~~Beilanea North Gate, Thirty-Two Past One in the Morning~~
“I never thought we’d be running away together less than a day after we first met, Melchi…”
“Time isn’t a factor in the bonds between people’s hearts, my friend. Well, some emotional wounds do take time to heal, though.”
“Why didn’t you pack any sweets Master!? No – I know you have some! Where are they!?”
“I’ve tied some to your tail.”
And so my Familiar started chasing her own tail.
Now she’s looking very much like a puff of cotton candy… but isn’t doing that supposed to make her dizzy?
“I’m not seeing anything!”
“That’s because there’s nothing there.”
“Lying is a sin, sir! I know you’ve actually tied it there, right?”
And so my Familiar started spinning again, now in the opposite direction.
Melchi had understood so much about the relationship between Pochi and I just from seeing so little. Perhaps the information available to her was too little, sure, but she’d based her opinion on what she had, declaring that ours was an ‘interesting relationship’.
Now that I thought about it, I hadn’t seen many Familiars during the past year I’d spent here. Perhaps there was a reason for that. It didn’t seem to be caused just by the recent popularity of Familiar summoning spells.
“…So, that Lina lady… will she actually show up?”
“It’s a close race against time, after all… So I’m not sure myself… Five more minutes.”
I had used the Telepathic Call magecraft to contact Lina.
I’d contemplated showing up at the dormitory, but considering that we’d soon part ways, I couldn’t bring myself to. Some things just couldn’t be properly conveyed through magecraft alone, too.
I could no longer stay in Beilanea for long. With my call being so sudden, Lina had immediately replied and cut the communication off.
“Master, she’s here!”
Pochi’s nose twitched, presumably detecting Lina’s familiar smell.
“There’s another person with her… Isn’t that-“
Wait, another person? I was briefly puzzled, but from Pochi’s questionable expression, I soon had an idea of who that might be.
As soon as Pochi muttered that name to confirm my guess, Melchi responded to her.
“Hmph, it’ll get noisy if I meet her now. I’ll go wait outside.”
So, judging from how Melchi spoke, she’s acquainted with Irene?
Which remind me she did say ‘someone like Irene’ earlier, so I probably should’ve seen this coming.
As I saw off Melchi while she walked out the north gate, Pochi reacted once again, this time with a twitch of her ears.
And here they are.
Two girls in the distance… well, technically one girl and one woman, but anyone would have trouble telling them apart.
On one side was Lina, out of breath. On the other was Irene, looking quite sour. The scene had quite a strong contrast to it, and it felt so… welcoming.
“Hah hah… ha… Sir Asley…”
I was reminded of that one time when I had depleted Irene’s arcane energy, after which Lina had come rushing back to me at the classroom, arriving out of breath.
Hard to believe that it’s almost been a whole year since then. It’s been packed so densely with activity compared to so many years I’d spent by myself… Ironically, I’m feeling nostalgic for the things that had happened most recently.
“I’ve been worried as all hell, you know!”
“Thank you very much, ma’am.”
“Ugh- always have a corny reply ready, I see.”
“No, I haven’t had corn recently.”
“Oh, for the love of… anyway, are you sure you’re really going? If you’d just lay low for a while, your false charges can be dealt with eventually.”
“Yes, I’m sure. Things have gotten quite noisy lately, but I see this as a good chance to broaden my range of information intake for a bit.”
It was as if a shadow was cast over her face. It looked like she was genuinely concerned for me.
Also, it was quite rare to see this side of Irene’s emotional sensitivity. I mean, no one would have expected this from of the Six Archmages.
She used to chase me around my staff back when I took the entrance examination, I think? Now I’m feeling nostalgic for that, too.
Thinking about how Lina should have caught her breath by now, I turned to her. As I’d expected, she looked sad, too. She clenched her fists in front of her chest and kept her lips tightly shut. Tears welled up in her eyes, but she kept them from flowing off, which went to show how much she’d grown.
Well, maybe not – considering that I hadn’t been able to shed my tears for so long, that could be considered a degeneration instead. As I pondered over Lina’s actions and how I was feeling personally, a smile slowly appeared on my face.
“Sir Asley… why… why are you smiling?”
Lina held her tears and tilted her head in apparent confusion as she asked me, making me unsure whether she actually was asking or if she’d actually gotten a read of my feelings.
“Good question… but who knows?”
“That’s… so unfair.”
“Evasion is also a valid strategy, Lina.”
“T-that felt more like a counterattack than an evasion, Sir Asley.”
Yours was a counterattack, too, Lina.
For real, Lina has never ceased to impress me with how far she’s come. She had talent for magic, sure, but she’d grown so fast as a social human that I was surprised. I look forward to whatever achievements she’d have made by the next time we meet.
“Ah, you’re smiling again!”
Perhaps because things were back to the usual tone, Lina puffed her cheeks up in annoyance, not even aware when her tears had dried up.
And as I’d expected, I wanted to poke those cheeks with my fingers again, what with how satisfying they had sounded last time.
“Can I poke your cheeks?”
Those same words I’d said once before…
…were met with what Lina hadn’t said last time.
“Ngh- why not?”
“S-save it for next time!”
…So that’s where she’s coming from.
Just as I realized how Irene might be feeling left out, what with her staring at us so blankly, Irene seemed to have realized it herself as well, so she promptly puffed her cheeks up when I turned to her.
“Hahahaha, I do want to poke your cheeks as well, Miss Irene.”
“…Bah, way to make a fool of yourself again, Master…”
Pochi seized that chance to mock me as she heaved a deep sigh. Wait, what? Was I not supposed to say that?
Irene was equally as exasperated as Pochi was… Wha- huh? And Lina seemed to be angry?
“Anyway, please take good care of yourselves out there! I’ll do my best back here, too!”
“Hmph, so the time’s come for us to part ways. No matter how foolish you may be, you ought to appreciate how Lina helped you out just now, Asley.”
“Seriously, my Master’s foolishness knows no bounds!”
“An Eternal Fool, if you will – Well now, that does sound the most fitting description for Asley here, doesn’t it?”
As I hurriedly made a stopping gesture with my index finger over my lips, Irene’s eyes opened wide to show her confusion. Then she swiftly turned to look at Lina.
[“Doesn’t Lina know about this!?…”]
I bet that’s what she thought.
The one in question, Lina, only stared blankly and tilted her head.
Yes, she does not – I communicated that to Irene through eye contact, and she grew even more exasperated.
“All right, it’s about time we get going.”
I ended the topic before it could be pursued further, then straightened my old vestment and turned away from them.
“Lina, Miss Irene, I’ll contact you all when things calm down.”
“When I find out anything, I’ll contact you, too.”
I nodded to her while I reached down to pet Pochi’s head.
That being a sign to take off, Pochi went on ahead, walking toward Beilanea’s north gate.
I followed right after her, and once we got outside, I glanced at Melchi, who waited there with her back leaning against the wall, signaling her that we were ready to go.
As the two called my name one last time while I walked away, I raised my hand and waved in response to them.
Pochi gigantified, and I hopped on her back. Melchi followed right behind Pochi, keeping up simply by jogging behind her.
We’ll see you later, Lina.
~~Grassland North of Beilanea~~
“Well, well, what a big catch… We sure got a lot, eh, Pochi?”
“All because you ran ahead recklessly, sir! Now we have seven Murder Tigers and three Ogres on us! What do you plan to do now!?”
“Oh, calm down… Think of it as an opportunity to work up an exquisite combination for us! Commence Operation Pochi from Beyond the Grave!”
“NAY! Aha, I have a better idea! Let us commence Operation Living Dead Asley-boi instead!”
What a dreadful thing to come up with!
I kinda want to see that cute Living Dead form, though.
“NAY, NAY! Well, for now, just buy me some time!”
“Oh, you just had to have me do it, don’t you!”
“Hahahaha, so that’s how you guys always are! I haven’t said anything since I thought you actually had some ideas, but… you’re in real trouble here, right?”
“Well, yes, we are! Please take our right side, Melchi!”
Melchi’s ears seemed to twitch in response to my request. For whatever reason, she then proceeded to glare at me.
“M-E-L! Call me that and I’ll help. We’re gonna be the traveling partners, so might as well do it, yeah?”
Melchi demanded so, pulling me toward her by my collars as she talked.
The face of this almost androgynous-looking girl, who looked like a boy with blonde hair and blue eyes, reddened up slightly as she kept quiet and stared at me.
As if I was conforming with her, I started to feel quite awkward, too. I just couldn’t refuse to do what she’d told me to, it seemed.
“A-all right, fine… Mel! Take our right side!”
“Nuhuhuhu, leave it to me!”
Melchi beat her chest like a gorilla, and then walked off to our right in high and proud spirits.
While that exchange was going on, Pochi was doing well enough to keep the monsters at bay.
“Master, I’m actually having trouble with these tigers, sir!”
“I’ll buy you baked sweets when we get to the next town! Just hold the line!”
“BRING IT ON, KITTIES! DON’T EVER EXPECT TO WIN AGAINST ME!”
“And nothing for me, Ash!?”
“Oh, for the love of… I’ll teach you the Teleportation spell’s formula sometime later, then!”
“HAHAHAHA!! I AM INVINCIBLE!!”
Hey, she just got a bargain for a Ten-Million Gold Magic. But no amount of money could replace a life.
And as they had claimed, those two were truly invincible while driven by a greedy goal. Thanks to them, I had plenty of time to draw my Spell Circle.
“Rise, A-rise, A-rise! You two, get back! Meteor Lance coming right up!”
Spears of molten rock rained down from the sky, precisely piercing the Ogres and Murder Tigers as if they had been locked on.
Two of the Murder Tigers had narrowly dodged the attack, but were picked off by Pochi and Melchi on standby.
At the same time, the level up fanfare rang up within my head. A level up in quite a while… well, maybe not, since I felt like I’d been leveling up like crazy these past few months.
- NAME: ASLEY
- TITLES: The Eternal Fool, The Polarizing, Hermit Candidate, Advanced Mage, Alchemist, Staff Master, Six Archmages (Tentative), Good Teacher, Rank A, Top Student, No Guts, SS Slayer, Guardian Mage (Tentative)
- LV: 72
- HP: 1,354
- MP: 20,035
- EXP: 1,109,445
- SPECIAL SKILLS:
- Attack Magic (Skilled)
- Support Magic (Skilled)
- Recovery Magic (Advanced)
- Purification (Advanced)
…Oh? My first title just got updated with a prefix that hadn’t been there this morning?