The Asterisk War
Chapter 8 - Noble Eyes Part 2
”Huh? Crap, I must have taken the wrong path. ”
Ayato had taken what he had originally supposed was a shortcut, cutting through the courtyard, only to find himself trapped behind a locked gate.
It looked like certain school entrances were locked once night fell.
Although the gate was quite tall, it wasn to the degree that he couldn make it over if he jumped. Still, remembering the incident from this morning, he decided to play it safe.
”Ah, whatever. Its not like Im in a rush anyway. ”
Moreover, taking a walk was one of his admittedly few hobbies.
The central courtyard was larger than a mid-sized park, and all vegetation had been carefully trimmed.
Looking closely, semi-human robots with doll-like forms, replicants, were pruning the trees. Though it seemed military-use replicants were remote-controlled, the actions of ordinary replicants were automated, and thus both slow and limited to simple commands. These days, such acts of manual labor in harsh working environments were generally the purview of the replicants.
Though in the city Ayato had previously resided in, this was a sight rarely seen.
”…If thats the case, whyd you duel that newcomer! ”
A young mans voice.
Only someone rather ill-mannered would be roaring in public like this, the air shaking at his volume.
(An argument, is it…?)
Ayato hid in the shadow of a nearby tree. Positioned in front of him was a pavilion, within which stood three male students. The most noticeable of the three was the one in the center, of large stature and, evident even from Ayatos location, an overbearing manner. The other two, one skinny and one slightly overweight, trailed slightly behind, almost like younger brothers.
The other party sat within, hidden from view.
At the circumstances, which looked primed to erupt at any moment, Ayato refused to turn a blind eye. Nonetheless, given both his role as a third party and his unfamiliarity with school customs, he felt it best to limit his actions to observation for the time being.
”Answer me, Julis! ”
Upon hearing the familiar name, he unconsciously leaned out from behind the tree.
”I am under no obligation to answer you, Lester. Everyone has the privilege of dueling as we please. ” Said Julis.
”I am under no obligation to answer you, Lester. Everyone has the privilege of dueling as we please. ”
”Of course, Im the same. ”
Moving stealthily, Ayato caught a glimpse of a rose-haired girl seated within the pavilion.
It seemed like the tall male student, named Lester?, was arguing with Julis, and it seemed that sparks would fly at any moment.
It was a very volatile atmosphere.
”In the same way, we have the right to reject any duel in which wed rather not take part. No matter how many times you ask, the answer is still no. ”
”And why is that?! ”
”…It seems that you
e incapable of understanding unless I tell you straight out. ” Julis sighed heavily before rising to meet Lesters glare. ”To put it simply, Ive already beaten you thrice. If we were to fight again, itd just be a waste of my time. ”
”Next time, Ill win! How dare you always look down on others?! You haven seen my real strength yet! ”
”Thats right, thats right! When Lester gets serious, no ones fit to be his opponent! ” The pudgy student standing behind Lester took the opportunity to cut in with a comment of his own.
”Then feel free to demonstrate ––with someone else. ”
Julis unilaterally brought the conversation to a close by turning away.
”Wait! Im not done yet…! ” Lester reached out to take hold of Julis shoulder…
Just then, Ayato stepped out from behind the tree. ”Oh my, isn this Julis? What a coincidence, meeting here. ”
”…What are you doing here? ”
”Who are you? ”
At Ayatos timing and words, too perfect to be truly be coincidence, Julis, Lester, and his two lackeys all frowned.
”Hahaha…It seems I took a wrong turn somewhere. ”
”Ah! Lester! That guy is the new transfer student! ” Prompted the pudgy student.
Lesters glare, filled with provocation, pierced through Ayato.
Ayato, on the other hand, was completely calm as he spoke to Julis. ”Julis, this individual is…? ”
”…Lester McPhail, ranked ninth in our school. ”
Julis folded her hands behind her back, a blank expression on her face.
”Oh, so you
e also a Page One. Thats amazing. ”
”Ah, right. Im Amagiri Ayato; its nice to meet you. ” Although Ayato extended his left hand for a handshake, Lester pretended he hadn seen it, opting instead to continue to stare daggers at him.
From up close, Lesters exaggerated stature was all the more apparent. He looked just about two meters tall, with broad shoulders and well-toned musculature.
The muscles of those in the Starpulse Generation were indeed different from others. In addition to the their increased effectiveness, they had the peculiar trait of not changing much in appearance even with training. Lesters well-defined muscles thus spoke to the degree of training theyd undergone.
His short, tawny hair stood on end and his facial features twisted in rage. ”Youd…Youd willingly duel someone like that, and yet won accept my challenge…? ” Lester clenched his fists as his voice began to tremble with rage.
”Don screw with me! You
e going to suffer defeat at my hands! No matter what tricks you try! ”
Lesters eyes had long ceased to take note of Ayatos presence. Waving his hands, he approached Julis.
”Wait! Please wait Lester-san! Calm down…note where we are… ” Lester was heedless of the cries of his (other) skinny compatriot.
Although Julis was of average height for a girl her age, that meant nothing in the face of Lesters frightening physique.
That notwithstanding, Julis retreated not one step, instead responding firmly and resolutely. ”Thats impossible. Until you change that personality of yours, no different from a wild boar, that will never happen. ”
”Wha… How dare you! ” Though he seemed ready to explode, if he reacted on impulse in this situation, hed only be validating Julis claim.
e going to regret looking down on Lester! Next time, for sure…! ”
”Shut it, Landy! ” Lester roared at his flunky and exited the pavilion, his rage barely restrained.
”Don you dare underestimate me! I will make you acknowledge my strength! ” Shouting these words, Lester left the scene, with the remaining two scrambling after him.
”Ugh… I can stand him. ”
Waiting until they had passed out of sight, Julis sat down once more.
”Ahaha… it looks like Ive stuck my head somewhere unwanted again. ”
”Seriously. Thanks to your meddling, I wasted more time than usual. ”
”Sorry about that. Is it usually like this? ”
Julis threw her hands up in response. ”Lester can stand me. Even though there are others like him, hes still the first to harass me to this degree. ”
”But still, hes ranked ninth. He must be quite strong, right? ” Ayato thought hed follow up by asking if things were fine. Even though hed only known Julis for half a day, he knew she wasn the kind of person to speak ill of others.
e going to ask if hes strong or not, well then, of course hes strong. That said, the ranking doesn just refer to how capable you are.To find a place in among the Named Charts requires more than just strength; suitability matters more than anything else. ” Julis lifted her face, the corner of her lips turning in a smile.
Seeing Julis eyes light up, Ayato hurriedly turned his gaze.
”Seeing as this is the perfect opportunity, I want to ask you something. ”
”Hmm…Wha, what would that be? ”
”The duel this morning, were you using Meteor ArtsMeteoric Battle Techniques? Howd you use that Lux without tuning it first? ”
”Oh. No, that wasn . ”
”…What do you mean? ”
”Well, to begin with, I can use Meteor Arts. Truth is, Ive never really found a Lux Im compatible with before, a cause of no small frustration for me. If given the chance, Im much more accustomed to using a normal weapon. ”
”Then that technique from this morning…? ”
”That was purely kenjutsu. My family runs a dojo which practices sword techniques passed on from long ago, so I can somehow manage. ”
”That was just kenjutsu…? ” Julis eyes opened wide in astonishment.
”…If its a Lux blade, severing my flames isn something unimaginable. With that said, this is the first time Ive ever seen anyone do such a job of it. Just what levels of swordsmanship have you attained…? ”
”Haha, nothing out of the ordinary. ”
”…Forget it. You just keep wearing that stupid expression and playing the role of a spectator. This isn the kind of place you think it is, where you can just naively stride your way through things. ”
”Im nowhere that naive. ” Ayato shook his head lightly. ”Anyway, Julis, why are you taking part in these kinds of dangerous battles? ”
”Im curious. You
e a princess, right? ”
”I most certainly am Lieseltanias First Princess, but thats not why. Those who come to this school are all fighting for the same reason –– to grasp those things which cannot be obtained otherwise. This holds true regardless of title or position or anything like that. ”
Although she answered in a calm voice, her iron will and steely resolve could be clearly felt.
”…And what is it that you seek? ” Ayato was unsure if he should continue this line of questioning, but in the end, he continued.
Surprisingly, Julis answered. ”Money. ”
”I need money, and fighting here is the quickest way to get it. ”
…a princess was fighting for money? No matter how you looked at it, a princess ought to be rather wealthy indeed. Just what did she mean?
”Theres not much time left. I must seize the victors crown at each event of this seasons Festa. Thats my goal. ”
”Winning all three events… ” In other words, a grand slam. Ayato fully understood just how impossible a task that was.
”Thats right. First up is the Phoenix. At the very least, I need the money from that. ”
The prize money from the Festa was split among the winners. Supposedly winning just once was enough to live comfortably for the rest of ones life.
As Ayato was still searching for his own goal, her answer was hard to digest.
The differences between what they sought were readily apparent.
His remaining question, however, was much more easily answered.
”Speaking of which, I seem to remember you
e still looking for a partner? ” Remembering Claudias words to Julis from earlier, he inquired.
The Phoenix was a partner-based tag-team format, and thus Julis was incapable of entering by herself.
”Mm, thats right. There certainly is such a requirement. ” Julis mumbled out a reply. Finding a partner was anything but trivial for her––given her personality––this was, after all, only to be expected.
”E-even if I haven found a partner yet, don take that to mean I don have any friends, ok?! Or rather, even though I really don have any friends, this and that are two different things. The problem is that I can find anyone who meets my standards for a partner. ”
––Shed just admitted she had no friends.
”So what kind of person are you looking for? ”
”That, hmm…Well, for starters, they can be weaker than me; at the level of one of the Top Twelve. They must have impeccable character, a keen mind, staunch will, and the noble spirit of a knight. ”
”…Isn that a bit much? ”
”Re-really? Id considered lowering my standards a bit… ”
This part of her was true to her image as a princess.
”The registration deadline is rapidly approaching. This really isn the time to be so demanding. ”
Julis muttered to herself, picking up her bag and rising. ”Well, its about time for me to head on back. Actually, first, I want to ask something. What brought you here? ”
”Oh, well, originally I thought this way was a shortcut, but the gate was locked. ”
”Yeah, once evening comes, some of the gates will lock automatically, though this seems to be restricted to those connected to the junior high building. ”
That made sense.
”Hmm, even if you say they close automatically, is there really no chance that theyd take a day off and just stay open? ”
”Well, its just that I like to go out for walks, and so this is kinda troublesome. ”
At Ayatos words, Julis looked like shed just caught a glimpse of a total fool.
”…A-ahahaha! ” Unable to restrain herself, she broke out into laughter.
”Of course not! Are you an idiot or something? After what happened this morning, did you really not think to consult a map? Don worry, even if its night, the high school gates don close. ”
She looked as if shed just told the greatest joke.
This expression suited her age, and for a moment, she looked nothing so much like a normal girl.
”Hmm? Whats the matter? ”
”Nothing. I just never thought youd smile like that. ”
”W-what are you saying all of a sudden?! Are you making fun of me? ” Returning to her default angry state, she turned aside in a huff.
”You should try and lighten up a little, otherwise its such a waste. ”
”So annoying; keep your words to yourself. ” Julis gritted her teeth. ”A-And that leisurely look on your face; you should change it! A loose face and loose actions! Thats the cause of this mornings stupidity! ”
…That was getting a little carried away.
”Certainly, half of that was definitely my fault. The other half was caused by lack of knowledge. ”
This school was simply way too big. Add to that a mountain of unknown customs and practices, and it was all too much for a transfer student to take in.
Perhaps he should have someone guide him-
Ayato turned to stare at Julis. ”Wh-What is it…? ” Julis unconsciously reddened slightly and retreated a step.
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