For a few days thereafter, Pochi and I frequently went out to subjugate monsters within the region, while waiting for things to be set in motion. Sometimes we would go hunting with Bruce too. He now held back on the booze, opting instead to bolster his savings.
I had proposed that we discussed the matter with the other two members of The Silver but Bruce had rejected, stating that he would be too embarrassed to talk about it.
Blazer being Blazer, surely prioritized The Silver above all else. The careful manage of funds was essential to keep the party operating.
And since Betty was in charge of managing their lodging costs and other daily expenses, Bruce wouldn’t want to bother her, either.
As for Bruce’s role within The Silver, he was to fill in for everything the other two didn’t do. He had a limited spending quota and anything beyond that went into The Silver’s savings.
As of now, he was attempting to increase his income, in order not to disturb the party’s savings account. I could see that he was pushing himself too hard.
But when I told him to dial it down, he told me “Me pushing myself too hard is one of my redeeming features”… Yeah, what a troublesome redeeming method it was.
Several days later…
~~Twenty-second Day of the Ninth Month, Magic University Central School Building~~
I arrived early in the morning to find the class already in an uproar. Everyone gathered around a group that seemed to be the source and their eyes were all sparkling with enthusiasm.
Lina, Claris, Anri, and Idéa were greatly excited by the story. Seeing that the latter three were gathered around Lina’s desk, I would assume that she has gained a fair bit of popularity.
Which reminds me, Idéa had just lost to Lina in an important duel, yet she didn’t hold any grudges? Well, I suppose this is Lina, after all. I’m sure the matter had been settled privately.
In the background, Hornel seemed quite restless as he observed the group. If he wanted to talk so much, why didn’t he just join in… Well, I suppose it would take a lot of guts to just join in on the girls’ conversation. Who does he have his eyes on? Lina? …Now, boy, lay a finger on my excellent pupil, and I’ll subject you to a week of constipation with my secret arts.
“Well-well, rumors sure spread quickly, sir~~ Wasn’t it announced just yesterday?”
“It’s also a mage’s job to obtain information as quickly as possible, after all. Well, that and kids their age catch on to fads quite easily.
Pochi and I went to our seats and discussed things between ourselves while waiting for classes to start, as per usual.
“Ah, Sir Asley!”
And the first other voice we heard was that of my very own pupil, sounding bright and energetic as she stepped up the stairs. Ever since the preliminary tournament, she had become one of the most popular people within our class.
With only a single utterance of Lina’s voice and the sound of a single step forward, all eyes in the classroom turned to follow her. There were already fan clubs dedicated to her among the upper class years, but not yet in our Freshman class. She had always been a well-natured girl, the kind that handles her popularity well.
At this point, there was probably no one in the Magic University who didn’t know Lina’s name, considering she was a mage accompanied by an A-ranked Ballad Dragon. I look forward to seeing what the future has in store for her.
“Oh, good morning, Lina. Busy morning, isn’t it? Did something happen?”
“We’ve got big news!”
In the end, it was what I already knew about. But I needed to be careful with my response. Say something unfavorable sounding to Lina, and Pochi’s begrudging glare would be enough to hurt me.
And perhaps because I got along particularly well with Lina, the glares from all around me would hurt quite a lot too.
“Hmm, what might it be about?”
“Miss Irene has finally completed the development of Teleportation, the first ever object-space-transference magic spell!”
“W H O A, R E A L L Y ! ?”
I had been practicing this dialogue last night in countless repetitions.
Hmm, but I might have executed it too systematically.
“W O W , T H A T’ S A M A Z I N G !”
Oh yeah, the doggo did practice it with me, too.
“Aha, you already knew about this, didn’t you?”
So came the scornful glare of Pochi. But how did my act get caught?
“N – N O, O F C O U R S E N O T !”
“Y E A H, N O W A Y !”
“Boo, you must’ve heard about it yesterday at the Adventurers’ Guild.”
Lina puffed up her cheeks. Ngh – would she get angry if I poked them?
“Ahahaha, so squishy!”
“Hey, why’re you poking her cheeks, Pochi!?”
“Because they were there!”
What a self-evident explanation.
“Ahaha – it hurts a bit, Pochi.”
“Ngh – looks like I’ll have to trim my nails more thoroughly. Master, where did you keep my nail file!?”
“At least give me some time to think, doggo. Still, Miss Irene completed it, huh… looks like she can expect a higher position within the University, not to mention becoming even more famous than the already is.”
“She sure will! I can’t let myself fall behind, either!”
My excellent pupil clenched her fists and pumped them up in front of her chest.
…Sorry that I had to lie to you, my excellent pupil.
“Ahahahaha, squishy squishy~~!”
And would you look at that – the doggo is still at it.
~After School, Irene’s Office~
“I’ve just processed a transfer of five million gold to your account. You’ll be fine with the remaining five million being transferred after I get the delivery from the Nation, right?”
“Of course. I can move things along for now with the down payment.”
Irene and I were discussing our transaction.
The Teleportation magic had been sold off for ten million gold. I wanted the payment in full, which lined up well with Irene’s circumstances, which involved her being funded by the Nation to research object-space-transference magic.
Her research had been showing a low rate of success, which had put her under considerable criticism from the Nation, but now its success has been proven thanks to the courtesy of my deal. Rather than continuing researching by myself, I believe, passing it to her for a hefty compensation, to be a win-win situation.
We could have held an auction as we had originally planned, which may have brought in more funding. But in the end, I had judged that it would be better to entrust the magic to someone I can personally trust. She had helped me a lot in regard to the Faltown’s case and had turned a blind eye to my countless breaches of minor school regulations.
At first, Irene had been hesitant to take this deal, but she caved in when I told her that I would be fine accepting five million gold as a down payment.
“So, tell me, how do you plan to release those Colorful Food District workers from their employment?”
“I’ve been planning to start my own business, you see.”
“…Doesn’t sound like you’re fooling around. Do you have any specifics? You’re not planning to run a shop on no profit, are you?”
“First, I’ll try to make as much gold as I can. The rest comes after the beginning of the Friendly Match.”
“That would be the tenth day of the tenth month, then… you have a bit over half a month. If there’s something interesting to cover, make sure to let me know as well, all right?”
“Ahahaha, of course. We’ll be counting on you when the time comes.
After the deal was set, Pochi and I attended only the minimal number of the required classes, opting instead to go out with Bruce on various hunts, racking up not only our funds but also a lot of experience points.
Our most frequent hunting ground at this time was on the other side of the hills, to the west of Beilanea. The very place where we had felled the Ogre King several months ago and further beyond, into the Forest of Deep Rooted Sins. The Ogres’ remnants and various monsters averaging on Ranks C and B had made this place their habitat. Bruce was the advance guard, Pochi was the main attacker, and I was the rear guard, making the formation quite well-balanced and guaranteeing us a good rate of improvement.
Bruce’s fighting style has changed as of late. His heroic attitude was still there but his movements were more precise and technical. Perhaps he might even be promoted to Rank S before Blazer.
Even Betty had noticed and called out how we were “getting along a little too well lately”. And in her case, it seemed that she had been going on hunts with Lina on the latter’s days off.
And Blazer? I’ve been hearing that he was now temporarily teaming up with a trio of mages.
Apparently, he had seen them as ones with great potential for future developments, so he had agreed to take care of them, with the plan to invite them into The Silver when the chance arises.
As we all were busy with each of our goals, the days passed, and in the blink of an eye, the day of the Friendly Match was already upon us.
~~Tenth Day of the Tenth Month, Nine O’clock in the Morning~~
The preparatory phase, which had started since the First Day of the Tenth Month, has passed without an issue, and today the Friendly Match has at last, officially commenced.
As ones set to appear in the competition, Lina and I had trained ourselves rigorously while the other students were busy setting up food and trinket stalls as well as other entertainment establishments. In this day, the Magic University was bustling with festivities and classmates were dressing up in mascot costumes of popular monsters for live performances of magic and party tricks.
Our match would commence at noon, so Lina, Pochi, and I chatted along as we went around to check out the stalls.
“Master, let’s go get some more of those sausages!”
“Again? You already had five, haven’t you?”
“Just five, you mean. My stomach can take at least seven more!”
That’s not what I was concerned about, doggo.
“Ahaha, it’s delicious, that’s for sure. Jumbo Boar Sausage, was it now? The Kraken-shaped fried dough from the shop back there was good, too♪”
“Lina, are you sure you want to be eating all that right before the match?”
“Oh, I’m just buying them. Ehehe… I’ll be giving them to Baladd later, you see.”
Oh-ho, looks like Baladd has been blessed with a good Master.
“Baladd sure has been blessed with a good Master, eh.”
“Hey, you saying that makes me sound like a bad Master, you know that!?”
“Fine, I’ll buy them! I’m a good Master after all! Forget seven, I’ll buy ten or even twenty!”
“You’re the best, Master!”
“U-um, you two… the match is starting soon…”
“Ohh… I can’t eat anymore! Who in the world would buy this many sausages at once!?”
“Oof – that would be me! All this for the sake of my adorably adorable Familiar!”
“And what would that adorably adorable Familiar’s name be!?”
“Wrong! I mean, maybe a little… yes, a little! I may look a little chubby now, but I’ll be back to my good ol’ slender self after it’s digested down!”
“Slender my ass! And what’re you gonna do!? Our match is only 30 minutes away!”
“Acting cute won’t help you now! Not like that was cute, either!”
Again, we only had 30 minutes left before the match commenced. The glutton and I were now on standby in the Maginasium, sitting in two chairs on one side of the backstage and drumming our inflated bellies as we waited for all the food to be digested.
The spectators wouldn’t be able to see me, but from here, I could see Lina sitting in a chair on the opposite side of the backstage.
Designated seats had been prepared for members of the Black and White Factions among the spectators’ seating and most were already occupied, in turn filling the Maginasium with chatter.
Among the guests of honor were Gaston and Dragan. And another one among them was the Warrior University Headmaster and also one of the Six Braves – Charlie the Thousand Morphing Blade. He was of an older age than Gaston and, presumably, Irene. As a matter of fact, he was most likely the oldest among the Duodecad Conference and also said to be the most energetic of the bunch, which earned him the endearing reputation of a ‘Super Grandpa’.
Furthermore, a great number of aristocrats and big shots of major businesses were here, and I would assume that they were seated in their own area.
And of course, Magic University Headmaster Tangalán, Irene and Trace and the whole Student Council staff were already here.
Which reminded me, all the Student Council staff were set to appear in the matches after mine anyway, so I suppose there was no way they wouldn’t be here.
Which brings me to the question… what should I do? This inflated belly would surely put me at a disadvantage. And no – even more importantly, going out like this would be a disservice to Lina, who had given her best effort preparing for the match.
Still, she seemed to be enjoying herself, chuckling as she observed Pochi and I drum our bellies. Huh, wasn’t she supposed to be angry? A woman’s heart sure is full of mysteries.
“M-Master… Good night…”
“Sleep tight, old doggo… NOT! You’re a dog, so don’t sleep in a chair like that! You’re supposed to laying on the floor face up! Not that I’d do it now! Look, I’ll push your belly!”
“Give it a good push, sir… Oof–“
“Take that and that and that–“
“Ahahahahaha, w-wait, Master! Stop tickling me! Seriously, I can’t–!”
“Aha, so this is the spot, huh!? How ’bout here!?”
“Ahahahahahaha! Hahah… S-stop it! Take this! And this and this and this–!”
“Pfft – bwah!! Ahahahahaha! N-not there! Ahahahahahahaha! D-damn you little–!”
J-just kill me already!!
[THE MATCH WILL COMMENCE IN TWO MINUTES. WHITE FACTION FRESHMAN REPRESENTATIVE, ASLEY. BLACK FACTION FRESHMAN REPRESENTATIVE, LINA. PLEASE PROCEED TO THE STAGE.]