When was it? No, I’m pretty sure it has been like this since before I even noticed.
[Element Factor Isolation Project]
Many of Alice’s early memories include her being raised inside of a research facility. Her parents, a gentle father and a beautiful and composed mother, visited her everyday. Although those moments were brief, they brought a smile to her face. Whenever it was time for them to leave, they would give a lonely wave and say, “We’ll absolutely come again tomorrow.” Such was normal for Alice. As such, more than being dissatisfied, she looked forward to seeing them.
She was born within difficult financial conditions as an existence that brings joy. Regardless of her family’s poor economic standing, they were happy.
Soon after Alice turned five, she had to receive a detailed examination at the hospital due to an epidemic. The cost of it was by no means cheap. It left the Tireik family in debt. Naturally, their choice was made without an ounce of regret. If they had any regret, it was that they couldn’t go to a bigger hospital
Reporting that moment as a turning point would be much too cruel.
The results of Alice’s detailed examination affirmed that she possessed the rare qualities of an element. That made her a perfect subject for a project the country was beginning to implement.
It was originally anticipated back then that the rare possessors of elements would become symbols of strength. That Alice would become a subject for the project was a conversation immediately brought before her parents.
Alice was able to make a complete recovery from her illness by taking a special medicine. All she was needed was time. Unfortunately, the unit price of the medicine was not at the levels of mass production. It was high enough that it tormented the Tireik family. Their situation was one were the pressure they felt couldn’t be blamed on anyone.
“Please be at ease. The inspections will only determine her mana wavelength along with the details of her body.”
A polite tone and a soothing expression, the clichéd form of persuasion. Furthermore, a never before seen sum was presented before Alice’s parents to serve as renumeration for cooperating with the research. Even after deducting the cost of Alice’s treatment, plenty would be left over. In fact, they’d never have to work again.
Alice’s parents slammed the desk at the offer. They did so without any hesitation, or at least that is what Alice heard.
“This isn’t about money!!”
The country’s bureaucrat keeps his composure at rage given off by Alice’s father. His eyes don’t waver from her father’s face as he continues, “With the cooperation of everyone’s children, humanity may be saved.”
Her parents couldn’t immediately refute that statement. Although at that time a mamono invasion was being prevented, that they could invade at any time wasn’t a joke. The number of magicians were few, and despite their immaturity, they braved the frontlines with nothing but their magic ability. Alice too would eventually be conscripted.
“The period will be for three years. Visitation will be for one hour every day.”
With those words, a packet of materials along with a detailed schedule were laid out on the desk. Even if Alice’s parents didn’t understand, by desperately reading and rereading the information provide, she believes they eventually realized they had no choice in refusing.
Her parents took the week provided as a deadline to make the decision. It was a bitter choice they struggled to make until the last possible moment. Then, upon agreeing to the contract, they were given enough money to enjoy themselves for the rest of their lives…
However, her parents only withdrew the minimal amount provided to them. Afterwards, they did nothing more with it. Regardless, their thinking can be called naïve.
In the year when life at the facility entered its second year, the [Element Factor Isolation Project] was intended to replicate the element factors. Instead, the project reached its limits and was about to collapse.
The events that transpired at the research facility… though few, they were acts that were taboo with the subjects, human experimentation.
Ethical controversies can easily bring down a project after a single violation.
A scar remains on Alice’s body. The experiment was only meant to be a physical examination, no injury was to be brought to her body.
Alice, having been forbidden from mentioning it, could only remain strong in front of her parents. Furthermore, nodding was her only choice if she wanted to meet with them.
“Mama, when can we live together?”
A smile blossomed across the face of Alice’s mother. “Very soon. You just need to wait a bit longer. Mama is also looking forward to the day she can live with Alice.”
Her father made a massive circle with his hands to bring Alice delight. “That’s right. You’ll absolutely be surprised once you come home. There are s~o many stuffed dolls.”
Alice could no longer remember what her home looked like, but that was a trivial matter. Her only desire was for the three of them to live together.
I wonder if it was after that they stopped visiting me?
According to the facility personnel, it was because they were busy with work. Although Alice as a child couldn’t agree, she understood. No, I endured it.
After all, she had been told they would be able to live together after just a bit more time.
However, that expectation came faster than anticipated. One of the subjects Alice lived alongside with died. Regardless of the cause, the fact that part of it was due to experimentation resonated loudly. The country, upon inspecting the facility, uncovered the human experimentation and the three year project was halted.
Alice was then taken into military custody. She barely remembers the details to what happened afterwards, only the conclusion. Despite that, the first words spoken to her by a soldier remain vivid in her mind. “Your parents have died.”
She didn’t really understand what death meant, but she did know they were gone. At the same time, something broke inside of her. Color faded from her eyes. The voice of a man in the prime of his life no longer seemed to come from the man in front of her. Her heart felt as though it were being gouged out. No, I thought the whole word had become empty.
The solider had Alice listen for a long period of time despite her troubled mental state. All she was able to hear was that a robber broke into their house and stabbed them. The criminal had already been caught. Upon being caught, it was uncovered that it was all to keep the human experimentation a secret.
Alice was twelve years old. She had the assets left by her parents but living alone was too early for her. She thus decided to enter a shelter under the jurisdiction of the country. Maybe, I just didn’t want to touch the money left behind by my parents.
She didn’t open up to anyone. There were other children the same age as her, but no one entered Alice’s eyes.
That she decided to aim to become a magician may have been inevitable. There were multiple various alternatives, but because that disgusting and accursed quality of hers was given by her parents, she didn’t hesitate.
A dojo established by the country was also nearby. That was where she was first taught spearmanship. At first, she wanted to practice magic, but she immediately became absorbed in the training. Whenever she wielded a spear, time would just flow past.
Alice held no grandstanding idea of becoming a magician who’d protect humanity. She merely desired being able to live while using that power.
Then, when she was fourteen, she met Tesfia by chance at private magician training school she had been aiming for.
–Noble Diamond shinka!!—
“Can you really understand it from this?”
Alice, due to her past experiences, has trouble believing what needs to be done.
“Yeah, now move so we can start.”
With those words, Alice, dressed in a thin cloth meant for examinations, lays down on a pedestal that is on top of some machinery. She is restrained to keep her arms from spreading open… at one point.
Tesfia, seated on a chair with her arms crossed, directs a sharp glare at Alus. “It’s alright, Alice. If Al tries something, I’ll punish him.”
Alus receives that unwarranted oppression with his back as he focuses on the LCD screen in front of him.
The date is June 7th, one week after the end of the extracurricular lesson. It is after school and they are in Alus’ laboratory. Today, apart from training, Alus begins his new research. He is investigating Alice’s light system magic. While there is no special goal, it might be useful for developing new magic.
While elements are rare, they practically are no different from other systems. Thus, they have only been neglected due to their scarcity, which is a helpful circumstance.
“The measurements are finished. That’s everything.”
Tesfia springs to her feet and takes a look. “What can you learn from this? Actually, do you really understand it?”
Alus ignores Tesfia’s questions. This red headed girl has had this attitude ever since she understood the composition for [Mistilteinn]. Even with taking her concern for her friend into account, she’s being rather insolent.
“Does this make it easier to understand the affinity of Alice’s mana with her body, or the synchronization of her mana with her body?”
Question marks are already floating. Alus, upon hearing the question, summarizes what he is doing for Tesfia and Alice. “Put short, I’m analyzing the data about Alice’s body stored within her mana. Mana is a mixture of experience and mental state along with a lot of other pieces of data. As such, the first step is to firmly unravel it.”
“Haa~” Tesfia wards of Alus’ words from right to left.
“I see!” Alice feigns understanding without hiding that she doesn’t. No, she might be forcibly trying to make herself understand.
“I’ve brought black tea.”
The tea leaves Loki personally procured have become Alus’ favorite. Her timing makes for a good break.
“Thank you so much, Loki-chan.”
Alus, seeing that Loki also prepared drinks for Tesfia and Alice, gets the feeling her antagonism towards them has lessened.
Tesfia then purses her lips and frowns.
“I think so too.”
Concealed within Loki’s eyes is a sense of satisfaction.
Making just one person’s somewhat strong is pretty complicated. But if it’s only this much… it should still be fine. Alus, holding the teacup to his mouth, closes his eyes.
“Take a breather and get to training.”
As expected, ending without having training after the examination would be a failing. Furthermore, with the examination over, what comes next can only be done by Alus.
“In that case, I’ll go get changed.” Alice enters the bedroom and shuts the door behind her.
Neither Tesfia nor Alice have trained themselves up into attaining the skill necessary to enter the first stage in regards to controlling mana. Their control over the direction of their mana flows is weak, but the only solution is time.
Directing mana is like having one to three separate conversations at the same time. While it is not an act of rotating thoughts, it can be called such in terms of difficulty. Concentrating all the mana in the body requires directing it from several places all at once.
Assisting them is simple. Furthermore, should the current situation continue, Alus judges finishing during their first year as unlikely.
“Is it time to try it at a training ground?”
Tesfia and Alice have been joyfully smiling ever since their battles against mamono during the extracurricular lesson.
Most likely, their simple yet diligent practice has been leaving them anxious. What they’ve been able to verify must have been worthy enough to justify their compounded frustration.
Alus becomes curious of something as he thinks that.
Tesfia and Alice conclude their training, and upon confirming that it has become dark, prepare to return to their dorm just as usual.
“Hey, aren’t you forgetting something?”
Alus told them that keeping the rods in their bags would be better for daily practice.
While lockers and the such called diligence have been placed around the academy, they can be used for underhanded conduct. He doesn’t believe two students evaluated as excellent would use them. Or more like, I pointed that out three days ago.
“But tomorrow… we’ve got a ton of lectures!?”
While Alus does consider that their leaving their bags at his place for their convenience is going too far, he never intended to rebuke them on it in the first place.
Instead, with the two properly keep the rods with them to take back to their dorms, he feels not saying anything would be wrong. After all, his training is the cause.
“I don’t care, but tests are coming up.”
He’s referring to their first semester exams.
Both Tesfia and Alice are dumbfounded as their brains short circuit. Tesfia in particular drops her rod.
“That’s a valuable item…”
“What do I do? Okaa-sama is going to be furious.”
Tesfia’s shock openly spreads across her face. She has already decided her results will be bad.
Alus, instead of retorting that she is spouting nonsense, advises her with some information. “You say that, but there’s still two weeks.”
He can’t tell how much of an effect that has on her, but gets the feeling she is thinking, ‘only two.’
“If my results are poor… poor… my rating… it’ll~” Tesfia, despite her curse like mutterings, is quick witted enough to immediately seek out help. “Alice, please tutor me!”
Tesfia turns to her friend with the moist eyes of an abandoned puppy. Is that how a person desperate for help is like? Are the words Alus almost says.
“Eh, ehh~ I’m not confident either…”
Alus then interrupts their complaining. “Weren’t you two supposed to be excellent?”
He is under the impression that the two of them are accomplished in both military and literary arts and therefore have nothing to worry about. After all, both of them are diligent students who pay attention in class while he constantly skips.
To begin with, if just receiving credit is the goal, that has already been decided for the two. Moreover, due to them aiming for a high evaluation, scoring well on the tests is a requirement.
Alus ridicules their hopeless situation. “Hahaa, even though your motivation is high, will your heads be able to catch up?”
“What about you? Even if you score well, there’s no way to tell if you’ll even get any credit for class.”
Should Alus’ attendance record be looked over, his situation would be revealed to be quite precarious. However, “You think I’m going to fail? The one to have contributed the most ever to this academy is me. Don’t look down on the Director’s authority.”
Although Alus believes saying he’s depending on the authority of others is pathetic, from the start, he has only desired time. As he made the favor of the extracurricular lesson for the Director, he’d be troubled if she couldn’t do that much.
“Funn… I’m not interested in doing some vulgar studying.”
Alice then diverts conversation in an attempt replace Tesfia’s indignation.
“Speaking of which, what about Loki-chan?”
“Won’t she probably be exempted for this term?”
“No, before my transfer, I was told that this test’s results would be within the criteria for scoring.”
Loki’s expression doesn’t reflect the same impatience as Tesfia’s. Instead, she is composed.
Tesfia gives her attitude a weak rebuke. “Ar-aren’t you too composed…?”
Loki, having been arbitrarily included into a united front camaraderie is the first to secede.
“I have already studied the three years’ worth of materials.”
“You’re intelligent too, aren’t you, Loki-chan?”
Loki, having been made light of, merely raises her eyebrows some, but the brunt of that dissolution is directed towards Tesfia. “Hence, I do not consider myself a person who will stumble within one year.” Then after looking down on her, she laughs through her nose.
Alus’ following words dampen Tesfia into silence.
“Don’t say, ‘Guu.’ If you understand, then hurry up and get to studying. In the meantime, there will be less days of training.”
“Let’s just cancel them…”
“Cancelling them is fine and all, but are you fine with all the training you’ve had up until now turning into futile effort.”
“No way, no way…” Tesfia’s anxiety mixes into her vehement protest. “That will not happen!”
Alus does believe his choice in words was over doing it, but manipulating mana is an acquired habit. While neglecting two weeks of practice won’t force them to start anew, time will be needed to regain the feel of it.
“Even though saying this is a bit strange… tutor us, Al.”
That is not nice, and it was undoubtably weird. While it might be a suggestion under the prospect of, ‘if training isn’t reduced,’ Alus’ direct impression to reallocating their training time for something else is that it’s exceedingly audacious.
Loki raises her voice, unable to bare the situation any longer. “Even though the two of you are already receiving such favorable…”
“Rejected! I’m busy. The method on how to defeat mamono is something I agreed to assist you in, hence I am doing just that. I’ve said this many times, but I have no intention of sparing time for anything else.”
Although Alus only intends to vocalize the truth, Alice’s eyes are visibly dejected.
“Moreover, even if I teach you magic, then it’ll all be useless if your head can’t keep up. You’ll have to study on your own.”
Alus is encouraging them. Unfortunately, his clumsy words invite misunderstanding.
“I guess that’s true.” Alice’s disappointment mixes with a sense of tragedy.
“Alice…” Tesfia clasps her hands together in front of her face and pleads. “Just a bit should be fine, right? We’re not asking you to help us get a perfect score…”
For her to go this far with me must really mean she’s at her wit’s end.
“Besides, even if you say, ‘to defeat mamono,’ by your logic, if you think about it, wouldn’t that mean knowledge is important too?”
The scope of Alus’ responsibilities when he agreed to teach them is vague. Slaughtering mamono through technique alone is difficult. However, that requested knowledge exceeds what is taught by the academy.
In the first place, a degree of knowledge is required in order to learn magic in of itself. The composition of magic needs to be unraveled by its levels. Furthermore, understanding magic circles themselves is essential. As such, there is no surprise that what Alus wishes to learn and what the students of the academy wish to learn is different.
Tesfia holds her sword overhead as she says, “Then, right?”
The sly way she requests to be tutored with that sound argument is aggravating, but if judged from appearances alone, Alus cannot be rebuked despite being tricked. He could have never guessed teaching her [Mistilteinn] would end up being returned to him in such a way. Regardless, aware of her true nature as he is, he knows she is crafty on the inside.
Loki jolts in response, but he has her control herself with a glance, just like always.
Without being stated, the proposal does benefit their training to an extent. “I’ll at least teach you about mana and mamono.” However, in truth, Alus wants it known.
Loki is surprised, but she doesn’t interrupt him.
A smile blooms across Alice’s face as she says, “Thank you!!”
Tesfia, bashful after having more or less tricked Alus, gives a light bow of her head. “I’ll be in your care, se, n, se, i.”
Tesfia and Alice then turn to each other and exchange firm handshakes.
Alus closes his eyes as he takes black tea into his mouth. Inevitably, his following sigh is mixed with its mellow fragrance.
T/N: To me, Tesfia looking over his shoulder to see the screen feels like a person who was given a gift by someone and then feels as though they are now buddy buddy. Considering her social position, it really isn’t very becoming of her. If anything, such a thing should be impossible for her to do if all the etiquette training she must have been given is taken into account.
 そもそも単位の取得だけならば二人はすでに確定しているようなものだ。 さらに高評価を目指すのであればテストでも点を取ることが要求されると言うことなのだろう。