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~~Thirtieth Day of the Sixth Month, Ninety-Sixth Year of the War Demon Calendar~~
A new morning in Eddo, the capital city of T’oued, was accompanied by an unfortunately cloudy sky.
It was so cloudy that, in fact, it could start raining at any moment.
In a room of an inn frequented by adventurers, one young woman was shifting restlessly as she sat on her bed.
“This can’t be right. Have I been gaining too much muscle?”
She had short, dark brown hair, and while she was of slender build, her muscle mass was similar to that of warriors. Her chin was sharp, her eyes were on the large side, and her eyebrows were especially prominent. Because of her thigh muscles, she was struggling to put on her pants. Her short white shirt exposed her midriff, and she had a pair of mesh-patterned leather suit braces prepared for holding up her shorts. All in all, her unusual wardrobe helped to accommodate her fighting style rather than provide defense.
She looked outside through the window, and saw that it was starting to rain.
And when the first large drop of water hit the window, the clasp of her shorts suddenly popped off.
“What the…? Ngh… damn it…!”
She tried forcing it back, but the clasp would not stay in place.
In the end, she simply heaved a sigh…
…And proceeded to stand up and walk out her room’s door.
Her room was on the second floor of the Adventurers’ Guild — this the inn being frequented by adventurers. The rent was cheap enough, but one downside was that it was loud at night due to the Guild tavern’s activity.
The young woman closed the door, and almost at the same time, the door to the room next to hers opened.
“Oh, I didn’t know you were staying here as well.”
She said to the young man walking out that door.
The young man said with a silly voice, seemingly caught off-guard.
“What, am I supposed to be surprised to see you here, too? Like, HORNEL!? Well?”
The young woman, Jeanne, said cheerfully, her grin showing her canines.
The young man, Hornel, replied to her with a dry chuckle.
“Heh, you never change, do you?”
“I could say the same about you. Do you even have any idea how worried I was when you just… disappeared?”
Jeanne pointed at Hornel, who proceeded to look away — particularly through the stairs’ railings and at the adventurers having breakfast on the first floor — and start grumbling,
“I just realized that I was missing so many things, and things have been too much of a mess as of late… so I’ve been on what you’d call a self-searching journey. Hahaha…”
Hornel’s laugh seemed more directed at his past self more than anything. Noticing that, Jeanne proceeded to ask him,
“And that’s what brought you to Eddo?”
She pointed down at the floor. Hornel hesitated to answer for a moment, then heaved a sigh.
“It’s because Idéa and Midors asked me to give this thing a try, actually. I wouldn’t have been here otherwise.”
“Hahaha, so you’re still friends with them, I see.”
“I swear, they’ve become too good at persuading people…”
Jeanne chuckled at Hornel’s near-unintelligible grumblings.
“You wouldn’t have come here IF you were actually against it.”
“……I AM against it.”
“You USED TO BE, you mean?”
Jeanne winked, causing Hornel to turn red and turn the other way.
Hornel, stuck with neither a way to continue the conversation nor the audacity to walk away from his old school friend and colleague, glanced at Jeanne and said,
“A-anyway, it’s been quite a while since you last wore those, hasn’t it?”
“Oh, this? It’s what I’d have on when I’m off-duty, actually. Always liked it way back in my school days — so I went home and grabbed a few sets. You’re looking not too shabby yourself, Hornel.”
Jeanne seemed to also feel nostalgic, seeing that Hornel’s clothes looked the same as what he used to wear back at the University.
“You think so? I made it a point to keep the design exactly the same — though I’ve gotten a fair bit taller since then, so I did have to order a new batch.”
Seeing Hornel hold up an edge of his mantle, Jeanne chuckled.
“Heh, same thing for me, I guess.”
“What same thing?”
“Oh, you know, thou shalt not forget thy fundamentals, and stuff…”
Jeanne winked and walked past Hornel with a smile on her face.
Hornel took a look at his own clothes and thought about his past experiences. Closing his eyes, he recalled the Magic University’s enrollment examination, the entrance ceremony, and his meeting with a certain fool — the days in which everything was so fresh and new. Then he opened his eyes again.
“Hey~~! What are you standing there for!? Let’s go!”
Hornel proceeded to laugh… though even he himself was unsure whether that laugh was for Jeanne’s voice as she called him from downstairs, or the old memories resurfacing in his mind.
One’s regrettable things of the past could never be undone, but they were free to try and shape their own future to their liking. He was one of the rare mages who knew and understood what that meant.
Numerous sources of arcane energy gathered in a figurative whirlpool at a temple in the southern district of Eddo, the capital city of T’oued.
Many powerful people were here despite it being so early in the morning. Lina was, naturally, standing among them.
“T-this is even more awesome than I expected, Lina…”
“You can say that again. Is that Brigadier Viola I see over there?”
Anri and Claris looked on, feeling so small compared to all the others.
Two of Lina’s long-time mage friends from the Magic University, Anri’s figure had grown even more glamorous than it had been before, while Claris was her usual serene self, even still shaving her head as a part of her religious beliefs.
Today was the opening of the magic classroom, led by none other than Head Professor Asley. These two, upon receiving their respective invitations from Lina, had decided to join the Resistance out of interest, friendship, and the dissatisfactions they personally had with their home Nation. They had not met Asley again since the first time he left town, and were clearly nervous that the reunion could happen today — and then another source of tension was added to that upon seeing all the mages gathered here.
“Yes, that is her, indeed. It’s quite a shock to know that even Miss Viola is going to study under Asley, of all people…”
“Yeah, that’s awesome and all, but what about the part where he’s actually THE Holy Warrior Poer? Anyone who knows how to do magic is obviously gonna want to learn from him!”
“That is true. Still, there are many people who do not recognize him as one of the legendary warriors. The first fill days will be at least somewhat rough, I reckon.”
Claris’ concern was reasonable; many would not simply believe in the relevant information, even with all the cooperation from Irene, Warren, and the authorities of T’oued. In fact, it had been rumored that quite a few people were working to ‘unmask’ Asley, seeing him as a con artist.
But of course, the Resistance had anticipated things of the sort.
Before long, the line of people started moving forward, and Anri noticed that they were getting close to the reception where Lina and the others were.
“Whoa–!? W-what in the…!?”
One among the line was a gigantic beast, its eyes burning with fierce passion.
Its elegant figure was fit for the legends.
“Could that be… the rumored Heavenly Beast?”
“That’s Miss Lylia’s Familiar, Weldhun the Crimson King Ox.”
“Wait, Lina… By Lylia, you mean the Holy Warrior!?”
Lina chuckled as she looked at Weldhun.
This was an intimidation tactic that Warren had thought up — positioning the legendary beast near the reception to announce that there was a Holy Warrior here. Just the sight of Weldhun was enough to destroy the motivation of most mages who were here to ridicule this occasion’s host.
Still, there were some who would not give up — but then they were forced to face the overwhelming presence of all the people in front of the podium.
The so-called ‘threat squad,’ all of whom would never have gathered here by mere rumors.
“Oh, you’re here too… Itsuki?”
Lina was surprised to see Itsuki sitting at one of the reception desks.
“Ah, Miss Lina! Hello, hello!”
“Wait, what about the Pochisley Agency?”
“Oh, I’m hired just for today’s occasion. The Agency’s closed for today, so there’s no problem over there. The pay is super good, by the way~~!”
Itsuki cracked a mischievous grin, prompting Lina to chuckle.
Suddenly, two of the Craft Circles in the row in front of the reception glowed red as they reacted to something.
The ones standing on them were Anri and Claris.
“Ah, stop right there, you two!”
“Nya!? D-did I do something wrong!?”
“Oh, this was unexpected.”
“Looks like the Black and White Chain contract is still in effect for you two! We’ve set up another set of Craft Circles to deal with that in the back, so make sure to use them!”
Itsuki pointed to where the Circles in question were, then the two of them were led there by Trace, who served as a general guide for today. The others who had signed the contract when they entered the Magic University went with them, too.
If their contracts were left unchecked, they could become enemies when the Devil King’s resurrection was complete. To prevent that, Asley, Warren, and Irene had hatched the idea to set up contract-sensing and contract-voiding Craft Circles in the venue, thus eliminating potential future threats from this particular issue.
Those Craft Circles were currently being set up in various locations by the members of the Resistance, releasing their affiliated mages from the effect of their contracts.
“Well, I’ve got things covered over here, Lina — so feel free to go on ahead!”
As Lina walked past the reception, three girls who noticed her coming ran up to her.
Natsu rushed over first, with Fuyu trotting behind her. Then Lala jumped on Lina. Lina welcomed the three with a smile.
“Ahaha, long time no see, everyone!”
“Looks like you’ve been busy over here.”
“No, not at all — I’ve got Baladd helping me.”
“Listen, Lina — Tifa’s been real lonely over here!”
“Ah… Right, she’s still at the Magic University, after all.”
Scratching her cheek, Lina thought of Tifa, who was going through her final year at the Magic University — if only because Asley had borderline ordered her not to neglect the studies she was already going through.
“I think she’d be better off coming here right away, though… Don’t you think so?”
Fuyu asked, and Lina shook her head.
“Not quite. You see, Sir Asley probably wanted her to nab some more beneficial titles — like ‘Magic University Graduate’ and ‘Top Graduate,’ among others.”
“Those give you some stupid good boosts!”
“That’s right, Lala.”
“I see… I didn’t consider that.”
As Fuyu said that, she heard Itsuki’s voice coming from behind her. It seemed that the people behind in line behind Lina were all set.
“Anyway, why don’t we go sit down now?”
“Yes, Miss Lina!”
Lina and the others sat side by side, and Anri and Claris also sat next to them once they arrived.
The mages attending this event were from all manner of places, and there were actually quite a few warriors, too. The arrivals gradually filled up the temple. Lina, Fuyu, Anri, and Claris occasionally glanced behind them to see if there were any familiar faces.
“Ah, Hornel and Jeanne are attending, too?”
“Whoa… they even got a mage from Team Silver General!”
“Those two are… Idéa and Midors? Have they always been that close?”
“W-wow, that’s Sir Barun, in the flesh!”
Everyone talked quietly among their own groups — but all about the same topics. The arrivals included but were not limited to some of the most famous wayward mages, a former member of the Six Braves, and a high-ranking T’oued official known for their magic prowesses — all sorts of big names. The commotion gradually grew larger and larger.
“I think we have everyone now!”
Itsuki shouted from the back. The door to the venue slid shut, and Irene, standing in front with her arms folded, turned toward the hallway and nodded.
Everyone was nervous as they waited for the Head Professor to make his appearance.
And then, Warren’s voice could be heard faintly through another shut sliding door.
[Hahaha… No need to worry, Asley. The first time is just a rehearsal.]
[All right, we might as well try to be funny for a bit, then.]
[I can’t wait, sir!]
A brief conversation of dubious content echoed.
Betty watched over them as she sat in the front row, licking her lips.
Itsuki cracked a grin as she took a peek in through the front door.
Lina and Fuyu were especially worried about how things would turn out.
Hornel, Idéa, and Midors had already heaved a few sighs by now.
Then there was Warren, smiling as Asley loudly slid open the door in front of them.
“Pocchie Mask… HAH!”
“Leole Mask… HAH!”
“”We will destroy all evil!!””
“The world’s strongest superhero!!”
The pair, wearing their sunglasses, struck a matching superhero pose.
What they got as a reaction to that was… absolute silence.
Before their eyes was a figurative whirlpool of powerful arcane energy. Asley and Pochi, realizing that all eyes were on them, saw no choice but to remain silent.
Then Betty and Midors burst out laughing, and Warren out in the hallway barely managed to keep his mouth shut.
Unable to bear the otherwise silent reaction, the two glanced at Irene, and saw that she could bust some veins any second now.
They proceeded to cough once to clear their throats, and then address the audience,
“H-hello. I’m Pochi.”
“And I’m Asley.”
And both of them still had their sunglasses on.