He awoke to the second day of his high school life, and it was quite ordinary.
Even though he had started to attend high school, it didn't mean that the earth's rotation cycle would be affected.
He lightly washed his face — since he was going to properly wash it again later — and put on his usual attire.
Then he went downstairs to the dining room and saw that Miyuki had started to make breakfast.
"Morning, Miyuki. You're quite early today."
It was still the break of dawn, and there was no sign of the Spring sun yet.
It was still too early to go to school. The first lesson was at 8am sharp and commuting to school would take roughly 30 minutes, so it would be ideal to leave the house at 7:30am. Preparing breakfast, eating, cleaning up... if we considered the time needed for all this, there would still be over an hour of extra time.
"Good morning, Onii-sama... please help yourself."
She handed him a glass of fresh juice.
After a sincere word of gratitude, he emptied the glass in one breath, then returned it to Miyuki's outstretched hand. —Miyuki had a perfect grasp of Tatsuya's breathing pattern.
Just at the exact moment he was about to say "I'm leaving" to his little sister, who was once again facing the kitchen table, Miyuki's hands stopped and she turned around.
"Onii-sama, I was actually planning to go with you today..."
Upon saying that, she lifted a basket full of sandwiches. It seemed more accurate to say that she had "finished making breakfast" rather than "started to make breakfast".
"I don't really mind, but... will you be coming in your uniform?"
He asked while eyeing the school uniform under her apron, a stark contrast to the sweatshirt he was wearing.
"I haven't reported to sensei about school enrollment yet... and also, I can no longer accompany you in your training, Onii-sama."
And that was Miyuki's answer.
The reason why she had already changed into her school uniform this early in the morning was to show her high school look to him.
"Understood. Miyuki, it's not like you need to carry out the same morning training as I do, but Master will probably be happy to see you.
...Though I hope that he doesn't start running amok from being overly happy."
"If that happens, then Onii-sama, please protect me."
The sweet wink from his little sister naturally brought a smile to Tatsuya's face.
◊ ◊ ◊
In the slightly chilly, refreshing air of the early morning, a young woman was gliding up the hill road on her rollerblades, her long hair and skirt fluttering in the wind.
Without kicking off the ground to propel her, she was zooming up the gentle but long hill road against gravity.
Her speed probably reached 60 kph.
Tatsuya was keeping pace beside her.
Though he was jogging, each stride he took went as far as 10 meters.
But, he did not look as relaxed as Miyuki did.
"Perhaps, I should slow down a bit?"
"No, then it wouldn't count as training."
Miyuki asked, having spun around, gliding backwards on one foot, to which Tatsuya replied without losing a single breath despite the evident fatigue.
Neither of them had any kind of propelling device installed in their shoes.
Needless to say, this speed was an effect of magic.
What Miyuki was using was a magic that decreased the acceleration due to gravity and a magic that would allow her body to follow the slope of the road to move towards her destination.
What Tatsuya was using was a magic that would amplify both acceleration and deceleration forces generated when he kicked off the ground, and a magic that would suppress his upward motion in order to prevent him from jumping too high.
Both of them were using a simple combination of motion and acceleration spells. As a result of their simplicity, not just Miyuki, but even Tatsuya who could only enroll as a Course 2 student, was able to maintain a persistent invocation.
In such a situation, it couldn't be said which magic -- the one employed by Miyuki who was wearing rollerblades, or the one employed by Tatsuya who was running with his own legs -- was of a higher difficulty level.
At one look, with the rollers to reduce the burden of motion, it seemed like it was more effortless for Miyuki, but, without using her own feet, it meant that she had to control her motion vector completely with magic.
On the other hand, for Tatsuya, he could determine the direction of his movement with his running legs.
Tatsuya who had to continuously reactivate his spell at every single step, and Miyuki who could not release her control on her spell, even an instant.
The training each of them was imposing on themselves were of completely different natures.
◊ ◊ ◊
Their destination was about ten minutes away from their house — at the speed they were moving — on top of a slightly elevated hill.
If we were to use a single word to describe it, it would be "Temple".
However, the people who were gathered there did not resemble any "priests", "monks", nor even "novice monks" in the slightest.
If we are daring enough to put a fitting label on them, "Practitioners of Austerities" or "Soldier Priests" might be more appropriate.
Shrouded by the atmosphere of being rigid towards girls, especially towards young ones who would make them so fearful that they wouldn't be able to get close, Miyuki glided in on her rollerblades without a single moment of hesitation. While it was an act that was unlike her usual courteousness, the head had repeatedly told her "It's fine" to the point of irritation, so she just dispensed with the formalities.
As to what Tatsuya was doing at that time, he had not kept up his pace. No, that wasn't it, he had in fact met with a violent reception as he passed through the temple gate.
When one first starts going to this temple, one would start off sparring with a single person at a time, but right now there were about twenty of the middle-ranked or lower disciples coming at Tatsuya all at once — not round-robin — an unusual thing.
"Miyuki-kun! Long time no see."
A merry voice suddenly called out from Miyuki's blind spot. Miyuki, while standing at the front yard of the main temple building, had turned around to look worriedly at her elder brother who was buried in a mass of people.
"Sensei... please stop erasing your presence and sneaking up on us. We have been looking all over for you..."
Despite any extra vigilance, the same kind of thing kept happening over and over again, to the point that it’s not so much a shock as a pointless waste to Miyuki.
"Telling me not to sneak about, Miyuki-kun, is giving quite a tall order.
I’m a 'shinobi'. Sneaking about is what I do."
Wearing the black robe of a monk, with a clean shaven head, he did not seem at all out of place here but did not give any impression of age.
The only description that could really be used was ‘aloof’, and even though he was dressed as a monk, that was impossible to believe.
"In this day and age, there’s no such occupation as ninja. I wish you’d correct that as soon as possible."
Even as Miyuki earnestly protested,
"Tut tut tut, don’t misunderstand by labeling us ninjas. We are fully legitimate 'shinobi'. It’s a tradition, not an occupation."
He replied while wagging his finger back and forth. —It was altogether rather rude.
"We respect your legitimacy. So please stop it with all the mystery. Why is sensei so..."
Frivolous, she had been about to say, but gave up. It was pretty pointless, she had learnt that by now.
This wannabe monk — well, actually, he does have the qualifications of a genuine monk — Kokonoe Yakumo, is a self ascribed "shinobi".
Or more liberally, a "ninjutsu user".
Just as he insisted, he is an operative who draws the line with only surpassing physical capabilities, teaching the ways of ancient magic.
At a time when magic was becoming the target of science, yet still concealed from the public world, and thought of as fiction, it was revealed that masteries such as ninjutsu had somehow become classified not just as mere forms of medieval martial arts but categories of magic.
Yet rather than fiction, it’s probably closer to think of it as a mysterious "art".
Naturally, as with other magic systems, the legend doesn’t tell the whole truth.
The "transformations" in the ninjutsu of storytellers are just high speed movement and illusions.
Not just ninjutsu, but all traditional forms of magic rely on tricks like that, and things such as transformations, shape shifting, and alchemy are considered impossible in many fields of modern magic.
The Kokonoe Yakumo whom Miyuki calls sensei, and Tatsuya calls master, was one who passed on such traditional shinobi magic knowhow.
However, putting aside his priestly attire (which screamed of falsehood anyway), his appearance and residence notwithstanding, no matter how you look at it he lacked a sense of propriety-
"Is that the uniform of the First high school?"
"Yes, we had the entrance ceremony yesterday."
"I see I see. Mmm, it’s nice."
"... Today, I have come to inform you about our entrance ceremony. But I believe you already know..."
"That brand-new green uniform, neat and clean, has some sort of hidden charm."
"Almost like a flower bud that is about to open, a shoot about to sprout.
Ah yes... moe, this is truly moe! Mrmph?"
At this massively rising tension Miyuki was slowly backing away, then suddenly Yakumo twisted around while raising his left hand above his head.
Thwak, the sound of an arm chopping down.
"Master, you’re frightening Miyuki. Could you please calm down a bit?"
"…Not bad, Tatsuya-kun. Taking me from the back, hah."
Whilst blocking Tatsuya’s right arm with his left, Yakumo lashed out from the right.
Weaving his arm in a figure 8, it was enveloped by a fist just as it was about to reach the side.
As Yakumo effortlessly somersaulted forwards, aiming a kick at the back of Tatsuya’s head, Tatsuya deftly spun around and dodged.
The gap between the two closed.
A sigh rose from the spectators.
At some point in time, those two had been surrounded by a large circle of people.
Yakumo and Tatsuya exchanged blows again.
It was not just Miyuki whose hands were clenched in anxiety.
◊ ◊ ◊
Ever since Tatsuya was a middle school first year student, or to be precise since October, this kind of chaos would occur and finish before a relative peace would settle upon the grounds every morning. The disciples would return to their own exercises, and the only ones who would remain before the main building would be the siblings, Tatsuya and Miyuki, along with Yakumo.
"Sensei, here. Would Onii-sama like some as well?"
"Ooh, Miyuki-kun, thanks."
"...Please wait a little."
With one hand Yakumo, still sweating, took the cup and towel from Miyuki with a smile while Tatsuya, breathing roughly and sprawled out on the ground, raised a hand in acknowledgement before painstakingly picking himself up. "Onii-sama, are you alright...?"
As Tatsuya struggled to rise, Miyuki, with a worried expression, knelt down beside him without concern for her clothes and began to wipe him with a towel in hand.
"Yeah, I’m fine."
Neither of them noticed the warm expression Yakumo was making as Tatsuya took the towel from Miyuki and, after a pause, gathered his strength and sprang up.
"I’m sorry, I ended up getting your skirt dirty."
Tatsuya’s jacket was, naturally, also stained with dirt, but Miyuki did not need to point that out.
"This much is nothing."
Miyuki smiled in response and instead of brushing off her skirt, took out a thin mobile terminal. The front of the device was almost entirely taken up by a force feedback panel, upon which she began entering digits.
Miyuki was holding a type of general mobile CAD. The most popular form is a bracelet, as the risk of dropping a mobile is considerable. The advantage of Miyuki's CAD is that it can be used with one hand. Since advanced magicians dislike having both hands occupied, these are preferred. A complex pattern of light was drawn with the left hand holding the CAD, as the magic was initiated.
The tool of a modern magician, in place of wands and tomes, a machine produced by magical engineering: the CAD.
This device, which incorporates synthetic materials that convert psion signals into electric signals, uses the psion from a magic ritual to produce a collection of electronic magic—the activation ritual.
The activation ritual is the blueprint of magic. Within it exists information equal or greater to the combined data of lengthy incantations, complex symbols, and rapid shift mudras.
Mages infuse Psion particles inherent in their bodies into the activation sequence output by the CAD, and feed that from the subconscious magic processing system present in all magicians into the magic operations area. Here the activation sequence is expanded, and all the necessary parameters input, in order to assemble the magic ritual.
In this way, the CAD allows the processing of all the necessary components for magic in a single moment.
Evanescent clouds appeared out of nowhere and wrapped around Miyuki from her skirt to her black leggings, all the way down to her sandals.
Particles also flew out from the air, and poured from Tatsuya’s back all the way around his whole body. After the thin mist cleared up, the uniform and jacket of the two were immaculate as ever.
"Onii-sama, would you like breakfast? If sensei wants, you may join as well."
Miyuki, as if that had been only natural, asked in a light tone as she raised the basket.
In fact, Tatsuya knew full well that such an amount of magic was indeed "nothing at all" to his sister.
◊ ◊ ◊
Both Tatsuya and Yakumo were sitting down on the veranda, stuffing themselves with sandwiches.
Miyuki held a sandwich in one hand, and with the other gallantly serviced Tatsuya by handing him tea and plates.
As he watched this scene with a smile, Yakumo had sensed ill will coming from somewhere. After wiping his hands and mouth with a towel held out by a shaven pupil, he put his hands together and bowed towards Miyuki, whispering something in a quiet voice,
"It’s possible that I’m unable to beat Tatsuya-kun in pure martial arts already..."
There was unmistakable admiration. If any other students had been around, envy would have been inevitable. Indeed, the disciples waiting on Yakumo were directing a mixture of jealousy and envy at Tatsuya upon hearing those words.
Miyuki was beaming as much as if those words had been directed at her.
However, Tatsuya’s heart was unable to be moved by such simple praise.
"I can’t say I’m terribly gratified by those words, considering you just demolished me earlier..."
At Tatsuya’s grumbling rebuttal, Yakumo gave a surprised laugh.
"That’s only natural, Tatsuya-kun. I am your master after all, and I had faced you in an arena where I am dominant.
You are still fifteen. If I had fallen to someone who’s only half my age, all my disciples would be running out on me."
"I believe Onii-sama should be more honest. It’s rare to be praised by sensei, so I think you should take this opportunity to laugh proudly."
Miyuki was still preaching in her virtuous tone, but her mouth was shaped in a smile.
"...I think that would make me look just a bit like a prick..."
Both Yakumo and Miyuki were laughing happily, and even Tatsuya was not so stubborn as to not chide himself and join in.
Tatsuya’s bitter smile changed into wryness, all the severity fading away.
◊ ◊ ◊
In general both commuting to work and school is now accomplished via mini railcars in depots that leave on a systematic schedule. The concept of the ‘full train’ is a thing of the past.
It’s not just trains, but all major forms of public transportation have undergone drastic changes in the last century.
Large vehicles that accommodate dozens of passengers in designated seats are no longer used, except in some high speed long haul cases.
A small vehicle called the Cabinet, which consists of a small linear two or four seat car linked to a central control system, is now mainstream.
Both power and energy is derived from the tracks, so the size is about half of a self-propelled car of the same capacity.
People line up sequentially on a platform to board the Cabinets, that derive the destination from a ticket or pass, then move off along the tracks.
The tracks are divided into three speeds and there is a traffic control system that manages the flow of traffic, as well as overseeing the transitioning of cars from the slow tracks to the high speed tracks, the shift from high speed back to slow as the car approaches the destination, and the docking of the car at the destination platform.
It’s similar to lane changing while on a highway, and such a high density operation was only made possible thanks to advances in control technology, as it’s necessary to securely consolidate the running of dozens of cars that transport the same amount as larger vehicles would have in the past.
In the case of medium to long haul commutes between cities, Cabinets are shelved and trailers run on a fourth high speed track instead. The larger trailers allow the passenger to travel in greater comfort with more amenities, but these are rarely used in regular commuting.
The romantic clichés of the past, such as the chance meeting on the train, can no longer occur on the daily commute to school anymore.
In return for not even being able to meet with friends, the threat of the ‘chikan’ is thoroughly eradicated.
Within the Cabinet there is no security camera or mike.
One cannot leave the seat while the car is moving, and there are emergency bulkheads that separate the seats. Furthermore, the public consensus is that privacy is preferred.
The train nowadays has the same privacy as a private car. There are Cabinets with security measures that seat only one passenger, or one can ride a two seat car alone (taking a four seat with two or fewer people incurs a surcharge), but of course, Tatsuya and Miyuki don’t travel separately, and today they’re commuting to school together as well.
"Onii-sama, the thing is..."
Tatsuya, who was looking at the news via the terminal screen, heard those hesitant words and looked up in a hurry.
It was rare for his sister to speak in such a reluctant manner. It had to be something bad.
"Yesterday evening, I received a call from those people..."
"Those people? Ahh... by that, did Father do something to anger you again?"
Those people, have been vigorously celebrating their daughter’s school admission. And... Onii-sama, have they really...?"
"Ahh, that's what you're talking about... it’s the same as always."
At her brother’s words she dropped her face as her features clouded, and in the next moment the sound of her teeth grinding together in anger could be heard drifting out from under the long hair that hid her expression.
"I see... no matter how you look at it, it was a rather fleeting hope, but in the end, they didn’t even bother sending an email to Onii-sama... those people are, those..."
As Miyuki struggled against an anger that could not be expressed with words, Tatsuya who was sitting beside her, took her hands into his firm grip and gave a squeeze.
The temperature inside the car, that had suddenly plummeted, activated the heaters out of season, and a warm wind blew throughout the now silent cabin.
"...I’m very sorry. I became upset."
After making sure that the uncontrolled flow of magic had stopped, Tatsuya let go of Miyuki.
He then clapped lightly while looking into Miyuki’s eyes, and smiled gently, showing there was nothing wrong.
"I ignored Father’s wish of continuing to help with company work and entered high school. I didn’t expect any congratulations at all. That much of Father’s nature at least you should understand right?"
"For my own parent to act so pathetically childish, it’s infuriating. In the first place if he wanted to separate me from Onii-sama, he should notify me and then Aunt first, but he doesn’t even have the courage for that.
In any case, when will they stop thinking they can use Onii-sama however they please?
Is it not to be expected that a 15 year-old would enter high school?"
The thought of her Aunt being notified and so forth caused him to recall severe discomfort — just because someone ordered it, Tatsuya would never have any intention of leaving Miyuki by herself — but without bringing that up, Tatsuya’s face unintentionally slipped into a hollow mask and he gave a cynical laugh.
"There is no compulsory education, so it’s not exactly expected per se.
Both Father and Sayuri-san have approved my coming of age, so I’m sure they’re simply trying to find a way to make me useful. If you think of it as that they're relying on me, then it's not something to get angry over."
"...If you say so, Onii-sama..."
There was considerable reluctance, but Miyuki gave a nod, and Tatsuya breathed a sigh of relief.
Miyuki does not know the full truth of Tatsuya’s involvement with the Magical Engineer equipment maker, ‘Four Leaves Technology’, where their father serves as the developmental section chief.
He had made up many things in his spare time, so misinforming her into believing he had a reasonable job was a simple task.
If she knew that in truth he was merely used as a piece of recovery equipment for research samples, it was very possible that she could have paralyzed the entire transport system.
In spite of his fears, the train moved on steadily as it began the transition onto the slow lane.
◊ ◊ ◊
In the first year class E, there was a considerable sense of chaos. In all probability, a similar scene was playing out throughout the other classrooms.
Many students met each other just yesterday, and already small groups have formed up here and there chatting away.
With no new acquaintances to greet, Tatsuya was trying to find his own terminal by eyeing the numbers stamped into each desk when, suddenly his name was called unexpectedly, he looked up.
Erika’s voice was as vibrant as ever.
Beside her, Mizuki’s smile was comparatively modest.
As if they were already on good terms, Erika was seated next to Mizuki waving her hand.
It seems like they had been talking until they found him.
Tatsuya raised a hand in acknowledgement, then walked over to the pair.
Rather than a coincidence, it seems like they had been sorted alphabetically. Hence as Shiba and Shibata, Tatsuya was next to Mizuki.
"It seems we’ll be next to each other, pleased to make your acquaintance."
"Yes, I’ll be in your care."
Mizuki answered Tatsuya’s words with a smile. Beside them (or rather, above them), Erika had a rather dissatisfied expression, probably on purpose.
"For some reason, I feel left out?"
Her voice echoed out in a rather incredulous fashion.
However, this level of cuteness was not enough to reach Tatsuya.
"Leaving out Chiba-san would be an extremely difficult matter."
His tone and expression deadpan, he looked over at Erika with lidded eyes. He didn’t seem like he was acting in the least.
"...The heck is that supposed to mean?"
"Simply that your sociability knows no bounds."
Despite Erika’s unwavering gaze, Tatsuya’s poker face didn’t flicker an inch. Rather, it was Erika who broke first.
"...Shiba-kun, is actually a bad character?"
As Mizuki fell over laughing, Tatsuya set his ID card into the terminal and began an information check.
From course regulations, disciplinary regulations and rules concerning the use of facilities to admission associated events, automatic activity guides and the curriculum for the semester, countless flashes of information scrolled through his head as he operated the terminal with just the keyboard, and when he looked up, it was into the face of a male student looking back at him from the seat in front with wide eyes.
"...It’s not like I have a problem with you watching me, but..."
"Eh? Ahh, my bad.
It’s something pretty rare, so I ended up staring."
"I’m pretty sure it’s rare now, right? This is the first time I have seen someone only using keyboard input."
"If you’re experienced, this method is faster. Although between this, visual pointers, and neural assistance, it’s also the least accurate."
"Yeah. The speed is amazing. That should be enough to keep you comfortable for quite a while right?"
"No... possibly a part-time job at best."
Whoa, I haven’t introduced myself yet.
I’m Saijou Leonhart. My father’s a half and my mother’s a quarter, so while I look Japanese, my name is Western, and my specialty is Convergent Systematic Reinforcement magic. My desired course is to hone my body and become either riot police or a mountain corpsman.
You can call me Leo."
For the youth of today, to have a career they're already aspiring to by the time of high school is generally unusual, but magic high schools are the exception. The course that magicians (at this stage still eggs, or chicks) undertake are closely tied to their talent, or rather natural ability. That was why Tatsuya didn't find Leo's insertion of his hopes for the future in his self introduction strange at all.
"I’m Shiba Tatsuya, but Tatsuya’s just fine."
So, what magic do you specialize in?"
"My practical skills are severely lacking, so I'm planning on becoming a Magic Engineer."
"I see... no wonder you look so smart."
Magic Engineers, or Magic Artificers, are abbreviations for magical engineering specialists and refer to the ones who coordinate, develop and manufacture the machinery that amplifies, strengthens and assists with magic.
In terms of social standing they are below that of proper magicians, but their demand in industry is far greater than that of magicians. The income of a top Magic Artificer can readily surpass that of a top magician.
Because of that, it's not uncommon for those who lack ability in pure magic to aim for becoming Magic Artificers......
"Eh, what's this? Shiba-kun, you want to become a Magic Artificer?"
"Tatsuya, who the heck is this random guy?"
At the sight of Erika bounding up with all the tension of one who's snooping around for a scoop, Leo pointed and asked with some distaste.
"Wha, calling someone a 'random guy' all of a sudden? Not to mention pointing? How rude, how rude! How absolutely rude! This must be why you're not popular!"
"The hell? The rude one here is you! Just cos you're slightly good looking, don't get all stuck up!"
"Looks are very important y'know? Although I suppose someone as sloppy and wild looking as you wouldn't understand.
And what's with that slang, that kind of thing is from the wrong century. Why don't you get with the times~?"
"Wha, wha, wha..."
Erika had a scornful sneer on her face, while Leo was speechless and sputtering.
"...Erika-chan, please stop. You went a bit far."
"Leo, just drop it. You're both wrong and further arguing will be pointless."
Both Mizuki and Tatsuya intervened, in an attempt to dispel the volatile air.
"...If Mizuki says so."
The two of them averted their eyes while they turned around.
Tatsuya thought that with their similar strength of mind and unyielding nature, they were actually rather compatible.
◊ ◊ ◊
As the first bell rang, the students began to dissipate and make their way back to their own seats.
This system had not changed from the previous era, although there were some differences.
The offline terminals all started up automatically, and those that were already on refreshed their screens. At the same time, a message opened up on the screen at the front of the class.
"—Orientation begins in five minutes, so please wait at your desk. Students who have not yet inserted their ID card, please do so as soon as possible—"
The message was utterly meaningless for Tatsuya. It was just sundry matters such as registering for classes he had already selected, along with online guidance and excessive visual effects. Just as he was considering skipping the whole process and going to browse through the school reference room, two unexpected things happened.
First, accompanied by the class bell, the door to the classroom opened.
It was not a late student. Instead of a uniform, the lady was wearing a suit.
As everyone watched, which wasn't an exaggeration, the beautiful and moreover exceptionally charming woman went up to the teacher's desk, set up a large mobile terminal, which she had been carrying under her arm, and then looked around the classroom.
It was not just Tatsuya who was surprised, but the whole class that was struck with a sense of confusion.
In schools that have adopted online courses, there is no teacher who stands at the front of the class. Since classes themselves are conducted through the terminals, there is even less reason to send staff members to classrooms simply to convey information. The only times the staff console is used in class is for exceptional circumstances, such as in the case of theory.
However, there was nothing to indicate that this woman was a faculty member.
"Alright, it doesn't seem like anyone is absent.
Then first of all, congratulations to everyone for entering the school."
There were quite a few students who returned the bow. In fact, the guy in the seat in front whom Tatsuya had just met actually answered "Ah, thanks", but Tatsuya simply tilted his head at her strange behavior.
Firstly, in order to verify attendance, there is no need to look around with the naked eye. The ID cards in the terminals updated seating status in real time.
Then, there was no need for school officials to carry around a terminal of such size. The campus was riddled with Consoles. In fact, there should be a console monitor built into the teachers desk where she was standing right now.
Finally, just what was she? From the information gathered, this school did not use such an outdated system as homeroom teachers, or at least it certainly wasn't in the prospectus—
"It's nice to meet you all. I'm the integration counselor for this school, Ono Haruka. I'm here to establish a mentoring relationship with each of you in case any of you feel like you would like counseling in regards to specialized aspects of your course.
(...Come to think of it, there was something along those lines...)
Having someone to talk to about your concerns, was a concept Tatsuya had completely skipped over as unnecessary, but the fact was that the counseling system was one of the selling points of the school.
"There are 16 such counselors in this school. We are grouped in pairs of men and women, and will be responsible for one class in each grade.
Yanagisawa-sensei and I have been assigned to this class."
At that she stopped talking and operated the console on the teachers desk; the upper body of a man in his mid thirties was displayed in front of the class.
"Good to meet you, I'm your counselor Yanagisawa. Along with Ono-sensei, I will be in charge of looking after you. I hope we will get along."
As the screen projected the image of counselor Yanagisawa, "Ono-sensei" continued her explanation on the platform.
"Counseling is available through the terminals, so you do not have to come to us directly. Communication is done through quantum encryption, and the reports are stored via standalone data banks, so everyone's privacy is secure."
As she said that, Haruka lifted the large data bank book, which Tatsuya had mistaken for an over-sized mobile terminal.
"The school will fully support you all, so that you can each live a fulfilling life as a student to the fullest.
...As such, everyone, let's work hard together."
She had been speaking in a rather serious voice until now, but at that she switched her tone, and spoke softly.
All the energy seemed to leak out of the room.
Both tension and relaxation, even able to calculate her body language; her emotional control was superb.
Although outwardly she appeared young enough to be fresh out of university, her experience was palpable.
If you spoke to her one-on-one, you could easily end up saying more than you intended.
Such a quality is important for a counselor, but she seemed to possess enough to be a female spy.
This is someone to be on guard against, Tatsuya thought.
—That feeling only intensified as she turned to the screen in the background, bowed to her bemused looking senior colleague and cut the connection.
With a small cough her professional smile returned, and she continued as if nothing had happened.
"By now, the school curriculum and guides on the facilities should have been sent to your terminals. After that, you will register for your electives, and that will be the end of orientation. If there is anything you don't understand, please use the call button. Those who have already familiarized themselves with the curriculum and facilities can feel free to skip guidance and proceed straight to registration."
At this point, Haruka quickly glanced at the monitor on the teacher's desk, and made an 'oh?' expression.
"For those who have already finished registration as well, it's fine to leave. However you may not do so after guidance has started, so if you wish to do so, please leave now. If that's the case, please don't forget your ID card."
As if waiting for those words, the sound of a chair scraping across the floor echoed throughout the classroom.
It was not Tatsuya.
The one who stood up was sitting in the front row window seat, just a little distance away, a slender, nervous-looking boy.
He bowed towards the teacher's desk, then exited into the corridor near the back of the classroom.
He faced forwards the whole way, looking neither to his left nor right, and it was rather interesting watching that figure put on a brave face and leave the classroom proudly, but that was just for a moment. It was not just Tatsuya, but almost half the class that watched the back of the youth as he disappeared down the corridor, but soon all eyes were back on their desks.
It didn't seem like anyone else was about to go. Tatsuya did not want to leave so much that he was willing to risk all those stares as well.
Returning to the task at hand, Tatsuya placed his hands over the keyboard and considered things to do to kill time, when he sensed a glance and looked up.
From the other side of the teacher's desk, Haruka was watching him.
Even as they locked eyes she didn't look away, but went on to flash him a smile.
(What was that...)
As if even noticing that, Haruka's smile broadened. It wasn't for any length of time, rather so short and discreet that no other student noticed, but nonetheless carried an exaggeratedly secretive air.
He was certain that this was their first ever meeting.
Yet it was notably beyond a fake smile, so Tatsuya vigorously went through his memories.
Thanks to that, he killed plenty of time but...
(You should relax... was that the meaning behind it? Or is she trying to take away my composure...
I won't even consider the possibility that she's come to a classroom in a school without teachers to try to hit on students...)
As he considered, he didn't follow the other students who had finished registration out of the class, but rather stayed in his seat pondering with interest. Then someone spoke up in a friendly tone.
"Tatsuya, what are you going to do until lunch?"
When he lifted his head, a voice rang out from the seat in front.
As if it were his signature pose, Leo was resting his chin on his arms crossed over his chair in the exact same position as earlier.
It is no longer customary, at both middle school and high school, to eat in the classroom. Despite advancements in both waterproofing and dust-proofing technology, information terminals remain precision instruments. If you end up doing something like accidentally spilling soup all over one, a rather miserable outcome is to be expected.
It'd be better to find a more suitable place somewhere, like the cafeteria, courtyard, rooftop or club room.
Although it was one more hour until the cafeteria opened.
"I had been planning to go look through the reference room catalog from here but... OK, I'll accompany you."
At Tatsuya's reply Leo had mumbled dejectedly, but his eyes shone bright with enthusiasm. Tatsuya smiled at Leo's easy to read expressions.
"Then, what are you going to look at?"
Magic is not taught in public schools until middle school. For children with the aptitude of a magician, public cram schools after school are the foundations of their magic knowledge. This step is not to look for technical skill, but to determine for both themselves and their parents whether they have enough raw talent to make it as a magician.
While some private schools incorporate forms of magical education as extra curricular activities, it is stressed that they are by no means a reflection of magic performance.
Magic begins as a full-fledged education from the high school curriculum onward. Although among the magic high schools, the First high school is considered the most difficult to enter, there are many students who come from ordinary middle schools. There are classes on specialized magic courses that some of the students have never seen before.
In order to alleviate confusion stemming from unfamiliarity with some of the specialized courses, they have the opportunity to go and observe classes in progress both today and tomorrow.
"Wanna go to the workshop?"
This was Leo's reply to Tatsuya's question.
"Not the arena?"
Taken aback by Tatsuya's next question, Leo grinned.
"I guess I would seem to be the type.
Well, you're not wrong."
Although not looking down on his intellectual ability as he did pass the entrance exams, the fact remains that this guy has a more 'lively outdoors' look to him, or rather, a mischievous air. Most likely it wouldn't have just been Tatsuya who felt he was more suited to the action of the arena than fiddling with precision machinery in the workshop.
Listening to Leo's next words however, Tatsuya admitted his mistake.
"Reinforcement magic produces the greatest effect when combined with weapon skill. I want to be able to maintain my own weapons as much as possible."
Leo's ambitions were the mountain corps or riot police. If those ambitions were realized, he'd have many opportunities to use simple weapons such as batons, shields, machetes, etc. Those are all compatible with reinforcement magic, and depending on the composition of the materials used, will produce different effects.
This classmate seems to have a far firmer grasp of what he is capable of than he looks.
"If you're going to the workshop, why don't you come with us?"
While the two of them talked, they received a sudden proposal from the seats next to them.
"Shibata-san's also going to the workshop?"
"Yes... I also want to be a Magic Artificer."
"Ah, I see!"
Erika was barging in all over Mizuki. It was a rather similar pattern to what had happened earlier, but Leo's face remained neutral.
"However you look at it, you're far more suited for physical courses. Go check out the arena."
"I don't want to be told that by a wild animal like you."
Tit for tat.
"What was that? You didn't even hesitate in the slightest!"
The quarrel between them possessed the breakneck quality of a typing keyboard.
"Stop it both of you... You've only just met today right?"
Their compatibility really is quite something, isn't it? Tatsuya thought, while attempting to arbitrate with a sigh, but the two weren't about to be so easily stopped.
"Heh, you must be a bitter enemy from some previous life."
"You were some bear ravaging the fields, and I was the hunter hired to get rid of you."
"Alright, let's go! We're wasting time."
Mizuki had up to now patiently been refraining from interrupting, but now she finally weighed in and tried to forcibly change the course.
"Yeah! If we don't hurry, we'll be the only ones left in the classroom."
Immediately, Tatsuya also jumped in. With their rapid-fire argument interrupted, both Leo and Erika glared daggers at each other, then immediately spun around and turned their backs.
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