was letting her nervousness up was sent from the other side of the phone. "It seems you're aware that the Yotsuba ran into trouble." It wasn't the Yotsuba that wanted to hire the services of Kudou Retsu but Tatsuya, but he didn't bother to clear Fujibayashi's misunderstanding.


["Truth is the JSDF are having a hard time, too! As Lieutenant Fujibayashi you're more than welcome to set out and deal with this guy."] She deliberately calling herself [Lieutenant Fujibayashi] was a petty response to Tatsuya's words a while back. Although as far as Tatsuya is concerned this level of wordplay was inadequate for sarcasm.


Even Fujibayashi might have read the mood with the silent response. With uneasy coughing, she attempted to clear it away. What's more, she used her deliberate business-like tone to answer Tatsuya's request.


["Very well, I will ask when it is convenient for Grandfather. Is replying by mail all right with you?"]


"No problem. Just use the Independent Magic Battalion's for the encryption." With these words, Tatsuya was only saying to keep the security up. However for Fujibayashi this was distrust aimed at her [sender blank mail] the month before last. ["... All right then!"]

Tatsuya was racking his brains just what nerves did he touch at Fujibayashi, who had brusquely cut off the conversation.


With the call over he felt his throat was dry, so Tatsuya went for the dining room.

There, Miyuki was by herself drinking tea. "Onii-sama, you want something to drink?"


Miyuki, seated in front of the dining table, immediately stood up and asked Tatsuya. "Sure, I'm a bit thirsty." Though he answered directly, Tatsuya did not ask for Minami's whereabouts. Studying, cleaning, bathing, whatever, Tatsuya knew from sight that Minami was out from this place, and he too has no tasks for her. "I will prepare one immediately."


Water was enough for Tatsuya, but he's not raising protests at Miyuki's notice. He knew his younger sister's eagerness to support him, and as far as he knew her helping him too much is at least not displeasing. Rather it's the reverse and so he saw no reason to refuse her.


"Please wait in the living room." As he was requested by Miyuki, Tatsuya transferred to the living room.

After an under-5-minute wait at the sofa, Miyuki showed up from the dining room, carrying a tray with two glasses of milk ice tea on it. She ought to be drinking hot tea a while back, so her share was probably a remix.


Miyuki soundlessly set coasters and glasses on top of the glass-hard and shiny sofa table. One in front of Tatsuya and the other beside it. And then Miyuki, as if she has the expected privilege -- he was sure she herself made that clear -- sat down beside Tatsuya.


Tatsuya was sitting on a one-seater sofa, so snuggling close to him is impossible. Even so, Miyuki did not show signs of feeling discomfort. Softly smiling, she, together with her brother, brought into her lips the straws of ice-chilled milk tea.


Miyuki let her straw go first. She silently returned her glass onto the table, sat back on the sofa, and looked hard at her brother's profile.


Tatsuya immediately recognized that gaze. He let go of his straw, returned the glass with a soft clink, and met her sister's gaze head on. "The call just then, it's related to yesterday's talk, isn't it?"


When Tatsuya went into his own room, he notified that he was going [to make a call], but he didn't clarify where to and what business for. And it looked like Miyuki managed to get them right. It's probably not that hard to deduce given that it was just today's yesterday. Even so, Tatsuya felt admiration for her. "That's right."


"Is it all right to hear out who you talked to on the phone?" He was a bit stumped over this question. Nevertheless, Tatsuya went to answering her truthfully. "Lieutenant Fujibayashi." "... ... Onii-sama, are you requesting for the assistance of the Independent Magic Batallion?"


With Miyuki's question a low-key dissenting view was expressed. Even Tatsuya has shared a common misgiving whether it's all right to allow military intervention in a Yotsuba business. And for that very reason he didn't call Kazama but to Fujibayashi. "No, I requested to Fujibayashi for an intermediary with Elder Kudou." "Isn't that dangerous? Communications with the Independent Magic-equipped Battalion are subject to bugging."


Nowadays, freedom of private communication is guaranteed even for military personnel. Although high-compression ultrasonic data communications were installed in voice telephones since over fifty years ago, anti-information leak bugging systems were installed in telephony equipment of vital installations to handle this.

It was not conversation tapping via automatically filtering out sound waves apart from those in the audible range, but as there were certain that some hardware was tapped between sender and receiver to listen to sound waves in transit, they can't shake off the possibility that some other equipment was also attached.

Even Tatsuya had taken this into account and was on the lookout for it. "It should be safe. The number I called was Lieutenant's private number. I don't think even the likes of Echelon III can be used to intercept the lines the [Electron Sorceress] privately uses."

Don't worry, Tatsuya was explaining this to Miyuki. However these were careless words not learned in the past.


"... I see. Fujibayashi-san's private telephone number." It was already too late to think "oh shit". Tatsuya thought just now that it would be a pain to pacify an already enraged younger sister just like April last year. "By the way, Onii-sama. Where did you get Fujibayashi-san's personal number?"


Even Miyuki's tone and expression were totally the same like in the [broadcast booth barricade case] that preceded the Blanche raids. At that time the chaos was approaching right before him so it was somehow left in the dark, but this time .... (Now, how do I talk my way out of this?)


Frankly speaking, Tatsuya is totally not in guilty territory. Not only did he know Fujibayashi-san's personal telephone number, but also those of Kazama, Sanada, and Yamanaka. But he didn't imagine that even revealing these would make Miyuki wholeheartedly agree. She may agree on the surface, but deep down she would be hell bent on dragging it out.


Looks like it'll be tough to persuade her this time, Tatsuya thought.

◊ ◊ ◊

And as Tatsuya foresaw, Miyuki's temper was not that easy to pacify. Nevertheless she would never do something like explode in anger at or ignore Tatsuya, and so in the public eye they never went on a sibling fight. Objectively Miyuki was only lightly peeved, but even so it took Tatsuya some serious [relationship mending] for two days until Wednesday for him to completely bring back the original intimate sibling relationship.


And then it's September 28, Friday. The night before the long-awaited student council president elections, Tatsuya's home got a phone call from Fujibayashi. "Fujibayashi-san, is it all right to use this number?"


Tatsuya did not call her [Lieutenant Fujibayashi] but [Fujibayashi-san] because of her civilian getup of frill blouse on country-style long skirt. And he asked [is it all right] because she didn't connect to his room's security-hardened phone but to the number connected to the normal video phone.


["We're not being bugged now. They try that and we have them by the tail."] But somehow it seemed this was deliberately done. ["Well, we'll be safe even if they did bug us. Our line's covered with a triple layer of dummy signals."]


She may have spoken it like it's nothing, but Tatsuya was more amazed than admired as he was well-informed on even the not-yet-completed machine technology.


"... ... Something was done to make what is normal in a military-only line possible in an average line."


However, he was mistaken. ["It's something you can't realize with current physical technology."]


I see, he thought. It's probably one of the [Electron Sorceress] secret techniques being used liberally. Were Tatsuya to spend time using his [eyesight] he might understand what was being done. However, he has little interest in techniques he's unable to replicate.

["Moreover it's difficult to maintain this condition for prolonged periods so I'll make this brief. Grandfather is receptive with the one-on-one."]


The answer Fujibayashi delivered was, for Tatsuya, an immediate good news. ["Date and time is October 6, Saturday, 18:00. The place is at the Kudou primary residence at Ikoma. You're fine with the schedule?"]


Tatsuya mentally checked his schedule, and confirmed that the day was vacant. "The schedule's fine with me. And I know the place." ["I see."]


And then Fujibayashi showed an evil expression.

["Grandfather was overjoyed when he heard that Tatsuya-kun wishes for a one-on- one with him."]

"I should be saying, I'm honored, then." Her expression disappearing on seeing Tatsuya grumble, Fujibayashi giggled. ["You're making a face that says it's a mixed blessing. Just accept it, that's how it is when you rely on that person."]


"Be thankful that you're not even turned away at the gates, is what you're saying." ["Well, you could say that. Prepare yourself in advance, Tatsuya-kun, you're diving right into the multitude of fetters that are rampant in Japan's magic world."] Tatsuya coolly took Fujibayashi's words, which were spoken with a smile and a menacing eye.


"I was more than prepared a long time ago for that level." ["Very well. I too will be present on that day."] "I see. Well I look forward to meeting you." At the same time Tatsuya lightly bowed, the display showing Fujibayashi's smile blacked out.

The call just now was taken at the living room. They didn't join with the

conversation, but Miyuki and Minami were listening at Tatsuya and Fujibayashi's conversation, and Fujibayashi didn't see any problems with that. "Onii-sama ... is it really all right?"


Miyuki worriedly called out to Tatsuya, who had just finished the call. Someone looking at Minami can tell that she, too, was directing a sympathetic look at Tatsuya. ... ... Sympathy, not worry, probably because Minami correctly understood the significance of having a bond with a [teacher].


"Getting in touch with Kudou Retsu? It's inevitable that you're worried about it." Tatsuya smiled as he picked up the glass of iced tea. But since the conversation went longer than expected it had ended up lukewarm, so he returned it to the table without sipping it.


A light mist swirled inside of that glass. To lower only the temperature of the contents without freezing the glass, the air in contact with the iced tea was subject to mid-air condensation.


Needless to say it was Miyuki's magic. It was turning back tea at almost room temperature into iced tea, without the expected chilling and freezing. When Tatsuya indicated wordlessly his thanks with a smile, Miyuki silently looked down, bashful. Tatsuya moistened his throat with the well-chilled straight tea, then resumed with his answer to the question.


"Kudou Retsu took an interest in me, so this is not related to the task at hand. And what's more it's not on the meaning of some quite interesting greenhorn. Perhaps Kudou Retsu knew about my origins and my magic."


Miyuki was wide-opened at that. She was probably duly surprised at the last half of her brother's words. Here an overly and specially regarded adverse effect on the Yotsuba had appeared, but Tatsuya felt no special need to reprove it. At present, it's enough for Miyuki to be on the look out only at the Yotsuba. Tatsuya will handle vigilance at the Ten Master Clans and other magician organizations. "I heard Kudou Retsu was close with the previous head of the Yotsuba, and with that link he was the private teacher of Yotsuba Miya and Yotsuba Maya." "The previous head ... that was our grandfather, wasn't it?"


"Yes. The leader of *that incident* when the Yotsuba's *infamy* was broadcast to the world."

For some reason Miyuki smiled a little. When Tatsuya made an [Eh?] expression, she amusingly giggled more and more.


"... Pardon me. Onii-sama has been speaking as if it was other people's problem." Tatsuya furrowed his brows in doubt.


"What do you mean by that?" "Come on, Onii-sama. If the world knew of the truth behind [Scorched Halloween], they would be too busy to even think what Grandfather had done, right?"


Tatsuya, at that instant, as if he gulped down aojiru instead of cold tea -- though in fact Tatsuya wouldn't make that mistake -- his expression changed into a light pale expression somewhat different from being expressionless. "... At any rate there are those details, so it's no mystery even though Kudou Retsu knew much of me."


"... And that's all right with you?" Miyuki timidly asked with an inarticulate tone. While it's true that [it's okay not to be silent] when there are no one else listening, it's not something to be asked even for a girl who's still sixteen. "I'm not keeping silent."


But for Tatsuya, he has no hesitation in saying that out. "The opponent was once the [world's wiliest]. Try as I might to silence myself, actually doing it might be difficult. I don't think that would be necessary. What is said for myself is personal data of a strategic-level magician. It's very unlikely that Kudou Retsu doesn't understand the importance of keeping secrets."


Tatsuya just now was addressing him as [Kudou Retsu], not [teacher] and not [Elder]. Perhaps he's aware that he said that out often. Perhaps he limited it to places where there is no one else listening, but he was declaring that he has no intention of paying respect to Kudou Retsu. Because of the parasite doll experiments, Tatsuya perhaps recognized that Kudou Retsu is never a nice person.


Even so Tatsuya highly valued Kudou Retsu's intelligence and abilities. He decided that there's no use keeping silent since he judged that the old man understood the merits of keeping a joker like Shiba Tatsuya covered up.

"Besides there's no state like we remain as antagonists against Kudou Retsu. From here on, we should consider this as squaring the books on lendings and borrowings." "We can depend on them, right?"


"It isn't required for allies to be ever dependable partners. In short, it's in times of need that it's best to move according to our requests. And for that there's no problem in paying out an equivalent compensation."


Minami did not totally get what the siblings were talking about. However, she did not bother to ask her mistress or her mistress' brother. She was taught that unnecessary curiosity is forbidden for a maid working at her masters' house, and so right now she was observing them.

Chapter 2

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To Be Added

Chapter 3

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To Be Added

Chapter 4

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To Be Added

Chapter 5

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Gallery

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References


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