Chapter 1:

The Reason

The Exile Returnee

Living an ordinary life was something Ichiro would never imagine since his exile from Sakurajima several years ago. Yet, everything went far from what he had imagined, from what was supposed to be.

Even though Ichiro regarded himself as high in intelligence, he finally admitted he was not a good sleuth in life mysteries. Especially after seeing himself as a high school freshman now.

Ichiro did not suddenly return just to enroll himself in a school. He was here for a different reason. A weird, complicated one. It was something Ichiro could not ignore.

Ichiro was reluctant at first. Yet, he finally relented and returned home despite vowing not to do so. It did not mean that distrust and cynicism had ever gone from his mind, though.

The time was 05:10 AM.

Monday. First day of school.

After finishing his breakfast in the dining room, Ichiro stared at his new student card as if it came out from a third-rate comedy show. Sometimes, he sneered at it.

Ichiro Matsuda, his current full name, was written on it. His new classroom was 1-F.

The portrait of his face was displayed on the side of the card. Bright skin, medium black hair, and dark brown eyes—typical Sakuranese profile. The picture had the sacramento green blazer he wore now, with a white shirt tucked inside. The emblem of Hisuiryū, the jade dragon, was stitched on the front pocket of the blazer.

It was the famous symbol of Horikawa Imperial High School. One of the so-called "Big Eight," an epithet for the most famous and prodigious high schools in The Empire of Sakurajima.

It was not the school that Ichiro wanted to enter nor anywhere else for that matter, but there he was. Now, he just had to suck it up. He had agreed to it anyway.

Not that he had a better choice, he thought.

Suddenly, a small gust of wind swirled around Ichiro's student card, catching him off-guard. The card escaped Ichiro's grip. Then, it whizzed past behind. As Ichiro's face turned to chase its path, a tall and bulky middle-aged man with a black suit had appeared like a ghost from nowhere, just three meters behind him. He had grey hair and blue eyes. He still wore his shoes, but Ichiro did not really mind it.

An uninvited guest, but a person that he knew well.

"Look at this fool." The man scoffed at the card using the Albin language. "Certainly looks like a perfect mugshot. It just misses the plate."

"You never change, Schreiber-san." Ichiro smiled. "It's been a long time."

Schreiber let out a laugh. "Indeed, it is."

Ichiro pulled back the card the same way the man did some seconds before. He caught it before putting it inside his front pocket.

"How's life, kid?"

"Just the usual, except the fact that I've returned to my homeland and become a student," Ichiro replied. "But of course, you have known this, haven't you?"

"Couldn't believe it until I see it myself." Schreiber laughed again. "Thought you would never leave Sewunusa forever."

"A lot of things happened, here and there," Ichiro said as he pointed out to a chair. "The tea's still warm if you want some."

"Is it sweet?"

"You know me."

"Sounds good then." Schreiber let out a smile as he walked towards a chair beside the dining table and sat on it.

Meanwhile, Ichiro stood up and walked to the kitchen to bring a new cup from a wall cabinet. He then went back and poured the tea from a teapot on the dining table before giving it to Schreiber.


"Thanks." Schreiber slowly sipped it. Not long after, his eyes widened. "It's a good one. I'm surprised."

"It's from Lord Vershire."

"Ha! The old bastard always has the fanciest of stuff." Schreiber shouted. "Never thought he would actually send you something."

"Yeah. I'm even surprised that one of his butlers went all the way from the other side of the world just to deliver teabags."

"Really?" Schreiber's lips formed a mocking smile as he shook his head. "What a cruel man. He should just ask me instead of torturing one of his men."

Ichiro shrugged. "You can bring some if you want. I have a lot of it."

"Nah, there's no need. I can ask him myself later." Schreiber started sipping again.

As Schreiber enjoyed his tea, Ichiro decided to clean the table from his breakfast leftovers. He brought the plate, fork, knife, and empty cup together to the dishwasher in the kitchen. He placed them carefully inside before walking back.

"You should call me first before visiting, Schreiber-san. I could prepare something instead of just tea," Ichiro said as he sat on his chair once more.

Schreiber smirked. "Damn, Ichiro. You could become a good housewife in the future. Your husband would be proud of you."

"Spare me that." Ichiro laughed. "As a fifty-five-year-old man, you should be ashamed by acting like this. You still speak like a bonafide teenager."

"And you also act like a grown-up papa inside a sixteen-year-old body. Look the way you're talking. It won't be long before one of your schoolmates call you 'Uncle Ichiro.'"

Ichiro grinned and put a surrendered look. "Can't help it. You know that."

"Yeah, yeah. We all know." Schreiber took a large gulp to finish his tea. "By the way, I'm just checking on you and everybody else. Nothing more."

"How many people did you visit?"

"Twelve. You're the thirteenth."

"I see."

It was not really odd for Schreiber to do this. It was not the first time, after all. The last time Ichiro met him was two years ago when he still lived in Sewunusa. Still, Schreiber had not changed whatsoever. Both his looks and his antics. He was still the same Schreiber that Ichiro remembered.

After a period of silence, Schreiber asked Ichiro again. However, this time he finally went to the business.

"How things go with your clan?"

"Not great. Still can't forgive what they did to my parents. Most of them don't want me either," Ichiro replied. "Both of us make that clear to one another."

"Are you sure everything's going to be okay?"

"For now, at least. I won't do anything stupid, though. I can assure you that."

"You better be." Schreiber put a stern face. "You shouldn't be here in the first place. Why would you want to be entangled with them again?"

"Like I've said, a lot of things happened."

"And?" Schreiber peered at Ichiro with a deep look. Ichiro fell silent. For a moment, Schreiber did not say anything. However, as he leaned to his chair, he soon pressed on.

"Come on, kid. You won't suddenly fly and stay here without reason," he said.

Ichiro's mind went deep in thought. Now, he realized Schreiber's real intention to visit him. By the looks of it, it seemed like Schreiber did not want to let this matter go. Ichiro was in a dilemma to weigh the merit of telling Schreiber or not. Even then, after some consideration, Ichiro ultimately decided to tell the truth.

"An old friend of my mom gave me a call. She was the one who wanted me to go home."

"But I thought it was your clan?"

"It wasn't," Ichiro said. "The woman, with the help of her family, convinced the clan to revoke my exile status. She persuaded my return."

"Who is she?" Schreiber frowned.

"Hashiratani Kaori."

Shock painted Schreiber's face. "That former duelist?!"


"I did not expect your mother had such a friend. She never told me," Schreiber said. "How did she know about her?"

"They met at the same high school. It's a long story, but it's not important."

In truth, she was not just a "former duelist." Her name was already world-famous. Hashiratani Kaori was the record holder of a five-time consecutive World Duel Summit champions in the solo category as a female. It was a contest of talent and strength between the best magicians in the world. Ichiro still remembered her visits to his home when he was still a child and still in the clan.

"Aren't your clan one of the most dominant in this country? What kind of people could sway them?" Schreiber asked.

"The woman herself is not lacking in influence, courtesy of her fame. Not to mention, no one can disregard the Hashiratani clan, who is the closest ally of The Empress."

"That's some crazy politics right there."

"I don't know what happened between them, but the clan somehow complied in the end," Ichiro said. "Not to mention, I know some people in the clan are sympathetic with me. It probably also played a part."

Schreiber slowly nodded. "Has she contacted you in Sewunusa once?"

"Never. My mom cut contact with everyone after the exile, let alone me, a hermit."

"Then how could she suddenly call you out of nowhere?"

Ichiro shook his head. "I don't know. Networks, connections. Can't think of one, but she's a Hashiratani after all."

Schreiber paused himself for thought before talking again. "What candies did she offer to you?"

"This apartment, some money, safety guarantees, and many other things."

"What's in it for her?" Schreiber asked. "Did she ever ask something from you?"

"Only one thing," Ichiro sighed heavily. "I have to enroll in Horikawa Imperial High School."

Schreiber put a weird look. Ichiro had expected it. He imagined he had the same one back then after hearing it himself from the woman. Schreiber's eyes traveled almost every corner of the room, trying to dig in something. He could not.

"What...?" Confusion filled Schreiber's face. "Why?

"Exactly, and that's what I want to know." Ichiro bluntly replied. "She hasn't told or shown me anything yet."

As soon as Ichiro finished talking, the doorbell alarm suddenly rang. Ichiro inadvertently looked up to the ceilings, listening to the reverberating tone.

"Did you invite someone...?" Schreiber suddenly asked.


They exchanged looks for some period. Ichiro furrowed his brows before Schreiber did the same. After some periods, he then gave a slight nod. Not long after, they stood up almost at the same time. Schreiber quickly walked in motion towards the direction of the bathroom to hide, maintaining a low noise on his footsteps.

Meanwhile, just like before, Ichiro used his powers to control the air and pulled out three forks from a utensil holder on the dining table. They floated together in the air and went closer before Ichiro grabbed all of them with his right hand in one move.

"Coming!" Ichiro shouted casually. He put a calm face as he moved to the front door with the forks behind his back.