Kazuya jumped to the side, and Brian landed where Kazuya had just been. He turned his head to look at Kazuya, licking his tongue like an animal who had found its prey.
“I just came here to check on her,” Brian said. “A friend of mine had some business at this academy, so I took the opportunity.”
“Check up on who? Victorique?”
“Yeah. I heard a rumor that the Gray Wolf was going to be transferred somewhere soon. I thought now was a good time to check, though I think they’re growing up faster than expected.
“Are you talking about Victorique?”
“Not her body, no.” His voice turned dark. “Her brain!”
Hours earlier, in just one moment, Brian came to a realization.
One day he met a fellow countryman in the city, Cordelia Gallo. She was small, beautiful, and somewhat strange. Something must have changed in her when she was forced to leave her home village and descend the mountain in fear. Brian had watched over his beautiful little compatriot as she worked as a dancer.
But one night, a shady guest arrived in the audience filled with lively music, dancing, and coquettish voices. The guest found Cordelia, and she disappeared afterward. When they met again years later, Cordelia told him that she had given birth to a daughter in the tower of a certain nobleman—the guest from that night—and that he had taken her away from her.
Brian was terrified of the girl—a girl born to a Gray Wolf and a human. The little girl, imprisoned in a tower, was transferred to St. Marguerite Academy. Rumors said that she might disappear from the school. Brian decided to come here to check on her. He had to see how she had grown up.
Today, Brian found her. A little girl with an enormous, bizarre brain. A huge labyrinth that contained all sorts of knowledge, from ancient to modern, the beautiful to the ugly.
The chosen Gray Wolf, and her magnificent power.
And now the state had held her captive.
Poor little girl.
This had been the nobleman’s goal from the beginning. When Brian realized it, he trembled with rage and shame.
“Growing faster than expected?” Kazuya breathed. “Victorique hasn’t done anything wrong. How can you say that?” The oriental boy’s shoulders were shaking with anger.
Brian found his face comical.
I knew it, he thought to himself. Humans don’t understand a thing.
He was laughing so hard that he was foaming at the corners of his mouth. He could roll on the floor cackling at any moment. But he eventually calmed down.
“She hasn’t done anything wrong? Of course, I know that. The problem is that the creature is being held captive.” His voice dropped low. “Those who use the power of the Old Ones are enemies. We want peace and stability. Days of constancy. Eternal Middle Ages. That wish may not come true in this day and age, but we will resist and fight to the end. There are many other Old Ones besides the Gray Wolves lurking in the Old World. They’re waiting with bated breath, thinking about the young cub trapped behind enemy lines. Change robs us of the freedom we’ve enjoyed since ancient times. The child is Cordelia’s daughter, and the blood of my people flows in her veins. But the other half of her blood is different. It’s the blood of a nobleman working at the heart of this country. We cannot forget that.”
“I’ve verified it today. She’s a monstre charmant. And her little head…” His voice trembled ominously. “…is Europe’s last and most powerful weapon.”
Brian closed in on Kazuya, one step at a time.
The clockworks whirred as they spun.
Kazuya looked around the workshop.
Brian licked his tongue. You’re not going anywhere. Like a cat playing with a mouse, he pounced on Kazuya, narrowly missing him and then chasing him down again. He tried to grab his arm and pin him down, but the boy slipped away. He was no longer at the same spot. He followed him with his eyes. Kazuya leapt onto the table, grabbed something, and then jumped to the giant clockwork. Brian’s brows furrowed in surprise at the boy’s swift movements.
Kazuya landed on the spinning clockwork, ran on top of it, and jumped to the next one.
Brian jumped onto the clockwork, too, in pursuit of the boy.
Kazuya jumped to the second clockwork. To the third one.
Then he landed on the fourth mechanism. There was no more after that. Brian thought that he had caught up with the pesky rat. He grinned. But before he could jump to the fourth clockwork, the boy stopped and spun around to face him.
Brian’s eyes grew wide.
The movement of the gears pushed Kazuya’s body back toward Brian with increasing momentum. In his hand was a metal equipment that he had grabbed from the table. Using the speed of the clockwork’s spin, the boy jumped at Brian and hit him in the face with the piece of metal so hard that Brian froze and covered his face with his hands.
Just before he was sucked between two clockworks, Brian twisted his body and tumbled far down to the floor below, roaring like a beast.
When he finally managed to open one eye, he saw the small oriental boy swiftly jumping down. His clear, jet-black eyes said he was solely focused on taking down the enemy before him. Unwavering black eyes with no hint of malice in them. Brian roared, and dodged to the right. Kazuya landed on the spot where Brian had just been. The metal equipment he was holding made a dull clunk as it dug into the floor, right where Brian’s head had been a second ago.
Kazuya turned around.
The quiet but determined glint in his eyes sent a shiver down Brian’s spine. He screamed in an attempt to drown out the fear, and, holding one eye, lunged at Kazuya. The boy leapt to dodge, but he followed, kicking his arm. The impact told him that he almost broke the boy’s arm. The boy let out a yelp, but did not let go of the metal in his grip. Brian kicked him a couple more times. Finally, the equipment fell from the boy’s hand. Before Brian could pick it up, Kazuya kicked it away.
Kazuya then jumped up and mounted Brian. He raised his fist and punched the man in the face. But the punch made Brian realize that his bare hands packed several times more power than the boy’s. He struck the boy back from below as hard as he could, hitting his left eye. Kazuya reeled back, feeling lightheaded.
Brian got up and pinned Kazuya down. Right before he could hit the boy, he heard him shout something.
He listened carefully.
“Don’t you dare put Victorique in danger!” was what he seemed to be saying.
Amused, Brian suddenly started laughing. He found the boy’s sheer desperation both hilarious and oddly moving.
“Sure, I barely know anything,” he said. “I don’t know the circumstances of Victorique’s birth, or why she’s locked up in here. But I know one thing: Victorique is smart, but strange. She’s an enigma… but she’s human. Just a little girl. She’s not someone to be exterminated. I won’t let anyone call her a monster, or a weapon!”
Brian contemplated for a moment, then sighed, and got off Kazuya.
“Didn’t expect her to have a knight in shining armor,” he said, cracking his neck.
“I want to protect Victorique. I’ll keep her safe from the dangers around her.”
“I see.” Brian grinned.
The boy, face red with rage, glared at him.
“Can you protect her with that kind of power?”
“…What do you mean?”
Brian closed his eyes. The world was too big a place, the power of a lone boy too insignificant.
Slowly, he opened his green eyes. Kazuya was staring at him. The unwavering look in his eyes made Brian feel unusually sentimental.
“A big, big storm awaits the cub.” Brian murmured. “That thing was born during the first storm. Birthed according to plan, to be used as a trump card for the second storm, the magnitude of which a single, kind-hearted boy can do nothing against. You will cry. Despair will eat at you. You will curse your own helplessness. Grief will change you. What will happen to you then? Will you still be kind? Or will you also become a little monster?”
“What are you talking about?”
“It’s fine if you don’t know. I think I’ll observe for a while longer. Watch how the boy and the cub spend their peaceful days.” He exhaled softly. “Which, I believe, won’t last that long.”
Brian turned on his heel, but before he could leave, Kazuya called him back.
“W-Wait a minute!”
Brian turned around. He took something out of his pocket, handed it to Kazuya, and grinned. It was a poster for his performance. The boy did not look at it; he kept his gaze on Brian.
“Watch out for the transfer. Marquis de Blois is a fickle man.”
Brian smirked and opened the door. He brought his right hand in front of his face.
“Now I’m gonna make myself disappear.”
He snapped his fingers.