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Posted 1/2/15 , edited 1/5/15
Chapter 1, The Prologue!

As life progressed, I realized something. I am totally average. Looks? Average. Sports? Average. Popularity? Average. Maybe the only thing I excel at are studies. I can easily tell you the square root of any number, even more, the cubic root. I am practically a walking encyclopedia. Maybe, and just maybe, that's one of the little things that make me stand out, somewhat, but stand out nonetheless. There's that and... The fact that I can't say I am normal. Average? Yes. But normal? Absolutely not.

You see, I am what most people call a mage. Have been since I first could recite a magical spell, I think that was when I was 5. My ability for magic is also rather good. Oh, but I'm getting ahead of myself. I think I should start by introducing myself. My name is Reiki Byrne and I am 18 years old. As you may have noticed because of my name, I am a half, my father being an Irish man and my mother being Japanese. Due to my heritage, or maybe just bullcrap my old man tried to get into my head, I quite like the taste of alcoholic beverages, beer in particular, though I don't know if it is really because of that heritage, or just because my father has accustomed me to it. Anyway, that isn't important.

Right now, I am studying in the school made specifically for mages, named Liseranna Institute for the Magically Gifted. Here, you can see many species walking around. Most of them are demihumans, but you can also see around the occasional elf or demon walking around the halls. The school is quite lively, and I quite enjoy it. In here, people do what should have been done since the start of times. They put people where they must be, what I mean to say here is that your class is determined by your skill and knowledge rather than having just passed some stupid entry exam. If you are clearly stupid, then you are sent to the bottom, the first year, no matter how old are you, where you'll have to go up until you get to the last year, the sixth year, again, no matter how old are you. Also, if you, by any kind of self-study or anything, manage to improve greatly, then you'll be moved up in the years. However, after the first half of years, until year three, the other three are quite difficult to reach.

By the way, I am in the sixth grade. So, yeah. While my looks might be average, I am quite well known across the school.

I specialize in the magic school Praestigiae, the school of illusions. Magic in here is divided into six schools, Contritio, Medela, Alchimia, Naturalis, Pythones and mine, Praestigiae. Each one studies a different thing and all of them have many branches, and within those branches, many sub-branches. Each one study: Destruction, Healing, Alchemy, Nature, Spirits and Illusions, respectively.

That's the basics of what you should know for now, though. I'm pretty sure everything else will be explained as time goes on...

---

*SMACK*

"Mr. Byrne, could you please stay awake during the lecture?" The feminine voice of the teacher said after she threw at me a book, which hit my face.

"Yeah, yeah. I'm sorry." I say while gently massaging my nose that had just been hit.

"It doesn't matter how much of a genius you are, you cannot sleep in class, are we clear?" She puts her hands on her waist as she says this.

"As water." I say and accommodate myself in my seat. Many girls let out little giggles and whatnot, and my desk-mate laughs a little more lively than the others.

"You should try harder to stay awake during class, Reiki."

I prop my glasses up, to get them over my blue eyes, at the comment of my silver-haired partner sitting by my side. Her hair put up in a pair of little pigtails by both sides of her head and her big, hazel eyes looking at me with an strange glitter to them. The girly-looking, yet, tomboyish girl beside me and my childhood friend, Emeri Leinfield.

"I would if they'd at least let me bring my PSV or something." My shaggy blonde hair moves around as I shake my head. "Ya know, I was having the weirdest dream just now."

"Oh yeah? What was it about?" She says, putting her head slightly to the side, with a expectant look in her eyes.

"Dunno, though I think I was introducing myself or something."

"To who?"

"Dunno."

"So much for the so called genius, huh?"

"L-leave me alone, it isn't like a human can remember what happened in his dream after 5 minutes after waking up." I feel my face blushing ever so slightly.

She lets out another giggle. "Yes, yes, Reiki. Don't drop your useless facts on me again."

I and Emeri make some small talk, not something particularly important, it just seems as if we are losing our time. However, I cannot shake the feeling that we are being observed. I turn to see the outside of the classroom, through the small crystal filling in the gap between the door and the wall. I saw a shadow dashing to safety as my gaze made its way there. Whoever it is, they clearly don't know how to hide themselves. Anyhow, what was this class again?

---

After the never ending classes, we are finally dismissed. I stretch out my arms, and they even crack a little.

"Finally done! Gosh, it is such a drag to have this kind of classes. What the hell do we care about history of magic?" I'm quite annoyed, it isn't even practical, and, besides the ancient spells that pop up every now and then, it is of little interest to anyone. Still on the curriculum, but please, at least come up with something more entertaining.

"Well, I don't quite see it like that." Emeri says while smiling.

"What, you like history?"

She shakes her head. "No, it is just that this is the only class we are together in."

"Huh?" I blush a little.

"Just kidding. Did you really think something like that would come out of my mouth?" She shows me her tongue in a mocking way.

"'Just kidding, just kidding'. God, it irritates me how you can be so much un-ladylike. If you'd at least add a 'teehee' there, then it would be perfect."

"Gosh, there's your Japanese heritage showing up. What do they call it... moe? Too bad for you, I don't have a gram of that in my whole system."

"And I hate that there isn't a spell to put some moe into you. You look so cute, yet you're so hopelessly boyish. Such a waste." I let out a sigh. I feel Emeri's palm hitting the back of my head. "Hey, what was that for?"

"D-d-d-don't call me cute, you idiot!" She starts an almost endless flurry of punches at me like a kid.

"Ouch, ouch, hey what are you, a kid? Get offa me!" I say and try to take a side step to distance myself from her. She, however, follows me and continues her flurry of punches.

"Nope, won't do! I'm gonna hit you until you repent!"

"For what, for calling you cute? That was a compliment, a compliment, mind you!"

With a finishing attack she sends me spinning after a direct hit to my face.

"Obviously not... the other part." She says, almost in a whisper.

"Other part...?"

"It's nothing! C'mon, hurry it up, I'm starving!"

"God knows where you can store all that food." Emeri glares at me and I let out a gasp.

"Got a problem with how I eat?"

"No, not a single one. Nah-ah."

"Good, let's go then!" She leads the way and I follow after her.

In the dining hall, every student is trying to get a portion of the best things the cafeteria has to offer. It is a complete carnage. I, for one, don't participate. Emeri, however, makes her way through everyone to get the very best. I don't care what that is, though. I always bring with me my own handmade lunch so I don't have to participate in the barbaric fight for a 'special' food item who wouldn't nearly match my own cooking skill... Or so I tell myself, it is mostly because I hate crowds.

"IT'S MINE!" I hear Emeri's voice from afar and into the crowd. She jumps out of it with her prize in her mouth. Wait, is that lobster?! Magic is one thing, but this school's menu's are ridiculous. Even more so, why does she have to grab it with her mouth? I was hoping to have a bite but now...

"Hehe. Today's hunting went really well."

"Good work. I don't think you can 'hunt' a lobster, though."

"Details, details. The important thing here is the lobster itself!"

"How much did that cost?" I say puzzled. Many here, such as myself, get by with mere 1,000 dollars just to buy food or ingredients, but the special items are almost always of an exorbitant price.

"Dunno. I stole it from some guy."

"F-for real?" As she chows down on the lobster, she nods. "I hope he doesn't find you, then."

As if trying to summon it, someone slams their hand on our table, making my homemade lunch leap into the air. I glare at him, though I am pretty sure he is here for Emeri. Much to my surprise, though, he is looking for someone else.

"Reiki Byrne, I presume? The 'Drunken Illusionist'?"

I hate so much that nickname.

"Yes, what do you need?" The black haired guy with slim eyes and a somewhat muscular build looks at me with eyes filled with rage.

"I am Kiel Mannery. I come from one of the largest bloodlines of mages and..."

"You're an ass." I say before he can finish.

"Yes, I'm an ass... Wait, no, dammit!" He slams his fist again on the table. "I came here to have a word with you."

"You've already had more than one, could you please leave and let us have our lunch at peace."

Emeri giggles lightly. This, however, just makes Kiel more upset.

"You smartass! I'm gonna get you off your high horse!" Pointing at me and having his fingers at just some centimeters from me, my un-amused, yet calm face seems to make more than one giggle in between the silence that this guy just created by being obnoxiously loud. Many are looking at us right now, and I must say, I hate when I become the center of attention.

"Right right, could you at least respect my personal space, though?" I move his finger to the side so it can stop bothering me, but in an intent to piss me off, he gets it back to my nose and starts poking it. My eyebrows twitch as my annoyance increases. Soon, my palms start glowing and I swiftly take my leave while I distract the guy. The next time he moves forward to poke my nose, he falls off, as neither am I neither the table is there now.

"What the...?" With my magic, I made the illusion of him being still in front of me even though I was already in other place. "You shithead! I am so gonna kill you!" He takes out a gun and points it at me. The students have surrounded us, all curious of what may occur between the two of us.

"Quite the barbarian, are we? I believe that is your catalyst. Gosh, you really are pure brawn and no brain, aren't you?" I say as I shake my head in disappointment. "...Lowly 5th year."

"What?!"

"Of course, I don't mean it as an offense to anyone... but you." I say, with a victorious smirk in my face.

"Heh, your taunting won't work on me. Now, disappear!" With his gun pointed at me, a small red magical circle appears in front of it. He seems to be a Contritio, not that his catalyst gave him away or anything, but yeah...

My palms shine in the faint purple light as before and just then, a ball of fire fires from his hits 'my' body and 'I' fall over. Many gasp, oddly, Emeri doesn't. She knows me all to well.

"All bark and no bite, huh? Frigging lowlife." He approaches the body and spits on it. He really was trying to kill me.

"Who you calling lowlife?" I say from behind him and he flinches and quickly scrambles backwards.

"W-what?! I just shot you!"

"Now, did you?" I turn to see my clone, in which I also simulated bleeding and it disappears with a poof little after. "Also, you totally fell for it."

Since the guy stumbled backwards, he is now at my mercy. As soon as he sees down to realize what just happened, it is already too late.

"Oh, shi-!" The circle I made down there suddenly lights up with a purple light.

"Praestigiae: Light maze." I lift my right arm to show the rune in the back of my hand, which constantly shifts as I cast. With my last words, the light gets stronger and quickly surrounds every inch of the guy's body.

"I'm gonna get you for this!"

"No you won't." As soon as I say this, he enters into a state of unconsciousness, at least in this plane of existence. "Now, learn suffering." I clench my fist and little cries escape his lips, which start growing stronger by the minute, but not unto the levels of real pain and suffering. I refrain from doing so, since, while I want to teach him a lesson, pain is just a means to it, and not overdoing it is better.

After a while, though, he falls unconscious for good. Some rush to him to help while others gossip about how it wasn't even a battle, it was utterly one-sided.

Meanwhile, Emeri approaches me.

"Wow, you didn't even touch him! What did you do?" She says, eyes glittering. In truth, Emeri is just a novice when talking about magic.

I caress the back of my head and look at her with wistful eyes.

"It is quite simple, see here. My school of magic is based mostly of illusions, however, most use shadows to produce theirs, while I, on the contrary, use light, which makes things easier both when creating distracting illusions and attack illusions. The Light Maze I used just now is a technique used mostly for torture or interrogatories. Using quick rays of light directly into the eyes of the victim in a certain way, I can reach the brain and send a signal of 'pain' to the body, which in turn, reacts to it as if it were being actually damaged, while that isn't the case. And all the while, the victim is seeing me impaling him with a number of objects which determine the pain he will be suffering. In this case, I went with nails." After my little informative break, Emeri looks at me with dumbfounded eyes. "Is something the matter?"

"You are evil, you know that?"

"Geh. I didn't attack first, ya know! It was just self-defense."

"Quite extreme self-defense, though."

"W-whatever, in the end, it was self-defense. The only responsible here is that Kiel for trying to get into a fight with me."

"Ummm... Well, all that's well ends well. I guess?"

After that, we both settle down again to continue with our lunch. Emeri steals bits and pieces of mine, though I am more than glad to give her some. After all, I always make a little too much to be able to share it with her.

In short notice, both of us finish our meals and step out of the dinner hall. The school looks pretty modern in design, despite being a magic school. Most of the walls are white and have this 'futuristic' feel to them. Anyways, it seems the ones who built the school had someone who could read the future and they built it thinking in the future generations. If something, I'm glad, since the almost classic magic school setting is in an old as hell school with dusty corners.

"So, Reiki... Aren't you nervous?" Emeri says, bending a little to search for my face.

"Hm? About what?"

"You actually forgot? Not that it surprises me anymore but still, how can you be so empty headed some times?"

"What is it? What did I forget now?" I say, looking at her with apologetic eyes.

"Tomorrow, airhead, tomorrow!"

"What happens tomorrow?"

Now she looks irritated. Maybe I shouldn't have forgotten.

"The Team Placement event! Ya know, that thing guys from the fourth year onwards do to go out in missions."

I snap my fingers after she says that.

"Oh, you're right! That's tomorrow!" Though I tried to put some emotion into it, it still sounded quite emotionless.

"Will you be okay?" She has a concerned look in her face.

"B-b-but of course! Why wouldn't I be o-o-okay?"

"Because you're not good with crowds, or people in general."

"But teams are only of f-f-four people for the 6th years, t-t-that's not a crowd!" I turn around while I cross my arms. Yeah, this is exactly why I erased it from my mind. I am... Not good when dealing with social situations.

"And yet, you won't be any good around them. You sure you don't wanna lay down about this? The director said that if you didn't want or couldn't, you could just dismiss it."

I get a little serious now.

"That's... not an option." I drop my arms to my sides. "You know that with the teams, we're allowed to go into missions. I'm really looking forward to that."

"Even if you have to deal with a bunch of strangers?" She looks concerned, yet, rather than concerned for me, she looks concerned for something else. Can't quite put my finger in it, though.

"I... I'm sure that, with time, I'll learn to trust them. No, I HAVE to learn to trust them. If I wanna go on missions, it is not possible for me to continue being apart from anyone else." I walk a little forward, and when I am about to turn back and tell Emeri to not worry about it, she hugs me from behind.

"All right, mister Know-it-all. Just know that you can always come to me for a talk..." She buries her face in my back. I just stand there, my face slightly red. "And... Be sure to come back to me, 'kay?"

"Huh?"

She brushes me off and now she is the one who gets ahead of me.

"Nothing! C'mon, we gotta go back to the dorms!" She starts running faster, I can only hope to eventually catch up.

"Emi, wait for me!"

As she laughs, I get a feeling of nostalgia. This takes me back to when we were just kids and I ran behind her in an attempt to catch up. Not being the type of guy who went out much, it is thanks to Emeri that I ever got out of my house. She often dragged me around for different adventures. Even back then, she was quite a tomboy. However the moment she got hurt, she would start crying. I remember one time that some bullies were harassing me, and she got in to protect me. She hit them hard, but she was also hit by them. The moment they left, she went to where I was and just when I was about to thank her, she bursts out in tears. She's good at hiding what she feels in front of strangers, but as soon as she sees me or her mom, she bursts out in tears. Some thing that I remember pretty clear is that she usually wore a cute and childish overall. She looked really cute in it.

When we arrive to the dorm building, I feel the need to ask.

"Hey, whatever happened to your overall?"

"Huh?" She seems flustered. "W-well, I obviously outgrowed it."

"Well, that's obvious, duh. I mean, why did you stop using it all in all? You don't wear that kind of clothes anymore lately, right?"

"Obviously not! I'm already a lady! Someone like me wouldn't wear that kind of boyish things."

"Yet, you are quite the tomboy in terms of attitude and personality."

"What?"

"Nothing, I said nothing."

After out little chat, we enter the dorm and there... There's nothing. Really, nothing. We two are the only ones that live in this dorm. The director told us that, in due time, we would have more people with us, yet after half a year here, no one else has joined us. Every night, I notice Emeri getting flustered and nervous. Who can blame her, though? I too, feel somewhat uneasy every night. Yet, it is good that the director considered my social anxiety but sometimes, the awkward feeling is just too big for me just to dismiss it.

"Still, ya know. You didn't hesitate in the slightest with that Kiel guy."

"Well, I'm used to dealing with that kind of guys. You know how they treated me through elementary school and middle school."

"You're right, I always wondered how you were able to scare all of the bullies that one time before they stopped harassing you. Even though I was there, it didn't really quite strike me as real at the time."

"What do you mean?"

"That our roles shifted. Rather than being the protectee, you turned into the protector. And..."

"You turned into a crybaby." I brace myself for what's to come, expecting a punch. But I don't feel anything. Nothing impacts me or anything. When I turn to see her, she has a smile in her face.

"Yeah, you're right. That I turned. Everytime I think about it, I remember... That you looked so cool that time that I..." She suddenly seems to come back from her mind and slams her hands onto her mouth.

"That I...?" I ask, curious for what she was about to say. Though, I somehow feel that I don't want to know.

"T-that I felt...That I wanted to become stronger so I could keep protecting you, yes!" She seems cheerful. What is this disappointment I feel? What other answer did I expect?

"Is that so...? Well, I'm off to sleep. Sweet dreams." I say and head to my room, which is right in front of Emeri's.

"Oh? Yes, all right. See you tomorrow."

"'Night." I find myself slamming the door shut behind me, though I don't feel particularly mad about anything.

After a while, I hear Emeri closing her door and going to sleep. Some time later, it starts raining, accompanied by thunders. I am the kind of guy who wakes up even with the slightest of sounds, and a thunder isn't exactly a low sound.

Now that I remember, isn't Emeri afraid of thunders? What will she do?

As the thought crosses my mind, I hear my door creaking open. Don't tell me, Emeri?! I feel something curl up in front of me.

"Hey... Are you awake?" Emeri says. I don't say anything, trying to pretend that I am indeed asleep. "That's good, then." She takes my arm and puts it over her, making me hug her. "I feel at ease like this... I wish we could stay like this forever."

I let my silence continue and Emeri also stops talking. She was trembling when she got into the bed, but she seems to have calmed down now. I can hear her breath sync with mine.

"G'night." She says and turns around to face me, my arm still over her. My eyes are closed, so I can't see anything, but I feel her coming closer and closer. What is she trying to do? Don't tell me...

A few centimeters from touching my lips, she stops.

"No... No this wouldn't be right. I prefer to do it when both of us can remember it."

Even if I wanted or could, what would I say now? I am a total loss for words. Though, I feeel at ease with her by my side. Soon, both of us fall asleep.

---

The next morning, I try to get up, but my arm is stuck with something. When I turn my head to see what it is I remember that Emeri came to spend the night here. I smile slightly. I take her by her shoulder and shake her gently.

"Emi, it is already morning. Wake up."

"Oh gosh, Reiki, where are you touching?!" I... am pretty sure I didn't touch anywhere bad. Is she talking in her sleep? If so, just what kind of dream is she having?! "This is going way too fast, Reiki... I need time to prepare." She gasps and my face gets totally red. I knew she was this much of a closet pervert, since I've heard these kinds of things several times before, still, everytime I do, I get extremely flustered. Besides, this is one of those strange times where she says my name. This often happens when she sleeps with me, though. I can only believe now that what happened yesterday was one of her dream delusions.

"EMERI! WAKE UP YOU CLOSET PERVERT!" I say, somewhat irritated. She slowly rises in a way seemingly unnatural. Yet, I somehow know that if I don't escape right now, I might as well be already dead. I quickly get out of the bed and dash towards the door, but before my hand can reach it, I am stopped by someone's hand in my neck. I usually sleep topless, so I am grabbed by Emeri's hand on my bare neck.

"Who is a closet pervert?" The fiendish voice behind me says. Not even with magic will I be able to escape this fate.

"N-n-no one! I was just talking in my sleep! Yes, that's what I was doing. Just like you." Her face turns red at the mention of it.

"I was... talking in my sleep?"

"Yes, very much so. Understand now why I called you a closet pervert?" I feel my face being hit by a pillow.

"GETOUTTAHERESTUPIDJERKIHATEYOUSOMUUUUUCH!" I am impressed she didn't run out of breath, but I take my leave as soon as I can. Wait, why did I leave? Isn't that my room?!

After the incident of this morning, we both came to an understanding and called a truce, though Emeri still glares at me every now and again and asks me if I forgot all of what she had said. I said that yes, I've forgotten it all, though I won't be forgetting that in a good time.

---

After that, we quickly finish our breakfast and head to school. I try to follow her to her class, in a more than unconscious try to escape the Team Placement thing.

"Ummm, where do you think you're going?"

I flinch when Emeri's voice makes me come back to my senses and let out a high pitched cry.

"Hii! W-w-well, I'm heading to class obviously!"

"No you're not! It is the Team Placement Event, you need to go!" She seems rather angry. She is something like a parental figure of mine when it comes to me slacking off or not wanting to do things because of my social anxiety.

"B-but..." I search through my mind for a good excuse and come across a perfect one. "I don't know where it is going to be held! Oh, such a pity." I shake my head, trying to convince both Emeri and myself that it is indeed a pity that I cannot assist.

"I thought you'd say that. That's why I went out of my way and found out for you. Now, c'mon." She takes me by the collar of my shirt.

"W-wait, I can walk perfectly fine on my own!" I am pretty flustered about it, but I am mostly mad because she is treating me like a child.

"Even so, if I let go of you, you'll probably leave running the moment I let my eyes off of you."

"Let me go!"

"Not until we reach the place where the event will be held."

I give up, I'll let her drag me around until we reach our destination. This is... embarrassing. Everyone looks at me and some girls giggle, guys look at me with pitiful eyes. I am going to be scarred for life.

We arrive after I started to feel like passing out. The headmaster, a middle aged man with black hair standing at roughly 1.96 meters with a rather slim build and with a cheerful face is waiting for us and as we arrive, he receives us with lots of energy. His way of dressing is flamboyant, to say the least. Wearing a pink suit with a tie and shoes of lots of colors really make him stand out.

"Oh, Reiki! It is good to see that you did decide on coming to the event, though..." He looks at the pitiful position I find myself in. "It seems that you were dragged here against your will. Are you sure you'll be okay?" He asks with a big smile in his face. He is that kind of guy, someone who always has a big smile in his face, no matter how dire the situation. Even so, he can really creep you out should he get mad. His eyes always seem to be closed, for some reason.

"I'll manage, thanks for you concern." I am somewhat rude, but that's just because I can't stand him.

"Show more respect, Reiki!" Emeri says, she is about to continue her scolding when the headmaster interrupts her.

"It is okay, Miss Leinfield. He has never shown any kind of sympathy to me, even so, that's the kind of Reiki I like the most." He smiles at me, and a chill goes down my spine. This is another reason of why I don't like him. I don't know whether he is joking or serious every time he tries to hit on me. "Now then, can you please make Reiki proceed to the room he'll be meeting his teammates? You can also stay and watch, Miss Leinfield."

"Is it okay for a second year to stay?" She points at herself.

"In reality, no, it isn't okay. But this is a special occassion. After all, you may need to go into the room with Reiki shall he find it too hard to get along with his teammates. I could always go myself and kiss him, but I doubt that'll go well for me."

"Please stay, Emi." I look at her with pleading eyes and she lets out a sigh.

"Hmph. It can't be helped then, I'll stay and supervise him."

"Thankies!" The headmaster says.

"Thank you."

Emeri then proceeds to direct me to the room where I'll be meeting my new teammates. It seems to be a dome of some sort, a completely white one at that, and in the center, 4 chairs stand. Along with the door I entered from, there are four doors each positioned in a way so they face another one. It seems I was the first one to be let in. Besides the chairs, there's nothing, absolutely nothing else in the room. Even so, I can feel the headmaster's and Emeri's eyes coming from the other wall. A one sided window, huh?

I proceed to take a seat in one of the chairs. My hands put together, I can't help but be fidgety about the whole thing. My thumbs overlap each other as I attempt to make my nervousness fade away, it is futile, though. Soon enough, a door opens and someone comes from inside of it. A girl, dressed in shorts and a tank top enter the room. Fairly high, she is only centimeters shorter than me. Black skin that makes her completely white hair stand out a lot. She looks athlethic, but in the sexy side of things. Her legs are pretty long and she takes full advantage of them by wearing shorts. A little flat chested, but I think her lack of chest is compensated by her otherwise incredible body. Her hair is made in a ponytail that reaches the end of her nape. She looks at me with her deep yellow eyes and smiles. Even her eyebrows and eyelashes are white.

"Hey! I am Lala Ouaknin, but you can just call me Lala. A pleasure to meet you!" She extends her hand to me, but I don't take it, in fact, I don't even look at it, with my eyes fixated on the ground. I can barely get some words out.

"I-I-I am Byrne... Reiki Byrne. A p-p-pleasure to meat you."

"Huh?"

Crap, I screwed that up. Was I too focused on her legs? In a second's notice, Lala is already laughing. I knew it, I knew I would do something stupid and then everyone would make fun of me.

"W-W-What?!" I say a little annoyed.

She continues her outburst of laughter and when she finally finishes, she wipes a single tear from her eye.

"It's nothing." She let's out an snicker. "I was just thinking that you're actually pretty funny, even though you're so shy."

Does she think I did that on purpose? If so, I won't be the one correcting her. She's pretty sharp, though.

"T-then, that's good. I-I'm glad y-you liked it." I force a smile in my face.

"It's all right, it's all right! You don't have to force yourself to do things you don't like, you know? That will only make you accumulate stress, and stress is always bad. If you act naturally around me, I'll do the same, we got a deal?" She puts her hand up to me a second time, though she quickly lowers it. This time, though, I make my best effort to give mine to her as well.

With a shaky and loose handshake, we make a deal to act naturally around each other. If only it were that easy. She smiles, though.

"Great! Let's get along, yes?" She finally sits down in the chair in front of me. "First things first, let's say what magic school we study. I am a Contritio, Destroyer Class Magician. I am not good at thinking things through, but I am pretty good at punching things. I specialize in implosions of elements. And, I am 17 years old! So, what do you do?"

This girl seems to always go straight to the point. I like that. Also, she seems to be younger than me.

"I-I am a Praestigiae, Illusionist Class Magician. I use light in my illusions. 18 years old." I didn't stutter in that last part, go me!

"Right, that's why you seemed so familiar! You're that Drunken Illusionist many talk about!"

I flinch at the mention of that.

"P-please don't call me that. T-t-that nickname is just a r-racial slur."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Though your name sounds Japanese-ish, so what of it is racist?"

"I'm half Irish and, well, you can picture that."

"I see..." She is about to say something else, but another door opens, revealing our next teammate.

A fairly short redheaded girl with a bob haircut approaches us. She is wearing a rather formal attire with a white dress shirt with short sleeves accompanied by a black bow tie and black pants. She also has a hairpin in her hair. She has a rather slim build, making her seem like the kind of girl which you'd like to protect. If something, I'd describe her as handsome or cute. She has an aura to her that makes her seem reliable.

"Good afternoon. I am Yuri Volkov. Russian. It is a pleasure to make your acquantaince." Not only in the way she dresses, she is also rather formal in the way she talks.

"What's up? I am Lala Ouaknin. I'm half Algerian, half Croatian. I'm 17 years old, same as you." Lala answers shortly after and then elbows me in my side to make me introduce myself. I let out a little gasp and proceed with my introduction.

"R-R-Reiki Byrne! Half Japanese, Half Irish. 18 years old." I say after straightening my body out of pure nervousness. "A-A pleasure."

She nods and sits down to my right and Lala's left.

"I think I should proceed with a more proper introduction. I am an Alchimia, Alchemist Class Magician. I am 17 years old. I specialize in the creation of things out of the elements I have at hand, as well as reinforcing already existing things with those same elements. I hope we can get along."

"All righty! I am a Contritio, Destructor Class Magician. I use elements to make mini implosions and add more weight to my punches

Lala seems really cheerful wheneever she gets to meet someone new.

"Is that so? I think it is a pretty interesting magic that you wield, Miss Lala. So, what about you, Mister Reiki?" She is also rather polite.

"I-I-I am a Praestigiae, Illusionist Class Magician. My branch uses light as the source of its illusions."

"Ho! You are Reiki Byrne, the 'Drunken Illusionist' many talk about, aren't you, Mister Reiki?"

I am about to open my mouth and tell her that I don't like being called that, but Lala beats me to the punch.

"Yeah, he is that one. Though, he doesn't like being called that, so it'd be best if you laid it off." She says, though straight, she tries her best not to seem rude. Yuri seems to understand and nods.

"I'm sorry, then. I thought that you were accostumed to such a nickname and that's why I used it. Again, my apologies."

"I-I-It's alright. A-As long as you don't use it again."

"I understand, Mr. Reiki, it will not happen again."

I can't say I feel comfortable being called Mr. Reiki, but whatever suits her the best.

"You can drop the formalities, ya know? We are all friends here, right?" She looks at me and I shyly nod. Yuri seems somewhat shocked, but smiles shortly after.

"Then, Reiki, Lala, I hope we get along."

"Yeah!"

"Y-Yes."

And after Yuri is done with her own introduction, our next and last teammate enters through the door.

A girl somewhat tall with long, black waving hair makes her way to the center where the three of us are. She has a certain feel of royalty to her. Her physique is quite voluptous, with her breasts being the thing that stands out the most, even though her attire was somewhat made to prevent that. She is wearing a white turtle neck shirt, along with a black skirt, black thighs and brown boots. All of this, accompanied by a red coat. Now that I look at it better, she also has an aura of maturity and authority to her. After her improptu arrival to our position, she points her striking blue eyes at me.

"I am Kirstie Lowe. Good to meet you, peasants." And she also seems to be quite arrogant.

"Lala Ouaknin, nice meeting ya." Lala says with her seemingly usual smile.

"Yuri Volkov. A pleasure to meet you." Yuri says in a friendly way.

I, for one, though, can't get the words out. Why? I don't know.

"I-I-I-I..." Lala looks at me with worried eyes.

"What is it, lowly peasant? Did my beauty stun you so much that you turned stupid? Or maybe you were stupid to begin with. Oho hohoho." She laughs in a deprecating way. I hate so much people like her. I hear Lala standing up, maybe to stand up for me. It isn't necessary, though. Before she can say anything, I stand up myself and glare at her with cold eyes.

"Reiki Byrne." I approach her and stay a few centimeters away from her. "Not much of a pleasure meeting you, princess." I go back to my seat. Lala follows suit, a little surprised because of my sudden change of attitude.

"Hmph." Kirstie sits down, in front of Yuri and to my left. "Now, I should tell you some things before we get to do anything. I am a Naturalis, Druid Class Magician. I am 18 years old. I specialize in the control of nature all around me. As long as it is something natural and something that has a physical form, I can put it under my control and it will follow suit to my every command. Just like you should do."

It seems I am not the only one who dislikes this girl.

"Contritio, Destructive Class Magician. 17 years old. I use implosions." Lala seems way more serious than before.

"Ho. Whatever happened to your energy from before?" She says in a mocking way.

"I just don't like pretentious girls like you, that's all. I don't have any intention of being friendly with you until you apologize to Reichi."

Reichi? Who's that? She looks at me as she says that. Wait, I am Reichi? What's up with that nickname?! Well, it is better than 'The Drunken Illusionist'.

"Hmph." She looks the other way and that only annoys Lala more. Before they can continue their bickering, Yuri starts her introduction.

"I am an Alchimia, Alchemist Class Magician. I am 17 years old. I use elements around me to fabricate things."

Kirstie now looks at me again, dead in the eye.

"And? What can you do? If you can do anything at all."

"Bad for you, I am actually quite skilled. I am a Praestigiae, Illusionist Class Magician. I am 18 years old. I use light. That's all you need to know."

"Praestigiae you say?" She bursts out laughing. "You are really useless then!"

I stand up from my chair.

"Want to test it out for yourself, princess?" I say, standing defiantly in front of her.

"Sounds like a challenge, four-eyes." With both of us looking at each other with murderous intent, a sword swiftly passes through both of us and stops at the height of our mouths. Yuri stands at the other end of the blade, her metal chair gone.

"Please, refrain from fighting. We are supposed to be a team." Now that I look at it, Yuri just used that chair to make her sword. Clever. Both of us look at each other's eyes for a little while more and then we both turn around and sit down again. Yuri turns her sword back into a chair and also sits down.

"Just so you know, I don't plan on being part of your harem, four-eyed mongrel." She says, her eyes still locked on mine.

"Harem? Whatever are you talking about?"

"Just look at this, you're surrounded by pretty girls, I bet you feel like on top of the world." At the mention of this, Yuri shakingly raises her hand.

"I... I am actually a guy." She, no, he says. Both me and Kirstie are extremely shocked, but Lala looks at us with a dumbfounded look in her eyes.

"What, you didn't notice? He looks extremely cute, but he is a boy. I can't be the only one who caught that, can I?"

"Yes you were, but I still don't believe! There's no way someone as cute as you is a boy!" Kirstie says defiantly, while pointing her index finger at her.

"It is the truth! You can see for yourself if you'd like!" Yuri's attempt to defend his mascunility seems to have backfired, though.

Kirstie grabs Yuri by his belt and tries to open it while Yuri tries to stop her.

"W-Wait, what are you doing?!"

"Isn't it obvious? I am about to prove that you are indeed a female!"

"I-If we are going to do that... then let Reiki be the one to check it!" He says. Wait, why me?!

"Why?!" Kirstie asks in my place.

"Because he is also a guy! If he does it, I won't be as embarrassed." He looks my way, with his face completely red. Damn, I really hate nature for making a guy like him.

"Then do it, four-eyes. I know what the result will be anyway."

With no other choice, I just give in. Yuri approaches me, still flustered about the whole thing. He lifts slightly his shirt and reveals his stomach. I find myself blushing inevitably. Calm down, he is a guy!

"T-then..." I put my hands on his belt to undo it.

Yuri just nods. After undoing his belt, I unbutton his pants and unzip them. He is wearing boxers. I gulp.

"I-I am going to see now."

"Yes..."

I slightly bring down his boxers while putting up a wall with my body so that the girls can't see. Well, it is indeed there. I leave him be and turn around. I scruffle the hair in the back of my head. I can say, that's the most embarrassing thing I've done and will ever do while I am alive. Still, good to know now and don't misunderstand things later.

"Yeah, he is a guy."

"What?!"

"Told ya, little girl." Lala says to her with a confident smile.

Yuri lets out a relieved sigh.

"Who are you calling 'little girl'?! I am older than you, you know?" Kirstie starts fighting with Lala and Lala answers back with a smile.

"Oh, I am so very sorry. Do you prefer being called 'Old lady'?"

"That's even worse you brute!"

"What was that?!"

And so, they go back and forth. Yuri and I try to calm them, to little use. I wonder now, though, what are the headmaster and Emeri doing right now at the other side of that one way mirror?

---

"So, how do you think he will do?" The director asks Emeri, who was concentrated on Reiki as he entered the room.

"Huh? W-well, I think he'll do good, as long as he doesn't get too nervous." Emeri seems worried.

"Don't be such a worrywart, Miss Leinfield. Someone like Reiki, I'm sure he'll do fine."

"I hope... Headmaster?" She turns her head to see the headmaster.

"Hm?"

"Why is it that you wanted Reiki to join the school so badly? It seems you aren't short of talented mages."

"Why, huh? Well, maybe it is because Reiki is one of a kind. I don't know if you've noticed, but his genius is unparalleled. The magic he knows and the magic he is yet to learn, by just knowing the basics, he can decipher whatever magic he is presented with. It doesn't only apply to magic, I'm sure you've noticed."

"Yeah... But you went to the extent of even allowing me, a total rookie of magic, to come to the school."

"Do you regret that?"

"Not for a second, but still..."

"Oh, lookie here! Here comes Reiki's first teammate!" The headmaster makes a quick change of subject, and Emeri turns around to see Lala entering the room. "Her name is Lala Ouaknin. Half Algerian, Half Croatian. What do you think?"

"Even if you ask me that... What can I say? That I like her legs?" Emeri sounds confused.

"Seems Reiki was right on the money when he called you a 'closet pervert'. I mean if you think she'll get along with Reiki."

Emeri's face turns red with embarrassment.

"I-I-I-I think so!"

The headmaster laughs wholedheartedly.

"C'mon, no need to be so flustered. You're starting to talk like Reiki when he is nervous."

"You..." Emeri is about to say something, but considering that she is talking with the headmaster and that she isn't Reiki, she calms down. "Anyway... I heard that you handpicked Reiki's teammates, is that true?"

"Is this another one of the perks of 'The Eye of Baphel', Miss Leinfeild?"

"Maybe so."

"Then let me tell you, that's right on the money. Each one of Reiki's teammates were handpicked by me, in order to help Reiki bring out his full strength. First, we have Lala Ouaknin. A Contritio magician with a nature as explosive as her attacks. She is the outgoing type. Even if Reiki doesn't feel like talking to her, Miss Ouaknin will make those words come out from him. She is also very sharp and sympathethic, she can relate to anyone on any level. I am sure that she will drag out Reiki of his shell, even if it is just to talk with her and only her."

"Huh..." Emeri watches the exchange between Reiki and Lala, and how Lala laughs for whatever Reiki said to her. Emeri sees how Reiki averts his eyes with annoyement from Lala and immediatly thinks that Lala just screwed up, but with a quick follow up, Lala manages to calm Reiki and ends things with a handshake. She is somewhat surprised, since Reiki isn't one to bother with such things, even less with strangers.

"See what I mean?"

"You can be surprisingly good at your work when you put on the minimum effort."

"You hurt me, Miss Leinfeild. Now, here comes the next one. Yuri Volkov. A Russian, Alchimia Magician."

"Why did you pick this one?" She says as she watches the effeminate Yuri walk over to her seat.

"Yuri speaks as formal as he dresses. I believe Reiki won't have a problem speaking with someone who is so polite and careful that it'd be hard for them to laugh or be rude at you. In other words, Reiki's favourite kind of person."

"You have a point there. So, I suppose the last one will also complement his personality in one way or the other."

A little smirk crosses the headmaster's face.

"Not quite, Miss Leinfield, not quite. You should know I am one to take extreme measures."

Emeri looks at him with a puzzled look, and her attention is only diverted to the last opening door and the last memeber of Reiki's team, Kirstie.

"I somehow have the feeling that she won't be someone easy to deal with."

"You guess right yet again, Miss Leinfield! Next time you are able to, I'll give you and special gift. This here is Kirstie Lowe. Someone who not only comes from a long, long line of magicians of the Naturalis School, but also has been raised like a noble, and her personality complimented with those two things is irritating, to say the least. You should imagine how much of a hardhead she is, if she's able to get even me mad."

"You know that Reiki isn't good with that type of person! That's a terrible idea!" She seems worried as she watches Kirstie approach the group of three.

"To top it of, she has been taught since she was young that Praestigiae Magicians are not only her enemies, but also objects of despise."

"Reiki is a Praestigiae! What were you thinking?!" Emeri seems to be incredibly mad, but the headmaster calmly watches Kirstie introducing herself.

"Just you wait and see." He says and points at Reiki.

Emeri turns her head to look. She just remembered, that Reiki's switch will most likely flip when he is put in front of the girl. Just as she predicted, she watches Reiki as he stands up from his seat in a threatening way and confronts the girl. They seem to already be in bad terms.

"I suppose you have a reason for this too? I hope you do."

"Calm down, Miss Leinfield. I never do things without premeditation. As you know, Reiki becomes a little more outgoing when he is confronted with someone with a baseless sense of superiority. More than anything, he can't stand the fact that they look down on him."

"And how will that be of use for Reiki?"

"I hope that, due to the interactions between teammates that they will have, he'll end up developing a, how could you call it? A facade, maybe. With such facade, maybe and just maybe, he'll overcome one of his few weaknesses. His fear for people, more precisely, his fear for what others may think about him."

"I hope you don't have any kind of secret agenda behind all of this."

"Oh, c'mon, Miss Leinfield, I would never do that to Reiki." He opens his eyes ever so slightly and a somewhat dangerous aura emanetes from him. "If I had a secret agenda, it would involve you, without a doubt." He says, almost like a whisper.

"WHAT?!" Emeri seems rather flustered.

"Oh, did you hear that? Just forget about it." He tries to dismiss it with a motion of his hand, however, the reason for Emeri's shock is none other than Yuri and Reiki fiddling about and Reiki undoing Yuri's belt.

"What are they doing? He can't do that! That's sexual harassment!"

The headmaster lets out a sigh.

"My, my. Yuri is a guy, you know?"

"Eh? That can't be true!"

"He is indeed effeminate, however, as various physical and magical exams have proved, he is a male, without a doubt. Always have been. If something, I am pretty sure that Reiki is proving that to his other teammates. Believe, I would never allow someone to do something so indecent, even less if Reiki is involved."

"I-I guess you wouldn't." With a puzzled look, Emeri sees how everything is solved and how Lala and Kirstie fight.

The headmaster passes his hand above a white board that was put in front of them and a microphone emerges. Putting his mouth near it, he prepares to speak and give out the instructions for Reiki's team.

---

Lala and Kirstie continue fighting until a sudden voice interrupts them. That is the irritating voice of the headmaster himself.

"1, 2, 3! Hello, can you hear me? If you can, then please raise your hands!"

Lala follows suit with an energetic full swing of her right arm. Kirstie follows it with an annoyed look on her face. Yuri raises his hand almost like a military. I, for one, don't do anything.

"Seems you can. Great! Now, let us start with this. This will be the first mission you have as a team. As every year, you'll be released into a jungle-esque reality marble created by a teacher, and there you'll encounter another team. To ensure that only the most competent groups can go to missions, you'll face off against said team and whoever is victorious will then become an official team. Due to the sortings we do every year, you guys will face off against a 5th year team, so they have advantage in numbers. I hope you do your best and see this through. I'd hate to see Reiki's team disband. That's all. Give it your all guys! I am rooting for you Reiki!" After that large announcement, he just had to finish it with a creepy line like that. My whole body feels a chill passing through it.

"God, I hate him." When I say that, a door opens. Everyone knows it's obvious that they want us to go through it. When we cross it, we are let out into a jungle. The headmaster's voice sounds again.

"Oh! Also, think about your team name! If you win, then you'll need one. Bye-bye!"

---

Okay, this is the first chapter of a project of mine and wanted to share it with you all, though I'm still quite new to this community! Please, let me know what you think of this here below or through a PM! Thank you for reading!
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Posted 1/4/15 , edited 1/5/15
Chapter 2! Forming a Team!

After being released into the wilds with my other teammates, I try to inspect our immediate area. Kirstie raises her voice and gets me out of track to turn and look at her.

"Well, first things first. We need to determine a leader for our little team. I suggest that you peasants choose me as the leader, since that's obviously the best option." She never seems to let go of that arrogant way of talking.

"Huh? Who died and made you queen? If we need a leader, then I suggest Reichi for that role." Lala says. Wait, me? As the leader?! Is this girl out of her mind?! "Anyway, we should prepare for battle. Take out your catalysts boys!" She says in a cheerful way as she takes out of her pocket a pair of gloves and grieves. Yuri follows suit and takes out a magic wand, pretty old school, huh? Lastly, Kirstie takes off a pendant she had been storing inside of her clothes. It is a little pendant with a green rock in the middle of it, put in a minituare fitting cage, if you want to call it something.

I, for one, don't take out anything.

"Hm? What's the matter, Reiki? Don't you have your catalyst with you?" Yuri looks at me concerned because I don't take out anything.

"No, that's not-" Cut off mid-sentence, Kirstie tries to mock me yet again.

"The little idiot surely forgot that he had to bring his catalyst with him, even though a mage should always be carrying it. Well, there isn't a cure for stupidity, after all."

"Oh, I am so very sorry, princess. I do have my catalyst with me." I show her the back of my hands.

"What are you showing me your hands for?"

"Look closely, baka-hime." I say to her in Japanese, since she probably can't understand it. She gets closer and looks at my hand, as do Lala and Yuri.

"I don't see anything..." Kirstie has a puzzled look in her face.

"No, wait. I see it. Right here." Yuri passes his finger through the bit of my skin that is lightly popped out. "Is this...?"

"That is a Shifting Rune, isn't it?!" Lala seems rather surprised.

"T-That can't be. The process to make a Shifting Rune is not only extremely painful, but also extremely dangerous. I've never met anyone who was crazy enough to get one. And you claim to have not only one, but two of them?!"

Oh, I have more than just those two. But that isn't information necessary for now.

"Prove it to me! Cast something right now!" Kirstie says.

"Gotcha. Just you wait and see, baka-hime." I concentrate and the rune shifts into the fitting one for my spell. A circle figure with a 4-sided star inside it. "Praestigiae: Light Clone!" I chant and I take the light off of one of the nearby trees and produce a clone of me.

"That can't be real..." Kirstie seems to be rather surprised.

"That's Reichi for you!" Lala says with a smile.

"You are indeed quite impressive, Reiki." Yuri congratulates me. Somehow, I don't feel all that special. I am just someone average who had the luck to be an exceptional mage.

"Then we're settled. Reichi is our leader!"

"Wait, wait, wait, wait. I won't accept that! A guy like him WON'T be our leader while I am still alive. I am our leader, and that's final!" Kirstie says defiantly. To be honest, I don't care that much about being the leader.

"Well, if you think you're up for it, then please, go ahead. If you prove that you are indeed leader material, then even I will follow your commands without a word."

"All right, if Reiki is alright with it, then Miss Kirstie shall be our leader. Are there any objections?" Though Lala puffs her cheeks and crosses her arms in disaprovement, no one says anything.

"There we have it! Now let's go! We march towards our enemy for a swift and crushing victory."

"Any strategy, baka-hime? Or are we just going to charge blindly?" I say to her as I catch up to her pace. She was trying to walk in front of the group, as a leader would. Somehow I have the feeling that she isn't quite cut to do it, though.

"Would you stop calling me that? I don't know what that means, but it still irritates me. Anyway, yes, I have an strategy. You and Yuri will support Lala and I while we charge against the enemy." She finishes that sentence with such reassurance that I find it unnerving.

"And?"

"Hm? That's it." I facepalm.

"You can't be for real. You know what, screw you and your plans. I will ensure that this is a success." I say and get to the back of the group, kneeling down and touching the floor with my hand.

"High Level Tracker... CAST!" With that, a big wave of magic goes out of my hand. I feel everyone in my immediate vicinity, Lala, Yuri and Kirstie, all looking at me. Kirstie seems to be mad. After them, all I feel is jungle and insects. Until... A group of five. I don't recognize anyone save for one. Kiel Mannery. Judging by this, then... "I got something. The enemy group is at an approximate of 2 kilometers. I only know one of the mages in the group. A male Contritio specialized in elemental shooting, more specifically, fire."

"You picked up all that in such a short time?" Lala is amazed. "You're awesome, Reichi!"

"H-Huh? Y-yeah, well..." I smile shyly when Lala praises me.

"2 kilometers from here, huh?" Yuri readies his magic wand and with swift wrist motions, he casts his spell. "Alchimia: Gun Alter! Sniper!" Wood of the trees nearby starts de-attaching itself from the trees and surrounding Yuri's wand. Within seconds, an sniper made out of wood forms in Yuri's hands. For the lenses, particles of water were used. It is quite impressive what a skilled mage can do.

"B-b-but what about the bullets?" A wood bullet shot by a wood mechanism doesn't sound like a good idea. Anyhow, how can a wood sniper even work? Slingshots?

"Do not worry about that, Reiki. That's why I always carry this." He takes out of his pocket a metal cube of the size of his hand and a catridge of bullets. Clever, I must say. "Alchimia: Inner Mechanism." The cube melts down and through a little gap left open in Yuri's wood sniper, it starts to put itself in place. I suppose that with that, the mechanism of the sniper is formed. "Alchimia: Modification. Sniper bullets." The catridge he has full of bullets is emptied in an instant and the seemingly normal bullets turn into sniper bullets at Yuri's command. He fills the catridge of the sniper and he seems to be ready to go. "That's that. I can only fire it two or three times before the carcass breaks, but I'll be sure to make those shots count. I believe we are only to disable our opponents and not kill them, yes?"

"I'd think so. There's just so much a single Medela mage can do." Kirstie answers Yuri's question.

"Then I'll stay clear of vital organs."

"Yurichi also seems to be ready and raring to go! I'm getting fired up just thinking about this!" Yuri lays down on his belly and puts the scope of the sniper in his eye.

"As Reiki said earlier, our targets are still quite far. Even with the scope, I still see them quite tiny. It'll be a while until we are to encounter. What should we do?" We all turn to see Kirstie, who seems to be distracted thinking about something else.

"W-What? Oh yeah!" She just remembered that she is our appointed leader. She clears her throat. "All right then, we'll go to where they are and take them on. That's the best course of action, after all."

No, I'm pretty sure the best would be to wait for them and then ambush them, but what do I know? I am not the leader.

"Then let's go, baka-hime. They aren't going to sit on their hands, waiting for us."

"Are you sure this is the best thing to do, Reiki? Don't you think we should think about it a little more?"

"Our leader has talked. If she says so, then we can do nothing but to trust her judgment. After all..." I turn my head back to look at Kirstie. My glare is cold as ice. "The leader's job is to ensure that the rest of the team doesn't go in blindly into a certain death. You'll ensure that, right, baka-hime?"

"Y-yes. That is my job as a leader, of course. I won't let you down." She puffs her chest out with pride. How long can that pride of hers stand out?

"Then let's go. We are wasting time with pointless chatter."

We walk a long way, until Yuri indicates that we are near our objective.

"Positions, baka-hime? We are about to have an inevitable encounter with our enemy."

"Y-yes, of course. Search for cover, all of you. Yuri, be sure to support us with your gun and four eyes, be sure to confuse our enemy. Lala, you move in with me."

"Yes, yes spoiled princess. Finally, some action!"

Judging by abilities, I think maybe putting Yuri in the front line and only me in the back would have been the best course of action, but oh well.

I start a countdown in my head after covering behind a rock. Lala hides behind a tree and Yuri hid next to me. Kirstie took cover behind a group of leaves. I can't shake the feeling that we just walked right into their trap.

1...2...3...4...5...!

Before Yuri can get out of cover and shoot, a big fireball comes against us. We dodge it and it destroys the rock. Yuri seems surprised, but this is no time to feel like that.

"He he he. Must be my lucky day. I get to roast you, Byrne! And legally, at that!" Kiel is the culprit behind that fireball. Not that I expected anyone else.

"Listen now Yuri, go search for cover and somewhere you can shoot. I've got you covered." I tell him and he nods. "Light Steal." I take out Yuri's light, except for his eyes, as he goes to hide somewhere. As expected, the enemy doesn't pay attention to him. I scan the area with my eyes. I see one hiding in the plants nearby. Lala is fighting Kiel as I think. I should eliminate the one hiding before anything else. "Praestigiae: Clone Bakudan." A Reiki original, I must say, hence the Japanese word.

A clone of me is produce and it walks stupidly and barehanded at the hiding enemy. Lala, who was just a moment ago trying to land a hit on the elusive Kiel, turns her head to see my clone.

"Reichi?!"

"You are open!" Taking a swift step forward, Kiel takes Lala's hand and puts his gun under her chin. "Checkmate."

"Grr." She growls. "Contritio: Air Implosion." With a red circle forming around her leg, Lala uses her magic to impulse her leg and hit Kiel right in the face. Kiel releases his grisp of Lala's hand and takes a few steps back.

"What?!"

"Those are the perks of being flexible. You are still way too green to 'checkmate' me!"

It is good that she can get right back on track in an instant. When my clone reaches the enemy's range, the concealed girl lets out a green ball of razor sharp leaves against the clone... Which explodes and sends her flying.

"W-what?" The girl with a cut we call back in Japan 'hime cut' tries to get up, to no avail. She was knocked down almost instantly after taking that hit.

"Yoko?" Kiel is taken aback and looks at the girl that just fainted with rage in his eyes. "Dammit! Byrne, I know that was you! I am going to make you pay, bastard!" As he shouts, the sound of a gun is heard and a bullet pierces his leg. "H-Huh?" Unable to stand on it, he falls down. The bone of his leg... Most likely, it is completely shattered. Lala puts herself on top of him.

"This IS a checkmate, boy!" With a swift punch, she knocks out Kiel.

"2 down, three to go." I say under my breath.

Now that I remember it, what happened to Kirstie? To answer my question, a girl with a hood is trying to run away from the constripting claws of the roots of a tree. This is without a doubt Kirstie's magic.

"P-Pythones: Forest Spirits, hear my call!" A whole lot of broken down trees start moving and sprout legs and arms, along with a rather creepy and scary face. After that, they put themselves in front of the hooded girl. "With this, you cannot touch me!" The roots stop right in front of the girl's barrier of tree-men.

"You really use that against a Naturalis? As Lala said before, you all are too unexpirienced. Listen now, I am going to give you a quck class of magic. A Naturalis, such as me, has the ability to control many of the natural elements and use them as they see fit. Some branches merely creates weapons out of things, others get strength out of the natural energy around them, powering their fighting style with the power of the nature. However, people like me have another use for this. The Lowe family likes to call this spell: 'Naturalis: Naturakinesis.'" With a victorious smirk, her pendant glows and the trees that had been protecting the girl until now, turn against her.

"W-Wait, no! Obey your master! I gave you life!" The trees with a stiff look, go back to their sleeping state. All but one, which raises its arm slowly. "No, please no! No!" It brings its arm down, however it doesn't even strike the girl when she has already passed out.

"That's one. How's the situation back there?!" She shouts in our direction. With a hand sign, I tell her we are okay. "That's good then." Without warning, though. She is hit with a pole and sent flying towards us. "W-what?" And so, our great leader was knocked out in just one strike.

"Get ahold of yourself, baka-hime!" I shake her by her shoulders. No answer. She is knocked out, but only that. With no one looking right now... I should cure her face, or later she'll be like crazy. With the palm of my hand above her face, I prepare my spell. "Medela: Insta-Heal!" It is named like that, but I still need to let my hand stay still above her wound for at least 10 seconds, which pass quick. Now, our only concern is, who knocked her out?

After completing my healing, I leave her lying down in a tree stump nearby.

I hear some of the leaves rustling. I need to call out for Lala.

"Lala, where are you? Can you come here?" I shout and I soon hear her response.

"Oh, Reichi! I am piling up the guys we knocked out. Three already, huh? Are we doing a great job or what?!" She says and I hear her voice getting nearer.

"Please, hurry it up. We still lack two and one of them knocked out Kirstie."

"Huh? Are you for real?" She arrives running after hearing that. "Is she okay?"

"Yeah, she is. She is resting now somewhere else. But we must be on our guards. It is a possibility that one is a Contritio and the other a Praestigiae, judging by how they approached her and didn't alert her.

"Now we're even huh? Got a plan?"

"I have one, yeah. I'll need you to move with my hand when I motion somewhere, though."

"Gotcha." She says with a confident smile.

"Also, use an air implosion to gain speed."

"I think I like where this is going."

"Return to me after landing your attack. As fast as you can. Yuri is providing support, so we don't have to worry about a direct attack."

Like that, Lala will follow when I instruct her to.

Soon enough, I catch a glimpse of something black running towards us. Most likely, the Contritio girl. To conceal a whole body like that takes a lot of mana, and a nearby Praestigiae mage to provide it. It is a spell that is impossible to cast at a long distance. Lala most likely can't see her, due to her being a Contritio. Only a Praestigiae with trained eyes would be able to catch her, and even so, I have a spell enhancing my glasses lenses right now, to see her in a more complete state. Then, if I am not mistaken, behind her is... Yeah, that's it.

"Lala"

"I get you."

When the girl is near enough, I light her with the light of a tree I took.

"So, you are our enemy."

A girl, with heavy armor and a halberd stands before us. Her body is completely covered in armor, except for her blonde, long hair, in which she is wearing a hairpin.

"It seems this kinds of tricks won't be of any use against you. It matters not." She readies her weapon. "We are settling this here and now. Then, we'll be the ones to become an official team. Don't think we'll be preys as easy as our other teammates."

If something, I'd say this girl isn't as much of a novice as everyone else here. I'd be a little more on edge if I didn't have Lala behind me in standby and waiting for my order.

"I am Caterina Daslow. Contritio Magician. What are you?"

"Reiki Byrne. Naturalis, Druid Class Magician." Such a blatant lie... She won't see through it though.

"I see. Then that light before was natural light under your command. I suppose you also have a Praestigiae nearby, no?"

"Maybe."

"Such a vague answer. It'd be best if you surrendered. That way, we wouldn't have to hurt you."

"You seem awfully confident. You sure you can take me on?"

Grasping her weapon with determination, she readies it and points it against me.

"Of course. With my honor as a knight in the line, I will win this battle."

"Then let us battle." I put myself in an arched position. I make a pair of magical circles appear around my wrists. They look green, by the way. "Haaaa!" I motion with my hand and point at Caterina, who is just watching me. As soon as I do that, Lala throws herself against Caterina, and I disguise her as a thunder. Caterina is taken aback and tries to protect herself with her halberd. It is inevitably broken, though.

"What?! Impossible!" She takes a step back and looks at her broken weapon. "How did you...?" Shaking her head, she returns to the calm self she was just a moment ago. "You took me by surprise. It will not happen again. Now that I know of that thunder attack of yours, you will not be able to land another one again." With her halberd now in two, she adapts and takes a new battle stance to use both parts at the same time. Holding the bladed end in front with her right hand and the other half in her left hand as defense.

"I told you. Don't be so confident." The green circles appear again in my wrists. I motion again against her and Lala follows suit. Now, when she connects, Caterina takes her leg. "You were right, Logan. Now, time to take out the trash." Lala is surprised by how her attack was stopped. However, it is good. I smirk.

"Get out of there, Lala!" I say and Lala looks at me and then nods.

"Air Implosion!" With another one of her implosions, Lala is attracted by the force of it and breaks free of Caterina's grasp.

"Light Maze!" The magic circle below her lights up. This battle is over.

I decide not to torture her and knock her out immedietly. She falls down when the color drains out of her eyes when the light imprisons her. Now, it is just a matter of finding the Praestigiae.

"All right. I surrender." A voice says from inbetween the trees. Well, that was fast. A boy gets out from his hiding place and reveals himself to us. He approaches us, seemingly unarmed. If this were a simple surrender, I'd be okay with it. Then again, this is a Praestigiae. We aren't exactly known for how honest we are.

As if I had just foreseen the future, when he is near enough me, he throws himself at me, knife in hand.

"As if, you stupid fucks!" Centimeters away from stabbing me, he is shot in both forearms and the bullet pierces through them both. "Eh?" He lets go of the knife. No, more like he can't hold it anymore. "W-W-what?" With a swift kick, Lala knocks him out.

"Aaaand that's all of them! It is good that the school has good doctors, otherwise these kind of things wouldn't go out unpunished." She says with a smile.

"Y-Yeah. We managed... Somehow." With a soft punch to my head, Lala scolds me.

"Not 'somehow'! It is all thanks to you Reiki! A head on battle with that Caterina and her partner would have been pretty bad for us. Maybe, if you weren't here, they would have really wiped us out just the two of them."

"T-that's not true! You and Y-Yuri are also a great team! Even without me, I'm sure you would have managed just fine."

"Hehehe... Thanks! Now should we go? I think I have the perfect name for our team." Lala says and gets a little ahead of me, soon after Yuri arrives.

"Are you both okay? I hope I was of any help. As predicted, the sniper broke down after two uses."

"Yeah, we did just fine. In fact, two shots was all it was needed to finish this off."

"That's good, then. Now, shall we go?"

I feel that we are forgetting something, but I am sure it is nothing. Before walking a little more, the reality marble is dispelled and we find ourselves in a big, empty white room.

The bodies of the unconscious 5th years are lying around. We hear a thump and we turn to check what it was. Oh yeah, that's what we forgot.

"Ouch! What's your problem, commoners? That's NOT how you treat a lady!" The producer of the sound, the unconscious Kirstie who has just woken up, hit her head when the reality marble was dispelled.

"But I think I've been treating Lala quite fine, don't you think?" Taking her hand in a jokingly way and kissing it, Lala follows suit.

"Oh, but of course, Reichi. You're such a gentleman." She says with a gentle smile on her face, then we both laugh. Though, as soon as I notice that I am holding her hand I take it quite quickly and blush. "You could've let it there a little longer, ya know?"

"T-t-that's fine, thanks."

"You two... Well, whatever. We should be heading back to our rooms."

"Um, why do you say so, Miss Kirstie?"

"Isn't it obvious? After I was knocked out you obviously stood no chance and were knocked out instantly. I am a vital part of the team, after all."

Lala starts laughing, but rather than the gentle laugh from before when I mistook 'meet' for 'meat', this was a mocking way of laughing.

"You can't be real! Do you really think we depend so much in you that we can't hold our own against those freaks?" She puts her arm around me and brings me closer. Her chest, though rather modest, still pushes against my arm and I blush. "If we were to depend on someone, it would be on Reichi here! It is thanks to him that we even had the opportunity to defeat them in the first place!"

"I concord with Lala here. If it were not for Reiki, the Praestigiae-Contritio duo would have finished us off rather quickly. I, for one, am glad to have a companion such as him."

"Y-you're making me blush." My face was plenty blushed as it was, but I still felt the need to say it.

"That's exactly right! You guys are the winners! And what crushing victory that was! The entire 5th year team was knocked out as follows: Lala: 2, Reiki: 2, Kirstie: 1 and Yuri: 0. Now, please proceed to the room you were just in for the official team naming ceremony!" The voice of the headmaster fills our ears once again.

We start walking towards the door before Kirstie stops us once again.

"W-Well, at least I was not nearly as useless as Yuri! I deserve some praise!" She seems desperate to have the acknowledgement of her companions, even going as far as to look down on another teammate. Just, how desperate is she to be seen by someone?

"Useless?" Before Yuri even has an opportunity to defend himself, I intervene. "It is thanks to Yuri that we could move freely as it was. It is thanks to him that I wasn't stabbed! In my opinion, supporting your teammates rather than trying to do everything by yourself is something far more useful. More intelligent, even. If you want to be acknowledged so bad, do something to earn it." I seem to have hit the right nail, as she looks down with tears in her eyes.

"T-Then what should I do?! I've... I've...!"

It is Lala who now takes the stage as she hugs Kirstie.

"Huh?"

"For starters... Trust us. Both when fighting and with what you have in your heart. You aren't alone ya know?"

Yuri goes to her side and puts his hand on her shoulder.

"We are a team, after all. Is that not so, Miss Kirstie?" Yuri's and Lala's reassuring words seem to calm Kirstie.

"I... I'll try."

I look from a distance. I am sure she has some circumstances she doesn't like talking about with strangers. I smile a bit.

"All right, I-I'll be going on ahead." I turn around to continue walking.

Yuri quickly follows after me.

"Wait, Reiki, let me go with you."

After a long while I and Yuri stand next to the door, waiting for the girls to finish, Lala unwraps her arms from around Kirstie.

"Let's go." Weeping a single tear with her finger, Kirstie nods.

In the other room, we are met by both the headmaster and Emeri. The headmaster is clapping while Emeri just looks at us with sheepish eyes and a smile on her face.

"Congratulations! Mahbrouk! Pozdravlyayu! Omedetou gozaimasu! Some of those might be used in the wrong context, but I am no expert in languages." He says in his usual cheery way.

"Good you didn't die, Reiki." Emeri says. Though she seems happy in the exterior, she also seems to be somewhat mad. What did I do this time?

"You'd cry for three months straight if that happened and you know it."

"No, I wouldn't. Don't delude yourself." She says in a sarcastic way. Popping up from behind her (Don't ask me how), the headmaster says yet another creepy line.

"But I would Reiki! I'd cry until my eyes popped out."

Whispering between them, the group of Lala, Kirstie and Yuri seem to find Reiki's relationship with both the headmaster and Emeri quite stunning, due to him being awfully shy a little while ago.

"Is it just me, or is Reichi in awfully good terms with the headmaster and that girl?" Lala starts as she whispers into Kirstie's ear, though it is loud enough to reach Yuri.

"I though that four eyes was shier than that... Then, maybe..."

"Maybe?"

"Maybe that is his girlfriend who is extremely jelous and so he doesn't go near any woman." Kirstie explains her theory to Yuri and Lala, who think that that may be the most probable case now that they see Reiki being so sociable.

"Well, you needn't stay so far away from the group, girls, uh, and Mister Volkov." The headmaster says and motions them to come with his hand.

"Uh, right. Coming sir." Lala says and sprints over to where we are standing. Yuri and Kirstie follow after her.

"Now then, let's proceed." He says and puts his hand forward. A book, along with a stand for it, appear. "Here, we will register you as an official team. Have you thought of a name yet?"

"I-I am not good at naming things, so..." I say and look at the girls, and Yuri, for an answer.

"Umm, well... How about, I dunno, 'Last Remnant'?"

That sounds like the title of a fantasy game or something... I like it.

"I-I-I like that..." I say, though my voice weakens a little when I say 'like'.

"I also don't have any taste for names, so that'll have to do." Kirsten says as she shrugs.

"I don't have any problems, either." Yuri follows up.

"Then that shall be it. Though somewhat odd, if you like it I cannot object. Let's see here... 'Last Remnant'. Could you please get together in front of me? Stay as near from each other as you can, please."

We follow suit and we stay centimeters away from each other, in a square formation with two in front and two other in the back. By my side, Lala stands, and behind me Kirsten, who at her side has Yuri.

"Thankies! Now then..." A magic circle appears below us. It is white. A Neutra spell, huh? With no allign to any of the six schools, Neutra spells are often used in rites or things of the like. Basically, anything that doesn't fit in any of the other schools and needs lots of preparations. So, this is why they always use the same room. "By blood you are bound... For now until you die... You will be one. Bound by mind... For now until you die... You will think as one. Bound by this spell you are, here and now you become a sole entity... Call forth and your bonds will answer. The strength of many becomes the strength of one... Unification Spell." The runes of the circle start climbing onto us. I do not panic, but Kirsten and Yuri don't seem to be handling it very well, wondering what is happening. Lala also seems nervous, trembling all over. "By this spell, this group, 'Last Remnant', is now bound by blood and mind. I ask thee... Are you, Kirsten Lowe, ready to bear upon thy shoulders the weight of everyone else?" The headmaster asks Kirsten, who was our leader just a little while ago. Her eyes are swimming all over. I don't think she'll give a positive answer.

"I... I cannot. I am not worthy, or able of doing so."

"I see. Then... I ask thou, Reiki Byrne. Are you ready to bear upon thy shoulders the weight of everyone else?"

Why me? I think about it. What does he mean with that? How will I carry the weight of everyone? Still...

"I... Yes. I am ready to bear such a task. I will carry them, and lead them."

"If that is so, then repeat after me. 'I now swear...'"

"I now swear..."

"'To carry everyone's hopes and dreams...'"

"To carry everyone's hopes and dreams..."

"'As well as their troubles and doubts...'"

"As well as their troubles and doubts..."

"'To lead them into a brighter future...'"

"To lead them into a brighter future..."

"'And guide them through the endless darkness...'"

"And guide them through the endless darkness..."

"'For now, I have become their leader and protector. Even if it takes away my life...'"

"For now, I have become their leader and protector. Even if it takes away my life..."

"'I will never let any harm come to them...'"

"I will never let any harm come to them..."

"Now, Lala Ouaknin. Do you accept Reiki as your leader?"

"...I do."

"Excellent. Yuri Volkov. Do you accept Reiki as your leader?"

"I do."

"Lastly. Kirsten Lowe. Do you accept Reiki as your leader?"

"I... I do."

"This pact has been sealed and this spell has now been completed." Closing the book that was on its stand, the circle disappears. "Now, my boys, you are an official team."

Yuri raises his hand.

"Er... If it isn't much trouble, may I ask what does this spell do?"

"It gives you a way to know of each other at any given time. You are now capable of telepathy, though not intrusive and only between the members of your team. Also, you can sense the life of your other teammates now, can you feel it?"

Now that he says it. I feel something... warm coming from my left. Is this Lala's life?

"I believe I do." Yuri says and he lowers his hand.

Now, it is my turn to ask some questions.

"I still have a question. What was that that you made me chant?"

"That, Reiki, you'll discover soon enough. I suggest you go take bath and change yourselves into something a little more formal. Tonight, your debut as a team will be celebrated! Rejoice!" He says and gets out of the room. "Be sure to go to the dining hall at 8:00 PM. You'll meet the other teams there and your possible new contractors."

Oh, I know what this is. Celebrated every day after the Team Placement Event, The Debut Ball. Every new team formed will make an appearance and hope to be contracted for their very first mission.

"A-all right, then I should go get ready for it... I-I hope to see you there, guys!" I say and rush out of the room after the headmaster, Emeri follows me in my rush. The girls and Yuri are left with a dumbfounded look in their eyes. To be honest, I don't think I'll go to it. Too many people in one place.

---

After that I went back to my dorm room and fell on my bed. I'm tired. My mana pool is pretty large, but I still used a lot. After all, the Clone Bakudan is a spell that requires using two schools of magic at the same time, Contritio and Praestigiae. Even though it is hard for someone to master two or even three schools of magic, it is not something odd to see someone using basic spells of other schools to complement their own style of magic. These basic spells don't fall into any branch and are just what the name of the school says it is. The spell I use for the Clone Bakudan is a low-level explosion with no real element at all, if I had to say an element for it, it'd be fire, but I cannot say that that's exactly it. Something resembling fire would be a better explanation for it. A low-level chemically similar to fire explosion.

I was too busy thinking about that that I didn't notice the lump behind my back. Did someone come into my room when I wasn't around? I stand up from the bed and look back at my bed. What the actual fuck is this?! I take it up by the hanger it is in. This is a suit. A night suit. I know who left this here...

"That frigging stupid homosexual headmaster!" I shout out. I can't believe this guy! Does he really want me to go to that ball so bad?

"What, did he also leave something for you too?" Emeri opens my door, while holding a a hanger of her own with a dress.

"Yeah he did." I let out a sigh. "God, what's wrong with him? He knows I hate events like those."

"Oh, look, there's something here." She refers to a little piece of paper that was in the hanger. She takes it and opens it. "What does it say? Umm... 'Dear Reiki and Miss Leinfield. Please, use this when you go to the Debut Ball tonight. Even though your presence wouldn't be required otherwise, dear Reiki, thanks to your decision to become the leader, you now HAVE to go, otherwise your team will never take off in the magical scene. My best regards, Headmaster A"

"That damn old man! Anno kuso jiji! Oreba aitsu o korosu! Aitsu wa hontoni mukatsuku wa!"

"Reiki, you're talking in Japanese. Calm down."

"Ore ba ochitsuite imasu!"

"No you aren't. You say that everytime you get mad, so now even I can understand it. Please, just take a deep breath."

"Ia."

"You're acting like a child."

"Sore de? Ore o sonno koto doudemoiiyo."

"No, wait, you lost me there. Can we go back to speaking in english?"

"Iada. Kore kara, tada o nihongo wa hanasu."

"God, you get so impossible when your switch flips."

---

I was quite mad, and Emeri stayed with me until I calmed down. After that, I decided to put up with it and just go to the damn thing. After that, there shouldn't be any problems if I leave early, right? I put on the little outfit that guy prepared for me. It isn't so bad, a plain black suit with a white shirt and a black tie. I feel elegant in this. Emeri also puts on the night wear the headmaster prepared. A white, long dress with red details around the waist. The headmaster seems to have also taken every kind of precautions and also brought in a team for Emeri so that she puts on make up and does her hair in a fancy way. I am ready way, WAY before she is. I am waiting for her at the entrance of the dorm. After a while, she comes down the stairs and I see her entering into what you'd call the lounge of this dormitory. She looks absolutely, positively beautiful. Her silver hair, made into a bun behind her head and leaving her nape visible, helps things a lot. Her not so pale skin with very little make up makes her natural beautiness come out. I've seen the cute Emeri, but this is the first time I've seen the elegant, beautiful Emeri.

"How is it?"

"P-Perfect... I-I mean, you look good." I look away. I know that if I keep looking, I'll blush.

"Yeah? Well, if you think so, let's get going!"

"O-Okay!" She passes in front of me and puts her elbow up, as if she wanted me to take it.

"W-What?"

"What do you mean by what? Without me, you won't be able to talk with anyone else! Hold onto me so we don't get separated!"

"Y-Yes ma'am!"

"What are you so on edge for? You also look quite dashing and I'm perfectly calm, you know..." That last bit came out almost like a whisper.

"What did you say?"

"Nothing that you need to hear! C'mon, we are going!" When I put my arm on her elbow, I notice something.

"Hey."

"Hm?"

"Isn't the girl the one that holds onto the man's elbow?" She blushes when I mention it.

"I-Is that so?"

"Dunno, never done this. But in movies, that's mostly how it goes."

"Then put your damn elbow up!" How come I get scolded?

---

We arrive shortly after to the place where the ball is being held. A more classical looking room in this not-at-all classic magical school. The room looks like those extra fancy party rooms some rich guys had, or have, in their house. Everything in here is made out of gold, from the tables to the chairs. The benefits of being an Alchimia, I guess. Though I am pretty sure that's a forbidden spell, turning things into gold.

People are already here and as soon as I enter the room, I freeze where I am standing. Oh, god, I really can't stand this!

"Oh look here! Here comes the star of the night! Reiki Byrne, the leader of the newly formed Last Remnant!" The headmaster announces my arrival and everyone looks at me, and claps for my arrival. My mind is going blank, what do I do?

"D-Domo." Why the heck did I greet them in Japanese?!

Everyone has a confused look on their faces. The headmaster, though, has it covered.

"I am so very sorry, my dear companions, but Reiki is quite shy. He may start talking in Japanese every now and again if he gets too nervous. Thus, why he has such a beautiful companion by his side! Please, ladies and gentlemen, greet Emeri Leinfeild! Reiki Byrne's companion for the night."

They start clapping again and, unlike me, Emeri calmly waves at them. They all go back to whatever business they may have.

"T-That was hard." I let out a relieved sigh.

"Yo, Reichi! Good to see you here!" Lala's cheery voice calls out at me. I turn to see her and I find her with her hair straightened out, wearing a short, light blue dress, again, showing off her best asset, her legs. "I thought you were gonna skip this, since, ya know, people."

"Hooo... So that's why the four eyes was so nervous before. A ridiculous case of shyness." The irritating voice of Kirstie joins in on our conversation. She is wearing her hair the same as before with a red dress showing off one of her legs and with quite a view in the front, if I do say so myself.

"Regardless, it is good to see you here, Reiki." Yuri's voice joins the party. He is wearing an old fashioned suit with a bow tie. "Anyhow, I don't believe we've gotten acquainted with your companion. My name is Yuri Volkov, a pleasure to meet you."

"Oh, Yurichi is right! Well, I am Lala Ouaknin, nice to meetcha!"

"If I must, then, my name is Kirsten Lowe, it must be a pleasure to meet me."

"Oh, well, I am Emeri Leinfield, hope we get along! Except for you, Kirsten, I can't stand you." The fact that she says it all with a smile is rather scary.

"W-Wha?!" Kirsten looks rather flustered. "What do you mean by that, you commoner!" As she keeps barking, Emeri doesn't even pay attention to her and continues to talk with Yuri.

"So, Yuri. I must say, I was impressed to learn that you are actually a man! Don't take it the bad way, it is just that you are so cute that the fact that you're a man doesn't quite add up!"

"I-I'll take that as a compliment, if I must. Anyhow, Miss Emeri, I hope you don't believe I am too intruding or anything, but, are you and Reiki dating? You look so close it almost makes me envious."

"Huh?! N-No, I think you've got the wrong idea!" I am the first one to say that.

"Y-Yeah, we are only childhood friends! Neither of us harbor those kinds of feelings for the other!"

"Well, they do say that having a normal friendship between opposite sexes is impossible, because one of them will always harbor feelings for the other."

"T-that's absolutely not true! I mean, Lala and I are friends and I don't think she feels that way about me, right?!" I am being kinda loud, so when I turn to see Lala, she is a little surprised. "B-Because we are friends, right?"

"Eh, oh, um, yeah. We are friends. But what makes you so sure that I don't feel anything for you?" I don't know whether she is just teasing me or if she is for real. Whichever it is, I feel Emeri tightening her grasp of my arm.

"W-What might you mean, Lala?" Her eyebrows are twitching. Is she mad? No, she is mad. She has this big, aura of death around her that gives her away immedietly. Still, I might as well be the only one that notices it.

"Oh, nothing..." She slides her finger through my chest.

"Geeh!" I let out a high pitched cry.

"Wha?!"

"I'm just saying that maybe I could be the one to escort him, if you don't like it."

"No!" She hangs on tightly to my arm. "I'm never letting go of this arm!"

"E-Emi? What's gotten into you?"

"But...!" Emeri suddenly stops, as if she senses something is going to go wrong. She suddenly pulls me towards her and where our arms were standing, intertwined, a single branch passes through.

"Tch. She's good." Kirsten is the culprit behind that.

"What do you think you're doing?!" Emeri seems to be quite mad, even more than before.

"Oh, well, you see... I don't like being ignored, and if it makes you upset, then I'll be the one escorting four eyes!"

"Are you for real?!"

"Heh, this is getting interesting! If we're going to fight for Reichi, then I'm on!" She puts on her gloves and adjusts them tightly. "I'm not going easy on you!"

And so, they started fighting. Branches, implosions and simple-minded hits all in a fight. To keep up appearances, I am hiding the whole scene with my magic, so for everyone else it seems we are just enjoying our drinks while chatting between us. Yuri made me the great favor of putting up a delimited space so they can fight freely and not get out of it to destroy the place. The only bad thing is that I am being dragged around by Emeri while she fights. I feel like puking. Okay, this has gone far enough.

"P-Praestigiae: Blinding Light!" I take my light and turn it into a big, big flashbang. It confuses everyone and they settle down, though they continue rubbing their eyes.

"Why did you do that, Reiki?"

"Yeah, why? My eyes hurt, four eyes."

"Reichi is bullying us." Now, I am the bad guy... Wasn't this fight about me in the first place?

"Don't complain, you got what you deserved." As we continue to discuss about this, someone suddenly approaches us. A man, who looks like someone who spends lots of time at reunions like this. His mannerisms and everything say so. His blonde hair perfectly put together and with a really artificial smile on his wrinkled, middle-aged face.

"Hello there, young fellows. My name is Alexei Vincentio. I've come to this ball tonight in search of the best team of this year, and, according to your headmaster, you are that team."

"Well then, I guess you've found it, sir!" Emeri answers for me, at least she knows I stutter whenever I am prompted to do something like this all of a sudden.

"Excellent! Your confidence seems to live up to the headmaster's expectations!" He seems someone very sociable, but I always try to remember, most nobles are rotten to the core. I am pretty sure this work won't be something full of rainbows and leprechauns. Not that I expected it to be so. And so, he lets on to his rotten side. With a malicious grin on his face, he turns way more serious than I would like him to. "Now, then. Onto business! You see here, my friends, I have a work that needs doing, and it is a job only the best of the best, just like you, could accomplish."

The 'best of the best' part seems to have hooked Kirsten's interest.

"We'll take it! We'll take it and we'll show everyone else what it means to be the best of the best! The elite!" She seems quite pumped. Kirsten may have an inferiority complex, why, I have no idea, but that's what I think of when I see her.

"Oh, it is very good to see you so enthusiast! However, I need to hear the yes from your leader, anything less than that and this would be just an agreement between two parts, with no actual political validity, which I need here."

I lack info... Still, Kirsten seems to want to do it. I think I'll just bear with the consequences later. Emeri seems a little nervous and she tightens her grasp of my arm. I put my hand over hers to calm her down. I take a deep breath and proceed to announce my decision.

"All right, Mister Vincentio, we, Last Remnant, accept whatever job you may have for us!"

"Excellent! Such passion!" He then proceeds to put up his hand for me to seal the contract with a handshake. "Then, let us formally finish this."

"Of course." I take his hand into mine, at first a little lose, but Alexei firmly takes my hand and proceeds with the spell.

"I, Alexei Vincentio, have hired you, Last Remnant so that you may fulfill the job I have commended you with. If by any form, you do not fulfill this contract, then your punishment will be decided by those above us."

"I, Reiki Byrne, leader of the team Last Remnant, accept this terms and will make sure that this contract is fulfilled. Shall it not, I'll accept upon me any kind of punishment someone might decide upon me." A 9-sided star appears in both of our wrists. A proof that we've entered a contract and that both parts will have to fulfill it.

"I shall send the details to your instructor, until we meet again, Mister Byrne." He is about to take his leave, until I stop him.

"Wait a moment, please."

"Oh? What is it?"

"Can you also send the details of the mission to me? I shall revise them in anticipation."

"I trust you know that some things may be omitted because of your lack of an official rank. Will that be okay?"

"It is fine, I prefer it over having no information at all, sir."

With a small grin, he starts walking away again.

"Then I shall send it to you too, however, it is strictly only for your eyes, all right?"

"I understand."

"Ciao." With that last word, he disappears into the thick of all the other people assisting the ball.

"Well, that was odd." I let out as I see him walk away, everyone but Kirsten seem to be just as confused as I am.

We let it go and don't fret about it much. We spend some more of our time chatting about things without any real importance. I think I could get used to this. I still stutter a lot when talking with anyone that isn't Emeri or Kirsten, due to her bad attitude, but being surrounded by people you could even call friends makes me feel a little more safe. My legs aren't shaking as they would if I had come here alone with Emeri. That is, until the music changes. Everyone seems to take that opportunity to start dancing. Lala is invited into the dance floor by some other guy, as is Kirsten and they both go into the dance floor. Comically enough, Yuri was also invited by a guy into the dance floor, who he furiously rejected while he stated that he was a man, and to prove it, he went to invite a lonely girl into the dance floor.

"Hey, everyone is already out there, c'mon, let's go too!" Emeri tries to get me into the dance floor, but I don't want to do that.

"Y'know I can't dance." I've never even danced before, though.

"You're a genius, you'll learn just from watching as always, so c'mon!" She pulls me into the dance floor with her. At first, she guides me through the slow paced classical ballroom dance, but I soon get the hang of it and start taking my steps a little more confidently. After dancing for a long while, another man approaches me and offers Emeri his hand.

"May I have this dance, miss?" She looks at me with worried eyes and I nod at her to reassure her. She takes the hand of the guy and moves away while dancing. Great, now that I am alone I think I'll go take some air and then disappear smoothly like a ghost which was never really there. Or so I thought, but someone pokes my shoulder. When I turn around to see who it is, Lala pokes my cheek and puts up a devilish smile.

"Yo! Your partner bailed out on you?"

"Something like that. More like a more handsome guy came and took her with him."

"Oh, poor thing, he got bailed for a handsome guy. You should have some more confidence on yourself, Reichi! You're not only a great mage, but also quite the looker!"

I prop up my glasses.

"Of course I know that. I just let the guy think he had a slight chance of beating me when it came to looks."

"I-I can't believe you can be so arrogant, yet so shy." After giving me an sceptical look, she puts up her hand. "Then, will you dance with me?"

"If the lady so wants, then I'd be happy to."

"Oh, I want to." I take up her hand, but my other hand is unable to go around her waist. "Isn't something lacking here?"

"L-Like what?"

"Like you hand on my waist, duh. You're supposed to dance like that!" She forcibly takes my hand and puts it around her waist.

"Now, let's go!" We start dancing. No matter what I do, I am unable to get my eyes out of her legs. They look slim, yet very attractive. "What's the matter? Why are you looking down so much?" She doesn't seem to notice that I am looking at her legs, so I'll lie my way out.

"Huh? Well, I am not that confident on my dancing skills, so..."

"You're looking at your feet to try and do better?" She takes my head with her right hand, while I hold her left hand. "Then don't! Just let music flow into you! And look at me, for god's sake!" After dancing like that for a while, she was eventually also taken by another guy who wanted to have a dance with her. And in an odd turn of events, I ended up dancing with Yuri. Two guys dancing while holding hands, yeah, I bet this'd sell a lot back in Japan. We both stay quite, since this is so awkward neither of us know what to say. Luckily, the music stops and everyone goes back to their own bussiness. Now that I think about it, where's Kirsten?

Just now that I thought about her, a tingling sensation came upon my head. I start hearing a voice. I thought the headmaster said that the telepathy isn't instrusive. Maybe this is something only I can do because I am the leader?

'Hmm... I couldn't do a thing, again. I'll always be last, won't I? I'll never keep up with them, no matter how hard I try.'

This is Kirsten, I am sure of it. I start searching for her all over the place. After thinking up that I may be able to track her if I concentrate on where her life force is, I find her in the outside of the school, in a balchony looking up to the vast gardens the school has.

"What's got you down, baka hime?"

She turns her head back to see me and catch a glimpse of her tears, before she wipes them away from her eyes.

"F-Four eyes! What are you doing here?"

"I just needed some air, that's all." I put myself beside her, looking up to the gardens. "So, what is it?"

"What is what?"

"What's got you down."

"Nothing, I'm not down or anything. And even if I were, I wouldn't talk about it with YOU!" She shows me her tongue.

"Well, I am not going to force you to tell me or anything. Let's change subject, then. Do you have any siblings?" She flinches at the mention of that and she puts her hand in a fist. Seems I hit the jackpot.

"...Yes. I am the younger of four siblings." Aha, so that's it.

"F-Four? That's quite a lot. I only have one little sister, her name's Iona. Unlike me, she is a popular girl with lots of friends who excels at anything that doesn't involve using her brain rigorously."

"I bet she is also easier to get along with." She smiles at me. This is one of the few times I've seen her smile wholeheartedly.

"With others, yeah, but with me..." I bite my lip. "Well, relations between siblings, ya know."

"Well, I didn't really have a chance to forge a 'sibling' relationship with any of mine, so I wouldn't be able to tell right away."

"Huh? Well, I will not pry into things that aren't my business. Let's see, why do I don't get along with Iona... I think mostly because she always has had kind of an inferiority complex." She looks at me with surprised eyes. Bingo, my second prediction right on the money. "Since I've always been the one to be praised by our parents because of my outstanding grades, she has always tried to best me out in everything else, but since I had none interest in whatever else she did, I think that just made her more and more frustrated. In the end, she decided that I was basically her sworn enemy and until the day came that she were able to defeat me in my own game, she wouldn't talk to me. An empty promise, though, considering I enrolled here."

"Is that... so?" I think that if anything, I just guessed most of her life by making up an story like that. Basically, she is frustrated because of her powerlessness compared to her siblings. I open my mouth once again, to go with my finishing words.

"But, to be honest. I think she always tried to hard at something I had no interest in. She was trying her hardest to be more than me in things that I wasn't even a part of, and I saw that as a total waste of effort. I now know that at the time I should have said to her 'Don't try to best me at things, just try your hardest at the things that you really like and love. Don't throw your life away by trying to be better than me, than anyone, just live life however you want, and find happiness in that.'... If I had said that to her, maybe our relationship wouldn't be such a mess now."

"Four eyes..." She backs away from the railing of the balcony. "I don't know about your sister, but... At least you are a good brother. Thank you." She smiles at me again with that wholehearted smile.

"Eh? For what?" I should feign ignorance. Otherwise, she'll get mad if she discovers that I read her thoughts.

"Noooothing! See you tomorrow, Reiki!" She goes back into the party, leaving me behind and alone in the balcony. Reiki, huh? That was the first time I saw her being honest and calling me by my name. I stood there in the balcony a little while more after that. Before midnight fell upon us, I headed back to the dorm. For someone like me, roaming around after midnight anywhere is dangerous.

---

Back in my room, I am taking off my suit, calmly listening to some music from my cellphone. Muse's 'Resistance' is playing and I hum. It seems this evening will be uneventful. That's good. My door suddenly slams open, making the thought of a peaceful evening fall out the window. The one behind the door is Emeri. Is it just me or is she drunk? She reeks of wine, and she is underage! She was supposed to watch over me and it seems I should have been the one watching over her.

"Emi? Are you alright?"

"Of cours' I'ma 'lright!" Yeah, she is drunk. "N've'mind that, Reikiki! Y'won' believe wat happene'!"

"There's an extra 'ki' there, and what happened anyway?"

"Tis' guy, y'see, tri'd to grop' mah assh!"

"Huh?! Who tried to do that?!"

"Oh, but calm d'wn, calm down... I took care of 'im!"

"You did what?! That's even worse! You surely used The Eye of Baphel, right? You know you can't do that!"

"It ishn't a problem, Reiki! I knock'd 'im out col' with one strike! Noooooo one knew what happene'!"

"This girl... Just how drunk are you?!"

"I'm not drunk!" Even so, her body doesn't seem to be totally agreeing with her mouth. She falls down, unconscious, in my front door. Great, what now? I take her up in my arms and tuck her in bed, but before I can get out and head to the sofa of the living room to sleep, I watch how her right eye opens and shows that it has changed color to an azure blue and has now an overlapping, flower-like red pupil... The Eye of Baphel. Emeri isn't someone with lots of talents for magic, she's more of a hard-worker when it comes down to that, but she was born as the successor of the incredibly powerful and unpredictable Eye of Baphel. The tale says that long, long ago, a great magician named Baphel was the one to introduce the current system of magical schools, so that someone couldn't use every kind of magic at once and probably become the dominant force of the magical world. To overview that such a thing didn't become a reality in the future, he practiced a forbidden spell onto himself, which lets a part of himself to be transmitted to future generations, in his case, he chose his eye, so he could oversee everything. People with the Eye of Baphel are said to be an omen of chaos, since it only manifests when something big is about to occur and, more often than not, those events impact greatly the world. As of now, to prevent people from panicking, Emeri's title as the successor of the Eye is a secret that few know about, those being me, the headmaster and her parents. What are the full extents of the power the Eye holds is still a mystery, though.

I approach Emeri and close her eye. After that, I head to the living room and fall asleep on the sofa there. As my conciousness fades, I can't help but wonder... Is Emi really an omen of chaos for our era?

---

Here's the second chapter! So, lemme know what you think!
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Chapter 3: The First Job!

The next day, my cheek is poked by something... hard. I try to make it go away from my face with my hand, but soon after, it pokes my cheek yet again.

"What is it?!" I spring up into a sitting position and find out that the thing that was poking my cheek was a katana, a katana in its sheath. I back away suddenly when I see the ornamented sheath of the katana, a sheath of blue color with silver details, among of which, there was a dragon.

"So, you're finally awake." The man holding the katana says. He proceeds to put it in his waist again after whirling it around. "I am sorry for my rude intrusion, my name is Makatsume Mitsuhiro. Just like you, I also have Japanese heritage."

You don't say... The guy is wearing the red shoulder pad of a samurai armor in his right shoulder, carrying two katanas, one blue with silver ornaments and a silver hilt and the other one, red with gold ornaments and a golden hilt. His eyes are more slanted than mine, and his skin is also a bit more dark than mine. That's why I sometimes seemed to be the odd one out in Japan, due to my little resemblance to other people of the same country, I've always resembled more the Irish than the Japanese. I think that's where my social anxiety first started. After moving to Ireland, I already had confidence issues, and it was there where I first met Emeri.

"Alright...? Makatsume-san, then. What did you come here for?" I cover my cheek with my hand, almost like a reflex.

"Oh, you're the first person I've met that used honorifics." He seems to be really, really calm, even though I am sure he wanted to sound excited. "Anyhow, I came here for you. I am the appointed supervisor of your team, Last Remnant. Yoroshiku."

"Oh, kochirakoso, yoroshiku." It's been a long time since I last spoke in Japanese with someone.

"Well, we are off to the rendezvous point. Please, tell your teammates about it."

"I thought that the telepathy wasn't intrusive?"

"For everyone else, that's true, but for the leader, he is free to come and go as he wants from somebody else's mind."

"That's handy."

"In cases of missions, yeah. Even so, sometimes such power is used wrongly. It is my duty to prevent that in this team. I trust that you won't use it like that, yes?"

"Of course not! I'd never even think about doing something like that."

"Then, I think you and I will get along pretty well. Now, let's go." He turns around and walks out of the dorm. I, for one, try and send the message. Wait, where's the rendezvous?

I follow after Mitsuhiro all the way out of the building and just outside the school gates. Now I know where we are meeting, I should tell the others. I concentrate on their minds and tell them to meet us in front of the school gates.

'Um, well, what's up? It seems we are departing on our first mission right now. So, um, I'm waiting with the instructor in front of the school. See you here.' Gosh, that was as hard as talking through the phone. Now that I think about it...

"Um, Makatsume-san?"

"What is it?"

"What time is it?"

"Around 5 in the morning." He says it with such a straight face that I want to believe he is lying. I take out my phone and look at it. 5:20 A.M. What's wrong with this guy?!

"W-Why?!" I ask, stupefied. He seems to still be rather calm.

"A warrior always rises early!" He takes his blue katana on his hand and points it at me

"We are just students!"

"The underlings of a warrior shall also rise early. I am to instruct you in the ways of magic, after all." He puts his katana back on his hip. So, we now play the waiting game. I start by sitting on the floor, cross legged. Mitsuhito is leaning against a wall. Then, I stand up while Mitsuhito retains his position. I start experimenting with new sitting positions while we wait. Yuri is the first one to arrive. Just like us, Mitsuhito initially confuses him for a girl, and after explaining everything to him, we continue our waiting game. It is not until 9:00 AM that we see Lala and Kirsten arrive. Why the hell did I wake up so damn early for?!

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry! It's just that my body doesn't work all that well in the mornings, even less when it is 5:30 AM." Lala apologizes.

"Someone like me doesn't wake up that early." Kirsten seems as stubborn as ever.

"You two disgrace the name of Last Remnant with your tardiness. The path of the warrior is a tough one, and you think you'll be able to cross it with such petty resolve?!" Mitsuhito seems to be mad, but his ever calm face that he's been showing hasn't changed at all. Both Lala and Kirsten look at him with disbelief.

"Who is this?" Kirsten asks.

"Yeah, who is this Reichi? He's creeping me out."

"Our supervisor."

"WHAAAAT?!" Both of them said at the same time. They can coordinate when they want to, huh?

---

We depart in our trip for our first mission. Most of the road is spent in pointless, idle chatter betweem the four of us, until Mitsuhito, seemingly when we are about to reach our destination, speaks up.

"Did any of you read the details for the mission?"

"Yeah, I did. I asked the guy who gave it to us to send at least some basic info to me, though he strictly prohibited me from speaking of it to any of my other teammates. Basically, we are doing a bodyguard job, right? Some important goods that are to be delivered no matter what."

"That's the gist of it, yes. He kept you in the dark about... everything else?"

"Yeah...?" Why does Mitsuhito sound so secretive? I have a bad feeling about this.

"So, so, Reichi... What are these goods we'll be guarding? I hope they are food and give us some after we finish!"

"Eh ̴ . That'd actually be good, I'd be able to give Emi a present back from my very first mission."

"Emi, huh?" Lala seems rather intrigued that I have a nickname for Emeri. "Now that I think about it, you'd never called any of us by name, right? I hope you're thinking up some good nicknames in that genius head of yours."

"W-Wah? I j-j-just call Emi that for the sake of convenience! I-It's shorter than her actual name!"

"And yet, you call me 'baka hime', though that's even longer that my name. You still haven't told me what it means, four eyes!" Why did Kirsten had to butt in on this.

"A nickname, huh? I've never been given one. I... am looking forward to it." What are you blushing for, Yuri?! Gosh, I somehow regret opening my mouth. Think up nicknames? Well, I do find it easier than learning their whole name, but c'mon...

We enter a forest area, full of woods and continue moving forward. After some bushes and lots of leaves, we finally reach the road where we'll be meeting our contractor's contacts. We are greeted by what seems to be a caravan being pulled by horses in a road which looks rather old, along with guys of brown skin wearing ragged clothes and with curved swords in their hips. They seem to be of many ethnicities, but the predominating one is Arabic. The one who seems to be the leader of the caravan greets us with open arms.

"Yah! Well met, friends! My name is Ahbmad. I trust you are the mages we've been waiting for? What was your name? Last Remnant?" The guy, who sports a goatie on his face, has a heavy Arabic accent. Even though Mitsuhito came with us, he steps aside and lets me make the introductions.

"W-w-what?! I-I can't do that! N-n-n-n-not in front of so many p-p-people!" I'm panicking. Lala puts her hand on my shoulder and I feel relieved. She is the one to speak up.

"Um, yeah, we are Last Remnant. We came here to supervise that you arrive safely to your destination, so let's get along!" Lala extends her hand to the guy, who takes it with a cheerful look on his face.

"Yeah, let's! Now then..." He lets go of Lala's hand and points to the seat aside of the driver. "Can your leader accompany our driver? Like that, we'd know if there's something you should deal with or anything. We have horses for everyone else." By leader, I'm pretty sure they mean me. I proceed to go and take the seat beside the driver, a guy with a mustache and messy hair. Everyone else jumps onto the back of the horse and we set off.

"Well, hello there, señor mago." That last part was in another language. I couldn't really understand it. His heavy accent also makes it hard to distinguish.

"Um, hello there."

"My name is Rodrigo, ¿Y el tuyo?" Oh, I think that was Spanish. Is this guy Mexican?

"Um, sorry, I can't really understand you. I don't know Spanish."

"Oh, that's okay, that's okay. I meant to say that what was your name."

"I see... My name is Reiki."

"And here I thought I had heard one of the most odd names when I met Ahbmad, but you come along and prove me wrong." He lets out a hearty laugh. He reeks of alcohol, much like Emeri last night.

"May I ask a question?"

"You already asked one." He lets out another hearty laugh. This guy... I don't know why, but he gets on my nerves. "I'm just joking, a broma. What did you want to know?"

"Why are we using this kind of carriage?"

"Well, you see, these roads don't go well with cars. They get stuck out of nowhere or plainly just stop working. It is said to be cursed. That's why through this road we only use horses."

"Eh... I'm pretty sure it is some kind of electric phenomenon, but I would need to study the land for a while."

"You're pretty intelligent, boy. Well, maybe, since boss is also intelligent, that's why he decided to build a base here. It is hard to reach unless you know the track. Still, we've been attacked a few times before, by bandits and such."

"I see... Anyhow, what are you transporting this time, that you felt the need to hire us magicians to protect you?"

"You weren't told? We are carrying... We are carrying..." He seems not to remember the word he wants to use. "Well, I forgot how to say it in English, but in my own language they are called 'esclavos'."

"Esuclavous? W-What is that?"

"They are very powerful, magic things like you, señor mago."

"Very powerful? Magical? Just what are you transporting?"

"Want to see them, señor?"

"I'd very much like to." The leader of the caravan rides his horse besides us, with a grin on his face.

"Oh, my! Maybe you can become costumers if you see what we are transporting! Still, they do say that curiosity killed the cat, are you still sure you want to see what is it we are transporting?"

"I want to, please." This seems fishy, maybe they are transporting some kind of magical drug? I just hope we didn't get ourselves into something bad just because we were hasty.

"That's what I am talking about, boy! STOP, PEOPLE, STOP!" The whole caravan halts at the command of the leader. "Now, if you'd please, follow me." He gets off his horse. Everyone else gets together in the back of the carriage, Lala is the first one to ask what's going on.

"Hey, Reichi, why did we suddenly stop?"

"I asked to see what they are transporting. I am a bit curious."

"Heh, who would have thought you'd do something like this out of mere curiosity."

"Well, then. Ladies and gentlemen, rejoice and see!" Ahbmad puts his hand into the opening of the tent and opens it. I... can't believe my eyes. This is horrible! The worst case scenario of them all! We... We are transporting slaves... Inside the car, we can see some magical creatures tied up, some of them knocked out and others trying to destroy their bindings, with no signs of success. Among what I can recognize, I see a female Centaur, a female Arachne, a Lamia, a Harpy and many other faries. Wait, now that I notice it, aren't they all female?

"W-What's the meanign of this?!" Yuri is the first one to snap from the four of us, who entered a state of shock. Mitsuhito remains calm, though. Seems he already knew about this.

"Oi, what's your deal, little girl?!" Ahbmad takes his sword and is about to use it, when I stop Yuri. I put my hand in front of him to stop him.

"Calm down, Yuri."

"But...!"

"No buts! This is an order, Yuri. You'll lay down until this mission is finished."

"Reiki, you...!"

"I what? I am the leader and you'll hear what I say, now go back to your horse." I say so as if I wanted this to go on, but to do something about this, we must be patient. I need to tell them that via telepathy later. I approach the scum of Ahbmad. "I am very sorry for that, let us continue."

"It's no problem at all, kid. I think I like you, I'll give you a discount for whichever one you want when we reach the base."

"Yeah, thanks." I feel the sudden urge to kill him.I go back to my seat, beside Rodrigo.

"What happened back there?" He asks, but I glare at him without a second thought, and he flinches letting out a small cry. This is bad, I am letting my emotions get the best out of me, I need to calm down.

"Oh, I'm sorry. It's just that someone from my team tried to insubordinate. Now, let's go."

"O-Oh, I see. Well then." He makes the horses start walking again and we are on our way. For the rest of the trip, I am dead quiet. Still, that doesn't mean I am not communicating with the others right now.

'Can you hear me?'

'Oh, yeah...' Lala is the first one to answer, the others haven't said anything. I think I should start by apologizing.

'Yuri...'

'Don't talk to me. I made a mistake by letting you be the leader.'

'Yuri, listen to me. That back there was just an act, a fluke.'

'Why do I have to believe you? Maybe you just want a centaur maid, right?'

'You should believe me because I want to reach the base and destroy this thing from the inside. What good do you think eliminating the goons they sent to collect them will do? We need to destroy this thing from the root.'

'You... may be right. I'll see for mysel f if what you say is true.'

'Thanks. Also, baka hime.'

'Y-Yes!'

'This isn't your fault, don't even think it is. If it is someone's fault, it is mine for accepting this job so non chalantly. That's all.'

'N-Not like I even thought it was my fault or anything, smartass!'

I let out a giggle, and then turn back to my serious state of mind. This is not going to stay like this, I swear that.

Soon after, we arrive to what must be the base of these guys. It looks like some kind of old prison, with a big barred gate standing in front of us when we are about to enter. It is totally grey, as far as the eye can see, and a thick fog seems to envelop the area. Just, what is this place? As soon as we enter the fog, I can feel my runes running wild. This is a magical interferance field, huh? I should do something about it. I use my runes to cast a protective barrier around everyone, on my team anyway. It would be maintaining 5 barriers, mine, Lala's, Yuri's, Kirsten's and Mitsuhito's. Sounds easy enough. I doubt they would be able to pick up the field, since they don't have runes on them, but their casting would have been undoubtly affected by the interferance field. I would try to dispel it, but that'd get too much attention on us. Also, if they have this, it means there's a mage here, and I'd like to see him. It's a possibility that he is also the boss of this stupidity.

"Well, we didn't run into any problems, it was facil, right?" The driver says beside me.

"Eh, um, yeah." He slaps my back and lets out yet another hearty laugh of his. I'm getting fed up with it.

"C'mon, no need to be so edgy! We already made it to base, your job was so easy you just sit on your ass for the whole journey."

"Though, as I get it, our job isn't done yet."

"Huh?"

"More like, I'd like to talk with your boss, negotiate to see if he can make me a discount for the centaur back there." I gross myself out. This is all because I need a way in, nothing more.

"Oh, I see, I see! So you're into THAT, huh? Worry not, friend, I'll take you to him." Ahbmad appears out of nowhere, but I still nod. I get off the carriege. Ahbmad leads the way and everyone else stays put where they are. I wave at them and I can hear their voices asking me what I am going to do inside of my head, I pay them no heed, however. We soon arrive to what I suppose was the office of the director of the jail this was. Ahbmad opens it and on the inside, stands a guy covered in dark cloths and wielding a metal staff with a flower-like ornament at the top of it. I am unable to see his face due to the cloths he is wearing. He emanates mana, a lot of it. This guy is the spellcaster that put up the fog. His level... is regrettably pitiful, but still, he would impress fools just enough to build this small mafia.

"Oh? And who is this, Ahbmad? I thought I told you that I don't like visitors unless they are buyers."

"But I am a buyer. I'd like to buy the centaur you were transporting here. I wanted to work out a deal with you, if you were to give me a discount. After all, my team and I escorted your guys all the way here."

"Why should I give you a discount just because of that? Is the pay you are given not enough?"

"I don't care about the pay, use that for my discount. I just wanna have a deal." Though his face is covered, I believe he is grinning.

"Excellent! Ahbmad, bring the girl here. We shall have him examine her." He slams his staff on the ground as he orders Ahbmad around.

"Yes!" Ahbmad rushes out of the room and goes for the centaur.

"It's always good to have costumers like you, willing to do anything for a good buy. You will not regret this, my friend. I only sell the best of the best, I assure you!" Ah, I feel like killing this guy. I think I will. He talks of people as if they were just things. "You know what I hate the most? People who think monsters like those are also human. They don't have the same rights as us. They should feel lucky we allow them to be our slaves." I need to keep up the act.

"Y-Yes, I think so too." Luckily enough for me, Ahbmad arrives with the centaur girl on a leash. The girl is wearing a skirt over her horse-like lower body and a ragged shirt on top. Her chest is huge, and when I say huge I mean really huge. This is another one of the traits of a centaur. The girl is bright red and on her face, she shows her indignation. She has black hair, fair skin and blue eyes. Quite beautiful, if I do say so myself.

"C'mon, introduce yourself to you new master, centaur." Ahbmad pressures her, but she doesn't open her mouth in the slightest. "I said, c'mon!" Ahbmad punches her in the stomach and her upper body flexes down as to try to make the pain go away. It seems that her hands are tied behind her back.

"I... I am Klio Tarkan. P-Proud centaur of the..." Ahbmad kicks her leg and she flinches.

"Proud? You ain't got no pride, girl. Introduce yourself for what you are. Say, 'I am Klio Tarkan, your new bitch for today onwards.'" I can only look in disgust, but this is not the time to act.

"Never." She decisevely answers. The mage that acts as the boss for this guys slams his staff on the ground once again and an invisible force makes Klio fall to her knees in all four of her legs. This sensation... Gravity magic?! That's a Naturalis spell! This guy may not be such a pushover as I initially thought. The girl seems to be suffering greatly.

"Hey, could you please not hurt her?" They both look at me with confused eyes. I must continue my ruse. I go up to her and take her from the chin. "If she's gonna get hurt, I wanna be the one doing it. Don't take the fun away from me."

The boss lets out a hearty laugh, just like Rodrigo earlier. Maybe he is also Mexican, I'll never know with those cloths around his face. He dispels the magic and the girl is left on the ground, exhausted and gasping for air.

"I like how you think, sir. Then please, proceed into inspection. Be sure to inspect that everything, and I mean, everything, is to your liking." I gulp. With no other choice that to do as instructed for starters, I take my right hand and touch her right boob, fondle it as if to inspect it. She is moaning a bit. I may be going a little overboard, though. I got a little too excited. I go near her ear and say what I need to say.

"Don't worry, play along. I'll get you out of here, definitely."

"Eh?" My first step is to quickly take mine and her light and modify it so it seems I am still inspecting her body, while I really cut off the rope binding her hands and help her stand up.

"I don't have what is needed to knock this two out, you'll have to do it. Don't worry, you can do as you please, they will not notice."

"O...kay?" She seems a little confused and she walks a little fearful, but after noticing that they indeed cannot notice her movement, she almost dashes to where they are standing, turns around and kicks both of them full force. They don't even know what happened to them, and they won't, since they both hit the wall and fall unconscious.

"Let's get the others! C'mon!"

"Yes!" We run out of the room and dash to where the carriage was left. The girl quickly outruns me. I feel kinda awkward, though.

"H-Hey, sorry about earlier. I feel bad for doing that to you."

"You had no other choice, don't fret on it now. First we save the others and then you can pay for what you did."

"You're right." I spot the others, waiting alongside the carriage while the other girls are being brought down. The methods they use to bind some of them... they are magical, then...! Before I can think anything else, I feel a great mana ball directing against us. Its form is... I turn around to see and I really can't see anything, then it is air. It is most probably a cutting whirlwind. Directed to Klio, the most I can do is cover her with my body. I put myself in front of her and she seems rather confused for my actions. Until a great deal of blood comes out from my back.

"GEH!" Klio can only watch in shock as my back is shredded and I fall to my knees. I am still okay, though, the magic barrier I had on me prevented the cutting whirlwind to do any major damage.

"Y-You... Why?!" Klio can't believe her eyes.

"Reichi!" Lala shouts when she sees me falling to my knees.

"Reiki!" Kirsten also shouts and Yuri is rather shocked, so much that he doesn't say anything.

"I... I'm fine! Search for the mage that did that!" I order them and they follow my orders almost immediately, dispersing all across the prison.

"W-Why...?" Klio kneels down to try and help me. I put my hand in front to stop her and show her the glowing blue rune in my palm.

"It is okay, I'll be fine in just a couple of seconds. More importantly, you should take one of the blades these guys are holding. I've heard you guys are pretty good with swords." Klio nods and runs off to get a sword from one of the goons here. I heal my wounds as fast as I can, though the inner trauma won't go away unless I spend at least 10 minutes sitting and meditating the spell, but we don't have time for that. I close up my external wounds and stand up. It hurts, but I can still move, and that's enough. I too start searching for that air mage. Since the magical bindings are still in place, then that means this guy is the one sustaining them.

"I am impressed, little mage." Another guy covered in dark cloths and wielding a staff, a bronze one this time, appears before me. "You seem more skilled than you let others think."

"I take it you're the mage constricting the girls?"

"What if I am? I was travelling with you this whole time and you didn't even notice, perhaps you need to go get yourself checked."

"Or perhaps you need to raise your level, since I can't sense anyone at least they are my own level. I need to use an spell to do so."

"Tch. Not only that, you're also pretty cocky, brat. Let me show you what magic is about." He slams his staff in the ground. This time he won't take me by surprise. I take my light and form another me, a dummy for him to hit, and move in front of him. It is not until the wind passes through my illusion and my light returns to me that he notices that he's been fooled.

"C'mon, you can do better!" I punch him right on his face. I may not be the best in fights, but my punches can at the very least make someone stagger.

"Geh! You brat... You're asking for it!" He directs his staff at me. Hm... So much mana. I may not be able to escape this with just a clone. I should...

"Blinding light..." Wow, that was so monotone I just felt like making fun of him. Well, I hate a-holes who think they are powerful. I release some light I store from a wall and made it go off in front of his eyes, blinding him for a good 30 minutes. I should get Lala to finish him. "Hey, Lala!"

"Hm?" She kicks one of the goons who was running after her and turn back to see me. "What's up, Reichi?" She punches another one in the face without even turning around to look at him. Wow, this girl is good.

"Can you come here? I've got the ass that did all that to the girls back there."

"All right! I'm gonna kick his ass so hard!" She starts cracking her knuckles as she comes near. I can see everyone else handling things pretty well. Kirsten took out many of the goons by manipulation of the earth and trapping them inside it. Yuri seems to have shot many of them on their legs. Klio doesn't seem the forgiving kind, as I see that she has severed more than one hand already. I nod. This mission was a complete failure, but at least we could do the right thing. Just as Lala takes the wind mage by the neck of his shirt and lifts him, an oppressive force falls upon us.

"I'm... I'm not going to let you continue running amok, boy!" With his own staff lifted up high, the other mage I thought we had knocked out for good is standing with trembling legs on the railway of the second floor. Before any of us can answer, he makes the strength of his gravity magic increase, leaving only his goons out of the range of it. Even the other mage is being pulled down by it. This spell is made so it can only affect people with a high mana compatibility! Luckily enough, the demi-human girls don't seem to be affected by it. Not much of a surprise, though, since most magic these guys use is focused to work against humans, apart from counted exceptions. I... I need to do something. However I can and pulling myself up, I get into a sitting position. In meditation, this position is called the Lotus position.

"R-Reichi? What are you doing?" Lala also tries to stand up. Her legs are shaking a bit. She readies herself for battle again. Instead of doing that, I contact everyone through telepathy.

'Stop all hostilities. I want you all to form a wall around me. Drag Makatsume and the girls here with us. It is imperative that you stay near me and into the circle at all times during this, otherwise, you'll die.'

They can't seem to process it at first, but it isn't long until they form a wall around me. I start my spell. This requires the use of all of my runes. I take a deep breath.

"Praestigiae: Hikari no Gate." I say and a magical circle appears below us. I need to start reciting. "Oh, light, bring upon us your cleansing power. Don't leave anything standing, oh cleansing light!" I just need to repeat that same verse until the spell is completed. As I repeat it, my whole body starts shining with the runes painted of a purple color. I seem to have tribal tattoos all around me. I continue reciting and not only the magical circle below us, but also the runes in my body, change as I continue reciting.

"W-What is he doing?" Kirsten asks.

"This is a high level Praestigiae spell. I believe he'll get rid of everyone besides us." Makatsume explains. He isn't far off base.

"C-Can he do that? Isn't Praestigiae about illusions?"

"If you pay attention to history classes, Lala, you'll find out that Praestigiae, before it got accepted as an official school that could be taught to kids, was an school of magic full of hexes and curses. It seems Reiki has found a way to use that to his advantage along with his own original spells."

"H-He has original spells? Just how much of a genius is this guy?!"

"I don't know, but he sure seems like someone willing to do anything to eliminate anyone standing in his way. Even slaves."

"You're right! Reiki, stop this right now, you'll hurt the slaves otherwise!" Yuri tries to get my attention, however, I don't even turn around to look at him. I continue with my spell. "Hey, I told you to stop!" He puts his hand on my shoulder and shakes me a bit. Regardless, I continue on with my spell. "If you don't stop this...!" He forms a sword with the metal from the bars nearby. "I'll make you stop by force."

"Y-Yurichi, that's a bit too much!"

"I don't care! I won't sacrifice their lives just because of him!"

Now, the cherry on top.

"Cleansing light, obey my commands! Wipe everyone out!" After that, the magic circle enlarges and covers the whole prison. A ray of light falls upon us and the only ones safe from it are me and my companions. The goons, who had been watching everything with terror in their faces, are knocked unconscious and the helpless magicians who couldn't do anything else but watch me as they saw me prepare my spell, are most likely dead by now. As for the girls, I bet they are resting in the carriage. A little forceful, but resting, nonetheless. I get up and tidy myself up from the dust that fell onto my clothes. I am soon threatened by Yuri's fist as he takes me by my shirt.

"Why?"

"Could you be more specific?" I prop my glasses up.

"Why didn't you save the girls?"

"How about you check on them before taking anything out on me." Oh, no good. I can feel my consciousnes fading as well. I need to stay strong until Yuri checks on them. This happens when I use all my runes at once. Ugh, I am so tired.

"Check...?" He lets go of me and goes to where Klio is laying, unconscious. He puts his hand on her neck to check for pulse, and, as expected, there it is. "How?"

"You should trust me a bit more. The Hikari no Gate is a spell re-designed by myself. It affects the magic circuits on someone's body, leading to death. Apart from us and the rogue mages here, there wasn't anyone else who depended on magic circuits here. I made sure of that. All of the girls, despite being demi-humans, don't have any kind of talent in magic. After all, if they did, they wouldn't have been caught in the first place, don't you think?"

"You... are right. Still, you were a bit rash back there."

"Not at all. It was all according to my plan. Knock the goons out, kill the two novice mages and secure every slave so that they can be freed... Now, if you'll excuse me.." I fall down. I've passed out, after all. Well, that was something to be expected. I should just... rest for a while.

---

Time later, I begin to regain consciousness. I hear the soft gallop of a horse. Did they took them from those guys so we could use them ourselves? I open my eyes and find that I am the one who is riding the horse. I get myself into a sitting position and yawn. The first voice I hear is Klio's.

"Are you okay?" I am still half-asleep, so I am not quite sure where she is.

"Y-Yeah. What happened after that?"

"We got out and freed everyone else. I decided to accompany you to... repay my debt."

"Oh, you don't need to." I rub my eyes a bit and clean my glasses. I turn to see the front and find someone's back where the head of the horse is supposed to be in. Wait, then... "K-Klio? Why am I riding you?!"

"This is the least I can do to pay you. Let me become your servant." She seems to have already decided it by herself.

"B-But you should only let the master you've sworn to be with to ride you, right? S-Stop and I'll get off."

"If that is what worries you, then you shouldn't worry. I've already sworn my allegiance to you."

"Y-You did decide all of this in your own, didn't you?"

"What's the harm on it? Besides..." She blushes a bit and looks back at me. "You've already defiled my body, so you have to take responsibility for it."

"Eh?" I just remembered, I fondled her breasts. "B-But that was just a ruse, a fluke, an act! I did it just so we could get you out!"

"Still, as a member of the proud centaur race, it is my code to be joined in marriage with the first man that comits such a sexual act against me, and still remains standing."

"So, you would have tried to strike me down?"

"Of course, but you've proven your worth by defeating the mages that captured us. I believe they were capable of doing even more damage than I alone."

"A-All right, then thank you." Will I have to marry this girl for real? "I-If it isn't rude to ask... How do centaurs marry each other?"

Putting a finger on her chin, Klio thinks about it. After much thinking, she blushes and looks down. Why does she seem so embarrassed? Just when she was about to say it, Lala arrives in a horse.

"Oh, Reichi! You finally woke up!" She turns back to the others and waves at them. "Hey guys! Reichi woke up!" She shouts. The first one to make her horse dash towards us, is Kirsten.

"You finally woke up! Thank goodness..." She blushes at the mention of that and quickly looks away. "N-Not like I was worried about you or anything, dumb four eyes who tries to look cool while risking his life."

Risk my life? What? After her, here comes Mitsuhito, with his ever present poker face.

"Oh, you've come to. That's a relief. Losing the leader in the first mission would have been terrible."

Lastly, Yuri approaches us a little slowly.

"You're... far too reckless. Risking your life at the cost of others is not the right thing to do."

"Wait, wait, wait. Wait!" I try to negate it all with my hands, since they all seem rather confused. "What do you mean I risked my life?"

"Didn't the spell you cast come at the price of your own life force?" Klio is the one to ask.

"Eh, no. I believe you are confusing my spell with another one. The Praestigiae: Gate of Ragnarok."

"I've only seen the same spell be casted once, and that time the caster died shortly after. Such an spell comes at the price of the life of the caster." Mitsuhito clarifies why they were so worried.

"Well, that do happens with the original spell. Mine, however, does something more than the original. Do you remember the effects that this spell caused when you saw it casted?"

"If I recall right, everyone fell unconscious... Then...!" He seems to have realized the modification I did.

"Exactly. I don't use my own life force, rather the one other mages give me by just being around. That's why I told you to form a wall around me, so you wouldn't be affected."

"I can't believe you actually modified such an ancient spell. Many others have tried to do so, but you're the first one I've known to have succeeded."

"It wasn't so hard, it is just a change in the basic structure of the spell, changing the source of life from 'I' to 'them' wasn't as hard, but still, it can only be achieved by a determined number of runes."

"Speaking of which... Just how many runes do you have in your body?! You lit up like crazy back there."

"I have... a lot. It is better if you don't know." I still put on runes in wherever parts of my body I have missed. I am sure it will not be long until it reaches my face, but that's the only way I have to stop the degeneration of my body. Due to... external forces, my body is falling apart. Both the headmaster and I are searching for a way to halt it, besides the extreme number of runes, but we've turned out with nothing. The number of runes currently in my body is 8,000, and to stop this I need at least 10,000. I don't want to give up, but... "Anyhow, let's change the subject." Everyone has a worried look in their faces.

"Master, I...!" Klio starts. Oh, I never knew it was so satisfying to be called master like that. I could get used to that.

"C'mon, why the long faces? It's not that I don't want to tell you, it is just better if you don't know."

"Why can't you trust us?" Yuri starts. "You ask for our trust, yet you cannot tell us why..."

"I'm dying." I cut him off mid-sentence. "Do you still want to know?" He is shocked. Everyone is. Though it is not exactly like that, it is very similar to the truth. The result will be the same.

"I... think not. Sorry for prying into it."

"It is not a problem. Just try not to think of me like 'the dying guy', just look at me like always." I feel sad to have to deceive them like this, but I'd rather not have them panic. The rest of the way back to the school is dead silence.

Upon our arrival to the school, the first thing that greets us is a surprised Alexei Vincentio. Hmm, there's something that tells me that he didn't expect us to return. Maybe it was all staged like that.

"H-How?"

"Heh, so it was intentional, huh? You not giving us any info like, at all."

"What might you be talking about, Mr. Byrne? I would never stage such a thing against you." He seems to have regained his cool quite fast.

"Anyhow, I believe you recognize her, right?" I point at Klio, while I'm still being carried by her.

"No, I have not seen her ever in my life."

"And you, Klio? Do you recognize this man?"

"I-" Before being able to answer, Alexei butts in.

"May I ask the meaning of this? I am pretty sure you've just wronged our contract, by bringing this girl here."

"Hoh..." I turn to look at him. "I thought you had said you hadn't seen her like, ever. So, how do you know that?"

"Eh? Well, I am your contractor! I am aware of anything you might do against me!"

"Like, the fact that I killed your goons?"

"Y-You what?!" He takes me by my shirt.

"Why are we getting so sentimental? Did I hit a nerve?"

"No... Of course not. I am just disappointed by your lack of proffesionalism. I assure you, Mr. Byrne, that this will not stay like this. I'll see you incarcerated for this."

"I wonder... I can be pretty convincing, Mr. Vincentio."

"Hmph." He turns around and walks away, rather angry. His walking pace gives him up as to how angry he really is, though he seems to try and keep his cool.

"That didn't go well, master. Will you be okay?" Klio raises her concerns, but I smile at her.

"Of course. Now then." I get off of Klio's back and stand up on my own. I still feel a bit numb, but nothing I can't handle. "We should go see the headmaster. We need to inform him that we are back, and that Klio will be staying here." I turn around and tell the others, who still have a troubled look in their faces. They also get off their horses.

"... What are we going to say about the mission?" Yuri raises his concern, though I merely smile.

"What do you mean what are we gonna say? We are going to say that we ourselves made the whole thing come crashing down. That's it."

"Are you not afraid of what may happen to you if you say that?" While he seems to be truly worried, I feel the same hostility from before. Yuri doesn't seem to acknowledge the fact that I'd rather use deceit and clever tactics over a head on attack. That, or his moral compass is too inclined to the good side.

"Not really, no. You can go to your dorms already if you want, I'll do the report alone." Though there is a long, awkward silence, Yuri soon turns around.

"Then I'll take my leave."

"Yurichi... Wait for me, I'm coming too." Lala tries to mantain her cheery attitude, but she doesn't seem to find it that easy.

Kirsten seems to be on the fence on what she should do. I think that it is obvious that Mitsuhito will accompany me all the way to the headmaster's office. After a while, Kirsten seems to get flustered and exclaims.

"Sheesh! Wait for me, four eyes!" She runs behind me and follow us to the headmaster office, as well as Klio.

"What, you coming, baka hime?"

"I told you to stop calling me that! Or at least tell me what it means!" I groan. I really shouldn't tell her, after all, it means 'Idiot princess'.

"W-Well, how about this? I stop calling you that if you stop calling me four eyes, how's that sound?"

She ponders about it for a moment, and then makes her decision.

"Sounds fair to me. Then, Reiki, I hope we get along better now that we have that out of the way."

"Yeah, hope so." I give her a wry smile. "So, you aren't curious?"

"What, about you life threatening state of health? Well, yeah, I am curious. Still, if you don't want to talk about it, I won't force it out of you."

"That's for the best, I think... Maybe telling you would also endanger you as well."

"What do you mean? Is it that bad of a thing?" She searches for my face.

"Not... really, but it isn't something that can be easily resolved. Though, I think I should tell you something about it, since you aren't as pushy." I put my finger up. "My condition isn't all that terminal. I worded it bad earlier, I MAY die, but getting around 10,000 runes burned into my body will prevent it from happening. So, saying I was dying was an exaggeration."

"Huh... And how many do you have already burned into your body?"

"More than half of them."

"W-What?! H-How can you still move? Runes are said to produce excruciating pain, not only when they are burned into your body, but also when casting. Yet, you cast your spells so calmly, with about 5,000 runes already in your body."

"... I've gotten accustomed to the pain. My pain resistance is rather good, after so many years." I can't say I feel comfortable talking about this.

"I see... Well, thanks."

"For what?"

"For trusting me enough as to tell me this." I smile a bit.

"Yeah... Thanks to you too, for listening."

---

After a while, I am finally able to upload this. Hope someone else gets to read it.

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Chapter 4: The Aftermath!

After giving our report to the headmaster, I was scolded at first, for not following the contract I had made. Even so, the headmaster later congratulated me because of what I have done with the slaves and slavers both. He also said that he would report Vincentio to the authorities, so that he could never try to do something similar again. He did mention that it was weird for him to make such a thing, as the Vincentio family is highly regarded in the magic world, and a thing such as slavery would affect greatly their reputation. So, what was the deal behind all that?

It is already the morning of the next day. Luckily, I didn't have a madman wake me up today, but even so, something closely resembling it was the one who woke me up today.

"WAKE UP, REIKI!" Emeri pulls my bed sheets and I fall down along with them. "Gosh, I get that you are tired because of yesterday's mission, but how long are you planning to sleep?"

"Enough for me to replenish my mana pool. It is pretty empty right now, ya know? Maybe a homemade meal made by a woman can fix it."

"Oh, is that so? Then why don't you ask your new servant?"

"Hm? Who are you talking about?"

"I am talking about the girl with horse legs sleeping by your side." I turn my head to my bed and see that Klio is, in fact, sleeping on the side of my bed. I notice that her face was quite close to mine. She is kneeling down with her horse like legs. I believe this is how horses sleep? She is smiling, is she having a pleasant dream?

"M-Master Reiki..." She almost said that mumbling, but please, tell me she didn't say what I think she did.

"R-E-I-K-I...!" Emeri hits me with her fist.

"Why am I the one being hit?!"

"Because I wouldn't hurt a centaur like her, mostly because I'm sure I'd lose against her, and secondly, because you wouldn't let me hurt her, you damn department-heart!"

"W-What's that?"

"I don't know, ask your best friend Kirsten!"

"What's with you today? You are more on edge than usual."

"That's none of your concern! Now, dress up and get going to school!"

"Huh? Aren't we walking together?"

"You can ride your new centaur woman if you want to go with someone. I'm off." She turns around and leaves the room, no, the whole building, in a matter of seconds. What's gotten into her?

"Uh huh..." I stay there, dumbfounded. Soon enough, Klio wakes up. Rubbing her eyes and yawning, she asks.

"Oh, you're already awake, Master Reiki?"

"Yeah. Anyhow, why were you sleeping there, Klio? There are so many other beds that you can use, and the headmaster even went out of his way to make a room for you, so why?"

"I cannot sleep soundly without my master by my side."

"And what about when you hadn't one? How did you managed to sleep soundly then?"

"I didn't. I was constantly tormented by nightmares. They just recently started to fade away."

"Is that so...? May I ask something, Klio?"

"You needn't be so formal, master. I am your servant, after all."

"All right, then. Why did you suddenly chose me as your master? You were dead set on not letting those guys submit you and yet."

"I see what you mean. As you may know, we centaurs are a proud race of warriors, and many of us helped humans during the wars of ancient times. They rided on our backs into battle. As so, it has become a custom between my people to choose someone who can be a worthy master and accompany all throughout our lives. That's why I didn't want something like that to be decided for me. That's why I seemed so stubborn."

"I see. Anyhow, can you get out? I need to get ready for school."

"Oh, of course, master. Pardon my intrusion." She steps outside the room. I start changing. It's just when I am about to put on my shirt that she enters again. "I'm sorry, I forgot to ask what could I be of-" She gasps as soon as she sees my body. "W-What happened to you, Master Reiki?!" Well, that's the expected reaction. All of my torso is filled with scars. Even my arms and hands are scarred. All of those scars, caused by the insane amount of runes burned into my body.

"This is awkward. Could you please forget you ever saw this?"

"How could I possibly! Tell me who did this to you, Master, and I shall see to it that they are punished."

"Well, the thing is... This was self inflicted. Do you remember our talk yesterday about my runes? This are those runes."

"But what I saw yesterday... They were more beautifully shaped than these scars..." She passes her fingers through my scars. "To what end do you inflict this upon your body, Master? Why do you put yourself through so much?!"

"If I said I wanted more power, would you believe me?"

"When you word it like that, then no, I wouldn't."

"I thought so. Anyhow, maybe... Maybe I should use my power as your master right now."

"Huh?"

"Klio. I prohibit you from ever asking again for what purpose do I have so many runes burnt into my body."

"But master...!"

"Please." I look at her with pleading eyes.

"... Fine. I will do as you say."

"Thanks. I don't mean by this that I will never tell you, but right now, is not the time."

"All right, master. Now, hurry, or we'll be late for school."

"We?"

---

Little time later, I understood what she meant by that. The damn headmaster put her with me in my class. She is now sitting beside me, and everyone is looking at her as if she were some kind of alien. I can't help but being irritated, though Klio doesn't seem to mind. I tap my fingers with irritation on the desk. Someone passing beside us has the sudden urge to make an stupid remark.

"Centaur tits are so big man! I'd love to be that guy and then-" He was talking with a friend of his, but I stood up and glared at him.

"Would you please not talk about Klio as if she weren't here?!"

"What's your damn problem?! It's not like she is more than a mere familiar!"

"Don't you dare talk about her like that!" I take him by his shirt. "She is my friend, not a familiar, and I'll have you respect her, one way or the other." We both look into each others eyes. He clenches his fist. I am sure a battle will begin now, so I should get ready. Before anything more can happen, though, the teacher enters the room.

"All right, get to your seats. Any kind of fighting will be stopped in its tracks by me." Both the other guy and me go back to our seats. Everyone in school knows that fighting a professor is an instant death sentence. "That's more like it. Now, we will take up from where we reached last class. Praestigiae: School of Illusions, The Past." He starts writing in the blackboard. This class is perfect for people like me, although there are only 5 Praestigiaes in class 6.

The lesson is about the spells that were part of Praestigiae during the ancient times, and that now, almost each one of them is considered a forbidden spell. In the ancient times, Praestigiae was a school full of hexes and curses. It evolved into something a little more passive aggressive, but the latent risk of it is still there. I have never tried to curse someone per se, but I bet that it'd be good study material. The class ended after a time that to me, seemed eternal. After that, I walk outside with Klio, only to be stopped on my tracks by the ass from before.

"Where do you think you are going, Byrne? You should apologize for earlier."

"Why? I don't have any intention of doing so, not even if you want to beat the heck out of me."

"Heh, at least you know how I like to solve my problems." He takes his fist back and is about to punch me. I ready a spell, but before any of us can do anything, Klio stands between us. She glares at him with a murderous intent.

"I can take that you insult me, but I won't let you make a fool of my master. If you want a fight, I will give you one."

"Huh, this centaur bitch thinks she can take me on. I will show you why you shouldn't mess with me!" His punch now seems to be charged with something... black? A Contritio magician? No, Naturalis? I think it's Naturalis, using the elements around him to charge his punches.

"Dodge it, Klio!" She, however, unsheathes a sword, which I didn't know she had.

"No need for it, I already have the means to counterattack." With a swift movement, the only thing I can see is her tail. She is already at the guy's throat, with her sword ready to slice it in two with a single movement. "Now, if you would. Apologize to master Reiki."

"N-Never!" She pushes her sword a little depper into his throat, even making him bleed a bit. "G-Geh, don't you know who I am?! I can crush you whenever I want!"

"I don't care who you are. I will protect Master Reiki with my life if it is necessary." She is about to slash the guy's throat, when he falls off.

"I-I-I will remember this! You have made an enemy of the Vincentio's!" He runs off quite desperately. Wait, did he say Vincentio?

"Thanks, Klio. I should be the one protecting you, though." I smile at her and she smiles back. Her elongated, brown ears start twitching, is she happy?

"It's nothing. For you, master Reiki, I would do anything." I feel the sudden urge to... pat her in the head. I do just so, and at first, she seems surprised, but then, her ears start fluttering around happily. She even starts tapping around with her front legs.

"That's a good girl."

"M-Master Reiki, I get embarrassed if you do things like this."

"Hehehe, you're so very cute, Klio."

"Hey, Reiki, could you please move from the door and go be lovey dovey in any other place?" A female classmate of mine calls me out on it.

"O-Oh, I'm sorry..." I think I was way too absorbed into it. "L-Let's go, Klio." She nods and we leave the classroom before more eyes set themselves upon us.

---

We arrive to the lunch hall, where we meet Emeri, who is still mad at me for some reason. She sees us and as soon as she does, she turns around with a 'Hmph'. I am left dumbfounded. Anyhow, I take Klio to a table and take out both of our lunches, since I also made one for Klio.

"I hope you don't mind that I made one for you too, Klio."

"No, I don't! In fact, I'm overjoyed! Thanks, master!" Her eyes sparkle as I hand it over to her.

"Hey, can I ask you something?"

"It's my duty as your servant to answer any question, I thought I had already told you not to address me so formally."

"Heh, I'm sorry. Anyhow, I was meaning to ask. Do you have any idea of why Emi is acting like that?" She puts her finger on her chin.

"Hm, well, I can only think of one thing, but... Well, it wouldn't be good to discuss it with a man, so... Maybe you should ask her yourself, Master."

"If she would talk to me, I would do so gladly." I let out a sigh as I eat my lunch. Soon enough, someone comes around and steals some of my lunch.

"Huh, this is delicious!" I hear Lala's voice from behind me. "Yurichhi, you have to taste this!"

"I have no interest in those kinds of things." Yuri walks past us with a tray of his own, I cannot make out what he is carrying, though.

"Where are you going? I though I told you that we'd be having lunch together as a team today!"

"You did say so, but..." He glares at me. "I never agreed to do so. I haven't the tiniest bit of interest of interacting with someone who does not trust us."

"So, what? Should I just be bearing all of my secrets on the tip of my sleeve? Trust or no, I have no intention of disclosing more than it is necessary. Whether you like it or not, Yuri." I say to him, with a light glare set upon him. Ugh, I hope I didn't go overboard.

"I am not asking for that, but is it that much of a secret what you are doing with your body that you can't even tell your team?"

"And what if it is?"

"Then, until you ever feel like you can tell us that, will be when I start trusting you." He walks away.

"Oh, gosh..." Lala says from behind me. Soon after, Kirsten arrives.

"Huh? What's up with the heavy atmosphere?"

"It's just Yuri and his habit of wearing his beliefs at the tip of his sleeves." I answer her with an annoyed look in my eyes. I rest my head on my hand.

"Well, I'm sure not all of the fault is on him. You aren't exactly an easy person to deal with, you know?"

"I know. Still... Well, no use in fretting over it now." I continue eating my lunch. I remember something just then. "Hey, are any of you good at gathering info?"

"To be honest, I thought that was your area of expertise." Kirsten says as she sits down with her tray full of food. She eats more than one would expect from her physique. Not to say anything about Lala, since she has at least the double of what Kirsten has in her own plate, and she is still stealing bits and pieces from my own lunch. No doubt that she is a complete athlete.

"Never mind that! You have to taste this, Kirsten!" She says, while taking another piece of my boxed lunch with her fork. I think she took some of the meat I prepared.

"Huh? Why? Is it really that..." She takes a bite from my lunch. "W-What is this?! It's exquisite! Who made this?! Was it Emeri?" Kirsten doesn't show any signs of stopping anytime soon.

"Emi can't even heat water, even less cook." I take another bite of my lunch. "I cooked it myself." I feel kinda proud of myself for saying that.

"No way! You're lying! There's no way you can cook this good!" She takes more of my lunch. If this goes on, I'll be left with nothing... I should prepare theirs too, so they don't finish mine.

"Yep, it's my own recipe. Whatever, that's not what I need now. So, it's all up to me, huh? I was busy with some research, but I can postpone that. Anyhow, I'll tell you this, A guy, by the same name of our last contractor, Vincentio, is in my class. I am curious of their family now, maybe all of that mission was an elaborate set up to eliminate our team? There are too many variables. I will inform you of whatever progress I make." I put my hand on my chin to think about a little more about it.

"All right... Are you sure you aren't just looking too much into the details, though?" Lala asks me.

"Maybe I am, but better safe than sorry, right?"

"Hm, I see what you mean. All right, I'll try to see what I can catch up to, maybe some field research will also help." Kirsten says. I somehow don't want to know what kind of field research she'll be doing. Maybe, I don't need to know. After that, Lala turns her attention to Klio.

"Kliocchi, I hadn't said anything until now, but, why are you always so quiet whenever we get together? You seem more talkative than that."

"As a member of the proud centaur race, in social gatherings, I am not to speak unless spoken to or unless my master allows me to do so." I facepalm when she says that.

"Y-You centaurs can be pretty complicated people."

"Maybe so, but that's how we live our lives. I find no shame on doing so."

"Well, at least you find no regrets on doing so." After shaking my head a bit, I speak up. "All right then. Klio, from now on, you have the right to speak whenever you'd like, no matter how insultant, petty or anything else that may cross your mind is. Do you understand?" She looks at me, at first rather shocked, but then breaks into a smile.

"Yes, Master."

We spend the rest of the lunch with idle chatter. Soon enough, it is already time for the next period of classes. I walk with both Lala and Klio to the classroom. To be honest, until now I hadn't noticed that Lala and I are in the same Magic Theory classroom. The class drags a lot, I just cannot stand these classes some times. Still, the fact that it helped me develop my very own branch of Praestigiae magic, the light and nerve branch is something I'm grateful for.

---

Every class after that was completely boring. I return to the dorm as quickly as I can, since I need to research on the Vincentio family. After I arrive to my room, I notice that the headmaster redesigned it. He added a bed for Klio, a hay mat at floor level. I think he did his homework on Centaur customs. Anyhow, now's not the time to fret over it. I take out my laptop and turn it on. I don't use it as much because, well, magic and technology aren't exactly fighting, but that doesn't mean they are on good terms either. I believe I am one of the few guys that actually uses a laptop around here, besides the database of the school. I turn it on and get onto things. I quickly hack into the database and start searching for the name Vincentio. To be honest, I doubt that the headmaster hasn't already picked up to my hacking, but something tells me he'll let it pass. I search through the databanks and I reach my destination. Let's see, Vincentio Family Records...

"What is this?" I can't believe my eyes. Vincentio... Rather deep on slavery bussiness. Slavery isn't exactly illegal in the magic world, as long as you aren't found out, and even if you are, you can easily talk your way out by saying they are your familiars. After all, the whole concept of familiars have made things like those a little harder to address in courts.

"Is something wrong, master?" Klio was seeing her new bed before she turned around to see what I was doing.

"So, that was about it, huh...? How stupid. Pety. Worthless." I feel only repulsion for what I see. I close my laptop. I shake my head a bit and put a smile, maybe somewhat forced, on my face. "No, it's nothing. I should play something, to get this bad aftertaste out of my mouth."

"Huh? What about the research?" She has sat down on her new bed. She seems to find it quite cozy.

"I've already researched everything about those asses. I already know what they are trying to do."

"A-Already?! I'm impressed by how fast you collect data, master." She really seems surprised. Her tail flutters around behind her.

"It's one of my abilities. Now, do you want me to show you how we humans keep ourselves entertained?" I take two controllers out and dispel the concealing spell on my game console. "I know you'll find it fun." I throw a controller at her and she clumsily catches it.

"W-Whoa! M-May I ask what is this, Master? I've never seen anything like it." Klio inspects the controller as if it were some kind of sacred object.

"It's a controller. With it, you can play a game on the TV screen." I turn on both the console and the TV. The interface of the game shows up and I swiftly go through the icons. I push the X button to select the game that is currently inside the console. It is a shooter game. "In this game, the objective is to shoot at others to score points."

"H-How horrible! And humans find that entertaining?" Her eyes widen with surprise.

"Oh, but they aren't real. They are just bits and bytes processed by a computer. You aren't really killing anyone. Most people wouldn't be able to sleep if you could really kill people with this." I say with a troubled smile on my face. I never thought it would be this hard to explain a game to someone.

"Huh... And what do you shoot at others? Arrows? Javelins?" This is going to be a long night.

After explaining the game to Klio, she finally grasped the basics of it and she started enjoying it a lot more than I would have thought at first. As any noob, she moves her whole body as her character in-game moves. We start laughing at many of the antics we do in the game. Before I know it, it is already past midnight. After a while, the door swings open. The one who opened it is nobody else than Emeri, not that someone else could have been behind that door, though.

"What are you doing...?" She is dressed in her pajamas and her silver hair is let down without her characteristic pig-tails. She is hugging her pillow and she rubs her eyes.

"S-Sorry, did we wake you up?" I say after I turn my head around after pausing the game.

"I am very sorry if that is in fact the case. We shall lower our volume if it troubles you." Klio says with a troubled smile.

"No, that's not it... I haven't been able to sleep since I went to bed. Sound isn't a problem either. I just... was bored." She sits beside me, rather close at that. Our shoulders are touching. I inevitably blush. "Reiki, stop being so shy. Or maybe, that's just the Japanese in you surfacing? We've always been like this, haven't we?"

"Master Reiki, then I take it you won't mind me doing the same?" Klio also puts herself rather close to me. Our shoulders touch and apart from that... Her breasts are rubbing against my arm. "Will you?"

"N-n-n-no, it's n-n-not a problem!" With her cheeks puffed, Emeri follows up the conversation.

"Can you give me a controller? I think I'll play a bit too." Emeri says.

"O-o-o-of course! H-h-here." I take a controller and give it to her.

"Thanks." She takes it from my hand and our hands touch, ever so slightly. My already red face gets even redder. "Stop being like that, you are also making me embarrassed." Her cheeks blush, lightly, but it is still noticeable.

After that, the three of us played until dawn came and we couldn't stay up anymore, in such a cozy position. Morning came. My head feels groggy. I can hardly open my eyes. I am sure I have bags under my eyes. What time is it? If I don't hurry, I may be late to school. I try to get up, but... I am constricted by something. When I turn my eyes to my legs, I find that they are wrapped around Emeri's, and she is hugging me rather tightly, with her head buried on my chest. What's this... soft feeling I feel on my head? I can't even turn around, but I feel something also constricting my head. When I try to turn, I am met with a wall of white. This is... Most likely, this is Klio's shirt. Her black hair falls over my eyes. My already blurry sight gets even blurrier with her hair on my eyes. Wait, blurry? Where are my glasses? I start touching the ground to search for them. My searching eventually leads to another soft structure... This are Emeri's, without a doubt. They aren't substantial, but they aren't lacking either. I grope her a little bit more, just because, really. Until...

"What are you doing, Reiki?" When I come back to my senses, Emeri looks at me with unamused eyes. I quickly take my hand off of her breasts.

"N-Nothing!"

"It didn't seem like 'nothing' to me..." She looks down, blushing. "You could have just asked, you know?" She lets out, low as a whisper. I don't quite get what she said, though.

"I-I am sorry." Before we can continue, Klio holds me tighter against her chest.

"Master..." She mumbles in her sleep.

"Reiki..." Emeri says, a bit mad.

"W-What?!"

---

After clearing many misunderstandings and breaking free from Klio's constripting claws and waking her up, we finally started the day. Today is a holiday, so we don't have any need to hurry up to school. Still, something tells me we shouldn't go out in the campus. Vincentio might try to make his move.

"So, what do you want to do today? We could go out if you two want to do some shopping." I say, while I am inside the kitchen wearing an apron and preparing our breakfast.

"Oh, can we? Last time, I saw in the bazar at the center of the city a really pretty collar. Can you buy it for me, Reiki?!" She shouts from the dinner hall so that I can hear it all the way here in the kitchen. The kitchen is quite simple, having only the most basic utensils for someone to cook, or at least, it was like that until I bought some utensils of my own. It is quite easy to see which ones are mine and which ones were already here, after all, mine stand out a lot because of their designs. They are a lot more flashy than the ones that were already here.

"Yeah, we can. Though, we'll have to take the express route. I don't want to meet with that ass Vincentio for a while." I continue making breakfast. "Hey, sorry I didn't ask before, but are pancakes okay? Not that you can complain right now, because they are already done." I start flipping the dough in my pan. In one go, I make the circle-shaped dough jump into the air. Just then, something pierces through it. It's an arrow. Are you serious? Right now, I am glad this one was part of my own breakfast. The arrow has something tied to it. I don't even take it. I take the two plates and get out of the kitchen.

"Yay, pancakes!" Emeri says while holding a fork in one of her hands. I put one plate in front of her and put the other one in front of Klio.

"Then, I shall partake, Master." She says, with a small reverance. I smile while I see the two of them. I should put a barrier around the dorm, because I doubt they will just give up with just that arrow. I am about to go outside when... The windows break. People, wielding guns and swords, enter. Both Emeri and Klio stand up instantly. I let out a sigh. My whole arm lights up with the purple light I've seen countless times before.

"Praestigiae: Illusion Bakudan!" I use the lights from the walls and produce an illusion right in front of our assailants. I also rush to where Klio and Emeri are. I put my hand in the ground. "Barrier, Max Input!" The illusion I put in front of them were monsters and things threatening to attack. In an obvious reflex, they'll try to defend themselves by shooting those guns and swinging their swords. And when they slash and shoot through the illusions, then...! A chain reaction of bombs starts. Thanks to my barrier, we are left unharmed. However, the same cannot be said for the wall. It is completely destroyed. I lift the barrier and go check on the now inert and still hot bodies of our assailants. They are still alive? I kneel down and check the pulse of one. It's low, but it is there. "Emi, call the headmaster. Klio, stay on guard. We don't know if they are giving up already."

"At once, Master!" Klio unsheathes her sword.

"I'm going, Reiki!" I take away her light so that no one can see her.

"Already making their move, huh?" I kick one of the guys that's lying down. "Should have contracted better thugs, though."

The headmaster arrived shortly after. I explained to him what happened and my theory on who it was. He first looks at me with that silly grin of his and speaks up.

"Now, I would just hate to meddle into your affairs, Reiki. So, I will leave the resolution of this to you. Good luck with Mr. Vincentio, Reiki!" After cleaning up the thugs and reconstructing the wall I had destroyed, the headmaster leaves while he waves at me. Agh, I just hate him so friggin' much! How can he so be indiffirent to anything that doesn't concern him! I take a deep breath.

"Now, what's next?" I put my hand on my chin to think. Klio arrives.

"Master, what should we do now? The one who insulted us seems to have taken things a lot more seriously... Is this...?" She seems apologetic.

"It isn't your fault, Klio. That guy is just overreacting, besides, I am sure this is all about the gig we brought down."

"Yet again, I was also involved in such incident. Did my insistence in taking me with you cause all of this? I-"

"I said you have nothing to feel guilty for. We are not about to let those guys intimidate us. After all..." Putting my hand on my waist, I look at her with a confident grin on my face. "It's time for us to make our move as well." With the telepathy I was granted, I use it to speak to the others.

'Vincentio is making his move. Be aware of anything and everything. They are aiming to kill.' I think about it for a while and then decide on a rendezvous point. 'We will meet in the garden, the one in the courtyard. Make haste.' I finish my transmission.

"Klio, Emi, follow me. We are leaving. In here, we are like fish in a barrel." I leave the building while both of them follow me.

"What's happening, Reiki?" She asks, running to where I am standing.

"Vincentio, the one who contracted us, has double crossed us. Since two days ago, actually. That job was a bodyguard job for slavers. We saved Klio from them. Now, because we know their secrets, they are trying to get rid of us. So, we get rid of them before they get rid of us. Simple, right?"

"WAY too simple! What do you plan to do, Reiki?! You've already seen just how much manpower they have!" She seems truly concerned. I stop and look at her with a smile on my face.

"Their manpower is stupid enough as to attack my illusions, to be honest, I don't think we have anything to fear from them."

"Are you really sure? Can you take so many of them at the same time?"

"Who do you take me for, Emi?" I say with a smile. She answers with a smile of her own. It seems I reassured her for the time being, now...

---

In the courtyard, we meet everyone else. It is a rather simple courtyard, with a small garden with some flowers around it and a fountain in its center. Everyone else is waiting for us near the stone fountain. Yuri is tapping his fingers on his arms impatiently as he waits. Lala and Kirsten are talking about something before we arrived, after we did, everyone turned their attention to us.

"What is it, Reiki? Did your actions get all of us in trouble?" Yuri seems quite hostile.

"I just told you to come here because Vincentio is about to move against us, I thought it¿d be best for us to be all in one place, instead of having to fight in separated fronts. However, if you want, you can leave Yuri. No one is stopping you from doing so." I say to him. I feel a disturbance on my barrier, I put it just as we were entering the courtyard, and someone has already trespassed it?

"Then, I'll be doing just so. Excuse me." He turns around and Lala tries to reach out to him, but soon we are being pointed at by several men with guns who seemingly appeared out of nowhere. I let out a sigh. Everyone puts on a defensive stance, however, in this situation, the only ones able to act would be me and Kirsten, since both of our catalysts are something we can access at any time... Bad luck for them. I should get the upper hand.

"Listen now." I step forward from the group and put my hand on my waist. "So, why do you think those thinks can do anything against us mages? It seems the Vincentio family isn't wealthy enough to contract magic mercenaries and had to go with the common scum. Oi, Vincentio, you are watching from somewhere, right?! Come and do your own dirty work!" There's no response, rather, the guys who are pointing their guns at us take aim and some of them seem ready to fire. I let out another sigh. "Hey, Kirstie, think you can do something about this?" I turn to her. She was edgy when I raised my voice to her, so she jumped when she heard me saying her name.

"I-I think. However, the best I can do is 10 minutes." She says, with a concerned frown on her face.

"That's more than enough. Lala, prepare your gear. Emi, take cover. Klio, support us at the best of your abilities while trying not to endanger yourself. Yuri..." I look at him, think about it for a bit and then... "Do what you want. If you want to leave, I'll make it so that you can leave unnoticed."

"I am not backing out of a fight, Reiki. Even if it is you who is handling the ropes." Well, at least his hardheadedness is useful like this.

"Then provide support with Klio at the best of your abilities." I look at everyone, Kirstie kneels down and puts her hand on the ground. The gunmen seem ready to fire. I look at Kirstie and she nods. I take a deep breath. "NOW!" Just when I said so, the gunmen opened fire upon us and Kirstie formed a stregthened ground barrier aroudn us. We are safe for the time being. I sit down and put my hands together. My whole arm lights up in purple light.

"What spell are you trying to use this time, Reiki? One that will endanger us all again?"

"Not at all. In fact, this is risk free for you." I can hear the bullets striking against the barrier formed by Kirstie. Luckily enough, I don't need a visual on my targets for this spell, as long as I know where they were standing, practically, all along the yard, so there's no way I can fail this, as long as I cover all the yard but where we are standing.

"It won't last as long as expected! Their weapons are a lot heavier than I had expected!" Kirstie says as she tries her best not to let the barrier fall apart.

"Let it fall, their bullets will stop soon enough." I put my arm up.

"A-are you sure? Then in 1...2...3!"

"Light maze!" The barrier falls down and just as it is coming down, the bullets stop. Kirstie tried to protect herself from the incoming bullets as Klio and Lala, but there was no such need. I turn to look at the gunmen and see that they are knocked out as expected. "Ufff. Everything went as expected." Yuri raises an eyebrow. He seems mad.

"You mean there was a possibility for that to fail?! And you made Kirstie drop the barrier?! Why?! You endangered us all!"

"Unless you are as naive as you, Yuri, you'd know every plan has a chance of failing, for slim that it may be. If you consider the human factor, the max success rate for any plan is 99.9%. There's always an uncertain .1% that something won't turn out as expected. Fortunately, all of these guys demonstrate that that .1% is something almost unattainable for those with a weak will." He starts trembling as he looks down. After a while, he clenches his fist and then shouts at the top of his lungs.

"Why do you keep talking to me as if I were an idiot?!" I look at him, with a cold gaze. "You think you're above everyone else, and yet you wonder why you have such a hard time dealing with people?! It's obvious, isn't it? You're tedious and a smartass!" I am about to open my mouth when someone raises his voice. Someone I expected, but not so soon. He is clapping as he makes his arrival.

"I see that you took them all out, Byrne. I didn't expect otherwise." Father Vincentio makes his appearance. He has the same irritating look and fake smile from two days ago. Dressed in a black suit and with his hands behind his back, he glares at us. "Now, it's time for you to experience first hand the greatness of magic that has been in the making for several thousands of years. You'll experience the magic of the family Vincentio, and you will learn to fear what merely heritage can give you... Castless, Reiki Byrne." He raises his hand and it lights up with a dark flame. Wait, dark flames? I think I've read about this...! Then, what Vincentio used back in the classroom wasn't Naturalis, but rather... Pythones?! Necromancy?!

"Everyone, be careful!" I put myself in front of everyone and try to keep them at bay with my arm.

"Hoh... So you know what my magic is. Then, I won't be taking you by surprise. Well, then I'll start with the..." He takes his hand back and he starts pouring down the dark flames that were on his hand. "Heir of Baphel!" He has a wicked smile on his face... How does he know that?! It was a secret, unless... ?! Headmaster?! You sold us out?! Anyhow, he just threw a bunch of those things against Emeri, I need to do something.

"Emi!" I tackle her and drive her to the ground. "Are you okay?" She nods, a little confused. "Good." I turn to see the guy, feeling rage brewing through my veins. "What's the deal?!" He has a finger on his chin as he ponders about something.

"I thought she could dodge that... It's a pity. It seems the info was off, still... I should run some more tests." Why is he so damn calm after he tried to kill Emeri like that?! He pisses me off!

"That's not running tests, you dipshit!" I grit my teeth. Wait, more importantly...! I turn to see the others.

"B-Baphel?" Kirstie doesn't seem to swallow it.

"As in... the Eye of Baphel?" Yuri also backs down. He seems as surprised as Kirstie.

"...You can't be serious... Reichi... Is this what you... kept hidden?" Lala puts her hand on her mouth.

"... Baphel? The legendary wizard...?" Even Klio knows about it. That's just how famous Baphel is.

"You! It was a secret because something like this could happen!" I stand up and leave Emeri on the ground for a while. "What is it to you, anyway?!"

"Well, I am just trying to do the same as you, Byrne... I want to harness its power. All in preparation for this day, I developed..." From the other hand he was hiding behind his back, he produces a pitch black orb. "This!"

"What is that?!" I sense a really disturbing mana coming from it. It's really dangerous, wait, is he trying to do what I am doing with my runes...?! "Don't tell me...!"

"Yes, Byrne, yes! It is exactly that! With this, I will harness all of that negative power that it produces and turn it into raw mana!" This guy... If he were to do that, then he'd become the most powerful magician in existence. The Eye of Baphel produces so much negative energy that it gives misfortune to its host. Right now, I keep that at bay with my runes, absorbing that negative power and releasing it to the environment.

"You can't be serious... What are you going to use all of that mana for? You... you could fabricate a massive scale weapon with that much mana."

"Well, it will be a great bargain point, yes. However, that's just what I am going to use it for... To intimidate everyone and make my way to be the highest of the highest in this world with so many legal loopholes." He grasps tightly the orb in his hand. Luckily, it won't activate just yet, since Emeri's eye is specifically synchronized with my runes. "Now... Inchanti...Ojio...Majei..." No...! He is trying to adjust that orb!

"Klio!" I say to her. She was perplexed and clumsily turns to see me.

"Yes?"

"Attack him! Before it is too late!" I point at him. Klio is still somewhat confused, but when she poses her eyes on Vincentio, her eyes narrow down and she dashes forward against Vincentio. I am surprised at how fast she is even with that body of hers. She slashes down and... her sword is stopped by someone else's. "What?!" Vincentio junior is the one behind it. He is also holding a sword.

"I'm sorry for my late arrival, Father." He is still locked with Klio in the same position. She seems as surprised as I, but she doesn't budge an inch. She seems to have the upper hand.

"I see those swordsmanship classes are finally paying off. Contain them until I'm finished." I should be more pracautious. "Maja... Joine...Litsei..." I take away Lala's light, to make her invisible.

"Lala... go!" I whisper at her, with the lowest voice I can manage and still make her hear it. She nods and jumps forward. With a swift overhead kick, she finishes the disparity between Klio and Vincentio jr. Even if she had the upper hand, it'd be better if we finished everything right away. Klio now slashes against dad Vincentio, though he swiftly takes a step backwards. Even if she didn't get him, I'm sure she broke the incantation just now.

"Tsk, now I have to begin again. Don't pull any punches, Michael."

"Yes, father." Michael discards his sword and both of his hands light up with the same dark flame his father is wielding. What the hell is their catalyst?! In quite a simple fighting pose, he prepares to fight with both Klio and Lala. It wouldn't even be a match, were it not for his magic... For what I've read, the magic of the Vincentio's is Pythones: Flame of Gleiss. The black flame is in reality a spirit, and if it were to touch anyone, that spirit will dig into their very souls and they would become nothing more than puppets at the mercy of the one holding their strings.

"Don't let them touch you, guys. Otherwise, we'll be at their mercy." I say to them. I need to think...! Think, what spell can I use? I could use that Medela one... but it still isn't finished! Too risky! What do I do?! Wait, that's right! Kirsten! "Kirsten! Come here!" I motion with my hand for her to come. First of all, I should take Emeri's light, to make her invisible. Even so, against that orb, there's not much we can do, and Emi isn't aware of what my runes are doing for her, so I need to thread this carefully, or something bad will happen in the long term...

"What is it? What do you need?" Kirsten says, now beside me. I point at the floor where Vincentio father is standing. He is near the flowers planted all across the courtyard.

"You think you can use those to get in that guy's way? We need to interrupt his inchantation at all costs." I say to her, pointing at Vinenctio's feet.

"Yeah, I can..." She concentrates and lifts both of her hands at the same time, in a cross form. "Naturakinesis!" The flowers start wrapping around his feet.

"Make him fall down!"

"Yes!" Bringing her hands back, the flowers follow her motion and throw Vincentio down. His grasp on the orb hasn't weakened. Though it'd be ideal if we were to get ahold of that orb.

"Make him stay that way!" I start running towards him.

"Reiki?!" Kirsten doesn't break the position she is in, but she still looks at me, perplexed, as I run towards Vincentio.

"You...!" Vincentio grunts in the ground. I am now near enough him. I crouch down to grab the orb.

"Father!" Michael shouts, while fending off Lala and Klio at the best of his abilities, parrying their attacks with his dark flames.

"You fell for it..!" He says. With a swift motion and before I can grab the orb, he pierces my body with his hand, and the Flame of Gleiss.

"Reiki!" I hear Kirsten say.

"Reiki!" Emeri shouts.

"Reichi?!" Lala seems to have distracted for a bit and receives a kick on her stomach.

"Master?!" Klio is able to parry one of Michael's attacks with the Flame.

The only one who doesn't say anything is Yuri. This... This would be quite preoccupying weren't it for... I slowly take Vincentio's arm. I grasp it tightly, ensuring he won't be able to scurr away even if he tried.

"Now, who fell for it?" I say to him. Shit, I think there's some blood coming out of my mouth.

"What!?" His eyes widen. It is already too late, though. With his arm firmly in my grasp, I start my spell. Before the Flame of Gleiss gets a hold of me...!

"Neutralis, Rune Reverse!"

"REIKI, DON'T!" Emeri has heard of this spell before, it's something I haven't usen ever, but drastic methods come in with dire situations. My runes start shifting. The spell I had cast on my face wears off. Now, everyone can see the scars that I bare in my face. All, to ensure Emeri's bad luck won't overwhelm her, or affect others.

"If you want that damn negative energy so much, have it!" I reverse the flow of my mana, as well as the negative enregy being received by my runes, all into that crystal ball of his. It starts cracking... cracking...! It has been smashed into pieces! It worked!

"Y-You!" His expression darkens after I do that. He seems to be very, very angry. But... I can't see it anymore. My vision blurs. I am losing consciousness. I just... Stopped him from using that orb for bad, but now... I am slowly losing consciousness. I am sorry everyone. You are on your own.

---

The girls watch as Reiki falls over. Vincentio, with a mad smile on his face, rejoices on what just happened.

"Stupid boy... He may have broken the orb, but all that mana and negative energy flowed into me! He only made me more powerful..." He starts laughing, while holding his hand against his face. "You've lost the ace up your sleeve, boys. You are not going to survive to tale this tale..." Both of his hands light up with the vile dark flame and the flowers holding him down burn down with the dark flame. He stands up and undusts himself.

"W-Wait, you, you want me, right? The Eye of Baphel, right? Leave them alone... and I'll come with you." Emeri says, stepping in front of the others. Vincentio tilts his head and the flames extinguish.

"Now, that's an insteresting offer, miss." His hands ignite again. "However, as you youngsters said, you've pissed me off. I will kill every single one of you and turn that girl into my puppet. I won't be needing an orb if I have the girl with me."

"How? You are outnumbered 4 to 2. No matter how much mana Reiki may have given you, it is still not enough to take all of us head on." Yuri says, standing firm beside Emeri.

"Hmph. The fact that you still think that you youngsters have anything against me is rather amusing in itself." His whole arm lights up with the dark flame. It continues on devouring his whole body. "This technique is quite dangerous, to be honest I hoped I didn't have to use it, but you have left me with no option. However, the risk has highly decreased because of all the mana your friend has given me." His face ignites in the dark flame, and a devilish face comes from where Vincentio's face was before. "Behold, the forbidden spell of the Vincentio Family! Pythones; Gleiss, Devourer of Souls!" Now, with his whole body in flames, Vincentio lets out an inhuman cry. His son puts himself beside him, his hands also lit up, though his body does not ignite as his father's. Vincentio has transformed into an inhumane version of himself. "Can you withstand this?" He swings his arm in front of him, and flames scatter from his arm.

"Don't let them touch you! Those flames probably have some kind of mind controling effect to them!" Yuri orders them, and all of them move away, even Emeri, a little more clumsily. Even so, the flames are still quite near them, burning by their feet. "That was a close call."

"Well done dodging that..." They turn to see Vincentio again, but he is already out of sight. "But can you dodge this!?" He is already behind Lala when everyone else catches up to him.

'So fast...!' Lala thinks, while throwing her body back and barely managing to dodge the attack of Vincentio. Putting her hand on the ground and using her magic to impulse her legs, she tries to sweep Vincentio's legs with a kick, which Vincentio expertly dodges by jumping out of the way. 'There's still more!' Supporting her weight on her left hand, she makes her body stand up and tries to kick Vincentio once again, this time, her kick directed to Vincentio's torax. "How are you going to dodge while in the air, huh!?" The incoming, implosion boosted kick is about to hit its target full force when the fire covering Vincentio's body turns into a hand, that unwraps from his leg and tries to attack Lala. "No...!" With a swift attack, Klio cuts through the ethereal fire that took the form of a hand. "K-Kliocchi, thanks!" Lala moves away, with a cartwheel. Klio now stands before Vincentio, her sword held high in front of her.

"After what you've done to Master Reiki, I cannot forgive you. Prepare to face my sword."

"Is that so? I didn't even as much as touch your friend. Besides..." From behind Vincentio, Michael jumps out.

"I am your opponent, you centaur bitch!" He locks his fists against Klio's sword. Though, his knuckles start bleeding a bit, he does not let go.

"Tsk. Stop interfering!" Klio pushes Michael with her sword, to free herself and proceed onto attacking. She takes a step forward, and slashes with her sword downwards. Michael barely manages to block it.

"Father, finish this off quickly! I doubt I can hold this bitch off for too long." Michael manages to push Klio away with just his hands, still burning in the dark flame from before.

"Don't worry, Michael. This will be real quick." Vincentio says, with a confident smile on his face. In the next second, he is already behind Klio, his leg coming down at an incredible speed to attack Klio.

"When did he...!?" With no time to dodge, Klio uses her sword to block Vincentio's kick, which makes the sword shatter in two. "Impossible!" She takes a step forward, to avoid a follow-up attack, and turns around to face Vincentio.

"You shouldn't give me your ba-!" Michael's sentence was cut by Klio kicking him with her hind legs, right in the stomach. He couldn't help but cough up blood, due to the force of the kick. He hits his back against the fountain standing in the center and falls unconscious. Vincentio puts his hand over his face, and shakes his head.

"This useless son of mine... How can he be knocked down so easily. I'll have to compensate for both now." He says, sounding quite disheartened, but soon enough, the whole area fills with the black flames. Yuri, Emeri, Klio, Lala and Kirsten have no other option but to fall back into a safe area, outside Vincentio's range, though his magic fills the whole of the courtyard, just merely stopping before the end of the garden. "Let's end this now, shall we? I am getting tired of playing games." Inside the flames, Reiki still lies there, and he is squirming with pain as the flames consume him.

"No, Reiki!" Emeri is the first one to try and get Reiki, but Kirsten stops her by grabbing her from ehr shoulder.

"I know you want to save him, but there's nothing we can do right now... We need to take him down first, then we can take him to medical care." Emeri, who seems not to be able to watch Reiki suffer anymore, forcefully takes Kirsten's hand off her shoulder.

"Don't tell me what to do! I am not letting Reiki suffer anymore! You, who don't even try to understand the things he do and why he does them!" She says. Rather than hitting Kirsten with those words, Yuri is the one who resents them the most. He looks away and bites his lip. Did he really make a mistake by being so judgemental with Reiki's secrecy? Even so, that is not the time to think about that. Emeri is already venturing into the flames of Vincentio, falling right into his trap. Vincentio grins, and Yuri extends his hand to reach Emeri.

"Miss Emeri, don't!" Emeri turns her head around, ever so slightly, when she is caught by her neck by Vincentio, who raises her from the ground. She desperately scratches his hand, trying to make him free her.

"How foolish of you. First, to think of abandoning the one who's not only been supporting you, but also keeping at bay that Eye of Baphel, and secondly, to be dumb enough as to come rush to the rescue of him. How dumb can you be, heir of the Eye?"

"M-My name is... Emeri Leinfield! And..." Emeri starts coughing. Her throat cannot take it any more. Her vision is blurring. "I didn't abandon Reiki...! I would... never do! That's why... I'm going to save him!"

"What can you do now!? It is but a matter of time until my flames consume you, and you become nothing but a puppet of mine! Now... become mine." Emeri cannot fight it anymore. Not only does she feel her consciousness leaving her, but also her free will. Her arms go limp, unable to resist anymore.

"Reiki... I'm sorry." She closes her eyes. Vincentio smiles, and the flames start dying down. All the others are ready to storm in to recover Emeri. They know that it is not an option to let Vincentio have her.

"You can do nothing now. As soon as I got my hands on this girl, the match was settled. Now, it is as simple as using a transportation spell and you will never again hear from me or your friend." He puts on a big, sick grin on his face. "Now, repent for your whole lives and curse your own incapabi-!" Cut mid-sentence, blood starts gushing out from his mouth. He looks down, and fins that his chest has just been impaled, by a fragment of Klio's sword. "What? H-How...?" He turns his head around, and finds Reiki, his runes lighted up in a yellow color. His clothes are burnt, leaving him topless and his pants reduced to mere shorts. His hands are also bleeding, since he is holding the edge of the sword without any kind of protection.

"Take your filthy hands off Emi... You damn idiot!" His runes suddenly lose color and the blade gains the same yellow glow. "Mana Overload!" The blade loses its glow too, and this time, Vincentio's body starts deforming, growing irregularly. He has no option but to let Emeri fall off his grasp. She sits on the floor, massaging her throat and coughing. He grows off proportion, his right arm being twice as long as his whole body, and his left leg growing for at least 2 meters. In such an state, he starts writhing and screaming in pain.

"What the hell did you do!?" Vincenito asks the tired Reiki, who is now also sitting while catching his breath.

"I... put even more mana into your body, more than you could ever hope to control. Besides, also a single bit of it was of a different school than your own Pythones... In other words, your mana reacted negatively with it and now... either you die or you will become unable to ever cast magic again."

"That doesn't explain... my body! Why is my body... like this, you little dipshit!"

"The Medela spell you are under, is made to cure physical diseases like dwarfism, they get the body back into a comfortable size. Of course, it is just theory right now, and I cannot run the proper tests with your body rejecting the treatment. Ah, if you only hadn't used that Pythones spell before." He says, in quite a sarcastic tone and a victorious smile on his face.

"You...! Little rat! I will remember this, I will...!" Vincentio's body finally goes back into proportions, and he starts coughing blood. He seems really damaged, as he drops to his knees.

"It seems it won't be the latter. See you in the next life, scum." Vincentio puts his hands around his own neck. He coughs up even more blood.

"I will... kill you! I swear! Some... day!" He finally falls to the ground, in a puddle of his own blood. His eyes are now lifeless and completely white.

"I don't think you will get the chance." Reiki lets out a relieved sigh. "It's finally over. I think I can finally... rest." Reiki lies on the floor, closing his eyes. He quickly falls asleep.

"Reiki...?" Emeri approaches Reiki, concerned about what has happened to him. He shakes him, but there's no response from him. "Hey... Reiki! No, wake up! Don't leave me alone, don't! REIKI!"

Soon, the others rush to her side. The first one to pull Emeri away from Reiki is Yuri. Lala and Klio hold her back.

"No, leave me with him! I need to be by his side, even if...! Even if...!" The first thing Yuri does is check for a pulse, putting two fingers on Reiki's neck. Sure enough, there is the pulse. He lets out a relieved sigh.

"Do not worry, Reiki is quite all right. He just lost consciousness." Emeri breaks away from Lala and Klio's hold, and runs up to where Reiki is. She starts crying while resting over his chest.

"You idiot! You always go overboard...! You don't have to! I... I... will always love you, no matter what!" Emeri lets out her confession, in front of everyone and while Reiki is unconscious. Most of them seem shocked, but Lala smiles, glad that Emeri is finally honest with her feelings. Meanwhile, Kirsten grits her teeth, feeling a bit jealous.

"Anyhow, we should hurry to the infirmary, so we can have Reiki's and..." Yuri turns his gaze towards the still unconscious Vincentio Jr. "Mr. Michael..."

"Yeah, we should." Klio is the first one to go to Reiki, take him between her arms, and put him in the back of her horse lower body.

"Hey, there's still this guy." Lala points at the unconscious Michael. Klio glares at him.

"He isn't worthy of sharing the same mount as Master Reiki. At the very least, I'd drag him around with us." As she says so, she takes the boy from the neck of his shirt and starts dragging him around the floor.

"Oh, no well, that's okay! I'll carry him." Lala hurries up to where Michael is and takes him up her shoulder. "Huh, he's lighter than I thought." With Michael on her shoulder, the remaining Last Remnant members, accompanied by Klio and Emeri, head to the infirmary.

---

Here's the fourth chapter! I hope you like them!
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18 / F / Britain
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Posted 3/23/15 , edited 3/23/15
Awesome so far! When's chapter 5
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18 / M / Korriban
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Posted 4/5/15
This is great! Can't wait for the next chapter! Just one major question: Is it Kirstie or Kirsten? Both were used, so I wasn't sure if one was a nickname or typo?

Anyway, this was amazing. I was literally at the edge of my seat for chapter 4's ending!
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18 / M / oklahoma, USA
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Posted 4/12/15
Loving your light novel!!, i think that everyone is enjoying your story because here in mexico we do!!
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