~~Classroom, Third Day of the Fifth Month, Four O’Clock in the Afternoon~~
Four days have passed since we returned from the Labyrinth of No Return. Pochi’s and Betty’s injuries weren’t too bad, and we didn’t meet any of the Laughing Fox bandits on the way back.
It seems that Blazer and his crew plan to use this town as their base of operations for a while. While I have saved up enough for my tuition with this job’s rewards, I’ll probably be visiting the Guild sometime soon.
Better look forward to seeing those guys again.
Which reminds me, it has already been a month since school started.
When it comes to academics, aside from history classes, I hardly learn anything new, so my mandatory attendances have been extremely boring.
Now I’m quite envious of my Familiar, who is sleeping soundly by my side… by which I mean, on the floor, by the side of my feet.
“Zzz… Zzz… Heh heh, Master… That’s waste oil, not tomato juice, sir. Why’re you drinkin’ it like it’s delicious… heh heh heh…”
I know it’s a dream, but I gotta wonder how her brain is wired, imagining her Master drinking something like that.
“Now then, Mister Asley, please answer as much as you can… why do you think the magecraft discipline is also called ancient magic?”
“Yes, ma’am… First, because it was around 3,000 years ago when the magecraft discipline underwent great degeneration. Not many books and records remain, and most of what’s left is virtually unusable in the state they’re in. Additionally, I would guess that the lack of cultural exchange with the endemic species of magecraft wielders, the Dark Elves, is also a major contributing factor.”
On the lecturer’s podium, Trace nodded.
“Very good. As Mister Asley said, not many records of magecraft were well-preserved. Among mages nowadays, the only well-known ones to wield magecraft are Sir Gaston, the Great Mage of Flame of the Six Archmages; and the War Demon Emperor, Lord Vaas. However, it is technically untrue that there is a lack of cultural exchange with the Dark Elves. It is only because the Dark Elves virtually went extinct in a great war of ancient times that we are unable to hold any cultural exchange with them.”
She elaborated on my answer, pointing out where I was right and where I went wrong. That’s another one of my attempts at being “average”.
Being bothered so much by Irene for being the top candidate of the school year and a Student Council representative, I still have every desire not to stand out. Most of the petty bullying has petered out ever since it was made known that I was a Rank B adventurer. However, I feel that I’m still not garnering favorable looks from many people.
And I still want to investigate the situation with Faltown, so I have to be as covert as possible.
Thankfully, Lina is keeping quiet about how I can also wield magecraft. It seems as though she understands my reasons and has already decided to not disclose it beforehand, without asking me first.
“That will be a wrap for today’s lecture. Mister Asley, Miss Irene has summoned you. Please follow me.”
…I knew it was impossible, though.
This kind of situation is when I feel the unfavorable looks from people around me the most. It’s no longer at the point where I’m concerned about them, but it does add up.
“Asley, do you have some free time tonight?”
“I do not. Now if you’ll excuse me.”
“Wha — Hold it right there! Why don’t you hear what I have to say first!?”
“Regardless of reason, your question was whether or not I have time. Wouldn’t you expect most people to just answer as such?”
As usual, Irene folded her arms and pondered things over. Is she really one of the Six Archmages?
Trace stood by Irene’s side, as though she was her secretary.
“Hmm… I’d expect most people to give an immediate and favorable reply, though?”
“Isn’t that just because of your social standing? I don’t really mind that kind of thing. It would be a different story if I was in a favorable position myself, of course.”
“Ngh… S-so you’re saying that this isn’t favorable for you?”
Irene started yelling and trembling profusely.
Having expected that, I blocked my ears beforehand. Then, after seeing Irene calm down as she caught her breath, I put my hands down.
“Hah, hah… Do you understand now!? I won’t take no for an answer, so come along!”
“I blocked my ears, so I didn’t hear anything!”
“Bah! You’ve gotten so cocky lately, you know that?”
“Well, truth be told…”
“Eh… what is it?”
“That’s what I thought too!”
Irene started yelling again.
And obviously, I expected that as well, and promptly blocked my ears once again. After seeing Irene calm down, I put down my hands.
Trace, on the other hand, was perfectly calm all the while, and just stood there and listened. Incredible.
“Uhuhu, looks like you’re having fun, Miss Irene.”
“N-not at all!”
“But you always seem to calm down after getting to talk to Mister Asley, don’t you?”
“Damn it, Trace! Just keep quiet for a moment, will you!?”
Indeed, Irene seems to be having fun, despite her looking quite annoyed at all the teasing. Maybe I’ll try doing that myself some time.
“So, what business do you have with me?”
“Ah-ahem. Tonight, Billy, Gaston, and I will be out for dinner. You’ve been invited as well, and your after-curfew permission has already been processed. So you better come along, alright?”
Now that’s amazing. Two of the Six Archmages, and the Nation’s authority on recovery magic… what were they thinking, inviting me along?
“Hmm, I promised Pochi that I’d cook her a super special tropical fruit meal tonight, so…”
“Oh, for the love of… Just bring her along as well!”
“And that’s the story. Wanna come, Pochi?”
“Have fun, Master!”
My Familiar lazed around the room while listening to my explanation.
“Hey, you’re not coming!?”
“Why would you even bring me to that scary-sounding place!?”
“You’re my Familiar, right!? At least be there to guard me or something!”
“Sending my Master off in a good mood is also a Familiar’s duty!”
“That doesn’t sound good coming from you, dammit!”
“Ahh, you went and said it now! I’m nullifying my contract, sir!”
“Hey, don’t jinx it!”
“Don’t even try to make that face, sir! Discussion over!”
“How about I make you the super special tropical fruit meal for three days!?”
“Trying to bribe me with food!? Okay, let’s go!”
…Hmph, now this is what I’d call an immediate and favorable reply.
Before we set off, I brushed up Pochi’s fur and trimmed her nails.
Even for only a short while, we’ll be meeting some of the Nation’s representatives, so we’ll have to look good, at least.
…And now I’m starting to feel hungry. Maybe tomorrow, I should cook myself a super special meal as well.
~~Beilanea Central District, Front of the Oriental Restaurant “Shinra Banshou”~~
“Did you bring enough money, Master?”
“I was invited, so I’m sure I won’t have to pay. Either way, I have some high-quality fur to sell, so it’ll be fine.”
“Mm-hm, the best, sir!”
Pochi declared, wagging her tail. Does she even understand what I said?
Anyway, this establishment… it’s quite impressive, no matter how many times I look at it. Aesthetic gate and fence design and ornaments, and even the paper lanterns inside are intricate.
Two watch-fires were erected in front of the large yet humbly-designed gate. And in front of those was a man who seemed to be the establishment’s employee, standing on watch with a paper lantern.
I’ve heard that this design philosophy was adopted from an eastern nation. They certainly are calming to look at.
The man raised his paper lantern and addressed us,
“Sir Asley and Pochi, I presume? We’ve been expecting you. This way, please.”
The man led us into the establishment without another word, and following his example, we kept quiet as we walked. Pochi seems not used to this, too, seeing how she looks a bit restless.
The building’s interior, too, was exotic. I had to take off my shoes at the entrance, and Pochi had to wipe her paws. Honestly, it was quite amusing to see Pochi so tensed up in keeping quiet.
We passed through a corridor of polished, almost mirror-like wooden flooring, and arrived at what seemed to be a thin wall with a handle attached.
It was a type of sliding door, characteristically called “fusuma,” which took me by surprise because I didn’t see anything quite like it since 500 years ago.
The man squatted down and slid the door open slightly.
“Pardon our interruption. Your expected guest, Sir Asley, has arrived.”
From the other side, Irene permitted us entrance.
I came a little before the appointed time, but it seemed that all three hosts had arrived even earlier. Irene must have anticipated that too.
The man lightly slid the door, revealing three people sitting around a square table. On the right was Billy in his usual white robe, and on the left was Irene. And in the back was an elderly man with quite the stern look, sharply glaring at me. He wore a scarlet robe, and had the most abundant stock of mana among the three hosts. He was most likely one of the Six Archmages, Gaston the Great Mage of Flame.
“Excuse me. Beilanea Magic University Student Council Clerk, Asley — gh!”
“His Familiar, Pochi — gh!”
Pochi, did you even have to copy the part where I bit my tongue…?
Irene ignored me, perhaps annoyed at how polite I acted in contrast to the usual.
The elderly man observed me for a short while, then invited me to sit down opposite to him.
Billy looked at Pochi and nodded to greet her.
“Oh, thank you. To be honest, I’m not used to sitting on the floor.”
I sat down on what seemed to be a bulky cushion, and Pochi settled down a short distance behind me.
“A peculiar culture, isn’t it? I was also surprised when I first heard of it. Gaston has taken quite a liking to this establishment, too.”
Said Billy, turning to the elderly man as he finished. I see, so that man is indeed Gaston.
Which reminds me, Irene was in the White Faction, Billy was in Black… and Gaston was also in Black, was it?
Is it fine for Irene to hang around with them? And why would they invite me here?
“I am called Asley, sir. Nice to meet you.”
What’s with this pressuring atmosphere… Gotta spark some conversation…
“Ah, that reminds me, I’ve purchased staves from your store when I first came into town, sir.”
“Oh-ho, staves from my store? Which ones were they?”
“The shopkeeper recommended me two of the Star Rods in accordance with my budget at the time. I’d taken them for walking canes at first glance, but I ended up buying them after realizing how well-made they were.”
“Heh heh heh heh, you’ve quite a way with words, young man. He’s quite different from your anecdotes, don’t you think, Irene?”
“Hmph, he’s just acting. That’s what he said he’d do earlier today.”
Hey, don’t talk about me like that to just anyone, ma’am.
“There’s still some time before food is served. So, Gaston, why don’t we expose more of Asley’s assets while we wait?”
“Keh heh heh heh, that would be interesting.”
I’d rather not be any more exposed than I am now, ma’am. I might catch a cold.
Well, I suppose I do have high-quality fur to use in emergencies.