The Greatest Magicmaster's Retirement Plan: Volume 15 - Izushiro - E-Book

The Greatest Magicmaster's Retirement Plan: Volume 15 E-Book


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Alus’s chance meeting with Fanon only lasts for a brief moment before Dante and his gang of escaped prisoners take advantage of the number one Magicmaster’s absence and attack the Magic Institute in search of a secret key! Faced with imminent danger, former Single Sisty Nexophia puts her pride on the line and takes on the band of criminals. Meanwhile, Tesfia, Alice, and Felinella get into their own fights!

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Seitenzahl: 319


Eighty-Fourth Chapter

A Chance Encounter between the Shrewd

Felinella Socalent stood near the border between Alpha and Clevideet, wearing a blatantly bright smile. If one tried to interpret it, they would believe she was either in a great mood...or was incredibly angry. Regardless of which it was, her smile was too flawless to read. It was the mask of a perfect lady.

At any rate, she had managed to avoid a major conflict between Alpha and Clevideet by a hair’s breadth. Alpha’s rank 1, Alus Reigin, and neighboring country’s rank 4, Fanon Trooper, had encountered each other by chance, causing a political incident of great sensitivity.

If she’d been a few fractions of a second later, Alus would have cast his spell, making that potential nightmare a reality. It wasn’t a matter of who was right or wrong—two Singles had met and clashed. Felinella’s arrival had prevented the greatest incident of the century from happening.

Felinella was the only person present who was acquainted with both Alus and Fanon, so she had to act as an intermediary between them. Her strong presence was a blessing—she was the only one who could handle the two twisted Singles before her.

The sight of Felinella guiding the groups to an old private house was bizarre. It looked strange even to Loki, who was quietly following behind Alus. After all, a bunch of hooded figures were walking into a house that looked abandoned.

Anyone unaware of the situation would assume that some heretical ritual would be taking place. And in a sense, that wasn’t entirely wrong. The meeting that was about to take place would be chaotic.

The inside of the old building was as dusty as expected, but there were signs that it had seen use by several people not too long ago.

“Let me start up the fireplace,” said Felinella, taking initiative to put firewood in the fireplace.

The female members of Fanon’s squad tried to help by grabbing used paper and dry straw from the dirt floor. Finally, Felinella flicked her finger, creating a small spark that fell into the fireplace. It was a form of everyday magic that even non-Magicmasters could use.

The paper and straw burned, engulfing the firewood in flames, and before long there was a relaxing, natural warmth in the room.

Alus and Fanon took their seats around a bare table. Loki remained standing behind Alus, and Fanon’s subordinates lined up beside their captain with blank expressions. Both sides ended up just staring awkwardly at each other.

Of course, that was only natural, since they’d been trying to kill each other just a short while ago. It wouldn’t have been strange for anyone to have been seriously hurt or killed.

But before long, the woman who had brought them there broke the heavy silence. “Why don’t we have a liiiittle talk while the water is boiling? First up are our visitors from Clevideet.”

Felinella was seated on the side of the table between the two, but her choice of words made it sound like she was blaming Fanon and her squad for violating their territory. Felinella’s face was obscured by the shadows cast by the fireplace, but it was clear that she was forcing a smile.

Fanon, Exceles, and the rest from Clevideet quietly turned their faces away when exposed to Felinella’s silent anger.

“Ms. Exceles? Aren’t you happy that it didn’t turn out to be a big deal?” Felinella asked.

“Y-Yes...” In response to the strangely overpowering presence, Exceles shrank back and replied with a raised voice.

Despite being a student in Alpha, Felinella appeared to have a higher standing than anyone in the Fanon squad. Meanwhile, Alus looked at Felinella with a blank expression as he crossed his legs.

Felinella continued by speaking to him. “Sir Alus, I have been ordered by my father to mediate between Alpha and Lady Fanon’s squad from Clevideet, who are here unofficially.”

Felinella smiled softly at Alus. After that brief explanation, she paused before continuing.

“Or rather...I was supposed to. Even though I was supposed to attend to them, they gave me the slip without saying anything,” Felinella said, feigning calm.

“That is just a misunderstanding, Ms. Felinella!” one of Fanon’s subordinates objected. It was the one who had aimed for Loki only to get beaten back.

“A misunderstanding?” Felinella replied sharply. “Not only did you disrespect the kind proposal of my father, Lord Vizaist Socalent, your actions put the relations between our nations at risk! What is there to misunderstand?”

Not even Loki had seen so much of Felinella’s quiet anger before. The anger wasn’t showing outright, but being able to sense her hidden fury made it more frightening.

In this atmosphere, it was hard to get a word in. Fanon was paying no attention to what Felinella was saying anyways, as if it had nothing to do with her. Her eyes were turned towards Alus. But she wasn’t looking directly into his eyes but rather at his entire upper body... She didn’t seem to be appraising him, but it wasn’t exactly very friendly.

Suddenly, Fanon’s lips moved as she spoke. “Could you shut up for a moment?”

The sudden rude remark made Felinella’s eyes open wide. But Fanon didn’t so much as look over; her eyes remained on Alus. While not quite friendly, she was showing interest.

“You. You can use some interesting magic that not even I can expect or analyze. When did Alpha’s Magicmasters and the magic they use start to defy common sense?” Fanon asked in a challenging tone.

Before Alus could answer, Felinella interjected. “Lady Fanon, I cannot overlook that attitude! If you have no intention of changing your mind, then we may have to reconsider our stance of cooperating with you.”

However, Fanon completely ignored Felinella. It was a rather fitting attitude as a Single Digit Magicmaster. If even Alus were to raise an eyebrow at her arrogant attitude, the old house would soon contain an atmosphere no different from the front lines of a battlefield.

“You heard what Felinella said. If you’re not going to answer her, I have no obligation to answer your question either,” said Alus. As long as Fanon and her squad’s true intentions were unclear, Alus wasn’t going to act rash, but he decided to press the point.

Unexpectedly, Fanon cut out her unsociable attitude and directed a smile towards Felinella. “Fine. So you were talking about us leaving you behind, Ms. Felinella?”

“Y-Yes.” The suddenness of the bright smile took Felinella off guard, and she gave a quick reply and smile.

“Well, we were rather careless about that... In the middle of our pursuit, they used magic to jam us. In the midst of the chaos, we had no choice but to make the fastest and best choice we could to pursue our targets. In the process, you lost sight of us,” said Fanon.

“That’s sophistry! Are you sure you don’t mean to say that you shook me off?! You are already ignorant of Alpha as is, so if you were to make a mistake, this time it could...” Felinella said emotionally, a rare blunder for her. But since it concerned Alus, she was unable to stay calm.

Exceles answered in a dispirited voice. “ we are truly grateful to you, Ms. Felinella. The incident could have led to an irreparable rift between our nations.”

Even so, Fanon seemed determined to treat the brief fight with Alus as a freak accident. While Exceles was acting meek, it wasn’t hard to imagine that she had the same goal.

Alus was aware of their intentions. These were certainly the collaborators from Clevideet that Berwick had mentioned, but it still left things unanswered...

Alus had met Fanon once before at the ruler’s conference, so he knew her face. The question was why she was chasing criminals instead of Fiends, and into Alpha at that. While Alus may have taken part in assassinations before, he’d never heard rumors of other Singles doing the same.

Besides...her fighting style is meant to be used against Fiends. A proper Magicmaster through and through. I can only see her as someone who isn’t used to fighting against people, he thought.

Fanon’s Juggernaut spell had been powerful, yes, but it was inefficient to use something like that against a mere human. It wasn’t like Fanon had expected to run into Alpha’s rank 1 so quickly, but Alus wanted more information so he could see the whole picture.

With that in mind, he signaled the troubled Felinella with his eyes, and when she came up to him, he whispered so only she could hear. “Feli, emergency situation or not, would another nation’s Magicmasters offer to help for free? And a Single at that?”

Felinella whispered back, “Yes, it is probably related to the two believed to be involved in the escape from the Trojan Prison who came here from Clevideet. I heard they attacked Lady Fanon and her squad in a city. It’s not something to speak openly about, but I heard about it when my father negotiated with them...”

“I see,” Alus answered.

That made sense, and he finally started to get a grasp of Vizaist’s goal. He only needed a few more tidbits from Felinella, and he was finally able to understand the situation. Berwick didn’t think Alus would meet up with the cooperators from Clevideet—he’d been proven wrong right off the bat.

But perhaps that was for the best for Alpha. At the very least, he had more information to allow him to help Felinella, and he’d gained from Felinella’s whispers a better idea of the information that Vizaist had been unable to obtain.

There had been an attack on Fanon in Clevideet. The ones behind it were the warden and vice-warden of the Trojan prison, Gordon and Suzar, and both men had entered Alpha after that attack.

Well, if Lord Vizaist knew that it was someone dangerous, he thought, he wouldn’t have left it to Feli, who has little practical experience. Besides, Fanon’s side is still hiding something. It’s hard to believe that they are helping just to catch those guys. There’s probably another reason they’re so adamant about those two. Something neither Feli nor Lord Vizaist has managed to figure out. Well, I imagine Lord Vizaist attached Feli because something bothered him. And associating with another nation’s Single would make for good experience. That kind of affection is just like Lord Vizaist...

Incidentally, Alus was spot-on with his assumption. Vizaist probably didn’t have a full grasp of why Fanon was so persistent about the attackers. But logically and emotionally, the motives for Clevideet’s priority to capture their two men were all there, so he hadn’t pried too deeply into it.

This is Lord Vizaist we’re talking about, after all, thought Alus. I bet he has his own agents watching them anyways. Just getting a glimpse of another nation’s Single’s powers is worth enough on its own.

Alus knew how cunning Vizaist was, and with that, he broke his reverie. Under such circumstances, helping out a little couldn’t be all that bad. But Fanon’s arrogant attitude was intolerable, and frankly, having her act all big in his country didn’t sit right with him.

Normally, leaving things to Felinella wasn’t a bad idea because she was so eloquent, but she was at a disadvantage against a Single. Talented as she was, with the other party maintaining that the conflict was an unavoidable accident, she wouldn’t be able to fully push her way through. And that made it difficult for Alpha to end up in a place where Clevideet would owe them a favor in the future.

With that consideration, Alus spoke up. “By the way, why did the attackers you are chasing choose to target you in Clevideet?”

Exceles, who was standing behind Fanon, answered the simple question. “That’s... In short, we believe it was due to a personal grudge against Lady Fanon.”

From what Alus could tell, Exceles Lilyusem was not one to exaggerate. She was a spotter who exceeded Alpha’s Eye, Rinne Kimmel. But at the same time, she gave off the impression of being someone who pulled strings behind the scenes like Rinne.

Both Alus’s question and Exceles’s answer made Fanon furrow her brow and twitch her cheeks. Noticing her attitude from the corner of his eye, Alus continued, “I see. Speaking of, we were pursuing someone suspicious just before coming into contact with you. He was using a gun-type AWR. So was it perhaps one of the ones who attacked you?”

Despite Alus’s sharp stare, Exceles remained calm. “Who could say? Could you say anything about their appearance?”

“It was too far to tell.”

Hearing that, Exceles gave him a vague answer. “I see. Then it would be difficult to conclude if they are the same person...”

It was a perfectly proper answer. But Alus wasn’t planning on dropping it there. He threw in little tricks such as a small smile.

“That reminds me...” he said, “Clevideet has been putting more effort into bringing back the motifs of firearms, haven’t they? I heard tales of an interesting gun-type toy being made...a magic gun, wasn’t it?”

“You are well informed, Sir Alus,” Exceles said, her expression turning a little stiff.

During the campus festival, Alus’s class had set up a shooting stall, which made use of magic gun toys from Clevideet.

“I like tinkering, you see. That toy wasn’t the result of a design originally intended for an AWR being put to civilian use...was it?” he asked.

“Ha...ha ha.”

Hearing Exceles’s dry laugh, Alus was convinced his remark had been on point.

Fanon’s expression turned visibly sour. High-ranking Magicmasters were involved in sensitive matters, so having a good poker face was practically a necessary skill, but from what he could see of Fanon’s constantly changing expression, it seemed she was an exception.

Alus had clearly struck a sore spot for Clevideet.

When it came to gun-type AWRs, Alus could only think of Clevideet. If the escaped prisoners were using one, then considering the timing, it could only mean that it was a military secret.

Things start to make sense if I assume they sent a Single Digit Magicmaster after them. Then the other one must have stolen some sort of military secret as well, he thought.

Alus’s roundabout questioning had started as a way of getting back at Fanon for her attitude. But as he’d expected, it seemed they did indeed have an ulterior motive.

Besides, practically nobody in the seven nations would have the idea of creating a gun-type AWR nowadays. There was a limit to the magic formula that could be engraved on bullets, and the shape of a gun wasn’t well suited for close combat. But eccentrics existed everywhere, and with the development of magical industrial technology, it was possible to make an AWR out of even a frying pan as long as the materials were there.

Having hit the nail on the head, Alus raised his voice. “I have no intention of complaining about your mission. And everything will work out fine if we just do what we have to. However, don’t you think not sharing everything will just cause needless trouble?”

Vizaist must have expected the worst-case scenario based on Felinella’s mention of Fanon’s squad being here unofficially. If it came to be a problem between nations, Alus could just claim he didn’t know anything. Of course, that meant Alus would almost definitely have to take care of the trouble in secret. In that sense, it wouldn’t hurt for them to explain their goals and objectives to one another.

“It seems you’ve talked things out with your top, but you’re still hiding something. You’re only going to get in the way of my job like that,” said Alus.

Alus knew it was important to take into consideration that Lord Vizaist had accepted their request. The skills that the gun user Alus had encountered set him apart from the other magical criminals that Alus had fought. Former warden or not, working with the escaped prisoners with that kind of power made him a threat.

Vizaist must have judged that Fanon and her squad’s aid would be necessary to bring the incident to a swift end. So now that he’d outwitted Fanon, it was time to let go of the earlier matter and reluctantly compromise with her.

That said, can she even be reasoned with? Alus thought.

Alus stared at the sturdy nation’s Single Digit Magicmaster sitting opposite of him. She had her arms crossed and was fidgeting enough that her wisteria-colored hair swayed back and forth. She made no attempt to hide her bad mood. She certainly didn’t seem willing to cooperate.

She wasn’t even bothering to conceal her mana and had adopted a provoking stance. There was a dangerous light in her eyes, revealing an intense fighting spirit.

I guess she’s not just a combat maniac. It’s like she wants to change the rankings among Singles, thought Alus.

Alus looked at the cylinders placed between Fanon and Exceles as if to hide them. They were part of an AWR she had changed out during their battle as if it was her trump card.

AWRs used by Single Digit Magicmasters all had their own peculiarities. They were the best equipment available, presented to the Singles, representing the prestige of their nations.

Alus was interested in her AWR’s performance, and as someone confident in his capabilities, it wasn’t like he didn’t have any desire to compete against her. In fact, after their encounter, he had a strong urge to see how far he could go against her using all of his might.

“Well, anyways...” he said with a sigh. “It just means that you have your own circumstances. If you’re willing to cooperate then that’s enough.”

Alus shrugged. According to some information added by Felinella, Fanon’s squad had been obstructed from pursuing Gordon and Suzar by Millimore Mazain. So in the end, the battle was a result of two sides being lured in.

“Well, I’m going to do it my own way. You can hunt down Gordon and Suzar if you get the chance. But this time try not to lose sight of them,” said Alus.

Even though he’d said it sarcastically, Fanon made no attempt to rebuff him while making her own assertion.

“That’s fine with us. We have a rank 1 of our own,” she said with a childish sense of rivalry, looking proudly at Exceles behind her, who could only give her a troubled expression in return.

“Ah right, Ms. Exceles was the rank 1 Spotter. Which means that she surpasses even Alpha’s own Rinne Kimmel,” said Alus.

Alus had seen Rinne’s abilities up close, so the thought of a spotter that exceeded her was very interesting. There was no way mere detection magic would exceed the Eye of Providence.

“Yes, I am acquainted with her,” said Exceles. “However, detection is not directly related to combat, so the spotter ranks are just a matter of prestige and political games for the nations.”

Exceles’s calm answer didn’t seem to be just out of modesty. She didn’t feel there was much point in ranking spotters—probably because she could evaluate Rinne’s powers. And she clearly wasn’t trying to show off, which was proof that she could see the strategic values of Magicmasters and spotters in a fair and objective manner.

“That’s true, a nation’s prestige is a constant bother,” said Alus.

Exceles could only reply to Alus’s imprudent complaints with a smile. She certainly was capable; she was perfectly watching over her squad. And from the look of it, she was firmly holding Fanon’s reins.

She was probably conveying orders from the top brass to Fanon while steering her in the right direction and scolding her for her indulgence when necessary. With that in mind, Alus realized that this beauty must have many hardships...

Perhaps spotters had to have skills aside from just detecting. When he thought about that, he realized it applied to him as well and straightened his back, thinking of the excellent partner behind him.

Realizing that his thoughts had gone off track, he returned to the topic at hand to poke at the main issue. “That aside, the reason you lost sight of them was due to jamming. From what I could tell, it was a spell called Millimore Mazain. Do you have any countermeasures for that?”

Alus was convinced it was the gun user who had used the advanced magic jamming. The moment Alus asked that with clear seriousness, Fanon’s expression turned smug, and she bent her fingers towards Exceles.

Once the approval to disclose information came from the captain, Alus heard Exceles let out a deep sigh. “Yes, it will be fine. We were suspecting the same thing. They have slipped through detection twice already, but we already have a good grasp of the spell’s magical structure. And if that spell is indeed Millimore Mazain, then we’ll be more certain.”

“I can assure it. The outer shell structure might have been changed, but the core is still the same,” said Alus. “Still, if you have a way to overcome that, then I can only give you my respect.”

“Thank you very much. With your assurance, there are no more concerns.” Exceles gave her thanks in an honored manner.

Alus knowing the construct for Millimore Mazain also meant that he knew taboo and classified spells. It was an unspoken rule in the international community that not even Singles were allowed to touch such spells.

Of course, there were cases where the will of the nation took precedence over such arrangements, but if that were to come to light in the diplomatic arena, it would raise tensions between nations.

That was, of course, just on the surface. An ideal image of a peaceful world.

Alus going out of the way to give out that piece of information was his way of showing he was aware of the behind-the-scenes mission that Exceles and the others were hiding.

Incidentally, Exceles had some knowledge of magic as well. It wasn’t enough to show off, but she had at least drilled the list of the past taboo and classified spells into her head, as she was always preparing herself for any potential irregularities to be able to more efficiently analyze situations. But even if she recognized the structural elements, she didn’t have the knowledge to share with others.

So after thanking Alus, Exceles spoke up again. “That said...Sir Alus, how do you know that is Millimore Mazain?”

It was a probing question, but like Fanon, she had an interest in what kind of a person the Magicmaster who stood at the top was. While there were some exceptions, detailed information on Single Digit Magicmasters was typically blank; only the bare minimum of information was given out. Alpha’s rank 1, in particular.

As he was still young, Alpha kept all information on him hidden, so to Clevideet, he was practically a complete unknown.

Alus’s answer was curt. “I can tell by looking. The obstruction of mana bonding and the randomly appearing light of mana are very characteristic. Although I feel like it’s not so much a trait of the spell but rather the performance of the AWR.”

Despite knowing he was revealing valuable information, Alus spoke freely.

“Sir Alus, no more than that,” Loki said to admonish him, but Alus didn’t seem to mind.

“It’s not a big deal compared to this troublesome case. The nation’s informational superiority might be important, but worrying about appearances here will only slow down the resolution of this problem,” Alus said and turned to look at Exceles, who cast her eyes down in response.

As expected, there was something questionable about their motives, but the point was to eliminate the escaped prisoners as well as Gordon and Suzar as quickly as possible. It was clear that Alus wouldn’t be allowed to rest until that was achieved.

The clash before wasn’t all that bad, since it allowed him to get a glimpse of Fanon’s capabilities. He even felt like he’d gotten to see something interesting.

It wasn’t like he’d intentionally ingratiated himself, but he wondered how Fanon and the others saw his aloof attitude. As silence filled the room, the sound of wood popping in the fireplace could be heard.

Suddenly, Fanon furrowed her brow a little before letting out a sigh as if she’d resigned herself. “Body integrating-type AWR Barbaros and gun-type AWR Caligula—not that it concerns you anymore.”

Felinella gulped at those words. All of the information released in small pieces had led to this. She hadn’t been able to understand why her father had given her the task of monitoring Fanon’s squad. But now Alus had unexpectedly hit at the heart of the mystery.

Those two AWRs had probably been stolen from Clevideet. So Fanon and her squad weren’t just after capturing Gordon and Suzar, they were also taking those back.

And that was why they’d more or less forced their way into Alpha.

But Fanon’s simple words had left Exceles and her other squad members flabbergasted...and clearly upset.

“Lady Fanon!” Exceles reproached her, but Fanon ignored her, looking only at Alus.

“If you’re interested, I could tell you everything I know about their mechanisms and the main functions of the engraved magic formulas. In return...” she said, but Alus raised his hand to stop her.

“No, that’s fine. It’s probably some national secret, right? Why would you tell me that?”

“Oh? You seemed logical but greedy when it comes to matters that concern you. Well, fine. It’s not often Singles come face-to-face like this. Now, let’s just agree not to get in each other’s way.” An insolent smile decorated Fanon’s face.

Tsk, so she’s just saying that she’s repaid the favor, now go no further. Does she think that’s going to fly? Well, I wasn’t going to pry too deeply anyways, and if she’s going to take on some of the trouble herself, that’s just convenient to me, thought Alus.

Kindness met with kindness. Alus hated a flow of conversation that insisted on such a rule. Concessions and bargaining might be important, but Alus wasn’t a fan of the sort of political dogfighting that required several layers of reading the room.

But it seemed the small woman before him was more shrewd than expected. She seemed belligerent, but she’d offered such a deal the moment she saw an opening. She must have been used to coaxing the ruler or other big shots, giving off the impression of a small predator with a quick wit.

As he was thinking, Fanon directed an innocent smile at him. Among the people here, Alus was the only one officially affiliated with Alpha’s military. Even if Felinella was a student in name only, she still wasn’t a soldier. Being in a position of responsibility and authority, the term “Single” weighed heavily on him.

If anything, I’m more interested in those cylinders, he thought. Well, getting any more out of her might just end up restraining me.

Noticing him glancing over at them, Fanon gave him a quick “not those,” blocking his line of sight with her hand.

“I bet,” he said with a sigh. “Well, even if it was an accident, there were injured on your side. Got it. Then we agree not to interfere with each other.”

“That’s more like it, you get it,” Fanon said with a toothy smile. Strangely enough, it even felt charming.

Alus resigned himself and dropped his shoulders. The situation had been resolved by Alus relenting to Fanon. Fanon’s negotiation technique of mixing hard and soft lines had, as Alus had expected, repeatedly been used against the military’s top brass to twist their arms. But it hadn’t worked against Vizaist.

Exceles stood to the side, impressed by Fanon’s art of coaxing, feeling like she’d seen her captain’s dependable side for the first time in quite a while.

“Feli, that’s how it’s going to be,” said Alus.

“I understand. I am only a student, so I will not say anything about your decision or the two AWRs for the time being,” responded Felinella.

“Sorry about this,” he said.

“Oh, it’s only natural to prioritize practical advantages over appearance if necessary,” Felinella said with a smile, showing her intent to respect Alus’s decision. And even if she wasn’t going to convey Fanon’s objective to her father right away, they had still gotten valuable information.

“But I would like to point out to our guests from Clevideet that if you try to lose me again, I will take that as you going back on your promise,” warned Felinella.

Like Alus, Felinella would let previous transgressions go, but if it were to happen again, she wouldn’t hesitate to contact her father. Vizaist would no doubt mobilize another force to eliminate Gordon and Suzar and seize their AWRs. That would be the best choice to prioritize Alpha’s national gain.

Felinella pressed her point with a stern tone, and so it was Fanon’s turn to drop her shoulders and accept it. After the AWRs were safely recovered by Clevideet, their names or functions being known to Alpha wouldn’t matter all that much.

With their talks over, Alus suddenly recalled something he wanted to ask Felinella. “By the way, Feli, I still haven’t gotten a call from Lord Vizaist.”

Hearing that, her eyes widened and she brought her glossy lips to his ear. “You mean that it wasn’t my father’s instructions that brought you here?!”

“No, it was a request from the Governor-General’s side. What’s going on? This has never happened on a mission before,” Alus whispered his answer back.

With a meek expression on her face, Felinella furrowed her brow and shook her head. “I don’t know; my father wouldn’t... But this time around, he seemed to be struggling with gathering information. I will try to contact him too, but it might be best to meet with him directly later.”

“Got it.”

And with that, they stopped their whispering.

“I still don’t know why the gun user lured in me and Loki. Even if he was trying to lure us into trying to fight each other, it was a messy way of doing it,” he said.

Felinella nodded and answered. “The escaped prisoners’ goal is still unknown... That might be the biggest problem.”

That was where Fanon interrupted them. “It’s okay. If we find the time, we’ll torture him and make him spit it out. Although it may be a little too intense for our little student here.”

The prisoners in the Trojan Prison had, in effect, no nationality or even human rights. The laws wouldn’t apply no matter what was done to them. But hearing threats like this didn’t affect Felinella.

“Hmm, are you surprisingly used to violence?” Fanon asked with a fearless smile, and Felinella cast her eyes down.

“No, but if that’s what it takes, the ends will justify the means,” said Felinella.

“I see. It really is a waste for you to still be a student.” Fanon was impressed and gave her a small smile.

“Then we’ll be leaving. The gun user we were chasing up is your prey for the time being anyways,” said Alus.

The chair rattled as Alus stood up and turned away from Fanon and her squad. Even during this meeting, there had been no contact from Vizaist, which meant Alus still didn’t know who his target was. It was strange for Vizaist to be so slow.

Some escaped prisoners had already been taken care of, but they were only the four who had attacked Alus. And he didn’t know what their objectives were or where they had gotten information about him. Hiding your origin when doing dirty work was normal, and it wasn’t like Alus’s face was well-known in the underworld. But the escaped prisoners probably had their own network of contacts.

As he tried to walk away, his eyes met Loki’s. She seemed to want to say something, but he didn’t know what. At least it didn’t seem to be complaints about him.

That was when Felinella began to talk. “Mr. Alus, I neglected to mention this, but I was thinking of returning to the Institute once today...”

Alus silently met her gaze. She’d shifted to referring to him as “Mr.” again, possibly to show she was worried about taking her eyes off Fanon and her squad for even a moment.

“Don’t worry. When you return, tell Fia and Alice about this. We’re still waiting in vain in this situation, so it might take some time before everything is concluded. It might even take several days before we get back,” Alus replied.

It was only thanks to Alus’s presence as the rank 1 that when Felinella had pressed the point Fanon had offered them information about the AWRs to make a deal.

Exceles, who held the reins, suggested that things would be fine even without Felinella’s constant monitoring.

Exceles wore a gentle smile, most likely relieved for having gotten through with a troublesome negotiation, as she walked up to Alus and Felinella. “Please don’t worry, Sir Alus, Ms. Felinella. With the talks over, we will contact our nation and get ready for action. I believe we won’t move until tomorrow.”

“You heard her,” said Alus.

“I understand. Lady Exceles, thank you for your consideration.” Felinella bowed, and her beautiful black hair flowed down from her shoulders.

Exceles looked at Felinella with a sympathetic, wry smile, thinking about the hardships she must go through because of her outstanding talents.

“I see you go through a lot of difficulties yourself, Ms. Felinella. I believe I can understand your position. But now that it’s come to this, we are sharing one lot in a sense,” Exceles said and glanced at Fanon, as if to say that it was hard for both of them.

Felinella gave an understanding smile in response.

“All right, then this time we’re actually leaving...” said Alus.

As he put his hand on the doorknob, another sharp voice called out to them. “Hold up! There’s no need to be in such a rush,” said Fanon.

“Is there still something else?”

As Alus looked back in dismay, Fanon shot up from her seat, making her wisteria-colored hair sway. “Single Digit Magicmasters almost never meet, so you’re going to stay and make some small talk with me. Yes, the outside will be fine. It’s not like the nation will collapse if you’re here for a few more minutes.”

“Even if it doesn’t collapse, someone might die,” said Alus.

“That would be a shame,” said Fanon. “So you want to save as many as possible? Are you some hero working yourself to the bone?”

“To a degree,” answered Alus.

“I didn’t think you would be such a workaholic!”

With a sarcastic look of satisfaction, Fanon turned the doorknob that Alus had let go of and led the way out. Seeing how she was instructing her subordinates to stay behind with her eyes, it seemed to be an invitation through pure interest.

With a heavy sigh, Alus used his gaze to tell Loki to stay behind as well. Loki obediently nodded, and as Alus left through the door, he could see the female squad member Loki had fought earlier approaching.

Is this what that meaningful look meant? Alus thought.

Loki had been underestimated because of her small build and had counterattacked, but now that they’d reached a compromise, she also stepped forward to resolve any ill will. The edges of Alus’s lips curled up as he hoped for her regrets to be resolved.

Once outside, he could see that night had fallen. Daylight hours were shorter in this season to match the Outer Worlds, and day and night felt like it could switch in the blink of an eye. Perhaps nobody could even see the moment night came.

Even beneath the curtains of night and despite being alone with Fanon, Alus didn’t feel particularly nervous. He didn’t even feel wary. In fact, he also felt it was rare for Singles to find an occasion to speak between themselves without others around.

Thinking about it, the only Singles he could count among his acquaintances were Lettie and Jean Rumbulls. Then again, he never really felt a need to socialize, so he didn’t feel lonely.

Because of the season, it was a little cold too, but he didn’t use mana to mitigate it. The two continued walking until they reached a point where the light from the old house just barely reached them. Then Fanon stopped.

“You’ve been tinkering a lot with your spells’ constructions, haven’t you?” asked Fanon.

While her tone wasn’t exactly friendly, the hostility from before had completely disappeared.

As with the ruler’s conference, the relationship between Single Digit Magicmasters was inevitably tied to their ranking because rankings made them aware of the gap between their abilities whether they liked it or not. This kept them from being able to be friendly with each other or speak openly.

But while Alus and Jean were from different nations, they never cared about that, even if their ranks were to change. They had an invisible form of trust. But what about the Magicmaster before him?

“The answer to that can be expensive. It’s of similar value to the information on how you arrange and use your barrier magic,” said Alus.

Even to Alus, turning a defensive spell into something that could be used offensively was unconventional. So revealing the essence would require something of equal value in return.

“Aren’t you self-important, Alus Reigin? Well, what you’re keeping to yourself is certainly incomparable to any other Magicmasters. Exceles has noticed too. My adjutant is well versed in that area as well. I wonder what you’re hiding behind that unconcerned face of yours,” said Fanon.

Recently, Alus had been following the Governor-General’s commands and had refrained from using Gra Eater, but all spells Alus used received the benefit of being attribute-less. Because of that, they left any frame of reference, and manifested results that didn’t match the amount of mana used.

Barrier magic didn’t really fit in with the traditional attributes either, so in that sense they were similar to attribute-less, and perhaps Fanon had been able to pick something up because of that. Someone like Jean wouldn’t have noticed.

However, Alus would not question Fanon’s way of putting it. He figured she just wanted to confirm something she’d felt during their battle. Instead of waiting for an answer from Alus, Fanon leaned on the umbrella she’d brought with her as a replacement for a walking stick.

“You don’t stink. Normally I’d pass on ever speaking with a man in such a cramped space. Do you not sweat or something?” Fanon asked.

“That wasn’t enough to work up a sweat,” Alus responded.

“Hmm, even after all of that? Well, that’s the rank 1 for you. It’s rare for me to be this interested in someone, you know. The first since Exceles, even,” Fanon said and looked Alus all over. “Your outfit is simple, and you’re not too mundane, I see,” Fanon mumbled and nodded to herself.

Single or not, Alus felt like his time was being wasted. “If you don’t have anything to talk about, then that’s enough.”