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  The Blue Brigade  

After the battle between the Seven Luminaries and the imperial subjugating army, talk about the Seven Luminaries monopolized conversations across the Archride and Buchwald domains. One couldn’t pass a street corner, worksite, or tavern without hearing about them.

Everyone was talking about the group from the north that had come bearing an “equality for all” style of rule. Gossip about how the rebels were poised to overthrow the feudal system ran rampant.

“Hard to believe, huh. Findolph and Buchwald are one thing, but they even took down Archride like it was nothing.”

“Did he not send out his armored cavalry or something?”

“That’s just it—a soldier buddy of mine told me that they all mobilized…and got completely wiped out.”

“The invincible armored cavalry lost?! They said the Yamato samurai could cut through steel, and even they were no match for the armored cavalry!”

“Word is, when the armored cavalry charged their infantry, the ground exploded under their feet. It was like cannon fire came outta nowhere.”

“I heard the Seven Luminaries’ God can grant magical powers to normal old schmucks. That’s why all their soldiers can do crazy shit like that. They’re all basically mages. Marquis Archride made the right call surrendering. I mean, they’ve got a real deity on their side. There’s no way some average guy could overcome a ten-to-one numbers advantage and take over two imperial domains in a week.”

“Well, looks like things worked out pretty good for us little guys.”

Everyone nodded in agreement.

The commoners had initially been hesitant about being taken over by some strange religious group. However, when they experienced the benevolent governing of the Seven Luminaries firsthand and saw how they were working to round up corrupt nobles, few were eager to voice complaints. For the first time in many years, there was hope.

Some truly began to believe the world was actually changing. The prospect was so exciting it made their hearts throb.

“You hear what happened to Baron Zamud’s asshole son?”

“That guy who was going and prostrating himself in front of all the people he’d used his dad’s power to abuse, you mean? They say he was paying them off not to rat him out.”

“Well, apparently someone spilled the beans, and he ended up getting arrested.”

“I mean, the asshole executed a couple of people. Didn’t even give ’em trials. No wonder someone was fed up with his shit.”

“When they dragged him off, he was shouting ‘I don’t want to die’ with snot dripping down his face and piss spilling down his pants.”

“Ha-ha, serves him right.”

“Man, I still can’t believe it. Nobles getting locked up for hurting us commoners…”

“Yeah, and it’s all thanks to the Seven Luminaries.”

“I know the emperor won’t go down without a fight, but I hope they beat him.”

Poorer folk weren’t the only ones who felt a new era creeping up along the horizon, either.

The nobles sensed it, too.

A week after the annexation, the Seven Luminaries took their detained lords, Buchwald and Archride, to the Manufacturing District they’d build around the thermal power station beside Dormundt.

The goal of their little field trip was to set Buchwald and Archride at ease.

The Seven Luminaries had annexed Buchwald’s and Archride’s domains by defeating their joint military forces, but they didn’t have the manpower to hold them, in truth. Compared to the Findolph domain, which boasted less than a century’s worth of cultivation, each of them had far more people and land.

If the Seven Luminaries were going to retain dominion over both domains, assistance from its current ruling class would be essential. Thus, the decision was made to show Buchwald and Archride just how powerful the Order of the Seven Luminaries was. In doing so, the hope was to cut out their animosity at the root and secure their cooperation.

It perhaps went without saying, but to the two lords, their tour was just one world-shattering surprise after another.

“Th-this…is this really rifling?! Like the imperial workshops’ latest!”

Upon being shown the arms factory, Archride let out an awestruck yelp.

Their guide, Dormundt’s former mayor and current minister of the Findolph province, Walter von Heiseraat, seemed impressed. “Sixty years old and still leading the charge. I should have known you’d recognize what this is, Marquis Archride.”

“…I’d heard reports, but this is my first time actually seeing it in the flesh.”

“U-um, Marquis Archride, if I may… What exactly is ‘rifling’?”

Marquis Buchwald, a short, timid-looking middle-aged man, asked nervously for an explanation, to which Archride showed him the gun’s opening and spoke.

“Rifling is a technique where you carve spiral grooves inside a gun barrel. By causing your bullets to spin, you make them fly farther and straighter. The imperial workshops came up with the idea about a year ago, but it was difficult and costly to implement, so they halted development so they could focus on upgrading the army from matchlock to flintlock guns instead.” As he spoke, Archride cast his gaze around the factory in disbelief. All around him, hyuma and byuma were using machines he’d never seen before to construct gun parts in rapid succession.

“So this is where you’re mass-producing guns that even the empire couldn’t create?” he inquired.

“That it is. The Order of the Seven Luminaries is equipped with five hundred such rifles at the moment, but that number is rising as we speak. Eventually, we plan to have our entire army equipped with them,” Heiseraat explained.

“The level of output here is remarkable…”

“It’s all thanks to the facilities granted to us by God Akatsuki of the Seven Luminaries. The various tools move on their own through divine ‘electricity’ magic, allowing us to produce intricate parts with ease.”

“…It’s true, even the speed you’re producing the barrels at is unprecedented…”

This world had yet to develop the capability to carve out a metal bar’s insides via drill. For them to construct a hollow metal tube, they needed to take iron plates and round them around a mold.

Even just producing a single matchlock gun necessitated the forging of iron plates, tempering them around a cylindrical core called a mandrel to shape the barrel, coating them in a layer of steel, and then tempering them again. The mere thought of the process was exhausting.

In the Seven Luminaries’ factory, however, all they had to do to make a barrel was run a gun drill attached to a lathe through a round steel bar.

Just that single process made a remarkable difference in terms of the speed of production.

“…Well, I suppose that solves the mystery of how you all had so many guns and how they shot so far. Nevertheless, there’s still something I’m curious about—that rapid-fire. Was that more divine providence?” Dizzy as he was at the alien level of technical prowess on display, Archride asked another question.

Heiseraat responded by beckoning him and Buchwald over into another Manufacturing District area, a shooting range for the finished guns. From there, he picked a golden piece of metal up off the table and showed it to his guests.

“The key to that rapid-fire is these.”

Archride cocked his head to the side. “What are they? Thorns? Arrowheads?”

“These are the bullets we use in the guns,” Heiseraat revealed.

“Bullets?! That enormous metal spike is a bullet?!”

“It is indeed. Well, I suppose technically only the off-color part on the end is.”

“Just the tip? Then, what’s the fat section on the bottom?” Buchwald asked, finally piping up.

“You raise an excellent question, Marquis Buchwald. For therein lies the secret behind the rapid-fire.”

Heiseraat picked up a rifle lying against the shooting range’s wall.

“The inside of the bigger part is hollow, and it’s filled with a certain something. Marquis Archride, care to take a stab at what that something might be?” As he elaborated, Heiseraat loaded a five-round magazine into the gun.

Archride paused and thought for a moment, but there was only one thing that made sense to load in with munitions, and he quickly arrived at the answer.

“Could it really be…gunpowder?!”

Heiseraat fired a shot at one of the range’s targets.

“Precisely. Unlike the firearms we’ve used up until now, where we had to load the bullet and the gunpowder separately, these weapons combine them and, in doing so, combine all the steps of reloading into one. Then, if we combine that concept with a series of spring-based mechanisms…”

With a practiced hand, Heiseraat operated the bolt-action rifle while giving his explanation. First, he pulled the bolt handle down, then back. That made the gun’s internal spring push the magazine’s next bullet up, the pressure from which caused the spent shell to eject. Then he loaded the raised bullet into the chamber by returning the bolt handle to its starting position. Finally, after he raised the lever and sealed the chamber—

“…We can load the shots in ahead of time and fire them off one after another.”

—he fired a series of bullets off in rapid succession by repeating the same motions.

Five shots in a row.

The two marquises trembled as they looked on in shock.

“How utterly brilliant…”

They were partially shaking with fear at how advanced their former foes’ technology was, but more than that, they were awestruck at the sheer ingenuity that went into every aspect of the rifle’s construction. Projectiles and propellant were packaged together and then loaded in sequence via springs.

It was so simple that Archride and Buchwald could picture it in their heads. That’s what made it all so impressive.

“H-hold on a minute, now!” Knowing how the Seven Luminaries’ guns worked made Marquis Buchwald all the more confused, however. “These use gunpowder to fire off bullets, just like the empire’s?!”

“That’s right,” answered Heiseraat.

“But that doesn’t make sense! Your people must’ve fired off thousands of shots in that last battle! Where did all that gunpowder come from?!”

Marquis Archride took over from there, saying, “He’s right; that is strange. Findolph never seemed too excited about arming his men with firearms, and I’d heard that the city watch in your old post, Dormundt, had only a few guns to go around. How did you get gunpowder in such quantities? Saltpeter, the raw material, is hardly easy to come by.”

“Heh. That one you’ll have to chalk up to a divine miracle,” Heiseraat asserted.

“A miracle?” Archride asked.

Heiseraat nodded in reply.

“The thing is, I found it just as curious as you two did. The angel who built these facilities has a retainer, a metal spider called Bearabbit. He’s the one that taught us how to build guns, and I asked him where the gunpowder came from. I could hardly believe it myself when I heard the answer.

“Through the power of a divine miracle…in essence, by magic, they created gunpowder from thin air.”

“Th-thin air?!” Buchwald exclaimed.

“You mean to say they whipped up such a precious resource from nothing at all?! Is that even possible…?” Archride asked, dubious.

“Apparently so, if they use a divine spell called ‘Haber-Bosch process.’”

In truth, the “Haber-Bosch process” Heiseraat was referring to wasn’t a supernatural marvel at all. An assumption that it was had been the natural conclusion for someone unfamiliar with the method, though.

After all, neither Bearabbit nor his genius inventor, Ringo Oohoshi, were mages of any sort.

However, the process in question had revolutionized human history to such an extent that calling it magic wasn’t far off the mark.

Put simply, the Haber-Bosch process used heat and pressure to cause a chemical reaction that used iron oxide as a catalyst to pull nitrogen from the air and make it into ammonia.

Back at the start of the 1900s when it was first developed on Earth, humanity used it to get the nitrogen they needed for their crops from the atmosphere in the form of nitrogenous fertilizer. Doing so vastly increased the amount of food they were able to produce from a given plot, causing a record-breaking population boom. Due to its outstanding results, the Haber-Bosch process came to be known as “the magic that turns water, coal, and air into bread.”

Unfortunately, the boons borne from revolutionary technologies aren’t always positive. The Haber-Bosch process brought calamity down on mankind, as well. Fertilizer wasn’t the only thing that could be made from ammonia. Gunpowder could be made from it, too.

Ammonia was required to synthesize saltpeter, also known as potassium nitrate, the raw ingredient behind gunpowder. With ammonia suddenly cheap and easy to obtain, saltpeter became more available than ever before. Countries all over the planet rapidly modernized their armies. Many believed this rapid upgrade in firearms to be one of the significant inciting incidents to World War I. That was the kind of malignant technology the Order of the Seven Luminaries was using.

Through it, they’d been able to obtain the gunpowder necessary to upgrade their army from seemingly nothing. Such a process had proven impossible to plainly explain to this world’s locals, however.

When Heiseraat had come asking Bearabbit about the gunpowder manufacturing, Bearabbit had given him a thorough explanation about fixing nitrogen with an iron oxide catalyst, but the only response he’d gotten back was a blank stare. No one here knew what the air they so nonchalantly breathed was composed of, after all. It was unlikely they realized it was made of anything at all.

In the end, Bearabbit had said, “Well, just think of it as divine magic that makes it pawsible to pull gunpowder out of the air.”

Basically, he’d given up on explaining it. Sometimes, even AI felt like passing the buck. Such a simple answer was not without some portion of truth, though.

After all, the people of this world had no idea that the atmosphere was composed of elements like nitrogen. As far as they were concerned, the Haber-Bosch process really was a miracle that made gunpowder from nothing.

“You were standing on the front lines, Marquis Archride, so you of all people should realize that nothing short of divine providence could’ve created the amount of gunpowder the Order of the Seven Luminaries used in that battle.”

“Th-that’s…” A bead of sweat formed on Archride’s forehead. He couldn’t refute it. To him, conjuring up the substance was more believable than somehow managing to import a huge quantity of it.

Nothing short of a godly phenomenon could have been ascribed to such a marvel.

“It all just seems so unreal…”

When at last Archride and Buchwald accepted the truth of the matter, their faces grew even paler. Having seen the Seven Luminaries’ factory firsthand, they could tell that these weren’t just some rebellious upstarts equipped with fancy guns. The enemy that had so thoroughly routed them was an organization equipped with something far more terrifying than guns—knowledge.

Who…who in the world are these boys and girls calling themselves gods and angels?! Is one of them truly an awesome deity from above? Although he hated to admit it, Archride did have to consider the possibility. He then shook his head to dismiss the thought. Surely it was impossible.

God doesn’t exist, Archride told himself. If he did, there was no way the religious persecution the empire had once carried out would’ve gone as smoothly as it had. Archride knew his history. He didn’t believe in heavenly powers or the omnipotence thereof.

Little did he know how difficult doubting was about to become.

“Have a look, Marquis Archride.”

Heiseraat took a pile of papers tied together with a string and handed them to him.

“Hmm? What’s this?”

“The Order of the Seven Luminaries’ commander and his men were given this battle plan just before we engaged your army. Mr. Tsukasa, the angel serving as our new God’s tactician, told me to show this to you. He assured me that it would help convince you.”

Confused, Archride received the report and quickly scanned it.

“…” The man’s face went a shade paler than it had when he’d seen the rifling or learned of the miraculous Haber-Bosch process.

From the moment they set foot on Le Luk to when they’d laid down their arms at Dulleskoff, every action his army had taken was laid out nigh prophetically in the battle plan.

“Ha… Ha-ha…”

Archride couldn’t help but let out a dry chuckle.

What a world…

If the written account had only contained the orders he’d actually given, Marquis Archride could’ve dismissed it as something the Seven Luminaries had prepared after the fact to trick him. Included in the documents were not only the list of orders he’d issued, but also detailed alternate courses that Archride had considered in each moment. These were plans he’d contemplated but never issued.

From there, the papers became a detailed flowchart with paths for each possibility, allowing those who read it to respond to whatever choices Archride might have made.

Given that Archride himself was the one who’d considered all the various options and possibilities listed on the chart, he knew it impossible to deny the accuracy of the documents. The man knew why Tsukasa Mikogami had deigned to show this report to him.

Tsukasa was sending him a message.

“No matter what you did, you would still have been dancing on the palm of my hand.”

Faced with such a revelation, what other option was there but to laugh?


“M-Marquis Archride?” Buchwald asked.

“I see, I see. So we were doomed from the start. Buchwald, my man…it seems we really did go to war against gods.”

Archride was certain now. This was the work of no mortal. No human could’ve possibly accomplished this much. He was completely outmatched in both strategy and perspective. Engaging in a battle against people who could create such a report was nothing more than base folly.

It was within that moment that the last scraps of Archride’s loyalty to the empire, and his desire to fight back, vanished all at once. He turned to Heiseraat and promptly swore fealty to the Seven Luminaries.

“We cannot defeat the divine. The Archride domain hereby pledges allegiance to the Seven Luminaries.”

Once Archride had finished, Marquis Buchwald pledged allegiance to the Seven Luminaries in turn. He’d long been Archride’s flunky. Following him was the only way Buchwald knew how to live.

Thus, the Seven Luminaries solidified their standing in the Buchwald and Archride domains. Through the generous cooperation of each domain’s lord, they were able to carry out their reforms to bring equality to all.

Curiously, the leaders of the Order of the Seven Luminaries, the High School Prodigies, were nowhere to be found in Dormundt. They weren’t in Buchwald or Archride, either.

They were staying in the Gustav domain, as guests of the Blue Brigade.

“Ahh… This is exquisite…”

“…It feels like I’m lying in a field of flowers, that it does.”

A villa by the name of Nord sat nestled in the Gustav domain. It was a luxurious palace that had been built to accommodate inspectors from the imperial capital and was generally only used on such occasions. After the Blue Brigade took control of the domain, they gave the High School Prodigies a special invitation to partake of its hospitalities.

One such amenity was the aromatherapy massages that the group’s female members were in the middle of sampling.

Prodigy journalist Shinobu Sarutobi, whom the Blue Brigade had mistaken as a Yamato survivor, had fought alongside them on the front lines. Now, she and the other girls were relaxing in ecstasy, surrounded by the smell of roses as a group of maids masterfully rubbed and kneaded the slopes and valleys of their bodies.

“Word is, these are the oils the empress herself uses. You can’t find them for sale anywhere, so they had to send out for ’em special just so we could get the royal treatment. Sweet, huh?” Shinobu said with a grin.

“That’s right, ma’am. Imperial mages use spirits to draw out the active ingredients, making them much purer than the kinds you can get by distillation or compression. My master, Marquis Conrad, will be overjoyed to hear that they’re to your liking,” replied an attendant.

“Pretty nice of them to use something so valuable on just us ladies. Feels like we hit the jackpot, huh, Ringo?”

As she lay facedown to receive her massage, Shinobu chatted up the petite girl sitting on the next bed over who was getting an arm rub—Ringo Oohoshi, the genius inventor.



—Ringo barely gave any reply.

“Hey, what’s up? You feelin’ sick?” Shinobu asked.

“Oh? Are you unwell, Ringo?” Keine Kanzaki added.

Having now worried the Prodigies’ doctor, Ringo hurriedly shook her head in the negative. With a thin, faltering voice, she explained, “It just…seems…like a waste…to use something so pricey…on me…”

“Huh? Why’s that?” Shinobu sounded puzzled.

“I—I mean…I’m not…as pretty as the rest of you…and it’s not like I have…a great body, either…”

As she spoke, Ringo glanced at the other two as well as Aoi Ichijou, the master swordswoman.

Aoi had long, slender legs and a tight, trim waist. Shinobu was on the shorter end, but she had a lively, feminine figure. Despite Keine’s boobs each being nearly as big as Ringo’s head, they were perky and didn’t sag in the slightest.

All three of them had such attractive physiques that even though she was a girl, Ringo found her eyes drawn to them. She looked down at her own body, comparing it to the others’.

Her arms and legs were small and short like a child’s, and her breasts were barely even large enough to identify her as a female. Ringo’s figure couldn’t have been further from an hourglass shape. Realizing just how inadequately she stacked up, the inventor let out a sigh.

Just as Ringo was sinking into a funk, however—

“What’re you taaaaaaalking about? These silky-smooth cheeks are worth the price of admission alone!”


—Shinobu leaped up from her bed, wrapped Ringo in a big hug, and nuzzled her cheek.

“When it comes to cuteness, you’re a chart-topper, Ringo. I meet a lot of entertainment industry folks in my line of work, and hardly any of them come close to being as cute as you.”

“That’s quite right. Besides, having a nice figure isn’t the only way for a woman to be appealing. I don’t think it’s a waste at all,” Keine commented.

“Indeed. Ringo, m’lady, I find you downright adorable, that I do… In fact, given my unfeminine height, I daresay I find myself a bit jealous.” Aoi was similarly quick to chime in.

“And y’know, even back on Earth, you were actually more popular than most idols,” Shinobu remarked.

“N-no way,” Ringo whispered.

“Yes way. Heck, not only did you have a dedicated thread on 2chan’s Academia: Science board, it filled up like five hundred times! Plus, whenever a science journal wrote an article about you, it would sell a hundred times more copies than the other ones!”


Hearing Shinobu tell her that struck Ringo speechless. Ringo had previously lived in outer space and had relegated most of her communication with the outside world to Bearabbit. This was the first she’d learned of any of this.

“Plus, having a nice body’s all about the effort you put in. Us women keep growing until we’re in our twenties, and if you just want bigger knockers, there’s plenty of techniques to get you there. Wanna try out the ol’ boob-enhancing massage that’s been passed down in my family for generations?” asked Shinobu.

“Oh? This technique of yours, does it actually exist?” The proposition had piqued Ringo’s interest.

“Hey, having decent tits is one of the surest ways to get guys wrapped around your little finger. It’s a pretty important skill to have for a kunoichi like me.” As Shinobu spoke, she jiggled her own breasts.

Seeing them bounce made Ringo wonder if hers would be like that after receiving this mysterious massage.

“Well? Wanna try? I will warn you, it’ll tickle a bit at first,” Shinobu offered yet again.


Ringo’s gaze darted around. Her discomfort with social situations made the prospect of being seen naked all the more embarrassing. At the same time, however, she also remembered how she’d felt after seeing Tsukasa sleeping with his head on Lyrule’s lap.

Ringo didn’t want to lose. The genius inventor knew she was no match for Lyrule when it came to femininity, yet her resolve remained unshaken.

She refused to give up on the feelings she’d been harboring since that incident back in middle school. If Shinobu’s method could even make her the tiniest bit more shapely, Ringo was willing to try it.

“…Y-yes, please…” Ringo’s face flushed apple-red as she accepted Shinobu’s proposal.

Shinobu, more than happy to oblige, took over for Ringo’s maid.

One of the maids, who’d been glancing over and watching the scene play out, turned to the fifth High School Prodigy present.

“And you, Ms. Akatsuki? Would you like to try the empire’s famous breast-enhancing massage?”


The Prodigies’ brilliant magician, Prince Akatsuki, was lying sprawled atop a bed, covered by a single loincloth and receiving the same aromatherapy massage as the girls.

Then, still covering his eyes with his hands so as not to see the girls in their immodest states of undress, he let out a pained groan. “Man, why does this always happen to meeeee…?”

One had to wonder why Akatsuki, a boy, was there at all. The culprit was his own appearance. The diminutive blond was very pretty. His petite build didn’t give away his gender, and often, the people he met would regularly mistake him for a girl.

The maids of Nord, having been no exception, had carted him off with the women. Despite Akatsuki’s loud protestations, Shinobu had cut him off before the magician had ever had the chance to get the words out.

“Akatsuki, don’t. If you tell the maids off, they might get executed. Just give up and go along with it.”

Akatsuki knew all too well just how cheap some lives were considered to be in the world they were in, so he knew Shinobu wasn’t joking. He wasn’t about to make a fuss if someone’s life was on the line. Unfortunately, his silence meant he’d been dragged along with the girls to their aromatherapy massage.

With his hands clamped over his eyes, Akatsuki prayed desperately for the whole thing to end as quickly as possible. The self-imposed blindness only made his reactions to tactile stimuli on his skin all the more intense, however.


A maid’s oiled hand traveled gently over the bumps in his rib cage and sent a shiver down his spine. A slight noise escaped Akatsuki’s mouth. Hearing it, the attending woman looked down at him and smiled cheerfully.

“Hmm-hmm, Ms. Akatsuki, your skin is so sensitive. And it’s so clear, and white, and youthful… I’m sure that gentlemen must find it very attractive.”


Out of all the accolades the magician had received in his seventeen years of life, he had never been more displeased to be complimented.

Elsewhere, the boys-minus-Akatsuki were taking a dip in the palace’s grand bath, their unmentionables covered by loincloths.

Shrewd businessman Masato Sanada rubbed his stuffed belly, then turned to his tub mate, Tsukasa.

“Whew, now that was some grub. These guys know how to throw a feast.”

“You can say that again. Not only did they cook with sugar and pepper, they even brought up fruits from the south. Let’s not forget about the massages the girls are getting either. Given this world’s living standards, this is quite the hospitality they’re showing us.”

“Yeah, not to mention the extra somethin’-somethin’ the two of us are getting after this. Heh-heh-heh.”

“…Your tastes are as blatant as ever.”

“Hey, what’s wrong with a dude likin’ the ladies? If anything, it’s a sign I’m a healthy young adult. Man, thinking ’bout Sanya and Irina with boobs full o’ bounce… The memory alone’s got me going!”

A lecherous look spread across Masato’s face as he thought back on the two rabbit-eared byuma dancers who’d entertained during dinner.

After Tsukasa and Masato had split up with the girls, they were quietly offered a slightly different sort of perk than the aromatherapy massages. Later that night, they could have any dancer they liked sent up to their chambers.

Not to chat, of course, and not to play Uno, either.

“So, Tsukasa, who’d you pick?”

“I’m not going to dignify that with a response.”

“C’mon, man, just tell me. I swear I won’t blab to the others, ’kay? Who’s your type?”

“What is this, some sort of school camping trip?”

However, seeing that Masato was in unusually high spirits, Tsukasa let out an exasperated sigh and answered, “If you must know, I graciously declined the offer.”

“What?! Why?”

“I wasn’t interested.”

“What? …You’re not interested in chicks? You’re freaking me out a little here, dude.”

“Quit scooting away from me. And stop hiding your chest like that. It’s unbecoming. What I mean is, I have no interest in a purely carnal experience.”

“Wait, seriously?”


A look of disbelief crossed Masato’s face. Every single one of the byuma dancers had been an unparalleled hottie. It was beyond Masato’s ability to even picture someone not being interested in such tempting bodies.

And yet…

“Sigh. Y’know, that’s actually pretty like you.”

“My sincerity?”

“How stupidly stubborn you are.”

After thinking for a bit, Masato realized that it would’ve been far stranger if his blockhead of a friend had told him that he’d called some girl up to his room because she had a nice ass or something.

“I feel like that sorta old-fashioned thinking about gender relations is just gonna hurt you in life, but I guess it’s not really my place to criticize.”

“That’s right. Everyone’s entitled to their own views and values.”

“I feel you, I feel you. Welp, if you say you’re not interested, that’s your business.”

Tsukasa’s refusal wasn’t going to hurt Masato, of course.

“I guess that leaves tonight’s special service to me, huh. Don’t worry, though. I’ll make sure to enjoy it enough for the both of us.”

“Oh, that won’t be necessary. I turned it down for you, too.”

“You bastard, you did WHAAAAAAAAAAT?!”

Upon hearing the world-shattering news, Masato let out a furious roar and launched a kick at Tsukasa’s side. Faced with such an attack, Tsukasa merely parried with his palm as he talked his friend down.

“All right, settle down there.”

“Like hell I’m gonna settle down! What kind of a dick move was that?! You were literally just talking about personal freedom!”

“That’s true, and if we were on Earth, I would be content with leaving you to your salacious ways. Right now, though, we’re acting as this world’s angels. If you were unfortunate enough to get someone pregnant, what do you think would happen?”


Tsukasa’s rational reasoning left Masato at a loss for words.

At the moment, they were attempting to establish the world’s first democratic nation. However, if they went about that task as humans, then when they eventually left and returned to Earth, there was a danger that whoever took over their posts would simply create a new aristocracy. In order to avoid that, the Prodigies were masquerading as divine beings.

If any of them slept with someone from this world and accidentally got them pregnant, though, there was a chance that could lay the seeds for a new monarchy.

Masato knew that. He understood it from a rational perspective, but he didn’t like the idea of accepting it. He was already in the mood. Getting blue-balled now meant he wasn’t going to be able to sleep.

Dammit, guess I’m gonna have to sneak out of my room tonight to get me some…

“And just so you know, you won’t be sneaking out tonight, either. I had them put us in the same room, you and I. And there’s no escape from me.”

“You monster…!”

“Don’t worry. If it gets too bad, I’d be happy to wait outside the room while you attend to your needs.”

“How fuckin’ considerate of you! Shit! Not only do I have to cancel plans with a bunch of babes, now I gotta room with you, too?! God fuckin’ dammit!!”

Abruptly thrust from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, Masato plopped his elbows on the tub’s rim and cradled his head in his hands.

Suddenly, a new voice entered the conversation.

“Tsukes, Massy, we’re back! Sounds like you two’re enjoying the water!”

Having finished their aromatherapy massages, the girls flooded into the bath area with Shinobu leading the charge.

They hadn’t come to soak, of course.

All of them were adorned in white gowns and leaf tiaras, like Greek goddesses.

“Good, you’re here,” replied Tsukasa, not perturbed in the slightest. He adjusted his loincloth and greeted his teammates.

The plan had been to meet in the bath to discuss future strategies.

“Were the massages everything you ever dreamed of?” Tsukasa inquired. “I heard they use top-shelf balms normally reserved for the empress herself.”

“Oh, it was the best! I’ve never been so happy to have been born a girl!” chirped Shinobu.

“My sentiments exactly,” Keine agreed. “We also learned that the ointments were created using spirit magic. It would seem that this world’s magic is used for more than just warfare.”

“That’s right,” answered Tsukasa. “According to the First-Class Mage we captured back in Findolph, the academy’s Second-Class Mages aren’t experienced enough at controlling spirits to be trusted as combatants. Their jobs consist largely of industrial and cleaning work. The closest any of them get to a battlefield is when they clean equipment and strip rust off of armor.”

“Ha-ha!” laughed Aoi. “Cleaning, of all things?”

“It lets them practice manipulating spirits, so it acts as part of their training. That First-Class Mage I mentioned, Gale, is actually having Lyrule do something similar.”

“Come to think of it, Lyrule handled the laundry at our field hospital in Archride. I recall being impressed at how she cleaned everything so thoroughly without any bleach, but now it makes sense. She was using magic, I take it?” inquired Keine.

“According to Gale, she shies away from using magic that hurts others, but overall, her ability to control spirits exceeds that of even the Imperial Prime Baptists at the empire’s mint. They’re the mages who use spirit magic to remove impurities from their gold and increase the quality of their currency.”

The sway that an Imperial Prime Baptist held over spirits was considered exceptional, even among Imperial Prime Mages. They were responsible for maintaining the empire’s standards for its coinage. Only the best of the best got to work there.

To everyone’s surprise, Lyrule had outdone them only a month after her awakening. Evidently, her powers really were something special.

“…The mysteries about her just keep piling up, don’t they?” Tsukasa said.

“Yup,” Shinobu replied. “Oh, by the way, why’s Massy look like the world just ended on him?”

“Don’t mind him. It’s not important.”

“Ah. So the you-know-what?”

“It’s important to me, all right?! Just because—”

But before Masato could begin his rant in earnest, he spotted something interesting out of the corner of his eye.

A moment later, all the despondency vanished from his face, replaced by an ill-natured grin.

“Hang on, who’s that blond cutie over there? C’mon, introduce me to her already.”

“I’ll hit you, you know?!” Akatsuki, who was wearing the same getup as all the girls, took his leaf tiara and hurled it at Masato.

“Ha-ha-ha. Hey, it’s not my fault you came back all cute and spruced up.”

“It is your fault! This asshole here is one thing, but, Tsukasa, you can’t just abandon me like that! Why didn’t you stop the maids for me?!” There was no attempt on Akatsuki’s part to hide his indignation.

Upon inspection, it appeared that the scarlet had yet to fully fade from the magician’s cheeks. He must really have been embarrassed.

“I am sorry about that,” Tsukasa apologized. “But Marquis Conrad was watching, so I couldn’t say anything. If any of us had pointed out the servants’ mishap, there was a chance they would’ve been executed for it.”

“I mean…Shinobu explained that all to me, but you’re you. Couldn’t you have found some way to save me from the maids while still smoothing things over with that guy?”

“…Maybe, but like I told you before, you’re still acting as the centerpiece of the Seven Luminaries faith, so it would be a big problem if anything happened to you. That’s why I’m trying to have you stay near Aoi whenever possible. Even with the imperially appointed lord ousted, the domain still identifies as part of the Freyjagard Empire, so we’re technically in hostile territory right now. Merchant and I are no slouches, but Aoi can do a far better job of defending you than even the both of us combined.”


“It’s fine, Prince. You got a sweet massage out of the deal, didn’t you?” Masato needled with a grin.

“It’s not fine! Think of how embarrassing it would’ve been if they’d realized I was a guy halfway through!”

“Huh? Wait, you mean they never noticed?”

“Uhh… Th-that’s not…” Realizing he’d said too much, Akatsuki tried frantically to backpedal.

“Nope,” Shinobu declared.

“They never even seemed suspicious, that they did not,” added Aoi.

Without even the slightest hesitation, the girls completely blew poor Akatsuki’s cover.

“That’s…impressive,” Tsukasa noted.

“Yeah, man, not just any guy could pull that off.”

“Maaan… You two suck! Screw you guys!”

Akatsuki turned his back on his two earnestly impressed friends and began cradling his knees in his hands.

Admittedly, Tsukasa did feel embarrassed that his praise had set off Akatsuki’s habitual coping mechanism. Right as he was about to apologize, Tsukasa suddenly had the feeling that he was being watched very intently.


The gaze was timid but intense all the same.

When Tsukasa turned to look, he discovered Ringo with her hands over her crimson face staring at him from between the gaps in her fingers.


She didn’t seem to have realized he’d noticed her. Her fervent, watery eyes remained transfixed on his loincloth-covered body. Seeing Ringo like that reminded Tsukasa of the time right after they’d finished building the bathhouse in Elm. Back then, fraught as she was by her leaf swimsuit attire, she’d snatched glances at him in exactly the same way. Tsukasa didn’t find it particularly odd, however.

He didn’t agree with everything from Masato’s last speech. Still, it was true that having interest in bodies of the opposite sex was merely a sign that one was a healthy young adult. That was why the Tsukasa merely glanced away, pretending not to have noticed anything.

A few moments later, the conversation began to shift from the topic of Akatsuki to the Blue Brigade.

“Be that as it may, we’re getting quite the warm welcome here, that we are. When soldiers and civilians alike are impoverished from the battle against Gustav, is it truly all right that they pamper us in so grand a fashion?” Aoi asked.

“It’s because they’re hurting that they wanna avoid picking a fight with us Seven Luminaries,” explained Masato. “They don’t wanna make enemies out of us, especially not after we claimed two imperial domains in a single week. Hell, they’re probably freaking out right now.”

“Still, it would be optimal if things could be worked out diplomatically. Like it or not, more fighting inevitably leads to more dead and injured. What are your thoughts on the matter, Tsukasa? Can we make allies with the people of the Blue Brigade?” Upon hearing Keine’s question, Tsukasa shot Shinobu a glance.

“Yeah, gimme a sec,” she responded. Kneeling down, Shinobu pressed her ear against the wet floor. She was using sound to search the area around them. After a little while, she lifted her torso and gave him the thumbs-up.

“’Kay, we’re good. The only others within two hundred feet are the pair replenishing the kindling in the boiler room. Neither of them is close enough to eavesdrop. Between that and the Blue Brigade’s lack of mages, we don’t have to worry about being overheard.”

“Much obliged.”

After Shinobu confirmed that there weren’t any unwanted parties listening in, Tsukasa thanked her, then finally answered Keine’s question.

“To sum it up…that won’t be possible.”

A few hours earlier, the High School Prodigies had come to Nord Villa’s lounge as representatives of the Seven Luminaries to meet with Marquis Conrad, the scrawny old man serving as the Blue Brigade’s leader.

“Well, well, well! I must thank you all for coming such a distance for this meeting. I am Rommel von Conrad. The Blue Brigade’s former leader, Granzham von Blumheart, met an unfortunate end in battle, so I will be governing the Gustav domain in his place.”

“I am Tsukasa Mikogami, entrusted with matters of government by God Akatsuki of the Seven Luminaries. We’re grateful for this opportunity to speak with you.”

After exchanging a handshake with Tsukasa, Conrad bowed in an overly excessive show of respect.

“Oh, not at all. Our victory over Gustav would hardly have been possible if not for the help of your fellow angel, Shinobu. No thanks we offered you could ever be sufficient. To think that you weren’t a Yamato survivor but an angel from the heavens. If you had only said something sooner, we would never have given you such a dangerous role…”

Conrad’s apology carried the unfortunate implication that they’d given Shinobu a dangerous task because they’d mistaken her for a Yamato survivor, but Tsukasa wasn’t childish enough to let his displeasure show on his face.

“Well, now that we’ve acknowledged our mutual gratitude, perhaps it’s time to get to the matter at hand,” Tsukasa offered.

Conrad agreed obediently and showed the Seven Luminaries to their chairs.

Then, the meeting between the representatives of the Seven Luminaries and the Blue Brigade began in earnest.

“The matter at hand, naturally, is the relationship between your Blue Brigade and our Seven Luminaries.”

“…You wish to know if we accept the terms of your People’s Revolution, which seeks equality for all, is that right?”

Tsukasa replied with a nod.

“The teachings of the Seven Luminaries would see inequality stamped out. Suppose the Blue Brigade is amenable to such ideals. In that case, we see no reason to take military action as we did against Archride and Buchwald. On the contrary, we would welcome your cooperation in enacting our reforms. That would, of course, include standing against the empire, which no doubt opposes our teachings.”

“The Blue Brigade began as a group of nobles seeking to help the suffering commoners. So naturally, we applaud your concern toward reform. However…” Conrad let his words trail off somewhat ominously.

“Is there some problem?” Tsukasa asked.

“…I’m afraid so. A great number of people are wary of founding a nation without a noble ruling class. It’s a simple fact that not every member of the Blue Brigade is on the same page.”

“In other words, you’re concerned that the masses’ low levels of education will give rise to unstable governance?”

“…Y-yes. Personally, even I have my doubts that…the common people can handle the burden of law… Such things are difficult to judge, so I’m afraid I cannot give you an answer at present.”

“Do you mean to say that you won’t cooperate with us?”

Conrad shook his head so frantically his neck seemed liable to break.

“O-oh, heavens no! I’m not saying anything of the sort! The Blue Brigade is in full favor of equality for all! We have every desire to cooperate with you in the fullest, I swear! …Making that choice requires greater conviction, however. After all, this is no feudal lord we’d be going to war with; this is the emperor himself. And we’re not even fully certain your ways would be for the good of the people yet. We of the Blue Brigade have a duty to the populace of the Gustav domain to deliberate carefully—”

“—For the sake of their future,” Conrad added after a moment. “So…might I request…we have some more time to see how the situation will evolve?”

The old man wanted to defer his decision.


Tsukasa went quiet for a bit, then nodded in the affirmative. “…Very well. We of the Seven Luminaries respect how uneasy you feel at the prospect of abolishing the noble ruling class you’re so accustomed to. It’s like crossing a suspension bridge over a valley with fog so thick you can’t see an inch in front of your face. How can you tell that the bridge is sturdy? As a leader of others, your desire to do your due diligence is commendable.”

In any given village, the number of fully literate people was often low enough to count on one hand. Conrad’s concerns were perfectly legitimate. If his domain democratized thoughtlessly, there was a good chance it would throw the government into chaos. None of the world’s countries, least of all the Freyjagard Empire, would fail to capitalize on that opportunity. Tsukasa was well aware of that, which was why he was trying to garner the nobles’ support.

Pressing for a hasty answer was an unwise tactic, but Tsukasa did not relent merely after demonstrating that he understood Conrad’s position.

“At the same time, however, I believe your fears can be quelled by observing the state of the Findolph, Archride, and Buchwald domains. So take that time and use it to remove whatever doubts you have.” Tsukasa’s tone was amicable, but he was unmistakably laying on the pressure.

“Th-thank you for your c-consideration in this matter…!” Conrad praised with a stiff smile. Being allowed to defer his decision was probably as much as he’d hoped for.

As for the High School Prodigies, that was a point they’d decided to cede beforehand. In short, the first topic on the agenda had resolved in largely the way both parties had expected.


“…Regretfully, there’s one issue that cannot wait.”

—with the opening bits of business out of the way, Tsukasa moved right on to the day’s second, and most important, topic.

“Wh-what might that be?”

“It should go without saying that we must restore living standards for the Gustav domain’s citizens.”

Tsukasa had heard stories from Shinobu, and he’d seen the domain’s state of affairs on their journey to Nord Villa. Those alone had been more than enough to let him know just how dire things were. The people’s quality of life had deteriorated to the point where they couldn’t recover on their own, and Tsukasa believed it essential that the local governing body intervene as quickly as possible.

To that end…

“I understand that Duke Gustav imposed ludicrously high taxes in order to fund a gold statue of Emperor Lindworm. It seems to me that the reasonable course of action would be to break it down for gold bullion, sell it on the marketplace, and use that money to buy food and provisions from other domains. To facilitate this, the Order of the Seven Luminaries is prepared to dispatch our angel entrusted by God Akatsuki with matters of commerce. How does that sound? We wouldn’t expect any compensation for the service, naturally.”

Tsukasa was offering the unconditional aid of the Seven Luminaries. There shouldn’t have been any reason for the Blue Brigade to turn them down.

“…W-well, you see, about that.” Conrad’s gaze darted from corner to corner. When he eventually found his words again, his voice was pained. “I’m afraid there’s a bit of a problem. It would appear that, before we made our move in Millevana, the gold statue in question was sent to Drachen, the imperial capital, and we haven’t been able to locate it.”

“That’s quite concerning. How do you propose to offer economic relief to the people, then?”

After hearing Conrad’s confession, Tsukasa narrowed his gaze on him probingly and asked for his backup plan. The older man’s brow furrowed in discomfort. Soon enough, however, Conrad opened his eyes wide with renewed determination.

“To be perfectly honest…helping the populace recover simply isn’t possible without the funds from that statue! We of the Blue Brigade lack the power to rescue the people in their time of need. So though it is shameful of me to beg, could I ask that the Seven Luminaries’ God Akatsuki use his power to save the people from starvation?!” As he wrung the voice out of his throat to make his desperate plea to the High School Prodigies, Conrad bowed low enough that his forehead was touching the table.

A noble, bowing to people young enough to be his grandchildren for the sake of the common folk was an act of overflowing courtliness. Given that Conrad was beating around the bush when it came to enacting reforms, yet asking loud and clear when he needed help, it came off as profoundly brazen, however.

The Gustav domain was the dukedom entrusted with managing all four northern domains. It was nearly twice as large as the Archride domain, the next largest of the four in terms of territory. More land meant more population. Having to prop up the massive Gustav domain’s economy would place an immense burden on its three remote neighbors. It wasn’t a task that even the Prodigies could’ve agreed to easily.

“I understand. The Order of the Seven Luminaries offers you its full cooperation.” Despite any such difficulties, Tsukasa accepted without so much as hesitating.

“Tr-truly?!” Conrad had never imagined that he’d secure the assistance of the Seven Luminaries so effortlessly. With a shocked expression, he double-checked to make sure he’d heard correctly.

Tsukasa’s second answer was the same as his first.

“Yes. We descended from the heavens to save people from their suffering. It would make no sense for us to abandon them now. We’ll start by providing food and medicine from Findolph, Archride, and Buchwald to supplant Gustav’s shortages. That should help to build up the health of the populace.” For the first time in the discussion, Tsukasa offered the other man a smile.

“Given the size of the Gustav domain, however, surpluses from the three other domains may prove insufficient. We’ll need to go through Gustav to conduct trade with the empire’s eastern and western regions, as well as its capital, to secure stores of food. However, that will necessitate that we have free travel across Gustav’s borders to conduct business. There’s no other way about it. Is that acceptable?”

“Y-yes! Of course! I have no reason to refuse that request! You fine people can come and go as you please without tariffs, and the trade routes and ports are yours to use freely!”

“I appreciate your generosity.”

“N-nonsense! It is I who should be thanking you! The people of the Gustav domain will live to see another year thanks to you!” His voice trembling with joy, Conrad gave Tsukasa another desk-scraping bow.

As Tsukasa looked down at Conrad’s head, though, the smile quickly faded from his face.

“Allying ourselves won’t be possible? The gentleman seemed interested in cooperation, did he not?” As Aoi thought back to their meeting with the Blue Brigade, she asked Tsukasa to explain his reasoning.

“I don’t suspect they bear any animosity toward the Seven Luminaries. And when he said he wanted to cooperate with us, I believe he was telling the truth. I wouldn’t be at all shocked to learn he told the empire the same thing, however. After all, if they’d completely cut ties with the empire, there would be no reason for them not to work side by side with us.”

Keine concurred. “Quite so. In fact, they would want to join forces with us as quickly as possible to be ready if the empire decided to take action.”

“Exactly. Right now, the Blue Brigade is wavering. They’re trying to figure out who to support—the Seven Luminaries or the Freyjagard Empire.”

Tsukasa’s assessment of the situation was right on the mark.

A few days before Conrad’s meeting with the Seven Luminaries, he’d sent a message to Neuro ul Levias, one of the Four Imperial Grandmasters standing in for Emperor Lindworm. The ruler of the Freyjagard Empire was off on his expedition to the New World. “We of the Blue Brigade slew the villain who was willfully weakening the empire from within, but we bear no hostility toward the Freyjagard Empire as a whole. Long live the law of survival of the fittest.” It had contained the exact same sentiment he’d gone on to express to the Seven Luminaries earlier that day. Simply put, Conrad was fence-sitting.

“Hey, I mean, given the Blue Brigade’s position, you can’t blame him for playing the opportunist. No matter who he picks, it’s gonna mean war, so obviously, he wants to play both sides for a bit to give his exhausted army time to recover. What other choice does he have, being sandwiched between two major powers like that?” Masato inquired.

Tsukasa nodded in agreement. “Merchant has it right. It’s hard to consider that an act of bad faith. No, the reason I said we won’t be able to ally ourselves with the Blue Brigade is a wholly separate matter… The thing is, Sir Conrad told us an unforgivable lie.”


“That’s right. He told us that he didn’t know where the gold statue was. The moment he said so, however, the movement of his eyes, the shifting of his tongue, and the creases in his face all signaled that it was a complete and utter falsehood. He knows exactly where the statue is. I’d bet he’s already gotten ahold of it.”

“Wh—?! Is that true?!”

“I don’t have any hard evidence, but…I’ve never failed to detect a liar when talking face-to-face.”

Tsukasa himself was certain of Conrad’s deception, as was another member of the Prodigies.

“Yeah, I figured. Honestly, I was thinkin’ the same thing,” Shinobu agreed.

“What tipped you off?” Tsukasa questioned.

“Duke Gustav had this aide named Oscar, and he was a spy for the Blue Brigade. Oscar was the one in charge of shipping off the gold statue, so if he knew how soon the coup was, why actually send the statue to the capital? So, y’know, I figured something was up.”

“Yeah, that’s definitely weird… Actually, it’s sus as hell,” Masato observed.

“So wait, that old guy Conrad’s trying to steal the gold statue for himself?” Akatsuki asked, rejoining the conversation. Masato gave the inquiry a nod.

“Makes you wonder about their former leader, Count…uh, Blumheart, right? The Blue Brigade nobles could’ve orchestrated that ‘battlefield death’ of his.”

“Yeah, I figure that’s pretty likely,” Shinobu agreed.

“Either way, no group that’s willing to steal a gold statue for personal gain while they have commoners eating one another just to survive will ever actually get behind our ‘equality for all’ reforms. Before long, they’ll try to mend relations with the empire and turn on us,” Tsukasa stated flatly.

Such a deduction on the prodigal politician’s part only raised more questions from the others.

“But if you knew all that, why’d you tell them that we’d pay for the restoration efforts?” Shinobu pressed.

One certainly had to wonder why Tsukasa offered such assistance.

“Couldn’t we just have Shinobu go track down the statue? That way, we wouldn’t have to spend any of our own money, and we’d be able to expose those Blue Brigade geezers for what they are,” suggested Akatsuki.

“Indeed. That would be preferable, would it not?” Aoi added.

“Yeah, it’d only take me three days to hunt it down. What’s our angle?”

Tsukasa shook his head, however, and refused Akatsuki, Aoi, and Shinobu’s suggestion.

“That won’t be necessary.”

“Why not? Is three days too slow?” Shinobu asked.

Again, Tsukasa shook his head. “There are two reasons. The first…is that we still haven’t confirmed Gustav’s death. As I understand it, the man was downright obsessed with the statue. If he is still alive, stealing it back will be his top priority. And that’s all the more reason not to have it anywhere near us.”

“Ah, you’re right…” Shinobu had experienced Gustav’s power firsthand, so she knew all too well the danger the man posed.

To put it in terms of modern firepower, he was like a soldier equipped with a flamethrower and a grenade launcher. Having someone like that employing guerilla tactics against them was not a position the Prodigies wanted to be in.

Shinobu and Aoi could hold their own, of course, but Gustav would torch any other member of the group without much trouble. Such a scenario was exactly what Tsukasa was trying to avoid.

“So we’re basically using the Blue Brigade as our shields?” Akatsuki asked.

“That’s part of it, but there’s a more important reason.”

Tsukasa paused for a moment, then explained.

“Even if we found that statue and exposed the Blue Brigade’s corruption, it wouldn’t actually end up hurting their cause.”

“Why not?” Shinobu wondered aloud.

“’Cause of how loyal the Gustav domain’s people are to the Blue Brigade now…right?”

“Merchant’s got it,” Tsukasa affirmed.

As far as the masses were concerned, the Blue Brigade were the heroes who saved them from the wicked Gustav. In their eyes, that group could do no wrong.

“Even if we were to find the statue and expose the greedy nobles for their wrongdoing, they could just claim that Gustav’s secretary acted alone. The public would have no reason not to believe them. In fact, even if people didn’t buy that kind of excuse, they wouldn’t care. For them, anything is preferable to Gustav,” explained Tsukasa.

“Ah…,” muttered Akatsuki.

“At that point, all Sir Conrad has to do is return the statue, and they’ll forever hail him as the ‘model knight who righted his subordinates’ misdeed.’ Then, our position will weaken for having accused him. If that happened, we’d be done for. Nothing we did from then on would ever earn back the trust of the citizens.

“The Blue Brigade has the confidence of the Gustav domain. Even if they’re wholly in the wrong, any aggressive action we take against them carries considerable political risk. Human beings like to assume that anyone they believe in is always right. Whatever plan we choose needs to take that psychological habit into account. For now, we need to win the people over gradually.”

“An astute observation. So that’s why you agreed to handle the restoration efforts,” Keine deduced.

“Yes. The more resources we put in, the less responsibility the Blue Brigade will take on. These are the nobles who stole the gold statue for personal gain, after all. If they can get someone else to pay for the recovery, nothing would make them happier.”

“So while overlooking their corruption, you plan to have us Seven Luminaries carry out as much of the restoration efforts ourselves as possible and win the people over that way?” reasoned Masato.

“Exactly,” Tsukasa replied. “Right now, the Gustav commoners’ trust lies solely in their saviors: the Blue Brigade. If we bring their misdeeds to light, they won’t be happy, but they’ll continue looking to the aristocracy for leadership. They’ve little other option, after all.

“It’ll be a different story once our group grows more popular and we establish ourselves as a realistic alternative by facilitating the domain’s rehabilitation. That will be the moment to expose the Blue Brigade for what it really is. In the meantime, the gold statue will serve perfectly to distract Sir Conrad and his allies from our proselytizing. They can line their pockets all they want. Unlike hearts and minds, money can easily be recovered by force.”

With that, Tsukasa swept his gaze out over his assembled friends.

“It’s for those reasons that we won’t be attacking the Blue Brigade for the time being. I hope that’s enough to convince you all.”

“““ ”””

All six of the other High School Prodigies nodded.

“Good. On that note, let’s go over your individual assignments.”

Having received their approval, Tsukasa began to distribute the new orders.

“Now, most of them haven’t changed much from our time in Findolph. Akatsuki, I’d like you to travel around and use your magic shows to win the people over. Aoi, you go with him and serve as his assistant and bodyguard.”


“Maaan… Another grueling itinerary for me, huh?”

“Keine, your job is to take charge of improving health conditions for the impoverished. We’re in a bitter race against time on that front, so your work is going to be the most labor-intensive, but I’m counting on you nonetheless.”

“Very well, then. A doctor who balks in the face of adversity is no doctor at all, I daresay. Still, the Gustav domain is quite large. I’ll need plenty of qualified hands to help.”

“We’ll get you as many knights and farmers as those sectors can spare. The domain is also home to a healer’s association, so we’ll arrange for their cooperation, too. Luckily, it’s winter right now. With no farm work to do, securing human resources should be relatively easy.”

“That would be a big help. Fortunately, malnourishment itself can be treated remotely. So long as I have sufficient laborers, food, and medical supplies to assemble treatment packages, I should have the region in good health in no time.”

“I’m glad to hear it. As far as securing and distributing the food and medical supplies in question goes… Merchant, that’s where you come in.”

“With Gustav’s ports, getting the stuff’ll be a cinch. Distributing it’s gonna be trickier, though. Gathering up food and supplies from Archride and Buchwald and spreading it throughout Gustav is gonna take more carriages than we’ve got.”

Most of the horses in the Gustav domain had been killed and eaten already.


“Back when Shinobu first told me about the state of affairs here in Gustav, I had Bearabbit deal with that particular problem in advance.” Tsukasa turned to Ringo. “How are those freight trucks I requested coming along?”

The scientist tottered over and quietly whispered in Tsukasa’s ear, her eyes averted from the young man’s bare torso all the while.

“Um…from the text Bearabbit sent me…everyone in the Manufacturing District is working hard…and they have twenty ten-ton off-road trucks…ready to go. They blasted a tunnel through the mountains…and the trucks are on their way here.”

“What about the drivers?” Tsukasa asked.

“They’re being run by copies of Bearabbit…so we’re all good there.”

“I appreciate the update.” Tsukasa turned back and relayed Ringo’s information to Masato. “…And there you have it.”

“For real?! Damn, Ringo, you’re like our very own Doraemon!”


Ringo didn’t deal well with loud noises or voices, so her shoulders twitched at Masato’s exclamation, but she quickly gave him a small V-for-victory sign with her hand.

Previously, Ringo hadn’t been able to communicate with anyone other than Tsukasa, but after living together with the others in this new world, she was slowly adapting to interacting with them.

Masato responded to Ringo’s nonverbal reply with a pleased grin.

“If we’ve got wheels, I’m all good. Consider the goods signed for, sealed, and delivered.”

Tsukasa thanked Masato, then moved on to Shinobu.

“Now, Shinobu, you’ll continue working alongside the Blue Brigade.”

“You want me to keep an eye out and see if they’re actin’ fishy, right?”

“That’s certainly part of it, but…I’ve heard that the Blue Brigade isn’t necessarily monolithic. I want you to contact anyone you think is truly willing to cooperate with the Seven Luminaries. We’ll need them, for when we found our nation.”

“Recon and sowin’ dissent, all at the same time? Well, I’ll make it work,” Shinobu said with a shrug.

“I know it’s a difficult task, but given your abilities, I know you’re up to it,” Tsukasa encouraged.

“Sha-sha. Leave it to me.”

Tsukasa then turned to the last member of the group, Ringo Oohoshi.

“Finally, Ringo. If our nation is to rise, there’s something I need you to—”

As the white-haired young man tried to finish, however—

“Ah, hold on just a moment. I’m afraid that won’t do.”

—Keine interrupted and cut him off.



Tsukasa and Ringo cocked their heads to the side, and Keine elaborated.

“Ringo and Tsukasa, both of you are to take the next three days to recuperate. Doctor’s orders.”

“What on earth is this about?” Tsukasa insisted.

“If the two of you keep pushing yourselves like this, you’re going to collapse. The scent of your perspiration, your glossy sebaceous glands, the state of your nails and mucous membranes… Observation of these external factors allows me to assess your health with as much accuracy as a blood test.

“The results of the visual analysis tell me that you both have severely compromised immune systems. If you continue at your current pace, Ringo will contract acute tonsillitis in five days, and Tsukasa will come down with bronchitis in a week’s time. From there, it will take you both ten days to recover.

“That’s a painful amount of time to lose, no? As for me, I’ll have my hands full treating the commoners and soldiers injured in the previous battle, so I really can’t have you two getting sick right now. Before that happens, I need you to rest and let your immune systems recover.”

Hesitating for a moment, Tsukasa pictured just how badly a three-day break would set him back. “…Understood,” he agreed after a short silence. “It pains me to take such a long vacation, but I’m not about to go against the professional opinion of Keine Kanzaki, prodigy doctor.”

“I do so love an obedient patient,” Keine cooed sweetly.

“To be frank, I did realize I was pushing myself and letting Ringo force herself as well…” Tsukasa let out a wry laugh, then addressed the group once more.

“Well, there you have it. I’m sorry to do this while you’re all working so hard, but Ringo and I will be resting for the next few days.”

“Y’know, I figured it’d happen to us all eventually, but I guess you two really don’t know how to quit, do ya?” Masato remarked.

“Taking time to recuperate is important, that it is,” added Aoi.

None of the others voiced any complaints about Keine’s medical advice. They all knew that between Tsukasa’s battles against the subjugating army and Ringo’s manufacturing of the trucks and night-vision goggles, the two of them had been working nonstop for some time.

Thankful to have such understanding friends, Tsukasa replied, “Fair enough. Then recuperate, I shall.”

Turning back to Ringo, Tsukasa offered her a suggestion.

“You know, Ringo, we don’t get much time off like this. Spending it sleeping in our rooms would be dull, and I did have that thing I wanted to talk to you about. What do you say we spend the third day hanging out together in the city?”

“…?” Ringo immediately tilted her head to the side a bit. What she’d just heard had been so unexpected that her brain wasn’t able to process it.

“Oh, a date? What a lovely idea,” Keine said with a smile.

“Man, lucky… I wanna get a day off with Tsukasa,” grumbled a certain short, blond boy.

“Akatsuki, m’lord, did we not spend that break together in Elm?” Aoi reminded.

“How was I supposed to rest when I had to spend the whole time with a girl? You even followed me into the bath! If anything, I was more tired afterward!”

“Show our girl a good time, Tsukasa,” Shinobu remarked with a mischievous expression.

After hearing her friends’ opinions on Tsukasa’s proposal, Ringo finally understood what he’d suggested. Forgetting that she was around others—


—Ringo let out a cry of disbelief at the top of her lungs.

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