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"Why! Explain to me why you cannot follow even the most basic of my orders!" Grampy's voice thundered across the compound – sending wildlife and people alike scrambling to avoid his wide arcing ire.

Of course I couldn't take off.

I was the one on the receiving end of this reaming that was now going into its second hour. My legs had gone numb as I was made to kneel on the bare floor with a stone slab placed on my lap. It was a punishment as excruciating as it was cliché to Japanese culture. Leaving me in this pseudo prostrated position until Grampy tired himself out with these rhetorical questions.

At the start I thought that this panel of disgruntled men would take turns. Kneeling on both sides of Grampy was Uncle Takei, Yasue's father and Toki's sword instructor. I still never bothered to learn the former two's names since I barely interacted with them. That didn't change the fact they were just less than impartial in this drumhead trial. Not that it really mattered. Even Uncle Takei was upset by my escapades into the monster infested area behind the compound. Especially after I promised not to do something so dangerous again.

'The next time you try a trick like that I'll chain you to your bed.'

I blamed that sadistic bastard Nobuo for this!

The man had grabbed me by my collar when he finally tracked me down. I've never seen the bootlicker so pissed as he looked downright murderous for being duped by my homemade Distort spell.

For reference, Nobuo was also in the dojo listening to this. He was standing by the sliding door to the courtyard like some warden keeping me from making a break for it – likely enjoying every moment of this.

"It seems like after several months here you're still failing to understand how this household is run!"

I knew exactly how it's run. I just didn't want to enable the system all the time.

"Well…!"

When Grampy took a breath and seemed to finally want some kind of response I kind of blanked. My mind had been drifting in and out as I resisted the urge to use the stone slab on my lap to wrest my head and doze off. If it didn't risk doubling the time of this farce I would have done just that.

Not that appearing like I was listening meant I was actually listening.

"I'm sorry, what was the question?"

When Grampy looked ready to explode again, Uncle Takei quickly stepped in to take over. I'd rather just say my piece and be done with this but it didn't appear that would happen anytime soon.

Still I appreciated Takei's more disappointed tone compared to outright screaming.

"Hisato-kun… Why did you enter the monster nest when I warned you not to go anywhere near there?"

"For training of course."

"Is the training sessions with your Grandfather not sufficient enough you'd risk getting yourself killed?"

Oh boy did I want to scoff at the irony of that question.

One murder filled glance from Grampy was all I needed to twist the truth. Even I didn't want to see what Takei would do with that knowledge even after our talk about being open and honest. No doubt he'll feel betrayed that I was keeping this from him.

It just wasn't time to leverage this knowledge yet. Too much was riding on keeping Grampy placated with the status quo while continuing my training under the radar. Plus my training sessions with Toki were largely for her benefit and I was content with warping the direction of her progress.

Still… I was super salty from being restricted in what was allowed to do!

"No offense to Grampy but I need more specialized training to harness my unique powers. A simple catch-all method isn't enough." I began to twist the knife a bit – leading my motivations to a logical and extremely sympathetical position. In lieu of that I viciously scowled, bearing an open-ended hatred in my tone. "As for fighting monsters, it's more than just getting stronger!"

"Oh? Why is that?" Yasue's father asked.

I shot back a look of exasperation at the man. Acting like the question was painfully obvious.

In a sad way it actually was.

"Because monster attacks don't limit themselves to grownups. There is no warning when they do and no one has the luxury to hide in some barrier forever. So I wonder how keen you'd be to slay every monster you could when the people you loved most had to sacrifice themselves to keep you alive?"

The silence that followed from bringing up Hisato's still recent tragedy played out as expected. Oh sure, Grampy looked as moved as the stone slab but that was to be expected. That went double for Nobuo.

No, it was the other three men that looked hesitant to dissuade a young boy who was facing a life changing trauma. It was too easy to say that it wasn't something I needed to worry about when it was still an actuality that could occur again. Some people were unfortunate enough to be stricken by lightning more than once after all. It was a sad fact of life but one that wouldn't be changed by simply wishing it so.

"I know you're angry, Hisato-kun. No one would blame you for feeling that way. However this is a line that cannot be crossed."

"Why? I've already faced and killed monsters on my own. I told you I want to attend the Magic Academy in Tokyo like Yasue. How is this any different?"

"Perhaps my son didn't fully explain the specifics of that. I will definitely have words with him later about this."

"For what? Answering my questions? It doesn't seem like anyone here is too keen on that so it's on me to find those answers on my own. Don't just pass on blame that everyone living here shares."

"Yes, you're right." At this Yasue's father actually nodded in agreement with my words. At the same time though he exchanged a firm glance with Takei. They seemed to have come to some sort of agreement already on this topic. "While you do already meet the requirements for entrance into the academy in spite of your young age, alot of your success and luck so far has been because of the barrier the Yukihana compound holds."

"In what way? I just thought it kept them out?"

"Of course it doesn't merely serve that function, boy." Grampy declared proudly. "The barrier was an act set about by the Sigil Bearer of the Yukihana; The first of the clan and one whose power dwells in all proper heirs of the Yukihana."

Sigil Bearer?

That wasn't a term I was too familiar with. I briefly remember Uncle Takei briefly mentioning it before. I dismissed it at first since other pertinent matters regarding the Yukihana came first. Once more it seemed like I would be brushing it aside until this matter was resolved.

Grampy continued. "The seal acts as a way not only to keep the monsters that originate from this area out but weaken them significantly as well. That's why your minor successes so far haven't led to your own demise. Outside the reach of the Yukihana the might of the monsters that threaten humanity would be far too fearsome for you to handle."

"It's also why the academy makes having one star an entry requirement and the formation of a solid team mandatory to traverse the dungeon that dwells underneath it," Yasue's father concluded with their reasoning.

"Does that answer your question, Hisato-kun?"

I nodded but not for the reasons these guys were thinking. This only had the opposite effect that they were hoping to achieve. I was doing my best to hide the glow I was radiating from now knowing the truth of the stragglers I was fighting in the backwoods.

Why they didn't seem to make use of this training resource was beyond me but I wouldn't challenge them on this when they just opened a magnificent window for. The notion that there were likely other areas where I could fight and farm gems against stronger monsters was so tantalizing to think about! Already there were more schemes in my head.

Mainly involving a very flaky teleporter I knew.

"Fine. I sincerely promise I won't go into the back hills anymore. But what about training my magic? Every time I try, this one," I tilted my head to the ass kisser, "keeps stopping me. You're not going to claim using my Light Magic is dangerous when my Magic Amount is abnormally high… are you?"

"Naturally it's because you seem to use spells that aim to upend orders you've been given!" At this Grampy fully took the reins back, likely trying justify such a blatant attempt to halt my progress before I could expand further. "Nobuo has told me of your decoy trick. Tell me how you were able to use such a spell at all!"

With a look of innocence and fluttery eyelashes I coyly replied; "How? It's all thanks to that wonderful book you gave me, Grampy. I've taken really good care of it and read through it a dozen times now." I dipped my head, biting down on the inside of my lips as my body was aching to laugh. Some things were just worth the wait after all. "I'm ever so grateful for receiving it."

I honestly did try reading it at least once during this time of containment. The only spell I managed to learn was the basic [Healing Touch] spell. One that was a step down from (Healing Hands) and the only Light Magic the real Hisato had at the start of the game.

As I thought when it was handed to me… it was totally worthless.

"You expect me to believe you learned such a spell from that old journal? Do you even know who it originally belonged to?"

I shrugged, really feigning ignorance on this bold face lie. "I'm afraid not. Some important bits were unreadable sadly but the journal did go into the writer's theories on Light Magic. I just took those concepts and adapted them."

At this it appeared Grampy was begrudgingly placated. What I understood about the greater nuances of this world was that creating spells – unlike the game – was more common. Knowledge wasn't static and like everything else, new innovations took place every day. With someone like myself picking up magic so quickly it wasn’t unsurprising that it was the case.

I would also be certain to slip Yasue’s friend another 2000 yen if we ever met in person. That spell wouldn’t have been possible without him.

“As impressive as always, Hisato-kun,” Takei beamed at once more showing my keen talent and not letting it simply be mishandled. “Well Father? It seems like your only Grandson is more like yourself than you care to admit.”

“What the devil are you talking about!” The older man exclaimed like he just received the worst of insults. “In what way is that boy similar to me!”

I too was looking at Takei like he just spoke some foreign language. Making a connection between me and Grampy was like trying to make the magnetic poles touch; It would take nothing but the Earth being squished like a pancake for that to ever happen! As strange as it seemed I was also offended by that comment as well.

Except definitely more so than Grampy was.

“I think I see what you mean, Cousin,” Yasue’s father concurred. “An over eagerness to train and slay monsters with an immense talent backing them. I’d say it would be detrimental to the boy to simply restrict his training in Magic simply because of a little mischief.” Grampy growled, really unhappy by that candid suggestion. Only further adding a bit more that was attempting to placate the Yukihana head. “That being said, he still placed himself in immeasurable danger. I think restricting his training with Light Magic unless supervised for the foreseeable future is prudent.”

“I agree. We never did properly explain the dangers surrounding our home properly so we share some blame for that.” Takei said, seemingly happy by the painful restriction I was just given. “However I did warn him not to go near that place already so that punishment will be on top of being grounded again until the school year ends. Is that acceptable for you Father?”

“...Perhaps.” Grampy then eyed me warily, likely knowing I would try to weasel out of this somehow. “Boy, is there anything you’re hiding that would make me agree with this arrangement?”

Translation; Is there any other secret I could pry from you in order to keep your powers contained?

Ugh! This really was a moment where I was out of options. The punishments were painful to my plans but… bearable. So if I had to use the out Yasue’s father gave me then I guess I should take it.

With a heavy head I nodded. “Ya… I’ve been practicing another type of magic on the side.”

“Speak then!” Grampy demanded, the faintest of traces that a smile might be forming were present on his face.

Although that might have just been the lack of blood flow to my legs messing with me.

“I’ve been practicing my other Affinity. My Null magic has been a lot slower compared to–”

“–Is that all?” Grampy interrupted before I could explain. He waved a dismissive hand like this secret had just been a major disappointment. “By all means then, continue that magic then.”

I blinked thrice, mouth hanging open with disbelief as to what I just heard. “Wait what! Really? You have no problems with it?”

Nobuo stepped up, adding to my comments of disbelief. The man's glasses sliding down to the tip of his nose as he was now given an order to loosen up his watch over me. “Are you certain, Master? While Null Magic is more common there are still those that can become–”

“–I said it is fine!” Grampy snapped. It seemed like the Yukihana head really didn’t care that I was essentially training a more dangerous form of magic on the side. “I have no concerns if the boy wishes to practice lesser forms of magic.”

“A-As you wish.” Nobuo bowed and backed off at this but the signs of anger were still visibly present.

This matter now seemingly done, Grampy stood up and walked back into the house with Nobuo and Toki’s silent sword instructor nipping at his heels. Both men cast one more disdainful look my way before shutting the wooden panel door behind them.

Now with just Uncle Takei, Yasue’s father and myself present in the dojo I finally asked the most important question of this whole ordeal…

“I can’t feel my legs right now.” I lifted the stone slab off my aching knees and with a satisfied grunt placed it off to the side. Already the pins and needles felt like they would kill me and it would be a little too on the nose now to simply heal them with Light Magic. “So… Which one of you is carrying me back to my room?”



[LH]

 

After Takei got his nephew situated back in his room, he went directly to his Father to begin an even more difficult conversation that he really didn’t want to have. However, as things were, this issue needed to be addressed now and clearly before his Father’s paranoia concerning Hisato persisted.

Kneeling just outside the door of his father’s bedroom he knocked gently, just enough to get his attention without drawing the gazes of Toki or Hisato.

“...Yes?”

“Father, it’s me… I wish to speak with you.”

“Enter then.”

Carefully sliding the door open he went in, deftly moving to the second cushion next to his father. Right now the indomitable family head was praying in front of the small shrine that was built in the corner of the room. White flowers and burning incense were placed carefully around the picture that took the shrine's center. One that had been there for the last fifteen years.

Everyday when his Father wasn’t out conducting business for the family he would come here and spend the better part of an hour praying over his long departed wife. He too sometimes said a prayer for his mother. She had left them when he and his elder sister were still in their late teens. The loss had been unbearable when it occurred – sudden and with no warning.

Perhaps that was why his father continued to pray so often. Hoping that one day an answer would come out of that loss and why it happened. God knows he too tried looking into how his Mother was suddenly murdered with no clue as to who was responsible. The image of the knife they found deep into her chest still resounded to him at the worst of times. How it left a look of eternal shock and despair on his mothers face.

Suspicions grew. No evidence was found and there was no witnesses to conclude anyone inside the Yukihana or an outsider committed the murder. That didn’t stop his father from tightening his hold over the servants. Where once was a man who showed respect to those under him now became tools he showed little care for. Whether any of them had a hand in it or not, motive or not, his father blamed them for allowing it to happen while he was gone.

If it just stopped at that though then perhaps they wouldn’t be struggling so much.

When the servants were restrained, the other prominent clans became prime suspects. Their powers and influence gave them the best chance to commit the murder without being caught. With no evidence or true motive to go off of, his father simply concluded that they were jealous of the Yukihana’s power and did this to put them in their place. A means to show the Yukihana they weren’t untouchable.

While some clans were more rivals than allies, he doubted that any of them would stoop so low and to commit such a senseless murder.

That didn’t stop his Father from burning more bridges than the Yukihana could afford. Bridges that would have been invaluable when Yukiko fell ill and the friends they could borrow money from shrank down to a single family. The one party in this whole sordid affair that his Father concluded had no reason to harm them given they were outsiders.

Just thinking about what happened with his sister during that time only made him furious that his Father simply thought she would go along with it! For that fact alone he was incredibly grateful that Luca met and eloped. No one should have to be forced into a situation like that! No one!

Time heals all wounds though and with Kouki gone, he and by extension, Toki became his Fathers sole heirs. Since he could never become a proper head of the Yukihana it was now placed upon Toki to take up that burden. Something that she had no qualms about doing so he didn’t try to restrict her ambitions.

At least for now.

“What is it?”

“It’s about Hisato-kun.”

“I don’t wish to speak about that–!”

“–Hisato will never become heir to the Yukihana.” He gave his father a very hard look when he said that, really emphasizing. “Forgoing the fact he doesn’t even possess an Affinity for Ice Magic, he also has no aims on remaining here after he turns fifteen.”

“You have no idea if he’s actually telling the truth!”

“No I don’t. However it should be clear to you that his time here so far has been unpleasant for him. If you hadn’t been so short-sighted on this matter then perhaps Hisato-kun might have stayed longer and developed a stronger relationship with the Yukihana. So you can pat yourself on the back for burning that bridge too.”

His Father scoffed, once more shrugging off his warnings about making enemies. It seemed after all this time that lesson had yet to be learned and hopefully wouldn’t end up hurting them even more.

“Until Toki passes the Founders trial and receives the Sigil Bearers approval nothing is truly certain.” his Father looked at him with a shade of disappointment. “You should know that well enough.”

He strained his mouth trying to show some levity in his smile instead of scorn. “So I’ve been told many times, Father.” While he never passed the trial when he came of age that didn’t mean Toki would fail as a result. “Do you have so little faith in her? You always say her talent is one in several generations?”

“Indeed. She has done well during my training. For that the boy has proven adequate in his role.”

“Just what does this training entail, father? You can imagine that I was surprised that you were showing Hisato the inner workings of the Densetsu-fubuki-ryū style.” Hisato never mentioned it either, not really showing any discomfort in doing so. When his nephew said it was a catch-all he had been confused as to what part of it he was referring to. “When I went through the training I didn’t require someone else to complete it.”

“Well I’m trying to ensure my Granddaughter has every advantage possible when going through the trial. She is the hope of the Yukihana! I will do everything in my power to help her reach that goal!”

He still wasn’t sure what his Father was alluding too and doubted he would receive a real answer. For now he would simply try to thaw the relationship between his Father and Nephew as best as he could. Something that would likely still end with the same result but would hopefully give Hisato-kun a chance to breathe a little more. Something he knew would excite Kouki’s son to no end.

 

[LH]

 

So I briefly mentioned before when I was about to be kidnapped by that psycho, Devin Sharpe, that Hisato’s hobby in the game was tailoring. What I found out from seeing his memories was that it wasn’t just a simple decision made by a game designer like it was here. No, the art of using magic thread to sew together clothing that could withstand the punishment of powerful monsters and enhance the abilities of the wearers was originally the trade of Hisato’s mother; Kouki Yukihana.

She had owned a small in-home business where she would make clothes for wealthy clients seeking extra protection or high end apparel. Something I imagine was quite profitable since she was strong enough to gather the raw materials herself and had a lot of personal connections with influential people as a former member of the Yukihana family.

At the very least it gave them a good place to live away from the Yukihana’s influence.

So as if fate was guiding me I too would take advantage of Hisato’s legacy with this job. My fundamental understanding of sewing and tailoring in general was… well I didn’t have any. At least none that could make something that any person would be willing to buy.

But I was determined to give it a shot anyway!

Since I had broken off all contact with Doctor Takahashi and I couldn’t go down the hill to my local gem supply I was banking on plying the old entrepreneurial spirit to make money. Since Kouki had already done this as a hobby before she ran away with her fiancé she left behind all the tools required for making Magic clothing.

I was surprised that they were left untouched. Since Uncle Takei said anything that was left of hers was now mine, the box filled with an old fashion sewing machine and some other tailoring tools simply fell into my hands. Saving me from having to spend time and energy getting the money to buy this equipment in the first place.

Once again… Fate!

This really did work out well for me. Since Hisato also had a high level of Magic Control at the start of the game I could conclude that this was a reason for it. His eccentric clothing always had ridiculously powerful defense (high ice resistance to) which allowed him to tank and heal at the same time. I wouldn’t be going for such a defensive approach with my application of this Null Magic but would definitely incorporate the benefits that this trade would hopefully afford me.

Placing the small pouch of green gems I had stashed away in the rafters of the ceiling on the desk where I would work. Green gems were primarily used in crafting. They seemed to be more pliable and shapeable when certain magics were applied. Likely why these were required when crafting items with the help of one of the player's companions.

From inside the desk I pulled out one of the books that Hisato’s Mother had collected during her youth on sewing. There were several of them ranging from simple items to more complex designs. In some of them they had scribbles and small notes attached to alterations that should be made.

Seeing the woman's handwriting and the amount of use she got out of everything here made me feel a little melancholic for home. I could truly sympathize with Hisato now for being unable to reach my own mother no matter how badly I wanted to. For Kouki Osawa’s sake I would ensure that the life her son lived wouldn’t end the same as it did in the game. Even if that worked for my own benefit too I wanted to repay this debt I now owed her for these invaluable items.

Because to me such gifts in my current state were as precious as life itself.

 



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Quaralknight

  • Standing right behind you
  • Not actually a knight

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