The Asterisk War

Chapter 9 - Reminiscence and Reunion Part 1

”––Julis, would you mind showing me around campus? Oh, and around town as well? ”

”…What? ”

In response to Ayatos request, Julis thinly veiled disgust showed on her face. ”What
e you talking about? Why should I do anything like that? ”

”Because, didn you say that you owed me one? You never said anything about what I could call it in for. At least hear me out. ”

”Well, I certainly did say that…Don tell me you
e being serious? ”

”Serious? ”

”If thats what you really want, then sure. My original intention was that when you found yourself in a moment of crisis, Id come to your aid. The favor I owe you isn something trivial. Anything up to a certain degree ––excepting, of course, anything shameless–– is fine; for example, borrowing my strength, the strength of a Page One. ”

”By that you mean youd lend me your strength in battle? ”

”Exactly. ”

”Not interested. ”

Ayato rejected her offer flat-out with a shake of his head.

”As before, I think getting more familiar with this campus is best. ”

”… ”

At his immediate reply, having spared not a moments thought before answering, Julis turned a questioning glance at Ayato before laughing.

”What an immeasurable man. Or maybe just an idiot…? ”

”…If those are my choices, Ill go with the first, thank you. ”

”You don say. Whatever, forget it. If you want me to guide you, then allow me. ”

”I appreciate the help. ”

”I… it can be helped. A favors a favor. The campus tour we can do tomorrow, after school. As for the tour of the city, hmm…leave your day off free. ”

”My thanks. ”

And the last of his worries was solved.

”Alright, then Ill head back now…U-uwah! ”

Turning to exit the pavilion, Ayatos lapel was grabbed from behind.

”Heres the first lesson. If you want to head back to the male dorms from here, the fastest way is through the university building. ”

”*cough* *cough.* Thanks. Also, if your lessons were a little gentler next time, itd be greatly appreciated. ”

Looking at Ayato, choking, Julis smiled lightly.

”That wasn listed as a requirement just now, so… I refuse. ”

By the time Ayato arrived back at the dorms, the sky had already turned dark.

The male dormitories faced directly opposite the female dorms, with the high school building in between. When compared to the female dormitory building, with its classical architecture, the male building was decidedly more plain.

”Hmm, room 221, looks like. ”

This time carefully double-checking a map, Ayato entered the room.

Although each of the buildings were separated, the use of a communal staircase gave opportunities to catch glimpse of both junior high and university students, a rather novel experience. There were a few students who studied Ayato like a rare animal. This left him feeling out of place, a feeling he ended by shaking their hands.

Room 221 was located on the second floor. Next to the door, a shiny new nameplate read ”Amagiri Ayato ”.

Knocking on the door before he entered.

”Welcome back. Its pretty late, though. ”

”Some things happened. ” Ayato saw Eishirou lying on his bed, waving his hand in welcome.

”Wow, its bigger than I imagined. ”

It was a ten-tatami room, already furnished with a bed and a desk. Aside from a chair, not a thing lay in sight, except the luggage hed sent earlier.

”Is that all your stuff? Theres way too little! ”

”Just clothes. You don have all that much either, Yabuki. ”

All that adorned Eishirous desk was a pile of sticky notes and a mountain of books; all in all, rather plain.

”I don bother with things that don interest me. Everything there is related to club activities. ”

”That reminds me, the newspaper club ought to know. The student named Lester, what kind of person is he? ”

”Lester? Lester McPhail? ”

”That sounds right. I hear hes ranked ninth? ”

”Youve heard correctly. KornephorosFurious Axe of Distant Thunder Lester. ”

Eishirou sat up, fiddled with his phone for a bit, and brought up a display screen space window in midair.

An image of the person he had just seen appeared before his eyes.

”Lester McPhail. First year student at Seidokan Academy, ranked ninth among the Top Twelve. His style leverages his physical strength, proving unmatched in close-quarters combat. However, he has no strategies for dealing with the Strega or Dante. His weapon is an axe-shaped Lux named Bardiche Leo. ”

”Oh, impressive. ”

”Well, thats all stuff you can find online. If you want more detailed information, then thats an altogether different matter. ”

”What do you mean? ”

”I mean you need this. ”

Eishirou rubbed his fingers together.

”Money!? ”

”Of course. Students at this school ––actually, this applies to all the schools; students of Asterisk City–– can basically be divided into one of two groups. Those in the first are like the Princess, who place the Festa as their goal. The other consists of those like myself, who gave up on the Festa early on. ”

”…Youve already given up? ”

”Thats right. Even if we
e all from the same Starpulse Generation, its ludicrous to even think of winning. Once you find yourself here, whether you want to or not, the difference between your abilities and others is very quickly made apparent. Of this gaping chasm of ability, I am well-aware. Although, truth be told, to those who refuse to simply give in, thats not quite how we look at things. ”

”What do you mean by that? ”

To Ayatos searching eyes, Eishirou seemed quite delighted.

”Thats simple. When it comes to those of us who have nothing to do with the Festa, watching by the sidelines and cheerfully earning money as others fight it out is something only our Newspaper Club can do. ”

”But how does the Newspaper Club earn any money? ”

Student club activities weren exactly something you normally associated with making money.

”How rude! We happen to have plenty of work, you know? Youve probably seen videos of Asterisk on the TV or on the web before, right? Those are the fruits of our labors. We have an agreement with outside news organizations who are unable to enter the premises. ”

That does seem to make sense.

”Haha, so thats how it is. In other words, you guys sell this footage and other information to outside news organizations. ”

”Exactly. ”

Eishirou gave a thumbs-up.

”This aside, there are many other paths. Taking the clubs, for example, theres the meteoric engineering research society, whose skills likely exceed that of the equipment division. That said, when compared to the best in the city at it, Allekant Academy, we
e nowhere near that level. There
e also methods slightly less on the up and up which use match results as a grounds for betting. Numerous students make their money that way. ”

”…Thats not banned by the school? ”

Their actions had completely surpassed the bounds of what Ayato felt was approvable school behavior.

Eishirou lightly shook his head.

”In todays world, as long as you have money, no one will say a word. ”

The Integrated Enterprise Foundations efforts to enliven the economy were centered around stimulating trade.

Achieving this goal required the smooth circulation of money. To this end, they would reward efforts which resulted in increased consumer spending.

It was for this very reason that Asterisk had been established.

”Put simply, particularly outstanding students usually have their own following. For the Top Twelve, this is doubly true. ”

”Hmm? Does that mean that Lester does as well? ”

Ayato thought of the two students who had followed in his wake.

”Mm, do you mean this? ”

Eishirou manipulated his phone, opening two more windows.

One person was rather thin and the other rather plump. Although their outer appearances were polar opposites, the servile, fawning expression on their faces was identical.

”Yeah, them! ”

”The skinny one is Cyrus Norman. Hes a Dante, and though we have no records of his battles, his ability should be object manipulation. The slightly larger one is Landy Hooke. He was formerly listed among the Named Charts, although he has since dropped out of the standings. He uses a bow-type Lux. ”

”Just one after another… ”

Ayato didn know what to say.

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Eishirous information seemed to cover all sorts of prominent students, including even these two.

”Hehehe, scared, are we? ”

Eishirou closed the windows and leaped onto his bed.

”Now then, its just about time for dinner. Why don I show you the cafeteria? ”

”Before that, theres something else Id like to ask about Lester. ”

”Hmm? ”

”Whats his relationship with Julis? ”

At Ayatos question, Eishirou broke into a wide grin.

”I see, I see. Here I was, wondering why youd suddenly ask about Lester all of a sudden; now it makes sense. You
e really aiming for that Princess? ”

”I-its not like that. ”

Despite his words, it was the undeniable truth that Ayato was greatly concerned with Julis, though he wasn quite clear why.

”Good question, but… Didn I just finish explaining how this world works? ”

Waiting for Ayatos nod of agreement, Eishirou opened another window.

This time it was a video. The screen showed a young girl, in command of flames, dancing around a battlefield.

Her opponent was a large male student, brandishing an axe almost as large as he was. A moments glance was sufficient to determine which party was in complete control of the situation.

”This was taken during last years official ranking matches. At the time, Lester was ranked fifth, the Princess, 17th. ”

”You mean… ”

”Yes, it was the Princess complete victory. This was her inaugural match as one of the Top Twelve. ”

”Im guessing Lester didn see it that way. ”

”Yeah, in the two following ranking matches, Lester challenged her twice, losing both times. ”

The official ranking matches were a tournament held monthly to determine the schools best.

Although students were granted the freedom to accept or reject duels as they might, the ability to reject each and every request was counterproductive. In order to prevent students from monopolizing the rankings by simply rejecting all duels, the official ranking match system was put in place. Under this system, when a Page One received a duel request from a lower ranked student, they had to accept the match.

”Challenging any particular opponent to a ranking match can only be done at most twice, forestalling the opportunity for foul play. ”

”-In other words, Lester can no longer challenge Julis in an official ranking match? ”

That would explain why he was constantly pestering her for a duel.

”Lesters not just proud, but very passionate as well. He wants to get even, no matter what. That said…I don think its possible. ”

Having thus spoken, Eishirou returned his phone to his pocket.

e you thinking? ”

”Even given what weve just seen, I don think winnings impossible. ”

His compatibility against Julis was certainly poor, but that only made his strength all the more evident. Luck played a factor as well.

”Its just that…they
e looking at different things. ”

”Mm. ”

Julis eyes held no trace of Lesters presence.

No, she was gazing afar, at something far out of reach.

If that truly was the reality of things, then indeed Lester had not the slightest hope of catching up to her.

––Ayato remembered the same look in her eyes as shed fought him.

”Thanks, Yabuki. How much do I owe you? ”

Even if Ayato was a special invitee student, with tuition, room, and board all waived, it wasn like he was flush with cash either. The family dojo, after all, teetered on the edge of ruin.

He wasn at the point of needing to work for pocket money, but it was still best to be a little frugal.

”Right then, lets get some grub! Lets go, Amagiri! ”

Eishirous response was to hook his arm around Ayatos neck, and drag him out the door.

”Uwah! W-wait! ”

”Our cafeteria has both Japanese and Western cuisines. Which do you prefer? ”

”Um, Japanese then… ”

”Japanese is it? Todays dishes are yuan-yaki[2], agedashi tofu[3], and daikon and chikuwa[4] stew. Please treat me to the agedashi tofu. ”

”…Huh? ”

”In celebration of your arrival, Im waiving the fee this time. ”

Eishirou laughed, patting Ayato on the back with his arm.

”What do you think, Im pretty easy to get along with, aren I? ”

”Id normally agree…if you weren the one saying it. ”

Ayato smiled, returning the friendly pat on the back.

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