~~Forty Past Ten in the Afternoon, Thirty-First Day of the Third Month, Ninety-Fourth Year of the War Demon Calendar~~
Ryan and the others were paying a visit to the Pochisley Agency, called over by Lina.
“…It’s good to see you safe and sound, Tifa.”
“Chief… it’s been a long time.”
Tifa bowed to Ryan. In response to seeing that, Tarawo puffed up his face with his eyes opened wide. Then he turned to Ryan with a look of envy and awe. Ryan patted Tifa on her shoulders and looked on as if he was looking a child of his own. Perhaps due to all the eyes around her, Tifa reddened up slightly with embarrassment. She pulled down her hood, as if to escape from everyone’s smile. Reid, Mana, Reyna, and Adolf took their turns patting Tifa’s head as she kept quiet, with Lina happily looking on all the while.
“Man, never thought that Tifa girl would be related to Asley as well.”
“That, and her being Lina’s junior under his tutorship. I should have noticed when…”
Haruhana spoke as if she was recalling something.
Everyone in the reception room directed their attention to that statement, seemingly curious about what she would say next.
“Well… there is that chanting she did before casting her spells-“
Before Haruhana even finished her sentence, an utterance of realization echoed through the room.
Except from Tarawo, who had question marks floating over his head, and Lina, who had a joyful smile on her face.
“Which reminds me, Professor Trace’s started doing that lately, too!”
Natsu spoke up with a cheerful voice. Lina, unaware of how Natsu got to know Trace, looked around for clarification. In response, Blazer shrugged his shoulders and proceeded to explain. The short form of it was that Natsu had been put under Trace’s tutorship at one point by Irene’s recommendation. Lina could not hide her surprise at yet another unexpected revelation.
“Sorry, that did surprise me, too. Just found out the other day.”
Blazer added, sounding unnecessarily apologetic.
“Natsu, I also taught you some spells, you know!”
“But Lala, your air tracing is too fast! I can’t learn from that!”
“What – Sir Instructor! Didn’t you say that the faster I draw them, the better?!”
“”Exceptions for the right situations.””
Lala was at her wit’s end trying to figure out the lesson Tzar tried to teach her.
“Ahhhh! Please teach me ’bout that, too!”
Lina showed some surprise toward what Tzar had just said, which prompted a look of confusion from Reid.
“Something wrong, Lina?”
“I almost forgot… Tomorrow is the University’s entrance ceremony…”
As Tifa seemed to have just recalled that, Tarawo proceeded to ask her a follow-up question.
“Tifa, don’t you have to deliver the… ‘Freshman Representative Opening Speech’?”
“Wait, you mean… the Freshman representative ‘Tina’… is Tifa?”
“W-well… I thought it’d be better to hide my real name.”
Lina cracked a wry smile at Tifa’s tendency to worry.
“Then perhaps we all should attend the ceremony tomorrow.”
“That would be wonderful, Chief!”
Reyna was the first to voice her agreement, followed by Natsu, Itsuki, Lala, Tzar, and lastly the Silver trio.
“W-wait – you all really don’t need to! Especially Reid and Mana! I’ll slap you if you come!”
“Well, well! Looks like I’ve got to be ready for a hit or two!”
“Heh, sure. I could get used to it.”
The room erupted in laughter, which in turn caused Tifa to puff up with anger. Amidst that, Tarawo looked up at Reid and kept his voice low enough for Tifa not to hear.
“You. You’ve got an impressive chest, you know that?”
Immediately as he finished his statement, he ran into one corner of the room. Lina, as if to chase Tarawo down, followed there, crouched down, and greeted him.
“Long time no see, Tarawo.”
“Oh-ho, you remember me? Good. You know that I would never let you hear the end of it if you do forget me, hmm?”
“Of course I remember you~~ Tickletickletickle~~”
“-? Oh? Ohohoho… Quite good. Mm-hm, very well, I allow you to rub my chin until the ceremony comes.”
“Ahahaha, I can’t do it for that long~~”
“Is that so? As long as possible, then.”
“Hehehe… all right, all right~~”
Tarawo, wagging his tail and savoring the goodness that was Lina’s chin rub, caught sight of Lala and Itsuki as they peered at him over Lina’s shoulders.
“Do you two need something? If you desire to touch me, there is still plenty of space on my back. So?”
“This dog’s stupid cute, too!”
“What-! You dare call me, a King Wolf, stupid?!”
“Oh, Lala’s ‘stupid’ has about the same meaning of ‘awesome,’ you see. Sorry about that, Tarawo~~”
Itsuki, stroking one side of Tarawo’s back as if to ask for forgiveness, immediately got it as Tarawo’s expression returned to normal.
“H-hey! Can I touch you as well? Can I?!”
“Ugh… I permit you to.”
Lala proceeded to rub the other side of Tarawo’s back. At the same time, Bruce spoke to the rest of the group behind her.
“All right, remember to get dressed in your best duds for Tifa tomorrow!”
“Gah… just do whatever you want.”
Tifa let out a weak sigh, and was then patted on her shoulders from behind by Ryan once again.
As Tifa looked up at him, what reflected in her eyes was the rare happy expression of the leading man.
~~Magic University Central School Building, Forty-Eight Past Eight in the Morning, First Day of the Fourth Month~~
In front of the Maginasium, Claris and Anri were on reception duty.
And within the Maginasium, Idéa and Midors were standing around, glaring at Hornel who sat in one of the chairs below the podium.
The reason was that they had been, for the most part, forced to be stuck here.
“Miss Idéa, Mister Midors, I know you two were reluctant, but please perform your duties properly.”
“But Professor Trace… Aren’t our preparation duties supposed to be over yesterday?”
“I tried to get us general audience seats, but then Hornel… tricked us into working on another thing, you see. Seriously, he’s such a slave driver.”
“Oh, so that’s what it was. Consider that to be a display of Mister Hornel’s capabilities, then.”
Trace smiled as she stole a glance at Hornel, then turned on her heel and walked toward the backstage.
“Bah… isn’t it about time the people came in? Let’s hurry up and get back to-“
Just as Midors was about to finish his sentence, a loud shout came from the direction of the entrance.
“Hey there! Doin’ a good job here! Idéa! Midors!”
The two turned around upon hearing a voice they recognized. What they first saw was Tzar, jumping out of the bag on Lala’s back. And then Bruce, who was giving Lala a piggyback ride. Anri and Claris also noticed them, and were happy to see some familiar faces.
“”Sir Bruce, Sir Blazer!””
In the same manner as Bruce, Blazer appeared with Natsu on his shoulders, followed by Haruhana, Itsuki, and Ryan walking in behind them.
Midors, due to all the strangeness of the scene, had a drop of cold sweat run down his face.
“Hey… the hell’s going on?”
“Looks like a well-trained group. Especially the man in the back – he’s crazy strong.”
Idéa seemed to have the same impression as Midors had.
Bruce and the others, after stating that they were here as visitors, greeted the two before passing by them.
“Please use this, sir.”
Claris passed Ryan a quill pen.
Claris blushed in response to Ryan’s gentle smile at her. Anri, breathless from the disbelief of what she was seeing, nudged Claris with her elbow.
“H-hey? Claris, you doing all right?”
“Huhu, huhuhu… I must say that older men are quite fascinating… Like *Sir* Asley. Like Sir Ryan here…”
Claris, enchanted, read out the name that had just been signed in the registration book.
Seeing such behavior, Anri continued to say, exasperatedly,
“Shouldn’t Asley be around the same age as us, though? I mean, I get where you’re coming from, but… Oh, looks like it’s about time.”
“Apparently so. Let us get going.”
~~Magic University Central School Building, Nine O’clock in the Morning, First Day of the Fourth Month~~
By this time, all the bustle within the Maginasium had died down.
Particularly because, the Magic University staff, led by Headmaster Tangalán, were now all seated on the stage.
Irene, Trace, Lina and Hornel could be seen among them.
Following the lead of Lina, the Student Council President, the current students and lecturers stood up.
They proceeded to sing the University anthem in unison, accompanied by the melody from the piano.
“Lost our arms may be, we shall march on,
Lost our limbs may be, we shall march on,
For wills of our ancestors, the passionate souls,
For hearts of might and magic, the lights of hope,
To the ends of the Black and White Chain,
Ahh, our alma mater, of might and magic, of might and magic”
Although the students were singing in perfect unison, Bruce grumbled as he watched on from the back row of the general audience seating area.
“I don’t think I can bring myself to sing THIS out loud, man.”
After the University anthem was the introduction of the Freshmen’s homeroom teacher, Headmaster Tangalán’s ceremonial address, and then congratulatory speeches from guest speakers, which happened to be Dragan and Jacob this year.
During Lina’s welcome speech as the student representative, she not only gave a performance befitting of a Student Council President, but also displayed the great extent of her education in her form, words, knowledge, and experience – all of which surprised Ryan and the others greatly.
Reid and Mana shed a tear at the sight of their little sister’s eloquent speech in the spotlight, and Adolf had his face turn beet red as he kept his eyes on Lina.
Natsu and Itsuki’s eyes sparkled with admiration, and Lala was… asleep, exhausted from working the fields so early in the morning.
Reyna held Ryan’s hands as they both smiled, while Blazer and Bruce were moved to tears, the former keeping his voice down, and the latter cheering as loudly as he could.
Lina noticed them, of course, and did not miss the opportunity to reference it,
“Let us turn these voices of joy into a driving force for our lifelong pursuit of self-improvement,” she wrapped up her speech beautifully.
The applause she received was not out of courtesy, but a genuine compliment that shook the whole assembly, and emotionally moved Tifa as she observed from the Freshmen’s designated seats as well.
Then it was time for the Freshman representative, Tifa, to get on the stage. Although she had enrolled under the alias of Tina, upon being assured of her safety by Lina, she had requested to correct it under the guise of it being a misprint.
It went without saying that Trace had been perfectly understanding and cooperative with the process.
Tifa’s sluggish and apathetic delivery of her speech has made the people think of her to be ‘unsophisticated’ as their first impression, but regardless, they encouraged her on with a wholesome round of applause.
The fact that she had a Familiar with her has attracted the attention of prospective attendants, their whispers of exciting speculation cropping up throughout the Maginasium.
Ryan and the others looked on with smiles of all their faces.
The ceremony ended without incident, and then, just as Asley and Lina had years ago, Tifa and the Freshmen followed Trace’s lead to their classroom.