Chapter 8

“You’ve got a sharp eye,” Koharu complemented Aina after the others were safely within the inner barrier. “Just dare are you?”

“I can’t give you my namae,” Aina informed her, casually strolling over to the outer barrier that Koharu had erected, and, placing one gloved hand on it, shattering it. “I’m merely one of Naomi-sama’s pupils.”

“Naomi-sama was going to let me waltz right into the mansion,” Koharu said, placing a finger on her chin, as if absorbed in thought. “She didn’t see through me like you did.”

“Naomi-sama is so tsuyoi that she doesn’t need to fear your level of chikara. I do.”

“You also noticed the weakness in my subordinate’s kekkai before anyone else.”

Aina shrugged. “It was more obvious from my vantage, and I was looking out for it.”


“I was ordered to deal with mondai created by mahou shoujo.”

Soshite, I am one of those mondai, I take it.”

Shirimasen. Are you?”

“I’m no threat to you. I’m only here because I was ordered to help. I have no desire to get enmeshed in the pointless power struggles of the goshujin.”

“That’s very wise. Demo, I’m more worried about what a mahou shoujo of your caliber is doing in the guntai.”

Nani’s it to you?”

“My motives are purely altruistic. Someone with your chikara could get used as a weapon of mass destruction. It wouldn’t even have to be by your choice. They could drug you, control you—”

Wakatta. Demo, it’s like you said, they don’t know what they have. Instead of raining down fire on the battlefield, I’m here performing parlor tricks.”

“If you keep casting powerful spells that effortlessly, someone is bound to notice. I noticed, and I’m just a meido.”

Sou ka? I guess I’ll just have to be more careful.”

“It’s not just—” Aina started to protest, but Koharu held up a hand.

“I joined the GSDF because I think that—how did you put it?—mondai caused by mahou shoujo should be dealt with by mahou shoujo. You may not be aware of what’s going on out there, but—”

“The number of mahou shoujo is rising sharply. I’m aware.”

“It’s more than that. They’re organizing into mercenary groups. Mostly French born, they know that positions in government are forbidden to them, but they’re intelligent and ambitious. Some are working for corporations, spying on or sabotaging competing companies, others are working for crime lords, protecting their operations. Some have even supplanted their former employers, but the remaining bosses aren’t stupid, and they’ve have been pitting the groups against each other. The battles have caused a lot of collateral damage.”

“This is news to me.”

“So far, attempts to rein them in have been unsuccessful. It’s not that the authorities aren’t trying, but they don’t have mahou, so I decided to work with them to bring the mahou shoujo back in line. It’s not just that we can bring them to seigi, we can also provide discipline and an alternative career path for them.”

“Commendable, but it sounds like you should be with the keisatsu instead.”

“I take what I can get.”

“Let me be blunt. Even if you don’t mean to, you could become a problematic mahou shoujo yourself. Not just to shakai, but to watashi personally, and I’m a believer in preventing mondai before they start. If you weren’t here as a favor to my goshujin, I wouldn’t risk letting you leave alive. Part of me thinks I shouldn’t let that stop me.”

“Then let me stop you,” Koharu said. As she spoke the words, ropes of black magical energy burst forth from Koharu’s fingertips and wrapped themselves around Aina. They would have been difficult to see against Aina’s black dress, had they not glowed a malevolent purple. “Shinpai shinaide, I won’t harm you or anyone else here.”

“I know you won’t. You’d have to be an aho to try anything in Naomi-sama’s presence. And you don’t strike me as baka.”

“The spell will wear off after I leave. Until then, I wouldn’t try to move too much. You might hurt yourself.”

“Your concern is touching,” sarcasm dripped from Aina’s voice. She could feel how much power Koharu had put into the bindings. She had intended this spell to hold someone who had so easily destroyed her barrier.

“Now that I’ve got you koko,” Koharu said, “how about answering a shitsumon? I’ve heard a lot of stories about Naomi-sama, but I didn’t know she could cast spells. How did she do it?”

“She’s not a mahou shoujo, if that’s what you’re worried about. She’s using a technique—more of a trick, really—that allows her to cast some simple spells, but that’s all I can tell you.”

“I can live with that answer. Not like I can do anything—”

Koharu was cut off when Aina let out a loud, obviously fake sneeze, bringing her arm up to cover her mouth and nose. The magical ropes should have held her arm to the side of her body, but her arm moved through the ropes as if they weren’t there, and where they passed through, only gaps remained. The ropes fell to the ground, emitting a loud hissing noise, then a popping, crackling sound as they vanished.

“Gomen,” Aina apologized with a smile. “Someone must have been talking about me.”

“I guess you aren’t Naomi-sama’s student for nothing. De, what ima? Do we duke it out?”

“As you say. I shall do you the courtesy of allowing you to make the first move.”

Aina bowed to Koharu, keeping her eyes on the magical girl, but Koharu just started laughing.

“You overplayed that one, jo-chan. Gomen, but I won’t give you the excuse.”

Wakarimasen. Soshite, don’t call me jo-chan.”

“Don’t take it so personally. You almost had me. It’s been a long time since someone has put me on the back foot like that. I was so surprised by your spellbreaking and threats that I wasn’t thinking properly. If you really planned to kill me, you wouldn’t have told me ahead of time. Regardless of how you feel, I am here as a favor to your goshujin-sama. If you started a fight, you’d be in dai trouble.”

“My goshujin-sama trusts me to make decisions in his best interests.”

Sonotouri! In his best interests. Attack me, and you risk turning the SDF against him. And for what, to take care of a hypothetical mondai in advance? Demo, if I attacked you first…”

“I could still claim you were the aggressor.”

“You could, but it’s not worth the risk. While it’s true I tried to bind you, whether or not that would be perceived as an attack depends on my reputation with the SDF, and you don’t know… Ah! You were testing my character. Demo, naze?”

“To see if you were the kind of person I could make a deal with.”

“I’m listening.”

“I’ll talk to my goshujin about increasing the size of your unit and support within the SDF. In exchange, you will remain neutral in this conflict at all costs.”

“You’ll provide the resources, and I’ll just continue doing what I’m doing. Nani’s in it for you?”

“Your reining in rogue mahou shoujo aligns with my goshujin’s strategic goals. Demo, I am not asking you to merely carry on with your normal behavior. If ordered to pick a side, I’m asking you to disobey, and more importantly, I am asking you to remain neutral no matter what the consequences.”

Tatoeba, if your goshujin decides it’s necessary to murder half the civilian population to achieve his goals, and I can stop it, you would have me do nothing.”

“Not just my goshujin. Any goshujin in this conflict. In all honesty, while I can’t guarantee my goshujin won’t take morally dubious actions, I suspect this clause will benefit the other side more.”

Jya, why not ask for my loyalty, rather than my neutrality?”

Ni reasons: First, I don’t want to invite units within the SDF to start picking sides. I don’t think that will end well. Second: If I demanded your loyalty, you wouldn’t even consider my proposal. Am I wrong?”

Iie, you’re right about that. So to answer my own question of what you get out of this, you remove a piece—me—from the board completely; you expand my ability to remove other mahou shoujo from the board; and should the SDF move against you, our refusal to mobilize will require them to keep forces behind to guard against us. Ii, if your goshujin can actually give us the support we need, I will agree to those terms.”

“I’m glad we understand each other. Just one more thing. I don’t know how you handle mahou shoujo, but personally, I kill them. If you want to save them from my blade, I suggest you ganbare.”

Sore yori, if I do anything to betray your trust, that’s how you intend to ‘handle’ me.” Koharu paused to think over the terms, but ultimately held out her hand to Aina. “Ii. I take what I can get.”