The high-ceilinged hall was filled with a solemn light.
The carpet was lush enough that it felt like you might sink in up to your ankles. Added to the cold air, it gave the room a pleasant feel. The boisterously laughing shadows of people gave the impression it was a scenery pulled from an illusion. Actually, since most of the people gathered here were in fact magi, this place was nothing other than a world of dreams.
Dance if you would tell tales of the night.
"Trim, you have permission to act on your own judgement."
My quick whisper was answered with a robotic voice. The mercury had already taken up form as a maid behind me once again, but I decided to give her freedom of action just in case something were to happen.
After doing so, she immediately looked around the room, and spoke with a blank expression.
"I didn't know they stacked shit that high."
With the way she puffed her chest out as she said it, I couldn't help but instinctively punch her. No doubt it was something Flat had taught her, making her watch some B rate movies or something. Luckily, no one else seemed to have heard her, but it seemed like Flat was going to have to die.
Though she was taken aback by Trim's sudden outburst, Gray began observing the people around the room intently. While she was certainly a concern to some degree, the chances she would have an outburst like Trimmau was fairly slim, so that at least was a little relieving.
Flowerly music was playing in the background. It made me think of the far, far off sea. The sound of trumpets came out strong, accompanying a delicate piano melody supported by a heroic-sounding double bass. The light and easy music seemed like it was trying to draw its listeners into breaking out into a tapdance.
"So Lord Byron is into Jazz, is he? I had pegged him as more of a classical type, myself."
1930s, In The Mood
It was a legendary number from Carnegie Hall, but if I hadn't been exposed to the old-fashioned records in my brother's apartment, I probably wouldn't have known about it at all. Watching my brother gently lower the needle to the large black discs had drawn my interest.
But this time, the thing of interest was not the music, but the performers.
(...a mechanical band, huh?)
The trumpets, piano, and double bass were all being played by clockwork dolls half the height of a normal person. On the surface, the scene might paint the Faculty of Creation as similar to the Faculty of Modern Magecraft, but the main point of differentiation would be that while the Faculty of Modern Magecraft would use something like microchips and radiowaves, these dolls moved using something like silk thread soaked in moonlight, or the bones of a phantasmal species mixed in with the gears. With the way the field of Human Imitation was in decline, the number of magi capable of producing a band of this size was certainly small.
As if to show they were not simply repeating a music track, but were actually "lifeforms" specially designed to play music, the clockwork dolls played with a certain pride, sweating from the exertion.
Unexpectedly, their attitude seemed to overlap fairly with ours.
In reality, what was the difference between those dolls and ourselves?
After all, what were we but lifeforms built over hundreds of years, specially designed to perform magecraft? Though we liked to think we were superhumans that had separated from the earthly realm and gained transcendent wisdom, in the end were we not the same as someone performing on a stage, following the plan laid by the spinning of gears within us?
(...this is bad. After spending so much time with my brother, his thinking is starting to rub off on me.)
Shaking my head slightly, I took a look around the room.
A large amount of people had gathered.
A few dozen people, all of them magi. Some were holding a deep red wine, others were enjoying the music, and everyone was partaking in gentle, friendly conversation.
...at first glance, at least.
"Miss Reines," a voice called as someone pulled at the hem of my skirt.
"Is something wrong, Gray?"
"No, I was just wondering what you were going to do. Do you have some acquaintances here to talk to?"
"Nope," I replied to her secretive whispers with a light laugh. "First comes 'observation.'"
Keeping my presence low-key, I began slowly circling my way around the hall.
By listening in on the various conversations happening around me, I began putting together a map in my head of how each of the guests related to each other, both in rank and social standing.
"Trambelio, Trambelio, Trambelio, Meluastea, Trambelio, Meluastea, Trambelio...the Trambelio faction is out in full force tonight, huh? Hardly anyone from the Barthomelloi, either. There should be a limit to how surrounded you can get."
Reminded some how of China's history, I gave a mournful sigh.
Being a social gathering of magi, the most important thing to do first was get a handle on the ratio of attendees from different factions. Being my first time attending a gathering in this territory, most of the guests were unknown to me, but I had been brought up in this culture. Looking at the way people held themselves, the way they stood and walked, I could confidently get a rough image as to which faction each of them belonged to. By the way, this was something my brother was absolutely terrible at. The tragedy of the newly blossoming New Age students was the sheer ignorance they held of the subtleties of a magus' standing.
"Hmm. Altogether, it looks like we have a ratio of about 6 Trambelio, 1 Barthomelloi, and 3 Meluastea."
"...those are the names of the different factions?"
"Sort of, yes. Trambelio represents those who want to run democratically. Barthomelloi represents those who want to run aristocratically. And the Meluastea don't care one way or the other, and just want to do their research in peace." In response to Gray's question, I gave as simple an answer as I could.
Right now, the Clock Tower was divided roughly into three factions.
The faction headed by Barthomelloi, of which the El-Melloi family was a part, which supported aristocratic rule.
The Trambelio faction, at whose center was the Valueleta family, who desired a democratic system.
And Meluastea, who represented the neutral faction.
If you cleaned it all up, you basically had those who thought the management of the Clock Tower should be handed to those nobility who had proven to have excellent bloodlines, and those who believed that bloodline should be disregarded and those with the talent should be in charge.
Well, it was just about magi, so in the end it didn't make much difference which one you picked. It was basically a decision as to whether you thought those who had been filtered to the top should be filtered again.
"...I think I understand. The El-Melloi family supports the aristocratic faction, right?"
"For now. But recently it's been getting to be more trouble than it's worth."
The El-Melloi family's support for the aristocratic faction stemmed from my late brother's - that is, the previous Lord El-Melloi's - family was prominent even among the nobility. However, unfortunate as it may be, the current state of the El-Melloi family did not carry the same respect or power as it once did.
Actually, as the New Age students began to come through the El-Melloi classroom in droves, in practice we were being driven closer and closer to the Trambelio faction's side. Even putting the El-Melloi family aside, with the way my brother was acting, neither leaning towards conservation nor reform, the Barthomelloi family at the top of the aristocratic faction was looking at us with bewilderment. 'You're one of us, aren't you? What are you even thinking?' That kind of situation.
Of course, if he did something careless enough to trip himself up, he'd be done for.
Nevermind their power as one of the Twelve Lords, the Barthomelloi family, greatest of the three great aristocratic families, was not just putting on airs. Forget being covert about it, they had the capability to overtly wipe out the El-Melloi family.
"Regardless, against someone like the Barthomelloi family who could swing the Faculty of Law against us at full force, we don't stand a chance."
"The Barthomelloi are the Faculty of Law?" Gray tilted her head to the side like a small bird.
"Right. Is something wrong with that?"
"No, just...I thought that since there were twelve Lords, they'd each be in charge of one of the twelve main faculties...and since I thought that the Faculty of Law was outside of those twelve..."
I see, I see. Is that how you understood it?
Actually, that was a pretty normal understanding of how things worked. I had thought it was something one would pick up naturally while going through the Clock Tower, but this gap of understanding was probably just due to a lack of cultural exchange, as it were.
"It's a bit more complicated than that. While the Faculty of Modern Magecraft is certainly one of the twelve main faculties, it's only fairly recently that a Lord came to be associated with it..."
As I replied, my eyes turned sideways.
A dangerous voice had reached my ears.
"Oh? Someone with a lineage as shallow as yours thinks they have something to leave behind on the proud history of magecraft?"
"After you people have let the state of magecraft decline to this degree, do you honestly think you can save it yourselves? When will you wake up and realize that dream has long since become unreachable?"
"...well, that was quick," I muttered, pretending not to notice.
A more crafty magus would have been able to keep a conversation like that going without drawing so much attention, but the younger folk unfortunately couldn't be expected to do the same. The fact that both of them were well into the alcohol didn't help matters either. It seemed that thanks to the way we had gathered here, the demographic of this gathering was leaning towards the younger side.
"You think the Clock Tower could survive without the New Agers?"
"Hahaha! The Clock Tower was set up for the sake of the
in the first place. Do you really think you can make something out of the scraps we've left for you?"
Centering around the two who were arguing, the tensions of those of all factions was slowly starting to mount.
They weren't stupid enough to let it degrade into combat like the idiots from the El-Melloi classroom, but even so that atmosphere of the room was quickly starting to turn dangerous.
"Ow! Owowowowowow! Sorry, sorry!"
As if to cut the conversation short, someone drunkenly stumbled between the two.
All sides were taken off-guard by the sudden interloper. While the magi were still stunned at his entrance, he spread his arms wide and span around, throwing his wine glass into the air in the process.
Gray muttered, giving voice to my inner monologue.
The young man fell, splaying out on the ground.
Along with a long, alcohol-drenched burp, the man's slightly unbearable body odour wafted out, filling the area. I had thought the banquet had just begun. How much had this guy drank in that short time?
"Sho-sh-sh-shorry! I musht apolog..." Unable to even pronounce his words properly, he crawled along the ground like a caterpillar, pressing a hand to his mouth as he belched again.
Like that, the crowd began to disperse. With a glance at each other and a long sigh, the two arguing magi went their separate ways. As if they were fleeing from the world's most disgusting piece of garbage, the fallen man was left alone to nurse his now ailing stomache.
I let a small sigh slip out in admiration.
A voice called to me from behind.
Gray was holding the wine glass the man had thrown.
Not even a drop had been spilled - of course there was no way I could know that, but regardless there was still a considerable amount of drink left in the glass. Even without Add's influence, this girl's reflexes were something else.
"Perfect." Taking the glass from her, I held it out to the young man now stumbling to his feet. "Here you are."
"T-thank you," he replied, his expression pale and his fingers shaking. Gripping the glass so he was sure it wouldn't fall, he took it from me.
As the spectators had already scattered, I leaned in and whispered as I handed over the glass.
"Not at all. That was a pretty effective way of putting an end to that fight."
The young man gave a soft groan. "...did it seem like it was on purpose?"
"No, not at all. Most magi are too proud, after all. Doing something shameful like that on purpose is beyond their ability to imagine. It was a little hammy, but this is the perfect stage for such a thing."
Unconsciously, I began to smile.
Maybe because using a method that was beyond the comprehension of an ordinary magus reminded me of a certain someone.
"Besides, you actually are drunk, aren't you? How did you manage that?"
"...this medicine will get you drunk in an instant," he said, pulling a small tablet out from inside the chest of his suit. "And this put's an end to it." Between his index and middle fingers was another tablet.
With a gulp of the wine in his hand he downed the tablet. Not even ten seconds later, the odour of alcohol that had been coming off him in waves was halted.
"...that's pretty impressive." As I spoke, the boy lightly slapped his own cheeks.
"I'm kind of a pharmacist, after all."
"Nope." After coughing into his sleeve, the young man grinned. "
. Maio Brishisan Clynelles."
"Oh, Brishisan?" They were a pretty high-ranking family.
Of course they didn't have authority on the level of someone like the Barthomelloi, but they wouldn't fall behind if it came to history or research. They were a stereotypical example of a neutral family. And while the nature of the magecraft of those within the Faculty of Lore was quite varied, they were recognized as the holders of the rarest literature in the entire Clock Tower.
The fact that Brishisan was only his middle name meant he wasn't actually a member of the family itself, but simply under their care. Likely he was a member of some branch family of theirs, but the fact that anyone of the Brishisan faction had shown up at the Twin Towers was a big indication of how much attention the event was getting.
(...or is he also here to see the Grand?)
The young man was now staring past me.
"That Mystic Code...would that happen to belong to the El-Melloi?"
Once I realized he was pointing at Trimmau, an unexpected feeling began to well up inside me.
"Oh, you know about it?"
"Y-yes!" The boy who had called himself Maio nodded vigourously. "The one perfected by Lord El-Melloi, Volumen Hydrargyrum! A beautiful display of Fluid Manipulation! To think I'd come across it here of all places! I'm sorry, but would you perhaps let me touch it?"
"...I don't mind, I guess..."
Immediately Maio began running a finger across the maid's body, gasping like a child dropped in front of an array of fascinating new toys.
"Amazing...rather than attempting to work within the declining Conceptual power of Homunculus Creation, you've combined Fluid Manipulation with Personality Endowment. It just happens to be taking the most appropriate shape. Having the contents held outside the container is a little paradoxical, but for magecraft it seems about right. It's even got a full-body circulation system set up to bring the maintenance costs down to the absolute limit. Is this your work?"
"...uhh, yes. I had some advice from my brother, though."
"Your Brother! Then you must be-!"
As he was in the middle of gushing, another voice cut in.
"Maio," the kind voice spoke. "It's fine to be passionate about someone's work, but you should be a bit more careful when touching someone else's Mystic Code. It would be your own fault if you got yourself killed."
Maio turned around to face the new speaker.
It was a woman, wearing glasses. She had a gentle air, and seemed to be from the Far East. I had to wonder if she was Japanese. Though there were other organizations and other types of magecraft with roots in the Far East, there were a fair number of Japanese people at the Clock Tower. Maybe it had something to do with England also being an island nation.
"Ah, sorry, Miss Aozaki."
"Not at all. That was quite the performance earlier, by the way."
At that, she turned to me.
"Pleasure to meet you. My name is Touko Aozaki."
The woman had dark red hair. It was a pretty rare colour to see on someone from the Far East, but I didn't get the impression that it was dyed. Though it was certainly different from my eyes, her hair colour seemed somehow to fit well with her overall nature.
That probably wasn't something I should ever mention to her, though.
But wait. Before that.
Just from hearing her name, I felt a shudder go through me.
My voice was disgracefully hoarse.
I'm sure my face was also holding an expression I would love to wipe clean from the record.
"You're the Sealing Designated..."
"Sealing Designated?" As Gray tilted her head to the side in confusion, I continued to stand frozen like a scarecrow.
A title given by edict of the Association itself, to those magi who possessed special talents. Magecraft that couldn't be acquired by simple study or research. Magecraft that was only possible for one possessing that blood, that physical makeup. It was an order sent out by the Association that they might personally see to its eternal preservation. As such a Sealing Designation was at once both the greatest honour a magus could receive, and a death sentence.
After all, if its being preserved, there's no chance at continuing research. For magi who were designated to be sealed, even putting aside the issue of their lives, giving up on continuing their research was an impossible request. And so the vast majority of those who received Sealing Designations either abandoned their post and went into hiding, or holed themselves up in their own territory where they could defend themselves.
As for Touko Aozaki, though...
"Oh don't worry, the Sealing Designation was lifted years ago," she whispered with a gentle smile.
She spoke as if she was cutting off my potential scream, anticipating perfectly the timing it would take for my body's actions to catch up with my mind. If she had been some sort of assassin, she would have been able to set my head rolling effortlessly.
I took a deep breath.
Though it was an action that wasn't really suitable in public, it at last helped me to calm down.
"...I see. So you're the one, then."
In reality, once a sealing designation had been given, it was irrevocable.
However, a few years ago, a very unusual event took place in the oldest classroom of the Clock Tower, from which the sealing designations came.
Kalion Observatory, the Secret Judgment Division. At the end of the century, they delivered an incredible shock - even greater than the one caused by my brother, Lord El-Melloi's death - to the entire Clock Tower as multiple sealing designations were revoked.
The woman in front of me now was one of those revocations.
"Gray. This is the Grand I was talking about earlier."
Suddenly, the grey-coloured girl jumped, startled.
Yes. This woman was one who had received a sealing designation, that illusive Grand.
I had intended to take things slow and gauge the lay of the land first, but I seemed to have suddenly came face to face with the Last Boss, who had been prowling around the area. If it had been my brother, he no doubt would have thrown the controller away yelling something like 'What the hell, you piece of crap game!'
"Pleasure to meet you. My name is Reines El-Melloi Archisorte," I greeted her, suppressing the shaking that had overcome me.
In response, she gave a faint smile. "I've heard of you. I did some work for the previous head of the El-Melloi family, after all."
"Previous? Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald?"
"Yes." Opting out of giving any more detailed information, she put a finger to her lips.
Come to think of it, that made me wonder just how old she was. From her outward appearanced she looked like no more than her mid twenties, but considering the time that had passed since her sealing designation, that couldn't have been right. Of course, trying to guess a magus' age from their appearance was a losing battle to start with, and in the criteria for qualifying for Grand or a sealing designation, time was a far off problem.
However, as the name of the previous head of the El-Melloi family came up, I couldn't help but feel a small pang of regret.
If only I could have been there to see the pained faces he would have no doubt made upon meeting her.
"Oh?" Touko said, turning her gaze to Gray.
"That's an interesting face you've got there." Staring intently at her, she reached her hand out to touch her-
-as suddenly a loud voice called out from the center of the room.
"...it seems the Golden Princess has arrived."
Touko also turned around.
In the center of the room, a spiral staircase reached up to a second level. Standing on the second level, jutting out over the room like a balcony, were two maids that appeared to be twins. Their form and appearance were so identical, it almost gave off the impression that these two were the Gold and Silver Princesses.
Pinching their skirts and taking a curtsy, the maids turned behind them and called out.
"Please come inside." The two ended together, their voices in sync.
From the shadows of the balcony, a purple dress slowly emerged.
Time ground to a halt.
In that instant, all of the five senses were lost. No, such a base word as 'instant' was long gone from our minds.
Her eyes looking down at us were like jewels of myth. The ideal form that was her nose was no doubt the result of one of heaven's own sculptors, who had risked his own soul to perfect it. Her lips, which could have been flower petals taken from the forever lost Garden of Eden, held an unfading brilliance of youth. Each of these expressions seemed like foolish failures at description when faced by the image of her. She was, by virtue of only being herself, _______.
Something that lingered after all other adjectives had fallen away.
Anyone who even played at being a magus would know not to use the expression lightly, and yet it was the inevitable ground to which any attempt at description would lead.
She was 「 」.
"Inheritor of the name of Princess of Gold, my name is Diadra Valueleta Iselma."
Even hearing her speak, it was a few minutes before the arrayed magi returned to their senses.
Several of the guests had dropped their glasses, spilling wine and staining their shoes, but not one of them noticed. Some had forgotten to breathe to the point of collapsing, while others had fallen to their knees, tears streaming from their eyes.
If this was some sort of mental attack using magecraft, then not a single person could resist it. Especially so if those gathered here, magi who had all been taught from the beginning to first armour their minds, were falling victim to it. Simply before her pure _______, their greatest mental defenses were less useful than paper.
As embarrassing as it was, I was no exception.
I had been so taken in, I might as well have been unconscious.
"Inheritor of the name of Princess of Silver, my name is Estella Valueleta Iselma."
In all honesty, I hadn't even noticed the second woman.
Her face was covered with a veil, but even without it we didn't have the strength of mind to notice anything beyond the first woman.
If one were to look around, one would have seen that almost no one had recovered yet. Surely, believers witnessing the Second Coming would react in much the same way. Several magi had begun pressing in on their eyes, as if to gouge them out that her visage might be the last thing they ever saw. No doubt the one thing that kept them from acting out that impulse was the desire to see that _______ once again.
Hearing the voice coming from beside me, I was finally brought back to the present.
"So that's the Princess of Gold. I'd heard the rumors, but the fact they've reached that point makes the Iselma family more than deserving of praise." Touko whispered.
In less than an instant her tone had completely changed. Doubting what I was hearing, I glanced at her only to see her face had changed as well. Holding her glasses in her hands, she had cast her gaze downwards.
"Even I was a little shocked, so you'll have to forgive me for switching."
"Just a little personality change," she explained after she had returned her glasses to their proper place on her face.
Once she had done so, her previous air had returned. There were many magi who intentionally brought about personality changes for the sake of their research. There was a certain kind of personality that was more apt for gaining results from certain methods, after all. Figuring it was another instance of that, I paid it no more mind.
"Sorry, but I have to take off for a bit. Maio?"
While the atmosphere of the room was still locked in a dumbfounded state, Touko and the pharmacist took off.
Paying careful attention not to look back at the Princess, I took the time to shake Gray out of her stupor.
A dry applause filled the room.
"...incredible, Lord Byron."
The one clapping was a deeply wrinkled old woman, likely well into her seventies.
Her hair was a noble silver, reminiscent of a wolf. Dressed in a smart green dress, and her posture straight and proper, she gave a pleasant applause. Coupled with her strong manner, the friendly sound managed to draw the lost magi from their stupor.
"Lord Valueleta," a voice spoke.
As the name was spoken, the Princesses turned to their maids and retreated back into the shadows of the balcony. A chorus of groans rose from the gathered magi, as if begging time to stop before they could escape. I had to wonder just how many people were wishing for death at this point.
The music once again picked up. Moonlight Serenade.
Turning on her heel, the old woman from earlier approached us.
"I had the feeling my stupid apprentice was standing here just a bit ago," she said with a meaningful smile, swirling the whiskey playfully in her glass.
This was another opponent I couldn't speak with without correcting my own posture.
"It's been too long, Lord Valueleta. I never thought that even you would be here."
"Hey now, this is an important day for one my own branch families. No matter how busy I am, there's no way I couldn't come," she spoke with a light laugh. (1)The author takes pains here to overtly show that Lord Valueleta's speech is very masculine.
Even as her laugh deepened the ever-present wrinkles, even they seemed to do little more than add more vitality to her face. A person of her age being so energetic was quite rare. Downing her glass of whiskey in a single gulp, she replaced it with a fresh glass brought immediately by one of the attendant homunculi, once again swirling it playfully around her glass.
"...Lord Valueleta? Then, the Lord of the Faculty of Creation...?" Gray tentatively offered the question.
Now that I thought of it, I guess this was her first time meeting a Lord other than my brother.
"Correct. Just like my brother, this is one of the twelve people at the top of the Clock Tower. Lord of the Faculty of Creation."
"It's certainly been a while since I've seen you take any servants besides Trimmau," the woman spoke, showing interest in Gray.
"Inorai Valueleta Atroholm. Pleasure to meet you," she said, offering her right hand.
Hesitantly, the grey-coloured girl took it.
"My name is Gray. I'm a gravekeeper." With the slight bob of her hood, she nodded in greeting.
Though it was far from proper etiquette, Inorai didn't seem to mind, so I added some more details.
"She's an apprentice of my brother's."
"Oh? You must be quite impressive then."
"U-umm...well...I'm not really a magus..." Gray began making excuses, but seeing as explaining any further would be a nuisance, I ignored them. Thankfully, Inorai didn't poke any further, responding only with a big nod.
Returning her gaze to me,
"So? Have you decided to change affiliations?" Though she spoke with a pleasant laugh, it felt like she had reached out and took my heart in her hand.
As I had explained earlier, the El-Melloi family technically belonged to the aristocratic faction. The Valueleta family was a member of the democratic Trambelio faction, so any sign of considering her offer would spell instant destruction for the El-Melloi family.
"Unfortunately, I'll have to decline. Small fry like us are fully occupied just keeping our heads above water."
"Of course if I'm willing to offer, we're prepared to offer you the appropriate protection. And if you were willing to give us preferential access to that Lord El-Melloi II's classes, we'd even consider parting with one or two classrooms of our own."
I was struck speechless.
They were extraordinary conditions. Certainly having authority over an extra classroom or two was no big deal, but the classrooms held by the Valueleta family were each among the best spiritual land in the entire Clock Tower. Giving any of those away to us would be like handing us a plate of prestige.
"...unfortunately, we don't really have the capacity to make good use of such high quality land," I replied.
Though it did take me a few seconds to do so.
"I am thankful for your offer. However I must ask, what makes you so interested in my brother?"
"That's a rich question, coming from you. Of course his prowess as a teacher is first rate, but after looking at the El-Melloi classroom, it's quite clear that you are responsible for putting him in the position of Lord."
"Half of that kind of happened of its own accord," I answered Inorai's words with a bitter smile.
It was difficult to explain the situation clearly. Really, I would be more comfortable if she underestimated us like the others in the Aristocratic faction did.
"Umm..." A timid voice butted into the conversation.
Seeing Gray was about to ask a question, Inorai turned to her.
"Hm? What is it?"
"...why isn't the Valueleta family part of the Aristocratic faction?"
In response to Gray's question I could feel my mouth drop open.
In a way, she was even worse at reading the atmosphere than Trimmau. It was as if she was poking a finger deeper into an open wound.
"I heard most of the magi in the Faculty of Creation were artists. Isn't art typically tied strongly with aristocracy?"
It was such a simple question. A simple, lethal question, like a a spear coated in poison. Like someone had carefully built a tower of wooden blocks, and she had struck it in the one place that would destroy the whole thing.
But Inorai only laughed wholeheartedly.
"You're good! It's been decades since anyone's asked me a question like that!" Her laughter was so spirited it began to draw the attention of the nearby magi, many of them turning to watch us.
As expected of the famed Amazon of the Clock Tower. When it came to Lord Valueleta, anyone would stare.
Paying no heed to the surrounding magi all watching her, Inorai replied.
"Because art is fundamentally something to shake the hearts of the people of a given age."
"People of a given age?"
"Exactly. Many people say true art is that which survives the test of time. But at that point, it's not art anymore. It's history. Of course history has value, and is more than worth pursuing, and as such the aristocracy are quite pleased with it. But it's not what we are chasing after."
The old woman narrowed her eyes.
It was clear that she understood from her voice that the value she spoke of was not just something that depended on the present or recorded history, but also on the pursuit of a far off ideal.
"Beauty itself is fantastic. Even if it's only for an instant, the fact that it existed at all gives it value. For us, pursuing something outside of that moment just isn't up our alley. And besides, it's our belief that the people today should be able to operate and run things regardless of whatever history their bloodline might have."
As expected, her clear speech was overflowing with a pride appropriate to a magus at the head of one of the factions leading the Clock Tower.
"...I see...somewhat," Gray nodded.
Though the 'somewhat' added a layer of ambiguity to it, her expression clearly showed that she was thinking over the answer seriously.
"Happy to hear it. If you're one of that El-Melloi II's apprentices, you can feel free to come to us for help anytime, alright?"
Though Inorai spoke with a sunny disposition, my eyes were much more serious.
Especially knowing her personality, there was no way to tell what angle she would try to attack you from. I couldn't help but feel my previous nervousness come back to me.
Getting myself wrapped up in situations like this, I could hardly laugh at the struggles I was putting my brother through.
Just as I was thinking of curling up into a ball and dying, another person appeared.
Walking on fast feet despite his use of a cane, it was the gentleman from earlier.
Byron Valueleta Iselma.
"Here you are, Lady Inorai."
"Ah, Byron. Thanks for having me."
Putting his face closer to hers as she finished her glass of whiskey in a single gulp again, he whispered.
"I have something we need to discuss."
Listening to the rest of what he had to say, Inorai's expression began to shift.
"Well then, I guess this is goodbye for now. I look forward to seeing you again, Princess and Apprentice of El-Melloi."
Showing a mouth full of white teeth, the old woman laughed.