Mia’s weekend had gone by in a heartbeat, between homework and personal training. The highlight of her last two days had been the few rounds of card games with Yumi on Saturday, which improved their friendship.
Right now, as the artificial lighting of her apartment kicked on to replace the missing light of the sun, Mia was focused on her Ether meditation. Sitting on a yoga mat in the middle of her living room, the Class-1A student had a radiant smile on her face. Lately, she had been in a great mood, especially during meditations.
Since the beginning of her sessions with her team leader, she had felt slight improvements every week. The Ether inside her body, which almost felt rock solid at first, had begun to crumble. She was not used to this refinement yet but knew it was a mandatory step to go through for a reliable use of this power.
While focused on her inner-self, she was taken aback by a loud noise coming from the apartment next door. Knowing where the noise was coming from, Mia was unable to contain her excitement.
– Is Jin back?
Instantly, Mia grabbed her personal GLASS device, which she used earlier that day to inform herself. Ever since the release of the news, Mia had been following what happened in Chile.
World Eater Involved in International Magic Scandal.
Half a dozen private companies have come together and published a report about the worrying situation in Chile. Using their own private satellites, they have confirmed the launch of a Country-Class spell at the South of Chile, with the World Eater allegedly proven to be the principal suspect.
An Unknown Opponent.
According to our sources, the World Eater had indeed requested a work permit from Chile and had crossed the border around two weeks ago. Multiple pieces of information regarding the launch of this unusual Magic spell pointed in his direction. Furthermore, the World Eater let out the description of a Country-Spell in his interview on M1, which could as well be the one launched this Saturday.
However, who his opponent was is a complete mystery. Still, considering that the World Eater had to go all out, his opponent had to be of an upper calibre. The admission of the World Eater into an establishment known worldwide for its restorative treatments adds seriousness to this hypothesis.
It is still a mystery as to how most country’s satellites did not catch it. Many are already saying that they knew and have been warned to look away. A lack of proof will of course put this possibility as defamation in our history books.
Because this story got out, Japan had negotiated with Chile to send them a token of apology. So, Japan had agreed to be the main investor of the South American country’s magical institutions. In conclusion, this had been a disaster for both parties, who had lost face in the process.
Article written by Jay H.
On the right side of the screen, a preview of the article detailing the Shinka Group reacquisition went completely over her head. After all, even reporters failed to make the decisive link as the World Eater did his best to hide for who he had been working.
Mia lied down on her couch between an overwhelming number of plushies. Holding her device in the air, she hesitated to act on her whim. She went through multiple emotions before finally sending her proposition to Tatsu Jin.
Monday, October 15th 2063
Mia woke up groggy to the sound of her alarm and listened, half-asleep, to the speech of her Artificial Intelligence. The weather was cold, and clouds were blocking the entire sky. She really was not motivated to get up, but still mechanically grabbed her mobile tech.
The young lady jumped out of bed with excitement after looking at her GLASS.
In a matter of seconds, her excitement turned to fear. Tatsu Jin had answered her message half-an-hour ago. Focusing all her courage onto her fingers, Mia opened the conversation and looked at his reply.
Mia never expected him to say yes. In her eyes, the transfer student exerted the aura of someone who always had something of the utmost importance to take care of. Still, she congratulated herself for taking this leap of faith. Because Mia had always been deeply afraid to be a bother, this was a huge victory.
With a gleaming smile, she voiced her wish for breakfast to the Artificial Intelligence and went on to her bathroom. In a mix of singing, humming, and whistling, she cleansed herself under a streak of water. After eating her breakfast, she decided to go to class a bit earlier than usual. After all, she was currently too excited to focus on her Ether meditation.
Mia went through her door and reached the corridor when she came into contact with another student. There was someone else, who was fond of going to class early, in front of the elevator.
Tatsu Jin felt something happening behind him and a faint smile rose on his face at the sight of his teammate. Mia managed to wave her hand as a greeting but did not move from her position.
When the elevator finally arrived, the transfer student slowly turned towards her.
– What are you waiting for?
Mia ran to take place in the elevator alongside the transfer student, with a red face.
The young lady’s behavior surprised him. Tatsu Jin just could not fathom how walking together to class together could be embarrassing. Despite his experienced emotional intelligence, he just did not go through a regular childhood. To get rid of the awkward silence, he started a conversation on Mia’s topic of choice: Archery. He was sure that this would make her feel more comfortable.
And he was right.
With this environment, Mia relaxed and began to impart her vast knowledge. She explained how external parameters like the wind could greatly impact a shot’s effectiveness, and even went on to describe the different kinds of bows.
After reaching the main hallway, they went on their separate ways.
Shortly after the transfer student entered his classroom, Mia received an important notice.
Your Magic History Teacher had been invited to represent the Elite Magic Academy for a conference in Okinawa. Therefore, he will not be able to attend today’s Magic History class. Instead, we have commissioned a few Contractors for a special training session at the Training Grounds at 10 AM. My Apologies for the late notification.
The young lady was angry at the sight of this message. The Academy had waited the last minute to notify Class-1A students about this change of plans. Nonetheless, anger slowly turned into happiness.
Lately, her mind had been a hundred percent focused on improving her battle skills. Skipping a class like Magic History to receive a special lesson in exchange was a bargain.
Still, she needed a change of clothes. Rushing back to her apartment, Mia changed into her usual fighting attire and grabbed her large suitcase containing her weapon. On her way towards the Training Grounds, she thought about her recent defeats to fuel her motivation.
Mia’s record had been pretty disappointing so far. After her initial fight, first-year students all came to her with the same strategy. They had been patient enough to wait for an opportunity to take her down with a single close combat blow. For now, there was nothing she could do to prevent it.
Because of it, her ranking had dropped from 208 to 235. Mia was focused to find an offensive weapon that would tip the scale in her favor.
Mia entered the facility and followed her classmate on site, only to be faced with a surprise.
Among the three contractors summoned for this session, the Lightning Magic Contractor was the one in charge. After exchanging greetings and polite words with her master, Mia imitated the rest of Class-1A and started to warm up.
Class-1A was then divided into three different groups, rotating between every Contractor’s exclusive exercises. It was a bit disappointing for Mia, who wanted to stay with Yumi, but she accepted her fate.
The first exercise was dedicated to the materialization of lightning, under its simplest form. Training the students’ ability to channel Ether, it also tested how they adapt to a new spell.
Mia chuckled as she managed to form a bolt of perfect lightning five times in a row. Witnessing her performance, the Lightning Magic Contractor gave Mia complete freedom to practice however she felt like. Still, she warned her that the other two exercises would not be that easy.
Mia opened the storage bay and took out a shooting target, that she put in one of the room’s corners. She did not want to disturb anybody but still needed to practice effectively. Taking place twenty meters from the target, Mia relaxed her whole body.
Part of the Ether inside her body was slowly circulating to her hand. When she felt confident enough, she materialized lightning in the form of an arrow. In one swift motion, she armed her weapon, aimed, and released the Medium-Class spell.
Triggering an overall tremble in the room, her spell did not go unnoticed. A huge majority of Class-1A turned to see what she was doing. Some of them were really impressed as launching such a powerful spell was their long-term objective. However, some thought that being able to launch such a powerful spell had been pretty much useless to her so far.
Yumi sent a thumbs-up to Mia, rewarding her efforts.
On the other hand, the first-year student with the highest ranking, surnamed King, also clapped his hands in awe. However, while Yumi was showing unconditional care, the King looked at her with envy.
Mia said nothing and focused on her own training, grabbing a few rings full of Ether from the Academy’s reserve.
Practicing to the point of exhaustion, Mia cast her spell five times in a row over the course of an hour. However, as only three managed to reach peak effectiveness, Mia slowly started to show signs of disappointment. Her final two tries ended up in failures, mainly due to a lack of focus.
Out of frustration, she cursed so loud that everyone turned to look at her.
No one understood why their classmate was so disappointed in herself. While the entire goal of the year was to master at least two kinds of Medium-Class Offensive Magic, Mia was showcasing early signs of mastery over one. She was clearly ahead of the curve, but it was not enough for her.
Most of Class-1A were amazed by her commitment to never settle. While most would be down after seeing their ranking drop, Mia went back to the drawing board and doubled down on her efforts. The majority of Class-1A was entranced by her behavior and matched the intensity of Mia’s efforts, challenging their own limits further and further.
When the bell announced the end of the period rang, everyone was drained. Seeing an opportunity to take a break, most of Class-1A students went outside for lunch, leaving only Mia and Yumi. Mia advised Yumi to go on her way, which the sword wielder refused. She had no problem staying by her side during this strategy meeting. After a few seconds, Mia went up to the Lightning Magic contractor and mentioned what preoccupied her this whole morning.
– Master, I’ve been focusing on my Lightning Arrow as you asked. But I can’t help myself to think… Is there a close-ranged spell you can teach me?
– I don’t really think it is a good idea. Using Offensive Magic up close doesn’t fit your profile, Mia.
On that note, Yumi expressed her point of view.
– I do have to side with your master on this one. Your Lightning Arrow should remain your focus. However, …
The swordswoman whispered something into the ears of Mia’s contractor. What Yumi spoke seemed to heavily spark her interest. Yumi had shifted her opinion thanks to her fighting experience.
The Lightning Magic Contractor looked into Mia’s eyes and a smile rose on her face.
– There is something we can try. I would never ever have thought about teaching you that. At least, not here.
As keeping everyone else from knowing was a priority, Mia used this opportunity to learn more about her next spell. Even though it still was a Medium-Class Magic, this spell had an imagination pattern and a need for Ether way more reasonable than her Lightning Arrow Magic.
After listening to the explanation of her contractor, Mia got on her feet, eager to practice. The Ether spread through her whole body, which was a requirement of this brand-new power. However, the final step of concentrating and launching the spell failed, resulting in a huge sigh from Mia.
Seeing that her pupil was on the brink of mental exhaustion, the Lightning Magic Contractor ordered her to sit and eat. The teacher, who had brought her own sandwiches, offered some to the two young ladies.
Yumi and Mia accepted her offer and devoured their share instantly.
While looking at Mia, the Lightning Magic Contractor realized how fast she had been progressing since their first meeting. She also had a feeling that someone else was behind the scenes guiding her. Mia had also made progress in areas the contractor was not an expert at, hinting at another presence in the shadows.
With a cheeky smile, she went on to congratulate Mia.
– You had a good teacher.
– I know right! Thanks for sharing your lessons with me, master.
Mia bowed deeply to match her words, not understanding their deeper meaning.
Yumi, Mia, and the Lightning Magic Contractor talked until time to practice came once again.
Due to her lack of training, Mia performed well below average on the afternoon session. She focused her energy to diligently train under the other contractors’ tutelage, showcasing low but promising results.
Fifteen minutes before the end of the session, Mia had been ordered to rest by the supervisor.
– What a pain… well not really…
She felt relaxed under the streak of hot water. That shower provided her muscles some energy for the rest of her day. She would have liked to remain here longer, but she had to go prepare the shooting range. After a change of clothes, the young lady walked around the Training Grounds.
Behind the training facility stood the training range, only accessible through a little path full of leaves and bushes. This place had been created under the direct supervision of the Hirano family, so Mia had been tasked with its maintenance and equipment. She was the only one possessing a key, that she used to unlock the sliding door.
With the switch of a lever, the place was brought back to life.
A sequence of commands brought the main wall down, giving access to the outside targets. Natural light from outside and artificial from within made for good visibility. Like she experienced these a good billion times, Mia dropped her backpack and opened the main weapon cache.
The young lady grabbed a recurve bow and attached a quiver full of arrows to her waist. She then planted her feet in front of a line with a target located thirty meters away. It was a good enough warm-up for her.
Mia’s mind went blank, focusing solely on the feeling of a slight wind caressing her cheek. She was at peace here because her muscle memory did the trick, allowing her to focus on breathing.
Firing away arrows in quick succession, her breathing pattern was getting shorter and shorter.
Arming and keeping armed a recurve bow long enough to aim required an absurd amount of physical strength. Even though it was not really adapted to a woman, Mia had always loved the raw feeling of recurve bows. She could not use it in battle because of its obvious downsides, but she loved to try them during practice.
Mia had lived with a bow in her hand pretty much her whole life. This insane amount of experience allowed her to bypass some of the recurve bows’ downsides. Using her instincts, Mia managed to accurately aim before arming the bow, reducing the physical strain to less than a second before releasing the string.
As soon as an arrow flew through the air, her right hand was already busy arming another one. Getting into a rhythm, Mia’s senses were getting sharper with every second.
Mia searched for more arrows, not even realizing she was out of ammunition for a solid five seconds.
When she finally got out of this concentration state, she suddenly felt something.
Someone was lurking in the shadows.
– Impressive… very impressive…
Mia jumped out of surprise and released her grip on the bow, which fell onto the ground. She instantly recognized her team leader. Still, the young lady acted like a kid who had been caught stealing candy.
– For how long have you been here? I was about to go pick you up at the Training Grounds…
– I’ve pretty much been there for half of your shots. I do have to say, both you and Yumi are pretty mesmerizing in your own proficiencies.
This compliment stunned Mia, whose face turned crimson. On the other hand, Tatsu Jin, who seemed eager to learn, walked down towards her. Sitting down on his knees, the transfer student politely asked to try archery.
– I’m ready to be taught if your offer still stands.
The young lady put aside her embarrassment and introduced him to the basics of archery. In the meantime, Mia handed her teammate a basic compound bow from the weapon cache.
– Compound bows make it easier for beginners to start. Arming one requires some strength, but keeping it armed is a walk in the park in comparison. The mechanism almost takes care of everything. That leaves you with all the time in the world to aim and shoot, making it the perfect weapon to hunt.
Mia invited him to try his luck without giving him any help.
Going for a stance that seemed favorable, the transfer student armed his bow. A tense silence took over the room as Mia let him concentrate and aim. After ten seconds, Tatsu Jin finally fired his arrow. Waving through the distance, the projectile hit the target far away from its center.
When Mia was about to give her feedback, the transfer student let out a whisper.
– Oh… I see… How about… this.
He shifted his body to a ninety-degree angle, increased the separation between his legs to be more stable, and put his body weight on his back leg.
– Yes… This is way more stable, and I can draw more power. Mia?
Mia was pouting.
– Am I not supposed to teach you?
– Well, of course you are.
– Then let yourself be taught, dammit!
The transfer student looked in her eyes for a second and sighed.
– Fine… I’m sorry. What did I do wrong?
– Go back to your position.
She started by turning around him to spot weaknesses in his stance. Even after his slight improvements, Mia smiled because there were still slight improvements to make.
Positioning herself behind Tatsu Jin, Mia used the lower half of her body to push his legs together a bit. He had nailed the angle but overdid the separation of his legs a little. Then, she decided to raise his elbows, which had been too close to his body.
To make this last change, Mia took place behind him. She remained lost in thought for a few seconds, which forced the transfer student to turn his head towards her, resulting in the contact of their cheeks.
Mia backed down a meter in embarrassment and acted as if nothing happened.
– Put your right fingers underneath the arrow on the string. It will be easier to control.
Locking that embarrassing memory in a faraway part of her brain, Mia found another detail that made her chuckle. The idea of something closes an eye to aim with a bow was hilarious to her. She could not prevent herself from slipping a cheeky remark.
– It’s not a sniper rifle! Keep your eyes open and your head up.
Aside from this, the session went smoothly and Tatsu Jin acquired the basics of archery.
The transfer student did not plan on making it a regular hobby. The reason he accepted her invitation today was to understand the weapon itself, not the discipline. In his mind, there was no way he could lead a soldier to battle without precisely knowing about his or her weapon of choice. He had appointed himself the leader of this team and needed intelligence on how to use Mia’s and Yumi’s strength to their full potential.
Despite Mia’s fatigue, they still cleaned up the shooting range. After the young lady locked the place with her key, Tatsu Jin offered Mia a way to release the pressure.
– Dinner is on me, where do you want to eat?
Too tired to complain, Mia finally had the chance to act upon a recommendation. One of her classmates expressed his love for the place, so she decided to trust him. In addition, Mia was starving. Except for her breakfast and sandwiches at noon, her stomach had been pretty much empty.
– I overheard that the French restaurant on our second floor seems nice.
– Then here we go. Let me take that for you.
It was not difficult to see how much energy she spared during the day. The transfer student did his best to ease her burden, opening doors before her and carrying heavyweight. Eating something would make it so that she would not collapse, which was part of why he made his offer.
Artificial lights took over the Elite Magic Academy on their passage. Too excited to finally eat something, Mia asked her teammate to go there directly. These two first-year students entered the first-year Dormitory Building and took the stairs to the second floor.
When they entered the restaurant, they were immediately taken care of by a waiter, who offered them seats by the main window. The first thing they did after sitting down was to fee the place’s atmosphere. The restaurant was bathed in warm yellow light, mixing wood with mirrors. It managed to be cozy and classy at the same time.
Their table was draped in a white cloth, spread out by two candlesticks. Mia, who had stayed in Japan pretty much her entire life, seemed interested in every little detail. She even confessed how she was feeling to her teammate.
– I feel so out of place here.
– This restaurant only provides one kind of fork. It’s a good sign for you.
Despite their flashy entrance, the other students were focused on enjoying their dinner. With this worry out of his mind, Tatsu Jin was finally able to relax. After a short ten minutes of deliberation, the waiter went on to take their orders.
Mia went for the roasted chicken while Tatsu Jin felt like it was appropriate to go for a French specialty and ordered a beef bourguignon.
After jumping from topic to topic, Mia could not hold her question in anymore.
– Can I ask you something that may be impertinent?
– You can try your luck… I guess.
After mentally preparing herself, Mia acted on her whim.
– Do you have anything to do with what happened in Chile?
– I cannot deny nor confirm this statement.
– Such a crappy answer, but I knew I would get something like this…
– Why would you care about Chile?
– I don’t care about Chile, you know… but I’m curious as to why you had to take a week off…
The waiter finally arrived with their orders, cutting their discussion short. The young lady was far too hungry to not start eating right away. Piece with piece, her chicken disappeared from existence in a flash. Seeing her like this warmed Tatsu Jin’s heart a bit, who had a bit more measure dealing with his own dish.
Not mentioning Chile anymore, they enjoyed the rest of their evening. At the end of their dinner, Tatsu Jin paid the bill and exited the restaurant with Mia.
On the elevator, Mia’s legs were heavy, proof of her tiring day. Sitting down on the glass floor, she invited her teammate to join. Once again complying with her request, Tatsu Jin took place at her side.
Bewildered by the landscape in front of them, words were caught up in their throats. The starry night sky contrasted perfectly with the Elite Magic Academy’s own light. The reflection of the moon on the East Sea also added an almost divine aspect to this scenery.
(It would make a beautiful painting. He was right)
Even though they arrived on the twenty-seventh floor, Tatsu Jin did not move an inch. Instead, the elevator’s doors shut themselves after Tatsu Jin pushed a button. He wanted that moment to last just a bit more. He remained in that position stargazing for several minutes until something made him come back to reality.
Mia was currently sleeping with her head on his shoulder.
A faint smile rose on his face.
(This is nice…)
It was now close to 10 PM, a time when most students would either be in their apartment or busy at one of the building’s many entertainment locations.
The elevator was not often used at such a time, leaving the two first-year students twenty minutes to enjoy the landscape.
When the time came, the elevator was called down. A small group of first-year students, men and women from Class-C, stayed in front of the elevator in shock after finally spotting them.
Tatsu Jin put a finger on his lips to order them to remain silent. A tall man who seemed to be this group’s leader nodded to the transfer student. Since the elevator was spacious enough, they all took place inside leaving enough place for them to breathe.
Looking at each other, all three women in the Class-1C group giggled. They knew how valuable this piece of gossip could be and were waiting to see more. They even stopped one of their friends from pushing the button to their own floor. With a rough understanding of the situation, Tatsu Jin knew he was already in for a ride.
While heading up to the twenty-seventh floor, his right hand moved swiftly towards Mia’s waist while the other reached under both her thighs.
– Would you mind? Just outside the elevator is fine.
As he was now carrying Mia in his arms, he requested some help to move their gear outside the elevator. The Class-1C leader nodded and moved their belongings out it in a heartbeat. Following this, the elevator finally headed towards a lower floor.
Leaving her stuff there for now, Tatsu Jin walked towards her apartment. In front of the door, the transfer student remembered that he had no way to go inside.
Mia, who was sleeping soundly in his arms, woke up after being gently shaken. Before she could make sense of the situation, Mia heard her teammate making a request.
– Can you put me down? It’s embarrassing…
– Unlock the door and I’ll do it.
She reached inside her pockets, unlocked her device, and opened the door. Tatsu Jin entered the apartment and slowly reached the staircase. Now upstairs, Mia did not complain and let herself be put to bed. Tatsu Jin raised the blanket over her and whispered in her ears.
– I heard from Yumi. Good job working on your training. Don’t overexert yourself.
Typing on the main console, Tatsu Jin shut the lights off and left her bedroom.
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