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Chapter 3 – Innocents at the Table

A space existed, into which the light of morning’s end gently entered.

Two thick tables of wood were installed here. It was a cafe, with a kitchen installed deeper inside.

The entrance of the store. There was a wooden signboard, the symbol of Blue Thunder engraved upon it.

The sign that indicated that the shop was still in the preparation stage was hanging over the entrance-way, but there were two silhouettes standing inside the store.

One was the female shopkeeper, baking the bread that would be needed in the afternoon and evening in the kitchen deep inside.

The other was a student, who brought one of the chairs placed upon the eating hall’s tables to the floor, and was eating.

The student was wearing a male uniform.

Under the fairly long black hair, her fairly sharp eyes were fixed onto the table. Moving her hands, she ate breakfast.

Atop the table, the student’s meal consisted only of a few pieces of bread and a glass of water.

“Masazumi-san, I think it would be better if ya worked a part-time job with good pay and ate properly. Just doin’ scholarly things won’t let ya gain any experience right? If a girl dressed as a man collapses, she’s not going to make any fans.”

The student, Masazumi, tore up her bread as she listened. She answered with a voice fairly high in pitch.

“Only my father’s acquaintances have realised that I’m a girl…And even at the Academy, only my teacher and classmates know. Even you didn’t notice until you took care of me because I had collapsed from the heat.”

“Nah, I’d been thinkin’ that you were a little strange for a while now…So, P-01s and I stripped you together.”

“…That’s something I didn’t need to be reminded of.”

Saying this, Masazumi was thinking.

It’s only because of that that I can come here without worry.

But still, I’d like to avoid talking about my gender.

Therefore, Masazumi said this.

“It’s true that to get my tuition fees and living expenses, other jobs would be better, but…”

“Ya parents’re making a fuss?”

Having been asked this difficult question, Masazumi did not answer. Thinking about what to do, she inserted a piece of bread into her mouth, chewing thoroughly. Drinking the water in the glass, she exhaled.

An embarrassed laugh escaped from the shopkeeper.

“I’m sorry, that was rude of me…Are you going to do more work for the student council now? Ya don’t have a break, do ya?”

Hearing this, Masazumi smiled a sad smile.

“You’re worrying about me, huh,” she said as a form of thanks.

“As the vice-president of the student council, I’ll be escorting President Sakai to Mikawa, all the way until the checkpoint. Well, despite saying that…I was thinking that I’d go visit my mother’s grave before I met up with the president.”

“Haha, even if ya head to the Academy now, ya won’t make it in time for class. But…could I ask why a young child would go visit a grave at a time like this?”

“My mother, who became a victim of Phenomena, and I were born in Mikawa so…I thought that I should visit her before we disembark.”

“…A victim of Phenomena? One of the side-effects of the Apocalypse that everybody’s been talkin’ about recently?”

‘Jud.’, Masazumi nodded. She tried as hard as possible to recall the events of that time from an objective point of view.

“…Well, the truth is I don’t know whether or not it was a Phenomenon. The magistrate in charge said that she’d been spirited away. Just, she was suddenly gone, and where she was supposed to have disappeared, a large symbol was written with blood…”

Masazumi drew a circle with her fingers, indicating a line piercing its center.

“A design like this was left behind. The investigation said that it seemed to be a type of spiriting away, linked to a group of mysterious disappearances called the “Princess Disappearances”. However, there are numerous accounts of robbers tricking people using this, not to mention regular disappearances or elopements. Well… there was a lot going on in Mikawa, and it’s becoming a place where Phenomena occur readily. Because of this, even if I call it a grave, I’m just going to see the things that my mother left behind. Ornaments, memos…”

‘That so,’ a voice, tinted with relief, could be heard.

“Even though everyone tends to get depressed about the Apocalypse…you’re still a good girl.”

“That isn’t it at all. For school too, even though I’m paying my own tuition, I’m at the point where I think it’s fine to take a break from working…Well, once I reach the checkpoint today, I’ll be able to hear about Tres Espana and K.P.A. Italia. They’re coming to inquire about the Logismoi Oplo, so I was thinking that I could learn something from it.”

“That’s really troublesome…Ah, also, thank P-01s for the meal this time.”

“Okay”, Masazumi answered. She looked towards the entrance.

Nobody was at the counter, and neither did it seem like someone was in front of the store.

Despite this, Masazumi still turned away and spoke.

“It’s already been a year, hasn’t it…if I hadn’t been saved by her, I would really have died.”

“Doesn’t it seem like yer gettin’ along with her well recently? Ya lent her some books, right?”

“Jud., mostly about general knowledge…the day before, I lent her my transcript of the history teacher’s lecture. As expected, it seems that she hasn’t read through it though.”

“I see, ya really want to be a member of the provisional parliament. Ya have quite a lot of books.”

“Not that many,” Masazumi responded with a wry smile, though she thought differently.

If only I had the money to buy more.

“I’d read a whole lot more if I had the money…Well, I’m sorry for causing you trouble so often. I’m just freeloading right now, but I’ll return this debt in the future. I’ll become a great politician.”

“If ya become a member of the provisional parliament, ya won’t need our bread anymore, right? If ya say that ya want to repay the debt, then…could you investigate P-01s’ origins for me like you did last time? Ya managed get a lot done.”

Hearing this, Masazumi folded her arms. It was true that a while ago, she had investigated P-01s.

“Even with my authority as the vice-president of the student council, I didn’t really learn anything in the end…Well, I think that being Musashi’s vice-president doesn’t really lend much authority.”

“Why didn’t ya become a candidate for student council president? The Chancellor is recommended by the Testament Union, but the student council president is elected by a candidacy, y’know?”

Asked this, Masazumi thought. Immediately afterwards, she uttered the words that made up her response.

“…Because, Aoi, the Chancellor, declared his candidacy for the position of student council president.”

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