"In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."

-Dwight D. Eisenhower

Chapter 6: Before the Festival

Circe Barsburg was known to be an eccentric and whimsical for a person holding a rank equal to one Miroko Barsburg. She is the head of an Intelligence unit separate from the military and only takes orders from the Empress or the princess. Miroko knows of this full well and how a dangerous opponent she could be.

"Why Miroko, how could you be that uncertain that I hold the best interest for the empire?" she asked amused then sipped her tea.

"I don't doubt you on that, Circe," Miroko ammended as the woman gave a slight smile. "However, it's your schemes that I worry about."

Circe frowned at that then gave a huff. "Well I apologize that I consider majority of the military as incompetent or slimy snakes."


Circe raised her brows at that as if daring him to explain but the man waved her off, telling that her that she already knows who these fools are.

"The Oak brat?" said Circe "He has the potential if he uses his common sense. However, I want to talk about your star student."

"Ah, and why do you need the assistance of Thea and the Black Hawks for your plot?"

"A case about the missing girls in the highest security among the districts. Isn't it insulting that the perpetrator was doing that under the nose of the military?" Circe supplied as she handed a thin folder. "It's a good thing I am from the intelligence ,no?"

"Hmmm… one of the victims was a minor noble. Indeed, you are correct to say that it is an outrage."

Circe hummed softly as she looked at the pensive Miroko. She had grown up with him and she is very much aware on how he hated the current Emperor. He still had doubts if the previous empress had died a natural death. Frankly, Circe had doubts too ever since the emperor commenced to attack Raggs. She knew King Krom and Bishop Fea Kreuz; she doubted that they had the heart to steal Pandora's Box which could destroy the world… unless everything was a set-up.

That girl Thea Klein, she looked so much like Krom and his beloved concubine. If her suspicion was correct… Miroko plays a dangerous game indeed.

"How does this point to Thea? I do not want to endanger that girl further."

"She is a possible target," Circe answered bluntly "I just feel it."

Miroko nodded, well aware that Circe had the ability to see visions.

"A premontion?" he prompted.

"Yes. I speculate that it is the work of an unknown warsfeil," she answered calmly as she filled her cup with tea. "I have known too much. My assistant would give you some documents for safekeeping. I do not trust my future successor anyways. He is an Oak."

"Then why did you reconsider him?"


Miroko wisely made no comment on that. Despite growing up with Circe, he still had trouble following what goes on her mind.

Mikage cringed at the killer intent Thea was letting out as they read the notice. Though it would be understandable, Mikage amended looking at the rather calm Thea though he knew how annoyed she was. Females, even cadets were required to wear a dress.

Mikage would love to see her wearing it but he would not voice his thoughts. He value his manhood, thank you very much. Besides, it was not as if her fans were not voicing their supreme happiness at the news.

"Hmph, so that good for nothing sklave would dress like a proper lady? Preposterous!" Shuri mocked in an arrogant tone. Mikage would have punched him, regardless of them being childhood friends in the past… then he saw Shuri's face.

"If that is so," Mikage began stifling his laugh "Why are you flushing?"

Shuri turned tomato red as he spluttered incoherently. Thea looked at him resulting the Oak heir to flushing more. Then Shuri left in a haughty manner though anyone could see the steam blowing out off his ears.

Mikage laughed, rolling on the floor as Thea looked at him as if he was crazy though even she had to admit that it was very funny.

"Thea-san," a womanly voice broke out her musing. It was a red-head female wearing a soldier's uniform. Thea recognized her as one of the examiners. She was known for her cheery attitude but she looked stern for once.

"Circe-sama would like to… talk with you," she said then glanced at Mikage with a frown "Alone I must add."

Thea nodded, knowing that the head of Clandestine Service (regardless of her quirks) would not call a cadet for a simple idle chat.

"Thea?" Mikage looked at her in worry. He did know of her other persona.

"Don't worry much," the redheaded soldier smiled winnigsomely "Circe-sama is very friendly."

On that, Thea did not doubt as Circe was renowned for her hospitality as Empress Daria's aunt… it was the shrewd personality of the elder woman she feared. Miroko had praised her for her ingenuity but Thea could feel that he was threatened by her rather omniscient calculations and theories. Karu too was ill-at-ease with her.

"I would be fine, Mikage," Thea assured "Circe-sama is fair. She might want to talk to me as I am the only female cadet this year."

It was a lie but Circe did talk a lot to female cadets and soldiers in the past. They are after all good source of information even if most were only gossips.

"She is!" The female soldier agreed with glee.

"Well, I've finally got the chance to talk to you other than the quick chat on the halls."

"It's my honor, Circe-sama." Thea answered stiffly as she did not know the older woman other tha the other one's reputation.

"You spend too much time with Miroko," Circe grimaced "That man is not a good father in terms of letting the children have fun."

Thea had to silently agree on that matter... not that Miroko was a father anyways.

"That besides the point, I called you up for a mission, Night Ripper."

Thea immediately tensed, awaiting for order.

"Ever heard of the mysterious disappearance in this district?"

Thea spent approximately three minutes getting briefed by the no-nonsense side of Circe which Thea had to admit, identical to Miroko. Here was a woman who would do what she would see fit for the whole empire.

"Do you have a dress, Thea Klein?" Circe finally broke her serious persona changed to a playful one. The brunette was not sure which she prefered.

"Miroko-sama would provide."

"Nonsense child!" Circe gave an incredulous look "That man has fashion sense, yes but not on a lady! I shall provide one for you. Despite beig on a mission, one should get whatever joys life throws to you. You are a lady no matter what other people think."

Thea hid a grimace. Mikage would be overbearing with her in a dress.