Chapter 24

Strategy Meeting

A week had passed since Tatsu Jin accepted to hide Nakano. They have since accepted each other’s presence. Nakano quickly accepted the transfer student as her primary caretaker. A couple of days after their first encounter, the cat was already moving around him in search of hugs and pats.

 

But while she behaved perfectly when he was around, Nakano’s true roots as a mischievous animal came back as soon as he was leaving this place. Knocking off his belongings, going through his affairs, and trying to find the snacks’ locations, Nakano had pretty much shown that she had no limits. In her wake, Apartment 808 had seen chaos in more ways than one.

 

After multiple experiences like this, Tatsu Jin messaged the doctor. The professional caretaker was against punishing the animal and more for a positive reinforcement strategy. Tatsu found most of what he was looking for on the first few floors of the Dormitory Building.

 

A heating pad and a really soft blanket seemed to perfectly do the trick. This warm and comfortable environment made it impossible for the cat to avoid sleeping. After being rolled into the hot blanket, Nakano had always been purring, meowing, which indubitably resulted in her falling asleep.

 

This technique, in tandem with wisely given treats, drastically reduced Nakano’s chaotic behavior. But still, Tatsu Jin could not help but think about how even her mischievous attitude was kind of endearing.  

Separator

Monday, November 25th, 2063

Tatsu Jin was sitting on the floor, deeply focused on his morning meditation. The Ether was flowing at a high but constant pace inside his whole body. Because he had no grasp on his environment, he did not feel Nakano getting closer. The cat made a slight jump, rolling herself into his lap.

 

The transfer student finally noticed her presence. The question of whether or not Nakano would be feeling something at the contact of someone in a meditation state was at the forefront of his mind. After a while, he assumed that should Nakano had indeed been feeling something, she simply would not be that relaxed.

 

Nakano woke up, leaving Tatsu Jin’s side. Tatsu Jin grabbed his GLASS, whose vibrations warned him of an official message.

Team 27: Yumi Ohno, Mia Hirano, and Tatsu Jin,

 

This is your official invitation to the Elite Magic Academy’s Winter Tournament. Your first-round showdown will take place on Wednesday, November 28th at 6 PM. Your location is the Beta Stadium.

 

Be sure to arrive early, in order to register your equipment and make sure to update the information of the spell you wish to use ahead of the fight. The official rules of the tournament are available to you through the student’s portal should you wish to know more about the event in itself.

 

Of course, we are there to provide any assistance if needed,

 

The Elite Magic Academy’s Administration Office.

Tatsu Jin stared at his GLASS for some time, as a symbol of his failure. He had been thinking about what to say to Mia and Yumi for almost two weeks but had no idea if it was going to be effective. At least now, the timing would force the two women to listen to what he had to say.

 

He instantly opened the group conversation on his app and tried multiple different phrasing, but ended up sending a neutral and clear invitation.

Yumi, Mia. I had time to think about what happened. Would you accept to hear me out?

Soon enough, two distinctive knocks hit Apartment 808’s door. After Mia and Yumi made their entrance, Tatsu Jin noticed this was going to be an uphill battle.

(I need to be extremely convincing. Else, I’m going to get eaten alive by these two.)

The two young women quickly noticed the place’s new tenant. While Mia managed to keep a straight face, Yumi’s face instantly brightened up.

      So cute!

Tatsu Jin noticed that Mia was quite stressed around the animal. It was obvious how relieved she was that the cat stood underneath the armchair. The bow wielder went out of her way to avoid walking close to Nakano and took place on the main sofa.

 

These new visitors stressed Nakano a little bit, who instantly reached her safe spot. Yumi had already been given a few negative points due to how she was looking at her straight in the eyes. On the other hand, the animal kept looking at Mia, whose behavior was completely non-aggressive.

 

Yumi was a bit disappointed by Nakano’s attitude but quietly sat alongside Mia. The atmosphere was heavy, due to how things ended the last time they met. Tatsu Jin grabbed a plate full of drinks and biscuits and offered them to the young ladies, who did not refuse their share.

 

Apologizing was clearly not Tatsu Jin’s strongest point, mainly due to a serious lack of practice. After sitting on the armchair facing Yumi and Mia, he hid his nervousness by introducing the new resident.

      I would like to begin by introducing Nakano.

Reacting to her name, the cat moved back and forth between his legs.

      This is a difficult situation. I would ask you to not say a word to anyone about her presence here… Let’s get into the main topic, shall we?

Tatsu Jin was not confident at all, and there were a few cracks in his body language. The transfer student began by slowly tilting his head down as a sign of a formal apology.

      Recently, someone told me how they once felt betrayed after being used by her entourage. I myself had the misfortune of having such an experience…

It was the truth. The Master of All Magic had never felt as used as when the Elder Sage revealed the truth about the Arcane Magic.

      I apologize for my hypocrisy… I imposed on Mia something that I myself loathed.

Tatsu Jin was pretty satisfied with his apology so far. However, there was still something that he wanted to add.

      The truth is… I’m seriously lacking conventional social skills. In hindsight, with a bit more help, many problems could have been defused right away instead of blowing out of proportions.

Yumi was thinking about how the matter was simple, and that her team leader, as always, overanalyzed everything.

      We knew from the start how you lacked basic social skills. Normal people simply say hello and ask to work together, which is NOT how our first meeting played out!

Mia was standing there, agreeing with everything Yumi was saying.

 

In normal circumstances, Mia would have been part of the conversation too. However, since Yumi started to talk, Nakano had slowly got closer to Mia’s legs, touching and sniffing her leg at regular intervals. This was making the young woman extremely uncomfortable. Since her arrival, Mia did her best to not attract the cat’s attention at all.

 

However, as a visitor, not giving Nakano special attention was exactly the right move to be on her good grace.

 

Yumi crossed her arms and sighed.  

      But right now, we are disappointed because you do not feel the same way we do. Right now, we do not care about looking for better opportunities to replace you. We want to fight with you. It’s as simple as that.

Suddenly, an extreme thought crossed her mind.

      You mentioned how advancing our career would be the RATIONAL thing to do. But if it were more convenient for you to swap us, your teammates, would you do it?

Tatsu Jin froze in place for several seconds.

 

Meanwhile, Nakano jumped on the couch’s arm to try and get closer to Mia. The animal’s objective was to test if resting on Mia’s lap was doable. It was pretty much a given that Mia was slowly panicking, not knowing how to react to the cat’s behavior. 

      Yumi… Can you please make it go away?

The swordswoman jumped to her rescue and took Nakano onto her own lap. Contrary to Mia, who had a family member allergic to cats, Yumi was used to leaving under a roof that had pets. While she was petting Nakano, Yumi noticed Tatsu Jin’s disarray and interrupted him before he was able to say anything.

      Nevermind. I don’t think we want to hear your answer. For now, you seem to have understood how using Mia as bait for your little games is unacceptable. Next time you want to try something like that, warn us ahead and we’ll promptly tell you to go screw yourself.

Tatsu Jin took some time to let this information sink in.

      I understand.

Mia finally had an opportunity to say a few words.

      We’ve let our ego stand in the way of talking through this issue. Not saying a word to you for such a long time was not really smart. We’re sorry too…

       What’s done is done, I guess… Instead, we should focus on what is ahead of us.

Yumi and Mia nodded, confirming their wish to prepare for the Winter Tournament. With this, Tatsu Jin’s plans were finally about to move forward.

      Could you two come to the shooting range after class?

      I did not receive any demands for archery training today… so it should be okay.

      I have your new weapons. Also, we need to discuss strategy.

Mia’s eyes shone a thousand stars.

       Wait… new weapon? Do you have a new bow for me?

      I have your compound bow and Yumi’s new sword, both enchanted by myself. I’ll bring them with me this afternoon for try-outs.

      You’re an enchanter? I heard skilled enchanters are hard to come by!

       Skilled ones, yes. I’m still stuck at the basics though.

It would have been smarter for Tatsu Jin to play safe and not mention the provenance of these enchantments. The transfer student tried to brush the matter off, but he knew from her eyes that Mia was already suspicious.

      It is time for us to go to class. If you take your gear with you, we could spend more time on this session.

Yumi and Mia nodded, and off to classes they went.

Separator

When Tatsu Jin arrived at the Ether Meditation spot, the whole Class-1B looked at what he had brought with him. The Class leader Tsumugi Wada was particularly curious about what could rest inside these two crates. She, more than anybody here, had been tasked with reporting Tatsu Jin’s funny business.

 

She decided to do nothing this time, neither message nor GLASS call. A student walking with cases in their hands was not especially rare. Still, Tsumugi Wada decided to keep an eye on the transfer student’s behavior as usual.

Separator

Mia probably set a tracking record running from the Class Building to the shooting range. She was in high spirit, liberated of the stress caused by the dissension. Since her meeting with him, Mia had made huge progress, both physically and mentally. Practicing, planning, and interacting with him once again was exciting to her. The new bow was also icing on the cake.

 

Yumi decided to not run and save her energy for training. After reaching the place, she took a moment to be impressed by the quality of this facility. The swordswoman witnessed Mia shooting a couple of arrows, with a gentle smile on her face.

      Mia, you look like a kid on Christmas Eve.

Mia instantly lowered her bow, slightly embarrassed.

      It’s not just about the bow!

       Then, what is it?

Mia tried to stop herself from blushing but rolled a critical failure. She was feeling her cheeks becoming hot by the minute.

      All of us getting angry at each other… it felt wrong.

      It didn’t. He fucked up, and we had to show him he can’t get away with it.

      But… it’s just… him? Didn’t he have other plans in mind while making the bet?

Yumi knew there was a slight possibility her teammate had developed a slight crush for their team leader. Furthermore, since Mia refused to tell the tale of their dining night, Yumi had to make sense of the many whispers going through the academy.

 

Yumi knew that, despite all appearances, these two weeks away from Tatsu Jin were difficult for her. Mia tried to thrice convince Yumi that it was time to reach out to the transfer student. However, the swordswoman was adamant about letting Tatsu Jin come up with an apology of his own accord, which he finally did.

 

Right now, Yumi’s teasing nature came back to the surface. While Mia tensed her bow, Yumi sneaked behind her and whispered slowly in her ears.

      You trust him that much, huh?

It was a given that Yumi’s teasing completely took Mia off guard. The bow wielder completely released an arrow but ended up completely missing her target.

 

Tatsu Jin barged in the shooting range, transporting two slim but extremely large containers. After putting these on the rear table, Team 27’s leader instantly took notice of Mia’s physical and emotional state. Without prior knowledge of what had just happened, Tatsu Jin came to the most sensible and logical conclusion. 

      Mia, are you okay? Do you have a fever?

       No! No… I’m okay…

On the other side of the room, Yumi tried to prevent herself from laughing, but to no avail. In her mind, this comedic timing was simply too good to be true.

 

Tatsu Jin’s face remained stern as he had no clue what Yumi and Mia was on about. In this situation, his experience was telling him to go with the flow.

      I see… let’s put that matter aside from now. I have your weapons. Who wants to start?

Yumi managed to provide an answer out between two laughs.

      I would not dare go first…

Mia walked in front of Yumi with a pouting face. Releasing her pent-up emotions, she bonked her forehead with the side of her hand. That helped her regain a somewhat stable mental state. Once this matter settled, Mia took place around the table, firmly nodding in the direction of her team leader.

      Let’s do this.

Tatsu Jin opened his arms to let her know one of the two containers was now hers. Two satisfying clicks later, Mia finally took the brand-new weapon in her hands. She immediately noticed that this weapon was unique in its own ways. The runes carved on it took the form of words, spelling out the weapon’s true nature.

A Gift from the Lightning Goddess

Mia also focused on the feel that this weapon was giving her.

       It’s slightly heavier than what I am used to, but the balance is not impaired.

      Can you feel what’s inside?

      I can. Ether runs through these words.

       Can I show you?

Mia accepted his proposal, eager to see someone casting the Magic from her own perspective. She had seen fighters use enchanted gear, but never had the privilege of trying one herself. Working with such an item felt like an important milestone to her.

 

Tatsu Jin accepted the bow and put himself into position. Carefully planting his feet sideways, Team 27’s leader was finally ready to excite the Ether inside the weapon, and trigger the enchantment.

 

The bow vibrated in his left hand and an electric blue aura appeared all over his right hand. Electric sparks formed from within the aura, which Tatsu Jin shaped into the rough form of an arrow. It was obviously not his first time casting the spell, as he used it twice to verify that everything was working well.

 

Mia, who had significantly more experience than him, already noticed that this enchantment boasted more firepower than her own spell. She was shivering, faced with the idea of this weapon being hers.

 

With a fully-formed Lightning Arrow, the transfer student did not even bother with aiming. Mia and Yumi dodged the small residues of sparks left behind. Tatsu Jin released the Lightning Arrow Magic.

 

An intense ray of lightning flew towards the target, completely tearing it apart. Yumi and Mia stood there for ten seconds, not knowing what to say. The Team 27’s leader turned back to face Mia and handed her this bow with a smile.

      An Advanced-Class version of your own spell. In normal situations, I would never do this, but I need to account for last case scenarios. Do you understand why?

       Because honing my own skills is a priority?

Tatsu Jin felt a sense of accomplishment hearing Mia’s answer. This enchanted weapon, although necessary for his plans, was also something that he did not like to use too much.

      Of course. Let me show you how to activate the spell… There are enough runes on it to store some Ether. That way, it can be activated even when you’re running low on energy.

Team 27’s leader was teaching her the basics of enchantment triggers. He reminded her that, even though the spell was powerful, magicians could still offer an equally powerful block or simply dodge it.

      I’m going to be brutally honest with you. We’re working together to get you up to speed. However, there are still scenarios in which your Magic could fail you. This is a failsafe, to be used in last case situations or against stronger opponents. Got it?

       Yes…

After Tatsu Jin infused his Ether onto the weapon, Mia tried to excite the runes for the first time. Launching a spell above Mia’s current abilities the regular way would be extremely hard. However, using an enchantment would make it far more reliable. This was the power that enchanting had.

 

As far as Yumi was concerned, Tatsu Jin knew she was could handle it on her own. Her weapon was far more classic, and the enchantment less powerful. Tatsu Jin decided to carve a simplified version of his own Wind Blade Magic. Logically, the encryption had shrunk quite a bit.

Heritage of the Strongest Winds

Yumi showed her experience by instantly activating the enchantment. The wind surrounding the area gathered around her sword, giving it far sharper edges. A powerful strike with this weapon would probably shatter any non-enchanted sword. Furthermore, it also worked in protecting it from external damages.

 

A couple of swings were enough for her to appreciate this sword. She was very keen on listening to the vibrations coming alongside her movements.

 

While he was looking at her practicing, Tatsu Jin knew he had made a perfect choice. For Yumi, whose deadly blade was already dreaded by all first-year students, an easy-to-activate Medium-Class enchantment would make this sword a perfect companion for combat.

 

Team 27’s leader asked for their attention at the main table back inside. Yumi and Mia stopped what they were doing and came back to take their seats.  

      I have designed a unique strategy for the Winter Tournament.

Tatsu Jin paused for a few seconds to see if someone wanted to react. Yumi took that as an opportunity to impart what she thought was wisdom.

      Shouldn’t we scout our enemies to find out their strengths and weaknesses? Aren’t we lacking information here?

       The format of this tournament almost prevents scouting. 48 hours isn’t enough to gather good intel. On the other hand, crafting the closest to an unbeatable strategy based on our combined strengths is the way to go.

Mia decided to tag in on the conversation.

      I see… you mean that if we perform at least according to plan, there is no reason that anyone could pose a threat to us?

       Well… you’re not thinking pessimistically enough. There will always be a place for surprises. But right now, it’s time to talk about our roles.

These arguments ended up convincing Yumi. The way Tatsu Jin was acting reminded her of their first encounter. Right now, he was calm, collected and sure of himself. With him taking care of her back, the swordswoman felt confident in being able to take on anyone in the first years, even the King.

 

On the other hand, Mia still had issues with self-confidence. She was once again defeated by Yumi, who managed to activate her enchantment right away.

 

Tatsu Jin decided to start by briefing Yumi, whose role was the most straightforward.

      For now, you are our main damage output. We need to get you under Support Magic as soon as possible.

      Got it. You’ll take care of it?

      Yes, it is my specialty after all. It will give you enough time to activate your sword’s enchantment. This would be our optimal chain of actions. Your goal is to roam around the battlefield on your own and focus on finishing blows at close range.

At that point, Mia had been silently gazing at the runes on her bow. She was wondering whether or not Tatsu Jin had chosen the surname “Lightning Goddess” for her. Mia was thinking about how grandiloquent it was but still liked it nonetheless. The young woman could feel words flying by her ears. When she finally got out of her thoughts, Mia raised her hands as a sign of apology.

      Sorry… I zoned out for a second. Could you brief me one more time, please?

       No problem. I would appreciate not having to repeat it a third time.

Yumi knew Tatsu Jin liked playing the straight man. She also noticed that his attitude was slightly different while he was explaining Mia’s role than hers.

      Mia, I’ve been training you since day one and am confident in your abilities. One of your roles in fights that are to come is to monitor the battlefield. If you feel we are close to losing, you have my authorization to use the enchantment.

      I understand. Do I have a setup at the start too?

      Yes. Come near me.

Once Mia got closer, Tatsu Jin put his left hand on her right shoulder. The Ether travelled from his body to hers, turning white in the process. The transfer student slowly breathed, and the casting of this Advanced-Class Magic was done.

 

Mia felt remnants of Tatsu Jin’s Ether moving into her body. She was also feeling lighter and lighter like nothing was holding her back on the ground. When she no longer felt his hand on her shoulder, Mia was slowly floating up in the air.

 

Deciding not to panic, the young woman found a way to place herself in some kind of stationary flight mode. Tatsu Jin, who had always cherished the first casting of every spell, had a huge smile on his face.

      No one, and I say NO ONE, will expect you to fly. This is an Advanced-Class Flying Magic, out of your range, but not out of mine. I’d rather not cast this one in front of everyone though, which is literally perfect.

      The SPECIAL RULE!

      Yep. This is the perfect solution to keep you out of range for good. Up there, you can focus on your Lightning Arrows safely. With three days of light practice, you might also be able to dodge a few basic attacks…

Between getting the team back together, being handled such a powerful weapon, and flying up in the air, Mia had totally forgotten she had news of her own to share. She waited until the Flying Magic cancelled, so she could regain her footing, to announce the news.

      I have something to show you too!

This caught Tatsu Jin’s attention. Because of how hardworking Mia had been, he now had high expectations for this little surprise. He sat on the wooden floor with Mia and patiently waited for her to focus.

 

Soon enough, Mia’s secret Magic kicked in. Tatsu Jin caressed his chin trying to figure out what it was but quickly figured it out.

      Have you shown this to anyone?

       My Contractor, Yumi, and now you.

Tatsu Jin spent two entire minutes congratulating her. First, Mia had been productive enough to seek out an answer to her own shortcomings. The transfer student even thought about how Yumi and Mia were changing at his contact. Before meeting him, Mia would have probably practiced that secret Magic in front of everyone, not understanding the value of secrecy.

 

He looked at both Yumi and Mia with satisfaction.

      This is perfect.

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