Once I was done discussing matters with everyone – at least for the time being – I went out to visit my oh-so-dearly missed alma mater, the Magic University.
By sneaking in, of course.
“Bah, just my luck… I’m pretty damn busy, you know. What do you want?”
Irene, although sounding like that, still let me into her office.
“Besides… do you have any idea what time it is?”
“You can count on me! …The time is three o’clock, fifteen minutes, twenty-seven seconds… twenty-eight, twenty-nine-“
“That’s was a rhetorical question!”
“Hahaha… so, what happened to your arcane energy, ma’am? Quite different from before, isn’t it?”
“Heh… I knew you’d notice.”
Yeah, no surprises there.
For one, the sheer volume of her energy was far greater than what she’d had the last time I’d seen her. Moreover, the balance of its distribution… Oh yeah, Fuyu did mention that Irene had gone to Regalia recently.
The Royal Capital… aha, I see… Let’s mess with her a bit.
“How was your trip to the east? Nice guy, wasn’t he?”
“…You could tell?”
“Yes, just now.”
Answering her with a broad grin, my face was met with a stinging impact not a moment later.
“Get used to it. That was for your mentor. Some Philosopher that guy is! Gah, I’m getting annoyed just from recalling him!”
Seeing Irene puff up with annoyance as she folded her arms, and in turn reminded of my past self, I cracked a wry smile.
“W-what’re you trying to pull?”
“-Ahaha… nothing at all. Er, so? How much training with Tūs did you manage to get in?”
“Quite a lot, actually. At first it was all physical training, but halfway through we started duking it out until we were both out of MP.”
“What?! Seriously? It took me a whole year to get to do that!”
“Hmph, so THAT was what you’d talked about before? Figures…”
Irene said, casually sneaking in her usual brand of boasting in her tone.
Damn it… don’t tell me she’d managed to get some hits in as well. It’d taken me almost the whole two years there to get up to that level.
No way, she couldn’t have… the again, this is Irene we’re talking about… yeah, it’s definitely possible.
Pochi did say at one point that I’ve got good eyes when it comes to observing other people – not so much for evaluating myself, but I digress. Point is, if that’s what I thought, then I’m sure it was right.
Feeling an unidentifiable mix of emotions, I heaved a deep sigh. Irene, on the other hand, sat down and put on a stern face as she looked at me.
“Ah, whatever is going on now? It’s been a while since I’d last felt this way.”
“Oh, I bet it has.”
And why is she glaring at me so hard?
“Uh, are you angry, or something?”
“Oh, you bet I am.”
She’s definitely irritated. Gonna explode any second now-
“Enough with the nonsense! Just get down to business and be on your way!”
“WHAT?! Didn’t you say that I needed to talk more nicely?!”
“I don’t even remember saying that anymore! Look, you’re here to talk about Idéa and Midors, right?!”
“Well, yes. That’s exactly it.”
“…I swear, you’re such a handful to deal with.”
For a second there, I wondered if Irene was actually pretty nice despite how… aggressive… she came off as.
Oh, looks like she’s finally stopped fuming. Good.
Still… I see she’s having quite a hard time keeping her feet on the floor. Would have been so much easier if she’d only gotten herself a low chair.
“Anyway, it’s nothing complicated. Us Six Archmages do need to investigate past students’ profiles sometimes, so we’re authorized to enter the archives for those important documents and the like. I only tampered with their contract papers a bit…”
“I see… But aren’t you under the contract’s effects as well? How did you even pull it off-“
“Oh, come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever told you about… that. Just think it over, will you? You do know what year this is, right?”
“It’s year Ninety-Four… why?”
“The Magic University didn’t have this sort of contract when you were here five thousand years ago, did it? Did you even know when it started being a thing?”
“Wait… are you saying that it’s been introduced only recently?”
Irene heaved a sigh, especially emphasizing her exasperation with it.
It’s like she was tired of me not being entirely on the same page as her. What did I even do this time?
“Only recently… yeah, right. But unless you’re some random fool who’s lived for five thousand years, five thousand days can be quite a long time.”
Irene was ranting on so hard, I could practically see her spit fly.
I see that she’s quite jealous of those who had taken the Drop of Eternity… Especially when she’d gotten to meet yet another one of the – namely Tūs.
So, five thousand days, huh…
“That means… about fourteen years ago?”
“Right. And do you know how old I am? -Wait, you don’t have to answer that.”
“You never told me, so I wouldn’t know that, would I?”
“F-fine, then. So here’s the story… The previous War Demon Emperor, Sagan, passed away fifteen years ago. Vaas, even though he was a lineal descendant of Sagan’s, was still far too young at the time. The Nation was in for a large-scale rebuilding at the time, so things would get real hairy if a civil war was to break out. Sagan, despite ruling into his elderly years, had been that important of a pillar that held the Nation together, you see. So to make sure that no more forces of opposition arise, the contract was created. The one who did it was Ishtar of the Black, who was quite a distinguished member of the Six Braves back then.”
War Demon Emperor Sagan… Tzar’s former Master. As I’d thought, he’d been quite an important figure in the Nation’s history.
Back when Tzar had brought it up, I’d talked to the serpent a bit more afterwards, and he’d told me that Sagan was quite a wise man. Hmm, I’d like to meet the guy at least once, honestly.
Still, I’d never thought Vaas’ time in the office was this short. If he was ‘far too young’ fifteen years ago, then he should still be young right now as well.
Oh, I see. Makes sense that he’d be called a Puppet Monarch.
“In short, the Black and White Chain Contract has been around for only fourteen years. Those who’d graduated before then never had to sign it.”
This means… the Dilvilkin might have already known by then when the Devil King would be back.
Gramps had told me that the Fetal Stage would be starting up four years from now. The resurrection itself would then follow in a few years.
If the Devilkin had already known THAT so far ahead, then their strategy must have been meticulously formulated. They’d have control over warriors and mages from fifteen to fifty years old by the time the Devil King is back.
It’s good and all that people like Irene and Gaston aren’t bound by this issue, but-
“This is… pretty troublesome.”
“Hmm? What is?”
Irene asked, oblivious as to what I’d meant.
I’d intended to tell her all the stuff anyway, so no problems there.
Sooner or later, I’ll have to explain to Irene the whole deal with the Devil King’s Fetal Stage, and also the Devilkin worship issue, just as I’d talked to Gaston before.
So I might as well do it now, but… I better brace myself for another one of her raging fits…
Turns out she hadn’t taken any offense with that.
Irene had actually kept her mouth shut and listened to my story. Although I’d felt some sense of impatience from her, she hadn’t been all that shocked by the reveal.
I hadn’t been able to tell whether the serious face she’d put on had any deeper meaning, but in the end, I’d left her office after promising to talk about it in greater detail at a later date.
I circled behind the Central School Building, and then jumped the wall. Years ago, I’d had to kick off the walls and get boosted along by Pochi, but now, I could make the jump by myself with ease.
All right – I’ve got big stuff coming up tomorrow and beyond! Get hyped, me!
Just when I was about to cross the wall to the other side, a sharp gust of wind blew past the top of my head.
Quite well-controlled, that one. It didn’t make any loud sound, and its size had been calculated to not make any dent on the wall and the school building. Truly an awesome display of skill.
From its appearance, I could tell that it was the elementary-level, non-lethal magic spell, Wind.
Although ‘he’ wasn’t trying to kill me with that, it still was quite an aggressive way to say hi.
“Do you need something, Headmaster Tangalán, sir?”
“I should be the one asking you… Asley.”
Tangalán the Meteor Battlemage, the current Magic University Headmaster, emerged from the dark of… very early morning.
Okay, I’d never expected him to be on patrol now, of all times.
Or had I been detected when I came in? …No, I would’ve noticed his presence if that was the case.
“I’d never thought you would remember me, sir, with me being here for less than a year.”
“I don’t know whether you are the kind to act humble or simply a fool, but I must remind you that you did have ‘that incident’ to your name. My nerves haven’t gone dull just yet, I’ll have you know.”
Seriously, I think it’s supposed to be quite rare for a headmaster to be walking around the school at this hour. Still, the way this conversation is going… it reminds me of Warren, somehow. It’s nasty – like I’ll still be messed with even if I play my cards right.
“Surely you aren’t surprised to see me alive, sir?”
“I am surprised. Just… by how much you have changed.”
He was referring to my body, I assume.
But why would he not be surprised by my presence, what with how I wasn’t even supposed to be here at all?
“Hmph, I see you are the latter kind. The town security is clearly aware of your survival, mind you. Have you ever stopped to count how many quests you have taken over the past two months? Only the most foolish of fools would not realize that something was wrong.”
“I see, I see. Then why didn’t the security guards go to get me at my place again?”
“It’s more convenient to let you stay ‘dead,’ that’s all. Make the wrong moves, and the people would know that your ‘suicide’ merely ended in your escape.”
He had a point there.
If word got out, the town security would find itself under pressure from the Nation. Makes sense that they’d try and avoid that.
“Now, I believe I’ve given you adequate answers. How about you tell me your ‘story,’ hmm?”
With how sharp his glare was, I’d think he was trying to stab me with it. It seemed that he was suspicious of something… Could it be about the things I’d just told Irene? I’ll just pretend to misinterpret his point, and then go from there.
“Nothing special, sir. I swear I’m not plotting anything. This place just happened to be in the way of my early morning walk.”
“Hmph, paid a visit to Archmage Irene’s office, have you?”
He knew THAT, too? Wait, no, chances are he was just bluffing.
Let’s see if I can misdirect him…
“Well, I used to sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I went there today, sir.”
“Oh? Then whatever were you even here for?”
All right, he took the bait. Turns out he’d actually been bluffing. Close call for me there.
And now is a good time to change the subject. Let’s end it by sprinkling some truths here and there while I make my escape.
“One of my pupils had started her school year yesterday, sir… So I thought I’d greet her one last time before she moved on to a long boarding school life… and stuff.”
“One of your… pupils. I see. I’ll remember that. What is her name?”
“Oh, that I’d rather not say, sir. I’d hate for her to receive unfair treatment in either way.”
“…Fair enough. Are you sure that is all?”
“But of course.”
Although the look in his eyes didn’t change that much, it seemed that he was inclined to understand what I’d said.
Still got that pressure about him though. Scary. If I was still as strong as I’d been when I’d first left my cave, I probably would have run away with my tail between my legs.
I do still want to run away just about now, though. Back to my room, throw my head on that Pochi pillow… Don’t even care how much Pochi will jeer at me – I just wanna do it.
“Then leave. And may you never return… Did I make myself clear?”
“I’m afraid I can’t make any promises, sir.”
“Hmph, I spy with my little eyes a foolish raccoon. Go away. Shoo.”
“…Good night, sir.”
I could feel his keen eyes constantly on me until I was on the other side of the wall.
This was the first time I’d ever been remotely close to the Magic University Headmaster… but now I have some idea why he’s such a big deal.
And I must say… that was scary as all hell.