Ayato and company joined Kirin and delivered the body of Gustave who lost consciousness to the police.
Drugs to congest the flow of prana were used for the restraint of
among them. This was because as long as they could not concentrate prana, they could not activate their abilities. But because the effect time wasn’t so long, in addition to that, there were cases where isolation spaces which removed mana were prepared in prisons or facilities where they (
) were detained for a long period of time.
Ayato and company also tagged along to explain the circumstances and the night transitioned into dawn when they finally returned to the royal palace.
Jolbert who sat down on the immediate grand staircase after they entered the royal palace was resting his chin on his hand while revealing a troubled smile. Maria who was next to him was leaking a peaceful sleeper’s breathing as she leaned on him.
It looked like they have been waiting here all night long.
“Well, you did a good job. It’s really good that you’re all safe.”
Maria awoken due to his voice and briskly rubbed her sleepy eyes.
After Jolbert turned gentle eyes to such a Maria, he greatly shrugged his shoulders.
“But… Unfortunately, your popularity has risen again with this”
“Are you dissatisfied with this, Big Brother?”
Then, Julis took a step forward with a grim face.
“After all, I’ll lose my position.”
As Julis deeply sighed there, she stared straight into Jolbert’s eyes and said.
“Then Big Brother, I’ll take this opportunity and ask you this.”
“──I want you to help me.”
At these words, Jolbert widely opened his eyes.
It was unexpected for Jolbert, who was usually evasive no matter what she said to him, to openly reveal this much surprise an expression.
“Julis… just now, what did you say?”
Without removing her gaze from Jolbert who nervously confirmed, Julis continued.
“Thanks to this matter, I’m now convinced. That I can’t continue like this after all. I have been able to save the orphanage. But, that’s to the bitter end a stop-gap measure; it’ll be impossible to change this country if I don’t start from its core.”
“That’s theoretically plausible, but how specifically?”
and expanding the King’s power.”
At that moment, Jolbert stiffened.
“W-Wait a minute. Julis, are you seriously saying th… looks like it.”
“Of course, you’ll thread through a fair procedure through an assembly. But, that assembly will be done as the current Integrated Enterprise Foundation says so. And then we’ll take advantage of that, too.”
To Julis who self-derisively laughed, Jolbert muttered with a dumbfounded face.
“It’s certainly possible as the reward of the
and it isn’t as if there has been no precedent so far, but…”
Although Lieseltania was an extreme precedent, it was a well-known fact that other existing nations were also under the Integrated Enterprise Foundation’s control. In any country, all the rights were limited to provision and when needed, the Integrated Enterprise Foundation could seize and tampered with them to their heart’s content.
That said, if left to one individual’s will, it was again another matter.
“I’m aware that it’s absurd. I may be about to choose a wrong method. But, that’s my unfeigned wish and above all ── in that city, the
should be existing for that purpose, right?”
As Julis paused once there, she closed her eyes as if to cut off her hesitation… and then reopened them.
“And when that happens, I’ll be causing burden and trouble to you two, Big Brother and Big Sister. But even so… please, Big Brother. Could you lend me your strength?”
“……”Jolbert, staying silent for a while, confronted Julis’ gaze head on, but before long he burst into laughter as he could no longer bear it.
“Puh…Hahahahahahaha! Haah, amazing! I never expected that a day would come when Julis would rely on me. You’ve really changed…!”
“W-What are you laughing for?! Big Brother, I’m seriously…!”
“I know, I know. But, I wonder if this is also due to Amagiri-kun ── no, to you people’s influence.”
While dodging Julis who raised her eyes, Jolbert joyfully ── and really cheerfully said that.
“Big Brother, my talk…!”
“I got it, Julis.”
Since Jolbert nodded with perfect timing, Julis was taken aback for an instant.
“Honestly, I don’t know how much I can help you, but… I promise. If you can really win the
, at that time I’ll also resolve myself and graduate from being a ‘dimwit’. ──Maria, how about you?”
“Hmm, I don’t understand complicated things, but… If it’s something that you have decided, I will follow you, Jolbert.”
The fluffy queen chuckled as she said so.
There, Julis finally revealed a relieved expression.
“Big Brother, Big Sister… Thank you very much.”
It looked like Julis had strengthened her resolve.
“Fufufu…what a wonderful pair of brother and sister.”
Kirin standing next to Ayato said to him in a low voice while smiling.
While answering so, Ayato overlapped the two’s figures with himself and his sister.
Of course, Haruka and Jolbert were completely different in character and all other things; and yet there was a close resemblance for some reason.
──At this time, Ayato’s portable terminal suddenly notified him of a call.
“Huh? Who is it at such time?”
As he opened the space window while saying that, projected there was an unexpected face.
“Eh…? Captain Lindvall!?”
Since he did not think that he would directly be contacted by Helga, he was a little confused.
『Sorry to contact you so suddenly. It’s probably still early morning there, but I’m glad that my call went through. I thought that it’d better to inform you as soon as possible you see.』
“…What is it?”
Since that Helga said up to there, it was probably not a trivial matter.
『I will briefly convey the matter. ──Amagiri Ayato, we found out your big sister’s whereabouts.』
These words ran through Ayato’s body with a shock like thunder.
– ψ –
“──Welcome back. You came back really late, eh.”
When Claudia welcomed him with a smile, the man opened wide his eyes as he was taken aback for an instant.
London suburbs, the Enfield Family Mansion.
This mansion with a Gothic Revival architecture, which was dismantled and then rebuilt by Tee Burton, was to the bitter end only one of the mansions that the Enfield Household owned. But, Claudia knew well that this man would extremely suit this atmosphere of nostalgia.
“Fufufu, you do not need to be so surprised. After all, this place is also my home. Isn’t that right, Father?”
“…It has been a long time since we have met each other directly this way, Claudia.”
“It’s because no matter how many times I try to contact you through your portable terminal, you will not pick up. Then I thought that I have no other choice but to meet you directly.”
The man ──Nicholas Enfield, Claudia’s father, took off his coat with a somewhat tired face. An old man who soundlessly appeared respectfully took it and retired soundlessly in the same way.
Nicholas was a handsome man with a good physique. Though he would turn 50 in this year, he had a suitable presence and dignity and he neatly combed down his blond hair which has begun mixing with white hair.
“You may already be aware, but Gustave Malraux has been arrested. I intended to have you cancel the request and thus came here, but…my friends are excellent after all. They had settled it before I arrived.”
“Yes, I have heard about it. I guess he was a man as good as the rumors said.”
Nicholas casually said.
“Ara, you frankly admit it contrary to my expectations. I think that he probably did not reveal anything about his client though.”
“It’d be useless even if I were to feign ignorance with you. So, what will you do? Will you denounce me?”
“No way. There is no way that I will do something wasteful like that.”
Claudia innocently laughed.
“People of Galaxy hired a criminal to attack Seidoukan Academy’s students, and the Princess of a country ── I do not intend to futilely waste such a card. I will carefully preserve it.”
“Galaxy has nothing to do with this. It is to the bitter end my own discretion.”
“Of course I am aware of it. After all, if Galaxy seriously made a move, there is no way that they would choose such a tepid way. However in Father’s position, there is no way that such an excuse will work, right? I think that even Mother will surely judge so.”
Nicholas sighed with an expression filled with resignation.
Nicholas’s title was CRO Assistant. It was a post where he acted as support for Claudia’s mother who was an executive official of Galaxy Integration Headquarters. It was a position exceedingly close to an executive, but Claudia knew that her father could never become an executive. Similarly to Toudou Kouichiro, Kirin’s uncle, he was purely not of that caliber.
“I’m sure that Mother has also noticed anyway. And yet she tacitly allowed it.”
“It may be so, but… I don’t know. I never know about what she is thinking.”
Nicholas slowly shook his head.
“But, I can at least affirm one thing. Since I failed, she will move in the near future and at that time, she absolutely won’t hesitate to abandon me if she judges it necessary. And when that happens, your card this time will be useless.”
“I guess so.”
“Do you understand, Claudia?! If that happens…!”
“I understand well that Father acted thinking for my sake.”
Right. Nicholas was gentle.
That’s why he could never become an executive.
“…Will you participate in the
no matter what?”
“Then, change your wish at least. Please. It’s not too late yet.”
“As I have said many times, I cannot do that, too.”
Claudia flatly declared.
Only that, she could not do it.
After all, it was for that reason that Claudia has endured day after day so far.
“I…I really love you, Claudia…”
Nicholas’s voice was so weak that it seemed like it would disappear at any time.
Claudia passing by the side of Nicholas who hung his head opened the door.
“I love you too, Father.”
Not only her father, but her mother too. Claudia loved her family.
But unfortunately, it was not to the extent of balancing with Claudia’s wish.
No, in the first place there was nothing equal with another in this world.
“Then, good bye.”
Claudia said so and closed the door.
While hearing the heavy resounding of separation, Claudia looked up at the sky of the wintry midwinter.
– ψ –
Ayato, who had returned slightly earlier by everyone’s recommendation, headed to the hospital located in the central district as soon as he came back to Asterisk. Originally, he had to stay in Lieseltania for several days concerning the post processing and circumstantial explanation of the incident, but because he was exempted from all these thanks to Jolbert’s support, only about half a day has passed since he received the call from Helga.
Perhaps because it was quite impromptu, he could not deny his physical fatigue; but now Ayato had no time to worry about something like that.
“──You came, huh.”
Helga was waiting alone in front of the hospital.
“Captain Lindvall, where is Nee-san ── my big sister…?!”
“Now, wait. Anyway, follow me. We’ll talk after that.”
Helga, who was calm in contrast to the anxious Ayato, went into the hospital as soon as she said so. As he helplessly followed after her as he was told to, Helga steadily proceeded to the interior in a familiar way and guided Ayato to an area where originally no one except for authorized personnel could enter.
The hospital was separated from the skyscraper style main institution, which actually performed medical treatment, examinations and the like, with the hospitalization ridge connected to a corridor. There was one room located in the basement of the main institution there.
“The hospital director’s office…?”
Disregarding Ayato who doubtfully thought, Helga knocked on the door.
When the door opened as it slid and he went in following Helga, two people were standing in the surprisingly small room.
One was an old man with a white gown that seemed quite obstinate and who was quite short. Though he was almost bald, he grew a pure white beard on his mouth abundantly. At first glance, he had a displeased expression and was frequently tapping a desk with a finger.
The other person was a familiar face.
“Management Committee Chairman… Why are you here?”
“There are many circumstances, you see. ──Ah, this is Director Yan Korbel. He is the chief executive of the hospital.”
Management Committee Chairman Madiath Mesa said so and introduced the old man.
But, the old man turned around to Madiath immediately after stealing only a glance at Ayato.
“Unfortunately, I’m busy. So, let’s quickly get it over with.”
Then, Helga quietly whispered into Ayato’s ear.
“──The director is always like this. So, don’t worry about it.”
As he gave a small nod to that, Ayato looked at Madiath.
“Chairman, did you really find out my big sister’s whereabouts?”
“Yes, I intend to explain about the circumstances from now on, but… the director seems to be in a hurry, so is it alright to talk while walking?”
“Yes, I don’t mind it…”
When he answered so as he didn’t really understand, Madiath urged Yan with eyes implying something.
With a sour look as is, Yan headed to the wall in the back and soundlessly opened that wall.
Though ahead seemed like a passage, it wasn’t to the extent of the so-called hidden room and it seemed to be quite a big facility.
“From here on out is a special area. Only the director and an extremely restricted number of staff can access here.”
While advancing as they were guided through the pure white corridor by Yan, Madiath slowly began to speak.
“Now, I guess that you’ve already heard about the former Chairman Danilo, too.”
“Yes. Only a little though.”
“I see. Then, that makes things easier. This time, as Captain Lindvall was reinvestigating about him and the
, she found a flow of new funds. One among them was connected to Director Korbel here.”
“Flow of funds…?”
“I say it like this, but it isn’t really something rare. There are many injured here that we don’t want to make public.”
“It’s something undesirable for us the police though.”
Though Helga interjected in a cold voice, Madiath responded to that with only a wry smile.
“Even the you in those days would have consented regarding the independence of hospitals.”
Instead, Yan who advanced at the front said so without turning around.
“The situation in those days and that of now are different. Besides even in those days, I’d just show a mind of passive approval to the bitter end. In fact, independence is given a broad interpretation.”
“Now, now, you two… Anyway, it’s good as long as you understand that this is a highly secret place. The hospital by no means leaks secrets nor inquires about patients who were once taken care of here. Such are the rules. That’s why nobody knew that your big sister ──Amagiri Haruka-san had been carried here.”
“!” “Then, my big sister is here, right?”
“Yes. It seems to have been a request from Danilo.”
At the same time that he felt relieved to that answer, he had no choice but to confront an anxiety he had never felt so far.
“My sister… is she safe?”
He understood that this was a special place even in Asterisk.
If his sister has been carried to such a place, then his sister’s situation was probably not common.
“That’s… it’s a difficult question to answer.”
Yan who was walking in the front stopped and pointed at the wall on the right side.
Though there, nothing other than a plate with a room number could be seen, when Yan operated an optic keyboard which he called out, the wall’s surface suddenly became transparent.
In that room which became glass-sided, for some reason there were many large machines, a bed which fixed at the center, and──
Sleeping on that bed was without a doubt Ayato’s big sister, Amagiri Haruka.
Ayato unintentionally came near the glass, but her face, which he saw for the first time in five years, did not change at all from the one in his memories. No, you might even say that it stayed the same.
“…Director Korbel, when did my sister come here?”
“If my memory serves me right, it was about five years ago that… I was asked by Danilo to awaken her.”
Yan answered after a little thought.
It meant that his big sister has been in this condition immediately after she came to Asterisk after all.
“I wasn’t told her name. Without certain evidence, originally I’m not to lend a hand in the garrison’s investigation, too ── but, it’s different this time. If it’s a wish of the
, there is no help it.”
’s wish is accepted, it’s carried out with the highest priority after all. And if necessary, all the Integrated Enterprise Foundations must cooperate. This is an absolute unwritten law in order to maintain the
Madiath said with a serious expression.
“What kind of state is my sister in?”
“Nothing has changed since the time she was carried here. Her body is currently in a state close to apparent death. As for the reason… we think that it’s an effect due to some kind of ability.”
“Is it a power similar to mine?”
However, Ayato slowly shook his head to the words of Helga who was a time control ability user.
“No ── probably, this is my big sister’s own power.”
Yan looked at Ayato with a grim face.
“What do you mean? Explain yourself.”
“The power to bind all creation… That’s my sister’s ability. I don’t know why, but I think that she might have exerted it on herself.”
“Hmm, I see…”
Ayato could feel that the same shackles which were applied to him by his big sister were slightly resonating. It was a reaction so weak that it would normally not be strange if he didn’t notice it, but he might have become sensitive by being near his big sister who was cause of the seal.
Although there was no conviction, there was probably no mistaking it.
(The problem is, why did she do something like that…? And most of all──)
“Director, how is my sister’s treatment going?”
Then, Yan’s complexion openly changed and he averted his eyes.
“Well, honestly speaking… It’s the present condition that we can’t provide any effective treatment worth mentioning for.”
“What do you mean? Ability cancellation is your field of expertise, isn’t it?”
As Helga knitted her brows, Yan pouted.
“Even I’m not omnipotent. These five years, I tried all kinds of treatments I could think of, but the result is as you see.”
“Supposing that this state continues… Is there any danger to her life?”
It was a bold and necessary question, but she had to ask.
“Ah, there is no problem regarding that. If this state continues as is, she will probably outlive you. On the premise that you’ll be still alive, that is.”
Although it was not a situation that one should be pleased with, if that was the case, they might feel relieved for the time being.
“By the way, why did you continue with my sister’s treatment until now?”
“What do you mean by that?”
Yan asked back with a dubious face.
“The former Chairman Danilo, who did the request, has already passed away, right? So, didn’t the contract end at that point?”
The fact that there was a flow of funds from Danilo meant that Yan had already received the remuneration. That said, Ayato did not think that it was an amount which assumed treatment for five years. Normally thinking, it should be in the red long ago.
“You fool! I didn’t fall so low to the point of abandoning a patient that I once took over. Danilo died, but the contract is still valid.”
Yan said so and looked at Ayato.
“However, now that it has come to this, you should do as you like. It’s also fine if you want to transfer her to another hospital.”
“…No. Please continue your treatment.”
Though he also had to consult with his father, he felt like that was the best choice to make.
“I see. Then well, I’ll continue the treatment. I’ll advise you not to expect too much though.”
Ayato said so and deeply bowed his head.
Then Yan revealed a surprised expression for an instant.
“How can you thank me in this situation?”
“Humph! It’s nothing!”
As Yan curtly said so, he briskly walked along the passage.
“I’ll give you a pass later! Use the passage for personnel during your visit! All right?!”
Next to Ayato who was dumbfounded, Madiath smiled wryly.
“In other words, he’s that kind of person.”
Behind him, Helga muttered in her usual calm voice.
“He didn’t change at all even after 50 years.”
– ψ –
As he came out of the hospital, a raging night wind pierced his body.
But compared with Lieseltania where he was until yesterday, it was still somewhat warm.
“It’s quite late. Shall I drop you off at Seidoukan Academy?”
“No, it’s all right.”
Helga said with a face which did not show even one bit that she was cold, but Ayato politely declined.
He was thankful for the offer, but he felt like he wanted to be alone a little in order to sort out his thoughts.
Madiath said that he was pressed for time and got in a car which came to pick him up a little earlier.
“I see. Then, I shall excuse myself.”
“Yes. Thank you for everything.”
He didn’t think that he would find his big sister so quickly.
He felt like he could not thank Helga enough for that.
“You don’t need to thank me. It’s my job after all. But… as expected just in case, I’ll tell you this.”
Helga suddenly lowered her voice and said.
“──Don’t trust Madiath Mesa too much.”
As he was about to ask what she meant, he gasped at her sharp gaze which drew nearer.
“Although this time, the investigation about Danilo was approved, but permission wasn’t granted to everything he did. It was only a very limited part. And yet, we happened to succeed in drawing out a big hit from that, and it was coincidentally that the information was connected to Amagiri Haruka’s whereabouts.”
“Aren’t you reading too much into it…?”
“That’s right. As Madiath had said, everything is given priority regarding the wish of the
. If in the beginning there was no clue in the range that permission was granted for, we would have requested to investigate a wider range. And they wouldn’t have been able to refuse it… I apologize to you for saying this, but we felt mortified to have found her this early.”
Of course, it was something joyous for Ayato that his big sister has been found this quickly, but he could understand what Helga was saying. After all, it was a rare chance for her.
“It just seems as if the place of that information was known beforehand and was left to be found by us while only letting us investigate to the bare minimum. And it seemed that it was Madiath who specified that range (of investigation).”
“Eh? But, why would the Chairman explicitly do such a thing…?”
It should originally be Madiath Mesa’s job to manage and control the
“Well, there is a reason which seems quite plausible. Madiath, at the time when he was a Steering Committee member, was the leader of the anti-Danilo faction. Therefore after that guy’s death, he was selected as the representative of the internal investigation committee. If it was called go with the flow, it is somewhat unnatural, but it isn’t like it wasn’t understandable. Since the matter of Danilo is still treated as taboo in the Steering Committee, they couldn’t afford to entrust it to a half-assed person.”
Certainly, the reasons added up.
“So this is to the bitter end my intuition. But unfortunately, my intuition is famous for often hitting the bull’s eye. And in a bad way at that.”
“It isn’t that pleasant a special skill, eh.”
“You said it.”
To Ayato who smiled wryly, Helga’s eyes slightly loosened.
“Then, I’ll leave this time for sure. Please, be careful.”
When Helga lightly raised her hands, she left while raising footsteps of good feeling.
“Haa… somehow, there are many things to think about.”
But even so, there was no doubt that he was finally able to meet his big sister.
And that feeling finally boiled up at this point.
(…Five years, huh)
It was by no means a short time.
As for Ayato, it was nearly a third of his lifetime until now.
He unintentionally uttered his voice, and hurriedly shook his head.
It was still early to be glad. At this rate, it wasn’t possible even to talk to her.
“But, there is nothing more I can do…”
Unknowingly, he once again uttered his voice.
“That’s not right.”
A voice suddenly came from behind him.
When he hurriedly turned around, standing there was a woman.
It wasn’t like he didn’t notice her presence. But since he didn’t think that she would accost him, he was surprised.
“You’re Amagiri Ayato, right?”
The woman was somewhat older than Ayato. Her bodily build was thin; she had a slender figure and long arms and legs.
Because she wore a white gown, he first thought that she was a female hospital doctor or the like, but upon close inspection, what she wore underneath was Allekant’s uniform.
Although she had well-ordered features, perhaps because of her somewhat upturned eyes, she gave off a slightly suspicious atmosphere. She had semi-long hair without consistency and her big glasses were impressive.
“That’s right, but who are you?”
“Kishishishi, excuse me for this. I’m Hilda. Hilda Jane Rowlands. Please call me Hilda.”
Raising laughter dry like the rustling of clothes, the woman who called herself Hilda narrowed her eyes like a cat.
“So… do you have business with me?”
While Ayato talked, he felt a strange sense of incongruity.
If he had to say it, it was close to the feeling of when he met Orphelia the other day, yet he couldn’t feel any threat (danger) from the woman in front of him. Probably, she was not even a
, or she did not knead her prana at all. Even judging from her unstable carriage, it hardly looked like she trained her body.
And yet for some reason, Ayato was overawed by Hilda.
“Ah, oh yes, that’s right. Amagiri Ayato. I was thinking that you might need my help.”
He didn’t understand the meaning of what she said.
Perhaps because it showed on his face, Hilda once again laughed with that strange laughter.
“After all, you want to treat your big sister, right?”
“!” “How do you know that…?!”
Although Ayato reflexively put himself on guard, Hilda joyfully shrugged her shoulders without being shaken at all.
“Of course, I’d know it. After all, we, the
, hold a deep pipe (connection) with this hospital. It got leaked, leaked.”
. He was familiar with that name.
“Oh, and I also saw the news. Our Senpai seemed to have troubled you in a far way foreign country, so I apologize for that.”
Because the conversation jumped from one subject to another, Ayato was at a loss as he couldn’t follow at all.
“Huh, you don’t know? Until he dropped out of school, Gustave Malraux was a member of our
. It’s already an old story of dozen of years though.”
“Gustave Malraux was?”
He did not think that he would hear that name even after returning to Asterisk.
“The data which he left is still useful for the young students. Ah come on, do you remember the dragon-like pseudo life-form which you’ve played with before? That was a phryganella-type viscous attack body, but it’s something created from his data.”
“No wonder I thought that the impression was similar…”
As it already came up to there, he was amazed as nothing of what she could say could surprise him anymore.
──Or at least he thought so.
“Ah, not good, not good. I strayed from the topic again. I’m always like that. I’d better get to the main point. If it’s me ──Amagiri Ayato, I can cure your big sister.”
Although Hilda plainly said that, this was an especial shock.
Ayato braced himself, looked into Hilda’s eyes and asked.
“Is that true?”
“Kishishishi. It’s true. It’s a fact and reality.”
Hilda squinted and slowly nodded many times.
“It’s impossible for Korbel-sensei. Sensei was certainly a great person, but I’m afraid to say that he’s already become decrepit. In fact, that person wasn’t able to cure your big sister even after taking five years. But, but, if it’s me, it’s possible.”
The corners of Hilda’s mouth were weirdly lifted up.
At that moment, Ayato remembered a person with the same air as Hilda.
Ernesta Kühne. She is the head of the
in Allekant Academy like Hilda is the head of
However, the two girls’ styles were diametrically opposite.
Ernesta was the owner of a will just like the scorching sun, but from Hilda passions like the magma of the dark abyss could be felt.
“Just… who are you?”
As Ayato once again asked so, Hilda happily repeated.
“I’m Hilda. Hilda Jane Rowlands. President of the Allekant Academy Research Institute, the
Then, a horrifying flame glittered in her eyes behind her glasses.
“Among them ── some also called me the
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