Editors: Skythewood, Nate, AMetroid
The Londel Conference. That was the shortened title which many places used, but the official name was the Londel Academic Degree Board of Examination.
It had a long history, stretching back about 3000 years or so.
The Academy City had originally been founded as a place to test the worthiness of apprentices to learn from the libraries of various Sages who had gathered there to conduct research.
In the Special Region, where there were no communal libraries, rare books were almost always in the care of various famous Sages. From time to time, the powerful and the wealthy might forcibly gather books like that in one place, but these collections would invariably be destroyed or lost due to changes in the government, war, fires, and so on. In addition, there were those people who were appointed as librarians that selected and discarded books at their own judgement as well as burning books in the name of tidying up their collections. These occurrences repeated over and over, and in the end, books containing important knowledge vanished from the public domain.
Ever since, the Sages resolved never to relinquish control of their libraries again. If anyone wanted a book, they would have to write it themselves, or pay someone else to write it for them at a high price.
As a result, people who wanted to further their learning had no choice but to come here and knock on the teachers’ doors.
However, if they allowed just anyone to come in and read those books, their valuable libraries would be worn out in short order.
Anyone without the requisite basic knowledge would not be able to understand the contents of those books, which meant that the books would be useless to them. Therefore, the teachers had to verify that any supplicants had the required level of knowledge before permitting them access to their archives.
And then, this test of an apprentice’s learning became a measuring stick for good students.
“This time, I’ll finally be allowed access to the archives!”
“Ha, then you’ll be able to properly begin your research life. Good luck!”
“Huh, my browsing clearance is higher than yours, Teacher.”
“That’s great. You must have really worked hard. How about it, want to take what you’ve learned and work for a lord?”
Conversations like these had been heard in Londel for over 2000 years, until now.
The copying of rare texts had produced enough books that there was less of a need for access to archives, but conversely, it had become more and more important to show the fruits of one’s studies. As a result, there were rigorous examinations to earn the academic titles of “Bachelor”, “Master”, “Doctor” and the highest-ranked position of “Sage”.
The various academic degrees and the examinations needed to obtain them were as followed:
The first was the bachelor’s degree. To attain it, one needed to become an apprentice.
Through various connections and searching for a scholar of above bachelor level, one could find somebody to teach them basic knowledge. After that, if the prospective student had the right attitude, was serious, and possessed good grades, they would receive a recommendation and be given the right to call themselves a pupil of a Sage. And thus the long life of an apprentice began.
After that, they needed to undergo an interview with two other Sages aside from one’s own master. If they passed, they could officially use the title of “Bachelor” for their own, becoming part of the academic community.
People with that title could access the archives of the school to which their master belonged, as well as earning the right to give private tuition of basic knowledge to children.
The Master’s Degree required an oral examination involving at least two other Sages from different schools before they were allowed to use the title. Anyone with that title was allowed basic access to the archives of any other Sage. In addition to reading privileges, they were also allowed to directly pose questions to other Sages. In other words, they could begin compiling knowledge from various masters.
In addition, they could release research results, and they were acknowledged as substitute teachers in place of Sages by scholars of Bachelor-level and below.
Incidentally, Lelei was currently a Master.
After that was the Doctorate, which was considered a hurdle in the academic’s career.
First, a prospective Doctor had to present a thesis before a board of examiners in Londel. Then, they had to obtain the unanimous approval of all the examiners.
However, once one became a Doctor, they had unrestricted access to archives of all the Sages. In addition, they could expect preferential treatment in the courts of many nations, in deference to their titles. Of course, actually being called “Excellency” was a privilege reserved for nobles, ministers, and generals, but someone as versed in academics as the former group were in their respective fields could expect treatment of a similar standard.
Lelei’s big sister, Alfie, was a “Doctor”.
And then, there was the final stage of Sage. People at that level could found their own archives. That in turn meant that supplicants would come before them, which effectively meant that they were a one-man university. In the Special Region, the beings known as Sages were people which commanded the power and prestige of such an institute.
Naturally, the examinations to become a Sage were exceedingly ruthless.
To some people, it was compared to a public execution, or perhaps a lynching.
This was a difficult hurdle to cross, which had caused many prospective challengers to withdraw in disgrace. Therefore many people stopped at the Doctorate stage. For instance, some of these people were landless second or third sons of nobility who could not inherit. People like that, who went into academia to make a living, often felt that reaching a Doctorate was enough. They would receive the respect due to them when they returned to their homes and be treated well. There was no need to subject themselves to repeated misery for the sake of advancement.
However, today, Lelei had come to contend for such a position. To people who had determined to make a life out of this path, academic degrees were not a goal, but merely one of many necessary steps which had to be taken in the endless quest for knowledge.
Itami and the others nodded after listening to the history of the examination board.
Rory, Tuka and Yao indicated that they understood. Normally, that should not have been the case. Tuka and Yao were essentially home-schooled and refined their skills through experience and personal development. Rory had been schooled as a priestess-in-training before she became a Demigod, but she should only have had a vague idea of what organized education entailed. Still, after Lelei’s explanation, they realized how amazing scholars were. They had a picture of the sort of willpower and motivation needed to tread the path of academia.
Therefore, just as Lelei was about to move on to the next topic, she was stopped by an “Eh?”
“It seems Itami gained the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree in Nihon.”
Granted, Itami had obtained it from a newly-built third-rate university, but it was still a degree.
The person who blurted that out was Tuka, who called Itami “Father”.
“When I learned this, I wondered if I should use the word ‘bachelor’ to translate the Japanese term. However, after some investigation, I learned that there was no problem with that translation. In conclusion, Itami is an academic with the title of Bachelor.”
“Is, is Nihon such a great country…”
Rory’s face was frozen in shock, while Yao tightly gripped the 5 yen coin hanging around her neck. Tuka, on the other hand, continued in a teasing manner.
“Well, Lelei said it, and it’s not wrong… but it still feels wrong to me.”
“I was as shocked as when I heard her Holiness intended to become a goddess of love…”
Lelei nodded as well.
“La -- the Goddess of Wisdom -- once said, there are those lesser people who only understand things, those in the middle who culture their ability to understand things, and the superior beings who refine their intellect.”
“What does that mean?”
“It’s meant to be a criticism of those people who became academics by memorizing facts.”
Even Itami could not help but smile uneasily as he was described thusly.
“Somehow, I feel like people are treating me as an idiot.”
“Nobody’s treating you as an idiot, Father. It’s just… right, it’s just very surprising. The fact is, you’ve never considered yourself an academic, have you, Father?”
“Just call me a man full of surprises.”
“Because of that, I’ve never thought of learning anything from you, Father,”
“Doesn’t that sound a lot like treating me as an idiot?”
Tuka pressed her hands together (as though in prayer) and stuck her tongue out, saying: “Please don’t be angry. It’s just that the truth slipped out by accident!”
“Ahhhh, this is annoying!” Itami retorted with a scary look on his face. Then, he planted his hands on Tuka’s cheeks and kneaded them around.
“You, you, what shall I do with that naughty mouth of yours~!”
“Ahhh, ugyu! Ireh, Ireeeeaah!”
An outsider viewing this from the side might think that Itami was abusing Tuka.
However, he was only using a tiny bit of force and not his full strength. This fact was not lost on Tuka, who did not scream or cry, but instead counterattacked by pressing on Itami’s face with both hands.
“Yuu, yuuuu yuuuuhhhhh!”
“Ngiiiiiiiiii! Tchu, Tchuga, yed, yed go ob mehh!”
“Djuu firsd Fahja!”
As the two of them squeezed and pinched each other’s cheeks, their bodies ended up pressing intimately against each other.
Rory and Yao were quite envious of how the two of them were playing around.
“That looks nice, I want to do that too.”
“I see. So I will get that reaction if I do that.”
Lelei did not seem to be expressing any emotion, but there seemed to be a hint of frustration there.
“Still, this is not good. Tuka’s gone out of control.”
“Someone should stop her.”
“Then, allow me…”
Yao cut in while saying, “Itamy-dono, don’t be so rough.”
“On that note, should you not reflect on your usual actions? An knowledgeable person’s actions seem dignified , which is a quality you lack. Instead, you look like an uneducated person. That was what Tuka was saying, right?”
Tuka patted her puffed-out cheeks with her hands and pouted.
Looks aside, she had been enjoying playtime with Itami, so she felt like that they were being busybodies.
However, Lelei was right, so she had to force herself to nod.
On the other hand, Itami massaged his face and grumbled.
“Well, you say that, but I can’t do something that doesn’t match my personality.”
Until now, he had been constantly scolded by his superiors for his manner of speech, his personal conduct, and so on. He had even been enrolled into the elite Ranger course. Despite all that, he had not changed his ways. In that sense, Itami’s easygoing attitude and passivity were very strong things.
Just as this relaxed mood began spreading among them, Itami suddenly drew the pistol strapped to his thigh and trained it on the door.
Rory raised her halberd, while Lelei readied her staff. The empty-handed Tuka began incanting her spirit magic.
Shortly afterward, Gray walked in, saying, “I apologize for the delay.”
Gray immediately stopped in his tracks, realizing that he had stepped into a killing ground. He raised his arms in surrender.
“For-forgive me. I should have knocked before coming in.”
“What, it’s just Gray,” everyone said as they let go of the tension in their bodies. Itami holstered his pistol as well.
“Then, where’s Shandy? Any clues?”
Gray shook his head at Itami’s question, and everyone looked disappointed.
Lelei anticipated that the Piper ― who had deceived the workers of the Reader’s Rest ― would try to meet up with them again, and thus Itami and the others had sent Shandy to shadow them. However, they had lost contact with the chestnut-haired female knight ever since.
Gray had searched many times before returning, and he continued in a tired voice:
“It’s been four days since we lost contact. Although, if this were a battlefield, it would still be a little early to give up on searching for her...”
Within the knight band, Shandy was Gray’s superior and also his colleague. However, for a man like him who had started as a common soldier, his current position was as high as he could go. In contrast, Shandy had been born to a noble family and was earmarked as the next leader of the White Rose Knights. Much glory awaited her after this. The fact that the experienced Gray was following her and guiding her on the finer points of things was also a command by Pina. And now Shandy had gone missing. He could not help but feel responsible for that.”
“This one will go search the area one more time.”
“I’ll go too…” Lelei said, intending to follow him, but Itami stopped her.
“Lelei, you stay here. I know you feel responsible as the one who suggested the idea in the first place, but that responsibility should be borne by me, the commander, am I right?”
Gray bowed as he heard this.
“Just so. Lelei-dono, the fact that you left this matter to Shandy-dono was because you trusted her, am I wrong? Then, please wait here. It is a shame for a knight to have one’s trust in him withdrawn halfway.”
And so, Lelei sat down, as though accepting Itami’s words. Rory raised her index finger and asked:
“The whole reason we came to Londel was for today, right?”
“The conference won’t end today. All we need to do is come again another time.”
“You say that, but what about the Piper? If this keeps up, he’ll keep launching attacks on us. Also, if we let him be, the number of sacrifices will only go up.”
The sacrifices in question were the people duped into becoming assassins by the Piper.
There were very few circumstances where one could subdue an attacker with murderous intent without harming them. The situation changed with the time, location, people and other factors. Although the matter had been settled with just a few bruises on the faces of the inn boys, if they had not been so sloppy, they might already be dead.
“Since the old days, strategies have been planned in the head and implemented on the battlefield with guts and willpower. I know you’re worried about Shandy-dono, but it’s not worth it if it affects you to the point where it affects your planning. I hope you can be prepared to stick to your decision once you make it.”
“Just so. We’ve come this far, so we should go meet and greet the Piper first.”
Lelei bit her lip. She was a person who had always relied on herself, and she was not used to letting other people to things for her and fretting about the outcome. However, after everyone persuaded her, she finally came over to their point of view.
Itami watched the door with a wary look on his face. He reached toward the pistol on his thigh, ready to draw it at any moment.
Soon, everyone could hear someone sprinting along the corridor. The footsteps were heading straight for this place.
Itami drew his 9mm handgun and Gray unsheathed his sword.
The group waited with bated breath as the door was flung open. They looked ― and saw a panting Shandy rush in.
“Sorry I’m late!”
“Shandy, where have you been…?”
Tuka and the others hounded Shandy with questions. However, it was Gray who was most delighted to see her. He advanced before Shandy and clapped her on her shoulders.
“Shandy-dono, please give your report…”
“Ah, yes, I was late because I was following a woman called Nora.”
“What do you mean you were late? You were gone for four days! Four days! There’s got to be a limit to how late you can be! You should have at least kept in touch with us! We were so worried!”
Tuka was complaining with her hands on her hips, on behalf of everyone else.
“I’m really sorry for that, Tuka, but there was no free time for me to communicate. Then, did you learn about it from the boys?”
Rory laughed, as though she was looking at an idiot.
“We already heard about that.”
“That Nora person is a puppet of the Piper, did you notice?”
Itami had a look on his face like a kid whose prank had failed as he scratched the back of his head.
“It would be awfully convenient if that Nora girl were the Piper. But the man himself would probably never show up.”
The Piper’s modus operandi was to use others as assassins while hiding in a safe place. It had failed once, but that did not mean he would come after her, sword in hand.
“Then, where’s the Piper? You should have seen him over that long time, right? Is he a man or a woman?”
“He’s a man. He looks just like how the workers described… but I lost him.”
“What’s this? You made us worry so much and then you lost him?”
Tuka pouted in annoyance.
“I’m sorry. However, I followed him to Pailan Street. He got away while I was sleeping…”
Gray patted Shandy on the shoulders, as though comforting her.
“Aiya, it can’t be helped, then. It’s more surprising that you could actually follow him over a period of two days. Tailing someone like that requires a group, doing it by yourself was impossible from the start.”
Tuka agreed with Gray’s assertion that it was good enough to have confirmed his face.
“You did a good job. Thanks for your hard work.”
“It’s fine. I’m pretty good within the knight band, you know? I’m the best at long-range scouting.”
After choosing his words carefully, Itami spoke.
“Actually, all you needed to do was verify what kind of person the inn boys got into contact with. Frankly speaking, there was no need to pursue him.”
Of course, he was also trying to hint that she should not make others worry.
“Ehhhhh~ then, that means… it was a waste of effort?”
“Well… not really. Verifying the Piper’s face was a great accomplishment. However, it would have been better if you kept in contact with us.”
“It slipped my mind. Still, I managed to look at the Piper’s face. It was perfect!”
Shandy clenched her fist as she bragged of her results.
Itami thanked her before speaking to the others.
“All right, then as we planned, we’ll wait for the Piper to show up at the conference hall.”
And so, Lelei took up her staff, Rory reached for her halberd and Tuka took up her bow.
Itami slung his rifle over his shoulder and looked at everyone.
“Are we ready?”
And so, everyone set out from the Reader’s Rest. However, Shandy made a feeble protest.
“Ehhh~ I just came back, I haven’t had breakfast yet, And my clothes are sweaty. At least let me change my underclothes, I’m tired~”
“Crap… she’s right.”
Itami was baffled about what he should do.
If Shandy were a subordinate from the JSDF, he could simply end the matter by saying, “Let’s go.”
If it were Tuka or Rory, he might be able to urge them on by saying, “come on”. However, Shandy was just an outsider trying to help. In addition, she had spent four days working hard, so he did not want to push her too much.
Still, among all the people here, only Shandy had seen the Piper. Without her, they would not be able to find the Piper. Although the lads from the inn would help as well, frankly speaking, they would be of little use.
“If we don’t set out now, we’ll be late for the conference.”
After Yao spoke, Gray stepped forward, a severe look on his face.
“Shandy-dono, now is the time to persevere. Granted, it must be exhausting to perform several days of scouting and then sprint all the way back, but since the final battle is upon us, it only makes sense to take the field in this condition. Am I wrong, Itamy-dono?”
Itami nodded, going, “Hmm, yeah”. The servicemen of the JSDF had also received mental training of this sort.
And so, Shandy stood up, mumbling something along the lines of “sorry for being so selfish” as she lowered her head in apology. And then, she continued by saying that they would stick to the plan, despite her tired face. The opinion of Itami and the others towards her went up by several notches.
Soon, they arrived at the first floor lobby of the inn. There, the inn’s boys were preparing to set out.
“Ah, good morning.”
“So, it’s the day. Then, please follow our plan. Do you have the plate on?”
“We’ll be making a move first, to see if the Piper shows up.”
The group was grateful to them, but at the same time the boys made them feel a little uncomfortable.
That said, it would be better to have their help to catch the Piper if he showed up there. In addition, since they wanted to help, it would be better to let them do so. As such, Itami and the others did not point out they had been tricked again. All they could do was watch the inn boys silently as they said, “All right, we’re going.”
The hall of the Board of Examiners was only a short distance from the Reader’s Rest.
While it would be better to use the HMV and its superior mobility under these circumstances when they might be attacked by assassins at any time, Lelei would be delayed if they were bogged down in a jam like they had a few days ago. In addition, there were limited places to park at their destination, and if they walked, they could reduce the chances of danger even if something happened.
While they were on the road, Itami took the opportunity to ask Lelei a question that he had been thinking about for some time now.
That was to say: since she had already gained a high degree of fluency in Japanese, she possessed a laptop, and there was Internet access at Arnus, why did she not just help herself to the many insights available on the Internet and thus revolutionize this world?
“Lelei, I’m impressed by how dignified you are. It’s one thing to not plagiarize other’s findings, but there’s something else there which lends to that as well.”
To this point, Lelei replied:
“As an apprentice, the first thing I learned from Master Kato was that knowledge can affect people in various ways.”
This could also be compared to the development of astronomy.
The rain and clouds retreated, the crops ripened, the tree branches were heavy with fruit, and it was the harvest season.
With the aid of the Earth Mother Goddess, the god of agriculture made his bid to be the lord of the heavens.
Soon, the god of agriculture achieved victory.
In the old days, when people had no homes and wandered from place to place with a tatty piece of cloth around themselves, mankind looked to the starry night sky and slept with their backs to the earth.
The constellations and galaxies in the sky evoked wonder. And in turn, they used those celestial phenomena as the background for strange and fantastic stories. Soon, the tales of the stars became linked to the seasons. Once they developed proper agriculture, the stories of mankind grew more complex and detailed.
For instance, they said that the kind god of agriculture was in the sky during planting season.
However, the god of torrential rain appeared alongside him, and they waged an intense battle in the heavens. Amidst the booming of thunder and the windstorms which blew everything away, the kind-hearted god of agriculture was vanquished and forced to flee to the west.
And then, the god of rain ruled upon the celestial throne for a time.
It just so happened that it was the rainy season. The days without the sun dragged on. However, it had to be endured, because it was only for a short time.
Thus, humans attempted to understand the link between astronomy and the seasons by inventing myths.
However, the Sages worked ceaselessly to understand the movement of the stars and the principles by which they operated.
The fruit of many meticulous observations resulted in the creation of the calendar. And then, the budding field of astronomy became a separate field of study in its own right, taking an important place in the world of science. And then, about 2500 years ago, they discovered an important fact. This fact ― that the world was round ― overturned all the hypotheses of the past.
The gods of this world did not talk about how the world and all the things within it were created. They simply waited silently for those mysteries to be unravelled. Therefore, the simple-minded folk believed that the sun had suddenly appeared over a flat earth, and the Sages of the past used that assumption as the basis for their understanding of the world.
For instance, the equator was directly under the sun’s path of travel, so it was natural that these places should be warmer, while one travelled further away from the sun the further north one went, and so the lands there were colder. In addition, the angle formed between the earth and the sun was smaller.
And so, the Sages answered the questions posed about the world in this manner.
Then, at some point, the astronomer Passol had the idea of taking the triangulation techniques used in creating maps and applying it to the problem of measuring the exact distance between the earth and the sun. He sent his disciples to seven different locations in the north and south, and at the same time of the same day, they measured the angle between the earth and the sun.
The conclusions were quite surprising.
After compiling the measurements from the seven locations, the distance from the earth to the sun still could not be calculated.
At first, he thought there had been some sort of mistake, so he decided to increase the number of measurement points from seven to 14. However, the number of variations only increased with the number of readings he took. The further away the measurement point, the bigger the discrepancy in the readings.
He spent several months mulling over these results. In the end, he hit on a terrifying possibility. The further he went to make his measurements, the more distorted the earth was… which meant that the surface of the earth was a gigantic curve which, when extended indefinitely, would eventually meet somewhere. And thus his round-earth theory was born.
The people were filled with shock and fear after hearing Passol cautiously present his thoughts.
If they accepted his words, then that would imply the spherical earth was floating in the heavens without any support. The simple-minded masses found it very difficult to believe this. In addition, if the earth really was round, then the people at the edges ― no, not just the people, all buildings, plants and animals ― would slide off the sides. In fact, the earth had nothing to support it, so it would fall as well. If they were currently falling, then what lay ahead of them? In fact, what were they falling towards?!
The people envisioned everything on the horizon falling away, followed by scenes of destruction.
They imagined the land shattering, like how a fruit would squash against the ground.
Londel’s halls of academia were besieged by people wielding hoes and shovels.
The people were furious at the theory of the earth being round, and they demanded that the academics state that their measurements and evidence were wrong. While Passol and his friends were not to blame, the people mistakenly believed that their findings would destroy the world.
Knowledge could change one’s view of the world. If it was not handled properly, it would lead to massive public outcry. The Sages immediately discovered that this could happen in the right time and place.
The crowd shouted angrily and hammered on the doors to the conference hall, seeking to break them down.
Amidst this storm of anger, the Sages continued presenting the details of their findings without distorting them, despite their fear. This was the resolve of the Sages. Therefore, they announced to the public:
“Although the world is a sphere, it will not be falling anywhere. This is because the land where we live is the center of the world. Below us, there is something like a seed in the core of this spherical world. Therefore, the earth will not move, and it will never falter. Everyone can live in peace upon the surface of our Mother Earth.”
This was a lie. They had made it up out of whole cloth, without a shred of supporting evidence.
The Sages ― who were obliged to use the sword of wisdom to eradicate the darkness of ignorance ― had now pulled the wool over the peoples’ eyes. However, to the people of the time, their lies were more important than the truth. There was a saying that a frog in a well did not know how wide the ocean was, but the frog could never survive in that ocean anyway. It would drown in its vast waters. It simply could not grow enough physically to survive the size of the world. Therefore, the people chose to keep themselves in the darkness of the well. In other words, the people wanted to be told lies. This was progress to them.
Knowing that the land they lived on was the center of the world made them feel like they were beings who ruled the world. This line of thinking satisfied their pride, and allowed them to escape the cruelty of reality.
“I trembled in fear when I read that thesis in the night.”
The young Lelei had often imagined herself delivering that great discovery, and then being drowned in the shouts of an angry mob and beaten with clubs.
“A Sage has to consider what their inventions and discoveries can give the people. I wish to present on how to make explosions with magic. Therefore, even if it is far-reaching, it still has its limits. In that way, I satisfied my own desires. However, we should not venture further ahead than this. I understand that the theory was originally intended to be put into practice with gunpowder. Since I know the effectiveness of gunpowder, I can imagine what the use of that would be like. However, I also know what happens when gunpowder is used for evil, and it frightens me. The JSDF fights with gunpowder, after all. In addition, as long as the Gate of Arnus remains open, sooner or later, the people will learn how to make gunpowder, and how to use it. Even so, I can’t bring myself to do it.”
After Lelei finished, she rounded her shoulders, muttering something about “you can look down on me for being weak if you want”.
Of course, Itami would not treat her that way. Once they mastered gunpowder, humanity would naturally seek greater power. Itami could easily imagine the endpoint of that search.
Rory and Tuka, who were listening from behind, smiled and nodded, saying that things were fine as they were now..
“Because, someday you’ll want to research the topic too, Lelei…”
Those words sounded like they were trying to shove away something troublesome and apologize at the same time. To Itami, he was quite interested in what would happen if Lelei explained how to make gunpowder, but after seeing Rory’s wicked smile ― completely at odds with her gentle words, he did not dare pursue the subject any further.
The conference hall was already packed with apprentices, even before the conference had started.
They pushed through the omnipresent Sages and apprentices until they reached the entrance of the conference hall, where Mimoza and Lelei’s adoptive elder sister Arpeggio were waiting.
“You’re late, Lelei!”
It would seem the two of them were waiting for Lelei.
The nearby apprentices seemed to have quietened down and began looking around, probably because they had heard Arpeggio’s voice. And then, whispers of “So that’s the legendary…” and “She’s so young” and so on began floating around.
It would seem Lelei’s reputation had preceded her.
“Well, that’s only to be expected, right? It would be strange if someone aiming for Sagehood at such a young age didn’t become the talk of the town.”
As Arpeggio said that, she took a handful of Lelei’s pure white robe.
“Huh, so you managed to make it in time.”
“Because of you, we had to make another.”
Mimoza laughed as though she had played a prank.
“The news of Lelei slaying the Flame Dragon has spread far and wide. Alfie, all you do is say mean things. Weren’t you acting all proud and all until just now because of her?”
“Mimoza-roshi! Didn’t I tell you not to talk about that?!”
“Ara, is something wrong? Then, would it be better to say that you took out the robe you had treasured and kept for so long because you were afraid Lelei’s robe wouldn’t be done in time? Or maybe I should say that you burned the midnight oil to shorten the robe for her?”
When they looked over, they saw the red-faced Arpeggio hiding something behind her back. That must have been the precious thing Mimoza was talking about.
“Ro, roshi! Isn’t that just revealing everything?”
“Ara, sorry about that. It just slipped out. Oh my, the tongue gets so loose once you get old.”
“So once you’re old enough you can say anything you want?! I’ve told you before… not even if you make it sound cute! It’s thought crime, no matter how you look at it!”
Arpeggio’s face flushed red as she protested.
However, her teacher simply took it as it came, paying it no heed as she chuckled. And then, Arpeggio’s voice grew louder in response.
This carried on for a while, but Arpeggio would not let the matter go, until a skinny male Elf stood up and poked Arpeggio’s shoulder.
“Alfie-san, Alfie-san. Everyone’s watching. It might be better to stop it here.”
“Will you shut up, Flat!”
After that merciless rebuke, the male Elf could only lower his head glumly.
Arpeggio turned away from the male Elf and toward Mimoza. She then began going on and on about the gravitas of an elder sister and maintaining the proper order of the family and so on.
On the other hand, Itami’s attention went to the male Elf which Arpeggio had rejected.
“Who’s that guy?” “So there’s Elves among the apprentices,” and “What’s his relationship to Alfie?” Questions like these bubbled up in Itami’s mind. Of course, Arpeggio paid him no heed, but at the very least, he was someone that she permitted to touch her shoulder.
“Ah, my name is Flat El Coda. Pleased to meet you.”
He must have sensed everyone looking at him, so the male Elf began by introducing himself.
“Are you Lelei-san? I’m pleased to meet you. I’ve heard much about you from Alfie-san. Being able to present to the Sages at the board of examination at such a young age is an amazing feat. When I was 16 I was still idling around in my home village… also, like I said, the news of slaying the Flame Dragon has begun to spread too. It’s the talk of the town. For all we know, it might be the talk of the continent. If it’s true, then you must be a true hero. I take my hat off to you.”
“Well, the rumor about the Flame Dragon is somewhat falsified, so allow me to correct you on that account. The ones who fought the Flame Dragon head on were Itami and Yao over here, as well as the deceased Crow, Meto, Ban, Fan, Nokk, Kom, Seimy and Nayu. Tuka was the one who delivered the finishing blow. All I did was rain attacks on the Flame Dragon.”
Tuka added, “I, I only woke at the end,” and then lowered her reddened face.
Yao teared up as Lelei recited the names of her fallen friends without missing a single one.
“You’re all amazing. Tuka-san, Yao-san, thank you for what you’ve done. As a fellow Elf, I’m proud of you. Since all I can do is be a researcher, I can only give you my respect.”
“And by researcher he means…?”
Lelei looked to Itami as she answered him.
“It usually means a Sage who doesn’t use magic.”
As she said that, Flat went “hahaha” to fill the silence.
“Well, it’s not that I can’t use it, but I choose not to. Elves can only use spirit magic. However, it’s not right to experiment with and analyze spirit magic.”
“Magic is just a tool. I believe there are many Sages who do not use magic, but who have still left many great accomplishments behind.”
“Still, the number of fields in which you can conduct research are limited. There are also limits to the methods one can use to observe and analyze.”
“Forgive me, but what is your specialty?”
Flat replied, “Astronomy.”
Having just heard the trials and travails of the development of astronomy, Itami began pitying him. As he saw this, Flat had a worried expression on his face, as though he had done something wrong. Lelei noticed, and felt like she had to explain Itami’s reaction, so she said:
“I told him about the history of astronomy, in particular, Passol’s Round Earth Theory…”
Halfway through that, Flat laughed at himself. He seemed to have understood something.
“It’s fine. Recently, there haven’t been any developments which would lead to me being bashed all sides.”
“Mm. This field occasionally requires one to put one’s life on the line. Still, I’m confident I can convince everybody.”
Flats clenched his fists as he began talking about the latest developments in astronomy.
After Passol, there were other matters which could shake the world in astronomy. One of them was Mochrie’s “Heliocentric Theory”.
With the advancements in the observation of the heavens, they had learned that there were many kinds of celestial bodies which sparkled brightly in the night sky. Among them was a class of stars which could move and which dazzled those who looked upon them, called planets.
The results of their observation revealed four of these “planets” in the sky; one red, one yellow, one blue, and one white. Much like sun and moon, they were confirmed to be celestial bodies which orbited the earth which was the center of the universe. However, that explanation could not satisfactorily explain oddities in the way the planets moved.
At times, they observed the planets in the southern part of the sky moving from the west to the east. However, at other times, they saw them moving from the east to the west, in reverse. This change was most obvious in the red and yellow planets, but the blue and white planets also showed similar variations. All this was learned from studying hundreds of years of observational records.
This was how the astronomers of the time explained that phenomenon:
All the planets were suspended in a transparent sphere, which explained how they had so many different ways of revolving around the earth. In addition, this would also explain why the planets were seen to be moving in reverse, or why their positions changed in the sky.
In truth, observation equipment and techniques back then were of a low grade, so they could not elaborate on that problem. They wrote it off as an acceptable degree of error.
However, with improved observation technology, they could not accept these difficult-to-explain phenomena. Therefore, the astronomer Mochrie devised a new paradigm through which to view the world.
In the end, what he came up with was the “Heliocentric Theory”.
“The world upon which we live is similar to the other four planets, orbiting around the sun. This theory adequately explains the reason why the other planets are seen to be moving backward from time to time. In other words, this is the result of our planet’s rotation around the sun catching up with and surpassing that of other planets.”
Of course, that line of thinking generated an enormous backlash.
The earth did not move. The earth could not move. This was a fact that had been firmly grounded in the hearts of men ever since the Round Earth Theory had been born. In addition, it was not just the people, but many Sages who doubted the truth of Mochrie’s theory.
If the earth moved, then why was the moon not left behind?
In addition, if the earth spun around the sun, then why did the stars in the heavens not change in position or appearance? All these questions and more were still present in the Heliocentric Theory.
In order to answer those questions, Mochrie proceeded to go into further detail.
“A invisible principle, invisible to the naked eye, connects the earth to the moon. Thus, the moon will always follow the earth.”
However, many researchers immediately countered with: “You magic-users immediately jump to some invisible principle whenever you encounter something you can’t explain” and so on, while the magic-users said, “The invisible principles cannot normally affect the laws of physics. They can only do so within a specific bounded field generated by the magic principle.” In the end, they argued that this theory was not conclusive.
Japanese academic conferences ― for instance, those pertaining to medical matters ― were sponsored by pharmaceutical companies and the like, and they were held in high-class places like hotels. The attendees would wear name cards (with the names of the sponsors on them), pay a minimal attendance fee, which allowed them to take part in various gatherings within the conference, and breakfast and tea would be prepared for them as well. There was also a type of gathering called the luncheon seminar, which required its participants to attend briefings by certain pharmaceutical firms about their products, but served a free lunch to anyone who attended. In addition, one could also enjoy a luxurious buffet dinner by paying a nominal fee.
However, such sponsored conferences were few and far between. Most of them were run by the meager fees collected from their attendees and were concerned with the alarmingly small amount of funds available to them. Therefore, they were very spartan affairs.
The academic conferences in Londel were invariably of the quiet sort.
The conference hall was a very old building, and its pillars were starting to crack. The reception and other functions of the conference were handled by the apprentices. It felt a little like a school festival.
After whining to her heart’s content, Arpeggio asked Flat, “What do you plan to do today?”
To which he replied: “I plan to put forward the results of my research.”
“Does it have to do with the Heliocentric Theory?”
“Nope. I’m just reporting observations today.”
“Still, I found something interesting. Everyone will be surprised!”
The male Elf tapped a rolled-up manuscript as he said this.
“Well, it’ll be good if you successfully deliver your report. Good luck.”
Mimoza smiled and watched as Arpeggio lectured him with hints of resignation in her voice. Arpeggio seemed to be trying not to say something.
Sensing her teacher’s eyes on her, Arpeggio protested:
“What is it, roshi?”
“Oh, nothing. Well, it would make you angry.”
Arpeggio looked like she was about to throw a tantrum as Mimoza said that, but after Lelei asked “What?” from the side, Mimoza decided to disclose everything.
“Flat proposed to Alfie. The two of them have that kind of relationship.”
And then, this aged lady wrung her hands and squealed, “Kyaaa~” Rory and Tuka shuddered as they heard that utterly unfitting sound coming from her.
Incidentally, appearances aside, Mimoza was still the youngest of the three of them.
“Ro, roshi! I already rejected it! It’s an irrelevant relationship! Why do I have to marry this stupid Elf? I don’t even view him as a man, really! Wait, roshi, are you listening? This is your disciple speaking, oi!”
“...That kind of relationship. Got it?”
Despite Mimoza’s playful tone, Itami and the others understood completely.
“People who are submitting routine reports, please come this way~”
With that, Flat smiled uncomfortably and headed in that direction. In addition, another voice echoed from another direction.
“Those going before the Doctorate and Sage Board of Examiners, please gather here.”
And so, twelve to thirteen scholars headed in the direction of that sound. Apart from Lelei, only three other people, all men, were in white robes.
Looking over, they could see the staff explaining something to the gathered scholars.
In order to avoid getting in the way, Itami kept a distance from them, staying alert as he did so. Tuka, Rory and Yao dispersed, while Gray and Shandy scattered as well, watching their surroundings with wary eyes.
“I’ll go say hi to that gramps in the rest area~”
With that, Mimoza left, leaving Arpeggio alone. Because of that, she kept stealing glances at Itami. It would see she was very mindful of the being who enjoyed the privilege of being claimed as “mine” by her little sister.
Just as well. Itami called out to her, wanting to learn more about the conference.
“Arpeggio-san. Is there a fixed number of people who can pass the degree placement Board of Examination?”
Arpeggio seemed to relax a little when addressed by Itami, and approached him.
“No, it’s not. Sometimes everyone passes. Sometimes nobody does. Why do you ask?”
“Have you heard of an assassin called the Piper?”
“Mm, the one targeting Lelei, right? But would an assassin who manipulates others really show himself?”
As they were talking, Itami’s eyes were still on the scholars around Lelei.
Right now, the staff were having everyone draw straws. It might be to determine the order in which they gave their presentations.
“It’s just hearsay, but if he can manipulate people with just his words, he must be amazing. He would be an amazing con artist.”
“I don’t think it’s just words. Fancy words alone can’t make a person do that.”
“So that means having one of the people here be the assassin would be impossible, then?”
“Not possible. Everyone there is a scholar worthy of becoming a Doctor or a Sage. Perhaps mind-controlling magic would work on them, but not to such an extent. At the very most it could only intensify their emotions like joy, anger or sorrow.”
Itami muttered, “Magic, huh…” He had been with Lelei for a long time, but he was still an amateur in that field.
Therefore he began listing the possibilities, which did not involve magic use.
If there were only a fixed number of passes… the Piper could tell the ones hovering on the brink of passing “go kill that interfering person”. In fact, he would not need to tell the scholar to do it in person. Family members and lovers would do, as long as they would act rashly for the people they loved. That might even be a better approach.
“Well, if there were a fixed number of passes, that would certainly be a possibility.”
This struck a chord with Arpeggio. After all, she herself had challenged Lelei to a duel while caught in the throes of jealousy. Still, that had only been on the level of a squabble. She would not do something shameless like picking a fight with a stranger whose face she did not like, to say nothing of actually killing them.
“Still, the Board of Examiners bases its decision entirely on the candidate’s presentation. It’s not affected by the presence or absence of others. Therefore, there’s no need to worry about that,” Arpeggio said.
As they conversed, Itami’s vision suddenly lighted on a white-robed man who seemed to be in his fifties. He seemed to want to take a step forward, but in the end he drew back. He looked suspicious, and it seemed like he would be the last to make his presentation today.
At this moment, Itami’s imagination kicked into overdrive. While he was lazy by nature, he did not hold back when it came to imagining things. He recalled the contents of all the manga, light novels, fanfictions, and other 2D works he had read so far. With all the plot twists from them in mind, layered on top of common and uncommon sense, he began deconstructing the situation before him. And then, he added a pinch of the results of his counterterrorist training to taste.
Firstly, he assumed the Piper’s methods include those which would be familiar to people from Japan and this side of the Gate.
In other words, he would lie or cause a misunderstanding to make his mark feel persecuted or burn with righteous anger. If the Piper’s mark began feeling strongly about his target, then he would add some sort of sanity-destroying comment and push the mark forward. This was a common method used by dictatorships, extremist terrorists, or radical religious groups to inflame people's’ emotions. People acted on their emotions, which acted as a filter for the information they kept or disregarded, so inciting their emotions was the first step. Of course, magic could do the same too.
“Then, how about this? You can see parts of your research in the content of some other person’s research. For instance, if that person were Flat-san, and he went first, and what he presented sounded better…”
“...In-indeed, that might make people feel murderous. But they wouldn’t kill them. If it were me, I’d just give them a good thrashing.”
A good thrashing, huh. Itami blinked.
“Then, how about this? The valuable research you accumulated over months and years was stolen by someone you hate. You know who took it, and that they’re going to present it as their own. And then they’re standing quietly in front of you…”
“If it were me, I’d definitely, absolutely kill him. Nobody would take that lying down!”
Arpeggio thrust her chest forward and said so, without any hesitation.This was proof of how much scholars valued the incarnation of the sweat, blood and toil..
Therefore, Itami immediately drew his pistol, and pointed it at the fifty year old man who was waffling about behind Lelei.
“All right, stop right there. You’ve come all this way, but it would be better if you didn’t move. You wouldn’t want to shorten your twilight years even further, wouldn’t you? There’s many other happy things awaiting you in life. Well, probably…”
It was a clumsy warning, but it was a firm one. Still, the man’s body stiffened up. There was probably a degree of guilt within his shock. As such, the knife he was holding fell from his hand, spinning on the stone floor.
“I, it, it’s not my fault! It’s that little minx who stole my research!”
Suddenly, all eyes focused on the man blurting out that excuse.
“...In any case, how could a little girl like that produce the research necessary for a Sage’s board of examination?! She must have stolen my research! It’s because of people like that honest researchers like myself have such a hard time! The conferences now are rotten through!”
Itami said, “You should probably talk about this elsewhere,” and handed the rest off to Gray. “He was merely tricked, so please listen carefully to his story. Yao, go help Gray-san.”
Thus, Gray and Yao took the man away.
“I was just trying to protect my research! I hate women!”
The sounds coming from so far away seemed rather pitiful.
In any event, that man had been duped.
Under the eyes of the conference staff and many tutors, Lelei revealed the contents of her report to that man, and confirmed that they were covering completely different fields. The man understood that he had been deliberately misled.
It would seem that man had failed the Sage examination board many times, so he was filled with the determination to pass. In addition, he resented his own long years of research. And he disliked women. Therefore, he had been chosen as a mark by the Piper.
It was a pretty ingenious scheme.
Firstly, a thief had broken into his lab. Just as he was about to breathe a sigh of relief that nothing had been stolen, someone had come and kindly said, “They stole your research”, and thus the Piper went to work. That kind man pulled out several bits of evidence that proved his research had been stolen (probably spied out when he had sneaked into the lab). After that, when he understood the basics of the research which had been stolen, he said, “There’s a woman who wants to present your research as her own.”
“If I complained that someone else stole the research, wouldn’t that be the end of things?”
He replied calmly then, but then he heard the reply, “Isn’t it first-come-first-serve when presenting research at conferences? All she’d have to say is that she coincidentally decided to cover the same topic and you’d be the one who was finished,” and then he saw red. After that, he overlooked all the tiny contradictions and small details he would otherwise have spotted.
“Your only hope is the drawing of straws on the day itself to decide who presents in which order. If you can present before that girl, you can turn things around, and it’ll be fine. So you’d better pray the staff haven’t been paid off.”
The trick was that the Piper did not plunge the man into absolute despair. By leaving him a handful of hope and then poisoning him with doubt, his intense unease would make him defy his better judgement. In addition, the Piper had skilfully played on the man’s resentment and hardships in his daily life, as well as his dissatisfaction with the academic conferences. When his last hope of drawing straws did not work out, it made him think that this had all been part of a conspiracy against him.
“That little thief, that wretched woman! If I don’t deal with her quickly, my chances at the conference are doomed!”
And so, his righteous anger and his personal frustration blended together and pushed him into action, to the point where he was tightly gripping the knife within his robe.
As he got to that part, Itami thought, What, you couldn’t stop to make sure?
However, people driven by emotion would probably be as reckless as that. This was possibly why crimes of passion could not be completely eradicated.
The man, who knew that he had done something unforgivable, said that he would give up on this conference and would try again in the next one, and then he headed home. Although he had been holding a knife and standing near Lelei, he had not done anything else, so he was not guilty of anything. However, his back looked like it had been scorched black as he departed lifelessly.
(TL Note: This seems to be a reference to a line from Hayate the Combat Butler: 背中煤けてるぜ, said while playing cards)
The conference began after the person in charge of the conference greeted them.
The lectures and dissertations on new discoveries and fantastic findings came one after the other.
After that, the Doctorate placement examinations began, with the candidate surrounded by the board of examiners on all sides. This was a tradition which had been handed down through the ages, and so Flat El Coda’s presentation was scheduled before it was Lelei’s turn.
During the Sage placement examination before him, several bottles of ink flew through the air, dying the speaker red, yellow, green and other colors before he scampered off on his hands and feet. Perhaps it was because he had personally witnessed that pathetic sight, but the tall and skinny male Elf cringed and trembled behind the stage.
Itami felt some sort of unspoken empathy for him when he saw the man in that state, so Itami, who was accompanying Lelei backstage, decided to address him, in order to help relieve the tension that was knotting him up.
“I heard from one of my companions that Elves don’t have mentors. Are there other Elves like you, Flat-san?”
“No, there’s nobody else like me. I’m just a strange person. I don’t need a degree, but when I talk about certain things, having a degree is more convincing.”
Flat seemed to have relaxed a little.
However, Lelei did not look good at all. She seemed even paler than before in Itami’s eyes. He thought of her a pale-skinned girl under normal circumstances, but somehow she had managed to lose even more color than before. Well, when he thought of someone as very pale, they would probably still have the red of blood under their skin to give them a little warmth. However, the tension of being made to present soon made her look like a white porcelain doll.
Itami looked over to the raucous conference hall.
Tuka and Gray were on both sides of the stage, while the team of Yao and Rory watched the crowds. As he looked through the hall, he found that the boys from the Reader’s Rest were checking the audience to see which of them was the Piper. They had been completely taken in by that Nora woman’s words, so they were certain the enemy was in the audience. In contrast, Shandy was hiding. She felt that the enemy would attack them from behind, so she decided to stay on alert elsewhere.
However, a troubling situation had arisen.
The mentors carrying out the examination were already palming and fingering the ink bottles which they would throw if the presentation was a poor one. It made him wonder if this was an actual, rigorous examination, given the air of playfulness with which they did it.
From a security point of view, it was impossible to rule out the possibility of the ink bottles containing anything dangerous (in addition, thrown ink bottles were almost always dangerous).
If they threw the bottles, they would need to pull Lelei back.
“It’s fine. The mentors won’t throw them.”
This was what Lelei had concluded. It was very difficult to quash one’s unease with willpower and put on a confident facade. Therefore, Itami patted Lelei’s reliable-looking back.
“If you can pull it off, it’ll be good for me too. I’m counting on you.”
However, Flat walked back to them, a despondent look on his face.
“Lelei-san, you’re so confident… I’m about to run away because of my nerves.”
“You’re not being examined, just present in a relaxed way.”
“...Well, you say that, but my personality won’t let me do it.”
“You won’t be able to win Nee-san’s heart like that. Work harder.”
Flat nodded earnestly to his future little sister-in-law, and then after the staff who had finished the cleanup gave him the signal, he stepped onto the stage.
When the crestfallen male Elf showed his face, the Sages present wondered what sort of baseless speculation the astronomers were going to bring forward again, and went on alert.
In the past, he had attempted to state that “The world’s core revolves around the sun” or some other nonsense in an attempt to address the flaws in the Heliocentric Theory.
Of course, everyone present had shouted him down, and all he could do was step down.
He had also put forward the theory that the heart of the sun was clouds and the core of the earth was alive and spinning, and had been criticised for the irresponsibility of his words. Still, despite the many hostile glares directed at him, Flat El Coda delivered his half-hour presentation, which amounted to “so and so existed, thus the earth is distorted.”
The Sages in attendance had been tense at first because they thought it had something to do with the Heliocentric Theory, and then they relaxed. However, most of them had baffled expressions on their faces, as if to say “What is this fellow on about?” Even if he said the world was twisted, they could not understand what he was trying to say.
Even the person who understood him best, Arpeggio, grumbled like she was spitting something out.
“As everyone knows, I have been ceaselessly conducting research on the baseless Heliocentric Theory. Therefore, I have been continuously observing the celestial bodies. However, recently, I mixed up the coordinates of the object I was observing with that of another celestial body. I confused the White Planet with the star Vulpeculae.
As the Sages heard this, they let out a collective sigh.
A scholar who specialized in astronomy would not do something like confuse one celestial body for another. This might even go so far as to call every single thing he had presented into question.
“However, the reason was because the Vulpeculae went through some unexplainable movements. Please observe.”
The, Flat sketched the results of his observations onto the blackboard behind him with a piece of chalk.
He showed that at the same time of every month (the 5th month, the 6th month…), the Celestial Fox Star was slowly shifting its position with respect to the Big Dipper.
This was a natural phenomenon that accompanied the changing of the seasons.
The rainy season had its own sky, the dry season had its own sky as well. But over the 7th, the 8th, the 9th, the 10th months, as time went on, other abnormalities began showing themselves. As it moved in a direction that was different from the direction in which it should have gone, he accidentally mixed it up with the White Planet.
“And so, once I realised that I had I confused the two celestial bodies, I immediately looked for the original White Planet. And this is what I found.”
He sketched the movements of the White Planet, which had travelled in an abnormal direction, much as Vulpeculae had.
Although the planets were named thus because they moved in mesmerizing ways, their orbits had been clearly mapped out over long years of study. No matter what, they could not have deviated so greatly from their paths.
(TL Note: In Japanese, planets are called 惑星 and the mesmerism/confusion of which they speak is 迷惑. )
“As I thought about this, I decided to record the activities of all the nearby celestial bodies, and after I observed how they moved over the months, I came to my conclusion,” Flat stated. If the heavenly bodies were like a piece of cloth, the cloth was now crumpled up and pressed together.
When the stars’ orbits ran into the wrinkles of the cloth, they would be affected by the distortions and shift toward the southwest direction, and after passing through those wrinkles they would resume their normal orbits. In other words, part of the sky was distorted. This was what Flat meant by “the world is distorted”.
“I have not found any examples of this sort of behavior within the historical examples I could access. In addition, this distortion phenomenon seems to be growing and expanding with every day which passes. Currently, it can only be discovered through careful observation, but before long, you should be able to see the familiar constellations of the southwest sky bunching up.”
Of course, he was questioned by the floor.
“Could that be because your observation equipment is too old, or broken?”
“Honestly speaking, they are quite old, because I can’t afford new instruments. However, I do not think they are the reason for these results. I believe it is something more esoteric than that.”
“Could it have been a mirage of some sort?”
Mirages were phenomena which occured in deserts an on the sea, where distant cities and islands seemed to appear on the horizon. Everyone knew of these things and research had been done into them.
“For several months?”
Mirages were caused by the weather. The difference in temperature between the earth or sea and the air caused light to bend, so they knew that mirages would not appear in the sky. Similarly, that theory was not very persuasive even if you factored in the effects of the weather and clouds.
“As I thought of what they might portend, I performed various forms of investigations, and then the earth shook. I feel that all these occurrences must be linked somehow. I hope everyone will pay attention to the night sky. If we can explain these phenomena, I feel we will be able to become closer to the secrets of the fundamental forces of the world. Thus I conclude my report…”
And after he was done, Flat returned backstage.
His exit was marked by the sound of clapping. Much of the audience was relieved by his meticulous, calm presentation. As a result, none of them knew that the idea he had put forth, that “the world is distorted” would soon bring about a tremendous upheaval.
“All right… it’s finally your turn, Lelei.”
As Itami said that, Lelei did not take a deep breath, or coax herself to be brave in front of her audience, but simply walked up onto the stage without any further ado.
Just then, a woman rose from the audience and walked toward the stage.
“Cheh… if only you could have waited until the end of the presentation.”
Itami grabbed his pistol and gave the signal. The boys on standby gave the “she’s okay” signal, so it would seem this woman was Nora.
Nora was holding a small dagger in her hand, but it would seem this was all just as planned.
The inn boys believed it was just an act and that Lelei would not come to harm. Itami, on the other hand, felt that she would try to kill Lelei as part of her act.
“Everyone sees Lelei as a hero, so if she’s being marked for assassination because someone’s got a grudge against her, then it would be best for the assassin to strike before she gains the title of Sage.”
As Itami grumbled to himself, Lelei waited on the stage for Nora to approach her.
To Itami, the woman appeared to be acting according to plan. She was closing in on the stage and was about to deliver a direct attack. So he had to get there before she made her move.
However, Nora sneered, and then she crouched to make a move he had not expected. She jumped while she was still some distance away from Lelei. Itami had underestimated the athletic ability of the Beastmen races.
Itami readied his pistol.
Tuka, Yao and Shandy ran over to protect Lelei, but because they were taken by surprise, they were a fraction of a second too late. The cruel blade closed in on the defenseless Lelei.
In this way, her plan would have failed. But in truth, it would have succeeded.
However, Nora’s biggest miscalculation was the city of Londel. The fact that Lelei was being targeted for assassination was now the talk of the town.
In other words, as Nora began pouncing on Lelei, the question everyone had in their hearts ― “Oi, oi, is this what they said would happen?” ― as they looked suspiciously at Nora was answered. And if she was there… if she made any false moves in a conference hall packed full of mages...
From all directions, balls of light, arrows of wind, magically guided stone shards, boulders, chakrams, and even thrown daggers rained down on Nora. And then, before anyone knew it, the woman’s broken body collapsed to the ground.
The boys of the Reader’s Rest nervously ran over to Nora, to carry her to the physicians.
On the other hand, Itami and the others were frozen in shock. This soon became depression as they realized how they had failed her.
And then, the mages surrounding them realised the unshakable truth, that even Itami could have died in an instant.
“...How shall I say this, but isn’t it a little too much?”
One could compare this to a pervert sneaking into a concert for a prank, and after bluffing the guards and drawing close to the stage, he turned around and discovered that everyone in the audience was a cop, so frightening it was
Even so, at least they could stop worrying about Lelei’s assassination. If anyone other than the Piper had snuck into the conference hall, they probably would not make their move after this.
“Well, it should be fine, then.”
Itami pulled himself together and returned backstage.
Tuka and Yao, who had rushed out to cover Lelei, returned to their original places so as not to disrupt the presentation.
Shandy, who had come a little later, raised her hand as though to cheer Lelei on. And then, as the hand came down, she plunged a short sword into Lelei’s chest.
Volume 5 End