~~West Building, Front of Asley’s Room, Six o’clock in the Evening~~
“You almost made me throw all that stuff up, sir!”
“It’s your fault for enjoying yourself so much when I was having an unfortunate time!”
“Ehh, it’s not necessarily unfortunate, but your direction is just unpromising, Master!”
“Hell if it is!”
Pochi and I threw around the usual banter as we made our way to my room.
And as I opened the door, the first thing I saw was Baladd.
“Huh, what’re you doing here, Baladd?”
“I’m so soar-ree, Master Azhley… I went over the trans-paren-see time and bearly made it back… Ueh… Ueeeehh–“
“Oh, so that’s it — C’mon now, don’t cry. We’ll get you back safely.”
This Baladd critter was the dragonling that had hatched from the Ballad Dragon’s egg.
With that said, the egg had been in Lina’s room, kept warm by the freeloading Pochi, and it had hatched sometime after midnight, so I hadn’t been present when it happened. Lina successfully positioned herself to be the first thing the dragonling saw, so the imprinting went without issue.
I had feared that she would end up looking at Pochi instead, but that turned out to be my unnecessary worry, thanks to how fundamentally different Pochi was.
That day had been two days before the entrance ceremony; Lina’s telepathic call asking me to be the dragonling’s surrogate father was strong enough to completely shake off my drowsiness.
Steeling myself for any and all consequences, I had snuck into Lina’s room. After a sidelong glare at Pochi, who had been fast asleep at the time, I imprinted myself as the second parent figure; that was perhaps the best option Lina could have taken.
Then we proceeded to wake Pochi up, getting her to be the godparent figure and decide on a name. She had decided on Baladd, frankly a cheap off-brand spelling of Ballad, but Lina was greatly thankful for it all the same.
It was only after Pochi had fully woken up, they decided on roles, with most of the basic caretaking duties being handled by Lina.
Since then, Baladd has grown extraordinarily fast.
According to Lina, she had started grasping human speech almost immediately, was able to fly within the same day, and was understanding of our racial differences and death of her original parent.
Moreover, Baladd had expressed her own wish to live with Lina. I was sure that, in a way, Lina’s tender words and feelings had reached Baladd even while she was still in the eggshell.
The night before the entrance ceremony, by Baladd’s request, a Familiar Pact had been formed between Lina and Baladd. The contract itself technically required a certain amount of Arcane Energy to establish, so I had chimed in with Magic Shift to make it a success.
Originally, I had planned to wait for Lina’s energy pool to be large enough to do this by herself, but in the end, I decided that the sooner, the better it was.
The next day, by Lina and Baladd’s request, I had set up a limited-invisibility Spell Circle in Lina’s room, enabling Baladd to go outside for a little while, but… today could be considered as the first failure of the measure.
Still, she sure resembles her Master in her tendency to shed tears.
“Uuh… y-yew vill–?”
“Of course, and I’ll draw another Spell Circle in this room, too… Still, how’d you even get in, Baladd? I’m sure I locked the door when we left? Didn’t we, Pochi?”
“Yes, we certainly did, sir.”
“The Dargon Arkeytype hass the in-nate ability to use space inter-fear-rense magic spells, sir.”
“Oh yeah, which reminds me… there’s that time I got paralyzed for some weird reason when I fought the Wyverns. So that’s how it worked…”
“It does-sent use Spell Circles, so may be closerr to a Psy-kick Power.”
That doesn’t sound like a topic a six-day-old newborn is fit to discuss, but… I suppose that’s how wise her kind truly is.
“–All right, this should be good to go. Try getting onto the Spell Circle.”
“Hye-yup… Am I in viz-sibble now?”
“Uh, well, we still can see you because that’s how the spell works, but it was invoked properly. Here, your reflection in the mirror is gone, right?”
“Ukyah — It is! Thank you so much, Master Azhley!”
The fact that she was crying up until now almost sounded like a lie. But regardless, now with a brightened expression, Baladd promptly flew out the window.
“Hmm? What’s up, Pochi?”
“Ukyah — It is! …That was adorable, don’t you think, sir!?”
~~Highway South of Beilanea, Nine O’clock at Night~~
“Seriously, why do you even come with me if you don’t intend to help?”
“And why do I have to? You’re already making quick work of almost everything with that Fire of yours.”
“Bah, not that I was expecting a good answer… Oh, Fire!”
Shooting down the muscular Ogre monster on the wayside, the level-up announcement chime rang within my brain.
It’s been a while since I last heard that.
While that chime continued to ring, I proceeded to confirm my request paper. And from my side, Irene also took a quick glance at it.
“Hmm, it’s finally time to wrap up. Is there anything else you need?”
“I’ve got six more Ogres to go.”
“What? Are Ogre hunts the only requests you’ve taken?”
“Lately, there’s been a lot of them around here… and I came across some Ogre Fighters the other day, too.”
“Isn’t that a B-ranked… did you defeat them?”
“Of course I did. Anyway, Ogre Archetypes do act in groups in some rare cases, so I suppose we should keep our guards up.”
“…Wait. Was there any literature published on that subject?”
Oh crap. I forgot I haven’t made my Ogre Archetype Deconstruction Textbook public to the world yet.
“Er — I haven’t announced it yet.”
“You researched it yourself? Even if it’s focused on one Archetype, wouldn’t you need at least a few months to a year to gather more concrete information?”
“That’s why I still don’t have everything down yet. In this case, I’ve only seen it a handful of times.”
“Hmm… Anyway, isn’t it about time you got your results? You said you might be promoted to Rank B, didn’t you?”
“I think it’ll be announced later tonight.”
What she referred to was the Rank-up Evaluation.
Up to Rank C, it was generally decided by the number of requests one has fulfilled, but several other factors were evaluated for promotion to Rank B and above.
I had cleared the qualifying number of requests yesterday and had reported to Duncan. With that, my record had been put under evaluation, the process of which should be done by now or later tonight.
C-ranked adventures were considered veterans, B-ranks were the top class, and A was… the top of the top. With that level of prestige on my profile, I would be authorized to investigate newly-discovered dungeons and accept requests of that sort too.
“If you were Rank B, you could accept requests from the Nation or the University and reap greater benefits from them too. Some jobs even pay ten-thousand Gold as the base reward.”
“That’s exactly why I’m aiming to be promoted. It things go well, I won’t have to abuse my physical body as much.”
“Now you have to deal with this, the Student Council and your regular classes… That’s quite a heavy workload.”
“Well, I reckon I can graduate just fine, so I don’t foresee the University being much of an issue.
“Right, no wonder people are out for your head.”
Things sure have changed from the old days. At the Magic University now, one only had to attend a reasonable amount of lectures and receive the required credits to advance to the next school year and eventually graduate. Perhaps at some point, students who failed the eight exams numbered too many, resulting the previous system to be amended. If only I’d been born in this day and age, maybe I would… Well, no, then I wouldn’t have met Pochi, Lina, and Baladd.
Reid, Ryan, and the townsfolk too…
Ever since I had left town, I had contacted Ryan a few times. Since Ryan didn’t use magic nor magecraft, it could only be done through my Telepathic Communication. We had decided on a schedule of once every two weeks.
And of course, he had been greatly pleased to hear of Lina’s admission to the University.
We had also discussed how the rest of the world didn’t seem to acknowledge Faltown’s existence. We still had no idea why and how, but I had proposed that the sooner we figure it out, the better.
With that in mind, getting myself into the Student Council might not be all doom and gloom.
Besides, we may very well find some leads on our ultimate goals, the Familiar Chalice and the Devil King’s Chestpocket.
Not long after we had left town for the Magic University, we had obtained some information regarding the Familiar’s Chalice.
Apparently, it was a festival held every few years at Regalia, the Royal Capital. Requirements for participation were that the master must be an adventurer at Rank A or higher, the Familiar must be Level 80 or higher and an entrance fee of 100,000 Gold must be paid. Achieving those criteria was only a matter of time for us, so there should be no issue.
On the other hand, we’ve found absolutely nothing regarding the Devil King’s Chestpocket so far. I had even asked Irene and Trace, but the most they knew was just the name.
Perhaps there had been an information blockade.
It didn’t seem like Irene was lying, either. This meant the information was most likely unknown even to the Six Archmages… The Nation may have had a hand in this matter, after all.
Of course, this didn’t rule out the possibility of Irene telling lies to me, the latter hypothesis was more proper one to come up with, so to speak.
Furthermore, what concerned me above all else was the Devil King’s resurrection. The Divine Messenger… He had told me to devote myself to my studies, but I held a fair bit of doubt whether or not I’m on the right track. Besides, since He had given me instructions, wouldn’t that mean that I had to do something about the Devil King, too?
I had heard a long time ago that there may some close connections between the Devil King’s Chestpocket and the Devil King himself. But with how things are right now, I suppose there’s nothing I can do but deal with my duties at hand.
“Now, let’s hurry and take down the Ogres!”
“Bah… so busy…”
I heaved a deep… and by that, I mean bottomless deep, sigh.