Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei:Volume 6 Chapter 1

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Chapter 1

It was October of 2095. In order to achieve 'round-the-clock' operation, harbor facilities have already been upgraded to automatic services, so there was essentially no one present. The vast majority of the personnel clocked in during the daytime, and, aside from a few security personnel, only machines were active at night processing the incoming and outbound ships as well as unloading cargo.

With the reduction in personnel, each harbor was being redeveloped to prevent illegal immigration, and was set at a prudent distance from the duty-free areas and city streets, thus prohibiting the sailors from coming ashore in those areas.

During the night, when only the automatic services were in operation, the areas forbidden to all ships extended beyond the shoreline for the duty-free zone. Passengers who wished to disembark had to wait until the morning when the dock personnel arrived. Therefore, there should have been no one present during the middle of the night.

However, around midnight, a group of people concealing their presence appeared at the Yokohama Wharf.

"We have illegal aliens of unknown nationality coming ashore from the small cargo ship in Cargo Pier 5. All personnel, converge on Cargo Pier 5 immediately."

Once the directions came over the intercom, two plain-clothed detectives glanced at one another and broke into a run. Yet, their expressions were diametrically opposed.

"Ah ha, so they were there."

"This isn't the time to complain, Inspector!"

"But, Inagaki-kun."

"Shut up and run!"

"I'm your superior."

"But I'm older than you."

"Ah ah."

While returning an appropriate response to his older subordinate, Inspector Chiba Toshikazu quickened his footsteps. There were 700 meters between Pier 5 and Pier 3, where they were stationed at. No matter how hard they tried, this was still a two minute journey at least. Despite their bantering, Inspector Chiba and Assistant Inspector Inagaki arrived in 30 seconds.

This wasn't a normal human's speed.

Neither of them were normal humans. They were both Magicians.

"We are really undermanned."

"Nothing we can do. Only police officers who are Magicians can handle criminals who wield magic."

"In reality, it's not, entirely, like that!"

As he said these unmotivated words, Inspector Chiba sprang into the air.

He was holding a bokken that was approximately one meter in length.

In midair, Inspector Chiba waved his bokken like a leaf soaring through the wind, and passed cleanly over the crowd of illegal aliens who were firing three round bursts from assault rifles with silencers attached. Setting aside his leg strength, no one would be able to achieve this sort of trajectory through the air without the aid of magic.

That irregular trajectory threw off the aim of all the illegal aliens who were trying to provide covering fire.

Towards the three Magicians standing in the back of the crowd hurtling long range magic attacks, Inspector Chiba slashed a spiraling attack.

Using Move-Type Magic that blatantly ignored gravity and inertia to avoid the aim of enemy magic attacks, Chiba used his bokken to knock them all out in turn.

On the other side of the crowd, Inagaki was using his handgun to take out the gunners.

Once Chiba joined the fray from the flank, over ten foreigners were suppressed within the blink of an eye.

While other small-scale conflicts broke out in other areas, they were quickly handled before the two could get there and offer assistance.

"Inspector, take the helm!"

"Eh~, me?"

"Stop dilly dallying!"

Seeing these partners, it was obviously the subordinate who was more proactive on the job. (More like his superior was too lacking in professionalism.) Even so, it's not like he could bail on the scene right now.

"OK, OK. Then, Inagaki-kun, stop the boat for me."

"...If I do that, I might sink this thing."

"No worries. The captain will take full responsibility."

"...Wow, he's not taking the responsibility himself..."

He shrugged in disappointment while continuing to load bullets into his handgun.

His left hand pressed the switch on the handle and the targeting scope attached to the barrel of the handgun lit up.

Immediately afterwards, he used the Weaponized Integrated CAD — a revolver-shaped weaponized calculation device in the handle — and a Specialized CAD in the actual body began the Activation Sequence.

At the same time as he squeezed the trigger, the Magic Sequence kicked in.

Using Move and Weight Compound Magic to stabilize the trajectory and increase penetration, a metallic bullet traced the trajectory set by the Magic Sequence and pierced through the stern of the small ship moored off the coast.

A second and third gunshot rang through the night. The foam sprouting from the stern weakened. Based on the ship's external appearance, the shots had successfully penetrated the accelerator on board.

"Nicely done."

Leisurely praising his subordinate, a sound came from Chiba's hand like a lock being undone.

Apparently, the bokken he was carrying was actually a sword cane.

With a brilliant blade of cold steel in hand, Chiba dashed towards the floating ship with an agility that matched Yoshitsune himself as he skipped over 8 ships in a row.

He swung his blade at the parked ship and rent the metallic cargo door in two.

The secret sword technique "Iron Breaker" from the Hundred Families' Chiba Family.

This technique did not view the sword to be cast from iron and steel, but identified the "sword" itself as a concept and applied Move-Type Magic to the slashing motion with the aid of the Magic Sequence.

A "sword" identified as a singular concept turned into a molecular blade that couldn't be shattered, blunted, or broken as it cut through all resistance along the slashing axis.

Once more swinging his blade to clear a path, the Chiba Family's heir, Chiba Toshikazu, pressed on alone.

"Nice work, Inspector."

"Seriously, this is what they call wasting your time and energy."

The sky was already turning lighter as Inspector Chiba groused complaints as if the situation had nothing to do with him. Likewise, he didn't berate his subordinate who was obviously trying to hold back gales of laughter.

After bravely charging into the ship, he found that there was no one on board.

It appeared that the illegal aliens had already evacuated from the bottom of the ship, leaving the gate open to allow water to flood in. The leisurely pace the boat was sinking at was exacerbated by the opening Chiba left behind for the wind to flow through, increasing the rate the boat sank at, and it was currently completely submerged in water.

"Looks like we don't have any clues to which direction the miscreants fled."

"However, their final destination is blatantly obvious."

The young man who almost went down with the ship shrugged his shoulders at what his older subordinate wanted to say and gazed eastward towards the rising sun.

◊ ◊ ◊

Directly before Inspector Chiba's eyes was the wharf, which wasn't far away, along with the renowned streets of Yokohama known throughout the nation.

A large well was situated in the backyard of one of the nameless restaurants along the streets. Despite the early hours, three well-dressed men were standing around it.

One of them was approximately in his twenties.

One of them appeared particularly handsome. Of course, this wasn't in a feminine manner, but because he came from a line of breeding and prosperity. The well with an attached pulley he was watching was not meant for consumption but for firefighting instead.

The wall of the well directly below the pulley suddenly crumbled without warning. A soaked man squirmed out of the gaping hole followed by 15 others.

The middle-aged man who emerged last from the well bowed to the young man in greeting with a humble smile on his face. The young man put his right hand over his left breast and returned a slight bow.

"Everyone, please go get changed. Breakfast has already been prepared."

In regards to the young man's words,

"Thank you for your assistance, Mr. Zhou."

The middle-aged man replied in a tone devoid of gratitude.

Still, the young man smiled regardless of the other side's rude tone, and led the 16 men into the building.

◊ ◊ ◊

The first new Student Council for the National Magic University affiliated First High had started roughly a week ago.

Currently, Tatsuya and his peers from Class E arrived at the cafeteria for their lunch break.

He had dined in the Student Council Room before, but that was Mayumi (largely) abusing her power.

In addition, he didn't plan on making it a habit to eat lunch in the Student Council Room every day. With the new Student Council in session, Tatsuya also came to the cafeteria to eat.

However, a natural result of this was that Miyuki also started dining in the cafeteria. Add in their mutual friends, and a lively luncheon had become a regular event since the start of October.

That being said, since Tatsuya, Erika, Leo, Mizuki, and Mikihiko were in a different class than Miyuki, Honoka, and Shizuku, the first group that arrived would reserve a table. Today, Tatsuya and company seemed to be waiting for Miyuki's group.

"Sorry for the wait, everyone."

"No worries; good work today."

They waited for approximately ten minutes after Miyuki sent word ahead of time to Tatsuya that she would be delayed due to Student Council business. Seeing Miyuki intentionally bow in apology in front of him, Tatsuya smiled as he reassured her as was well. Completely heedless of this eye-catching behavior, Honoka seemed to receive some sort of signal and also huddled down as she spoke to Tatsuya.

"My apologies, Tatsuya-kun. They were late because of me."

After the night of confession at Ogasawara during their summer vacation, Honoka's responses and facial expressions towards Tatsuya had only intensified. Naturally, Tatsuya was aware of this, but he chose not to mention this. Now, if he wanted to be more proactive about this, he should probably smile a little — even a wry one would do — but Honoka's frail and oversensitive reactions might make it seem like Tatsuya was intentionally abusing her, which wasn't good for her mental state anyway. Hence, he didn't have a good solution at this moment. It's not like he could explain every time that this was born out of a misunderstanding, so Tatsuya simply gave up on the current situation and took a completely passive stance.

"Please don't be concerned on that account. Anyone who just started a new job usually encounters a few difficulties."

In Tatsuya's eyes, Honoka believed that her personal mistake led to everyone's disappointment, and that was why she seemed so down. Did she really believe she was incapable? While Tatsuya didn't believe that for a second, he still diligently tried to reassure Honoka with comforting words.

"Yeah, no need to worry about that."

"It's only been a week."

Erika and Leo unexpectedly (?) displayed their sensitive sides and chimed in along with Tatsuya.

Seeing everyone wearing a "Don't worry about it" smile, Honoka sat down with trepidation.

"However, today really wasn't Honoka's fault, Onii-sama. The Faculty Office suddenly asked to see 'all the records from two years ago,' so we had to bring up all the data from the Student Council Room before third period ended. We even got Shizuku to help us."

Miyuki smiled as she also provided support, but, for some reason, this made Honoka shrink even more on her chair.

"But...didn't Miyuki find it very quickly; meaning I'm the one who's lacking..."

"Me too. If Honoka's a turtle, then I'm a snail."

Shizuku's comment didn't have any ulterior meaning.

"...After all, Miyuki had been using this system since April. Honoka just joined the Student Council, and Shizuku is an outsider... Miyuki has a giant head start on you in terms of experience. It can't be helped if you take some time to get used to the system."

So Tatsuya directed his comment towards Honoka's nonmalicious description as a "turtle," and once again reassured Honoka and Shizuku.

Still, based on the aforementioned comment, with the election of the new Student Council, Honoka had also joined the executives on the council.

The new Student Council consisted of President Nakajou Azusa, Vice President Shiba Miyuki, Secretary Mitsui Honoka, and Accountant Isori Kei. (First High's Accountant also comprised the "supervisor" role and was traditionally appointed by the President.)

In reality, Azusa privately offered Tatsuya the role of Vice President. Of course, Tatsuya immediately turned her down, but the one who fought against this even more fiercely than himself was the new Chairperson for the Public Moral Committee, Kanon.

Her words were, "If Shiba-kun left, then the board's paperwork simply can't be finished".

Kanon directly pronounced this declaration in front of Azusa and Tatsuya, but when he heard this, Tatsuya was "flabbergasted."

By all rights, he was on active duty and not a pencil pusher.

Scratch that, technically, all members of the Public Moral Committee were on active duty, and were all responsible for doing paperwork.

That was how Mari wrote it on the transfer papers she handed to Kanon.

Tatsuya personally recorded the documentation, so there could have been no mistake.

However, Azusa nodded seriously at Kanon's announcement.

Tatsuya had a headache brewing at the "misunderstanding" of these two upperclassmen. Still, even without Tatsuya's thoughts on the matter, Azusa pressed for Tatsuya to join the Student Council despite Kanon's resistance. To state it plainly, she didn't have the confidence to hold Miyuki at bay without Tatsuya, but it wasn't like Miyuki could leave the Student Council either.

Tatsuya's head was seriously starting to hurt now.

In the end, they completely disregarded the person in question as Azusa and Kanon hammered out a compromise. Tatsuya would remain with the Public Moral Committee until the end of the school year, and would transfer to the Student Council in April. To the end, they never sought Tatsuya's opinion...

(...My head hurts just thinking about that.)

The moment he said, "...just joined the Student Council," he remembered what happened a year ago and the headache associated with it.

Instinctively, he followed the gaze on him and found Miyuki watching him with concerned eyes.

Mentally sighing at his sister's sensitivity, Tatsuya visually signaled for her not to worry and moved his chopsticks again.

◊ ◊ ◊

"Onii-sama, are you here?"

After school, Tatsuya visited the reference room in the basement of the library. Hearing his sister call out to him, he pulled himself out of the world of numbers and data and returned to reality.

"Miyuki, I'm over here."

Tatsuya raised his head from the terminal he was reading and waved Miyuki over.

Wireless communication was impossible in this reference room. Not only would the walls absorb the majority of the electronic waves, there were also signal dampeners in place.

The goal, of course, was to prevent data theft.

This reference room contained information deemed unsuitable to be published, highly dangerous materials, or papers containing ideas and concepts that went against mainstream beliefs and could easily influence students negatively. These documents were physically stored in the magic universities before transporting digital copies here and stored in independent databases separated from the outside world. In theory, the files could be freely accessed, but removing them was absolutely forbidden. Of course, making private copies of these protected files was also forbidden.

Given the nature of the materials in question, the overwhelming majority was not pertinent to class, very few individuals actually used this resource. It was more appropriate to say that the usual volume of traffic was zero. However, in the past half a month, Tatsuya had set a new record for visiting the reference room.

Even though he waved Miyuki over, Tatsuya didn't leave the terminal. Miyuki understood why, so she walked over to Tatsuya's side.

"What are you looking at?"

Arriving at Tatsuya's side, Miyuki was drawn towards the screen he was gazing at and couldn't help but ask.

"Data records on Alexandrite."

In regards to Miyuki's question, Tatsuya replied without hesitation just as usual. No matter how he treated others, Tatsuya had nothing to hide from Miyuki. The subject of this investigation was also something that Miyuki was well versed in.

"Have you been looking for alchemical documents this entire time...?"

Right now, he hadn't divulged the connection between that topic and the purpose behind it to Miyuki, hence her current state of confusion.

"I want to understand the basis behind alchemy, but just the nature and creation process of the 'Philosopher's Stone.' Of course, there are plenty of documents citing the creation of a Philosopher's Stone as the definitive goal in alchemy."

"Transmutation... You're not thinking of challenging this area, are you."

For modern magic, transmutation currently remains an impossible task. While Flying-Type Magic was also once thought to be impossible, the actualization of transmutation exists on a completely different level of difficulty. Miyuki once heard Tatsuya say, "There is a very low possibility of actually achieving true transmutation."

"Of course not."

At Miyuki's question, Tatsuya laughed lightly in denial.

"In the narrowest sense, the Philosopher's Stone differs from the medicinal field and is the catalyst that transmutes poor metals to precious metals. Right now, what material the catalyst is created from is secondary to its purpose as the tool to activate spells."

"If the Philosopher's Stone is a catalyst similar to the catalysts we use on a daily basis, then......"

"According to legend, transmuting poor metals to precious metals is only possible with the Philosopher's Stone. If no other magical process is required to achieve transmutation beyond possessing the stone, then the conclusion must be that the Philosopher's Stone possesses the ability to store Magic Sequences."

"Storing Magic Sequences?"

Seeing Miyuki stare at him wide-eyed in shock, the smile had long since faded from Tatsuya's face.

"Since many Magicians were invited to test Flying-Type Magic before it hit the market, even if there were some adjustments, the actualization of Flying-Type Magic already established the key for the continuous activation of Gravity Control-Type Magic."

Tatsuya released the Activation Sequence for Flying-Type Magic at no charge precisely to take advantage of this point. General consensus stated that once a party obtained access to a spell, they would immediately put it to use. Especially for devices already equipped with this Activation Sequence, the sooner it could be obtained the better. Besides the requests to FLT for Flying-Type equipment from corporations within the country, countries with friendly relations like the USNA, also made similar petitions. From the observation data, FLT received copious research data from many high class Magicians using Gravity-Type magic, which eventually fell into Tatsuya's hands.

"Gravity Control-Type Magic is a viable solution to sustainable nuclear fusion, but that becomes meaningless if a Magician is required to constantly supply magic. This would be like saying a Magician is a component of the nuclear fusion reactor and simply a weapon component."

Sustained Gravity Control-Type Magic was one of the three great hurdles in Gravity-Type Magic leading up to the development of a thermonuclear fusion reactor. Here, Tatsuya was raising one possible solution to this problem.

This was too deep for Miyuki to comprehend completely, but she got the overall gist of what her brother was suggesting.

"Magicians are essential for the initial activation, but, at the same time, the system doesn't completely bind the Magician in place. To achieve this, magic needs to be sustained at a rate that can be calculated by days as a unit, which requires a method of storing the Magic Sequence that can sustain magic without having a Magician present. While both options are worth pursuing, from a safety perspective the latter is the more viable proposal."

"So that's why you are researching the Philosopher's Stone."

The general consensus that Tatsuya spoke of wasn't just a pipe dream, a point that he was perfectly well aware of. Thus, he felt slightly awkward when Miyuki adopted an utterly trusting expression as she nodded deeply at his words. With that feeling, Tatsuya changed topics.

"Speaking of which, Miyuki, did you need me for something?"

Even though this question was phrased to cover his own discomfiture, his remark was dead on the money.

"Ah! That's it! Onii-sama, Ichihara-senpai was looking for you. She wanted to talk to you about next month's thesis competition."

"Where is she?"

Tatsuya didn't ask for any specifics as he shut down the reading terminal. That being said, he bore some part of the responsibility for leading the conversation into another direction, so he was in no position to ask that, especially given their lack of time.

"She's in the preparation room for Magic Geometry. She said she would wait for you near Tsuzura-sensei's desk."

"Got it. Sorry about this, Miyuki, but please return the keys for me."

"Please leave that to me."

Tatsuya rose from the chair and handed the keycard to Miyuki. Miyuki happily took the keycard from her Onii-sama like a delighted puppy that was bestowed a prize.

Seeing his sister reveal that sort of expression without a hint of shame, Tatsuya didn't choose to reprimand or complain as his face softened. Objectively speaking, he was forced to admit that he spoiled his sister too much.

◊ ◊ ◊

Tsuzura Kazuo, the Magic Geometry instructor for the National Magic University affiliated First High, was responsible for technical skills instruction for Year 2 Class B. He was a visiting professor lent to First High from the National Magic University.

As a prodigy who obtained the rank of professor in the Magic University at a young age, he drew considerable spite for his overly free attitude towards research, and was forcibly relocated to the school to "earn some experience as an educator."

Still, the man in question didn't mind in the slightest and was even overjoyed that he could now "pursue research, unfettered, and without further concerns." Precisely because of his personality, not only did he adopt a cold attitude to the friction between Course 1 and 2 students, he even wished for the students to completely abandon this differentiation altogether — except he may have neglected the students' own opinions.

His family hailed from one of the Hundred Families, and was granted the right to use a number in the Tsuzura name (Tsu refers to twenty). The Tsuzura and Isori Families both produced many exceptional researchers who freely exchanged research findings and remained national authorities in the field. Even Hattori's favored Compound Magic bore fruit after tutelage under Tsuzura-sensei.

...That was Tatsuya's impression of Tsuzura-sensei.

By the numbers, Tsuzura-sensei was undoubtedly an oddball. Regardless of whether this was true or false — Tatsuya was quickly about to experience the man's true face.

By the time Tatsuya reached the preparation room for Magic Geometry, Tsuzura-sensei was the only instructor present.

Most likely because they felt ill at ease in this room, Tatsuya thought.

The instructors hired by this school were all exceptionally talented.

Of course these people also took great pride in their personal abilities, but when compared to a prodigy who earned his position as the assistant professor in the Magic University during his twenties, anyone's confidence would take a hit. The more someone relied on their personal talent, the more they felt pressured by someone who displayed an even greater talent and ability.

He could sympathize with that feeling; except this feeling manifested in areas other than magic.

Setting aside whether Tatsuya's speculation was correct, it remained an undeniable truth that there were no other instructors present save Tsuzura.

The three people waiting for him in the Magic Geometry preparation room were Tsuzura, Suzune, and Isori.

"You know about the thesis competition hosted by the Magic Association held at the end of the month, correct?"

After exchanging greetings, Tsuzura cut to the chase.

"I am unfamiliar with the details."

At this conservative answer that held something back, Tsuzura nodded slightly.

"The Thesis Competition isn't as conspicuous as the Nine Schools Competition, so it's not surprising that a Year 1 student like yourself remains ignorant of the details. Likewise, in terms of numbers, the Nine Schools Competition requires a large body of 52 members to participate, while the Thesis Competition only needs a small team of three."

The sheer difference in numbers may be shocking, but after calmly taking into account this only involved writing a thesis and its subsequent presentation, they simply didn't need very many people for this task. If all they needed was extra hands to help develop the props for the report, anyone on campus would do, so they wouldn't be specifically invited to join the team. Too many chiefs in one building would actually make it harder to get things done.

The fact that only three students from the entire school were selected came as a small surprise, but was well within the limits of common sense, Tatsuya ruminated.

"Now, then onto the main subject. Shiba-kun, can we count on you to represent First High in this year's Thesis Competition?"

Naturally, Tatsuya wasn't able to respond immediately. After all, this question more or less came out of the blue.

"...You want me to join?"

Even though Tsuzura's words left little room for mistake, Tatsuya couldn't help but ask back on reflex.

The "National High School Magic Theory Thesis Competition," hosted by the Japanese Magic Association.

Despite the name implying all high schools in the country, in reality the only high schools providing official education in magic theory were the nine high schools affiliated with the magic university, so this was really a competition between those nine schools. If the Nine Schools Competition was a "practical" contest, then the Thesis Competition was undoubtedly the "literary" complement.

"Exactly, you."

This slightly polite tone was probably his personality coming into play. Tsuzura adopted a dramatic pose as he nodded in reply.

"Originally, we planned to have Ichihara-san and Isori-kun, as well as Hirakawa-san from Year 3 Class C... Unfortunately, Hirakawa-san has hit a rough patch recently, and even submitted a withdraw petition last week. The good news is that we managed to persuade her otherwise, but she's still in no condition to compete now. Thus, we came to you."

Tatsuya was vaguely familiar with the name Hirakawa from Year 3 Class C.

The technician responsible for CAD calibration in the sabotaged Mirage Bat event of the Nine Schools Competition for Kobayakawa seemed to be a Year 3 female student named Hirakawa.

"But why pick a Year 1 student like myself? Aren't the representatives decided by the Thesis Selection Committee?"

Tatsuya finally recalled the rumor spreading around the start of June regarding the selection of the thesis team.

Since that was during the last stages leading up to the development of Flying-Type Magic, he didn't have the spare time to devote to other details, especially scenarios that might drag him into the limelight, so he quickly forgot about it.

"After taking into consideration that the report preparations need to be finished simultaneously, you are the best candidate. Ichihara-san will share the details."

After supplying a simplistic answer to Tatsuya's question, Tsuzura swiftly left the room.

At the time, Tatsuya never agreed to this proposal. Apparently, the rumors that he didn't care about students' opinions were true. Nevertheless, Tatsuya didn't appear to possess the power to veto this decision. Originally, he thought he was only being called in to help collect data, but that appeared to be a miscalculation. Still, no matter how he complained, that wasn't going to help his current situation. In order to understand the situation, Tatsuya turned back to Suzune.

"I was the one who recommended Shiba-kun. I rejected all the other substitutes."

(Ugh, rejected means...)

In response to Tatsuya's inquiring glance, Suzune dropped this bombshell.

"...Surely every applicant spent considerable time and effort in their respective proposals, so I imagine a lot of people would be put out that someone like me, who didn't even submit an application, was selected. Think about the people who were slightly behind Ichihara-senpai, Isori-senpai, and Hirakawa-senpai, and what they would think."

"Sekimoto-kun is out of the question. He's not suited for this task."

Tatsuya didn't have anyone in mind as he voiced his objection, but Suzune immediately launched into comment that bordered on a personal attack.

"Speaking of Sekimoto, are you referring to Sekimoto Isao-senpai from the Public Moral Committee?"

In order to prevent this from actually descending to that level, Tatsuya intentionally verified his identity.

"Hm, yeah... He and I come from radically different directions."

As expected, Suzune simply felt that she went too far and reined herself in, as Tatsuya had hoped.

At this time, Isori interjected into their conversation.

"As sensei said, though the thesis composition and report preparation are done by a team of three; if all three are split by differing opinions, then they would never agree on the thesis's direction, so it is integral that the task is split between one primary writer and two assistants. On this point, our school has decided that Ichihara-senpai will be the primary writer."

At Isori's explanation, Tatsuya nodded his head in agreement on two points. Differentiating between primary and supporting parties was mandatory, just as appointing the Year 3 student Suzune to be the primary also made sense.

"In other words... I am more suitable for the topic that Ichihara-senpai has in mind?"

That was the most likely possibility, given their current conversation, but what exactly allowed her to make that call? Plainly, Tatsuya had yet to attach his name to any thesis or dissertation.

"My thesis topic is the 'possibility of developing a Gravity Control-Type Magic thermonuclear fusion reactor'."

Tatsuya's eyes widened at Suzune's words.

"Indeed, this is the same as Shiba-kun's research topic."

While he felt that a high school student using "research topic" was a little overkill, it was true that sustained Gravity Control-Type Magic thermonuclear fusion reactor was also one of the objectives Tatsuya was pursuing. On top of that, he was still playing this close to the chest, so he shouldn't have raised this with anyone else yet...

"...I see. The one spying on us at the time was Ichihara-senpai."

"I dislike the term spying. Please refer to this as watching with interest."

This far surpassed mere observation and bordered on outright eavesdropping, but Tatsuya didn't make an issue of it.

During the incident with the anti-magic terrorist cell in April, Tatsuya had detected someone watching his two interactions with Mibu Sayaka, but he didn't seek to identify the observer. Since the results spoke for themselves, there was no point making a fuss over this now.

MKnR v06 039.jpg

"There are less than three weeks until the official commencement of the Thesis Competition. I believe that the only one who can provide adequate assistance now would be Shiba-kun, who also has a vested interest on the topic."

"Did you ever entertain the possibility...that I was just using that as an example with Mibu-senpai?"

"I believe I am a sufficient judge of character to think otherwise."

Tatsuya mentally and physically smiled in a wry manner at how highly he was esteemed.

"I understand. Since I stand to benefit as well, allow me to render my assistance."

On one hand, Tatsuya wasn't joking about the benefits on his end. On the other hand, Tatsuya was intrigued by whether Suzune's proposal could actually solve one of the Three Great Puzzles, which would be all the better if his own design could be of use in some way.

"Then, what should I do now?"

"First, I would like to explain the Thesis Competition in detail. I hope Isori-kun has no objections, seeing as you've already heard all this."

"No problem. You go ahead, Ichihara-senpai."

Using her eyes to thank Isori, who had nodded slightly in assent, Suzune removed three portable blackboards from the retractable shelf and handed each of them one, keeping one for herself.

Portable blackboards were electric papers with wireless communication that allowed the user to view magnified presentation materials from the size of a normal piece of paper with one hand, without resorting to projectors in small conference rooms. Naturally, the frames contained color, but the display for texts and documents often utilized white letters on a black background, which was why the term "blackboard" was used.

Suzune attached her own data terminal to the blackboard and brought up the handbook for the Thesis Competition.

"As Shiba-kun surmised, the Thesis Competition is a platform to disseminate the research findings from Magic Theory and Magic Engineering at the high school level. Not only does this publicize the fruits of high school education, some of the students will also get the opportunity to present their research findings to the world at large. In addition, representatives from the Department of Magic Research will be on hand, and any thesis recorded into the Magic Encyclopedia will be adopted by the universities and corporations as well."

Tatsuya observed the data streaming from the screen as he listened to Suzune's voice.

"Usually, the date is set for the last Sunday each October. The location switches between Kyoto and Yokohama. The reason is, supposedly, because the main HQ for the Japanese Magic Association is located in Kyoto, while its primary branch in the Kantou region is in Yokohama. This year, the event will be held in the Yokohama International Conference Center."

Tatsuya mentally ran through the calendar. Thankfully, he had nothing planned for the last Sunday in October, which was October 30th.

"Only individuals who were recommended by the magic high schools affiliated with the National Magic University or passed the thesis preliminaries in each school are allowed to attend. Currently, there is no precedent for someone to present their findings without being recommended. While the rules open the Magic Theory Thesis Competition to all high school students in the nation, this is the reason why so far this has been exclusively for magic high schools."

Hearing Suzune's explanation, Tatsuya couldn't help but add in a few words of surprise.

"So there's no precedent for a team to advance without receiving a school recommendation?"

"...Shiba-kun. I think it's harder for normal high school students to compose a thesis that can be delivered in 30 minutes than it is for them to appear in Monolith Code or Mirage Bat."

"Isori-kun is correct. Even from our perspective, without the aid from the Student Council and Club Groups, there's no way we can do it with just the three of us."

Tatsuya, who was used to writing technical guides, mentally murmured "Is that so?", but didn't verbalize his disagreement.

"The topic is up to us, but under the obvious condition that it shall not run counter to the public good and morality. Two years ago, a student proposed the theoretical development of a magic that could replace weapons of mass destruction, and was quickly censored by inspectors ahead of time."

"Was someone seriously that audacious..."

Isori's eyes widened as he groaned at that. This must be the first time he heard of such a thing.

Tatsuya understood what he meant. At the same time, he who was capable of wielding magic that surpassed weapons of mass destruction was in no position to point fingers at that particular student. However, just as he was inwardly mocking himself, another question floated into his head.

"...Censored ahead of time by the inspectors implies that particular thesis wasn't publicized, correct? Since that paper remained under wraps, how did Ichihara-senpai learn about this?"

Tatsuya didn't even think twice before asking that question, which for some reason cast an awkward silence over the group.

Suzune unconsciously turned away with a complex and miserable expression on her face.

No, if you don't want to answer; these words were on Tatsuya's lips when she sighed and replied back.

"...The one who wrote that paper was our school's Student Council President from three terms ago."

(Holy... Did our school have that kind of character...)

Hearing Suzune's explanation, Tatsuya could only marvel in silence. Since the Thesis Competition was held right after the new Student Council session began, and Suzune joined the brass during the latter half of her first year, it was hardly surprising that she was privy to these details. Given Suzune's current facial expression, evidently this previous Student Council President had many other "legendary" deeds.

"[Ahem...] Owing to that precedent, all final drafts, materials, reports, and blueprints must be turned over to the Magic Association ahead of time."

Next to Suzune who had intentionally cleared her throat, Isori seemed to comprehend something as he nodded, possibly because this was the first time he heard all the details.

"The deadline is the Sunday two weeks from now. Though the materials have to be submitted to the Kantou branch of the Magic Association, the school will take responsibility for that. Taking into account the time Tsuzura-sensei needs to examine the contents, ideally we should have everything done by next week Wednesday."

Even if they could finish the report preparation after turning in their materials, that left only ten days to compose the thesis itself. Given the remaining time, this was indeed a tight schedule. Still, why did they need Tsuzura to look it over? There should be many instructors on campus with a wealth of experience who were old hands at devising textbooks for magic education.

At this question that could not be verbalized (as insulting as it was to Tsuzura-sensei), Isori shrewdly answered aloud.

"Tsuzura-sensei is the instructor responsible for this year's competition. Not only does he have to help out with the preparations for the Thesis Competition, he also has to deal with troublesome tasks like preparations for magic experiments. Generally, these things are left for younger teachers to do."

"Despite his youth, Tsuzura-sensei is an extremely capable individual. We are very fortunate that we are able to receive instruction that far surpasses what we would normally receive in class."

Doubly so for a Course 2 student, like himself, that normally has no chance of being personally instructed by the faculty. Not that Tatsuya actually said this.

Since the two of them — forget surpass, half the student body wasn't qualified for actual instruction — had conveniently failed to notice this, there was no need to remind them again.

After detailing a few specific areas that demanded special attention, Suzune's explanation drew to a close.

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