#8 – Ep
Cyrus Norman dragged his limp body onward, desperately fleeing into a small alley in the redevelopment zone .
He’d carefully aimed his fall at what he’d deemed the largest pile of wrecked dolls . Acting as a cushion, it offset some of the impact from his fall, but it was too much to expect that he’d avoid injury nonetheless . He wasn’t sure just how many bones in his body had been broken, but a horrifying pain ran throughout his body, and he felt as if he had been rent apart .
But he didn’t stop .
Since the Integrated Enterprise Foundation’s secret forces ––the Shadow Stars–– had already been mobilized, there was no way he could afford to be caught here . Without a doubt, they’d go to any length to get answers out of him, and then . . .
“Shit! Why?! Why aren’t you picking up . . . ?!”
This was clearly the moment when he most needed Allekant’s support, and yet his designated contact line wasn’t working .
“If I’m going down, don’t think I’m going down alone . . . !”
“You really do place a lot of value on yourself, Norman-kun . ”
Emerging from the darkness to block Cyrus’ path of escape was a golden-haired young woman .
“Th-The student council president . . . !”
In her hands she held the strangest-looking swords he’d ever seen . The pattern on their bodies looked rather like eyeballs, and the pair of swords gave the distinct impression that you had caught the eye of a monster .
Ogre Lux “Pan-Dora” . This was the first Cyrus had ever seen of those notorious blades, but he’d previously heard of their ability .
“You know, the way they see it, you’re just there to be used and then discarded . It’s rather pitiful, really . ”
” . . . L-Let’s make a trade . ”
“A trade? With me?”
“Everything! I’ll tell you everything I know! In return, I want your guarantee of my safety! Don’t hand me over to the Shadow Stars but the disciplinary committee!”
Claudia tilted her head, and asked one question .
“So what’s in it for me?”
Hearing her response, Cyrus snickered inwardly .
If given the slightest leeway in their negotiations, he still had a chance to turn things around .
“The Shadow Stars will undoubtedly dispose of me in some secret location . On the other hand, if the disciplinary committee gets a hold of me, this incident will spread far and wide . Until that time, you can feel free to use me as a bargaining chip for negotiation . How’s that sound . . . ?”
Claudia closed her eyes, seemingly deep in thought .
Seeing what looked to be an opening, Cyrus pressed his silver tongue onward .
“We’re the same kind of person, you and I–– treating others like pieces on a chessboard . Morons wouldn’t understand, but using your chips where they’re most warranted is how a master wins this game . I think you understand as well, right?”
“I see . . . that certainly does make sense . ”
At this sentence, Cyrus relaxed immensely .
This woman definitely placed the priority on things that had value–– a rational, but easily-seen-through personality .
Suddenly, however, Claudia gave an elegant laugh .
“It’s just that . . . there’s one area where we’re different, Norman-kun . ”
” . . . ?”
“You think of yourself as the one moving the pieces, but I see myself as just another piece on the board . If that wasn’t the case, wouldn’t things be just too boring?”
She began to chuckle delightedly .
“Moreover ––as opposed to having this incident spread all over–– I’d much rather take care of it in quiet, and hold it over Allekant’s head . I think that’s a lot more useful, don’t you think?”
Cyrus’ face lost its color, and he began to tremble .
With a terrible shout, Cyrus played his last card .
From within his clothes, a hidden knife burst out, under the control of his abilities; a sneak attack aimed directly at Claudia . From this distance, this was a sure-kill; of this, Cyrus was certain .
“Honestly . I thought you already knew what these kids’ ability was?”
Claudia had foreseen his sneak attack, and swatted his knife out of the air .
The sneak attack was a complete and utter failure .
As the knife landed, it came to rest precisely in the heel of Cyrus, who had turned to flee .
“Aah . . . !”
“Hey, there’s no need to be so scared; you’re still of use to me . For now, anyway . ”
Claudia showed her usual smile .
But her eyes were cold as ice . Cyrus was frozen to the spot like prey caught in the glare of a predator .
“Right then . I bid you farewell . ”
Speaking in a gentle tone, Claudia waved her twin blades as if dancing . From the eyeballs on the hilt of her swords erupted an eerie ray of light . Cyrus suddenly fountained blood from all over .
” . . . T-That’s ‘Pan-Dora’ . . . ”
He fell to his knees and then slumped onto the ground .
Among those Ogre Lux weapons most prized at Seidoukan, this demonic weapon boasted the power to see the future .
The school badge on Cyrus’ chest had been destroyed . As he faded into unconsciousness, he felt someone approach .
“Oh, come on . Don’t tell me you did this again . ”
From out of the shadows of the streetlights, an indiscreet young man appeared, greeting Claudia in a casual tone .
“Don’t worry about it . Just toss him in the punishment room . I leave the cleanup to you Shadow Stars; covering things up is your specialty after all . ”
“Of course . That’s how we put food on the table, after all . ”
The young man cast a quick glance at Cyrus, shrugging as if it didn’t concern him .
Almost as if he was an outsider .
“Oh, that reminds me . How did things end up with those two?”
“Julis just contacted me . It seems everything went well . ”
“If that’s the case, why is it that you really don’t look like you seem all that happy right now?”
“Ho~ . . . To be seen through by you, I really need to step it up . ”
“If it bothers you that much, shouldn’t you have just gone with him?” the young man said noncommittally .
“It wasn’t an option . I have my own responsibilities, after all . ”
“Is that really all there is to it?”
The young man chuckled, teasing Claudia . She laughed as before, before countering him sharply .
“Could it be that you were ordered from on high to investigate me, Yabuki Eishirou-kun?”
“No, no, no, of course not!”
The young man vigorously shook his head, but he never stopped chuckling .
“That was purely out of curiosity . I was just wondering if you were really fine leaving everything up to them . ”
Crestfallen, Claudia hung her head dejectedly in response, and sighing, said, ” . . . It can’t be helped . It’s regretful, but, just this once, I’ll let Julis have this one . Either way, this show is just getting started . ”
In the dark corners of a lab somewhere, a young girl heard the news . Momentarily pausing in her work, she sighed .
“Guess it’s time to cut our losses . Well, in the end, we did gather all the data we wanted, and he even accomplished his goal–– he really took to ambushing those strong students rather earnestly . ”
At her side, innumerable space windows opened in mid-air, displaying rapidly changing numbers and graphs .
“But more importantly~ Doesn’t that mean that the puppets I designed are super strong? Hehehe . ”
The girl laughed in delight, as she manipulated her optical keyboard .
” . . . As expected, those who think they’re smarter than they actually are–– really are the easiest to deal with . ”
The corners of her lip were upturned in a confident, self-assured smile . The girl returned to her work .
––From out of the corner of her eye, two puppets were silently resting .