Eight hours had passed by since Asley, Pochi, and Melchi departed from Beilanea.
At the Magic University, in the classroom of the Freshmen, Trace informed the students of Asley’s dropping out of school and his reason for doing so.
Amid the commotion, Lina, being the only one aware of the whole incident and the truth behind it, kept a firm heart as she sat down in her seat.
But her close friends, Anri and Claris, did not fail to notice that she was red and swollen around her eyes, perhaps from all the crying she had done earlier this morning.
“…I’m all right.”
The two offered their kind words, but Lina did not act spoiled in receiving them, which raised some flags for Hornel and Midors.
The classmates who knew of the relationship between Lina and Asley (mostly consisting of White Faction members) also seemed quite surprised.
“Really, how could he make our adorable Lina cry like that? I swear, that Asley guy is the worst…”
The one who said that was Idéa, who was now leaning her rear against Lina’s table.
Although Idéa did criticize Asley, Lina replied with a wry smile, understanding that it had been said in to help her cheer up.
And then another announcement came all too soon.
During her lecture in the Maginasium, Irene informed the students of Asley’s “death”.
All the class, particularly worried for Lina, were instantly petrified. However, upon hearing that Billy had carried out the autopsy, and that the cause of death had been recorded as “suicide,” Hornel’s expression changed, for he knew Asley well enough to realize otherwise.
Irene, seeing that, produced a subtle grin.
And with Irene’s suspicious gesture, Midors and Idéa finally realized it. The fact that Asley was still alive.
Hornel chuckled, but not many considered the gesture imprudent. Particularly since Claris and Anri also did, having already caught on.
It was now that Lina realized once again how impactful Asley’s contributions to the class had been. Having greatly affected the majority of the class, Asley’s ‘magic’ of turning news of his ‘death’ into laughter gave Lina more than enough strength to cheer up.
Lina shouted as she stood up.
“What is it, Lina?”
The whole class immediately had their attention on how Irene, in a formal setting, addressed someone other than Asley in an informal manner.
“During today’s lecture… there’s something I’d like to do, no matter what!”
“So do I, Professor Irene!”
Hornel shouted as he stood up.
“Hornel, try explaining what it is you’re trying to do.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’d like to experiment with arcane energy limiter tools, methods to escape from rooms without exits, and spells to turn oneself into a skeleton!”
“I’d like to make that request as well!”
And then Midors and Idéa also stood up.
It was then that the rest of the class, which hadn’t understood the reason for all the laughing, finally caught on.
“Jeez, so that’s what’s happening…”
As she heard all that, Irene grinned and proceeded to draw a Spell Circle on the floor.
It was a fixed-position-type Circle that no one here had ever seen before.
Before long, the completed Spell Circle shed a pale light, showing that it certainly was active.
Everyone present stood up and looked closely at its every step of activation, and then Irene took a single, short breath.
“…This is the Teleportation magic that I announced to the public a while ago.”
Everyone was taken aback.
Although it may be made public, it had been a mere announcement presented by some of the Nation’s institutions.
For those who practiced themselves in the arcane, encountering new magic was always an impactful experience. And that applied all the more to a Freshman of the Magic University.
This instance generated a myriad of reactions, including those who openly expressed their admiration, and those who were agape in awe, failing to hide their emotions.
Lina was the very first one to realize what was up, for she had seen this Spell Circle once before.
It was back when the semester had just started, when she had visited the laboratory to show Asley her makeup. Two copies of this exact Spell Circle had certainly been set up under his friendly dog-wolf.
Lina, thinking back about it, immediately understood. That this spell had been invented by Asley.
[“I knew it… That’s my teacher… Sir Asley is so amazing!”]
“You all would be surprised to hear the name of its inventor.”
“Wha – you weren’t the one who invented it, Professor?!”
Irene nodded in response to Hornel’s blunt question.
“I’ve purchased the rights to it. Legally, mind you. And you’ll never guess this – what did the inventor do with that money?”
Various thoughts circulated around the crowd, but Lina, face down on her table, was the only one to arrive at the answer.
“Guardianship of the girls… from the Colorful Food District…”
With Lina’s words, all thoughts converged onto one conclusion.
Irene had reasons to withhold the name of the Teleportation spell’s inventor. It was all too specific.
And above all, it was to protect the dignity of the one who should have been named the achiever, but had made the conscious choice to let it go.
Midors was indignant, his shoulders quivering – on the other side of the spectrum and Lina, with tears dripping down one after another – on the other.
No one dared to mention the name of the one in question. They understood Irene’s, and by extension, that guy’s intentions, all too well.
“Does anyone here remember the first clause of the Black and White Chain Contract?”
“The first party… In this case, us – shall endeavor to train their mind and body, and to bear an attitude befitting of a warrior and-or mage… was it?”
Claris muttered, reciting it word-for-word, and Anri nodded.
“…Now, look at him, then at the school’s Headmaster who dropped him out. Which of them is the one who acted with an attitude in accordance with the Contract’s first clause?”
It was a problematic thing to say, even for one of the Six Archmages. But Irene said it without hesitation – in an opposition to Headmaster Tangalán, the Magic University’s symbol, no less.
Quite a few gulped down lumps in their throats, having realized how serious a topic they were delving into. Yet they found themselves unable to avert their ears from Irene’s speech.
“Yes, the makings of a mage – I’ve just come to realize that, too. It’s not something one can become with magical talent alone. This fact hasn’t been published by anyone in any book. However, you all hold the future in your very hands, and it is not right for you to limit yourselves with such things… So, with or without the contract, you ought to engrave this principle into your hearts! Temper your mind and body, and forge it to bear an attitude befitting of a mage!”
The Maginasium shook.
The replies she received were crystal clear, devoid of hesitation. The voices flowed like a lightning through the bloodstream and left quite an impact on Irene, resounding powerfully within everyone’s hearts.
“…Heh, now, let’s get started with an explanation of arcane energy limiter tools. Idéa!”
“Yes, ma’am! Arcane energy limiter tools restrict the power of those who possess arcane energy, working by means of-“
That night, The Silver member Bruce was at the Adventurers’ Guild, sitting down at a round table, accompanying Betty and Haruhana.
Since Blazer was now keeping himself constantly busy, scraping up all available information on the Colorful Food District’s dark side, all the siblings could do was sit around at the Guild, so as to take care of all the children who took refuge there.
“Ahh, as long as we don’t release the Pochisley Agency from the security, Natsu and Fuyu and the kids aren’t gonna have a nice place to sleep…”
“It’s fine – thanks to Asley’s cover-up, they won’t be able to cause any more trouble. We’ll get it released in a few days to a week.”
“Sir Asley… Is he safe?”
“It’s a waste of effort to just sit around and worry, Haruhana. You know what he said to me the last time I saw him?”
Haruhana lightly shook her head and waited for Bruce’s explanation, but then Betty proceeded to say it instead.
“‘All the exciting stuff of the world outside is waiting for me!’ – yeah, that’s what he said.”
“Wait, how’d you know that?”
“He did contact me, you know, by magic. I think – his voice transmitted right into my head, really spooked me there.”
“Damn that guy… Looks like he’s still keeping some secrets from us…”
“Huhuhuhu, such an appropriate course of action for Sir Asley, indeed.”
“For real… he’s full of ridiculous surprises. Next time we meet, I swear I’m gonna-“
As Bruce began to rant on, Duncan came by and stood in front of him, holding out a roll of paper.
Bruce reflexively held his breath for a second, affected by the intimidating air and his own toned-down brashness.
“Wh-what’s up, Duncan?”
“Sorry to interrupt at a time like this, Bruce, but there’s an official notice sent for you. Get ready for what’s coming next as soon as you can.”
“Wait… what official notice?”
“Sir Dallas is waiting outside, too. Just go see him first.”
Duncan passed the paper to Bruce, and then pushed him out by his back. The sheer force blasted Bruce all the way to the Guild’s front door, but he was able to land safely – curious yet dubious, he proceeded to roll the paper open.
“Lessee here… Adventurers’ Guild… Rank-up Evaluation… to Rank S?! Wait, wha- for real?!”
Commotion immediately broke out within the Guild.
Betty dropped her cup from her hands. Duncan, seeming to have known of the notice’s particulars beforehand, was not at all distracted while he caught the cup in midair and set it back on the table.
“Brother… did you already raise your level that much?”
“Well, it’s 85, but… that’s fast enough, right?!”
“Unbelievable. That’s six levels higher than Blazer now! You’re rushing ahead the rest of us way too much! Jeez…”
“That’s still the minimum qualifying level for Rank S, but you’ve blasted past the number of completed requests, so there’s no problem. Besides, this is the least I can do for you♪”
“B-but you know…”
Betty slammed her fist on the table, frustrated at her brother’s indecisiveness. The shaking caused her cup to fall off the table, and once again, Duncan easily caught it.
Haruhana applauded the display, and Duncan accepted the praise with a wink.
“Anyway, just get your ass out there – and you better pass! Things will be easier for us if you get promoted, after all! You know what, you better not come back here until you pass!”
“I-I’ll hold the fort over here! You just go, and be careful out there!”
Bruce smiled, showing his appreciation to Betty first.
He then raised his hand, telling Betty and Haruhana, and then Duncan that we would be off right away – and so he went out the Guild’s front door.
“Sir Bruce looked so happy…”
“Hmph, that musclehead’s gotta have a redeeming feature, too!”
“But this is actually big, you know? Imagine having the makings of an S-ranker at that one age – and his diligence is already worthy of praise, don’t you think?”
Upon being asked that by Duncan, Betty grumbled, saying that she already knew that, then snatched her cup that Duncan had caught and downed the rest of the ale in it.
Haruhana and Duncan turned to look at each other and laughed. They were then poked fun at by the other adventurers, who had been observing the whole banter – and the ensuing furniture storm, courtesy of Betty’s finishing strike, practically shortened the building’s lifespan.
Once the brawl died down, coincidentally as the greatly entertained Haruhana started feeling drowsy, the Guild’s door swung open.
Short stature with an exceedingly young face, silver hair illuminated in the color of fire – trademark characteristics of Irene the Invincible Sprout.
“So, Betty, you’re having trouble finding a place to stay?”
“Well, yes, but… Though I don’t think it’s that major of an issue, at least not enough for you to be concerned, Miss Irene…”
“Not for you, sure, but it’s going to be hard for the children.”
She was right. Betty knew that all too well, and so she didn’t argue against it.
As Betty was having trouble continuing the conversation, Irene folded her arms and proceeded to ask a question in a whisper.
“S-so… H-how many of them are there?”
Having not expected such a question, Betty asked back for clarification.
“I-I’m asking how many children are under your guardianship!”
“Eh, well, seventeen…”
“I see – So even if The Silver is included as well, you’ll just total at twenty heads, right?”
Betty, without even reading the intention behind Irene’s statement first, glanced away to express her doubts to Duncan.
“This will be hard for you all until your building is released, right? So feel free to use my household’s estate in the meantime.”
For a brief moment, even Duncan couldn’t process the meaning of the proposal from this particular one of the Six Archmages.
The rest of the muscle-headed adventurers in the vicinity were all the more dumbfounded. The proposal was one that Irene never would have thought up in normal circumstances.
There was a long period of silence, which Irene seemed unable to put up with, as she opened one eye for a peek at how things were going. Yet the answer still wouldn’t come.
“Hey, don’t just stand there! Will you come?! Or will you not?! Make a choice!”
Courtesy of Irene’s shout snapping her out, Betty now comprehended the situation, and so she replied.
“Y-you really mean it…?”
“Listen – I, Irene the Invincible Sprout of the Six Archmages, do not go back on my word.”
“Then – Yes, please!”
Betty smoothly bowed her head down, and Haruhana followed suit.
“Huhuhuhu, I’ll go bring the rest of the kids out~~♪”
While Betty expressed her thanks again and again, Duncan went into the back room and brought Natsu and Fuyu out.
Haruhana explained to Natsu about the offer for a place in Irene’s residence, delighting everyone with the fact that they had found a home once again.
Even Irene’s thunderous shout could not silence the commotion within the Guild, for their joy was simply too great to be subsided.
“Hmph, seriously, you kids… All right, fine, I’ll teach you all the etiquette you need – right from the basics!”
“Ahahaha, let’s get along, li’l Irene!”
One particular word in Natsu’s sentence froze the whole Adventurer’s Guild all the way down to absolute zero.