Chapter 7

Eleanor Shinsei

Friday, September 7th 2063

The bell rang at 5 pm, signaling the end of class. After a whole day of mental preparation, he was finally ready to meet Shinsei Eleanor face to face. He cleared up his desk and swiftly escaped the classroom without anyone noticing anything. Even though he still had the transfer student tag on his shoulders, his classmates slowly started to get used to him. Of course, he did his best not to act suspicious, which gave him enough leisure to flee from the battlefield that was his classroom.

 

Without even using Invisibility Magic, his multiple adventures around the world forced him to learn how to move without being noticed. From gazing downward, walking close to walls, and not making any sound while moving, Tatsu Jin was already part of Class-B’s background. He had one main objective for the rest of the day and nothing else mattered to him. He waited in his apartment until the sun came down to act on it.

 

At 9 pm, he took out his GLASS device and opened the file he downloaded yesterday. He selected the name of Eleanor Shinsei with and the holographic display automatically indicated where Eleanor Shinsei’s apartment was located. He was surprised to see on his map that she had not been awarded a place in a regular housing building.

 

After going up and down for about twenty minutes, Tatsu Jin finally managed to reach the supposed location of the Illusion Contractor. Shock could be seen on his eyes after he’d realized that there was not a mistake on his map.  To him, why was a contractor living in such ruin was a question that ran wild in his mind.                                                                                         

The place he was looking at looked like a perfect setting for a horror movie. In-between a hut and a house, the exterior of this little house was completely taken over by leaves. All four corners had been renovated with a different, darker wood than the one used for its original construction. Some windows were shattered while others featured a perfectly cut piece of stained glass. All in all, this place was definitely a work-in-progress. Precisely because it looked so gloomy, none of the student body would be walking around here. Therefore, Tatsu Jin thought that it would be a perfect place to plan some of his mischiefs.

 

Fortunately for him, that part of the Academy featured neither a security camera nor a magic detection system. He was still skeptical and decided to cover up his tracks regardless.

 

He used Concealment Magic to blur the magic imprint of his next spell. Then, Tatsu Jin cast a part of his Teleportation Magic to set a waypoint the size of a fist under a bush of foliage, where no one would be looking.

(I am probably going to come here a lot, as both Tatsu Jin and the Master of All Magic. Setting up a waypoint is of high enough priority to do it now.)

After he was done with his preparations, he knocked on the wooden door before hearing a feminine voice from inside. 

      Sorry for making you wait

      I came here without any notice, so I should be the one asking for forgiveness. Are you the Illusion Contractor?

The Master of All Magic already knew who she was, but Tatsu Jin did not. So, he had to introduce himself properly. 

       Indeed, I do know how to perform little illusion tricks, but even so, calling me a contractor is a bit much. Don’t you think? So, who might you be? I don’t recognize your face.

       My name is Tatsu Jin. I joined the school as a transfer student a few days ago. This is probably why the student file you have might be a bit outdated. I saw your name on the contractor list and recognized it. But first, I am intrigued about this place. I heard that contractors should be living in some kind of fancy apartment.

       I was the one asking for this place. When I came to interview for the post, I saw this abandoned little hut and thought that it was the perfect place to create a cozy environment. I was never a fan of those high-tech modern fancy apartments. I am more at ease in a place with a certain charm. Also, the exterior prevents unwanted gazes, which is fit for an illusion workplace. Do you like chess?

The question lingered in the air for a moment, creating tension. Shinsei Eleanor did not wait for his answer and was already replacing the vials with some kind of device. She moved two chairs and placed them below the main table, in a face-to-face position before turning it on. Three holographic displays appeared: the chessboard just over table and two control panels. This setup allowed for both players to see each other’s faces without moving around. With a smile on his face, Tatsu Jin answered positively to her question. 

      Chess happens to be one of the rare games I enjoy playing.

       Since you have business with me, let’s play while talking. I cannot wait to hear what you have to say. As a lady, I ought to go first.

Both the transfer student and the Illusion Contractor sat in their respective chair. She harbored a twelve-foot smile, like a wolf looking at an abandoned lamb. Tatsu Jin assumed that she wanted to showcase her skills in front of a beginner, securing an overwhelming victory. He almost let out a chuckle but managed to control himself. After all, he was also looking forward to crushing her plans. 

 

A bit of time passed after she made her opener. Both of them were focused on the game, almost forgetting why they were here in the first place. Adopting an all-out offensive strategy, a smug expression could be seen on her face every time she took a new piece. However, she faced an unwavering defensive strategy from Tatsu Jin, who was focused on trading pieces. In the room, only the sound emitted by the device could be heard.

 

Slowly reaching the end game, it was obvious that Tatsu Jin had a decent advantage. Understanding that she had been bamboozled, she opened the conversation in hopes that it may serve as a distraction.

      I am interested in what business you might have with me.

      You will understand my situation after looking at this. 

While she was typing her next move on the holographic control panel, Tatsu Jin reached out to his back pocket and took out a single golden coin with a carved symbol. After showing it, he slid the coin on the other side of the table without a change in his facial expressions. 

(Now the real fight starts.)

She, who was hoping to distract him from the game, stormed out of her chair after noticing the coin. Before doing anything else, she used her personal GLASS to scan the item for its material, twice. She was completely stunned for a moment after realizing that the coin was genuine and Tatsu Jin saw myriads of flowing emotions on her face. After a while, she controlled herself and sat in her chair again.

 

Another chill went down her spine when she realized that she did not pay attention to her opponent’s move on the holographic chessboard. After all, she was more eager to ask him questions than to play right now. After giving him back the coin, which was a perfect double of the coin she herself owned, she immediately went on to ask a few questions.

       Considering this, you can call me Eleanor when we are alone, and I’ll also call you by your first name. Jin, how did you get to know the Master of All Magic?

      I happen to be quite gifted at enchanting.

Despite her failing to see his previous move, she saw an opportunity for a decent attack and tapped on her screen, which resulted in her knight taking his rook. 

       For the Master of All Magic to notice your gift, you must be quite good. How many runes can you carve on a single weapon?

       A lot.

To add salt to the injury, Tatsu Jin made his next move slowly to make Eleanor understand her mistake. She fell for the trap that he set up as his bishop was waiting to bury the now open rook. This was the turning point of the game, and the transfer student was now in an extremely favorable position.

 

She was starting to feel embarrassed, from being played with not only in the conversation but in the game as well. She decided to allocate more of her intellectual resources to the conversation at place. 

      When did you meet him?

      A couple of years ago.

      Why do you let him borrow your enchanting skills?

      It is quite useful to have the Master of All Magic in your debt. I have a few favors saved up for key moments of my life. 

She was jealous, more jealous than ever. 

       Those bestowed with the Master of All Magic’s Coin of Knowledge are part of a secret community. We are supposed to look after one another. With that in mind, I will listen to what you have to say. I guess that is what you wanted by showing me that coin in the first place…

      Yes.

A few moves widened the advantage in favor of the transfer student. It did not take long until he delivered the killing blow. 

      Checkmate.

      I know… did you use the coin to distract me long enough to plant your trap?

      Yes.

      You’re quite the sly fox, aren’t you?

      Indeed.

After taking her device away, Eleanor went to her kitchen to prepare herself something to drink. Her visitor sat down on a comfortable chair after being invited to do so and waited a few minutes. He accepted a cup of tea, watching her lie on the sofa next to him. They were next to one another and the tension was slowly raising once again. Tatsu Jin was the one to break the ice.

       I understand that showing you that coin piqued your curiosity. You should have millions of questions in your mind. Am I right, Eleanor?

      You’re completely on point.

      I wish to ask for a request, in exchange for information about the Master of All Magic.

       Do you have his blessing for divulging these pieces of information?

      Of course.

      Let’s say I trust you. Now, speak of your request.

The transfer student took a deep but calm breath. 

       This first-year school curriculum poses no threat to me at all, with one exception.

      The approval of a contractor. Keep going.

      I don’t want to grind a regular relationship with a contractor. It takes too much time for what I will be getting in return. It can also have unwanted impacts on my objectives.

       So, what do you want?

There was another period of silence. Eleanor was wondering if he was doing it on purpose to create an atmosphere. Before her mind could come up with an answer, Tatsu Jin continued, completely in control of the conversation.

       I want your stamp print on my contractor file. Now.

       No. I will not compromise my professional career for second-hand information, even about the Master of All Magic.

       I guess that you cannot give your approval to someone that did not show a partial mastery over the magic that you teach.

He adopted an attitude that led her to believe that he was beaten. On the other hand, he had a completely different plan in mind. 

(The bait is set. Now, bite.)

The Illusion Contractor took this opportunity as a smart way to escape from the situation and offered her response. 

         Exactly.

Tatsu Jin was in a good mood. Everything was going according to his plan. However, he still had a few notes to play to finish his symphony. So, after allowing himself a second to rejoice, he made his final move. 

      Would you be kind enough to share the name of the hardest Illusion Magic you want to teach the first years?

       Of course. As it is an Advanced-Class Magic, it’s going to be hard to master in the first year, but I plan to teach my most promising student Invisibility Magic.

Because she traded all her knowledge with the Master of All Magic, whatever she picked would already be in Tatsu Jin’s grasp. 

         Is that so?

It was not his statement that shook her, but the cheeky tone he used. When her eyes shifted from her empty teacup to Jin, she let go of it in sheer astonishment. Tatsu Jin was step by step erasing himself from view with Invisibility Magic. What was particular about this showcase of skill was that he did not even seem to concentrate. His face remained the same, with his dark eyes gazing into hers. Once more, the silence took place, disturbed only by the sound of a mug hitting the floor. After a short period, he canceled the Illusion Magic and came back into view, which triggered Eleanor’s reaction. 

       You… cast Invisibility Magic… silently… while keeping your Ether Aura in check… and you did not even seem to put that much effort into it.

       Does it mean I have your approval?

       Wait… I have so many questions.

       I am afraid I cannot answer most of them. More so if you refuse to give me your approval. Do you still remember what this coin represents? You need to make up your mind now. Or I’ll walk away, with the information you so desperately seek.

She did not know what to say for a couple of seconds. The transfer student, however, was thinking about this move’s implications. 

(I need to finish this quickly with a fast catch. The longer she thinks about this, the higher the chance is that she would put up some weird conditions.)

The transfer student took his bluff to its limit by standing up from his chair and faking to leave. His strategy seemed to have no effect, until…

         I’m in. 

She jumped from her chair in search of her Elite Magic Academy’s stamp. It did not take long for this newly appointed teacher to find it, considering how organized this place was. The way Eleanor threw her stamp carried deep meaning. She was angry and under heavy pressure from a first-year student. She had been outsmarted both in Chess and in their interaction. In addition, considering the show he put on few seconds prior, she knew his magic talent could be limitless. The seed of a deep inferiority complex had been planted.

 

Right now. the way she was pouting would have probably won many hearts among other male students. In the meantime, Jin already took out his personal file and stamped out the contractor approval window. After getting everything in order, he dropped his bag onto the floor and relaxed a bit. On the other hand, she was about to explode but still took the time to give him a warning.

       Even though you have my approval, I strongly advise waiting until the latter part of the year to make it official. Keep it safe around you, let no one else see it. I guess you do not want unnecessary attention, do you?

      Understood. Now, ask away. I will answer to the best of my ability.

He was waiting for her to go all-out the second he finished his sentence. She decided otherwise. To set the record straight, she didn’t even know where to start. 

      Why are you in this school? From what I can see, your level of mastery over magic goes even beyond those of a second, maybe a third year.

      I mean no harm to anyone nor will I plot against the academy. Of course, those who want trouble with me shall be met with a terrible fate. I only want to spend my three years at this school in peace.

      You don’t have any hidden agendas? You can’t expect me to believe that.

      Of course, I have hidden agendas. Everybody does. What I mean is that you have nothing to be concerned about.

      Can you elaborate on those hidden agendas?

      I am afraid not.

      I see you are already a master at dodging questions.

      And you at expressing sarcasm.

In a moment of pure chemistry, both Tatsu Jin and Eleanor shared an evil smile. The tension was decreasing by the minute as they both started to understand each other.

 

Since she knew this topic wasn’t going anywhere, she inquired about his maturity and courage.

      Where did you get that mouth of yours? Having the upper hand against a teacher isn’t an easy fit yet you pulled it off like it was nothing.

      I have cards to play, you have cards to play as well. I just did better with the knowledge at my disposition.

      Dodging again? Didn’t you say you would answer to the best of your ability?

      Believe it or not, I’m doing my best right now.

Suddenly, she fell. After some time, her cheeks reddened and her body tensed. Tatsu Jin also noticed that she was avoiding eye contact. He waited for her to muster the courage to ask a difficult question. 

      Do you have any information about the Master of All Magic’s past?

      He already warned me that you might ask this question. In fact, I already know about your little history.

Eleanor exploded out of embarrassment. She could probably help a plane to land with that much hand-waving. Her face was completely red as she tried to interrupt him and justify herself. However, her visitor showed no sign of backing down. 

       It isn’t my place to judge you, Eleanor. The fact that you either fantasized about him or really like him is of no real concern to me. The Master of All Magic trusted me to deliver the right amount of information about him. So, I want you to look into my eyes and open your ears. Can you do that?

      Of course.

It was difficult because of her embarrassment but she managed to do it. 

       I must warn you. Following him and expecting a return of your affection returned is nothing but a fantasy. It’s probably not that he doesn’t want to but that he can’t do it. He is the most broken man I know, focused solely on studying magic. He is an immense keeper of knowledge and an even greater magician, but he fails at every step of being a decent human being. I can still understand that any woman would want a swing at him because of the mystery though.

This time, she didn’t even try to hide or hold it and tears went down her cheeks. Both Tatsu Jin and the Master of All Magic were completely inept at consoling people. So, he didn’t offer a shoulder to cry on and simply waited until she was ready to take more hits to continue. 

       As both a student and an owner of a Coin of Knowledge, I advise you to let go of him. Nothing prevents you from enjoying a few more one-night stands but counting on him in the long run really isn’t a safe bet. Now that I think about it, I have a question for you. 

He realized that he should have asked that question a long time ago. 

(I don’t think I want to know… but I need to know.) 

She made a head sign between the tears to show that she was ready for it.

      Why did you enroll as a contractor at this school?

      That’s ironic… I must answer the same question you dodged earlier. I guess my answer probably has less value. Officially, I am making a name for myself.

      And unofficially?

      The pay is good, like really good.

      So, you can travel across the world in order to learn unique magic abilities. Then, you can trade these secrets to win his affection. How far am I from the truth, Eleanor?

      It pains me so much that you figured me out so easily.

Eleanor tucked her legs closer to her chest, shrinking from the question. Tatsu Jin watched her for a moment but kept the topic alive. 

      Even with my warning, will you still be looking out for the Master of All Magic’s affections?

      Yes…

      Why?

       I never was attracted by the mystery behind his legend. On our first adventure, I was nothing but a witness to verify that his deed was done. Despite possessing immense power, he seemed so lonely. Everyone was only interested in his abilities. I felt a bit unique, as though I was the only one looking after the man under the mask. I wanted him to have someone he feels comfortable being around. Someone had to be here to tell him that making mistakes is acceptable, that kind of stuff.

For the first time in a while, maybe years, both Tatsu Jin and the Master of All Magic did not know what to say. 

(Even though I probably can’t give Eleanor what she wants, her devotion must be rewarded. After all, it is only a bit off what I was planning for.)

After being lost in thought, he put his next move in motion.

      In that case, I have a faster way to realize your objective. 

Her body language underwent a complete change. She opened up her shoulders, released her legs and her eyes suddenly lit up.

      Really? Will I have to sell my soul to the devil?

      Do I look like the devil to you?

      A bit. At least, he speaks like you.

      Considering the bombs that I dropped on you, I can’t even be mad. So, what I propose is an exchange between a few of my favors left and your cooperation in multiple events throughout the year.

      I am impressed. No one on earth would probably be able to make it sound creepier than what you just did.

       Sorry about that. Putting it in simpler terms, many of my hidden agendas would become much easier with your help.

      Understood. Let me think about it overnight. I will give you my answer tomorrow.

After what looked like her final answer, Tatsu Jin got up from the chair and put his bag on his shoulder. Silently, Eleanor escorted him back outside. He made a final statement before hitting the path back to his room. 

      I probably don’t need to mention that everything we discussed must remain confidential.

      You don’t.

      Also, I will behave differently with everyone else than what you saw tonight. I just want to blend in and avoid attracting attention. Can I count on you to put up the act as well?

      You can. See you tomorrow.

After she waved him off, it took Jin a whole twenty minutes to come back to his room. The first thing he did was strip down and take a shower. With the stream of hot water running down his neck, he let his rational side take over.

(This event was a huge success. Even though I did not manage to get the perfect situation, it was still a very productive night. On a scale of one to a hundred, it would be a well-deserved ninety-four. My contractor problem is gone. I made contact with one that will become a great asset. With this, many of my plans could move way faster than anticipated… In the perfect situation, she would have accepted my proposal right away. What’s with her final answer though? I was expecting her to be rational and give up on her long-term plans with me. What should I do?)

After changing clothes and jumping into bed, only four words were spoken by the Master of All Magic before he fell into a deep slumber. 

         I do not know. 

Separator

After he disappeared from her sight, she reentered her little hut. She ended up sitting on the floor with her back against the wall. She felt like she was struck down by lightning. This event was such a rollercoaster of emotion for her. She experienced happiness, curiosity, anger, sadness, and hope, in that precise order. If she could still cry, she probably would have.

 

She managed to get back on her feet and head to bed, without a shower or even a proper change of clothes. She was in no mental state to think about what happened or its implications. After what this first-year student made her go through, the only answer was sleep.

 

She still managed to utter a few words before falling into Morpheus’ arms.

      At least, he is going to be entertaining to watch.

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