TL/N: This is just a friendly reminder for everyone to let me know if you spot any errors or typos within the translation. Remember, it is all for the sake of a pristine translation.
Since quite a few asked… For those who have been wondering about the spellings for character names, I generally prefer to use the English spellings of character names provided through the official Japanese sources, (ie. rokuaka.jp or the author’s own blog/twitter) so they are as correct as the author intended them to be. (Which means, the author intended for the extra ‘n’ in Glenn, and for god knows why, intended for Re=L to be spelled in such an awkward way. I kid you not: Here is where you can see the English spelling of Re=L provided by the official Japanese website for rokuaka.)
Rumia broke out of her trance as someone called her name.
“What’s wrong? Tired already?”
With a turn of her head, Rumia saw a platinum-haired girl with a gentle smile. It was her best friend, Sistine, with hair as white as liquid mithril.
“No, nothing… I was just a bit lost in thought.” Rumia replied with a complicated smile while fixing her blonde hair.
Currently, the pair was at Alzano Imperial Magic Academy’s multipurpose hall, nestled in the southwestern part of the campus.
In three days’ time, the multipurpose hall would play host to the annual ‘Academy Prom’. As such, the Student Council members, the Prom Committee members, and student volunteers all busied themselves with the preparation. They cleaned the hall, shuffled furniture, set up decorations, and arranged the supplies in anticipation of the event.
“Sorry about this… I do feel like I’m responsible for dragging you into this…” Sistine apologized with a lowered head.
Given her close relationship with the Student Council President Liz, Sistine would frequently help the Student Council out on various miscellaneous tasks. On this occasion, Sistine was entrusted as the representative and overseer for the student volunteers, serving as the vital liaison between the volunteers, the Student Council, and the Prom Committee.
Rumia, seeing how hard her best friend worked, decided to lighten Sistine’s workload by volunteering.
“Especially when Rumia and Re=L have no duty to assist with the Student Council…”
“It’s alright, Sisti. I don’t mind it at all. In a way, isn’t working together quite fun?” Rumia emphasized, hoping to ease her best friend’s feeling of guilt.
Certainly, Rumia did earnestly want to help her best friend out in her time of need. Even though her body was exhausted by the constant physical exertion, her heart was happy.
“Rather, I would like to thank you for letting me join in the preparation.”
With that said, Rumia turned to clean the candelabra.
“W-what an angel…” Sistine muttered as she was touched by Rumia’s kindness.
“Sorry to interrupt, Rumia-san… May I borrow you for a moment?”
At that moment, a male student came over to Rumia. From his appearance, it was clearly one of the infamous womanizers on campus.
“Haa… Not again…”
Pausing her hand on the candelabra, Rumia cocked her head as she turned to meet the boy. Nearby, Sistine could only let out a deprecative sigh.
“Rumia-san, have you decided on the one who will accompany you to prom?” The boy asked with a sweet smile.
“Ah… No… I haven’t thought much about it…”
“Really? It would truly be a shame for one as beautiful as you to not attend…” The boy confessed, “In that case, would you like to attend the prom with-…”
“Ah, sorry. Thank you for your offer, but I must respectfully decline.”
Rumia apologetically lowered her head with clasped hands.
The boy’s smile turned completely stiff. Even he could not imagine receiving such a flat-out rejection.
“Uwaa!! D-darn it! Rumia-chan is impossible!!”
In the end, the boy ran away while crying loudly.
“Seriously, flippant guys everywhere…” Sistine sighed at the scene that unfolded before her, “the ‘Academy Prom’ was never such a frivolous event… At its core, it was an event for social interactions, where people would demonstrate their learned manners… mumble mumble…”
The ‘Academy Prom’ was a traditional event that was held annually at the Alzano Imperial Magic Academy. The event was designed to foster a sense of camaraderie among the students and to network with the guests, among which included the academy’s notable alumni, students from neighboring magic academies such as the Kleitos Magic Academy, and high-ranking officials and aristocrats within the imperial government. From time to time, even the Queen herself would grace the event with her presence, bringing a rare regal air to the event.
“While there will be a dance contest during the ‘Academy Prom’, this is just-…”
“You mean the dance contest where pairs would compete in performance and skill?”
Sistine gave a somewhat irritable nod in reply to Rumia’s question.
“Yeah. The one where the female champion receives permission to don the ‘Gown of Fairies’… There’s even a legend about the gown…”
“The legend in which the pair’s relationship will be blessed with eternal happiness, right?” Rumia repeated the words of her mother from a long time ago.
“Yes, and because of the lousy legend, those scheming boys are all buzzing around Rumia like flies! Argh! What a bother, each and every one of them!!”
Sistine scoured the multipurpose hall with annoyance. Her sight soon befell upon a few loitering boys who were neither volunteers nor organizers staring at Rumia from a distance, with their intention to invite Rumia to prom as plain as day.
Under Sistine’s intense glare, the boys hastily scattered away while avoiding any eye contact.
Incidentally, no one has yet invited Sistine to the prom, painfully true to her nickname of the ‘Mithril Fairy’. (Author’s note: Mithril is very beautiful, but also incredibly hard and difficult to handle.)
“Still, Rumia sure is popular…” Sistine mumbled while looking over at Rumia with an envious gaze.
“So… Rumia, who do you plan to attend the prom with?”
The suddenness of Sistine’s question made Rumia pause her hands.
“Didn’t you sit out last year’s competition as well? I would expect you, a former royalty, to have amazing dance technique… so it was somewhat regrettable that you chose not to participate.”
“Not to mention, the evening gown that only the female champion is permitted to wear, the ‘Gown of Fairies’… Haven’t you said that you really wished to wear it once? Why not just invite someone as your partner?”
Rumia was left speechless by Sistine’s words, seemingly deep in thought.
“Y-yeah, I really do want to wear the gown… but, you know, the legend…”
Rumia gave the same lukewarm response as always.
“The legend in which the pair’s relationship will be blessed with eternal happiness, is it? I’m surprised you would mind it that much… To think you were such a romantic~” Sistine chuckled at Rumia’s reply, “Seriously, Rumia, that legend is nothing but an unfounded rumor! From purely the standpoint of magic theory, such an effect is simply impossible!”
As such, Sistine began to espouse her reasoning.
“Given the requirement that the pairs are made from willing partners, we could deduce that the chemistry between the pairs to be good. When you include the long hours each pair must practice to achieve respectable results in the contest, it was simply no wonder that there is a greater likelihood for the pairs to end up together!”
“Perhaps Sisti is right… But I think I’ll probably pass on the dance contest this year. I’ll just dance a bit for fun and then enjoy the festivities from the sideline.”
This time, Sistine was the one left in thought for a moment.
“Well, i-in that case…” Sistine hesitantly muttered as her fingers twirled her platinum hair while looking longingly at the distant, “W-why not invite… Glenn?”
Rumia blinked her long eyelashes and stared blankly at Sistine when the suggestion was made.
“W-well, d-didn’t you always say that you like him? As long as it is with our teacher, I d-don’t think you would need to mind the l-legend! This way, y-you would have a chance to w-wear the ‘Gown of Fairies’. N-not to mention, we w-would also dissuade those annoying boys from prowling around!”
Rumia looked at her best friend with a complicated smile, clearly seeing right through Sistine’s maiden heart.
Seriously… Sisti sure isn’t being honest with herself…
Rumia knew that Sistine had feelings for Glenn. In other words, Sistine herself really wanted to partner with Glenn for the dance, but she won’t acknowledge her own feelings. As for the legend, although Sistine openly declared her skepticism, she could not hide her romantic thoughts.
However, since Sistine had always wanted to become a ‘great magician reminiscent of her father and grandfather’, she could not consciously choose a partner like Glenn who was the very antithesis of the term ‘great magician’. As such, Sistine wished to help Rumia and Glenn get together, thereby eliminating the troublesome thoughts from her mind.
For her to be this dense… In a way, I couldn’t help but be worried about her future…
Rumia let her imagination take hold. She thought of the scene where she and Glenn embraced each other in the dance contest, then winning and donning the beautiful evening gown.
Ah~ That would be… great…
The very thought of her dancing with Glenn made Rumia’s face beet red and her heart aflutter with joy. It was a future filled with happiness, and Rumia came to see the realization of such a future worthy of any amount of dedication.
N-no… I shouldn’t hold such unrealistic expectations…
However, Rumia had once made a vow to herself. One she made soon after being exiled from the imperial household and taken in by the Fibels, where she was given the warmth of a family. Thereafter, Rumia vowed that if one day, she and Sistine would share the same desire, she would unhesitantly yield it to Sistine for all the kindness the Fibels had shown her.
“Although it is an opportunity, I am still hesitant to appear under the gaze of a large crowd…” Rumia said as she revealed a mischievous grin, “Perhaps it would be better if Sisti and Teacher partnered for the dance instead?”
Sistine was left completely flustered, her voice warping oddly from the surprise.
“W-why must I d-dance with that s-sort of vulgar b-bastard, devoid of any dignity afforded to a mage?!”
“Don’t you really want to dress in the ‘Gown of Fairies’?”
“Ah, o-of course! After all, that elegant evening gown is the object of envy for all the female students!”
“In that case, why not invite the teacher as your partner? Especially since you do not believe in that silly legend, right?”
“Y-yeah… but why does it have to be that bastard?”
“Well, don’t the two of you share a decent understanding? As I recall, during the ruins exploration a while back…”
“T-that… It’s all because of his gullibility!”
“If I remember correctly, weren’t you a solid dancer yourself? I’m sure you will definitely perform splendidly as a pair with Teacher.”
“No way! For one, that person is incredibly lazy, I am certain he won’t be moved by my invitation.”
“In that case, why not make him a Bento? I’m certain you can win him over with food.”
“Y-yeah… I guess…”
At Rumia’s suggestion, Sistine also realized that it would not be hard to bait Glenn, who was always neck deep in debt and forced to diet.
“S-say… Rumia, would it really be alright for me to dance with Teacher…?”
“Ahaha~ Don’t worry! You should just simply kick back and enjoy the event after toiling for such a long time in preparation. After all, your happiness is my own.”
With Rumia’s encouragement, the thought of ‘Dancing with Glenn’ slowly sprouted in Sistine’s mind.
“R-right… While we are students, we definitely should aim to wear the ‘Gown of Fairies’ at least once… Not to mention, I doubt I would be able to find another partner for the contest than Glenn…”
So be it!
Sistine clenched her fist with resolution.
“Yeah! Let’s try to invite that bastard to prom!”
“Hehehe… Good luck, Sisti!”
Rumia snickered at Sistine’s newfound determination, as if a fledgling had finally sprung wings.
“By the way, the invitation doesn’t have any deeper meaning! Once again, I definitely do not believe in that silly legend, and I am only participating in the dance contest for the evening gown! I only chose the teacher because I couldn’t find an adequate partner, that’s all!!” Sistine repeatedly emphasized with a face dyed red with embarrassment.
Yet, Rumia could only wryly smile at Sistine’s lack of honesty with herself.
“Hey, kids! Looks like everyone is working hard!”
At that moment, Glenn suddenly appeared before the two.
“By the way…”
At Glenn’s surprise appearance, Rumia and Sistine were left in a temporary state of panic. However, Rumia soon recovered and began to egg Sistine on.
“Sisti, now’s your chance!”
Sistine took a deep breath before running before Glenn.
“T-teacher! Ahh… A-although I d-don’t mind who is my partner… b-but since there w-wasn’t anyone particularly good, s-so out of n-necessity, w-would you like t-to-… Huh?”
However, Glenn simply sidestepped Sistine and marched straight toward Rumia.
“Umm… T-teacher? W-were you looking for me…?”
Rumia was unconsciously forced back by the air of intimidation emitting from Glenn.
One step… Two step… Three step…
Just as Rumia backed herself into the wall…
Glenn slammed his palm into the wall and peered his face close to hers. (1)
At a distance where they could feel each other’s breath, Glenn stared intently at the confused Rumia before revealing a confident smile.
“Hey, Rumia. For the upcoming dance contest… Would you mind dancing with me?”
Sistine and Rumia were taken aback by Glenn’s uncharacteristic and forceful request. At that moment, the surrounding students began to chatter.
“I know that many had already tried to invite you to the prom… However, I will not let anyone else take you, so let me be your partner!”
The sudden proposal had even thrown the usually calm Rumia into a daze.
With her back to the wall and her side blocked by Glenn’s right arm, Rumia could not hope to escape. Overwhelmed by nervousness, Rumia tightly clasped her hands before her chest. Sweat poured out as her heart raced uncontrollably. Even her face burned as if being roasted by fire.
“By the way, I do not care what you decide. If you refuse, I will simply fail you!”
Rumia was unsure how to respond to Glenn’s ultimatum, which sounded like a joke despite Glenn’s intense stare.
Rumia looked to Sistine for help.
“I-isn’t this great?! Hasn’t Rumia wanted to dance with Teacher? J-just be honest with yourself! Ah… As for me? W-well, I n-never particularly wanted to d-dance in the first place! Ahaha…”
Sistine had completely lost her composure.
“Yes, I will definitely make it worth your while and let you don the enchanted evening gown… the ‘Gown of Fairies’… So just agree already!”
Just as Rumia attempted to escape to the left, Glenn blocked her off with his other hand.
“Let me say this… you won’t escape.”
Glenn moved his face even closer, staring directly into Rumia’s eyes, such that Rumia felt as if her very soul was being sucked into the depth of Glenn’s gaze.
Between her own thoughts, her vow to her best friend, her aspiration as a child for the gown, and the legend that accompanied it, Rumia face was burning up and her beating heart felt close to exploding. With Glenn’s high-handed invitation, Rumia’s thought was left completely in disarray, and she nodded passively in reply.
At that moment, the famed unconquerable beauty of the academy, Rumia Tingel, had just been conquered.
Rumia suddenly realized her own thoughtless actions.
“S-so Rumia-chan could be conquered this way?!”
At the same time, all hell broke loose among the male students, smacking the walls with flowing tears.
“Nice, Rumia… However, to be honest, it didn’t matter whether you had agreed or not! Since I had already submitted the entry forms with our names on it! So just submit to fate! Ahaha!!”
Glenn released his arms as he let out an obnoxious laugh.
“Umm… Sisti… Sorry, I-…” Rumia apologized to Sistine while trying to calm down her own racing heart.
“D-don’t worry about it! Wasn’t I w-who made the s-suggestion to have you dance with our teacher? N-not to mention how high-handed the teacher was with f-forcing you to partner with him. Rumia is definitely without fault!”
Sistine was left completely shaken by the events that had transpired.
“B-but teacher! W-why Rumia?! Why are you so adamant and forceful about it? C-could you really believe in the legend and wish to do that to Rumia…?”
Sistine’s anxious questioning caused Glenn to turn serious for a moment.
“Hmph, wasn’t it obvious? Money, it’s money! I am aiming for the champion’s purse! Was the announcement of the cash reward true?”
Glenn revealed a devious smile at Sistine.
“Yeah~ My wallet is quite deflated for the month, and among the students, only Rumia would help someone like me.”
“I k-knew it… T-trash…!”
Sistine glared at Glenn with a rage-filled gaze. Yet, at the same time, her voice regained an unusual semblance of calm, which neither herself nor Glenn realized.
“W-what is it, White Cat? Do you have some issue with me? It’s just the Academy Prom, so who I partner with is my own business. Not to mention, there isn’t anything barring me from participating in the dance contest.”
“T-that may be the case, but there should be some limits to the shamelessness! Teacher’s attitude toward female students is absolutely horrible!” Sistine lectured.
“Hahaha~ White Cat… You know it’s not nice to be jealous of your more popular peers, especially one that gets constantly invited to dances. Try not to act so petty, alright?”
Afterward, Glenn had said something that he absolutely shouldn’t have.
“Really… I’ll find some boy from Kleitos Magic Academy to go ‘dance with the poor White Cat’… I’m certain Roldo or Kai would love to-…”
It was a development that everyone was familiar with…
“You biiig idiot…!!”
As a strong burst of wind shot out from Sistine’s left hand, Glenn was sent flying into the air before landing on the floor with a thud. As always, Glenn was brought down by Sistine’s spell.
Seriously… I’ve made quite the scene this time…
Glenn held back his own thoughts.
Although I feel sorry for Rumia and White Cat, this invitation cannot be avoided….
Rather, Glenn had his own reason for the overbearing insistence. Specifically, it was all for the sake of Rumia.
Yes… I will definitely protect Rumia… and this academy… I will certainly not let that ugly bitch get her way…!
As Glenn slowly recovered from Sistine’s attack, he recalled a certain event that had transpired.
◇ ◇ ◇
At an earlier time…
About half an hour before Glenn would forcibly invite Rumia to the prom and was subsequently blown away by Sistine.
“Ah~ How bothersome~” Glenn grumbled as he was led down the hallway by a female student, “Do I really have to do this…?”
“Isn’t all this your own fault?” The female student chuckled mischievously as she turned to look at the grumbling Glenn.
She was a mature beauty, with a calm and insightful gaze. The name of this clever and witty student was Liz Filmer, the talented Student Council President.
“Fine… I got it already.” Glenn responded unenthusiastically.
After repeated salary reductions, Glenn had finally reached the point where he had to instead pay the school. To rid himself of the debt, Glenn had agreed to assist in the preparation of the Academy Prom, or so it was decided by the academy.
“Darn it, from manual labor, to market research, and then to outreach… They are really a bunch of slave drivers…”
“However, everything is proceeding well, thanks to your efforts.”
“Still, I wonder what underhanded trick you pulled to ensure my participation! It almost feels as if my workload were determined at the start!”
“Oh? What could you possibly mean?”
“You even got Celica to say ‘Work hard for Liz, or you won’t get dinner’… What did you do to win her over?”
“Nothing at all… Just that I had visited Professor Arfonia a few days back, while she was recuperating from her injuries in the recent ruins expedition, and simply praised how incredibly thoughtful Glenn-sensei was…”
“Y-you… sly fox!”
Then again, wasn’t Celica being a bit too easy?
This clever girl, Liz, was a year senior to Sistine, and had always tossed problematic tasks over to Glenn after getting acquainted with him from an earlier encounter.
What did I do to deserve this misfortune?
Glenn did not understand why the able Student Council President would always bother him with one problem after another. Incidentally, the usually calm Student Council President seemed uniquely energetic whenever she teased Glenn.
However, such was a story for another day.
Glenn was carrying a large pile of documents pertaining to the upcoming Academy Prom, begrudgingly serving as Liz’s draft horse.
◇ ◇ ◇
Soon, the two made their way to the large lecture hall in the eastern part of the magic academy.
As they entered, they were greeted by the members of the music club seated in their respective sections. With instruments ranging from violins to cellos in hand, the members seemed to be rehearsing their pieces for the upcoming performance.
Certainly, the Academy Prom was one of the few opportunities for the music club to perform in public, so everyone was diligently practicing.
“…That was truly a wonderful performance.” Liz praised after listening to their rehearsal nearby, “At this pace, I am certain tomorrow’s performance will be a splendid success!”
“Hahaha! As the club advisor, I have to admit that I’m quite happy to hear such praises!”
The man standing near Liz gave an enthusiastic nod.
It was a well-dressed middle-aged gentleman of relatively corpulent proportions. Although sporting a sizable beer belly, the man seemed to appear more jolly than decadent. The man’s name was Lawrence Tartaros, and he served as the advisor to the music club on top of his official position as a professor of magic.
“Oh? We have a guest conductor?” Liz inquired while looking over at the unfamiliar face in the front of the band.
“Yes. Unfortunately, the original student conductor had injured his wrist, so we decided to invite a renowned conductor in his place.”
“Oh, I am sorry to hear that… Although I am somewhat relieved that you were able to find a substitute conductor on such a short notice. After all, the quality of the overall performance rests heavily on the quality of the conductor.”
“Hmph! It’s just a person twirling a small wooden stick, how hard could it be?”
Having been forced to work as a gopher, where he was forced to run errands and carry heavy loads all day, Glenn held little enthusiasm for the inspection of the music club and quickly began to grumble.
“Wasn’t the whole purpose of the Academy Prom to eat, drink, and dance? Who would even care about the quality of the performance? It would make little difference if we just played some music from a record player…”
“Speaking of which, this rehearsal piece… Is it not the ‘Sinfonia di Sylphide’ that we use for the dance contest? Although I do sense that it is an arrangement.”
“Ahaha~ So you noticed? As expected of the Student Council President, what excellent perception! Or dare I say, ‘excellent ears’?”
Lawrence let out a hearty laughter at Liz’s discerning ears.
“Arrangement? I couldn’t tell at all!”
“Regrettably, I doubt we could finish our rehearsal for the eighth movement of ‘Sinfonia di Sylphide’, so we will only have the first seven movements ready in time for the Academy Prom.”
“I think it is sufficient to perform only the first seven movements. Rather, I do feel curiously energized from listening to the performance. It is a wonderful arrangement that not only remained faithful to the original, but also will foster a festive spirit at the Academy Prom. May I ask who made such a wonderful arrangement?”
“To tell you the truth, the one who made the arrangement was our substitute conductor.”
“Huh? What a busybody… Seriously, I am quite envious, especially when he only needs to scribble a few dots on a piece of paper and call it work.”
Glenn’s uncouth remark seemed to have doused the sophisticated discourse between Liz and Lawrence.
Liz revealed a chilly smile in response and made Glenn shudder where he stood.
Liz was someone who always maintained a calm and kind demeanor around campus, which made Glenn forget a fundamental fact – that Liz was an individual one dared not to cross.
“Student Council P-President, seeing that you will be busy with the discussion, this lowly gopher of a magic teacher will take his leave to help with the furniture!”
With that said, Glenn quickly scurried away.
◇ ◇ ◇
Later, in an equipment storage not far from the lecture hall, Glenn sat with his back to the wall. As expected, Glenn had little intention to actually help the students carry the furniture.
“Ahh… How tiresome… How could I possibly keep working?”
Glenn drowsily looked on to the many volunteers busy transferring the decorations and furniture from the storage to the multipurpose hall.
“Uwaa! Re=L sure is strong!”
There were a few familiar faces among the volunteers. Other than the sheepish Re=L, Glenn could also see Kash and Cecil, all students in Glenn’s class.
Being a girl, Re=L should be helping Rumia and the other girls with wiping down the candelabra in the multipurpose hall. However, out of considerations for her great strength that would unwittingly damage the candelabra, she was dispatched to assist with the furniture instead.
“Darn it! I will definitely not lose to Re=L!!”
“D-don’t do it, Kash! Trying to imitate Re=L is simply madness!”
Re=L easily carried an impressive stack of tables as she passed before Glenn. The sheer amount of wooden tables gave off the appearance of an impressive wooden tower. Nearby, Kash wanted to imitate Re=L, only to be stopped by Cecil.
“Seriously… What’s the point of all that effort…” Glenn muttered as he gazed over.
At that moment, one of the volunteers suddenly put down the chairs in his hand and walked over to Glenn. His sharp gaze glared at the indolent Glenn.
“…Huh? What is it-… Wait, you?!”
Glenn irritatedly looked over to the volunteer, before gasping in surprise.
“I see you are still as crass as ever, Glenn…”
Lifting the hat that cast a dark shadow over his face, the man revealed his obsidian-colored hair and eyes as sharp as an eagle.
“A-Albert?! W-what are you doing here?!”
It was ‘The Star’ Albert, an agent of the Imperial Court Mage Corps with the code number of seventeen.
“Follow me, we need to talk.”
◇ ◇ ◇
Albert soon brought Glenn to the rear of the academy.
It was in a dimly lit coniferous forest, with not a single soul nearby.
“I sense an anti-personnel ward set up nearby. What exactly is going on?”
Albert brushed off Glenn’s question and focused on removing his disguise. Almost as if performing a magic trick, Albert quickly switched out the laborer’s overalls for the black-clad uniform of an imperial mage.
Albert then turned his attention to Glenn with a sharp glint in his gaze. After a moment’s pause, Albert broke the situation to Glenn.
“Impossible… They plan to carry out the ‘Assassination of Rumia’ during the Academy Prom?”
“Yes. The Researchers of Divine Wisdom has finally started to stir.”
Glenn was completely shaken by the news, while Albert kept his characteristic calm.
“D-don’t be silly, this is completely different from what I was told! Haven’t you reported that those people won’t have any designs on Rumia?!”
“Calm yourself. The situation changed.”
While the agitated Glenn was shouting in rage, Albert coolly responded with no change to the timbre of his voice.
“Just like there are war hawks within the imperial government, the Researchers of Divine Wisdom is not completely monolithic themselves.”
“They had recently split into two factions… for which details are still sparse, but seemingly occurred some time after the ‘Project: Revive Life’ incident. The two factions are the ‘Conservatives’, largely made up of the veterans of the organization, and the ‘Progressives’, composed of many new recruits.”
White Alchemy [Project: Revive Life] was a forbidden ritual that allowed for the revival of the dead. It was an original magic created by the late genius alchemist Sion Rayford. Yet, with Sion’s passing, the magic itself no longer existed in the world, and the whole project has turned to the realm of fantasy. (2)
Incidentally, for some unknown reason, Rumia’s unique ability could recreate the magic.
“It is common knowledge that the Researchers of Divine Wisdom had their sights set on the princess. However, the ‘Conservatives’ only desire to capture the princess alive, while the ‘Progressives’ wish for the assassination of the princess.”
“Under investigation.” Albert snorted.
The veil of secrecy surrounding the Researchers of Divine Wisdom was proving to be a huge headache even for Albert.
“Either way, after everything that had transpired at the White Alchemy Research Institute, the organization as a whole decided to tentatively leave the princess alone and the friction between the two factions had temporarily rescinded. However…”
“…The ‘Progressives’ who had strongly opposed the policy shift had gone rogue?”
“Darn it all…!”
As always, the actions of the Researchers of Divine Wisdom remained as unpredictable. However, given that the organization was filled with extremists, it would prove unrealistic to expect them to function under normal logic.
Yet, more importantly…
“Glenn, where are you going?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
Under Albert’s intense pressure, Glenn paused his footsteps.
“I will immediately report this to the headmaster. Now’s not the time to hold some silly Academy Prom! I will see the prom canceled! Canceled!!”
Glenn had little intention to listen to Albert and dashed toward the academy.
However, a large wall of flame reaching high into the heavens burst forth and blocked his way.
The unnatural flame was clearly the product of magic. Glenn quickly leapt back from the scorching heat.
“Albert! You bastard! What do you think you’re-…”
“It’s not me.” Albert coolly rebuffed Glenn.
“…I can’t let you do that, Glenn.”
A young woman suddenly appeared from the depth of the coniferous forest.
The young woman seemed to be younger than twenty, with an appearance of roughly the same age as Glenn. She had a head of brilliant crimson hair, braided and tied in a side tail. Her gait had an air of elegance, yet at the same time, cold and distant. Her fuchsia-colored eyes reflected a sharp glint, while her mouth curved in a haughty crescent.
Dressed in the uniform of the Imperial Mage Court Mage, she stood cross-armed as she glared Glenn down with a chilly gaze. It was a sight Glenn could immediately recognize.
“Y-you are… Eve! ‘The Magician’ Eve…!”
‘The Magician’ Eve Ignite was Glenn’s superior within the Imperial Court Mage Corps and the chief of the Special Operations Annex with the code number of one. Incidentally, she was also a scion of the prestigious House Ignite, a ducal house with a long and illustrious history within the empire.
“Long time no see, Glenn. I am quite happy to meet you.”
“Hmph… Only you I do not wish to meet…”
“Oh? Am I being hated? Even after all I had done for you?” Eve snickered.
“Don’t tell me you forgot! A year ago, during the incident with Jatice, weren’t you the one who plotted to have Sara and me serve as baits, while barring Albert from coming to our aid?”
“Yes, that is correct. So?”
Compared to Glenn, who was doing everything to suppress his rage, Eve looked particularly pleased.
“Huh? Surely you do not plan to pin Sara’s death on me? Way to pass the blame when you should know best that what happened was completely your own fault. You were the one unable to protect her, so don’t go around blaming others. Such a pitiful sight is completely unbecoming for a mage…”
Glenn gritted his teeth as he tightly gripped his fist. His eyes burned with unbridled rage, glaring straight at Eve.
“Certainly, I concede that I was at a slight fault for the inadequacies in personnel assignments, and consequently, I lost a wonderful pawn like Sara… Not to mention, we also failed to eliminate ‘The Justice’ Jatice, leaving a permanent blemish on my otherwise pristine battle records. How disappointing…”
“Leave that aside for now, we should talk business.”
Eve completely brushed aside the fuming Glenn.
“Let me say it now, the Academy Prom must go on. We, the Imperial Court Mage Corps, will carry out a clandestine operation to eliminate those interlopers.”
“Huh?! What are you saying? Are you mad?!”
“This assassination plot will be carried out by the members of the ‘Progressive’ faction, the Second Order ‘Adeptus’. As such, this is the best opportunity to capture them alive and obtain important intelligence about their enigmatic organization. How could we possibly let this slide?”
Eve’s ambitious but risky plan left Glenn momentarily without words.
“…You can’t be serious! Do you plan to turn the academy into a battlefield? At least use our brain a little! If there is the slightest mishap, let alone Rumia, everyone at the school may get caught up in the fighting!”
Eve glanced at Glenn with a disappointed look.
“…’So’? What do you mean by ‘So’?!”
“Haa… You clearly do not understand the importance of the task at hand. As expected of the coward who was unable to properly protect even a single girl and deserted the army.” Eve coolly scoffed at Glenn with knitted eyebrows and a slight shrug of her shoulders, “In the history of the empire, there had always been a notorious organization that prowled in the shadows of society. Outwardly, the organization claimed to champion ‘a world ruled by splendid mages’. Yet, from the fragments of intelligence, their objective is something much greater, much more sinister. It is an objective that could adequately be summed up in two words… Akashic Records.”
“Yeah? What about it?”
“Lately, that organization had experienced a shift in its operations. Although we are still in the process of investigating, we could conclude that it would definitely contribute in some ways to further their goal of obtaining the Akashic Records. If we let them have their way, the consequences will be unfathomable. As such, obtaining reliable intelligence is of the utmost importance… We simply have no room to continue hesitating.”
“Just for this, you plan to use the Academy Prom as a fishing rod… to use Rumia as bait? All for a bit of intelligence?”
“Both the imperial government and the military high command had already authorized this operation. Even Her Majesty had ultimately relented, despite some initial hesitation… Hehehe~ I am thankful to live under such an enlightened monarch.”
“You bitch…! What did you do to Her Majesty?!”
House Ignite was a powerful aristocratic dynasty renowned for its many splendid mages serving the Alzano Empire, for which they held the unique distinction of being the leader of the war hawks within the imperial government. As a reflection of their political might, the current head of House Ignite has a permanent seat on the imperial privy council, the highest executive apparatus within the imperial government. If House Ignite applied even the slightest pressure, then surely even the Queen…
“You had always been well-versed in the machinations of the government! I am certainly you used some underhanded method on Her Majesty to make things go your way!”
Eve did not say anything in reply and simply revealed a complicated smile.
Even the wise Queen was not omnipotent. Troubled by the ongoing border conflicts with the nearby Kingdom of Rezalia, the Queen certainly could not give much attention to internal affairs.
Not to mention, the operation was not planned out of spite for the Queen’s authority, but rather out of loyalty to the imperial household and the empire. As such, the Queen would be hard pressed to refuse.
“Hey, Albert… Do you also approve this absurd operation?” Glenn angrily asked Albert.
Albert remained silent for a moment.
“I do not personally approve. However, I could not refute the benefits of the operation, and I will dutifully carry out my tasks.” Albert calmly replied.
“…Oh, is that so? I guess I was wrong about you. Don’t show that face of yours around me in the future.”
Glenn turned away from Albert.
“I could care less about what the government thinks. I will now go inform-…”
“Wait! The operation this time is top secret. If you plan to reveal it to anyone, we will have to silence you where you stand.”
“So be it, let’s see who’s afraid of who… Do you honestly think you have any chance of winning against me in close quarters?” Glenn openly threatened Eve as he reached for ‘The Fool’ tarot card in his coat.
“Oh? Have you forgotten my other title?”
Eve let out a condescending laugh. All of a sudden, walls of flame burst forth from three directions – left, right, and behind Glenn.
At that instant, Glenn had already realized his loss.
Bloodline Magic [Seventh Garden]?! Darn it, I’ve been had! This area had long been under Eve’s influence!
Bloodline Magic was considered a form of Original Magic, but was inherently different from the basis of Original Magics that relied on the uniqueness of the soul. Instead, Bloodline Magic was transmitted by bloodlines. As such, while Original Magic was commonly limited to only its creator, Bloodline Magic was inherited from one generation to the next.
Among the Bloodline Magic known within the Alzano Empire was House Ignite’s Bloodline Magic [Seventh Garden]. It created a field that allowed the user to omit casting for flame spells within a designated range. In other words, as long as they stood within the field, Eve would not need to chant or manipulate mana, and could easily burn her enemies to ashes by pure will.
Understandably, Bloodline Magic [Seventh Garden] was a mana-intensive spell that required a sizeable amount of preparation, and it only works with fire.
However, as long as the preparations were in place, and the enemy unwittingly fell into the field, the power of Bloodline Magic [Seventh Garden] was beyond compare. Within the field, Eve’s spell activation speed was even faster than Albert, perhaps even the fastest in the entire world.
With Bloodline Magic [Seventh Garden] activated, Glenn’s Original Magic [The Fool’s World] could no longer serve any purpose.
“The ‘Crimson Duke’ nickname was one that has accompanied House Ignite for countless generations – a symbol of our unparalleled might in close quarters. Glenn, you have no chance of winning against my flames!”
Eve teased Glenn with a small ember at her fingertips.
On the other hand, Glenn wracked his brain for a method of escape… yet nothing came to mind. After all, the current situation was no different than having a blade placed on his neck.
Glenn resigned to his fate as he sat cross-legged on the grass, leaving his judgment to Eve.
“Then again, taking you out certainly wouldn’t be wise. There are still uses for even a useless pawn like you… So discarding you at this point would be somewhat of a waste. However, you seemed to not care to listen… so I guess that it would be best to just show my hand.” Eve reluctantly declared.
With a snap of her finger, the walls of flame disappeared from sight.
“Say, I’ve heard your little sister, Re=L, quite enjoys the school life.”
Glenn was somewhat baffled at why Eve would mention Re=L.
“Although it had only been a short while, she is acting more and more like a human… despite her peculiar origins.”
A coup suddenly hit the mind of Glenn. Eve’s word clearly hinted that she knew about Re=L’s real identity. However, within the whole of the imperial government, only Albert should know about Re=L’s secret.
Albert, did you really…?!
Glenn turned suspicious at Albert, only to swallow his words at the last possible moment.
N-no! Although that fellow was someone who focuses only on the result, he is not one to betray his own allies. In that case…
As expected, the seemingly calm Albert glared at Eve with incredible anger.
“Do you two honestly think you can keep a secret from me? Do not underestimate my intelligence network… That being the case, Albert, your concealment was absolutely perfect. Rather, if your partner wasn’t Glenn, I doubt I would ever be able to find out.”
D-darn it… so I let the secret slip somehow?!
With Eve’s words, Glenn could only blame himself.
“With that said, Glenn, if you reveal the details of our operation to the academy, I will report Re=L’s real identity to the higher-ups.”
“Bitch… How much do you know…?!”
Glenn was completely red with anger. His whole body shook with his barely suppressed rage.
“Re=L may be an oddball, but she is an excellent pawn. I would hate to lose her, especially since she is the first successful case from ‘Project: Revive Life’… However, if I were to hand her over as a lab mouse to experiment, do you not think there will be much that we can learn?”
Although Glenn really wanted to give Eve a slap, he had come to realize that he had lost to Eve. With Re=L as a hostage, he no longer had any other options.
“Don’t act so afraid. Even I am also reluctant to part with Re=L. As long as you do not interfere with my operation, I will leave Re=L alone. Granted, I would certainly welcome your help in the matter. Therefore, let me give you my orders, ‘The Fool’ Glenn.”
“Huh? Why must I listen to your orders? I am no longer an agent!”
“Hmph… Stop acting like a dumb mutt! I don’t have that much free time to waste.” Eve sighed with annoyance as she flung back her hair, “Imperial Military Law Chapter VI, Article IX, on matters of emergency conscription. Surely you had not forgotten my authority as a Knight Commander? Don’t think you could escape public service just because you are no longer on the military’s payroll, Sir Glenn!”
“Seriously… Could you act at least a bit more cooperative? Don’t forget, the survival of the princess and Re=L rests in my hand.”
“Go to hell…”
Ironically, the demons of the underworld would probably act no different from Eve. However, in the face of insults, Eve instead smiled, seemingly satisfied with Glenn’s begrudging acceptance of the power dynamics.
“Now, to recap the details, the enemy organization aims for the life of the princess during the Academy Prom, and we plan to capture them when they do. Therefore, it is imperative that the princess attend the Academy Prom, and, at the same time, we must not bar suspicious individuals from approaching the princess. As such, the princess will need to have a personal protection detail. From purely the standpoint of the Academy Prom’s guidelines and regulations, the best way to serve inconspicuously as her bodyguard would certainly be-…”
◇ ◇ ◇
Glenn had finally returned from his reflections of what had transpired just half an hour ago.
That’s right… I will need to enter the dance contest with Rumia, and win my way straight to the top. This is the only way to remain inconspicuous by her side, while at the same time preventing suspicious individuals from approaching. Not to mention, the more Rumia and I stand out, the easier it would be for the enemies to notice. In other words, it will also lower the risk to the rest of the student body.
Understandably, Glenn was not happy with the development. Under the circumstances, Glenn was completely dancing in Eve’s palm. Without any freedom, Glenn could only act like a marionette with Eve holding the strings.
So be it… But remember this, Eve… I will definitely get my revenge!
Glenn set his mind to welcome the challenge.
Ugh… more importantly…
Yet, for now, Glenn had to deal with his wobbling vision as the floor rapidly closed in on his face. For a moment, Glenn had forgotten that he was sent flying by Sistine’s spell.
Ugh… The floor looks quite painful… Maybe I should use something as a buffer…
With a helpless sigh, Glenn readied his heart for the impending impact.
(1) A popular confession maneuver called kabedon (壁ドン). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabedon
(2) White Alchemy: A combination of White Magic and Alchemy. (Aka. Healing + Creation to allow for Project: Revive Life) “白金術: 白魔術と錬金術を利用して、生命神秘に関する研究を行う複合術のこと。”