When the exchange battle player selection meeting started at First High, Tatsuya was told by Minami through the intercom that he had received a phone call.
Tatsuya asked Minami, who looked apologetic on the screen, without giving a bothered expression.
"It's Doumeki-sama, the manager of the Kanto branch of the Magic Association."
Tatsuya thought that it was a hassle, but he ordered Minami to do so.
"As you wish."
Along with that voice, a thin man that was over fifty appeared on the monitor screen.
"Tatsuya Shiba, right? I'm Doumeki, the manager of the Kanto Branch of the Magic Association."
His tone was arrogant, but it was unclear whether it was due to his position as the branch manager of the Magic Association or based on the societal value of respecting the elders.
"I'm Shiba. So, what do you need?"
The old Tatsuya would have responded politely to such opponents so as not to make repercussions. But now his position had changed. Various persons were already approaching him in order to use his power, knowledge, and name. Tatsuya dared to ask back in a blunt tone so as to not mislead the branch manager.
"I've heard that you're back in Tokyo. We, the association, have something to ask you directly."
The branch manager expressed discomfort. Apparently he is a person that is easy to understand.
"Yes. I understand, ask it."
In response to Tatsuya, Doumeki was visibly frustrated.
"I prefer to say it directly. I want you to appear at the Kanto branch the day after tomorrow."
He seemed to be sensible enough to talk without yelling. Still, in the same arrogant tone, the branch manager ordered Tatsuya to come to the Association.
"Please ask the questions here."
"I've already told you! I'm not going to do it by phone!"
However, Doumeki's patience was soon exhausted.
"So, I will answer you directly by phone. Of course, 'as far as I can answer'."
On the other hand, Tatsuya continued to give a humorous answer with only superficial words. Even if the director of the Kanto branch of the Japan Magic Association made a loud voice, it would not hurt or discomfort the current Tatsuya.
"Are you going to refuse to appear? Magicians are affiliated to the association without exception."
The tone of the director changed to one that included a threat.
Of course, Tatsuya's response did not change from such a threat.
"I know. Under the laws of this country, anyone who obtains a magician's license, regardless of his or her circumstances, is affiliated to the Japan Magic Association. This provision also applies to high school students attached to Magic University before obtaining a license."
Doumeki snorted and nodded to Tatsuya's monotone answer.
"That's right. And if you are a magician affiliated to the association, you are obliged to obey the appearance order! "
"The Japan Magic Association does not have the authority to order an unconditional appearance just because I am a magician."
Doumeki screamed with a vacant face.
"If you want to force someone to go, follow the necessary steps."
Tatsuya struck the truth in that gap.
Just then, a notification of a call extension was displayed on the edge of the monitor screen.
"Excuse me for a second."
Ignoring the manager's demand, Tatsuya put the call on hold and switched to an extension call.
"I'm sorry to interrupt your call."
Minami spoke before Tatsuya could ask.
"I have a call from Hayama-sama. What should I do? "
"Wait a minute. I'll end the call I'm receiving right away."
"As you wish."
Tatsuya returned the videophone to the call with the Magic Association.
"Sorry I made you wait."
"Hey, you. Just because you became a little famous…"
Tatsuya didn't listen to the director's complaint until the end.
"Let's meet on another occasion. Now, if you don't have any other business, excuse me."
"Wait! This conversation is-"
Tatsuya pressed the call button on the videophone. This button acts as a connect switch when pressed before a call and as a disconnect switch when pressed during a call.
The monitor switched to the pending extension video.
"Minami, please connect."
"Yes, right away."
In response to Tatsuya's simple command, Minami operated the videophone without saying anything else.
"Tatsuya-sama, I'm sorry for interrupting you."
In contrast to Doumeki, the branch manager of the Magic Association, Hayama spoke to Tatsuya in a respectful polite tone and gave a non-sitting bow.
"No, no problem. It's over."
"Could you tell me where the call was from?"
"It was from the Magic Association. They were talking about me going to the association because they have something to ask."
"Hoh… Did the Magic Association order Tatsuya, who is directly affiliated with the Yotsuba family, to appear? Was Chairman Tomitsuka on the other side? "
Hayama spoke in a polite tone, which was also extremely cold. Of course, that feeling was not directed at Tatsuya. Hayama was uncomfortable with the arrogant words of the Magic Association.
"Chairman Tomitsuka" is Tomitsuka Hisui, the current chairman of the Magic Association. She is the mother of Tatsuya and Miyuki's classmate, Tomitsuka Hagane.
"No, it was the branch manager Doumeki."
"The Kanto branch manager… So, how did Tatsuya-sama reply? "
"I declined. From my current point of view, I don't like being seen as a push-over."
"I think it was a good decision."
Hayama gave a small, but respectful bow.
"So, what business does Hayama-san have with me?"
"Oh, pardon me for my rudeness. Actually, I would like to hear from Tatsuya-sama about the Master Clans meeting. As you can predict, madam has asked if you have the intention to attend the meeting."
"Aunt, no… If mother decides that I should go, of course I will attend."
It wasn't the case that Tatsuya mistook the words for "aunt". It was an indication of his arguing that his position was false and that he was not really recognized as the son of the head.
The Hayama on the screen, at first glance, didn't seem to care about Tatsuya's misstatement.
"Then, please attend the Masters Clan conference that will be held from 11 am tomorrow. The designated place is the Kaga Daimon Hotel in Kanazawa."
"11 o'clock tomorrow. I understand."
Unfortunately, Tatsuya didn't know a hotel named "Kaga Daimon Hotel", but if the location is Kanazawa, it would take less than two hours to fly there. Since there is no need to use an air car or a freed suit, Tatsuya can let Hanabishi Hyogo, who has become his personal butler, fly the helicopter.
It's unlikely that the hotel doesn't have a heliport at this age, but even if it doesn't, all he has to do is use magic to descend.
After Tatsuya calculated that in his head he nodded to Hayama's words.
It was at the dinner table that Tatsuya met Miyuki and Lina. The two were back a little earlier, before 5 pm, but Tatsuya was in the underground lab at that time.
"It promises to be interesting."
Tatsuya commented when he heard that Erika was selected as a player.
"First High is also quite different."
"I think so too."
The three people think of the atmosphere of the high school when they were in the first grade two years ago. Certainly, at that time, it would have been unthinkable for a female second-class student to participate in Inter-School Matches between the nine schools on behalf of the school.
"But it's surprising. Didn't Tomitsuka's name come up?"
Although Tomitsuka Hagane was in a different event, he is a top class student of the current third years who also participated in the Nine Schools Competition last year. It was natural for Tatsuya to feel suspicious.
"Tomitsuka-kun himself declined in advance because he wanted to participate in the Open tournament of Martial Magic Arts held at the end of the month."
However, Tatsuya's question was quickly resolved by Miyuki's answer. The national competition for magic sports competitions is scheduled after the end of the Nine Schools Competition every year. Prioritizing that over the Monolith Code is not unusual.
Tatsuya just nodded, "I see," and didn't mention the Tomitsuka anymore.
"Anyway, is Erika In Monolith Code? That will be tricky…"
"Really? I think Erika's skills are at the level of the Stars"
Lina argues against the mutter that Tatsuya leaked.
"I know Erika's strength. Lina, Erika is much stronger than she was two years ago."
"Seriously? Even two years ago, she was so strong that a Satellite class couldn't match her. If so, you have no reason to worry, right?"
Lina had an expression that she couldn't really understand.
"The problem is that Monolith Code is a sports competition, not a real battle."
"So, what do you mean?"
Lina leans her head.
"Lina, Onii-sama is saying that the rules of the Monolith Code don't fit Erika."
It was Miyuki that answered that question.
"Maybe Japan's rules and the States' are different?"
"In Japan, physical contact and attacks with tools that are directly manipulated by the body are prohibited. Is it different in the United States?"
"What's that!? Isn't that a one-sided disadvantage for magicians who are good at hand-to-hand combat?"
Not only was Lina amazed, but she was upset with her lips slightly tightened.
"In the USNA, hand-to-hand combat is not prohibited, right?"
"The States just forbid lethal weapons. You can use swords with dulled edges and bows and arrows with no penetrating power, and of course you can fight with bare hands. Otherwise it wouldn't be training."
To Miyuki's question, Lina explains the rules used by the USNA military.
"In Japan, Monolith Code is not practice for the military."
In response, Tatsuya pointed out the difference between Japan and the United States.
"Hmm, that's right. The Japanese Monolith Code is really a sport. Does that involve what Tatsuya said earlier?"
At last Lina finally understanded.
"But Onii-sama. Erika was willing to do it."
This time Miyuki turned to Tatsuya.
"Hmm… I think I have some idea. But apart from Erika's speculation, it's an unprecedented participation of a female player. It will be necessary to take measures according to the rules."
With that said, Tatsuya took some time to think.
"…Certainly, according to university rules, defensive armament devices with programmed object shield magic should be allowed in the women's division. At least protectors should be given preferential treatment. Women players at other schools may be entering as well."
"Do you think that female athletes will also participate from other schools?"
"Because the Nine Schools Competition is gone. It's rather the boys who want to give girls the opportunity to play an active role."
Miyuki was impressed by Tatsuya's words, "I see…", and Lina replied, "I wonder if that's the case."
August 11th, Sunday morning.
Tatsuya was about to leave for the Master Clans meeting in Kanazawa.
He usually has a hard time here, but he didn't have it today. Miyuki, who was ordered to stay at home, didn't ask to take her with him.
"Have a safe trip, Onii-sama."
Tatsuya was confused by Miyuki's considerate attitude. But he didn't express it.
"I don't know how long it will take today. I don't think anything will happen while I'm away, but if there is an urgent call from Miyakijima, call me through Hyogo-san. If the Japanese and American governments say something, please call at your discretion. You can ignore the Magic Association and the media."
"As you wish. Please leave it to me."
"Lina, Minami. I leave Miyuki to you both."
"Yes, leave it to me, but I can only do escorts."
"As you wish. Please leave Miyuki-sama's everyday necessities to me."
Miyuki and Minami bowed, and Lina shook her right hand in front of her face with her index and middle fingers aligned and saw off Tatsuya getting into the helicopter.
The helicopter takes off and tranquility returns to the rooftop heliport.
Lina stepped back indoors, stopped and looked back to Miyuki.
"Miyuki, won't you go with him today?"
"Today is a little…"
Miyuki lightly frowns and returns ambiguously.
"Eh, what? Is there any reason?"
It was a sign that she didn't want to be asked, but unfortunately it did not reach Lina this morning.
Miyuki gives a small sigh.
"…I don't want to meet the head of the Ichijou family yet."
Miyuki answered Lina's question rather easily, perhaps because she didn't think too strongly on not to tell her why.
"That's rare. Miyuki saying things like that."
"On New Year's Day this year… The head of the Ichijou family tried to obstruct my engagement with my brother. Since then, the situation has been dying out, but I feel that the other side thinks "I don't think the story is over yet". So…"
"I don't know what the story is, but if you meet face to face, it will be brought up again?"
"That's right. Especially because the venue this time is the hometown of the Ichijou family."
"Hooh, I see."
Lina resumes her steps from where she had stopped and proceeds into the building.
Miyuki looked at Minami with a bitter smile while in a moody behavior.
The "Kaga Daimon Hotel," which was selected as the venue for the Master Clans Conference, was a new hotel located at the foot of Mt. Daimon, which rises on the border between Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture, and Nanto City, Toyama Prefecture.
The clock face shows 10:30 am. Five helicopters were already parked at the heliport, which was set up just a short walk from the hotel building.
He was told that the heliport was booked under the name of the Master Clans when he called the hotel yesterday. Even if everyone comes by helicopter, it will not be impossible to get off. The heliport is so large that the choice of this hotel as the venue, perhaps, was a lesson learned from the Hakone meeting that was attacked by Jiedo Heigu. This time it seems that the means of transportation was more important than the confidentiality.
There were five aircraft already parked at the heliport. It would be reasonable to think that five people arrived before Tatsuya. However, when he and Hyogo arrived at the hotel, they were guided to a room with nobody in it.
"It seems that the heads of each family do not want to run into each other."
Hyogo talks to Tatsuya, who sits on a classic sofa, in a sarcastic tone. They are in a room where only two hotel employees are left.
There was a good chance that this room was being tapped, but Tatsuya didn't blame Hyogo.
"There is nothing wrong with this."
He just whispered so. He is neither bluffing nor feigning ignorance. Tatsuya really didn't harbour an ounce of guilt.
Tatsuya thought that today's call would be about the message he sent to the world after the battle on Miyakijima a week ago.
Tatsuya thinks they want to denounce his selfish actions.
The Ten Master Clans have a basic policy of not standing on the front stage. He heard that there was a disagreement within the Clans even when Itsuwa Mio became a nationally recognized Strategic-Class Magician.
That said, Tatsuya didn't intend to quietly let himself be scolded.
Light meals would be prepared in the room. But it's still a little early for tea before lunch. Tatsuya had no habit of eleven's tea anyway. He waited for the start of the meeting with only the black tea prepared in the thermos pot.
"Here you go."
It wasn't a hotel employee who opened the door and came in.
He controls and hides his psions, but he is a magician. And also a battle magician on a level of actual fighting power.
Unfortunately, unlike the widely popular fiction, there is no such thing as "identifying the magician by their attribute". There is no "attribute" for each magician in the first place. Whereas, just by looking, he doesn't know who he belongs to, but considering the land of Kanazawa, it is highly possible that he belongs to the Ichijou family.
"The meeting is ready. They are waiting for you."
"Are they all ready?"
"Yes, so please accompany us promptly."
After all, it seems that I am the accused. Tatsuya thought so.
Just thinking about it, he doesn't show any more emotions, and heads to the venue following the guide's back.
"It is here. Please wait here."
"Hyogo-san, Miyuki may contact you, so please wait here for the time being."
"As you wish. Please go."
After being sent off by Hyogo, Tatsuya enters the conference room.
There is a sound of the door closing behind. Hearing that, Tatsuya looked around the room with just his eyes.
No one was sitting at the tables in front of him which were arranged in a square.
The two people who were near the back of the table, and in front of Tatsuya from his perspective, were Ichijou Gouki and Futatsugi Mai. Five people were at the table on his left. Going from the back to the front, there was Mitsuya Gen, Yotsuba Maya, Itsuwa Isami, Mutsuzuka Atsuko, and Saegusa Koichi.
Three people sat at the table on Tatsuya's right side. From the back, sat Shippou Takumi, Yatsushiro Raizou, and Jumonji Katsuto, who stood up alone and welcomed Tatsuya.
The heads of the Ten Master Clans, a group that represents Japan's magicians, were lined up.
"Then, we will now start the Ten Master Clans conference."
Maybe because it's in his region, Ichijou Gouki announced the opening.
But he doesn't seem to be the chairman.
"I'd like to start the questioning of Shiba-dono immediately."
The first person to speak was Ichijou Gouki.
"Wait, Ichijo-dono. Shiba-dono hasn't even sat down yet. He's not a defendant and we're not judges. First, let's all sit down."
It was Katsuto who threw the words of restraint at Gouki. He turned to Tatsuya and called out, "Shiba-dono."
"Please take a seat."
"Thank you. I will take up your offer."
After seeing Tatsuya bow to him and sitting down, Katsuto also took a seat.
"Shiba-dono, are you settled now?"
Gouki, who had been interrupted, calls on Tatsuya with an intimidating and strong tone with wrinkles between his eyebrows.
"Yes, please ask your questions."
Tatsuya turned his face to Gouki with his spine straight and urged him to continue.
There is no sign of apology for temporarily ignoring him.
Maybe he didn't like that attitude.
"A week ago, what on earth were you trying to do?"
Gouki asks Tatsuya with a belligerent attitude.
"A week ago? If it is about the 4th of this month, I just counterattacked an unjustified armed attack."
"That's not the case."
"Would you not fight back? Do you say that the use of force for self-defense is not allowed?"
"I didn't say that!"
"So it was okay to repel the USNA invaders, destroy the new Soviet base, and kill Bezobrazov, right?"
"Of course! Defense of his country is a magician's duty!"
"For your understanding of my actions. The message I sent after the end of the battle is also for national defense. At that point, it was not only Miyakijima and its surrounding waters where battle occured. It was necessary to justify the attack in Japan's territory and waters, but also on the New Soviet Union territory. Otherwise, the concern that the attack on the Birobidzhan base and the eradication of Bezobrazov would be considered a surprise attack by Japan could not be ruled out."
"…Did you take the initiative to dispel that concern?"
"Yes, at worst, I thought that the New Soviet Union was aiming the tip of the spear at my person."
"Mmm… No, but…"
Gouki was not convinced. However, he could not find a clue to refute Tatsuya.
Gouki unintentionally looks around the faces of the heads of other families. Gouki himself is not aware that it is a gesture to seek a lifeline.
"Shiba, I have one question."
It was Saegusa Koichi who answered Gouki's gaze…… Maybe it is more correct to say "piggybacked" rather than "answered".
"Isn't it better to notify the governments of each country through the Defense Forces to justify the counterattack? Was it necessary for Shiba to take such a conspicuous action?"
Koichi's point was a clear statement. Tatsuya and Miyuki had to struggle because the Defense Force did not move in the first place. It was unlikely that the Defense Forces would direct a counterattack against the New Soviet missile base, which was completely at Tatsuya's discretion. It is easy to predict that the Japanese government would not be involved in the destruction of the missile base and the assassination of Bezobrazov.
"I will refer to the suggestions made by Saegusa-dono next time."
However, Tatsuya did not argue and began eating. In response to the answer to his question, the sly old fox, Koichi said "Now…"
While his complexion changes for a moment, in the next the expression disappears and his mouth is closed.
"What is that reply!"
Gouki is fierce instead of Koichi.
"Ichijou, please calm down."
It wasn't Tatsuya who returned the words to Gouki, but Yatsushiro Raizou, who was sitting in the opposite seat.
"Shiba-dono hasn't said anything wrong. That self-defense declaration to the world has already happened. In short, it's done. Even if an alternative is offered now, there is no choice but to use it as a reference for the next similar case.
Raizou said to Gouki without hiding his annoyance.
"If there is a similar case, though."
He added in an ironic tone.
Gouki turns, his face red, and shuts up. To tell the truth, Koichi kept silent because he realized the reasoning of what Raizou said.
"There is not a public office for the nationally recognized Strategic-Class Magicians, but their power is exercised by the decision of the government. It can be said that they are a tool of the nation, like the military."
Mitsuya Gen suddenly changed the topic as to manage the unfriendly atmosphere of the heads of the families.
"Given the magnitude of their influence, unofficial Strategic-Class Magicians should be the same. Magicians are already feared. The Strategic-Class Magicians are the strongest among them. If the existence of Strategic-Class Magicians that are not under the control of public authority are discovered, the cries for the exclusion of magicians will be even stronger, even if the fear is grounded on misunderstandings."
Gen's words were met with a sympathetic look at Tatsuya.
"But this time, Shiba-dono has shown to the world that private magicians possess military power comparable to that of a nation. In other words, Shiba-dono showed that magicians can use violence that the government cannot control."
Tatsuya understood the meaning of the sharp gaze directed at himself.
Gen believes that Tatsuya's cause has led people to consider magicians to be uncontrollable and dangerous monsters. As a result, he fears that magicians will be more persecuted than ever before.
Like the mythical dragons, which were ganged up against and destroyed just because they are dangerous.
"The Ten Master Clans are an organization that protects the magician's "right to live as a person". If a magician is at risk of being persecuted just because he is a magician, he must be set apart."
His gaze on Tatsuya is strict.
However, Tatsuya does not move one eyebrow.
But, he wasn't as calm as he looked.
He wasn't nervous, but there was a quiet anger in his heart.
The phrase "protecting the magician's 'right to live as a person'" that Mitsuya Gen said irritated him.
Tatsuya seemed to be hypocritical, saying "the right to live as a human being" while being content with the current situation of forcing magicians to play the role of weapons.
"Shiba-dono, there is something I want to clarify here."
"What is it?"
This time, Tatsuya repelled Gen's line of sight instead of accepting it.
"On October 31, 2095, you were the one who cast the magic that destroyed the Great Asian Union Fleet?"
Formerly, he asked in a roundabout way if he was a Strategic-Class Magician. This time, he was being direct.
Tatsuya looked at Maya and she nodded.
The two of them will no longer hide this exchange.
Tatsuya returns Mitsuya Gen's question with an affirmation.
"By order of the National Defence Forces, I used a Magic of mass-energy conversion."
"Magic of mass-energy? Does it really exist…"
Raizou lets out a skeptical mutter. He wasn't the only one to think so, but no one responded to his words. His interest soon returned to the confrontation between Tatsuya and Gen.
"According to the National Defence Forces's orders? If the government then recognized you as a new Apostle, this situation would not have happened…"
Gen expresses his opinions like if he was talking with himself. The word "Apostle" he spoke of refers to a nationally recognized Strategic-Class Magician. It comes from the fact that the thirteen nationally recognized Strategic-Class Magicians were called "Thirteen Apostles."
"Shiba-dono. Are you willing to continue to obey the National Defence Forces' orders?"
Gen returns his consciousness from within himself to Tatsuya, who is facing him, and asks.
"The situation has changed since then. While I may respond to National Defence Forces requests, I no longer will obey orders."
"And what is the reason?"
Shippou Takumi was the one who voiced the question. His tone was milder than Mitsuya Gen, but there were wrinkles between his eyebrows.
Tatsuya looked at Maya. Who raised the corners of her mouth slightly and gave a small nod.
"Because the relationship of mutual trust between me and the National Defense Force was broken."
After receiving Maya's approval, Tatsuya answers Takumi's question.
"Relationship of mutual trust, when Shiba-dono is only eighteen years old? Was there a continuous relationship with the Defense Forces other than "Scorched Halloween"?"
There was confusion on Takumi's tone and facial expression.
"I have been in military service as a Special Officer for about four years. Legally, I was a volunteer who was under the command of the army. The destruction of the Combined Fleet of the Great Asian Union was ordered as part of that."
"…The 101 Independent Magic-Equipped Battalion of the National Defense Army."
Koichi murmured to himself, but it reached everyone's ears.
It was also communicated to everyone that Tatsuya admitted that he belonged to that unit.
"If I say so myself, without me the war with the Great Asian Union two years ago would have been a tough result for Japan. I am proud that I have made a considerable number of other contributions."
"Nevertheless, you were betrayed by the Defense Forces?"
Mitsuya Gen asked that because the confrontation with Major General Saeki was due to Tatsuya hiding Lina. With that sort of reasoning, he intended to draw a closure favorable to his argument of Tatsuya being responsible for the betrayal of the Defense Forces.
"Do you remember the surprise attack of Bezobrazov with the Tuman Bomba on June 9th when I was in the Izu Islands? The Defense Force had received information about that surprise attack beforehand."
But Gen's speculation is wrong. Because Lina's asylum was on June 19th. If Tatsuya's words are correct, it was Saeki's side who first broke the relationship of trust.
"Is that a confirmed fact?"
"Indeed it is."
Tatsuya replied with an unwavering attitude to Raizou's question.
"I don't think I've been treated unreasonably. Though that was undeserved."
Tatsuya now proceeds to look at everyone at the same time.
"Old people say that "when the nimble rabbit dies, the hunting dog is cooked". Even if they pledge absolute obedience to the government, if someone is considered dangerous, the government will actively try to eliminate them rather than protect. That is political realism."
There is no reaction. Needless to say, everyone understood this much.
"Don't get me wrong, I'm not actively in conflict with the government, but it's dangerous to rely entirely on the government. To protect the magician's "right to live as a person", I think it's better to leave them with some bargaining chips instead of unconditionally obeying government orders."
With that said, Tatsuya fixes his eyes on Mitsuya for clarity.
"……What are you trying to say."
Perhaps he felt provoked, Gen's words were sharp.
"I think strategic magic will be an effective bargaining chip with the government."
Tatsuya's line is from earlier, it was a head-on counter-argument to his opinion that "Strategic-Class Magicians should be under government control" and a clear statement to the heads who were sympathetic with Gen that he would not give in to group pressure.
"…That's just your personal opinion."
Gen retorts in a bitter tone.
"No, I concur with Shiba-dono."
However, there was a voice in support of Tatsuya.
It's not Maya. Neither Atsuko, who is Maya's fan rather than of the Yotsuba family, nor Raizou, who has been critical of Gouki and Gen. It was Itsuwa Isami who raised her voice.
"If Shiba-dono was a Strategic-Class Magician who destroyed the Combined Fleet of the Great Asian Union, he would be arguably the best military achievement for the nation after World War III. Despite this, he wasn't even warned of the risk of assassination. Because of that, I can't fully trust the National Defense Forces."
"I think Shiba-dono's opinion is justified."
Following Isami, Shippou Takumi turns to Tatsuya's support.
"Anti-magic public opinion is certainly alarming, but entrusting the Defense Forces with the control of civilian magicians is against the raison d'etre of the Ten Master Clans, that is to protect the human rights of magicians against the tyranny of the state's power.
"I don't think all civilian magicians should be under military control."
Mitsuya Gen hurriedly argued.
"Strategic-Class magic has too much impact on society, so we should give the government the responsibility."
"Say that you are a Strategic-Class Magician, would you resign yourself to be managed by the army?"
Itsuwa Isami repels Gen with a strong voice.
Isami's daughter, Mio, is a Strategic-Class Magician. She is weak and should avoid long-distance travel, but she was forced to board a warship to the East China Sea two years ago in November just because she was a "Strategic-Class Magician."
As expected, Mio had to spend about a month in a hospital bed after returning to Japan. Fortunately, there was nothing wrong with her health, but in the perspective of a parent, she surely has a lot to think about.
Mio's hospitalization is known to everyone present. There was no one who could say "yes" to Isami's question.
"Isn't it time to stop chatting and get into the main subject?"
Maya, who had been silent until then, opened her mouth here.
Gouki, Gen, and Isami showed displeasure to the expression "chat". Because it was no less than surmising someone's feelings
That's because Maya's point was true.
Gouki and Gen's denunciations against Tatsuya were a revelation of the irritation they harbored against him. Although it didn't go out of control, the result was that they let their emotions get the better of them, and they ended up sowing unnecessary sparks of conflict within the Ten Master Clans. No one here is so incompetent that they can't realize that.
Maya didn't seem to care about their dislike and spoke to Tatsuya.
"Please explain the results of the negotiations with the USNA, including the case of the former Major Sirius."
Tatsuya immediately responded to Maya's request.
"The day before yesterday, I met with the assistant of the Secretary of Defense of the USNA to confirm that there is no hostility between me and the American government and that we will cooperate in the future."
Hearing Tatsuya's words, a commotion spread in the conference room. It was against their common sense, such as the establishment of equal transactions between individuals and nations.
"I will provide them with the Stellar reactor technology. USNA offered financial support and a free indefinite rental of Major Sirius, that being Lieutenant Colonel Angelina Shields."
Tatsuya did not misunderstand what Maya said as "former Major Sirius."
"Rent a nationally recognized Strategic-Class Magician…? Not for the Defense Forces, but for Shiba-dono individually?"
Mitsuya Gen seemed to struggle to voice his conclusion
"That's right. Lieutenant Colonel Shields is supposed to hide her military conscription and go to First High."
"It's dangerous! Letting the USNA's Strategic-Class Magician go unchecked without any military surveillance…"
Gouki expresses not anger, but confusion. Half a month ago, Gouki was told by Major General Saeki that "Angie Sirius" was being hidden in the Yotsuba family, but he didn't think the Yotsuba family would send the USNA Strategic-Class Magician to high school.
"I do not let her go unsupervised. It was arranged that she will always be accompanied by the next head of the Yotsuba family."
"Isn't it dangerous? The next head is important to the Yotsuba family."
Koichi criticizes the Yotsuba family's handling.
"Don't worry. I also monitor her remotely. As you saw the other day, distance is not an obstacle to me."
With Tatsuya's assertion, there weren't any further objections.
When the counterargument has ceased, Tatsuya did not miss the timing and pressed further.
"The USNA government has kept the identity of Angie Sirius secret. If Miss Shields is exposed as Sirius, USNA and Japan's relationship is expected to deteriorate. I would like to ask everyone to manage this information thoroughly."
The positions of offense and defense were reversed, and the interview with Tatsuya was over as the heads were jabbed by Tatsuya.
Neither Tatsuya nor Maya talked about the idea of forming a global magician joint organization, which has been an agreement with Chandrasekhar of the Indo-Persian Federation.
Tatsuya was called out in the corridor just outside the conference room.
The person who called was Ichijou Masaki. Next to him was a slightly younger Asian girl, who had a faint different impression from japanese. Tatsuya recognized who the girl was.
(Why is Liú Lì L?i with Ichijou?)
The girl that was accompanying Masaki was Liú Lì L?i, a nationally recognized Strategic-Class Magician of the Great Asian Union.
"No, this is…"
Masaki notices Tatsuya's suspicious gaze and shows a slight panic.
"I do not intend to pry into it."
Masaki shows relief to Tatsuya's lines.
Tatsuya instinctively wanted to reverse his previous statement, "I do not intend to pry into it", which would confess that he thought that there was something wrong with Masaki's situation.
Actually, he didn't change it.
"…Is Shiba going home now?"
"Can you wait a little? I want to talk about her."
Tatsuya decided not to inquire into it, but apparently it seems that Masaki wants to confide the situation.
The questions and doubts in the matter of why the Ichijou's eldest was accompanying Liú Lì L?i have not disappeared. If the opposite side wants to talk about it, there is no reason for him to refuse. So, Tatsuya accepted Masaki's request with little hesitation.
On the other hand, Masaki probably didn't expect Tatsuya to agree immediately.
Although he seemed to be a little taken aback, Masaki thanked Tatsuya without wasting time and entered the conference room where the Ten Master Clans meeting was held together with Liú Lì L?i.
After asking Hyogo to stand by the helicopter, Tatsuya waited for Masaki in the hotel's tea room.
Masaki appeared about half an hour later. They hadn't decided to meet there, but it's the place that stands out the most apart from the lobby. He shouldn't have had to search around for a long time.
"Shiba, sorry I made you wait."
He is not sure if that's a confirmation, but Masaki, who approached Tatsuya's table, didn't say, "I was looking for you," but "I made you wait." It may be a routine greeting, but from the appearance of Masaki, it seems that he came to Tatsuya immediately after being released from the meeting.
"No, it was faster than expected. Why don't you sit down first?"
Prompted by Tatsuya, Masaki and Liú Lì L?i sit on the other side.
"So what's the story?"
Tatsuya asks Masaki.
"Today's meeting? We were called regarding the Strategic-Class Magician Management Treaty."
When he talked to that point, Masaki had a taken aback expression.
"As you already know, she is the nationally recognized Strategic-Class Magician of the Great Asian Union, Liú Lì L?i."
Tatsuya nodded, "I know," to Masaki, who introduced the girl next to him.
"Since early in the last month, the Ichijou family is taking care of her asylum in Japan because she was about to be held accountable for the defeat by the New Soviet Union."
Masaki went on to briefly explain why he was with Liú Lì L?i.
"I'm Liú Lì L?i, but please call me "Leila". Masaki-san calls me that."
"I'm Shiba Tatsuya."
Tatsuya simply returned the same self-introduction of Liú Lì L?i, of just saying your name casually, and didn't say anything more.
And Tatsuya, returned his gaze to Masaki. That attitude showed that he was not interested in her, but just in the circumstances explained for the time being
"So, what is this Strategic-Class Magician Management Treaty? It seems like a plot to force the governments to manage unofficial Strategic-Class Magicians."
Masaki lightly grimaces at Tatsuya's words.
"I feel bad about the expression "plot", but the outline is exactly what Shiba says. Didn't they call you to talk about this?"
"No, it was about a different matter, but it seems that Ichijou was called because of the treaty. My case is somewhat similar to Leila's."
Masaki expressed his surprise at Tatsuya's answer.
"A different matter from me…? Didn't you talk about the treaty?"
"I've heard that unofficial Strategic-Class Magicians should follow government control, just like National Recognized Strategic-Class Magicians. But I didn't talk about the treaty."
"Why…? Are you a Strategic-Class Magician?"
"I was just asked about how to clean up after the battle a week ago."
Tatsuya did not answer Masaki's question. It may not be necessary to hide it from him, as it is known to Gouki Ichijou at today's conference that he is the user of Material Burst. However, he didn't feel like admitting that he had caused the catastrophe two years ago in front of Liú Lì L?i, a soldier of the Great Asian Union.
"So what did they ask you? Was it about if you would accept the treaty?"
"No, I was actually asked about the treaty last month."
"Is that so?. I don't know the contents of the Strategic-Class Magician Management Treaty. If you don't mind, could you tell me?"
At Tatsuya's request, Masaki nodded, "Oh, it's ok" and told him exactly what he heard from Saeki two weeks ago.
"…And you accepted without complaint?"
After listening to Masaki's explanation, Tatsuya said with a frightened voice.
"I don't think there's anything strange about it. Isn't it still the case that strategic magic is effectively under government control?"
Masaki argues against Tatsuya's criticism in a strong tone.
"Isn't that treaty proposal the idea of Major General Saeki?"
Tatsuya asked Masaki with a suppressed voice in contrast.
"Ah, Yes… It was Major General Saeki who brought this matter. So what?"
"There are hidden plans to reduce the influence of the Ten Master Clans within this Strategic-Class Magician Management Treaty."
After saying that, Tatsuya shook his head once, saying "No".
"It's not hidden. It's pretty obvious. That's why I don't understand why you and Ichijou-dono didn't oppose it. Did you get deceived by the name 'Strategic-Class Magician Management'?"
"…What do you mean?"
Masaki asks for an explanation with a confused face.
"What is noteworthy in this treaty is that the government grants, for magician management, the right of inspection to the Magic Association. The Magic Association inspects whether the government can control Strategic-Class Magicians. As a result, the knowledge involving the fighting assets and techniques that the Ten Master Clans possess will be given to the Magic Association, and under the guise of a recommendation based on the results of the inspection, magicians who are inconvenient to the Association will be deprived of their freedom and their techniques and knowledge will be forcibly seized put on hold. In other words, the Japan Magic Association would reign over the Ten Master Clans."
"Wait. It's the International Magic Association, not the Japan Magic Association, that has the right to inspect."
"What are you saying? The Japan Magic Association is a subordinate organization of the International Magic Association. If the Magic Association exercises inspection rights in Japan, it will be decided that the authority will be entrusted to the Japan Magic Association. And the Japan Magic Association is a semi-governmental organization under the protection of the government. If the Strategic-Class Magician Management Treaty comes into effect, it will be used as an excuse in order to put the Ten Master Clans, a private autonomous magician organization in Japan, under full public control.
Masaki didn't say, "I didnt think about it too much." He may have had a feeling in the depths of his heart that there was something dubious going on.
"Ichijou. You witnessed the power of Ocean Blast, do you think that large-scale magic has to be managed? Ocean Blast is your own magic. If someone has to manage it, it should be you."
This time, Masaki could not deny it.
Masaki is not the only one who has thought about it. Liú Lì L?i, who sits next to him, also cast her eyes down with a look that seemed like something had come to her mind.
Seeing the two of them, Tatsuya gave a sincere bitter smile. He also remembered that Material Burst was managed by the Yotsuba family until just the other day. But that was not institutional management. His shackles were directly in his mind. Given that, he is not in a position to preach to others.
"So what came of the discussion today. Don't tell me that the treaty was signed?"
While hiding his inner feelings, Tatsuya asked Masaki.
"…Huh? No, it was not that."
Asked by Tatsuya, Masaki raises his eyes.
"I was asked about my future course."
"Course? Do you mean entering university?"
To the unexpected answer, Tatsuya couldn't hide his genuine surprise this time.
He is in the third year of high school. His future course is a pretty common trouble, both particular and urgent.
However, such everyday topics were completely unexpected, especially being talked about at a Ten Master Clans conference where deterrence and protection of the rights of magicians were discussed.
"I want to hear from you. Shiba, what are you going to do in the future?"
"I'm going to the Magic University."
Unable to measure Masaki's true intentions, Tatsuya replied with his apparent plans for the time being.
"But Studying at the Magic University is not something you would need, right? That said, I don't think it makes sense to enter the National Defense Academy now if you crushed the base of the New Soviet Union alone."
"It is a misunderstanding that I don't need to study."
"Are you uncertain about your future?"
"To be honest."
In response to Tatsuya's irony, Masaki nodded, showing hesitation.
"Until last month, I was planning to go on to Magic University, but now that I've been certified as a nationally recognized Strategic-Class Magician, it's inevitable that I'll be deeply involved with the military. I'm wondering if it's better to enter the National Defense Academy"
"Doesn't it mean you won't go to the University?"
"Of course not. Even if you want to join the army, you would need to go to the National Defense Academy first."
"I guess you wouldn't want any other advice from me, right?"
Asked by Tatsuya, Masaki eyes swim around.
"Oh… No, advice is advice. I would like to use what you think about your career path as a reference. Because it is comparable to or beyond that of a Strategic-Class Magician."
"Then my answer is exactly as I said. My intention to go on to Magic University remains the same. Ichijou, shouldn't you simply prioritize what you want to do?"
"But then the responsibility…"
"If you're responsible, you just have to repel the enemy. If you don't become a soldier, there is no responsibility to do more than that."
Tatsuya strongly cut off Masaki's misunderstanding.
"Ichijou. It's a fact that we are magicians. No matter who says what, even if we deny it, that fact doesn't change. But it's just a matter of government and military convenience that you're labeled a Strategic-Class Magician. You don't have to be a Strategic-Class Magician. Your title of Strategic-Class Magician and your title of Third High School's Third Year are equivalent for you."
Masaki has a bewildered expression.
It seems that Tatsuya's words were not completely convincing, but at the same time they cannot be ignored.
"That's all I can say."
On the other hand, there was no hesitation in Tatsuya's expression, who stood up after saying that.
When Tatsuya started talking to Masaki.
In Chofu, Tokyo, an international call was made to Lina who returned to her residence on the same floor as Miyuki.
It was an unidentified call. It just displays the name of the city where the call came from.
(Boston!? No way, right?)
Isn't it almost midnight over there? Lina pressed the receive button in front of the 27-inch wall monitor, wondering about unnecessary things.
"Hello. Lina, it's been a long time
Lina's voice cracks. The person on the monitor was the same one on her mind when she thought "no way".
Dr. Abigail Stuart.
Stars technical advisor and developer of the Strategic-Class Magic "Heavy Metal Burst". She also created Lina's magical weapon "Brionac".
The relationship between Lina and Dr. Abigail Stuart dates back five years. When Lina still wasn't an official Stars member but an apprentice in a training course called "Starlight," she went to Boston on her first mission, where Abigail was waiting for her.
Since then, the two had met face to face about four or five times a year. It's a business relationship, built around the activation adjustment of "Heavy Metal Burst" and the improvement of "Brionac", but that doesn't mean that there is no friendship between them.
The age difference between Lina and Abigail is five years.
Abigail is only five years older than Lina.
Both are precocious geniuses, one who at a very young age became Captain of the Stars and one who was entrusted with a division of the Federal Army's Magic Institute. They are close to each other and have something in common, however they have few chances to meet, but once they meet, they have a close meal.
However, that is "face to face", they didn't talk on the phone often.
To make an international call to someone who was virtually in exile, did something serious happen?
Lina puzzled over this in her head, Abigail called her, rather than Canopus or Balance.
She has no pending business that she can think of.
"…It's been a long time. Even so, how do you know my contact information so well?"
Abigail laughs mischievously on the monitor when Lina asks. When they met five years ago, she looked like a young boy at first glance, but now she's completely feminine. All she has in common with those days is her short hair, which is clearly a female cut. However, such a casual expression gives a glimpse of the remnants of those days.
The pauses in her words hinted at a deeper meaning. Lina's attention was drawn to Abigail's next words, even though she knew it was what Abigail had expected.
"This time, I'm going there."
With her eyes widened, Lina's expression is completely "I don't know what she's talking about."
"That… does that mean to Japan?"
"Japan is Japan, though. Have you not heard anything about it? "
"…I had no idea."
"That's strange. I've heard that Lina was involved in the negotiations with Mr. Shiba on the Stellar Furnace project."
"Even though it was a negotiation, I just handed over the letter, and Secretary James summarized the details."
"Then you haven't heard the content?"
"No, I've heard from Tatsuya to some extent. Certainly, he decided to accept some of the States' engineers for a technology transfer… No way!?"
Abigail grins at Lina's surprised face.
"I also decided to go to Miyakijima as a member of the dispatched technical team. I'll be staying with you for about six months."
"Abby, did you really get permission for half a year?"
Even if Abigail is a developer of strategic magic. Since her research is specialized toward charged particle weapons, she has no track record of devising different types of magics like Tatsuya, and there is the fact that the USNA fears a brain drain.
"I and the Government attach great importance to the Stellar Reactor technology. I'm planning to arrive on the 15th of Japan's calendar. I'll be looking forward to working with you."
"Ye?, Yeah. I'm glad that Abby is coming. I'll look forward to working with you too."
"Yes, I'm happy to. See you in four days."
Even though the phone hung up and the monitor screen went dark, Lina remained there, absent-minded, for a while.