At about the same time as Mari and Takeru met at school.
Haunted who fled leaving Mari behind in the church, was monitoring the AntiMagic Academy's school gate from one of the nearby towers ever since last night.
Because of the terrorist attack the other day, the school's security had been reinforced; Spriggans and several dragoons have been deployed.
He placed his hand on his chin, as his hair that was moved by the wind stroked his cheek and he let out a nihilistic laugh.
"...what to do now."
Despite acting cool, it didn't seem like his real feelings were just as cool.
《"You reap what you sow. That's what you get for making Mari carry forgetting charms rather than self-destruction ones, this is the result of that."》
The western sword that was brought to his waist, Dáinsleif blamed him inside his head.
"Impossible. There's no option of me killing Mari-san. To do such a wasteful thing...! I have to mentally bully that girl more! You also think so, right? Nacht!"
《"I won't agree with your inclinations, I told you that before right?"》
"The incident in the church was unbearable. That blushed face... so much tears in her eyes... such... she raised such a voice... really unbearable."
《"Yes yes, excited aren't you."》
"And erect too."
《"So it went that far..."》
"I'm not a guy who would play around after just seeing such a face. I want to reconcile with Mari-san who has such a chagrined expression, and make her realize I'm not her enemy."
Saying that, Haunted returned to normal.
"...With that said, this is a pretty bad situation. Mari-san was captured the moment I showed a small opening... and look where her legs took her. Is it by any chance, my fault?"
《"You were too flashy with corpse collection and killed civilians like an idiot to collect parts. It's possible to hide it when bodies of criminals are missing, but when it comes to the general public, Inquisition will definitely make their move. Probably a Banshee has infiltrated one of the hired parties. That's how I see it."》
"Hmm... it seems like I can't afford to leave it. For the sake of my love, and for the sake of Valhalla. Or maybe, maybe Mari-san is being tortured in an obscene way...! S-such a thing! I can't wait! I definitely have to visit her!"
《"...calm down already. For the time being lets report to the higher ups, let's ask them what to do now. I'm connecting us now. Connected."》
《"——You screwed up, Haunted.》
He heard a female voice which sounded like a bell.
"I have nothing to say in my defense. Unexpectedly capable! The Inquisition is!"
《"It's not a situation that can be laughed off. You took full responsibility for this operation. You should have proceeded slowly with our help."》
"Carrying out terrorism by using a Hero and avoiding any sacrifices, is that not too much to ask for? No, well, it failed, hahaha."
《"I don't remember any orders for terrorism. The rescue operation was decided with Valhalla's consensus, the careless slaughter and terrorism was caused by your lack of morals."》
"Ahahahaha, I really can't refute that."
《"Because of sorcerers like you, innocent witches are persecuted by non-witches. Realize it already; our aim is not showing off our power, nor is getting rid of non-witches."》
"Right. Even so, aren't you employing a witch like me because you need power? Am I wrong?"
《"Shut your mouth."》
Haunted settled down quietly and happily squinted.
《"About the aftermath of this case, you can only count on yourself. You will not get any support from here."》
"I am aware of that."
《"Charms for forgetting that were in possession of Nikado Mari have already been confirmed to be activated. It seems like she activated her magical barrier in time, complete erasure of memories was blocked and her memory should start to recover soon."》
"As expected of my idol. Not an easy one. I'm getting even more excited."
《"The forgetting charms effect seems like it will last for three days, you need to settle it before then."》
《"Not specified. Please consider prevention of information leakage as main priority."》
Hearing that reply, Haunted burst into maniacal laughter.
"...A hypocrite as always, that pains me so much, oh Mother Goose. You embody the virtue called "hypocrisy", how wonderful."
It wasn't irony or anything, they were heartfelt words,
They were followed by silence.
《"Everything... for the sake of helpless witches."》
The communication was disconnected with a *bzzt*, Haunted closed his eyes.
"Now, what to do."
《"They should be vigilant in the forbidden area because the Hero suicide attack was aimed at that section. It's better to give up on frontal breakthrough."》
What do we do? Asked Nacht.
Haunted dismissed those baseless fears snorting with laughter.
"Same as science and technology, magic is also evolving. It's more makeshift, more cunning, more clever, and more brutal."
《"It was a stupid question. When it comes to makeshift and bad taste, your magic is a prime example."》
Hearing Nacht say that, Haunted laughed with embarrassment.
《"I wasn't being sarcastic."》
《"So, do you have any idea? Like infiltrating, or laying a trap, that sort of thing. I can't say there's a lot of flattering information from within the school grounds."》
"What are you saying, there is quite a bit right? Even though it's all obtained from test platoon members."
Haunted told Nacht while gesturing with both of his hands.
Replied Nacht, disgusted.
"Well, this is convenient too. They did kill the Hero, it's really interesting indeed. I want to say hello to them using this opportunity too."
Saying that, Haunted looked up to the sky.
There wasn't a single cloud in the sky worthy of being called azure, it was wonderful weather.
"Hexennacht has just began."
While looking towards the sky, Haunted's face was displaying madness.
"Well then, everyone——shall we prepare a bonfire?"
His face distorted with very, very happy laughter.
After leaving the chairman's room, Takeru wanted to introduce Nikado Mari to other the platoon members and guide her around the school... however,
"I can do without it... can you leave me alone?"
These were the first words Mari spoke.
The Small Fry Platoon members solidified. It was a reaction Takeru half-expected already.
"But... aren't we supposed to guard you?"
"It's fine, guarding or whatever. Not like I asked for it, I didn't come here because I wanted to either."
She said that as she thrust her hand into her pocket, facing in other direction.
In response to such attitude, the fury voltage of his platoon comrades rose to tremendous levels.
"I'm not going to run away, so you can leave me alone. Being together with you is annoying, that's all."
Mari cast a scornful gaze toward Takeru making him shrink.
This will probably be more troublesome than the issue with Ouka when she was enlisted. He thought.
Looking behind him, Takeru whispered to the other members of the Small Fry Platoon.
"W-what do we do about this?"
"Isn't it fine to leave her alone to do whatever she wants? With Gleipnir on, she's the same as a normal person is she not? Why do we have to guard a woman like that?"
"Rather than her being a witch, it's her character that's a problem. It's too troublesome, I'm also in favor of leaving her alone."
Ikaruga expressed her opinion as well, their stance was already predictable.
"We can't do that, obviously. What are you two talking about?"
These words came out of Ouka's mouth, she preached the other members while crossing her arms.
"This is a mission. As Inquisition we cannot allow a witch to roam freely."
Ouka stiffly spoke her mind. Usagi and Ikaruga retorted together.
""Read the mood!!""
"Wha-! Why are you talking about me being unable to read the atmosphere now... isn't that obvious as part of Inquisitio—"
"That's why I hate honor students. Besides, we don't have to take part in this mission in the first place... we aren't getting any points for it either. Also, we're not part of Inquisition yet anyway."
Usagi cut in half-way through Ouka's speech.
"Th-that's right but... even I don't want to guard a witch, I feel the same as you guys, yeah. B-but again, this is a mission!"
I'm reading the atmosphere, she tried to justify herself saying that.
Because Ouka's communication skills were close to non-existent, she had a very hard time adapting to the Small Fry Platoon.
Though, even picky Ikaruga and Usagi accepted her recently. Being labeled as someone who can't read the atmosphere, she tried hard to stop being branded as such.
"If you really think so, then request Chairman to change the mission. You're his daughter right, Ootori. Use your connections for something useful. Having him as your father gives you such advantages right?"
Being told that by Ikaruga, Ouka got confused.
"I-if I could do so I would have already. That man won't agree to my request, he hasn't done so even a single time."
"......haaaaaa...... you're useless aren't you."
Usagi sighed heavily. As expected, Ouka's pride acted up and she pointed towards Usagi,
"I don't want to be told that by a Saionji!!"
"Whaaat?! Just what about me is useless?!!"
As usual, Usagi erupted with anger.
The Small Fry Platoon operated today the same as usual. Takeru sighed as he glanced to the side at Mari.
Well that aside, what on earth is this Nikaido girl...?
As the first from the witch enrollment system, she should have entered the school in high spirits. However, no matter how he look at her attitude, she's not friendly at all.
"Hey, Lapis... did you hear anything from Chairman about the escort target?"
Used to the pointless quarrels, he noticed Lapis again cling to his arm like before.
She looked towards Takeru with her marble-like eyes and tilted her neck.
Takeru furrowed his brows and tilted his neck as well.
Lapis in response tilted her neck to the other side.
"........................I see, you didn't hear anything. Got it."
Because this squabble seemed to continue forever, Takeru cut in. Despite that, Ouka and Usagi still continued to argue.
Not knowing what to do, Takeru looked towards Mari.
"...eh? Where did Nikaido go?"
Before he knew it, Mari disappeared from there.
As Takeru said that, other members looked towards the place Mari stood at.
After standing around for a solid three seconds, Ouka began to panic.
"——Kusanagi! Why didn't you watch her!"
"Eeh? I was the one responsible for that?!"
"It happened because you were flirting with that Magical Heritage!"
Though it was unreasonable, he still apologized instinctively.
"Damn it, Suginami and Saionji go towards the main gate! Kusanagi, cafeteria! I'm heading to the courtyard!"
"Isn't it better to ignore it? Let her do as she wants."
Said Usagi in response,
"Who do you think you are. You're in no position to order me around."
Ikaruga opposed her as well,
Ouka's eyes teared up and she yelled at Takeru for some reason.
It meant "you're the captain so give out the orders properly".
Takeru thought for a moment, and came to conclusion that he can't leave it like this.
He knew despite knowing that everyone hated it, a mission was a mission. Moreover, it didn't involve too much risk either, it won't be like the horrible Hero incident from the previous attack.
The result for the platoon won't be bad.
Takeru felt like seeing a little more of Ouka's valuable teary-eyed expression, but he spoke to everyone——
"It's as Ootori said, it's a direct order from the Chairman. It's going to be a problem if she's lost. I can understand your feelings, however I want you to do as Ootori said."
As usual, it was more like a request than captain's order,
Usagi and Ikaruga scattered to search for Mari.
"Haa... problems right away."
He lowered his shoulders and sighed.
And, suddenly his clothes were pulled lightly.
"...what is it, Lapis?"
He noticed Lapis wasn't moving and she stared at a spot nearby.
It seems like she will not refer to him as "Onii-chan." when they're alone.
He was a bit surprised to notice he was a bit disappointed as he listened to her.
"Magic power consumption is above the standard. Recommending energy recharge. Approaching activity limit soon."
"? What do you mean? Magic power... I don't have any magic right?"
"I am aware. Magic power isn't required. I'm going to explain the current situation in quick and easy to understand fashion."
*groowwll*, he heard a quiet and cute sound.
While looking up in Takeru's eyes with her own glass-like pupils, Lapis said,
"Stomach is empty."
Takeru had to buy anpan and milk as he searched for Mari.
Mari sighed as she pressed a button on the vending machine in the courtyard.
She put her hand in the outlet after she heard a rumbling sound and picked up the ejected strawberry cider.
Without opening it, she rested her back on the vending machine and looked towards the sky blankly.
"Why do I have to do such a thing..."
Even though she complained, her memories weren't coming back.
Things she remembered were, the fact that she was a witch, world's common sense, and knowledge on magic and magic power. The memory she has been missing is one that concerns herself. Who is she and where is she from, where did she grew up, who was she raised by, what kind of life she lived... there were no memories of these things.
"Ughh, it's annoying. Even my own name doesn't ring a bell. Really, what is going on."
According to the Chairman, she was rescued when she was found unconscious at an investigation scene. Seems like they knew her name after investigating her belongings, seems like she's being protected in school out of compassion. She was the first recruit of the new witch admission system that was just introduced.
The hard part was the fact that she didn't have memories and she didn't know much. The Chairman said that she will remember eventually, however that didn't wipe away the anxiety that came from not knowing who she is.
"...being protected despite being a witch, was I a criminal? But if that were the case I would be confined in the forbidden area... aaah, I don't get it!!"
She didn't know why Inquisition did that, honestly, she didn't want to know. Why did she think like that, was another unknown.
That's what her intuition told her, she stomped the ground hard while spitting curses.
Suddenly called by her name, Mari looked towards the voice's owner.
The distinctive sunset-colored hair.
Certainly, her name was Ootori Ouka. Apparently she was the Chairman's daughter, but they didn't look alike at all.
The first impression she had of Ouka was probably... incompatible. That's it.
"Don't run away on your own, our mission is to guard you. Report to us when you're about to move."
Ouka told her while looking at her intimidatingly.
Hearing that bossy attitude, with a snap, Mari's expression displayed fury.
Her intuition that told her they're incompatible was right on the mark.
"My throat was dry so I just came to buy some juice, do I need your permission to do something like that? Or maybe you're a stalker?!"
Being called a stalker, Ouka also snapped.
"Wrong. We are to guard y——"
"I didn't ask for it, I told you haven't I. Honestly, it's annoying."
After being rejected in that manner, a disturbing shadow appeared on Ouka's face.
Ouka closed in on Mari and glared at her face.
"Don't flatter yourself. If I wasn't ordered to, I wouldn't guard a witch li——"
"Then it's fine not to. Are you an idiot?"
"That won't do. Even if I don't want to, it's an order from the Chairman."
"Are you one of those who discriminate witches? Well, I don't really care. Your overbearing attitude is annoying me every single time. Or maybe you're acting like that towards everyone?"
"What I hate is not witches, it's the magic itself."
Mari's expression that only repeatedly ridiculed and provoked changed.
Anger that was oozing out has manifested strongly.
"I don't care if you say bad things about me. But, stop calling magic itself bad."
Mari herself didn't know why she remembered to get angry when magic was insulted. However, she felt that it was absolutely inexcusable.
While Mari was surprised by her outburst, Ouka flashed a probing smile.
"What, you little... you acknowledge magic despite aiming to be an Inquisitor? You're a dangerous one."
"Y...yeah! I acknowledge it! As long as magic is not misused it can save people!"
"Humans are fine even without magic! Humans are not so weak, they don't have to rely on miracles!"
"Inquisition is also relying on magic aren't they! Relic Eaters are Magical Heritages, and processing technology of anti-magical materials is a product of alchemy!"
"That's because of you damn witches using magic! If you bastards didn't use any magic, we wouldn't have to use any either!"
Both of them leaned towards each other to the point it looked like they'll start fighting soon, sparks appeared between them.
If not for Mari, Ouka wouldn't act so extremely. She couldn't say that she isn't discriminating against witches, and that she has sympathy for humans who didn't want to become witches yet did, and wanted to protect them from unfair discrimination and accusations. She understood that it's one of Inquisition's roles.
However, for some reason——I can't stand this woman!
She couldn't stand the majority of the Inquisition, but she understood that punishing evil witches was a just cause. For Mari, witches are normal humans. Criminals are just criminals, and good people are just good people. False accusations aside, judging those who deserve to be judged is justice.
But, this woman——is annoying me somehow!
And the root of this physiological aversion are their incompatible personalities.
As the two quarreled, the reason itself changed gradually, and it became a shouting contest.
Although both of them seemed to have just arguments, they were incompatible like oil and water.
Ouka was the type that repelled others, and Mari was one as well.
"You... these hair accessories don't fit you at all!"
"Wha... you too, that scarf and hat are violating school rules, they're a pain to look at."
When it finally developed into a shouting match about appearance, suddenly a figure appeared from the side,
"——Both of you, stop itttt! Stoooppp!!"
It was Takeru, he entered between the two separating them, he tried to act as a mediator.
"You're in the way!" "Don't interfere."
——A ferocious right straight came flying from both sides.
Takeru's cheeks looked like a persimmon that was squashed by a car. He lifelessly collapsed.
The two of them on both sides regained sanity after hitting him and let out an "Ah.".
And Takeru whose cheeks were bit into by fists of the two, collapsed without raising a sound and started weeping.
"S-sorry Kusanagi! Are you alright...?"
"...hm-hmph. Suddenly getting in between is bad you know."
While his cheeks were rubbed by Ouka, Takeru seemed to have been bitten by the hot role of middle manager.
"I-it's not my fault."
Even as she spat curses, Mari felt a faint guilt. She was casting glances checking on Takeru's state.
"Ughh... it hurts."
While sadly rubbing both of his cheeks, he moaned in pain as he sat on a nearby bench.
There was no longer any sight of Ouka, she was entrusted with reporting to Ikaruga and Usagi
If those two join in, it might develop into a fistfight without reservations.
Really, good grief. Takeru sighed and looked down.
That's when, a canned juice appeared in his field of view.
As he lifted his face up, there was,
Mari held four cans next to her chest, she curtly offered one to Takeru. Not understanding her intent, he stared in wonder.
Mari furrowed her brows and held out the further.
"Umm! It's... fine to drink it?"
"〜〜〜. Cool it with it... "
"Aah, that's what you mean, danke."
Takeru finally noticed her concern and took three cans from her, he gave one to Lapis who sat next to him and he used the remaining two to cool down his burning cheeks.
"Haa——, this, this feels good."
"...i-is that so."
Mari replied curtly and sat down next to Takeru.
Facing her feet the other way, Mari sipped the black coffee. The moment she drank a grimace was visible, it seemed like she forced herself to drink it black despite disliking it.
Maybe she wanted the one Takeru had his cheek against, the strawberry cider.
"Sorry about that..."
Takeru apologized to her, Mari blushed and showed consternation.
"I wanted to drink black in the first place."
Correcting himself in a hurry, Takeru released the juice he held against his cheek.
"Ootori. That fellow, whenever she encounters anything magical, blood rushes to her head."
"...I'm not bothered by that."
"She has her circumstances. But she's not a bad fellow, please forgive her for that."
As Takeru apologized on behalf of Ouka, Mari made a questioning look.
"Why are you apologizing? Are you an idiot?"
"An idiot... you... saying it out so clearly, even if I really am an idiot, it still hurts."
"I'm a witch right? Your enemy. That woman's reactions are normal."
"...? Just being a witch isn't enough to make you an enemy. You came to join Inquisition, that makes us family already."
Being told they're family, she made a face saying "Haa?".
"Are you really an Inquisitor? Isn't doubting part of your job?"
"Well I'm still a student..."
"Don't believe people so easily... are you stupid?"
Saying that, Mari drank the black coffee all at once.
"...guh... with such a tone, you won't know when I'll stab you in the back."
With a tremendously bitter face, she threw the coffee can towards the trash.
It drew a parabola dancing in the air.
But, it hit the edge of trash can; fell on the ground and rolled.
Mari stood up, walked towards the can lying on the ground, picked it up and threw it in the trash before casually walking back to sit on the bench.
Seeing that series of action, Takeru tried to endure, but he couldn't defy the urge.
"Bfft... kuhaha! Hahahaha!"
"Wh- why are you laughing?!"
"Dahaha, sorry, sorry! Just, you did such a proper thing after saying a villainous line, that was really surprising."
"What?! Isn't that normal?! Anyone would throw it in the trash properly!"
Mari protested while waving her arms, her face was red like an apple.
It looked funny causing Takeru to laugh again.
"I-Indeed.....anyone would....put the can back——pfttt!"
"〜〜〜〜〜〜!! I missed so it couldn't be helped!! I wanted to act cool by getting it in〜〜ngh〜〜!!"
Mari was in the mood to beat him up at the moment, she started to hit Takeru.
Takeru apologized many times saying "Sorry, sorry." while laughing all the time .
Five minutes later, Takeru who was finally forgiven sat on the bench again and flashed a soft smile towards Mari.
"Are you still laughing? Should I keep beating you?"
"S-sorry,... that's not it, I just thought again, that witches are normal human beings after all."
Mari hearing Takeru's carefree laugh turned away unable to maintain her anger anymore.
"Stop sugar-coating things. You entered the Inquisition because you hate witches didn't you."
"Not everyone has such a stupid reason to enter... what about you?"
"Why does Nikaido want to enter Inquisition? Why do people want to become witches, things like that, I'm kind of curious about it."
As he said that, embarrassment appeared on Mari's face.
This is... I said something good.
Mari closed her eyes and thought for a moment, she smiled despite sweating and raised her index finger.
"I-I want... I want to change the way the world views all magic as dangerous... yes, that's it. I am here to prove that magic can save a lot of people, that's why I came here!"
Nodding a few times, Mari talks about her aspiration.
"It's just as that woman said, magic is often used to harm people, but at the same time it can help many people."
Saying that, Mari leaned towards Takeru.
"Did you know? Some diseases that can't be cured with modern medicine can often be cured with the use of magic. Of course the opposite is also true, but isn't it stupid not to utilize its benefits? There are many people that can be saved thanks to magic, isn't it weird to get rid of it instead of using it like that?"
"Oh? Mm, yeah, that's right."
"And, also, even using mental interference magic like hypnosis that's hated so much, can be used in mental care to get rid of things like insomnia, with enough time it could be even used to treat various brain diseases. Isn't that amazing?"
"It is amazing."
"Right? And, also——"
Mari innocently spoke of magic's usefulness.
Takeru was overwhelmed by her enthusiasm, but he did not pull back. To think Mari was this fond of magic, it looked quite cute.
Mari continued to talk passionately, she stood up holding out her fist in front of her.
"The current state where the usefulness of magic is being suppressed because it is judged to be hazardous, I can't stand it! I'll prove it by any means! For that, evil witches and sorcerers will be judged! It makes sense for me, a witch to do it! That's why I turned to Inquisition, if I do the right thing, that way... if I do that magic will... not all of it is bad... to everyone..."
Though Mari was really heated up, she noticed that he gradually became idle. She sat back on the bench uncomfortably and looked away.
Mari herself was surprised to learn she loved magic so much.
She'll be made fun of anyway, already deciding that's going to happen... as she though that, Takeru smiled softly.
"Isn't that great."
Mari lifted her face and gave a questioning look.
"I don't know much about such difficult things, but I found out what motivates you. I think it's great."
"What is... so great?"
"It's nice isn't it. You want to change the bad image magic has? Wanting to prove you can save people thanks to magic, once the world accepts it... that definitely can't be anything but a good thing."
Mari tilted her head, looking at him as if seeing such a creature for the first time.
"...you are... strange."
"First an idiot, and now I'm strange..."
"Don't you have a prejudice against things like witches or magic?"
"It's not like I don't. But I don't think all of it is bad, is it? Even witches, it's not like all of them are bad, that's already been proven. That's why organizations like the ethics committee appeared."
".........w-what is it."
"......you're weird after all."
She muttered in wonder.
However, the thorns that could be seen in her expression ever since she quarreled with Ouka disappeared. Mari stood up from the bench, she looked at Takeru's face as she put her hand on her hip.
"Hey, tell me your name."
"Didn't I tell you before?"
"I wasn't interested so I forgot."
"But now I'm boiling with interest, tell me."
Mari asked with an unchanged questioning gaze and a smile. With a somewhat teasing gesture, it somehow reminded Takeru of a cat.
Takeru replied shortly,
"It's Kusanagi Takeru."
"Mmm? Takeru... Takeru huh. Ahahaha, sounds like a name of a samurai."
That's when Takeru saw Mari's smile for the first time.
A very ordinary smile, just like any other girl's.
Mari held out her right hand.
"It's nice to meet you, Takeru."
"Yeah, umm, suddenly calling me by first name."
"Is that no good? "Kusanagi" isn't cute at all, is it?"
"Well, it's fine."
"You should call me Mari too."
"That helps a lot, calling you Nikaido is difficult."
Takeru took her hand and lightly squeezed it back.
That's when. *squeeze*, something grabbed the sleeve of his uniform.
It was Lapis. She grabbed his clothes and looked up at him with her glass-like eyes just like usual.
"It bothered me for a while already, who is this child?"
"...ummm, for now she is my...... little sister."
"Hmmm... dreadfully dissimilar."
I think so too, is what Takeru wanted to say.
*squeeze*, Lapis pulled on his clothes again.
Takeru with an expressionless look on his face bent down and matched Lapis' line of sight.
What is it this time?
"Energy overcharge has occurred. Intake of H2O is over capacity in the current humanoid form."
"...umm! That's... that means... what?"
Takeru asked, Lapis touched her inner thigh and started fidgeting suddenly.
*fidget*. *fidget* *fidget* *fidget* *fidget*.
Because of this motion, Takeru understood everything.
"Wait a moment! I can't do anything about that right?!"
"I see. Then——"
"Wwwwwwwwaaaaaa!! I get it! Don't take it off!."
Takeru ran towards the school while embracing Lapis who attempted to take off her skirt.
Because he couldn't enter the area forbidden for boys, he asked Mari for help.
Takeru apologized to Mari for having her suddenly help with such an outrageous thing.
She responded with,
"I'm accustomed to caring for children."
With a bitter smile.
But that's where,
"But... why am I accustomed to it..."
Mari questioned herself as she smiled.
"Hnn", she groaned.
Hexennacht (ヘクセンナハト) - It's written as (魔女の宴) meaning Banquet of the Witches, for more info google it.