Now, they were in the same classroom in which Asley had studied three years ago.
Tifa and the other Freshmen, led here by Trace, inserted their nametags into the nameplates of their chosen seats, and then sat down with a myriad of expectations in their hearts.
And of course, there was a nameplate for Tarawo as well.
“Oh-ho, that Trace woman is quite considerate. I’ll make sure to remember her.”
Tarawo mused on as he stared at Trace, his tail wagging in rhythm with his throaty voice.
Trace started off by giving students a welcoming speech of her own.
First was a brief outline of their school life and schedule of activities from tomorrow onwards. Then, as if she was so used to the routine, Trace proceeded to hand out two rolls of parchment to each of the students.
They were, of course, the Black and White Chain contract sheets.
The Black and White Chain Affiliation Contract
The following is a binding contract between
The Black and White Chain (Second Party)
ONE: The First Party shall endeavor to train their mind and body, and to bear an attitude appropriate of a warrior and/or mage.
TWO: The First Party, on the occasion of the Devil King’s invasion, shall agree to participate in the battles to defeat the Devil King and provide complete support to the Holy Warriors.
THREE: The First Party shall be exclusively affiliated with either the Black or White Faction, and adhere to the activities and ideologies of the Second Party.
In signing this document, the First and Second Parties agree to operate according to the above terms.
The First and Second Parties will each hold a copy of this document in their custody.
First Day of the Fourth Month, Ninety-Fourth Year of the War Demon Calendar
First Party: ＿＿＿＿＿
Second Party: The Black and White Chain
“Oh-ho, a contract? …Ngh, the symbols are too difficult. Mind reading this out for me, Tifa?”
Tifa, paying no care to Tarawo’s words, proceeded to read the contract sheet thoroughly.
[Here it is… the contract Lina told me about. It’s applied with a powerful arcane energy constraint. If the writer of this contract wanted, they could create a fearless army with a single command. Oh, so that why she told me to use this spell… Rise, A-rise, A-rise, Letter Edit.]
It was none other than the spell Asley had used to force an alteration of the document’s letters.
Asley had taught it to Lina at one point, and Lina would have gotten to pass it to Tifa if the latter hadn’t already known it.
It was among the homework projects that Asley had left behind for her. Although it was a relatively advanced spell, Tifa had successfully imitated it with her extraordinary capacity for learning.
She had first used it to overwrite the name of Faltown, her hometown, on her letter of recommendation. Although she hadn’t forged the Iverialtown Mayor’s signature like Asley had done, she had indeed used the same method.
Having confirmed its viability at the University on the day of her entrance examination, Tifa felt greatly relieved. That was the reason why she had turned down Lina’s offer to teach it to her.
The Letter Edit spell that Lina had learned from Asley and the one that she had taught herself back at Faltown – she didn’t know that those two were based on different formulas.
She waited and waited, but the letters on the contract sheet did not change.
[Ngh-! They’re not moving… did I mess up the invocation?]
She cast the Letter Edit spell once again, making sure she was thorough and discreet. However, the letters on the contract sheet still would not budge.
While everyone else, one after another, tossed their signed papers into either the black or white box, Tifa grew impatient, scrambling for a way to work things out with her hands scratching her head.
Tarawo, sitting next to her, eventually spoke up,
“The arcane energy housed in these papers is quite something. I can see things going way south if you were to sign the contract. As time passes, the effects of its terms will encroach on your being. You’d need an equally vast amount of arcane energy to void it out.”
Tifa realized what was up upon hearing Tarawo’s whispers of idle complaints.
Her failure to invoke the Letter Edit on the contract was due to her arcane energy being inferior to that of the one who had written it.
The version of Letter Edit that Lina had intended to teach Tifa had been modified by Asley, elevating its effect above that of the original. The version that Tifa had used just now was only a prototype of it.
The very same prototype had been used successfully by Asley three years ago, but only because his arcane energy had expanded to an immeasurable magnitude over the past five thousand years.
Tifa, on the other hand, has only been in this world for fifteen years. Although her arcane energy was greater than average, it still was within an expected range of her level.
As things stood, Tifa had no way of learning the new Letter Edit right now since Lina was not here with her, and not to mention the fact that she wouldn’t be able to draw one of Asley’s intricate Circles immediately even if she knew how to.
Her impatience showed prominently on her face.
She contemplated simply signing her name and turning it in, since at this point, she was the only person in the room who hadn’t already done so.
“-ifa? Miss Tifa?”
Trace stood in front of Tifa’s seat, looking quite troubled by how the latter replied to her in such a high-pitched shrill.
“You’re the only one who hasn’t turned a sheet in. Have you signed it?”
“Ah… yes – I mean, no…”
As Tifa stammered on, Trace took the liberty to unroll one of her contract sheets.
“Oh, but I can see that you already have.”
“Now, please drop it in either the black or white box.”
Trace shot a subdued wink to Tifa as the latter stared back blankly.
Tifa now realized that Trace was rescuing her.
She remembered how she had heard the name ‘Trace’ yesterday, from Natsu back at the Pochisley Agency. Tifa simply had yet to connect the dots at the time.
Because of that, she also couldn’t quite figure out why she was being helped in the current situation.
Tifa followed Trace down to the podium at the very front of the classroom, the latter’s heels ringing a prominent ‘click’ every step along the way, and then proceeded to drop the still-blank contract sheet into the box of the White Faction.
Trace smiled, her glasses shining as she pushed its frame up.
[She has chosen White… I see… Then she will be a very welcome addition to our ranks, especially with how Miss Lina and Professor Irene has been informing me on… things… that have been going on with the Black and White Chain lately. I reckon there is no need to force her into this, especially since she’s an acquaintance of Mister Asley’s… In fact, I should have known when she did ‘that chant’ during her entrance examination.]
Naturally, the Magic University’s entrance examination did have a demonstration of practical skills as one of its criteria. Even Asley, Lina, and Hornel had gone through it in some form despite making the cut with just the test of knowledge.
As Trace had been the one to oversee the examinations for this semester, she had seen Tifa cast some spells and heard the chanting that came with them.
It was the same chant that she had started to do recently – and a clear sign of one’s connection to Asley.
Tifa, heaving a sigh of relief, hurried back to her seat… and proceeded to poke Tarawo’s forehead, to the latter’s confusion.
~~Five O’clock in the Afternoon, First Day of the Fourth Month, Ninety-Fourth Year of the War Demon Calendar~~
“Sir Asley’s room?”
Itsuki, back at Pochisley Agency, responded to Tifa’s question of her own.
Getting a nod back, Itsuki then shook her head in disapproval.
“Well… it’s on the second floor, on the side of the street. So you go up the stairs and straight to the end of the hallway… Now stop right there, Tifa! You can’t just walk in there!”
Tifa, who had started to ascend the stairs in the middle of the sentence, stepped back down upon being called out by Itsuki.
“Oh, I’m not going to just walk in.”
For a moment, Itsuki felt relieved to hear that.
“Because I’m gonna break my way in!”
“Hey! That’s not what I meant!”
Itsuki tried to follow Tifa up the stairs, but was prompted to stop her feet by a ringing of the doorbell.
She peeked at the entrance doorway through the staircase’s railings, and saw that a shabbily-dressed woman and a girl was waiting there, both looking around restlessly.
She could immediately tell that these kinds of people were here for the Pochisley Agency’s services.
“Oh, a customer… Look, Tifa, just get down here… wait, she’s gone?!”
Tifa and Tarawo, having silently slipped away from Itsuki, were already in front of the room at the end of the second-floor hallway.
Just like any other room, a wooden board with the name of the room’s owner, with the addition of a paw print stamped to the end of it, hung from the center of the door.
Tarawo took a step forward, perhaps misinterpreting Tifa’s emotion as she locked her gaze on that name.
“Thinking of assassinating the person inside, Tifa? Heh heh heh… very well. Just follow my lead.”
Tifa ignored him, instead stepping forward herself and twisting the doorknob open.
“Hmm, I see, I see. So you want me as the rear guard? Rest assured – I shall protect you with my li-“
Then she slammed the door shut right in front of Tarawo.
Tifa looked around Asley’s room, and saw that it was quite plain, not being furnished with anything particularly unnecessary.
The thing that did catch her eye, however, was the mountain of documents and writing materials on the table. That, and a comb with bundles of fur stuck on it, left lying around in front of a mirror. The next thing Tifa caught sight of was a dimly glowing Spell Circle in a corner of the room.
She crouched down and examined it, tracing over the formulas with her finger.
[The formula is extremely complicated and applied with a personal identification code…… this is probably the fixed-position Teleportation spell… Amazing.]
Outside the room, Tarawo kept rambling on while he faced the door. He was quiet now, but considering his tendency, he was sure to blow up sooner or later.
<“Right… of course, of course. She’s testing how far I’d go for a friend, hmm? Very well. This wood-scrap of a door is the same as cotton candy against my demonic claws. Oh, now I’m having a craving for some cotton candy. Tifa, I could do with some cotton candy right about now! Tifa? Are you listening to me, Tifa?!”>
But of course, Tifa paid no attention to him. Finding nothing else of interest after looking around for a while longer, she proceeded to sit down on the bed.
Then the realization hit her – of what this nostalgic scent was that had been getting into her nose this whole time. It was the scent of the beast beside the person who had been teaching her magic up until three years ago.
Overcome with nostalgia, Tifa’s face put up a naturally wry smile as she grumbled at how the room smelled of Pochi. She then proceeded to lean down on the bed, directing her eyes up to the unfamiliar ceiling.
<“Good God… today sure was an exhausting day…”>
The time now was ten past five in the afternoon, fifty minutes before Asley returned to his room.