Chapter 16: The Strongest Onmyouji, Questioning
Two days later.
We returned safely to the school.
It was surprising to me that I felt like it had been a long time, even though we had only been away for half a month.
I heard that classes had progressed quite a bit. It might be hard to catch up, mainly for Amiyu.
Anyway, peace and quiet is the best.
I went to see the dean the day after I got back.
“Hey, you both did well.”
As soon as Mabel and I entered the room, the headmaster said with a big smile on her face.
“I was not expecting the winner of the memorable first Imperial Capital Comprehensive Martial Arts Tournament to be from our school. I’m very proud. I don’t know if there will be a second tournament, but …… anyway, well done Lamprog and Mabel, too. It’s a great achievement to advance to the semi-finals. It was a shame that the two students from the school were matched up against each other. If the blocks had been different, we might have been aiming for more than the semifinals.”
The dean added after a short pause.
“However, you are still students. What’s a student’s duty? Yes, to study. This will give you a little boost in your career, but that’s all. If you stay in a daze, you will be left behind in no time. Especially Mabel.”
Mabel, whose name was called, asked a question in a puzzled manner.
“It’s our convenience, but you’ve been away from the school for half a month since the beginning of the school year. It’s hard to catch up. Especially in your case, your writing is……. You should ask the young lord from Lamprog and his attendant to teach you, since they have good grades.”
Mabel blinked a few times in confusion and then nodded.
The dean smiled and clapped her hands.
“I’m sorry you had to come here so soon after you just got back. You can get some rest today in preparation for tomorrow. Oh, Lamprog. Can you stay for a bit?”
I remained silent and kept my eyes down.
Mabel seemed a little lost, but eventually left the dean’s office alone.
After the door closed, both the dean and I remained silent.
“Well, you have something you want to ask me, don’t you?”
“…… I guess so.”
I let out a breath.
If she’s coming from that direction, let’s not try to imitate what’s going around.
With a smile, I told the dean.
“Are you okay with this, Dean-sensei?”
“Hm. What do you mean?”
“The fact that Mabel didn’t make it to the finals, ruined the whole plot to make it look like the hero died. I mean, are you satisfied with that?”
The dean looked at me with narrowed eyes.
“If you knew that much, then the question of whether I’m satisfied is a strange one, although it would seem I might have missed the point.”
“I thought it was odd.”
I continue to walk around the room.
“The school didn’t need two recommendation slots for the plot. I didn’t need to be a contestant. Well, if that’s the only reason, it could be said that it was to cover up the unnaturalness of only one new student being selected. Discretion is important. But …… even so, it was very, very prudent.”
“……What are you talking about?”
“I was curious about it after I heard the name of the Crane family. What kind of house is it? Naturally, I didn’t get much information. I was told that they were magical researchers and that many of them were from the school’s faction. That it’s actually an old family. The only other thing I could find out was that he was very fond of Mabel, whom he had recently adopted……. He bought her many dresses, took her out to social gatherings, hired a painter to have her portrait painted…… and so on. Camouflaging is important, but did he really need to do all this for a daughter that was about to die? It’s as if they are really adopting her.”
The school dean blurted out with her head in her hands.
“They were having too much fun. I told them to be careful……”
“From the beginning, the school and its top management had no intention of following through with the plan. The goal was to get Mabel in their hands.”
“Although they weren’t responsible for the outcome of the match, the Lugrok trading company couldn’t let Mabel lose outside of the finals. They had to finish Kyle’s exams. So, naturally, they had a say in the tournament table. They checked the backgrounds of the contestants and placed dangerous candidates like Reynas on Kyle’s side, who would surely win. Mabel was supposed to go through to the finals in order, lose there and die. But they probably didn’t expect that the school, the client, would hit them with a piece of sesame so big that it would even beat Kyle himself.”
“The only thing the academy has to gain from this is Mabel. Perhaps the Lugrok Trading Company didn’t rent Mabel out like a mercenary, but sold her to the academy? It would be strange to ask someone who was going to die in the finals to return later. They would have at least put a clause to dispose of her in case she escaped, but they didn’t expect her to survive or lose. And that’s what you were going for and by having me defeat Mabel, you were going to get her. Am I right?”
The dean sighed after a few moments of silence.
“We’ve been underestimated.”
“We are not responsible for the outcome of Mabel’s matches. If things don’t go the way we want them to, we won’t refund the money. They are also willing to sell their name by having their own mercenaries compete and win the tournament, but they raised the fee just because there’s a chance that Mabel might win. The hero is an important factor in deciding the course of this country…… and you can see how much the empire is underestimated right now. I used you to destroy their confidence. They’ve lost Mabel, they’ve lost confidence in themselves and they’re probably in a mess. It’s a nice feeling.”
“Did you ever think that….. I’d lose to Mabel and Kyle?”
“I’ve lived this long.”
The dean’s mouth twisted into a smile.
“I can see the extent of your power. Your talent is probably comparable to that of a hero and you already have a lot of power. It’s terrifying. It might be bad, but you’ll be more powerful than a hero or maybe not. There is no such thing in this world as a talent that surpasses that of a hero.”
“Well, I don’t care about that. I only want to ask you one question.”
I say quietly.
“What do you want with Mabel?”
“You didn’t plan all of this just to get Lugrok to take a shot at you, did you? Getting Mabel would have meant something in and of itself. What is it?”
The dean giggles and says.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing special, I just think it might be a pitiful reason. But I also have some sense of duty, so if there’s something I can do for you, I might.”
“Huh, that’s scary. What reasons do you imagine?”
I replied with a furrowed brow.
“I know it’s to fortify the school from the inside. Even if you hire security guards, they’ll not be able to grasp the inner workings of the school. As long as there’s a possibility that interlopers will be sent as incoming students, wasn’t there a need for someone to protect Amiyu from the standpoint of a student?”
“I see. That’s good. However, it seems that the attention of the demons will be removed from the school in the future, though, right? The fact that you, who clearly didn’t match the content of the oracle, won this time has helped to show the depth of the school’s human resources. The fact that last year, somehow an assassin and an interloper disappeared one by one can no longer be attributed to the work of a hero.”
“……If you say it wasn’t, then what was it?”
After a few moments of silence, the dean suddenly lowered her eyes and muttered,
“I took pity on the girl.”
“You don’t believe me, do you? But that’s the truth. If you press further, nothing more will come out.”
The dean began to speak.
“At first, the officials wanted to drop the plan. They had finally found a candidate for the hero’s shadow warrior, but it was no use if they couldn’t get her to win the tournament. They wanted to kick out the conditions of the merchants’ association, which was taking a lickety-split attitude and return this plan to the drawing board. I agreed with them. But after meeting Mabel, I changed my mind.”
“A child blessed with talent. But she looked as if she had tasted every misfortune in the world. It was no wonder, since she was going to be killed by her own brother, whom she adored. However, she told me that she would win the championship. ‘I want to make my brother, who has changed, feel better. ‘She said she would use her gifted talent to kill her own flesh and blood, so she wanted me to use her with dead eyes. At that time, I thought —- this is wrong.”
“I had to persuade the officials to sign the contract with the Trading Company, and I thought of a way to use the devil’s advocate, Seika Lamprog, for the girl, who would never abstain from competing. That’s one of the reasons I put the squire girl on the shortlist. Wasn’t it somewhat unsettling that if you declined, she might have to compete? It’s just one of those talking points that merchants use.”
The dean continues.
“The longer you live, the less attached you become to many things, like money, honor, power and even life itself. But it’s hard to let go of the attachment to do something for others. Maybe that’s why I’m in this position. You just don’t know it yet.”
I trailed off.
I, who in a previous life picked up orphans and made them my apprentices, am probably similar to this person.
The same is true for the attachment to the power you once possessed.
I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been reincarnated or because I was killed by my beloved disciple that I lost it.
I exhale and ask.
“Mabel was worried that Lugrok would send assassins. They must be very angry about the loss of Kyle and I think they won’t leave Mabel, who knows their situation inside and out.”
“I’m sure he’s taken care of that much. The Crane family is a baron family, but it’s a venerable family with strong ties to the court and in addition, the wife is the third daughter of a duke. Even though she’s adopted, if they lay their hands on their daughter, Lugrok will be doomed. Well, I guess there’s nothing to worry about.”
Besides, the dean added.
“Lugrok has only started to gain strength in the last few years. If they’re unexpectedly caught flat-footed, they’ll become cowardly. They’ll probably stay quiet for a while.”
“I see. Well, then….. I guess there’s nothing for me to do.”
“What are you talking about?”
The dean said in amazement.
“It’s a given that we don’t need to be afraid of assassination. The important thing is how she’s going to live after that. She’s going to start a new school life which she’s not used to. You can help her in many ways. As a senior.”
“I know that much.”
I turned on my heel.
I guess that’s the end of the story.
I sighed inwardly.
In hindsight, I shouldn’t have gotten involved.
I should have declined to participate in the tournament and stayed away from Mabel’s death and the school dean’s intentions. That would have been the best outcome for me.
I could say that it was a failure to let my unwanted curiosity get the better of me.
However….. I didn’t regret it.
One trivial question came to mind. I looked back at the principal.
“By the way…… you said you lived a long time, but how old are you really?”
“You ask a woman how old she is? You’re a childish brat. I wish I could tell you how old I am.”
The dean spat out.
“I haven’t counted beyond three hundred.”