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A Particular West Mage: Operation Tonbogiri
Author's note: I was inspired to write a story about magic when I was reading a Japanese Manga called "Negima! Magister Magi Negi" by Ken Kenmatsu. The intense plots, characters both good and evil, and the uses of magic and martial arts really inspired me because I love actioin-packed stories along with lots of good humor.
It was a cold Thursday in New York City when something big happened. The city was bustling with activities as they raced through the snow. Suddenly, an explosion sent a huge smokestack into the sky. All activities were stopped as sirens rang out.
The explosion was located within a small pub beside a supermarket. It was in shambles as fire raged everywhere and people running for their lives. Amongst the panic, there stood three figures.
Fate Avogadro was one, watching the figure opposite him. He was just a 14-year-old boy with silver hair, green eyes, scrawny, and wore gray clothing. A small brown notepad with an X-design in the middle loomed about his neck. And he wore a simple green ring on his left ring finger.
“Listen,” Fate said to the person beside him. “This will be a real-life battle. Are you prepared, Taylor?” The other person was a boy his age with windblown brown hair, a band-aided nose, and was hidden in a large white coat. Taylor was a freshly-graduated magician, and Fate was assigned to show him a real-life battle.
Seeing Taylor nodded nervously, Fate continued. “The wizard in front is Auttenburg of Sweden, a notorious mage for his escapist art and wind magic. The first thing you do is call out like this: Just give up and come quietly.”
Auttenburg grinned. He was a skinny man with graying hair, a growing beard, bushy eyebrows, and several yellowing teeth. Auttenburg was dressed in a fleece jacket, two sweaters and a Tee, and thick sweats with heavy combat boots. His hands were in his pockets.
Shrugging, Auttenburg said, “So, what if I did? The feds aren’t going to get me anywhere. I’ll always escape!”
“The next thing is to get information from him while engaged in conversation,” he said to Taylor. “Tell me where you hid the bomb,” Fate said to Auttenburg. “If you do not, I’ll—“Before he could finish, Auttenburg pulled out an iron amulet and aimed it at him. Suddenly, the wind increased from a gentle breeze to a violent storm. The falling snow became a blizzard.
“Die in the wind, Arrows of Air x 10!” Auttenburg shouted as he swiped the amulet around. A white magic circle—in the form of the Star of David—appeared in front of him as the wind gathered around it. Then the magic circle shot ten bright arrows, made of air, at Fate and Taylor.
Fate’s notepad shined a bright green light as a green magic circle—another Star of David—appeared. The ground cracked into spidery patterns, and a giant boulder rose to the air, forming into a cone with the tip facing Auttenburg. The Arrows of Air smashed into his defense, splitting it apart before they dispersed back to a gentle breeze.
Auttenburg looked impressed. “So, you’re an Earth user, but that’s not going to cut you some slacks from me! Die in the wind, Arrows of Air x 99!” A white magic circle appeared once more, gathering up the wind. Then it blasted Arrows of Air at Fate.
Fate’s notepad shined again. A green magic circled appeared in front of him as the ground cracked and a thick slate of rock rose to the air. It blocked them from the Arrows of Air, breaking as more hits it.
Turning to Taylor, Fate said, “You need to inspect your opponent's attacks while on defense. From the looks, he’s a North Mage, who uses an amulet as his source of power. We, West Mages, use gremoires”—he pointed to his notepad.
Seeing Taylor’s confused look, he explained. “A gremoire is a small spell book that concentrates our energy for our usage. A North Mage’s amulets do the same thing…only it converts the surrounding energy for the mage to use.”
“Ha,” Auttenburg exclaimed in triumph. “Your shield isn’t going to hold anymore! Die in the wind, Torrent Blizzard!” A large white magic circle floated above his amulet, collecting wind incredibly fast. Then it blasted a powerful gust of icy wind at Fate and Taylor.
As Taylor whimpered out, Fate raised his right hand while a green magic circle floated in front. The blasts of wind broke through his slate of rock and collided with Fate’s right palm, but it was repelled as an invisible barrier shattered like glass.
“A mage must be efficient in other magic as well as his affinity element,” he said to Taylor, who hid behind his back. “I am skilled in both earth and barrier-making magic.”
Seeing that his attack missed, Auttenburg snarled. “I missed? That must’ve been a fluke! Die in the wind, Torrent Blizzard!” A second time, his attack charged at Fate and Taylor.
Shaking his head, Fate said, “Shield of Mars arises.” A small green magic circle appeared behind him and enlarged a hundred times its original size. A giant black knight rose out of the ground, coming waist up. It was as tall as a ten-story building. Its right hand held a medieval sword while the left arm bore a Roman shield. It crouched and placed the shield in front of Fate and Taylor, shielding the blast.
“T-That’s crazy,” Auttenburg said, seeing the display of magic. “Y-You can summon a God’s Artifact? I-I-I…I won’t lose to a kid! Die in the wind, Torrent Blizzard!” His Torrent Blizzard charged at them a third time.
Flexing his right hand, Fate forced his Shield of Mars back to the earth. Pointing to the ground, Fate said, “Cardinal Point, behind Auttenburg.” A green magic circle appeared beneath him, and the earth swallowed both Fate and Taylor, spitting them back out behind Auttenburg.
Before Auttenburg could react, Fate aimed a palm at Auttenburg’s back. “Die in the wind, Torrent Blizzard.” A white magic circle floated in front of Fate’s hand, and like Auttenburg’s, the magic circle collected wind and blasted a powerful gust. The attack sent Auttenburg flying in the air. Fate flexed his right hand, and the knight appeared, swiping its shield in an arc, slamming Auttenburg back to the ground. Auttenburg crash-landed like a rocket without any safety precautions.
Auttenburg could barely move since a lot of his bones were broken. Soon, he lost consciousness. The black knight shrank to half of its size, bent over and carried Auttenburg. Picking up Auttenburg’s amulet, Fate said, “Like a West Mage, a North Mage is render powerless if you destroy their amulet.” He crushed the amulet in his left hand. “Also, a West Mage always fight long distances, but they can also be in close combat if you have Shadows—partners—or if you’re skilled. Do you have any questions on your first day?”
Swallowing a big lump, Taylor managed, “Y-Yes, how did you copy his Opening Words?”
Fate remained silent before answering. “To a mage, his Opening Words are the key to invoking a spell. What I did, you will never be able to do in your lifetime. If you don’t have any other questions, let’s head back to Headquarters.” With Taylor following him, Fate and his Shield of Mars went back with Auttenburg.
Suddenly, Taylor said, “But w-what about the bomb?”
Fate stopped dead in his tracks. Then he heard a beeping noise coming from Auttenburg’s body. Before he could react, a black magic circle loomed above Auttenburg, and then his body exploded. Everything turned black.
Fate sat in his Boss’s office, bearing a lecture. His Boss was an overweight man with gray eyes behind glasses and hairy features such as thick curly brown hair, mustache and beard, and body hair as well. He wore a coat over a blue striped shirt, thick slacks and work boots.
And…his Boss was ranting on and on. “You’re mission was to tag along with the boy and show him the daily work! Yet, you deliberately put yourself into a mission and caused a scene that wasn’t needed! And still, you managed to do more than that; you completely destroyed a large part of New York and more than a thousand citizens are injured! What do you think is going to happen to this place?”
Fate remained silent. He sat in his seat with his eyes looking down at his hands. Fate did managed to protect all the residents, covering them in a protective layer of sand, but he couldn’t do the same thing to the city.
His Boss sighed, lowering his temper. “Look, I know how you think. Taking a newbie into a mission and letting him see it is really smart. And I approve of your actions…but there’s something that’s holding you back, Fate. And that’s to report in. No mage ever does his job alone. Do you understand?”
Fate nodded. Suddenly, his Boss got off his comfy chair and went to a filing cabinet. After pulling out some files, he came back and sat, opening them for Fate to see. Fate skimmed through each one.
His Boss said, “The President wants you to resign from your post as a Mage Trooper in New York. But…I managed to convince him to give you this instead. From now on, you’re to cooperate with our Eastern Ally, Japan, on a top-secret mission.”
His Boss waited for Fate’s response. When he didn’t get one, he continued. “It appears that there’s a bomber on the loose, putting bombs into ordinary citizens and having them explode. The Bomb Squad from NYPD’s having trouble figuring out what it is. Apparently, Drew figured out that it’s a spell from the recorded videos she’s given. And as you’ve heard lately, there have been numerous suicide bombings and even a few that were unexpected.
“To top it off, there’s nothing in common with each host. Each one is a random person with different backgrounds. But there is something; whenever the bomb is activated, there appears a black Star of David above the host.”
When he heard that, Fate’s mind went to Auttenburg. “Yes, I did see something similar with Auttenburg. Does he have a connection?”
His Boss shrugged. “I can’t say for sure because so far, there’s been no one to remember. After each explosion, there seems to be some sort of memory loss like someone’s trying to put a lid on the number of eyewitnesses. And each time it happens, it’s always small explosions. This last one was the biggest one of all. I don’t know why, but it’s been happening at certain places in the world, especially in the Japan.”
“What’s my role in this?” Fate asked.
“Well, you’re the only one—besides Taylor—who remembers a thing from the explosion,” his Boss said. His Boss picked up a cigarette and lit it up; inhaling a lungful and puffing it back out. “Luckily, you put up your Sand Armor, and it somehow blocked out the spell that jacks up the mind. You’re earth magic is a really critical part in this mission. The President wanted you to resign, but like I said, I managed to convince him to put you in this because you’re the only one I know who will succeed.”
Staring at his Boss, Fate said, “You’re complimenting me, so I would forget about your debt.” When his Boss heard that, he choked, having to beat his chest to clear the smoke in his lungs. Fate shook his head. “I knew it. Even if you compliment me, I still wouldn’t forget about your debt of $500, Boss.”
“A-Anyway,” his Boss said, trying to regain his composure, “it’s already decided for you to leave in three days’ time! You don’t have a say in this; and you definitely can’t get away from it!” Thrusting the files into Fate’s hands, his Boss said, “Well, good luck. The East Mages will tell you more about your part when you arrive in Japan…and I’ll try to get that debt settled.” His Boss said that last part in a quiet whisper.
Accepting the files, Fate left the office and went home.
Inoue Kameyo sat with her twin brother, Kichirou, in the airport. They were assigned to pick up their friend, Kodama Madoka. Kameyo wondered what Madoka looked like. It has been three years since she moved to England.
Just the topic of Madoka moving back could East Mages boiled up because Madoka was a surprisingly powerful mage at her age. The magic organization in Japan, Twilight Emissary, likes to keep track of their mages’ ranks. So far, there were seven powerful mages in Asia, and Madoka was ranked as the sixth strongest.
Sitting beside her was her brother, looking at a guy’s magazine. He groaned. “Man, why did I get stuck with this? It’s bad enough that I’m still on probation!”
Kameyo tried to keep her brother calm. Even though they were twins, they didn’t look exactly alike. Kichirou was tall, muscular, and he didn’t even look 14 years old. Kichirou had short black hair, bushy eyebrows, and a thick jaw. And he wore a blue T-shirt, and jeans and tennis shoes. Beside him, Kichirou carried a ski bag, where he kept his wooden sword in.
Unlike her brother, Kameyo was a head shorter with long black hair down to her waist, fair skin, and large breasts that attracted too much attention. Many boys had tried to confess to her, but she usually turned them down because she didn’t have any self-confidence in herself. She wore a miko attire—a white kimono shirt and red baggy pants—because her parents owned a shrine, and she was a shrine maiden.
Suddenly, Kichirou started mumbling. “Why did I get stuck with this?”
“Kichirou, please stop,” she said, trying to calm him down. “She’ll be here in a few more minutes, and then we can go back home.” Kameyo was the elder of the two, but sometimes, she wished she wasn’t. “So, just stop it because you’re scaring the kids.”
Kichirou finally stopped, crossing his arms. “Fine, because you said so, Kameyo-oneesan.” Then he leaned back in his chair, groaning softly to himself still.
Before she could sit down, Kameyo heard a beaming shout. Looking at the terminals, she spotted her friend, Madoka, running towards them. She left her seat and ran to Madoka as well, embracing her. When they separated, the two girls looked at one another up and down.
They were 14-year-old girls, and before Madoka left, they were pretty much the same: they both had the same height, short hair, small chests, slim waists, and a skinny build. Now, Kameyo had extremely long hair, a couple inches taller, chest more developed, and a bit chubbier. Madoka still had her short brown hair with a hairclip above her left ear, a still developing chest, and still her skinny self. She was dressed in a Western-style school uniform: a white silk shirt inside a brown vest, and a short skirt down to mid-thigh with baggy stockings.
“You look the same, Madoka-chan,” Kameyo said, embracing her friend once more.
“You look like a fine young wife, Kameyo-chan,” Madoka said, causing Kameyo to blushed and stuttered. Madoka laughed softly. “I’m just teasing you, Kameyo-chan. Hey; I heard that both you and Kichirou-chan are Magicians now. Congratulations, you two!”
“Thank you very much,” Kichirou suddenly said, standing behind his sister. He towered above the two girls, and sort of blushed. He didn’t know what else to say after that. When he saw her luggage by her feet, he said, “H-Hey, I’ll carry that for you.”
“Oh,” Madoka said, feeling a bit uneasy around Kichirou. “Thanks a lot. Sorry to trouble you like this.”
Kichirou chuckled softly, rolling Madoka’s luggage around. It was surprisingly heavy. “D-Don’t worry, Kodama-chan. It’s what I’m here for. I’m glad that I was given this job.” He continued to chuckle.
Kameyo shook her head. A moment ago, he was cursing God why he was given this job, she remembered. Now, he was saying that he was glad? Kameyo just couldn’t understand men sometimes. After they got the rest of Madoka’s luggage, they began walking to the exit.
All of a sudden, a faint blue mist floated in the air. Each person the mist touches, that person fell asleep. Soon, everyone in the airport was fast asleep except for Kameyo, Kichirou, and Madoka who were struggling on their feet.
“This is the work of a Mage!” Kichirou shouted, pulling out his wooden sword. “Be careful, girls!”
On trembling feet, Kameyo reached for her cellphone, but the second it was in plain sight, a knife flew and struck it dead. She started looking around for the person who had thrown the knife. Slowly, her eyes picked out a figure in a friar’s robe at the end of the corridor, standing by the exit. “There, Kichirou,” she said, pointing at the figure.
“Right,” Kichirou declared, raising his wooden sword above his head, taking a fighting stance. With a quick glance at Madoka, he said, “By the winds, I call your name, Pivoting Swan!” A white magic circle appeared at the tip of his wooden sword as wind buffeted around him. Then he shot forward like a rocket, aiming straight for the figure.
Just when he was in reach, the figure jumped forward and blocked his attack with a gigantic sword that was the size of an adult. The figure swung his gigantic sword and sent Kichirou flying back. Kichirou landed on his feet while trying to shake off the trembling in his hands.
“That was a spectacular spell, kid,” said the figure with the sword. The figure had a deep masculine voice. When he took off the hood covering his head, he revealed himself as a fairly young man with blond hair oiled back, blue eyes, and a deeply thick jaw. His thick brown robe blocked out most of his features. Smiling, he said, “Let me introduce myself, I’m Laager, the Swordsman of—“
“I’m Inoue Kichirou!” Kichirou declared, taking a stance with his wooden sword curving down to his waist. “I’m an East Mage of Twilight Emissary, and I’m going to defeat you! By the winds, I call your name, Pelting Falcon!” The same process took place like before, and Kichirou shot out like a rocket. When he was in reach, Kichirou swung his wooden sword skyward in an arc. As Laager dodged it, Kichirou’s wooden blade cut off a piece of Laager’s robe. Then Kichirou spun around and sliced the wooden blade down on top of Laager’s head with the wind taking the form of a gray falcon. The next thing he knew, his wooden blade struck the ground while Laager wasn’t in sight.
Laager was beside him, unharmed. “Nice spell, kid. But it’s just for show. This is how a swordsman is supposed to fight. A fortiori, Spring of the Shark!” A blue magic circle floated above his giant sword as water spilled down and wrapped around his blade. Then he jumped and swung his giant sword at Kichirou.
Kichirou managed to block the swing with his wooden sword, but the water took the form of a shark. It charged at Kichirou, sent him flying back and crashing into the concrete walls. His wooden sword was broken, and he was heavily injured, just barely conscious.
Seeing Kichirou getting beaten, Kameyo took action. “By the winds, I pray to you, Arrows of Air x 10!” A white magic circle appeared before her hand, and it shot ten Arrows of Air at Father Laager.
“A fortiori, Spring of the Shark!” Laager called out, swinging his giant sword into the ground, where the water took the form of a shark once more. It charged straight into the Arrows of Air without difficulty. Then it headed straight for Kameyo.
Frozen in fear, Kameyo closed her eyes and waited for her impending doom. Suddenly, she heard Madoka’s scream, and when she opened her eyes, she saw Madoka standing before her with her fists encased in red flames.
“Those who hurt my friends will pay the price,” Madoka said, glaring at Father Laager.
“Oh, who do we have here?” said Laager, resting his sword on his shoulder. “What’s your name, girl?”
“I’m Kodama Madoka,” Madoka said as she took a stance. Her feet were wide apart while her fists were rested at her sides with her right fist raised slightly above her chest. Stumping her feet, a red magic circle appeared beneath her feet, and suddenly, flames burst from her heels. Then the flames increased in intensity and shot her flying like a rocket toward Father Laager.
Laager raised his giant sword into the air and slammed it straight down on top of Madoka. Realizing it, Madoka shot her hands out, where the flames shot out like flamethrowers, stopping her flight. Then she aimed her right hand out and blasted flames, propelling her away before the blade could touch her.
His sword struck the ground, sending part of the floor to the air along with a heavy dust cloud. With his sight partly blinded, Laager listened to the flames Madoka was emitting. From the sound, he judged she would appear from his side. Lifting it off the ground, Laager swung the sword in an arc.
Madoka saw the blade and changed the position of her hands. The flames changed her position, going above the swing and coming from behind. Before Laager could change his position, Madoka increased her flames and slammed her flaming fist into his back. Suddenly on impact, her flaming fist touched water. Surprised, she jerked her fist back, but it was stuck.
As Madoka increased her flames, she couldn’t free her hands. Then a spark of electricity caught her eyes. Smiling, Laager said, “A fortiori, Scale of the Jellyfish.” Instantly, a hundred volts of lightning went through her.
Fate walked into the terminal after his flight had to make an emergency landing. The moment his foot touched the floor, his ring shined dully, signaling there was an enemy mage nearby. Also, as soon as the other passengers set foot on the floor, they fell unconscious.
Looking ahead, Fate saw a girl was being electrocuted by a swordsman.
Out of the corner of his eyes, Laager spotted someone with gray clothes. He stopped his attack and jumped back, realizing that a giant pillar was coming at him.
Bringing his sword up, Laager released his Spring of the Shark. The water took form of a shark again and charged at the pillar. The pillar was split in half as his Spring of the Shark flew right through it, disappearing in thin air afterwards.
Craning his head, Laager spotted a skinny white-haired boy with a gremoire shining at his chest. He wondered if the boy was the one who had caused that attack. Smiling, he said to the white-haired boy, “Hey, who are you, boy? I’m Laager, by the way.”
“I’m Fate Avogadro,” said Fate as he flexed his right hand. His recent attack was to stop the fight. But when he looked around, he figured he would be joining it. “As a Mage Trooper, I can’t let you disturb the peace.”
Before Laager could respond, Fate attacked. A huge green magic circle appeared underneath him. When he jumped, part of the floor flew to the air as the earth propelled him forward like a rocket, reaching Laager within seconds. Laughing, Father Laager charged and swung his giant sword, wrapping it in water. His giant blade landed on top of Fate…
“Shield of Mars arises,” Fate said as he stopped short.
…but Fate’s Shield of Mars appeared out of the ground, turning Laager’s attack back to water. Laager pulled his blade back and swung it under the shield. It struck the shield, sending it back to the earth while the Spring of the Shark took form and came for Fate.
Fate jumped aside to dodge the Spring of the Shark. Rolling onto his feet, he pointed a finger at Laager and said, “Cardinal Point, behind Laager.” The ground shined as a green magic circle appeared underneath his feet. The earth swallowed him up and spit him out behind Laager.
As Laager was about to attack Fate, he realized Fate wasn’t in his place anymore. Looking over his shoulder, he spotted Fate behind him. How the kid did it wasn’t a question he wanted to answer. Turning around, Laager raised his giant sword above his head, about to attack.
Aiming his palm at Laager, Fate said, “Die in the wind, Torrent Blizzard.” A white magic circle floated by his hand, gathering air as fast as it could, and blasted a powerful gust of icy wind. The blast sent Laager crashing into the wall.
Laager got up to his feet, limping. Before impact, he had brought his sword down to take most of the force, but even then, he still felt it. Looking at Fate, Laager grinned and laughed. “Now, this is fun! This is the fun that I was promised by him! I can fight this kid all day if I want to!” As he continued to laugh, tiny parts of the ceiling shattered as East Mages climbed down. Out of thin air, two more brown robed-mages appeared—one was twice the size of Laager while the other one was the size of a kid. He groaned, realizing who the two newcomers were.
The larger one hissed at Laager. “It’s time to leave, you dolt, or else, you’ll be abandoned again. And this time, we won’t be coming to save you.” The larger one spoke with a soft yet masculine voice, almost like it was strained.
The smaller one shrugged. “Who really cares about him anyway? He’s all brawns and no brains.” This one has a female voice, high-pitched like a school girl’s. “Let him have his fun here, and when we’re done, we’ll have even more fun without him.”
Hearing that, Laager got interested. “Wait, wait, you two; you’re saying that there’s going to be more fun than this? You’re not lying to me, right?”
“Why would we waste our precious time lying to you?” the smaller one said, crossing its arms. “And even if we did lie, you’ll just fall for it anyways.”
Laager considered his options. He could either fight Fate and possibly get caught by the East Mages coming down. By now, they were half way between the ceiling and the floor. Or, he could save the fun for later, go along with his two companions, and continue it later. With a glance at Fate, he made up his mind.
“You, kid,” he said to Fate, hefting his giant sword onto his shoulder. “It was fun. The next time we meet, I’ll go all out. By then, don’t get blown up.” After his two companions disappeared in thin air, he followed suit, saluting to Fate before fully dissolving.
Fate was left stranded with an army of East Mages surrounding him. Two of their comrades were unconscious while one was staring at him like she couldn’t believe it. Slowly, he pulled out his Mage Trooper badge and showed it to the East Mages.
A Japanese man in a SWAT uniform slowly took his badge like it might be a bomb, checking it while his men aimed their hands at Fate with spells ready. After a minute, the man returned his badge and waved for his men to drop their hands. They appeared reluctant, but they eventually lowered their hands.
Suddenly, the men parted ways for a small girl to walk through. She was probably no older than 12 or 13 with waist-long black hair that was tied into a ponytail with a white piece of cloth, dark eyes, and a sharp nose. She wore a pinstriped suit with pants and flat-soled shoes instead of a skirt and high heels.
She came and stood in front of Fate, shaking his hand. “I’m Kamimura Azumi, Vice-chairwoman of Twilight Emissary. I welcome you to Japan, Fate Avogadro-san.”
By Tokyo Bay, a sixty-story glass building, Kamimura Bank and Enterprise, loomed above the other skyscrapers. It has a private chopper landing site on the roof, an advanced satellite dish that has access to all the knowledge in the world, and a great reputation for never failing a customer.
From the first floor and up to the 30th, it is filled with normal office jobs ranging from a bank to business work. Floors 31st to the 60th are the Headquarters for the Japanese Magic Branch, Twilight Emissary—known as “the Imaginary Factor” to the non-magician employees. And on the top floor is the Chairman’s Office.
It houses more than a hundred offices for magicians, wizards, witches, and warlocks while employing jobs to more than a million mages year-round. According to other magic branches, Twilight Emissary is one of the top ten riches magic centers in the world—with China and India ranking second and third.
On the 58th floor, Madoka was getting treatment for her injuries from her fight with Father Laager. She got small scratches and light burns with nothing troubling…though her clothes and electronic gadgets were a different story. The Healer healing her was a middle-aged lady with short brown hair, thick-rimmed glasses, and wore a nurse’s attire.
Sitting beside her was Kameyo, who had stayed quiet ever since the East Mages carried them back. Madoka always knew that Kameyo tend to blame herself whenever she wasn’t helpful, but this was the first time that Madoka seen her be so quiet.
“K-Kameyo-chan,” Madoka said, nudging Kameyo by the shoulder. “Can you tell me what’s wrong with you? You’re awfully quiet.”
Kameyo suddenly snapped out of her gloomy self. She giggled softly, hitting herself on the head to emphasize her clumsiness. “Oh, sorry, Madoka-chan. I sort of spaced out. What is it that you were saying?”
Madoka sighed, dismissing it. It was better to let her friend recover it by herself. Shaking her head, she said, “Uh, nothing really, Kameyo-chan. Oh, do you know who that boy is?”
Before Kameyo could speak, the Healer by Madoka spoke up. “Oh, you’re talking about that boy who saved you guys? He’s Fate Avogadro, a West Mage from New York. Apparently, he’s joining with us on a top-secret case.”
“What case?” asked by Kichirou, who was over at a corner, attended by another female Healer. His left arm and chest were being bandaged. Kichirou winced when he tried to move. “What kind of case is it that we would need the strength of a mage from another country?”
Rolling her eyes, Madoka ignored him. She knew that Kichirou was very protective and always depended on his own strength. He doesn’t like other mages besides his own. Even when they were toddlers, he was like that.
The Healer shook her head. “I’m not really sure. All of us were on edge that a West Mage was working with us due to the enmity, but it looks like the higher-ups are making an exception with this one.”
“What do you mean by ‘with this one’?” Kameyo asked. “Is it because he’s still a magician like us?”
“Oh no, I heard he is already a Warlock,” the Healer said as if she couldn’t believe it herself. Hearing that, Kichirou got up to his feet in a fit of anger. Kameyo gasped, covering her mouth with her hands while Madoka merely grimaced. The Healer continued. “Anyway, I heard that the higher-ups are working with him because he has certain spells that they don’t have, which are essential for this case. So, they’re putting him in.”
Staring at her feet, Madoka clenched her fists tightly. “Where is he now?”
“The last I saw him,” the Healer said, looking up to the ceiling, “was with the Vice-chairwoman Kamimura, going to the top floor.”
Fate walked behind the girl, Kamimura Azumi, down a brightly lit corridor. His luggage was taken away from him, said to be sent to his hotel—but Fate was sure it was being checked. Their walk ended when Azumi stopped in front of a single door in a wall that should’ve contained more doors. A tag said, “THE CHAIRWOMAN.”
They walked inside after Azumi opened the door, and he was presented into a dimly lit and clean room. Two cathedral-like windows were behind a wooden computer desk in the center of the room with six chairs present. There were flower vases at each of corner of the room while several—possibly eight—black filing cabinets were lined up on the left wall.
An elderly woman sat behind the computer desk. As Azumi went to stand beside the elderly woman, Fate took a seat in one of the chairs, looking at the woman who’s going to be giving him orders.
She was petite, probably standing only four feet tall, with peppered hair tied into a bun, eyes closed, and wrinkles that looked more like battle scars. The elderly woman wore a simple purple dress with a long skirt and small high heels.
“Welcome to Japan, Fate-kun,” the elderly woman said, inclining her head in a bow. Fate imitated her to be polite. “My name is Kamimura Ayano, the Chairwoman of both Twilight Emissary and Kamimura Bank and Enterprise. How was your time in Japan?”
In a flat voice, Fate said, “Obviously, the air’s polluted, the mages kept glaring at me, and I forgot to make a phone call. In a word, it sucks.”
Azumi glared at him while the Chairwoman giggled softly. The Chairwoman sighed. “I’m terribly sorry. I would’ve preferred a welcoming party, but it looks like you’re going to get the cold shoulders.”
Fate nodded. “Down to business then, why is Japan the country in charge of these suicide bombings? Countless countries are having the same problem.”
Nodding, the Chairwoman said, “Yes, I’ll start with what we know. To the point, Eurasia has decided that the bomber is Japanese. As you well know, we, East Mages, don’t need any gremoires or amulets to help us use our inner strength. That’s a major part—we believe—that’s used in making these bombs.”
She waited for a few seconds before continuing. “Eurasia has given this bomber the codename ‘Kamikaze’. Our Alchemists have checked the body parts and found faint remnants of energy that’s similar to our own. As a way of kindness, the other countries are letting us clean up our own mess by giving us the leading role.”
“In America, one of our bomb specialists has declared it the work of magic,” Fate said. “From what I’ve read, a mind-altering spell is placed alongside the bomb to ease the amount of eye-witnesses. It’s the same with other countries in the East and nowhere else.”
“That is as much as what your Boss has told us as well,” the Chairwoman said, nodding. Fate didn’t see any lies in her closed eyes, so he figured she was telling the truth.
After a moment of silence, the Chairwoman sighed. “Now, how about we decide what your role is? Not too long ago, I’d consulted with your Boss in America, and I’ve decided. I’m going to give you absolute power as my granddaughter here.” She pointed to Azumi, standing beside her. “That way, you can show us, East Mages, how it’s done in the West.”
When Azumi heard that, she lost her temper. Rounding on her grandma, she said, “But, grandma, he’s a West Mage, an enemy of Twilight! By giving him that much influence, who knows what the other mages are going to do? It’s already complicated as it is! Please reconsider, grandma!”
Fate glanced from the girl to her grandma, wondering about the words Azumi had just said.
The Chairwoman shook her head. “Azumi, you’re just over-thinking it,” she said in a calm voice—though she was smiling. “I’m merely stating what I’m going to give him. It’s Fate-kun’s choice to accept it or not. Well, what is it going to be?” Both the grandma and granddaughter looked at Fate for his answer.
Seeing how complicated it was, Fate decided on his own. “Since I’m not an East Mage, I must decline your offer, but allow me to choose my role.” Seeing the Chairwoman nodded, Fate continued. “I would like to work on this case alone, Chairwoman, with the given authority to ask you for permission regarding to anything confidential or top-secret.”
The Chairwoman considered Fate’s proposal while her granddaughter was tapping her foot impatiently. Of all her years as a mage, the Chairwoman had never met a boy of neutrality. In his proposal, the boy wanted to work alone while asking for permission as a way of saying they’re accomplices. What he’d said before cancelled out what he’d said after.
Smiling to herself, the Chairwoman nodded. “I approve of your proposal, Fate-kun. You may start whenever you like, and feel free to ask my granddaughter for anything you don’t understand. She may be young, but she’s the Vice-chairwoman. Anything she says is as well as mine.”
Fate inclined as his head in a bow. “Thank you very much.” After the Chairwoman dismissed him, he got up and went to the door. Before heading out of the office, the Chairwoman stopped him.
“By the way, Fate-kun,” the Chairwoman said, leaning into her desk. “Do you have a girlfriend?”
“I don’t, Chairwoman,” Fate said, wondering where this conversation was leading to.
“That’s really good,” she exclaimed happily. “What do you say if I betrothed my granddaughter to you?” Beside her, Azumi’s face flushed a deep red while trying to get her attention. The Chairwoman ignored her granddaughter. “Well, what do you say, Fate-kun?”
“I’m sorry,” Fate said, turning his face away. “Although your granddaughter is very beautiful, I believe she should follow her own words and not another’s. Then good evening, Chairwoman and Azumi.” He closed the door and went downstairs via stairway.
Descending to the 58th floor, Fate spotted the girl who fought against Laager, getting treated. They locked eyes before he averted his and went down.
Fate stepped out of his three-star hotel and into the late morning city life. Even though it was morning, there was as much activity as it was in the afternoon. He recognized some were students, making their daily route to their schools.
His hotel was a four-story-tall stucco building with ten rooms, private baths, a Jacuzzi, a sauna, 24-hour desk service, unlimited internet access, and daily breakfasts included. He hadn’t felt as relax as he used to be—ever since his Boss borrowed $500 from him, leaving him broke for a whole month. After a quick stretch, Fate decided what to do for the day.
Crossing a street, he decided to merge with the crowd of students and take a look around Tokyo. Drew, one of his few friends and bomb specialist, had asked him to take pictures. So, in his pocket, Fate brought his friend’s camera. Then he began his case.
On the opposite block, Madoka, Kameyo, and Kichirou were walking to school, attracting a large crowd of students—mostly boys from Madoka’s and Kameyo’s own fan clubs. Their high school was Asanuma High, one of the best high schools in downtown Tokyo. It accepted at least a thousand students year-round, and its sport teams were one of the bests.
Madoka sighed, stretching her arms. She didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Suddenly, she noticed Kameyo was sulking. Nudging Kichirou in the ribs, Madoka said, “Hey, Kichirou, what happened to Kameyo-chan? Isn’t she a bit too gloomy for normal?”
Kichirou took a look at his sister. It was true that his sister wasn’t her normal self. She was usually quiet but talkative when she wanted to be, but lately, she’s been sulking. Also, he hadn’t even noticed it until Madoka pointed it out to him. Lately, he’s been too engrossed in Madoka.
Shrugging, he said, “I don’t know, Kodama-chan.” Then it was total silence between the two of them. Gulping nervously, Kichirou tried to make conversation. “Say, Kodama-chan, what did you do over in England?”
Irritably, Madoka shrugged. “I went to school there, got a part-time job at the British Magic Branch, MI-9, and continue to study eastern magic and improving my skills.”
“Whoa, you must be number one over there,” Kichirou said, sounding really enthusiastic. “Can you show me some of your spells? And can later after school, we spar…just for fun?”
“I don’t know,” Madoka said without any energy. “I’ve been distracted recently. Last night, I couldn’t even meditate during my normal evening breaks.” It was largely due to her mind kept drifting to Father Laager and the white-haired boy, Fate Avogadro. Madoka wanted to beat the tar out of both Father Laager and Fate.
Before Kichirou could think of something to cheer her up, the three of them have to stop and let another group of students from the opposite side through first. And within that group, Kichirou spotted the white-haired boy, Fate Avogadro. His alert went sky-high as he pulled out his wooden sword from his ski bag and aimed the tip at Fate.
“I am Inoue Kichirou!” he exclaimed to Fate, who wasn’t looking at him. “Prepare to die, West Mage!” Before either his sister or Madoka could react, Kichirou rushed into combat. “By the winds, I call your name, Pivoting Swan!” A white magic circle appeared at the tip of his wooden blade as a strong wind buffeted from underneath him.
A strong gust distracted Fate from getting his picture. Turning to where the wind was, Fate recognized the three mages from yesterday in the infirmary on the 58th floor. The kid—Fate remembered his name as Inoue Kichirou—had a fighting stance ready. Around them, the students stopped dead in their tracks as the girls were trying to keep their skirts from flying above their hips. Then Kichirou shot forward like a rocket.
Fate pointed at the ground. “Cardinal Point, East.” A green magic circle appeared underneath him, and the earth slightly moved him to the right. Unconsciously, he stuck out his foot.
As Kichirou flew forward, he saw Fate changed direction. Before he could stop short, Kichirou tripped over Fate’s outstretched foot and flew to the ground, rolling 360s until he crashed into the wall of a convenience store. The surrounding students rushed to his side to see if he was okay.
Getting to his feet, Kichirou managed to take another stance. The students around him backed away, seeing that he was about to do something crazy. “By the winds, I call your name, Pelting Falcon!” That strong wind appeared again as the girls tried to keep their skirts down.
Madoka tried to keep her skirt down as well while trying her hardest to look through the wind. Beside her, Kameyo was doing her best as well though the wind was too strong. Before Kichirou rushed in to strike, Madoka shouted something, but her voice was lost in the wind.
Kichirou brought his wooden sword up for an under-strike. Fate stepped back to avoid the attack, but the strike hit his camera and sent it flying at a girl he rarely knew on the forehead. Seeing the girl who was hit with a camera was his sister, Kichirou stopped his attack and rushed over to Kameyo with Madoka by her side.
“Kameyo-oneesan,” Kichirou said, kneeling to check her forehead. “I’m really, really sorry. I didn’t mean to…”
“Do you know what you just did, Kichirou-chan?” Madoka barked at Kichirou. “Have you forgotten that no magic is to be shown in broad daylight with these many non-magic people around?” Seeing the hurt look on his face, Madoka sighed. “It’s okay. Don’t worry about her. She’s perfectly fine. Now, go call for the Illusion Party to come here as soon as possible.” She watched Kichirou pulled out his phone and dialed to Twilight Headquarters.
From her arms, Kameyo sat up, rubbing her forehead. Madoka grabbed her by the shoulders and looked into Kameyo’s eyes. “Kameyo-chan, do you know who I am? Tell me, what is your name?”
Kameyo looked at Madoka, confused. “Ah, what’s wrong with you, Madoka-chan? Did you hit your head on something too?”
Sighing in relief, Madoka had just confirmed that her friend didn’t have any brain injuries or memory loss. Then she turned around and confronted the white-haired boy, Fate Avogadro. “Just what are you doing here?” she asked Fate. “You’re…not attending school as well, are you?”
Fate stood in front of the girl, who had just spoken to him. He remembered her name being Kodama Madoka from one of the East Mages yesterday, talking about her conditions. Answering her question, Fate shook his head. Then he went and picked up his camera, lying by the girl who had just been hit with it—though he remembered her name as Inoue Kameyo.
Dusting it, Fate glanced at the screen. “Oh, she wears black.”
Suddenly, Kameyo shrieked and became teary-eyed, blushing wildly. “Y-You saw it?” Her hands went to her skirt, pushing it down like that would help her skirt from ever being lifted up.
Scratching her head, Madoka came over and took a look at Fate’s screen. Suddenly, her face went red with embarrassment. On the screen was a panty-shot of Kameyo’s panties. With lightning fast reflexes, Madoka snatched the camera away from Fate’s hand, running back to stand by Kameyo. “You pervert,” she said to Fate.
“I don’t have such fetishes,” Fate said, staring at the two girls.
“Just you wait until we take this to the police,” Madoka said as she was about to shift through the pictures. “We’ll show them that a pervert is amongst us.” As she and Kameyo shifted through the pictures one by one, they found no picture that would lead to panty-shots. “Huh, how come there are no more panty-shots?”
Fate came and snatched his camera back. “I am a Mage Trooper. I wouldn’t do such a thing.” After he deleted the picture, Fate showed the blank screen to the two girls. “It was a mere accident.”
From somewhere to their right, Kichirou ran back with four other East Mages, wearing black robes like assassins. The four mages went to each student nearby and started asking them questions. Each student stared at them puzzlingly, but they did as they were asked to. Soon, the students acted as if nothing of a fight ever broke out as they continued on their way to school.
“Illusionists,” Fate said, inclining his head in a bow to the four mages—which they didn’t return the politeness. “Able to alter…” Suddenly, Fate pulled out a blue notepad and began scribbling some notes down.
Madoka glanced at what Fate was writing. Since it was in plain English, Madoka could make out a few words, but she couldn’t read it well because of the hasty handwriting. Before she could ask what he was writing, Fate shoved the notepad down his pocket and faced them.
He bowed deeply. Turning to Kameyo, he said, “I apologize. I’ll never tell anyone.” And then he left them.
“Hey, wait,” Madoka said, about to run after him, but he was already out of sight. She stopped and groaned into the air like a kid. Beside her, Kameyo was still sniffing back tears from being seen.
Kichirou scratched his head. “Just…Just what is he up to, really? Appearing here, walking like he’s going to school, and then just disappear after a fight. I can never really understand a West Mage.”
After a few more minutes of silence, they continued their way to school.
Kichirou was in the school’s dojo, swinging his wooden sword randomly while focusing on keeping his arms straight. That was the main point in kendo—to practice swinging your sword until it’s fluid and straight.
He had been practicing since school was let out. All the other kendo members were already heading home by now, which meant he was alone. It was his one opportunity to practice both kendo and magic at the same time.
Taking a fighting stance, Kichirou summoned his wind magic. A white magic circle floated at his wooden sword’s tip, bringing with it a powerful gust of wind. He held his stance, staring into the open while imagining it being Fate. Just remembering Fate’s name boiled anger inside Kichirou.
The wind increased in intensity as he poured in more of his strength. Being an East Mage, he could supply in more energy into his attacks than a West Mage could. From what he learned, West Mages used gremoires to bring out their inner strength, but they can’t either strengthen their spells or make them weaker. That was the downfall of being a West Mage. Their spells could be overpowered.
Kichirou poured in more energy. His sword stance was one that he made up by watching his dad performing the family’s sword stance. His family was once a mercenary family, who dwelled into swordsmanship. Now, only his dad was skilled at it. Kichirou refused to learn his family’s sword style, saying that it was too out-of-date.
So, in the end, he decided to create one himself and make it famous. Thus, he invented “Swallowing Sky Sword Style.” The name sounded cool, but it only has two offensive forms—Pivoting Swan and Pelting Falcon—with no defensive forms at all. But Kichirou vowed he would create a sword style that would open God’s eyes. Pumping with even more energy, Kichirou let out a yell and charged at the imaginary Fate in front of him. The dojo shook as he released his attack.
Meanwhile, Kameyo wandered home after finishing her club activities. She had no Twilight missions to be done. Since she and her brother were just new recruits, they were given “low-quality” jobs such as looking for lost pets or settle disputes.
Kameyo took the long way home because she needed some time to think. Back at the airport, she couldn’t even do a thing. All she did was become a burden for her brother and friend to protect. And even when she could’ve fight side by side with Madoka, she just froze and watched the entire fight.
She couldn’t even move when the white-haired boy, Fate Avogadro, came and intervened. Watching him fight on even footing as Father Laager made Kameyo realized that she hadn’t even improved at all.
When she was little, she didn’t have any compassion for magic at all while everyone about her admired it like it was a pot of gold. Then Kameyo met Madoka and learned magic just to be around her because Madoka was the very first friend Kameyo ever made.
Crossing a street, Kameyo remembered the first time she was given the choice of choosing what occupation of magic she could be. She could’ve been a Healer, an Illusionist, a Sensor Mage, or an Element user. Instead of choosing the easy way out like usual, Kameyo chose to be an Element user, the bearer of Wind magic because it was the “supporting magic.”
Now that she looked back, Kameyo had always scraped by, learning the simplest spells. And when Madoka moved to England, she thought that she would surprise Madoka by becoming stronger than before. But…she was still the same.
Upon reaching the front steps to her family shrine, Kameyo remembered seeing Fate using more than one element in combat against Father Laager. That memory formed a plan in her mind, giving her slight hopes. With new determination, Kameyo rushed up the steps and into her house, heading straight to her room.
Opening her closet, Kameyo remembered that her mother was a mage as well. All her mom’s old books about magic were stacked in a neat corner in her closet. They were ragged and were in the trash. Instead, she’d stored them and had never looked inside them…until now. Excitedly, Kameyo pulled one out and started reading.
Meanwhile on the opposite side of Kameyo’s house, Madoka was pacing outside the window of a convenience store. On display were a set of collectable Inada Mushrooms. The Inada Mushrooms were a famous kid’s show about a trio of mushroom brothers who are defending their fungus tree from the humans, insects, and other plants.
Madoka was an avid fan of the Inada Mushrooms despite her age. In a secret part of her room, she kept all her collections of Inada Mushrooms set from the first season it was aired on TV. When she moved to England, she had Kameyo record the shows and send them over to her to see on the weekends. But now, she was back and could watch them whenever she wanted.
She watched both sides, hoping no one she recognized would see her. The convenience store was in a place largely popular with teenagers and most of her classmates attend there around that time. It would be embarrassing for her if someone she knew—other than Kameyo—that she was into this sort of interest. In Japan, manga- and anime-loving people were regarded as outcasts. Also, Madoka was one of the top students in her school.
When she thought that no one was looking, Madoka went in and strolled over to the display case. The Inada Mushrooms set was just in arm’s reach when someone she knew came into view. Like the wind, Madoka hid in one of the aisles and peeped through the openings.
To her surprise, it was Fate. He came and took the set under his arm, walking to the cashier. After he paid for it, he left the convenience store. Madoka stared after him in complete dismay and went over to the Inada Mushroom stand. There wasn’t any left!
Panic overrode her as Madoka ran out of the store and chased after Fate. She really needed the latest Inada Mushroom set—and she would do anything to get it. Madoka spotted Fate up ahead and increased her speed, but he took a different path and into an old suburb.
Stopping at the edge of the suburb, Madoka looked around. The houses were in horrible conditions, the smell was even worse, and she got a feeling that something wasn’t right about the place. On the third house down the block, Madoka caught a glimpse of Fate heading into an alleyway. Quickly and cautiously, she followed after him.
The alleyway was in horrible condition as well with garbage on the street, dirty clothes on lines above her, and rats crawling all over the place. It opened into an abandoned park with withering trees and rusty playground equipment. And at the center was Fate with the Inada Mushrooms set under his arm.
Before Madoka could make a move, a man stepped out of the swings and strolled over to Fate. The man was probably 18 or 19 with long shabby black hair, a long broken nose, and piercings above his eyebrows. He wore a ragged leather jacket over a red T-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes. And the two of them were engaged in conversation.
She could hear their voice perfectly clear from where she hid. Their conversation was about something with bombs.
“…I-I don’t know if I can do it,” she heard the man said, shifting from feet to feet. “If we do that, wouldn’t Twilight figure out that it was us, right?”
“Toshio,” Madoka heard Fate said. “No one would be able to get me even if they try. Just get your men ready and I’ll start.”
“B-but wouldn’t Twilight get suspicious?” the man asked. “T-That you’re helping them find the bomber…when in reality, it’s you who’s…”
“That’s enough talk,” Fate said, stopping the man short. “They either believe me or not. Let’s get this underway.”
Madoka watched as the two of them walked out of sight. Sliding to the ground, Madoka wondered what she had just witnessed; the conversation she’d heard; and the fact that Fate was tricking Twilight Emissary for something.
Standing up, she decided to head back home…to where her “headquarters” were. She hated mysteries and most of all, she hated double-crossers.
Kichirou sat in the living room, switching from channel to channel. Nothing on the news was really interesting…except for one: the Local Kansai News station.
Flipping onto that particular news station, Kichirou watched the latest mishap within Tokyo. On the screen, a middle-aged woman with short black hair and wore a black dress was talking about the present event that just happened.
“Last night, there’s been another explosion,” the lady was saying in Japanese. “This time, it happened around the Kamimura Bank and Enterprises.” When Kichirou heard that name, he sat forward. The lady continued. “It appears that no one was hurt, but a tiny portion of the roof has been blown up.”
As he watched the lady talk, Kichirou saw the Chairwoman on TV. The Chairwoman was speaking into the microphone. “Yes, yes, it is a shame that parts of the company was destroyed, but I have always wanted to remodel it.”
“I see,” the lady laughed half-heartedly. “Well, Chairwoman-san, can you give your thoughts about a particular problem? Lately, there have been eight suicide bombings within three days now. Do you think there’s a connection with those and the bombing on yours?”
The Chairwoman was silent for a moment before she spoke out her thoughts. “I’m not sure if there is a connection, but I do have a photo of someone during the explosion.” She held up a white sheet of paper with a very blurry picture. Kichirou couldn’t make out if it was a person or an animal, but he was pretty sure whoever on the paper had white hair. His thoughts reverted to only one person.
The news continued on and on with the lady and the Chairwoman asking one another about the company. Behind him, his sister walked into view, yawning. It was a weekend, and she was usually up at 6 a.m. although she’s been getting sleepier with each passing day.
“Ah, what are you watching?” she asked him, rubbing her eyes. She was still in her pajamas, hair disheveled, and dark bags under her eyes. “Is it a new episode of Inada Mushrooms?”
Kichirou shook his head. “I’m watching the news. Apparently, Twilight Emissary had been bombed last night. The Chairwoman don’t know who it is that tried to target her life. If this keeps going on, then maybe…” When he looked back at his sister, he found her snoring on the couch.
Shaking his head, Kichirou pulled out a blanket and wrapped it around Kameyo. Then he continued watching the news.
On the 31st floor of Twilight Emissary, Madoka was trying to schedule a talk with the Chairwoman, but the front desk wouldn’t allow her.
“I’m very sorry, Miss Kodama,” the man at the front desk was saying. “Even though you’re a highly respected witch here, I still can’t allow you to speak to the Chairwoman whenever you want to.”
“But how come the West Mage can?” Madoka asked, seeing him gaining access to the top floor whenever he wanted to. “I’ve seen him gone up there so many times! Why can’t I, then?”
The man cursed in Japanese, irritably. “From what I heard, the Chairwoman wants to increase our ties with the West, so she’s giving him absolute power.” He sighed, shaking his head. “It’s just a rumor someone’s passing, but I doubt that the Chairwoman will be able to solve this mess. In any case, I’m still forbidding you from seeing the Chairwoman. She has isolated herself from seeing anyone other than that West Mage.”
After a dozen attempts—and failed—Madoka reversed and went out the exit, feeling depress. As she walked out the door, a wizard bumped into her, knocking her to the ground. Rubbing her rump, she got up and glared after the wizard, who had gone up to the front desk.
Glaring at the wizard, Madoka thought that she spotted a familiar shape. When the wizard disappeared upstairs, she dismissed the thought and went downstairs.
Fate was on the 57th floor. Like every other floor, it was brightly lit, ceramic tiles gleaming, and nicely polished. Beside him was a female scientist, one of the few non-mage employees that knew the existence of magic.
She was a fairly young woman with long green hair that was tied into a pig tail, resting on her shoulder, high cheekbones, and brown eyes behind glasses. She wore a white lab coat over a gray turtle-neck sweater, and jeans and tennis shoes. Fate forgot what her name was.
“Ms. Tasegawa,” Fate said…
“It’s Hasegawa,” she corrected him instantly. “And it’s Professor Hasegawa to you.”
“Professor Hasegawa,” Fate supplied, following her. “Why is your hair green? Is it a new mutation in Japan to grow unnatural hair color as well as worrying about your bust-size?” He eyed her large chest, which she kept crossing her arms over it like protection. He added slowly, “I don’t such fetishes.”
Professor Hasegawa’s face turned instant red. She tightened her hold on her chest as well as pulled her green hair back. “I-It’s just a dye, kid. I like to dye my hair a different color every other week. And…stop staring at my chest!”
“I see,” Fate said, looking away. “So, where is the morgue? I personally ask for Azumi to take me there, but she had you direct me there instead.”
“The Vice-chairwoman doesn’t have the time to be showing you around this place,” Professor Hasegawa said, still in her protection mode. “Even though she’s the Vice-chairwoman, she’s running this entire company by herself. And it’s better if she doesn’t associate herself with you…because of…certain problems within the company itself.”
As they passed a hallway, Fate noticed two men were whispering to one another. He looked over his shoulder and raised a hand at the wall. A green magic circle appeared, and the wall exploded as a dust cloud rose into the air. Beside him, Professor Hasegawa shrieked loudly.
“What are you doing?” she screamed at him. “The wall you just destroyed leads to the vault where we kept all the dead bodies!” Grabbing her phone, she called out, “The wall to the vault is destroyed! Please get some men over here to cover it up!”
The two men rushed over and bowed in front of Professor Hasegawa. Up close, the two men were nearly equal in height. One had his hair slicked back to reveal his face and the other one was bald.
Oil-slick—Fate named the one with his hair slicked back—said, “I’m sorry. We’ll take it from here. We’ll call for help as soon as we check out the damage’s size.” Beside him, Bald nodded his head.
“Okay, I’ll leave it to you guys,” Professor Hasegawa said, and then she dragged Fate away by the collar of his shirt. When they were out of sight, she slammed him to the wall and smacked one hand near his ear. “Look, I don’t care if the Chairwoman favors you, but if you even cause one more unwanted problem here, I’ll seriously smack you back to America. You hear me?”
“I see,” Fate said, stepping away from her. “You can easily lose your over-protectiveness when something related to your work is destroyed. You’re not covering your chest anymore.” Hearing that, Professor Hasegawa’s face turned red, and she covered her chest again.
As they walked on, Fate was about to say something, but Professor Hasegawa shrieked, backing away from him. Shaking his head, he said, “I don’t have such fetishes. Professor Hasegawa, do you know what those badges stand for?” Fate described the badges Oil-slick and Bald were wearing on their shoulders. The badges were in the shape of a circle with the letter G.
“Oh, they’re the badges all Illusionists wear in Japan,” Professor Hasegawa said. “In Japan, the Romanized form of the kanji for ‘illusion’ starts with a ‘g’. Why did you ask that?”
“It’s just out of curiosity.” Fate continued onward. “I suggest you wear a sports bra if you don’t want to keep holding onto your chest forever.” Professor Hasegawa shrieked once more, tightening her arms around her chest as she followed after Fate.
When they arrived at the morgue, Fate stopped and glanced from left to right. No one was in view, so he faced Professor Hasegawa, who shrieked. He said, “Please turn off all securities regarding to this room.”
Fate sat in the Cold Room, where Twilight Emissary kept all its dead associates’ and eliminated enemies’ bodies in cold seclusion. Professor Hasegawa slept on a stool while leaning on the wall for support. Saliva was drooling from her lips as she mumbled something incomprehensive.
They had been in the room since that morning, monitoring the dead bodies. Now, it was an hour before midnight. Professor Hasegawa had complained about it, saying that two young couples couldn’t stay in the same room alone. In the end, she stayed with him—against her will.
As he sat beside Professor Hasegawa, Fate read the profiles of the deceased victims. In the whole Japan, there had been numerous suicide bombings, but only 23 bodies were recovered identifiable by their relatives. And each one had no connections to one another. But so far, the ice boxes only have five of the remaining 23. Professor Hasegawa had told him that they were stolen about a week after they were brought in. The remaining five were about a week old, but they haven’t disappeared yet. And Twilight did an investigation, but they couldn’t find anything.
The remaining five were: a banker, a construction worker, a hairstylist, an ex-convict, and a high school teacher. The banker was a middle-aged male, the youngest of two, a father of three, and an exceptionally hard worker—with anger management problems. The construction worker was also another middle-aged male, an only child and still single, and was an alcohol-violator. The hairstylist was a young female of age 20, still in college, engaged to a sports star, and terribly over-debt—from frequent gambling. The ex-convict was an old male of 74, who accidentally killed his wife and charged with 40 years in prison, and worked as a cashier in a grocery store after his release. And the high school teacher was a male as well, who had been fired from many schools for conducting sexual relationships with several male students and was currently unemployed.
When he put the files down, his cellphone rang. Looking at the screen, it was from his Boss. “Yes?” he said into the phone. “Have you paid the debt you owe me yet?”
His Boss groaned over the phone. “The first thing I hear from you is about my debt? Give me a break here, Fate! I’m up to my neck with trouble completing the task you had requested from me!” After complaining some more, his Boss finally got serious. “About what you asked me, I’ve more or less completed it. Each of the magic branches in Europe has agreed to lend me some info. It seems that the victims’ bodies were stolen overnight.”
Fate said, “More detail, please.”
“After a week or so, the bodies seemed to have been taken from the fridge and gone,” his Boss replied. “Every identifiable body that was kept was stolen. They conducted searches, but they found no apparent way for anyone to come in and take the bodies.”
Before Fate could reply, he heard something. Without a word, he disconnected and went over to Professor Hasegawa, sliding her under the table. Then he hid himself as well, peeping through over the side of the table.
Nothing happened, but soon, the door opened and two dark figures walked into the room. They were dressed in black robes with thick hoods over their heads, shielding their faces. One of the figures pointed at the camera stationed ahead of them, and an indigo-colored magic circle floated in front of its hand.
Seeing the indigo-colored magic circle, Fate knew that it was an illusion spell. When the indigo magic circle disappeared, the two figures strolled over to the ice boxes that contained the five remains. They opened the ice boxes and pulled all five out. An indigo magic circle floated above the five bodies, and a bright light emanated from them.
Fate recorded the entire ordeal with his cellphone. As they conducted their spells, Professor Hasegawa rolled over and grabbed hold of Fate’s hand while she mumbled, “Don’t tease my breasts” loudly.
The two figures heard her and got to their feet. Without a choice, Fate sprang to his feet also and attacked. A green magic circle appeared beside his hand, and stone stakes the size of tree trunks rose out of the tiled floor. He sent them flying at the two figures, which jumped back and the stone stakes crashed through the wall.
Flexing his right hand, Fate summoned of his Shield of Mars from the floor and caused the knight to attack with its sword. One of the figures raised its hand and an indigo magic circle floated into view. A giant sea monster that resembled a kraken appeared out of nowhere and countered his Shield of Mars. Its tentacles wriggled around the knight’s sword arm and shield.
Out of the corner of his eyes, Fate spotted the figures making a run for it. He aimed a hand at them and said, “Die in the wind, Arrows of Air x 99.” A white magic circle floated above his hand, collecting wind, and then it fired numerous Arrows of Air at the figures.
Again, they jumped out of the way as Arrows of Air shooting right past them. One Arrow of Air hit one of the figures in the face, creating a small twister that shoot the hood up. Before the figure’s face could be revealed, the sea monster pushed Fate’s Shield of Mars away, causing him to miss the chance. Flexing his right hand, his Shield of Mars righted itself and turned to face the sea monster, but it was gone…and so were the two figures.
Fate sent his Shield of Mars back to the earth and looked at the damage he had caused. At that precise moment, the alarms sounded and Professor Hasegawa woke up from her sleep. She yawned and stretched, getting to her feet. Apparently, she hadn’t realized the chaos around her.
Standing before the ice boxes, Fate confirmed two things: one, the five remains were gone; and two, they were illusions.
Madoka was walking to school with Kameyo and Kichirou behind her. It was supposed to be a normal day for her…except it wasn’t. Even her friends looked strange.
Kichirou was covered in bruises and scrapes that resembled a lot like his wooden sword. But when she asked him, he would just say, “Oh, I tripped when I was swinging my sword. That’s all.”
And Kameyo was dead tired. She had bags underneath her eyes, and would constantly fall asleep in class, which wasn’t like her. Kameyo would say, “Ah, I’m sorry. I didn’t get much sleep because of studying.”
Madoka was at the edge of insanity. Last night, she waited for Fate to show up back at his room, but he didn’t. She ended up going home without much sleep.
As she continued walking, she bumped into someone. When she looked up, Madoka realized it was Fate. Fate continued on walking, which irritated her. With her sanity on the line, she took the initiative. Stepping forward, she took hold of Fate’s hand, stopping him.
“Look, West Mage, I…”she started, but there was a round of applause around her. Looking around, Madoka realized that she had caused a scene she didn’t want to. “Guys, it isn’t what you think!” Even her friends stared at her strangely. Nudging Fate, she said, “It’s just a misunderstanding, right?”
Fate looked around. All the students were waiting for his reply, the sole deciding factor. “Yes, it’s just a misunderstanding.” Beside him, Madoka released a breath of relief while the students groaned in disappointment. Then he added, “Though I wish she was 2-D.”
What he’d just said stunned everyone into silence—even Madoka and her friends. Fate left them, and when he was a block away, Fate wondered what a 2-D girl was anyway.
Madoka quickly recovered and chased after Fate, remembering that she had something important. “Guys, I’ll be back by homeroom!” she called over her shoulder to her friends.
Fate was on the phone when he reached the Kamimura Bank and Enterprises. Behind him, he heard Madoka’s footsteps. He ignored her, walked in, and took the stairs. Madoka followed after him, still out of breath. “Hey, why are you taking the stairs?” When he didn’t answer her, she raised her voice. “Why are you taking the stairs?”
Still, Fate ignored her. Pointing at the ground, Fate said, “Cardinal Point, 58th floor.” A green magic circle appeared underneath him and Madoka. The stairwell shook as it came to life, swallowing them and returning back to the way it was. The stairwell spit them out on the 58th floor. Fate opened the door and walked in.
Madoka was feeling sick as her heart pounded really hard. She remembered the stairwell attacking her, instant darkness, and then, she was on the 58th floor. On wobbly legs, she stumbled in after Fate. “H-Hey, what just happened?”
“You’re still here?” Madoka heard Fate said while she had her eyes closed.
“Of course, that spell took me here, too!” she shouted at Fate. When she opened her eyes, Madoka realized he was still on the phone. He was still ignoring her, and it was irritating.
With clenched fists, two red magic circles floated above her fists, and then they were shrouded in flames. She charged at Fate with her flaming fists raised high. Within reach, she slammed her fist on top of Fate’s head, but her fist made contact with sand instead of flesh. The sand deflected her flames and thrust her off balance as she fell to the ground.
Fate heard something behind him. He turned around and looked, but he saw no one. Shrugging, Fate disconnected and walked to Professor Hasegawa’s office—the person he was talking to on the phone with.
As Fate walked away, Madoka was groaning in pain on the ground. “I’m being ignored.”
Professor Hasegawa’s office was a tiny boxed room no bigger than a house’s bathroom. It had a small desk at one corner with a laptop and a small satellite dish. A gray filing cabinet faced the opposite side of the desk with a coffee machine sitting on top. Professor Hasegawa was sitting in the desk, her white lab coat behind her, and—Fate noticed—her chest looked more compact.
“Is it ready?” he asked as he made himself at home. He poured himself some coffee.
When she saw him, Professor Hasegawa shrieked loudly. She calmed herself down and nodded weakly. “Yeah, I got it ready.” When she spotted Madoka standing behind him, she cleared her throat. “You’re…Aren’t you…?”
Before Madoka introduce herself, Fate beat her to the punch. He said, “Please ignore her. She’s no one important.” Anger flushed into Madoka’s fists. When she was about to release her spell, Professor Hasegawa went on speaking like she wasn’t there at all. Sinking to the ground, she sighed. “I’m being ignored again.”
“About what you asked, I was able to get it without much trouble,” Professor Hasegawa said, pulling out a DVD. “The guys said that these will be your presents to jail.” Seeing Fate’s confused look, she sighed. “Look, I’m just saying, but everyone puts all the faults on you.”
“What about you?” Fate asked, staring into Professor Hasegawa’s eyes. “What do you think of me?” Before she could respond, he added, “Besides teasing your breasts.”
When Madoka heard that, she got up and stared at Professor Hasegawa’s chest. Truly, she knew why Fate would make fun of her. Professor Hasegawa’s breasts were probably C-cups or D-cups. And looking at her own chest, Madoka wanted to hide forever.
When Professor Hasegawa didn’t answer him, Fate decided it was best to get serious. “Can you play the DVD from last night?” Professor Hasegawa nodded, injecting the DVD into her laptop. Then Fate pulled out his cellphone and brought out the video clip he’d recorded last night.
“What’s that?” Madoka asked, but she was ignored.
As the two videos played, Fate watched for the changes. “There,” he said, pointing to the first change that took place. Both girls leaned in closer for a closer look. On the laptop, the camera panned to the door, but the scene fuzzed and showed nothing out of the ordinary while in Fate’s phone, it showed the two mages clearly. And then he pointed out the other differences. Then Fate asked, “Can you upload this video into your laptop? I need you to do a close-up of something.” When the procedure was done and the video playing on the screen, Fate pointed to a small blob. “Can you bring this part up?”
“I don’t know,” Professor Hasegawa said, moving and clicking her mouse. “It’s a bit too small, but I’ll try to see what I can do.” When the blob was enlarged and cleared, she squinted. “I don’t know what that is.”
“It’s a face,” Fate said, simply. “Please scroll down.” As the screen lowered, Fate confirmed who it was. “I know who that person is.” Getting up, he went to stand by the door while dialing for the Chairwoman’s private line.
Madoka had totally forgotten what she was going to do. She stared at Fate, wondering what he was doing. Looking over her shoulder, Madoka raised her eyebrows at Professor Hasegawa, who shrugged in response.
Sada Toshio stood in an abandoned park, dressed in his usual ragged clothes: ragged leather jacket, red T-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes. He had a broken nose and his piercings above his eyes were starting to irritate him as sweat rolled down.
He kept glancing at his watch while nervously looking left and right. Toshio had a dangerous appointment to attend. His life could either end that day or minutes later—if he messes up.
When his watches’ hands struck noon, his appointee arrived. His appointee was a tall man with a bald head, bushy eyebrows, and a scar running down his lower lip. And he was dressed in a green football jersey, baggy jeans, and combat boots.
Over the few times Toshio had met with this man, he had come to know his name as “Otsuka.” He and Otsuka had met a few times as negotiators from their two separate magic gangs. Otsuka came from the magic gang called “Mind Art” while Toshio came from the magic side of the Yakuza branch.
Otsuka came and shook Toshio’s hand. After their hands separated, they got down to business. Toshio started the conversation: “M-My master asks me to also deliver this message to you, Otsuka-san: ‘If I cooperate with you, I must know the accomplishments my accomplice has achieved.’ That’s what he said.”
“Your master is a shrewd man,” Otsuka said, smiling. “Very well, I shall tell you the latest of my master’s achievements. Have you heard about the recent bombing in America?” When Toshio shook his head, Otsuka continued. “My master created an illusionary art that would render everything in sight as a reality. The death of Auttenburg and destruction of New York City were all an illusion caused by my master’s genius. And he is so famous as to receive the codename ‘Kamikaze’ from the magic branches of the world. If your master cooperates with us, I’m sure he’ll be very profitable when my master suggests your master to the others.”
Before Toshio could respond, Fate appeared, standing beside Otsuka. Glaring, Fate said, “I’ll gladly cooperate with you.”
When Otsuka saw Fate, he backed away. He quickly recovered and said, “By the mirage of the desert, I call…!” An indigo magic circle appeared beneath him, and…
“I won’t be fooled a second time,” he said as he flexed his right hand. “Shield of Mars arises.” Incredibly fast, his black knight appeared out of the ground in its ten-story-tall form. Its iron gauntlet snatched Otsuka before he could fully perform his spell. The knight raised Otsuka to the sky and smashed him to the ground, sending boulders and dust clouds to the air. He was barely conscious.
Manipulating the knight to lower its arm, Fate pointed a finger at the barely-conscious Otsuka’s head. A green magic circle inked onto Otsuka’s head, and Fate’s gremoire shined a dull green. After a few minutes, Fate dropped his finger and pulled out his cellphone, dialing for Azumi’s number.
“Kamimura Azumi here,” Azumi said on the other line.
“Azumi,” Fate said, “I found Kamikaze.”
Namiki Masanori sat in his comfy chair, reading the afternoon newspaper. He was reading the headline out loud, “BOMBING IN TOKYO STRIKES FEAR INTO JAPAN.”
Of course, he was enjoying it. His magic was by far the best—illusion was the best. Ever since he was a child learning the illusionary art, he had always been bullied by the other kids. They teased him by saying that illusions weren’t fit to be magic. Now, he was going to prove that illusions were the best.
His phone rang. Answering it, he recognized the voice on the other line, and he felt irritated. “What do you want? It’s not the deadline yet.”
“I’m just calling to make sure you don’t get in and over yourself,” the voice said. It was a deep masculine voice with a deep accent Masanori couldn’t quite place. “When I heard you were going to recruit a gang to me, I just wanted to remind you to be very careful.”
Masanori cursed loudly. “What would I be careful about? I never left a trace about me behind! It’s you who should be more careful! All those suicide bombings around the world were done so poorly that I could puke right now.”
“Yes, the others doesn’t have your talent,” the voice said, chuckling. “But that last one in America really threw me off. Why did you waste the effort of creating an illusion of Auttenburg of Sweden in America?”
“I just wanted to show those other illusionists how to do a job right,” Masanori said. “Anyhow, the leader of this gang I’m recruiting is by far the closest to my level of expertise. While I was keeping a low profile, he’s already caused eight illusionary explosions within three days that has set off the world record into a shamble. If I get him on my side, then there won’t be anyone to rival our combined strength.”
“I would hold my tongue if I were you, Namiki-san,” the voice said, suddenly becoming cold. “A man can only speak so boldly before his words come back to haunt him. This is just a warning, but be ready in two days’ time. Operation Tonbogiri will be at hand.” Then the line disconnected.
Stuffing his phone into his pocket, Masanori continued to read the paper…until there was a knock at the door. Irritably, he called out, “Who is it? If it’s about charity, then you can forget it!”
“It’s me, boss,” said a familiar voice Masanori recognized. “I’m back from my shift at Twilight Emissary.” It was Osamu, one of his two subordinates.
“Fine, just come in,” Masanori said. But as soon as he said that, the door burst open, and a white-haired boy stood in the doorway. Getting to his feet, Masanori grabbed a baseball bat. “Who are you, brat? Get out of my home!”
Then the boy held up Osamu. Seeing Osamu lifeless, Masanori realized what happened. An indigo magic circle appeared behind him when he jumped into it and escaped through the open window behind him.
“Illusions only work when your opponent’s least expecting it,” the white-haired boy said, still standing at the doorway. “Shield of Mars arises.” Out of the nowhere, an eight-foot-tall black knight rose out of the ground and attacked the room. Its iron gauntlet crashed through the shelves and destroyed nearly everything.
Masanori coughed as he got out from his hiding spot. Glaring at the boy, he wondered how the boy knew he didn’t escape out the window. “Who are you? What did I do wrong for you to attack me? I’m going to file a law suit against you!”
“I’m Fate Avogadro,” the white-haired boy said, walking inside the room. “I’m with Twilight Emissary, Kamikaze.”
When Masanori heard the codename, he panicked and bolted for his life. This time, he really did escape through the open window, climbing down the balcony rail. When he was on the ground, Masanori ran for his car parked at the curb, but waiting for him there was the Twilight Ground Force. They were mages dressed in American-style SWAT combat clothes, skilled in earth and fire magic. He couldn’t take them head on.
As they aimed their hands at him, Masanori got on his knees and raised his hands up. The Ground Force units crowded him as two mages put handcuffs on him. Then the Ground Force units parted way for the white-haired boy to walk through.
“You’re under arrest for the misconducts of magic and false arson for several countries,” Fate said. “You’ll be taken in for further interrogation.” As they carried Masanori away, Fate felt a strange presence. When he looked over his shoulder, there was no one in sight. Dismissing the thought, he followed after the Ground Force.
Up on the rooftop, Laager crouched and watched the entire ordeal. His blood was pumping for a fight. The more he saw the kid, the more his patience was draining away. Laager especially wanted to fight that Shield of Mars head on.
“Don’t even think about it,” said a familiar masculine voice. The voice was heavily accented, and Father Laager groaned. “Operation Tonbogiri is within two days, so I’ll not have you disrupt the plan. You caused enough trouble at the start already, so please have some restraint.”
“Come on,” Laager whined. “Let me finish him off, and then the plan will go smoothly!”
The voice chuckled. “I suppose that would make my plan easier, but no. If you take that West Mage out, you’ll only alert Twilight Emissary that there’s another force at work here; and you’ll only draw that mage’s allies into Japan. If that were to happen, we’ll be overpowered by three forces. So, please wait for that day. I’ll even let you go full power if you want.”
“Really,” Laager said, excitedly. “Well, if you say so, then I have no more complaints. I guess two more days would be worth the wait. By then, I won’t be able to hold down my fun.”
The next morning, Fate woke up in his hotel room. His body felt better and not so stressed out. His gremoire lay beside him on the bed.
For the past five days, Fate hadn’t had a single minute of sleep. He’d been up day and night, running to places collecting data and making phone calls. His energy was nearly depleted because a West Mage’s gremoire automatically sets their energy at a default amount and can never be raised or lowered. It does so that every spell would use the same amount of energy. That was why West Mages only know two or three spells as to not split their energy into many parts.
After he got dressed in his usual gray attire and ate cup ramen, Fate went to the Kamimura Bank and Enterprises for the interrogation of Kamikaze, who turned out to be Namiki Masanori. Yesterday evening, he received a phone call from Professor Hasegawa that they requested his presence—and guidance—in interrogating Namiki Masanori.
As he walked, Fate bumped into Madoka, who was going the same way as he was. Before she could say anything, Fate ignored her and continued walking. He felt angry eyes on his back, but he treated them like they were nothing.
When they reached Headquarters, Fate said, “How long are you going to follow me? Don’t you have school?”
“I’m skipping today,” Madoka said simply. Then she asked, “Why are you ignoring me?”
“Why?” Fate said, stopping to look at Madoka. He remained silent as he stared at her. “It’s because…you’re not 2-D.” He walked to the Interrogation room on the 46th floor, leaving an opened-mouth Madoka behind.
Fate walked into the Interrogation room and was greeted by Professor Hasegawa. “Your breasts seemed smaller,” he said to her. “Did you wear a sports bra?” Professor Hasegawa covered her chest and backed away to a corner. Behind him, he heard Madoka entered the room after him.
“Don’t worry about her,” Fate said to the mage when he spotted Madoka. “Just ignore her. She won’t cause any disturbances.” With shagging shoulders, Madoka went to stand by Professor Hasegawa, who was sulking. Together, they sank to the ground and watched the show.
The interrogation room was next to the room Fate was in. It was a brightly lit square room with nothing more than a table and two chairs. Namiki Masanori and his interrogator sat by the table, slowly talking with one another.
“What’s the status quo?” Fate asked the mage beside him.
The mage stood uncomfortable beside Fate. He knew that Fate didn’t mean any harm, but he still fear what Fate might do to him due to all the rumors. In a shaky voice, he said, “S-So far, Namiki-yogisha isn’t cooperating with the interrogator. He won’t speak, and often places the interrogator under an illusion. This is our 13th interrogator now.”
“Have you guys tried torture methods yet?” Fate asked.
The mage shrieked out, “T-Torture methods? O-Of course not, Avogadro-san! Even we respect our prisoners’ rights. Don’t they respect the rights of their prisoners in America?”
“They do,” Fate said, simply as he went out of the room. “I don’t.” Entering the Interrogation room, he said to the interrogator, “Please leave us. Thank you for your hard work.”
When they were alone, Fate started the interrogation process. “Namiki Masanori, male, age 39, 186 cm tall, blood type: A-, an only child, employed as a social worker, and has no family. As a mage, you’re a Wizard-class mage, skilled in illusions, graduated from being an Apprentice-class at the age of 18. Then you spent the next five years…”
“What’s your point by reading my life to me?” Masanori said, irritably. “I don’t need a foreigner like you to say them out like that!” Realizing that he was tricked into speaking, Masanori growled at Fate. “You’re a disrespectful foreigner.”
Fate sat in the seat in front of Masanori. “I respect your life, and because of that, I haven’t spilled all your crimes out yet. Putting that aside, I want you to tell me a few things. Your man, Otsuka, said this”—he pulled out his cellphone and played a recording. Otsuka’s voice said: “‘I’m sure he’ll be very profitable when my master suggests your master to the others.’”
Putting the phone away, Fate leaned in his chair. “Who are these ‘others’? Tell me, and you will not regret it.”
Masanori growled. “I have nothing to tell you.” Leaning in his chair, Masanori spit at Fate, landing on Fate’s forehead. “Why don’t you go and eat—“Before he could finish, a huge green magic circle appeared overhead. “W-What are you doing? S-Stop this or I’ll really sue you!”
“Go ahead,” Fate said simply before he released his silent anger. Instantly, a destructive wave of energy flowed out of his gremoire as it shined brighter than ever, pushing out an invisible force that flattened everything around him. Masanori was sent crashing into the wall and coming out on the other side.
When Masanori got to his feet, he saw the black knight that trashed his place yesterday, towering above Fate. The knight grabbed him with its iron gauntlets, and Fate said something that was lost in the chaos. The next thing Masanori knew, they were on the rooftop of Twilight Emissary’s Headquarters. Also, the knight became larger than ever—probably standing ten stories tall. As Masanori became the size of an action figure in its gauntlets, the knight held him over the edge. He screamed out when he looked down. The ground was just a wall of gray with moving specks of colors.
On the knight’s shoulder, Fate stood there, unfazed by the height. “Who are these ‘others’? I’ll give you the count of five. Now, who else is in this with you?” When Masanori didn’t speak, Fate continued to count: “One, two, three, four, and five.” Fate flexed his right hand, and the knight released its hold on Masanori, who plunged downward.
As Masanori screamed, Fate flexed his right hand again, and the knight shot its iron gauntlets down, catching Masanori before he became a blob on the pavement. Bringing Masanori to face-level, Fate tried again. “I won’t give you another chance.”
Shakily, Masanori gave in. “I-I-I will tell you…everything. So, p-please just don’t drop me again.”
“Very good,” Fate said as he brought them back to the Interrogation room.
Fate sat in the only chair available in the Interrogation Room while Masanori sat on the ground, still shaking in fear from being dropped seventy stories.
From the entrance, Professor Hasegawa marched in and grabbed him by the collars, bringing his face to meet hers. Angrily, she shouted, “J-Just what are you trying to pull? You destroyed the wall!”
“It’s nothing,” Fate said, simply. “Besides, your breasts are touching me.” When she looked down, she shrieked and jumped back. Behind her, Madoka touched her own chest and sighed.
Pressing record on his phone, Fate said to Masanori, “You may start anytime you want.”
Taking a deep breath, Masanori began. “A few months ago, I was contacted by someone via e-mails. The e-mails asked me if I want a job that would be worth my while. At first, I disregarded them because I thought that they were those stupid ads on the internet—“
“Stop stalling and get to the point,” Fate said, losing his patience. “My phone can’t record week-long flashbacks.”
Masanori growled, “Fine. The e-mail told me to meet at this one place. There, I met other illusionists like myself. A man with his face hidden came out and addressed us, asking if our illusionary arts were always needed in public. Of course, that got our blood boiled. Illusions weren’t frequently needed. After an hour, we somehow agreed with him, taking in his belief, and by next week, we started what he called ‘Operation Tonbogiri Phase 1.’”
“What’s the guy’s name?” Fate asked.
“I don’t know his name,” Masanori said but quickly added, “I’m for real, kid! What guy in the world would have us call him by his real name if he wanted to do something crazy like this? He’s got to be the dumbest terrorist in the world then! Even we illusionists don’t know one another by name!” After a quick intake of breath, he continued. “Anyhow, he contacted me by phone later.”
“What’s Phase 1 of Operation Tonbogiri?” Professor Hasegawa asked. “What is it, really?”
“One question at a time, really,” Masanori exclaimed in disbelief. “I don’t know what Operation Tonbogiri is specifically, but Phase 1 is testing out a theory about a bomb that doesn’t have to kill in order to strike fear. The answer to that is illusion because it can turn a fake into reality and vice versa.”
“So, what are you guys talking about, really?” Madoka asked.
“All the bombs and stolen bodies over the world were part of it?” Fate asked, ignoring Madoka’s question.
Masanori nodded. “Correct, because an illusion can only take form with a set amount of energy. When the energy is used up, the illusion will disappear, and when an illusionist is trying to fool a large number of people from a long distance, it takes quite a toll on them. Can you imagine how frustrating it is fooling the hospital into treating an imaginary person, and sustaining the forms of countless bodies for weeks while being miles away? And the bombings around the world were the works of the other illusionists. Like a real bomber, we have to test out in order to know miscalculations.”
Fate nodded, crossing his arms. “I see. Then all the victims weren’t real?”
“Of course, they’re not real!” Masanori exclaimed. “Driving people to the edge of insanity is our preferred way! All of my victims in Japan were my past clients! The only trouble I had was when I started sending illusions to America. I’ve never been there, so I started choosing random tourists off the streets and made them all unidentifiable. Only Auttenburg of Sweden was the closest to the real thing!”
After a long moment of silence, Fate said, “I have only one question for you, and then, you’re free to go.” The response startled the two girls and Masanori. The mages behind Fate protested, but one look from him, they settled down. “When is Phase 2 of Operation Tonbogiri?” Fate asked. “So far, all you’ve said is about Phase 1.”
Sighing, Masanori shook his head. “I was told that it would start in two days yesterday…” Before he could finish, a jagged ice pillar broke through the Interrogation room and penetrated into Masanori’s chest. Red blood drooled down his wound as he became lifeless and fell to his side on the ground.
On alert, Fate, Professor Hasegawa, and Madoka got to their feet, looking around. Above his head, Fate spotted someone floating in the air. Flexing his right hand, he brought out his Shield of Mars. The black knight took its ten-story-tall form and rose to the sky with Fate appearing on its shoulder.
In the air, he recognized the small figure at the airport, who was talking to Father Laager. The figure was flying with javelin-like icicles jutting down its arms. Before he could react, the small figure attacked.
It flew straight for Fate and swung its icicles in an arc at Fate’s head. He ducked down and summoned sharp stone pillars from green magic circles on the knight’s shoulder. Then he sent them flying at the figure, which dodged each one like child’s play. Fate flexed his right hand and the knight took action; it drew its sword and slashed at the figure.
The figure flew out of reach and raised its hands into the air. Two huge blue magic circles floated in the sky. Fate couldn’t hear what spell the figure casted, but the next thing he knew the two blue magic circles blasted a thick wave of ice at his Shield of Mars. Instantly, his knight couldn’t move as it was encased in a thick block of ice.
Looking left and right, Fate couldn’t see where the figure had flown to. Suddenly, his ring shined a dull green like it did at the airport. He turned around, and the figure flew in for the kill. When its javelin-like icicles made contact, gold sand appeared out of nowhere and deflected its attack, leaving it open.
Fate pointed a finger at the figure. “Light of the Fallen, Wrath Laser.” A red magic circle appeared at his fingertip as it blasted a yellow laser of energy at the figure. The figure was blown away, but managing to stop its descent. When it hovered to recover its injury, the thick shawl flapped away and revealed the face underneath. It turned out the figure was a little girl of no more than Azumi’s age with extremely long gold hair, long eyelashes, green emerald eyes, and a small black stripe running down the left side of her face. A green shard connected to a necklace flapped in the wind.
“I must congratulate you, boy,” the girl said, flying higher into the air. “You’re one of the handfuls that actually hurt me. With that, I’ll reward you by giving you my name; I am Evangelina Itala Valenti, a Dark Mage of Vandal. Also, as a bonus, I’ll tell you this: that idiot Laager will be going full power the next time you two meet, and when he does, this city will be in ruins.” Then she disappeared into thin air.
He stared into the sky, wondering what else was waiting for them.
Late in the evening, Twilight Emissary was nearly empty of mages. In the Chairwoman’s room, there held a meeting that no one knew about.
Azumi faced the group in the Chairwoman’s office: Fate, Professor Hasegawa, and Madoka. She sighed tiredly. “What else are we facing?”
“Can someone tell me what is going on here?” Madoka asked.
“You weren’t even involved from the very beginning,” Fate said simply. Before Madoka could use violence on Fate, the Chairwoman stopped her.
“Now, now, please refrain from using violence, Madoka-chan,” the Chairwoman said, chuckling. To Fate, she said, “I think it’s fair if you tell her everything that’s happened so far. And at the same time, we’ll be able to review and contrast what’s about to happen.”
Nodding, Fate told Madoka everything. He told her about the bombings all over the world and to the present. When he was done, Madoka stared at him.
“But who was that guy you were with?” she asked, referring to Sada Toshio. “I saw you, him, and these other guys all night long, concocting some sort of plan! What about that?”
“Oh,” Fate said simply. “Sada Toshio is the son of Sada Yoshio, head of the Yakuza branch. In exchange for not sending him to jail, he would do whatever I say. I ask for the Chairwoman’s permission for illusionists and teamed up with the Yakuza. For three days, we created similar illusions to the recent bombings in hope of catching Masanori’s attention. Surprisingly, it worked. If you’re still suspicious, Azumi can vouch for me. She kept a careful leash on me.”
Madoka nodded. “Oh, I get it…but what about the Inada Mushrooms set you bought?”
“You want them?” Fate said, causing Madoka to stammer and deny it. “Very well, it’ll be my present to you after this is done.” Before Madoka could deny it, Fate got serious. “By calculating what Namiki Masanori had said Phase 2 would start in two days—from when he was captured—meaning it would be tomorrow? We have until tonight to figure out what Operation Tonbogiri.”
The Chairwoman sighed. “And to think that it’ll be Vandal we’re facing against.”
“What is Vandal, actually?” Professor Hasegawa asked. “I’ve never heard of it.”
“Vandal is a mercenary organization, consisting of mostly Dark Mages,” Madoka suddenly spoke up. “They’re notorious for their unlimited line of work and the skills their mages possessed. No one knows where their headquarters is, but I heard that it’s somewhere in Europe.”
“Looks like you’re not hopeless after all,” Fate said, causing Madoka to bear her fists at him. “Putting that aside, I guarantee that there will be at least four Sorcerer-level mages. They are: Father Laager, Evangelina, the mysterious third friend, and the Mastermind behind Operation Tonbogiri.”
“Can I speak my mind?” Professor Hasegawa suddenly said. Everyone in the room looked at her in silence. “I’ve been thinking for a while now but...ever since I heard that name this afternoon, I’ve been researching. As I recall, Tonbogiri means ‘dragonfly cutter.’”
“Where are you getting at?” Azumi asked. “Tonbogiri is supposedly the name of a spear used by several daimyos during the Sengoku period. And it’s also a rumored spear that was used by the Shinto god Izanagi to create Japan.”
“Yes, but it also refers to the Royal Family of Japan,” Professor Hasegawa persisted. “In the year 2000 when former Emperor Amagawa stepped down and his son, Amagawa Egami, took over, the Royal Title was changed from ‘the Imperial Sun Family’ to ‘the House of the Dragonfly.’ An article wrote about the sudden change in the name as ‘a way to not draw attention to Japan’”—she quoted.
Madoka was thinking about it was well. “You’re right. Although I was a little kid then, I do remember something about it. At the time, my dad was saying that the Japan magic branch is too close an influence on the Emperor, which would lead to a nation owned by mages. He argued with a fellow colleague that if that happens, Japan would be in a war with the other magic branches. Since the Emperor is a mage, himself, he took action and changed the Royal Title.”
“What’s with this royal title?” Fate asked, being the one to be left out in the loop this time.
“I guess you can say that it’s like the Opening Words,” Azumi supplied in. “Each country that’s run by magic adopts a Royal Title. And depending on that Royal Title decides the nature of that country. Japan’s Royal Title has always been the ‘Imperial Sun Family’ since the Meiji Restoration. That’s a bold Title because it challenges the other countries’ authorities. And up until 2000, Japan was in a heated battle for power with Europe.”
“If what you’re saying is correct,” Madoka said to Professor Hasegawa, “then Operation Tonbogiri is targeting the Royal Family. But…what about Phase 1; what is its purpose anyway?”
“Oh dear,” the Chairwoman said from her desk. “This isn’t good at all.” All eyes were turned to her. After a moment of silence, the Chairwoman said, “Whoever this Mastermind is, he’s pretty knowledgeable about the Sakura Escape Plan.” Seeing the confused looks, she began explaining. “At the same time as the Boxer Rebellion in China, a sorceress named Ikegami Sakura came up with a plan for the Royal Family in case of a coup d’état.
“Under the Royal Mansion, there is a labyrinth of secret passageways branching off to several places. The passageways are filled with deathtraps, and only the Royal Family, the Prime Minister, and personal bodyguards knew the correct ways in and out. When put into motion, the Royal Family is to split up and travel through the labyrinth. When they reach the exits, they are to gather at a specific place called ‘the Crossroad.’ There, they are to fly to a different country and hide out until the troubles are over. It’s only ever been used once since the time of Ikegami Sakura.
“And I am sure he’s using the illusions as a drastic reason for the Royal Family to use the Sakura Escape Plan. If that was the purpose, it could very well be accomplished.”
Sighing, Azumi rubbed her head. “This is getting more complicated by the minute. But we can’t be sure that this person knows about the Sakura Escape Plan, grandma. Not yet, and I need some time to formulate a plan because tomorrow is the Emperor’s birthday of all days.”
“Very good,” Fate said, softly. “Then can you introduce me to him?”
Emperor Amagawa’s birthday started in a spectacular display of fireworks that lit up the entire sky. The streets were cleared of cars as pedestrians stood on the sidewalks, enjoying the parade that went through town. Behind the parade, the Emperor’s limo followed closely with police escorts and several black armor cars.
The Emperor sat in the limo with his family on opposite seats facing him. He was a middle-aged man with dark skin, short black hair, thick eyebrows, and very calculating eyes. He was dressed in a tailored black suit with a striped tie, a red shirt, and extra dark shoes.
His family in the limo consisted of his wife, Haruko, and his daughter, Airi. His wife was middle-aged like him with a few years short, long black hair tied into a bun with extravagant silver pins, and was dressed in a traditional kimono with blue jays flying to and from trees. And his daughter, Airi, was just 12 years old with long straight black hair down to her waist, a cheerful smile, and was dressed in her school uniform. She usually does fortune-telling though right now, she was taking a nap.
There two other people with them in the limo were his daughter’s personal guard, Sakuragi Sakura, who was 15 and a close friend to his daughter, and the other person was the Prime Minister. They were good friends and powerful Sorcerers in their respected fields. The Emperor was a skilled swordsman while the Prime Minister was an expert in water magic.
Looking at the fireworks, the Emperor waved at his people. “It’s so good to leave the Palace once in a while and do this. It felt like eons since I’ve seen the blue sky and this many people.”
The Prime Minister chuckled. “Well, we are only trying to protect your well-being, your majesty. With these constant suicide bombings, we had to tighten the securities up a bit.”
“I heard that that West Mage finally found the cause of those suicide bombings, right?” the Emperor said, turning to face the Prime Minister. “In that case, our Magic Branch and America’s should get along quite well. By the way, what does that West Mage look like anyway?”
“I had the privilege of inviting her with us today,” the Prime Minister said. “She’s waiting for us back at the Palace, your majesty. Once this parade ends, we’ll head back, and you’ll be able to congratulate her.”
Meanwhile, Fate was following Azumi through the crowd to the Palace. It was so crowded that they had lost sight of one another a few times while making the trip from Headquarters. Madoka was right behind him while Professor Hasegawa stayed behind to handle the security camera issues. Apparently, she was a skilled hacker—as she had told him the previous night.
Out of the corner of his eye, Fate spotted the limo heading back to the Palace from its roundtrip within the city limits. “We need to hurry, Azumi. Can’t we get there any faster?”
“Apparently, no,” Azumi said as she ran through the crowd. They were a few feet from the gate. “All the mages at Twilight Emissary are currently using the Aero-transport lines to and from Headquarters to the Palace. If we use those, then yes. But it will take longer than this to get register because it’s under direct control of the Emperor. We’ll have to get his permission if we cause a hold-up, which means we could be arrested.”
When they got to the gate, she showed the guards her combat badge. The guards hesitated for a moment, but they reluctantly let them pass through. “Even if we did use the Aero-transport lines, it would still take forever because you’re an illegal alien who haven’t gone through the immigration process or get a Visa from the government.”
Fate sighed, shaking his head. They passed into an asphalt driveway, where a luxurious five-story building loomed in the distance with a football-sized garden out front. The Palace was heavily guarded with black suited men. The limo and its escorts stopped out front of the Palace.
“They’ll be making a quick stop to change their appearances before heading back out for a quick speech,” Azumi said when they reached the end of the asphalt driveway. They were just a hundred meters from the Emperor. “And during that time, I could get you acquainted with the Emperor and tell him the situation at hand.”
“Can’t we use magic right here?” Madoka asked, keeping up to their speed from the back. “There’s barely anyone here but the security guards, who must be aware of magic, yes?”
“No,” Azumi shouted angrily. “If I wanted to use magic right now, I would’ve done so. No, there is a barrier that prevents our magic from surfacing. Only the Emperor knows the password for shutting down the barrier otherwise, we’ll have to use pure force.”
“I don’t think so,” Fate said as he grasped hold of his gremoire, which was glowing brightly. “It only works on East Mages only. Grab a hold of me, girls.” Obeying his orders, Azumi grabbed his left hand while Madoka reached for his shoulder. Fate pointed at the Emperor, who was helping his wife and daughter out of the limo. “Cardinal Point, North.”
A green magic circle appeared underneath them as they ran. The earth suddenly opened up, consuming them in darkness, and then letting them out, reappearing a few meters away from the Emperor.
“What spell is this?” Madoka asked, still shaking in fright. “We’re…”
“It’s a spell that allows me to move wherever I want as long as it’s close by,” Fate said before his phone rang. Picking it up and answering it, he realized it was Professor Hasegawa. “Yes, what is it?”
“I’m about to tell you that there’s a girl coming to meet the Emperor,” Professor Hasegawa said on the other line. “I’ve broken through the countless firewalls they have in the Palace, and right now, the Prime Minister is bringing over a blond girl.”
“We need to get the Emperor’s attention,” Fate said hurriedly to Azumi and Madoka. “Thank you.” He closed the phone and pointed a spell at the group of cars.
The Emperor greeted the blond girl, and his family did the same. She was maybe a year younger than his daughter, but these days, children were becoming powerful. Shaking the girl’s hand, the Emperor said, “I’ve heard a lot about you, miss. It’s a pleasure to see you in the flesh.”
“It’s nothing at all,” the girl said, doing a courtesy bow. “I’m Evangelina Valenti.” Before she could say anything further, three armor cars slammed into the ground beside her. The guards took action as more cars flew at them. Suddenly, she felt something on her leg. Looking down, she saw a black iron gauntlet grasping hold of her ankle. Then she was whipped into the air and smashed to the ground a hundred meters away.
The Emperor was about to run to Evangelina’s aid, but his guards shouted in panic as explosions erupted out of nowhere. The ground shook violently as the people outside the gate screamed out in pain. He stopped and looked at the gates, wondering what was happening. Then the explosions sounded closer.
“Your majesty,” the Prime Minister shouted as he rushed to the Emperor’s side. “We must evacuate immediately! There are explosions everywhere!”
“Evacuate?” the Emperor said, incredulously. “My people are being bombed outside! How could I just leave them? No, take my family and hide underground while I’ll go help them!”
“Please, we must evacuate!” the Prime Minister pleaded, tugging the Emperor’s arm. “There are strong sorcerers coming our way! While we’re in this barrier, we can’t use any of our magic! And if you shut it down, then the sorcerers can—look!” The Prime Minister pointed behind the Emperor.
The Emperor watched in amazement as three kids—two girls and one boy—fought their way through the line of guards as the explosions outside intensified. The boy was using the most magic by summoning a God’s Artifact, the Shield of Mars—they were powerful spells that were said to be of divine origin. Suddenly, the fortress around the Palace collapsed all at once.
Out the corner of his eye, he spotted Evangelina rushing to his side. “I’ll take care of this! Go to safety! Twilight Emissary will join up later!” Then she charged forward as a red magic circle appeared above her.
Beside him, the Prime Minister was still pleading with him to evacuate. One look at his family confirmed his decision. With an iron grip, the Emperor grabbed the Prime Minister’s shoulder and dragged him back.
“Let’s go!” he shouted as he dragged his family after him. “We’re using the Sakura Escape Plan!” They were out of sight once they went into the Palace.
Fate watched the Royal Family escape into the Palace. Silently, he cursed as he brought his Shield of Mars around and whipped the security guards out of the way.
Beside him, both Azumi and Madoka were staying close to him as to not get hit by his knight. Suddenly, his phone rang. Picking it up, he said, “Yes?”
“Avogadro-san,” Professor Hasegawa said with panic in her voice. “The Royal Family is escaping via the Sakura Escape Plan! They’re already going down to the lowest level, about to reach the secret door that…oh, crap!”
“What’s wrong?” Fate asked when he heard the connection fuzzed dangerously. Professor Hasegawa’s voice sounded faded. He could barely hear her. Before he could discern what could have happened, he spotted Evangelina attacking them.
He wheeled his knight and slammed its roman shield to block Evangelina’s flames. Fate flexed his right hand, and the knight swung its armor in an arc at Evangelina, who managed to fly away. A red magic circle appeared above her as she swung her hand down and red hot flames blasted forth. And Fate brought the shield back to protect them. “We need to get out of here,” Fate said as he could feel very tired all of a sudden. “Even though my magic isn’t affected like yours, I’m losing my strength to stay awake.” Grabbing both girls around the waists, Fate summoned a huge green magic circle underneath him and jumped. The magic circle propelled him high into the sky while the Shield of Mars disappeared into the earth.
They landed outside the Palace gates, where the Shield of Mars resurfaced and caught them. Setting them on the ground, Fate released the two girls and pulled out his phone while trying hard to keep his magic in check. “Hasegawa, can you hear me?”
The line connected and Professor Hasegawa’s voice spoke through. “I’m sorry for the break-up. While I was trying to access the databank regarding to the layout of the labyrinth, hundreds of firewalls popped up and gave Twilight Emissary a virus like no other. It affected every electronic gadget at Headquarters like crazy. It took me time to disable it, but yeah, that—“
“Hasegawa, can you find—” Suddenly, Evangelina flew into view and sent pillars of ice shards at them. Madoka jumped forward and raised her arms out as a huge red magic circle floated by her hands. Then a big wave of fire erupted into the sky, melting the pillars of ice shards in seconds.
“Just go,” Madoka said, blocking Evangelina’s way. Then she handed Fate a slip of paper. “That’s my phone number. Just text me the place to meet while I hold her off!” Without another word, Madoka released her flames. Numerous red magic circles appeared over her fists, feet, and the ground as flames covered her fists and fire jutted out of her heels. Then she flew into the air with the flames at her heels shooting out like flamethrowers.
Slipping the paper into his pocket, he and Azumi disappeared via his spell Cardinal Point, and reappearing on his knight’s shoulder. Then the knight increased to its full size with its lower body parts coming into existence. It stood as tall as twenty stories, and ran into the city limits.
Evangelina stared after the impress sight of magic, and then she shifted her gaze to Madoka. “Well, well, looks like a little girl’s going to take me on? I guess I prefer that boy, but he’s that idiot’s prey already. What fun can you give me?”
Madoka hovered in the air, taking a fighting stance. “Just you wait. I have been unable to concentrate in my training ever since that West Mage came here. You’ll be a worthy brain-cleanser. By blood and bones, I call fire, Fire Gauntlets!” And then she charged at Evangelina at full speed.
“I am the Dark Mage of Fire,” Evangelina said, raising her left hand as a purple magic circle floated above her hand. “Ice is my domain and fire is my enemy. Gather onto me and freeze my enemies to bitterness. Magia Gaudia.”
Meanwhile, Fate was on the phone with Professor Hasegawa. “Can you tell me how many exits the labyrinth has? If we follow inside, we’ll just be trap within. So, we’ll wait for them outside instead.”
“I get your point,” Professor Hasegawa said on the other line. “But it’ll take some time. I’m hitting some more firewalls, and hopefully, there aren’t any more viruses. Also, I hope none of the other guys over here sees me doing this! If I get caught hacking into the security system of the Palace, I’ll be fired no matter what!”
Suddenly, Azumi shouted something that was lost in the wind. Then his knight lost balance as something powerful crashed into it. His Shield of Mars toppled to the ground, disappearing into the earth before any major damages appeared.
Getting to his feet, Fate looked above and spotted Laager and the third unknown figure standing on the roof. Laager looked the same as before with his blond hair and giant sword on his shoulder. “It’s time to fight, kid!” Laager announced loudly, causing several eyes to turn upon him. “I’ve been waiting for this day to fight you with my all!” He jumped down and swiped his giant sword down from three stories in the air.
Fate and Azumi jumped back as the giant blade crashed into the ground, sending a large portion of the street into the air. Cars suddenly stopped and caused an increasing traffic jam that sounded angry horns all over the place.
Laager jumped back and rested his sword on his shoulder. “What’s wrong, kid? Aren’t you going to fight me, or are you scared that you might lose in front of your girlfriend there? Well, either way, I’m going full power whether you want to fight me or not!” Swinging his giant sword around, Laager charged at Fate and Azumi.
“Here,” Azumi said, handing Fate a slip of paper. “I’ll hold him off while you go on ahead. I might not like the idea that I’m handing this to a West Mage, but I trust you. Just text me when Hasegawa finds out the locations!” Then she charged at Laager.
Nodding, Fate rode upon his Shield of Mars once again. As his knight ran across town, Fate spotted the third unknown figure after him.
Laager sighed when he saw Fate ran off and left him a little girl to fight with. But he decided to give his all in this fight whether he wanted to or not. Increasing his speed, Laager swung his giant sword on top of Azumi and sent the ground up in the air again.
Behind him, Azumi came and swung her arm in an arc, meeting his ribs. Suddenly, a powerful force rippled from her arm and sent Laager crashing the ground, sending a giant dust cloud into the air. Before he could move, Azumi grabbed his arm and tossed him, where he crash-landed several meters away.
After a moment of silence, Laager stood up, covered in scrapes yet unhurt. On his face, he was smiling broadly. “You know, I might really enjoy this fight after all. Maybe not as much as with that kid, but you’ll do an okay job of a work out. By the way, what kind of magic did you use?”
“I’m Kamimura Azumi,” Azumi said, taking a fighting stance. “In Asia, I’m known as the seventh strongest East Mage. I’m skilled in aikido, using an internal-style fire magic to strengthen my own limits. It’s why I’m called ‘the Inferno Sidearm.’”
“Nice,” Laager said, stretching his arm. “I’ve never fought an internal-style fire mage before. This will be worth my while!” He took a sword stance, holding his sword at chest level while spreading his legs wide. “I am the Dark Mage of Water! Sound is my domain while water is my enemy! Wake from your hibernation and crush my enemies in a rain of cries. Iratus Iumentus.” Suddenly, a purple magic circle appeared above him as a purple mist started thickening. Soon, Laager became darker, his blond hair more wild, and his necklace shined brightly.
Resting his sword on his shoulder, Laager grinned excitedly. “Let’s clear the area of eye-witnesses. A fortiori, Bank of the Frogs.” A blue magic circle floated above his head and purple mist flowed out, creeping all over town.
As Azumi looked, the people around were falling asleep. “What did you do?”
“It’s a pain to have to avoid these small fries,” Laager said, shrugging. “So, I put them all to sleep. Now, no one will interfere with our fight, and you guys won’t have to waste your illusionist’s time of brainwashing them. Now, let’s fight!”
“Are you done yet?” Fate asked as his knight ran across town from the third unknown figure. “It’s been three minutes so far.”
“Can’t you wait longer than that?” Professor Hasegawa shouted into the phone. “I know that it’s a desperate life-and-death situation over there, but it takes time! I’m working as fast as I can here!”
“Alright, call me when you finish,” he said, disconnecting right away. Then he stopped his knight’s run and turned around to confront the third figure. “Who are you?”
The third figure hovered in the sky, being silent for a long time. Then the figure removed its hood, revealing the face underneath. Fate stared and realized it was a giant robot with a man’s head—bald with a crude metallic plate at the side—stitches all over his face, and a black respirator instead of a mouth.
“I am Ratto Gryffinth,” the man/robot said with a strained soft voice. “As you can see, I’m a failed human experiment combining magic and science together. I’m part robot, but I’m also part mage.” Without another word, Ratto charged at Fate at full speed.
Fate flexed his right hand, causing his Shield of Mars to shrink down to a sixteen-story-tall knight, and then he attacked. The knight lashed out at Ratto with its sword drawn. Ratto flew under each and every strike easily, coming up and under the knight’s arm. When Ratto was in arm’s reach, Fate sent a hailstorm of jagged stone pillars at him.
Ratto flew out of reach and aimed a bulky hand at Fate. Suddenly, smoke erupted from his arm as missiles fired out of his thick sleeve. Fate flexed his right hand and the Roman shield came up to block, but the missiles swiveled around the shield and targeted Fate instead. An explosion happened when the missiles hit Fate head-on.
When the smoke cleared, Ratto saw Fate unharmed but scratched. “Simple blocking maneuvers aren’t going to work against me. Take this, Annunciato Missiles!” More missiles fired from his sleeve once more at Fate.
Before the missiles reached him, Fate pointed a finger at Ratto, and said, “Cardinal Point, behind Ratto.” All at once, he and the knight were consumed by the earth, and reappeared behind Ratto. Pointing at Ratto, he said, “Light of the Fallen, Wrath Laser.” A yellow laser erupted from his finger and struck Ratto in the back, but the laser bounced off.
“I have an absolute defense against energy-based spells,” Ratto said as he spun around and flew in with his arms raised. “They don’t work on me! Take this, Annunciato Missiles!” More missiles fired at Fate, and Ratto flew around, coming at Fate from the other side.
Putting up a barrier with his left hand, Fate concentrated with his right hand against Ratto. The knight swung its sword in an arc, and Ratto flew over, coming in close. Before Fate could counter, the missiles broke through his barrier completely, and struck his back. Luckily, his Sand Armor took effect, loosening the force of impact. But in front, Ratto came and grabbed hold of him, and Fate started to become dizzy as his eyelids started to close.
Ratto laughed triumphantly. “Another one of my special abilities is to absorb the energy of my opponent. All of your energy will be mine.”
Forcing his eyes to open, Fate grasped his gremoire as it shined dully in his hand. “I am but a mirror, Abysmal Serpent!” Four huge blue magic circles floated overhead, and large quantities of water flowed down like a waterfall. The water gathered, swirled into a whirlpool below them, and took the form of a dragon. It roared angrily and soared into the sky at Ratto, who released Fate and flew away. The dragon curled around the knight with its head resting beside Fate.
Ratto laughed triumphantly. “I didn’t realize you still had that much strength left. I’ll be sure to suck you dry the next time I lay my hands on you. So while you still have the chance, you should beg for mercy and call me ‘master.’ And I might just let you live with a mere scrape of your strength!”
Taking in deep breaths, Fate petted his Abysmal Serpent fondly on the head as it purred like a kitten. Facing Ratto, he said, “You made me use the one element I’m forbid to use, and that’s water. For that, I won’t let you live. You’ll be finished with my next spell, and it’s one that I hate to use.”
Laughing, Ratto cried out, “Don’t make me laugh! There’s not a spell that can defeat me! All your energy-based spells will be rendered useless by my robot body! Your barriers will be crushed because of the De-spelling magic embedded in them! And nearly half of your strength was sucked away by me! You’re just merely scraping by with summoning that God’s Artifact and water spell of yours!” Still laughing, Ratto charged at Fate. “I’ll call your bluff!”
Aiming a hand at Ratto, Fate said, “I am the Sleeping Goddess, Petrify.” A green magic circle appeared beside his hand, and it shot out a gray thin mist that covered the entire sky within seconds.
As Ratto flew into the mist, he felt something strange happening to his body. Looking at his hands, he screamed out when he saw that his hands had turned to stone. Soon, his feet turned to stone, working its way up to his chest, and he fell down from the sky.
Fate flexed his hand, causing his knight to catch Ratto in midair. Bringing Ratto to face-level, Fate glared at him as Ratto’s body quickly turned to stone except for his head. “How does it feel to be powerless?”
“P-Please stop this petrification spell!” Ratto cried out in fear. “I’ll do anything you want! I’ll even give you back your energy, and I’ll even tell you where our leader has taken the Emperor!”
Suddenly, Fate’s phone rang. “Yes,” he said tiredly after picking it up. It was Professor Hasegawa. After a quick minute of talking, Fate nodded and disconnected. Then he glared at Ratto. “It looks like you’re not needed.”
“Please!” Ratto cried louder as tears streamed down his robotic face. “You don’t know the hardships I’ve faced being half robot! I’ve been tortured, bullied, and used like some sort of tool! So, please have mercy on me!” When he saw the sympathetic look in Fate’s eyes, he grinned. “You do believe in mercy because you’re a nice man, right?”
“No,” Fate said simply. “I believe in the right to forgive what’s wrong and terminate what is.” Raising his hand to the air as the Abysmal Serpent shook free and rose to the air. “Fair well,” he said to Ratto when the Abysmal Serpent roared angrily and attacked Ratto, carrying him straight to the ground. As the water lost form, the ground was wet and littered with stone pieces of Ratto. Then Fate rode his Shield of Mars to the designated place.
The sky above the Palace shook violently as Madoka and Evangelina fought against one another. Madoka was covered in scrapes and bruises though they weren’t serious injuries. Evangelina was covered in the same amount of scrapes as Madoka.
Madoka flew in an arc and circled around, bringing her flaming fists up. Opposite her, Evangelina was imitating her, covering her fists in icy gauntlets. They met in the middle and exchanged blows that shook the grounds below.
While they were exchanging blow, Evangelina moved back for a fraction of a second and lashed out with a roundhouse kick that caught Madoka off-guard. The kick made contact with Madoka’s shoulder, sent her flying diagonally to the ground. Before Madoka could slow down, Evangelina appeared behind her. She kicked Madoka straight up and flew after her, surpassing her in seconds.
Then Evangelina slammed a straight jab at Madoka in the face, stopping her flight, and then she lashed a knee into Madoka’s stomach. Madoka screamed out in pain when Evangelina flew behind her and slammed two hands into her back, sending her to the ground. She crashed into the Palace, cutting it cleanly in half.
As she tried to stand up, Madoka realized how cold it was. The ground suddenly started covering in ice. Her breath came out as a puff of smoke. Looking up, she saw Evangelina with her hand raised into the air with a giant sky-blue magic circle above her. “Divinia Cruentas Morsas,” Evangelina said as she released a shower of javelin-like ice shards straight for Madoka.
“Fire Boots 2,” Madoka declared as the flames at her heels increased in intensity and became blue. Then she shot away as the ice shards struck the ground, sticking out like spikes. Clenching her fist, a bright red magic circle popped up, and she stopped, turned around, and blasted a wave of blue flames at the incoming ice shards. Her flames melted the ice shards within seconds.
Evangelina descended to ground-level, hovering just a few inches off the ground. “My, I thought you would provide some fun, but it looks like I was imagining things. All you’re good at is close-range fighting. When it comes to long-range, you fly away and try your best to get in close again. A simple strategy like that won’t work against me.”
On shaky legs, Madoka glared at Evangelina. “I’m Kodama Madoka, the sixth strongest East Mage. I’m called the ‘Stormbringer’ for a reason, and I’m about to get serious.” She clenched her fists tightly, and flames around her hands gotten larger, wilder, and changed to deep blue. “I was saving this for Laager, but it looks like I’ll be using this against you.”
Madoka’s blue flames sharpened to a point, and she went on the offensive. Quicker than before, she landed a flaming jab to Evangelina’s chest, causing Evangelina to scream out as the flames cut through her chest. A red magic circle appeared underneath Madoka as she jumped and slammed a side kick to Evangelina’s side, sending her flying away and crashing into the Palace gates.
Getting to her feet, Evangelina clutched the cut on her chest. Her skin was melted completely, exposing the muscles. Concentrating, she coated her wound in ice, stopping the pain and bleeding. All of a sudden, she felt an intense rise in temperature and looked up.
“Do you know what fire is capable of?” Madoka asked as she slowly walked toward Evangelina. “Fire is capable of warming all things on earth, which create storms, mostly lightning.” She raised her hand into the air as an incredibly large red magic circle hovered above her. Dark clouds started forming under the magic circle, and thunder rumbled. “In order to create a storm, one needs a lot of humidity, an incredibly warm front, and massive clouds that holds water.” Without further ado, Madoka called out her spell: “By blood and bones, I call fire, Imperial Lizard Cain!” In response, thunder shook the ground violently as blue lightning lit up the horizon. Tendrils of lightning flashed down and gathered into one giant clump, forming into a beast. Throwing her hand down, the clump of lightning, Imperial Lizard Cain, roared angrily and shot down like a bolt of lightning at Evangeline.
In a flash of brilliant light, an explosion shook the entire city as tendrils of lightning sparked here and there. A power outage occurred in the city when the explosion subsided. When it cleared, there was huge crater beside the Palace, and nothing of Evangelina was left.
“I learned that while I was in England,” Madoka said, releasing her spells and setting her shoulders at ease. Before she could sit down, an icy draft chilled her spine. Out of nowhere, javelin-like ice shards flew straight at Madoka. Her Fire Boots 2 blazed to life, and she flew out of the way. Suddenly, an ice shard pierced her thigh, causing her scream out and fell to the ground.
“My, I take it back that you’re no fun,” said Evangelina as she flew into view.
Madoka’s eyes widened when she saw Evangelina, who wasn’t even scratched. The injury Madoka had given her was gone and the previous scrapes were gone as well. “H-How did you survive that?”
“Well, a girl has her secrets,” Evangelina said, shrugging. “But as a bonus for coming this far, I guess I can tell you. In truth, that spell did kill me, but I’m Evangelina Itala Valenti, the Puppet Master. The one you killed was just a voodoo doll, merely containing a tenth of my real strength. If I were to face you now, you’ll be dead a hundred times already. But our leader ordered us not to kill anyone useful, so I’ll spare you for now.” She ascended and disappeared into thin air, leaving Madoka wounded.
In the distance, Madoka heard buildings being destroyed one by one like Lego pieces being knocked down.
In the downtown area, building after building was knocked down like they were nothing. Azumi jumped into the air, grabbed hold of the railing of a balcony three stories up, and hoisted herself up onto the landing. Below, Laager laughed and jumped four stories high.
As Laager brought his giant sword down, his sword released a screeching sound that shattered every window nearby, causing Azumi’s ears to bleed. Azumi jumped out of the way as the sword slashed the building cleanly in two. Landing on the ground, Azumi looked back at the building, wondering about the people inside.
Laager laughed, poised on top of the fallen building. “Don’t worry about them. Our leader ordered us not to kill anyone that isn’t involved. I moved them all to the police station somewhere. Now, we have this place all to ourselves!” An orange magic circle appeared behind him, releasing a screeching sound wave that vibrated the entire ground. And then he shot forward like a rocket with his giant sword at waist-level.
Cursing silently, Azumi bolted away from him with a red magic circle to boost her speed. As she ran away, she came across a dead end. Before she could do anything about it, Laager came from behind and swung his giant sword at her, who ducked down and the building was cut cleanly through. She jumped to the side, but before she could bolt away, the sword came for her head. Ducking down, she twisted in midair, dodging the blade by centimeters. And then she jumped to the wall, and started running up until she reached the roof.
Laager jumped high into the sky and swung his giant sword down, sending multiple sound waves that slashed through the buildings below. “What’s the matter? All you’ve been doing is running away! Where’s that internal-style fire magic?”
Sighing, Azumi stood where she was. “I’m merely observing you; that’s all. Before I go all out, I need to know what my opponent is capable of.”
“Oh, that,” Laager said, sounding downhearted. “Well, I would’ve told you anyway. I don’t like to hold things back when I’m fighting, and stuff like information about my magic hinders me as well.” Pointing to his sword, he said, “I’m the Dark Mage of Water, so I use sound magic. My sword produces a sound wave that renders everything that vibrates it completely useless by disturbing the molecules themself. Also, I can use sound magic to enhance my physical potentials—kind of like yours.”
“Well, since you’ve told me yours,” Azumi said, pulling something out from her coat. When it was in the open, it was revealed to be a small black handgun. “I shall tell you mine to be fair. Since I use an internal-style fire magic, I mostly conduct in close-quarters, but to make up for the loss of long-range, I use this”—she pointed to the handgun. “It fires a condensed version of thermal energy in the form of a beam. How far it goes is none of my concern.”
“Sounds fair enough,” Laager said while laughing. “You and I could really get along.”
“I’m sorry, but you’re not my type,” Azumi said, clicking the gun from safety to arm. “And our age gap is too wide.”
“I figured you’d say that,” Laager replied, shrugging like it wasn’t a big deal. “I’m not one to date little girls ten years younger than me! How about we continue our fight? I’m itching to fill my gap of fun!” Without another word, he charged forward, reaching Azumi within seconds, and swung his giant sword in an arc.
Azumi jumped back enough to dodge the strike, and then she continued moving backward as Laager kept swinging his giant sword at her. When her back came across a wall, Laager roared with joy and swiped his sword in an arc. Before his sword made contact, Azumi grinned and a red magic circle floated in front of her handgun. Then she fired a giant red beam of energy at Laager’s midsection, sending him flying back.
Laager slammed his giant sword to the ground, causing his sword to produce that screeching sound wave. The beam fuzzed out of shape, and he swiped his arm at it, deflecting it away from him. Standing up, he grinned at Azumi, wondering what else she had up her sleeve. Before he could react, Azumi fired multiple red beams of energy at him from where she was. He blocked each blast and then attacked back with his own, a crescent sound wave. His attack slashed through the ground Azumi was standing on.
As the building started falling, Azumi placed her hand to the ground, where a large red magic circle appeared. Intense heat sizzled through, and then the building stopped toppling, standing lopsided. Then she continued firing at Laager. “I’m impressed,” Laager shouted, blocking Azumi’s blasts. “You used your heat to smelt the iron framings together.” Deflecting another blast, he charged forward and jumped into the air, slamming his sword to the ground. The floor shattered, sending up dust and smoke as it caved in, and they both fell to the grounds below. “Your aikido isn’t going to help you if there’s no solid ground to stand on!” Twisting around, he brought his sword up and slammed it on top of Azumi.
She brought up her handgun and used it like a shield, taking the full force of the attack. It sent her crashing to the ground, upturning the street below and brought a few cars to the air. Groaning in pain, Azumi got to her feet and managed to jump away before Laager’s sword struck ground. And then they engaged in close-range combat.
On level ground, Laager swung his sword at Azumi’s chest, but she ducked down. Then he twisted around, and brought his sword up, slashing in an arc skyward. Azumi jumped back, but her coat was lost in the attack. Before she could react, Laager landed a sideways kick to her side, sending her crashing to the sidewalks besides a group of parked cars.
Getting up, Azumi ran behind the cars and blasted a huge red beam at them, shooting them straight at Laager. Seeing the incoming attack, Laager shouted as an orange magic circle appeared before his mouth. His scream sent a shockwave that separated the cars and the beam passed through. Slamming his sword to the ground, he blasted a screeching shockwave that disabled the incoming blast.
Before he could move, Azumi appeared beside him. She slammed her arm into his side, sending a powerful ripple of energy to his ribs, causing him to scream out. And then she twisted behind him, jumped and wrapped her arms around his neck, and slammed him to the ground, sending clouds and dusts to the air. As he bounced on the ground, Azumi aimed her gun and fired a blast of energy at him, sending him crashing into a building. His giant sword landed a few feet from the rubble.
Azumi stood where she was, keeping her arm poised and ready. Suddenly, Laager appeared beside her. She swiped her arms in an arc while shooting blasts, but he suddenly disappeared. His form appeared behind her, fuzzing like a bad TV reception. Before she could attack, Laager slammed a palm to her side, knocking the breath out of her, and twisted around, landing a powerful kick to her stomach, sending her crashing into a building.
Sitting up, she spotted a second Laager beside her. He grabbed her by the feet and tossed her into the air. Then a third Laager flew into the sky, somersaulted, and landed a powerful kick to her back, sending her back to the ground. Her crash sent dust and rubble to the air.
Out of the corner of her eyes, Azumi spotted all three Laagers standing on either side of a fourth one. Then they disappeared, merging into one. He carried his sword and rested it on his shoulders. “Oh yeah, I forgot to mention one more thing,” Laager said, coming down to grab Azumi by the arm, lifting her to the air. “The reason for my sword being so big is because it contains my true powers from escaping. I’ve never let it go once in my life…until now, so I’ll thank you! It felt great, and so much fun!” He threw Azumi away, sending her crashing into a nearby car. “I’m afraid I’ll have to kill you now!”
Before he could attack, Evangelina appeared beside him, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Remember our orders, idiot? We’re supposed to stall for time until they escape. And no killing.”
“That’s not fair,” Laager said, shrugging off her hand. “You got to kill the last one.”
“Yes, and looked where it got me,” Evangelina said, shrugging. “Anyway, Ratto is dead by that kid’s hands. He’s heading over to where our leader is. We should go and help our leader out even if he doesn’t want it.”
“Really,” Laager said, excitedly. “I might still get a chance! Come on, slowpoke!” Disregarding Azumi’s presence, they both disappeared into thin air, leaving her in a pile of rubble.
Getting to her feet, Azumi cursed silently and pulled out her phone.
Fate tried calling for Madoka and Azumi for a long time, and he couldn’t get through. He wondered if they were alright. Even though this was the first time he’s ever worked in a team, Fate knew that they were alright.
His Shield of Mars traveled across town while the townspeople weren’t even screaming out in fear. In fact, they didn’t even see his Shield of Mars. His knight was a God’s Artifact, a powerful item that was said to be of divine origin, used by God himself at the creation of time. Fate didn’t believe in God, but he did believe that they were once used for something if they were this huge in size. There were numerous other God’s Artifacts around the world, and they were hard to come by.
Suddenly, his phone rang. Looking at the screen, he recognized it as Azumi’s number. “Yes,” he said, answering her. “I tried calling both you and Madoka, but I couldn’t get through. What happened?” As they were talking, Fate gave the name of the “Crossroad” to Azumi. Then he hung up and continued his way.
When he arrived at the designated place, the Crossroad, Fate took a look around. The place was way out into the countryside, where hills rolled in the distance and the trees dotted the place here and there. There wasn’t a sign of civilization anywhere.
As he walked, Fate spotted a small cave hidden by trees some distance away. When his Shield of Mars dropped him at that place, Fate’s ring shined dully as he heard noise like a chopper engine was starting. Suddenly, he felt a strong gust blew out of nowhere as a steel blade protruded into his back. His Sand Armor deflected the attack. Looking over his shoulder, Fate spotted the Emperor, his family, and the Prime Minister.
“Please let me handle him, your majesty,” said a girl standing beside the Emperor’s daughter. She had short black hair that was tied into a ponytail, tall and lean, and was dressed in an aviator jacket, a red vest over a white shirt, and black trousers. A three-foot-long samurai sword hanged at her waist. “Please let me, your majesty,” she said to the Emperor when he declined. “Watching your daughter has been a great pleasure. I, Sakuragi Sakura, shall be your opponent.” Then she gripped her sword and charged at Fate.
“Tenshi-ryuu style, One Fell Strike!” she declared when she was in arms reach. Twisting the hilt in her hand, she pulled out her sword and swiped it in an arc, cutting Fate’s shirt when he jumped back, and fluidly sheathed it back in. Seeing that Fate wasn’t harmed, she dashed forward and attacked again.
Jumping into the air, she pulled her sword out and slashed it on top of Fate, but Fate’s Shield of Mars appeared and grabbed hold of the blade. Fate halted the fight, and tried to calm her down. “Listen to me, I’m not an enemy.” She didn’t listen.
“Your majesty, please leave now!” she shouted over her shoulder. The Emperor and his family were still there, watching the fight. “I’ll hold him here!”
Sighing, Fate shook his head. “No matter how long I’ve been here, you East Mages just don’t listen.” As they were locked in a standstill, Fate aimed a hand at the girl’s stomach. “Die in the wind, Torrent Blizzard.” A white magic circle appeared and blasted an icy gust at her, sending her flying away. Before either the Emperor or the Prime Minister could act, Fate pointed a hand at the family and said, “Cardinal Point, behind them.” Instantly, he appeared behind them as the earth swallowed him and spat out.
The Emperor pulled out the sword at his waist and attacked Fate. Again, his Shield of Mars’ arm shot out of the ground and grabbed the blade, causing them both to be in a standstill. Fate tried a second time.
“Your majesty,” Fate said, forcing the Emperor’s sword down. “I’m the West Mage, Fate Avogadro, who was sent here to solve the case of Kamikaze. Please hear me out.” The Emperor didn’t budge.
Staring into Fate’s eyes, the Emperor said, “For some reason, I feel like I can trust you.” Then he started asking questions about everything that went on, and Fate gave him the answers. At the end, the Emperor nodded. “Alright, I’ll put my trust in you. We’ll return to the city right now.” When the Emperor spotted his Prime Minister by his daughter, he said to Fate, “Avogadro-san, I would like you to meet the Prime Minister—“
Suddenly, Fate’s phone rang. He looked into the screen and realized it was Professor Hasegawa. “Yes, what is it?” His eyes widened when he heard what Professor Hasegawa had just said. “Can you please repeat that?”
“I said, ‘for some reason, the Prime Minister’s supposed to be out of the country’!” Professor Hasegawa shouted into the phone. “When I saw him on TV, I thought that it was strange. Last week, I thought I heard the Prime Minister took a vacation in Hawaii, but he’s here in the country. So, I checked the records and discovered that he was supposed to be out! Whoever’s there isn’t him!”
Slowly, Fate stared at the Prime Minister while the Emperor was staring at him strangely. Before any of them could do anything, Laager appeared out of nowhere and slammed into Fate with his giant sword. The blow knocked Fate off his feet and crashed to the ground. From above, Evangelina shot javelin-like ice shards straight for him, but his Sand Armor deflected them all.
Before the Emperor could move to strike, Laager released his Bank of the Frogs spell, and a purple mist drifted into view, causing the Royal Family to sleep but the Prime Minister. Behind him, the girl with the sword got up and attacked him, but Laager sidestepped the attack. Slamming a giant hand to the back of the neck, the girl was unconscious. All that was left was Fate as the mist went around him.
Out of the corner of his eyes, Fate saw the Prime Minister’s form changed from a middle-aged man to a younger man. The new figure was a tall and lean man with long dyed-purple hair, a thick white line of hair running down, two differently colored eyes—the right was blue while the left was red—and a black tattoo of a spade under his left eye. He wore a purple leather coat, a green camouflage shirt, belt buckle of a silver skull at his waist, black gloves, black leather pants, and camouflaged combat boots. Smiling, he stepped forward and kicked the weapons away from the Emperor and the sword girl. Looking at his two comrades, he said, “I don’t remember asking you two to come and help me, but thanks anyway.” His voice was deeply masculine with a thick accent.
“Who are you?” Fate asked, sitting up and wiping the sweat from his face.
The man chuckled softly. “My apologies, West Mage; I’m Daemon Espada, leader of Medieval from Vandal. So far, you’ve proved to be very profitable in your line of work as well as ours. Maybe you could join us. That way, Laager can fight you whenever he wants, and Kitty can toy with you.”
“Don’t call me that!” Evangelina scolded, creating a large shard of ice from her hand. “You want to die?”
“I’m afraid not, Kitty,” Daemon Espada chuckled as he stepped forward. “Anyway, we from Vandal always reward those that make it far with some information. Since we’re in the middle of an operation, I guess I’ll tell you what this is all about.”
“Come on, I want to fight him!” Laager groaned from beside Fate. “I’ve been waiting for almost a week, and then when I do get the chance, I fought against a girl and let Ratto get him instead.”
Daemon Espada ignored Laager and continued. “Operation Tonbogiri is about stealing the little Princess, Amagawa Airi, here”—he pointed to the Emperor’s daughter on the ground. “Though why, I’m going to save it for another day. Vandal was formed from the combination of farmers during the reign of King George III, and we have kept our traditions perfectly clear. One of our traditions is to not harm anyone that isn’t involved in our line of work. We do a variety of missions, but this is the first time we’ve done it as a large group.
“In order to avoid death, I contacted illusionists because…well, Namiki Masanori must’ve told you already. Illusionists can turn a false into a reality and vice versa. And you must’ve had someone exceptional to have thought about what our plans were for you to be able to meet up with Kitty and disrupt the entire plan…by a tiny bit.”
“That would be me, my dear pupil,” said a faint voice from somewhere. Fate looked around and spotted the Chairwoman standing at the edge of the mountain. She was dressed like usual and looked very frail, standing alone without Azumi by her side. But Fate felt a soft hum of power emanating from her. Walking forward, the Chairwoman came to stand by Fate while Laager stepped away.
“It appears that you’re still up to your old tricks, Daemon,” the Chairwoman said, helping Fate up to his feet. “When will you stop this and come back?” Fate wondered what she means by that.
Daemon Espada merely grinned. “It’s been ten years, and you’re still saying the same thing, Master? You didn’t come here to say hello to me, did you?”
“Of course, that was one of my purposes for coming out,” the Chairwoman said, smiling friendly. Then her friendly smile turned cold. “Your reason for kidnapping the Princess was that, wasn’t it?” When Daemon Espada nodded, the Chairwoman sighed. “I see. So, someone like that actually exists. But what were you planning to do to the Princess in order to stop that person?”
“I planned on using her as blackmail,” Daemon Espada said simply. “It’s just my typical way.” He became very silent, staring into the Chairwoman’s eyes before he spoke again. “What are you going to do, then? You can stop me, and save the day with the West Mage. That person wouldn’t be stopped, and in the future, the Princess will be used. Or, you could let me go, fail to save the day, but that person will be stopped, and the Princess safe and sound. It’s your choice, Master?”
The Chairwoman became very quiet. Fate wondered what the conversation was actually about. Judging from the conversation, the Chairwoman and Daemon Espada knew something about the Emperor’s daughter while no one else knew about it. “I’ve decided, Daemon,” the Chairwoman said after a long silence. “I’ll choose…neither. Instead of your choices, I’ll let you and your crew go, but you’re going to have to leave the Princess here. She is one of us, so we’ll protect her in our own way, but if ever we need your help, we’ll request a job for you. You will get paid handsomely. What do you say, Daemon?”
Smiling, Daemon Espada nodded. “You’re still the same as always, Master. Fine, I’ll oblige by your grounds, but if she’s ever used for that purpose, I’ll be at your doorsteps to take your life. I don’t take chances with humans that are treated as mere tools.” To Laager and Evangelina, he said, “Let’s go back home. You heard our negotiations.” Before Laager could complain, he quickly added, “And if she fails, we can come back and you can fight him to your heart’s content.” Laager whined a bit but followed after him.
Before they left, the Chairwoman stopped Daemon Espada. “You’re still the same too, Daemon. Even though you call Vandal your home, your heart still lives here.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Daemon Espada said, not looking her in the eyes. “I simply knew too much for my own good.” When he turned around, he and Fate locked eyes. And then he disappeared into thin air, followed by Laager and Evangelina.
When they were gone, the Emperor and his family stirred awake, groggily looking left and right. The only people they saw were Fate and the Chairwoman.
While the Royal Family helped one another up, the Chairwoman pulled Fate to the side and whispered something to him. Fate nodded and obliged.
At the dock, Daemon sat in their yacht while Laager went to undo the ropes and Evangelina was in the shower. He had his eyes closed, wondering if he had done the right thing with his old master. When the yacht started to move, he opened his eyes and went to take the wheels. Then they set sail back home with the winter wind going with them. From the stern, Father Laager was enjoying the icy breeze from sea. The seagulls flew overhead.
Behind, Daemon heard Evangelina entering the room and sitting down on the Captain’s chair. She was drying her gold hair with a thick towel, and cursed once and a while. Then she directed her attention to him. “Do you think that was the right choice, Daemon? We could’ve finished this easily.”
“I don’t know if it was the right choice,” Daemon replied, gripping the wheel, “but I’m sure it was a right choice. Besides, I watched each one of your fights, and I have to say, those kids were pretty amazing.”
Evangelina nodded in agreement. “Back in our days, we weren’t that powerful until we were much, much older. This generation, they have some pretty powerful children—that white-hair boy was one to be scared of.”
“I agree,” Daemon said, turning the wheel to avoid the seamark. “But I supposed we could leave it to those kids. It’ll be a good experience to make them stronger, and if they fail, we adults could always take over. By the way, where is he at?”
Evangelina groaned sourly as she checked on a laptop on the table beside. One look at screen made her groaned even louder. “He’s already above Japan, probably has half an hour before landing.”
“I see,” Daemon said, nodding. Suddenly, he turned the wheel, causing the yacht to perform a U-turn, and head back to the bay dock. Outside, Laager was almost thrown overboard while Evangelina shouted insults at Daemon. Ignoring her insults, Daemon said, “It’s just a thought, but I believe that our presence is still needed in Japan if he’s already back. Besides, our negotiation didn’t say anything about us leaving the country, did it?”