August 10th, the day after the private meeting with USNA Secretary of Defense assistant, Jeffrey James.
About Minami's case, the USNA authorities were asked to search for Minoru. For now, all that there was to do was wait.
Tatsuya, who thought it would be too rushed to return to Miyakijima today, was working on establishing an industrial manufacturing method for the magical rRelic for storage of magic sequences in a laboratory in the basement of the building, which also served as the Tokyo headquarters of the Yotsuba family.
It was about 11 o'clock in the morning, three hours since he began working, when Miyuki called from the top floor by the indoor phone.
"There was a phone call from Honoka just now."
When Tatsuya asked her what she needed, Miyuki cut him off. From Miyuki's expression, the phone call did not seem to be about bad news.
"The Defense Force will assist in the Monolith Code exchange battle."
It was good news, but it was a bit surprising. To be clear, Tatsuya felt like he almost showed it in his face.
Did the Armed Forces suddenly change their attitudes because they learned that Tatsuya had contacted senior USNA government officials? Are they afraid that he would turn over to America?
Tatsuya thought it was ridiculous. It would be uncomfortable if he thought it would be so simple for him to change camps just by being murmured a bit of sweet words, and it would be even more displeasing if the Defense Force thought that he would be cheerful about this.
"I think it's good news. If we can start preparing now, it looks like everything will be ready by the end of the month."
However, Tatsuya did not express his thoughts, and gave the camera a suitable smile for the situation.
"Yes. So I also want to go and help with the preparation."
"Are you going to attend school?"
"Yes. Shouldn't I…?"
"Of course I don't care. Will you go now?"
The Miyuki on the screen was changing into a uniform.
"I planned to do that."
"Okay, I'll be back to my room soon."
Tatsuya would naturally accompany Miyuki.
Miyuki understood on the spot what he meant.
"No, Lina will come to school with me. It will be better if Onii-sama doesn't go out too much."
Miyuki's remark was logical. It was still only six days after the defense battle at Miyakijima. If he carelessly went out to town, he would be shamelessly hounded by self-proclaimed journalists.
"I don't think you need to be worried because I'll go to school by car instead of by a cabinet."
"Okay. Then please do so."
This building was the Tokyo headquarters of the Yotsuba family. Even if Tatsuya didn't drive, there was always a driver for the next head, Miyuki, available.
"Make sure to call when you are on your way home."
"Understood. Off I go."
It had been less than a week since Tatsuya's message to the world that he had the power to fight against enemy nations. It would be a nuisance to others, rather than himself, to go to school in this situation. It was a rational decision to avoid following along, and he knew that Miyuki was not evading him.
So it was ridiculous to think of her "distancing away from her brother."
In his head, he understood when he was being stupid.
"Hey, Miyuki. I don't know the details, but what was canceled and what was decided in the first place?"
Inside the car, heading for First High, Lina asked Miyuki.
Lina returned to Japan in late June. By that time, it was already decided that the Nine Schools Competition would be cancelled.
She studied in Japan from January to March last time she came. Lina didn't know about the Nine Schools Competition. It's not surprising that she did not understand the situation.
"The event that was canceled was "Nine Schools Competition" and the official name is "Nationwide Magic High School Athletics Competition". It was held every year at this season, but it was canceled this year.''
"Do you remember the attack on a Great Asian Union base in the beginning of May by an armed guerrilla?"
"The Niger Delta Liberation Army conducted the attack, right? I remember."
Lina was still a part of the military then and remembered the incident well.
"The magic used in that attack, "Active Air Mine", was developed by Onii-sama and was first shown at the Nine Schools Competition two years ago."
"Eh. Just because of that?"
Lina was not surprised. She knew that, for Tatsuya, to develop one or two new tactical-class magics was a piece of cake.
"It was said that a competition that spreads dangerous magical techniques used by armed guerrillas is dangerous, so it should stop. It was during the time when the inhumane massacre by large-scale magic was loudly criticized. Fearing public backlash, this year's Nine Schools Competition was canceled."
"What's that? He is not to blame! The person who used the magic is responsible for the deaths. No, the one who ordered the use of the magic is, and Tatsuya has no responsibility in the first place. I've heard that it was military officers of the Great Asian Union who were killed and injured in the first place. I don't want to side with guerrillas, but it's weird to treat it as if it was a civilian victim."
Lina was indignant as if it was an attack on herself. No, "as if it was", as a Strategic-Class Magician it's not like the feeling was strange to her.
"I think it's exactly as Lina said, but the public opinion is emotional."
Miyuki explained that it was not something that can be reasoned with.
Lina could read between the lines.
"…So, instead of the canceled Nine Schools Competition, there was a talk about us having a Monolith Code exhibition game between the nine schools. I asked for cooperation from various places, but it wasn't going well. Until yesterday."
The last word was in an ironic tone. It eloquently told the innermost thoughts of Miyuki. The Defense Army's change of mind could not have been more displeasing for Miyuki.
"Did the situation suddenly change this morning? Hey, that's…"
"Yes, maybe that's the way it is."
Miyuki nodded at Lina, even though the latter hadn't finished her sentence.
With that look, Lina realized that Miyuki thought the same as herself. The two shared the speculation that "The change in attitude of the Defense Forces must have been influenced by the meeting between Tatsuya and USNA Secretary of Defense attache Jeffrey James."
Even though it was summer vacation, and a Saturday, First High was crowded with many students. The news that it was decided to hold an exhibition game in the place of the canceled Nine Schools Competition must have been widely spread in a short time. The students were so disappointed about the cancellation of the Nine Schools Competition that they could not stand still knowing of a come-back of the games, even if it was just Monolith Code.
Because of this situation, many students witnessed Miyuki and Lina going to school in a high class sedan. And no one looked at them in a strange way. There was no longer a single high school student who didn't know who Miyuki was.
In their gaze towards her, there was not fear but acclaim and worship.
"Miyuki-Onee-sama! Oh, thank you for coming here."
…Although it was rare for her to have enthusiastic blunt ones.
"I heard that you had great success the other day! But, did you get hurt? Are you not overdoing it?''
"Izumi-chan, calm down a little. I'm neither injured nor forcing myself."
Miyuki was already familiar with Izumi's attitude and didn't stiffen her face. Though she couldn't help but reflexively pull back a little.
"Izumi, to suddenly hug the President like that… I'm surprised."
Kazumi, Izumi's twin sister, reproached the excited Izumi.
"Guh… Kasumi-chan, it hurts! It hurts!"
"Get away already."
Kasumi pulled her collar from behind, and Izumi reluctantly let go of Miyuki.
"Miyuki-sempai also came because of the Monolith Code?"
But she wouldn't leave. Now Izumi was like a puppy who shakes its tail hard and clings to its owner after a long absence.
"I hope that I can also help."
As long as it was within moderation, Miyuki didn't think the adoration was bad. She answered Izumi with a smiling expression.
"Is Honoka in the student council room?"
"No, Mitsui-senpai is at the club headquarters."
"Thank you. Lina, let's go."
Miyuki called Lina, who had been left aside and headed for the club room building where the club headquarters was located.
"I'll go with you."
Izumi tagged along with her.
Lina shrugged her shoulders, saying, "oh dear," while maintaining some distance. When she suddenly looked at her side, Kasumi was there doing the same gesture. They, Lina and Kasumi, had formed a relationship based on empathy.
When Miyuki arrived at the club activities headquarters, Honoka was just about to leave. It looked like it wasn't a mistake to head over at the last minute.
"Miyuki!? Is the matter in your house ok?"
"Yes. There already wasn't much to do from the beginning."
Miyuki replied to Honoka's words with a faint bitter smile that could only be understood by one who had seen it.
"Is that so? I thought you were very busy."
Surprisingly, Honoka replied
"Tatsuya-sama is busy. I don't say so, but maybe more than me."
"Is that so……"
Honoka let out a disappointed mutter.
Miyuki could understand that feeling very well.
Tatsuya was indeed busy. Miyuki felt really lonely as he spent less and less time with her.
However, the one who has stopped Tatsuya from coming to school today was Miyuki.
"More than that, Honoka. Isn't it good that now there is a chance to hold the Inter-School game?"
She glossed over the feelings of guilt by changing the topic.
"Yeah, that's right…"
"Did something happen?"
Miyuki tilted her head as Honoka beat around the bush.
"Somehow, it was sudden."
Shizuku walked up from behind Honoka and spoke. It's no wonder why Shizuku was here. She is a Monolith Code freak, which she admitted herself to others. If she wasn't interested, she wouldn't even try to get involved in the preparation for the Inter-School Matches.
This time, Lina, who was behind Miyuki, stepped forward and asked. Perhaps she was looking for an opportunity to participate in the conversation.
"After receiving the advice from Tatsuya-san, Igarashi-kun immediately asked a favor through an alumni in the Army's public relations department. He had been complaining until yesterday that the lack of response wasn't good."
"He was suddenly contacted from the other side this morning."
"By the Defense Forces?"
Miyuki asked the question while hiding the fact that she had an idea of the circumstances behind Shizuku's words, who continued Honoka's line.
"They want to sponsor the Monolith Code Interleague Play to the same level as the usual Nine Schools Competition."
Shizuku nodded and Honoka added the details.
"Did Igarashi-kun say that?"
Miyuki voiced her suspicion.
"I was there when he got the call."
Honoka's answer was probably unique to the modern age when video calls are popular. Unlike the era of voice calls, where one-on-one was common, video calls allow people in the room to hear the conversation without using earphones or headphones.
"I was surprised."
Honoka's eyes widened as she tried to recreate that moment.
"I was too."
Lina called Miyuki's attention by pulling on her sleeve.
Miyuki interrupted Lina's whisper with "as I thought" in a low voice.
Honoka, Shizuku, Izumi, and Kasumi were aware of the exchange, but none of them inquired.
"Miyuki-senpai, Lina-senpai, you haven't had lunch yet, right?"
Instead of asking, Izumi changed the topic.
"Why don't we discuss the details while eating?"
Miyuki immediately responded to Izumi's concern.
"Let's go to the cafeteria."
Lina asked Kasumi instead of Izumi, who was glued to Miyuki.
"The menu is smaller than usual, but it's open."
Despite being spoken to suddenly, Kasumi immediately returned an answer.
There were a lot of students in the cafeteria despite the summer vacation. However, it may not be surprising considering the time in the afternoon and the large number of people coming and going in the school.
It's been almost two and a half years since Miyuki entered the school. High school students would get used to the situation.
However, even today, the students held their breath out of admiration and stared at Miyuki the moment they saw her. Lina followed after her and also received admiration as someone who was comparable in beauty.
It was Miyuki and Lina who were the ones who got used to it. Ignoring the natural shower of gazes, they picked a lunch tray cooked by the automatic machine at the serving table, then moved to a table slightly behind the center of the school cafeteria.
At the table, sat a group of male students which had just stood up with trays. Immediately after looking back, a boy with a particularly good physique changed his facial expression to say "Oh?"
Miyuki and Leo addressed each other at the same time.
"Saijou-kun is also helping with the Inter-School Matches?"
"I too… I mean… No. Since Miyuki-san is the President, it's only natural that I help out."
After talking to himself, Leo was convinced,
"Mikihiko and Erika are also coming."
"Does that woman have a love for the school?"
Miyuki leaked an elegant small laugh, then said nothing more.
"I wonder if I can tell Erika that."
"Hey, Lina, don't do that."
Leo returned to Lina, who had been standing on the side in a relaxed manner. Despite being away for over a year, Lina was already accepted as a "colleague" among Tatsuya's circle of friends.
"Then, I will see you later. I presume Miyuki-san will also attend the preparatory meeting."
"Yes, I plan to do so."
Miyuki smiled a little and Lina waved her hand lightly.
The other response was not from Leo, but his companion.
Lina, who was seated, looked at Leo's back as he was leaving and asked, "What is the preparatory meeting?"
"Today's agenda is player selection."
It was Izumi who returned the answer. Of course, the other four did not ignore Lina, she just responded the fastest.
"It hadn't been decided yet, right?"
Miyuki's mutter was her soliloquy rather than asking why.
"I didn't know if such a meeting could really be held."
But perhaps she interpreted it as a question, Honoka replied from the side. The seats were arranged in the order of Izumi, Miyuki, and Honoka on the aisle side, and Kasumi, Lina, and Shizuku on the other side.
"Did you postpone the selection?"
Lina's voice had a critical nuance.
"I was practicing as a temporary member."
Shizuku argued that she interpreted it as "Is it okay to not practice?"
"Isn't that member okay?"
"The Monolith Code is three people per team. Two or more teams are required to practice."
"Oh, that's right. Then you decide the regular from that."
Lina's guess was natural, but Honoka didn't shake her head.
"It's not decided that way. Some students couldn't participate in the practice due to various reasons."
The faint gaze directed at Lina swayed toward Miyuki.
Someone would easily deduce the meaning of that line of sight, even if they weren't Lina.
"Unfortunately, Tatsuya can't do it. He's busy."
Miyuki responded to Honoka's struggle with a little loneliness.
"Oh… that's right."
Honoka dropped her shoulders because her expectations were clearly denied.
"First, I think students from other schools would disagree if that happened."
"I think so, too."
Shizuku and Kasumi continued to agree with Miyuki's point, even though it was probably against Miyuki's personal feelings.
"It can't be helped, Miyuki-senpai. Shiba-senpai is now one of the strongest magicians in the world. Shiba-senpai's name has grown too big to compete in a high school competition."
For Izumi, it was in her nature to be extremely unwilling to praise Tatsuya. However, for her, comforting Miyuki's heart was the priority.
"I know. Thank you, Izumi-chan."
"Ah! You waste your words on me…"
No one disturbed Izumi, who was immersed in her own world. Leaving her to Miyuki, Lina asked Honoka and Shizuku about the details of the Inter-School Matches. From there, the conversation developed to a hot topic with Kasumi about last year's Nine School Competition.
Miyuki and the other five returned to the Clubs Committee headquarters just before the player selection meeting for the Monolith Code Inter-School Matches was about to begin.
The steering committee is Igarashi Yousuke, the head of the Clubs Committee. The Student Council secretary, Mitsuya Shiina, was sitting next to Igarashi to take minutes.
Among the members of the conference were Mikihiko, Leo, and there was also Erika, a surprising attendee, as Leo said. She noticed Miyuki's gaze and returned it with a light wave of her hand.
"President Shiba, I'm sorry for making you go out of your way."
Igarashi was feeling completely embarrassed after seeing Miyuki
"I can't be indifferent as the Student Council President. Please start regardless of me."
"Ye- Yes, that's right."
Igarashi announced the beginning of the meeting, as prompted by Miyuki.
"Before we start a concrete discussion, I have one thing to tell you."
After declaring the opening, the chairman, Igarashi, made a statement.
"As a result of discussions with representatives of the other schools earlier, in these Inter-School Matches, the blood relatives of the Ten Master Clans will be asked to decline participation in this competition."
There was a stir. But it soon subsided. There are no particular questions or protests. All the participants were convinced with the face that "it can't be helped".
"Please, bring up anyone who you want to submit as a candidate."
No candidacy is recruited. It had been decided in advance that only recommendations of others will be made.
A hand went up immediately.
Even though it was a provisional team, they had already practiced many times and the candidates had been narrowed down to some extent.
The first name to be mentioned was Mikihiko, who also participated as a player last year. Next, Igarashi, who is the steering committee, is recommended. He may be timid, but his ability was recognized by all students. It's just that he'd never had a chance to play an active role in the school because there are other students in his class and seniors who are even more amazing.
The next name was Morisaki. For a while after enrolling, his misunderstandings and fruitless effort stood out, but from the beginning of the summer vacation of his first year, he had the bad habit of disappearing, and at the same time, he began to demonstrate a proper merit of technical magic handling.
Now, even if it is inferior in capacity and interference power, regardless if his judgement is good or bad, he has won the reputation of being one of the most skilled magicians who can make up for it with techniques and produce more results.Apart from whether the evaluation is good or not.
"Igarashi, may I say something?"
Morisaki, who received the recommendation and the voice to support it, raised his hand and stood up.
"I'm glad I got the recommendation, but I'm not fit to represent First High."
There were voices saying that is not the case. However, Morisaki did not back down.
"I know my strength well. I'm not strong enough."
"Are there any other students you would like to recommend?"
Morisaki didn't hesitate when asked by Igarashi.
"I think Saijou is more suitable than me."
Leo pointed at himself and made an out-of-tune voice. The two of them had a dispute as soon as they entered school, but now there is no feud between Leo and Morisaki. That said, Morisaki's mouth came up with his name as a player candidate, which was unexpected for Leo.
"Saijou has a track record in the rookie competition. He is also accustomed to working with Yoshida. I think he can get better results than me."
"No, wait a minute. The rookie battle was set up by Tatsuya. I can't use anything other than hardening magic, so I can't fight well with the rules of the Monolith Code."
Leo wasn't being humble and was seriously declining.
"You could have fought two years ago. The problem of magic that you are good at can be solved by using the same device."
However, Morisaki was not convinced. He seriously considered Leo to be the better player.
"No, it was a surprise attack that the other party didn't anticipate, so it worked. If someone knew I would participate, every school would take measures."
"Still, I think Saijou is more suitable than me."
Neither Leo nor Morisaki showed any sign of giving up.
Igarashi intervened there.
"Saijou-kun and Morisaki-kun seem to have strong reasons. I understand what you're saying, but I wonder if you can ignore it and participate."
"Leo, I know your strengths and weaknesses well. On top of that, I think you have the ability to play an active role as a national team player. It's an opinion that everyone who is gathered here surely shares."
This was said by Aizu, the Head of the Kenjutsu Club. Apparently he also agreed with Leo's participation.
"No, wait. I don't hate the idea, but if you can ignore the part of the magic being unsuitable, there are better candidates than me."
"Who does Saijou-kun recommend?"
Leo responded to Igarashi's question without hesitation.
Erika's surprise was beyond Leo. It was just like "a pigeon getting hit by a peashooter".
"I hate to admit it, but Erika is much more accustomed to fighting than I am. Unlike me, who can't make ranged attacks, she has the ability to shoot non-systematic slashes. It's really annoying, but she is definitely more powerful than me."
Leo was really serious about repeating "annoying" twice.
"But she is a girl."
"What's wrong with her being a girl?"
Leo asked in response to Igarashi's common sense counterargument.
"It is wrong…"
Igarashi probably didn't expect such a question to come back. Leo repeats the words while he is stuck.
"The Monolith Code is a competition where direct contact is prohibited. It's not strange even if girls participate. Isn't it a rule of the Nine Schools Competition that only boys can participate?
"That's right. The university does have a women's division."
"By the way. I do see mixed-gender games in the States."
Shizuku and Lina backed up Leo's point with evidence.
It should be noted that Lina's point "in the States" is "in America's military training", but that didn't need to be explained here.
"Igarashi-kun, is it okay?"
Mikihiko, being well-behaved, raised his hand.
"By all means."
"There is a women's division in the Nine Schools Competition. Women also have the opportunity to participate, but due to lack of time for these Inter-School Matches, only the Monolith Code could be prepared."
Prompted by Igarashi, Mikihiko participated in the discussion.
"Although it is Inter-School Matches instead of the canceled Nine Schools Competition, girls will be locked out according to the conventional rules. I'm not a virtuous person, but I was worried about it."
The participants of the meeting nodded their heads to the words of Mikihiko. Many of the boys, as well as the girls attending the conference, showed similar gestures.
"I think Erika's participation is good in terms of ensuring that girls have the opportunity to participate in exchange events organized by students themselves."
Due to Mikihiko's point, the atmosphere of the place changed. There were many voices saying that they were in favor of it.
"……Chiba-san, how about you? As Saijou said, physical contact is prohibited, but the Monolith Code is a sport with many injuries. There was no women's event in the Nine Schools Competition. I think that was taken into consideration."
Erika, who was asked by Igarashi, stood up and looked around once.
"I don't like the hand-to-hand combat ban rule, though."
With that said, Erika gave a fearless smile.
"I don't mind entering. With the other four, of course."
"The other four?"
Erika called Mikihiko by surname instead of "Miki".
"Igarashi-kun, Morisaki-kun, and the idiot there."
"Hey, you! What the hell!"
Leo bites at the timing when it shows. He'll be offended, but it's like a comedian duo that has been around for over a decade.
"Oh, sorry. It was a beast, not an idiot."
"So did you intend to follow me!"
"You have a lot of injuries, right? Then you need a replacement."
"Don't ignore me! Listen!"
"Igarashi-kun, can I speak too?"
Igarashi, who was in a cold sweat while looking between Erika and Leo, jumped at Miyuki's words with great relief.
"As Erika said, I don't think it's necessary to limit the number of players to three, which is the maximum number of participants. I think it's better to choose a player who can be replaced for each match instead of regulars and substitutes."
"Yes, That's right!"
Igarashi's voice was quite strong, perhaps because he wanted to distract himself from Erika and Leo.
"If you don't mind, would you talk to other schools? I think it's better to get consent, including the participation of female athletes."
"It is as you've said!"
The real Izumi was next to Miyuki, but Igarashi acted much like her and immediately passed Miyuki's proposal to a resolution. The result of the vote was unanimous.
Erika's participation in the Monolith Code would be decided after discussing with the other schools.
"Oh, I forgot to say it."
Isn't it just like Erika for her not to be done so easily?
"While I'm not saying that I blame the tools for my faults. Since I'm no Kobodaishi1, I will let you know that I'm pretty selfish."
"Oh, Erika, according to one theory, all the brushes that Kobodaishi had were first-class, so he didn't need to choose them."
"Oh, is that so? Then, it has the stamp of approval from the Student Council President."
"You don't need to worry."
In response to Erika's challenging lines, a small schoolboy stood up.
Erika knew the student with platinum hair and silver eyes.
"We will be responsible for finishing Chiba-senpai's device!"
He is Kento Sumisu, a sophomore who served as Tatsuya's assistant in last year's Nine Schools Competition.
"Well, I will be expecting it."
This time, Erika laughed with satisfaction.