Chapter 19

Under Cover

Tuesday, October 23rd 2063

Last Friday, Tatsu Jin placed an order with the schematics that Yumi and Mia sent him. While he had multiple possibilities, he went to the blacksmith he knew would not ask questions. Secrecy regarding Yumi’s weapon was of the utmost importance. He did not want to betray the trust she put in him.

 

The blacksmith accepted the order, mentioning how long his overnights would be for the next couple of days.

 

That blacksmith had a shop in town and had already fulfilled a few orders from the Master of All Magic. More so, his weapons were always really optimized for enchanting. He probably was one of the best in his area. He was not an owner of the Coin of Knowledge yet but was certainly on the shortlist.

 

Coming back from his classes, Tatsu Jin finally registered two people for the event he had been monitoring this whole month. The Annual Ancient Weapon Auction was going to be held on Saturday, which is why he chose that particular timing to order the weapons. With it, he would be able to kill two birds with one stone.           

      Now, the only thing I need is a cover.

Tatsu Jin immediately thought about Eleanor.

 

He cast Concealment Magic, and used Teleportation Magic to get there. The transfer student knocked on the door and waited for her to come out. After a moment, she finally went over to answer her door.     

      Jin… What can I do for you? Do you want to enter?

       I don’t think it is really necessary. It’s just going to take a minute.

       Is that so? I’m all ears.

       Are you still looking for a favor from him?

He put some weight on the specific word, making it hard to misinterpret what he was talking about. She blushed slightly before answering his question.

      Yes. Are you ready to bestow me one?

       I might.

      Ok, I’ll bite. What do you want me to do?

       I need four things from you.

       I knew it… tell me… I hope it is not dangerous.

       It’s not.

Somehow, Eleanor doubted his words but the transfer student went on to explain his plans.

      Basically, I need your Saturday. I need to leave the Academy on Saturday, with authorizations that you’ll provide. You’ll be coming with me to secure some items. I don’t want my name on any register, so I want you to be my cover. You’re going to buy the items for me. Don’t worry about the money, I’ll take care of it. I also need you to come up with a remote location that can be used for heavy Magic practice. On Saturday, we will check to see if it is what I am looking for.

      Seems simple enough. I’m in. Anything else I should know?

      9 AM in front of the entrance… and dress fancy.

Eleanor’s attempt at sarcasm failed. However, there was something more important in her mind.

      So, if I do this, you’ll give me one of your favors?

       Yes, I’ll also arrange the meeting between you two.

       I hope you’ll keep your word.

       Let me know when everything is ok for Saturday.

Separator

Saturday, October 27th 2063

As Tatsu Jin made an effort not to stand out this week, Saturday came pretty quickly.

 

After a long hot shower, the transfer student dressed as professionally as he could, with a black suit and trousers. With a tap of his finger, he also ordered a self-driving pod for the whole day. Due to the context of this mission, the need for a particularly big trunk forced him to go for a more expensive option.

 

Stored in a small case rested the dagger he enchanted back at the Underground Palace. It was the only weapon he decided to bring with him.

 

Tatsu Jin was finally ready to play the part of Eleanor’s butler, so he walked towards the entrance of the Elite Magic Academy.

 

Eleanor was already there, waiting for him. Under an expensive fur coat, she wore a crimson backless dress. It was also obvious that she spent a lot of time putting on makeup and doing her hair. A black hairpin tied most of her long brown hair, giving her a traditional Japanese look.

 

Breaking the ice, Tatsu Jin taunted Eleanor on her appearance. 

       When I said to dress fancy, I think you went a bit overboard.

       Do you really think that is what you are supposed to say to me?

       I suppose it looks good.

Eleanor did not see even the tiniest trace of embarrassment on his face. When the self-driving pod arrived, she was surprised to see her student walk over and opening her the door.

       To what do I owe this chivalry?

      I’m your butler. That’s the role I play.

She was surprised for a few seconds, which gave him time to store the case in the pod’s trunk. Eleanor then simply watched him getting in and voicing the address of their destination. The pod started its engine and without any noise hit the road. She could not hide her curiosity anymore and asked about what was going to happen.

       I am curious. Where are we going?

      Our first shopping target is the Annual Ancient Weapon Auction. I need you to secure items number 4 and 9. When they’re auctioned, keep your arm up.

      I’m puzzled.

       About keeping your arms up? Want me to show you?

       I guess I will always be in for a sassy ride with you…

They kept on talking about diverse topics, including how the transfer student was acclimating to the Elite Magic Academy. Eleanor even laughed at the mention of what he did to team with Yumi and Mia. Soon enough, they felt like the pod was getting slower and slower.

 

They arrived at their destination, a modern building at the periphery of Nagoya.

 

Playing her part, Eleanor waited for her butler to open the pod’s door. She could feel deep down that Tatsu Jin was intimidating everyone around them to keep potential danger at bay. After entering the fancy building, she simply followed the signs of the special auction.

 

Eleanor saw how some guests glared at her, probably wondering what family she was from. However, some also had lust in their eyes, lurking for an opportunity to introduce themselves.

 

Showing their invitations to the auction, Eleanor and her undercover student took place in the crowd. Just before the beginning of the event, a staff member went through to her to bestow upon her a bidding paddle.

 

Coincidently, Eleanor overheard that she was the final participant, number twenty-five.

 

The lights around the room turned off, except the one which lit the official animator, who jumped on the scene.

       Dear guests, welcome to the Annual Ancient Weapon Auction! We, as lovers of ancient weapons, are gathered today to propose to you the most marvellous pieces. From actual guns to utilities, I am sure you will find what makes your hair stand out.

What we offer here are dangerous weapons. As a measure of safety, we will not be providing any ammunition with the guns we are selling. They are collection objects meant to be displayed.

 

The majority of the assembly nodded. Eleanor guessed that this probably was not their first ride. After all, the existence of a way cheaper black market proved this was nothing but a gathering of ancient weapons lovers. 

       This year, we will be focusing on weapons from almost fifty years ago. Indeed, we have been gathering weapons that were functioning between 2000 and 2030. This is a period pretty loved by all weapons fans. So, let’s start the action and auction!

Even though she found the joke pretty bad, a few laughs reverberated throughout the bidding room. The Illusion Contractor thanked god that this did not encourage the animator, who directly jumped into the main topic.

 

The first item: A S&T Daewo KII grenade launcher was brought on stage. Three bidders fought a valiant war until an old lady proposed the final price of $32,000 dollars.

 

Eleanor was astonished by the price for which this item had just been sold for. She immediately turned to her student and wondered how rich he was. It reminded her that Tatsu Jin needed to secure not one, but two items. She wondered why would he spend that much money on these pieces of junk. He did not strike her as the collector type.

 

A bundle containing 20 Kevlar Vests was sold for $28,000 and a M72 LAW Rocket Launcher found a buyer for the price of $40,000.

 

Now, it was time for item number four, one of Tatsu Jin’s targets. Eleanor gathered her courage and prepared her bidding paddle. Her heartbeat kept on increasing while she listened to the animator’s description.

       Now, for the fourth item, we are taking it up a notch. Indeed, we have something very special: A bundle of ten M84 flash grenades in WORKING condition. This is a prized possession since it is becoming hard to find. I am obligated to mention that, like the Kevlar vests, we are allowed to sell working utilities. Price starts at $48,000.

This wasn’t an uphill battle. All the assistance saw Eleanor raising the price with confidence as soon as someone challenged her. As they knew she wasn’t going to let go, the fourth item was sold to her for $57,000. Everyone had been looking at her for a moment now, which made her wish she could cast an Invisibility Magic spell.

 

She took a short but well-deserved rest and everyone focused on the auction again. Three items were between $64,000 and $106,000 to a different buyer each time. Eleanor, who was pretty much focused on her thought, got woken up by Tatsu Jin’s compliment.

      You’re doing great, my lady. Now is the time for the most important item of the auction.

Eleanor shot an aggressive look at him before understanding why he called her that way. She was seated at the right of someone else, which is why her student had played his part.

 

Putting that thought aside, she looked at what was happening on stage again. An old man was doubling down on his bet for a once upon a time famous French weapon called FAMAS M18. Acquiring it for the price of $83,000, he yelled his success out. Some people laughed, this time with slight contempt. Weapon fans usually got stigmatized as lunatics, and this old man probably did not help the cause.

 

To fill the silence that befell the auction room, the animator transitioned to the ninth item. Eleanor was now breathing every one of his words, at the peak of her concentration. The apprehension and stress were now gone because she got her hand on item number 4.

      Now, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a set of five 5210 Smoke Grenades in WORKING condition. Our expert told us that there should be only around a hundred sets like this remaining in the whole world. It is extremely rare. I am sure most of you should be interested in such a masterpiece. Price starts at 75,000$.

At the exact moment he mentioned the price, Eleanor’s paddle was already up. The lady in the backless crimson dress wanted to mark her territory. However, such a display of passion enticed an opposition. About ten people kept on increasing their offer.

 

She decided to slowly take the loss for now and regroup. What Eleanor was looking for was a moment to strike a fearful blow when the opposition would slowly fade out. When the price hit $110,000, only three people were still bidding.

 

It finally was her time to shine. 

      $125,000. I’m warning all of you, this is mine.

A few bidders took it as a personal challenge and raised the price again after her intervention. At that point, it was all-or-nothing in her mind. She got up from her seat, turned around and looked at the audience. However, she was too focused to see that Tatsu Jin’s face was in his hands and that he let out a huge sigh.

      $150,000. Is there anyone that still wants to play with me?

After a moment, Eleanor finally realized what she did and wanted to die of embarrassment. Her cheeks went from a normal color to a crimson matching her dress, and it was that moment that the transfer student chose to deal the final blow.

       You went overboard again, my lady.

      Shut up… You said “whatever the price”.

Eleanor expressed her wish to get out of here and her student agreed. He left her alone for a moment to pay for her purchases. After Tatsu Jin grabbed the silver cases containing his items, he was on his way to her again.

 

When she was waiting for him, a man in his thirties surprised Eleanor.

       Hi, young lady. I have never seen such a fierce opponent at this auction. You seem to really love ancient weapons. I have quite the collection at home, do you want to take a peek at it? It’s twenty-five minutes from here and I can assure you would love it.

She was about to be extremely insolent when Tatsu Jin finally revealed himself to offer an escape plan.

       My lady, should I remind you that an extremely important meeting is waiting for you?

      Yes! I almost forgot about that. Sorry for turning down your invitation, good sir.

Fifteen minutes after almost causing an incident, they were calmly discussing inside the pod, which took off to their next location. Eleanor’s curiosity was off the charts after she made a link between both his purchase.

       The fact that you bought two items that happened to be USABLE is too much of a coincidence. Are you planning on using them?

      Yes.

Her face turned to him and she let out a sigh in exasperation.

      Why are you always doing this?

       Doing what?

      Dodging when I expect you to answer and answer when I expect you to dodge. It’s really irritating. Are you doing this on purpose?

       Maybe teasing you is indeed quite fun.

Even the way she pouted was cute. They still had pretty good chemistry, sharing evil smiles with each other. Still, Eleanor wanted to get to the bottom of the topic.

       What reason could you have to spend that much money on pieces of junk? Aren’t recent grenades far more reliable? They don’t even need an activation time to function…

       Precisely.

      Precisely what?

       What if I tell you that these “pieces of junk” are far superior tools in a fight?

       I would just not believe you.

       Interesting…

The way she answered proved his point. The way she answered proved that these grenades would still be really valuable tools. After all, technology had advanced so quickly that anything without an instantaneous effect would be instantly discarded. It is that shift in mentalities that he used to get the upper hand.

 

Eleanor felt him shielding up, so she quickly shot another question.

       When do you plan on using these grenades?

       I am afraid I can’t answer that…

       Come on! You always stop before the entertaining stuff comes out. Are you afraid?

He smiled but stayed calm before giving his answer.

      Don’t think for a minute that I can’t see what you are doing. Provoking me will not get you anywhere.

      Ok, I surrender… I just can’t figure you out. Anyway, what are we doing next?

       We are just going to shop for a few weapons. Keep playing the part, show your coin of knowledge to the shopkeeper, secure my order, and leave.

       Why can’t you be the one to show your coin?

       It’s not negotiable. Do you still want your favor?

She had no choice. Eleanor already did too much today to back down now.

 

When they both entered the shop, the shopkeeper was already busy with one customer.

 

Tatsu Jin sneakily advised Eleanor that they should be patient. While waiting for the clerk’s attention, they both looked around the shop.

 

Its structure was made out of wood and the walls were filled with white concrete. It would have looked quite plain without the many weapons and armor. For a place supposed to house a blacksmith surrounded by sweat and metal, it was still quite immaculate. There was no sign of a forge anywhere, so Eleanor thought he was creating his weapons in some sort of backroom.

 

After a done deal, the customer paid and took his purchase away.

 

Now, the shop clerk gave his whole attention to Eleanor and Tatsu Jin.  

       Welcome to my shop! What can I do for you? Are you looking for weapons? Maybe Armor?

The shopkeeper’s laidback attitude instantly changed at the sight of the golden coin in the lady’s hand. His head quickly came down with respect.

       I shall close my shop for the day then… You’re going to be responsible for a large portion of my yearly income after all…

The shopkeeper suddenly stopped talking, knowing he had said too much. Instead, he walked his customers to his workshop in the backroom. It was quite a simple room used for both storage and his activity. There were not any modern crafting machines to be seen. By just taking a glance at the equipment, Eleanor made the assumption that he was a traditionalist, adept at ancient forging techniques.

 

Eleanor and Tatsu Jin waited for the shopkeeper to come back with two massive cases on each hand that he put on a corner table. He then took a few steps back to let his customers try his products.

       Here is what you ordered, milady. Took me the entire week to create them.

Eleanor went on to open the first case. Two completely identical compound bows entered her line of sight. The shopkeeper broke the silence and introduced his work.

       Two compound bows, crafted using the schematic you provided. As I am not a bow expert myself, I required the assistance of an associate considering the deadline. Of course, he was kept in the dark as to the circumstances of the order.

The lady in the crimson dress glanced at her supposed butler. In her eyes, he did not seem to mind the situation. After all, the job was done well and no one was compromised. The blacksmith expanded about how created these similar pieces.

       I used a special alloy: a combination of aluminium for its weight and titanium for its Magic affinity. They should be able to withstand a maximum of twelve runes…

Eleanor violently interrupted him.

       Do you realize that items carved with more than nine runes could be considered national treasures? So twelve…

      I only did my best with the provided schematics…

She felt a firm grip on her shoulder. His message was clear: don’t overplay your part.

 

Eleanor immediately understood and invited the blacksmith to open the second case. After doing so, he instantly mentioned how atypic these were.

       Two very strange and unique blades. The schematic made a few changes to the ancient Japanese forging rituals for katanas, which took me off-guard.

       How so?

       Their lengths do not correspond to regular katanas. In addition, these are slightly less curved. The work on the handle was also quite different to sustain such a blade. Swords are my life, and I have never seen such a schematic.

Tatsu Jin did not like where the conversation was going and used his cover to show it.

       My lady, this is a secret schematic. We should not enquire about it any further. Now that everything is ok, should we take our leave?

      Yes… you’re right. Is there anything else we need to know about these blades?

Despite the look on the undercover butler’s face, Eleanor still wanted to know more about these weapons.

       It was hard optimizing their Magic potential. No compromise can be made on a sword’s durability, as it will always in direct contact with another blade or a foe. For the material, I kept it classic with “Tamahagane” steel and just added a bit of blue steel to enhance their potentials for enchanting.

      Is it why they have that blue shade?

      Yes.

       Enchanting wise, how do they fare?

       They should be able to withstand eight to nine runes… Of course, I added specific tools for engraving. All of these weapons should also undergo regular maintenance, either with me or another skilled specialist.

Now, there was one question that burned her lips.

      How much do we owe you for all of this?

       I am afraid… It is forbidden to mention the price. I received along with the order a wish to never reveal the exact price, under any circumstances.

       I should have expected it. This whole day is shrouded in mystery anyway. Can we proceed with the payment now?

       Of course.

Eleanor’s undercover butler simply took out his GLASS and pushed a few buttons on the holographic screen. An expression of sorrow took over the blacksmith as he had promised to delete the schematics that had been given to him after payment.

 

Tatsu Jin closed both cases and they politely thanked him for the service. The transfer student finally relaxed, as his butler part was done. He looked at the trunk full of cases with a sense of accomplishment. When he took place inside the car, Eleanor already provided the pod’s interface with the information it needed.

 

The coordinates that she gave led them to a faraway piece of land. During the travel, Eleanor tried to make some sense of what happened in the shop.

       The combination of these highly potent weapons and your enchanting skills give me weird vibes. You’re trying to take over the world?

      Why everyone keeps on telling me that?!

Tatsu Jin instantly corrected his sentence, leaving no room for discussion.

      You know enough to know where this is going.

      Intending to use these at the tournaments… I see. But there is something I don’t quite understand…

      Tell me. Maybe I can make some light.

       Why did you throw away those matches? And don’t lie to me, I know you are probably the most potent student between the first years.

       You’re missing one part of the puzzle.

She used all her brainpower to understand the intricacies of what he just said, without result.

       Which part?

      You’ll understand after seeing me fight for real.

After an hour of driving, they reached the limit of a deep forest, which was surrounded by cliffs and plains. The place was far enough from civilization to be perfect for some high-profile Magic casting. Of course, this area had also been registered by the military for weapon trials. Tatsu Jin had contacted his acquaintance at the military to avoid another incident like what happened in a few days ago.

 

When the car stopped, Tatsu Jin asked Eleanor a very ambiguous question. 

       Can you put on this blindfold?

Eleanor blushed hard but tried to hide her embarrassment with sarcasm.

       Even serious lovers don’t do that kind of foreplay…

       Nothing is going to happen; you have my word.

       Fine… give me that.

Eleanor put on the blindfold. Silence descended in the pod as she waited.

 

Suddenly, she heard the trunk opening and closing. Despite knowing he was not the kind of person to put her in harm’s way, Eleanor was worried. She was alone and blindfolded in a car in the middle of nowhere.

 

Nothing happened for a whole minute. There was complete silence inside the pod.

 

Without her sight, Eleanor’s other senses were sharpened. So, when a powerful Magic was cast, she felt it in the air. She was surprised by the might of the spell that was just cast. To her, it was at least a Master-Class spell. She also felt a bit cold despite the complete isolation of the pod from the outside.

 

After a while, a succession of sounds reached her ears again until Tatsu Jin entered the vehicle. He instructed her to not get rid of her blindfold yet. After fifteen minutes of high-speed travel, she was finally able to open her eyes. She remained silent, knowing he would not allow any answers past his lips.

 

When they arrived at the Elite Magic Academy, it was around 5 PM.

 

Tatsu Jin gave her the key to his end of the bargain.  

       Put this carillon on one of your windows at 9 PM tonight. I can guarantee he will be there.

       Thanks. This was the weirdest day of my life.

       I can guarantee this is not even in my top one hundred. Take care.

Eleanor chuckled at his remark and slowly walked back to her abode.

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