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A pungent earthy scent filled Devin’s nose as he swirled this latest brand of wine in his burgundy glass. It was now the start of spring here in this isolated corner of the world and that meant it was a time for renewal. Not that he particularly cared for any particular season as each held aspects he loathed. Perhaps he was just feeling a tad nostalgic thinking of his time as a youth and his incessantly clingy brother who loved the season more than any other.

How strange there would come a time where he dwelled on such an insignificant person.

No, that wasn’t true. Luca was just a connection for him that gave him an opportunity to bring his nephew under his wing. For all the faults his younger brother held they seemed to be far removed from that headstrong boy. It was clear that Hisato took more after his mother if his sources were correct. How interesting that a woman of such talent was killed by such low level monsters. He had no proof but there definitely seemed something larger at play surrounding the circumstances of that night.

Regardless, the boy was now in the hands of the Yukihana. Every bit of intel he found from observing them showed how restrictive they were with allowing his nephew’s natural development on some foolish notion of safety or the threat to their pathetic family’s leadership. He had half a mind to simply throw caution to the wind and wipe them out himself – taking Hisato by force. The Yukihana truly were pathetic through and through. He would be glad when he brought about their destruction.

Taking a deep sip, he polished off the glass in a few seconds. Not a very dignified thing to do, sure, but a measure he took to carry onto the business at hand with another equally worthless family.

“Please have some more, Master Sharpe,” the Patriarch of the Rudel family offered before giving him the chance to decline. From their wealth alone it made sense that the Rudel’s had taken up a semi-permanent residence here in Japan as well. With one of the major magical ley lines running underneath this country on top of the advanced research being done in Tokyo, it made sense for the pompous man to do so. “I’m surprised that a man of your… reputation is here in Japan. May I ask what your business here is?”

“It’s personal.”

“I-I see, well,” the portly man dabbed his forehead with a handkerchief, wiping the small droplets of sweat that were trickling down from the receding blonde wisps of hair that lingered on the man's head, “perhaps you could enlighten me as to why you sought to speak to me this today?”

Not sparring to show anymore politeness with this pig, he nudged the glass of expensive Bordeaux to the side. Him being here was just business, nothing more and nothing less. “I require something from you.”

“I figured. While I can’t make any promises I doubt I possess anything you couldn’t get for yourself.” Colton Rudel was shrewd too, if nothing else. While said to only possess a Star Attribute score just slightly greater than a normal person, it was the Patriarch's business acumen and paying those with actual power that had gotten him through to the point where he now sat. For that alone he tolerated being in the man’s presence.

“What I want isn’t an object but a particular person. Someone under the melting branch of the Yukihana family.”

“The Yukihana!”

He smiled fiendishly as the mention of one of the Rudel family's biggest debtors seemed to put the man in a foul mood. Japan was still largely hesitant towards outside influence so influential familiars from America had greater difficulty breaking into its markets. Unless of course it was under the name of a well known and respected family. A clever yet obvious move on the Rudel’s part.

Unfortunately, this unlikely alliance came with its share of problems. Where the Rudel’s sought a means to establish themselves in this nation, the Yukihana needed money to pay for medical expenses and the rising cost of the special magic steel they used in their swords. While a direct number wasn’t known it was likely the Yukihana would be spending years to pay off that debt.

Something a Noble family as old as the Yukihana couldn’t afford and a matter that they tried to solve by doing something so unthinkable by the local customs of this land that it made him wonder just how mad Komuro Yukihana had become. But what better way to put aside debts between family’s than an arranged marriage?

A union between the beautiful Kouki Yukihana and the vile wretch sitting across from him.

It figures someone as greedy as Colton Rudel was still feeling resentful after the woman he was said to have lusted after for years eloping with some mystery man – Little Luca – before the ceremony. So now after failing to form a closer bond with one of the Noble Clans of Japan there were still some hurt feelings over what happened eleven years ago. The business relationship stayed the same on the surface while the debt the Yukihana owes was still quite substantial to this day.

“You mean that sluts' family,” Colton spat with disdain. “Just who among those uncivilized barbarians could you have an interest in?”

“The ‘who’ doesn’t matter. What I’m asking for is that you start making the Yukihana’s lives more difficult. I want to see them squirm before the eyes of the public and to show the world what they are truly like.”

“That’s it?” Colton took the bottle off the table and instead of pouring another glass chose to down the rest in one go. The red liquid rolled down the man’s neck fat until it dripped and stained the white table cloth. Only letting out a satisfied gas once he tossed the bottle on the floor, shattering it. “Heh! I could easily do that. However, that puts me in a rough position. While I would love to put those Barbarians in their place, their name is still useful to me. Plus they owe me a lot of money I still need to recollect.”

“Naturally. So let me tell you what I’m offering.” From his pocket he pulled out the file containing his facilities within Japan and the South Pacific that were able to manufacture raw materials. “Instead of the Yukihana you’ll have my backing. I’ve gained some interest in the Rudel’s study of Lightning Magic and would like to see it progress further. As for the matter of money and recouping debts,” smiling still he raised his right index finger, letting a pool of his Dark Magic swirl on the center of the table – From inside a sizable briefcase rose up, “money is no object.”

The Rudel Patriarch's eyes glinted at the sight of this small token before him. A distinct gesture that his offer was now being played out in the man's mind as Colton’s beady brown eyes flickered back and forth to his own. While he could have just used force to simply make the weak man comply with his wishes it seemed more poetic to simply use more offhanded methods to get who he wanted.

‘Because the Yukihana have already taken custody of him legally. I know such a thing doesn’t matter to you but the pact that binds the ancient warrior clans of Japan together will not tolerate a foreigner like yourself from interfering in our matters.’

Yes, the Yukihana Prince was right. Simply taking his Nephew by force – as much as he wanted to – would be too obvious. If this was a matter for the law though then he had another means of acquiring the boy. Already the seeds of his ploy were already working their way into the Yukihana. Something that would likely help divide them even more internally while he had the Rudel family chipped away at them from outside. Making it clear to all just what conditions that his poor Nephew had to endure at that family’s hands.

“So… Do we have a deal?”

“...Ya, I’m on board.”

“Excellent. Now the beginning of the Yukihana’s downfall will start.”



[LH]



Takei was trying to avoid the hard inquisitive gaze his Nephew was currently giving him. Doing his best to avoid those sharp green eyes that always seemed to know too much and could never truly be fooled. Since they booked a private cabin on the train it was hard to simply brush off the stare.

Toki had fallen asleep halfway through the trip and was resting her head on his lap. She had seemed rather upset about what had happened that morning during the parent-teacher interviews. He would really need to have another talk with her again about how she interacted with Hisato-kun. The two were family and neither could afford to have such a confrontational relationship at this time.

In that respect he was glad Toki was still naive to certain aspects of life. Sheltered in many ways too, he’d never deny that, but still far removed enough to not understand the subtle problems that could arise from failing to prevent things that seemed inconsequential on the surface. Things that were unforgivable in hindsight and couldn’t be taken back.

Like the last nine months.

He wasn’t even sure how Hisato-kun’s teacher found out. Certain that the elementary school teacher possessed no such magic that would allow her to spy on them. He also sincerely doubted his Nephew told anyone and gave any impression of it – not that he’d blame him if he did.

Actually, given how much knowledge Hisato seemed to have on legal emancipation it made him wonder how far that information on legal guardianship went… and the responsibilities it required. Likely the boy was more aware of the requirements that a child his age needed and the red flags that came when they weren’t met. Ultimately that just meant Hisato didn’t care.

For all the good and bad such apathy held.

‘I know how Hisato-kun has been living in your estate. I have half a mind right now to call protective services and have him taken away from you.’

If Kogumi-sensei’s sudden slap to his face wasn’t bad enough, The words she whispered angrily into his ear had been a gut punch that nearly made him throw up. He had taken Hisato’s own nature for granted. Never assuming anyone would consider him a child that was at risk solely because he was so self-assertive. Which ultimately mattered little for the situation as a whole since no government agency would have given a damn how independent Hisato was since he was still a minor.

So fear gripped him in that moment. The fear that his Nephew would be taken away by the government and they’d never be able to get him back.

This was largely why he fought his father on improving Hisato’s conditions. The man simply didn’t bother to look into the legal matters concerning adoption – even if it was by close relatives. The trauma of seeing one's parents killed before their eyes was deemed mandatory by law for annual checkups and visits from a caseworker. A part of Hisato living with them included being assigned his own case worker that was supposed to check in every six months but was allowed to do random checks without warning.

That’s why he rushed back as quickly as he could from his second business trip. All the case worker needed was to see Hisato living in that old storage shed to start a formal investigation into the Yukihana’s guardianship. That likely included an audit to see if they were financially sound enough to take care of him. While they certainly had enough to provide for Hisato despite their sizable debt, a lot of red flags about the assets the Yukihana acquired following his sister and brother-in-law's deaths would mark them as simply being opportunist thieves.

Thankfully Hisato’s caseworker had only made informal calls so far and had yet to actually visit the compound in person.

While a fortunate blessing for them, it didn't change the conditions Hisato had been living in before he managed to move him into the main house. All it took was one of the family’s servants to be coaxed into revealing the truth and that would be it. The truth would come out and potentially the bigger legal action they could be faced with would loom its head.

Certain laws existed to protect children with great magical powers from being taken advantage of with great penalties in place for those who broke them. The law and society had no sympathy for those who would take advantage of a helpless child. In this case it would be infinitely harder to deny hearsay and potential litigation for child exploitation under those laws.

There were many witnesses who saw Hisato use his powers under the direction of Horonobe’s only Doctor. While they lived in a remote region of Japan rumors still found a way to balloon out of control about the boy with Light Magic living at the Yukihana’s. It wouldn't be a stretch for any of them to make it appear they were loaning Hisato out for extra money and keeping him for their own personal use. That last part being, regrettably, true for many in his family.

More than likely this was part of the reason why Kogumi-sensei had become suspicious and did her own investigating. Finding strong enough evidence to bring forward to Hisato’s caseworker and formally start what would be a lengthy and costly legal battle.

So in that moment of fear, all he could do was beg. Throw himself at her feet and plead for her not to call protective services.

That's what led him here only a few hours later. Toki had quickly ran out of the room not understanding what occurred and already told Nobuo about it before he could explain.

Things quickly escalated from there.

‘Master Takei! Please explain why Lady Toki saw you groveling before some common school teacher! Tell me why before I go to Master Komuro and ask him to intervene!’

Of course Tatawaki-kun had flipped out at him. The man had become an extension of his father’s views of the Yukihana’s nobility. Never showing dishonor in a duel or begging was tolerated. To what his father instilled into him and into Toki, he had just committed a great sin.

A lot of eyes and ears were on them when those harsh questions were asked. He wasn’t sure how to explain his reasoning in a way that wouldn’t risk more attention. Nor did he think Tatawaki or his Father would find him bowing his head for Hisato-kuns sake an acceptable reason.

Once more he found himself trapped.

[Distort!]

Right up until Hisato did something unplanned and completely outrageous!

‘Uncle! Grab Toki! Quickly!’

‘O-Okay!’

With his help, no less.

In what had to be the most ridiculous moment he had ever been a part of, he found himself following his Nephew’s lead as Tatawaki was briefly dazed so that they could not only hijack the car but also leave his father’s attendant behind. Normally such a thing wouldn’t have stopped the man from simply using his magic to catch up to them.

How his Nephew was able to drive off road so well was certainly a feat he’d have to give the boy a pat on the back for. Oh sure, he couldn’t even fathom what sort of punishment his father would levy against Hisato for instigating this but was certain that his Nephew’s intentions were aimed to deflect any recourse his interaction with Kogumi-sensei had. For that he felt a strange mixture of pride and disappointment that the boy went to such an extreme for his sake.

Not that the boisterous laughing Hisato had while driving to the train station didn’t make it obvious he was loving every moment of it.

Toki, bless her soul, didn’t put up any struggle as he scooped her up and piled into the backseat. She seemed to think that since he had been okay with Hisato’s extreme actions that they were purposeful for some reason. While she was still extremely upset about everything, he hoped that this time away would do some good with connecting with her.

At least with Tatawaki-kun not with them anymore it would mean he wouldn’t have to worry about the man relaying his father’s wishes to him once every hour.

Not that there wouldn’t be hell to pay later for this.

DING DONG!

“Attention passengers. We are now arriving at Tokyo station. Please ensure all your belongings have been collected before your departure. Thank you and have a good day.”

Until then though… he would make the most of this trip with his beloved Daughter and dear Nephew.



[LH]

 

Tall skyscrapers. The sound of revving car engines. Sounds of countless people talking to the point it all faded into the background like white noise. Truly it had been too long.

Civilization at last!

For a few moments back there I didn’t think that we’d actually make it here. When Toki blurted out a painfully obscured picture of events to Nobuo I had a feeling our vacation to Tokyo would come to a screeching halt. I’ll admit going all grand theft auto was probably a bad idea. Okay, a really bad idea. But if anything was to blame it was all the bullshit I put up with for this small reprieve. Pent up stress and frustration sending my adolescent body into a mad frenzy.

I still couldn’t believe Uncle Takei went along with my half assed scheme. To be perfectly honest I expected to be grabbed by the scruff of my neck, hauled back to the Yukihana compound, and be ‘hung by my thumbs like drying laundry’ as Yasue typically put it. Oh boy wouldn’t he be in for one hell of a story the next time I saw him! He would likely die of laughter at how stupid I was for pulling such an asinine stunt!

Hopefully they’ll be able to put the car back together after my off road stint. I had to give Nobuo credit though. He truly wasn’t human. I didn’t think anyone could hang onto the driver’s side door for as long as he did.

Truly action star worthy.

Sadly he possessed a face better suited for radio.

“So what do you think?” Uncle Takei asked with Toki still half awake at his side.

I took another look at the city skyline, not just taking in the general vibe but seeing smaller details. What I took for granted was the isolated and reserved nature Horonobe had. They were more of a traditional time period and restrained expression. Magic was more or less a subtle thing that you would only see if you were watching at just the right moment.

Watering plants, drying laundry, and cutting lawns. Things of a mundane nature that didn’t stand out. Most of the time it just felt like I was living in some ordinary village in the middle of nowhere. Not a bad description considering the contrast I was now witnessing for the first time.

Street stalls that were performing feats of eye catching magic to draw in customers to whatever bizarre wares they were selling.

People riding atop of objects through the air like carpets, brooms, and even a janky looking motorcycle.

Places where there were environmental divides between districts. I made note of some artificial clouds forming rapidly to make rain while across the street another was dropping colorful looking snow.

This truly did feel like I was in another world now. Just knowing that what I had seen so far was just the tip of the iceberg made me feel so much smaller than I had felt I had grown to become in Hokkaido. Not even in the Love Hero Chronicles game did it give a real living and breathing Tokyo like this the justice it deserved.

Except I knew that behind this gleaming façade lay monsters that only people from the real world could dream up. That the very rules and laws that defined the natural order were now to the whims of who could control this esoteric power or their own. Beings of immense power that they could shape the world with a single cast of a spell.

Right now, I couldn’t truly fathom the depth of which I was now diving into knowing I might be swallowed up by it if I did.

“What… What do I think?” I licked my lips. My heart racing with an anxious excitement at this limitless playground before me. “I goddamn love it!”










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Quaralknight

  • Standing right behind you
  • Not actually a knight

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